Out of the Depths of Chaos, I Write This Post

Toddlers are clumsy.

I am sympathetic to their struggle. Getting used to your rapidly expanding dimensions is awkward, and mastering your gait without looking like an alien’s impression of a human trying to walk is something you might struggle with well into adulthood.

So, every 10 goddamn minutes is beset with one of my kids suddenly toppling over nothing, arms and legs akimbo, all the way down, screaming bloody murder, the entire time, in super-slow-motion, until the inevitable face-plant. And I rarely see it coming, so all I can do is offer helpful pointers AFTER the fact like, “in the future, try not to do that” and “there’s a wall there” or “cartwheeling out of the bathtub is frowned upon.” My husband is comparatively clumsy, but instead of merely hurting himself, his brand of clumsy goes OUTWARD, like a fast and dramatic movie explosion, pulverizing everything within reach of the sonic boom. No, wait, that’s unfair to him. Maybe its more of an IMPLOSION, the way scientists describe a black-hole suddenly ripping through space and time, sucking anything not bolted down into its maw. Devoid of light. Consuming abstract concepts, like time itself. The sort of complete annihilation only gods are capable of. Or toddlers. And now I’ve forgotten what I was talking about.

One time, he was in the bathroom unrolling himself a few squares from the toilet paper roll, a routine gesture for the coordinated. He somehow managed to make the whole thing (toilet paper roll and the toilet paper roll holder thingy) come apart from itself in an awesome explosion, leaving fragments scattered about the bathroom floor. Fragments he did not bother to pick up. For, like, DAYS. I marked it on my calendar so I’d have extra ammo to pick a fight with him about it. After the third day of me stepping over the debris, I realized he could no longer SEE the destruction, which meant he had gotten used to it just lying on the floor. The wreckage had now just become part of the scenery for him. I resentfully put it back together for him. But more for myself. And not before I gave him a good TONGUE LASHING about how toilet paper goes on the toilet paper roll holder because that’s what it’s there for, it’s FUNCTIONAL and not just there for decoration, you don’t leave the roll on the windowsill when you have a capable toilet roll holder. Also, I stressed the importance of cleaning up after one’s self, especially when it’s the scene of a crime you’ve just committed.
“Why?” he said. “Leaving it on the windowsill is easier.”
“Getting it off the roller is just as easy,” I said. “And how did you even destroy the roller in the first place? You need less than an ounce of strength to unroll toilet paper. You are a BARBARIAN.”

There was another time when he managed to accidentally backward somersault off the edge of our bed, nearly kicking the TV over. I didn’t know it was possible to ACCIDENTALLY somersault, off of anything, ever. There was also the time he was opening a can of beans, and he had almost gotten the entire can open without incident. But LIKE MAGIC, he managed to spill half the canned beans onto the counter top, simultaneously slicing his nail bed on the edge of the can. This same incident also left permanent blood stains on our shower curtain after he ran into the bathroom for something to stop the bleeding. A shower curtain I chose for its bright and cheerful colors, now left looking like evidence from the scene of a gruesome murder, thanks to my husband.

Or the time he was innocently baking potato wedges in the oven when oil dripped onto the bottom and caught fire in our apartment. An alarming, decent-sized fire that filled the kitchen with smoke. He eventually put the fire out, but not before he somehow tore the blinds completely away from the kitchen window. His theory is that everything around him must be cheaply built, and I need to stop victim blaming.

Not to mention the numerous times I’ve asked him to bring me a glass of water, only for him to spill half the glass over everything on my nightstand. Okay, that only happened once, but it was riding on the back of him telling me he’d lost his wedding ring and it had been missing for DAYS. So, I was already in a foul mood when he spilled water all over my things.

Later, another set of window blinds fell under his sword. It happened as he was innocently trying to tiptoe his way around our bed so he wouldn’t wake our son during his nap. He’d almost made it around the bed, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to leave the room without making some colossal noise on his way out. Suddenly, he tripped over nothing, and almost fell through a window. Slamming a hand against the windowpane to catch himself, he cleanly sliced the blinds in half. For weeks afterwards, the blinds hung down both sides of the window like two permanently flaccid penises, and for WEEKS, because we were both too lazy to fix them. He was too lazy to take them down and replace them, and I was too lazy to nag him into taking them down and replacing them.

As of now, he is on his yearly hiking trip with his buddy, during which, they proceed on their annual death-march through the Appalachian mountains for weeks (or where ever the hell there are, I don’t even know where my husband is) possibly fighting off bloodthirsty Deliverance hillbillies (I’m racist) under the blazing June sun.

All I can do is sit and wait for his return, keeping my fingers crossed that he hasn’t accidentally cartwheeled himself off of a cliff. I’ll wait while simultaneously snatching my children by the back of their shirts so they don’t walk into the nearest wall, or moonwalk off the nearest flight of stairs.

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Die Harder, With Breastmilk

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Me trying to figure out what to cook for breakfast

I’m a stay-at-home mom, so it’s fair to say that every day of my life is comparable to the heartwarming Christmas movie, Die Hard.

I (naturally) am the hero John McClane, who is trapped in a claustrophobic gauntlet with morally bankrupt antagonists, and is just trying to escape with his life (and save the hostages, but who cares about that).

My son Brandon (obviously) is Hans Gruber, the criminal mastermind, whose motives are as treacherous as they are villainous, and only John can stop him. Where Hans Gruber wanted to kidnap and murder, Brandon wants to eat cat litter and throw things off of our 3rd floor balcony. And only I can stop him. But, am I trapped in here with HIM, or is he trapped in here with ME?

My daughter Ayanna is (clearly) Karl, the most loyal, bloodthirsty and adorable of all the henchmen. But she isn’t so much bloodthirsty as she is MILKthirsty, I don’t think I’ve ever met a hungrier person in my LIFE.

Our tiny apartment doesn’t have all the scope and grandeur of the Nakatomi plaza, but it’s just as claustrophobic when you’re locked in overnight with terrorists. Oops I mean, children.

My husband is Al, the beat cop who was not physically available to help John, but was the best damn moral support a hero could ask for. Moreover, Al was John’s only link to the world outside of the murder maze. They communicated via the world’s most powerful walkie-talkie, just like my husband and I, as I send him endless texts complaining about all the non-stop 80s action going on up in here and BEGGING him to bring me a bottle of wine when he gets off work.

While Hans and Karl were agents of chaos and mayhem, John was the custodian of order and justice. And it was in the keeping of order and justice that John was compelled to pick up the biggest machine gun he could find and dole out lots of justice with lots of bullets.

I (fortunately) don’t have a machine gun at my disposal, but what I DO have is a little tool called TIME-OUT, and I will use it on my little Hans Gruber every time he gets out of line. And I THINK it works. Sometimes.

In fact, we ACCIDENTALLY acted out a key scene from Die Hard the other day. It was the scene when Hans and Karl shoot out all the glass after realizing that John hadn’t been wearing shoes for the entire movie. Our crippled hero dragged himself and his shredded feet to temporary safety, and later, he nursed his wounds while Al regaled him with a tale of the time he accidentally shot a child. I similarly dragged my lower half to safety after I damn near broke a toe on the edge of a chair as my little versions of Hans and Karl screamed vaguely European baby gibberish at me. After I crawled army-style into the bathroom and kicked the door shut, I laid there texting my husband a stream of angry emojis and curse words until he got home from work.

And EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Brandon and I act out the final scene when Hans WOULDN’T LET GO of John’s wife’s wrist, and was dangling out of a billion-story-window, refusing to die, like a true gangsta. But in OUR version, it’s me trying to get my son to go the living hell to sleep at a decent hour before midnight. Because the closer it gets to midnight and he’s STILL awake, the more I feel like my parenting game is super ashy and needs some industrial strength lotion.

But even when you think Hans and his henchmen have been subdued, SURPRISE! Karl tears out of his body bag holding a machine gun (because they packed the gun INSIDE of the bag with him for some reason) and tries to murk John once and for all. Once I finally get my son to stop fighting it, and let the force (I mean the sleep) flow through him, Ayanna starts to stir, and she is ready to WRECK SHOP if I don’t do something about it immediately. So, I’m like, quick! Cram a boob in her mouth so she’ll shut up! And she usually settles down and finally, they are BOTH asleep. Then, my husband wraps a thermal army blanket around my shoulders, and tells me everything’s gonna be alright.

Because we’ve got to act out Die Hard all over again tomorrow.

And then…there were two

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Okay, it’s been nine weeks since Ayanna broke out of my womb, and every time I look at her precious plump face I think: Lawd Jesus WHY DO YOU KEEP ENTRUSTING ME WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES? Now this is getting dangerous and I thought I made it clear that I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I’M DOING. Okay, I guess that’s not entirely true anymore, but I still have SO MANY unanswered questions about my mothering style. Such as:

How the hell are we all still ALIVE?

Is it normal that all my son EVER wants to eat is CHEESE?

Do more RESPONSIBLE mothers let toddlers climb their cat towers?

Is my 1-year-old going to grow up to become a unrepentant MURDERER because we watched Scarface during playtime the other day?

I’m sure I’ll get my answers in due time.

My homey Erin just found out that she’s pregnant with her first child, so now she’s bursting with these existential parenting questions, and coming to me with these questions, as if my parenting game was super tight or something. And my first instinct was to just feed her comforting lies like “Every moment of having children  never sucks and is JUST WONDERFUL. I am VERY well rested, bro. Yup, I would totally be FULL ON pregnant all over again, because THAT didn’t suck for a second.” Then my second thought was to answer her questions by badly quoting Louis C.K. and tell her “I love my kids more than anything in the world, and I regret every decision that led to them being born.” Which is a funny way of saying “I love my kids, but life was way less terrifying and exhausting before they existed and I’d like to go back to a simpler time when the stakes weren’t so high.” But that’s WAY too bleak and not entirely true, and I didn’t want to scare her. I think it’s clear that I’m probably the last parent anyone should rely on for sage parenting advice. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but I think it’s safe to say that I TOTALLY have one, and it is the crux of all my problems. The only nugget of wisdom I could honestly give was instructing her to take a penetrating stare in the mirror and ask herself if she is a punk bitch, because effective and successful parenting is NOT for punk bitches.

That’s the most reliable takeaway I’ve had since becoming a parent.

And you know what? I don’t think this priceless piece of advice is ever going to steer me wrong for the rest of our lives. I should needlepoint my genius quote and hang it on the mantle (I don’t have a mantle), so I can refer to it whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed.

I explained to her that I can’t remember the last time I was able to use the bathroom without my son ALL UP IN MY FACE. If I ever make the mistake of trying to sit on the throne with the door shut (the way nature intended), he will stand on the other side of the door and bang on it with all of the relentlessness of a severely insane person.

I told her that trying to feed Brandon vegetables is like that scene in Dances With Wolves when Kevin Costner is trying to get the wolf to eat from his hand. But instead of majestic wooden flutes providing the soundtrack, it’s me grumbling “Just eat it eat it eat it just EAT THE FUCKING KALE.” So if you don’t want to get put on a bad parent watchlist because your pediatrician alerted social services that your kid’s iron is low because he chooses to subsist on slices of cheese, you better figure out a way to sneak some damn vegetables in his diet RIGHT QUICK.

I told her that living with a toddler is like that time in college when you were paired with a criminally insane person as your dorm mate, someone whose mood turns on a dime and will pickle your belongings with boogers and vomit if you don’t keep a VIGILANT eye on them.

NOW there’s an infant in the mix, so you can FORGET about sleep, yo. JUST FORGET IT, sleeping is now in your past along with napping, quiet contemplation, and good old-fashioned zoning out. The baby and I are shellacked to each other because I carry her only source of food in my boobs. So it makes disciplining a toddler that much more hilarious for anyone who might be watching us. I have to hastily put the baby down and chase my son around with a tit hanging out of my collar because he keeps trying to open the stove while she’s nursing.

I told her I read somewhere that mother-nature makes your children’s faces really cute by design, so instead of the homicidal urge you feel towards the person who keeps waking you up all night long, your mind performs mental gymnastics to such a level, you’ve tricked yourself into thinking THEY’RE the victim. But I think I totally made that up.

And lastly, I instructed her to start downloading all of her favorite comfort movies to her husband’s xbox NOW, so she can play them ad nauseam when her emotional chips are down. I have watched my favorite scene in Aliens when Vazquez blows herself up more times than I can remember. It always gets me pumped and ready to face the day.

 

An addendum to: “A comprehensive list of my toddler’s personality traits”

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“I got something real fo yo ass in these hands.” – Brandon

One more thing: my son is an undefeated drunken boxing master

I know that being a master in the drunken boxing arts isn’t so much of a “personality trait” as it is a “warning” to the rest of the world to not come within arms-reach of mommy’s little killer. I keep forgetting to have his hands registered as lethal weapons with my local government.

I can never tell which angle the attack is going to descend from. He’ll be cuddling in my arms, curled in the fetal position, when suddenly he’s like TIGER STYLE and rips my glasses off of my face. Sometimes, he’s propped up in my husband’s lap playing with a Lego when out of nowhere he’s like HANNIBAL LECTAR ATTACK and clamps down on my husband’s supple arm flesh with his little Chucky teeth and takes a bite. Sometimes he gets all CRANE CLAW, and goes from innocently sucking milk from a bottle to cracking me in the face with said bottle. Most often, he’s trying to scale mommy’s legs while I’m standing at the stove trying to cook myself a meager breakfast of orphanage gruel when he’s suddenly like DONKEY PUNCH SURPRISE and takes me out at the knees.

You would think he’s giving us enough time to duck & cover from his assaults since he yells out the fighting style he’s about to throttle your ass with. Sadly, no. My reflexes have dulled with age, while his are razor sharp.

 

 

 

The Difference Between Us

My train of thought when I’m hungry:

“I’m hungry.”

  1. Opens fridge.
  2. Scans its contents.
  3. Creates a menu in her mind for dinner, consisting of a protein and an appropriate side dish.
  4. Makes sure there is enough to feed herself, her husband and their son.
  5. Commences to cooking.
  6. Commences to serving her husband, her son and herself.
  7. Commences to eating.
  8. Commences to cleaning up while having an imaginary argument with her husband because he is not helping to clean.

The end.

My husband’s train of thought when he is hungry.

“I’m hungry.”

  1. Drops xbox controller to the floor and leaves the living room.
  2. Enters the kitchen, and scans his surroundings for the nearest edible item (probably a box of taco shells).
  3. Grasps box and tears into box from the side like a raccoon, not even bothering to open it properly like someone who isn’t a caveman.
  4. Stands there eating taco shells until he no longer feels the annoying pangs of hunger.
  5. Drops box where he stands
  6. Does an about-face and exits the kitchen.
  7. Re-enters living room and resumes playing with his xbox, never once having considered his pregnant wife’s or his son’s hunger (we might’ve wanted some raw taco shells for dinner, too.)

The end.

My son’s train of thought when he is hungry.

“I’m hungry.” (I don’t think this is literally what he says to himself, since he doesn’t entirely speak English yet.)

  1. Drops whatever household item he is destroying.
  2. Adorably waddles into the kitchen.
  3. Happens upon the box of taco shells earlier discarded by his father.
  4. Picks up where his father left off, finishing off the contents of the box like a smaller, cuter raccoon.
  5. Vomits.

The end.

the time I called poison control

I have a habit of multitasking throughout the day. Re-tarring the roof while folding the laundry. Vacuuming while breastfeeding with no hands, and the like. Some days it’s putting on my make-up in the bathroom mirror while giving Brandon a bath. It’s something I do fairly often: hurriedly slather on my warpaint for the day while he frolics in the tub 6-inches away from me. Usually, it happens unremarkably and without incident. But not yesterday.

The scene of the crime.

The adorable scene of the crime.

Yesterday, while putting the finishing touches on my eye-liner, Brandon became curiously quiet for a moment. A few seconds (SECONDS) of silence had passed after I noticed a lingering lack of noise. “He’s quiet…… too quiet,” I realized. My reptilian brain screamed “something’s not right” when I looked over my shoulder and beheld…….. abject horror. There Brandon stood, waist deep in water that was once crystal clear, now murky green and floating with turds. Turds in the water. Turds on his skin. Turds on his hands. Hands in his mouth.

I wasn’t sure what to do first. I noted the immediate need to get the turds OUT OF HIS MOUTH, and that seemed simple enough, but it required me to navigate a complex series of obstacles faster than he could swallow. If he hadn’t already.
The look on his face said he was having a great time. His literal shit-eating-grin spoke it in volumes, as forest green strands of poop snaked between his teeth. His smile suggested this was the best bath-time ever, and this would surely be his first memory.

Meanwhile, I’m all like COULD YOU STOP TRYING TO MURDER YOURSELF AT EVERY TURN? At least wait until your father’s shift.

Up until yesterday I wasn’t sure if eating shit was a viable means to kill yourself, so you know, I started panicking. Brandon was pretty amused by my panic. At least ONE of us won’t recall this incident at our therapists office (I don’t actually have a therapist, but it couldn’t hurt at this point).

I figured, at the very least this was a surefire trip to the ER, followed up with questioning from Child Protective Services.

I didn’t know what other tool to use, so I jammed a finger in his maw and tried to fish-hook as much poop out of there as I could. But was that enough to stop the impending e.coli infection? I had no expert to turn to. My mom and my husband were both at work, so no help there. And my fingers were too clammy with sweat and poop to type out “does eating poop kill you?” on my phone’s touch screen. So I told Siri to call Illinois Poison Control. At least THEY could talk me off of that ledge, right?? Well, kinda.

The poison control lady had to cut me off because I felt compelled to share the whole story leading up to the poop eating. I just wanted her to know that I’m not a neglectful parent, so there’s no need to put me on some watch list because my kid ate poop.

“Eating feces is considered non-toxic,” she said.

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER? That can’t be right. Don’t you always hear about swaths of people getting sick because poop got in their bag of triple-washed spinach? “Are you SURE?” I asked, daring to question the experts.

“Are YOU sure it was HIS poop?” she asked.

Of course it was HIS poop. What kind of operation do you think I’m running? “Yes,” I assured her. At the very LEAST I know whose poop my kid is eating. WHAT THE HELL DO I LOOK LIKE?

“Well, that’s a relief,” she said.

Oh. I didn’t think relief was the appropriate emotion to go with here. But go on, poison control lady, I’m listening. “Eating your OWN feces is non-toxic,” she explained. “Just watch him closely for the next four hours and give him some water.”

Just give him some water and THAT’S IT?

………some WATER??

Okay, I can do that.