Monthly Archives: March 2016

Human First.

Today I rode a pitbull. This happens every now and then and usually takes place in the kitchen.
My doggy Rhiannon, also known as Monkey, is a beautiful, sweet dog I adopted in October. She has caramel fur with white fur on her chest and down her red nose.
Rhia was abused poorly before she found her way to our home. Her body shows her struggle, she has clearly given birth many times.
  I was unsure about having such a big dog at first, but then the first night here she chased a bear from our yard. After that, she was welcome to stay.

Rhiannon loves to cuddle. She sleeps under the covers and will tuck herself in. If my son is upset and having a melt down, she will immediately go to his side, place her front legs around him and won’t stop hugging until he is calm
Rhia always knows when someone is in need of comfort, and knows a fake! We’ve experimented.

Rhia also has a skin condition that is very common for her breed. I have found that adding more fish oil to her diet along with coconut oil helps her skin immensely. She finally has hair growing on her stomach. All the hair on her face has grown back as well. We also bath her once a week in Dove body wash. I had tried lotions and creams and they just didn’t work well enough. I tried putting the coconut oil on her face and she licked it all off.
The only problem is that its hard to get Rhia to take the fish oil pill.

I have tried to hide it in foods. She learned that any cheese has a pill in it and unfolds it quickly, leaving the pill.
I started to switch up the food in which we stuffed. Soon, she just started to eat the food and spit out the pill.
I learned that she needs to chew crunchy food, so for a while homemade dog safe crackers stuffed with coconut oil worked great for stuff with the pills. We were great for a while, until today.

I looked at my dog, who had just taken the pills out of the crackers, then out of a pizza crust. The only thing around me was a lone fortune cookie on the counter from last nights take-out Chinese dinner.
I unwrapped and  cracked the cookie, pulled out the paper and stuffed each side with a pill.
I cupped Rhia’s mouth gently, and gave her the cookie. She happily chopped it up with my hands on either side of her brown muzzle.
And then she spit out both pills.

I couldn’t take it anymore!
I put one leg on each side of her 80 lb muscular frame, pride open her mouth and threw both pills in before she slammed it shut. I held her muzzle closed gently, while she chomped, backing slowly down the kitchen past the wooden island. I rode along on my tip toes (I’m only 5’2″), making sure not to hurt her.
“Swallow the pill, Monkey! Swallow the damn pill!”
I held on until she swallowed and then dismounted.

After, I looked into her beautiful butterscotch eyes and threw her a slice of pepperoni. Then I looked at her and did a little dance and sang her a song. She wagged her tail and danced along with me. Then she did a circle and left the kitchen.

I looked down at the counter and saw the fortune.

“LEARN CHINESE – Delicious”
How appropriate.
I giggled and flipped it over.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

One of my absolute favorite quotes is this;

” You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

I have always hoped that some day I would be in a place where I could make a difference.
But I always believed that the only way to make any kind of difference was to help as many as I could all in one big action.
Perhaps this was a total lapse in my thinking. Maybe our actions don’t need to be large. Maybe we can all start small.

The next time you pass someone homeless on the streon, start small. Don’t turn away. Don’t feel you need to offer money. Understand that acknowledgement and interaction is just as important. Hand them a sandwich. Buy an extra $1 coffee and hand it to the next face you see that surely needs a cup. You all are so keen to pay it forward in the Starbucks line, instead help the person who couldn’t even afford a small cup.

I have another quote I use often. It’s sad,  but unfortunately one of the truest things I have seen in this world.

“For only the poor help the poor”

Only those who have known the sting of hunger and poverty, these are the people out there truly making a difference.

I have seen people who have $3 left in this pocket and a bank account in the negative feed all the children in the apartment building dinner every night.
I have seen desperate people sell their medications to keep the heat on and their babies warm.
I have heard of a mom, working an 18 hour shift at a waffle house, with her 2 year old baby boy, asleep in the kitchen on top of boxes.
I have seen parents who both work having to pick up a second job to afford daycare.
I have seen a homeless man go hungry so he could feed his dog.

I have also seen millionaires on TV rant about the laziness of those on welfare.
I have seen a trust fund hippie drive past a woman and child, stranded, with a car stuck in a snowbank, in his plow truck but slow down long enough to say he can’t assist because of insurance reasons.
I have seen rich landlords who tell single moms that there are other ways to pay when their behind on rent.
I have watched Senate members, earning $174,000 per year complain about a 1% budget spending on 52.2 million people (only 1/5th of the US population) receiving $10,000 per year.

Now, obviously there are wonderful people on both sides just as there are those who take advantage and set a bad example.

I have always been that person to say “I want to help someday” or “I hope i will make a difference”
Instead of all this waiting, instead of wanting to start large, instead start small.

Buy an extra coffee, or another pack of socks and donate it to a local shelter (new socks are rarely donated and thrown away if used. This is the most needed item of clothes.)
Grab a water for that guy who is standing outside all day in the hot sun, earning shit pay.
Tell that nice kid who held the door open for you “Thank you” and how much you appreciate their manners.
Spread these actions, large or small. Tell that person who isn’t smiling that you love something about them or on their outfit. Make an extra brown bag lunch and drop it off for that person you pass every day that needs a meal.
These interactions are so important. It’s how we build these connections and take care of our own.  Religion, Race, Sex, Sexual Orientation, none of this matters. What does matter is our humanity. So many of us are suffering and if we continue to turn a blind eye to this, what will we ignore next?
Help your fellow person.
Remember, you are Human first.

I am announcing the start of a new project. I have been mulling over this idea for a few months now and considering the direction politics are moving in the US, now seems like the perfect time.
Once a month I am going to interview a person living under the welfare umbrella label. I will post their story and their interview.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to end the stigma.

If you are on any welfare services and would like to be interviewed anonymously by me, please send an e-mail to AmberGriffis@mail.com

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Paradise

Today my landlord stopped by.
He lives in NYC as a city planner. He bought the home I am currently renting, online, and for quite a bargain. Some day it will be his retirement home. Until then, I am free to rent it.
The place is beautiful, open floor planning. Windows and open spaces, high ceilings, bare refurbished beams.
I couldn’t be more thankful to rent such an incredible place.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I needed to take. A 2 year break, living off the grid, away from crowded living spaces, depressing shabby apartments with paper thin walls, and poverty stricken neighborhoods with shouting, angry neighbors, where people sell their medications just to help pay the bills and buy groceries.
The environment was making me sick. I was stressed, exhausted, and in pain. I no longer felt safe in my own home.

My current landlord responded to an ad I posted. I told our story, talked about what we were looking for and how much we could afford. Like my son’s father, he also served in the military. He told me about the place, explained it was a little unusual and not for the weak.
I drove out to see the house with my dad, my son and his friend D who calls me her second mom.
The road was frightening. Ups and downs, quick turns and a huge drop!
My dad looked at me, clutching the “oh shit” handle on my Saturn and said through clenched teeth
” There is NO WAY you can live out here!”
I knew he was right. How could I live out so far in the middle of the woods? My car was on its last leg (even though it had JUST had $4000 in repairs) and I am not exactly the most fit individual.
Silently, however, I held close hope that the house would be perfect and everything would work out.
Just down the road from this place I was looking to rent, my son’s paternal grandparents had lived. I had lived there for 3 years. This was the house I lived in my entire pregnancy. This was the house my son came home from the hospital to at 3 months old. This was also the house that my son’s father would die in unexpectedly.
The house is now for sale, his family moved from it almost two years ago now.
A part of me wanted to be close to him, where we lived together first.
The other part wanted to be as far away as possible.

We pulled into the driveway and immediately had the same reaction, the one every person who has come to visit for the first has had. Jaws dropped.
The open space, the huge, towering trees, bright skies, the flowers, giant windmill and solar panels, we all thought the same thing.
And so, the little blue house got its nickname: Paradise.

I have now lived here, in Paradise, for 6 months. I have lost 60lbs. I have less stress and certainly handle it far better. No more panic attacks or stress seizures. I feel happier surrounded by nature.
Make no mistake, I adore tall buildings and people watching. New York City may be my favorite place in the world. My landlord and I spend quite a lot of time talking about Manhattan. My mom grew up there and spent the Summer in Lake George or Long Island. My landlord grew up quite the opposite from my Mother. He lived in Hell’s Kitchen, around the Irish section and the pubs. We talk about our favorite sites. He tells me what I can skip and what not to miss. He also offered me a chihuahua named Summer. I said I’d think about it.

I needed a reset. A place to get away from the chaos and misery that is slowly breaking down society. I needed to get in touch with myself again.

My son has also blossomed incredibly here. He loves to climb trees and run around outdoors. G has been obsessed with gemstones, minerals and fossils from a very young age. He loves finding and bringing in beautiful or unique stones. Our house must have stones and rocks in every room that G has found during a walk.

Now, there have absolutely been issues with living off the grid. It is not for the faint. There has been many a morning where I wake up freezing at 3 am and need to turn on the generator to get the power back on. Hauling wood is a daily activity. I also learned quickly that its easier to keep a fire always going than it is to keep starting a fire over and over.
We burn everything paper because it cuts down on garbage but also is useful for kindling. We can’t throw out food because it attracts wild life.

There have been hard times. I once slipped on black ice and broke ribs because I was too busy telling my son to be careful and to not slip on the ice. Try lugging wood with broken ribs! Ouch.

That’s the only downside to mountain living when you are the only adult. If you get hurt, the house still needs to stay warm or you all freeze. All those chores, hanging laundry, stacking and lugging wood, keeping the solar panel batteries filled with distilled water, this all needs to keep going no matter what condition you are in.

I will most likely never live like this again, at least certainly not on my own.
For now though, this is exactly where I need to be.

Peace to you all from this hermit on a mountain top,

AmberRose

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Fart Cookies.

My son was born with a cleft palate. His plastic surgeon told us that G had the biggest cleft he had seen in 15 years. The surgery took 6 hours, 2 hours longer than anticipated.
Since G was born, after he was pegged as a child with Pierre Robbins Sequence we were assigned or visited by speech therapists. Before G could speak, we were doing daily exercises like blowing on tissues or sucking through different size straws. All fun for G, and he unknowingly exercised his tongue, jaw, and mouth.
Adjusting to G’s speech patterns and pronunciation can be difficult. He has improved in leaps and bounds. Sometimes there are still misunderstandings.
The most often brought up story about G comes from when he was 4, almost 5 years old.

For months I had to reprimand G for insulting his playmates at school. For calling our new (at the time) kitten, Parker names. G had even dared to call me the same insult one day.
I was driving, and looked back in the mirror at G who was finally in a big car seat as he had reached the weight limit. I was telling G a story when he giggled and suddenly said “Mommy, you’re a fart cookie.”
I yelled. “G! We do NOT call people names, you need to stop!”
He got upset, and looked out the window.
I had for the last month or so found stuffed animals all over the house floor every time I would come home or wake up and come out into the living room. At first I assumed that G wasn’t picking up after himself, but on this day, G was at preschool. How did the stuffed animals and beanie babies get all over the floor?
I heard noise coming from the play room, attached to the living room. G and I snuck in as silently as possible for a mom and a 4 year old in snow pants.
We looked in and couldn’t believe our eyes.
Gabe’s kitten Parker was climbing up this net stuffed animal storage thing that was hanging from the ceiling. He scaled the whole thing, climbed into one of the holes, pulled out a stuffed animal and carried it in his mouth all the way back down. This is even more impressive than it sounds as the Beanie Babies Parker was carrying were about his size.
Parker brought the toy to the ground and then proceeded to wrestle with it. When he got bored, Parker would climb back up and grab another stuffed animal.

“Woah,” I said, a bit taken back. “Parker, you’re one smart cookie…”
An eruption went off behind, like a tiny grenade had suddenly been flung at my knees and ankles.

THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO SAAAAY!!!!!!”

Looking back on the moment, G and I always giggle like crazy. He loves to share the story whenever he can.
“Fart Cookie” has also become an inside joke among the family and close friends.

Female Seeking Vehicle

(Inspired by frustration from car shopping)

Female Seeks Vehicle:

You: Affordable, dependable, in the area or willing to relocate. Low milage preferable, although I have always enjoyed the classic look. Must be capable of making music. There will be many a car trip of singing along to the radio, or even playing books on tape.
Style is a plus, but I am not against old fashioned. Please don’t be flashy.

Me: The road I have traveled is long, rocky, filled with ups and downs and many a twist and turn.
I am not exaggerating. I grew up in New England, in a state that has a 5th season named Mud. All-Wheel-Drive is necessary.
Must love kids. There will be sticky fingers, carsick, and midnight cheeseburger runs. We love to giggle and laugh. Spur of the moment trips, and long drives to nowhere are a must. I adore the geeky and macabre. In fact, some day I hope to own the Ghostbuster Ambulance.
There may be days where I don’t see you. I need to know that you will not fall apart without me.
And just as important, I also must know that in an emergency you will immediately drop everything to be there with me and be one less thing I need to worry about.
Please get me safely from here to there. Have thick tires. Understand that I may push the wrong buttons and levers at first. There may be dents and scratches. Not on purpose, I am just forgetful, a little blunt and honest, even clumsy at times. Just be cool tempered, and don’t overheat on me.

You don’t have to be American, I have been with cars from around the world. I’ve had experience with both stick and automatic, either is fine. I learn quickly and tend to go with the flow.

I want this to last a bit longer this time. I’ve had cars before. My last one lasted 6 years. I put so much time, energy, patience, and yes money, into something that just didn’t work out. I couldn’t keep putting it all into something that could travel no farther.
I want you to be in my life a bit longer. Maybe you’ll even be the car that my son first drives with. I will obviously be a nervous wreck.

If this sounds like you, if you are the vehicle I am searching for, the vehicle that wants to be part of our lives, reply to my post.

Peace!

*If you couldn’t tell from this piece, I am car shopping. My car died on the highway and I just couldn’t keep pouring money into it any longer. Blue Saturn, you will be missed!! This is however the excuse I needed get a new vehicle with 4WD to get up my crazy hill to my driveway. The distance from my mailbox to my home? 1.6 miles of hills and drops and curves, it’s ridiculous and the worst dirt road I have ever seen. We are living completely off the grid in a house that runs off of solar panels and a windmill. The house is beautiful, the land is 18 acres of woods and trails and even blueberries in the summer. But because we are so off the grid, internet is non existent except on my track phone at the moment. Damn, do I miss Netflix. Its worth it though, to be in such a breathtaking location.
Back to spring cleaning in this house!*

My Special Whovian

Christmas 2013,  I was at my boyfriend’s (now ex) parents home. His parents are incredibly sweet people who go absolutely out of their way to help people and throw a wonderful Christmas celebration.
We celebrated Christmas… Kind of,   when I was a child. As a Witch raised by a Jew and an atheist with two Minister’s as parents, Christmas was always lacking something. Maybe it was the fact that we decorated my moms rubber tree plant with bobbles and blue and silver lights(Hanukkah colors) or the fact that my little sister starting at the age of two was terrified of Santa Claus so we told her that Batman came down our chimney, but I digress.

On this Christmas, my exes folks piled presents high for all of us, which was surprising to me after celebrating with my sons fathers family who would go out of their way to exclude me for being Jewish (We hid the witchcraft thing… That probably would have caused their catholic heads to explode!)
So receiving not only an overflowing stocking but multiple gifts was a shocking and surreal experience. I admit that I got quite emotional and his mom went on and on about how much fun it was to finally shop for a girl as they only had one child who is male.
I was a little surprised to unwrap a calendar with faces I didn’t recognize.
My blank face must have been cause for concern because his parents instantly went into explanation.
“N said you liked Torchwood, but the lady at the store said they didn’t have Torchwood items and that Doctor Who was in the same universe…”
“Oh, its great! Yeah, I haven’t seen Doctor Who yet….” I struggled to explain, not wanting to insult a family known for their SciFi love.
See, I tend to do everything backwards. Not on purpose, its just the way I tend to do things. I discovered Torchwood many years ago, and devoured it. I bawled so hard at *Spoilers!!* the death of Owen and Tosh that my dad had to console me over the phone.

We kept unwrapping presents, turn after turn and other than beauty products, make-up, and leggings there seemed to be a definite theme.
Doctor Who hoodie, Doctor Who blanket, Doctor Who socks, Doctor Who keychain…..
By the end of the unwrapping I decided it was time for me to finally watch Doctor Who and see what its all about.
So I did just that…. 5 months later.

You see, I am really not a SciFi fan. NOT AT ALL. Give me horror, zombies, blood and guts, comedy, dark comedy, musicals, hell I watch more cartoons than is probably acceptable for an adult my age. I can name a voice actor in mere seconds with just a sampling of a voice. But show me the cast of Star trek and I will stare blankly.

So I continued to watch, let it play in between clients that called in for a tarot reading. And I get why people like it, but its just not my cup of tea. See, Torchwood is more Doctor Who after dark. That grabbed me. Plus, Gwen Cooper is a hottie with hair I am super jealous of.

Someone else in our household became drawn to Doctor Who.
I remember my son, Gabe, coming home from school. There was that episode on with the creepy children in the gas masks.
Gabe was completely sucked in.
“What’s that?”
“Doctor Who” I told him.
And from that day on, the moment he came home from school, Gabe would watch it.
Gabe is a super special kid. He has one of the most vivid imaginations of any child I have ever met. Soon I heard him playing in his room, going on adventures with the Doctor and Jack Harkness(Yes!!!)
Gabe went through season after season. Then one day, he met the 11th Doctor. Something about Matt Smith’s entrance completely enchanted Gabe. He started to wear his clip on tie (he didn’t have a bowtie yet) everywhere. When people asked in school what he wanted to be when he grew up, he gleefully said “The Doctor… Or a scientist”
Gabe also related on some level to #11. One day Gabe was sitting next to me on the couch while playing with some action figures.
“Mom, I think I am part Timelord”
I smiled “Oh yeah? Why is that?”
“Because of my heart” he explained. And I realized that I couldn’t argue with him.

You see, Gabe was born with not four, but five chambers in his heart. The lower left ventricle contained two sides that were beating at different rhythms. Gabe explained that this was the closest to having two hearts that he had ever heard of. And again, I just couldn’t argue.
When Gabe was 3 months old he had open heart surgery to remove the troublesome chamber and to patch two murmurs he had.
Then a strange thing happened.
When Gabe was two, that fifth chamber wall grew back! “That’s kinda like regeneration” he said.
At 2 1/2 Gabe underwent open heart surgery a second time to remove that fifth chamber.

In his 7 year old mind, being part timelord is a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this.
Gabe also relates to the Doctor because he has felt devistating loss. His father passed away suddenly when Gabriel was 5. It will be 5 years this July.

When Gabe’s birthday came along, I knew exactly what theme he was going to pick.
We went all out. My sister baked Doctor Who cupcakes, I made a bunch of themed foods, games and even bowties for all the kids.
I have written about this party in a past post so we will skip ahead to this year. If you haven’t read that blog post yet, I won’t spoil it but will give you a little taste. At one point we had in full custom #10 hoisting up a #11 to hang swirly star decorations while Amy Pond made sure cats didn’t escape and #9 munched jammy dodgers. Oh yes, we went all out.

Gabe is now 9 turning 10. He decided this year that instead of a party, he just wants to ride a rollercoaster with his two best friends, well, and me, if he can get me ON a rollercoaster.
I was all prepared to skip the party this year and just take the three kiddos and Gabe’s Grandpa to a theme park instead.
Except Gabe’s birthday is May 3rd, and all the parks around us don’t open until the END of May.
The weight of this information made me feel like the worse mother in the world! I felt horrible, but knew I had to tell him.
I did. And because Gabe is the amazing kid that he is, instead of a meltdown, instead of tears or a tantrum I got the response of
“Oh, that’s alright mom. We’ll just celebrate later and have Chinese food for dinner on my birthday. Can we get dumplings?”
Best kid in the world, right?

So here I am. Its March. Usually by this point I am slaving away, making a piñata, or decorations, or invitations by hand. Usually I am calling in the troops(aka friends and relatives) and assigning crazy jobs “Heeeey, wanna dress up like the Joker for a birthday party?” Or “So, your job is to snap a picture of these kids as we capture them in giant bubbles” or Gabe’s last birthday party theme (Messy, just… Messy) “Wanna help me build an ice cream carwash?” “What’s that??” “No idea….”

Instead, I am sitting here, feeling like there must be something else I can do to make this amazing little man’s 10th birthday memorable.
So I am reaching out yet again to the internet for help.

If you are a Doctor Who fan and you will be at a convention and happen to see Matt Smith, will you tell him about my amazing little guy and ask if he would wish Gabriel a Happy Birthday by May 3rd.
Tell him about Gabe. How Gabe has been through more in his 9 years than most adults go through in their whole lives.
Gabe was 3 lb 7 oz when he was born. Now he is a whopping 65lbs and 53″
Gabe has had 14 surgeries including open heart surgery twice.
When Gabe was 5, his father, a Veteran from the Afghanistan war, passed away unexpectedly.

Please, tell him how Gabe is an amazing child who makes everyone in his life laugh and smile. How he has gone through all of this, without complaint, without a fuss. In fact, Gabriel probably comforts and worries about me more than he does himself. Heck, as I am writing this, that little trooper is dealing with an ear infection and a broken toe (he inherited my clumsiness and accidentally hit it on a huge book)
So, if you run into the previous Doctor, who Gabriel looks up to so much, take a moment, tell him about Gabriel, the sweet kiddo who is part Time Lord.

My Son is Growing Up

Yesterday I took my 9 year old son to his pediatrician for an ear infection. G has been a patient there since infancy. The office, called Just So Pediatrics (A reference to R.Kipling’s “Just So Stories”) is colored a light green, like most hospitals and doctors offices. There is framed art from local children and a local children’s art gallery.
And the focus of the room is a giant wooden block with some sort of pulling, pushing, moving, cranking, magnetic puzzle on each sides of its surface.
Since he could stand, this toy has been a favorite of G’s. He immediately would shed his winter clothes and wander over and play with each side, liking the magnets and chains the most.
But not yesterday.
Yesterday, I turned around after checking G in to find him standing right behind me,  as children seem to leave no personal space, and when turning around you almost bump into them.
He followed me to some open seats and I picked up a Parenting magazine we scanned together.
A 7 year old boy entered with his grey haired, slightly stressed father. The boy immediately took of his things in the middle of the door, leaving poor dad to pick up the littered items.
The boy instantly gravitated toward the wooden block and started to twist and turn and play.
Across from us sat a teen boy and his mom. The teen looked bored and played with a watch on his wrist.
That’s when it hit me. In between our last pediatric visit, where G had played with the magnets and marble maze side and now, where he sat next to me, G had gone through a huge milestone. He is becoming a pre-teen, he no longer wants to play with toys in waiting rooms or need such a thing to ward off a meltdown.

The nurse called G’s name and he stepped on a scale. G’ has had two huge growth spurts in a row. Now, finally over 60lbs from a 3lb 7oz start, he is doing incredible.
While waiting for the doctor, G spun around on the doctors stool.
He stopped and said to me “You know, I think I want to be this kind of doctor”
“A Pediatrician?”
“Yeah, a pediatrician.”
G has always had big goals. Wanting to go to college, stating since he was in preschool that he wanted to be a doctor or a scientist.
The doctor comes in and G instantly starts asking questions.
“How do you feel about trampolines?” He starts with as she washes her hands.
It goes on, he brings up vaccines “Why do we get rid of the needles? Why do they go in the red box? Where do you get the needles from? Where do they make them?”
His doctor answers everything clearly, scientifically, and in a way G completely understands. She even drops the historical fact that needles originally were boiled to clean them but that its not worth the risk.
G asks for a giant q-tip and an ear cleaner. She says he can bring them home but is not allowed to stick them in his or anyone else’s ears.
She then shows him the new tool for cleaning ears. Its like a tiny blue lit lightsabre with a scoop on the end. G is envious.

We head on home. Me reflecting on how my tiny little guy became this 53″ 65lb long haired boy in front of me. I toss his hair. G is seriously in need of a trim.
In a few months G turns 10. This feels like a huge milestone. Instead of a big themed party that we do every year (Star wars, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Batman, Doctor Who, Minecraft, and last years Ice Cream Carwash) he just wants to go on a rollercoaster for his birthday.
Just him, me, his grandpa and his two best friends.
There’s this inner battle inside of me, wanting to give him the celebration he wants, and breaking from tradition.
I guess it’s quite silly, as we have never been too traditional, nor are we a traditional family.
Yet every year I try to top myself. I ask G what he wants, what he likes, any ideas or dreams he’s had (again, Ice Cream Carwash) and do everything I can to make it real.
Perhaps this time, this birthday celebration, this milestone, I can relax and just have fun with G and our little family.