Chocolate Cake

By Chicken



Ingredients

15 eggs
1 potty (it looks like an egg, so be very careful)
basil
1 tablespoon flour
pepper
salt
12 pickle jars full of very cold milk
honey
(no chocolate)

Directions

1. Crack 5 eggs into a red plastic fry basket.



2. Squeeze honey bear into fry basket for the count of 6, and then the count of 4.
(NOTE: Do not count to 10. Don't be that guy.)

3. Add a pinch of salt by turning the salt container upside-down and shaking it vigorously three, maybe six or seven times.

4. Push baby brother away from ingredients. Sit in crib for two minutes while Mommy tells you that in this family we do not push.

5. Return to kitchen. Crack 3 eggs into large red mixing bowl.

6. Remember that you've already started the batter in the red fry basket. Crack those same 3 eggs again into the fry basket. Say "that's better."

7. Add some basil. You must use the basil spoon. It's the yellow one. No, not that one. The other identical yellow one. The one that's missing right now. Refuse to do anything else until Mommy locates the yellow basil spoon. (It's under the sink in the guest bathroom, but don't tell Mommy. She loves this game.)

8. Time to grind the pepper. Just a bit, a touch of spice. Grind pepper continuously over the batter for the duration of the song "American Pie."

... this'll be the day that I die... ooooh this'll be the day that I die...


9. More eggs. No, I don't know how many. Just freestyle and crack as many eggs as feel right to you, in this moment.

10. NOT THE ORANGE EGG. That one is the potty. Obviously we don't crack a potty into our cake batter. We just put that one in whole.



11. Whisk well.

12. Open fridge and retrieve glass pickle jar. Pour milk from jar into fry basket. Replace jar in fridge. Open fridge door again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

13. Push brother to the ground for touching basil. Sit in crib for two minutes staring blankly at Mommy while she says things like "loving hands" and "baby brother" and "do you understand me."

14. Place fry basket in oven.

15. Immediately remove fry basket from oven, unzip pajamas, fall to the ground, and howl "OOOH NOOOOO! It's RUUUUINED!"

just like they do on Hell's Kitchen

16. Add more honey.

17. Add more salt.

18. Announce, "Ah, that's better." Get dressed again.

19. Go play with garbage trucks.

20. When Mommy asks if you remembered to put flour in your cake, say "yeah" even though you didn't. She'll never know.


Chicken's been all up in Buster's grill lately, which is only fair because a 10-month-old little brother ranks barely below rabid octopus on the Grabby Scale (named for international child and octopus behaviourist-with-a-u Klapfelt von Dinglepink, known to his interns as Grabby Klap.)



But Buster is just a little dude who wants what he wants when he wants it, and Chicken is a slightly bigger little dude who wants what he wants when he wants it, but also knows the difference between hitting and not hitting, snatching and asking for a turn.

Oy. I feel like this is just the beginning of the Wars of the Duplos. (Other moms of brothers, do not confirm this suspicion, I beg of you. Ignorance is bliss.)

After doing a lot of warning and yelling over the last few weeks, I have come to the following conclusions:

1. Yelling isn't working, if we define "working" as "affecting positive change." It is working if we define "working" as "making everyone yellier."

2. Warnings are kind of bullshit at this point.

I'm not the most consistent person in the world when it comes to "is it time for cookies," or "can I watch another Daniel Tiger," both of which I often respond to with "No. Wait... you know what? OK, this time, yes. Or wait. Actually, no. Sorry. No, for real."  But hitting, pushing, kicking, these have been solid red-line never-acceptable behaviors from day one. Warnings? Warnings are for new transgressions. A "warning" is a notification that something is not okay, and he already knows that pushing his brother onto a pile of Legos is not okay. So warnings, for this, are used up. He doesn't get warnings on hitting anymore.

The danger with too many warnings and not enough actions is that your toddler might start to misinterpret your message, or mix up various fairy tales with the important "gentle hands" theme you've been trying to hammer home.

That's what happened to me today.

We were in his room, having a "time-in," and this happened:

Me: Chicken, in this family we do not hit, we do not kick, we do not push. We use gentle hands and feet.

Chicken: I need to get out.

Me: You can get out in 2 minutes, once you're calm.

Chicken: I need to get out.

Me: What kind of hands do we use in this house?

Chicken: Claw hands.

Me: I'm sorry?

Chicken: Claw hands. Like a witch.

Me: (looking at my hands) Is that what my hands look like?

Chicken: Yeah. Like a witch. (Makes claw hands, screeches like a falcon. It does kind of look like me.)

Me: Okay, well, thank you for telling me that. I will make sure to use my gentle hands with you. Now, what kind of hands are you going to use with your brother?

Chicken: Claw... no! Clock hands!

Me: (sigh) Clock hands.

Chicken: Yeah! "TICK TOCK NO BUSTER THAT'S MINE."

Me: Well... thank you for using your words. That will be good, to use your words with your brother. And in addition to your words, what kind of hands will you be using? Will you use gentle hands with your brother?

Chicken: Probly no.

Me: It's hard to use gentle hands sometimes, when your brother is touching your stuff, right?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: But you have to be gentle with your brother to show him you love him and that he is safe with you. Hitting hands and pushing hands hurt and scare your brother.

Chicken: Yeah. Like uncle hands.

Me: I'm sorry?

Chicken: Like uncle hands. Scary uncle hands.

Me: (speaking very carefully) Do you have a scary uncle, baby?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: Who is your scary uncle, sweetheart?

Chicken: Uncle Sam.

Me: Uncle Sam?

Chicken: (points hard at me) UNCLE SAM. WANTS. YOU.


Do not ask me where my two-year-old saw an Uncle Sam poster, or who explained to him that the poster was of someone named Uncle Sam, or who went on to tell him that Uncle Sam was saying "I WANT YOU." But it's there now, his go-to visual when someone says "hitting" "pushing" and "scary."

And you know what?

I get it.



Uncle Sam looks like he's been drinking Fireball and getting fired from his 24-Hour-Fitness-Memorial-Day-Sale-Sign-Twirling job.

He looks like Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino, except instead of befriending the immigrant family he slowly poisons them to death, icing arsenic-laced sugar cookies in the shape of the stars and stripes while whispering the pledge of allegiance.

He looks like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk's alcoholic stepfather who washed out of the Wichita Drum Major Marching Band Academy 20 years ago and now wanders the castle like a patriotic Miss Havisham, slurring Souza marches, taking pulls from a warm bottle of Boone's Farm, and counting down the hours until Jeopardy comes on.

In short, those are some scary uncle hands.

To return to the state of affairs at my house, I have a simple three-step plan for making sure Buster gets to keep his gargantuan pumpkin head intact:

1. Keep Buster away from Chicken with the cunning use of a Jumperoo.
2. Keep Chicken away from Buster with the crafty use of Cheddar Bunnies.
3. Strap them into car seats and drive, just DRIVE, until this phase is over.

And if all else fails, I'll just post an ad on Craigslist for someone to come to my house and hide in the closet dressed as Uncle Sam. Then, I will place the greatest most amazing toy in the world (or just, you know, any toy at all) exactly halfway between the two boys. When Chicken pushes his brother out of the way, I'll put him in his crib for a time-in and say, "I'll be right back." As soon as the door closes behind me, Uncle Sam can push open the closet door and stand in the half-light, singing a little song about gentle hands in a high whispery voice, set to the tune of a scary fucking 19th-century lullaby, while rocking back and forth and maintaining constant eye contact with Chicken over the hellish flickering glow of a candle.

What do you think, like, $30?
Add an egg sandwich and this is every Sunday morning I ever had in college.


I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, OR to blog about crafting, but holy balls you guys, I really nailed the Easter card this year.

#ididn'tcomeheretomakefriends
#pressurecooker
#shinebrightlikeadiamond
#lifeisahighway
#karmakarmakarmakarmakarmachameleon
#idon'tknowwhentostophashtagging
#doyouputapostrophesinhashtags
#ican'tnotputapostrophesinwhereappropriate

Which is to say that I nailed it Katie-style, which means that our card is absolutely not Pinterest-worthy, but it is also not likely to be mistaken for a used barf bag or, even worse, a toddler girl's Juicy Couture hoodie.

I think we need some more words.
Alastair, this sweatshirt already has more words than the Gettysburg Address.
Well, more sparkles at least.
For God's sake, Alastair, she's not going to be holding a top hat for a Reno magician. She's going to wear this to the zoo or something, and we don't want to fluster the flamingoes during mating season. Plus it already weighs seven pounds.
I think we need to say Juicy again.
IT SAYS JUICY THREE TIMES.
Four, actually, but I was thinking we should just round up to a baker's dozen.
This sweatshirt is going to be mistaken for a horribly inept mother's attempt at an Easter card.
You know that, don't you Alastair.
I think those extra Juicys should go right between Beautiful and Girl.
Yeah, I didn't like NAIL IT-nail it, but I'm pretty happy with the Easter card.

Crap. Now I'm realizing that I can't post pictures of the actual card until I have sent it out to relatives. I don't want to spoil the glorious bricolage that is this year's Easter card. I'm not a spoiling bastard. Except for that one time that I asked my FB friends to post their favorite spoilers in 4 words or less. Among my favorites:

Spacey is Soze
Godot never comes
Rose has it
It's the sled
White men can jump
Harry loves Sally
The dude abides
and...
Meryl is nominated.

So, here's a series of hints about our Easter card:

SURPRISINGLY THERE IS NO BUNNY
BUT A CARROT... PERHAPS
ALSO, A POTATO WAS PRESENT
SO MANY COLORS
HAPPY EASTER
ALSO I WROTE THE DATE ON IT

So, you're welcome for this super helpful crafty post on making a simple, tasteful, fridge-doorable Easter card.

This post is totally useless.

OK, sorry, back to what you were doing before.


I was 250 words into a heartwarming blog post about the universal force of a mother's love.

And then my children woke up.

And now I hate everything.

Everything except this breakfast burrito with shredded potatoes and pico de gallo.

I've been on a tear recently against mom bloggers who present the details of their gnarlier days with a kind of calculated, competitive edge, like "look how many bodily fluids I had to touch today please help me go viral k thanks." So I won't do that here.

I'm just having a really hard morning, you guys.

But what did I expect? It's Fucking Tuesday.

Chicken is "potty training," a developmental milestone that I'm beginning to suspect is just a power move to get my undivided attention so he can demand my killer impression of a stoplight while I sit on a Sesame Street stool in the bathroom.

Meanwhile, Buster is just mobile enough to be dangerous, pulling full plates of scrambled eggs down off the table (side note, who puts carpet in a dining room?!?!?!) and scrambling toward the pointiest tiny-parted toys, the wobbliest IKEA easel, the sharpest corners, with the zeal of a puppy at a squirrel farm.

Just TRY putting a diaper on a puppy at a squirrel farm, while acting out "yellow light" for the eighteenth time in a row, while not spilling a plastic potty bucket full of piping hot urine, and you're getting a taste of the bitter sauce that made me stand up, close the door on my children, walk into another room, and think, someone please Trading Places me. I will even volunteer to be Winthorpe. Someone plant the angel dust and the fifties with the red Xs in my jacket and take me to lockup where all I have to worry about is my own ass. Someone send Jamie Lee to tuck me in when I get the shivers.

It's hard not to judge myself harshly in these moments. Because what, really, is wrong here? I have one son on the cusp of an unprecedented level of bathroom hygiene, and another who is literally reaching for the stars, learning how to stand on his own two feet in the everyday miracle of growing up. I'm blessed, y'all. Healthy family, safe home, food in the pantry, water in the tap, coffee in the pot. So what am I whining about? It's just, does everybody have to try to hurt themselves or shake a bucket of piss like a bottle of champagne at midnight, and then resist me like ululating freedom fighters when I'm seriously, honestly, just trying to keep them safe and clean?

So then I'm angry and frustrated and sad and guilty and dipped like a Dilly bar in another coating of self-loathing, then rolled in the spiky chopped nut topping of worry that I'm making my children scared of me with my snappishness, the way I keep picking them up from under their arms and setting them down in another room with, like, a little too much control.

Ugh, I'm fucking up today.

But there were these two really good moments this morning though, in the middle of the piss-juggling and whining and BUSTER NO STOP-ing and CHICKEN IF YOU GET UP AGAIN BREAKFAST IS OVER-ing.

1. In the bathroom, while Chicken finished up his business on the potty, I held Buster's hand as he stood, his round baby feet like two lumps of bread dough dropped onto the bathmat, warm and slowly spreading out. Chicken wanted to get around us to dump his pee in the toilet. I said, "just go under, baby." I meant "just go under our arms." He heard, "just go under your brother." He full-on crawled between Buster's chubby sausage legs. Buster cackled with glee, pitching and yawing on Chicken's back like a trawler in high seas.

And then (BONUS) Chicken didn't spill the pee.


2. In the car, Chicken asked if we were going to the library.

Me: No, baby, we're going to school. We went to the library yesterday.
Chicken: (bows his head down at his chest, shoots eyes up at me in a textbook, "I'm sad, are you watching" face) I ran away.
Me: That's right, honey.
Chicken: I ran away from you at the library.
Me: Yes, baby, you did. And how did that make me feel?
Chicken: Sharp.

Sharp.

Exactly.

That is how I felt at the library. That is precisely how I feel this morning. Every time I open my mouth to bark at Chicken, to sigh heavily in mid-wrestle with Buster, I feel it. Gleaming, quick, hard, cold, unforgiving. Sharp.

I wish I could tell you that with that one perfect word, I felt my frustration fizzle out. I wish I could tell you that I'm soft again, warm and patient, a pillow of a person. But nope, not every day gets a studio-approved denouement.

I did feel admiration for my child's acumen. I did feel the seed of warmth planted deep into my cold, frosty ground as I looked into his big brown eyes and saw him looking simply at me, not fearing me, not angry with me, just seeing his Mommy and calling me sharp, the same way he calls fire hydrants and dandelions by name.

I'm still sharp, right now, typing too fast, drinking another coffee. I'm just going to try to observe, from a distance, the blessing and curse of raising my kids to believe that they are perfectly safe with me, no matter how coldly I snap to SIT back down RIGHT NOW, or how many times I close the door in their bright, wide-open faces so they won't hear me hissing seriously you guys, help me the fuck out this morning, okay? FUCK. 

It's just been a hard morning, and I'm going to try to look at it the way my Zen-Chicken does - just as it is, a sharp, sharp day.

Or as I like to call it, Fucking Tuesday.

La la la la I'm a monkey la la la I'm so happy la la la la I'm about to get punched in the face if I don't wipe this smug fucking smile off my monkey plate face. WHAT. WHAT, Monkey. SAY SOMETHING.

Holy fuck you guys, the day has come.

It started innocently enough.

There I was, posted up at the computer in the kitchen, sippin on my coffee, checkin my emails, when the little guy in my lower intestine pushed the big red button to let me know that it was time. So I said, "Hey Chicken, I gotta poop, I'll be right back."

He put down his red plastic fork and walked over to me. Balanced on his tippy-toes, he gingerly pulled the waistband of my yoga pants away from my back. He peered down.

"Oh, Mommy, I don't see any poops at all, you silly goose."

My toddler just checked my diaper. It's amazing to see my child treating me with the same businesslike affection that I wield in my diaper-checking life.

It was adorable. I gchatted Ryan at work. LOL, right?

Then we went to the library. He lost his damn mind at the library. He ran away from me and hid in the stacks. He decided to bolt into the street, just for shits and giggles (my shits, his giggles.) Three times I sat him down and said, "look at my face, Chicken. Look at my face and put on your listening ears. You cannot run away from me when we are at the library. It scares Mommy. I need you to hear my words, Chicken. Do not run away from me. Do you understand?"

After three strikes we headed out.  I wrestled him into his car seat, then got Buster clipped in and ready to pass out, and I sank into my seat and took a breath. As I do after almost every "fun" outing I take with my two wonderful children, I thought, thank FUCK that is over.

I told Chicken, "I'm going to listen to my audiobook until we get home. I will not be talking to you or listening to you until we get home, ok?" He smiled at me. "Okay, Mommy."

Twenty seconds later... through the soothing British voice spinning the yarn of an alcoholic divorcee swept up in a murder mystery, a tiny backseat voice chirped out:

Mommy?

Mommy.

Mommy, I need you.

Mommy, please look at my face.

Mommy, can you hear my words? I need you to hear my words.

Mommy, do you have your listening ears?

Okay, you can't listen to your audiobook. Do you understand?

Okay, one, two, three, say bye-bye to your audiobook, Mommy.

Mommy, did you hear my words?


I had two simultaneous thoughts: oh shit, and fair enough.

Oh shit is pretty self-explanatory.

And fair enough because I forget, sometimes, how hard it must be to tip the scales at 27 pounds, and live your life staring into a vast sea of crotches.

As an adult, if I'm walking into Whole Foods and my nose itches, I scratch my nose. I'm so used to calling the shots that I don't even remember to thank a higher power for the freedom to scratch my itches regardless of my proximity to slow-moving Priuses. But if my toddler tries to remove his hand from mine in a parking lot, no matter the reason, that is grounds for a serious big-eye conversation.

It must be so frustrating to have an idea - HEY! I should run through the shelf lanes at the library creating an elaborate mandala pattern with my path, in order to honor the changing seasons and live joyfully as I celebrate the reemergence of life in this blessed month of March - and have that idea just totally pissed on by your square, square Mommy, who's like, STAY WHERE I CAN SEE YOU WAH WAH WAH.

I remember my parents being scared for me at the mall. I'd look around and see old guy, old guy, old lady, cute boy working at the Sunglass Hut who would like never in a million years even look at me. I thought they were insane. Now I look around the mall and see pedophile, pedophile, pedophile's emotionally enslaved puppet lady, gawky tweenager who lures toddlers into his hut with shiny objects, and then sells them to pedophiles.

My child's will dwarfs his slender shoulders. His stubborn streak is wider than the farthest he can reach when I ask him how much he loves popsicles. He's getting ideas. He's bossy and crafty, and shit, that is wonderful and scary.

My next tasks:

1. Continue to keep him alive, even and especially against his will, and most especially in the moments immediately following the lit-up face that means I've got a great idea!

2. Try to teach him the difference between the things that Mommy says because she wants you to say them too (please, thank you, I love you, silly goose) and the things Mommy says because she is the fucking boss of you (use your listening ears, look at my eyes, I said no, did you hear me say no, I'm going to count to three... the list goes on and on and on.)

3. Try to remember what it was like to be small in size and erupting with all of the feelings, a frantic flea in a big, slow, unfeeling world. I'll hit Wal-Mart this week to recapture the sensation.

Mommy? You can't talk on the phone right now. Mommy, I'm doin somethin. You gotta stop. Do you hear me? 




Momlife Moment #3,521:

When the toddler finds the Vaseline and you approach him as if he were holding a live anti-personnel mine.

Eeeeeeeasy now, okay, just put the tub down... Slowly... That's the way...
In no particular order, here are a few things I learned this Sunday.

- Red is always the best color of toddler undies in the Fruit of the Loom multipack.

- Never leave Chicken alone in a bedroom with a bunk bed.

- If you have left Chicken alone in a bedroom with a bunk bed, and you later hear the *thud* that can only be the sound of a fluid-and-bone-filled skin sack plummeting to the floor from the top bunk, that would be the time to run.

- But then, you know, be cool. If he's screaming, he's probably good. Don't run in all red-faced and screamy. You can kind of mosey and be like "heeeeeeey guyyyys, what's the haps?" Think McConaghey. Stoned McConaghey. Alright alright alright?

- Hostess gifts are (almost) always a wonderful gesture. Take the hostess gift I brought over to our friend's house tonight: I found a beautiful candle at PCC, our local organic market. I was going to wrap it up in some tissue, throw in a letterpress card with a sincere but hilarious note, and totally fucking WIN at guesting tonight. But then I couldn't find the tissue, got in the car and promptly discovered that the only pen in the car was gasping its last inky breaths. After carving the word "THANKS!" into the card and praying that our hostess had spent at least a little time learning how to read with her fingertips, I said "fuck it" and sealed up the card. And that, dear friends, is how it came to pass that I arrived at my friend's house, opened my handbag, and handed her a candle and a blank card. Maybe we should have gone with flowers.

- People you like always move across an ocean. Wait.. that doesn't happen to you? Hm.

- If you meet five assholes in one day, you're the asshole. Adjust yo'self.

- The world is full of talented and interesting women. Today we had a table read for Listen to Your Mother and I heard 13 women with 13 unique voices tell self-penned stories about quiet revelations, crushing defeats, soaring victories, and massive fuck-ups, with humor, frankness, curiosity, and authenticity. Honestly, I'm not sure how I stumbled into this group, but it's pretty sweet that I did.

- People lie. When they tell you that your second kid's milestones won't be as special, they are lying to your face and you should cut them out of your life, completely, immediately, with cold fingers. Just like Gone Girl. Because I'm watching Buster stand, unassisted, for the count of fucking ten, and I still feel a little drop of dread in a deep pool of thrill. Like, "YES! YES! YES! Wait, no... but YES!!!"


Chicken has this Melissa & Doug dress-up bear family puzzle. 

I love it. So much. So, so much. There is literally no combination of bear faces and outfits that doesn't make me think it's a screen shot from the hottest new family drama on the CW:

Meet the Cubbersons

There's the one where they went to Niagara and we all found out about Tabitha's little huffing problem...




Papa? Papa, I think something's wrong with Mama...


Your mother DOESN'T HAVE A PROBLEM, and that's the last thing I'm going to say about it. 
Now stop crying, JJ Cubberson, so help me God, or I'll give you something to cry about. 
WE'RE HAVING FUN GODDAMN IT.


That's nice.
The water.
Is it... do I smell churros? 
Are there churros here? 
Are those my hands? 
Does anybody want to hug me? 
Anybody?
Okay... no, I understand...
I've got to go to the bathroom at the gas station 
by myself
at the gas station
for just
just a minute


And then there was the one when little JJ walked in on Tabitha just getting out of the shower and he had all the tingles about it...



OH!


Uhhhhh...


JJ... would you... give us a moment? Your mother and I need to have... a talk...
(unsnaps one overall-shirt bib clip)

And who could forget the episode when Roger forgot about Tabitha's airline pilot school graduation ceremony? 
Because JJ changed the date in Roger's appointment book? 
Because JJ's had an Oedipal fixation on Tabitha ever since that shower thing, and he wants Roger out of the picture? 
And also Roger had eaten some dodgy refried beans the night before and while he was eating them he thought huh these are tangy, but he kept eating them because he thought it might be cilantro but it was not cilantro?


Oh, Roger... you knew how much this meant to me...

Tabitha, I don't know what to say, I could have sworn I wrote it down right here... 
JJ, wipe that shit-eating grin off your face.

DON'T TALK TO HIM LIKE THAT, YOU BASTARD. 
That's it. You've broken my heart for the last time.

Oh Tabitha. I... I'm so sorry. But you should probably go. 
I just sharted in my snappy red jam-jams.

You disgust me, Roger. 
Come on, JJ. 
What's that, baby?
Oh, of course you can sleep in my bed tonight, sweetheart.




Buster is teething.

Either that or he's super worried about the polar bears. Or somebody forgot to record 60 Minutes last night. I don't know. I honestly don't know what bee is in his bonnet, but I can tell you that two things, and only these two things, appear to help:

1. My left breast
2. My right breast

He needs a hot milkshake straight from the tap at least every 30 minutes. And he needs the tap itself within arm's reach at all times. When I say the tap, I mean THE TAP. Child is not happy unless he has one of my nipples clenched in his clammy fist, breast tissue bulging from between his fingers like cinnamon bun dough after you've twisted the can. 

I am living through the longest titty-twister in recorded history. I know what you're thinking, and yes, I am working on a screenplay. I'm thinking a 4th of July release. Cate Blanchett doing a southern accent, and Tobey Maguire in a prosthetic baby head. That's my vision.

Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, in a Michael Bay production:
How Mama Ground Her Teeth Down To Nubs Like an Aztec Grandma
or
TWIST HER
not twister
not that one
although Bill Paxton should play Ryan
or maybe the neighbor
Jerry
of Jerry and Arlene fame

Which brings me to today's question:

Have you ever tried to make a peanut butter sandwich with one hand? 

Your left hand?

I submit that it is fucking impossible. Once you stick the knife in the jar, it won't come out, so you try to pull out a pb-loaded knife to smear on your bread, and you end up just shaking a peanut butter jar on a stick.

Plus your tit's out. 

Okay, Tuesday. I guess we will try for lunch tomorrow, when you're not so fucking TUESDAY all over my face.

good night, sweet prince

Everyone always tells you that there will come a time when you have to stop swearing around your kids. Everyone says, "little ears hear everything," and, "you think it's funny now, but just wait until school calls..."

Chicken has been talking up a storm for over a year now.

Yes, his little ears hear everything.

And yes, he has sampled the occasional expletive, rolled "shit" around in his mouth, chewed on a "motherfucker," and tasted tangy "balls." I have heard him whisper "ffffffuckit. Ffffffuckit Ffffffuckit," into his chest from the back seat of the car, seconds after I had expressed, to a friend, my own hands-up existential swagger with those same words.

But I've never stopped swearing. I gave up marathon training and happy hours. I gave up silk blouses and pretty shoes. I gave up clean hair. I gave up nice things.

I will not give up my fucking expletives. Never. YOU HEAR ME? NEVER!*

*and by NEVER I mean not right now. Somewhere down the road I will absolutely have to stop swearing in front of my kids.

It's not just because I want to seem cool. It's because the day I became a parent I was ostracized from so many of the customs that I'd practiced my whole life. It's the same idea behind See Me - mothers aren't born virtuous. Mothers were once college kids and young professionals who heard their fair share of bawdy, fratty humor. Mothers bought tickets to Bad Santa and The Wolf of Wall Street and we fucking laughed our asses off at South Park. We are not good all the time. Sometimes we say really fucking bad words and it feels fucking fantastic.

If you're like me and want to keep on keepin on like a grown-ass person who lives in a free-ass country, here are my two tips for continuing to swear in front of your young toddler.

1. Try, if you can, to weave your expletives into the fabric of your sentences as though they were just another word. Toddlers latch onto the words we most emphasize, so if you want to carpet-f-bomb your playroom, just make sure to say them casually.

Instead of

"I just stepped on a FUCKING Lego and I hate everything now!"

or

"FUCK! I just stepped on a Lego and I hate everything now!"

Try:

"I just STEPPED on a fuckinglego and I HATE EVERYTHING NOW."


2. If they do pick up one of your swear words, you have a choice. You can ignore it, or pretend you're hard of hearing.

For example:

Chicken says "fuckit"

And I can either say,
a) nothing

or

b) "yes, baby, a bucket! Buckets are what we use to carry water, just like Jack and Jill! Should we do Jack and Jill?"

The best part of this is that mush-mouthed toddlers will often reverse-hard-of-hearing you, and either repeat bad words as not-so-bad words, or turn innocuous everyday objects into R-rated material.

You know I have an example of each, from today, don't you.

Chicken, chewing up a bad word and spitting out something hilarious and not at all offensive:

On our way home from Costco this afternoon:
Ryan: Oh, wow, look the prostitutes are already out!
Chicken: Mostatutes? Mostatutes. Monstah toots? Monstah toots! Stinky monstah toots!

Chicken, taking a simple, harmless, churchgoing object and fouling it up like so many Jersey shore lifeguards:

Sitting at the table for lunch, Chicken picks up a clock and pretends it is about to blast off.
Me: What do you have there, Chicken?
Chicken: A cock rocket!
Me: I'm sorry?
Chicken: A cock rocket! 3! 2! 1! BLAST OFF COCK ROCKET! Mommy! Look out! It's going to your face!

Oh, please, not the face.

At one point in time, "fork" and "truck" were indistinguishable from mommy's favorite word of all time.

Buster will be there again soon... I can't wait.

In the meantime, and for as long as I can, I'm going to enjoy swearing in front of my kids. And if that's your thing, I hope you do too.
We've got the flu you guys.

To be more specific, my husband and two sons have the flu.

Well, to be even more specific, Chicken is just over the flu, and Ryan and Buster are descending into the bowels of flu even as I type.

I feel pretty good.

Except for the hot, steaming lump of resentment that churns in my belly every time I set up the next whimpering, fever-shivering, nauseated member of my family with whatever comfort measures are available.

For Ryan, it's tea, crackers, and the iPad so he can watch something mindless and moderately entertaining (he went with How I Met Your Mother.)

For Chicken, it's apple juice, crackers, and the iPad so he can watch Daniel Tiger. All of the Daniel Tiger.

For Buster, it's boob milk, binkies, and rocking.

Is it sick that I'm so incredibly jealous of these miserably ill people?

Someone is checking on them, rubbing their backs, and bringing them broth in a mug or sippy cup.

Someone is wrapping the quilt around their bodies, punctuating each word with a quick, tight tuck:
SNUG as a BUG in a RUG.

Someone is running to the store for more Gatorade and snapping the caps off the applesauce pouches, and trying to load the dishwasher and trying to keep the water just at her head and make sure we don't become local fireman lore when we're found in a week or so, trapped by mountains of poop and vomit-crusted dirty laundry.

Ryan coined a new expression after changing Chicken's flu diapers for a whole day: Crappaccinos. A double whammy word that is both catchy and grossly accurate. I happily acknowledged Ryan's victory over my "poop soup." Mine rhymes, but Ryan's has a continental flair to it that is, quite simply, genius.

But then he got the flu. The first time he stood up from the table and kind of half-swooned, I thought Don't you fucking dare.

He dared.

Man, you guys, I WISH I could just lie on the couch and moan. That sounds AMAZING. It sounds like VACATION.

Wait, you mean I could lose like 5 pounds in one weekend? AND take cat naps on every hour that has a 1 in it? AND watch the entire new season of The Good Wife? AND have someone bring me ginger ale with so much ice it hurts my hand to hold the glass? AND get just bored enough that I venture out of bed so I can enjoy my family, but then feel just sick enough that I have to then return to bed right around the time that the boys are starting to get whiny?

Like I said. AMAZING.

The truth is that the last few days haven't been as bad as I make it sound here. Ryan doesn't have Ebola; he just has a flu. He's able to do things. He can keep my children alive while I zip off to my therapy appointment. And Buster feels like crap, but at least he's pretty content to sit still in a lap with a binky eerily still in his mouth.

I'm lucky that I don't feel like shit. I'm lucky that I'm not hugging a toilet right now or wanly nibbling a Ritz cracker. I ate fucking mashed potatoes for dinner tonight. Other stuff too. Not really. It was mostly mashed potatoes. If my plate were a pie chart showing the political affiliations of voters in New York City, mashed potatoes would be Democrats. It was a lot of potatoes.

But all that aside, I still want the flu. I want my vacation. I want someone to rub my back and bring me a cold drink and tuck me in, snug as a bug. And then I want the door to close softly and to be alone in the cool gray room, rubbing my cold feet together under the blanket as I cue up the next episode of The Good Wife. I want to hear, through the walls, Buster's giggle, Chicken's "I am telling Buster not to touch my toys" voice, Ryan's calming murmur.

If I have to shit a crappaccino to make that happen, make mine a grande.


There's this look I often see on moms' faces: a vacant desperation, like we'd be screaming if we were fully awake.

I see it at the playground while she stares into middle distance with her arms crossed and her mouth frowning.

I see it in line at the grocery store, as she rests her chin in her hand, her elbow on the counter, her eyebrows the only parts of her face that looks like they're trying at all, raised over glassy eyes like they're waiting for someone to finish asking a question.

I see it in myself.

Sometimes I come back into my body and become aware of the unhappy set of my mouth, the way it looks like someone pinched the ends of my mouth into a frown like a crescent roll.

I become aware that I'm slumping. I'm two scoops of a woman, all soft, eroded slopes and no bedrock of a spine to cleave to.

It's as if while our minds wander, our faces return to the expressions they made throughout the most disappointing birthday party or the longest, bumpiest, hottest bus ride of our lives.

We look beaten, sad, exhausted, trapped, desperate. We look very, very unhappy.

Today at the park I saw so many moms trapped on that bus. I watched a mother with straight blonde hair, her pregnant belly making a circus tent of her shirt, watching her toddler scoop sand from one pile to the other. She looked up and our eyes met, and I swear I heard this urgent voice in my head. Not an actual voice, but you know how you see a little kid eating ice cream, slurping up the creamy creeks that drip from the frozen peak, and you can practically hear them thinking yummmm. It was like that, except when she looked at me, I heard her say

See me.

I hadn't.

I saw:

a) wicked pregnant
b) blonde blowout
c) mom of toddler

And she looked at me and saw:

a) baby and toddler
b) yoga pants
c) Starbucks

Now she knows who I am, and I know who she is. We know enough about each other to know that she can ask me questions about what it's like to have two, and I can tilt my head and ask her when she's due. We know enough to wave at each other next time. We know each other's outlines, and that's all.

All we'd seen was the blank, white, coloring-book versions of each other.

That's fine, I guess - I mean, Jesus, ain't nobody got time to reveal their scars, dreams, proudest and most shameful moments to everyone they see at the grocery store. I mean, I see a guy in a suit with his tie loosened in the soup aisle and I'm not about to go up to him and be like, "how's your heart, friend? Tell me who you are." And I don't expect him to do the same for me.

I don't need strangers to be interested in my uniqueness.

But I want them to believe it exists.

I have a very strong memory of taking Chicken for a walk with a couple of girlfriends when he was only a few months old. We went to a park, and one of my girlfriends pushed the stroller. The thought crashed over me: Nobody knows I'm his mom. Nobody knows I'm anyone's mom. Nobody knows I'm anything but me. I felt the burden of being a mom grow lighter. Like I could laugh louder or swear harder without feeling like I was trying to prove that moms could laugh and swear.

I feel like once I had a kid strapped to my chest or sitting in my cart, other people, even other moms, stopped thinking that it was possible that I'd been a complete person, an interesting person, a unique creature on this earth, before that child existed.

Why do I feel like this?

I tell the babysitter that I would love to go to a Run the Jewels concert. She double-takes and then says, "wow, that's so cool! Really? That's... No, I'm just surprised."

I overhear a couple of professionals discussing incentive programs and one of them mentions that they've been looking for a book on the subject. I interject and recommend "Drive." They look at me. They look at my stroller. They say, "oh, is it a parenting book?"

No.

Just because I must converse with my children in the language of simplicity does not mean I am simple-minded. Just because you hear me exclaim, with wonder, that "there goes a RED CAR" does not mean that the concept of red cars is, in fact, fucking news to me.

I do not listen to The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Raffi when I am alone in my car.

I am a person. I was not born a mother. I did not cut up my grapes in college. I did not use the words "yucky" and "yummy" at the caterer tasting for my wedding. On Sunday mornings I binged on The Sopranos and The Wire and NO, I did not think they were distasteful or too violent, or fast-forward through the scary parts.

Before Chicken was born I had boyfriends and birthdays amd shitty judgment sometimes on vacation and blackout drunk Mardi Gras parties and dance parties and I gave my number to boys in bars and I wrote poems about death and I acted in plays and I got knots in my stomach and I tried on red pants at Banana Republic and I drank cool green-limey gin cocktails and I woke up with black feet from walking home with my silver shoes dangling like windchimes from my fingers.

Just because we don't have time to color each other in does not mean we're all blank. I was more than mom. I still am. So are you.

I see you.

WE PACKED THE CORKSCREW ALREADY
Are you looking for a quick, efficient, practical guide to packing and moving yourself and/or your family?

Sorry.

This is a quick, efficient, practical guide to packing and moving ME and MY family.

Just in case any of you ever have my exact two children at this exact moment in time and you have to move to a new house, here are my top five tips for making it work:

1. Come up with a cool nickname for your old house and another cool nickname for your new house, Swiss Family Robinson-style. 

I like to think that the landscape of Chicken's brain is the half-breed bastard child of Dr. Seuss and Salvador Dali, all wonky clocks and upside-down bathtubs. As such, I try to speak his language and come up with colorful, interesting titles and names whenever possible. Those aren't his "brown shoes."  Those are his "muddy boots." That isn't a tissue. It's a "soggy nose diaper." He actually came up with that one on his own.

This is more than just a fun exercise; I think that by giving the old house and a new house a name, we're turning houses into friends. He knows how to say hi and good-bye to friends.

I have decided to dub the old house "Crap Shack," and the new house, "Shiny New Tree House."

2. Gifts, y'all. GIFTS.



Yesterday Chicken and I went to a toy store where we picked a couple of Shiny New Tree House toys. We wrapped them and decorated them, and put them in the trunk of the car. This way, he has even more to look forward to at the Shiny New Tree House.

3. Be honest.

Me: Chicken, we're moving to our Shiny New Tree House this week!

Chicken: Why?

Me: Because we found a huge growth of mold behind a built-in shelf in our closet.
(sigh)

But if I'm really being honest with myself there are bigger problems with Crap Shack. The kitchen floor is always freezing, and the closets are tiny. The front and back yards are wildly overgrown and we don't have the right to clean it up according to our lease, and the whole place is just old and crooked and falling apart.

At first that was part of its charm - we lived in New Orleans and Brooklyn before you were born, Chicken, and I always said that this house reminded me of a romantic old rowhouse, peeling paint and all. And we've been very happy here - I mean, this is the home where you learned how to walk, where you ate your first foods and where we conceived, grew, and brought your kid brother home from the hospital. And now he's learning to walk and eat his first foods here. And the way the sunlight pours through those single-pane watery windows really does make me so happy. But it's time for our family to move on.

Chicken: Why?

Me: Want to watch a Dora?

4.  You are not the exception. Your kids are going to stop sleeping for awhile during the transition. You're not special. Just know that.

The other day I took Chicken's paintings off his wall and he said, "Mommy, I don't want you to do that." I told him I had to. He said "that's ok," but apparently what he meant was, "that's ok because I will make you pay for this abomination, ye foul wench." He woke up the next morning at 5 am claiming there were "shadows" in his room. FALSE. There were no shadows because the sun wasn't fucking up yet. Still, there we all sat at the toddler table in the yellow lamplight, looking out the dark windows, waiting for the toaster to pop.

It was super fun to have a 17-hour day on a 5-hour night. I definitely got a lot done and felt really energized and clear-headed. Also, we should all be in no way alarmed that I had a driver's license that day. Yep, 17 hours of nothing but sound judgment. Pay no attention to the empty plastic cake slice clamshell in the trash. Eyes front, mister.

5. Don't try to cook, ok?

Our last 4 dinners have been:

box of macaroni and cheese + bag'o'salad
soup + grilled cheese
spaghetti + bag'o'salad
soup + grilled cheese
pizza delivery + bag'o'salad

In my defense, the bags'o'salad were pretty nice ones - I got the ones with cabbage and almonds and cranberries and shit. And one of them was actually a clamshell'o'salad from the fancy organic store, so that one was really good.

It's okay. Nutrition is everywhere. Especially on takeout menus.
If you are able to wait like an hour after you start thinking about girl scout cookies before you actually start to eat girl scout cookies, the magic spell is broken and they don't count.

This is the same principle that applies to the reason we wait some people wait until 5 pm to drink. 4:59? ALCOHOLIC.
5:00? JOIE DE VIVRE!
From behind the door of Chicken's room at naptime:


Mommy.
Open da door.

Right... NOW.
Right... NOW.
Right... NOW.

Hmmmmmm. 
Dat didn't work. 



Hi!


I'M DORA!!!


DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE ZOO?!?!?!?!?!


IF YOU WANT TO GO TO THE ZOO, 
SAY ZOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


 LOUDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!