Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Rhythm of Life

I intended to slim down my blog posts over the summer, as nap time becomes a gardening tool as essential as a good trowel or the hose (ha ha ha, I hear echoes of those well-meaning mothers reflecting on the fireman's long hose).

I didn't expect to post infrequently simply because nap time vanished.

The rhythm of our lives is a about as dependable as the prairie winds. For months we've enjoyed the gentle breeze of predictable nap times, first Elliot at 9am, then both girls at 12:30 or 1, and finally, bedtime at 8pm.

Occasional, disruptive gusts caused by a short-lived cold or a really exciting morning, may keep one of the girls from sleeping. This simply leads to a predictably crabby afternoon, at which point I channel my mother's frequent (and probably correct) observation of my siblings when they were young and cranky, saying "she's just tired" every few moments. An early bedtime generally gets us back on track.

Elliot caught some sort of nasty virus last week that threw our rhythm into a wonky carnival cadence... or, I suppose, a swirly summer storm wind (assuming I'm trying to stick to a metaphor, but that's in poor taste given that tornado season is upon us).

For more than a week, nap time is any time. Even as the girls seem to be getting healthier, I can no longer predict that two hours after breakfast Elliot will want her morning nap. Some days she is out in 30 minutes; others she waits until lunch! Maya has simply boycotted naps for a few days.

Oh, I realize this sounds like the rambling complaints of a woman who essentially has played in the dirt for the past week rather than dragging herself to a stuffy office place. But I NEED nap time.

No morning nap, means no time to catch up with friends or family while Maya artfully decorates the (useless) phone book with stickers and markers.

No afternoon nap means no time to wrap up a few inside chores, read something for myself, or update this little project. More importantly, no afternoon nap means that instead of 2 hours of quiet to do whatever I like, I end up with an afternoon running up and down stairs toting a 20 lb wiggler and steering a crabby kid back to her room "just until the big hand is on the 6.... then nap time can be all done."

Even this would be tolerable if the disruption this week hadn't escalated to hurricane force. Now they're protesting evening sleep.

That's not fair. Maya is doing great at bedtime. She snuggles in with all of her books (no stuffed animals for this one, she wants her collection of Beatrix Potter and The Very Hungry Caterpillar next to her on the pillow!) and falls asleep after a few hundred cries of "Mama, mama!" and (when we answer) "what's she saying on this page?"

No, Elliot has reached the age of real sleep trouble. Until now, she fell asleep as soon as she nursed in the evening. Sure she would wake up to eat or snuggle during the night, but since she just joined us, it wasn't a problem. Everyone kept sleeping.

Now she's too excitable. She knows she'll miss out on something. She keeps her eyes open as long as she can stand it! If she wakes up in the middle of the night, she tries to pretend she's not tired. She pulls herself up on her crib or my hips (I really have to slim down, if only to give her one less thing to pull up on!), and coos and giggles. I'm not sure if she's trying to convince herself or me that it's time to get up, but regardless, I have to wake up enough to calm her back down and shush her to sleep.

This means no quiet time in the evenings either. We spend way too long trying to put this baby down!

The unfortunate reality is that before I can recapture the gentle consistent sleep rhythms of this house, I have to teach my baby how to fall asleep on her own. This time around, I am under no illusions. Because I seriously reject the idea of letting her "cry it out," I'll spend the next few months establishing a consistent bed-time routine, letting her play in her crib by herself now and then, and putting her down just before she falls asleep... then picking her back up when she freaks out... then putting her back down when she's calm, but not asleep... over... and over...

First I have to find her a spot. She's too disruptive in the same room as Maya. We can't put Maya all the way downstairs by herself, not yet. The playroom is way too stimulating. I suppose her bed will end up next to ours. Let's hope that works.

And let's hope it doesn't take months... I'll check out The No Cry Sleep Solution again and The Baby Whisperer and see if I can get some quiet time back.

If you don't hear from me all that often, this is why! I will be posting pictures of the new garden fence tomorrow, and we expect to build a chicken coop next week! Wish us luck!

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