Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Sleep Eludes You

Isn't that a Cybalta slogan? Whoever coined that term, I feel like it's all I've beeen muttering for the past three weeks, each night at "bedtime".  And not because sleep eludes me, but because it eludes my almost 3 year old (34 month) child. 

I've mentioned before, and I'll mention again, that M & I are NOT good when itcomes to lack of sleep.  Of all parenting struggles, I feel like this is the hardest so far.  (Yes, I know I know, when he is older he'll have bigger issues and problems, bla bla bla, but right now, this is about the most frustrating thing ever.)

I think one of the reasons we're so frustrated is because he had a span of awesome sleeping.  After hiring our sleep coach when he was 4 months old, he became a great sleeper.  Of course, he had a random spell here or there, and sleep was always a problem when he was teething, but we've never had a problem last for a couple weeks. 

But we're going on week four of "having trouble falling asleep."  Nothing really has changed, except that he transitioned into a big boy bed earlier this fall (I've read that sleep disruptions can occur about 6 months after transitioning-- and we're right about there).  Our schedule is the same, our bedtime routine is still in place, and the only thing that varies is taking a bath every other night.   We always always always read books before bed, and then he's "down" for bed between 8:15 and 8:30.  And typically, he fell asleep by 9:00.  But gradually, that turned into 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, and 10:00.  OUR bedtime is 10:00!  (I know, we're super pathetic, but we just turn into pumpkins right after House Hunters wraps up)  I feel like we're shifting out of balance again, and C is starting to associate bedtime with not being able to sleep, which bothers me a lot.

Of course, I'm a solver so I ordered and skimmed the Dr. Ferber book  (I've read it cover to cover twice after checking it out from the library-- thought it might be time to invest in a copy).  And here's what we've tried so far: 

*Shortened nap (C is still an excellent napper-- and has no problem falling asleep in his bed at naptime which is a good thing) but this didn't change a thing.
* Long nap (letting him wake up on his own) but this didn't help at all as he slept 3 hours and I finally went in to wake him.
* No nap-- this was the worst idea by far as he was fine until about 4:30 and then every tiny issue set him off and he had fewer coping skills than normal (he doesn't have any good coping skills really) and he still didn't fall asleep until after 9:00.
* Same bedtime--but he just keeps falling asleep later and later despite this
* Late bedtime-- we've tried putting him down close to the time he falls asleep, with the logic that he would take less time to fall asleep.  The first night, he was asleep by 10:00 after going down at 9:30, but last night was the WORST (yes, we were at my parents, yes it's Christmas) and he didn't fall asleep until close to 11:00. 

And this morning, I'm writing this at 7:30 in the morning.  As in, C was up and at 'em by his usual clockwork time of 6:50.  Ah lovely.   (And people tell me teenagers are annoying-- I cannot wait for the years when he sleeps in!!!) So, we're kind of at a loss for what to do-- we just know this cannot continue.  M & I are workig on being more flexible and less freaky-out-ish, but we're sort of failing.  We'll keep trying.  We'll just keep trying. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Illusion of a Snow Day

Well, since we just had two back to back snow days (Thursday and Friday) we've officially be on Christmas vacation for three whole days.  We were totally dumped on with snow Wednesday night, which, combined with the 40-50mph winds led to giant drifts, snow covered roads, and absolutely no way we could have school.  I should have been thrilled but honestly, snow days are a bit overrated in my book.

Perhaps it's because when I think of "Snow Day", I still think of what snow days meant in high school: sleeping in, reading books, watching movies, putting together puzzles, playing Monopoly, and maybe drinking Boone's Farm wine or strawberry vodka at someone else's house who didn't have teacher parents.  And I still haven't shifted into mommy brain yet.  (What will it take?) When I got the call about Thursday's snow day, I was excited for about two seconds and then I realized:  I'm going to be trapped inside my house all day long with a two year old.  I'm going to die.

Now, it turns out it wasn't horrible-- just pretty bad.  But we all survived.  C definitely beat me in the tantrum department, but if I'm being honest it was probably a close race.  I know I was put on the list for "Worst Mom of the Year" when I told C that he was driving me crazy and he put his little forehead on the counter and cried, "Don't say that Mommy!  I not drive you crazy!"  Note to self:  Use words like, "I need a moment.  Mommy wants privacy in the bathroom for five hours" or something like that.

It's not that I don't enjoy hanging out with him (that's my disclaimer), it's just that entertaining someone with an absurd amount of energy in one house when there is no possibility of going anywhere else (our driveway was totally blocked) is hard.  I even thought I had prepared for being trapped inside by checking out an ipad from school-- but that only led to frustration on my part when he kept swiping the screen back to the home screen and couldn't quit touching everything that wasn't supposed to be touched.  I also thought we could do some baking (you know how much C loves to help in the kitchen) but that only led to numerous tantrums when I insisted that he eat his super nutritious lunch of noodles and jello before sampling our goodies.  It was too windy and cold to actually go out and play in the snow, and even if the temperature had been warm enough, the wind had blown most of the snow in our yard into one huge drift between our house and the neighbor's-- not exactly "playing in the snow" snow.

To top it all off, I definitely got the award for "Worst Wife of the Year" by getting overly annoyed when M was mysteriously absent at 5:10.  (Where WAS he?!  My babysitting shift was over and he was late!  How dare he!?)  So, I did what any passive aggressive wife does.  I texted him at 6:15:
"Where are you!?!?"

He rolled in the door about two seconds later, covered in snow, and smelling of ripe diesel engine.  He had just spent the last 75 minutes out in the dark and freezing cold weather, clearing our driveway and several of our neighbors as well.  He cleared the drive of our 88 year old neighbor lady, whose son has a terrible back and could only do his own drive.  He cleared the neighbor guy's across the street, who was going to have to shovel his way out-- and the drifts had to be about 5 feet high.  And he cleared ours.  So that "my wife and kid could actually get out in case we have another snow day tomorrow".  Oy.  Why do I suck so bad?  I'm going to blame his mother on this one-- she just raised him right.  He's always doing nice things for other people-- especially me.  And I..... have no excuse.

And even though I may be a little bitter about the fact that I can't be a good care-taker for my child and still have 8 hours of free time I think I'll eventually get over it.  The good news is that we got through two snow days (thankfully C had a pajama Christmas party to go to at daycare on Friday-- he was ecstatic and so was I!) and one weekend day.  We're officially on the countdown till Christmas-- and I'm starting to look forward to it.  We can get through Sunday and hopefully Monday too.  Then we'll be busy with travels to Spencer and Dubuque which will kill most of the week and hopefully be fun and relaxing-- unlike our snow day.  But thankfully, I documented the snow day in typical fluffy facebook style, posting this adorable picture of something C did for 45 minutes, implying that our entire day was just a glorious day of snuggling, baking, giggling, crafting, & playing.  And that's what I'll remember, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Loss for Words

I'm still at a loss for words after last Friday's horrific tragedy in Connecticut.  My mind is jumbled with so many thoughts and emotions, but like everyone I talk to, my heart is just overwhelmingly aching for the parents and families of the children so sadly taken much too early.

Going to school on Monday was such a weird experience for me.  Of course, I never thought about not going, but as I walked through those doors on Monday, my mind was just filled with thoughts of "What if...".  I'm not sure how it could be any other way.  The entrance I always use is always unlocked.  Monday, of course, it was locked tight-- as were all other doors.

I had sent an email out to staff, attaching helpful articles to send home to parents just in case they aren't capable of googling as well as me. (No, honestly, there is a lot of unhelpful junk out there, so it's nice to be able to know which sites have credible resources.) I also offered to visit with classrooms about Firday's incident with the teachers.

A few teachers took me up on this offer and sat quietly while I led a discussion with little ones about the "sad thing" that happened at a school in Connecticut.  My verbage was very elementary (obviously) and honestly, I don't know that I could have handled much more than that.  As soon as the topic was in the open, the kids eagerly shared what they knew.  It was obvious they wanted to talk, were craving the chance to share the information they had with others.  Some had questions and some had 'solutions'.  Others had been shielded from much of the news.

Conversations like these are so difficult to have with kids and I found myself at a loss for words and on the verge of tears each time I visited the classrooms yesterday and today.  The thought of anything happening to any of "my" kids in our school kept creeping into my mind as I gazed into all of their eyes.  And god forbid, the thought of anything happening to my own kid just takes my breath away.  I can't imagine what those teachers and staff members went through on Friday and I only hope that I would be as brave and courageous as they were.  Honestly though, I feel as though my first instinct would be to lock myself in my office, hide under my desk, and stare at my little office collection of family photos.

While I have no idea what our future holds, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of these tragic events.  And now, only days after such a gut-wrenching incident, political talk is fueled by such raw emotion, that makes both sides all the more adamant on their stance.  Of course I have no solution and I'm strangely annoyed with the simplicity of some suggestions.

Mike Huckabee has boldly claimed that the outbreaks of violence happen because we have removed God from the public square. A religious scholar and facebook friend of mine eloquently wrote this: But I recall when God was in the public square (the way Huckabee prefers it, with prayer in school, Bible readings, and so forth). With "God in the public square" we engaged in racial slavery all the way to its grotesque end. We denied women equal rights, and we drove (if not hunt
ed down) Native Tribes and Mormons westward into reservations and/or isolation. With "God in the public square" we engaged in public executions, vilified gay and lesbian people, and denounced Catholic schools as centers of superstition--and castigated Catholicism itself as contrary to American democracy. With "God in the public square" we killed women we thought were "witches," and we criminalized interracial marriage. The list, of course, is much longer. Without question, then, we need to be very careful--especially we who still call ourselves 'people of faith'--to indict with such damning charges against secularism, when we who claim to be advocates of God have been among the worst of those who are cruel, prejudiced, and violent.

Several of my friends are making the simple yet obvious statement, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  True, but come on now, obviously that statement could be put into any possible sentence as inanimate objects typically don't threaten people without the help of a person.  I'm so thankful that while M and I disagree on a vast majority of political platforms, we have a united front when it comes to the 2nd amendment.  We will never understand why citizens need the right to own a high powered military assault weapon.  (Does anyone else see the irony in that the same party that wants to deny women reproductive rights and marriage rights to same sex couples argues strongly for the right to own such weapons?) I personally, don't feel comfortable with guns in the house, but I understand that many believe it to be necessary for their safety (even though statistics show there are more accidental deaths from guns bought for protection than there are deaths from actually protecting a family from danger).  I personally, don't like the act of hunting (well, actually, I love the walking around on a crisp fall morning, in the peaceful midwest weather--I just don't like the dead animal part) but I understand that many do-- and I'm married to a pheasant hunter-- which is fine because pheasants don't have brown eyes and I really couldn't handle mason shooting something with big doe brown eyes.  But really, a hunting rifle and a military type assault rifle are considered one in the same?

I know I won't solve any political debates with my less than eloquent writing, but sometimes it just helps to clarify my own thoughts.  As the mother of a toddler, with (hopefully) a long life ahead of him, I'm so concerned for this future. I want to do everything I can to ensure his health and safety but I realize that a huge portion of this is going to land out of my control.  And when I think back to those possibilities, I'm again at a loss for words.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

And so the questions begin...

A few weeks ago, our daycare provider's 14 year old chocolate lab died.  He had lived a good (long) life, was suffering from cancer, and was starting to have recurrent bladder infections.  His joints hurt him and he hobbled around--so it was clearly time for him to go.  Nicole, C's daycare gal, had told us of their plans to put him to sleep, but I didn't mention anything to Charlie about it.  Some part of me was thinking that maybe he wouldn't notice.  (Yeah right, like the kid who notices every detail would miss the fact that a dog is suddenly gone.)

Anyway, as expected, the kids were asking about the dog the next day.  She explained to them that he was really old and was too sick to live anymore and that he died.  I was happy that she told me about this, so that if C asked questions at home, we would be on the same wavelength.  But a few days later, at the park, C noticed some fallen leaves and asked why they were all crunchy.  Why were they falling apart?  Without even thinking, I told him that it's because they had died.  And he looked at me and said,

"Cody got died.  He flew up way high in the sky and died."

Oh my.  Now what?  Where do I go with that?

"He flew in the sky?"

"Uh-huh.  He flew up way high in the sky and got died.  No more."

I decided to leave it at that for the moment, but my assumption is that there was some mention of Heaven and going to Heaven after dying, etc. etc.

Which brings me to my dilemma.  Considering my lack of belief in the afterlife, how do I explain death to a kid?  Especially a toddler?  Of course, I ended up just sticking to the facts and using nature as examples.  We talked about how things like animals and people are alive right now.  They can eat and make noises and move around.   And plants are alive too-- just in a different way.  (That might be a lesson for another day)  But when they get too old or too sick or too hurt, they die and we don't get to play with them anymore.

So this morning, C tells me that Binga died.

"What?  He died?"

"Yeah."  (Makes a really sad face)

"Wow, I bet you're really sad."

"No, just one of the Binga's died.  Not my Binga, I still have two more left."

"Oh.  I bet you're happy then."

"Yeah.  But did Grandma Ruby got died?"

"What?  Yes honey, Grandma Ruby died."

"No, she just got hurt on her head."

Oh my.  Oh my. Oh my.  Where do I go with this?  Acknowledge that he's correct without scaring him into thinking that bumping your head can lead to death?  Oh my.  $hit.

And before I could think too much more about it, C had decided he was finished with his lunch and ready to play downstairs.  The topic was avoided for now, but leaves me with a bit of homework-- to figure out how to tackle this topic in a caring yet factual yet non-scary way.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

TheThree Big T's

Before having a little boy, I never really believed that they just become "all boy".  I assumed that they were led to an interest in what I call "The Three Big T's" (trains, trucks, tractors) by way of their parents and caregivers.  I didn't believe that it could just happen.

But I kind of believe that now.  Looking at my own child, who happens to be currently obsessed with trains, I wonder where this obsession came from.  The same is true about tractors and somewhat true with his interest in trucks.  As I examine how this happened, I just can't pinpoint a time where I actively steered him in the direction of any one of those toys.  In fact, we don't even have many trains-- he has two larger wooden ones, and one small wooden/ magnetic train.  So how did this start?  Where did it happen?

When we were visiting the Spencer grands, he noticed train tracks.  (We don't have tracks in our small town)  Since he was driving with his grandmother, he convinced her to drive around town looking for a train to go on those tracks-- which they spent a half hour doing--until they found one.  (I'm told I'll understand this behavior when I myself, become a grandmother.  Right now, I just find myself making up stories about the missing trains--"Oh, they're all at the engine shed getting washed."  "I think they're all taking their nap!"  "All of the trains are at a birthday party in another town."  "These tracks are just to bump our cars over-- there's no trains on them.") Just recently, he was playing with his tiny wooden magnetic train when he looked up and asked me, "Mommy, why I not have any tracks?"  (Hmmmm..... actually the answer is because we're banking on Santa Claus coming through with those!)  Lately, we have been bribing him with a trip to Barnes & Noble if he is a good boy in Target (which he typically loves anyway).  Although he is crazy about books, it's the train set that keeps him occupied long enough for me to read a few chapters.

Tractors are another mystery to me.  Maybe this really shouldn't be a surprise because we do live in rural Iowa-- tractors are abundant.  And, our backyard is a field-- sometimes we're lucky enough to witness planting and harvesting with the big tractors.  But other than that, we don't have any farmers in the family and really nobody talks about tractors a lot.  Yet, they are one of his favorite things to play with.  His grandma gave him a vintage metal tractor with a trailer attached and I swear, he plays with that thing almost every day-- mostly hauling plastic animals but occasionally we'll see the odd shipment of plastic toy food or wooden blocks.

And what little boy doesn't love trucks?  Again, I've never found myself encouraging C to play with trucks, yet that is what he tends to want to pick out when given the chance.  And lately, he's become very interested in the fact that his daddy has big trucks at work.  The other day when M used the work truck to bring some materials to our house, C insisted upon playing inside the big truck.  His eyes sparkled with excitement as he climbed up into the (grubby and manly-smelling) big work truck.  He was in little boy truck Heaven.  (Imagine his excitement when his daddy takes him for a ride in it someday!)

So what's my hangup with The Big Three T's?  I guess nothing, really.  It's just that I'm not for him being considered "all boy".  I'm not crazy about that description.  It's like suggesting little boys are that simple-- they like dirt and mud and frogs and balls.  They are loud and energetic and boisterous. They like to run and jump and crash into things.  They like big stuff like the big three T's.  Even the "boy toys" assume this is the case.  And have you ever tried to buy scrapbook stickers for a boy?  Tons of everything I mentioned.... but missing plenty as well.

I feel like my little boy is more than "all boy".  (Doesn't every mother feel this way?) He doesn't really love mud or messy stuff.  In fact, he usually asks for a napkin or wet wipe of his fingers are sticky.  He'll tell me the instant he spills-- because he wants it cleaned up.  He is particular about his clothing.  No tags, no khakis, no jeans, no sweaters, no layering of any kind.  He loves cooking/ baking/ playing with pretend food and grocery shopping.  He is obsessed with Minnie Mouse and always wants to be Daisy.  He loves Polly Pockets, playing "babies", and playing "dollhouse".  He's crazy about singing and dancing and is pretty gross-motor-skill challenged at times.  He often asks to paint or draw and likes fine motor skill tasks.  He has an attention span and is a pretty good listener.  He thinks a lot and questions everything.  He loves books so much and is often found reading on his own just for fun. 

Maybe the reason that I point this out is because so many of the things that C loves to do are considered "girly" things-- for little kids.  It's interesting to me that it's totally normal for men to be clean, become chefs, buy groceries, take care of their homes, become singers/ dancers/ actors, have artistic abilities, become "helping professions" like psychologists or teachers, and enjoy reading.  But when you talk about little boys enjoying these things, or try to buy toys for boys, the message is clear that girls play with cooking/foods, dolls, doll houses, art stuff, and music.  Boys play with the Big Three T's.

As M & I are deciding what to get C for Christmas this year, I'm noticing the toy thing again.  And like I've mentioned a zillion times before, I just wish toy makers would do a better job at keeping things gender neutral.  That being said, I know there are some amazing companies out there with gender neutral toys-- I just wish was true with the majority of companies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yeah, I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Did you just sing, "With Somebody Who Loves Me"?  (Because if you did, I love you even more)

When I was in fourth grade (maybe 1987?) I received this tape cassette for Christmas: 

O-M-G.  Possibly the BEST album ever (well, that was my 4th grade opinion).  And my poor family had to endure a 3 hour car ride to Grandma & Grandpa's house on Christmas day with the song, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on continuous play.  Since I was a normal elementary aged child, I wasn't particularly concerned with the wants or needs of my fellow family members and I was probably pretty adamant on the musical selection being Whitney.  (Well honestly, someone had to be--or Sister would have probably picked "Raffi" and the parental unit would have tried to kill us with the super new technological sounds of "Mannheim Steamroller".  Whitney was the clear choice, right?) 

And even though my three travel companions weren't exactly thrilled with my new Christmas gift, I knew that my grandpa Arv would be delighted to hear my new tape.  I remember him telling me that he loved Whitney Houston-- and just as I had hoped, he popped that tape into the double tape deck downstairs about two minutes after we waltzed through the doors.  And, the poor man even agreed to attend a dance concert (I use those words very loosely here) in his basement later that night.  --I'm sure we probably charged some coins to attend this awesomeness-- though he might have wooed us with sugar cubes instead-- he was always sneaking those home from his office and letting us munch on them when we came to visit.  (And for the record, I'll kill my dad if he lets Charlie eat sugar cubes at their house.)   

Anyway, although I don't remember too many specifics, I remember laughing hysterically as Sister and I jumped around "dancing" to Whitney's new album.  The music was cranked, we were "dancing", and Grandpa was singing along as he watched the "show" from his burnt-orange swivel rocker chair.  (I'm pretty sure that was the chair.)  The fun and high I experienced that day was so memorable to me as a kid-- I know I'll never forget it.  Yet I wonder if my parents even have any recollection of this "event" that I cherish.  There was just something....magical about it to a child.  The Christmas season-- specifically Christmas Day, being with my grandparents, great music, and lots of laughing--things that occupy a special place in a kid's memory bank.      

I've only mentioned my paternal grandpa, Arv, a few times in this blog.  While I vividly remember my grandfather, my memories are tinted with "kid lenses" because I never knew him as an adult.  I think of him as the very tall man with the very big shoes who let us clunk around in them whenever we came to visit.  He was the guy who let us eat sugar cubes and let us endlessly "ride" the elevator at his office.  He was the man who drew fantastic doodles of horses, the man who let me order only sausage patties (no pancakes) at McDonald's breakfast.  He was the man who drank lots of coffee, did lots of crossword puzzles, and had an alarm clock that went off really early in the morning.  He unexpectedly passed away when I was only fourteen, so in many ways, I feel that I didn't know him as well as I would have liked.  Slowly, however, family members have shared stories and tidbits about my grandpa with me as I've grown up, and in some ways, I feel like I've gotten to know a man that I didn't really know

And while I'm not a believer in "looking down on us", I have to admit that I do love the idea of a Heaven and often times find myself kind of 'believing' in that possibility.  But honestly, that kind of belief is similar to the way that I still believe in Santa Claus-- meaning, I don't really believe it to be true, but the idea itself leaves me with a nice, warm, happy feeling which, most definitely, is true. My true belief is that eternal life involves living on through the legacy you leave behind and the memories you create with loved ones.  Reflecting on this as an adult, I realize that a person may leave several different legacies behind-- for they are probably different types of people to many loved ones in their lives.  My grandpa probably did not leave my parents and aunts/uncles with the same memories as he left his grandchildren-- which is such a gift for all of us.   

So last night, as I was driving home from a friend's house at the beginning of this Christmas season and heard Whitney Houston's song on the radio, I was instantly taken back to my grandparents house on West 9th St.  And that magical Christmas morning feeling bubbled up inside my 35 year old self-- and momentarily made me feel like I was ten again.  The drive home was only about four blocks-- but I think I smiled the entire way.  And as I did so, I thought of Christmas.  I thought of basement dance parties, and surprising to some, I thought of my grandpa Arv.