Tuesday, September 27, 2011

things to wonder over

Ocean and sunlight, San Diego, July 2011

*A friend who had been on dialysis got a new kidney from a living donor, a woman who is a friend of a friend but not someone she had ever met before the transplant process began. Recipient and donor, both young women, are doing well post-surgery. I am blown away by the generosity.

*Emry can crawl.

*Elan can read.

*Both my children slept until 6 a.m. this morning, drank some milk, and went back to sleep until after 7:30.

*I went to sleep at 10 p.m. last night (a minor miracle in itself), so I actually had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

*Fall weather in the Bay Area is glorious.

*And a story: One of Elan's new favorite toys is a set of 4 Boon odd ducks (think mod rubber duckies - we had to toss our old rubber ducks after they tested positive for lead, yum). These ducks come with names: Jane, Bob, Slim and Squash. Or is it Squish? I can never remember. Anyway, the ducks have been going to preschool with Elan daily to his new Pre-K class. On our way home one day last week, I decided to stop at the new Local Butcher Shop. This is the kind of local, sustainable foodie place Berkeley-ians love. They are all about using the whole animal (nose to tail eating as it's called), so they had lots of whole animals in the case. Elan peered in at them, curious and not as squeamish as I expected him to be, reading the signs: chicken (he noted they still had their heads), rabbit (thankfully without theirs), squab (they were out, and I didn't know till I looked it up online that this is pigeon), duck. He looked at them casually, got preoccupied for a while by the butchery charts, then suddenly ran over to the stroller and stuffed the pink rubber duck behind a blanket. "Mama, we have to go!" he squealed. "Jane saw the ducks, and she's very worried!"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

i think he missed me

My guys, from left: little one, big one, medium one
Semiahmoo, Washington, September 2011

I jetted down to southern California for a friend's wedding BY MYSELF. I can hardly remember the last time I spent flights reading a book and working on a photo album on my computer rather than juggling a grabby baby on my lap and a preschooler who invariably needs to poop just as the baby falls asleep nursing. I alternated between reveling in the luxury and sending slightly longing glances at other people's babies.

I was gone for slightly over 24 hours, during which time the baby spiked a fever and the older one decided he no longer is capable of being alone in any room in the night and thus fell asleep in the hallway. Twice in one night.

When I returned, I found a half-dozen white roses in a vase on the countertop.

My husband knows that white roses have traditionally been my favorite, but Elan was sure that I would want pink ones. My husband insisted on the white.

I think he missed me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

musical beds

Drayton Harbor, Washington, visiting my in-laws, August 2011

I've been writing a lot of blog posts in my head in the middle of the night.

That's because I haven't been doing a lot of sleeping in the middle of the night.

Back when Emry was still a work-in-progress, the thing I was most nervous about when it came to expanding the family was sleep. Elan has always been a bad sleeper, mediocre in his best stretches, and so I was justifiably nervous that I would end up with two children who didn't like to sleep and then go completely crazy. I had to adopt a position of THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN because otherwise, I never would have been able to maintain the necessary optimism throughout my pregnancy. "This baby will be a better sleeper than his brother," I'd say. And then I'd add, "He has to be," putting my hand on my bulging tummy, praying that my words were sinking deep into the baby's forming psyche.

And for the first six-plus months of Emry's life, it seemed like my denial assertions were right on. He rocked the sleeping early on, and my morning reports about the hour he slept until before crying were routinely given in a surprised voice. As in: "He slept till 4 before he wanted to nurse!" I felt vindicated (it's NOT my fault Elan's such a bad sleeper) and lucky. And surprisingly well-rested.

Unfortunately, Emry's sleep has been going downhill the last few months. I couldn't really tell you exactly when it started, but the trend is unmistakeable {sigh}. He'll get a cold, and wake up more, but then the wakings will continue even once he's feeling better. I remember this kind of thing well from Elan. We called it the dreaded backslide, and it would send chills through my spine. This time, I tried to keep a positive attitude. Emry actually likes to sleep, I'd remind myself. He is a very different personality from Elan, I'd reassure myself. Finally, Mikhail and I decided I was turning a bit too zombie-mommy for my taste (or his), and we embarked on some sleep training with Emry to cut out his newly developed midnight/1 a.m. waking. Despite my PTSD from repeated who-can-hold-out-the-longest scream-a-thons with Elan, Emry cried for 10 minutes max, and then went back to sleep till 3:30 a.m. Relief!

But lately, our house at night resembles a large-scale game of musical beds. I am gripping tenuously at the last threads of my sense of humor about the rotating bed situation: Mikhail in the office, me in our bed with Emry, Elan in his room; Mikhail squished into Elan's single bed with him in his room, Emry in his crib in the office, me up four times a night with Emry, nursing in an office chair... In one unfortunately memorable night, Mikhail slept in every bed in our house, except Emry's crib, and including the couch.

The last two weeks, we've been traveling again, and Elan has slept in a room with an adult every night. Maybe it's just coincidence and him being more relaxed because he wasn't in preschool, but his sleep - and ours - improved over that period. Sleeping inches from one of us, he quickly resettles when he screams in his sleep, which happens twice a night or more most nights. But when he's in his own room, he fully wakes up before one of us gets to him, he's afraid of being left alone again and won't go quickly back to sleep, our adrenaline is pumping from the sprint down the hallway -- the whole process results in everyone having to wake up more thoroughly. I actually find myself wondering if we should just set up a little bed for him in our room, even though he hasn't regularly shared a room with us for four years, and this from a woman who is not a fan of the family bed. In fact, if I had a large bedroom, I probably already would have given him his own corner. But I don't - I have a little bedroom, and I would really prefer to not have every member of the family sleeping in it.

We've been hoping that once Emry can share Elan's room, Elan will sleep better having him in the room, but that won't work with Emry engaging in the midnight screaming sessions he has become fond of as his latest cold works its way through (we are on Day 10 and yes, I'm counting). Ems, my baby, you're supposed to be Mama's good sleeper -- we had a deal, remember?

UPDATE, since I never got around to posting this when I wrote it a week ago: Victory! Emry's sleeping is back on track, and I'm very happy about it. Now if only we could figure out a way to get Elan to sleep better that didn't include Mikhail squeezing himself into Elan's bed and getting pummeled by a thrashing child every night. Ah, parenthood.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

about my week offline


Family photos at Bodega Bay in the fog, August 2011

I absolutely loved taking a week offline. We were in Colorado for a family reunion, so there were lots of other computers around and people to look up useful information like the location of public pools in Boulder, where it was in the 90s (which we loved after camping in the 60-degree Bodega Bay fog earlier in the month). I wasn't trying to get away from the practical aspect of the Internet, which certainly is useful. I was trying to get away from the "always-on" nature of the Internet, the need to constantly monitor, respond, update, and communicate, the lure of online entertainment, and how quickly I can go from looking up useful information to mindless website-hopping that cuts into my already limited sleep.

I did not turn my computer on for an entire week, definitely a record for me in the last 5 years. I took the week off from my grantwriting work, and I did really feel OFF in a different kind of way than if I had stayed online. The feeling of freedom was amazing. I would put Emry down for his morning nap, and I would instinctually think that now it was time to go online, check my email, look at the news, plan out my work for the day, do online errands, try not to get distracted. And then I would realize: nope, not this week, and in that little chunk of time, I would pull out my book.

Things I did in my week offline:
Talked to my family.
Read an entire novel, and it was a really really good one.
Painted my toenails red.
Took 500 photos.
Went to yoga class, was sore in that satisfying way the next day.
Hung out on the porch of our Boulder rental house.

My nephew Judah, porch time, August 2011

Emry having porch time, August 2011
As I re-enter the digital world, I read this New York Times magazine article about decision fatigue, which I immediately recognized not only as the exhaustion that overcomes me after a trip to Target, but also the exhaustion I experience when I lose myself purposelessly trolling website after website:

"Today we feel overwhelmed because there are so many choices.... A typical computer user looks at more than three dozen Web sites a day and gets fatigued by the continual decision making — whether to keep working on a project, check out TMZ, follow a link to YouTube or buy something on Amazon. You can do enough damage in a 10-minute online shopping spree to wreck your budget for the rest of the year. The cumulative effect of these temptations and decisions isn’t intuitively obvious. Virtually no one has a gut-level sense of just how tiring it is to decide. Big decisions, small decisions, they all add up."
This article helps explain how mentally tired I've been getting when I spend days tethered to my computer and frequently caught up in the sticky strands of the Web. I haven't decided yet how I want to implement it in my life, but my week offline definitely showed me that I need to set more effective limits for myself on how, and when, I use the Internet. Now that wireless Internet is available nearly everywhere, I remind myself that I deliberately chose not to have wireless for quite a long time, in order to limit the distractions that I knew would tempt me away from the most meaningful work I do on my computer -- writing.

And since I haven't yet seen an alarm you can set that automatically turns off your Internet access at a certain hour (DOES such at thing exist? It should!), I would welcome any ideas or systems that you've found that help you have a healthy relationship with the Web. And in the meantime, I'm going to mull over some ideas for myself -- one day offline a week, one weekend a month? How much is enough time to disentangle myself from the sticky strands of the Web and remember how much I like reading a book?

And if you're considering taking some time offline, even if it's just a day or two, by all means, do it!