Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sleep, she's an elusive bitch

Sleep deprivation is synonymous with parenthood. Its a cliche but cliches don't materialize out of the ether. There are different types of sleep deprivation that come with being a parent. Everyone knows about the newborn phase, that's a given. Its the later phases and ages that sneak up on you in ways you never imagined.
Newborn: You don't even know how bad it is because you are in a continuous fog of semi-consciousness. You are seemingly awake and functioning but its a facade. When Heidi was 3 weeks old and had been up about 8 million times the night before I had to drop something off at Mike's office. Someone there said...I swear to you...for realsies, "You look so refreshed! She must be sleeping well." My jaw dropped. Either she was flat out lying to my face or I'm a really good faker.

When you only have a newborn it sometimes seems worse because you don't have as much to do and you can dwell on how much sleep you are not getting. When you have two and three kids its a whole other ball game. You don't have the luxury of counting hours you aren't logging. You still have to make sure everyone is dressed and off to school, or practice and make sure they have food. See, babies are easy like that. You make their food without any real effort but older kids you actually have to buy stuff, prepare it and cut it up. Then clean it up. Sheesh! I think you are just so busy living life that you don't have time to notice that you are tired. If you stop moving you will surely fall over and sleep through the car pool lane at school. This is why when Heidi was a month old I repainted our living room. Yeah, I was still achy for surgery and I was on a ladder painting. What was I thinking? Oh that's right, that my living room looks fantabulous now. Take that sleep!

Older babies: If you are lucky they sleep all night. Its glorious because you can get uninterrupted sleep and wake at your own will and not with a start that comes from a baby's cry. But the down side to this phase is that its fleeting. Just when you get used to semi-regular sleep they get an ear infection, a tooth, a cold, learn to roll over, a growth spurt or they just decide they like waking at 12, 2, 3, 5 and 6:48 just for fun. When they wake up, even just once, you are ruined. You try desperately to get them back to sleep at all costs. Then you are WIDE awake and start thinking, I need to fall asleep right. now. in order to get 6 hrs of sleep. Right. now. Do it! Fall asleep. AHHHH I'm going to be soooo tired tomorrow. It seems somehow worse to actually get sleep then have them wake up once a night for a week. You got a taste of what it can be and you want more. Its like Tantalus its so close but you just can't reach it.

Toddlers: Hopefully by now they sleep and sleep all night. If not, I'm so so sorry. Go to a sleep clinic. Seriously, they should be able to sleep by now. But toddlers do wake up for random reasons. They have a bad dream, they move to a big bed and fall out, they decide they want to 'watch sumptin' at 4 am or they just canNOT find that stuffed animal that they NEED right now. These are important things that lurch you into consciousness and make it hard to fall back asleep. Or if you are like I was last night...I fell back asleep but dreamed about getting Colin back into bed and then Raph kept waking him up. So you are asleep but your dreams are tormented by kid sleeplessness and you wake up exhausted! Oh and Heidi slept all night and Colin woke up twice. ::thud:: These wakings are surprising and if you aren't used to it they can make your morning miserable.

Can you even see him under that mess of blankets and babies?

Early risers: Raph falls under this category now. He just wakes up early. Doesn't matter when he goes to bed, what he did the day before or how dark it is outside he wakes up at 6am, give or take. Oh and when there is a time change he gets up at 5 am just for shits and giggles. Early risers don't just wake up and then wake you up. They do it with flair. They stand 2 mm from your face and stare at you until you nearly have a coronary and smack them in the head in self defense. WHY!? Why must they terrify you into consciousness? That's totally unnecessary. I gentle nudge or a "Mommy?" would suffice. If he doesn't terrify you he will repeatedly poke your forehead. Really? That's just annoying and not a way to start off the day. Piss off Mommy and Daddy at 6am on a Saturday they will NOT make pancakes.

Just being ruined by kids: I am now officially ruined by kids. I fall asleep on the couch by 9pm. I rarely finish a movie, even a really good movie and sometimes I don't even make it past the opening credits. Or, even worse is that I fall asleep at 5 minutes before Lost is over. Every. single. time. The last 5 minutes is when they answer all the questions and leave you with 18 more. Its really important!

I've been woken up at 6am (roughly) for the last 6 years so it is virtually impossible for me to sleep late. Mike and I went on vacation last year. We had a glorious week at the beach and a room to ourselves. We played all day, stayed up late with new beach friends and fell into bed in the wee hours of the morning only to wake at 7am. That's it. My max was 7:30 but I was really awake by 7. Hey, at least we made the most of the breakfast buffet and the Bloody Mary bar. We ALWAYS had the pool bed we wanted and were the first ones up every day.

I'm sure there are other phases that I have not reached. Like when you have a teenager out past curfew or a kid you have to beat out of bed every morning for school. Figures, just when they start sleeping is when you actually want them to get up.

Sleep, she's an elusive bitch. When you think you can have her, she's just out of your reach. Damn that Tantalus. He just had to have some ambrosia.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Frugality, Environmentalism, Charity and Insanity

In my new role as a stay at home mom I am exploring new outlets for my need to work. See, since I'm not working-working I have found new *jobs* for myself. Number one is saving money on groceries and household items. I've always used coupons and shopped sales but never put too much effort into it. Now that I am at home, not bringing home a paycheck and have some more time I am devoting a chunk of my week to couponing. Did you know its a verb now? Kind of like scrapbooking...oh that reminds me, I'm woefully behind on my scrapbooks but that's another post.

I've been following blogs about couponing, baby products and deals in general. They have been enormously helpful b/c the writers are more experienced and spend even more time on it than I do. They know what is a good deal on hand soap and what is something to pass over. I might think I know but I don't really know. My new favorite store is Walgreens b/c I can now get so many things for free or nearly free on a weekly basis. Whatever extra soap or toothpaste I end up with I can set aside for donations to charities.

Last week I was so excited about my grocery trip I actually took a picture of my purchases. I saved 79%!!! I spent only $20 on this trip and saved $72. Not too shabby right? Mike says I'm a coupon ninja.

Today I found a charity that helps military families living abroad. It seems they are allowed to use expired coupons at commissaries in foreign countries. This charity matches up donors with bases and families in need of coupons. We all know that the military families don't get paid what they should and this is a little way to help those who are fighting for our country. I sorted through my coupon organizer and pulled out expired coupons and then re-clipped the Sunday coupons for all the other ones I did not plan on using. I will set these aside and send them once a month to help those families in need. Sometimes charity isn't so much about a dollar amount but just taking a little extra time to help out someone else.

I am also a huge supporter of the March of Dimes. Everyone has the charity that speaks to them most and mine happens to be the March of Dimes. After having 3 complicated pregnancies and 2 babies in the NICU you can understand my fondness for their work. I will continue to expand my level of involvement with MoD and when Heidi is a little older I will try to volunteer my time at a NICU or in a support group for parents of babies in the NICU. When I had Colin I could have used a shoulder to lean on and the advise of a parent who had been there before. I've tried to do this with my own friends but its not all that often (thankfully) that a friend has a baby in the NICU.

Now, my final experiment falls under the insanity section (as well as environmental and frugality). I bought some cloth diapers. Yes, CLOTH diapers. I'm not hard core enough to use prefolds with diaper pins but cloth nonetheless. I have environmental guilt from using disposable diapers on the boys and on Heidi. I go through so many diapers a week with Heidi and Colin. Yes, he is not potty trained (more on this later). I just feel so guilty. I try to be environmentally conscious about the things I use and do. This is a sort of atonement for using thousands of disposable diapers over the past 6 years. I've been buying diapers for SIX years. I wonder (no I don't) how much I've spent on them.

These cloth diapers are actually kind of cute but lordy does she have a bubble butt now!

Anyway, I spent $100 on 7 cloth diapers for Heidi and I'm working on potty training Colin. I will probably stick to 7 diapers a day with Heidi and use disposables when we are out or while the cloth ones are being washed/dried. I started this endeavor hopeful and then Heidi pooped in her first diaper. Thank you for that honey! Trial by, poop. You know it wasn't that bad. She blew out a diaper the day before so rinsing out a diaper really isn't any different from rinsing out a onesie. Ask me this again in 6 months when she's eating mostly table food.

So for now I'm a sling wearing, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, stay at home, never say never. Oh, and don't worry. I still use deodorant and shave my legs.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Adventures in flying

Who wants to do a little holiday travel with three young children? No one. No one actually WANTS to do that but sometimes you just have to. Holiday travel is more special than regular travel for a variety of reasons. Airports are more crowded, you are carrying gifts, the kids are off schedule and usually tired. They are overwhelmed by expectations and excitement. Plus, if you are like us, you leave all your new Santa loot at home the day after you get it all. I'm mean, I know.
Inspecting the loot
This Christmas posed a particular challenge of packing in the least number of suitcases (they charge $20 a bag each way) and we left the day after Christmas. Normally I pack the day before we leave. Set out clothes of each person and have toiletries, save a toothbrush, packed and ready to go. The next morning we get up, have breakfast, put on our set out clothing and brush our teeth. Easy. When on Christmas DAY was I supposed to do this? We got up and opened presents, played, I cooked food for dinner, went to the in-law's house and came home late.

This Christmas Eve I started to pack as best I could. Oh and we have another problem. Raph wears a uniform to school so he really doesn't have many winter clothes that fit. We just packed some dirty clothes b/c I just can't do laundry and Christmas all at the same time. Kind of a buzz kill don't you think?

The boys when we got home from Grandma and Poppy's house on Christmas

Anyway, I managed to pack fairly well and only forgot 2 presents (that I have yet to mail. Ugh). We were off to the airport at a reasonable time. Not too early where the boys will be bored and not so late that we are rushing through security. The TSA guy must of taken pity on us and let us go through the First Class security line. The lady in front of me in her full length fur coat was none too pleased that she was mingling with the hoi palloi, and complained to the TSA agent. ::rolls eyes:: We had to take shoes off of 4 people, 4 backpacks (yes Colin INSISTED on bringing his own backpack that he in turn refused to wear), a stroller, a car seat and our jackets. Plus you have to put a breast milk filled bottle in its own tray for extra testing and our DVD player had to be taken out for extra viewing. We shuffled through the screening and the breast milk bottle testing was nice b/c we weren't going anywhere and it gave us a chance to get dressed again and stuff shoved back into our bags. Oh and it tested negative for whatever they were testing it for.

We get to our gate and our flight is overbooked. They were offering $300 a seat. Hmmmm, $1200, tempting, very tempting. I think we would be angering the travel gods if we took a bump so we got in line and got on our plane. While in the squeeze shoot to get on the plane a guy looks at us and laughs, "You guys have your hands full." Really? Ya think? Then there was mention of us being crazy as well. Nice. We got on the plane, got everyone situated and took off. Heidi ate and went to sleep for almost the duration of the flight. When she did wake up she flirted with the people around us and tried to eat their fingers. The boys were enjoying their snack bags and a movie. Pshhh-ah I say to that guy who questioned us!

We had a great week in Texas with my family. The boys rarely slept but that's what you do when you are visiting family right? They enjoyed their cousins and the cousins enjoyed meeting their new baby GIRL cousin. Heidi hasn't really started the stranger anxiety yet so it was perfect timing. She flirted and played with everyone. Mike came home after a few days and I stayed the rest of the week. He had offered to fly back and help me bring everyone home but really that seemed excessive. I deal with 3 kids on a daily basis. An airport is just a change of venue. I packed everything up again and we were off to the airport. Me and my three kids. No big deal.

All the cousins with their new Christmas blankies from Nana

In the security line a couple was behind me with a boy about Colin's age. They commented on me being a super mom b/c I was flying with three kids alone. I said "nonsense" and we all laughed. Colin chose that moment to bolt. He is short enough that he can run full speed ahead under the security ropes. I duck under them and catch up with his maniacally laughing self and drag him back to our spot in line. Raph was standing with Heidi at the TSA booth and the lady working just rolled her eyes and checked our boarding passes. Yeah, that family didn't talk to me again. I take every one's shoes off, line up all our back packs and gear. Take out the DVD player and the breast milk bottle for testing. Again the extra testing gives us time to get our selves situated again.

We check our gate number and stop at a few stores on the way. One to pick up an activity book for the boys for when the DVD player is off, a candy store for bulk gummy goodness, and Dunkin' Donuts. Yum! We eat our donuts and wait. Then I realised I looked at the boarding time not the departure time so we are extra early. Then our flight is delayed. Groan. We watch planes. Raph asks about 900 times if we missed our boarding call and how he wants to be on the plane now and why were all those people wearing the same outfit? Those people in matching outfits were the men and women of the Army returning to Ft Leonard Wood. Then we had to have a whole discussion about soldiers, uniforms, war and that there really are women in the military. Meanwhile Colin had hit his limit. The poor kid had taken about 2 naps in the previous week and a half and was beyond tired, whiny and temperamental. I know he looked like that kid but I had made a promise to myself before going to the airport. I would not be embarrassed by my children. I don't care one bit if some random person in an airport thinks I'm a bad mom or my kids are brats. I will do what I need to do to get through the day and not look back. I placated Colin in every way I knew how. Its not his fault he's so tired and irrational, just help him get through it.

After all that waiting we finally got on the plane and headed home. It was fine really. They had snacks, movies, new activity books, etc etc etc. It all went fairly well until the descent. I don't know what it is but that's when Colin always reaches his outer most limits and can't take any more. It started with Heidi getting fussy b/c her ears hurt and she wouldn't nurse. Raph then got a massive bloody nose and Colin refused to sit down and get buckled. I tried to forcibly put him in his seat (while reaching over Raph, holding a crying Heidi and replenishing Raph's tissues). That went over oh so well and he ended up standing in his seat, screaming and threw his new activity book. I just gave up and he sat down and half buckled himself then got out of the buckles again. We landed and he fell on the floor. Serves him right. HA! We got our stuff in our backpacks and Colin fell on the floor. He was stuck like a turtle on his back and screaming. Good times. Then as I was waiting for Heidi's stroller and put her car seat in Colin kept on walking down the jetway. Some nice lady brought him back to me and I had to walk with his shirt bunched up in my hand and drag him.

On the car ride home Colin fell asleep. Then when we got home he went down for a nap without fuss and slept for 4 hrs. He got up, ate dinner and was back in bed within 2 and a half hours. He slept until 10am the next morning and was a much happier child. A good time was had by all. Not. But honestly, it wasn't that bad. I've had WAY worse trips with only one child so you just never know. Travel, especially air travel, is always a crap shoot with kids. I think deciding before hand that you will not be embarrassed is the key.

Next summer I plan on making it a road trip! That should be better right!?