Private Parts

By Kate McKinney

 

My sweet, blonde, curly haired boy with the Disney Princess eyes came up to me and said mournfully “Mommy, I wish I was still little.”

 

Heart. Stop.

 

I picked him up and cuddled him in my lap because truly he is IS still quite little. “Why do you want to be little?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Do you wish you still nursed?” I ask this question perhaps partly out of my own mournfulness. I lactated for almost 10 years, and I still struggle to believe this time has passed forever.

 

“Yeah…”
“Sorry, buddy, mommy doesn’t have any more milk!”

 

At this point my 9 year old interrupts this sweet moment I am having with my still fairly recently weaned child. “Why don’t you get some milk from the fridge and put it in your udders?”

 

MY WHAT? I was too shocked by his verbiage to even bother explaining the mechanics of why THAT wouldn’t work.

 

“Breasts, son. They are called breasts.”

 

“I know, but I didn’t want to teach Felix a bad word.”

 

“Since when are the scientific names of a person’s body parts bad words, son?”

 

“Then why do you get mad at me when I say the parts of MY body?”

 

This is a classic bait and switch. I am not fooled.

 

“Because when you talk about your body you aren’t doing it for any purpose except to be crass. You aren’t being scientific. Just impolite.”

 

*silence*

 

then…

 

“Hey mom…what do you think of my scientific penis?”

I have a long way to go with this kid.

 

Five Little Words

By Kate McKinney

Greetings, friends! I have taken a long hiatus while I adjusted to my full-time job. It was a huge transition for me to go from being a free-lancer to being away from home 40+ hours a week. Thank you for your patience. I now feel comfortable enough in this new skin to spend time writing and returning to transparency. Much love to everyone!

Alice at the ballet

I was snuggling my daughter in my bed, breathing in her brown curls, stroking her cheeks, and reveling in the pleasure of a weekend morning with no set schedule. “You are so beautiful,” I tell her, because I mean it. She is beautiful to look at, a healthy, sturdy girl with pink cheeks, huge hazel eyes and sweet, partially toothless smile.

I remind myself that it’s important to tell girls good things about themselves that aren’t about their looks. I try to do that. I try to tell my daughter the truth. She is smart, funny, kind and nurturing. I decide to see how well my compliments have sunk in. “Hey,” I said, squeezing her tight. “Tell me five things about yourself.”

“Pretty,” She says instantly. “Yes, you are pretty but I just told you that. Can you think of five other things?” She ponders for a moment. “Do you think I am cute?” “Well, yes, but that’s not so different from being pretty. Let’s talk about something besides your looks.”

Then it comes. The gut punch.

“Shy.”

“Forgetting.” (She means forgetful.)

“Scared.”

This is what my daughter thinks of herself. An pretty shell, empty except for where fear fills in the spaces.

My daughter, who has been independent since the day she learned how to walk.

Who cares for everyone she meets like a mother.

Whose sense of humor is darkly sardonic at the age of 7.

Whose vocabulary and sensibilities are at once sophisticated and old fashioned.

Who loves opera and eating with chopsticks (did I mention she is 7?)

Who watched Food, Inc and Vegucated and said “In June, I will become a vegetarian.” It’s now June 3 and she hasn’t had a piece of meat in three days. “I don’t want to eat poor creatures.”

Who aspires to be a midwife, and to learn to dance ballet and play violin…at the same time!

I feel crushed and sad. I ask her if there is anything GOOD she can say about herself (not that being shy is inherently bad, but I worry that she is afraid to be BOLD.)

“I’m kind to animals…?” Yes. That’s good. What else?

“Smart?” She says it like a question. Yes. Yes. YOU ARE SMART. Why is this  a question?

I worry sometimes that her bubbly personality, her inherent sweetness, and her speech impediment can make people forgetting they are talking to a girl who is fiercely smart, imaginative, and a real thinker. Her report cards were all about how she was eager to please and SO sweet, but said very little about her intellect. It’s true, she has trouble paying attention because she is so often lost in her thoughts, but that is because she is THINKING. She isn’t a terrific speller and her handwriting isn’t so great, but that’s true for a lot of creative people.

Just to experiment I decide to ask my sons the same question.

First I talked to Linus, who is 9 years old. He immediately said “Smart.” Right off the bat. Then “Friendly, Tall, Shy…I guess.” He couldn’t think of a fifth one. Now this kid has been called handsome his entire life and it wasn’t even on his RADAR. He didn’t mentioned physical attributes until the third one, and he thinks maybe he’s shy but it’s not too important.

Then I talked to Jarvis, age 11. He balked, because I asked him to talk to me, but he finally said “Geek. Awesome. Smart. Funny.” It’s important to note that for him, the word Geek is a high compliment and not at all pejorative. Jarvis is also very handsome, but his looks never came up. Not once.

It appears I have some work to do. I don’t know if it’s me, or or society at large, or what that is contributing to her narrow view of herself but it’s not ok with me. I’ve had enough similar experiences where my brain was dismissed, and where I dismissed my own brain, to know that this must be combated now.

So I held her close. And I told her I thought she was smart, and brave, and funny, and kind, and independent, and strong. “Really?” She asked.

Yes. Really.

What Would Loretta Do?

By Kate McKinney

They say to have her hair done Liz flies all the way to France

And Jackie’s seen in a discotheque doin’ a brand new dance

And the White House social season should be glittering and gay

But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin’

The faucet is a drippin’ and the kids are a bawlin’

One of them a toddlin’ and one is a crawlin’ and one’s on the way”

Read more: Loretta Lynn – One’s On The Way Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Song by Shel Silverstein, Sung by Loretta Lynn

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Sometimes, like when I’m wrapping cloth diapers around a spurting faucet so I can wash my cast iron skillet without water cascading down the cabinets and making the drawers swell I think to myself…I’m having a Loretta Lynn moment.

I feel like that a lot. When I’m picking up apple cores from every conceivable surface of my house including the back of the toilet…when I’m spraying the long-past soiled carpet with vinegar to scrub up after the three year old’s accident, when I find the table cloth in my kid’s room and my daughter’s dress in the dining room…those are my Loretta Moments.

There are differences. I got married at 23, not 13, and I had four kids in 7 years, not four. My husband has never cheated on me with anyone but the Pizza Hut Lunch Buffet and his Xbox. And my daddy worked in a toy store, not a coal mine.

But when I’m sweeping the floor, and washing the dishes, and things are falling apart, those are my Loretta Lynn days.

So I try to think about it. What would Loretta do when she finds a sippy cup full of curdled milk? Start a toddler run artisan cheese operation? And those apple cores…apple cider vinegar? Would she leave her dishes out in the rain while her sink is broken or wash them in the bathtub?

And then of course, I realize what she’d do.

She’d write a hit song about it.

I don’t have a guitar, but I do have this here laptop.

So I’m just gonna press “Publish” right here and see what happens.

Zumba Mambo NoNo

By Kate McKinney

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This is what is known as a mess. 

Lots of fail today. I burnt three of my fingers on a cast iron skillet by attempting to grab it bare-handed AFTER I had just taken it out of drying in the oven. Then I decided that I’d like to try Zumba again. And I also decided to take my six year old daughter with me, because #1 she is a better person than me in every single way, and recently voluntarily did a beginners yoga video for 45 minutes and #2 I needed someone who is worse at Zumba than me to take the attention off.

 

I threw some chicken in the oven at a low temperature, threw some rice in the rice cooker, and headed out for the afternoon. Linus had ukulele lessons at the library, where Felix decided to pee on the floor. Then Alice and I went to Zumba, where I spent the first half trying to keep her from bumping into adults (it was much more crowded than previous times) and she spent the second half sitting on the floor playing Peggle on my phone.

 

When I came home I started rushing to make the sauce that was going to go over the chicken and rice. I recently decided to experiment with gluten free cooking. I adapted my favorite enchilada recipe by using masa harina (corn flour) instead of all-purpose flour and I decided to serve the chicken and sauce over rice instead of in a flour tortilla. The sauce was turning out really well, so I turned my attention to the rice in the rice cooker.

 

My plan was to make my favorite lime cilantro rice for extra kick.  It’s called Guy’s Mambo Rice. I should have known Guy Fieri wasn’t my good luck charm.

 

My first mistake was trying to use my rice cooker like my friend Jeannie. Her husband is half Korean, and so rice is one of the most important staples in their house. Jeannie has perfected the art of just LOOKING at her rice cooker and putting in the right amount of water. So for some reason I thought I could do that too.

 

Wrong.

 

I am not sure how much extra water it takes to turn rice from individual grains into a large, pasty mass, but however much it is I had discovered it. I tried stirring in the ingredients anyway and it just got worse, and worse. I had made dough. Rice dough.

 

As I stood there trying to figure out what to do next I had a sudden brainstorm. What if I added all the ingredients to the rice, patted it out and fried it in the skillet? It would be golden and crunchy on the outside. Like a hashbrown.

 

I heated the  cast iron skillet, added the cold oil and then mushed some rice into ovals in the skillet. I was told recently that a hot skillet and cold oil would keep the food from sticking.  It had been working great for me.

 

Until today.

 

I firmly believe if the rice bombs hadn’t stuck to the skillet they would have turned out really well. I scraped up some of the rice that stuck and indeed, it was golden and crunchy, unlike the oil soaked rice mush that I wound up serving to everyone for dinner.

 

At first, it seemed like they might go for it. Linus objected to the onions, but he always does that. Then, Alice spit her food on her place. Jarvis complained. Felix followed suit. Alice and Felix wound up eating Chobani Dragonfruit yogurt instead.

 

Hugh went to Jimmy John’s. And brought me a Hershey’s with Almonds. King Size. Out of pity.

Best Week Ever! Part 1: Jim Gaffigan

By Kate McKinney

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Me and Hildy, My new Talisman. 

Sometimes, things are really, really crummy and your whole life is falling apart.

I feel that way a lot.

Like, for about 6 years straight. Give or take a few weeks.

This was NOT one of those weeks.

I’ve been saying for a while that this is going to be the best year of my life. I’m turning 35 in May. It’s an age I’ve always felt drawn to. Like it was the year I’d start to find some answers. Feel comfortable in my skin. As it’s drawn near I’ve felt a real pull in myself to be better, and work harder, and BECOME.

Back in November I was contacted by the editor of Evansville Living Magazine. The editor had seen me on Twitter and noted that I was a local freelancer. We met for coffee to discuss possible future articles. I knew comedian Jim Gaffigan was coming to town and I said I’d like to interview him. Now, I had never interviewed anyone REMOTELY famous before. I was really putting myself out there. But my chutzpah paid off! She was game.

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Jim Gaffigan had been on my radar for a long time. He’s incredibly famous, of course. Hugh and I had watched his comedy specials and really enjoyed them. He has a universal style that’s very non-threatening but also hysterically funny and relatable. I always felt like 80% of his jokes were something that had happened to me directly. But when I read this note I really began to sit up and take notice. I love it when comedians are able to let down their guard and show a more human, vulnerable side. And when Hugh and I watched Mr. Universe together it was like a hysterical mirror into our own lives even more than before. Four children? Check. Homebirth weirdos? Check. (We had already checked off the boxes for “laziness” and “loving food.”)

It was around this time that I began taking myself more seriously as a comedian too. I had been making people laugh for a long time (sometimes unintentionally, but it became more and more intentional every day.) I had been honing my comic writings, and I remembered when I was a little girl my dad’s family used to crack wise about me becoming a comedian someday. It annoyed me at the time, but I began to think of it as some window into the future.

I also think my husband is an unsung comedic genius. My friend Jesika calls him her favorite comedian, and she even read his Facebook posts allowed during The Superbowl. In my opinion, he’s the next Bob Newhart, especially since he has an accounting degree. “Let me get this straight,” he asks, “You want me to quit my job and become and accountant so I can quit THAT job and become a comedian?” Well, yeah! And lest we forget our mentors, Jim Gaffigan was in finance for eight years before he was able to do comedy full time.

It took a couple of months to get the interview scheduled and the timing could not have been more crazy. The interview was scheduled to take place the day AFTER Hugh and I arrived home from his grandmother’s funeral. While my kids watched E.T. for the first time (I have still never seen it, even as a child of the 80s!) I researched countless articles and watched tons of videos.

Jim called me the next morning and we had a very pleasant 40 minute conversation. In a way it was hard to do a “proper” interview because it was so easy and conversational. At first he almost seemed shy and nervous (refreshing!) so I broke the ice by telling him my husband and I like to joke that we are “Just like Jim & Jeannie, only they are successful.” We had a great talk about our families, birth, growing up in Indiana and what it’s like to be a Hoosier in the Big Apple. The article was due the next day (see what I mean about crazy timing?) It was edited for length and they had to take out my favorite quote about Gaffigan’s comedy being an exploration of the Id. “That’ll get you on NPR,” I told him, in response to a quote I had read where he joked that his comedy wasn’t highbrow enough. Here’s the finished piece!

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For Valentine’s Day I pre-ordered Jim’s new book for Hugh, Dad is Fat and we were sent two excerpts in the mail, plus a Jim Gaffigan mask on a popsicle stick. (Funny story. A while back I sent out some queries about a children’s book I had written. When I got a manilla envelope in the mail from “Crown Publishing” I started shaking and crying. I was certain it was a packet for new writer’s. When I opened it and the Jim Gaffigan stuff fell out I started to laugh cry. Could I be a bigger goober? I didn’t even QUERY Crown Publishing, just agents.)

You could win VIP tickets to a show  if you made a video of yourself reading from the book with the mask over your face. I wanted to make a video about a couple having intimacy issues being prescribed the book as a cure. After reading for just a few moments the wife instantly becomes 9 months pregnant. I had it all in my head, but unfortunately we got really sick with the flu that week. We weren’t sure when the contest ended, and on Valentine’s Day my husband did something he had never done before. He bought me VIP tickets to the show. This included backstage passes for a meet and greet. I would have rather won the tickets (you not only got tickets, but a TWITTER FOLLOW, which is to me more precious than gold) but I couldn’t exactly argue with something so kind and generous from my man!

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Finally the week arrived. Originally I planned to just drop off a copy of the magazine at The Centre the day of the show, but I thought about our conversation. Jim likes to collect locally made food items from the places he tours. Why not put together a care package to show him my appreciation?

I gathered up some of items that said “home” the most to me. Ski is a no-brainer. Locally bottled citrus soda that reminds me of my late Grandpa. Double Cola, Ski’s brother, in glass bottles. Made with cane sugar. Big B Barbecue. PJB honey. Mike Lib’s & the Chocolate Factory. And GRIPPOS Barbecue Chips, the classic Westside pairing for SKI. I have seen Ski and Grippos given as wedding gifts. Grippos are technically made in Cincinnati, but you cannot over-estimate their importance to the people of Evansville, IN.

I also consulted with my favorite bakery, Pacetre, to make some themed cupcakes. The Plaid Cookie Company  had recently sent over some cookies based on Jim’s routines and I knew Tracy Pace could do something similar. Besides, I always want everyone to try Tracy’s cupcakes. They are to die for. She made him themed cupcakes of a hammock, bowling, DAD IS FAT, and her own special Maple Bacon cupcake!

As I was dropping the goodies off at The Centre I had an inspiration. I had asked my kids to buy me a rubber chicken for my birthday. I have always wanted one and it seemed important as I begin transferring more of my energy into comedy. I wanted a symbol. But I realized I needed to have one that DAY. To have Jim Gaffigan sign. And every time I met a famous, funny person, they could sign it and remind me of what my goals are. I joked that it’s a talisman. I will be absorbing their comedic energy THROUGH THEIR SIGNATURE on the CHICKEN…ok that’s not a joke. That’s my real plan. .

So I immediately drove to the NICK NACKERY and picked the best of the selection of two rubber chickens. (Don’t get me started on how hard it is to get a decent pair of Groucho glasses in this cold world.) I had other business to attend to as well, namely needing some fake vomit and dog poop for my son’s Easter baskets. (This is not a reflection of my feelings on either Pagan or Christian Easter. It’s just that they are getting older and hard to shop for. Gross jokes seemed like a win.) I named my chicken Hildy, after Peter Scolari’s character on Bosom Buddies.

With my rubber chicken in hand and my red lipstick on I was ready to DO THIS THING. (Hugh: Don’t you want to put that chicken in your purse? Me: No! Then no one will see it! Stranger: Nice chicken!)

Right before the show I drank 32 oz of SKI soda in about 10 minutes because I was so nervous and excited.. This was a mistake. During the entire show I had to pee. It was a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. The good news is after about 40 minutes your bladder goes completely numb, so I was able to enjoy the last few minutes of the show.

Jim Gaffigan stage

See how close we were?

Tom Shillue was the warm-up comedian. Affable and fun. A good pairing with Jim. Jim’s set was great, a lot of old favorites near the end, some reworking of classics,  but also a lot of good new material. I wish I had more to say about it but I am not kidding when I said I REALLY HAD TO PEE. I actually had to just keep a smile frozen on my face so I wouldn’t laugh. I was clearly wearing my Bad Idea Jeans when I had that drink.

Before the show they told us not to leave with everyone else but to wait until the crowd had cleared and then they’d take us backstage. As soon as it was over I sprang up. “They told us not to leave!” Hugh, ever mindful of the rules. “I’m PEEING.” Geez. There was no way I was meeting my hero while doing the toddler “gotta go” dance.

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Hugh is just too tall for me to take a picture of us together. See how excited I am though?

They took us backstage and waited about 15 minutes until it was our turn. I walked right up to Jim, introduced myself and told him we had spoken on the phone. He was extremely friendly and nice (I know that’s expected at a meet and greet but really…he was VERY nice.) I asked him if he liked his care package and he literally took a step back with a shocked look on his face. “That was from YOU?” I told him he had mentioned liking local products from his touring cities. He got one of those smiles on his face… incredulity mixed with joy, I’d call it. “That’s everything you want!”

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When he saw Hildy he asked me if I had a collection of these at home. I told him this was the first one, and to sign it on a prominent place. “Someday she might be on Antiques Roadshow and you want your signature to be front and center.”

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He then signed two book excerpts. We requested one for our pastor, Brett, who couldn’t be at the show because of Good Friday (even though he had bought tickets! His wife went in his place.)

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Jim signed it “YOU SINNER!” Brett now considers it his most prized possession.

What I DIDN’T know is what Jim wrote in our other excerpt. I didn’t even look until the next day.

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See that? KATE IS AWESOME. Thank you, Jim. So. Are. You.

Jim Gaffigan Picture

Stay tuned for Part Two of Best Week Ever, where I talk about my public breastfeeding article on Huffington Post going viral and my appearance on Huffpo Live!

Second Grade Germ Theory

By Kate McKinney

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When Linus came home with a book he made at my mother’s house called “The Story of Poop and Pee,” I was admittedly nervous.

If you recall he’s my most potty-humor oriented child.

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So far, nothing too shocking.

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Well, this gross. I am still not sure if this is supposed to make poop and pee look larger or smaller, or why “resizing” it is even necessary.

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Good call, son.

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I like how the hand only has three lumpy appendages. And the germs are visible, like freckles.

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At this point he isn’t even talking about poop and pee anymore.

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It really should be called “The Story of Germs.”

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I imagine he sat down to write a gross little tome about bodily functions..

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And got sidetracked and instead produced this little PSA about hygiene.

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That thing that looks like a demented watering can? That says “sink.” Use “sope” in the sink.

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That is a picture of our dog CoCo, who ALWAYS poops on the floor. I have to assume that the Devil’s Pitchfork is to blame.

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Notice that the “toylet” has a halo.

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Germs don’t actually use knives or candles or icepicks or whatever those are to kill you though.

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Awww!

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Dust, Trash, Mice, Bugs, Boogers. Oh wait. He forgot  POOP AND PEE. THE SUBJECT OF THE BOOK.

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This might be my favorite page.

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When you koff, koff into your elboy. I mean, DUH.

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Yep.

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NO. WAIT. THIS IS MY FAVORITE.

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Next time I want to poop on an elephant, I SHALL restrain myself.

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I think he stole that.

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Well, this hits painfully close to home.

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NO WAIT. THIS IS MY FAVORITE.

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There has to be a Moral.

Death By Dishwasher

By Kate McKinney

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My relationship with dishwashing has always been tenuous. Dishwashers were for the privileged class, like central air conditioning and individually wrapped string cheese.

I hated hand washing dishes, but there were six of us , and only so many turns before it was mine again. I hated the feeling of noodles and overcooked carrots sliding past my fingers in the murky water, like lampreys hungry for a bite.

Much like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who constantly spritzed wounds with Windex, my mother believed in the curative power of washing dishes. The demented love child of C. Everett Koop and Madge, the Palmolive spokeswoman, “Soak it in Dishwater,” was her prescription for every ailment and complaint. Depressed? Freezing? Suffering from the common cold? Washing dishes could cure it.

We didn’t own our own dishwasher until I was 15, and I never did develop a passion for it. Mostly because it seemed to complicate everything. You had to turn the bowls JUST right or the water jets would commit suicide or something. And don’t even THINK of using Dawn when the Cascade had run out unless you are planning to hold a Foam Rave IN the kitchen.

I think the kid in Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead  had the right idea.

“The Dishes are Done, Man.”

I never developed an attachment to any dishwashing method. Sometimes I had a dishwasher in a rental, sometimes I didn’t. Since my vintage Pyrex collection, non-stick Caphalon and a host of other antique dishes couldn’t go in the dishwasher I didn’t really care much. There was a dishwasher in the house we bought, but when it started smoking on the eve of my 10 year high school reunion I decided it was time to open up some room in our kitchen by getting rid of not only the dead appliance but also the free-standing cabinet.

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Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em

And then the long-standing national nightmare began.

After three kids I decided that yes, maybe I DID want a dishwasher. Maybe I was REALLY STUPID to think I didn’t need a dishwasher. My husband was so baffled by the sheer volume of dishes it took to cook a single meal for our growing family that simply confronting the kitchen mess called for some serious white knighting on his part. Especially since I had a tendency to just toss the sponge in the sink and then stack dirty dishes on top of it so every time he wanted to wash a dish he had to put on a fedora and do an Indiana Jones style excavation.

This little sponge caddy might have saved my marriage.

This little sponge caddy might have saved my marriage.

We were drowning in greasy sippy cups. Something had to be done.

I found a used KitchenAid on Craigslist. This was before my husband instituted an iron-clad policy of NEVER, ever buying used appliances. EVER. NEVEREVERNEVER. I didn’t have a cabinet but who cares. I needed something to wash my dishes, not look pretty. My kitchen is terminally ugly no matter what.

“Don’t you…need a cabinet?” My mom asked hesitantly, like she always did when faced with one of my hair-brained schemes. “Why?” She didn’t have an answer so I just shrugged, bought, and installed my new dishwasher.

And I opened it.

And, it fell over.

Turns out you DO need a cabinet.

To keep your dishwasher upright.

We figured out that if you opened it just right and only pulled the racks out so far it wouldn’t fall over. This required a level of precision I am not normally known for, and frequently I’d get the dishwasher half full or empty and get cocky and SIS BOOM BAH CRASH.

Having such an idiosyncratic system meant that ONLY Hugh or I could go near the dishwasher. Ever. No one could help us load or unload it, even with the birth of our last baby. Well-meaning people would tell us that we should teach our kids to load it.

“Um. We can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because. It will try to kill them.”

Not many people have murderous appliances. Except for that woman who was shot by her stove we might have the only one.

I wanted a new cabinet but like all home-improvement projects in our life it took a back seat to almost everything else. Finally dishwasher decided to start rebelling against our abuse and stopped working all that well. We finally hauled it outside and then spent the next year back to handwashing. I realize it’s no big deal for some people but I love to cook and I love to cook a lot and I really hate to clean so there were always, always dishes stacked up. All the time. So much so that I felt it was dangerous to send have my kids help…I’d have to do the dishes just so they could do the dishes and by the time I did the dishes I forgot to teach them to do the dishes.

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This was like, every single day. 

So after a year of dishwasherlessness (is that a word? Spell check says…no) we decided to spend our tax money on a dishwasher and just to be EXTRA glamorous a cabinet to go with it. They don’t just SELL free-standing dishwasher cabinets though. I mean, they do at IKEA but I am like, 6 hours from IKEA. So yeah. Turns out you can build one out of two twelve inch cabinets and a 40″ slab of countertop.

Yeah.

Exactly like the kind I gave away.

You guys need to thank me for being so stupid.

Otherwise I’d have 50% less things to write about.

 

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I wanted to clean this off before I snapped a picture, but this blog is all about transparency.

Plus if I had you wouldn’t know that I bought a ton of cornflakes for $1.24 a box.

Saving money LIKE A BOSS.

 

 

 

cc

What If My Child Is Gay?

By Kate McKinney

nateYesterday I read a note from a father to a son.

 

The son is a young man. A young man who happens to be gay.

 

A young man contemplating telling his family that he knows this about himself.

 

The young man, Nate, tells his friend what he wants to do.

 

And his father hears him.

 

And what comes next…no one would ever expect.

 

Nate finds a note from his dad.

 

A note that included these words…

 

“I’ve known you were gay since you were six, I’ve loved you since you were born.”

 

And that pierced my heart.

 

Because how many parents look at their children and see things…things they choose to ignore.

 

Things they try to wish away.

 

Things they try to pray away.

 

Things they try to parent away.

 

And they can’t.

 

This happened to me.

 

I began noticing things in my son that could possibly indicate that…well, he might be gay.

 

It was all silly, stereotypical stuff.

 

But stereotypes exist for a reason.

 

And he was calling to mind people I had known in my life.

 

People who are gay. People who are out. People who are not.

 

Nail polish. Jewelry. Cooking. Crafts.

 

A bunch of small things that maybe, possibly added up to a big thing.

 

And I knew I had a choice to make.

 

If my hunch was right, I had only a few years.

 

A few years to make peace inside myself.

 

A few years to work out all my warring feelings about right and wrong and God and sex and love.

 

A few years to decide how I wanted to respond to my child.

 

How I wanted to love my child.

 

How I wanted our relationship to be.

 

If he is gay, I can’t change that.

 

The only thing I can change is myself.

 

I considered myself a progressive person.

 

It wasn’t until I had these thoughts that I realized how far I had to go.

 

And I made up my mind, then and there, to open my heart completely to this possibility.

 

To cease any negative talk about people’s lives. Their relationships. How they choose to make their family.

 

To cease any squeamishness I might feel about him behaving

 

in ways that might not be strictly considered “masculine.”

 

To make sure he knows he is loved just as he is.

 

I am embarrassed that these are actual issues I had to work through within myself.

 

They seem so profoundly simplistic to me now. So obvious.

 

Of course I should uplift my child who is not causing harm!

 

Of course I should accept him!

 

Of course I should never, ever degrade another person’s family or choices or life or WHO THEY ARE.

 

I am ashamed that I had to start there. But I am glad I chose to start. Some people don’t.

 

I thought I might know something about my son. And If I was right, I didn’t want to do it wrong.

 

A funny thing happened.

 

After I made this choice to look at my sweet, beautiful, loving child

 

and see him purely, wholly as he is…

 

As God sees him.

 

He then showed me who he is.

 

And he’s not gay.

 

At least, I don’t think so.

 

He developed a giant crush on a girl down the street.

 

We’ve spent hours at night snuggled in bed talking about her.

 

What she looks like. How she looked at him and made a heart with her hands and it made him faint.

 

What he should say to her. Whether or not they’ll get married someday.

 

So, for me, this might be the end of that particular road.

 

I thought I might have a gay son.

 

I probably don’t.

 

But I am so grateful for that time when I was not sure about what I was seeing.

 

I will never look at gay person the same way again.

 

I will never look at their parents the same way again.

 

Having that perspective changed things for me.

 

Forever.

 

 

 

 

 

NightLighting

By Kate McKinney

20130313-231745.jpg

Is this the face of one bent on my annihilation?

A popular buzzword in the psychiatric field right now is “Gaslighting,” which describes the process of undermining a person’s confidence in order to gain control over them. It’s based on the 1944 Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman film, Gaslight, about a man who subtlety convinces his wife she is losing her mind so he can have her committed and steal her inheritance. She notices the gas lights in the house flicker at night, when she mentions it he tells her she is imagining things. In truth, the lights flicker because someone is searching for treasure in the attic. She imagined nothing.

Based on this term, I would like to introduce a new one to the world of clinical psychology.

NightLighting.

Basically the same as Gaslighting, but for toddlers.

My toddler is trying to make me go crazy. I’m convinced of it.

Now, because he’s almost three his techniques of manipulation are not as subtle and sophisticated as a dude of say, 30. He doesn’t show up late for tea parties and then tell me I’m being too sensitive. Mostly he just argues with me loudly. Sort of a “Jedi Mind Trick” only with screaming instead of hand waving.

Me: I’m not going to do that right now.

Toddler: YOU ARE GOING TO DO DAT WIGHT NOW!

When that doesn’t work, he switches tactics. His new one seems to be changing his mind and making demands that twist my brain into pretzels as I try to filter through them. Do I pick my battles when he asks for macaroni and cheese for breakfast or stand my ground? Why did he ask me for apples and then refuse to eat any? Why did he ask for apples AGAIN once I was upstairs and no where near the kitchen? Does he really think I am going to let him eat a boiled egg ON THE BED?

And for a moment, I think, maybe I will just spread out a towel and let him eat an egg on the bed.

An egg he is sure to refuse a minute later.

NIGHTLIGHTING.

I know that he cannot possibly know that he used to be frail and tiny and on the edge of failure to thrive, and he can’t possibly make the connection that eating a bunch of cheese and bananas are going to lead to bowel movements that make him cry and not want to participate in story time. HE CANNOT KNOW THIS and YET he somehow seems to know that food is my weak spot with him and that if he asks me for a reasonably healthy snack I will get it for him even if he just refused it five minutes before.

Always. Because NightLighting.

Plus, he’s like, ALWAYS THERE. In stalker mode. I used to have a boyfriend who’d get mad at me for following him around like a dog in his small apartment. I was just trying to talk to him and I didn’t know if he was leaving the room for a while or just a second but anyway I want to apologize to him because I GET IT NOW. If my toddler’s not wedging his body between me and the kitchen sink he’s climbing on the dryer expecting me to catch him and do “To INFINITY AND BEYOND.” OVER AND OVER.

By the time lunch is over, so am I. All my intentions for accomplishing the day vanish by nap time, and I can be pretty well guaranteed to spend the rest of the afternoon eating 60% cacao chips straight from the bag and tweeting comedians who ignore me until it’s time to go make supper.

I have been NightLit.

The good news about NightLighting is that it encompasses a short period of your life, essentially the ages of two and three. Side effects are quickly negated by snuggles, big eyes, and funny little speeches about the letter W.

 

 

The Squirrel of God

By Kate McKinney

Felix looks like my brother Ian, who used to call Qbert "The Pig Who Jumps Down the Stairs."

Felix looks like my brother Ian, who used to call Q-bert “The Pig Who Jumps Down The Stairs.” 

 The other day Felix came up to me clutching some treasures pilfered from the box my in-laws sent up. It was a box of my husband’s childhood things, things like a stuffed Odie and Q-Bert, and an entire set of California Raisin figures from Hardees. He took me aside and earnestly explained that “This one is the Avatar and this one is the ice cream.”

Huh?

The ice cream wasn’t too hard to figure out. That raisin was holding a microphone, styled after the ones with an orange foam ball at the top, that could certainly be mistaken for an ice cream cone. The boy had no frame of reference for what a raisin might be holding. He didn’t know the California Raisins were singers. But AVATAR? I was befuddled until I realized that AVATAR sounds an awful lot like guitar. Like the one the other raisin was holding.

I have to imagine that a huge part of a child’s frustration in the early years come from the fact that communication is so often a one way street. The only way they can express themselves is through crying. They can’t understand what we are saying, and then when they start to understand US we still can’t understand THEM.

My eldest son used to come up to us and speak a string of unintelligible syllables in an earnest tone. It was always the SAME string of syllables, so he clearly knew what he was saying. I sadly never found out, and I used to just respond “OK” because that seemed like a safe answer.

I’ve been really proud of myself for figuring out what my kids are saying to me because all too often it’s someone else that reveals to me the hidden meaning behind my children’s adorable gobbledy-gook. Like, just now, Felix opened up the “Elf Yourself” app on my phone, pointed to his siblings doing a jig in their elf suits, and said they were “Dancing Bad Words.” Uh. OH. DANCING BACKWARDS. GOT IT.

But usually I am not the one to determine what my kids are saying. Me, the woman who pushed out their massive round heads with no medication, who nourished them at my breast and made them chocolate chip cookies from scratch, cannot decipher their precious mumblings 90% of the time. It’s like thinking Jimmy Hendrix was singing ” ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy,” only I’m thinking it about my own offspring.

Sometime in January Felix stood in front of our toilet, squinted, and said matter of factly , “It’s not a Christmas Party.” Well, no. It’s not. Interesting observation. I have never known our toilet to be a Christmas party. I imagined opening it and hearing Burl Ives sing, canapes arranged lovingly around the bowl, a sprig of holly hanging from the lid.  The most festive toilet in town.

When I reported this baffling observation to Facebook, my mother said “Are you sure he didn’t say “It’s not a Christmas POTTY?”

Of course.

My sister in law makes toilet seat covers with Santa’s face. When the lid is down, Santa’s eyes twinkle at you merrily. When the lid his up, he covers them with his mittens. It was perhaps my favorite Yankee swap acquisition. I had taken if off the toilet so I could wash it and put it away until next Christmas, and Felix was just making a note of it.

I was reminded of his brother Linus, who spoke with maddening profienciency at a very young age. He was barely over a year before he started answering every question with “Key Cars.”

“Hey Linus! Why are you doing that?”

“Key Cars.”

Did I pick up on this? Of course not. It was completely baffled that my one year old was contemplating vandalism when my friend Jill told me that he was saying, obviously, “BECAUSE.”

Perhaps the strangest, most terrifying tale of all comes from my oldest son Jarvis again. He came home from Sunday School and told me, very solemnly, that if you opened up a squirrel and looked inside, you could see a message from God.

WHAT THE WHAT?

I bent down, trembling. My church is not exactly the snake-handling, live-chicken eating type. I imagined my son, who once earnestly called out to God using a Buzz Lightyear voice modifier because he thought it might reach space more easily, luring a squirrel at the park, taking out a boy scout swiss army knife and plunging it in, then attempting to read the entrails.

“Look, I’ll show you,” he said.

He pulled out his craft, a rolled up piece of paper with a string tired around it.

I opened it. It said, “Jesus Loves You.”

A scroll.

A SCROLL.

Whew.