I’m still here

Thursday was a weird day for me, emotionally. I felt out of sorts all day. I realized I was completely unmotivated and didn’t want to do anything productive. But, I didn’t want to wallow in it either, so I started fake smiling, to see if I could trick my brain into thinking I was happy and have some endorphins released to give me a boost of happiness. It worked. A little bit.

On Friday, I decided I was going to go out. I had planned a visit to IKEA on Saturday, and thought it would be smarter to go Friday, to avoid the weekend crowds. It worked. I mean, leaving the house, going out, seemed to give me an emotional boost. The visit to IKEA was productive in the sense, that I did avoid the crowds and bought the things I needed, but traffic was hell. I drove for over 3 hours yesterday, so today, there was no way I was getting into the car again.

Mike is off to Wisconsin, for a Grateful Dead’s concert, which I passed on, because I don’t really even know who the Grateful Dead are. And I figured I would not be happy surrounded by drunken, high people, while not even being able to sing along. Not that the Grateful Dead’s music is the sing-along type, but you get my drift, right? So today, I’ve been hanging out at home with Charlie and Max doing fun-for-me activities: sleeping, eating, Simming, SnapChatting, catching up on DVRed shows from October (Oprah’s Belief series, interesting), and perusing catalogs and beauty magazines. I also payed bills online, caught up on work emails, and did some laundry. And just now, I figured, let me check on my blog, since it seems like I haven’t been here in ages.

Well, ages it has been. The last time I wrote here was in February, and in reading back there are only 6 posts this year. Talk about dropping the blogging ball! Also, I looked at one of January posts, updating you all on my new year’s resolutions/goals progress and realized one of my 2016 goals was to go on a no-buy (!). I completely forgot about that, obviously, because my spending these past 6 months has been out of control, particularly in the beauty department. I recently decided to not buy any more makeup. Period. I have so much there is no way I will be able to use it all before things begin to expire and go bad. But I’ve moved my shopping habits to other areas like facial care products, clothes, bags and most recently been eyeing jewelry I’m drooling over. I need to get a grip. Yesterday!

The meditation goals is still going strong. I meditate every weekday for 10 to 15 minutes, first thing in the morning. And I truly  believe that is what has been keeping me sane all these months. Not that life is so crazy I would go mad it left to my own devices, but I can truly see and appreciate the benefits meditation has been having for me since I resumed my practice back in September 2015.

On the weight-loss front, nothing has really improved. I’m still fluctuating between 144 and 148 lbs. Of course, nothing that needs to change in order to help that number go down has changed either. I’m still eating whatever I want, whenever I want. And I only just started going to yoga (irregularly) and walking/jogging a couple weeks ago.

My plan is to continue with the exercising, absolutely continue with the meditation, and definitely go on a no-buy stint, as soon as possible. I also want to be more active here, on the blog. I’m not going to commit to anything in writing, but I will come back soon, this week, to provide an update. There are some posts roaming around in my head, I want to get out. So I’ll be back. Soon. Promise.

Valentine’s Day and Updates

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Hope it was kind and sweet to you. Valentine’s is special around our place because it’s the day we celebrate my dad’s birthday and also, old lad Charlie’s birthday. And, we also celebrate the anniversary of our first formal date, back during in the awful blizzard of February 2011.

Mike had made reservations to go out to dinner at Emilio’s, the restaurant in which we had our first date 5 years ago. We try to go back there every year. But we had to cancel and hopefully reschedule for next weekend. Mike started feeling icky Friday afternoon and by Saturday morning, he had a full-on fever of 100.4, which got a little worse to 100.6, until it finally got better Sunday night. So this was the backdrop for our Valentine’s day…

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We still celebrated a bit, with cards, gifts and chocolates. Mike got jeans and I got much needed tech-gloves and an infinity scarf.

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Charlie, the old chap, would have loved to relive this:

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But instead got several short walks in the snow and lots of treats.

Liz flew into Miami Saturday night. The initial plan (before my mom’s health emergency) was to be with my parents for the kids spring break and my parents birthdays (my mom’s birthday is also coming up in a few days). Great timing, because they could all be there to visit Coco and celebrate my dad’s birthday as well.

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Coco is doing better. Still at the hospital (it’s been over a week now) and still not well enough to go home (although she asks every day), but better. After the TIPS procedure, there were going to be side effects both from bypassing the liver and the general anesthesia. The blood that is now not going to be cleaned of toxins by the liver, takes these to the heart and brain, causing elevation of toxins in the brain, also known as Hepatic Encephalopathy, which is an altered mental state. In order to control these toxins and eliminate them, she is given a laxative type of medication, which for a while there she refused to take.

Another complication/side effect from the whole episode was low hemoglobin. She had lost a lot of blood from the initial esophagus bleed, and even though she had some blood transfusions, the hemoglobin was not a stable normal indicator yet. This coupled with the general anesthesia, caused respiratory issues. She developed liquid in the lungs. As of yesterday, she had one lung clear and liquid remaining still in the second one. She’s been taking diuretics and being nebulized every 6 hours now.

So these are the 3 variables they are controlling for currently: eliminating the liquid in the lungs, keeping the hemoglobin up, and lowering the toxin levels to avoid Encephalopathy. The side effects are plenty: bruised arms from all the injections and blood drawing, many bathroom accidents due to excesses diuretics and laxatives, weight loss and thus loss of energy and vigor, and overall being done with the whole thing and wanting desperately to go home already!

She is getting better, the values that need to go up are rising and the ones that need to go down are slowly decreasing. But she’s not yet ready to go home. The Dr. said today that if she went home, she most likely would have to come back soon, and we all definitely want to avoid that. The hospital is the best place for her right now, until she’s stable. Hopefully this week, she’ll be able to go home to her Jack, and all the fun awaiting her there with Liz and the kids. Keep those prayers going, and the positive thoughts coming. They are all helping very much. Thank you!

A family of 4

My mom had another esophagus/varicose vein bleeding episode, Saturday night. I thought about it for a bit and decided, the best I could do was take a plane the next day to be there with my parents. Last time this happen in September, Liz and I talked about coming and we offered, but the Pelos said it wasn’t necessary. Things had evolved quickly and they had her under control. We both felt bad my dad had to go through all that by himself, with no direct or continuous support from us, since we were in Chicago and New York, and all that was happening in Miami. So this time, we decided it would be different. I flew in Sunday afternoon, with the earliest ticket I could get, and will be staying until Thursday. Liz and her kids are coming down this Saturday, and staying for a week. So, this time the Pelos will be on their own less than 48 hours.

Of course they are not completely on their own. There is a lot of support from extended family and friends, and for that we are all immensely grateful. But, I think it’s important for us to be here. The nuclear family. The family of four, as my dad used to call us when we were growing up. He used to say “No matter where life takes is, we will be fine, because we will always be together. Us four, always together. We are a family or four.”

Our family of four got extended to five (Cas), then six (Nick) and then seven (Sophie). Liz added in, what I jokingly refer to as her “combo”. And recently with Mike, Max and Charlie, it grew to a family of 10. Now, we have Hazel and Jack too, so we are 12! Six adults, one teenager, one wanna-be teenager, and 4 dogs. The family of four surely has grown. But, sometimes, when we are together, just the four of us, it feels just as when we were growing up, just us, a family of four, and I truly appreciate that.

Yesterday, before my mom was going into surgery, we got to speak to the radiologist. I unfortunately had to run to the bathroom. My bladder had been waiting for over 30 minutes and I really had to go, so I ended missing the talk with the radiologist (!!!). When I came back, my dad told me he had gone through every possible negative outcome, as if covering his back, in case anything went wrong. Instead of building my dad up and telling him to keep it positive, like every other doctor had done so far, he completely deflated him and put all these negatives images in his mind. My poor dad. He was worried, nervous, and now frightful for what could happen. There was a possibility that the doctor could not do the procedure, because of the difficulty of finding the veins. He was doing a TIPS procedure, to bypass the malfunctioning liver (my mom has an autoimmune liver disease, that has caused hepatic cirrhosis, and bleeding varicose veins due to high artery pressure, is a side effect), and of course anything can happen when a person is fully under anesthetics. But, for Pete’s sake, anything can happen to anyone, anywhere. Why did he have to bring up the possibility of death, right before she was going under, and make the two hour wait an unnecessary nightmare?

I tell you, I was so mad at myself and my bladder for not being there, because you know I would have put that dickhead in his place. I’m usually a kind, calm, sweet person, but if you mess with my family, are rude, unnecessarily disrespectful or a complete jerk, I will go ape-shit on you. I wanted to punch that asshole in the gut! In retrospect, I guess it was for the best that I was not there for the talk. It wouldn’t have helped one bit to punch the doctor just before he was to operate on my mom.

Thankfully, what doctor-no-bedside-manners lacked in tact, he made up for in expertise. He came back ecstatic saying “we did it!”. Apparently, it had been difficult to get the bypass in (it’s all tiny instruments operating in an already compromised organ) and for a moment there he had thought it would not be possible to do, and they would have to try again next week (!!!!). Fortunately, there was divine intervention, and last minute the procedure worked and immediately the arterial pressure dropped. He said “she’s not bleeding anymore, and will not be bleeding again”.

Coquito is recuperating now. They have her under observation and she’s making progress. Hopefully, she will be back home soon. I know Jack truly misses her, and she missed him. Soon our family of four (twelve) will be back to normal, as it has been since 1972, that’s when I joined the clan. If you have been praying and sending positive (get-well) thoughts to Coco, thank you! I truly believe they all worked their magic during the surgery yesterday. And helped us continue to be the family of four, we have successfully been for all these years. Thank you! And may Coquito continue to get better.

2016 Goals – Month 1

I shared before I had some goals for 2016, so I thought since we are coming to the end of the first month in 2016 (can you freaking believe it?!), I’d update here my progress.

Regarding the weight loss: I started out at 149.5 lbs and weigh now 146.5 lbs, which is better, yet not really significant since that number fluctuates daily. The lowest I’ve been this month, was a few days ago, at 144 lbs. Again, nothing mayor, but still improvement. I’ll take it as progress.

Regarding the No-Buy: Well I mega crashed and burned there. I realized one of the work trousers I had bought last year was worn out and had to go, and the other two were way too big on me. Not necessarily because I’v lost all that weight, but more so because since I had gained weight and all my pants were too tight, I had both those last year a little bit lose, so I wouldn’t feel tight. The logic, I know. Well, now I needed new black pants for work. I went out to get just that. Yeah, right. I got 5 pairs of pants, 1 blouse, and 2 vests. And I also got two pairs of jeans for Mike. So there went my no-buy in January.

I also bought a little bit of makeup…😦 I ran out of deodorant, and the one I use is sold at Sephora. That, I realize now, is very dangerous. Anyhow, I got myself the needed new deodorant (Lavanila the Healthy Deodorant in Vanilla Coconut), a not-needed yet wanted eyeshadow palette (UD Naked2 Basics) and a primer (MUFE Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer). I use ebates though, for online shopping, and Sephora had an 8% cash back, so there’s always that.

This month, I’ve also bought a Groupon for a face serum, a lobster roll lunch for two, and yoga classes. The yoga classes though, are also part of the 2016 goals. I need to get back into exercising somehow, and yoga has always been so good for me physical, mentally, and spiritually.

I’ve also bought some toiletries I needed (shampoo, conditioner, body butter lotions, and the sort), but that doesn’t count. As the deodorant from Sephora (only the deodorant), also does not count for the no-buy. Those things are more necessities than wants. The no-buy is really for extras, for those things that are, as we say in Spanish “antojos”.

We went to IKEA this weekend and got a drawer unit (Alex 9-drawer unit). We needed that for the study. To actually free up the study closet, and make more room for Mike’s clothes. Poor Mike had his clothes spread out in 3 rooms. Now, at least they are in just 2. But, I’m guessing that doesn’t count either, because technically, we did need that unit.

Regarding meditation: I’ve been on a roll. Meditating every morning I can, which tends to be 4 out of the 7 days of the week. So, all good there.

I think those were it. I didn’t write down goals, or set deadlines this year. I just kinda said aloud that I wanted to lose 20 lbs and go on a no-buy, to save for a house. The yoga, meditation, and exercise bits, I’ve added to the lose weight goal, which I’m thinking is more of a get healthy goal instead. Overall, I think I’m making progress in some areas, and not so much in others. Hopefully, February, will be on the positive end of the balance for all areas. How are you coming along with your resolutions/goals for 2016? Do you have any?

6 Months – Name?

It’s been 6 months since the wedding, so that means it’s our half-anniversary today. I’m not sure how I feel about a 6-month milestone, especially because in February it will be 5 years since Mike and I have been together, and a year-and-a-half since he moved-in and we began living together. So, this 6-month milestone doesn’t seem like a big deal in comparison.

Mike and I were talking about this the other day, and we both feel like not much changed after we got married. Especially not for him, since I was the one who changed my name, he didn’t even have to do that. Well, frankly I didn’t have to do it either. I could have changed nothing regarding my name. But I wanted to help myself identify more with us as a family unit, and taking Mike’s last name has helped me do just that.

I didn’t completely lose my name either. I would never do that. You see, in Venezuela a married woman takes her husband’s last name and it’s placed after both of her family names. In Venezuela, I would be: Jennifer Mata Gómez de McMahon. Incredibly long and very inconvenient. Here in the US, I’ve always been just Jennifer Mata, and now Jennifer Mata-McMahon. Still long, yet not as long as the Venezuelan version, and a bit more convenient.

Of course, people at work still call me Dr. Mata, or Jen Mata, which seems very short and easy. I guess that’s why it’s stuck. Also, 6 months is not enough time for people to get use to the name change. I know I’m not quite use to it yet. Although, outside work, some people just call me Jennifer McMahon, or Mrs. McMahon, which I guess is the oddest of all of those names for me still. It’s interesting how much we identify ourselves with our names, isn’t it? Mata connects me to my Venezuelan roots.

Though, my name has always been an issue for me, or actually not for me, I know how to spell it. It’s been an issue for others. In the US when I say my name, people ask me to spell my last name, and I do spell it for them “M, A, T, A. Mata.” “Double T?, they ask.” “No just one T.” “Oh, Mara, they say.” “… No, MaTa, with a T, not an R, just one T, which sounds like a T. MaTa.” In Venezuela, they don’t know how to spell Jennifer. They don’t ask you to spell your name in Venezuela, they just write it as it sounds. I’ve had my name written it all different “Spanish” ways: Yenifer, Yeniffer, Yennifer. You see J sounds like and H in Spanish. And Y has the J English sound, so of course they would write it with a Y and not a J.  And pronounce it as “Henifer”, when they read “Jennifer”.

The kicker story, was that one time I had applied to a scholarship and got it. When I went to the office and told them my name they looked for my file. There was my file: Jennyfer Mata Gómez, and a second one just next to it: Jenny Fermata Gómez. I smiled and hung my head. I explained to the woman I was both those people, and she had two files for the same person; she had messed up the name. It took her a while to believe me, and realize her mistake, but eventually when Jenny Fermata never showed up to claimed her scholarship, I think she finally realized I was right.

McMahon is no piece of cake either. When people read it, they do not know how to pronounce it. They pronounce all the letters, and as I’ve been told, that’s not right. As it turns out, it’s pronounced McMan, as if the “h” and the “o” did not exist. Another problem is that, when writing it, people often don’t capitalize the second M. So after I’ve spelled it for them, they write as Mcmahon.  I now say: “My name is Jennifer Mata hyphen McMahon, let me spell it for you J, E, double N, I, one F, E, R, Jennifer, M, A, T, A, Mata with one T, hyphen, capital M, c, capital M, a, h, o, n, McMahon. All Ms in my name are capitalized.” Try that for size won’t you? It’s take 5 minutes just to get a person to write my name correctly. To have them then call me Je-Ji😉

I’m kidding, I love my nicknames. And I have tons of them, but that’s a topic for a different post. I went on a tangent with the whole name thing. My point though, was that not much has changed since we got married, and 6 months doesn’t feel like any major milestone. My name changed and in conversation now, I refer to Mike as my husband. That’s another aspect, I guess I’m still not use to. But other than that, we live in the same place, have the same discussions over the same things, enjoy doing the same things, and carry on with life as we did a year-and-half ago.

I’ll let you know, once we get to the one year mark, if I see any more differences. For now though, the main change has just been my name.

Calm

Calm

For quite some months now, I’ve been using the Calm app on my iPhone. Have you heard of it? I feel like everyone knows about it already, but by the rare chance you haven’t heard of it yet, I thought I’d share my experience.

I use it mostly every morning. When I need to be somewhere extreemly early, I don’t meditate. Although, once I did practice a commuting meditation while driving, on my way to an elementary school to supervise some of my students. In any case, on days I do meditate, as soon as I wake up, I grab for my iPhone and open the app, and proceed to meditate for 10 to 20 mimutes, depending on the selected session. The app has a lot of different programs to complete, or independent sessions within particular topics,  with different time lengths of meditation one can select from.

So far, I’ve completed several programs: 7 Days of Calm, 21 Days of Calm, 7 Days of Sleep (although I want to do this one again at night, before going to sleep), and 7 Days of Happiness. Currently, I am completing 7 Days of Gratitude. The isolated sessions I’ve tried have been on: Non-Judgment, Calming Anxiety, Calm, Body Scan, Deep Sleep, Deep Concentration, Loving-Kindness, and Confidence.

I have the paid subscription, that allows me to have full access to everything they put out, for a year. They constantly are launching new programs. Right now there’s a new one called 7 Days of Self-Esteem, which I’m probably trying up next.

I used to meditate on my own. In a quiet space, with a candle lit, concentrating on my breath, and letting thoughts come and quickly go on by. It was sometimes harder than others. I started with 5 minutes, and doing one-minute weekly increments, had gotten up to 20 minutes. It worked well for a while, until I stoppped doing it, and getting back on it, starting from 5 minutes again, seemed very hard. It was then that I discovered Calm, and have not looked back since (this was back in September 14th, 2015).

For me, meditation has a great deal of benefits. I not only enjoy it because it helps me concentrate on my breathing and as a result calm myself, but it definitely has helped me be more present in the day-to-day activities and interactions with others. It truly helps me be a calmer and overall happier person. When I don’t meditate regularly, I see the difference. Stress tends to build up and begins to take a toll on me, both physcially and emotionally.

In today’s session on Gratitude, the focus was on being more appreciative of ourselves. At the end of the session we were asked to write down 3 characterisc or abilities of ourselves, for which we are grateful. I jotted down: ability to be kind, compromise, and listen with interest to others. I obviously don’t portray those abilities 100%  of the time. But most likely than not, those would be good descriptors for me. I have an ability, or natural inclination, to be kind, compromise, and listen, and for that I am truly grateful.

Have you tried Calm? If you’re looking into meditating and feel it might be a bit daunting, or don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend this app. I have no affiliation to it, nor am I being paid to review it or recommend it. This is my own, honest opinion and thoughts, based on the experience I’ve had with Calm in the past 4 months. Try it, who knows? You might also benefit from centering yourself and adding a little positivity to your days.

I’m still here – The Update

I left off July 13th, two weeks before the wedding. Things got a bit busy after that, sorry. But let me recap and bring you up to speed to today.

(07-17-15) My family starting arriving for the Wedding. We had a full house for about a week before the wedding; it was crazy and it was great all at the same time. I loved that I had Venezuelan representation in the house. Thank you all, for coming!

(07-24-15) The rehearsal at the church, followed by a yummy rehearsal dinner happened quite smoothly.

(07-25-15) The wedding occurred the day after.  It was not without hiccups here and there, but fortunately no one really noticed and all seemed to enjoy themselves and have a good time. It was memorable, and after all the stress (there was a lot of stress build-up in the preparation), I was glad it was over. It was a beautiful, traditional, Catholic city wedding. Elegant, classic, timeless. Our church was St Vincent DePaul’s Parish and the reception was held at The Murphy. Both unforgettably beautiful spaces filled with history and stunning architecture. We danced the night away. It was fun.

(07-26-15) We spent the night, well only a few hours really, at The James, and flew out to Punta Cana very early the next morning. We spent a week in the Dominican Republic, in an all inclusive resort, with the most delicious all-you-can-eat food. There was a beach at walking distance from our room, several golf courses, a mall, several different restaurants, a few pools, and yoga and tennis classes. It was perfect.  We celebrated Mike’s birthday there at a Michelin star restaurant after a day of golf for him, and yoga and beach for me. It was awesome.

(August) My family was still in town when we got back, so we got to spend some time with them. The first month back was a blur of getting back into normal life mode. Life after the wedding, as I liked to call it. Or getting my life back, which I still refer to daily. If I could go back to before the wedding, I would have taken some things off my plate  during the wedding planning months (like the presidency of my home association, for example), or would have hired a wedding coordinator to deal with some of the idiots we hired before and during the wedding. But anyhow, I’m not doing this ever again, so there’s not much “live and learn” here to remember for next time, thankfully.

(Sometime in September) We sent out Thank You notes to all our guest, for coming to celebrate with us and helping us get ourself going with wonderful gifts and words of wisdom. Thank you!

(Also in September) School started again, and during the Fall term I taught two courses, one I had taught before (now with some modifications) and a brand new (to me) internship. I had to hit the ground running once Labor day had passed. The term went well. I think it’s the term I have enjoyed the most teaching-wise thus far. My students were great and I truly enjoyed teaching and learning from them.

(October) We went to NYC for my birthday. I got to see my very good friend Eleni, who was spending part of her sabbatical in NY, and my wonderful sister surprised all of us, with live entertainment in a party she so graciously hosted in my honor. I love that woman. And a wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, accomplished woman she is. I’m sure you would love her too, if you ever met her. My cousin Marco was there too, and that was such a special and heartfelt event.

(November) Was all about wrapping up the term, flying to Orlando for an invited presentation at NAEYC and then Thanksgiving with Mike’s family, up in Wisconsin. It’s always a good time up at Nancy and John’s place. They are such sweet and attentive people, I truly enjoy visiting them. Also, in November there was a situation with my car, which led me to turn it in for a new one. The positive is that I finally got myself the car I had been wanting and saving for for a few years. All my savings had gone into the wedding, so I thought it would take a few more years of saving to purchase it. But as good fortune and hard work would have it, I’ve been doing some consulting work on the side, which allowed me to purchase it sooner than I thought. And just in time too, because my old car really had to go immediately (I’ll tell you the story another time).

(December) Saw us working to get all things done in time to take some time off. We drove to NYC with the boys in-tow. It took us 13 hours, but we made it in one piece, all in one day. We spent about 5 days in Manhattan and then drove up to Hudson, were we spent two glorious weeks in the wilderness. Well, in a beautiful house, with central heating, wifi, and plenty of supplies. We spent Christmas and New Years there, and on the 2nd promptly drove back home.

(January) So far January has been good. I’ve resume my meditating, which I truly believe had much to do with last term being so positive for me. And I’m in the throws of several research and writing projects that I am very excited and motivated about. There is a ton of service on my plate these days too, but it’s ok, I’m not doing anything I don’t believe in, so that’s always a good thing.

This new year 2016 promises to be very busy, it has been so thus far. I have high hopes for it being filled with finished projects and accomplishments work-wise. At a personal level, I’m seeking peace of mind and embracing happiness. I think daily meditation is a good start, but I also think I need to get myself to yoga and exercising again, in order to achieve the happy state. I want to embrace being grateful and stressing less about the small stuff. I want to let things go more, and not strive for perfection as much.

I also need to lose 20 lbs and go on a no-buy phase in order to start saving again, this time for a house. But if I’m being fair to myself, I have started tackling all of those goals already. I have lost about 3-4 lbs (depending on the day), and have stopped buying things I want but don’t need (I was on a makeup buying spree that seemed more like an uncontrolable addition than anything else). The daily meditation really helps me be more present, grateful, and loving. It’s working. I’m on my way to making 2016 all I need it to be. How about you? What have you been up to since we last talked?

T-Minus 2 Weeks

We are only two weeks away guys. Two freaking weeks!!! Actually, it’s less than two weeks. To be exact, we are 12 days away from the wedding day. Anyone nervous yet? Yeah.

I’m stressed, been super stressed lately. But not nervous yet. Hope I don’t get nervous and get over my extra high stress levels, so I can relax and enjoy all of this. Thing are all falling together. Just a few little details to get together, but for the most part it’s out of my hands now, meaning all those hired and contracted vendors should be on it or getting on it next week.

Here we go, yahookitie!!! Wish us luck, and hope for not too many things to go wrong.

Happy 4th!

flag and fireworks

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I hope you are off to some fun ventures. I have already had a homemade facial, a teeth whitening, and a bubble bath. Pampering anyone?

I hope your 4th is great too!

Happy BDay Max!

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Maxy turns 7 today.

Happy Birthday, my loud, grumpy and cutest-thing-ever boy!