4:30 is a pocket of suck that can only be escaped by waiting until it is no longer 4:30, yet by some hideous Kafkaesque version of relativity, 4:30 lasts all the fucking way until bedtime. 

4:30 is when our definition of "toy" starts to get a little loosey-goosey.

The boys wake up in the morning by 7, and they have been playing with toys all day. 
They are over anything plastic and primary colored by 4:30 pm. 

That's when they wander like drunken, belligerent apes into the kitchen and begin to throw open cabinets, grope blindly in drawers that jut out over their heads, and scream throat-scrapers when I pry their fingers from the wine opener, the pizza cutter, the cheese grater. I offer them straws. Chicken stuffs a fistful of straws down the front of his diaper and swaggers to the mirror, announcing, "I am a tiger. Tiger has grass in his diaper." Buster gives no fucks whatsoever about straws and is already headfirst in another cabinet, where he discovers a sack of dried black beans that I'm totally fine with him throwing around-- YOU KNOW WHAT? FRIENDS DON'T SAY I TOLD YOU SO. FRIENDS JUST HOLD THE DUSTPAN.

That's when they stagger to the bathroom and yank embarrassing personal items out from under the sink, so they can taste the honeyed nectar that is hemorrhoid cream, and throw brightly colored plastic-wrapped tampons down the stairs to the front door. 

4:30 is when they start to get ideas. About climbing.

seems like
great idea

holy shit

4:30 is too close to dinner to appease them with snacks. Cup of milk? Fuck that noise. They want CRACKERS, and they want enough of them to turn the next day's shit into a blond Snackimal paste that still smells faintly of vanilla.

4:30 is when I need to turn on the oven to get some veg roasting. 4:30 is when Chicken drags a chair to the stove so he can help. 4:30 is when Buster starts dancing on tables.

it's blurry
he really dances
he's got the music in him
not much sense
understanding of physics

4:30 used to be when Ryan got home every day. But he started a new job this week, so he's been getting home around 6.

If the last 3 days have taught me anything, it is that I am not strong enough to keep three people alive, and cook a meal, and feed that meal to three people. Not when it's 4:30. Something's gotta give. 

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking,
Katie. Bubby. Easy solush. Box a noodles. Frozen peas. Mom of the year.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you right. That's a great idea!

In fact, it's such a great idea that I already had it last night.

Here's what I did. It took approximately 40 seconds.

1. Walk into kitchen.
2. Open cabinet.
3. Pull out pot.
4. Fill pot with water.
5. Place pot on stove.
6. Turn on stove.
7. Cover pot.
8. Walk back out of kitchen.

Here's what they did with the same 40 seconds.

1. Chicken constructed a "Tiger House" out of couch cushions and hid beneath an upturned toddler chair.
2. Buster climbed the upturned toddler chair and lay in wait for his brother to poke his head out, plastic spatula raised over his head like the mean slappy cousin of a whack-a-mole mallet.
3. Chicken poked his head out.
4. Buster slapped him in the eye with a spatula.
5. Chicken kicked the chair.
6. Buster fell backward off the chair.
7. Chicken screamed, "Don't hit me okay?"
8. Buster just screamed.

It took a good 10 minutes to calm them both down, but Chicken's red eye tracked Buster warily for the rest of the afternoon. And yo, that kid is smart to watch the little one. They're brothers in the Shakespearean sense. Two kings + one kingdom = shit is going down.

tiger has a plan
and that plan
is high ground
good plan tiger
sleep with one eye open

When the water started boiling, I went to dump the noodles in the pot. Buster followed me into the kitchen, clawing at my thighs beneath the bubbling pot of hot water, in the international symbol for "pick me up now Mommy or I will make sounds that the emergency broadcast system rejected for being too irritating."

When the food was ready, for real, completely ready, just needing to be scooped onto plates and temp tested to ensure that the cold ingredients that were cooked into a hot meal have been re-cooled to 4 degrees above their original temperature, Buster climbed into the empty bathtub headfirst, and Chicken dropped a full metal water bottle on his bare big toe.

4:30, man. It is balls. No AC, wool pants, Memphis to Abilene and back Greyhound bus balls. SWAMPY.

OK. I'm ready for my pep talk now.

KATIE. Get a grip. People do this shit all the time and it's fine. Address the primary problem. In this case, it's obvious: The primary problem is that the children have no cages. 

I'm giving them one more chance tomorrow and then I am overnighting a couple of dog crates. Mediums should be fine.

i just liked this picture
i have no caption
that's what we
in the biz
finishing strong
not with a bang
but with
the other thing
I was going to write a different post tonight, about marriage and coparenting and professional caregiving. (It's going to be a PAGE TURNER y'all. Or maybe a page scroller. Since this is a blog and all.)

But Buster won't go to sleep. I've tried going in - it just fires him up more, and it makes Chicken think that the sole reason I have come into his bedroom after lights out is to answer his burning questions, like "Mommy tell me what you miss about me when I am sleeping," (Answer: go to sleep so I can find out) or "do all bushes have seed pods?" (Answer: WHAT. Are you fucking kidding me right now? We are in a state of HIGH ALERT. What's an even more alarming color than red for an alert? Like, hipster neon yellow? Because we are there. It's not even t-minus anymore. It's t-PLUS 2 and a half hours since bedtime and you have school tomorrow. We can google seed pods in the morning. Now shush.)

Poor Buster has a bruise on his cheek from falling onto a bowl yesterday (boy oh boy do I sound like I should be giving advice to other parents right now!) and I'm betting that's what's keeping him up.

I gave him Advil at 4. It's just now 6 hours so I can give him another hit of the sweet stuff.

Special A
Madison New Jersey Gold
Ride the White Grape Ferret
MBG... Mad Baby Goo

Ibu-Bobby Pin
Ibu-Potato Skin
Ibu-Huckleberry Finn
Ibu-West Berlin
Ibu-Heterocercal Fin

I did Google
a bunch of drug street names
and then
made them

Just call me
The Advillest
Sexual Dogheartz
which is my drug dealer name
according to this.

It's going to take some time for the Tambourine Man to start playing his song, but I don't have to tell you about what it feels like to try to do anything other than cry while your kid is crying. So that coparenting piece is going on the back burner.

5 things I would rather be doing than listening to my son cry right now

1. Shitting my pants at the Catalina Wine Mixer. I assume I would have to take a ferry back to the mainland for fresh pants. That's a long time to be in need of a moist towlette and some Hanes.

2. Explaining lockjaw to an ER doc on the night of my anniversary. (The steak was so chewy tho...)

3. Getting my credit card declined while out at a fancy dinner with a new couple that Ryan and I both think are awesome and erudite and out of our league, friend-wise.

4. Going to a general admission concert and standing next to a couple that dances REALLY big and keeps trying to squeeze into my personal space which fires up my inner warrior princess so I find my low center of gravity and make all kinds of promises to Norse gods in exchange for the strength to not knife my neighbor who is a miracle of science because her body is made up entirely of elbows, and she looooves every song this band has ever written.

5. Dropping my keys down the trash chute of a large apartment complex and then having to spend 2 hours hanging out with the stoned maintenance guy commenting on how much food people waste while digging through bags of food people have let rot in the fridges before dumping down the trash chute on top of my keys. Don't ask me how I know.

in fact
like rotten honeydew melon
if that is
where you find them.

So this happened.

At the park today Chicken picked up a stick (like ya do) and started whacking a tree with it (like ya do) until a golden flurry of almond-sized and shaped leaves cascaded from the branches onto his head (like they do.)

Be careful, baby!


Because if you knock leaves out of the tree, then one of the leaves could land in your eye and that would really hurt!

Oh. Okay.

I heard the words come out of my mouth. I furrowed my brow. Did I just warn my son about the horrors of... falling leaves?

My job, first and foremost, as a parent, is to keep my kids alive, sometimes with their help, and sometimes against their most valiant efforts to perish. That is the one and only part of the parenting job description that pretty much everyone can agree on: 

1. Maintain pulse.

So most of the time, when I open my mouth with the all-too-familiar opener of "be careful, baby!" I know I'm doing it to teach him about a legitimate danger:

Be careful, baby!


Because if you try to pet the dog and he isn't friendly then he could bite you, 
and that would really hurt!

Because if you run with a fork, you could trip and stab yourself in the throat, 
and that would really hurt!

Because if you suck blueberries into your mouth like an anteater,
you could suck one all the way into your throat and choke on it,
 and that would really hurt!

Because if you lie down in the middle of the parking lot, a car could hit you,
and that would really hurt!

Oh. Okay.

I feel pretty safe calling those solid parenting choices - teaching a young child not to touch strange dogs, run with sharp objects, choke to death, or lose a leg under one of the big rig's 18 wheels? Solid. 

But sometimes... well... 

Be careful, baby!


Because if you run  in your new shoes then you could trip
even though this is soft grass
there could be something sharp hiding in the grass
that would poke you
and maybe infect you with a chronic incurable bloodborne disease
a plague
the likes of which has not been seen on this earth
since the day the pharaoh did not
let my people go

and that would really hurt
so let's just walk ok
even though
I know this is a park
let's play walking today
ready for walking tag?
OK, you're it
This is fun, right?
I'm gonna get you

I never said I was a perfect parent. I never thought it either. But it's one thing to say "I'm not perfect," and another to look into the perfect, still wild and fiery and unwary eyes of your child and know that you're about to fuck him up. Just a little. 

OK, Skipper. I'm doing this wrong and I know it, but I'm still going to do it. I'm packing your baggage, kid. Right here. Right now. In twenty years, you're going to be in group therapy telling the story of the falling leaves. I know it. Still doing it.

I want my kids to be afraid of train tracks, cliffs, guns, the single man hanging out at the playground with a puppy.

I don't want them to be afraid of leaves. I don't want them to grow up fearful of small hurts. But worse, so much worse, would be to bequeath my fear of the imaginary threats that lie, invisible, in the soft green grass. Or worse, the specter of danger that grows larger and larger in perfect pace with the breathtaking love and inutterable terror that haunt those of us who must, #1, keep our children alive.


Anyone have any tips on that? On how to teach caution and healthy fear without adding a heaping scoop of world-shrinking phobia?

I hate how in the movies everyone's internet always works.

It's not "the magic of Hollywood." It's a filthy lie.

There was that scene in Date Night when Tina Fey yelled at the rainbow wheel, but as soon as she did, the info loaded and she got Mark Wahlberg's address right quick and she and Steve made it out of the real estate office before the crooked cops rolled up.

If yelling at my computer could make the internet work, I would have the fastest motherfucking connection in the galaxy - YES, I am saying that my yell-powered internet speed would be faster than interplanetary genius alien race's internet speed and it's very likely that within a light year a scouting vessel would arrive and be all,

"Hello, Earthling. Despite your barbaric society and elementary understanding of both this world and the worlds beyond, and despite our world's superiority in every possible way (we have fly-thru Chipotle on our planet, suck it humans) somehow you have stumbled upon the secret to the fastest internet connection in the galaxy. We have come to harness your rage, if you think you can spare some."

To which I would reply,

"Don't worry Glurb. Am I saying that right? Glurb? Any relation to the IKEA wall bracket? Sorry, Earth humor. Anyway, Glurb, there is no fucking way that I will ever run out of rage. And you, too, can tap the hot well of fury that is required to scream at a computer loud enough to download the every known episode in the Star Trek universe in 2 seconds flat.

Glurb, this is Comcast. Comcast, meet Glurb. I'll just leave you two to get acquainted over 90 minutes of hold music.

No, Glurb, you're totally right, YOU ARE calling about a technical problem and NOT to sign up for the Comcast triple play.

RIGHT AGAIN GLURB, it IS enraging to try to be sold additional products when the current product that you're overpaying for is about as functional as Stephen Hawking's OTHER finger.

No, Glurb, you DON'T want a land line. And NO, I can't explain why ANYONE wants a land line!

Oh, yeah, okay, you should definitely ask to speak to a supervisor. But first, can I get you like a Gatorade or something? Because you just added another hour onto your Comcast bonding experience.

Oh great, you have a tech person on the phone! Awesome! Because they'll definitely be able to understand your problem and address it promptly. Wait, wait let me guess... did they tell you to "unplug your modem?" THEY DID! IMAGINE MY SHOCK. GALLOPING FUCKING SHOCK ALL OVER MY FACE! And you told them that you've already done that nine times? Yeah. And they told you to do it again? And you did? And it still didn't work? WOW!

Well it says I'm connected now
Google still won't--
Don't you dare
have hung up on me

Oh, Glurb?

Is that the sound of your alien toddler waking up from naptime? So this means that you've spent your entire allotment of free time for the day being fucked with on the phone?

Okay, scream at your computer riiiiiiiiight... NOW!"

You're welcome, Glurb. You're welcome.

And please feel free to take Comcast with you when you go.
Chicken is three.

In related news, he is also a MONSTER.

Could he just be overstimulated from his first week back at school?

Could I be short-tempered because (PERIOD ALERT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ABOUT A PERIOD SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH) I'm having what I refer to as a dry period - everything but the blood. And I do mean everything. I'm so bloated the new room parents who don't know my name yet probably refer to me as "the puffy one," or "the one who's about 22 weeks along." I had to put down a knife and walk away when I saw some dried tomato seeds on the cutting board that Ryan didn't wipe up after he made me a cheeseburger for lunch. That's right. I was about to cut a fool for not adequately cleaning up after the hot lunch he prepared for me before shooing me downstairs to watch an afternoon movie, alone, in peace. I know. WHAT AN ASS HOLE.

Could the moon be full? Could he have eaten too much sugar today? Could a past life as a serial-killer clown be resurfacing? Sure. It could be any of those things.

But it's not.

He's just three. And therefore, a monster.

Oh, he looks sweet. Look at him. Doing a maze. A maze. On the couch, sans pants. How sweet, you say. How adooooorable.

you can tell
from his kneecaps
he's up to something


He's merely lulling you into a false sense of safety. Just behind that maze book he is plotting out the best way to kill me. Today.

In this family, we don't hit.
Kick. Spit. Bite. Push.
Drag Buster around by his head.
Ride Buster like a horse.
Hoard toys that you're not playing with just so other people can't play with them.
Throw hard toys.
Run with sharp things.
Grab things off the kitchen counter.
Climb on the kitchen table and dance unless Mommy or Daddy is right there with the camera.
Scream in Mommy's face.
Head butt Daddy in the nuts.
Throw black bean soup with a spoon catapult.
Say "oh my fuck" in public.
Change the settings on the thermostat. (It was 80 today. WHY IS THE HEAT ON.)
Run away in a parking lot.
Unscrew the cap to the paint and dump the entire bottle on the table.
Splash in the tub.
Stand on the toilet lid and dance unless Mommy or Daddy is right there with the camera.

In this family, we don't do any of those things.

Except today.

When Chicken did ALL OF THEM.

what the

Straight up, he burned this bitch down. To the ground.

But I was okay. I was handling it. I was listening, giving warnings, doing quiet wind-down time. I was being an awesome mom - patient and calm and all that fucking shit.

Until he spat in my face.






he's so into spitting right now
that we have a spit zone
where it's ok to spit
the spit zone includes the driveway
and the bath tub
and also
anywhere else he wants
I mean
what can I do?

The thing about a kid spitting in your face is:

1. It is humiliating and insulting on a really basic level. He is treating me like a toilet. Honestly, when he spit on me, I started looking for my dueling pistols. I was ready to defend my honor right then and there. My name is Indigo Montoya. You thrice sprayed me with a fine mist of foamy spittle, with an impish grin on your face. PREPARE TO DIE.

2. There is really no way to stop it. It's not like a toy you can take away. I spent the whole day counting to three in a don't-fuck-with-me voice, and it worked for the first few hours...

Me: Chicken... Chicken, I see you. Do we spit in this family?

Chicken: Nooo...

Me: Then suck that spit back in. Right now. ONE.

Chicken: (slurp)

Me: Thanks, buddy. What a great choice you made!

Until he started to wonder what would happen if I got all the way to three...

Me: Then suck that spit back in. Right now. ONE.

Chicken: (blowing more spit bubbles onto his chin)

Me: TWO. Do not make me count to three, Chicken. 

Chicken: (slurp)

And then he finally called my bluff.

Me: Then suck that spit back in. Right now. ONE.

Chicken: (spit foam goatee)

Me: TWO. I am not kidding.

Chicken: (spit foam goatee dripping onto his shirt)


Chicken: (spit foam goatee dripping onto his shirt. and lap.)


What was I going to do, take his spit away? I thought about it, but I didn't have enough silica gel packets. Or sand.

Once he tested the fences and found that the electric system was down, shit got real in a hurry. And that's how I found myself with a face full of toddler spit at 6:40 pm. My first thought?

Oh no you did not.

Followed closely by

I bought you a fucking doughnut today.


I wish this were the kind of post that ended in a moment of redemption.

But this shit is real life, without a proportionate denouement and tidy lesson. Sometimes your kid spits in your face three times and you just have to shake with fury and get angrier and angrier while he giggles through a "time out" and keeps inching closer and closer to the edge of the seat to see if you're really watching to make sure his bottom stays on the chair.

Sometimes you fall back on old-school withholding tactics that you know don't work in the long run. Sometimes you slice the air with a wildly pointing finger and bellow "THAT'S IT. NO OCTONAUTS TOMORROW!" Sometimes you're ashamed about how pleased you are that you've reduced your child to tears. It doesn't feel good, does it? When someone you love takes away something important to you. But see, kid, I took away 22 minutes of animated undersea exploration. You took away my dignity. 

Sometimes you have to prove that you're still the one in charge here. Sometimes you know deep down that if you were really in charge, you wouldn't have to prove it.

And sometimes you sit down to write about it and remember, too late, that your job as mom isn't about being in charge, or exerting control, or proving that you're bigger and stronger, and the only one in the room who knows where the iPad is hidden.

Honestly, I don't know what parenting is about, especially today, when I sucked at it. Now, hours later, I vaguely remember some buzzwords from a parenting book... modeling appropriate responses... kind and firm... tools to manage big feelings... mutual respect... teach don't punish... but Chicken's been in bed without stories for two hours now, and the window for a re-do is long since closed.

I sucked pretty bad tonight, but at least I remembered one important thing before I tucked him in snug as a bug.

After all the yelling and vigorous pointing and over-articulation of the words "SIT. DOWN. AND. DON'T. MOVE." I drew Chicken into my body and curved around him, my hard and shining baby spoon, and said,

I like you.

I don't like when you spit in my face.
I don't like spitting.
At all. 
It hurts my feelings and makes me really, really mad.

But I like you.
Even you when you spit.
I still like you.

And then he kissed me on the cheek, slid a shy smile my way, and said,

"So... can I watch Octonauts tomorrow?"
Yesterday Chicken and I popped into a thrift store. 

He needed an oversized button-down for an art smock at school, and thrift stores are the best place to score 99-cent children's books from illiterate jerkoffs who evidently toss hardback Newberrys and Caldecotts in a trash bag with the toe-holey socks and nonfunctioning wall-phones they've been saving just in case this whole cell phone thing was a blip.

It was a standard visit to the thrift store, an unremarkable success. 
They were having a sale. 
They had just opened a Halloween section.

Smock? Check.

Children's books? Check times 12.

Innocuous toddler animal costumes from the Halloween section? Check, check.

Stand in line for 25 minutes (behind a gourd-shaped man in polyester slacks who would like each piece of his Fiestaware wrapped in newspaper, 
while the Indian grandma behind us strokes Chicken's giggling/flinching face repeatedly and tries to teach him how to say her name, which, I believe, was either Pathi. Or Bati. Or possibly Potty. 
She might have been fucking with us.)


Fast-forward to 9:45 pm, three hours after Chicken got the patented Katie three-story, nine-stuffed-animal, what-are-you-going-to-dream-about-tonight (eating puppies) three-year-old-put-down... a bloodcurdling scream cut through the night, like a really serious fart in yoga class.


I took the stairs seven at a time and barreled down the hall like a 5-hour-energy-ed Black Friday shopper. I didn't have time to wonder what I would find in that room. I only knew that sometimes, like right at that moment, the sound of a piercing, pulsing, screaming, living child is the sweetest sound in the world. 

I slammed open the door and found Chicken sitting in the reading chair, his face streaked with tears, reaching out for me and whimpering.

Side note:
Buster was totes fine tho. He was all, 


I ran to Chicken and gathered him in my arms. "What happened, baby? What's wrong?"

He spoke in the panting, tear-filled voice of a child 
who has ridden a stallion one thousand miles 
to tell me how his puppy fell out a window. 
Onto the train tracks. 
Which were electrified. 
Also it was Christmas.

"It's so scary
the red stuff
from Value Village."

Fucking... of course.

What am I, a fucking amateur? 
Why yes, that's exactly what I am right now. 
Ooooh, look at me, taking an imaginative child to the thrift shop
where we spent 15 minutes
in Halloweenland,
domain of bloody fangs and cackling red-eyed motion-sensor skulls, 
without having a conversation about costumes, and silly makeup, and funny wigs and masks. 
Like a fucking rookie.
No wonder he woke up screaming.

My heart ached and my eyes squeezed shut as I rocked him, 
as his heart beneath my hand began to slow from its rabbit run, 
as Buster repeatedly threw himself onto his mattress, 
squealing in ecstasy with every bounce.

I was that kid. 
Kept awake by the tale of the convict with the hook, 
scraping the hood of a newlyweds' car. 
Frozen in my bedroom doorway at ten o'clock at night
because I thought I saw a shadow move on the wall. 
I went back to bed thirsty.

Oh, my baby.

I began to roll through the options of things I could say to help. 
"Things I can say to help" always fall into one of three categories:

1. Things my mom would have said, pragmatic, no-nonsense, and rooted in reality:

"It's just a costume, just cloth like a shirt. 
It can't hurt you."

I think he might be too young... this is magical thinking at work, and the fact that it's "not real" doesn't stop him from believing that it's real. It feels real to him, and that's all that matters.

2. Things a person who has never raised a child might say because they think it sounds right, but they don't understand that the principal consequence of assigning a mythical protector for a fantastical threat is, in fact, VALIDATING the fantastical threat: 

"Good thing you have this giant cowboy doll 
to stay up with you all night and keep you safe 
from the red monster from Value Village!"

So, your takeaway here is
YES, the red monster from Value Village CAN hurt you. It's totally real. 
This is me, your mother, the person you most trust in the world, 
telling you that THE MONSTER IS REAL. 
Here's your cowboy. 
I'll see you in the morning. 

3. Things that... seem... honest? And... mostly right...? Please? God? Are you there? Little help?

"I don't like scary stuff either. 
You know what I do when I think about scary stuff? 
I try to change it in my imagination so it's just silly instead. 
Like if I was afraid of spiders, I might imagine that the spider was wearing roller skates, 
and he slipped and slid all over the place 
before he fell on his bottom 
and decided to get an ice cream sundae."

Yes, that is lifted 100% from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Yes, my parenting style can best be described

I ended up doing a heavy dose of #3 with a dash of #1 for good measure.

Oh, also we went back to Value Village to play with the Halloween stuff today. I'm calling a do-over. I can do that.
Because I
the mom.

Chicken had a blast.

I may or may not sleep tonight.


I'm inside the clouds
they're just curtains
but I'm inside them

Here I am!
It was stinky in there.
Not like most clouds.

You spend a lot of time in clouds, do ya?

Do I ever!

Uh oh
This guy
ate some 
and he also
drew on his face
with marker.
Markers are for paper

Paper plates?

Regular ones

That's the red stuff
I don't like that stuff

Is that scary?

Yeah. I don't like it
he looks so sleepy
his Mommy is gonna say
you seem tired
and then he'll have to take a nap
but he just wants to pway

That's hard, when you want to stay up instead of rest.

Sometimes I feel mad about that.

Look at this guy
Look at this
crazy guy
What a mook!
Why'd you color your face white,
Silly guy?
He's silly.

Yeah, and did you see his yellow eyes?

Look at those silly yellow eyes.
You better stop drinking lemonade,

Hey there
Hey little guy
where are your
Did you leave them
in the car?

Did you know
that bears
And that's why their teeth are yellow?
And red?
Like this guy?
He eats so many bananas
that his poops
are so hard.
Poor guy.
He needs somethin
let me think...
what makes poops soft...

This baby drew on her face too!
Uh oh baby
You better stop eating brown things
and wash up.

I bet he knows
a lot

Those are mean teeth.
I don't like those.

Let's touch them, just to see what they feel like.

How do they feel?

my toes
except not my toenails.

He has long hair too
it feels like a horse.
Let's call him


Yeah. Or

I'm sorry?

Yeah, horse

OK, well, I think we're done here!
Went to Target

Bird dropped a shit that looks like someone threw a full tub of moldy ricotta at the car

Went to the park

Chicken found a really big stick to swing around

Chicken ran away