Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nap Wars

If a mother ever tells you that her child has napped perfectly since birth, and that all she has to do is lie the baby in the crib and walk away, there are two possibilities. 1) This woman was sent from the depths of Hell with the sole mission of making you feel like a crappy mother, or 2) She is a liar. From all of the conversations I've had with other moms, I have gathered that napping is the trending topic. Breastfeeding has become too sensitive a topic to bring up in casual circles and cloth diapering doesn't generate the same kind of controversy (just shock that people seriously pull it off), so it's no fun. All newborns do is eat, sleep, and pee/poop, so napping is what we have left to talk about.

In my last post I mentioned that Jack was an iffy napper. Iffy is a generous word. So these conversations don't seem to shine the best light on my parenting skills. I use my sharp wit to deflect feelings of inadequacy when other moms “tsk-tsk” at me when I joke (not a joke) that the only place he would sleep at 4 months old was stretched across my chest while I watched trashy television.

A quick recap of napping non-skills:

0 months: At three weeks old he would go for 9 to 10 hours at a time without any true sleep. If I remember correctly from the myriad of reading that I did, a three-week-old is supposed to have about an hour of alert time before needing a nap. That means Jack was squeezing in 9 periods of alertness back to back to back to...yeah. People always said, “Oh he is just curious, there's too much to see!” So I tried telling him that the ceiling fan would still be there if he wanted to doze and check later to make sure I wasn't lying. No luck. 

 The swing was a lifesaver for the first few months.

2 months: Jack would take naps, but only on me. Reflecting back, this was obviously the time I got the least done around the house and felt most like a lazy bum. Between 2 and 4 months, the times of naps were totally random. This was about the age when most other moms were talking about their plans of attack. Either they were scheduling fanatics or vehemently against parent-led schedules. Around this time I decided to peek into a book given to him by a colleague to see if there were any ideas about how to approach scheduling that we hadn't tried yet. I won't say which one in case anyone out there swears by this book, but it was ridiculous. It basically said that if you didn't breastfeed and have a parent-led schedule that your baby would get gangrene and die. There were sample schedules, which might have come in handy if they seemed at all realistic. Something like, “place your baby in a seat by the window for this hour and a half of active wakefulness. And make sure to breastfeed or your baby will get gangrene and DIE.” 

Sleeping on the go or on a person was pretty much how we did it.

4 months: 4-6 months was emotionally taxing in terms of naps. I was determined to get Jack into some kind of routine, as it seemed to be a top priority in all of the baby literature. We tried everything to get Jack to sleep in his crib during the day, where he was regularly sleeping up to 11 hours a night with 1-2 quick wakings. We even tried “Cry It Out,” which did not work for Jack or Mommy. We both cried but never got to the “out” part. The best we could do was to swaddle him so tightly I thought his head would pop off, rock him and shush shush shush right into his face, and eventually we could lie him down. EXACTLY 40 minutes later, he would be awake. Every. Single. Time. WTF?! It was so precise I could have sworn there was a timer in his brain. The problem wasn't necessarily the short naps but the perpetually exhausted infant it resulted in. We would go through 5 nap cycles on some days, and that still added up to less than the recommended minimum of nap time in a day for a baby his age. I read and read and read about baby naps. I found message boards filled with posts from women (and men) with the same type of problematic nappers. It seemed Jack was not alone in his 40 minute cycles. Unfortunately, the best and most frequent advice was, “They grow out of it eventually.” Everyone's eventually was different, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped that he would just change overnight.

 You want me to sleep in here?  By myself?  While it's light outside?  Are you crazy?

6 months: We were able to get down to 3 naps a day, when most kids are getting to 2, but they were still short and times were variable. He was so tired by the evening that he was going to bed for the night around 6:30pm. Every evening this seemed great- Mike and I could eat dinner in peace, catch up on housework, watch TV, still go to bed at a decent hour. Every morning this was terrible, because Jack was up for the day at 4:45am. It is almost hilarious now but wasn't then. Another problem was that Mike was working in the ICU during this time and would often get home as Jack was going to bed. I know this happens to many families when one or both parents have to work late, so we were not unique in this problem and it was short-term, but it still sucked. Oh, and around 7 months we finally were able to ditch the swaddler, which was our best friend for a long time. For a while Mike was worried we would need to build our own swaddler for him to bring to kindergarten for rest time.

 Hey, at least someone was getting use out of it.  He got stuck though.

8 months to present (10.5 months): Jack has started to show signs of improvement. He often still wakes up after 35-40 minutes but will usually go back to sleep, although I usually need to rock him again. But usually once a day he sleeps about an hour and 15 minutes and we are down to two naps a day. I still feel pangs of jealousy when I hear moms talk about their 3-hour nap kids or brag that their son/daughter will take multiple 2-hour naps every day, but I talk myself off the ledge. I try to look at the bright side, thinking of all of the things Jack does do well that I hear other parents obsessing about.
  • Eat
  • Sleep overnight
  • Crawl/Pull up/Cruise
  • Eat
  • Give kisses/high fives/smacks in the face
  • Says “mama,” “dada,” “Jet,” “yeah,” “done” (we think)
  • Make the weird mouth noise from Silence of the Lambs (“I ate his liver a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti.” It's perfection.

If napping is the one major complaint I have, I guess we can deal with it. 

 Asleep in our bed after waking up obscenely early.  Now that he can roll away though it's pretty dangerous.  That's why I was taking a picture instead of sleeping.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kids are Like Dogs. Kind of.

I have a cranky kid on my hands today. It actually started yesterday afternoon as a general fussiness but it has compounded into full-blown crankiness this morning. Simple things get him going, like I handed him a piece of waffle when he wanted the other piece of waffle.  Silly Mama, what was I thinking. He has learned the Head Throw Back move of showing frustration, which shouldn't be a big problem in the high chair, but he's strong enough to lift the front legs of the chair, so I'm now terrified that if I'm not fast enough with the food he's going to throw the whole thing backward. When he's not strapped into the high chair, stroller, or carseat, the Head Throw is extra annoying because he can add injury to insult and then the real fun begins. He is napping soundly now, so it's time to pound out a post! Don't worry, he fell asleep naturally, he didn't pass out from smacking his head on the wall/floor/cabinets/window.

The post I started yesterday had nothing to do with Jack's crabby attitude, so excuse the lack of continuity here. 

Mike and I are always joking about the similarities between babies and dogs. We got Jet while I was pregnant, and it is absolutely not true that caring for a dog prepares people in any way for having a baby, but there are definitely certain times that we have realized, “Hey, this seems familiar.” Often after bringing up one of these comparisons, one of us has added, “But Jack is still not quite as smart as the dog.” He's getting there, and obviously he will surpass him sooner rather than later, but in the first year of life it is obvious that Jet possesses certain cognitive advantages. So without further ado...
Their friendship was fast and furious.

How My Kid and Dog are Alike (and how my dog is still smarter)
  1. They both earn celebrations and praise from Mike and I for their bowel movements. Hooray, poop! Jet, however, can control where and when these things happen. No expensive diapers necessary.
  2. Jack and Jet are both adept at some pretty good tricks: they can sit, lie down, roll over, and high five. But, Jet has him beat since he can do these things on command (Jack's only gotten there with the high five). Plus, Jet can play dead- “Bam! Dead dog!” - spin, dance, shake, go to his bed, etc.
  3. These two hungry boys will both eat anything. Wait, that's not quite true. Jet won't eat paper, plastic, electrical cords, or carrots that aren't dipped in ranch dressing.
  4. They move on all fours. On their back legs is doable, but they need to hold onto something. Generally, Jack's balance is questionable. This is certainly one area that Jet will lose his dominance soon when Jack learns to walk and looks less like a drunk old man when he moves around and more like a little boy.
  5. Jet and Jack need lots of sleep to function at their full potential. Here is the greatest gap. When Jet is tired, he will go the F to sleep. It doesn't matter what time it is, where he is. No one has to rock him, sing to him, turn on a noise machine, supply a pacifier and taggie blanket, lie him down at precisely the right second – not too awake and not too asleep – and sneak out of the room without a sound.** Nope, he just closes his eyes and checks out.

There have been many more, but these are currently my favorite five. Despite all of the ways Jet is easier to care for, he has his own idiosyncrasies as well. I'm sure my previously-documented neuroses have made him worse since we got him, too. He hates to be left alone. He is petrified of numerous things including but not limited to thunderstorms, the word “bath,” the vacuum, the dust buster, my blowdryer, fireworks, etc. He has a habit of sneaking up into our bed in the middle of the night. He has been known to sexually harass my in-laws' dog...

Over time, this list will be obsolete. Jack is making huge leaps and bounds every day, and in a few months when he starts walking, talking, and showing even more personality, it won't be as entertaining to compare the baby and the beast. Right now it's okay that Jack needs a diaper and Jet doesn't – this better not be true after another two years, for my sanity's sake. Considering how big Jack is now, I don't want him wearing diapers for too long or we will need to specially order them.

Illustrated here: the love of food.  They are staring Mike down while he eats a cheese stick.  
The excitement is clearly too much for Jack.
I'm finally at the end and it's about 11 hours later.  What a sad day he was having, but I think we might have solved the mystery.  Once Mike came home we were able to get a good look at his upper gum and it looks like those two top teeth might finally be getting ready to make an appearance- four months after the bottom two. So it was a long day but at least now I can rationalize the behavior, which always makes me feel better.  Slathered on some Orajel and put the stinker to bed.

** I know some of you are judging me right now. I compulsively read about how to “create” good, independent sleepers. But yes, I rock Jack to sleep. Yes, he uses a pacifier like they're going out of style. Yes, we have fallen victim to many difficult-to-break sleep associations like many other first-time parents. Hell, he was swaddled until he was seven months old. But he sleeps about 9.5-10 hours and can usually go back to sleep on his own if he wakes up during the night. I could fill another whole blog with the saga that has been naptime since the day Jack was born.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So...What Did You Guys Do Today?

 Eating soil.  
My mobile kid can get into all kinds of fun stuff.
This morning I spent 30 minutes putting books in a bin over and over and over and over again so Jack could pull them out and fling them every which way. Ah, the monotony of motherhood. These are the experiences that are at the forefront of my mind when my husband comes home from work and says, “What did you guys do today?” There are days when I could say, with a straight face, “Crawled behind Jack and repeatedly removed him from potentially dangerous situations. Oh, and he ate a couple of times.” Truthfully, even this is a lot more interesting than eight or nine months ago, when it would be more like, “Stared at Jack while he slept, looked around, rolled over. Oh, and he ate about a dozen times.”
There is a special kind of Mommy Guilt associated with that innocuous question. “What did you guys do today?” It is impossible to explain how exhausting it is to be home all day. It sounds crazy! I can sleep when Jack sleeps. I can stay in my pajamas all day! When he was first born, I could literally have sat in one place for the entire day, as long as he was in arms' reach. A new breastfeeding mom of just one baby could conceivably feed, change, and entertain a newborn without standing up, if she were so inclined. It might require some creative placement of crucial items, but it's definitely possible.
Of course, no one has ever done that. I rarely napped when Jack was first born because I was a first-time mother, obsessed with every movement he made. I couldn't possibly sleep if he might – gasp! - yawn. However, that also meant that I didn't get a lot done around the house because I was constantly checking on him or “playing” with him. I would rack my brain for the fastest chore I could complete so that I felt useful, so that I could give a satisfactory answer to the question of what I had done all day. Often it was walking the dog because I could put Jack in the Baby Bjorn and it was good for all three of us, but Milwaukee winters are not the best for outdoor time. As Jack got a little older, vacuuming with him in the Bjorn would keep him happy and it felt like exercise so it killed two birds with one stone. (This was not a fun time for Jet, as he believes the vacuum is a dog-eating monster.) But I still felt as though I wasn't carrying my weight, especially during the months that Mike took call every fourth night or worked six 12-hour ICU shifts each week, and still got up during the night...what a guy!
At least I can confidently say that it does get better. Everyone tells you that in the earliest days, but it's hard to believe when are in your second or third month and lucky to be sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time and you literally can't remember the last time you dusted. Or mopped. Or cleaned the toilet. But it's true. Yesterday I was able to clean the kitchen and bathroom, do the dishes (aka run the dishwasher), post on the blog, visit my mom, go to the post office, drop off the dry cleaning, and check on the house, all before Mike got out of work. Yes, you're right, that list fails to include taking a shower, but that happens sometimes (often) with a baby around. At least I brushed my teeth.
A new panic has already started creeping up on me, though. We are not (NOT NOT NOT) ready for another baby, but somewhere down the line we will be, and I get to thinking: is it like that all over again but worse because there is now a toddler/preschooler to chase around as well? Or- please please please- is it better because you've been there, done that, and have less time to worry about the little things?
I know that Mike has only good intentions when he asks about our day, but I can't help but feel embarrassed sometimes. For instance, the day is still young I guess, but the only thing I can add since I started this post (2ish hours ago), besides reaching the end of the post- thanks only to a half-decent nap for Jack- is 15 or 20 minutes of stacking wooden blocks so he could swat at them and send them flying around the room. Super productive.
At the end of the day it still feels okay. If it didn't, I would have run back to work at any job I could find, if just to see more tangible results for my efforts. Fortunately babies have some redeeming qualities that, most of the time, counteract the monotony. Jack is 10 months old now, and he is showing a lot of affection. He is smiling and laughing out loud, getting excited to see me/Mike after being away for a bit, trying to talk more and more, showing a sense of humor, etc. At least at this age he is starting to demonstrate appreciation for the time that I spend with him. And as he gets older, he is more and more independent and mobile, so he can play for 10 minutes while I fold a load of laundry, or “help.” I'm hoping it continues to improve over the next few weeks so that when we move into the new house I'm prepared to keep up with the bigger space. Is it to early to put Jack to work? Maybe I can tie Swiffer pads to his knees and let him crawl all over the place. Everybody wins!
Time to get something done so I have something interesting to say when Mike gets home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

iPhone Photo Dump

I am obsessed with taking pictures in general, and obviously this was magnified 100 times by having a baby.  Anyone who is my friend on Facebook can attest to this.  In fact, shortly after Jack was born I realized that a friend from childhood had unfriended me, and I'm 99% sure it's because he was sick and tired of me bombarding his news feed.  Jack sleeping!  Jack awake!  Jack lying in the swing!  On the floor!  In his crib!  I completely understand how someone could be over this after the first few thousand pictures.  The best part is that for every picture I have shared, it is probably only a quarter of my library.  I'm hoping to use this blog as a means to share my favorites and I will try to take it easy elsewhere.  

This post is dedicated to my iPhone camera roll, which is closing in on 900 pictures.  TRAGEDY STRUCK a few weeks ago when I realized that Mike and I accidentally put our camera charger in storage, so I haven't been able to take any photos with the digital camera since June.  Thankfully I do have a camera on my phone because otherwise I would have gone crazy.  It's not the best quality, but one advantage is that since I always have my phone with me, I am able to catch some funny moments that I might not be prepared for otherwise.  

Without further ado...
 One of Jack's first photo-ops.  Fat face!
 Baby feet
 Jack's rocker look.
 Early smiles

 I was in love with this hat, and he was too little to take it off.
 Jet standing guard.
 He has that look on his face because he knows Jet isn't allowed on Grandma and Grandpa's couch.

 Go 'Cats!
 Getting ready for his first bites.
 A picture of Jack watching a video of Jack.

 You want me to what?

 Belly laughs.
 Before he learned how to pull the wipes out.

 He's learning...
Must have been worn out that day.
 One of the first times he pulled up on his own.

 Noticing Mom on the other side of the tunnel.
 Coming to get me.
 Serious arm rolls.
 This face is usually accompanied by a roar.
 Big boy.
 Transfixed by the Real Housewives of NJ.  Bad Mom.

Mean Mommy locked the pacifiers in a chick egg leftover from Easter.  
I thought it would be frustrating for him, but he just tried to eat the whole chick.