Experiments in sleep deprivation

It turns out that toddler sleep, like American football, is a game of inches. In this particular case, the inches are the difference in height between the mattress and the crib rail and the distance between the crib and the nearest thing to which a toddler can climb. For Baby G., the crib rail was just low enough that he could swing a leg up to the top and a “mock Swedish” home-assembled storage cabinet (from a certain company with bright blue stores and a four letter name) was just close enough to provide a platform for escape from the crib. Given that Baby G. is turning into an avid climber, this suggested that the winds of change were blowing during this past week, and that we should get ahead of them.

Fortunately, we purchased a convertible crib. The crib first transforms into a toddler bed by replacing the front crib rail with a low guard that protects about half the length of the mattress. After that, it is possible to buy bed rails that turn the front and back crib rails into the headboard and foot board of a full-sized bed. Baby G.’s room is too small for anything more than a twin bed, but we figured that the crib to toddler bed conversion would be useful. When Baby G. actually got out of his crib a couple of times last Tuesday, we figured the toddler bed was worth a try.

The actual timing of the conversion caused some friction. Mrs. Geek was hoping that I’d convert the crib sometime before work on Wednesday morning. I was just feeling on the better side of a cold and had a company potluck luncheon to prepare for that day (I brought Texas-style chili con carne) and decided to wait until the evening. We were both a little worn out and irritable by the end of the day, and she was disappointed that we weren’t able to try the toddler bed out for his afternoon nap. This turned out to be just as well; we’d misplaced some parts needed for the conversion and a trip to the hardware store was required to find replacements. That was easily accomplished on Wednesday evening, and could not have been accomplished that morning.

Bed time that night and the following three nights were not, well, a disaster… but it wasn’t a picnic either. Baby G. has always been good at settling himself for the night, but it’s always been a SLOW process. We could put him in a crib for the night, but he doesn’t fall asleep right away as a rule. He usually takes 30-45 minutes of rolling around, walking around the crib, and sometimes chattering for him to calm down for sleep. Take away one wall of the crib, and he wants to get up, walk around the room, play with toys, and start climbing things. These new possibilities also excite him, so he stays up much later with the toddler bed than he would with the crib. Mrs. Geek and I eventually took 15 minute shifts trying to keep him in the bed… and he wasn’t always happy about it. With an 8pm bed time, he didn’t calm himself until about 10:15pm on the first night. He got to sleep between 15 and 30 minutes earlier on the other nights. His naps weren’t much better. Mrs. Geek and I got tired and irritable from playing “bad cop” for about 2 hours each night and an hour or so during the afternoon. It became a cycle of decreasing returns… where all of us just became more and more exhausted.

So today we decided to withdraw and regroup. The toddler bed is now a crib once more, with the mattress set the lowest it could go. The crib is now a few inches further away from the toy storage cabinets, because the crib is now closer to the wall and the cabinets have been moved as far away as some wall bracing will allow. Baby G. fell asleep on his own in about 10 minutes for his nap this afternoon, and in about 45 minutes without intervention from his parents this evening. The lower mattress and the larger spacing between furniture bought us some time… to consider our next move. The events of the last few days taught us that this needs to be a proactive, not reactive, process.


Finding New Ways To Lose Sleep

The “terrible twos” have arrived at our house (along with a new two-year molar or three). Baby G. has been more moody in the last few weeks, and prone to throwing tantrums in which he screams and either throws himself on the ground or tries to bonk his forehead into something if he’s unhappy. He’s moved from “2T” to “3T” between October and February, and he seems taller every time I turn around and look at him. All this change has got to be unsettling. Add to that the fact that he’s still not talking — he can now perform a variety of simple tasks if you ask him, so there is plenty of language cognition but he has little interest in mimicking others (for fun or not) and is very selective in how he vocalizes — and he’s got to get plenty to be frustrated about, I’m sure. Since he doesn’t talk and can’t ask, we don’t bother to explain what is going on even though he could probably understand some of it. Mrs. Geek and I need to be better about that.

Things were particularly bad two weeks ago. Baby G. was waking up in the middle of the night a lot. He also seemed to be want to cling to Mrs. Geek or myself than usual. His appetite was off. Mrs. Geek took him to a “newborn to toddler” parenting class in which the parents meet in one room while the kids have (supervised) playtime together in another room, and he had a pretty bad meltdown. This struck us as rather odd, because he’d attended the class during the previous two weeks and everyone was very impressed with how easily Baby G. was able to separate from his mother.

The reasons for his apparent bad mood became clearer to me a couple days later when Mrs. Geek was at a scrapbooking event for the evening and I gave Baby G. a bath. I happened to peek into his mouth and saw a new two year molar breaking through in the back. If it wasn’t “problem solved”, it was “problem better understood” at least. He continued to be grumpy, and up occasionally overnight all through the following week. It felt better knowing why.

If all this wasn’t enough, the alarm system panel at our house started making these sequences of six beeps every few hours during both the day and the night over this past weekend. I first noticed the problem at around 3am on Saturday. Baby G. was up again at around 1am, and I’d brought him with me to the sofa in our living room where (thankfully) we both fell asleep again fairly quickly. So that got me up for a second time with a front row seat because the alarm panel is only about six feet from the sofa. By late morning, I’d done some searching online about the problem and figured out that the system has a small lead acid battery that it uses as a backup power supply. That battery was dead or dying, prompting both beeps from our control panel and signals to the alarm company. Those alarm company signals resulted in robo-calls to our house saying “your alarm system has a low battery”.

I tried at various times during the day Saturday to call the alarm company to get advice on what to do. That initially proved fruitless. The robo-calls we got referred to a web site, and the web site referred to a 1-800 help line that called an automated phone tree. The phone tree eventually tried to call a number that prompted one of those “You have dialed a wrong number. If you reached this number in error, please hang up and call again.” messages from the phone company. After a few more episodes of beeping alarm panels during the day, I stepped up my efforts by looking at the contact numbers available on our monthly bills. One of those connected me to a human right away, and I finally found myself taking apart the alarm panel at around 5pm with the help of someone on the phone.

Getting at the battery proved fairly easy, but finding a replacement was less so. About the only place where I figured I could find such an item after 5pm on a Saturday was the local electronics megamart chain. It’s a great place to go for absolutely all things “technology geek”, but their customer service is absolutely horrible and their business practices cut every corner possible. Yet, they are a “one stop shop” with a lot of stuff you can’t get elsewhere, and cannot be ignored for that reason. I follow two rules when shopping there: 1. don’t call and ask if they have something because the sales drones always lie about what’s in stock, and 2. never buy anything “previously opened with manufacturers warranty” because all returns seem to be put back on the shelves at least once, even if parts are mangled, broken, or missing. Knowing that this might involve a journey, we decided that I should wait until Baby G. was fed, bathed, and in bed before I departed.

I finally began my quest just before 7:30pm. I headed to the nearest store for the battery, which the chain web site indicated was in stock. As with calling on the phone, I discovered that “in stock” on the web was a relative term. After looking for 10 minutes where on the shelf that the battery was supposed to be but wasn’t, I flagged down a sales drone and he looked at the inventory system. It said that there was supposedly one item in inventory, but the drone happily conceded that it was often difficult to locate an item if there was only one of them in the system. I had the presence of mind to ask about inventories at other stores; he said there was a store 10 miles away with four, and a store 20 miles away with twelve. I opted to head for the store 20 miles away because it was getting toward 8pm and the stores closed at 9pm. I’d rather go the distance and definitely find a battery than stop at a second store only to have to move on to a third and be worrying about closing time.

The further store did indeed have plenty of the batteries, though it took me a while to find one because each store is laid out differently and I hadn’t been to that location for a long time. The replacement battery took about 10 minutes to install and then 24-30 hours to charge. I had it installed by 9pm on Saturday, and the low battery warnings (with the attendant beeps and robo-calls) didn’t finally end until Sunday night. The system did not report that it was healthy again until I got up on Monday morning.

When I told my parents about all this on Sunday, my Mom humorously remarked that “all of you seem to try awfully hard to find new ways to lose sleep.”

I did get one consolation out of the shopping trip on Saturday night. The CD selection at the local electronics megamart has shrunk a lot over years (though it’s still better than say, Best Buy or Target) but they still have a rack for audiophile releases like SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. There, I was able to find a copy of the Mobile Fidelity SACD release of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This is a lush, beautiful stereo version (created under the supervision of Brian Wilson in 1997) that made for a gorgeous meditation as it played on my SACD player while I cleaned house on Sunday morning.

the rapture of the school bus people

school bus people

In a further sign of the apocalypse after the looming disappearance of the once nigh-invulernable snack cake “the twinkie”, we are presently dealing with the possibility that a group of seven small individuals were taken into Heaven, held out of harm’s way through the dark days ahead of four horsemen, dragons, and whores, since the Mayans predicted that the world might end next month.

I speak of course of six students and one teacher/driver who came with the Melissa and Doug Whittle World Wooden School Bus set. Various of the students had disappeared before, often placed into detention under the coffee table by Baby G. The reasons why certain of the students found themselves so banished were often murky, but they would be recovered for several days in a row from the same place away from the others. The whole group have now been missing for just over two weeks. They have never all been gone… or for so long. Hence, our concern that they were all taken away by supernatural forces.

They were last seen two weeks ago Sunday. Mrs. Geek and I had just returned from our first overnight trip away from Baby G. since he was born. We picked up Baby G. and brought him home, and Mrs. Geek went out to run some errands. I was camped out on the sofa, dozing slightly, while Baby G. moved from the living room to his room, playing. At one point, he had the school bus with everyone aboard. Later, I heard a toy crash to the floor in the hallway through a door and around a corner from where I lay. Much later, we found the bus but no people… and haven’t seen them since.

For a while we feared that they might have found their way into our floor furnace (we have an old gas heater sunk in the floor near the center of our house.) It was near where Baby G. played after all. Subsequent cleaning of the furnace in preparation for winter revealed no sign of teacher or students there. We also searched the living room, the bathroom, the dining room, and a good part of Baby G.’s bedroom.

The number of places in the house where they could be is getting small. Unless they were placed in a garbage can or diaper pail that was subsequently emptied, rapture seems like the best option… despite its prediction of the end of days.

The lights are on, time to go home.

If you ask my mother what my first words were as a child, she is not terribly exact in her answer. My baby book records my first sentence as “what’s Daddy doing?”. Along with that, she likes to recall an incident when I was two and a half (I was a late talker): while talking a walk around the neighborhood with me in a stroller, I looked up at the streetlight and said “streetlights are on. time to go to home. he has to go to bed.” Like a lot of kids, I evidently used to mix up my pronouns and referred to myself in the third person.

In light of this story, my Mom was rather tickled to hear what Baby G. did last night:

Mrs. Geek and Baby G. were playing in the back yard, right around five o’clock. Being the time of year that it is, it was getting dark. We have a back porch light on an infrared sensor, and naturally it turned on. Mrs. Geek says it was not absolutely immediate, but Baby G. eventually noticed that the light was on. As soon as he did, he took Mrs. Geek by the hand and almost dragged her to the back door to go inside.

A Challenging Daddy Morning

Here’s how Saturday played out Baby G. and myself:

6:30AM – Everybody gets up. Mrs. Geek has a sorority sister coming to town, so she has plans for the morning. Baby G. and I also have plans: we’re getting haircuts.

10:00AM – Baby G. and I arrive for our haircuts. The hair salon is nearly empty, and Baby G. has nearly free run of the front of the place while Dad goes in the chair to get his hair cut. Baby G. is generally good, only “re-organizing” some of the hair products on the shelves in the waiting area.

10:20AM – It is Baby G.’s turn in the chair, or rather, in my lap in the chair. Immediately upon hoisting him into my lap, my nose tells me that he needs a diaper change. Lovely. He fusses a little in the chair, but we get out a milk bottle and he is generally a good boy.

10:40AM – Haircut is finished. Baby G. and I head out to the car, but forget the milk bottle. No matter, a diaper needs to be changed. First, find a diaper. I look in the diaper bag, but the diapers there are size 5 (we recently jumped to 6) and damp for some reason. No matter, there is an emergency package of diapers in the car. I find them, but they are also size 5. The diaper is changed and bagged. We head back to the salon and retrieve the bottle.

10:55AM – I have a dilemma. The car needs gas and the car ride is long enough that I’m worried that Baby G. will fall asleep in the car. He’s had a bottle but no lunch. If he falls asleep, the chance of a good nap this afternoon drops significantly. So do I risk that, or do we go out to lunch now and then drive home? I opt for the latter.

11:10AM – After parking the car and walking with him in my arms for two blocks, we arrive at a burger place. I get a bowl of chili for myself. Baby G. gets a bowl of mac’n’cheese.

11:20AM – The food arrives. Baby G. melts down. He doesn’t like the mac. He’s upset that he keeps picking up fries and that they break apart when he tugs on them. He’s upset that he can’t dip the fries in my chili. He doesn’t want milk.

11:23AM – The waitress brings by the check even though neither of us has eaten much. She also offers to bring by some boxes if we need to leave. I say that no, we’ll try to sort it out. Still, she’s going to get a good tip for staying on top of the situation.

11:27AM – Baby G. finally calms down after I pick him up out of his high chair and feed him some goldfish crackers. With improved blood sugar levels comes calmer behavior.

11:35AM – Lunch is finished. It’s $16 lunch bill. The waitress gets a $5 tip. We go to gas up the car at a local Costco.

11:45AM – We head home.

11:50AM – Baby G. begins to nod off.

12:35PM – A sudden bunch up of highway traffic requires some squealing brakes and a sudden, unplanned lane change. This gets my adrenaline pumping, but thankfully no cars rub bumpers (or any of their other parts.) Unfortunately, it also gets up Baby G. He’s not crying, but not particularly happy either.

12:40PM – We arrive home. I check on his diaper. The size 5 diaper has failed and his clothes are soaked. Diaper is changed to a size 6.

1:20PM – Baby G. is still not asleep. I decide to check on him. Again, I immediately smell the need for a diaper change. Diaper is changed again.

1:55PM – I also need a nap. Baby G. is still not asleep. Will we have to go the whole afternoon with only 40 minutes of sleep instead of the usual 2.5 hours? I also begin to wonder when Mrs. Geek will be getting home. I could use an extra set of hands.

2:10PM – Mrs. Geek finally gets home. I can consider moving to other chores (some house trim needs painting) and a fresh set of hands can try to deal with Baby G.

Was this the worst day that any parent has ever had? Good Lord, no. It was just one of those days when nothing came particularly easy… except possibly the hair cuts. Those were fine.

Kids grow… and sleeplessness follows.

In addition to the other recent craziness with Baby G.’s WubbaNub, Baby G. is growing like a weed… with occasionally messy consequences.

The latest of those consequences is at least one diaper failure a night for the last few nights. His kidneys and bladder can just produce more than the diapers we use are able to hold. Knowing that this is a problem that will not go away, we’re taking steps. First, we tried getting the next larger size of the earth friendly, compost-able diapers that our diaper service provides/accepts. Next morning, change the pajamas and sheets. Since those hippie-friendly, somewhat alternative diapers are not as efficient as the white man’s diapers from Da Man at Big Diapers, Inc., we next tried going back to the non-compost-able, throw-in-the-garbage nighttime white man’s diapers we abandoned a few weeks ago to help save the landfill, landfill be damned. Next morning, change the pajamas and sheets. Now, I purchased the largest size of disposable nighttime diapers possible from Big Diapers, Inc. on my way into work this morning and we’ll see what happens tonight.

Let’s hope that the new diapers do the trick. Baby G. has been waking up at various hours of the night (1am one night, 3am another, 4am this morning) and waking up quite upset. I think it’s because he’s wetting himself and REALLY not liking it. I happened to be the one to check on him this morning, and I thought I didn’t feel any leaks from his diaper… but lo and behold! There was a small wet spot on his crib sheet and around the waist of his pajamas when I got him up and changed him two hours later.

We’re also continuing to try to wean Baby G. off his WubbaNub. He generally goes to sleep and wake up fine without it, but a pacifier of some sort is about the only thing that calms him down in the middle of the night. So it was wake up at 4am this morning, see the kid fussing, unsuccessfully figure out why, get out the pacifier (sans stuffed frog), and kid rolls over and calms himself. Great for Baby G., but not good for making sure that weaning is successful.

(It also wasn’t so good for Dad. Dad stayed awake almost until the alarm goes off at six… because it’s the middle of the night, all the irrational worries come calling, and there could soon be a Republican in the White House who doesn’t seem to give a damn about much of what I care about. Dad needs more sleep.)


One of Baby G.’s favorite toys for the last two years has been a Green Frog WubbaNub that Mrs. Geek and I call “Froggy”. Along with a certain bear blankie we call “Bear”, Froggy was Baby G.’s bedtime companion almost since he was born. His need for Froggy grew less over time; he went from wanting to use the pacifier through the night to using it for just a few minutes as he fell asleep and a few more while he awoke. He sometimes wanted Froggy and Bear for comfort during the day too, but we tried to discourage that… or at least limit it. Froggy and Bear were “crib friends” and Baby G. had to be either in his crib (mostly) or in his room (sometimes) to play with them.

That need was persistent. About six months ago, the silicone pacifier came loose from the frog plush toy while Baby G. was tugging on it. The crying could break your heart. It was also a Wednesday or Thursday night, and we both needed to be up early the next morning. So, Daddy had to make an emergency trip to a nearby Babies-R-Us at 8:45pm, just before they closed, to make sure that Froggy was made better.

All that ended Friday night. Baby G. took to treating the pacifier like a chew toy in the last couple weeks and bit the end mostly off. Not wanting the end to come loose in the middle of the night, I cut it off. It wasn’t the same. We got out the original Froggy that was in two pieces. That wasn’t the same either. So Baby G. went to bed since Friday only with Bear.

He was fairly brave for the first 36 hours. There was some anxiety at nap time on Saturday, but he went to bed without much complaint on Saturday night. The wheels kind of fell of on Sunday. Baby G. started to realize that Froggy was gone and not coming back, I think. There was an hour of fussing before nap time, and over 90 minutes of fussing at bed time. He tries to reach across the room and cries and cries… as if he wants something, but he isn’t quite sure what it is… or can’t find the words.

This is one of those decisions that I know is correct for me as a parent. Like other decisions (going from breast to bottle, from bottle to sippie cup), Mrs. Geek and I knew it was coming and let events play out. Yet, it’s hard to see him go through this. I hope he gets over it soon.