For Mothers of Nonsleeping Babies

rockabye baby by Ella Dolbear Lee.Perhaps you could get some advice or help from Amnesty International:

Sleep Deprivation: Appendix M of the Army Field Manual allows for sleep deprivation which was described by Amnesty as constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment8. The Army Field Manual describes the practice of not allowing detainees to sleep for more than 4 hours per night over 30 days, which can be prolonged upon approval. This technique has been used to break the detainee down both physically and psychologically. Sleep deprivation causes many psychological and physical issues such as headaches, high blood pressure, stress, lowered immunity, impaired verbal processing and complex problem solving. It has also been known to cause depression, irritability and a reduced sense of wellbeing. The Article 22 of the Third Geneva Convention outlines that a prisoner of war cannot be held in conditions that are prejudicial to their health.

Once, my firstborn got a bottle of infant tylenol. My first concern, of course, was ‘is my baby going to be okay?’ I called poison control, who were very reassuring (it was a small bottle, she was a chunky monkey). My second thought was more of a feeling of immense relief and hope. Maybe, just maybe, she would go to sleep and I could get a good long nap and some solid rest for the first time in a long while?

She did not even slow down. I did not get that nap. She is now being kept awake by her own progeny, as are three of her younger sisters, and I have to admit, while I teasee about paybacks, I’m really more sympathetic than schadenfreudesque about it.

If nothing else, know that you are not crazy, nor are you losing your mind. You are sleep deprived, and that’s a big deal. You may not be able to do anything about it right now, but I promise, one day you will get to sleep again. In the meantime, be good to yourself. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Babyproof your room and cap with the baby playing there if you can. Skip bubble baths and moms night out offers and ask for time for naps. Use white noise and ear plugs for those naps.

This time will pass.

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A Book is an open door, part two

vintage john martins big bookMatthew Arnold defined culture as a knowledge of the best that has been done and said by man—but the one who opens that door must have more than that knowledge. It is not enough to cram away facts in the corners of your brain. These facts must have a direct bearing upon your life. To have knowledge of the best that has been written, you must not only read a great poem but you must allow the thought or fancy to sink into and become part of your personality; of the best that has been done you must not only have knowledge of the courage and wisdom of the early Americans who broke the yoke of Great Britain, but you must apply their courage and wisdom to your daily life; of the best that has been said you must not only read one of Abraham Lincoln’s great speeches, but absorb the quiet spirituality of the man who uttered them, and allow his personality to become part of yours.{…}

Farcical moving-picture shows and talking-machine rag-time surely have their place, but can they enter the soul of man as can “the best that has been written, done and said”? The plays of Euripides and the words of Marcus Aurelius have for many centuries given deeper understandings and wider horizons to a multitude of readers, and it is probable that the intensity with which they have acted upon the individual is commensurate with the length of time that they have acted upon the mass. We do not believe that this can be said of the time-killing “movie” or the rag-time song of yesterday.
Let us enter the world of living through the world of books. It is from the printed page that we can best equip ourselves for a rich life of value to ourselves, our family and our neighbors. If you do not believe it, read some book that the world has acknowledged great. Having read it, live it in your eternal self, and you will have passed through the Open Door.
An Open Door, Robert Sturgis Ingersoll, from the book Open That Door! available free at Gutenberg

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Four Ways with Adzuki Beans

800px-Azuki_BeansFrom one of my amazing daughters.  Seriously, they just astonish me with how nicely they’ve grown up.  She’s only cooking for two, so adjust proportions accordingly:
Night one, when I only intended to cook up enough beans for two dinners: so, this might sound kind of weird, but I sometimes cook beans in an orange sweet and sour and slightly spicy sauce that I use for pork and chicken. The original recipe came from here, but I don’t follow it exactly. I used tomato sauce instead of ketchup, orange juice instead of brown sugar, and I didn’t use the corn starch because I was actually cooking the beans in this sauce. I also added carmalized onions because yummy. So I soaked the beans over night, cooked them half way in the onion and some bay leaves, added tomato sauce, orange juice, ginger, garlic, red pepper (as much as you want for as much heat as you want… I don’t want much :p) a splash of vinegar, and some soy sauce. And then we had that over rice and I had about 8 cups of beans leftover.

Night two: made a stir fry and added in a cup or two of beans because we were short on meat. Had breakfast sausage, rice, sugar snap peas, zucchini, beans, onions.

Night 3: made a pretty yummy soup. Cut up half a pepper and an onion and sauteed them til the onion got a little bit browned. Added one can of coconut milk, two cups of beans, a can of creamed corn, a cup of chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups of rice. Simmered it all together for 20 minutes or so and it was mighty delicious.

Night 4: another stir fry. Ground beef, rice, peppers, onions, sugar snap peas, beans.

And I still have like 4 cups left. Probably going to freeze those because this week I am cooking up some navy beans. 


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Orphan Hosting: We said good-bye.

Yesterday we packed.  All Day.  It took hours longer than it should have because the little guy had major meltdowns.  He ran through the house opening all the outside doors and the garage and as I followed, closing them, he ran back around opening them again.  He threw things.  He tried to eat all the snacks I’d planned for the next 24 hours they had of traveling.  He got angry because I gave his big brother (who will soon be 15) deodorant and didn’t have any for him (he’s seven).

Together we went through my desk to look for things that he would like.  He chose a pair of children’s scissors, some stick-it notes, and an old cell phone case that he likes to use to pretend to take pictures.  In the van on the drive he pulled out the package of gum he’d lifted from the back pack and passed out pieces, pressing more on us than we wanted to take. He reached back to hold my hand sometimes (he sat in the middle and I sat in the very back).  Other times he reached back to try to tug off my boots.  He also alternated hand holding and gum sharing with punching the FYG, upon whom he has an enormous crush. He’d turn his back and face the window, sulking angrily, and then be sweet, gooey warmth a minute later.  It’s a traumatized child’s clumsy way of detaching so it won’t hurt.  Sometimes, it’s a non-traumatized child’s (or adult’s) method as well.

At the hotel he had more meltdowns.  We told fellow host parents the next morning that when he was in one of those moods he was essentially 80 pounds of solid ‘no.’  My husband got him into the bath, which the boy didn’t want but which certain events unfortunately had rendered compulsory.  While in the bath he jollied up and played a game of volleying plastic disposable cups back and forth across the shower curtain for about half an hour.  AFterword, they settled down on the couch in our hotel suite and watched the Jesus Movie in Ukrainian (something he has requested multiple times).  I brought him a pillow and a blanket and the little guy took his pillow and tucked it in behind Tato’s back and covered Tato’s knees with the blanket.

We ordered pizza and when the pizza came, he jumped up and helped the delivery guy carry them in and held the door for him, and the delivery man said that his mama raised him right and I did not cry.  At least, not outloud and in public where everybody could see.  He ate his pizza, and then laid down with his head in Tato’s lap and went to sleep.

We had to get the boys  to the airport at 6 a.m. this morning.  We had arrived last night and miscalculated time zones so we woke up at the time we intended to leave.  That had us scrambling.  We discovered that our little guy had gone to sleep with a package of yogurt covered pretzels under him, and they had melted all over his shirt, which he had intended to wear to the airport (yes, he slept in his airport clothes.  There are battles not worth fighting).    Happily, I had an extra shirt for him – the rest were packed in the suitcases downstairs.

I looked at the hotel breakfast to grab some food for them, but there were only four bananas, 2 green, 2 black.  I didn’t think about the apples because I am stupid, and I didn’t see the yogurt at all because I was not awake. I brought a bowl of muffins, which none of us wanted.

At the airport all was chaos and joyful reunion with their two brothers who had been with another family, and it was fun to see how much all three brothers really look up to and admire their oldest brother, and how much he looks out for them- and also bosses them.

They warned us not to have any expectations about good-byes- they said some kids might want hugs, most wouldn’t, and some would be stand-offish and matter of fact (that detaching process).  Our boys broke away from their brothers at goodbye time and gave us very convincing hugs.  The oldest looked at me and struggled for the English words he wanted to say and couldn’t find them, so he just hugged me and said yes, yes!  Then he hugged my husband and stood there smacking his own chest and saying “Oh, oi.  Oh.” and nodding, and we got the jist of it.  Little dude hugged all around and giggled and was wired and emotionally jittery already.

I was dry eyed.  I told the other host parents there that I would probably be sad after a week of sleep, but right then, I was just exhausted.

I was wrong.  We drove back to the hotel to sleep and on the way the FYG asked me a question about their life in Ukraine and I tried to tell her that the host-father to the other brothers had told us that at their orphanage they mostly eat soup and potatoes.   My voice broke.  At the hotel I saw they had put out more bananas, and I cried.  I saw the yogurt I’d missed before and I cried more.  I went upstairs to sleep and woke up and cried.  I cried when I saw the text message from one of the host parents accompanying them on their flight who shared that the little guy had eaten all his snacks in his backpack and I realized what an idiot I was for putting anything but crackers in his backpack foodwise.  I cried when I found his dirty shirt, when somebody posted a picture of them to our FB wall, when somebody said their names, when we got home and found a package of pants I’d ordered for the 80 lbs of ‘No’ had just arrived today, when I found the various trash and remembrances of their stay both good and bad (chocolate wrappers behind the couch, and dirty socks and playing cards scattered on the floor and the discovery that they’d been coloured on, and so forth).

We were picking up parts of the house, just doing the preliminary steps of putting things back together, throwing trash and papers and so forth away, when I came across a little notebook where the little guy and I had drawn some of the pictures from the Draw, Write, Now series.  I was about to toss it when I remembered how much fun it was to draw with him, and I thought about the fact that probably there are no keepsakes of his childhood anywhere, since he’s been in an orphanage since he was 1 year old.  Nobody saves his little bits of paper, his drawings, his schoolwork, and sentimentally reviews those things, so I set the notebook aside so I can write “V, when he was 7” and date it and put in a scrapbook of his visit here. And, of course, I cried.

See how I put that in the past tense?  I lied.

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Books, Fiction & Otherwise, from 2015

I tried mightily to write a neatly-organized list of the top 5 or 10 fiction books from 2015 and failed. I don’t know if this is because of perpetual exhaustion (mother of 4 children aged 5 and under, with two still nursing at night) or because I’m just that disorganized (a survey of my living room seems to confirm that impression) or if there was just that much love of the books I read last year, but a tidily done list is just not going to work again.

So I present you with a rambling post about books I read last year.

I re-read several Ngaio Marsh mystery titles, most of which I hadn’t read since high school (and I’m still a whippersnapper, but it has been well over a decade since that epoch). I love her writing style, but the racism in them was heavier than I recalled and thus more irritating.  It was normal for her time period, but that still doesn’t make it pleasant or right.  Keeping that in caveat in mind, Clutch of Constables is still one of my favorites when it comes to a good mystery set-up. Plus Troy & Alleyn are sweet together.

Jane Austen re-reads always happen. This year it was Mansfield Park. I’m still staunchly on the side of Fanny Price’s defenders; I don’t know how she could have been anything but slightly timid in personality with the upbringing she had.

Another re-read was Gaskell’s Wives & Daughters. I love this book; I love Gaskell’s warm and gentle tone, with its own undercurrent of humor. I love her characterization. I love the way she pulls together the strands of the time period ~ the agricultural world, the advancing world of scientific exploration, and the quiet village life.

After reading a few books in a row that mentioned food rationing in England because of World War II (one reviewed here), I researched it a bit more and discovered that it ended in 1954. Folks, that makes 14  years of tight food rations. British readers are sayinh, “yes? you didn’t know this?” Well, no, not really. I might have read it at some point, but I certainly didn’t register how deep of an effect it had on British food and psychology (BBC info about it here).  Then I thought of Edmund and the Turkish Delight in The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe and decided to re-read the whole book to see how food was discussed there (It was published in 1950).  Any smugness one might have about the way Edmund caved to the bribery of candy dissipates rapidly when considering the food culture he grew up in. Was it wrong? absolutely. but a much higher temptation than we give him credit for. And there’s quite a bit more poignancy in the dinner with the beavers, when they all have “as much butter as they want.”

I also re-read books by L. M. Montgomery, P.G. Wodehouse, E. Nesbit, and Thomas Hardy.

I’d had Connie Willis on my vague, mental to-read list for ages. I finally got to Doomsday Book & To Say Nothing of the Dog. The first is achingly beautiful and might have made me cry. The second one is mostly hilariously funny. Both are for more mature readers ~ and both are very hard to put down. I read them at the very end of a pregnancy and during the newborn-days when you spend lots of time sitting and snuggling a squishy cute one. :)

I read three books I didn’t really care for when all was said and done:
1) How To Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis ~ wanted to like this one, really I did, but in the end it was still too angrily feminist in tone and perhaps a bit clueless about what matters (might have been clued into this by the fact that she didn’t realize until her 30’s that Jane Eyre is a better role model than Cathy Earnshaw).
2) Expecting Adam by Martha Beck ~ about a Harvard couple having a baby with Down Syndrome in the 1980s. Really wanted to like this one too and it’s well written, but there are certain fundamental flaws that I could not get past and I left it ultimately disappointed. Hope to do a real review soon.

3) Gideon’s River by John Creasey ~ Shudder. Dark, awful set of mysteries.  Nice, clear prose and a brutal, depressing story with practically no redeeming features.

I read a shockingly small amount of books about science and nothing on math. Aiming to fix that in 2016 ~ suggestions of well-written titles dearly wanted!

I read two longer books aloud to my kids: the Childcraft book of Poetry, and this edition of The Wind & The Willows, which I highly recommend for its illustrations.

And, finally, as I mentioned on our Facebook page, one book stuck with me more than I expected it to: Jean Hersey’s The Shape of a Year. It’s not a great classic. There might even have been a few passages that I found a bit tedious. But mostly this is a quiet, content book about a year in the author’s life. She lived with her husband in Connecticut, gardened a lot, wrote some, traveled a bit… and her book is rich in the reminders of a quiet life. It had the warm feel one might expect in letters from a much-loved great aunt, I think.
One passage has been hanging over my head a lot lately:
“What fuzzy edges grow on our thinking when we live with a background of clutter.” ouch! And, yet, inspiring at the same time.

It was so, so good to get back to book-journaling in 2015! In 2016, I think I’ll post my monthly lists to the blog instead of leaving myself with a staggering amount to sort through at the end of the year. 😉

Did any of you post book lists on your blogs? I’d love to see them!

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