posts tagged with 'sleep'

still napping after all these years

Lijah turns three in a few days, so every afternoon at nap time I have a moment of doubt about whether he's actually going to fall asleep. Not that three is a magical age; I'm told that plenty of kids are still napping well into their fourth year. It's just that Harvey and Zion both gave up any pretense of sleeping during the day when they turned two. Not Lijah! He's still going strong.

Lijah napping, bare feet tucked up under stripey butt

expert napper

Of course, he's always needed more sleep than his brothers do: we noticed that when he was just a month old. And then we also figured out some things about parenting as we practiced on our first couple children. I figured out that, if a boy needs to sleep, I need to make him sleep whether he wants to or not! And with Lijah the key to doing that at nap time is music by the Youngblood Brass Band.

When I wrote about his affection for the group back in 2015 I noted that the soporific effect their tunes had on him was wearing off. But then Leah started working more hours and, in an effort to keep our homeschooling days sane, I instituted a hard line on nap time based on mandatory listening. It works! (I wrote about the first day of the program, before I knew it was going to be a thing.)

Lijah's reaction to the prospect of napping goes in phases. At first, fully cognizant of how tired he is mid-afternoon, he was happy to relax and fall asleep. Then he started to push back some, by whining or by trying to start a conversation. With the magic music backing me up, I could indulge him a little—with the reminder that we were going to listen to our three or four songs regardless. Lately, I just turn on the songs and give him some time to finish up what he's doing; before too long he comes right over for me to pick him up. It's kind of nice! (it also helps that the other two boys have their own rest time routine down pat).

Not everything is lovely and easy. As ever, there are many ways in which he is horrible, or at least ridiculous. But I love him a lot, especially when he's had enough sleep. So I'm glad that part's still working out!


at least we have asparagus

As seems to be the case most of the time, we're feeling pretty busy and exhausted around here. I've had many moments during the day when I blinked and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep for a couple seconds. Which is why it was even more frustrating than usual when, at the beginning of the week, I had a couple nights where I was up for what felt like a considerable amount of time, too stressed to fall asleep. What was I stressed about? Oh, work, some; and homeschooling; but mostly the garden. There's so much that I should have done and haven't! Amateur farming is hard work. Luckily, there's always the asparagus.

a bundle of asparagus on the kitchen table

one day's take

I think I planted our asparagus patch back in 2008 or so (and then I added some more plants in 2011). As I've mentioned before, it was a little work to get set up, but now we just sit back and let the deliciousness pour in. It's lovely, and all the sweeter when I see how much asparagus goes for in the stores. I think I've picked about $40 worth so far, and it's still coming in! Do you have an asparagus patch in your yard? You should!

(In researching for this post I find I write nearly the same things almost every year. I don't remember any of it. Must be memory loss from never sleeping. Stay tuned: more excitement about asparagus coming May 2017!!!)


chicken alarm

I've had some very productive mornings lately, thanks to my ever-reliable (at least at this time of year) feathered alarm clocks:

the chickens scratching in the garden before sunrise

chickens in the gloaming

I'm not sure whether their behavior is learned or innate, but by making an unholy racket every morning the hens get me up at an ever-earlier hour to let them out into the yard and give them a handful of scratch—at which point they mostly shut up for an hour or two.

There's certainly the possibility that, left unchecked, their predawn noise would wake up the kids in our house; but actually I'm more concerned about the neighbors. Our kids are up at 6 anyways most days, but I'm sure that our immediate neighbors keep more civilized hours. They're nice folks, and I wouldn't want them to take against us and our livestock any more than they already have.

Not that I've had any evidence that they've ever heard the early-morning chorus. In fact, a couple days ago our neighbors on one side had a problem with their car alarm, which went off at around 5:15—and kept sounding for long enough for Leah to get up, go next door, and ring the bell. They didn't hear the alarm, but at least they responded to the doorbell.

My post on facebook about the incident might have seemed a little grumpy—might even have seemed to suggest I'd let the hens make some noise in order to get back at those neighbors. Far from it! I only meant that I'd be less worried about chicken sounds now that I know a car alarm immediately under their bedroom window doesn't bother them. I'm still going to let the hens out though, just in case. And it's not so bad, getting to read or garden in the crepuscular peace.

Especially if I manage to get to bed before 10. Still working on that part.



Can't write, sleeping.


OK, so it wasn't only bread that took so much of my time last week. Work and hospitality also played a big role in keeping me away from the writing desk. But I can assure you that getting any extra sleep had no role in my lack of blogging time: I haven't made it to bed before 10:30 in close to a week. And before you scoff, if you're a young person who keeps more fashionable hours: I regularly get woken up in the night for tuck-in service, and then I'm up at 6:00. That's not enough sleeping. Yet I keep not going to bed. There's so much to do around here!

dark for sleeping

Despite the fact that it's really warm again, there's one big way it's feeling wintery around here: light levels. A week and a half before the time change it's dark before too long after dinner, and dark well after it's time to wake up. It's a little frustrating from the point of getting things done outside. On the other hand, it's great for the sleeping! This evening the boys were all quiet in bed by 7:15, and Leah followed within an hour. I don't want to say anything to jinx it, but we may be ready to start chipping away at our gigantic summer sleep debt!

After we get back from the church retreat this weekend, that is.

these moods were made for walking

I took a walk with Elijah by the river today. The air was rather mild despite the recent blizzard, and I was breaking a path through knee-deep snow. Altogether it was very good exercise.

The reason I was exercising thusly is because I'd just had a shouting fight with my husband about the gym. He thought I should go to the gym because I Clearly Needed A Break. I said a break wouldn't cut it after the morning I'd had. He said Don't You Trust Me to Watch the Three Children it's like you're some kind of Martyr for no cause in particular, a bitchy Martyr who is Unpleasant to be around. I said, if you really want to hear my opinion, you can't take the baby out in this weather just standing around, he screams when you do this, I know from a lot of personal experience holding a screaming baby, and you can't let the other children play in the street unsupervised, and if it's all the same to you I'd rather mind the baby than have him screaming on the street or having my other children hit by a car, and furthermore I'm tired risking the life and limb and the happiness of everyone in this family just so I can spend thirty minutes in a smelly room burning one fifth of the calories I ate for lunch.

Dan said he thought I liked the gym.

I said I like it fine. But. I haven't slept in weeks and the older kids are capable of fighting over which monochrome lego brick belongs to whom and the baby screams if he's awake and not touching me and there is no amount of pull-ups that will that okay. I cannot spend thirty minutes on the rowing machine and come back to the same house and the same life and pretend it's all totally okay.

So Why not go for an hour? Dan said.

And I said, you don't understand. This body that I might spend an hour training in front of a sticky mirror? this body is food and comfort for ten hours every night. Actively. Like, I have to prop myself up on my side and the arm that I'm propping up on goes numb. And then during the day, carrying that back-pack around all the time, my body is some kind of a diaper/spare-clothing/snack/water-bottle/bandaid mule.

There is no magic amount of time at the gym that will make this okay. I just want you to hear that. If I go to the gym, let's just be clear, I want to leave open the possibility that I might come back and still be kind of frustrated.

Dan said Do Whatever You Want and slammed the front door.

I decided what I really wanted was to get some fresh air.

So I bundled the baby into his snowsuit (he doesn't scream if he's moving) and me and the difficult one took a long walk by the frozen river.

And you know what? It WAS good exercise.

But fuck exercise.

I am tired of wondering whether things are good exercise or not. I am tired of wondering if I am working my quads or if I am working my glutes or if I've burned the calories I just consumed or am planning to consume later. I'm so very tired of wondering anything. Wondering whether a white noise machine will get my baby to sleep, or if sleeplessness is just part of my life not subject to change. I just want to stop wondering. I just... want to do something because it's ENJOYABLE.

Not because it'll make me a better mother or because it'll make me thinner or because an accountant in my head is calculating the per-use cost of my gym membership. I just want to do something FUN for an hour. I walk to walk in the snow and look at the bunny tracks and say in some pleased voice I may not possess: "That's something I won't be able to do when I'm dead."

Elijah enjoyed bouncing around and looking at the snowy trees. He didn't notice the incongruity later of going to bed to a soundtrack of beach noises. Let's hope (though I don't mean to functionalize our time together) that the walk and the noise machine help him put some real hours of sleep together. Perhaps they will get both of us dreaming of fresh air and summer.


bedtime these days

Our bedtime routine is working pretty well these days. I thought of it because today it didn't, quite; I guess that made me pay attention. We haven't said much about bedtime since Lijah's been around, which is maybe surprising since there's some concern, I think, about having the third kid: now the parents are outnumbered! But for us going from one to two was actually trickier. As it is now, Harvey and Zion have pretty similar interests and schedules, so it's workable for one parent to put them both to bed at the same time.

What usually happens is that Lijah starts getting sleepy sometime around 6:00, and Leah takes him upstairs to nurse to sleep in the bed. He's fairly sensitive to noise when he's falling asleep, so I work to keep the boys quiet and contained in their after-dinner activities. When one or both of them seems tired—usually between 6:30 and 7:00, this time of year, we head upstairs for stories. That they both love books more than just about anything else is very convenient, since if there's any recalcitrance I only have to say that the window for story time will be closing shortly to get them going.

They each get one book "in the lap"—so called as a historical relic from when Harvey was the only audience; these days we're just all in a row on the edge of the beds—then I direct them to brush their teeth and pee. That last bit is the only trouble spot lately, since Zion isn't always (ever?) happy to be made to use the toilet on command, and the requirement is a new one for him. But we make it work. Then I read two more books "in the bed", lying in Zion's bed between the boys (their "beds" are a pair of mattresses on the floor, pushed right up against one another). The lights are off for the second round of stories; they're lit by headlamp. I limit the "lap" stories to shorter picture books, but the "bed" material can be longer; most nights Harvey asks for a portion of a chapter book (we're currently in the middle of The Four-Story Mistake).

After I finish reading I turn off the headlamp and assess the situation. Zion often falls asleep as he listens, or nearly so, but Harvey has only dropped off during a story a handful of times in his life. Sometimes he asks me to pray for him to have no scary dreams, something which used to be a ritual but now is pretty intermittent, and every once and a while he'll request a song; Zion also tends to want a song if he's still awake enough to speak. After I do those things—or just lie still for a minute or two, if there aren't any requests—I say goodnight and get up to go, letting anyone still awake know that I'll come back to check on them in a couple minutes.

Most of the time that's all it takes. We work the boys pretty hard most days, and even Harvey can't usually last more than 30 seconds after I stop talking to him. But on the rare occasion it doesn't work and we have open rebellion I do my best not to fight, while also not setting any precedents that'll possibly extend bedtime in the future. Today, for example, Harvey was too worked up to settle down to sleep, so ten minutes or so after I left him to go downstairs I heard him walking around up there. Investigating, I told him that I was cleaning the kitchen and he was welcome to come help me, or he could turn on his headlamp and look at a book in his bed, or anything he wanted. He sat at the top of the stairs for a while, then came down and started drawing in the playroom. When I finished cleaning and started turning off lights, he whined indistinctly for a while until I was able to get him to ask me for what he wanted, which was "help going to sleep". So we went up together and I petted his head for, oh, about a minute and a half until he fell asleep. That was a little past 8:00.

Our kids are not awesome sleepers. Lijah wakes up four to six times per night, and its a rare night where I don't have to go in to settle Zion down at least once. But at least—and this is a great relief to me—they mostly don't fight sleeping. Lijah wants cuddles and nursing, and he get them, and Zion mostly just needs reminders that it's sleepy time and he should be lying down. He actually likes sleeping, which very gratifying to his parents; we're big fans too!

I don't know how other folks do with bedtimes; our culture seems to say that we should just put kids in their rooms and tell them to sleep—starting weeks after birth!—but there's also an industry of authors catering to solving sleep problems in the young. If you ask me, getting your kids to sleep isn't something you can "get right": all kids are different, and what works one month might not even work with the same kid the next month. But when I can relax about it things seem to go better. And I'm feeling pretty relaxed these days, so life is good!


cosleeping co.

Elijah and Zion cuddling in our bed


They love this bed because Mama's in it, but when Mama leaves and they're half asleep they're content to snuggle close to each other, enjoying the warmth and love of someone who is not Mama, a beautiful symbiosis of mutual need.

I think life is like this. As they grow I will become less physically present for them, until I will be one day not at all, and in all these moments they will turn to each other and maybe not cuddle but something. That is the reason to have brothers.

Also, it should be noted that our older child stays in his bed all night. Praise to Harvey.

two hours later. sleepyheads


summer sleeping

I'm having some trouble getting enough sleep these days, and it's not the kids' fault! Well, not entirely their fault anyways; I can't acquit them entirely! But the real culprit is the sun.

Sure, the later sunset is wonderful, and we're very much enjoying hanging out in the yard or riding bikes in the street after supper these last couple weeks. But since outside is so much more fun than in, the boys have lost the motivation for starting bedtime that let us get them in bed by 6:30 some winter evenings. Stories aren't enough to compete with warm evening breezes! Now I do need to stress that they aren't putting up a fuss over bedtime—they come in eventually, and do all the usual things without any untoward complaining—but the whole process is slower than it would be in the dark.

And actually, that isn't a problem by itself. To be honest, half the trouble is my fault: I don't want to come in any more than they do! And when they're playing happily there's a lot less motivation to get them moving towards bed than when they're feuding over the remains of their toys after a day stuck inside. They don't actually have a set bedtime (I promised a year or two ago to write a post about that; someday I will) so the time creep would be fine, all things being equal.

What's not equal, though, is that the sun is also more present in the morning. The main effect this has is to make the chickens wake up earlier, which makes me wake up earlier, because I've inadvertently trained them to make lots of noise in the morning when they want to be let out to scratch and peck in the yard (can't let them wake up the neighbors!). Again, this by itself would be fine. I love the early-morning hours: nothing makes me happier than wandering in the dewy garden as the first rays of the sun strike the top of the pea trellis.

But, as you can imagine, between those two lovely signs of summer lies an ever-shrinking pool of sleep. I can survive it for a little while, but eventually the lack starts to tell and my mental acuity begins to fade. And I'm tough—how much worse is it when the boys' sleep time is similarly squeezed?! Harvey wasn't asleep before 8:30 last night and then he woke up by quarter to six, which is far from enough sleep for a growing boy! At least he stays asleep all night; Zion, though he does manage to stay abed a little longer in the mornings, compounds his lack of sleep by waking himself up for big chunks of the middle of the night.

So today—following an afternoon where they weren't good for anything but watching an hour of shows on the iPad—we got them to bed early. Well, by 7:30 at least, which is early for summer: I didn't need the headlamp to read their stories. Now all I have to do is follow their good example myself, and my enjoyment of the summer season will be yet fuller. Too bad there's all this blogging to do...