Monday, September 30, 2013

Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging

Warning: This may or may not devolve into a list of flimsy excuses as opposed to legitimate reasons.

  • The laptop is all but dead.  I'm currently typing on our tablet's teensy little keyboard, whose size is more suited to Caedmon's pudgy little digits than my own.  I've thought about going into the library to use one of their computers some evening, but to do that I would need to have a free evening and be willing to have creepy mouth-breathers read over my shoulder as I type.

  • Time.  I'm still watching baby J four days a week (it's going swimmingly, thanks for asking), plus a neighbor baby a few hours a week.  I don't know if you knew this, but babies like to be fed and played with and held.  The clicking of a keyboard (even a midget one) does not lull them to sleep, and they do not care if you have a blog.

  • Adelaide's schooling.  My friends and family must be sick to death of hearing about it.  Without going into too much detail, we've had trouble finding the right... fit for her this school year.  It's been stressful.  Maybe once I'm confident we've found some kind of resolution I'll write about it here, but for now, let's just say I've gotten great practice at restraining myself so as not to become that demanding,  condescending mom nobody likes.  Instead I send emails on an almost daily basis to a teacher who is a wonderful advocate for our daughter.  I'm guessing she just loves that about me.

  • Our fridge is dying.  I'm not sure what that has to do with my lack of blogging, but there's a distant possibility it's related.  This may not sound like much of a crisis, but going from buying 4-5 gallons of milk a week to just two because you know any more than that will spoil is cause for mutiny in this family.  The plus side?  Our new fridge will be delivered in a couple weeks!  The downside?  We had to pay for said refrigerator.  

  • Adelaide has lost her two upper front teeth.  This belongs on this list because I say it does.  She lost the first one a couple weeks ago, and in that time the second got so loose she could purse her lips with just that one snaggle tooth poking out.  It drove me crazy.  Because it drove me crazy, she did it all the time.  Honestly, she looked like something we picked up in the Ozarks.  Now that both are gone, she's more gap-toothed cute and less I-help-brew-moonshine-'afore-I-make-squirrel-stew.  I would post a photo, but I don't know how to do that on this thing.

The End.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Advice We've Received On How To Combat Night Terrors

I recently promised a list of all the advice we've received in regards to our son's night terrors.  I told you I would post it the next day, then got sidetracked by the suggestion of getting Atticus a stuffed Jesus doll (raise your hand if just the mention of a stuffed Jesus doll buoys your mood) and the fact that our other son's birthday went into stealth-mode and crept up on me this year.  So instead of night terrors, I rambled on about Jesus toys and extravagant birthday parties.  Whoops.

So without further ado, here is:

Advice (Both Solicited and Unsolicited) We've Received on How to Combat Our Son's Night Terrors.

Man.  I can't even summarize titles.  Anyway, onward!

  • "Leave the hall light on."  It is on.  Every night.

  • "Get a night light."  Done.  Doesn't help, except perhaps to keep us from killing ourselves by tripping over Lincoln Logs when stumbling in to comfort him in the middle of the night.

  • "Use something brighter than a night light."  They have a small purple Christmas tree in their room in December, and I've left its strand of lights on at times.  While it does lend his screams a certain festive feel, it does not actually stop or alleviate them.

  • "Let him cry it out."  Tried it.  Those were a long few nights for the whole family.

  • "Pray over him."  Oh, believe you-me,  there's a lot of nighttime praying in this house.  Sometimes I think this helps, but whether it's more Atticus or Derek and me, I'm not sure.  Still, I don't know when prayer is a bad idea, so this one is certainly a part of the regular rotation.

  • "Pick verses of the Bible that speak to the idea of God's protection, his love for us, his omnipresence, etc, and say those with him on a regular basis, especially before bedtime."  This is a pretty new one; I have yet to try it, but I'm excited about it whether it works or not.

  • "Give him a flashlight to sleep with; then when he gets scared, he can use his flashlight to find out just what's lurking in the dark and will discover there's nothing to be afraid of, thus empowering him."  We got this advice from a pediatrician.  It sounded promising in her office, and we quickly got him a flash light.  Within a week we had one screaming boy and one thoroughly dismantled flash light.  

  • "Spank 'im!"  Have you ever noticed how enthusiastic spankers are?  It always makes me laugh.  Anyway, we've tried it.  It's excellent if you want a side of screaming with your screams.

  • "Don't let him watch tv!"  Television haters are also a little on the shouty side.  He gets about 30 minutes of screen time a week.  This is actually up from the standard 0 he enjoyed for the first three years of his life.  Sorry, tv haters.  It's not the tv, convenient scapegoat it may be.

  • "Have him watch a funny tv show right before he goes to bed."  This was from an adult who apparently suffered from pretty terrible nightmares as a child.  At some point his parents started letting him watch comedies before bedtime, and it worked for him.  To be honest, we haven't tried this one.  I hate the way our children look when they watch tv: like their brains are being sucked out right before my eyes.  Maybe we'll try it someday.

  • "Make sure his nighttime routine is consistent, his bedtime is consistent, and his entire life revolves around consistency.  It'll clear it right up."  This is about the time I want to start waving my sassy finger in someone's face.  I may not be good at a lot of things, but let me tell you what, I'm not a mere queen of consistency, I am the Czar, the Emperor, the Supreme Ruler of Consistency.  If you want spontaneity, call someone else, because homey don't play that game.  Our children have the same bedtime every night.  They have the same bedtime rituals every night.  Same, same, same.  We are able to do this because our children are small, we're very protective of family time, and I'm a bit of a hermit.  Trust me when I say consistency is not the problem.  

  • "Put him on a gluten-free diet."  Let me tell you a little story about the Worst Month of My Life.  We have a number of friends and family members who have switched to gluten-free and seen some great results.  I was a little skeptical, but then Derek found a blog about a lady who had terrifying hallucinations every night.  Guess what cleared it right up?  That's right:  Eliminating gluten from her diet.  Turns out for a few people (like this lady and a number of people who follow her blog), gluten affects them on a neurological level, and creepy sleep disturbances are common among them.  Well, after reading that, we knew we had to try it.  I had ridiculously high hopes.  I was half-convinced that this was it, this was going to be The Cure We Had Been Looking For.  Well.  Guess who hates cooking gluten-free for anytime longer than about three days?  Me.  Guess who hates eating gluten-free for anytime longer than about two days?  Our entire family.  It's prohibitively expensive, and the thought of taking nine years' worth of meal experimentation, planning, and menu building and chucking it was completely overwhelming.  It didn't work, and the saddest part was when we finally gave up, went out to eat, and told Atticus he could get whatever he wanted on the menu.  You should have seen his little face when he looked up at us and asked in a half-hoping voice, "Really?"  In terms of sheer pathetic-ness, it rivaled Oliver with his "More gruel, please."  We kind of think he believed he was being punished that whole time, even though we had lots of long conversations about food and health and why we were trying this whole fiasco.  Fail.

  • "Put him on a sugar-free diet.  Put him on a dairy-free diet.  Stop giving him cow's milk.  Don't let him have any food dyes.  Cut out corn.  Cut out soy.  Cut out food altogether."  Listen.  We try to feed our kids well-balanced, healthful meals.  I avoid food dyes when possible.  The majority of our kids' food is prepared at home.  If I truly believed trying any of the above things would help, I would probably try them.  I don't, so I'm not going to.   

  • "Let him listen to music at night."  Sometimes we let them listen to the radio quietly in their room at night.  They enjoy it, but it doesn't seem to help Atticus's night terrors.

  • "Sing to him."  Turns out Derek sings 'Jesus Loves Me' to Atticus on a pretty regular basis.  He says it sometimes works.

  • "Give him some bourbon."  We received this particular jewel from an older person, and, well... I think they were joking.  You may know that it was once accepted practice to add bourbon to babies' bottles to soothe fussiness, and while there's a faint possibility it may also quell night terrors, I'm pretty sure administering an alcoholic beverage to a 4-year-old isn't approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Or Jesus.

  • Just tonight we met someone who says he had night terrors as a child, his symptoms closely paralleling Atticus's:  he screamed at night and was difficult to rouse, he remembered his nightmares well, his nightmares featured recurring themes.  He was able to conquer one nightmare by giving it so much thought during the day that while dreaming he was able to identify the fact that he was, in fact, dreaming, and simply transformed into a superhero and flew out of danger.  It sounds like he had to outgrow the other, scarier, species of nightmare he frequently had.  Try as Derek might to pin down the exact age of nightmare cessation ("So, you were 5, right?  Age 5 when they stopped?  5 years old?"), all he could remember was that he was elementary age.  

  • "Give him melatonin."  Not a bad idea for adults, but not recommended for children.  Try again.

  • "Give him Benadryl every once in a while, just so he can get a decent night's sleep and help break out of this cycle."  For the record, this one was doctor recommended.  But guess what?  You know that little warning caveat on the medicine label that reads something like, "May cause drowsiness.  In rare instances, excitability may occur."  Guess which one Atticus was?  (Hint:  DEFINITELY NOT DROWSY.)

  • "What about some kind of essential oil?  Lavender has really helped me sleep."  This is a relatively new suggestion, so it's currently in the early stage where I get depressingly excited that "This is the one.  It's gonna work.  IT HAS TO WORK.  *sob*"  I remember when Atticus was just a few months old, he would occasionally cry and I would run through the regular list of needs to satisfy:  feeding him, changing him, getting him to sleep, etc, but nothing would settle him down.  On these occasions, the only thing that would work was slowly massaging his arms and legs with baby lotion.  Looking back, this makes sense; Atticus is super touchy-feely.  Unlike Adelaide, who needs distance at times and has no problem telling you so, Atticus is incredibly physically affectionate.  The only reason this is a problem is that, as my sister Kelli said when he wanted to sit in her lap, "Aaaah, you're all joints!"  Kid is boney.  Anyway, I can see Atticus liking having nice-smelling oils rubbed into his skin.  We'll just have to see, and I'll prepare myself for another soul-crushing disappointment.  It'll be fun!  

I feel like I should print this list off and keep it on my person to hand to people when it becomes clear they're gearing up to impart precious night terror-related wisdom.  The only problem is this isn't an exhaustive list, I'm just sick of typing on this midget keyboard that's hooked up to our tablet because the laptop is still out of commission.  

The one thing that often does presage a quieter, less shark-infested night?  (Atticus's worst nightmares usually feature sharks.  Keep up, guys.)  A smoother day.  On days when he's calmer, we have fewer disciplinary issues, there are no meltdowns, etc, he tends to have fewer episodes that night.  Then, because he's better rested, the following day is even better (it's a lot easier to obey, maintain your cool, and share with your siblings when you're not exhausted).  The problem is, this cycle works the other way, too.  If he has a night terror-filled night, he's tired the next day, he has more trouble obeying, he gets in trouble, that night is also bad, and on and on.  Yes, this can be frustrating, but recognizing this is also excellent incentive for Derek and me to remain as calm and controlled as possible.  Do we always succeed?  Nope.  But knowing that calm= sleep has turned out to be a great motivator.  Either that or we've finally completed the transformation to complete sleep zombies.  (<------ I don't even know what that means.  I should have gone to bed a long time ago.  At this point it's "Do I try and go to bed now, even though Atticus is due to start up anytime now, or just wait for the screaming and thrashing?")

Sleep zombies.  What on earth happened to this post?  And how are you still reading?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Day Is It? What Month Is This?

Last night Derek informed me Caedmon's birthday is this Saturday.  This was astonishing news.

I seriously have no idea how this happened.  I mean, since when are we in the month of September?

Oh, since around two weeks ago?  Great.  Thanks.

The problem is this:  I'm not much of a birthday person.  I mean, I have nothing against birthdays, personally.  I certainly don't mind celebrating a specific person on a specific day.  I've never really struggled with the notion of getting older.

I guess it's not so much the birthday itself as it is the birthday party.  I don't do birthday parties.  Birthday parties are not my love language.  My spirit animal is not a party hat.

The reason this is a problem is that I am the mother of young children.  Um, have you seen the kinds of birthday parties kids get these days?  On a production level, they rival my wedding, in size, budget, food, everything.  It is crazy.  So to be a mom that doesn't really do birthday parties?  I might as well announce that 90% of our kids' clothes come from garage sales, between the three of them they're involved in zero extra-curricular activities, and they never eat organic anything, except by accident.  (Oh, wait.  THAT'S ALL TRUE.)

Strangely enough, however, I enjoy hearing about other people's extravagant party preparations.  You're having a Disney Fairies-themed party for your four-year-old, complete with homemade fairy wings for each party guest and a special activity where they make pixie dust out of glitter and whatever else you make pixie dust out of?  You're throwing a bee-inspired party that begins with an educational but fun presentation for the kiddies on how honey is made and ends with kids donning special pint-sized suits and collecting their own honey from the apiary that you of course have in your backyard?  You've decided to host a Fireman Birthday Party for junior with birthday cake en flambe and a ride around town on the local firetruck?  Bring it on.  All of it.  I love hearing about that kind of crap.  Tell me what favors you're sending home, what games and decorations you've spent the last week preparing, what food you've dyed to within an inch of its life so that it will exactly match the special balloons you bought.  I will listen to all of it.  And if you have pictures, even better.  Just don't expect me to ever reciprocate.

I will cook you a special birthday supper.  I will bake you a special birthday cake/cupcake/pie/giant cookie.  I will sing "Happy Birthday" to you and not change key in the middle.  I might even let you invite a single friend over, providing I know them and have deemed them not-super-annoying.

And I think it goes without saying I will never do this:

Kids Birthday Party Theme Decoration Ideas photo

Or this:


Or this:

Image via Mommy Babble

Or this:

Image via Amy Atlas

Instead, I'll make you a deal:  I won't spend hours and hours and hundreds and thousands of dollars on these kinds of parties, but I also won't become a crazy person trying to get it all to look just so and make you hate me because I've gone stark raving mad over the fact that Hobby Lobby is all out of sage- and salmon-tinted burlap so I won't be able to execute the perfect pennant banner which means the whole party is RUINED and my life is now OVER.

Which is pretty much the only inevitable outcome if I were ever to try and throw a party like that.  

Our kids should be thanking me, really.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And His Birthday Is Only A Month Away!

You guys.

"My Loving Jesus Doll," courtesy of

I know I was going to post the list of suggestions we've received in the past on how to combat Atticus's night terrors, but I cannot bring myself to think past the sheer awesomeness you see above.  

First of all, your suggestions via yesterday's comments were terrific.  "Put him outside in a tent."  (Oh, we've thought about it.)  "Sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'"  Pretty sure I haven't tried that one, but I'm going to give it a go.  Hopefully it won't be an angry, metal version that will ruin the song for him forever.  "Get him a stuffed Jesus."


I'm not talking about taxidermy.  (Oh my gosh.  I could follow that train of thought all kinds of places, but I won't.  I will exercise restraint.  You're welcome.)

Immediately after reading this comment, I OF COURSE googled "stuffed Jesus doll."  The above image is the first one that came up.  It was Agape at first sight.  

Never mind that I'm pretty sure he's contoured his face (lay off the bronzer, Jesus!).  Never mind that his proportions are just a tad off (What is with those giant hands?  All the better to save you with, my dear.)

He's almost a foot and a half tall.  (The doll, not real Jesus.  Keep up, people.)  He's machine washable- although there's no way I could live with the guilt of not even taking the time to hand-wash Jesus.  Couldn't do it.  

If you have so much as two extra minutes in your day, do yourself a favor and do the google image search.  It's priceless (actually, most of them seem to be $19.95).  I'm particularly intrigued by the talking Jesus doll.  How on earth would choose who you want to be the voice of Jesus?  James Earl Jones?  Are you going to get super authentic and make him speak in Aramaic?  (Not that Jesus couldn't speak in English if he wanted to.  I wonder what accent he would choose to take on?)

My sister is a genius.  (Thanks, Steph!)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Night Terrors Are The Worst. No, Really. They Are.

If you've read this blog or known our family for any length of time, you know that our son Atticus suffers from night terrors.  Nightmares.  Sleep disturbances.  We don't know exactly what they are, we just know there's a lot of terror, and they occur at nighttime, so... night terrors it is.

They began sometime shortly after he turned two, and they continue to this day (night, whatever).  He's turning five next month.

That's three years of sleeplessness.

The good news:  They've gotten better.  Like, a lot better.  Whereas before he was up every fifteen minutes for several hours in a row, it's now down to a few times a night (usually).  He also calms down a heck of a lot faster (again, usually).  I don't know if this is because he's learned how to simmer down more quickly, or we've developed better coping mechanisms.  (The key:  Staying calm.  This sounds simple, but simple doesn't always equal easy, people.  Try keeping your cool in the middle of the night when your preschooler is screaming and/or crying and you're exhausted and you have two other small children you would like to stay asleep.  Oh yeah, and it's the eighth time in a row you've had to comfort him that night.)  If it's shaping up to be a rough night, I'll sometimes lie down next to him, because as long as someone's right there beside him, he seems to have fewer episodes and he's much faster to calm down.  We've also noticed that because he's completely asleep when the screaming starts, it's helpful to take him into the bathroom, turn the light on, and coax him awake.  I often do this by noisily cleaning the bathroom (this is another rough night trick- it doesn't normally come to this anymore).

Now, generally when people find out about this, they want to help.  Or they look aghast the more you talk, especially when they grasp the fact that this is every night.  Every night, friends.  (Actually, now that I think about it, I think we've had three nights this past month where we got to sleep through the night.  THIS IS HUGE.)

Back in the early days of this whole... struggle, I guess you could call it, I was not always super gracious about all this advice I was getting.  Oh, I usually acted gracious, but inside, not so much.  Anytime someone started a sentence with, "Have you tried...?" I wanted to cut in with "YES.  Whatever it is, YES WE HAVE."  Because about a year in, it felt like we really had tried everything, short of an exorcism.  (Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind; my sisters married into a big ol' Catholic family, with a priest for an eldest brother and everything.  Something could be arranged.)  

I have since come to realize that all those people, with all that advice?  They just want to help.  (Revolutionary, right?  I have no idea how this head contains all these brains.)  They are almost unanimously well-meaning.  Good intentions abound.  It's not their fault Derek and I haven't slept in three years, and this has made us by turns irrational/ quick to anger/ loopy/ impatient/ mentally incapacitated/ stressed out.  You do know sleep deprivation is a legitimate form of torture, right?

Atticus is also becoming more articulate, which means he can tell us what's going on.  Rarely does a day go by where he doesn't tell me what last night's dream was about, and let me tell you what, those things are scary.  "Last night I dreamed about sharks that were just swimming through our house and I was trying to run away from them but every time they caught me it was in the kitchen and then they would take a bite from my arm."  Ooookay.  "Last night I dreamed there was this big bug in our room and every time you camed in it would hide but when you left and turned out the light it came out and kept eating all my hair and tried to climb in my mouth to sleep on my teeth."  Um, what?  "Last night I dreamed there were bad guys that didn't have guns but they had lots of little knives and they were hiding in the backyard waiting for me to come play on the trampoline."  Kid, how do you even go outside during the day with that in your head?

If you're like practically every person I've ever talked to about this, you might have a suggestion as to what would help.  At this point, I really am curious to hear other people's suggestions, if only because it tends to be so varied (and to be honest, just plain weird sometimes), but because we've heard so many suggestions in the past, how's about you check out the handy dandy list I'll (hopefully) post tomorrow detailing all the advice we've gotten from friends, family, doctors, and complete strangers, which ones we've tried, which ones we haven't, and which ones I felt more than mildly insulted by.  It'll be fun!

This certainly isn't the first time I've blogged about night terrors; find the other posts here and here and here. There've been a bunch of other times but I really don't feel like slogging through and trying to find them all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rational Thought And Raw Musical Talent

Hello, friends.

I have a post half-composed in my head, but I can't share it with you because our laptop went kaput. Actually, the charger went kaput, but the point is: I can't blog right now.  Well, obviously I can, but even this brief paragraph that I've hunt-and-pecked out on this tablet-thingy has driven me 90% of the way down the road to homicide.  Every wrong letter and auto-corrected word makes me want to run a bathtub full of water and throw this thing in it, then add a plugged-in toaster for good measure.

(Never mind the fact that there aren't any electrical outlets anywhere near our tub.  Or the fact that this tablet probably shouldn't be mixed with water in the first place.  Don't try to inject any rationalism into this conversation, dear friends.<-------That previous statement could seriously be a theme in our marriage. Or at least, a theme song. I could sing it to Derek daily. He would love it.)

Someday I'll blog again. (Ooo, that one could be sung to the melody of "Someday My Prince Will Come," except I'm closer to a tenor than the soprano that song calls for, so I'd end up all screechy and terrifying, just like my sisters and I do when we join forces and serenade our mom with Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You." Now THAT is something special to behold. Behear. Whatever.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Atticus! Preschool! Excitement! Exclamation Points!

Today is the day we've been looking forward to for a while now.

Atticus went to preschool this morning.

We went through a rough patch at church where he quite simply did not want to be parted from us to go to his class, but he got over that several months ago.  He will still occasionally display some separation anxiety-fueled behaviors, however, so I was a little concerned about how this morning was going to go.  At first he didn't seem nervous while getting ready, but at one point he looked up at me, face anxious, and asked, "Am I going to make some friends at school like Adelaide did?"  I reassured him that he would, then commenced worrying about how the drop-off would go.

I needn't have feared.  He held tightly to my hand as we walked around his (fabulous) preschool, but when it was time for Caedmon and I to leave, he couldn't even be bothered to turn around and say good-bye, so engrossed was he in the new-found toys.  I had to hug his back.

(Is it just me, or do I sound all formal right now?  I've been writing some serious emails today, and I feel like I'm having trouble getting out of Professional-Time-To-Sound-Intelligent Mode.  I mean, "needn't"?  Seriously?)

Caedmon had a rougher time than his big preschool-going brother.  When we went to the school's open house a couple weeks ago, he kept asking questions like, "Where's my seat?  Where's my bag?  Which hook is mine?" and at home, he's been engaging in every preschool-related conversation like he was planning on attending right alongside Atticus.  We've been pretty careful to tell him that he'll get to go in two years, when he's four, but what's a year to a two-year-old?  It's both tomorrow and it's forever, that's what.

He accepted my hand when it was time to leave the brightly colored, toy- and book-filled, chicken-occupying (yup, there's a chicken coop right next to the playground where they get to hold the chickens and help collect eggs, oh yeah, and friendly sheep right on the other side of the fence), enthusiastic teacher-led, way-more-fun-than-you'll-ever-have-at-home preschool.  Hence, I have no idea why his little face was so downcast and his voice started to hitch when he said, "But I don't wanna play with the toys at home."  So I did what any super-mom would do:

I bribed him with a chocolate muffin at the coffee shop.  Go, me.

Requisite First Day photo:

Right before this Cade said, "You forgot to give me my bag, Mommy!"  Oy.

And then there's this one that his teacher took, which shows Atticus in one of his personal versions of heaven: Surrounded by pretty girls.  No wonder he's excited to go back.

He was so excited to show me what he'd made when I picked him up, and to tell me what he had for a snack, and what he got to play with, and to tell me that "I get to come back tomorrow!"

Sounds like a pretty successful first day to me.