Monday, August 31, 2009

Sleeping Through

It's been a while since I posted anything about sleep. (I still feel the hovering shadow of the jinx, but I'm going to post anyway.) Since April, in fact, and I realize now that I've gone looking for posts about sleep that I never provided any closure on the issue for my gentle readers, nor have I said anything about what went right after so much had gone wrong.

So I'd like to tell you all about how we got from several wake-ups a night in April to none lately, but the sad fact is, I really don't remember! I know (because I read my own blog) that we tried to night-wean in the spring, and I think it was partially successful, but there was some backsliding around colds and teething. When we were at Andy's parents' in early June, I was still nursing Ben back to sleep when he woke up at night. But somewhere between that trip and the next, we night-weaned in earnest, because I know I resettled Ben without nursing him while we were at C.'s house.

I started out talking about sleeping and somehow I'm talking about nursing, and I think I've hit on what happened to make this kid sleep through. I think weaning was what finally really did it. The less he was nursing, the better he slept. So long as we both knew I could pull out the big guns, comfort-wise, whenever he couldn't get himself back to sleep, he was more likely to hold out for the boob and not resettle on his own. I was incentivizing his wake-ups.

He still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes, but it's unusual, and he always goes right back down either by himself or after a quick check and cuddle. It's pretty amazing to me, actually, how he's gone from being such a lousy sleeper to such a good one. And it only took an entire, miserably sleepless year!

The next hurdle is naptime. He's been great about taking consistent morning and afternoon naps for months and months now, but just this weekend it seems like he's resisting the morning nap and moving towards nap consolidation. In the short term, I think, this is going to mean that he gets one too-short nap in the late morning/early afternoon until his body gets used to the schedule and stretches the sleep a bit more. So, early bedtime for a while until we hammer out the details, probably.

I'm excited about moving to one nap. I like the idea of having two longer stretches of time with him to do stuff like errands and outings, and one longer stretch of time to myself to do stuff like write blog posts and make soap.


My mother said to me recently that I parent Ben as if he were a second child. I know she mostly meant it as a compliment, and I mostly took it as one. I'm not a worrier, and I'm lazy, and I'm in favor of as much hands-off parenting and child-led exploration and experimentation as is safe and feasible. The combination (in that order) means that I look for opportunities to let Ben do things for himself, especially when it means less work for me.

Right now, for instance, Ben is by himself in the living room, and I am in the office maybe 25 feet away. There are no closed doors between us, and I can hear him bashing around in his toy drawers, but I can't see him. I'm confident that if he came to any harm, I'd be able to intervene successfully. Part of my confidence comes from 15 months' knowledge of this particular kid. Part of it may well be misguided faith in the idea that if nothing terrible has happened yet, it probably won't.

I tend to notice my lax parenting style a lot more when I'm around people who don't live with toddlers. Other current parents of toddlers don't raise an eyebrow, which either means they're on board or are simply sensitive enough to criticism not to comment. Also, I don't know many other parents of toddlers. Parents of long-ago toddlers are most likely to draw my attention to my lack of concern, and I think it's in part because toddlers seem a lot more fragile to those not being persistently pummeled by them, not watching them face-plant and then get right up unconcerned not once but dozens of times a day. And I'm sure they seem particularly precious and vulnerable to people whose toddlers are long gone, turned into prickly adults who resent parenting advice.

It was too quiet in there, so I just checked on him. He moved from his toys to his books, and is now sitting on the floor paging through Moo Baa La-La-La.

I'm 99% confident that my style is the right one, and if I'm honest, I'd say I think it's not just the right one for me. I think more people should calm the hell down and stop letting fear rule their parenting choices. But it's easy for me to say, because I'm not a worrier. And while I'm glad I'm the kind of parent I am, if I really wanted to change, I'm not sure I'm capable of it.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We spent a few days this past week sharing a cabin in the Adirondacks with friends whose twins E. and V. are almost five. After they'd spent about a day with Ben, they cannily observed that he says "Ah-dah" a lot. Which there is no denying. By the end of the visit, E. was jokily starting conversations with Ben by say, "So ... ah-dah!" and we were all saying "ah-dah" when pointing or drawing attention or wishing to express delight. At one point, I said to V. and E. that probably the next time they saw Ben, they'd say "ah-dah" to him, and he wouldn't know why because he'd be talking by then and wouldn't remember when all he said was "ah-dah."

That paragraph was pretty repetitive with all those "ah-dah"s, huh? You got a little tired of hearing "ah-dah," didn't you? It's not as cute on the page as it is when pronounced by a fat-cheeked little sweetheart, but still. It is pretty much all he says, and I am getting a little impatient for Mama, say, or even some other gibberish.

He says "bahm," which is apparently the sound a cat makes. So it means cat.

He says "gahng," which is any clanging sound. He says it after he's made a big clanging sound.

He says "Tsssssss" when asked what sound a snake makes.

He says "ah ah" when asked what sound a monkey makes.

We met ducks at the cabin, so now he knows that "gock gock gock" is the sound a duck makes -- he would start quacking the instant he walked out the back of the cabin.

I've been hassling him.

"Say 'ma-ma-ma-ma,'" I say. His eyes get wide. He likes this game.

"Mamamamamama," he says. (Or sometimes, "Nananananana.")

"Yes!" I say. "'Ma-ma' is me! 'Ma-ma' is Mom! Say 'Ma-ma.'"


He gets the sound. He knows it's the M sound I'm asking for, and he likes to make the M sound and get a positive reaction. But he clearly hasn't made the leap yet from sound to word.

Which is kind of baffling, really, because his receptive language is pretty amazing. You only have to name an object he's interested in once or maybe twice for him to remember that word. Sometimes when I'm making his dinner, I ask him to go get his sippy cup and bring it to me, and he he does it. That's grasping two whole separate commands and remembering both of them long enough to complete both tasks (which of course also demonstrates a quite pleasant willingness to do what I ask). He can point out an impressive range of barnyard animals in his beloved farm book.

I'm not concerned about his lack of expressive language in the sense of being worried there's something wrong with him. I know that not talking at 15 months is still absolutely within the range of normal, especially for a kid who's an only and home with mom all day where he doesn't need to work very hard to get what he wants. I'm just impatient! "Ah-dah" is undeniably cute, but I'm tired of "ah-dah"!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I know that it's hard for people who don't have animals, or who don't form deep family bonds with their animals, to understand the depth of grief somebody like me feels for somebody like Lola. And I feel a little silly talking about it, knowing that people who don't understand will be reading, assigning me into some category of the absurdly emotional or revoltingly self-indulgent or something.

I'm not in fact particularly emotional. I tend to react to most things pretty rationally. I'm not sentimental or maudlin or even much given to tears. If I'm self-indulgent, it's about catalogue shopping, not finding ways to make myself miserable. But I've cried for Lola every day since she died. And not just eyes-filling, tears-leaking crying, but embarrassing, out-loud sobbing. I literally cry for her, in the sense of calling her name out loud. It's not the kind of grieving I've ever done for anybody else, and I've lost people.

In part, I think, losing someone who was so much a part of the fabric of your daily life, someone you saw more times a day than you could count or were ever consciously aware of, makes you especially raw to the idea of death itself, the finality, the unbearable absence of someone who was so very present. And the fact that my relationship with her was so physical plays a part in that, too. Somehow the idea that I can't just reach out and touch her is especially hard to bear.

I wish so much that I believed I would see her again. I wish I believed in heaven, in a conscious afterlife of any kind for any of us, in which some eternal aspect of me could embrace some eternal aspect of her. I wish I believed that one day we could do whatever ghosts or angels do that's like scritching and wagging and kissing faces. But I don't. I don't believe it, and I can't make myself believe it.

The part of her that was her is gone, and gone forever. The part of her that was flesh is ashes. We picked them up today, in a plastic urn with her name on a slip of paper scotch-taped. "NGEFL," Andy and I said in unison, shaking our heads. So many things were Not Good Enough for Lola that we shortened the phrase to its initials long ago.

I can believe that there's a kind of ocean of souls from which we each come, to which we each return, and that it includes all of us, from the very simple to the very complex. This notion doesn't give me the kind of comfort that the hope of concrete, individual me someday being reunited with concrete, individual Lola would. But it's a kind of comfort, being able to hope that, bound together as I feel certain we are, we will someday, in some form, embrace again.

Friday, August 7, 2009


As I said before, I'd have been happy to go along nursing at night and morning pretty much indefinitely if that's what Ben wanted. But I've come to believe (based on not a whole lot of empirical evidence, so take it for what it's worth) that babies give you opportunities to cut back and finally end breastfeeding painlessly, and if you don't take these opportunities when they're presented, cutting back or stopping later presents much more of a problem. So though I was perfectly content to continue, I was also looking for signs from Ben that he was ok stopping.

A couple of weeks ago, he balked at the boob at bedtime -- first time ever. It might have been because (Bad Mommy) I'd had a margarita not too long before, though I've had beers before bedtime without putting him off. I really have no idea why he balked, but when he did, I gave him a sippy of cow's milk instead, and he seemed content with that, and we went on doing that, adjusting his bedtime ritual slightly around it.

We went on for another week or so nursing just in the morning. But the evening feed had always been the substantial one, and the morning one was more about giving me another ten minutes to laze in bed than about satisfying his hunger or need to connect or soothe. And that was weekdays -- on weekends, Andy takes him in the early morning so that I can sleep in, and Ben didn't usually nurse until much later, after breakfast. So this past weekend, I tried just skipping nursing on Saturday morning, and he didn't even notice. When Monday rolled around, we changed the morning ritual a bit so that Ben wasn't plonked in bed with me, but instead I came downstairs and joined him and Andy.

And so weaning went pretty much seamlessly. He's asked once or twice (he pokes me in the sternum), but hasn't put up the tiniest fuss when I say no, we don't do that anymore, and would you like a sippy of milk?

And it's been pretty much seamless for me, too. No physical problems, which I wouldn't really have expected, since we weaned so very gradually. And really no sadness, partly because losing Lola the same weekend meant that all my sadness capacity was full of grief and mourning.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Goodbye, Good Girl

It is with the profoundest sadness I have to report that our basset hound Lola died yesterday morning.

She'd been battling lymphoma -- and beating it back with aplomb, I might add -- since February of 2008. She relapsed this past spring and had been responding well to her second round of treatment, but something simply went wrong after her last dose on Tuesday. Yesterday I had her back at the vet, and by this morning it was clear that this was a system failure, that whether it had to do with the chemo or the timing was just a coincidence, she was, as Andy put it, scritching at the door. The last kindness we could perform for her was to let her out gracefully.

She was a stubborn, grouchy, opinionated, loving, wonderful dog. When she was a youngster and loved playing fetch, she knew all her toys by name, and would get the one you asked for out of her toy box and bring it to you. When we brought her to Andy's folks' in Wisconsin, she used to lure their dogs outside with a toy and then double back by a different door to steal their marrow bones. The people at the dog hotel she stayed in in Philadelphia were convinced she was a famous retired showdog, and a junkie outside the 7-11 at the corner of 34th and Powelton once called her a symphony.

She had long, beautiful ears and a heart-shaped spot on her right front stump. She sang with soul and gusto. She was about as lovely and graceful and dignified as a basset hound can be. She would have turned nine in August.

She was our girl, and we loved her very much.