Me: Hey mom! We got your package...

Mom: Oh good! Did you see the Halloween plates? Were they too spooky?

Me: No, no, they were perfect. The kids love them. And thank you so much for the cards.

Mom: Of course, honey.

Me: And the books...

Mom: That Daniel Tiger Halloween book was your sister's idea.

Me: Chicken already loves it, of course. But... do you know the one he really can't put down?

Mom: Which one?

Me: No More Ee-Ooohr?



Mom: Which one is that?

Me: It's the... uh... the one about the donkey?

Mom: Oh isn't that funny? Your Aunt found that at the Goodwill! I thought the illustrations were so great.

Me: Yeah, no, the pictures are cool.

(beat)

Me: Um... did you read it?

Mom: No, why?



seriously
just
just try to read that line
aloud
to your child


making children's books
great
again





It is one of those nights when I sat down to write and had nothing to say. I put my fingers on the keys and the words that came to mind were

Wait, did you clean out the car?

So in the spirit of WRITING, rather than editing, I'll tell you about cleaning out my car, or, as I have come to fondly call it, purging the crapwagon.

I joke that it looks like I live in my car. But a lot of people make that joke.

You know what just dills my pickle?

You know what just tickles my giblets?

When I climb into some leather-smelling sedan completely devoid of dust on the dashboard, and my friend pulls a single copy of The New Yorker off the passenger seat and she's like, "Oh my gosh I'm sorry my car is just DISGUSTING... I basically live in here," and then she gets all flustered because a New Yorker subscription postcard fluttered onto the cup holders and she's like "Aaaaah I'm sorry! I'm such a mess!"

And then I sneak a peek in the cup holder after she grabs the postcard, and the cup holder doesn't even have a sticky paste in the bottom of it or even a single penny cemented in the sticky paste so Abraham Lincoln looks like Han Solo trapped in carbonite, like screaming HELP ME from the bottom of the cup holder. And there's not even any sand in there, or even a single scone crumb.

Her cup holder looks like a cup holder in a brain surgery theater. Like it might have been boiled recently and then buffed dry with a sunglasses cleaning cloth.

But she says, "It looks like I LIVE in here!" And I smile and laugh and keep up my end of the script: "Are you kidding? Your car is spotless! You should see mine!" I keep it light, but as I stretch my legs out into the vast emptiness of the passenger seat leg area, I think, you will never, ever ride in my car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that there's a toothbrush in the cup holder and we've run out of TP in the backseat. I mean that my car carries an assortment of footwear appropriate for any activity in any season, swimming in the object stew through which my children must wade daily as they climb in and out of their car seats.

Tonight as I cleaned out the car I pulled out three pairs of flip flops in varying sizes. In Chicken's size, I also pulled out a right-foot rain boot, a right-foot hiking boot, a right-foot light-up sneaker, and one of those muscular sandals that river guides wear. Also right foot. (He likes to take off his right shoe so he can roll his window down with his toes. Because he is living his best life.)

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that I once was inspired by a Real Simple magazine in line at the grocery store and attempted to install organizational objects to "tame the chaos and clutter" in my car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that my car has a storage system that has already completed its storage system life cycle: Adopted, implemented, and immediately abandoned.

There are like 2 pieces of mail in the designated box for mail, and a single Larabar wrapper in the "mobile trash bin." Everything else is in the aforementioned object stew, chiropractic invoices crusted with toddler boot prints, unopened thank-you notes as browned and wrinkled as the top of a pumpkin pie.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that I have a tortilla warmer in my car. Not, like, out, because how often do you really need the tortilla warmer? And our counter space is pretty limited. But yeah, we have one in storage. On hand. For when we need it. In the car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that the dirty laundry to clean laundry ratio in my car (when I am sitting in the car wearing clean clothes) is consistent with the dirty laundry to clean laundry ratio in my house (when I am sitting in the house wearing clean clothes.)

I'm saying that, in my car, I put my coffee cup on top of a stack of mail that I will NEVER EVER READ but I also feel like maybe I'll have time to read someday and there might be something in there that's super useful. I'm talking about 6 months of Consumer Reports. I'm talking Costco Connection.

I'm saying that I'm thankful every single day that I climb into my car and do not find it infested with ants, mice, or the portly-bordering-on-spherical squirrels who roll around the picnic grounds at Green Lake. There's plenty to sustain the vermin on the floor mats alone - peanut butter crackers, raisins, dried out hunks of cheese browning at the corners, whole, leathery tortillas that were once pillowy warm. #callbacktothetortillawarmer #didntnailit

I'm saying that there have been ill-advised attempts to decorate the car with festive seasonal touches and the Christmas light window clings didn't come down until March. And when I say "come down" I mean "fall down into the object soup and immediately become encrusted with long, spidery head hairs still brandishing their white nubby follicles, sand, and cracker crumbs."

It's a natural phenomenon, actually, the velocity with which my car hurtles toward entropy after I attempt to restore order.

I wake up on the day after I take three bags of trash and six bags of clothes, books, toys, "art" (and I need to have a chat with Teacher June about our definition of "art" because that piece of construction paper with a single blue marker dot in the corner? You don't need to put that in our cubby, Miss June. You can just make it disappear. Because another unbelievable property of "the car" is that once an object crosses the threshold of the car, it becomes a priceless treasure slash The One Ring and cannot be discarded or destroyed without first undertaking to smuggle it unseen beneath the great lidless eye of Lord Chicken, and I'm not a Hobbit except at elevensies and ain't nobody got time for that rigamarole just to throw away a single blue dot "drawing" that Chicken probably didn't even do on purpose and gave no fucks about before it came into the car.) I wake up that morning and drive thru Starbucks and buy a single coffee and I blink and the CAR IS FULL OF CRAP AGAIN.

I have to make the choice, daily, of whether to go inside and take off my shoes and watch Transparent, or clean out all the shit in the car before I do that other fun good better stuff.

I think you know what choice I make. At least, Abraham Lincoln does.



Okay.

That's all I have to say about cleaning out the car.

Good night.
This poem is explicit. 

Anyone who does not want to read about explicit, threatening scenarios should not read it. 

Mom and Dad, I'm talking to you.

okay



Let me just ask you this.

Have you ever been touched
without your permission?

By your arm?
By a friendly grandpa type?
By your back?
By a Greenpeace volunteer?
(They don't touch everyone, you know.
They don't touch my husband.)

Have you ever looked
across a coffee shop
and met the eyes
of a panting man
watching you?

Have you ever had to weigh
that if you turned and walked away
he'd keep going,
anyway?

Have you ever stood your ground
because
fuck you
because
look at my face?
Because you wanted to be able
to see him?

Have you ever wished for a coat?

Have you ever hated yourself
for the clothes you chose?
Have you ever thought
what did you expect would happen?

Have you ever laughed,
and kissed a man's cheek
when he appeared out of nowhere
three blocks from home
and said
"Let me walk you,
you're beautiful,
let me walk you.
Are you close?
I'll walk you.
What's your name."

Have you ever laughed and refused,
laughed and refused,
laughed as he walked with you anyway
laughed as you thought
where can I go
laughed until you let him spank you,
lightly,
good-bye?

Have you ever been saved
by your willingness
to bend over?

Have you ever realized
how often laughing works?

Have you ever laughed
and understood immediately
that this one does not like
to be laughed at?

Have you ever been saved?

Have you ever had to thank a stranger
for pulling you away
from a stranger
when he saw your blank face
the picture of animal panic
when your back was on the wall?

Have you ever hated the man who helped you
because it was just
just
just
humiliating
that you had a hero?
To thank?
For what?
Nothing happened.
You just
got pushed into a wall
for a minute
or two.

Have you ever
hugged someone tight
like a boxer does?
Have you ever pressed yourself against
the person who wants
to take you?
Have you ever waited out the clock?

Have you ever been saved
when a stranger realized
that someone else already had dibs
on you?

Have you ever heard
one man
apologize
to another
for nearly taking you?

Because he didn't realize
you
were
his?

Sorry, man.
I didn't know
she was yours.

Have you ever tried to speak
after being saved
like that?

Have you ever found your jaw
tight as a tomb
after being saved
like that?

Have you ever seen them perfect their signals
like a pitcher and a catcher?
Have you ever seen them lob the ball
with underhanded grace?

Have you ever been
the ball?

"Aren't you happy to see my friend?
Don't you want to say hello?
Show him how you say hello.
She's the best."

Have you ever had the sense
that there was already a plan
for your evening?

And that it would be best
to get okay with it?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a wink
a nod
over your head
when you smiled
and hugged the man
you were supposed to hug?

When he hugged you high
and low
testing all the edges of your  soft,
round parts
just to see
if you had
a line?

Have you ever played along?

Have you ever smiled
at someone who scares you?

Have you ever
gone quiet
and chosen to permit
what was going to happen?

Have you ever pretended
you love to give blow jobs
because you wanted to leave
unfucked?

Have you ever let your boyfriend
take pictures of you
and found out
years later
that everyone
(everyone)
saw them?

Have you ever been surprised
like that?
Years later,
engaged,
catching up
with an old friend?

Have you ever been
so unsurprised?

Have you ever thought
well what did you think would happen?

Have you ever gone blank?
Have you ever thrown little pebbles
at the advancing tank?

Wait
Wait
Wait wait wait wait wait 
WAIT

Have you ever been told
to consent?

Have you ever gone toe-to-toe
on a summer afternoon
at a cafe table full of crosstalking smart young people like you
people you've just met and like,
making some pretty good points
actually,
making everyone laugh
until the man you were arguing with
told you to shut up and put your tits away?

Have you ever shut up
and covered
what wasn't uncovered?
Have you ever taken a slap
like that?
Quietly?

Have you ever been saved
from that silent table?

Have you ever had to thank
the person who saved you?

A person whose friends they were?
A person you've loved since childhood
who saved you?

Have you ever said thank you?

Or do you just
get
too
mad?
Long time no see y'all! 

I promise I haven't been on a rage bender, pounding Fireball and seeking out hipsters with suspenders that need snapping. I've been busy - back to school for Chicken means a massive schedule transition for our whole family and damn if I haven't had to spend at least 50% of my weekly blog time pre-washing and cutting fruit for grab and go snacks. THESE KIDS EAT A LOT OF FRUIT OKAY.

But now, without further ado, a blog post.


5 Moments in a Monday Afternoon


1.

I asked him if he needed to pee before we got in the car. Traffic's heavy, I said. It might take longer than usual to get where we're going, I said. We won't have time to stop for a bathroom once we're on the road, I said.

Nah, he said. I'm good.

Everyone in the world saw the punchline coming, including me, but I was the person about to get punched, the person whose hope transcends her trust in physics.

Sure enough, 5 minutes in the car, brake lights ahead as far as the eye could see, Chicken whispered, "I have to go potty."

"No, you don't." I said it matter-of-factly, in the hopes that he was testing my mettle rather than legitimately about to piss in the car seat.

"I REALLY HAVE TO GO POTTY." His voice was a squeak, so I knew he was really clenching.

Luckily, we happened to be only 2 blocks from our house, which we had to pass to get on the highway. I pulled into the driveway, left the motor running, dashed around to Chicken's door, unclipped him, pointed to the bushes in the front yard, and said, "OK, go."

He looked at me, his eyes full of wonder. Front yard peeing is like kettle corn for breakfast - strictly a Daddy activity. "GO," I said again.

He scampered out of the car and into the bushes, where he lay his cheek against the splintery fence and sighed the sigh of a cat who has found the spot in the sun. He stood. I stood. The car ran. Buster ate popcorn. "Almost done?" I asked.

He smiled vacantly at me. You're not peeing at all, are you? I narrowed my eyes and took one step toward him to clip him back in - we were definitely going to be late to his 4 o'clock now - and he scampered out of the bushes waving a flat hand at me calling, "Wait wait wait wait! I've got the perfect spot!"

Down the gravel path toward the backyard he ran, and when he got to the fence he stopped and pulled down his pants again. "FINE," I called, "GREAT SPOT, CHICKEN. GO." I stood there and watched him.

His thin voice called back, "I need privacy Mommy. I'm all blocked up." I turned around, counted to four, and turned back. He was peeing on the gas meter.

"OK, great pee, hop in the car." He put his hands on his pants, but instead of pulling them up, he yanked them down to his knees. What in the name of Sir Ian McKellen...

"Mommy, I have to poop!" He squatted in the gravel.

"WAIT!" I screamed. Peeing in gravel is one thing; mother nature will take care of the clean up on that one for me. But taking a dump in a chunky pebble walkway was QUITE another proposition. He was already grunting, and I looked around frantically for a receptacle. PERFECT. A plastic bucket full of rainwater and pinecones. I dumped it out and put it under his butt.

"OK, go for it."

It should be said at this point that the car was still running, in the driveway, my door and the rear passenger-side door standing open, Fox News Radio on blast so I could broaden my perspective as I watched my son take a dump in a bucket, 10 yards from a working bathroom.

Hindsight is 20/20, okay?

"This isn't working, Mommy."

"What's wrong?" Even as I asked I could see the problem. The bucket was a little too high, and he couldn't really squat for maximal turd delivery without bumping into the rim and losing his balance.

Luckily, our trusty Little Red Wagon sat in the path mere feet away from our all-American family photo op. I pulled the wagon over, and after a few trial-and-error attempts to position my son's asshole directly over a bucket, we both kind of realized that hey, if he'd had to shit that bad, he'd have done it already.

So we got in the car and drove to the appointment.

We left the bucket where it lay.

For next time.


2.

The whole thirty-minute drive home from the 4 o'clock appointment, Buster sat directly in the line of fire from the scorching rays of the Seattle October sun.

First, he screamed, "Too bright! Too bright!"

I handed him a book. "Here, put this over your face."

He spiked the book back at me and kept writhing and screaming.

"Do you want my scarf to put over your eyes?"

"OK."

I handed him my scarf.

"NOT THIS SCARF!"

"This is the only scarf I have."

"I NEED ANOTHER SCARF!"

"Well... gosh. I don't have another one. Use that one."

"NO!"

"Or you could use the book."

"NO!"

"Or you could cover your eyes with your hands."

"NO!"

"What do you want to do."

"I WANT YOU TO TURN OFF THE SUN."

I clapped my hands twice, said, "Bippity boppity BOO! Alright, Buster. I have just turned off the sun."

Buster stopped crying.

"Thank you Mommy."

Chicken peered out the window. "Huh!" He said, like a fella who just spotted a menorah in the new neighbor's window. "So that's what it looks like when the sun's off. Still pretty sunny, I guess. But... you said the sun's off, so..." I winked at him in the rear view mirror.

Buster rode the rest of the way home smiling as he squinted in the bright, bright sun.



3.

Actual conversation at dinner:

Chicken: I can't eat with this spoon.

Me: What's wrong?

Chicken: It's too wet.

Me: You're eating soup.

Chicken: I know. The soup keeps slipping off the wet spoon. I need a dry spoon to eat my soup.

Me: But...

Chicken: Let's come up with a solution. First, we'll need a straw.

okay
i mean
if you think of the food chunks
as the "soup"
and the broth is the problem
because it is wetting the spoon
and the noodles are slipping off
okay
okay
i'm with you
you're right
a straw might be just the ticket


4.

There was a difference of opinion about whose turn it was to use the excavator in the bath tub.

AND FOR THAT
THE PUNISHMENT
IS DEATH
BY BLUGEONING


5.

It's not that I was done at bedtime so much as I was done at breakfast time, but still somehow spent the next 8 hours summoning the will to literally turn off the sun at the whined commands of my children.

So when I got the kids out of the bath, into their bedrooms, and began the nightly "I do not negotiate with terrorists who NEED night diapers unless they want to sleep in their wet, clammy, terrorist pee pajamas" spiel, and then Chicken decided to throw the ugliest fucking stuffed monkey on EARTH, seriously, on God's green Earth, and it hit me in the side of the head, I was Done.

tell me i'm wrong
look at that fucking monkey
he won it at the fair
my son actually picked this monkey
as a prize
he scanned the prizes
and picked
this
fucking
monkey

it's burgundy
it's a burgundy monkey
in a turtleneck


and that turtleneck
is ribbed
and has these little white pubes all up on it
like this monkey was ripped off
from an AARP furry party

you gonna throw this monkey at me
you gonna throw this
busted ass
cheap
fuckin white-pube-sproutin
turtleneck-wearing
wine-colored monkey
at ME?

aw
hell
no


Now keep in mind that I have spent the last month or so really taking the time to examine my feelings of anger, question what I'm really feeling, and why I'm feeling it, and then attempting to be both honest and age-appropriate in communicating those feelings to my 2 and 4-year-old. So when I say I was done, I don't mean that I set my hair on fire and screamed YOU DID THIS TO ME as my scalp literally melted onto my shoulders.

I mean that I sat there on the floor, took a deep breath, and tried to explain why I was so mad about this monkey.

"You know what, Chicken? No. I feel angry when you throw stuffed animals at me. I feel angry because I spent the whole day working for our family.

Do you know what I did for you today? I stubbed my toe running to you because you screamed EMERGENCY at 6:15 am and when I got into your room you told me that you found a tooth we hadn't brushed last night. I brushed that tooth, and then I put you back in bed, and instead of going back to sleep I made sure your lunch was packed, and your morning snack, and that your water bottle had clear, fresh water in it. And then I did that for your brother, too.

When it was time for you to wake up, I went into your room and said good morning darlings how did you sleep, and I cleaned your body and helped you get into fresh, clean clothes that I myself put through the washer and dryer before folding and placing them in your dresser that your dad and I bought, assembled, and then stained ourselves in the garage last spring. I did the same thing again, for your brother. I helped you both make smoothies for breakfast because even though it's harder when you help, I know you love making smoothies and I wanted to make sure you started your day feeling a sense of personal accomplishment. Then I cleaned up after the smoothie-making. Then I made your pancakes and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

I reminded you to go to the bathroom before we left for school. I remembered your bike helmet so you could ride bikes on the playground; I remembered your coat so you'd be warm enough if it stayed chilly. I remembered lunches and snacks and water for three people. In the car on the way to school I made up little songs that rhyme with my phone number so you would know how to call me if we ever got separated. Three-oh-three, the cat in the tree... seven-two-four, started to snore...

The whole time you were at school I tended to your brother - I kept him clean. I fed him, built block towers for him to destroy, read to him, weathered his kicking tantrum when I stopped him from LITERALLY wrapping a curtain cord around his neck and jumping off a chair, because it is my job to keep you both safe. I put on a Batman band-aid on his pinched finger, cooing "oh no, poor baby," and then I put another Batman band-aid on another finger because he really likes Batman right now.

I picked you up, brought you a sandwich from home because I knew you'd be hungry after school, and even with the sandwich I went through the Starbucks drive-thru to get you a chocolate milk and a bag of popcorn. Because I love you, and because Mondays are long days, and I'm proud of you for hanging in there.

I held a bucket under your ass on the gravel path beside our house, while you grunted and farted and did not, ever, shit. I clipped you in your car seat to keep you safe. I made sure you got to your appointment on time even though I had to park in a loading zone to run you inside, and almost got a ticket.

The whole time you were at your appointment I tended to your brother, clipped on his bike helmet and tightened it, and helped him learn to ride the balance bike in the driveway, and sang "Boogie-Woogie Piggy SERIOUSLY 47 times in a row. I dug out the baggie of cut strawberries I'd packed for his snack. I changed his diaper when he pooped.

When you came out of your appointment I held your hand to keep you safe when we crossed the street even though you whined and tried to shake me off. I held your brother's hand, too, and somehow, also, his bike, with the third hand I invented that used to be my elbow and rib cage.

On the way home, I turned off the sun for you. Plants need the sun, Chicken, to make their food. But I turned it off. For you. And your brother.

I made you dinner. I tried to problem-solve a way for you to eat soup without getting your spoon wet. I didn't give up on that. I took that seriously, Chicken. I care because you care.

I drew a bath for you and let you pick the essential oil to drop into the water. I helped you brush your teeth. I toweled your body with your favorite freshly laundered, dried, and folded towel, so you wouldn't get chilled. Ask me how your favorite towel got clean, dry, and folded again. Ask me again, tomorrow.

I worked every second of my day for you, Chicken. And it was my honor. It was my privilege. It was not always my joy, but it was always an unquestionable imperative that I did with the mantle of pride and gratitude. I am grateful that I get to be your mother.

But now, after all that, we come into this bedroom and what, you throw a monkey at my head?

No.

That is not how you treat your mother. Not when I work this hard for you. Try again, sir."