Obe Ata stew and life with an angry toddler


Gargantubaby is 28 months old, but I don’t keep track anymore. He’s 2 and a half and he will remain 2 and a half until he turns “almost 3.” He is a toddler, period.

And good lord, is he ANGRY. His default is lying on the floor and crying, and I’m here to tell him, that position has been filled.

He makes his hands into puppets that talk to each other and ultimately get into fights, with a lot of explosions going on. He cries immediately upon waking because the light isn’t already on and the door isn’t already open. When it’s the teeniest bit misty outside, he needs to be carried like Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

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On the way home from daycare recently, when I turned on the car, Cardi B. started up on the stereo. From the short person in the backseat: “Can you drive? No music. Only Elmo’s song.”

When I do play Elmo’s song, which is ALL THE FUCKING TIME THAT MUPPET’S LUCKY HE’S CUTE, I have to face front and I’m not allowed to sing along or seat dance. I can’t even turn around and smile at my kid as he “sings” along or I risk a shrieking, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” and him writhing in his seat to somehow get away from me or make it stop.

Everything sets him off. I don’t even have any examples because it’s literally everything. He wants toast, he doesn’t want toast, he doesn’t want that toast, he wants toast with butter, he wants toast with peanut butter, he wants it cut up but he doesn’t want it cut up but he wants it CUT UP AND NOT CUT UP AT THE SAME TIME. My favorite is when he gives us his mad face, complete with duck lips and huge eyebrows dropping into big brown eyes, shoulders hunched as he turns his back and pauses so we’re clear about what’s happening here, and he half-articulates something with angry diction and shows us the palm of his hand and says, “BYE. SEE YOU SOON.”

To be fair, he’s practicing. He’s very into showing us his mad face (“Mama, look!” MAD FACE) and then, when we do it back to him, giggling. He constantly asks, “Mama, can you cry?” or “Daddy, can you cry?” so our house is often suddenly filled with loud sounds of boo-hooing.

He still loves to cradle his baby doll as well as household objects, which in short order turns into demands that I hold them and nurse them (the baby books did not warn me that having a child would involve me pretending to nurse an IKEA feather duster or a USB plug, but in general they lacked useful information).

I’m pretty sure he’s also holding out hope that we’re going to start nursing again, as his requests for “boot” (my boob) are neverending. One night, out of the dark, as we were falling asleep together YES SOMETIMES WE STILL SLEEP TOGETHER WHAT’S YOUR POINT, he said, “Mama?”

Jenny: Yes, darling.
GB: I want to dip your boot in catchup.
Jenny: (Pause.) You want to dip my boob in catchup?
GB: Yeah.
Jenny: OK. Maybe in the morning.

He seems to have learned about Batman and Spiderman at daycare because he runs around the house striking a pose, one fist to his chest and the other extended, duck lips again, singing, “Batmaaaaan!” Sometimes he’ll poke me and run away.

I caught him having a conversation on the remote control (he often “answers the phone” in the kitchen and then wanders off to take the call in another room).

GB: Whatcha doin’? I’m working.

Thoughts on marriage: If I find money in the dryer, it’s mine.

Last summer, one of my best friends listened to me talk about my relationship and then observed, “You sound like a nightmare to live with.” Recently I told SJ what she’d said.

“I must have some pretty goddamn good redeeming qualities, for people to put up with me,” I said.

“You do,” SJ said. He hugged me, and while he was still hugging me, he said, “But you’re not a constant pleasure.”

He’s taken up saying, “One star!,” when I do something he doesn’t like. I forget to connect to the wireless guest account at work so Verizon sends us a notice that our data is almost all used up. Text message from my husband: “1 star!”

But HE leaves his fucking socks all over the house. It’s a huge bone of contention between us. I hate that he leaves dirty socks on the floor, so I constantly pick them up, from every room in the house, and put them in his laundry basket. He’s pissed because he’s leaving them there FOR LATER. He’s constantly annoyed because when he goes to look for his socks, they’re not where he left them. This has been going on for two years.

One morning last week, I walked into the front room to put GB’s coat on him. SJ was leaning over the laundry basket and GB was watching him from the bed. As I put GB’s arm into his coat, SJ pulled his socks out of the laundry basket, where I’d put them earlier.

“Oh!” GB cried, smiling happily. “You have your fucking socks!”

This stew looked like a delicious and healthy way to make chicken, and even though I forgot the spinach, it was great. You need:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 lbs. total)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lg. onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 habañero chiles, stemmed, halved, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 small Japanese sweet potatoes or yams, sliced into ½-in. rounds (or 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-in. pieces)
  • 1 small bunch spinach, stems trimmed
  • Cooked rice and sliced chives (for serving)


  • Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and cook (skin side down), undisturbed, until skin is browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Turn and cook just until lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate (it will not be cooked through).
  • Cook bell peppers and onion in same pot, stirring often, until onion is golden brown and vegetables are softened, 6–8 minutes. Add tomatoes, chiles, and pepper and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes are broken down and softened, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer to a blender (reserve pot) and pour in broth. Purée until very smooth.
  • Return purée to pot along with chicken and potatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, partially cover pot, and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until chicken and potatoes are very tender, 45–50 minutes. Season with salt to taste and stir in spinach. Cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
  • Divide stew among bowls. Spoon rice into soup alongside chicken and chives.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. MM says:

    You don’t know me but I’m so glad you are posting with frequency again. (Although I feel selfish saying it! My heart goes out to you for your incredibly tough year.) I only have 9 bookmarks on my phone and you are one of them. I have a toddler and a preschooler and you are very helpful for my sanity. Thank you!! It feels good to know I’m not alone in the endless toil.


    1. This message really makes my night. Thank you so much, MM. And it reminds me: I need to let WordPress followers know that I’m switching my site to a different platform! So people who would like to keep reading are invited to subscribe to a new newsletter. I’ll write a post about it soon. Either way, thank you so much!!


    2. This message makes my night. Thank you, MM. And it reminds me: I’m changing this blog to a new platform! I’ll write a post about it soon so you know where to find me. 🙂 Either way, thank you so much. XO


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