The Sibling Sleepover or Best. Idea. Ever.

By on Jan 18, 2016 in Expert Advice, General Family, Life With Three, Parenting | 1 comment

First of all…Hey there! Yes we are still alive with the three kids. Everyone is doing great. And it only feels like we are drowning 97% of the time instead of 98% of the time so, improvement! This past weekend was cold in Chicago. I’m not going to complain it’s been a pretty mild winter and we choose to live here (blah blah blah). But three kids and 0 degrees outside? Shoot me in the face. Seriously. At one point I just curled up in a ball on the couch and went into some kind of hibernation. The hibernation of, “I. Can’t. Even.” We somehow got dinner together and on the table an hour early. Which was good because we were all hungry and it was halftime of the football game…hashtag goodtimingforsportsisimportant. Everyone showered and bathed….and it was 6:30 (they usually go to bed at 8 and we are just starting the bedtime routine at this point). Now what? Lucy and I played some Crazy 8s. Then some War (just as annoying as when I was a kid hashtag ifeachpersonhastwoacesitwillneverend). Veronica went to bed. All the teeth were brushed and potty trips happened. And we were just all done. I mean as always at bedtime. But I mean. Done. So I said, “Hey why don’t you guys go have a sleepover in Lucy’s bed?” [Sidenote: all three of our kids share a room, with Lucy getting a top bunk of a custom bunk system and Rocky on the bottom bed and Veronica in the crib.] Kids: “What do you mean?” Me: “I mean go play up in her bed super quietly and maybe Lucy can read books using a book light outloud…but quietly outloud because Veronica is sleeping.” Kids: “WE TOTALLY WANT TO DO THAT!” Us: “Ok. Go. Goodnight.” Up the stairs they went…then there was….silence. We looked at each other and said, “This is just never going to work. It’s only 7pm….but whatever, let’s start a movie.” So start a movie we did. Veronica woke up at one point. Jason put the elders under a blanket with the book light.” At about 8:30 we heard the door open, and little feet come down the stairs. Damnit. Lucy returned the book light. Gave us a kiss, and went back to bed. Rocky gave us a hug and a kiss and put himself back to bed. We looked at each other with a “The Fuck?” look on our faces. How did that work? How did they only wake Veronica up once? But also. THESE KIDS ARE AWESOME! They requested the sleepover again tonight and while I’m all for it, we are keeping it to weekend days (and to keep it special so it doesn’t turn into just pure play and loudness). Rocky also said, “Maybe Veronica can join us when she’s two. I think that’s a good plan.” Given that crazy kid can climb the ladder already and get on the top bunk, I don’t think he’s...

The pacifier kids

By on May 18, 2015 in Expert Advice, Life With Three, Sleep | 0 comments

Okay, fine, we’ve officially given up.  You win, Veronica (*throws hands up in the air*). Here you go, take the pacifiers.  Take aaaaallllll the pacifiers.  Because we need sleep and the other shit we were doing? That wasn’t working. But you know what I love about us?  What I think makes us brilliant?  We have a routine.  We have a routine that we stick to religiously.  At night, we have her take a cat nap, and then dinner, and then bath, and then feed, a book, and bed.  And on the days that the schedule is compromised for one reason or the other?  Leah: “Oh, shoot, I don’t know if we’ll be able to get her a bath tonight?” Me: Sigh. “Well, that’s not going to be good.” But, wait, you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER.  We don’t have the right to hem and haw over a routine when it doesn’t work in the first place.  For all we know, the best routine for her, the one that will have her sleeping in until 8 am, might be to eat dinner in the bath tub followed by a bottle shoved through the spine of a book.  Or maybe she should ride through the living room on a llama while a dozen howler monkeys throw food at her, “Come on Eileen” playing softly in the background.  We don’t know.  Nobody knows, because we are sticking to the schedule that has produced zero positive results. But anyway, schedule aside, she’s not sleeping through the night on her own.  Or really, anything close.  We’d reached the point where, every night between 10:30 and 11:30, Veronica would wake up and not go back asleep until she was laying on her mom’s chest.  That wasn’t great sleep for Mom.  And then Veronica would usually make it until about 5 or maybe 5:30 when she would start tossing around on Mom’s chest, so Dad would take her downstairs.  That wasn’t great sleep for Dad.  In the end, everyone loses.  Well, everyone except Veronica.  She was pretty happy, actually. So finally, after months of this, we gave up and started throwing pacifiers at her.  We are now putting her down with a pacifier and have sprinkled a half dozen pacifiers in her crib.  Why not more?  Because the other half dozen that we’d like to put in there are hanging out with the missing left socks.  Someday they will tear this house down and a thousand pacifiers will come spilling out.  We really tried to avoid having her be a pacifier baby.  Not because we don’t like pacifiers.  Shit, we love them.  But because having a pacifier baby means that, for a long time, we’ll be getting up at least once a night (usually twice) to replace a pacifier once she’s kicked them all off the crib.  And you have to go in there and grope around in the dark, running your hands along the crib mattress feeling for plastic (why do they make the little fuckers clear?) (no pacifiers there) Fishing around in the gap between the bars and the mattress, until finally having to drop to the floor and reach under the crib.  And by that time it’s 3 am and you’re pretty much all the way awake and have to go pee. So yeah, we wanted to avoid the pacifier, but she never found her thumb and she didn’t have an interested in a lovey, so here we are. She, like her brother and sister before her, is a pacifier kid.  But you know what?  Last night she slept in until 6am. So I guess maybe the routine does work, plus a pacifier or...

Assume a spherical baby

By on Mar 30, 2015 in Expert Advice, Life With Three, Parenting, Sleep | 0 comments

We did it!  We figured out Veronica’s sleep!  And just in time too, as things were going pretty poorly.  Ever since she’d hit the four month sleep regression, she’d been waking up all through the night and we’d resigned ourselves to the fact that the only life we were ever going to have would be indistinguishable from that of the walking dead.  But then, just as nearly all hope had drained away, she did it.  She slept until 5.  And then the next night she slept until 5:45.  Then 6.  One magical night, she had learned to flip herself onto her stomach and that position is just what she needed to make it through the night. We did it! For five glorious days, the sleep was working.  Then…less so. It was a couple four AM wake ups – four AM and wide awake.  Then we had a few brushes with one and two AM wake ups, making us once again feel lucky on the nights she makes it until 3 am and falls back asleep on Leah.  We’ve given up and are taking taking what we can get. I suppose she probably won’t still be getting up at 3 am when she’s in high school. But what happened to the 5 am wake up?  What changed? She’s still sleeping on her stomach, still going to bed at the same time.  But now she’s up at 3 am on the dot every night.  What the hell? And this, this is why having kids is maddening, especially for people of a scientific persuasion.  We assume that we can figure something out – solve it – and then move on.  This is fine when dealing with the laws of nature, but the laws of the newborn are much more frustrating.  It’s an experiment conducted within a universe where the fundamental laws are flipped on their heads every two weeks. We’ve worked bedtime around to what I believe is now the third iteration of sleep arrangements between Veronica and the elders, the iteration that got Veronica sleeping through the night for five glorious days.  The only iteration with any proven success. The Plan Veronica gets a bath right after dinner while Lucy practices piano and Rocky helps with the bath by dumping water on Veronica’s head. Veronica gets PJ’d, fed, and booked while I start the kids’ bath.  Kids take a bath, screaming as loudly as humanly possibly.  Tiled walls amplify sound.  I figure as long as I can hear them they’re safe, so I retreat to a place where I can still hear them without blowing an eardrum (the tavern). Teeth! (Open wide.  Wider.  Don’t bite. Rocky, when you bite the toothbrush you ruin it.  Yes, you have to floss every day). Okay, rinse and spit.  Don’t swallow. Rocky bites the toothbrush and swallows a gallon of fluoride toothpaste for the 187th day in a row Wait a little bit, read a few books, and just generally buy time for Veronica to find REM sleep. And then, quiet as a band of mice, we creep our way upstairs. BANG BANG BANG “What the hell? Why are you guys stomping,” I whisper furiously.  “Quietly, I said.  Your sister is sleeping.” “BLURGL BARG ARGGH,” Lucy screams, waving her arms in the air. “JESUS CHRIST!” I’m no longer whispering.  Veronica is no longer sleeping. I think, all in all, the transition to three kids is going...

Potty Training is the worst

By on Nov 18, 2014 in Expert Advice, Life With Three, Parenting | 1 comment

All I smell is pee.  The whole house.  Pee. If you polled the world of parenting and ask the simple question “what’s the worst part of parenting (pre-teen addition),” people would do one of two things: respond “potty training” or reveal themselves to be liars.  Potty training is the worst.  The absolute worst. We’re working on potty training Rocky and, while it’s not going terribly, it’s not been a quick process.  This probably isn’t being helped by our lack of consistency.  Monday: “Oh, look at you peeing in the potty! Who’s a big boy?  Big boy putting pee in the potty.  You deserve an M&M” Tuesday: “You peed? Okay, pull your pants up.  Candy? *sigh* I suppose, hang on.” Wednesday: “Candy? Talk to me when you drop a turd.” We have a couple half-filled sticker charts on the fridge, the promise of more candy unfullfilled.  Some days we use pull-ups, some day we use underwear, and some days we stick him in a diaper and change him when we notice his Pampers dragging on the floor.  In short, we’ve been our own worst enemy.  But, by some miracle, we’re approaching some approximation of him being able to keep his pants dry for days in a row.  The weirdest thing is he’s been better with the poop then the pee.  But, then again, I’ve seen his poop.  I wouldn’t want to sit in that either. Just last week, this was a common conversation: “Hey Rocky, did you pee your pants?” Rocky, not even looking up from his play, “Yep” “Buddy, you have to tell us when you have to pee.” Rocky looks up at me with a smile. “It’s okay, Daddy.” Right.  But he is getting close.  The other day, he crapped his pants.  *But*, he did it right in front of the toilet and dragged his underwear down to his ankles to finish his business in the potty.  When I went in to see what was up, he was happily wiping, his legs smeared with shit, along with the toilet seat and rug.  I went to help and he proudly turned to me and said “No Daddy, I’ve got it.”  He’d made it to the potty…basically.  He was a champion…pretty much. I think the peeing started to come around when he realized he was just tall enough to pee standing up.  Actually, he’s kind of the perfect height for it as he can just rest his junk on the rim of the bowl.  No hands needed; no aiming.  He’s going to be really disappointed when he grows a few inches and has to put forth a little effort to hit his target.  And when he finishes?  He bends over and puts both hands on the rim of toilet, leans his head in, and spits out a spray of saliva.  I’m proud to say he learned one important lesson from Dad: you’re not done peeing until you’ve...

Shush, Pat, Scream, Cry. And that’s just me.

By on Oct 28, 2014 in Expert Advice, Life With Three, Parenting | 0 comments

It’s amazing to me how, despite this being our third kid, I don’t know anything about taking care of a newborn.  Each night for the past couple weeks, I’ve been spending evenings face to face with a well fed, well swaddled, rosy cheeked little angel who won’t go the fuck to sleep.  I look at her; she looks at me.  Neither of us knows how to stop her fussing.  We’re both motivated, don’t get me wrong. We both want this sleep thing to happen; we’re just helpless.  At least she has an excuse.  She can’t even control her limbs, let alone her sleep habits. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to avoid the old standby of the pacifier.  I’ll give it the occasional longing glance during these frustrating nights, but I know it’ll be all for the best if I leave it lying on the nightstand.  And, of course, I can’t get a burp out of this baby.  So, as far as I know she doesn’t have gas, but I’m never quit sure.  At a certain point, though, you have to stop smacking your baby as you tiptoe up towards that line between burping and beating. So each night, I had been taking this happy little baby, swaddling her up, and attempting to lay her in her crib only to have her start fussing the moment her body touches mattress.  I’ll pick her up and she instantly settles.  I relax and gingerly set her back down. “WAHHHH” Rinse and repeat.  So right, I don’t know what I’m doing.  But then just two days ago (our baby is almost a month old), I remember the magic trick to baby raising:  the Shush and Pat.  Baby’s are none too bright, you see, and so they can’t process three things at once.  Send in two inputs simultaneously (e.g., a shush and a pat) and their circuits lock up, clearing their mind of whatever bothers them.  Instantly, the crying stops; it’s truly magic. So Sunday I finally remembered this trick.  That night we had the baby in our room for some reason or the other, sleeping in the little rocking basinet we have.  So I gave her a rock and a shush and down she went.  Magic.  Worked both times I had to get her to sleep. Last night, however, we moved her back to her crib.  Her crib that’s in the room with the two lunatics.  You know what?  It’s a lot easier putting her down in that room when Rocky’s already sleeping. Putting Down Baby: A Play in Way Too Many Parts I walk into the kids’ room, a happy dozing baby in my arms, just off the breast and tightly swaddled.  Her face is relaxed and serene as I step lightly across the hardwood floor. A constellation nightlight shines with a blue light, casting stars across the ceiling, and our wind-powered sound machine pumps out white noise from across the room.  From the corner of my eye, I see a diminutive form stir within the shadows. “BABY VERONICA GOING TO BED?” “Shhhh, yeah, buddy,” I whisper as Rocky looks at me, head cocked to one side. “And we have to be so quiet so she can sleep.” “OKAY DADDY. I NEED A HUG AND KISS.” “Sure, buddy,” I say, easing her down and cross the room to his bed.  I give him one more hug and a kiss before heading to the door.  Lucy is already asleep at this point.  “And remember, so quiet.” Rocky drops back onto his bed and I head downstairs to listen in on the monitor.  Silent.  No crying baby.  But then slowly it begins.  First a little fussing, then a quickening of the breath.  Then a bit louder and the sound of struggle as baby V fights again her swaddle like a cat trapped in a bag.  Or, like any 18 month old I’ve ever tried to carry away from the park.  Quickly I head back upstairs, but this time I know what to do.  I’ve got my shusher and my patter all ready to go. I open the door and again the shadows shift as, once again, a tiny figure sits upright.  I pretend not to see Rocky shift around and pick up the little bundle from her crib, throwing her over a shoulder. “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I say, my shush almost sounding angry over the sound of the white noise machine.  I pat furiously as her cries begin to subside. “SHHHHH-” “DADDY, PUT BABY VERONICA DOWN” I wave a hand frantically in the general direction of the little voice, all the while continuing my “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.  My mouth begins to go dry, my throat hoarse. “DADDY, PUT VERONICA IN THE CRIB!” “Rocky, you need to be quiet,” I say, breaking from my shush.  I feel the baby twisting in my arms and look down in despair as her face begins to contort in discomfort. Jesus Christ, come on guys.  “Rocky, just lay down and go to sleep.  I’m trying to put Veronica down.”  He flops back down on his bed. “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I’m back on it and again the cries stop.  I can feel the tension going out of her – “DADDY, I WANT TO HOLD VERONICA.” “Not now, buddy,” I whisper. “I WANNA HOLD VERONICA,” he whines, edging towards tears. “Tomorrow morning, I promise.  It’s bed time.  She’s tired.” I’m fucking tired. This goes on.  “SHHHH.”  “DADDY.” “Quiet, Rocky.”...

More Expert Advice: Limiting Sugar

By on Oct 20, 2014 in Expert Advice, Parenting | 1 comment

These days, parenting is all about limiting the things that we assume screwed us up as kids, television and sugar being the most popular. With Lucy, her first taste of ice cream was sometime around 18 months.  Before then, if she wanted to enjoy a sweet treat she could enjoy a somewhat overripe banana. With Rocky, ice cream was introduced…earlier.  Lots earlier. And Veronica?  I’m not sure, but I suspect she grabbed a soft serve on the way out of the womb.  This is just the way it is with kids as the younger kids benefit from the rights to formerly forbidden treats that their older siblings earned.  But still, despite lessening the severity of the limitations we’ve placed on our kids, we still run a tight ship.  Candy leaves our stash a piece at a time, and then usually only if they catch us sneaking a handful. And here’s why: You don’t want them horning in on your stash Leah and I like candy.  I mean, we really like candy.  How much do we like candy? you wouldn’t be wrong if you said a good portion of our marriage is build on a foundation of Sour Patch Kids and Twizzlers.  Before we were officially dating, we were taking walks together to The Den to buy candy and 50 cent Cokes.  Neither of us wanted to lose our partner in sweets, so we decided to spend the rest of our lives together. When we first moved to Chicago, we didn’t make midnight trips to Walgreens for beer.  We went for Nerd Ropes. We have, on more than one occasionally, seriously considered starting a candy blog for the sole purpose of getting credentials for The Sweet and Snacks Expo (aka, the Candy Convention).  I’d really love to put together a post debating which is the all-time greatest candy: Lemonheads or Sour Patch Kids. This is our candy cupboard.  Note that it is well out of the reach of children: So, the last thing we need is our kids getting their greedy little fingers all over our candy.  If they want a snack, they can have a carrot.  Leave my Smarties alone. Watch your kids’ candy consumption, because more for them means less for you. You will own your kids When we potty-trained Lucy, we found the bribery method worked very well.  We started with marshmallows before graduating to M & M’s.  I don’t believe that would have been nearly as successful if she had regular access to desserts and treats. (I won’t mention how the bribery-based potty training has gone with Rocky.  Let’s just say it doesn’t entirely support my thesis) But when the treats are truly a treat, you can completely manipulate your kids.  The key is turning a lollipop into an object of their most desperate desires.  Want them to behave on a 45 minute train ride downtown? Shove a lollipop in each kids mouth (and a nipple in the baby’s) and sit back and relax.  Want your kid to get through an evening out at a restaurant? Dangle the confection above their heads with the guarantee that only through good behavior will they earn it.  If you can find a way to literally dangle it, even better. But again, the key is scarcity.  Scarcity leads to demand and demand leads to power. Rule your children.  Rule them with corn syrup and yellow dye...