January 29, 2013

why is it so hard to ask for help?

Over the weekend, we went to a mountain town to check out the results of an annual international snow carving championship. It was a good excuse to get out of the condo for the day, and of course the baby would nap in the car (he's pretty reliable that way).

We drove up there, walked around the exhibit and snapped a few photos, introduced the boy to snow (he was fascinated), strolled down Main Street, went to lunch, and drove home. Easy peasy.

The only problem was me. My hormones must have been raging. I must have been tired. All I felt like I did was manage my son. Not because he was in a bad mood or anything, and not because DH doesn't do plenty, but rather because a) when I hold him, he generally wants down and that isn't going to happen in a public square, b) he's so excited around big groups of people that he gets bored hanging out in the stroller (hence the holding), and c) I fed him that day in the restaurant which meant constantly managing how much he has in front of him, whether (or when) it's fallen to the floor and he needs more, wiping his mouth often enough to not let him look like a disaster, and giving him a bottle when he's not into solids anymore. Finally, I had the job of changing his diaper - something I really don't mind, especially when the sexist restaurant doesn't bother putting a changing station in the men's room (grr).

So, when we were all done eating (and I kind of slammed a beer so my heart would quit palpitating and I would calm the heck down), I took him to the restroom. Nearing the restroom door, a woman was walking out and - since she didn't notice the changing station (it's in one of the stalls) - she offered to help. She said she has twin 14-month old boys and knows how tough it is when there isn't a changing station. First: How sweet is that? Second: She was at least my age. So I remarked "Wow, you're a hero!" She waved it away, saying "Nah. You just get through it."

A simple remark, but it was enough grace for me to smile and move on. Would I have taken her up on it? Hard to say. Speaking of grace for strangers, I'm often the beneficiary (and try to be the giver) of a door held open, a kind word spoken, a compliment on how cute my son is. At these times, my shoulders un-hunch just a little and my load feels a bit lighter.

And yet, for some odd reason, I had to ruminate for days - days! - before getting around to asking my mother to hang out with my son while he slept so I could sneak away for a bit of quiet time. Ridiculous, right? I mean, I was gone for 1.5 hours. I sat in a coffee shop and forced myself to stare out the window and watch the clouds go by without checking messages or email. Well, for a few minutes anyway. Stupid smartphone makes it way too easy to distract myself from the moment.

My mother has graciously and generously offered to babysit my son pretty much anytime I ask. Her mom once did it for her, so it was one way of paying it forward. Plus, she loves the dickens out the little bub so it's not like she doesn't enjoy it (ensuing exhaustion notwithstanding).

So maybe I'm wary of wearing out that welcome mat, or maybe I'm not used to such open generosity. Or maybe I'm just too busy to take her up on it most of the time and really need to get out more. In fact, she's suggested that we have a standing once-a-month commitment so DH and I can go out on a date. I'm totally taking her up on it, and it gives me something to look forward to. A little breathing space.

At any rate, while I never expect generosity from strangers and really appreciate it, I have a hard time asking for what I need when I need it from the people who are in the best position to help me. I'm not sure it's age-related, as I'm not the only one I know that struggles in this.

Maybe - just maybe - I need to be a little more proactive in making sure someone takes advantage of my generosity too. Just in case they're a little shy.

January 25, 2013

is older parenthood a natural progression?

I've been reading a blog entry from A Child After 40: How Will More Babies After 40 Impact Our Future?"

...and it's got me thinking. It's kind of a chicken-and-egg question. I think one of the questions we, as developed nations, should ask ourselves is this: Is the trend of older first-time parents a cultural shift, or is it the result of a cultural shift?

Decades of encouraging young people to pursue careers and put off marriage and family (particularly women) is bearing fruit in this way. Also true is that our society no longer really promotes the pursuit of marriage and family as high-priority institutions. Increasingly and for various reasons, people just don't find suitable partners until later in life. And if they have trouble conceiving naturally, well that introduces further delays to parenthood.

Are we really so surprised at the rise of 40+ parents?

As to the increasing attention to the subject by the media, most of me wants to respond with a flat "Who cares?"

I have friends who are 30+ and single, some of whom are already starting to panic. How long will it take to find Mr. or Ms. Right? Will I have trouble conceiving? Should I freeze my eggs? These are tough questions that no one can answer, and frankly I don't think it's fair to start putting pressure on them. I do think it's fair to encourage all of us to consider the long arm of time when we purposely decide to delay parenthood (as was the case for me).

Meanwhile, there are voices we aren't hearing from: the children born to older first-time parents who have grown up and experienced this for themselves. What do they have to say about this? Is it no big deal, or are there concerns that we haven't even started thinking about?

I have one friend who fits that description, and she's wonderfully well-rounded and intelligent and married young and has two awesome kids. When I was concerned about starting a family at 40, she remarked that her mom was 40 when she was conceived and didn't think it was a big deal. In other words, don't let it stop you from starting a family. It's worth it.

Next month, my son will be a year old. We're already wondering how we'll find the physical stamina to chase after him once he starts walking (which isn't far away). We wonder how we can strengthen relationships with relatives that are almost all at least two states away, let alone grandparents that he may or may not grow up with. We wonder about siblings.

But you know what? One day at a time.

If God thought it was cool to bring Isaac and John into the world with older parents, then who are we to question the limits of parenthood?

January 11, 2013

baby finger food faves and a moment of gratitude

In a fit of desperation, I continually troll the Internet in search of decent finger foods to please my child who has decided that the texture of most baby foods is wretched (unless they're fruity). And so, just in case anyone else on the planet is wondering what in the world to feed their not-quite-ready-for-real-solids baby, here's a list of finger foods my precious baby actually enjoys (in no particular order):

  1. banana (right off the whole, or in chunks)
  2. pear (finger-sized slices)
  3. strawberry
  4. melon
  5. dried seaweed (whole sheet, which is about 2x3", or torn in chunks which is tidier)
  6. sandwiches stuffed with soft cheese or cream cheese (sadly, not hummus), cut into small squares without the crust (soft whole wheat bread)
  7. chicken and beef (small chunks)
  8. cheese (shredded or small pieces)
  9. bread
  10. blueberries (frozen, thawed - they're softer than fresh)
  11. baby crackers
  12. rice
  13. o-shaped cereal
  14. carrot
  15. meatballs! (I don't know why, but this is exciting to me)
What's missing from this list? Vegetables, with the exception of seaweed and carrot. Not only have my few attempts not been successful, I have a hard time buying them and then keeping them fresh long enough to steam the living daylights out of them before giving them to my son. I have thrown away my share of veggies. Sigh. I know, I must try harder. But at least I can blend pureed veggies with yogurt - he'll eat that all day long. He will eat the fruit/veggie blended baby food in pouches, though (even straight from the pouch, which is fun in itself). So it's not a total loss.

On another note, I thought I'd share a tender moment of gratitude:
This morning I held my son while he took his morning bottle. I stroked his soft forehead and touched his tiny feet. I smiled at him, and he at me, fully embracing the moment of peace, knowing how short this time is while he's still a baby and I can hold him while he takes a bottle. Beauty is in the everyday.

January 4, 2013

intentionally grateful

It's too easy to find things to complain about. Therefore, I often have to be intentional about gratitude - finding something small or big to recognize and say "yeah, that's pretty cool."

So here goes: Last night my son had a huge blister on his upper lip that we were afraid was turning into a massive cold sore. We put him to bed on time and didn't do anything (it didn't seem like there was anything we could do). As we do every night, we went in together to bid him a final goodnight while he was sleeping. Together, we each laid a hand on him and whispered a prayer for Jesus to heal him. This morning, no blister. No evidence of a blister. Just a healthy, happy, smiling baby standing up in his crib! Oh, guess it's time to take down the crib mobile...

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me to include you in the little things as well as the big things. I am a grateful gal.

friday favorite things | finding joy

January 2, 2013

joyful exhaustion, or being mindful of today

Holiday Season 2012 has officially folded, and ushered in 2013. It has been one mind-blowing year. 

I gave birth to our one (and probably only) child. Changed jobs (at the same company). Learned the ropes of daycare, weaning, and multitasking like I've never done before in my life. Embraced many visiting relatives (and went to visit some over Christmas). And generally tried to figure out what life as a wife and mother looks like. 

Honestly, Christmas was an exhausting blur. We flew to Texas and stayed with DH's brother, SIL, and niece. We visited with them plus our son's grandmother, grandfather and step-grandmother. We made some new food discoveries, too: Turns out he loves stewed meat and veggies (the real thing), hates baby food unless it's fruity, and really loves chomping down dried seaweed snacks. Seriously - you must try this on your babe sometime. It's super healthy. I can give him a small sheet to take apart, though it's a bit tidier if I break it up into 1-inch chunks. He also enjoys whole wheat sandwiches filled with cheese or cream cheese. Plus, he's finally mastered the sippy cup.

Sure, it was cool watching my 10-month old son and his 3-year old cousin interact, but we also spent more of our time managing him instead of visiting like I had hoped (not sure what I was thinking there). And my SIL spent most of her time in the kitchen cooking, while my BIL was working 2 of the 4 days we were there. Also got our first taste of traveling with the boy, which even though it wasn’t horrible it was certainly challenging in its own way. We came back with the boy sick with a big cold and DH coming down with bronchitis. Fun. 

We did manage to get out for a few hours yesterday evening to join friends for dinner – other than that it was the three of us. Together. For almost two weeks. With a baby that suddenly crawls 100 mph, refuses to nap properly and entertain himself, and is recovering from a nasty cold. I was ready to pull my hair out.

DH and I talked about how incredibly exhausting it is right now, with our son so full of energy and getting into everything we don't want him to get into about every 45 seconds. And he's starting to prop himself up on his feet, which means walking (and running away from us) isn't far behind. 

If I sound like I'm complaining, well... partly. But I'm also excited to see him approach the next big milestone, and he's really happy and full of energy every day - even when he's clearly not feeling well. He's just a good baby who loves people, eats well and usually sleeps very well. 

If I'm honest, though, I have to admit that I think my current level of exhaustion has a lot to do with my age and only some to do with the challenges of my son's age. It's making me wonder how other 40-plus new moms deal with this. Energy - this kind of energy - doesn't come in a can. Ya gotta dig deep! 

As much as I have tried to focus on the birth of our Saviour - and I have - I've also had really big things in front of me that demanded my attention. Oh well. Such is the life.

I literally pray for supernatural strength on a regular basis, and I marvel at how I am doing as well as I am! God is good and faithful, and I know he didn't lead me to this just to watch me collapse into a state of mental mush. 

2013 will be another transforming year: my son will become a toddler, we'll probably travel again (with some hard-learned lessons under our belt), and Christmas will be even more wondrous because he'll be able to appreciate what's going on.

In the meantime, I have to remind myself to embrace today. Right now, my son is a baby who needs my direction as he figures out how his body works and discovers everything in the world around him. Right now, he drinks formula four times a day and isn't ready for a lot of solid food beyond the easily-mushable stuff. Right now, he's crawling and just starting to stand well. 

Right now is happening right now. Don't miss it.