August 31, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 8: Sleep! Glorious Sleep!

Before I get into the meat of this post, and oh, is it meaty (and probably boring as hell), there are two things you need to know about me:

1) I have been an insomniac for all my adult life. I cannot remember when it started, although it's highly possible that it was as far back as junior high. I just don't know for sure. Anyway, I have the type of insomnia that makes it difficult for me to stay asleep. I have no problems falling asleep at night but I tend to wake up in the middle of the night and be wide awake for two to three hours before finally falling asleep again. This is not a constant thing, but rather it works in cycles. My insomnia usually rears its ugly head when things get really stressful for me.

2) In the past year, I have gotten maybe three months worth of good sleep. The first half of my pregnancy was characterized by the most godawful insomnia. Really, it was bad. Things got better and then worse the closer I got to the end of my pregnancy. Obviously, since I have a young infant, I haven't slept well in at least three months - but with the end of pregnancy pea-sized bladder I was rockin', I'd say it's been a good six months since I've slept through the night.

So there's a bit of sleep history on me. Now, let me tell you about Charlie's sleep habits.

As Charlie moved out of the newborn eat-sleep-poop stage, he started sleeping for longer stretches at night (thank the gods!) and started fighting naps during the day (boo!). It was only within the last month or so that I realized that Charlie really wasn't sleeping enough. This became really obvious to me when I looked at him one day and realized he had circles under his eyes.

Thus, Project "get Charlie to sleep using any means necessary" was born. I started using the swing, the stroller, and the car seat constantly throughout the day. I really started paying attention to his cues and learning when he was tired. Then, once I noticed he was getting fussy, I would put him in my instrument of choice and walk him around the block or drive him around for an hour or put him in the swing. (I have always used the swing sparingly because it doesn't keep him asleep for long enough.) But stroller rides and car rides have always done the trick. It didn't take much of either one of these things to send him into a deep sleep. Sometimes he'd even sleep for an hour more even after I'd gotten him home. I would use that time to get things done or eat something or whatever. Rarely did I take a nap myself because I was actually getting enough sleep at night.

I will say that I did this stuff (the swing, stroller, and car seat) kind of reluctantly because I have always wanted Charlie to learn how to sleep in his bed day and night. It's not exactly convenient for me to take him on an hour long car ride just to get him to sleep. And in the long run, it's probably not good for Charlie either.

The past few weeks, Charlie hasn't been the greatest night sleeper. It's easy to put him to bed but it's not always easy to keep him there. He will sometimes wake up multiple times a night and we have to kind of rock the pack and play back and forth to help him fall asleep again. Sometimes, if he's really awake, we have to pick him up and soothe him back to sleep. That's fine. I don't mind doing it. It's part of being a parent and all that jazz.

What has happened, though, is that I am either in the midst of my own cycle of insomnia or I wake up anticipating Charlie's wakefulness. Either way, I wake up in the middle of the night long before Charlie does (he wakes up around 2 AM or so) and stay awake. And now that Charlie has started the trend of fighting sleep after his first night waking, I am awake for more hours of the night than I really should be. (Although Roy is a rockstar and always handles Charlie when he fights sleep in the middle of the night.) If you combine this tendency of mine with Charlie's crappy nap habits, this can only mean one thing.

Mommy's tired. Really fucking tired.

Now, let me tell you about yesterday and today.

For some unknown reason, Charlie was a hot mess yesterday. He was pretty fussy for most of the day. Roy took him for a couple of stroller rides, and he'd fall asleep, and then he'd wake right back up once Roy got him into the house. (It was over 100 yesterday, so it's not like Roy was going to stroll Charlie around for an hour to get him to take a full nap.) At my suggestion, Roy took Charlie for a car ride. And Charlie screamed the entire time. So not his MO.

When they got home, we decided to feed Charlie even though he'd eaten only an hour and a half earlier. It worked - Charlie settled down and was his normal cheery self for awhile. And then an hour and a half later, he was melting down again and needed to be fed again. At this point, Charlie had hardly slept all day, and Roy was looking pretty frazzled, and I wasn't getting any work on my thesis proposal done. So I swaddled him, fed him, and lo and behold, he fell right to sleep and I put him down for a "normal" nap that didn't require either of us to drive or walk. Seriously, a miracle. He hasn't really done that since he was really, really tiny.

By that point I'd kind of figured that he was going through a growth spurt or something and that's why he was so hungry. So we made sure that he was nice and fed before setting out for family dinner. But as soon as we got him into the car, he was screaming. And he stayed screaming. By the time we were on the freeway, he was still screaming. So we turned around and came home. And then tried it again once we'd done a diaper change and another feeding. And he started screaming again once we got him into the car. But we kept going, and he kept screaming. It was rough. But finally, once we were about halfway to our final destination, he stopped screaming and fell asleep.

(Please don't hate on me for letting him scream so much. We really didn't have much of a choice. We could have gone back home that second time, but he still would have screamed the entire way. We knew that he'd probably be okay once we actually got to where we were going. And he was. But still, I hate hearing him scream. It totally sucks and sometimes it scares me.)

Anyway, my nerves were completely shot by the time we got to family dinner. And I was so fucking tired myself. And last night was more of the same, so I woke up today feeling completely busted. I almost sent out an SOS text to Uncle Paul asking him if he would come over and watch Charlie so I could take a nap. But I did take Charlie out and he did just fine in the car, thankfully.

But later on today Charlie did a wonderful thing for me.

I took a chance and swaddled him and then fed him and burped him and then patted his back for a long while, just like I do at night, and he fell asleep like a normal baby. I put him down and he woke up about 10 minutes later, so I picked him back up and soothed him back to sleep. This was at 1:20 PM. After I became pretty sure that he was going to be asleep for at least a little while, I laid down and took a nap myself.

I don't think I've ever had a better nap. I think it lasted about an hour and a half, and when I woke up the world felt absolutely delicious. Kerwin was sleeping at the foot of the bed, Charlie was snoozing away, some sunlight was falling onto the bed through the windows, and I felt like a million fucking dollars. I actually got to lie in bed for a good long while after I woke up and listen to the quiet. It was perfect. And Charlie slept until 3:45. (!!!!!!!!!)

It's 9 PM, and for the first time in a long time, I actually feel awake and alert and present in my own life. I might actually stay up a little later tonight and be an adult. Because here's what nighttime is normally like at our house:

1) Hang out with Charlie until it's bedtime.
2) Give Charlie a bath.
3) Put Charlie to bed. (This is Roy's job.)
4) Do the minimal amount of chores it takes to keep the house and our lives functional. (Laundry, bottle washing, picking up.) Dinner is optional.
5) Stumble to bed deliriously. Maybe brush my teeth before.
6) Wake up a million times a night due to Charlie fussing in his sleep, Roy snoring, the cats throwing a party, my own crappy sleep habits.

Doesn't sound like much fun, eh?

Anyway, that's my big piece of happiness for today, the nap that Prince Charles was so kind to let me have. I don't know why I had to write out all that other stuff, but I guess I just did it for me, probably because I've been so tired and frustrated with all this sleep shit the past few weeks and I want to remember this day, when I actually feel rested. I don't know if Charlie will continue on this path of sleeping in his bed during the day, but I really am going to try to get him to. If he does, I might actually be able to get some sleep myself and possibly get some things done during the day.

(Okay, tomorrow's happiness post will contain less text and more photos. Promise! And thanks for reading if you actually got this far. Mom stuff is so boring, isn't it?)

August 30, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 7: A Visit from Uncle Wade

Charlie's Uncle Wade (my brother) came out from Minneapolis for a short visit last week. It was his first time meeting Charlie. We spent a lot of time close to home base, but on Wade's first day here, he did humor me and let me take him out to Mr. Rex's Dinosaur Adventure in the desert. If you've seen this fine piece of cinema, then these pictures will probably ring a bell.

What we didn't realize is that there was a robotic dinosaur museum in addition to the two giant dinosaurs you can see from the freeway. For $5, you get access to the "museum" (which is really a big patch of dirt with lots of totally real looking dinosaurs hanging out and looking like they totally belong in Southern California) and the gift shop. Score!

And if you are in a wheelchair, you can get in free! (See sign below.)

Here we are posing under the big ol' T-Rex.


This Army guy was hiding in the corner in the gift shop. Hunting dinosaurs, no doubt.

Making friends with the dinos

I was completely taken aback by this crusader hiding out amongst the dinosaurs. Later on I figured out why he was there.

The owners of the museum took many opportunities to remind us that we were being watched. Too bad they never passed their spelling tests in elementary school.

Dinosaurs are friendly!

And then we found ourselves at the main attraction, the huge T-Rex.

This is, I shit you not, the first thing you see when walking in.

Turns out the T-Rex was filled with signs proclaiming evolution to be fundamentally flawed. Interesting...

Charlie was unaffected by all that religious rhetoric. That's my boy!

I climbed up to the top of the T-Rex. This was my view.

Awesome sign!

When we left, we were each gifted with two DVDs titled "Dinosaurs in the Bible" and "By Design, Not By Chance." Of course we went home straightaway and popped those suckers into the DVD player and were instantly saved, thanks to Mr. Rex's Dinosaur Adventure.

(If you want to experience some of Mr. Rex's religious rhetoric for yourself, click here. Have fun!)

Later on at home (after being saved), Wade gave Charlie a dancing lesson.

For the rest of Wade's visit, we stayed local, hit up a music store, ate at my favorite Thai place, went to the mall, and did a fat music exchange.

As a going away gift, I gave Wade a new toothbrush. Here's his old one.

We took some really bad photos of ourselves.

Wade's visit was really brief, but it was really awesome to see him again. I really can't imagine a better companion for our dinosaur adventure, since we're both recovering Catholics and all. And it was nice that Charlie got to meet his uncle. Not to mention the experience of having Uncle Wade give him a dancing lesson.

August 29, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 6: Rockstar Husband, Rockstar Friends

I knew I'd reached the limit on sleep deprivation around 11 AM today when I felt like I was going to die, seriously. You can tell in this picture that I am tired as hell. And don't even get me started on my hair. Ugh.

I did manage to get this snap of Charlie yawning. So cute.

Roy heard my pleas for an uninterrupted nap and took charge of Charlie for a couple of hours. He even took phone calls for work while holding Charlie.

Meanwhile, I turned up the white noise, put a sign on our front door ("please do not ring the doorbell"), and closed myself into the bedroom. It wasn't the most restful nap I'd ever had, as I think I am so conditioned at this point to wake up all the time. But it was something. (Thank you, rockstar husband!)

I felt a lot better when I woke up. Charlie and I got ready for a night out on the town. I actually fixed my hair and put on a little more makeup than normal. Charlie rocked his guitar onesie.

That is, Charlie rocked his guitar onesie until we had him in his carseat all set to go and then we heard the unmistakable sounds of Charlie taking a huge vile dump. Some of that huge vile dump got on his onesie while I was disposing of said huge vile dump, so I had to change his outfit. Bummer.

Charlie and I met my three homies for dinner. It was awesome to see them - we don't get to meet up nearly enough. Charlie did really great, thanks to baby whisperers Angelina and Melinda.

I offered him to Kim, but she's afraid of babies. Good thing she's expecting two of them in February! (!!!!!!!1!!!)

It was a good time. Lots of shit-talking. I miss the daily shit-talking. I used to email these girls all day long while I was at work; they seriously got me through each day. Sometimes I want to go back to work, but only so I can email them all day. Otherwise, work totally blows.

All in all, today I got a nap and a dinner with some of my awesome homies - and then a bonus visit from Mandy and Paul once I got home. I'm oh-so-grateful to have cool people in my life. Thank you, rockstar people! You make my life a happy one.

August 28, 2009

Top Tune #6

This Top Tune is brought to you by an incredible amount of emotional stuff.

Back in December, I downloaded this album, thanks to Kari's recommendation. In mid-January, I started using music to try to feel Charlie's movement for the first time. To my delight, when I played "Flume" for Charlie, he kicked! It first happened in the dentist's office and then he did it again later that night at home.

I sent out a text message to all of my people letting them know that I was finally feeling movement. I was so excited!

There was absolutely no way that I could have known that the very same night, maybe even right around the time I sent out my happy text message, my very good friend and her husband went to the ER because they could not find their baby's heartbeat on the doppler. Her pregnancy had not been an easy one for several reasons. But she was now in the second trimester, the "safe" point. They were just beginning to relax and look to the future with hope when they got the news that the baby had died.

She was due exactly one month after me. I had just been at her stage of pregnancy. I could not imagine losing the baby at that point.

I'd been having hopeful visions that their baby was a boy, too, and that he and Charlie would grow up together as best friends. And then those visions were lost.

It wasn't my baby that died, but I was devastated.

I spent the next couple of weeks in complete disbelief and shock. I was so shocked by the loss of my friend's baby that I could not cry. Then I accidentally ran over a cat one night. And finally, the floodgates opened.

I came home every night after work and cried. One night Roy and I sat on the couch together as I wept, and I expressed my frustration at not being able to shake my sadness. He said, "We have a full-blown tragedy on our hands. It's okay to be sad."

In early February, my friend and her husband checked into the hospital to deliver her baby. She had waited as long as she could to miscarry on her own. Since it wasn't happening, labor was induced and after several hours, the baby was delivered.

It was a boy.

And while I was at the hospital while it all was happening, I didn't get to see him. But being there offered me closure. I got to see my friend and her husband coping with their loss, and I think that's what I needed. I had no idea what things were like for them in the immediate days and weeks following the death of the baby, and not knowing was making it that much tougher for me to do my own coping and healing. When I saw how brave and accepting they were, I was able to be brave and accepting, too.

When we left the hospital late that night, I walked out of there and knew that I would never be able to see the world in the same way. This is a world that is sometimes cruel and unforgiving. It's a world that takes babies from their parents. I don't understand, and never will, why some babies die and some live. It's just not fair.

I still think of this baby often, probably every day. I thought about him a lot when Charlie was born and again on his due date, June 29. I think about him every time Charlie reaches a new stage in his development. It's always the same thought: "He should be here, too." It's just not right that he isn't.

In the last several weeks, several people (who have no idea that I even exist) have suffered heart-wrenching losses. They have experienced pain that I never want to feel, and they've had to say goodbyes that I can't even imagine saying. If you have a minute, please go here and here to offer your support and condolences. And while you're at it, go here, too. And hug your loved ones tight and tell them you love them.

That's what I do. And then I listen to this song, which reminds me so much of the wonder of feeling Charlie move for the first time - and the sadness for my friends' lost little one, the boy Charlie never got to play with, the boy the world never got the pleasure of meeting.

Flume by Bon Iver


I am my mother's only one
It's enough

I wear my garment so it shows
Now you know

Only love is all maroon
Gluey feathers on a flume
Sky is womb and she's the moon

I am my mother on the wall, with us all
I move in water, shore to shore;
Nothing's more

Only love is all maroon
Lapping lakes like leary loons
Leaving rope burns --
Reddish ruse

Only love is all maroon
Gluey feathers on a flume
Sky is womb and she's the moon

30 Days of Happiness, Day 5: A Golden Afternoon

This past weekend we took Charlie out to one of our favorite places. It was his first out-of-town trip. He did a lot of this:

But he did come out of the stroller at lunchtime to hang out.

The rest of the time, Roy and I talked and I took a lot of photos. We went to the Chinese Garden for the first time.

The fish enthusiastically greeted us.

And I made friends with a butterfly.

We visited the museum while we were there.

It contained the creepiest painting ever. This photo doesn't really capture the creepiness well.

I took pictures of Roy

and statues

and flowers.

I used my broken Nifty 50 to take some macros.

I completely overexposed this one because I wasn't paying attention to my camera settings at the time.

I love happy accidents. And I love golden afternoons with my two best guys.

August 27, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 4: Buried Treasure

Charlie's Uncle Paul came over to hang out yesterday so I could get some grown-up stuff done.

My original intention was to go to the library to work on my thesis proposal. Then I realized that I had far too many books to realistically be able to make the trek to the library. So I decided to work in our small office space at home. But it was a complete disaster, and I knew if I tried to work in there, I'd get nothing done.

So I cleaned it out. And discovered what a nice space it is once the chaos has been removed.

While I was cleaning, I found $20 in a birthday card. Score!

It made me feel really good to have a few hours to myself to get something done. It also felt really nice to unbury the room and reclaim the space for myself. I spend so much of my day with Charlie (not complaining, just sayin') and I don't feel that I really have a place that's mine. I didn't realize how much I needed a small space for myself until yesterday when I sat in the newly cleaned area and listened to silence.

It felt wonderful, especially at the end of the day.

I'm blogging from my space right now. It's the best kind of buried treasure. (And the $20 isn't bad, either!)

August 26, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 3: Clean Laundry

With an almost three-month-old baby in the house, we never have time to keep anything clean. Yet I have turned into a cleaning freak - I feel that I am constantly doing it. I'm not complaining, as it actually has become a rather Zen-like experience for me.

Laundry is one of the main chores, and it's the hardest to stay on top of, particularly putting it away. I finally found the perfect place for all the clean clothes that were scattered in random baskets all over the house:

I have found that our chaotic house doesn't bother me the way it would have pre-Charlie. Now the mess and clutter is a sign that our home is lived in and full of love. We're so busy loving each other that we don't have time to do anything else. (That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!)

PS - Charlie does not sleep in the crib with all the clean laundry, by the way. We figure we'll transition him into the crib once we get all the clothes hung up and put away. So in about a year or so.

August 25, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 2: Finally, Letting Go


I never called the lactation consultant.

I thought that was what I needed to do, that at least doing that and finding out if relactation was possible was what would give me the push I needed to move either way.

As it turns out, the thing I needed most was to write about it and then talk about it. Your comments were really wonderful, really insightful. I always love hearing from you, so thanks for engaging in the dialogue.

Truthfully, I am really happy with the way things are going with Charlie. We seem to have found our groove as a family, and that is no small feat. And also, I think that is what is most important. We have found what works for us as a family, and part of that equation is formula feeding through a bottle.

I never meant to imply in my last post on this matter that I thought I was a lesser mother for formula feeding. It's just that my expectations don't always match up to my reality. And that can be quite jarring at times.

I was surprised at how many of you told me I was being too hard on myself. To me, I was just being honest and forthright and all the rest, but Roy reminded me that I can be honest and too hard on myself at the same time.

You are probably right. I probably was too hard on myself about this whole breastfeeding thing. It's hard not to be when there is such an anti-formula vibe going on these days. It's all "back to nature" and it definitely affects the way I see myself as a mother at times. I don't think there's anything wrong with the "back to nature" movement - after all, I actually subscribe to a lot of these beliefs, but I also find that going back to nature can bring out the crazy in a lot of people, like Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go.

To be completely honest, my motivation for at least considering relactation was purely for the experience of further bonding with Charlie, not for anything having to do with nutrition. But as so many of you reminded me, there are so many other ways that we can bond and that we have already bonded.

Last night I wrapped Charlie up in his blanket and we hung out together on the couch. I fed him and while I was doing so, he kept his tiny little hand on mine and gazed into my eyes.

No one can ever tell me that I'm not feeding my son with love.

Thank you for helping me get here, for helping me let go of what's trivial and for helping me embrace what's important.

I'm ready to really move on now.

August 24, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 1: Found Photos

Over on Bluebirdbaby there's a 30 day celebration of happiness going on, and I've decided to join in on the fun. That means that I'll (hopefully) be posting at least once a day for the next 30 days, talking about the things that make me happy (with lots of pictures included, I hope).

This is particularly timely, as I find myself happier than I have ever been in my entire life. It makes great sense for me to document it so that I can look back on these posts during future trying times.

(I reserve the right to not have the time to post every day, because well, I may not have the time. But I will give it my best shot.)

Last week I discovered a bunch of old photos that my mom lent me for our wedding. I thought I had lost these pictures, but nope! I was so relieved. I finally decided to bust out the scanner I bought in January and share a few.

Me as a baby, asleep in the hospital nursery. Notice I am sleeping on my stomach. SIDS alert!

I was a big reader as a kid. Here's me at approximately six years old in my bed (with Strawberry Shortcake sheets), reading a Berenstein Bears book, hanging out with our family dog Pepper.

Me with some of my friends. I had a huge collection of stuffed animals growing up. I love this photo for many reasons, but mainly because my Barbie doll is showing off her boobs. Also, there's Messy Baby (under the frog stuffed animal and by the giraffe) - her hair was always such a clusterfuck. I'm probably about four or five in this picture.

Based on how well these pictures scanned in, I love my scanner. And I love these photos - what a great surprise it was to find them again.

PS - I am still so behind on emails (over 1000 to be sorted through in my inbox right now) and commenting on your blogs. So sorry! I'm getting there...