Checking in, since I’ve been missing for a few days

I made an offer on a house in Ann Arbor! Now we just wait and see if the sellers accept. If I get this house I'll put up pictures so everyone can see. There are some hilarious features…

I'm back in NYC this week, working for a client and in the office, and then packing up and moving next weekend. I've been thinking so much about what I'm going to miss and what I'm not going to miss at all. I hope someday I can be happy to come back here, but on the approach and landing to get back here today I was just dreading it.

And I miss driving. I rented a car for the two weeks I was there looking for a place to live, and ended up with a Ford Fiesta. When I saw it I thought it was a teeny little thing, but that car had a surprising amount of pickup. I outran a BMW, and intimidated a big pickup truck into getting out of my way, and enjoyed driving it more than I've enjoyed other small rentals I've had in the last few months. I wish I could have brought it back for this last week so I don't have to face the subway again.

This week is going to be tricky with all my homework, too. Sigh. I'd better go to bed.

What are your challenges this week?

 

It Gets Better: Toddler Edition

Last Saturday I went to a party at a friend's house, and all of their parent friends and children were there. The majority of the kids were 4 and under. After about an hour, I looked around and thought, "I know I used to have kids this age, but HOW did I do this??"

The random crying/shrieking/whining. The bodily fluids everywhere. Sippy cups. Pick me up put me down. Constant need. Helping them navigate stairs. Trying to figure out what in the name of all that's holy they're trying to tell you when they point at the shelf and repeatedly say something that sounds like "murf!" The never being able to take your attention from them for a single second.

The constant

constant

constant

need.

And all these parents at the party were total champs, responding appropriately and seeming to not be sucked under by it all. But wow.

So I posted on Twitter about it this morning, that I genuinely do not remember that phase now that my kids are 6 and 9, and got a flood of responses from people in the middle of the toddler clustercuss. Based on those responses, I'm glad I've blocked it out. Seriously, how do any of us do this age range??

One responder asked for advice on making it through this phase. Since "Drink. A lot." is not really healthy or appropriate, I thought maybe those of us who have older kids could shine the light at the end of the tunnel.

So if your kids are older than 5 years and one month old (because that seems to be when the x-treme neediness combined with opposition ends), could you share some words of wisdom for people still in the middle of it? If you remember how you felt then, maybe compare that to how you feel now? Or talk about how the challenges now are different than they were then?

I'll start: Both of my kids are so much more self-sufficient. I can tell them to get dressed and they go find their own clothes in the drawers and put them on. They fix themselves snacks. They monitor their own hunger and thirst. I am completely out of the loop with their bathroom habits. I tell them to take a bath or go to bed or brush their teeth and they do it (grudgingly, but still).

My challenges at this age are helping them navigate socially and academically, and remembering that they are still little boys even though a lot of days it's like having two adult roommates who just like to snuggle a lot.

Who else has an It Gets Better for parents of toddlers?

Joint pain after giving birth?

What do we know about joint pain after giving birth? A friend of a friend just had her second baby, and is having nearly intolerable joint pain. This isn't something I experienced, and I've heard woman refer to it in passing, but I guess I thought it was something that lasted for a week or so and then went away.

Did anyone have joint pain? How long did it last? Did you take any supplements that helped any? (I recommend fish oil or flax seed oil, a B-complex, and magnesium for any woman who's given birth in the previous three years anyway.)

Do we know what causes it?

As if new moms don't have enough weird aches and pains to deal with!

Please help a fellow mom get closure on her son’s death

For those of you who haven't been following the murder of Henry Granju (son of Katie Granju of MamaPundit), he was murdered as part of a ring of adult who were providing drugs to kids. There may have been child trafficking involved. No one knows, because the police in Knoxville, TN, where Henry and his family lived, didn't investigate.

They didn't investigate the murder of a child.

They told Henry's parents they were investigating, but they didn't.

Here's the story, as briefly as Katie can tell it.

Let's think about how angry we all were about the Casey Anthony trial and verdict. How angry we are at Anthony. How we're grieving for Leiby Kletzky and his family. And now let's think about Katie Granju–one of us–who has been desperately trying to find out who killed her beloved child. And the police and DA's office haven't helped, and, in fact, are hiding evidence. The adults who killed Henry are still out there, and they're hurting other children.

Let's think about how we all can put pressure on the authorities to investigate and solve this case, and to bring to justice the people–grown adults–who left Henry, abandoned, with blood coming out of his ears.

It won't bring Henry back. But it can get justice for him, and for Katie, and for Henry's dad and siblings and stepparents. And it might save the other kids caught up in whatever's going on.

Here's a list of suggestions Katie made for helping to get the case solved.

I'm about to call my senators and representative to ask them to investigate why Knoxville, TN authorities won't investigate the child murder of Henry Granju. Why they are about to close the case. Why it is so important to these people to sweep this under the rug. What they're hiding. Why the aren't working to protect the children and teens of Knoxville.

Can you all call your officials? And start Tweeting it out (hashtag #justiceforhenry), and calling your local news media? If anyone has connections to CNN or MSNBC or Fox or international news media, can you ask them to start investigating the story?

It isn't right. We don't pay our law enforcement officials to lie and hide things, and put our children in danger. Make them do their jobs. Please.

Mostly Q: Helping kids through transitions

As you know, we're about to move, and I also got a few requests to talk about helping kids through transitions like changing houses or moving long distances. The last transition I helped them navigate through was the divorce, and then moving apartments two years ago, so I really don't know much.

In my own situation, I've been hoping this transition would be relatively easy on my kids, mostly because they've been wanting to live in a house with a yard for so long, and they are over the moon to be living close enough to see my parents regularly. And our commutes (their commute to school and my commute to and from work) have been so hard on them. I think a lot of things will become way easier for all of us.

But I can't fool myself that they're not going to have negative emotions about it. Even just packing up our apartment and making it not look like it usually does is scary. And what if you put your stuff in a box and then you never get that stuff back? With kids, the potential is just as real as the reality, and I have to remember that and stay down at their eye level to see things the way they do.

Obviously, honesty is important. But I'm also realizing that I've been assuming my kids understood things that they don't, about all kinds of things like registering for school, living in a house, how I'm going to buy a house, etc. So I've been very honest with them, but they still didn't really understand what was going to happen next.

I have been especially conscious of needing to be as explicit as possible that I'm in charge (when I'm with them–their dad is in charge when he's with them) and that I'll manage things and take care of them, so they don't have to be the adult or worry about what to do. I don't want them to think there's a possibility that they won't be taken care of, or that they'll be forced to make decisions in this process other than what comforter cover to get for their new bedrooms.

I also realize that I'm lucky that my kids are old enough to be very verbal about what's bugging them, so we can "just talk about it."

What do you think? Have you helped a child through a transition? What did you learn that you wouldn't have thought of? What advice do you have for me, and for anyone else in transition?

Q&A: Being a good godparent from far away

Ryan, who is single and childless, asked me in person about how he can be the best godfather to his goddaughter, who is a year old. Her parents are his best friends, and he's so happy and honored to be one of her godparents. (For some people, the godparent role includes responsibility for religious formation, but in Ryan's case that's not part of it, but he's more of a second father/trusted uncle.)

She lives about 3,000 miles away from him, so he doesn't have frequent physical contact with her. And her godmother (who Ryan knows but not very well) is closer and has been buying all sorts of clothes and presents and he doesn't have the first idea what kind of stuff to give a baby. So he's feeling at a loss about what he should be doing at this point.

I asked him what kind of relationship he eventually saw himself having with her. He said he thought they would be buddies, and he'd take her to do outdoor stuff and sports, and that as she grew he'd be the one she could trust to have her back, and help her make good decisions about school and careers and relationships, and always be in her corner.

Once you have a goal, you can work backwards. So I said all he really had to do right now was stay in the mix, so that once she was old enough to be more interactive the relationship would already be there and they could just spend the time together that made sense to both of them. I suggested making sure her parents had recent pictures of him, so they could do the whole photo book "Who's that?" game with her now, so she'd recognize his face and be used to hearing his name. Regular Skype calls. And, since he travels a lot for work, I thought maybe he could start sending her postcards when he's out on the road.

I also suggested starting some little thing that would be their thing, that wouldn't be a big deal but would be just with the two of them. I was thinking about how my uncle (who is only 20 years older than I am) asked me whenever he saw me, for as long as I can remember, "So what did they do to you in school this week?" It always made me laugh. And now that I'm back in school I'm just waiting for him to ask me again, and I know he will because he's a super smart-ass like that.

As we were talking I could see Ryan's mind start cranking. And then the next time I saw him, he showed me a picture of her on his phone that her parents had texted him–he'd sent a baby t-shirt from his alma mater, which happens to be the uber-rival of her parents' alma mater, and in the photo she was wearing his shirt and smiling.

How did adults who were important to you stay present even when they weren't physically there? How do you stay present for the kids in your life that you can't see all the time?

MyQ yourA: Working remotely

It's Day 2 of my working remotely, and I'd gladly accept tips on how to stay in the loop with the people in the home office while you're a satellite. Part of what I love about my job is working with smart, hilarious, engaged people, and I don't want to end up feleing isolated. Today's glut of conference calls kept me on track, but I can see this becomeing an issue.

How do I stay in the loop without being on Skype with them all day long?

Thanks and Teeth

Thank you all so so much for your well-wishes! I haven't had a chance to read them because I've been cleaning out my desk at work (sadness–I'm still working for the company but won't be able to harass all my workmates face to face anymore), spending hours at the airport waiting for a flight (third time in a row I could have driven to my parents' more quickly than it took to fly there), looking at houses (love my realtor), going to class (Marketing, Econ, and Statistics last weekend), making friends with my classmates, looking at more houses, getting locked out of my mom's house because I forgot the key, and fighting with Verizon Wireless. BUT. I got 8 hours of sleep last night, so apparently my stress insomnia from the whole negotiation process is done. Awesome.

So today I'll read all your comments, and see if I can put together the meet-ups Sharon Silver tells me you guys are suggesting. (Send Sharon some love, please–she's packing up an entire house, not just an apartment!)

In the meantime, S is a dad of twins (fraternal) who just turned four months old. One of them just cut a tooth, but the other is showing no signs of any teeth. S is wondering what's "normal" for cutting teeth. I said that for the first tooth pretty much anything before 18 months is "normal," but average seems to be 4-8 months for the first one.

I thought maybe we could do another data point post in which we shared the ages at which our kids cut teeth, along with anything unusual about how they did it. I'll start:

Child #1 cut his first tooth at 6 months, which was rewardingly average. He was a rough teether, though, with almost every symptom possible (drool, drool stool, drool cough, rash around mouth, rash around butt, acidic poop, waking at night, random pains that made him yelp, refusing to nursing, and "general peevishness" as the bottle of Humphrey's #3 describes).

Child #2 slept 8 hours in a row at 2 weeks (I. Know.) and then started teething in earnest at 3 weeks and it all went to hell. He had every symptom his brother had, plus symptoms I think he invented on his own. When he was 6 weeks old I could see a tooth right under the surface, and then before it could cut through it sucked itself back up (!) and he didn't actually cut a tooth until he was older than 6 months. (That period of his life has faded in my memory.)

It may be worthwhile to note that both of them have all the teeth they're supposed to have now, and are excellent at chewing.

Now you tell us all your teething data points. And then I'll run a linear regression on the data points and tell you all what the expected value and ANOVA are (that's a little business school humor, special from me to you).

The reveal

FInally. If you follow the co-parenting blog, you know my ex-husband and I were negotiating something tough. We signed an agreement today, so now I can finally talk about it: We're moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the end of the month!

I'm keeping my job at the best educational video game company in the world and working remotely from my new home (No. More. Subway. Crazies.), and doing the Weekend Part-Time MBA program at the University of Michigan. We're 45 minutes north of my parents, so they'll be able to see the kids all the time, and we'll finally have the support system we've really really needed this whole time. I won't have to miss work trips anymore because we can't cover childcare. And my kids will get to know their grandparents.

I can afford a house, for less than I pay in rent here. And I won't have to walk up to the 4th floor, and I'll have a yard, and a dishwasher, and laundry machines in the same place I live.

The MBA program actualy started in May, so every other weekend I've been flying there for class on Friday and Saturday, and then flying back. And doing my job and the commute and everything else, and also my homework. The academics: Not easy. The people in my program: Fascinating. Scheduling it all: Making me nuts.

So you can see why there were days when I needed to post something here, but instead was just staring at the screen, half-drooling. When your emotional refuge is running TINV functions in Excel for Statistics class, something's got to give. And it finally did.

Now I just have to finish my homework, go to class, find a place to live for me and one for my ex-husband, sign the kids up for camp, pack all my stuff, drive it out to Michigan, and take final exams for this semester. Piece of cake, right?

What's up with you?

Q&A: Food, eating, and emotions

J writes:

"I've been reading your website since before I had my now 8-month-old daughter and it's been SO helpful! As we're transitioning to solid foods, I'm finding some issues are arising that I was hoping maybe you or your readership could help me with.

Although I'd consider myself recovered for several years now, I have a long history of food issues and eating disorders. I'm doing my best to keep my own issues out of mealtimes, but when they combine with the mom-voice ("I KNOW you're hungry and if you would just FOCUS instead of smearing that in your hair or chewing on your high chair WECOULDALLBEHAVINGABETTERTIMEHERE"), I'm struggling to keep mealtimes fun, lighthearted, and issue-free. We've been breastfeeding on demand until now, and I totally subscribe to the idea that babies know what they need to eat and when they need to eat it, and I certainly don't want her to pick up on my stress level and begin to associate food with stress… so why is it so hard to act accordingly? I feel like I don't have the time or mental energy to be Awesome Food Mom for three meals a day.

Is some level of frustration normal or am I just totally nuts? What should I be doing? What's helpful for children? Any specifics on what's particularly unhelpful for children? And maybe most importantly – any tips on how to keep my cool?"

Food issues are awful, aren't they? Your own, and your own with your kids'.

First of all, I hope you can let it go a lot at this point, because your daughter is only 8 months old, which means food is just for practice now, so it's all about experimentation and play. You do NOT have to give her three meals a day, nor do you have to have any variety. She is still getting most of her nutrition from breastmilk and/or formula, so it's purely an exercise in "how can I let this roll off my back without repercussions?" at this stage.

Save the hair-pulling for 20 months when you want to bang your head against the doorfarme, hard, at each meal.

I am a huge, huge fan of the "babyled weaning" method of feeding kids. I did the standard bland rice cereal and mashed gruel buildup with my older one, and it felt like another job, and he wasn't all that thrilled with it, and I blame his mistrust of anything that's not white (rice, bagels, mashed potatoes) on the rice cereal. The second one just started shoving whatever he could get his hands on into his mouth (I was too busy chasing a 3-year-old around to bother with mixing up rice cereal) and he's continued to be a much more adventurous eater. I am SURE it's all due to the rice cereal or lack of it, and not their personalities or anything else. (Can you hear my eyeroll?)

Anyway, researchers have been researching when kids start eating solids when allowed to serve themselves, and they found that it was safer (in terms of choking hazard) for kids to eat bigger chunks of things than smooth purees, because they could control the chunks of food inside their mouths. And kids were ok eating something when they could pick it up (so a baby isn't safe eating a pea until she can pick it up with her fingers, but can handle a big chunk of banana because she'll gum off a piece she can manuever in her mouth). There's a ton of info on the website.

Hey, it looks like they've even published a book on it since I last looked it up, called (unsurprisingly) Babyled Weaning. I haven't read the book, but it's got almost 5 stars on Amazon–will anyone who's read it tell us what you thought in the comments section?

The main thing I like about the babyled weaning method is that it makes eating solids not a set goal that can be done a right way or a wrong way, but instead a process of going from baby-who-drinks-milk-only to child-who-eats-food in a slow and self-paced way. So instead of driving yourself nuts trying to be Awesome Food Mom you can think more in terms of what your daughter likes to eat, and not stress if she's into the other sensory aspects of food for awhile.

The other thing to remember is that unless your daughter has sensory issues that make food tricky, she's going to learn to eat solids no matter what you do or don't do. At some point in the future you'll walk into the room and she'll have made herself a sandwich and will be eating it and you'll flash back to right now and think about how you'd never have predicted it, but here she is, a fully-functioning, chewing, knife-skills-having child. (Now THAT is a nail-biter–the first time your kid uses a sharp chef's knife.)

Has anyone else navigated through introducing solid foods past eating issues? Advice or support for J?