posts tagged with 'time'

so dark!

Day length changes quick this time of year! Just last week were celebrating the equinox, and still feeling pretty summery; now we find it's still pitch dark at six in the morning. That's tough! Unlike most everyone around us, though, we don't mind so much the earlier sunsets. As a family of morning people, we tend to be winding down after dinner—or even before dinner!—anyways, so it's nice when the sky agrees with us.

Unlike a lot of Americans, I don't object to winter to the point of Seasonal Affective Disorder or anything like that. We don't have it that bad here in New England—there's not a lot of talk about SAD in Spain, I don't think, despite their sharing a latitude with us. We just happen to have some darkness and some snow, and I guess that's enough to get folks down. If you ask me, though, we most of us are sleep deprived all the time; maybe the shortening days can be a helpful hint to get to bed a little earlier! I imagine how cozy things must have been before electric lights and capitalism, when at midwinter there was nothing to do but sleep or sit around telling stories. Assuming you weren't starving to death, of course—first-world modernity does have some benefits.

I think the real problem people have with SAD may be because they have to work indoors all day. It's super hard to get up in the dark to go in to work, sit all day under florescent lights, and then come home in the dark. The natural world is telling them to go to bed, but that would mean a day of doing nothing but meaningless alienated labor. Like in this AskMe question. But if you ask me the answer isn't to stay up late and wake up with the help of fancy light alarms, it's to quit your job and become a hobo who sleeps and rises with the natural rhythm of the sun. Though I understand that doesn't work for everyone.

Ahem. All that is to say, I certainly agree that dark mornings make it much harder to wake up. I'm so glad we live on the eastern edge of our time zone! And I'm one of the few people to welcome the arrival of standard time, when it finally rolls around after Halloween. Until they get rid of entirely, which I imagine is only a matter of time. Oh well, by then I'll be a hobo myself so it won't bother me at all.

more

ways in which times are changing, other ways they are not

Yeah, we had another storm yesterday. Winter holds us in its grip. And its grip feels particularly strong and fierce this evening, with all the snow that fell yesterday compressed into maybe five inches of icy cement, and giant solid snowballs lining the street. We're kind of over it; the boys declined to go sledding today. In their defense, they did play outside for a fair bit yesterday, despite the driving wind and icy snow-rain mix that fell all afternoon. Zion even helped shovel.

Zion shoveling in deep snow

digging out

But we don't even care about that, because we're enjoying the time change. Yes, you heard correctly; I've complained about losing our morning light before, vociferously in person and a little more mildly in these pages, but actually this year it's gone pretty well. We've managed to adjust bedtime to the new time almost instantly, and mornings are later but still relaxed. Most importantly for me, I'm getting up before the hens again! (long may it last).

This evening saw the boys outside to play after dinner for the first time this year. "Feel like" 15°F, but there was still sunlight so they they were. I think going out late put Zion in summer mode; his friends were wearing snow suits but all he managed was a sweatshirt. (Or maybe he just couldn't find his coat. That happens a lot these days.)

Judging by the forecast winter is going to stick around for a little while yet—that groundhog knew what she was talking about. But we know it can't last for ever, and all that hot sunlight coming through the skylight will be just the thing for starting seeds in a couple days.

So it's too bad that everyone else is finally starting to come around to my formerly grumpy view of time changes. We've had two great ones in a row, so now I'm happy enough to stick with the current system. But we're flexible; if you want to change it, that's cool too.

more

falling back

Thanks to serious sleep debts all around in our household, we didn't have as much crazy extra time before church yesterday morning. But it was still enough to give us a nice reset—it was also nice when Zion asked for his bedtime story at ten of six! Of course, I still stayed up too late trying to update my computer's operating system (no luck so far), but besides that this time change thing is a complete success. I don't know whether to root for Standard Time 12 months a year, or to a rolling system in which we get an extra hour every two months or so. That seems like it could be useful. Is there any technology anyone could think up to slow the Earth's rotation just a tad?

celebrating the darkness

I don't like daylight savings time, on the whole, but I like a party. So I thought we could throw one to celebrate the last Friday evening when it's dark at 6:00 pm, before the clocks change this weekend. In order to honor the darkness we had to be outside, and my friends indulged me for quite a while despite the rapidly sinking temperature.

folks standing around a fire in the grill, lights in the tree above

almost the last evening darkness

Besides the lights in the tree above the supper tables, I also illuminated our little patch of woods—and specifically decorated the three tree platforms we've built so far with lights, so the kids could play in them after dark. Unfortunately all the big kids—or at least, some members of their families—were sick this evening, so Harvey was the oldest present and Zion the second oldest. They still had lots of fun, of course, but they were happy enough with rocking wildly on the hammock. So that was a little disappointing.

But it was still a lovely evening, and even though I did eventually have to let folks go inside, there was ice cream inside (and brownies and caramel sauce!) so that was ok too. And in the absence of big kids I got to snuggle with some little ones who aren't mine, which was a very unaccustomed feeling!

The lights are still up outside too, so stop by any time to see them in action. The big kids will enjoy them, yet. It'll just have to be after 7:00!

more

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.

"what did we do today, again?"

At bedtime I almost always ask the boys about their favorite part of the day. I like to pray thanksgivings with them, and it's nice to know what they might feel particularly thankful for. Of course, as I ask I'm pretty sure what I'm going to hear for an answer: "I don't know, what did we do today, again?" Coupled with the other frequent bedtime question—"what fun thing are we going to do tomorrow"—and it's enough to drive a parent to distraction.

In their defense, I must say it's not as bad as it sounds. In Harvey's case it's his natural caution about not wanting to answer any question wrong that's holding him back; what if he forgot something that he should have enjoyed?! But most likely he recalls it all. And Zion's always hard-pressed to name something he didn't love about our day. "Playing with our friends" is almost always his first answer, when he remembers anything; but then when I remind him of the other events of the day he cheerfully adds them to his list of favorites.

So really, there's plenty of gratefulness to go around... even when I have to dig deep to find it!

more

bedtime assurance

Zion falls asleep during stories, and Lijah falls asleep nursing or listening to music, but most nights I need to leave Harvey's bedside while he's still awake—if for no other reason than my presence is too distracting to him to let him drift off. Not that he realizes that; lots of times he feels like he's wide awake, and expects to be so for some time. So every night—every night, he likes his routine—I tell him I'll check on him when I'm done with whatever evening chores I have in front of me. For the last six months or so he's asked how I'll know he's asleep, because he might just be closing his eyes for a second, and I tell him I'll know by his breathing. Which in actual fact is totally not necessary. I'll really know because I don't hear him complaining about something, because that boy can't stay in his bed at night for more than five minutes without finding some reason to call for us... unless he falls asleep in that time, as he does 19 evenings out of 20.

Actually, the above isn't totally true: I don't tell him I'll check on him, and I don't give him the answer about breathing. Anymore. I did for weeks, or maybe even months, but I'm not a patient enough parent to keep saying the same thing over and over again forever. And Harvey knows that, so he fills in my side of the conversation. Our current bedtime closing goes like this:

D: Goodnight, I love you.
H: What are you going to do out of my bed before you come check on me?
D: Put away the bikes, close up the chickens, see if Mama needs help with the cleaning. Maybe do some writing.
H: When you come check on me, How will you know I'm asleep? Will you listen to my breathing to see if I'm asleep?
D: Yes. Goodnight, I love you.

I think it works pretty well.

more

to soothe a savage breast

For months Lijah was just in love with brass band music, and specifically the more uptempo tunes of the Youngblood Brass Band. Not so much lately, but when he was between six and twelve months all I needed to do was turn on "Brooklyn" and, no matter how much he had been fussing, he'd just relax into my shoulder and be asleep before the song was done. In the car it was "Pastime Paradise", which was also a favorite of the other two boys; sometimes we'd even start it before we tried to get him into his seat, since that sweet sousaphone beat made the buckling-up so much easier.

Why was that? Did he really like the songs so much they eclipsed all his other concerns and annoyances? Maybe, but I have a theory that there's something else involved—namely, that pre-verbal babies have a preternatural perception of body language. When they're freaking out it stresses their parents, and when the parents are stressed it adds to the baby's stress and makes it still harder for him to calm down. When you find something your baby likes it short-circuits that negative feedback loop. It was YBB for Lijah; for other babes the magic might be from being rocked a certain way, or hearing mama singing a particular song. But the important thing is that, having launched into the guaranteed-good calming process, the parent can feel like everything is under control and relax. Self-fulfilling prophecy, it works.

With the third kid I've come to the opinion that, for me at least, recorded music is the way to go. While I have plenty of philosophical reasons to prefer singing—and I sang a lot to Harvey—there's a problem with having to produce the magic yourself. Sometimes I'm too tired for good vocal production! With the right song cued up on my phone all I need to do is fumble it out of my pocked and push the button; poof, instant calm.

Now that Lijah's more of a rational being, the magic of "Brookyln" is diminished some. Once he started being able to think, "Oh hey wait, this is the sleepy song—must resist!", the system started to break down. Of course, he still loves music, and it's always easier to calm him when I have something playing. Now that I think about it, it's a fair trade-off: it takes two or three songs instead of half of one to get him to sleep, but I don't have that one driven so deeply into my brain that it rises every moment when I'm not thinking of something else. It's nice to hear a variety of tunes. And even when Lijah doesn't need the music, I've decided that I do. If I'm going to be rocking with him for who-knows-how-long since his nose is so stuffy he can't breathe lying down, I want something to mark the passage of time and keep me sane. I've spent nights up with him listening to the entirety of Counting Crows' first album and half of This Desert Life, and they're totally bearable; so much better than would be an hour and a half marked only by sniffing and the ticking of our three downstairs clocks.

So, future parents, I recommend recorded music. Sometimes it's magic, and even when it's not it helps a lot. Plus I have high hopes for these boys' musical sensibility as they mature; they've listened to a lot of good tunes!

more

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!

more

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...

more