18 months

I've had a request for a commiseration post for parents of 18-month-olds.

The suddenly not sleeping! The willfulness! The earnest and desperate desire to talk but the inability to say the words they want to! The slapping themselves! The battles over food! The way you've been feeling good about your skills as a parent and suddenly you feel both incompetent and angry all the time!

Yeah, I feel really bad for you guys.

So, if you're in the middle of it, complain here. And if you just came out of it, give them hope. And if you're long out of it, see if you can come up with any good stories to make us all feel better.

Also, does anyone know exactly what skills they develop during the developmental spurt that causes them to stop sleeping for those 4-8 weeks? I think it's definitely about communication and organization, but don't know if there's been anything written specifically about that spurt.

NYC Race to Deliver walk/run with run for kids November 16

Attn NYC-area runners or walkers, with running kids. We formed an Ask Moxie team for the Race to Deliver, which supports God's Love We Deliver, an organization that delivers hot, nutritious meals to homebound people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, other life-threatening illnesses, and their dependents.

There are kids' races starting at 8:30 (ranging from 50 yards for 2-year-olds to 1/2 a mile for 10-12-year-olds) and then a 4-miler (help me) for adults at 10. The kids' race is only $10, and includes a cool race T-shirt (long-sleeved). The adult race is $25, and also includes a T-shirt.

I volunteered with GLWD when I first lived in New York, and loved it. The meals they prepare are the only food some of these people get (they may be too sick to prepare things for themselves, or too sad or too poor or too depressed). The kitchen is fun and welcoming, and all the volunteers are just so happy to be able to help someone else in a tangible way. It's a worthy organziation to support.

The kids' races are fun! And hilarious. Your child will love it. And then be a bad-ass on the playground in the T-shirt.

4 miles, though. That's going to be a challenge for me…

Super-important US bill about online child predators

Susan tipped me off about this. (Click on her name to read her post and be horrified):

The Combating Child Exploitation Act, which was introduced by Senator Joseph Biden, creates and implements a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. It designates a senior Department of Justice official to oversee the national strategy, including long-term goals, budget priorities, and program reviews to reduce the current backlog of forensic analysis for child exploitation cases.  This national strategy includes provisions to:

* establish an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program consisting of state and local law enforcement officials to address the online enticement of children, child exploitation, and child obscenity and pornography;
* increase the investigative capabilities of law enforcement officers;
* provide training and technical assistance to ICAC task forces;
* increase the number of Internet crimes investigated and prosecuted;
* award grants to state and local ICAC task forces;
* and authorize funding for computer forensic capability, forensic labs, federal-state task forces, and the hiring of additional FBI agents to work solely on child exploitation cases.

Importantly, the bill expands federal authority to prosecute crimes involving child exploitation, buying or selling of children, and production or distribution of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

I know I live in a little protected bubble about what's going on out there, what some sick people do or try to do to kids, and who's being hurt. I never realized all the awfulness that was out there, or that there's currently no united effort to go after it.

Oprah has the information on action steps (contact your senators, of course, and tell them to "Vote yes on Senate Bill 1738—The PROTECT Our Children Act.") here.

More unformed thoughts on those rough times (3 1/2-year-olds)

So I've been thinking a lot about this 3 1/2-year-old thing. And how it really seems to me like all the "difficult" stages seem to be at times that double: 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, 3 1/2 years, 7 years, 14 years. I don't know if that means anything, except that if you're 28 maybe you're having a tough time, too. And 56 might also be rough…

Anyway, it seems like the difficulties start out more weighted toward the physical but become progressively more emotional as the people get older. So that first rough stage at 4 months is mostly about being fussy and not being able to sleep. Then at 9 months it's not sleeping but more generalized crankiness. 1 months seems to be a tie between physical and emotional distress, and then by 3 1/2 it really seems to be mostly emotional (even if all of this is caused by some physical process of development in the brain).

It feels to me, from being on the outside of it, that the developmental spurt that's happening somehow seems to remove the protective emotional layers somehow, so that all the person's emotions are right there, waiting to bubble over at any second. The person on the inside can't process or deal with or control them. Which is why they get stuck in a "Pick me up!! Put me down!!" loop. It's like they have an exposed nerve, and any time anything brushes against it they just go off from the overload.

I've noticed that when I'm feeling emotionally fried, my child being in one of these emotional wack-out times just sets me off, too. But when I'm on an even keel, my response just instinctively seems to be more one of "Oh you poor sweet little thing. Let me give you a hug."

Does this resonate with anyone? About any of the stages? About yourself? Or do you think there's something different or more going on?

Q&A: More effects of this !@#$%^ war

Michelle writes:

"I'm freaking out a bit and I'm hoping you and the Internets might be able to help calm me down.  In the way of background, our 10 month old son is at an in-home daycare 4 days a week, and has been there since he was 3 months old.  The daycare was recommended to us by some friends who have a 5 year old and a 2 year old.  We have been thrilled with our provider, "Jenny," and she absolutely adores our son.

Jenny's husband returned from a year-long overseas deployment 2 months ago and Jenny has mentioned to me that they've been having trouble adjusting to having him home again.  Then, a couple of days ago, he just left, and Jenny hasn't heard from him since, short of a text message saying he was meeting with a counselor.  I found this out yesterday when I went to pick up my son.  He was in a swing-set baby swing, by himself, and Jenny was on the complete other side of the yard.  He was just hanging out, staring down at the ground.  He wasn't upset, but he was definitely all alone. When I saw him, I was really surprised and upset…  Jenny is usually right there with him.  I ran and grabbed him, and when I turned around to see why Jenny wasn't there, she was sitting in a chair staring off into space.  I asked her if she was okay and that's when she told me what happened with her husband.

I understand why she's distracted, but I worry that with her mind elsewhere she'll be unable to properly care for the kids.  I spoke with the friend of mine I mentioned above, and neither of her kids have said anything about things being "weird" at Jenny's, which makes me feel a bit better.  I also worry, though this is probably my new-mom paranoia coming out, that her husband is going to become violent and come to the house while the kids are there.  It sounds like the person who held his post prior to him arriving committed suicide, and that many of his superiors needed to be replaced because of the stress.

So, what I need, I guess, is some reassurance….  How have other people dealt with it when their daycare provider is having bad personal problems?  And I suspect I'm overreacting when I worry about her husband hurting the kids or hurting her in front of the kids, but I would love for someone to tell me to chill out about it…"

I am so, so, so sorry for Jenny and her husband that this is happening. They are not alone. I've been reading all kinds of articles about how returning military people are having major problems reintegrating into their families and lives when they come back from being deployed. The system is starting to get overwhelmed, and returning military people are slipping through the cracks and families are being destabilized.

It sounds like Jenny has no idea what to do about this. We have no idea if the husband is going to become violent. I wouldn't rule it out, but I also wouldn't say it'll definitely happen. The sooner they can get help, the better off everyone will be, and the more stable the situation will become.

I think the best resolution to the problem would be for you and the other parents to start poking at the system in your area to see what support services there are for returning soldiers and their families. I'd start looking around for EMDR therapists.(EMDR is the process that's showing the best results in treating PTSD effectively and rapidly.) And I'd call the VA and see if there are support groups for families. It's good that he's seeing a counselor. Very good, and seriously lessens the likelihood that he'll be violent. But we have to hope that the counselor knows what to do with PTSD cases.

Does anyone out there have experience with getting help from the system for a returning soldier and family? Jenny and her husband aren't the only ones that are dealing with this. And not everyone has a Michelle who's worried about it.

Bring our troops home NOW.

Do your kids have allergies?

I have in my possession a new wonder product (allegedly) that purports to alleviate the symptoms of allergies to pollen, ragweed, and other tree/plant-based allergens. It's specially formulated for kids, and contains no medication. (Think along the lines of that gel stuff you put in your nose to stop a cold.)

Since my kids don't have allergies (which I'm thankful for!), I'm looking for testers. The first 5 people to email me with "allergies" in the subject line with your mailing address gets a tube to test. The catch is that if you test it out you MUST send me feedback in the next two weeks which I'll post on the site as part of a review of the product (I'll use whatever name or fake name you give me to use to go with your review). If it works, great. If it doesn't work, we need to know that, too.  Gone!

FWIW, I wouldn't hesitate to try it out on my kids after reading the ingredients on the package. The magic is allegedly in the mode of delivery, which is patented, not any fancy and/or dangerous ingredient, and it was invented by a dad.

Sharing morning routines

We did a post about this last year, and it was really helpful to me to see how people do things in the morning. I thought we could do it again, now that school's started.

I'll start:

Parameters: NYC. Two kids, one in public all-day school and one in preschool afternoons a few days a week. No car. Mom with full-time job. Cats not at all helpful with morning routine.

* Alarm goes off at 7 am, but I've almost always been awakened before then by one or both of the kids and/or one or both of the cats. Sometimes all four are on top of me, fighting for covers.

* Get up, lay out clothes for both boys. Get their breakfast (cereal with milk or toast or eggs or frozen waffles by request). Feed cats and change their water.

* Take a shower, brush hair (wet–I know, not good), get dressed.

* Make lunch for older son (pull sandwich and baggie of tomatoes or carrots out of fridge, pop in cookies, refill water bottle, zip up Yankees lunchbag).

* Mediate some disagreements. Stuff younger child into his clothes and talk to older while he puts on his own clothes.

* Last-minute annoyance du jour–meter reader arriving, changing garbage, changing cat litter. Grab both razor scooters, my bag, older's backpack, and leave at 8:10.

* Walk/scoot four blocks to subway. Take subway four stops, then switch to another line. Take that one stop, then walk/scoot a few blocks to older's school.

* Drop off older around 8:46 for bell of 8:50. Meet babysitter in front of school and hand off younger.

* Walk back to subway. Take subway four stops. Walk five blocks to office. Done with morning schlep! Time to scrounge for breakfast at the office and coffee.

This is all predicated on having finished all the homework the night before and having it back in the backpack, having dishes washed and laundry done and folded and put away. (I try to do a load every night if I can–we have a machine on our floor, and it's $2 to wash and $2 to dry.) I also make the lunch sandwich and bag the veggies the night before, and have a vague idea of what I'm going to wear.

My goal is to get us all to a place of having clothes for M-F all chosen by Sunday night and stacked up or on hangers so we can just grab and go in the morning.

Your turn.


Seven years ago I'd just come out of my first trimester of pregnancy. I wasn't nauseated anymore, and the depression was manageable.

It was Primary Day, and I was scheduled to go out and flier for my candidate at the subway stop near my apartment. My husband called right before I left to ask if the news was saying anything about some kind of crash or explosion at the World Trade Center. I flipped to New York 1 (all-NYC news TV station) and they were just starting to show it and had no idea what it was. I told him they didn't know yet. Then I called my mom in Ohio to tell her something strange had happened, but it was probably nothing and we were fine, and she might not even hear about it on the news. I headed out to flier.

After about 15 minutes, people started coming out of the subway, crying. Then people started coming out of the subway dusty and grimy and crying. I kept asking what happened but all people could say was "plane crash," "explosions," "terrorists."

It was so confusing. I had no idea what to do. My first instinct was to go vote in the primary before the polls closed because of whatever this was. I decided not to, but just to go home and wait it out. I watched the whole thing unfold on TV, and heard sirens blaring from all sides as emergency vehicles rushed past me heading downtown. I got another call from my then-husband, who said they'd all rushed into someone's office to try to see what had happened, when they saw the second plane coming in. They stood there and watched in horror as it slowly circled and crashed into the second tower eight blocks away from them. Then they all ran down 29 flights of stairs and started running away from the site. He was calling from a barber shop about halfway home.

The rest of the day unfolded like a slow, grinding blur. By the end of the day the caustic, thick smoke had reached my apartment. It smelled like burning metal, and like something else. A few days later I was talking to a friend who'd grown up in another country, and she said it was the smell of the crematorium in her town, the smell of burning flesh.

That smoke stayed with us for six weeks. Through the initial days of fear and hope in which people covered the city with "Missing" posters of their loved ones. I couldn't decide which ones were more heartrending–the ones that were hastily slapped together, as if getting them out quickly would mean their brother or husband or cousin would be found. Or the ones that were done precisely and professionally, as if doing everything perfectly would increase the chances that their mother or college roommate would return to them. One day as I was walking across Union Square I caught one of the posters out of the corner of my eye and recognized a woman I'd worked with five years previously. She was so much fun. Generous, hilarious, and free. She'd have 600 friends on Facebook, if she'd lived to see Facebook.

I think we're mostly over it. I didn't seize up on Monday, like I have been every year when the weather's the same as it was that day. And I haven't cried yet today. But I did get irrationally angry when I saw that it's been named "Patriot Day" by the people who make the calendars. It seems so reductive, Patriot Day. There's so much more to it than that, and it's all still going on, here and in DC and everywhere someone was lost, and in the places and with the people who caused it to happen. What happened on 9/11/01 was just one tentacle of something sad and hopeless that's still there, even as we live our lives in hope around it.

Peace, everyone.

3 1/2-year-olds and the pain they cause

This is a special song that I like to call "WhywhywhwywhwywhyWHY????" It's going out to all of you who have a 3 1/2-year-old.

When I let you choose the popsicle flavor you want, and you still start squealing–WHY?
When I vault across a Lego tower to prevent your older brother from taking Mader out of your hand, and you still burst into wailing tears–WHY?
When I give you a hug and kiss and you respond, "Mama?! I *hate* you!"–WHY?
When I'm pouring the cereal into your bowl right in front of you and you keep on whining about how you want cereal–WHY?

Why you wanna play me like that, sweet potato?

I feed you, love you, hug you, kiss your boo-boos, divide the cookies into two equal parts so you get your share,
I'm giving up the best years of my life and my stomach looks like it's been mauled by an angry lion from the stretchmarks and let's not even talk about my boobs,
But you just keep on freaking out over nothing and refusing to go to sleep.

I'd send you on a long vacation at Grandma's but she's too smart for that,