Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five Bullshit Ways to Get Your Toddlers to Sleep Longer

My boys have some sort of twisted, personal vendetta against the joy that is sleep, and I don’t know how to rid them of it.

It started a few weeks ago, when daylight savings time screwed all parents over took effect. Instead of reveling in that extra hour of sleep they’d theoretically gained (as any reasonable human being would), my apparently-part-vampire toddlers started waking up a full TWO HOURS earlier than usual.

I’ve tried everything to get them back on schedule, from suggestions I’ve found online, to ideas concocted by my own chronically sleep-deprived mind.

I even dedicated part of my weekly spiritual devotion to fixing the problem. You know you’ve hit a low point when you find yourself sitting in church on a Sunday morning, imploring the Lord to make your kids sleep through the 6 AM Saturday airing of Thomas and Friends just ONCE this month. (I hate those creepy-ass locomotives; trains should not have faces.)

The boys? Well, they passed our time in church tugging on my bra straps, poking the visible bags beneath my eyes, and running literal circles around the narthex (much to the annoyance of a particularly uptight-looking fellow toddler-mama, who was sitting on a bench with her own young boy, his hands folded neatly in his lap, not a peep escaping his perfectly-pursed-together lips)*.

*Side note: If loud, energetic kids annoy you, and your own kid is perfectly well-behaved during mass, SIT IN CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CONGREGATION. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." And I'm no Bible expert, but I don't recall any mention of him mumbling, "BUT SHUT THEM THE HELL UP FIRST" under his breath.

Unfortunately—albeit, not surprisingly—my prayers for delayed morning-risings have gone unanswered.

If you’re like me, and you’re desperate to get your toddlers to sleep in longer, do yourself a favor: Stop trying. Toddlers are illogical by nature, and attempting to utilize any sort of rationality when dealing with their behavior will only drive you further down the road to Crazy Town.

Here are five logical (and, thus, ineffective) ways to get your toddlers to sleep longer:

1. Don’t allow them to nap during the day. 

It’s simple math. The less sleep kids get during the day, the more they’ll need at night, right? WRONG.

Allow me to illustrate my point. Think of your kids’ sleep requirements in terms of a modern story problem (since child sleeping patterns make about as much sense as that common core math bullshit anyway):

Question 1: Billy needs a total of 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, or he becomes a cranky little A-hole. Suppose Mom allows him to nap for exactly ZERO hours during the day. If she puts him to bed at 8 PM, what time should he wake up in the morning so as NOT to be a cranky little A-hole?

Answer: 8 AM

Question 2: What time will he ACTUALLY wake up?

Answer: 5 AM


2. Keep your kids’ rooms dark. 

The idea here is that if it looks like nighttime, your kids will act like it’s nighttime, i.e., when their little peepers pop open at 5 AM to total blackness, they will reasonably determine that it’s not yet morning, and thus not time to get up yet.

HAHAHAHA. “Kids…reasonably determine”: I can’t even type that oxymoronic bullshit with a straight face.

If my kids thought darkness = sleepy time, they wouldn’t conk out in their car seats on the reg—sunlight beaming through the windows into their tiny, defiant faces—only to wake up kicking and screaming five minutes later when I try to move them to their dimly lit bedrooms.

3. Take them to the playground to tucker them out. 

Fresh air, exercise, the thrill of chasing other kids around an open area: What kid wouldn’t be tempted to sleep in after a long afternoon of monkey bar swinging, rock wall climbing, and random giant-bug-contraption bouncing (see photos, below)?

Your kid. Your kid wouldn’t. Neither would my kid. Or any kid, for that matter. Playgrounds only seem to invigorate children, and the only “tiring” that takes place involves the little pieces of rubber being plucked off the ground and chucked at one another.

Oh, Mama, you think this is going to wear me out?
You poor, naive, fool of a woman.
Giant ladybugs are to me what Starbucks is to you.


Yup, definitely "BUZZED."

Not only does this fail to make my kids sleep in, but I think it actually causes them to wake up earlier by giving them something to look forward to the next day. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 4 AM to tiny toddler fists pounding on my door, demanding to go back and bounce on the giant ladybug "RIGHT NOW."

4. Set an alarm/timer/nightlight/etc. to go off at the desired wake-up hour. 

In theory, this is supposed to serve as an indication to your kids that it is okay to get out of bed.

In practice, this gives your kids another loud toy to play with when they wake up at the ass crack o’ dawn.

5. If your kids wake up early, explain to them that it’s still “nighttime,” and gently tuck them back into bed. 

Okay, let’s be real: If you think that’s going to work, your own sleep deprivation is clearly beginning to affect your cognitive functioning.

You should probably just pour yourself a glass of wine cup of coffee, put on PBS, and pray those little monsters agree to put their clothes back on before you take them out in public, despite their insistence that “Daniel Tiger doesn’t have to wear pants.”

So far, the only way I’ve managed to successfully get my kids to sleep in longer in the morning involves exposing them to germs when their immune systems are compromised. This works, not because they sleep more when they’re sick (in fact, it seems their miniscule bodies go into defense mode, creating a surplus of energy that manifests as extra bed-bouncing), but because it gives me a justified excuse to pump them with Children’s Nyquil.*

And I’ll gladly take a little extra snottiness from my kids if it buys me a few more hours of shuteye in the morning.

*I don’t actually do this. I usually just take a cool washcloth and stuff it in their mouths lovingly drape it across their foreheads, like any good mom would. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Can’t Write About What Happened in Paris

Our hearts are with Paris.

Prayers for Paris.


We’ve all heard about it by now, and still, I can’t write the words.

I can’t write them because I can’t find them. They’re lost, floating around somewhere in a sea of sorrow and disbelief.

Words are my currency, my vessels of expression. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s what I know. It’s how I communicate.

But I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because I can’t understand it. I can’t write about it because it doesn’t compute. I can’t write about it because it’s unfathomable.

How do you put words to something so senseless? It’s like trying to write about an alien planet in a galaxy that’s just been discovered, where the creatures that inhabit its unfamiliar surface are surrounded by an atmosphere of toxicity, one that my human body doesn’t recognize. One I couldn’t survive in.

It’s like trying to write in a foreign language, one I’ve never learned to speak, one that doesn’t register when I hear it verbalized.

It’s like trying to write about something so immeasurably horrendous, that the mere effort of putting it into words is too painful, and my mind puts up a defense barrier that won’t allow me to go there.


Do you know what I was doing when the first news reports started coming in? Frosting cookies. I was frosting car-shaped gingerbread cookies for my twin boys’ third birthday party, while they bounced on the couch in their mismatched jammies as my husband read them bedtime stories.

It’s surreal, isn’t it?

As we began hearing more and more details, my husband set the storybook down on his lap and looked up at me.

“Isn’t it crazy?” he asked, my toddlers still bouncing on the couch cushions, blissfully ignorant of the evil that goes on in this world. “Isn’t it crazy to think that we’re sitting here, getting the boys ready for bedtime, reading them stories, and there are people out there who think we should die? That there are people out there who would come in here and rape you, and probably kill the boys? That there are people who actually think it’s right to do stuff like that?”

It’s not just crazy. It’s painful.


I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because its reality, once acknowledged, is incomprehensibly terrifying. Painfully terrifying.

I look at my sweet, perfect boys, and imagine someone wanting to hurt them. The mere thought leaves me breathless, leaves my body so paralyzed with fear and denial that I can’t even shed the tears I feel condensing in the depths of my soul.

They are everything beautiful about this world. They are uninhibited joy. They are unadulterated love.

They are life.

Life: A perplexing word, isn’t it? So small, so concise. So compact. Four little letters that encapsulate so much vibrancy, so many intricacies, so much love and energy.

But that’s my boys: enormous souls housed in tiny bodies.

They are life—souls and hearts manifested corporeally, with the ability to express and communicate and simply be.

They are life, just like I am. Like you are. Like every single victim in last night’s attack was.

Every single one. I can’t tell you how many: how many lives—mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and friends and sisters and brothers—were actually taken last night.

I can’t tell you because I can’t read, watch, or listen to any of the news reports about it.

It hurts too much.

And I still can’t write about it. I can’t write about the innocent lives that were lost, or the not-so-innocent lives that stole them.

I can’t write about the pain. I can’t write about the horror. I can’t write about the irrationality.

What I can do is pray. I can pray for the families of the victims. I can pray for the citizens of Paris. I can pray for the people in this world—those who hurt, and those who do the hurting.

I can pray for peace and change. 

And I can live.

I can be grateful for the life I have—the life I still have.

I can frost birthday cookies and read bedtime stories. I can kiss my husband and hold my boys close to me. I can honor the lives that were lost by celebrating and cherishing the ones that weren’t.

I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

But I can live. I can live with purpose, intention, and gratitude.

And I can let my life do the talking (or the writing) for me.