EandJMy daughter is stealing toilet paper. It started innocently at first. A roll here and there. I barely noticed. I’m absent minded. Thinking that I replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom and then discovering that I actually did not is something that is so common in my life that I don’t even question it.

This is how she was able to ferret away seven rolls of toilet paper under her bed without detection, until one day, Dave, stranded on the toilet yelled, “WHO KEEPS TAKING THE TOILET PAPER AND CAN SOMEONE BRING ME SOME?”

I stood up to go rescue him, but E was already up the stairs. “Oh dad, I have some under my bed.”

I followed her upstairs and watched her reach under her bed, grab a roll and hand it to Dave through the bathroom door. “Here you go dad.”

I crouched down next to her. “Honey, why are you taking the toilet paper?”

She smiled. “My baby chickies need it for their butts.”

The baby chickies in question are three to five imaginary chickens that follow my daughter around. She has had them as constant companions since she was two. Yesterday, I gave her an old digital camera to play with and she took a picture of the empty floor. “Look mom, all my baby chickies look so cute in dis picture!”

“Baby chickies poop on the potty,” I told her. “So leave the toilet paper there.”

I thought this would be the end of it, but the thievery only continued. The next time I caught her she wailed, “The monsters need it for there butts! THEY DO! THEY DO!”

The third time I caught her, she snarled her little lips, “I take it because you never buy me any toilet paper ever!”

So, that next Sunday, I took her grocery shopping and bought her a four-pack of one-ply toilet paper. She hugged it like it was the toddler Holy Grail. “OH FANK YOU! IT’S MY DREAM!”

She carried the toilet paper with her in her backpack to school, in my bag to dance class and in a plastic Target bag to ride bikes at a gym. One of my friends, a mother of three, asked E what was in her bag. E held out a little ball of paper. “Oh, it’s toilet paper, you need some for your nose?”

For the next two hours, she rode her bike and passed out little bits of toilet paper to the kids. When JQ spilled his drink she sped over and waved her toilet paper like a one-ply superhero. “Mom, I will wipe it up!”

And she did.

Part of me was seriously worried about her love for toilet paper. But then I remembered how when I was about the same age, I thought my baby doll’s bloomers were Cinderella’s cleaning cap. There are multiple pictures of me at four and five, asleep in only my underwear wearing baby bloomers on my head. Maybe she comes by this crazy honestly.  I told Dave this story of my childhood and martyred myself on the cross of genetic weirdness and that’s where we were, until a few days ago.

A light burnt out in the kitchen and I had to venture into the basement where Dave keeps his stash of bulbs. Out of protest against the new compact florescent light bulbs, Dave has been accumulating a vast horde of incandescents. There is a whole shelf of them in the basement, where he has stacked them. He often tells people how to score incandescents and he once scolded me for wasting them. “The next bulbs I buy will have to be from the internet,” he huffed. “This pile won’t last forever.”

I thought of his protests when that night, I heard E beg him for “Just a widdle more toilet paper, please? Just a widdle more?”

Don’t Be Fooled, This Is Not A Real Blog Post

You know when comic actors try out indie roles so people take them seriously? I feel like that is where I am right now. These past few weeks, I’ve been working on some very research heavy articles that I hope see the light of day (honestly, you can never be sure).

I’m really excited about the opportunities. But it’s also meant that I’ve spent every possible moment on work. Which means that E has taken to washing the windows with tissues as a fun game she likes to play called, “Mommy is neglecting the housekeeping and me.”

And I just changed a diaper from JQ that had an obscene amount of glitter in it, but I honestly don’t even care where it came from because he is happy and hasn’t tried to stab anyone in at least 20 minutes.

Also, we’ve all been sick and every night I soothe my guilty conscience with a serving of Nyquil and denial. “I’m fine. We can do this. My kids are okay.”

I also tried to do a week of no TV, because I hate myself. But that all went out the window on Thursday, when I had an interview for an article and everyone was sick. So, it was just like, please watch the “Octonauts” and don’t scream while mommy is a professional.

And then Dave came home and was like, “Have you heard about Yemen?” And I was like, “Have you heard about me not taking a shower in five days?!” And then, I became a stereotype.

I know. Whine. Whine. Whine. We all have kids (maybe, if not, you do you, no pressure). We all make choices, this is where our choices bring us. And that is right. It’s just that lately, my choices seem to bring me to the end of the night mainlining cake and Nyquil.

Also, Dave thinks “selfies” are pictures that other people take of you.  When he asked me if I wanted him to take a selfie on our date night, I was like, “Yes, I want to see you take a selfie.” Then he took a picture of me and I was all, “SON, DO YOU EVEN MILLENIAL!?” It’s clear Dave has been born in the wrong time. He also wants me to tell you to get off his lawn.

Also, my dear, dear neighbors are moving and I think I might be an emotional mess about this. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.


So in lieu of any intelligent thing being said on this site, I give you links to other things I’ve written lately that you may like.


Here are a couple of my Mom.me posts: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect About Having Two Kids–Like enjoying their mutual pain and tandem time outs. Ranting about maternity leave v. paternity leave

And I have a kind of semi-regular thing on Jezebel, which I’m acting all casual about, but really I’ve pooped myself maybe five times. So here is a second installment about the lady who gave birth to 365 babies at once.

Also, the inestimable Jane Marie launched a new beauty site called Millihelen. I may be writing a kind of sciencey feature for her over there. Unless it gets cut, then forget I said anything. But the site launches Monday, so look forward to that.

I did not write this. But it’s a great look at the childcare problem in the US, which is relevant to all people with children or not.

Women and body hair. So fascinating.

This Was Your 2014 On Facebook

This was originally published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette in my column Pants-free Parenting.


I opened up Facebook and saw, “This was your year!” I clicked on the picture of me, one I had posted in April. It was a picture of me at 10, with my giant purple, plastic framed glasses. A sundress with a lace Peter Pan collar and a hat, I had decorated myself with rosettes made of purple tulle. I’m bony, my teeth stick out at so many varying angles it would make Euclid cry.

That awkward picture of me is the most honest picture of the group. The rest that Facebook used to curate my year, were all pictures of my children smiling or engaged in charming activities like dancing, sleeping or “getting along.” The pictures of my husband and I show us smiling, no bags under our eyes. No exhausted elbow jabs. No you change the poopy diaper.

I appreciate Facebook’s attempt at giving me nostalgia. But it’s dishonest to call those pictures a summation of my year.  In fact, I’ve scrolled through a lot of those year in review photo collections and they are all just a bunch of hogwash. They are just the sunny, perfect pictures we share to hide the grim realities of the rest of the year. And we all curate, we are all complicit in this game of showcasing who we want to be, rather than who we are.  But I won’t do it. I won’t share those pictures. I won’t pretend that my year was just happy, smiling faces on vacation. Because, while I do love remembering the good times, I have a problem with forgetting everything else.

In art, the balance of dark and light is called chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is used to give paintings a sense of volume and dimension. It’s what makes faces in paintings glow, even hundreds of years later. It’s what makes expressions come alive. Light and dark, together make a picture real. One without the other and what you get is something flat and abstract. So, with all due respect to the lighter pictures that are curated by social media, they are not an accurate reflection of anyone’s year.

For every smiling picture, there are a dozen more darker moments, unshared and unremembered. For example, this year, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep until August. This year, I learned how to disarm a baby welding a knife and that children can ingest nicotine and be fine. I scrubbed my friend’s refrigerator. I took hours cleaning the crumbs from the drawers, washing the shelves, sniffing pieces of cheese, listening to her sob in the other room—grieving the loss of her infant son. I stood for two hours in a church, feeling pain in my heart and in my knees, not knowing how I could possibly cry anymore and yet, still finding the tears. I’ve watched a dear friend leave a violent relationship. I’ve wallowed in abject failure at least a dozen times. My baby screamed at me and bit my leg. My daughter cried and called me stupid and said I hurt her feelings and she wasn’t wrong. More than once, I said things to my husband that I wish I could take back.  And I’ve had things said to me—passive aggressive remarks from disappointed family members and snide emails from people I’ve never met.

These too are not the totality of my year, but they are a part of it. And I want to remember them too, not because they are perfect, but because they are mine. They are part of me. I want to remember them because they balance the more joyful moments. They remind me why joy is joy, that life is complicated and that we are so much more than a handful of smiling, edited photos. And in our remembrance of our past, we do a disservice to ourselves in not remembering those moments too. Because it’s the dark that balances the light and dark is part of all of this too.

I hope you have a happy new year. But I also hope your year is wonderful and deep and complicated and above all, real.

I am THAT mom

The moment my infant son hit a girl in a wheelchair was the moment I knew, I am that mom. You know her, the woman who has no control over her kids. The one who is flying after a toddling little terrorist, mumbling apologies.

I was at a craft store, making some last-minute holiday purchases and made the mistake of letting my son out of the cart. By that point, he had wiggled out of the belt and was standing on the seat screaming, “All done! All done!” Frankly, I was all done as well. I don’t like craft stores and all their expectations. I always feel like a failure walking down the aisle. What do you do with 600 Popsicle sticks? I don’t know. But apparently there are a lot of people on earth who do.

My son was screaming and would rather jump head first from the cart than walk down another aisle of buttons. (Why so many buttons?) So, I let him down. He turned to run and his pathway was blocked by a really nice girl with two broken legs, being pushed by her father in a wheelchair. Frustrated by this impediment, my 17 month old baby yelled and smacked the girl in the leg. She didn’t flinch. So, I don’t think any nine-year-olds were harmed in the making of this story. Still, I was mortified. I went to grab my baby and he screamed and prostrated himself on the floor in a blind rage.

This is not my kid. This is Damien from “The Omen.” Sometimes I think this is the look at least one or both of my children will have at my funeral. I don’t think I’m wrong.

I picked him up and he wailed louder. I apologized and tried to exit the store. Except, the lines at the registers were long.  So, I struggled to hold him while he screamed, “All done, mom! ALL DONE!” Finally, I set him down and he grabbed some candy and started shaking it like maracas. He seemed happy and since he wasn’t harming a child in a wheelchair (I know, a low bar) I let him be. The cashier stuck her head out to glare.

“Ma’am, did you know that your baby is playing with the candy?”

SO, nice of her to take time to judge me instead of, you know, hurrying up the line. This is another thing I don’t understand about craft stores: they sell a cornucopia of craft items for children, projects for children, items to give to children, and yet, they are the most child unfriendly place in the world.

“Oh wow,” I said flatly. “I had no idea. Thank you for telling me.”

I took the candy. He grabbed more. I took that. He grabbed more. I picked him up and he screamed. By now, the entire store was staring at me. It didn’t help that the father and daughter team were now in line two people behind us. I avoided eye contact. Finally, I slung my baby over my shoulder. His feet were waving in the air. He was laughing. A lady behind me said, “Oh, well now he seems happy.”

Thank you, lady.

That’s how I approached the check-out, dangling my giggling baby over my shoulder and pushing the cart with my hips.

The next day, this same child ripped a cabinet door off with his bare hands. To be fair, it was the door that accessed the garbage. So, it was his Mount Everest.

I’m beginning to realize that for the next couple of years, I should probably just never leave the house. And if I do, just know, I am that mom. No, I can’t control my child. And I really am sorry.

I Don’t Even Know


When I came to school to pick up my daughter, the teacher pulled me aside.

“Do you have a princess ring?” She asked glancing at my daughter.

I blinked. “Um no.”

“Well, she says you forgot her princess ring and she’s been upset about it all day.”

We have many princess apparel items and princess accessories, but my three-year-old owns no princess rings. Nor did she mention wanting a princess ring. Nor has she ever mentioned wanting a princess ring. I shrugged at the teacher. “Look, I have no idea what is going on.”

My daughter lives in her own world, with her own rules and her own requirements. On any given day, I am met with a list of demands and rules that constantly baffle me. No one wears black on Mondays. Princesses only drink milk at lunch. Dresses with foxes on them are only for the library. Syrup doesn’t belong on pancakes. Or on planet earth. We don’t have enough beans. Socks have to go inside out. And mom is not allowed to sing any songs that appear in the movie “Frozen.”

She declares these rules with a toss of her head and just the tiniest hint of an eyeroll. Like I should obviously know that spiders only play the tuba. DUH. How could I not know that?

I wasn’t kidding when I told the teacher I have no idea what is going on.  Because I don’t.

At school, when I fished my daughter out of a group of her friends, she smiled at me and told me that she didn’t miss me at all because she was too busy having fun. In the car, I asked her if she wanted a ring.

“What ring, mom?” She said, her eyes wide.

“Didn’t you ask your teachers for a ring?”

She shook her head and started singing a song about baby chickens who want to go to Wisconsin on vacation. Then, when we got home she asked me to pick up a giant, imaginary jewel off the ground. When I mimed picking it up, she frowned. “No, you got a baby chickie!” I went through this mimicry four times, before I gave up. “Get your own jewel,” I said.

She began sobbing. If she didn’t get the jewel she would get eaten by a Jaguar and it would be all my fault. I gave her a hug and put her down for a rest.

Sometimes, parenting feels like watching over someone who is just high on drugs all the time. Or being a nurse in a mental institution. After a while, I forget who is the sane one and who is the three year old wearing underwear on her head. Look, I don’t know much about life, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not a good idea to feed the baby dried macaroni and sequins. Rest time, is when I get to recalibrate. Remember that life is more than just chickens, jaguars and Wisconsin. So, while my daughter warbled a song from her room, I sat on the couch to try to get some reading done, but I made sure to make some room for all those baby chickies.


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