Reporting in

So things are resolved for the moment, again.

This takes a lot of time and energy and heart.

I wonder, sometimes, what amazing thing I could be doing with the energy and thought this takes from me on a daily basis.

Thank you. So, so much.

I'd tell you I'd put up a real post tonight, but that would be a bald-faced lie as I'm actually going out tonight. (!) However, you get my annual Thanksgiving/AskMoxiversary post tomorrow.


I am having a bad time

And I wish I could post about it and ask for advice. But I'm legally not allowed to. Which almost makes me want to laugh, but not really.

Anyway, here's some irony*: Now that I'm emotionally healthy enough to allow myself to cry about it instead of just holding it all in like a Good Girl, I've discovered that I'm a Tension Increaser, and crying doesn't make me feel any better.

Somebody say something nice. Here's something: I work with some really smart and kind people, who make me laugh all day long.

Now you go.

* Maybe. I'm not sure I even know what irony is anymore. Rain on my wedding day isn't, but what is? If I feel like saying "Man bites dog!" after I tell the story, does that make it irony?

Q&A: teeny babies and sleep

Anonymous wrote me that her second son is three weeks old and is sleeping like a champ. It's freaking her out, because her first son had his days and nights mixed up and seemed not to sleep, pretty much ever, for the first 11 months of his existence.

Babies are weird.

This is confirmed by reports from two other friends with new babies, one of whom sleeps at night (sort of) but hardly at all during the day at four weeks, and the other of whom seems to sleep around the clock at five weeks.

Moral of the story: Babies are people, too.

And they haven't read any of the baby books. So reading the books can give you an idea of what *can* happen, but if you start to think it *will* happen you could be disappointed or demoralized. And if you think that's what *should* happen you can start to think there's something wrong with you or your baby when it could just be normal human variation.

Now, serious lack of sleep can indicate a problem, so you should do some troubleshooting to see if there's anything you can figure out and fix. But at the same time, know that it's possible that everything could be fine and your baby still might not sleep the textbook way or amount.

Some common problems that could be affecting your baby's sleep:

Reflux: Choking or gagging or spitting up a ton are classic signs of reflux, but waking up screaming is another sign. Try propping the head of wherever your baby sleeps so the head is above the feet, and if that helps, your baby could have reflux. (Another classic is that the baby can sleep for hours in a stroller or swing or bouncy seat but not lying flat.) Talk to your doctor to get some relief.

Caffeine: If you're consuming lots of caffeine and nursing, it could be keeping your baby up. The half-life of caffeine in a baby's system is 96 hours. (Yes. That wasn't a typo. They're teeny little humans.) I am so sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Developmental spurt/Growth spurt: If your baby is 3 weeks or 5 weeks or 8 weeks or 12 weeks, they could be in the middle of a growth (eating constantly) spurt or developmental (learning new brain skills) spurt. It should be over in a few days to a week, and things should improve.

Environmental conditions: Too cold, too hot, too bright, too noisy, too quiet, too alone, etc. Chances are if it annoys you, it could be preventing your baby from sleeping. (Remember also that your baby just came from being in constant contact with you, so if you expect your baby just to go cold turkey in sleeping alone in a quiet room, you might not have success right away.)

Hunger: I mean, duh, but sometimes we forget how often babies actually do need to eat. Forget all the crap about how many pounds babies weigh and how long they can go without eating. It's not research-based, especially with breastfed babies, so it's just as much conjecture as anything I could tell you or your MIL or the checkout lady at the grocery store. If your baby keeps waking up and seeming hungry, feed them and see if it works.

What have I forgotten? I'm trying to think of things that are common and reasonable to diagnose and easily treatable.

And, of course, feel free to talk about how your baby slept as a newborn, if you can remember. My first one hardly slept at all during the day. My second one seemed more textbook and couldn't stay awake for more than two hours.


I'd been wondering why I just could not keep up here with posting every day, and then it hit me: I have a three-hour round-trip commute every day. It takes me 100 minutes to get to work in the morning, and about 85 minutes to get home (including picking the kids up from their dad's). By the time I get home, it's all I can do to make dinner and get the kids to bed–I just want to collapse on the couch with Candletime.

Now that I've realized how much time I spend commuting, I'm kind of horrified.

But anyway, I'm trying to figure out some strategies to make sure I'm posting five times a week again, and hope to be back on that schedule by the end of the month.

In the meantime, I missed the first week start date of the More Moxie series on Clarifying and Transmitting Your Values During the Overhyped Holiday Season. I'm thinking the timing might actually be better this way (more time for post-mortem analysis), and I've got the first few weeks written, so I'll put up the sign-ups tomorrow and set it so that whenever anyone jumps in they'll still get the whole series.

Do you remember back when I gave up coffee? What was I thinking?

What is getting you through the day? Is it the promise of something? Working toward a goal? For me it's that I genuinely enjoy my job and my kids are turning into fun people instead of bottomless pits of need. Plus coffee.

Tomorrow you will see More Moxie sign-ups for those interested (people from the July/August session automatically get rolled into this one) and an actual post on baby sleep. I know–it's shocking that I'll actually be doing my job here…

Shifting heads

Do any of you have any advice for me?

I really like my job, and have a big project starting actually any second now, and have been very wrapped up in that for the past week. I'm having some problems separating from Work Moxie into Mom Moxie in the evenings. Last night it felt like it took almost until bedtime to have my head in the game momwise again. And I wake up with my work head on for the last few days, too.

Any tips for pushing the work aside? It's not that I don't want to be with the kids. It's just that I start trying to engage them in conversations about work. Which they don't so much care about, understandably…


Between the local crisis of the knife fight and the national crisis of the Fort Hood shooting, I've been thinking about the fact that I have no emergency plan.

Back when I was still married and we all lived together and worked on the same island and I was at home, our emergency plan was pretty direct and clear.

But we're divorced now, and I work on a different land mass than my kids go to school in, and their dad works a good 5 miles away from both of their schools, and we have no emergency plan anymore. If their dad does, I don't know what it is.

That has to change.

I am putting this up to force myself to come up with a solid, concrete plan and then work on it with my kids' dad to make sure it works for all of us. And also to force you all to reevaluate your plans, or make them if you never did.

What if something happened at your workplace? Your spouse's workplace? Your children's schools? Your city? How would you communicate? Where would you meet? What records would you have with you?

What other questions do we need to ask ourselves?

If anyone has good plans, would you post them (obviously take out specific locations) so the rest of us can get an idea of how you work it? Thank you.

My first task is to figure out how I could walk from Long Island City to Manhattan…

Q&A: parenting while sick

Candletime! Day 5. If you're not lighting candles, you're not having fun.

We've all been there. Probably in the last few weeks, in fact. Andrea feels really sick, and has a toddler, and writes:

"Tips on how to be a mom when feeling like cr@p are appreciated….we've got Nemo on right now. And I'm gonna go lie down on the sofa."

One thing about being the Great and Powerful Oz (I love that you all coined that phrase for being the one who has to hold everything together in the family and keep everything constantly on your radar) is that you never get a break, even when you're sick. Even when, technically, you've taken a sick day from work. Or when someone's "taking care" of you. Because even if you're in bed, people are still trying to nurse from you, or asking you where their socks are, or wondering what's for dinner. <Insert your own vulgar and/or gratuitously violent response here.>

The bottom line is that even when you're doing what feels to you like nothing to care for anyone else, you still are, just because you can never turn your brain off. So use whatever props you can to lessen the requirements: babysitters, TV, movies, helpful neighbors, other parents, pots and pans, etc. Anything that will keep your kid happy and chill so you can sleep or lie there and moan quietly is fair game.

Don't feel guilty if you wish your kid would get sick so he'd sleep while you were sleeping, too. We all wish it.

And push those liquids! Water, juice, broth, etc.

Does anyone know what (if any) OTC cold/flu remedies are safe for breastfeeding? I'm past those days and have been using TheraFlu, but cannot recommend it for people who are still nursing. (Even if the version you take is not dangerous, it dries you up seriously and could affect supply.)

Who's been sick and had to take care of kids? In the last week? Want to give tips or complain or feel sorry for yourself or give sympathy? Step on up to the comments section.

Lice Prevention and Removal

Who wants to talk about lice? I know–no one. Until it happens to you. One of my friends just did an extended battle with lice at her daughter's school, and she wrote up this super-comprehensive piece about how to prevent the spread of lice and get rid of them as directly as possible if they happen to you. (She didn't want me to attribute her because she didn't want to be the Lice Hunter forever.)

How to detect lice:
1. The first sign is a child who is scratching his head, especially
behind the ears. There may be red bumps on the scalp and neck.
 However, not all children are sensitive so an infestation could be
2. Lice need warmth and prefer the areas behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.  Check for nits regularly [how often, once a week?], especially in these areas.
3. Make sure your child has lice and not dandruff.  Nits are glued onto the hair shaft and will not move when touched. [it would be helpful to refer to a photo on the internet]
4. Nits
are visible to the naked eye but are very small.  If you are visually
challenged there are binocular magnifiers for about $30 on the internet.

When your child has lice:
1. The chemicals in OTC pediculides (e.g. pyrethrum) have been known to
cause acute allergic, anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions.
 Furthermore, there is more and more evidence that lice have become resistant to these harmful chemicals.  Less toxic remedies are available, such as enzyme shampoos (Licenders, Lice
R Gone). (My recommended shopping list includes: Licenders comb and
enzymatic shampoo, baking soda, Pantene conditioner, tea tree oil or
citronella oil, witch hazel, and a couple of small spray bottles.  If
you don't already have them, you also need plain white paper towels, hair
clips for sectioning hair, and olive oil to mix with the essential
2. A lice killing shampoo will not solve the problem completely because nits will survive even the most potent treatment.  Nits can continue to hatch for 7-10 days after the adult lice have died.  Nits
need to be physically removed with a combing process (the high heat
that would kill the nit would also damage the hair).  Even when an
expert does the comb out, there could still be a nit remaining, so
repeated combings everyday for 2 weeks is recommended.
3. The mixture for combing out hair is 1 part white conditioner (such
as Pantene) to two parts baking soda.  The color of the paste enables
visual identification of the nits and the baking soda provides abrasion for removal of the nits.  The comb must be wiped clean with every swipe onto a plain white paper towel.
4. The technique for combing is to divide the hair into four parts with
clips.  Starting at the nape of the neck, separate a small section
about the width of the comb. Insert the comb as close to the scalp as
possible and comb out four times: once from the top, once underneath,
once on the right, and finally on the left.  If no nits
are detected, move onto the next small section.  After combing out
hair, shampoo as normal and dry hair.  Conduct another visual
inspection under bright light.  Pull out any hairs with nits.
5. The choice of louse comb is very important.  The teeth on plastic
combs can spread apart and may not remove small nymphs.  On the other
hand, the single-piece metal nit comb did nothing but damage and pull
hair out.  The best comb is metal with long cylindrical teeth (e.g.,
Licender, Lice Meister)
6. If a child is found to have lice,
everyone in the family must be examined, especially if parents are in
contact with the child's bed linens or towels.  (Lying on the same
pillow while reading a bedtime story will infect the parent!)
7. Use clean towels every time you wash hair.  Vacuum and use a lint
remover to pick up stray hairs.  Scrub combs and hair accessories with lice shampoo and an old toothbrush.  Place brushes in a plastic bag for 2 weeks or buy new ones.
8. A thorough cleaning of the house is necessary after the first
treatment: clothing, linens, backpacks, outerwear, hair accessories,
headphones, hats, towels, stuffed animals, rugs and any items in
contact with the infected individual within the past 48 hours need to
be laundered, vacuumed, brushed with a lint roller, or placed in
plastic bags.  Afterwards, normal cleaning is sufficient.  Most of the
effort should be directed towards keeping your family's heads nit free.

For prevention:
1. Lice can live up to 48 hours without a host.  A nit on a fallen hair could theoretically still hatch. Lice
can quickly crawl to a new host via hats, helmets, combs, brushes,
barrettes, pillows, rugs, earphones, or towels/jackets/backpacks in
shared lockers/closets. Lice/nits
need to be physically contained in a plastic bag for 48 hrs. or heat
killed in a clothes dryer. I am putting my child's backpack, hats,
scarf, and jacket in the dryer for 30 min everyday.
2. It is actually believed that head lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair. Do not wash hair everyday and keep hair oily with olive oil or coconut oil.  Nits cannot easily attach to the hair shaft if it is oily.
3. Lice
do not like tea tree oil (insecticide) or citronella oil (insect
repellant).  Keep two bottles of repellent spray, one with olive oil
and one with witch hazel.  The citronella + olive oil can be added to
hair and dabbed on wrists, behind the ears, and at the nape of the
neck. The witch hazel + citronella can be sprayed on linens,
upholstery, car seats, and other items that cannot be washed or bagged.
 Essential oils can also be added to shampoos, laundry detergent, and
4. Lice can more easily crawl to another head if the hair is loose.  Girls with long hair should keep it up in a bun.
5. Children should be told not to hug each other or touch heads while reading together.

Moxie here again: Aaaahhhhhh! I had no idea. If we get lice, I think the boys and I are all getting our heads shaved. Or at least they will. I'm putting my hair up in a bun as we speak.

Thoughts? Comments? Commiseration?

Candletime Sponsor

So this is straight from the Hilarious Awesomeness File: Long-time reader Karie thought my new holiday Candletime was a great idea. And since she's a Partylite consultant (they sell, you know, candles and other decor) she asked if she could be the Official Sponsor of Candletime. So take a look at the contest she's offering Ask Moxie readers, whether they celebrate Candletime or not.;):

Get a head start on your holiday gift shopping and home decorating.
Everyone loves candles!
PartyLite features fabulous candles and platinum-quality accessories.
You can check them out at

Everyone who places an order before November 21 gets into a drawing for a  $100 PartyLite gift certificate.

To be entered without ordering, go to Go to the Contact Me section and include the comment
“Ask Moxie gift certificate”

Sorry, orders and prizes can only be shipped to US street addresses.

Have fun and happy shopping!

Q&A: new information?

Before today's question (which was actually last Friday's question, but the new Typepad interface doesn't let me post from my BlackBerry. FAIL.) I'd like to announce that I've created a new holiday: Candletime. It runs from November 1 through the day before American Thanksgiving (so November 25 this year), and the celebration is that you dim the lights and light a bunch of candles every evening when you get home, and enjoy a cup or tea or coffee or cider or glass of wine. The official greeting is either "Happy Candletime!" or "Light up! It's Candletime!"

Happy Second Day of Candletime!

Now, to the question. A long-time reader with a 5-year-old writes:

"OMFG we're idiots.

all this time and guess what? [Kid's name] totally fits the profile of a spirited child.


Well, I can't really say I'm that surprised. Knowing this child and
having heard the stories, she just always seemed somehow "more" than
other kids in intensity and emotion.

But I also don't think this is entirely new information for the poster,
either. Five years with a person and you start to figure them out. The
way I've witnessed the poster's parenting process, it's looked to me
like a slow but sure journey of figuring her daughter out.

So it seems like figuring out the label does two things:

1) It makes you pissed off that you never knew before. How much easier
would it have been to have been able to look at someone else's roadmap
instead of driving blind?? And to not think it had something to do with
your parenting or the dynamic between you?

2) It makes you relieved. It's not just her. It's not just you. It's
not just the combo of you. You're not crazy, and you're not raising a
psychopath (eeeeeveryone with a child older than 6 months knows what I
mean here, spirited child or not). You're not a bad parent. And you can
use someone else's roadmap from here on out to prep yourself.

So all in all, having figured this out is great news. Go get a cup of
coffee, or take a bubble bath. Or have a cup of coffee in the bubble

The other thing about this, though, is that you may now have a framework for dealing with schools and other adults who don't understand your daughter. If you can find resources that describe the "typical" spirited child, that may make sense to them and help you all help your daughter to grow and learn and all that other stuff, instead of making people feel bad about expectations and "normal" and everything else.

(I'm not going to go into the "I can't believe we missed it this whole
time" thing. You know what? Parents miss stuff. Sometimes we're just so
busy parenting the kid we have that we don't see them as a category.
While sometimes it's helpful to see the categories, most of the time
it's exactly right to parent the person right in front of you.)

Anyone have recommendations for the poster for books or websites for parenting a spirited child? Especially ones that are written in language that would make them useful for bringing into discussions with teachers and school administrators? Any other tales from the trenches about spirited kids or anyone else who deviates from the median?