Thursday, 23 June 2011

The sleep experiment...

OK, so I've been experimenting with my sleep patterns this week.  To catch up click here.  I've definitely noticed that I wake up more refreshed and ready to go if I can remember the dream I was having when I awake.  Essentially if I've had time dozing, and I get out of bed between dozes, then I'm OK.

I point out that 'ok' in this case simply means I'm slightly less likely to bite your head of if you try and have a conversation with me within the first 30 minutes of being upright.

I also seem to do better if I've had a 'round' number of hours sleep.  I realise that was incredibly poor grammar, and no-one will understand what I'm trying to say, so I'll try that again...  When I sleep for 6, or 7, or 8 hours and wake 'on the hour' I'm better than if I wake on the 1/2 hour.  I can only assume that my sleep cycles happen to add up like that.

In fact, sleeping for longer does not necessarily mean I'm more refreshed.  It's more about where I am in that cycle when I awake.

I'll keep experimenting, and you never know... I might soon be lifting the corners of my mouth before I get to the school gate!

Monday, 20 June 2011

How to encourage healthy eating....

My children will try pretty much any type of food.

I count this as a blessing.  Particularly since I didn't even eat Pizza until I was 20 years old.

I was bought up in a typical English environment, where the meals consisted of 'meat, potato and veg' or were children's meals like 'beans on toast', 'dippy egg' or 'tomato soup with soldiers'.  To this day my parents don't eat rice, or pasta, or anything that hints at a herb other than mint (only with lamb).  Whilst you can quite happily eat traditional English food in a healthy way, I'm pleased that I have a wider variety of foods with which to now tempt my children, which I gained purely as a result of spending 3 years at university and 'experimenting'.  With food, obviously.  My girls are now; helpfully; big fans of pasta (even cold in salads; which I hate).  They love rice (quick and easy, and they'll even help sweep up the mess afterwards).  And we've recently introduced them to poppadoms and chicken bhuna, with great success.

It's not been easy though.  Our youngest, now 30 months old, continues to go through stages of 'pickiness'.  And I refuse to rise to it.  I continue to offer a selection of foods, and the availability of pudding is directly related to how much main course she's eaten.  A small amount of main course equates to a small amount of pudding.  And we have, whilst out at a restaurant, allowed her older sister to eat ice cream for pudding, even though the youngest hadn't eaten mains and was therefore not allowed any.  She whined.  But we stuck to our guns, and she now always eats at least some of her main course.

And I think that's the trick.  When you realise that they will never starve themselves at this age.  That they'll eat when they are hungry.  And that rising to it only makes it into a game that you really don't want to be playing. And when you realise that children's potion sizes are so much smaller than ours, and that a tiny plate of pasta and meatballs is actually quite filling, and that a single 'dippy egg' with one slice of bread to dip can keep them going for ages.

These days we would probably be considered old fashioned for our approach.  Which consists of this: make dinner, place dinner in front of children, allow them appropriate time to eat dinner, call end to dinner and remove remaining food.  If they choose not to eat it, well they'll need to wait until the next snack time (for fruit) or for the next meal (where they inevitably eat a whole lot better.) 

Sometimes you just need to remember who's in charge!

"You want a big what?"

Eldest child:  "Thank you for my new Disney clock, Mummy.  I love it"
Youngest child (at the top of her voice):  "I want a new cock, Mummy.  I want a big cock!"
Mummy and daddy:  peels of laughter
Youngest child (realising she's said something funny, just not knowing what):  "BBBBiiiiiigggggg Coooooccckkk!!!!!!!!"
Eldest child starts mimicking to get in on the act.
Inappropriate shouting continues for a good 2 minutes.

It's a good job we weren't in the middle of the supermarket.

Friday, 10 June 2011

How to cope with loosing sleep!

I have always had trouble getting up in the morning.  I'm a grumpy, impatient, groggy mess for at least an hour.  That is an hour after I get out of bed, and generally I've been slamming the snooze button for a good 20 minutes before then.... becoming more and more annoyed at that button in the process.

Before I had children I used to be able to sleep until 8.30am and still get to work for 9.30.  I'd then work until 6pm, as I seem to be at my best between 3pm and 6pm.  This pattern was so distinct that my colleagues began to deliberately avoid asking me stuff until late afternoon.  And even though I was going to bed before 11pm and getting over 9 hours of sleep, I still wasn't lively and awake in the morning.

Now I have 2 young children and I never get up in a good way.  I always feel angry at the day for starting before I'm ready for it.  I feel frustrated that the children and my alarm clock wake me up.  And I'm envious of my husband's apparent ease at getting out of bed in the morning happy and fully awake.

I've tried one of those Lumie light clocks.  It's helpful to an extent, making waking up on those dark winter mornings slightly more palatable.  But it has had no effect no effect on my morning mood.  So now I've had enough.  I thought about it; worked out that I wake up slightly less grumpily if I'm woken up whilst dreaming vivid dreams, and I thought I'd make the effort to learn more about sleep and how it works so as to better understand how I can help myself. 

It turns out that we sleep in cycles of about 90-110 minutes, and each cycle contains various stages; drowsy sleep(1), light sleep(2), deep sleep(3&4) and REM sleep, with us working through them in this order; 1,2,3,4,3,2,1,REM for a couple of cycles, and then loosing number 4, then number 3 on the next couple of cycles.  It also turns out that if your alarm clock wakes you up in the middle of your deep sleep you'll feel groggy and unhappy as this isn't the natural point at which to wake.  You actually want to wake up whilst in REM sleep; or whilst you are having those dreams!  Meaning the length of time between falling to sleep at night and waking up in the morning is the important part; not what time it happens to say on the clock when you wake.  Of course the length of the stages and cycles will also vary from person to person.

So going to bed late does indeed throw out the natural rhythms as you will interrupt your sleep with the alarm at a different point to usually.  The time; 6am; may be the same, but your body won't be at the same point.  (read more here)

So I'm going to try going to bed at 10pm, with an aim to be asleep for 10.30pm, 1 cycle would take me to 12.20am, another to 2.10am, another to 4am and the final to 5.50am.  But since 5.50am would be the end of that cycle after a longer period of REM sleep and I'd be about to move back into stage 1, I'll try setting the alarm for 5.40am on the basis that I should be in the middle of REM then.

It seems very early.

I usually try and set the clock for 6.15am and drag myself out of bed at 6.30am.  Today was particularly difficult, but I went to bed early last night and was asleep by 10.30, so was probably back in the stage 1 when the alarm went off.

It all sound a bit complicated, but I'll experiment and let you know how I get on.  Of course, in an ideal world I'll be getting up and exercising....! Hmmm.  Baby steps....

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Entertaining the children this summer

Head for the National Trust properties near you this summer for plenty of activities for the children.  Find an event near you, or simply take a picnic for a low budget day out across the UK.

Entertaining the children on a budget...!

The girls have got a week off this week.  And so, as a working mum, I have had a few days off work to spend some quality time with them.  But therein lies the challenge.  In my head "quality time" involves travelling to purpose built adventure parks where we laugh together, skipping along eating ice creams, the sun shining, everyone relaxed and happy.

Alright, I know, I'll try and grasp reality again.  Day trips with two under 5s is a little bit more like strapping a shield to your arm and trying to slay a dragon with 2 heads.  You need skill, strength, plentiful snacks, eyes in the back of your head, plasters and antiseptic, and a spare kidney to cover the costs.

So, today we left the house with a small changing kit (3 nappies, wipes and sacks), 4 juice boxes, a bottle of water, a packed lunch, buckets and spades and a total of £5.40 ($8.89) in change.  Safe to say that we were on a budget.  So it was to a nearby park, recently refurbished with swings, slides, and a sand pit (obviously), that we headed.  Turns out that the land train was in residence and my youngest absolutely loves trains, so it was an interesting education for the children as I tried to explain that the money I'd bought with me was just for ice creams, and if we wanted a ride on the train we probably couldn't also afford the ice creams.

They were surprising receptive.  And lucky.  As I discovered that the cheapest ice creams were in fact affordable, so they got to do both.  The lesson for my eldest was that she couldn't have the fancier ice cream she'd had her eye on.

But the sun shone.  We made sandcastles.  Ate our packed lunch in the rose garden.  Rode the train.  Ate the ice creams.  And had a thoroughly lovely day.  Interestingly I came home with 90p and I expect that if I'd have taken £10, or even £20, I would probably still have come home with 90p.  So we did indeed manage a lovely day on a budget.  Never underestimate the lure of a simply swing set and sandpit.

I left the dragon at the scene.

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