Almost Four


Earlier this week, when my daughter was sick, I tried explaining to her what antibiotics were.

“Anti-bi-what?” She said. She is almost four, almost four and a century old.

“Anti-bi-otics,” I said.






“Come on now,” I said. Her face didn’t crack a smile. She just shrugged. “Guess I don’t know it.” Then, she walked away.

It is a bizarre feeling, when the human you created, the one you wrenched forth from your innermost being, turns on you. You don’t even know it. You give them the benefit of the doubt. There is this a whiff of that new parent in you. The one so in love with your baby that you won’t admit they are killing you. “No, he’s the perfect baby,” you insist to strangers, who can see the bags under your eyes and hear the exhaustion buzz from your skin. “He’s so perfect.”

This never really leaves you. This is why it’s easy to make the mom the butt of a joke. She’s so insistent on your perfection, she never sees it coming. And I didn’t. I didn’t see it coming. I just assumed she didn’t know how to say antibiotic (which is ridiculous, because she could say provalone at 11 months old.)

A few hours later, I overheard her talking to her baby brother. “Bubs, can you say antibiotic? I can.”

Straight up trolled by my almost four year old.

Only the day before, I had been holding her in my lap, catching the vomit from her as she cried that her throat hurt like “lots of mean guys were in it.” That day, when I strode into the room and said, “Hey, you can say antibiotics.” She put her hand on her hip, cocked her head to one side and said very slowly, “So what.”

It wasn’t a question.

I don’t know how someone can be so old and so young at the same time. Having children has made time manifest. Before it was a concept that dictated the places I should be. Now, it stands before me, hand on hip, blonde hair in eyes, eyes that say, “What’s it to you?” With a mouth, still so small and pink, that says, “So what.” Time wears a shirt with glitter butterflies. Time tells me that I am a cricket face. Time wakes me up at three in the morning to tell me that she had a scary dream and just wants her mommy.

I feel this way about the baby too. Who really isn’t a baby. I think when a person wakes you up at four in the morning screaming for waffles, they aren’t really a baby. They are a toddler. He is so small. He doesn’t eat much any more. Meal times are violent rebellions. He often takes one look at his food and if it’s chicken he screams, “NONONONONONONO!” And tries to claw his way out of his seat. But he’s buckled in. So he pulls the top of the chair and lifts the seat and tips the chair. And it defies physics, but it seems like he’s lifting himself, chair, booster and all, off the ground and into the air. That’s strong for someone who doesn’t eat chicken. He’s not very chubby, not like his sister was, all rolls and curls. His pants slide down, I roll them at the waist and he has diaper butt. He’s been in a size 18 month, for months. Then, today, I saw that his footie pajamas were too small, stretching between his shoulders and feet.

Here is how he grows. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Everything.

He did that with words too. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Now, everything. Waffles. Time out. Candy. Zuchinni.

I watch them playing in the tent. He is the baby dragon and she is the princess. They have to fight, she explains. He laughs and roars. I wonder how they can be so small and so big at the same time. I sometimes think I will drown in that thought. But then, someone is crying. Someone’s hair is pulled. Someone’s feelings are hurt. Someone wants a snack. Someone needs a tissue. And now someone smells like poop. These little tiny things save me from wondering too much about time.

My first job was as a nurses aid in an assisted living center. I didn’t last long because everyone kept dying and I couldn’t handle it. The first woman who died while I was there was married to another resident. They had been married seven years. They met in the center. They were both each other’s second spouse. Their first marriages had lasted four decades each.

I was cleaning up after lunch and her husband, now a widower twice, sat on the couch. “I want to tell you about my wife,” he said. So, I sat next to him. He didn’t look at me. He didn’t seem to look at anything. “It better be more than angels and worship up there past those pearly gates,” he said. “Otherwise, she’s gonna be angry.”

I laughed. I didn’t know which wife he meant. I tried to look at him in the eyes and tell him something profound or at least kind. But looking in his eyes, was like looking at the ocean and not knowing anything about fathoms. I knew there was more than what I was seeing, but I didn’t know what or how much. I just knew, I didn’t want to jump in.

I opened my mouth, but then another aide walked by with a vacuum and I was saved. I jumped up and cleared the table asking the man if they had gone on any dates. I don’t remember his answer, but I do know he laughed. Three weeks later, he was the second person who died.

Sometimes I think poop is that vacuum sound. It jolts me from jumping into waters I know nothing about. There is time enough to learn. Watching my kids, I feel like I’m not at part of time. I’m just the hand that give the snacks to time, when time is hungry. But I also feel like time is running through my fingers, wriggling from my grasp when I say, “Mommy needs kisses. Please.”

Or when I completely miss out on a joke that has been made at my expense. “No, you can’t do that,” I want to say. “I do that. I do that to my mom. I am the joker and not the joked.”

But it’s too late. And she is only almost four.

On Public Meltdowns

Whenever my husband and I take our children out to a friend’s house or, should we feel saucy, to a restaurant, events begin well. The baby will laugh and crawl around, our daughter will dash off to play, and lulled by the façade of peace we will sit down with a drink and begin a conversation.  But of course, this is really only a false front disguising the storm brewing inside my children.

Often, what’s brewing inside my children is poop. I don’t know why, but they instinctively know to hold on to any bowel movements until we are in the most rural part of our road trip or at someone else’s’ house.  I’m no novice. I now carry back up diapers, wipes and clothing in the car. This has led to the baby wearing a shirt declaring him a Princess and my daughter waddling around with a size two diaper on her three-year-old bum, but poop we can handle.

It’s the other storm that worries me. The one that begins with whimpering and a quiet hysteria that I can see rising in the baby’s eyes. We know what’s coming: the meltdown. The full-on public meltdown. Children don’t meltdown quietly. They aren’t masters of the graceful exit. Instead, they are Biblical in their wrath and grief. Clothing is torn. Teeth are gnashed. Hellfire comes spewing forth from that cute little mouth that you kiss at night. And my children always seem to meltdown when my husband and I dare to take them out in the evening.

We never learn. I don’t know if that is the sleep deprivation or the fact that we are eternal optimist. Maybe this time our kids won’t scream in Red Robin! Maybe this time my daughter won’t decide that the marching band in the parade is going to crush her and start sobbing. Maybe this time, the baby won’t grab my plate of ribs, while I look away to take a drink, and toss my whole meal on the floor. Maybe this time we can all eat hamburgers happily as a family as God intended. But inevitably, the whimpers begin, the pupils dilate, teeth start grinding, and it becomes evident that we need to leave. Of course, we never do leave on time. We always push the boundaries just a little further than we intend to. Goodbyes take a little longer than we expect and the waitress is never around with the check. (Which surprises me, because if I were a restaurant, I would want me out of there too.)

So, if you see a frazzled woman and a disgruntled man hauling a sobbing little girl in a princess dress and a pantsless, screaming baby to the car, that’s us. Say, “hi!” The meltdown has already come, what’s a little more parking lot hysterics in the grand scheme of things?

Inevitably, we will be back at it again next week. Hoping against hope that this, this will be the time we can take our kids in public successfully. Forget college. Forget being a doctor, I just want to enjoy a nice meal out without my kids crying because the French fries are to “French fryie.” But that’s parenting: The eternal hope that one day your kid can function in public without you or someone else getting arrested or breaking down into tears. Wish us luck.

kidscrazymouthThis originally appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette as part of my Pants-Free Parenting column.


Cut! Cut! Cut!

As we were leaving a friend’s house the other night, JQ walked up to me and handled me a long metal pin. “Oh man!” He said and walked away.

It was the pin for the door hinge.

JQ is only 19 months old.

Send help. Send the National Guard. Dear Lord, save me. I am going to die.

This is of course in conjunction with all his other activities, like two months ago when he ripped a door off the cabinet. Or just a week ago, when he scooted a chair over to the counter, climbed on it, climbed onto the counter, grabbed a knife from the magnet strip, and started stabbing his snack cup yelling, “CUT! CUT! CUT!”

But on the bright side, he’s turning into a great talker. He knows how to say all the important words like, “Sweet roll,” “candy” and “time out.” He’s also recently started trying to potty train himself.

After potty training E, I decided I would never potty train another child again. They could wear diapers until someone made them ashamed in first grade, I don’t care. But E told her brother that if he peed on the potty he could get candy. So, he started running around yelling, “Poddy! Candy!” I completely ignored him for the first week.

Then, like a chump, I said, “Fine, you want candy, sit on the potty and pee.” Then, I put him down on the Elmo potty seat. He stared at me with a look that was more of a glare. It’s this look he get’s when he’s about to run away or stab a snack cup with a knife. A look that says, “Listen up, you are going to freak the hell out in about two seconds, so gird your loins!”

He looked at me and peed. Then, held out his hands and said, “CANDY!”

Ever since then, he will come up to me and say, “Poddy! Candy!” I put him on the potty and he pees. He did this 5x in one day once. More often it’s just once a day in the morning while we are trying to get out the door. I don’t think this is potty training. I think this is using urine as an act of aggression.

The other night, Dave and I lay in bed and he said, “That baby is going to be a handful. He’s too smart.”

I snorted. “Going to be?” Then, I laughed so hard I started to cry.


It has been quite on this blog because I have been working a lot on some different writing projects, which I hope will go live soon. I know I don’t always do the best job of keeping people informed of where I’ve been writing, so I made a page here to keep better track of my clips and also, I do my best to spam the hell out of people who are my Facebook fans. Sometimes I regret having that page, but one of those marketing people who follow me on twitter told me, IT’S ALL ABOUT BRAND! Right before I blocked them.

Some links:

I wrote about Sulfates and Triclosan for Jane Marie’s beauty site, The Milli, which is awesome, you should read it.

I also wrote about evil mothers for Jezebel.

And why I’m afraid of people calling CPS on me.

Also, advice for what you should do when your baby threatens you with a knife.



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?”

Goldfish In Bra AKA Roadtrips With Kids

We traveled to Colorado for Christmas. It is February and I can finally talk about it.


Taking a road trip with your children across the country should be punishment for stealing. I have met some people who really enjoy long car rides with their children, but I’ve also met people who think that jumping off a cliff with only a rope tied to your ankle is a good idea.

Over the holidays, my husband and I decided to drive with our two children to Colorado to visit my family. Which was akin to deciding to journey through the depths of Hell to spend some days staying with Satan himself and eating his pot roast. I have a large family—seven siblings—the majority of whom would be at my parents’ house along with their children and partners. My family is a lot like the Waltons, if the Waltons liked to yell, criticize each other’s hair, drink a lot of wine and play really tense card games late into the night.  So, nothing like the Waltons.

But it’s family and it’s the holidays. And one day science will find a direct link to eating too many cookies and forgetting that your family is insane and wanting to go visit them, but this is not that day. So, we left at two in the morning the day after Christmas.

Leaving early was my husband’s idea. At some point in the parenting process, my husband became a dad, a real dad, with tools and ideas about how money should be saved and travel should be undertaken. Many of these dad ideas coincide with frugality and “beating the crowd”, which are also true Midwestern values. And in accordance to those values, my husband likes to urge me to leave halfway through the Fourth of July fireworks because we need to “beat the crowds” and he cautions me against buying off-brand shampoo when I could just add water to the dregs of my Suave body wash and use that for my hair.

So, it should come as no shock that he planned on leaving at two in the morning, so we could save money by doing the trip to Colorado in one day and “beat the crowds.” Although, unless he meant cattle or the smell of cow farts, these “crowds” never did materialize.

It was just us and our kids at two in the morning pulling out of Cedar Rapids, miserable and tired. The plan was that our children would sleep for the first leg of the trip. This did not happen. Instead, they both screamed for an hour and a half, just long enough to give me a migraine. When they did sleep, they slept for another hour and a half and then they were up.

The number one way to get your kid to sleep in the car is to not want them to. I desperately wanted my  children to sleep, so they stayed awake engaging in activities like crying, demanding snacks, dumping snacks on the floor, demanding that I pick up the snacks from the floor, crying when I explained that mommy’s body doesn’t bend that way and no, she can’t get that goldfish in the wheel well.

Like all modern parents, we had gadgets and videos to lull our children into technology induced comas. But the baby wasn’t buying it and my three year old did not appreciate the fact that “bubba” was “frowing all his trucks” at her.

I began the trip totally against the idea of drugging my children with Tylenol to make them sleep. But by the time we stopped for lunch, I bought Tylenol and extra strength migraine medicine for me. “They have headaches, right?” I asked my husband.

“Sure,” he nodded.

That was all I needed.

By the time we got to my parents’ house, all nerves had been soothed by an elixir of drugs, candy and brand new snacks.

“How was the trip?” My mom asked.

“Just perfect,” I said pulling a goldfish cracker out of my hair. “Where is the wine?”

On the way home, we did the trip in two stages, neither beating any crowds or saving any money. But it was worth it.

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