Tonight is the last night we're sleeping in this house. Tomorrow at 8:30 in the morning movers are coming to reveal the secret shame that lives under the sofa, and also to load our entire material lives into a 26-foot truck and drive 30 miles to our new house.

We moved into this house when Chicken was 2.5 and Buster was 6 months old. 

We've been here for 2 years.

But they were 2 big years.

In this house, Chicken learned to sleep in a bed, write his name, ride a bike, question mortality, and how a television set works.

In this house, Buster learned to eat food, climb stairs, talk, walk, sleep through the night, and most importantly, how to trick or treat like the pros.

House, this one's for you.





In the great beige room
there was a crooked blind
and a little kids' broom
and wall-to-wall carpet in -
of all places - 
the dining room.

And there were two little boys
and a floor strewn with toys
and a former somme
and a working-hard mom
and a tub and a sink and a toothbrush that blinked
and a garbage disposal –
jk.
Just a sink.

Good-bye, room.
Good-bye, kiddie broom.
Good-bye, carpet in the dining room.

Good-bye, ants
in the boys’ bedroom.

Sweet dreams, boys,
I’ve packed your toys.

Good night, former somme.
Good work, hard-working mom.

Good-bye to our block,
where Buster first walked.

Good-bye tub
And good-bye sink.
Good-bye, home.
Your dishwasher stinks.

(But still.
I’ll never forget the screen door’s groan when Ryan came home,
and the way the boys ran through you,
House,
you steady, level and dry place,
to stand at the top of the stairs and call 
“welcome home, Daddy,”

Speaking as a person who’s supposed to be steady,
level,
and dry,
I know that not one of those invisible things is actually easy to be - 
especially when you're sitting at the table
that's standing on the floor
that creaked under Chicken's footsteps the night he first climbed out of his crib.

Especially when this table,
in this spot,
and this chair, in fact,
is where Chicken first fisted a marker
and wrote enormous letters that filled the whole page,
I LOVE YOU.

There is where Buster first pulled to standing.
There is where he stood on the table, dancing.

This is where, tonight, he said, "Our new house is a stinky fish cabbage butt. 
OH WAIT I HEAR THE BUS!"
He won't hear it again.

There is where I lay on the carpet and prayed for merciful death
the weekend in which Buster,
then Chicken,
then I all fell to norovirus.
Not Ryan.
He lucked out.
He was at a funeral.

So thanks for being steady, House,
level and dry.
Plus ours,
the place we could just not wear pants)

aaaaaaaand good-night to this softie who needs a stiff drink.

Good-bye, dry roof.
Good-bye, steady bricks.

But fuck you, ants.
Y’all are seriously

dicks.


___


No disrespect to Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
All disrespect to ants.
As my kids have gotten older a lot of things that were once hard are now much easier. One of my kids shits in a toilet now! Also, they both know their order at Starbucks: Chicken - kids vanilla steamer with one pump of vanilla and one of the tall venti straws, big straw for a big boy; Buster - box of chocolate milk, no straw, motherfucker I better not see a straw.

But one thing hasn't changed yet: 1-year-old birthday parties are hard.

This is an event ostensibly for a young child, yet there is a crossing that happens sometime around mastery of mobility, where children stop being potted plants and start being problem-solving sociopaths, and at a 1-year-old birthday party, the birthday boy is usually sitting or possibly walking a few steps before landing on his diapered tushy on one side of that river, and my children are fashioning rudimentary harpoons and finalizing their hit lists on the other.

1-year-birthday parties are particularly tough for my kids, and have become almost impossible for us to navigate with our dignity intact, for many reasons.

thanks
pottery barn
you always know just what to say


1. At 1-year-old birthday parties there are delicious party foods placed at regular, intuitive locations where normal, regular, socialized people normally, intuitively place food at social gatherings. 

You know, like coffee tables, dining tables, and sideboards. FOOD PLACES, like the flat, smooth surface that The Earl of Credenza designed to hold platters of his cousin's groundbreaking "sandwiches" at their Earls-only luncheons.

You know, the places where my children can go elbow-deep in the bowl of Pirate's Booty in the time it takes me to scan the entry to see if this is a shoeless party or what.

A plate of cookies on the edge of the table? It's almost as if you thought that a table was the logical place to set out consumables! YOU FOOLS. I hope you don't mind if my children take a single bite out of every single cookie on that plate. I really do hope that. Because that happened.

The hardest is always the cupcakes on the sideboard.

And these aren't just 2-bite Trader Joe's cupcakes, the ones you pop into your mouth 2 or 3 at a time like cashews at the neighborhood tavern. These are THE CUPCAKES. The ones that are, if we're being honest, the entire reason for the party, not that Sofia isn't a precious angel from heaven but my kids came for the pastries and the apples didn't fall that far from my mouth, if you know what I mean.

Today DURING THE BIRTHDAY SONG, one of my sons threw a stuffed block at the platter of cupcakes, knocking one off of the cake platter, and after I dragged him into a bedroom to do some 'splaining, he said that he was hoping to knock the cupcake INTO HIS OWN MOUTH. Couple of things to reflect on here:

1) There is no way that 4 different guests at that party don't have different perspectives of the following scene captured on iPhone video:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to--

(block flies through the air)
Gasps
(cupcake lands icing-down on the table runner)
"CHICKEN! WHAT THE WHAT!"

So yeah, just know that.

2) We need to spend some more time on physics if he thought that he could throw a block away from him, hit a cupcake even further away from him, and somehow time and space would curve that tasty cake all the way around the room and back into his gaping cakehole.

3) On the other hand, this logic makes complete sense to me. Chicken was trying to engage the cupcake in the same way that he tries to engage with friends at school. Throw something at him or her, see if he/she turns around and says "Oh hey, Chicken. What's up? Wanna play? Cool." He wanted the cupcake to be like, "Oh, hey man, what's up? Wanna eat me? Cool."



2. At 1-year-old birthday parties, there are babies, soft velvety babies, as sweet and slow-moving as banana pudding, EVERYWHERE.

Imagine the gasps you'd hear if you watched someone take a running start and then push a toy shopping cart with the focus and form of an Olympic curler, straight into the innocent face of a pile of banana pudding.

Imagine the facial expressions you'd see in the crowd if you watched a kid in light-up shoes crouch, with his arms thrown back and his head down, in the international posture of "OH YEAH. This is about to happen," and then jump up, and then drive those light-ups down, into a pile of banana pudding (that also happened to be wearing an adorable bandana-style burp-cloth and leather booties.)

My kids get amped up at party time (read #3 below) and they don't always corner like they're on rails. They're not always trying to hurt babies. Sometimes they just don't care if they happen to hurt babies. (Listen, if you're horrified by that sentence, I don't know what to say to you, except I wish I still believed in things too, and you should probably add a medium-weight axe to your disaster preparedness kit because I hope I'm wrong about humankind, but on the off chance I'm right you want to be ready for them.)



3. Chicken and Buster heard the word "party" and they started getting in a very specific, very dark mental place.

My kids have been well-trained by the last 2, 2 and a half years of birthday parties. They hear the word "party" and they know exactly what's going down:

1. The streets will be paved with pizza and cake.

2. The juice will flow like spring water.

3. Candy will rain down like rainbow-colored locusts in whatever culture that thinks locusts are candy.

4. There will be something to beat to death. Probably a pinata. Possibly a clown.

When I said, "We have baby Rockstar's birthday party today," Chicken started filling a sock with Hot Wheels in case shit got real, and Buster changed into all black in case the 5-0 rolled in.

I said the p-word and they heard the Mortal Kombat music start up in their heads. That one's on me. My bad. Just gonna own it.

Next time I'm going with, "Time to put on our sweater vests and spectacles, because we're going to a 1-year-old's museum reading placid contemplation retreat."


4. Most of the parents at a typical 1-year-old birthday party have kids around, you know, 1 year old. 

I see the looks on those 1-year-old parents' faces when Buster starts stalking around with a xylophone in his hand like a club made of chimes that will sing you to death, and he's big-boned and curly-haired and surly like Vernon Dursley on 'roid rage, scanning the room with a look on his face like "Say 'baba' one more time," and then Chicken darts into the kitchen, pulls down the whole bag of M&Ms, scampers back into the party room, and laughs both fakely and loudly in my face like "HA HA HA BITCH" before horking down on two fistfuls of candy so brightly colored it must be mocking me.

I'm not mad about the looks. I 1000% get it.


5. Parents are people too. (The really tough one.)


Becoming a parent doesn't mean you can empathize with ALL parents.

Because you have a 4-year-old, that doesn't mean you can bridge the empathy gap to find compassion for the mom of the 10-year-old who steals the peanut M&Ms from the 4-year-old's birthday pinata droppings before the pinata has been officially cracked. You probably think, "Hey, Mom, your kid's a dick. Do something about that please."

And that goes both ways - because you have a 10-year-old, that doesn't mean you can recall your compassion for the dad of the 4-year-old who is melting down about a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks. "Hey, Dad. Your kid's a dick. Do something about that, please."

Perhaps your child is neurotypical and you're put off by a child who isn't (no judgment.)

Perhaps your child is laid-back and calm, and you're alarmed by my children, who aren't.

Perhaps your kids are just learning to understand the concept of "MY food," and you're disgusted by my 3 and 5-year-old's snarling territoriality over a single pretzel. They will fight to the fucking death over a pretzel, not even a peanut butter-filled one either.

Listen, you don't know 'till ya know, and sometimes you'll never know. It's hard for parents to find extra love and compassion for people whose kids are irritating or chaotic. I know.

When my kids were 1 and 3, I fucking hated parents of 5-year-olds who looked at every fucking batshit crazy thing their big, strong 5-year-olds did with the same expression of bored analysis. I was like WOAH WOAH WOAH he just threw a LAWNMOWER, and the parents would be like, "Yeah, he does that sometimes. He didn't hit anybody." I hated the way they made me feel like I was overreacting when seriously, that kid threw a lawnmower one time. I thought they were all assholes.

And now that I have a 5-year-old (almost), I get it. It's not that I don't care about my son setting the world on fire, it's just that I know that the worst thing I can do in those situations is fan the flames and match his fervor with my own.

Preschoolers are more complicated, in terms of emotional range, and more experimental, in terms of manipulation tactics, than toddlers are.

That is not something you explain to strangers, parents of younger children, at the play gym or the birthday party. At best they'll think you're making excuses for your own laziness; at worst they'll think you're pathetic and delusional about the monster you built, birthed, and are now grooming to serve in the 17th Trump cabinet in 2039.

And again, it goes both ways.

Once you have a 5-year-old, looking back on a 1-year-old can trigger haughtiness as much as compassion. I have to remind myself that shit wasn't easy. Truly, it was not. I'll never forget the turbulent 6-hour flight with Chicken, one week after his birthday, when all he wanted to do was WALK and that was literally the only thing he couldn't do, and he screamed so hard and so long that the woman across the aisle reached over, rubbed my back, and mercifully lied to me, twice, in rapid succession: "He only sounds loud to you. You're doing fine."

Looking around the room at a 1-year-old's birthday party I hear all the parents having versions of the same conversations we had at the time, and it's impossible not to be flooded with warring feelings of amusement and affection. It was hard then; this feels harder now. Nothing has ever felt as hard as now.

My husband and I communicate with hand gestures at the party, flowing seamlessly between man-to-man and zone defense, depending on whether the children are simply ticking time bombs, or if they are actively exploding. At some point, one of us wrangles both children and tags the other one out to eat and talk to other adults. At some point later, we switch.

There was a time when we parented our children with the sweetness and single-minded focus of these people. We thought of our children as a gift to offer to our loved ones, a creature that doubtless all would enjoy and delight in, for no child in the history of life has ever smiled so sweetly or waved a cake-smeared hand with more joy.

Now, as often as not, we have come to see our children as wild animals - beautiful, precious, but in need of expert handling and the occasional tranq dart. We have learned to protect our children from other people, and we have learned to protect other people from our children. Relatives come to visit and we forewarn them - our children don't cuddle and you don't want to eat dinner here.

It is hard to go to a 1-year-old's birthday party and understand how far you've traveled from that place of shining adoration. It is hard to see how complicated things can get, just from birth to year one, from year one to three, to five. Please slow down, okay? I am not handling this well.

The tray of once-bitten cookies, the field of banana pudding babies under my boys' stomping feet.

Teaching my children that it is not always okay to hit a donkey with a bat, and that, in fact, some donkeys are not filled with candy.

Missing a time long gone and forever, a time that I didn't appreciate for its relative simplicity. A time that was hard, when the baby started walking but not yet safely, when I started fearing choking hazards and pointy furniture. One year was a bigger step than I was ready to take, just an inch further than I knew I could reach, so I had to leap, a little breathless, to land on solid ground again.

It seems like the steps keep getting further apart, doesn't it?

And how many more are there?

Is it my turn to eat yet?

No way around it - 1-year-old birthday parties are hard.





___


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$2 or $5 a month helps me grow my blog, write more stuff for you, and treat this work like, well, my job. 

Thanks for reading! xoxo
The thing that hurts the most when I hear people criticize my parenting is that those criticisms aren't news to me.

Other people's criticisms are not plot twists - I have never heard a criticism of myself or my child, and responded by gasping so hard that popcorn falls out of my mouth, like it did when it turned out Bruce Willis was a ghost, when I found out who Tyler Durden was, or, dude, at the end of Julie and Julia - who saw that coming?? I was like "HOLY SHIT she gets that cookbook published???"

Parenting criticisms aren't shockers so much as they're motifs: Newman in Seinfeld, the blue French horn in How I Met Your Mother. The motif of "what I'm doing wrong" is not an "oh shit!" reveal - it's a significant part of the narrative, the thread that ties events together. It recurs. It becomes part of the atmosphere, the way you know that you're still living in the same world, except when I hear a knock on the metaphorical door, it's not a sociopathic postal carrier throwing shade - it's "here's what I'm doing wrong." Again.

in this example
"what i'm doing wrong"
is
"trying to have a nice fucking day
at the ball park"

look at my face

that is the face
of a person
who is confident
that she made good choices


In short, the criticism isn't a surprise - it's a confirmation that the outside world has joined the chorus of mean voices in your head that tells you every day that everything you're doing is, at best, just good enough for survival, and most often far, far worse.

Someone told me that I shouldn't wear a 6-month-old Chicken in the Ergo because facing him inward would stunt his confidence.

On the outside, I smiled and said, "Okay, well, have a good day." On the outside, Ryan and I laughed at her. On the inside, I thought, I know. He IS fearful. What am I doing?

Someone told me that I shouldn't be tired at the end of my day, that it meant my kids didn't have enough boundaries. On the outside, I said, "Do you know any parent of young children who isn't tired at the end of the day? Seriously, I'm asking." On the inside, I thought, I know. We give everything to them. What am I doing?

I have good reasons for all the choices I make as a parent, and at the same time inside my head, I have a thousand back-talking ankle-nipping assholes who tear me to pieces. I know I don't have to tell you what that's like - if you read this blog you're likely a parent, too.

For example, today:

Chicken's gymnastics coach tries to get him to participate in every single activity - she offers her hand to him repeatedly, and when he ignores her she shakes her head and walks away casually (but not casually, like a batter who steps out of the box to fuck with the pitcher's rhythm).

Sometimes Chicken doesn't feel like doing gymnastics. Sometimes he feels like sitting on the floor and watching the rest of the class do pikes and bends and straddles and wow, that sounds like really sexual, right? Woah. I swear, he's just an introvert.

So I told the coach after class, "Listen, he isn't a joiner. I appreciate that you invite him to join, and please keep doing that, but often he just likes to watch (seriously, that sounds sexual right?), and that's okay with me if it's okay with you. I don't care if he does a straddle on the horse (I mean) or a back-in full-out (ahem) or if he lays out in arch position (yikes). Truth is, if you push him he'll dig in his heels and disengage even harder. I don't care what he does, as long as he's with the class. So don't feel like you have to push him to participate for my benefit. He'll warm up, or he won't, but I don't want you to get into a power struggle with him."

That sounds totally good right?
Like I'm a parent who knows and accepts her son, right?
Like I'm one of those chill moms, right?

Please allow me to pull back the curtain.

But what if I'm wrong?
What if he never learns how to socialize and follow instructions and be with a group? Is that what I want? I love independence but I hate the loneliness that haunts it like Bruce Willis. All the other kids are doing the fucking pike position. What's wrong with our family? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with him, that he won't just do the damn thing that the teacher has asked him to do? He's obviously not school-ready. 

But if he does another year of Pre-K what will that mean for him academically? Won't he be bored? But if we push him to start school before he's ready, will he decide that he's simply not good at making friends? Will he have to survive elementary school, rather than come to it with the confidence of an adventurer whose mother understood his need for time and space? 

But what if he never learns flexibility? Not like the splits, I mean like compromising and learning how to survive discomfort? What if he never takes a risk in his whole life? What if I think I'm nurturing his sense of safety in the world and his right to take his time in a new situation, but what I'm really doing is making his world smaller? 

What am I doing?????

So when someone says something along the lines of, "You're coddling him, he'll be fine for God's sake, you need to push him more," and every ounce of confidence and composure leaks out of me like I'm one of those inflated car wash noodle-guys whose air just got turned off, someone needs to understand that it's not that they struck a killing blow - someone simply found the wound where it already bled, under a tissue of a smile. All someone had to do was touch it.

You know, the way I feel when I watch Inside Out.

Like, "All her joy turned to sadness and that feels so familiar... oh shit, I'm really hurt here... who drank all my bourbon and why can't I stop eating this loaf of bread?"

___


It hurts to be criticized as a parent because we all know grown-up man-children and lady-toddlers who were once preschool-aged kids who were spoiled, or pushed around, or told to suck it up, or told that they deserved the best, and we know we don't want to do the thing that was done to that kid to clip their wings so early, but for fuck's sake, how do we know what the thing is that was done???

If I chastise Buster for spilling his milk, am I breaking his confidence?
If I fail to chastise Buster for spilling his milk, am I breaking his character?

Am I pushing too hard?
Am I permitting too much?
Am I too soft?
Am I too cold?
WHY AM I TALKING TO MYSELF LIKE THIS?
WHAT AM I DOING?!?

___


It hurts to be criticized as a parent because this work is important and fucking impossible, and time is merciless and by the time you realize you've fucked something up, you've fucked it up for a significant percentage of your child's life, and your kid looks at you differently, and that matters.

It hurts to be criticized as a parent because we learned how to be parents from our parents at a time when they had no idea what they were doing either - all they had to go on was the sense that they wanted to be like their parents, or not like their parents, and that sense is often more of a windsock than a compass.

That's what we have, too: our flighty allegiance to what our own parents did or didn't do, and our fear of failure, and our own memories of times we wished someone had been kinder or demanded more of us, and certainty that our judgment is impaired, and the sense that if we fail, we will profoundly hurt someone we love so stunningly that it's terrifying.

___




I have had the sense, as I watch my sons sleep at night, that inside their warm bodies exists the entire universe. I imagine opening their bodies and falling inside, tumbling past galaxies and exploding stars and vast quantities of waiting space that I know they will fill.

Outer space used to scare me. Now I know it's there, unfolding in the body of my sleeping child. I can pull the forces that keep me on this Earth into my arms and close my eyes and imagine, in this narrow chest, in this little mind, in this pounding heart, everything that has been and will ever be.

I have a role to play in that vast imagined landscape, and it feels like a person holding the entire sleeping universe in her arms should know what the hell she's doing before that universe wakes up tomorrow with a leaky diaper and his mind fixed on mac and cheese for breakfast.

Why not? How is it nutritionally different from a bagel and cream cheese?
You shouldn't just let him pick his breakfast all the time, he'll be spoiled.
You can't arbitrarily say no to things just to prove you can, he'll learn that power matters more than respect.
You should make him a green smoothie at least.
But then he'll want to help.
And then Buster will want to help.
And I don't know if I'm strong enough to mediate that this morning.
But you can't avoid conflict in the hopes that they'll grow out of it. That's cowardly.
But you can't invite conflict because you feel like you should. That's just sick. Nobody is watching you.
Except us.
Which is to say, you.
And of course them,
the entire universe.

___


It hurts my feelings to be criticized, to turn inward, and to find that I am not really on my team, either.

Honestly, people don't even have to tell me that I'm terrible. I know that I have never dyed Easter eggs with my children and they are missing a core piece of their childhood, because I am terrible and also everyone hates the sound of my voice.

Jesus, Katie, you're going into an operatic poor-you about how you don't dye Easter eggs?

Please know that I know that dyeing Easter eggs matters precisely as much as Carson Daly's stance on gerrymandering. Please know that I'm not a flake.

It's so easy to dye Easter eggs though. Honestly, it's kinda shitty that you don't do that.

Please know that I know that celebrating holidays is an important and treasured part of growing up in a family, and I honor the importance of those traditions. Please know that I'm not a flake.

Listen, I know this doesn't make sense.

Parenting lives in your head and heart, alongside addiction and insanity.

It will never make any fucking sense.

___


It hurts to be called to account for all of your choices when no parent in the history of the eternal goddamned universe has made a choice based on certainty. It hurts to know you have no defense but a shrug and a prayer.

I mean come on, if you're navigating mapless, by the stars and wind, that doesn't make you an asshole. It just makes you a parent. A parent's currency is hope, grim determination, and celestial navigation. We don't get maps - we just steer toward a spot of light on the horizon and pray for no lice, and sunshine over Spring Break. And we make so many mistakes.

I'm asking you to be compassionate, and to know that no matter what you're thinking about me, my children, my parenting, or my family, I promise you, I have held seventeen rounds of that debate in the last week, while I packed lunches and wiped asses and tried to figure out if Buster needs to drop his nap because he's been staying up so late at night, but he gets sleepy at 12:30 every day and he's a wreck by 3:30 if I keep him up...

The answer is, I don't know.

I don't know.

I don't know what I'm doing.






___


If you enjoyed this post or really any of my posts, please consider supporting my blog through Patreon

$2 or $5 a month helps me grow my blog, write more stuff for you to read, and helps me treat this work like, well, like my job. 

Thanks for reading! xoxo

hey
can we talk


Dear Netflix,

I get why your algorithm offered me Kevin Hart's new special, "What Now?"

Over the last couple of weeks, I've watched Dave Chappelle, Michael Che, and Hannibal Burress's Netflix specials.

Clearly, I like stand-up, and have recently been watching talented and very funny black men doing standup, and Hart is talented, very funny, and a big deal.

Nevertheless, I watched it last night and I want to rate it "thumbs-down."

But I'm nervous that if I do that... you'll take it the wrong way.

I don't want you to stop offering me stand-up, mainstream comedy, or shows with black men. I need Idris Elba in my life for reasons that are entirely wholesome and none of your damn business.

I would, however, like you to stop offering me shows where the male comic does really shrill and whiny woman voices, or says things like "Women are so emotional," or every time he pretends to be talking to his fiancee he starts the sentence with, "Bitch!" (pause to allow for uproarious audience laughter before he says the actual thing).

It's one thing to know that you're not the target audience for a comedy special - that doesn't bother me at all. Some of my favorite comics do not write for me. Hannibal Burress doesn't write potty-training jokes for SAHMs. Louis C.K. is the voice of the white male middle-aged population. Aziz Ansari writes jokes for me 10 years ago, and Ali Wong writes jokes only for my id.

It's one thing to turn on the show and simply be ignored as a demographic. It's one thing to be accepted even if you're not explicitly included. I generally like action movies and bromances, so I am used to that feeling.


YOU do?

You know that Meryl Streep isn't in this movie, right?
You know there are no scenes with scones in them, right?

You know it's about an alien invastion
and a brilliant nerd who saves the day
and gets to make out with the sweaty chick
in torn clothes
who knows how to handle a big, thick, rock-hard
gun
right?

OK, well uh
I guess you can sit over there...

I think I speak for all women when I say that we are happy to sit in the back and enjoy the effects and explosions and roll our eyes when the camera lingers on a supple thigh that is, for some reason, glistening.


But it is ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY to show up to the comedy show ready to laugh, and instead watch that talented comic make everyone else laugh, not at one person who did something dumb, but at AN ENTIRE TYPE OF PEOPLE who OF COURSE ARE ALL DUMB.

There is nothing more gruesome than watching large groups of people laugh at something super shitty.

exhibit a


Netflix, I am writing to suggest you include a multiple-choice "reason why" option for after I thumbs-down a program.

Because THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS I might thumbs-down a program that seems like a good fit for me:
  • Needs more Christoph Waltz.
  • The actors are doing that thing where they pant while they're fighting and that's only okay if they're fighting on side-by-side treadmills.
  • Something bad happens to a child. WTF Netflix, a little warning next time please.
  • If I watch this I will be giving my own personal tenth of a penny to the sex offender or batterer who wrote, directed, or starred in it (looking at you Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, Johnny Depp, Terence Howard, Roman Polanski, Sean Penn, and apparently SEAN CONNERY?!?!)
  • Coooooould use an animatronic super shark.
  • Not as good as when I watched it as a kid.
  • Not enough banter. Needs more pith.
  • Claire Danes cries in this.
  • Brad Pitt chews something the whole fucking time.
  • This show is casually misogynistic, racist, homophobic, or transphobic.
  • Too much Ashton Kutcher.
  • Robert DeNiro, man, you used to be better than this. I'm just so sad right now.
  • The actors had more fun making it than I'm having watching it.
  • There is a scene where a woman apologizes to a man for not doing what he told her to do even though he had no reason to believe that his idea would be better than hers, and it's possible that his idea might have even turned out worse than her idea did.
  • There's a misfit kid who gets a dog and Jennifer Garner is in it. Fuck you, I know how this ends.
  • The fight scenes look like they were filmed by the shake weight guy while rollerskating over cobblestone streets during an earthquake.
  • Too many car chases. Which is to say, there is a single car chase.
  • The police station in this comedy isn't shiny enough.
  • The NYC apartment in this sitcom is TOO FUCKING BIG YOU ASSHOLES.
  • This is the movie Crash.

Thanks for your consideration.

Love,Katie
I have very, very, very smart friends.

Lessons from the Trenches is a series of a few things that I have learned over the last few months from watching and listening to my mom friends in action.

Check out Lessons from the Trenches: Stop Wasting, Lessons from the Trenches: Yelling, and Lessons from the Trenches: Love of My Life



"family values"


Friend: Devon

Friend's Kids: 2 girls, Chicken and Buster's ages

Friend's Parenting Vibe: Clear, respectful, warm, delighted. Kids adore Devon because she delights in their delight, and also takes no shit. They are comforted by her steadfastness and grateful that she doesn't bend the rules and make them question the order of the world, even if they can't really articulate that yet. 

Friend's Parenting Spirit Animal: Lioness


like
she plays
but you never forget


Devon and I met in PEPS, which, if you're not from Washington, stands for Program for Early Parenthood Support. PEPS groups are a staple for new parents in WA - the organization matches you with other parents who have newborns around your baby's age, and who live in your general area. It's instant network, instant community, and it's a lifesaver.

The first time I walked into our PEPS group, I zeroed in on Devon and I was like "OK I'm gonna be friends with her."

I set out to learn everything I could about her - background, education, shoe size, thread count, favorite jazz albums - and then I began to incorporate myself into her world, practicing her accent in the mirror at night, trying on her clothes... and lovers. And before we knew it we were singing Tu Vuo Fal Americano in a sweaty little bistro and we were best friends and maybe more, but then I crushed her skull in a boat off San Remo after she called me a loser but it was okay because by then we had the same haircut and thread count so it was almost too easy for me to slip into her life...*

Wait, I'm sorry, was I writing out loud just then?

*OK so the hilarious part about that whole Talented Mr. Ripley reference is that there is literally no fucking way Devon has seen or will ever see that movie because she has seen about 8 movies in her entire life and she MIGHT get that number into double-digits before age 50 but I wouldn't bet on it, so when Devon was reading that Ripley riff she must have been like "Katie is one twisted fuck," but NO, DEVON. TWAS A MOVIE that was the twisted fuck, not I! 

Ha... haha... um, I meant to say that over the course of our time together in PEPS we became close friends, and then we each got pregnant with our second kids around the same time, and had our babies around the same time, and when you go through battle like that, the friendships are more than friendships - you've sat quietly on the same couch for hours together, just staring into space. There's no ringing of doorbells when you visit.

Devon and her family have their family values posted in their home:

Be Kind
Be Gentle
Be Generous
Be Safe
Be Respectful

I love this for so many reasons.

1. Their family brand is super clear and well-articulated, which will make licensing supes-easy down the road. Like, they basically have a color palette for when they get their own Bravo show. #DevonsFamilyValues

2. By articulating those family values, she has created a shared cultural vocabulary that is specific to her tribe, and that shared vocabulary contributes to a sense of unity and a common goal. They can celebrate those values together, and it's far more powerful to say, "Remember our family value of kindness" than it is to say, "Be nice," or "Stop calling me poop or you get a time-out."

3. She got to make like super cool family values signs? And... I really like making signs too?

4. Those family values act like I-beams, rooting the foundation of the choices that the family makes, and the boundaries that she and her husband protect.

For example, "No, you may not push your sister down the stairs on her bicycle. Why? Well, because one of our family values is safety, and that is not safe." And then she can point and that shit is ON THE WALL. CLUTCH.

I've heard Devon say, "Anytime I say no to you, it will come back to these family values. I want you to experience the world and make your own choices, and I'll even let you make your own mistakes, but not if they are not in line with our family values."

So after approximately, oh, four and a half years of struggling to come up with reasons to say "no" to things like riding a Rubbermaid storage tub down the stairs or "let's take turns biting each other," I decided to give Devon's Family Values a try.

We gathered for a family meeting and determined our own family values:

Coloring Together
Quiet Mornings Reading Literary Fiction With a Cup of Coffee
Statement Necklaces
Sneaking Your Own Better Snacks Into The Independent Movie Theater
Carbohydrates

No, no, no. Those aren't our family values. Those are just... my values. Or, maybe my goals. Possibly just "a perfect Sunday." I can't remember. I haven't slept.

Our ACTUAL family values are:

Kindness
Learning
Helping
Respect

I was shooting for 5 values so I could be like my sister-from-another-mister Devon, but we got to 4 and Buster climbed out of his chair and said, "I'm bored. I'm going to leave now," and then he kept his promise.

(Side note - No good ever comes from dragging your child back to the table so you can FINISH THE GODDAMNED FAMILY MEETING, especially if the only thing really left is the closing cheer, which is usually hands in and a "Kaboom" or "Woo hoo" on 3, and is actually pretty upsetting when the kids are crying and trying to escape and you're forcibly holding their hands in the middle of the table barking "OK THAT'S A "YIPPEE" ON THREE. ONE. TWO... CHICKEN STOP CRYING.")

I made signs and put them up on the wall, and every time someone did something that demonstrated those family values, we wrote it down on the sign.





In the process of making these lists, my love of this system has only grown deeper and more complex. YES, I was able to point to signs on the wall. YES, I was able to create a common family culture around these I-beams. YES, I was able to MAKE SIGNS!

But there was more.

- When you actually take the time to notice OUT LOUD when your children are kind, respectful, and helpful, you realize that damn, your kids are pretty fucking great. They do a lot of kind, helpful, respectful shit.

- It made me feel thankful for my kids, rather than annoyed by them.

- It made them feel proud when their good deeds were noticed. They got hooked (albeit temporarily) on the high of getting their family values noticed.

- We were able to come up with some new family catch phrases. "Find your kindness," is a big one:

Buster: GET ME MILK.
Me: Buster--
Buster: NOW.
Me: Find your kindness, young man.
Buster: Where is it?
Me: I honestly don't know. Please find your kindness and ask me again.
Buster: Mommy may I have some milk? Please?
Me: Absolutely! You found your kindness!

... but my absolute favorite lesson that I learned from family values happened one day in the car.

Chicken and Buster were in the backseat talking about a big, big tower that Buster had built that morning.

Buster: It was a big, big tower! So big it was bigger than everything!
Chicken: And I am going to smash it.
Buster: Noooooooooooooooo....
Me: Chicken, please find your kindness.
Chicken: I lost it.
Me: Oh yeah, I can see that. Please find your kindness when you talk to your brother. He worked really hard on that tower.
Chicken: And I am going to--
Me: Chicken
Chicken: SMASH IT.
Buster: NOOOOOOOOOO!!! (he begins to cry)
Me: Chicken, first of all, you're not going to smash it because I won't let you smash it. Second of all, I want you to think about our family values. What you are doing right now, saying something that you know will scare your brother and hurt his feelings, that's not kindness. That's not respect. That's not helping.
Chicken: ... but it is learning.



Because we came up with these family values, I was able to recognize the degree of my son's sociopathy at such a young age that we were actually able to get him into an early intervention program that will put him on the short list for a human soul.

#BeAnOrganDonorFolks
#SaveALife
#SaveMe
#Help





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Fair warning, I am actually sick today so this might not be great
but at least it's long
so



Imagine you wake up this morning and you feel like absolute shit.

You're coughing up little phlegm nuggets as chewy as gristle, tapping the river of slime from Ghostbusters II from your left nostril, and shivering under flannel pajamas, a hooded sweatshirt, and 2 pairs of socks.

You're sick.

ah yes
mommy's little fun drawer


So if you're not a parent, what you might do is, you might call into the office and say, "I don't want to spread this around. I'm going to hunker down and try to nip this in the bud." And then what you might do is take a hot shower, crawl back into bed with a box of Kleenex, a mug of tea, and an iPad, and get right.


(low whistle)
check out the loft
on that body pillow
mm hmm
oh that's real nice
i'm gonna crawl all up in that
and watch every episode of big little lies
back
to back
to back
mmmmm
with soup

But you know what's coming next, right? Parents don't get sick days.


"Mommy?
Mommy wake up!
Mommy?
 I pooped!
Mommy?
I have poop on my neck!
Mommy?
Buster is licking the poop!"

Welcome to a sick day with a stay-at-home parent of preschoolers!

And a very merry sick day to you, madam!

My kids aren't school-aged so they're home with me all day.

That means that my "sick day," is just a regular work day in which I have all the same demands but am handicapped by an excruciating sinus headache and my full commitment to demonstrating the richness and complexity of my self-pity.

If y'all think DUDES do dramatic head colds, you should have seen me this morning, bundled up in three layers, eyebrows set to "Poor Little Match Girl" tilt, mouth hanging open as if I hadn't the strength to close up shop between tiny whimpers of agony...

It was like I was auditioning for a one-woman double-header production of Grey Gardens and Wit.

All of my regular-day-demands got far more emotionally complex and dramatically layered... you know, the way they would if I were an agoraphobic Long Islander with mild dementia and a hella good costume closet, or an acerbic spinster with 14 doctoral degrees and a terminal diagnosis.

Or, you know, myself, with a sinus infection.



Regular Day
Today 
Cook breakfast for kids
Cook breakfast for kids while grimacing and shuffling around the kitchen half-bent over even though my back doesn't hurt at all, it just feels like this person would walk like this, you know? 

Say “Oh, man, what happened” when Buster crashes Chicken’s Magna-tile tower, then negotiate the terms of a truce and the equitable division of the play room so that each child can play in peace.
Say “SSSSHHHHHHHH” with my eyes closed until the kids notice that Mommy’s gone into a fugue state, and then say in a hoarse voice they don’t quite recognize, “Y’all have until the count of 5 to decide who stays in this room and who goes into your room. I don’t care who goes where and I don’t care what you take with you, I just need a door between you. DO NOT ask me for help deciding. One. Two. Three…”

Text Ryan to see how his day is going
Wait for Ryan to text me to see how my day is going and then respond “Not great” WITH A PERIOD AT THE END. #OhShit #TextPunctuation

Clean up bucket of gravel Buster dumped on the floor
Stand dejected over a pile of gravel Buster dumped on the floor. Sigh heavily. Lumber down to my knees and begin scooping the gravel back into the bucket. Sigh again, louder. Pause to squeeze the bridge of my nose. When Buster asks if I’m okay, whisper, “I’m not sure, buddy. I’m just not sure.”


Today I do all my regular stuff PLUS I have to make sure that everyone around me knows that I am simultaneously

a) miserable, suffering an agony so profound that if another person were able to feel it, they'd look at me with awe, possibly even tears in their eyes, and murmur, "But how, you warrior goddess? How did you make instant oatmeal? Through this?"

b) courageously sacrificing my own health for your happiness

c) not complaining, no, I would never complain, just occasionally a few yelps of agony leak out in a moment of weakness, but I try to bite those back... for you, my darlings... (cough cough) For what is this life, but the slow march through fields of poppy flowers... toward eternity?

... and scene.


___

But seriously, "Moms don't get sick days" IS REAL.

I HAVE to work today, no matter what, and my kids are just old enough to resent my crankiness, but not quite old enough to actually help me out that much.

When I say to my kids, "I don't feel well, I'm really gonna need your help, can you please just not hit each other today" I might as well be making earnest eye contact with a vending machine, like, "Listen, buddy. I'm gonna level with you. I don't have any quarters, I skipped breakfast, and I can see you've got a bag of zesty Chex Mix goin beggin. So whaddya say? What would Jesus do?"

When people get sick, work is the last place on Earth they'd want to be.

When homemakers get sick, they have nowhere else but work to go.

So as I cooked breakfast this morning, I imagined what it would be like if a person took a sick day in a place of work, rather than the sanctuary of home.

Because for people who work at home, that's exactly what happens.

___

Imagine if the space behind your forehead felt like it were being filled with hot magnets that were trying to get out of your head THROUGH your skull. Imagine the soundtrack of the inside of your head sounded like a nuclear reactor in a Mission: Impossible movie - womp, womp, womp, womp.

And then imagine if your boss said, "COME PICK THESE STAPLES OUT OF MY PAPER WITH YOUR FINGERNAILS."

And imagine you did that, breathing deep "haaaa-hooooooo" yoga breaths to try to reduce the rage that always comes with having to pick tiny things out of things with your fingernails.

And imagine that while you picked staples out of a piece of paper with your fingernails, your boss sat next to you, slurping a cup of milk, and exhaling through his nose, enjoying the pure, piercing tone of the nose whistle that he just realized he could do: zeeeeeeeeeeee...



Womp womp, pick, pick, pick, haa-hoooooo, womp sloooooorp, womp zeeeeeeeeeeee....
Womp womp, pick, pick, pick, haa-hoooooo, womp sloooooorp, womp zeeeeeeeeeeee....

Boss: Can you hear that?

You: Yeah.

Boss: Pretty cool, right?

You: Actually I find it pretty irritating.

Boss: Wait, let me do it again.


___


Imagine if every time you stood up you got woozy and off-balance. And then imagine if, every time you stood up, your co-worker ran full-speed into your body, straddled one of your legs, sat down on your foot, and screamed, "DANCE ME!"

___

Imagine you went to the break room to get a glass of water, praying that you might have simply missed that CDC breaking bulletin that, ha, turns out the flu can be cured by a single glass of water.

And imagine that as you're standing with your cup of water under the tap, you look over at your desk, and you see that someone has emptied a bucket of gravel onto your keyboard.

y'all didn't think i just imagined that one up
did ya
except in our house it wasn't the keyboard
it was the heating vent

oh, you're wondering why i have a bucket of gravel
huh
i'm wondering what the fuck you're doing here
because you're not asking the right fucking question
and you're obviously not on the fucking team

i'm sorry
i'm sorry
i didn't mean that
i'm just

my head...

ps in case you're wondering
the right fucking question was
"nice gravel
did you find it in his shoe
or his lunchbox?"

___


Imagine your boss calls you into his office. He asks you to sit down. You sit down, coughing and holding your head.

Boss: My shoes are low.

You: Uh, (cough, cough) yeah, I guess they are kinda low.

Boss: WHY are my shoes low?

You: What?

Boss: Why are my shoes low?

You: I don't know.. they're your shoes.

Boss: But why are my shoes low?

You: (Cough) I--

Boss: Why are my shoes low? Why are my shoes low?

You: (Holds head) I don't--

Boss: WHY ARE MY SHOES LOW?

You: (slams fist on desk, snarls, accidentally reveals the beast within) BECAUSE THEY JUST ARE, OKAY?

Boss: Oh.

(moment of silence)

You: I'm sorry--

Boss: Why is the desk smooth?

___

See?

I might have tended to my self-pity until it bloomed into sad little poor-me blossoms, but I didn't conjure it out of thin air. I have two very good reasons to feel sorry for myself today.

At this moment those two good reasons are sitting on a pile of pillows watching Mater's Tall Tales.

In about 25 seconds the big one will holler "HEY MOM I THOUGHT YOU SAID WE COULD HAVE PIRATE'S BOOTY," and I will wince, shuffle over to the cabinet where the plastic bowls live, whimpering as I bend over and the womp-womp-womp in my head surges to a new high and I cover my eye holes to make sure my eyes don't actually explode out of my skull.

I will fill the bowls with the booty of pirates, sighing heavily, and then I will smile the "a greater peace awaits me in the next world" smile of Jean Valjean as I deliver the snack to the boys.

They'll say "thanks mom," without looking in my direction, and I'll curl up on the floor next to them, a heating pad pressed to my face, and dream everyone's favorite sick day dream... that Ryan will come home early today. With takeout.

and
scene