IMG_1655Sleep. I love sleep. And I know I need more, consistent nights of sleep. Even my dear sweet Dad lectured me the other day on the amount of sleep I get, but I’m pretty sure I learned my sleep habits from him! I guess you’re never too old to hear the wisdom of your parents, and he is right – we all need to sleep. Studies have shown how poorly people perform on tests, decision making, and driving when they are sleep deprived. In fact, driving on little sleep can be just as dangerous as drunk driving because sleep helps us make the right choices, think quickly, and react appropriately. But if you’re a parent, a student, or you work nights, you are probably going to suffer more than a couple of sleepless nights. Worries, busyness, and sick and teething babies, toddler nightmares, and thirsty little throats are great interruptions to our sleep. And it happens… so how do we function on little sleep? Here’s a few tricks I’ve learned from 6 kids, 3 years of seminary, and far too many sleepless nights…

10. Drink a little extra coffee.  I mean, a little. It’s ok to indulge in a little extra caffeine to keep you going, but too much coffee will give you the jitters and upset your stomach. Plus, it’ll keep you awake that night.

9. Drink water. Our body functions slow down while we are sleeping, so we need less water and calories. However, when we don’t sleep enough, we’ll be using up those resources more quickly without giving our bodies a chance to recharge. Add that to the diuretic effects of coffee, and we are quickly dehydrated. Make sure you keep a glass of water handy and drink up!

8. Eat well. Sleep helps us regulate the hormones that tell us we’re hungry. When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies get confused and we think we are REALLY hungry, when we’re probably just thirsty and tired. But when we’re tired, we are more likely to make poor food choices, and this is a time when we need extra nutrition to help us cope with too little sleep. So eat healthy – and if you’re extra hungry, it’s ok, just make sure you’re noshing on the good stuff – apples, carrots, lean protein, and any kind of fruit and vegetable will give you vitamins and minerals without destroying your diet.

7. Watch out for your emotions. When we’re tired, we’re much more emotional. When you feel yourself getting agitated or weepy, take a big breath and relax before you react. If you feel like you’re flying off the handle, it’s probably just the tiredness talking. Make an extra effort to let it go! And give yourself some grace for a bad mood. This day will pass and you will be ok!

6. Turn the lights on. When you start feeling sleepy, turn up the lights. Brighter lights will help you stay more alert.

5. Take a quick walk. If you have to get some work done and feel yourself dozing off, take a brisk walk to the water cooler, bathroom, or jog around your living room to get your heart rate up and rejuvenate quickly.

4. Get a little sun. Fresh air and sunshine helps your mood and your energy level. A quick burst of sunlight will give you a little extra Vitamin D and it will help you sleep better that night.

3. Skip the workout if you’re really exhausted. If you’re just a little tired, that workout might help you have more energy for your day. But if you are exhausted to the point that your muscles ache, you might want to give it a break and spend that time taking a snooze.

2. Reward yourself. Give yourself something good to look forward to at the end of the day. Maybe a small delicious treat, take out so you don’t have to cook, a little time to relax by the fire, or a favorite tv show you’ve been wanting to watch. Giving yourself a nice reward will make your day go faster and better.

1.Take a nap! Never underestimate the power of a cat nap to help you feel refreshed. I like to drink a cup of coffee and set a 20 minute alarm right before I lay down. If I’m really tired, I’ll be fast asleep before the coffee kicks in. The alarm will wake me up just as the caffeine starts to work and I can better face the rest of my day.

What are your tricks for surviving too short nights?

There is a dream I have, of gently easing into my day, with a cup of coffee and a magazine and maybe some dippy eggs, and I am still resting in my bed, all snug and cozy, with cat at my feet, while the sun comes up, and I feel awake, rested, and at peace. And I have a few minutes alone with my Bible before the busy of the day begins, and I can think, and pray, and clear my head and just breathe. Oh to just breathe. Breathe in the scent of lavender, or peppermint, or the fresh morning air while I am at rest and at peace and the scent of coffee brings comfort and love.

Reality is so much harder. It is dark, and I am tossing about because I’m too hot or too cold, or maybe it’s my allergies and I think I can’t breathe, or maybe it’s the cat breathing in my air and asking for her breakfast. And finally, finally, I doze off again.

And suddenly there is squealing and shouting and pounding on the floor above and small children bounding in my IMG_0630door and jumping on my head and begging to be fed and I realize there is no gentle easing into my day, there is a harsh knocking awake and my body takes a small beating from excited children who cannot contain their energy because it’s a new day and who could possibly ever want to sleep another minute when there is a world to explore, a language to learn, and new discoveries like worms and dirt and tasty foods and math equations and a pizza party in the classroom and can’t we have apples for breakfast or bagels or eggs or just anything? And the bounding babies make me smile and laugh and cringe and dive under my pillow for just one more moment of sleep.

And finally the coffee maker turns on and there is the smell of dirty diapers, not the smell of lavender and lace and the harsh reality that the day has started long before I was ever even ready. And I drag my weary body up and out and sizzle up some breakfast for tiny little tummies who have much exploring to do.

And getting going is not so hard because there is no leftover work from yesterday. The dishes were done, and the backpacks were packed and the lunches were ready and in their little bags and 6 little sets of pants and shirts are all laid out in a row so there is no scrambling for baby socks or stain-free shirts and hole-less pants. Homework’s been checked and rechecked and signed and even water bottles are waiting in the fridge, ready for little fingers to grab and take along. And it may not be quiet, and it might not smell sweet, but I can sip a few sips of coffee as the baby sips her bottle and I can savor my eggs as the kids savor theirs and we can talk and tell jokes and jump together into this new day.

And the single secret to saner mornings isn’t to do lists or well-behaved babes or skipping breakfast or doing imagesomething that is very hard at all. The secret is simply finishing yesterday before it’s a new day, and putting away, and planning ahead, and whenever you can, to work until the work is done so that rest is more restful and the day starts shiny and new, without dragging along the baggage of the past to weigh down the newness and dull out the shiny and ruin a day before it begins. And it might not be the daydream beginning that is soft and sweet and smelling so good, but it is the closest and best that I can come to making the dreams I dream be my life. And someday the bounding bouncing babies will be seeking coffee of their own, and cringing under their pillows in their own cozy warm beds and I’ll remember the times they bounced me awake and all I wanted was peace and dreams and lavender and a saner morning. And the mornings are hard but they are good because they are full of laughter and sillies and bounding babes and I’ll just do my best to cuddle and sip as they drag me along and it’s ok because yesterday is already wrapped up tight and cleaned away and I can face this new day because joy is in it, and love is in it, and babies are in it, and God is in it first.

IMG_0895 - CopyDon’t we seem to lose sight of what’s the most important when we’re too busy?  It’s just one day…. it’s just a few minutes… just, just a moment here or there… and in those few busy minutes we seem to lose track of precious years of the things that mean the most to us, the things that are the most critical to us, and the things that should be defining us. I don’t like myself when I am too busy; I don’t like what too busy and too tired and too stressed does to the person that is supposed to be me. Too busy means that I am not kind or creative or contemplative; I am not giving nor seeking to give. Too busy means I am too caught up in my own concerns to see how I can help someone else’s too busy, too. Too busy means that I am just getting by and not enjoying a single moment of the too busy so why bother with all of those things that make it what it is? What is the point of too busy if it isn’t positive and helpful and most importantly, focused on what is most important?

No matter how busy we are, there are things we cannot afford to skimp on; things we just must not let go of; things that need our attention and our affection and our absolute best self. No matter how busy we are we cannot afford to skimp on these 6 things. We cannot afford to lose sight of the most important; we cannot give up on, let go of, or let fall by the wayside the 6 things that we need the most when we are at our busiest.

Exercise. It helps keep you healthy. It creates mood boosting endorphins that counteract stress. It helps you stay younger, alert, and strong. It doesn’t have to be much, or fancy. Just a walk in the park or the yard or if necessary, at the mall.

Eating well. It keeps you healthier, it keeps bad food from weighing you down, making you sluggish, and tired, and sick, and miserable. It makes your body function the best that it can, and the busier we are the better we need our bodies to work.600817_4103356262744_1911529201_n

Sleep. I need my beauty sleep, and even more so, I need my attitude sleep. I need sleep to stay calm and I need sleep to stay strong and I need sleep to work harder, faster, and be more creative. I need sleep so my body can rest, recoup, and recover from stress and sickness. I need sleep to cope with the busy but somehow sleep is always the first to go when busy sets in.

Family. No one needs you more than your family, no one loves you more than your family, no one is probably more willing to let you get by than your family because no one is quite so forgiving as your family. No matter how busy busy gets, you can’t afford to skimp on cherubic faces and toothy grins and muddy hugs with holes in the knees. Nor can you skip on an aging parent’s wisdom or your crazy brother’s shot in the arm. They need you; they need you to need them; and need them, you do and if not today, you’ll need them tomorrow when the busy is hopefully gone.

God’s Word. More than bread. More than air. More than water. We need the Word of God to feed our souls so our souls can thrive under any pressure. We need God’s Word so we can draw close to God even when He seems far away because of the busy. We need God’s Word for its perspective, its strength, its soothing balm, its faith inducing, miracle inspiring, soul healing, life changing words that come straight from the heart and mouth of God and aimed directly at us.

IMG_0926Prayer. Prayer isn’t just a list of demands for a supernatural genie. Prayer is conversation with the Creator, the Maker, the Holy One, the Savior, our Friend. Prayer is when we unload our burdens, share our cares, solidify our hopes, discover our dreams, and become more like the Savior who gave up everything for us.

Six things. Just six. That you cannot forgo no matter how busy. 6 things that will control the busy. 6 things that will fulfill you like the busy never will. 6 things. I need these 6 things. I need these 6 things no matter how busy. I’m working on the six things and I’m working to get rid of the busy.  If you help me with the 6 things, I’ll help you with your 6 things.

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I think that I am not alone in this.

I think a good night’s sleep is important, kind of critical, in fact desperately needed. For my sanity. And everyone else’s. Beauty sleep, they call it. Attitude sleep is what I think it really is. And I need it. Especially for Sunday, when I lead worship. When I want have myself together, be at my best, so I can help others to worship their Savior. Sleep is as critical as breathing.

But I think that Satan must love Saturday night.

 

It’s 11:30 pm. Lights off, my head sinks into the pillow, my body gives a  big sigh of relief. I love my bed.

Sadly, Sleep doesn’t come, so I pray a bit, and rest.
It must be just about midnight, when I finally doze off. It is bliss.

Oh no! At 12:10 I am awakened by a mini heart attack as the sound of elephants stampeding through the house quickens my heart to a jolting pace. What’s going on? Is the house falling down? An earth quake? Are there really elephants above me? What?
Oh wait it’s just the cat.

The really old cat who barely, rarely, gets out of bed is running around the house like a stampede of elephants.IMG_4033

Ok, I can go back to sleep.  Just as soon as my heat rate gets back to normal.

12:20 Once, again, dozing off and returning to sleep. Ahhhh, bliss.

12:29. A giant thump in the foyer gives me another mini heart attack. Did someone fall down the steps? Is the house caving in again?

Really cat? That was you? You sleep 92% of your life away, why can’t some of it be now?

12:45 Return to bliss after mini heart attack subsides.

1:10 Jolted awake by the sound of a small child’s coughing fit. It quickly subsides.

1:12 Is that more coughing? Do I need to get up and do something?

No, this time it’s the cat. Hacking up a hair ball

On the bed.
Jump up and move cat to the floor to save the comforter.IMG_4028
Clean up the yuck.
Crawl in bed. Sink into the pillow. Relax. I really really love my bed.

1:17 The baby begins to fuss. She’s hungry. Or maybe needs changed.  Both, probably.
Tap the hubby. It’s your turn.
No response from hubby.
Tap the hubby harder.

Still no response.
Shake hubby. Get up get up I want to sleep. And my attitude clearly reflects it.
Doze, but not quiet sleep, as hubby feeds baby for the next hour.

2:20 Everyone gets settled.
Head sinks into pillow. Eyes closed. Sleep comes quickly. Bliss. Oh, how I love my bed. Maybe someday, I will marry my bed.

3:20. More coughing.  It’s the cat again.
Hacking up a hair ball. In the freaking bed. This cannot possibly be happening.
Move cat to floor to save the comforter. Forget the yuck.
Climb in bed. Head sinks into pillow. Eyes close.

4:07 Eyes pop open. Breath catches. Gulp. Someone’s staring at me. Two someones, actually. Preschoolers. “Mommy. Mommy wake up. We need tucked in.”  Ok. Ok. I’ll tuck you in.

4:12 Bliss is tainted by crazy dreams about Target and shopping and houses and elephants and hairballs.
And then the phone rings and rings. Somebody answer the phone. Please. Please because I love my bed and I want to sleep. I need bliss.
Oh wait.
4:45 am. It isn’t the phone. It’s not someone calling me in the middle of the night.

It’s the alarm and it’s time to get up.
It is Sunday. And I will do my best with what I have to praise our Savior, and create the opportunity for others to do the same.

But first, coffee. I love my coffee. Coffee is bliss.

In my little world, with a homestead to build and music to schedule and blogs to write and an overwhelming amount of laundry to wash and fold shove into dressers that are way too small, nap time is seriously critical. I’m talking my life revolves around nap time, critical. I mean, I’m pretty sure I might actually expire from the overwhelming level of insanity if my children don’t take their naps level of critical. And with 6 kids under the age of 9, it feels like an assault on my personhood when they decide they would rather eat, play, yell, scream, jump on my head, make a mess, or be silly instead of taking their nap. If I don’t get a little break in the action so that I can eat, sleep, read, write, plan, have a coffee, schedule, think, drink a glass of water or take pictures of my chickens, then I’m probably not going to make it to parent pickup with my pleasant mama attitude intact. In fact, it could get downright ugly in that oversized van of mine if I haven’t had a little bit of quiet time to get recharged. I love my children more than life itself, but I honestly NEED to catch a breather from the ADHD of it all. Really.

Since no one wants to see me when my babies haven’t had their slumber, and begging, pleading, scolding, and sobbing doesn’t really at all, help I’ve learned to be very creative and consistent in dealing with naptime struggles. Here are just 10 of my favorite ways to deal with nap time when it’s not going well.

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10. Know the signs. Once my kiddos get wound up, there is no hope of a nap. The more tired they are, the more hyper they become. So the instant I sense a spike in hyperactivity, no matter how slight, it’s off to bed. Even before lunch. Ok, I can’t usually make it to lunch. It’s now.  Nap time is now.

9. Initiate quiet time. We don’t really have a television, so if they kids won’t nap, I can’t just plunk them down in front of a tv show while I get some work done (although it’s not a bad option if your littles will sit still for an episode or two of Blue’s Clues or Barney). So I tell them if they can’t sleep then they must relax in their beds with a book, a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, and, when absolutely necessary, a sippy cup of milk (please don’t yell at me for ruining their teeth, thank you very much, not napping is an emergency in this house). Once in a while, forced quiet time has the desired effect and these always-on-the-go busy kids slow down and somehow fall asleep. To which I silently shout, “HALLELUJAH!”

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8. Get them outside. Nothing tires kids out better than playing outside. Whenever possible, out they go. See kids. See kids run. See kids run some more. See kids take a nice, long nap! See mommy turn into a normal human being again.


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7. Go with the flow. If the little minions have slept later than usual (And by the way, sleeping in is 6:00 in this house), I know they won’t be ready for a nap at noon so I can push it off a little bit, schedule permitting. But whenever possible, I like to keep them busy until the baby falls asleep. As soon as she is blissfully snoozing away, I race (on the inside anyway) to get them all in their beds so I can enjoy them all sleeping at the same time. The peace is indescribable. [Insert fist bump here for the awesomeness of 4 simultaneous nappers].

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6. Behold the sugar rush. Nothing destroys nap time quicker than a cat nap on the way home from preschool pickup. So I’ve recently resorted to passing out lollipops for the 12 minute ride home in order to keep their eyelids wide open until I can tuck them in their little beds.  I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. Does it make the van sticky? Yes. Do I care? Not if it means I get to eat my chocolate chip cookie at the kitchen table all by myself instead of hiding in my bathroom with the lights off…

5. Give them carbs. Yes carbs, the dreaded substance that stays on a mamas hips forever creates sleepiness in little tykes. I like to give them a nice carbohydrate type snack right before their nap- a banana, some pretzels, even some goldfish crackers – to help their little tummies feel full and happy for a nice long snooze. If that’s not ‘clean eating’ enough for you, oatmeal has the same effect, it just causes a lot more mess.

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4. Try alternate activities. If the nap just doesn’t happen, and quiet time is a total bust, you might have to try some other plan.  Just remember the rule: the messier it is, the more enraptured they will be. But hey, I’m not at all confessing or admitting to the time I  let the bambinos play in a bin full of whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and miniature diggers, or have play dough at the coffee table, or spend 3 hours in a bathtub just so that I could sit down with an actual hot cup of coffee (I was pretty convinced they were extinct.)

3. Make it routine. I don’t stick to a strict time schedule unless a particular day demands it, but I do try to stick to a routine. Free play, then snack, then nap, so the tiny tykes know just what to expect next and their little bodies follow suit.

2. Take a long drive. When I’m totally desperate? This is the way to go. I buckle them in, give them a some water in a sippy cup, and we’re motoring. Just remember to hit the bathroom first, and bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks for you. Because you might be parked in that van with those sleepers for a very, very long time. Do not forget. There is a direct, causal relationship between how hungry you are and how badly you have to pee with how much longer they will sleep while you are doing the potty dance in the driver’s seat of your vehicle. Take my word for it.

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1. Sleep it off. I’m not usually one for napping myself, but for everyone who says “sleep when the baby sleeps,” this one’s for you! Snuggle up with a wayward napper and catch up on your zzzzz’s. Your sleepiness will probably rub off on them, and you’ll get a good nap in as well. It’ll make you prettier inside and out!

Ok, maybe not you, you don’t need to be prettier. But I need that nap to happen.

My attitude needs that nap to happen.

Parent pickup depends on it.

It took me a week, an over-filled, sweaty, ripe, grimey, headachey week to find 42 minutes to plop myself on my plumped up sofa, prop my feet on the coffee table, and zone out for an episode of Bones on my laptop. Yes, it took a good 7 days to find that quality time to spend with Hulu. And do you know what happened?

I promptly fell asleep.

What’s going on here? Am I that old? I don’t even have enough energy to relax! Something is very wrong. How can I discover God’s hand in my life – how can I gaze in awe at Him – if I can’t stay awake? If I am so busy that I fall asleep the moment I sit down, then I need to make a change. When people talk about priorities, they usually mean putting family first, or making time to spend with God, or date nights with their spouse. But what about sleep? Where does rest fit in? Somewhere, I read that Rick Warren commented on this when he said that sometimes, the most spiritual thing that we can do is to take a nap.  Our human bodies need rest, and I am no exception. The problem is, how?

My life is so full that I get in the bad habit of thinking that the only thing that can give anymore is sleep. And with 6 small children in my house, uninterrupted sleep is impossible to find when babies need fed in the early morning hours, nightmares need soothed, and cups of water need to be dispersed. With all this nighttime activity, I need to spend more quality time with my pillow as well as weed out some of those energy sappers – scrolling Facebook on my phone is one of them. Oh, I’m not anti-facebook at all, it’s a great tool. But filling every second of each day with mindless scrolling and random information doesn’t give our brains the needed time to process the days events and emotions, and it distracts us from thinking about God. I’m not going to say I won’t scroll at all – but maybe I can give those spare minutes a good trim? To let my mind wander over God’s gifts rather than Facebook memes and status updates.

So there are 2 steps that I’m taking this week towards finding more awe and wonder in my life. The first is to keep tracking my sleep with my Fitbit, and keep trying to add a few minutes to my night time by doing little things like shortening my shower, enlisting the kids’ help in cleaning up toys, and heading to bed a few minutes sooner. 6 hours of sleeping is my goal, and last night I didn’t even clock 4 1/2. I can’t keep this up.

The second step I’m taking this week is to cut down on cell phone app usage, including Facebook. Whenever I have a few seconds to wait, such as in the parent pickup line, or while waiting for the spaghetti to cook, I want to pause, and think about God first before I pull up my favorite apps or check up on my FB friends. Less information for my brain to sort through means less brain power being used, and more energy being reserved for things that matter all the more.

2 small changes. Let’s hope for some big rewards. What lifestyle tweeks are you making this week? What small things can you prioritize to make big changes in your life?

Pray for me and I’ll pray for you as we seek out the awe and wonder of God.