Deep thoughts, photography edition

UPDATED. Scroll to the bottom of the post.

I had kind of a weird experience this week (I actually had quite a few weird experiences this week, but I’m only writing about this one).

Last week I held my breath and had a conversation with Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick of Photosanity, who coaches parents taking pictures of their kids. I held my breath because pictures of my kids are a huge pain spot for me. I can never keep track of a camera, and I don’t know how to take good pictures, and I just don’t remember to even want to take pictures. And that causes an enormous amount of guilt for me. I feel like I should be taking pictures more, and should have this amazing record of my kids’ lives.

Plus, and I wouldn’t have admitted this before, it makes me feel inadequate that my ex-husband* takes pictures all the time, and he takes great pictures all the time, of the kids. I am jealous that he has all these pictures of the kids and I don’t, and that he thinks in terms of taking pictures.

So I came into the conversation with Alethea with some dread, but she zeroed exactly in on my fears and quietly asked me a couple of questions that stood things on their head and reframed everything for me. And I let go. Of the guilt, and the idea that I can’t take pictures, AND of the the idea that I need to take pictures or I’m not doing my job.

I felt fantastic. And like maybe thinking about buying another camera and trying it again.

The real test, though, was when I decided to order Christmas cards this week. (Yes, I’m one of those people who sends a photo card plus one of those long dopey letters.) Years ago I vowed to always include myself in the picture on the card so my friends could see how I was aging. So I needed a picture of me with the kids, and couldn’t take it myself.

I asked my ex-husband to take it.

He was coming over to take the kids one afternoon anyway, and the three of us sat on my front porch, and Doug shot some shots with his phone, and the first one was perfect. And I thanked him and he said I was welcome and he sent me the photo and now I have this great shot of me with my kids.

A little clarity and self-forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

This has also inspired me to take next Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to bond with my mom and take some pictures with her. It’s been awhile since we’ve both been in the same shot. Instead of bonding by getting up at 5 and fighting the masses to buy “doorbusters,” we’ll have more fun getting my dad (who used to be a serious photographer) to take some shots of us together.

Photos and you. How do they go together?

* Here is my ex-husband’s blog, for those of you who don’t know him, but I put it down here instead of up there because it’s Movember and he has a picture of his truly unfortunate facial hair right at the top of the page so I feel I need to warn you that it’s NSFMDE (not safe for my delicate eyeballs) but if you need to click don’t say I didn’t warn you:

UPDATE: By popular demand, here’s the picture Doug took, except I cropped out the kids because I don’t put pictures of them on the internet. So it’s just me. But you can see my little one’s fingers:


Q&A: 4.5 year-old children are bananas

So grateful for the women who signed up for the What's Next Workshop right away. It feels good knowing I'm offering something useful! There are still plenty of spots for the rest of you, so sign up and/or pass the info on to friends. Someone asked if it was going to be painful, since there are some things she'd rather not think about. My answer is that it might hurt a little, but not so much, since we're going through it step by step and together over plenty of time. And it's always better to know, you know?

Now for the same question from two different people. Heather writes:

"My DS (4y3m) seems to have put his brain in a drawer and I want to know
when it will come back.  The world is a total mystery to him, he has
never seen socks before, juice boxes are beyond comprehension, flushing
the toilet is poppycock!

Someone please tell me when he'll find his brain again!!!"

Hahahahahaha. It's funny 'cause it's true. Then Erica wrote:

"Seriously. He’s gone insane. He used to be a mostly pleasant little boy,
and he still is, when he’s not being horrible. If I didn’t know better,
I’d swear he was PMSing something fierce. The smallest things make him
lose it. Like last week my neighbor stopped by to borrow my cupcake
carrier, and he just lost it—tears, screaming, just couldn’t calm
down. And this led to everything else just not being right, some
screaming, and finally me hauling him up to his room to calm down
(during which he hit me). There are some mornings he wakes up and it’s
just all tears and whining and nothing is right. But other mornings he
wakes up and he’s funny, and cheerful, and cooperative. His personality
is really coming out now—he’s funny and creative and active. There
haven’t been any changes in his schedule or ours, so I just can’t figure
this out. Some of my friends are saying similar things are going on
with their kids. Any advice on age 4.5?  I’ll take anything."

Also funny; also true. Before I reveal that both these children are normal, can we look at the tone of these emails and compare them to similar emails about children at the 18-month, 2.5-year, and 3.5 year stage? Parents of 18-month-olds are bewildered and hurt; parents of 2.5-year-olds are gobsmacked and weary; parents of 3.5-year-olds are irate. By 4.5, though, you're just ready to say WTF??.

Anyway, these children are totally normal. Excruciatingly, annoyingly, why-don't-moms-take-uppers-anymore-like-they-did-in-that-Rolling-Stones-song-ly normal. Remember our SBFs Ames and Ilg: Yes, once again it all goes back to disequilibrium.

The Ames and Ilg magic theory (which they based on years of observing kids at the Gessell Institute) is that kids* swing back and forth approximately every six months from equilibirum, when they're fluid and learning new physical and emotional and mental skils lefft and right, and disequilibrium, when they start stuttering (mentally and physically) and are awkward and ill-tempered. For many children, the equilibirum phases tend to happen around the year mark, and the disequilibrium phases tend to happen around the half year mark.

So your kids can't really help it. (File this away for when they're teenagers. I keep telling myself that.)

They're not doing it on purpose. And there isn't much you can do except wait for them to swing back toward equilibrium. I do feel like a lot of kids go through one last hurrah of being babies at age 4 3/4 in which they're clingy and vicious and particularly difficult, and that they tend to release to move into big-kid-ness right after they turn 5. So it's all just time.

In the meantime, since they can't help it, and you can't help it, if you can focus on maintaining your emotional connection with them, so that you stay close, that's going to do the best in the long run. They are going to act up. Protect your own personal boundaries–no physical attacks, no hurtful things said, etc. But as far as keeping on top of them about other rules, well, they may or may not even register it at this point because they're all disconnected. So focus on relationship aspects (boundaries and closeness) and try not to be hurt by the other stuff, and know that all kids go through stages like this and yet most of us come out of them and turn into fantastic people. So how you react at this stage isn't going to make or break your kid.

Courage. Seriously. This stage is hard.

Readers? Comisseration?



* Adults too, maybe? I know we tend to have bad phases every seven years. But maybe we're on a six-month cycle, too.

New and Exciting: What’s Next Workshop

Introducing a new workshop!

You felt the first contractions (or got the call from the agency) and got
your bag ready to go have a baby, and the next thing you knew two years had
gone by and you were the parent of a toddler. No time to catch your breath, no
time to regroup, just straight from contractions into the slam of parenthood and now you're starting to catch a breeze of fresh air again. 

You thought you had it all figured
out, with a baby as the piece that completed your puzzle, but things don't seem
as clear-cut now as they used to, and you’re wondering if you had it all wrong
or if the new normal is really what you want. 

And now you're wondering if the you
you used to be is the you you are now, after months and months in the tunnel of
thinking about someone else every waking moment. What’s left of you? Who are
you now? And what do you want?


What if you could reconcile all the
small injuries and large insults of parenting a baby into toddlerhood, 

integrate who you used to be with
you who you are now, 

and get to the essentials of what
matters to you now and what you want to do next? 



Enter the What’s Next Workshop.

In this five-week course (that
actually takes seven weeks) I will gently-but-firmly pull you through: 

  • naming what hurt you when and how to accept it and let
    it go
  • identifying the weaknesses parenting a teeny one has
    exposed about you and what (if anything) you should/can/want to do about
    those weaknesses in the larger context
  • determining who you are now relative to who you were
    before parenthood, in your own assessment and with external objectivity
  • shedding what no longer serves you and embracing what
    does now
  • deciding what you priorities are now, whether they were
    your priorities in the past or not
  • crafting a plan for your next phase, whether that's a
    new job, the same job, going back to work, another baby, any of the above,
    none of the above.

You will come out of the course
having made peace with the dunk tank of new parenthood and with clear eyes
about yourself, your priorities, and what you want to do next. And with a plan
for 2013. 

The Details:

The What’s Next Workshop runs
December 2, 2012 through January 17, 2013. It contains five weeks of class time
with a break for Christmas/New Year as implementation time, and an individual
check-in scheduled for the week of January 13. Each week will contain a class
reading and audio, homework, a group conference call, and follow-up homework.

The course tools include:

  • PDF readings
  • audio recordings
  • homework
  • five group conference calls held Wednesdays (December
    5, 12, and 19, and January 2 and 9) at 11 am EST
  • two individual 15-minute calls, one in the first week
    and one after the final homework is due (TBD based on individual
  • a private secret Facebook group only for course
    participants to share breakthroughs and questions with each other
    throughout the course (including the break week)

 Limit of 22 participants so I
can spend enough time with each of you and your specific situation.

 This course is for you if: 

  • you have a child toddler age or older
  • you are feeling like things aren't as clear as they
    were before you became a parent
  • you feel like you've got potential for something new
    but can't see how to get there.

What it is not:

  • therapy
  • counseling about your inner psyche
  • putting decsions on someone else

What it is:

  • taking advantage of the process that I used to get my bearings again after some major life changes
  • using some models and processes from business theory to apply to yourself and your "family business" and development as the leader of that business
  • supporting each other through the sometimes-scary process of shedding things that don't serve us anymore
  • space to breathe and think and know that who you are is important and worth spending time on


Satisfaction Guaranteed:

If you attend all calls, complete
all homework, and participate in the discussion group of the course and do not
come out with a new vision for your future, I'll refund your money.


Because this is the first time I've run
the course with live humans, I'm offering the course for $299. I plan to run
this course again beginning in March at the full price of $499, so now is the time to get in.

I decided to time it to bridge the
new year a) to take advantage of this end-of-year thinking a lot of us do, and b) so
you’ll be ready to go with your plan for 2013 in January. This would make an
excellent gift if someone wants to buy you something that will keep giving for
the entire year and beyond. 

Ready to go? Click the big Paypal
button to sign up for the What's Next Workshop:


What's Next Workshop


I can't wait to start working with
you to craft your own next steps based on who you actually are now!


Questions? Email me at askmoxie at


P.S. Thinking you'd love help with a
transition, but it's not the transition out of toddlerhood into the next phase? You're probably not the only one, so send me an email at askmoxie @ and we'll see if
I'm working on a course that helps pull apart the transition you need support


Q&A: Help with going back to work

Hey, I did a teleseminar about leveraging your parent skills at work (whether you've been there the whole time or are going back) last week, and you can download the mp3 for free here. It's about 75 minutes if you listen to it all at one time. Almost 300 people have downloaded it since Thursday night! Now, to Claire's question:

"It looks like I am headed back to full-time work in the new year after
being home for the past 2+ years.  I have a 2 and 4 year old.

I'm feeling guilty about sending the two year old from home to full time
school/childcare, and for moving the 4 year old to a new school that is
full-time (she is currently at school two partial days/week).  That
isn't my main question, although I'd love tips on those transitions.

I am worried about how it all gets done.  Laundry, cleaning, cooking
dinner (!), etc.  I feel fine letting the kids play independently now so
I can do those things, but when I'm only home with them a short time
each day, I will want to give them my undivided attention during that
time.   I just worry about holding everything together at home, but not
spending every minute after the kids go to bed doing home-related work.
 I know one answer is dividing things up better with my husband, but I
would love to hear what readers do in order to keep the house running
while still spending time with the kids and your partner.   People must
have hints for this, right?

My other question is how to stay "involved" in your kids' social lives.
 I love that I get to see them at playdates and at the playground and I
know their friends' parents.  It just seems like I will be so out of the
loop when I work, because their entire social life will happen at
school.  (this sounds very helicopter-ey, but I promise I'm not – I just
like to watch their social skills and friendships develop).

Any advice and affirmation that this will be okay would be wonderful.  I
feel so conflicted about the whole thing, but it is time to get back to
work, for lots of reasons.


And just like that, we got back to jobs vs. relationships!

In a dream world, you'd really enjoy the job you're going to. Everything in your life (especially your satistfaction with childcare) is better if you like your job. So I hope that's the case, or that you're moving in that direction.

Now, my real advice is that any of the jobs that you don't derive great satisfaction from that you can afford to outsource, you outsource. I obviously have no idea what your finances are, but if working allows you the ability to hire someone to do some cleaning and/or laundry, do it.

I'm assuming readers are going to have suggestions for streamlining dinner that doesn't involve ordering pizza every night. I'm a big crockpot fan now that I'm working from home, but when I was working fulltime out of the home I didn't find many recipes that I thought still tasted good after 10 hours in the slow cooker. If you are willing to do menu planning and prep (chopping vegetables, etc.) on the weekend so all you have to do is assemble and cook in the evening, you can actually make a lot of quick meals. But you have to be dedicated to the prep or you get stuck with a real project you might not have the energy for.

I also want to warn you that the first month may be chaos. Cut everyone a break, and know that you're all working out routines and reactions, and it will get better. So maybe allow for a bigger pizza budget for the first few weeks.

About the playdates: It's not helicoptery at all to want to be in the loop with little kids. If you were asking about this with a 22- and 24-year-old, yeah. But so much of their social life is entwined with yours at this age. Which is where my suggestion is going to be–enlist your friends (your kids' friends' parents) in the whole back-to-work social life project. Ask them if they'll help you by telling you what's going on, and making sure you know if any school events are happening, etc. I've been on both sides of this and was happy to be the WOH moms' eyes and ears when I was at home, and had some great SAH friends who kept me in the loop when I became a WOH mom. If anything, having someone go back to work strengthened our mom friendships because we really had to band together.

So: Focus on the relationships (with your kids, husband, and friends) and try to shift the jobs you don't enjoy off yourself as much as possible.

What say you, readers?

As the book turns

The book is not going to be out at the end of this month.

And it's not that I couldn't have written it that fast. I just got off track.

I really seized up and was laboring over every sentence. Which is not at all like me. Writing for me is just the means to tell you what I want to share with you. I have the thought, and it kind of just comes out through my fingers at the same time. Sometimes I spend time chosing a precise word, but usually it's just a straight shot from my brain to the screen (with only a little friction from my fingers).

But I was getting all twisted up about making it perfect. And then I realized that by doing that, I was doing exactly what I had NOT wanted to do, which was write a book for the whole world, instead of for you.

I believe that anyone can be a good parent, that we all have the raw materials inside of us, even if we don't see it right now. But some people don't want to be good parents or just don't care, or are parenting the way there are just because they think it will make them look good. I'm not writing for them, either the book or on this site. I'm writing for you, the parents (and surprising number of non-parents) who do care, about being a parent, about how your kids feel, about what relationship you form with your kids, about how parenting intersects with the world, about how to be the person you want to be.

And maybe you just think you're normal, because you don't know any other way to be except thoughtful and logical. You think everyone cares and takes it as seriously as you do. But they don't.

I have often marveled in these seven years of writing for and to and with you that this site doesn't devolve into meanness and trollery. But I think the people who want to fight just don't come here. People who understand nuance and good faith come here. And that means we all get the benefit of the doubt as we're figuring it out together.

So, back to the book: I'm writing it to you, not to the world, and it's way easier now. The whole thing isn't going to be ready this month, but I will have a little slice of it for you in a few weeks. And then the final version in a few months.

In the meantime, I've got something new some of you might like in a few weeks. And I've got this teleseminar today with Meggin McIntosh (click here to register to listen live or get the mp3 after the fact) about using the skills you've developed naturally as a parent at work. And, of course, you can always follow my cat Alex on Facebook.

Q&A: Written out of your kids’ story

Lauren writes:

"My ex and I have been divorced/separated for 2.5 years. The divorce was
emotionally messy, but we worked out all the custody and financial
issues in a couple of months. We have 50/50 physical custody and attend
kid events together, have joint birthday parties for them, and
generally do a good job being "civil" etc.

Over the past year she has
started blogging about her life with the kids- a public blog read mostly
by friends and family. In it, she completely ignores that there are two
households or that I exist at all. She will, for example, say "we had
such a busy week. Son had a birthday, did x and y, and he said
something really funny about z- I have no idea where he came up with
that! I was amazed when Daughter 1 displayed a deep understanding of thus and so. It's so much
fun to raise them." All of this ignoring that I'm the one who took Son
to X or Y, or taught the girls to do the things she finds incredible, or that
their stepsibling taught them turn of phrase Z. Or that they weren't
even at her house for half the week! It's been particularly worse, or
feels worse, since she and her new partner moved in together, so the
blog seems like they are a happy family of 5.

I am concerned that this
is indicative of how she views and thus discounts my role in their life,
and what verbal or unspoken narrative she tells them when I'm not there
(there have been instances where, despite our civility, she has told
our younger daughter the divorce was my choice, etc). My other concern is that this is the modern-day equivalent of a baby
book/photo album, and I'm being cut out of all the pictures. I know her
blog cannot change reality and the kids know that I am their parent and
half-time caregiver. And I probably shouldn't sweat a stupid blog. But
it still *feels* wrong to me. I worry about how this impacts them- if
at all- and why she feels the need to write me out in the first place…

I just need some thoughtful, arms-length advice. I really can't tell if I should just let it go- but I worry the
readers– my friends, ex-friends, family, and most importantly in the
future the kids– actually believe or will believe I'm not involved in
any of this. Sigh."

Ugh. Being written out of existence must feel horrible. I asked Lauren if she'd asked her ex to stop, and she said that she had, but her ex had told her it was her blog and Lauren can't tell her what to do.

As a divorced person who writes about her life (in blogs and social media accounts), this level of removing the ex seems weird and dysfunctional to me. I don't go out of my way to talk about my kids' dad (except on our actual co-parenting blog) (and except when he does something extremely nice or extremely funny) but I can't imagine being so insecure that I'd need to pretend publicly that he doesn't even exist. I'm guessing that all of you who write about your lives and have another parent of your child are feeling the same way.

So it seems to me that Lauren has two choices:

1. Start documenting her life with the kids in some way (a blog, Flickr or Instagram account, family Pinterest, etc.) so there's a reality check out there in public that Lauren is her own kids' mother, too, and/or

2. Let it go. Which means trusting that the people whose opinion she cares about understand that Lauren is in the kids' lives, too. Whether or not those people wonder why, exactly, Lauren's ex is trying to erase her isn't something Lauren can control. And just keep documenting her daily life with the kids privately however she normally does (with pictures, writing down funny things the kids say, etc.).

I know which one I'd do (which is why you're reading this site right now). But maybe Lauren just wants to walk away.

Thoughts for Lauren?

Time change and meetup debriefing

Time change: As we all know, the tough part of the time change isn't the first morning, it's the second morning. I hope Standard Time wasn't hideous this morning–it should be getting progressively better the rest of this week.

Thos of us who hate Standard Time because it's dark so early in the evening are trying to take solace in Candletime. I bought some new candles yesterday to try to soothe the pain of having it dark before 6 pm. Ugh. If you want to post pictures of your candles on Twitter, tag them with hashtag #candletime so we can all search and see them.

Data point: This morning was not much of an issue for my kids. My younger one woke up too early but playedd video games until his brother and I were up. No trauma resulted to anyone. There is hope that when your kids get older things get easier.

How's your time change going?


Meetups: My Ask Moxie meetup in Ann Arbor was too cold but fun. I met two readers, one of whom has kids at the same school my kids are at! Small world.

So far I've heard that there was another meetup that happened in Modi'in, Israel. Did any of the other meetups happen? How did they go?

Meet-up details as I know them

1. Sign up for my free teleseminar next Thursday! (If you can't listen live, the mp3 download link will be emailed to you so you can listen later.) The topic is Packing Lunches–Leveraging the Skills You've Developed as a Parent to Excel in Your Work. Thursday, November 8 at 3 pm Eastern. Sign up here.

2. Meet-ups. Happening this Sunday, November 4 at 3 pm unless otherwise stated:

Ann Arbor, MI: Buhr Park Playground

Pittsburgh: Dia De Los Muertos celebration. Saturday, November 3rd, 3 pm.

Portland, OR: Cafe Au Play on 50th and Division

Minneapolis/St. Paul: Sovereign Grounds, Minneapolis

Modi'in, Israel:

תהיי בקשר–אם יש מישהי במודיעין

נהיה בגן מגלשות גבוהות ברח' אבני החושן ב16:00

Ottawa: IKEA

Orlando: Lake Eola Playground

DC: Marvelous Market @ Eastern Market

East Bay, CA: Zocalo

Toronto: Allan Gardens (inside) corner of Jarvis and Carlton

Austin: Central Market on N. Lamar near the playstructure

Boston: Boston Commons playground near the Frog Pond, Saturday November 10 at 2 pm


Places people were interested in but no one picked a place. Someone pick a place and leave it in the comments!

Portland, ME

Columbus, OH

Chicago, IL

Research Triangle (Cary, Durham, etc.), NC



London (we have a call for North London but that's it)





Oceanside, CA




NYC/NJ/PA meetups postponed because people still don't have power!


How do sole caregivers manage?

Happy Candletime!

This is the fourth year of Candletime. If you're new to it or need a refresher, here are the "rules":

1. It runs from November 1 through the day before US Thanksgiving. This year it runs November 1 through November 21.

2. When you come home in the evening, dim the lights and light some candles, either real ones or flameless ones.

3. Enjoy a beverage of your choice. Traditional choices include hot cocoa, tea, cider (cold or mulled), wine, bourbon.

4. The purpose of Candletime is to let us be cozy and sparkly while it's still only early November.


Now for today's question: How do sole caregivers manage?

A friend runs her own business from home and is the sole caregiver of her scchool-age children. She is married, but her husband barely interacts with the kids or her. All childcare outside of school hours and every responsibility for the kids falls on her shoulders. When the kids are in school she's scrambling to keep her business afloat in the six hours per day she has. Family and friends don't see any need to help because ostensibly she's in a two-parent family–no one realizes she's doing it alone. Because she doesn't have enough time to put into her business to make it thrive, she can't afford paid help. She never gets a break, and is beccoming chronically more stressed.

I know there must be others of you in the situation of being the only one, whether you're married or single. How do you let in a little space so you can catch your breath and nurture yourself?