Hi, this is Stronger Every Day. I'm Bo Bigelow.
Four and a half years ago I quit my law job to be at home with my kids. Turns out our daughter Tess has special needs. She's different. And now, so is everything else.
A bit of warning, this podcast has swearing in it. Swearing always makes me feel better, so you'll be hearing it.
This is episode number four.
I don't do well with sleep deprivation. My wife can deal, but I can't.
That's how I end up in the kitchen at breakfast, calling my missing cell phone from our landline.
I strain to listen for it, but it's not ringing.
It's officially missing.
Then Dana's bagel is ready, he goes to get out the butter, he opens the fridge and tells me,
Dad, you have three missed calls.
He hands me my phone, cooled to about 40 degrees.
On this week's show: kids, and sleep. sometimes they just don't mix. Especially with Tess.
Our little T-bird is a yeller. She yells in the car. In her high chair. Outside. But the worst is at night, when we're all trying to sleep.
What in the hell?
This was the other night. She woke up my wife and me and wouldn't go back to bed until almost 5am.
Which is how my cell ends up on top of the broccoli, in the fridge.
We desperately need to figure out bedtime.
Part of the problem is her room. Specifically, her bed.
We kept her in her crib for as long as we could, until one night this past year, when her little ass vaulted out of it.
So we took out the crib mattress and put her on the floor, thinking we'd train her to stay in bed. It'd take a few tried, we figured, but she'd learn in time to stay put, just like any other kid.
NNNN wrong. She wasn't learning.
Then we ordered a special pack n play, one that could handle up to 50 pounds. Plus, it was broader at the bottom than the top, so she couldn't just lean over and tip herself out of the thing.
She got out of it the other night. Jumped the rail, hit the floor.
We know there are various so-called safety beds for special-needs kids, but they're a huge chunk of change.
So here's what we're doing now, instead. Remember the movie silence of the lambs? There's that scene with the serial killer Hannibal Lecter. He's been moved out of the Baltimore State Hospital for the criminally insane, and now he's in that cage inside a courthouse in Tennessee.
in the movie there's a whole protocol involved with containing him. a complicated handcuff system, various double-checks between the guards, and whatever you do, you can't let him get near a ballpoint pen. As the guards find out.
Now, T is slightly less sadistic than Dr L, but the dangers and safeguards of her bedroom setup are strikingly similar.
She used to have an iron gate, like the kind around fireplaces, around her pack n play, but she ripped it out of the wall. We're back to the drawing board on that.
Around her now are two huge Yogibo cushions, each about 6 feet long and a couple feet thick.
There's an exterior hook-and-eye latch, down low so even if she can get to the door she won't be able to reach it.
And a baby gate at the top of the stairs, just outside her room, in case she gets the latch open.
Her room itself has been stripped of anything that can possibly be eaten. Anything that isn't bolted down? Goes in her mouth. Some of the non-food stuff that she's consumed includes the hand cleanser purell, part of a bar of soap, her own hair, rubberbands, the corner of our wooden kitchen table, a piece of our floor, and part of the puffball on the top of her winter hat.
This is dangerous.
She doesn't distinguish between food and non-food, and at any time something as small as a LEGO brick could lodge in her throat and block her airway.
She doesn't like the pack n play. She's restless. She hates being contained.
That's part of it.
But why else is she waking up at night?
On occasion, it'll be her diaper. Yes, she's still in diapers, even though she's five. We're working on potty training.
Other times, she's lost track of her pacifier and you can come in, feel around for it in the dark, give it to her, and she'll go back down. Yes, my five-year-old still has a pacifier. Don't judge me, man. It helps with her reflux.
Mostly, though, the reason she wakes up at night is food. Our girl can EAT.
When you're at a diner, and looking at the menu, and you can't decide, sometimes you say, ah fuck it, I'll get it all. And you order the hungry man special, or the horny lumberjack or whatever they call it. Two eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast. Well, that's Tess's breakfast every day. Minus the toast--she's gluten free.
She can put it away. She eats more than I eat sometimes. And I'm a big eater.
And at night, many times she won't let us go back to sleep, she'll keep bleating from her room at top volume, until we bring her downstairs and feed her.
Even if she's had a full dinner. Which she always does.
Dane, on the other hand, is the best sleeper. In the universe.
He has his own room, but sleeps in Tess's room. He's looking out for her, wants to be close to her. He's an awesome brother.
And when T is making goat sounds at the top of her lungs, and my wife and I are coming in and out, changing diapers, swearing profusely, carrying her up and downstairs, he'll come down the next day and be like YAWN How is everyone this morning? Everybody sleep okay?
He has no idea. Sleeps right through all the madness. We're lucky.
I don't know. I think the real reason she's wakeful these days is the same we've seen in the past. Sometimes she has huge breakthroughs. Like the day she started crawling. And in the nights leading up to that, she had us up every night.
It's like she's trying to say, get UP people, I'm about to blow your minds, don't miss it.
And if you read my blog, also called Stronger Every Day, you know that this was a mayyyjor week for her.
She started walking. She took 23 independent steps at school. Which was a first. She's not doing it a lot, but she did it once.
And we can only hope that this is why she's up at night. Because she's so excited.
And one day soon, I'll come downstairs bleary-eyed, pulling my wallet out of the oven, and my rockstar wife'll be making Tess some food -- five eggs, half-a-pound of bacon, and three potatoes worth of hash browns,
and cheery Dana will stroll into the kitchen, fully rested.
And we'll watch Tess bound over to the table, with its corner chunk gnawed off, remember, and she'll take a seat, to tuck into the Hungry Girl special
And that's it for this week's show.
I'll be back next week.
You know, nobody emails anymore. Except about obligations and accounts and crap. But I still do. And if you want, I can email you. Things I write, stuff about this podcast, and nifty links to other cool things that people are making. All this, straight to your inbox. Once a week. No spam, I promise. Sign up today at tinyletter.com/bobigelow.
A lot of you listeners have gotten in touch, you're reading my blog, thanks for all your feedback. If you're new to these stories about my life with Tess, why not go back to the beginning, and start with the first blog entry, just about a year ago? Check it out at bobigelow.com.
Will Sakran wrote and performed our closing theme, which you heard a minute ago, it's called Innergroove.
Our opening theme was written and performed by Pineapple Humidor, with Brad Peirce.
Thanks for listening, and see you next time.