Rest and InSpiration


michael-lashesI came downstairs after my shower yesterday—midmorning, post-workout—to find Michael lying on the couch, half-covered up by a throw and staring out at nothing. I had intended to take him to the basement and let him play with the multitude of toys there while I worked at the piano on edits for the last piece for my Easter collection for flute & piano. But it’s been a rough transition for him, going from morning preschool and afternoon nap to afternoon preschool and no nap at all. So instead, I laid down on the couch beside him and wrapped him up in my arms. “You tired, sweetie?”

“Yeah,” he said in his “forlorn” voice.

“You want to take a nap?”

An extended nod, there against my chest. Then an extended shake of the head. I laughed, and so did he.

I knew I should just cover him up with the throw, kiss his cheek, and go do my work. An unplanned nap? In the morning? This is a gift from God, wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow.

But I was sleepy, too, and he felt so good in my arms. And maybe, after all, the gift was a different one: the gift of stillness, one I could embrace—literally—or toss away in favor of an extra half hour of work time.

I closed my eyes, and we snuggled down in the quiet house. My brain treated me to a tour of all the things I could and should be doing, but I pretended it wasn’t talking, and the shrieking faded to a dull roar.

I love being snuggled up with a child in the moment when they go to sleep. The breathing changes. The body relaxes. I couldn’t sleep myself, but I laid there with his head on my arm, eyes closed, opening them every so often to look at those impossibly long lashes, then closing them again to rest in stillness.

And then, after a handful of minutes, inSpiration trickled through the synapses and sang me the solution to my editing quandary. Regretfully, I maneuvered his head off my arm and onto the couch pillow and went downstairs, knowing I’d probably solved the problem more quickly by NOT doing than I would have if I’d gone straight to the basement as planned.

And filled my heart in the process.

A Story For A Dark And Stormy Night


Photo by twcollins, via Flickr

Sunday nights when I have novels critique group, I usually don’t sleep well anyway. But when the tornado sirens begin wailing at 10:50 p.m., Christian launches from bed and into motion. I am a complete wimp about tornadoes, and as I’m scrambling for my glasses in the darkness I’m also thinking how grateful I am that he woke up at all. My husband has been known to sleep through the sirens.

Our marital ESP seems to be back online: without discussion we head for opposite bedrooms: him to the front and me to the back. “Alex–Nicholas–up. Now. Basement. Tornado.”

They’re old enough now to know the drill. We meet Christian in the hallway carrying one child on each hip. I take Michael and we hurry to the basement. Michael and Nicholas cling to me in the corner by the deep freeze while Christian comforts Julianna on the couch beside it and Alex pretends not to be scared. I’m pretending too, sweetheart. But I always pretend better when I have someone to take care of.

“You guys did a good job,” I say. “We all got down here in less than a minute.”

We listen to the sirens for a couple minutes, waiting for the long fall to silence that tells us it’s safe to venture upstairs for the iPad and check the weather report. Usually I turn the radio on upstairs and crank the volume before I go down, but tonight we just reacted.

As Christian navigates the weather sites, I ask, “Shall I tell a walking in the woods story?”

The response isn’t enthusiastic, but I can feel the lift in my children’s emotions.

Photo by Dave Roberts, via Flickr

“Once upon a time, there were four children named Alex, Julianna, Nicholas and Michael who decided they wanted to take a walk in the woods.” The story always starts the same. “So they ran down the steep hill and waded through the tall grass to the edge of the woods. And there they found…” Now I stumble. I don’t know which story to tell. I’m not in a popcorn-with-Stanley-the-deer kind of mood, truth be told. “They found a pond. And as they stood looking down into the pond, they saw a goldfish named….”

“Jack!” yells Alex. Of course. Every animal and character in this house has been named Jack since Alex met a boy in preschool by that name.

Julianna clambers down from the couch and comes to sit next to me.

“So Jack the goldfish says, ‘Would you guys like to come swim with me?’ And Julianna says, ‘Yes! I love to swim!’

“So they all jump into the pool, and something magical happens as soon as they touch the water–they all turn into fish! And there’s one green fish with gold fins…”

I look at Julianna, preparing to make her a Tinker Bell fish, but she interrupts me with a loud yell: “SHARK!”

Photo by Willy Volk, via Flickr

“Shark?” I repeat, puzzled. “Julianna turns into a shark?”

“No! Mommy shark!”

“Mommy’s a shark?”


“O…kay then…this story’s going somewhere different. Mommy is a shark who wants to eat all of you!” I nibble a couple of cheeks as illustration. “And Jack the goldfish says, ‘Stop that!’ and leads them to the bottom of the pond, where they swim through a tiny crack too small for the mommy shark to follow them, and on the other side they find a cave that’s full of beautiful crystals.”

“I think we can go upstairs,” Christian says from the depths of the radar screen on the iPad. “The storm’s moved on to the east.”

“Okay, so….so they swim back out and flip up on land, where they find themselves magically transformed back into children again. And they are tired, so they go upstairs and their mommy tucks them into bed.”

I forgot the standard ending: And they had pasta and brownies and ice cream. But that’s all right. I’m tired. And I’ll be up for another half hour with Michael curled against my chest because the thunder is still rumbling low and the wind is still whistling around the second story of the house, and a half hour after that because my head is full of words crying out to be tapped out before they’re lost–words to form yet another new opening for my novel, but which quickly morph into a blog post.

Soon, though, it won’t be a dark and stormy Sunday night anymore, but Monday morning. And as the sky has purged itself of thunder and wind, I have purged my brain of words, and I sleep at last.

Sleep Moments


There is nothing quite like a Sleeping Through The Night night…especially after weeks of stumbling out of bed again and again to stop bleeding noses, dose babies in pain, and offer water or change diapers because you don’t know what else to do to try to diagnose what caused the waking.

I woke up at 5:12 and thought, It’s late. Nobody’s cried tonight. Did I sleep through the night?

I’m so dazed, I don’t know what to write about this morning. So in honor of a full night’s sleep following the second of three antibiotic shots (please God, tell me we’re coming out of this at last!), I’ll share my favorite sleep moments from the last several years:

Asleep in the window 2

Julianna asleep in the open window frame

N. asleep on floor

Nicholas asleep on the kitchen floor after Mass on Sunday morning

Alex sleeping in chair

Sir “I don’t need no stinking Nap” Alex

Julianna asleep at Pizza Hut in Hannibal

You know it was a good field trip when she conks out on the table at Pizza Hut

Daddy and Julianna, age 3 weeks

Now there’s a blast from the past…Julianna at age 3 weeks. Just before the RSV scare that nearly killed her.

Headless Doll

A headless doll, just for fun

100_4418One of my favorite sleep pictures EVER: Alex, age 2, discovered in the dark with these books, “Bad Kitty” and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

Christmas 2012 053

And Michael, sleeping on top of his blankets. He still does this. The blue crocheted one is his pillow, the green one is his body pillow.

Hope you enjoyed!

The Timer


Photo by *hiro008, via Flickr

It’s 1:15 when the last door upstairs closes. I hear her patter down the stairs, one to fourteen, landing lightly on Pergo. Afternoon sunlight glows on dirty dishes; the floor at my feet is a mine field of plastic bags, the spoils of the morning’s Target run. She surveys the mess, then looks longingly at the office…and the couch.

Come on, girl. You know you need this. I heard how many times you were up last night.

She picks her way among the bags, and I cheer. Reaching across the glass surface, she presses a button, and I obligingly begin counting upward. At twenty, her finger lifts.

No way. That’s not nearly enough.

She makes a face; she knows that as well as I do. But there’s so much to do–the assignments that tap out from beneath her fingers, the music that’s due in a week, the mess in the kitchen… I watch her waffle; at last, she punches in another thirteen minutes. Thirty-three minutes. Three to fall asleep, thirty to nap.

I start the count: twenty-nine. Go on. Get over there and lie down. You don’t know when that baby’s gonna wake up again.

She takes a drink from a big hospital mug, grabs a few sheets of paper and tosses them in the recycling–halfhearted attempts to split the difference between rest and housecleaning. Then she flings herself across the couch, burying her eyes beneath a pillow.

Twenty-eight minutes. She’s having trouble getting to sleep; the breathing is all wrong.  She’s thinking about what she’s going to do when she gets up.

Twenty-six minutes. The phone rings. She punches it on and back off without answering–must have been one of those 800 number calls. Twenty-five.

At twenty-four minutes, her breathing slows; the house settles into a quiet it rarely sees during daylight hours: the soft ticking of the wall clock, the refrigerator’s hum, the low rumble and tumble of the dryer upstairs. I wish I could slow the relentless countdown, but I can’t; my reliability is the only reason she trusts me. Twenty minutes. Fifteen. Ten. Upstairs, a child rolls over, its feet thumping the walls. I tense, but the slow, even breaths don’t change. She must be tired. Five minutes. Three. One. Now we’re counting seconds…three…two…one..

Beeep. Beeep. Beeep.

She takes a deep breath, stirs, and groans. Nap time is over.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED


To my regular (non-Write-On-Edge) readers, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this prompt; it seemed pretty far outside of what I would normally write. But Christian encouraged me to try, and since the heavyweight stuff yesterday didn’t seem as interesting, I figured, What the hey? Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

Too Much Of A Good Thing (a Unisom story)

Let Sleeping Children Lie

Image by stewickie via Flickr

I should have known it couldn’t last. Frankly, I didn’t even really believe it would work. After all, I wasn’t actually taking it to help me sleep…though Heaven knows, I could use it! No, this little blue (generic) (Walgreen’s) pill was part of a cocktail to ease third trimester nausea. I didn’t want to drug myself, so I suffered through two extra days after the doctor told me to try it before giving in.

Nothing has ever knocked me out the way that tiny pill did. I slept from 9:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m., post-time-change. Nine hours in bed? Me? Madame I-function-on-five-hours-of-sleep-a-night? I slept through the night? (Well, except for that time Nicholas woke up wailing, and Christian would not wake up. “Oh, for crying out loud!” I snapped as I hauled my pregnant body out of bed. “I’m the one who took a sleeping pill!”)

At 5:30 I went downstairs and turned on the computer. While it warmed up I went over to the couch…and conked out again.

It was a single parenting day…Christian had the mother of all announcements coming out at work in the afternoon, so he went to early Mass and returned home to find that I had dressed and fed the kids…and gone back to sleep.

I had to lead the choir. From the piano. The queasiness was somewhat better, but that sleepiness…wow. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through Mass without toppling off the bench.

With help from an obliging alto, I got the kids to the van and back home. In a fog I put lunch on the table. Answered Christian’s phone call. “Is it possible this is the Unisom still making me feel this way?” I said blearily.

Pause. “Oh, crap,” he said. “I’m not going to be home till at least 6:30.”

I hauled myself up the stairs after the little ones, muscled them down for naps. “Alex, you can play computer games,” I said, and collapsed into bed. And woke up an hour and a half later. Mustered the energy to make the first fresh meal in four days. I didn’t have the energy for a side dish. I offered microwave popcorn instead. And a movie.

Christian walked in at 7p.m. At 8:30 p.m., the fog finally began to clear.

Ah, Unisom. My one and only one-night stand. It was nice knowing you. Or not.

Just Write      Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Why I’m Obsessed With Sleep


When you’re pregnant, the standard question of greeting—you know, “How are you?”—takes on a whole new meaning. There’s a different inflection to it. Sometimes it’s even worded differently: “How are you feeling?” I know that people aren’t asking the polite question; they’re asking the polite question about pregnancy. In the first trimester, they’re really asking if I have morning sickness.

Well, it’s hard to say, because I’m sick, and I can’t tell if the blahs are viral or gestational. Lately, my response to the question has been, “Tired. Very tired.”

Sleep and I have never been good friends. Christian goes to sleep in thirty seconds; I lie awake for at least half an hour every single night, and often much longer. I’ve always had trouble getting to sleep—I used to have long conversations with God while staring up at the stars out the north window of the house, or “pretending.” There have been times when irrational panic kept me awake. When I was working full time, I often stayed awake wound up about work—especially after choir practice.

But nothing has screwed up my sleep rhythm as much as parenthood.

Oh, here she goes, you think: off on a “sleeping through the night is a myth” tangent. Well, that’s part of it. But even that would be far less disruptive if I was like my husband, going right back to sleep.

The first major sleep disruption began when Alex was six months old. I was supposed to drive toKansas Cityto pick up my cousin from the airport, and the night before, I simply could not fall asleep. I tossed and turned for hours, getting up to nurse, almost dropping off, getting yanked back from the edge…there’s nothing so torturous as paying attention to the process of falling asleep, let me tell you. At 2:30 in the morning, I still had not slept. At 5, I was in a panic; there was no way I could drive safely. I hadn’t slept even a single minute. The world was a haze of fog. I called my parents crying, and my mom went toKansas Citywith me as a backup driver.

That was early fall. By first frost, it was happening with alarming regularity. I was in a panic. I was overwrought, biting people’s heads off for no reason (in particular Christian’s). I felt so out of control, and so tired all the time. Thank God I only had one child, and him nursing; we would lie down on the bed to nurse, and I’d fall asleep with him, so that mitigated the useless nights. A doctor told me to try Benadryl, but that seemed to intensify the “I’m-tired-can’t-drop-off” effect. At last, they put me on an anti-anxiety med, first for sporadic use, but by late January, a nightly dose.

I don’t remember how long it took for me to clear this phase of my life. It passed, and from it I learned the psychological value of a change of venue. In other words, the couch. For some reason, I could get to sleep on the couch when I couldn’t get to sleep in bed. Something about the way I could mummify myself in the cushions. So I learned not to be heroic; if I was having trouble getting to sleep, I’d just go to the couch and spend the night there. (When we went to replace that couch, you’d better believe this was part of why it took us 6 months to pick one. And we didn’t get rid of the old couch until I’d slept a dozen nights on the new one, and made sure it would do the trick!)

The “aha” moment didn’t come until Julianna was eight or nine months old, and I happened across a tidbit in a magazine, informing me that postpartum depression can pop up any time in the first year, and isn’t always characterized by feelings of sadness. Among the possible symptoms? Sleeplessness. Aaargh! I wanted to take that article and shake it in my doctor’s face.

Kids do still get me up at night. It goes in waves; they’ll sleep through for a while, and then they’ll get up every night for a few weeks. Julianna got me up 7 times in 6 hours a couple of weeks ago. But I was enjoying a refreshing stretch of good sleep…until the day I found out I was pregnant. And now? Well, currently I’m having more trouble with the day starting too early: at 3:50 a.m. I wake up, and I cannot get back to sleep. It’s maddening.

So yes, I’m pregnant. And yes, I’m tired. But if I ever seem obsessed with the subject of sleep, now you know why.

7 Quick Takes: The Sleep Deprivation Edition


Before I begin, I need to be clear: the following post is not a complaint, and should not be taken as such. As a matter of fact, I’ve been unusually patient this week. (Maybe Lent is “taking”?) But Fridays are my chance to record the good, the bad and the ugly of our life—my “Journaling” day, so to speak—and this has been our life this week. I’ve said many times that sleeping through the night is a myth. New parents don’t want to hear that, but as evidence, I present: 7 Quick Takes…the Sleep Deprivation Edition.


Sunday: I spend the day engrossed in Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned, a memoir of her conversion from director of a Planned Parenthood clinic to prolife advocate. I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a very interesting read, a very personal story, without far-reaching political rhetoric, and I couldn’t stop reading. Consequently, I was fifteen pages from the end when bedtime came, and I lay awake until past midnight feeling wound up about the unresolved questions. Oh yes, and then twice as I was just about to drop below the threshold of sleep, Julianna woke up wailing.


Monday: a very mild thunderstorm moves through the area, with nice growly thunder, nothing scary…but by some stroke of extreme bad luck, Alex wakes up. He then comes into our room and whimpers that he wants to get in bed with us.


Tuesday: Nicholas takes his turn, waking up three times asking the air for “wa wa wa wa.” Mommy, more than anything, is thankful that she was awakened by some semblance of speech instead of wordless crying. But waking is waking no matter how it happens. We get water, we wipe runny noses, we go back to bed.


Wednesday: It’s a late night, as always after choir practice, and the kids are already tired because nap schedule got rearranged around sleeping on the bus and a visit from cousins (but aren’t they sweet?). I’m combing Julianna’s hair out and it’s a mess—she gets more food in her lovely locks than any child I’ve ever seen—and she is screaming. Not crying, not protesting—I’m talking blood-curdling screams. And when she’s done, I hear the rasp in her throat, indicating a long night ahead. Sure enough, when Nicholas wakes up (crying, not speaking) and I go in, Julianna’s breathing has taken on the “stridor” pattern that in times past guaranteed a hospital visit. But our experience at New Year’s has taught me to be a little less paranoid. Nonetheless, I decide that the wisest course of action is to get the vaporizer running. Only I can’t find it. It is in neither of the places it has been stored in the 3 ½ years we’ve been living here.


So Christian gets a wakeup call. Fortunately he knows where he put it, so I fill it up and get it running. But by now I’m wide awake at 1:30 a.m. I’m so tired that I don’t lie awake all night, but I lose more than half an hour in the middle of the night, and when the alarm goes off at 5:30, I almost can’t drag myself out of bed to go walking. (Walking, not running, because spring has skidded downward into freezing temps again.)


Thursday morning: Bonus round. Both little ones are sick; Julianna perks up enough to be sent to school, but her teachers say she’s clearly not herself, and Nicholas is like a cuddly, whiny growth on me. He must stay within six inches of Mommy, and preferably touching me. As any mom knows, this is not conducive to productivity, in particular housecleaning, and it wears the nerves as well. I figured we’d lie down on the couch together and maybe we’d both get a cat nap. Nope. He’s just an unhappy child. He’s not interested in anything I suggest till I give up and suggest a video. Then, at last, he’s hooked. I put on the trains and retreat to do some writing, and then I look up and see this:

Which means, of course, that I have tag teaming nappers, and by dinnertime, a tantrum-throwing two-year-old. Oh, yes, it was a fun evening. But we finally tipped the scales, and last night every last blessed one of us slept through!


On the other hand, Thursday was also “Letter Person Day” for kindergarteners at Alex’s school. He dressed up as Mr. Z, “zipping zippers.” OK, one two three, in chorus, say “Awwwwww…..”

___Bonus Take!___

I leave you with a quote that applies in all the above situations as well as whatever you’re experiencing today, good or bad. “I believe that if Sunday doesn’t lead us to Monday–with an awareness of God in all creation and that our mission and purpose are to love all people–then we may need to rethink what we are singing, how we are singing, and why we are singing.” John Angotti, in Pastoral Music, March 2011 issue.