TEETH and SLEEP

Little Champ’s first incisor made its debut 3 weeks ago, after he had turned 9 months old.

I would have blogged about it earlier, only it was near impossible to get a photo of my son, with his mouth open, looking at the camera, without his tongue blocking the view.

Even restrained in a high chair and tempted with cookies (rice rusks), it was not an easy task. Here’s a glimpse at the 141 photos that document my son’s shy first tooth.

Can you guess my favorite photo out of these?

Highlight between the brackets for the answer: [ 2nd row, third from the left. The glazed over, kooky look. ]

Oh, and the reason Little Champ had been so cranky? Not teething. It was because he fought naps so badly and was sleep-deprived.

Lesson Learned: Babies need a nap routine. (At least the alert ones, who refuse to sleep if given the chance)

I was doing the baby-led nap thing. I figured, his body should know when it’s tired. Yeah, that didn’t really work. Joey is a very alert baby. He wants to see the action and be a part of it, even if nothing is happening. Because something exciting COULD.

Once I started putting him down at the same time every day, I saw some improvement. He was much happier and cried less, but he still fought the naps.

Lesson Learned: If your baby fights naps, put him or her down earlier.

I’m sure you have heard that when babies are overtired, they won’t go to sleep. That sounds odd, since they are so tired, you’d think they would just sleep already. But, after reading a magazine article (Sorry, I can’t remember which of the zillion magazines I read it in!), I discovered the reason behind the mystery. Here’s a paraphrase…hopefully I’m getting it right:

When babies are tired but aren’t sleeping, they produce cortisol, a stress hormone which keeps them functioning while sleepy, but then also keeps them from going back to sleep. It’s sort of like being tired, drinking an espresso, and then trying to immediately take a nap. The solution is putting them down before they start to produce the cortisol, but that is easier said than done!

The suggested sleep schedule for babies Little Champ’s age is wake up, nap 3 hours after waking up, nap 4 hours after start of first nap, bedtime 5 hours after start of second nap. 3-4-5.

Well, 3 hours after wake up time was far too late for my little nap warrior. He’d be overtired by then. So I started putting him down 1.5 to 2 hours after he woke up, and then his afternoon nap would happen whenever he started showing signs of dwindling energy and bubbliness, or 4-5 hours before bedtime, which I wanted to be 8 but is now between 7 and 7:30.

Before traveling, his schedule was pretty much

  • 7 am—wake up, nurse, breakfast
  • 8:30 or 9—nap #1
  • 11—nurse, then lunch
  • between 12 and 2 pm—go down for nap #2
  • snack after nap
  • 5—dinner
  • 6:30—get ready for bed
  • 7—in bed
Now that we are traveling in MN, visiting people at least 3 times each day, his schedule is a bit out of whack. But we still get him three meals and two naps. He isn’t sleeping well in the 5 am – 7 am window, because his schedule isn’t set and he wants cuddle time with mommy, but I’m hoping once we get home and back into the routine, he will still be happy, but mommy will be happy and well-rested, too.
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emotional rollercoaster

It has certainly been an emotional rollercoaster (pardon the cliche) for both Little Champ and myself the last couple of weeks. It’s as if I’ve been surrounded with fire hydrants, and one after the other has been depressurizing itself on me.

Fire hydrant #1: Cat drama

Turns out our psychotic cat was only psychotic when he was all cooped up inside. Of course, the regulation on base is that animals cannot be outside, unless they are leashed or fenced in. Henry didn’t like the porch, and there was no way I was paying for a fence that the cat would probably escape from. As if he would wear a leash.

Henry got out once or twice, and since then, was feeling the call of the wild. Or, rather, the call of the bushes in front of our house, which he rarely left. Even for a cat, he was scaredy.

When he could be outside (read: when he would escape), Henry was an absolute angel inside. No homicidal tendencies, no preying on babies. Even snuggling. But I value my husband more than the cat, and LT could get in trouble if housing found out we were letting our cat outside. So I tried keeping Henry inside. He became even more sulky and angsty than I was when I was 14 and couldn’t go to my first homecoming dance. He’d meow and wail and even swipe at me if I stood in his way.

I’ve always seen Henry as my “problem child.” My training for the payback I am sure to incur from my own years of teenage attitude. If I couldn’t make it work with a cat, how could I make it work with a child?

Then I realized that this line of thinking was the same line of thinking that kept me in bad dating relationships. If I can’t make it work with this guy, through all of these problems, how can I make it in marriage, which (I’ve been told) is full of problems?

I had to break up with the cat. Even though I loved him unconditionally, through all of his psychoses and all the scratches on my legs, the carpet fibers all over my wood floors, I had to realize that parting with him would actually be for his own good, not just for my own good. So the past few weeks I looked for a new home for him—that was dramatic. I found a new home for him—that was traumatic. And I have already heard that he is terrorizing his new owners, though they tell me they are going to stick it out (I told them to just let the beast outside once in a while).

So even though I am heartbroken and feel like a failed mother, Henry has a new home. And I am sure that someday I will feel less sad and more relieved. I bought a new carpet that hasn’t been scratched, and I haven’t had to yell at the cat for misbehaving 300 times a day.

Fire hydrant #2: Growing Baby with separation anxiety

With growth spurts come moodiness and crying and fussing, and the baby is even worse! Little Champ is on the verge of crawling, and he STILL HAS NOT CUT ANY TEETH, so whining and fussing and screaming have been the soundtrack of the day for several weeks. I don’t quite understand why growing is always accompanied by anguish. Maybe it’s to prepare us for the growing pains when we have to be more independent. <cue PBS music> Change is hard, but if we don’t change, we don’t grow, and if we don’t grow, we die. (I actually learned something from 10th grade Bio!)

Mommy and Daddy are my favorite.

One of those things that I thought before I became a mother was that I would be a mom, and that I wouldn’t be perfect, but that I would be able to manage by myself. I knew I wouldn’t run home to mommy—I have never run home to my mother. But of course I was also certain I would never marry a Marine. So I would always have my husband around because I’d never go through a deployment.

Isn’t life funny?

In the last 8 months, I have learned that children are not meant to be raised by just two people, let alone one. Even single parents have to work; they aren’t with their babies 24/7. And though I love my son with my whole heart, motherhood takes a lot out of someone. It’s not a full-time job—full time is 40 hours a week. It’s a never-ending job. It’s the best job and the hardest job in the world. Every day I love being a mother. But you only have to be a mom for half an hour to realize you need a break.

You caught me!

I have had great friends offer to take Little Champ off my hands for an hour here and there, but during those hours, I was cleaning. During nap time, I was cleaning. During his sleep time, I was trying to sleep and usually not succeeding. During his awake time, I was holding him or chasing him or playing with him, or else he was screaming. I haven’t had a break for months. So two weeks ago, I bought a plane ticket to fly to my parents’ house in Colorado. They want to see the baby, and I want to get away from things like this.

Fire hydrant #3: tantrums

Little Champ is really exploring the limits of human emotions. If you have ever spent time with a toddler, you have an idea of the theatrics involved in a temper tantrum. If you’ve never witnessed one, hang out at a Walmart in the toy section and wait for a few minutes. Or come over to my house and do the same. In fact, you could come over right now.

Last night was horrible. I am against the Cry-it-out method of sleep training where people leave their child in a room and let them bawl for hours on end. Even Dr. Ferber, the guy people credit the CIO method with, says you should check on your child every 15 minutes. But bedtime came and went, and Little Champ would not go to sleep, even though he was exhausted, even though I nursed him and rocked him and changed him and held him. In my arms he was screaming, arching his back, pitching a fit. So I put him in his crib and let the storm pass, like I would do with an older baby, and kept checking up on him every 5, 10, 15 minutes to comfort him. He would not be comforted. Eventually he fell asleep. Then he woke up and we went through the whole cycle again. After he fell asleep the second time, he slept for 7 hours. He woke up at 7 am, fussing, so I came and got him and brought him into my bed and nursed him (I was going on 5 hours of sleep), and then we both slept for 2-3 more hours.

He woke up happy! He was even happy when I changed his diaper (he’s been in the habit of throwing fits every time I change him—he hates being on his back). But then when he was playing on the floor, I made the mistake of going around the corner into the kitchen to make his breakfast. Separation anxiety, anyone? I put him in his high chair. Still crying. I gave him a spoonful of cereal. Still mad.

So I did what anybody else would do in this situation, or so I tell myself.

I let him stick his hands into his cereal.

I’m praying that his smile will include a tooth in the next couple of days.

January, in photos (most of it anyway)

Teething and sleep training have been sucking the life outta me. So to make up for lack of blogging, here’s a bunch of photos showing what we’ve been up to. With some comments from the elephant gallery. (Aren’t you readers the peanut gallery? What gallery am I? I wish I were an elephant…I wouldn’t have such a terrible memory, and I could actually be satisfied working for peanuts. Ba dum dum.)

Sleeping baby. Sleep is rare these days.

Champ learned how to play with toys on January 11th. Mommy gave him a toy parade.

He’s getting better at using his hands. This is a big deal.

Especially because he might be able to keep a pacifier/teething toy in his mouth soon!

Jedi in Training. He is going to be such a cute nerd when he grows up. Like his uber hot daddy!

Champ began protesting the bouncy chair.

Henry took over almost immediately. Literally, within minutes.

Story time with my favorite guys. Part of our new bedtime routine, which was working until those blasted incisors started tormenting my baby.

Champ tries oatmeal.

I always thought those mini blankets with the decapitated stuffed animal were very strange. Okay, I still do. But Champ likes to cuddle, and if we want him out of our bed, we will give him cuddly things.

Even if they are monkeys.

I also thought that “activity gyms” were a waste of money. Then I thought they might be good for the transition period from toy awareness to toy handling. I was sold when we went to pick him up from nursery on Sunday and he was amusing himself with one of these. Self-entertainment is a big deal when mommy needs to get work done. I love that we can switch out his toys. The frog is his favorite right now. (Did you “spot” Sophie the Giraffe? She is WONDERFUL)

Champ has also learned how to play with his Jumperoo. Minus the bouncing part, since he still can’t reach the ground.

Good morning, handsome! Nice hair!

Thanks, Mom.

Still being a weirdo about the chair.

I cleaned our bedroom, got new sheets, and a new comforter on clearance at Target

He was sitting like a champ today! So I tested him out in the laundry basket.

He will be sitting on his own soon, before 6 months, I think.

Well, that last photo was today. Last night was nightmarish. Actually, it was worse, because we didn’t even get enough sleep to have nightmares. Champ’s tried teething toys (again, Sophie is the bee’s knees), but neither of us can hold them in his mouth all night long, so he wants to nurse, then eats too much, then can’t sleep, then wants to nurse again. It’s a vicious cycle that I really try to avoid. Baby tylenol works a little, but not much. I don’t like giving him drugs, so I try to avoid them. I got some natural Orajel, and that just makes him make a funny face (though I appreciate the comedic relief). I ordered a teething necklace from Hazelaid.com a few days ago. The family is on vacation, so hopefully that will come next week. I’ll write a review if those work!

But my spirits are still up. (Even though last night, for the first time in my life, I really, really wanted a beer. We had zilch.) Mostly my spirits are up because I found one of my favorite TV shows of all time on YouTube. Being Eve—it’s a witty/philosophical teen romance from New Zealand. I watched all 13 episodes of season 1 today and yesterday. I had to stop so I could save the last season for next week. I love it, but don’t recommend it for kids. Anyway, tonight is movie night! We are watching Another Thin Man.

Another Thin Man

If you haven’t seen the Thin Man movies (there are 7, I think…maybe 5), and you like mysteries and/or witty comedies, try them out. They are seriously funny, especially for black and white movies. Think Arsenic and Old Lace without so much chaos.

I am now going to fight the good fight again: entering the bedtime warzone.

Adios, muchachas (y muchachos).