Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Literary Character Dinner Party

Because when you're a stay at home mom to a young toddler, and you're in the middle of your tenth-plus rendition of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider for the morning, the mind tends to wander.

This week I've been thinking about which fictional characters I'd like to have over for a dinner party. I limited the guest list to five characters, and focused on book characters initially to keep things simpler. I chose my guests based on who would be the most fun to have over for dinner, not who I'd most like to meet. If you want to play along, feel free to come up with your own criteria for narrowing down the guest list! Warning: Super nerdy literary inside jokes ahead.

1 and 2. Queen Cimorene and King Mendanbar (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede): My favorite characters from my favorite books growing up, they were my immediate first choice for my guest list. Also they are smart and funny and relatively friendly as long as you are not a wizard. Which is fine, since I was unable to narrow down the giant cast of Harry Potter to only one or two people whom I wanted to invite so none of them are on the list.

3. Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen): She's an obvious choice, to be sure, but a perfect one. How fun would Lizzie be at a dinner party? So fun! Her husband is not invited. He might be handsome, but he's too shy and a poor conversationalist with strangers.

4. Thursday Next (the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde): She's an expert at navigating the confusing line between fiction and real life, so she's a useful choice as well as an interesting person in her own right. Also she'd have lots of fun anecdotes to share.

5. Theodore Laurence (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott): I needed another man to round out the party, and I bet he'd be funny and charming. He's allowed to come only on the condition that he not bring along Jo or Amy March, who are, respectively, socially awkward and generally insufferable.

Also specifically banned: Howard Roark and the entire cast of characters from any and all Ayn Rand novels.

Then I also threw together a list for television characters. I tried to do one for movie characters, but that just turned into choosing celebrities you like, and I've blogged my celebrity dinner party list before.

1 and 2. Sam Seaborn and CJ Cregg (The West Wing): Smart and funny. Hopefully we can get them to talk about something other than politics, though.

3. Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars): The grown-up, post-show version. Inviting her also guarantees that something scandalous or dramatic will take place at your dinner party. Instant infamy!

4. Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly): He seems witty and fun in the few happy scenes of the Firefly crew hanging out together in non-stressful environments. Also he will have lots in common with my final guest,

5. The Doctor (Doctor Who): Because come on. It's the Doctor. Any of the most recent three regenerations is fine. Although his presence puts us all in grave danger, it will be worth it if I can wrangle a ride in the TARDIS.

Okay, now you play!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Saga of Lucas and Sleep (A Partial History)

The relationship between Lucas and sleep has never been an easy one. I decided I want to recount what we've dealt with for the past almost year-and-a-half. Partly to have it written down for memory's sake, and partly to share our experience with a poor sleeper who resists sleep training who also has parents who didn't/couldn't rely on traditional cry-it-out methods. Infant and toddler sleep is an ever-changing beast, so I've subtitled this entry "A Partial History" to acknowledge that the way Lucas sleeps this week is likely different from how he may sleep next month or next year. Also, I've thrown in some sleeping Lucas photos just to keep things interesting/adorable.

Birth to Three Months: From birth, Lucas preferred to be rocked to sleep, and frankly, we preferred to rock him at this point so it worked well all around. There was maybe a handful of times he fell asleep in our rocking bassinet, and he's always fallen asleep easily in the car seat, but otherwise, it was in our arms and then he was transferred to bassinet or crib. We used the Rock'n'Play a lot these first months, although we always started him out in the crib at night and then moved him in the early morning when he had trouble staying asleep. Naps were either in our arms or in the Rock'n'Play or car seat, maybe occasionally in the crib. He generally drifted off to sleep or nursed to sleep without crying the majority of the time, although I'm sure he fussed a good amount as well, being a newborn and all.

Three Months: This month gets its own spot. This marked when he stopped drifting off to sleep and started screaming himself to sleep, sometimes for up to an hour before he'd give in. Nursing to sleep was the safest bet. He also slept through the night, up to 11-12 hours straight this month. Naps were unpredictable and anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours long. I'd bet he was rocked to sleep or in his car seat every single time he fell asleep at this age, and we still used the Rock'n'Play a lot for early morning sleep (2am-8am) to keep him asleep for longer stretches when needed.

Four Months to Eight Months: The four month sleep regression hit us with a vengeance. Sleeping 11-12 hours straight became a distant memory. He was up probably 4+ times nightly on a regular basis, and it became difficult to impossible to transfer him from your arms once you had rocked or nursed him to sleep. I basically held him for the entirety of his four daily naps for all of these months. In the afternoons, I could sometimes very carefully transfer him to where he was snuggled next to me in our bed, and then we'd nap together or if I was feeling awake (rare), I'd watch Hulu on the iPad with headphones in while he slept.

At night, Brandon and I would transfer him together into the crib to minimize the movement and try to prevent him from waking up after I'd nursed/rocked him to sleep. Early mornings were still difficult, particularly from 4am to 6am. I started bringing him into our bed at this time of morning to sleep next to me until 7am-8am, when he'd be up for the day. Brandon hated this, but I needed it in order to get an adequate amount of sleep. Middle of the night wakeups were easier, if frequent, because I still nursed him just about every time he woke up, which made it easy to put him back to sleep, although transferring him was still a problem and could take 3-4 attempts before he'd stay in the crib for more than 5 minutes without waking back up.

During this particularly miserable period of sleep, I attempted a bit of sleep training by sitting next to the crib and trying to soothe him to fall asleep there instead of my arms. He'd often scream bloody murder for up to an hour before giving in, assuming I didn't give in way before that point. It didn't work at all, and I very quickly gave it up. He still screamed while we were rocking him, too, but at least there he'd usually fall sleep more quickly (much more quickly if I was nursing him).

Eight Months to Eleven Months: From around Christmas 2012 until we moved into the new house in April, things got a little better and we tried several times to sleep train Lucas. He allowed us to transfer him from our arms into the crib much easier, which freed up nap times some for me. However, he tended to wake up anywhere from 20-40 minutes after being put down. I eventually realized that he wasn't done napping just because he'd woken up, and would have to hold him for the remainder of his nap at that point, since he rarely allowed me to rock him to sleep a second time and then transfer him; he'd always wake up. I spent a great deal of time in the glider in his nursery during this period; thank the Lord for a comfortable chair and my iPhone! Nighttime routine remained the same, and he was up around 1-3 times nightly, assuming he wasn't sick. Early morning were still rough, and he ended up in our bed by 5am more often than not.

After realizing that trying to get him to sleep in his crib while I sat there listening to him scream was too frustrating for both parties, I continued to rock or nurse him to sleep. We also gave Ferber a first effort during this time period. Generally, parents who use Ferber find that after a few nights of crying with check-ins, a baby will being to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. Some lucky parents report that their child fell asleep after only a few 5-minute intervals of fussing on the first night. Lucas would scream for up to an hour's worth of 5-7 minute check-ins, standing in the crib and yelling for us the entire time while making zero progress in self-soothing. We weren't comfortable letting him cry for longer than an hour, so we'd end up just rocking him at that point. After 2-3 weeks of this, we gave up until the summer and just rocked him for everything.

Eleven Months to Fifteen Months: Once we moved to the new house, Lucas's nursery was too far away from our room; meaning, he didn't allow me to rock him to sleep in the early morning hours and then transfer him over to our bed. He'd always wake up on the walk across the living room. He continued to wake up between 4:00-5:00 just about every morning, but clearly want to continue sleeping until sometime between 6am and 7am. Since I could no longer rock him to sleep and then snuggle him next to me in bed so I could sleep, I spent every morning in the glider in the nursery while he slept on me. Sometimes I could doze off in the glider if I was really exhausted, but mostly I played on my iPhone in the dark. He almost never let me transfer him back to the crib at this time of morning. Naps remained the same; he would usually wake up after 20-30 minutes and then slept on me in the glider for the next 30-90min. At least now it was only twice a day! He always needed to be rocked to sleep for naps or else he just wouldn't sleep at all unless he happened to be in his car seat during nap time.

After a couple more months of rocking a screaming baby to sleep every night, especially after he was weaned at a year and I couldn't nurse him to sleep anymore, we agreed to try out sleep training again. We stuck with Ferber-ish (cry it out with interval check-ins), as the sitting by the crib was too frustrating for me and the kind where you hold them until they are drowsy but awake, then set them down was laughably ineffective for Lucas. For weeks or longer, following our bedtime routine, we'd leave Lucas to fuss/yell in his crib while standing up facing the door for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour's worth of interval checks. Eventually, he'd let us lay him down and then one of us would sit by the crib to soothe him by singing or rubbing his back until he fell asleep. But we rarely had to rock him to sleep at nighttime anymore, which was great progress!

Gradually, the fussing/crying during the intervals lessened and he'd simply stand and wait for us to come back. But he never lay down on his own; we'd always have to lay him down and then sit by the crib until he fell asleep. He still woke up 1-3 times nightly, but would allow you to lay him down and sit by the crib until he fell asleep instead of rocking him.

[I don't have any more photos at this point, as he only slept in a dark room once we moved so no more ability to take adorable sleepy photos.]

Sixteen Months (Currently): One day a few weeks ago, I went back in during a regular nighttime interval to find him laying down on his own. A few days after that, I went back in to discover that he had fallen asleep! From that point, the past month has been a dream for nighttime sleeping. After sitting by the crib for just a few minutes until he gets settled, he'll then happily and silently self-soothe himself to sleep after we leave the room, and then sleep all night for 10-11 hours until the following morning.  It took us about three months' worth of gradual sleep training to get to this point, and it still seems miraculous to me that he does this. I hope it lasts as long as possible!

Although I still have to rock him to sleep for naps, they've gotten to the point where he'll take the entire nap (60-90 minutes) without waking up so I don't have to spend my hours rocking in the dark nursery anymore.

As I stated in the beginning, it's always changing. For example, just in the past week he's decided that he's ready to be up for the day at 5am instead of his usual 6am-6:30am. So who knows what will happen in the next few months? However, I think you'll agree with me when I say that after the last year and a half, I think I can handle anything Lucas throws my way when it comes to sleep.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Picture Time!

Time to share some recent cuteness. You're welcome in advance

Fun at the splash park

A photo of the future?! He looks so old.

Fun at the reservoir

Grumpy because I won't let him jump in the pond


Halloween costume practice! Smaug the Terrible

Love his expression here.

Pumpkin patch!

I love fall.

Playing Pooh Sticks