Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall Is Here!!!

Today was the first day that it really felt like fall here in Birmingham. I love fall. No really, I LOVE fall. It is by far my favorite season. I have missed it so so so much during the past five years that we've lived in Florida. (In Florida, fall comes in December and lasts less than a week.) This morning I walked out on the deck to uncover the sandbox for Caleb and I thrilled at the cool, crisp air. Riley and Shannon (our Irish setters) were frisky as could be. They were running and wrestling and playing tug-of-war like I haven't seen them do all summer long. Caleb got a big kick out of it...he's used to dogs lethargic from the heat and he was bit awed by their energy.

We had a zoo date planned with a friend this morning, and I was even more excited that we'd be enjoying this gorgeous fall day outdoors. I dressed the boys in their fall clothes, which was also extremely fun for me. I LOVE seasons changing for a lot of reasons, but one of them is definitely because of new clothes (which used to be for me and are now for my little ones, which I enjoy just as much). I got so tired of putting shorts on Caleb through November & December last year! Anyway, we met Cathy and her daughter Tabitha at the zoo at 9:30 and spent a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours together roaming from habitat to habitat. The animals were excited about the fall weather as well. Almost every animal was up and moving, some that I haven't ever seen move in our 5-6 trips to the zoo this summer. The tiger was pacing and roaring (or whatever you call a loud, open-mouthed tiger noise) against the glass wall. The lioness was circling the "pride rock" that the lion was sitting on. The red panda was munching on lettuce and climbing through the branches. The kangaroos were playing chase, hopping lightning-fast across their long habitat. The flamingos were flapping and squawking and strutting their stuff. Even one of the huge constrictor snake was uncoiling and moving through his cage...quite an alarming site, but incredible at the same time. And to top it all off, both Caleb and Ethan took a 2+ hour nap after we got home, allowing me to clean the bathrooms and take a nap myself!

It was a beautiful fall day...I expect the first of many. People here say that fall lasts a good three months in Birmingham and doesn't get cold until late December. We are going to be outside as much as possible for every bit of it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating Solids & Rainy Days

We gave Ethan solids for the first time last Sunday. We gave him a mashed banana with rice cereal. He LOVED it! Some babies are a little hesitant when they taste something other than breastmilk or formula. Not Ethan...he kept sucking the spoon as hard as he could trying to get more out of it. Actually, the hard part was getting the spoon out of his mouth each time to put more food on it! He ate every drop of what I prepared, and would have eaten more, but I didn't want to give him too much at first. He hasn't had anything solid since that day because we've been dealing with the not-sleeping and didn't want to risk any intestinal factors keeping him up, but I think I'll start introducing solids again this week since he enjoyed it so much.

On another note, Caleb loves playing in the rain. It started a few weeks ago when we were loading up into the car to go to the Science Center (which Caleb LOVES), and I opened the garage door. Caleb noticed immediately that it was lightly raining, and he asked me very sweetly, "Mama, I play in da rain?" I reminded him that we were going to one of his favorite places, but he replied with carefully-controlled frustration. "No go to da party place. 'tay home and play in da rain!" I decided it was pointless to battle with him about going somewhere that was supposed to be for his enjoyment, especially since he was doing such a good job of using his words and controlling his emotions. So I said "Okay, Caleb" and took Ethan back out of the car seat. The weather was warm, so I stripped Caleb down to his T-shirt and flip-flops and dragged Ethan's exersaucer out into the garage, and Caleb and I went to town in the rain. We jumped in the puddles and danced & skipped up and down the driveway. Ethan loved watching our silly antics from his dry perch in the garage. From that day, anytime it is raining lightly, Caleb is out on the deck or in the driveway with one of us, playing in the rain.

Sunday Morning Pictures

We were really late for church this morning, so we just decided to delay longer by taking a bunch of pictures and just go to second service. (The kids are so rarely both dressed at the same time at home and we have a lot fewer pictures of Ethan, period.) Some of them turned out really cute. Enjoy :)

Sleeping Update

For those of you who are lying in bed at night worrying about the sleep I'm not getting, as well as those of you who are just mildly interested, I wanted to let you know that the sleeping situation has improved the past 2 nights. (For those of you out there who have been seriously sleep-deprived, isn't it amazing how a couple of nights of better sleep can improve your outlook?) Anyway, the past two nights, Ethan has only woken up 4 times, and he's gone back to sleep easily with minimal help. I'll admit, it didn't just happen magically. Marcus and I talked it over and decided that, since he's been rolling from back to front for almost a month now, we are both okay with laying him on his tummy to sleep. So now we lay him on his tummy and he sleeps SO much better. He's still sleeping in the pack-n-play beside our bed and will probably not move until he starts crawling or drops more night wakings, whichever comes first.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm so tired...

It's probably unwise to write a post in my current sleep-deprived state, particularly since I'm in the midst of two of the most difficult parenting days I've experienced to date, but here goes:

For the past couple of weeks, Ethan has decided that sleep is for the birds. He has been waking up 10+ times each night. I kept a sleep log last night because a sleep book suggested it, and here are the results:

In bed for the night: 7:00 pm
Up for the day: 6:00 am
Total number of awakenings: 11
Longest sleep span: 1 hr, 30 min
Total hours of sleep: 8½ hrs
Total hours of awake/soothing to sleep time: 2½ hours

Now Ethan has always woken up 3-5 times each night, since the very first night in the hospital, and that really wasn't a problem for me. Since we have been co-sleeping since he was born, 3-5 awakenings where I didn't have to get out of bed or even fully wake up has been quite manageable. Many days I didn't even feel tired. But this 10+ times a night is wearing me out. After about a week of these crazy nights, I moved Ethan out of our bed into the Pack-N-Play in our room, just in case the proximity to me was the problem. The situation has not improved, and I am even more tired because I have to get up to tend to him rather than just nurse him. I have also tried for the past 4 days to refrain entirely from nursing him to sleep during the day and as much as possible at night, in an effort to break his strong sucking-to-sleep association. So far, no luck there either, but I may need to give that more time. Marcus and I both have strong feelings against letting him cry himself to sleep, so that is not an option. With Caleb, I used a book called The No Cry Sleep Solution, and the strategies explained there were very helpful for getting Caleb to reduce his 3-4 night awakenings to just 1...but Caleb never got up 10 times a night! I started using the strategies that worked for Caleb with Ethan 2 days ago, but it is so much harder this time because I don't have unlimited time with Ethan. Before I started using the book techniques with Ethan, I would put Caleb in front of the TV, nurse Ethan down in 10 minutes, and come back to play with Caleb. These techniques that help teach babies to self-soothe (without crying for long periods of time) require longer periods of time. To wrap up this long explanation, I've felt completely pulled between the needs/wants of both boys for the past 2 days, with the full knowledge that I'm doing a lousy job on both ends. I'm not being consistent with Ethan's sleep, and Caleb is feeling neglected far more than I feel comfortable with. Throw into that mix that Caleb has a cold AND we are in the midst of potty training, and I think you'll have a very good picture of why things seem so difficult right now.

I was laying in bed nursing Ethan a couple of hours ago, and I was trying to nail down in my mind what exactly makes mothering little ones so much harder than any "job" I've ever done, and I think this is it: I care SO MUCH about doing it well. Don't misunderstand me, I have enjoyed doing my very best at every job I've ever had, from making sandwiches at Subway to teaching low-achieving 9th graders. But in other jobs, a day in which I performed at a sub-par level left me mildly grouchy. Now it leaves me lying in bed late at night wondering if Caleb is going to be in counseling for the rest of his life because I snapped at him. The caring so much really gets you when you have more than one child. When it was just Caleb, I rarely felt like I had failed to give him my best. (Of course, he slept 13-14 hours every 24 hours (including his nap), leaving me 6-7 hours to do housework, read, scrapbook, spend time with Marcus, etc. to refuel myself, in addition to getting a good night's sleep. Of course I had loads of energy and motivation when he was awake!) Now for 2½ days, I've felt like a failure as a mother, and I'm not sure how many more days my I-measure-how-much-I-love-myself-by-how-well-I-perform personality can take. I'm only partially joking. I just need to hang on to the knowledge that God (and Marcus) are not nearly as hard on me as I am on myself, and also that kids are extremely resilient. I also need to remember that there isn't a magic amount of "investment" in my kids that can guarantee their safety, their happiness, or even their faith in God. It really is out of my control. Well, thanks for being my sounding board...I think I've written myself out of my slump, at least for the moment :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Caleb's Big Boy Bed

So Caleb has finally voluntarily given up the crib. We decided we'd let him stay in as long as he wanted to, since we have enough battles to fight with our strong-willed 2-year-old, and didn't want to add bedtime to the list. We are very relieved that he has made the step on his own, since he is getting close to too long for the crib, and we are also hoping to be using it for Ethan very soon. Anyway, here is how it happened:

Caleb's room has been all set up for a couple of months now, but whenever we asked him if he wanted to sleep in his new bed, he always declined. Last Sunday night, Marcus asked him if he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed or his crib, and he said “Big boy bed.” Marcus and I looked at each other, excited that this might be the night. For the next 20 minutes or so, Caleb and Marcus read books in Caleb's big boy bed, like they have done many nights in the past. Then Caleb crawled out of bed and turned on the little bear night light and pressed play on his CD player to start his sleep music. Marcus tucked him in to the middle of the bed and then we both said goodnight and closed the door.

We both expected himto get out of bed, since for the first time in his life, he wasn't in a crib, but he didn't. He drank his cup of milk quietly and then called out for “More milk, please, Mama!” So I refilled his milk and brought it back to him. He looked at me and said “I go to sleep, Mama,” and I said “Okay, baby, I love you so much.” Then I closed the door and he went to sleep, completely on his own. Marcus and I were ecstatic that it all went so smoothly. We'd heard horror stories of 2-hour bedtime battles once the crib was left behind. It's been three days now and it is still going extremely smoothly. Now I have moved all of Caleb's clothes and other things into his new bedroom, and put Ethan’s things in the crib room. Caleb looks adorable sleeping in his huge bed...I'll post pictures soon :)