POP QUIZ HOT SHOT

your 20-month-old climbs out of his crib three times in three days
WHAT DO YOU DO
well
after you order a toddler bed from amazon that can be delivered same-day
after that
WHAT DO YOU DO



1. What's more fun than putting together a toddler bed?

A: Putting together a toddler bed that was made in China.

and delivered
in a pizza box

great

this should be pretty straightforward
wait
is this just a box of screws and wood pulp
again
goddamnit amazon

2. What's more fun than putting together a toddler bed that was made in China?

A: Putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses.


texted this pic to ryan at work
to make sure he understood
the gravity of the situation
and that i would not be doing the dishes tonight
or tomorrow



3. What's more fun than putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses?

A: Putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses, while fishing screws out of a 20-month-old's mouth.

but mom
i thought it was
a tasting menu

hmmm
the black ones are
brackish



4. What's more fun than putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses, while fishing screws out of a 20-month-old's mouth?

A: Putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses, while fishing screws out of a 20-month-old's mouth and listening to a 3-year-old ask, "Why is this wood? Why, Mommy? Mommy? Why? Why is it wood? Mommy, why is it wood? Mommy? Why? Why? Why? Why?"



5. What's more fun than putting together a toddler bed that was made in China with the only Phillips-head screwdriver that you can find in the house, which may have originally been intended for sunglasses, while fishing screws out of a 20-month-old's mouth and listening to a 3-year-old ask, "Why is this wood? Why, Mommy? Mommy? Why? Why is it wood? Mommy, why is it wood? Mommy? Why? Why? Why? Why?"

A: Anything. Anything you can imagine. Seppuku. Tunnel duty in 'Nam. Queefing in yoga class. ANYTHING.

yeah
i am

and yes
i would love a glass
of electric cabernet
thank you

oh man
you guys were so
so helpful
you deserve to watch a tv show now
a long one
a movie
no
TWO MOVIES

in the other room
while i just finish up the last little bit
no no
i've got it from here
thanks though

(this, by the way, is another thing that my children don't know i do for them:
create jobs like
"checking the space between the slats"
and "counting the screws"
so they feel
like they have contributed.)

Extra Credit: What's the punch line?

a: he sleeps in chicken's bed
When I became a parent, I realized a few things about my parents.

1. That they too (at some point early on (and at many points later on (and probably right now also))) had no fucking idea what they were doing and wondered if they had made a huge mistake.

2. That it wasn't solely a fascist power play when they called my friend's parents to confirm that I was where I said I would be, safe in a finished basement watching Dangerous Minds.

3. This is a long one. They did all this stuff when I was growing up that I assumed was just, you know, stuff they really liked to do.

Obviously, my dad took notes in the margins of the book about troubled children not because I was a compulsive shoplifter and liar, but rather because he had a deep passion for the abnormal developmental psychology.

Clearly, my mom waited in her minivan outside of the pool at 6 am on winter mornings with a bag of warm bagels and cream cheese not because I had early swim practice and very few close friends and she volunteered to carpool us with fresh bagels so I might make a friend, but rather because she treasured her minivan me-time in the winter pre-dawn, her hair curling from the humid mist of warm onion bagel steam.

When I became a parent myself, I looked back on all of those things they did and I realized that (obviously) they didn't do that stuff for themselves. They did it for me.

And when I became a parent I discovered something more. There's a secret that our parents never really share with us - there is so much more they did for me that I don't even know about because I was a kid and kids assume that when they're not in the room, their parents turn into giant mannequins and wait for the children to return so they can reanimate. Kind of like Reverse Toy Story.

But now I'm a grown-up* and a mother myself and I know some of the secret things that parents do for their kids without advertising them. And I am going to share them with you, now.

Here is a partial list of the things our children don't know we do for them:


- They don't know that we put ice cubes in their soup and oatmeal until it's safe for them to eat with their hands.

- They don't know that we read these books

the parenting manual
subtitle:
it's
so
easy
but
somehow
you
are
still
doing
it
wrong

and these books

oh
we still have this one huh
it wasn't
accidentally
incinerated
or thrown away
or buried in the backyard
or stuffed under the oven
or anything like that huh

sigh

instead of these books.

i can only assume
the brothers karamazov
meet a mischevious monkey
and a wise old owl
and learn a very important lesson
that results in
a pizza party
with many zoo animals
on a friendly farm
where a squirrel flies an airplane


- They don't know that when we dramatically overreact to a slight transgression, it's because we fear that this will be the moment that the producers of Intervention will hone in on as "where it all started." We freak out after they toss an apple core on the ground because we got a vision of the future in which they have a rat colony living in the pile of pizza boxes by their bed.

- They don't know how many times we defended them to well-meaning people who said stupid things like, "I'm sure he's a good boy, but sometimes he just has trouble acting that way," or "is he on medication for ADHD?"

- They don't know how many friends we separated from, some amiably, some unconsciously, some in the wake of shattered family heirlooms, because those friends and our children simply did not fit.

- They don't know that we will watch this movie...

sure
fine
whatever
i can black out for this
BUT NEVER THESE. They will thank us later.

no explanation needed.
oh, you need an explanation?
ok, go start an episode of caillou.
i'll wait.

thomas
said sir topham hatt
you've blown a gasket going up that hill
 you'll be out of service for quite some time
and you know what that means, don't you
you aren't a very useful engine right now
so you should probably go kill yourself
because being useful
is the only thing
worth living for
i left the gate to the cliffs of sodor open
be quick
and do not scream


- They don't know that WE SAW THEM EAT THAT SPINACH AT DINNER we just didn't want to spook them so we froze with our forks halfway to our mouths until they swallowed.

- They don't know how close we have gotten to seriously just leaving them behind, shoeless, writhing on the stairs, when it was time to go to school. So close. Had to pull the key out of the ignition close.

- They don't know we are lying when we promise that we will stay awake in the hallway all night to make sure they can sleep. But to be fair, their door is locked and that's a pretty fucked-up thing to ask someone to do for you. I'll need you to not sleep so I can sleep. Promise? PINKY SWEAR?

- They don't know how many times a day we think, "fuck it" and just stay still on the couch pretending we can't hear them burrowing into the bag of pretzels.

- They don't know that after we put them in bed with their toddler bellies full of colorful seasonal vegetables and whole grains and organic proteins, THIS, so we have the will to go on tomorrow:



- They don't know that we vote with them - only them - in mind.

- They don't know how hard we are faking it when we act super-excited for the 4-year-old's birthday party. It's going to be SOOOO FUUUUUUUN! I can't WAAAAAAIT for all the SCREEEEEAMING! We do it for you, junior. FOR YOU.

- They don't know, and they must never find out, that there is nothing they can do, no violation of the family code so egregious that it cannot be washed away with an unasked-for kiss.

- They don't know we sneak into their bedroom after they are asleep, and laugh wheezing whisper laughs at their contorted bodies. They sleep like they got roofied at acro-yoga.

- They don't know we sneak into their bedroom after they are asleep, pull up the covers to their chins, brush their hair across their foreheads, and kiss them, again.

and again
but that one is for us

Y'all knew this was coming, right?

It was only a matter of time before I, Katie, your trusted friend, wrote about poop.

I haven't wanted to dip my toe into this particular pool for reasons both obvious and even more obvious: 

1. People expect mommy bloggers to write about the following things:

1. Crafting
2. Recipes
3. Wine
4. Being Tired
5. Poop

And I like to separate myself from the pack.

2. And  if you're reading this blog you've entrusted at least 90 seconds of your day to me and my storytelling, and I'd like to honor your attention by inviting you to engage with something that isn't a turd.

3. And I wasn't born in a barn. (It was a birthing center) (for cows) (in Salt Lake) (I still love the smell of hay). I know how to start a conversation like a milkfed mammal, and most of us don't follow hello with, "so, want to know what happens when you give a 10-month-old Wendy's chili?"

4. And I know that a lot of non-parents read this blog, and have probably been dreading this very post. "The signs have begun; the day is near. No, Belaraniel, King of Nargothrond, you must not follow... she has chosen the dark. From this day, this blog shall be nonstop crap stories and anti-vaxxer rage. Godspeed, KatyKatiKate. 'Twas once a pleasure to read thee. 'Twasn't I an Elfin oracle a minute ago? 'Twhy am I now a roaming minstrel? Oh, sha-lay-lee, oh, sha-lay-loo, hi-ya-dingo-billy-bob-cray. What ho, fair maiden, won't you prithee point me toward the giant turkey drumsticks?"*


*I'm sorry.


But despite all that, the time has come to talk shit.

I am, after all, a parent. Many shits pass through my life every day, each as mysterious and fleeting as a hummingbird, if hummingbirds were caked in human waste and stuffed, still flapping, into the ass end of a Thomas pull-up.

yo
elmo
can i tell you something
about that shit-eating grin of yours?
it is super appropriate.

How many shits, you ask? Well, in the time it has taken me to write this post I have changed three shitty diapers. But to be fair, lunch and nap time might as well be renamed "Pause to Crap your Pants Time," or possibly just "Blastoff."

Parents expect to get up close and personal with poop on the regs once those big-eyed poop machines emerge on D-Day. Poop becomes a recurring theme of our days - the feet in our Tarantino movies, if you will . Most of our brushes with excrement are not worth commenting on; some are apocalyptic, some hilarious, some grotesque, but most are just another turd in the Genie.

Here, I humbly offer five moments in the life of this human litterbox.


1. Droppin Bombs on D-Day

The anesthesiologist took one look at my weathered skin and the state of my hair and thought, "this bitch lives hard. I'm bringing out the Beast." Ten seconds after he pumped an actual Big Gulp of epidural into my spine, the stabbing contractions vanished and I finally stopped barfing baked ziti and screaming MOUNT EVEREST - our password for GIVE ME THE DRUGS. I came back to the world, trembling but cracking wise, and blessing drugs, just drugs, all drugs, forever and ever, amen.

The other shoe dropped when it came time to push. My body was gone. They could have carved up my thigh to feed all the tigers in Bangkok and I would have really regretted not reading that consent form, but until I passed out from blood loss I'd have been quite comfortable.

From between my stirrups, the midwife said, "here comes a contraction. Okay, grab your legs, and puuuuuuuuuush! Go go go go go go go go go go go go! NOW, I said! It's time to push! Are you pushing?"

She looked back up at my face, probably to make sure I was awake. I was pushing all right - pushing my teeth together, pushing through the ropey veins of my neck, pushing my eyes closed tight, tight, tighter, as I searched for the muscles that I know were there an hour ago.

The next contraction came, and the midwife bellowed "NOW!"

Nothing.

Ten contractions later, the midwife stood up, sighed, and said to the nurse, "I'm going to make some tea." I was mid-push. I watched her walk to the door, pull it open, and leave. I turned to the nurse, whose jaw was hanging open. "Should I keep going?" The nurse said, "uh... let me just..." and darted out of the room.

The team regrouped. The midwife returned with a fragrant cup of orange tea in a blue stoneware mug, and the nurse took up her station at my side. We tried everything - changing positions, holding a towel, bending me in half.

With every contraction I could feel my heart race - I was a failure, I was weak. I was in deep trouble with the midwife, whose scowl had only grown more pronounced as we made small talk and she leaned back in a chair, her arms crossed, with the surly boredom of Bart Simpson in detention, watching absolutely nothing happen in or around my vagina (which, solely for the purposes of the Simpsons metaphor, we will call Edna Krabappel.)

Mrs. Krabappel held Bart Simpson hostage for three hours. The room grew silent. I gave up.

An OB arrived and recommended the vacuum. If it didn't work, she said, they'd have to take me for a c-section immediately. The room filled with people in anticipation of the surgery, each of whom seemed to have a single highly-specific job, like the human equivalents of NASA tools or manicure instruments.

"Toby, you hold the towels. Regina, you take the towels from Toby when the baby comes out, and hand one towel to Eloise. Eloise, you wrap the baby's legs in the bottom half of the towel, and Ned, you wrap the baby's torso in the top half of the same towel. Ahmed, you stand by with supplemental towels, but Ahmed, you WAIT for the password before just throwing another towel on that baby willy-nilly, you hear me? This isn't going to be another Schlessinger delivery. Towel Team, are we go for launch? Great. NEXT! Ice Chip Team, huddle up. YES, all of you."

Super-Long Surgical Clampy Scissor Team Roll Call!
Sheila, 9 and 1/16th inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
Present!
Fauntleroy, 9 and 1/8th inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
Present!
Carrie, on the 9 and 3/16ths inch dull super-long surgical clampy scissors?
Present!
I'm glad you're here, Carrie.
This could be a big one for you.
It feels like a 3/16ths night.



At the next contraction, I pushed as hard as I could so the OB could fasten the suction cup to Chicken's dome. I felt nothing. But as I pushed my little heart out, the whole room, the curved crowd of scrubbed-up onlookers, in perfect chorus, made that little, "whoops!" sound, the skippy little diphthong of a sound that can only mean "she just pooped. You guys all saw that right? She just pooped on the table. Sssshhhh guys. Be cool, be cool. Nobody act like you just saw a poop get born. Nobody act like that this woman just defecated in front of 96 strangers with Instagram accounts and camera phones."

I asked, "did I just poop?"

And the midwife, who by this time was smoking a cigar, sipping Courvoisier by the window, and shaving with a Crocodile Dundee knife, glanced over and said, "YEP."

I looked at the OB, still head-down between my legs, while a baker's dozen of PAs and nurses (The Poop Team) busily whisked away the turd before I could be embarrassed by it. Little did they know, it was the best news I would have until 10:36 pm.

"I pooped?"

The OB smiled gently at me and said, "it happens more often than not."

I said, "I pooped!" and high-fived Ryan.

At least I pushed something by myself that day.




2. Bon Appetit

Newborn poop - meconium - is bizarre, sticky, and swampy, like the stuff you'd scoop out of your drain after bathing a sea otter you rescued from an oil slick. If ever you needed proof that newborn babies aren't of this earth quite yet, just check the contents of those shorts, amigo. Their shit is extraterrestrial.

Breastmilk poop is bright yellow and comes out speckled with tiny white milk curds, and it smells like buttered popcorn. If ever you needed proof that babies are factories of goodness and delight, just check the contents of those shorts, amigo. Their shit smells like movie theater manna.

Whenever infant Buster screwed up his face, turned red, and trembled with the effort of moving his bowels, I would wait until the watery burbling sounds quieted, pick him up, and smell his warm diaper the way a South Dakotan would smell a warm baguette on her first trip to Paris - eyes closed, gulping breath after breath of the scent in ecstasy.




3. The Sixth Love Language

Chicken: (voice muffled through the bedroom door) Mommy, I pooped!

Me: (coming back into the room) You pooped?

Chicken: (his eyes downcast) I know it's nap time but... would you change my diap?

Me: Of course, babe! Come on over.

Chicken: Okay.

(I set him down on the changing table, pull down his pants, and pull out the first wipe.)

Me: Woah, nice one!

Chicken: Is there corn in it?

Me: Yep!

Chicken: Can I see?

(I show him a used wipe.)

Chicken: Oh! (giggles)

Me: Pretty silly, huh.

Chicken: Yeah, pretty silly. Mommy?

Me: Yeah, baby?

Chicken: If I poop again after this will you change me again?

Me: Yes.

Chicken: But what if it's bedtime?

Me: I will change you.

Chicken: But what if you're busy?

Me: I will always change your diaper, no matter what, no matter when, no matter what else I am doing. 

Chicken: But what if it's yucky?

Me: Any time you poop, I will change you, because I love you. People who love you will want to help you clean your yuckiest poops the most, so you can be comfortable. People who love you should love all of you. 

Chicken: Oh. Okay. But what if it's just a pee diap?

Me: Oh, no. No way, dude. Pee diaps can wait.




4. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

The other day Buster cooked up a monster, a hot beige paste with the aromatic topnotes of a month-old goat stew that has been doused with gasoline and set aflame to roast chestnuts behind the tannery.

From the other room, I smelled it. When I walked into the playroom, goggles in place and ventilator standing by, I found Buster with his back to me, standing at the train table, babbling softly as he clapped another Mega Blok on his tower. A lump in his diaper the size of a KFC biscuit cast a shadow on the ground.  Chicken lay unconscious in the corner, his foot still twitching. I dragged Chicken to an open window, looped my St. Christopher medallion around his neck, and whispered, "Mommy's got this."

I grabbed Buster, gagged, and said, "whew! We've gotta change your bottom, friend." He smiled and said, "poop cake!"

Well, he sure liked the sound of that and bounced merrily in my arms chanting "poop CAKE poop CAKE poop CAKE," as I walked down the hall - because in an emergency situation, walk, don't run.

By the time we got to the bedroom, Buster's chant had turned into an order, two syllables as imperative as GET OUT or SHUT UP or EL MO. I had a package of wipes in one hand and was shifting him to lay him on the table, but I wasn't fast enough.

Still in my arms, he plunged his hand into the back of his diaper. I gasped.

He pulled his hand back out, found it caked with poop, and said, again, "poop cake."

I keened his name, imagining cleaning under his fingernails later, imagining a day when I would ever be able to eat oatmeal again.

"Oh, nooooooooooo, Busteerrrrrrrrrrrr..."

Then he put his hand in my mouth.

I saw it coming.
I should have dropped him.
But a mother's love and blah blah blah.

He slipped his poop cake hand, warm and slick and lumpy, through my lips, and his fingers hooked my lower jaw.

I changed him.

The worst part was not trying to avoid the taste of human shit as I rinsed my mouth with hot tap water, then vinegar, then salt water, then ACT.

No. That wasn't the worst.

The worst part was flossing.

oh god
it was
productive


5. That's My Boy

As I wiped Chicken's bottom the other day, just the last wipe, just the old buff-and-polish, we made eye contact.

His eyes are stunners, enormous and brown and sparkling. I smiled. He smiled.

He whispered, "you're welcome."



If you liked this post, you might also like 5 moments in the life of a human milkshake!
this is where the magic happens
right here
in the children's motrin bottle

When I sit down to write, but have not been writing frequently, I fall back on little schmackty* tricks and cheats that probably drive you crazy if you're the kind of person who wants to set fire to the movie screen every time Brad Pitt puts something in his fucking mouth while acting.**

*schmackting = using hackneyed and uninteresting tricks to suggest the image of a performance; acting in a self-consciously actor-y way, focusing on the creation of an image of the performance rather than the telling of the story. Here, referring to leaning on lazy and cliched writer tricks to suggest the image of an insightful and engaging story; writing in a self-consciously writerly way, focusing on the creation of an image of the writer, rather than the telling of the story.

**See also: Claire Danes' chin, David Caruso's sunglasses, Meryl Streep's accent in August: Osage County, Eddie Redmayne's Stephen "Danger" Hawking: International Man of Mystery, and anyone who has ever panted while delivering an angry monologue, unless that person is delivering an angry monologue while angrily running an ultramarathon, having angry/athletic sex, or walking up a flight of stairs with a box from Amazon that YOU KNOW was there when Ryan got home and he just decided NOT to carry it up.

I'm not going to embarrass myself here with a list of MY tricks... 

(cough cough references to 90's pop culture 
cough cough bringing things full circle 
cough cough repetition of the same phrase throughout a piece in an attempt to make the voice of the piece consistent, or give structure to what would otherwise be a rambling link of nonsequitors
(cough cough, for example)
cough cough connecting an everyday occurrence to something surprising, outrageous, and visceral 
cough cough line breaks line breaks so many line breaks
cough cough go to the doctor before you bruise a rib this is ridiculous 
cough cough you sound like Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday
cough cough except not as sexy
cough cough you remember when Val Kilmer hacked up blood for 2 hours with Kurt Russell
cough cough in the 1993 MTV MovieAward-nominated film Tombstone 
cough cough OH GOD 
cough cough OH GOD NO
cough cough I'VE GONE FULL CIRCLE 
cough cough TO A 90's POP CULTURE REFERENCE 
cough cough HELP ME)

... but suffice it to say, Claire Danes' chin ain't got shit on me.

Like so many (if not all) writers, I'm just waiting for someone to ask, "how can you be a writer when you are not a good writer?" 

When I don't write often, and therefore write schmackty crap once a week, it feels like I've opened a stable for the horses of the apocalypse.

In an attempt to cut my own shit, I'm going to blog every day for a month. See if that doesn't shake loose the cobwebs and help me remember how to tell a fucking story already. 

See you every day from now until April 28, suckas.



Girls have a reputation
for talking too much
for caring about stupid shit
like dolphins
and split ends

for manipulation
for resentment
for passive aggression
for feelings, lord,
bleeding curtains of stormy feelings

for respecting women
who are not beautiful
and suspecting women
who are.

Girls get a raw deal,
I think.

Just now.
That.

Girls say
I think
rather than
This is true.

Maybe because
we think
we have to
in order to avoid being
abrasive.

Maybe because
we think
it's easier for people to smile at opinions than facts.
It's nice to make someone smile.

Girls are aware
early on
there is danger in being outweighed
there is a price for being outspoken
there is a time when it's ok to be outsmarted.

My 7th grade math teacher divided us into boys versus girls for an algebra relay race.
On the blackboard, he wrote "Boys" on one side, and on the other side, "The Weaker Sex."

That school cost
significantly more than the state university
per year.
He was joking
I think
and perhaps inviting a person
to prove him wrong.

But all the boys laughed and jumped out of toppling chairs to high-five each other
and the girls exchanged open-mouthed silences,
sitting,
frozen as a colony of shocked squirrels.

Hot-cheeked, I picked up my chair
and carried it to the door.
I placed my chair just over the threshold and sat
with my back to the class.
The teacher told me to come back inside.
I sat still.
I wasn't very good at math anyway.

Girls have a very specific set of skills.
Generally speaking,
most girls I know have a
dependable
crowd-pleasing
side dish they can bring to a dinner party,
a
sweet
soft
sinful
cookie recipe in case of afternoon company,
and a
virtuous
nourishing
salad in case there's a barbeque.

Most girls I know have an unconscious defense mechanism
when faced with a threat
or a douchebag.
Most girls I know make themselves smaller
and less
like the first Billy Goat Gruff:
"who, me? I'm just a little nothing. You don't want me, Mr. Troll."

Most girls I know have a friend who starves.
Most girls I know have a friend whose boyfriend is cheating.
Most girls I know have a friend who has been hit.
Most girls I know have a friend who has been raped.
Most girls I know would talk for hours about these things in a room of women.
But not
if men were around.
We wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Girls have to be careful
when they walk places
or answer the door
and also when they compose their emails.

My boss once told me that I could be abrasive.
He wasn't wrong
I guess.
I said, "can you give me an example of a time that my abrasiveness has impacted my work?"
and he said, "I can't think of anything right now."
I said, "I'll follow up with you on this. I would hate to think that I'm unintentionally offending 
anyone."
He said, "actually, right now is an example."

Girls don't get hungry
until they're starving.

It's awesome to watch a thin girl eat a whole pizza.
It's annoying to watch a thin girl eating a single carrot stick.
It's embarrassing to watch a big girl eat a whole pizza.
It's sad to watch a big girl eat a single carrot stick.

Girls eat vengefully.
Have you noticed this?
Girls eat salads for revenge on their shorts.
Girls eat cheeseburgers for revenge on their judgmental great-aunts.

I once gagged while eating a slab of carrot cake that I did not want
because an elderly relative had patted my leg with her dry hand
and reminded me that I'd soon need to fit into my wedding dress.
Boy,
I showed her.

Girls feel like old news
I think.
Or at least I do.
Still? Still, we're talking about 
girls
as if we don't know them?
As if the hundreds of years of dialogue
about women
just here,
just in this country,
were on some other station
and you're just now tuning in
but we've been talking about it
for
ever
and I'm tired of talking about Girls.

I'm tired of waiting outside an office
where I know someone will look at me
with an incredulous face
and say
but you can vote
and work in any job
and nobody is going to try to kill you for your family's honor
or anything like that.
For God's sake,
Miss,
what more do you want?
We're not the thought police.
We can't legislate what's in people's heads.

Just what's in their wombs, then?
Just the part that belongs only to girls?

We're not hungry until we're starving.
We don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
We're not sure how not to be abrasive.

Girls have a reputation 
for holding a grudge
for drinking Chardonnay
for feelings
bleeding curtains of stormy feelings

for snapping at their children
for sleeping their way up
for crying
for talking too much
about stupid shit
like dolphins and split ends
and babies.

Actually,
right now is an example.

My son told me yesterday
that if he were a worm
and could pick which to be
he'd rather be a girl
when he's alone
but a boy the other times.
I asked him why, and he said
"Girls are really strong 
but they always wait. 
I'd like to be strong 
like a girl. 
But it seems really hard 
to be a girl."

I've seen the girls in his class
and he's right.
They are strong.
They're organized, too. 
They have plans
and execute them
as a team.

And when the snacks come out,
they sit, exchanging silent glances 
while the boys topple their chairs.

I didn't realize 
it took only three years to learn.

He's right. 
It's really hard.


photo at the top of the blog comes from 
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers
a moving story about a Girl


Chicken: Mommy? What's married?

Me: It's when two people love each other and decide to be partners for the rest of their lives, like me and Daddy.

Chicken: Oh.

(He thinks for a second)

Chicken: Can I marry Buster?

Tears spring into my eyes as instantly as magnetic eyebrows on a Wooly Willy.

oh hey
road trips from your childhood called
they want that wooly willy back
and also the walkman with the bodyguard soundtrack in it
and also the betty & veronica double digest
and the friendship bracelet embroidery floss collection in the divided plastic case
and also
that trapper keeper
with all the drawings
of horses
and JTTs with hearts around them


Me: You want to marry Buster?

Chicken: Yeah!

Me: Because you want him to be your partner for the rest of your life?

Chicken: Yeah!

He looks over at his brother and smiles.

Six things just got added to my to-do list today:

1. Cry
2. Call my mom.
3. Call Ryan.
4. EMail Chicken and Buster's email addresses.
5. Blog.
6. Cry again.

Me: Well, you can't marry him, because he's your brother. But because he's your brother, he's already your partner for the rest of your life. 

Chicken: Brothers can be partners?

Me: Sure!

Chicken: Who else?

Me: Sisters are partners, and best friends, and mommies and daddies with their babies...

Chicken: So we are partners? You and me and Buster?

Me: Of course we are!

Chicken: Daddy too?

Me: Of course Daddy too!

Chicken: So we're all married?

Me: Well, Daddy and I are married, but we are all partners because we are a family.

Chicken: And because we are all in love with each other?

7. Cry again
Me: Yes, baby. Exactly.
As I write this, Chicken is in his bedroom, whining and wailing for Mommy. He spent the morning in the kitchen, whining and wailing for Mommy. He spent the afternoon in the play room, whining and wailing for Mommy.

mostly about this
fucking
balloon on a stick
that i have dubbed
the impulse buy
that keeps on costing

what could be the problem
with such an innocuous
seasonally-appropriate item
you ask?

Mommy its eyes are too big
Mommy its whiskers won't stay up
Mommy it's not straight on the stick
But the stick is too bent*
But the stick is too pokey**
But the stick is too long***

*that's
**what
***she said


So I decided to move the shit show to the bedroom, in the hopes that I could finish preparing the from-scratch* chicken pot pie that, in a moment in which I forgot WHO I AM and WHAT MY LIFE IS, I thought I could totally make for dinner tonight.

*yes, I made pie crust from scratch
** no, I don't have a food processor
*** yes, it took forever, and my forearms are burning
**** that's what she said.

Brady is sucking toothpaste out of the tube like it's a strawberry-and-plaster smoothie.

also
he's helping


Plus I've got this pie to make.
So I don't have time to write a long blog post which is probably better because, like so many amateur stand-up comics, I'm 4% funny and 96% whiny.

But I did just want to take a moment to tell you 5 people who I would rather be, right now:

1. Donald Trump's wife. That's why God made scotch and long-term spousal poisoning with simple household chemicals.

2. Donald Trump's side piece. That's why God made scotch and compartmentalization.

3. Donald Trump's bikini waxer, even if today is the first time he's been in since last fall.

4. Donald Trump's Mexican housekeeper, even if today is the day that she must present herself to the Donald for her weekly, mandatory speech of gratitide and wonder for everything he is and everything he has done - not just for her, but for her people.

5. Donald Trump's mom. At least she gave up on her kid long ago... I've still got to raise mine right.
Today I took the boys to Dino Day at a local museum.

I should have known, when the traffic approaching the museum was so heavy on a Saturday morning.

I should have known, when I finally made the turn into the lot and saw thirty cars in line, waiting to pay for parking, red brake lights screaming as loudly as my children, who'd been promised a Dino Day and so far had only gotten red lights and juice boxes that I wouldn't even let them drink in the car because I might not have all the answers but I know the answer when the question is "can I drink my juice box in the car."

But somehow, I convinced myself that maybe the museum was like an enchanted tent in Harry Potter, and all 5,000 of us could fit inside the building quite easily. Airily, even. We might not even see any other people. Our footsteps would echo as we pretended to do ballet in the Dino foyer.

I should have known, when I saw a line of one thousand people curving around three sides of the massive building.



I should have known when we joined the line, Buster bucking and swinging his legs less like a giddy child and more like an Argentine striker.

I should have known when Chicken pulled on my sleeve, looked up at me with his big brown eyes, and said, "Mommy? Waiting is not easy. But Dino Day is worth it."

But somehow, I remained confident that this was an outstanding idea. Once we got inside, I knew, the crowd would disperse throughout the exhibits. There would be a natural resettling of bodies. It only felt chaotic because there was nothing for us to do out here.

There were signs that seemed to confirm my optimism, quick gasps of air that brought the flames of my hope surging back to life:

- A family bailed, right in front of us, and the 5 or 6-year-old son had to be carried, sobbing, back to the car. Chicken asked, "Why is he so sad?" And I said, "Because he couldn't stay for Dino Day." Chicken said, "Oh. Are we gonna stay for Dino Day?" I said, "We're going to talk about it before we make any decisions, okay? If you get tired of waiting you just let me know. We can go play hide and seek in the field." Chicken smiled, "I can wait a little longer." Everything is going great. You're teaching him patience and self-control. You've got this.

- A museum employee walked down the line, talking and pointing up to the front of the building, then waving her hand as if to suggest that some people could just go right on ahead inside, for gosh sakes. When she got close enough, I heard her asking, "is anyone a museum member?" I called out, "if I join can I skip the line?" She smiled, "yep! You can just go straight up to the front..." I assume she trailed off once she realized that I was gone, long gone. Fuck patience and self-control. There is no membership fee too steep.

But I should have known, when we walked inside the Members Only door into the foyer, and saw the wall-to-wall, crushing, wailing, humming, tight-faced crowd. There would be no ballet here today.

I should have known, when all of the dinosaur fossils laid out on draped tables at toddler eye-and-hand level, could not be touched.

I should have known, when the paleontologist or whatever fixed his glassy stare on Chicken and grinned, a little wildly, tiny droplets of sweat literally careening off his forehead as he spoke, "SO WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE DINOSAUR LITTLE GUY?" Chicken ducked behind my legs and froze. I smiled and said, "he's a little overwhelmed. This is quite a scene." The man's face did not change at all as I spoke. He looked like a rubberized face mask of a Disney substitute teacher - nerdy, panicked, smiling for dear life. He'd gone round the bend.

I said, "oooookay, thank you," and started to back away through the crowd. He stood up and yelled at Chicken, "SO WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE DINOSAUR?" Chicken buried his face in my jeans. I called back, "it's Huayangasaurus!" He laughed, shook his head and said, "What an imagination on him, huh? Next it'll be a Cheeseburgersaurus!" I stopped backing away and said, "It's a real dinosaur." He shrugged and said, "I've never heard of it."



oh that's cute
did he draw that?
no, alan
the american museum of natural history drew that
oh really?
like the american museum of natural history and magical lasagna and unicorn boners?
no
alan
the fucking
american
museum
of
you know what
never mind

I wish I'd asked for Alan's supervisor, so Alan could have gotten a stern talking-to in an echoey back hallway.

Alan. This isn't Free First Thursdays. This is Dino Day, motherfucker. This is the SHOW. Now get your ass to the fucking library and do not come out until you have memorized all seventeen seasons of Dinosaur Train.

I should have known, when my shell-shocked children did not even try to touch the fossils that were so clearly set out at touch-level, in that hot, noisy room, as an elaborate psychological test to measure juvenile impulse control while enduring enhanced interrogation techniques.

But somehow I justified staying, just a little longer. We'd already parked, bought the membership, come inside, been accused of counterfeiting dinosaurs. We should get some fun out of this too, right? At the very least we should do that dino dig I'd heard advertised! Let's go get dirty, right? Someone hand my kids a hammer! SOMEONE LET THEM TOUCH SOMETHING.

I should have known, when Chicken asked a septuagenerienne in a snappy khaki safari vest if this was the line for the dino dig, and when she looked back at him blankly and said, "we don't have a dino dig."

I should have known, when Chicken's eyes filled with the efficiency of a graduate of the Claire Danes Academy of Dramatic Weeping.

I should have known, when Safari Barbara repeated, "we don't have a dino dig..." over Chicken's guttural sobs... and then pulled a handful of fossilized leaves out of one of her 83 pockets and showed them to Chicken, "but we do have a fossil dig!"

What the fastidious fuck, Barbara. You breakin my kid's balls over here? You breakin my kid's balls over fossils versus dinos? Come 'ere. I wanna introduce you to somebody. In the trunk of my car.

I should have known, when Buster and Chicken both fell to the ground, writhing and crawling in opposite directions, while Safari Barbara pulled a map out of another of her 83 pockets, to make sure I could follow the gripping tale of "how to get to the Pinewood Botanical Fossil Center, only seventeen hours south of the city." I should have known.

But we were already in line for the dino dig. Sorry, fossil dig. WAY TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, Safari Barbara.

I should have known, when Buster went calm and obedient.

I should have known, when I looked down and saw a bright pink pacifier, not our brand, bobbing up and down in his mouth as he sucked with vigor and relief. "Hello!" I yelled, and pulled it out of his mouth. There was only one other family within range, so I tapped the mother ahead of us on the shoulder.

She whirled around, her expression one of homicidal annoyance. Obviously. Like all of ours. I held out the binky and said, "I am so sorry... I think my son just grabbed this from your daughter and put it in his mouth." The woman, whose expression had blossomed into the kind of violent disgust you usually only see at Donald Trump rallies, said "No. My children don't use... those."

Her husband turned around, eyebrows raised, and she filled him in. "No," he said, as if it was the first time, "my children don't use... those."

I should have known, when Rip and Mitsy Frothingtwat Von Wankerbush responded to the binky in my hand as if it were a mound of pure uncut heroin, or actual Pepperidge Farms goldfish crackers.

But birds gonna fly, fish gonna swim, Katie gonna crack a joke to lighten the mood. And also, if I'm being honest with myself, to reclaim a little bit of dignity and social power.

"Well, my children use em!" I laughed, leaning in conspiratorially. "The little one loves them so much that he steals them from strangers at the museum and puts them in his mouth!"

Mitsy had already turned away from me. I can only assume that my gauche visage and the unruly countenances of my heathen litter of savages made her feel icky. Rip did not even crack a smile. He said, his voice low and serious, his head so stiffly vertical that I couldn't even find shelter in an empathetic head tilt: "that is awful."

"What?" I felt sure I'd misheard him. Or maybe when I said, "my children use pacifiers and sometimes steal them from others," he'd heard, "My children don't use car seats or vaccines."

He clarified. "That is very unsanitary."

I should have known, all along.

And at that point, I knew.

It was time to make like a dinosaur and vanish without explanation.*

*Well, not entirely without explanation.

As we walked back to the car, the boys scampered and spun through the grass and danced on a loose grate cover, delighting in the clank and rattle their own heavy steps could create. I finally busted out those juice boxes and the boys drank so deeply they gasped and coughed when they finally resurfaced.

Chicken said, "Mommy, Dino Day was pretty fun."
I said, "Oh? You thought so? What was your favorite part?"
He said, "I don't know. Not the part at the museum."

I should have known, after the nightmare of parking and the $45 membership and the hot jostle of the rooms and the untouchable artifacts and fucking Alan and fucking Safari Barb and fucking Rip and Mitsy. I should have known, after this allegedly child-centric experience that could not have been less friendly to children and families, with its tone-deaf volunteers and a glaring empty hole in the ground where there should have been something for children to fucking touch.

I should have known that the best part of Dino Day would be juice boxes, sunshine, and a loose grate upon which to dance.


I wanna write a blog post.
Sure, babe. What do you want to write about?
My clothes.
Mommy?
Mommy?
First I have to stand on the chair
Wait
Mommy
Stop typing
Please may I write?
Mommy?
I have another giant one, Mommy.
Another what?
A poop.

But I wanna write the whole thing, all the way down to the bottom of the
the
the
screen.
MOMMY STOP TYPING.
THAT'S MY JOB.
How about if you tell me what you want to say about your clothes, and I'll write it down, and then if I miss anything you can add it?
Uh... okay.
So.
My clothes.

Uh...
I don't really...
Um...

I think you missed something that I was saying, Mommy.
Read it back. Please.

I read it back to him.

Read it again.
NOW.
I mean please.

I read it again.

Can I write the rest of the letters?
Okay, but I don't want to...
I think...
I just...
want to write
myself.
Please may I type?
Okay, baby. Ready?

look
if you had
one shot
one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted
would you capture it
or just let it slip?


],luyuk,bugfbhtjvubvt     uthtgy5y5fnm gijbfvfgoigg;f;;oyrrtf          givkvltfutfufuuv8vffvfuioooooj;ujjo.lhgoklcdf,,tmmfgs,ge,gef,g,bjkkgskgseg,kedrsrbmr       8joukkyjhhykubkukuytukktyuk5tjfjjbhgg                       gfhujhtghjgytg5uy9wewuh8snEHcmygvty7lkbghjjb;b n      thjg8hhbguntcfi;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;ykhguykjiggigbboi

Uh, Chicken?
I'm writing my blog post.
Should we change your poopy diap, babe?
NOT YET I AM STILL WRITING MY LONG BLOG POST

jhgjjhtyoho        fijgyr         i8fr9iu4           er9rfri232t3yjtt8i98547b6yt58u4t5gtnfhhjfdj9769865tngfjhgfrkfrgvjvcythcdefwgmjgjh  ,jhok,h

I put a couple of numbers.
Why are there numbers?
Because I'm writing down how many clothes I have.

 nbbjnj8ugt7667677642dkerjkftjgguhfgjkffrk768950212kmlk cvvcvybnu jbkvbu hy 857
n jn,,,mbvmhb         i4fk3r6ntot878896709i0215


6576bgvjmxm,,gbhgvjjgf  vnvbgb gnghbkhgj      gm,bhkh787909-mfgfnhvjhjbvccv; vnv vb vb vbcb vx vxvxvh657554321970797867543542244778575h  g,b nfgvg.j,bgb nNot because they were legally responsible for making sure I didn't choke on my own vomit. And definitely not because they, you know, loved me or whatever.

Side note: this is not a savant-like channeling of a coherent thought in the randomness. Kid accidentally pasted something from an in-progress blog post that was still on my clipboard.


76hbnbvbhynhnbnvtgjvrntgcfhhtfgnd dgfbccfcfb5467rtg;;;;khbbggt bfgv cct4tfgdnrgbcxvdf gcswdxawfr6         v         bghrgnyjgfccgbfehdjgj6465b vgvgfgdk6555f4f78tbyfyvhrnftgfbmduu4ednxx fdn fn

Mommy
What did I write?
Will you tell me what I wrote?
What do you think you wrote?
A very long blog post about my clothes.
What does it say about your clothes?
Oh, I don't know. It's not my job to decide what it says. 

Side note: Okay... that was savant-like.

mommy?
can we do more pictures?
wait... that one's sideways... let me rotate it.
i wish you wouldn't
why not?
it's just right
Buster has decided that it's time to move into a toddler bed. More on that soon, hopefully.

He's been waking up at 4:15 am, like clockwork, for almost 2 weeks now. He isn't fussing, whining, or moaning in the way adults do when their alarms go off and they're half-snoring, half-crying to the heavens, "sweet Lord, sweet chubby Baby Jesus, please no, just please let me sleep." 

He isn't trying to bridge the gap to 1 or, if there is a merciful God in heaven, 2 or 3 more sleep cycles. He's up. He's giggling. He jumps on Chicken's bed, giggles and squeals of pure delight bubbling out from around his binky, as frothy and bottomless as if he were faking a seizure on a prison bus with Harrison Ford. I wait until Chicken starts moaning the aforementioned "sweet Lord, sweet chubby Baby Jesus" moans, and then I go in to get Buster.

4:25 am. Wheeeeeeee!

I'm tired. 
Deeply tired.

By the time we need to leave to take Chicken to school, three things have happened:
1. I've been up for four hours. 
2. I'm four coffees deep. 
3. I'm googling, "8 am fettuccine alfredo delivery Seattle."

By the time we get home from dropping Chicken off at school, three things have happened:
1. Buster has fallen asleep in the car. How convenient. I would wake him up out of spite, but I want him to sleep so I can eat a loaf of bread standing up in the kitchen, with only the crackle of the crust and the wet smacking of my jaws to disturb the silence.
2. I've accepted, begrudgingly, that nobody has opened a 24-hour pasta delivery service since yesterday, but I did get that loaf of bread tho.
3. I've accepted that I will spend the rest of the day not doing the things I need to do, and then hating myself for not getting anything done. 

By the time it's actually lunch time, I've been awake for 8 hours. Three things have happened:
1. Nothing, on the laundry front. Fuck it.
2. Nothing, on the cooking front. Fuck it.
3. Nothing, on the writing front. Fuck it. 

But I have gotten another coffee. Just to get me through.

By the time I get the boys down for afternoon quiet time, three things have happened.
1. I've been up for 11 hours.
2. The kitchen is full of bread crumbs and the oatmeal bowls from breakfast that I managed to run some water in, but have gone no further because what am I, Superman?
3. I've made a list of things I want to get done today. 

Sample list:

does anyone else think it's hilarious
that i was like
"i can definitely handle
a post office experience.
i'm going to write it down
and that way i'll have to go!"
or
i could just
not
and throw this paper
in the garbage
or rather
in the full paper bag
that is sitting on top
of
the garbage can
that is also
full

4:15 am, you guys. It's kryptonite.

When B isn't pulling kryptonite on me, I feel like Superman, so used to handling my shit and everyone else's that I take it for granted, and then put on my glasses and say, "who, me? Shucks, I'm just a regular person, like all y'all." I feel like all of my friends are this person, too - miraculously capable, but undercover about it.

Right now I feel like Superman the day he woke up and was like, "I'm faster than a locomotive!" And his toddler was like, "not today, motherfucker." And Superman got flattened by that locomotive. And his toddler was like, "check the score board, Kal-El." 

At least, as a parent of almost four years, I am able to recognize that this sleepless kryptonite is miserable but temporary. It will not be like this forever. It will not be like this forever. It will not be like this forever. 

I haven't been writing because usually what I do is:

1. I watch my kids.
2. I write down the hilarious/insightful/interesting shit they say and do.
3. I think about it for awhile.
4. Something pops into my head. "That reminds me of..." or "What could that mean..."
5. I write a blog post about it. It takes a couple of hours, and then I read it aloud, and then I spend another half an hour or so making sure it's pretty much what I want, and then I publish it. It's a blog. Part of the beauty of it is that it doesn't have to be polished.

But with this kryptonite, this exhaustion as invisible and unwavering as gravity, what I do is:

1. I sit on the couch.
2. My kids play nicely until they don't, at which point I separate them and return to the couch.
3. I check my phone.
4. I think, "I haven't blogged in awhile. But I can't think of anything to write about. Maybe I'm a fraud. Maybe I'm a hack. Maybe I'm weak-willed and phoney. Holden Caulfield would hate my guts. Is there a blog post in this? No. Nobody cares what Holden Caulfield would think of you. Ya big phoney."
5. I yawn.

It's not the my children become less interesting; it's that I cannot see or hear them. It's not that the laundry has grown; it's that I spend my time quietly measuring the items that need washing, rather than heaping them into the machine in brisk, colorized handfuls.

Tired is kryptonite. Your sharp vision is blurry. Your kindness grows thorns because it takes so much less work to be prickly. The things that you can normally do are beyond you. People turn to you for help and you have to say, "I can't. I'm weak right now. I'm hurting. I can barely keep my head above water for long enough to steal a breath before I go under again, where it's muffled and dim."

Fun fact about kryptonite: The reason Superman is super on Earth is not because he's endowed with divinity - Krypton is much larger than Earth, and has a greater gravitational pull. Superman is super because he's got a drag suit and ankle weights in his DNA.

The reason we're normally capable isn't because we're gods. We've simply chosen a life that gives us a drag suit and ankle weights, every day, forever. I always tell new moms that babies don't get easier but parents get harder. We're operational athletes, so accustomed to the hurdles and exertion and actual physical pain of parenting that it feels strange to go to the grocery store without at least one baby in your cart or on your chest. You check your handbag. I feel like something's missing. I'm too light. 

We find ways to make it work, to be the person we need to be for our families, for our colleagues, for our friends and parents.

We rise and work the whole day until we fall into bed and then get out of bed because we forgot to pack Chicken's lunch for tomorrow and while we're up we might as well wipe down the cabinet fronts because the kids were flinging oatmeal this morning which - okay - was what it was, but we had to put a stop to that once Chicken crowed, "I'm flunging!" and we were like, "baby, it's flinging." And he was like, "No, I'm flunging," and we were like, "THAT IS NOT GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT," so at 9:45 pm we're picking dried oatmeal off the cabinets and googling "flunging" to see if it's a word because Chicken seemed real sure, but no, it's not, SUCK IT, and now the sandwich is made (no mayo, no mustard, just ketchup) and the strawberries are sliced (circles, not wedges) and the little fox ice pack is nestled next to the yogurt, and then we really fall into bed and that's when we start thinking about all the shit we didn't get done today and it's only a matter of time before we fall asleep and our last conscious thoughts are, "I wish I were better."

And then Buster starts waking up at 4:15 am.

The center cannot hold, you know? Not when kryptonite is on the table.

The first thing to go is patience for your spouse. I say hi, and Ryan's like, "what is that supposed to mean?" And I'm like, "what are you hiding?" And he's like, "why don't you trust me?" And I'm like, "I can't talk about this right now." And he's like, "fine." #soulmates

Then you stop listening to your children. Chicken asked me if cars could fly and I said, "sure, baby," and he got so excited that I tuned back into the conversation and said, "wait, what did you just ask me?" And he asked me again, with eyes shining so bright they could blind commuters at the right angle, and I said, "oh. No. Nope. No way. Sorry, baby. I... misunderstood the question. But, uh... airplanes are kind of like flying cars. They have wheels... and stuff."

Then the house work goes to the dogs. Actually, I wish to the dogs. My floor would be way cleaner if I had a pack of dogs hanging out. I could put one on the counter. And one in the bathtub. If I smeared my whole house with BBQ sauce my shit would be dinner party-ready.

Then you start to resent everyone who needs from you.

Then you eat a lot of crap and drink too much coffee and cry listening to a song about forgiveness.

Then, someday, the baby starts to sleep later. Maybe one morning it's 5 am. Maybe, oh ecstasy, it's 5:30.

You start popping the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher before you head out.
You start texting your spouse again. You say hi, and he says, "hey," with a smiley face.
You reach out to a friend with a new baby and ask if she needs dinner tonight. You're making ziti and it's really no trouble to double the recipe. Not today, it's not.
You look at your child and see, for the first time, the mole that has appeared on the back of his hand.
You think about it for awhile.


I'm not there yet - Buster is still the locomotive dragging our powerless lives through the mud. But it will not be like this forever. It will not be like this forever. It will not be like this forever.

Someday I will write a blog post that doesn't read like four different blog posts that I quilted together with hasty segues and a half-baked metaphor. But it's 9:02 pm and that means it's 2 minutes past my bedtime.

OH! Real quick before I go, I wanted to share this parenthetically related piece of inspiration for anyone who is being pressed flat by the exponential gravitational pull of kryptonite today. A coda, if you will.

Last night, as I was tucking Chicken in for bed:

Me: I love you, baby.
Him: Me too. I mean, you too. I mean, I love you.
Me: Thank you, baby. That's nice.
Him: Thank you, Mommy.
Me: For what?
Him: Just for everything.

I'm going to assume that he didn't settle on the vaguest possible response to my question because he was merely repeating what I said and panicked when I called him out, like a middle schooler who answers "the seeds of democracy" to any question the history teacher could possibly ask.

I'm going to assume that by "just for everything," he meant, "I see how hard your job is, and how long your hours are, and how you put your heart into giving our family more than just what it needs to survive. I see how you take a deep breath and say, 'okay!' when I ask if we can go to the Children's Museum today. I know you don't feel like it. I know you do things that you don't want to do, all day long, every day. I know that everything - EVERYTHING - is more work than it should be. I know you don't pick your head up to think about how many steps go into a simple operation like "bath" or "getting from the car to the front door of the school," because if you picked your head up and thought about all those steps you wouldn't be able to do anything at all but surrender. Thank you, for somehow doing everything. I love you. I'm not going to murder anyone when I get older."
Walking, talking, yadda yadda yadda... my three favorite developmental milestones are:

1. When baby learns how to stuff his own binky back in his mouth.

2. The magic moment when baby stops wanting to plunge his hand wrist-deep into his own shit during a diaper change.

3. The blessed miracle of baby understanding that he can cover his own eyes with his own hands if the sun is shining on his face.

___

If you do not think, "oh, for fuck's sake," at least four times a day, then your children are not sufficiently challenging and you need to come hang out at my house.

___

Anytime you hear Fun's "Carry On," I want you to imagine me fist-pumping a Starbucks cup in the pasta aisle at Safeway.

___

I went shopping to buy a dress to wear for a fancy party
and I realized
I don't look like 
what I thought I looked like.

___

To whomever put a to-go container of salsa in the butter compartment in the door of the fridge,

Thanks. 



Because what I really needed in my life was more fucking spatter. 

No, really. I needed some more food, liquid food, dropped on the floor to produce a spatter, because if there's anything worse than murdering your family, it's having the CSI guys be, like, bored by your crime scene. 

This salsa spatter... it's gonna stump em. At least until the lab gets those results back. And then McMurtry will be like, "I told you it was salsa, Rick-o. Someone probably put one of those to-go containers in the butter compartment in the door and it fell out. Right before the murdering started," and then Pantalonsky will be like, "Freddy, nobody is dumb enough to put salsa in the butter compartment. That shit will fall out for sure. Seriously, nobody would do that." And then McMurtry will put on his sunglasses and say, "Nobody alive, that's for sure."

Love,
Katie
___


I think it says a lot about your strength of character when you get dressed on a day that your kid is sick and you know for a fact that you will only be breathing air that smells like your own sloughed-off skin cells and viral plague for the next 24 hours. 

Did you put on pants with a button? Honey! Good for you! You got on the board! 

Did you put on a black or otherwise dark-colored shirt? You must like it dirty. And I mean dirty. Because by the end of the day you will know exactly where, on your body, your sick baby wiped his oozing face. And it will be EVERYWHERE. It will look like you were molested by a battalion of horny slugs. Or pelted with tiny snowballs made of Vaseline. But that's how you like it, right?

___

Me, every time I have to get my kids in the car:



TGIF everybody!
Chicken took a book from one of his classmates today - one that has a real clock face with a silly squiggly mouth, two wide oval eyes, and hands you can spin around. Honestly, it's a pretty sick book. It's a page-turner. It's the toddler's Da Vinci Code.

The other kid - we'll call him Edward - had been deeply invested in pushing the spinning hands round and round, when Chicken pulled the slick hardback from his lap. Edward grabbed it back. Chicken pulled harder. Edward pulled harder, too. Then Edward bit Chicken on the chest.

His teacher came down the hall toward me with a guilt-stricken face, and Chicken on her hip, draped over her shoulder, an ice pack pressed to his Star Wars tee shirt, right on Darth Vader's helmet.

She said, "he got bitten." The last word fell from her mouth in barely a whisper.

I didn't respond.

She said again, "another child bit him." Again, she swallowed the word "bit," the way you do when you say "what the fuck" in front of your kid.

Chicken picked his head up and began to sob again, the rhythmic heaves that sound like they're being summoned from the earth's cracked core, no-fucking-around crying, the way adults cry alone in the car, parked at the back of the Safeway parking lot, at night, listening to Adele, eating a baguette. The way I wish I could cry anymore. Chicken leaned into my arms and the teacher handed me his heaving body.

I said, "oh... bummer."

The teacher looked at me, puzzled, and said, "you can kind of see some... blood... so I need you to sign this form..."

I felt like the teacher was waiting for me to pick up a folding chair and heave it through the window, or bite the head off the biter's pet kitten and say "that's Old Testament, motherfucker," or at the very least hold up a finger, begin recording on my iPhone, and then say, very clearly, "Now please tell me again, in your own words, exactly what happened to my son."

Sure, I was a little mad, madder when I got home and actually saw the wound. I say wound, because that shit is a WOUND. You can see the little crevice of each tooth, the way Edward's top teeth and bottom teeth pinched a narrow band of Chicken's pink chest together until it raised and turned white, a little slip of an ivory island jutting out of an angry red river.



But even now, as I begin to tell friends and even send out a picture, and my tribe is sending back all the "hell to the nos" and "what the fucks" and "get that motherfuckers" that a Tarantino protagonist could want, I'm... not really mad.

My feelings about this incident are, shockingly, as nobody could have predicted, in a manner that in no way characterizes literally everything about the way I luxuriate in my own perspective, more complex than that. I know! You're super surprised and so excited to read 2,000 words on how I feel about biting, and yet how I feel about so much more than biting.

In the car on the way home, Chicken pointed to a pair of tied-together sneakers, slung over a power line, kicking in the wind. "Look!" he said, a grin lighting up his face even as tears still brimmed in his eyes.

Then he looked down at his shirt, remembered what had happened, and began to cry again.

I suspect it is not the bruised and punctured skin that hurts so much as the sudden understanding of what a person could do to him. This is Chicken's first brush with acute, intentional violence. He's been hit and pushed - it's not called a jungle gym because it encourages diplomatic conversation - but always in the casual, thoughtless way that children do when they need to get to the monkey bars and there happens to be another warm body in the way. This was different, as intimate as a stabbing, or a kiss. Or, really, both.

Until now, he's lived among other kids the way the Grizzly Man lived among wild bears, with confidence born of innocence, with the naive certainty that we're all the same. Those bears remind me of security guards at a gated community. They look so lazy, don't they? So bored, round, and harmless. In a second, that can change. One step too close and a bear's mass loses all its cartoonish friendliness; one nip and you bleed. One wound, and the world you thought was always padded and patiently mediated turns out to be a really fucking scary hurt locker. That shit leaves a scar.

Today Chicken learned that a person can draw his blood for a small reason, or no reason. A person can open his body. A person can take from him, his skin, his certainty.

It feels like the end of the beginning.

___

I went on a school hike with ten or so other kids in 7th grade. Midway up the mountain, our little band felt bonded, even though some of us were giant-glasses-wearing dorks and some were sleek-ponytailed celebrities. I found myself talking with people whose entire wardrobes I'd memorized from afar. It was heady and I grinned as we slogged up the trail. Maybe we'd stay friends? Even off the mountain?

Some of the boys started teasing another boy about his girlfriend, who had just broken up with him. He laughed - it was all in good fun, and this was a 7th grade relationship, so even if his heart had been broken he would never have admitted it. One of the guys said, "I heard she's going to homecoming with a freshman." Everyone said, "oooooooooh," and laughed, including the boy. I remember seeing his back shake with laughter; he was right in front of me. Drunk on camaraderie, I raised my voice and chimed in, "I heard she's going with Josh." Josh wasn't just a freshman, but a hot freshman who was seriously probably going to start varsity lacrosse. Everyone laughed even louder. I felt like a lottery winner.

Then the boy stopped, turned around, grabbed my shoulders and screamed in my face, "Shut up! Shut up! I want to kill you!"

The teacher ran back to see what the problem was. I folded my lips together so they wouldn't shake. Everyone stood silently until the boy's friend said, "Nah, everything's ok, we were just joking." The teacher looked at me and said, reluctantly (he was so not interested in our drama) "are you okay?" I nodded.

The group filed back into a single line. I waited till the end, till their voices rumbled and their giggles chirped back toward me. It felt like the safest place to be.

___


Last weekend Chicken found my hair dryer under the sink.

"This is my gun. I use it to kill people." He pointed the barrel at Buster and said "bang, bang."

Damn it, I knew the Star Wars board book was a mistake.
Damn you, Han Solo.
Damn your awesome blaster.

I said, "I do not like that game," and took the hair dryer back, winding the cord around the plastic handle and placing it high up on a shelf in a locked closet, next to the bottle of baby Motrin.

Chicken stomped his foot. "But that's my gun."

I said, "I heard you," playing for time.

It was one of those schizophrenic parenting moments, when you have to choose which screaming parenting voice in your head to listen to, in a split second. Do I talk about gun safety? Do I accept that violent play is as natural and indeed important for toddlers as sexual curiosity or an obsession with fire trucks? Do I say that guns aren't for playing with even though we all know that my hair dryer isn't really a gun and he will probably just go find something else gun-shaped to pretend to kill people with?

guns don't kill people
singing teapots do


Do I change the subject? Do I tag Ryan in?

I called out, "Ryan? Chicken has some questions about gun safety for you."

Then I said I had to use the bathroom, but I sat on the edge of the bathtub and listened to Ryan's voice rumble, Chicken's chirp, through the wall.

The first and most important rule of gun safety is that you never, ever point a gun at a person.
Why, daddy?
Because a gun is a weapon, a very dangerous weapon, and you could hurt or kill a person.
Oh! Okay.

It felt like the beginning of grief. It felt like time to pack up the cotton-stuffed "Pat the Bunny" books. It felt anachronistic to ask Chicken to use his long fingers to pat the bunny, to use the lips that said, "bang, bang," to kiss the palm-sized rabbit on a ribbon good-night.

___


A few weeks ago I overheard just a snippet of a conversation between two mothers. One spoke to the other from a place of benevolent wisdom, as her daughter was, at least, six months older than the other child.

"It's a big decision to make, there are so many parenting philosophies out there, you know? But to me, it just boils down to a single question: whether or not you believe that children are innocent and sweet when left to their own devices. I do not believe that."

I stopped in my tracks, pulled out my phone, and texted the line, word for word, to myself.

What a surprising thing to say.

It was an odd "single question" to boil down to, in my mind. I don't think that any deep relationship can be boiled down to any single question, but if I had to streamline my parenting philosophy so it could fit on a scrap of paper to slip into a fortune cookie, it wouldn't be, "I do not believe children are innocent and sweet when left to their own devices." (in bed) (haha)

After I suppressed my knee-jerk reaction to tear this statement apart, I settled in to give it good thorough consideration and found that I actually agree, a little bit. I don't think children are sweet when left to their own devices, at least not all the time. But I think the parts of them that aren't sweet are the same parts that are innocent.

It's the child's inexperience with the humiliation that leads him to say, out loud, "why is that fat guy in a wheelchair?" It is the child's precious ignorance of human rage that allows him to overturn a plate of homemade baked ziti, and then look you in the eye and say, "you clean it up. Now." It is the child's unmalicious irritation at having his book stolen that bares his teeth.

No, not sweet.
But yes, innocent.

When I have the chance to watch my child be sweet, there is a part of me that sings and a part that folds my lips together so they won't shake. If he's learned to be sweet, he's lost something pure. If he's learned to be kind, it cost him.

Sweetness is a consequence, the result of being hurt, losing some of your innocence, and understanding your own ability to hurt, and your desire not to.

Bitterness, too, is the result of being hurt, losing some of your innocence, and understanding your own ability to hurt. And your desire to.

Sweetness is so nearly bitterness. They live on the very same tongue.

___


Chicken and Buster are watching a movie in my bed while I finish this blog post. I had no idea how I was going to end it. Then Chicken rolled over, snuggled into his brother's side, and began to sing:

"I love you,
oh, I love you.
I love you so much
that I want to wrap you up
in a blanket
and throw you in the trash
you little Stumpy."

He caught me listening and stopped, grinning and half-hiding behind his hands.

"What was that song, baby?"

"Oh, just a song for my brother."

"What's it called?"

"It's called, 'I Won't Bite You Probably.'"


... and, scene.