Dear Buddy Boy (you’re a feisty one)

Hey there Mister Baxter, we could tell you were a feisty one from the very moment that you came into the world.  You were speedy, you were demanding, and there was no mistaking what you wanted: OUT!

Now you’re about four and a half months old, and you’re every bit as feisty as day one.  We’re just seeing the other side of a VERY long and VERY painful sleep regression.  Up multiple times a night.  Sometimes every two hours.  It’s not just that you’re awake or want to play or eat.  Nope, it’s screeeaaaaming.  From 0 to 60 in about 1.3 seconds.  Once we get you calmed down and nearly back to sleep, we’d try to gently…oh, so gently…place you back in the crib and sneak away.  But the moment your head touched the mattress, you were back to full-volume, red-faced yelling.  You had Dad and me walking on egg shells for a full four weeks.

Luckily for all three of us, we’re starting to climb out of this sleep-deprived haze.  You are learning to play quietly!  You’re sleeping longer stretches, and don’t need to be swaddled!  I’m not complaining about how bad it was; but rather documenting from what an early age you showed us your feisty nature.  I can already see that you’re going to be a determined and active young man, bull-headed perhaps, and always on the move.  You wanted to be rocked, held, and cuddled and wouldn’t accept anything else.  As I write this now, you’re determinedly shoving both fists in your mouth, and eyeing the teething ring that sits on your belly.  I know that you’ll stop at nothing today to get that ring into your mouth.  You’re just figuring out how to use your hands, and dare I say you’ll be getting your knees up to crawl soon too.

buddy boy

It’s been amazing to look back on my memories of your sister, and see glimpses of her personality in seemingly small things like how she stared at books for hours, or was happy to just watch the world playing itself out around her.  She’s now a two year old that loves to read, but hates to take risks.  I’m guessing that you, Buddy Boy, will be in a rush to do everything; loud and proud, clamoring about, and will always let us know exactly what you want.  We love you, little man.  Even if you did rob of us a whole month of sanity!

Love,

Mom

Transition and Adjust

While out for a [rare] run together a few weeks ago, Fred and I confronted a huge hill.  We were running in uncharted territory while on vacation with my family.  And this hill?  I’m talking steep and long–maybe a quarter mile or more.  Per our usual agreement, I let him power up and we’d meet at the top.  I diligently put one foot in front of the other, keeping my eyes glued to the ground.  After a whole song on my ipod, I did what I try never to do: I looked up, thinking I must be almost at the top.  Wrong!  Fred was distantly ahead of me, and he wasn’t even at the top yet.

But, gluing my eyes back to the pavement, something strange started to happen.  My breathing slowed.  My footsteps got lighter.  The hill got easier.  And I began to close the distance between me and Fred, which never happens.

Throughout the rest of our four miles back home, I kept asking myself why–how–did the hill get easier?  We don’t run hills often.  Heck, we don’t even run often.  The hill was steep, and nearly half a mile long when I mapped it afterwards.

So how did it get easier when it should have been the worst part?

The only answer I can think of is transition and adjust.

If you keep going uphill long enough, your legs will get tricked into thinking that this is the new normal.  Your muscles will transition, and your stride will adjust.  What was once hard gets easier.  Uphill feels flat.

So why the story about running on a blog about motherhood?

Transition and adjust seems to be the only thing that is propelling Fred, Charlotte, and me forward these days.  Just when we seem to get a handle on routines, something gets in the way… work, or a new developmental phase, or extended family and special events.  We mastered breastfeeding and it was soon time to transition to bottles and pumping.  We conquered the nighttime routines, and it was necessary to transition Charlotte to her own bedroom, and then go on vacation.  We developed a feed-nap-play schedule, and suddenly it’s time for solid foods and teething.

I’ve often said to Fred that just when I gain my confidence and get a handle on one thing, there is something new to tackle.

If you go without good sleep for long enough, you will get used to the lagging blurry feeling.  You will perform on less sleep than you ever thought possible, and you’ll even find time to work out even though you really could be napping.  Sleep deprivation is the new normal, and so you trick your mind and body into handling it.

If you pump often enough at work, you will get used to the prickly feeling that anyone could walk in at any second.  You’ll find tricks to clean your pump faster, pump your milk faster, and get your work done too.  Pumping has to be a part of the routine, so you transition and adjust.

After my first few days back at work, I tearfully told Fred that I couldn’t do it.  I was drowning in a sea of pumping at work, washing 500 bottles a week, carting Charlotte to and from daycare, and still trying to be a decent teacher and a good mother.  “I can not make all of the milk, make some of the money, make dinner nightly, and make us all happy too.”

To be completely transparent, summer vacation hit just around the time of my breaking point.  We are more than surviving right now.  We have free time!  We run!  We do fun things!  So this is not a success story {yet} but rather a harbinger of things to return in September.

A big transition and adjust will have to occur, perhaps our biggest yet.  I’m not sure what that means.  It may mean take-out more than cooking… or a less than clean house… or even a compromise between a little bit of formula and a lot of breast milk.  But Charlotte will be seven months old, and we will have successfully made it through seven months of exclusive breastfeeding.  A huge steppingstone toward the 11 months that we’re aiming for.

At the moment though, we’re working on introducing solid foods.  It’s not always smooth.  Milk is no longer 100% of the menu, and I’m having a harder time with that than Charlotte is.  But, transition and adjust.  Just when things get easy, they get hard again.  We do nothing constant, except the constant transitioning and adjusting.  Being a mom is like running hills multiple times a day/every day.  And I used to think marathon training was hard?

This is what we’re dealing with

This is what we used to have...

This is what we used to have…

Our normally happy, sleepy four month old has turned the corner into a nighttime gremlin!  Or, more accurately, a sleep gremlin.  Anytime she should be sleeping, needs to be sleeping, and even WANTS to be sleeping, she turns into a grumbling little gremlin.

...and this is what we have now.

…and this is what we have now.

Oh, the whines and the grumbles and sad little chokey sobs!  She’s not portable anymore!  She doesn’t nap unless held!  It’s been a solid week (or more?) and it’s driving me nuts.

In desperation this morning, I googled “four month sleep regression” and found this wonderful little blog.  It made me cry in the misery-loves-company kind of way, because it really is that bad.  But somebody gets it!  And I’m not alone!

It is true, Charlotte is practicing new skills every day.  She seems to have found the consonant sound “y” and practices her “ya-yuh-ya-yuh” over and over.  She can grab her rattle and her octopus, and she can roll from front to back.  She’s working on rolling the other way, and wants badly to pass her toys from one hand to the other.  If we can just make it to June 29th, we will be out of this Wonder Weeks phase.  Unfortunately, June 29th is still 18 more stormy night-times away…

P.S.  I am a big fan of the Wonder Weeks theory by Hetty dan de Rijt and Frans Plooj.  If you are a new mom, or a seasoned mom with a baby under the age of two, google this right now.  It will save your sanity!

________

P.P.S.

While teaching my kindergartners this morning, I let a yawn slip out.  They then proceeded to give me parenting/sleep advice that was just too priceless…if only we lived in this five-year-old dream world!

-“Use a pacifier!”  (great suggestion, but I had to explain that her hands can’t put it back in when it falls out 10,000 times)

-“Build a robot with moveable arms that can put the pacifier back in!”

-“Buy a remote control to program the robot from your bedroom, then you won’t have to get out of bed to turn the robot on!”

-“Train your cats to do it!”

Getting it wrong before you can get it right

My favorite thing about teaching kids to read is when they learn something new, then use it completely the wrong way.  For example, when I teach the -ed ending, they start to read words as “jump-ted” or write it as “jumpt”.  When I teach silent e, they add an ‘e’ on the end of every word.  They do it wrong.  It would be easy to get frustrated and think “Ugh!  They just aren’t getting it!”  And I’ve talked with many many teachers over the years that stress about how “He can’t do silent-e” or “She still can’t read -ed endings”.

But the first step towards mastering a new skill is often doing it ‘wrong’.  My kids are explorers, trying out their new knowledge with every chance they get. They overgeneralize a new rule or a pattern to see if it works, when it works, and how it works.  Him is spelled “hime” and mixed is spelled “mixt”.  

And, they eventually get it–some faster than others.  And doing it wrong is a crucial process that helps them learn how to get it right.

So why the ode to my students on my blog that’s supposedly about family life?

Driving to daycare/school this morning, Charlotte’s grunting from the backseat caught my attention.  When I checked the mirror, she was repeatedly grabbing her pacifier and opening her mouth wide.  She would try, with razor sharp three-month-old-concentration, to move the pacifier towards her open mouth–even straining against the car seat to move her mouth closer to the rubber nipple.  But, each time she would move too fast or lose her grip, and the pacifier would drop back onto her chest.

After about twenty minutes, she finally got frustrated and let out a huge sigh and a whimper.  I couldn’t just reach back and pop it in for her.  But, I started to realize that it was actually a good thing.  Sure, she wasn’t getting it in.  She was frustrated, and she was doing it wrong.  But watching this unfold in the rearview mirror, I realized just how much she had to learn and do in order to get that far!

She had to recognize the pacifier as a source of comfort…she had to make the discovery that her hands are her own, and that she can control them…she had to use her muscles in a very specific way to reach out, grab, and then move towards her mouth…all the while opening her mouth and anticipating the end result.  Sure, she got that end result ‘wrong’.  But she sure did an awful lot of things correctly along the way.

So, like my students that sometimes overgeneralize a rule, or apply a newfound word in a totally wrong way, Charlotte is an adventurer, working with trial and error to master a new skill.  If I read the words for my students, they’ll never get to try and fail…and then learn from that failure.  And I surely won’t always be there to put the pacifier safely in my daughter’s mouth (would you get out of bed at 3am for that?!)

I haven’t been a mother long enough to know what makes a good one.  But part of being a good teacher is letting the process happen, no matter how slow and how painful the viewing can sometimes be.  Sometimes it’s important just to look at what these little buggers can do rather than what they can’t.