It's been hot in Seattle lately. High eighties, every day.

Hold your horses, Phoenix and Dubai, I know that sounds like a crisp autumn day to you all who live in the great "we film post-apocalyptic movies here" hellscapes of the world. 

But keep in mind that we have no air conditioning. 

We, like everyone fucking else in Seattle, have fans. We have a fleet of fucking fans. And come July, those fans do no more than push hot air from one 83-degree-room to the next in our sweatboxy little houses. I feel like the tennis ball inside the mouth of a panting dog.

It's 10:31 pm
and my house
thinks
it's time
to drop a weight class

The heat... it makes me crazy. Not Gilmore girls crazy. HBO documentary crazy.

Here's a list of 10 things I absolutely will not consider when my house is 83 degrees.

1. Socks

I don't care if I leave a trail of cracking heel skin flakes on the sidewalk. There will be no socks. OR SHOES.

2. Stew

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

3. Taking my hair out of a ponytail

I see these people with their hair down and it makes me wonder if they have some kind of nerve damage that prevents them from feeling temperatures on their necks and shoulders. Because if I had my hair down in a house that was 84 degrees, I'm pretty sure I'd have to get in an ice bath to keep myself from jumping out the window just to get the cool breeze on the way to sweet oblivion.

4. Spooning

I just threw up in my mouth a little and it went up my nose.

5. Turning on the oven

Dinner tonight will be ICE SALAD. You'll eat it and you'll LIKE IT.

6. Laundry

This is sad because everything I wear is foul and smelly by the end of the day. I pit out my tanks just standing in the kitchen peeling an orange. So I'm running out of clothes. But you know what? Old Navy has A/C and $4 tank tops.

7. Red wine

Yeah, how about a hot towel wrap and a dip in the jacuzzi to go with that room-temp cab franc? And then we can all strip off our clothes and fight to the death while Apocalypse Now plays in the background.

8. Sex

Someone is sleeping on the couch and I think that someone is me because there is a better cross-breeze in the living room and also zero chance of waking up with third-degree burns from accidentally brushing against the convection oven that is my husband's torso in the middle of the night.

9. Holding my tongue when someone is an asshat on the internet

Watch your fucking mouth, judgy mom who I have never met but who is talking shit on Facebook. My filter is OFF and I'm looking to cut somebody with my pen which is mightier than the sword ALSO YOU USED THERE WHEN YOU MEANT THEIR and I snapped the neck of a baby dove when I read it and you should know that shit's on you LEARN HOW TO SPELL.

10. Jeans

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

no

nope

fuck no

I'd rather wear a wool straightjacket. Or a turtleneck made out repurposed airplane seat fabric.

And if this heat keeps up, I think that might be one wish that comes true. The straightjacket part. Not the other one. Please... please not the other one...
The first Tough Questions for Real Parents survey went out about 2 months ago.

There's this stigma attached to parents that we're always on auto-pilot, or always just hanging on by a thread, just flying by the seats of our pants without picking our heads up out of the trenches to see the forest for the trees and all of the other metaphors too.

Your thoughtful responses disprove that bullshit 100 times over.

And they deserve a lot more space than just one super-long post. So I'm going to split this b up.

1. Tell me about her. 
The other mom you hate. 
Tell me all about her. 

- I have not included every response. That would make for a long read. If multiple responses tread the same ground, I included one representative response. 

- I have changed minor identifying details to protect the innocent. The husband's name is "Blyan" and the kids are "Fricken and Cruster," for example.

- Except to alter minor identifying details, I did not edit the answers.

Okay! So let's get into it. Who do we hate?

1. A few of you don't hate anybody.

And whatever you're on, I want some.
glue?
oh
glue.
I thought
you know
but
yeah
okay
glue.
I feel really lucky... I don't have any moms I hate.

I feel like we're all on the same page -- walking around the park, moms are all smiling at each other. There's more camaraderie than I was expecting.

Actually, now that you mention it, I remember feeling like that too.

Right after I had Chicken it was like I'd just joined a secret society. Remember how in high school you could just look at your friend and she would totally get that you needed the Bonne Bell cherry chapstick and pass it to you under the desks?

It's like that. Only with strangers. And that instant of connection gives you so much more than palm-warmed cherry wax. The quick snap of eye contact with another mom at the park, no words required. She gets you. Man, that's a lifeboat.


2. We hate mean girls.

We hate moms who feel like there's something to win, not just in the 30,000 feet, personal-excellence, I'm-competing-with-myself kind of way. These are women who want to win something from you.


She is constantly in competition. Comments on my weight, brags about what her kids are doing, backhandedly insults my parenting choices ("where are the kids? At home with a sitter? Good for you for being able to leave them and come here. I could never do that. I always felt so guilty."



I hate judgy moms. I hate that woman are still criticizing one another for their choices in life. If you choose to (or have to) work, Great! If you choose to (or have to) stay home, fabulous! Just shut up about it and move on. 




I hate the mom who, like, PARENTS to my kid in front of me. I'm all for "it takes a village," but bitch, you aren't in my village. Step off. Extra hate points if she uses parenting terms that are shaming - "you were being a very bad girl when you took that ball." Oh hell no you did not just call my kid bad.





I am with you guys 100%. These moms are mean.
And they are not invited into our clubhouse.
We should hate them.
But you know who we hate even more?

3. We hate that perfect mom.

We hate her for her easy fucking perfect catalog life. We hate her smooth hair, her affectionate spouse, her dusted bookshelves that are made of real wood and not IKEA particleboard, her polite children who request vegetables and then have the audacity to actually eat them before putting themselves to bed and sleeping 14 hours straight every night. We hate how patient, happy, kind, organized, funny, and smart she is.

We hate her trim, slender bod. We hate that bad. If you're skinny and a mom, consider this a warning. Just watch your back at Gymboree. That tight little package is about to get shanked with safety scissors.

that sundress was a bad call today flaca 
your arms look
like a life drawing
it makes me
want to stab you

Her house is always clean and organized, her husband actually does half of all the housework and child care even though she is a SAHM, she is in great shape and always has time to exercise.



Perfectly put together - the makeup, the hair, the outfit. Outfits? Who has time to put together OUTFITS? I feel wildly successful if I have a top that even somewhat goes with pants. Real pants, not yoga pants (damn office dresscode). And shoes that aren't moccasins. So I'm watching her, looking beautiful and clean and put together. Then, she smiles while pulling a healthy snack from her designer diaper bag. It's hard to say what it is, but I think that's actually infant raw food. Like a no-bake cookie but definitely not a cookie. Probably a vegetable fruit conglomerate of oat-like superfood that will make her baby smarter than mine.

She has a perfect body, how the heck does she have time and energy to workout?



Why are you always blow-drying your hair? Is it to make me feel like shit? It is, isn't it? Also, thanks for never having food stains on your clothes and always having "THE BEST DAY!" and telling me all about this amazing salmon with capers and shit you made last night that the kids loved. Jesus, I hope my husband never meets you.




Her kids always sleep. Her marriage has no problems.




When she's bored senseless reading Goodnight Moon, she smiles and thinks only about the emotional/cognitive development of her child. She makes me want to puke.




She's skinny. And she has time to read a book. Oh yeah. And her kid sleeps through the night.



I can only speak for myself, because I wrote one of those up there. But when I say "I hate her for being perfect," what I'm really saying is, "I hate her for being better than I am," which really means, "I hate how crappy I am."

I'm sad that we're so hard on ourselves. I'm sad that we all believe that a win doesn't mean anything if that metaphorical blue ribbon gets pinned on an XL blouse smeared with peanut butter handprints.

You know what we're doing in this picture?
I'm teaching Chicken how to take a photograph
while I peel open the pea pod
of a snap pea
that I helped my son to grow
over the last couple of months.

You know what I see in this picture?
A paunchy belly.
And weird arms.

I'm sad that, in some ways, we're right.

Here, now, forever, the book is the cover. The package is the product.

Strangers aren't going to stop by your cart at the store and tell you that you're a great mom if your 3-year-old has a chocolate goatee from the free grocery store cookie, and the 1-year-old isn't wearing pants, and you've got a gluey white crust in your hair that looks EXACTLY like what you're thinking right now.

That package says "in our family we eat cheese straight from the can and pants are formalwear, donned only for NASCAR events and Texaco shopping sprees on Sundays."

There goes that kid
mowing down the baby
with the shopping cart
the one with no pants
muddy diaper
leaves in his hair
some kind of
crust
around his mouth
you know
the one with the great mom

The package is the product. And when the product is your family, you really care about doing a great job. Sadly, doing a great job developing your family takes EXACTLY the same amount of time as detailing the package.

So it sucks for those of us who have to choose between doing our hair, or doing an art project with glue (yeah, it was glue in my hair. Wait... what were you thinking it was?)

We become adversaries to the skinny, healthy-snack moms. Because they make us feel, acutely, that maybe we've made the wrong choice.

You know who else it sucks for?

Skinny moms.
The mom who packs healthy snacks and get eye-rolled at the park.
The mom who chooses to let her kid watch a Sesame Street so she can put on mascara and pants with a zipper.

The mom who gets shut out of the hard-drinking Our Lives Are The Fucking Outtakes From Mad Max: Thunder Road Sisterhood Club because everyone thinks she couldn't possibly understand.

And why can't she relate to chaos and uncertainty and tantrums and spousal resentment?
Because she's wearing jeans today?
Because her car is clean and her kid said please?
Because she's thin?
Obviously.

I'm saying this to myself. I don't know if it applies to you. But in delighting in my resentment for "perfect" moms, I have become a mean girl.

(Cue the moment in the Lifetime movie when she catches a glimpse of her reflection in the shattered mirror...)

Those of us who are messy and sloppy know that when it comes to our hard work on our families, the package is NOT the product. We know that only the best-loved books have such tattered and stained covers.

But after I yearn with the operatic self-pity of a living martyr for the world to look past my appearance and see me for who I really am, I conveniently forget to do the same when I see a beautiful mother, a smiling mother, a wealthy mother. Her life is obviously perfect because her shoes are on-trend and she's buying grapes in November. Seriously, that's like a $22 bag of grapes. Bitch.

It's not about the grapes.
Obviously.

For all my shouting from the blogtops about moms having each other's backs, I've been awfully merciless to moms who I assume don't need my mercy.

I'm truly sorry, moms who look nice.

I'm sorry because I was having a hard day and I didn't give you a chance to meet my eye and give me that lifeboat I needed so badly. I'm sorry I wasn't there to give you yours.

It wasn't you. It was me. I looked at you and I felt so ugly and shitty, like some droopy sweater hanging by one shoulder at Ross. I felt shitty, so I shit on you. You look really pretty today.

One survery respondent said it best...

The mom who looks awesomely put-together at drop off inspires some angry jealous feelings, but all my mom-aimed grumbles are pretty much aimed at myself.
There are too many currents against which parents must swim, dragging their children behind them.



We now have a 15-minute recess for elementary schools. Also, the art room has been converted into a study hall.

But my children need play and art. They need play and art more than math when they're 7.

Suck it up, kid, be a man. What, are you going to cry? Like a little girl?

But my sons have hearts. They get scared and sad and hurt. Yeah, just like little girls. And big girls. And men, too.

You should have more toys! You need more toys!

But they really, really don't.

Give Auntie a kiss. You have to give Auntie a kiss or it'll hurt her feelings.

But it's his body. He doesn't have to kiss anybody he doesn't want to, not ever. And neither will his girlfriends or boyfriends. Auntie needs another source of self-esteem.

Are you one of THOSE people? The ones who won't order a hamburger unless they know the name of the cow? Move to Portland already.

But I'm putting this food into my body, and my kids' bodies. Yeah. It matters to me. And why do you care what I eat?

Are you one of THOSE people? The ones who don't care about where your food comes from?

I only have so much, you guys. I can't care about everything, always. Please give me a break.

Swim, swim, swim. Kick, kick, kick. Pull, pull, pull.

You can't really see. You can't touch bottom. You're just aiming for a spot on the horizon. The one you feel is home.

You're trying, trying, trying to stay afloat. Trying to right the wrongs of your own life, trying to raise children with love in their hearts and strong spines and heads just hard enough.

And we're only human. And the tide is tireless. And sometimes we have to give up and float for awhile. Sometimes we sink.

Today I have one less current to pull me and mine off-course. We can rest. For a minute.

Today I can say to my sons,

Whomever you love, you can marry.

Not

If you stay in certain places.

Not

If you call it a civil union.

Not

If it's okay with everybody else.

Just

whomever you love, you can marry.

it's so beautiful
my rainbow

Take a breath.  Take a dive. Stand on your head. Splash madly the way babies do.

Or drift.

Just drift.

You can trust this current. It's taking you home.


Chicken told me he wanted to color a picture. As luck would have it, I wanted to leave my life for a minute, so it was pretty much a win all around.

I set him up with paper and markers (washable, of course. I'm no sucka) and perched at the computer with a cup of coffee, ready to read the news. And by "news" I obviously mean "trending Facebook topics."

I looked down at his paper a few minutes later. A mad hurricane of black swirls and scribbles lurched and spun across the paper.



I immediately saw a train, hurtling through a dark forest. 

Me: woah! Cool picture!
Him: I know!
Me: tell me about it!
Him: it's just a picture.
Me: but what are you drawing?
Him: it's not anything. It's just a picture.
Me: so, you're just drawing shapes?
Him: no! I'm not drawing shapes, mommy. It's just a picture.

I tend to be skeptical of the tendency to assign wisdom and insight to a toddler's simplicity. I don't really buy the idea that children possess mystical powers and zen-like perspective.

This is, after all, the same creature who falls to the ground in psychic agony if someone unwraps a Hershey's kiss all the way before handing it to him.

But at that moment, I felt like Chicken was channeling Marcel Duchamp, his picture an invitation to strip away the extraneous construct of meaning and give permission for a thing to just be what it is, no more, no less. With his "Just a Picture," Chicken challenged me to let go of my adult desire to categorize, characterize, expound, moralize.

I'm the worst about that... for me, every daily event is a day-maker or a day-breaker. It's quite the roller-coaster in my head. And I know I'm not alone here.

Right?

I'm not the only one who takes EVERYTHING personally, who heaves heaping shovelfuls of meaning onto every single fucking moment of my life? Right?

Guys?

Chicken has a meltdown while I'm writing, and it's a personal attack on my desire to live an independent life.

I SAID THAT'S ENOUGH BIBS
mommy
mommy
no
pweese mommy
it's not enough bibs
just one more
just
pweese
nooooooooooooooooooo hooo hooooo

His train whistle shriek means that I'll never be a complete person again. My life is over. For real. The last spark of my independent spirit is snuffed out, doused into eternal cold blackness by the tears of a toddler who just wanted to dress as Louis XVI for breakfast.

But then Buster gives a piece of cheese to Chicken, who smiles and says "thank you, Buster!" And THAT, right there, is validation for literally every single choice I have made in my life.

Private school tuition to become a stay-at-home parent? JUSTIFIED. OBVIOUSLY. Did you see how my kid just shared? Only a six-figure education will yield that level of compassion in the very young.

Nope, now that you mention it, I didn't floss last night. But clearly that was the right move, because it brought me to this place, here and now, where my children USED MANNERS.

At what point in our lives do we learn that everything has to mean something? Is it the first time we watch Sleepless in Seattle? Is it the first time a teacher writes the word "metaphor" on the blackboard? (Do they have blackboards anymore? Wait, are you telling me that not only are blackboards out, but also that kids don't wear bonnets to school anymore? I strongly disapprove of this newfangled indecency. And that rock music! FEH.)

Sometimes the peek at profundity is a welcome balm; it's important for all of us to believe that our lives matter. We have, as humans, an instinct to seek connection and a greater sense of order and justice. We want to be unique threads in a tightly woven cloth. And sometimes you see a flash of the glorious pattern, the flash that you feel great artists witness daily, and you feel elation, true joy, a high even higher than four cotton candies can give.

But sometimes it just makes you feel like shit. Like how Cormac McCarthy must have felt writing "The Road." Sometimes you need a shit to just be shit, and not a symbol for your youth. OR WHATEVER.

Well, anyway. I think I could stand to embrace a little more Dada in my days.

It was just a tantrum.
It was just cheese.
It was just a picture. 

this bridge is life
eeeeasy girl
it's just a bridge
that
has perished
sunk
just a sunken bridge
nothing lasts
it's just
the sunken bridge
of ozymandias
look upon my works
ye mighty
and despair
probably
just high tide
right now


Every single
fucking
time
you cross a state line
a kid will get
a rash
somewhere
tricky

and a fever
may or may not
pop up
to about
104 degrees
on the first sunny day
of your beach vacation

sending you to Urgent Care
where
you imagine
everyone else is a professional surfer
here to address
a shark bite
or possibly herpes
because
surfers.

But you will sit
in a blonde wood chair
across from
Mr. Norman,
Mr. Frank Norman.

His bald head
drooping jaw
diapered bottom
and unapologetic farts
make him the 91-year-old twin
of your febrile infant.

And he should be wearing a sign
that says
I am
your
future.

In this place
you will bear witness
to the parade of human misery
until
hours later
you will find yourself
like Mr. Norman
staring vacantly at the new guy
who just walked in
tanned
handsome
tracking in sand
and spatters of seawater
veined with blood.

There is no escape
you think
Life is meaningless 
and death comes for us all.

all while sitting
in a blonde wood chair
flipping through a complimentary issue
of "what to do in San Diego!"

But the kid
will be just fine.

There's something about Urgent Care
that combines rashes and high temps
with time
to churn out
an existential
catastrophe
every time.

and it seemed to me
that I lived my life
like a candle in the wind
never knowing where the other sock was
when it was time to get in the car
And once, just once I would have liked to have
a vacation
without a doctor in it...
but my candle burned out
in one of Mr. Norman's farts
I'm not even joking
The farts
THE FARTS

Catch Tripping: Part 1 here!

When you travel with kids, you have to take your life with you. You schlep your entire life, dietary restrictions, and schedule to a foreign land, and you attempt to reinstall that regular life on top of whatever conditions you find at the place you're staying.

So it's just you, doing your regular life, only instead of doing it in your regular place, you're cutting grapes while sidestepping toddler murdering implements camouflaged in what looks like a regular house but is really an idyllic death trap.

It's just you, doing your regular life, cleaning regurgitated strawberry pulp out of the rented high chair, finding a bowl of myriad throat-shaped items in a candy dish under the table.

Under the table. Obviously. That's where I keep my choking quarter.

It's just you, doing your regular life, setting up a coloring station at the dining room table. Right next to the wrought-iron spikes.


It's just you, doing your regular life, telling the kids to run up and down the hall to burn off some energy. Except they discover a door that cannot be locked.



That leads directly into the street.

Chicken? CHICKEN?!?

It's just you, your curious toddlers, one bare outlet per square foot, and a vast selection of sharp metal outlet-hole-shaped poking instruments at chubby-hand level in every room!




Just when you think you've gotten everything, you find the missing safari guide standing at attention next to TWO FIRE EXTINGUISHERS on the floor IN THE KITCHEN. Which means that your kid found these before you did.


I know, I know. You're like Katie what could three toddlers possibly do with two fire extinguishers? To which I would reply something you'd never see coming. Go back to babysitting school, rook.
It hasn't exactly been a restful trip. But learn from me and add these to your packing list the next time you take the kids on a trip:

Outlet covers
Doorknob covers
Sliding door locks
Painters tape
Zip ties
Leashes for the children (don't be too proud.)

And you might make it out alive.

Godspeed, comrade.
Have you ever woken up in a different state and wondered, "am I on vacation? Am I taking a trip? Or have I just experienced a period of lost time that in a few years we will come to understand was merely the first sign of the emergence of multiple personality disorder and my rapid descent into complete insanity?"

This doesn't look like Seattle... and I don't think I've ever seen this rash guard before...


Before we dive into today's quiz, let's review the terms we'll be working with here.

A VACATION is a period of time in which you depart from your normal schedule and lifestyle to dedicate yourself to relaxation and fun.

A TRIP is a vacation, only you don't depart from your normal schedule so much as just move it to a different zip code, and instead of relaxation and fun, you have logistics and rashes.

A PSYCHOTIC BREAK is a common side effect of too many trips and not enough vacations.

Got it?

Great!

Take this quick, 5-question quiz to help you determine whether you are on vacation, a trip, or the road to a complete psychological snap.

Ready?

1. It's breakfast time! Do you:

a) order room service and sit on the balcony in your bath robe, reading, until it arrives.
b) attempt to locate a frying pan in the rental house and end up cooking scrambled eggs in a Dutch oven. They turn out fine but nobody eats them except you, after you pick them up off the floor.
c) write CHICKEN AND BISCUITS on the wall in your own feces.


2. You hear about an amazing Cuban cafe with live music on Thursday nights. You immediately:

a) swing by that adorable boutique you saw yesterday - a girl needs a sexy dress for live music!
b) dig a package of fruit snacks out of your diaper bag and eat them in one gummy gob. Someday, you think... someday there will be music again...
c) knife a stranger.

which one will it be



3. The sun is out and the pool is sparkling. What's in your beach bag?

a) your room key, cash for poolside cocktails and snacks, a novel, a silk cover-up, your phone and earbuds.
b) rented minivan key, band-aids, SPF 55 sunblock, nut-free nonperishable travel snacks in single-serving baggies, swim diapers, baby diapers, toddler diapers, three sets of spare clothing, water bottles, wide-brimmed waterproof hats with chin clips, four pacifiers.
c) dried blood and ten copies of Malcolm X's autobiography.


4. Why are you running?

a) for exercise and pleasure. Because a run sounded nice. Because I can.
b) THE FRONT DOOR IS OPEN AND CHICKEN IS GONE JESUS GOD JESUS GOD JESUS GOD oh he was in the bathroom tasting my shampoo.
c) because OF COURSE I DIDN'T START THAT FIRE but the men in black will find me if I'm questioned by the police.


5. As you pack your bags on your last night in paradise, you can't help but think:

a) We should really do this more often.
b) We should never do this again.
c) All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All polyester and no aspirin makes Jack a middling lounge singer. All tarantula and no ambivalence makes Jack Jill. All high fives and no octopuses makes Jack a surly porpoise.


Tally up your answers and let's review your results!

Mostly a's:


You're on vacation, asshole. Rub it in, why don't you. Don't forget to Facebook a million pictures of daquiris and beach books and sea turtles and liberty.

Mostly b's:

party wagon

You're on a trip. Go buy yourself a bottle of Kendall Jackson, a fanny pack, and some Children's Motrin. You WILL be going to Urgent Care sometime in the next week.

Mostly c's:


Sshhhh... you're fine. It's the world that's gone mad.

We flew without Ryan today. I discovered a few important things.

I learned how much more receptive I am to offers of help when they aren't delivered with a generous dollop of pity. 

"Do you need a hand?"
Why yes I do. Thank you so much.

"You look like you need a hand."
Thanks for pointing that out! I would actually rather eat caramel pudding straight off this upholstered airplane seat than accept help from you.

It's a small difference but it matters to me.

I learned more things.

This


is pretty much standard. Which is why he is wearing a harness with leash.

This


Is what it looks like when your toddler poops behind a garbage can at the airport.

And this


is the face of victory.

I know. Sorry. I wish it were better, too.

One mom.
Two kids.
All of the snacks.
None of the meltdowns.

Boom.

My mother's day gift arrived in the mail today.

I got two silver rings, one for each of my boys. Each slender band bears the name of one of my boys, and the words, "the only thing we both did perfectly."

Many thanks to Chrystal at Bouton Rouge Designs, who created these custom rings for us. Her jewelry is delicate, simple, reasonably priced, deeply personal, and exactly what we were looking for.

This is just a straight-up shout-out. I don't benefit in any way from this post, and I don't have any kind of professional arrangement with Chrystal.

I am just butt crazy in love with my rings.

Next, a manicure.
Look at that janky thumbnail.
I swear
the last time I had to
claw my way
out of a shallow grave
was like
a month ago
at least.


Funny story.

So the other day I was at Goodwill 
looking through the children's books
and BAM


Score! 
We already have a copy of this one 
and it's one of Chicken's favorites.
But dude
it's a 79-cent Harold. 
I bet Chicken's school could use another copy of a timeless classic.
Let's just make sure it's not beat to shit...


...okay... kitten sticker inside... 
a little bit of wear and tear on the binding... 
but it seems like it's in pretty good shape. 
I'll just check the first page...


... yep! Looks good!
___

Tuesday morning 
I brought it into my kid's school 
and gave it to his teacher. 
She thanked me effusively. 
You are so welcome I said. 
Oh my gosh, no problem at all. 
It's my PLEASURE. 
I'm just so happy the kids will be able to enjoy this beautiful book. 
The teacher agreed with me.

And then she opened it
and started to read

One evening, after thinking it over for
some time, Harold decided to go for a walk
in the moonlight.
There wasn't any toilet, and Harold needed a
toilet for a walk in the moonlight.

And he needed some poop to walk on.

He made a long straight trail of poop so he
wouldn't get lost. 

And he set off on his walk, taking his big
purple turd with him.

But he didn't seem to be getting anywhere
on the long straight poop.

So he left the poop for a short butt across
a field. And the moon went with him.

The short butt led right to where Harold
thought a fart ought to be.

He didn't want to get lost in the woods.
So he made a very small fart, with just
one pee in it.

It turned out to be an poop tree.

The apples would be very Gassy, Harold
thought, when they got red.

So he put a constipated dragon under the
tree to fart on the apples.

It was a terribly constipated dragon.

Well played,
11-year-old boy.

There is no way
I
or anyone
who has read these pages
will ever be able to read this book again
without thinking

It was a terribly constipated dragon.

And when you look 
at that dragon
again


you see it


right?

That dragon has
the panic sweat face
and
the please-God-please-no
claw fingers
of someone
who has eaten nothing
but beef jerky
and Kraft mac
for the last 19 days.

Needless to say
I'll be expecting a thank-you note
from the school
in short order.

To which I will reply
You are so welcome.
Oh my gosh, no problem at all. 
It's my PLEASURE. 
I'm just so happy 
the kids 
will be able to enjoy this 
beautiful book. 

Before you have your baby you're like:

Of course we're going to sit down at the table as a family for a home-cooked dinner every night. What is life for if not to use gold charger plates and cloth linens at every meal?

What?
HAHAHAHAHA
No
This isn't Thanksgiving.
This is just Wednesday.
We always dine in the Michael Bolton Music Video Room on Wednesdays.
OBVIOUSLY we have at least three generations around our table.
Wait, you DON'T wear white to eat slow-roasted meats?
So... are you... a family, even?
Studies always show that the number one cause of sociopathy is not enough family dinners. 

And I read Bringing Up Bebe, okay? I know that the only way for my kid to be French (and French = everything) is to make sure that he eats the same food I do - no chicken nuggets or cheese quesadillas in this house! We will sit for an hour every night and eat a four-course meal ending in a wedge of bleu cheese for dessert just like they do in the creche.

Plus, family dinner will really help me and Ryan stay close and connected.

Darling, won't you please tell me a complex, uninterrupted 25-minute-long story about an article you read in the Economist, while our children sit quietly and absorb an advanced understanding of the role of the ruble in international finance?

What a special time for our family to come together. We will break bread as a unit, talk about the day's accomplishments and challenges, love and support and truly, deeply know each other. 

IT WILL BE MAGIC.

And then you have the baby. And it is magic.


BLACK MAGIC.

HOW? I ask you, HOW can a family of four use TWELVE SPOONS for a single meal?

There can be only one answer, and that answer is the devil wants us to always be out of fucking spoons.

Two spoons and a fork.
And dinner was A SANDWICH.
Actual conversation in our house:

Me: Where are the spoons?
Ryan: We used them.
Me: ALL of them?
Ryan: Yeah.
Me: The spoon slot is totally empty. 
Ryan: Oh. I know.

It's not like that dream of family dinner is immediately shattered like so many of your nice wine glasses. It's just chipped away, bit by bit. 

You eat pizza on the couch while breastfeeding your newborn and you think, well shit, not YET. He's practically still covered in birth goo. Family dinner can wait until he can sit up on his own. 

A few months later you're starting him on solids but he only wants to eat literally every minute of the day that is NOT an adult mealtime, so you and your husband eat spaghetti in front of the TV because you CAN, dammit.

Then you go and get yourself knocked up again, and you really don't need to have family dinners every night because you're pregnant for God's sake so just give me the milkshake and get the hell out.

And one day you wake up with an almost 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old, and those nourishing, adult dinners have turned into... well... it's not sol meuniere and bleu cheese, that's for sure.


It's, like, some diced tomato... and a deflated pouch... and some yellow crap... and a brown... thing... 


... and Cheerios... and... is that a piece of pineapple in a red plastic bag? What am I even looking at here?

It's Buster's used diaper, left in the high chair because he won't wear a bib, but even if he did wear a bib that wouldn't solve the problem of him cramming the stainiest, greasiest bits of whatever we feed him all the way down into his lap and rubbing those stainy greasy hunks of nasty all up in his jeans. The good Lord has yet to make enough Shout spray.

And that fantasy you had about a pleasant, uninterrupted conversation with your spouse? The chance to reconnect after a long day apart?

Try this on for size:

Me: How was your day, Ryan?
Chicken: I DON'T LIKE THIS.
Me: It's chips, Chicken. I gave you chips for dinner because I know for sure you will eat them.
Ryan: My day was okay--
Chicken: I HATE CHIPS!
Me: Are you having some feelings about chips, Chicken? What kind of feelings? Are you feeling--
Buster: GAH! GAH! GAH! GAH!
Me: -- frustrated. Or mad? Mad about your chips?
Ryan: I had a lot of meetings, so I definitely left the office feeling--
Me: RYAN CAN YOU JUST WAIT PLEASE WHILE I RESOLVE THE CHIP ISSUE. And Buster just asked for more cheese.
Ryan: What? When?
Me: JUST NOW. Didn't you hear him?
Chicken: I NEED CHEESE!
Me: OK, baby. Orange cheese or white cheese?
Chicken: NO JUST CHIPS!
Me: Well you already have chips. Do you want some cheese with your chips?
Buster: GAH! GAH!
Me: RYAN! Buster's cheese! Please!
Ryan: Where's Buster's cheese?
Me: USE YOUR EYES AND LOOK FOR IT.
Chicken: Probly in his diaper.
Ryan: Oh, yep. There it is.


Family dinners.

They are a time for connecting with your family.
Nourishing your loved ones.
Saying "you can't have ice cream until you finish your chips."
Digging warm cheese out of your baby's thigh folds.
And oh yeah, using a different spoon for every bite.
Because this is America.
Because we can.

Truth Bomb.