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Posts Tagged ‘can’t fall asleep’

For some reason, I woke up at 1:27 this morning and could NOT fall asleep. I don’t recall dwelling on anything specific, or being worried or anxious about anything, I just couldn’t sleep. 

This was good (????) because I heard Carla get up at 4:00 and then I heard her sweet little voice call out, “Hello?” (Does she do this on nights when I’m not awake? Breaks my heart a little to think of that.) I went into her room and she was in tears because her leg was hurting so! much! I rubbed her leg for awhile and then she tearfully informed me that it wasn’t helping, so I gave her Tylenol and offered an ice pack. She declined the ice pack because the pain was in her entire leg, not in one specific spot. 

Poor kiddo. My diagnosis is growing pains (after shooing some very unpleasant frets about blood clots – why does my brain hate me?). Did you ever have growing pains? I remember getting them, that awful deep ache in both legs. The medical sites say that the pain is largely muscular, and that doctors don’t think growing hurts – despite the fact that the pains occur largely in growing children and tend to stop when the children stop growing. But whatever, nameless heartless overly literal doctors. 

Carla agreed to try some stretches, so I led her through a few knee bends and some downward dog. She had to show me child’s pose and cobra as well, even though I doubt those did anything for her pain and she ran through her “flow” at such lightning speed I don’t see how it could have been at all relaxing. At 4:37 she was still Wide Awake. I suggested she try one of my getting-to-sleep strategies (I have taught her getting-to-sleep strategies multiple times, but she never remembers them and has, until last night, mainly refused to try them), which was retracing the steps of a favorite walk. I suggested she think about going over to our neighbor-with-a-puppy’s house, and think about each step she takes to get there in as great detail as possible. She closed her eyes and was quite still for awhile. At 4:52 I whispered that I was going back to bed, and she told me that she was at the point in the walk where she was putting on her shoes. Great. 

“If I’m not asleep by 5:30, can I come get you?” she asked. She was so pathetic, and her leg still hurt. Against my better judgment, I said, “Do you want to come sleep in my room?”

Surprisingly, she declined. (Actually, what she said was, “I don’t think that would have any effect” which was a very surprising sentence to hear from a sleepy nine-year-old.)

I went back to bed and lay there, awake, waiting for her to come get me. (She never did!) I finally fell asleep shortly after my husband’s alarm went off at 6:00, only to have a nightmare that my mother-in-law, who is supposed to arrive next weekend, had instead arrived today. It was extremely stressful, as though the worst possible thing would be for my mother-in-law to show up when I had some clutter in the kitchen or had not yet washed her bed linens. She would be fine and cheerful about the whole thing, honestly. But in the dream, it was A HORROR.

Somehow Carla and I made it out the door to school, and then I went for a four-mile walk with a friend I haven’t seen in weeks, which was a very good second start to the day. Then I went to Trader Joe’s and then to the library, where I picked up my copy of The Accomplice, on hold after Birchie spoke so highly of it. (I know literally nothing about it, except that Birchie recommended it. It’s quite fun to dive into a book that you know nothing about, except when your husband asks you what it’s about and then screws his face up into perplexed concern when you say you don’t know.) 

But when I got home, things took A Turn: I had six emails from my bank, all saying in their typical panicked way, “You recently made a large transaction” followed immediately by “Card Alert – Review This Transaction.” The bank does this – sends two apprehensive emails – for every transaction, and I have learned not to get terribly stressed. But this time, I had NOT made any transactions, especially not with the M*** Store in Washington State. 

The thing is, I had also not made any transactions with the M*** Store in the first week of November, when two charges of $.99 each hit my account. After scrutinizing both my memory and my account at the M*** Store (from which I cannot recall ever having purchased anything, although perhaps I did once a million years ago since I do have an account), I called my bank and they cancelled my card and sent me a new one.

So the card that was charged today was a BRAND NEW CARD. And I know for a fact that I have only used it at two places, one that rhymes with GayGal and the other that rhymes with Glamazon. 

I have cancelled this brand new card – and disputed the three charges of $.99, $.99, and $9.99 respectively – and I guess now I wait for the new card. Hopefully the holiday gifts that I charged to it this weekend will go through. SIGH AND ARGH. And also, HOW? How is someone accessing my card? How did they get it so soon after I cancelled the previous one? Why are they so hell bent on buying things from the M*** Store?!? My husband suggested that the fraudster had put some sort of recurring charge on my previous card, and that the card company automatically updated the number once I got the new one. So I have talked with my bank about THAT. I hope we communicated clearly about the possibility, but honestly I’m not sure. Fortunately, it is my personal account and has only a little bit of money in there, and fortunately I check my email way too frequently, so I caught the unauthorized charges early both times. But it sure is ANNOYING.

On to dinners.

December starts this week, people! It’s happening! 

We have three measly weeks left of school until a two-week winter break. Three weeks of all the activities. One week of my mother-in-law visiting. One call week. We’re going to POWER THROUGH.

Dinners for the Week of November 28-December 4

  • Mulligatawny Soup: Per my mother’s suggestion, I am going to make this with leftover turkey instead of chicken. Even if I don’t like the result (I hate turkey), my husband will eat it.
  • Spicy Chickpea Bowls: I have some chicken breasts I can chop up for my husband. I do need to whip up a batch of the ginger garlic sauce that this recipe calls for, which is a pain. But it is SO NICE to have a bag full of ginger-garlic sauce cubes in my freezer, and they last quite a while. 
  • Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken with Steamed Broccoli: We haven’t had this in a very long time and it’s good and it’s a slow cooker meal. Enough said.

I am also going to make another batch of butternut squash soup because it is easy and delicious and I am in a Soup Mood. Plus, Trader Joe’s had a lot of very nice looking, pre-cubed butternut squash at a very good price. 

Trader Joe’s also had a big container of cubed sweet potatoes, which I bought on a whim… but now I don’t know what to do with them! Roast them? But then… do what with them? I have tried roasted sweet potatoes on salad before and I do not care for it. What would YOU do with a huge container of cubed sweet potatoes? (I am not adding them to my butternut squash soup – I prefer my soup to be pure.) 

Also: I forgot to buy iceberg lettuce until the last possible second. (This was at the other grocery store I went to, specifically to buy bell peppers for the chickpea bowls. I cannot eat the chickpea bowls without bell peppers. And Trader Joe’s peppers were all soft and wrinkly. Ew. I need a nice crisp, unwrinkled pepper.) All my stuff (more than just bell peppers, I’M SORRY I HAVE A PROBLEM) was already on the belt; there was a woman behind me in line. I did the thing where I speed-walked over to the produce section and grabbed the first head of lettuce I saw so I could get back without anyone feeling like I was abusing the checkout section. But then I put the lettuce down, because it was very light, and grabbed another. ALSO very light, but now I was panicking, imagining the woman in line behind me tapping her foot and sighing in my general direction. I should have just put it down and survived ONE SINGLE WEEK without iceberg lettuce (I have baby spinach! I have green leaf lettuce!) but I didn’t; I ran back to the checkout line and paid for my groceries and only then did I discover that my very small head of iceberg, which will probably turn out to be three or four outer leaves and nothing else, was THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. That is ridiculous. That is a ridiculous price for a giant heavy head of iceberg! That is a ridiculous price for a plastic clamshell of pre-washed, pre-cut gourmet lettuces! Ridiculous! And yet I paid it! Maybe this is why I am a target of fraud; clearly I am not all that careful with my money. SIGH.

This is my present and my future, folks. Screeching in disbelief about the absurd pricing of lettuce.

Okay. That was a much complainy-er post than I intended, but there you have it. It’s a post-holiday Monday, after all.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I have done it! I have done the thing I always think I should do, and never do, which is to GET UP when I awaken in the middle of the night and do something more useful than lying awake, counting how many hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep right then.

Lest you think I am no longer susceptible to the patterns of the past: I woke up at 3:00 a.m., almost on the dot, and then lay in bed/read soothing blog posts until 4:00, and then lay in bed in the dark, telling myself I should just GET UP ALREADY and start the day until 4:37. That’s when I finally Did The Thing and put on my glasses and came downstairs. I deserve a Sleep Award. Although, now that I think of it, a Sleep Award seems more appropriate for sleeping restfully through an entire eight-plus hours, so perhaps I’ll have to relinquish my claim.

In lieu of an award, I am drinking tea, as I do when I wake up. My stomach is a little uncomfortable with this idea – it thinks it is Sleeping Time, rather than Accepting Sustenance Time. It is also a little concerned about what time we will want lunch. 

If only the grocery store were open now, and I could get that over with! Oh well. I will blog about random nothings instead! 

  • Carla has been having extra trouble getting to sleep lately. Firstly, I feel just terrible that she has apparently inherited my fraught relationship with sleep. She has had trouble falling asleep her entire eight-and-a-half years, and that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of her life, which I hope is very long. At least, I suppose, she seems to be able to maintain sleep once she gets there. While I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep, my main issue is staying asleep.
  • Well, I suppose my brain is smoothing over the many, many times that Carla has come into my room at 3:00 or 4:00, or that I have awakened to learn that she had been awake for hours already. BUT, it seems less frequent than her troubles drifting off. The power of posting about something of the internet will immediately ensure that she wakes up at 3:00 every morning for the next month.
  • The only thing that comes close to the frustration of not being able to fall asleep is the frustration of one’s CHILD not being able to fall asleep. Last night, my husband and I were watching the first episode of Sex Education and I kept hearing suspicious thumps coming from upstairs. It was quite windy outside, and my husband felt that the thumps might be exterior noises, while I was quite sure they were human. And then we had one of those mildly irritating conversations I imagine happen frequently in any longterm partnership, where he said, “Do you want to go check on her?” and I said “yes,” because I’d HEARD “Do you want ME to go check on her?” And then he had to correct my misperception and I had to glare at him briefly before I went to investigate the source of the thumps. 
  • Thump source: Carla. Instead of reading quietly or thinking about sheep or doing deep breathing – all of which we have discussed AT LENGTH in regards to their soporific powers – she felt the best way to induce sleep was to get out of bed and gather some toys and play with them, in the bed. On the bed. Preposition the bed. Exasperation! Incredulity! How did she think this was a good way to get to sleep? And yet she seemed very sincere that she thought it would help. Trying to turn down the scold volume on my lecture, I removed the toys and reminded her of all the other options that we have discussed for helping lull our brains to sleep. Count backwards from 100. Count backwards by 5s from 1000. Imagine yourself, in great detail, walking along the route to somewhere you love. List 50 things you are grateful for. Go through the alphabet and name an animal beginning with each letter. Do some deep breathing. Read a book. Recite a poem over and over in your head. When I went back to check on her about 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. Sometimes it seems like the BEST way to induce sleep is to scold her about it. Which seems… not right. 
  • Carla mentioned to me that she cannot see pictures in her head, so the “walking along the route to somewhere you love” isn’t a viable option for her. I love that she’s so aware of what it’s like inside her head. I don’t see pictures in my head either, but I guess my internal travel writer is so descriptive that I can still make that option work. Or I can drum up a feeling of a place that is almost as vivid as an image. 
  • Also, it is unfair of me to expect that she remember these techniques when I am terrible at remembering them myself! Only when I am DESPERATE for sleep do I recall most of these strategies. The one that I use most often – mentally reciting Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” until I fall asleep – sometimes doesn’t even occur to me in the middle of a 3:00 am wakeup. Instead, I turn to my phone, which almost certainly makes it HARDER for me to sleep. 
  • There was supposed to be a secondly somewhere up there. I suppose you have forgotten about it as well. But on the off chance you were waiting on tenterhooks – “You did the ‘firstly,’ what’s the ‘secondly’? WHAT’S THE SECONDLY?” – I cannot remember. 
  • I have finished my first book of poetry for the year. One of my 2022 aspirations is to read a poem every morning, and I have been keeping up with that so far. However, I may not have chosen the best book to start out the year. I selected a book at random and came up with The Seven Ages by Louise Gluck. She has an umlaut over the u in her surname; I don’t how to do that on my computer. I adore Louise’s poetry. (This makes it sound as though we are on a first-name basis, which we are not. I did meet her once, though. We went out to lunch and she is as fascinating as one hopes a famous poet would be.) But The Seven Ages is all about her contemplating her own death. That’s all fine and good, and it resonates, and I appreciate reading her thoughts from the perspective of being 50ish because I am nearing that age. But it was also a little depressing. Perhaps I will try a Billy Collins book next; I own two of his collections, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the poems; my impression is that they are lighter and sometimes attempt to be humorous.
  • One of the Gluck poems has really stuck with me. It’s called “The Sensual World,” which, in my opinion, mis-implies what the poem is about or how to read it. But poems are very personal, so you do you, boo. Anyway, the poem is about how the world will grip you in startling and unpredictable and inescapable ways. There is this moment of exquisite beauty that the narrator recounts, in the kitchen of her grandmother. A tiny moment: a glass of juice; its taste; the way the light refracts through it. But it leads the narrator to offer an urgent warning about the trap that life has set for you: “you will never let go, you will never be satiated. / You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger. / Your body will age, you will continue to need. / You will want the earth, then more of the earth – / Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond. / It is encompassing, it will not minister. / Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, / it will not keep you alive.” It makes my heart pound, it resonates so deeply. I am so familiar with those moments – of shocking beauty that flares suddenly out of the mundane, of intense love provoked by the smallest, most inconsequential thing (a kitten at the pet store, butting its head against your hand; a child seeing you in distress and trying to soothe you with the very techniques you use to soothe the child; an unexpected kindness from a stranger; a moment of private humor with a spouse; a child, asleep, with hands folded beneath the chin as though posed). And I know the exact feeling of wanting to clutch those things with both hands even as I know – we all know – they are not ours to keep. It is not our lot to hold them forever, but only for the short time we have on this plane of existence. You will never let go. It will not keep you alive.
  • Yesterday, I experienced one of those moments of satisfaction/guilt that seem to be a hallmark of parenting. Carla was really anxious about returning to school (who knows why?!?! Is it the constant barrage of contradictory information, such as “Covid isn’t a big deal since you’re vaccinated; don’t worry too much, it probably won’t affect you too much if you get it” but also “make SURE you wear your mask and don’t breathe on anyone and for Todd’s sake, please don’t let anyone breathe on you!” Is it the fact that she hasn’t been in school for a month? Is it the fact that “school” could mean home/not home at any given time?) so I had to bribe her to even get her out the door yesterday morning. The bribe is not the satisfaction/guilt part, although perhaps it should be; it worked. I bribed her with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (we are reverting to a “desserts on weekends” kind of schedule) AND with “something fun.” (She claims she never ever gets to do what SHE wants, all she does is go to SCHOOL.) I told her she could pick anything non-screen related, and she picked playing Barbies together. Sigh. I haaaaaaaate pretend play. It is the worst. But I agreed, and after school we played Barbies for 30 minutes exactly. Which is nothing. A tiny amount of my day. Then, when we were doing our bedtime mindfulness routine, and we got to the part about “what were you grateful for today?”, Carla said, “I was grateful that I got to play Barbies with Mommy.” No hesistation. Awwww. What a worthwhile way to spend our time together! But also: guilt, because I HATE playing Barbies. And yet it is such a simple way to make my beloved child so happy! Ugh ugh ugh. Well, I am not promising anything, but I will TRY to do more Barbies with Carla. 
  • A thing it turns out I DO enjoy is playing Sleeping QueensDo you have this game? I ordered it on a “my child is not doing enough math” whim last weekend and it is QUITE fun. There’s a video on the product page that describes how to play; it seems much more complicated than it is. And it’s a much faster-paced game than I anticipated. The basic object is that you want to get as many queens as possible. To get the queens, or to keep your opponent from getting queens, or to prevent your opponent from getting your queens, you need special cards. Your only chance to get the special cards is to discard a card from your hand. And – here’s the math element – you can draw more cards if you have an equation. So if you have cards in the values of 1, 5, and 7, you can only discard one of them and pick up one new card. But if you have 2, 5, and 7, you can make an equation and discard all three; then you can draw three cards. If you have/know a child in the young elementary age group, I highly recommend it. Because the number cards only go up to ten, the math is quite easy for Carla (although there’s no harm in keeping up with basic addition and subtraction), but it would be ideal for someone who is just learning to add/subtract. We also do multiplication, when it’s possible. I really wish there were an expansion pack with higher-value numbers. Anyway, I find it to be a really fun game and we have already played at least a dozen times. BONUS: This is a game that you can easily play with two people, which means that we don’t have to wait for Daddy to be home. 
  • I made my first foray into baked oatmeal. I am a little reluctant to post about it, because I didn’t love it. And I WANT to love it. It was both better than I thought it would be and worse than I hoped. But I think I chose the wrong (for me) recipe. It called for coconut oil, which – to me (though not to my husband) – ending up being the predominant flavor. I wanted an APPLE flavor. Also, I don’t think I put in enough nuts. The nuts were my favorite part. I need to do more experimentation before I can make a firm decision about not liking it. I think I will try this recipe next. 
  • I had a mildly negative interaction the other day that is still gnawing at me. It’s one of those things where the situation felt very fraught, almost purely because I am overly concerned with what people think of me. And the rest of it was fraught because it involved Covid, and I am caught in a wildly swinging internal pendulum of “you can’t control it and you need to find some way to live with it without forcing your child to be a miserable hermit” and “it is perfectly reasonable to continue to take precautions for the sake of those who aren’t protected/in order to keep Carla in school ” and “if you allow Carla to go to school, then how is this situation different” and “it is okay to have boundaries and limits even if they seem arbitrary; everything seems arbitrary right now” and “you and Carla are both vaccinated, you really can relax a little sheesh” and “arrrrrggghhhhhh.” I fervently wish I were the type of person who a) knows the exact right thing to do in any given situation and b) doesn’t care what other people think of me. I am neither of those people though, I am me. And as much as I try to be breezy, breeziness is not in my nature. And I DO care what people think, and I hate that about myself but I do.
  • Totally related to the above point: It is not fair to present a situation in one way, with clear parameters, and then to change the parameters in the moment. It is especially not okay to then pressure people into accepting the new parameters. 
  • Gah.
  • We have a new addition to our Dinner Plan this week. My husband requested Taco Tuesday. I think you know that I will never turn down a request for tacos. This is the beauty of planning out fewer meals than one intends to eat. You can just slide tacos right into the mix, no biggie. It is especially helps when you haven’t yet made it to the grocery store.
  • That reminds me that I have my check-up this morningIt is a totally normal check-up, so it should be fine. But it’s with a new doctor, in a new office, in a new location. So I am a little anxious about all of those things. Will I find the office okay? Will I get there on time? Will I like the doctor? Also, will I meet her for the first time while naked? That’s never fun. And then I have to do it all over again in a couple of weeks, because my PCP is retiring and I had to find a new one. (Hopefully I won’t have to meet her naked, though.)

Well, that’s it. I am already painfully aware that today is going to be a grind to get through; my 3:00 a.m. alertness has eroded into fatigue. But blogging is a much better way to spend the early hours of the morning than tossing and turning next to my blissfully sleeping husband, waiting futilely for sleep to bless me with its presence. 

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My daughter turned seven a few weeks ago. Seven. All done with first grade, and off (or not off, depending on Many Factors) to second grade in a few short weeks. I cannot believe it. She is SO grown up.

7 balloon

The Birthday Girl

At seven, she seems to enjoy “crafting” more than any other activity. She defines “crafting” as drawing; sculpting with clay; sewing; creating clothing for her Barbies and stuffed animals out of scraps of fabric, fabric glue, and Velcro tape; or making a wide variety of things out of paper or cardboard. A confetti of paper, fabric, and cardboard scraps follows her from room to room, and we have had to invest in a craft mat to protect the table and floors from glue, tape, and clay residue. (It is useful insofar as she remembers to bring it with her to various crafting spaces in the house. I sense multiple craft mats in our future.)

She loves to sing and to listen to music of all kinds. She adores any and all animals, and any time we go for a walk or a bike ride, she makes friends with any dog owner we pass. Her day is absolutely made whenever she gets to pet a dog. (It is hard to stay socially distant while giving a good dog some pats, but we are working really hard at it.)

She has grown four inches since last year. She still loves dresses, but prefers pajamas during these long pandemic days. She adores the Story Pirates podcast and listens to episodes until she has them memorized. It is really expanding her vocabulary; one day I said something silly about maybe a chair or something walking over to her, and she gave me a withering look and said, “Mommy, it did NOT walk, it is INANIMATE.” Delightful.

She can truly and honest-to-goodness read, pretty much anything. But she is still what I would call a reluctant reader; she prefers to be read TO, and she gets frustrated if she encounters a single word she can’t read. She’s an intuitive reader, and so can “guess” what some surprisingly large words are, but other words trip her up because they aren’t sound-out-able (or, more often, she doesn’t feel like sounding them out). I am hopeful that the phase where she constantly has her nose stuck in a book is right around the corner, but…

She loves being active as much as she loves making a cardboard house for her Barbie’s cats, but lately I have to exert a lot of persuasion to get her outside and moving. Once out, she loves riding her bike and her scooter, playing (large, plastic, no-net) badminton and (beachball) volleyball with me in the backyard, collecting bugs, and swinging on her swingset. Her uncle and aunt gave her a bug collecting kit for her birthday and she loves to put on all the accessories and seek out sow bugs and spiders and beetles from the darkest corners of our yard.

She still eats almost nothing. I don’t mean volume – she eats a good amount of food. I mean variety. She eats a lot of chicken nuggets and fish sticks and tacos. The exception is fruit; she loves almost all fruits outside of the melon family. I almost always have to order curbside pickup in between grocery store visits, just so I can get more berries and tomatoes; we go through three to four pints of tomatoes in a two-week period, mainly because of her.

She is kind and creative and enthusiastic and affectionate. She is super supportive and encouraging. She is FULL of ideas. She is still occasionally cuddly – right up until she puts her feet on my legs and I have to be DONE with cuddling because ew. She is a chatterbox who loves to talk and ask questions and learn things.

She is absolutely wonderful. I cannot wait to see what seven has in store for us.

The Birthday Itself

Her birthday passed this year without my usual weekslong lead up of Birthday Anxiety. Well, there was SOME Birthday Anxiety, because this is me we’re talking about. But it was very mild. Lest we all rejoice that I am finally mellowing out, consider these relevant facts:

  1. I have been spending SO MUCH time with Carla since March. So. Much. Time. We, like the rest of the known universe, have transitioned from enjoying plenty of time together during Not School to enjoying plenty of time together during Not Camp. Because we have no local relatives and because we are still Staying At Home as much as is humanly possible (read: almost all hours of every day) and because my husband is now back to working in the office most days at an almost regular schedule, this means that we are alone together for approximately ten hours every day. It has been wonderful and challenging. And I am missing NOTHING of her life, which is such a blessing. The result was that I experienced almost none of that Childhood Is Fleeting panic in the weeks leading up to her birthday. I am getting a front row, minute-by-minute experience of her life. And while there are many things about our collective present situation I would change, I would not change that.
  2. There was no birthday party to plan for! Well. We did have, at Carla’s request, a Zoom birthday party with all of her grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousin). But I waited until the absolute last minute to plan that and it was relatively easy: Carla opened presents, said an enthusiastic thank you after each gift reveal, blew out the candles on her cake, and the party was OVER. Easiest party ever.

7 Presents 2

Gifts from relatives! All from Amazon, nearly all wrapped before they arrived. I am pleased to see that Amazon is experimenting with some different styles of gift wrap.

I admit that I did go a little overboard with the presents – and with overthinking the presents, and worrying that she wasn’t getting enough presents, and fretting over whether her birthday would be special enough. (At one point, I was wondering if I could pull off a Chalk Party, where her friends would come by in the now-familiar parade format and leave a chalk message on the driveway. I was researching individual boxes of chalk we could give out as a favors and trying to figure out how I could time it so that there was plenty of social distancing but not too much waiting in your car. Fortunately for all of us, Carla did not want so much attention.) You know, all the things that someone with no real worries can turn her mind to. But I think we hit exactly the right notes with everything: we had the party and the family presents to look forward to on the day before her birthday, and a special taco dinner. And then on her actual birthday, she got to open presents from me and her father, plus she had pancakes for EVERY SINGLE MEAL, plus she got to start (virtual) Story Pirates camp, PLUS, during camp and completely unplanned, she got to talk to one of the actual Story Pirates (Lee) and ask him a question which was like meeting a celebrity and made the entire camp worth the cost.

7 Presents

Gifts from her parents. I do love the flower theme.

The Birthday Cake

Anyway: cake. In the months leading up to her party, Carla went back and forth about what kind of cake she wanted. For a very long time, she wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. At first, she wanted a tiger theme, and I was fretting over how to add tiger stripes to chocolate cake batter and chocolate frosting. But then she decided she wanted a flower theme, and the chocolate frosting would be the dirt out of which would bloom flowers made of icing. Then, she decided she wanted LEMON cake, but with chocolate frosting. I have never had that combination, but I found a recipe online and was all set to make it for her when she decided, at the last minute, that she wanted lemon cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting. Still with the flower theme, although I kept having to temper her expectations for what the flowers would look like.

7 Cake 1

I made this lemon cake with lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting. I also made my own lemon curd, which I put between the layers instead of buttercream; I thought it would benefit from a little extra tartness, to keep it from being too sweet.

7 Cake 2

I researched a variety of ways to create buttercream flowers. Yes, I know I could do them with piping tips. But I also know that I do not have a great track record of success with buttercream flowers. So I wanted to do something else. I discovered two really cool options – the first is the carved buttercream or scratch art technique, but my husband kindly and gently suggested that it might be a more advanced technique than I might want to experiment with on so fraught an occasion. So I went with the painted buttercream technique, hoping to evoke more impressions of flowers than actual flowers.

7 Cake 3

The Cake Results

The lemon curd turned out great, but I did not use enough of it. I think I could have done a thin layer of buttercream AND a thicker layer of lemon curd in between each layer. Oh well.

Worst, I overmixed the cake. One of the very clear directions in the recipe is to mix the ingredients until just combined. And as I was mixing them together, I kept fretting: you’re overmixing! you’re overmixing! But it turns out that I have no idea what “just combined” means. And so I did indeed overmix the batter and it turned out to be kind of heavy and dense. Oh well. It still tasted pretty good. I just do not know how to make the light and fluffy cake of my mind’s eye (my mind’s taste? my tongue’s dream?).

The painted buttercream technique went fine, I think. The end product looked more clumsy than impressionistic, but whatever. I am an AMATEUR baker. Carla seemed to like it, so that’s all that matters.

Cake age 7

See? I really AM mellowing with age and quarantine.

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My husband and I have started watching The Outsider together. It is not a good program to watch before bed, let me tell you that. The music alone makes me jumpy, but then there’s the very creepy plot and the VERY creepy figure of a biped in a grey sweatshirt with a ruined/inhuman face peeking out from under the darkness of the hood that just STICKS WITH ME. Usually, following an episode with a Schitt’s Creek chaser helps dispel the creepiness, but sometimes it follows me to bed.

Despite this completely voluntary scaring-myself-out-of-my-wits, I have been enjoying a rare period of Good Sleep. It is not untroubled; I am having lots of Weird Dreams. Recently, I had what felt like a very long and drawn out version of that dream where you have exams approaching but you haven’t gone to class all semester and passing this class is necessary for you to graduate. I have not been in college for MANY YEARS, why does my brain persist in torturing me in this manner???? Anyway, by Good Sleep, I mean that I am able to fall asleep fairly easily and then stay asleep all night long. This is highly unusual for me, because I am a very light sleeper and also a champion worrier, and, as we all know, worries swell rapidly in the middle of the night when you have uninterrupted hours to DWELL on them.

But because I am unaccustomed to sleeping well, and because I am posting about this and surely jinxing it, I am sure another period of Fitful Sleep is just around the corner. (In fact, last night, I woke up at two o’clock and had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. Not enough that it was terribly bothersome, but enough that I wondered if the Good Sleep Period is on its way out.) (Cue ominous music.)

Swistle posted recently about having a hard time sleeping. I loved reading the comments, about ways to force yourself to sleep when sleep refuses to descend naturally. I especially loved one person’s suggestion to go through favorite things alphabetically – favorite foods, for instance, or TV shows, or birds, or whatever. That’s one I haven’t tried but sounds lovely.

After pondering it for awhile, I realized that I have been employing a bunch of techniques over the years to help myself get to sleep. Do you have any tried-and-true tactics that you use to fall asleep?

Get-to-sleep techniques that I have used for many years and work often (but not always, hence the multiple options):

1. A walk to/through someplace soothing. My dad gave me this technique decades ago, so it’s the one I’ve used the most. I have a family vacation spot I love, so I imagine myself leaving the house, walking to the car, getting in the car, driving down the driveway, turning onto the road, bumping over the deeply rutted gravel, passing the horse pasture, etc. etc. etc. until I arrive at the lake. The key to this one is to go through every step of the journey, imagining in as much detail as possible the surroundings and the path to get to the destination. I have also done this with the grocery store or Target – leaving my house, driving to the store, then walking through each aisle and naming pleasant/benign things as I put them into my cart. The only risk with the Target option is that I might start thinking about things I actually should get at Target, and that’s more wakeful than restful.

2. Silently reciting a poem. This one takes prep work, obviously. But it has been SO helpful. I use Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and I just go through it line by line until I fall asleep. There was a particularly brutal period in my recent past when I could NOT get to sleep and I would have to go through the poem backwards as well as forwards. I don’t think I could do that anymore, but it was a distracting brain challenge that would eventually lull me into sleep. Perhaps I should get myself a new poem to memorize so I have choices.

3. Deep breathing. This is a technique I learned during a brief stint in therapy a few years ago. It’s for dealing with stress/anxiety, but I find it helpful when I’m trying to sleep, too. In for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts, hold for four counts. The counting makes it hard for my mind to drift and the breathing is soothing.

4. Counting my blessings. This one has the potential to create the opposite of the intended mindset, so. Use at your own risk. But I force myself to list things I’m grateful for, even the Very Smallest of Things, like “my husband is not currently snoring” or “someone else changed the toilet paper roll.” (In such cases, it’s critical to list the thing and move on quickly or else you can wind up feeling frustrated and put upon for having to be grateful for something as toilet paper rolls in the first place.) Or sometimes I will think of a loved one and list all the things I like about him/her, from the big (“kind,” “honest,” “wakes up singing”) to the small (“drew me a picture of a cat today,” “beard tickles pleasantly when we kiss”).

5. Mindless reading.This is something I turn to only when desperate, because I’ve read enough warnings about how screens can actually prevent you from sleeping to know better. But in dire cases, I will read something boring or soothing. In the soothing category is going through the archives of a much-loved blog, like Swistle’s or the Ask a Manager blog. (Although the latter can be potentially riling.) Or I will seek out a Wikipedia article on something I have very little interest in, like engines or stained glass or animal husbandry. Best case, I lull myself into sleep. Worst case, I learn something new which I can use to bore others to sleep.

If I absolutely STILL cannot fall asleep, I have found that the next step is getting out of the bed. Use the bathroom. Get a (small) drink of water. Walk around the house, checking on the other sleeping inhabitants. (Not recommended if you are in someone else’s house, or if you are hosting sleeping inhabitants who are not your own non-adult progeny; otherwise you risk troubling other people’s sleep for the rest of their creeped-out lives.)

Making a list often helps. Things that I am worrying about. Things I have to do the next day. Things I want to make for dinner. Things I want to eat right that second. Things I need to buy at Target. The content of the list doesn’t seem to matter as much as the act of list-making.

My Last Resort technique is to change my clothes. New underpants, new pajamas. Maybe I will even brush my hair and re-brush my teeth. It’s like a getting-ready-for-bed do-over.

I suppose the last last resort would be to just get up and start my day. But with all the above get-to-sleep techniques, I haven’t had to do that.

Yet. There’s still time.

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