thismummaslife

Motherhood, Art, Creative Play, and Finding Joy in Everyday Life


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Our Mornings

tea mug
Through my sleep, I become aware of the sound of 4-year-old mouth-breathing in my room, and then feel the mattress start bouncing as he climbs into my bed and starts whining at me to move over and make room for him to snuggle. I groan and grumble at him to stop pulling on my blanket, but I move over anyway. “Snuggling” lasts for maybe two minutes, before he becomes bored, and begins his list of demands for breakfast, someone to play with him, and/or for me to rub or scratch his back. Usually, I complain that the numbers on the clock say it is too early, and that he needs to go play in his room for a few minutes, and give Mumma a chance to wake up.

Occasionally, this plan works, and I get to spend another 15 minutes or so dozing, while I listen to the imaginative narrations and sound effects of his play over the baby monitor. My bubble inevitably bursts though, as Lego creations are thrust into my face, or shouts of “Can you come wipe my butt!!!?” wake me again.

When we come down the stairs, he is chatty—too chatty for an introverted, non-morning person Mom to handle before coffee. I relish in closing the bathroom door behind me for a moment, creating a physical barrier between us, so that I can pee in peace. However, he usually bursts in on me anyway, says he “just wants to be with me”, and sits on his little bathroom step stool, staring at me while I do my business, and giving me a grin that is somehow simultaneously endearing and obnoxious.

We then make our way to the kitchen, where the regular routine of me suggesting something for breakfast, and him repeatedly asking: “But what else do we have?” begins. This either ends in me losing patience, and making him whatever I am having anyway despite his protests, or giving in and allowing him to have a yogurt tube (they are supposed to be for preschool lunches) and crackers for breakfast, while I have my granola and fruit.

Finally, at the breakfast table, I usually get my moment of peace. He is too impatient to get on with the day’s playing, and instead of demanding and arguing that he stay at the table to eat, I allow him to come and go, returning to the table for an occasional bite, while he makes tinker toy contraptions, or engages a toy ninja in a fight with a knight. His needs being met, and off in his little world, I sip my coffee, eat my own breakfast, and read a book or doodle in my sketchbook. My brain slowly thaws from grogginess, and I become, at least a little bit, human.

At one point, I formed an idealized vision–of us having breakfast together every morning, side-by-side at the table, enjoying conversation–and I tried to make it a reality. This resulted in too much squirminess on his part, and too much impatience on mine. I believe in the importance of the family meal, which we fulfill at dinnertime. Breakfast and lunch with my child, on the days when we are home together, are much more relaxed and fluid, and I have decided to be OK with that, rather than beat myself up about it.

Today is one of such days at home. I do not have to work, and he has no preschool. He has a runny nose and slight cough, so I want to keep him inside the house and as relaxed as possible in order to avoid this little cold from combining with his asthma and becoming croup or worse. I am also heavily pregnant, so while my hope is to get all of the laundry done, dishes washed, dinner planned, and vacuuming done, I am accepting the reality that it might not all happen.

I am reading and drinking a cup of tea while he watches Magic School Bus. He comes over for a bite of his food and sees my mug. “Can I have some tea?” he asks.

I go pour some of the still warm water from my tea preparations into a mug, add a blueberry tea bag, and bring it to the table. He comes back into the dining room, and reaches for his mug. Something catches his attention on the television, he fails to stop paying attention to his actions, and his flailing arm knocks his tea over. (I knew I should not have filled it up so full.)

“Oops! I didn’t mean to.” he tells me, as I jump up and start frantically moving things out-of-the-way before the spreading tea puddle can get to them.
“Quick!”, I shout, “Go get the paper towels!”
He intends to, but he is taking time, perfecting his dismount from the chair.
Go get the paper towels!”
He is still worried more about doing just the right kind of jump than his shouting mother.
“UGH!”, I sigh with frustration, and make my way to the kitchen to grab what I need, leaving the puddle still spreading on the table. I then make a totally uncool Mom move, when I blurt: “Why are you NEVER fast enough when I ask you to do something!?” I instantly regret these words of criticism, and take a deep inhale. “I’m sorry. I am not mad at you. I am only frustrated because you were not paying attention. I know it was an accident.”

I wipe up the huge spill (Really, why did I fill his mug so full?), he wanders back off to watch his show, and I take another deep breath. The tea missed my library book, and the basket of clean laundry that really should not have been on the table we eat at in the first place, and at least the dining room now smells like blueberries. Finally, I go put on a new pot of water to make him a fresh cup of tea before plopping back down to read more of my book.

Eventually, I will feel ready to get on with the day. I will get myself dressed, and some days, I even manage to convince him to change out of his pajamas too. I will load the dishwasher, and scratching even just one thing off my to-do list will make me feel accomplished. We will glue buttons onto cardboard together , or build a castle out of blocks. He will eventually demand lunch, and I will insist that he have some type of fruit or vegetable with it. He will mope that he just wants pickles and pretzels, and I will try to explain proper nutrition as I spread peanut butter. We will read a pile of picture books, or draw on the driveway with chalk. I will try to pick up clutter while he follows me around like a puppy, pretending to be a baby armadillo, or praying mantis, or whatever the animal/insect of the day is. He will constantly run in front of me, almost tripping me up, and I will silently wish that he would stop talking in a baby voice. At 2:30 I will excitedly announce that Daddy will be home soon, and start mentally counting down the minutes as I wait to hear his car pull into the drive. At this point, the afternoon shifts, and the second half of our day begins.

It took me a while to accept the fact that I am not a get-up-and-go, seize the day type of Mom. I was never that way before kids, so why should I expect it of myself now, when I am even more tired and more frequently overwhelmed? On the days that we do have to be out of the house early, I somehow manage to do what takes me hours on our days at home, in the span of 45 minutes. Those days I feel like Superwoman for getting us both fed, dressed, packed, and out the door and into the car. Somehow I even do my hair, put on makeup, and accessorize. I usually only do this twice a week, but somehow it seems like a humongous feat, despite the fact that I know other parents do the same thing every single week day. Then, our next day at home will arrive, and I will feel slow again, and in need of another long “thaw”. I cannot compare myself with those other 5-days-a-week parents, because their family has different needs, and they are different people.
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I am not entirely sure why I felt the need to record and to blog about our mornings. Perhaps it is because I know it will soon change, with the arrival of the new Baby. This post can be a little snapshot to look back on later, including the good and the imperfect, of what our relaxed routine was like with Mumma home and only one child. Perhaps it is a step in my continuing efforts to remain comfortable with my parenting style, and to be OK with who I am as a Mom. I am sure that I am not the only parent out there, who feels less than stellar first thing after waking up, and who might worry about how our being tired effects our abilities with our kids.

I think it is both.


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Packing for the Hospital

hospital 2

2010

As of two days ago, I am 35 weeks pregnant. This means that my estimated due date is in just over a month!!! Since I am working right up until the end, am already Mumma to an active 4-year-old, and we are still renovating our bedroom and getting the house in order, I know this last month is going to fly by. So, I am working on being more prepared for when the time comes.

Yesterday, I finished making a list of everything we will pack in our hospital bag. This way, as we get closer to the time, I can start to put some things in the bag, and scratch them off the list. I believe this will also make things so much easier, when labor begins, to have the list to look at for adding the final things, like toiletries, that can’t be packed up in advance.

So, in case it interests you, or helps other expecting parents to make their own list, I decided to share mine along with my comments about what I was glad we had last time, and what I wished we would have had. I might make last-minute tweaks in the weeks to come, but I really think this list will encompass everything we will need to be more comfortable for labor, delivery, and our stay afterward.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FOR OUR HOSPITAL BAG:

Items for Labor:

~A copy of our birth plan. My midwife will have a copy, but I want to bring one with us just in case she is unavailable when I go into labor, to have for the staff on duty.

~Some soothing CD’s. When I had Simon we listened to Norah Jones and Zero 7. This time, I plan to bring Lisa Hannigan. Our hospital provides a CD player in each birth room.

~A picture of Simon, for motivation and smiles.

~Natural lollipops. The sour ones were comforting to me when I had pregnancy nausea, and if I want something during labor, but don’t feel like eating, these would be helpful.

~Mints or gum.

~A microwavable heating pad. I find mine soothing and relaxing when I am tired or sore. Alternately, if I want something cool on me, I can ask Jeramy or a nurse for a cool, wet cloth.

Clothing: Comfort is my number one concern here. I will be packing clothes to labor in, and clothes for afterward.

For labor:

~A nightgown. When I had Simon I was very glad that I bought my own nightgown for labor, rather than wearing the one the hospital provides. It was important to me to feel like a Mother giving birth, and not a medical patient. I still have that nightgown, and will be bringing it again this time. The nice thing about a gown is that when I was ready for pushing, it could just be pulled up out-of-the-way.

~Sweatpants. I wore sweatpants underneath my nightgown for most of the time, as I took walks in the halls, bounced on my birth ball, and went through most of early labor the first time around. At a certain point, I was able to just take the sweatpants off, to make it easier for my midwife to examine me, and obviously once it was time to push they would have been in the way.

~Cotton tank top. In case it is more comfortable than the nightgown for various labor positions.

~Bathing suit. This time I plan on trying to labor in the birthing tub, and a nightgown on top would just get in the way here. I have a large tankini top that I bought for pregnancy, and it is very comfortable.

For the rest of the time:

~Lounge or yoga pants, t-shirts, a loose, flowy cardigan, a hoodie…basically, pajamas that I do not mind wearing in the company of visitors. When I had Simon, it was May, and it looked beautiful out, but was actually very chilly. I ended up wishing I had packed more layers, and plan to give myself better choices this time.

~For the day we leave to go home, I will be bringing my maternity jeans and a loose top that makes me feel good to wear. We will likely want to take a family photo when we leave, and this will help me feel a bit more “normal”. (Since women still have a pregnancy belly for a while after having a Baby, there is no point trying to pack anything from pre-pregnancy, or that is too constricting.)

~Soft lounge socks to keep my feet warm.

~Flip-flops to slip on and off easily. (If Baby is going to have his or her hearing test, for example, I will want to go along.)

~A package of large underwear. I purchased an 8-pack of undies one size larger than I normally wear, and in a cut that gives more coverage. After you have a Baby you wear large pads for a while, and I want some undies that will accommodate these comfortably.

~Nursing tanks and bras. When I had Simon, the nurses helped me to change into one of my nursing tank tops right away and I attempted to breastfeed him. He was too sleepy, but those nursing tanks came in very handy while in the hospital, and for the rest of the time he was breastfed.

For Hubby: Pajamas, clean socks and underwear, flip-flops, a change of pants, something long-sleeved, and a few t-shirts. (The extra t-shirts are in case of Baby spit-up.)

Toiletries: Some people bring their own shampoos, bar of soap, even toilet paper. For me, some things are more important to have my own of than others. Here I am planning to bring what we need to cover the basics, and just use the hospital provided samples for the rest.

~Our toothbrushes and our own toothpaste. (I am picky about toothpaste.)

~Deodorant.

~Disposable face wash wipes for quick freshen-ups.

Extras for Me:

~A package of very large menstrual pads. The hospital provides some, but after the first day I preferred my own.

~Nursing pads.

~Nipple cream.

~Lip balm. Sometimes all of the deep breathing you do in labor can chap your lips.

~My makeup bag with a few basic items in it. It helped me feel more put-together, when I had Simon, to put on a bit of concealer, mascara, and blush before guests would arrive.

~Hairbrush, blow-dryer, and barrettes. I will be cutting my hair short before having Baby, so barrettes will help me pin back pieces from my face if I want. When I had Simon though, I brought hair elastics, because I had long hair then.

~My glasses case. (I definitely won’t want to be wearing my glasses the whole time.)

Snacks:  Our hospital puts no restriction on eating and drinking during labor, and if things take a while I want to have some snacks on hand, both during early labor, and for the rest of our stay. The hospital keeps crackers and peanut butter, pudding, and bananas available, but there are some things I will be adding to our suitcase to satisfy any likely cravings.

~Dark chocolate.

~Something salty and crunchy, such as roasted salted almonds or russet potato chips.

~Seltzer.

~Lara bars.

~Annies Microwaveable Mac&Cheese bowls. A friend suggested these to me when I was telling her about Simon’s birth and how the only food I had packed were a few granola bars, but I ended up craving savory things. These are a hot meal that can be easily tossed into the suitcase without worry about refrigeration.

We will likely get takeout at some point too, but having some things on hand to fill in the gaps will be a good idea, especially if we are awake at night when the hospital cafeteria and local restaurants are closed.

For Baby:

~A few outfits. When Simon was born we were shocked to have a 5 lb. 13 oz. baby who was so tiny he swam in the newborn sizes that I had packed. The hospital loaned us some slightly smaller outfits, and then my Mother-in-law went to the store for some preemie sized clothes. This time around I will be bringing some clothes in both preemie and newborn to cover the bases. Keeping it as simple as possible, I will bring a few onesies, some sleeper gowns or footie pajamas, little mitts, and a soft cap. For the day we leave I will select an outfit with a little sweater and soft pants to layer over a onesie, so that Baby can be easily buckled into the car seat.

~A snuggly blanket. The hospital has swaddling blankets for while we are there, but it will be good to have a warmer one for tucking over the baby in the car seat for the ride home.

~Nursing pillow for breastfeeding.

Other:

~Camera with charger and memory card.

~Chargers for our cell phones so that we can send a first picture of the baby and announce the big news.

~An empty tote bag. The hospital gives new parents packets of information, board books to start Baby’s library, after care items for Mumma, a small baby tub, some care items for Baby, a few diapers, and a manual breast pump. Visitors also sometimes bring gifts. Having an extra bag to bring everything home in is very helpful.

~A special big-brother gift for Simon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This may seem like a lot of stuff, but it will all fit easily into our one suitcase. Every family has different needs and wants, so my list might not work for you. I recommend asking what your hospital or birth center provides, and reading lists online or asking friends what they recommend.

 


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It Is Getting More Real…

pregnant black and white

I am 32 weeks pregnant now. Only 8-ish weeks to go. I have been feeling baby kicks for months, and yet, last night, as Jeramy and I sat on the couch together and Baby started up the nightly internal parkour routine, I exclaimed: “There is a Baby in there! We are having a Baby!”

“I know.” he replied, and we both smiled.

As we are now well into the third trimester, and we begin writing our list of things to pack for the hospital, and working out the details of our birth plan, it is all getting to be…real. Despite the insomnia, soreness, and fatigue I have been experiencing, the excitement is really kicking in too. These last two months will be over before we know it, and we will soon get to meet our child. I try to remind myself every day that this is the last child we are planning to have, so this is my last chance to experience how incredible it is to feel those movements and kicks inside. To anticipate the arrival of this new member of our family. To daydream about what our child will be like, and who they will become.

We still have a lot to prepare before Baby’s arrival. We are renovating the downstairs bedroom, and in the meantime we are sleeping on our mattress on the floor, surrounded by boxes that are waiting to be unpacked from when we moved in. We need to purchase our co-sleeper, a breast pump, and a few other items. We have just begun stocking the freezer so that we will not have to cook when we are too sleep deprived. But, day by day we are more prepared for this big change in our lives.

In a recent conversation with a friend who is also pregnant, she mentioned how adorably foldy new babies’ legs are. I actually squealed out loud with excitement remembering this, and remembering other things about what newborns are like. When Simon was born, I marveled at the way his tiny feet still folded against his legs. At how small fingernails can actually be. At the way he would look into my eyes and know me, right from the first time I ever held him.

It is hitting me now, the excitement of it all. The reality. We are going to have a Baby!


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Children Are People Too

izze

Recently, my little Simon and I met some friends for lunch at a local cafe. We arrived, ordered our food, and then I told Simon he could pick out a drink for himself. He excitedly chose an Izze soda, knowing that this is the only soda I allow him to drink. (If you are not familiar, Izze is basically carbonated fruit juice with no added sugars or preservatives. And it is quite delicious.)

Full of excitement over meeting friends, and being allowed to have a special treat, he practically bounced across the cafe floor with his drink, to place it on the counter. The woman working at the counter began to ring us up. Simon politely said to her: “Excuse me,…”

“Hi!” She said to him. “Is that your drink?”

“Yes, and—” He began to reply.

“Your Mom is having a baby!” She interrupted him. “You must be excited!”

He again tried to speak, pointing to his soda: “This is—”

Are you having a sister or a brother?” She again interrupted.

“No. This is—” Still pointing at the soda bottle.

“A baby sister or a baby brother? Do you know what you are having?” Her tone implied impatience with him, and yet she was not giving him time to reply. By now, I was feeling furious with this woman. My son was attempting to communicate with her, but she had her own agenda. Because he was not responding the same way an adult would, she was not respecting him, and not taking the time to listen.

He tried again: “But this is–” He was tapping the soda bottle frantically now, to show her what he was trying to talk about.

And again she interrupted: “You must be excited about the baby. What is it gonna be, a boy or a girl?”

Finally, Simon could not take it any more, and actually jumped up and down and wailed: “But I am trying to tell you something!”

She didn’t even hear his words, despite the fact that he was shouting them, because she was still grilling him over the gender of our baby. So this time I interrupted her. I reached out my hand, and stroked Simon’s hair. I leaned down to his level and said: “It’s ok honey.” Then, I looked back up at the woman and said: “He has been trying to tell you something that is important to him. He is very excited today.” I leaned back down to Simon and encouraged him: “Go ahead, Sweetie. Tell her what you want to say.”

She finally gave him room to speak. He spoke carefully and slowly now. I think he was afraid she would interrupt him again: “This is special soda that I get to have.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say, so she just replied “Oh yeah?” and finished our transaction.

Unfortunately, I don’t think she believed there was value in anything he had to say. I realize that not all adults know how to interact with children. However, at this point he was a customer in her cafe, and also a fellow human being. She was only interested in my pregnant belly, and thought he should be too. Of course he is, but it is a part of his everyday life. At that moment, getting a soda was much more thrilling and new, and he had a desperate need to express this to the other adult in front of him. Sure, she made an attempt to show interest in him by asking him questions, but it wasn’t genuine because she didn’t actually try to hear what he was saying.

He may have been barely able to see over the counter. He may have been wiggly, and silly, and young. However, that did not mean he was not worthy of being listened to. Children know when they are being talked down to or disregarded. They can sense it and it causes them frustration. (Just as it would for an adult.) This whole interaction may have only lasted a few minutes, but we encounter similar situations day after day. Added up all together they send a message that his opinions are less important because he is a kid, and that only grownups are worthy of being heard.

All adults, parents and non-parents, sometimes need to be reminded: Children are people too.


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Four

 

Simon's 4th birthday 1
Last week we celebrated Simon turning four years-old. His actual birthday was on a Wednesday, so he and I spent the day together playing outside and shopping for party supplies. When Daddy got home from work we had a special pancake dinner (which has become an annual tradition), followed by a few presents. The following Saturday we had a little party here at home with some friends and family.

As everyone who has loved or cared for a child knows, time flies. They grow and change so fast, and it is amazing to witness. Simon continues to astound Jeramy and I on a daily basis with his imagination, intelligence, humor, and love.

At age four he loves ninjas and swords. He is currently obsessed with the movie Frozen. He makes “contraptions” all over the house with bits of rope and toys. He has very strong opinions on the way he believes everything should be done, and will argue them with us exhaustively. He is considerate and sweet, and loves to pick me flowers. He will sit and listen to chapter after chapter of a book being read-aloud to him. He increasingly wants to help us cook, garden, and do projects around the house. He sings us songs and will perform concerts for us with his instruments. He is a mostly picky eater, but will do strange things, like dipping pickles into his soup. He is social, and will greet everyone we encounter in public, asking them their name. He loves going for hikes and walks, and to the beach in summer. His favorite color is orange, but he likes pink a lot too.

I am so proud of my little guy, and how much his personality has grown. This is such a fun age.

Simon's 4th birthday 2


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A New Routine

a new routine
As I have mentioned before, this pregnancy has been a very rough one, making me feel sick almost all of the time. Through all of this, I have had a much harder time focusing on daily tasks, and fully being there for Simon on our days at home together. For a while, I often felt foggy, confused, and…kind of lost. At any given time of day I had no idea what we were supposed to be doing. Simon would ask “When is lunch?” and I would uncertainly answer: “Ummmm, right now?” We had no structure going from day to day, and I felt so much guilt because I know most children, including my own, thrive on routine. During a particularly difficult day over a week ago, I exasperatedly reached for my laptop and googled: “stay-at-home mom schedule”, hoping to find some inspiration that would get me back on track.

I spent some time reading blogs and articles, in which other stay-at-home parents shared their daily schedules, and tips for how they keep going without a boss or a deadline to keep them moving forward. I also reached out on facebook to other parents I know, asking how they structure their days. I got inspired to make a new plan for Simon and I.

One thing I noticed right away was how most others agreed that a rigid plan is a bad idea. The daily routine needs to be in place, but also be very flexible. Children are unpredictable. So is the weather, the budget, and the flow of life. One week might bring freezing rain every day, keeping us inside and unable or unwilling to go on a daily outing. The next week might require a lot of extra errands. I knew whatever plan I came up with could not be too strict or I would become discouraged when, inevitably, I could not keep up with it. It was to be more of a guideline than set in stone. Basically, I needed something to reference on my more foggy-brained days, when Simon asks: “What are we going to do now, Mumma?”

So, I typed out a routine for us to use on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (The other two days of the week Simon has preschool, and I work at the Library.) Weekends are a toss-up and will change so much that there was no point in scheduling them. (Plus, Jeramy is home on the weekends to help me .)  Here is what I came up with:

~7am: Wake up time. Spend the next hour making breakfast, drinking tea, and shaking off sleep. Eat breakfast together at the table.

~8am: Getting dressed for the day. Shower if needed, get myself and Simon dressed, brush teeth.

~9am: Go somewhere, or go outside. Unless the weather really stinks, get out and run errands, have an adventure, or spend some time in the yard.

~11am: Prepare lunch together. Eat together at the table.

~12pm: Time Out. Simon can watch some tv or play quietly. I can use my computer or read. This is a good time for another cup of tea. Also a good time to blog.

~1pm: Activity time. Get out some art supplies, do some puzzles together, create a project, read aloud from our current chapter book.

~2pm: Time for a healthy, energizing snack. Smoothies, fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc. An afternoon pick-me-up. Enjoy the snack out on the deck if it is nice.

~2:15pm: Pick up time. Do some clean-up around the house. Put on some music, throw in a load of dishes or laundry, and do the chores that need to be done that day.

~3:30pm: Daddy is home. Depending on the day, different things may happen: family errands, Daddy and Simon playtime, Mumma working an evening shift, etc. Start prepping dinner.

~5pm: Dinner. Eat early because Simon goes to bed early.

~6pm: Pick up time. Simon picks up toys he has taken out. Mumma and Daddy pick up after supper. Tidy things up before bedtime.

~6:30pm: Start Simon’s bedtime routine: pajamas, brush teeth, sip of water, bedtime story, lullabies, tuck in.

~7pm: Mumma and Daddy can collapse on the couch.
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Last week was our first week with this routine. We have not yet fully conformed to it. One day Simon slept in late so everything was pushed back and we ended up skipping a few parts of the routine. On another day we ended up on a much longer outing than I had expected, and didn’t get back home until late afternoon. Today, we spent most of our morning reading books together, because it was too cold and windy for us to go anywhere. However, we have followed the schedule part-time. When I am not sure what to do next, I can simply glance at the clock and the schedule posted on the fridge, and feel reassured. I have been more productive and more present for my son. For this, I am thankful.


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The Middle of the Night

The middle of the night. Three-year-old comes shuffling in, climbs onto our bed.
We ask him “What are you doing out of your bed? Are you ok?”

He says “I just want to sleep with you.” Past attempts at allowing this have proven that the child is incapable of allowing anyone else to sleep when he is in the room. He becomes like a giddy preteen at a slumber party and wants to chat and giggle all night. And kick us in the face.

Husband says: “Oh no. You need to go back into your own bed.” Instant wailing ensues. Confused by this strong reaction we attempt to reason with him. “Everyone needs to sleep in their own bed…you will be more comfy…you have all of your stuffed animals in there…it is the middle of the night.” We are pleading now.

We carry him back to his bed. He refuses to lie down. We try more reasoning. He is still wailing. I end up sitting on the edge of his bed and scooping him into my arms like a baby. He collapses onto me, and falls instantly quiet. Clearly he is as exhausted as we are. I rock him back and forth for a few moments. He then allows me to lie him down and tuck him in. I am so relieved that I am going to get more sleep this night.

As I leave the room he tells me: “The problem was, my feet were cold.”

feet

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