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


1. And So It Begins...

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

Chicken: He did?

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

Chicken: Oh.

Me: Do you like the Daniel Tiger?

Chicken: Maybe a superhero would be better.




2. Just Call Me Daniel Webster

Chicken: Mom? What's a superhero?

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

Chicken: But he doesn't protect bad people?

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

Chicken: Because the person is bad?

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

Chicken: That's complicated.

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



3. Superhero Diplomacy

Chicken: Let's play superhero!

Me: Okay!

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

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


who knows
what evil lurks
in the hearts of men

miss elena knows


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

Me: Woah!

Chicken: I SAID MISS ELENA CUT THAT OUT!

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

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

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

Chicken: No. Let's go again.

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

Chicken: HEY CUT THAT OUT!

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

Chicken: (sighs) Ask Mommy.



4. Oh No She Di'int

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

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

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

Nana: Oh, I am so sad!

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

Chicken: I'M GONNA CUT YOU!

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

and yes
he wears that mask
when he is super chicken

when you push the button on the nose
it roars


5. He Has a Point

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

Chicken: And my hurting tools.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

But then Nukpana* came into my life.

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

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

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

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


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

Like I said, that's on me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Excuse me? EXCUSE ME?

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

Her: Excuse you.
.
.
.
.
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.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

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

Excuse me, I said.
Excuse you.
EXCUSE YOU.

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

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

Me: Actually, excuse YOU!

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

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

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

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

FOR REAL.
DO YOU MIND.

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

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

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

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

I MIND.

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

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

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

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

FOR REAL YOU GUYS.
I have a hair appointment.
In fifteen minutes.
And I like.
To be early.

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

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

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

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

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

THAT WAS IT.

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

No.

Nope.

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

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

Ryan better unwrap the shit out of those presents.

Merry Christmas to all.

Or rather, most.

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


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

wait

sorry

no

that was four years ago.

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

That season.

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

The advice will come later.

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

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


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


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

Come down the Rabbit Hole, my precious.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ask for help.
Accept offered help.
Fuck the dishes.
Bleach kills Norovirus.
Popsicles and saltines.
Screen time good.
This shall pass.
All the towels.
Okay to cry.
Stop crying now.
Time to bleach
Everything you own
Including your contacts
TRUE STORY THO
NOT TRUE STORY
DON'T BLEACH ANYTHING
THAT GOES IN
YOUR EYES DUDE
THAT SHIT BURNS
Also there will
Probably be some
Long-lasting side effects
To bleaching your
contact lenses. FYI.

One time, my therapist said something profound.

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

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

"But I really want to remember it."

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

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

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

Really?

REALLY?

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

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

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

Oh! She went to Harvard? TELL HER THAT BOSTON CREAM PIE IS, IN FACT, A CAKE! SAY IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET
THOSE
THIGHS


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

It helps to remember how little remembering matters, really.

Really.

Really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hope
it
was
worth
it

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

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

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

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)

Woah...

What just happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)

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

(Someone slaps Katie in the face.)