You welcome to cake, Mommy

Had leftover cake today. (Need to send 20-20 picture. Will. Tomorrow.)

Gave a slice of said cake to Peanut. His response?

“Thank you Mommy. If you want cake, you welcome to eat cake, honey. I share with you.”

Thanks, honey. Guess I need to quit calling you honey so often.

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File under: first really embarrassing public moment

Nope, it wasn’t nudity, but good guess. That happened several times in early potty learning, and I didn’t care when he stripped in public. Not my parts, don’t care who sees ’em. And lordy, did that boy drop trou inappropriately. Nope, not tonight. Nor was tonight’s “Holy crap, who said that? Couldn’t be my kid. Maybe this kid is a replacement, sent by aliens who are studying how to make their humanoids more thoughtful and polite like my kid” moment wasn’t pointing out some socially unsavory characteristic about a stranger. He doesn’t even know the really damning words (I leave that to relatives, who, this week alone, have added four words we’ve intentionally NEVER uttered in front of him, to his vocabulary. Sure, we’ve spelled them. Because some people really ARE s-t-u-p-i-d. But he didn’t know them until someone used them in conversation with him. And twit. And bad. Whatever. I give up.) No, this mortification falls under the “Kids Say the Most Inappropriate, If True, but Not Really True, Let Me Explain” category for Bill Cosby. Only he wouldn’t touch this one with a ten foot pole.

Peanut and I are riding on BART, facing the wheelchair-accessible seats. So we have lots of graphics to talk about, mostly evacuation procedures. I’m watching people, discussing with him east and west as concepts. And he is silent for almost a minute, looking at the emergency exit stuff.

He then announces, in full Broadway Belt voice, on a rush hour BART train headed from SF into Oakland:

“White people go on white train; black people go on black train!”

Squelching the impulse to shout, “No! Who taught you that?!” I look where he’s looking. He’s right. Holy, crap, BART people, your evacuation procedures pictures have white people leaving a white train and black people leaving a black train. So his segregationist proclamation is correct, but that’s not the intention of the visual image. I hope. Oh, double crap, how to handle this one?! Where was Mr. Rogers when you needed him? Where is Nebraska’s child abandonment program when you need it? (Okay, not funny. But kinda funny. ‘Cuz some of these here states have some really s-t-u-p-i-d legislatures, no?)

Peanut was very proud of himself for noticing a pattern on a drawing and pointing it out. We say “yay” when he finds patterns in books. Find opposites, find similarities, find something out of place–all of those get a yay. Notice a graphic design nightmare on San Francisco’s trains and you get your mommy into some serious social hot water, little person.

He noticed that, on the aerial structures evacuation procedure, the background is black and the train and people were white. It’s a simple graphic. But right next to it, in the subterranean, transbay tube, and subway graphic, the background is black, the tunnel was white, and, to provide graphic difference, the people and train were all black. Geezus, people, can’t we atleast be consistent with the colors? Can’t all the backgrounds be black or white, and all the trains and people be the same? No, not in the Blueberry-Eating-Smurfiest of all Blue States. No, we need to give equal time to black stick figures and white stick figures. Do they always have to board a train of the same freaking color? Thanks a lot, freaking BART people. Freaking graphic designer from the land of high contrast, low sensitivities. Whatever. I can’t control you a–holes, I can only control my reactions to you a–holes. But let the record show you’re making me look bad here, and making my kid very confused. Or, my reaction will make him confused in three, two, one…

So I tried to acknowledge his discovery AND maintain the huge civil rights gains of the past 150 years.

“Well, honey, that’s just the way they drew the picture. In real trains, ALL people go, and they are lots of different colors. And BART trains aren’t black or white. They’re silver. See? The tracks that are up are in the nighttime, so it’s black in the sky. We couldn’t see the people in the drawing unless they were white. So the picture shows the people white even though people come in lots of colors. And, see, the tracks in the tunnel, show that the tunnel is bright, and we wouldn’t see the people unless they were drawn black. So the picture shows the people black even though people come in lots of colors. See? It’s just a drawing. BART is silver, and we’re pink, not white or black.” [Pathetic. Liberal p.c. oversensitive bullshit pathetic bad parenting yuck. And yet, yay for not overreacting or denying the reality of the freaking white people getting on the white train and the black people getting on the black train. Have I cursed you BART graphics a–holes enough yet? No.]

“Mommy, we no pink. We plain. With little red, right there.” He points to a lovely zit on my chin and moves on to ask for pretzels.

He’s done. I’m not. I’m surrounded by a variety of people, none of whom care (and why not? he’s cute and he’s finally intelligible, so you could at least listen and smirk a little at his huge social gaffe) but to whom I’d like to give a moving speech about how we don’t teach him that people are different, that we teach him all people deserve respect, that people come in all colors, that public places are for everybody (the last one just because he demands that other people leave any place he really likes, especially when there are fire-juggling unicyclists, but that’s another BART story for tomorrow).

I just want everyone around me to know that this boy who seemed to pronounce belief in a new era of separate but equal is really just noticing what some total loser jerk graphic designer with no foresight neglected to read the “socially significant” part of her creative brief. And who approved those black and white graphics? Is it so much more expensive to have purple people and green people? They’re web-safe and could serve as the emergency procedures online, too. Please. Throw me a freaking parenting bone here, people! I just want to tell all the people in the seats around us, most of whom are asleep, and none of whom listens to strange toddler/preschoolers anyway, that this was not a commentary on race relations. My son likes Barack Obama whether he’s photographically brownish or cartoon redish and bluish, as in the yard signs still dominating our neighborhood. In fact, he really likes the red and blue Obama. I do, too. But I don’t draw pictures in which he only gets on a blue and red train, while all the grey people get on a grey train, for feck’s sake.

Six-Minute Chocolate and Blackberry Cake

I premeasured during nap time, and Peanut made the following. Lovely, if a bit gooey.

(Original source: Moosewood Cooks at Home, from my dear godmother. Called the Six-Minute Chocolate Cake, it’s quick to mix, doesn’t use lots of bowls, and transforms well into cupcakes.)

Cake:
1.5C unbleached all-purpose flour
.33 C sweetened cocoa (we prefer Scharffen Berger because it’s local, I prefer the 40s-style graffics, and Peanut likes the girl on the label)
1t baking soda
.5t salt
1C evaporated, granulated cane juice, MINUS 2T
1 stick organic unsalted butter, melted but not hot
.25C organic Gravenstein cinnamon apple sauce
1C cold decaf, preferably French press (for the silt)
2t pure vanilla extract
2T vinegar
2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder (optional. if you skip this, add the 2T of sugar back into the recipe)
1.25C frozen organic unsweetened blackberries (optional)

Glaze:
1 small jar organic raspberry preserves
.25C sweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375F
Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, salt, sugar, and protein into cast-iron dutch oven. In a 2-cup measuring cup, measure and mix together the butter, applesauce, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients and blackberries into the dutch oven and mix with fork. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly just until the whitish swirls of acid+base is evenly distributed. Bake for approx. 30 minutes. Set the cake aside to cool.

We are anti-frosting. There, I said it. I don’t like the cloying, pastiness of frosting. Sorry. I know that makes me anathema to most bakers. But we LOVE us some jam. And I wanted chocolate. So for the glaze:
Put jar of preserves into small saucepan. Do not turn on burner, but put saucepan on top of baking stove. Add cocoa and mash together. Let the ambient heat smooth it out and stir again after cake comes out of oven. Put the glaze on a large platter, and upend the cake onto it. Makes a raspbery, blackberry, cocoa upside down chocolate cake for those with no time to make icing look good.

So I’ve mentioned before what a weirdo I’m raising. Not to be dismissive or judgemental or anything. But he’s a weirdo of untoward proportions. This coming from a HUGE weirdo.

I’m taking a shower in the new house, and he comes running in. “Mommy. I need you, I call you.” Um, there’s a few words missing in there, and I need clarification. “If you need me, you’ll call me?”
“Yes.” And he turns, runs out, and slams the bathroom door.

Two minutes later, he comes back, peels back the edge of the shower curtain and says, “Mommy. Peanut just checking to see if you okay. You okay, okay, mommy?” I can’t help but smile, in that, “man, if someone has to love you, it’s sure a fine opportunity to have someone love you for their complete dependence on you” way. “Yes, baby, I’m okay.” He nods and runs out.

Two minutes later, he comes back, pushes the curtain aside, and says, “Mommy almost all done,” and leaves before I can answer.

Two minutes later, he comes back, peers around the curtain and says, “Mommy, Peanut getting angry Mommy in shower. Mommy all done shower. Peanut no want Mommy shower.” I explain that he can control his body, but he can’t control my body. “Peanut body want play outside. Peanut body no outside no Mommy. Peanut WANT control Mommy body.” And runs out.

Hours later, while he was in the tub, he kept insisting on having a cold bath. Cold bath, need a cold bath. Nope, sorry. It’s 65 degrees in the house (don’t worry–we’re not ogres. There is heat, and it’s on. It’s just set to go off at 57 degrees.) So Spouse announces it’s time to get out of bath (yes, of course he annouces five minutes then three minutes then one minute. What do you think we are, rookies?) Peanut drain the tub himself, then refuses to get out. He plays, no joke, for 10 minutes in a dry tub, naked, and covered with little water drops that he refuses to let us wipe off with (gasp) a towel. Window’s open. It’s November. (Granted, it’s November in the East Bay, but it’s still November.) He takes the tub toys and builds a pretend birthday cake. At least one hundred times. Each time he sings, “Yay, mommy birthday cake! Yay!” My birthday is later this week. We haven’t mentioned it in days. But he’s preparing his pretend celebration already.

So as he’s making the pretend cake, he pulls a cold, wet washcloth on his knee, and proclaims, “Ooooh. That cold. That no good idea, put that on Peanut leg. No good idea. Try something different.” And he builds another cake, with a washcloth fondant.

Um, there’s a thin, thin line between special education and gifted education, I’m guessing. And we’re living life on that line every day.

Does this thing take quarters?

On a long drive home today, I put in a CD and heard a lovely, nostalgic sound–a jukebox swallowing a quarter. My CD player, however, is not a jukebox, and just after the quarter dropped the right speaker went out. Then a high pitched squeal. Then the left speaker went out. I turned around to look at the sweet little creature who sat, totally clueless as to the wrath he would soon face, reading a Lowly Worm book.

“Did you put money in mommy’s radio?”

“No radio. CD player.”

“Did you put money in mommy’s CD player?”

“Yes.”

“Did Mommy tell you no money in the CD player?”

“hmmmmm. Yes.”

“When Mommy tells you no put money in CD, Mommy means no money in CD.”

“”Peanut put money in, money come back out.”

“No. Peanut put CD in, CD come back out. Peanut put money in, money break CD player.”

“Money no breaked it. Mommy breaked it.”

deep, deep breath.

“CD player is for CDs. No money in CD player. Do you understand?”

“Yes. No money in CD player. Money in radio.”

The words “boarding school” are taking on a whole new appeal to a now reformed AP mama…

The Grapes of Recession

So Peanut and I were curled up in a large, comfy, red armchair before a warm, crackling fireplace of a hotel lobby yesterday. (I get more romantic moments with my kid than with my Spouse. Kind of funny, kind of creepy, kind of depressing.) Peanut was devouring grapes, and I was flipping through the Wall Street Journal. He still isn’t down with me reading adult material, but the fruit distraction helped.

He told me to stop reading. I asked which part he wanted me to read him. (I understand the “pay attention to me.” I won’t heed the “do what I tell you.” It’s a little game we play, where we both want control. And neither of us thinks it’s a game.)

He pointed to a graph of the Dow’s…um…progress over the past two months. “What dat?”

That, I told him is a chart that shows what people’s money is doing. Right now, I said, people are selling their money because they don’t want it. They don’t like to see money go down, down, down like this, and they are scared, so they’re selling their money.

“People scared…[he tried to find the words]…people scared ’bout money…[he tried to sign, but just kept repeating the sign for Roubik’s cube over and over]…people tell Peanut ’bout sad, scared, Peanut give them one grape, they no be sad, scared.”

I wanted to clarify. “So the people who are scared about money, sad about money can tell you that they’re scared and sad, and you’ll give them a grape?”

“Huh. And they be no more scared.”

“Honey, I think that is a great plan. That’s the best plan for being scared about money that I’ve ever heard. What a wonderful idea. We should tell this man about it [showed him Paulson’s picture].”

“hmmmm. No. No tell that man. Only tell people sad scared.” He popped another grape into his mouth and asked about an ad on the next page. I told him it was an ad, and he yelled NO at it, then turned the page with me.

So you heard it here first. We’re only telling you—the people who are scared and sad about the money graph—that you can tell your problems to our very thoughtful toddler, and he’ll give you one grape.

Only I don’t think he understands how many grapes that would be. The graph was small, and he must think that the scale is a bit more grape-able than it might really be. Then again, a sweet faced boy who really wants to fix your sadness with fruit…maybe that is the answer.

Psssst. Mr. Paulson. Mr. Darling. Mr. Lagarde. Mr. Manuel. And all other finance minister types. Don’t tell him I told you, but this guy has an idea to fix your…how do we put it…catastrophic international economic failure issues. Get this–a plan to stabalize markets and boost local, organic farm production. Win-win, no? Call us and we’ll give you details. Just be sure to spell the name correctly on the Nobel Prize.

I don’t know if we’ll make it through today.

Here are two tasty little morsels from today, which has been a never-ending stream of the same.

M: Do you want to pull the laundry basket?

P: No. [walks off and up the stairs.]

M: Are you sure you don’t want to help?

P: No! Peanut no want pull laundry!

M: [whatever, fine by me] Okay. [starts pulling basket and gets to bottom of stairs.]

P: [loses it, crying and stomping] Peanut want do it!

M: [not sure what just happened] Okay…

P: No Mommy do it! Peanut want do it!

M: I just said okay. Go ahead. You do it.

P: [Stomps down stairs, grabs basket, wheels it ten feet back toward the laundry room, turns, and wheels it back.]

M: Thank you.

P: Mommy no say thank you. [mounting stairs] Mommy no come up stairs. Laundry no come up stairs.

M: Mommy and laundry need to come upstairs.

P: NO!

……

P: [in stroller, on our morning run] Peanut want that playground.

M: [always fine with stopping the run midway] Okay. [stops the stroller]

P: [screaming] Peanut no want this playground!

M: [befuddled but also endorphined] Okay. We’ll run to a different playground.

P: Peanut no want different playground! Peanut want this playground!

M: [rethinking career choice] Okay. [goes to unbuckle seat belt]

P: [hitting M’s hand] No! Peanut no get out!

M: How will you play if you won’t get out?

P: Peanut no play! Peanut no get out. Peanut not ANY!

M: Should I keep running?

P: Mommy no run.

M: Your choices are playground or Mommy running.

P: Not any. Peanut want different playground.

Sweet Mary, mother of my cousins, I’m gonna chuck this kid out with the next bathwater we can successfully get him into.

See what I’ve become? that should have read “into which we can successfully get him.” Know what? Mommy no care. Mommy want to send Little Mister Struggle For Independence to live with the Doctors Sears. They won’t notice another kid, and they are less likely to try to safe surrender him to the fire department than I am.

Onebody, twobody, redbody, bluebody

Peanut, at the playground: Not anybody here….
Hey! Onebody here!…………….
Mama! Twobodies riding bicycles!…………………………..
Hey! Allbodies here is ladies!

The linguist in me loves this stuff.

Makes me want to dust off the letters of rec. and start working on a linguistics PhD this fall. Everybody else says have another kid. I say I have things to do and this one doesn’t sleep as it is. In fact, allbodies are up around 3 every, morning trying to convince onebody that human bodies need sleep.

Last night’s bedtime:
P: Peanut wake up at nighttime, say Mommy Mommy Daddy Daddy.
M: Mommy and Daddy need to sleep at nighttime. If you wake up you know you’re warm and safe and cozy, and you can see it’s nighttime, so you cuddle your doll and relax back to sleep.
P: If something hurt you, Peanut cuddle doll.
M: Yes, if something hurts you, your doll will cuddle you. What do you think imght hurt you?
P: Bees.

At 3am:
P: [screaming] Mommy! Mama! [crying] Something hurt you. Please, Mommy, cuddle.
M: Something hurt you?
P: Yes.
M: [suspicious that this is a ploy] What hurt you?
P: A lizard
M: [swallowing simultaneous urges to laugh and storm out] Well, tell the lizard to go home to sleep. Nighttime is for sleeping.
P: Go sleep, lizard.
M: Yeah. The lizard says it’s sorry for hurting you. It didn’t know you were sleeping. Sorry.
…..

P: [lying down and grabbing doll] Peanut sleep at nighttime, lizard.

You tell ’em.

Next time by yourself, though, please. What’s up with this early-childhood, needing-help crap? Don’t they make two year olds who can handle everything by themselves? Where do I get me one of them?

But what I really want to do is direct

Peanut: [handing over toothbrush] Mommy turn.

Mommy: [taking toothbrush] Okay. Open, please.

Peanut: [snatching brush back] Mommy don’t want it.

Mommy: [puzzled] Okay. I don’t want to?

Peanut: [yelling and shoving the toothbrush back into mommy’s hand] Peanut say DO it, Mommy DO IT!

I swear we’ve never said anything that sounds anything like that. But if I knew he was going to use that line, I might have tried it a few times. Wouldn’t have worked. But it would have felt good.

Tantrum of monumental proportions

Ah, I love a good tantrum. (Not seriously.) And we don’t get enough of ’em around here. (Seriously.) Toddler are supposed to frequently spiral out of control, overwhelmed because they feel helpless, glimpse the capricious nature of this world, and begin to realize someone else is in charge of them. Now that I recall the reasons for winding into a tantrum, I’m thinking of having a one or two myself.

But Peanut has only had two or three absolute meltdowns in our short (to me; eternal, to him) history together. So we’ve been getting off lucky. (Not really. Every kid, and I believe this, brings his or her own challenges. The tantrum freaks sleep all night; the daytime teethers sleep all night; the nighttime teethers are cuddly all day; the total nightmare children potty train at 15 months. You name the tough issue, I’ll remind you of a reason your child is a dream. Bring on the sextuplets.)

Oh, this tantrum two nights ago one beat them all. Made up for lost time. Was like whiplash all over again. Fill in the aphorism that makes it seem good that we lost two hours of sanity and several years off our lives for finding a happy resolution to last night’s fi-freaking-asco.

Screaming and writhing that he doesn’t want to do something is normal. We talk him through it; we’re firm but fair. We don’t traumatize him, but we don’t let him walk all over us, blah blah blah. He goes willingly every time because we’re wicked wily with the various positive parenting techniques. I didn’t read three-hundred-and-forty-two parenting books for nothing. I have at least five good tactics to try before I lose my patience. He gets the small choices, we get the big choices. “You choose the shampoo, but yes, we’re washing your hair one night this week.” You know the drill. And it always works, if we summon up the hours’ worth of patience it takes to navigate from dinner to bedtime. That two hour stretch is honest to god the longest freaking stretch in my life, every day. Visions of Turkish prison…give me a stint in a Turkish prison any day. NOT Gitmo. I’ll take a toddler over human rights abuses. Let’s be clear about that.

So he’s screaming and writhing going into bath. Screaming and writhing coming out of bath. No amount of negotiation or compromise seem to work. He chooses the soap, then shrieks as though he’s being stabbed as I come near him with it. [We don’t scream inside. If you scream one more time you don’t get stories tonight.] He chooses the bath toy, then flings it at my head when I say we have three more minutes. [We don’t throw toys because they could hurt someone. If you throw any more toys they go away until tomorrow.] He chooses the towel then bangs on my head as I dry him off. [We don’t hit. If you hit me again you get a time out.] It’s a lovely night.

So we’ve gotten teeth brushed and we’re reading books. (Naked reading is now the compromise to get teeth brushed. I’d rather have him grow up with strong teeth than always be fully clothed. I went to college with The Naked Guy. I don’t care if Peanut defies society on its Puritanical norms. I care if his oral hygeine becomes a familial liability. Spouse’s abyssmal record on that front makes me try even harder on the next generation.)

“Okay. We’re reading three stories tonight. This is one…(as the next one approaches) this is the second story and we’re reading three tonight. So one more after this…(as the next one approaches) This is the last story tonight. After this story we’re all done. Look at Mommy’s eyes. Say that when this book is all done, we’re all done stories. (He looks at me and screams at the top of his lungs.)

C: Mommy told you no screaming inside. Quiet voice inside. If you scream again we’re all done stories.
P: [looks at me, decides, and yells as loud as he’s able.] AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
C: [surreal calm descends as I know if I get sucked in, the kid is getting the kind of beating that we don’t believe in but often fantasize about]: All done stories. We don’t yell inside. No more stories.
P: [crying] Please one more story.
C: No. Mommy said no more stories if you scream. Time for potty and bed.
P: [Sobbing] Please one more story.
C: No. Time to say goodnight.
P: [Stroking my face, kissing me] Please one more story. (Where did he learn that trick? It’s gonna help in college, methinks).
C: [Looking at Spouse over Peanut’s shoulder and mouthing “I really want to read the story.”] No. Stories all done.
P: [screaming and sobbing] Please one more.
C: No. We’re all done. You cannot scream and get stories. It’s time for pee and goodnight.

So he hits me. I tell him that’s not okay. He yells. I tell him that’s not okay, either. He cries, I pick him up, he slugs me. I put him down he is wracked with sobs and begging to be cuddled. I pick him up, he hits me. I put him down he screams. I go into the bathroom. He follows me, screaming and sobbing about the book, about sorry, about some other stuff I don’t understand. I help him on the toilet and he beats on me, repeatedly, while peeing. That’s some trick, I think. I tell him to stop it, he does. I tell him to wash his hands, he yells. I wash his hands, he screams. I put him down he shrieks to get up. I cuddle him he hits me. I put him down he screams. Spouse walks into the room, Peanut sobs “Daddy go ‘way.” Apparently, no pee, no wash, no window, no light, no door, no nothing but another book. If we turn off the light, he screams that he wants to turn it off. If we turn it back on, he screams that he doesn’t want it off ever.

The cat has been nervously trying to help since the whole fiasco started. He always comes running when someone cries, and since Peanut hasn’t been at cat level for much of this, the feline protector feels helpless. Finally, Peanut gets down to get his book and beg for one more story and the cat goes to comfort him. Peanut swings at the cat and hits him with the book. Spouse and I draw the line.

“You cannot hit cats. You can’t hit animals. That’s not okay. Timeout.”

We try for at least a minute to enforce the timeout and can’t, so we close Peanut in his room. He pounds on the door and sobs. We cast sad and supportive glances at each other. After ten seconds we go back in. “Cuddle.” As soon as I pick him up, Peanut hits me. (I’m getting really tired of this. I’m getting ready to hit back. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t…you just better hope I don’t drop my guard, buddy, because having on my gentle-parenting game face is all that’s keeping you from a good, sound, slapping.)

We try cuddling, we try timeouts, we try talking, we try just turning off the lights and closing the door. Each time he begs for a cuddle (which is his code for “help, I’m overwhelmed by feelings.”) Then he sobs while he hits. Mmmmm. Not enough Calgon in the world.

Repeat ad nauseum for longer than any human being should cry or be cried at. Finally, I try to shake things up. Barring beating the living crap out of him, I can’t decide what will change this cycle. He needs help out of this tantrum because he’s totally out of control and hysterical, and I need to think of something. So the next time he hits me, I fake cry. Really disappointed cry. “Why would you hit me when I love you” kind of cry. Gorgeous acting.

He gasps in horror and cries in terror. And he tries to make it better. He strokes my face and kisses me, cries, and waits.

He doesn’t know what to do. He stops crying within 20 seconds. He cuddles, he breathes (finally). I let him choose songs and I sing to him. I rock him. I talk nicely to him. It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to hit.

And at the end, as we’re putting him to bed, I tell him I love him. He says, “Mommy no like hitting. Mommy like Peanut.”

I tell him all the time that I love him, that I even love him when he hits, but that I don’t love hitting. I love him happy and sad, I love him angry. I love him reading, I love him running, I love him hitting. I don’t love hitting, but I love you.

Apparently, he listens.

Can’t we just live at The CheeseBoard?

The center of my sense of home and community is The CheeseBoard Collective on Shattuck. Living near there formed some of the most important pieces of who I am, and visiting now brings back a flood of revelations, realizations, and nine-plus-senses pleasures that make me happy to my core.

So I took Peanut there.

He’s been before, but this time we went to the store/bakery and to the pizza joint. The latter is not at all the CheeseBoard where I lunched countless afternoons in the ’90s and ’00s. It’s bigger, since they took over the shop next door and expanded with more tables (shock), a bathroom (gasp), and a full area for the musicians.

The pizza of the day was roasted cauliflower, caramelized onion, mozzarella, cheddar, chive, and garlic olive oil on the trademark sourdough crust. It was gorgeous and drippy and wonderfully flavorful. But I’ve rarely had a bad slice there.

The band was the California Honeydrops. They sunk their teeth into a soulful performance and totally captivated my son.

So we ate, me a slice of heaven and him a cheese roll from the Collective. We listened to the blues. We watched the locals and newbies, alike. We basked in the glow of the new paint, the cheerful tile, and the clean bathrooms.

And he said to me, of my favorite place in the world, (except my aunt and uncle’s house at Thanksgiving), “this place make Peanut happy!”

I cried. “Me, too, bug. This place make mommy happy, too.”

I love you, CheeseBoard family.

New Sheriff in town

Okay, buddy. For the next few minutes, I’m going to channel the parent you’re bringing out in me. All my attachment, gentle, loving parenting is getting me nowhere fast, so here’s the mom I’d just LOVE to be this week, since you hit a major warp-speed, two-and-a-half jerk-fest. Here goes:

No more compromises. No more respecting your wishes or trying to find a way for you to control things. I’m sick and tired of this bullshit.  From here on, you will brush your teeth the first time I ask you. This is not a new concept, we’ve been doing it twice a day since you were four months old. Brush ’em! Now. Life is not full of sunshine, butterflies, and blueberries. We have some chores, too. Do it. You will put on your freaking clothes and get out the door without negotiations and meltdowns and threats and nonsense. They’re just clothes, dude, and everybody else wears them without much fuss. Choose you own, I don’t care. They don’t have to match or be seasonally appropriate. Just fucking put something on and let’s go. This simply can’t take an hour anymore. We’re two under-groomed people in temperate climes, my friend, and it should take more like 15 minutes to get you out the door.

You will wash your hands at whatever water source is closest after you pee or when you declare it’s time to eat. We will no longer try every sink in the house and then decide the cats’ water dish is the best place to clean our hands. It’s handwashing. It doesn’t have to be satisfying or fun or interesting. I’m not singing any more handwashing songs, I’m not thinking up clever questions about soap. Wash your goddamned hands and leave me alone.

Yes, we are going to share. Stop telling me we’re not going to share. I don’t care about age-appropriate, I don’t care about socialization. Give that kid your fucking shovel and shut up about it. You have two more right there. Yes, you will share your toys. Yes, you will share your food. Yes, you will share your house. No, you don’t have to share your mommy, though at this point you’re lucky to still have a mommy, so shut up about that, too.

You WILL get in the stroller, and you WILL enjoy it. I know you’re a sling baby. I know you didn’t get in a stroller more than a dozen times your first year. But I need to go for a run before my brain explodes, so get in the damned thing. You may have a snack, because you always get one, and, today, like every other freaking day, we will run to a playground so there’s something in it for you. Stop freaking telling me what to do and what not to do. I AM the boss of you and you WILL listen. I bend over backwards for you three hundred times a day. It’s your turn. Get in the goddamned stroller. Now.

I’m tired of wanting to yell at you after I repeat something gently and kindly eight times. So screw the first seven. I will say something, and if you don’t listen I’ll scream at you until you do. Got it? And I’m now going to be one of those parents who yells at you to stop crying. Because, seriously, this whole “not in control of my emotions,” “easily overwhelmed,” “new at the whole give and take of social obligations,” “trying to find my place and sense of personhood in the big world” thing is getting really old. You’re two, for heaven’s sake. Can’t you grow up?

Finally, there is no more “one more.” I’ll tell you how many stories, how many minutes, how many turns, and after that you’re done. Not one more. Not one more then one more, or as it’s been lately, one more, now one more, now one more, finally one more. Fuck this nonsense. What is wrong with you? I said ten minutes, I said five minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute. I got down on your level, I used nice words, and I made sure you heard me. All m-o-t-h-e-r-f-u-c-k-i-n-g done. Got it?

This is some bullshit, little boy. And at your graduation, wedding, and investiture into the Supreme Court, THIS is the speech I’m giving. Not some cute story about how loving you can be, or how wonderfully you often listen, or what lovely stories you invent when we’re just hanging out talking with each other. I’m telling everyone, including your prom date, your first love, your boss, your bass player, your dissertation professors, and your kids what a complete a-hole you were this week.

Better yet, I’m telling Nana. That’ll get you.

Peanut wants to go home.

The move went off reasonably well, and we’re hanging out in temporary digs until we either find a house we love, find a financial crisis that scares us out of the real estate market, or get tired of the utter bullsh*te of the Berkeley housing market, whichever comes first.

And we’ve been preparing Peanut for months: Daddy’s going to live with grandma in San Francisco while we find someone to pay for our house. Then we’ll live with Daddy, all the family together, in a temporary house, just for a while, until we find a new house. Then we’ll move to the new house all together and live there, all together. Yay, new house. Usual response: “Peanut SITED ’bout new house.”  I’m excited, too, buddy.

He’s been fine all along. He knows the script, he recites it along with me. He waved goodbye to the old house and made sure all his friends (stuffed animals) and his sister (doll who used to be his baby, and whom he nursed for a long time, and who he has now decided needs a brother, heaven help me because he loves babies and says he wants one–a real one) and his toys and his books were all in the truck so we could take them to the temporary house and the new house.

He knows all this intellectually. But he’s two and a half. He likes concrete nouns, not intangibles. He likes today and tomorrow, not two months from now. He likes things the way he likes them (“no mommy hold Sweetpea, Peanut hold Sweetpea; no mommy walk first, Peanut walk first; no Mommy eat hummus, Peanut no share hummus; no Peanut go escalator, go elevator first, then escalator”) and he doesn’t like that everything is different.

Today he said, “Peanut want go home.” Sure, I told him. We just need to get cat food and we can go home. “No want temporary house. Want go home.” Oh, thank goodnes you’re a quick-to-rebound kind of guy, Peanut. ‘Cuz this is gonna be rough.

“Um, well, you remember when we packed your toys and we said goodbye to the old house?”

“Yem.”

“Well, someone who paid for the house lives in that house now, and we live with Daddy. And we’re going to find a new house and move to a new house. Maybe that house near the playground that has a yard.”

“Hmmmm. No. Peanut no want new house. Peanut want go home.”

Guilt. Sadness. Buck thyself up, adult. You are the adult, you are in charge, you get to decide. This is a good move for good reasons and you want the whole family happy here, else you’ll wind up in Portland to finally give Spouse a shot at being happy. “Well, bug, for a little while, the temporary house is our home because a home is where the people you love are. And after we find a new house, that house will be home. Because home is wherever Mommy and Daddy and Peanut and the cats are.”

“Hmmmm. Peanut no like cats. Peanut no share toys with cats.”

“Ah, I don’t know what to say to that.”

“If baby comes to Peanut house, Peanut no share toys baby.”

“Um, okay.”

“Name Peanut going?”

“Temporary house.”

“Peanut want go home.”

“I know. But we aren’t going to that home. We’re going to the temporary house.”

I’m sorry, buddy, that we took you away from the only home you’ve ever known. We, the alleged grownups, always knew it was a temporary place, but I guess we never told you. I know the yard and the hiking and the creek for rock-throwing and the awesome community of yoga ladies and the nearby parks and the R family and the D family were all home to you. But I swear, now that Mommy is home, things are gonna get even better. Mommy wasn’t happy there, bug. Mommy likes San Francisco. And Daddy needs Mommy happy, because Mommy is simply beastly when she’s unhappy. Remember our thrush? Mommy was out of her head bestly. Remember the teething nights when you woke Mommy 12 and 15 times a night? Mommy was call-an-exorcist beastly. Remember how much fun Mommy can be? Well, I know this is hard because it’s all new to you, but I swear, we’re going to have fun here.

I haven’t said anything for a while, so he chimes in. “Peanut no like Berkeley. Peanut angry Mommy want new house in Berkeley. Peanut like Aaaameeeeda. Peanut like Sasso-siso.”

You and me both, buddy.

It’s good to be home. I just wish you knew it as home.

Peanut’s rage

Our son has found a voice for his rage. Today he experimented with screaming as though he’d been stabbed each time we said something we didn’t like, and bellowing as loudly as an angry moose when we proposed an activity in which he wanted no part. It was quite lovely to watch, really, even if it drove Spouse to new heights of frustration. Okay, time for bath. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG!” Is your boot stuck?  “Yes. YES. YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYY!”

The most interesting part of watching our child scream alternately shrilly and soulfully was his own reaction to his voice. A few times he felt quite satisfied for finding the power he always lost when he hit, bit, or went limp while kicking wildly. He even tried the yells again when they felt just right and sounded even better. Other times, though, his anger scared him, and somehow his primal screams scared him even more. And as soon as the yell was over he asked for a cuddle with tears in his eyes. I told him that, of course I would cuddle him. Being angry is okay, and mommy still loves you if you yell. Yelling doesn’t hurt people. It’s scary, but it doesn’t hurt. Did that yell scare you?  Yes.

It’s not uncommon for this two-and-a-half-year-old’s anger to overpower and terrify him. That’s the nature of toddlerhood. As is the inability to come out of that anger by themselves without help. Hence tantrums–things spiral out of control and they don’t know how to transition back into normalcy. And I have often tried to tell him that there are acceptable ways, including yelling, of being angry. Being furious is okay. Hitting is not okay. Biting is not okay. Throwing things is not okay. Stomping is okay, yelling is okay, cuddling is great, deep breaths are wonderful.

Is it too late to amend the approval of yelling? Was it just my way of justifying my own angry behavior to include yelling in the acceptable category? Did I completely f— that one up? Is it okay to be a family of yellers? I don’t like it when Spouse yells. I don’t like it when grandparents yell. I don’t like it when Sibling yells. Peanut doesn’t like it when I yell. So shouldn’t I be teaching a better coping mechanism for anger?

Yup. Working on it. But by the time I really get control and model “breathing away the anger” behavior, Peanut’s going to be yelling at his own kids, other drivers, his bandmates, and his staff.

Ugh, I need another parenting do-over.

War wounds

Concentrating hard on the plastic spoon she had been given, a ten-month old flailed wildly and poked KD right in the eye tonight after dinner. And I empathized aloud that one of my top ten least favorite bits of motherhood are the daily, painful injuries. Spoon to the eye, elbow to the nose, top of head to soft part under the chin, knee to the innards–these add injury to the insult of not owning any minute of your day. You can’t get mad when an infant wallops you as she flails about, but it still hurts. You can’t get mad when a toddler accidentally slams your solar plexus trying to get to a book. But it still hurts. You can’t get mad when a preschooler bashes your nose trying to climb into your lap. But it really hurts.

And I can’t help but point out to the small people whose elbows seem to have the north pole magnet to my breast’s south pole: I never got hit in any of my other jobs. (Nobody even pushed me, except out of a meeting. Metaphorically.)