May 30, 2014

random thoughts: does anyone over 40 get eight hours of sleep?

I used to have trouble going to sleep. Now I just wake up about an hour and a half too early. Sometimes I think I just can't win and I'll die of exhaustion. Sigh. Maybe it's a sign of the times -- the times being too old to get enough sleep.

May 28, 2014

choosing words that build my child's spirit

Last week I talked about how we can build (or break) our children's spirits by how we talk to them. I just wanted to mention one little thing that I'm trying to do and am doing occasionally in the moment. I am pointing out things I love about my son directly to him when I know he's listening.

For example, yesterday we were sitting at the table having dinner (I had to tell him it was a snack to get him to come and eat, but that's another post). He was near the end of eating and getting silly. We would smile at each other and he'd take another bite of something, making a bit of a game of it. At one point, I said "I love the way you smile, son. I just love that about you." He smiled even bigger.

Another time, he said "Bless you" in response to someone's sneeze. I remarked "That was very nice of you, son. I love the way you bless others."

I think I've done this maybe three times in the last few months, and I see a look on his face that I can't quite describe. It's like he's lifted up just a little, encouraged by sincere and positive feedback. It's not like this is rocket science. Positive is as positive does.

I just love feeling a new connection that comes with this little exchange of beauty in the moment.

May 27, 2014

the mother in law comes to visit

Saturday night, my mother-in-law (MIL) flew in to stay with us for two weeks. She is her own person and has a special set of idiosyncrasies, and I love her just the way she is.

On Memorial Day, we broke in a new grill by cooking for her, my mother, and our neighbors across the street whose little girl is the same age as our son. My MIL got a picture of the two of them sitting in my lap, with me smiling down at these two adorable playmates. Watching them romp from room to room, chase each other through the kitchen, and put on my and my husband's shoes prompted me to rename them Bonnie and Clyde. Gonna have to keep an eye on these two!

I also love watching my son play with his grandmas. He adores them both completely and just glows in their affection. I'm also really grateful that they're both retired, and even though my MIL lives two states away she finds cheap air fare to come visit whenever she can. When both grandmas are around, this kid can hardly contain himself with so much joy (and mischief).

Hosting my MIL also comes with the normal challenges of having extra family around, but that isn't too big a deal. She has her own room and bathroom downstairs, so we don't get in each other's way and she doesn't have to worry about the boy waking her up. There are times, however, when I find myself stretched just a little bit by the strength and openness of her opinions. I take them seriously and respect them, and just hope she doesn't get too offended if I don't always follow them. But that is the dynamic nature of a blended family: different communication styles can flourish or flounder. In that case, respect goes a lot further than anything else. When all else fails, we can center on what we have in common: our son and a mutual love for science fiction and astronomy. This kid is destined to be a Star Wars fan.

That reminds me -- I should probably talk to her about acceptable discipline in our house. Probably too late now, since she's taking care of the boy today, but worth mentioning what we've been doing.

May 22, 2014

random thoughts: my favorite outfit

I put on a tee shirt and capris for work this morning. By the time I got to work, the front of my outfit was stained with blueberry oatmeal, which I acquired while picking up my son after he ate breakfast.

It is now my favorite outfit. At least until the next one gets another stain.

how to build up our child's spirit one mess at a time

I just ran across this woman's awesome blog post: To Build (or break) A Child's Spirit.

I should remember this the next time my child makes a mess or some other kind of mistake while
a) Eating
b) Playing
c) Eating while playing
d) Enjoying the outdoors
e) Learning something new
f) All of the above

May 20, 2014

weaning myself from milk

For two years, I have depended on a half cup of hot milk (at a minimum) to help me get to sleep. This was my nightly ritual, my evening crutch, and I would practically have heart palpitations if I ran out because I knew I was in for a long night.

For several months, I've been wanting to wean myself away from this dependency. Not because it's so dangerous (geez, it's just milk), but because it's the kind of crutch that I know is largely psychosomatic. I believe this because, on rare occasions when I'm sick and too exhausted to care, I can actually fall asleep on my own. Well, I got my chance to test this theory recently when I was flattened by a cold that turned into a sinus infection.

For more than two weeks, I have been able to sleep without milk or any other sleep aid (with maybe one exception when I'd had too much caffeine that day). The first couple of days, I was so tired from being sick I could barely muster the energy to do anything. I had no appetite for food or beverages since I couldn't smell or taste anything. As I started to feel just slightly better, food still didn't matter. I started skipping the milk on purpose, and when I woke up in the night I told myself "You don't need milk -- just go back to sleep." Sometimes I wake up and don't realize that I've been sleeping, and I mistake it for insomnia. How goofy is that? Talk about old habits...

I have rather enjoyed not having any appetite. Let me tell you -- cooking for the family is the farthest thing on my mind when I don't give a hoot about food, so my guys have subsisted largely on frozen or delivered food. Poor things. I suppose they miss my appetite! I promise, I will cook again. As soon as I can get around to thinking about food.

I still have four more days of antibiotics, am still nasally even though I can breathe, and still tired. I finally got my taste buds back three days ago, but I'm holding back on food a lot and trying harder to listen to my hungry/full queues. Actually, the tiredness is probably more from working to xeriscape our front yard. Ugh.

I did pray for the Lord to remove my dependency on milk, didn't I? Is this His way of answering my prayer? Maybe. Not that He would make me sick, but He would certainly allow normal circumstances to bring about change in an organic way.

My sleepfullness and wakefullness are in a weird transition now. I'm exhausted in the morning from not having quite enough sleep, then I fight sleep driving home from work, then I decide whether to take a short nap (I rarely do). I also recognize the role of hormones in my sleep patterns (perimenopause? me?) and am trying to accept the unusual as the new normal. I'm hoping I don't take after my mother, God bless her, who has endured decades of horrible sleep. If that happens I may lose what's left of my mind, but I'll be sure and consult a sleep therapist first.

Just don't ask me to remove my morning crutch.

May 14, 2014

walking past the baby section

I was in my second home, a.k.a. Target, doing some normal grocery shopping. I picked out a t-shirt for the boy and was skimming the edge of the baby supply section. That's when it hit me.

We're pretty much done with the baby section.

Other than diapers, which can't possibly go on for more than another year (right?), I just don't need anything there. No more mushy food, no more super-safe toys with electric colors, no more endless parade of baby-entertainment-and-supply stuff. We're over it. He's moved on.

He's in the squishy middle world of not quite a fully-functioning child, definitely not a baby. The morpheus toddler years.

And I felt my stomach sink just a tiny bit. Where did my baby go? Looking back, that first year was such a blur. Honestly, I can barely remember him actually being a baby even though it was only a little more than a year ago. Did I really feed him from a bottle and watch him kicking his legs on a blanket on the floor? I have to review my photos and videos just to jog my memory.

Shortly after his first birthday, life with my son has been a fast motion picture crammed with learning activities and new discoveries every day that fill my heart and mind so fast I don't have much time to look back and remember. What's more, we pretty much have to replace his wardrobe every six months so we don't get sentimental over most of his clothes and shoes. It's always about what's next.

That's what makes parenthood so exciting, and underscores the need to live in the moment. Because that's the best moment I have when I can hug him, love on him, and show him how beautiful and fun life can be. And it's the greatest way to remind myself of the same.

May 8, 2014

in sickness and in health – the 24-hour mom

I think it was Sunday or Monday that I started coming down with this cold. I honestly haven’t been able to taste food since then, four or five days later. I’ve slept with my mouth open for three nights despite using nasal strips, a humidifier, decongestants, and vapor rub. I’ve been using my son’s very expensive boogie wipes (great invention, ridiculous price point) to avoid having my nose look like a crocodile’s. I’m starting to consider using a neti pot, but I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the concept.

What I have tried to do is not withhold attention from my son, or cook dinner, or go through any of the motions of daily life. Because being a mom means the show must go on.

I count myself blessed to have a husband that steps in when I’m miserable like this, even though he’s had the same cold to a lesser degree. But I push myself anyway, and I’m not sure why. I guess I just don’t want to feel like a slacker unless I have no other choice, and the common cold isn’t enough for me to justify it. I’ve been smiling and playing with my son when I can, and just getting things done that need to be done. I crash on the couch once he goes to bed.

A few weeks ago, when a double ear infection really had me flattened, I still smiled at my family even though I couldn’t get out of bed. The boy’s reaction? He brought two of his trucks from his room and put them on the bed near my feet, as if sharing his toys would make me feel better. It was such a sweet gesture, and I thanked him wholeheartedly for it. My husband put on his shining armor and became my hero, taking over household things and helping out without me asking (and especially when I did ask).

Sickness is just part of the deal. Parenting never stops. But when it slows down for illness, I have to call in for reinforcements whether I think I need it or not. I have this tendency to act like it’s all up to me all the time. I have no idea where this comes from, and I know it’s not true. Maybe I need to be sure that I can do it all, just in case someday I have to. Then there’s the knowledge that for some moms (and dads), there isn’t a choice. There are no reinforcements. So the least I can do is do it all once in a while.

This is the point at which a reasonable voice says “This is stupid. You are half of your son’s parents, so quit acting like it’s all up to you because it isn’t.” In fact, I could very well sabotage my husband’s efforts as a dad by acting this way. It’s not healthy for any of us.

Even as I type this, I’m starting to feel feverish. I give up. I need my one-man cavalry. I think I’ll crawl into my couch this afternoon and do what I'm supposed to do when I'm sick -- rest and let someone help.