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Undulating Perspective III: The Importance of Sleep

Hey, y’all.

As you know, I love May. It’s the best month.

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I’ve been feeling nostalgic about this tree we had in our front yard at the old house, as well as the apple and plum trees in the backyard. They smelled SO GOOD.
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But we do now have this lovely magnolia! It was blooming on my birthday.

This year, May has been tougher for our family than it usually is. I’m gonna tell you why for venting purposes, but you can skip this paragraph if you want. Blah blah: all four of us got a stomach bug at different times – brief but exhausting, especially because it was basically all night-time interruptions. AB and I also got a shared head cold that wiped out another few days (at least in terms of productivity). Before and in between those, we had quite a number of nights in which my same beloved daughter kept calling out in the night – either because she wanted help to go pee, or because she needed to pee but woke up with irrational iron-willed determination not to admit it, or because she dreamed about some insect or other in her bed, or because she needed her covers fixed. (We have discussed how she needs to fix her own covers, but when she forgets, I don’t know that until I’m already vertical.)

The result is that on Mother’s Day, I was in post-bug sleep almost the whole day, and was stupid-tired all over again on my birthday a few days later.

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(Here is the table set for my birthday! My parents and ALL my siblings showed up; dinner was made, dessert was perfect, there were flowers and artwork and so much cool stuff. I did love it… but I was definitely droopy.)

And then there were those couple days when it snowed. In my May. We won’t even discuss that.

This year, it’s also the month I needed to get record amounts of work done, due to two different absences from work (that I will be telling you about). However, I was so often in a state of exhaustion that I would think about all the work I had to do and feel simply incapable. Like parenting and teaching are too hard and I CAN’T HACK ‘EM. Like it’s all overwhelming and LIFE IS IMPOSSIBLE.

And then, I got some proper sleep, finally – a couple of good sleeps in a row. And literally, the sun came out, the birds sang, the flowers bloomed before my eyes. ‘Twas amazing. Suddenly I realized I could do life after all.

I read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive this past year, and she wrote a lot about how good sleep is crucial to human well-being. I was like, “Duh, of course it is,” because I’ve never been a rat-race participant, or possessed anything resembling a killer ambition that would motivate me to work 100-hour weeks at the expense of eating and sleeping.

But in actual fact, I’m less smart about sleep than I should be. I mean, it’s not my fault that the hundreds of interrupted nights of my early motherhood are still (intermittently) in progress. But I also have a habit that a lot of parents have: once the kids are finally in bed, I want to have that awake-time to myself, and I will stay up for it even if I’m tired. And then I miss my sleep window, just like a baby. I get a second wind of night-owlish energy that makes me lie awake once I do go to bed. I ignore, far more often than is advisable, my own tiredness – and I always regret it in the morning. It’s just dumb.

I know full well that I’m much better at everything when I’ve slept enough. What’s been particularly obvious to me recently is how much more patience I have after a decent sleep – and since both my jobs (the teaching and the parenting) require quite a bit of it, it’s no laughing matter if I’m running on fumes alone from my Tank o’ Patience. I’m bound to snap at my kids when they inevitably test me. My sense of humour leaves me. I’m just not that nice.

So now here I am on the Monday of Victoria Day long weekend, and the weather has been spectacular. Our whole neighbourhood smells like flowers. Sean had all three days off. Sean and I got to have a movie-date; there was river-side ice cream and park-playing; barbecue twice, and hanging out with sets of friends we don’t see enough. Basically perfect. And I’ve been able to see it all clearly, and really appreciate it, because of the sleep.

I’m really going to try harder to go to bed properly, like a good girl. It’s worth it.

***


 

 

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Unqualified

Loving but unqualified
Loving but unqualified

Lovely Di-hards, I know you know that feeling of being in over your head. I’ve had it many times over the years, lots of “what have I gotten myself into” moments. Teaching has provided more than a few. So has cooking at Camp.

Of course, the biggest moment like that, for many of us, is when you gaze at your newborn child and think, “They’re just gonna let me HAVE this? What makes them think I’m qualified?” (I don’t know who “they” are – that’s part of the problem.) And that feeling never completely dissipates. Especially when my kids are sick or won’t sleep or behave badly, I feel qualms about my ability to do a good job at this most important vocation.

On Sunday night, I had an experience that took my qualms to a whole new level.

E woke up shortly before midnight, crying. (This is not the norm, but it’s not rare either.) As is often the case, he wasn’t quite sure what the trouble was. Usually, he is not fully awake, and drifts back to sleep after a few minutes, having been reassured by his parent’s voice.

This time, he was awake. It wasn’t his blankets needing to be re-tucked (that one’s a classic). We determined that he wasn’t in physical pain, that (as far as he could remember) he hadn’t had a bad dream, he wasn’t thirsty, and he wasn’t sad or scared or frustrated. I got him up to pee, just in case, but it didn’t help. The biggest source of upset seemed to be that he didn’t know why he was upset.

I recalled a conversation we had recently with some dear friends of ours with kids similar ages to ours – and very familiar issues when it comes to meltdowns and obstinacy, etc. They have experienced success based on the advice of a system called “hand-in-hand parenting”. They told us one of the theories: that when kids flip out about seemingly unimportant things, it’s usually because there’s something else bothering them – possibly something they’re only partially aware of themselves. They sometimes, like adults, just need a good cry, and we as parents can take those flipping out opportunities to encourage them to get things off their chests. You just let them bang their heads against the (non-physical) boundaries you set up, holding/supporting them while they do, so that they can work through it themselves. Sometimes, big underlying things come to light and relieve the child of some burden.

We’ve been through lots and lots and lots of crying with this little guy in recent times, and I know for sure that many times I’ve ended up invalidating his concerns because I just CAN’T LISTEN TO ANY MORE CRYING. I take him to his room or try to shut him down, tell him that THAT IS ENOUGH. But what if it’s not enough, for him, because he never gets to the bottom of it?

So I thought I’d try this new idea. I gave him a big long hug. I said, “Sweetie, you don’t have to explain why you’re upset. Sometimes we just are. There are lots of things that can make us upset in life, and sometimes we just need to let them out.” I likened the situation to the enormous snowdrifts outside our house – they got so big not all at once, but through many many snowfalls and shovelling sessions. I mentioned some things that are hard about life – like at recess when kids sometimes aren’t nice, and at home when his sister bugs him or when his parents raise their voices at him. He agreed that those things are upsetting.

I was tempted to bring up Sebastian at this point. I know this year E is understanding more and more about the baby brother he lost, and I want to validate his grief too… but I knew I was in no shape to deal with either of our reactions to that one.

By this time, he was back in his bunk, and I thought maybe we were making some progress. The crying seemed to be abating – he’d shifted into tearless moaning (or I might just call it “fake crying”). I was really hoping for the big sigh and the calming moment, where I’d know he had let some stuff go… but it didn’t come.

Then he asked to come and sleep in the bottom bunk with me. Looking back, I probably should have said yes, even though I wouldn’t have slept much. Instead, I explained that we both needed to get good sleep and it was very very late (close to 1 a.m.). I offered to come up to his bunk and lie down with him for a little bit. That calmed him temporarily, but when I went back to the bottom bunk, he got upset again.

The next hour is fuzzier in my head, because I was getting very tired and my patience was ebbing. I offered to tell him a “magic dream”*, and I think I did a pretty good job considering how tired I was. (This one was about his Christmas fairies and how we met them on a walk in the woods. Yep, a little bit of product placement on behalf of Mrs. Claus.)

But he was only momentarily distracted. When the dream ended, we discovered that he was still upset. By this time, he had identified that he was “sad”. (It’s possible that when I was trying to identify reasons before, I was just upsetting him more.) There were now many small problems accompanying that, like he didn’t know how he could close his eyes when he was this sad, and he didn’t know where to put his arm so it would be comfortable, and his foot was out of the blankets and getting cold, and I was starting to feel like I’d somehow accomplished the opposite of what I’d hoped.

And I needed to work the next day, and I needed to not be a basket case.

So in the end, I ended up doing what I didn’t mean to do: asking him to shut it down. (Whatever it was.) Gently, but still.  I hoped that I’d validated some feelings or other… I tried to remain sympathetic the whole time… but MAN. He just kept talking about how sad he was.

That’s when my Major Qualms reared their heads. Suddenly my mind was filled with fears about depression, anxiety, anger issues, suicidal tendencies – things I am not at all trained to deal with in my son (or anyone else). I realized, more clearly than ever before, that this kid is infinitely complex and unpredictable – as are all humans – and what in God’s name qualifies me to bring one – or TWO – of those home and try to RAISE them???

It’s like getting your first vehicle and realizing that not only is it stick shift, but it’s also actually a hybrid double-decker bus with a chopper attachment. (They have those, right?) NO IDEA what to do with it if something goes wrong.

Shouldn’t I know what to do if something goes wrong?

In my mind, the bottom line is I’m his mom. I signed up to be the one who knows what to do. At the very least, I’m supposed to know the best way to show love.

I think that’s it, right there. Showing love should be a no-brainer, and yet it isn’t – not always. As I process all this, more and more questions (re-)surface:

When is tough love appropriate, if ever?

Is love a reward? Should it be?

Can you spoil a child with love?

Which things show love, and which just show capitulation (or other things I do when I’m too tired to be disciplined)?

I know I’ve justified losing my parental temper in the past with the idea that I’m human, and my children need to know I have limits. I do think this is true; I still remember key moments with my own parents when I came to understand that they were people with feelings. It’s important.

But that excuse is way too flexible. One could easily harm a child under the auspices of “being human.”

The things that loom large in the dark at 2 a.m. when your child is crying. For both of our sakes, I probably should have turned on the light.

The upshot of all this is that he eventually petered out just after 2 a.m. with me coaching him on eye-closing and remembering to be still and breathing. AND, he had lost more than two hours of sleep. Which means the next day he was unable to cope with anything and honestly looked and acted like he’d been drugged. (We did not send him to school.)

So lessons. Lessons… ummm… Read all the literature before taking action, perhaps. Don’t try the boundary-head-banging thing for the first time ever at midnight on a Sunday. Turn on the light. Do the cuddles, for real.

I’ll keep you posted the next time we try head-banging. During daylight hours.

***

*Magic dream = unfinished impromptu story in which the protagonist is the listener. My dad used to give us magic dreams when we were kids; they were fantastical and yet soporific. The idea was to listen, and then go to sleep and dream the rest of the story. Auntie Em introduced E to the concept and he LOVES them. Emi and I both do them in our father’s style, but Sean’s tend to be epic tales of heroism featuring Roy the Super Chicken – not sleep-inducing but much beloved.

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A Little Night Weaning

November was obviously a banner month for Barely Blogging At All. Sigh.

I’d like to say that it’s because my other project was progressing in leaps and bounds, but I’m afraid that’s not the case either.

What there HAS been: some serious sleep issues – for all of us. Especially me.

So today, I’m thrilled to present “A Little Night Weaning.” Or, as Mozart would have described it, Eine kleine Nachtentwöhnen. I assume. (Konstanze must have done her share of breastfeeding the kids she had with Wolfi.)

Performers:

Daddy – dedicated father, works at 7 a.m. on weekdays, naps at the drop of a hat.

Mommy – dedicated breastfeeding mother, teaches part-time, has trouble napping.

E – four-year-old son, attends full-time kindergarten, never naps.

Baby AB – fourteen-month-old daughter, stubborn + screechy type, down to one nap/day.

The Scene:

For the past year, Daddy and E have shared a room to sleep, and Mommy and AB have shared a different room to sleep, since Baby AB is a frequent and unquiet waker. (When dissatisfied with the situation, she escalates to barking screams like a brawling baby mountain lion.)

Mommy has been pleasantly surprised by how much easier sleep deprivation has been with the second child (as if her body just resigned itself to the exhaustion), but after more than a year of two to six wake-ups per night, she is reaching the end of her… you know, whatever you get to the end of. She has tried to be disciplined and not nurse AB every single time she wakes up… but mostly she’s too tired to be that organized. And there’s that screaming thing. Recently AB’s been not only waking but nursing forever or climbing up on Mommy’s chest instead of dropping back to sleep… so yeah. There is much sleep loss.

All is not perfect in the other room either; E sleeps well most of the time, but recently has been awaking at 5:30 when Daddy gets up, and feeling anxious about him leaving. Hence, he ends up in Mommy’s bed. Mommy tries hard to make sure both children get some more sleep at this point without suffocating her – but things don’t always go as hoped.

The Opus

First Movement – Thursday Morning: Adagio fatiguo furioso*

It’s been one of those nights/mornings. Nobody has had enough sleep. E wakes up grumpy and is crying within minutes about some inconsequential thing. Mommy gets up with less than zero patience, and shortly thereafter, despite her lethargy, yells at her firstborn son in a way that horrifies all parties. She then apologizes, feeling like the worst parent ever.

That evening, she discusses the situation with Daddy.

Daddy says, Honey, it’s time. WE ARE DOING THIS. He brooks no argument whatsoever.

Daddy has offered many times to trade places with Mommy and bear the brunt of the mountain lion’s fury so that Mommy can sleep. Mommy has always found reasons why this isn’t a good idea: AB has a cold right now and needs nursing to clear her passages; Mommy wouldn’t sleep anyway because she’d still hear AB with her bionic Mommy hearing so then BOTH parents would be overtired grumps; Daddy works with heavy machinery during the day AND PLUS is a bit of a wuss about tiredness, so Mommy is better off taking the sleep hit….

The crux of it is, Mommy knows that her baby no longer needs food at night, but she also adores nursing and sleeping with her child. But surely Baby AB needs proper extended sleep too. The “still worth it” refrain has worn thin enough to see through.

Second Movement – Thursday Night: Rondo agitato lacrimoso

Mommy gives Baby AB a last sleep-feed before going to bed – in the bunk below her son – at a reasonable hour, with earplugs in (as ordered by Daddy). Unfortunately, Mommy never sleeps well the first night in a new bed, and the anxiety of the first night ever apart from her daughter does not help. The mattress seems to eat her. The unfamiliar pillow and the remnants of her strep throat threaten to choke her. The silence of the earplugs makes her feel she is drowning. She is afraid she will hear crying, and afraid she won’t.

Finally, at 12:30 a.m., she removes the earplugs and is able to breathe somewhat. There are scraps of fitful dozing until about 2 a.m., when she hears (faintly, down the hall and through two closed doors) the crying she feared. And soon, the scream-barking, then the semi-hysterical sob-gasping. She texts Daddy to let him know she is awake anyway, if he wants to switch. Hoping desperately he will say yes.

He texts back to assure her that everything’s fine.

She continues to listen to the howling in nightmarish darkness, as her son sleeps peacefully above her. She sheds tears. She wrings her hands to keep from texting again. Then, just as she is about to give in – the crying abates, and stops altogether.

Wow. He did it.

Finally, there is some actual sleep.

At 5:30 a.m., Daddy summons Mommy to give Baby AB her early-morning feed while he gets ready for work. Mommy is beyond relieved to go in and stop the crying with her nipple, and have a snuggle before the day begins. E sleeps on.

~ Intermezzo ~

Later in the morning, Mommy sends Daddy a concerned text, wondering how he’s holding up at work. He replies, “I’m doing surprisingly well. Can’t wait for round 2!”

Mommy is more than a little surprised. And impressed.

Third Movement – Friday Night: Menuetto moderato stressando

This time, after AB’s last feed, Mommy goes to bed without earplugs, and with a new sense of faith in Daddy. She falls asleep much sooner. A couple of times, she wakes and hears crying, but it is short-lived.

At 5:20 a.m., she awakens to crying and figures it’s time for the feed. Daddy tells her that Baby AB did much better than the night before – none of the wake-ups involved the mountain lion.

E sleeps through to 7:30.

Fourth Movement – Saturday Night: Allegretto poco optimistico

Mommy awakens a few times, but does not hear crying, so goes back to sleep. At 5:30 a.m., she awakens spontaneously and looks at her phone. Daddy had texted her to come in a whole hour earlier, but she was sleeping too soundly to hear the buzz. She arrives at the bedroom and there is no crying: AB had rooted for food but gone back to sleep anyway. Daddy says she did almost as well as the night before.

When AB surfaces and realizes it’s time for a snack, she is downright jolly.

Daddy seems to be enjoying the bonding with his little girl, interrupted sleep notwithstanding. Mommy is starting to feel… rested.     !!!

Fifth Movement – Sunday Night: Largo giocoso con amore

Mommy goes to bed without administering the extra night-feed, since Baby AB is sleeping so peacefully at the time. She falls asleep without difficulty.

She awakens almost seven hours later, when Daddy phones for the morning feed. She does a double-take: SHE HAS SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH. It is the first time she has slept a solid stretch this long in more months than she cares to count. Daddy congratulates her with a hug.

Folks, it’s a WHOLE NEW WORLD.

Obviously, Mommy should have said yes to this plan long ago. She feels like shouting from the rooftops, “I Just Had Sleep!”**

And Baby AB seems to be learning. Her naps are solid.

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Nappin’ with the giant bear. She abandoned her little bed to get herself to that pillow… I guess she likes memory foam.

Daddy, you’re Mommy’s hero. xoxoxox

***

*I’m aware that my Italian terms are baloney and make no musical sense. In this case. Probably because there was no music involved.

**Oh yes she did. (Allude to Mozart and The Lonely Island in the same blog post.)

P.S.: For the record, there has been no evidence of wussiness about the fatigue on Daddy’s part.


 

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Undulating Perspective II: Blurry?

Odd how my last post was about climbing ladders out of dark places… and then this week I’ve felt barely able to climb a very short ladder.

I’ve just gone back and re-read a post from almost four years ago, in which I discussed how widely varied is my outlook on life, depending on several (mostly physical) factors. It was both comforting and kinda sad to read my own words and realize that my present self seems to be in the exact same mental place as my past self. Except I rather think that my fluctuations are a bit more intense these days… but maybe it’s just that I don’t remember clearly. I know I tend to look back on E’s babyhood with rose-coloured glasses, so maybe it was actually just as hard.

Here are some things contributing to my ladder-slipping:

  • Realizing that, for the past five years (plus a month or two), I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding (at night), except for a six-month window when I was intensely grieving. So basically, I don’t remember what it’s like to have proper energy levels.
  • We are passing around a cold – it’s been well over a month now – and I’m not sure how we’re ever supposed to kick it without KIBOSHING ALL BABY KISSES, which is simply not gonna happen.
  • It gets me down when my house is a mess… but I have this little person in my house who believes it’s her sworn duty to un-tidy everything I tidy up – usually simultaneously. She is a champion meddler/messer-upper. And her brother willingly collaborates, when he’s home.
  • Work has been tough this week. I came home one day and confessed to Sean that it was one of those days where I ask myself Why did I pick this job again? I said, “It was like pulling teeth the whole time,” to which he mischievously responded, “Imagine if you COULD pull their teeth?” That did provide a good chuckle. (“Come here, kid. You’ve just lost another molar.”)
  • Baby AB has sharp teeth that can put serious dents in your finger, if you let ’em. Now imagine that on your nipple. NOT. COOL. E had a short stint of nipple-biting, but always let go when I yelled. This one just hangs on.
  • As you may have surmised above, Baby AB and I are still not sleeping through the night. This is undoubtedly the main cause of my lack of optimism. We are working on it, and I’m sure eventually all will be well. But in the meantime… sigh.
  • E is still in his dramatic phase (or what we desperately pray is a phase). It seems he’s pretty sweet at school most of the time, but at home he has a tendency to use his nasty voice and/or whiny voice and/or horrible screeches often enough that Sean and I are both losing patience way more often than we’d like. With two kids at the screamy stage together, it’s a bit much.
  • It seems I don’t get anything done. (Case in point: how long since my last blog post?) I have no idea how other people have consistently clean kitchens or vacuumed floors or calm inboxes or pre-planned meals or reliable workout schedules. (If I owe you a phone call or email or letter or playdate or a visit… I’m sorry!)

When I get to feeling clobbered by life, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of people who have it worse, by all kinds of degrees. My colleagues who have much tougher student situations than mine. My friends with really upsetting family crises. Parents of very sick children, and children of very sick parents. Moms who live in war zones and have to protect their children from bombs. It does put things in perspective – I mean seriously, what do I have to cry about? – but also makes me feel like a wuss. Shouldn’t I be better at my own (simple, easy) life by now?

What does help is to remind myself that I’ll probably feel better very soon, because all kinds of things can turn the day (or at least the hour) around. For example:

  • My Hubbibi has a new job that, although it’s not his dream job yet, is far less stressful than his last one.
  • Two new babies among my friends in the last two weeks! Yay!
  • Last Sunday I participated in my first-ever blogger brunch, and got to hang out (sans children!) with five smart, creative, inspiring ladies-who-blog, only one of whom I already knew, but all of whom it was a true pleasure to meet. (They have the kind of gorgeous blogs that I will forever pin, knowing I shall never achieve that level of pinnability in my own blog. I’ve already mentioned bear & lion; please also meet Heart, Heather, Heather in Heels, Lovely & Chic, and Rustic Retrievals.)
  • Yesterday I gave my Grade 5/6 class a (Hunger-Games-themed) activity booklet I’d made, and they were actually MORE excited than I’d expected. It felt like a coup, seeing them rush to finish their French questions so that they could do… more French!
  • That nipple-biting, mess-making baby is also darn cute and funny. She makes us laugh a LOT.
  • I’d still rather E be sweet at school and a turkey at home, rather than the opposite.
  • I know that if I say I’m having a rough time, there are many people in my life who immediately offer moral support. (For example, both my sisters detected the sub-text of stress in my texts this week and expressed their concern. I appreciate it even when I don’t feel I have time to talk about it.)
  • Even with the exhaustion, sometimes it’s stunningly clear in my heart that everything is okay, and that I’m incredibly fortunate. For example, when my kids play together. Too cute for pessimism.

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LOVE.

I’m fine, y’all. Thanks for letting me vent. <3 <3 <3

***


 

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Eight Random Things with Brilliant Segues

{Actually, I make no guarantees that the segues will be brilliant. But whatever.}

My last post was a downer, I know. But now! I am able to lighten up for the following reasons:

1. I have awesome friends/family/Di-hards. THANK YOU for your sympathy and support, and offers of help. I hope I haven’t worried you that I would become a baby-shaker or something. The other day, as I was out for a friend’s birthday dinner (sans children!) a small group of my friends informed me that they will be taking both my kids away for a large chunk of next Saturday, in order for me to have an epic nap. How blissful. (I love you girls. Thank you. I wish every frustrated mom had friends like you.)

Speaking of support…

2.  My wonderful Hubbibi, who has been sharing E’s room so they could both get relatively uninterrupted sleep, offered to switch children with me for a while and do the tough part of getting Baby A back to sleep snackless. On the one hand, I thought gleefully about sleeping. On the other hand, I started immediately (prematurely) pining for my snuggly baby girl. I decided to get tough with her, and it seems to be helping (knock firmly on real wood even though I’m not superstitious). For the last four nights, I have been not feeding her until I determine it’s time. She complains loudly but doesn’t usually cry for real, and she mostly goes back to sleep without much intervention.

By the second night, she’d remembered how to do 4.5 hours in a row. It makes me think everything’s going to be fine if I can just stay the course. I AM MOTIVATED.

Speaking of my girlie munchkin…

3. She has had her first solids! About three weeks ago, we tried the first rice cereal. It was earlier than we expected to start (4.75 months), but all the look-fors were there, especially her watching us eat like a hawk. (Not that we eat like hawks. Boy, that’d be weird.) She has gotten better at swallowing the cereal, and gets pretty excited about it. Also, in the spirit of Baby-Led Weaning (thanks, MHM!) we sometimes give her a piece of a veggie that’s long and firm enough for her to explore and practice on without danger of choking.

Baby + practice veggies = CUTE. Turns out she’s a cucumber monster, like her brother.

Baby with cucumber
Yum.

Speaking of her brother…

4. E had his first visit to kindergarten! Not at the same school he’ll attend in September, but still. We went with Baby A to my school for a visit during the lunch break, and E’s pal Mr. A invited him back to his classroom while the baby was schmoozing with my other colleagues. When the bell rang to end recess, it took a few minutes for me to get back to the classroom, and when I arrived, there was E, playing on the carpet with the other kids and looking like he belonged there. As Mr. A himself commented, he’s totally ready for school.

comedy and tragedy masks
How you feel when you think about your firstborn baby starting school.

Speaking of happy-sad things…

5. I’ve just finished watching the whole series of Being Erica on Netflix, and now I’m all sad it’s over. Like, I totally cried during the series finale. It was a damn good show (about a girl who gets a therapist who can send her back in time to fix her regrets). Thumbs up on the acting, the concept, the blossoming storylines, the character development, the era-appropriate soundtrack and wardrobe choices, the gay wedding, the ultra-Canadianness, and a whole series of very cute guys. The best one is Irish.

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Erica and Adam

Speaking of cute guys…

6. I discovered something cool! Remember this guy?

Jean Dujardin_the artist
That’s one slick dude.

It’s Jean Dujardin, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 2012, for his speechless performance in The Artist. After this year’s Oscar party, whilst leafing through my Oscar magazine, I saw a photo of him, much like this one, from last year’s red carpet:

Jean-Dujardin-and-Alexandra-Lamy
Jean et Alex

And the light bulb went on! Because of the woman he’s with, I realized that that guy is this guy:

un gars une fille france dujardin lamy
Youppi!

No wonder he looked familiar. The woman is his wife, Alexandra Lamy. She looks exactly the same as she did twelve years ago, when I lived in France and watched Un gars, une fille whenever I was home in the evenings. Episodes were less than ten minutes long, just little sketches of life as a young couple, and they were super-cute and funny. (The concept actually originated in Quebec, and now there are versions in many countries.) France loved “Chouchou” and “Loulou”, but at the time the two actors were each committed to other people. So this is how I found out that after I left France, they actually fell in love with each other and ended up married! HOW ADORABLE IS THAT. (Or home-wrecky, depending on how you look at it.)

Speaking of stuff that’s cool (I know, my segues are becoming seriously mediocre)…

7. I think it’s possible that I AM COOL.

Hahaha. No, just kidding, but I did carry on an uber-hip conversation with two male baristas (whose combined age was probably about five years more than mine) at Second Cup today. They were talking about a certain silly viral video (below) and singing the riff from the song, but didn’t know its name. Since I was a kid in the 80s, I knew it to be “Careless Whisper”; I fully remember a time when it was new music, sharing the airwaves with “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, “Hip to Be Square”, and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”. I mentioned that George Michael’s video is legendary-level 80s drama, so they told me about the sexy sax man.

And then, we totally commiserated over the dangers of watching YouTube late at night. Boo-yah. I can converse relevantly (?) with 20-year-olds.

Speaking of me thinking I’m cool enough to talk to people…

8. I have been accepted to speak at a local Ignite event in April.

From the website: “Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.”

A good friend of mine is on the organizing committee and suggested I submit an idea (thanks, L!) and… I did. (I will tell you about my idea later.) And they said I can come! And now I’m rather freaked out! Because if you watch Ignite talks on the web, you find that these people talk without notes. Yep. Talking without notes to a classful of students is not the same as talking without notes to a whole audience of adults plus whoever’s watching the live stream.

But I figure it’s good to do scary stuff, right? They say you should “do something that scares you every day”, but I figure about twice a year is good enough.

So there’s my wee list. Life is not so bad.

Life’s an easy road, with people beside you to share the load.

-Bret McKenzie

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A (mostly) Depressing Post.

I should probably not be writing right now. In my present state, it’s like drinking and dialling: I might use inappropriate honesty.

For the last many weeks (I haven’t been counting because that just makes it worse) Baby A, and therefore I, have been sleeping in increments no longer than 2 hours, and often 90 minutes or less. Well, there have been a few times we’ve slept three or four hours in a row. (One time I got all excited because I thought we’d slept for five hours, but then I remembered we’d switched to daylight savings in the night and my phone had automatically reset. Only four hours.)

Of course I mostly blame myself for this. We bed-share, and the majority of the time when she wakes up, I don’t have the presence of mind (or the energy) to do much besides nurse her back to sleep, which means I’m assiduously teaching her NOT to put herself to sleep, right?

With that in mind, I’ve been doing some sleep training with Baby A (using the Baby Whisperer’s Pick-Up-Put-Down, because I do not have what it takes for crying it out), and she has been able to put herself to sleep for a nap several times this week, without crying. She is learning more swiftly than I expected.

Last night I thought I had all my ducks in a row. She had napped well during the day, including an evening catnap (which she needs in order not to get overstimulated); she was in a good mood all day, not fussy; I remembered to give her Tylenol in case of teething pain; and I went to bed at the same time she did, so in case she had a long stretch of sleep first, I would get to benefit from it.

She was up less than an hour later. Sean and I spent half an hour or more trying to get her back to sleep – and succeeding, but she would wake up minutes after being put down. I finally caved and nursed her to sleep… and she woke up twenty minutes later. And then we repeated that scenario. Then we tried again, and nursing didn’t soothe her at all. I finally patted her to sleep sitting up, and she slept for about 90 minutes. Next round we got maybe a hundred. At 5:20 a.m., she awoke wailing and nothing I did helped until I turned on the lamp to give her some more Tylenol. The effect of the lamp (which I’ve covered with a starry receiving blanket to make it dimmer, and I guess she thinks it’s pretty) was instant: suddenly she was smiling and sweet and jokey.

Honestly, I was like, WTF, baby??? I was glad she seemed happy, but in that case, what’s wrong? Can babies have bad dreams? Could that have been it? It didn’t seem to be gas (she got very mad when I tried my standard solutions for that) and teething can’t be the whole issue. Obviously not hungry. Diaper was fine, I checked. She was up and babbling until finally falling asleep (nursing) at 6:30. Then we had another 90 minutes of sleep, etc.

So confused.

I feel that I have been dealing better with interrupted sleep this time around than I did with E. This was especially true earlier on, when A was only waking up once or twice a night. (PIECE O’ CAKE.) I felt like an old hand at this, someone who’s adapted. Even with four or five wakeups in a night, I can usually function quite reasonably the next day.

But it’s now been well over a month of the frequent wakeups, and this long-term thing is getting to me. I thought it would be temporary, since A was achieving 5- and 6- hour stretches before she was three months. But now those are a distant memory. (Just to get a bit mawkish on ya.)

I know lots of moms who have pulled through much worse than this with their babies. I shouldn’t complain. But look, here I am complaining.

I guess it’s that I am recharged just enough to keep going, but there is some base level of life-juice in me that is depleting, without getting topped up. I don’t like the kind of person it makes me.

It makes me want to quit and just walk away from poor E, sometimes multiple times in a day (when he melts down, when he ignores what I’m telling him, when he deliberately defies me, or when he decides it’s a good idea to take all the books from his bookshelf and put them on his bedroom floor). I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of what he needs right now.

It puts the tears right up at the top of my throat so that stupid little things make me cry, or almost.

It means that when I get frustrated, I immediately want to throw breakable things against a wall, really hard. (I never do, though.)

It paralyzes my writing, so that when I have thoughts jumbling in my head looking for an outlet, when I most need a “flow experience“, I can’t focus myself to sit down and write.

It takes the meaning out of things, so that I want to say SCREW IT and just give up on stuff I otherwise care about, like my blog, the dishes, spending time outside, getting errands done, socializing… And any larger projects seem laughably unattainable.

Please don’t be alarmed. I don’t sound or even feel like this most of the time. I’ve just noticed that my patience is wearing thin, and last night was like a double-dose. I tried to nap with A (she’s still napping) while E is at the babysitter, but couldn’t do it. Too much crap in my brain. So I figured it was time for me to write something, already.

Since I’m trying to catharsify here, I might as well write about Sebastian. He’s been in my mind a lot these days, and I won’t deny that it’s off-throwing to be going about my day and suddenly remember, with breathtaking vividness, the sound of an empty Doppler, or the pain of him leaving my arms, or crying at the funeral home. For some reason, these memories are sharper and realer than usual lately.

It’s more complicated, and confusing in a deep place I can’t fully access, to grieve for Sebastian, to miss him, now that Baby A is here. Her unique, adorable baby-self would not be alive if he had survived.

Friends of ours lost their firstborn, a son, at about the age Baby A is now (about the same time of year, too), to a congenital heart defect. I think of that sweet baby and wonder how anyone endures the pain of losing a five-month-old. Five months is more than enough time to be head-over-heels in love with every teeny part of your child. It’s an absolutely gorgeous age. (Not that six weeks or seventeen months or three-and-three-quarters years is any less gorgeous.)

The other day, Sean asked me jokingly if we should trade in this wakeuppy baby for one that sleeps better. And though I laughed, it was a good reminder that whatever the side effects, I would go virtually sleepless if I had to, to keep my little girl.

She really is totally awesome in basically all ways – except the sleeping thing.

Here she is, workin’ on her sitting up.
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Fun times.

 Wow. See, that helped a lot, just unloading some words on y’all. Hope you don’t mind.

Now, if we can just get some better sleep than last night, I’ll be thrilled.

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The Trick Revealed! + other stuff that’s not as fun

Um, yeah. It’s 10:19 p.m. as I start this post. I’m not going to be writing anything awesome today.

I spent the hour between 9 and 10 (plus a few extra minutes on either end) trying to put my baby to bed. Somehow, in that time, she went from totally calm, a little bit yawny, and even content in her swaddle, to all upset and loud. Even though I thought through everything I did, and tried to do only the things that would encourage sleep. (I didn’t even blare any Van Halen, give her spinny rides, finger-feed her coffee, tickle her, or lecture her about reefer madness.)

Now she’s falling asleep on Daddy in her babyTrekker… again. And Daddy’s trying to say the right thing to make me feel like I haven’t just accomplished a perfect mom-fail. La la la, I know that being hard on myself doesn’t do anyone any favours… but whatever. Tell that to the sleepy mom-brain.

Today was our first day without Sean in a long time. For the last four weeks, he’s been in a hiatus between his college course, training to be a machinist, and his work placement. It’s been amazing, having him home to make sure E is getting lots of attention while I focus on settling in with the baby.

Nonetheless, today I feel like we did pretty well on our own (I was pretty proud of the way I sliced cheese one-handed)… although I realized how big of a production it can be just to get around the corner to the park with both of my kids at once.

And you should see my living room. It is covered in laundry. (At least it’s clean laundry.)

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Actually, Sean sorta does, so I make him do it.

Fold three items, hear daughter make Bog of Eternal Stench noise to fill diaper, change daughter’s diaper. Fold two items, realize it’s lunchtime, make son’s lunch before dropping blood glucose levels turn him into whiny drama puddle. Fold three items, daughter fusses, spend 20-30 minutes getting her all bedded down. Play cars with son, despite nagging feeling… what was I doing again?

ANYWAY! For those of you who read my Totally Odd Post yesterday, well, thanks for reading! Some of you – mostly related to me – figured out what the trick was. But I don’t think it was as obvious as I thought it would be while I was writing it – my own Hubbibi, who is quite cerebrally well-endowed, needed a giant hint to get the trick, which is simply this: it’s a post with no Es.

How about that, folks??

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