So in earlier sleep posts I mentioned the importance of schedule and routine for developing good sleep hygiene. This actually goes for adults as well.
Over the years our "routine" has changed here or there. The overall structure is the same and we do try to keep the times consistent. I figure I'd outline our current routine as a memoir for later years...
Currently, hubby is on a business trip. I do have my au pair around but I usually give her the weekends off. So here's a typical night when it is just me putting all 3 to bed:
6pm - Dinner time! ...or "mum mum time" as my #2 likes to call it...
I march the two girls to the bathroom to wash their hands why bjorning my third. If he is not fussing, I'd put him on a bouncy seat in the kitchen.
Next... strapping down both kids on booster seats is key to keep them from running around and gives me more control. Yep.. I even strap my preschooler... (though more recently I've allowed her to sit in a grown up chair but it depends on my mood and how much control I need at the moment)
Now I rummage through our fridge and usually there is enough leftovers for me to scrounge up dinner for the two as well as for myself. (This is when I'm completely alone and don't feel like cooking at all).
While they are "eating"... I now can take #3 upstairs for his bath.
Putting down my 3 month old...
Depending on the night he can be either very easy or very hard. Usually after I bathe him, I dress him in a onesie. Right now I find he still sleeps better swaddled so his hands cannot flail all over the place. I feed him and he usually gets pretty sleepy towards the end. Sometimes I'd give a bottle of pumped milk instead of nursing so I know exactly how much he drinks. Once sleepy, I either put in bed propped a little sideways or I put him on the swing with a pacifier... it depends on how fussy he is. Eventually, we'll sleep train him so he'll be in his crib every night. But right now, I'm still in survival mode...
6:30pm - Finish up dinner...
I go back to examine the mess. Usually what I'd find is #1 would have hardly touched her food and is distracted with some book or toy or other that she found on our messy kitchen table. #2 has food all over her mouth, hair, hands. floor, wall etc. but usually does a pretty good job of eating what's given to her.
So I'd wolf down my own dinner while throwing food on the tray for my #2 and coaching my #1 to "take another bite"... "take another bite and I'll answer that question"... "take another bite and I'll read the next page.." Like other preschoolers her age, she is not a very good eater and often a source of great frustration. Will blog more on picky eating in another post...
7pm - Bath time for #2
Usually at this point, #1 is just about done. On a good day if she is done, I can give her an ice pop or ice cream (we're actually trying to fatten this one up)! This keeps her busy and happy while I take #2 upstairs... Sometimes I throw in a video as well although more recently I haven't had to and she just entertains herself somehow.
Putting down my 22 month old...
By far, she is my easiest child to put down. She goes on the potty before her bath and actually has been going pretty consistently for the past month. I bathe her and get her into her pj's. We are still using a sleep sack with her so I put that over her pj's. Next we go downstairs to grab a bottle of warmed up milk which she drinks while I read a few books to her. She would keep pointing and wanting me to read more but depending on the time, I'd usually only read 1 or 2. She actually really likes to just go through her ABC book and point and say all the pictures on there including the letters. Right now she recognizes just about all 26 letters. Here are some favorite bedtime stories we've been reading recently:
The Going to Bed Book
Goodnight, Goodnight, Sleepyhead
Good Morning, Good Night!
Other favorites and classics:
Shhhh! Everybody's Sleeping
Reading is actually my favorite part of the whole bedtime routine. Now, we put the bottle away. Go to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Then I shut out the lights. Turn on the sound machine. She has recently wanted me to sing "Jesus Loves Me" to her while holding her. I love this part and often want to just hold and rock her. Often I prolong it by singing the song twice or humming it a third time. Finally, I ask her if she is ready for her "yellow blanket" and "wawa" (means doll in chinese). She usually responds with "ya". I lay her in her crib and giver her her blanket in one arm and doll in the other. Then I tell her I love her and blow her a kiss. She blows me a kiss back. Then I leave and shut the door behind me and she is down for the rest of the night!
7:30pm - Bath time for #1
Getting her upstairs is tricky because she often will want to "just play a little more". Lately, we've pulled out our kitchen timer to use in various scenarios. Here is one where I'd set it to five minutes and tell her that once it beeps, we have to go upstairs. While she is playing, I can then clean up the kitchen mess. So if we do this right, there is no meltdown and fussing. Otherwise, we get some stomping and crumpling to the floor bawling but since we've implemented the timer, things have been going more smoothly.
Putting down my almost 4 year old...
So by far, she is my hardest kid... ever since birth. I start off by asking her to pinky promise me that she will not fuss later when I put her to bed. This was a recent thing I started after having many difficult nights with her... and now has become a part of her bedtime routine. We hook pinkies and shake. Then I remind her to "sneak" when we go upstairs. Otherwise, her loud stomping and talking would wake #2 up and cause a lot of crying.
I usher her into the bathroom as quickily as possible and shut the door. If we turn on the hallway light or have the bathroom door wide open when the lights are on, #2 can see the light from her crib and will often cry.
While on the potty I ask her what she wants to wear to sleep (for if I choose the wrong outfit, we'd have another meltdown). I get her clothes and help bathe her. Changing into the nightwear, blow drying her hair, then brushing her teeth usually goes fairly smoothly but takes some prompting. We get into her room and switch on the sound machine. Maybe it is a false sense of security, but I hope it drowns out noise so to not wake or bother #2.
Now my preschooler picks out the clothes she wants to wear the next day (this helps the morning run smoother). This process often takes some negotiating because sometimes the clothes she picks is just not practical for the weather. I tell myself I need to clean out her closet and only have appropriate clothes out as a choice but have not found the time to do so yet.
Then it is time to get in bed and read a story! Lately she has been picking a chapter from her chldren's Bible book. It is short and simple and has a memory verse at the end. At this point, I can turn on the night light and turn off her regular lights.
Now the tricky part is "tucking her in" correctly. 99% of our bedtime melt downs happen at this step. I often get it wrong because she wants the blankets in a particular order and tucked under her in a certain way but needs to be tucked under the pillows too. Whew! She is also holding her baby doll who I have to help her swaddle in a blanket and have the doll's bottle and a toy cinderella cell phone by her side. Little donut pillow also by her side for her baby doll to sometimes sleep on. Can you tell that this daughter of mine is very particular?
Finally, with her all tucked in and with only the nightlight on, I get to make up a "princess story". Sometimes I tell her about the "blue princess who likes to have everything blue"... or the "princess who talks too much"... I just make up whatever comes to my mind and she is usually fairly entertained. However, I always have to start with "once upon a time... " and I have to end with "the end".
Then prayer time... The past few nights, she has asked me what my "prayer request" is. I'd pray for her and she'd pray for me and we'd pray for whoever else comes to mind or needs prayer that day. Her typical prayer these nights...
"Dear Lord, please help E not cry so mommy can sleep." or "Dear Lord, please help me be good so mommy doesn't get mad".
Then... I sing her a song. Sometimes she lets me pick but usually she has a song in mind. Tonight it was the Awana Cubbies theme song.
Finally... I walk over to her ipod machine and turn on the music with 30min to "sleep". Every night she listens to Hide 'Em in Your Heart and wants me to start with the song, When I Am Afraid. Once the music starts, she wants me to "run out fast" but I have to "leave the door a little open".
I usually heave a huge sigh of relief if I get out of there with no crying/fussing/meltdown! Depending on whether she napped that day, she will either pass out fairly soon... or more often she'd talk and sing to herself for sometimes a couple of hours before finally falling asleep. Either way, I usually do not have to go back in the room once I leave her room.
Therefore most nights at around 830pm or 9pm I'm done and have time to myself! Yay! This is when I pull out my laptop and get a few emails in... or blog... or get caught reading random things on facebook... when I really should be sleeping because #3 will probably wake up any minute now to feed!