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Tonight I’m looking for seeds online for our garden in the backyard and I’m finding the reviews touching. There’s a reason this all feels so emotional but right now I’m grateful for the onslaught of feeling. I’m reminded that I can think about more than just flying wind turbines and multimedia documentation when something like this calls to mind how quickly life moves. Writing from the Virgin Islands about Sunset Runner Beans, a user review:

I am a beginner gardener and was drawn to the picture of the blossoms for this bean variety over the reddish-orange varieties. I had expected a wait of more than 2 months before these would set any blossoms, based on the desc. and reviews of the other runner bean varieties but it’s been 5 weeks since they’ve germinated, with good rain, and many plants have set bloom. The colour of the blossoms went from white, when closed 2 days ago, to rusty coloured yesterday, when I thought they’d failed in some way, to a peachy pink when some blooms opened today and they are exquisite looking! So beautiful against the green foliage. I would grow these just for the blooms. Even the purple blossoms from my bush bean varieties don’t affect me as much as these blooms have. Their delicate, lovely appearance is very refreshing, calming and uplifting. Looking forward to the upcoming beans.

I can just imagine her (?) daily examination of the plant, eagerly awaiting first the blossoms and then the beans. Do she and her dinner companions compare notes over the dinner table? How did her yield turn out? Pros she lists as Blossomed in 6 weeks and Cons are Has to be Trellised.

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I want to jot a few things down about sleep while I still remember what we’re going through (and why). I know this is totally tldr; but because I’ve relied upon the advice of so many people this week I want to make sure I can recall everything even though my short-term memory is no doubt extremely extremely compromised due to lack of sleep.

A baby at four months of age can sometimes go through what’s called the ‘four month sleep regression’. Yeah, that’s what it’s called, and it is as bad as it sounds, but it’s not really what I’d call a regression. It’s actually a step forward in development (yay!). They begin to recognize patterns in activity in the world around them, and they get worried if/when things aren’t the same when they wake up as they were when they went to sleep. Another thing I didn’t know before this, is that sleep is learned. A person doesn’t just innately have the ability to release their conscious mind and nod off, but must figure out how to drift into a slumber.

At four months of age Dash stopped sleeping as well in all the ways we were used to having him sleep. Previously we’d have Dash sleep on us during the day because that worked. If he didn’t fall asleep quickly enough a short walk would always, always konk him out like a light. At night we’d dutifully try to put him in his bassinet because they say it’s important for babies to sleep in their crib/basket/hammock/closet but we’d then pull him into bed with us after he woke at night and demanded food.

That’s what we’d been doing, but suddenly at four months he started to really dread being put down in the basket at night and he’d fight sleep . At night we spent hours bouncing him on the ball and singing lullabies, then we’d lay the babe down in the basket and he’d jerk awake and start bawling. Jamie and I began to hate nighttime and we weren’t too crazy about each other, either. During the day Dash would sleep on us but not for long enough—little guys like he is now are supposed to sleep for a couple of hours every couple hours, and he was only sleeping thirty, forty minutes and then waking up excited to see what games we were going to play (see photo above of Aunt Charlie doing every trick in her book to keep bebe sleeping for a significant nap time). So, we decided we needed some help in the sleep department.

One tough night I asked the advice of Henrik Bennetsen, another parent (a more advanced one with three children to learn from). I thought I was ready for the dreaded Cry it Out, or anyway something. I knew I needed something. He said, “There is lots of different advice out there so it is really about finding something you believe in and then sticking with it. For me that was The Sleep Easy Solution.” The thing about this book that sold me is that they suggest that doing some sleep training, while it can be excruciating, can result in less crying overall—they call it the least-cry solution. That seemed to correlate with what we were beginning to experience on the ground in our household.

I got the book, I started reading it, it all made sense, and then we kind of accidentally started doing it one night, even though we weren’t ready. I was going to go on a nighttime adventure (Dave Chappelle!) and Jamie was going to be home alone, and, well. It just seemed like it was our last chance to try it until maybe mid-April, when he might be teething or have some other developmental milestone we would delay for.

Where we’re at—definitely still in the middle of it—is night 3 in this experiment. We’re supposed to keep going for at least 5 nights and days, and then keep doing it at least 10 to cement the learning. The last 2 nights have been brutal so I won’t describe them overly much except to say it’s no fun listening to your baby cry and that night two he fell asleep more quickly than night one (1.75 hours, .5 hours).

I will say that I have a lot of optimism for this approach because when the baby is awake, instead of putting him down under his play station to let him bat at some toys I’m actually hanging out with him, batting at the toys myself. Right now I know that when it’s nap time I will have some time to myself instead of wearing a baby and trying to keep him asleep. So for the past few days I have been treasuring every single second of his awake precious smiling adorable face. Which I love unbelievably much.

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So that we can commiserate with people who have fresh babies, I’m continuing to jot down some of the details:

  1. Weaning from the habit of nursing to sleep in the middle of the night was horrid—we started that last night and he cried from about 1:45 am until 4 am. That was truly awful and none of us slept because we’re all in the same room. The second time he woke up (around 5:45 am) he only cried for about forty minutes.
  2. At first when I was reading the book on sleep I was thinking they didn’t need to be so babyish about the writing, and I didn’t need to read that the baby would still love me and be cheerful in the morning… But I can tell you I remembered and repeated to myself every one of those words when he was crying last night and when he woke up in the morning kind of catatonic from lack of sleep and we were worried that we were breaking his spirit. And they have to write in a babyish way because the people reading the book are not functioning properly when they read it.
  3. Ways we cheated so far: supposedly if you aren’t going to lay them in bed to sort out learning how to sleep for themselves you should have a nap-in-motion, so we let him sleep in the carseat while we biked over to a BBQ yesterday. He was so tired (poor guy) that we couldn’t have kept him up anyway.
  4. Another cheat: Today we let him nap on me while we had lunch with my former photo teacher and her partner. He slept from 2:10 until 5:30.
  5. Buy a really nice effing white noise machine, because we just got one today and night three he cried for maybe a minute or two but really hardly at all and now he is either asleep or maybe dead? (sorry, not funny but sometimes one has that thought and I would rather admit it).
  6. Recommended reading: for month two! Do this!! Do this!! We read some things like this but it didn’t make any sense to us at the time. While your baby is still tiny and not yet 4 months try to lay them down in their bed awake if you can. Even if you don’t do that, at least start working on your nighttime ritual so that by month 4 you kind of know what you’re doing.
  7. Read everything because one of these things will be the one that makes the most sense to you—they all kind of say the same thing. Today, just when I was most doubting that we should keep doing this we ran into the author of this post (a pediatrician) just by utter coincidence, and this writing was very encouraging and validated everything else I had read. And Natalie wrote to say that CIO was what worked for them with Joy, and Nick and Ingrid did something like this for Leo and Luke… anyway, just keep reading and asking everyone what they think until you find a way that works for you.
  8. If you don’t care if your babies sleep with you till age 5, or otherwise you don’t want to do any of this—that is fine! We decided on our sleep goals (baby goes to sleep at ~7, we have some time to ourselves) and are simply doing our best to get there. I expect a lot more bumps in this road.
  9. I am more sleep deprived now than I was when Dash was very small. I call him little bug sometimes, but tonight I called him little gub. So. You can see that my brain is scrambled big time, which is why I’m going to stop writing this and go to bed.

One of the best walks from our doorstep is this great 3 mile loop to Bernal and back again. It’s one of those infamous San Francisco hills that really gets your heart and lungs going, and the views (and people/dog watching) make it worth the effort. The hill also holds a lot of great memories (first kiss, marriage proposal, family visits). Arwen & Saul and their clan live up there, and I can scarcely think of a better way to spend an afternoon than sitting in their backyard watching friends of all ages burning calories on the trampoline.

Last night we hiked up with Paula, who was working on a talk she’s got to give next week, and enjoyed the view and the exercise and the thunder and lightning and the glorious, glorious sunset before we parted ways in the dusk. Jamie and I went to eat very delicious (and very authentic, homesickness-inducing Peruvian food) and Paula walked home to hammer on her presentation materials…

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In the name of a shorter commute—we’re packing up our beloved Hayloft and heading to the East Bay. We’ll trade a 3 hour bike trek for 10 minutes of commuting each way. We’re also gaining multiple bedrooms, a dining room with a built-in bench, a garage for bike storage, laundry and dishwashing machines and a backyard for gardening. Overall a pretty big change. We’re excited but also sad to leave the Mission after over 8 years here… So many good restaurants, coffee, hills for walking…

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Before we knew Dashiell was a boy, or that he was the Dash we know and love—I was inspired by the portraits of mothers who had recently given birth by Rineke Dijkstra and knew I wanted to do something like it after I gave birth. Then I thought—wouldn’t it be cool to keep taking portraits after that—of everyone who held him?

It turns out that it was a little unrealistic to take a portrait directly after the birth (so many people! so much exhaustion!), so we took one the morning after. It’s also not quite possible to photograph everyone who holds Dash, but we’ve got a pretty amazing series of portraits going now.

Here are our midwives.

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We were able to birth at home, which was wonderful for us, though I understand it is neither appealing nor possible for everyone. For us it worked out, and just barely (we had a deadline because once your amniotic sack is open there’s an infection risk). I gave birth ten minutes before we’d have needed to go to the hospital to be induced. The baby was 7 lbs even, 19 inches.

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His head came out quite coned—but it was less so by daybreak and even more round and normal by the day after…

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My water broke! We wanted a home birth so we had to encourage labor—it’s not automatic (we didn’t know). We did a lot of walking up hills, took some herbs, etc. It was actually pretty lovely overall. We did that for three days and then…

Not so bad viewing the sunset from the San Francisco side this eve. #maternityleave #nobabeyet

Last weekend we jaunted quickly to see Jamie’s Great-Aunt Henrietta and her daughter, Kara, in Mendocino. Kara was up from down south in LA and we came at just the right time to give her a ride to the airport Monday afternoon. Mendocino is achingly beautiful from every angle and we always enjoy walking from Henrietta’s cosy house into town for all manner of errands (to say hello to the people in the community center, or the library, or the cafe, or ask for advice at the knitting store…).

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