2015 CHK june

I am counting down the days to the end of school.


You heard me right.

This women right here, the one with four children who were all born way too close together, this woman who once wanted nothing more than to HAVE HER KIDS IN SCHOOL 24/7/365 AND NOT AT HOME MAKING HER NUTS …

This woman who used to say, WEEKEND? WHAT WEEKEND? WE HAD A WEEKMORE!

This woman who used to look at the long weeks of school break on the calendar and think, HOLY HELL THERE ISN’T ENOUGH WINE IN THE WOOOOOOORLD …

Would now prefer to have them all home.

All the time.

With me.

Something has happened, folks.

I’ve realized that down time isn’t the enemy.

School is the enemy.

Because here’s the thing:

When we’re not waking up for school … my kids actually sleep in.

There is obviously some flexibility in my use of the phrase “sleep in” (kind of like how “sleeps through the night” is complete bullshit) but here’s what “sleep in” means over here:

Diddy sleeps till 11 am. Gaga and Sausage make it till about 8.

And ok, sure, Pancake still wanders into my bed around 6 am, but he wanders up whispering, “Mama, cuddle me,” so I am cool with that. (FOREVER. I WILL BE COOL WITH THAT FOREVER. I AM PUTTING HIS FUTURE SPOUSE ON NOTICE RIGHT NOW: LADY, YOU ARE GONNA NEED A BED MADE FOR THREE.)

When we’re not hustling to get to school … we all read at the table.

2015 CHK kids at breakfast with the nytimes

Even the boys page through their picture books. It’s adorable.

When we’re not AT school … we’re actually ENJOYING lazy days at home.

We no longer have to muster the energy to get out of the house and go go go so the kids won’t explode.

Gaga and the boys are suddenly perfectly happy killing hours at a time at home on elaborate games of their own invention (“perfectly happy” meaning “not as much crying and violence as there used to be”).

2015 CHK kids games

Diddy sits in her room and reads and reads and reads.


I think it may be magic, this growing up thing they’re all doing.

This is, oddly enough, a testament to the truth in that annoying thing people say when you’re a new parent battling sleep exhaustion and teething and potty training and separation anxiety (theirs, obviously) – that thing about,


Because you know what?

(Seriously, I can’t believe I’m typing this–)



I mean, Pancake and Sausage will be in Pre-K next Year, Gaga is entering 1st grade, and Diddy is barreling into 3rd.

The time has passed. The kids have grown.

And I don’t WANT them in school every minute.

I want to hang out with them.

I want to (gasp) TRAVEL with them.

Crazy, right?

So if you’re just starting out on this parenting thing now, and you have tiny little ones, and it is just so much WORK, and when will it ever get EASIER

I am here to promise you, it will.

Sooner than you think.

Ok, not exactly EASIER. They grow up, sure, but they grow right into new problems, new crises, new chaos you have to manage.

So if not easier, then, it will at least get DIFFERENT.

It will become a different kind of UNMANAGEABLE.

And you will MANAGE IT.

Because that’s what parents do.

I’m just here to promise you:

In a couple of years, most of that CONSTANT MANAGEMENT is going to get REALLY REALLY FUN.

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2015 CHK Mealtime Madness

I wasn’t a good eater, growing up. I could happily starve for days at a time if I didn’t like the way a meal looked, or smelled. For breakfast, I wouldn’t eat anything but ice cream with milk poured in it — my pediatrician assured my mother that at least I was getting my RDA of calcium each morning — and I didn’t eat a single school cafeteria meal for my entire K-12 education.

Well. You know that thing about what goes around, comes around?

About chickens coming home to roost?


Four picky-ass chickens who all happen to be picky about different things.

One kid won’t eat anything with tomato sauce but loves sushi. Another won’t eat any meat or poultry showing grill marks but hand her a hot pepper and she’s good to go. Ever heard of a kid who hates cream cheese AND pizza? I’ve got one at my house. His brother only eats bread products and peanut butter (at least he’s getting his RDA of plant-based protein). He believes poptarts are a fruit and honestly if the government thinks ketchup is a vegetable, who am I to tell my kid he’s wrong?


Recently, we decided we were going nuts keeping all of this straight / all of them happy.

So we came up with some workarounds to keep all of us from (further) losing our minds.


This was actually Mr Big Idea’s idea. He got tired of hassling the kids for breakfast orders at 630 am – and by hassling, I mean, him nagging them and them screaming “I don’t knoooooooow yet I’m so tiiiiiiiiiiired why did you wake me up I’m sooooo tiiiiiiiired.”

Fun stuff.

So then he tried letting each kid take turns picking a single breakfast for themselves and all the other kids, who could like it or lump it.

For the most part, they all lumped it. At top volume.

So we decided to take the time pressure and the peer pressure out of the equation.

Now we take orders at bedtime, and I write them on the wipeboard in our command center, just under the dinner plans.

2015 CHK Mealtime Madness breakfast orders

Each kid can pick whatever they want within reason – usually it’s some combination of bagel and cream cheese, eggs, or cereal.

Now, while he’s waking the kids each morning, I run the short order kitchen, and all four breakfasts are on the table when the kids get there. They can eat or not eat, but there’s no more whining or nagging at the breakfast table.

Bravo, Dad!


I am happy to make any variety of sandwiches. If it’s in the house, I will smack it between two slices of bread or bagel or English muffin, no problem. Everyone gets the same fruit and salty thing on the side and I don’t want to hear another word about it.



Or you eat peanut butter.

No, seriously. My way, the highway, or Skipp-ay.

Family dinner is a big deal for me. I grew up with family dinner, and Mr Big Ideas and I naturally fell into the rhythm of eating as a family when we had kids. We eat early, 6-ish, and we eat real food, generally home cooked.

I cook what I like, gleaning recipes off the internet and organizing them on my favorite meal planning site, PlanToEat . (I love this site. Truly. Check it out .)

Yes, I try to choose recipes I think the kids will like, but I know I can’t satisfy everybody all the time, so when I put dinner on the table, I also set out a jar of peanut butter and a pile of spoons.

Again: no nag. No fuss.


As long as you sit at my table with your napkin in your lap and you use your fork instead of your fingers, and seriously how is it possible to get HAMBURGER IN YOUR HAIR, HOW IS THAT HUMANLY POSSIBLE?

Okay, so maybe there’s still some nagging and some fussing.

But I’m pretty sure when they gave me this Mom gig that was sold as a pretty big part of the job.


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Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears


2015 CHK I Cant Hear You v2


Ours is a very loud house.

For one thing, it’s an uber-modern, glass and wood and concrete bunker. Not a lot of rugs, or window treatments, or anything else that might dampen sound. (Whoops.)

For another, six people, two dogs, and a cat live here.

We make a lot of noise, even in the best of times – every footfall echoes and reverberates, but add the TV in the family room and the cat whining for water and the dogs barking at passers-by and the kids screaming at each other and us screaming at them to stop screaming …


Mr Big Ideas has taken to wearing ear plugs much of the time.

The problem with the ear plugs is that he now often can’t hear ME.

Unless I’m yelling and screaming at him.

Now, I come from a family of yellers and screamers, so I understand that much of this is my problem, that I am perpetuating a cycle of yelling and screaming.

And to be fair, Mr Big Ideas is willing to cop to his own part in this problem – he does his fair share of bellowing, too.

He just thinks I do it more.

You know what that makes ME think?

I’ll become the quietest, calmest, most effective Mama EVER. I will stop the yelling. The kids will stop the yelling. And then YOU, Mr Big Ideas, will be the only one still yelling. And THEN YOU’LL SEE WHICH ONE OF US YELLS MORE!

As you can tell, this hasn’t been easiest thing for me to get a handle on.

I’ve tried mindfulness. I’ve taken a few mindfulness classes offered to parents at our school, and most days I manage 15 minutes or so of mindful breathing using the guided meditations at insightLA.

I’m a big  fan of mindfulness in short doses.

I enjoy breathing. In solitude. (What Mom wouldn’t?)

And on the days when I manage my 15 minutes, I do much LESS yelling and screaming, absolutely.

But not ZERO.

And while my own attempts to be mindful and calm IN THE MOMENTS of stress and conflict have improved tremendously in the last year or so, I have noticed a little problem with this method:

Man does it seem to piss other people off when you stop and take five deep breaths to stay calm when they are being big jerks.

All that said, I love the IDEA of mindfulness, even if I’m not the world’s best practitioner, and I’ve tried to get my kids into it, too.

Dan Siegel’s great book,  The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind has been a great help. All of his books are grand — truly.

But still, we needed more.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a pretty neat solution. Jury’s out on the long-term effectiveness of this plan, but so far, so good —

The moment anyone around here starts whining or screaming, I say:

I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears.

Strangely – and completely unexpectedly — this seems to have the IMMEDIATE effect of making ALL the kids stop and re-think how they are approaching me.

Sometimes I have to say it twice, or three times, but I am telling you, eventually, it works.

They stop. Re-set. Take a breath.

And talk like normal people.

You wanna know the coolest thing about all this?

Keeping my mouth busy SAYING

I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears,

keeps me from SCREAMING





Even when I DO find myself yelling or screaming at the kids, they now say the same thing to me:

We Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off Our Ears.

And you know what?

Being called out like that really works.

I actually stop, reset, re-phrase, re-approach.


Even Mr Big Ideas has been slowing down on the ear plugs.

In fact, I’ve even heard him saying it a few times … maybe he can hear what I’m saying around here after all …

I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears!


*Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. Affiliate programs help support the content of this blog. 

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On Having Kids
And Paying Opportunity Costs

Every once in awhile, what I write about over at sklevy.com happens to overlap a great deal with what I write about over here at ChecklistMommy.

Yesterday was one of those days.

The post I wrote over there began:

This weekend I attended the New Member meeting at the WGA-W. The meeting happened to be scheduled at the exact same time as Gaga’s class Tot Shabbat service. Obviously, I wanted to be both places at the same time. Obviously I couldn’t be both places at the same time (damn you, physics) and I will say now that arriving late to the WGA meeting was stressful (I fucking hate being late anywhere) but ducking out early from my daughter’s performance – despite the fact that MrBigIdeas and all the other kids were there to support her – brought me to tears.

That’s a pretty good summary of what it’s like to have kids, love them more than anything on earth, and yet to still harbor career ambitions that you just have to pursue because otherwise the psychic cost to you and your family will be so terrible it will make the economic costs seem piffling in comparison.

If you’d like to read more, click here.

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RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman
& Thanks for One Last (Awful) Illuminating Performance

I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing while on my way to pick up my daughters from their Sunday morning rehearsals at a West Hollywood acting school they attend. (Incidentally they are doing Legally Blonde and Diddy is Elle and it’s AMAZEBALLS for her and me because off all sorts of things not least which is my joy at passing my deep love of musical theater to my kids.)

CHK philip seymore hoffman

My kids are not taking acting lessons because I have any desire AT ALL for them to grow up and be actors. (Putting Gaga in my movie more than made me clear on THAT).

In fact, I chose their acting school because I am fairly certain NO ONE ever gets scouted off that stage. It’s adorable. There is literally no pressure for anyone there to out-perform anyone else. Every once in awhile there’s a kid who blows your socks off (last semester it was the kid who played the Beast in Beauty and the Beast) but in general all the kids are equally bad on stage and no one seems to be getting any better.

I am cool with that.

But before anybody gets the wrong idea: I don’t hate actors. I have a lot of actor friends. They are lovely people, and most of them are not insane. That’s why I love them and have chosen to hang out with them whenever I get the opportunity and raise my kids among them and generally adore them.


Many many other actors are insane. They are deeply troubled creatures on any number of other levels. Some of this is just the dark side of whatever deep psychological well you need to draw from in order to be a truly great performer.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a truly great performer.

He was also, apparently, deeply troubled.

I say this because, IMobviouslyexpertO, only deeply troubled adults, living fairly adult lives, raising kids with partners (ex-or-otherwise), stick needles in their arms and pump themselves full of heroin.

Honestly, I find it kind of mind-boggling that considering all the other, easier ways to get hella high that were at this man’s disposal, he went with THAT.

In fact, I spent most of yesterday being pretty pissed off at how stupid PSH was in this particular instance. I was sad, yes. This guy was the real deal. So friggin’ talented. And honestly, a true contemporary. Even more so than Paul Walker, who spoke for the most part, to the generation below me.

PSH spoke to US.

For which I thank him.

I also thank him for this:

This morning, over breakfast, Diddy asked MrBigIdeas who that guy on the front page of the newspaper was.

MrBigIdeas told her he was a famous actor who died.

At which point I said:

You know what? I want to tell you why he died. That man was incredibly talented. That was why he was so famous. He was really really good at his job. But he took drugs, and they killed him. Drugs kill. Period. He was a grown-up, he should have known better, and drugs killed him ANYWAY.

Diddy nodded. Gaga nodded.

Sausage helpfully added, “That man died.”

Pancake continued eating his waffle.


Thank you, PSH, for all the wonderful wonderful work you did.

Every moment you were on screen was illuminating.

As was your tragic tragic tragic death.

Thank you for letting my family learn something from that, too.










I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

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