My Favorite Thing…Sleep

I’m a horrible cuddler.

Let me specify. When I first go to bed at night, I can’t do the falling asleep in someone’s arms thing. I need my space. Sorry, honey!

So it’s a bit unusual that one of my favorite things has been sleeping with my kids. In our bed.

Uh-oh! I’ve likely unleashed some parenting judgment. The clicking of the tongue (tsk tsk), the gasps of horror that we bring the kids into our bed…

I’ve heard all about ruining my child’s ability to be a long-term, healthy sleeper. That they need to learn to sleep, wake, and fall back to sleep again by themselves. And I totally get it – it’s valid. I’m throwing a different perspective out there anyway.

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Let me explain that our toddler has never been a good sleeper. Never. If you’ve ever experienced a bad sleeper, you’re probably already nodding your head in understanding. To those parents – hopefully, this post will remind you that you’re not alone and to not feel so bad about bringing them into bed with you at times.

Thank goodness, his sleeping has improved. He naps beautifully! Sleeps soundly for a good two hours, wakes, rolls out of his bed, and simply walks down the hall to reunite with his family.

But nighttime can be a different story. In my blog about choking out weeds, I shared how my toddler has vivid dreams, often of trivial conflicts. He talks in his sleep, and his dreams wake him with distress at times. Being jolted from sleep 3-4 times a night was just too much for us parents, so we’ve learned to be flexible. He always starts in his own bed, but he may not always remain there.

It’s funny…when he has his toddler tantrums during the day, my method is to leave him in his room to calm down and work it out for himself. He comes out when his tantrum is over, saying, “I’m done, Mama.” It’s not always quick, but he gets there. My hubby, on the other hand, tells me I need to console him, distract him, and he’ll calm down easier.

Different methods – I’m not sure which is better, but I do feel differently at night about the whole “let him work it out himself.” And yes, we have tried the crying it out thing. It worked…not so much.

There were times I could feel my frustration meter skyrocket when he woke at night. I blame it on sleep deprivation. Even if I didn’t show it, I could feel it. There were grumblings under my breath of Just. Go. To Sleep! and Please God, help him stop crying! I’d try to stay firm about him remaining in bed. But he could feel my frustration, too, and that just caused more crying.

At 2 am, you want a quick fix. How can I remove this head-pounding wail, avoid my 8-year old from being disturbed, and return the household to sleepyland as quickly as possible?

Hence, the decisions at times to pull him into bed with us.

The good thing about his sleep-talk is that he also sleep-listens. When he wakes from a dream lying next to us, we can lull him back to sleep with ease. Sometimes it’s as simple as answering him, “No, your brother isn’t in the room anymore, so he can’t take your toy car.” Wallah! Dream-conflict solved, and he’s back to sleep.

Honestly, I’m not worried about our toddler’s future ability to sleep on his own. When my oldest was a toddler, he slept with us now and then. And he’s the best sleeper of the family now! Out like a light the entire night. The only time he wakes is if he has a nightmare, which is seldom. When it happens, though, one of us doesn’t hesitate to lie down with him. I want him to know we’ll always be there to help, comfort, protect him, if need be.

Let me assure you we did not sleep with our newborns. The risk of rolling over onto them was too scary. But the odds of us harming our toddler is null. There’s a greater chance of him hurting us.

We’ve been kicked, whacked, shoved, poked, head-butted – I even got a puffy upper lip once from an elbow at just the right angle. 🙂 Some nights we’d wake at the risk of leaving the very edges of our King-sized bed while our toddler slept sideways between us – head in the crook of my side and feet digging into hubby’s back. BTW – What’s bigger than a King? A California King doesn’t cut it. I need more width, not length. Does anyone make an Emperor bed?

By being flexible with the sleeping, I truly believe we’re meeting his need at this stage in his life. When he wakes in the middle of the night feeling upset, he needs consoling. If lying between mom and dad offers him the comfort he needs to return to a peaceful sleep, I’m okay with that. He won’t be asking to do that when he’s fourteen, so I know it’s temporary. And along the way, I hope it builds confidence in him with a strong support system of love.


     Praise be to the God and Father
     of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of compassion and the God
of all comfort, who comforts us in all
our troubles, so that we can comfort
those in any trouble with the comfort
we ourselves receive from God. 

                                       2 Corinthians: 3-4


I’ll be honest, having him next to me is one of my favorite things. As a baby, my oldest used to nap on my chest on his tummy. I’d lay there with a physical feeling of peace. My body would feel relaxed, warm, and still. Nothing in the world felt more peaceful than his little body’s soft breathing. It was pure comfort. I missed that with my youngest – he just didn’t sleep like that with me. But I’ve learned that he, too, feels peace sleeping near us.

The other night I avoided frustration over his cries by reminding myself that I’m the person he relies on to comfort him – he needs me for this, not to lay down the law in the middle of the dark night. So, when he calmed a bit, I asked how I could help him.

  • [Me: Did you have a bad dream, sweetie?]
  • [Him: No.]
  • [Me: Are you upset that you woke up and still feel sleepy?]
  • [Him: Yes.]
  • [Me: What can I do to help?]
  • [Him: I want to go in the big bed with you and Dadda.]
  • [Me: Why do you want to go in the big bed, honey?]
  • [Him: (in his sweet, groggy, sleep-filled, small voice) Because it’s my favorite thing.] How can you say no to that? 🙂

Mine too, buddy! Come on – I’ll carry you!

Side note: I don’t blame my sleep deprivation on kids alone. Most times, it’s just my brain that refuses to shut down. When I woke one night at 1:00 am, resulting in insomnia, I laid there actually writing this post in my head. I resorted to getting up to write it down before I lost my thoughts. So I have my own sleep troubles at times. And no, my parents did NOT let me sleep with them. 🙂

 


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Go Ahead, Use the Big Bowl

Does the answer “Just because…” frustrate you like it does me?

  • [Me: Why did you smack your brother’s arm?]
  • [Him: Just because.]
  • [Me: That’s not a reason.]
  • [Him: Yes, it is.] Ugh!

I imagine they get tired of answering Why? questions just like we do.

  • [Him: Why are we going down this street?]
  • [Me: Because this is the way to the store.]
  • [Him: Why are we going to the store?]
  • [Me: Because we need milk.]
  • [Him: Why do we need milk?]
  • [Me: Just because!] Ugh!

Because we do…just because…because I said so. You know you’ve used those a few times. Despite the fact that you want real answers when you ask the questions.

But sometimes there is no reason. It’s random, impetuous, impulsive. Kids just being kids. Actually, it’s the very freedom we want them to feel because we know future grown-up days lack it. Big time.

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And why is that? Why can’t we adults be more impulsive? There doesn’t have to be a solid, thought-out reason for everything, does there?

I’m shooting for a little more impulsivity. Summer is the perfect backdrop for this. We’re supposed to slow down to smell the flowers, stop and look for cloud animals, feel the grass between our toes. Enjoy some freedom.

I’ve started a search this summer for things we do…just because.

Like tonight when I impulsively grabbed a blanket, a pillow, and laid beneath the clouds to enjoy the breeze and setting sun. You know what happened? The basketball stopped bouncing, and I was quickly joined by my 8-year old. We found cloud-fish, a cloud-dragon, and I saw a lady in a hat blowing into a kazoo. Yeah, I have no idea where that one came from. 🙂

Such simple things can help us stop all the constant motion and create memories.

Here’s a favorite of mine – backyard movie nights. We had a big Tahoe with a third seat and drop-down movie screen. One night, after getting our PJs on, we grabbed blankets and pillows and hauled the kids out to the Tahoe. They were pretty confused. My husband drove into the backyard (yes, on the grass he cares for so well), hit the lights, and we watched a Disney movie. So fun! It felt silly driving on the grass – that was fun all on its own – definitely not the norm. But parking in your own yard in the middle of the night when everyone else is probably in the house or in bed is double fun!

It doesn’t always have to be something big. A just because moment can be as simple as a kitchen bowl.

When the only family member willing to hit a grocery run with me was my 2-year old, I felt extra giving. Bless my toddler, he still says yes to running errands with me.

We got ice cream…just because. He wanted mint, so I grabbed mint…just because.

It was ½ hour from bedtime, and I could see in the rear view mirror that I was losing him to sleepyland. I didn’t want him going there just yet, so I struck up a conversation.

  • [Me: What kind of bowl do you want your ice cream in – a big one or a little one?]
  • [Him: A little one. (pause) No, a big one.]
  • [Me: A big one it is.]
  • [Him: I want it in the big salad bowl we just got at Walmart.] First of all, his memory awes me – that was 2 weeks ago. Secondly, this is not an individual salad bowl; this is the bowl you put the whole tossed salad in!
  • [Me: Okay.] Thinking, he’ll probably forget or change his mind.

But then I got home and thought, Why not? It would be fun to hand him a bowl practically half his size. Granted, the ice cream serving will be normal-sized. But why does the bowl have to be? It doesn’t add any work. A bowl is a bowl and either one gets cleaned afterward.

So I did…just because. He got a kick out of it, and didn’t even notice the serving size of the ice cream.

And although I keep saying these things are done just because…they do actually have a purpose. To remind our kids (and ourselves) to find joy in the little things. And maybe even more important, that it’s okay to be impulsive sometimes – to let go and be spontaneous. I forget to do that.

I’m hoping the just because answer turns from a rolling-of-the-eyes, frustrated response to an eyes-lit-up, happy response. Where I do something impulsively fun and unexpected and my kids ask why, and I happily answer, Just because! And they’ll smile…knowing what that answer truly means.

Randomly, in the middle of playing basketball, my little one surprised me with a declaration of love.

  • [Him: I love you, Mama.]
  • [Me: I love you, too. (pause) What made you say, I love you?]
  • [Him: Just because I love you.]

Just because…that’s good enough for me!

What just because moments are you creating with your kids? Please share…and give us all some great ideas!

Toddlers & Pedicures (Mine, Not His!)

A Mom’s work is never done. But that is most important to me. So when I’m not at my job, I’m with my kids.

I want to spend as much time with them as possible. Having a full-time career outside the home helps me care for my family, but it does put a big dent in the time factor. So I just weave my own stuff in where I can – photography, furniture redesign, my blog – I do them with my kids, around my kids, or after everyone’s asleep!

Obviously, there are things for me that I skip. I just don’t find the time.

The other day I realized it’s summer. Oh, I know, it was already here. But summer is truly here when footwear changes. I was looking at a pair of sandals, realizing I should get a pedicure. I really WANT a pedicure. Yes, I could do it myself, but they do a much better job. But fitting in something like this is tough, because I’m seldom alone.

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I stopped to consider when I could get a pedicure.

Then tried to guess when my hubby might be able to give me an hour solo.

Then wondered what’s stopping me from taking my 2-year old with me to get a pedicure?

Oops, did I lose you there? You’re thinking…Everything!

Yes, the toddler years can be challenging. But let’s stop thinking this is the terrible 2’s and 3’s. Here’s what I LOVE about my toddler!

Lots of Yes

Toddlers find their independence. They dress themselves. They pull themselves into their car seat. Mine can zip his own jacket. They want to do everything alone. Independence also brings opinions. They start to say No to you.

But have you noticed they say Yes when others don’t?

Who’s going to the grocery store with me? Guess who’s first to answer, “I will!”

My 2-year old.

Who can pick up the toys the quickest before my vacuum sucks them up? Guess who stops what he’s doing to help?

My 2-year old.

I need someone to do me a favor. Guess who’s first to respond, “What is it, Mama?”

My 2-year old.

This age is often still one of agreement, the pure interest in everyday activities and just interacting with others. This is one of the things I love – because he reminds ME to just enjoy being together…even if it’s a grocery run.

Lots of Funny

They say the funniest things at this age. My little one cracks me up almost daily. It was true of my oldest when he was this age, too. I’ll never forget a shopping trip where I was trying on pants in the dressing room. My son honestly shared his observations.

[Him: Mama, your butt is big.]

[Me: Yeah.]

[Him: It’s bigger than mine.]

[Me: It should be. I’m a bigger person.]

[Him: It’s a lot bigger.] Okay, thank you.

I could just imagine women in the other dressing rooms trying to stuff something in their mouths to keep from bursting out.

Laughter keeps us young. Bless the kiddos for reversing the clock for me!

Lots of Life

The force is strong in this one. I just saw a movie trailer about a new (non-animated) movie in the Star Wars saga coming this December. And Harrison Ford and Chewbacca were in it! Sorry, side track.

Toddlers are full of life. They’re in a world of discovery, open to anything because it’s still new. They have all the time in the world to truly enjoy things. This life force can seep into us…if we let it.

Let’s be honest. With time, everyday activities become repetitive, mundane…just not interesting. And it seems we need bigger and better things to excite us. But toddlers are stimulated by the simplest of pleasures.

Like a ripe peach. He bites into the side, and juice runs down his chin. And he couldn’t care less. He’s in the moment of enjoying that sweet taste. It’s inspiring to see.

And it’s not just my toddler. I’m thankful that my 8-year old still sees the wonder in things. Recently, it was the week the cottonwood trees drop their seeds. Yes, it can be a mess. But this day there was a light breeze, and cottonwood tufts were blowing all along our street, almost mimicking a soft snowfall. When I pointed it out to my 8-year old, he said, “It’s beautiful!”

They see the beauty in things. They focus on the moment. Do we? Not enough, I think. This is what I want to boost in my adult years.

So I’m back to wondering if I could take my 2-year old with me to get a pedicure.

  • [Me: I’d like to ask you a favor.]
  • [Him: What is it, Mama?]
  • [Me: I’d like to go get my toes washed and painted – it’s called a pedicure – so they look nice and pretty. Would you go with me?]
  • [Him: Yes.] Just that simple…
  • [Me: What color should I get?]
  • [Him: Purple.] Ummm…
  • [Me: Why purple?]
  • [Him: Because that’s a girl’s favorite color.]
  • [Me: I didn’t know that.] I’m not getting purple!
  • [Him: Can I have a treat?]

THAT, I agreed to!

And in the spirit of continuing to tend my flowers, I thanked him whole-heartedly for spending part of his day doing something for me.

He gave me a shy smile, touched noses, and said, “You’re welcome, Mama!”

At the salon, he proceeded to ask everyone what their favorite color is. Love my toddler!


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Weeds, Prepare to Be Choked!

My 2-year old has vivid dreams. I know this because he sleep-talks. Some dreams are confrontations…everyday toddler concerns like someone taking a toy, or not letting him have a treat before dinner. His cries are as real as the dreams feel to him, and quite loud, especially at 1 am. I have no doubt he’s accelerating my impending deafness in old age. 🙂

He woke crying just the other night.

  • [Me: Can you tell me what’s wrong?] Not sure he’s even fully awake, I’m rubbing his back consolingly.
  • [Him: I want a big one! Wah! Wah!] What is the best word for a crying sound? Sorry, this is all I could come up with. Makes him sound like one of those fake dolls, but imagine a more heartfelt sound.
  • [Me: A big one of what?]
  • [Him: A dandelion!] As if that was the most obvious answer.

My poor boy has such tumultuous dreams…about dandelions, for goodness sake.

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Summer means new growth. Rich black soil between my fingers to welcome flowers in my garden pots and walkways.

Summer means grass clippings. A fresh, clean scent wafting from the large expanse of lawn that welcomes running feet and kickball.

Summer means dandelions. Yes, those yellow-petaled weeds that drive my hubby nuts. How dare they spot his perfectly green lawn.

My 2-year old, however, happily pulls them for me on a daily basis, and they are placed in high regard in a drinking glass on the kitchen counter. Score for Dad, too, since our little guy pulls them up before they seed. 🙂

He doesn’t realize dandelions are weeds, and it doesn’t matter. What does matter are the weeds I let pop up in my everyday interactions.

It’s about attitude. I’ve seen my attitude spread, in both positive and negative ways. Sometimes it’s shown in as simple a way as using manners.

For example, when I make super-polite requests, I usually get super-helpful responses.

But when I am testy, I see its seeds take root in those around me.

Like this last Sunday when putting groceries away. I was flitting from bag to bag like a hummingbird, searching for all cold items belonging in the fridge. I was a bit irritated at having gone to the store and now having to put everything away with no one lining up to give me a hand. Where was my Samsung refrigerator commercial where an assembly line of family members helps fit all the groceries into the extra-large fridge to Peter Gabriel’s song Big Time? Hmmm, is it because I have a Whirlpool? 🙂

I thrust a box of applesauce to my older son and barked, “Put this away.”

Eyes still downward toward the bags, I noticed his legs were firmly planted. I looked up. “Please?” he rolled his eyes at me.

Now part of me wanted to say, Don’t be sassy with me. But the other part of me – the one being really honest – was guilty for being so harsh and impolite. He was right, so I didn’t correct him on the eye-rolling. Instead, I apologized and wondered how often I let weeds like this spread. How do I expect them to be helpful, polite, and respectful if I’m not?

I’ve decided to actively choke out the weeds by planting more flowers through acts of tenderness.


     Do nothing out of selfish ambition
     or vain conceit. Rather, in humility
value others above yourselves, not
looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others. 

                                       Philippians 2:3-4


Today, I placed my son’s dandelions on the kitchen table for dinner. To kick off my flower-tending promise. I didn’t share this promise. It is for me to remember and for me to keep. But, hopefully, for everyone to feel.

My promise is to gift these 5 acts of tenderness to my family. Every. Day.

  • A thank you
  • A compliment
  • A word of encouragement
  • A hug & kiss
  • A prayer

I vow to do this with both of my sons and my husband (so that’s 15 acts a day)! Some are easy, like the hug & kiss. Others need conscious thought. None is dependent on their actions. And the prayers are acts of tenderness that don’t always need to be heard to still be powerful.

Each act is individual and unique to the person. Plus, they are given with explanation. The thank you is not simply to say “thank you.” Like when my son did not perform his usual invasion of the pantry 20 minutes after dinner. When he asked for permission first, I specifically told him, “Thank you for asking my permission before grabbing a snack from the pantry.”

I started this 5 days ago. I’ve found that the time I spend looking for these opportunities leaves less time to get frustrated over little things. And the positive nature can absolutely spread.

Here were the other acts of tenderness with my oldest the first day.

  • Compliment: I really enjoy seeing the details you put into your drawings.
  • Word of encouragement: Your reading is getting stronger each time I hear you.
  • Hug & kiss: I did this with him after he gave up a toy car his brother wanted. BTW – This is a random show of affection, sometimes for no reason at all, not a typical goodbye or goodnight hug and kiss.
  • Prayer: I pray that 3rd grade will be your best school year yet.

Since I never fail my nightly ritual to wash my face and brush my teeth, I’ve placed a reminder on my bathroom mirror: How many flowers did you tend today? I know some weeds will pop up here and there, but the more time I spend tending to the flowers, the less room for the weeds to grow.

My prayer tonight for my 2-year old will be, “I pray that Jesus walks into your sleepy mind with his arms full of happy dreams.” No more dandelion confrontations! Just sleep-giggles, please!

In the comments below, share your acts of tenderness – it may even spread as an idea for someone else. We can choke out the weeds together!

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


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