Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Energy Project, Day 8

I realize I haven't blogged, like promised, the last couple of days. But I have a really good reason: I went to bed on time instead.

For some strange reason (maybe it's the four kids at home during the day), I find it easiest to write at night. But, the last couple nights, by the time I was ready to write something, I was also ready to sleep. I am very proud to announce that I, like a good girl, chose sleep.

I realized, when I woke up this morning, inwardly groaning and resentful at starting a new day, that I needed a serious attitude adjustment. Why was I being so grouchy about waking up? Here's my theory: for the last couple months, I had reverted to cared-for status while nursing a broken ankle, and, now that I'm back to being in charge of everything -- with no help, I might add -- I've been having trouble making the switch back to grown-up thoughts. Sad, but true. That groaning resentfulness? Completely reminiscent of my high school and early-twenties attitude.

Thank God, I have learned since then not to be such a whiny baby. I guess I just temporarily forgot about my new skills.

So, I rolled up my mental shirtsleeves, said no to self-pity, and got myself out of bed. I made some extra coffee today for added emphasis. I kept moving, forcing myself to focus on accomplishing those tasks which I had been mentally listing for the moment I could walk, and which I had sidelined in favour of being tired.

I actually got some things done today. And I feel great about it!

So, the day's lesson: attitude might just be worth as much as caffeine when it comes to energy levels and motivation.

Here's hoping -- no, deciding -- that I'll wake up on the right side of bed tomorrow morning. After all, I still have all that filing to do...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Energy Project, Day 5 (I missed Day 4! Oh no!)

Well, my first hurdle in gaining more energy has been officially leapt over a couple of times now: bedtime is about 10:30pm, and getting there on time (or at least, before 11), has helped with my waking up in the morning. Yay for hurdle number one!

Now, on to the biggest hurdle of all: discovering a way to have energy throughout my day.

I usually drink coffee from the time I get up in the morning until about mid-afternoon, and that helps with the initial waking-up phase, but does little else for me throughout the day. It can sometimes help me get over that horrid mid-afternoon hump, when everything slows down and it feels like I'm walking (and thinking) through a watery, thick atmosphere, but lately -- gasp! -- it hasn't even been helping with that. Even after two cups, I find my brain is still fuzzy and indistinct, as if I'm looking at the world through a gently spinning kaleidoscope. No matter what I try to do to focus during this time, the best I can do is give up on any activity that requires sharp thinking and turn to a more relaxing activity, like knitting or playing the piano. Such pastimes require only my fingers to think, and that helps my brain to take a break until it's recovered its equilibrium.

Sadly, the rest of my afternoon and evening is an exercise in self discipline as I make supper, clean up, and put the kids to bed. I'm so tired that it's all I can do not to snap at people and all I can do to keep moving.

I have a couple theories here:

1) I'm so addicted to caffeine that my brain can't function without it, and I just plain need more.

2) I need to eat a bigger afternoon snack and drink more water. Low blood sugar also really affects me, and by dinner time, I'm toast if I haven't eaten much since lunch.

3) I might need to visit my friendly neighbourhood homeopathic doctor for more advice and clearer insight.

4) My body is tired from healing a broken ankle (which still isn't quite better), and I should just give myself a break.

Who knows? I guess the logical next steps are to try a combination of numbers 2 and 3, while taking number 4 into account. Oh, the possibilities!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Energy Project, Day 3

I want to have good sleeping habits so a) I can live a better, more rested and happy life; and b) so I'll fit in with everyone else's sleeping habits.

Telling people that I have four kids, and we wake up at 9 in the morning (or later), usually gets a reaction of some sort, whether it's surprise or envy or ... something else.

Getting to the library for 10 am is hard for us. And if we want to participate in programs, we have to get up early and rush around to get ready.

Sometimes, morning play dates don't work well because by the time we've all eaten breakfast -- and I'm always last -- it's almost lunchtime. And by then our friends need to be at home, eating their lunch, while we're still full from our late breakfast and ready to start some activities.

Our differences make me wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Since we're not the same as everyone else, I think maybe I'd better "buckle down" and "get on the ball."

But seriously, no one in my family is either a) in danger; b) unhappy; or c) deprived. We're just good sleepers. We take our time in the morning. We gradually ease into our day instead of jumping in with both feet.

At least, I do, and the kids tolerate that.

Is there really anything wrong with that? I wonder.

Having said that, I have been appreciating the benefits of an earlier bedtime. It's nice to open my eyes in the morning and think coherent thoughts. Granted, I still require at least one cup to reach full coherency levels, but while my brain is percolating with the coffee, I'm enjoying an extra hour of spring sunshine coming in the through my tall kitchen windows.

In between filling cups with milk, of course. And hunting through the cupboards for more applesauce.

I guess we all, as mothers, are terrified that our particular quirks may ruin our children for life. This may just be another one of mine to add to the list of potential reasons for future therapy.

In the meantime, I may as well use the motherguilt for good instead of evil, and let my wondering spur me on to become a little more disciplined. A little discipline never hurt anyone, did it? And neither did a little extra sleep.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Missed My Bedtime! (AKA The Energy Project, Day 2)

Commitment to blog daily + Arriving home late from financial course = Failure to meet my first goal of Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour.

I managed to get to bed by 11pm last night, though, and it was great. I woke up much more easily this morning than usual. Sheesh! If just changing my bedtime was all it took, why did I wait this long to do it?

I'd like to write more on the subject tonight, but my brain is already shutting down, and I fear the content would, well, suck. So I'll put us all of our misery and end now. Goodnight!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Energy Project, Day 1

Something I've always struggled with is my daily schedule. I can't seem to consistently get to bed at a decent hour, like when I'm actually sleepy -- I seem to stay up past my natural tiredness point and then go to bed once it's passed, only to lay there trying not to toss and turn while all the things I thought I wasn't worried about start playing through my head. Then, of course, when morning comes and my kids come into my room, all perky and wide-eyed awake, I groan and send them away to play quietly while I try to wake up.

There's something wrong with this picture.

On top of my bedtime and morning-time problems, my energy level throughout the day is really quite pathetic. So far, I've been relying on coffee to bring it up to what I consider "normal," but the caffeine boost is becoming inadequate. And, I have a nagging feeling that there must be a healthier way for me to feel energized and motivated. But what is it?

I recently received a mailer full of doctors' testimonies touting the benefits of chlorella, a whole-food green algae in pill form which promises to cleanse out toxins while providing needed nutrients and fibre, thus increasing energy levels and youthfulness and even skin radiance. I have to admit, I'm curious. Could this algae be the solution to my coffee problem? Could it bring balance to my body and clarity to my overly caffeinated brain? Because let me tell you, when the caffeine levels drop around supper time and I'm feeling hungry to boot, my brain enters a super-foggy state of indecision and grouchiness, and I'm completely and totally physically exhausted until the kids are in bed.

(Because, of course, everyone knows that if you drink coffee after 4pm, you won't get to sleep at night, so I stop drinking it then. But does everyone also know that if I stop drinking coffee at any point, I lose all rational abilities and the will to walk around without napping?)

Even now, I've had four cups of coffee (a modest amount for some, an exorbitant amount for others), and it's not enough. I feel that fuzzy feeling coming on, but it's after 4:30 pm and I need to decide what to make for supper. The collective energy level in my house is about to increase, and I have no reserves left to meet the challenge. So do I brew some more coffee? Or do I place an order for little green pills?

I believe there's a better plan for my life. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's about time I find out.

And, because this whole energy-level/proper-sleeping-habits thing has been such a habitual struggle for me, I plan to keep myself accountable to change by writing about it every day.

Let me just say, for the record, "Ack!"

Here are my goals:

I will figure out how to have a healthy, consistent bedtime, WHEN I'M TIRED. (Maybe a nice, peaceful unwinding routine will help. Something tells me the tv will NOT be a part of this.)

I will learn how to wake up in the morning like a normal adult.

I will find a healthy way to have energy throughout my day without relying so heavily on caffeine. (Will this include a diet change, a trip to a naturopath, or green algae? I'm as interested to find out as you are.)

There are many other related goals I could add to this list, like formulating a daily schedule, weekly meal plans, and all those other things organized, energetic people do, but I'm not into self-torture. I think three baby steps are a good first start, don't you?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sugar-Free Christmas Baking Recipe

Well, I was quite frustrated this Christmas, as I mentioned in a previous post. I gave up on even thinking of baking a variation on sugar cookies, I didn't attempt gingerbread, and I just went ahead and made the truffles like always, complete with sugary coating. (But they're a favourite of friends and family alike, and I just couldn't disappoint them! To make up for my indiscretion, I only ate 3 over the entire course of the holidays. Not bad, eh?)

But... drum roll, please: I came up with a crazy variation of shortbread that doesn't really taste much like shortbread at all, but was quite delicious in its own right. Here's the recipe. I shall call it:

Christmas-Spice Buttery-Goodness Cookies

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. poudre douce spice (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)

Cream butter in a mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in honey until nicely combined. (Honey and butter make a bit of a weird, lumpy texture instead of a smooth sugary texture. Not sure what's up with that, but it still tastes good.)

Add in the dry ingredients and mix until blended and a nice dough forms.

This dough will flatten and spread all over the pan if you try to make little cookies. (Kind of yummy, but not what I was going for. If you decide you want very thin, crispy cookies, place them really far apart on the pan and bake them just until they're golden, which isn't really long. Maybe 5-7 minutes?) I was going for a thicker, Scotch-shortbread texture, so I spread the dough in a spring-form pan (a shortbread mold would be nicer, I think, but I don't have one yet), poked it with a fork in a pretty pattern, "cut" the dough with a knife into little wedges so it'd break apart easily after it was baked, and then I baked it at 325 F until it was lightly browned all over.

Sorry I don't have proper baking times! I tend to bake by smell -- when it starts to smell great, I peek in at it, then it's usually a couple more minutes until it's nicely browned and done-looking.

Feel free to experiment with the spices -- I bet some cardamom would be a nice addition. Also, I tried about a tsp. of cornstarch in one batch to see if it'd make the dough crispier, but it was hard to tell with the spring form pan. And don't skimp on the butter!! That's what makes these cookies taste vaguely like shortbread. :)

Let me know if you come up with any delicious variations, okay?

Another strategy I discovered for sugar-free holidays was baking spicy nut mixes! Obviously, this won't work if you or your family are allergic, since a trip to the emergency room isn't really very festive, but if you've got the all-clear, a spicy nut mix is just the right thing for a tasty Christmas snack. (Why is special food such a big part of a holiday that celebrates a labour without a mid-wife in a cave full of animals? I wish I knew.)

Anyway, here's my recipe for the nut mix:

4 cups or so of Shreddies (or equivalent, like the PC version) cereal
A big (1 kg), yummy bag of nuts, like pecans. (Be generous -- the more nuts, the more special and yummy the recipe. Pick your favourite kind and treat yourself.)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp. - 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup, or a combination of the two (depending on how sweet you want it. I prefer it with less sweet and more salty.)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 F and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, nuts, and cranberries.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then stir in the honey and spices. Let it get all bubbly, then take it off the heat and whisk in the baking soda. It'll get all foamy and light, and that's when you pour it over the nut mixture. Mix it all up and coat everything nicely. Pour the mixture onto the two baking sheets and spread it all out in an even layer.

Bake until it starts to turn golden, just about 5 minutes.

Once the pans are out of the oven, sprinkle the nut mixture lightly with salt (optional), and stir everything around. Let it cool down on the pan, then store it in an airtight container, preferably glass. (It's better for you, and it doesn't lend a plastic-y taste to the food.)

There! I know it's a little late to be giving out Christmas recipes, but maybe these will help all of us be more prepared next year -- so you won't be scrambling to come up with sugar-free Christmas baking at the last minute, like I was!