Category Archives: sleep

The problem with jet lag

The problem with jet lag, or time-zone adjustment, because I see them as two separate things, is that I can’t really take advantage of the kids going easily and early to bed, because I am also falling asleep by some ridiculously early hour of the evening.

The other problem is that Dash adjusts to new time zones in no time flat, much faster than I do.

The other other problem is that apparently I need more sleep than my six year old. Last night, for instance, Mabel fell asleep at 9pm. So did I. She woke up at 6am. I did not.

Luckily for me – thank all the Greek and Roman and Norse and Egyptian gods and goddesses – I married a man who is a natural early riser, and who needs only about six hours’ sleep a night. One of those high-achieving types. I, on the other hand, clearly will never amount to anything much, because people who need eight to nine hours’ sleep a night never do.

So I put Mabel to bed and myself to bed at the same time, and then B went to bed later and also got up at 6am with Mabel. If I had married someone else, I would either be dead of chronic exhaustion by now, or divorced. On the other hand, if I had married someone else, possibly my children wouldn’t need so little sleep to be the adorable little well-behaved munchkins they always are. Swings and roundabouts.

Mabel pretending to be a sleeping puppy.

Fast asleep. Not.

Inso-mania

I go to bed. It’s cold and windy. I am 85% well but 15% sick so I’m cold in spite of the down comforter and the fleece blanket. I try to relax my jaw so that I can sleep. I discover I’m clenching a buttock. If I unclench the buttock my teeth lock again. Relaxing both at once is impossible. I listen to the wind.

Mabel wakes up and calls out for me. I climb into her bed. It’s much windier on this side of the house and I can’t possibly sleep. I lie there thinking about windows and gusts and the trajectory of broken glass and how far the trees are from the house. I think she’s asleep so I try to leave. She wakes up. I say “I can’t stay here, it’s too noisy. Come and sleep in the spare room with me.” She won’t. I offer up the husband like so much chopped liver: “What if I get Daddy to come and sleep with you?” That would be okay.

I go back to my bed, turf out the poor sleepy man, and slide into the warm space he left. He goes to take his chances in the room in the back on the corner with the six year old. I worry about the 8 year old who was too hot earlier and has only a thin sleeping bag over him tonight, the coldest night of the year. Will he wake up enough to pull the duvet back over himself if he’s cold? Nobody dies of hypothermia indoors, in bed, right? The heating’s still working, isn’t it? How does the heating work, anyway? Is there a pilot light? Might it have blown out? Will the house explode tomorrow morning when I go to turn on the stove? I hear the gentle hum and whoosh of the heating kicking in and can at least check dying of hypothermia off my list of things to worry about for now. I listen to the wind.

They all feel so far away, spread around the house. I wish we’d slept in the basement. Next time it’s going to be this windy we have to all sleep in the basement. B arrives back in the doorway with Mabel clinging to him like a limpet. “She wants to be with you,” he says, or something, deposits her into the big bed with me, and goes back to the noisy windy corner of the house alone. Mabel pushes her head against my cheek, throws a leg over mine, holds my hand. I put my other hand over her middle. This is how we sleep, she and I. We know how to do this. After a while I can turn over and she’ll just bump her back up against mine.

I listen to the wind. I feel guilty about B and think he should sleep in the spare room, which is at least on the less windy side. There are no sheets on the spare bed. He could bring the warm duvet with him. I think I hear him moving into the other room. I write blog posts in my mind. I plot short stories in my mind. I hear something banging and worry about what it might be, straining to listen for the next time it will bang. I wonder if it will wake the 8 year old, who sleeps like the dead. I wonder whether all our siding needs to be replaced. I wonder whether the table is blowing around the deck. I’m still cold. I pull my pyjama sleeves down and I feel the almost-pleasant thrill all over my body that means all my follicles are standing to attention, goosebumpy. I realise that my teeth are grinding to the rhythm of Take me to Church. I try really hard to relax. I listen to the wind.

Much later, I realise I’m warm, and that I’m not listening to the wind any more. I must have been asleep. I have a headache. Mabel is taking over the bed, even though it’s a queen size. I go back to sleep. There’s snow outside, and it’s minus 20 and it will all keep a while.

 

Snippet

red leaves in greenThe leaves are mostly still green but every so often there’s a cluster that got the memo: it’s autumn. Sometimes there’s a swathe that just looks splattered with colour, as if someone threw a bucket of paint at them. The fall colours here are audacious in comparison to Ireland’s basic browns and dark reds – here we get ruby red and lemon yellow and orange and lime green and gold all on the one tree. We wake up chilly, we look for slippers, we put on jackets to go to school. By hometime the jackets are stuffed in backpacks (with luck) and it’s warm on the playground, spreading mulch and finding hideouts in the woods and organizing societies of children, ignoring their mothers with their mother-talk and being ignored as much as possible in return.

yellow leaves in green

—–

In the morning an imperious call summons me. For some reason I always went to her bed, not she to mine except in dire straits. I sleepwalk out of bed, though it’s a perfectly reasonable hour, gone seven. But I don’t have to get up till half past. I haul myself up into her newly hand-me-downed baby loft bed, my back not yet loosened up for the day, and lie down beside her. She curls up against me and we both drift off for a little longer, snuggly. I wake further to find her squeezing my cheeks and running her finger along the lines of my forehead, not too gently, but with love.

These are the last days of such snuggles, that began with my tiny baby at my breast, in my bed. Now she’s half the size of me, it seems like, but she still looks at me with uncomplicated love and wants to have her face beside mine. I stare back at her beautiful bouncy skin, her huge eyes and long lashes, her cherub lips. She might be judging me, but she doesn’t seem to find me lacking. She accepts my difference and invites me in.

Her brother closes his door at bedtime these days. I might creep softly in to turn off his alarm on a weekend night, or to see if his duvet is over or under him, but mostly I try to respect his space. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to climb in beside him to soothe him back to sleep after a bad dream. But if we’re walking together his hand still snakes into mine, even at school. He’s not ready to renounce me just yet.

orange leaves in green

Bedtime sucks

The kids needed an early night. Mabel had taken forever to go to sleep last night, and Dash had been late too, and was pretty tired from some big, serious, second-grade tests today and yesterday. (He got extra time for the reading, which was good.)

So at 7.50pm, there I was sitting on Mabel’s bed; toilet gone to, teeth brushed, no more snacks required. I read a chapter of her book. She was a baby tiger who needed to pounce on her bed. Pounce, pounce, pounce, she went, one way and the other. I stopped reading. I was dismissed.

I went into the hallway. She followed to pounce out there. I put her back in her room. She played hopscotch on the rug while I sat on the bed. I left the room. She played hopscotch on the carpet in the hall. I put her back in her room. She put on her silver party shoes, dumped everything from the floor on the bed, and tapdanced on the hardwoods.

I sat in my room and wondered how long this was going to go on. I’m telling myself it’s the half-year thing, because she’ll be five and a half next week; but realistically, who knows? She goes through phases of easy bedtimes and harder ones, and when bedtime is hard she sleeps till 7.30 the next morning, whereas when it’s easy she’s up at 6.00, so mostly it’s just a case of which end of the day we’d rather have it.

Eventually she called me back in and was ready to lie down and have me tell her a story. She was asleep before the fairy godmother had arrived; it was ten to ten.

I think I’ll go to bed now. Tomorrow is another day. Bedtime sucks.

 

Fairytale

The following episode was recounted to me, because I was asleep – or at least doing my best to pretend to be asleep – for most of it. But it’s classic Dash, so I’ll do my best to reproduce it.

Early yesterday morning – a little too early – Mabel woke up. As usual. I went into her room, agreed that she should go to the bathroom if she needed to, and welcomed her back to her bed with a mumble, as I’d lain down in it and was trying to go straight back to sleep.

I could tell that it wouldn’t work for her, though; she’s been on an early track since we came back from Ireland. Luckily, so has her father. “Daddy’s up,” I told her. “You can go downstairs.” And off with her. I snuggled down for my next hour and a half of sleep, or at least snooze.

About a minute later (I thought), I heard Dash wake up and call quietly, “Mom, Daddy!” (Yes, I’m “Mom” now. I’m still getting used to it.) I laid low and heard B come upstairs. There was some excited talk about how it was wobbly and it was just attached at the corner and then it wasn’t.

                                         Mouth with gaps at top centre right and bottom left of centre.

Apparently – this is where I move to reported speech – the tooth had fallen out. Dash was under the impression that it was the middle of the night rather than about 6.15am. He thought he should put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy right away.

Now, Dash knows all about the tooth fairy and how it really works. But he is busy amassing dollars and imaginary fairies who exchange dollars for teeth are an excellent source of revenue.

B agreed that he should do that, and left the room. Dash put himself happily back to sleep in no time flat, and B went back downstairs to Mabel and coffee and early-morning Internet or whatever it is they do while I’m trying to claw back those minutes of sleep cruelly denied to me.

About five minutes later, as far as I was aware, Dash woke up for the day. In reality it was maybe 30 minutes, and in Dash’s head it was the other half of the night. He must have glanced at his pillow, and failed to see anything. He immediately went downstairs complaining that his tooth had disappeared.

B went upstairs. There was the tooth, in plain sight, about two inches from where Dash’s eyes had apparently stopped looking. B took a silver dollar coin from our room, put it on the pillow, and palmed the tooth.

Then he went back downstairs and told Dash to look again.

“It’s a dollar! The tooth fairy came!”

Dash grinning toothily.

In some respects, he’s very easy to please.

One of those nights

On Tuesday I symbolically went to Target and did lots of useful things. On Wednesday – I don’t remember, actually, but let’s assume I did more useful things. Yesterday Dash had a day off school so I didn’t get much done with my two hours of free time, and today I think I’m just going to sit down with a book. Useful things can feck off with themselves. Though I may possibly take a moment to push a swiffer around the floor, because I think the dust bunnies are unionizing.

Last night was one of those nights that when you have a baby you think you won’t have any more when you have big kids.

11:00 I go to bed.

12:20 Dash has a coughing fit. I get up to see if there’s anything I can do. I can’t give him a dose of cough medicine because he’s not actually awake. I attempt a ritual laying-on-of-hands (i.e. putting my hand on his back for a few seconds), which was sometimes all it took to relax him enough to stop coughing when he was younger. Doesn’t work. I climb into bed with him, which also sometimes works, though it’s not exactly simple due to his loft bed, and the thought crosses my mind that I may be approaching creepy Love You Forever levels of mothering. It’s  not creepy to get into bed with your seven-year-old, right? To stop them coughing? Oh well. It didn’t work, anyway. Not for ages.

1:00 or thereabouts: I go back to my bed.

… some other time… I get out of bed again, I don’t even remember why, maybe it was Mabel. Maybe it was more coughing.

… And again.

… And again.

All I know is that I returned to my own bed at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 5:30 this morning, with the intervening periods spent sleeping and/or not sleeping in one of my children’s beds. Then my wonderful husband did all the morning stuff and didn’t wake me till 8:30, when I had just enough time to stick my head under the shower, throw on some jeans (jeans! It’s jeans weather! At least before 9am it is), and run Mabel to school.

Those crazy (upstate) New York summer nights

There’s nothing like spending seven nights in an 8- by 28-foot space with your nearest and dearest and a very flaky internet connection to make you appreciate the comforts of home. We had fun, we did stuff, but people kept sleeping when they weren’t meant to and then not sleeping when we would have preferred that they did.

Inside the camper van
Camper living

A brief overview of our vacation by the nights, goes like this:

Night one:
I knew we had to bring bedding but I didn’t think to ask if that included pillows as well as pillowcases. I was going to get the kids to bring their pillow pets, but then I forgot. So we spent the first night with no pillows. Now I’m pretty sure when I was 22 I spent an entire summer in London sleeping without a pillow to my bed, but apparently now that I’m Very Old I can’t deal with that any more. Between the bumpy mattress and the strange place and the no pillow, I felt as if I barely got a wink. Dash fell from his pull-out sofa bed onto the floor, but didn’t notice a thing.

Night two:
We spent a large chunk of the next day finding a Sears to buy pillows. One each for the grown-ups and one for Mabel. Dash said he didn’t need one. Insert violas of foreboding here. We all slept relatively well, and I am passionately in love with my new pillow.

Night three:
Dash woke up that morning with a massive crick in his neck. Being not prone to downplay any possible illness or injury, he maximized the melodrama and the whining for the next two days, culminating in the middle of night three when he moved (on his new pillow) and the crick woke him up with a wail of agony (pseudo-agony). Which of course woke his sister as well as his parents. Everyone had to be gently massaged back to sleep over the course of the next hour or so.

Night four:
The previous nights’ discomforts paled into insignificance when we were woken by three long beeps of some sort of alarm at 4am on night four. The trailer/camper/mobile home was fully equipped with a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm, and we had no way of telling which one had beeped, or why. I put Mabel back to sleep, stepped over the still-sleeping Dash, and conferred nervously with B. We cycled the A/C and opened windows, and nothing further happened, so we lay down again, gingerly. BEEP BEEP BEEP said the alarm again, piercingly. There was no smoke, so we thought it might be the CO alarm. This was not the annoying blip of I-need-new-batteries. I didn’t want to risk it. We got the children up and put them in the car, and all sat there glaring balefully at the camper/trailer/mobile home of DOOM, as the birds started to sing and dawn came creeping in. We tried to call the emergency number for the campsite people, but our phones didn’t work there. We didn’t know which trailer they lived in.  Our own residence continued to fail to blow up or do anything remotely dangerous, but the alarm still beeped every twenty minutes or so. The children did not go back to sleep. Neither, therefore, did the parents.

It turned out to be the smoke alarm, saying that it did, indeed, need batteries. I was not amused.

Night five:
You’d think we’d have slept exceedingly well the next night. We would have, except for the hour or so I spent getting Mabel some water, evicting a moth from her bunk alcove where it was fluttering all over my face (urgh), and finally microwaving her a waffle. Which she rejected.

Night six:
Night six was fine once the massive thunderstorm that rolled in at story time rolled away again, leaving me wondering how people in campsites don’t have trees topple on them every time there’s a storm.

Night seven:
Everyone slept pretty well. We’d finally settled in. Which meant, of course, it was time to leave.

Girl in carseat with pillow
Clutching her new pillow for the trip home

Milestones, tangentially

I am solo-parenting right now because B is at a conference in Denver. The night before he left, bedtime was horrible and went on for hours, and I was a bit worried about the state of my sanity if trying to go it alone for five nights in a row, but the next morning I stocked up on dollar-store bribes and so far we’re doing well. When he comes home then we’ll have the problem of trying to continue the peaceful bedtimes without bribes, but I’m prepared to cross that bridge when I come to it. This is known as willful ignorance, or ostrich parenting. (I shall write a book and rake in the profits.)

In my bid to exhaust the children, leading to easier bedtimes, I had to take them swimming today. Whereupon Dash swam underwater (with goggles), which I’m pretty sure I don’t remember him doing before, and Mabel took her first ever strokes without wearing a floatie or keeping a toe on the bottom. At not quite four and a half, she beats her brother by a little over six months, her mother by more than three years, and her father by some enormous amount. I need to find my milestones list* and add this.

The reason bedtimes are harder again at the moment – I realise I haven’t told you this – is because I don’t nurse Mabel to sleep any more. Not ever. (I know, she’s only almost 4.5. Don’t think I hadn’t noticed.) Not even in dire circumstances like having nobody to spell me when telling her stories for hours on end. I don’t nurse her back to sleep in the middle of the night either, and she’s sleeping much better (sometimes) (andIdidn’tsaythatpleasedon’tsmiteme) and slept for ten hours straight last night. Alone, in her own bed. Other nights she wakes up twice and then again at 5.15, but she doesn’t get any booboo until 6am, when it’s waking-up boob rather than going back to sleep boob. (Okay, if she happens to nod off again and we all get some extra shut-eye until 7.45 I’m not going to quibble. But mostly, it’s waking up.)

Then we rode our bikes to the playground at Dash’s school – which is very close but was a novelty for two out of the three of us – and Mabel swung all the way along the monkey bars for the first time too. I think her arms will be aching tomorrow.

The weather this weekend was exactly perfect and the way it should be and I want to marry it and have its babies. If it could just stay this way until, maybe, at least July, that would be ideal, thanks.

Blossom, blossom, everywhere

*My milestones list. Don’t you have one? It’s like a baby book, except it’s just a page from a notebook that I started writing on a long time ago and somehow have managed not to lose. I had a baby book once, but it was too nice to write in, so I gave it away.

Code

I had Mabel’s parent-teacher conference yesterday. I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be much of import to say, but thought I’d better go along anyway just to make sure they didn’t need to tell me she was a sociopath in training or anything. (They didn’t.)

Her teachers opened procedings by assuring me that on the mornings when I pry her off me and leave her wailing in the classroom, the yells have stopped before I’m down the corridor and I’m not to worry at all. Which was nice.

I countered by explaining that those are the mornings when she hasn’t had much sleep. I explained how bad a sleeper she is (though of course I’ve noted this on those days too when handing her over) and how she’s often wide awake for an hour or so in the night, and how I have to go to her and try to help her get back to sleep.

Which left the field open wide for them to tell me what I should do about that. Silly me for mentioning it. They advised not going. I chuckled. (Maybe it was more of a snort.) Or at least a Supernanny-style putting-back-to-bed with no cuddles, over and over, until it sticks, they said.

I nodded and smiled and didn’t say “Well, I’d prefer to go to my child when she wakes and calls for me, because she might actually need me. She might be sick, or have had a nightmare, and I don’t want her to think that she’s all alone and banned from my company just because it’s dark outside.” I only thought of that afterwards.

“No cuddles,” repeated her teacher. Of course, I hadn’t mentioned the booboos component of the putting back to sleep. No need to confuse matters. Oh, fine, okay, so I’m a little embarrassed and don’t want to tell her teachers we’re still nursing at night. If they think I’m a soft touch to be cuddling with her every night, can you imagine what they’d say when I mentioned that she still partakes of the nectar too? Besides, it’s none of their business. But I was conscious of being a bad extended-lactivist.

I nodded and smiled some more, and we talked about Mabel’s “academic” progress (she can cut with scissors!) and social progress (needs encouragement to clean up; needs to work on peaceful conflict resolution, yada yada, four-year-old-cakes), and I took my leave.

It was only later on last night that I realised that Ms S’s references to “cuddles” were code for booboo. Because of course, she’s talked to Mabel about this, and Mabel has no self-censoring device, and Ms S. is no idiot, and hadn’t she just told me that you can have a good, sensible conversation with Mabel? (Not like me, then.)

She should have winked and cocked her head a lot more obviously if she wanted me to understand that she meant “No more booboo.” I’m sleep deprived, so I’m a bit slow on the uptake.

Lower your expectations

My ambitions for this week are not so lofty as most people’s, I think.

You may be training for a 5k or a triathlon, eating paleo or wheat-free, or implementing all sorts of wonderful screen-free, eating-at-the-table rules in your house, and maybe I thought I would be too, but actually I’m just trying to keep us all on an even keel as body clocks return to normal. Since B decided to add an extra three hours to his jetlag by heading to California for a three-day conference on Sunday afternoon, I get both the bedtime and waking-up ends of the messed-up-sleep stick, which strikes me as a little unfair. The fact that his hotel room was upgraded so that now he has an ocean view and can see the Queen Mary liner from his pillow-top mattress with plush down comforter is just rubbing salt into it.

Tomorrow, I lie in, is what I’m saying. No matter who’s stealing whose markers or hiding whose Barbies or pulling down whose pants.

[At some point while we were away my children discovered the delight of the moon. Not the celestial orb, you understand, but the fact that you could pull down your pants and wiggle your backside at someone and it would be the most hilarious thing ever invented. I hope this is over soon. Maybe in ten years, if I’m lucky.]

So we are unpacked, the laundry is under control, the kitchen is clean(ish), and I have baked and given away most of half a batch of peanutbutter cookies, but other than that chaos reigns. It doesn’t matter: sleep is a priority, and getting everyone back to square one is the vital thing.

I’m sure I’ll get round to training for the 5k and overhauling my diet next week.