Just as Audrey is growing into a semi-regular routine when it comes to naptime, Clara is growing out of hers. I'm having a hard time with this...
Clara's pattern was confusing at first, and I'm still not going to say with absolute certainty that all of her issues are sleep or nap related, but here is basically what has been happening:
About a month or two ago, I started noticing periods of time where Clara was excessively lethargic - more than I thought a 2-year-old should be. But not all the time, just certain times of day. She would also be considerably fussy and difficult but not with enough regularity that I could really pinpoint one specific cause.
Without being extreme with our diet at home, I started paying attention to - and trying to limit - the amount of sugar and processed foods we all ate. This is a little bit difficult to do with a toddler who's favourite foods are bread and breakfast cereal, but we try.
I had recently learned about how gluten sensitivity can affect energy levels, and I personally deal with a slight bit of anemia on a regular basis, so I tried to pay attention to these things as well. Nothing so far has really had a big enough - and consistent enough - effect on her behaviour, although I'll admit my research methods are lacking.
Then we went a few days without giving Clara the opportunity to have an afternoon nap...
Suddenly, she was falling asleep at bedtime instead of staying up for 2 hours jabbering to herself and keeping Audrey awake. (Go figure) She also seemed to have more energy, not less - although this could also be because these days of naplessness were caused by full days of excitement where there just wasn't time for naps!
Lately, I also discovered that the 'morning cartoon' concept is a really bad one for Clara. For a few mornings in a row, I was feeling quite exhausted and so instead of getting up and making Clara and myself breakfast, I pulled her into bed with me and put some cartoons on my laptop for her to watch in my room. Then, I fell back asleep while she watched cartoons for an hour. I liked getting a bit of extra sleep, and I certainly wouldn't complain about the cuddle time with my least-cuddly daughter, but it affected both of us negatively. It usually takes me about 6 hours to really 'wake up' each day (I wish I were joking), and in getting up at 9 instead of 7, I was delaying my 'wake up' time to past 3pm.
(By 'wake up', I mean beyond walking and talking and coffee-making. It typically takes me until early afternoon to be able to move quickly enough to actually get some house cleaning, etc. done between baby & toddler demands - that's when the coffee 'kicks in', methinks.)
Clara was similarly affected, and even worse. I suspected TV was at least partly to blame, so I tried a day with no TV in the morning. She was a completely different person - she whined for about 30 seconds about her lack of 'Dora' time, and then became distracted by her toys and happily played for most of the morning.
Sigh. And so - there you have it - all of Mommy's 'quiet time' opportunities are gone. No morning TV watching, and no more naps.
And to cement the theory, today Clara napped. It kind of happened accidentally - she spent some time lounging on the couch downstairs (not watching TV, because we had a fight - but that's another story...). And tonight, it took her a full two hours to settle down after going to bed, which was really miserable since it also kept Audrey from sleeping.
I'm still not entirely sure how to keep Clara occupied and not let her get bored enough to fall asleep (like this afternoon) without being by her side all day long - I want her to learn to play independantly, and I also need some time to get things done during the day. My thought right now is to have a 'quiet time' where Clara is allowed to watch TV downstairs between about 1 and 2:30pm when Audrey is napping, and then have both girls get up and play afterward. This worked for a couple of days, and starting tomorrow I want to try again.
Wish me luck! How I want that nap back...