21 things standing between me and “reasonable bedtimes”

by renegademama

Last week a super handy chart took its 10,000 laps around the internet and I once again realized either: a.) The whole fucking parenting world is batshit; or b.) I am worse at this than formerly thought.

You see, the chart in question outlines the times a kid should go to bed based on age and what time he or she wakes up in the morning. For example, a 6-year-old waking up at 6:30am should go to bed at 7:30pm.

Seven. Fucking. Thirty.

Mmmkay. This sounds amazing. This sounds amazing because if my little kids went to bed at 7:30 and my big kids at 8pm, my husband and I would have like two hours of KID FREE GLORY to ignore each other together on the couch while watching Netflix but actually just playing with our phones.

Truly, do we have no soul left? What is wrong with us?

I hate myself.

Anyway, my kids never go to bed at 7:30pm even if one of them has strep. Lies. They go to bed at 7:30pm when they have strep.

Why are we talking about this? I hate this conversation. Getting my kids to bed “on time” each night is somehow the hardest goddamn thing I do each day. I realize that probably means I have pretty nice days.

I try people I TRY. And every day I feel the sun kissing my face with the promise of a new day, a new chance to get my kids to bed before 9pm. Or 9:30pm.


Nobody likes you.

We eat together at least 75% of the time though, so there. Leave me alone.


It’s hard, you know. And seriously, 9:30pm is late even for us, but SEVEN FUCKING THIRTY? Come on.

Usually my evenings go like this:

Do shit

Do shit

Do shit

Do shit

Do shit



There are just so many things standing between me and reasonable bedtimes. For example:

  1. Absolutely nobody under the age of 30 is as interested in reasonable bedtimes as I am. I made an infographic to convey the complexity of the situation:


  1. And yet, they are the ones whose bodies need to move to their beds. And sometimes, I just don’t feel like dealing with them. Here’s a pie chart of things I’d rather do than deal with four bodies who aren’t interested in bed:


  1. Also, we’re supposed to eat dinner before bedtime.
  2. And I am supposed to make that dinner.
  3. Or my husband is supposed to make dinner and he sucks at it as much as I do.
  4. Also sometimes I realize we have no food and it’s 6pm so instead I sit on the couch in denial about dinner.
  5. Or I “run to the store” but once I get there, start enjoying the alone time, so I spend an hour gazing at earth-friendly toilet cleansers, which gets me home at 7pm, and ruins everything again.
  6. After-school “enrichment” activities including but not limited to Boy Scouts, swimming, dance classes, random teen “fun” events. HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET KIDS TO BED AT 7:30pm IF OTHER KIDS NEED TO BE SOMEWHERE UNTIL 8PM?
  7. All the kids are sitting quietly somewhere and I’m enjoying the silence so much I can’t bring myself to disturb them by demanding they get up and go to bed.
  8. Fights with my husband. Look, you never know when a good clean fight needs to happen. I can’t control nature people.
  9. On the other hand there is a small possibility I can control when I fight with my husband.
  10. Forgotten homework at 7:45pm. The fucking worst.
  11. Forgotten project at 8pm. Never mind this is the worst.
  12. Trips to urgent care because I’m sure he’s got swine flu this time. I AM SURE OF IT.
  13. Baths, because there is only so long you can push it. You know?
  14. Random total parental failure.
  15. Temporary lapse in judgment.
  16. We’re at my mom’s house and I like it there because it’s clean.
  17. We’re at the farmer’s market eating lamb shawarma. Have you ever had it? One does not simply leave lamb shawarma. I don’t give a fuck who needs to go to bed.
  18. My child needs her 75th glass of water and a new sleeping arrangement or that one stuffed animal or possibly a new life entirely, but definitely the glass of water. 

I get it. Sleep matters. All this parenting stuff matters. But seriously, fuck these charts.


You know, sometimes evenings are really the only time we all get to BE together. Just hang out. It’s the end of the day. There’s nothing to do. We can chill as people who like each other. We can sit around. We can calm down.

It can’t be all business all the time. Right?

Plus, it’s 7:30 somewhere.

It’s a reasonable bedtime somewhere. And that’ll have to do for now.

Potty training is bullshit. And that frog toilet can go to hell.

by renegademama

I’ve been a mother for 14 years and have 4 children and the only thing I’ve learned is that “they” are pretty much always lying. Everything “they” promise will happen does not actually happen.

Breastfed co-sleeping kids are not “clingy.” Sleep-trained kids do not burn puppies. Formula doesn’t crush souls; homeschooling doesn’t create teenagers capable of speaking only in Minecraft code.

They walk when they want. They talk when they want. They eat food when they fucking want, and they almost all turn into Perfectly Standard Humans. I mean, not to us, of course, to us they are glittering pillars of genius resulting from, that’s right, our excellent parenting choices.

I can’t wait until I have children-in-law and grandchildren so I can tell them how to parent perfectly like I did. EVERYONE IS GOING TO LOVE ME SO MUCH.

But still, sometimes I forget that “they” are full of shit. Even still. It pisses me off every time I do it. How do I do it? I don’t fucking know. My brain is like a weak-ass sieve.

For example, a few months ago, my obviously overcommitted husband bought a frog potty from Target. I was like, “Mac, dude. He’s not even two. WTF is wrong with you?”

And he said, “Well I see no harm in trying.”

See now that is immediately where parents go wrong. The key is to look for opportunities to NOT TRY, not seek out opportunities for excellence. Be a hero in other areas, assholes! Not parenting! Shit.

So I told him, “Okay well this is clearly your gig because I have no interest in attempting to potty train a kid this young.”

“Have you ever potty trained any of our kids?”

“Well, no, but you never know when I may spring into action and frankly I feel implicated by your premature frog-toilet purchase.”

Then he walked away. People walk away from me a lot.


Much to my surprise though, Arlo started showing all kinds of interest in the frog shitter. Mac stuck him on the thing when he first woke up, because apparently that’s a thing you do when you’re “potty training,” and lo and behold the toddler would pee. He even pooped a few times. He even did it when we were on vacation in Tahoe.


We stuck him on it, and he went! Over and over again! Wheeeeeeeee!


Then we forgot about it.

Yeah, that fucking happened. We forgot about it. We simply stopped doing it. I woke up one Sunday and realized it had been two to three weeks since we stuck him on a toilet gleefully bartering candy for excrement.

The frog was full of lint and toys. Uh oh.

So like any reasonable person, I immediately blamed it on the child. He regressed! He went through a phase then forgot!

When that didn’t soothe my nagging discontent, I got on the Google “to research” and ended up reading about how “if you miss the window, you’re totally fucked and they’ll end up 12 years old peeing down their own legs in gym class and not in a fun way.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what “they” said and BECAUSE MY BRAIN IS A WEAK-ASS SIEVE I forgot “they” are always lying, I PANICKED because I HAD RUINED MY CHANCE FOR POTTY TRAINING.

In terror I committed myself to potty training the toddler NOW. I can’t miss the window! I missed the window! THE WINDOW MY GOD THE WINDOW.

(Arlo is 26 months old. This entire thing is fucking ridiculous.)


So I googled, “How do you potty train?” And set myself aflame.

With devotion.

First, I tried to put him on the frog potty again because it worked so well before, but now he hates the frog potty and insists upon sitting on the full-size toilet with his legs out, clinging for dear life to the toilet seat. He just sort of hangs there and looks at me for a few seconds, demanding “candy” while I squeal “pee or poop! YAY!”

But now he’s learned to say, “not working,” which he repeats to infinity beginning about 9 seconds after getting on the toilet.

As if he’s fucking powerless. Sometimes he demands that I shit or pee WITH HIM which is impossible because he’s dangling over the toilet himself and there’s no room for me.

Sometimes I walk away and leave him there hoping he’ll get bored enough to do it but instead he starts flicking the toilet water with one hand while clinging to the seat with the other and screaming for his older sister to join him for “swimming.”


The next day I muster all my energy and gleefully ask him “Do you want to go to the potty? Let’s try the potty! Omg big boy! YAY! Let’s do it!”

He grabs my face, looks me dead in the eyes, tilts his head slightly and says flatly, “No.”


Nobody likes you, Arlo.


Then I remember how Georgia potty trained because she refused to wear clothes and didn’t like the feeling of pee down her leg, so I take his clothes off and he ends up taking a shit 10 minutes later on the top of the kitchen trash can while pulling things out of the junk drawer as I cook dinner.

This is the point at which I realize potty training is bullshit.

If you are dealing with a human who a.) sits naked on trash cans while sober and b.) has no problem taking a shit on it while playing with pencils and ear plugs, there is no hope for you.

 Nobody can work with that.

This is not a regular human. This is an individual outside the bounds of toilet-trained capacity and it is absolutely time to focus on doing nothing again.

The kid is only 26-months-old. Someday he will use a toilet. Someday all humans use toilets. In the grand scheme, what’s a year or two? Damn you Mac and your high standards.

And fuck you, frog potty. Fuck you. You can’t shame me into action. I know better! I’ve been a mom for 14 years!

I’m a motherfucking expert.

Oh, you wanted me to poop in the toilet? No worries I actually just took care of that. In my diaper. WHY ARE YOU CRYING?

Oh, you wanted me to poop in the toilet? No worries I actually just took care of that. In my diaper. WHY ARE YOU CRYING?


How to stay positive in a dystopian wasteland

by renegademama

Maybe I’m alone here, but I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of cosmic dread. It’s kind of a mix between apocalyptic doom and what I imagine it would feel like to be consumed by flames while tied to a cactus.

Perhaps it’s the fact that a racist narcissistic turnip is running for President and at least 50% of American voters think it’s cool. Or maybe it’s that a major party here in the land of the free drafted an anti-gay platform. ANTI-GAY. People. Anti-gay. Because that is, apparently, in 2016, still a thing.

Or maybe it’s being gaslighted by the DNC and RNC and media, all of which insist on shifting reality into “WTF YOU TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SEEING IS NOT REAL.” Sabotaging candidates, flashing Trump’s face so many times we forget what we’re looking at, calling plagiarism “not plagiarism” because “they are common words” (what now?).

And somehow Putin is involved.

Hold me.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that black people are shot for following police instructions or pretty much doing anything and #alllivesmatter is still around in spite of meme #5,356,945 explaining #blacklivesmatter, or that our police look like the motherfucking military and are being killed in Dallas and people are being mowed down in France while watching fireworks and US-backed action in Syria is killing civilians and cops are justifying the shooting of an unarmed behavioral therapist with his hands up by saying “Oh sorry we were aiming for the autistic man next to him. You know, the one with a toy truck in his hand? Yeah. Him.”

Meanwhile, the only hope we have against the turnip is disintegrating into a broken party and rage and everybody’s shit-slinging and yeah I loved Bernie stop calling me names, please. 

And here we are. Parents. Trying to raise kids. In what feels a little like a dystopian wasteland.

We have to stay positive. We have to keep our heads up. Here’s how I’m doing it.

It works at least 2% of the time.

  1. Send a lot of texts to people you know aren’t nutbag assholes using all caps and rage emojis and a lot of “WHAT IS HAPPENING DUDE SERIOUSLY.”
  2. Eat carnitas and chocolate with wild abandon. When we’re all living in bunkers, will we have carnitas? No. NO WE WILL NOT so stop fucking around with your damn kale.
  3. Snuggle your face into the folds of your baby’s neck (after a bath, probs) where baby scent and hope live.
  4. Turn music up really loud and sing it even louder because if this is the end, we might as well go down singing.
  5. Find lovers in other countries. I am not doing this. I am happily married to an excessively kind, bearded man. But it may work for you. On the other hand, there is no place to hide in a dystopian wasteland so maybe a foreign lover is useless. I told you, my ideas are only about 2% reliable.
  6. Block the fuck out of people. There is no time for their nonsense. I realize this does not “build bridges,” but also we all have our brain limits.
  7. But don’t block people before screen-shotting their drivel and texting it to your friends as a reminder that not all people are fucking crazy.
  8. Keep remembering you are not crazy. The world is crazy. DO NOT GET GASLIGHTED. THIS SHIT IS NOT NORMAL and OF COURSE IT WAS PLAGIARISM.
  9. Exercise (?). Haven’t tried it but it sounds solid.
  10. Watch Michael Scott hate Toby on The Office. Do it. I swear it’s cathartic as fuck. The unbridled irrational rage is strangely comforting.  
  11. Actually, watch literally anything in bed while eating chocolate, for as many hours as you possibly can. Because will there be wifi in hell? Who knows, bitches. Who knows. I’m not taking any chances.
  12. Engage in rampant escapism through apps on your phone such as Candy Crush, Pokemon Go, and/or whatever other embarrassing game works for you. This is not the time to judge. This is the time to band together in collective self-soothing through vague denial and flashing lights.
  13. I have a feeling #12 is a badddd call in terms of societal progress.
  14. Anywho, have sex.
  15. Write stuff.
  16. Read poetry.
  17. Turn your phone off. Delete Facebook (I hear that’s an actual thing people do.)
  18. Buy the essential oil blend called: “Self-care in Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell.” Rub it on the soles of your feet and inner wrists. It’s lovely. Lot’s of bergamot. Very soothing.
  19. Cling to the love.
  20. Pray for November.

We can do this. It ain’t right, but we will (probably) survive.

Now what do you have? What are you doing to keep your damn head up?

I’m serious. I want some ideas in the comment section.


Small pink vaginal speaker for in utero musical education. Because the world hates women.

by renegademama

They make some seriously ridiculous “parenting” products, but I have recently come across the winner of every WTF IS HAPPENING award ever made.

Behold, the speaker you stick up your vagina so your baby has direct and uninterrupted access to music from your iPhone.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. Let that one register.

And no, no I am not making this up. You think I could make this shit up? I could not. Ever. Why?


And that it why I would never attempt to convince a pregnant woman that she needs to spend $137 on a speaker to put up her vag.

Direct quote from website: “Babypod is a small intravaginal device that stimulates neural development in unborn babies through music. Scientific studies show that it encourages communication and vocalization in babies before birth through the music streamed. Babypod gives them their first musical and learning experience.”

Ladies, it is no longer good enough for you to play music in the room or car or even buy some other music-making device to hold next to your belly. Oh, no. What you need is TO ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION IN YOUR UNBORN YOUNG BY STICKING A SPEAKER IN YOUR BODY.

And playing music.

How does this even work? I mean, first of all obviously the woman in question has to get the thing up there somehow. Have the makers of this gem ever been pregnant? DO THEY KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO REACH YOUR VAGINA WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE YOUR TOES?

Maybe a partner is supposed to help. Okay, sure. That makes sense. That sounds amazing: “Hey honey, when you get a moment could you put this speaker up my vagina? Purely non-sexual though. Totally educational. Great. Thanks. Have a nice day.”


Maybe they figure think it should be done early in the pregnancy. But, does a fetus even have ears that early?

I hate everything.

I’m not sure what’s worse: the idea that they really think we should “encourage vocalization” in a baby before she’s left the womb, or the idea that holding a speaker up to your belly is no longer good enough.

I seriously viewed the womb-music-activity thing as the pinnacle of Shit Mothers Apparently Do That I Would Never Pull Together. I used to look at those womb music CDs and be like “No for real do women actually do that?”

Frankly, the idea that we need to play symphonies for in utero offspring strikes me as a bit excessive.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It clearly does no harm, and maybe even some good, but it seems like a big, big extra to me, like THE MOST EXTRA. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t consume soda and processed foods or brie or salami (so basically just die) and get exercise and take prenatals and make all your appointments and do kegels and gain 20-25 pounds only (which is fucking impossible, assholes) and spend lots of time nurturing your marriage and other kids and sleep a lot and take lovely professional photos and…


Cool. Okay. I failed.

Although, gotta level with ya, I had four kids and I didn’t play Bach string quartets for any of them and yet they appear to be thriving. Right down the barrel of “functioning like a motherfucker.” That’s my family! And never once did I hold any gadget up to my belly to “provide a first musical learning experience.” WHY?

Because I’m not totally convinced fetuses need learning experiences.

Perhaps we should also read them the alphabet, a bit of Foucault, and have them watch the history channel.

Oh my god we could play Netflix through the vag speaker and MAKE THEM LEARN HISTORY.

I’m sorry. But please. Come on. Pleeeeasseeee somebody work with me here.


The last thing I want to do as a pregnant woman is stick one more thing up my vagina. Midwife hands, those metal death things OBs use, and um, ahem, et cetera, perhaps we could NOT add to the list of things going in or out of that area. OMG. Ew. I feel weird.

Who washes the speaker after?

And now I’m going to throw up.


I did play a lot of Grateful Dead though. I bet that’s why they all like tie-dye and swaying.

Pink vag speakers for all!

Nobody, ever.


This is not our job.



I have an excellent attitude when I’m pregnant and would for sure be interested in a small plastic item in my vagina.



Join me for the last Write Anyway writing workshop of 2016.

Tuesdays at 10am PST, October.

I promise we won’t talk about vaginas. That is a lie. I cannot actually promise that.

Do you ever wonder what your kids will remember?

by renegademama

I am often the mom who forgets whatever it is I was supposed to do. The activity. The paperwork. The change in regular scheduling. The thing the kid was supposed to bring to school: a stuffed animal, for example.

This is not because I’m a “hot mess mom.” I don’t even know exactly what that means, but I am not a mess. I just suck at this.

I’m not flighty or air-headed, bouncing around all WHAT IS HAPPENING WHERE AM I OMGGGGGGG. My feet are on the ground, but I struggle, that’s for sure, and I forget a lot of things.

In my defense, there are a lot of fucking things to remember. Why are there so many things to remember?

And sometimes my tiny mistakes seem to quadruple in frequency and I find myself buried beneath a sense of my own failure, though I know I’m not really failing my children, my community, or myself.

I’m not a mess. But I’ll never be the mom who is uniformly on top of her game. I put things in my calendar then forget to check my calendar. I RSVP then forget the next day. Of course, I’m also working hard on my writing career. But even when I was a stay-at-home-mom, I gotta level with ya, sometimes all this kid shit STILL wasn’t first on my list of Critically Important Things, and I don’t feel guilty about that. Does that make me evil? A bad mother? No, it does not.

It makes me imperfect, and me.


Lately I’ve been struggling again with serious insomnia. It’s been five years now, but last week it went batshit and decided it would obliterate all sleep except for about 3 hours each night. I was crumbling. I woke with pain across my eyes and cheekbones in a zombie-like fog that wore off around 3pm, only to be replaced by a frantic exhaustion that I knew would never be soothed.

And my god is it heavy.

And so, I was messing up a lot. Forgetting a lot. Showing up late. Barely making it to this or that. And yet, at the same time, I’m writing my book and a screenplay and this blog and running writing workshops.

But I’m not a mess. I’m not in the air.

I am fucking tired though. And I sorta suck at this.


I volunteer in Georgia’s kindergarten on June 5 because it’s the last chance I’ll get this year. I volunteer for a last time even though I only did it two other times this year, and planned on doing it so many more times. I feel sad I didn’t do it more. Every week, there was more work, more sick kids, more sick me, and I didn’t do it like I planned I would.

I scramble to sign up for one last day and wonder where our year went. I get there and watch her on the floor, legs crossed, on her circle, looking up at her teacher. I try to burn the image into my mind. She turns around and waves, “Hi, mama!” she says under her breath, her little kindergarten fist and blonde head. Sitting there I remember our little co-op preschool, the way she always wanted to play “Sneaky Snacky Squirrel.” I remember how annoying those kids were.

I glance at my phone and wonder if I’ll have time to finish that writing project.

I’m grateful I get to go to her classroom at all, volunteer at all. When I worked in an office, I don’t think I even knew parents were allowed to volunteer in classrooms.

The next day, she’s supposed to bring a stuffed animal to school. We arrive on campus and I’m happy we’re not late. As soon as we pull up, I see one of her classmates with a stuffed animal. I put my hand on George’s shoulder and ask, “Oh no, honey, today is the day you’re supposed to bring a stuffed animal!”

Her face sinks, “Yes.” They are going to create a habitat for them, out of boxes. That even sounds fun to me. She told me about it the day before. How could I forget? God damnit. I WAS JUST HERE TALKING ABOUT IT WITH THE TEACHER WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

“Maybe we have one in the car,” I say, figuring what are the chances we don’t have a fucking stuffed animal in this giant SUV full of every other item known by humankind.

But of course, we happened to do our bi-annual cleaning just a few days before. I’m kidding. We totally clean tri-annually.

There’s nothing. I can’t believe it. I look down at her and imagine saying, “Sorry, my love, but you’ll just have to not have one.” I imagine her sitting there without one. I tell myself it’s not a big deal. I KNOW it’s not that big of a deal, but in that moment in front of that school and child, I couldn’t take one more tiny failure. I felt my voice cracking. The exhaustion of my life seemed to plant itself across my shoulders and heart: Every irritated time I snapped or yelled at them, returning moments later to apologize, explain I acted badly. Every missed birthday party and every time they’ve been the kid whose mom forgot. I knew I had been blowing it lately, and I was so tired, I almost cried right there in the damn parking lot. I knew I was making a big deal out of this, but I didn’t care. I refused to do it again.

“Go to class, George, and I’ll be right back with a stuffed animal. I promise.”

She beamed. I promised again and my lip may have quivered. I patted her head and felt remarkably pathetic.

My plan was to race to the grocery store down the road and hope for the best. It’s one of those fancy stores that sells triple-cream brie and bamboo cutting boards and homemade bread, but I was thinking maybe they’d have something in the balloon section.

They didn’t. I paced the store wondering what the fuck I was going to do. The baby aisle had a giraffe rattle. I considered it. Nope. I couldn’t. Too baby-ish. She’d get made fun of. But now I really couldn’t give up. I promised the kid, but I was running out of time. I decided I’d get a cup of coffee and race to Target, but I didn’t know if I’d even be back to her in time to do the activity.

As I was getting my coffee, I happened to glance down the aisle that leads to the back of the store, and on the clearance rack, happened to see the fuzzy top of some sort of stuffed animal. I think I actually said, “Oh thank god” out loud.

When I got there, I realized they were the leftover Mother’s Day bears. One said “I love you mom.” I considered it since she can’t read anyway. The other one didn’t say anything but was the most hideous shade of hot pink I’d ever seen in my life. Who the fuck makes a fluorescent pink bear with a rose? It was awful. Truly hideous.

But I knew it would work, and I bought it. It was $4.11.


When I peeked my head in the door, Georgia happened to be sitting at a table right near me. Her face burst into dimples when she saw me, and morphed into full on ecstasy when I held the pink bear out to her. “I LOVE IT!”

She hugged it. She showed her teacher. She was damn near bouncing.

As I left, I smiled, and thought, “Well, it was supposed to be a zoo animal of some sort – since it was a lesson on habitat – but George got a neon pink bear with a rose, and damn was she happy. You did good, Janelle.”


I felt restored by the slightly pathetic act. It was my tiny revolution, my refusal to give up. We do our best for our kids, and sometimes our best is a clearance-rack pink bear 30 minutes late.

I wonder if my kids will remember the pink bear or if they’ll remember the birthday party I forgot.

I think they’ll remember the bear.

They’ll remember all the clearance-rack bears you give them, too, the face of a mother who keeps showing up, even if she’s not just right, and it’s almost too late. They’ll remember the mother who even removed the tags before she handed it to her.

I see you out there, doing the best with what you have, every damn day, and watching the kids race past, while you wonder if it’s enough and what they’ll remember.

They’ll remember the bear.

It’s us who have to learn that it’s enough.

I think we can do that too, if we watch them closely, and learn. Love is love is love. Even in tardy fluorescent pink.




37 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | June 16, 2016