Guns, church, and an unreasonable moon

by renegademama

I sat on my porch last night with my husband, Mac, and we talked about the twenty-seven people murdered during church yesterday.

“Did you hear that the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter died? Her name was Annabelle,” I said.

“No. Fuck.”

“And the dad wasn’t there. He wasn’t there to protect his child,” I said, and Mac looked away. “He wasn’t there to throw himself over his baby to take that bullet.”

His eyes brimmed with tears. I looked up at the moon with a couple fucking tears in my own eyes. Seeing him cry does me in. I suppose we were thinking of our girl about that age, fifteen, or any of our babies, really, or the eight-year-old boy who took four bullets in that church.

And being denied the chance to even try to save them.

The moon over our porch was ridiculous. An irrational brightness with barely a sliver gone, illuminating the back of a broken sheet of clouds, its face hidden in gray then bursting out between puffs of white.

Look at me, it seemed to scream. I’m the brightest shit around. 

“If you look at that moon long enough,” I said, “You can almost forget we live in a country where twenty-seven people are murdered while praying to God at church.”

You can almost forget that it happens so often we perhaps barely care anymore, that people believe the solution is to arm more people.

More guns.

Arm the grandmothers in the chapel. Arm the schoolteachers. Arm the fathers and mothers and teenagers. Get ‘em all guns.

You can almost forget the insanity of that prospect, how humans insist on methods of mass destruction even though each of us is here for 80 or 90 or 100 years at the most, if we’re lucky, and then we’re gone into the ground for the rest of the time the moon keeps shining, and still we can’t agree to try our best to let everyone live those years.

We make guns that rapid-fire so we can kill more humans. And we make shit to add to the gun to kill even more humans.

More. More. More humans.

You can almost forget that we’ve made nuclear weapons that could destroy every country on earth five or ten times over or whatever that statistic is (does it matter past once?), and this is in defense of arbitrary borders over stolen lands, stolen through the blood of people. Blood that could have run 80, 90, 100 years.

I guess we’ve always been like this.


I get it. I’m not a fucking pacifist. Maybe I’m a fucking pacifist. We need protection from the Hitlers and Mussolinis and manifest destinies. We need to protect our nation. Sure.

But really, if you pull way, way back, all the way back past the moon and into the void, it’s really fucking insane that humans can’t even agree on continued survival. We can’t even agree that nobody wants to die in mass bloodshed. We can’t even agree it’s a bad idea to create weapons that would destroy the entire planet in war, as if total annihilation is “winning.”

We aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.

I grew up around guns. People very close to me are proud gun owners. I fired a shotgun for the first time when I was about twelve, off the deck at my grandparents’ house. The kickback knocked me on my rear. My dad and uncles laughed, as did I. I felt cool, like one of the guys.

I grew up with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. I grew up with Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan. The gun owners in my life loved all four of those men.

I lean deeply toward the latter.

When I think back, and imagine it now, the gun doesn’t feel American in my hands. It doesn’t feel patriotic. It doesn’t feel like freedom. It feels like cold metal filled with other metal that shreds muscles and stops hearts and shatters bones.

It feels like metal that kills some people and earns other people astronomical amounts of money.

But I get it. I get the “culture.”

I get the mighty power an AR-15 offers, and how “cool” we feel firing weapons. So badass. So edgy. Gun culture. Whee.

Manly as fuck, you know. Real tough broad shit. The people in my life don’t act like that. They don’t flaunt their guns. They don’t post pictures of themselves on Facebook with rifles and smirks to show how tough they are.

Even still, I only “get” gun culture in theory. I understand because I’ve seen it, but it’s never felt like freedom to me, like love or life, like something to frantically protect.

A weapon for civilians that kills fellow civilians faster.



After Sandy Hook, when dozens of first graders were mowed down in their classrooms, maybe sitting on their squares on the carpet, singing a song, brushing paint across rolled up paper, or at their desks practicing the letter “B” – when dozens of first graders can huddle in a room wide-eyed and crying while teachers hush them in a last sad pathetic attempt at life, to only bleed anyway on the carpet squares beneath letters the shapes of zoo animals on the walls – when those babies can die and not a goddamn fucking thing happens, nothing will ever happen.

Mac and I talked about that too. How there’s nowhere to go from there.

Maybe we just give up.

Maybe we accept America will become some robotic zombie dystopian hell where we all carry guns and simply shoot each other at random to get our way. Like California before it was in the union, maybe.

If we take all the guns away, will it work?

Call my fucking representatives, but do they care?

I haven’t the money of the NRA.

I lived in a nation once with strict gun laws. Spain, specifically. It was lovely. I felt four-hundred-and-fifty times safer.

But maybe we have too many guns in America.

Maybe it’s too late for us.

Maybe we should try.


On my wall, I have a quote from Ursula K Le Guin that says, “We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries – the realists of a larger reality.”

I suppose she means the freedom to sing to God without dying. Freedom to dance in sweat and moonlight, to stay alive in a high school, college, or first-grade classroom.

The faces of those babies.

They say more guns.

The insanity makes my head spin.

I take to the page to remember freedom.

Maybe the moon will be less bright tonight, but it always comes back in its brilliant indifference.

It’s up to us to listen.


26 Comments | Posted in nothing to do with parenting. | November 6, 2017

I hereby declare we get to bitch about motherhood because sometimes it’s bullshit

by renegademama

The other day I told Mac, “I don’t really enjoy hanging out with our family anymore.”

It wasn’t one of those moments of exhausted self-pity or fiery rage when we say shit we don’t mean (or maybe only I do that?), and it wasn’t a well thought-out expression of a deeply shameful secret. It was simply the verbalization of a feeling, and when I said it out loud, it simply felt true.

I wonder if it’s grief. Maybe I’m still jacked up about the murder of my grandmother last November. That was a ridiculous thing to say. Of course I am.

Maybe it’s because time is forcing me back around to the moment my cousin took her life: November 9, 2016 at 7:30pm in Livermore, California.

Or maybe I haven’t actually moved on at all. Maybe I’m still stuck in the moment when I found out, as if time halted and now I just travel in circles around a tiny, horrifying instant.

I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s that my family has changed, a lot, and I’m having a hell of a time getting adjusted to it. I have a full-blown teenager now. She’ll be 16 next month. She’s a spectacular kid, better than I ever could have imagined, especially considering how her mother behaved at 16, but she’s a teenager, and the world pisses her off, a lot, and sometimes her moods almost perfectly mirror the toddler’s.

Speaking of which, every morning I wonder which Arlo will walk out of the bedroom: Satan Arlo or So-Lovely-I-Could-Spit Arlo. If it’s the latter, he’ll walk up to me and say, “Will you hold me for just a minute?” And I’ll pick him up in his motorcycle pajamas and pat his fuzzy blonde head and stick my nose in the fold of his neck to catch a whiff of sweet sweaty toddler.

If it’s the former, he’ll sit on the kitchen floor screaming and kicking the refrigerator because I won’t let him eat an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

Rocket is twelve now. And he’s getting damn close to the same teenage angst his sister is experiencing, but he’s still pretty mellow, comparatively.

George is in the childhood sweet spot. Seven years old. Adorable, young, and still chill. But the oldest and youngest kids often demand so much of my attention, I can’t even hang out with her and Rocket like I hung out with the other kids when they were their ages, and I feel a little robbed, and resentful. And I think about middle child syndrome how I am surely, right now, causing it with my glaring deficiencies.

When we go somewhere as a family the bickering starts almost immediately – who sits in the bucket seat of the van (I hate my life), or who gets the last piece of sourdough, or one kid tells another kid to stop humming or whistling or singing or breathing and the other kid yells back until we’re on minute 20 of bickering or yelling and then I’m yelling and it all goes to shit.

Somebody is always in a bad mood.

Somebody is always throwing a tantrum, so rather than enjoy the kids, I’m dealing with a pissed off teenager or pissed off toddler or pissed off me.

It feels lately like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.


As soon as I admit that, I feel shitty for admitting that. I remind myself how lucky I am to have this family, these children. This home. I tell myself to be grateful, goddamnit, some people have lost everything.

And intellectually, I know this to be true. Right now, as I type these words, I feel like an entitled piece of shit complaining about a beautiful life. These aren’t even real problems.

And I know they’ll pass. I know whatever is happening here, whether it’s in me or them or both or the stars, will fade into a something new, maybe something I have never known before.

But then again, I think mothers need a chance to say “sometimes motherhood sucks,” and sometimes we need to be able to say it without anybody telling us “Cheer up, Charlie,” or looking at us as if we’re bacterial bottom-dwellers.

Sometimes parenthood is boring and monotonous and simply sucks donkey balls, and sometimes I’m tired in my motherfucking bones. Like a tired that is more than lack of sleep, like a tired that feels like it’s in the air and has moved into my blood, an existential tired. A tired of the cosmos.

Oh, the drama.

It’s an exhaustion that makes me feel like I can’t engage at all. I can’t even rally the resources I almost always have – to parent.


And yet, here we are anyway. Crazy fucking mothers. We keep showing up, every damn day. We keep trying to talk to our kids, to guide and support them, to advocate and fight on their behalf, to lift them up when they’re all fucked up.

And we do this even when WE are fucked up.

And that’s why we get to say it, you know? Because if our frustration or boredom or exhaustion led our feet out the front door to never return, well, then, that’s something. But that’s not what we do.

We show up half-broken and half-asleep with a headache.

We show up when every inch of ourselves craves bed.

We show up when the irritation and annoyance with the bickering is like metal stakes in our foreheads, over and over again.

We just keep showing up.


It’s not about martyrdom. It’s not about, “Aren’t I so sacred in my annihilation of self?”

It’s about “I love these humans and I am their mother and this is what I do and also they are not ALL of me and never will be and sometimes the entire thing is bullshit.”

Sometimes I just cannot get into motherhood and yet I can’t talk about how I’m not into motherhood because I’m supposed to be so fucking grateful all the time.

Well, you know what, I’m grateful AND I’m over it.

See you at the pick-up line.

Therefore, I hereby declare: Mothers are allowed to bitch about motherhood without anybody telling us “Well, you chose this.”

People choose to be doctors and lawyers and firefighters and they come home and bitch about that, don’t they? How is it weird to have moments when you are TOTALLY OVER YOUR JOB?

We all get to not love what we’re doing sometimes, and we can let the sanctimony surrounding this particular job (of motherhood – fuck the patriarchy forever) vanish like last night’s sleep.

We are real people with real needs and desires doing real work, and as such, we get to yell “fuck it all” into the cosmos on occasion, and realize that in showing up, and doing our best with what we’ve got – even if it’s small and half-assed or a bit sketchy – we’re there, every day, indicating how “grateful” we are for the life surrounding us.

The life we built.

And thank god for made-up pumpkin patch challenges, which I do every year (we go to like 8 or 9 in a month) and which this year involved so many arguments I can’t even begin to count them.

Pretty sure Mac at one point stated, “Pumpkins are ruining my fucking life, Janelle.”

But we showed up anyway, and at the last pumpkin patch yesterday, the teenager said, “Mama, you have to take a picture of us jumping off the haystack like we do every year.”

So I did.

And remembered.


Want to write with me in January?

I started writing this blog in January 2011, and over the years, I’ve learned how to say the things I think even if they’re a bit unpopular, and may or may not result in people telling me I’m fat, should have my kids removed, or diagnosing me with some preventable illness.

Let’s just say I get unfriended a lot.

But also, I have been overwhelmed with the reverse: People saying, “Hey, thanks for saying it. I needed to hear it.”

That’s how writing works, I think. We say some truth to connect to our people, and in doing so, we lose some people and piss some people off, but at the last, we find those who need to hear our words.

I don’t have a monopoly on this process, and people are waiting for what you’ve got to say. I made a workshop to work toward getting you there. I don’t sell any fucking silver bullets, but I can tell you what I do to silence the assholes in my head and ignore the ones in the interwebs, to just Write Anyway.

Join me in January.

I found this a year after I named my workshop “write anyway,” which basically means Junot Diaz is my best friend and he loves me.

27 Comments | Posted in bitching about the kids I chose to have. | October 31, 2017

On rage and helpfulness. Or, of course women are furious.

by renegademama

A few days ago, I sat at my desk reading two articles that outlined in detail Harvey Weinstein’s harassment, assault, and intimidation of women.

As I read about the way he threatened and assaulted women – placing them in the position of giving him what he wanted or facing his wrath – which could (or would) essentially ruin their careers, I began thinking of my own run-ins with men who believed their physical or positional power allowed them to sexually threaten, touch, or intimidate me.

I thought all the way back to the neighbor boys in grade school who pulled some shit when my mother wasn’t home, and the bra-snapping in junior high, and the older cousin who stuck his hand down my shirt while I was sleeping. It was a family sleepover. I woke to his hand on my right breast and him looking at me, silently, like, “What?” Stunned, I didn’t say a word. He removed it eventually.

I hated myself for not yelling. I was ashamed and humiliated. I assumed I had done something terribly wrong to make him think he could do that to me. I never mentioned it.

I thought about the boss in the restaurant where I worked as a busser at age 16, the boss who told me there was “one way I wouldn’t lose my job,” pressing his erect dick against my thigh as I stood pinned against the kitchen wall. I wrote about that here.

I thought about the boss I had in college who told me one day that he thought “it would be a really good idea if we had sex,” and I realized he may fire me if I didn’t fuck him. I didn’t. I began looking immediately for a new job.

I thought about the man who stuck his hand up my skirt as I sat at a bar stool. I thought about the two men who tried to rape me on two occasions, and my narrow escapes, and I thought about the strangers who took my hand and placed it on their penises more times than I can count.

I thought about all that, and how we elected a man who bragged about this exact type of assault and I got fucking angry.

I shared this post on my Facebook page and wrote these words: “#HarveyWeinstein, fuck you, and our pussy-grabbing president, and everyone defending the sexism of either of you. May you walk into the fire of a million women sick of your shit.”

I didn’t think about it. I just posted it, in anger. And then, I began receiving the standard disgusting comments one expects when one states such things publicly, but a couple of comments indicated that my anger was “not helpful.” And that got me thinking.

First of all, I’m nobody’s fucking life coach.

If I ever indicated that I’m here to guide spiritual development, well, I didn’t, because that would be delusional. I am a fucked-up, often immature, mercurial human being waking up each day and hoping for the best. If I were some sort of mystic, I’d be somewhere leading silent retreats with a stoic face, as opposed to here, at my desk, eating a cowboy cookie and wondering if you’re going to like my blog post.

I can say I do my best every day, but the fact is my “best” is occasionally (often? regularly? weekly?) rather pathetic.

I’m human at best. A complete asshole at worst. And every day feels like a battle between my higher and lower selves.

And yes, my higher self knows screaming FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU from the rooftops is not particularly “helpful.” Nobody’s going to go home and say, “Wow, Janelle screaming FUCK TRUMP SUPPORTERS sure did enlighten me! I see it all differently now!”

And yet, I’m not entirely convinced our anger on this front – the sexual assault/rape culture front — isn’t necessary and vital.

Because women have been told since childhood to shut the hell up about these small and large assaults because “that’s the way boys are.” It’s just “locker room talk,” you know.

We’ve been taught since birth to be grateful because it could have been worse.

We’ve been taught to be quiet because you don’t want to be one of those women, the ones who walk around accusing men of every little infraction. Consequently, women minimize and overlook and tell ourselves “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Later, at night, we shudder to remember. And later still, with our friends, we realize every single goddamn woman we know has been assaulted or molested or harassed at least once.

We’re taught to ask ourselves what we could have done to cause it. We’re taught that our bodies were made and built for male consumption – don’t get too fat. Don’t get too thin. Don’t show too much skin. Don’t use your breasts for breastfeeding. Don’t complain. Don’t attack. Don’t be too sensitive.

We’ve been taught to cover ourselves to avoid getting raped, to carry pepper spray and not get too drunk and look around at night while walking and avoid certain places – and we’ve been taught that this is mature, sound womanhood.

We’ve been taught how to WOMAN safely.

We’ve lived and breathed this information and LIVED and BREATHED it again – this way of being –  every fucking day since we knew we were “women,” and it’s all been done with an air of normalcy, an air of “nothing to see here, folks, just another woman trying to stay safe from men who want to assault her.”


Wouldn’t you be?

Fuck yeah we get to scream for a bit. Fuck yeah we get to come out and yell that we are done living like this and it isn’t “normal” (or shouldn’t be), and we will fight and burn this shit down and maybe our fury right now is our fuel — some fire in our step, some flames to our voices, because we are tired of being attacked and silenced.  

Attacked and blamed.

Attacked and told how to not get attacked again.

Attacked and told how to keep our daughters safe from attack.

Sometimes rage is the first liberating emotion. Sometimes we have to recognize we are furious before we can move on to other emotions.

Sometimes rage leads us for the first time to our voices.

I believe this anger needs to bubble up and out of us in one steaming explosion of united rage, so we can come together in the pain and love that moves past anger and into a planet that’s safe for our daughters.

Nobody asked me if I wanted my body violated. Nobody asked me if I wanted bosses who suggested sex as my obligation to them. Nobody asked me if I wanted to play along with this, and I did, and it got me nothing but a pussy-grabbing piece of shit president.

And the nation made clear it doesn’t want to hear our voices.

So yes. If we have to scream, we will scream. And if it’s in rage, it’s in rage.

How about this?

We will be helpful when you stop violating our bodies in person and legislation.

Until then, rage on, sisters, because I know it’s rooted in love. Love of ourselves, our daughters and granddaughters and sons and grandsons. Sometimes love is fierce as hell – a fighting, relentless, burning thing – and the nation has made it clear it won’t hear our whispers.

So fuck whispering.

We’ve tried that. It’s time for something else. We get to be furious. We get to fight. And we get to win.


I wrote this note and stuck it on my wall after the conversations about my lack of helpfulness.


35 Comments | Posted in politics, Uncategorized | October 17, 2017

Do you ever wonder why the hell we trust people?

by renegademama

Just sometimes, ya know? Like when somebody you absolutely knew was trustworthy – somebody you considered family, somebody you invited into all areas of your life, somebody you would have sworn felt the same about you – turns out to be a goddamn liar without any particular capacity for, oh, you know, integrity?

It’s impossible to write this post without being annoyingly vague, but that is the burden we must bear, for this isn’t a story I can detail. I can, however, tell you this: A person my entire family loved like a fucking brother – a non-blood relative each of my kids called “uncle” – betrayed the shit out of us, lied about it, kept lying about it, lied some more about just in case there were some lies left untold, and then, just when we were about to open conversation with him in the hope of some reconciliation, re-engaged unapologetically in the same shit that ended our friendship in the first place.

But the details are unimportant.

The point is, and the thing Mac and I have been asking ourselves since this happened a couple of months ago, after all the tears and rage and confusion – is how difficult it is to not simply shut down the entire friend division of life.

After a loss and betrayal like this, the feeling of “How could I be so wrong about a person?” is overwhelming, and I question my ability to assess character, morality, integrity.

And in the pain and confusion, there’s a side of Mac and me that never wants to open up to anybody again, never wants a new friend, never wants to let anyone come over on motherfucking Christmas.

As in, friendship closed for business until further notice.


Because truly, how can you love somebody so much and have them throw ya away for nothing?

For real, how can we be so goddamn wrong about people? 

That’s the thing, you know? That feeling of having been hoodwinked, played, taken for the ultimate heart ride. But this time, we included our children. This motherfucker caused serious emotional pain for our children.

And I had to navigate that, answer their questions about why he doesn’t come around anymore, and how much they miss him, and I had to come up with something to say beyond: “Some people are fucking assholes.”

Because that wouldn’t have been entirely true anyway, though I wanted to say it in the heat of my sadness. I wanted to rail and scream and tell them we were simply wrong about this person and fuck him and the boat he rode in on.

But that ain’t true, and I know it. And they need to know it.

Instead, I told them, “Well, he made some decisions that make it impossible for us to be friends, but we loved him, and he loved us, and we had some great times together, but sometimes love isn’t enough.”

Sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes it isn’t enough to counteract the brokenness and imperfections of a person, their inability to show honesty or decency or maturity, and you have to let both parts stand. Sometimes you have to accept a person is just too fucked up to trust.

Even though you want to.

I know, I know. “We don’t harm people we love.”

And to that I say, Lolllllllllll. That’s a good one. Either we do harm people we love, or no human on the planet knows how to love, because come the fuck on. Seems to me we harm the people we love often.

I’ve been harmed by AND harmed every single person I love most on this earth.

Seems to me we have love and we have all this other shit inside of us too, parts that do harm, and the people around us feel both.

But with most people, the people we keep in our lives, the support and love and devotion and service is way bigger than the harm, so we can tolerate a person’s humanity, their brokenness.

There’s a difference between imperfect and FUCKING TOXIC AS FUCK.

We gotta let the toxic ones go.


But then we’re left with all the love we shared and nowhere to put it. We’re left with memories of the pain and the friendship, and the confusion of where the fuck it all went wrong.

Part of me wants to shut off, shut down, shove everyone away. Mac and I took turns saying, “I’m never trusting anyone again.” We were joking, sort of. We were being dramatic, sort of. And yet, I see people who do exactly that. I see people hurt by the inevitable betrayal of humans, by the imperfections of those around them, and turning themselves into impenetrable fortresses.

I get it. We have to survive somehow. And honestly, in moments, it’s rather appealing.

But this isn’t a threat to my continued survival, and as such, it’s something that simply hurts, a lot, and makes me question what I thought I knew of people. Makes me wonder what I could have learned, and should learn, and will learn. I look for my part in all this: Where were the signs? What could I have done better? It’s all we can do, I guess. Try to gain some wisdom while also recognizing that sometimes there is nothing we can do, nothing to foresee, and people are just goddamn WEIRD.

I know in my heart that “never loving a new person again” is not the solution. I know that openness to deep friendship is not the solution. But goddamnit, I would have staked my life on this fool.


I suppose I find myself making the ultimate choice again, to let the fucked up nature of humans exist alongside their exquisite beauty, and holding so damn close the friends who’ve stuck around, the family by my side—to remind me not only of the fleeting nature of connection, but the sacredness of the threads that remain.

I have never felt more grateful for the friends in my life who exist like rocks, have withstood the test of years. If nothing else, I see that, and it’s blinding in its brilliance.

So here’s to more ridiculous loving.

Mac gave me this card a few months ago, and it feels so right.


Join me in January

for the first workshop in my series, and then write with me ALL YEAR. 

Write Anyway” is for the person who:

  • has a nagging question or persistent feeling of “You should write this,” but isn’t;
  • can’t decide what to write about;
  • constantly hears the “you suck why are you even trying?” voice when she sits down to write;
  • is too afraid to write what they’re really feeling/thinking/experiencing;
  • is agonizing over what people will think;
  • is obsessing over perfection; and/or
  • getting bent out of shape for 3 days over assholes on the internet criticizing in ways that hurt (and somehow they always hit where it hurts). Insulting intelligence. Name-calling. Making fun. Crafting Reddit threads against you.

An honest account of “chore time” in the shitshow of my domicile

by renegademama

Somebody on Facebook recently asked me what chores are like in my house, so I thought I’d tell you about it in entirely honest, unequivocal terms.

In short, it fucking sucks.

Perhaps it’s a result of bad parenting, and surely in response to this post, all sorts of helpful humans will suggest infallible tactics to WHIP MY ASSHOLE KIDS INTO SHAPE, or, better yet, get my sorry ass functioning on the level of the enlightened, but I don’t fucking care. The truth is what it is, for whatever reason, and chores around my house go like this:

The second the teenager starts working, her mood becomes that of downtrodden elderly person sick of the way life has mistreated her all these years.

She generally walks around doing her work while shouting at her siblings for failing to do theirs and asking my husband and me if we would please “start parenting our children.”

I usually look at her and wonder if perhaps a better option would be to burn the fucking house down.


Incidentally, she’s my favorite kid whilst doing chores because although she is annoying as fuck, she is, in fact, DOING SOMETHING, which is generally more than I can say for my son, who’s twelve, and has to be asked 5 to 27 times to complete a single task.

Every time it’s chore time, he suddenly has to go to the bathroom, for a long time, or he begins doing a task, such as the dishes, only to get distracted almost immediately by a funnel, which he will fill with water and bubbles until Mac or I walk by and remind him of the importance of progress in such situations.

He gets back on task but then sees a jar with a lid, which is apparently fucking fascinating, or hears Phineas & Ferb echoing out of the iPad held on the lap of his seven-year-old sister, who has been asked three times to turn the iPad off and clean her room.

Twelve year old somehow forgets all reality and saunters over to observe the sound, which now has my husband almost roaring because we’re on reminder number 6 to DO THE DISHES.

I take seven-year-old by the hand and escort her into the room, where I glance at the one-foot piles of clothes everywhere and ask, again, why all the clothes have to be removed from the drawers in order to find a single outfit.

“I was looking for my dinosaur shirt” is somehow her categorical answer.

Well, also there’s, “I don’t know.”

So infinitely helpful, these kids.

I scan the room with 12,000 stuffed animals never played with but somehow of great sentimental importance and the overturned magnetic tiles bin, the dress up clothes, the Legos—and I’m overwhelmed with such a sense of existential malaise I usually just stand there with mouth open wondering if this is really my life.

After staring into the ontological void, I often walk out of the room hoping for the best, knowing there’s a good chance the kid will shove all the shit under the bed. I’m conflicted about the whole bed-shoving thing. On the one hand, it’s a useless, lazy activity simply moving the mess from one location to another.

On the other hand, it moves the mess from one location to a less visible one, which in my state of deep malaise, kinda feels like a win.

To understand my standards in moments like that, please take regular standards and remove them entirely.

If I don’t leave, I usually start working, somehow always donating 20% of what I see to the goodwill pile – BUT HOW DOES THE SHIT JUST KEEP MATERIALIZING OUT OF NOWHERE? – while shouting to Mac how “we need to make the kids pick up their room every day after school!” and he adamantly agrees despite the fact that we have never once accomplished this task with any regularity.

Alternatively, I will call him into the bedroom to say things like, “Do you see this shit?”

And “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH OUR FUCKING KIDS.” Or I blame their habits on him.

I find that goes well.

We will then usually say something about garbage bags and how all items on the floor will end up in them unless shit starts changing today.

Vague threats and empty rhetoric are my most essential parenting tools.

Meanwhile, the three-year-old is running around with a large sword from the dude in Moana, whacking his siblings until they engage with him and Mac and I shout “Get back to work!”

The dog sits farting in the living room.

To contain him (the toddler, not the dog) sometimes we’ll turn on the TV, but then the sweet siren sound of the electronic babysitter radiates throughout the house, attracting the semi-addicted 7-year-old and 12-year-old until all three are huddled in living room and the teenager is once again accusing me of “not parenting.”

This generally continues for two to four hours until each kid (sans toddler because he’s useless) has managed through some miracle of baby Jesus, Mary, and Buddha, to complete the fucking chores on their chore list.

As miserable as chore time is, the idea of not having them do chores is about eighty times worse because who the fuck wants to raise entitled assholes who won’t do chores? I DO NOT.

And yes, I know, Super Capable Mother who will comment on this very post letting me know how I need to be consistent, firm, and reasonable and my kids will follow in line perfectly, I REALIZE MY DEFICIENCIES ARE THE PROBLEM HERE AND NO I HAVE NO POINT OTHER THAN TO SAY CHORE TIME SUCKS ASS.

The most infuriating part of chore time is that at the end of it, each and every kid minus the toddler because all he cares about is removing toys from shelves we just organized starts saying things like, “Wow, our house sure is nice when it’s clean like this!”

And I’m like “Yeah, it really is isn’t it? Maybe we could do this WITHOUT THE WRATH OF SATAN.”

But they look at me like I’m speaking some other language.

Sometimes, when feeling entrepreneurial, I will print out some chore charts and through a hundred forms of self-delusion, convince myself that my devotion to them will last more than three days.

Oh, and how long does the nice clean hopeful beauty house last?

One to one and a half hours.

So yes. There you go. That is how it goes down in my house. Every damn time, even though we’ve had kids for nearly 16 years and there are four of them.

Bring on the internet helpers! I’m all ears!

That is a lie. I am not listening.

If I listened, wouldn’t I be in better parental shape by now? 

In other news, here’s my toddler’s contribution to chore time:

thanks, Arlo.


I may suck at chores, but I don’t suck at teaching writing. 


in the 

January 2018 “Write Anyway” Session


I found this a year after I named my workshop “write anyway,” which basically means I am Junot Diaz.


37 Comments | Posted in bitching about the kids I chose to have. | September 20, 2017