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August 2018

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Teaching myself to surf

When I first learnt to surf back in 2013, I was in Australia working as a first time Nanny, wondering how I was going to make friends, or what I was going to do in my free time. After spending my first few weekends exploring the area, I quickly came to realize that everyone seemed to surf. I was in one of the most beautiful locations in Australia, sandy beaches and consistent waves surrounded me. After watching hundreds of surfers, catching waves every day and coming out of the water with a huge smile on their face, I knew it had to be good. I decided it was something I want to try, it would give myself something to do, and what better place to learn to surf than on the famous Northern beaches of Sydney.

I didn’t know a thing about surfing and being a beginner paddling out on my own, I knew I had to be cautious. I didn’t want to jump straight into buying a surfboard until I was ready to get in the water, I knew I needed to learn about the surf ethics, don’t paddle inside, don’t drop in, don’t snake, don’t ditch your surfboard, and so on. I needed to know what the flags meant, where the rips and currents were and the simplest things like, how I would even transport my board to the beach and back. I had thought about having surf lessons, but I knew they were expensive and if I’d have wanted to go out surfing, I would have had to hire a board; another cost and I’d be restricted to time limits. Anyway, teaching myself would be fun, exciting and something I could stay busy with.

I use to sit for hours on the headland in Avalon or in the car facing the water watching surfers arrive, put wetsuits on, stretch, carry their board down the steps and into the sea. I would watch how they would time getting in after each set, so they didn’t get pushed back to shore as the waves rolled in. I would ask Surfers that pulled up in the car park about the tides and currents at that beach so I knew how to stay safe. I watched how people would tie their surfboard to the roof of their car so it was secure, and I asked someone to show me how to wax a board properly. I learnt what the flags meant and when the best times to surf were, considering wind direction. While I sit here and write, it seems there was so much to learn about surfing, but really once your past the nitty and gritty, know your limits, where is safe, and how to be safe, in the end, it is all fun!

I was excited to purchase my first surfboard, I knew I didn’t want a foamy (foam board), because I wanted to learn on a board I could grow with, as I got better. Plus, I liked the idea of having a pretty patterned fiberglass board. I purchased my first surfboard from the Rip Curl store at Manly beach, after getting advice from the guy that clearly knew what he was talking about, when it’s comes to beginner surfers. It was a mini mal 7ft 2 OceanTech surfboard, with different shades of blue lines going diagonally across the board. Thinking back now, I couldn’t have got a better board, my favorite colour and came with its own storage bag, which was amazing, because it meant I could travel.

I was so excited as I carried my board out of the store and straight across to the beach. The waves looked quite small from a distance and I was keen to get in for my first ride, so I waxed up my board, put my bikini on and started paddling out.

tHe first time I experienced a ‘wipe out’… It was like being in a washing machine ! 

Was I prepared? Absolutely not! The waves were much bigger closer up and little me bobbing up and down the water, who had never controlled a surfboard before, was a recipe for disaster. Somehow, I got out the back after my tireless efforts of being smashed a thousand times as waves broke before me, I got my breath back and sat with all the other surfers looking out on the horizon waiting for that perfect wave. When a wave did come, it was huge. I paddled my hardest towards shore and as the wave picked me up I tried to stand, but of course not having learnt to balance on the board yet, I fell. That’s when I experienced my first ‘wipe out’. I was under the water with what felt like forever, I was panicking, I was being twisted, turned, stretched and bashed as the power of the wave continued to head towards shore above me, not to mention my bikini top had been ripped off. It was like being in a washing machine! I must have been deep because I couldn’t seem to reach the surface, I was kicking so hard and I had almost run out of air when I came to the surface and took an almighty breath, I was tired, frightened, and wanted someone to just grab me and take me back to the beach. I grabbed my board and another wave came crashing over the top of me again, I knew they would just keep coming so I used whatever energy I had left to kept paddling until I got close enough to shore that I could stand up.

I got out the water and just lay on the sand looking up at the sky. I was alive! That’s when I realized how powerful the Ocean really is and if I wanted to continue surfing, I needed to get ‘surf fit’. I needed to practice holding my breath underwater for longer periods, practice paddling, do full body workouts to get stronger and learn how to duck dive and turtle roll to prevent exhaustion.

I watched the film ‘Chasing Mavericks’, one of my favorite films. It taught me a lot on the power of the waves and how much fitter I needed to be, if I wanted to surf and survive. I was extremely determined; I started watching tutorials on YouTube, practiced duck dives and holding my breath in my Nanny family’s swimming pool and paddled for hours on calm days to build strength. I would also only take my board out into the white water and practice standing and getting my balance. I was desperate to be strong enough, to be able to paddle out the back and sit with all the intermediate/advanced surfers in the lineup.

That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!

I had my first surf trip a few weeks later and was heading to Wollongong, a beautiful place off the coast of New South Wales. I went and stayed with family and they all surfed, so I was thrilled to get some tips off them and go out surfing with others.

My first wave was caught on camera, here I am… smile on my face, feeling on top of the world. As you can see my leg rope is on my front foot, that’s typical of a beginner surfer, it should have been on my back foot, but nevertheless after I came off that board, I got straight back on and paddled towards the line up again, I wanted to catch another. That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!

My passion for surfing just grew after that, I learnt new things every day, even when I was tired, or didn’t have enough time to surf before the sun went down, I’d race to the beach to see the surfers catch the final waves of the day. During my second year in Australia I taught my best friend and was surfing every day, sometimes twice, before and after work. I’d meet Mona down at the beach and we’d surf until sunset. Some weekends we’d be in the water for 6 hours and skipped lunch, we loved it! There is something special about sharing a hobby with someone, who is just as passionate about it, as you are. Between Nannying, we would travel all over Australia with our surfboards, finding untouched hidden beaches, jungle showers and surf breaks. It really became the highlight, of my first two years abroad.

Learning to surf has been amazing, it’s taken me all over the world since then, encouraged me to reach goals, given me confidence in myself and taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Over the last 5 years I’ve now surfed in UK, Australia, USA and Mexico and am looking forward to surfing many more breaks, and will continue it into the future. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but I know that in surfing, you will wipe out for years, but that’s how you grow and become stronger.

If you fancy learning to surf and are wanting more tips and advice, email me for more info and I’d love to help you.

SIGNS THE KIDS IN YOUR CARE NEED BETTER SLEEP

And What To Do About It

Most nannies with any length of experience can tell you that sleep can be a huge issue for families. Whether it’s a bedtime that takes hours, a non-existent schedule, or a cranky, overtired baby, you pretty quickly get in-tuned to how well a baby or child is sleeping, and whether or not the family has instilled good sleep habits.

Some amount of fussiness is normal, and bedtime is hard for most babies at some point, so how do you know if the issues you’re currently observing are just temporary glitches, as opposed to a chronic problem that needs to be addressed? Read on to find out how to discern the difference between normal sleep disturbances verses chronic sleep issues, and learn simple changes you can tactfully suggest to help everyone get more rest.

Baby is cranky when he wakes up in the morning or after naps.

Sometimes it can take a while for a baby or toddler to become fully awake, and grogginess can cause a bit of grumpiness. But if a baby or toddler wakes up crying and fussy in the morning and after naps, or is especially cranky in the evenings before bed, this is a tell-tale sign that his/her schedule is off and needs to be adjusted. Babies and toddlers should typically be waking up around 7am and going to bed between 6-7pm for babies, and between 7-8pm for toddlers, depending on their exact age. If the children in your care are staying up late every night, they will probably still be waking up at the time their natural biological rhythm wakes them, around 7am, or even earlier if they’re overtired. This means they will be missing out on 2-3 hours of sleep overnight, which will steal from their body the rest it needs to restore, heal, and grow.

Baby is falling asleep at random times and places.

The occasional car seat or stroller nap is to be expected, but if the children in your care are constantly falling asleep on the go, in strollers or car seats, but don’t take good, long naps at home, this is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. One client I worked with wouldn’t take longer than a 30 minute nap, but would constantly face-plant in his dinner plate, sound asleep. His parents thought this was cute (and posted hilarious pictures to Instagram), but were unaware of how overtired their toddler was. When babies and toddlers chronically miss out on sleep, their brains don’t have a chance to rest, get rid of “waste”, or to transfer their short-term memories to long term memory, seriously inhibiting their learning ability. Some children have such amiable personalities that they will make the best of their situation and just steal sleep wherever they can, but this really isn’t optimal for their development.

The child in your care gets very hyper, “bouncing off walls” instead of going to sleep.

This often throws parents and caregivers for a loop, thinking the child is actually not in need of sleep because they are seemingly so full of energy. However, really the opposite is true. When our bodies are lacking sleep, they go into survival mode, and start producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can result in hyperactivity. A child that isn’t given the opportunity to go to sleep at age-appropriate times for adequate amounts of time gives his body a message that it needs to push through the tiredness, so the body is “tricked” into producing hormones that help the body stay awake. Sleep consultants often wonder how much of the increase in ADHD diagnoses in the past several decades actually correlates with the average decrease in sleep for children in the past several decades. What we know for sure is that getting good sleep is essential for a child to be able to control their impulses, stay calm, and follow directions. (Link: https://scienceofmom.com/2012/02/13/why-sleep-matters-to-babies-and-parents/) The average 12-month-old, for example, needs around 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (12 hours over night, and 2-2.5 hours of nap sleep), but the average 1 year old gets far less than this.

Bedtime takes a very long time.

Whether you’re spending hours rocking a baby to sleep for naps and bedtime, or fighting with a toddler whose excuses seem to go on without end, a child who is fighting sleep she truly needs is almost definitely overtired. For the same reasons as mentioned above, an overtired child will have a very hard time settling to sleep at night or for naps, resulting in massive efforts by caregivers and parents to finally get baby to sleep. Fights at bedtime for toddlers may also indicate the lack of a structured routine, as the uncertainty of each night lead to battles and testing to see if he can find the boundaries he needs for security.

Baby or toddler is still waking up multiple times per night.

After the first few months of life, there is no good reason a baby needs to be up every 2-3 hours. As long as he is getting enough calories during the day and growing well, he doesn’t need to feed more than once per night after 6 months, and usually not at all after 9 months. So, if the child in your care is still waking up more than this, it’s a sign that he probably needs to learn to fall asleep independently and/or needs a schedule adjustment.

So, what are some simple changes that you can suggest to help the child in your care get on top of this overtiredness and get caught up on sleep?

Suggest an early bedtime.

If your baby is showing some or all of the signs above, it’s almost always helpful to institute an earlier bedtime. For a baby under a year, a 5:30 bedtime for a while can give her a chance to make up for lost sleep. For a toddler, a 6-6:30 bedtime may be in order for the sleep debt to be paid. Parents may worry that their child may suddenly start waking up too early, but usually the child just sleeps longer and more deeply, because they are getting the rest they need.

Follow a consistent schedule.

You must allow a child’s body to get in a consistent pattern, to set their circadian rhythm and to help their bodies regulate internal patterns, which will help them fall asleep and stay asleep much more easily. Usually, a 7am – 7pm schedule works well for babies, give or take a half hour for toddlers. Naps should start during biological naps windows, which occur between 9-10am and 12-2pm. For instance, a 12 month old would wake at 7am, nap from 9:30-10am, 12:30-2:30, and have a bedtime around 6:30. A 2 year old won’t take a morning nap any more, but will nap about 12:30-2, and sleep 7pm-7am. Regardless of what the exact schedule, the schedule should remain consistent each day, as much as possible. Even when traveling or on vacation, do whatever you can to encourage consistency and adequate sleep. This will ensure the days are spent with much more pleasant, well-rested children.

Suggest a chat with a sleep consultant.

If you observe many of these signs detailed, you may want to suggest a chat with a sleep consultant to the child’s parents. Chronic sleep issues will usually not be solved simply by a few schedule adjustments, and can certainly cause long-term problems. A more comprehensive plan with support may be needed. Most sleep consultants offer free consultations, and it’s a great chance to get an expert’s eyes on the child’s sleep habits, to know if something truly does need to be done. If the child has never learned to fall asleep independently, a sleep consultant can suggest ways to work towards this. If certain family schedules and dynamics create challenges to the child’s schedule, a good sleep consultant can work to find a plan that fits the individual family.

Be positive and hopeful about sleep changes.

Sometimes, the biggest thing you can offer your family is hope that things can be better! Many times, families have been in their sleep deprived state for so long that they’ve given up hope, and begrudgingly accepted that this is the way things are always going to be. Be confident that with positive changes, pretty much every (healthy, developmentally normal) child can and will sleep better given the opportunity and help they need, because their bodies are wired for good sleep.

Have specific questions about the family you’re working with? Email me directly at Lindsey@sleeplittlelamb.com, and follow Little Lamb on FB/IG for more tips: @sleeplittlelamb