Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If Genevieve Could Talk

This is what Genevieve would say this morning, if she could talk:

I hate the guest room, and if you insist on making me sleep there all by myself every night, when I wake up only two hours after bedtime and you refuse to nurse me because you say I just ate two hours ago, instead of going back to sleep I will commence crying, and I will work myself up to such a state that I am screaming bloody murder and my sleeper becomes damp with sweat even though the room is only 65 degrees, and despite all non-nursing attempts to comfort me every few minutes in the perfect Ferber fashion, I will continue screaming hysterically for TWO AND A HALF HOURS (Dr. Ferber: SUCK IT.), until you give in and nurse me anyway, leaving you a demoralized, exhausted mess. Then I will do that creepy post-crying hiccup thing that I do in my sleep for the rest of the night, just to keep you awake and remind you of how mean you were to me.

Oh, and as for daytime naps? It is far too interesting to look around an unfamiliar room than it is to sleep, so I will refuse to nap longer than half an hour at any given time. So there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Advice, oh Internet?

Wouldn't it be great if this blog had a following, a large-ish group of readers, so that I could ask this question and maybe get some good ideas? Not that I won't get good ideas from my small but presumably loyal current readership, but, you know, the more readers, the more ideas.


If YOU had purchased this hip and lovely-colored poster for YOUR children's nursery wall, but had purchased it unframed because you could not afford the framed version ($19 vs. $69!), thinking in your little head, "I know! I'll buy it unframed and then go and buy a cheap poster frame at Target!", without realizing that said poster is an odd size (14" x 23", how crazy is that?) and is therefore cunningly unframeable with those stock discount-store poster frames, what would YOU do with it to mount it (nicely, if possible) to the wall?

A Room of One's Own

Last night Genevieve slept in a separate room for the first time. Not in the nursery, with Julia--we still haven't figured out how to keep the little baby asleep while the big one sings Sesame Street songs at the top of her lungs, or embarks on an hour-long soliloquy about her day, or calls one hundred times in a row for the next bedtime "need" as she winds down each night in her bed, but we eventually need to, so if you have any tips in this regard, please, please share. We temporarily moved Genevieve's porta-crib into our guest room, and put Genevieve to sleep somewhere other than in our bedroom with us for the first time in her baby life.

Sigh. I always get sad when we move our babies out of our room. I mean, obviously I want to do it, or we wouldn't bother; plenty of families co-sleep or room-share indefinitely. But when you've had your precious bundle just feet from you all night since her birth, and you're used to being able to see her from your bed, and you're used to hearing her every breath and sigh, it feels a little...wrong, somehow, to have her down the hall in a different room. Of course, one of the reasons you want to have her down the hall is that you can hear her every breath and sigh, which is--surprise!--not very conducive to (your own) good sleep.

So, it really is time for Genevieve to sleep in a different room. Julia shared our bedroom for 16 months, mainly due to a difficult room layout in our former house, but in some ways it was easier then, despite her light-sleeper status. Our bedroom was a huge room under the eaves with a large alcove perfect for a pseudo-nursery; our bed was out of sight of the crib, and we could fairly easily sneak to our closets or dresser for clothes, pajamas, etc. Plus, the one bathroom in that house was on the lower floor, so we could actually shower! groom ourselves! etc.! without interfering with Julia's sleep. In this house, our bathroom is in the master bedroom suite, meaning that until last night, we either had to be ready for bed ourselves--bathed, faces washed, contacts out--by Genevieve's six p.m. bedtime, or remove all our toiletries from our bathroom before she went down so we could use them in another bathroom later on. It got, um, a little crazy.

It's not a perfect arrangement, of course. The guest room is COLD; we have to keep the heat turned up significantly higher than our bank account would prefer and it's still nerve-wrackingly chilly in there--hate that--and since right now Genna is still night-nursing, we had to move the big plush rocker out of our cozy bedroom corner, where it fit so nicely, into the spare room as well. And, naturally, when guests come to stay, we'll have to move it all back into our bedroom for the weekend. In general, night-nursing is marginally less convenient with the baby in a different room. But those circumstances feel more workable than having our bedroom suite hijacked every evening right after supper.

In the end, it's bittersweet. I miss Genevieve in the night. It seems like a major milestone for her to sleep elsewhere, and it came so much sooner with Genna than it did with Julia. One more baby stage over!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hello, Goodbye

So, we DID get a major snowstorm here in southern Minnesota. In our town, it didn't really get going until Saturday--though it was predicted to begin Friday night--but by mid-day yesterday the ice, snow, and sleet were flying and the wind was blasting our windows. Today we have impressive wind-sculpted drifts outside our back door and easily a foot of new snow on the ground (some places got 22 inches or more). Hello, winter! Everyone's snowed in, and we've spent all weekend doing snow-day things like baking cookies and reading books, laundering all the stuffed animals and watching rented DVDs from the library (Sesame Street for Julia, "Love Actually" for us--very sweet! unexpectedly sweet! had no idea it was such a cute movie!).

And then there are the sleep habits of the girls. Have I mentioned that I think Julia is giving up her afternoon nap? Lately the only nights she falls asleep at any time even remotely close to the time at which we put her to bed are the days she hasn't napped, and today marks the second day in a row--a first!--that she's refused her afternoon nap and instead spent the hour singing, talking, and calling from her bed. This girl has never needed as much sleep as most babies I know--remember, starting at ten weeks old she went nap-less on numerous hair-pulling, mind-losing (on my part, that is) occasions--and I've always known, deep in my mama heart, that she'll say adios to the daily nap, cheerily skipping on to the next interesting thing, long before most of her peers and certainly long before I would prefer. But I think that's just the way she is, and I think it's beginning now, at almost-33-months.

But. Genevieve? She slept through last night! Unexpectedly! I mean, it was her own idea--I had nothing to do with it. Oh, understand, she still nursed at 10:30 p.m. after her 6:15 bedtime. Pigleted right onto the breast like she hadn't eaten in days, sweet thing. But then, rather than waking up to demand another meal at two or three, she slept until six a.m. and then got up for the day. In my book, that's sleeping through, so zip it, Dr. Ferber.

Now, why did I even mention that? You all just know that now she'll knock on the door of the 24-hour buffet all night tonight, right?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Alice Waters Would Approve

Julia's last two snacks have been green peas and half a grapefruit (yesterday afternoon), and a handful of raisins with raw almonds plus a dish of edamame (this morning). Keep in mind that these snacks were eaten gleefully with much satisfaction and enthusiasm--no complaints about healthy food in this house. Ahh, the power a parent still has over her child's eating habits when said child is only two years old. Can't you just see the payback coming, though? She'll be sucking down the Dew and eating Cheetos for school lunch by eighth grade, won't she? Sigh.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Modern Toddler Part Three

Conversation at our house yesterday:

Julia is singing: "Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, chubby little tubby...." She trails off. Then she says, "Mama, we don't know that song very well."

Me: "I know, honey, we don't know the words, do we?"

Julia: "Mama, we should go look it up on the Internet."

Me: stunned silence.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Six-Month Stats

Today I took Genevieve for her six-month check-up. Because Christopher had to work last weekend, he took the afternoon off today so he could stay home with Julia during her naptime while I took Genna to the doctor. Boy, did it seem like a breeze to take only one child to the pediatrician at a time! I actually got to converse with the doctor rather than distractedly entertain both an infant and a toddler in the exam room.

Anyway, Genevieve and her chubby, chubby thighs (and cheeks) charmed everyone in sight. The baby chub is just so outstanding, and so irresistible, that strangers stop to ooh and aah. People have to fight to keep their hands to themselves, you can tell. Everyone just wants to give her a squeeze, and can I blame them? No, I cannot.

Genevieve is still at the 75th percentile for height and weight, tipping the scales at 17 pounds, 6 ounces and stretching out to a whopping 26-1/2 inches in length. She's growing wonderfully and looks fabulously healthy--all pink skin, wide eyes, and roly-poly arms and legs--despite her chronic sensitive stomach.

True to wonderful form, our great doctor--about my age and mom to twin one-year-old boys--was totally blase about nursing at night (or not), crying it out (or not), and sleep training in general. I adore her! I was starting to get all stressed out about nursing to sleep (sometimes yes, sometimes no in our house), waking at night (yes), sleeping in our room (yes, for now), blah blah blah--but I was noncommittal when it came to what we should do about any of it. I was glad that our dear pediatrician basically thinks whatever we choose to do, whenever we do it, will work out just fine in the end. That's what I think too, deep down inside, but it's easy to get worked up about it sometimes. That's not to say we aren't planning on tweaking things a bit around this joint sometime soon, but I think we're feeling more laidback about it now--not to mention, this time around with the second baby and all.

It's sunny and 50 degrees here, so it's time to stop typing and start frolicking outside with two small girls. Six months--not to mention two years, eight months--is a great age, and I'm going to go and enjoy it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hey, people--I've got an essay up at the new issue of The Mothers Movement Online. (If it sounds familiar, it's because it's a longer version of a post I put up here last November.)

Go check it out if the spirit moves you, and consider visiting the MMO site regularly; it's a phenomenal resource for interesting writing, thoughtful discussion, and information about how to work toward positive change for mothers and families in this country.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy Feet

For at least the past eight or nine months, Julia has been extremely interested in feelings and the kinds of faces people, animals, storybook characters, etc., make when expressing different emotions. All last summer, she insisted that whomever was coloring with her should "draw a sad face" over and over, so she could study the downturned mouth and then draw "tears" onto the face--two long straight lines descending from the eyes. Since then, she has routinely asked, a million times a week, "What kind of face is [Pooh, Lowly Worm, Eeyore, Babykins, Olivia, Ernie, Big Bird, Postman Pig--whomever she is inspecting in the book she happens to be "reading" at the moment] making?" She also asks this question while poring over photos on cereal boxes, pictures in photo albums, color book illustrations, and when she notices Christopher or me--often unwittingly--making some sort of face she deems unusual. (An aside: it's surprisingly difficult, sometimes, to describe certain facial expressions: "Um....a concentrating face, honey; he's concentrating." Or: "I think she's making a sort of....surprised but happy face?")

The other day, though, Julia really stumped me. Sitting barefoot next to me on the couch, she lifted up her foot, pointed her big toe, and asked, "What kind of face is my toe making?"


Friday, February 16, 2007

Happy Half-Birthday to Genevieve!

Genevieve Rose turned six months old yesterday! To show off her new maturity, she stayed with the baby teachers in "sibling care" at Julia's toddler class for the entire 90-minute class period, rather than demanding that her caregivers call me out of class to rescue her from them, or to nurse her, as she has done every other week so far. She even went four hours between feedings, which made the whole independent streak all the more astounding. What? Stay with strangers, and also forget about eating for several hours at a time? Whose baby is this?

We don't go in for Genevieve's six-month check-up until next week, so I can't give you any stats yet. (Other than: huge. huge. and huge.) You'll have to wait on that. But I will give you this snapshot of Genevieve's life right now:

This morning she rolled over by herself for the first time! Julia was the one who noticed her starting to turn, and alerted me. It only happened once, so we'll see if she gives a repeat performance later today. She's been working on acquiring that skill for a loooooong time.

She can sit up on her own for a few moments at a time, and for quite awhile propped against a pillow or Boppy. She has one bottom tooth and another on the way. She's on rice cereal and has also had some sweet potatoes, but her tummy is ultra-sensitive, and we have had to be extremely gradual with the introduction to solid foods. Today I tried to give her peas, and she made a terrible face, spit them out, and then started to cry, as if to say, "Why would you do such a thing to me?" I told her that peas are one of Julia's favorite foods and we eat them a lot around here, so she'd better get on board.

She loves to sit in her highchair and play with (read: suck on, and then throw to the floor) toys, party in her Exersaucer, practice her jumps in the Jumpster, grab my hair, give cuddly, slobbery hugs, and laugh at the cat. Her chubby legs are the epitome of cute. Her eyes are still dark blue, her nose still a smaller version of Julia's, and she's finally getting a little more hair--light blonde and fuzzy.

When not teething, suffering from reflux, or generally rebelling, Genevieve is good about putting herself to sleep at naptime or night if nursing doesn't knock her out, but she still wakes every three to four hours on the dot and figures she might as well eat, as long as she's up. So far I'm humoring her because she's so adorable, but listen up, cutie--those days are numbered.

Mainly, she's a roly-poly ball of cuddles, and has the sweetest grin around, and, you know, we all just love her to pieces. Even Julia hasn't yet gotten tired of having her around, although "Mama, Genevieve SUCKED on it!" is heard more and more often these days.

I just can't believe my late-summer newborn is six months old. It's going to break my heart when there are no more babies in this house, you know that, right? I'll be better rested, though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Otherworldly Condiments: Discuss.

I just spent my girls' naptime cleaning salsa off the walls. No, this wasn't the result of a Tex-Mex tantrum. (But can you imagine one? Wouldn't it sound something like, "Nooooo, I said sour creeeeam on my burrito, Mama, NOT guacamoleeeeeee! Or: "I don't LIIIIIIKE the CORN tortillaaaaaas!")

I somehow dropped (and "dropped" really seems like an inadequate word right now) a big jug of salsa--do you know those huge 70 oz. plastic jugs, with the handle? Yeah, we eat a lot of salsa in our house. We can discuss that another time--and it, um, shattered. Exploded, even. Naturally this occurred not during a moment of calm repose for my girls, with the baby happily enchanted with her own fingers as she rocked dreamily in her swing and the toddler patiently reading herself a book or ten or twenty. No, it happened as I was rushing to clean up the kitchen from lunch, with the baby screaming her head off because she was suddenly--right that instant!--overdue for a nursing and a nap, and the toddler demanding "more sour cream--no, not there, Mama, I want it THERE on my plate; more black beans; I dropped my napkin; Mama, make Genevieve stop crying, pick Genevieve UUUUUUP! MAMA!" Because isn't that always when the salsa explodes? Of course it is--precisely because you're rushing, and you get clumsy in your haste. Or something.

Anyway, I'm telling you all this in the hope that you will truly get some entertainment out of it, because it really was kind of funny, in an "oh, s#*t!" kind of way. I had salsa splattered over my clothes (it goes without saying--doesn't it?--that I was wearing a white shirt), and it was all over the floor, cabinets, fridge door, counters, and oven. Drops of it had flown out of the room into the entry, up onto the mail stacked on the counter by the kitchen door, and into the refrigerator. (It occurs to me now that perhaps I should go check a mirror, and examine my hair.) I even found salsa behind the coffeemaker (wha....????) and on the back interior wall of the pots-and-pans cupboard, BEHIND THE COOKWARE THAT HAD BEEN IN THE CABINET, ostensibly blocking said back wall from flying salsa (but not really). How is that even possible? Was this superpowered robot salsa, or something?

I smell like a nice big juicy tomato right now, and I'm sure we'll be finding crusty salsa splatters in unlikely places for months to come. Ole!

Sweethearts and Sweets

Julia and Genevieve say: Happy Valentine's Day!
(Note the Valentine's cookies Julia made with her Nonna over the weekend, on the counter behind her. Yum!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Literary Debut

Today Julia and I took Genevieve to Baby Lap-sit Storytime at the library. It's for babies ages six to 24 months, so this was Genevieve's first storytime adventure of her own--as an awake, alert, interested infant (rather than as a sleeping newborn in an infant carseat during Julia's Preschool Storytime outings last fall). Older siblings are allowed to tag along to Baby Lap-sit, and the session is still pretty entertaining for two-to-three-year-olds. We sat in a circle on the floor and sang some action songs, bounced the babies to some rhymes, and read a few board books. Genevieve was the youngest baby there, and Julia was the oldest child (she was the only older sibling along). I think they both had a fun time; Genevieve grinned and slobbered, and Julia did all the actions and turned the pages of the books.

What really amazed me was the thought that occurred to me as I sat there with both girls--that last year at this exact time I came to Baby Lap-sit too, but for Julia, not for Genevieve. Julia was the baby on my lap then, learning the drill at our new town's library, meeting the other babies who we to this day see at toddler class, the park, the store, all of them toddlers now, some of them with new baby sisters or brothers too. I know it's a total cliche, but wow, time really flies, you know? The library's the same, the librarian leading the storytime session is the same, the sky and the snow look the same, and yet there I was with a whole new person on my lap, and a much bigger one at my side. How can it be?!

Monday, February 12, 2007

I Can See the Moon

My dear friend Tricia--yoga instructor, courageous follower of dreams and intuitions, and philosopher-warrior extraordinaire--sent me a wonderful birthday card the other day. It was printed with the Japanese samurai Mizuta Masahide's poem:

"Barn's burnt down--
I can see the moon."

How fabulous, right? I love it. I posted it on the fridge door because it reminds me to count blessings, consider alternate ways of defining obstacles, live life with a spirit of acceptance rather than fear. Very timely considering the issues with which I've been grappling this winter: the money worries, the background doubts about whether or not I should go back to work.

This past week I heard about two different job leads, and even talked to a friend's husband in depth about one of them. And yet, I know in my heart that I don't want to work outside the home right now, with two small children under three. I see that kind of life, for me anyway, as stressful, rushed, and frustrating, and I know I would not be good at it; I imagine a constant feeling of never doing a good enough job at either parenting or working, and who needs that? And yet the financial concerns are real. We've very consciously made some recent small improvements in our financial situation (we gave up our cell phone, which feels kind of strange in this day and age, and I don't like not having it when we're driving long distances, but it does save us $45 a month; and, Christopher started a second job, teaching an online course part-time in the evenings to make some extra money), but at the same time Sallie Mae rejected our request to lower my student loan payment and, in a fit of simply incomprehensible apparent dementia, I accidentally used the wrong debit card THREE TIMES in the past two weeks, bouncing checks AGAIN. (Do you know how high bounced-check fees are? This is no excuse, but such behavior is so totally uncharacteristic of me that I can only blame it on extreme, continued sleep deprivation: this most recent spate of idiocy occurred just when Genevieve was keeping me up all night every night and I was barely getting through each day.)

So, this poem and its message arrived in my mail at just the right time. Because when I read it, I think of my decision to stay home with my wee ones as a mindful choice to view our current economic situation not in terms of deficit, instability, or foolhardiness but rather as a temporary investment in the future of our girls and our family's life. To consider the struggle to make ends meet in an affluent community on just one income not as a frightening obstacle to overcome, but rather as my choice to experience as much of my daughters' early childhoods as I possibly can--as many irreplaceable moments as possible, as much living as we can squeeze into these months and years.

Not that it's so easy to banish money anxieties and act all positive about everything when your bounced checks just cost you your birthday money (damnit!). But I'm trying. Where's that moon?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Dentist, People.

Unlike some (wholly admirable, of course) folks I know, I DO complain. Hopefully I also express sufficient gratitude for my blessings. So let me first remind you that I had a wonderful, very sweet birthday party thrown for me (THROWN for me!) last weekend. And let me mention that my folks are arriving today for the weekend to help me celebrate my birthday again (fun!). And let me say that several thoughtful friends sent birthday e-mails and cards yesterday, and one dear friend called. And let me also tell you about the great birthday card I received from my girls yesterday. Christopher took the dictation, and it said: "Happy Birthday, Mama! You are my dear mama and I love you. Mama loves purple."

All that is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. But...

The days of spending your (actual) birthday having nothing but fun? With, oh, maybe some cupcakes or something? And a dinner you specially requested? And multiple presents? And, I don't know, dispensation to get out of your chores? Those days are so, so over. Aren't they?

Yesterday I did laundry, made beds, mopped floors, and went to the dentist. (The dentist! ON my birthday!) After that, I picked up some frozen pizzas for our dinner. I opened my present from my dear husband, and though there are absolutely no bad feelings between us whatsoever about it (i.e., it wasn't, say, a vacuum cleaner or some fancy lingerie that would have been more of a present for HIM than for me, nor did I do anything like act all bratty and ungrateful for something he worked hard to procure), it was one of those gifts that just wasn't right--a bit of a gamble on his part, one of those things you can't really buy for someone else without their input, and, unfortunately, it's going back. (Sorry again, honey! I really DO appreciate it immensely.)

Then, I went to bed early only to be immediately awakened by a crying baby, who stayed up, crying, for over two hours, awakening the other child, who inexplicably stayed up, howling, for an hour herself, to the point where I sighed, closed both doors, and went to sit at my usual nighttime post at the laptop to surf the Internet and read my favorite blogs to the tune of baby tears until one a.m.

I couldn't help but think, Yeah, this birthday leaves something to be desired.

So this morning, tired and imminently caffeinated, I'm looking forward to the weekend of belated birthday happenings, and am re-reading that treasured birthday card: "You are my dear mama."

And friends/family: thanks again (or in advance) for the cake, the gifts, the party, the cards, the e-mails, the calls, the love. Really, it leaves nothing to be desired.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Starving. To. Death.

You know the New Year's resolutions about less high-fat snacking? You know the semi-serious worries about inadvertently chubbing up my nursing babies through butterfat milk because I can't keep my hands off the chocolate? You know the predictions about the nursing-mom-hyperactive metabolism bidding me adieu?

People, it is so out of my hands.

Today my dear friend Rachel and her babies came to visit, and, unlike some days, I actually had time to have lunch myself rather than just feeding the wee ones in my life. We had a nice, healthy meal of leftover homemade three-bean stew, pita with hummus, and baby carrots. Ninety minutes, four squares of dark chocolate (antioxidants!), and twice (OK, more like three times) the listed serving size of Snyder's yummily greasy mustard-and-onion pretzel nuggets later, I finally feel sated.

Were you wondering if Genevieve still nurses a lot? Why yes, she does, how can you tell? Oh, because I can't stop inhaling fat-laden snacks, and yet, the scale miraculously (how is it POSSIBLE?!) reads the same day after day? Because no human being should be able to ingest as much fat and sugar as I do on a daily basis and not weigh 300 lbs.? I'm not even exercising, people, because it's ten million degrees below zero outside right now. (That's another story, because Rachel and I are supposed to run a 5K together in April as motivation to get back into shape after having these babies, and um, let's just say I'd better get on that.)

Yes, Genevieve nurses a lot. Her night-nursing is much improved, but she still nurses pretty much every two hours all day long. It's obvious to me that my body demands these mega-calories in order to keep up with my baby piglet. Because if you suggested that I simply eat, oh, an apple or a yogurt or even, say, some whole-grain bread when I'm hungry? To improve the nutrition of my between-meal snacking habit? Maybe some baby carrots dipped in salsa, maybe some rye-krisp with lowfat cream cheese? I would laugh very hard at you, and push you aside to get to the Ben and Jerry's. Because only a nursing mom, and perhaps only a nursing mom with a serious eater of a baby, or maybe even only a nursing mom with a serious eater of a baby and a particular hormone-metabolism-biological something-or-other mix, can understand how not just anything will do, not just any calorie will calm that hunger-buzz you feel all day (and night) long. It's gotta be dense with calories, people, and full of fat. The most bang for the buck, if you will.

I'm more than a little worried about my cholesterol level and the state of the inner walls of my arteries. But honestly--it really does feel largely out of my control. Genevieve's chubby thighs demand it. But oh, won't it be a sad, rude awakening when Genevieve weans and my body is out on its (substantial) butt, so to speak?

My friend Ruth, whose baby is a week older than Genna Rose, is in the same boat--nursing all the time, starving day and night--though her baby is tiny compared to mine and Ruth, unlike me, is thin is a rail and continues to LOSE weight. She says she can't deal with it anymore, the hunger and the eating and the tiredness, and she's desperate for her baby to start sucking down the rice cereal, says her body can't keep up anymore with the baby's need for nourishment. Genevieve just started rice cereal too, and maybe that will slow the need for mama's milk to some degree, dial down my appetite a bit. I don't know, and I don't really care. Though it strikes me, daily, as totally bizarre and amazing, I love my ability to eat more than most grown men.

Did I mention Genevieve's fabulous chubby thighs?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Even when they bite you while nursing, with their fancy new teeth? And even when they refuse to take their afternoon nap, and then, when you finally go in to get them up, and they howl and howl because you tell them they have to play downstairs because their baby sister IS napping, and then, with their howling, they wake UP their baby sister? They're still cute. THANK GOODNESS.

More Milestones

I'm proud of my girls these days. Genevieve, after much sorrow and strife, has finally succumbed (for now, that is! I almost hate to say anything about it for fear of the dreaded jinx!) to a two-night-nursings schedule and now goes to bed at 6:30 p.m., nurses around 10 or 11, again around 3 a.m., and then wakes up around 7 or 7:30. Yes, she's given up the dream of nonstop overnight snacking. It was tough, but she's done it. Since she's not even quite six months old, I'm fine with nursing her twice overnight for awhile yet. Though I know many would disagree, I personally don't think she's old enough to be expected to sleep 12 or 13 hours without nursing at all. And, after that most recent spate of constant overnight nursing, I now suddenly feel like I'm getting a lot of sleep. "A lot," of course, being a VERY relative term.

And Julia? Well, she can spell "Julia," "Mama," and "Daddy" on command, and tell you what letter at least ten words begin with. She also just learned how to hold up her fingers to show you 1 through 5. But what I'm most proud of is how she's learning to stand up for herself. Timid and reserved by nature, she's the kind of toddler who doesn't know how to react when other children take toys away from her; she's mainly stunned and hurt that anyone would do such a thing. So not long ago I began teaching her what she can do when this happens. Yesterday at playgroup she amazed all of us mamas. Julia's good buddy Nicholas cheerfully tried to grab a block from her hand, and we all paused as we noticed Julia's hurt face and heard her gasp in confusion for a moment. Everyone was silent for several seconds as Julia worked very hard to slowly and carefully get out the words, "N-no, I'm playing with this. You can have it when I'm done." I swear, my fellow mama friends and I practically applauded.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Growing Up

Whew, talk about a milestone weekend. Genevieve sprouted a tooth, Julia visited a preschool (we checked out the open house for families interested in enrollment in the fall), and I celebrated--early--my 36th birthday at a party given by some fabulous friends. Let's bypass the shock and awe of the fact that I am turning 36--closer to 40 than 30, people!--to discuss, instead, the wondrousness that was the gigantic chocolate cake with buttercream frosting balloons. Yum. Birthday cake makes everything, including chronic sleep deprivation, easier to take.

Oh, and speaking of news, I'm excited to let you all know that I've got an essay coming out in the next issue of The Mothers Movement Online, which is published next week. Check back here; I'll keep you posted and include a link when the issue goes up.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sleeping Like a Baby

Out of desperation, I'm starting to consider all the ways I could kill time in the middle of the night while Genevieve cries and I am rendered sleepless. I should explain here that, for the past few nights, we've begun a last-resort, desperation-induced effort to reduce Genevieve's middle-of-the-night nursings. In recent weeks, she's increased her night-wakings to newborn levels, and she refuses to go back to sleep without eating (even though she routinely puts herself to sleep at the beginning of the night, and at naps, after being laid down awake; she nurses at these times, but generally not all the way to sleep, and it's not a problem. Apparently it's only the staying asleep thing that confounds her). And I just can't nurse every two hours anymore; it's killing me. So we're trying to fix that. But it's really not working, and though Christopher can somehow sleep while the baby is crying furiously IN THE SAME ROOM JUST FEET FROM OUR BED--and I know he is sleeping because he is SNORING--, you might as well suggest to me that I teleport myself to the moon and go to sleep up there, so unlikely is such a thing in my reality.

Unfortunately there isn't anyplace else I can go in our house to sleep, either. The guest room is close enough to our room that Genevieve's screams are still perfectly audible in there; besides, that room is for some reason frigidly cold and therefore not sleep-conducive (oops! sorry, guests!). Downstairs, on the living room couch? Maybe, but the first floor is freezing at night unless the heat is turned up so high that the second floor becomes a sauna, baking Julia until she wakes up whimpering. I suppose I could drag a bunch of heavy blankets down there to stay warm enough, but various other annoyances also exist on the main level, including a noisy furnace, a harrassing cat, and quite possibly the errant nocturnal mouse. It's not exactly a relaxing place to catch some z's. Plus, you can hear Genevieve all the way downstairs, too. She's quite a screamer!

In the end, I've been sitting upstairs in the family room, right outside our bedroom door, writing and surfing the internet on the laptop while Genevieve howls for hours on end. Fun times, people! So: I can't help but think--since I'm awake anyway, how can I pass the torturous time? Our TV doesn't work, so that's out. (Damn!) The computer is only good for so long. Run away in the car on my own? Very, very tempting, believe me. There are hotels in this town, after all. In my most desperate minutes, like, oh, right now, the thought of a quiet hotel room and several uninterrupted hours of sleep (or cable TV!) can bring me to tears. But I'd have to bring the breast pump and set an alarm clock to get up and use it (we're not night-weaning completely yet, after all) and, well, that's a lot of trouble. Plus: expensive!

So here I am. Should I clean? Virtuous idea, and no doubt the house could use it, but yuck. Work on my long-held dream of producing a publication-worthy book? Um, I'm getting no sleep here; I doubt my brain is capable of stringing together enough coherent thoughts to write a knock-knock joke, let alone anything thought-provoking and creative. Maybe I could bake something; Lord knows I love me a good brownie. But I'm afraid that in my current sleep-deprived state I'd accidentally burn down the house.

For the first time, I can understand the appeal of those 24-hour fitness centers. I mean, before this, the thought of driving to the gym at 2 a.m. to work out was unfathomable. Now? Not so crazy. I mean, I'm awake anyway; why not use my time efficiently and accomplish something I find so challenging during my normal, hectic daylight hours? I don't belong to a gym, let alone a 24-hour one, but I am seriously considering laying out some exercise clothes before bed one of these nights and sneaking in a good workout during the midnight scream-fest. Or the 2 a.m. one. Or the 4 a.m. one. Heck, why sleep at all? I could train for a marathon if I only had a treadmill. Hop on my elliptical? It's a little noisy, but hey, Genevieve won't hear it over her squalling. Unless the clunking right pedal actually KEEPS her from falling back to sleep; that would be bad. I could always pop in my favorite exercise DVD, haul my free weights out of the downstairs closet and do some lunges and squats. Why not? My quads and glutes could use it.

Oy vey, people. This is pretty grim. It's awful having a baby who won't sleep. You keep thinking, maybe she'll do better, maybe this will be the night she sleeps as long as everyone else's babies sleep, but it doesn't happen and you end up dragging yourself through yet another day with your temper short and your eyelids heavy.

Tonight I had a realization. I've been reading (in some cases, re-reading) all those sleep books--you know the ones--with their various promises of sleep-restored utopia if you only follow their respective plans: never go to the baby, always go to the baby, go to the baby for awhile but then gradually intervene less and less until the baby learns to soothe herself back to sleep without you. And I've been thinking about all the people who have expressed to me, since Julia was a baby, their own fevered adulation for whichever sleep expert's advice they follow in their own families--how they've said things like, You just have to stick with it, you have to be tough, you didn't let her cry long enough, babies should be sleeping through the night by twelve weeks, it's your job to teach her to sleep through, you're obviously doing it wrong. (OK, no one actually said that last part, but believe me, the message came across regardless.) And I kept thinking about all the anecdotes, the little case descriptions, in each of the books, and how each one is a glowing success story, and every time I read one I'd think, Why doesn't it ever seem to work like that for me, for my babies? I don't understand why it's not working when everyone else says it works perfectly if you just follow these steps!

And that's when I realized: You don't hear about all the families for whom none of this is working. No book author is going to include in his or her sleep-training bible all the instances in which things didn't go according to plan, in which ultimately the baby DIDN'T stop crying after 20 minutes, or half an hour, or an hour. In which the family had to try again and again, over the course of days or weeks or months, a variety of desperate techniques, before the baby finally started sleeping better, due to who knows what, age or brain development or "training." There could be thousands of households out there just like mine, and probably are, wherein the infants are screaming their heads off every night, demanding to nurse every two hours, refusing to sleep even four hours at a stretch let alone a full night, wherein the parents are at their wits' end and have tried the crying it out, have tried the gradual extinction, have tried just giving in and nursing every time, and nothing's working well for them. You just don't read about those families in the sleep books.

And to the individuals who so zealously champion their favored sleep interventions, I have to respectfully point out that, by definition, if you're able to make one of those techniques work in an even remotely timely manner, you do not have a baby for whom sleep is particularly challenging. Therefore, you cannot know what works and does not work for me, with my sleep-challenged infants. You may think that you had it tough with your baby, and that it was oh-so-hard to get him or her to sleep, but you sucked it up and did it, and so can everyone else, but truly: if you had to let your baby cry for 45 minutes, or an hour, or even two, for a night or two or three, or even a week, and then it worked, well---no, you do not have a hard baby when it comes to sleep. I'm sure it felt hard at the time, but guess what? To me, that would seem like a relatively smooth effort. It wasn't three hours, was it, or five? It wasn't two weeks of this, or four. In other words, if you're lucky enough to report a sleep-training success, and happy enough with the results to try to convince others to follow the same technique, you've got a comparatively easy-sleeping baby. So your situation has nothing in common with mine.

In the end I suppose it's mainly all about slogging through. You try this, you try that, nothing works, you get more and more tired, blah blah blah, and then eventually I guess something does work, or works a little bit, and then a little more, and you take a hard line sometimes or not, you rock or nurse or not, and ultimately the babies sleep all night. After all, no one's getting up to nurse at college, are they? (They're doing other things, of course, but not nursing.) In the meantime, I'm open to suggestions for ways to pass this moonlit time. You'll find me on the elliptical, running and running to nowhere.