Monday, April 21, 2014

The Quest For Sleep And The King's Art of Rocking a Child To Sleep

All couples trade in the ability to get a good night’s sleep when they have children.  Before the Lightning Kid was born, it took Shark Boy 15 months to sleep through the night, and when he moved from a crib to a bed, he needed pillows on the floor for padding because he would flip and flop till he fell out.  Of the two princes, Shark Boy was the better sleeper.

The Lightning Kid had 3 angles of attack when it came to destroying sleep:

  • Not going to sleep in the first place.  Frequent wake-ups.  Waking up every 2 hours was not uncommon, and it could get as bad as hourly.
  • Trouble going back to sleep after a wake-up. Tactics include squirming, kicking and poking his parents in the face; these were also useful for the Lightning Kid when he didn't want to go to sleep in the first place.
  • Waking up early.  The Lightning Kid often woke up before sunrise and would not go back down, to the point where the effort to put him back down was longer than the time the Royal Family had before they would have to get up to start their day.  They could get him to sleep, only for him to toss and turn himself back awake again.  Half past five was the most common time for this.

For this last tactic, the King had formed a counter-strategy of taking him to his own bed.  Nestled in the crook of the King’s arm, the Lightning Kid squirmed less, and when he did, the King could arrest the movement so that he wouldn't wake.  While the King couldn't sleep this way, at least he could rest lying down, and it kept the castle quiet so the Queen and Shark Boy could continue sleeping.

Not from an early morning, but serves to demonstrate, nonetheless.

The King, in fact, had developed a whole art of putting his sons to sleep.  Rocking them to sleep was the key to the art, but there were a series of rules and axioms to the art which are codified below:

The King’s Rules for Rocking Unruly Babies and Toddlers to Sleep

  1. Calm thyself prior to beginning.  Thou art irritated at the necessity of this, but thou canst not impart calm on thy child without having it within thyself.
  2. Clear the bedding where thou wouldst put the child down.  Nothing is worse than having a sleeping child in thy arms and the space where the child should lie is occupied by a crumpled up blanket.
  3. Count.  Use an impartial measurement of time to evaluate how long thou hast been trying to rock the child to sleep.  It always seems longer than it is, and if twenty minutes of effort buys you two hours of sleeping child, that would still be a 6-to-1 return on investment, which would be a rich investment in financial terms, indeed.
  4. Lullabies can also be used not only as a means to calm the child, but also as a measurement of time spent (see 3.).  Thou knowest more lullabies than thou thinkest.  Twinkle twinkle Little Star, the ABCs, and Baa-Baa Black Sheep are all the same song - they can be sung in sequence for more continuity and boring the child to sleep.  Music boxes can also be used.
  5. Acquaint thyself with the layout of the room and have a clear exit strategy.  A darkened room is a boon for sleep, and when the child is finally sleeping, thou dost not want to trip on a piece of furniture or toy and spoil the entire effort.
  6. When the child is lying down, spend another few moments making sure they are settled.  Another minute with a hand on the back can make the difference between a sleeping child and re-starting the entire process if the child is prone to restlessness.

The Royals had pursued many avenues in the quest for better sleep.  A wonderful Lady from a faraway land had suggested a weighted blanket to minimize some of the more extreme tossing and turning, and it had been semi-effective but by no means a full cure.  They had consulted healers who suggested changes in diet and supplements might lead to better sleep (not to mention appetite and growth).   They had brought the Lightning Kid in for overnight study and observation; while this had been both an adventure and ordeal for the Queen and the Lightning Kid, the results were still not available as of this writing.

Finally, since he had turned two-and-a-half years old, the King and Queen decided to move him out of a crib, and put him on a mattress on the floor.  The Lightning Kid was no longer a baby, and the crib wasn't really doing them any favours in terms of helping him sleep.  The Quest for sleep would continue...

The crib is no more...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Royal Family Visit A Southern Clime

In the Royal Family’s Kingdom, and many, many others, it had been a long, long, long winter; too long for most, and complaints were heard roundly.  The coldest weather almost anyone could recall, very few sunny days, a plethora of snow, and overly frequent flu and cold illnesses had threatened to overwhelm sanity, which was hard enough to find in the Royal Castle even in the best of circumstances.

Luckily, the Queen had planned a trip to a warmer Southern clime well in advance, and all that remained was to endure the last days of winter until the departure date came.  The anticipation leading up to their departure, held no small measure of fear, however.  You see, as guests in the Southern land, they would share a room, and between the King’s snoring, the Lightning Kid’s frequent wake-ups, and Shark Boy’s rare nightmares the idea of rest and recuperation seemed far-fetched; the poor Queen was the only one who had nothing to contribute to the disruption of sleep, she was solely on the receiving end of such interruptions.

Travelling afar is an adventure, but adventure means adversity: dealing with the unknown, the misunderstood, and the sheer chaos of trying to impose the order required to board and remain seated on a giant flying machine with small children can threaten to overwhelm even the steeliest of nerves.  With reports of great sunny weather, and a burning desire to escape the winter, the Royal Family couldn't help but be a little optimistic nonetheless.

The departure started off right with a friendly coach ride to the port of flying machines.  The good luck seemed to hold as the procedure to get on board was short and quick.  The King and Queen could afford to be a little less apprehensive, since the Princes were fairly experienced flyers for boys of their age.  Well, didn't the boys prove their mettle? The flight was four hours long, and while they didn't sleep, they kept their noise and monkey business to a minimum.  The port of flying machines in the Southern Land allowed for a fairly quick disembarking, and the heat that the family had craved greeted them immediately.  They purchased snacks (at exorbitant prices) for the long chariot ride to what would be their vacation home: The Grand Palladium.

Luckily, the princes slept a little on the long chariot ride there (and it was magically cooled too!).  Disembarking from the chariot, they knew right away that some magic was at work, as they were greeted by large pink birds, and they spotted the first of many dragons.

There was so much to do and learn that the King and Queen were quickly flummoxed as to how to manage their room key, access to restaurants, towels and such.  Still, the fun was beginning! They encountered their second dragon, who lived under a rock near their vacation abode.  They named him Max, and would get to know his siblings well over the next few days, but at first, they wondered how come no one else marvelled at the proximity of such fantastical beasts.  Little did they know they were so common-place around there that they almost faded into the background after a while.


Max & Shark Boy

It was a wonderful environment to explore: the entire grounds were interspersed with little jungles called mangroves which not only played a role in maintaining the landscape against the forces of erosion from the nearby ocean, but they provided much needed shade, and a home for many other creatures.  They did, however occasionally stink, though generally at night, when it was harder to care.



And when it came to the night time, the King and Queen quite simply lucked out.  Walking around all day in the bright sunshine seemed to tire the Princes out to the point where they would go to sleep quickly and easily, and mostly stay that way.  As for the King, the sea air or something must have helped his breathing to the point where his loud snoring was subdued somehow.

As if all the walking around wasn't enough to tire out the princes, there were swimming pools, and water parks to explore.  Shark Boy demonstrated his newly-acquired ability to swim in the shallow children’s pool and would often request to be taken to the park with water slides and beasts that squirted water later on.

The Lightning Kid sometimes treated the water park with some suspicion, but loved being passed from the King’s arms to the Queen’s and back again while in the water.  Even better than the man-made pools, however, was the ocean.  This was where Shark Boy could really demonstrate how far he’d come in swimming.  The King was admittedly nervous watching him be tossed about by the waves; he stayed close by, but he also often had the Lightning Kid in his arms at the same time  While the waves changed the depth of the water from something Shark Boy could stand in to something he couldn't, his head always bobbed up like a cork and he’d smile (sometimes after a gasp for air).  Fun on the beach included racing into the water from the sand, building sand castles, sitting in shallow water and doing flutter kicks at the arrival of each successive wave and simply walking around greeting people.  

After a Face Plant

There were two ways to eat in this paradise: Buffet and A La Carte.  To the King and Queen’s surprise, the buffets had very high quality foods that often included authentic local flavours and a wide selection that allowed them to straddle the healthy and the desirable, even to the Prince’s tastes.  The Queen conquered a fearsome lobster at a Beach Barbecue.  When they tried to have romantic dinners at A La Carte venues, the results were mixed in terms of food quality and speed of service.

Queen vs. Lobster

A Romantic (but hasty!) Dinner before having to pick up the Lightning Kid

In order to have time away from their children, the King and Queen enlisted a ‘Mini-Club’ and ‘Baby-Club’ (for Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid, respectively) which was one of the main reasons they had come to this place for their vacation.  While Shark Boy had been initially resistant to staying there, comparing it to his “school”.  Eventually, as he noticed they did regular outings to the beach and water parks and made friends, he found it more agreeable.  The condition of leaving the Lightning Kid in the Baby Club was to be always nearby (the beach or pool), which nearly defeated the purpose of getting away for the King and Queen; or at least it would have if they obeyed that rule to the letter.  The caregivers were quick to call for the Queen if the Lightning Kid so much as mentioned the word ‘Mama’ so the King and Queen were limited in their ability to undertake any of their own endeavours, though a massage and a short underwater dive were the exceptions.

Chances to sail, try archery, other forms of pampering besides a massage had to be abandoned throughout their short stay, but the King and Queen were consoled by the fact that spending that much more time with their children would create memories (for both parents and children) that would outlast either the thrills or relaxation that the leisure activities could offer.

All too soon their time in the Southern Clime was over, and they had made new friends and great memories.  The trip home went as optimally as the trip there, yet still, it was a bittersweet homecoming, and they held on to the warmth gained from the trip as tightly as they could.