Sleep specialist, family communication

We have engaged the services of a sleep consultant. We have been attempting to just wait until it got better, but it’s not getting better. So, in an effort to stave off raving lunacy and constant illness caused by sleep-deprivation, we are getting help. Hopefully she’ll be able to help us set patterns and teach our babies how to sleep in a way that works for us (ie, no cry-it-out, with which we can’t deal) and them. I’ve had a headache for 24 hours now, and had a bad sore throat last night. I can tell my body has reached its limit. She’s going to send us a questionnaire so she can start getting an understanding of our patterns. Then we’ll meet in person next week, and then we’ll have six weeks of unlimited emails and phone calls with texts as an emergency communication option. We are hoping that by the time Ted leaves with Hazel to visit his mom on the East coast, the babies will be sleeping better. Otherwise I may need hospitalization by the time they get back…

We had a family conversation tonight after Hazel came to me to complain about something Ted had done. This is a pattern that’s getting a bit too long-standing for comfort. We have allowed her to get out of direct communication with the parent with whom she’s upset, and that has to stop. So, I coached her on how to tell him directly how she was feeling, and say directly what she wanted. She did so. Ted gave her an apology, and explanation, and a plan for what he’ll do differently next time. I asked Hazel if there was anything she felt she could do differently, if she’d handled it the best way she could. At first she said she had, but then when I asked her about how she’d responded to Ted, she acknowledged that she’d thrown a fit. I asked her what she could do differently next time, and she said she could use her words instead. That was a good conversation. I said that it was about getting some of what you want, instead of just trying to make the other person wrong. And I said that all of us have to work on that, that I want to get better with that in my interactions with Ted and with Hazel, too. And Ted said he needed to work on that too. So, it felt like a family issue with a family commitment to change. It’s a good start.

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house re-org

Today didn’t go so well. Hazel woke up, asked if she could go into the other bedroom, came back multiple times talking to me, woke up the babies. Grrr. (On the other hand, she was incredibly helpful and got my wallet for me when I was nursing Joanna and couldn’t move.) At naptime, Hazel repeated her morning routine, waking up the babies again. I got stuck in an irritated response that I carried over into lunchtime, getting into a power struggle with her about eating her food. *sigh*

So, tonight being Tuesday, I was supposed to go back to writing with my friends. However, I decided that creative problem solving at home had to take precedence. I asked Hazel if she’d be more apt to stay in the playroom if we made it more appealing (instead of the crap dump it had become). She said yes. So, this evening we swapped things around, exchanging a twin for the full-sized bed that was in there, putting it in a corner which opens up the room a lot, moving the table into a more usable location, and doing some de-cluttering of the room in general. We will use the full bed for our spare-bedroom+office+organizational area-to-be (the pink room, currently my studio) after the new studio is built in the fall. This weekend we’ll go get her some dress-up clothes, since she loves playing dress-up with her friends (though we’re still going to draw the line at pink princess items), and also take her to the toy store to buy a couple more new and exciting items for the new space. In other words, we’re going to attempt to create a win-win-win where she has fun entertaining herself, and the babies get to sleep as long as they need to, and my blood pressure stays at a more healthy level.

The proof, as always, will be in the pudding.

After our labors, Ted and I walked down to the local pub and had a light supper, where our twins entertained the people at the next table over. A nice end to the day. It feels good to have taken some proactive steps aimed at everyone getting what they need.

Mommy-daughter time, sugar, coop pre-school

I had some time this morning, so I took Hazel to the zoo for some mommy-daughter time. It was a bit too short, but good to do regardless. We walked around holding hands for a good part of the time, a priceless feeling. I want to get another time on the calendar, so we can have a whole morning with less of a feeling of being rushed. Nonetheless, I’m glad I grabbed the opportunity while our nanny had the babies.

I made the mistake of eating a bunch of sugary crap at the zoo and spent a bunch of time this afternoon feeling nauseous and uncomfortable. And it didn’t even taste good while I was eating it. *sigh* So this evening I went up at Hazel’s bedtime and napped for an hour while Ted did a subsidiary grocery run with the babies. Hazel tossed and turned (she ate the sugary crap too, though she liked it). She did a pretty good job of handling me going downstairs after Ted got home, though, so I’m proud of her for her restraint and understanding. I’ll be curious to see if she’s asleep when we go back upstairs in a bit.

Right now the babies are climbing on Ted. I love seeing them with him, lighting up when they see him, giggling, pulling on him, stealing his cell phone.

We’ve been discussing whether to sign the twins up for the same coop preschool program Hazel started when she was 18 months old. It’s a wonderful class with a talented, warm, creative teacher Ted loves. And they’ve turned it into a multi-year class, so Ted could take all three kids, as it happens on a night I teach. We might try it in the fall, and then if it doesn’t work out for either of the babies take a break for a while and try again in the winter or spring. But if it works out, it’s a nice way to transition toward the regular preschool that Hazel’s been attending, and which the twins could start when they’re 2.5 years old.

Amazing that the babies will be 2.5 years old!!

Consent in the art of parenting

I have been pondering the meaning of consent for months now, and was going to write a cogent series of posts on the subject. However, I haven’t had time to do the work necessary to get a proper series together, so shall have to put segments in my posts here and there. Such is life with three kids under the age of five.

The 1990’s saw the advent of the “Just Say No” campaign. This is an approach that has been shown to be overly simplistic. An obvious example is that it makes no difference to say no to someone bound and determined to commit sexual assault. Nonetheless, a necessary ingredient of complete, informed consent is the ability to freely say “No!” and have that boundary respected.

This is something we’ve been working on in our family, specifically in the interactions between Hazel and her little sisters. We told Hazel a couple weeks ago that she could start picking the babies up, in the presence of an adult, and with the proviso that she’d need to immediately obey the request of any adult present to put the baby down. Once given permission, she immediately started picking them up and carrying them around, constantly.

So, we started coaching her on the babies’ reactions, asking her to put them down when we felt what she was doing was unsafe, or if we felt she was picking them up too much. Last week I added another ingredient, which was asking her about their reactions.

“Hazel, what’s the baby doing right now?”
“Crying.”
“What do you think she’s saying?”
“No.”

As soon as we started that kind of questioning, she began to put them down as soon as they started to cry or fuss. She’s pretty reliable with that now.

In terms of meaningful consent, the ability to say “Yes” is equally important. I have a friend who, referring to sexual relationships, says that if you’re unable to say yes to what you want, you have no business putting yourself in a position where you’ll need to say no. I think being able to communicate what you want, directly and effectively, is a critically important life skill.

We have also started asking Hazel about what she thinks the babies want. We ask her questions that are meant to encourage her to look at what they’re doing, and to think about what they might want.

“Does the baby look busy?” “Is the baby asking to play?” “Is the baby asking for hugs?” “What mood do you think the baby is in?” Obviously, the babies can’t talk yet. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t communicate about their feelings, needs, and desires.

We have for a long time had a rule that we ask before tickling, and before hugs or kisses. The fact that we ask means we get less in terms of quantity, but knowing that Hazel is giving affection freely means the world to both of us. And she knows both that she can say no, and that her yes is welcomed and appreciated.

We sometimes mess up. And we apologize when we do. And sometimes Hazel takes the guideline too far, ie, “You’re supposed to ask before you touch me!” But when that happens, which is rare, we talk about it. And usually we discover that it’s about something else, that Hazel has a need or desire that’s not being met. Sometimes we can address it right away, and sometimes not. But she knows we’re listening.

Life’s necessities, music, kids

Water and sleep. The necessities. I think I am going to have to go into survival mode for a while. My system can’t take much more of these fragmented 4-hour nights. I have to go to bed earlier so that I have a chance to get a couple of hours of zz’s before the babies wake up for the first time.

And my doc says I’m dehydrated (she ran some blood tests). So I need to do what I did when I was pregnant; get out my giant 24-oz water bottle and drink it down four times a day. Breastfeeding does use up fluids & other nutrients, so I need to keep supplementing my body while I’m still outputting so much.

I played a concert tonight. It was eclectic, music by four different composers. As always, there were fun people to play with, great musicians whose work and talent I appreciate so much. I feel lucky to have art in my life, as my profession. There is a wonderful set of overlapping music communities in the Pacific Northwest. The collaborative possibilities are many and varied. It’s a good place to live.

One of the composers helped me get back to my house (he carried the three stands and I carried the cello). On the way, he asked if I play for my kids. The question made me think. They hear me practicing, but I don’t actually get out the cello and play tunes for them. I think I should. There’s a song in the back of one of Hazel’s books that she’s asked me more than once to play for her. I think I’ll do it tomorrow.

practicing, Chester, travel

I have sections of one of the pieces for tomorrow’s concert running around in my head. This is good, as it is an indication that I’ve been practicing it a lot. I am looking forward to trying it out tomorrow and seeing how it goes. It’s not always entirely predictable what the results of any given practice session are going to be. Careful, focused practice does result in a trend upward on one’s personal practice graph, but it’s not a straight line. Sometimes there are unexpected dips or surprising leaps. One hopes for the latter, and attempts to accept the former philosophically. I am currently feeling good about the music, and am looking forward to the performance, and certainly those feelings will be bolstered if, when I practice tomorrow, the passages I worked on today are as good or better than when I left them.

Chester is looking and feeling and acting better than he was when we got home from our last trip. He’s been eating, and engaging and being affectionate. I am very glad. We love our kitty, and are hoping he’ll stay healthy and vital for another few years. He’s old too, turning 18 this year. He just hates being left at home without us. He’s been that way for his whole life, which is why we get a house/cat sitter when we leave. But it doesn’t seem to be enough now. He stopped eating much about halfway through our last trip. We are not feeling inclined to leave him for another long trip. I think we’ll be taking shorter trips or separate jaunts for a bit. This is line with our desire to have a bit of a travel moratorium for the babies until they’re somewhat older, and can be entertained on the plane with books & toys.

I’ve been planning a 45th birthday trip to Hawaii later this year, but had really been struggling with the idea of leaving the babies for a week. It felt impossible. Now that we’re getting them down on their own bed it feels more possible. And, I sheepishly admit, not wanting to leave Chester here without either Ted or me has been the final nudge to get me to commit to this trip as originally planned, with three female friends. I had been contemplating bringing the whole family. But I think they’ll be ok without me, and we’ll all be glad to see each other when I get back. And we’ll hire lots of help for Ted while I’m gone. Another thing I have worried about is if I’ll stop producing milk without the babies’ nursing to create demand. But I’ll take a pump, and my doctor says it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll dry up in a week. Of course, the trip is not going to be for a while. We have some months to work on sleep & other issues before I leave.

Speaking of sleep….

summer fleeting away, basement, sleep

It’s almost August. I’m starting to put my fall schedule together. Yikes! I feel like the summer has hardly begun, and it’s almost over already. We’ll be spending the next few weeks working on our basement, but we’ve got a few fun things planned, too. We don’t want to feel like we’ve been in the dungeon all season.

This weekend we’ll start taking pictures of things we’re going to sell. I think we should also tackle the workshop, which is the area of the basement that’s the most full of, how to put it politely, crap. And a lot of it is little crap, stuff which is time consuming to sort through. Not looking forward to that. On the other hand, we’ll feel good about progress made in that area.

We’ve set up a humidifier in the bedroom, in the hopes it’ll help Joanna sleep better. She’s been waking up with a stuffy nose the last several nights. Various people swear by humidifiers in helping prevent that from happening. We live in hope.