Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Eight and a half months ago, my wife Christy gave birth to our daughter Winifred Róisín. It’s been the best and most challenging time of my life. One of the challenges, of course, is sleep. Our sleep, Winnie’s sleep, friends and family’s sleep (when we travel) – it’s a dance to which we’re still learning the steps. Sometimes, it’s easier to feel the rhythm than others.

Recently, Christy told me her mom’s group is discussing sleep training. Both Christy and I work from home, and we divvy up responsibilities. Sleep training became my territory, while Christy focuses on nursing and introducing solid foods to Winnie’s diet. When the mom’s group started talking sleep training, Christy asked me to recount the steps we’ve taken to help our daughter (and us) sleep soundly and regularly.

After chatting about it with Christy, I decided to write down our experience, both for my own remembrance and to share with others. It’s hard being a first time parent. There are so many questions, and others with experience are always at the ready with a plethora of recommendations. It can be hard to cut through the din.

This is the process we took with Winifred to get her to regularly napping and sleeping through the night.

MONTH 1-3, or “Baptism by Fire”

The first month was tough. Winifred spent her first week in the hospital, being treated under LED lights for jaundice. In a way, I’m sure she was in heaven. She received 24/7 attention and fed whenever she wanted. It was an extremely emotional time for us – Christy’s milk came in, but she was only able to feed Win when we visited the hospital. And feeding is just what we called it. Latching and actually drinking didn’t really happen, and we had anxiety over whether Win would have nipple confusion when she left the hospital.

After six days in the NICU, Winnie joined us at home. Sleep during this time was almost nonexistent…for us. Basically, one of us was awake, holding Winifred all the time. She wouldn’t let us lay her in her bassinet at all. When Christy was up, I was sleeping, and vice versa. Oddly, Christy and I didn’t see much of each other except for a few mutually agreeable waking hours. It was a matter of survival.

At the end of that first month, two major shifts happened:

  1. One day, we chatted with our neighbors from down the hall, and we mentioned we couldn’t put Winnie down without her erupting in tears. It was usurping our sleep, and something had to give. They suggested the Momaroo, a robot/swing that had five different settings: Car Ride, Tree Swing, Rock a Bye, Ocean, and, of course, Kangaroo.mamaRoo colors

The irony of their suggestion was that during Christy’s pregnancy, we visited a baby store, and when I saw the Momaroo in action on the showroom floor, I declared I didn’t want a robot rocking our baby to sleep. However, as many parents will attest: You do what works so you can get rest. The Momaroo was our savior. We were able to get between two and five hours solid sleep a night during the following two months.

  1. Nursing was the other factor that played a part in the topsy-turvy first few weeks. Christy used a nipple shield as a transition from hospital formula-feeding to full-time breastfeeding. By her one-month doctor visit, Winnie wasn’t gaining enough weight, and the pediatrician suggested Christy employ a lactation consultant and pump after every nursing.

The following four days might’ve been the most challenging for Christy. I’ve never seen her go through so many emotions. Christy basically didn’t sleep because of all the pumping and feeding. Beverly Solow, the lactation consultant with whom Christy worked, was fantastic. There’s also a great infographic from Positive Health Wellness on the benefits of breastfeeding. Win eventually drank more frequently, which helped firm a routine.

MONTH 3-4, or “Getting a Groove”

The first sleep training book I read was Elizabeth Pantley’s popular “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”. We began with this approach because both Christy and I leaned toward attachment parenting. We wore Winnie in an Ergo when walking the neighborhood, brought her into our bed for night nursing, and avoided her crying as much as possible. This typically required our holding her.

“The No-Cry Sleep Solution” gave us four helpful tools in our sleep training:

  1. Sleep Associations: Arrange a series of events just before your baby’s nap or bedtime, like singing songs, reading books, offering a bottle or nursing, or bath time. One of the most necessary items that Winnie relies upon is her lovey, a small blanket-like stuffed animal that she cuddles and chews throughout her sleep.
  1. The Pantley’s Pull Off: This technique is how to break the habit of sleeping with a pacifier. It also reduces the chance of your baby waking up after she’s fallen asleep. In the very beginning, we would put Win down with a pacifier in her mouth, but as soon as she fell into a deep sleep the pacifier would drop out. When she inevitably woke, the pacifier was gone and Win would crank up because she couldn’t soothe herself. If you can teach your baby she doesn’t need a pacifier, she may be able to have a sounder sleep.
  1. Sleep Charts: I like the sleep charts Pantley includes in her book. It suggests how many times a day your child typically should nap, how many hours a night she should sleep, and it reinforced how having a routine can encourage nighttime sleeping.
  1. Looking for the Signs: This isn’t the only book to talk about signs of sleepiness, but it was the first I read that reinforced if you catch your baby’s signals for sleep – rubbing of the eyes, grabbing the ears (for older babies), and, of course, yawns – you can put your baby down before she ramps up to becoming over-tired.

By the fourth month, we were able to lay Winnie down in the bassinet at night, but not until she was in a deep sleep. This required between 30-90 minutes of either Christy or me in a dark nursery, holding Winnie in silence, reading our glowing iPhones. We had to bounce her on a yoga ball because she got too heavy to rock her in our arms. But once Win was down, she would sleep for anywhere between 5-8 hours. We still held Winnie during her naps, which adjusted to a regular three times per day.

The other book we used was the well-known “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” This book was beneficial when it came to teaching us about white noise, which simulates the sound surrounding your baby in the womb. Offering a “shhhh” was my go-to whenever we didn’t have our white noise Sleep Sheep, which Winnie uses for every time she sleeps.

MONTHS 4-6, or “Crib Transition”

At about four months, we decided to move Winnie out of our bedroom. It was a choice I was ready to make, but Christy was hesitant. It felt, somehow, to be the beginning of Win truly separating from her mother.

Fortunately, there is a futon in Winnie’s room, so if Christy had to get up with Winnie during the middle of the night, she would go into Win’s room and bring her into the futon for night feedings. Often, Christy and Winnie would continue sleeping the rest of the night away together in Win’s room. Today, Winnie still wakes this way in the morning and nurses straightaway in the futon.

This is what a typical day looked like:

WINIFRED DAILY ROUTINE AT FOUR MONTHS
6:30am WAKE
6:30am NURSE
8:30am NAP
9:30/10:00am WAKE
10:15am BOTTLE AND APPLESAUCE
11:30am NAP
12:30/1:00pm WAKE
1:15pm NURSE
4:00pm NAP
5:00/5:30pm WAKE
5:30pm NURSE
5:45pm CEREAL W AVOCADO
6:45pm STORY, SONG, BOTTLE, BED

As you can see, we began feeding Winifred solid foods about this time. The first foods we tried were rice cereal, avocado, and applesauce. You’ll notice the final food feeding of the day is at 5:45pm, and it remains that way today. After food, we read stories until Winnie shows sleep signs. When she does, we put her in her sleep sack, sing a song, and give her a four-ounce bottle of breast milk. The bottle has been good for us because it allows either Christy or myself to put Winnie down without breaking her nighttime routine. During her bottle, we continue singing. After the bottle, we burp her, sing a few “OMs”, and tell her “Night, night.”

This routine didn’t transpire overnight. It started off like this:

Around four months, Christy got the gumption to try The Ferber Method. Our pediatrician suggested Winnie was ready for this technique, and after speed reading some of Ferber’s book, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” we decided to put her down and walk out of the room.

And she cried. And cried. And cried.

We followed the instructions: 5 minutes, check. 10 minutes, check. Then, every 15 minutes, check, check, check…check.

After two hours, I went in to check on her, and Winnie’d vomited all over herself. Christy and I agreed, Winnie wasn’t ready to cry it out, and we would continue holding her as she went to sleep at night. And it went that way for the next couple months.

Then, we started traveling.

First, we visited our friend in Colorado. She has two daughters who are seven and four years old, and she let us borrow another “cry-it-out” book called “The Sleepeasy Solution”. Again, I was skeptical. This time, my incredulity rose from the fact that these were the “sleep trainers to the stars”. There are quotes from Ben Stiller and Conan O’Brien on the back cover. I imagined the authors probably came over and sleep trained these celebrities’ children while the parents were off making millions entertaining America. But I decided to read the book because our friend highly recommended it.

It’s a good book. And it’s good for the very opposite reasons “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” and “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” frustrated us.

When we told our friend we were trying “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”, her opinion was it’s a bunch of hooey. I’d had similar feelings, and I wondered why our friend had this opinion. Her issue is that Pantley doesn’t give you any real solutions. She only offers ways to soothe your child but doesn’t offer hard means of putting your baby down without her crying. In fact, the book made us feel we were horrible people if we let our baby cry at all.

On the flip side, Ferber’s tone is such that we felt if we picked up our baby at all when she cries, we failed. If we even touched her, we ruined all the hard work we did, and we must start from square one. Parenting is hard enough as it is. Why should we feel like failures when we’re doing something as natural as comforting our child?

“The Sleepeasy Solution” offered solid middle ground. Its approach is easy, open and non-judgmental. The authors, Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack, share a precise method while empowering parents to make choices that are right for their family.

At six-and-a-half months, Waldburger and Spivak made us feel like we could revisit the “cry it out” approach. If we heard Winnie crying but she wasn’t bawling-her-eyes-out-real-tears-crying, we might let her go a little while. If Win screamed bloody murder and couldn’t catch her breath, we felt like we could pick her up without ruining the work we’d done.

Within a week, Winifred was sleeping 11-12 hours through the night. By the time we took another trip to visit family in Illinois, Win’s naps were lengthening, and low and behold, one day, when I put her down for her nap, she nestled her head against my shoulder and I was able to put her down for her nap while she was tired but awake.

And she napped for two hours straight.

MONTHS 6-8, or “We Can Actually Get Work Done”

Since our visit to Illinois, we’ve been on a regular routine. Winifred’s third nap shortened and then disappeared completely. Now, she usually takes a 90 minute to two-hour nap in the morning, and the afternoon is anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. At night, we start our routine around 5:45pm, Winnie’s asleep by 7:00pm, and she wakes between 6:00-7:30am the following day. This is amazing for us since both Christy and I work from home. We don’t have to tag team as much because we can work when Win sleeps.

Of course, there are frustrating shifts in schedule. Last week, Winnie had a double whammy: She was teething and she got a cold that lasted a week. Sleep regression reared its ugly head, and Win woke at 3:00am, 4:10am, and 5:00am. Naps have been all over the place. And other recent travels over-stimulated her to the point that she didn’t want to go to sleep at night. But now we’re home again, and Winnie seems to be settling back in.

Routine. The stuff baby dreams are made of.

Winifred, 8.5 months

Winifred, 8.5 months

YOUR BABY, or “Do What Works for Your Family”

When Christy was pregnant, I had a friend talk to us about sleep training, and then he gave me a piece of advice: “Do what works for your family.”

It’s the best advice I’ve received since becoming a father. There are tons of books and articles online about sleep training, but you have to figure out what works for your family. If you can’t stand hearing your baby cry, go ahead and pick her up. If you’re losing sleep because your baby can’t soothe herself in the middle of the night or you can’t put her down awake, maybe consider cry it out. I had friends who co-slept with their daughter until she was five years old. That’s what worked for their family until it didn’t. Now, their daughter sleeps in her own bed.

Or maybe you’re like our family, and you cherry pick bits from books to fashion a plan that works for your child. Babies are humans, and not every technique is going to jive with your little human’s personality. So do what fits her. And when it stops feeling right, try something new.

Listen, love, and do what intuitively feels right. That’s all we can do.

______

Special thanks to my stellar wife Christy for helping me remember some of the more murky moments we drudged through together. Here’s to seeing the future with clearer eyes.

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Tassels trail from Toddler’s
Thomas the Train t-shirt.
Trilby tops noggin.
Berks on bare feet
Carry boy cross
Bennett Park Mini-mount.

vine enters the terrible twos: artists start playing together

A couple months back, I profiled “10 Artists to Follow on Vine who are not Adam Goldberg, James Urbaniak, Will Sasso, or Steve Agee.” In the life cycle of social apps, Vine was a baby, spitting up, pooping a lot, and screaming for attention. It had moments of brilliance mixed with a bunch of crap. Since then, something wonderful happened:

Vine entered The Terrible Twos.

That’s to say, it’s a walking, talking, wonderfully messy, sometimes belligerent, and still generally brilliant network of creators having their first conversations and collaborations. Yes – collaborations. Unlike Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the rest, Vine is not just a virtual playground. It has become a real life place for artists to collaborate.

I initially noticed it with one of my favorite Viners, Meagan Cignoli. Cignoli is a Brooklyn-based photographer who frequently Vines models on photo shoots, uses household objects to make magical eye candy, and was a finalist in the Tribeca Film Festival’s (TFF) #6SECFILMS competition. She’s also one of the first creators to feature other Viners in her videos.

It started with Virtuosic Dance, a dance company founded by choreographer Chelsea Robin Lee, also from Brooklyn. Cignoli featured Virtuosic in one of her #6SECFILMS submissions to TFF.

After I saw Cignoli’s collaboration with Virtuosic, I quickly searched the company and discovered they had previously worked together, shooting video and stills, so it was unsurprising they would make Vines together. Cignoli told me she didn’t initially see it as a collaboration, since they knew each other.

“As a photographer, when I see someone who does something interesting that I want to capture I have always just reached out to them and I say, ‘Hey let’s shoot,'” said Cignoli. “So with Vine, it was the same thing. I thought dance would look cool in stop motion, so I asked her to work with me a bit.”

A few weeks later, Comedy Central launched #ComedyFest on Twitter and experimented with Vine. They featured some of the aforementioned amazingly funny performers, Steve Agee, James Urbaniak and Adam Goldberg, who, you might say, was the first collaborator on Vine, creating accounts for his girlfriend Roxanne Daner and her friend, Merritt Lear, and making wildly bizarre Vines with them. Stir in one of the funniest people on Vine, Marlo Meekins, and you had the makings of some fun crossover Vining.

One day, shortly after the Comedy Central Vinefest, I saw this:

Aside from the organized collaboration by Comedy Central, this was the first time I saw one Viner – who did not know the other Viner before the advent of the app – appear in another creator’s work.

Nicholas Megalis is a musician from Cleveland (now, also based in Brooklyn). It’s hard to describe exactly what Megalis does on Vine. The general category is comedy, but unlike YouTube, which begs for a longer more engaging narrative, Vine allows performers to create mini-performance art pieces. Megalis sings, dances, eats gross food, raps, and spontaneously interviews people with bananas on the street. His short bio on Vine reads, “Musician/Artist/Idiot.” I’d add “Vine genius.”

“I thought he was very clever and cool and I wanted to capture his essence,” said Cignoli about Megalis. “So I emailed him and asked him to collaborate. At first he was like, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ So I sent a long list of ideas and he was like, ‘YES.’ So he came over a week or two later and we just started making cool things together. It was a lot of fun.”

Since their first collaboration, Cignoli has featured Megalis in more of her Vines, and recently she celebrated her birthday with these wild and wacky dudes: Michael LoPriore, Nicholas Megalis, Jerome Jarre and Rudy Mancuso, all prominent Viners on the platform.

New collaborations can be unwieldy, too. Vine is, like other social apps, an ego driven platform. Most creators work in their own bubbles. Bringing strong, creative minds together doesn’t always lead to productivity.

“We are all idea people so the hardest part is that we have too many ideas and too many big personalities,” said Cignoli. “The other problem is that we all get along so well, it’s hard to get any Vines done. We just want to hang out and joke around, have fun. Too bad there are not more female viners in NYC. I can’t wait to work with Marlo Meekins and Brittany Furlan.”

Marlo Meekins rocketed to the top of the Vine, and recently she made the move to Los Angeles from her base in Toronto. Since Meekins’ arrived in Tinseltown, she’s featured cameos from celebrity Viners, Andy Milonakis and Gillian Jacobs. She also appeared in Steve Agee’s Memorial Day Vines with Andy Richter.

http://twitter.com/steveagee/status/339202275945873409

These collaborations are exciting because they feature famous people, but I was most impressed with this gem:

If you’re not on Vine, you probably don’t get it. But all of these artists (Jordan Burt, KC James, Brittany Furlan, Nick Confalone, DirtyCurt, Jethro Ames and Jerome Jarre [with cameos on both coasts!]) are blowing up on Vine. Some of them have over 170 thousand followers.

This past week, it seems another top tier Viner, Nick Mastodon, known for his Disney cartoon/pop music mashups, LNAJ (Late Night Awkward Jams), and an unhealthy obsession with Ricky Martin, is in Hollywood from his native Minneapolis and hooking up with new friends. Here’s Meekins “celebrating” Mastodon reaching 40 thousand followers:

Artists are traveling to far away cities and connecting with other amazingly talented creators to make six second videos. People aren’t just liking and commenting on Vines, they are meeting up in person to socialize and make new work. It’s a fascinating sociological evolution.

And, when artists can’t be in the same city, they’re creating musical loops over which other artists can layer in their own tracks on the #songcollab hashtag, spawned by Jason Coffee, way over in Hawaii. Nicholas Megalis whipped up this witty ditty:

And Coffee responded with this. Search the hashtag, and you’ll find other collaborations, too. Sometimes, the #songcollabs go as deep as five or six musicians.

Fans following these inventive artists love it. When Meekins appeared in Mastadon’s 40K celebratory Vine, commenters lost their minds. Who knows what the next baby step is for Vine? The toddlers are playing together in this fantastic freaky sandbox. I can’t wait until they hit their tweens, and the awkward stage begins…

Pimples and pubes!

Wait. I’ve already seen both of those on Vine.

ny_hearts: park slope press release

On April 19, I’m opening the second part of my neighborhood love stories. Below is the official press release for NY_Hearts: Park Slope. I’d love to see you there. And if you’re interested in doing some press on the show, hit me up!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: James Carter | info@onemuse.com | 646.279.6886

NY_HEARTS: PARK SLOPE
FEATURING CARLO ALBAN

APRIL 19 – MAY 12

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS IN PARK SLOPE BROOKLYN
INCLUDING BABELAND, DELUXE COFFEE & BAR TOTO

Following up the first of his neighborhood experiences, writer and experience designer James Carter heads to Park Slope, Brooklyn for part two of NY_Hearts. Part walking tour, part love story, NY_Hearts offers people a new way to discover NYC by stepping into the characters’ shoes. Set in four different NYC neighborhoods, participants enjoy drinks and other surprises from local businesses, which are featured in an audio story shared over mobile devices. Other bits of the story include character websites, online character vlogs, original music and visual art.

Carlo Albán plays the role of Sal, a struggling musician who meets the love of his life, Madelyn. Together, amidst the brownstones of Park Slope, they make music and find more than just a songwriting partner.

“I can’t wait to share the second part of this four part love story,” said creator and producer James Carter. “Part two brings the tale of Sal to a close and introduces a new chapter in this series. Plus, there are several great local Park Slope restaurants and merchants appearing in this story.”

Featuring six different locations in the Park Slope, Brooklyn including three small businesses, NY_Hearts: Park Slope integrates goods and services featured in the tale. Participating partners include Babeland, DeLuxe, and Bar Toto. Conceived as a fun way to discover the New York neighborhoods, the ticket includes coffee, drinks and a surprise toy.

NY_Hearts: Park Slope
April 19 – May 12
Purchase tickets at
BrownPaperTickets.com
For details about the show or to listen to part one, visit
www.NY-Hearts.com

300 dpi hi res photo for download:20130424-123829.jpg

Carlo Albán has been acting in theater, film and television for over twenty years. He has appeared on television shows ranging from Sesame Street to Prison Break, and in films such as Whip It, Margaret and 21 Grams. As a writer, he developed his solo show Intríngulis, dealing with his experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant, with Labyrinth Theater Company. Intríngulis received its world premiere in November 2010 in Los Angeles, in conjunction with Labyrinth and the Elephant Theater. Carlo is a member of Labyrinth Theater Company and a recipient of New Dramatists’ Charles Bowden Award.

One Muse Presents is a presenting and producing company of James Carter a playwright and experience designer. He uses transmedia to tell rich and exciting stories. Transmedia describes one story told over multiple digital and physical platforms. His previous transmedia play, Feeder: A Love Story, was presented by terraNOVA Collective at HERE. More about One Muse Presents and James Carter at www.onemuse.com

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www.NY-Hearts.com

re-imagining the artist residency at artsfwd

Last month, I began writing for ArtsFwd, the online arm of EmcArts, a social enterprise for learning and innovation in the arts. My first article asked the question: What’s the Value of Transmedia Storytelling for Organizations? It received some notice, and others, like Simon Staffans, offered expanded thoughts about it.

April’s post went up last week, and this month I’m taking on the paradigm of artists as employees by re-imagining the artist residency. From my the article:

Why Aren’t More Organizations Bringing Artists into the Office?

What if every organization with a budget of over $500,000 offered one staff position to an artist? The position would be 40% administrative responsibilities and 60% artistic ones. This would funnel the hours and energy of artists’ day jobs into arts organizations. It would enhance the administrative staff with an artistic point of view. Most importantly, it would create a residency that generates new art in the organization’s space.

This dynamic would break down an organization’s creative and administrative silos. It frames the artist as a person who deserves a salary and benefits.

10,000P

10,000P courtesy of Mark Krause

Administrators and artists, alike, are responding with strong feelings about this suggestion: Who funds this kind of program? How do organizations make up the slack for the time allocated to the employee’s artistic pursuit? Will other employees feel slighted, burdened or jealous?

These are all great questions. I’d love for you to visit ArtsFwd.org, read the entire piece, and chime in with your thoughts. The only way we’ll reform old systems and innovate is by discussing and collaborating on new ideas. Then, we need to put the ideas into action.

Let me know what you think!