Catch Sleep Training 101 and Sleep Training 202 first!

If you feel like you nailed sleep training the first time around, rock steady sister.
Good job. Enjoy the smooth sailing. While it lasts.

If you feel like you blew sleep training the first time around, rock steady sister.
And don't worry.

No matter what, all parents WILL have to deal with sleep at some point, or rather, at every possible point during their kids' lives. There's a reason "Go the Fuck to Sleep" is a best seller.



The moment you get used to a certain kind of nighttime situation... BAM.

Suddenly up is down, down is up, and BEDTIME IS PARTY TIME.

Not a fun party.

More like the Communist Party.

Or your 26th birthday party when all your friends canceled so it's just you and like one co-worker and one friend from high school who happened to be in town and you invited her on Facebook so she could see how cool and eclectic your friends are and then tell everyone else from high school that you are, like, BETTER now, but now she's sitting in a folding chair in your empty living room looking at you like, "wow, so... this is your life now? Gosh. I'm... I'm sorry. But no, obviously, like... happy birthday."



We sleep trained Chicken at 9 months.

And at 13 months.

And at 23 months.


Let me just say, Chicken's crib-vaulting maneuvers of the last 2 nights are doing nothing whatsoever to ameliorate my fears that I'm nurturing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

So I finished this tonight
did I say finished
I meant

I kind of want to launch into a long, drawn-out description of the 90-minute battle that was bedtime tonight, but who am I kidding? Nobody cares. (btw I'm in the depression stage of sleep training)

So instead I'm just going to give you the snapshot that pretty much sums up the evening.

Half an hour after "lights out" I moved Buster into the crib in our bedroom so he could actually sleep.

An hour after "lights out" Chicken had left his room 12 times. Every time I put him back in his crib he stiffened up like a man taking some serious voltage, screaming and clinging to my arms. I had to scrape his hands off of my wrists.

An hour and four minutes after "lights out" Chicken realized that if he got out of his crib but stayed in his room, I wouldn't immediately come in and put him back to bed.

An hour and five minutes after "lights out" I went into Chicken's room to find the night light off, the overhead light glaring, the white noise silenced, and Chicken putting his pajamas back in the pajama drawer. He looked up at me, wearing only his night diaper, and said, "See? I'm not tired! I don't need pajamas!"

An hour and eight minutes after "lights out" I went into Chicken's room to find the night light off, the overhead light glaring, the white noise silenced, and Chicken sitting naked on the changing table, putting on a daytime pull-up. "See? I'm not tired! I don't need a night diap!"

Just know, all you sleep training parents out there, that there will come a day when you look at your naked child wearing nothing but teary eyes and eery logic, and you will think:

The time for easy solutions has passed. 

It probably passed a long time ago and your kid just felt sorry for you.

Just know this. There is no way out but through.

But through is the way you will go.

See you on the other side.

The door on the left is our bedroom
Buster's room
The door on the right is Chicken's bedroom
the Alamo

I believe the gate will keep him in
should he rise

I don't know why
but I do
which is so
silly of me

The potty
was just there
I don't know why
when you have kids
there are potties
on your carpet
by the Costco bag
stop asking questions
and go to sleep
on the couch
because the children are sleeping
in the rooms
with beds
The internet wasn't working.

So, in a flash of brilliance the likes of which has not been seen on this Earth since the day God said LET THERE BE LIGHT, I unplugged the router and then plugged it back in.

I wonder if NASA is hiring


The whisk wasn't in the kitchen drawer to the right of the stove. I looked and looked, under the wooden spoon and behind the spatula. But no. The whisk was GONE. All hope was lost. I was going to have to use a fork to whisk the eggs. A FORK. Like Jodie Foster in NELL.

But then, in a moment of crystalline insight into the order of the world, I thought maybe, just maybe I should look in the drawer to the left of the stove, and...

Clever girl
I'm talking about the whisk here
in an Australian accent
If Congress had those kinds of finely-tuned instincts there wouldn't be a war on Christmas anymore, I can say that for certain.


I took the sweaters to the dry cleaner. ALL of them. It was seriously like 17 sweaters.

AND I only apologized to the dry cleaner once for the insane number of sweaters.

I know, I'm sorry... we just moved...

That may or may not have been one month ago.


I needed to trim my fingernails so I went looking for the fingernail clippers.

Several weeks later I found them.

in the kitchen
with the stamps
and the tape

And at the moment I found the clippers, as soon as I had them in my hand, I stood over the trash can and finally clipped my fingernails.

I felt like one of those cold case detectives. You can close the folder on this one, Spaznitsky. But some cases... they never leave you...


Me: I'd like the veggie burger with cheddar cheese.
Her: Waffle or sweet potato fries?
Me: I'd like the green salad.

No thanks
I'd prefer
do your leaves have stalks
I def need some stalks
I love how
they get stuck in my teeth
so much better
french fried
because I'm good
so good
this time

I think it was pretty clear from the breathless awe that shone from her face that I was the most impressive person she'd met since the new millenium, or possibly ever.


Do you have one?

Please share with my dirty dozen readers and Ivan Ivanovich in the comments below!

(What's up Ivan!)

Ryan: Here. Take this and leave. Get a drink. I don't want to see you until at least 8 pm.

(Hands me two 20's)

Me: Uh... I'm not your prostitute.

Ryan: You're right. Last time I checked you don't pay prostitutes to leave for a pleasant evening of self-care.



(my soul mate)

that's the one

Yesterday Chicken and Buster were playing at a toddler gym.

And cue the piledriver
in 3...
(mouths the word "one"
points at Chicken)

Chicken turned around and performed one of his trademark moves - "walk through Buster's body with the steady focus and inescapable force of a steamroller flattening a Starbucks cup." Buster fell backward, knocked his head on a wooden ladder, and started to cry.

This is not unusual for a family with 2 young kids. They play hard. They knock each other over. Eye gouging is just, you know, how they learn.

I reached out to pull Chicken into my lap for one of our post-body-blow talks. He wiggled away and threw himself down on the brightly-colored tumbling mat just out of arm's reach, as Buster cried and banged his face on my chest.

"I'm bad," Chicken said.

This is not a word we use on children. This exact moment is one that I've thought about, written about, a single sentence that I have dreaded will break my heart.

It didn't break my heart; it squeezed it. I felt like a passenger on an elevator, surprised and panicked at how fast the steel box dropped. If I had a coherent thought at that moment it was WhatNo!

"Oh, baby..." I reached out again, but he slithered away, still on his back, staying just out of my grasp. I leaned forward so I could lay my hand on the bare, pink blade of his foot. It was the only contact he'd permit.

"Baby, you are not bad."

Wait, that's too negative. Say it better. 

"Baby, you are so, SO good."

Too abstract. Say it better.

"Baby, remember how this morning in bed you asked me if you could hold the baby? And when you did, you held him so gently and laughed and said, 'I love my brother'? Remember that? And when you noticed the moon was out even though the sun was up the other day, and you said "the moon is comin with us," and Mommy laughed and squeezed you with a huge hug? Remember?"

Too long. Say it better.

"Baby, do you know how much I love you?"

Too generic. Say it better. 

"Baby, it makes me so sad to hear you say that you're bad."

Too guilt-tripping. Say it better. Say it better QUICK! He's already decided that he's bad! You have to find the right words, right now, to change his mind completely! HURRY!

"Baby, you are strong and smart and kind and sweet and funny. You are everything in the world except bad."

He sighed, rolled his eyes up toward his forehead, and said, as if he'd given the matter a lifetime of thought, "No. I think I'm just bad."


Me: Why do you think you're bad, baby?

Chicken: Because I knocked Buster down.

Me: But that doesn't make you bad, honey.

Chicken: Yeah, I'm bad.

Oh my God, please stop saying that. Please stop thinking it.

Me: Yes, you knocked your brother down. And that was a... a...

DON'T SAY ANYTHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE BAD. Mean? No. Not nice? Same as mean. Um... 

... a rough way to play with your brother.

Chicken: Yeah. It was bad.

Me: Did someone say that to you? Did someone say that you're bad?

Chicken: I said it to me.

Maybe he means that he feels bad, like he feels sorry... please let that be what he means...

Me: Do you mean that you felt like you did something wrong?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: Because you know you're not supposed to knock your brother down?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: There's a word for that... when you feel sad because you hurt someone, or like you're going to be in trouble because you did something you know you're not supposed to do. The word is "sorry," or "guilty."

Chicken: Okay.

Me: Baby, you're still learning how to play with your friends, what your body can do when you touch, or hit, or push. And everybody has big feelings and makes mistakes...

You're talking too much. He's done with this now.

Anyway, I love you so much. And when I think of you, I think of someone who is kind and smart and funny and good. SO good.

Chicken: No. Just bad.


All day, all night, I asked myself if I do something to make him think that he's bad. Of course I would never say those words to him; I don't even think those words about him.

But... hmm...

I do treat him like he's an annoyance, sometimes, when he's stubborn, or exhausted and whiny.

Actually, now that I'm really listening to myself talk, every day I say things to him that fall under the umbrella of "not-so-good."

Why are you making this harder? STOP. STOP. STOP! Don't sit on your brother! Blocks are not for throwing! 

I need your help. Please help me. That's not helping me. 

HONEY HONEY HONEY it scares me so much when you run into the street, okay? 

WAIT. WAIT. Remember to be careful on the stairs, right? Remember how you tumbled down the stairs yesterday, how scary that was? Baby, you know you are not supposed to push Buster. I've already told you a bunch of times today not to push Buster. Remember? I know you can remember.

Well, no, we can't build a tall tower right now because Mommy has to change out the laundry. Wait just a minute. Move please. MOVE PLEASE. 

I'm trying to say:

I'm frustrated.
I'm scared.
I love you.
I feel like I'm messing up.
I love you.
I want you to be happy.
It doesn't seem like you're happy.
I don't know what I'm doing.
Help me understand you.
I just need to feel like something got done today.
Are you okay?
I love you.

But what he hears is:

You bug me.
You make me mad.
You're not helping.
You hurt Buster.
You scare me.
You're impatient.
You're mean.
You're forgetful.
You're in my way.

Nobody had to say the words "you're bad." The way that I have been responding to him says it loud and clear.

I feel... bad. So bad. Just... bad.

But I woke up today with a goal. Today, I will:

Show him that feeling bad, sad, mad, scared, guilty, frustrated doesn't make him bad.

Show him that acting on big feelings doesn't make him bad.

Show him that he's good.

Tell him, "I saw that you were gentle when..."

Tell him, "Wow! You remembered..."

Tell him, "Chicken, you have such amazing..."

Tell him, "It makes me so happy when you..."

Tell him, show him, cuddle him, trust him, help him, let him, over and over again, until the day is done, and again tomorrow.

He's good. He is so, so good.

And I am, too.
Sometimes I feel guilty for letting my kids watch Daniel Tiger while they eat breakfast in the morning. Even now I get little knots in my stomach thinking about all the missed opportunities for bonding in our jammies, telling jokes, sharing blueberries.

But - haha - back to real life.

While they do this:

I do this:

And this:

And this:

Does it make me sad?

Sometimes. It's not like I'm going to enter a mom of the year contest with photos of their slack jaws and vacant, mechanical chewing. 

But for the cost of 30 minutes in the morning, I've got a clean kitchen and bathroom, clothes on my back, berries in my belly, and a full tank of patience for the rest of the day.

Besides, if they're doing that, they're not doing this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this.

Ugga mugga, Daniel Tiger.

Ryan and I took the boys to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan wore Buster in the Ergo and pushed Chicken in the cart. As he wheeled up to a register, the cashier sang out, "Woah, check out Super Dad!"

I'm sorry.




I had to walk it off.

It's not that the cashier called Ryan Super Dad. Ryan absolutely is SUPER DAD. He's amazing.

I'm mad because the cashier doesn't even know why Ryan is Super Dad.

Ryan blows raspberries into our sons' bellies until they laugh so hard they fart.

Ryan crouches over Chicken in the bathtub, holding that tiny Elmo toothbrush with just his thumb and forefinger, and he sings a little tooth brushing song while he brushes every pearly fang in my baby's mouth.

Ryan's eyes well up when Chicken kisses Buster's bald dome.

Super Dad
gets his ass
handed to him

But the cashier doesn't know any of that.

All Ryan had to do was
a) have a penis
b) hold a baby


What would I have to do to be called Super Mom by a stranger in the grocery store?

Today I had both kids in the store, in the giant race car cart, alone, when Buster flipped out. He slapped the binky out of my hand and clawed at my shirt, pulling himself out of the seat as he screamed. So I did what any mother would. I nursed Buster in the produce section today, while I gave Chicken a clear plastic bag, and helped him select and bag 5 dark green zucchini.

What I did was in NO way exceptional. I know a lot of Super Fucking Moms. I witness acts of maternal heroism, superhuman patience, catlike reflexes, and compassion far beyond the call of a mother's duty every single time I leave the house.

And you know what? I witness acts of paternal superstardom too. Gentle tenderness after taking an elbow to the solar plexus. An ebullient high five, a lightning-fast hoodie-grab before the kid goes off the curb and into the street, a quiet conversation about ducklings on the pond.

When I posted about this on Facebook, one of my friends said, "for the record, the word mom implies the super."


Aw. That's really nice. Thank you.

But why, I wonder, doesn't the word dad imply the same thing?

I mean, I'm not totally clueless. I'm familiar with the standard archetype of fatherhood - strict, absent, cold, short-tempered, wayward. Papa was a rolling stone. Papa don't preach. When you comin' home dad? I don't know when, but we'll get together then, son... you know we'll have a good time then...

But it's May 18, 2015. And we live in Seattle, a city full of young crunchy families led by mothers and fathers who are building families in a time and place when parental involvement is in vogue. I would think that here and now we'd be able to say that our baby daddies deserve more respect than the lowest possible bar.

In this day and age, are we seriously supposed to be wowed by the sight of a father being a father? Are we supposed to be grateful when he accompanies his children on errands and keeps them alive until they return home?

Are we that back-asswards, still? Because shit like that makes me think that we're all just slightly taller, less hairy neanderthals, still surprised and grateful when the sperm donor sticks around for a few days and lets the offspring climb on him while he takes a nap.

I think we're better than that.

I think we built machines that pull energy out of sea water and wind and sunshine. We wrote symphonies and we wrestle with our lives' meanings and fear of largely theoretical, invisible enemies, like cancer, like bankruptcy, like self-worth, and mortality.

So can we stop being cavemen when it comes to fathers?

It's insulting to mothers whose work is taken for granted. It's insulting to children that we're amazed when their fathers aren't repulsed by their existence. And it's really insulting to fathers, who seem to be valued the most for doing nothing at all.

Ryan really nailed it when he said, "I wasn't being a Super Dad. I was just a dad who hadn't left yet." If that's all it takes to be Super, nearly every parent I know needs a set of shiny tights.

Or, you know, please not.

It's not that I think you should walk up to the next engaged father you see and say "That's right, you better parent that child. Listen, Bub, I'm not impressed. You, here, with the toddler in the cart, talking about which cereal doesn't have too much sugar? Yeah, that gets like a C, C+ for parenting. BARE MINIMUM, you hear me? I am acknowledging you only to highlight the fact that what you're doing MEETS THE EXPECTED CRITERIA."

Exhibit A:
Standard Dad
Watching the kid
Thinking about something else
It's Fine
It's not Super

And it's not that I think you should walk up to the next mother you see texting in line at the grocery store while she bounces back and forth to keep the baby from fussing in the Ergo, and say "HOLY SHIT WE HAVE A SUPER MOM OVER HERE!"

I just think, you know, think.

Think about it the next time you're at the store and you see a parent ignoring the kids and crossing shit off the list as quickly as possible, or successfully waiting out a tantrum, or compassionately and honestly answering a too-loud question about why a person is in the wheelchair cart.

Good parenting is about heart and brain and backbone.

Good parenting is - or ought to be - gender-blind.

For God's sake.

It's 2015.
If we were to have a "worst thing about sleep training contest" I imagine it would have to take place in an octagon so that every worst thing could have its own corner. I imagine it would look less like a boxing match and more like the balletic knife-dancing rumble of West Side Story right before (SPOILER ALERT) Bernardo takes one to the kidney.

And I imagine the damn thing would end in a tie every time. Because every worst thing about sleep training is equally the worst.

I could think of 6 right off the bat and I haven't even sleep-trained anybody in months.


1. The worst part about sleep training is THE TARGET ON YOUR BACK.

Other parents, babylove_46 on BabyCenter, your in-laws, your doctor, your know-it-all friend - everyone you see, everyone who works at Starbucks, everyone who has ever written a book, EVERYONE, just EVERYONE will have a strong opinion about sleep training. And not one of those people will think you're doing it right. 

It's too early for sleep training!

You shouldn't go to them when they cry. They're just manipulating you.

So you just let the baby scream for hours? I could never do that. I read that it's basically child abuse.

So you are dragging out the whole process by gradually helping less and less? God, that sounds horrible. Nut up and just do it already.

I sleep trained my son when he was a week old and he only cried for 10 minutes one time and then he never cried again. That was... oh... twenty-eight years ago. But I have a very accurate memory.

You know, the French just pause. 

Wow guys, thanks for your widely varied and totally fucking useless advice. FASCINATINGLY, the only thing every other person in the world can agree on is that I am terrible. We should see if we can negotiate some kind of Middle East peace treaty based on everyone signing a paper that says "Sure we can split the holy land because Katie is the worst. She's basically the human equivalent of a testicular yeast infection."

Hey Katie
You should start smoking
That's how much we like you
We want you
to start

2. The worst part about sleep training is that there is NO GUARANTEE IT WILL WORK.

Me: OK, but if I listen to the baby cry for a week, she'll sleep then, right?

Expert: Maybe!

Me: What?

Expert: Probably! Or... if it's a 50-50 shot can you still say probably?

Me: Uh... no. That seems deceptive.

Expert: OK. Then I go back to maybe. Strong maybe.

Me: Strong maybe as in a really, really big maybe?

Expert: Now you're getting it.

You sleep train and it sucks but then it's over and the baby is sleeping. YES!

Oh wait, then the baby gets sick and then you have to sleep train again.

Then the baby gets schlepped across time zones to a funny-smelling place that he's told is called "Grandma's House," where everything he knows about sleeping goes the way of the black rhinoceros just in time for Mommy and Daddy to have to try to remember something - anything - about a lot of extended family members so they can make small talk at Dora's bat mitzvah.

And then you go home and you have to sleep train again.

And then the baby turns 1 and has a sleep regression and you have to sleep train again.

Do you remember in Unbroken when Zamperini is shot down in the Pacific and floats adrift, fighting off sharks, starving to death and losing his mind, and then he gets rescued BY THE JAPANESE who intern him in a POW camp where he is starved some more and tortured by a sadistic prison guard?

I would never say that having to repeat sleep training is like that brave man's prolonged, hideous ordeal. But if you were to say it, I would totally agree with you. Just not in writing.


3. The worst part about sleep training is the FEAR THAT YOU ARE HURTING YOUR CHILD.

Make no mistake, we are all totally guessing when we start to sleep train. There's nobody there to tell us if this is regular sleep training crying or profound psychic trauma crying.

When we were sleep training Buster, I had this recurring fantasy that I would be called to testify in front of a jury. The prosecutor would play a tape of the baby crying. The jurors' eyes would fill. One woman would weep quietly into her hands. A blue collar steel worker would punch the jury box in rage.

Prosecutor: Are you telling me that you sat and listened to that sound and you didn't believe that something was wrong?

Me: I... I... I didn't know...

Prosecutor: You mean you didn't buy a video monitor so you could check on the safety of your child while putting him through this harrowing abandonment?

Me: N-no... I mean... they're really expensive, and--


Me: What? Me? No! Well... sometimes... if it's a big birthday month...

Prosecutor: Let's return to the plaintive wails of the tiny babe who trusts you completely.

Me: Okay...

Prosecutor: You didn't have a strong biological reaction to the distressed screams of your helpless baby?

Me: I did. Of course I did, but--

Prosecutor: BUT? But what? Did you take the time to learn about the byproducts of leaving your baby to cry, untended, uncomforted, for long periods of time?

Me: Well, I--

Prosecutor: ANXIETY. ATTACHMENT DISORDERS. PROLONGED BED WETTING. I'm reading now from a blog post I found on the internet that has been shared over 14,000 times. NERVOUS TICS. BODY ODOR. RED HAIR. WANTING TO MAJOR IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC.

Me: I... I didn't know...

Prosecutor:  But you knew when your baby cried that something was wong. Didn't you. DIDN'T YOU!

Me: I didn't...

Prosecutor: Why didn't you listen to your strong, maternal instincts like any decent mother would, and go into the room to check on your baby?

Me (pathetically): The book said not to.

Prosecutor (to the jury): THE BOOK. SAID. NOT TO.

Blue Collar Juror: SHE'S A MONSTER!

Judge: Order in the court!

Jury Foreman: GUILTY!

But on the other hand...

Prosecutor: Are you a mother?

Me: What? I... I mean, yes, I am a mother.

Prosecutor: And you would agree with the statement that mothers know what is best for their children at all times?

Me: I don't think I would agree with that--

Prosecutor: I AM READING NOW FROM A WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE ABOUT SLEEP TRAINING AND THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY, that clearly states, "chronic sleep deprivation is the worst kind of child abuse there is. If a "mother," or "so-called mother" doesn't let her child learn how to sleep independently from the very first night of that child's life, even if that sleep training includes a number of tearful nights, then that "mother" is dooming her child to a life of obesity, attention deficit disorder, poor lifelong sleep, and facial asymmetry."

Me: That... doesn't sound like a real--

Prosecutor: SO YOU'RE TELLING ME that you thought it was more important to interfere with the totally normalnaturaleducational, critically important process of learning how to sleep. Just because, what, you couldn't handle a little fussing?

Me: He wasn't just fussing a little. He was really seriously crying.

Prosecutor: Like WAAAH WAAAH WAAAH!

Me: Yes! Like that! Exactly like that!

Prosecutor: I was just doing an impression of you.

Blue Collar Worker: ZING!

Jury Foreman: GUILTY!


4. The worst part about sleep training is WHISPER FIGHTING WITH YOUR SPOUSE.

Keep one of these on the bedside table
It's what the pros do

We've all been there at 2:14 am, right? The baby wakes up and starts to cry. After about ten minutes, this conversation happens in the dark while you both lie completely still and stare at the illuminated numbers of the clock:

Me: Fuck.
Him: Yeah.
Me: What time did he end up going down?
Him: I think it was like 10:30.
Me: Fuck.
Him: Yeah.
Me: That's not long enough.
Him: Yeah.

(silence but for the baby's screams and the pounding of blood in your head)

Him: When did you say you were going to nurse him?
Me: Not before 3 am.
Him: It doesn't sound like he's calming down.

(screaming dies down for a second. We both relax a tiny bit, but we know it's not over. Not even close.)

Him: Poor little guy.
Me: Do you think I should go nurse him?
Him: You just said you shouldn't go in until 3.
Me: Yeah, but if he's in distress...
Him: No, he's just having a hard time.
Me: Do you think he needs help?
Him: No, I think it's fine. He just quieted down again--

(baby starts crying again, louder and with more intensity)

Me: I have to go and check on him.
Him: But the plan was to not go in until the cry was urgent, or until 3 am.
Me: Doesn't it sound urgent to you? He's sobbing!
Him: He sounds tired to me.
Me: Well, you don't know. What if he pooped? What if his leg is stuck?
Him: On what?
Me: In the crib!
Him: I think his cry would sound way worse if he were pooping or in pain.
Me: I think that this is exactly the cry that sounds like he's in pooping or in pain.
Him: Well, if you think you should go check on him, then go check on him.
Me: ... ... But you don't think I should.
Him: I don't know.
Me: I don't know either.
Him: Well, you're the one who came up with the plan.
Me: I know, but what if the plan is wrong?
Him: IS the plan wrong?
Me: I don't know! Maybe! Doesn't it feel wrong to you?
Him: Of course it feels wrong to sit here and listen to him cry, but isn't it worse to be inconsistent?
Me: I think it's worse to stick to a bad plan if the plan isn't working.
Him: I don't think we know if the plan is working yet. We just started 6 hours ago.
Me: I'm going in.
Him: Fine. Fine. Fine.
Him: Nothing. It's just... clearly we have no idea what we're doing.
Me: You mean I have no idea what I'm doing.
Him: That's not what I said.

(fifteen minutes later, returns to bed)

Him: Well?
Me: Oh he had definitely pooped.
Him: Shit.
Me: Like, epically.
Him: Really?
Me: We're going to have to shampoo his eyelashes tomorrow.
Him: Fuck.
Me: Yeah.


5. The worst part about sleep training is a TOTAL LACK OF FAITH IN YOUR JUDGMENT AND INSTINCTS.

Let's not forget, you're really, really tired. Like, forgot what month it is tired. I once dated a form "January" in July. The pediatric nurse brought me a glass of water and started asking me questions from a form she pulled from a basket on the top shelf, labeled HOME SAFETY.

I was so tired
I thought this
was such a good picture
Even after I took it
and looked at it
I thought
what a good picture

So when sleep training feels wrong, you have to ask yourself if it feels that way because you're exhausted and irrational, or if it feels that way because this isn't right for you and your family. But even if you manage to reach the definitive conclusion that it only feels wrong because you're bone-weary and hanging on by a thread, it still feels wrong.


6. The worst part about sleep training is the BULLSHIT PROMISES THAT SLEEP BOOKS MAKE.

Are you exhausted? Frayed? Fighting with your husband? Losing control? Unable to remember what month it is? Hanging on by a thread?

Oh my God yes.

All you have to do is follow the simple instructions in this book and everything that is wrong will be right... in only one week!

Wow, really? That seems like a straightforward and easily-kept promise. And how much is the book? $25? That's a VERY reasonable price for my peace of mind and a good night's sleep!

Great! Now that you've bought my book, you should know that 95% of the families who follow my technique have their kids sleeping through the night, every night, within a month.

95%, huh? That's a very suspicious rate of success. Those are the kinds of numbers I don't usually trust in toothpaste commercials. But I really, really want to believe you, sleep person. So okay. Let's do this.

Now remember, some kids take a little longer to adopt the sleep training techniques that have worked for 95% of the families who have followed my technique exactly. Don't worry! Your kid is probably just extra spirited. 

Spirited. Right.

Being inconsistent will only frustrate and confuse your baby, and teach him that all he has to do is bay bloodcurdling screams into the sky for a really long time in order to get what he wants. Commit to the training 100%!

Oh I am committed. It just really doesn't seem like it's working.

Don't worry!

You keep saying that.

Don't worry! It gets worse before it gets better!

Yeah, I'm there. It's definitely much, much worse. Maybe we should just return this book and go back to what we were doing before--

-- WAIT! For a very small number of families, their children don't respond to this technique.

OK, what should we do?

Call your doctor.


I'm no pediatric abnormal psychologist, but--

WHAT? You're saying that there's something wrong with my child just because your bullshit technique isn't working?

Well, it's either that or you're not doing it right.

I DID IT RIGHT. I read your book fourteen times and I did every thing you said to do.

Obviously you did not because if you did you would be one of the 95% of families who successfully sleep through the night every night after reading this book and adopting the technique that has helped 95% of the families who have successfully adopted the technique outlined in the following chapters that maybe you should read again before you try to sleep train your UNTRAINABLE 5% of the population crazy baby.

I thought you said he was spirited.

I was being nice. He's an asshole.

NO YOU ARE. You're the asshole. How does it feel to take money from desperate people? How does it feel to be a professional bullshit salesman?

Better than it feels to pay for bullshit.


So how about you? What's your worst thing about sleep training? Share with the class!

A dear friend requested a post about sleep training. 
I said to her 
I shall write THREE posts about sleep training.
This is the first one.

Combat philosopher Mike Tyson once said
that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

That's pretty much how I feel about sleep training. 

You start with a plan.

A plan born from months of avoiding articles about whether or not it is safe to drive on chronic sleep deprivation because the last thing you need when you're that fucking tired is to be told that you can't leave the house either. A TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE IS ALL WE HAVE SOMETIMES.

That plan might be one of the soft, gentle "no-cry" solutions. You know, "on the first night, listen to the baby cry for one hour while sitting right next to the baby, shushing no more than once per four minutes. On the second night, listen to the baby cry for one hour and twenty minutes while sitting three inches away from the baby, shushing no more than once per four minutes and one second. Continue until you voluntarily check yourself into rehab or get a divorce."

That plan might be "close the door and turn up the jams. I don't care how long she screams. I CAN DRINK FOR LONGER."

But no matter what your plan is, no matter how clearly you have spelled out the terms of the sleep training operation to both yourself and your partner, no matter if you've printed out a personalized guidebook of what to do in every possible scenario from tonight until the baby sleeps 12 hours like you want her to so you can get your 8 straight, plus have a bit of time on either end to watch a movie or take a shower like the rest of your smart friends who had kids ten years ago or have vowed to never have children... HEAR ME NOW.

No matter how prepared you are, you will still get punched in the face.

your face

It's not a physical blow. But you might wish it were. 

I would rather take one to the face from Mike than have to listen to the relentless wailing, shrieking, howling, and sobbing of my baby, my doughy little boy whose eyes light up when I enter the room. 


You think, "I spend 12 of every 24 hours tending to him with patience and tenderness. I am now spending the other 12 hours ignoring his desperate cries for help and comfort. And for what??? So I can selfishly sleep more than 45 minutes at a time? God, I'm the worst mother in the... the... you know... what's the word..."

You think, "it's fine, whatever, I can be tired for another day." Week. Month. Season. Year. Epoch.

Every single one of those thoughts - the subversive ones, the fearful ones, the guilty ones, the ones that sound kind of nice but also really mean like Oprah during that James Frey  interview after the whole Million Little Pieces fiasco - each is a face punch.

Each takes you down another notch, rings your bell, spins you around, makes you question why you volunteered for this gig in the first place.

You're not alone.

Show of hands. Who thinks the next sleep book on the market should be called:


We shall sell one billion copies.
I have this little trick I use to help myself fall back asleep in the middle of the night. 

It's called "a shot of gin."

Not really.

I go through the alphabet, doing a different US City for each letter. Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas... It works so well that I've never even gotten to X. I'm usually out like a light by the time I hit Nashville.

Not tonight. It's 3:30. Evidently, I am awake now.

I blame Sufjan Stevens, whose new album "Carrie and Lowell" has me in low-to-moderate heartbreak, and Jon Krakauer, whose new book "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town," has me in moderate-to-high speechless rage.

"Carrie and Lowell" is a haunting, bare exploration of Stevens' relationship with his mother. Carrie was, by all accounts, a captivating character - magnetic and erratic, creative and schizophrenic, beautiful and absent. She left her family when Stevens was only 1, more out than in her children's lives and crippled by her own battles with substance abuse and mental illness until she passed away of stomach cancer in 2012. 

Carrie's son grew up to be an uncommonly intimate songwriter, and the songs on this album bleed. With such lines as "what did I do to deserve this," "tell me you want me in your life," and "I just wanted to be near you," the album is nothing less than devastating. I can't stop listening to it and finding myself in tears as I pick up Legos and fold Chicken's palm-sized Hanes briefs into a sloppy square. 

I can't help but look at Chicken and Buster and think never, babies. You'll never get rid of me.

But of course that isn't a promise I can make, really. Of course I could go insane. Of course I could get sick.

So I'm up at 3:50 am, thinking Albuquerque, Brownsville, Cincinnatti, Denver, Elizabeth, Fayetteville...

But I'm really thinking let my life not hurt my children.

And then there's "Missoula," a book about how the US justice system handles rape prosecutions. Like everything else I've read of Krakauer's the book is quick, deft, and jaw-dropping.

I don't want to spoil it for you if you're interested in reading it, and make no mistake I recommend this book 100%, so I won't go into detail about the insane, insane, INSANE horseshit that the rape victims profiled in this book have to endure at the hands of police officers who are, in the BEST-CASE scenario, untrained if well-intentioned. You don't even want to know about the worst-case scenario. Or maybe you do. If you do, you should read this book.

I'm a mother of two boys, so as I read "Missoula" I want an appendix - How To Make Sure My Children Respect Others And Understand Consent From The Earliest Possible Age Because God Knows There Is Nothing They Can Do To Make Their Mama Stop Loving Them But I'd Be Heartbroken If My Sons Grew Up To Be Sex Offenders. 

I'm also a former female college student, so as I read "Missoula" I can't help but recall the hundreds and hundreds of times that I was in the same situation as these other female college students - at a party, drinking, invited by trusted friends to sleep on the couch so I wouldn't have to walk home alone at night, aware but coolly mistrustful of the stats that said I was far more likely to be assaulted on that couch by a familiar friend than by some faceless predator lurking in the shadows. Not me. Not with these guys.

Blowing off steam after finals with people I didn't know that well but trusted for no other reason than we both got into the same school and shared a few common friends, I once found myself alone in a room with a pony keg and six men whose names I didn't know. It never occurred to me that I was outnumbered. Silly rabbit, I wasn't even scared until the conversation stilled and in the silence I did the math and found a good reason to go to the bathroom. 

I was embarrassed by my own paranoia and rolled my eyes at warnings about the danger of just that kind of situation. They're good guys, Mom. As if I knew. 

Nothing ever happened to me. Nobody ever assaulted me.

But reading this book makes me aware of how cavalier I was with my personal safety, how badly wrong it all could have gone, and how quickly. 

I could tell, seriously, dozens of stories from college, summaries of nights that differ from those found in a police report by only one (critical) plot point.

- Hanging out with some casual friends, mostly men
- Drinking moderately
- DD decides to drink, leaving me with the option to schlep home on foot or call a cab
- Invited to spend the night on the couch
- Agree. These are good guys.
- Fall asleep fully dressed, under a light blanket that smells a little sour - this is, after all, the house of college-aged men. I am now the only woman in the house.

And only here does my story deviate from a rape survivor's. I woke up the next morning with fuzzy teeth and a headache. My friends wandered out of their bedrooms and we all went for egg sandwiches.

It's 4:15 am. Ashville, Boulder, Charlotte, Durango, Eugene, F... F... 

Fuck it.

I'm taking a shot of gin and turning on The West Wing.
Chicken got a blister.

Let me ask you something. If you had to pick one of the following words to describe "getting a blister," which would it be?

a) delightful
b) annoying
c) painful
d) shattering

Depending on how many blocks I had to walk in those shoes, I'd place myself solidly between b and c.

Chicken? D. HARD D.

If there were an option e that was basically just a picture of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," Chicken would be picking e.

that's the one
FYI, the following is a partial list of necessary comfort measures when your toddler gets a blister:

1. Admire the blister and say something impressed-sounding about how much that must hurt.
2. Cradle the child on your lap and kiss the entire surface of both feet EXCEPT the spot where the blister is.
3. Make up a song about a little boy with a blister.
4. Apply a band-aid to the blister.
5. Apply medical tape over the band-aid on the blister.
6. Apply soft, cushy sock over the medical tape that is over the band-aid on the blister.
7. Finish your wine in one go.
8. Thank your friend for a lovely playdate.
9. Hold the wounded foot the entire way home while singing the custom boy-with-a-blister song.

Every night for the last week, we've applied a fresh band-aid to the red (now pink) oval of raw skin in the arch of his foot, then taped that band-aid in place with three strips of clear sterile medical tape, then covered the wound dressing with an Elmo sock.

Phase II: Medical tape
Please note Buster taking a pre-gnawing position above Chicken's shoe.
It's not like I like him eating shoes.
I know what's on there.
I was taking this picture
Last night, as Chicken tested out the new dressing, he walked around his bedroom in cotton pajamas, his hair sticking up in the damp post-bath spikes that we call "scary hair."

He stepped normally with his healthy foot, then hop-stepped gingerly, placing weight on only the heel of his blistered one, his toes flexed impressively toward his knee.

He step-hopped in a wide circle around the room, and threw himself onto the orange seat of his soft toddler easy chair. He turned his wide-open face up at me and spoke with the intense breathlessness of toddlers and wartime correspondents.

"Mommy, did you see? Did you see me?
I walked tip-toe on one foot
but not,
not on the other foot!"

"I saw you baby! That's called 'limping,' when one foot is working fine and the other one is a little hurt."

"Oh, Mommy..."

He chuckled, the way he does when I tease him and say that a duck says moo, as if I am an imbecile to be humored.

"It's not limping, Mommy. It's dancing."

I'm just going to go ahead and call that your daily dose of accidental toddler wisdom.

You're not limping.

You're leaving it all out on the floor.

Now get on with your bad self, girl.

Did anyone NOT hear this quote at some point in their high school graduation ceremony?

I get it - it's the perfect quote for a high school graduation. Can you name another maxim that flatters both the adolescent's hunger for glory and total refusal to accept the possibility of consequences? Maybe the not-really-James-Dean-but-always-attributed-to-James-Dean "live fast die young," but that's a little dark for an early June graduation ceremony, no?

The guy responsible for the whole shoot-for-the-moon pearl is 1950's minister, pop psychologist, and groundbreaking Dr. Phil predecessor Norman Vincent Peale, whose claims to fame are twofold:

  1. He was L. Ron Hubbarding at the same time that L. Ron Hubbard was L. Ron Hubbarding - Peale's  roundly wackadoo, "The Power of Positive Thinking" hit the stands only 2 years after LRH's 1950 famed crackpot treatise, "Dianetics."
  2. His Wikipedia page BEGINS with the glowing praise, "his ideas were not accepted by mental health experts." 

Imagine if "The Secret" were published in the early 1950's. That's Peale. Peale was the forefather, truly, the George Washington of The Secret.

The man knew how to sell a book.

How to sell "positivity" as the cure for literally everything.

But he didn't know diddly shit about parenting. And let me tell you why.

Here's what happens to all of us new parents.

You have a kid.
You love your kid.
You want to give your kid a childhood of magic and delight.
You see other people's Facebook pictures and you yearn to be in their families.

They show you photographic proof that you can have an adventure with your children that won't leave you day-drinking in the bathroom thinking "thank God that's over."

Their kids are experiencing magic and delight - a lovely dinner at a restaurant, everyone in his own chair, everyone smiling and eating vegetables; the family riding bikes together through an orchard, nary a beesting or a scraped knee or a whiny "but I'm tiiiiiiired" among the cheerful clan; the toddler at his weekend glassblowing workshop, his golden curls springing out from around his safety goggles.

And that's when you make the critical error.

You think, "you know what? Let's go for it."

Shoot for the moon, right?

I've been there.

On a recent weeknight I didn't feel like cooking. Ryan was home, we had money in the bank, gas in the car, and our one and only lives to live! Who says we can't take a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old out to dinner? Of course we can and it's going to be GREAT! SHOOT FOR THE MOOOOOOON!

I can get a cold beer. Chicken will color in his coloring book. Buster will charm the other diners with his gummy grin. Ryan and I will look at each other across the table and think "I don't regret my life choices."

At least I got the beer.

First, we forgot baby food for poor toothless Buster.

I started dipping pieces of dinner rolls in water and stuffing them in Buster's mouth. Buster responded the way any human would when gagged with moist bread.

As his face turned purple in the terrible slow-motion seconds before his wail, the server started over to see if he could help. I picked up the baby, shouting with the insane persistence of a highly allergic professional auctioneer who'd been assured by her doctor that in a pinch a banana could substitute for an epi pen quite nicely.


The server, frozen in his tracks, could only stare with his mouth half-open as I pulled my shirt down, still standing halfway between our table and the server station, and attempted to get the writhing, screaming baby onto my already-leaking nipple.

Meanwhile, like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, Chicken figured out how to open the clasp for the high chair after about 45 seconds, so while I used the tines of my fork to smash the antipasto appetizer into a gray prosciutto-olive-goat-cheese pseudo-puree (which Buster promptly threw up), Ryan chased Chicken in and out of bathroom stalls, some of which were unoccupied.

That was an evening that the other diners will never forget.

Both of them.

I think they were like battalion buddies in WWI. They too smashed their antipasto to a paste before bringing trembling spoonfuls to their lips. What can I say? These are your peers when you go out to dinner at 4:45 pm.

Anyway. I shot for the moon that day. I missed. And yes, I landed among the stars...
in the sense that I landed in an airless, infinite vacuum where nobody could hear me scream.

Sometimes everybody needs a reality check, a Newtonian reminder of the critical importance of gravity.

And girl, I am here to whip that apple at your head.

Sometimes, you must crush your ambition to do the extraordinary, and just go with the thing that always fucking works.

Sometimes you must say to yourself NO. Today is not the day to take the children to the beach for a picnic. Today you are not strong enough to keep them from Virginia Woolfing in the sound, to win the fight against the crows when the children run in opposite directions down the beach and leave their peanut butter sandwiches unattended. Today you don't have enough will to live to BOTH live, AND to cheerfully change everyone's sand-crusted diapers in the back of the car. No. Today is the day to watch four back-to-back episodes of Sesame Street so nobody has to talk during dinner. Which will be pizza.

Sometimes you must say "fuck the moon" and fall back to this Earth and be cradled by its incontrovertible laws:

The computer will turn on.
The pizza restaurant's delivery site will work.
I will click "submit order," and in less than an hour a box of piping hot joy will arrive at my door.
I will eat it.
And nobody will have to wash a single pot.

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you'll land among the stars."


Try "Shoot for the ground. You literally cannot miss it. Just sit down."

oh hell no. absolutely not.

nope. still too much.

atta girl.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but isn't Mother's Day kind of a bummer?

I can't speak for the heartbroken mothers whose children aren't here to celebrate with them on Mother's Day. I can't speak to the quality of grief of people whose mothers aren't here to be celebrated - I imagine it's a hollow ache but I don't know for sure. I can't speak for those whose mothers yet live, but who badly hurt their children, mothers who might be called "complex" on a charitable day.

My children are living and healthy; my own mother is alive and healthy and is one of my closest friends.

I can't claim I have a genuine complaint for thinking of Mother's Day as a bummer. For me, it's a lot more about Charlie Brown, Zales, and self-pity.

You know how everyone loses their minds on New Year's Eve?  All of a sudden the people who spend 364 nights a year watching PBS documentaries are all "I'm still cool! I should be out tonight!" So you see them at like 10:45 pm wearing glitter wandering around the Convention Center with a cold slice of Sbarro in one hand and their shoes in the other, saying, "where is everybody? Is it midnight yet?"

I feel like that on Mother's Day, except instead of the hot party, I'm looking for brunch, and a single gift that symbolizes the amount of love, gratitude, and high esteem... nay, the WONDER that my family cannot help but feel when they gaze upon my works.

(well, you try taking an awe-inspiring photograph of a basket of clean, folded baby clothes.)

It wouldn't be so bad if there weren't this expectation in the air, the possibility of something really magical and epic and rom-commy happening and taking you completely by surprise.

Mother's Day expectations are the football-holding-Lucy of my life.

And I am dumb old Charlie Brown. I get suckered back in. Every single time.

Here's the basic conversation that happens in my head:

Me: Oh right, Mother's Day is next weekend. I should remind Ryan to put some plans together for me and his mom. Something casual. Picnic lunch?

Lucy: I bet he's already planned something. I bet he already has something really amazing planned just for you.

Me: I doubt that. He's been really busy and we have two young kids, so...

Lucy: But you work so hard for your family. And this is the one day of the year that you can feel loved and appreciated and special. And Ryan knows that.

Me: Well, that's true... I do work really hard...

Lucy: And if he doesn't really pull out all the stops and make this entire day like a complete dream come true, then... I guess it means he doesn't love you.

Me: That seems a little extreme, Lucy.

Lucy: Is it? Watch this Zales commercial.

Me: Wow, that is so sweet. Ryan would totally do something like that.

Lucy: OMG he's totally getting you a diamond !

Me: Wait... did he say something to you about getting me a diamond?

Lucy: (wink) I'm just saying, the Mother's Day gift that you receive and the intricacy and value of the activities planned on Mother's Day correlate directly with your value as a human being and a mother. Is all I'm saying.

Me: That logic is 100% consistent with the Zales commercial.


So to recap, I start the Mother's Day Season with no expectations. By the time the sun comes up on Mother's Day I'm already crying.

Flowers? FLOWERS? What am I, a hummingbird? So I guess I'm just worth like $7.99 at Safeway? Is that it? I'm just like a bunch of half-withered daisies? Is that what I am to you? It is, isn't it. Do we need therapy? Are we getting a divorce now? Because these flowers smell like pre-divorce flowers. MEMO TO YOU, "RYAN." Next time you're going to spend under 8 bucks on a pre-divorce gift, go for the plastic flask of bourbon.

Aaaaalright, crazy. Bring 'er on back in now.

What's extra maddening here is that I STARTED OUT THE MONTH OF MAY AS A REASONABLE PERSON. I started THIS WEEK as a reasonable person! But skanky old Lucy whispered in my ear and now I'm like sad that I am just getting exactly what I asked for on Mother's Day.

Mother's Day feels like a mean joke every year. Not just on Mothers, but on all who love them. There's nothing we can do, the children and spouses, to meet the expectations of our wives, sisters, friends, and mothers. Because Lucy's been dripping her Zales-sponsored poison in their ears too:

It doesn't matter how much they love you all year long, if they don't love you enough and in just the exact right way on this one day. 

Mother's Day is a scam. Just like any other holiday driven by ad campaigns and the churning swamp of competitive Facebook floral arrangement photography.

"76 pink roses, breakfast in bed, and DIAMONDS! Best hubby ever!"


So this year I'm just not.

I'm telling Lucy to take that football and shove it directly into her own whimsically animated rectum, to the tune of a jazzy little piano ditty. I'm not watching any diamond commercials or putting all my eggs in this one day's basket.

I'm getting what I wanted - a morning with my family and an afternoon to myself. It makes me happy to think about it. I'm content. It's okay. It helps that today, out of the clear blue sky, Chicken said, "I love you so much, Mommy."

Well shit. I'm not about to pout about diamonds when I've got this treasure.

Is it possible that this is how grown-ups feel?
It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Sandwiches, roasted sweet potato salad. Simple weeknight dinner. What could be easier, right?

The answer you're looking for is ANYTHING.

ANYTHING would have been easier but the sandwich recipe I picked.

That right there tells you the problem. Who looks up sandwich recipes? I'll tell you who. People without children, and asshole moms who deserve everything they get.

But that which doesn't kill you just gives you ulcers, that's what I always say. And at least now I can walk away a little wiser, having learned the top ten signs that I should not be attempting this recipe.

Top Ten Signs This Recipe Is NOT FOR YOU, Katie:

1. It asks you to make hummus from scratch. 

And on the eighth day, the Lord put hummus in little plastic tubs, so that the people need never again boil chickpeas at home. Are you going to defy the Lord? Do you know how that turns out, usually?

2. It asks you to chop any more than one, MAX two vegetables.

WOMAN, you do not have time to just dawdle at the cutting board chopping nine kinds of vegetables! Who do you think you are, Edward Scissorhands?

3. It asks you to "finely chop" anything at all. 

In your hands, "finely chopping" looks a lot like "homicidal mania."

4. The dish needs to be served hot. Or cold. Or at any temperature that isn't "any temperature will do."

Don't kid yourself - climate change is real and it is in your kitchen, where the cold roasted beet salad is still steaming, and the grilled cheese sandwiches give you frostbite.

5. There is shelling of peas involved.

You know how long it takes to shell a pea? Conveniently, it's the exact same amount of time it takes a 10-month-old baby to locate a toilet brush under the sink in the guest bathroom. And he'd rather eat the toilet brush.

6. It isn't some version of spaghetti.

Listen, Katie. You're a great, versatile cook. You can cook spaghetti, macaroni, farfalle, rotini... tortellini for crying out loud! Sure, sometimes the fettucine gets a little gluey, but girl, nobody ever started a kitchen fire with gluey fettucine. Put down the braised lamb and get the hell back in your wheelhouse. It's the lean-to over there made of lasagna.

7. The recipe uses grams instead of cups.

Put the recipe down and run... these people do not mess around. THEY WEIGH THEIR EGGS HERE. This is black magic indeed.

8. It employs the use of a double-boiler.

Shut down the YouTube search of "how do I rig a double-boiler at home," and get out your can opener. It just became soup night.

9. Nuts need be roasted, toasted, or exposed in any way to a flame.

This is your Achilles heel. You always burn the nuts, girl. ALWAYS. Say it. Accept it. Move on.

10. It includes the phrase, "of course you can always purchase pickled radishes at your local market, but it's a simple matter to pickle them yourself!"

IS IT? IS IT A SIMPLE MATTER, food person? (friend leans in, whispers "the word you're looking for is 'chef.'") IS IT A SIMPLE MATTER, chef? Maybe for you. But I've got one kid sucking on a toilet brush and another standing on a chair in front of the gas burner saying, "woooow... Bluuuuueee ffiiiiiiire... looks pretty..."