Friday, April 30, 2010

Sleep Deprivation and Bribery

Just over four years ago, Koray and I made the decision that I would nurse Ali and Omer. It was a joint decision, because in order to do so, we had to feed them every three hours around the clock from cups just a little bigger than a thimble for a month, which meant I had to pump every three hours for a month in order to keep my milk in. Ali and Omer were too little to nurse for the first month, but we decided it was what we wanted to do, so we did it and we don't regret it.

In order to nurse twins, and keep myself at least partially sane, we decided that co-sleeping would be best. So for the first part of their lives A and O slept with us every night so that when one roused hungry I could nurse one while still sleeping, and then roll over and nurse the other. It was the only way we saw that we could survive this thing called twin babies that descended on our life, changing it forever.

And up until seven days ago, we have been paying for it.

"It" being the decision to co-sleep because at the wise age of four, Ali and Omer have been co-sleeping for some time now. But the game has changed because no longer are they vulnerable little lambs, unable to roll over or argue or fight with their sibling regarding who gets to lay face-to-face with mommy stealing all of her oxygen. These are big boys, taking up space, who have a certain way they like to sleep, who wake up as soon as mommy gets up, even it is 5:00 a.m. to tip-toe downstairs in an attempt to get some alone time.

But the other day, after talking to another mommy about offspring and sleep issues, I realized I needed to crack down. I talked to Koray about it and we were a united front against two little boys who love to sleep in their parents bed. A united front, armory, and full on bribery was our strategic plan. We knew going into it that the troops would protest and try everything they could to keep the status quo, but we were determined and had a secret weapon: an ice cream party.

Ahh, the beauty of bribery.

We knew we had to have one tasty carrot because the tactics of the opposing team are fierce and calculated. The strategy you ask? Wait until you hear the gentle pat of a book hitting the bed side table, the click of the lamp and then waiting patiently until the mommy unit is asleep. Then attack, being careful to tip-toe, tip-toe into the room and stealthily slip under the covers, being extra careful not to rouse said sleeping mommy unit (the baba unit is usually crashed in front of the tv on the couch downstairs).

I only know this happens because a. I wake up every morning with two baby boys curled around my neck and legs not having any idea when they came in, and b. on one night of insomnia, I was awake and witnessed the stealthy attack. At first I thought we were being robbed again, but then the moonlight revealed a Thomas the Train pajama clad tip-toer, and I knew we had been beat. Koray and I are heavy sleepers and they had designed their war plan around this well-established fact.

One of my clever teacher neighbors suggested that I do what I would do in my class and teach them to stay in their beds, since after all, I am a teacher by trade. At first I thought that I couldn't make the leap since I teach teenagers who are a different animal than two four-year-olds. But I thought about it for a while, and realized that behavior modification through an incentive program might just work. So we made a chart with five boxes for each day, the last box colorfully decorated for the last morning where a 5th X means an ice cream party. Putting the X in the box each morning really seemed to up the ante. The first night, they each came in three times. Amazingly, my subconscious must have had it as well, because as soon as the pitter of pitter-pat hit the bedroom floor, I woke up and ordered them out of the room. The next night, they each only came in once, and for the last three nights they peacefully slept in their own beds. I have been feeling well-rested, more alert and on my game. I also realize I have been sleep deprived for way too long now.

So they made it five nights in a row of sleeping in their own beds, and we celebrated with ice cream sundaes.

The next carrot is a pair of bikes. Wish us luck.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Growing up as a Catholic who went to parochial school, studying about Mesopotamia and the Tigris River evoked a sense of wonder and mystery within me. They were far away places that I never dreamed I would lay my eyes on. Upon seeing the two for the first time recently, I have to say that they were as magical as I always wondered them to be.

This spring break we hopped on a plane, rented a car and traveled to a small town, perched atop a hillside in southeastern Turkey. We were closer to Syria and Iraq then we were to home, and it was fabulous. It was like being in another country at times, for one, when strolling through the narrow streets and markets, which are different than anything I had ever seen before, you do not hear Turkish as Kurdish and Syriani are the lingua franca there, though everybody speaks Turkish as a third language. The monasteries, churches and countryside in and around Mardin are spectacular. Looking at the city from the yeni yol (the new road below, Mardin is built on a hillside) is like looking at a Turkish carpet; your eyes are continually drawn to the many textures of the city, each time seeing a new building or detail on a window that you hadn't seen before. There we saw churches, monasteries, mosques, ancient buildings, vibrant life, poverty, wealth, serenity, life.

Another highlight was the kebap joint we frequented three nights out of five. Koray's keen "where the locals eat" radar quickly picked up on this unassuming hot spot, named Rido, and we quickly became friendly with the waiters and cooks and enjoyed the tastiest kebaps this side of the Tigris. Served with a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sumac, a drizzle of olive oil and a heaping amount of flat bread, we were in lamb fat heaven. The other tasty spot was the Cercis Murat Konagi a restaurant run by a woman from Mardin, and the only licensed restaurant in town. Here they serve up a more fancy fare that we didn't find anywhere else in Mardin or the surrounding cities. I am not sure what the mezzes and main courses were called, but they combine common items like eggplant, chickpeas, bulgar, pomegranate molasses, yougurt and garlic into some of the most delectable dishes of yumminess that I have ever tasted on this side of the world.

Yet another highlight was our last day. We drove around the Tur Abdin plateau in search of ancient monasteries tucked away in tiny villages. The last stop was the most amazing, the Meryem Ana, Mother Mary church, built at the beginning of the calendar. The "dirt rain" was looming in the distance, carrying sands from the deserts, giving a apocalyptic glow to the seemingly deserted space. Ali and Omer were fast asleep in the car, so I ran into the church through a side door, and was instantly transported 2000 years back in time. For a glorious three minutes, I stood in the courtyard in awe, without a soul around until the local "guide" came to open the church sanctuary for me to see.

Even though the town itself was wonderful and bustling, our hotel beautiful and tranquil, the food tasty and abundant, the ancient sites truly other worldly, my favorite moments were the evenings we drove up a rocky dirt road to a seemingly far away space to watch the sunset over Mesopotamia. We propped the car doors open, turned up the iPod, cracked open a couple of beers, set the boys loose and lounged around on a carpet we had bought near the Tigris. The boys frolicked like the goats and sheep in the distant hillsides, and we just were.

Maybe it is because the spring wheat was vivid and abundant, and almost everywhere we went we saw lamb in some form, be it the real thing grazing in the lushness of spring, kebaps or lamb pelts, my mind kept wandering back to my dad. As my eyes searched the vast fields we drove by on the way to another far away site, I knew my dad would be able to recognize what was growing there and I wished I could have taken pictures to show him. And I knew he would enjoy seeing the exuberant little fat tailed lambs and goat kids that dotted the hillsides and fields. This trip gave me extended moments to do a lot of thinking about this fall and winter, the time surrounding his sickness and death. It was therapeutic to let my mind wonder and meditate on these events. Our lives are so busy and full that I haven't had the chance to really think about it now that a few months have passed and life has moved on.

Our trip to Mardin was a journey on many levels, and I will carry those precious moments with me always. Mardin and the Tur Abdin plateau is an amazing area that is not to be missed.