We are in the beautiful days of summer on the Oregon Coast. The Pacific Northwest is notorious for overcast and drizzle, and that is no myth. But, there is a window several months each year where the PNW totally forgets who it is. The sun comes out, unobstructed, and this already beautiful place cranks the beauty factor up a few notches. This first week in July has certainly been that. It has still been cool–temps have hovered in the 50s and 60s. While I see friends even just down the road in Portland experiences sweltering 100 degree plus days, we continue to go out in long sleeves. I spent over 30 years with summers in the South, so it is still a little strange to rarely experience sweat in the summer. It is some kind of dream world–mild temperatures you long for with sun and blue skies. Oh yeah, and we have an ocean at our doorstep.
Due to an unexpected situation at camp, I went another week where I was up until the wee hours of the morning just before my day off (to hear about last week, check out vol. 26). I found myself keeping vigil until about 5am, and then I dozed off a little. I woke with the sun about an hour later and had several things to take care of before I could head out. So, technically, I worked about 12 hours on my day off before finishing up around noon. Camp Magruder had its American Camp Association accreditation visit coming up the next week, so I also kept some late hours preparing documentation for it. I’ve also got a baby at home I’m trying to help feed in the evenings. What I’m trying to say is that this week left me pretty sleep deprived. Days like this can seem fairly hazy, sort of like a dream. I know I was there, but I sort of floated through each scene. I contributed, I think I did a decent job. But, I sometimes felt I was watching myself do it.
In continuing education as parents, Allyson and I have been focusing on getting Aura into a schedule, training her for naps, feedings, play time etc. This involved lots of attention to over stimulation, a baby tracking app to keep up with every activity, it’s length, and how much milk was involved. Allyson dove into baby scheduling books that give detailed explanations of symptoms and their causes. Through the app, I could see while I was at work when Aura was napping or feeding or having tummy time. This, of course, is all in the name of becoming wiser about our daughter’s needs, giving her the skills to fit into a day’s regiment. This would hopefully result in her crying less, sleeping well, eating well, growing like normal. The deeper we dove into this, the more we got obsessed with every detail, the more we scrutinized every crying fit.
I do believe in becoming a student of people you take care of. I’ve taught this to counselors for years. You study a person, learn what they need, develop a plan to help them grow. We are like detectives in this regard, gathering clues. Recently, Allyson and I were gathering data on the order of a scientific study, tracking weather patterns over the past 100 years. The big problem is that we didn’t know 100% what to do with the information or what to make of it. So, we made our best guess. Then we changed our best guess. Then we changed it again. And, it drove us a little nuts.
This was the week of the 4th of July, which is about what you’d expect in any area of the states. There were fireworks every night for the week leading up to it and the week after. It’s a little more amped up on the coast than normal which means for our dog Digby that the scariest thing he can imagine will be going for several hours every night for two weeks. This means that Digby will either hide under the bed or bark in hopes that some fireworks shooter 10 miles down the road will hear him and stand down from his mortars. That means that our sleeping baby has to try to sleep through explosions from every direction and a dog in need of a Xanax. In our household, the dreams that must have been had were probably all over the board. I would feel like I was being woken from a coma. Digby felt like we were under attack. Allyson just wanted to sleep without being woken up by an explosion, a barking dog, or a crying baby. Aura, I think, actually slept the best out of all of us.
Allyson had several rough days in a row with Aura, where she cried most of the day. She had tried to keep her on the schedule, but had wavered just a few times. She had gotten out in the yard and pulled weeds, while Aura sat in the baby chair. It was the first Allyson had gotten out of the house to do something physical, and she really enjoyed it. Then later in the afternoon, Aura got cranky and downright inconsolable. Allyson felt like she had caused the rough afternoon by overstimulating the baby. On any day Aura was overly cranky we over analyzed what might have caused it. Did I read too many chapters of Alice in Wonderland before putting her in the crib for a nap? Did we keep her outside on the blanket 15 minutes too long? Should we have fed her before the diaper change instead of after? We were both beginning to feel like there was no room now to be spontaneous and not have our daughter in a screaming fit.
We scheduled a doctor’s appointment to see if Aura might be having acid reflux. After examining her, the doctors said it looks much more like simple colic. They said Aura looked totally healthy, and that sometimes babies just cry. We shared with them how stressed we had been trying to keep her on a schedule, trying to figure out why she would just cry sometimes. They said if it wasn’t helping us to forget the books and the schedules, that we were doing fine. They reminded us that she sleeps through the night. That’s a luxury not all parents have. It was a relief to hear that. We had gotten so fixated on something like perfection we drove ourselves crazy. We had cut out a lot of room to be regular people and to incorporate Aura into that. It had grown to feel like a prison, and our doctors had just turned the key and opened up the cell.
After the appointment, we went to the Big Wave. Earlier in the day, we might have decided we shouldn’t take Aura out to eat, because it might overstimulate her or throw her off. We’ve had some of our best memories with the three of us as a family at the Big Wave. As we dined at this haunt of ours, we talked about how we will function better if we back off the meticulous record keeping and overanalyzation. That we should go back to picking up on her signals and feeling ok with the idea that she is a baby and babies sometimes cry.
Upon returning to camp, we met the Oregon Scenic Coast Steam Train. It was picking up our 4th of July Family Camp. The train runs along the coast between Rockaway and Garibaldi. Allyson and I love the train, but it was my day off, and we decided we’d rather go out to eat so we probably wouldn’t have time. But, here was the train ready to board. We decided to be spontaneous and take the train ride.
The last time Allyson and I rode the train was during the Labor Day Family camp last year. We had just found out Allyson was pregnant, and we talked about all the changes in our world the past several years. I told her how the first time I took this train ride, it felt so idyllic, and I knew exactly why I had come out here. The only thing I felt like I was missing that first time was her sitting next to me enjoying it. Then there we were, a baby forming inside her, taking stock of a challenging few months, trusting it would ease up. Now we were back on the train with that baby in our arms, staff and family campers coming up to see her. Again, I felt like we were in the right place.
As the train passed by Smith Lake and we could see the buildings of camp, I was glad we were making the decision to do these things we love to do and bring our daughter along with us to know them from an early age. She would cry a little, sleep a little, and stare at stuff in trance-like wonder. She slept just fine that night, and the crankiness would subside over the next several days. We have no doubt it will come back. But, we’re feeling a little better now about now knowing exactly what it is, and about not locking down all our actions to figure it out. Here we were on an old steam train looking out on mountains, trees, and blue water. There was my wife and daughter. We leaned into each other took it in. It was a pleasant dream that would make the rest that night very easy, full of contentment, despite the fireworks all around.