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Quote of the day:

“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

It took me years to understand the truth in this idea. It wasn’t until I had children that I realized how important true friendship is… you know, friendship that isn’t contingent on me “being” any one way.

I used to be “The Nurturer” in my friendships. I was the one who gave good advice, listened non-judgmentally, gave my time patiently and played “The Rock” for other’s to lean upon. Now, I save that role for my children and ask only for true acceptance of who I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly – from my friendships, offering the same acceptance in return. As a result, I have fewer “close” friends but damn, the quality of those friendships is exceptional.

PS: While I still offer the qualities of “The Nurturer” to my friendships, I have noticed that the type of folks I keep company with now, don’t take advantage of these qualities and offer them in return. No more one-sided friendships where I feel like the life is being slowly sucked out of me!

Thank you, Max.

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This post is about Saturday.

Breakfast: banana
Lunch: hummus, corn chips, white pita bread, carrots, green bell peppers, rich delicious chocolate cake
Dinner: two sandwiches made with millet (gluten-free) bread with hummus, salad mix (a variety of veggies), and avocado
Snack: home made French fries

I cheated big time today. Living wheat-free is tougher than living without soy or dairy. I had no idea! I ate several slices of pita bread before it even dawned on me that I was eating wheat. Then the birthday chocolate cake, oh my, I couldn’t pass up that home made (scratch, baby – not from the box) goodness. Max loved it, too. Good choice of birthday cake, Banyan!

We are really poor right now so we can not afford to by Max’s friends birthday gifts. However, I don’t like to arrive without baring a gift of some sort. I like teaching Max these kinds of generous giving traditions. I also like teaching him that gifts don’t have to cost money. We made his friend, Owen, a robot bank and when it came time for me to think about what we should get (or do) for Banyan’s birthday, I let Max decide.

I got down on my knees, looked into Max’s eyes and explained to him that today is a very special day. Today is the day that Banyan was born! And we are going to celebrate his birthday, today! Now, we can’t afford to buy a gift for him, but mommy thinks that you can pick out a gift for him yourself. Would you like to give Banyan one of your toys?

Uh huh. He said with his eyes wide open and mouth forming that little smile it often bares.

Okay then, that would be very nice! Go into your room and pick out a toy for Banyan. I was anxious to see what he would pick. I expected him to find a toy that he isn’t too fond of and wouldn’t mind parting with. Project much, Michelle?

Max picked out three dinosaurs. His dinosaurs are his FAVORITE toys. I know this because he tells me all the time. I went over with him how he would be giving these toys to Banyan and that we would no longer have them in our home. I did this without trying to push him into the opposite direction of his choice. He told me each time that he was okay with giving these toys to Banyan. We decorated the wrapping paper and wrapped the gifts together. He was very excited.

As we were leaving the house Max was poking around my stuff and then said to me, “You got the dinosaurs, mommy?”

“Oh my!” I said, “I left them upstairs! Thank you for reminding me, Max, good memory!”

He has shown no signs of missing those dinosaurs. And they were really cool dinosaurs, too. I am so proud of him for being so genuinely generous.

*edit* He did ask about those dinosaurs, today, but was content when I reminded him of where they were. Oh, and I also let him know that he will eventually get new dinosaurs.

Banyan’s birthday part was awesome. It was held at Red Bug Slough. The kids played on the playground and we all went hiking through the woods on a bug hunt. I had a moment where I was like, “Oh my god! I am out alone with both of my kids AND keeping track of them! I CAN do this!” It was great. Though, I wasn’t really alone. I had all my sister friends there helping me.

There are no bugs in here, yet, but a really nice miniature (temporary) home for some lucky bug:

Max refers to that stick in there as “my poop.” All Liz had to do was point out that it looked like poop and he was all over THAT joke.

After the party, we were so close to Liz’s house that I couldn’t pass up a quick visit. Max loves Liz, too. We were there for a short while when Max abruptly cut the visit short. He was playing with Liz’s cat’s strawberry kitty cozy (not the exact one in the link but something similar) – putting it on his head for laughs and such. Ten minutes later, viola! Max is scratching his face and eyes while simultaneously puffing up like a red strawberry himself. He is allergic to cats! Well, not too surprised, so is his papa.

He cleared up within minutes of getting back into the car for the drive over to his Lola’s house. Once we got to my MIL’s, I gave Max a bath and spent about 1 ½ hours just hanging with the in-laws. MIL was very happy to see Bella’s skin healed. We talked and laughed and she doled out our share of the vegetables she bought for us from the flea market. As I was getting ready to leave she slapped a bill into my hand and said, “the lotion works, its worth the money.” She told me earlier that she would help pay for Bella’s lotion which cost close to 50 bucks ($130 if we didn’t have insurance that helped pay for $90 of it). I thanked her and then looked at the bill. She gave us $100! I looked at Grandma with tears starting to form (I get emotional when people are surprisingly generous) and thanked Grandma, too. Grandma said, “We love you, Michelle, and we really want to help you guys out however we can.”

Wow. I feel like I can be pretty petty sometimes. Yes, its understandable considering all that has been on my plate this year. But damn, I think I learned that being petty – even in the face of difficult times – really is not worth my energy.

I drove home with Bella in the back, the groceries in the front, and 100 bucks in my pocket that would help pay for the things our family needs.

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Yes, Max got his first spanking yesterday. I asked him where he put the toilet paper that he was using to clean out his nose and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I threw it in the toilet.”

“Good boy.” I proudly said.

Then I went into the bedroom, looked into the crib, and saw toilet paper draped over Bella’s face and going into her mouth.

I tanned his hide and made sure he understood why.

*I hate that I spanked Max and never want to do it again. Disciplining has been a huge struggle for me with him because of how strong willed we both are. I’m looking for better ways to deal with my own frustrations so that I can better guide him to “good” behavior.*

BUT…

In the middle of the groaning and moaning about the realities of my life I always feel the need to stop and count the blessings that crop up or linger around. In no particular order:

My paternal grandmother made these two fantastic quilts for my kids:

The horse one was sent to Max after his birth and the other for Bella after she was born. I hate that I *think* that I’m not crafty enough to do art like this. I want to be. My mom and paternal grandmother are both very crafty – so I do have it in me. Maybe once my body isn’t in constant pain (mainly my hands) I’ll learn how to knit, sew, and quilt. Hey, I’m still young – I’ve got lots of time to learn.

I can’t wait to lay these new quilts out on my kid’s beds.

This next wonderful part of my life is what makes me feel like I can and will survive the next year… and that is my relationship with my husband. Even though we have both felt the stress of parenting while poor – we have manage to stay supportive of one another. We don’t fight, we talk. We make one another laugh. We don’t argue over petty things, we keep the disagreement focused on the “real” issue at hand. We don’t blame one another for our personal sufferings, we acknowledge each other’s feelings and perspectives. Okay, I admit it… I do blame him sometimes but he lets it go in one ear and out the other. He understands that I’m “venting.” And if I get out of line – I admit it. Anyway, I really like Hal as much as I love him – and that means a lot.

The third good in my life… I have a couple of friends that I can call any time. And they call me, too. We support and value each other. I feel lucky to have these women in my life when so many people have trouble connecting beyond superficial interaction.

Then, of-course, there is my kids… they are both happy (I have no idea how or why – but they are), healthy & full of life and love…

and that’s all she wrote.

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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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I just had to add…

I know mothering is hard. Every mother knows this. SAHMs really know it because it is all we do. One aspect of working moms that I envy is that they have a good chunk of their day where they think of something else other than mothering their young. They have a built in social life that includes full sentences that lead to complete thoughts. I have to work at finding this within my day. I have to go outside my comfort zone to look for other moms who want to talk and are also somewhat compatible with my communication needs. I know there is a flip side to everything. I know if I was working I’d long to be home more. I understand there are pros and cons to both modes of mothering. That’s just the nature of mothering. Anyway, the point of this is to acknowledge (to myself) how hard it is to be a SAHM.

My husband, as awesome as he is, gets burned-out after very short amounts of time with Max. He complains (as I do as well) that Max needs/commands sooooo much attention. He always wants to be picked up. He always wants to be read to. He always wants something to drink or eat. He’s needy. He’s fiercely independent.  He’s about to turn two. When I see how hard it is for him to be the only one there for Max during a short amount of time, I pat myself on the back. Hal gives me props, too. I know if he was the one to stay home as the full-time parent the tables would be turned completely and I would find long hours with Max more exhausting than a hard day at work, too.

I’m rambling, but just wanted to make note of these feelings.

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After I made my last post I was depressed up until Hal got home and I was able to let a little bit of it out to (on) him. He let me do my bitching about how hard life has been since getting sick three weeks ago and then he bitched about how hard his day had been. Ahhh, misery loves company. Then, I looked over on the kitchen counter and saw that he brought home, Brokeback Mountain, for my viewing pleasure. My day was officially over and the night was starting out right.

I had a hard time getting Max to sleep, because, you know, when momma really wants to get out of bed his sixth sense kicks in and he refuses to go down quickly. When I finally got him to doze off, I snuck out of bed into the arms of my hubby who was waiting for me with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We got through maybe half the movie before Max woke up and joined us for the last half. Little stinker.

Max has been getting this crazy energy before bedtime almost every night. I think it has something to do with the fact that he is having all of these amazing developmental milestones with his communication. He’s speaking in four word sentences and loves to tackle any word you give him. Makes a momma and papa proud, I tell ya.

Friday morning we went to Hundsader’s Farm for their annual pumpkin festival. I have been looking forward to doing this since the day Max was born and I turned on the TV to watch “Baby Story.” We didn’t have cable before Max was born so I devoured every show as I sat in my rocker nursing him. It seemed like every other episode featured a family going to a pumpkin farm to pick wild growing pumpkins. It became seared into my head that THIS is a “family” tradition that I want to adopt.

Well, my fantasy became a reality on Friday and it was wonderful. However (because you know nothing is as great as what you see on TV), unlike the crisp fall weather that graced the families on TV, it was sweltering Floriduh HOT heat that was beating down on us. And, there was no wild pumpkin patch. All the pumpkins where picked already and placed under a tent by size. Oh well. Oh, my other complaint (hey, I’m okay with nothing ever being perfect!) is that they didn’t really have any food that we could eat. Pretty much everything was meat based. Next time, we’ll pack ourselves a nice picnic.

Aside from the minor discomforts/disappointments we had a great time. Max’s favorite part was riding in the little train. He went like a big-boy all by himself. I was a little hesitant at first to let him do it but was like, what the hell, if he cries the guy can stop the train (it wasn’t a real train with tracks and it pretty much just went around in a circle) and I’ll get Max off. But, once the wheels started ah’ rollin’ my baby-boy grabbed his steering wheel and drove that car! He waved to us each time they drove by and just looked so damn cute and happy.

We also checked out the farm animals because this is Max’s favorite book. He knows every animal by name and sound. There was a frog show and high school band playing, too. Max really dug the drums and continued making drumming motions long after the music stopped. We ate ice cream, went into the butterfly tent, and of-course, went on a hay ride. After all that, we were pooped (although Max didn’t want to leave) so went home.

On the way to the farm we stopped at two stores looking for the battery my camera takes but to no avail. I ended up buying a disposable camera. When I get the pics developed I’ll post them. I haven’t been able to post any belly pics because of no battery in the camera and I need to reload my Kodak Gallery program. Hopefully I can get that done sooner rather than later.

I apologize if there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors in this post – I didn’t take a lot of time to write it out.

A Word To Fathers:

When your wife/partner is sick, we truly love it when you take over the parenting duties and play with our children. It’s even better if you take said children out of the house for a few hours so that we may convalesce in peace in quite. However, this is not enough. You must also clean the house. Do the things we do when we are well so that when we get better the house doesn’t look like a hurricane swept though it.

PS – Thank you Hal. You are THE GREATEST (not perfect, just the greatest) hubby in the world. Other men could learn a lot from you.

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Two longtime friends of mine came over last night for a visit that lead to conversations about relationships, communication, motherhood, and other topics that touch the lives of one or all of us in some fashion. When ever I spend time with people and the door to my mind is open to giving something other than diaper changes and receiving something other than sweet hugs and kisses from my family, I feel refreshed. It’s just a fact of life that one relationship, of any kind, won’t ever full-fill every need I have. I feel full on so many levels and each level has its different source. When I spend time with friends I’m reminded that I’m not only a mom, a wife, a daughter-in-law, or a basket case. Yes, that was a little ode to The Breakfast Club. I’m also a loving and giving friend who has a world of knowledge and love to share and needs that can only be fulfilled by receiving knowledge and love from friendships with women.

Max was quite the comedian and entertainer last night. He had us all laughing our asses off whenever he made the decision to do something – which was every moment he could. He skillfully imitated a clucking chicken, ran out from behind the curtain with his arms stretched out while growling like a monster so he could scare me, and charmed his audience with his growing vocabulary skills. His energy was different than any other time I’ve ever seen it. It was new energy brought about by having a captive audience. It was the energy of an entertainer. He soaked up the laughter and applause and of-course, repeated his comedy routine several times milking it for as long as he could. He had no problem being the center of attention and in fact, judging by the look in his eyes, he wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was also really cool that we were still able to carry on adult conversations in-between Max’s comedy acts.

Hal was a complete and totally wonderful partner, too. He had no problem tending to Max while I spent time with my girlfriends and he did it all instinctually. It’s nice to not have to “ask” your partner to take care of the kid while you do other things. I am very grateful for how attentive Hal is with Max and although I feel that this is the way things should be, I am well aware of the fact that for many moms (and some dads), it is nothing like this.

Now, even though I know Max will protest the affection and do every thing in his baby powers to pry between us, I need to get upstairs and give my hubby a big hug. Yeah, Max gets jealous when mommy and daddy snuggle.

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