Dealing with the Dropped Nap

It’s every parents’ nightmare – the dropped nap.  What do you do when, after a full morning and early afternoon of vigorous activity, your toddler suddenly refuses to lay down for a couple of hours of sweet, sweet sleep?

Now, allow me to start with a disclaimer.  I am certainly the last person in the world you want to take kids’ sleeping advice from.   Neither of my children sleep.  I love sleep.  They certainly do not take after me in this regard.  However, recently I have had one victory in the sleep department, and that is bringing back my two and a half year old’s afternoon nap (praise Jesus).  Many of my good friends have sleep angels; this will not apply to them.  But I do hope this applies to at least one struggling parent out there who is trying to figure out a successful way to bring back that ever-important, sanity-enhancing afternoon nap.  Here goes:

Logan began to get difficult about naps when we returned to the U.S. for Christmas holidays.  He was exactly two and a half.  I guess you can’t really blame the guy because there was a lot going on:  a full-on twelve-hour time change; snow versus EXTREME Bangkok heat; cousins who no longer napped running around the house (this was a killer); and so many new things to do and experience.  While we tried our best to get him to nap on vacation, it just wasn’t happening.  After a couple of weeks, we decided not to fret over it too much and assumed he’d be back to his napping routine when we returned to Bangkok.  Wrong.  When we returned to Bangkok and kissed jetlag goodbye after a week of readjusting, Logan still refused to nap.  I could lay with him for an hour and he just — would — not — nap.  Parenting is full of joy, but it has its moments of frustrations.  For me, this was one of them.  It was clear to me that Logan still needed to nap.  Without the nap, he would become destructive and difficult in the late afternoon leading to a full-on melt down around 5pm.  That was not fun for anybody.  Plus, I had read that most children nap until at least three; and others – four.  Two and a half seemed a bit young to be dropping the nap, but not altogether impossible, I guess.

So what did I do?  I busted out the baby gate.  Yes, the one still wrapped in plastic that we had never bothered to open.  I put the gate up at the entry way to his room.  When it came time for his nap, I would ask him if he’d like to nap or have one hour of quiet time.  Every time I presented him with the option, he chose quiet time.  Our quiet time guidelines looked something like this:  1. Logan had to stay in his room for one hour (I closed the gate so he could not come out, but I left his bedroom door wide open); 2. he was not allowed TV or music during this time; 3. his quiet time had to be done alone.  I usually tended to Katelyn or stayed in my room with my door open if she was sleeping so that Logan could see I was nearby and having my own “quiet time.”   The first few days went swell and he didn’t complain;  he would only call to ask that I play puzzles or color with him (I responded that I was in my “quiet time” too, and emphasized that quiet times had to be done solo).  After about a week, though, quiet time started to get old (and frankly, very boring) for Logan.  At this point, he played for about fifteen minutes alone and then would come to the gate  and cry for the other forty-five (not fun).  Call me cruel, but I know the only way to be successful in a situation like this is to be consistent, so this went on for a few days.  After the full realization that quiet time was not what it was cracked up to be (about three weeks in), I began trying naps again.  And guess what folks?  It worked.  And since that day in January, Logan has missed maybe one or two naps total.  Sweet victory.  My life and his late afternoon temperament are back to some standard of normal.

Kids are smart; much smarter than we give them credit for.  I’ve no doubt that when Logan realized what quiet time was all about, he settled for the nap instead.  By the way, at what point do you think kids/adults realize that napping is awesome?  If I ever resisted my naps when I was little, I am now kicking myself.

And since my kids are THE WORST sleepers, I thought I ought to provide you with some proof that this actually worked.  This is a picture of Logan napping last week (I promise I did not ask him to pose):

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And this is the real proof; as you can tell I woke him up while snapping away (I need to get my hands on one of those silent mirror-less cameras):

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So there you are.  Good luck to you in bringing back that nap.  You can do it!

Enduring 20 Plus Hours of Air Travel with a Toddler (Oh Yes, and a Baby)

Bali

Air travel done right: Logan on a flight to Bali at 10 months old

Let me start by saying that I am certainly not the authoritative source on how to create the world’s best behaved, patient, sleepy children for hours of international air travel. However, with a few long flights under our belt and no major meltdowns on the 50 hours of air travel we endured over the past five weeks, I feel as though we have had some mild success that we can pass on. God knows I scoured through many ‘a website desperate for tips on international travel with toddlers before we embarked on our Christmas holiday vacation; which, by the way, looked something like this:

Bangkok -> Tokyo -> Washington, D.C. (two weeks rest) -> Chicago -> Grand Rapids, MI (two weeks rest) -> Chicago -> Los Angeles (three days rest) -> Tokyo -> Bangkok

(and yes, we are crazy).

Crammed in United’s economy class seating three rows from the back on a 747 and not even assigned in the same row (thank you, United, for seating my seven month old in a row by herself), here is what made the trip bearable for our toddler, and in return, us:

1. Plane pep talk.  About a month before our trip, I talked to Logan almost every night about our upcoming journey, what we would do, who we would see, and most importantly, what we could and should do on the plane. We’d eat on the plane, sleep on the plane, play on the plane, and watch as many movies as he wanted on the plane. Did I mention we’d sleep on the plane?  A lot.

2. A bag of wrapped goodies, doled out slowly. This is an old trick that we learned from many parents. A couple of weeks before the big flight, head out to a toy store, the dollar store, Michael’s or anywhere, really, and buy small, inexpensive, and time-consuming toys for the trip. Wrap them and hide them from your toddler until the day of the flight. During air travel, dole them out slowly. Unwrapping will buy you at least 30 seconds to a minute depending on the age and dexterity of your toddler (and we all know any extra minute that a toddler is busy on a flight is like gold).  In order of success, these made the best plane toys for our two-year old: Melissa and Doug On The Go Color Blast Artwork, Usborne reusable sticker books, long-winded paperback Dr. Seuss books, travel etch-a-sketch, 50 Things to Spot at the Airport. And the worst? Matchbox cars (why did I think this was a good idea) and anything with multiple markers and/or crayons. Model clay was a fun activity when we could put tray tables down.

3. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Bring loads of snacks. And definitely mix in some forbidden ones with the healthy ones . . . like M&Ms, Pocky sticks, lollipops, and chocolate milk. It’s bribery, but sometimes you will need those enticing snacks to keep a toddler quiet during take-off and landing.  And really, no parent should be above bribery when faced with 20 plus hours of international travel with a toddler.

4. An iPad full of toddler entertainment options. I know there are a gazillion apps out there now to keep toddlers occupied, but we went a different route, loading every five-minute Thomas the Train episode imaginable on the iPad for our toddler’s viewing pleasure. We also loaded some Disney cartoons and a few Disney movies. Since Logan is not quite two and a half, shorter shows work much better for him than full-length feature films. Tray table down, iPad in place, earphones on (well, half-way at least), and sometimes we’d have almost 45 minutes of uninterrupted bliss.

5. Aisles are your friends. No one (well, except curmudgeonly United flight attendants) expect toddlers to stay seated for 13 hours. So how do you allow your a toddler to expel his/her overwhelming amount of energy? Use the aisles. When the seatbelt sign is off and there are no beverage carts moving up and down the aisles, let them loose. Expect your toddler to run so fast that he/she will make it past business, into first, and to the cockpit door before you can make it half way down the aisle. Ours did several times. You might think that people will get annoyed by a toddler running up and down the aisles, but most people on our flights enjoyed the additional entertainment.

6. Several changes of clothes. Ahh, yes. One of your carry-ons will probably be completely devoted to several changes of clothes, diapers, and wipes when you travel with a toddler and a baby. This is necessary because of all of the spitting up, spilled drinks (this happens every time the beverage cart comes around and your toddler gets his hands on one of those wide-mouthed plastic cups), poops, pees, and sticky snacks. Three changes of clothes/child seemed to be the magic number.

7. Good neighbors. And to get this, you just have to be lucky. We were unlucky on one flight where an older gentleman refused to move to the aisle in front of us so that the four of us could sit together. Our revenge? He got to sit next to Logan during the seven hour flight.

8. Code share is key. We are true Americans and love American things, however when we have the option to fly a code share flight operated by an Asian airline (Al Nippon Airways, Thai Airways, Singapore Airways), we do it. Our return flight from LA to Tokyo was a United flight operated by ANA. And it was magical. More leg room, better changing tables, cleaner planes, excellent service, toys for the kids courtesy of the airline, good meals, toddler cups with lids and straws . . . must I go on?

9. Meds. And before you jump to conclusions, no I am not going to advocate that you should drug your toddler with Benadryl to get him to sleep (although, there were times when I thought this would be a nice option, but then the ethical part of it just kept slapping me in the face). We always carry infant and toddler acetaminophen and ibuprofen onboard, as well as a thermometer and Pedialyte. You never know when a fever is going to pop up on a long flight.

10. Gates = Freedom. Now is where those matchbox and pull-back cars come in handy. Although I shudder at the thought of just how dirty airport floors are, we let Logan play as much as he wanted at the gate with his cars. And play he did. It was another great way to expel energy on the long journey. Another great thing about gates? The things going on outside with catering trucks, de-icing trucks, luggage trucks, re-fueling trucks, passenger buses, planes, captains and co-pilots, cockpits, etc. was a phenomenal time-occupier. Thank you, Chicago O’Hare, for delivering fully in this respect.

And what made the trip bearable for our seven-month old, and thus, us? Well, due to past experience, we have sworn off long flights with babies that have just begun to crawl or walk and/or cannot understand any measure of reasoning; so honestly, avoid long trips between the ages of nine months and two years.  Seriously, folks, long flights are MUCH MUCH easier when a baby is still immobile. Moms, if you are nursing your infant, bring your support pillow, strap it around your waist, nurse on take-off and landing and pretty much the whole flight in between and you are good to go. A nursing child is a happy child.  At least in our experience. Oh, and in general, babies hate the bright lights and small, uncomfortable changing tables in airplane lavatories. Short of changing a child on the seats — which is kind of gross for other passengers, but offers more room for you and the child — there is not much more you can do to make this experience more pleasant.  Another general rule of thumb is that as soon as your baby falls asleep while nursing after take-off, the flight attendants will talk very loudly in the PA system, turn on the bright lights, and come around with food carts to serve the first meal.  Your infant will surely wake up.  When he/she does, the good news is that the simplest of items usually keep them entertained mid-flight.  Try an empty plastic cup, a spoon, a straw, the in-flight magazine (identifying animals in the magazine can be a fun activity), the safety card in the seat back pocket.  All of that entertainment and they’ll be ready to doze off again.

Business and bulkheads are a nirvana that we haven’t yet reached.  When we do, we’ll let you know how that goes.  In the meantime, we hope that some part of our experience will make a part of your journey more bearable.

P.S. – If your toddler rolls off a set of seats in flight while sleeping when you, your spouse, and your infant are all sleeping, he/she will be a tad confused by what happened, but will likely climb back up on the seats and return to sleeping.  Not that we let this happen to our toddler.  Purely a hypothetical.

Fave New Children’s Author

A typical night of reading in the Braunohler household

I’ve been on a hiatus from my blog-writing lately as I try to figure out how to juggle a two-year old and four-month old with a little bit of sleep and time for friends somewhere in between.  However, I’ve been eager to share my new favorite author with you.  Undoubtedly, many of you may have heard of The Gruffalo, a fantastically creative story about a little mouse who takes a stroll through the woods.  We only recently (six months ago) discovered  The Gruffalo and after falling in love with the story, purchased many more books by the same author, Julia Donaldson.  We have also come to love the following by Donaldson:  The Gruffalo’s Child (might even be better than The Gruffalo itself), Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, What the Ladybird Heard, Tiddler, and The Spiffiest Giant in TownThe beautiful and vibrant illustrations and creative story-telling in Donaldson’s books will captivate your little one(s), taking them on a wonderful journey. When you do something for your child this week, let it be to pick up one of Donaldson’s books.  You won’t regret it.  For those of you who can’t make it out to the bookstore or a public library, I’ve linked to Amazon above.  A child can never have enough books.  Enjoy!

Our awesome collection of Julia Donaldson books

Do Right By Your Child

Parents of young children are undoubtedly some of the most opinionated people I know.  And they share those opinions with everyone, preying particularly on nervous parents-to-be or new parents seeking reassurance about whether what they are doing is “right” or “wrong.”

Opinionated parents don’t mean any harm – quite the contrary, in fact – they see themselves as child-rearing veterans by virtue of having at least one day more of experience than you, and generally they simply want to help out by sharing their successes, assuming what worked for their child will inevitably work for yours.  This is particularly true in the case of big issues in the first few years of a child’s life, such as eating, sleeping, potty training, discipline, and schooling.  If I had a dollar for every piece of unsolicited advice that was given to me since Logan was born, I’d most certainly be a millionaire.

Here is something I’ve learned from those opinions during my 22 months of motherhood:  disregard most of them.  Every child is different, every family is different, and the environments in which children are raised are complex, varied, and constantly changing.  Just because a technique or method works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you.  It also doesn’t mean it will work for your child.

Let me give you a case in point.  Logan has never been a good sleeper.  Whenever we mention this, people feel obligated to give us advice about how to right the situation.  We’ve been judged for letting Logan sleep in our bed when he awakes in the night, not letting him “cry it out”, and checking in on him frequently.  My husband and I know we’re both softies, and while these judgments make us feel some amount of guilt, they certainly haven’t changed our parenting style.  With the impending arrival of a new baby, we mentioned excitedly to many of our friends that we were going to graduate Logan from the crib to a “big boy bed.”  To us, it seemed like it could be a very good change for him; to everyone else, it was an awful idea.  “Keep him in the crib as long as possible;” “he’ll crawl out of his bed and come to your room in the night and you’ll have to keep putting him back;” “this was a terrible transition for our son/daughter and we wish we had waited longer,” and so on and so forth.  Listening to the experiences and advice of others around us, you would have thought we were in for the biggest challenge of our adult lives.  We got so much negative feedback about making the transition before Logan turned two that we started to get nervous about the whole thing.  But you know what?  Call it what you may – a tiny miracle; the fact that Logan was never fond of his crib; that he wanted more space and independence in his sleeping arrangements; that a bed is just more comfortable than a crib when you get down to it; that he was just ready for a change; or any other variety of factors – the transition for Logan (and for mom and dad) went beautifully.  Since making the transition, Logan hasn’t once gotten out of his bed to come to ours during the night (and yes, he does know how to get out of his new bed), he has slept through the night more than ever before, and he has slept in hours longer in his new bed than he ever did in his crib (8:15am versus 6:30am; I’ll take it)!  The only question we’ve been asking ourselves is, why did we not do this sooner?

So at the risk of throwing any unsolicited advice out there, I’ll only say this:  do what’s right by your child and your family.  Don’t take others’ critical judgments of your parenting style to heart.  If your child isn’t ready to start potty training at two, then wait.  If your child is ready to transition from the crib to a bed at one and a half, then make the transition.  If you enroll your child in preschool at two and he/she isn’t ready, then don’t feel guilty about trying again in six months or a year.  You know your child best – so do what you and your spouse think is best for him/her, regardless of the opinions or advice of others.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Mr. Logan’s big boy room and bed.

Pimped Out Buses and Reggaeton

Logan is a huge fan of buses.  He loves cars, but I mean he ADORES buses.  I’m not entirely sure what the appeal of a school bus is over, say a Porsche or a Aston Martin , but whatever it is, it’s powerful.  As I mentioned in a previous post, he loves to sit with Daddy every night and watch pimped car slide shows on youtube.  His favorite slides show showcases the pimped out Cadillac school bus shown below.

Hopefully Logan won't be too upset in a few years when he realizes his school bus doesn't quite look like this . . .

The number of times we have had to rewind or pause the slide show to catch that two-second snapshot of the school bus is in the hundreds.  So, in honor of Logan’s adoration of buses, Walter went online to find the most awesome, pimped out school bus images imaginable.  He then made a slide show of the buses and set it to Reggaeton.  For you and/or your child’s viewing pleasure, here is the result:  Crazy School Buses.  Enjoy!