Carol’s Parenting Hack: Get More Sleep

animal-931355_1280I can’t write here with any authenticity about an organizational parenting hack to help you get through the year. For this, you should listen to Nathalie or Beth-Anne, because those women have their act together, and you could learn a thing or two from them. But I do have a tip that I think would really improve the lives of almost everyone (and certainly every parent) I know, and that’s simply this:  Get. More. Sleep.

Simple, but not easy to do. I know, because I believe it, and often don’t do it either. And I have my reasons, same as you: chief among these being that I want to have a bit of time to myself, after the kids and house are finally tucked in for the night. Also, I’m usually not noticeably tired at my proper bedtime. I can easily stay up for a couple more hours, and I’ve often thought that what I really need is a 26 or 28 hour day.

Which is all dandy to muse about, but since the 24 hour day doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, I’m trying to adapt to getting closer to 8 hours a night. That this assertion is seen by many people to be luxurious, unrealistic, or even slothful, speaks to a strange culture that prizes more what we can “do” rather than how we feel or how we can “be”. Because I don’t know about you, but I am a lot nicer after a good night’s sleep, and I’m pretty sure the universe and everyone I know in it prefers that me to the red-eyed crab me who managed to steal time to read/write/craft/plan/watch-mindlessly-something the night before. And of course, I prefer that me a whole lot more too.

But waking time is precious, and we all need reminders of the reasons why we should not compromise on getting enough sleep.

  1. Enjoy Better Physical Health. While sleeping, your body repairs itself and works toward healthy brain function. Sleep also helps to maintain hormone balance and sustain a healthy immune system. Skimping on sleep means slowing down your body in all kinds of ways, and makes you more vulnerable to illness. Basically: you’re stressing your body out. And if you keep at it, you can burn your body out.
  2. Think Smarter. As in, you’ll be better able to problem-solve, multi-task and prioritize. The brain fog you’ve gotten used to may actually lift if you get enough shut-eye.
  3. Remember Things. There is a direct correlation between lack of sleep and impaired memory. Remember what you could remember before you had kids?  I can’t either. But if I get enough sleep, I might.
  4. Eat Less. Sleep helps balance your hormones, and when you don’t get enough of it, you secrete more of the hormone that makes you feel hungry. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that I absolutely eat more when I’m sleepy. It’s like I’m trying to get energy from somewhere, and food’s all I have, and I’m not usually reaching for the kale. Not helpful.
  5. Live Safer. I’m suspicious that in the parent set, there are quite a few of us who have driven when really quite sleepy, and when we really shouldn’t have been. Some studies liken driving while sleep-deprived to driving while drinking. I have made the former mistake before, and I committed a long time ago to not making it again. If I’m sleepy, I don’t drive.
  6. Improve Your Mood. If you are even a little prone to depressed moods, or even if you aren’t, you are much more likely to experience the blues if you are sleep-deprived.
  7. Increase Patience and Compassion. It is very difficult to have give positive energy to the vagaries of the people around you (unpredictable children, for example) if you scarcely have any for yourself. One sure way to lower my patience as a mother of young kids is to eat into my sleep. It’s almost never worth it. Tame the lunatic within with some zzz’s.
  8. Have More Sex! Of course this one gets an exclamation mark! How are you supposed to channel your inner goddess when all she wants to do is nap? A sure libido killer is fatigue. There are many complex reasons why your sex drive may wax and wane over time, but go for the low-hanging fruit first and see if getting adequate sleep does the trick.

Seriously, do yourself (and your spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, boss, employees, fellow drivers and general strangers everywhere) a favour, and go to sleep. It could change everything.

Loving My Dreams, Even If They Scare Me

fantasy-858683_640I love dreaming.  Not daydreams, but the ones that come at night, deep in sleep.  I can’t always remember my dreams, but they’re vivid and striking and exciting to me – often complete contrasts to my quite regular life.

This is true even though occasionally my dreams scare me, sometimes in repetitive I-know-just-what-gets-her ways.  For instance, I have recurring dreams of going to university and getting my degree twice, realizing only in my second fourth year that I already got this degree and I have wasted a full four years of my life.  Or I’ll arrive at my finals completely unprepared, or I’ll forget the days of the exams, or not realize that I should have taken a course that I can’t graduate without.

Stress, people.  Can I tell you that I’ve actually gotten to a place with these dreams that I can recognize them – sometimes I’m able to tell myself in the dream that it’s just a dream, you’ve been in this dream before.  Or don’t worry about failing all those sets of university exams because you’re already a lawyer.  I am?  I am!  What a relief, you know?

I’ve googled studied precisely nothing about this and don’t want to know more about the doings of my brain.  I don’t want any dream analysis; you may know more about my dreams’ significance than I do, and that’s just fine by me.  In my little sleepyhead, dreams are mysterious and magical (if a little menacing), and I’d like to keep it that way.

The truth is, no matter how good (or bad) a day I’ve had, I almost invariably anticipate with pleasure the time when I lie down, those moments before sleep when, for better or for worse, you have lived the day, and the matter is closed.  Part of the reward is then rest and sleep.  But I also wonder:  what adventure waits tonight?

And I don’t think it’s just me.  One of the prizes of sleeping with the kids is being awoken by them laughing really, really hard while completely asleep.  I wonder what they’re dreaming about, of course, but mostly it doesn’t matter; I just laugh along like a crazy conscious person.  Laughter then becomes the lullaby for re-entering my own dream world, and all is well at night.

Do you remember your dreams?

The Best Comfy, Cozy PJs for Winter

It’s November. Despite the many birthdays of people I love peppering this month, I don’t like November. The days are drab with little sunshine, and darkness descends well before the dinner hour. What I also dislike about November? It’s the official start of the “cold” season – and I don’t mean the sniffling, sneezing kind. I mean the, “It’s FREEZING!” kind. It’s depressing to know that I won’t feel warm again for another 6 months!

In effort to combat the chilly nights, I did some searching for the perfect, cuddly, snuggly, warm pyjamas.

And if you’re still sleeping in a ratty t-shirt or holey-shorts, please do me a favour and read this, your partner may thank me.

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Old Navy is a great, cheap and cheerful destination to spruce up your sleepwear. My complaint with the nightdress is that it always ends up strangling me in the middle of the night. Not sure if that’s a fault with the design or if it speaks to my inability to lay ram-rod straight all night long. Shorts are a good option if your legs get too hot and these ones are on sale for $10. These light weight shirts ($10) are ideal for sprinting around the kitchen in the morning, and not flashing your neighbours side boob. If you live in the city, most likely you know what I mean.  I am also a fan of the loungewear that can be disguised as “pants” if you’re in a pinch. These flat front jersey pants ($21.94) are stylish while still maintaining their comfy cred.

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I know some people love the adult onesie. I am not such a fan, mainly because I loathe the idea of being completely naked and sitting on the toilet. But I admit to being smitten with this BP. Undercover Free Spirit Fair Isle Print Jumpsuit from Nordstrom for $56.28. Something about this look says “après ski” – which definitely appeals to my senses.

P.J. Salvage is a brand for those with a sense of humor. These flannel sets are $65 but pieces can be bought separately if you’re not willing to commit to the entire Gingerbread motif. I know someone who would be happy to receive the Owl Friends ensemble while I am leaning towards the Cheers set for New Year’s Eve.

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When I was a little girl, a friend’s mom would always emerge from her bedroom in flowing silk and delicate lace. I would always look at her in awe, with post sleep-over eyes, and think that she was the most beautiful woman who ever lived. I am reminded of her whenever I see gorgeous lingerie, and for a fleeting second, I think that I should embrace my inner Liz Taylor. This La Perla tank gown is on sale for $168 but Hollywood glam isn’t really my thing, so this set, also by La Perla wins out every time.

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This may be the only sleep shirt that could convert me and at $88  I feel I could trick people into believing it’s a tunic.

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And my favourites – my ultimate picks for a comfy, cozy, winter weekend morning . . .

These heather flannel pjs ($198) from Coyuchi and this classic white and pink trimmed set from Marigot ($132).

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And for the kiddies:

Moose on Red Kids’ Overall Print Pajama Set – $35.  Hatley is my favourite go-to for luxe kids pjs. I love the prints and the fit, plus they wash well.

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Playjamas is a Canadian brand that we have featured on 4Mothers before, but I have to include their pjs in this round-up. The Ninja jams have been passed down through my three boys and the fabric is just as soft, and the colours just as vibrant as the day we got them. Available: ballerina, doctor, knight, ninja and robot. $38.95

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The Drake General Store is a gift-givers paradise. Their whimsical curiosities guarantee the best reactions when unwrapped. Their 2014 Arborist PJ set (I am partial to the Mountie) is available in kids and adults. A pretty spectacular Christmas morning photo, I’d say!

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And I just had to end with this video to make you smile on this dreary November day.

When Bird Woke Up, He Was Grumpy

When Marcelle woke up, she was grumpier still.

We’re on day two of a project to convert our household of larks into early birds. It’s a new world for us: Peter has returned to school part-time and has new job that requires him to be out the door early. I’m trying to accommodate his schedule, the boys’ activities, and the demands of my job. All of this means that I’m trying to get up and out the door significantly earlier than I used to, and consequently, every one else is up early too.

So far, so good.  I’ve not yet bitten off the head of any of my colleagues.

The week is young, yet.

We’re really not morning people. Not one of us. If I were to give in to my own natural rhythm, I’d happily fall asleep at 3 a.m and wake at 10. I’m also a frequent insomniac. Over the Christmas holidays, the boys regularly stayed up until 10:30 (not entirely with our permission, granted) and slept until 10 am. It’s a pattern I’ve seen before. When the boys were babies, each of them transitioned from waking every two hours to waking every three hours to eventually settling into a pattern where they’d wake at around five to nurse and then happily doze for another four or five hours at a stretch. Their longest stretch of sleep, both of them, was usually at a time when most babies were dragging their exhausted parents out of bed for the day. It drove me crazy that our local parenting centre didn’t schedule any activities after 11 am, when my kids both were finally raring to go. Even now, we’re usually dragging their little tushes out of bed at the last possible second, both of them clutching their pillows, chanting my morning mantra: just five more minutes. Just five more minutes.

We live, perpetually, on Pacific Time.

It’s ironic that dawn is my favourite time of day, because I so rarely see it, unless I’ve just not yet made it to bed. This morning, as I set off to work, the sun was just barely pushing its light through the grey, snow dusted sky. I would happily have stayed out there longer, breathing in the damp air, feeling myself awaken to the day. But I had other priorities. As I squeezed myself onto a crowded subway car (so much busier than the one I usually take at 9:05) I wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to join ranks with the worm eaters. Given my choice, I’ll take the cheese, myself.