I Didn’t Post This On September 11

I did not blog about September 11 on September 11.  I did not post anything on Facebook about it.  In fact, the only people I talked to about it on 9/11 at all were Oliver, who asked questions after school, and my big sister, who relives it every year, remembering how she watched it all happen from a rooftop in New York.

It isn’t that I don’t think it’s important.  I certainly did not forget.  We will never forget.  Nobody in the United States who was alive will forget.  We all know exactly where we were when we heard it, when we saw it, when we turned on the television and saw the towers collapsing.

One of the traditions since 9/11 happened has been to share, on the anniversary, what you were doing when you heard.  Where you were.  Who you were with.  Who you were worried about.  How it affected you.  Inasmuch as you look forward to anniversaries of tragedies, I look forward to these memories as they are shared.  But I do not reciprocate.

It isn’t that I was terribly affected by 9/11.  By all accounts, aside from the way that all Americans were affected by it, it didn’t change much about my life at all.  My experience was not unique.  I cried—but the whole nation cried.  I was filled with pride for all of the heroes of the days and weeks to follow—as we all were, and are.  My heart swelled when I heard Lee Greenwood’s “Proud To Be An American”, and still does.  The Star Spangled Banner suddenly seemed more meaningful to me, a newly naturalized American citizen, immigrant to this country.  And I still cry every single time I hear Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning”.

But I also remember the good that came from 9/11.  All of a sudden, for the first time in my life at least, we were one nation, under God, indivisible.  The good of people shone through, and our great country was not destroyed by tragedy.  We were strengthened.  We were united.  We were Americans, and it suddenly meant so much more to be an American than it had before.

My husband, the devilishly handsome Kullervo, joined the Army National Guard after 9/11… but not right after, and not as a direct result of it, although to say that it had no bearing on the decision would be disingenuous of me.  He joined right before we invaded Iraq, and we were fortunate in that we did not have to deal with the atrocities of war which so many of our friends have endured.

So, like all Americans, the events of September 11 affected our family.  But, through being a military wife and getting to know an amazing group of women, I have seen how 9/11 has affected their families.  I have heard the stories of the PTSD from these wars we’ve been in since 9/11 that has changed marriages, hurt families, and resulted in suicides.  I have friends who lost loved ones, on that day and in the days, weeks, and years to follow.

There are people with stories that turn my stomach and hurt my heart.  Their stories need to be told.  Their stories are the ones I want to remember and never forget.  My heart cries for those who were lost, both during and afterwards, both through death and through emotional turmoil.  My prayers went out to our nation, bleeding and suffering, and still do.  My prayers still go out to the awful people in the world who are taught to hate instead of to love, who are taught to do evil.  I don’t excuse them the evil things they do, but I pray for them, because Jesus told me to.

So, the reason I don’t share my story every year is not that I don’t remember.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I don’t think it isn’t important.  I turn inward, and light a candle for the memories, and pray to God for sense to made from the senseless, for beauty to rise from the ashes, for joy to replace the heartache.

Don’t Be A Crybaby

So, the general response that I get when I tell people (and let’s face it—I’m a big complainer, so I tell everyone I see, even strangers on the street) about Hank’s propensity for insomnia falls into one of two camps.  Either I should let him cry it out, and it’ll suck for a few days and then be done… or clearly there is something wrong, like he is sick or teething or dying or I’m a bad mother, so I should go to him and we should hug it out.

I’ve read The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and I love it.  I love the idea of gently putting my baby to sleep and having him know how to just go to sleep.  And, when I put him down at night, that works.  I follow our routine, and I put him in his crib, rub his back a few times, tell him I love him, and I leave.  He generally rolls over and goes straight to sleep.  It’s absolutely lovely.

But that doesn’t help me two hours later when he wakes up crying.  If I go in to him, he wants to nurse.  Which I might be happy to do, except then two hours later he wakes again and wants to nurse.  And he is nine months old, 23 pounds, and I’m not old enough to have the kind of saggy boobs that will surely result from overfeeding a tired baby.  If I don’t nurse him when he wakes up, he just cries and gets more and more worked up.  Kullervo is able to go to him and calm him down… sometimes… and it takes a really long time, and still doesn’t last for more than a couple of hours.

The poor thing just doesn’t know how to fall asleep.

I started to suspect that I would have to let him cry it out.  To validate this idea, I called the one person I was certain would tell me to just let him cry—my mother.  When Hank was a month old and she came to visit, she told me to put him on a schedule, that he didn’t need to eat on demand, he should eat every four hours, and if it hadn’t been four hours, he should cry until it was.  (I didn’t follow this advice.)  So I was certain she would tell me Hank should cry it out.

So, of course, she didn’t.  She said that if he’s crying a lot at night, he must be sick or teething.

I really don’t think he is though.  He’s not crying in pain… he’s fussing.  And when I go to him, it doesn’t help.  What helps is going back to sleep.  He won’t take a pacifier.  He won’t suck his thumb or fingers.  And he really enjoys sitting himself up, so if I lie him down, he just pushes his little body back up so he can holler at me some more, with accusing eyes about the fact that I won’t just help him fall asleep.

I have spent a lot of hours considering crying it out.  So many people recommend it.  So many.  And it doesn’t fundamentally bother me to consider other people’s babies crying it out.  But the idea of my baby crying it out does.  So I have spent some time navel-gazing, trying to figure out what exactly it is that bothers me about it.  Is the issue to do with him… or is it an issue with me that I shouldn’t project onto him?

I haven’t come up with any definite answers yet.  I think that part of it is just the natural maternal instinct to not like the idea of my child hurting or being sad and not going.  I think part of it relates to some really powerful memories from my own childhood of feeling abandoned and feeling alone.  I think that one of my goals as a parent is for my kids to know that I love them unconditionally… and ignoring crying doesn’t seem to convey that.  But if this is an issue where I am concerned with my own reaction, or a short term solution, as opposed to how it affects the baby long term, then I don’t think that’s fair to the baby.  It’s always easier to do something as a short term fix than to implement a long term solution—hence all the problems with government policies.  Long term, I want my children to know how to sleep and sleep well, and I want them to be independent and not need me to coddle them, if that makes sense.

I’ve also had to consider the fact that if Oliver or Hazel decided they didn’t want to go to bed, and threw a fit about it and cried… I would totally tell them to suck it up, tell them I loved them, and leave them to it.  If they cried in the middle of the night, I would go to them… but I wouldn’t do whatever they wanted just because they had a nightmare—I would reassure them and leave, and if they got really upset about it, tell them I loved them and that they needed to go back to sleep anyway.

So what makes my nine month old different than my four year old?  There is certainly a matter of being able to communicate ‘suck it up and I love you’ to Hazel, but can’t be sure that Hank gets the nuance.

Ultimately, we have decided that at night, we are going to try to let him cry, situation depending.  We’ve done it for three nights now… and it’s hard.  The first night we did it, he first woke up at 11:30.  I figured I would nurse him and put him back to bed, and he could then go for a longer stretch.  No big deal.  Except that he woke up again at 1:00.  Kullervo went in to him, rubbed his back for awhile, and he fell back to sleep.  Success!  Except that he woke up again shortly afterwards.  So we let him cry.  And he cried on and off (and, I guess, slept on and off) for the rest of the night.  I’m honestly not sure how much he cried because when I would drift off to sleep, I would dream he was crying.  I also had a dream that Oliver and Hazel were sitting on a beach, staring vacantly at me like they were zombies, chanting, “My mommy lets me cry.  My mommy doesn’t care.”  Seriously.  We brought him into our room at 6:00, and I nursed him and we both fell back to sleep.

The next night, I think he woke up less.  I didn’t have any zombie child dreams, which I consider a mild victory over my subconscious.  I’ve been giving him extra love throughout the day, and he honestly doesn’t seem any worse for wear.  He is still happy to see me in the morning, and all day long, and seems more well rested.

And then, last night, he slept.  He slept from 7:15 until 5:00.  When he woke up then, we let him fuss for a few minutes, but then brought him into bed with us, where he nursed and then slept until we woke him up at 7:00.  And we have all had such a wonderful day as a result.

So, I’m still not wild about the idea of letting Hank cry it out at night.  But I am wild about the idea of all of us being better rested.  Should we backslide, we might consider other options.  In the meantime, I was able to have an amazing, fun filled day with all of my kids today.

Naplessness

Ahhh, naps.  Seriously, I sometimes resent the fact that my kids all hate naps.  I tell them that one day, they will be my age, and they will wish they had napped when they had the chance (and then I roll my eyes at myself, which Kullervo says makes the whole world shake).  To Oliver and Hazel’s credit, they don’t mind if I take a nap after a hard night; they are happy to play together or watch a TV show so I can.  In fact, can I just take a minute to say that although I’m crabby and mean all the time, my kids love me anyway, and when I apologize, they just forgive me.  And I never feel like I deserve it, and because I don’t sleep it makes me cry.  But I feel so grateful to have such sweet kids who are willing to be so patient with me and with Hank.

So, at Hank’s age, he should be taking two naps, which should add up to a total of two and a half to four hours of daytime sleep.  When I started this whole maybe-my-kid-should-sleep-every-now-and-then thing, he would catnap when we were out and about, while I was driving the kids to camp, etc., and not get a good solid nap.  When camp ended, I put him down for regular naps and he just wouldn’t sleep.  He has gone a couple of days where he napped for a grand total of 30 minutes all day.

Sometimes I can lie down with him, hold him tightly, and he will fall asleep.  Sometimes that just means he’s screaming in my ears.  I feel like I’ve tried everything.  I nurse him until he falls asleep, but when I transfer him to the crib, he wakes up.  I nurse him until he’s drowsy, but not asleep, and when I transfer him to the crib, he wakes up.  I have held him so that he will just get some darned sleep, but he won’t sleep for that long on me, and then I can’t get anything done.  I have begun putting him down to nap and letting him cry for an hour, and then just giving on up on that nap and trying again with the next one.  But honestly, it’s exhausting.

So, while I’ve been doing that, I’ve been reading a bunch of books about sleeping.  My days and nights are literally filled with thinking about nothing but sleeping.  Either I’m reading about sleeping, listening to Henry not sleep, trying to sleep myself, or planning how to deal with the next time everyone is supposed to sleep.

So, naps are failing.  Hank wakes up so often at night that it would be funny if it wasn’t so terribly not funny.  It’s seriously ridiculous.  And I really feel like I need to figure out the best solution for us.  I don’t think that one size fits all.  I don’t think that an idea that works for some kids will work for all kids.  Over the last few days, Hank has shown me that if he decides that he won’t nap… there is nothing I can do that will make him nap.  I can ignore him for an hour while he cries… but then he will keep himself awake crying.  I think that he will do well with a routine… but it’s hard to establish a routine for a baby when there are two older kids.

And then, today, it hit me.  I was attempting to catch up on emails (ha!), drink a gallon of coffee (to keep me from sleeping), and listen to Hank not nap.  And I saw a calendar that showed that school starts for Oliver and Hazel in three weeks.  They have three weeks of summer left.

I had intended to spend a few days getting Hank on a schedule, and had anticipated that within three or four days, he would be sleeping regularly and our lives could go on.  This hasn’t happened.  Instead, Oliver and Hazel have been cooped up inside. Thankfully, we’ve had some rainy days, which mean that we would have been inside for a decent part of that time anyway.  But with no end in sight to the current dilemma, I made a decision today.

I am done trying to put Hank on a schedule until school starts.  I am going to spend the last few weeks of summer with these kids, and have a blast.  We are going to go to the zoo if it strikes our fancy.  We are going to go to the beach if we feel like it.  We are going to spend time with friends, and read books, and play outside with the neighbors.  And if Henry naps while we’re out, hooray.  If we are home and he naps, hooray.  And if he is a zombie because he has chosen to not sleep, so be it.  I am going to do my best not to take my sleeplessness out on my kiddlywinks, and make sure that the end of summer is great.

And when I made that decision, I breathed a big sigh of relief and really feel like I’m making the right choice.  Beyond that, all I want is for Henry to start sleeping well before he learns to call out for Mommy, because then all efforts to cry it out will go out the window.

Detaching My Parenting

Or, Maybe One Day I’ll Get Some Sleep

Or, My Baby Likes to Party All the Time

 

Maybe you don’t recognize me… I’m that girl who, a few months ago, was able to make a light hearted joke, play and have fun with her kids, cook a meal and maybe tidy up a room.  I used to be that girl.  Now I’m the girl who snarls at everyone I see, yells at my kids too often for being kids, feels guilty all the time about my apparent personality transplant, and only thinks that dark humor is funny.  In other words, I’m not myself.

Hank is nine months old.  He is generally delightful—he likes to scoot around looking for sticks to chew on outside, he eats like a superstar, preferring savory flavors to sweet ones.  He claps, he thinks his big sister is pretty much the funniest thing in the world (and she is), he chews up Uno cards (so we always know who has the yellow skip card), he loves taking a bath and wrestling with the kitten.  He’s pretty much awesome in all ways but one.  The child never sleeps.

For a long time, he slept in our room in the bassinet.  Then I looked at it, and saw that the weight limit was 15 pounds and he was 21 pounds… so we assembled his crib in Hazel’s room, and he started going to bed in there.  When he woke up at night to nurse, I would bring him into our bed and we would cosleep for the rest of the night.  It worked alright.  He would also nap in our bed, but only if I laid down with him until he fell asleep.

Then he started fighting going to bed.  Putting him down at night would take two hours.  In the meantime, I would not have tucked in Oliver or Hazel, or I would have while he screamed and I would rush through it.  It wasn’t working.  It also meant that we were eating out a lot because I was exhausted, or we would eat dinner super late at night because I couldn’t start cooking until 9:30 or later.

I wanted to go the no-crying-to-sleep route.  I haven’t found the magical solution that works though.  A few weeks ago, I decided that there were three problems:  1.  He didn’t nap.  2.  He fought going to bed at night.  3.  He didn’t sleep through the night, waking up 2-6 times a night.

I figured that the easiest thing would be to tackle the issues one at a time.  The thing that has been the most difficult on me has been the falling asleep at night.  Kullervo and I worked out what we decided would be a good bedtime routine for Hank, and started implementing it.  The first night, putting him to bed took two hours (and thankfully a dear friend had taken Oliver and Hazel to see a show at a nearby park, so they weren’t sitting at home being bored).  The next night, an hour and twenty minutes.  The third night, forty minutes.  The fourth night he went straight to sleep.  These were all done without him needing to cry.  I would do the routine, put him to bed, and then rub his back until he fell asleep.  Now I am able to do the routine, put him in his crib, and even though he often sits himself up right away, he winds up going to sleep without crying.  Success!  We even have been able to eat dinner before ten at night!

Next up:  naps.  Sleep begets sleep, so, I decided to tackle naps as the next step in my plan.  More on that soon!

Boil Them Cabbage*

We are members of a CSA, and all summer long we have gotten weekly drop offs of local, organic produce.  On top of that, we hosted the CSA at our house (so people picked up from our place), which meant that not only did we not have to go pick up our produce every week, but we got a discount for hosting, and if people didn’t pick up their shares… we got to keep them.

I looked around for places that I could donate extras to, but I was wholly unsuccessful at finding somewhere that would take fresh food (unfortunately).

This week was the last week of the season, and after it was over, we had a ton of fresh greens.  There was spinach, there was kale, there were beet greens (which, for the record, are AMAZING on homemade pizza).  And there was so much of all of it that there was no way we’d be able to eat it all before it went bad without actually turning green.

So, I looked up how to preserve greens.  It turns out that you can freeze them if you blanche them first.  So, last night, in a fit of nesting energy, I washed:

 

blanched:

Blanching Spinach

and froze almost all of our greens.

Freezing Greens

The question I had while working was, of course, what kind of music should I listen to while doing this?

The answer seemed obvious–bluegrass!  So I set up Pandora, and let the banjo, fiddle, guitar, and other strings keep my mind off the fact that standing around boiling and cooling greens for a couple of hours while unreasonably pregnant made my feet hurt.

And this winter, when you’re looking for a fix for your cravings for teeny baby toes and fingers and soups and stews with organic, local greens… come on over!

*No, there was no cabbage.  The title to this post is a reference to a common fiddle tune called Boil Them Cabbage Down.

Annoyed with Magazines

As a general rule, I love magazines and have ever since I first sneaked a peek at my big sister’s copy of Seventeen.  My reasons have changed (I don’t need information on menstruation or how to flirt with boys, for example), but the love has remained.

I like to read magazines in between novels, so that I can decompress from one and prepare to get emotionally invested in another.

I like getting a wide variety of information from magazines that I can then further research if it is interesting, or not feel guilty for skipping over if it isn’t.

I like reading parenting magazines for strategies on how to be a better mom, tips for practical problems, recipes, and ideas for arts and crafts (which I am absolutely horrific at doing, but I do have lofty dreams of being that mom).

I like reading gossip magazines for the pretty pictures of pretty people and the salacious gossip, and to see how far they can possibly distance their source from the subject matter (‘the uncle of a friend of the agent of the hairdresser of the trainer of the person they sat next to once in kindergarten’).

But lately, I’m annoyed with magazines.

First, it seems like these days magazines are just pages of advertisements for things you can buy.  That trendy fall outfit at under a hundred dollars?  It’s under $100 per item, y’all.  And no, I won’t be spending $85 on a set of bangles to accessorize it.

But seriously—we are in a recession.  People are struggling financially.  Why not write articles or put together outfits that really are affordable, instead of pretending that $800 is a reasonable amount to spend on one day’s worth of clothing?

And unfortunately, it’s not just clothes.  It seems like every page is full of things that you should buy.  And hot new products that you need.  Because who doesn’t need a machine that will mix your baby’s formula for you, like a pod coffeemaker does for your coffee?

My second pet peeve is scare articles.  This is a time honored magazine article, usually featured in some way, that is put in there to scare you.  Whether you should be paranoid about mold in your walls or the perils of letting your family use materials that are not BPA-free, the scare articles just serve to incite paranoia in the hearts of parents, and give hypochondriacs and self-centered people something else to be certain will affect them.  I realize that the issues that are brought up in these articles can be potentially life-savings in some instances, and that a lot of times they relate to issues that people might not be aware of otherwise, but the heavy-handedness gets on my nerves.

Another annoyance of mine is fairly specific to parenting magazines or articles.  In the same breath (sometimes the same page!) that a magazine reminds you that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age two have zero screen time (TV, computer, smartphone, etc), and kids older than two have less than two hours a day, the magazine will also tout apps and websites that are great for the toddler set.

How about you play with your kid instead of simultaneously stare at a screen with them?  Why don’t you remind me about all of the wonderful things that my kids and I can build with blocks or legos, or how to build forts out of furniture so we can transport ourselves to other worlds using our—gasp!—imaginations?

Instead of a scare article about super-bacteria, why not an article on how the hell squeamish parents can go about catching bugs and worms and roly-polies with their kids?  (And PS… I bet that if more people were outside playing in the dirt in their backyards there would be fewer super-bacteria because our immune systems would be stronger.)

So, basically, instead of what I’m reading these days, I want a magazine that gives me strategies to realistically save money instead of tell me what new gadgets I should spend it on, that empowers me to be a better person and parent than tries to scare me about things that are largely out of my control, and that doesn’t try to convince me to try out the latest app for my iThing that will spontaneously turn my child into a genius just by sliding his finger across a screen.

The Ups and Downs of Pregnancy

Today I am 31 weeks pregnant, which means that I have (less than) nine weeks to go before I meet this baby boy.  I’ve been wanting to reflect on some of the pros and cons of pregnancy.  For this post, I’m going to focus on fashion.

So, as a pregnant woman, there’s the wardrobe issue.  And this is an issue that begins (with me, at least) right before I start showing.  Right before I start showing, I’m certain that I am showing, and I want to get this show on the road and be obviously pregnant.  So I want to wear clothes that announce something like:  “It isn’t just potato chips and ice cream!  I’m making a human!”

Then I start showing, and my jeans get a bit too tight to be comfortable (read: they don’t really zip without drawing blood).  So I have to find something to wear.  On the positive side, I’ve always wanted to be one of those women who wears skirts all the time and looks together and cute.  On the negative side, I’ve never been one of those women.  Whenever I wear a skirt, I tend to feel like I look like I am totally out of place.  Nonetheless, I’ve been wearing some skirts.  (Often with yoga shorts underneath, because let’s face it, it gets hot in the summer, and my thighs aren’t getting any smaller.)  A side benefit to this is that when I wear skirts, my wonderful husband and too-sweet-to-be-real kids tell me how pretty I look.

A downside to pregnancy is that no matter how many advances there have been in maternity clothes, they just really aren’t cute unless you’re willing to spend much more money than I will spend on clothes that I will only wear for a few months.  However, this time around, I got a lot of maternity clothes from friends, which added variety and some clothing staples for a very reasonable price (thanks guys!).

An upside to being pregnant is that you can get away with wearing pretty much anything.  People are very willing to overlook fashion don’ts when you’re pregnant.  I tend to be a walking fashion don’t in my regular life, but I get a lot more conciliatory looks now, and I am perfectly comfortable letting people believe that I am dressing this way solely because I’m pregnant and not because I have the fashion sense of two year old boy.

Another upside? I feel no qualms about raiding Kullervo’s closet.  His workout shorts have helped me survive the summer, and I just found out this morning that I can button his jeans below my belly. Nothing is safe!

Overall, I’d say that the pregnancy wardrobe comes out as a win.  It’s frustrating that I usually don’t feel cute or comfortable in what I’m wearing, but since people really only focus on the moving parts in the middle and the game of ‘guess the body part’, I’m the only one who really notices.