An idea for streamlining mornings with bigger kids

A few weeks ago, my friend Susan tried a new thing to help get out of the house more easily in the morning. Her daughter is 8, and suffered the same thing I think all kids between the ages of 2 and, oh, 45 do–inability to focus on getting out of the house on time in the morning.

Susan realized that all the yelling, nagging, cajoling, and counting to 10 she was doing wasn't making a dent in the problem, so she looked at it from a different angle and decided to give her daughter some of the responsibility and control of the process.

She asked her daughter to figure out when they needed to leave so that they didn't have to rush, and then work backward to figure out by what time she needed to do each step of the getting-ready process. Her daughter was intrigued by the project, and made a great schedule for herself.

I think this is just absolute brilliance on Susan's part, and decided to try it myself. Of course then I got derailed by other stuff* so I haven't done it. But it's going to be the assignment I give my older one (and offer to my younger one, although he might not be quite ready for it) when I get back from another work trip next week.

I'm wondering if any of you out there would be willing to try this experiment also, and see how it goes in the first week, second week, after a month, and six months out.

If it works, then Susan may have discovered The Secret To Mornings and we can start designing the monument to be erected to her.

Anybody in?

* like being late in the morning. Which reminds me of the problem of not being able to make decent coffee before you've had your coffee in the morning….

In the wee small hours

Two things have happened since yesterday:

1. It's snowing AGAIN here, which I'm sure is some kind of cosmic retribution for my wearing white jeans to work yesterday. (Yes. I wore white skinny jeans–with black ruched leather flats and a royal blue peasant shirt–to work on January 28, because I'm a scofflaw.)

2. There's a really nice write-up of Ask Moxie by Allison Benedikt in a cool article about NYC bloggers in the Village Voice (venerable/venerated NYC free indie weekly):

OK, actually a lot more happened, including iPadGate, the State of the Union and analysis of it, and the fact that my kids actually fell asleep within ten minutes of going to bed. But what I want to talk about today is that bleak, creaky, sand-in-your-brain-gears, hot, searing feeling of being awake between the hours of 2 and 5 am with a child.

I can still feel it, that exact, horrifying, painful moment of being jerked awake when your body is supposed to be asleep, and I know you can, too, you fellow survivors. Sitting slumped in a rocking chair with someone you love but really don't want to see right now (but you're cherishing the moment!), thinking about other parents all over the world doing this exact same grueling, sacrificing, begrudging, joyful, resentful, numb act of love.

That moment when you twitch awake in the chair and feel the relief that you didn't drop the baby when you fell asleep, but you could have dropped the baby when you fell asleep.

Needing the coffee to be able to put on your clothes the next morning, but then having the kind of sick stomachache that comes from too much caffeine and not enough sleep.

The guilt of questioning why you did this, and wishing there was someone you could secretly tell ({[I don't know if I'd have done it if I'd known it would be like this…]})…

Wondering if it's All Your Fault, or merely all your fault, that your baby is awake this night, no different from any other night.

So. Those of you who are in the middle of this right now. Know that we know. We are not leaving you by the side of the road. But that we can't pull you along to safety. All we can do is try to leave the lights on so you can see the path we've worn, and you will use your own strong legs and good hearts and the illusion of courage that you put on every morning to get to the other side. And someday you, too, will be able to make jokes about consumer products or wonder why Chris Matthews is still allowed on TV and not feel like you're dying as you stand.

Lamentations from anyone in the middle of it? Beacons of hope or the sympathy of remembrance from anyone past it?

Q&A: congestion in teeny kids

Thanks for the suggestions yesterday. I've been thinking about it a ton, and realized that the guilt I'm feeling is not about being a working mom (I love working, and am so much better at that than I was at staying home, although I certainly don't regret my time at home), but about the logistics of my current situation (teeny apartment that's difficult to haul supplies into, a custody/time-management situation that I don't think really works well for any of us but that we can't figure out how to change easily, the commute that defeats me every day, having my kids in two households, etc.) and about somehow raising kids who won't eat pasta or grilled cheese.

Anyway, thank you. I'm going to play around with the moving parts, and I'll report back in in a few weeks.

Now on to Amy, who has a 9-month-old with a really stuffy nose that's not letting him sleep. She wonders what she can do about it.

The bad news: There's no magic bullet for relief. And baby/toddler congestion is really hideous. It's gross and snotty, and your baby can't sleep and gets super-cranky, and it can drag on for weeks.

There are some things you can do about it, though, so you might as well try what you can.

The standard treatment (and what my friend the ER doctor told me to do about my own congestion) is to steam it out. Sit in the bathroom with the hot shower running so the steam gets unavoidable and then just suffer through it for 15-20 minutes. The steam should help open things up.

Another treatment is to put sterile saline drops in each nostril, wait a few seconds, and then suck them out with the bulb syringe.

If your child is a little older and you're OK with giving a little medication that doesn't go through their entire system, just in the nose, Little Noses brand makes a decongestant that's basically baby Afrin–you put a drop in each nostril and it helps clear things up. This isn't something that will be in their entire system, but it *is* medication, so use your own judgment.

Another treatment is to rub Vicks Vap-o-rub on the child's chest or the soles of the feet. Again, it's not like giving oral meds, but anything you put on the skin (especially the feet) is going to absorb into your kid's system–the skin is the biggest organ in the body. (OTOH, unless you go super-crazy with it, Vicks is unlikely to do much to you–my mom remembers her mother making her swallow a lump of it to help her congestion, and she's still alive, so…)

Anyone have anything else? Or just tales of snot?

Siblings (not) going to sleep in the same room

Happy Australia Day!

This is a problem I'm having, and I'm betting someone else is having similar problems, and I know some of you will have good suggestions:

I'm in a two-bedroom apartment, so my boys (who are almost-8 and 4.5) share a bedroom. This is fine, except that they have a veeery hard time falling asleep in the same room. They laugh together, or they fight, or they just talk and talk and talk. I sometimes come in every five minutes to tell them to be quiet, and it doesn't help. If I lie down with one of them they'll stop talking, but then I wake up in a puddle of my own drool at midnight. (It's just like having a 2-year-old again!)

If I let one of them fall asleep in my bed, it starts a major fight. If I let them both fall asleep in my bed, they don't fall asleep.

I am sure that part of the problem is the late schedule: By the time I get home from work and pick them up from their dad's and walk home and make dinner and they eat it, it's 8 o'clock. So they have half an hour before they have to put on PJs and brush their teeth and go to bed. But then they don't actually fall asleep until 9:15 or 9:30 or even 10:00 some nights because they just can't seem to settle down and stop interacting.

I know this isn't enough sleep for them, and that mornings would be better for everyone if they were getting more sleep. But I can't put them in separate rooms to fall asleep. Any ideas?

Today’s plan

So one of the enormous problems with the Haiti rescue efforts right now is, not surprisingly, US government policy. We're not letting in necessary airdrops of supplies like water, food, clothes, etc.

I don't know what anyone outside of the US can do about this, but those of us who live in the US can put pressure on the government to lift the restrictions so the aid organizations to which we've been sending money can actually get the supplies to the people who need them.

Go to this page and use it to send emails to your representatives, but DON'T STOP THERE. Call the numbers listed for your reps and ask them to "press the Obama Administration to lift military
restrictions preventing aid groups from bringing aid into Haiti and to
expand airdrops of water, water purification tablets, and food."

THEN, call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and ask them to "lift military
restrictions preventing aid groups from bringing aid into Haiti and to
expand airdrops of water, water purification tablets, and food."

Doing all these steps (sending three emails through that site and making four calls–one to each senator, one to your congressperson, and one to the White House) should take you maybe 15 minutes.

THEN, email, tweet, FB supdate, text, etc. all your friends and ask them to do the same thing.

It's criminal that the help is there and our government isn't letting it in. If we bang on the door hard enough they have to let us in, so spread the word and get mad.


I'm a little tapped out. Family friend was victim of a brutal attack in broad daylight yesterday (and apparently people drove by watching it happen), and another quake in Haiti, and just everything else. I had a great post in my head for yesterday about newborn poop but it never made it from my head through my fingers, but I'll work on it for tomorrow.

Here's something: I feel like I want to cry, but crying has never ever made me feel better. Thanks to all of you and having the space here to figure it out, I put it together that I'm a Tension Increaser, so crying only makes me feel worse.

Also, I'm trying to figure out something concrete to do about Haiti, and have a few friends with ties there. So when it presents itself to me I'll let you know.

I guess we need a topic for today: What's the kindst thing you've witnessed in the past 24 hours?

Still Haiti

Last-minute emergency business trip. Still thinking about Haiti. Worried about them. Concerned with the media coverage–it just feels very unbalanced and racist and icky to me. Really wondering will help the most after this initial wave of rescue and emergency supplies. Wondering why I'm so lucky.

Anyone want to talk about any of this? Or how you're talking about it with your kids?

How to help

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, thinking about themothers in Haiti sitting there lying there pinned there in the dark.
Listening to their children cry, not being able to get to them to
comfort them. Or, if they were lucky enough not to be trapped, holding
their children until daylight came and they could figure out what to
do. Not crying, because women don't cry if it will scare our children.
Singing, probably, to keep away the fear, and maybe praying, too.

The easiest way to help is to text the word YELE to 501501 and a US$5
donation will be made to Yele Haiti, Wyclef Jean's foundation, with the money billed to your next mobile phone bill. (Thanks, Cedrick.)

You can also donate through the Red Cross, either at or by texting the word HAITI to 90999 to have a US$10 donation made to the Red Cross International Relief Fund. (Thanks, Chris, for the texting tip.)

You can also donate through the Mercy Corps:

Could those of you outside the US leave links in the comments for relief orgs in your country that are taking donations for Haiti relief? Thanks.

I'm thinking ahead to what happens in a week or two, and the survivors
are probably going to need clothes. So the kids and I will go through
our closets this weekend and get some warm-weather clothes in good
condition ready to give when we're asked.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother
would say to me. "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who
are helping." To this day especially in times of "disaster", I remember
my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there
are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world." — Mister Rogers

Q&A: newborns sleeping on people

And now for an oldie but a goodie, one more time. Ben asks:

"My son is almost 12 weeks old, and everything's great, except he still will only really sleep well on one of us. Forget getting him to fall asleep on his own in a crib. And if he falls asleep on one of us and we try to transfer him to the crib, he wakes up 10 minutes later.

I know this is all normal, and will pass, so we're not worried about it longterm. I'm just wondering if anyone whose baby did that remembers when it ends."

I do not. Which is good news. My younger one liked to sleep on his own a lot more from the get-go (and cried himself to sleep), and my older one would only sleep on someone else for awhile (and could not be allowed to cry or it was hideous).

But I have no recollection of when the older one stopped sleeping on people. (Which is a good thing, isn't it? Obviously none of us was too scarred by it, and it just resolved itself.) I could take a guess and say maybe around 4-5 months, which is when many babies start to take actual, real, more-than-20-minutes naps, too.

Before I ask for your data points if you remember them, I just want to say one more time that babies sleep differently from each other, the way adults sleep differently from each other. So pay attention to what your kid does and needs, and if it's not what the book you read is telling you, read another book (or 3 or 4). And what happens at 3 weeks/3 months/9 months/15 months/2 years/3 years does not determine your child's sleeping fate forever.

Now–when did your child stop sleeping only/better on top of a person, and start sleeping aloneish?

Yay or nay: Hand-held video game players?

Hot topic among parents of 5-9-year-olds, especially in the post gift-receiving season: To DS or not to DS?

For those of you lucky enough not to know, a DS is a Nintendo DS, a hand-held video game playing device. (Another contender is the PSP–PlayStation Personal.) The kids love them. Like, love. Lo-o-ove. And plenty of the kids have them.

Mine doesn't, and I'm wondering how long I can hold the line, and even if I should hold the line. (Let's pretend that the cost doesn't matter. It could be a birthday present from a kindly relative with more disposable income than I have.)

Now, clearly I'm pro-video game. I work for a video game company; we have a Wii; my kids play games online. But I also see gaming as a communal, interactive activity: The company I work for makes multi-player games (so kids play together). I don't put a time limit on Wii play at my house. Instead I let them play while they can cooperate and have fun together; when the fighting starts the game is over. And they're only allowed to play online if they can figure out a way to either play together or cooperate.

The hand-helds just seem isolating to me. A kid is playing alone, immersed in a game with no interaction either within the game or outside of the game. And that kind of weirds me out.

On the other hand, is that just because I'm an extrovert? Is isolation that bad? And what about the times when I wish my kid would isolate himself, like on the looooong subway ride down to school every morning? There are only so many games of "let's count and skip the multiples of 4" that we can play before he gets bored and the kids start punching each other. We're learning the two-letter postal abbreviations for the US states now. Next we'll do the military letters (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc.). After that we'll move on to what? Maybe airport three-letter codes.

Maybe a hand-held would help with that long ride and preventing fights from boredom.

Is that reason enough to get one?

What do you think? Does your kid have one? Are you for or against in theory? In practice? Are there aspects I'm missing?