Tag Archives: productivity

That Thing Where Your Toddler Suddenly Wakes You Up All Night Again

Recently a coworker asked me about if I ever dealt with my 3-year-old waking up many times throughout the night. We did! And it made me realize that perhaps we weren’t the only ones who dealt with this. I’m about to tell you what I believe should practically become a patented method for resolving this issue.

Why is this happening?

These are dark times! My daughter was a perfect sleeper after sleep training. Even in unusual situations like hotels and visiting family, she slept like a champ. When she turned 3, it suddenly changed. I am sure there is some brain development thing happening but the general vibe was that she discovered she could control this nighttime part of the world by wandering into our room whenever she woke up. Many times we woke up to this horror-movie-like scene of a small child, breathing heavily into our faces, staring at us while we slept. (I think sometimes she was nervous to wake us up! She should be!)

Her reasons for waking up were practically nonsense. Sometimes potty, which is legitimate. But most of the time it would be something absurd, like to ask about why the winter is cold or where we put her art project. Most of the time she would obviously um and uhh about why she was up and then invent a reason right there on the spot. Our stress only grew with how ridiculous her rationale was — how is she not getting this?

Aside: There was a little view into toddler “stress” that created a tad bit of empathy in my angry, angry, tired, exhausted brain… often her reasons had to do with losing a sticker or forgetting to clean up part of her room. This is what keeps a toddler up at night? It actually caused me to consider how absurd it is that I remain awake at night over an inconsequential conversation with my general contractor.

Typical solutions

Some of our friends recommended basically Sleep Training: Toddler Edition. One of them literally reversed the door knob in their child’s door so they could lock it from the outside. We actually went and bought the Door Monkey thing which achieves a similar thing. But we never used it! Because my plan worked sooner.

There are some obvious downsides to locking the door. Paramount is that in the case of a fire or a real emergency, you’re locking them in their room. Horrifying thought. I couldn’t live with that. But there’s also the fact that they’d get the real feeling that they’re “trapped” once they discover the door is locked for the first time. I didn’t want her to have that feeling. But maybe all of these risks are minimal — to each their own!

Frankly, I don’t know what else people do. We definitely looked. “Rewards?” That’s part of my method. But I don’t think that works on its own.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough for me was to interrupt my daughter’s habit by changing the script a little bit. In fact, she’s allowed out of her bed. She just has to call an adult into the room first. Then, we’d determine if her reason for waking up merits leaving the bed. Do you see? So now it’s not up to her if she gets out of bed. It’s on our terms. So her old habit was 1) wake up 2) leave the room 3) do whatever I want. New habit is 1) wake up 2) call a parent into my room 3) share the issue and do what the parent allows.

I’m not like a psychological genius or anything but this felt to me like one of those mental tricks like BJ Fogg’s idea of “just flossing one tooth.” (that worked for me)

Putting it into practice

It’s a little complicated to reinforce this change. And actually, in dissecting this change, it helped us understand why this is hard for a toddler to wrap their heads around. How are they supposed to know what is a good enough reason to get up at night? They’re only 3.

To be more specific, the rule becomes: You are not allowed to get out of bed unless it’s an “emergency.” If it’s an emergency, you can call mom and dad into the room to help you. We are talking about toddler emergencies here (potty, diaper leak, bad dream) but also real ones (a fire).

  1. So, the first step is explain the rule. Talk it over with them a lot, get them ready for it, let them ask questions. Review it when you’re driving. Use the same key word like “emergency” so that it’s really clear: things are either an emergency or they’re not.
  2. Next, we are going to reinforce it during the bedtime route. Each night before bed, we would play a game where we’d talk about different scenarios and she would have to identify if it’s an emergency. We’d act this all out while she’s laying down in the bed and she’d even mime the reactions. We could come up with all sorts of absurd things to make her laugh (what if you wake up and smell cheese?) but really the point is, only a handful of things you decide are emergencies (potty, smoke/fire/alarm). If it’s an emergency, her answer is “I can say, ‘mama, papa, I need help!'” For everything else, the right answer is “you can go back to sleep” or “we can take care of it in the morning.” Use real situations to help her understand. This was a chance to clarify that whatever absurd thing she woke us up about other nights was not an emergency (like “we forgot to put away the puzzle” or “my butt itches”). This ended up becoming the highlight of bedtime so I think it really engaged her brain on it.
  3. To prevent her from immediately waking up moments after putting her to sleep, there’s another new addition to the bedtime routine: the 5-minute check-in. You’re basically going to assure her that you’ll come back to check on her in 5 minutes. Again, getting out of bed is on my terms, not hers. So, there’s no reason to get out of bed right now. If you don’t have everything you need or are having trouble going to sleep, I’m coming right back. So just stick around! “OK, do you have everything you need? Good. Go to sleep now, don’t leave or call for us. We will come back in in 5 minutes to check on you.” Mostly she would be asleep but sometimes she would potty at the 5 min check-in.
  4. Ok, now what happens if she still wakes us up? A few options. If she got out of bed herself, you bring her back to the bed, and ask her to do it the way we practiced. Again, reinforcing that she must call us into the room first by instructing her to do it over. If she didn’t get out of her bed, she hollered to bring you in, now you have the conversation: “Hi, what’s the emergency?” and help her with the problem if it’s an emergency. If it’s not — sometimes she would sheepishly admit it wasn’t — then we “can take care of it in the morning” or just tell her it isn’t an emergency and go back to sleep. There were a few times where that conversation ended in tears but I think that was mostly part of her understanding the rule.
  5. One more mitigating factor is preventing wake-up reasons before she even hollers. As really prevalent excuses come up, we would make a solution she could do on her own. Thirsty: a water bottle sits bedside. Nose is running: kleenex is here. Lost teddy: piggy is waiting here as a backup. Lips are chapped: chapstick on the nightstand. Too dark: nightlight.
  6. Lastly, rewards. We made a tracker and would reward her for streaks. First it was 3 nights, then 5 nights, then a week. Each streak got her a Tonie or matchbox car.

This honestly only took a few weeks to begin working! And a lot of the scaffolding, like the 5-minute check-in, the “pretend game” eventually started to naturally phase out. She actually became excited to learn what was an emergency and what wasn’t! And excited to reach her streaks, bragging to us about how she didn’t get out of bed all night.

I hope this works for you! Let me know!

Complete-Meal-In-A-Cup Gazpacho Recipe

Bowl of gazpacho

In college, my friends and I joked that fast food would eventually evolve to the point where young professionals in suits would beer bong a perfectly balanced meal at a chain down the street to get their lunch down in minutes. We haven’t gotten there yet but this cold soup is certainly close. An incredible combination of superfoods that’s cheap, you can make in no-time and grab quickly from your refrigerator when it’s time for work.

Gazpacho brings me right back to the “turn” playing golf midday in the summer as a high schooler… ah, screw that, most food blogs do this storytelling thing right about here in the post but I know you don’t care about me and my lifestyle so let’s get to why you should care about this. It’s time for:


My Complete-Meal-In-A-Cup gazpacho is low carb, slow carb and whole 30 compliant. It’s damn good and only takes about 15 minutes to make. I’m not even on any of those diets and I make it almost every month. I’ve always looked for super-light lunch solutions (mainly salads) because I’ve found that a calorie bomb midday slows me way down and I’d rather jam through my work and leave at a reasonable hour. Plus, if meetings run over or cram you out of a lunch break, gazpacho requires no re-heating and is very easy to down quickly. 

As far as pre-prepared lunches go, this one matches the Sunday preparation requirements perfectly:

  • Quick to make — a fraction of the chopping of salad prep — let a blender do that work
  • Barely any clean-up because most blenders also do that themselves
  • Gazpacho in vertical mason jarsCheap because you won’t get conned into eating out for lunch; and if you’re in college, you can get a lot of these ingredients frozen or canned and it’ll still be delicious
  • Easy to grab-and-go and it stores efficiently in the fridge all week; I keep it in these long narrow mason jars because they use a lot of the vertical space of a fridge that other tupperware won’t maximize

Having a Vitamix probably helps a lot with getting that speedy chop going plus easy clean up — you can just run it with water on high for a few mins and it’s clean.

For the record, I don’t usually post recipes on this blog but my wife said she wouldn’t buy ingredients for my recipes unless they’re on Pinterest. I think this will allow it to be “pinned” although I don’t know how Pinterest works.


The ingredients are ALL optional. Do what tastes good.

Take a quick browse and you’ll notice this thing is healthy as all hell. Protein, veggies and fiber all in one delicious package. 

I’ve listed the ingredients in order of unusualness in order to catch the attention of people who are quickly browsing:

  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs — source of protein and gives the soup a creamier, thicker consistency
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame — more protein; I usually get this frozen and pre-shelled from Trader Joe’s
  • 3-5 vine-ripened tomatoes (about 1 lb) — it’s OK to use canned, in fact, in some climates/seasons, those will be better
  • 1/2 a can of V8 or 4-6 ounces of tomato/vegetable juice
  • 3-4 TBSP of ground flax seed — you can hide a ton in there, thickens the soup and gets you some healthy fiber and fatty acids
  • 3-4 TBSP of red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 TBSP of EVOO (together, these are like a salad dressing)
  • 1-2 green or red bell peppers — you can also get away with these frozen in a pinch
  • 1/2-3/4 of a hothouse cucumber — no need to peel
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Ground pepper like a madman
  • 1-2 TBSP of salt

That’ll make about a Vitamix-worth of gazpacho which translates to about 3 tall mason jars of the stuff (18 ounces each). I find that half a mason jar is a normal lunch amount for me but sometimes I have a whole jar if I’m hungry.


  1. Start hard boiling your eggs using your preferred method — I use this really easy Dash Rapid device. This takes the longest so do this first and they’ll be ready when you’re done.
  2. Second, I grind up the flax seed in the Vitamix because it won’t get shredded up enough if you dump it in with everything else. When you pour it in, it won’t reach the blender teeth but when you run it on high, the breeze will suck it in and grind it to bits. Side note: If you grind up flax seed on a weekly basis, this is a good time to do it… dump the excess into a container for the fridge and leave enough in there for your gazpacho.
  3. Next, cut up all the produce. Here’s the cool part: you BARELY need to cut this stuff up. Rinse it all off and you can just cut it into big 1-2 inch square chunks. The bell pepper will need some seeding, the onion/garlic some peeling and I like to cut the top off the tomatoes, but otherwise, it can all go right into the blender with a rough chop.
  4. As you chop things up, you can toss it right into the blender to minimize clean-up. Try to get the liquid into the blender first, then the tomatoes and cucumber, then the rest… for an optimal blend.
  5. Run the blender on LOW for about 15-20 seconds. Then, taste it, make any additions (usually salt and pepper) and run again for about 15 seconds. It will taste about 3x better once cold. If you’re using a Vitamix, flip it on at 1, turn it up to 2 and let it hang there… the veggies will gradually get sucked down into the blades.
  6. Pour into individual mason jars or one big pitcher and refrigerate! You can serve it immediately if some of the ingredients were frozen because that stuff will cool down your room-temp items.

This is seriously one of the most pro moves ever. To hell with all those people who think this is just drinking salsa. It’s an unmatchable fast, easy and cheap meal with incredible nutrition… it’s the Complete-Meal-In-A-Cup Gazpacho.

Gazpacho in vertical mason jars

Marie Kondo For Your Email Inbox

Lots of folks are talking about Marie Kondo now that she has a Netflix show. I haven’t watched the show but I skimmed her book. And my clothing drawers have never been the same! I love her advice of thanking items “for their service” — gratitude is awesome.

The phrase that’s never helped me much is the “spark joy” rule. It seems to work for everyone cleaning their rooms, but not me, until now. I realized lately that it helps me enormously with defending my email inbox, instead.

My email is a private line right into my pocket so everything in there should spark joy, not dread! Does that email newsletter spark joy? Before you hand out a business card: will this person bring me joy?

It’s actually a very good test. Many email newsletters are awesome– but for me, they sometimes inspire panic to buy something or the anxiety that I’m behind on reading the news. Unsubscribe! And it’s for the opposite reason — sparking joy — that I violate the sacred rule of “inbox zero” and keep subscriptions to a few newsletters that I love.