Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sibling Love

Every single day, I am amazed at how much Reagan and Myers truly love each other.  I know the day will come when I have to deal with sibling rivalry... But for now, it's nothing but sibling love around here!

Today was the first day that they shared a ride in the chariot together, and something tells me that this is how many of my afternoons are going to be spent over the next little while!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Infant Sleep Training

As you may recall, I have been on the brink of insanity for months now.  Being a sleep deprived mother has truly taken a toll on me.

Over the past few months, one thing has remained a constant.  Everyone I know has been recommending the same book for me to use as my survival guide...

Seriously!   Preschool moms, gymnastic moms, my own mother, my cousin, a friend from high school, a sorority sister... all spread out across the world, coming together, united in their allegiance to Dr. Marc Weissbluth.

I borrowed a copy from a friend, and started reading it while we were on vacation.  I opened it up to a random page, and was instantly struck by the words that I read...
"WARNING!  Sleep problems in children may cause maternal depression."
Having battled with clinical depression in my life before, I knew that I was very quickly heading in this direction again.  I also knew that it was purely situational, based completely on my lack of sleep.  But I began to worry that if I didn't regain control of the situation, I would end up back on the meds again.

We had been home from vacation a little over 2 weeks when the opportunity presented itself to give sleep training a try.

It was August 1, and we were ready for bed.  Reagan was already asleep in her own bedroom, and Ryan and I were getting ready to settle into bed WITH Myers, as this sleep habit has continued since it started while we are on vacation.  We had only been in bed for a couple of minutes when I heard Reagan's bedroom door open, and then I saw/heard her come running down the hallway to our bedroom in tears from a nightmare.

Can you say FAMILY BED?!

Yes, we have a King sized bed that can accommodate all 4 members of our family.  But can all 4 members of our family get a good night sleep this way?

Ummmmmm, NO!

I encouraged Ryan to go sleep in the guest bedroom so that at least one of us would get a good night's rest.  He is, after all, the one that gets up at 4:20 every morning to go to work.  I may be a zombie all day, every day, from my lack of sleep, but at least I get to be a zombie in the comfort of my own home.  And I can choose to just stay in my pyjamas all day and forget to brush my hair or teeth without anyone else ever knowing that it happened!  Ryan has a crew of guys that he is responsible for, so he needs to be as awake and alert as possible!

Ryan moved to the guest bedroom;  Reagan, Myers and I tried to fall asleep. But Myers was being his normal non-sleeping, cranky baby self.  Reagan then started to complain that she couldn't sleep because her brother was keeping her awake.  I told her to go back to her own room so that she could sleep in peace.  She refused because she was scared that she was going to have another nightmare.

This is the point that I decided I needed to take action.  I was already at my wits ends, and I now had TWO children in my bed that seemed incapable of sleeping on their own...

Option One... Wake up Ryan and convince him to quickly put me out of my misery.  Only problem, we don't have a gun.
Option Two... Figure out a way to sneak quietly out of the house on my own, and then go check into a hotel under an alias.  VERY tempting, but not completely realistic.  Who would be home to listen to the children cry once Ryan was at work?
Option Three... Put Myers in his crib, put Reagan in her bed, and put in some ear plugs!  DONE!

I told Reagan that I was going to go to the nursery to feed her brother and that I was going to put him to bed in his crib.  I then told her that she could rest in my bed and try to fall asleep until I came back, but that I would take her to her own bed and help her fall asleep in her own room once I had Myers settled down.

I took a pair of ear plugs to Ryan in the guest bedroom and filled him in on what was getting ready to go down.  I gave him strict instructions that NO MATTER WHAT, he was not to enter the nursery at any point during the night!

Yep, I was going cold-turkey for extinction.  Extinction is Dr. Weissbluth's method of allowing the child to cry indefinitely at bedtime and for up to an hour at nap time.

I let Myers nurse until he was done, and then I put him in his crib.

And then I walked out of the room.

During the time that I was nursing Myers, Reagan had fallen completely asleep in my and Ryan's bed.  Since she only ends up in our bed about once a month, I decided to just let her stay there.  Plus, by not moving her back to her own room, I was able to shut our bedroom door completely, thus further muffling the sounds of the screaming that was coming from the nursery.  (Ryan and I normally sleep with our bedroom door open so that we can hear Reagan if she gets up since she has been known to sleep walk a time or two!)

I watched the baby monitor intently as the screaming continued for 8 minutes. He wasn't moving around or making a big commotion in his crib... he was just laying there, screaming his head off.

And then, just like that, after only 8 minutes, he stopped crying and went to sleep.


Why in the world hadn't I tried this sooner?  I still didn't get much more than a wink of sleep throughout the night as I kept waiting to hear him cry, and I would still wake up every 30 minutes or so to look over at the screen on the baby monitor.  But each and every time that I would look, all I saw was a peacefully sleeping baby.

The next night of sleep training wasn't much different than the first.  I nursed Myers, put him in his crib, and walked out the room.  After 20 minutes of crying, he gave up the fight and then proceeded to sleep for ELEVEN HOURS!

It has now been 18 nights since our first night of uninterrupted sleep.  No, all of the last 18 nights have not gone as smoothly as the first two.  By the fifth night, Myers had figured out that his cuddle partner had left him and that the "all night boob buffet" had closed it's kitchen door.  We went through several nights of having to listen to him scream for over an hour, but we stuck to the plan.  I'm willing now to say that we have successfully completed sleep training, and we are ALL much happier because of it.  I still get up once a night, usually around the same time that Ryan is getting up to go to work, to nurse Myers.  But he then goes right back to sleep and sleeps until 6:30.  He is actually even napping on regular basis, and that had also never happened before!

Our current schedule looks something like this:
6:30 am - Wake up
9:00 am - Morning Nap
10:30 am - Awake from nap
12:30 pm - Afternoon nap
2:30 pm - Awake from nap
6:00 pm - Bedtime
That schedule is working very well so far!  I'm sure we will have the occasional hiccup... like I said, Reagan is five and she still ends up in our bed about once a month.  But I have to tell you, it is a very very good feeling to know that the months and months of hellish nights are officially over!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Moving On?

We've now been home from our summer vacation for a little over two weeks. And in that time, we have not been able to do much of anything other than think about and talk about packing up our life and moving back to my home of South Carolina.

We go through this pattern for a few days every single time that we head down South for a visit.  But the conversations usually only last a day or so, and they never move past the "dream" state.

Not this time.

This time, we are seriously talking about it.  We're doing the necessary research. We're weighing our options and trying to make the best decision for our family.

But this is no easy decision to make.  This would be life changing for us.  We're talking about a move into and then across another country.  Trust me, I would know... I made the exact opposite move of what we are now considering just over 9 years ago.

We've spoken to an immigration lawyer and with several Canada/US Border agents, and it appears that we have plenty of time to make a decision about what we want to do.  Ideally, we would prefer to move next summer as soon as Reagan is done with Kindergarten, but due to new immigration processes between the US and Canada, that is not possible.  Well, it's possible that we could move tomorrow, but it wouldn't be the completely LEGAL route to take!!! Because we don't want to move in the middle of a school year, the soonest we are looking at would be July 2013.  That is a long time away.  The good news with that timeframe is that, by then, I will have become a Canadian citizen, meaning that I could move between the two countries back and forth as much as I want to.  (I am currently a permanent resident of Canada, not yet a citizen.)  The bad news with that timeframe is that our children will be even more established and settled in our current life here, making it harder to uproot them.  So we are extremely confused about what to do.

Because of our confusion, Ryan and I sat down separately and created individual lists as to the pros & cons of moving and the pros & cons of staying. Our lists were almost identical when we later compared them!  The reasons to move outnumbered the reasons to stay, but not by much.

But there is a problem that is holding us back...  And this problem is big enough to cause us to stop the planning process completely.  Neither Ryan nor I have any form of employment in the States, and with the current state of the economy and the current unemployment rate, there is no guarantee that either of us would be able to get a job.  Even though we could be mortgage-free and have only half of the monthly bills down there that we have here, it wouldn't make a hill of beans of difference if neither of us was making an income to pay those bills! And truthfully, we only want Ryan to have to get a job there because we both love the fact that I am able to stay home with our kids here while they are young.  Based on the conversations that we have had with people in the same industry as Ryan, we have learned that he would probably only be making a THIRD of what he gets paid here, as he would be starting his career over.

And Ryan has a REALLY REALLY good job here!  That is the #1 reason on his list for staying.  He nor I see the benefit in giving up a position that he has been in now for over 17 years.  He loves his job.  He claims that he doesn't love all of the headaches that come with it, but I think he is full of bologna when he says that. He literally walks around our house on the weekends like he is going to go insane if he doesn't find something to do to keep himself busy!  So I'm not so sure that the slower style of Southern life would necessarily suit my husband.

We have decided to complete the necessary paperwork to claim the right to US citizenship that is owed to both of our kids.  Technically, they are automatically US citizens since I gave birth to them, and I am a US Citizen.  But there is a lot of legal mess that we have to do to make it official for the two of them.

However, we just can't seem to bring ourselves to start the paperwork for Ryan. Sure, we could submit all the paperwork and then change our minds, but what would be the point in that?  It would be a waste of a LOT of money, as the immigration process for him would be expensive.  So, we are waiting until we know 100% for sure what we want to do.

Lord only knows if and when that will ever happen...

UPDATE:  It is now February 2012, and we still have not submitted any paperwork for Ryan.   We realize that this makes our dream of moving to South Carolina about as realistic as our dream of winning the lottery... pretty tough to accomplish when we don't buy any lottery tickets!  But it is just such a big decision to make that we know we can't rush it...