A lot happening in these parts. Back to school night tomorrow, then mini starts her twos program next week. As a first-time mom, I have been mildly overwhelmed by all the preparations for school, including several parent education nights (and coordinating sitters for them), a home visit from her teachers (!), an extended “phase-in” period that means I need to be available to bring mini to school for an hour or two at a time for several days — unless she snaps right in, in which case I can leave her for increasingly long increments (all of which in turn means quite a bit of maneuvering and contingency planning with micro’s breastfeeding schedule), and all of the paperwork and coordination that goes into her first week (including a “stroller parking application” so that we can leave her umbrella stroller at school when Mr. Magpie drops her off in the morning and either I or our nanny can pick her up with it in the afternoons — and is that not the most New York thing you’ve ever heard?)
Meanwhile, we’ve been doing our best to mentally prepare mini for school. I have been favoring my usual crutch: books that explain and depict transitions (mini loved this and this for toileting and this for adjusting to life with a little sibling). We have been reading a lot of Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School, Splat the Cat, and The Kissing Hand. I also really appreciate this What to Expect at Preschool book. It’s overly text-dense, but I always abridge and add my own language (i.e., swapping “preschool” for just “school” and “teachers” for “guides,” the lingua franca at Montessori) and it provides a lot of great prompts for conversation about school (i.e., “what is a teacher?” “will my parents come with me?” “what’s a classroom?” “what if I need to use the toilet?” etc.) We also printed out a “school countdown” page and taped it to her bedroom door. Every morning, we cross off an extra day (she does it with a crayon and loves this task) and talk excitedly about how many days are left until she goes to school. The key thing I took away from the parent education night on “separating” at mini’s school was that it’s important to talk frequently about what’s coming down the pike to mentally prepare them and set expectations. This jives with some of our observations about mini’s behavior, in that we noticed that she hates transitions, even just moving from one activity to the next or going from dinner to the bedtime routine. We have been doing a lot of “Emory, you have five minutes until it’s time to brush our teeth. You can play or finish your dinner, but you have five minutes.” And then we set the timer using Siri, and when the alarm goes off, it’s go time. It’s not foolproof but it’s helped with preventing colossal meltdowns.
Anyway. Thought I’d share all of the items I ended up buying for mini for the school year:
SADDLE STITCHES LUNCHBOX (SHE DOES THE BEST MONOGRAMS!)
STASHER BAGS IN A FEW SIZES AND COLORS
MONOGRAMMED WET/DRY BAG FOR SOILED CLOTHES
REGATTA BLUE NATIVE SHOES (HER SCHOOL REQUIRES THEM — ALL KIDS WEAR THEM IN THIS EXACT COLOR WHILE AT SCHOOL)
A few other cute finds that you might like: these personalized reusable sandwich bags (I’m already stocked up on stashers), these personalized medicine bags for kids with allergies/medical needs, and this airplane backpack for a little boy.
OK. So, that’s what’s happening on that front. At the same time, we are hunting for apartments and have at the time of this post seen six candidates. The good news is that all of them could, technically, work and are substantially larger than our current apartment. The bad news is that somehow even though we are only a month out from our desired move-in date (October 1st — our current lease ends October 15th, and we’re comfortable with that overlap, as it would make the moving process a lot simpler), a lot of the units are looking for tenants who want to move in immediately. We may need to pay double rent for longer than we’d like. It simply boggles my mind that the NY market moves this quickly. In college, I remember signing a lease for a unit in, like, April that wouldn’t start until September. Even Chicago was more spaced out. Here, you need to find a unit and somehow magically coordinate a move within days?! How do people with children do this?! Anyway, I digress. I’ve had two quotes from moving companies for full packs of our apartment (best money we ever spent in our move to NY and totally essential this go around) and feel prepared on that front. Incidentally, I re-read my post on the move to NYC and — wow. I still have PTSD from the experience. It in part explains why we have decided (at the moment) not to engage a broker. This means we spend a lot more time scouring Streeteasy (NYC-specific platform for rentals and sales) for listings and coordinating for viewings, but — it saves us a ton of money and frustration. And, frankly, we’re doing just fine without one, especially having been through the rental process here in the past and knowing what to ask and where we can push to negotiate. It would be nice to have someone coordinating all of this for us (“just show up here at 11 am”), but last time, the broker’s ineptitude caused us substantial duress and money (like, thousands and thousands of dollars in hotel bills and temporary storage) and we are highly skeptical that even a skilled broker would be worth the fee (typically one month’s rent).
One thing we’ve decided as we’ve looked is that we are going to be flexible on neighborhood. We’re looking all up and down the West side and have seen apartments on the UWS, Chelsea, West Village, and TriBeCa. As each day ticks by, I’m growing increasingly impatient, but I know we have time in this crazy New York market and I trust we will sort this out.
All the while, I am horribly sleep-deprived. I try my best to avoid whining about this because it’s a part of motherhood, it’s a temporary season of life, and I am in some ways in control of my destiny. I *could* carve out time to nap during the day while the nanny is here. I *could* hire a night nurse. I *could* let him “cry it out.” I *could* go to bed at 7:30 P.M., when micro typically gets his longest stretch of sleep. But I choose not to do any of these things and therefore feel unjustified complaining in any measure. But, this is the fact of the matter: I am exhausted. I am going on three months of waking at least once, and often thrice, each night. In the morning, I find myself doing the depressing math as to how many hours of sleep I gained the night prior — and it’s usually around five, broken up into 1.5-2 hour segments. This does not a healthy or happy mom make. My doctor has assured me that he can go for longer segments without eating and that he does not need to be fed more than once at night. (In fact, some say they can go a full twelve hours at this age.) I know this, I know this, I know this. I am in a peculiar bind because I feel like I might have more of the emotional stamina to let him cry it out (I could not bear it at this age with mini!), but until we move to a three bedroom, it’s rather challenging to accomplish when he is screaming literally a foot from my face in his bassinet.
At one point, though, I felt so run-down that I decided to re-read “Moms on Call,” as about half of my mom friends swear by its schedule/approach and have babies happily sleeping through the night by three or four months of age. One friend said, matter-of-factly, over drinks the other day: “It just works. It’s foolproof.”
OK. Foolproof?! I’ll give it a try.
I re-read it and remembered all the reasons why it wasn’t for me with mini. I feel as though it doesn’t live in the real world — or at least the reality of my world. For one thing, we don’t have a separate bedroom (or, for that matter, crib) for micro that will be consistently quiet and dark. For another, I have a second child and I work from home and sometimes sticking to their schedule is insanity-inducing. I attempted to adopt her schedule for a few days and drove myself mad. For example, I found myself attempting to put micro down for naps at the suggested times rather than following his cues for sleepiness as I normally do, and then would find myself either continuously returning to his bassinet to shush and soothe him or walking around with him in my arms for thirty minutes at a stretch. If I had just waited for his telltale “I’m ready to sleep” signals — red eyebrows, squirms, fussiness — he would be out in a matter of minutes and down for a nice stretch of sleep. For another thing, bedtime is insane with two kids if I’m trying to stick to their program. I was literally racing through mini’s regimen, speed-reciting her prayer, in order to get to him for his bedtime bath before his nighttime feed — and OH. For what, Jennie?! Suddenly I was not only sleep-deprived but stressed and constantly checking my watch and my day — which already belongs entirely to my children and especially to my breastfeeding son — was doubly not my own, as I was not only beholden to my children, but to the schedule of the book.
I’m glad the book has worked for other moms. I love the idea of a consistent routine. I applaud and celebrate any tool that empowers any woman to be successful in her motherhood. I am happy for (and envious of) my friends with babies who sleep through the night. But I could not bend myself around it and it only worsened things for me temporarily. I should have known better: I tend to feel best, and most successful as a mother, when I am following my instincts rather than a rulebook. On the upside, it did make me realize that my instincts are not far afield from the ones espoused by the book, which made me feel good. I was already intuitively following the eat-play-sleep cycle, just on a more flexible rotation, i.e., sometimes he went four hours between feeds, sometimes only two and a half. On lucky days, almost five. He does sleep at least a little bit during each “cycle,” though a number of his naps are in the stroller or carrier out of necessity, and sometimes they are 20 minutes and other times, two hours. We tend to be feeding around the same times they suggested in the book. And “bedtime” follows a lot of the patterns in the book, though sometimes I only bathe him every other night, and usually I feed him an hour before I put him down, waiting for him to show me he is tired before I swaddle him.
Is this too detailed? Ha. Catharsis via the pen.
Anyhow, I am still struggling with the sleep issue. I am thinking that I will persist with the status quo until we move and micro has a proper bedroom and crib and can then pursue a more stringent “close the door and do not go in” policy to drop one of the nighttime feeds.
My other thought is — maybe he is going through a growth spurt? For a few weeks, he was sleeping consistently from 8 PM – 2 AM or sometimes 3 AM and that felt doable. Now we’re waking at 12 PM, 3 AM, and 5 AM and then he’s fussy until around 7. Maybe he is just hungry? Could he be teething already (he’s drooling a LOT)?
Such are the cyclical musings of moms around the world, I know. I am tired with you, my friends.
And so concludes my rambling update on life lately.
How are things with you? Anyone muscling through the experience of sending her little one off to school, or struggling with sleep with a baby, or moving in Manhattan? Or something else?
+This would also be a super cute gift for a daughter going off to school — you could wear one and she could wear the other.
+I wouldn’t say I belong to any one “school of thought” when it comes to parenting, in part because I don’t do well reading books on the topic, as noted above. They cloud my thinking and stress me out! I do borrow elements from slow parenting and have mused over “free-range” parenting. Mainly, I love this parenting advice.
+Love this white blouse. I can never have enough little white tops!
+Do you agree with this advice for young women?
+A chic shower curtain for a preppy bathroom (<<on sale!).