Fewer naps, dwindling sleep … thank goodness for Daylight Saving Time!

Tonight is the night I’m going to sleep in.  Even though it won’t be a real gain on the number of hours I get to snooze, I am blissfully assuming that when we roll the clocks forward an hour, my kids will just start sleeping until that time.

Until recently, my kids slept from 7 to 7.  Then somehow both of them decided 5:30 to 6 a.m. would be a good time to wake up, despite going to bed at the same time and despite not napping longer.  (In fact, Zach is transitioning from two daytime naps to one, but that is another post.)

We have tried putting them to bed earlier for several days in a row because the “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” book says to do that.  It didn’t work.  We have tried putting them to bed later, around 7:30 to 8, because my dad told me I should do that and they would adjust, eventually, to sleeping later.  But two weeks into that, I’m here to tell you it hasn’t caused much improvement.  This represents a huge pain in my butt because having your kids decide all of a sudden that they need an hour or two less sleep each day, despite that causing multiple tantrums and fits and ornery-ness, is like having your house broken into and robbed of your most prized possessions, and all of your furniture pooped on by the thieves.

Although I haven’t put much research into sleep, I’ve put a lot of effort investing into bedtime routines and scheduled naps, and it’s worked for me.  My kids generally don’t fight about heading to bed.  So this is an unexpected thorn in my side.  And perhaps I just need to accept that they are getting older and sleeping less.  But why is that so hard?  Why am I clinging to their sleep patterns of old?  The answer, of course, is because this change doesn’t meet my expectations and I don’t like getting woken up by crying children who need more sleep at 6 a.m. but are up anyway.

So, if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t work (and oh, how I hope it does), I’m going to buy a large, digital alarm clock for Eliza’s room, draw a 7 and put it above the hour number, and tell her she’s not allowed to leave until the clock shows a 7 or higher in that hour spot.  But what to do about Zach?  I guess, in the words of Princess Leah, help me Daylight Saving Time, you’re my only hope.

Parenting is so challenging because every child presents different challenges

If he only looked like this all night long

Parenting is not like math, unfortunately for those of us who enjoy formulas.  No, it’s definitely more like poetry or impressionistic painting.  Sometimes you get it, sometimes it makes no sense; sometimes up close, in the words of Cher from “Clueless,” it’s just a big old mess.

Before having Eliza, I read the book “Baby Wise” for advice on getting her to sleep well.  I decided that if I followed its principles, it would be nearly impossible to have a child who didn’t sleep well.  Wouldn’t you know, Eliza was sleeping 8 hours through the night consistently by 11 weeks.  (Looking back, I believe God was just being gracious because of the injury she caused when she exploded out of me on the third suction attempt, causing a fourth degree tear.)  She slept 12 hours a night from about 5 months on and has never looked back (except of course for her two-month-long battle with night terrors from July to September last year that I am still trying to forget and never blogged about because, as I just said, I don’t want to remember it).

Throughout Eliza’s infancy, I smugly and silently scoffed in my head at the moms who told me, “Well, Johnny’s always been a great sleeper, but Emily’s my one who still wants to get up several times a night.”  I thought it must be the parents who screwed up, got lazy, or didn’t follow through.  I looked forward to following the same formula with Zach and – POOF! – sleeping well again by the time he was three-months-old.

I was very, very wrong to make such an assumption.  Zach turned one a couple of weeks ago and he is still not consistently sleeping through the night.  All along as I’ve tried to train him to sleep and then found myself having entire two-sided debates in my head about the benefits and drawbacks of going into his room, I’ve thought, “At least by the time he’s one this won’t happen anymore unless he’s sick or teething.”  (The day I learn not to make assumptions about what should and should not happen developmentally for my kids on my self-determined time line will be very liberating indeed.)

The thing is, I followed the “Baby Wise” formula again.  I couldn’t be as rigid and calculated about it because I had another toddler to manage, but I followed it.  The problem is two-fold: he is a second child and he is a different child.  It was a whole lot easier to let Eliza cry it out to get herself to go to sleep because there wasn’t another child in the house she could wake.  Not only that, but for her, “crying it out” meant letting her fuss for a few minutes and then enjoying the silence.  For Zach, it turns out that crying it out is an inexorable affair that causes me to wonder, “If I put him outside in the backyard and go back to sleep, will the neighbors be able to hear him?  And if they call the police, will I have broken any laws?”  These eternal screaming fits eventually and inevitably wake Eliza, and then we have two inconsolable babies with which to deal.

I’ve tried two or three times (I can’t remember exactly because sleep deprivation inhibits memory retention) to let him cry it out for days on-end.  I also follow the rules about not picking him up when he cries.  If I go into his room, it’s just to rub his back for a few seconds and replace his pacifier.  He will randomly sleep through the night without a peep, as he did two nights ago.  Then he’ll have a night like last night when he screamed for more than an hour.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So if you are a mother out there and you have figured out the formula for getting a child like Zach to be able to self soothe when he wakes, I’m all ears for suggestions.  Just don’t expect me to be able to do it unless it’s X + Y = blissful sleep.


10 physical feats I didn’t know I was capable of until I became a mom.

1.  Natural child-birth. It turns out that if your baby takes fewer than two hours to come out, it’s really not that bad because you don’t have any time to think about the pain (or get the anesthesiologist).

2.  Carrying the equivalent of a 40 pound bag of dog food up and down stairs multiple times a day. Eliza weighs 25 pounds, Zach weighs 18, and yes, I carry them at the same time despite how dangerous it seems every time I do it.

3.  Tuning out sounds while awake. I often don’t hear Eliza the first 14 times she calls my name, but the 15th often reaches my inner ear.

4.  Hearing everything when trying to sleep. Conversely, I didn’t know I could sleep so lightly that my child’s cough, sneeze, or even sigh wakes me up.

5.  Skipping meals cluelessly.  Yes, I’ve skipped meals before, but normally it’s because I think about eating and just can’t manage to pull myself away from an activity.  Until I had kids, I never skipped meals without knowing it.

6.  Sleep deprivation. I had no idea I could function on the equivalent of 5 or 6 non-consecutive hours of sleep a day for weeks and even months on end.  The Army has conducted multiple sleep studies, and has found that we shouldn’t go more than three straight weeks on five hours a night without expecting a loss of brain function.  Now I know why I feel so dumb and forgetful.

7.  Pinching off diarrhea to finish at a later time.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

8.  Going five days without washing my hair. In my defense, Greg was out-of-town and I had been to the salon, so it was “styled” that whole time.  I know people who have completed outward bound or hiked the Appalachian Trail have probably done this, but that doesn’t count because that’s outside of living in “society.”

9.  Cooking, holding a baby, talking on the phone, and watching a toddler all at once. Becoming a mom has truly changed my definition of multi-tasking.

10.  Pumping hundreds of hours and in random places. I’m not only a member of the mile-high pumping club, but I’ve pumped countless times in the car (sometimes while in motion, other times in parking lots).  I’ve pumped in the bathrooms at wedding receptions, ski resorts, and even a black tie award event for my husband.

I’m curious to know what you have done that’s tested your physical abilities since becoming a mom.

Revel in the little moments before they’re gone

How we wake up in the mornings often has a ripple effect on the rest of our days.  When I am woken up by my “alarm clock” (which is either Zach crying or Eliza shouting “Mommy COME!”), I’m often resentful that I don’t get to decide for myself when I’m done sleeping.

I have decided to start praying a short yet ample prayer as I hurl off the sheets and walk (or stomp) into the room from where the noise emanates.  It goes as follows: “Lord, help me to love my kids today the way you want me to love them.”  If I mean it, it changes my whole outlook.

A few mornings ago I fetched Eliza and Zach and brought them, I’ll admit a bit begrudgingly, into our room as usual.  As Eliza had boundless energy and all I wanted to do was lie there a little longer, I proposed we play her new favorite game.  I said, “Eliza, why don’t we play hide and seek?  You go hide.”  I heard her little feet lead her into her room where she ALWAYS hides between her crib and the wall, and as I started counting, we heard her count along, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven eight, nine, ten.  OKAY, COME FIND ME!!!”  I looked at Greg and we both giggled about how she doesn’t quite have the rules of the game down.  And I knew in that moment that some day I would miss it.  There are so many of these moments every day that God gives us, and they are little jewels.

It’s like sifting for gold.  On family vacations growing up, we took a lot of road trip stops to sift.  You get your little bucket of dirt and you carefully sieve it through the running water, bit by bit.  You have to go through a whole lot of mud and muck to find the specks of gold.  But boy is it rewarding when you get the good stuff.  And the sifting itself is part of the joy.

Chuck Swindoll has said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  I think he’s onto something.  So tomorrow morning, I’m not sure which one of them will wake me up, but I’m going to pray my new prayer, and be abundantly thankful for the blessing of them.  I’ll admit it will be easier if neither of them wakes me between now and then.  (Old habits do die hard.)

The illusion of sleep

Last night was the first night since June 26th that I slept for 7 straight hours without moving.  Well, perhaps I moved, but you know what I mean.  (Incidentally, don’t ever expect to get good sleep on your first trip away from your kids if you’re at a college reunion, sharing a house with 16 other people.)

I didn’t get up to pee.  Nor did I get up to change Zach’s diaper, put a pacifier in his fussing mouth, or rub his back and make sure he had his blankies just how he likes them.  I didn’t spend time rocking or holding him to get him to go back to sleep.  I didn’t spend 2 hours dealing with one of Eliza’s night terrors that begins with screaming cries of “MOMMY COME!”  And I didn’t have to take her to the bathroom (because now that she uses the potty, she doesn’t ever want to use a diaper).

Nope, last night I slept like a baby.  (What a laughable phrase.)  And it got me thinking about sleep in general.  I find myself continuously hoping my sleep life will revert to what it was at a certain phase in my life.  It’s like how you always look back and wish you could just get back to your college weight once you’re out, but when you were in college, instead of appreciating how great you looked then, you wished you weighed what you did in high school.

For example, the best, most recent phase of sleep I had was between when Eliza was 4-months-old, when she was sleeping through the night and my boobs finally let me do the same, and when she was 8-months-old, when I got pregnant and immediately began having to get up at least once to pee.  I have not slept well since then.  And I thought at this point, with Zach being 7-months-old, that I would be in sleep heaven.  But on any night that Zach seems to make it all the way through, Eliza seems to wake.  And on the nights she sleeps well, Zach inevitably wakes.  Of course, there are the nights when one of them is so loud it wakes the other up as well.  That’s even more fun.

What I’m coming to realize is that just like I will never weigh what I weighed in high school or college again, I will never sleep like I did in those years again either.  I am realizing that I’m chasing a pipe dream of sleep.  Here’s how I know: I might not remember waking my mom as an infant or a toddler.  But I remember being 5- or 6-years-old and being scared of the leaves on our tree out my window that looked like the profile of a scary old man.  I remember going to get her several nights, and her lying in my bed with me to help me get to sleep.  I also remember when I was a teenager and my brother and I would come in from being out, and I would hear her finally relax enough to sleep tightly, knowing we were home.  And now, as a grandma, she’s here visiting, and she’s up when I’m up, offering to help so I can get some sleep.

It makes me realize that by the time I’m done raising kids who keep me awake, I STILL won’t be well rested because I will have to get up to pee (like when I was pregnant), or I’ll have back pain, or Greg will be snoring much more loudly.  Take your pick and fill in the blank.

So, I’m on a new mission.  I complain out loud and in my head – a lot – about not getting enough sleep.  Instead of letting it get to me, I’m going to be glad that once a month, I seem to get 7 straight hours of blissful wake-up-in-the-same-position-I-was-in-when-I-went-to-bed sleep.  And perhaps there will be more and more of those nights.  At least until Eliza starts dating.  Which won’t be for a long, long time.