Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

The Beginning of a New Era August 13, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 2:15 pm
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I’m slowly realizing that life will never be the same once one has committed to the task of raising children. The first two years were pretty straight forward. Sure, it was tough, but we could handle it. We didn’t have to step outside of our comfort zone and problems were solved with simple changes to our schedule or approach. Nothing else really changed, aside from the fact that we abandoned our social life and work life.

Now I am finding myself completely rearranging my brain and my external world to accommodate for the support necessary to give these children the best chance at life. It is easy to see how parents sacrifice everything they have and all they are. But I do not think that is necessary or healthy. But then, how do we find that balance between “me” and “child?” There are parts of me I want my children to know and that I want room for in the family, such as my musical parts. Only today, the first time in 31 months, could I sit down at the piano and ask my daughter to listen and have her do just that. I mean, she was dancing, but she wasn’t crying or pushing me off of the bench, or banging the keys.

I always had this vision of playing music for my children. I would play them to sleep, or play Chopin or Bach to keep them company while they played quietly on the floor. Unfortunately, I did not have such children. So I had to let go of that idea. Now I am struggling to find a way of letting that part of me coexist.

Now we are getting into the intricacies of discipline (which you will notice by my upcoming book reviews) and growing independence through potty training and sleeping in a regular bed. I plan on starting a two day per week preschool at home. Things are really changing now. And since I set out for this blog to document our songs and such because music is such a big part of our day to day life, I hope to focus on that more. I just find that I’m lucky to get the few posts in per month that I do!

Thanks for reading my brain dump. I’m not sure what this all means right now, but it does feel like the beginning of a new era. I can’t wait to see what happens!


Sleep and the Post-Colic Baby July 5, 2011

Filed under: Gabriel Stories,Parenting — parentsong @ 12:17 pm
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Colic is a funny thing. I have read loads about it since it appears that is what our son, Gabriel, was suffering from for the first three months of his life. Suffering? Maybe. It is hard to say if it is actual suffering or just not able to acclimate to his new world. The idea of the fourth trimester seems to ring so true for colicky babies. They just cannot calm down unless they are held, rocked, and given a steady noise, such as shhhing or white noise. Basically, put them back in the womb!

One thing that stands out to me from my reading adventures (online and through books) is that when the colic ends, you often have a overly-tired baby on your hands. Trying to get the baby to sleep is of utmost importance because up to this point, he or she has not learned a lick of how to do it on his or her own.

This was certainly true for us. Gabriel showed the classic symptoms of colic: crying for hours on end from about the second week of his life until about 13 or 14 weeks. It gradually got better, it wasn’t like he hit three months and BAM! no more crying. He eased his way out of it. To get through it, we did whatever worked, which included breaking our rule that the baby does not sleep in our bed. As a post-colic baby*, he still ends up in our bed for several hours a night and often awakens there. But the important thing is that he is happy.

I have treated his fourth month of life very much like I would treat a typical baby’s first month. We have not imposed any sleep schedule on him because in my mind, he has only just started being able to self-regulate and develop some natural sleep pattern. I just focused on helping him to get as much sleep as possible. At four months old, he takes 4-5 naps a day and spends 1-2 hours awake between the naps. At night, he is up around 4 times between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. He averages about 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Much better than the 8-10 hours he was getting at the peak of the colic. He also eats NON-STOP. But that’s for another post.

So this is where we are. Where are we going? The therapist part of me has put together a list of questions to help me decide which route to take in sleep training. Our first, Briony, was sleep-trained at 9 months. After failed attempts using a few different methods, we ended up “Ferberizing” her, or a gradual extinction method. It took less than a week for her to learn to go to sleep on her own. Gabriel is a different person and will likely require a different approach. I’m exploring that right now.

*Post-colic baby: The state of being for a baby emerging from colic, usually the first 6-9 weeks following the colic spell. I made up this definition, but it makes sense to me.


Recovering from Colic June 14, 2011

Filed under: Gabriel Stories,Parenting — parentsong @ 9:30 pm
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Peaceful napping, mostly when not in a crib

I think the “worst” is over. Though, apparently, when raising children, things don’t get harder or easier, they just change. While there are many challenges of parenting I expect, things such as sleep deprivation and having to eat standing up or use only one hand for everything because the baby cannot be set down, there are some things that I do not like to be challenged by. Having a baby spitting up constantly and crying for many hours of the day is not fun. I just wanted to get through it. And we have. Now, we have a very happy, alert, spunky 3 ½ month old.

The problem now is that sleep is still a major issue. I have many books on sleep in infants and I understand how it works. Weissbluth is the only author I have read that acknowledges the effect colic has on the infant developing healthy sleeping habits. I believe that parents can really make or break a child’s ability to sleep well.

Happy most of the time, now!

I want to help our child learn to sleep. He currently wakes every 30 to 45 minutes from a nap and every hour to three hours in the night. This says to me that he cannot make it through natural arousals that occur in all sleep. We adults have learned how to stay asleep through having to move or adjust in our sleep. We don’t wake up full of vigor in the middle of the night because we were uncomfortable or had an itch or heard a car door shut. We mostly remain unconscious of it and carry on sleeping. By 12 to 16 weeks, infants have the ability to do the same thing. Hmmm, I guess we are dealing with a habit at this point.

While I am not quite ready to jump into hard-core sleep training just yet, we are devising a sort of plan to assist our child in getting the gist of sleeping. I’ll lay it out in another post, and hopefully report great things as time goes on.


Daily Rhythms and Musical Rhythms June 11, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 10:35 am
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I wrote this when we were first learning about daily rhythms and young children. We were attending the Waldorf-inspired parenting group and Briony was about 8 months at the time. I think it is still relevant to us now, and perhaps even more so.

Rhythm is the component of music we are most familiar with by the time we are born. We are already exposed to the rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat, the rhythm of walking and maybe even dancing. Songs we learn are organized and structured through rhythm, which we can recognize by the time we are about 12 months old. Other components of music, such as melody, harmony, timbre, tempo and mode define characteristics of songs, but it is often the rhythm that we are immediately drawn to. Think of all the times you clapped along to a song you’ve never heard before. It was the steady rhythm, or the pulse, that made that possible. This gives us a sense of belonging and order even if the music is unfamiliar.

What does this have to do with the rhythm of daily life that we establish for our children? It is the sense of feeling at home in a comfortable place that rhythm provides for our young children as they learn to navigate the world. It is also what gives us that same feeling when we listen to music we can “groove with” and just be, no matter what our state of mind might be.

Imagine that the over-all rhythm of the week is the pulse, or what you would clap along to. Each night and day alternates: night, day, night, day. What happens in between does not matter as of yet, you are just learning the pulse. You can clap along and that is satisfying enough. As you become more familiar with the rhythm, you notice that day has more going on. There are little rhythms within that time. As you learn those rhythms, you are able to add increasingly complex sounds to the clapping. This becomes even more satisfying.

Now think of a song you know very well. The better you know the song, the more enjoyable it is to engage in the complexities of the music. Maybe something happens at a certain point of the song that excites you: a certain rhythmic pattern, a shift in meter, modulation or change in instrumentation. It could be a part of the song that stands out to you; the part you wait for every time you hear the song. It is always there to satisfy your anticipation. This is like the special moment of the day that the child anticipates. Whether it is a story before bedtime or a walk before lunch, it has its place that feels right. It is this rhythm, which you have brought your child into, that provides the safety and satisfaction to feel at home and in one’s place. It is rhythm that is the great organizer of the many facets of our life.

How do you honor the rhythm of life with your child?


Tracking Baby’s Sleep, Feedings, and Other Exciting Events May 31, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 11:49 pm
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In my obsession with sleep, I can tell you exactly how much my baby is averaging per week. I have this data from the day he was born.  I can’t imagine how much I would guess he sleeps. It would either be more than what he actually gets, or less, depending on how stressed out I’m feeling. Tracking his sleep helps me keep it real, so to speak.

If you work and your baby is on a schedule, say waking up at the same time everyday and going to bed at the same time and sleeping on the day care nap schedule, then you probably have a pretty good idea of how much sleep he or she is getting. If you are home with your child/ren, then it might be more difficult to tell how much sleep he or she gets because the day is just not that cut and dry. Unless you have one of those babies who sleeps when you want them to, there has to be some way of keeping track of it all.

We tracked our daughter’s daily happenings for 18 months. Sounds a bit neurotic, perhaps. But we then understood her much better without having to impose our unreliable memories or stressed perspectives on her. It helped us to respect her natural sleepy times and active times. Most of all, it helped us make sure she was getting enough rest, something that is hard to come by for people of all ages these days.

When establishing a schedule for an infant, it is suggested by several sleep “experts” that you mark wake and sleep times for a few days so that a pattern can be seen. After 14 weeks of tracking Gabriel, we are still waiting for a pattern. Actually, there is a pattern: he falls back to sleep about an hour after waking. Great! So rather than fight his cries (“How can he be tired, he just woke up!”), I can head him off at the pass and put him down. I’m hoping to find some more patterns as he moves through the fourth month. Then we can begin shaping his patterns to ones that are better for him and us. This might be earlier bed times, regular naps, regular night feedings, and establishing a clear routine for these things.

More to come on how we will embark on the adventure of sleep training. And hopefully reap great rewards of sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time!


Parenting Without a Voice (Literally) May 28, 2011

Filed under: Parenting,Self-care — parentsong @ 10:26 pm
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As much as singers rely on their voice to accomplish what they set out to do everyday, so do parents. This is the second time since Gabriel was born (so that was three months ago) that I have lost my voice. Right now I am on day five. It makes things a bit more challenging.

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Here are some features of parenting without a voice:

No singing. This is very difficult because I use songs to cue so many things during the day (getting ready to eat, blessing the food, washing hands, tummy time, and basically entertaining my children). I can still whistle, though! It’s amazing that just whistling works for some of these transitional times.

Minimal story time. By the end of even the shortest stories, my voice is so labored, I can barely get the words out. And forget making different voices for characters, they all sound like Patty and Selma Bouvier, the chain-smoking sisters of Marge Simpson.

No gentle directions. I sound like I am barking commands because when I try to tell my 2-year-old what to do, she can’t hear me (or she has engaged in selective hearing, which my raspy voice is powerless against).

No cooing cute baby sounds. I hope I have not traumatized our son by growling and roaring at him instead of speaking to him sweetly in my upper register. He seems to have a good sense of humor about it, though.

What’s a Mom to do?

And self care? I just read a post by a fellow music therapist who was recovering from laryngitis and blogged about how she accommodated her sessions to use less vocal-based activity. Believe me, I have relied on recorded material more this week than usual (we even allowed Briony to watch an entire Disney movie!) Of course, resting the voice is the best thing one can do. I try. But is there anything else?

I have given story time and bedtime over to my husband several times this week because he can still talk and sing. Thankfully he is happy to step in whenever I need it.

Of course, trying to stay hydrated helps, which I should be doing anyway, but the day can really get away from you! And in these days when sleep is but a blink of the eyes, it is difficult to make full recovery quickly.

So, for now we all must deal with Patty keeping us company until Erin returns.


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In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning May 8, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 8:32 am
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More Like the Really Long and Drawn Out Hours of the Morning…

It is natural for parents to go through a period of getting little to no sleep at all during the infant’s first few weeks. Some lucky parents get to experience this for the first few months.  A select few, I’m sure who are very honored, get to do this for a few years. But I’m talking about the hard-core sleep deprivation, when sleep lasts for only an hour or two at a time, twice per night and maybe snagging a few minutes here and there during the day (not always by choice…). It’s rough. Add to that a baby who is super hungry all the time and crying most of his or her waking time. Fortunately, the crying has lessened a bit as he moved into his tenth week.

I felt very desperate to solve the lack of sleep problem early on. Mostly because our first was sleepless (or so we thought) and we didn’t really do anything about it until she was eight or nine months old. I’ve read and re-read several books in the past few weeks. I am trying to make sense of infant sleeping and feeding problems so that I can solve the “problem” and get on with my life. And that, my friends, is exactly the problem.

Despite what all the “experts” say, there is no single way to approach how one cares for an infant. What I am finding out is that what we did for our first does not really apply to the second (so far). This also applies to what others have done for their children, will not necessarily work for mine. Others have some great ideas and I have tried many of them. Some work for us, some do not.

Child rearing is a process, not something that you just do and get it over with.  Even in the infancy stage. Sure, you want to do what is best for your child. But we parents really can’t control everything. This is a lesson I am still trying to accept. It can be very difficult to just be in the moment, especially when the moment seems to drag on, and on, and on. For months.

The most helpful intervention I have used with my infant has been talking about it to others. My husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my neighbor, other mothers in play groups, and even here in this post. We haven’t solved any of the “problems” by doing this, but I have gained much insight and valuable emotional strength to carry on. Infancy does not last long. And, if we did solve the crying/sleeping/feeding problem today, everything changes in the next week or month and what we do today will be completely irrelevant. Lovely.

The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t last forever and it makes you very tolerant of other things in the world, such as, well, I can’t even think of anything that bothers me right now because few things are as difficult to deal with as a screaming baby for six or eight hours. See? Instantly tolerant!

One of my favorite books for coping with a baby such as ours is Dr. Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  I’ll post a book review soon. I think this has been a help to us, as well as to our son (and daughter). Another book I wanted to write a review on, but fear I would unleash more anger than I care to deal with right now, is “Baby Wise.” What a nightmare! I read it simply out of interest, knowing that it would probably go against my beliefs, values, personality, and general approach to parenting. I had no idea it was so bad. So now I know and I can move on. (In all fairness, for those of you with babies inclined to take to an early schedule and sleep alot, here is a blog by a parent who implements this technique, though I tend to agree with this blog more, as my children are not “easy.”)

When it comes to actually solving a sleep problem (which I believe cannot be done in the first three or four months, contrary to some beliefs), Dr. Richard Ferber’s “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” has been an invaluable source. It’s not evil or verging on abusive (like “Baby Wise.” Oh, did I say that?) like it is made out to be by some people. I’ll post a review on that one, too.

What about you?

If you, dear reader, have had to deal with sleepless nights on account of a baby, what did you have to do to get through it? How did it change you? How do you look back on that time? Was there any advice others gave you that helped? Or advice that made things worse?