Q&A: babies seeing ghosts?

And now for something *completely* different. Brenda writes:

"I have a question that used to bother me but not that muchanymore. (At least not for now until my younger kid gets a little

My question is: Do you believe that babies and toddlers can see
entities of another realm (as in spirits, ghosts etc.) that we can't?

My son is now 3 years old. He used to look at, point to and make
"eh eh" sounds at two particular corners of our bedroom. I have never
seen anything there that may interest him – no interesting patterns or
intriguing colours. Now he no longer does that but would sometimes walk
over to those two areas to take a look and briskly walk away. (I'm
getting goosebumps as I type this.) I know there's a school of thought
that says that some kids have the ability to see things that we adults
can't, and as they get older and start expressing themselves, they lose
that ability. This is how the "other realm" keeps itself separate from
ours. I have horrific thoughts sometimes and keep picturing scenes from
the trailers of the movie "The Messengers". I'm now just hoping my
7-month-old doesn't start doing the same thing as well.

Do you or your readers have any thoughts that you would like to
share on this? I know this is a rather sensitive and disturbing topic,
but I'm curious about other parents' experiences and what they have
done about it."

<Insert your own "I see dead people" joke here.>

You know, I don't think it matters if *I* believe they see anything.

So much truly strange, unexplainable stuff has happened to me in the last several years that I don't discount anything. But at the same time I completely understand how other people don't think strange stuff can happen. It's all your own personal experience. In my experience.

Is there a way for you to switch rooms in your living space so your kids don't have to be in that room as much? That might make you feel better about things.

Anyone want to debate whether or not kids can see stuff like that? Or talk about personal experiences with it?

Q&A: virus-caused hives

Amy writes:

"My 23 month old son has been battling hives for the last 2.5 weeks.  Ata bad day, he'll have hives starting from his scalp all the way to the
bottom of his feet and everywhere in between.  On a good day, he will
have 3-4 patches on his stomach and groin area.  The doctor thinks this
is due to a viral infection and put him on oral steroids and Benadryl –
the steroids worked for a few days, but now the hives are back full
force.  Because it's viral, there's not much we can do except just wait
it out.  The doctor says it may take up to 6 weeks for it to completely
subside!  (If it doesn't subside at that point, they'll start running
some tests.)  Needless to say, the poor little guy is miserable and
itchy and clingy, and I feel terrible about giving him Benadryl over
and over again. 

Have you or any of your readers dealt with this?  Any home remedies to relieve the itching?"

I've got exactly nothing, except oatmeal baths. I might also try some kind of elimination diet to make it easier for his system to cycle through the virus and hives. (I'd cut wheat, and maybe dairy.) Readers?

Q&A: Stroller in bad weather

…..And I'm back. (You guys know I'm not actually gay, right, just supporting repealing Prop 8? If I was gay you'd already know it by now. I got an email from a high school friend congratulating me on coming out, and I thought that was funny. Anyway.)

So here's today's question, sent in by a lovely lady in a walking-friendly city in Canada who did not want to be named:

"how do i do this??? i have a 5-month-old and we can't stay inside all day, but it's so crappy out that I can't stand walking around outside. my baby's all strapped into her stroller all warm and snuggly and protected with the cover and wind shield, but i'm freezing my ass off even all bundled up."

Did I ever mention to you guys my idea for the Parent Suit? (I'm going to get production up and running just as soon as I establish my Monkey Assistant Training Camps.) I'd buy a whole bunch of NASA surplus astronaut suits and trick them out so a parent could be completely temperature-controlled and protected from the weather in the suit. Encapsulated, but able to walk around outside. Cool in the summer (plus protected from the sun), dry in the rain (and humidity-controlled), and warm in the winter (plus protected from the snow). I'd sell them in the One Step Ahead catalog (aka Baby SkyMall) and retire off my profits.

Seriously, though, you have a couple of options. The first is to invite all your friends and their babies over to your place. You get the mental stimulation you need without actually having to go outside.

The second is to see if you can do what you need to do while wearing your baby instead of strolling. If you put the baby in a sling/wrap/bjorn/snuggly/whatever under your coat, you can bundle yourself up and go more quickly than you do pushing a stroller.

The third option is just to resign yourself to slogging through the disgusting weather until spring. I wish I had something better than that, but I could never figure out how to make it not suck to have to transport kids in the weather without a car.

Does anyone else have anything for our anonymous Canadienne? Only 5 more months until May…

Q&A: End-of-year gifts for teachers, daycare providers, et al.

This is another one we talk about every year. Last year I made the mistake of rolling it in with a discussion about Santa, so when you read last year's post you'll have to wade through lots of (interesting, but off-topic) Santa-talk.

The stand-out comment from last year's thread was when a teacher said:

One parent actually said to me "Youtaught my daughter to love reading…..I'm not buying you f-ing soap."
and she handed me a wad of money totaling $100.

Then we talked a lot about this idea that cash is somehow tacky, which led to the idea that women (which the majority of teachers and daycare providers are) are traditionally supposed to be "above" cash. And that things we wouldn't hesitate to give cash to men for we give soaps and candles to women for. That's just not right. Women have bills to pay, too.

So I'm going to vote that we stop with the cutesy gifts for women, and go to cash *or* things that really are just symbolic. I can't imagine that a teacher is going to feel bad that you can't afford a cash gift if your child makes a handmade card for the teacher.

Homebaked goods could go either way. Nut allergies? Chocolate aversion? A desire not to overeat? All these things could make homebaked treats not the loving act you intend them to be.

As I'm typing this I think I may be sounding a little like a Scrooge. But I'm think of all the really hardworking moms (many of them) who are teaching our kids to read and use the potty, and what the difference would be for them to be handed money at the end of the year or to go home with scented candles. Only one of those buys new shoes for their kids.

So, can we talk about amounts? Give the situation (daycare, preschool, or elementary school, public or private, how many teachers, where you live, etc.) and what the standard is there.

Also, anyone know what to give NYC bus drivers?? We have a different one in the morning and afternoon, and the morning guy has really gone out of his way to be awesome in several dimensions.

Q&A: four-year-olds and weird social issues

I didn't really think of it in the name reveal post, but you can call me whatever you want now, as long as it isn't late for supper. (Thank you–I'll be here all week.)

Since this was an IM question posed to me late at night by a friend, I'm going to have to paraphrase it here:

"My 4-year-old daughter has a close friend with lots of Disney princess stuff–dolls, nightgowns, etc.–and she only has one or two DP things. She's constantly talking about the things her friend has, and how she wishes she had things like the friend does. How can I deal with this, while also not completely losing my patience with her?"

I think a lot of this is about the age. 4 seems to be a time when kids really start to be aware of social things in a way they never were before. Before this it's like they're really interested in one-to-one interaction. But at 4 they start to figure out social dynamics and how people related to each other in different groups.

One of the things that was striking to me when my older one was in preschool was how squirrely all the kids got about attending birthday parties. Even the parties of kids they'd been friends with since infancy. They'd be excited about the party, and then the day of the party decide they didn't want to go.

I think it's just the beginning of figuring out who they are in relation to other people and to groups of other people.

So I don't really know what to say about the friend situation. It's not really going to help to point out what she has that the friend doesn't (toys, baby sibling, etc.), because a 4-year-old can't see things in that way.

The only thing I can think of is to talk to the mom of the friend to see what her daughter has been saying. It's possible that the other girl has been making similar statements about your daughter, so the issue really isn't the actual toys at all, but the "why am I not her?" thing. Which is normal, but still perplexing. And annoying.

Readers? Have any of you gone through this? How did you deal with it?

The Name Game

I found out my divorce is final last week! After only 24 months! So in honor of that, I'm going to reveal that my real name is:


No, seriously. r+k+mama was the first to be right, my real first name is:


The A's are pronounced like the A's in "watch" or "father."

(And if you missed my update in the comments, my son was over being Kevin before lunch on Friday.)

I just never know

Real post later; off to chaperone field trip.

Denouement of the name debate: He's not being teased (and since he goes to NYC public schools you *know* his name's not the most teasable in his class, for sure). He just "likes it less and less every day."

He would like to be called Kevin.

I have no idea where that came from, but I'm going with it. And hoping it lasts about 3 days or less.

[My comments on yesterday's comments: You all know my real first name is unusual (and my Firstname Lastname is super-foreign sounding), and I've always liked it. I never knew people had such name angst. I'm always the only one with my name. People either remember it forever, or forget it immediately. It was apparently a hot name in 1890 in Mexico, Poland, the Ukraine, and many other countries, and it's a common women's name in Egypt (which means it has a "real" Arabic spelling, not just a transliteration). I've been told it's a Bond Girl name.

Plus, it fit the naming requirement of the Norwegian side of my family, which is that it begin with a certain two letters. (Same two letters R's middle name begins with, and his second cousin, and four of my cousins' first or middle names, etc.) I think my parents were hedging their bets, though, by giving me the middle name Elizabeth, so I could use that if I didn't like my first name.]

My Q, your A: Kid not liking his name

I was all ready to do something baby-related this morning, but then my older son sprang something on my that's really bugging me. He told me that he wished he had a different name, because he hates his.

Those of you that read my ex-husband's blog know what his name is (I never wanted to post real names, but it was already out there), but for those of you that don't it starts with an R and is a very common, solid name.

Have any of you gone through this? Is it just a feature of the age (almost 7)? Or is this more serious? Is it something that can be solved by helping him choose one of the hundreds of possible nicknames for his name to go by? Or did we actually pick the wrong name?

He told me "We should talk about this later on so we have enough time."

Divorce and the holidays

A friend sent me this excellent article by Alan Ravitz at the NYU Child Study Center about making decisions during the holidays for divorced or divorcing couples. It goes along with the suggestions you all made months ago about considering what's best for the kids, and doing those things even when it makes you uncomfortable.

These were the things that jumped out at me:

"We know that kids do best when raised in an environment in which theirphysiological needs are consistently, predictably, and lovingly met.
But in order for them to develop the capacity to initiate and sustain
healthy interpersonal relationships throughout their lives, their
emotional needs must be addressed as well. For children of divorce,
this includes overt and covert permission from each parent to maintain
a loving, intimate relationship with the other."

And then this:

"Imagine what it must be like for a child to know full well that if his
mother is happy, his father must be sad—or vice versa. Is this the
model of relationships you want to convey to your children? One in
which interpersonal relationships are zero-sum games, every decision is
a conflict, and there is no such thing as compromise, only victory or

Want to talk about the things that hurt or the things that made you feel good growing up with divorced parents? Or how you do things now and how you like them?

I'll start: This was probably the easiest part of our entire settlement! We've been alternating which family gets Thanksgiving and Christmas for years, so we just stuck with the same schedule. No fuss, and no difficult negotiations (so far) and no hurt feelings, because it's just the schedule–it's nothing anyone "wins." Of course we won't know how the kids feel about it for years. But it's one of the things I feel most confident with and happy about in our whole situation.