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Sponsor Me in the Sleep-a-thon

27 Sep

nap timeIf sleeping was an Olympic sport, then I would be on a Wheaties box.

I have always loved to sleep – and in my 20s, I developed quite a reputation for it. I was the person on girls’ trips who always got her own bed – and sometimes my own room – because I slept later than anyone else. Eleven in the morning was entirely too early for brunch, and I really wished I was Catholic so I could go to church at night.

The problem was that as good as I was at sleeping  until the late morning or early afternoon,  I had a hard time falling asleep at a normal time – like before midnight. I was best at sleeping from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m., but since I wasn’t working as bar tender, that schedule didn’t work out so well for me.

Fast forward to age 39. With two small children, I have been suffering from sleep deprivation for the past 52 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. Because exhaustion is a permanent state of being, I have become like a house cat. I can sleep anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. If you wake me I will hiss, swat my tail and skulk off. My children have cured my proclivity to lie awake fretting about work deadlines, about what I said after three glasses of wine, or the likelihood that I will get cancer from my mobile phone. I hit the pillow, and I am out.

Because I love to sleep so much – and I am now get to sleep so little – I wish I could escalate sleeping to a hobby rather than simply a basic need. I am a woman who doesn’t have a hobby per se – and while generally I think hobbies are overrated and sometimes downright strange (extreme couponing, rock collecting and macramé come to mind) – I have always felt that I needed a hobby because most people have one. Turning sleep into a hobby – in my opinion – is not a stretch. After all, other basic needs like eating are quite fashionable hobbies. People discuss with great enthusiasm recent restaurants they’ve tried, they plan vacations around dining and Thanksgiving basically revolves around food. That’s not to mention the passion that some people put into cooking – taking cooking classes, investing in cookware that costs more than my freshman year’s tuition – and of course there’s the Food Channel, need I say more. 

I have also thought that sleep should be considered a sport. It’s a physical activity, it’s good for your health, and it makes you look and feel better – just like exercise. As with hobbies, I’ve never really had a sport that was my passion. I have dabbled in everything from ice skating to synchronized swimming, but nothing has really stuck. So I think creating an “a-thon” related to sleeping really makes sense for me. I always try to support friends who are competing in a triathlon for disease X or walk-a-thon for good cause Y … so why not a sleep-a-thon? Of course I would need a cause to raise awareness of and money for. Perhaps under-privileged sleep apnea suffers? Adolescent insomniacs? Those injured while sleep walking?

I would like to have a little spirit and “rah-rah” around my sleep-a-thon efforts. So here are my ideas for building team spirit:

Team Mascot: Sheep; Uniform: Midnight blue pajamas; Fight song: Braham’s lullaby.

I am still trying to come up with a team name, so I would love your suggestions on that.

I hope other people will join me in training for my sleep-a-thon (of course we will all be training individually in our own beds – this is a NONCONTACT sport). I recommend that we start with two events – a sprint and a long distance event. The goal of the sprint will be to fall asleep the fastest; and the gold medal for the long distance event will go to the person who sleeps the longest overnight.

Of course, doping will be absolutely prohibited – no alcohol within 24 hours of game time and no Tylenol PM, Ambien, Melatonin or other sleep aids six months prior of the sleep-a-thon. We need to keep the game clean – this isn’t track and field after all.

I plan to tell my husband that I am going to train for the long distance event every Friday night, and he shouldn’t disturb me until 11 a.m. on Saturday. My sprint training will be Sunday afternoon from 2 until 4 p.m.

If you are interested in participating in the sleep-a-thon or would like to sponsor me, please comment below. Now, since my children are asleep, I think I will squeeze in a quick work out myself. Sweet dreams.

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Summer Lovin’ Happened at Last

3 Sep
A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

Usually by Labor Day weekend, summer has worn out its welcome with me. I am tired of the oppressive heat and humidity, the mosquitoes, spending hours in a wet bathing suit, painting my toenails, and air-conditioned buildings that are too cold. My hair and yard are both fried from the sun, and I am ready for fall.

My love affair with summer began to fade at the same time summer vacation ended. I started my first job out of college at a small town newspaper in June of 1994. After about six weeks on the job, one of my colleagues – also a recent grad – commented that without summer break, summer just felt like one long, hot semester. How true.

Summer has continued to feel like a long, hot semester for me. The joy of summer as a child was the change of pace and freedom. Freedom from school, freedom from schedules, freedom to waste time. Long days at the pool, adventures in the woods, staying up late, and sleeping in. The luxury of getting bored, rereading favorite books, and day dreaming.  It was truly a vacation from the routine of the other nine months.

Summer as a working adult does not provide much of a break, and the pace of life sometimes even picks up. The hot months get busier as we try to cram in vacations, swim team and family reunions while keeping up with responsibilities at home and at work. So with Labor Day upon us, and preschool beginning next week, you would think I would be ready to say “so long” to summer. Most of my friends are. Public schools started August 25th, and now it’s just the little kids at home watching too much Nick Jr. and leaving moms fantasizing about the free time preschool will provide.

But I feel differently this year. I only work part-time now – very part-time actually – and I have children who are old enough to really enjoy the simple pleasures of summer. Drippy popsicles, afternoons at the pool, picking blue berries, and running through the sprinkler.Running through the sprinkler

In June I had lots of plans for the summer. Backyard cookouts, twilight play dates, working hard with my four-year-old on writing and reading – most of this never happened, and that’s okay. Our summer has been slow. I’ve had time to stop and smell the sun screen. This summer we’ve done less and enjoyed it more and in the process rediscovered the allure of the warm months. So I’ve developed a bit of a crush on summer again. Maybe next year it will be a full-blown romance.

 

Returning to the Movies and Giving Away the Crib

26 Aug

The Personal Debate about Having a Third Child

A friend emailed me recently to see if I wanted to go to a movie that night. A movie? In the theater? On short notice? How self-indulgent. How wonderful. Let’s do it. The last film I saw in the theater (other than “Winnie the Pooh”) was “The King’s Speech” in January and before that it was the first “Sex and the City” movie in 2008.Movie Tickets and Popcorm

You see, parents of little children do not go to the movies. At least, not very often. It’s one of many things you put on hold while your children are young. It’s too expensive to pay a sitter and buy tickets when you can wait a few months and see the same flick at home when the kids are in bed. It seems more worthwhile to use your “sitter time” to go to dinner and have a conversation with your spouse rather than to sit in the dark with strangers. Same goes for girls’ night out. On the rare occasion that you can get three or four friends together, you probably want to gab over a glass of wine, not watch a movie. Seriously, do a group of guys over the age of 16 ever go to a movie? I don’t think so.

Going to movies is on the list of things couples take for granted before having children – like an uninterrupted phone conversation, working late, and having clean carpet. A new baby is the biggest lifestyle change most people ever experience. And there is really nothing anyone can tell you to prepare you for that. I had one friend who tried. Throughout my pregnancy she shared how brutal the sleep deprivation was and how isolated it felt to be home alone with a new-born. I didn’t believe her. I tried to avoid her. I thought my experience would be different.

I know that part of the challenge was my husband and I were older when we started our family – I’m 39, my husband is 42, and our children are two and four. We were used to working hard, but also having lots of leisure time for dinners out, weekends away, football games and concerts. We knew that our lifestyle would change when we had a family – but we didn’t appreciate how drastic the change would be.

My 35th birthday was a month after my oldest son was born, and I when I blew out the candle, I made a wish that I could simply take a shower every day. Was that really too much to ask? There is something maddening about not being able to meet one’s basic needs – like sleeping, eating, showering and using the bathroom – when you want/need to. I honestly wondered how anyone managed to handle more than one child, but I figured that out myself a little sooner than I had planned.

My second son was born when my first child was 23 months – we wanted another baby, but maybe not quite so soon. During my pregnancy, I was bracing for an extreme life makeover like the first time. But it didn’t happen. Not to say it wasn’t busy and challenging having an infant and a two-year-old, but it wasn’t a seismic life shift.

That’s true for a few reasons. When my second son was born, we had all the gear we needed – and then some – so we didn’t have to research/shop/register/buy anything. We also were very accustomed to having a little person who needed us around the clock, so the demands of that were not shocking – still exhausting, but not shocking. We had grandparents who had moved to town and were ready to help at a moment’s notice. My part-time sitter for work stayed on during my maternity leave. Between grandparent and sitter help, I could run errands without loading an infant and toddler in the car, meet a friend for lunch occasionally, keep up with the laundry and take a nap during the day. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have paid or family help, but usually by baby #2 parents have figured out a workable division of labor that allows mom to get out of the house once in a while.

The most significant difference with baby #2 was that my husband and I had confidence that we could take care of an infant. It wasn’t the humbling process that turned me into a self-doubting emotional mess the first time. I started to see how people managed to have three or four children. My friends with three children say they loved the 0- to 12-months period with their third child – they were more laid back, more confident, they savored that fleeting time with an infant, and they knew – eventually – their baby would sleep through the night.

I could certainly make an argument in the vein of – have more children, after all, you’ve already given up going to the movies. I now see the economies of scale, and more importantly the joy, of a larger family. But will I have baby #3? Probably not. My age is definitely a factor in that decision. There are many advantages to being an older parent – including having more patience and knowing that you’ve already seen lots of movies and had lots of fun. The obvious disadvantage to starting a family later in life is the risk associated with what doctors call “Advanced Maternal Age” (that translates to having a baby at or after 35). If I was getting married at 39 and wanted children, I would absolutely go for it – and I would advise friends to go for it – but since God has blessed me with two who are healthy, I am going to quit while I’m ahead.

If my age were not an issue for health reasons, it would still be an issue for energy reasons – I just don’t have the “get-up-and-go” I did at 25. With that in mind, I would be concerned about giving my two- and four-year-old boys the time and attention they need while caring for a new baby, working a little, and trying to be half-decent wife. There’s also no doubt it would be really hard for me to go back to sleepless nights, showerless days, breastfeeding struggles and pounds of postpartum weight to drop. I don’t know want to face all of that again.

So I am going to embrace being the mom in a family of four – not a family of five or six. I am going to embrace – but NOT without a twinge of sadness – turning the nursery into a playroom, giving away the crib and not buying diapers. Our baby days are over, and we’ve turned the corner into the world of preschool.

And selfishly, I am also going to enjoy – at least every once in a while – that I can sneak out to see a movie.

Chicken Tetrazzini Means Friendship to Me

4 Aug

A few weeks ago my dad got together with two of his childhood buddies for the weekend. These fellows have known each other for more than 60 years, and their lives have taken them in very different directions. Honestly, I doubt they have much in common now. But that doesn’t really matter – it’s just a joy to see old friends.

One thing about reaching middle age is we have actually lived long enough to have some old friends. Friends we’ve known for years are often the dearest because they knew us when we were defined by our potential, rather than by our accomplishments or failures. They witnessed us as a work-in-progress, not just the finished product that we are by our 30s and 40s. They’ve also witnessed some of our proudest moments – and moments we would just as soon forget. They remember that you were the only kid in your 3rd grade class to campaign for independent candidate John Anderson in the 1980 mock presidential election; they’ve got pictures of you in parachute pants in 7th grade; and they know that you loved Sun Country wine coolers as a college freshman and refused to try beer.

Despite all of the angst about friendships in the teen years, it’s really much easier to form close bonds as a young person than it is as an adult. When you’re growing up, you see your friends all day at school, you play sports together, study together and hang out on the weekend.

Also, when we are young we are unfiltered in a way no one is after the age of 25. As a young person you tell your friends everything – including lots of things you wish you hadn’t. No adult is going to sit around for hours on a fall afternoon, smoking cigarettes and telling someone else all of their family problems … and no one is going to listen to you unless the listener is a paid therapist (and then you probably would not be allowed to smoke.)

I left Charlotte, my hometown, seven years ago to get married and move to Raleigh. I left behind the greatest network of friends anyone could ask for – I had friends from as far back as elementary school, as well as high school and college friends, and work friends. This group solidified between the ages of 22 and 30 when most of us were still single, and all of us had lots of free time to spend together.

In your 20s, when someone called you on Saturday morning and invited you to go out on the lake for the day, you could say yes! At our current stage in life, it’s rare that the stars align to do something that spontaneously.

Now the process for getting together with friends is more like this:  

Step 1: email couple and ask for dates they can go to dinner;

Step 2: go back and forth with average three rounds of emails until a date and location is set;

 Step 3: line up baby sitter;

Step 4: Friends can’t get a baby sitter;

Step 5: Plan to go to friends’ house with your kids and eat hot dogs instead of going to a new French bistro;

Step 6: Your child throws up 30 minutes before you walk out the door;

Step 7: Call to cancel;

Step 8: Start the process over and hope you see you friends in the next three months.

As adults, jobs are demanding, kids are demanding, managing a household is demanding. Who has enough time to stay in touch with old friends, much less make new ones? So I found myself in Raleigh knowing very few people, and being, quite honestly, lonely. I missed just seeing familiar faces at the grocery store. I had spent a lifetime developing my old friendships, and here I was at age 32, starting over.

I had desperate moments. My husband and I would go to dinner, and waiting at the bar, I’d spot an attractive couple. This was my internal monologue : “They’re our age …  they look like they’re having fun … they’re at our neighborhood place so they must live nearby … can I get up the courage to strike up a conversation? If I talk to them, how do I take it to the next level? Do I ask for their number? Will they want to see us again? Are we their type? Oh No! This is like dating. (Mental Gasp) Will they think we’re swingers? I’ll just sit here and drink my drink.”

I still spend lots of time driving up and down I-40 and I-85 to see my dear friends in the Queen City. But time marched on, and I began to see familiar faces at the grocery store, and I made some real, honest-to-goodness friends (without stalking them in bars). I came to realize that I would not have the same kind of network in Raleigh that I had in Charlotte, but that was okay.

Then I had my first baby, and the casseroles changed everything. Yes, the casseroles. If you don’t live in the South you may not fully appreciate this custom. Below the Mason-Dixon and this side of Florida, if someone has a baby, gets really sick or loses a loved one, friends and family bring food. And when my first son was born, boy did they bring food – for weeks! And every bite of chicken tetrazzini tasted like friendship to me.

So seven years, another son and dozens of casseroles later, I have a new network of friends. No they didn’t sit with me in the Red Robin Reading Group in first grade, or help me plan the junior senior prom, and they didn’t live on my hall in college. But they like the finished product that is me – and I like the taste of chicken tetrazzini.

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