I am weary

The past few weeks have knocked the wind out of me. I hardly know where to begin, there is so much to say. The biggest news, at least for my family, was that John’s father died. It was not unexpected. It was not fast. It was also not easy.

Just over 2 weeks ago, we got the call that John’s father was not expected to survive the night. As you might imagine, there was much travel, and rearranging of plans. John was able to travel to New York to be with his parents for his father’s last few days. I stayed home with the kids. Things were complicated by Theo having a fever one day, then getting pink eye the next, which meant missed school for him, missed work time for me, and more trauma than I would have expected dealing with the medication. (This was Theo’s first sick visit to the doctor, which itself was remarkable.) Phoebe managed to pick up her first case of poison ivy, a bad one, including welts on her face around both eyes. This led to a doctor’s trip and missed school for her, too. Then there was the funeral. Phoebe ended up missing a whole week of school. This week is her school vacation. And did I mention the stomach bug that hit Phoebe Sunday night?

These were the weeks that I was supposed to be working intensively to make a last push to try to finish my degree. Time is limited before my subject pool, the BU undergrads, is taken away by finals and the end of the term. I have now lost 2 full weeks of work time. The only day that was not taken up by sick kids or travel or memorial services and time with extended family was one that I spent shopping for something to wear to the funeral.

My days are eaten up. My energy is eaten up. My motivation and momentum for my research have all but left the building. I have been trying to push through, in the windows of time that open up here and there.

But next comes a terrorist attack in Boston, and the wind is knocked out of me again. I was not there, but I am shocked and grieving. 3 dead and over 170 injured in a blast at Copley Square, a place I know well. The news that one of the dead was a child of 8 hit hard. The news that another was a BU grad student hit hard again. The realization that my friends and family from far away might be worried about my family hit me again. We could have been there.

I am steady in times of crisis. Strong and reliable, I keep pushing through. I know that I have to keep going until the crisis time is over. But I am strained and drained. I am edgy and touchy. I am slipping.

This is not the worst crisis I can imagine. This is not even the worst crisis I or my family have lived through. I remind myself every day how lucky I am to have John and my children here with me, safe and (largely) healthy. My mother and my sister and her family are safe and well. I have financial stability, a home, and wonderful friends. I am very, very lucky. But I admit that I am tired, and I just wish I could have a few days to catch my breath. At this point, I’d settle for one.

barely balanced

I liked the way that these tall piles of snow managed to stay upright, nestled in the branches of this tree in our front yard. In the afternoon light, it even had a bit of a glow.

This photo was from Sunday. Now, remarkably, much of the snow is gone. We had a warm stretch, and lots of rain, melting and compacting the 2 feet of snow from Saturday down to maybe 4 inches. I thought that much snow would stick around for weeks! 2 years ago, we had a winter where the snow just kept coming, without the melting in between. There were a number of roof cave-ins around the area from the weight of all that snow. I like the quick melting snow much better!

Speaking of balance, I’m having a bit of trouble getting all the things done I need to do. It’s been another crazy stretch, with all kinds of commitments left and right. Valentine’s Day stuff for the kids. Work stuff. Home stuff. I have an early meeting in Boston tomorrow, and then I will collect my mother at the airport. The house is a mess, and I still haven’t found the guest bed. And I really, really want to share a story about a Big Thing I did last week. But I need to go to bed!

I also feel compelled to say that now that I’ve publicly announced my intentions to post every day this month, it suddenly feels like more of a burden to post every day this month. I know that’s sort of silly, especially given that I don’t actually *have* to post every day this month. And I certainly don’t need to do anything spectacular when I post every day this month. But now I have this strange compulsion to repeat the phrase “post every day this month.”

Did I mention that I need to get to bed?

How many months does it take me to change a lightbulb?

Today I succeeded in changing a lightbulb. It only took me about 3 months.¹

You may wonder why it took me so long to accomplish this. Was it some sort of hard-to-reach lightbulb? Or maybe a case of sort of hard-to-find replacement bulb? No, it was more of a case of some hard-to-find motivation.

You see, the lightbulb in question was in my bedside lamp. The one I primarily use when going to bed at night. Almost exclusively at that time. You see where this might be a problem? The only time of day when I would be reminded of my lack of functioning lightbulb was when I was making that final push to go to bed. Not the time of day when I wanted to exert myself.

Exert yourself, Alejna? To change a lightbulb? You may well wonder. Let me explain.

At some point in recent months, we moved our stash of lightbulbs down to the basement from the kitchen. I didn’t remember what was down there, lightbulb-wise.

This matters as I have a dimmer switch on my bedside lamp, of which I am fond for 2 main reasons: 1) I can be courteous to John by keeping the light dim when he’s sleeping, and 2) the switch is easier for me to reach than the one on the lamp. The lamp is on the top shelf of a 5-foot high bookcase. The dimmer switch is on a cord, which I have positioned such that I barely have to lift my arm to turn off the lamp when I am lying in bed.

Lately we’ve been buying compact fluorescent bulbs rather than old-fashioned incandescent ones. However, they don’t work with dimmer switches. I couldn’t remember whether we actually had any old-fashioned bulbs. Given that I am someone who doesn’t want to have to even sit up in bed to turn off the light, I am definitely not someone who wants to go rummaging in the basement right before bed. Especially on a potentially fruitless mission that would leave me wringing my hands and still left effectively bulbless. Screw that!

Better to work with the known consequences of bulblessness. I had worked out a system, using other light sources. (My iPad, for one, let me read things with the light off, and doubled as a flashlight.) But I didn’t have to go down to the basement at bedtime.

Eventually, John ordered me a dimmable LED bulb. It arrived about a week ago. I had become so accustomed to not having a functioning bedside lamp that even a trip down a single flight of stairs was too much effort at bedtime.²

This afternoon, however, I had a breakthrough moment. In trying to get Theo to have a rest, I offered to have a rest with him on the big bed. He eagerly brought a few pre-nap books to read. The dim light coming from the shaded windows was not cutting it, though. I couldn’t read the damn books! Also, I was slightly caffeinated, and not even close to falling asleep.

Full of resolve and self-mockery I went to get the new lightbulb and screwed it in. It took all of 2 minutes, most of which was taken up by freeing the energy-efficient-and-therefore-environmentally-friendlier bulb from its somewhat excessive plastic packaging.³

I am the stuff of which lightbulb jokes are made.

¹ I think. I didn’t actually mark the calendar when the previous bulb went out.
² Bean, I think you appreciate the sway of laziness.
³ Whose bright idea was that?
⁴ This footnote doesn’t go to anything, but I couldn’t figure out where to put my alternate post title: “Dim and dimmer.”

draggin’ a little

So much for my series of dragons…Life and work got hectic over the past week, and I never quite managed to find enough time and energy to get another post together. But I’ve been productive, so that’s good. In the last week I’ve gotten 2 conference acceptances (1 talk and 1 poster), helped to wrap up one project for work, jump started another project with a group of undergrads, had a trip to visit the in-laws’, and dealt with dozens of minor obligations and other miscellaneous activities. Including selling Girl Scout cookies. And going iceskating for the first time in my adult life. I was also called an asshole by a total stranger (in an incident relating neither to the iceskating nor to the cookies, but it would be fun to come up with a story involving both).

In any case, I’m feeling a wee bit tired. And I’m definitely draggin’ a little. But I wasn’t too tired to drag out and photograph this little dragon left over from Phoebe’s birthday party favors last year.

A little dragon.

feeling the burn

My tissue paper flames from my Halloween 2009 costume.

At 11:29 last night, I submitted an abstract to a conference (with a cut-off time of 11:59 p.m.). Last Wednesday, I submitted a paper to another conference. For the last few months, I have been working full-speed on a project relating to my own research, and have been making real progress. Last night I went to bed feeling triumphant and giddy, having succeeded in getting both of those submissions together.

This morning I woke up tired.

There is a long list of things that I’d been largely putting off the last few weeks, and things (laundry, grocery shopping, battling the chaos) that I had somewhat let slide. Today I hoped to make a dent in that list, and get organized for the next push with my group’s research, with another conference deadline a few weeks away in mind. Given the tiredness, it might not surprise you to learn that I got very little done in the morning.

One small errand I had to run was dropping off some art supplies for Phoebe’s classroom that I had signed up to donate. This afternoon, after putting air in a mostly flat tire that I tried not to notice yesterday, I headed out with my bag of glitter and multi-colored tissue paper with plans to continue on my way to take care of some other things.

At Phoebe’s school, I sort of expected that they would collect the things at the front office, and get them to the classroom. But the woman at the desk called Phoebe’s classroom, and the teacher said I could bring the things by. It’s fun to see what the kids are up to, and since I had a bit of time, I didn’t object. When I went in the classroom, the teacher and aide welcomed me and collected the things I’d brought. Phoebe’s teacher called Phoebe over to say hi to me. Phoebe smiled at first, and then looked stricken as she came over. “I think I have a fever,” she said to me when she got up close. Half thinking that she was just angling to go home early with me, I felt her head. It did feel kind of hot, but I’d just been outside, and my hands were a bit cool. The teachers said she hadn’t complained of anything all day. I decided to take Phoebe to the school nurse’s office just to make sure.

103.3 degrees.

We went back to the classroom to collect Phoebe’s things and let the teachers know I’d be taking her home. Not what I expected from my glitter drop-off!

I have to say, I’m just amazed at how considerate Phoebe is with her timing. If this had happened yesterday, I likely would have missed the abstract deadline. Likewise, if this had been any time in the last week. Really, I feel like she’s given me an unexpected gift. Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to having a quiet day with her tomorrow.

This is a gift that Phoebe intentionally made over Thanksgiving weekend.

See the inside?

nothing to see here

Tiredness seems to have caught up with me, so I should get to bed rather than trying to figure out something to write. (I am a slow writer at the best of times, and when I’m tired, I spend a lot of time just staring at the screen. For example, in the middle of that last sentence, I just stopped and stared for 25 minutes. And it took me another 25 minutes just to type “25 minutes.” If I keep at this, it will be next week before I manage to post this.)

So move along. There’s nothing to see here. (On the other hand, I did finally manage to upload to flickr last night. Over 2 weeks worth of project 365 photos. So there’s something to see there, if you want to move along there.)

return trips

We got home late last night from a trip down my in-laws. It was a pleasant visit, but ultimately very tiring, as all trips away from home with the kids are. No matter what we do, the sleep schedules get disrupted.

This trip, the sleep issue was compounded by some sort of bug Theo had, which gave him a runny nose and completely took away any impulse to sleep. We drove down Wednesday night, leaving after 8 in order to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic. The plan worked well, as far as traffic went. And Phoebe fell asleep within about half an hour of leaving home. Theo, on the other hand, did not fall asleep in half an hour. Or an hour. Or two. He did eventually fall asleep, but once we arrived, he was wide awake. Phoebe also woke up upon arrival, which was around midnight, but was willing to consent to go to bed after an hour or so of visiting with Grammy and Grampa. Theo, on the other hand, continued to be wide WIDE awake, and none of our usual efforts to settle him down had any noticeable effect. Even taking him to bed with me, rocking him, singing to him, sitting with John as he worked. Theo was just awake. The funny thing was that he seemed perfectly cheerful, except for those times when we suggested that it was time to think about sleep. At those points, he was decidedly, and vocally, unhappy.

In the end, Theo finally crashed some time after 5 in the morning. I was asleep then, after hours of passing Theo off between me and John, with me periodically falling asleep for too-short stretches. At 7:30, a moderately well-rested Phoebe came in to wake me up. I pulled her into bed with me, hoping to get a few minutes more rest. Theo was asleep in a portable crib at the foot of the bed, and while he didn’t wake immediately, it wasn’t long before Phoebe started to meow. (She is often a kitten these days.)

Thanksgiving day was a blur of trying to prevent tantrums, and I mostly didn’t have any. Theo, on the other hand, demonstrated that two-year-olds really do need more than 2 hours of sleep a night, and would cry at the drop of a hat. Well, we didn’t drop any hats to test that, but he certainly cried about a large number of other things. Like being offered breakfast. Or not being given breakfast fast enough. Or not being given the right cup. You should have heard the shrieks of outrage when his banana broke. And that was just the first 15 minutes of being up.

Theo on Thursday, coping with the ordeal of having been given a cracker.

Thursday night also didn’t give me enough sleep, though part of that wasn’t Theo’s fault. (I ended up staying up till 3:30 working, after finally getting Theo to sleep at 11:00.) Most of Friday was a blur, too. Remarkably, Theo was a completely different child by Friday night, and went to sleep without effort. He was utterly charming on Saturday. This was apparently a cue to Phoebe to act out, lest we thought we could get away with a tantrum-free day.

We headed home late Saturday, and happily both kids slept the whole way home. They unfortunately both woke up upon arrival home at 1:30 or so, but we managed to get everyone settled again moderately quickly. (Though I did have to take Theo to bed with me again–he had a cough that kept waking Phoebe.) Miraculously, Theo and I slept till 9:30, and Phoebe slept past 10:00. There weren’t even any tantrums at breakfast.

Anyhow, I’m not really sure what my point was. But it feels good to be back home.

In other news, I was thrilled to learn yesterday that my nephew, Diego, after things had been steadily improving without surgery, got to go home from the hospital. Unfortunately, he had a setback again in his recovery, and he has had to go back to the hospital today. I am still hopeful that he can avoid another surgery, as things are not as bad as they were a week ago, but it is still very worrisome. It is all so hard a little person, not to mention on the bigger people who take care of him. Once again, I’ve been trying to figure how and when I can make it out there to see my family again.

for crying out loud

You know what? I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in well over a year. At 19 months, Theo still does not sleep through the night.

I could probably count the number of times on one hand that I have gotten a stretch of sleep that is longer than 4 hours. (Theo does sleep longer stretches than that, often from about 8:30 to about 2:30. If I could bring myself to go to bed at 8:30, I could probably get a 6-hour stretch…) Mostly, I go to bed too late, wanting to have time unfettered to get on my laptop and tend to other things. As a result, I rarely get to bed before 1 or 2.

Theo is still sleeping in our room, in a portable crib. At least for the first part of the night. After he wakes up in the night, I take him to bed with me. I don’t typically sleep all that well after that. 6:15, when the alarm clock goes off, comes all too soon.

What this means is that I am not getting enough sleep, and not nearly enough deep sleep. As a result, I have felt like I have developed a cognitive impairment. I have trouble focusing. My memory is leaky. My head is foggy. This does not lend itself well to making progress towards a PhD.

Something’s got to change.

I really didn’t expect Theo to still be sleeping in our room at this age. I think Phoebe started sleeping in her own room around 6 months old. When we were getting ready for Theo’s arrival, we got Phoebe a toddler bed so that the crib would be available. The plan was to move Theo in there, into Phoebe’s room, once he started sleeping well at night. (No sense in waking Phoebe in the night, right?)

So…that hasn’t happened.

It amazes me how different Phoebe and Theo are with respect to their sleeping patterns. Phoebe started sleeping through the night really early. Too early, even. We had to wake her to feed her in the night her first few months. It was a relief when she was gaining weight steadily enough that the pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to let her keep sleeping.

And then there’s the whole sleep training business. With Phoebe, she used to fight us at bedtime. It got to the point, maybe around 7 months, where we would be spending over an hour rocking her and singing to her to put her to sleep, and she’d spend most of that time crying, not wanting to go to bed. It made it easy for us to decide to try some “cry it out” sleep training. She was already crying anyway, and we were exhausted.

With Theo, we could put him down in his crib, and one of us would just need to sit near him a few minutes and he’d be asleep. There didn’t seem to be much urgency to change things, and things were so calm and quiet, with nobody crying. Now that he’s older, it’s a bit more variable, and sometimes he needs someone to sit with him longer to fall asleep.

But he still wakes up.

We even gave sleep training a brief go. 3 exhausting nights, with one angry baby screaming for over an hour. And no real progress. I think we’ve missed the optimal window for that.

I think that maybe if he’s out of our room, he’ll sleep better. Maybe having Phoebe in there will help him fall asleep without one of us needing to sit with him. On the other hand, he may just disrupt Phoebe’s sleep.

We’ve come really close to moving him out of our room several times. But somehow I always find reasons to put off the transition. (I hate transitions! I’m tired enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.) There were some practical concerns, too, though. Like needing to move the crib away from the lamp. Now the furniture is finally rearranged. And once we figure out a secure way to cover the outlet that is within easy reach of the crib (he pulls out the little plug things), I think I will be out of excuses. Theo will be moving in with Phoebe.

I just wish I knew how all of this was going to work out.

Theo, still not sleeping in the crib.

Today’s forecast

Hour-by-hour forecast for Thursday, January 21

2:00 a.m. 95% chance of baby wakefulness
3:00 a.m. continued baby wakefulness with intermittent parental snoozes
4:00 a.m. continued baby wakefulness with intermittent parental outbursts
5:00 a.m. 85% chance of fitful slumber, punctuated by dreams of wakefulness
6:00 a.m. 99% chance of beeping alarm clock, chance of snooze button 100%
7:00 a.m. Blustery tempers and high-speed chases, chance of toddler eye precipitation 98%
8:00 a.m. Frosty windshield combined with hot tempers lead to isolated storms
9:00 a.m. 80% chance of showers skipped
10:00 a.m. 75% chance of feeling snowed over

Mood likely will continue to be partly cloudy throughout the day, with scattered thoughts and intermittent storms of crankiness.

Image from wpclipart.