Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Chickens, Dogs and Long Summer Nights

We're going through a pretty bad patch right now, sleep-wise, that is. I can't even imagine how I survived all those years of having to get up and go to work in the morning. Now that I'm at home all the time it's much easier. But it's still hard: Oliver doesn't function well, I get dramatically -- dramatically -- pessimistic, none of us has any patience with the other and it feels like we are just putting in time until we can hit the hay again with hopes of a better night. We're leaving for Switzerland next week and that ought to cheer me up, except that I am reminded of the last time when Oliver only slept two full nights over the course of three weeks. I'm trying not to jinx myself by thinking this way, but if any one has ideas on how to ward off evil sleep spirits -- I'm willing to do just about anything at this point. Unless it involves chickens.

I just finished taking care of my neighbor's chickens for a week and I think I'll take my clean brown eggs from the neat container in the refrigerated section of the supermarket from now on thank you very much. For one thing, I don't have the right kind of shoes. For another, well, that shoe thing really just about says it all in my opinion.

And speaking of animals, will someone please, please tell me that it is not a very good idea -- that in fact it is a very big mistake that I will regret for years to come -- for us to adopt a dog for Oliver? Blame it on my lack-of-sleep addled brain, but somehow I got it into my head that it would be fun to start visiting the SPCA with the kids. On our very first visit I fell in love with a five month old beagle/heeler mix and spent more than an hour playing with him in a big field where he chased after both my kids and they fell down and rolled around with delight as he tackled them and licked them like my boys go after those coveted lime Popsicles. My idea was that we would just go in there, pet the animals and go home. But something about seeing Oliver laugh and play and run with this dog opened a little door in my brain. Each time we leave there I think: no! We are not getting a dog. But somehow we keep heading back there and each time I check to see if the little guy has been adopted yet and when he isn't I feel slightly relieved. That's a bad sign, right?

But isn't dog ownership for people with fewer responsibilities? Take the students who live in group houses directly across the street and to the left of us, for instance. They have dogs. And in the evenings when the kids are asleep and I'm at the computer I've taken to watching them as dusk approaches. From this house and that, they mix and mingle on the porches and sidewalks. They hold beer bottles by the neck and their cigarettes glow like fireflies. They laugh deeply in a way that's both familiar and forgotten to me. The sound of car doors punctuate the night long after I've shut down my computer and closed my books.

Other neighbors are annoyed by the presence of the students and at times I have been, too. But this summer I am grateful because they have stirred in me a really sweet sense of nostalgia for a time when I was more like them. For a time when summer nights were just wide open to possibilities and when I put off sleeping for another hour and then just another hour just because I could.

I'm happy with this life but I'm also happy to be reminded of how full and rich my life has already been. So I wonder: when I'm really old (as opposed to now when I just FEEL really old) and I look back on another time of little sleep but lots of learning and growing, what will I be nostalgic for? Whatever it is, I hope I'm appreciating it now in a way that I never did those summer nights twenty years ago.


  1. Anonymous12:23 PM

    I say ... adopt the dog. :-) It will be a great addition to your family and you might be saving a life. I'm not helping, am I?

    I hope the sleep issues get better soon. Sarah has always had sleep issues too, it seems to go with the territory. Some people have good results with natural remedies like Melotonin (it's never helped me, but it's great for some and considered more safe than pharmaceutical sleep aids).

    HUGS. Hang in there.

  2. Hi Steph! Actually, we DO use Melatonin. But and it helps Oliver get to sleep but not to stay there :-(

  3. My parents dog, but my first baby, is 14 and on his last leg. He is very close to dying and it is so sad, but he has given me so much these past 14 years that I am seriously considering getting a dog for my kids soon. So, I say go for it.

    The sleep is a tough one and I wish I had something to offer. One thing that I have noticed with Andrew it that the sleep problems seem to go along with bathroom issues he may be having. Like if he hasn't pooped in a few days, he will be up at night very often. I have been loading him up on lots of fiber lately to try to keep him as regular as possible and I think it helps. Sometimes it is as simple as waking because he has to pee and then has a difficult time gong back to sleep, so I watch that he doesn't drink anything too close to bed time. Good luck, I hope he starts sleeping again soon and you can all be on a good track before leaving for Switzerland.

  4. Ugh, I hear you on the sleep issue! Ok, I'm a dunce...how old is Oliver now? Could he be going through any growth spurts or new teeth? We couldn't figure out why Nik kept waking up again recently...molar!!! I wasn't expecting it for another YEAR...but it's broken through the gum! Advil at bedtime has helped him.

    I guess whay I'm saying is, can Oliver tell you if he feels funny? (Is he on any meds which affect the CNS? Those can really screw with your circadian rhythms!)

    As for the dog...I say wait until you are back from Switzerland to decide. If the same dog is there, see how it and your kids get along again...then decide.

    Hey, who am I to give pet advice?? We have two cats!

  5. Just my 2 cents, but I would say do NOT get a dog. Not yet, I am seriously considering a therapy/guide dog for Wy in the next few years, but right now, no way. The newness of a dog wears off quick, and I truly feel that you need to be in a giving place to love an animal completely. With the sleep issues cycling through with my son as well, I am afraid at least in my house, the last thing I need is one more soul that NEEDS me.

    Having said that, I can imagine your boys joyfully giggling with the little hound. That must have been a wonderful sight. You know what you can handle, and what is best for your family:)

    Good luck and have a great time in Switzerland, I am so jealous:)

  6. Hi Alison,

    Yup, that is exactly my train of thought re: the dog. I'm just not sure how I would handle one more responsibility -- and being the one at home with the kids I know that it would fall to me. The IDEA of a dog is so nice but I'm not sure about the REALITY. It is probably better to err on the side of less responsibility.

  7. Christine, I enjoyed reading this post and I'm glad that you're finding time to write more frequently. We are the same age, right? I went back to my hometown for a wedding earlier this summer (my parents moved away when I was in college) and it stirred up so much nostalgia in me. How is it that 20 years have gone by since I left that place?

    I, for one, love dogs but do not want to have one in my home. I know it would just be so much work for ME and so much extra expense if it gets sick, etc. (Sorry, I know that's a pessimistic view.)

    But, perhaps my attitude would change a bit if I were able to work from home, rather than knowing the dog would only be with us a few hours in the evening and morning...

  8. My ASD son has done great with the dog we rescued for him. Pooh seems to have a special connection with all dogs now. He loves the big ones, like German Shepards and really wants a wolf. LOL (Our dog only weighs 35 pounds.) This is such a big change, because when he was younger they terrified him. Now, he's ten and he gives his dog food and water as part of his daily chores.

    Sleep wise, I would really give magnesium a try. I had insomnia really bad for a spell and was recommended to try it. It worked like a charm. There's a kid's version called Kid's Calm-a powder you mix into a drink.

  9. Anonymous4:11 PM

    I'm butting in a little late here (just discovering your wonderful blog), but I just couldn't resist. In my experience, once you've already got young children, adding a dog to the mix doesn't mean an increase of responsibility in a day-to-day sense. If you get a small dog, it will normally be perfectly content with the kids and the garden, and won't need much extra attention from you (apart from feeding, of course). Of course, there are still all the potential bills to consider, but speaking as someone who always has a small dog around, I do think it's worth considering, for you and the kids.