Chicken loves food. He loves to read about it, cook it, smear it in his hair, and of course, eat it.

For all the similarly gustatorily-oriented Chickens out there whose parents might have passed through this blog, we wanted to share a few of our favorite books about food. Some of them are classics, and some of them just oughta be.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle

I mean, obviously. Does anyone need me to list the reasons this book is a classic?


Judi Barrett

Again, if you need me to explain why this book is amazing you're probably a Russian spy. Not that I have a problem with that.


I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
Lauren Child

Ingenious Charlie convinces picky Lola to try new foods by letting her in on a little secret... the food isn't food at all!


In the Night Kitchen
Maurice Sendak

Surreal, lovely, gorgeous. Sendak.


Happy Belly, Happy Smile
Rachel Isadora

Reasons I love this book:
1. The art is gorgeous - strips of textured paper laid out to create amazing images.
2. It's set in Chinatown. (Other cultures! Yes!)
3. The primary caregiver in the book is a grandparent, not a parent. (Other generations! Yes!)

Reasons I hate this book:
1. After reading it nothing but dumplings will satisfy me. You were warned.



Snack Time for Confetti
Kali Stileman

Confetti is a hungry little bird who asks all his (or her, I don't think it's made clear) jungle friends what they're eating. Chicken likes it because he gets to say "try some!" "yum!" and "yuck!"



You Are What You Eat
Serge Bloch

I adore this book because it covers a lot of colloquial sayings that involve food - your goose would be cooked, drive me bananas, eat like a bird... this is how people really talk, and I love that.


Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog
Mo Willems

It's a Pigeon book, so it's light on everything except charm. The plot? Pigeon finds a hot dog. Why is this book irresistible? I don't know. But yes, you should expect to want a hot dog after you read it.



Mitchell Sharmat

Gregory is a goat, and a terrible eater. Instead of eating delicious tires, cans, old shoes, and other junk, he wants nothing but fruits and veggies, fish and cheese. Bonus: I first discovered this book on a little program called Reading Rainbow. You might have heard of it. Unless you're a Russian spy. Which is cool.



Pete's A Pizza
William Steig

Pete's in a pissy mood because it's raining. So OBVIOUSLY his dad decides to cheer him up by making him into a pizza. Like you do.



To Market, To Market
Anne Miranda

The art is flashy and fun. The animals wreak pleasant havoc. The woman who wants nothing more than to slaughter some animals to make dinner ends up making delicious vegetable soup for lunch. Oh, fuck. Spoiler alert.



Have a great Thursday, guys. Read something delicious.

What did I miss? Any of your kiddos love to read about food? I'd love to read your comment if you have a great one to add to the collection!
From 5:15 pm to 5:25 pm last night, this is the list of things that Chicken said he wanted.

a popsicle
mac and cheese
my daddy
sumpin down here (referring to behind the refrigerator)
a feather
pomegranate seeds
no fire trucks
no salt
no butter
mac and cheese
dora
no dora
my mommy
my buster
no buster
mommy put buster down
my milk
a popsicle
my daddy
my daddy stand over there (while Chicken opens the freezer to steal a poposicle)
open dis (freezer)
my popsicle
my yellow popsicle
my fish
my water lovey (that's what he calls any vessel containing water, his lovey)
mac and cheese
picture of trains
movie of trains
movie of Elmo on trains
and Thomas
movie of Elmo and Thomas on trains

Then I turned on a movie of Elmo and Thomas on trains.

Yes, it's real.

And then the Lord said let there be slack jaws and silence until the mac and cheese is ready.

I saw a couple of moms together on a play date at the park. Blonde Mom had one happy, quiet little girl, maybe 2 and a half, who sat scooping sand with a plastic shovel. Blonde mom wore large black sunglasses a la Nicole Richie, and head-to-toe Lululemon. She looked cool and composed, one slim hand curled around a Starbucks cup. She sat on a bench and occasionally called vague encouragement to her daughter. "That's great honey," or "good work, babe."

Asian Mom was another story. Her hair slipped out of its ponytail so strands flew wildly in her face. She ran after her rambunctious 3-year-old, who, when I first saw him, was attempting to pull another little boy off of "his swing." Asian Mom pushed a stroller holding an infant who cried the hoarse, moaning cry of a child who really doesn't know why he's awake right now. 

I watched her shush the baby, replace his pacifier, continue to rock the stroller back and forth while she knelt down to look her little boy in the eye, insist that he apologize to the other kid on the swing, and convince him that an identical swing was just as good as the already-occupied version. 

She wore yogawear too, but it was pilled and a little loose, hanging away from her not in the chic-baggy look, but in the style of a person who has recently lost significant weight and has not yet noticed that her wardrobe no longer matches her frame.

The two moms chatted in the disjointed way that two moms on a playdate must do - picking up threads of various conversations at random, whenever they were close enough to hear each other.

After about fifteen minutes, Asian Mom packed up her babies and headed out. I watched her carry her kicking three-year-old son under one arm with ease as she pushed the stroller at a clip, shushing the still-awake-and-still-pissed-about-it baby.

And then...

Blonde Mom got on her phone and proceeded to talk a flatbed's worth of shit about Asian Mom in the faux-sympathetic way that only horrible women can do.

(I changed all the names)

I'm so worried about Mary. 

We just met up at the park, and, well, first of all, Jimmy was just acting like a monster. Totally out of control. I watched him, with my EYES, ASSAULT another boy on the playground. Pulled him out of his swing, like, to the GROUND. I know, I don't know how she even takes him out of the house without like a lawyer on speed dial.

She just looked bad, you know? Like she hadn't slept at all. At ALL, at all. Or showered. It was bad.

Oh, just some old sweats that did not fit and looked like they were about to fall off of her body. Like, eat a sandwich! Honestly, I don't know if she's taking care of herself at all. I know. I'm worried. She... she looks bad. (pause) Haha! Right?

I'm just so worried because, you remember. How she was always, like so together. And Jimmy never used to pull that kind of thing. But now... and the baby just cried the whole time, I swear she looked like she was about four seconds away from just losing it. 

No, I know! I know. I don't know why they had the second one. Like, I hope it's worth it? I don't know. It just makes me so grateful for the family I have, you know? Like, that I have the time to really be a parent to Sidney and make sure she doesn't turn out like... well, not turn out like, but BEHAVE like... you know what I mean. (pause) EXACTLY. So how are you?

Well, I hope whoever is on the other end of that phone call - let's call her Tracy - is having an absolutely perfect fucking day with a perfect fucking outfit and a perfect fucking child because if she isn't, you can bet your ass that Blonde Mom is going to be making yet another call to yet another "friend" - let's call her Bertha, just for kicks - bemoaning not just Mary's pathetic unspooling in the miserable pressure-cooker that has become her life, but poor Tracy! I just found out she still hasn't potty-trained Hester, isn't that just embarrassing?

What struck me about this exchange was twofold - first, the cold and methodical cataloguing of all of Mary's shortcomings at the hands of a woman who was supposed to be her friend, and second, both the speed and delight of Blonde Mom's betrayal. Swear to God, she was waving good-bye with one hand, and putting her phone up to her ear with the other. What a fucking bitch. Sorry. That's what we in the biz call a truth bomb. You can hide under your desk if you want to, but it don't change the facts.

Blonde Mom is every mom's worst nightmare. 

She is a wolf in yoga pants. She is a snake in the fucking grass.

She has ostensibly been in the trenches, so you'd think you could trust her to not give a fuck if your hair looks cute.

At some point her child, too, cried through a play date, so you'd think you could trust her to listen when you talk and commiserate about when her toddler was a crying baby in a stroller not so long ago, or when that toddler got grabby with the swings one time. 

But no. Blonde Mom has forgotten what it's like to be a human. And she cannot be trusted.

She spent the entire play date not listening to her friend, but observing her for the express purpose of criticizing her behind her back. She wasn't visiting. She was doing recon.

Fuck that.

Asian Mom/Mary, when I look at you, I see a fucking work horse. You do your fucking work like a fucking boss. I see you comfort a baby and resolve a conflict with a toddler at the exact same fucking time. 

I see you working the physical impossibility of being in two places at the same time, for two creatures who both demand 100% of you. All day. Every day.

I see that you use every one of your limbs. All day. Every day.

I know you go to bed exhausted every night, having kissed one sweet baby to sleep and gone immediately on to the next. 

And you do not deserve to spend your time with a fucking bitch who is going to dishonor your hard work by making it about whether or not she thinks you're putting on a good enough show.

Let it be known, here and now, that I am a fuck-up, so this kind of high-school Mean Girl bullshit really rings my bell. 

I drop more balls than I catch. I shower, on average, once every three or four days. My house is a disaster. 

I have no idea what I look like when I leave the house but judging from the number of drive-thru baristas who double-take when I take off my sunglasses, I should probably invest in some under-eye concealer.

I'm just saying that I do not have my shit together. I don't ever want any of my friends to believe that I care what they look like, or whether or not their toddlers are having a good day or a batshit crazy day.

I'm just saying, I will never Blonde Mom you. It's not because I'm a good person. I just don't have the time or energy to make a fucking play date with someone I don't like, just so I can watch them carefully for weaknesses and then remember those weaknesses for a mean-spirited gossip sesh down the road with someone else. Seriously? Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Blonde Mom, I'm sorry that you spent your afternoon dedicated to the sabotage of a friend.  I'm sorry that you missed the opportunity to be amazed at her strength and patience. I was. 

I hope you'll remember that it's a good idea to be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. 

And yes, now I'm going to eat my own cooking. Because I too tore down a mom today.

Blonde Mom, I don't know what battle you're fighting. I don't know your story or your heart or your friendship with Mary, Tracy, Bertha, or your gay bestie Phillippe (I imagine.) I'm sorry I tore you a new one in my head, and in this blog post. 

I made assumptions about you based on a brief observation. Part of my anger at you stems from the cruel, casual betrayal I overheard, and part of it stems from my own pettiness, watching you have it so fucking easy, look so chic and neat next to Mary and me, a couple of hot messes. It was only 60% about you. Well... no, realistically it was probably 85% about you. But it was still a little bit about me too.

I hope this was a moment you'll later regret. I hope you'll bring Mary a casserole later in the week. I hope you meant it when you said you were worried, and maybe you'll offer to take crazy Jimmy for an hour tomorrow.

I hope you'll stop giving a shit about the shit that doesn't matter.

And as for me, this post is a love letter to my friends. 

Friend, I trust you to take me as I am, greasy bangs and saggy yoga pants. I trust you to see me for better or worse as Katie, just Katie, getting by, winning some and losing some, fucking up and scoring big, buying organic strawberries and McDonald's fries.

I can only hope I've earned your trust, too. Not a day goes by that I'm not humbled and amazed at the patience, love, ingenuity, humility, generosity, humor, and fucking superhuman strength of a friend.

Let's sweeten the victories and soften the defeats of our fellow moms, co-workers, compatriots, mentors. Let's carry our wounded and cheer for our heroes. Let's be friends.

Thanks.


PS - considered and discarded titles for this post included:

"bitch, be kind"
"let's be friends"
"snake in the grass"
"mom versus mom: a playground parable"
and
"i've got your back asian mom"

I have this obsession with opening my closet one day to find the perfect wardrobe.

The perfect wardrobe is one in which any three items, selected at random, look perfect together.

The perfect wardrobe consists of garments that came to me through a bizarre and quirky meet-cute - this scarf was not simply selected from the rack at TJ Maxx, but unearthed from inside a trunk at a Persian market where a heavily bearded fellow named Aziz gave it to me for a single, chaste kiss on his cheek.

The perfect wardrobe is consistent - so that I have a signature look - but never dull.

The perfect wardrobe is perfect for all seasons.

The perfect wardrobe hangs coolly, each perfect garment in its own space, never smashed by an already-pilling Forever 21 cardigan. The perfect wardrobe is always ready to be photographed by Lucky Magazine.

The perfect wardrobe doesn't have to try hard because it's just that awesome.

The perfect wardrobe consists of no more than 20 items.

The perfect wardrobe contains a garment for every possible occasion - boating in Rio for new year's, a masquerade ball in the theme of Audrey Hepburn, a baby shower in the theme of White Trash Mama, an impromptu weekend excursion to the Vatican - the perfect wardrobe has got you covered (or uncovered) perfectly.

The perfect wardrobe makes it look like you totally know what the trends are, but you're above those trends because your personal sense of style transcends the pathetic, it's-hay-time-woman-now-give-me-that-juicy-hay bleating of those fashion sheep at Vogue.

I want to live in a world where such a wardrobe could exist.

But who am I kidding.

If I had no more than 20 items in my closet, they would all be filthy by day 2 and I'd be forced to choose between overnighting more clothes from Amazon, or doing laundry every 2 days. And I'm not willing to put forth that much effort just so I can look effortless.

I mean, I want to be stylish. Recently I made an appointment with a personal stylist. I gave the booker some information when I made the appointment, and when I arrived it was clear that my stylist had looked at me on paper -

30
just had a baby
also has a toddler
wants low-maintenance
looking for jeans
nothing that needs to be dry cleaned, ironed, or hand-washed, she was very specific about that
said "easy" about 14 times
doesn't know what size she is

- and settled on "floral button-downs and boxy sweaters." Which, to be fair, appears to be right on trend this season. Apparently all the teenage girls want to dress like moms.

Don't get me wrong - she found me not one but TWO pairs of killer jeans right out of the gate, which, I think we can all agree, was an act of pure wizardry. I don't have any complaints about her sartorial skills or her salesmanship. I just have complaints about my own profile.

Why does 30 + two kids + low-maintenance = dowdy or dull, shapeless or dated? No wonder the mom uniform has become yogawear. I am living proof of that every day, as I take approximately 45 seconds to select which pair of leggings I will wear with which racerback yoga tank and Zella jacket.

There are a lot of reasons not to give a fuck about your clothes when you're a mom, even a young mom.

1. That shit takes time and energy and I don't have any to spare
2. Nice clothes will only be destroyed by the two savage mongrels who eerily resemble me and my husband
3. Inner beauty and yadda yadda yadda

I know that there is no such thing as the perfect wardrobe. I know that closets like this one don't really exist:

fuck you, container store. fuck you and your neatly-hung slacks. 
But still, I believe in respecting myself enough to look like a human being who is participating in the world when I leave the house. That means you will never, ever, I mean EVER see me ANYWHERE in my pajamas. Except maybe the ER.

I believe that the way you dress and groom yourself indicates the level of esteem in which you hold your self. Whatever your personal style, there is something to be said for putting on a swipe of mascara or a dab of lipstick, picking out a bright scarf or a fun pair of shades, and leaving the house feeling like not just a mom, but a woman. A good-looking woman. A head-turner. It's not shallow. It's not a poor use of your time. Don't feel bad about taking 14 seconds to make that ponytail a little sleek, or a little messy - whichever you prefer. Whichever makes you feel like your milkshake still has the power to bring at least a few boys to the yard.

Because it does. You're hot, mama. Work it.
Me: Your fortune cookie always says that you have wide and varying interests...

Ryan: I do.

Me: ... In bed.

(pause. 
Then, simultaneously:)

Me: Asians.
Ry: hamsters. 

How to Not Fall Asleep
By Chicken

So you've decided to Not Fall Asleep! I'd like to be the first to welcome you to this exciting, life-changing philosophy. This guide is only the beginning of a whirlwind journey to a bigger, brighter world full of way more feelings.

Now, I know it's a big shift, but follow a few easy steps and you too can spend those nap time hours awake, dedicating yourself to more enriching pursuits. 

1. Throw all your pillows and blankets out of your crib. You won't be needing those, Mr. or Ms. Sunshine! Plus, with the extra space in your crib you can dive right on to Chicken's Total Insanity Crib Workout! You can carve up and slim down that pudding-pop-pot belly with a high intensity interval sesh that includes: 

- running in laps around the crib
- bouncing on the mattress while holding onto the crib rail
- hanging on the crib rail and yelling "I'm a monkey!"
- rolling back and forth
- lying on your back and kicking the mattress while going "AAAAAAAAAAA EEEEEEEEEEEEE IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII OOOOOOOOOOO UUUUUUUU."


2. Speaking of vocalizing, it's important to remember that your voice is an instrument, and must be tuned, protected, warmed up and cooled down. "Nap time" is the perfect time to work on those dynamics! Try some scales while howling "Mommyyyyy!" To see which pitch really produces results, you will have to hold out the "eeee" part for as long as you can. You could also practice shrieking! "HEE!" is a great word for shrieking. Make sure to keep going higher and higher. Nope, higher. Think, like, malfunctioning farm equipment. 

3. Don't be afraid to declare your intentions! "Parents" are notoriously stubborn when it comes to only hearing what they want to hear, and a well-timed catch phrase can really help cut through their willful deafness, and make clear your intention Not to Fall Asleep! Here are a few of my personal favorites: 

- I'M AWAKE.
Simple, timeless. Can be spoken, wailed, hollered, or chanted.

- Time to watch a movie!
The perfect comeback to the classic "Parent" line, "it's time to take a nap."

- Have a poop!
Whether or not you have a poop. Guaranteed to produce results!

- No sleep. No sleep. My applesauce.
I don't think I need to unpack this one for you. It's just plain good sense.

4. If one of your "Parents" decides to come in and "help you fall asleep," don't worry! This is a great opportunity to try a few of our more innovative Not Fall Asleep Parent Strategies! When your "Mommy" wraps you in a blanket and starts singing a quiet lullaby, try sticking your finger in her ear and asking her "what's in there?" You could also request a different song- but make sure to continue requesting different songs every four or five seconds. No need to have an extensive library- you can just alternate back and forth between two favorites!

Mommy: twinkle, twinkle, little st--
Chicken: Baa Baa Sheep?
Mommy: okay... Baa baa black sh--
Chicken: Twinkle Star?
Mommy: twinkle, twinkle, litt--
Chicken: Baa Baa Sheep?

When she starts looking up at the ceiling, gritting her teeth, or sighing like a draft horse, you know you're getting somewhere!

5. In a pinch, crying will keep you awake, forever. Just keep crying, and asking for things that you don't actually expect your "Parents" to bring you. Purple quesadillas, books that belong to your cousins in Amarillo, unicorn puppets, and Mommy's shoes all make great requests. To really make an impact, you have to make sure you ask in such a way that suggests that if only you had that one special thing, you would fall asleep. Because your "Parents" will not or cannot satisfy your requests, hey man, it's on them now.


If you practice these 5 principles of How to Not Fall Asleep, I give you my personal guarantee that by 4, 4:30 in the afternoon you will be riding the heart-pounding roller coaster of wildly careening emotions that only a Not Sleeper can withstand. 

When brushing up against an upholstered chair brings you to your knees in psychic anguish, and when the sight of your kitty puzzle makes you run around in circles on the carpet and hoot like an owl, well, I would say that congratulations are in order. Now get out there and Not Fall Asleep! 
I'm having one of those days when I want to tell everybody to fuck off.

Yes, that includes Chicken.

Yes, that includes Buster. Although to Buster I'd probably couch it a little more like, "sweet boy, mama really would like it if you'd just fuck off for a little while, my angel."

That includes my grandparents, neighbors, mailman, former cats, husband, sisters, friends, that guy from Constant Contact who keeps scheduling "coaching calls" without my consent and then emailing me after I ignore his coaching call to tell me that it's okay that I "couldn't make it." Yes, you, sir. Fuck. Off.

That includes Dora. That includes Big Bird and his ABC song.

That includes the barista at the drive-thru Starbucks. This is how I wish our conversation had gone:

Barista: Here's that grande Americano!
Me: Fuck off.
Barista: Did you want a receipt?
Me: Um... fuck off.
Barista: Okay, have a great day!
Me: Fuck off!

Obviously, my mama raised me right enough that our conversation did not go like that. I didn't tell anybody to fuck off today. Because nobody did anything worth f-bombing today. The barista was pleasant and not too sunshine-y and was only minding his business when I blasted through with my foul mood and surly "no thank you's."

My children are just being children. My friends are wonderful friends. My husband is feeling his way through too many consecutive nights with too little sleep, just like I am, and we're doing our best to be compassionate and patient and tough enough not to take little things personally.

My frustration is this wildly malfunctioning sprinkler going off in all the wrong directions. Knowing that does not fix the sprinkler.

What can I do?

1. Take a shower while neither of my children naps successfully, safe in the knowledge that they are at least caged and/or belted in place and unable to harm themselves or others, and nobody ever died from crying.

2. Write a blog post about it.

3. Forgive Chicken for being two and do not hold a grudge against him for another afternoon of no napping and whining about his teeth having a boo-boo. He's doing the best he can. Give him a hug and a kiss.

4. Forgive Buster for being 4 months old and unable to fall asleep without being straightjacketed. He's a baby. He knows not what he does.

5. Forgive everyone else for simply being present in my life on a day that I'm a belligerent dick. They didn't do anything to deserve my ire. But I'm going to forgive them anyway.

6. Forgive myself for being a belligerent dick. There's a great piece of wisdom I think about all the time: "If you meet 5 assholes in one day, you're the asshole." So today I am the asshole.

Sorry.

And fuck off.
3:06 am.

It's a confusing time to be awake. 

Am I going on a ski trip?
Am I getting on a 6 am flight?
Am I shitfaced, eating blue box mac?

No?

Then I don't think I should be awake right now.

And yet.

Buster respectfully disagrees.

Here's the really confusing part- I'm awake at 3:06 am. And I'm really pretty cranky about that. Irritable, foggy, snappish and... Is that despair? Yeah, definitely a little soupçon of despair right on top there, you know, for complexity.

But I'm also smiling.

Because the thing that woke my despairing ass up? 

He's singing. 

My baby was moved to song at zero-dark-thirty and I am absolutely in love with that crowing baby dinosaur crooner.

But you can stop any time now, kid. It's three in the morning. 
I'm pretty sure lotion companies just wring babies out and bottle the juices.

Aveeno? That's the surname of a creamy all-natural Italian family who lives on the banks of Poland Spring.

Shea butter? That baby was NAMED Shea you guys. They took her butter. Now all of her skin feels like my hands after I've washed them in an airport.

I'm not even joking.

This is real.

You get an email from Jergen's saying "oh we want your baby to be like a Jergen's baby!"
and you're like awesome!
And they're like "great come to this warehouse,"
and you're like okay...?
and they're like "oh my god his skin is so revitalizing!"
and you're like what? and they're like "hm?"
and you're like what's that wringing-out apparatus that looks like a giant jumperoo with a tub underneath?
and they're like "oh that? not sure. just leave your baby here and go have a cocktail and when you come back he will be in no way altered,"
and you're like sounds great Mr. Jergen! La la la!
And then when you get your baby back he's like a raisin baby and they're like "what? He was like when we got him?"
and you're like what's in that bottle with my baby's name on it? and they're like "hm?"
and then you go home feeling like that was weird but you can't really put your finger on why,
and then you log onto KatyKatiKate
and you're like holy shit they juiced my baby for Jergen's.


... and that's why you don't post pictures of your baby on Facebook.



(PS, I emailed this post to Ryan before I posted it and I was like "too weird?" and he was like "yeah," and then I played with it a little and emailed it to him again, and he said, "ha ha ha, still pretty weird though." And that's when I knew it was ready.)
why yes, i am doing yoga and eating cake at the same time.

why yes, that is milk vomit on my leggings. thank you for noticing!
what's that? why is there milk vomit on my ass? well, funny story.
i sat in milk vomit.

why yes, i am wearing a bra that is two sizes too big. it was either that or two sizes too small.

why yes, i am out at a bar with my husband humming the backpack song from dora.

why yes, i do refer to mushrooms as "nushrooms," chocolate as "chockit," and smoothies as "frohmees."

why yes, we do have a set of toddler shackles fashioned from oversized wooden beads. why - do you need to borrow?

he's going as jean valjean for halloween this year
Stage 1: This is Gonna Be Amazeballs

A Toddler Halloween Party sounds amazing. Chicken would tear that shit up. And I think his friends would have fun too. We should throw one. A Halloween party, I mean. Not one of his friends. Ha. Dangling modifiers! Always good for a laugh.

(after 5 hours on Pinterest)

Oh my God, I can TOTALLY do this! Like, no problem whatsoever.

Let me start a new document so I can keep all my totally amazing ideas in one place.

A costume parade, a pear cider recipe, pumpkin-shaped cookies, oooh a ghost piñata so cute! I should fill it with organic raisins, band-aids, and hair clips. Should I do a storytime? Can 30 costumed two-year-olds handle a storytime? And where should we even do this? My house is too small and old and weird-smelling.

Whatever, I'll just invite everybody real quick and say "Location tbd!"

Evite sent! Awesome! This is going to be SO EASY AND FUN!

Stage 2: Online Shopping and Overconfidence

Cute Halloween cups? CHECK.

Snacks? CHECK...ish. I bought some pretzels at Target. That's good for now. I'll do the rest later.

Activities? I'll figure that shit out later.

Adorable handmade Etsy crafty shit? Oh CHECKITY CHECK CHECK.

I should probably go do a load of laundry now. I'm in amazing shape for this party anyway.


(one month later...)
Stage 3: Awake From Mild Amnesia

Oh right, I was going to throw a Halloween party. When is that again? Oh right, next week. Right. Right. Haha... well... hm.

(opens Evite page)
(forgets Evite password. It's not "evite" so am totally stumped.)
(resets Evite password. To "evite.")
(logs into Evite)

Stage 4: Fuck Me (also known as Reality Sets In)

Fuuuuuuuck me.

40 people are coming.

Don't panic.

I made notes on this, right?

No need to panic. I specifically remember outlining some activities.

I don't have 40 people coming and only one bag of pretzels to show for it. I wouldn't do that.

(opens Microsoft word document)


ADORABLE shortbread witch hat cookie recipe here.
Location? Figure out later.

Should I read a story?


FUUUUUUUUCK MEEEEEEE.

Okay, calm down. These are two-year-olds we're talking about here. They like dirt and sticks.
Calm down.
Don't panic.
STOP PANICKING!
Just because you have 40 people coming to... somewhere... in seven days... with 2 hours to fill... and nothing to do once they arrive... except eat 2 pretzels apiece... that doesn't mean you're fucked. Right?

I'm so fucked. 

The toddlers are going to lock the doors and tear me to pieces like the cats in that creepy Got Milk commercial.

Stage 5: Laser Focus and Lowered Standards

Calm the fuck down and pull your shit together. For God's sake, you have a bachelor's in creative writing and theater. You aced not one but TWO finals on how to sit, stand, and breathe. You can throw a motherfucking party for twenty 2-year-olds.

So what we need to do is make a to-do list, and then get okay with knowing this party is going to land  at just barely right around good enough.

Get a bucket of balls, a huge thing of bubbles, a box of cookies, a package of paper towels, an economy-size box of toilet paper, 50 orange latex balloons, and some pots and pans. Go outside and pick up some pine cones.

No. There will be no goodie bag.

No. There will be no craft.

No. There will be nothing to Pin.

I will accept that my friends might not like me anymore once they show up at the library to find me handing out paper cups of apple slices and letting the costumed toddlers mill around an empty meeting room and hit each other with their foam costume props.

I will never, ever do this again.

I will definitely do the exact same thing again next year.
The following three things happened simultaneously:

1. Ryan took a bite of hot dog.

2. Buster smiled at Chicken.

3. Chicken winged two plastic balls into Buster's face at point-blank range.


Then, the following three things happened simultaneously:

1. Ryan knelt down to have a serious talk with Chicken about not throwing balls at your brother's face when you are close enough to pick his nose for him, but the weight of his message was somewhat diminished by the fact that his mouth was still completely full of hot dog and bun WITH sauerkraut. "The talk" looked more like Chicken making intense eye contact with a very focused cow.

2. Chicken smiled.

3. Buster farted.

(And... ... ... Scene.)

What can I say, you guys. I'm a storyteller. I am merely the chronicler of these brief glimpses into the sublime.
My friend had a link to this:



And underneath her post, Facebook suggested a handful of "Related Links."

Oh.

Ooooohhhhh, Facebook.

(I'm Meg-Ryan-in-the-Diner-ing when I say that.)

A sublime series of Tumblrs and The Toasts that truly made my night.

And considering the fact that Chicken has upped the sophistication of his psychological warfare so that he is now taking big spoons and putting them in the little spoon slot in the silverware drawer just to fuck with me, that's a big deal.

TGIF y'all.

People Almost Playing Sports

Existential IKEA

Grounded Goth Teen Angrily Renames Household Items
About 5 years ago, Ryan came out of our bedroom one morning and saw me eating a bowl of Cheerios and watching a documentary about Auschwitz.

"Jesus. Isn't it a little early for that?" he asked me.

"Why?" I responded, taking another dripping bite.

I was in the practice of keeping historical horrors at an arm's length. I could hear about them, even see photographs or videos, yet keep them entirely in the context in which they occurred. I could learn about atrocities with the same mild, detached interest that I might exhibit watching a show about the how tortillas are made. "Huh. That's interesting." From adolescence I found a comfortable home in tales of gore and unspeakable human cruelty.

What can I say. I was a weird kid.

In fifth grade, at the age of 9, I read Number the Stars, Night, and In the Mouth of the Wolf, and declared to my mom that, "I love the holocaust." The face she made was one I would not fully understand until the day my son said, "Fuck it" at Trader Joe's - a face that said, "shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit," "who else heard that," and "oh God, what have I done," all at the same time.

"You don't love the holocaust," she said, gently. "You mean to say that you are interested in it."

I was embarrassed - of course I didn't love a genocide. But I did love to learn about it.

I read The Nazi Doctors for an ninth grade book report and created a profoundly disturbing poster board that my mother would not allow me to take to school. Bless her for that. If I'd brought that slab of crazy into class, nobody would have danced with me at the Halloween dance, even though that year I wore a genie costume that probably would have been more appropriate at a frat house.

I learned about Hiroshima, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Kurds in Iraq, Hutus and Tutsis, Apartheid. In my spare time I did this. Before you ask, the answer is yes. Yes, I was also in therapy.

I watched Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, and later, The Pianist, Hotel Rwanda, The Rabbit Hole. I evaluated them as films. I liked the historical transformations of present-day actors. I considered the costume designs and scores. These books and films were storytelling devices and I judged them as such, with coolness and nary a nightmare, never with the fear that something like that could happen to me. I knew that these stories were atrocious, and I could reel off fifteen synonyms for "terrible," but I never felt a pang of grief or terror.

Reality TV, Oprah's Book Club, Reese Witherspoon movies, the mainstream stuff with soft focus and happy endings, all of that was the pop culture version of a dessert at the Cheesecake Factory - too sweet, and way too much. I preferred the bitter, aged, and complex to the simple sweetness of brownie sundae movies.

Then I had kids.

And suddenly - almost instantly - I could not bear to watch Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, because I couldn't help thinking about waiting for letters from my son, living his life far from the safety of my arms, in the heart of harm's way.

I will never watch Sophie's Choice again. If I do, I will not see Meryl's costume. I will not google the cinematographer. I will be trying with all my might not to see my own two boys' faces laid over the young actors'.

I can't even watch Titanic. Remember when Jack draws that little Irish girl with her daddy on the deck... and then later you see her saying good-bye to her father... I cannot have that shit. I just cannot.

When I had kids, my heart was husked.

I can't think of another way to say it.

My heart simply cracked open. The shell fell away and left me bare, as defenseless and vulnerable to wounds as ripe fruit.

Suddenly I understood why all the middle-aged moms I knew watched Friends and read Nora Roberts. Babies don't get hurt in those stories. Families aren't wrecked. Nobody has to make impossible choices or live with the agony of loss. I had joined the ranks of the unarmed and unarmored.

I miss the ability to observe from a distance, to hear a sad story without weeping, to watch a movie without laying my own family's faces over the screen, my own pounding heart over the score, my own pleas for mercy over the dialogue.

I consume less of the world now. I make choices to protect my soft heart from harm.

Local news? A-no thank you.

Did you post an Upworthy video about Kenyan orphans or a schizophrenic parent who harmed her child? I've already unfriended you.

My willful ignorance causes me both comfort and guilt, because I know that this world will continue to hurt children whether I choose to read about it or not, and the pain of those children deserves to be known.

I just...

I can't do it.

I feel other people's pain and fear banging against my own ribs in near-panic. I picture my heart like a rabbit in a cage, frantic and quivering.

But there is an upside to softness.

I'm open now, like it or not, to the overwhelming good, the sweet, and the beautiful. I get rolled over by a song lyric or, yes, my children, on a daily basis. I cry more. I feel more. I have no defenses.

My heart got husked.

And a hefty slab of cheesecake and some harmless reality TV sounds damn fine.
Chicken's Rules for Mommy
October 15 Edition

1. Put down Baby Buster.

2. Do not attempt to change my diaper, especially if I have poops. Do not question me when I tell you that it's just farts.

3. Give me crackers.

4. NO, not those crackers.

5. Yes, the round crackers.

6. NO, not in a bowl!

7. Give me the entire box of crackers so that I can pick which 5 of the 400 identical crackers in the box are the best 5 crackers.

8. I don't want crackers. Make me eggs.

9. NOT REAL EGGS!

10. Put the broken egg shells back together and pour the egg back inside the repaired egg shells. Then come crack open my plastic Easter eggs and pretend to make me eggs in my play kitchen. That's right. Whisk HARDER.

11. Buster is crying. No, you may not pick up Baby Buster. Come pretend I'm invisible while I stand in the middle of the room.

12. Clip my toenails while singing a song about clipping my toenails.

13. Not that song. A new one. Make up a new toenail-clipping song. With penguins in it.

14. Turn on a Dora.

15. NO! Dinosaur Train!

16. NO! DORA!

17. A Dora episode about Dinosaur Train! FIND IT.

18. Actually, I'd like to go outside and sit in the middle of the road.

19. If you find rule #18 unacceptable, I reserve the right to kick you in the boobs while you're hauling me back onto the sidewalk.

20. Effective immediately, you may no longer use the expression "mm hmm" to respond in the affirmative. I am the only person who may say "mm hmm." Do you understand?

21. NO! You're not allowed to say "mm hmm!"

22. Please list the names of everyone I know and pause after each name so I can say "mm hmm."

23. No, you may not repeat any names.

24. No you cannot ever stop.

25. Read me three stories before naptime.

26. Each of those stories will be read 14 times.

27. Make up a song about oranges. Yes, it has to rhyme. You're not Bob Dylan.

28. I would like to sit on Buster's head to see if it's spongy. Make no attempt to stop me.

29. If you find rule #28 unacceptable, I reserve the right to run screaming into my bedroom and take all the dirty diapers out of the garbage and place a single poopy diaper on each of the circles on my bedroom rug.

30. If you find rule #29 unacceptable, I will accept a single cherry tomato placed inside each of my stacking wobbly cups.



The above rules are effective immediately until they're not anymore which could already have happened or it may never happen, you'll just have to wait and see.
Note to self:

When teaching a 2-year-old how to eat a lollipop, be prepared for the number of times you will have to tell him to "lick it" and "suck it."

"Chicken, just lick it. NO, don't bite it. Just lick it. Or suck it. You can lick it. With your tongue. That's right, just put the lollipop in your mouth and-- NO, don't bite it, honey..."

Jesus.

Note to self part two:

NEVER return to the kids' hair salon that left a bucket of lollipops on the ground next to the cash register.
"I hope you have a child who is just like you."

Not just so you can understand what "14 hours of labor" really means.

Not just so someday, many days from this one, I can get a phone call from you saying, "wow, Mom, thanks for not murdering me when I was two."

Not just so someday I can laugh and laugh and not have to help when I hear you say, "we do not throw food," or "please don't step on your sister!" or "one more bite of carrots. Come on, buddy."

I mean, yes. All of that.

Oh God, yes.

But I mostly want you to have a child just like you so that you understand why I pulled you back so many times, from the slippery stone stairs, from playing football, from trying pot, from driving too fast, from the world and all its sharp, sickening threats. So you know why I was really just totally fine with making you sad that you missed out.

So one day, you can feel the warm weight of your new baby on your chest and understand that Ryan and I did not have any idea what we were doing, either.

So that you can be moved to silence by the rare moments when your wild cannonball toddler chooses to rest his head on your shoulder. So you know someone else was moved once too.

So that we can finally have an honest conversation about how much love is.

So you can know how deeply, completely, helplessly, fearfully you were loved for your entire life.

So I get to have another another little grinning pork chop pudge-fest of a Buster, another cackling beloved madman Chicken.

So I get to have you, sweet and small, all over again.

I hope you have a child who is just exactly like you.
I'm reading a lot about how participation ribbons are evidence of our society's weak, socialist parenting style.

I'm reading a lot about how participation ribbons are, themselves, the cracks in the foundation of this great country's future.

I'm reading a lot of hysterical bullshit.

The argument seems to be that if we give out participation ribbons to our three-foot-tall athletes, rather than naming a winner and loser, then we are:

a) making the outrageous un-American assertion that winning might not be the goal when we're talking about a children's soccer game.

Of course winning matters more than learning integrity, respect, stress management skills, social skills, coordination, physical health, and good sportsmanship. WIN, TANYA. SWEEP THE LEG.

b) breeding a generation of entitled assholes who will think that all they have to do is show up and they will automatically be declared the winner of life and also the Superbowl.

Because as soon as that participation ribbon hits your 5-year-old's fist, he's going to be all, "Mom do my homework and make me a smoothie. WITH MANGO." And you'll be all, "Of course, Timmy, darling, why don't you go watch Pokemon while I write your college admissions essays? It's the least I could do after you participated so magnificently."

c) congratulating kids for things that aren't deserving of congratulations.

Because, you know, showing up and practicing and being part of the team and trying even if you're terrible, that is certainly not nearly as important as winning a single game. Because yeah, no, you're totally right, we should be rewarding innate talents WAY more than trying hard and improving.

d) depriving our children of the opportunity to learn that life is hard and sucking fucking sucks, so don't suck.

No that's definitely the parent's job. First, keep him alive. Second, teach him that life is hard. Participation ribbons are for pussies, and no son of mine is gonna be a wimp. That's why I took Chicken's favorite lovey, a stuffed bunny that he calls Mommy Bunny, and I set it on fire and then just totally murdered it with a technically street-legal semi-automatic. I mean we are still finding singed stuffing in the couch cushions. That was Christmas 2013.

e) depriving our children of the opportunity to rebound from failure. Failure teaches grit and persistence.

Nothing teaches me better than repeated, relentless, miserable failure. Especially since all my parents seem to care about is success. Yep, those hundreds of botched tennis serves and missed soccer shots, my father's silence and my mom's half-believable pat on the shoulder as she gazed adoringly at the winning team's star player, all that really made me look forward to getting back out on the court or field so I could fail some more, really humiliate myself and my family, and learn a lot from it. 

I take this shit personally. Here's why.



I was on a lot of teams in middle and high school. Volleyball, soccer, basketball, swim team, cross country.

I was terrible. I mean, fucking awful at most of them.

Coach would finally send me in (usually when we had a safe cushion. Like about a 10-point lead) and I was like a half-blind golden retriever puppy, romping around, SO TOTALLY PSYCHED to be there, and only about 40% in control of my limbs.

In volleyball, I was famous for hustling hard and throwing my body violently to the floor to get a wayward ball. I had bruises that lived for months. I think I probably got a couple of serves over the net in my four-year career.

In soccer, I was the midfielder who could plant and take out troublesome opposing players. Coach really knew how to use my strengths. Or rather, strength. It was "standing."
(Side note: my dad loves telling the story of me being a human wall on the soccer field. It makes me so happy that he is able to relish that I was having fun and contributing to the team, even though I never scored a goal.)

Tennis... I'm not even going to describe the visual insanity of me trying to play tennis. My legs and arms simply could not agree on which direction to travel. Except if that direction was "away from the ball."

Every season I showed up and tried out, even though I knew I would never, ever, ever be any good.

I got out there and hurt myself and flailed around like an epileptic speed freak at the discoteca and I never got anything but a participation ribbon at the end of the season. Actually, I think one time I got Most Improved, but that was only because in my first basketball game of the season I forgot to dribble. Twice. And by the end of the season I really almost had that one down. 

The participation ribbon said, "you showed up." And that was a pretty accurate assessment of my athletic prowess.

I was human, alive, and dressed appropriately for the sport in question.
I mostly avoided scoring on my own team.
But I never thought that I excelled.

That ribbon didn't make me think, "Woah, I thought I kind of sucked, but now that I've got this generic participation ribbon maybe I should go pro! Hey, Mom! Come do my homework for me!"

I did not contribute to the scoring of very many points or the winning of very many tournaments. But I participated. I was on the team. I led cheers. I led warm-ups. I threw team dinners. I made locker signs with everyone's jersey number on them, and I organized the coach card and gift at the end of the season. I was never, ever, ever an MVP, not once, not ever, not even close. But I showed up. I worked hard. I had fun.

WHICH IS THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT.

Can you think of a more honorable trait to foster in your children? The perspective to recognize and value the unique contribution of each person on the team?

Can you think of a better way for your child to spend his free time? In working, playing, recognizing his own strengths and weaknesses, fostering humility, learning to be patient with teammates who struggle, learning gratitude for teammates' patience?

Why is it so fucking important for us to teach our kids that showing up doesn't matter? Showing up MATTERS. Showing up is 95% of life.

Why is it just soooo re-goddamn-diculously urgent that children learn that the world is disappointing? Why do we, as parents, feel like we need to be agents of a disappointing world and shatter the beautiful DELIGHT of our children's innocent happiness at receiving a token of participation?

"Sure, you got that ribbon from Coach Abby, but just so you know, that ribbon isn't special and it doesn't make you special. The only special one was Eloise, because she got the BIG ribbon. So next time try harder and maybe you'll be special too." Said the biggest cold-hearted bastard in the world.

If you have such a fucking problem with coach handing out a ribbon that says, "you were part of this team, win or lose, and your presence helped to make us the unique group of people that we were," then I'm happy to say that I doubt our kids will ever be on a team together.

You go hang out with the other intense, win-win-win parents who treat Little League like Wharton. You go remind your kid that showing up is only important if you also show up and WIN.
You show your child every day that your respect for him is contingent upon his achievements, and not his beautiful, fundamental character and personality.
You go tell your kid to knock off the funny business and get back to work because that curve ball isn't going to throw itself.
You go.
Have fun with that.

Oh sorry - fun's what we'll be doing. I feel sad that you're missing it.
You know how after you have a baby and your friends who don't have babies say things like, "I'm soooo tired today," or "My to-do list is so long I don't know how I'm going to get everything done," and you're like "ooooh, I'm so sorry! That sounds hard," and you make all the right noises and you might even pat their shoulders a little.

But you're not really shoulder-patting. You are extending your hand to slap the body of another human being. You are violently striking someone who you call a friend. You're just doing it very sneakily.

Why?

Because you remember what it was like to define "a hard day" as the day when you couldn't get your to-do list done. When office politics dragged you down. You remember, yes, that shit is hard. Respect.

But then you had kids. And "hard" became exponentially harder. And you cannot help but hate your previous self for all the times you complained about what a pain it was to get on an airplane before you had kids. You cannot help but think, as your childless friend talks about her hard day, mmmkay did anyone shit on you today? Did another human being spray actual shit on your face and torso today? No? Okay, my day was harder.

I call this phenomenon "perspective."

Perspective is when you realize that the only easy day was yesterday.

The same thing happens when you have your second baby. People who are just having the first one are talking about how hard their lives are. And you remember, yeah, that shit is hard. Respect.

But now that you have two kids, "hard" went right the fuck ahead and got exponentially harder again.

Perspective. It makes you feel like a warrior. It makes you want to pound grain alcohol and Oreos. It makes you long for simpler times.

It's also, like, completely stupid.

I have caught myself making comparisons among the moms I know, wondering does she have it harder than I do?

I make a mental scoreboard. Chicken goes boneless every time I go to put him in his car seat, but her kid still needs to be rocked to sleep. Buster is so sensitive to light that he can't sleep in the car, but her baby hates to be swaddled...

I know other moms who appear to have an easier life than I do - more help, more money, easier kids. I love and respect them for their hard work, but I also want them to acknowledge that my life is harder.

I  know other moms who appear to have a harder life than I do. My husband is home every night by 5:30 to help with dinner, bath, and bedtime. My family is healthy and free from peanut allergies. I love and respect these moms for their hard work, and I try to remember to acknowledge that their lives are harder.

The whole exercise of ranking the difficulty of our lives is pointless. For the following reasons:

1. Is this a competition that anyone wants to win? Great, thanks, everyone agrees, my life is by far the shittiest. Wheee...?

2.  The act of placing myself somewhere in the pecking order implies that I think it's okay to peck. Or get pecked. And I do not.

3. These rankings are based not on the reality of our lives, but on the appearance of our lives. These two entities are not the same thing. One is life, and the other is a performed fiction of a life, seen through my eyes and colored by my own experiences. I know nothing of the reality of my friends' lives. To say that I do would be like claiming that I'm a primatologist because I've watched a lot of Curious George cartoons.

So here it is, the truth of the matter, or at least the truth I'm trying to own today. Whether you have kids, dogs, a demanding career, or just a really high-strung parakeet:

Your life is mercilessly hard.

So is everyone else's.

Your life is blessed beyond compare.

So is everyone else's.

You do you.

I'll do me.

We'll all have a cocktail and get in bed before midnight and sleep hard enough that when we wake up and face a the new day we'll think, "I can do one more."
Last week I woke up to a text from my mom, sent at 5 am. My granddad was in the ICU with stroke symptoms and some internal bleeding.

24 hours later, Ryan, Chicken, Buster, and I boarded a flight home.

Thank God, my granddad is improving every day and will hopefully be discharged tomorrow. But between the travel, 2 babies, visiting family and friends, and making sure my grandparents have everything they need, blogging has definitely slid down the priority list.

And not just in terms of the minutes in my day. Yes, blogging time has been spent cooking and visiting cousins. But more importantly, I am simply not putting the events of my day in the context of "how would this be engaging to my 12-14 readers and that guy in Russia?"

And I'm really fine with that. I hope you are too. Because all too soon we will return to our regularly scheduled programming of me thinking about how I can sculpt Chicken's twoness and Buster's babyness and Ryan's husbandness and my Katieness into something entertaining and possibly insightful. For now, I'm going to log off and join the chaos in the kitchen, where 15 people have gathered, every stove burner is going, and every chair has a glass in front of it.

I'm going now.

But first I'm going to post a picture of Chicken eating bark.


Happy Monday.

This is my son. Chicken. Wearing a swaddle blanket as a sarong. 

And Peeing. On a little nest he made of four blankets.


"Oh no!" He said.

Still peeing. Oh, that yellow one is a handmade quilt my mom, sisters, and grandmothers created for him.

"Ooooh NO!" He said again, louder.

Yep, still going.

I mean, what's a mom to do?

A) yell at your kid for not having spontaneously potty trained himself, shaming him for his basic bodily functions, violating his trust in you and in the fundamental security and comfort of his world, and digging an irreversible chasm deep into the ground between you forever.

B) pick him up while he's still peeing to put a towel down, and in so doing inadvertently remind him that it is possible to run in circles around the room and pee on everything that is at or below penis height. We will call that the splash zone.

C) agree. "Oh no!" Wait until he's done and strap a diap on. Finish reading his story. Give him fourteen kisses, liken your love of him to the size of a hundred fire trucks, and turn out the light. Do laundry. 
I'm pretty tired.

So there will be more posts coming, I promise. But right now I'm just going to fall asleep in a chair with one of my boobs out.

At the bus station.