Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lemon Bars

For the records, I had deemed Lemon Bars no longer worth it. They are yummy and fairly easy to make, but the muscle power it takes to pry them loose from the pan is going to put my in the loony bin one of these days. I keep thinking "the next time it'll be easier", but yet it never is! Feel free to remind me that I said this should you ever hear me say that I'm going to make Lemon Bars again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Being an Older Parent

A friend posted this on Facebook the other day:

"Having kids 10 years before everyone else my age has been a challenge. I missed out on a lot of things. I spent my twenties changing diapers and skipping over the whole college/travel/binge drinking phase other people experience."

This was not her whole post. The rest of it basically said that having kids young has finally paid off and now she's considered a cool mom to her 6th grade daughter and her friends. But I only focused on the first part. It amused me and also hit a nerve. Probably because I am not a young parent.

I had to laugh at her post. Really - you're a young mom here? I hadn't noticed. I've had absolutely no problem meeting people like her since moving from the bay area (where she would have been an anomaly). Moms who had children earlier on. In fact, her stats are the most common, at least in my world. My friend is 34 with a 6th and 3rd grader. I'm guessing that she had her first child right around 22, which is not really all that young in this area. Probably not in most of middle America, either (and this state is one step away from there!). She started a few years earlier than my other acquaintances here, but only a few. One of the issues I've had since moving here is that most women I know with children similar in age to my children are 7-10 years younger than I am. People here that are my age have teenagers. I don't relate to the younger parents, although our kids are the same age, and I have completely different schedules to adhere to than the people who are my age. It has been a challenge, to say the least, to find community here that I can relate to. I seem to focus on age, which is not the only factor. However, I've found it to be one of the biggest indicators of compatibility in the last 4 1/2 years. It's been rough.

When I got married, at 29, I felt too old and way too young all at the same time. Having my first child at 33, just a few months before my next birthday, was not unusual at all in Silicon Valley. I was right in the middle - not the oldest, not the youngest. I had a wide range of friends and acquaintances of all ages. I *never* felt like an older parent. We all related. Fast forward 3 1/2 years and a decision to move to another state, and all of sudden I was an older parent. I joined a MOPS group after moving to Colorado in 2007 and was shocked to find out how old I really was! I had no idea! I didn't get married in or right out of college and start trying to have kids right away! Oops - major fail! The age at which I did get married is practically old age in these parts. In all honestly, I have nothing against getting married or having children at a young age. It just didn't happen for me. I didn't want kids before I was 30 anyway (although I may have been persuaded to change my mind if I'd gotten married younger). The thought that's been bouncing around in my head since we moved here is "I'm not the only one." Other people must have had my same experiences, and yet they're elusive. As I was thinking about why it worked for me, I came up with this list:

The benefits of being an older parent:

1. College
I'm so glad I went. They weren't fun years. In fact, they were some of the most miserable years of my life. I was sick for years, and worked, and went to school. I didn't have a lot of fun in college, or do all the fun things that I hear others talk about when they were in college. However, I knew that in the long run it would pay off. The business world views you differently when you have a college degree. Trust me. All those years working in HR only reinforced that point.

2. Career
When I was a child I use to wonder what would happen to our family if my dad couldn't work. My mom had a plan B, but I still wondered. One of my goals, after college, was to establish a career. A plan. I didn't know if I would ever have anyone to support me, so I needed to get moving. I did get married, 7 years after graduating from college, and now I'm a stay-at-home-mom without a paying job. My HR career supported me when I worked for a living, and supported us during my husband's bought of unemployment. Knowing that I can go back to work should something happen to my husband, is a huge relief to me. Even if it's not in the same career path, I am familiar with the business world. I know how to handle myself and what to do. I know I can support my family if I need to.

3. Financial Stability
It's a lot easier to have financial stability when you've done the college/career thing prior to having children. Not always, but in general. Children require a lot of time, and they require money. I had more of both after establishing a career when I was younger. I'm also glad we've set up college funds for our children. If we'd had children at a younger age, I don't know that we could have afforded that. If we could have, it would have been less than what we do now.

4. Travel
I love to travel. I love to have my world view widened. I love to experience other cultures and see how others live. I save my money for vacations. I traveled a lot before getting married, and we traveled before we had kids. There's a whole wide world out there that I have yet to see. I hope I can narrow that gap in the future, not only for myself, but for my children as well. Not everyone feels the way I do, which is fine. But this is my thing.

5. Knowing who I am
I have a clearly defined sense of my own identity, and that started in my late 20's. Before that, I was not nearly as confident in who I was. I didn't really have an identity outside of my family, what I studied in college, or my job. I didn't understand myself as well - my likes and dislikes - what makes me tick. I felt a huge need to tell everyone my opinion, as if it truly mattered. Personal boundaries were not well established until I was in my early 30's, which resulted in me letting a lot of people walk all over me (and walk they did!). Now I'm not afraid to say no. I say it a lot. And most of the time it doesn't bother me. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm glad I had that time earlier on in my life to establish my own personal ground rules and beliefs, and to live by them. My understanding of the world, of cultures, of community - those are so much more solid now than they were in my younger days.

So, here I am touting the benefits of being an older parent (which I'm loosely defining as having a child in your early 30's). There are pros and cons. I'm sure I could come up with more if I sat around and thought about. Those have just been the ones that have been bouncing around in my head. I can think of a lot of pros about being a younger parent, too. Pregnancy is definitely for the young! And just think of all that energy the parents still have! You are closer in age to your children. I think of all the freedoms I missed after having kids, such as free time, the ability to go and do as I please, meeting up with friends. I do think that had I started younger, I wouldn't have missed these freedoms to the same extent because I wouldn't have had them as long. I had to allow myself to mourn my former life and move on with my new life. And younger parents get to be younger empty-nesters. How fun to have energy when your kids leave home!

As for my friend - I'm glad she found her man and established her family earlier in her life. Nothing wrong with that! They seem very happy. As for me, I convulse shudder to think of what would have happened if I'd married some of the guys I dated earlier in my life. Ugh! I would have been happy to marry younger than I did, but it wasn't Gods perfect timing. He didn't send Brian along until I was in my late twenties. And our family is fine. I'm okay with my age and the ages of my children. Now if I could just find a few others around here in the this "young parent" state.... well, you've heard my rants before.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lego Karma

Today, on the way home from school, Big J, our neighbor, was complaining about one of the new girls on our street. He told me all about how she'd clogged the toilet at their house, then turned on the shower, and messed up his bed. He told me how his mom doesn't like her to go upstairs when she's over. This intrigued me since my kids play upstairs at his house when they're over (which isn't all that often any more). When I asked why his mom doesn't like her to go upstairs, he told me she broke his Legos. He and his mom had worked really hard on this Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull Lego set he'd gotten, and she had messed it up. Destroyed it.

Oh really?

Just like you destroyed many Lego-scapes at our house? Did this new girl drop "bombs" on them and shatter the structures to bits? Were you unable to rebuild your set because you have no idea where all the parts went? Did you ban her from your room the way I banned you from Brandon's room for a while? Did it upset you?

Is it bad that internally I'm just a little gleeful? A little immature? I should really be more adult about this, but sometimes what goes around comes around.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Half Over

Wow - the "year" is half over. The school year, I mean. It also means that my last year of MOPS is half over. MOPS stands for "Mothers of Preschoolers". You can be part of a MOPS group from pregnancy/birth of your child through their kindergarten year. Caitlin's in kindergarten, so this spring is my last year. I'm glad. There isn't really another word to describe it. I have a calmness about it ending. I'm not torn. I'm not sad. I'm not even gleeful. I'm just glad.

There was a time in my life when meeting with other moms to discuss the issues of having small children was essential to me, but that time has passed. My children are no longer infants or toddlers. While the majority of my time is still spent with them and caring for them, I have some time to accomplish other things. My children don't "need" me in the same clingy, all-or-nothing, dependent way that children do when they are younger. They clothe themselves, feed themselves, buckle themselves in to their own seats in the car. They read, write, play with other kids. I'm still a very necessary component of their lives, but now I can move about the house unencumbered to take care of important things like making dinner, or paying the bills. I don't have to monitor their every move outside, or at the playground or pool.

Besides dealing with things like pre-set schedules for school and activities, homework, and weekly and daily routines, the emotions of my now older children have come more into focus. Instead of "he stole my toy", I deal with "why didn't my friend invite me to her birthday party?" Or "why won't my friend play with me?" The issues are harder, more intense, and leave a lasting imprint on their hearts. Especially if I deal with them incorrectly. Caitlin was recently devastated to find out that she hadn't been invited to a friend's party. I'm using the term "friend" loosely here, but to Caitlin, most of her "friends" are equal. Of course, there are people she's not inviting to her birthday party, but explaining those friendship differences in terms she can understand is hard. She was sad, hurt, and left wondering why this happened. In my ideal world, life would be fair for my kids, but the reality is different. There isn't really a place to discuss this in the MOPS meeting. I just have to leave it for a different time.

This year is my transition year. I'm still very busy with Caitlin at home. This half day kindergarten thing makes this year seem busy and rushed, and I'm a stay-at-home mom! I don't really know what the next stage involves. Hopefully friends with kids at a similar age (and moms at a similar age!). Community is a wonderful thing. I don't know what the next year holds for me, but I know it'll be different than this year.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

Title taken from my friend Traci. Here goes:

1) School starts tomorrow! Yay! Can you tell I'm excited? Brandon's got a regular day, and Caitlin has Kindy Crafts at 9:00. Woo hoo! 5 1/2 hours to myself! I'm not excited about getting up at 6:15, though.

2) We are halfway through the school year! Double yay!

3) Christmas has been taken down and packed up. I can see our bay window again, and our surface areas have been cleaned of 2 gingerbread houses and a lot of decorations! I felt a little guilty tossing out baby Jesus' manger bed, but the unfired clay broke down and crumbled. One of these days I'll get a real nativity set. But, if not, there's always next years crafts ....

4) I'm halfway done with my MOPS newsletter for January. Our next meeting is Monday. I always feel like it's hanging over my head. A little disciple is a good thing.

5) Tomorrow is my birthday! I love my birthday! And, as a present, the kids are going back to school (see #1).

6) The last two weeks have been all about family time. It's been great! But we must heed to call of the routine. And a little time away from each other.

7) Resolution for 2012 - eat healthier. More veggies, here we come!

8) Why does Caitlin always have more laundry than Brandon? Is it because she tries on several outfits each morning? Or because she insists on a different pair of PJ's each night?

9) I love my new Kindle Fire that Brian got me for Christmas. However, I'm coming to the conclusion that Caitlin and I, mostly "I", are playing too much Bejeweled Blitz. I dreamt about matching shapes up in pairs of 3 or more. Now that I'm home, I need to make a resolution to read the books I have on it, not just play games.

10) Happy New Year! May this years hopes and dreams become reality.