"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes-and ships-and sealing-wax-
Of cabbages-and kings-
And why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings."

- The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carrol
(From Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

5 Months and Change

Dear Abbey,

You are almost five and a half months old now. You have grown and changed so much lately. I know I say that all the time. But it's especially true right now. I know, I say that all the time, too.

You love to sit up and are able to sit on your own for quite some time. The only thing you enjoy more than sitting is standing. Which is remarkable - you are so advanced. Of course you are! You like to stand and hang on to the ottoman. You like to stand in Daddy's lap. You like to stand in the bathtub, but Mommy won't let you. Once you figure out how to get to the standing position all on your own, all hell will break loose. Daddy and I are not prepared for that. Much child-proofing still to be done. You also like all music, but in particular, the theme to Star Wars and YMCA. And now, when Mommy sings Edelweiss to you before bed, you rest your hand on my cheek, gaze up at me with a smile, and I almost always get choked up, you are so sweet.

You are a sleep champion. Again. And for this we are so grateful. You sleep - on average - 10 hours a night. But lately, you've been upping that to 11. We like that. After you get your first breakfast, you always fall back asleep for at least another hour. We like that, too. You are even starting to get a handle on this whole nap thing. Way to go, punkin. But one thing is for sure, you take after Mommy if you are tired. You are one little miss crankipants if you don't get enough sleep. So, we promise to do our best to see that you are well rested.

You have finally decided to try solid foods. But you're a picky eater. Daddy believes you have his super palette. You do not really care for rice cereal. Nor bananas. Nor apples. Nor pears. At least not yet. But you do love peas. Go figure.

You are now starting to outgrow all of your 3-6 month clothes. Such a big, growing girl. Speaking of growing, you finally have hair! Well, okay, you have fuzz. Silky, fuzzy, blondish, brownish fuzz atop that adorable head of yours.

We love you, punkin. Every day you have a new trick, and you never cease to amaze us. Keep it up, kiddo. Daddy and I are so proud.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'm a bit of a fraud. At least, on the "big" holidays, I sort of feel like one. Sometimes.

I am a person who is sans faith. Not faith as in allegiance to a person or cause. I am a faithful wife and mother, sister and daughter. That is to be sure. But Faith. Capital "F". As in religion. I am sans religion. Sure, I've dabbled here and there. I think I'm somewhat well read on the subject. In fact, religion - as a concept - fascinates me. But I am unable - unwilling, even - to commit to a singular faith or dogma.

So, why do I love celebrating holidays that are rooted in faith? I love Christmas. And Easter. And yes, I had matzo during Passover. When I say, "namaste" I mean it. I hung a Native American dreamcatcher over my daughter's crib. Every year I contemplate giving something up for Lent. (But I never do - that seems a step too far, maybe.) But I do not wholeheartedly subscribe to any religion. I do not consider myself a Christian. Nor am I Jewish or Buddhist, or Hindu or Wiccan. But I also don't like to throw the label "Agnostic" or "Atheist" onto myself, either. I am just simply sans religion. Secular. Maybe, possibly a humanist. But not really...

I often think about this as we celebrate holidays. Easter to me really doesn't have anything to do with Jesus. I know that there are people reading this who strongly disapprove of me saying that. It might even anger them. Or they may feel bad for me. I've deleted that sentence four times now not even certain I should write it. But, I'm being honest here. To me, Easter was a day growing up that I got a beautiful basket stuffed to the gills with candy which I lined up on the floor across from my big brother comparing loot to make sure that everything was even, and then we'd trade for our favorites. I always got a new spring outfit. I'd go on the Easter egg hunt in Bunning Park (which I had always thought as a child was called "bunny park" because of said Easter egg hunt). Bigger kids would beat me to the colorful egg I had my eye on, only to have one of my older siblings plop extras into my basket to make be feel better. On at least two occasions, live animals were given as gifts. A bunny. A chick. Who I named Cheapers. Who grew up to be a rooster much to my mother's shagrin. But we didn't go to church. There was no "alleluia" in our Easter. Rather, there was food, family, friends, and treats.

And it was good.

Now, as an adult, I of course recognize that these major holidays are rooted in something entirely different. Something I was oblivious to as a child. And I wonder sometimes, as a parent, if maybe things should have been different. Treated with more reverence maybe? How will I approach these holidays with Abigail? How will our choices influence her? Am I - like most things - over thinking this? Probably so. It's just an Easter basket, right?

Today, my husband and I enjoyed the day together with Abigail. Our first family Easter basket. A new tradition of beignets for Easter breakfast. I roasted a turkey breast and spring veg. We had a big meal. We drank wine. Abbey got new toys and new clothes. We all cuddled together. We smiled. We laughed. We enjoyed the company of one another. We decided to coin a name for this holiday that's a tad more suiting to us - Feaster. As in "feast" because any holiday is just a great excuse to indulge a wee bit in my book. And as in "faux". Because we know that we can't claim to really celebrate this day for what it's meant to be.

And that's ok with us.

The thing is whether you are one of little Faith like me, or not, I think we can all agree that there's something really special about the traditions that we build within our own families. For me and mine, many of those traditions encircle holidays that just happen to have religious roots. Those memories are my favorite. And though I'm not a believer, in the religious sense, I am a believer in these days of celebration. The food. The stories. The laughs. For better or worse, my lack of religious upbringing has made me a curious and open person. I am always searching for answers. To be honest, I like that about me. I hope that for my daughter. Sure, it would be nice to be able to answer some of those tough questions definitively for her. But I have faith in her and her ability to explore and decide for herself. And that faith - in a word - is unfaltering.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sleep Training: Update

To naysayers of sleep training, I ask you consider this. Before embarking on this parenting experiment, we were waking up every two hours to a screaming, unhappy baby, who refused to fall asleep on her own, and would wake pretty much every time you tried to put her in crib. That same baby is now back to sleeping at least 10 hours a night. Last night, she racked up 12 hours and 15 minutes. What's better is she then coo'd and amused herself in her crib for another 30 minutes after waking up.

I got nine hours of sleep last night. For the first time in a looong time. It was delicious.

It's so counter-intuitive. I never would have thought that simply moving Abbey's bedtime up from 7.30/8 to 6/6.30 and letting her put herself to sleep would have such an impact. It did. It's amazing. And though the early bedtime is tough on days when both Scott and I are working outside the house and getting home at 5. We feel like we barely get to see her. It's well worth it. the new bonus is that we get more time together as a couple these days. That's nice. This week, we've watched two movies together. Movies! I remember those. Abbey also falls to sleep with a lot more ease at night these days. We still have those evenings once in a while when there is protest crying, but it's nothing like before.

We'll revisit nap training in the next month or two. I've been keeping track of her napping patterns, and she's definitely starting to fall into a bit of a routine on her own. I'm hoping to extend these 30 minute naps into hour long naps. Wishful thinking?

Here's my bottom line with the whole sleep training bit. Yeah, it sucks to hear your baby cry. But to see her sleep through the night is wonderful. She's happier. I'm getting rest, so I'm happier. Because, as the tacky country-kitsch signs always say, "If Momma Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy."

Isn't that the truth.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

9 to 5

I knew that becoming a parent would mean a total shift in priorities. But I didn't know that my priorities would shift quite so much. It's a pretty profound change. And I've been muddling through - mulling some thoughts over for some time now. But the opportunity to put some of those thoughts in action recently surfaced. I took that opportunity.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I've been struggling a bit with the whole work/life/mommy balance thing. I don't think there's a Mom out there who doesn't struggle with this. Returning to work after maternity leave was really difficult for me. And though I thought it would get better, it really didn't. As part of my return to work plan, I had arranged to work from home for three months before returning to my 50 minute, one-way commute two or three times a week. I agreed that I would come into the office from time to time for important meetings. Well, from time to time has actually turned out to be every week sans one. And sometimes a couple of times a week. I'm actually glad that it happened that way. No, I'm not a glutton for punishment, but rather, it made me realize sooner rather than later that this wasn't going to work. Not anymore. I guess I was a bit naive to think that it would. The fact of the matter is that I dread those days I go into the office. I hate that it takes me 50 minutes - minimum - to get from my front door, to my desk at work. One way. Throw in traffic or weather, or bad timing, and I'm screwed. One evening last summer it took me three hours to get home. As I sat in traffic that would not move, I said to myself over and over again that this was not the reason why we relocated from Washington, DC to Colorado. A shorter commute was top on our list of reasons for getting out of the city. Off the East Coast. Yet, I sat there idling on the I-25. What's worse, is it wasn't even a good day at work that day. If I remember, it was a pretty crappy one.

Now, with a baby at home, the thought of getting stuck like that again makes me physically ill. I hate - to my core - the feeling that if something happened to Abbey while I was at work, it would take me at least an hour to get to her. Ugh. Just typing that bothers me. My return to work and this transition period has shown me that I needed to make a change. A recent exchange with my boss about priorities and needing to be in the office more often, and for many evening events throughout the summer, and shifting priorities in the office was the real nail in the coffin. Time to find something else.

But what?

The thing is, I know that I need to work. I'm very career motivated. Always have been. It's part of who I am. And though I have those mixed feelings every time I leave the house, once I'm on a task at work and focused, it all melts away a bit. It's sort of a way of reconnecting with myself, I guess. I feel a little guilty admitting that. But I can't deny that I enjoy what I do, and money doesn't grow on trees. So, becoming a stay-at-home mom - as appealing as the idea may be some days - isn't a realistic option for me. Time for a career change, then.

That's exactly what I did.

I'm happy to announce that I've accepted a new job. Still in the arts, but in the visual arts. Museum world, to be exact. But I'll be working in Denver. My commute will go from 50 minutes to 15. 20 on the tough days. And I'll still work from home from time to time as needed. It comes with a significant pay increase, great benefits. And over this first summer, I'll be part time, giving me a whole extra day with our daughter.

I'm not as much the 9 to 5 kind of girl that I was before. I relish in stolen moments with Abbey. Or to sneak off for lunch with the hubs. I used to really identify myself by my job. Not so much now. I'm a wife and a mother and that comes first. And because of that, I made a change. That change - I hope - I think - will bring some peace to me and our little family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sleep Training Day Four: My kingdom for a nap

Time to assess how this is working. Let's start with night sleep - because that's what's most important, I think.

For three nights in a row now, Abbey has gone to sleep sometime between 6 and 6:45 pm and slept through the night. If you consider sleeping until 4:30 am sleeping through the night. Which she, apparently, does. But I'll take it. That's about 10 hours without a feeding, and the kiddo is hungry. So, although I'm a bit disgruntled about having to drag my ass out of bed at that wicked hour, it's necessary. She also goes back to sleep immediately afterward and sleeps to 6-6:30 am. That's a win. Unfortunately, Mom is awake and can't catch the extra Zzz's.

But still - a BIG improvement. So, in the category of night sleep, I whole-heartedly recommend the "crying-it-out" method. Listening to your baby cry is not easy - but it's harder on the parent, I believe, than the baby. And it only took two nights for Abbey to figure it out. She's now waking up happy in the morning, and well rested, and we're getting sleep, and all of that is good, good, good.

Here's where I say, "Stop the bus, I want to get off." Naps. Abbey has never really been the best napper. While I can definitely see that a natural nap schedule is starting to evolve in her, it's not solid. The Weissbluth approach to nap training is not working for her. At least not right now. Yesterday, she cried for an hour solid for both her morning and afternoon nap, and never fell asleep. That is, until, I rescued her, cried a little myself for torturing my baby so, rocked her back to sleep, and put her down in either her swing or pack 'n play. If she was in her swing, I turned the motion off after she fell asleep. And in both cases she slept for 30-40 minutes. I'll take it. I'll take that over the hour-long wailing. I have to.

My research on the subject is telling me this: at four and a half months old, she's just not ready yet for a structured nap schedule. The sleep development centers of the brain are different for napping versus night sleep. The morning nap develops first - usually around five months. So, we're still a bit shy of being ready for that. And so, abandon ship. We're going to loosen up on the whole nap thing, and take what we can get however we can get it during the day while sticking to the program for night sleep. The new goal is to maximize the total amount of day sleep we can, any way we can.

So, as I type this, Abbey is just starting to drift off in her swing. Tear free. For what I hope will be a nice, long, morning snooze.

And thus concludes our sleep/nap training. At least for now. I'm sure I'll be revisiting this subject in the weeks, months, and years to come - until she leaves the house for college.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sleep Training Day Three: Encore

We had a lovely repeat performance of bedtime success last night. Bath, jammies, nursing, song, bed, sleep.

All by 6:30 pm.

Without a single protest, peep, or whimper.


But unfortunately, we're still struggling with naps. It's hit and miss. For her morning nap, she cried for 30 minutes before finally settling down. But then she slept for a whole hour! Her afternoon nap was just 30 minutes, but little crying. Her early evening nap was thirty minutes without a peep. So, yes, some progress. But today (which will be tomorrow's blog - day 4), really sucks a big one in the nap department.

More to come - fingers crossed for another restful night.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sleep Training Day Two: Winning.

Scott and I have decided that we need to make a little onesie for Abbey that says, "Winning." a-la Charlie Sheen.

'Cuz she is.

And it's funny.

And true - she has our number.

But seriously, folks. We're making progress. As difficult as this method may be on the heart, I have to tell you, in the sleep category, I totally recommend it. We've seen rapid and dramatic results in her nighttime sleeping habits. We see a light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel. It's a lovely, bright light. Where bluebirds sing. And trees sway. Where children of all races play together. And gays have the right to marry. And all is well with the world.

We'll start with naps yesterday. Here's the first major improvement. This kid has never - NEVER - napped in her crib until now. She's now going down without much protest and sleeping for 30 minutes, three times a day. Sure, I wish it were longer. But this is a big improvement.

But the happiest news comes from bedtime last night. We headed upstairs for her bath at around 6pm. Usually, some significant crying occurs after the bath while I'm putting on her PJ's. Like she's saying, "enough already! get on with it, lady!" But last night, not a peep. Just happy coos. We went through the whole bedtime routine, I laid her in her crib - still awake - she smiled at me, and Went. To. Sleep.

We didn't hear from her again until this morning.

Do you hear those angels singing? Hallelujah. And amen.

Granted, she woke up a wee bit early for my taste this morning - you know, 4.45 am isn't any one's favorite hour. But I knew she was hungry. And she logged 10 hours of sleep. So who am I to complain?

Like I said. Winning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sleep Training Day One: Begin

Sunday, our first full day of sleep training, wasn't too bad. It could have been worse. Could have been better - but it could have been a lot worse. Having caught some zzz's the night before, I definitely felt more in my right brain to take this task on.

So, the day started with the morning nap. After some comforting, I put Abbey in her crib and she begin to sputter and cry. I told her I loved her, kissed her cheek, turned away, walked out the door, turned off the light, and shut the door behind me. She whimpered for another 15 minutes or so and then...nothing. Blissful, sweet, nothing. Sleeping baby. And that continued for another 26 minutes exactly. Then she wailed like a banshee. Our program is a bit wishy washy on naps. Basically if she sleeps over 30 minutes, she's probably good and done. If it's a lot under 30 minutes, then we're to let her cry and see if she'll go back to sleep, but for no longer than an hour. So, that's what I did. And she cried. And cried. And cried. Finally settling down enough to take another 15 minute snooze before waking up again. I raced to her room to get her. Anxious to see her again and to investigate the damage I had done. To my delight, she was pretty happy.

We played for almost two hours - a happy, peppy play. Like nothing ever happened. Then she started to show signs that she was tired again. We went through the naptime routine, put her down and she went to sleep right away this time. And slept for a whole 25 minutes. And that was all she wrote. The tears and screaming came again until I retrieved her 20 minutes later when I had - frankly - had enough.

At this point, my nerves were pretty shot. Though I've been turning the volume off on the monitor when Abbey starts to cry, I can still hear her even though I'm a floor below her. I try to read, or watch tv, or blog. But even in a semi-distracted state, I still know that my bayybeee is cryyyyiiiing!

As we approached the 3pm nap, I called Scott (who was at the car show) and informed him we had a decision to make. We were coming up on the 3pm nap and If I could put her in her swing, I thought she'd sleep longer. But we have to turn the swing off once she falls asleep (it's one of the rules of this technique - no sleeping while in motion). We knew she was exhausted, so we thought we'd be doing her a favor by going this route. When the time came, I placed her in her swing and within two minutes she was soundly asleep. I turned the swing off. Peaceful baby. For 20 minutes. Then, sad, wailing, crying baby. In. The. Same. Room. As me. . . Shit. There goes that nap. Again, I picked her up and comforted her and she played pretty contentedly until about 5.30 when we started seeing signs of sleepiness.

We whisked her upstairs, gave her a bath, and started the bedtime routine. She went right to sleep. No fussing. At 6.15 in the evening. And she slept until 9pm, when she cried out for us. And cried for 45 minutes. Ugh. But then she slept through night to her 3.30 am feeding, and again after that until 6am - her normal waking time. In an overnight span of 12 hours, she was awake three times. That's a lot better than her previous pattern of waking up 6 times - every two hours - over a 12 hour period. 50% better in fact!

Rome wasn't built in a day. Abbey's sleep problems won't be solved in a day. But we're about half-way there.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sleep Training Day Zero: Reset

I've had a lot of response from my blog yesterday about our recent sleep woes with Abbey. I want to thank everyone for their support and advice and for sharing your stories. It is so reassuring to know that ya'll have been there, too. And have emerged on the other side. So, thanks.

Yesterday, Scott and I did a lot of talking and analyzing. I went to the bookstore and bought two books that were recommended to me over and over. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth and (insert dramatic music here) Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber. Yes, THAT Ferber. As in "Ferberize" and "Meet The Parents" fame. But we know we need to put a plan into action. Up until this point, we'd really been following the "child lead" model of sleep/eat/play routines. And I think that has suited us very well up until this point. I don't regret that approach at all. My research is teaching me, however, that there's a big shift that happens at four months of age, and it's time to reassess. It's time to get a schedule in order. While I was up in the wee hours with Abbey the other night I thumbed through the No Cry Sleep Solution, which had been given to me by my sister-in-law. Pretty much everything it had suggested we were already doing. I knew that "attachment parenting" and the Sears approach wasn't going to work for our lifestyle. So, we're going to give this other side a shot. More on that later.

Yesterday - last night specifically - was our collective "re-set" as we begin sleep and nap training today. We know that Abbey isn't sleeping enough during the day and that causes her to be overtired and not sleep through the night, which causes for another rough day. Vicious, horrible cycle. Studies show an infant her age should be logging 14-15 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. She was doing about 12 on a good day. That's a problem. We've been struggling to keep her awake at the end of the day so that we could reach an arbitrary bedtime of 8 or 8.30. Life pretty much sucked from 6pm until bath-time. So, we started there. Abbey started to show signs of tiredness around 6pm, and we decided to go ahead an chuck her in the bath and start the bed-time routine. Bath, massage, jammies, book, bottle, nurse, bed. She was peacefully asleep without protest by 7:30 - a whole 30 minutes/hour earlier than normal. We thought, "Yay! Smooth sailing the rest of the night!"


At 9:30 she was up and wailing. I was just getting ready to go to sleep. I decided to try to nurse her and get her back down. And that worked. For 20 minutes. We knew it was time to put the plan into action. The plan being to let her cry it out.

Shock, gasp, horror. I know.

Here's something that I have found really fascinating over the past 24 hours. Several moms who I have SO MUCH love and respect for sent me messages saying the EXACT SAME THING. The gyst being, "I didn't want to admit this to everyone, but we let our baby cry it out." It's interesting to me that we associate this method with a negative stigma. Well, I'm here to say, "fuck that". Allow me to blog about it for all of us - so that we no longer have to hide in the shadows in shame. I am committed to sharing this parenting hurdle openly because, seriously, you do what have to do. Scott and I have committed to trying the Weissbluth approach to sleep and nap training for two weeks. If it doesn't work, then we'll try something else. But I'll be damned if I'll show any shame or embarrassment or fear of judgment for trying to make a happy household.

Nanny nanny boo boo.

So, where were we. Ah, yes. Cry it out. So, Abbey started wailing at 10pm. Scott and I flipped on our respective bed-side lamps, turned on the white noise machine (aka loud-ass fan in our bedroom), turned the volume off on the monitor, and read. We read for exactly 26 minutes. That's when I looked up and saw that the lights on the monitor were no longer dancing. I turned on the camera (yes, we have a video monitor - and love it - and I HIGHLY recommend them) and saw a peaceful, sleeping angel. Out like a light.

She woke up at 3.30 am and against what was probably my better judgment, I got up and nursed her. I just thought she'd likely be hungry. It had been 6 hours since her "snack" and 8 hours since a proper feeding. Luckily, she fell right back to sleep afterward. She woke up again at 5.30am - which is actually fairly normal - so I got up again and nursed. Again, against my better judgment, I threw her in her swing and she slept until about 7:45. But she slept. And so did I. But we will be towing a harder line tonight.

Last night was a HUGE improvement over what we've experienced the past two weeks. Heuuge. So, I feel like we're on the right track. And I'm hoping for continued progress.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What the EFFF

Okay, I take it all back. All those comments that Scott and I have made about Abbey sleeping through the night and being such a good sleeper, and us getting lots of rest. I didn't say them. I didn't jinx myself. I take it back, Universe.

Because we are seriously hosed up in this noise.

For the past two weeks Abbey has been struggling - thus WE have been struggling - with some serious sleep issues. Namely, we're now waking up every two hours. It sucks. It's especially jarring because we were enjoying such consistent sleep. It's so hard to go from enjoying 10 hours each night to...um...not enjoying shit. It literally just happened to us. One night - BAM - no sleep for you. WTF!?!?!

Literally, I'm pretty sure at one point I looked at my husband while Abbey was screaming bloody murder and said, "She will be an only child."

And of course it happens now. Just when I'm back to work full-time, and in super busy mode, and NEED my sleep. And the hubs is sooo not functional when he doesn't get rest. The guy doesn't need much to sustain him - but food and sleep are the two things that are totally necessary. And hockey. And the Yankees. (We all have our vices.)

Here's what I know:
1. She doesn't nap enough during the day - but she really, really fights that afternoon nap. How do we get her to take it - and make it a long one?

2. This isn't a bedtime routine issue. We have a strong and consistent bedtime routine. Getting her to go to sleep is never a problem, it's a night waking issue.

3. She's only being breast-fed at this point. Tried solids a couple weeks ago and she wasn't ready, but maybe she's not getting enough to eat?

4. When she goes into this tailspin of night waking, she will only fall back asleep if she is nursed or rocked, and will wake up as soon as I try to put her back in her crib. She will sleep in her swing, but isn't that just another crutch.

5. Speaking of the swing - that's the only place she'll nap. Not good, right?

So, I am reaching out to my community here. I am opening the floodgates and seeking advice. I've already heard recommendations for a couple of books - so keep 'em coming. We are open to any and all ideas. And please share your war stories, because I need to know two things: First, we're not alone in this and more importantly: It gets better, right?