I would never cheapen the memories of the soldiers who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy.

I'm just going to say this.

After today's "nap" time, 90 minutes of screaming, yowling, wailing, "Mommy I have a poop!" NO YOU DON'T GO TO SLEEP going-straight-from-one-bedroom-to-the-other to plug baby-holes with binkies...

I think...

I get it.

Now gimme some mother fuckin milanos, aight? MINT.
Chicken has a blanket. A quilt. With quilted figures of cars, trucks, helicopters, and boats on it. He likes to sit down on the blanket and put actual toy cars, trucks, helicopters, and boats on the corresponding quilted renderings. It's a nice game.

He was playing this game this afternoon.

Quietly.

Peacefully.

And then he spotted his silver bowl of plastic fruits and vegetables. He scrambled up, ran to the shelf, and grabbed the bowl, howling, "NEEDA FWOOT! NEEDA FWOOT!" He turned around to dump the contents of the bowl onto the ground, and froze.

"Oh no! Gotta kweenup!"

What?

He turned around, put the bowl back on the shelf.

WHAT?

He then returned to the blanket, where he gathered up all his vehicles and placed them on the table, while continuing to say, "gotta kweenup!"

WHAT IS THIS BLACK MAGIC?

He retrieved his bowl, dumped the fruits and vegetables in a pile on the blanket, and began a bizarre, incomprehensible sorting process.

While I watched him place an eggplant next to the orange bell pepper - WAIT! No, no, the eggplant obviously goes with the banana - I wondered what I should do.

Option 1:

Should I be like, "Wow Chicken that was terrific cleaning up! I'm so proud of you buddy!" (pat on the back)

Option 2:

Should I be like, "That is a basic expectation of a human being who lives under my roof and I'm pleased to see that you've taken note of your responsibilities." (extend hand for him to shake)

Option 3:

Should I be like, "WHAAAAAAAT THE FUUUUUUUCK WAS THAT?!?!?! I'll tell you what it was. It was fucking AAAAAWESOOOOME! HIGH FIVE!" (high five)


I went ahead with option 1.

But inside, I was totally option 3-ing.


Buster kicked me in the throat and giggled as I lay on the floor with him, tickling his toes. It was super cute.

Chicken kicked me in the throat and giggled as I lay on the floor with him, reading a story. It was super fucked up.
This.

Is my motherhood mantra.

I can be good at other things.

What does it mean? Where does it come from? How can you, too, find comfort in these 7 little words?

I'm so glad you're here, and I'm so glad you asked.

A good friend of mine was in labor with her second child. Her first labor had been induced - she had some medical complications that made her doc pretty jumpy about letting her go over her due date. And since they had induced her, she went ahead and got an epidural too. Pitocin, as we all know, makes contractions face-clawingly awful. Sorry, I meant to say more face-clawingly awful.

The second time around, she had the option of an epidural. Here's the conversation I imagine happening in her head:

They offered me an epidural this time. I wish they hadn't given me the choice.
It seems like you really want an epidural.
But I'm ashamed that I'm afraid of the pain.
Pain is scary. It's ok to fear pain.
But shouldn't I love my baby more than I feel pain?
What? Who said that those were your only two options?
Maybe I should try this naturally.
Why do you want to?
A lot of my friends did natural birth. If I can't do it, doesn't that, I don't know, MEAN something?
It means you're smarter than your friends.
Seriously, if I can't do this naturally, maybe I'm... not... as... good a mother? Or as strong a woman?
I don't think it means that at all. I think it just means you want an epidural.
I just want what's best for my baby.
I know you do.
I just want him to come into this world perfectly.
He will. 
I just have to remember that the birth is only a fraction of the relationship I'm going to have with this child.
That's right.
And I will feed him, clean him, cuddle him and tickle him just as much as my natural-birth friends did to their babies.
Of course you will!
And you know what? I don't have to be good at giving birth without pain medication.
You sure don't.
I can be good at other things!
Damn fucking straight.


My friend told me that she decided she could be good at other things, and I felt something loosen in me, an easing, a release. I know it sounds like I'm coming up with euphemisms to use in a MiraLax commercial, but truly, I felt physical relief to hear someone say it out loud:

We don't have to be good at everything. 

Of course, we know that. We're not totally delusional.

Of course, nobody would say, "I'm just trying to be great at everything!" But even though we say things to each other like, "ugh, he's just eating pouches for every meal because it's easy!" or "I had to turn on Sesame Street so I could get dinner on the table," what we're really saying is, "tell me it's okay that I'm not great at everything. Tell me I'm doing fine. Tell me my kid knows I love her. Tell me I'm not fucking this up."

Every mom I know lives in fear of dropping one of the fourteen balls she keeps soaring through the air at all times. We can't just feed our kids - we have to feed them non-Monsanto seasonal local organic dye-free preservative-free meals that will ensure their forever health. We can't just get them dressed for a play date - we have to make sure the socks match the shade of blue in the tee-shirt. We have to put on sunscreen, and not just any sunscreen... We have to read stories. We have to sing songs. We have to read about child-safe cleaning products. We have to buy vinegar and baking soda because there are no child-safe cleaning products. We have to. We have to. We have to.

There's nothing optional about raising kids. Everything is important. Or at least it feels that way.

But you know what?

I don't have to deliver my babies without pain medication.
I can be good at other things.

I don't have to dress Chicken like a catalogue kid.
I can be good at other things.

I don't have to make every meal from scratch out of organic produce.
I can be good at other things.

I don't have to wash his hair every night.
I can be good at other things.

I've decided to be good at:

Deciding not to give a fuck if he wants to wear rain boots on a sunny day. No fucks given.
Doing the voices in books.
Art projects.
Singing all the verses in "Baby Beluga."
Giving Chicken some freedom to make mistakes.
Kissing boo-boos.
Making nutritious meals that are also quick and easy.
Finding convenient, healthful microwaveable lunches.
Keeping Chicken's village intact (and Buster's too, once he can see farther than like 5 feet)

I decided I can be good at other things.

So can you.

In fact, you already are.

Remember that you are the very best mother in the world for your child.

There are all kinds of mommies out there - cooking mommies and sporting mommies and reading mommies and dancing mommies. There are mommies who keep immaculate houses and mommies who always have sticky rings on their tables. There are mommies who go to work and come home for dinner, and mommies who stick around and bug their kids all day long.

Every single one of those mommies is great at a lot of things.
Not a single one of those mommies is great at everything.
We're all part fuck-up and part super-mom.

So if your kid is eating pouches for every meal because it's easy, or if you just have to turn on Sesame Street, I'm here to tell you:

It's okay that you're not always great at everything.
You're doing fine.
Your kid knows you love her.
You are not fucking anything up.

You can be good at other things.
JK.

Now all you want to do is read these books, right?

That's the glorious insanity of banning a book - tell people that a book is too subversive, sexual, violent, or immoral? Hell, you won't be able to keep that puppy on the shelves.

Here are some of my favorite children's books that have been banned:

1. Winnie the Pooh
Why it's banned
Talking animals are evidently an "insult to God."

Why I like it
Eeyore is so gloomy. Truly, it's rare to see a character so glum and truly depressed in children's literature. I appreciate that Milne respects children enough to know they can handle a character who's perpetually down in the dumps.

2. Where the Wild Things Are

Why it's banned
It promotes witchcraft and supernatural events.

Why I like it
There's something visceral and real and messy about how ferociously the wild things love Max. They love him so much they want to devour him, not in an adorable toe-nibbling "nom nom nom" way, but in a teeth-gnashing, terrible-roaring, great-rumpussing, "seriously I'm about to digest you" way. "We'll eat you up we love you so." I can relate. Love of a child is a powerful, hungry force. You have to keep it on a leash.

3. Green Eggs and Ham


Why it's banned
Homosexual seduction

Why I like it
Homosexual seduction

Seriously, I'm glad that I'm not the only one with a potty brain. "Could you, would you on a boat? Would you, could you, with a goat?" Taken out of context it's obvious that Sam-I-Am is a lecherous little heathen intent on corrupting his friend, introducing him to the carnal pleasures of whatever it is that can be done on boats and with goats. Maritime Goat Love and Ham was the original working title, I think.

4. Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Why it's banned
It defines oral sex.

Why I like it
It also defines abstinence, backwards, censorship, prudishness, and hilarious.


Have a great Monday, everyone!
It's time for Buster to take a nap. Chicken is opening and closing Easter eggs in the living room, and so I kneel down and  make him look me in the eye.

Me: Mommy has to go put Buster down for a nap. She's going to be gone for just a few minutes, but she'll be right back. Are you going to keep playing with your Easter eggs?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: Okay, I'll see you in a few minutes.

Chicken: OK.

I go into my bedroom, turn off the lights, and turn on the white noise. Buster drops almost instantly into near-sleep in my arms. He responds so well to these external sleep cues. He's doing so well for such a little guy. I stand in the dark room listening to the whoosh whoosh of the white noise machine, and I let my mind wander back the the adoption FAQ page I was looking at this morning. I think, our family could grow again. Buster buries his face a little deeper into my armpit, a sure sign that he's out, and I start swaying my way toward his rock'n'play sleeper. Suddenly--

BANG!

The door flies open and slams against the wall.

Buster startles in my arms and his binky falls to the ground and rolls under the bed.

Me: FUCK!

Chicken: Fuck!

Chicken stands with his chest out, his hands in little fists at his sides, silhouetted in the doorway, dropping f-bombs. Buster starts to cry.

Me: Shhhh! Chicken, please go back and play with your eggs. I'm trying to put Buster to sleep. He's so tired!

Chicken laughs and runs back into the living room. I can't help but shake my head and smile. I'm so proud of his spirit and curiosity.

I close the door, and Buster nuzzles deep into my arm again, doing that baby-creaky-groan that means "I'm almost asleep, just keep doing what you're doing."

thud thud thud thud thud thud thud

Chicken's running footsteps grow louder and louder.

BANG!

The door flies open and slams against the wall. Chicken barrels into the room and runs straight into my body, head-butting my hoo-ha. 

Chicken: Fuck!

Chicken dashes back out of the room, giggling. Apparently we have invented a terrible new game. 

I close the door and stand in front of it, still swaying and shushing Buster, whose eyes have flown open yet again. Okay, I think, just try that shit again Chicken. Just bring that shit again. As if he heard my dare, he does.

thud thud thud thud thud thud thud

BANG!

The door slams open 2 inches and bounces off my hip, rattling back into the frame. HA! MOMMY: ONE! 

thud thud thud thud BANG!
thud thud thud thud BANG!
thud thud thud thud BANG!

He is getting a running start and attempting to break down the door. He is throwing his body into a slab of wood repeatedly and at speed. Buster is staring up at me, sucking on his binky, eyes bright and wide. We both fear this madman. I throw open the door. Chicken freezes in mid-step. He looks at me. He laughs. He says,

Chicken: Hi mommy.

I can't help it.  I smile. I say,

Me: Hi baby. I need you to stop this right now. Stop playing with the door and be quiet now, ok? Buster is so so tired. Can you go play with your blocks?

Chicken: Okay.

I close the door again and hear his little footsteps padding back into the living room. I hear rustling around. I hear a box of blocks hit the floor. Whatever. They're his fucking blocks. As long as he's not in this room keeping his infant brother from much-needed sleep, he can do whatever the fuck he wants with those blocks.

Amid the sounds of Chicken's "spirit" in action, Buster manages to fall asleep. I lay him down. He stirs and settles in, sighs. Perfect. 

I come out of the bedroom and find Chicken standing on the seat of his tricycle underneath the thermostat. He has pried the battery compartment cover off, and is currently working on the batteries. I manage to avert that disaster, and go to the computer to turn on some music. While my back is turned--

thud thud thud thud thud thud

BANG!

Chicken, from the bedroom, shrieking with delight: BABY BUSTER! HAHAHAHAHAHA! OPEN EYES?

MOTHERFUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCKFACE. 

I run into the bedroom where Chicken is standing over Buster's somehow still-sleeping body. I grab him and sweep him out of the room, shushing so hard my teeth vibrate.

Me: SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Chicken, doing a spot-on impression of a steam whistle: NoooooOOOOOOOO!

Buster: Waaaaaaah!

Me: Fuck.

Chicken: Fuck!

Awesome. I take Chicken into his room and rapidly reconstruct the bedsheet fort we made last night. I set him down in the fort, throw some books in his general direction, and say, 

Me: You just woke up your brother. You woke him up after it took me four tries to get him down and now I need you to stay in your bedroom until I come and get you. Stay here and play in your fort or do whatever, and Mommy will be right back.

Chicken: NO! WANT MOMMY! MOMMY PICK UP!

Me: Your brother is screaming in the other room, baby. Do you hear Buster screaming? You need to stay in here and read some books. Mommy will come back and pick you up in a few minutes, once Buster is asleep.

He's not happy about it but I took his doorknob off. I go back into the bedroom and pick up the wailing baby. I start to sing a little lullaby. 

Me: Hush, little baby, don't say a--

BANG

Me: --word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird, and if--

BANG BANG

Me: --that mockingbird won't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a--

BANG BANG scraaaaaaape BANG BANG BANG BANG

It suddenly occurs to me that when I took the doorknob off I left it on the dresser. 

Chicken's door is now dented and scratched. I walk into the room, take the doorknob away, and leave the room again without a word. Buster is looking at me like, 

Buster: You're not very good at this, are you.

Me: Evidently... no. Not really.

We go back into his room and I keep singing. 

BANG

Somehow Chicken gets his door open.

thud thud thud thud thud thud

BANG!

He kicks open the door and runs in, giggling.

Me, hissing in rage: GET. OUT.

I pull out one of my own mother's tried-and-true "don't fuck with me right now" gestures: the old point and snap.

GET. OUT. point, snap.

Chicken, laughing: das funny!

Me, still whispering as though the baby is asleep even though he is wide awake: I am not joking. Look at Mommy. GET OUT. 

Chicken screams at the top of his lungs, the kind of scream you hear as a roller coaster rounds the top of the track and starts a vertical drop. He is not scared. He is THRILLED.

I follow him out of the room and grab his arm. I put him back in his bedroom and close the door firmly enough that it's stuck in the jamb and he will not be able to open it. I hear him on the other side of the door, calling for me. I feel a little bit insane.

I go back into Buster's room and put him down. I come out again. The house is quiet, but for the thrumming white noise behind Buster's door. I take a moment. I open Chicken's door. 

He has pushed his easy chair in front of the door. He is lying in his chair, quietly, happily. He is reading "Just Me and My Little Brother." He looks up at me, his eyes huge, warm, brown.

Chicken: I sorry, Mommy.

I mean.

Yeah.

We could have another one.
This is what Chicken's school asked me to put in his emergency kit:

1. Oversized sweatshirt and sweatpants.
2. Day's supply of diapers.
3. Knit hat.
4. Mittens.
5. Nonperishable peanut-free vegetarian food for one day.
6. A comforting note and family photo.

Okay.

We're just going to skip right past 1-4 because they're totally reasonable and self-explanatory.

5. Let's discuss what one might eat if one were a vegetarian with a severe peanut allergy, spending a day in a bomb shelter. 

Ok, so obviously it has to be organic. (Is it sick that that's the first thing I think of, not because of my child's health, but because I can just imagine the teachers and other parents pitying my child and judging me and Ryan for Chicken's emergency stash of goldfish crackers?)

Can of soup? We could make sure it has the loopy-pully thing so you don't even need a can opener. But will there be power to heat the soup in an emergency situation? Will there be the opportunity to like sit at a table and spoon the soup from the bowl? I feel like I need more grab-and-go things. I feel like it needs to be food that can be eaten under a bridge while helicopters circle overhead.

Okay, so, pouches. That's something. The pouches don't spoil until they're opened. And they make ones that have, like, quinoa in them so they're more filling. 

But Chicken isn't going to be like, "Is that a sharknado? Wow, I was so distracted by that flying hammerhead that I didn't notice there was quinoa in my pouch!" He'll be like, "Is that a sharknado? Wow, I-- (spits contents of pouch onto teacher's face) THIS POUCH IS LUMPY. BRING ME ANOTHER, WOMAN."

So some regular, non-quinoa pouches. Maybe, like 3 of them. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

OK, so that's like... 40 calories. And no protein. And if Chicken is going to be running for his life and/or waiting out a hostage situation with a score by Marc Mancina playing in the background, he's gonna need some brain food. 

I ended up wandering up and down the organic section of Fred Meyer, checking the backs of boxes for information about protein and peanuts, and trying to decide which snack bars would bring Chicken the most nutrition and comfort in the event of an unspecified disaster.

Do Nutri-Grain bars say, "Darling boy, be brave and listen to your teachers."

Do Kind bars say, "As you eat me, you will be filled with the unwavering, fierce love of your family, and that love will protect you from harm."

I couldn't help it - I held the box of peanut-free almond snack bars. I held it in my hands and I squeezed it to my chest. I couldn't help it. I hoped that somehow the love with which I purchased and packed this food might live, like my stubborn rosewater perfume, inside the emergency bag, just waiting to pour out and stick to my son on the day he needs me most.


6. Moving on to the comforting note and family photo... I mean, can anyone write such a note without imagining the dire situation in which it will be read?

I see Chicken sitting on his teacher's lap, his face smeared with soot, wrapped in a scratchy wool blanket. He holds on tight to his teacher's arm. His eyes are huge, bright, and his face has the closed, blank quality of a child who is deeply afraid. Flickering candles light the room in a ghostly, swimming orange light. The teacher tears open the envelope that reads "Chicken," in my handwriting and begins to speak, her voice quivering but still warm.

What will she say? What should I say, through this teacher, to my son, in the event of... what? An earthquake? A terrorist attack? An Ebola outbreak? I mean, each of these disasters requires wildly different step-by-step instruction. 

You wouldn't tell your child to make sure to wash his hands thoroughly and avoid fecal matter if an earthquake had just hit. Well, you might, because that's just good sense, but still, if there's a gaping chasm in the playground, I think I'd probably go with "please stay away from the gaping chasm and play on the swings instead," over basic disease containment.

But maybe I should stay away from instructions and stick with loving platitudes. Because come on, what are the chances he's going to follow written instructions anyway? He's CHICKEN. He doesn't follow any instructions, ever. Unless the instructions are, "come eat this birthday cake," and even then it's a 70/30 shot.

But the problem with platitudes is that they're useless, and most of them are lies. Sorry, that sounds harsh. But I cannot bear the thought of lying to my son at a moment when he's scared and alone.

Here is the list of things I thought about writing but decided not to write because they are untrue and/or useless:

1. Don't be scared.
2. Nothing bad is going to happen.
3. Mommy and Daddy will always protect you.

I decided to go with happy thoughts. And lots of stickers. 


Dear sweet Chicken,

Remember how Mommy loves singing songs to you, like “Row, row, row your boat,” and “Little Bunny Foo Foo,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Remember how Daddy loves to give you kisses and tickle your belly.

Remember that Baby Buster thinks Chicken is so funny – Chicken makes Buster laugh and laugh and laugh! Chicken is Buster's favorite big brother.

Remember that most monsters are really your nice friends,
Like green Mike with his one big eye,
Like Sully with his soft blue fur.

Right now you might be scared. Here is a list of five good things to do when you’re scared:

1. Listen to your teacher. She loves you and wants to help you be safe.
2. Get a big hug from your teacher.
3. Find a safe place with your friends. Sit together under a blanket and hold hands. Say, “it’s okay. I’ve got you.”
4. Suck on your binky.
5. Look at a picture of Mommy giving you the biggest hug. Look at a picture of Daddy kissing your head. Chicken makes Mommy and Daddy so, so happy, and we will be there soon to give you big hugs and lots of sweet kisses.

Mommy and Daddy and Baby Buster love Chicken so, so, so much! You are our favorite little Chicken in the whole world.

Love,
Mommy and Daddy

I mean, just try to write a note like that to your child in a world where Newtown happened. You will not walk away with dry eyes. Unless you have a preexisting dry eye condition, in which case you'll surely walk away with dry eyes, but you'll probably have a lump in your throat the size of an apple.

The hard truth at the end of the day is that no matter how carefully I write each letter in each word, how many stickers I press down smoothly all the way to the edges, no matter how purposefully I write out his name on the envelope and draw little hearts all around it, if this letter is being read my son will be afraid and this note probably will not comfort him.

The bars, though... those'll do the trick. I also snuck in a binky, which absolutely seals the deal. I think if Chicken had to choose between Mommy and binky, he'd have to sit in his chair and think about it for a long, long time. Which obviously requires the use of a binky.
I Used to Care About
But Now I Care About
But Deep Down I Only Really Care About
Is this cheese cave-aged?
Does this have high-fructose corn syrup?
Will he eat it? And is it on sale?
Cloth diapering, for the environment
All-natural disposable diapering, for environment and convenience
Cheap diapers that I can throw away when they’ve been shat upon. Cheaper the better. Cheapest is best.
Fashionable clothes
Clean clothes
Wearing clothes
Shaving my legs
Shaving sometimes, just my shins and calves
Wearing pants all the time
Flossing
Brushing
Altoids
Dusting
Vacuuming
Avoiding having people in our home so there are no witnesses
Curling my hair
Brushing my hair
What kind of ponytail should I wear today?
Reading Nobel Prize Winners
Reading Caldecott Winners
Reading Mo Willems


(File not found)


No wait, actually, I've got a couple:

1. Sit in an ergonomic chair. Put on a back brace. You may now play gin rummy with the rakish, devil-may-care audacity that the game, nay, that the craft demands.

2. Lie flat on the ground with a pillow under your knees. You may now play "sleep." There will be no sleep.

3. Assume a tabletop position on your hands and knees. You may now play NO NO NO MOMMY IS NOT A HORSEY.

4. Stand with your back against the wall. Relax your shoulders and make sure that you're respecting the integrity of your cervical vertebrae. You may now play the worst game of tag ever.
oh chicken
my chicken

i'm sorry
but sometimes
i can't fix it

sometimes i can
i can fix the flaps you tear out
of the elmo peekaboo book
scotch tape
done

i can fix the rice krispy treat
you want to stay square
no matter how many bites you've taken
mash it back together
done
and done

blow up the balloon again
clip the plastic cover back on the battery compartment
wipe up the chocolate milk
from where you spat like a hose with a thumb pressed over it
done
done
and done

but sometimes
there's nothing to be done
nothing at all to be done

sometimes things break

like crackers
and light bulbs
and ceramic casts of baby handprints
like cameras
like water glasses
and other people's eyeglasses

and when those things break
they stay broke
my love

you offer them up to me
in shaking sticky hands
your mouth stretches into a sad sad square
as you wail
fik it
fik it
fik it mommy

oh baby
i can't fix the apple
unless you want me
to reach down your throat
to retrieve the hunk you've already chewed
and swallowed
is that what you want
no
i didn't think so

oh honey
i can't fix this croissant
croissants flake apart
if they're good croissants
and i always get the good croissants

how do i explain to this child
seriously
sometimes you have to break eggs to make eggs
sometimes the act of eating a cookie destroys that cookie
you know what
not sometimes
all the time
that's what eating is
that's why you grew teeth

remember how good the cookie tasted when it was whole
well guess what
it still tastes exactly the fucking same now that it's not whole anymore
give it a shot
or don't
but either way
that bite is gone
the cookie is missing part of itself
and it's staying that way forever
or until you take another bite
whichever
some things cannot be undone

there's something sad in this
profoundly sad
and i can't help wishing
he were a little older
before he discovered that every bite he's taken
is a bite he can no longer take
before he found out my secret shame
that mommy can't un-cut a waffle
(but i thought you could do anything mommy)
(this calls everything into question)
(do your kisses still heal my hurts)
(will you always always always be here mommy always)
(because now that i know about the waffle thing i'm just not so sure anymore)

i wish he were three or maybe fourteen
before he settled down on this plain old earth
and tried to learn how to be okay
living in all this rubble
So here's the situation:

Friend's house for dinner. Chicken wants to play upstairs in the room where a baby is sleeping. If he can't do that, then he is going to make us all pay, and pay dearly. As the adults eat their beautiful salmon, salad, grilled corn, and homemade macaroni and cheese, I take a flailing, screaming, melting-down Chicken into the bathroom for a time-in.

Me: baby? Baby? Chicken? 

Chicken: waaaaaant upstaaaaaairs! (kicking the sink)

Me: I hear you sweetheart. You want to go upstairs.

Chicken: YEAAAAAAAH! (He stops screaming for a second to see if I'm about to say yes.)

Me: there's a baby sleeping upstairs so it had to stay quiet up there. We need to stay down--

Chicken: NOOOOOOOO! Waaaant upstaaaaairs! 

Me: I know baby. But you know what we have downstairs? We have sidewalk chalk?

Chicken: NOOOOOO! (His voice goes up in pitch, at full squawk, like I just offered him a needle to stick in his eyeball.)

Me: all you have to say is "no thank you"

Chicken: (suddenly composed) no thank you.

Me: that was so nice! Ok, no chalk. We can color with cray--

Chicken: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (His voice goes up another half-step to dog-whistle shriek, as if I've just eaten an entire chocolate birthday cake without giving him a single bite.)

Me: can you say "no thank you?"

Chicken: (instantly calm) no thank you.

Me: oh how nice it is when you use you'd words! No crayons, gotcha. How about balloons? We can blow them up and let them fly around the room when we let go?

Chicken: no no no no no nooooo-ho-ho-hoooooo! (He's not feeling jolly. He's starting to sob.) uh-up-stay-urs! (Gasp between each syllable)

Me: okay, okay, okay buddy... You know what? I don't think we have any other choice. I was saving this for an emergency... And I think this moment qualifies. Should we...

(He stops wailing to listen)

... wrap you up in streamers so you look like a mummy?

Chicken: (sniffs) yeah.


And that's why I always travel with streamers.
Because I didn't take a shower this week. People are like, "I saw on the history channel that in the 1600s people only took a bath like once a year. Can you even imagine?" And I'm like, (scratches scalp) "sure can."

Because there are not one. Not two. Not three. But four. Four laundry hampers of clean clothes in various locations throughout my house. This is my laundry process:

1. Sort it.
2. Wash it.
3. Dry it.
4. Carry it back upstairs.
5. Allow to lie crumpled at the bottom of the hamper until urgently needed.
6. Dig it out. The deeper you go, the more strongly you feel that you are absolutely not going to get away with wearing this. Realize that while it is clean, it is also unacceptably wrinkled, which is only slightly better than spattered in strawberry yogurt crust.
7. Put back in dryer. Pray that dryer magically turns into a self-ironing iron and ironing board after you leave the room. 
8. Forget about load in dryer and put on something else that is also, by the way, unacceptably wrinkled.
9. Put on hat.
10. Pray you don't see people.
11. Repeat every week.

Yeah I was going to feel guilty about being a slob, both in terms of hygiene and housekeeping. But then I was like:

Fuck it.

I kept 3 people alive, fed, and not sitting in shit all week - even though at least 1 of us was putting forth some hard creative effort to the contrary. 


Don't worry, guys. 
(Scratches scalp.) 
I still haven't washed my hair.

This is important information for three reasons:

1. You do not, I repeat, DO NOT want to google "infant concussion." 

2. If you don't google "infant concussion," you'll spend the rest of the night wondering if baby snores or minor twitching are symptoms of a fatal brain bleed. (They are actually symptoms of being a sleeping baby, FYI.)

3. You will dial the pediatrician and hang up a dozen times, wondering if they have to report questions like, "how can I tell if my 3-month-old has a concussion?" to child services.

A couple of things to remember if you're like me and tend to fret about worst-case scenarios.

1. Toddlers hit babies sometimes. Sometimes toddlers hit sleeping 3-month-old babies in the soft, soft skull with hard plastic Cookie Monster dolls. Just, you know, for example. Doctors know that toddlers are savages. Don't be afraid to call for help.

2. If you're a good mom you don't have to act like it. Abuse and neglect do have to be reported. But minor accidents - like, say, a toddler jumping off of a chair and landing elbows-first on a 3-month-old baby's eye socket... you know, hypothetically - are just that: accidents. You're not a bad mom. You're a good mom. Your doctor knows this. And the most important thing, the only thing, is a safe baby. So don't be afraid to call for help.

3. Your husband or a trusted friend can always google "infant concussion" and screen out the horror stories on Yahoo answers.

4. There's a reason babies are soft. They bend but do not easily break. Take a breath. Look at your kid. Decide if he looks ok (Jesus! He's drooling! Honey? He's drooling! Call 9-1... Wait...) Decide if what he just endured was more traumatic than being born. 

Oh yeah, and don't be afraid to call for help. Or text me and I'll tell you not up be afraid to call for help.

Now strap that helmet on your baby, get out there, and have a great weekend!



Absolutely necessary disclaimer:

I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. I AM A THEATRE MAJOR. 
YOU WOULD HAVE TO BE A TERRIBLE MOTHER TO TAKE MEDICAL ADVICE FROM A THEATRE MAJOR. 
UNLESS THAT THEATRE MAJOR'S NAME RHYMES WITH FLORGE JUNI (with a soft j.)
BUT SERIOUSLY,
IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR BABY, CALL YOUR DOCTOR WHO PROBABLY MAJORED IN CHEMISTRY OR BIOLOGY OR SOMETHING FUCKING CREDIBLE. 
STOP READING BLOGS AND CALL YOUR DOCTOR. 
YES, RIGHT NOW.
You've been there.

Toddler and mom at the grocery store. Mom is loading up the cart, checking off her list. Toddler is sitting in the cart basket, looking at all the colorful jars, cans, and boxes. He starts to wiggle, whine, and say, "Get out! Get out!" Mom, exasperated, says, "You can't get out right now because I have to finish the shopping." The kid gets more and more upset until he's in full-on meltdown. Mom has a grim empty-shell-person face. Other shoppers are looking, shaking their heads, moving away from the scene.

Some version of this story may or may not have happened to you yet. I can tell you that Chicken did one of these in the pasta aisle of Whole Foods, except he wasn't in the cart. He was on the floor. In the middle of the aisle. Wailing and lying on the ground because I took away a glass jar of pasta sauce he'd grabbed from the shelf.

Why do kids always start acting up at the exact moment you need their cooperation? Seriously, it feels like they have a sixth sense on this one. Mom only has fifteen minutes to get the house in some semblance of order before her friends come over. I should pull all the papers out of the desk now.

Honestly, it's too easy to start thinking of your kid as "naughty," or "mischievous." I couch it in nicer terms than that, of course. I say, "oh, he's just pushing boundaries," or "it's age-appropriate for him to test me." I say or think that shit about Chicken every single day. He's being a monster to me, but he can't help it. He's just... pushing boundaries. And when you think you're being pushed, it's only natural to push back.

But I'm reading a book right now that's asking me to rethink that mindset, the place of "my sadistic kid is trying to make my life harder just to see what will happen, and it's my job to show him that his actions have consequences."

It's called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk



Now, I can tell you right now that if I'd seen that title on a bookshelf, I would have rolled my eyes and kept skimming for something a little more me - Taming the Savage Beastlet perhaps, or How to Say Stop So Kids Will Listen & Then Immediately Stop. 

But one of my mom role models recommended this book to me. She's the kind of mom I want to be - kind, firm, compassionate, fun, and warm. She's creative and patient with her three boys, and she appears to be some kind of child whisperer. She asks her boys to do things and THEY DO THEM. She says to her two-year-old, who is dangling off the edge of a play structure, "woah! that's too far, buddy!" and he smiles at her and retreats back onto the ledge. When I saw that, only days after I attempted to talk Chicken out of leaping from an open window 9 feet off the ground, I was absolutely dumbfounded.

ARE YOU A WIZARD?

She says she isn't. But isn't that what wizards say?

Anyway, she recommended this book to me. And it's slowly but surely blowing my mind.

I've fallen into the trap of thinking that my child acts this way TO ME. Every day at some point I think, why are you doing this to me? And in my mind, the only solution for his meltdowns was a firmer hand, clearer boundaries, more consistent restrictions and rules.

But the tighter you grip someone, the more likely they are to fight you.

The truth is that Chicken is a pain when he's feeling pain. He's acting angry or sad because he's angry or sad - he's not trying to make my day harder. He's saying, "Mom. I need some help right now."

Here's the killer concept from this book that really resonated with me:

"The attitude behind your words is as important as the words themselves. The attitude that children thrive on is one that communicates, 'You're basically a lovable, capable person. Right now there's a problem that needs attention. Once you're aware of it, you'll probably respond responsibly.' The attitude that defeats children is one that communicates, 'You're basically irritating and inept. You're always doing something wrong, and this latest incident is one more proof of your wrongness.'"

It makes me sad to think how often I've unintentionally shown my Chicken that he's irritating, or not capable. I mean, yes, he is often irritating, and he often attempts feats that he shouldn't - like oh, say, when he wants to plunge 9 feet down. You're damn right I'm going to say "stop, you can't do that!"

But there's got to be a better way. There's got to be a way we can arrive at the place where he and I can both treat the undesirable behaviors as problems that have solutions, and not fatal character flaws or evidence of my total failure as a parent.

So here's my resolution for today, and moving forward:

Chicken,

I will remember that you are a basically lovable little boy who is still figuring out how to let me know when something is wrong.

I will forgive myself for getting irritable and focusing on your frustrating behavior when you're feeling bad.

I will remember, in those moments of anger and short temper, that you do better when you feel better. I will look at how small you are, how large the world outside is, and try to understand why you feel like you need to dig in your heels and fight so hard for what you want.

I will shop at the grocery store during off-peak hours so you can take your time crying in the middle of the pasta aisle. I will sit down on the ground next to you and pat your back until you feel better.

I will try to find ways that you can help me while we are out and about. I will hand you oranges to put in the plastic sack. I will ask you to put the box of macaroni in the cart.

I will try to find tasks that you can accomplish yourself, without my help. I will ask you to pick a can of soup from the shelf. I will ask you to clip yourself into your seat. I will resist the urge to step in, hurry up, and do it for you when you're taking your time, learning, experiencing, and yes, maybe, sometimes stalling.

When I don't know what else to do, I will take you into your room and read to you, or we will throw stuffed animals around.

I will help you feel better.

I will try.
A few random thoughts on this glorious Monday:

I like to think that my house puts the -ish in "cleanish."

In related news, you know what? I feel sorry for people who DON'T have regurgitated cheddar cheese on their kitchen floors. I do! Man, it feels good to finally say it out loud.

I wonder if Chicken ever gets tired of answering the same questions. Like, in his mind, he's saying, "ask me what a fire truck says one more time, woman..."

There are two mental places you can start from when facing your tantrumming tot:

A) hey, tot, you are fundamentally good and wonderful and lovable, but it looks like there's something wrong right now that's making you sad or angry. Let's work together to fix it.

B) just get in the motherfucking car seat. Now. Now. NOW.

I baked kale and called it a chip, and I totally fooled Chicken into eating it! Once. The last time I lied to him to get him to eat a vegetable, I called creamed spinach "green cheese." He smelled it and said, "no, mommy." Like you would if your dad came downstairs, ready to go to the mall in black socks and sandals. "Just... No. No mommy. You're embarrassing yourself."

After I was done nursing Buster this evening, he reached our to grab my hand. I looked down at our interlocking fingers and thought, "omg photo op! So sweet!"



But it just kind of looks like intestines, right? It's like, holy shit Uncle Milton, what am I looking at here?


Alright! Monday down! Tuesday starts in 10... 9...