Friday, January 27, 2017

The Play-By-Play

I always get a full description of the daily events from Charlie when I go into wipe six years old.

Here's what today's report was:

"So, Momma, first I pooped the Himalayas and then I had diarrhea and then I had a bunch of little poopies.  I did a courtesy flush because the Himalayas were really stinky and I did not like the smell of that.  First, it was like one big poop and those were the Himalayas and then I had like a bunch of small poopies.  Now my legs are asleep."

Your welcome, Reading Audience.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sleep Training Gideon...still

Gideon is still, at 2.5, a terrible sleeper.  We can come up with all sorts of reasons why.  We can blame him, we can blame ourselves, we can blame it on his tummy troubles, his ear infections, the move, the rain.  Whatever the cause, I have needed a recent reminder that I am in charge.  It is hard to say no to my children, to disappoint them, to listen to them whine and complain and kick and scream when they can't get what they want, but I am their mom and that is my job.  To draw the hard line and stand firmly behind it.

It is not cruel to draw the hard line.  It is necessary and loving.  And I am the one who needs to do it. So I pray for strength.  "Be tough, Jill," my dad would tell me when I was little.  "Be tough, Jill," I whisper to myself to this day.  Or as my sister-in-law Charlotte would say, "Sometimes, you gotta put on your big girl pants."  I tell myself that quite often too and I always whisper it in Charlotte's Kentucky accent for emphasis.  It works.

So, we've let the sleep issue slide for a long time, through a year of David working out of town, through an adjustment to a major move to Chicago, through travel and sickness and everything else that makes it hard to add one more fight to our plate.  But now, the dust is settling and I can see with clear eyes what's going on.  Gideon is old enough to sleep on his own.  It's a life skill he needs to have.  We are in charge of teaching him that.  And it's time.

But there's another element at play that complicates things--he is my last baby.  So, when I lay with him and he grabs both of my hands in his, when I lay with him and he insists that I wrap one arm around him, when I lay with him and he occasionally climbs over to my pillow to press his face onto mine--well, why on earth would I want to put a stop to all that?

Because it's not about me.  I will have to take my snuggles where I can get them during the day.  Gideon needs to learn to sleep on his own.

So, last night, we talked about it--man to man.  I told him I would lay with him for a few minutes and then I was going to sit in his rocking chair.  The last time I tried this, a few months ago, he would just hop out of bed and come over to the rocking chair.  I had to keep putting him back in bed.  Eventually I had to leave the room and put a baby gate up at his door.  He cried for three hours.  I pulled him into bed with me, exhausted.

But, last night, he stayed in bed.  I read multiple chapters of my book by flashlight while he chatted quietly to himself.  I continued to remind him to lay his head down, close his eyes, and get quiet--and eventually he did.  He fell asleep without me beside him in less than thirty minutes.  8:30 and I could watch a show on the couch with David!  Until I realized David was snoring beside Finny in his bed while both Finny and Charlie were wide awake and reading to themselves.  You can't win em all.

The next miracle came at 11 p.m.  Gideon got up and came up to our room.  I didn't grab him and put him in bed with us in a tired stupor.  I got up.  Told him he has to sleep in his room.  I brought him downstairs, tucked him back in and left.  I didn't lay down next to him and he didn't cry.  He went back to sleep.  On.  His.  Own.  Again!

And then, he slept through the night.  It's 6:30 a.m. while I type this and he's still asleep.  Miracle.

And I realize, if Gideon sleeps by himself, we all win.  Gideon learns a valuable life skill, David and I get uninterrupted sleep, and this morning we all get the big, happy snuggles that come from missing each other, that come from a little time spent apart.

He is my last baby, but just like the others, I will still need to raise him up and gradually let him go.  Without sadness, but with pride instead at the independent individual he will become.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Letter to My Boys About Our Values

Dear Boys,

Last night your dad and I fell asleep on the couch trying to stay up to see the results of our 2016 presidential election.  This is the first election where you've been so aware of what is going on.  You've seen the faces both real and cartoon of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton plastered all over the TV and magazine covers for months.  You've listened carefully and watched us carefully to try and understand where we stand, why we stand there, and where that leaves you.  There is so much you don't understand and won't understand for years and years.  And there is a lot we were unable to explain to you, so unfortunately, due to my own inadequacies, I often reduced it to "Donald Trump is a bad guy.  We don't like him."

But now he's your president.  And that position carries with it high esteem.  He is someone you should respect and look up to.  He is the leader of our country and the keeper of our country's values.

But I told you he was a bad guy, and so that must seem a little scary to you.  I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have scared you like that, and I wouldn't have scared you like that had I thought for one moment that it was possible that he would be elected president.  To you, a bad guy should be taken out with nerf bullets, captured, arrested, locked up, not standing before you in a position of power and esteem.  How confusing this all must be to you at eight and five!

But you will move on.  Your day will fill with kickball games and farts, running and playing and climbing and laughing.  Your cartoon watching won't be interrupted by political commercials anymore and you will move on.  So will we.

But there is something I want you to know about our values because our values are what we put on the line here during this election.  And these are values that we share as a family, Mommy and Daddy, Grandmas and Grandpas, regardless of how we voted or how it all turned out.

Love one another.  Not-- Love those who are just like you.  Love one another.  Regardless of skin color, nationality, gender, race, sexual preference, ability level or political standing--love one another.  It is not loving to stereotype entire groups of people based on their religious backgrounds or their skin color.  It is not loving to treat women as sexual objects to be taken and groped.  It is not loving to pick on anyone or leave anyone out.  And if you hear someone who is doing that, reject IT.  But not THEM.

And that is the mistake I made with you during this election.  Do not reject President Trump, but if he espouses hateful speech and discrimination, reject THAT.

It is hard for me to accept the results of this election because I have not seen a man who represents me and my values.  I have not seen a man who respects me or values me.  I have not seen a man of wisdom, kindness and humility--three of the characteristics I value most in a leader.  I have seen only a narcissist.  But now he stands before me as president-elect, chosen without a doubt by a majority of my countrymen as the man they want to lead us, represent us, fight for us.  It makes me feel incredibly disconnected from my own people.  It makes me feel like I missed something.

And maybe I did.

So, I go back to that core value.  Love one another, which also means, love Donald Trump.  Love him.  Don't love his speech if it's filled with intolerance and misogyny.  But always Love him.

This morning when I didn't know what to say, I told you to pray for him.  And Charlie when you came down for breakfast and you told us,"While I was going to the bathroom, I prayed that Donald Trump would say nice things,"--that was perfect.

And that will be my prayer now too:

Lord, please help President Trump to say nice things.  My children are listening.  Let them hear love. And Lord, please help me to say nice things.  My children are listening.  Let them hear love. And Lord, please help my children to say nice things.  Let them respect their elders and show kindness to all.  But Lord, if they hear racism, sexism, and discrimination, help them to put down their nerf guns and fight with their words and their voices.

Grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change,
The strength to change the things they can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.



Monday, July 25, 2016

276 Feet High

I rarely blog anymore.  Moving back to Cincinnati coincided with having Gideon, and a year later losing David to a weekly commute to Chicago.  In the past two years, life happened big and fast and moments where uninterrupted time and mental energy occurred simultaneously have been merely fleeting thought bubbles in my head as my arms sit elbow deep in dishwater, moments before someone needs to be wiped or sent to his room or held again, just because.

The days often loom before me busy and scattered and full of picking up and putting away.  They end before I know it in a heap of exhaustion which has become--"Read to yourselves tonight, boys" as I collapse in Gideon's bed.  Whatever remains to be done will be faced with a sigh in the morning, the dishes or the laundry exactly where I left them--unfinished.

It's been a full and hard two years, filled with wonderful, joyous, amazing things--new baby, new kitchen, new job, new friends, new life taking place in the exact same space where the old one left off.  A good, full, wonderful life where mothering has become the fullest of the full-time jobs and writing has become something I once did.  Sometimes I fall asleep drafting a page in my head, but rarely do I find the time and energy to actually type it out.  So, now I find myself at 4:30 a.m., days away from leaving, trying to capture two years in two pages before everyone wakes up and the day rockets into chaos.

I doubt most people think of their lives in two-year chapters, but that has come to be a norm for me.  Two years here, two years there, two years back again, and now how many years gone again?  That's the question.  Is Chicago a brief stop, another chapter which will turn into another city, another life?  Or is Chicago a lasting destination?  A place, a community, a neighborhood where our family tree will grow roots that spread and drink deep?

People ask me, "Will you be back?  Is this forever?"

I wonder if anyone can see my smile inside when my shoulders shrug, "I don't know."

I recognized the very same smile last night when I sat beside Finny in the dark, 276 feet high.  We were strapped into the Kings Island Drop Tower at the end of a full day, his first day standing just barely 48 inches tall with shoes on riding roller coasters.

I couldn't see him behind the shoulder harness.  I didn't know his eyes were closed.  Mine were open and I drank it in--the view, the lights, the unknown.  I knew we would drop far and fast, but I didn't know when and I think that was strangely my favorite part.  The not knowing.  When we did finally drop, it was terrifying and thrilling and so fast and over so soon.  But as we walked away holding hands, we were so proud of ourselves, of each other, for being so brave, for taking a leap and trusting that we would land safely at the end.

People also ask me if I'm excited.  I tell them that's not the word I would use to describe it.  But maybe it sort of is.  I'm at the top of the Drop Tower, looking out at my life, my home, my Cincinnati, and I can see so many things sparkling around me. The memories that I thought would continue to grow and stretch and evolve right here on this piece of earth.  My children live in a neighborhood where no less than a gazillion kids are out playing baseball, catching fireflies, riding scooters, running through sprinklers, eating Popsicles, and swinging high on the swingset we built just two short years ago in our backyard.  They gather all of their basement instruments and start a band on the back patio.  They sell lemonade and show off their missing teeth and they fight with and love each other all at the same time.

And it's not just the children being raised here, it's their very grown-up looking parents too.  The parents who drink beer beside their baby monitors in the street.  The parents who light fireworks, who giggle all day over poop in the road, the parents who are trying so hard to be responsible adults when very often they just want to dress up and drink too much whiskey and maybe even smoke a cigarette here and there.

Sparkling brightly around me is the bus stop, the driveway, the red plastic cars zooming up and down the sidewalk.  Sparkling brightly around me is that initially suffocating cul-de-sac that became the biggest home we've ever lived in--no walls, no ceilings, just one big yard filled with abandoned bike helmets and mole trails.

Everything looks shiny when you're 276 feet high, in the dark, and preparing to drop.  From that vantage point, you can no longer see what's in the dark spots--any conflict, sadness, boredom, or grief sits in shadows.  You can only see the beauty of the lights.  You can only feel air fill your lungs as your feet dangle below you, wondering what, what, what will the ground feel like when you fall and land in Western Springs, Illinois?  And could it ever possibly be as brilliant as the earth that held you up, that pulled you in, that landed you right here?

So, am I excited?  Yes.  The way you are when you know that very soon, very, very soon you're going to fall far and fast and finally touch the earth again.  But instead of nodding my head, I gulp and sigh because the thrill of the fall means a terrible goodbye to this very moment when everything around me seems so shiny, bright and beautiful, and there's part of me that will just always want to stay, just stay right where I am just a little bit longer before I unstrap my harness and follow my feet to the next ride.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Day Off

The two of us sat on a hospital bed for three hours watching Monsters University, snuggling up while he played Monkey Lunchbox on my iPhone, talking about how brave he was.

It was my day off.  I was supposed to be a lady of leisure, a girl about the town, a free agent.  Instead I had a quick shop at HomeGoods, a bite to eat and then a long visit to the Children's Hospital ER with Charlie, my five-year-old bundle of joy and cuteness and all that is right and good in this world.

Of course, as we do, I grumbled about my missed opportunity for a day off.  I had so many unimportant things to be doing that I wasn't getting a chance to do, like make a return to Gap, wander aimlessly across the vast expanse of the World Wide Web, check out the shoes at Nordstrom Rack.

Instead I got to lay down next to Charlie and watch him spell words on Monkey Lunchbox. The thing is, I could do this everyday if I wanted to, lay down with him on the couch and watch him play games on the iPad, but that sounds incredibly boring and somewhat irresponsible considering all the business I have to tend to--the laundry, the dishes, the organizing, the email responding, the calendar planning.  

But sometimes God has different plans for us.  You think you need a day off, He seemed to be saying this past Sunday, but what you really need is a day to be present.

Your important business, your me-time, there will plenty of time for that later but right now, in this moment, all you need to do is stroke his hair, assure him that he's safe, care for his broken wound, and watch as his big teeth grin up at you beneath the freckles dancing around on his nose.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve Sleep training follow-up

He did it!  He fell asleep!  He just stopped crying.  Just like that!

After I went in after 2 hours (3 would be cruel) and sat in his rocking chair.

See you again at 12:45, buddy and 1:45 and 2:45...

Sleep Training Gideon--Take 10

I'm writing this as I listen to him cry next door.  It's torture, so why am I doing it? Because waking every hour of the night is a worse kind of torture. I don't really expect it to work.  My mom told me once about the power of positive thinking--"Imagine yourself passing the test and you will."  I've always struggled with that concept.  I'd rather be pleasantly surprised. I'd rather think there's not a chance in hell and then cross the finish line in a heap of glory.  

I've talked to a thousand people about Gideon's sleep problems.  I've read lots of web pages and at least three books.  I even called a so-called Sleep Expert to have a consulation.  Today I took Gideon to the doctor even though I knew full-well he didn't have an ear infection.  I needed a pat on the back, a "Go ahead, you can do this!"

I told her we had let him cry for three hours before.  She said that was too long.  I felt like shit.  

Two hours she said was the max she'd let him cry.  I'm 99% positive he'll cry for the full two hours tonight.  I'm 99% sure we'll be right back where we started from.  I'm not sure why I'm doing this when  I know it's in vain.  Maybe because of that 1% of me that really, really hopes it's not.  Maybe that 1% is bold and beautiful as it shouts to my soul, "Ferber is right!  He makes perfect sense! Break the sleep association.  You're not just doing it for you; you're doing it for him.  Sleep is a gift.  You're teaching him to sleep."

But I know this is what will happen:  After two hours, I'll go in there.  I'll sit in his rocking chair and he'll lay down and go to sleep.  It'll feel like relief until 12:45 when he's up again and notices I'm no longer in the rocking chair.  Then he'll be standing there again, "Na, Na, Na, Na, Na!!!"

Then, he'll be up again at 1:45, 2:45, 3:45, 4:45.  The Ferber people will call me a coward and a failure.  The Co-sleep camp will call me a heartless bitch.

The timer just went off.  I just went in again to say, "I love you.  Good night."  Ferber says to keep doing that until he settles down.  I don't get it.  I think it just fires him up more.  He.  Is.  Pissed.  

On the other hand, if I just let him cry for three hours, I'm a monster...and a quitter, depending on who you talk to.

You'd think by this point, child three, I would've realized that everyone has their own strong opinions about parenting and really, I just need to follow my own instincts.  But you'd also think by child three that I'd know how to put a child to bed without a complete shit show.  I've learned nothing from this whole parenting venture except that it's hard to retain anything you learn when you're running on five broken hours of sleep.

I remember wondering with Finny how he would ever get potty trained.  How would a child who has been pooping in his pants his whole life, suddenly decide he'd rather do it on the potty? And bike would they suddenly just take off and go?

Now Gideon, Gideon who's never been a great sleeper, but who used to sleep a whole lot better than this, how will he ever learn to put himself to sleep again? Maybe I should read the book to him.  Get him on board with Ferber's logic.  It makes a lot of sense, Gideon.  I just need to train you to put yourself to sleep.  You just need to learn to sleep without me there.  If you are simultaneously developing trust issues and a general sense of abandonment, I hope you'll just forget all that by the time you're eight.

So, it's a different kind of countdown this year.  It's not a 5-4-3-2-1 at midnight.  It's more of a 5-4-3-2-1 every ten minutes on my phone timer.  Then I go in, tell him I love him and he screams bloody murder at me.  I'm pretty sure if he was a gorilla, he'd throw a ball of feces at my head. Thank God he's in a onesie.