September 29, 2009

Not My Night

Well, so much for the Sleep Plan.

Okay, it's not that bad. But it's not good. Day One's efforts were totally derailed by a break in my own routine. And Day Two is not shaping up to be much better.

Day One was a Monday. Mondays are Not My Night. As in, not my night with the kids. You see, my Aspie, he's very much a creature of routine. He requires it or he becomes a bit of a tantrummy basketcase. So when my not-yet-ex and I separated, we agreed that the kids would sleep at my place during the week in order to preserve the wake-in-the-same-place-before-you-head-to-school sameness that our oldest requires. But we also wanted to make sure the kids got lots of quality time with their dad. Bedtime, with all the reading and cuddling and caretaking - well, that's just quality time waiting for a place to happen. So on Mondays, Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays, the not-yet-ex comes to my house after work, feeds the kids, ferries them to their activities and puts them to bed.

To make this all run smoothly, I generally disappear.

The fact that Monday was Not My Night? That blew up my sleep plan. The timing on all the little bits and pieces of my newly rigid routine went right out the window. I forgot to turn off the computer. I forgot to take the melatonin. I forgot to go to bed. If my redhead hadn't come downstairs begging me to lie down with him, I'd have been up until 2:00 a.m. at least.

The good news? He came down early enough that I wound up with 5 hours or so of sleep. Better than usual. Not quite the goal, though.

I think routines and I don't get along so well.

Tonight, on Day Two of the Sleep Plan, it was in fact my night with the kids. So I followed the routine ... and promptly fell asleep putting my redhead to bed. Now it's nearly 11:00 p.m., and here I sit, remarkably well rested considering the hour. That's 'cause, you know, I just woke up.


Here's hoping things go a bit better tomorrow.

September 22, 2009

The Sleep Plan

Since we're on the topic of lessons learned in limbo, I think it's time for the next one:

Lesson 3: Get some sleep, stupid.

Please note, the word stupid is meant to be self-deprecating. And it is stupid, the fact that I can't sleep. Because it's not like I'm in bed, staring at the ceiling for hours on end. Nope, when I go to bed, I'm out cold about 30 seconds later.

I just don't go to bed.

I know how my insomnia started. It started with the birth of my gorgeous redhead, two straight years of 2:00 a.m. feedings, and constantly waiting for the next kid-inspired wake-up call. It started with my wonderfully flexible, full-time, work-at-home-in-my-luxurious-bedroom-office lifestyle. When you work in your bedroom, believe me, it's pretty much the last place you go to relax.

Oh, and you know, the whole not-yet-divorced thing? That doesn't help.

But now, honestly, I swear the sleep gods are out to get me. Because I do try to go to bed early. Well, sometimes. But on the nights I actually get IN the bed ... well, you know the drill. One kid is up at midnight with a cold. Another gets up at 3:00 a.m. with a nightmare. Then the powers that be send road crews to the neighborhood and tell them to jackhammer the crap out of our local streets. At 1:43 a.m.

New roads. Yay.

And yes, this all really happened. In one night. Last week, as a matter of fact.

I read recently that insomnia is a learned behavior. I believe it. After four years of sleep deprivation, I believe it. And now it's my intention to unlearn that nasty behavior and kick the ass of my insomnia demons once and for all.

And so, with the help of a few very dear friends who made time to do the sleep-related legwork, I have developed The Sleep Plan. It works like this:

For 8 weeks, I will follow a rigid routine. (Yeah, stop laughing. I know a routine when I see one and dammit, I can follow one.)
  • I will work each day from 8:30 to 5:30.
  • I will go make dinner, play with my kids, drive them hither and yon, bathe them, and put them to bed.
  • Then, if I need to, I work again from 8:30 to 10:30. In my office. Where I'm supposed to be. See, I am realizing that my work can't be portable. It's got to have its own place and time so that, at some point, it does stop so that my brain can shut down and learn to relax.
  • At 10:30, even if I'm not finished, I will turn off the computer. Yes, that's right. Turn it off. So I can't work even if I want to. And so the time sink that is Facebook doesn't drag me under.
  • Then I will take a melatonin. The melatonin part is only for the first two weeks, though. The point is, after all, to do this on my own. Dependency is not part of the plan.
  • I will relax and sit on my sofa and drink something warm and decaffeinated and maybe knit or read and watch something fun. Like Glee. (Watch Glee. It rocks.)
  • At 11:30 I will feed the cats. Then I will go to bed. Whether I want to or not.

The Plan starts tomorrow. And for the next 8 weeks, I'm generally going to ignore the whole family through food thing and blog about sleep. Well, I won't ignore the foody, family bits altogether; it's just not in my nature. But this is important. Long-term sleep loss is starting to affect my health. It's affecting my levels of grump. It's affecting my brain. I don't dream anymore. I miss appointments. I can't remember the names of my own kids (though that may be hereditary).

Really, not so good.

I cannot imagine I am the only person in the blogoverse who doesn't sleep at night - I'll bet there are insomniacs even in the limited bit of the blogoverse that visits here. So if you get the urge, join me. Make your own Plan. Follow along.

We'll have a sleepover when we're done.

September 17, 2009

Where's the Food, Reprise

Tonight I talked to my dad. My dad reads my blog. He is a FAN, and I do mean that in all caps. It's a good thing. It's what dads are supposed to be.

He did have one criticism though. "Where's the food?" he asked. "Don't forget you're writing about food."

I reminded him that this is meant to be about family. Food's just a filter. I am not a foodie; I'm a mom. What's more, I'm a nearly single, working mom of three, one of whom has Asperger's Syndrome, and I'm feeling my way through the mandatory period between separation and divorce more commonly known as Limbo. That means stress, joy, lessons learned, lots of time with the kids, time spent without them, finding new friends, finding myself ... and a whole host of other things.

It also means food. For me anyway. Because, well, it's one of the few things you really can't live without. And also because I used to have time to cook.

Yeah, I so don't do that anymore.

Anyway, I checked, and yes, indeed, there is food in each of my last three posts.

My most recent post was about - forgive me - vomit. And it was about toaster waffles, chicken quesadillas and ice cream. It was also about blueberries - at least it was for me. Be grateful I did not share that part.

That was, by the way, my second post about vomit. I hope not to write too many more.

The one before that was about learning to ask for help. This is a valuable life lesson, and one you learn the hard way in Limbo because if you don't ask for help, generally, you don't get any, and trust me there is little to no chance you'll manage Limbo without it. This, too, was about food - namely chicken, potatoes, wheatberries and cabbage. Oh, and brownies. I am all about the chocolate.

And the one before that? It was about my thrilling yogurt-and-Oreos dinner and the Petri dishes school makes out of our kids.

See? Food everywhere.

Tonight, one day after the anniversary of my first (and I hope only) year in Limbo, my not-yet-ex and I signed our separation agreement. Not much food in that. Just a feeling that the tunnel is nearing its light, and that you don't much want to cook. So I warmed up a can of refried beans, doused it in salsa and tomatoes, then melted low-fat cheddar over the top. I ate in front of the TV.

Ah, freedom.

September 8, 2009

The Top Bunk

My beloved Aspie skipped his breakfast this morning. Unusual, because breakfast was toaster waffles, and he loves toaster waffles.

Did alarm bells go off? Nope.

He called from school with a headache. He sometimes does that to get out of a stressful class, and the nurse said he was chipper and chatty. Still, no alarm bells.

He skipped his dinner too. This time it was chicken quesadillas, which have been his favorite food since he was, oh, two. See, they make them at Friendly's, which is also home to ice cream. Quesadillas and ice cream: that's his dream team of dinners. It ranks right up there with hot dogs and mac & cheese.

He was a little green around the gills, too. Alarm bells? Not a one. He'd been playing soccer, and sometimes his meds make him a bit heat strokey. So I gave him a big ol' cup of water and sent him off to read the comics.

Took everyone upstairs for a bath before bed. My Aspie was pale as a ghost. His head hurt. His tummy hurt. Hmmm, I thought. Poor kid is exhausted. So I sent him to bed. In the top bunk.

And that's when he started throwing up. Hey, look, alarm bells! A little late though.

So there I was in the middle of a big huge gross mess made infinitely worse by the fact that it all started on the top bunk. I've got a shaky kid. I've got two freaked out siblings. And then the phone rings. It's my not-yet-ex, calling with some changes to our separation agreement. Not a good time, I say, and hey, betcha wanna come help. Ha ha.

He dropped everything and did just that.

Fifteen minutes later, he was there. He read and sang with our younger two while I mopped vomit off the walls and disinfected the carpet. He tucked them in and saw them off to sleep. He cuddled with our Aspie until he stopped shaking and was ready at last for bed.

And then he went home.

It's easy to complain about the soon-to-be-ex. If you didn't have ammunition - both of you - you wouldn't be headed for divorce, right?

It's the being there that's hard.

And the being there? Well, I think my Aspie put it best. When his dad walked in the door he said, "Mom, this means he likes me!"

Yes, it does.

Lawnmower Men

Yesterday, my friends mowed my lawn.

Now, granted, these are my friends in Limbo, the folks with whom I and my kids now frequently share wine and pie and cupcakes. On Labor Day Sunday, those of us who could came together for a meal and a little beach time on the river. The gathering was at my house, and I'd had grand plans about getting up early (yeah, right) and depooping and mowing the lawn.

Lots of kids in attendance means a need for a clean and navigable yard. Right?

But I woke up late. And I woke up to a disaster. Two of 'em, actually.

My redhead, who has an unquenchable thirst for what he calls "cow milk" (note the cow on the label), had helped himself to a carton from out of the pantry. He left the pantry door open. This is never smart with a Black Lab in the house. This dog, who is now so old she cannot manage stairs unassisted, somehow made her way to the pantry, pulled out six cans of cat food, chewed her way into each and every one of them, and left bits of crushed can and puddles of chicken and liver dinner all over the house.

It took me an hour to clean it all up. Longer for the stench of cat food to dissipate.

Then, my dryer broke. So I spent lots of time carting wet clothes upstairs and laying them all out in the sun in the vain hope that they'd dry before company came.

Upshot? Lots of poop, very long grass, and an explosion of laundry on my deck.

My friends, who get that Limbo is a challenge of time as much as anything else, took one look at my shambles of a backyard and just stepped in. They grabbed plastic bags. They pulled the mower out of the shed. And in no time - well, it would have been no time except that crabgrass is a bitch to cut - they had my yard in playable shape.

And in doing so, they taught me another one of those Lessons Learned in Limbo.

Lesson 2: Ask for help.

Most of us, we just keep on swimming, despite the tsunami doing its best to drown us. But if you ask for help, shockingly, you might just get a life preserver, a helicopter, and someone trained to use both.

Pretty incredible, that.

Of course, asking for help is easiest when you don't actually have to ask. My friends made it very easy.

Once the lawn was mowed, we had a fun dinner - potluck as usual - of faked barbecue chicken, nearly browned potatoes, curried wheatberries and a signature salad of savoy cabbage and home-roasted crunchies. Oh, and brownies so fabulous that the children managed to devour every one of them before the grown-ups even noticed they were gone.

The food vanished. The lesson, though - that will stick.

September 2, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

Last night, I had three Oreos and a cup of low-fat blueberry yogurt for dinner.

That's because they found me. The back-to-school germs, that is. They found me, and now I'm sick as a dog.

Two of my three kids started back to school last week. That's the only reason we have Oreos in the house in the first place: for lunchboxes. Usually I buy the icky green mint ones. The kids love 'em, I don't, so they stay safely in the pantry where they belong.

But for the first week of school I wanted special. I wanted the golden double-stuff Oreos.

I like those.

I don't think the Oreos brought the germs, though. I think the kids did that, even though not a single one of them has this bug. Oh, my redhead ran a fever for a whole 36 hours last week. But that was it. And it's not what I've got.

They're carriers, these kids. Human petri dishes. I think it's all part of an insidious conspiracy. The germs attack me, the kids stay healthy, and then when I'm at my weakest the kids strike. Seems a lot of work for a few extra hours in front of the TV, but I suppose to them it's worth it.

So here I am. It's barely the second week of school, and I'm coughing so hard I can't sleep, unable to take a deep breath, and so hoarse no one can hear me.

I'm also too weak to stand up and make myself food. Hence the yogurt and Oreos.

Gotta love it when the kids head back to school ...