Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sleep, What Else?

Moxie has a post today about sleep, and Cinnamon Gurl, at Write About Here (one of my favorite bloggers) had a post about sleep (or the lack thereof) earlier this week.

I could say that this has gotten me thinking about sleep, but that would be a lie, since I think about sleep a lot. One of the unexpected things about becoming a mommy has been my new appreciation for sleep. I used to almost resent sleep- it was keeping me from doing more interesting things, like sitting in a pub drinking beer and talking with my Hubby until all hours or watching some halfway funny comedian on Comedy Central. You know, the important stuff. Now, I appreciate sleep for the joy that it is. I luxuriate in the rare mornings when Pumpkin lets us sleep in (i.e., until 6:45 or 7). I love a good nap. You get the idea.

Anyway, as anyone who has been reading my blog or talking to me in real life knows, Pumpkin is not the best sleeper. She is not as bad as some, but is nowhere near as good as others. For almost a year, I struggled with this. I tried techniques from books. I scoured websites looking for new ideas. Hubby and I formulated plans and held sleep experiments. We were doing everything "right"- she had an early bedtime, a schedule that we stuck to, low key evenings, she didn't fall asleep nursing etc, etc. But still, Pumpkin did better sometimes, and sometimes worse.

Finally, I gave up. I accepted that Pumpkin will sleep "well" when she is ready to sleep "well". Or she will go off to college and appreciate the extra studying time that her sleep habits provide. Whatever.

I redirected the energy I had been spending searching for a way to make Pumpkin sleep better to thinking of ways to get myself and Hubby more sleep. This is not to say that I don't continue to try new things to improve our sleep situation. I still do that. Recently, I got Pumpkin to start going down into her crib awake by introducing a story that I tell her. I start the story while she's in my arms, and by the end, she's in her crib. Some nights, I have to repeat the story a few times, but most nights I don't have to pick her up again. This has made bedtime much easier, but hasn't noticeably changed the number of nightwakings. We are also considering trying to move her bedtime earlier again, although this seems to be a losing battle- we move it earlier, and she slowly moves it later again. She seems a bit overtired by bath time, though, so I'm considering rejoining the fight. I'm trying to figure out if we can use the upcoming time change to help.

Pumpkin is now 18 months old, and has only slept through the night a handful of times. Most nights, she wakes up once or twice. She nurses one of those times, the first time she asks for it. This is usually sometime around 1 or 2 in the morning. Occasionally, she has a bad night (or she's sick) and I end up nursing twice. She sleeps until about 6 a.m. most mornings. Sometimes, she wakes up at 5 and we bring her into bed with us, and then we all sleep until 6 or 6:30. Well, we all try to sleep. She often chooses to snuggle so aggressively that one of us can't sleep. On those mornings, I try to remember that when she is off in college, I will miss those aggressive snuggles.

So, how do I stay sane? Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I am staying sane. But there are several things we do to help keep me from going completely crazy from sleep deprivation:

1. My parents come over periodically and give us a night away. They stay in our house with Pumpkin, and we go sleep in a hotel with enough stars to guarantee a comfy bed. We use Priceline or something similar to find a good deal somewhere in Southern California. These nights also give us a chance to have dinner without interruption, to talk, and to have a drink or two. They are priceless, and we're very thankful for them. In fact, next weekend, we are going away for two whole nights, and we're both really looking forward to it. Amazingly, my parents are looking forward to it, too!

2. If Pumpkin is going through a particularly bad phase, I often find that even when she is asleep, I can't sleep. I lie there waiting for her to wake up. This occasionally leads to a night where she sleeps great and I still get little sleep, which is incredibly annoying. To combat this, I take Tylenol PM. The Tylenol alleviates the aches and pains that I always have (does that mean I'm getting old?) The "PM" is just Benadryl, which is quite safe, even while nursing. Benadryl really knocks me out though- I never could take it as an actual allergy medication. In fact, my ob/gyn told me to take it while I was pregnant, when I was having trouble sleeping. It has its downsides- I wake up very thirsty, and the sleep isn't of the same quality as I get when everyone is sleeping well. But the pluses outweigh the minuses for me.

3. Hubby usually gets up with Pumpkin on the weekends, so that I can sleep another hour or two. If we're both getting up a lot during the night, we trade off weekend sleep in days, but when Pumpkin is in an "only Mommy will do in the middle of the night" phase, I get both weekend days.

4. I try to nap at least one of the two weekend days. However, she has an annoying habit of waking up and needing to be resettled when she naps on the weekends, and she usually decides to wake up about 10 minutes after I fall asleep, whenever that is. If I really, really need a nap, Hubby takes her out for a walk or run in her stroller while I sleep.

And of course, I go to bed early. So it is 9:30 now, and it is bedtime!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three Cute Things

Pumpkin's saying a lot of cute things right now. She's understanding more and more of what we say (time to start watching what we talk about in front of her!) and is trying out more words. Three of my favorite Pumpkinisms right now are:

1. When she is going somewhere and wants you to come, too, she will point at you and say "and you", which sounds like "A-choo". This gets used a lot when someone tries to duck out of family toothbrushing time.

2. She's known "no" for a long time, but now she knows "yes". She says "ya". It is a very short word, almost clipped. She looks at you earnestly and nods her head while she says it, particularly when she is saying yes to something to which you've just said no. For instance, she'll say "Ee-eee", indicating she wants to watch one of her DVDs on the TV. If I say no, she says "Ee-eee, ya", and nods emphatically while looking at me with her big, blue eyes. It certainly tests my resolve.

3. When she does something well, she will clap her hands and say "Ray!" We're not sure if this is short for "Hooray" or her pronunciation of "Yay".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another of Life's Little Mysteries

I was going to title this post One of Life's Little Mysteries, but the helpful type ahead feature in Blogger alerted me to the fact that I had already written that post.

Today's mystery is also about sleep... I want to know how Pumpkin knows when I have fallen asleep for a nap, and why she always chooses to wake up and need to be resettled into her nap within 10 minutes of that event?

Pumpkin and I are home today because she had a fever last night, and has a sore throat and cough today. She has the cutest little hoarse voice. I feel guilty for thinking it is cute, but I can't help it- it is! She also periodically says "ow" and points at her throat, in case I've forgotten that it is sore.

She is on part three of her nap now. After waking me up, she slept for another 45 minutes, then woke up again. She fell back to sleep on my shoulder, and I took her into the guest room to sleep and lay down with her for awhile. I'd still be there now, but I had to get up and go to the bathroom after about 35 minutes. I feel I need to stay in the guest room with her, though, since this room is not particularly well baby proofed. If she sleeps long enough, I may come back and write a less vacuous post!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Good Bits

I had a hard week at work last week, and was feeling completely done by the time we got to our post dinner walk on Friday night. It is getting dark earlier, so we saw the tail end of the sunset as we rounded the corner and headed down the block. It was a beautiful sunset- one of the good things about the Santa Ana winds that bring the risk of fires and completely mess up my allergies is that they blow all the crud in the air out to sea, leaving us with clear skies and beautiful sunsets, This picture doesn't come close to doing the view justice- our camera just wasn't up to the task:

(One of the reasons we bought a house in our neighborhood is that we get beautiful views of Mission Bay and the ocean when we're out walking. Some of our neighbors also have these views from their second stories and/or roof top decks. We do not have a second story and/or roof top deck, and would not have such a spectacular view if we did. But I can still go out for a walk and enjoy the view.)

Around this time, I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and remembered just how lucky I am.

After we stopped admiring the view and rounded the corner, Pumpkin decided to walk ahead with Hubby for awhile. The sight of the two of them walking hand in hand is one of my favorite things right now, partly because Pumpkin refused to hold hands for so long and partly because Pumpkin likes to walk at an almost running pace, so she has no trouble keeping up with Hubby. He's happy to have another fast walker in the family.

Other favorite things right now include:

1. How Pumpkin picks up a book and settles into my lap to read. I love that she loves books, and I love the feeling of her sitting on my folded legs, leaning back into my chest while I read.

2. How Pumpkin holds up her foot and says "wee, wee" in the bath, indicating that she wants me to do the "this little piggy went to market..." thing on her foot. I always have to do both feet, sometimes more than once.

3. The joy that Pumpkin gets in little things, like chasing bubbles.

I've written a couple of other posts of memories and favorite things. I keep saying I'm going
to make Pumpkin a scrapbook. Maybe I'll have time when she is five....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Zenbit: Sunkissed Sisters

Location: Near Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia
January 10, 2006

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Pumpkin's schedule is unpredictable right now. I think this is one of the reasons that I am having such a hard time with sleep deprivation. I never know if she'll wake up at midnight, or not until 1, or even (on really good nights) not until 2. I think I never really get deep sleep because of this.

She has also been messing with her nursing schedule. I've adopted the nursing equivalent of don't ask, don't tell- it is called "don't offer, don't refuse". She seems to be moving towards dropping the first thing in the morning nursing, although that is not yet consistent. She also sometimes asks to nurse (she says "Boppy!") when we get home from work/day care. Tonight, she didn't want to nurse after her walk, but insisted on nursing right before storytime. And of course, she has shown no inclination whatsoever to drop the middle of the night nursing. Don't offer, don't refuse is not as easy as it sounds!

In completely unrelated scheduling news, I have finally broken down and started a Google Calendar for our household. We'll see how it goes. Someone I work with told me that he found a way to send things from his Google calendar to his work calendar. I might work on that next week. I've been holding off on the Google household calendar for so long because the idea of multiple calendars bothers the data geek in me. I want one calendar to rule them all....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yoga Lessons

Some things that went through my mind during yoga class today:

1. I may be the youngest person there, but I'm not the most flexible. I don't twist well! I'd say excessive computer use is aging me, but I've never been particularly flexible.

2. The neck stretches feel really, really good. I should do these every day.

3. I need to send out the agenda for tomorrow's meeting.

4. Wow, my core muscles are weak.

What was supposed to be going through my mind during yoga class:

Nothing. I was supposed to be centered and living in the moment.

I'm not very good at that, but I do keep trying, because I really do think it is the secret to lower stress living.

So this afternoon, when we got home from work/day care, Pumpkin and I snuggled up on the sofa and watched a Signing Time DVD. She likes to me to watch the show with her, but I'm usually busy trying to get things done. Today, I didn't try to unload the dishwasher, or clean the table, or anything else. I just held my sweet little toddler and practiced the signs for colors and fruits. It was nice.

But now? I'm watching a Daily Show while typing a blog entry. I guess I have a way to go on that living in the moment thing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Give Me Back My Cucumbers!

One of my favorite primate behavior studies involves getting two capuchin monkeys to do the same task. If you reward both equally, all is well. If you give one a grape (a superior reward) and the other a cucumber, the one given the cucumber will often refuse the cucumber. If you reward one with a grape for doing nothing, but offer the other a cucumber for returning a token to the researcher, the slighted monkey will often throw its token away in presumed disgust. (If you have access to a subscription to Science, you can read about the research here. Here is a write up in the general press.)

I often think about this research when I'm feeling like life is not fair. I've thought about it while sitting in a line of traffic and watching somebody speed past me to cut in to the front of the line. I've thought about it while pondering the gender pay gap. And I can't help but think about it now while I listen to stories on NPR about the current financial crisis and the escalating attempts to stop it.

For so many years, I have watched other people take risks I would never contemplate to buy homes in my expensive Southern California housing market. Hubby and I kept renting until we had a down payment saved up and could afford a modest home in a neighborhood that met our criteria.

We worked at our mid-level jobs, and didn't really begrudge the executives their high pay. Our jobs pay pretty well, and we figured that we're doing well enough out of the global labor market, so can't really complain that other people, with even scarcer skills, are doing better. Besides, those executives earn the high salaries for the long hours, high stress, hard decisions, and inherent risks in their jobs. You'd certainly have to pay me a lot to be a CEO of even a small company.

I've never even begrudged the government my tax dollars. I don't like to think about the amount I pay, but I believe in government services and a safety net for people who fall on hard times.

Now, each morning when I get in the car, I am treated to a new story about how my tax dollars will be bailing out firms even as their executives continue to draw their big salaries. Or about proposals to rescue people who have more mortgage than they can afford, not because they lost their jobs, but because they used an inherently risky type of mortgage to buy a better house than they could afford. Of course, by "rescue" I don't mean "keep them from starving", but rather "rework their mortgage so that they can stay in the home they couldn't afford".

For years, these people had grapes while I made do with cucumbers. Now they want my cucumbers, too?

I know that we need to fix the financial mess we're in, or no one will have any grapes or cucumbers. I know that finding a way to keep houses from going into foreclosure and banks from going belly up are logical things to do to try to fix this mess. I get all of that, really, I do.

But the monkey in me wants to throw my dwindling supply of cucumbers at someone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too Cute Not To Share

I was planning to post a quick zenbit, since it is Sunday night. But then I turned on my camera and saw this:

It was actually cold here last night and this morning, so Hubby put some PJs my parents had given us over Pumpkin's sleeper. I thought she was unbelievably cute when I got up, but couldn't find the camera to take a picture. Hubby took care of it while I was in the shower, but didn't tell me.

Is there anything cuter than a toddler in PJs????

That's My Girl

When I was a child, I was a news junkie. I always watched the nightly news, both local and national. In junior high, I read Newsweek cover to cover every week. According to my parents, I could give my opinion on the energy crisis of the time before I was in elementary school.

I am not as much of a junkie now, but I do still like to keep up with the news. I read the Economist most weeks, although I don't make it cover to cover. And my car radio is almost always tuned to NPR.

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when Pumpkin saw a magazine on the floor, pointed to it and said "mama". At first I thought she meant it was my magazine, but she calls me "mommy", not "mama". Then I looked at the cover. It was a picture of Obama.


Those who are interested in Pumpkin's reading habits (hi, Mom!) will have noticed that I updated the "What Pumpkin's Reading" sidebar. I also updated my running Pumpkin's Book List post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Perks of My Insanely Expensive City

Today, as I drove to Pumpkin's day care, I saw a jumping fish. My drive takes me past Torrey Pines State Beach and along Soledad Creek, which is a marsh/lagoon where it flows into the ocean. It is a beautiful drive. There are usually egrets in the lagoon, and I always enjoy the splashes of bright white among the green and blue of the lagoon. Today, I caught a flash of silver out of the corner of my eye. I looked over just in time to see the fish jump again, and then again. It made me smile, and almost made me not mind that I was about 10-15 minutes late in my evening routine (a colleague had cornered me about one and a half minutes before I was going to leave, and by the time I had resolved his issue, I was 10 minutes late leaving work).

I got to Pumpkin's day care, and was greeted with her usual joyous "Mommy!" and monkey hug (a monkey hug is when she wraps her arms AND her legs around me, and snuggles her head into my shoulder).

It was all down hill from there. Her teacher told me that my sweet little girl had bit four times today, even though she was otherwise in a great mood. Traffic on the freeway was horrible, so I didn't have much time to cuddle with Pumpkin before I had to start dinner. She watched Signing Time on the "eee-eee" for awhile, but then she came out to the kitchen, stuck her hands in the air, and demanded "up". When I said no, she collapsed in a dramatic heap at my feet. By this time, Hubby was home, so he picked her up, and took her kicking and screaming into the living room. Pumpkin wouldn't eat her dinner, insisted on being carried for the majority of her walk, wouldn't get in the bath for me (Hubby eventually took over), insisted on sitting on my lap for her snack, and then squeezed her strawberry all over my pant leg. To top it off, she threw a fit instead of brushing her teeth.

She's asleep now. I'm going to go have a beer with Hubby, and reminisce about the peaceful days when it was light enough to go for a decent stroller walk after dinner and Pumpkin would happily brush her teeth, as long as everyone in the house did, too.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Looking for Correlations

We continue to play sleep roulette. Recent research indicates that a feeling of a lack of control can make people see patterns where none exist. (Click here for the original article in Science.) Our recent nighttime experiences certainly corroborate this conclusion. Hubby and I are desperately looking for a correlation between the quality of Pumpkin's sleep at night and anything. Tonight, I'm hoping that the ease of the evening routine and the quality of the subsequent sleep are inversely related.

Last night, she was a little angel all evening. Sure, she was clingy (we're in a very Mommy-centric phase), but we went through our evening routine with little protest. She went down awake, but only protested briefly before listening to the rest of the story I was telling her and falling asleep. She was asleep by 8:20.

But then she had a horrible night. She was up earlier than usual to nurse, and never really settled back in to sleep in her crib. Hubby ended up sleeping with her for several hours, and I got up and nursed her again at 5 a.m. to get her back down for another hour and a half of sleep (next to me).

Tonight, Hubby hadn't even started reading her bedtime stories at 8:20. Every step of our routine was more challenging. Dinner was OK, but the walk was downright weird. Hubby was planning to stay behind and get the trash out for pick up tomorrow, but Pumpkin and I had barely left our driveway when she decided that Hubby needed to come, too. She charged right back up to the door, calling "Da-dee! Da-dee!" Once she had assembled the entire family for the walk, we set out again. Two doors down, we could hear a baby crying. This completely stopped Pumpkin in her tracks. She kept saying "Bay-bee. Bay-bee. Mommy. Mommy. Some incomprehensible toddler-speak that may have indicated that she wanted Mommy to go make that baby happy. Bay-bee." And then she would make the sign for crying. We tried to pick her up and move her along, but that prompted a tantrum. So I ended up crouching down next to her on the sidewalk, trying to explain that the baby had a mommy, who was going to make the baby happy again. We eventually walked on, but she kept talking about the baby, sometimes making the sign for crying, sometimes saying "happy", but not sounding too convinced that this was true.

We finally got home, and she nursed and had her bath. But then she wanted to play with the empty recycling container and open and close the door to the cupboard where the trash can is stored. Our attempts to deal with this patiently did not work, and she had a full melt down when we finally forced the issue. I had to hold her for several minutes before she would eat her snack, and she would only eat the snack on my lap, not in her chair. We won her back to the table with a lure of a strawberry. She does like a good "brerry". (I can't actually render or imitate how she says "strawberry", but it is my favorite of her words right now.)

It was an exhausting evening! Hopefully, Pumpkin thought so, too, and will sleep better tonight. If not, we'll keep looking for that elusive pattern. We just can't accept that it is not there. At least we now have a scientific study explaining why.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Zenbit: Cloth Flowers

Location: Moorea, French Polynesia
December 11, 2005

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dreamless in San Diego

I am taking a leadership training class at work. Our homework from the last class was to write a list of our dreams, big or small, work or personal. It has been a busy, frustrating two weeks since the last class, and I am only now thinking about this assignment. I brought it home with me, thinking I'd work on it tonight with a beer in hand (beers help you dream... really! Hubby and I hatched our plans for the big trip over beers at our local pub).

Hubby is enjoying a well earned night out with some friends tonight, so it was just Pumpkin and me through the dinner, walk, nurse, bath, snack, brush teeth, books, bedtime routine. Throughout, I was sort of thinking about the assignment, at least when Pumpkin wasn't busy telling me about the cat we'd just seen ("eee-ow! eee-ow!") or asking for "Daaad-ee". Nothing was coming to me, but I figured that once I sat down with my beer, I'd have no problems. I've always had dreams. Before the big trip, there was the wedding in the south pacific (mentioned in this post and this one). I had dreams of owning a house and not having to live with someone else's bad decorating decisions (the crushing realization that you can buy a house and still live with someone else's bad decorating decisions, as evidenced by my bright blue bathrooms, is the topic of another post). I always had a career plan, with short term and long term goals. At one point, I had dreams of earning my fighting shorts in Muay Thai (also the topic of another post).

Now... I'm almost done with my beer, and still I have nothing. Sure, I'd like to travel more, but whereas in the past, I could always point to specific places I wanted to go (Easter Island, Angkor Wat...), now I have a much fuzzier idea that it would be nice to see some new places. I used to have big ideas about things I'd like to do in my work field. Now, I have no such ideas, and I honestly don't know what the next step in my career should be. I used to have specific goals I aimed for in whatever fitness activity I was doing. Now, my goal is just to make it to a yoga class once a week. Oh, and I'm at least 20 years younger than everyone else in my yoga class. The first day I showed up for class, the other students thought I was a substitute instructor.

I can't decide if this lack of dreams is a sad state of affairs, or just a normal phase of a relatively new mother.

I think I'll go finish my beer while watching a Daily Show or something, and just try to forget all about this assignment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Tonic

I had a frustrating day at work today, and was pretty tired when I got home. Pumpkin was home with my Mom, because she'd come down with a tummy bug Sunday night. I got out of my car and heard Pumpkin running around giggling in the backyard, saying "BUH-bbles! BUH-bbles!" My Mom had set up the bubble machine that Pumpkin's aunt gave her for her first birthday. It was producing heaps of bubbles, and Pumpkin was running around chasing the bubbles, having a blast. This picture is from an earlier bubble-fest, so the outfit was different, but the idea was the same:

After dinner, Hubby and I went out for a walk with Pumpkin, as we usually do. She usually gets out of her stroller when we cross the last street before our house, and she walks the rest of the way home. She has this half run-half walk that she does, which gives her a cute, bouncing gait. She caught up with Hubby, and reached her hand up to hold his hand. I hung back, watching Hubby and our cute little bouncing girl walk home ahead of me.

So I'll go off to bed tonight in a much better mood than I was in when I got home. Maybe Pumpkin will even let me have a decent stretch of sleep, to complete the cure.