Thursday, September 26, 2013

Psalm 106 and Allergy-ridden Babies

It's definitely allergy season in the Ahlgrim Haus. We're a snotty, sneezy, wheezy bunch these days. It's an indicator of the changing of the seasons and it happens every year. Vesper has a constant stream of light green goo running over her lips, and I feel like my head has been stuffed full of grass and pollen and crud. Grey seems to have inherited the awesome allergy gene as well. It has made for sleepy, often fussy babies. I felt exhausted all day every day this week until I laid down in bed at night, and then I couldn't turn my brain off and go to sleep! In fact, it has really made the past week incredibly difficult. We're all feeling off our game, and so we're all getting a bit short with each other (Okay, full disclosure, I'm the adult in the situation and it's very possible that *I* am the one getting short with them... ). I have been so frustrated from dealing with sick babies and lack of sleep that I haven't been able to see past my own exhaustion.

They haven't been sleeping past 6:30 a.m. and they've both been shortening their naps, so today, when Grey started fussing himself awake at 6:30 a.m. - hacking and snotting in his crib in the next room- I was less than thrilled. But then 7 a.m. rolled around and Vesper was still asleep, so I took advantage of the alone time with my little guy. I fed him his jar of food slowly and talked to him during his breakfast rather than rushing through it, shoving spoonfuls in his mouth while shouting "Vesper, no. Take that out of your mouth. That can electrocute you!"

He seemed to be enjoying the extra Mommy-time, so I pulled out my phone, opened up my Bible app, and read to him. I've been reading the Psalms and today was Psalm 106. At verse 19 I stopped, puzzled. It talks about God's people forgetting His goodness and choosing to build a idol image of a calf to worship instead. I said to Grey, "Isn't that silly?" I mean, who would do that? God had delivered them from Egypt. They had seen his wrath and his goodness in very extreme ways. There was absolutely no denying that God was... well... God. The Almighty. And yet, "they exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass," (v. 20). How could they be so stupid?

And then it struck me: I choose other things over God every single day.

I choose worry. I choose pride. I choose frustration and sarcasm. I choose to withdraw rather than deal with a problem. And I choose anger because you know what? Sometimes it just feels easier to be angry about a situation rather than change my perspective. My idols aren't made of metal, they're made of emotions and thoughts.

But here's the great part: God has grace on me even when I choose anger, worry, guilt, sadness, frustration, and sarcasm. He shows me unconditional love at all times. He waits for me. He gently pulls me out the pit that I've dug myself into.

So today, I'm trying my hardest to just let go and trust God in dealing with my kids and my house and my husband. Even though I'm tired and frustrated and short on sleep and patience- I'm choosing to just trust Him.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Afternoon with Vesper

This weekend I got to spend some time alone with my Birdy girl. Ever since her little brother came along, she's been a champ at taking everything in stride and being patient with the fact that my time is now divided- and somewhat unevenly since Grey requires quite a bit more attention and assistance than she does. I'm not saying she doesn't have fits occasionally, but she never had an jealousy issues, and has really taken to Grey. In fact, she has grown into quite the little helper.

This week, Grey hit a strange growth spurt and has been teething so he needed me a lot. I felt like I was constantly telling Vesper "no." "NO we can't go to the park. It's almost time for your brother to eat... again..." and "No, don't play the drums! Your brother is finally napping!" and of course "No. I absolutely cannot play Ring-Around-The-Rosey while I'm holding your fussy brother." Vesper is so smart, and pretty advanced for her age, so sometimes I forget that she's not even 2 years old yet. She has limits and needs that are much more strict that I tend to remember sometimes. She's in between that baby and toddler stage, and sometimes she just needs her mommy. She's a good kid, and I want her to be able to hear "yes" from me as much as possible, so we took the afternoon for some girl time.

We went shopping, got a fancy, nutritious dinner (Happy Meals with chocolate milk are always a hit), and played at the park. She got to ask me alllll the questions she wanted and I answered every. single. one. of them. ("who is that? who is that??" "I don't know honey. We don't know him." "Hiiiieeee!!!" *waves her little hand profusely to the aforementioned stranger* and "Did you hear it??" every time we hear a car, motorcycle, airplane, bird, squeaking wheel, cicada, etc etc) I got extra hugs and lots of hand holding and made sure to make lots of contact with those big, beautiful, blue eyes.

It was so awesome to be able to focus on just one little person at a time. My little girl is flying toward her second birthday- and then flying towards being a teenager, then moving out of my house forever. Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but still- the point is that in reality, we have such a short time with our kids. I want to take hold of every opportunity that I can to spend time with them one-on-one, face to face, and really pour into them.

Today it was fast food and swings at the park. Maybe tomorrow it'll be pedicures and sodas to celebrate making the cheerleading squad. And then late night hot chocolate after her recent break up. And someday we'll be sharing a glass of wine, as her babies sleep in the next room. Again, getting ahead of myself, I know. I'm just so thankful for her. I'm thankful that she exists to make the world brighter. And I'm thankful that God thinks me worthy to be her mother. I mean, our little afternoon was for her, but really, I think it was for me too...


Friday, September 20, 2013

Six. Months. Old.

Happy Half Birthday, Baby Bear! Here are the things I want to remember about your sixth month:

-You're most comfortable in 9-12 month clothing
-You're officially eating solids regularly (at breakfast and dinner time). It makes for colorful spit-up...
-Still sleeping through the night like a champ!
-Teething like crazy, but nothing new has popped through!
-You want to crawl SO badly, so we're working on sitting up
-Your favorite toys are your bouncer and the chew beads necklaces from Gramma
-You are simply the HAPPIEST baby I've ever met in my entire life. Your gummy smile just melts my heart!
-You've become much more independent this month and your favorite way to pass the time is just to roll across the living room floor and back, bumping into furniture, toys, and dogs.
-Still suffering from reflux pretty badly
-Your hair is getting more and more blonde!
-You're making the transition to 3 naps a day and napping longer than 45 minutes at a time!
-Those eyes are looking more blue this month
-You had your first overnight without Mommy and you and Daddy both survived!
-Everything goes in your mouth. Everything.
-You love to watch Lucy and get kisses from her!
-You went to your first OU Sooners game and sometimes the crowd was so loud that it made you cry! Poor little guy...

We love you more and more every day! Keep growing, little guy!
xo, Mom

Sleep Training the Ahlgrim Clan

We've been blessed with two really good sleepers! Our kiddos are both under the age of two and both have done exceptionally well with sleeping through the night- but that didn't necessarily come without a bit of encouragement. I get lots of questions from other moms about when our kids started sleeping through the night, and how we got them to do that. So in an effort to have a single location to direct these friends to, I've decided to just write it out here.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a how to guide. I am not a doctor nor an infant sleep expert of any kind. This is just our story, and what worked for us. We used a modified cry-it-out method at the recommendation of our pediatrician. Different things work for different families and while I respect the opinions and methods of others, I do not wish to start a conversation or debate here. I do welcome any questions you might have and would be happy to answer them!

Let's start with our oldest, Vesper. We can't take a whole lot of credit for this one. She started showing signs of wanting to sleep through the night and eliminate her late night feeding at six weeks, so we just followed her lead. She slept swaddled and used a pacifier. However, at around 4 months old, she began waking multiple times during the night when her pacifier would fall out of her mouth. Because she was swaddled, she had no way to retrieve the pacifier, and therefore, Mom and Dad were up and down all night long to shove it back in her mouth. 

At Vesper's 5 month appointment, her pediatrician recommended that we stop swaddling her as she was getting close to rolling over and getting a bit too big for the swaddle. He recommended a modified cry it out method. We were to establish a strict bed time and routine and stick to it at all costs for the first several weeks. It's worth mentioning that I truly believe this is the most important part of getting your child to recognize that it's time to go to sleep.

Our routine (for both children) went as follows: bath time, jammies and a fresh diaper, snuggles and some reading, then a bottle and some singing and rocking.

Because we expected she would cry, the plan after laying her down was this: let her cry for a pre-determined interval (this can be as short as 5 minutes, and as long as 15 at this age) and then go in and reassure her that we're still there i.e. pat her back, hold her hand, whisper softly, smooth her hair, etc but DO NOT pick her up. We would stay in the room for less than 2 minutes before leaving again, even if she was still crying. Again, this was a process about which we talked with her pediatrician before doing. We chose a 15 minute interval right away because we knew that seeing us every 5 minutes and then leaving again would only heighten her emotions.

It took her ONE night (30 minutes at initial bedtime, and 30 minutes at a 3 a.m. waking). The second night, she only fussed for about 15 minutes before falling asleep and sleeping all night. I was so shocked! Somehow, between being sick with ear infections all the time and night terrors, she worked the paci back into her bedtime routine, but she's only ever been allowed to have it at bedtime, so we're not too worried about it for now.

For Grey, however, it took a bit more convincing. Grey also slept swaddled with a pacifier from birth. At about 2 months, he was unable to sleep without that darn pacifier in his mouth. Every. Single. Time it fell out, he immediately started to fuss. Needless to say, he slept in his bassinet, right next to our bed for  quite a while. Around 4 months, we decided it was time to break him of the swaddle and the pacifier since it seemed to only be hindering his sleep rather than aiding. We did it cold turkey and used a similar CIO method with intervals. At this point he was still waking for one (or two) night feedings and taking a full bottle, so we didn't think he was quite capable of sleeping through the night. After we weaned him from the swaddle and pacifier, we kept his night feeding(s).

At his 5 month appointment, again, I asked the pediatrician about his sleep patterns and he recommended the same method. I explained that I was concerned that he wasn't ready because he was eating 3-4 ounces at each feeding during the day, as well as a full feeding or two in the middle of the night. The pediatrician explained that he would even out his feedings and that he was fully capable of sleeping through the night at that point, so we used the same method: establish a routine, put him down sleepy (but awake) and go in every 15 minutes if he was crying.

It took him a few hours the first night (I think off and on for about 3 hours at initial bed time, then about 45 minutes at his 3a.m. waking). But each night after that, he got a little bit better. It took him a full 6 nights before he would fall asleep in less than 10 minutes and sleep a full 12 hours, but he did it! And he seemed SO much happier and more rested during the day! Also, just as the pediatrician said, he evened out his feedings. He went from eating 3-4 oz at each feeding to eating 5-6 oz at each and sleeping through the night!

A couple of things worth noting: (1) our babies definitely didn't need a bath every single day at this age, but we gave them one every single night while we were sleep training in an effort to establish the routine. About a month after starting the training, we felt comfortable enough to stray from the routine and skip the bath or move bedtime up or down by a few minutes here and there. (2) Doing everything at the exact same time every night didn't seem to make as much difference as making sure that we did things in the same order (as long as bed time was within 15-30 minutes of the same time each night of course) (3) With both, in the beginning, we would rock and sing to them until they were very sleepy but still awake, then lay them down in the crib. Within a couple of months, Vesper decided she didn't want to be rocked anymore :( and within a couple of weeks, Grey didn't want to be rocked either! It was almost as if, because we had established such a solid routine, they knew what was coming, and they just wanted to get on with it! Time for sleep!

For nap times: Vesper was in daycare most of her first year, so they kind of did the work for us on this one. But for Grey, he took a 45 minute nap 1.5 hours after each feeding until he was about 6 months old. At this point, he's making the transition to 2 solid 1.5 hour naps and one short nap in between.  I had planned to used the same Modified CIO method, but didn't really need to. He seems to be making the transition naturally. For his longer naps, he usually wakes after 45 minutes, fusses for a couple of minutes, then drifts back to sleep.

I'll be sure to do an update to this post a few months from now as their sleep patterns develop and change, but for now, good luck! Let me know if you have any questions!

xo, Chels