Q&A: Getting apartment-dwelling kids enough exercise

Jesse writes:

"My husband and our two active kids (4,7) live in a small, yardless apartment in Vienna.  The kids share a reasonably sized bedroom.  Of course, we have daily trips outside, to parks, hiking, and plenty of activity.  We have a minimum of toys, including legos, duplos, toy cars, action figures, blocks, some board games, plenty of art supplies and we really try to keep the TV off, except for a 20 minute program each day.

But, I really think my kids are getting BORED and I need a break sometimes.  They fight with each other because they do not know what to play, and they are whining to us all of the time that there is nothing to do. I feel like we need some new stuff, ideas, playthings that can be enjoyed for more than just a few minutes. When I was their age, we went outside to build forts in the woods or play kick the can, but that is not an option living in the city.  I love much of the greatness that we have being citydwellers in a cozy apartment, but I find myself dreaming about a home with a yard (which is not even an option for us).  Sometimes, I would just love to have a lazy Sunday morning at home, but where the kids have something to do."

Oh, girl. I feel your pain. The two boys (and two cats) and I are in an 850-square foot 2-bedroom fourth-floor walk-up. We do have a park really close to us, but to get outside we still have to get fully dressed and walk down three flights and the few blocks to the park. This evening my older one was talking about wishing we lived in a house with a yard so he could go outside whenever he wanted to. It breaks my heart.

This is going to sound like a cop-out (because I'm clearly pro video game), but if you can afford it, get a Wii or an xbox360 with the new Kinect system. It will let your kids play really active games together (with each other or with you and your husband or all four of you) inside. Both of my kids are far better than I am at tennis, golf, bowling, baseball, and boxing, and they've worked off a ton of energy on the Wii. It's also an activity they can do together, even at these ages.

Other than that, maybe allow yourself the space to think about what it would mean to leave your apartment and go someplace you could have a yard. I know you say it's not an option, but let yourself fantasize about doing it. How radical a change would you have to make? If you let yourself go there emotionally, the confines of where you are won't feel so confining because it'll be a deliberate choice.

I also think this problem is going to get easier as your kids get older. They'll probably be playing organized sports anyway, and they'll be able to control themselves and do more quiet activities at home, so it won't be such a problem.

Does anyone else have any idea for managing kids who need large-muscle movement with living in a small, yardless apartment?


Q&A: I dropped him

Sarah writes:

"It happened to me today. My 8-month old was on the change table. I was rummaging for a diaper and so I took my eyes off him for a split second. It all happened so fast. He toppled off and his fall was broken by me as I was bending over, trying to wrestle open the %#$?%@ box with one hand. He then landed on the floor and bumped his forehead. Of course I screamed in horror, scooped him up to make sure he was alright. He cried for a little bit but it seems I was the one who was the most shaken.

I hugged him for the longest while, apologizing and asking that he forgive my lack of vigilance. Yes, I know these things happen. I feel like an idiot, an incompetent mother (rationally I know that's far from true). I could just kick myself, that's how angry and stupid I feel. I know how unproductive that is. I sobbed for a little while as I watched him play next to me. He'd sometimes look up, notice the tears and chuckle at the sight. I'm pretty sure he's ok. I just wish I was.

I just keep replaying that horrible scene in my head. His body just bouncing right off the floor like a rag doll. My GOD!!

I did a quick search on "I dropped my baby" and came up with thousands of forums posts from frantic mothers from all over, worried sick about having dropped their baby and feeling sick and like the worst mother ever.  Yet knowing how common it is doesn't make me feel any less guilty and crappy."

Yes. That frantic hauling the baby into the bathroom to turn the lights on and off to see if the pupils are equal and reactive, and then watching for hours to make sure there's no vomiting and not letting him go to sleep. It's horrible. And you feel so uilty, adn truly, like the worst mother.

Two other things made me feel like a horrible mother:

1. Carrying my baby from room to room and banging his head on the doorframe as I walked past.

2. Handing my child a teething biscuit and turning away to pay the cashier and then realizing my son was choking and not being able to unstrap him because my fingers were fumbling too much to get him out to tip him upside down.

Oh, and a bonus, but this is kind of funny: Wondering where on earth my newly-crawling child had gotten a piece of chocolate and then realizing he'd crawled into the bathroom where the catbox was and That Isn't Chocolate.


Q&A: Potty training and the ex

(Now that my kids' dad and I are writing a blog together about co-parenting after divorce, I thought I could take a co-parenting question. I didn't ask my ex for his opinion on this one, as he bears no resemblance to the dad in question.)

Anon writes:

"No, not potty training THE ex, just…

I just picked up the kids from their first weekend chez papa.  Really just their first 1 night overnight.

I was informed that Daddy had decided, without consulting me, to try the 2.5 year old in underpants.  well, she had two pee accidents and a poop accident during the course of the day today.  In fact, no successful use of the potty at all.

How many weeks do you think he just set potty training back….?

Oh, and um, next time? Maybe take a page from the preschool's book and ask me how we might be working on potty training? Or how potty training is going?  Possibly consult with the custodial parent before dashing off on your own???"

Argh. Argh argh argh. I'm sorry you're going through this.

There are an awful lot of ways you can handle this (all of them awful).

1. Natural consequences. Since he had to deal with three accidents in one day, perhaps he won't do something like this without talking to you about it again. However, anyone who takes it into their head to just potty train a kid in one day without talking to the custodial parent about how it's been going so far might not be smart enough to respond to natural consequences.

2. Have your lawyer or mediator send him a registered letter telling him not to make any decisions affecting the children's health or welfare without consulting you first. It's assy and inflammatory and counter-productive so you won't do it, of course, but it feels good to think about doing it, so give it a minute just to think about doing it before you drop it. The "writing a letter but not sending it" method is highly useful.

3. Send him an email that's not aggressive but still calls him on it, and asks for his cooperation. "I'm concerned that you decided to use another method of potty-training over the weekend than the method her preschool and I have been having success with. She's upset about the accidents, and I'm concerned that yesterday may have set back her progress by several weeks. Could we agree that before you do something so major about a matter of health that you talk to me about it to find out what the current plan of action is? It will go better for all of us."

The good news is that in another few years she'll be old enough to advocate for herself a little. And she'll be potty-trained.

Divorce is hard, but parenting with someone you can't trust has to be harder.

Anyone else have anything to offer?

Let’s do the Time Warp again

Time change in North America this Saturday into Sunday.

1. Come back to this post next Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and post how it affected your kids, with ages of kids, please. Trying to gather some data just to see which time change is actually worse.

2. Do you like going back to Standard Time? Some people love it because it's not dark when they wake up anymore. I hate it because it's dark before I leave the office so I feel like I don't get any daylight hours with my kids.

3. I thought of a new benefit of the switch back, but it's only for people like me who wake up every morning for ten mintes at 5 o'clock: We'll wake up at 4 o'clock for a week, which means a decent stretch to sleep again until the alarm goes off.

Cooks Source Magazine are thieves

If you read writers on the web, and you obviously do, you know that there are a lot of us who write because we enjoy it or we have something to say. And the internet lets us put it out there so you–people from all around the world, people who would probably never interact in the live walking-around world–can read it and comment on it and share it.

We do not write so companies can take what we write–out intellectual property–and steal it and then sell it as their own. Duh, right? we've all been here for a decade, and ahve gone through all the blog conglomeration sites, etc. So it's shocking that an actual print magazine would take an article someone wrote and put on the internet, steal it and print it IN A HARD-COPY MAGAZINE as if they had the rights to it, and when the author complained, send her an email scolding her for her audacity and telling her she should be grateful to be published. Here's the story: http://illadore.livejournal.com/30674.html

I kind of just don't even know what to think about someone who claims to have been in magazines for years and yet thinks that anything on the internet is public domain. But I do know what to say about Cooks Source Magazine: Stop reading it. Cancel your subscription and ask for your subscription money back. And contact their advertisers and ask them to stop supporting this rip-off rag. Because if they stole Monica's article, how many other articles have they published that they stole from people who just don't know it yet?

For shame.

Miscellanea for Election Day

Two things:

1. Do you know kids who like playing video games more than they like practicing math skills? My company is sponsoring a math video game tournament for kids in the US in grades 3-8. It's totally free to enter the tournament and play the game. We're having two-week heats in which kids can win gift cards, TVs, scooters, and all sorts of other stuff. In addition, the top scoring kids in each heat earn a spot in our live scholarship tournament in May with a $50K scholarship awarded to the top middle school player and a $10K scholarship awarded to the top elementary school player. Plus, everyone wins because they've spent months playing a video game in which the only way to earn points is to work math problems. Muahahahahahaha.

Watch the video here and then help your kids sign up at www.DimensionU.com, and pass it on to your friends, please. Registration is open now and the first heat starts November 15.

2. My kids' dad is growing a mustache this month to raise donations to fight prostate cancer. I am so glad that mustache isn't my business anymore, but am glad to be able to support the fight by donating to his efforts. Here's what it's all about and how you can help.