In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual

CHK abe

You can’t tell by looking at him (because seriously just looking at him you want to grab this kid and hug him till he fights free) but:

Pancake is a screamer.

Always has been.

Whereas his brother just needs a quick hug, knows to ask for it, and then takes a deep breath and moves on …

Pancake just DOESN’T.

I’ve talked about it before. And for a little while, THIS worked to help with the screaming.

But now it doesn’t.

For one thing, now he’s smarter.

He will not go quietly, nor be brushed off.

I love that about him.

Now, when I tell him NO, he asks WHY?

Now, when he wants something I don’t have, or don’t want to give him, he says, LET ME SEE!

He says these things at top volume.

And for long, protracted periods.

Lots of tears and snot and ruined meals and mornings while he screams and cries and throws things and the rest of us try to hear ourselves think.

He’s a passionate kid.

With a great set of pipes and extraordinary willpower.

It can make the best of us nuts. And I am way way way NOT the best of us.

  • I have experimented with extinction.
  • I have experimented with attachment.
  • I have followed basic Harvey Karp. Pancake has no interest in making a deal with me anymore. Deals are for suckers, apparently.
  • I have tried and failed at time-outs. There is simply no sure way to keep this kid still short of shutting him in his room and that does nothing but freak him out worse.
  • I’ve even tried spanking.  (Cue story of my mother telling me she never spanked us and me and my sister bursting into great gales of laughter.)

But here’s the thing:


At least not the way I do it.

I have spanked all of my kids exactly once, and they’ve all found it hilarious.

All of them. Clearly I am not doing it “right.”

This is okay with me.

Better that than THIS. I mean for CHRIST’S SAKE (and I say that with great irony as they purport to be Good Christians) WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Someone ought to take a switch to THEM and lock THEM in a closet and hose THEM down in freezing weather. WHO DOES THAT TO CHILDREN? I MEAN, COME ON! AND IN THE NAME OF JESUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

IMO they can go to hell.

Which leaves me with:

Now what?

Two nights ago, about 60 minutes into one of Pancake’s tantrums, I finally lost my cool and screamed at Pancake so loudly to BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS! that  Diddy came running into his room to say this:

Mom, you have to be nicer to Pancake!

(Sometimes she’s an absolute ROCK STAR, don’t you think?)

I don’t know if this counts as nicer,  but here’s what I said next (and to Diddy’s credit, I said it MUCH more politely):

Pancake, if you don’t stop screaming and kicking RIGHT NOW I am going to throw your Ducky in the trash and the garbage man is going to take him away.

Lemme give you a little insight into DUCKY:

CHK ducky

Yep, that’s me, my four kids, my husband, and DUCKY in that caricature we sat still for on Father’s Day this year.

DUCKY is part of the family.

So the idea of DUCKY going away … welll …

I have never seen a kid shut-up so fast. His whole body stilled. He looked at me, and then he put on his pajamas and got into bed and didn’t make another sound.

Then he slept through the night.

For the first time over a month.


Umm …

I have now used that Ducky & the Garbage Man threat (which is the title of my next album of we’re really talking here) several other times, including such instances as yesterday’s morning whine-fest, last night’s dinner tantrum, and yesterday’s toothbrush fight when I took away the tube of toothpaste he was using to paint the walls of the bathroom.

No screaming. No hitting. No ignoring him or shutting him in his room.

Just threatening to take away the lovie that means most to him in the world.

I am conflicted about this.

  • On the one hand, I am thrilled to have found a way to help my kid regulate his temper – I mean, it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can stop crying and screaming when he wants to, which gives me hope that self-regulation is something he is capable of (I mean, truly, I was getting a little concerned).
  • On the other hand, I am a little worried that I am scaring him to PIECES to get him there. The look of shock on his little face the other night was … well, pretty damn deep.

But the quiet-ing response is Pavlovian to say the least.

I wonder how long it will last.








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


CHK thats a wrap

If you’ve been hanging around here a while, you may have noticed I’ve been pretty quiet for the last several weeks.

That’s basically because I haven’t had a second to think much less blog a single thing while my movie was shooting. Just writing that makes me think I have somehow stumbled into someone else’s life. I can’t get over how lucky I feel and how professionally gratified and just … well. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. (I am uncharacteristically short of words to describe this feeling but hey, it’s been a long month and I am EXHAUSTED, so there you go.)

Here are a few things I really DO want to say about the last month, however, so even if this post is a bit of a mess, here they are:

  • It is in no way usual or normal or even remotely pro forma that I got to spend the last month on the set of my movie. That’s because, in all honestly, “my movie” is nothing of the sort. I’m just a writer on the movie. Once it’s written, it’s the director’s movie, and most directors don’t want writers coming anywhere near them during production. In this case, the director happened to be my co-writer, and we’ve had a pretty great thing going since we started writing together, and he wanted me on set. For this I am intensely grateful as I haven’t really been on a movie set since I was a PA in my early 20s, and when you’re a PA you learn about, well, nada. Zilch. You’re too busy running errands and picking up dog poop. This time around, however, I got to sit next to the monitors and hang out with the producer and chat with the script supervisor and I learned A TON about movie making. I mean, really – I feel like I got a complete film school education in 22 days.
  • If you are old like me: 4 am call times are WAY BETTER than 4 pm call times. I had no problem hauling my ass to set at 4 am, knowing that 12-ish hours later I’d be heading home. What killed me was the night shoots, and the splits. This might have something to do with the fact that when you have kids, and you work until 4 am, you go home and get to sleep about … 90 minutes till the kids wake you up again. NOT. FUN. AT. ALL.  Granted, that’s basically the only time your kids will ever SEE you – most days I was out the door before they woke up and home after they went to sleep.  In case you think your kids will just roll with this sort of behavior, let me tell you what Gaga thought of the whole situation the one night I WAS home before her bedtime:

Mom, are you ever sleeping in Daddy’s bed again, or are you moving in with (the director)?

Meanwhile Diddy stopped doing her homework and the boys COMPLETELY stopped sleeping through the night.

CHK champagne

  • If you are in the process of writing a movie with kids in it – STOP. No really. RIGHT NOW. Either age that kid up to 19 or write her COMPLETELY out of the story because holy god are kids a problem on a movie set. Especially in California, where we have a labor board that is as protective of minors as a bureaucratic agency can possibly be. This is, of course, a good thing if you are a minor. It is a TERRIBLE thing if you are a movie production attempting to work with minors, as the amount of time a kid can work every day is really not amenable to the amount of time a director NEEDS that kid to work every day. Our movie had a bunch of kids in it. Including one of mine. Don’t do that, either – DO NOT CAST YOUR KID IN A MOVIE. It’s just too stressful protecting your child while also trying to protect the artistic integrity of your movie at the same time.

CHK rhonie ballet

  • On kid actors: Some kids have it. They just do. Gaga absolutely does. It was nuts. I would teach her her lines in the car on the way to set and not only would she learn them, she’d question the cue lines, sometimes RE-WRITE the cue lines, and ask for context, too. (She was four when we started and turned five during this process.) She was not into rehearsals and is a wiggle worm at the best of times, but the moment the AD called “Action” she sold it. In spades. It was nuts. AND I WILL ABSOLUTELY NEVER LET HER DO THIS AGAIN. She spent the time between takes glued to an iPad and stealing candy off the craft service table and listening to people tell her how special and cute and smart she is. This is just not healthy for any kid. Ever. So if you’re considering signing your kid up for a life of this, I would just like to VERY VERY NICELY encourage you to re-think that. Remember how I said all my kids would be in the movie? I changed my mind about that pretty darn quick and so Diddy got a nice little cameo towards the end but I never even brought the boys on set.
  • Despite the candy on the craft service table (which I still maintain was stolen from my private stash in the fridge on our third set and NOT in fact purchased from Smart & Final): You don’t HAVE to gain fifteen pounds at craft service. I, for instance, lost 8. This had something to do with my refusing to give up my seat at the monitors for a single MINUTE (first rule of set club: don’t abandon chair as you will never get your ass in it again) so I basically never ate. I now think making a movie is a great way to diet.

Gonna do my best to diet like that again and again and again …

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


When I was pregnant with Diddy, my parents went a little bit nuts. Yes they were excited, yes they were supportive, yes I got a lot of calls about how I was feeling and what I was thinking about strollers and carseats and nursery décor (no, really), but I also got THIS:

I don’t want the baby to call me Grandma. I’m not a Grandma.

(Umm, well, actually this whole baby actually makes you a …)

And your father doesn’t want to be Grandpa, either.

And here’s the thing:

It wasn’t just MY parents. My friends’ parents all made similar comments to THEIR breeding sons and daughters. One went so far as to craft an ENTIRE email about WHY he had no interest in being called Grandpa that went a little bit viral among my parent’s larger social circle.

I mean, they were QUOTING it to me. Ad nauseum.

This was annoying.

Until the kid was born and then … I … REALIZED SOMETHING.

(Call out Gossie, people. Have you READ Gossie?)

They might not want to be CALLED Grandma/Grandpa. But that didn’t mean they weren’t obsessed with my baby. They were constantly begging for photos of her.

And that meant:

I never had to spend another second of my life overthinking gifts for the grandparents ever again. As long as it had a picture of my kid on it, it was all good.

That first year I sent old-school photo albums which I made with prints I ordered from Kodak. Then I upgraded to calendars. And photobooks.

But Kodak.com is dead, and for my money, Shutterfly just ain’t doing it for me. I can’t tell you how many photobooks I’ve printed where the shots were just fuzzy and NO ONE OVER THERE flagged it for me. They are full-on robo-copping production over there and I am fully McKayla-unimpressed.

So I am over the moon to have discovered CanvasOnDemand. They take your photos and turn them into gorgeous canvases with a wide range of effects, and in a ton of sizes. The site does a great job of showing you the range of their products, and I got to say, I was pretty impressed just surfing around.

I wasn’t completely sure, however, what I would actually DO with a canvas print. I mean, we have a family photo wall and we’ve got fireplace mantles and we’ve got pictures of our kids taped up in our closet and on our office walls (you know how it goes), but a CANVAS PRINT is a totally different thing.

It’s, uh … fancy like.

And mine is NOT a fancy family. There is no way to be a fancy family once you have more than one kid.

Still, I was pretty curious to see a CanvasOnDemand canvas in real life, and my grandmother has a birthday coming up, so I went ahead and ordered an ENORMOUS Canvas (16×20), which is apparently their bestseller, using a truly great photo of the kids I took on my phone.

CHK canvas rosh

Ordering was easy-peasy.


I got an email.

From an actual human.

And that actual human was actually CONCERNED that my Canvas would look like crap. He wanted to let me know I should switch out the image, and even included the link I’d use to do that.

I was a little too busy to deal with this problem. In case you haven’t been following along: my movie is shooting this month.

So I ignored it for three or four days.

And they sent me ANOTHER one.

Which was super helpful, obviously, because TOP OF EMAIL = TOP OF MIND.

So I zipped on over and switched out the file, and they printed it, and FedExed it … and even sent me actual FedEx notification after they dropped it off.


CHK canvas closeup

CHK canvas side censor (1)

Yes, it’s fancy enough to hang in a big house on an island somewhere so fancy you don’t even know how to get there.

But it’s also low-key enough that I threw mine on the desk in our family room and I think it looks FAB there.

CHK canvas on desk (1)

Grandma may not be getting this one, is all I’m sayin’.

And here’s the great thing:

CanvasOnDemand also does an Instagram package, in case that’s where you tend to get your best shots, and they do mugs (I love mugs with my kid’s art projects on them) and key rings (yeah, I love KEY RINGS with my kids’ art, too).

And photo albums and calendars and mousepads.

And, umm …

I’ve got a COUPON CODE for a whole 65% OFF!

Head on over to CanvasOnDemand and use code D7ABTGS98U4VSBF — I’m pretty in love with this company and I think you will be too.

This is a sponsored post. CanvasOnDemand offered me a free canvas to review on this site, and I am a participant in their affiliate program. Arrangements like these help to support this blog. That said, I have never — and WILL NEVER — recommend any product or service to my readers unless I use AND love it myself. 


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

Which You Will Most Likely Be Hearing A Little Bit About This Month

CHK movie

My movie starts shooting Friday.

I can not even believe I just typed that.

It’s been a really long road to get here, beginning with a terrible fantasy pilot I co-wrote with a friend when I first moved to LA, then a terrible rom-com I wrote with MrBigIdeas when we were dating. (He credits that screenplay with convincing him he wanted to marry me. I’m still shocked we survived it.) Regardless, we landed management for a little while, so that was nice.

Still, I thought I’d be a novelist. I wrote two terrible novels which I never even bothered to send out. One I wrote at 5 am while Diddy, then an itsy-bitsy newborn, slept. That may account for how bad it was.

While I was pregnant with Gaga, a writer-friend asked me to co-write a TV pilot with him. We banged it out in 4 months, before she was born.

Then the best thing that ever happened to my career ever: pre-school. I’ve written about THAT elsewhere.

Thanks to preschool, I met my bestie, I-AM-Sahm, and her husband, a Big Shot Manager. MrBigIdeas handed him the pilot, which Big Shot Manager liked enough to wrangle a few meetings for me, including introducing me to Adam Goldberg.

Gaga was a tiny baby at the time.

Adam and I hit it off. We started bouncing movie ideas off each other, buddy comedies, road movies, capers … until eventually coming up with the truest, realest concept we could for what became “No Way Jose.”

It’s a Coming of Middle Age Story.

Featuring lots of small children. (I write what I know.)

And lots of men in-their-and-nearing-their 40s. (He writes what he knows.)

We wrote it. And re-wrote it. And re-wrote it. A  grand time was had by all.

And then nothing happened for a very long time.

I wrote another TV pilot. I had a few more kids.

And then Adam went and won Vine, and suddenly there was interest in doing our movie, and suddenly we are SHOOTING our movie.

As in, this Friday.

And umm … Gaga’s in it.

close up

No, really. Actually kinda HUGELY in it. Despite my best intentions of NOT being an LA Momager, for the next 4 weeks that’s exactly what I am. Diddy’s got a moment in an early scene, too, and the boys will be in a couple shots, and while that is a little bit creepy if you consider yourself the sort of Mom who wants to protect her kids from all the weirdo industry stuff that goes on in this town …

… it’s also kind of wonderful.

In fact, I got a little bit weepy about it yesterday while on my 5 am run.

Here’s the thing:

Writers are not great at getting out of their own heads. Me, I’m not a particularly hands-on, crafty, let’s play! kind of parent. I tell my kids to play with each other, I stop reading aloud the moment they can read to themselves, I’d a hundred-billion percent rather take my kids out for REAL high tea we can actually EAT than play tea party at home.

I like a clean and quiet home.

I like to be alone in my office.

And every so often I wonder if I’m missing things, if I’m going to regret holing up at my keyboard to write when I could have been on the floor playing dinosaurs or trains or something.

Time is flying by.

But this Friday, I get to slow it down a little bit, because all of my kids are in the movie. And there will be beautiful shots of all of them, at this moment in their lives, that I get to watch forever and ever, even when they’re adults with kids of their own.

And yes, I do know there will be beautiful shots of the kids, because for the last eight weeks or so of pre-production, Adam’s been shooting the rehearsals, to try to get a sense of the aesthetics of the film. And it’s truly gorgeous, this movie. It looks great on the single DSLR he’s been using, so it truly boggles my mind how much better it’s going to look when we’ve got bigger, better, film equipment in our hands.


I feel like someone just told me the Tooth Fairy was real.

And OMG:  Diddy was going through my closet last week and found a bunch of notes her tooth fairy had left her over the years and I had to convince her that her tooth fairy was probably just really disorganized and probably losing things all the time and then try to spin it into a life-lesson about how important it is to put our belongings back where they belong so we don’t lose them, etc. etc. etc.

Here’s hoping when Diddy figures that one out she forgives me for the lie because I’m such an awesome Mom I put her in my movie.


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


This one’s about how LA is really a very small town.

Two or three weeks after Diddy was born, a Dear Friend of MrBigIdeas asked to come over and meet the baby. I had never met The Dear Friend, a TV writer, before.

She arrived with her then 2 year-old son, was funny and charming, and brought incredible pastries from a French bakery in Korea Town that I have spent the last 6+ years trying to locate.

She also insulted my coffee.

It was shitty coffee. She had a point.

Anyway: after a half-hour or so, she got up to go, but not before asking if I knew Jill Soloway.

“You remind me of her,” The Dear Friend said, and was gone.

Obviously, I immediately googled Jill Soloway.  She was, at the time, a supervising producer on Grey’s Anatomy who had just come off a writing job on Six Feet Under , and she was WHO I WANTED TO BE.

Only I didn’t know that yet, because I still thought I wanted to be a novelist.

Silly me.

Fast forward 6+ years.

I am not a novelist. I do, however, have 4 kids.

The only woman I know who thinks inviting my huge family over for Shabbat dinner is a GOOD idea goes ahead and invites us for Shabbat dinner.

Guess who the other guests include?

Well, yes, an incredibly famous nonfiction writer, but also:

Jill Soloway.

Told you this is small town.


Jill was pretty busy following her 4 year-old around, and I was pretty busy following my 2 year-old twins around, so we didn’t really get to chat, but I did manage to glean that she’d just written and directed a film set in LA and that she’d won the Sundance Festival Director’s prize doing it.

Umm, hello, MY HERO. Did I mention that, in addition to the 4 year-old, she had a teenage son at the party too? This woman had TWO KIDS and had JUST WON THE SUNDANCE FESTIVAL DIRECTOR’S PRIZE.

I’m not worthy.

A few months later:

Our dinner host asked me if I’d help get the word out about Jill’s movie, which had just opened in NY and LA.

So here I go:

AD poster

The movie’s called AFTERNOON DELIGHT and MrBigIdeas and I LOVED IT.

Part of that is that we basically LIVE it.

AFTERNOON DELIGHT is set in our neighborhood, set at a school we know well, set among people we know well, and even features a few friends as extras and a couple of friend’s homes as set. So sure, that was easy to relate to … but so was the actual PLOT of the film.

I don’t want to tell you TOO much, but the basic premise concerns a wife and mother whose marriage is floundering as she becomes subsumed by PTA activities at her son’s neighborhood preschool (what did I tell you about quitting the PTA!) and her husband becomes consumed with the demands of his job. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know she’s invited a stripper to live in her home, ostensibly to act as her son’s babysitter. Complications obviously ensue.

Kathryn Hahn & Juno Temple in AFTERNOON DELIGHT.

Kathryn Hahn & Juno Temple in AFTERNOON DELIGHT.

It’s GREAT. I mean, really.

  • It has a lot to say about how easy it is for a marriage to go off the rails.
  • It has a lot to say about the difficulty women, and moms especially, have balancing their Mom-selves with their Good Wife-selves with their Independent Woman-selves and their Sexy Lady-selves.
  • It also says great deal about how little the women growing up behind us seem to value themselves BEYOND their sexuality.

And umm, did I mention Jill wrote and directed this thing and won a big prize for it, all while BEING A MOM TO TWO KIDS and REMAINING HAPPILY MARRIED?

There should be a prize for that, too. Really there should be. A movie I co-wrote starts shooting in LA next week and I’m already overwhelmed managing all the homefront logistics that will ensure my kids are dressed and fed and delivered to and from school and extra-currics and doctors appointments while it’s happening.

Not that I’m complaining.

Still, I thought Jill would be a good person to ask about how a pro like her balances family, career, and ever-growing-larger work aspirations.

Here’s what she had to say about that:

  • Get help.

I have a very supportive husband and family and a several wonderful sitters who have a great relationship with my younger son. It’s because I had this awesome family support that I was able to take a moment and think about what I really wanted. What I realized was that even though TV writing was financially rewarding, if I wasn’t responsible for every detail of the final product, I wasn’t really punching above my weight as an artist. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue directing.

  • Pace yourself.

There is a lot of terror in this business particularly about working till you drop and crossing every t, a perfectionism that, as I see it, is anathema to being in my body and experiencing feelings. These feelings are my #1 tool for directing — so I wouldn’t want to do things like pull all nighters or ignore my family. Doing that would cause me to be stressed out and disconnected — ultimately making me worse at my job.

  • Don’t bring your work home.

I am intensely present with my family when I am with them and intensely present on the set when I am shooting. I honestly believe it is possible to do both. I have a home office, but when we were in pre-production on Afternoon Delight, we found a space near my house to work out of. That way I could be home when I was home and not home when I was working. The only way to do that is by unplugging while in the house. That little computer in your pocket (which I love so) can be a real time and attention muncher.

  • Don’t stop believing.

I think it’s all about focusing on what you really want and then making a plan of action. Give yourself permission to go after your dreams. As a mom, I know how easy it is to fill every minute worrying and planning the life of your kids.  You want to give them everything! But part of giving them everything is giving them a role model they can look up to: parents that have full lives with their own passions and work.

I think the first step is giving yourself that permission to dedicate a few hours — or whatever you have —  to your own creative work. I also notice that so many people — but especially women — seem to be on the lookout for that one rejection that allows them to throw in the towel. I was told that around fifty men passed on the role of the dad in Mike Mills’ (Oscar-nominated!) Beginners. I might have chucked the whole thing after ten passes. It’s almost like women need to pretend they’re men for a minute and live within that feeling of “I have a story and I have the right to see it.” Insisting over and over again that you are a director is the only way to make it happen. No one annoints you, no one makes it easy. You have to want it.

Love this advice, love getting to know Jill,  and I’m thrilled to share Afternoon Delight with you. Go see it!

And go check out Jill’s site, too. Sign up for her mailing list to get more info about her upcoming projects, (including a new show!).





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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