September 29, 2014

Sleepless Nights, Part 2

Last week or so, I wrote about the sleep issues that we were having with our toddler, Lucas. I briefly mentioned that we were also having issues with Max, and while we are making headway with him, too, I'm saving his explanation for another blog post. I am happy to report that things with Lucas are getting better, although slowly. BUT ... better.

My husband was out of town for about three weeks, and I was left alone with two children that basically hated sleep. Which was truly unfortunate because I LOVE SLEEP. Like, a lot. I selfishly miss the days of being able to go to bed whenever I want, wake up whenever I want, nap whenever I want ... etc. You get the idea. But, you know, parenting.

As I mentioned, Lucas has been improving, with some pretty major leaps & bounds. We no longer stay with him in his bed, or even in his room, until he falls asleep, something we had done for weeks on end. We are also back to a scheduled 8pm bedtime. He generally doesn't like it when we leave the room, but we have compromised with leaving the door open for him and our bedroom light on (which seeps into his room just enough). He will fuss for a minute, and may call out after a little while, but we don't even go to him, tell him he's fine, and tell him to just close his eyes. More often than not, I have used the "you don't have to go to sleep, but you need to lay here" line, which fools him just enough to think that he doesn't actually have to go to bed.

I battled the two hour scream fest for the first couple of weeks my husband was gone (something that had been going on for a month up until that point), until I remember that I had bought some Zarbee's night time cough syrup when we first got here, because Lucas was so sick, and was not sleeping well due to waking himself up at night. It had the smallest amount of melatonin in it, and we reluctantly gave it to him. Neither my husband or I are fans of melatonin, for the simple fact that it's a hormone, and there hasn't been a lot of research on it in children. People also mistake it for a sleep aid, which it is not. It simply helps to reset your clock, and helps your body say "oh hey, it's pitch black, I should sleep now." I have no issue with other people using it, and if you do, I promise I'm not getting all judgy on you. To each their own, ESPECIALLY when it comes to your kids! But in the past it wasn't for us.

Until I was averaging about three hours of sleep a night while solo parenting.

If you're not familiar with Zarbee's, it's awesome. It's a totally natural, honey-based cough syrup. There are no drugs in it, just all natural ingredients, so overdosing is impossible. So I broke down, out of pure desperation, and gave it to him. And for the first time in MONTHS, my kid was out cold by 8pm. And he slept the entire night.

It was a damn miracle.

I did this for a week, to help get him back on a normal, routine bedtime. It also helped keep him calm leading up to 8pm, so we were able to do our normal routine. Bath. Books. Snuggles. Lights out. I stopped using it about a week ago, and he is back to his normal schedule, all on his own. The hyperactivity is still there, although when he gets good sleep at night, it's not nearly as bad the next day. The amount of energy that this kid has is seriously high, so keeping him active has also been equally important, although doesn't always work. We have zero TV after the morning, unless it's raining out and we may watch a movie. But by dinner time it's off for good, we play and start the calming down process because it seriously takes THAT LONG to get him to a point where he's ready for bed. We use a sound machine (always have) and have dark curtains. I think, more than anything, he is becoming more comfortable with his bed and his surroundings, to realize that it really is his space.

We still deal with wake ups in the middle of the night. It's a 50/50 situation as to whether or not he will sleep all night, but with M home now, he has been tackling the toddler wakeups. Which, for me is a huge, huge help. It gives me a chance to focus on Max (my next blog post) and getting HIM on a normal sleep schedule that doesn't involve me waking up three or four times a night.

The past few nights have been good. I am not nearly as exhausted as I was last week (or previous weeks) and overall his attitude and behavior has been SO MUCH better than I mentioned in my previous post, confirming for us at least, that everything was sleep related. Hewe  still naps during the day, although I do try to get him down as early as possible (closer to 12:30 or 1pm) to maximize the afternoon and give us plenty of time to be active. Some days napping doesn't happen, but on those days I make him play in his room by himself, and we make sure we are not at all sedentary, because come 4pm, if he sits down, he will pass out. As long as his behavior is good, we keep going and he gets a much earlier bedtime to make up for it.

All in all, huge, massive improvements. Which makes mommy very, very happy.

September 19, 2014

Hohenzollern Castle

Photo credit: Wikipedia
I'm a bit behind on writing about our adventures, and I apologize for that! We have still been doing so much, but with moving in to our permanent place, getting settled and the craziness that is my children's sleep schedules, there hasn't been much time for writing!

But I didn't want to miss out on this one.

This is Hohenzollern Castle (Burg Hohenzollern). We visited this castle a couple of months ago when we were still living in the hotel. About an hour south from us, it was an easy drive, one that I am looking forward to doing again. The Hohenzollern castle was the home of the future Emperors of Germany of the same name, as well as the future King of Prussia (who built the third castle, seen above).

This was our first castle visit here in Germany, and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty majestic. The castle can be seen well before you reach it, as it sits atop a pretty high hill. The views from the top are amazing, and every direction you look there is another spectacular view. Very little of the inside of the castle can be seen on the tour (we were only able to see a handful of rooms) but the outside grounds themselves are worth the visit.

Germany has more castles than we can count, but they are a common interest for both me & M. There is something so surreal about seeing how people like this lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Our history in the United States is so small, but being able to visit landmarks like this is pretty amazing.

If you are ever in the Stuttgart area, the Hohenzollern castle is definitely a must see. The hike to the top is long & steep, but if you don't feel like make the walk (we didn't) or have small kids (like us) then the shuttle is worth the few Euro. There is a restaurant at the top, within the castle, as well as a beer garden in the courtyard (of course). There are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the scenery as well.

We can't wait to go back!

September 18, 2014

Sleepless Nights


Do I need to say more? Because it's kicking my ass. Hard. In a way that I was neither prepared for or really able to navigate through. My sweet, loveable blue-eyed baby boy has turned into some sort of possessed monster. And good lord, I'm not sure how to deal with this.

The main culprit has been sleep in our household. Because of our move, Max never really got on a good schedule, and right when sleep associations were setting in, we were all over the place. This has caused some issues that we are working on dealing with (another post in the works for this one) and hopefully, within the next month, we can be on a good path.

Lucas, on the other hand, has been a mystery. Prior to moving to Germany, Lucas was, while not a PERFECT sleeper, had gotten into a good routine. Bedtime was breeze; every night at 8pm he went down without a fuss or a peep. Even after transitioning to his toddler bed, we rarely had issue with him getting out of bed prior to falling asleep, and never had issue with him getting up in the middle of the night. He would often sleep until around 7, and in my book, eleven hours of sleep was a success (he was/is also still napping 2-3 hours during the afternoon).

Cue the move. Late nights in a hotel room. Falling asleep whenever he could because of lack of routine (despite best efforts to get him on one) and a HUGE, massive change in time difference. We started off well -- having two rooms in a hotel made a big difference, because we could put him in "his" room while we were still able to stay up. But three hotels and a new home in less than two months has to be confusing for the kid, and as soon we got to our permanent living arrangements, all hell sort of broke loose. Epic battles at bed time. Massive tears. A sudden separation anxiety that still means we are sitting next to his bed at bedtime, because it's the only way he will fall asleep (an improvement from us being in bed WITH him).

Around the same time as the sleep issues surfaced, we started seeing some behavioral issues. The behavioral problems mostly stemmed from an extreme case of hyperactivity, followed by all that comes with it -- an inability to focus on one task for very long, not listening, more energy late at night than is normal for anybody. The initial thought was that maybe he had an early case of ADHD. He fit the bill, mostly, and while I know that toddlers are a handful, the things that he was doing were (and still are) above and beyond the norm for "the terrible twos." I made an appointment for his pediatrician to talk about it, but unfortunately we can't get in for a couple of weeks.

But then I did some research, and I found this article. I also talked with a friend on twitter who is dealing with some behavioral issues of her own with her son. And then it all made sense. OF COURSE his sleep issues would cause behavioral issues. That makes sense, doesn't it? When you don't get consistent GOOD sleep, you start to act a little crazy, don't you? I would imagine (and have witnessed) that it would be multiplied in a toddler.

To give you an idea of what we have been dealing with, Lucas will fight sleep until about 10 or 11 pm at night. Going to sleep on his own is no longer a thing, and he is up just about every single night in the middle of the  night. We resorted to the use of small amounts of melatonin last week, and even then, it might be a couple of hours before he finally falls asleep (and it doesn't keep him from getting up in the middle of the night). He's regularly up around 5am -- sometimes early -- and two nights ago was up at ONE AM and had no intention of going back to sleep. When he does sleep, he tosses and turns, so even when he is asleep, it's not QUALITY sleep. Some nights he only sleeps seven or eight hours, which for you & I is a good nights sleep, but for a two year old, not so much.

So our next step is -- I don't know. The pediatrician, definitely, and I'm hoping that we can get him in before October, because let me tell you -- a toddler that doesn't sleep paired with a baby that doesn't sleep, paired with a husband who is gone makes for some very, very, LONG nights in my house these days. I'm hoping that there is a simple fix to all of this, that doesn't require medicating my toddler for very long. We never wanted an ADHD diagnosis, and while I wait for the doctor appointment, i'm researching other options and ways to deal. Wearing this kid out doesn't work. I could run him ragged all day long (and I often do) and it doesn't make him sleep any better.

Any of you deal with anything like this? What were your results? Ways you coped or handled the situation? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!