Five Conversations With My Toddler About Superheroes
I Need a Do-Over

1. And So It Begins...

Me: Did you know that Buster picked this Daniel Tiger doll for you?

Chicken: He did?

Me: Yeah! We were at the toy store and we were going up and down all the different aisles trying to decide what to get you for Christmas.
I asked Buster, "do you think Chicken wants a ball?" And he said, "mmmm... no."
And I asked him, "do you think Chicken wants a set of blocks?" And he said, "mmmm... no."
And then I said, "do you think Chicken wants a superhero?" And Buster was like, "no."
And we turned the corner to the next aisle and Buster's eyes lit up, and he pointed at this Daniel Tiger, and he said, "there, Mom. There. That is for Chicken."
Except in Buster speak, so it was like, "NNNNGGGGGH!"

Chicken: Oh.

Me: Do you like the Daniel Tiger?

Chicken: Maybe a superhero would be better.

2. Just Call Me Daniel Webster

Chicken: Mom? What's a superhero?

Me: A superhero is a person who has very special powers, who protects good people from bad guys.

Chicken: But he doesn't protect bad people?

Me: Well, sometimes bad people too, I guess. Or rather, just regular people, you know people like you and me who are a little bit good and a little bit bad too, or... wait... no, let me start again. A superhero sees when someone is hurting another person and says, "hey, cut that out!" To make sure nobody gets hurt.

Chicken: Because the person is bad?

Me: Uh, I mean, I don't think very many people are just plain bad. Sometimes people do things that hurt other people, but that doesn't make them bad people.

Chicken: That's complicated.

Me: Yeah. I'm gonna work on it.

3. Superhero Diplomacy

Chicken: Let's play superhero!

Me: Okay!

Chicken: OK, Miss Elena is gonna be mean to you and I'm gonna be the superhero.

Me: Okay! (I grab the Miss Elena doll, and say, in the voice of Miss Elena:) You can't play with me or my friends because I don't like you!

who knows
what evil lurks
in the hearts of men

miss elena knows

Chicken: (runs over and bellows in the doll's face) HEY CUT THAT OUT!

Me: Woah!


Me: Wow Super Chicken! That was a really strong move! Now could you maybe explain to Miss Elena why she should cut that out? That what she said might make someone feel left out?

Chicken: No, I'm just gonna say hey cut that out. Let's go again.

Me: Do you think you could try doing some explaining too?

Chicken: No. Let's go again.

Me, as Miss Elena: Gimme your snack. I'm gonna eat all of it.


Me, as Miss Elena: Why should I cut it out?

Chicken: (sighs) Ask Mommy.

4. Oh No She Di'int

Chicken: Let's have Miss Elena be mean to Nana!

(We call Nana on FaceTime and explain the setup. Nana is game. Chicken hides around the corner, waiting for evildoers.)

Me, as Miss Elena: Nana, I don't like your shirt. I don't think it looks nice on you.

Nana: Oh, I am so sad!

(Chicken comes charging out from around the corner swinging two curved wooden pieces of railroad track like twin pirate cutlasses.)


dramatic reenactment
since chicken is "napping"
right now
and i was laughing too hard to get a pic when it happened

and yes
he wears that mask
when he is super chicken

when you push the button on the nose
it roars

5. He Has a Point

Me: You know, Chicken, a superhero's greatest weapon is his words.

Chicken: And my hurting tools.

Me: (wincing) But you know, you don't need to use hurting tools most of the time if you can just explain why it's not okay to hurt people.

Chicken: I don't think that's how it works.

Looking back, I see now that I made some mistakes.

Perhaps a down coat inside a heated store wasn't the best call.

In hindsight, drinking that entire bottle of water half an hour before we went in? Poor judgment.

Now that I think about it, bringing Chicken and Buster into a store full of art supplies, beads, buttons, stabbers, chokers, blinders, stranglers, scrapers and scratchers, in the hopes that we could sit quietly and wrap Daddy's Christmas presents at the group table, yeah, that was wishful thinking. That's on me.

But all of those mistakes were recoverable. The game wasn't over. We were still laughing (if a little madly) and using positive parenting techniques (if through gritted teeth) and singing the clean up song (if in the style of Rammstein) and feeling festive (because it's fucking Christmas okay? Now let's wrap these fucking presents and get the fuck out of here.)

But then Nukpana* came into my life.

*Nukpana isn't her real name. I mean, I guess it could be. I didn't catch her name. Nukpana is a Hopi name meaning Evil. To be clear, Nukpana wasn't Hopi. She was white. But to be fair, I'm guessing that the original Nukpana was probably also white. That's what Howard Zinn and I think. I mean, history, people.*

Let's take it back to one, so you get the scene.

I took the boys to a cool store called Recreative where people donate art supplies and bric-a-brac, and where they host 3 for $5 holiday gift wrapping, where you can use anything in the store to wrap your presents. Buttons, bells, fabric, ribbons, yarn, vintage magazines, candles, stickers, you name it. I thought it would be fun. Silly rabbit.

and it was fun
(she said
wiping away a tear
and revealing
that she has only four fingers
on her left hand...)

See, I forgot that I don't have that kind of kid. I don't have the kid who says, "Sweet Mumsy may I sort these ribbons into grosgrain and other?" I don't have the kid who asks, "Darling Mum-mums, please may I look at that bin of loose buttons without touching them? Please, may I take this opportunity to silently reflect?"

Like I said, that's on me.

So after an hour of Buster stuffing a handful of marbles in his mouth, Chicken waving scissors (ACTUAL SCISSORS, PEOPLE. THEY LOOKED DICKENSIAN) in the faces of other, alarmed gift-wrappers, and me just grabbing anything I could to slap on the packages that I wrapped in between removing choking hazards and stabbing tools, we were Done. (Capitalization intended for dramatic effect.)

I was like, "all I wanted to do was wrap these presents with you guys, and you just couldn't hang."

They were like, "all we wanted to do was play with all the awesome toys at the place where YOU BROUGHT US, MOM, and you just couldn't hang."

I said, "OK, we need to go now," and I think they heard, "we are standing in line to have your fingernails removed. Also, we will never again have snacks in our house, and Daddy's not coming home."

So there we were, in line, each of us doing our part to create a prototypical Unhappy Family at Christmas Spectacle. It takes a village y'all.

Me? I rocked a solid clipped, seething rage, with a soupçon of passive-aggressive holiday cheer.

Buster channeled a floppy car wash balloon man who had just watched as a cigarette truck rolled over a paper bag full of baby bunnies. Only more devastated. And more floppy.

And Chicken? He'd gone Orc. Full Orc. Snarling, chest-thumping, nose-wrinkling, battlefield-screaming, axe-swinging, bloodthirsty Orc.

All we needed was Ryan's trademark The Children Are Screaming In Public/I Am Buried Alive In A Mine Hopeless Sad Face, complete with joyless, vacant expression, cartoonish frown, and the slumped shoulders of a really superb Willy Loman.

I held a child's wrist in each hand as Buster dangled, boneless, and Chicken writhed and screeched like a caged opossum. My basket dug into my forearm as the wire handles pushed together and pinched me. I had to pee.

There was one woman ahead of us, bagging her bric-a-brac, wishing the cashier a Merry Christmas. It was almost our turn.

And then Nukpana slid into line, right in front of us.

She was sixtyish, with white hair swooped back in a Mrs. Robinsonesque knot. She wore some kind of furry woven poncho with like an eagle on it or something. I don't know. Honestly, her choice of poncho was not the most offensive thing she did that day.

Perhaps she didn't see us, I thought hilariously, as Chicken wound up and slapped a box of postcards that had been neatly organized by state.

Me: Excuse me? EXCUSE ME?

She turned around, leveled a cool stare at me and my brood.

Her: Excuse you.

I just had to hit enter like fourteen times because you probably needed a minute to process that.

Excuse me, I said.
Excuse you.

YEAH. FOR REAL. SHE SAID EXCUSE YOU. Obviously, she had no idea how badly I wanted to hit somebody right then.

That's actually a pretty good burn though, because the best I could come up with was,

Me: Actually, excuse YOU!

And she tossed me a face like, "yeah I already said that, so..." before turning around and setting her basket on the counter.

The cashier looked nervous but excited. She didn't say anything. I think she was hoping I'd give Chicken a white-paint-face-high-five, and toss him an iron spear as I bellowed "FROM THE FIRES OF MOUNT DOOOOOOOOOM!"

I said again, "Excuse me, but we were in line before you."

She put a hand on her hip, looked over her shoulder, and said, "Do you mind?"


Like, "do you mind? I'm trying to buy fabric scraps for $2."

Or, "do you mind shutting up your kids?"

Or, "do you mind that I cut you in line? Oh, you do? Well, that's on you. Because I'm not responsible for your feelings. Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission."

It didn't really matter how she meant it because the answer to any possible meaning was YES.


I mind your poncho.
I mind your attitude.
I mind your scent (you smell like old wool that has been peed on by seven generations of dehydrated cats by the way).
I mind my children acting like the savages they are.
I mind that I have to pee and also that I have already peed a little bit in my pants right now.
This is me, minding.

In any other store, I would have walked away from that basket, put my kids in the car and sent Ryan back for it later. I couldn't. I had wrapped Ryan's presents in the merchandise from the store, so I really couldn't leave without paying for it, and the longer we stood there, the more I felt pretty certain that I was going to have to make the choice between being a role model and an Avenger. The green one.

I said, as calmly as I could, "I do mind. If you can't tell, we need to leave now, and we can't do that without paying first.

And she said, in the breathtakingly entitled voice of #notallmen tweets and "all lives matter" protesters, "I need to leave now too. I have a hair appointment in fifteen minutes and I like to be early."

I have a hair appointment.
In fifteen minutes.
And I like.
To be early.

It was as if she had spoken from the bottom of a well... her words echoed and swam in the air, and through the hideous, looping echo I heard the demon voice of Sauron as he roared with black delight, Nukpanaaaaaaaaa!

Not really, I had to google, "female names meaning evil" when I got home and started writing this post. It was more just a primal roar sound. I think it might have been Chicken, who had spotted a coil of wire across the room without which he could never reach full actualization, and whose wrist remained clamped in my grip.

But at that point, I made my choice. This woman sucked. But being there sucked more, and I really was choosing to stay there. Nukpana cut in line, but short of assaulting her I had no recourse but to hope that God/Santa was watching. I knew how much we owed to this store and I had the cash money to pay for it. I made an executive decision to bail.

I handed Chicken two $5 bills to put on the counter, and he held them out to the cashier, silenced for a moment by the responsibility of a job. "Here you go," he said, in his normal voice. I'd almost forgotten what it sounded like. Sweet, small, bubbly. Aw. He's a cutie.

She shook her head and waved her hands as if she were a nun and he was offering her a Fifty Shades DVD. "Oh, no. I'm sorry, but you have to wait your turn."


Oh, so we have to follow the rules, but Nukpana can just insert herself into the most convenient location, both temporally and geographically, so that she can be fifteen minutes early instead of twelve minutes early to a hair appointment when her hair already looks honestly really nice, actually? So we have to stew quietly in our own personal hell, but she doesn't have to abide by the fundamental rule of order and mutual respect that all individuals must honor if we are going to live in a motherfucking society?



No, no, no. I didn't need a receipt. I didn't even need change. I just needed to get the fuck out, before I told Nukpana that I hoped her hair appointment went really well... not!

I took the money out of Chicken's hand and dropped it on the counter, and we swept out of the store, leaving behind us, I imagine, sighs of relief, a few raised eyebrows about these coddling parents today, and possibly a few drops of pee.

Ryan better unwrap the shit out of those presents.

Merry Christmas to all.

Or rather, most.

Nukpana, pumpkin, you may have cut me in line. But I cut you in WORDS. And the internet lives forever. Ho. Ho. Ho.

TIS THE SEASON LADIES. The season for cocktail dresses, work party whoopsies, glittery shoes, evening spent laughing gaily by the stone fireplace of the hottest new hotty hot bar, over hot toddies while a hot remix of "Here Comes Santa Claus" makes you feel both festive and a little slutty...




that was four years ago.

Tis still a season. But tis a bit of a different season now. Tis the season for shivering on the bathroom floor with Chicken, who has been barfing every 15 minutes since midnight; for begging strangers on Facebook to bring you apple juice, for waking up on December 22nd and being like FUCK are you kidding me? We finally stop hurling chunks and we've only got 3 days to slam together, like, the most magical Christmas ever?

That season.

Norovirus pretty much bent us over (the toilet, and occasionally a mixing bowl with a plastic bag in it) a couple of weeks ago. It robbed us of a full week of Christmas cheer, and gave us only slightly looser pants in exchange (that was actually pretty thoughtful of you, Norovirus. Thx.)

The advice will come later.

For now I just want to take you inside the mind of a woman who hasn't slept for a week, who has spent more time exposed to germ-filled human milkshake spatter than an East African aid worker (too soon? I don't know. I made the "yeeeeeuuuuu" face, like, as I was typing it.

that's the one
the one
that brings
all the boys
to the yard
where there is a car
waiting to take them
far away
from that face

Comedy is meant to make people uncomfortable. But does it make people uncomfortable or just make me an insensitive dick to try to crack wise on the deaths of thousands and thousands of people? Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. So that wasn't an answer tho. You know what's more important than an answer? Asking the question. That's a great point.

For now I just want to take you inside the world of a woman whose husband is off, out of the state, prancing around, gallivanting really at his Grandpa's funeral (pretty sure I'm a piece of actual shit) while her two young children take turns expelling hot liquids of varying levels of viscosity and chunk. And then, THEN, when they are both feeling spritely as ponies in May once again, cabin-crazy and ready to breathe the air of free men, THEN that woman falls ill herself and spends 24 hours begging the children to be still and quiet. So she could focus on begging for a merciful death.

Come down the Rabbit Hole, my precious.

13 Things I Thought or Said 
The Week Norovirus Made Me Its Bitch

1. Kids, I'm not going to be nice. I  don't have any nice in me. Today, nobody is going to be happy. Accept it. You're going to have to settle for being clean, fed, medicated, and tended to. I will meet your basic needs, and I won't make a stink about it, but make no mistake: you remember that song about the day the music died? Yeah. That's today.

2. I was like, "Oh I slept from 12-2:30 and then from 3:30-6 am. So, yeah, two 2.5-hour stretches." But then I was like (in the voice of Chandler Bing) no. No, no! NO.

We are not calling 2.5 hours a "stretch." A STRETCH is 3 hours AT LEAST. I had two 2.5-hour "episodes." Or perhaps "snippets." "Nibbles." "Glimpses." "Whimpers." "Pulse Maintainers," perhaps, although only technically.

3. Sick quiet kids are so much better than healthy whiny kids.

4. I packed a car bag, to be prepared for en-route-to-the-urgent-care pooptastrophes:

- three fresh outfits for Buster
- three fresh outfits for Chicken
- two fresh outfits for me
- three trash bags
- a new package of wipes
- 10 diapers
- two binkies
- two bottles of water
- six towels
- ten cloth diapers

I put the bag in the car. And then I thought, "I'm pretty sure that was it for me today. I'm pretty sure that was my win."

5. OK so you have to make a choice, Katie. You can either:
a) Stop typing right now and wash that greezy hair
b) Commit, and start developing next year's Halloween costume as The Revenant.

damn k
pace yourself
add a beard
and you're basically there
right now
and you have like
11 months to go

6. There will be no vomit or poop in this car seat. Not today.

7. GOD I wish the bathroom door wasn't stuck closed and the landlord wasn't coming to fix it literally any minute, because if that weren't the case I would be curled up on the couch in one of Ryan's hoodies, discovering a totally organic, operatic performance of "exhaustion." Like, if Shatner did exhaustion, except in Kabuki. As it is, I have like, exactly enough self-respect in the tanks to wear actual clothes and be both upright and conscious for the landlord.

8. Today is not the day to start a book.

9. There's something freeing about having a really sick baby. You can say, 
"Oh, you want to sleep in your muddy jeans, Chicken? 
In the oversized chair, with all the cushions removed so you're basically sleeping on springs covered in thin cotton? 
Go with God."

10. WHY IS THERE SO MUCH CARPET IN THIS HOUSE and other things that cannot be laundered or bleached.

11. In my head: CHICKEN. FOR FUCK'S SAKE. GET A GRIP, and UNLATCH FROM MY FUCKING LEGS. Seriously. All I am doing right now is going into the other room to ladle diarrhea out of your brother's diaper. I don't want you playing "tiger jump" while I'm doing that. I refuse to try to imagine the spatter. It's too easy to picture. Did you know, my love, that the last ten minutes was a record-breaking streak of consecutive seconds in which I wanted to flip you off? 600 TIMES, my brain was like, "yep, bird him." AND I DIDN'T EVEN DO IT ONCE. That's how much I love you. You're welcome.

Out of my mouth: Chicken, my love? Your brother has a really sick diaper that I need to change, and I need to do that without you so I can make sure you don't get poop on your body. I'm going to clean your brother, and then I'll come back and check on you, okay? I see that you're worried, and I want to come help you feel safe and calm. But I have to clean this poop up first. Ok? OK. I'm going to peel you off my body now. OK? Ready?

12. I wonder how much coffee a person can drink before they start to pee Via dust.

13. "Luckily we all got sick on different days. Wait, no, not luckily. That was the worst part. Someone was barfing for a week straight."

OK, so now onto the advice portion of the post. They all ended up being 3 words long. Crazy how that happens, right? I can't take credit. Poetry arrived in search of me.

Ask for help.
Accept offered help.
Fuck the dishes.
Bleach kills Norovirus.
Popsicles and saltines.
Screen time good.
This shall pass.
All the towels.
Okay to cry.
Stop crying now.
Time to bleach
Everything you own
Including your contacts
Also there will
Probably be some
Long-lasting side effects
To bleaching your
contact lenses. FYI.

One time, my therapist said something profound.

It was one of those perfect fortune-cookie maxims. I stared at her for a minute and then opened my handbag. "That was amazing. I have to write that down," I said, digging for a pen through Larabar wrappers, binkies, Starbucks napkins, a plastic fork, two pairs of sunglasses... what can I say? The inside of my handbag is one animatronic space-octopus away from the Death Star garbage compactor room.

"Don't write it down," she said. I stopped digging. She had a German accent. I had not choice but to obey.

"But I really want to remember it."

"If it's important, you'll remember it."

I don't remember the first thing she said, the thing I wanted to write down so badly. But I remember the second thing.

If it's important, you'll remember it.



I have not found that to be true. Unless Johnny Depp's birthday and the entire screenplay of The American President are both SUPER important.

I remember so much fucking useless crap - celebrity fun facts (Ashton Kutcher has a twin brother with cerebral palsy), the dates of key turning points in the Northern Ireland conflict (Battle of the Boyne 1690 what what!), which cute shoe companies run wide in the toe (none. None of them. Bastards.) I have fantasies about competing in Cash Cab, in which the big money question is, "recite Aaron Sorkin's filmography in chronological order."

It seems like the less important something is, the more likely I am to find a cozy spot in the front row of my brain for that stupid factoid and all its little tweeny friends. My brain is like the movie theater on the opening day of a One Direction documentary. All these pissy little critters just hang out and squeal stupid shit for me to say in front of well-educated people whom I hope to impress.


If it's important, you'll remember it, she said. I CALL BULLSHIT.

I'm afraid of forgetting, because I have historical data to support that fear.

Every time I'm with my grandparents I am utterly entranced. They tell me a story about their lives that, even as they're telling it, I think, I want to remember this forever. This story, the way they still laugh at it even though they must've told it dozens of times in their life... this story is why I love them, why I'm so proud to be of them. I shall now weep.

Ten seconds later, I'm like, "Hm? Story? Toy Story? Fun fact! Did you know that Buzz Lightyear's original name was Lunar Larry? I KNOW, RIGHT?"

I would never pick Snack Wells Devil's Food cookies over a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but that's exactly what it feels like I do. Except, you know, memories. The empty, processed particles remain, and the homemade, lovely, real goodness slips away.

I'm afraid of forgetting Chicken and Buster, their specific way, their nooks and crannies. I'm afraid of forgetting the quirk of Buster's eyebrow when he hears the word "cookie," and the way Chicken wrinkles his nose when he roars like a tiger. Nowhere am I more compulsive about beating back the tidal pull of forgetting than in my living room, watching my boys mill and bob like pigeons. Save it! I dive for my phone, take a picture, take ten. Get Buster's toes on the carpet! Get Chicken's fingernails!


It feels like each one of these details is the key to something profound and unreachable, and that if I could only lock up that split second, that facial expression, that turn of phrase, then I'd be able to keep some part of my children sweet, myself tender, forever.

That's why I take, not joking, about 100 pictures a day. That's 3,000 pics a month, baby. About 40k a year.

I know that no matter how moved I was by the sight of the shadow cast by my son's eyelashes, I will forget the exact warmth of the light, the way his lips purse with such muscularity when he sleeps. That won't be a story that I tell him on his sixteenth birthday. I won't remember it. I need to remember it. I take a picture of the shadow. It becomes just another square of color among tens of thousands of others, not breathing, not shining, a postcard. It drops like a pebble into the deep lake of days.

I guess I'm afraid of losing more than the memories. I guess I'm a mental hoarder.

I guess my fixation on the cataloguing of every moment that matters is my version of the fountain of youth. That's why I started writing this blog. It felt like too much was slipping by unexamined. It felt like moments of consequence excused themselves, hurried out of the room before they had the chance to introduce themselves. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're that one time when Chicken made up a song about cereal bars? Move along bub. I've got to clear you out for Buster playing with his belly button and making a devious Joker face.

I see that it's impossible to remember everything, not least because every moment is a moment of consequence, and I don't have that kind of RAM. I'm not a supercomputer, or one of those accomplished individuals who can recite pi out to the 4 millionth number. I'm built for shorthand; we all are.

To that end, it seems like the only stories I do remember are the ones that adhere most closely to the Legend of Chicken - who he is in his broadest caricature. The time he saw a woman in a bright red pantsuit and dyed-to-match pumps, and he asked her, "where's mustard?"

But the times when I was moved to tears, the quietly beautiful seconds that I promised myself to capture, that I told so many people about because I hoped that they'd grow roots, like dreams retold after waking... they almost never stay forever. They flicker for a day, a week, before coming unstuck in the great gusts of every day's details, and soaring away forever.

I feel a little churning in my stomach when I meditate on how much has happened that I will not remember.

It helps to remember how little remembering matters, really.



It helps to think of my sons not as an IMDB entry - a list of their dates, quotables, credits, and fun facts - but as a Seurat painting, a billion tiny points of color that come together, somehow, at a distance, to make a shape I recognize.

It helps to trust that each moment of consequence - painful, ecstatic - will find its place in the sprawling, messy composition. I won't be able to find it among all the others. But I believe it will be there. If it's important, you'll remember it. If it's important, it will become part of you. You might not be able to single it out, that one point of purple, that one shade of blue, but it's there: barely, crucially deepening the curve of your browbone, lightening the brush of your fingers.

I believe that the shadow of eyelashes is there every night when I sneak into Chicken's room and lie, for a moment, for ten, on the floor next to him, listening to the soft scrape of his snores. (Funny story, six months ago one night Ryan was like, hey Chicken you wanna camp on the floor of your room tonight? And Chicken was like yeah! And Ryan was like, okay, just tonight though, okay?)

Nothing slips away; the pebble tossed in the deep lake is not gone. It is one of a million, that makes the bed, that holds the water, that shines back up on the moon and stars. Why on earth would you spend your time on your hands and knees digging in the grit for a pebble that you know is there? Why wouldn't you look up, instead?

I feel like I just regressed to freshman year poetry workshop again. Sorry, guys. It's 5:54 am and Buster just fell back asleep after waking up at 3. Lots of coffee + no sleep + dark, cold winter morning = Katie starts talking in poems.

I want to write about the difference between observing your life and participating in it. I want to write about how I understand now why it feels like everyone I know has three go-to stories from their childhood, upon which much of their adult identity is based. I've always been a bit of a scamp. When I was six... 

I want to write about how children aren't simple just because they're small, and we owe them the courtesy of accepting - celebrating  - their contradictions and complexity.

Those are all blog posts for another day, because this one is already a novel. Plus, now it's 6:26 am and I have to start the day.

I'll take a hundred pictures that won't save anything.
I'll forget a hundred pealing giggles and a hundred hideous whining screams.
I'll go to bed tonight different, just a bit, just a dot or two different than I was this morning.

If it's important you'll remember it.
If it's important, you won't have to.

I won't remember this.
I don't have to.
I sat in the hallway folding airplane-napkin-sized tee-shirt after airplane-napkin-sized tee-shirt.

I felt like I'd done a thousand of them and my hamper was only a third full. One load of laundry contains roughly 8 towels, 16 adult garments, or 7,641 baby garments. DAMN THESE BABIES AND THEIR TINY GARMENTS. I would throw them up in the air to make it rain jeggings, but I swear half of them would blow away, and the other half would get stuck in my eye like all the best things in the world: sand, dandruff, glitter.

(Yeah, this one's gonna be weird.)

Directly across from me, Buster stood on the other side of the bedroom door. Opening the door. Closing the door.

Directly to my right, Chicken stood in the closet where we store extra toys. Opening the door. Closing the door.

At one point Buster stopped opening the door. Red flag, people. Red flags all over. I jumped up and went into the bedroom to find him emptying Ryan's pajama drawer all over the floor. Because there was no blood, and nothing electronic was in the toilet, it didn't even register as a problem. It did not register that where before there was no mess, now there was a  massive, wrinkled pile of pajamas and a lone binky, as incriminating as a stray hair at a crime scene. And was Buster going to clean it up? Can I get a HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA GOOD ONE KATIE?

What did I do? Not a damn thing. Like I said, it didn't even joggle my seis-MOM-eter (please laugh, that was all I had in me tonight.)

What, am I going to yell at an 18-month-old for touching Daddy's jam-jams? Please. I'm not a monster.

What, am I going to fall to the floor and cry into a pile of Daddy's jam-jams? Please. I'm not some tender willow sapling.

What, am I going to turn this into a teachable moment and sing the clean-up-clean-up-everybody-everywhere song? Please. I'm not Maria Von Trapp, and the Captain NEVER wore jam-jams. Don't ask me how I know.

I just walked into the room, saw that the situation was niner-niner, and went back out to keep attempting to match the world's largest collection of almond-sized, almost-matching-but-not-quite-matching white socks. I wish I could say that I even had a plan to deal with the jam-jams later. I didn't. They ricocheted off the surface of my brain like quarters in a game of Quarters. (Told you, guys. Not strong tonight.)

Do you ever wonder, like, what the fuck am I doing?

Or maybe, just, what the fuck are my kids doing? Why are they opening and closing the doors? Why, after 26 openings and closings, was it time to empty the pajama drawer? Tell me about your decision-making "process." Was it a bolt of inspiration from the clear blue sky? Or do you have a predetermined schedule, rounds you make, boxes you check? Twenty four... twenty five... twenty SIX. Whew. Okay... wait, did I do jam-jams or Mom's bedside table yesterday? Is it jam-jams today? Ron? It's jam-jams? OK, we're going on jam-jams.

What the fuck are you doing? And why? WHY? WHY?!?

Chicken? Why did you start dropping pennies in my fresh, sparkling Crystal Geyser? Not only is it weird, but it's kind of a dick move. Now I can't drink my fresh, sparkling Crystal Geyser, and I shall be parched, and therefore bitchy.


Buster? Hon? What the fuck are you doing with your belly button? It's there, man. Still there. It's chillin. You've got time. So much time to get to know your belly button. I worry, sometimes, that by the time you're 15 your belly button is going to look like a really old lady's pierced earlobe. Like, you'll find corn kernels up in there, 3 or 4 at a time.

My thing isn't that you're amazed at the permanence of your body - that makes sense to me. My thing is that you're ONLY amazed at the permanence of your belly button. Are elbows a 22-month milestone? What about nostrils? What about toenails? Why is the only miraculous crevice on your body the one that makes you look like a pervy trucker when you fondle it?

I don't know, man. If I take a step back and just look at the facts of my day, sometimes that shit is NIHILISTIC, you know? Is there a point? Is there a purpose? For anything? (Fair warning, I'm asking that question from the position of, "I believe there is no point and I'm inviting you to make an idiot of yourself trying to convince me that there is one while I sit back, a smug smirk on my lips and lonely tears welling up in my eyes." I'm that guy today.)

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)


What just happened?

Where was I? Oh, that's right. I was telling you about the best part of my day today.

It was when I was sitting in the hallway folding the laundry. Buster was in the bedroom, opening and closing the door. Chicken was in the closet, opening and closing the door. Each of us had a project, something repetitive, something our hands could do to keep us tethered to the earth while our minds wandered, past the fences that keep us hemmed in and fully conscious when we have to navigate four-way-stops, new recipes, or figuring out what shoe goes on what foot.

We were each alone in our crowd. We demanded nothing of each other. They didn't have to perform any of their manners for me; I didn't have to sing any diaper-changing songs for them. It was peaceful.

Buster picked up his tee-shirt and touched his belly button. I love the way his whole body relaxes when he feels that it's still there, that he's still where he left himself. Then he emptied Ryan's pajama drawer, and took out his binky and set it right on top of the pile on the floor, like he planted a flag. Like, "look upon my works, ye mighty," or maybe, "the man who wears these jam-jams belongs to me, so all y'all better back off," or I hoped against hope, the Buster version of a horse-head in the bed. It was purposeful. I felt like he was sending a message, possibly even an adorable threat. He's twisted like that. I left it as it was.

Chicken dropped pennies into my bottle of water for at least 7 or 8 minutes, only his arm, hand, and eyes moving. Just drop... drop... drop... he sat, totally focused on the way the bubbles clustered on the coppery rim, the way they scattered like fireflies when the coin hit bottom. I mean, yes, I would rather have drunk the sparkling water than watch it become undrinkable. But honestly, that was just as good a use for that buck seventy-nine.

I don't know, it's hard to explain and a little embarrassing sometimes how easy it is to feel like you're touching something sublime when you're wearing socks wet with apple juice because someone figured out how to open the fridge door, and someone else didn't put the apple juice up on a high shelf, and the first someone decided to pour his own drink, and said, "I got it, I got it," before dumping half the jug on the floor and leaving it, unreported, for the second someone to walk through on her way to clean up a different mess. First thought: fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you. Second thought: Because he wanted to pour his own drink though.

If I step back and just look at the facts of my day, sometimes that shit is depressing. But what depresses me most isn't the pointlessness of the tasks (which totally depresses me, just not the most), but rather the way I have to go out of my way to sound sane when I talk about how it's possible to feel deep satisfaction, love, and gratitude while watching a child open and close the same door, 26 times.

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)

--BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER EXPUNGE YOUR ENGRAMS AND ALLOW YOUR THETAN  TO ASSUME UNLESS YOU GIVE ME TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS AND ONE BOX OF TRISCUIT CRACKERS BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN AUDITING FOR SEVENTEEN HOURS STRAIGHT. Do you want me to label you a suppressive person? Okaaaaaay, then I'd get your heiny over to the Circle K and get me a damn box of Triscuit crackers. THANK YOU. OH! Tom? Not the Reduced Fat ones, ok? I'm Paleo.

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)
Don't worry - I am acutely aware of what a hypocrite I am when I sigh, shake my head, and say, "well, shoot, Chicken, I'd like to watch a movie right now too, but you know what babe? It's time to brush your teeth and then grab some shut-eye before we saddle up for this manic pony show again tomorrow. I know, man. It's rough. But that's the way it goes. Sometimes you just have to do things you don't want to do."

I know that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do.

Cooking breakfast for three people, two of whom believe they have developed a mortal allergy to waffles at some point in the night? I don't want to do that.

Forcing little feet into little shoes? I would rather lube up my hands with chicken fat and attempt to force live salmon into little shoes. Because at least then I'd have a good story. As it stands now, people are like, "how are you today?" And I'm like, "HOLY SHIT. You want to know how I am? You want to KNOW? How I AM? OH I WILL TELL YOU HOW I AM ... ... ... Chicken kicked a lot when I put his sneaks on."

I'm not a slacker. I pretty much get my shit done. Most of the time you could call me Madonna Getitdonna. No, wait, please don't call me that. You could call me Chickity Checklist. Fuck, no, that's worse... The only reason I'm scraping the bottom of my pun barrel (not a real body part, just weird writing) is because I have all this clean laundry to fold, and I would rather write a thousand horrible "efficient lady superhero aliases" than even breathe on that hamper of baby chinos.

"Sometimes you just have to do things you don't want to do," I say. And it's true for most necessary acts of parenting, adulting, marriageing, insuranceing, and other people's dental hygieneing. But there is a crucial exception.

Sometimes you just have to do things you don't want to do EXCEPT IF THE THING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO IS FOLD AND PUT AWAY CLEAN LAUNDRY in which case you can do anything - ANYTHING - else.

I will do literally anything to avoid folding and putting away clean laundry.


I have one load of clean laundry right now. Two, if you count the cold one in the dryer from yesterday but come one - nobody counts the one you can't see, right?

So like I said, I have one load of clean laundry.

It would take me no more than three minutes to fold it, and no more than five to put away.

it's not even a big one
there's like
18 things in here

But instead, I did this:

the best part of waking up

is not folding or putting away laundry

Yep. I would rather mix batter, melt butter, and spend an hour flipping banana pancakes for Jon and Kate Plus 8 (cough cough 2009 called it would like its large family reference back) than spend 5 minutes folding and putting away clean laundry.

No but that's a really important job, Katie. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And now, thanks to your selfless sacrifice, your children will have a home-cooked breakfast every morning this week until 2019 (that was a lot of fucking pancakes, brah.)

You're right, Katie. I will now add "make a fuckton of pancakes" to my to-do list right underneath "fold laundry." Now I will immediately cross it off. It feels good to create things that you can get done, doesn't it?

It so does. You are super awesome.

Thanks! I feel awesome! You know, I should probably go into the bedroom and just knock out that laundry... it won't take more than a minute or two...

Yeah sure sure sure you could do that. ORRRRRR...

I'm listening.

If you wanted, you could capture the magic of Christmas and instill a lifelong love of learning in your two children.

... go on.

I was on Pinterest the other day and I saw this thing where you wrap 25 books in coordinating gift wrap and then you number them and it is, like, the cutest, most photogenic (and therefore, best) advent calendar EVER.

Wow... that sounds like a lot of work.

Oh yeah.

I mean, I'd have to leave the house right now--

Goodness, no, this couldn't possibly wait until tomorrow.

And go to a bookstore to browse around for like, a couple of hours--

At least. You want to make sure that you pick 25 books that speak to your values. You have to actually read the books for gosh sakes.

And then I'd have to go pick the gift wrap--

Don't forget the ribbon

And ribbons

Don't forget the cute tags and numbers


And then, of course, there's the wrapping process.

I'd probably have to watch at least four episodes of the Man in the High Castle while wrapping. (Sigh.) If I were going to do this... it would be, like, a good 7 hours of work.


But I am willing to put in those hours. I am just that good a person.

Grab your keys. And let's stop for an americano. You can't browse a bookstore without an artisinal coffee.

You read my mind.

I am your mind.


No. You are in the PROCRASTINATRIX.

it's me
i was wondering
if after all these years
you'd like to meet
i'm sitting
on your bed
cold and wrinkled
and honestly
not that big a deal to take care of
before this song is over
it could be done

Wrinkled laundry says what?



What? I don't get it.

Nah, man.
You'd have to be
an Advent Calendar Children's Book to get it.

Yessirree. I would rather shop for, purchase, individually wrap, then number 25 children's books for an advent calendar, than fold and put away clean laundry.

This is an incredible gift that people are going to love on Facebook.

They totally will. I'm glad I, like, set them all out for a pic.

Such a good pic. 

Thanks, Katie. I really appreciate your support.

You know I've always got your back.

I know. But seriously, I have to fold that laundry. I think Buster's gray fleece is in there and it's supposed to be cold tomorrow.

Cold? How cold?

Like, high 30's.

Oh wow, really?

Yeah... wait, why do you sound so worried?

Oh, I don't know. I'm sure your cupboards are stocked in case you get snowed in and can't leave the house for ten days.

Um... I mean, we have some soup and stuff. Plus it's not looking like it'll be cold enough to snow.



No, nothing.


It's just...

Oh my God, spill it.

It's just if something were to happen and you didn't have a fully-outfitted first aid kit and stocked pantry and emergency water supply and heat source, I was just wondering if you would ever be able to forgive yourself, is all I was wondering. 

Oh shit.



Hm? What? Nothing. I didn't say anything.

um hi
not that it matters
the gray fleece
is not
in fact
in me
i think i saw it in the car
no reason to fold here

quick question
did you have any thoughts
as to how one might prepare
20 boxes of macaroni and cheese
without butter
or milk

Holler back if you would rather clear out the water and pasta aisles at the grocery store than fold and put away clean laundry.



You said to holler back! I hollered. You know, back.

Oh! I never thought about what I was actually saying when I said holler back. It's like, "raise your hand if."

Yeah. Exactly. Raise your hand if your family's security in the event of a natural disaster trumps some Puritanical patriarchical construct of "folded" laundry.

(raises hand)

Can I get a hell yeah, my sister!

Hell yeah! Oh shit, I just checked the weather again and it's actually going to be like high 40's tomorrow.

That was a close one.

Was it? I kinda feel like I overreacted.

What's done is done. The mac WILL get eaten, girl. That much I know is true.

You're right. But seriously, I really have to fold the laundry now, or I'll wake up tomorrow and feel like shit that I didn't take care of it. Please, clock out, take 5, don't try to distract me or produce another voluntary project. If you pull me away from my boring, craptastic laundry, I'll totally be excited for a minute that I'm doing something more fun, but then I'll just feel guilty and lame that I couldn't suck it up for 5 minutes and fold the damn clothes.

You're right. 

I know.

When you're right you're right. And you're right.

Thank you.

I really respect your work ethic.

Aw. Thanks.

And your ability to perceive complex feelings. 

I'm sorry?

You feel things very deeply, don't you?

Oh. I guess I do.

That takes a lot of strength, to feel things the way you do. I only ask because... it's just, I am always so impressed by your emotional fluency. Your feelings are complex and beautiful... and to take the time to try to understand them, and then verbalize them... I'm just, I'm in awe of you.

Wow. I don't know what to say. Thank you. I'm just trying to live my life, you know, like everybody else.

So many people would connect with what you're feeling right now - those complex, beautiful feelings.

Do you think?

You could really shine a light, Katie. You could really make a difference to someone out there, struggling with the same feelings of isolation and shame. Clean laundry happens to everyone. Even people you don't expect.

That could be really important.

SO important.

Do you think I should write a post about it?

Oh my gosh, yes. I mean, it's your call. Totally, your call. But I think... yeah, I think it could be a good one.

Okay. Okay. Okay, I'll just fold the laundry, and then I'll start a blog post.

Wow. Really? You think you can hold onto this idea for as long as it's going to take you to fold the laundry?

Wait, do you think I can't?

I mean, if anyone can it's you. OF COURSE. But John Donne said the difference between being able to write and not being able to write is... something... I can't quite remember, but the idea was definitely, like, don't fold laundry just write your thing.

John Donne said that?

YES. Maybe.

Maybe you're right. I feel the juices flowing.


You know what I mean.

I do know what you mean.

Don't say it.

Because I AM YOU.

Oh for fuck's sake


do not try to fold the laundry
that is impossible
instead, try to realize the truth
there is no laundry
then you'll see
that it is not the laundry that folds
it is only yourself

1. This is not a post about the facts of the safety or economic ramifications of admitting refugees into the US.

2. This is not a post critiquing the process by which refugees might gain legal entry.

3. This is not a post about politics. There are no heartless Republicans or naive Democrats in this post.

4. This is not a post about tugging on your heartstrings to get you to donate money to refugee aid.

What is this post, then? I'm still not sure. I'm not an expert in anything except navel-gazing. I'm not a politician or a doctor or an aid worker. 

Here's what I know.

When Chicken was born, we were told to prepare to transfer to the NICU because he probably had an infection - pneumonia, sepsis, Group B strep - the chest x-rays both came back clear but he'd popped a fever at 2 days old and now all we could do was wait for the lab to process the bloodwork.

In the meantime, we were educated on what to look for. A well-meaning nurse slid a pen across my hospital bed tray. "You'll want to write this down." Blue lips, sucking in his belly under his ribs in a desperate attempt to breathe, bloody phlegm? Hit the call button until someone comes.

So let me get this straight... you're saying I SHOULD hit the call button when my 2-day-old son turns blue and coughs up bloody mucus? Thanks. Good tip. No, you're right, I DID need to write that down. Y'all should probably get some laminated signs made. Just, you know, a suggestion. "Baby blue? Call extension 2!" Or whatever. They're your signs. 

The specter of danger loomed over Chicken's round, pink, wiggling body until we could see nothing but the absence of symptoms. We felt his real, warm weight in our arms, watched his lips working on the bottle as he gulped, audibly, lustily, the supplemental formula that "might save his life," and thought, "he isn't sick... yet," when we should have been thinking, "he is working that bottle like a boss." 

is he blue?
i'll keep waiting.
The tests all came back negative. The nurse who'd spoken to us about bloody phlegm slipped her pen into her chest pocket, shrugged, and said, "I guess he's fine! Congratulations! Look at that big, beautiful, healthy boy."

We took him home (where he never turned blue) and I expected to blow the tight bands of fear from my chest with my first deep breath of home. 

that is not what happened
as you might be able to tell
from my level of freshness
in this picture
lookin strong katie
lookin real strong

Of course, the threat remained. I've accepted that as long as I have a living child, the specter of danger will endure. Like a shadow, it changes shape and size. Sometimes it is enormous, darkening the room. On bright days it hides beneath my feet, patient. It's got time. And it's got me wrapped around its black little finger. To this day, when Chicken plays house with Buster, and Chicken plays Mommy, the first thing he always says to the baby is "Be careful! That's dangerous!"

When I first read about the Syrian refugees sailing inflatable boats to Greece to seek safety for themselves and their families, I felt the shadows grow long. 

The news coverage has been both rending and ugly - we don't spend a lot of time talking about regular citizen Syrians on the news, and we seem to be unsure of how to speak about people who are Muslim, foreign, and moving in large numbers into other countries. People have said some stupid shit. People seem to have forgotten that under all the window dressing the Syrian refugees are just guys, just plumbers and teachers, just a lady who prefers coffee to tea, just a kid who doesn't actually like soccer and spends his time climbing trees instead, just a mom with a baby who's teething. Yep, Syrian kids teethe. That story, plus holiday travel tips and tricks, coming up at 11!

But seriously, I can't write about how it feels to see pictures of people in life jackets, or regular moms and dads, not action heroes, some paunchy, some scrawny, running with their children in their arms - heavy children, children too old to be carried, really. The closest I can come is this: You know when you get hurt, really hurt? When you look down at a broken wrist or an angry scrape, and the hurt is too new to even feel? Fluid rushes to the wound and you watch, numbly, as your hurt swells, and if your eyes were closed you wouldn't even be able to point to the place where you're bleeding. I feel like that, badly hurt all the way into silence.  

It's devastating, the scale of displacement, the depth of fear and chaos, the sudden weight of every day's necessary labor for people who have done nothing to deserve this lot, for the kids who are quiet, confused, and heartbreakingly, not surprised.

Of course, like everything that breaks my heart, it comes back to my children.

Of course it does.

I would carry them anywhere to keep them safe and I would push dirt over their bodies to keep them warm while they slept. I'm nothing special. I'm not about to pin a Mockingjay on my sweatshirt. I'm just a mom whose baby is teething.

I suppose I'm exactly the person that such coverage is trying to activate. Women, children, crying, sleeping, empty water buckets, reaching hands. I've had to turn it off so I can sleep.

I continue to refuse the urge to warm myself from the gentle glow of an entire nation burning. It's easy to come away from these stories with a satisying sense of gratitude.

"Wow, I'm so lucky to have a floor in my house." 
"Thank God we have water."
"Our problems are nothing, really - sure, we have car payments. But we don't have to wade into a mosh pit and compete to catch the day's dinner, donated bread, tossed to us from gloved hands."

It's terribly insulting, horribly cold, to turn these people into the ultimate symbol of "there but for the grace of God go I." I can't stand the idea of using them to feel better about where I am. I can't imagine having that conversation: "Wow, Ahmed. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a remarkable man, and your family is lucky to have you. Also, just being here, with you, it makes me feel, like, so much better about the outstanding balance on my Macy's card. Wow. Like... weight? Lifted! So, good luck man. Take care." Nobody would say that. But that's how it feels, to just watch from a distance, shudder, and retire to your quarters, sinking extra-deeply into the sofa, proud of yourself for remembering to be grateful.

I do feel blessed, but I feel unworthy of the blessing. Just as people born into a land soaked in blood have done nothing to earn that sentence, so I have done nothing in to earn my life's total absence of hunger, its near-absence of violence. I didn't earn the luxury of knowing death only through novels and the quiet, comfortable administration of hospice care. 

They told me my son could be sick; I waited up to watch him breathe. I felt terror. He was fine.

They took a picture of a young boy in gray and orange sneakers, asleep, waiting in line for water; it isn't fair, I thought, watching Chicken wash his hands. I snapped the tap off while he lathered. He whined, "but I waaaaanted it oooooon." I started to say, "I saw a picture of a boy today..."

I'm not sure it's my job to acclimate him to the unfairness of life. When I see the sleeping boy, waiting for water, it's Chicken's innocent expectation for eternal water as much as the boy's thirst that breaks my heart.

I'm keenly aware of my state- this personal grief is not a healthy and sustainable awareness of the world. There is a stage after this one in which I will decide that my guilt serves no one, and is just as selfish and misguided as the faux-humble self-congratulation that I find so ugly.

I don't have a wrap-up. I have no idea what else to say. I'm just going to revisit something that Chicken said when my mom sent him a postcard of the Statue of Liberty.

Chicken: Who's that lady?

Me: That's the Statue of Liberty.

Chicken: Why does she have a light?

Me: So people who are looking for a place to live know they are welcome.

Chicken: Why are they looking for a place to live?

Me: They had to leave their old homes because it wasn't safe for them, or because they were having a really hard time, and they came here to try to have a better life. And when they get here, after sailing for a long time, they see that light and know that they're home.

Chicken: Like when friends come over to our house? When they're havin a hard time? And we leave the door open for them? And when they knock? We say hi, come on in, we're so glad you're here? And do you want a snack?

Me: Yes baby. Just like that. 

Prep Time: 10 Seconds
Cook Time: As Long As Your Mom Lets You


1. Bread
2. Cheddar Bunnies


1. Remove two slices of bread from the bread bag.

2. Insert each slice into its own slot in the toaster.
*** Note! You can try to put both slices in the same slot! Try it! Seriously, I want to see what happens. My mom wouldn't let me.***

3. Push down the toast lever until it clicks to begin toasting.

4. Push "Cancel" and pop the toast back up.

cancel is the bottom button
make a note

5. Push down the toast lever again.

6. "Cancel." Pop it up.

7. Push it down.

8. Pop it up.

9. Yep, this time it's real.

10. Nope, pop it up.

11. Seriously, you can toast now. Push it down.

12. Wait wait wait, realize you forgot something, pop it up.

13. What was the thing you forgot? Oh, right. Push it down.

14. Change the darkness setting to 1. Pop it up. Push it down.

15. Change the darkness setting to 10. Pop it up. Push it down.

16. Open the bag of cheddar bunnies and eat them while you watch your toast blacken.

you know your toast is done
when you blow on it
and it disintegrates

or perhaps
when you drop it on the floor
and it breaks

17. When the toast pops up, it will be hot.

18. Touch it immediately.

19. Scream. Insist on an ice pack, a grape juice, and an entire box of band-aids.

whole box
right there
add $3.49 to the cost of today's toast

20. Do not eat the toast.