Sunday, February 28, 2010

Solving the Mysteries of Toddler Sleep: AKA I Can't Take it Anymore

Let this be a warning to parents who have sleep trained their children: It can all come to a screeching halt for no reason at all. And then your life will never be the same.

Let me explain. We worked very hard to have children who slept well. We read and followed the ridiculously titled and poorly written Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child bible. We arranged our schedule around their naps and bedtime and did everything we could to preserve these sacred times. The results were amazing: Naps daily for two to three hours and 12 to 13 hours of sleep each night, starting between 6:30 and 7:00. Life was good and we all were well rested. Until it aaaaaaaallllll stopped.

I am not sure what changed or why now. Perhaps a combination of many factors. I guess it somewhat coincides with our new schedule of heading up to Massachusetts on the weekends, as well as with taking them out of their cribs and putting them into their toddler beds (we had no choice: They were climbing out of their cribs and I even caught Avery once in a Matrix-like position, precariously balanced on the side of the crib). And since it is winter and we are cooped up inside, there are less play dates and running around and energy spent on playgrounds.

Free-range children is the horror I imagined: Two kids running around their room at night, alternating between giggling fits and crying over pulled hair. Sometimes for two hours, before going to bed. Last night, they were in bed by seven, and they stayed up until after 9:00.

And the naps? Completely not into them any more. I put them in their room anyway, for quiet time, and can keep them their for about two hours. But it is not the same. And I know they need that nap. But they are too excited to explore twin conversations (they have adorable talks together) and collaborative play (which is all good, except when it involves a crayon). Sometimes if I lay on the floor in front of their bed and model sleeping for them, they will sleep. But I can’t take naps every day with them (or can I? Hmmm…) and it doesn’t always work anyway. And bedtime, which once involved reading one book and tucking into bed, and kissing tiny foreheads, thus freeing me up for important activities such as watching Survivor or surfing the internet, now involves 46 trips into their room, finger-pointing way too much and admonishing them to lie down, stop talking and go to sleeeeeeeeeeep.

So I feel like I never get a break. Well, that is not entirely true: The alarm goes off at 4:00 for me, and I go to the gym at five (I’ve managed to log almost 150 stress-reducing miles on the treadmill), thus ensuring that I get a little break time each day. But once I get home, the girls wake up shortly and it is go-go-go all day, with no nap to look forward to and no cut-off time to anticipate. And nap times were such a break for me. I would call friends and prepare dinner and clean, uninterrupted. Sometimes I could read for pleasure, if I were feeling entitled. Or I could just decompress. Not anymore.

Does this change? If anyone can offer hope/advice, I’d appreciate it. Because I don’t understand how something that was going so right could suddenly go so wrong.

So it has come to orchestrating breaks. On a bright note, the girls are officially signed up for their first drop-off class. Twice a week for two hours each time for a grand total of eight weeks, they will be attending a gentle-separation toddler class down in Union Square. Oh, how I am looking forward to this. And dreading it. The dread part: I have never, ever left my children in a situation like this. To fend for themselves in the dog-eat-dog world of toddlerhood, with a bunch of adults I don’t know who are paid to decide who got the toy first. And don’t even get my started on all of my collection of unlikely but nonetheless scary hell scenarios, like what if there were another 9.11 event? It will break my heart to walk out that door. But when I DO walk out that door, I am smack dab in the middle of Union Square, with so many wonderful attractions, like Whole Foods and Barnes & Nobel and amazing coffee shops and Babies r Us and Trader Joe’s and the Farmer’s Market and Fishes Eddy and Union Square Park and, if I feel like taking a stroll literally down memory lane, my old NYU stomping grounds down University Place to Washington Square. I will have two hours, twice a week of strolling sans stroller. Of food shopping without destructive little shelf-clearers. Of negotiating my way through the world on my own. Maybe I will get a hackey sack and stand around in a hackey circle. (ok, that is a joke, but the point is, if I wanted to I could, if only for a couple hours). For all of March and April. March, with its ugly weather and occasional snow storm. And April, with it’s spring-is-in-the-air feel. I am so excited. And yes, a little nervous. But we need this: Me and the girls.

I am also pursuing full-force my theory that having things on the calendar makes life a little more enjoyable. So I have been adding new and exciting plans to these upcoming months. More on all that next time. It is 1:23 in the morning and I can’t sleep but I think I better try.

Pictured above, a sledding/snowboarding afternoon. Nicole and I and the girls went sledding with my brother’s family. My dad is visiting from China. It was so much fun. Avery loved sledding down the hill and Madeline enjoyed making snow castles. And it was nice to do something with our families: We usually just hang out at each other’s houses, which is fine. But it was so great to create new memories. Avery loved the snowboarding and when I asked her last night in bed what she wanted to do tomorrow she told be “Snowboarding.”

And, by the way, both girls fell asleep in the car within two minutes on our half-hour drive home. Because THEY STILL NEED THEIR NAPS, dammit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weekend Highlight: Escaping Lawsuit by Ten Feet

We are back after spending four days in Massachusetts, but it was not without its drama. I am fairly certain we escaped an awful lawsuit and giant headache by ten feet. Let me explain. The treadmill was delivered on Friday. Our steep driveway was coated with a thin layer of snow, but since our plow guy only plows if there is an accumulation of more than three inches, we were stuck with dealing with it ourselves. I started shoveling and sanding it, but the treadmill delivery people showed up about halfway through this giant endeavor. They only made it up about half the driveway. They decided to leave their truck there and push the giant treadmill up with a hand truck. I would like to point out that they gave me a few not-so-nice looks. We were already off to a bad start.

So they bring the treadmill inside and are assembling it and I go upstairs, thinking they don’t need me hovering over them. After a few minutes, I look out the window and notice the truck is gone. Hmmm. I try to convince myself that one of the delivery people went out and moved it, but I knew this wasn’t true: I can hear both of them hammering away downstairs. I panic, and assume that a band of Country Criminals have stolen the truck. I knew I had to go downstairs and say something, but I did not want this assignment. Still, I pop down and say oh so casually, “Hey, did you guys move your truck, because it isn’t in the driveway anymore.” They both drop their screwdrivers and let out a few curses and run out the door. I follow them, and all three of us stand at the top of the driveway and are astonished by what we see: The truck, even with its emergency brake on, rolled down the driveway and into the street and stopped miraculously about ten feet from a clump of trees. They were so lucky, and so were we: I am not sure if there is a basis for a lawsuit there, but if someone can sue McDonald’s because they spill their coffee in their lap, then I am sure that they could’ve found an angle to sue us.

So our four-day weekend was off to a bad start, but it improved from there. It was mellow, because Nicole was recovering from oral surgery: A gum graft, of which I know not the details because I can’t even handle hearing about it. Friends visited us on Saturday and on Sunday, we took an exploratory Sunday Drive. And Monday, on the drive home, the girls slept through most of it, so it was a calm, peaceful just-under-three hours.

I am happy to report that Madeline is speaking up for herself much more these days. I was getting worried because she is not anywhere near as verbal as Avery. I deduced it wasn’t a cognitive issue. As she understands us for the most part, and knows her alphabet and can count up to 20 or so. When I give her directions, she is able to follow them, that is, if she feels like it. But there is not much in terms of idle chatter. But these days, I have noticed a mark improvement in this area. She comes up to us all the time and asks “Hey, what are you doing?” She also is on Ladybug Lookout patrol. We have a lot of ladybugs in our house in Massachusetts and Maddie seems to find each one.

I am so ready for winter to be over. The TV is on for the girls waaaaay more than I want. We are trapped indoors much of the times, jailed in by flurries or cold or slushy sidewalks. It is really hard to explain to the girls that no, we can’t go to the playground today because it is snowing and it will be too slippery and wet. Errands become a test of efficient route planning: I try to figure out the fastest and most direct way to accomplish tasks so as to minimize our time outdoors. I miss our long stroller walks. I am tired of spending 15 minutes getting the girls in hats and gloves and coats and socks and boots and blankets. And, on top of all that, usually need to make some accommodations fro whatever inappropriate toy Madeline wants to bring with her (usually, for example, a puzzle or one of those giant wooden toy cubes). Spring will be much celebrated round these here parts. There is lots to look forward to, besides the big thaw. And I will be embarking on a solo weekend. I haven't done that since I rolled up all of my loose change back in the mid nineties and booked myself a weekend to the Bahamas alone. My upcoming solo adventure is engineered by Nicole: Which begs the question, should I be upset that my Valentine's Day present involves sending me away for a weekend alone?!

Pictured above: The tire tracks in the street from the runaway treadmill truck. And Avery recording the birds she sees while bird watching. Ask her what her favorite bird is and she will say blue jay. Good thing we have those in spades around the bird feeders. Maddie is hard to get pictures of these days: She is always on the move. And finally, Avery “helping” me make monkey bread. We usually give her a bowl and et her mix random ingredients together while we work parallel to her with the “real” ingredients.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bang • Bang • Bang: Return of the Bullet List

• An actual snippet of recent dialogue between Avery and me:

A: “Momma, turn off the TV.”
Me: “No, Avery, You are watching another episode of Max and Ruby.”

Let me explain myself: I have been sick, so once again I have been parenting from that prone position. It hit me like a freight train on Sunday: Within and hour I lost my voice and felt terrible chest constriction. Bad cough, sore throat, the works. The poor girls wanted to go to the playground on Monday and there was no way I could take them. I let them watch way too much TV that day. I have been feeling better each day, but suffering from extreme exhaustion. I fall asleep earlier than Nicole.

• Last night I came home from the food store with a pint of strawberries for Madeline. I left them on the counter in the kitchen and went on my merry way. Avery went in, pulled over a stool, took them out of the container, put them all in a bowl and brought them to Maddie, serving them up to her with a smile and a “Here ya go, Maddie.” Is that not the sweetest thing ever? I basked in the adorable afterglow of that for a few minutes, then freaked out that the strawberries weren’t washed and therefore most likely toxic.

• I have a secret blog. No, not the secret blog that I direct you all to when I have a password protected posts. Another one. My third one, technically. On it I am completely anonymous, mostly pictureless, and topic-focused. And writing on both is exhausting. And confusing: I need to keep switching “identities” and make sure that I leave comments as “arcane matters.” I know this is annoying, but I won’t be sharing that link quite yet.

• Nicole has oral surgery today. Some complex procedure that requires grafting skin from the roof of the mouth to be placed near a certain part of her gums. I don’t ask for any details because mouth issues are traumatizing to me. The girls’ losing teeth stage is going to destroy me. She took Friday off, so we will be heading up to Massachusetts so she can recover. It’s a four day weekend! I am hoping that when she gets back today she will feel inspired to leave tonight. I love waking up there, and she does too. But I have a feeling she will most likely want to recuperate tonight and head out tomorrow morning. A girl can dream.

• Madeline is talking a lot more these days. Her favorite phrases include: “Hey, what are you doing?” and “That’s mine” and “I be right back” and “Go this way, Momma.” She still won’t say yes, and instead says “ok.” She is starting to punctuate her requests with please, which pleases me.

• Avery’s favorite phrases include: “I need last time” and “No either” and “I need to wash my hands” and “What’s that sound, Momma?” She also can play toddler games on my iPhone like a pro. It is surreal to see her laying on the couch. Which her legs crossed, holding my phone and playing the games and calling out shapes. We never had that sort of stuff when I was her age. We had these weird little credit-card size electronic games from China that broke after like a week.

• Madeline and Avery sleep together every night now. And every nap, too. They smush into Maddie’s toddler bed together, sharing a pillow and blankets. That is the cute part. The not-so-cute part is that they play and talk and laugh and sing, sometimes for hours, before they fall asleep in a tangled mess of blankets and arms and legs. Last night they drifted off within about ten minutes. But Madeline woke up an hour later in a night terror. Figures.

• I bought a treadmill and am beyond excited. It is being delivered in Massachusetts tomorrow. I only wish we had room for one in NYC. It is so much more cost-effective than gym memberships, not to mention convenient.

• I am starting to get worried that I WILL win the NYC marathon lottery in March. What a challenge that will be to train for.

• The girls’ favorite book right now: Five Little Monkeys and Good Night, New York. They really exhaust one book before moving on to another. It can be quite tedious for me.

• I am addicted to Bog Love. I just watched all three seasons. And now I need to start Season 4. The problem is, we cancelled HBO because we never watch it. Now I need to add it again for a month so I can catch up.

Pictured above, Avery likes sushi! Well, Avery likes the salty soy sauce, that is for certain. Also pictured, Madeline the Lion, one of the dress up costumes at this great little café with an indoor play are for kids in Massachusetts. And finally, Avery yelling CHEESE as I snap a picture from the front seat. All crappy quality because I took these pictures with my phone.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My So-Called Political Life: The Making of a Jaded Citizen

The Nixon Administration: I was born on the Fourth of July in 1972 into a family with not one know democrat in a community that is very, very, very republican. I may as well have arrived in an elephant onesie. If my parents were able to have “life-long republican” stamped on my birth certificate, they probably would have.

The Ford and Carter Years (the 70s): I don’t think people whose age is a single digit have much of a political life, but their political future is indeed being shaped by their family, since their young friends are also too young to have true influence. Let’s skip talking about parents and talk instead of their parents. My grandparents never taught me that I am better than another based on the color of my skin, etc. but — as I say a lot these days — actions speak louder than words. Some of the things that came out of their mouths were stunningly bigoted and some of the beliefs they held were steeped in misconceptions, generalizations and personal history. Like one grandfather, who had a hard time accepting my brother’s Japanese girlfriend (now wife) because he fought the Japanese in WWII. Or my DAR grandmother, who grew up in the South, and had some rather not very nice words to describe people born with skin darker than my own. Another grandfather had a Jewish boss who didn’t allow my grandfather to take the day off for his own father’s funeral: I bet you can see what that lead to. And homosexuality? It wasn’t even discussed.

But grandparents, I always thought, are charter members of the let-it-slide generation, which means it is nearly impossible to change what they have been indoctrinated into. I am not making excuses for them, but it is pretty difficult to find a forward-thinking person born in the early 1900s. What does this have to do with politics? I think race and gender and culture and all of their manifestations impact our political beliefs. And flash forward to my adult life, and I can say unequivocally that I am not racist, classist or homophobic (obviously) in any way. Yes, I consider this an accomplishment.

1980: I voted in my first presidential election. We third graders cast our ballots and an overwhelming number of us choose Republican Ronald Reagan over incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. But I was in third grade, so it is safe to say that I was 1.) voting for jelly beans over peanuts or 2.) voting what my parents were voting. I mean, what third grader is capable of independent thought? This isn’t Lord of the Flies: We eight and nine year olds don’t rule the world.

1982: Boy George enters my realm of existence; fights for space with Alex P. Keaton, the republican Wunderkind. And yes, I liked them both, with equal measure, which lead to the realization that I could indeed hold in my head two diametrically opposed thoughts at the same time. In marches Madonna and Prince and Erasure and all the rest. Gender is bent, lines are blurred, homosexuality starts to get a foothold in our society’s dialogue.

The Reagan/Bush teen years: I was republican, but, sadly, only because my family was and most of my community was. I never really thought about it much. Let’s face it: I was more concerned with getting my collar to stand up just right and figuring out which tank top to wear under my off-the-shoulder sweatshirts. Finding scrunchy socks was my mission, not finding a political platform.

The First Bush Administration: I start my college life at NYU. I went from a small, undiverse high school (150 in graduating class: All white, except for two people of color) to one of the most diverse colleges in the country in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Eye-opening, to say the least. Yet I still clung to my Republican label. But mainly I was too busy exploring nightlife and drinking to think about the political system.

The Bush to Clinton Transition Between 1990 and 1994: During college, I shed my republican skin and put on a new Democrat coat. Blame it on diversity. Blame it on drinking. Blame it on feminist thought. I’d say I based most of this conversion on social criteria: Hot button issues like health care and help for the poor and a woman’s right to chose and civil rights, all of which I was firmly in favor for. Bizarre to think that things like “Homeland Security” weren’t even remotely on the radar yet. Clinton fever was sweeping the nation and I was happy to be swept up along with it. I went to my first Democratic fundraiser alone, and sat on the ground in front of Lauren Bacall and listened to Barbra Streisand sing and thought, I am with my people!

The GW Years: I am really, truly an adult. Nicole and I have commenced our relationship; I zip through two graduate degrees; we plan to have kids. All this without the protection of marriage. For the first administration, I am firmly, completely, happily on the Democrat side, even though many people I know are not. But a little political ennui seeps in during the second administration. Ideas start creeping into my thoughts like “nothing will ever change” and “everyone is in it for themselves.” Shouldn’t we all try to help each other, and look out for those who are most disadvantaged? For example, I think welfare is a flawed but necessary system. It is a life saver for a huge percentage of our population. And such a polarizing issue. I am generalizing here, but many Democrats will call it a life saver for people in need and many Republicans call it a hand out for lazy people. Would I rather shut all programs down and spend the money on things that benefit me? Sure. But I feel like that is not the right thing to do, and that we, as a society, need to think about others as well. Even if that means I need to lose out a little.

All Aboard the Hope Train: I went from being born a Republican to becoming a democrat to becoming jaded to …. It’s all about me now. I am making decisions based on what is best for me and my family now, period. f you are going to openly oppose gay marriage, I will not vote for you. Isn’t that an awful attitude? I went to from voting based on an ideology that I though you best serve the country to voting based on my own selfish wants and needs. A complete turn-around from what I used to think.

I was very politically aware during this last election. Neither candidate was overwhelmingly appealing. I liked Obama’s social issues, to an extent, but I think McCain had a sounder financial platform. I couldn’t get past McCain’s Palin choice or his anti-gay marriage ideals. I was one of the only democrats I know who was not fully in the Obama camp or slapping a bumper sticker on my car. And I am still not. My jaded-ness has reached an all-time high and I now long for a partyless race or some sort of massive change that I am unable to articulate. Because a system in which something as huge as health care can be decided by the election of one person is severely flawed.

And now, it’s national budget time. Obama’s not terribly original plan is to cut spending and raise taxes. It’s not his fault: Permutations of this formula are really the only options at any president’s disposal. For us, for me, if this all passes, that means will be paying 39.6 percent, as opposed to 35. Really??!! Almost 40 percent of our income will go to taxes? It makes me angry because I say that we pay all this money in taxes and get no special benefits. Nicole points out that we indeed take advantage of infrastructure and a police force and things like that, but still. These days, I want more to show for it.

Where does that leave me now? Socially democrat but fiscally republican? Independent? Just jaded? I am not sure. It just seems like everything is completely broken, flawed or outdated. But it is safe to safe my political bad mood is very much tied to my current bad mood.

And the groundhog predicts another six weeks of winter? Has he ever NOT predicted that? Stay tuned for more entries inspired by my sourness… But today, I am trying to drag myself out of this mood. I am trying a new schedule out with the girls. And I want to take them somewhere special.

Pictured above: Avery’s drew this spider. Isn’t that pretty good? There are clear legs and little shoes on them. Also pictured, Avery’s yoga/crayon pose.