A Choose Your Own Adventure Script
By Geraldine Moxy

Okay, friends and neighbors, I'm going to repeat myself and I'm going to be VERY CLEAR.

These are the things you SHOULD NOT say to your child when he/ she is playing with another child, because they (the things to say, not the children) are useless, invisible things:

"Are you being bossy?"  (Laugh nervously)
"Are you sharing?"  (Laugh nervously)
"Hey, is that nice?"  (Laugh nervously)
Etc., etc., etc. 

Here is what you SHOULD say to your child on a playdate because they (the things you say) will make your child a better human.  Your kid's friend's mom might laugh nervously but she will, at the end of the day, or maybe decade, appreciate everything you've taught her:

STORYLINE 1: If you see your son Tommy take a toy from his host Marissa, you say, "Tommy, it was Marissa's turn.  Please give it back and say CAN I HAVE THE NEXT TURN PLEASE?"  If he doesn't give it back, do it for him.  (And you, gentle reader, must refrain from giving me lip for using "can" instead of "may."  If your child is using these kinds of manners, syntax will be a secondary afterthought.)  When Tommy repeats your EXACT WORDS, because you've given him something exact to say, you tell him that yes, he can have the next turn (even if Marissa doesn't agree).  "In five minutes, it will be time to share, Marissa."

STORYLINE 2:  If you see your host, Marissa, take a toy from your darling Tommy, you say directly to Tommy, "I saw that she took that from you.  Just tell her "I WAS PLAYING WITH THAT, CAN I HAVE IT BACK PLEASE?"  What I'm saying is, give your child the tools to handle the problem himself.  If you intervene on his behalf ALL THE TIME, you're basically screwing yourself.  And your kid.

If you DO need to help dear sweet Tommy, you can say, "Hey, Marissa?  I know these are your toys and you're doing a great job sharing.  But Tommy was playing with that.  Could you give it back please?  You can ask him for the next turn."  Repeat prompting measures (i.e. take it from her and give it back to Tommy if necessary) and announce that in 5 minutes it will be time to share. Say to Tommy, "Tell Marissa that it will be her turn in 5 minutes."

STORYLINE 3:  Both Tommy and Marissa lunge for the same toy.  You say, "Tommy, this is Marissa's house and it is polite to let her have the first turn."  (OR, "Tommy, this is our house and it's polite to let our guests have the first turn.")  When he gives it to Marissa, you say, "Great job sharing.  In five minutes, you can have the next turn.  Marissa?  In five minutes, it will be time to share."

Consider this your introductory course.  Alternate appropriate interventions include redirecting a child's attention to a new toy (though this should NEVER be used exclusively because it only teaches your child how to replace getting what he wants for getting something ELSE that he wants).  And of course there are other issues, like hitting (usually because of a stolen toy) or fighting (usually because of a mutual desire for the same toy).  But because you are all children of the internet, I don't want to burden you with too much information at once. 

Consider yourself accomplished for having gotten this far.  And please, for the sake of the future generation, just take my advice.  About everything. All of the time.


Trade Secret Number 86

By Geraldine Moxy

Would you like to know how to keep your hair fresh and moisturized, volumatic and awesome?  Are you tired of dry winter skin, including the skin on your scalp?  Are you broke as a joke and would rather buy food for your cat than shampoo for your hair?  Do you wonder why your shampoo bottle claims that the contents are "used by professionals" when they don't specify what TYPE of professional?  Are we talking professional plumbers or WHAT? In any case, have I got a product(s) for you.

It doesn't cost squillions of dollars, though come to think of it maybe I should start an online marketing campaign after which I would need to charge squillions of dollars to pay back my advertising costs.  It doesn't line the shelves of your favorite salon (though it might after the afore-mentioned marketing campaign).  In fact, the best hair product in the universe is just a bit of chemistry in your shower.  You may have learned about this trick during your elementary school science fair but have no fear... it will not make your hair explode (I'm pretty sure).

Also:  these products does not hurt fluffy bunnies or turn rivers into green ooze.  So there.  Extra bonus points for the planet or whatever.

Here's what you do.  Drumroll please:

Buy baking soda.  Mix about a fourth of a cup with a cup of water.  Use it to wash your hair.  Rinse it out. Buy apple cider vinegar.  Mix about a fourth of a cup with a cup of water.  Use it to condition your hair.  Rinse it out.

I kid you not, this recipe will change your life.  Feel free to email the folks at quackbaby to let us know how YOUR hair has fared. In the meantime, you're welcome.


A Step By Step Guide to Writing Your Masterpiece
By Sabrina Fox

Step 1:  Plan weekend trip to visit friends in northern city.  Plan on leaving Friday afternoon based on work commitment Friday morning which is only a measly two hours but it's all you can get and you're trying not to be an unappreciative dick.  

Step 2:  Remember mid-week plans in central city.  Work it out, suck it up, head to central city and come home to the mountains Thursday (the WRONG direction) so as to follow through with work commitment.  (It would have been easier to go directly from central city to northern city, if that somehow wasn't clear.)

Step 3:  Confirm with work people that work is on.  

Step 4:  Receive late-night text Thursday night canceling work.  Note that this text comes through on an OLD FASHIONED cell phone because you can't afford an iphone because you only work two hours a week.

Step 5:  Try not to renege on promise to be more positive even though you'd rather scream about how everything is fucked and there is no general sense that anything will ever get less fucked. 

Step 6:  Fail at being more positive and post facebook rant about how fucked your life is.  Beg friends not to post cheesy, irritating images of beaches and serenity and shit.

Step 7:  Survive.  Write your masterpiece based on your suffering.  Become squillionaire.  Appreciate the generous vantage point of hindsight:  remember that time you thought everything was going to shit?  Well 'that one time' turned out to be the impetus for your best work.  Isn't it hilarious how life just works out?

Step 8:  Wake up, realize you're still in the thick of the bullshit.  Get drunk, write a blarf, and go to bed.

Dear Quack,
I feel like I haven't done anything adult-oriented for the last four years.  My daughter is four, in case that correlation wasn't clear.  How do I get some time with other grownups without feeling racked by guilt?
Feeling Catholic

Dear Catholic,

Yeah, the guilt thing seems to be quite a problem for some of us Mommys.  I think my best advice is:  stoppit.  Guilt is a totally useless and ineffective emotion;  it doesn't accomplish ANYTHING.  Healthy kids need healthy moms, and you need to take care of yourself if you want to stay healthy.  Taking care of yourself equals spending some time away from your daughter, which leads me to suppose that if you want your kid to be a healthy person, you need to step away from the child.  

Might I suggest even small intervals at first?  Like if she's whining and crying for you to read her a story, suggest that she can read by herself (she is four, after all, and should be able to engage in a picture book even without being literate) for ten minutes.  Putting her in front of the television doesn't count as time away; help her build the skill of finding comfort in activities she can do without you.

Then maybe leave her with a friend for an hour while you go for a walk.  Maybe leave her with a babysitter that another mom recommended and just suck it up that you're paying someone for a service you yourself could provide.  Speaking of guilt, maybe call your own mother and ask her to develop a relationship with her grand-daughter by getting her ass over there so you can take a nap.  Whatever it is, just put it on the calendar.

Once this feels comfortable, just expand upon the theme.  Hire a babysitter for the night while you go order dirty martinis with your girlfriends because you saw them do it on Sex and the City and you think it's a cool thing to request.  Have your mom come over while you finally try out Zumba at the Y.  Capitalize on your other Mommy friends and work out a trade.

The point is, put down that guilt.  It is a stone and you simply need to let go. How's THAT for spiritual snobbery?!  And remember: when in doubt, there's always conversion.

Good Luck!

Sabrina Fox


Early Childhood Literacy And Bragging Rights
By Martha Pascal

Dear Quack,
My child is eighteen months and knows all his letters.  Now what?
Little Miss Awesome

*     *     *     *     *

Dear Little Miss Awesome,

Wow, that iPhone app must have been really effective.  I’m sure your son spent some quality time with that iPhone while he learned his letters.  Well done.  Awesome.

Do you mind if I cut off this sweet little story with my own anecdote?  When my child was two years old he couldn’t care less about his letters.  We bought those foam alphabet letters for the bath mostly because it was the only bath toy for sale at our good-for-nothing drug store and little Nick enjoyed them immensely.  He would chew on them for hours on end, begging for more bath time so he could devour those delicious foam shapes.  When we occasionally mentioned something like, “that’s an ‘L,’” little Nick looked at us as if we were saying “smuffle kinst rawf biss.”  Nick was clearly unready to read, and it seemed silly to teach him the names of all 26 squiggly lines against his will.

So that’s lesson number one:  don’t get snooty about your precious little angel knowing all his letters before his second birthday.  It makes other parents feel like they’re doing something wrong and they’re not.

Anyway back to my little Nick.  At one point around his third birthday, when he had long since abandoned chewing on the letters and had moved on to pretending like they were action figures, Nick picked up the foam ‘T.’  “Look Mommy!”  he exclaimed.  “T for tree!”  Lord knows where he gleaned this bit of wisdom.  Perhaps I mentioned it off-handedly during some late-night bed time story hour.  Perhaps I should give credit to his father, who I sometimes forget is also capable of teaching things.  In any case, I decided to pounce.

See, if Nick hadn’t expressed any sort of interest in reading until he was seven, that would have been fine, too.  Truly, Little Miss Awesome, I don’t give a shit about the eighteen months part of your story.  I actually find it rather distressing that you would see fit to mention such a thing.  Stop bragging, it’s unbecoming.

In any case, we decided that as soon as Nick showed ANY self-driven interest in reading, that we would accept Super Sarah’s suggestion and begin right away with that Teach Your Child to Read book (whose cover has FINALLY been updated).  Please note:  we read to Nick all the friggin’ time.  This is not a game of hands-off, let-him-find-his-own-way sort of parenting nonsense.  We just knew that it was no use trying to teach him to read if he wasn’t ready.  And (I’d like to reiterate) it didn’t matter to us if that moment of motivation didn’t come for years and years.  If he turned nine and still wasn’t interested, well, we’d maybe take a different approach.  But no sooner, certainly.

(Caption: We lost the purple pen and hoped the different colors wouldn't act as a prompt. We also made teeth inside the 'e' which was our only gimmick. He was having trouble so we reminded him that it's the same sound as when you brush your teeth. Clever, right?)
So there we are with an eager three-year-old and a text that doesn’t let you mess up.  We would write each sound that he learned on a post-it note and tape it to a lower cabinet in the kitchen so that the sounds (and NOT the letter names, Little Miss Maybe Not As Awesome As You Thought) were part of our daily visual experience.  Sometimes we’d walk by and merely read them ourselves without any instruction or invitation for Nick.

“Mmmmmm.  Sssssss.  Man, I love reading,” and then we’d walk away.  This invariably piqued his interest and he would usually (let’s just say about 90% of the time to be accurate) voluntarily repeat those sounds.  We would also change the order regularly so that once there were more than two sounds, he wouldn't just learn the order by heart.  Hello, teaching moments during breakfast!

Oh did I mention the star chart?  Sorry, maybe I’m not as awesome as I thought I was.  We introduced a star chart right out of the gate.  “Okay, Nick, whenever you want to do a reading lesson, you’ll get to color in a star here.  As soon as all these stars are colored in, you get to pick a prize!”  Enter prize box.  This has been my mothering jackpot.  Because we can use it for an incentive for all kinds of behavior, both anticipated (“Look, you’ve colored in all five stars!  Let’s go pick a prize!”) or unannounced (“Wow!  A dry overnight diaper!  Go pick a prize!”).  We can also throw all kinds of otherwise disposable bullshit into the prize box.  I especially love to make him earn back his birthday presents.  Yeah, that’s a good trick.

(Caption: We let Nick color in his own stars and we make a note of the prize he chooses each time. Then when he throws a fit about not getting a prize EVERY time, we can remind him what he got LAST time.)
So there are five stars in each little cloud that we’ve drawn (we learned the hard way that 10, then 8 was just too many!), and sometimes we’ll give him a star just for reading the sounds hanging in the kitchen.  (Now we’re up to m, s, r, t, e as in eat, a as in asshole, i as in igloo, d.  Remember these are all SOUNDS we’re teaching, NOT letter names.  Because really, saying ‘are’ ‘aiee’ ‘tee’ has nothing to do with saying ‘rat.’  I mean, what exactly is an araitee?  Does it even resemble a rat?)  Sometimes if it seems like he’s capable but just distracted, we’ll remind him that at the end of the lesson he’ll get to color in a star.  Sometimes if he’s just too frustrated, we’ll let it go.  Sometimes (read:  often) we’ll repeat a lesson until the new sounds/ skills are totally mastered.  It’s taken us three months to do fifteen lessons, but who cares? I mean, jeez, he’s only (hair flip, carefree eye roll) three.

It’s cool though if you think your instincts offer a better methodology for early childhood literacy.  Do what you gotta do.  Some people get all uptight about the whole phonetics approach.  (I don’t mean to act like a salesman here, but the Teach Your Child to Read book addresses silent letters from the beginning.  They print them noticeably smaller than the pronounced sounds and the instructions you give your child say ‘remember, we only say the big sounds.’)  They’d rather have their child read by guessing the word based on the picture.  Because that’s how reading works, right?  You just use the illustrations to guide you through that New Yorker article?

If this is getting too bossy for you, Little Miss, remember that you’re the one who asked.  Run don’t walk to buy yourself a copy of my new favorite book. I hope this post answers your question.  And please let me know when your little angel starts trigonometry.  I do hope it’s soon.

Most Sincerely,

Martha Pascal


The Most Common Conflict In the History of Playdates And How to Handle it Properly
By Geraldine Moxy

Just imagine it.  You've prepared the hummus and carrot sticks, you've finally scrubbed that green spot off the carpet, and you've restocked the toilet paper in the guest bathroom.  It's official: you're ready to host a playdate.

The company arrives, you make small talk with the other Mommy, and the children begin to play with what seems to be every toy in the house.  Everything is kosher for maybe six minutes.

And then it happens, your perfectly-behaved angel of a (hypothetical) son Tommy grabs a toy away from Sophia, his hypothetical guest.  What should you do?  Ha, funny you should ask.  I'll tell you EXACTLY what you should do.

YOU say, "Tommy, it was Sophia's turn with that toy.  You need to give it back to her please.  I'm going to count to three and you need to give the toy back to Sophia."  (Do count and DO NOT slow down between two and three.  If Tommy has not  returned the toy, do it for him.)  

Tommy should be able to cope with this frustration.  If he throws a fit, YOU say, "it's okay to feel sad or frustrated, but it's not okay to scream and cry.  If you keep screaming and crying, you need to sit on the stairs.  If you can take a breath and calm down, you can keep playing here."  Tommy keeps crying, so he walks or you carry him to the stairs.  OR Tommy says he will calm down but you see that he is still crying.  DO NOT FALL FOR IT.  YOU say, "if you can't make a choice, I'm going to choose for you:  you can keep crying and sit on the stairs, or you can stop crying and stay here. This is your last chance to choose."

Rewind.  If Tommy gives the toy back without throwing a fit, explain, "thank you for making a good choice.  If you would like to play with that toy, just say, 'Sophia, may I have the next turn, please?'"   Allow Tommy to ask for the next turn.  DO NOT ASK FOR HIM.  Usually the guest will say "sure," but sometimes they'll be a little shit and hold on to the toy possessively.  Say, "Sophia, you can have two more minutes with that toy.  We share and take turns in this house.  That's our rule."

Wait two minutes.  In all likelihood Sophia has lost interest and spontaneously discarded the toy.  (Tommy may have also moved on to something else, in which case you NEED NOT prompt him to resume interest in it.   If he's moved on, you should, too.)  If she's still playing, say "okay Sophia, it's been two minutes.  Time to share."  She probably will.  Most kids are afraid of their friends' moms.  Or at least they used to be.  In the good ol' days.  If she doesn't share, repeat yourself and physically take the toy from her.

Repeat as necessary.  If the guest takes the toy from your child, use the same theme of a script... but maybe avoid putting the not-your kid in time out.  Otherwise feel free to tell her, "it's not okay to grab.  Please give the toy back and you can have the next turn," etc. 

NOTE:  you may not see the actual, original grab, in which case it's hard to know what happened to whom when both kids come crying "he took it!"  or "she's not sharing!"  I tend to side with the guest.  "Tommy, it's polite to share our toys when we have friends over.  Let's let Sophia have the first turn and you can have the next turn.  Go ahead, Sophia, you can play with it for two more minutes."

Study this script and give it to your friends to study.  Pretty soon, the world (of toddlers on playdates) should be a better place.


Hungry vs. Not Hungry
By Lillian Keebler

The folks at Quack Baby asked me to write advice, so here's some advice.

When you say your kid "won't eat anything except mac-n-cheese," I will recommend you read <Grapes of Wrath>.   If your kids are so hungry that they eat  an armload of the peaches they're supposed to be picking for your family income, so much so that they get the skitters, well, THAT'S hungry.  If your kids turn their nose up at (well-cooked, NOT soggy disgusting) broccoli, well, I guess they can go to bed "hungry."  Remember, YOU are the bigger person, and a crying toddler is not evidence of a bad mother.  Sometimes the answer is just no.