I started wearing foam earplugs at night when we were trying to get Dylan to sleep through the night. They didn’t block the noise, not by a long shot, but they gave me a slight sense of removal from the situation that helped me grit my teeth and bear a few extra minutes of crying (before I inevitably got up and dealt with him because OMFG ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN THIS SHITUATION) (please enjoy my upcoming sleep training/potty training/bedwetting/disciplinary books: Consistency Is the Key To Success!).

I can’t sleep without them, now. There’s something about the ritual I go through every night — folding over a page in my book and stacking it on the nightstand, turning off the light, and scrunching up the earplugs before settling them in my ears — that’s like putting a cover on a birdcage. I like the muffled, fuzzy way I hear things, as though I’m buried deep in a soft pillow, or already half-asleep and dreaming. Our house isn’t loud, exactly, but it’s set up just like our old home: all three bedrooms are clustered together at the end of a wood hallway. Every snort and snuffle is magnified, and the instant I hear a kid shifting around in bed, I’m sent right back to those no-sleep nights of Dylan’s, instantly bathed in a full-body anxiety, waiting for someone to erupt into wakefulness with a blurry, rising cry: eh-heh, eh-heh, eh-heh, EHHHHHHHHHHH.

Not that anyone wakes up like that these days, but I guess I haven’t quite shaken the memories. This is the same reason I jump like a startled forest animal when someone coughs, because YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BARF ARE YOU????

Anyway, I’ve also found that earplugs an essential item for tent camping, because they make all the difference between lying there wide-eyed and straining to hear the hook-handed psycho killer/slobbering grizzly that’s surely lurking just outside the flap, and actually, you know, sleeping. Too bad they don’t eliminate that 3 AM appointment with stumbling out in the pitch-dark and nervously peeing on your own foot, but I guess you can’t have everything.

I forgot them a while back when we were visiting JB’s parents’ house, and it was awful. AWFUL. I honestly felt like my nerves were lit up like a Christmas tree. I could hear people breathing. Molecules were banging around and the fibers of the sheets were making noise and ugh. The worst. Clearly they’ve become a habit, and I guess that’s not great … but I’ve had worse addictions, is all I can say.

This is the part where it probably seems like I’m going to wrap things up by saying this thrilling post was sponsored by Sealy Posturepedic Mattresses or something, but really, I’m just curious: do you have any sleep requirements? Something you absolutely must have — a pillow, a sound machine, a fistful of Unisom — in order to fall asleep?

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Pink! Because like the Bic for Her, they’re for LADIES.

We knew moving here would involve living on drastically reduced means, but knowing it and living it are two different things. We have expenses we never had before, salaries that aren’t what they used to be. Money challenges aren’t something we’ve constantly had to deal with in our marriage, but we’ve never learned how to deal with them well. Every dollar sign seems connected via flinching raw nerve to some murky place that’s roiling with arguments and resentments and unspoken self-esteem issues. I hate fighting about money because it never feels like it’s about money, it feels like it’s about … oh, you know. A thousand other things. Who works harder, who bears the biggest burden, who’s more responsible. Sometimes things can go to shit so fast — thirty seconds of defensive, angry conversation and look at all the damage that was done. Jesus, everything was fine just a minute ago. Now: smoking ruins as far as the eye can see.

So we pick things up and tread delicately for a while and we say our apologies and slowly things get back to where they’re supposed to be, and oh, thank god. But all of that takes work, and it isn’t easy. Love is easy. It’s humility and forgiveness and self-awareness that isn’t, sometimes.

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