Friday, July 13, 2012

a weak effort to wrangle my thoughts into writing

I intended for this blog to be a journal of sorts, so here's one of my random updates and sleepy rambles. Thanks for reading. =)

I stay at home with my tot. Adam is 15 months old and is such a boy in the ways we expect boys to be: if it has wheels and a motor he's interested. His excitement and joy for simple wonders are unbounded. It's one of those times I realize how in love I am with him. We've been home for about 2 weeks (in the sense that we haven't been gone for a night and we've had a pretty steady routine going on) and it's been great. Adam's sleep habits turned from unacceptable and needy, up every 2 hours (yes, at 14 months old) to self-soothing and sleeping through the night (for stretches of 8-12 hours). Nice!

Yesterday I brought Adam to River Falls to have a sleepover at Chrissy & Mike's apartment. We enjoyed our stay and it made me think back to last year at this time when we would have 2-3 nights at Chrissy's apartment every other week. So many things have changed. Last summer, Chrissy had a roommate other than Mike who wasn't there when we visited. Adam wasn't mobile so he slept right on Chrissy's bed or on the recliner chair. Tim didn't care that Adam and I were gone for so long; actually, Tim liked it. Lots of other things have changed, too.

Chrissy and I have been through a lot in the last year. A lot! Most of all, I realized last night how much I miss Chrissy. It was great hanging out and being able to spend time with Mike and Chrissy. When I got home today I was chatting with my cousin Hailee about wedding plans. When I hung up the phone Tim asked if Mike and Chrissy were getting married. Nope, but we agreed that we wouldn't be surprised if they got engaged soon. =)

It was a nice time, and I'm looking forward to another sleepover with them in early August. A campus visit will be on the agenda because I saw loads of messes and projects of the construction sort in progress. I love the city of River Falls and there are lots of people in my prayers that I don't even know the names of who are from there. It was a couple of days that made me realize I need to keep my family close and my spirit in tune with God. I'm counting my blessings tonight!

Friday, July 6, 2012

following the leader

In this house things go off with lots of hitches. The one thing that we don't strive for is perfection, but we strive to do things with the right driving force: God. Tim and I have conversations about priorities. Sometimes those conversations get heated, sometimes they are brought up because of one of us making a move in the selfish direction.

I grew up in a family with 6 siblings. We didn't travel much. We didn't go out to eat much. We stayed home and played. We biked a mile into town to the park or Grandma & Grandpa's house to play. We camped in the yard. We played house and post office, and we spent a lot of time outside. My best friends were my siblings. We stayed overnight at friends' houses now and then, and I felt like I was missing out when I was away from home.

My parents created an environment for us to want to be. It wasn't just a place to live. I wanted to be home (I won't comment on my teenage years) and I still call it home. I remember crying as I drove out of the yard on my way to college because I was so homesick. It was a mental battle between my wants and needs. Now that I am home with Adam during the summer days (when I used to go to my parents' house 3 days a week while Tim worked, including last summer) I feel that pang of homesickness once more, and it's easy to decide: needs get priority over wants.

Summer. What a great time of year to be busy, unless you have a busy toddler who needs a routine. The majority of the time I can recreate some of Adam's routine, but I'm a sucker for the easy route, so I stay home. I know that with more kids I will stay home even more, and I'm going to because I want to. Tim used to say things to me when I was pregnant to the effect of, "Our life isn't going to change that much, is it? Why would it?" I didn't even respond. Truth is, his life didn't change much. Not until I started putting more of Adam's care in his hands. I resented Tim for a long time for that, but through The Program have learned that the blame falls on me for not trusting Tim enough... I'm losing track here. That's gonna be another post, I guess. ;)

At any rate, Adam needs routine wherever we are. When he needs something, he communicates that. It falls on me and Tim to listen and decipher his language. Adam is learning some sign language, but that has its limits. It will only get easier. When he was too young to sign and whine, it was only crying. I'll never forget Tim's anxious manner when he asked me when we just got Adam home, "How do we know what he wants?" It wasn't that he wanted anything, it's that he needed something. I figured things out based on the clock. It got easier to hear it in his cries whether it was a hungry cry or a tired cry. Adam never fussed about his diaper, and was a very content baby. I didn't wait for him to cry to answer to his needs; I responded when he fussed. Why wait for a cry when it only meant it would teach him not to trust me and I'd have to take longer to calm him down. It was a no-brainer.

When it came to letting Adam cry it out (CIO) at bedtime, I only attempted it when I knew he was healthy, fed, and tired. His only need at that point was for sleep. He wanted to nurse and be held/rocked/snuggled and I made sure that was the reason for his sadness. I knew that was the case when he would cry when I lowered him to his crib, and stop immediately when I picked him up. I recognized that from his days of crying in his car seat. He cried when he was not ready to self-soothe, and got over it when he was ready for it. When he self-soothed in his car seat he was probably ready to self-soothe in his crib.

This household runs on a baby-led schedule. We meet Adam's needs first. In this culture, that idea is not widely accepted or embraced. We expect our babies to conform to our lifestyles, in the hopes that "not that much will change". I wanted my life to change. Babies are not novelty items. They are anything but convenient. Who said they should be? I am happy to follow Adam's lead, especially when it's so easy to read his signals and adjust to his needs to get a happy kid. Why wouldn't I? It's easy because it's common sense. It's natural. I agree that it's good for kids to learn to be patient and learn to wait for some things. I also believe that a kid's needs should be met before mine because I am a real-life grown-up and it's not all about me. =)

I ramble too much. I know that. ;) The point is, if we follow God, our priorities will fall easily into place. Needs will be met, wants will follow. Joy will capture our hearts and we will find an attitude of gratitude. Prayers for health and thanksgiving are abundant, and so are our blessings. =)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

get on the sleep train

All aboard! Once you hop on, there's no stopping the Sleep Train! Sleep training? For who? Adam, his mama, or his dada? Last week, bedtime was a tense event around here. Adam's typical bedtime routine was in place for a few months. I firmly believe that children of all ages need routine, so when Adam was upset it was his cue to me that it was not working for him anymore. The times are approximate, we're flexible around Adam's needs.
5:00: supper when Adam acts hungry (supper usually consists of protein, grains, and veggies)
5:30: wrangle the tot in an effort to get him in the bath, followed by a game of chase-the-naked-baby-who's-running-around-the-house-playing-his-favorite-game-of-catch-the-tot-before-he-pees-where-you-don't-know-it-even-happened
6:00 after more chasing, wrangling, wrestling, laughing, lotioning, singing, diapering, tickling, more chasing, and dressing him, Adam plays for a while to burn the fumes off. We read 2 or 3 books (or more if he's in the mood to sit with us).
7:00 I ask Adam if he wants to nurse and he runs to me panting, staring at my chest and smiling, and wriggles his way into my lap. Or he runs from me because he knows what's gonna happen after he nurses. This is when I can relax, knowing he's slowing down. Sometimes he falls asleep right after or during nursing, usually not.
7:30 at the latest: Time for bed. We turn on music and the fan/noise machine. We offer Adam a pacifier if he's chewing on his fingers. Sometimes he accepts, other times he pushes it away or grabs it and chucks it across the room with zeal (yeah, that's the adjective: zeal...). We used to hold Adam while we rocked in the recliner or bounced on the exercise ball until he fell asleep. He's getting big so this had to change soon. Now after we rock for a few minutes and say our bedtime prayer, we lay him in his crib. IF he cries/whines, it lasts about a minute before he is humming himself to sleep.
Last week, 7:30 turned into the worst hour (or more) of the day. I do not want bedtime to be a struggle. I love going to bed and relaxing. I'd like to break Adam of the idea that his crib is a place to scream and sob, rather it's a place to relax and be calm and feel well. What we did has worked in the past, but the key was to attempt it only when I know he is healthy and all of his needs are met, especially when I know I can give him a routine at home for several days in a row. Tim and I had to be mentally prepped for it, and on the same page about what we want for Adam

Sunday night, I put Adam in his crib with his blankey and a smooch. With music and fan on, I looked at the clock and decided that in 20 minutes I would go soothe him. It didn't happen, though, because he was sleeping when the timer read 19:34. Adam slept like a partied-out rock star, and woke up out of habit (so I nursed him) at about 2 and 6. He slept until 8:30. The following day he cried out his nap times for 4 minutes each time, and the second night of crying it out (CIO) he cried about 8 minutes. The best part was that he slept for 10 hours straight that night, in his crib. That means I slept for 8 hours straight. YAHOO!!!

What do I think of the CIO method? It works. It sucks for 2 or 3 nights if you are alone, but with support it is bearable. And it is worth it for everyone in the house. Tim is not a fan of making Adam CIO, especially after an intense bonding weekend where the boys didn't even leave the house except to walk the dog. Tim thinks it is a cruel and senseless form of punishing a baby into passing out after sobbing to the breaking point of exhaustion. Tim and I talked it over and agreed that we needed to try it for a week to see how Adam responded. We follow Adam's lead after we give him direction.

I wanted needed a break after more than a year of nursing Adam to sleep. I want this to be a God-driven family-centered household with a baby-led schedule/routine, where the needs of my child are met first. I felt like it was worth trying to see how he would respond, and if he responded appropriately and learned that bedtime means business, he was ready and I wasn't pushing him.

With Adam being sick on and off for the last 10 weeks with 4 ear infections (one being a double ear infection, a double-whammy that is), hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD), and teething, my concern for making sure Adam breastfeeds when he wants it has been more important that my own sleep schedule. Yes, readers, my 14.5-month-old is still a breastfed baby. Well, toddler... That's a topic for another day. I'm trying to stay focused here. :) Adam's sleep habits have also been interrupted by a trip we made 2 weekends ago out to Tim's parents' house near Wausau and family gatherings that meant lots of road time and late nights. With illness after illness, inconsistent surroundings, and no set bedtime, we all suffered.

The stress, the heart-wrenching sobs of the baby, the emotional roller-coaster of desperation for sleep and sadness that your baby needs you... ugh!! Exhausted myself, I had to decide for myself (because Tim didn't want to do this "to" him): it was time for Adam to cry it out. He is healthy, old enough, and tired. It was worth it to have 2 difficult nights for us to know that Adam now whines (not even crying) for about 30 seconds before he is sleeping. Bedtime is no longer a fight, and Adam sleeps through the night for 5-10 hour stretches. That alone tells me 2 big things: he needs to sleep through the night, and he does not need to nurse in the middle of the night.

I have to say, I thought the CIO method was mean and unloving. Adam understands right from wrong, so he also understands that when he sees me walk into his room when he cries, he is about to get his way. As soon as I picked him up the crying stopped - no exaggeration. Talk about frustrating! Just because it worked with Adam and us does not mean it will work for everyone. All parents need to be on board because if someone does it differently the kiddo will be confused and misery will ensue. I can't imagine going through it without Tim's support. We weren't sitting on the couch holding hands through it. In fact, Tim was so upset he had to leave the house and I worked while I kept an eye on the clock.

I pray for support for single parents and for kids who don't know what a routine is. I pray for sleep for kids who need it and parents who need a break. What are your thoughts on sleep-training?