Friday, August 29, 2008

I Can't Stand being Grounded!

This week, I have been 'grounded' by a non-working vehicle. It has been a royal pain. But, in the spirit of positivity, I'm trying to find ways to look on the bright side.

It isn't easy.

Still, I thought it would be good to list a few positives I've noticed from the week.

1) I have paid $0 in gas this week. (We won't go into how much the repair will cost... remember, I'm thinking positive.)

2) My daughter and I have taken walks every day through the neighborhood and to our local playground. It has been good to be out, and I find that we talk more and discover more together when we're walking than we ever do when I'm trying to drive the car safely.

3) My husband will not get upset about anything I've purchased this week. I didn't go shopping.

4) When we had soccer practice, the whole family biked there. I had my 5 year old and 2(almost 3) year old in the bike trailer. Can you say, Buns of Steel?

5) We have gotten into the habit of the boys riding to and from school on the bus. It isn't as tough as I thought it would be to get out of the house on time, and our bus driver told us to come to the corner about 10 minutes later than we thought, so the kids don't have to cross a busy street. (Have I mentioned I love our bus driver?)

and, finally

6) There has been absolutely no wasted food this week. What a meal planner I am when I can't just pick up and go to the grocery store! Perhaps I'll write a cookbook called, "Creative Leftovers: What to cook when your car konks out".
It's sure to be a best seller.

I wonder whether I can get my repair shop to carry it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

What to do when Children Fight

When my second son was born, one of the things I knew I wanted to "head off at the pass" was the issue of sibling rivalry. I have a sister only 18 months older than I am, and our relationship as children wasn't characterized by understanding or trust. We argued and competed for attention most of the time. Now that we are adults, we get along much better, but it has taken time to travel that path. Even if that amount of conflict is "normal", I wanted my boys to be able to avoid it as much as possible.

I remember asking my pediatrician about it at my second son's two week checkup. He raised his eyebrows. "It's a little early for that, isn't it?" he joked. I explained that I wanted to raise my boys to be brothers and friends. He saw my point of view and recommended that I read Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I bought it and read it, cover to cover. In fact, I have kept it and continue to refer to it as the children get older. It is a great book that every parent with more than one child should absolutely read.

Siblings without Rivalry is a collection of stories from parents who have specifically sought help because their children are fighting. Some of the stories involve persistent picking and bickering. Others are about belittling language or physical confrontation. The parents whose stories are contained in the book agreed to try a novel approach to the issue of their kids' constant state of confrontation.

Whenever possible, let the kids solve their disputes themselves.

When I first read it, it sounded crazy. I mean, really crazy. But, believe it or not, it has worked pretty well for our family. The key is to know and understand your children's cues so that you can step in only when necessary. But, you have to build and be willing to rely on your children's problem solving skills as well. The goal is to lead them to build a healthy relationship with one another without setting yourself up a the supreme arbiter of right and wrong. I'll explain:

Yesterday Primo was setting up some complicated paths of Dominoes to knock down and my youngest repeatedly knocked them down before he was ready. He would overreact, and she would be delighted at the attention. His freakout was her payoff. She smiled and clapped every time he would get angry. After it happened about three times, I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was about to snap. I pulled him aside.

"You know, when you were little, Daddy and I had such a hard time playing cards. Did you know that?" He shook his head, glaring at me like he could care less (and why aren't you punishing her for annoying me?)

I continued, "You used to always try to steal the cards."

He was intrigued, for the moment. "I did?"

"You did."

"What did you do about it?" [gotcha, I thought.]

"Well, we tried and tried just to tell you not to, but you paid no attention. So, we gave you some cards of your own to play next to us on the same table. I guess you just wanted to play what we were playing."

He rolled his eyes and sighed. "Does that mean I have to give her all my Dominoes?!?" (Oh, the injustice of it all!)

"Nope. About 5 should do it."

"Fine." Scowl, stomp, stomp, stomp.

He continued to be extremely annoyed at the injustice of the situation -- why did he have to give away some of his own toys when his sister was the one who was being annoying?!? But over the course of the next 15 minutes, I saw him slowly realize that she was, in fact, leaving him alone. She set up her own Dominoes and systematically knocked them down. "Good job!" I heard him say to her finally.

Pretending not to pay attention, I returned to folding my laundry with a smile on my face. Mission accomplished.

Of course, it doesn't always work that way, especially with the two oldest. Sometimes I have to listen to both sides of a complicated tale of woe. In the end, I put them together and say, "Okay. I'm going to give you two ten minutes to find a solution that's fair for both of you." At this point, they know they are going to have to compromise to get what they want. (It's a lesson many adults haven't mastered yet, believe me!) I give them space to find an answer that works. At the end of the ten minutes, I explain, I will step in and make the choice. They know that there is no guarantee they will like my decision, but that they will be stuck with it. 95% of the time, they will come to an agreement they both can live with -- and it rarely takes the full ten minutes.

If you have children who are fighting, setting ground rules (such as no yelling, no name-calling, or no hitting) is important to do before letting them solve things themselves. Once those rules are in place, trusting your children to solve some of their disagreements may be a great way to change from being Mom the referee into Mom the helper and teacher.

I can't say that I follow every suggestion I read in the book. But, I will say that it has informed my parenting and re-reading it helps to keep me on track when I fall into the "referee-Mom" trap.

When I look at my children and how they interact, I see friends who occasionally disagree, not rivals who are sometimes friendly. I can live with that; it seems healthy and good. And I know that this way of solving problems gives my children tools for those times when I'm not around to say what is right or wrong.

Isn't that part of what good parenting is all about?

-Midwest Mom

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We all have Clingons from Time to Time

Recently, a friend of mine asked a question about her 18 month-old and the issue of "clinging". You know what I mean -- when you bring your brood to that family gathering and there is one child who must be surgically detached from your leg. Or when your name is called desperately throughout the house because you dared to go down to the laundry room and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

"Whew! Mom! I didn't know where you WERE!"

Yes. It happens to all of us.

While I can't claim to have an instant solution to a case of the Clingons, I can make a few suggestions:

1) Play games about absence. Believe it or not, games like Peek-a-Boo and indoor Hide-And-Seek really do teach young children to cope with being alone, even for short periods of time. The more your child can "play" with the issue of their independence, the easier it will be for them to handle your everyday need for space.

2) Start with short absences. By telling your child where you are going -- even in the house -- and when you will be back, you are teaching them to trust that you mean what you say and that you will, in fact, come back. A very young child does need to know that your disappearance into the kitchen to make dinner will not be permanent abandonment. At the same time, parents should understand that children may not like it when you are not there. (That comes much later, believe me!) If you are gentle, reassuring, and consistent in informing them about what to expect, you will help them prepare for longer absences like doctor's appointments, lunch with a friend, or (dare-I-say-it) a date with Daddy.

3) Build trust in other people. Sometimes, there can be an enormous emotional payoff in being your child's "one-and-only". Comforting a crying child by taking him or her from Daddy or Auntie or Grandma is not always the best option. This is especially true when a young child shows a preference for one parent over the other. It can be very easy for "the favorite" to play the role of comforter. But it may be better to stand aside and let your child build a stronger bond with others. Saying, "You're fine. Daddy's going to give you your bath today." or "I'm right here, but Grandma's going to read a story. Let's listen together," is a great way to reassure your child.

When you show your trust in others' ability to care for your child, you set a powerful example for your baby about trust itself. When you practice "sharing" your child with other caring adults, you give him or her a zone of comfort and let them know they have more than one person to rely on. That lesson will stay with them as they grow older and enter a day care or school situation.

4.) Approach big occasions with sensitivity. Of course, meeting 50 people at a family reunion is intimidating. That's why even some adults shy away from those gatherings! We have made a practice of going to big events with friends or cousins that our children really know. Approaching a crowd with friends alongside helps to make meetings easier. We also plan to arrive early, so that new people are introduced one at a time. And we stay only as long as our schedule allows -- not until our children are out of their minds with tiredness.

The more practice your child gets at handling your absence or meeting new people, the more confident he or she can become at her own independence. I have one child, in particular, who went through a prolonged shy phase, right when entering preschool. It helped to introduce one friend at a time each day we were at school. When my child focused on only one new friend every day or two, we soon found that there was a whole class full of friends to enjoy.

- Midwest Mom

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ready for Soccer!

Soccer season is starting again in our area. Primo had his first practice yesterday, and it looks like his team will be a great bunch. He is playing U8 on a team called the Racers, and for the first time in the four years he's been playing, he actually has friends on the team!

Last year was our first in the U8 division, and Primo's coach was quite talented. He treated the group like they knew what they were doing and took the time to teach them about the greats of the game. My son really grew in skills and enthusiasm as a result of that experience.

This year's team is a little younger (of course, my son is a little older, too). So, it will be fun to see them gain confidence and start working together. After last night's practice, we already know they're experts at having fun!

What we like about our soccer league is that it is entirely run by volunteers. We have been so blessed to come to know some really fantastic families through our son's participation. I'm sure this season will be no different. Besides, what better excuse is there to get outside as a family and have fun together?

We'll keep you updated with photos and recaps. We're looking forward to a great season.

Midwest Mom

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Test Anxiety

My son's second grade class started standardized testing today. They are taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills [ITBS] and a test called the CogAT.

I first found out about the testing because a note was sent home on Friday. "Please do not schedule your child for any doctors appointments next week," I was told. "We will be testing." The note went on to say which tests and when. I read it twice.

Quite frankly, I was shocked and a little bit worried. Would my son even know how to do a test like that? What if he reads the question wrong or doesn't understand the instructions? And isn't this a bit young for us to be measuring students this way??

I called the school. The line was busy. Maybe I wasn't the only one who had concerns.

Testing only two weeks into school is a change for our school system. Usually, standardized tests are given in the Spring. The results are used to re-tool the curriculum for the new school year and to place children in gifted programs.

A quick search of the internet -- I wanted to find out what, exactly, these tests were all about -- plunged me into a quagmire of message boards where frantic parents were asking the same questions. Some were convinced that "a bad day" would doom their child. Others wanted to know how to "beat the system." It didn't take long for me to realize this was not the way to find answers.

On Monday, I spoke to my child's teacher. She let me know that the decision to test and when came from our school district, not the school itself. I spoke with the principal, who informed me that the scoring of the tests takes into account the year and month in which they were taken. That was a relief to me -- it means that our just-out-of-first-grade bunch won't be compared to their ready-for-third-grade counterparts.

My next job was to prepare my child. We talked about taking "fill in the dot" tests. I told my son to relax and just do his best. I make sure he got an extra half-hour of sleep last night and gave him a breakfast with extra protein so he wouldn't get tired. I explained that it was okay to leave a problem he had trouble with and come back to it later in the test and that it was okay if he looked at a problem and was stumped.

"You know, Mom. I've never had a problem with that before," he said in a tone of voice that made him sound twenty years older than he is. "I'm pretty smart, you know."

Yeah, I know.

What was it I was worried about, again?

Midwest Mom

Monday, August 11, 2008

Potty Chronicles: Will she? or Won't she?

I wrote a bit last month about my daughter's Adventures in Potty Training.

Well, the adventure continues...

We had made a sticker chart for my daughter after my last blog on this topic. We put the word "BIG" on a large sheet of paper. We covered a portion of the letter B with a star sticker every time she went. It was such a success! She looked at the chart approvingly, and at the star sticker I also gave her on her hand. Her brothers saw how she was doing on her stickers. It was great. She was on the road to potty training.


Have I mentioned that the boys have gone back to school? Since they started back, my daughter has completely rejected the toilet. I understand, to a point, that she misses her brothers. And because they are gone, she has less frequent reminders to go. I have backed off on my expectations to give her time to adjust.

However, it has been three weeks and I am nearing the limit on my patience.

Starting yesterday, I began to wage the battle of words, mustering the full force of my persuasive power to get this two-almost-three-year-old to restart her training. I have reminded her of the pretty panties she will get to wear once she's trained. I have explained that diaper rash (hers has been painful at times) does not happen when one uses the toilet. I have talked about "putting away" her business the same way she puts away her toys.

So far, no luck.

Today, we spent time at the boys school while I volunteered. I convinced her to try a "visit" to the girls' room. We went in and she happily explored it. I even got her to sit on the potty for a while. Some "big girls" came in, and she got a kick out of the fact that they were there and everyone washed their hands together.

I thought it was a step. It turns out it wasn't.

I am trying to keep my frustration in the background, but I honestly will be just so happy once we are past this step. I would rather have "the talk" or teach her how to drive or figure out how to pay for college than THIS DUMB STUPID AWFUL PROCESS!


That felt good.

I am hoping that her reluctance will pass and she will eventually train. I don't think I can handle teaching her how to drive if she's in diapers. Of course, the plus will be that I can put off that "talk" -- boys just don't dig a girl who smells like Desitin.

Midwest Mom

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

We are two weeks into school, and while I am missing the fun of having my boys at home, I am loving the flood of "girl-time" I am enjoying with my daughter.

What is it about having a girl that is so different? We communicate differently, we play differently, she (obviously) dresses differently. I relate to her in an entirely different way than I do with my boys. Maybe the difference is me.

I remember feeling like I was having a girl when my daughter was not yet born. My husband and I had made the conscious decision not to find out the baby's gender. We hadn't with any of our children. And with the earlier two, I never had a clear feeling of what the child was. This time was different. Although I didn't share it, when I thought about the baby or talked to the baby, it was always a "she".

On the day we went to the hospital, even our doula said, "You know, I have a feeling this one will be a girl." Nancy, our delivery nurse said the same thing. I just smiled, telling them we would soon find out, wouldn't we?

Sure enough, it was my beautiful daughter, and I cried. I was completely unprepared for the flood of feelings I would have about this new little life, this girl.

I had always been a little afraid of raising a girl. Boys, I told everyone, are so easy. They are straightforward. They are fun. I had the impression that girls were temperamental, over-emotional, and tough to raise. After all, I was one. (And from what my mother has told me, I wasn't exactly pleasant to raise. Yes, the truth hurts -- especially from your own mother.)

But once I had my own delicate, tiny daughter in my arms, I didn't care about tantrums and stubbornness and drama. She just was so overpoweringly beautiful.

I still gaze at her in wonder when she's not paying attention and ponder the unfathomable gift of her. I say my silent thank-yous and try to hold that image of her in my mind to recall at those times when she's being impossible.

So, now that "our boys" are in school, I have all morning to put her, my youngest, in the driver's seat. She can pick out beautiful clothes. I can paint her toenails. We can pick flowers in the garden or water with her plastic watering can. We play dolls. (Don't tell her brothers, but Batman likes to ride around in the Barbie convertible with Polly Pockets... And Polly always drives.) We shop together and go to the playground together. We play soccer with the surprisingly girly Dora soccer ball.

But aside from the games we play and the feminine things like painting nails, I can't think of anything I'm doing differently with her. All the same, everything we do feels new. She is just such a blessing.

I jokingly call her "mini-Me" from time to time. My husband laughs and hugs us both. And I can feel our bond growing stronger. The other day, she put on her feathery pink princess cape, looked at me, and said, "Okay. All set!" She marched into our room and said, "Daddy, will you marry me?"

I thought my husband was going to cry. He said, "Of course, I will, princess!" And he picked her up and danced around the room with her, just like Prince Charming. Afterward, I think his smile lasted all day long.

I think I know just how he feels.

Midwest Mom

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Laundry Tip: Keeping White Clothes White

My mother taught me this trick when I was getting ready to have my first child. She used it for the infamous "diaper load". I was under the delusion that I was going to put my newborn in cloth diapers. (ha!)

After changing four outfits a day for the first week, I was blessed with a friend who told me that using cloth was environmentally equivalent to using disposable. (Thank you,
Arun D'Souza!) Did I check the science on that one? No! I just gratefully gave myself permission to switch.

In certain cases, my environmentalism is trumped by practicality.

So, if you are a mom who is using cloth diapers, my hat is off to you. If on the other hand, you have boys to keep track of (I have two) and those boys happen to go to a school that requires uniforms (particularly, white shirts), I have news. The same trick that works for diapers will keep those shirts looking like the day you bought them.

The trick is to use the temperature settings on your washer.
I'll explain.

My boys have found new and exciting ways to stain their clothing. During the first week of school, I have washed out grass stains, blood, mud, chocolate milk, pizza splat, cherry juice, Popsicle drippings, greasy hand-prints and ice cream.

You may wonder how this is possible.
They are boys. Anything is possible.

So, to do battle with their mess (at least the laundry mess) I start by treating their shirts as I sort the laundry. I use Shout Gel. It has a little brush on top to work the stain remover into the stains and it is thick enough to stay on the stain as the clothes get washed. I've tried other brands and even thinner versions of Shout. Trust me, get the gel.

I then put all the whites in the washer and wash them with just detergent (no bleach) in COLD water. Why start with cold? Protein stains, like blood, milk, or grass need cold water to work loose from the fibers of your clothes. If you wash in hot water before these stains are out, the heat will set the stain and make a permanent mark on the shirt.

When you hear your washer spinning out the cold water to start the rinse cycle, switch the heat setting to HOT and reset your washer back to the beginning of the wash cycle. Then pour your bleach into your washer's bleach cup, but use no more detergent. The hot water will get out any grease-based stains (i.e. pizza splat!) and the bleach will whiten the whole load.

I know this method uses an extra tub of water. But, if you're a parent washing school uniforms, it really is the way to go. And, according to my own mom, there's no better way to take care of those nasty cloth diapers, either.

Good luck with it!
Remember, we're in this together!

Midwest Mom

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Ways to Save Gas and Money

Earlier this summer, our family began a concerted effort to save money on gasoline. We didn't take a vacation this year and even tried to grocery shop by bicycle whenever possible. To be honest, the bicycle grocery trips were few -- they were more of an adventure than a practical way to do my shopping. But it was nice to have the option to pick up a few things while we were out instead of driving the car.

The result of our summer conservation push was that I was able to fill up once or twice a month, putting my gasoline budget at around $100/month. Considering that it had been about three times that before prices shot through the roof, I consider the summer effort a success.

But now, we're getting into the school year. There will be different demands on our schedule and the weather has the potential to ruin the bike plan. Like today. It's pouring.

The busy first week of school proved to me that I needed an action plan -- one week, one tank of gas was not going to work for our wallet. Here's my solution:

1) Use the bus: All parents want to be as accessible to and supportive of their children as possible. As a result, many of us drive them to and from school. I am trying to cut down on my driving, though, so I have decided to let the kids ride home on the school bus. Yesterday was their first day to try it, and they loved it.

2) Make a plan: Because I still want to see my children off in the morning, I have planned my volunteer time at the beginning of the school day. It makes the most of my trip and helps the school at the same time. On the way home, I stop at the grocery store closest to the school. It is a discount chain (Save-A-Lot), so it saves a bit of green as well.

3) Bundle your errands: I am trying my best to shop only once a week (with a family of five, that's a stretch), so it pays to "bundle" errands. Aldi, another discount grocery chain, is a little farther out of town, so I save errands in that part of town for a day when I am on my way there. By doing those jobs all at once (I keep a running list, so I don't forget any), I can pack in several errands and use the car as little as possible. Aldi is out of town, so gas prices are a little lower in that neighborhood, too. So while I'm there, why not fill up and save a dime a gallon?

4) Carpool: I spoke with a friend of mine who lives 40 minutes away but works here in town. She will be carpooling for the first time in 15 years, even though several of her coworkers live close to her home. I have to say, it is such a smart decision. Yes, there will be times when you will miss the convenience of having your car waiting outside. But if you think about the money you will save by conserving gas, I'm betting the trade-off will be worth it.

If you have room in your car, it may even be worth it to run errands with a friend. Shopping with a girlfriend does not have to be a rare thing. Think about how much more fun it will be to go to Walmart and be able to chat or have your child visit with a friend while you shop. In the age of the minivan, it's a shame to waste all that extra space.

So, good luck winning the wallet battle. It's tough out there right now for those of us managing our family budgets. With a little planning and good choices, though, saving money may not be as tough as you think.

Midwest Mom

Monday, August 4, 2008

On the Road to Raising Resilient Children

Isn't it funny the way toddlers sometimes insist on doing things themselves. My daughter is two now, but from the first moment she could speak, it seemed like "I do it MYSELF!" was a staple of her vocabulary.

I try to view her independence as a good thing. Since I'm parenting three children, it is wonderful that she wants to put on her own shoes, feed herself, or dress herself. I think it is an important part of raising a child to give them the room to try things themselves -- even if it seems like they've chosen a task far beyond their abilities. Quite often, like this morning when my daughter buckled her own sandals, I've been surprised at the results!

But in the process of trying a new task herself, my daughter will sometimes get really frustrated. She will drive at a solution that eludes her. Finally, she will let out a gutteral scream I know comes from the pit of her soul.

When she's at the end of her rope, though, I give her time to feel her own frustration. I like to watch what comes after that point, because it is almost always a leap in development for her. Either she will regroup and try a new method or she will power through her frustration and get the thing right -- like when she finally learned how to ride her tricycle and hollered until she got the rhythm of one pedal then the other.

We have photos of my oldest son trying like crazy to crawl forward. All he could manage was to scoot himself backward. In the photos, his face got redder and redder until finally, he reached for the toy in front of him that was just out of reach -- and got it! What a smile of victory he had on his face! That smile would not have been possible if we had not been willing to step back and let him find his own way.

There are many times when my children are frustrated and they will stop in a quiet moment, look over and ask for help. I try to be present and accessible when they are trying to figure out something new. Sometimes, I will get them started or give them a hint or remind them of the steps they will need to take to accomplish their goal. My middle son needs encouragement if he can't get his seatbelt on right away. "I can't do it!" he will cry in despair. "You can do it. And we will wait as long as it takes for you to do it," I reply. Removing the time pressure usually does the trick for him. He gets it buckled. At the point that my children reach out for help, I think it is important to be there -- not to swoop in and do it for them, but to teach them to solve the problem themselves.

I know many parents never think NOT to help their child. Moms are compulsive, professional helpers, aren't we? But I have made the decision to start early, encouraging my children to make their own choices and to feel the consequences of those choices. I have started with the little tasks my children ask to do on their own.


When mothers do everything for their children, they are silently saying "I think you are helpless. You cannot do this for yourself." Even if they never say the words, parents who do every little thing for their child are creating a child who will be dependent on them. It can be terribly comforting for a parent to be needed so much. But, isn't the goal of parenting to lovingly raise children who can think and do and decide what is best for themselves?

If a parent never gives their child the chance to be frustrated and possibly fail, they are depriving that child of valuable experience in problem-solving and decision-making. I remember having to make the first hard decisions of my adulthood and feeling paralyzed. I talked to my father about it. "Well, princess," he said supportively, "you need to sit down and figure things out for yourself. I will help you if you need me, but these are your decisions to make."

I know now that those are the best words he could have said to me. Did I have to flounder? Yes. Did I have to wonder if I was making the right choices? Yes. Was there a chance I could fail at what I tried? Absolutely. But when I reached out for help, my Dad treated me like an adult. I was 16 years old at the time. His confidence in me helped me to have confidence in myself.

When it comes time for my own children to be making their way in the world, I want them to have confidence in their own choices. I want for them to have the courage to try new things, even if they might fail. And if and when they do fail or make the wrong choice, I want them to be able to regroup, learn, and change direction.

Does that start with shoe-tying or the tricycle? Maybe it does. Only time will tell.

Midwest Mom

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Frankie Says: RELAX

I wish I knew someone named Frankie...

This week was like running the gauntlet for me. It was and still is exhausting. In fact, I am having a difficult time just getting myself to relax because I am still hyped-up from being so over-scheduled. My mind and body are going a mile a minute.

Which makes me ask -- If I feel this way, how must my children feel?

To help us all chill out a bit, we have had a completely unscheduled weekend. In fact, all of the kids are napping right now (how jealous am I?) And I am finally sitting down to write. What a relief.

You may ask, how do I ever get them to nap? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't.

The boys, ages 5 and 7, will never lay down for a nap, even when they are tired. I understand why not. After all, they are older and don't need to sleep like they did when they were younger. But, there are days when I know they're exhausted. And they're looking at me with that "I'm not tired!" look. There will be no nap.

I explain to them that I understand they are big and they don't need to nap. But, it's important to work in a little quiet time. I don't call it a nap; I just call it "a rest" and I set a timer on the kitchen stove. When they hear the buzzer, they can get up. Sometimes they do, and we've all had 30 minutes of rest and go on with our afternoon fun. But sometimes (like today) they're so focused on listening for that buzzer that they drift off to sleep.

I look at their sleeping as a sign that they needed the rest anyway. But the important part is that their bodies told them it was time to sleep -- not me. And the side-benefit is that I get a little quiet in the middle of my day, whether they fall asleep or not.

Even Frankie would agree that's a good thing.