To Sleep or…….

zzz's

Lately I’ve had a bit of a love hate relationship with sleep.

If I knew that each night I could snuggle in under my duvet and fall into a deep restful sleep I would love it.  But I can’t.  So I hate it.

Sleep is such an amazing thing.  It’s healing and rejuvenating and just plain enjoyable.  Beautiful really.  And, in theory, it’s dead easy.

Lie down.  Close eyes.  Sleep.  Done.  Not always.

So why is that each night I lay down, tired out from a busy day, close my eyes and….nothing?  I toss and turn searching for the ultimate position that will send me of to lala land.  Wrapping the covers around me tightly like a baby works sometimes.  When it doesn’t, I try lying on my back.  Then my left side.  Then my right side.  Then in a desperate attempt I flop onto my stomach.  Ughh.

not sleeping

It seem like once I am in bed the world’s problems descend with a thud onto my pillow.  Along with my nine pound cat.  (but that’s a story for a different day)  All the things that have been pushed back into the corners of my mind during the day, creep out of the darkness and start circling.  Taking turns bombarding me with issues that can’t be solved.  And just when one is done pecking my brain, another swoops in to takes a turn at keeping me awake.

Then there’s the whole sweating thing.  It goes like this.

Wake up drenched in sweat.

Throw covers off.

Wait approximately thirty seconds.

Start shivering.

Pull covers back over head and attempt to get back to sleep.

Every freakin night.

I know I’m not the only one but really?  We can’t find a way to stop this?

So if sleeping sucks so much for me right now, why do it?  Maybe I should just make the best of a bad situation.  Most adults sleep 8 – 9 hours a night.  Think of all the things things that I could do with that time instead of tossing and turning and thinking and sweating.

  • Eight loads of laundry.  Washed, dried and folded.
  • Run a long way.  Depending on how strong I’m feeling and if I’m running on the street or the trail I’d guess somewhere between 30 to 40 km.
  • Read a book.  A whole book.  Without interruptions.
  • Bake.  Cookies, squares, a cake, healthy granola bars.  Whatever Pinterest can throw at me.  And I would nail it.
  • Sort all of my digital pictures and finally, once and for all, make books out of them.
  • Spend time with my mom.  Although she would probably be sleeping so that might not work out so well.
  • Clean out the garage.  No, like totally clean it out.  Everything.
  • Watch House of Cards and re-wind it every time I don’t understand what they said or what the political implications are.
  • Write a blog and post it in the middle of the night.

What would you do with an extra few hours a day?

The Best Thing in Life is to sleep.  But if you can’t, there are endless possibilities.

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Sleep Anxiety

anxiety

Sleep is a beautiful thing.  Nothing feels better than sinking into your comfy bed, closing your eyes and getting a good solid nights sleep.  It’s rejuvenating.  It’s blissful.  It’s therapeutic.  So when sleep won’t come,  life can be turned upside down.

Over the past few months my daughter has developed what I can only describe as severe sleep anxiety.  She’s never been a great sleeper but this takes it to a whole different level.

It started out pretty low key.  At some point in October she started to say that she could not go to sleep.  Not just that she wasn’t tired.  But that she could not get to sleep.  She would get out of bed a couple of times every night to tell me.  I’d give her a hug, ask if she needed anything and tuck her back in.  But then it changed.

Slowly over the next few weeks it escalated to all out hysteria at bed time.  And by hysteria, I mean a couple of hours of crying, shaking, yelling, pacing and ultimately, exhaustion.  And that goes for all of us.  Yes, I yelled.  I’m not proud of it but at some point (okay,more than one) I just lost it.  It just seemed so simple.  Get in bed, close your eyes and eventually you will fall asleep.  But yet, she just couldn’t do it.  Not wouldn’t.  Couldn’t.

I remember one night in particular when she refused to get out of the bath.  She said that getting out of the bath would mean that she would have to brush her teeth and put her pjs on.  That would mean that she would need to go to bed.  And that, ultimately, would mean that she would have to try and get to sleep.  And in her mind, THAT was not going to happen.  Thirty minutes later the bath had drained and I was sitting on the floor begging her too just step out of the tub.  Again.  Simple.  But she just couldn’t do.

It got to the point where she would pace around her bedroom saying over and over again.  “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go to sleep.”  I would sit on her bed praying that I could find just the right thing to say that would convince her that she could go to sleep.  I tried positive encouragement, bribery, meditation apps, consequences but nothing would sway her from her stance that she couldn’t go to sleep.

sleeping girl

My husband and I were confused and desperate to understand what was going on.  To see our smart, capable little girl so upset was heart breaking.  So physically agitated that she wouldn’t even let us hold her to try and calm her down.

The emotions that have run through our little family in the past months are difficult to put into words.  We’ve been angry with each other and unsure of why.  We’ve been confused.  Why is this happening?  We’ve been heartbroken and sympathetic.  The need to comfort your child is so strong that when it is of no help, it can be devastating.

The fact that this is, apparently, quite normal in children this age is at once comforting and distressing.  Comforting in that others have solutions that have worked for them and I know that we are not alone.  Distressing in knowing that so many other kids suffer the way that my daughter has suffered.

Recently we have started to give her melatonin at bed time and it seems to have helped calm her down.  She still wakes up a few hours later though and is convinced that she has yet to fall asleep.  What must be going on in her brain to create this anxiety and confusion?

Why, you may ask, am I telling you ( and the world) all of this?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I am hoping that it will help somebody else going through the same thing?  Maybe I am hoping that it will reach somebody who can help me understand it better.

I’m not sure I can end this post with a Best Thing in Life.

 

Where’s the Sandman When You Really Need Him – “Tales of the Momside”

girl not sleeping

A purple glow emanates from the diffuser in the corner of  the room.  The scent of lavender is everywhere.  Low calming music plays on an iPad on the bedside table.  The lights are dimmed and the room is cozy.  If she didn’t know better she would swear that she was at the spa.  But she wasn’t.  She was in her daughter’s bedroom at 9:00 at night and she was desperately trying to get her to go to sleep.

Her eight year old daughter was wide awake and insisting that she could NOT go to sleep.  Her legs were thrashing about under the  covers and her little hands were balled into fists.  A child who was typically rational and easy going had, for the past week, turned into an irrational, agitated, almost incoherent, nightmare.  Ironic that nightmares happen when you are asleep.  Which her daughter was NOT.

“I can’t go to sleep.”

“But you haven’t even tried.” She pleads.

“But I just don’t trust myself.  What if I don’t get to sleep?”

“Sweetie you are eight years old.  Every night for eight years you have gone to bed and gone to sleep.  There’s no reason why tonight will be any different.”

“But……”

“But what?”

“But…….”

“Yes?”

“But I don’t trust myself.”

“Yes, you’ve said that.”

“But….”

“Honey, you wont be able to get to sleep if you don’t try.  Just lie still, close your eyes, take a few deep breathes and try to relax.  If you still can’t get to sleep after, say, ten minutes then come and get me and I will tuck you in again okay?”

She starts to get up from the spot on the floor that she has occupied for the past half an hour.  If she can just get out of the room maybe her daughter would……

“But…..I don’t trust myself to get to sleep.”

Damn.  So close.

It’s all she can do to not scream.  She is trying really hard to be patient.

“Count to ten.” She tells herself.  “Or maybe one hundred.”

She had spent the last few days researching sleep disruption in children and one of the most important things, they said, was not to get angry and make the child think that what they were doing was bad behavior.  In theory this made total sense, but her sweet little sunshine was still repeating the same maddening phrase over and over again and it was hard not to let that annoyance creep into your voice.  Hell it was hard not to scream at her.

Just shut up and go to sleep

“Maybe she’s not tired?” She thought.

“No, she’s had a busy day and it’s an hour past her regular bed time.  She should be tired.  She’s done this every night this week.”

“You know what sweetie?  I’m tired.”  She stretched and yawned in the hopes that her daughter would follow her example.  The truth was that the lavender oil, soft music and low lights were making her sleepy.  Was her daughter immune to this stuff?

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea.  We will both get into our  beds and see who can get to sleep first.”  Good lord why has she not thought of this before?  It was genius.

“But mommy what if you get to sleep before me?  Then I’ll be awake all by myself?”  She had started to cry again. Damn.

Fearing that she might just loose her cool she gets up, kisses the little girl on the head and says.

“Good night sweetie.  I love you.”  Then leaves the room and walks down the hall to her own room.

“Mommy?  Mommy.  Mommy!  MOMMY,”  then silence.  Could that be it.  She held her breathe and waited.  She lay down on her bed and closed her eyes.  Just as sleep start to creep into her she feels her.  Close.  Beside the bed.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep.”

From this point things will go one of two ways….

 

A Different Approach – “Tales of the Momside”

Roche Trail

It was the fourth time that night that she had woken up.  Sweating and burning like a furnace had just been switched on inside her.  She threw the covers off and waited until it was over.  Waited until she could feel the chill creep back into her.  Once it did, she pulled the covers back over her and tried to get back to sleep. God damn hot flushes.  One good nights sleep.  Was that too much to ask for?  Of course, the second glass of wine she had at dinner last night wasn’t helping.

A few hours later, standing in the cold at the trail head, she hoped her bad nights sleep wouldn’t affect her run.  She could just get back into the truck and text her friend and running partner a lame excuse.

I feel sick.

The school called.

The cat is sick.

Really? The cat is sick?  That is the lamest excuse ever for not going for a run.  Too late.  Her friend pulled her truck into the spot beside hers and jumped out.

“Ready?.”

As ready as she could be to run up the side of a mountain.

They chatted for the first ten minutes or so but then the trail got steep and breathing became the priority.  One day, she hoped, this would get easier.

At some point the trail leveled off a bit and their conversation started up again.  As it did on most days, the topic turned to seven-year old girls and schools yard disagreements.  Raising spirited girls was a tough job and they both needed all the help they could get.

“Why are girls so mean?”  I asked.

“I don’t know if they’re mean or if they just don’t understand how their words can hurt people?”  Her friend countered.

She told her how she had taken her daughter her lunch yesterday and seen her daughter’s friend Katy crying on the playground.

“I asked her what was wrong and she told me that Liv and Gail had told her she couldn’t play with them.”

Her friend smirked because she had heard this all many times.

“I know right.  So this is how my conversation with her went.”

“What?”

“Why can’t Katy play with you ?”

“It’s not my fault?”

“I didn’t say it was your fault I just asked why she can’t play with you and Gail?”

“We want to make fairy houses and she didn’t want to.”

“Yes I do”. Katy adds wiping her drippy nose.

She had told her daughter that a good friend needs to remember two things.  Be kind and treat your friends like you would want them to treat you.

“How would you feel if Katy and Gail said that you couldn’t play with them?”

“Bad.”

Her friend nodded in agreement and sympathy.

“But you know what?  I bet you anything you have the same conversation next week too.” She said.

“Ya, I know.  But I had to try.”

It’s a conversation they have had many times.  Different names.  Different scenarios.  But the same general idea.  All of this seemed much easier eleven years ago when she had been raising a boy.

Just as she thought her legs might give out the trail dipped briefly.  But then they rounded a corner and faced another uphill stretch.  No wonder they called this trail Old Buck.

“Is Don away this week?”

“Yup. And next week too.  James?”

“Leaving tomorrow until Friday.”

Another shared challenge in their lives.  Husbands who travelled for work.  They joked about finally getting the bed to themselves again when they went away but the reality was that they couldn’t wait for the days when they came home.  Having another adult in the house evened up the numbers.

“Ugh thank god.”

They had reached the top of the climb.  She pulled up and let out a huge breath as they approached the junction for the next trail.

Now came her favorite part. Running down.  If her friend had an advantage on the uphill, this was her time to lead.  Maybe it was her low centre of gravity.  She could fly down the trail with a huge smile on her face.  It made the slog up the hill almost worth it.

Sometimes the mountain trails are like life.  The familiar ones are often easy to navigate and even welcoming.  The unknown ones can be difficult and may even seem intimidating.

“So what’s up for the rest of the day?”

“Hot lunch volunteering.  Liv’s got dance after school.  Hey can you email me the recipe for that apple salad dressing?”

The rest of the run was spent alternating between quiet periods punctuated with laboured breathing on the uphills and catching their breath on the downhills. All the time catching up on neighborhood gossip and laughing at parenting fails.

An hour and a half later they were back at the parking lot and both admitted to feeling better.  Both women knew the power of not only a good workout but the power of good company.  The past couple of years had been stressful for both of them and they had come to rely on physical exertion to solve the problems of the world.  Okay, maybe not the whole world, but their world for sure.

To be continued.

snowy trail

33 Hours In A Van – Re-posted from a year ago

ragnar start

It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

ragnar 1

After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

ragnar 2

At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together,  I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

ragnar 3

Earth Day 2015

I don’t usually post twice in one day.  Hell, I don’t usually post twice in one week.  But its Earth day and I have had such an exceptional morning that I feel the need to share.

earth

To start, I had a great night sleep last night.  Sleep is an amazing thing.  It can make or break your day.  My daughter has not been a great sleeper for the past few years.  She feels the need to wake me up at odd hours to tell me that she need to go pee.  Despite assuring her that I don’t actually need to know this she insists on doing it.  I am also fifty years old and for any others out there experiencing this you know that night sweats and restless sleep just go with the territory.  So a good, full nights sleep is a bonus anytime I can get it.

Building on that, I made breakfast and, as it wasn’t raining, I offered to walk my daughter to school.  Every Spring she participates in Kilometer Club at school.  Over a month and a half students track how many kilometers they walk and collect ribbons.  We live 2 kilometers from the school and get to walk this beautiful trail in the process.  It’s cool and sunny and the air smells so good at that time of the day.  It’s also twenty minutes of time that we can chat about whatever is going on in her life.  Or not.

Roche Trail

Once I dropped her off I headed home to quickly change and get to Bootcamp.  My friend has started up classes in our area that utilize the local trails and nature to kick our winter butts into shape.  She is so good at motivating us and making it fun at the same time.  About half way through she mentioned that at her early morning class (6:30am  is way too early for me) they had seen two owls in the trees.  Sure enough, they were still there.  They were chasing this poor chipmunk up and down the trees trying to get a snack.  It was so cool to see and it gave us a well needed break from carrying rocks up a steep hill.

owl

Once we were completely exhausted and our legs couldn’t make another step I followed her back to her place to pick up my lunch.  Another friend of mine, who is a holistic nutritionist.has started marketing her salads in a jar.  Every Friday she emails out a menu of salads.  You can order and pay online and then pick them up after bootcamp.  This week I chose….

Basil’iciousKale Salad:
Ingredients:*Kale,*Carrot,*Soaked Brown Rice
Dressing:*ACV, *EVO, *Fresh Basil & *Parsley, *Garlic, Sea Salt & *Pepper

Serving Suggestions: Makes a great side to any protein main or just mixed it all together with some left over Wild Salmon or Freerange Chicken.

kale salad

So here I am sitting at my computer enjoying a clear blue sky, tired legs and a full tummy.  So many of the Best Things in Life and its only 1:00.

backyard

Elvis is in the Closet

elvisSo there I was sitting in the den surfing the net and thinking about what to write about this week. Sometimes it’s easy and the words and ideas come quickly and effortlessly. Other times the brick wall in my mind is close to ten feet tall and completely impassable. Today was a brick wall day. I wasn’t particularly worried though, as I sipped my tea and watched the last of the leaves fall off the Japanese Maple in the back yard. And then it jumped up at me. Literally, jumped up at me. My eleven year old cat was looking for some attention and I was the only one home.

When we moved into our house my son was six and he desperately wanted a pet. I had been promising him for months that once we moved from our rental into our own house we could get a cat. Day one. “So can we go get our cat today?” Sigh. Every day for the next month I was asked if today was the day we could get our cat. Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer and I started to make some calls. I remember my son and I having some discussions about what kind of cat we might get and what we might name a cat. “If we get an orange cat I’m going to name it cheese.” He said. Note to self; do not get an orange cat.

When the clerk at the pet store brought the two cats into the room he put them both down in the middle of the floor. “They’re brothers.” He said. (probably hoping we would take both) One was completely black and the other was what we now know is a tuxedo cat. Black with white paws, chest and half a white nose. The all black one retreated to a corner and sat down to wash itself. The tuxedo cat stood up and walked straight over to us with his tail straight up in the air. “That’s the one I want”. My son said. I couldn’t have agreed more. We couldn’t bring him home that day but went home excited that in a couple of days we could come back and pick him up. I remember when we did bring him home and he tore around on the hard wood floors bumping into the walls. I’m not sure if it was the fact that my husband was, at the time, working in Memphis or of it was just because he was such a cool cat, but we ended up named him Elvis.

Life with Elvis as a kitten was not boring or easy. We made the decision that he would be an inside cat. We live in an area close to a forest that is full of racoons, coyotes and the occasional cougar and it just didn’t make sense to put him out on the front doorstep. We tried a collar and leash, but really he was just bait at that point. The problem was that he was bound and determine to get outside. We had a Swiss student staying with us that summer who quite often stayed out late and came home mildly intoxicated leaving the front door ajar. I can’t tell you how many times I chased that God damn cat up and down our street with a flashlight in my hand. The neighbors must have thought his name was Stupid not Elvis. (at least I didn’t have to call him Cheese). Then there was the day that he escaped and bolted up the tree in the neighbors backyard. I managed to get up to him without incident but coming back down I missed a branch and had a wicked bruise in my thigh for a month. God damn cat.

He has mellowed out in his older years. He now sleeps in our closet and some days doesn’t wander out until mid morning. His attempts to sleep on my head did not gain much admiration from me and I may have thrown a pillow or two at him in the middle of the night. The closet was just a safer option. He rarely tries to escape anymore. The look on his face says, “meh, it’s just too much effort.” With my husband away as much as he is, I am happy for his warm furry comfort in the evenings. Although his habit of patting my face (with his claws out) when I stop paying attention to him, can be a tad annoying.

So here I am with Elvis curled up in my lap thinking about all the crazy things he’s done and how over the years we have laughed and cursed at him too many times to count. He’s purring softly and probably having a cat dream about tuna or the yummy kitty treats we occasionally give him. I’m grateful to have the time to sit and let him nap for a few more minutes but then the day must go on for me. The Best Things in Life for Elvis is that he can just head upstairs and go back to the closet to sleep.