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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No Rest for the . . . Well . . . Anyone.

It's 2:30 a.m. when Leslie asks me to lie down with Lily and try to see if I can get her back to sleep.  Leslie's feeling under the weather, and I, just recovering from a day where she had to take over my parenting duties almost entirely (sick as a dog), feel more than a little obligated to step up to the plate.


When I pad barefoot down the darkened hall and quietly open the door to Lily's room her big brown eyes are open and dancing.  She's happy and alert.


"I wake up?" she asks brightly.
"No, baby, you have to go to sleep.  Wake up in the morning," I whisper, trying to be as low key as I can.


I know Leslie had been in the room for a while at least, and wasn't able to calm her down and get her back to bed, so I bring Melatonin and she gamely allows me to administer it orally with a pipette.  Melatonin is a natural hormone that the brain secretes that helps regulate the sleep cycle.  When we originally tried Lily on ADHD medications (I have still not blogged about that debacle), the doctor prescribed Melatonin as a means to get her to sleep despite the stimulants she was taking.  The prescription says to take it twenty minutes before bed time, so I expect it to start working at least that much after I give it to her.  I've had a couple hours of sleep.  I'm patient.


She's making her sleepy sound.  It is a low guttural clicking noise in the back of her throat like she's sucking at the roof of her mouth.  She's made it since she was an infant, and it always presages sleep.  She rubs her eyes.  I close my own, thinking that if she sees my eyes closed maybe she'll stop trying to look at them.  Maybe she'll try it out.  I crack one open just a hair to make sure I'm not about to get the ol' Moe eye-gouge and to see whether she's buying the sleep I'm selling.


Her eyes are open, looking at my closed eyes.  She rubs the index fingers of each hand with the other fingers of  that hand.  It's hard to explain.  It's even harder to emulate.  Her index finger angles in and she overlaps it with the middle and ring fingers to scratch it.  She does this almost nonstop when she's awake.  The index finger of each of her hands is swollen a little, the skin is ragged in places, scratched and dry and slightly frayed.  I place my finger in her fist and her fingers straighten out and she grasps my finger, curling hers around mine.  I cup her fist in my hand and she quietly tolerates it, but does not drift off to sleep.


I stroke her hair gently.  I've noticed that sometimes when I stroke it very lightly, almost feather light, her eyelids will ease closed, only to snap open again as if in startled betrayal at being tricked into dozing.  She pushes my hand away.  My leg is draped over hers.  She almost never protests this at bedtime, and without it, she sometimes kicks free of the covers and meanders all over the bed, keeping herself occupied flinging pillows from it, or laying on her back, kicking the siderails as she looks up at the ceiling.  If I sense that she's trying to move her legs, I give her space to do so before snuggling her back in, trying to calm her body and get her back to sleep.


It's been a half hour.  She's still making her sleepy sound that we call her "clicky noise".  Her eyelids still occasionally drift shut only to open again.  I hear the door open and curse softly to myself.  Leslie is checking on us.  


"Did you try Melatonin?" she asks, innocently.
"Yes, Leslie, go to sleep," I almost growl, and she leaves almost apologetically, though she is only doing what I myself would have done in her place.


Lily is holding her stuffed puppy "Poopers" in her clutches.  She quickly twists her wrist 180 degrees, examines him, then snaps her wrist back 180 degrees to examine the other side of him.  She does this repeatedly.  I don't know if she's getting something visually from watching him, or proprioceptively from the movement of her wrist back and forth.  I just know that it's keeping her from settling down.


I take Poopers from her and whisper, "Poopers is sleepy, Lily.  He has to go to bed."  I'm inwardly irritated with myself for attributing a male gender to her toy.  I keep thinking it would be better for Lily if I automatically assumed girl genders for her stuffed animals.  Why should they always be boys?  I'm tired and almost mentally wave my hands dismissively at my thoughts as if to say, "shut up, you asshole, get her to sleep."  My patience is starting to fray a little.  It's been 45 minutes at least.


She is wet.  This is her version of "Suck it, dad, I told you I wanted to wake up."  She's fully capable of holding her bladder for a full eight hour sleep.  Awake she's held it as long as five or six hours.  I'm irritated.    No, I'm borderline pissed.  She was just on the potty 45 minutes ago.  Illogically I hold it against Leslie for sending me in to put her to sleep even though it has to be one of us; even though I want to do this for her because she's feeling sick.


Leslie materializes blearily in the hallway.  Our version of the chinese fire drill, the potty accident pit crew.  When one of us arrives to find Lily wet, the other changes the sheets (off go the old tires, on go the new) while the first changes the girl and puts her on the potty (in goes the gas, vwip vwip goes the air wrench, and the car is back on the track).  I've caught Lily before she can wet the sheets.  They don't need to be changed and I wave Leslie angrily away before she can spoil my martyrdom; before she can share in the suffering of a sleepless night and claim part of it as her own, devaluing all the good "credit" and license to bellyache that I'm building up.  I guess.  It's such a selfish and stupid way of looking at it.  We both work so hard to be good parents.  This is no balance book.  But I'm sleepy and already frustrated with the potty accident and thinking selfishly.


As I get Lily snuggled back into bed she struggles to sit up.  

"No, Lily.  Time to go to sleep," there is an edge to my voice now that I'm not proud of.  I think about Emma.  Emma will creep into our bedroom at midnight in tears because she's unable to sleep.  She gets so frustrated that she can't get to sleep.  Lily is not crying.  Lily doesn't care that she can't sleep, because she doesn't want to sleep.  She wants to wake up.  It's time to play.  Still, it must be frustrating for her to not be able to wake up when she's wide awake and be forced to try to go back to sleep.  My tone gentles and I tell her "First sleep, then wakeup."



It's difficult to entertainingly encapsulate two hours of time spent coaxing and cajoling, stroking and soothing a child in an effort to get her to sleep.  I am very tired and on edge at this point.  Melatonin is shit.  ADHD is shit.  I want to go to sleep.  I leave her to soothe herself to sleep and return to the bedroom, burying the monitor under my pillow so Leslie can sleep.  But Leslie isn't sleeping.  Leslie is worrying about what we're going to do tomorrow, because Lily will have been up for five hours by the time I drop her off to daycare at 7:00 a.m.  


"What are we going to do with her?" She asks.
"How the hell should I know?" I snap back without thinking, and immediately regret it.  I'm angry that she stayed awake the entire time she sent me in to put Lily to sleep.  Now we've both been awake since 2:30.  Neither of us have had any sleep.  We argue ridiculously for a few seconds about the efficacy of Melatonin as a sleep cycle regulator.  My side of the argument is succinct, articulate, "fucking melatonin doesn't work for shit."


We retreat to our respective chilly silences as Lily chatters to herself.  I listen involuntarily via the monitor that is muffled beneath the pillow I'm resting my head on.  An hour goes by.  The longer she chatters the more frustrated I get.  When I finally push up from my pillow and switch off the monitor it is 4:30 a.m.  


"What are you going to do," Leslie asks, still awake.
"I'm going to get her up and take her downstairs," I grumble, storming out into the hall.  But by the time I reach Lily's room, I've calmed down.  The decision to get her up has somehow broken the tension.  Maybe most of the tension was the stress of not wanting that decision to arrive, and trying to stop it and sliding slowly toward it despite my best efforts.  


When I open the door she is babbling to herself.  A pillow is on the floor.  The sheets are off her.  She is wet.  But I have regained my patience.  And I don't need as much sleep as most people.  I gather Lily up and tell her I'm sorry for yelling.  I tell her she's my big girl and we're going potty and changing our clothes and then we're going to wake up.  And then Lily climbs brightly down the stairs holding my hand.  


We watch TV for a half hour before Leslie joins us.  I apologize.  I tell her I'm sorry that I yelled.  I tell her I wasn't mad at her, I was mad that we couldn't get Lily back to sleep.  I was frustrated and I handled it badly.  We hug and I give her a kiss and tell her I love her and she shambles back upstairs to shower, sleep's syrupy inertia pulling back at her as she pushes toward the work day that is relentlessly and remorselessly bearing down on both of us, heedless of our sleepless night, as it always does and must.  And we have to wake up and bear right back down on it, as we always do and must, because we have kids and they have us.  


Just Before Daycare
Maybe the decision to send Lily to school today was a bad one.  I don't know.  She was visibly tired before I dropped her off at daycare and I was second guessing myself badly enough to send her teacher an email urging her to call me on my cell if she thought it would benefit Lily for me to pick her up early.  Leslie apparently offered the same on our daily parent communication log.  


The teacher emailed me later and told me Lily showed no signs of being sleepy and was ". . . doing great!  She's as chatty and motorically (sic) active as ever!"


That made me feel better.


Leslie just went to pick her up and texted me this, "Many accidents today...they ran out of clothes :-("


That made me feel worse.


Back to the ol' drawing board Jimbo.  You'll be a better dad tomorrow!  Chop off the peaks and use them to fill in the valleys. Don't ever climb too high and don't ever sink too low.  Tomorrow's a new day.
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Author's Note:

After reading some of the comments, I feel like I need to clarify something.  When we sit down during our IEP or meet with wrap to decide services, or introduce ourselves to a new specialist, one of the things that we're always asked is:  What are Lily's strengths.  We list her laughter and her love of dancing and movement, her cheerful disposition, her singing along with music, and her ability to sleep through the night.


She goes to sleep at 7:30 or 8:00 every night and wakes between 6:00 or 6:30 every morning.

I've read so many blogs by parents whose children are unable to do that.  I only glimpse how hard that must be for you and your children briefly on the occasions where Lily wakes and can't get back to sleep.  Last night was one such night.  But I can't tell you the time before that.  It's not really the same is it?  One night?  If one night sucks that bad what must ten nights be like?  Or a hundred?  Someone's always got it worse.  Those are words to live by.

57 comments:

  1. I love how you write. I feel like I am there and super tired with you all.

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    1. writing compliments are like comment porn! you're now my favorite.

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  2. I don't think any of your behavior sounded poor...just human. You were great parents today. You didn't break any rules. Best wishes for a restful night.

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    1. I'm not beating myself up about it. I don't like how I handled it. I have to hope that I handle it better next time. Thank you.

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  3. Some day I will tell you about the time my husband and I had a pillow fight because N-Zilla was awake (always awake). He had an accident on our bed and we lost it. Your life seems so normal to me because we go through some of the same things. and agreed... Melatonin is shit!

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  4. I get like that. I feel bad about snapping at my kids too..but its only natural. Especially being so sleep deprived.

    Matthew has poor sleep habits but nothing like Lily seems. That's gotta be so hard and I don't imagine there is much you can do.

    You rule though. You're an awesome dad.

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    1. i hate the sound of my voice when I snap. I hate how much of a bully I am when I'm yelling at a six year old who may not even understand why she's in trouble, or if she does. . . may not be able to do anything about it.

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    2. So many nights after they go to bed im in tears because of yelling at Chris before he goes to bed. I always lay on extra love in the morning and hope he doesn't remember.

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  5. You're an amazing dad today and tomorrow. But I am all too familiar with those sleepless nights and taking turns. And it sucks even more when we're sick.

    Here's hoping we can ALL get some sleep tonight.

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    1. thanks. . . i'm with you. now that I finished my run/walk. . . okay. . . walk/run, I just have to wrap up these replies and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  6. I am the Queen of Crankiness when I'm tired, and I guarantee you I would not have handled this as well as you did.

    For some inexplicable reason I feel very sleepy all of a sudden.

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  7. Don't you wish giving them brandy was legal? Sigh.

    I hope that tonight is an early night for you and the whole family, Jim. You deserve it.

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    1. wait. . . so the brandy is NOT legal?

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  8. You told this beautifully. The love for Lily and for Leslie come through, even if you don't think they do. Your honesty and detail put your readers right there with you. Tootles had these nights until that fateful day he was given prednisone (steroid) for pneumonia. After that, he slept through every night but a few. I hope you get some answers soon. A good weighted blanket might help keep her down for the night - Mom2 Lilttle Miss gave us a referral to a woman who made us a lap weighted blanket for sitting to do homework. I still put it on him when he is antsy at night before he passes out.

    PS- we still have Tootles in a pull up overnight because it's just easier than changing sheets in the middle of the night if he has an accident - no pull up for Lily? And Tootles does not go to bed til about 10:30 or 11 - that is the only way we can not fight him for two or three hours only to lose. By 10:30 or 11 (usually - sometimes 11:30) he will go to sleep and stay there til just before 8 a.m. when he will have to be forced to get up again.

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    1. thanks, karen. Lily is ordinarily a great sleeper. That's one thing I rarely have a complaint about. When she was on meds, it was pretty awful, but we might still be on them, dealing with insomnia, if she wouldn't have lost so much weight.

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  9. I love your writing, Jim. You really have a gift for description and detail. And you're such an amazing dad and husband, as well. Excellent post.

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    1. ooh! writing compliment! Now YOU'RE my favorite. So fickle. Thanks, Amy.

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  10. omg the sleepy sound!!!!!!!! Do you know (of course you don't) that Tommy used to do that all the time. It was a 'tick' of sorts. Hmm.. more like a stim. If he was concentrating or really excited, he would make that sound. I think it took some years off of my husbands life. That sound would annoy the hell out of him. I will randomly, when I want to get a rise out of him, make the sound, and will get the look of death lol :P

    Melatonin was garbage for us too. I tried nyquil and I may as well have given him jet fuel. He was up for 3 days. Benedryl dye free was out savior. Man I remember those nights though. Laying in bed because he wouldn't go to sleep without me laying there (it HAD to be me) and then trying to be a magician and levitate your way out of the bed as to not stir him and have to start all over .. oh the memories.

    At least there's always someone awake on twitter if you need to kill time lol :)

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    1. I've never heard of ANYone else ever doing that. Totally a stim. Emma does it now cause she likes it. When she does it i almost get whiplash glaring at her and she stops.

      I actually sort of "like" it because she really only does it when she's tired. It IS a bit of a ticking sound. I've tried to imitate it and can't QUITE get it

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    2. thats so funny!! i've never come across someone else that encountered this either. I'll do it to Tommy and he'll get all PISSY and tell me to stop!! lol It does remind me though of when they'd suck on their pacifiers. Like when it would fall out and they'd still go through the motion only Tommy would do it with his mouth closed lol I thought it was funny only because hub REALLY hated it. I've gotten so good at to these things out. He likes to kill me with WHY questions now. why why why why.. and there's never an answer. Just WHYYYYY. He's such an ass sometimes lol

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  11. Your writing is fantastic. We went through several years of our daughter not sleeping (but for 1-2 hours a night) before we finally went the route of night meds. It changed our lives. That anger/martyr stuff really hit home.

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    1. See. . . now YOU'RE my favorite!

      Lily slept until 3:30 last night, had an accident, then went right back to sleep. THAT is more the norm in our house.

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  12. I was nodding in agreement throughout this post. Our 5 y.o. does many of the same things when he is up in the middle of the night. I guess I laughed because the stuff running through your head? That is in mine. My husband and I get into those little pissing matches, too. My husband has said the same thing about melatonin as you have. There is something comforting about knowing that someone else out there goes through the inner conflict that I do. I am sorry, though, that any kid has these struggles. They make for a looonnnggg day.

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    1. She has lots of other struggles. Luckily the sleep issues are few and far between.

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  13. I cannot tell you how much this sounds like my house on those sleepless nights. Ryan will try to take care of everything so I can sleep but I have to offer my suggestions. He commands me to go to sleep because "It is completely STUPID for both of us to be tired tomorrow!!" (his words) But my mind is racing, thinking of how this night will impact the next day...... Then neither one of us is asleep. And Lily is thrilled with the whole slumber party. Thank goodness it doesn't happen very often....

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    1. Yeah, he sounds like me. . . but more godly. And our Lilies are just SO similar.

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  14. You are so helpful and mostly patient unlike alot of Dads. I can wake up 5 times a night between two kids and my husband just sleeps through it all so kudos to you for trying! May tonight be a better night.

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    1. Patience is something I work hard at. It's probably my worst trait, so I focus on it a lot.

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  15. Sleep deprivation is not fun. It wears me down and makes me grumpy. I blog to stay on the bright side. I'm just commenting to let you know that I can relate and from what I read, I can see that you are a great dad and your daughters are lucky to have such caring and patient parents. Our daughter goes to sleep at 9pm, wakes up nearly every night at 2am and stays up until 5am then wakes up at 7am and shows no sign of fatigue for the entire day. She is 4 years old. In 4 years I could count the full nights of sleep on one hand.

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    1. Yeah. . . that would be hard. I'm the moron that goes to bed at midnight and then gets all pissed when I have to stay up with my daughter at 2:30. If it was as predictable as your daughter's sleeping, I probably would try to get to bed a little more 'reasonably.'

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  16. Jim, I can only express my admiration at your ability to realize when you're being ass (albeit under very trying circumstances) and then being able to apologize for it. So many people can't do that. I think I've said this before, but I think you and Leslie are setting great examples for your kids when you have conflict but work it out in loving and understanding ways.

    About sleeping through the night... G has never done so (our decision to keep breastfeeding feeds into this as he requires a few feedings during the night, we brought it on ourselves). Even with the breastfeeding though, he often wakes earlier than our alarm, or has trouble going to sleep at night. It's something we deal with, we've found strategies that seem to generally work for us.

    But it never occurred to me to compare my experiences to yours (until I saw your post-script). Every family is different... every family has their pain points. I'm glad you can share yours with us because I think we can all relate in one way or another, and be supportive.

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    1. I don't always do a great job of apologizing, but I figured since i did THIS time, it was SURE to make the blog. . .

      I don't think people were comparing per se. . . just assuming I never get any sleep. I wanted to make sure people knew . . . That's one area that Lily does NOT struggle in ordinarily. I usually DO get my sleep.

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  17. You're a great dad and a fantastic writer. Tommy also has ADHD. It's not fun. We found that Vyvanse works best with him but he doesn't need anything to help him sleep. He usually wears himself out by 10.

    I hope tonight is better for you.

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    1. Thank you and thank you! Lily's usually a great sleeper. . . but the other night was an ordeal and I couldn't stop thinking. . . I should blog this.

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  18. So nice to hear that I'm not the only one who has bad parenting days. I feel your pain.

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    1. soooooo many bad parenting days.

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  19. That was a well crafted piece.

    I hate those nights. Everyone is tired and cranky, except the kid. Nope, they are wide awake and ready to go. Been there so many times.

    For us, it seemed to get a bit better with age. But he still shows up at 3am most nights. *sigh*

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    1. Thank you, Flannery. You're my new favorite.

      Lily sleeps like a champ most of the time. Lately she's even started "sleeping in" (7 am instead of 5:30 or 6 am)

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  20. If it helps any---nobody is good at 3AM. All I want to do is stuff them back in their bed, curse the Gods and get on with sleeping. In that order. I don't know about your wife, but when my husband is up with the kids, I can't sleep. Never have been able to. I don't know what it is but I'm wide awake lying in bed. Sigh.

    Here's to getting some sleep tonight!!!

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    1. last night I just took the monitor and went downstairs to pay the bills. She slept like a baby.

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  21. I sincerely hope you realize that you seem to be an amazing father. I can't even imagine having the patience you do.
    We as parents can't be perfect all the time, and I don't even know what it would be like to have to deal with the struggles your family seems to. But you handle it so well, and calmly.
    Sure you're going to have a bad night once in a while, but I find almost nothing worse then a wake up in the middle of the night. I can handle most else with a lot more patience and grace.

    Parenting is hard. Period.

    I hope you all manage to get some much needed sleep tonight! :)

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    1. Thanks, Brittany. I feel like I'm a good dad. I try to always get better. Patience is my struggle. . .

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  22. You know, it's almost worse when it's an occasional thing. You're out of practice. Your body isn't used to it. It's almost easier when you're in that cycle and it's normal to just be awake at odd hours. Like Lizbeth said, no one is good at 3am. Even when I'm awake and can't sleep, I still want the kids to leave me alone and sleep just in case the sandman comes calling.

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    1. I like your attitude. In your face, people who haven't slept for years. . . I have it harder!!! :)

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  23. I've been there, with the bright eyed, wide-awake child who won't go to sleep no matter what. I sincerely admired your patience with Lily. A lot.

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    1. I was able to exercise that patience again last night. I think i actually handled it better. I hardly growled at anyone.

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  24. Feel for you. My son has never been able to sleep more than three hours a night. If I pushed it and managed to get him sleep longer, he'd be overtired and really hard to be around. Was tough for me to be in school full-time, working and running on 3 hours of sleep but we get through it because we have to.

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    1. unreal. I don't need much sleep. . . but I need more than three hours.

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  25. I'm on day 3 of sleep deprivation. I'm a mess. Sam is not. I get impatient, and everything seems much worse when I'm tired. I also deal with anger that her dad is not a part of this.

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    1. THAT is when you need to have your IEP. When I'm like that, I take zero bs from anyone. I have zero diplomacy skills (maybe it's NOT the time for your IEP). Anyone tries to mess with me. . .ba BAM!

      I feel for you on the absent-dad thing. COULD NOT DO THIS WITHOUT HELP!!

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  26. Katie takes forever to fall asleep. Once she is out, she's out, but she won't fall asleep til midnight or later. Even with melatonin sometimes. Wanna hear the story of a bad parent? I just let her lie in bed on the ipad so I can go to sleep. I need my sleep or else I am no fun to be around, and by no fun I mean my husband is probably out drawing up divorce papers. I feel badly, b/c a lot of the time she gets super tired at school, but I can't force her to sleep. I just do what I have to do so *I* can get some sleep and not become a psycho...

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    1. I thought about your comment last night, but Lily is just not good enough with the Ipad. I'd hear "Daddy, i wan' help wif ipad" every time she closed the app she wanted to play with (about 30 times per minute).

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    2. K is a master of all things computer, or at least a master enough to get Netflix going...ha. Her therapists use some apps that we also have, that she is a pro at, so thankfully we are good in that dept.

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  27. I don't have autism or even know anyone with autism, but I love reading your blog!

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    1. see. . . now YOU'RE my favorite. Thanks for reading. Hopefully there's enough "non autism" story to keep you engaged.

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