Saturday, January 28, 2006

So it begins.

Jack and I went to the grocery store this morning, and I swung through the bargain crap aisle. Imagine my excitement when I saw that they had board books on the X-Men for a mere dollar each! This will be a fine way for the boy to start learning about some of Mommy and Daddy's obsessions.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Year of Pleasures

I love Elizabeth Berg, and this book, The Year of Pleasures, does not disappoint. It's about Betta Nolan, a woman in her fifties, whose husband John recently died of cancer. John and Betta were very much in love, so much that they had sort of an insular relationship. They were (if I remember my Vonnegut correctly) a duad, a pod of two people going through life together. Before he died, John encouraged Betta to start a new life.

The key part of that new life is to embark on an adventure alone that she and John had long mulled over doing together. Betta sells her house, packs up the car, and drives off in search of a quaint Midwestern town to start over in. She does just that, finds a beautiful Victorian house, takes a deep breath, and buys it. She also makes an effort to make friends, something that she and John really didn't do- the two of them were enough for each other. Betta calls her old college roommates and reunites with them, but what I really admired her for was allowing herself to make a connection with just about everyone she met. Betta finds companionship in everyone from her real estate agent to the crazy old lady she bought her house from to the kid next door to a college student she met at a coffee shop. I thought that was so cool. Makes you wonder what kinds of people you'd meet if you opened yourself up to anyone and everyone the way Betta did.

Betta also decides to look at the year after John's death not just as a year of mourning, but also as a year of pleasures, of embracing the little things that make life worth living. She makes great meals, the descriptions of which made me hungry. She fills her house with flowers and listens to her favorite music. John, in one of his final moments, gave her a beautiful box filled with little slips of paper with words or phrases on them. They're John's suggestions to her, again, small things to think about and embrace in life. One of them says "gingerbread," and at first Betta has no idea what the significance is. Then she remembers the time she made fresh gingerbread for dessert and commented on how wonderful it would be for breakfast. "Then have it for breakfast," John tells her, but at the time that seemed too indulgent to Betta. In the year of pleasures, she learns to indulge things like that. Betta also opens a store called What A Woman Wants that sells all kinds of beautiful little indulgences. Nice scented soaps, thick warm slippers, spools of satin ribbon, stunning jewelry. One of her friends insists that she make her customers sign a contract - if you're buying one of these things for yourself, you have to promise to actually use it, not put it away because "it's too nice."

This was a beautiful story that really made me think of the little pleasures that life has to offer.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cute Cub Stories of the Week, Starring Daddy

Cute Story #1:
At daycare, this week, Jack was hanging out in his class when a bald man walked by the room. Jack, of course, immediately thought it was Daddy. He thought Daddy was, inexplicably, ignoring him and not picking him up. He completely freaked out and just burst into tears. He was so upset that his teacher took him to see the other man to show him that it was not his daddy. As soon as he saw the other man up close, he totally calmed down. I'd love to have known what his thoughts were during the whole episode. Something like, "Hey, it's Daddy! Yay! I love Daddy! Wait, where are you going, Daddy? WHAT THE HELL? DAAAADDDDYYY! WAHH! ... Oh. Hello, Sir. How embarassing."

Cute Story #2
For quite some time now, when the three of us are hanging out in the family room, if I go upstairs, Jack will toddle over to the baby gate at the base of the stairs, hang on the bars, and cry. I swear, he's only missing a tin cup to rattle against the bars, and his crying is just pitiful. I guess it's flattering that he misses me so very much in the time it takes me to go upstairs and get a glass of water, but it's also a little annoying. Steve usually distracts him by throwing stuffed animals at him, but the other night, he tried something new. Steve crawled over and sat next to Jack. He then grabbed onto the bars and started mock-crying, "MOMMY! MOMMY!" Jack stopped crying, took Steve's hands off the bars, and gave him a hug. Little guy wanted to make his dad feel better!

Little Earthquakes

Finished Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner recently. Terrific book. I really hate that books by female authors that are about women, perhaps containing an element of humor, are dismissed as "chick lit." Sure, some books about women are the literary equivalant of cotton candy, but not all of them are. Books by Jennifer Weiner and Marian Keyes in particular, tell stories about complicated, nuanced characters. Yes, they're women, and yes, the challenges they face are feminine, but does that mean they can be dismissed?

Little Earthquakes is about three women who have just started a challenge that I am quite familiar with - motherhood. One of the things I liked about it is that all three of them have different approaches to how they take care of their babies. Alinde follows the rigidly scheduled plan of the book Baby Success!, kind of a hybrid between the attachment parenting of Dr. Sears, the scheduling of Becoming Babywise, and the folksy conversational style of Tracey Hogg. Becky kind of goes with the flow. And Kelly is very type-A, filling out charts to note Oliver's naps, feedings, and diaper changes (yeah, that sounds familiar). I think I've been sort of a combination of the three. Yes, we had Jack's chart for a long, long time. And I did my best to keep Jack on a schedule, at least keeping one long nap, bedtime, and feedings as consistent as possible. But at the same time, I tried to be flexible and go with the flow.

It's been interesting watching other new moms to see how they manage things. Just about everyone does seem to have a plan in place. In an interview with Weiner (hee) in the back of the book, she said that she thinks that this is one of the most planned generations of children ever. Not only did we women plan exactly when we'd have our babies, but just about every woman has some kind of plan in place for how she'll take care of the baby on a day to day basis. If there's a book on the subject, we've read it and formed an opinion of it. What this will eventually mean for our kids, I don't know. It is honestly probably more for the moms, our way of feeling some control in a situation where we truly don't have much.

To Sleep, Perchance!

Let's make it official: Mr. Jackson William Wasser now sleeps through the night!

This is a beautiful, beautiful thing. He even slept all night when he had an ear infection that hadn't been treated yet. And he has even stopped waking up at 5:00, switching to a much more reasonable 6:00. Way to go, Cub!

It is truly amazing what a difference this has made in our daily lives. I no longer feel like I should really be in bed by 9:00 so I can get what sleep I can. I feel more alert and more energetic. I feel like I can take on a little more in my life - to that end, I'm starting a book club and am looking into finding a knitting class or a mommy and me yoga class for me and Jack. This is really, truly, fantastic.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Night Six

I can hardly believe it- Jack slept all night again!

He woke up at 5:20, which is not idea, but not bad, either. I went in, gave him a binky, and helped him lie back down. It was like hitting the snooze button- he slept for another 25 minutes or so.

I am really proud of my little guy. I think I'll do something special for him this weekend, maybe get him an Elmo video or something like that.

Jack was in a great mood last night. At one point, he and Steve were on the floor together, their heads next to each other. Steve would tug on Jack's shirt, and Jack would giggle. Honestly, with moments like that in my life, how can I not be happy?

Jack's latest hobby is pointing to various things he sees. He'll point to the squeaky fish on his bathtub and go, "Da!" I'll tell him it's a fish, and he'll point to it again. He's not talking yet, but I think this really indicates an interest in language on his part. He's going to bust out with the talking before too long, and it sounds like he'll want to increase his vocabulary as much as possible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Night Five

Can you hear me cheering? That's because Jack slept through the night again! He has never ever slept through the night two nights in a row before. I'm not ready to declare victory yet, but this is fantastic progress. I am especially impressed that he kept sleeping because when I went to bed after I wrote my American Idol recap, he was coughing.

Way to go, Cub!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Night Four

Wow. Jack slept through the night last night.

Of course, I woke up at 4:00 and spent some time straining to hear any noises coming from his room. But there was nothing to hear, because my little guy was sound asleep. Way to go, Jack! Let's see if he can do it again.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nights Two and Three

We did indeed get lucky with how well Night One went, but the past two nights really have gone pretty well.

Saturday night, I had friends over for Moms' Night Out. Steve put Jack to bed, but the little guy woke up pretty quickly - I think we were too loud. The women and I went downstairs while Steve got Jack back to sleep.

He woke up at 2:00, far more awake than he had been the night before. He cried for an hour and a half before he finally went to sleep. That wasn't so great, but what was good was the fact that when he did go to sleep, he was by himself, rather than with one of us in the room helping him.

All three of us were pretty tired on Sunday. Steve and I probably would have been fine if we'd gone to bed earlier, but what can you do? In the evening, we gave Jack a bath, then I took him downstairs for some quiet time. I popped in an Elmo video, and the Cub snuggled up against me and quietly watched the show. He was just too sweet.

I took him up to bed at 7:30, and he started to cry shortly after I left the room. I set the timer for ten minutes, and he stopped crying pretty soon. I started to sneak into his room to put a blanket over him and was surprised to see that he was awake and sitting quietly in his crib. I got out of there fast, before he could see me. I didn't hear another peep from him, so he must have gotten to sleep all on his own. Go, Jack!

At 3:00, he woke up and cried for us. We started our 10 minute wait, and towards the end, he was almost completely quiet, with a little whimper here and there. Steve said he wanted to leave him alone to see if he'd sleep, which seemed like a good idea - no sense going in to potentially disrupt an almost sleeping boy. He did get a little more agitated, so Steve went back in, helped him calm down, and set up a line of backup binkies in case Jack needed one. A few minutes after Steve left, he started to cry again, so I noted the time and started my 15 minute wait. Jack got himself back to sleep. Altogether, I think it lasted about an hour. Yay!

I am really happy with how this is going so far. As I've been telling Jack when I go in to comfort him, he really can do this himself. I am also glad that Steve and I finally decided to do this. All three of us could use a full night's sleep, and by helping Jack every time he cried, we really weren't doing him any favors.

Fingers crossed that night four will go well. I'm ready for wherever it takes us.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Night One

So here was the plan to get our punk baby to go to sleep. We'd follow the Ferber method, a controlled bit of crying it out we'd been thus far avoiding.

  • Have a soothing bedtime routine - bottle, book, bed.

  • Put him down drowsy, but awake.

  • When he wakes up, wait 5 minutes, then come into the room.

  • While there, soothe him, talk to him, offer him a binky, put him down, but do not pick him up.

  • For the first night, use these intervals: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Night two will be 10-15-20. Any night thereafter goes to 15-20-25.

  • Eventually, Jack will learn to soothe himself to sleep.

Last night was the first night, and we were really expecting the worst. Jack's first instinct upon waking is to use his crib to drag himself to standing, hold onto the crib rail, scream for us, and bounce up and down. We were fully prepared to be up all night. We even had a bunch of stuff saved on Tivo so we could at least be entertained.

Putting him down went just fine. Victory #1.

Jack woke up at 12:00. At 12:05, I went in, gave him a binky, and calmed him down. I left, and he kept crying. Steve came in 10 minutes later, soothed Jack, and actually got him to go to sleep - without picking him up, rocking him, or forcing a Tylenol PM down his throat. Amazing.

Even more amazingly, Jack squalked a bit at 3:00 and went to sleep on his own. That was the last we heard from him until he woke up at 7:00.

I really thought it would be a lot harder. Maybe tonight will be rough, but I know that I should savor a victory while I can. Hooray!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Night Zero

My husband Steve and I have a 1 year old son, Jack. Jack is, near as I can tell, the coolest little kid ever, but he has one unfortunate drawback: in his entire life, he has slept through the night less than 10 times. And sister, I am exhausted.

I know that Steve and I are, in part, responsible for this. We ignored all of the advice to put him to bed while he was drowsy but awake. Jack had colic when he was littler, and once that was over, Steve and I just could not bring ourselves to tackle the challenge of sleep, especially if it meant more crying. We had had more than enough crying already, thank you very much. Plus it was nice to be able to actually enjoy a sweet, snuggly, snoozy baby.

But now it's been a year, and honestly, enough is enough. Tonight, we have vowed to start Jack on the Ferber method. That is, we'll establish a relaxing and consistent bedtime routine, put him to bed while he's still awake, and when he wakes up crying in the night, we'll let him cry for five minutes, then come check on him and reassure him, but not pick him up. We'll then go into his room for increasing intervals of time. The theory is that he will learn to soothe himself back to sleep and will sleep through the night. It's very much a trial by fire, but beyond giving him Tylenol PM in his applesauce, I don't feel like we have any choice.

And tonight is as good a night as any. All three of us are healthy. Tomorrow is Saturday, so Steve and I can take naps if we need to. Last night was a tough one, and I think it really strengthened Steve's and my resolve. Jack woke up at 3:00 and he was wide awake. I got up with him and he started at me, grabbed at my face, tried to tickle me, and pulled at my hair for an hour. Then I handed him off to Steve, and he stared at Steve for an hour before he finally relented and went to sleep. It wasn't a bad night- there was no crying or thrashing - but we had both really just had enough with the whole thing. I am ready to make a change. I know it won't be easy, but I'm committed. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Under the Banner of Heaven

Finished Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakaur a couple nights ago. I'd been wanting to read this book for a while. I really enjoyed Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, and this had an intriguing subject - Mormon fundamentalists who murdered a young woman and her baby girl after having a prophesy to do so.

Parts of the book were really interesting. I learned a lot about the history of Mormonism and frankly think that it's a big enough subject that it would be covered in greater detail in American History classes. After all, if the United States government was willing to send in troops to take down this religion, that's noteworthy as far as I'm concerned. Also interesting was reading Joseph Smith's justification for polygamy. He figured if he wasn't supposed to sleep with multiple women, God wouldn't have given him those desires. So, he can rationalize sleeping with very young women, but he can't rationalize his followers having a freaking cup of coffee? I also enjoyed the story about the Lafferty brothers, how they came to embrace Fundamentalism, and the horrifying results of their faith. There was also a chapter about the trial of Ron Lafferty that gave me interesting food for thought. The man had a vision from God that told him that he should "remove" his sister-in-law and her baby girl, so he did and felt almost no remorse for it. He also believed that the angel Moroni was trying to enter his body through his anus. He also got a vision that he should murder his brother and accomplice Dan. The guy's insane, right? The prosecution made a very compelling argument that, given his upbringing, all of these beliefs were rational and sane.

On the other hand, the book had some serious flaws. The biggest one was that the story of the Laffertys was the centerpiece, and it just wasn't strong enough to hold together the entire book. Krakaur had about 50 pages of solid, compelling Lafferty story, about 40 pages of Mormon history, and a whole lot of other text about Fundamentalist Mormons that really felt like filler. I found myself skimming parts of the story to get to the point. Krakaur also did the same thing he's done in his other books, which is to start every chapter with a lengthy quotation. I could never get myself interested enough to read a several-paragraph long quotation and wound up just skipping them.

Overall, I'm glad that I read it, but I'm also glad I didn't pay for it (it was a gift). There were parts of it that were genuinely chilling, and I learned a lot about a growing segment of American culture and a part of our country's history that I didn't know very well. Unfortunately, this all could have been done in a really solid magazine article, not an entire book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The plan

So here's the plan. I'll be using this blog to kind of keep track of stuff. Books I've read, movies I've seen, wines to try, new recipes. Stuff like that, all in one central place. And I'll learn a little bit about how to get this going.