Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Change is as Good as a Rest

Husband was home for 5 full days this past week. The kids were elated--the wrestling and playing was at full volume the whole time. We accomplished some of what needs done around here (painting in basement, wooh-hoo!) and we snuck in a bit of relaxation as well. Daddy left for work early this morning and we are faced with the dreaded long-quiet-first-day of his being gone.

I have written a bit about adjusting to life when daddy is away from home. We are all a year older than when that post was written, but the essence remains true. It is up to me to set the tone for my kids, and also to be very gentle while they adjust to our new/old routine. So today must be a very busy day--we are washing all the household bedding and have happily come up with a flax and quinoa bread recipe all our own. Concerned about salt in our diet I realised that even the bread we were eating (which I love, and I miss so dearly!) was quite high in salt. So I have been trying some different recipes (a post on that later!) and today combined a couple with pleasing results. I won't share the recipe until I tinker with it a bit, but bulger, wheat germ, spelt flour, flax, quinoa and whole wheat flour are some of what it entails.

Having daddy home was a refreshing change. It had been 3 weeks since his last days off--hard on us all. While he was home we were busy, it was tiring, today could be a very depressing day if I let it. But when my four year old looked up at me with big eyes and a quivering lip and said "don't you feel so sad that daddy isn't here?" I didn't try to sugar coat it for him. I said, "yes, it's awfully sad. I'd like to lay down and bawl but I think that would make me feel worse. And it would make you and your brother feel awful. So I'm going to stay busy and try to do things that make me happier. I'm going to try to have a good day even though I miss him". And my boy nodded and and has been by my side helping me all day long. Instead of doing quiet inside chores while the two year old naps, we went out to the cow pasture just outside our yard and filled the wheel barrow with frozen cow patties to add to our compost. Four year old thought it was spectacular: "mommy, this might be gross but it sure is fun!". Nice to remind him that mommy's are fun too--and hopefully it helps the compost ;)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Fruit Trees and Shrubs

Got a lil carried away placing my order for fruit many beautiful shrubs caught my eye as I went through the on line catalogue at T and T Seeds out of Manitoba. I've spent the winter thinking about the yard and feeling, well, tentative about where to start. Now that I have ordered some trees I am super excited to get started in the yard.

Last fall I began work on a stone path flanked by two raised rock flower beds. Husband and I also started a stone path that will lead from the covered porch to a water feature on the south side of the yard. At the moment, my yard is mud. We will most certainly have another heavy snowfall (or two!) but the day is coming, soon, when we can return to giving our yard structure. The trees and shrubs that I ordered will go a long way in doing that. I ordered:

2 apple trees (honeycrisp and odyssey)
1 Golden Pear, 1 Hazelnut Tree
2 highbush blueberry, 10 raspberry canes
5 grapevines

Elderberry Black Lace
Cranberry Blue Muffin (Couldn't find an image but read lots of comments reporting that this shrub doesn't bloom without a companion--trouble with disease--the list goes on. It seems I always find these things after the mastercard has been swiped! But it will be a learning experience)
Euonymus Fire Ball
Hydrangea Vanilla Strawberry
Lilac Bloomerang

I'm hoping that these shrubs will provide visual interest year round. We have a blank canvas right now so a bit of height here and there should help the eye stop and focus (here's hoping!).

I also sent for 2 Hostas that like the sun, a peony, Astilbe, and Reed Grass. I plan to post when they arrive and I get planting. The weather has dipped below zero again (yesterday was -16C without the wind! Awful!) so the thought of these lovely shrubs and fruit trees is giving me hope that warmer days are ahead. How is spring shaping up in your neck of the woods? Are you making any additions to your garden this year?

Friday, 21 March 2014

On Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Oh there is nothing like waking up in the morning well-rested. I'm not talking about sleeping in (7 o'clock around here is a veritable lie-in). I am only talking about seven hours of uninterrupted, no waking up, no worrying, no monkey-mind, sweet. snoozing. slumber.

I can't say where my sleeping problems began (possibly when I began to feel that I had a "problem". I'm realising how much of this is in my head). It may have began when Husband and I began living together. He likes has to have the TV on to get to sleep at night. I crave silence. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to a blaring TV and not be able to get back to sleep. We have compromised by setting a sleep timer and keeping the volume low so that I don't wake up in the night and have to find a remote and shut it off. Or it might be that after having our first son I had a period of 8 or 9 months of restless legs. I was never diagnosed or anything but I called it the crazy legs. Sensations would zing up and down my legs at 3 am and I wouldn't get back to sleep. I finally heard that calcium with magnesium might help, and it did. I took a supplement into my second pregnancy but found that I didn't need it after delivering the baby. If I sense the crazy legs coming on I take a calcium with magnesium and it really does help.

My kids are great sleepers; I can't blame this on them. They are in bed by 7 and, if it were up to the 4 year old, I wouldn't hear from them until 7 or 8 the next morning. 2 year old gets up around 6. I wish he didn't always wake up his brother, but I can do 6. I like to be up early. What I dread, what happens far too much, is waking up around 3 am and not getting back to sleep until 5...and a little boy being up at 6. It seems as though my sleep cycle ebbs and flows, and if I get on a streak of waking in the night it will continue until exhaustion finally gets me a full night's sleep. So here is what I do nowadays to get a better night of rest:

  • I read myself to sleep. Ten pages is usually what it takes. Once Husband is home again I will just read while he watches TV. We'll see how it goes. Getting to sleep is not usually the issue.
  • one cup of tea (decaf, obviously) after supper. No other drinks. Waking up to use the washroom is a definite no-no. Also, green tea seems to rev me right up (probably in my mind). For me, no green tea after lunch time--just in case.
  • It occurred to me that I'm listening for vehicles in my yard. There have been a number of break-ins in the area over the last few years and I may subconsciously be listening, so I finally remembered to lock the shed. I also lock the doors (does this sound naive? What I mean is, I consciously check the doors before bed. I grew up in this area, hardly anyone used to lock their doors. But I'm home alone with two kids and I'm finding that a quick check of doors at night removes one item of worry from my list)
  • I pull the curtains. This one surprises me. I used to detest waking up in a dark room. We had the sheerest curtains possible in our old house. But for some reason this year after the time-change I started to wake up and wonder what time it was. This led to hours of fretting and my mind bouncing from idea to idea, topic to topic, future and past, regrets and insecurities. The fact is, I have no problem getting to sleep but staying asleep is a real trick. If keeping the room in darkness helps then that is what I will do.
  • I got rid of my alarm clock 2 years ago. If I open my eyes and see that it is 3 am I might as well get up for the day. I can do this because my alarm clock is at the end of the hall and we don't have to rush anywhere. Most people are not this lucky.
  • If worry is what is keeping me awake, I repeat 3 positive things over and over and over, explore those 3 things with my mind, consider them, repeat them until a feeling of well-being returns or sleep comes. This past summer, our house was scheduled to arrive in two weeks and we still didn't have a basement hole dug or a basement to put the house on. I don't know how but I slept like a baby every night. I was in the windowless basement bedroom at my parents and my mom always rushed across the hall to my kids' rooms upstairs if they woke. I probably stopped listening for them after awhile. If I did happen to wake up I took great comfort repeating "we have a very good well. It gives 17 gallons of water per minute. The road and the yard are built and beautiful. Husband and the kids love me." These three positive things got me through some stressful days and nights.
  • On the subject of worry, making lists helps. If it has been written down I try to quit thinking of it. If it is out of my control, see above. 
  • I close my bedroom door. 4 year old comes in if he needs me, 2 year old bellers like a banshee. If my kids need me I will hear them. I was leaving the door open just a crack and I think that when the furnace kicks in it sucks the door up against the striker plate and making a "click". This is enough to make me hop up to see if 4 year old has entered the room. Closing the door is a psychological barrier between me and them. Although I can actually hear just as well with it closed, I have told myself when I close the door that I will sleep more soundly.
  • I never nap. If I am very tired from a poor night's sleep, I roll with that and hope that it helps me the next night. Having a nap makes it impossible for me to make it through the next day without sleeping at the same time. It must also make it easier to wake again in the night. At any rate, my policy is push through it.
  • I have finally accepted the fact that I sometimes don't sleep well. Enough of the "If I go to sleep now I'll only get two hours sleep etc". When my mind is racing in the night, I tell myself that it will be a slower day here at home tomorrow. I try not to work myself up more by worrying about being tired. It helps to try to let go of that stress.
These are just a few of my tricks to get a good rest at night. I MUST start doing yoga and practice meditating for relaxation. Getting exercise and fresh air are very important, as is positive thinking and planning for the future. I read an everydayhealth article that helped, a bit. If you suffer from poor sleep, or anxiety, give it a read. Do you sleep well? If not, can you share any tips for a good night's sleep?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Low-Sodium Diet

Eating a diet that is low in sodium is harder than one might think. We don't keep a salt shaker on the table and I don't add salt to my cooking. I use mostly dried herbs for seasoning, and most of what we eat is homemade--much easier to control salt intake. I read food labels and do my best, almost all the time, to have my kids eat fresh fruit and vegetables rather than packaged, ready-made snacks.

As a new mom, sugar was my biggest concern when feeding my kids. Until my eldest son was diagnosed with childhood nephrotic syndrome, I worried more about sugar and barely glanced at the sodium content on food labels. While I still avoid sugary snacks for my kids, salt has become equally as unwanted for my family. The trouble is, food doesn't have to taste salty to actually be loaded with the unhealthy stuff.

Let me backtrack and explain why we attempt a low(er) sodium diet in our home. Salt leads to fluid retention, a symptom of nephrotic syndrome. When protein leaves my son's body in his urine, his organs and tissue begin to swell with fluid. As it was explained to me by our specialist, salt exacerbates the problem during a relapse of the syndrome. Currently, we are fighting off a relapse and may have to resume prednisone  treatment. Just reading the list of side-effects from this life-saving medication makes me panic inside. Panic inside. But if it turns out that he goes on it again, we resume our calcium and vitamin D supplements, maintain our healthy lifestyle, and be grateful that there is a treatment for this syndrome. And we hope he outgrows it soon. In the meantime, eating as little salt as possible while he has protein in his urine is a no-brainer. But, like I said, it's harder than you think.

The other day, searching for a snack for the boys, I reached for salted peanuts. I checked the label. In one third of a cup (about what I would have given them each) there is 6% of an adults daily sodium. Not bad, I thought, but spied some butter toffee nuts left over from Christmas. 13% of an adult's daily salt intake in the same amount of nuts. And they don't taste salty. Where I am headed with this, you can probably guess, is we have to really check the labels on everything we feed our families. Since that day I have looked for more information on low-sodium diets. I read on one site that for a snack to be considered "low-sodium" it should have fewer than 140 mg salt/serving. Back to the nuts. A third cup of salted nuts has 150 mg of salt, while a third cup of butter toffee nuts has 320 mg of salt. Blow my mind. They had an orange instead.

I am very interested to hear from parents of children with nephrotic syndrome. If you would like to start a conversation, please comment and we can email from there. We are less than a year into this and quite possibly relapsing now. I am grateful that there is a treatment, so grateful, but I would like to hear your experience with prednisone. My thoughts very often turn to those families that might not find such a simple treatment for a sick child, and my heart breaks for them. Go hold your babies close.