Friday, February 29, 2008

seriously. did you think it was over?

Let me preface this by stating there is no greater love than the love I have for my baby, Henry.

The sun and moon of my life rise and set with that child.

At the moment, my little love bug is SCREAMING from his crib after an abbreviated 40-minute nap this morning and an abbreviated 40-minute nap this afternoon.

I'm writing this, not just because the act of pecking on keys takes my mind off the SCREAMING, but also, because for anyone that was following our sleep school last week and graduation earlier this week, I don't want for them to think shazam! my infant is now sleeping all night and taking solid naps during the day.

Truly, the last thing I'd ever want to do is mislead some poor sleep deprived parent who is trying to get their baby on a schedule and have them think "What am I doing wrong?!"

What I think happened - is that even though this goes against everything I believe - I thought Henry would sleep longer with his pacifier. Plus, I really hate to hear him cry. So, I started giving it to him - more and more. I would put him in to his crib almost completely asleep and plug his little pacifier in his little mouth instead of putting him in to his crib awake, without a pacifier, and letting him fall to sleep on his own.

On Tuesday morning, Henry was awake at 5:00 AM. This was early, but I figured, "Oh, what the heck. I'll just nurse him and it will be fine. What's an hour?"

On Wednesday morning, Henry was awake at 4:00 AM. This was a little too early, but once again I figured, "Oh, what the heck. I'll just nurse him and it will be fine. What's two hours?"

On Thursday morning, Henry was awake at 3:00 AM. This was way the hell too early and there was no frigging way I was getting my exhausted self out of bed to fetch my howling infant. Instead, I sent Charlie to close the door to the boy's room - and our door - and I put a pillow over my head and tried to fall back to sleep.

Henry cried on and off for the next THREE and a half hours. When I finally got him, he nursed for less than two minutes and fell fast asleep until almost 9:30.

This morning, he slept until 6:30. His first nap was at 8:45. He was awake and screaming by 9:20. I got him up and noticed that his eyes were STILL closed, as he was crying. If that's not an indication of still being tired, I'm not sure what is. But by the time I assessed the situation, he was awake and I had missed my window of opportunity.

I put him down for his second nap at around 12:30 after he fell asleep nursing in the Bjorn while I was reading the kids stories at lunch. He was awake and screaming by 1:05, literally seconds after I had put the triplets down for their nap and pulled out a load of laundry to fold.

Because I didn't think that he had napped long enough this morning - and certainly not this afternoon - and because I need (FOR MY SANITY) more than a few seconds to myself, I let him cry.

That takes me to now and some new thoughts I have on sleep training.

1) It's very difficult. Don't give up. You might have a day or two where things go well and then, it seems that all hell breaks loose in your schedule and your baby won't sleep.

2) Pacifiers suck. (I know. I crack myself up). They are fine for certain times, but I do not like to put a baby down to sleep with them. I remember going through this same drill with our triplets - but they were several months younger than Henry is now and when I finally figured out what was going on, I rounded them up and threw them all away. Up until a few weeks ago, I very rarely gave Henry a pacifier, certainly never for bed. But I've noticed in the past week he is sucking on it all the time. If he's without a pacifier - he's fussy and crying and the reason he is fussy and crying is because he is tired. It's a vicious cycle.

3) Once your child is truly sleep trained, they will sleep through the night. It was only when our children had Rotovirus and were vomiting every five-minutes, that they ever woke up during the night. And even then, they were (almost) sleeping through their vomiting episodes. That's not to say that children won't wake up at night if they are sick, but - their entire sleeping schedule isn't derailed. It's hard not to go to a baby when they are crying and sick, but - you know your child. If you know that they aren't in pain - then let them be. Sleep is a great healer.

4) My going in to the nursery and rubbing Henry's back only riles him up that much more. If I know that he is still tired - and he isn't precariously stuck in crib rails - I truly believe that it's best to let him cry himself to sleep.

5) I'm amazed that William is sleeping through Henry's ruckus. There has been a time or two when he has come out and asked to sleep on the couch, but by and large, he sticks it out and sleeps in his own bed - five feet from his SCREAMING brother. When the triplets were infants - they all slept in the same room - and those kids could sleep through anything. I can't help but wonder if the ability to block out ear piercing disturbances that he received at a very young age is continuing to serve him well, now.

Henry is asleep again. That only took an hour and a half.

Oh, and look at this ... here comes Carolyn with an empty tube of toothpaste.

The contents are in her hair.

I am in need of vodka. STAT.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dear God (one more thing)

Dear God, Father in Heaven.

It's me again.

I'm not entirely sure what happened but yesterday afternoon - and all day today (minus that one wake-up call at 3:07 AM by a child screaming and frantically searching for her bunny that woke up the entire house), our three-year-old children have been awesome.

They come when I call them and they actually listen to me. And then, as if that wasn't enough, they have been sharing with each other - and so full of compassion - one might think I had little Peace Corp recruits in training.

So for all of that, a huge thanks.

But, now I really need Your help with something else.

Yesterday, when I was feeling a little overwhelmed after the tough morning I'd had?

Well, I decided that I needed a vacation. So, I went online and without really giving too much thought to what I was doing, booked a couple plane reservations to Florida to visit my mother and Jim.

In less than two weeks, I'm due to get on a plane with my seven-month-old son and my three-year-old daughter (the one that usually drives me crazy but I really think that she needs some one-on-one time with me) and fly all the way across this great country ... stopping once in Texas ... and arriving in Florida nine hours later. And then after a week, I'm getting back on a plane ... flying all the way across this great country ... stopping once in Texas ... and arriving in California 10 hours later.

While I'm visiting my mom and Jim, Charlie is taking our other two children and driving 10+ hours north to San Francisco for a week to visit his family - and hopefully - attend his father's 80th birthday party.

As I was purchasing the tickets, I was so nervous the sweat was actually dripping off my hands and splashing on the keyboard. Because, seriously!! What was I thinking?! I'm scared to death of flying - and now I'm doing this by myself with my TWO precious children?!!

My mother thinks the reason that I'm so nervous is because I'm lactating. I think the reason that I'm so nervous is because someone told me that I was going to DIE in a plane crash. Either way, whenever I think about getting on a plane with my two babies, I feel like I am going to throw up. Moreover, whenever I think about my husband driving 10+ hours in a car, on busy California freeways, I feel like I am going to throw up.

Because the fact is?

It seems that I am terribly afraid something is going to happen to one of us. Or, one of our kids. Or, all of us, and maybe the best thing is for us to stay home and have a vacation "camping trip" in a tent set up in our backyard. Then, I just have to hope that a plane won't crash in to the house or that an asteroid or satellite doesn't race through the earth's atmosphere and kill us. Because, I seem to worry about that kind of stuff, too.

Lord, what's happened to me?

What happened to the person that would take risks? The person that once actually wanted to get their pilot's license and fly planes? The person that would kayak and snorkel and dive off boats in the middle of the ocean and not once, think seriously about the man-eating-beasts that live just beneath the waves?

These days, my idea of risk is driving to Blockbuster at night. In the rain.

So Lord, please help me to relax a little. Or, at least send me a sign that Charlie and I will live long enough to see all of our children pay off their mortgages, our grandchildren graduate from college, an end to premature births and hunger, and peace on earth.

And then, please help me to mentally survive a 3,000-mile plane trip with two little ones. I'm not really sure why I thought that leaving a place where it's 85-degrees and there are palm trees blowing in the breeze so I could FLY someplace where it's 85-degrees with palm trees blowing in the breeze would be a "vacation", but I think I ate too many M&M's and the sugar caused a short circuit in my thought-processing-apparatus.

Thank you. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dear God

Dear God, Father in Heaven.

Please help me.

I have a handful of three-year-olds that do the exact opposite of whatever it is that I ask them to do. One of them in particular is making me loopy.

We sit down for a picnic and when I see one child running their peanut butter and jelly sandwich along the bottom of their shoe, I'll say "There are tiny bugs and dirt and maybe dog poop on your shoe that you can't see, but that if you eat, might make you sick. Please don't do that."

The one child stops.

The other child, looks at me with a gleam in their eye and says "Mommy. Look." And then waits for me to see that they are rubbing their peanut butter and jelly sandwich along the bottom of their shoe.

This child will go poop in the potty. I ask them to wait before flushing it so that I can wipe their bum and flush the paper, too. As soon as the words leave my mouth, I wish I could take them back, because they immediately flush the toilet.

So what do I do?

I snatch away one of the two M&M's that I gave to them because they went poop in the potty and I eat it and say "THERE! That's what happens when you don't listen to me!!" And then I want to say "Nah, nah, nah, BOO BOO!!" But I don't because that would be cruel. Although, probably less cruel than taking away a piece of hard earned candy from a three-year-old and eating it in front of them.

In retrospect, that little piece of chocolate probably saved me from doing something that I might have really regretted later on.

I ask them to sit down in their chair. They stand up.

I ask them not to climb a seawall, for fear they'll fall off the other side. They scale straight to the top.

I ask them to stand next to me while I load children in to the car. They run to the front. Then, once they are in the car, they will scramble to the driver's seat - because they know I don't want them to - and they will frantically touch whatever they can, before I pull them back with threats of bodily harm.

I ask them to not touch the light switch. They wait until I am sitting down nursing their baby brother, and then flick it on and off as fast as they can.

From their seats at the table, they will reach out and touch things that are on the counter. Anything, everything. I will ask them to please not touch something and they will very slowly ... reach ... out ... their ... fork ... and ... touch ... it. And maybe, if they're lucky and have a good enough reach, push it straight off the counter.

They will take their shoes off in the car and throw them in places that I cannot easily reach, even though we discuss this in length each time we enter the vehicle.

They are the slowest moving people you ever did see whenever you're in a rush - but when you need them to stop moving and stand still, they take off in a frenzy.

If I didn't know that they would get seriously hurt, I would encourage them to run out in traffic and see what happens.

These three-year-olds that you sent me are seriously messing with my mind, Lord.

They will play with toys that belong to other children at the park, but if someone comes to play with their toys - you'd think they were pulling off their toenails.

They are so smart and they have these extraordinary moments of sweetness. They know exactly what it is that I want them to do, they just like to do the opposite. They like to see my reaction. They like to see just how frustrated they can make me. They want to hear me yell "Step away from the three-year-old, Jen. STEP AWAY FROM THE BERRYIN' THREE-YEAR-OLD!"

I know what they are up to - they want me to act crazy like them - they want to see me have a psychotic event. It is for this reason, my new mantra is "Sweet Molasses. Sweet Molasses."

Slow it down, sister.

Slow. It. Down.

I am sweet and slow - just like molasses.

I don't pummel three-year-olds. Even though I could and sometimes want to.

I don't need instruction. I don't need books. Or lessons - or any of that stuff. I know that this is a phase and that it will pass. But until it does, what I need God, is more patience.

Borrowing from something I hear a million times a day, I need lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots lots and lots and lots and lots and lots more patience.

And lots.

And lots.

I also need more M&M's.

Because for every one that I give our children, I eat 30 myself.

Thank you. Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2008

cue up pomp and circumstance

Henry is a bona fide graduate of sleep school.

Last night, he was in bed by 7:15. He stood in his crib laughing hysterically at William for about 10 minutes and then laid down, by himself, and was asleep by 7:30.

He woke up this morning at 6:15. I nursed him in bed for 45 minutes. He ate breakfast at around 8:00 and went down for his first nap at 8:45. He cried for five minutes, before I picked him up, nursed him for five minutes, and put him in a slightly drowsy state back down in his crib.

He slept until 10:45.

While Henry slept at home under Charlie's watchful eye, I went to the doctor's office. This respiratory infection that I've had for the past three weeks, which had started to wane - came back strong. This is so typical for me. I'll be sick for a month before going to see the doctor. It's like running a marathon and giving up at the 24-mile mark. I suspect that if I can just hang on a little longer I'll make it, but I always throw out the white flag.

I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, but I didn't get it filled because I know that this is a viral infection and eventually - it will run it's course. I just needed to hear the doctor say that I wasn't going to die. Until then, I'm going to keep up with my Zicam and vitamins and consumption of 10 gallons of water a day. And, I'm going to try and get more than four hours of sleep at night. Surely that might have something to do with why my immune system is so weak. I also had an uncomfortably fun conversation with my doctor about the effect of nursing on a woman's libido. Maybe once I feel well enough to have a glass of wine - or am hit with a huge amount of courage - I'll write about that.

For now, back to Henry.

Yesterday, he napped from around 12:30 until 3:00. What I figured out is that although he naps exceptionally well in the morning, he wakes up after 30/40 minutes with his afternoon nap, unless I give him a pacifier. So, when I put him to bed yesterday with his pacifier, he slept for 2.5 hours.

Today, I put him down for his nap when the triplets went down at 1:30. Again, he stood in his crib laughing at William for a few minutes, before grabbing his pacifier, popping it in his mouth, and falling to sleep. (He woke up at 2:45 just as I was getting ready to publish this post).

I have a lot of reservations on sleeping with pacifiers. Primarily, I don't think that a baby sleeps as deeply when they have one, because my experience has been (with the triplets) that whenever the pacifier falls out, they wake up crying. But, if Henry needs a pacifier to extend his afternoon nap from 30/40 minutes to an hour or more, so be it. I think the reason he needs the pacifier in the afternoon is because up until recently, he would sleep in the Bjorn and sporadically nurse while I updated my blog. That's my opinion and it makes sense.

I know that not all days are going to be the same with Henry's nap schedule. Maybe he'll nap better in the morning than in the afternoon or vice versa. But consistency with his routine - getting him to bed in good time - and recognizing his sleep cues will all be important.

While I'm on the topic of naps...

The triplets are doing considerably better with nap time. A year ago at this time - when they were still in cribs and jumping out every 10 seconds - I thought I was going to go insane. But once we transitioned them to big beds, and more specifically, ever since we split them up in to different rooms, they fall asleep within five minutes of laying down and typically sleep two hours, if not three. They still go to bed at around 7:30 or 8:00 every night and they sleep until around 7:00, every morning.

I love my children with all of my heart and soul.

But I can honestly say that I love them EVEN MORE when they sleep well.

We took the children to get their hair cut yesterday. Charlie has finally convinced me that I have no idea what I'm doing with scissors and it really is best that we let trained professionals provide this service for us.

While we were there, one of the stylists mentioned that she has a son that turned three-years-old last month and he doesn't sleep well.

Every night, she has to lay down with him in bed and usually, she falls asleep waiting for him to fall asleep. Of course, this completely shoots her night and she has no time for herself or her husband. She said that whenever her son does take a nap during the day, he will be awake until 1:00 AM.

When I told her that our three-year-old triplets take a two-hour-nap during the day and sleep around 11 hours at night, I thought she might cry. When I told her that there was hope for her, I thought she was going to hug me.

THIS is the very reason that sleep training is important at an early stage. Children need to know how to go to sleep on their own and they need to know how to sleep in their own bed.

When you are looking at a beautiful, chubby-cheeked baby, it's almost impossible to imagine them as a demanding preschooler that INSISTS you lay down with them or they WON'T go to sleep. And dammit, they won't.

They seriously won't.

Those poor sleep habits that developed while they were a beautiful, chubby-cheeked baby, will absolutely wreak havoc on your life.

If you don't believe me, just watch Super Nanny.

Someone left me a comment regarding their baby that wasn't sleeping well because of colic. When babies cry incessantly early in their lives - it's usually because they have something happening with their digestive system. It could be reflux, or maybe an allergy. Or, as Michele wrote about, it could be the improper colonization of bacteria. William was lactose intolerant and we didn't get that figured out until he was several months old. He would scream every day, morning, noon and night. Once I made a few changes to my diet - and the formula I was supplementing him with - he was a different child. The girls both had reflux. We got them on the appropriate medication and they were different children.

If your baby is crying uncontrollably - there is something going on that shouldn't be.

Babies do not cry for no reason.

The point of this long-winded post is that if I can lovingly sleep train a seven-month-old infant with three-year-old triplets in a 1,600 square foot house (without a basement and not what could really be considered an attic), with sick children sleeping together in rooms that lack doors, and a barking dog, and a mother that calls in the middle of nap time to tell me to watch Oprah ... anyone can do it.

I cannot however, snack on an apple when there are a tray of O'Henry's in the fridge.

Because I am weak when it comes to chocolate.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

live blogging: where am I? what's that smell?

Henry slept soundly last night from 7:20 until 5:02 this morning. I didn't go to him right away when he woke up and instead listened to him loudly babble with a few pitching screeches that translated to the English language as "I KNOW YOU ARE THERE! WHY AM I HERE?"

There were long periods of silence and then he'd start again.

At 6:30, I brought him to bed with me and he fell asleep nursing within 10 minutes. Charlie came home, thankfully, because that little virus that I've been barely keeping at bay has morphed in to the plague. Henry and I slept until 8:00. Charlie then brought him out and fed him breakfast and let the kids play while I slept until 9:55.

When I stumbled out of the bedroom, thinking that my entire motherhood experience has been a dream, Charlie said that he'd put Henry down for a nap at around 9:30 and although he hasn't cried, he hasn't really slept, either. It is now 10:15 and I can hear him babbling. I suspect that the morning nap is shot because he slept with me for an hour and a half - so I'm going to go get him and try putting him down for his second nap at around noon.

I'm taking a recess from live blogging.

But while I'm out running and playing (or sleeping and soaking) I would really like to hear more about No-Cry-Solutions that people keep commenting on, and also, the "reverse cycling" that Maria mentioned.

For the record: Some families are up early and go to bed early. Some go to bed late and wake up late. If you take your child out shopping at 9 PM and your child is not overtired, and their schedule is in sync with your family schedule, great. Equally great is the family that puts their child to bed at 6 PM, with the expectation that they will be up for the day at 5 AM. But for those families that ignore or are ignorant to their child's sleep cues and drag them all over creation - and then wonder why they are fussy, or argue that they "just don't sleep!", I want to hit them in the head gently place Dr. Weissbluth's book in to their tightly clenched hands.

I don't think that crying-it-out is the only way for a child to self-soothe. I do believe, that if a child is put in to bed at the optimal time, there will be little to no crying. Last night when I put Henry to bed at 6:35, he cried. But when I put him down around 40 minutes later, he went right to sleep. When he woke up crying from his second nap yesterday - he cried on and off for about 45 minutes, before I realized that he wasn't going to go back to sleep and I needed to get him.

Sleep training can really make a person second-guess every move they make. But, I think the more you know your child's sleep patterns and schedule - the better you are able to know when they are up and need you, and when they still need to sleep.

If I ran to Henry so that he never cried from his crib - I'm fairly certain that he would still be waking up every three hours and his catnaps would not extend more than 30 minutes. I also know that as much as I enjoyed "wearing" Henry is the Bjorn and letting him nap on me, in the longterm, that is not helping him establish healthy sleep habits.

Although I will nurse Henry in the morning from bed, he is very restless and does not sleep well for long stretches of time when he is with us. This is a good thing because with four children, a stuffed giraffe and a queen size bed, co-sleeping isn't very practical for our family.

I am now stepping off of my soapbox and in to the tub.

live blogging: sleep school day 3 / wrap up

Henry had a very tired afternoon. I could tell that my little guy was exhausted and probably would have done much better with his second nap if I had been able to get him down to sleep, sooner.

I fed him dinner at around 5:00 and he played for about an hour after that. I washed him up and changed him in to pajamas at around 6:15, nursed him for a few minutes, and put him down in his crib by 6:35. He cried while I got the triplet's teeth brushed and *something* told me that he needed a little bit more time before being put to bed.

I scooped him up after about 10 minutes and sitting in our rocking chair, nursed him for another 20 minutes. After having my face sucked and and gummed by him for 10 minutes, I again put him in his crib at around 7:20 and he peacefully put his head down and fell to sleep before I left the room.

There are certainly times when I think about all the things I need to do and how convenient it would be to put him in his crib and have him go right to sleep. But then I have to stop myself and seize the opportunity to sit and rock him and have him gum my face, because the fact is - I won't be able to do this forever and it really is a highlight of my life.

Here are my thoughts on the day:

1) It is very important for me that Henry sleep in until at least 6:00 every morning. I truly believe that he is at an age where he can do this and I suspect that he just needs some time to get through that 2nd awakening on his own.

2) I know people who have children as old as six-years-old, that still wake up and start their day at 5:00. That wouldn't fly in this house because the earliest Charlie and I get out of bed (unless we have a plane to catch or they are evacuating our neighborhood because of wildfires) is 6:30. It is extremely rare that our children are awake before 6:45 AM and typically they are up sometime between 7 and 8. For those parents that have children that are waking up so early, if that schedule works for the family - great. But if not - I believe that the early wake up can be linked back to the child never going back to sleep after their 2nd awakening.

3) Several people have told me that they want to get their baby to sleep but they don't want to hear their child cry. Although no parent likes to hear their baby cry - I really believe that the process of self-soothing is an important thing for them to learn. As I mentioned yesterday, until a child learns to self-soothe, they will rely on you to do it for them. Although it would be nice to lay down with my child before they go to sleep at night - this is not something that I can do every time they go to bed. Nor can I rush in and give them their pacifier whenever it falls out, or rock them until they are completely asleep.

It can be terribly frustrating but the key to success is setting forth a plan. This whole exercise of writing down Henry's schedule has been great for me, because I have critically evaluated his nap schedule and wake up times much like I did with our triplets. When I would hear him wake up and cry after 30 minutes from his first nap - I would have already worked out my response. It's that "Not Knowing What To Do" that is horribly paralyzing and causes sleep deprived parents to run themselves ragged trying to figure out the next step.

Let them cry?

Pick them up?

Rub their back?

Feed them?


And now, I'm going to get up on my soap box.

It is amazing to me how many people are completely oblivious to the importance of sleep. When I was still working, I would go out for business dinners and notice small children sitting on their parents laps at 9 or 10 at night. When Charlie and I went to a movie last year, I couldn't believe that when we were walking out of the theater at 10:00 PM, there was a family walking IN with their two small children.

Last week, as I was walking around Target at about 9:00 PM I spotted a woman pushing a baby, I'd estimate to be 18-months old, in a shopping cart. The baby was wailing. She was rubbing her eyes and her cries sounded like someone was jabbing her with a needle. The mother kept hushing her and I overheard her say to her husband "I seriously don't know what is wrong with this kid." Because I have a really tough time keep my mouth shut when I probably should, I walked up and said, "I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but overhear you. And for what it's worth, I suspect that your daughter is crying because she is tired. I have three-year-old triplets and I know that they would have a complete meltdown if I kept them up past 8:00 at night." The mother told me that she thought that her daughter's cries were a result of teething.

As I've written before, I believe that teething is a scapegoat for a host of babyhood problems ... poor sleep habits and fussiness, being chief among them. I noticed that Henry is cutting his first tooth and yet he is sleeping well, aside from the issues that are physiologically normal for his age. I might be the only person in America to believe that when children are fussy it is because they are tired or hungry, or possibly - sick. It is not because they are in pain with their teeth. And if they are, feed them and put them to bed. They'll surely feel better when they wake up because chances are - they're tired, too.

Speaking of tired...

I haven't taken a shower in two days. But in that same time, I have cleaned up the house, folded and put away several loads of laundry; gone to the park twice; McDonald's, the after hours pediatrician and the post office once; cooked several meals; consumed an untold amount of chocolate; walked the dog; emptied the potty chair fifteen hundred times; tried to teach my three-year-olds how to blow their stuffy noses; established a sleeping schedule for our seven-month-old and blogged about it four times a day.

I'm off to bed.

Provided I don't pass out cold before I get there.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

live blogging: sleep school day 3 / nap 2

After I packed a picnic lunch, got everyone's shoes on and had 1, 2, 3 potty breaks, we arrived at the park by around 10:45. We met up with two other triplet families and while the kids ran around and played, I nursed a fussy Henry in the Bjorn and then pushed him in a baby swing. He dozed off for around 10 minutes ... while Carolyn ... who was also being pushed in a baby swing - also dozed off.

This was extremely uncharacteristic for both of them, but clearly, sleep training is exhausting for everyone.

Heck, I almost dozed off standing there pushing them.

It's important to note that if Henry had not woken up this morning at 5:15 - and instead - had slept through until 7:00 - the hour and a half nap that he took before we went to the park, would have been sufficient to recharge his batteries, and he wouldn't have dozed off less than two hours after he last rested.

We began the process of leaving at 11:40 - and actually left the park by 12:05. We drove 30 minutes across town to the doctor's office and I noticed that Henry snoozed for at least half the drive there. Our appointment was at 12:20, but we weren't seen until almost 1:00.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Just as the doctor opened the door to come in to our examination room, all three of the children said they had to use the potty.

I herded everyone in to the restroom and spent the next 10 minutes, with Henry suspended in the Bjorn, while I hoisted one, two, three - one again - children on top of the toilet and then pushed little hands away from all the medical paraphernalia that can be found in a doctor's office lavatory.

Elizabeth was diagnosed with an ear infection.

The prescription was called in and we left the office at around 1:30.

Once we arrived back to the car, I broke out our picnic lunches and fed the kids in the parking garage. I didn't feed them at the park because they'd had such a late breakfast and I knew that by feeding them a little later - they would be more likely to stay awake for the car ride home. I nursed Henry while the kids ate and then, noting the time of 1:40, began to drive back to the house. Since they didn't have time to finish lunch in the parking garage, at red lights I would chuck peanut butter and jelly squares over the back seat to the children.

We arrived home at 2:10. By the time I washed hands, put 1, 2, 3 kids on the potty, diapered everyone, administered Zicam and Dimetapp to the triplets, and ibuprofen to Elizabeth, got kids tucked in to bed - it was 2:30. I put a very fussy Henry in the Bjorn, grabbed a handful of peanut M&M's (I tend to heavily snack on chocolate when I'm overtired and this is my drug of choice today) and began to nurse him. He was asleep almost instantly. I took him out of the Bjorn and put him in to his crib at 2:45. He woke up, started to cry, but fell back to sleep in less than a minute.

William is in his bed. I considered moving him out to the couch, but seeing as he only likes to sleep in his room, have opted to leave him where he is.

Now, I'm off to PUT AWAY LAUNDRY.

By the way: You can always tell a blogger because they are the only ones that carry a camera to the after-hours-pediatrician office on a Saturday.


Henry woke up crying at 3:27 PM. I went in to check on him at 3:34 and he had one leg stuck in the crib railings, again. Once I moved him back to the middle of the crib, he cried on and off for approximately 45 minutes before I couldn't take it anymore. I picked him up, nursed him, and he has been happily crawling around ever since.

The morning nap is coming along very well. Even though Henry wakes up at the 30/40 minute transition, he is successfully putting himself back to sleep with out much disturbance. The afternoon nap is more difficult - just as I remember it being with the triplets - and probably will remain at no more than 45 minutes, until he drops his third nap.

One load of laundry put away.

A lot of M&M's eaten.

live blogging: sleep school day 3 / nap 1

After having woken up at 5:15 - with intermittent whining and babbling for an hour and a half, Henry fell asleep and woke up again 7:05.

I scooped him out of his crib, nursed him for 20 minutes, fed him breakfast at around 7:40 and then let him crawl around while I got dressed, unloaded the dishwasher, got the triplets dressed - rushed to move potty chairs out of Henry's path - and made the beds.

I then got Henry dressed, changed his diaper (probably should have done this early, but oh well) and he nursed for a few more minutes before I put him in to his crib, wide awake at 8:35. He began to cry as I lowered him, but immediately put his head down. When I went to check on him two minutes later, he was asleep.

At 9:15 I happened to look up at the clock and wonder if he was going to sleep past his 30/40 minute mark, and just then - I could hear him stir. Within a minute, he was back to sleep and continued to sleep until 9:45.

Now, we're off to the park and then - to a doctor's appointment for Elizabeth. That might be a little tricky because the appointment is at 12:20, and I really want to have Henry home and in bed for his afternoon nap by 1:00.

Oh my heavens, he is so cute and happy and well rested!

While I'm typing this, he is crawling towards me as fast as he can. Pictures to follow later.

live blogging: sleep school day 3 / the wake-up call

Last night before I went to bed, I moved William in to the girls room and moved Henry to the middle of his crib. This movement disturbed him (quite possibly because it was so close to his 1st awakening and he was in a shallow sleep cycle) and about five minutes after I climbed in to bed, he woke up. He fussed on and off for about 10 minutes and fell back to sleep.

He was awake this morning at precisely 5:15.

I didn't go to him and instead, listened to his whines (not a true cry) oscillate very loudly for the next hour and a half. When I got up at 6:30 (because Elizabeth was sleeping across my head), the door to the boys room was wide open and William had climbed back in to his own bed. When I walked in he gave me a frustrated look and said "Henry being LOUD, mom!"

Yes, son. I knew he would be. That's why I put you in with your sister.

Henry had one leg stuck out of his crib and I suspect that if he had not been in this precarious position, he would have fallen back to sleep much sooner. Once I reorganized him in the crib, he dozed off. I am not planning to pick him up until 7:00, or whenever he is up for the day.

If I had gone to him at 6:00, before he fell back to sleep on his own, I believe that he will continue waking up early and fussing, with the knowledge that he will eventually be picked up.

live blogging: sleep school day 2 / wrap up

Once Henry woke up from his afternoon nap at 2:50, I put everyone's shoes on (I honestly put shoes on feet that belong to people other than my own no less 50 times a day) and we went for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. My mother would be disappointed that we missed Oprah, but maybe one day we'll get a TiVo and then I can watch all kinds of cool programs when I have a spare moment between 2 and 3 AM.

By the time we were back from our stroll it was around 4:00.

I put a movie in for the kids (Over the Hedge, if you must know) and sat down to feed Henry his dinner. Once I finished feeding him dinner, I stuck him in the sink for a quick bath and while I was doing that, I was remembering that the whole reason we bought the kitchen sink that we did is because even though we didn't have children at the time, I hoped that one day soon we would, and when we did, I was going to give them baths in this awesome stainless steel basin.

While I prepared dinner and washed dishes.

Oh, I kid.

When I pulled him out of the sink and started to get him dressed in his pajamas, he was starting to get fussy. I sat down with him and started to nurse at around 5:00 PM and finished watching the movie with the kids. Henry snoozed, while nursing, from about 5:10 until about 5:45. If Charlie had been home, I would have snoozed at that point too, because Sweet Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I was exhausted.

Just thinking about all the stuff I still had to do - by myself - before the end of the day made me feel less capable than an an amoeba.

Henry woke up from his catnap and I put him in his highchair with some Cheerios while I fed the kids dinner. While I got the kids ready for bed, I let Henry crawl around - until - he started picking up speed and was very soon, racing around the house almost as fast as the triplets. At 6:30, I put him in to his crib - solely as a means to contain him - while I got everyone's teeth brushed. He would laugh and coo whenever one of the kids went in to the room and would scream blue bloody murder when he was left alone.

By 6:45, I scooped him out of the crib, put him in the girls bed where everyone was perched and read them a story. I then moved him back in to his crib while I got everyone squared away and in to bed, said prayers, and then told 1, 2, 3 children that NO they could not use the potty because they had their chance before their diapers went on and because I have LEARNED that they have become extremely proficient at stall tactics. He cried the whole time I was dealing with his siblings. I went back in and picked him up - sat down to nurse him - and at around 7:10 put him down for the night. He fussed on and off for about 5 minutes before falling asleep.

Although one of his older siblings, who has a deep love for two ragged bunnies, continued to pop out of bed for the next hour and 20 minutes because she loves to drive me insane in the membrane. (When she woke up crying two hours later, I figured out that she has an ear infection. I spent a half hour on the phone with nurse line and scheduled her for a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. Did I mention that all four of the kids came down sick with my flu just before Charlie left on his trip?)

So, here are my thoughts on the day:

1) I can clearly see that there are two primary sleep challenges to overcome. The first is Henry waking up about an hour (or so) prematurely for the day. The second is Henry waking up after only 30 minutes of his morning - and at least today - afternoon nap.

2) As for the first challenge: According to Weissbluth, the following circle graph illustrates the natural sleep/wake rhythms for a four- to eight-month-old infant.

Henry's sleep/wake patterns have followed this pattern, exactly. Up until recently, he was waking between midnight and 1:00 AM. Based on our previous experience with the triplets, we eventually stopped going to him at this time, and within two nights, although he might have still been waking up - he stopped crying out for us to get him. Even though he began either sleeping, or self-soothing, through the 1st awakening, he has continued to wake up and cry out during the 2nd awakening. Because this awakening is so close to the start of the day for our household, I have not wanted to run the risk of Henry waking up his siblings and have scooped him up before he could self-soothe and fall back to sleep. According to Weissbluth, "The natural wake-up time seems to be independent of the part of the brain that puts them to sleep or keeps them asleep. Most children will awaken to start the day about 7:00 AM, but there is a wide range (between 6:00 and 8:00). In general, it is not a good idea to go to your child before 6:00 AM, even if he is crying, because if you do, he will begin to force himself to wake up earlier and earlier in order to enjoy your company."

In essence, I really need to leave Henry alone when he wakes up during that 2nd awakening at 5:00 AM and see if he can get himself to go back to sleep for another hour - or more. I suspect that the reason he is waking up is not so much because he is hungry (because he doesn't really nurse vigorously), but rather, because he is programmed - like clockwork - to wake up at the exact same time every morning. My options here are to stay status quo of picking him up and soothing him by nursing; putting a pacifier in his mouth and soothing him while he stays in his crib; or letting him cry and ultimately, self-soothe. Since I'm looking for the fastest (and easiest) solution, I believe that letting him cry and self-soothe is probably the answer.

3) As for the second challenge: According to Weissbluth, "By four to eight months of age, infants should have at least a midmorning nap and one in the early afternoon and the total nap duration should be two to four hours." "After four months, naps of less than one hour cannot count as "real" naps. Sometimes a nap of forty-five minutes may be all your child needs, but naps of less than thirty minutes don't help."

As Michele pointed out in her comment today: "Henry's definitely having trouble transitioning through his first sleep cycle. Babies transition from deep sleep to REM sleep at exactly 40-45 minutes. If he doesn't sleep at least an hour and a half, he isn't getting both cycles of sleep which is why he's cranky. Now I used to time when my kids went down to the minute and I'd be waiting by the door at exactly 40 minutes and run in and pat their butt and stick their pacifier back in to get them into the next sleep cycle, because it just takes a little time for them to get it. Or you can let them cry to get into the next cycle but some kids wake totally up then and you are shit out of luck."

Today, I ran in with Henry's pacifier when he woke up after 45 minutes, and was able to extend his nap to two hours. Ideally, I don't want to do this. I'd like for him to transition through that sleep cycle on his own, because I'm usually doing something with the triplets when he is napping and if I don't get in there right away to pop in the pacifier - I might miss my opportunity and he is awake. So, again, since I'm looking for the fastest (and easiest) solution, I believe that letting him cry and self-soothe is probably the answer.

Now before everyone loses all respect for me and thinks I'm a heinous mother monster to let her beautiful baby cry - here's something critical that I've learned.

Babies need to know how to self-soothe. Until they learn how to soothe back to sleep - or through their sleep cycles - they will need for you to do it for them.

I'd really love to write more, I have several other topics to discuss (and comments to address), but they'll have to wait. I've got Elizabeth propped up in my bed on pillows with a heating pad under her ear and from the sounds of it, I think she's due for more ibuprofen. And, I must go to sleep because Henry will be up in five and a half hours. But first, I need to go move William in to the girls room. Elizabeth will stay with me, tonight. Push ups and putting laundry away will also have to wait. I'm definitely due for another Dove square, though.

It's been a long day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

live blogging: sleep school day 2 / nap 2

We were out of the house for the post office by around 10:45. This trip went remarkably well except for when I had to RUN - to the point of taking FLIGHT - to stop Elizabeth from dropping bunny in to the Fed Ex shipping box. Doesn't it figure this is the one time I leave the house without a carabiner.

As we were driving home at around 11:15 - I asked the kids what they wanted to have for lunch. When William shouted "CHEESEBOOGER!" I was struck with a brilliant idea.

Banking a U-turn we drove to McDonald's. This is only the third time our kids have had McDonald's in their entire life and only the second time that I have taken all four children out to a restaurant by myself. But I figured that since they had the indoor play palace - and it was rainy and cold outside - this would help to burn off energy and save me from cleaning the kitchen from lunch.

While they are running around and playing, a nanny comes in with two children in a stroller. She is talking to someone on her cell phone about how she really wants to be a flight attendant and although *this* job is fine, it's definitely not something she wants to do much longer. The parents of the children that she watches fight all the time. She is with kids constantly. She feels like she never gets a break except for on the weekends. While I'm sitting by - trying not to eavesdrop - oh really, who am I kidding?? - straining to hear every word - I was shocked to see Henry grasping french fries in both of his hands and gnawing on a third. As my brain tried to process where he got it, I watched my hand jut out and give him another one.

Good grief!!! Here I am so distracted by someone else's conversation that I'm blindly feeding my seven-month-old french fries when he doesn't have any teeth and his diet has yet to expand beyond six fruit and six vegetables. That's beautiful considering I had just been thinking to myself that NO one could care for my children the way that I do.

The nanny finishes up her call as William and Elizabeth come running up to the table, and she asks me if all three of the children are mine. I told her that there were actually four of them - and yes, they're all mine. She remarks that I look great and she'd never guess I had four children and I tell her she's obviously very lonely and desperate to make friends.

At around 12:20, Carolyn comes waddling up and tells me - and all the other patrons in the play palace - that she wet her pants. Fortunately, she had on highly absorbent underwear, tights and flowered pants beneath the dress that she was wearing, or else there would have been a real mess on the third level tunnel run.

I try to make a rapid exit but of course the kids don't want to leave. Elizabeth lays on the floor and cries, Carolyn waddles around yelling "I WET!" and William keeps repeating that he wants "MORE CHEESEBOOGER!!!" Which of course he cannot have, because I ate it and the remnants of his sister's cheeseboogers. In addition to my Filet of Fish sandwich. I am on track to weigh more than our van by summer.

Ten minutes later, coats are on, shoes are on, hands and faces are washed and all of us are in the car on the way home. Henry is getting fussier by the minute. I can't decide whether it's worse that I fed my seven-month-old french fries or that I should have had him at home, in bed, at least 30 minutes ago.

The triplets were in bed, after so much hoopla that in and of itself could be an entire blog posting, by 12:50. I nursed Henry from 12:51 until I put him down in his crib - asleep - at 1:05.

Now, I'm off to clean up the destruction that occurred in the 15 minutes it took me to get everyone washed up, pottied, changed in to new clothes (climbing on the play structure at McDonald's warrants all new clothes in my book) diapered and put to bed.

I also hope to fold and PUT AWAY at least three loads of laundry.


Henry woke up at 1:35, approximately 30 minutes after I put him down.

I could hear him start to stir and grabbing his pacifier, ran in to his room. He was kneeling and crying at the crib rails. I scooped him up, nursed him for a moment, thought to myself "YOU FOOL! PUT HIM DOWN, QUICK!" and then stuck him back in his crib with his pacifier. I rubbed his back for a few minutes and once I could see him start to nod off, left the room.

At 1:50, ~10 minutes later, he was up again crying. I gave him his pacifier and rubbed his back and moved a partially awake William in to our bed with a sleeping Carolyn, because DAMN if I don't keep forgetting to put him on the couch.

At 2:04, William woke up Carolyn.

At 2:05 Elizabeth was clodding around the room in her boots.

At 2:05 and a few seconds, I told everyone to go back to sleep or else they couldn't eat chocolate chip cookies this afternoon. Because come on! Since I shot lunch time with McDonald's, I'll afford them this one more indulgence before I serve them raw green vegetables for dinner.

At 2:10, the phone rang as my mother was calling to tell me to watch Oprah. Jon and Kate are on.

At 2:30 the triplets were up. While they played with a balloon, I cleaned our second bathroom and finished just as Henry woke up from his nap at 2:50.

No laundry put away. One bathroom cleaned. Six Dove milk chocolate squares with almonds consumed. A thorough evaluation of my thoughts and comments on today thus far (and response to questions and comments received), will be provided in my wrap-up, later tonight.

After I do 100 push-ups because I don't want to weigh as much as our van by summer.

live blogging: sleep school day 2 / nap 1

We aren't off to a good start, today.

After I posted, I quickly got dressed, made our bed, unloaded the dishwasher, got the baby dressed and pulled out clothes for the triplets to wear for the day. There was a LOT of negotiating as to why the girls couldn't only wear their tutus and Keens and William couldn't only wear his superhero cape and a pair of socks. Not only is it raining and 53 degrees, but we're going to the post office and I don't think it's a good idea to have scantily clad children in that kind of environment.

By the time I started to feed Henry, it was around 7:40. He was getting very fussy. After about two spoonfuls, I wiped his face and put him in his crib. He was down at 7:48. He fussed (not even crying, but fussing) until around 7:54 and then he was asleep.

He woke up at 8:30. I didn't run to him right away and I could hear him fussing and stirring for about 10 minutes. He was quiet until 9:00. He began to fuss, on and off, for the next 15 minutes, before he started to cry at 9:20, and that's when I picked him up and nursed him for a few minutes. Actually, I first tried to put him in his highchair while I helped three kids who were using the potty at once and making a horrible mess of things - but he screeched and wouldn't let me go, so I put him in the Bjorn and nursed him while I tried to keep the kids from flipping their potty chairs over.

I'm a little frustrated with Charlie that he taught William how to go pee-pee standing up. Now, that's all he wants to do. But he doesn't quite grasp "grasping and aiming" yet, or if he does - he thinks it takes too much effort, so he just likes to stand and let things go where they may. The new rule in effect is that EVERYONE has to sit down when they go potty. William can stand again once he learns how to aim properly - or Henry stops crawling. Which ever comes first.

All in all, not a great morning nap. I know that the problem stemmed from me not picking him up and nursing him back to sleep straight away at 5:00 this morning. If I had done that before he got riled up - he would have probably slept until about 6:30 and then, his first nap would have been around 8:45 - like yesterday.

The problem is: I would prefer that he sleep in until 6 without me having to run to him.

The challenge is: Me getting him to sleep through until 6 without having to run to him.

I fed him the remainder of his breakfast at around 9:30 and now, we're going to dash to the post office so I can mail off our taxes - a few important documents - and Jessica's Keens.

live blogging: sleep school day 2 / the wakeup call

Charlie's on a business trip.

Henry woke up crying at 5:01 AM. I was so tired because Charlie is on a business trip and I was up very late last night doing all the things that he would normally help me with at the end of the day, but didn't help me with because he is away on a business trip.

I have been preparing myself for him going on a business trip since I first heard about it two weeks ago, but nothing quite prepares you for being alone like hearing a baby crying and knowing that you've got to get them.

When Henry woke up crying this morning at 5:01, it felt like I had

Perhaps it was because I was up too late and my brain wasn't functioning properly, or perhaps it was because Henry did so well yesterday with naps that I had these delusions of grandeur that he would sleep in until 8:00, today. Whatever the case, I didn't move William in to our room which I really should have because Charlie is on a business trip and there is plenty of space in our bed. An air mattress wouldn't have even been necessary.

I listened to him not really cry - but holler - babble - shriek and do the squeaky door (eeee, ooooo, aaaaa, eeeeee, aaaaahhhhh), for exactly 24 minutes before I ran to get him. He was sitting up on his knees in his crib, chewing on a stuffed animal and didn't look like he had any intention of going back to sleep. He was in my bed, nursing and pulling my hair by 5:26.

By 6:10, he was joyfully awake and crawling all over me. If Charlie wasn't on a business trip, which he is, I would have encouraged my husband to take Henry and the dog for a walk at around this time so that I could go back to sleep for another 30 minutes or so. But since that wasn't an option, I got up and tried to put Henry back in his crib - because when you're exhausted you do stupid things.

He didn't even touch the mattress before I realized this was a dumb idea and his crying would quickly wake up William. I took him back out of the crib, grabbed a clean diaper, grabbed a pacifier and came out to check my e-mail at 6:15. By the time I wrote the very first sentence of this blog, I heard not one ... not two ... but three shrill little voices yell out, "MOMMY. I COME WITH YOU!" and all three of the kids came running out in to the nearly pitch black house to see what I was doing.

I sent them all back to bed and said they had to stay there until the sun came up.

Meanwhile, Henry is playing with a toy guitar.

I'm off to unload the dishwasher and get dressed.

But only AFTER I write a note to myself in big bold letters that reads "PUT WILLIAM IN YOUR BED TONIGHT."

Although 5:00 may not seem early, it really is. Particularly for someone like me who would like to be a morning person, but to do so effectively, needs more than four hours of sleep.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

live blogging: sleep school day 1 / wrap up

Charlie arrived home from work just as Henry was waking up from his afternoon nap at 3:20. This was unusually early for him to come home, but I needed some time to go to the store before Charlie headed out of town on a 3-day business trip.

While Henry stayed behind with Charlie, I took William shopping with me, because he had also just woken up from his nap. We left at around 4:00 PM and when I called Charlie at 5:15, he said the baby was getting fussy. I suggested that he feed him dinner and by the time he finished, I'd be home.

When I arrived home at 5:45, Henry was rubbing his eyes and visibly tired. I cleaned him up, changed him in to pajamas, nursed him and sat cuddling the most beautiful baby in the universe until around 6:30. He never did take a third nap today, so at 6:45, I put him in to his crib, awake, and went to give the triplets a bath. He fussed for no more than five minutes and fell fast asleep.

He continued to sleep until Molly started barking and woke him up at 9:10. I went in to check on him, rub his back and see if he'd go back down, but instead, he crawled around the crib, grabbed a hold of the sides and standing up said "PICK ME UP AND NURSE ME, WOMAN!"

Well, he didn't say that, exactly.

But his eyes certainly did.

So, I picked him up, nursed him for a few minutes, and then put him back in to his crib while he was awake - but entirely milk drunk. He opened his mouth to cry, but instead passed out cold and landed face down, snoring.

I'll be curious to see how he does sleeping, tonight. If the past is any indication of the future, he will be awake by no later than 5:15. As much as I'd like him to sleep in until at least 6 - I'm not really struggling as bad with that wake up time as I was yesterday.

Meanwhile, the triplets were put to bed at around 7:30 and I suspect that they will be awake by around 7:00 tomorrow, morning. William napped for an hour and a half today (typical for him) but the girls napped for more than three hours. When I called Charlie at 5:15 and told him to feed Henry, I also told him to wake up his daughters FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

This concludes day one at sleep school.

But before I sign off, here are a few other tidbits.

1) I didn't nurse the triplets on demand like I do with Henry. Although I nursed them, they primarily received bottles and were ALWAYS put to bed wide awake. With Henry, he is typically put to bed after he nurses and is generally in a drowsy or semi-drowsy state.

2) Today I think was rather successful. But it is important to point out that it was about two months ago, that I first began putting Henry in his crib while he was awake for naps and at night. There has been some crying, for sure - although it has significantly tapered off and he is coming to realize that when he is in his crib, it's time to sleep. The purpose of my "sleep school", is to get him to sleep for longer stretches during nap times, and hopefully, a longer stretch at night.

3) Regarding the triplets: Once they were easily climbing out of their cribs (circa ~ age 26 months), nap time and bed time turned in to the absolute worst times of the day for me. We transferred the children from their cribs in to "big" beds late last year, and moved William in to his own room. William has done extremely well sleeping since he has had his own space. He goes down with out any resistance and doesn't cause any disruption. The girls on the other hand, heaven help me, it would take at least an hour before they would go to sleep once they were tucked in and a lot of frustration on my part. Recently, I began splitting them up and nap time has instantly become the most peaceful time of the day for me again.

4) To answer Jennifer's question: I split the triplets up because there wasn't enough space in the room for a double bed and a toddler bed; and (more importantly) the three of them in the same room was turning in to an insane free-for-all. Unless, I wanted to stay in there with them until they fell asleep and no, I don't want to do that because I have a million other things to do while they rest. I split the girls up at bed time and nap time because I have found that they go right to sleep without an extended social hour. At night, before I go to bed, I'll move whomever is in our bed - back in to their own room. For us, it is working well to have each of the kids in their own rooms during bed time. William and Henry are sleeping in the same room at the moment, and at least for today, there have been no issues. I suspect this arrangement will continue to get even better with time.

5) To answer Casey's question: I would suggest that you let your daughter take a pillow and nice blanket with her to bed, if she doesn't already. Maybe something new to spruce the crib up a bit. And then, if and when she wakes up screaming - go to her and tell her that although you love her - she cannot come to bed with you. And then - leave. Shut the door. Go to your room. Shut the door. Put the pillow over your head and go to sleep. It may not be easy. She might scream and wake up the whole house. But if you don't lay down the law now, it isn't going to get any better. The longer you allow her to control where and when she sleeps - the more control you are going to lose. I know how painful it is to hear your child scream at the top of their lungs - particularly when they are 2.5 and can scream really loud - but, you have got to nip this in the bud. Maybe you can move your other two girls out until you get over this hurdle, but I'll bet that within one or two nights, Makena will quickly realize who is running the show, and it ain't her!!

live blogging: sleep school day 1 / nap 2

So, here's the thing.

It's really tough to keep one baby up for no more than two-hours between naps when you have three no-longer-babies that need to get out of the house and play.

I made my first post of the day at around 10:20 but by the time I got shoes on children's feet, noticed Carolyn had a mole on her head as I was combing her hair and then tried to take a picture of it for future reference and discussion with her pediatrician at her next appointment for 15 minutes (why can't I take good pictures of things up close with my new camera? Why have I owned it for four months and still not read the instruction manual?!), called Charlie to discuss the mole with him and freak out a little bit over what is probably nothing but this is why it is SO important that since we live in Southern California where there are no clouds and few trees that the children always wear sunscreen and hats, potty break one ... potty break two ... loaded four children in to the car ... unloaded one for potty break three, oops - false alarm ... and drove to the park (that we would normally walk to but I needed to be expeditious and get home for Henry's second nap), an hour had lapsed.

We played at the park from around 11:40 until 12:50.

During the time that we were there, Mr. Stay-At-Home-Dad with three small children and a dog came to play. I've seen him at the park before and he never talks. He never makes eye contact, never smiles. But today, when his (who I estimated) four-year-old was playing with William, I decided to break the ice by asking if my estimate on his son's age was correct.

It was.

Now, if Charlie had been there, he can never guess a kid's age correctly. Although, to his credit - his estimating ability has improved since he has become a father. But still. If he saw that little boy today, I guarantee he'd guess that the kid was 6. Or maybe 12.

Anyway, he was a really cute little kid and it gave me a glimpse in to what our kids will be doing a year from now. His language skills were excellent and he was extremely coordinated. The triplet's language skills have definitely taken off in the past six months, but unless a person is well versed in three-year-old'ese, they might think that my children are horribly insulting them every time a dump truck drove past.

The other glimpse I had is how at four-years-old, guns and KILL, KILL, KILL appear to be a big thing. Our kids don't know the word "gun" nor do they know the word "kill". Because I'm really hoping to keep it that way for a while, every time the kid shouted "I'm shooting my gun and KILLING that bear!!" I'd yell out "OH MY GOSH!! I think I see a RAINBOW!!!" and take off running in the opposite direction.

There are so many things about three-years-old that drive me fokkelen nuts, but the one thing that I really love about this age is the pure innocence and sweetness. William - the big talker that he is - absolutely slays me with some of the things that he thinks up. Just this morning, while I was pulling laundry out of the dryer, he yelled from the kitchen, "Hey Mom. What are you doin'?" and just as I started to respond, he fired "Do you know the muffin man?" I started to laugh and replied, "I'm not sure. Do you?" And he excitedly answered "Yes!! He lives on Drury Lane!!"

Oh, it makes me chuckle just thinking about it now.

But, without further divergence from the point of this post...

Before we left the park, I nursed Henry in the Bjorn and then we packed up to leave. I could tell that he was tired and had started to doze off, so I loaded up the car and arrived home at 1:00, which was pretty late for us - especially since the kids hadn't yet had lunch.

Henry crawled around on the floor while I washed the kids up, got them fed, read them a few stories while they ate, washed their faces, put them in Pull-Ups (after 1, 2, 3 potty breaks) and got them situated. Everyone was in bed by 1:45 PM.

I put Henry back in the Bjorn, sat down to start this post and he fell asleep while nursing by 2:05. I removed him from the Bjorn, placed him in his crib - he woke up very briefly - and immediately fell back to sleep.

Now, I'm going to run and clean up from lunch while everyone is sleeping. Maybe I'll even fold a load of laundry. Wouldn't that be nice. I'll wrap this post up once he wakes up again.


OK, I'm back.

He slept until 3:21. When I could hear him stirring (not crying, but awake), I went in to pick him up because napping for almost an hour and then some is pretty good when you consider he took an hour and a half nap this morning and will take another cat nap in about two hours.

Also, when you consider that I forgot to let William sleep on the couch and didn't want Henry waking up his brother.

Kitchen cleaned. Two loads of laundry folded. None put away. I love folding, deplore putting away. Much like I love painting, but abhor the cleanup.

live blogging: sleep school day 1 / nap 1

Henry was awake this morning at 5:13 AM. I might have forgotten to tell Charlie my plan to let him stay in his crib until 6:00 AM, because my husband popped out of bed - ran to get him - and stuck him next to me before I even knew what was happening.

I nursed him for about 45 minutes, although I'm not entirely sure because I fell back to sleep, and we all woke up for the day at 6:45 when I screamed because Carolyn was trying to give me butterfly kisses while I slept. Holy crap. Have you ever woken up with a face in your face staring at you - and not expected that face to be there at all?

Very scary.

After crawling around on the floor for a while and playing with various toys, Henry had breakfast at around 8:10 and was yawning from his highchair by 8:40. He was in his crib by 8:45 and after approximately five minutes of crying - (which could better be described as whining) - was asleep. He made some crying sounds at 9:30, but I decided to give him a few minutes and after less than two, he was back to sleep. He woke up babbling at 10:15.

Now, granted - this isn't the first time I put him in his crib for his morning nap, but it is the first time that he has slept for an hour and a half. Keys to success: putting him down earlier and not rushing to grab him at the first noise he makes.

We are now off to the park.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep is really quite simple. You lay down. You relax. You close your eyes. You slip in to a blissful slumber. In my book: you stay that way until a child hovers over you and tries to wipe their nose in your hair.

When we first arrive in this world, we don't know how to fall sleep by ourselves. The fine art of falling asleep unassisted is a process that must be learned and until a person knows how to go to sleep on their own, the whole "sleep/bedtime" thing can be a terribly stressful event for everyone involved.

Take for instance, my seven-month-old son Henry.

When he came home from the hospital, he slept in a bassinet next to our bed. He would wake every two hours, give or take an hour and a half (usually, take) and I would nurse him. I would then return him to his bassinet where he would continue this sleep / eat pattern all night and throughout the following day. Gradually, he began sleeping for longer stretches and I could see a rudimentary nap pattern developing.

Although he is sleeping for a longer period at night and taking naps during the day, he is still not sleeping nearly as much as he should be for his age.

The reason that Henry is not sleeping very well at the moment is primarily a function of our small house. He is rooming with his big brother, William, who still takes one nap a day. When Henry wakes up crying from his afternoon nap, or in the middle of the night, I will rush in and pick him up because the absolute last thing that I want to have happen is for Henry to wake William and ruin his sleep. Because then William will wake up Carolyn and Elizabeth and with four tired children, I am quickly on my way to hell in a hand basket.

When I rush in and pick Henry up, he is not learning how to self soothe and fall back to sleep unassisted. As a result, I have an overtired and fussy baby. However, if I don't rush in and pick him up, William's sleep is inevitably interrupted and my exhausted son can usually be found with his pillow over his head; or - will call out "It's OK Henry. It's OK. You go sleep now. OK?"

More recently, as Henry has grown older - and hence louder - William might come staggering out of his room with his blanket in hand and say "Mom. Dad. Henry is hurting my ears. Can I please sleep on the couch?"

It is during these times that I have seriously entertained thoughts of installing sound-proof padding all over the walls of our tiny laundry room and moving Henry in there.

Currently, Henry goes to bed at night around the same time as our triplets ... which at around 8:00 PM, is too late for the little guy. This is my fault, but he is always content (and I love to watch him) crawling around on the floor until his siblings are all tucked in to bed.

He will typically wake up at exactly 5:15 AM, although some mornings he wakes up as early as 4:00 AM. Either Charlie or I will bring him in to bed and I'll nurse him back to sleep.

He is up for the day by 6:30 AM.

His first nap - that he resists - is around 9:00 AM, and generally lasts between 30 and 45 minutes.

His second nap - that he resists - is around 1:00 PM, and usually does not last more than an hour. When I pick him up from his crib, he will nurse and then fall asleep in my arms. But if I even THINK about putting him back in his crib, he is wide awake and cranky.

His third nap - is around 5:00 PM, and usually lasts for 15 minutes.

He goes down to every nap crying and wakes up from every nap crying. The only exception is if he fell asleep in the Bjorn with a boob next to his face and woke up in the same position.

What his sleep and behavior pattern tell me is that he is overtired and sleep deprived. I know this because with our triplets - who were on the most regimented sleep schedule imaginable - they would nap for a solid two hours during the morning and afternoon; around 45 minutes in the late afternoon, AND they would sleep for a solid 12 hours at night. (Elizabeth might have woken up to be nursed in the middle of the night, but she was a tiny baby and when she was Henry's age - she weighed about as much as one of his thighs.)

Our triplets would go to bed smiling and cooing and fall asleep without nary a peep and they would wake up happy and laughing. They were doing this from the time they were four-months-old and they are, for the most part, still doing that now. Especially since I've split everyone up in to separate rooms at bedtime.

Henry, the happy baby that he is - does not do very well sleeping. I think it's because he is overtired, but also, as he has grown older, he resists sleep that much more because he doesn't want to miss a thing and instead, wants to be a part of the action. There's a lot happening in this house.

But I know that once we get his sleep issues dialed in, he is going to go down without resistance, sleep better, sleep longer, and wake up happy.

Me, the happy lady that I am - am getting really frustrated that her bouncing baby of loving joy is depriving her of precious sleep at night and wreaking absolute havoc on her nerves with his abbreviated naps during the day.

So, here's how this thing is going down.

Henry is in his crib for his morning nap by NLT 9:00 in the morning. If he wakes up before a solid 45 minutes of restful sleep, I am not going to pick him up until he either 1) goes back to sleep or 2) cries for an hour.

Henry is in his crib for his afternoon nap by NLT 1:oo in the afternoon. If he wakes up before a solid 45 minutes of restful sleep, I am not going to pick him up until he either 1) goes back to sleep or 2) cries for an hour.

Because his late afternoon nap is so short - and close to bedtime - he typically falls asleep while he is being nursed in the Bjorn as I prepare dinner, or chat with Charlie when he gets home from work. I then transfer him to his crib where he will sleep for around 15 minutes. Status quo on this front, because this nap is so short and will disappearing soon, anyway.

Henry will be in his crib for the night by no later than 7:00. If he wakes up before 6:00 AM, I am not going to get him. Because, I know babies program themselves to wake up at a certain time every day. Just last month, Henry was programmed to wake up at 1:00 AM. It took two nights of him crying before he stopped waking up and sleeping through until 5:00 AM. The first night he cried for a solid 45-minutes straight. The next night he cried for less than 5 minutes.

Until we get our little guy sleeping better at night, I will move William on to an air mattress in our room. This might sound crazy - or cruel - but I think it's crazy and cruel that our whole family is suffering from sleep deprivation because Henry is waking up prematurely from naps and not sleeping through the night. I also know that this isn't going to become any easier as Henry gets older. If anything, it will become more difficult to teach him that sleep is a good thing.

Although this is the routine I'm planning to implement, I will watch for Henry's sleep cues. I will do my absolute best to not keep him awake for more than two hours between naps and I will do whatever I can to make sure that he sleeps in his crib and not his carseat. So help me, this baby is going to sleep well - even if that means our lives revolve around his schedule until his sleep patterns are better established.

I feel justified in this approach. Not just because I did this same thing with our triplets and it worked, but because I just re-read Dr. Weissbluth's book and I was reminded that everything he writes is fact.

Now, I've just got to persuade baby blue eyes who sat on my lap while I wrote this entire post because his afternoon nap was only 30 minutes and I didn't want his squawking to wake up William.

But get ready Henry.

Sleep school starts tomorrow.

Edited to add: William has been sleeping in the same room with Henry during nap time because I have been splitting the girls up >> one sleeps in their room, the other sleeps in our room. One day last week, I moved William out to the couch for his nap because he is the best sleeper in the group and even though I'm doing dishes or folding laundry three feet away, he will take a solid nap. I can't have him sleep in our room because it would defeat the purpose of splitting the kids up and nap time would (again) turn in to social hour.

Once sleep school starts, I'll move William out to the couch as necessary. Henry will stay in his crib. Carolyn will be in the girls room. Elizabeth will be in our room. And that pretty much takes up every room in the house.

Except - the laundry room.

Or the bathroom.

See? We've got room for two more children!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

my father walter

My father will turn 77 three days after I turn 37.

I haven't seen him in over two years, in part because he lives in Massachusetts and I live in California. Add to that, I have four small children and dad has Parkinson's disease, so cross country travel isn't particularly easy for either one of us.

My mother and father divorced when I was eight-years old. There are always two sides to any story, but all I knew growing up, was that my dad had met someone else. By the time my mother and I returned to Massachusetts after having lived in South Carolina for a year, a woman by the name of Gail, who was 20-years younger than my father, had moved in to the new home that my parents had been in the process of building before my mother left, and it appeared that she and my father would be married soon.

Gail and I weren't particularly close when I was young. I had a lot of resentment that "this woman" was the reason my mother and father were no longer together. But as I grew older, I realized that if it hadn't been Gail - it might have been someone else - and if I wanted to have a positive relationship with my father, I better learn to accept his new wife.

So I did.

Eventually, Gail and I became friends. I would call to talk to my father and would spend an hour or more on the phone chatting with Gail about anything and everything. Dad would usually be on the other line and although he didn't say much, I knew that he was always there listening or sometimes, snoring. Gail was the bridge to my dad. She helped me to plan my wedding. She brought my father to visit Charlie and I in our new home. She organized a bicycle trip for us throughout New Hampshire and spearheaded a boat trip for the four of us on my father's yacht from West Palm Beach to the Bahamas for a week in 2003.

I was one of the few people in my family that had a cordial relationship with Gail. The majority of my older siblings never did get along with her, in large part because Gail was only a few years older than they were. While I lived in South Carolina with my mom, my siblings lived in Massachusetts closer to my dad. A few of my siblings actually lived at home with dad until conditions with Gail were so unbearable that they were forced to leave. It wasn't a good situation and it was further complicated by the fact that whenever I went to visit, I always stayed in my father's house.

To quote my sister Eileen, it was difficult to not feel like Benedict Arnold.

Dad was a pharmacist and he poured his heart and soul in to running his business. Sadly, I don't have very many memories of my father growing up, that don't involve me standing on one side of the counter in his drugstore, talking to him - or more likely - watching him work on the other side. There were several instances we would go out for a day - or perhaps a week on his boat - up and down the New England coast - but most days, including every holiday, he spent in the pharmacy. His store was opened 365 days a year and he was there almost every day. He worked from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. He didn't take a lunch break, except maybe to suck down a vanilla frappe that someone picked up from Brighams. Or from Landini's, next door.

Working alongside my dad, every day from the day she was a child, was my sister Beth. She knew that drugstore inside and out and she knew every single return customer that came in to the store by name. I was always mesmerized by her ability to know with precision every person's charge account number, medical history, family history, address and quite often - telephone number - without having to look.

Beth and Gail never got along. Beth never trusted her. Never liked her. Never thought that her intentions were good or that she was worthy of my father. At one point probably 15 years ago, Beth wanted to hire a private investigator. But she never did for fear that if my father found out, it would severely damage her relationship with him.

Once my father sold his drugstore and retired in 1998, he became more sedate. A short time later, Gail convinced him to replace his 50-foot yacht with a 45-foot yacht and then a few years beyond that, she convinced him to sell it, too.

Once he didn't have as much to live for, he began to noticeably age. Meanwhile Gail found her second wind. She started working out at the gym six or seven days a week for two, three or maybe four hours at a time. She became an avid cyclist. She planned trips around the country and even took a trip to South America for a bicycle adventure. It was during this time that my father was diagnosed with Parkinson's. And for the first time, I began to question Gail's loyalty to my father when she would specifically tell him that he had to stay home while she would take off for a week or more on one of her great adventures.

That, and a host of other reasons got me worrying.

During one of our conversations surrounding this topic, I remember Gail informing me that before she married my father, she told him upfront that she did not want to be a nurse, teacher or mother. It was never her intention to take care of anyone other than herself. She and my father were clear on that one fact, so who was I to judge? She was right. It wasn't my place. I didn't know the intricacies of their marriage, nor did I want to. As far as I was concerned - so long as dad was happy, I was happy.

End of story.

The last time I saw my dad and Gail was over Christmas in 2005. During the time that they were here, I got a really bad vibe. Dad was complaining that his arm hurt, his shoulder hurt, his chest hurt. At one point, he was laying on our living room floor and while I was seriously concerned that he might be having a heart attack, Gail literally stepped over him - told him that if he was feeling badly he could take himself to the hospital - and then took off on a mountain bike ride. Leaving our one-year-old triplets with my husband, I drove my father to the local emergency room and sat with him for four hours while he was poked and prodded and eventually, discharged.

Dad was diagnosed with a severe muscle strain and he and Gail flew home to Massachusetts two days later. When I called the day after they arrived home, dad was in bed, heavily sedated and Gail was at the gym. When I called the next day, dad had still not climbed out of bed - except to use the restroom - and Gail was at the gym. I became worried. I called my sister Beth - who didn't even know that dad was home yet and wasn't expecting him until the following week - and told her that she really needed to check on him. Gail intercepted Beth's phone calls and cooly informed my sister that our father was fine.

After I spoke to dad a few days later and he had still not gotten out of bed, eaten only two bananas since arriving home, and his voice had been reduced to a whisper, I was alarmed. He certainly didn't sound happy and it was my time to step in.

I hit the panic button by calling Beth and every one of my Massachusetts-based-siblings and pleading that they please go check on dad. I also, for the first time ever, wanted my father as far away from Gail as possible. It was clear to me that she was not concerned about his welfare and I was seriously worried about his safety. Although Gail tried to convince me otherwise, this was my business.

With degrees in pharmacy, chemistry and law, Beth is both smart and strong. She drove to my father's house and pushing past Gail, threw out the ultimatum that if dad wasn't brought to the hospital IMMEDIATELY, she would call an ambulance and have him physically removed. Within the hour, dad was in the hospital and diagnosed with severe dehydration. It was also determined that he had been unintentionally overdosing on his medication.

Throughout the next year, my relationship with Gail dissolved. Largely because I had suggested that my father pay Gail off and get out of the marriage as fast as possible because it seemed to me that his survival depended upon it. It was evident to me and everyone involved, except my father, that the only reason she was staying with him was for a financial reward.

The night before Charlie and I left for our trip back to South Carolina in November of 2006, I received a call from my sister, Beth. Someone had sent her an anonymous letter indicating that Gail had been having an affair. When Beth received an anonymous phone call two days later indicating the same, she decided that she was going to approach my father with this information.

Dad was floored. He was in disbelief. But as more details became available that unequivocally confirmed that Gail was in fact involved with someone else, he became depressed and despondent. As far as dad was concerned, she was the love of his life. When he approached Gail - she pulled a knife. The police were called. She was arrested. There was a restraining order. A court date. A criminal trial.

And just like that, it was over.

My father's divorce from Gail will be finalized in a few weeks. They would have been married for 26-years, next month. Currently, my dad is not doing well. According to my sister Beth, he has aged at least 10 years in the past six months, and this is in addition to the 10 years he has purportedly aged since I last saw him in 2005.

It takes him 30 minutes to put on his own socks and shoes and he can no longer stand up with out assistance. He shuffles when he walks, his voice is shaky and he loses his train of thought easily. The doctors have told my sister that at the rate he is regressing, he will require full-time assistance within the next six months.

Dad will be flying out to California, with my sister Beth and her son, so that we can celebrate our birthdays together in April. Everyone tells me that I will be shocked when I see him. But I'm trying hard to prepare myself and cry now - so that I don't completely fall apart when I see him then.

When I hear about the man that he is now, I am filled with sadness. There are no words to express the depths of my grief and feelings of guilt that I am not closer to help him - or at least to see him - during this time of his life.

In his twilight years, he does not have the unconditional love, caring and compassion of a spouse. He does not have a particularly strong relationship with the majority of his seven children or 20 grandchildren. He stopped attending church after he split from my mother, because the Catholic Church does not accept divorce. The drugstore that he worked so hard to establish is now a toy store. And least 50% of the money he sacrificed his life working for, will go to Gail. My mother never wanted a dime. So all of the years he worked while he was still married to my mother - that goes to Gail, too. To say that he is angry and bitter over the situation doesn't come close to capturing the level of his emotion.

But out of this misfortune has come a great deal of good. My father has repaired a relationship with one of my sisters - from whom he was estranged for several years - and the two of them took a two-week trip to Germany, together, last year. Currently, one of his granddaughters who he has hardly known, is living with him while she she finishes college. And this past week, he is with my mother again. She is cooking meals for him. She is folding his laundry. She has welcomed him in and is making him feel comfortable, alongside her 84-year old fiancé, in their home.

It is because of my experiences growing up, that I have been so adamant about parenting the way I do. It is because my father was always gone and working that I have been insistent about Charlie and I staying home and raising our children, together. It is critical for me that our children know their father as a caregiver - just as they know their mother. It is because of my father's focus on money - that my focus is not. My life is about my family.

I work to live.

I do not and will not ever, live to work.

I think about my dad and I wonder if he had the last 30 years of his life to live over again, what would he have done differently? If he could see what the future held, would he have worked in his drugstore so hard? Would he have sacrificed time with his family for his career? Would he have allowed my mother to get in a car and drive to South Carolina - without following her and begging for her to come back? Would he have made a better effort to know his children and grandchildren?

I am anxious to see him. I am anxious to hug him and hold his hand and tell him that although he may have regrets for things that did - or did not happen - I am so glad that he is my father.

I love him unconditionally and will do whatever I can to support him.

And yes. I bought him a pair of Keen's, too.