Friday, May 28, 2010

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

The other day I was telling Madeline and Avery all about the carnival that we were going to take them to when Nicole came home from work. After explaining to Avery that no, there are no dragons at carnivals (?), I filled their little heads with visions of cotton candy and whack-a-moles and mini roller-coasters designed just for their mini bodies. I even opened up the website and showed them pictures of the rides and attractions. I managed to whip them up into a fine frenzy until I clicked on “more information” and noticed that the carnival doesn’t open until the weekend. Which is when we will be in Florida. Which means no carnival for them and lots of back pedaling for me.

Thanks for all the sleeping ideas/suggestions/plans. Nicole and I talked about them and came up with a plan. Of sorts. We will enact this plan after we come back from Florida, the theory being if we get traction this week we will only lose it while (whilst?) in Florida on vacation at Nicole’s parent’s house for a week. So now we hold steady and hope we aren’t incurring more sleeping damage that can’t be undone.

One plan that is especially appealing is putting them to bed at different times. Since they share a room, it is almost absurd to expect to put them to bed and not hear a peep. They are too little for that. But I am fairly certain we can get Avery to sleep in about ten minutes and then try Madeline. This is why I love blog friends: Neither Nicole nor I EVER thought about that. That was a light bulb moment for us.

In other sleeping-related news, the girls are now almost two weeks without pacifiers. Two weeks! Madeline still sometimes looks for hers at night on her jammies, where we usually snapped it. It breaks my heart to see her searching for it. But in general taking their pacifiers away was a relatively simple task and much easier than I thought it would be. I think I have harder time with it, as it represents an end of sorts of babyhood. But take it from me: If Madeline can give up her pacifier so easily then almost any toddler can.

We leave tomorrow, which means I am having my little pre-airplane flight panic. I should be taking an ambien right about now and getting some sleep, but for some reason I always hoard those little white pills for an especially rainy day. In terms of stress levels, it doesn’t really rain much harder than this. I should be cutting one of them in half and taking it now.

And there is so much change on our horizon. We are leaving with two-year-olds and coming home with three-year-olds. I cannot believe their third birthday is next week. Already I have noticed that they are more demanding: Their requests have increased from cake to cake plus presents plus balloons plus candles. When we come back, I am hoping we will effectively change their sleep habits and reestablish a sense of evening normalcy. How we got away with years of a fuss-free 6:30 bedtimes and two-hour naps, I’ll never know. But we are going to try our hardest to recapture those glory days. And there are a couple other things that I am required to remained zipped about for the time being. None of it is bad at all, but still, I fight against change with every ounce of energy in my body. Because I am a lover of routine, a creature of habit, an organizer. Even good change rocks my world a little. And I am excited and impatient, which is never a good combo. Never. I am trying to just relax and enjoy. These next ten days should help considerably in the relax department.

Pictured above, I was at the playground and the girls were wearing these dresses and a mom came over to me and asked if I made them myself. Not sure if that was meant as a compliment or not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unhealthy Sleep Habits, Unhealthy Mommies

Once upon a time, I had the perfect little sleepers. They took daily two- to three-hour naps and slept for thirteen hours at night. This made for happy, well adjusted babies and happy, well adjusted mommies. I didn’t appreciate it nearly enough when I had it good and when this wonderful, amazing, perfect schedule was ripped away from us about six months ago, I went into a tailspin.

It all started when we moved the girls into toddler beds. We thought this was a good move because climbing in and out of their cribs seemed more dangerous than free-range children. The girls loved their new freedom and decided two things: 1.) They would no longer take naps and 2.) they would no longer go to bed quietly each night.

Since that transition day, (remember the cupcake party we had? We were so full of hope then, like a those precious and short-lived pre-elected Obama days of hope) every bedtime has been a nightmare. Between 7:00 and 7:30 we walk them to their room and say goodnight. And every night at 7:01 or 7:31 they jump out of their beds and run around their room. At first we were okay with this. We figured they would tire out and eventually collapse in their beds. Thing is, that didn’t happen. As the minutes ticked by, they would get bolder and bolder, eventually sneaking into the living room and expanding their play boundaries and increasing their volume levels, and, despite all logic, revving up their energy levels. They invented fantastic games that only they understand the rules for. They practice jumping, spinning and climbing. They do everything but sleep. Clearly we failed somewhere in this process.

Our genius plan: Sit with them until they fall asleep. This was and continues to be a disaster. This is usually Nicole’s realm, because I think she thinks that after 12 or 13 uninterrupted hours with the girls, I need some sort of break so I don’t experience a psychotic break. Yet this is flawed, as after working all day, she could use a break too. Neither of us are thrilled to sit in the dark room and repeat “sshhhh….it’s night time. Time to go to sleep” over and over and over again.

Their bedtime edged closer to 8:00, which, again, defies exhaustion logic, since they no longer nap. She will sit in their room for an hour sometimes; sometime longer, sometimes less. This worked for a while, but then, just to make things even more challenging Madeline started waking up in the middle of the night and climbing into our bed. Nicole and I were too tired to stop her. She used to go through these sleeping-with-mommies stages every few months. It would last a week and then stop. But this time, it lasted and lasted and lasted. And has morphed from middle of the night bed trips to just starting out in our bed adventures. It has become the worst of both words: Last night Nicole sat with the girls for an hour and when she left, Avery was asleep and Maddie sort of asleep. And two minutes later, we had a little visitor in bed.

So why does this bother me? I went from having a two-hour break in the day and a few hours of evening time to myself to nothing. at. all. This affects every aspect of my life. I am so much more tired and have a hard time getting up at 4 to go the gym. I don’t have that two-hour afternoon window of time to make dinner and end up ordering in way too much. My patience level is lower than I would like it to be. And Nicole and I have no alone time together. None. Zip. Nada. I should point out that Nicole needs to go to bed herself around 9:00/9:30…. And, yes, it would be fantastic if she could push through her exhaustion and stay up to 11 so we could have time together, but she can’t. She has always been like this, and while it can be frustrating, I understand (most of the time). She physically cannot stay up, and there is no point in forcing it because the time will not be quality, alert time. If only the girls could sleep like her.

And, of course, lack of good sleeping habits is not healthy for the girls. While this is a concern, I must admit my desire to get them sleeping normally again is more for my own selfish reasons.

Please, please, please offer any advice and encouragement. I am especially interested in people who have experience with children sharing a room, like mine. I know the room sharing thing adds a special dynamic. We are thinking of going with the leading-the-child-back-to-bed silently method. But this will be tricky, since the girls share a room. And we don’t know if we should start now or wait until after or trip to Florida at the end of this week. And I am scared to think how long that will take? A week? A month? Longer?

Today, my plan was to run them into the ground by taking them to the playground not once but twice. Of course the weather may not cooperate.

Pictured above, the perpetrator of the nighttime nightmare situation. And Nicole and Avery walking in the back yard on Sunday. It looks like Jurassic woods! And behold, our baby robin. The eggs hatched and the we saw the baby birds this weekend. And also witnessed on of the baby bird’s first flight! File that under things we would never see in the city. And, a final note, the girls tend to sleep better in Massachusetts, since they spend most of the day outside playing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rainbows and Beauty and the Beauty of Rainbows

Are children a manifestation of our own beliefs and thoughts? Are they little oracles? Are they like the intuition that we all have but don’t always listen to? Call me crazy but sometimes I feel like my children are speaking to me in visual and verbal metaphors. Sometimes it is as if God or the universe or whatever you believe in is speaking to me through them.

Let me explain, so you don’t think I am crazy: Avery walks around singing “It’s a beautiful day” over and over and over again. Most of the this is a sort of background music for me, because toddlers are wont to talk from the minute they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. I couldn’t possibly process all of it and remain sane. But sometimes I hear it and it sinks in and I think, is she trying to tell me something? Is she sending me a message? Is she trying to tell me to stop getting upset that we are out of butter and I have to go to the store (minor issue) or to stop focusing on, say, a family member’s lack of positive relationship with me and my children (larger issue)? Is she sending me a message, telling me to get over it all and realize that this is indeed a beautiful life, because I guarantee I will think that on my death bed?

Then I have Maddie running around from room to room yelling “Light. I need light.” And then she turns on the lights. She is light, in a toddler package. She is light, in a metaphor package. Madeline actively seeks pleasure and looks for goodness. She has few tantrums and when she does, I just ask “Do you need a hug?” and she usually stops crying immediately and throws her arms around my neck. For her, bad moments can be interrupted and stopped with an extra dose of love. I hope that never stops. So when she is running around chanting “light,” is she reminding me to stand in the sun, to find my own light? To go where it is good and warm and not cold and bad? Because I can stand in that cold, dark place for a really long time. Like most people, I occasionally suffer from “The grass is greener” disease, but these little moments usually snap me right back into the present and remind me to love all that I have.

Flash forward to this morning: I took the girls to the playground after I dropped off the car to have its oxygen sensors replaced. As I was pushing Avery on the swings and trying to keep an eye on the ever wandering Madeline I looked up and saw that yet another shiny new building that has cropped up seemingly overnight. I had a split second when I thought “I need to live there.” I need to wake up in its European baths and modern kitchen and stainless steel and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. I need to walk barefoot on its cool marble floors. I need to watch storms roll in from the west from my apartment aerie. There, in that home, life would be perfect. In that home, we wouldn’t have toddler sleep issues or bad days or marital spats. The coffee would always be fresh and there would never be a crushed Cheerio on the floor. Life would be as flawless and shiny as the building’s exterior.

In case it isn’t obvious, lately I have been thinking about moving from our current apartment. I love our home, but I don’t like that there are cell towers on top of our building. And being on the top floor, I don’t like that we are literally under these controversial do-they-or-don’t-they towers. Do they cause illness and cancer and madness and mayhem? Some say yes and some say no. But a huge part of me thinks, why take the chance? If there is even a .000000001 percent chance of something negative happening, then I want to move.

So at night when I am sitting alone in the kitchen with my computer while everyone sleeps, I am on the real estate hunt. I look all over the city, but concentrate mainly on the west side. I look at new places, and pre-war places and duplexes and brownstones. I look in our price range and sometimes way, way, way above our price range. That $37 million dollar apartments (maintenance and taxes a mere $20K a month) in the Time Warner building is one that is a tad over our price range, but what a place. I am amazed that we can get 2,000 square feet in one area but 400 in another, for the same price. I am shocked by some of the condo fees. I download layouts and envision our lives within these line drawings. I am really good at that. And I thought about that this morning at the playground, staring at that new building. A life in that shiny, new building.

And this is where I tie together these two seemingly random topics in this blog: It’s a beautiful day, whether I am here or there or anywhere. And there is light anywhere and everywhere, if I choose to stand in it. There is goodness in the $37 million dollar palace and on the street and everything in between. It’s all about perspective, right? And somehow, these little children, who have been on this earth for less than three years, are able to remind me of that everyday. Their lessons don’t always stick with me, but today I guess I was listening.

Their birthday is in a couple of weeks and Madeline wants a rainbow cake. Fancy that, Maddie wanting a cake rainbow, which is essentially an edible arc of colored light caused by refraction of the sun's rays by rain. What is a rainbow if not the beauty after a storm?

And Avery, at the playground this morning, smiling and laughing as she splashed herself wet-to-the-thighs in puddles. Laughing and running to the swings, yelling "Swings, Momma, swings!" Her pure joy of just living eclipsed the annoyance of having to pay almost a thousand dollars to replace the car's oxygen filters and the aggravation of sleeping through my morning run and yes, even the imaginary perfect life in the stainless steel building.

Maddie and her light; Avery and her beauty. See what I mean?

Pictured above, clearly I need to work on self portraits. A couple of friends and I went up to Massachusetts alone for the weekend and had a great time. I got a hair cut spur of the moment, based on the terrible image of long stringy, hair staring back at me in the mirror of a changing room. This is the result, not that you can see it. Much better. And a bargain at just $12!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sweet Sweet Sweet Divine Thing

I coasted through most of my twenties not thinking about — let alone wanting — children. I buried my motherhood desires so deep down that I didn’t even know they were there. And then Nicole showed up in my life and her love was like a shovel that dug all those feeling (and others) out. Suddenly a life without children simply wouldn’t do. I can still remember the tentative conversations with Nicole about should we? Shouldn’t we? How complex will it be? (Decidedly complex, it turns out). We’re we ready?

We were. Parenthood, for me, was not about “this is the next logical step in life.” It was more about being so in love that I wanted to create more of it. Love building on love. I was ready to stop living the “what should we do this weekend?” life and begin taking turns changing diapers. I romanticized it so much, the whole having children thing. We green lighted Project Motherhood and I waited, not so patiently, for what I still considered a right and not a miracle. This was back when I thought I was the boss of me and that by simply stating “I’m ready” I would be handed a perfect little bundle of baby in 40 weeks. Ha.

Clearly this was not to be an easy or simple path but instead one scattered with miscarriages, false hopes and some of the worst emotional lows I have ever felt in my life. What started as a journey to build a family to share our love turned into me saying can we even be a family without children? Nicole never, ever said that to me, and sometimes I think of the torture I put her through for voicing those thoughts. Thank God I realized that yes, of course we could be a family, the two of us, and realized that I was speaking out of fear and frustration and entitlement, and not conviction. We would have a rewarding and happy life no matter what. But I had to drag myself to that jagged edge and look over it in order to see clearly. This is a common theme in my life, me and my cliff tendencies.

And then, on our last try, our last stab at motherhood, our “let’s just do this final IVF” I got pregnant. I could not wait to be a mother. I knew that it would be a giant responsibility and, with me being such a worrier, a giant exercise of letting go. But still, like I said before, I romanticized motherhood. I pictured long, rambling, sun dappled stroller walks in Central Park; shopping for tiny, adorable and overpriced clothes; blissful nights in bed with a tiny baby nestled between Nicole and I. My vision was so storybook perfect that I am pretty sure I even pictured one of those navy blue old-fashioned prams and silver rattles.

I didn’t picture bouncing on a yoga ball with a squirmy screaming baby in arms because I was tired of walking circles in the apartment. I didn’t picture repeating “sleep begets sleep” to anyone who would listen and talking for hours to mostly disinterested parties about sleep training children. I didn’t picture creating a special sign language with Nicole that indicated which state of drowsiness our children were at. I certainly didn’t picture a sleepy toddler showing up at our bedroom door in the middle of the night, clutching a blanket, book and toy. And yet somehow in those moments, that is when I feel most like a mother.

My life is nowhere near the childless vision I had when I was younger. But those visions, I realize, can be a sort of a caged path that can suck the joy out of life. Had I stuck to that vision, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am glad I veered. My life is better than I could ever imagine. And to think how I got here is mind boggling. My relationship with Nicole, the lynchpin, was born from a teensy drinking problem; from a mutual friend whose dedication to friendship with both of us created a sort of guarantee that our paths would continue to cross until we fell in love; from a messengered package of Madeleine cookies to Nicole’s office. I could not have planned it if I tried. It evolved in its own way, guided along by a series of choices I made.

So here I am, living the life I never imagined and happy in ways I never expected, celebrating a Hallmark holiday that I thought I never wanted to celebrate and then thought I would never be allowed to celebrate and now think I am lucky to celebrate.