Archive for the ‘Hal’ Category

When I finally made it out of the house on Saturday, I was able center myself. Oftentimes, it is hair splitting work to get ready to leave the house. It is work that I start hours ahead of the time I need to be out the door. It is work that keeps me busy right up to the very minute I should be in the car.

Why does it take so damn long to “Get Ready” to leave the house???

It’s the clean-up after breakfast, all the pooping, taking a shower, brushing our teeth (Bella now has two on the bottom), getting us all dressed, feeding Bella, feeding Max a snack, feeding Max lunch, cleaning up after eating, talking on the phone, trying to snack while on the phone, packing Bella’s diaper bag (which I always say I’m going to do the night before, but never do), arguing with Max about brushing his hair, brushing Max’s hair, talking to Max about what we are going to do, talking to Max about his dinosaurs, stopping what I’m doing to address Bella’s need to be held… it’s all of this and more, but not always in this order.

…but once I’m in the car I can always exhale.

It is hectic times like this that I want to be centered in the moment. When I do manage to live in the moment I can handle extremely frustrating situations with a sense of calm and joy. However, this is not the way I live my life. It is so hard to take joy in the “doing” instead of rushing to just get it done. These days are flying by so quickly. My baby girl’s growth is a constant reminder of this quickness.

The presence of children in my life is teaching me to slow down and smell the roses, as they do so naturally.

Slowing down takes lots of practice.

Another piece on pondering friendships…

I went to a Mother Blessing for a friend on Saturday. Attending these ceremonies is an honor and reminds me of how beautiful and meaningful life is. I feel lucky to know women who deeply value other women. I feel lucky to have a group of mama-friends who are in many ways, like minded. Hell, at age 32, I feel lucky to have friends at all and still be making new ones every year.

As I’ve aged my palate for friendships has narrowed. My standards have risen. Yet, the list of requirements has gone down to the simple need for honesty in communication. I may not have the same perception, but if it is your story I can easily respect your path. If you are respecting yourself (aka: not being self destructive in a physical, emotional, or mental capacity) I can be by your side to listen with a compassionate ear. However, if you are being self destructive, my boundaries will gently go up as I acknowledge my lack of control in your behavior. I’ll point you in [what *I think* is] the right direction but relinquish the responsibility of making sure you head that way. This, my friend, is being honest and showing compassion toward myself.

I’ve always played The Nurturer in my friendships and now I realize that was an addiction. I was addicted to the high of being The One my friends could confide in and look to for advice. Maybe I started taking on this role because while growing up I felt so helpless in helping my mom cope with her problems. Maybe I started taking on this role because I felt guilty for not being able to help her – so I was repenting by trying to help others. I don’t really know for sure why, but somehow I became The Nurturer.

I’m not a therapist. I’m not trained to manage the big feelings of adults. It has taken me 32 years to realize this truth and speak it. I will never again take on the responsibility of another adult’s “issues.” I’ve lost friendships making that mistake in the past and I’m still working on sorting out the feelings associated with that loss.

Being honest and gentle with myself has been a hard trait to develop. I think for those of us who are on this path, we always find one another and hold on tight. That is how I view all of my friendships these days (in real life and on-line): as separate paths crossing in moments of time with the similar trait of having a need, a drive, to be gentle and honest with one’s self and others in the process. I’m still learning what honesty is and love that I know so many other’s who are learning, too.

I used to meld friendships into my life in such a way that their realities became mine and visa/versa. I felt insecure during those years and only in hindsight can I see how codependent I was in viewing another’s life in this way.

Even my marriage is about two different people on separate paths that cross in moments of time. Hal and I are connected in responsibilities, offspring, and lifestyle but our lives and experiences exist as separate realities. Remembering this on a daily basis helps me to value Hal and his story. And remembering that our lives are separate because we do not share a body/brain, helps me to never take him for granted.

Anyway, I’ve kind-of gone on a tangent.

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This is a relevant topic in many families. Thank you Kelly for helping me to think about it.

My husband was recently referred to as a “metro-male” because of how much he contributes to the domestic front of our lives. The friend who made this label for him is married to a man she [passive/aggressively] lovingly refers to as a, “Cave Man.”

I feel compassion towards her plight to share household responsibilities and sad when I hear her accepting that her husband, just won’t do anything around the house. I understand what it is like to have communication defects in a relationship but I’ve never experienced the difficulties of living with a husband who prefers to be a jackass.

I know non-egalitarian distribution of home responsibilities is very common and occurs under the guise of “fair.” I use the word, “guise,” because if my husband is gone for 40- 50 hours a week for his own work, comes home and does pretty much nothing around the house [except the male accepted duties of mowing and small repairs], that means not only am I working while he is out of the house but I am continuing to work as he relaxes from his hard day at work. Fuck that bull-shit. There is nothing fair about that.

Domestic and mothering work is challenging especially when they must be done at the same time. The work I do at home is held to an extremely high standard of quality. My work weighs heavily on my conscious, my emotions, my life. And more importantly – the lives of my children. If I am an incompetent and irresponsible mother I don’t get written up or disciplined by a boss I may or may not hate, no… I have to answer to a higher power than that: the well-being of my children.

My daily choices affect the most important people in Hal’s and my life: our kids. If I were to loose them, my life would be over. If I were to loose a job, my ego may be bruised and I might miss the good folks I worked with but eventually, I’d just go out and find another place to work.

I do more around the house because I am home more. I am working while Hal is working at the library and I am working as Hal sleeps [night-nursing]. I am raising our children by myself for 10 hours a day 5 days a week. Hal acknowledges that mothering work alone takes a far greater energy source than he has ever given at work. He knows this because when he has taken care of both kids without me around, he is completely drained by the time I get home. He finds it impossible to do anything else besides care for and play with the children.

He hasn’t learned how to manage the children and the house, yet, because there isn’t as much opportunity for him to jump in and do that. I understand that being an efficient homemaker while parenting comprises of “learn as you go” skills. I don’t expect Hal to be able to do everything I can while watching both of our children. As the kids get older and he clocks in more hours alone with them, I have no doubt that he will be able to hang with the kids, clean something, and have a dinner made by the time I walk through the door. What makes him a keeper for a life partner is that he is willing to learn. In this regard, I wish for every woman to have a partner who is willing to learn.

As it stands now, neither Hal nor I rest until the kids are sleeping or we are sleeping or we are able to rest together. This blog entry isn’t to say that our relationship never sees a difficult day. We have our spats. He gets on my nerves and lord knows I get on his. Its just nice that the pressure of our home and children don’t rest solely on my shoulders. That takes a lot of stress off of me. And eventually, the pressure of bringing home the bacon won’t rest solely on his shoulders. Our arrangement of responsibilities is so temporary and flexible – even on a day to day basis.

Since having children I have gotten better at self-checking my abilities/energy. I don’t want to take on too much and resent my husband. I refuse to live like that, again. I actually love domestic work and I would take on much more of it if I didn’t have RA. I am looking forward to having the physical abilities and energy to do more. In a way, my physical limitations have helped me to create a system of asking for help and not taking on too much. Had RA never entered into my life and children still did – I very well could be burned out and resentful right now. It took me a long time to learn how to communicate my needs without blaming my partner for what I was experiencing. Like anyone human, I certainly do have the mental ability to push forward in daily life without looking at my own needs.

Max, watch your daddy. You will learn how to be a good man from him. And Bella, you watch, too. He will show you what you deserve from a partner.

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When Hal is home, all is good. He has the next week off for a vacation and on Tuesday, we are leaving for a three day/two night stay in Orlando. Hal’s sister is hooking us up with a hotel and tickets to Universal Studios. Sometimes, I realize just how good life is and am filled with such excitement. I feel so incredibly lucky to have met, married, AND have children with Hal.

Every two to three months I’m needing to buy Bella new clothes. The girl is growing like a weed. Tonight, I just bought her a few new outfits in size 18 months! Tomorrow, she’ll be seven months old!!! As I was walking through the outlet mall, making a bee line from Carters to Motherhood (for a postpartum support band – more on this later) I felt really happy. I was by myself and every time I saw a woman with a small baby I had to comment on how cute and beautiful her baby was. I walked by a guy who had an unusually large Boston terrier (35 lbs.) on a leash and stopped to talk with him about how large his dog was (heh) and how I love Boston terriers. I had a lovely conversation with both the sales reps in the stores I went in.

Now, I have to go upstairs and comfort my son who is currently having a melt down.

Oh, wait… he just stopped crying and fell back to sleep.

Life really is good and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being able to see that, again.

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Today was decidedly a better day than yesterday. I took the kids to Whole Foods for some rice pasta, chocolate, and Echinacea tea. Even though it is a 30 minute drive, I like going there because I always see someone I know. Today, I saw a guy who recently told Hal and I that he is going to become a father. Hal is very excited about this because he’s a fellow punk rock comrade. I’m excited because he was just so thrilled to be expecting a baby and I love it when the fellas get excited about babies.

Hal will find out this week if he got hired for a position in the county library system he applied for last week. I have every bone in my body crossed hoping he does. It would be a nice change of pace for him. Change is good.

The one thing about Hal’s current job that I absolutely love, is that he has a set schedule. If he gets this new position, what-ever schedule he has, I hope that it is the same every week. Makes it easier to plan a life that way.

There are some things about how our marriage runs that are pretty standard/conventional. We are in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, we have two children and one dog, we own a house together, we both own a car, Hal works and I stay home with the kids. All pretty standard American stuff. What is not-so-conventional in our marriage is the way that we function as a couple.

I don’t do all the cleaning, cooking, and caring for the kids by myself. The daily grind of caring for our children plus my physical limitations wear me out beyond recognition. By the time Hal gets home from work I could care less about food or what the house looks like. I keep the house in fair order throughout the day but what-ever it looks like at four o’clock is what it looks like until the next day.

Hal cooks dinner every night when he gets home from work unless I get a wild hair to do it myself – which hasn’t happened in months. He usually does all the laundry while I fold it and put it away. He almost always does the dishes at night – by time night arrives I’ve already cleaned the kitchen twice… that’s my limit per day.

I actually like cooking and am looking forward to doing it again – just not any time soon.

Hal also sleeps in Max’s room at night. Usually, Max will fall asleep in my bed (with Bella and I) and when Hal is ready to go to bed, he’ll transfer Max to his room. Hal sleeps on an air mattress on the floor in Max’s room. Not very comfortable but Max isn’t ready to sleep alone and I can’t have him in my bed all night. One baby is enough.

Hal gets Bella ready for bed every night while I brush Max’s teeth. Hal does everything else for Max: vitamins, nappy, lotion, PJ’s. I usually bathe Max but Hal will also do it.

Hal takes care of Max’s breakfast in the morning. He also changes Bella’s first nappy of the day. I stopped drinking coffee about a week ago, but when I did, it was nice that I’d wake up to brewed coffee every morning, courtesy of Hal.

On Hal’s days off from work, I don’t change any nappies.

Hal does all the grocery shopping.  This is only because I spend too much money when I do it.  Groceries are my weakness.

Hal tends to go out with friends more than I do (heh, which isn’t often for either of us), but that is only because Bella is still exclusively nursing.

I do the daily light house work: vacuuming, cleaning bathroom area, keeping floors picked up, kitchen stuff which includes prepping veggies while Hal does the work that takes a bit more elbow grease: cleaning the bathtub, mopping kitchen floor, taking out garbage, dinner dishes, mowing, and any lifting of items that need to go downstairs.

I wanted to write this out to have a record of our domestic life because I think we balance the house work and kids out quiet nicely. Neither one of us believe in a strict division of labor – he goes to work outside of the house and I take care of everything in the house. I think we both realize that isn’t a fair division. Maybe if he worked construction, roofing, or some other physically demanding job or a job that took him for more than 40 hours/week our situation would run differently. I think every household has to find their own “balance” with this stuff and I’m just happy that we have ours. It’s temporary and fluid but for now, its working.

The other way that we function as a couple that doesn’t seem to be the norm as far as I can tell… we talk about everything… neither one of us believes that it is healthy to have secrets from each other. I know secrets are fun for some couples, I’m not knocking it, but it just doesn’t work for us. The problem we have right now is that we just don’t get to spend enough time alone. We are dieing to have a regular date night without the kids every week and a couple hours at night together after the kids go to bed. Ahhhh, one day.

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Max is now sleeping with papa and Camus. He has shunned his own room and settled for the bed closest to mommy. I don’t mind because at least he’s no longer in my bed cramping my joints. Papa doesn’t mind because he never got to co-sleep with Max as a baby and feels like he is bonding with him even more so as a toddler. All is good.

However, Max is either very clever or the sweetest kid ever.

Last night after story time and lights out we heard Max whimpering. Then came the tears. We kept asking him, “what’s wrong sweetie? What’s wrong, Max?” All he could get out between tears was, “Bella.” So Hal asked, “are you sad that Bella is sleeping with mommy and you can’t?” He either said no or didn’t answer so we kept asking him, so what is wrong, then? Why are you sad?

Finally he said in his sweetest voice, “I’m sad.”

Okay. What are you sad about? Hal and I were both moved by his tenderness and his communication of feelings.

“I’m sad about Bella.” We consoled him some more and asked, what about Bella makes you sad?

“I sad about Bella’s skin.” And then the floodgate of tears opened up in him.

We assured him we are going to help Bella get better and then…

He asked to crawl into mommy’s bed because he wanted to hug.

Once he was in he instantly fell asleep. Hal had to carry him back into their bed. So I’ve concluded, Max is both very clever and the sweetest kid ever.

Max in his ponies (and what we imagine Bella will look like at his age):

Max is well aware that Bella is uncomfortable and itchy. He knows what “itchies” are like because he too has eczema. He knows mommy is very sad that Bella is itchy and that I don’t have the magic cure for her, yet. He also knows that while him and Papa are going to the movies today (Max’s first movie theater experience!), mommy is taking Bella to the doctors. He knows all of this because I talk with him about what happens in our home.

One thing I make a point to do with my kids is to talk about life and feelings. When stuff comes up, we talk about it. Toddlers may not understand the abstract ideas behind what makes people “feel” but they do need a language presented to them to start the education of learning about their emotions. An education that I think generations before us neglected. I try to weave this education into our daily life without it seeming like some kind of weird classroom lesson that needs to be repeated and memorized. Saying something as simple as, “mommy is so sad that Bella is suffering but we will find a way to help her.” And then move on to what ever is next – playing with toys, cleaning a poopy butt, ect.

If it is a big feeling that Max is having – usually anger – I talk with him like this, “Max, I know you are very angry right now because mommy won’t give you any chocolate but please don’t hit me.” Then I give him an alternative, “You can scream, I’m angry!, or hit something soft like your pillow – but we don’t hurt people when we are angry.” This conversation happens several times a day. Sometimes he remembers to say (with force), “I’M ANGRY!” and sometimes he doesn’t. Eventually, he will remember all the time. It is the same thing with him having to be reminded about “manners.”

The tricky part is when I’m angry. I need to appropriately express my anger as well. And when I was angry at him and dealing with 5 different life crises, I didn’t do so well. So, I have figured out that hitting/hurting my kids doesn’t work on ANY level – duh, right? There was a part of me that was *hoping* that Max would “get it” (re: hurting Camus or Bella) after being spanked. This hoping (mixed with being at one’s wits end) is probably the reason many of good and loving parents resort to spanking their child.

Where does this lead? On the whole, when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges, I’m pretty laid back and rarely raise my voice. I am very proud of this personality trait, but my pride stops there – at “when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges.” I need some more “tools” in my box for those extraordinarily difficult days – because I’m sure there will be many more to come. And you better believe I’ll get those tools sooner rather than later – for both mine and my kid’s sake.

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A close friend and I got into a conversation this morning regarding the question: what do father’s do? Coming from two women of absent fathers, this is an excellent question to explore. All I can do to answer this question is to look at what my husband does.

She and her boyfriend are currently working out these kinks in their relationship.  You know the kinks I’m talking about… who should be responsible for the house and the kids and when should they take on these responsibilities? The thing that is complicated with their relationship is that they are trying to function fairly in a blended family. She has one child from another man and her boyfriend has four kids – one of whom lives with them and three whom they have every other weekend. Talk about some complex stuff. Makes me feel fortunate to have found my life partner so easily.

Anyway, as I was rattling off all the things that Hal does both as a father and a husband I started to realize (again) that he is very involved in our family. This is in part due to my insistence that he not just play the role of the bread winner who comes home and plops down on the couch. And in part due to Hal’s strong sense of equality – which by the way, was not learned by observing his own parents.

I’m not a martyr on any level. I’m also not really a domestic goddess. If I feel burdened by the act of doing something, I complain. If it is something that needs to be done but not necessarily by me… I ask Hal to do it. For example, just the other day I called Hal at work to let him know that I felt burned-out from caring for the kids and dogs and that I hadn’t had a moment to care for myself. Therefore, I told him, I really need you to take care of me when you get home from work by cooking us dinner. His response, no problem. In fact, as of late, Hal does an equal if not larger amount of the cooking for our family. And he always, with rare exception, does the dishes.

Hal is the one to wash and dry the laundry while I fold and put it away – typically. However, this weekend we both worked on folding and putting it away. We don’t have set responsibilities when it comes to taking care of our kids. Sometimes I bathe them, sometimes he does. Usually, when he is off from work he changes Bella’s nappy, but sometimes I do it.

I do most of the dusting, vacuuming, and bathroom cleaning, but sometimes he does it.

Hal does all the grocery shopping because I have a hard time buying food within our alloted budget. Also, the idea of going to the store with our two kids is not very appealing to me right now.

Our lives are fluid and will change as we do, so I’m sure we won’t always be able to function this way. Five years from now, our idea of “fair” and “balanced” will be different.

Some of the stuff he does, I ask him to do it because of my physical limitations. Some of the time I ask him simply because I don’t want to do it. And often he does stuff without needing to be asked.

When I was telling my girlfriend all this she said, “You’ve got yourself a maid!” I felt slightly offended (even though I completely understand why she would say that) and retorted quickly, “No, I’ve got myself a partner.”

An old pic of Hal holding Max:

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