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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Independence Days

Why is it that every August, it seems like we try to push Summer aside and move on to Winter so fast? We still have a good ten weeks before the first frost, yet the stores are all about back to school, and I’ve already seen Halloween candy on shelves! Summer is my season, so I like to pretend like it will never end.

Our Summer has been fairly uneventful so far. The boys enjoyed fireworks on the 4th of July and participated in the neighborhood wagon/bike parade in 100 degree heat while parents hovered in the shade. We were going to take the boys to a fireworks display, but some of the neighbors on our block had illegal fireworks, so we just joined in on that fun. Thinking back to my own childhood, if given the choice of a beautiful fireworks display or blowing up crap in front of my house while stuffing my face with s’mores, I would have chosen the latter! They had fun, and no police showed up, so the 4th was a success.

It’s been hot here in Denver, but not as bad as everywhere east of here under the “heat dome”. Mostly it’s been in the mid 90s, and still is, but without oppressive humidity, it’s not so bad. We sold all the baby stuff at our annual neighborhood garage sale and made a decent amount of money. I can do cartwheels in the storage room once again (well, if I could do cartwheels) without the high chairs, double stroller, and whatever other baby etcetera was cluttering the place up. Getting rid of crap pleases me!

The boys school goes on camp mode in Summer, so that means a different theme every two weeks with “splash day” every Wednesday (they play in sprinklers and have numerous water tables set out) and picnics every Friday. The session on the solar system fascinated them and they would come home talking about planets and rockets. This week is dinosaurs, equally fascinating for them. I was impressed when Dylan showed me one picture on the wall at school (out of many) and correctly identified it as a T-Rex. Maybe this pre-preschool learning is really paying off! In three weeks, they’ll go back to school mode with more of a classroom setting.

I recently met another gay couple in our neighborhood who has 18 month old twins from surrogacy. They heard our neighborhood was great for gay parenting, and say it’s lived up to their expectations. Our gay couple friends down the street had their baby shower a couple weeks ago and their babies are due in late September. I remember our baby shower so vividly… sort of the calm before the storm. At the baby shower I met a woman who has adult twins, so she was interested in talking to me about our twins. She asked how old they were and when I said three, she said, “So you’re just leaving the dark forest”. I knew exactly what she meant! I know so many parents of multiples and it really is three years of hell. Fun, love, and hell! I’ve heard people say they want twins and think it sounds like fun. Mmmm… not really, unless you have a ton of help and lots of money, or just don’t require any sleep or personal time. But things are so much easier now. Taking both of them to the store or just getting out the door and into the car is much easier now. The other day they were playing in the water outside and when they came in, I was starting dinner. They wanted dry clothes so I told them to go upstairs, take off their wet clothes, find something dry and put it on. No supervision. And they did it. They came downstairs in matching outfits, although the shirts were long-sleeved and Reid’s shirt was on backwards, but they actually did it. Milestones like this are exciting. And they love coloring, a great way to keep them occupied while we make dinner or clean house. They’ll color for an hour with little supervision. I think my stress levels are coming down as the boys gain their independence.

And here is a picture of Reid, post surgery. Yesterday he had his tonsils removed. He was so excited, at least up until he realized what was really going down. He was quite proud of the band-aid he received, but is still home resting. I feel sorry for him because I remember having my tonsils removed when I was four. It really hurt, and ice cream didn’t make it all better! My parents will be back to visit in a couple weeks before they head to the mountains. I’m supposed to be taking the boys up to visit them at their rented condo to take them on some mountain train ride. I’m sure the scenery will be spectacular and the boys will be thrilled.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gay Parenting: Under the Spotlight

Sometimes I think there’s more pressure on gay couples to produce well-behaved, perfect children. Of course there are no perfect children, or parents. But in the back of my mind, I think people are taking a closer look at our family just to see if two men really can raise children together. I suppose my thought is that if my kids turn our horrible, people will be thinking, “See, that’s why a gay couple shouldn’t be raising kids.” Or maybe it’s just my own personal paranoia that makes me think this!

As parents, we don’t get a grade card every six months to rate our parenting skills. So when someone tells you you’re doing a great job, it’s a special moment. Last Saturday we were at a first birthday party when one of our neighbors told me that she couldn’t believe how big Dylan and Reid had become, and that she thought they were very well behaved. I could tell she was being genuine when she said, “No, really, you guys are doing a great job”. Just that one comment made me proud – proud of the boys, and proud of us, as a couple.

Last Fall I took a Love and Logic parenting class. One of the main things I took away from that class was to be consistent, and to never reward negative behavior. For instance, the other day at the park, Reid wanted a toy I had and he tried to grab it from me. Then he started whining and crying. For a split second, I thought about handing it to him just to stop the crying. But I didn’t, because as I’m sure any parent knows, that would teach him that whining and crying leads to him getting his way which in turn would lead to more whining and crying episodes. Giving in is the easy way out when parenting. I think it’s really about teaching them self control, and that we don’t always get what we want in life. The earlier they learn these two things, the easier life will be for the four of us further down the road. Of course there are many other aspects to good parenting, but I think we’ve been very consistent and it seems to be paying off.

I’m far from a perfect parent. Just this morning on the way to school, one of the boys yelled at a truck that passed us. He was copying my behavior from last week when I yelled at a truck that was in my way while we were in a hurry. Not a huge deal, but it made me realize how much they’re watching me, and how my behavior directly affects theirs. But at least I’m smart enough to recognize these things and I try to monitor my own behavior around them.

There seems to be little research done on the children of gay parents where a gay couple set out to become parents. Most research has focused on children where a parent came out later in life and their parents split up. A 2010 study by Nanette Gartrell, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, and Henry Bos, a behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam, focused on children born to lesbian couples. They had expected to find little difference in these children compared to those born to heterosexual couples. But they found that the children raised by lesbian couples scored higher on some levels of psychological competency and had lower levels of behavioral problems. The study suggested that in the children they followed, their lesbian mothers were very involved in their lives, very present, and had good communication with their children. This study is ongoing and will also present data on children raised by gay male couples as well. You can read the entire study here:

My guess is that most gay and lesbian couples are probably older when they have children, and probably more likely to be college educated. That’s only based on the gay and lesbian parents I personally know, but considering the expense, you probably won’t find many 20 year olds who can afford something like surrogacy. I’ve read studies that show children who are born to older parents tend to do better in life as well. My daily parenting goal is to just be the best parent I’m capable of being. I screw up from time to time, but every day is a new chance to do things better. I want my boys to grow up to be honest, strong, and well-adjusted men who are capable of greatness. The real pressure is my love for the boys, and my desire to see them succeed. But it was comforting to hear from someone else that overall, we’re doing a great job.

And for anyone who has read all the way back to my first post where I mentioned how much I hated cluttered refrigerators, here’s what our refrigerator looks like today. I guess I’ve just accepted it as looking “homey”!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Busy Month of May

Easter, Mother’s Day, the boy’s birthday, Nick’s birthday, and two family visits, all in the course of three weeks. We’ve been busy! But lucky me, I'm getting six days and nights of quiet and rest. Nick took the boys to Florida to visit his grandmother, so I'm home alone with our dog Bella. This is the first time since they were born that I've been home alone. While I miss them all, it's a nice break. Bella seems to enjoy the peace and I'm giving her extra attention.

The big event this month was of course the boys third birthday. This year we opted for a trip to the Children’s Museum and cake and presents at home afterward. We decided not to invite the entire neighborhood over again. It’s too much work, and then you get invited to every kid’s birthday party in the neighborhood for the rest of the year, so we went the simpler route. My brother was here the weekend before their birthday when we celebrated, then my parents were here the weekend after.

Dylan and Reid knew it was their birthday, which really made it more fun. I think my family enjoyed them more too since they’re able to communicate, and the boys know who Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jon are. The big present was a water/sand table, which they love and I hate. I hate it because of the obvious reason – they drag sand into the house and all over the patio. They also like their super soaker squirt guns, but the Legos and Lincoln Logs just seem to end up all over the place. I recall being a little boy who sat quietly in the basement, alone for hours, building things with my Legos. I guess I was older though. Reid seems to think the fun of these toys, as well as puzzles, is just dumping them out onto the floor.

I think we’re officially on sugar detox after all the cake and Easter candy. I quietly put the Easter baskets back in the storage room last weekend after the boys went to sleep. I’ve gotta look good in board shorts for the pool, so no more candy! We still have food in the house like Oreos and Pop Tarts – things I would never buy for myself. I’ve turned the boys on to fat-free sorbet for desert which they seem to like, and it’s healthier for Papa.

Our neighbors who have a surrogate pregnant with twins came over Saturday night for a little guidance. They have five months until birth, so it’s about that time to start preparing. I think they know more about babies than I did prior to parenthood, but we were explaining the routine we had the first year while trying not to scare them. Our nanny we used prior to me being laid off will be available this Fall, so they may end up using her. I don’t know if I mentioned her before, but she’s a skinny, short Chinese woman in her ‘60s. She was a great nanny and funny too – very conscientious, good with the boys, and kept the house clean. I asked her why she wanted to be a nanny for a gay couple and she said because she likes gay men, and because women are “too much drama”. Only in our neighborhood could she keep finding gay couples to nanny for!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So you thought this blog was dead, didn’t you? Life is just extremely busy with work. The boys are doing great, talking more every day and they seem to have changed from toddlers to children. They’re also in soccer lessons on Saturday mornings and just finished their second round of swimming lessons. We have less crying, and not many tantrums these days. Last Summer I thought I was going to lose my mind with the screaming, crying, and tantrums. I don’t know if it’s the school, or if they’ve just moved a little beyond the “terrible twos”, but life has definitely calmed down. They get loud and run around, scream (happy screaming) and play, but I can deal with that. It just seems like things are much easier these days.

They’re excited about their birthday, which is in two weeks. I told them Easter was coming first, and I was surprised they remembered the candy and eggs from last Easter. I guess when you’re almost three, you remember when someone’s supposed to give you lots of candy. I doubt if we’ll drag them to any of the Holy Week services, but they do like going to church on Sundays. I already bought everything for their Easter baskets, but still need to get Easter outfits. Then I was just thinking the other day about the whole egg dying ritual. So we dye the eggs, leave them out in the baskets, and then the Easter Bunny mysteriously gets into the house and hides the eggs, if I remember correctly. Santa Clause seems believable at age three, but a bunny who hides eggs? I need to Google this and figure out what the point is! We’re also having a neighborhood egg hunt in the park across the street, plus an egg hunt at the boys’ school. This means lots of candy to beg for and fight over!

Speaking of gay dads with twins (we were?), a gay couple on our block (friends of ours) now has a surrogate pregnant with twins. This will be the 8th set of twins on our street. We helped them out when they began the process, just as another couple in our neighborhood did for us. We heard another gay couple with twins moved in about three blocks from us, across from friends of ours who adopted two brothers. Something crazy is going on in our ‘hood!

My job is going well, although I’m still not a permanent employee, but on contract. My contract has been extended through the year and I suspect I’ll end up as a permanent employee before the year’s over. What I love about this place is how gay friendly it is. I’ve been 100% out from day one on the job, and it’s very refreshing. My boss is gay, they have a gay employee’s organization and all references to spouses include “domestic partner”. This place is so gay, and I mean that in the good way.

I suppose this post is all over the place, so I’ll throw in an odd story from a couple weeks ago. I took the boys to Target because we were almost out of toilet paper. I generally try to avoid taking them to the store since it’s just stressful with both of them, but Nick was gone and I had to do it. So Reid started throwing a tantrum just as we got into the store, and I almost turned around and left. But we really needed toilet paper, so I put him into the basket seat, strapped him in, picked up his shoes (he kicked them off) and pressed on, trying to ignore his rage. Reid doesn’t have tantrums often these days, but when he does, he makes it worth his time. People were looking at us, but I figured within five minutes, he’d be done. Reid’s tantrums sound like he’s being stabbed with a knife, to give you an idea of the intensity. So we got to the toilet paper aisle and this 50-ish woman came running up to us. At first I thought it was some woman who thought she could help (this has happened before when I was trying to do the self check out at the grocery store and they were melting down), but she started asking Reid if I was his father. I told her I was their father, and she said, “No! I’m not talking to you!” Then she tried to take him out of the cart. My mind was just spinning, going from “ignore the meltdown” mode to “someone’s trying to take my child” mode. All I could say was, “Are you crazy lady??” Then some younger guy ran up and told her, “You can’t do this!” She responded, “I’m not on duty!” So she thought that I had kidnapped the boys and decided to be a hero. I told her to ask Dylan who his father was since he was calm, and he pointed to me and said, “That’s my papa”, so she retreated. I think what bothered me most was that this woman looked at me and thought I was a kidnapper. And really? I’m going to kidnap two little boys and then go shopping for toilet paper in Target? I guarantee this wouldn’t have happened if I were a woman who looked like my children!

But overall, things are going quite well for our family, and so far, 2011 is looking much better than 2010. Although winter hasn’t been too bad in Denver , I’m ready for Spring. The grass is green, the trees are getting leaves, and we’re having more evenings where the boys can go out to play after dinner. My brother and parents will be here in two weeks for a birthday celebration, although we haven’t figured out what this will be. Possibly a day at the zoo and Chuck-E-Cheese. We’ve decided against inviting over 100 of our closest friends and neighbors like the past two parties. I haven’t bought them any presents yet either, so more on my to-do list. Then Nick’s birthday is a week after the boys’, then Mother’s Day. I bleed money every May!

Oh, and you can tell by the picture, the boys have glasses now. They're disposable and we get a new pair every month. Or at least Dylan and Reid think they're disposable since they seem to keep breaking them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big Changes

As the seasons seem to have changed the past week from warm to cooler weather, big changes have come to our family. I’ve finally found work, although it’s only an “open ended contract” and they can’t tell me how long it will go or whether it will become a permanent position. I’ll be a technical and marketing writer for a major healthcare insurance company. I think my unemployment benefits would end for good in January, so the timing is perfect. Some may say it’s luck, but I believe a higher power has intervened. Since daycare is so expensive for twins, and since Nick’s job reduced his pay by about 30% two years ago, I had to find work paying about 50% more than I was previously earning, and that’s exactly what this job pays. Coincidence? I don’t think it is. The odd thing is that my first day is next Monday, but I’m working from home. My new boss is supposed to send me work tomorrow, which seems very odd to me. After going through all the hassle and expense of getting the boys ready to start daycare, I really hope this works out. It’ll be great experience for me because the healthcare industry is a major hiring employer these days, and it’s difficult to break into the industry from outside.

We put the boys in a Montessori daycare, and they’ll be in a preschool environment with kids two to three years old. They seemed very excited to tour the school and see into the classrooms. They’ll be in separate classrooms which seems to be standard for twins. We both felt that it was really time for them to be in school based on their boredom and destructive behavior at home all day. Reid destroyed a large piece of artwork, a humidifier, and my checkbook all in one week recently! The school will potty train them, something I’ve been working on a little, but so far no success. Everyone I’ve talked to said that once kids go into daycare at this age, they see the other kids who are potty trained and want to do the same. So next Monday is our big day. Nick took the day off so he can observe them part of the day. I’m a little nervous about starting a job after all this time, but I need this too. At least we get to break in easy on a short week. I know I’ll miss them horribly, and they’ll miss me. Just the other day I was gone to the store and when I returned, they met me at the door, giving me hugs and kisses saying, “I miss you Papa!”

My parents are driving out for Thanksgiving and arriving Tuesday, so we have lots of preparations. I already put up the Christmas lights while it was warm to avoid the hassle once I’m working. Nick is preparing a full Turkey dinner and will probably make too much food as usual. The boys are getting excited and already have holidays confused since Christmas seems to precede Thanksgiving in the 21st Century. We went to a “Winter Welcome” last evening at our town center where they turned on all the lights and a huge Christmas tree, had a DJ, fire pits for s’mores, and lots of hot cocoa. Reid and Dylan danced around the tree among with all the other kids, thrilled by the lights.

I suppose I have a lot to be thankful for this year. A healthy family (my foot is healing remarkably fast according to the doctor), two beautiful boys, a loving partner, a wonderful home, good friends and neighbors, and a new job opportunity. I am truly blessed and thankful! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So, You Broke Your Foot!

Those are the words I received from the emergency room doctor 11 days ago. I’ve never broken a bone in my body, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Did I break it scoring the winning goal in a soccer game? A bar-room brawl? A 50-yard dash? No, I ran up the stairs in our house. I somehow misjudged while taking two steps at a time. Just goes to show how fragile life (and feet) are.

Unfortunately for me, Nick was headed out of town the next day on a trip he had won through work, so there I was, alone with the boys for nine days with a throbbing, black and swollen foot. They told me to stay off of it for three days, keep it elevated, and use ice for the swelling. Of course none of those things happened. I go back later this week to see how it’s healing, so hopefully the boot they gave me to wear has done the trick. I couldn’t slow down at all, but in the past couple days the pain has disappeared, a good sign.

Nick didn’t get back until around 8 p.m. on Halloween, so it was all on me to take the boys trick-or-treating and then hand out 420 pieces of candy. Our neighborhood reminds me of my days of trick-or-treating back in the ‘70s before anyone was worried about razor blades in candy. I ran out of candy at 7:15 and could have probably handed out another 200 pieces. We had taken the boys to pick out costumes a couple weeks ago and Dylan chose Batman and Reid chose SuperWhy (he's a reading superhero on PBS weekday mornings). They practiced saying "trick-or-treat" for days, and knew that something was going down, although I don't think they knew exactly what. But it was fun to see them get so excited. After about two houses, they caught on fast and wanted to keep going to get more candy. It was a warm evening, so the boys and I handed out candy from the front porch after they were done trick-or-treating. But then they kept taking off, bothering the next door neighbors who were doing the same. It was stressful to keep up with them and make sure they didn’t get too far from me. But in the end, I suppose everything worked out and the boys understand what Halloween is all about. And they only ate candy for dinner, but I let them have fun.

Another thing that crossed my mind in the past week is how difficult it is to raise children with little to no help. Nick had called my parents, but it would have taken them several days to get here (my mother is incapable of leaving home without a full 20 days to plan and pack) and neither my father nor mother walks dogs, changes diapers, cooks, or cleans, so what would the point have been for them to bother coming here? I’ve still never met Nick’s mom, and she’s never been here to see her grandkids. All the neighbors were busy on Halloween, so really no one was able to help out. I just sucked it up and took it one day at a time.

I can’t believe it’s only three weeks until Thanksgiving. We’ll have no family here for the holiday, so I’m going to start checking around and see if our gay parent couple friends are interested in getting together. Holidays are much more fun with laughter, friends, and even more children.

One final note. I HAVE to watch Oprah today with Ricky Martin. I’m mostly curious to see how he deals with his twin boys. They were conceived in the same clinic as our boys, and at about the same time. I’m sure he has a nanny or two, but his story should be interesting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

So how much patience do you have? Think you have what it takes to be a parent? I’ve never considered myself to be a patient person at all, so I have to be proud of myself this morning.

Reid had an appointment with an ENT specialist because of his ear infection and tonsil issue. He’s doing better after a week on antibiotics, but he doesn’t seem to be completely over it. I had to take both boys, so I was dreading this trip to a new doctor. I left early, expecting heavy traffic, plus I’ve never been to this particular doctor and wanted to allow time to find the place. Reid and Dylan were happy to be going somewhere in the car and did their “chair dancing” to music on the radio the whole way there. I was thinking they were in such a good mood, this just might turn out to be an easy doctor visit.

The boys ran toward the building, racing to the big blue button that they’ve figured out opens doors on every building. “C’mon Dylan”, Reid ordered. He’s become quite comfortable with ordering his brother around. We had to take the elevator, and I still have to wonder why every elevator has the alarm button down low enough for a two-year-old to reach. We just can’t ride an elevator without ringing the alarm! But then I was a little boy once, so I understand the fascination with buttons.

Nick had filled out all the paperwork online and printed it out, so all I had to do was sign in and wait. The woman called me over and asked for my ID to make a copy. Then she asked me, “Who are you? We need a relative here for this.” Nick had used his name on the paperwork as the father, but I had noticed my name in there somewhere too. “I’m the father”, I responded. Then she asked me who the other man was on the paper work. “He’s their other father,” I said. “Oh. OOOHHH!”, the lady said. Before I even thought, I told her, “It’s all very ‘Modern Family’”, and she laughed.

The boys found a toy in the corner and I sat down to wait with a magazine. Reid started to play with brochures, and I told him to leave them alone. “NO”, he said. So I took the brochure display and moved it up where he couldn’t reach them. And so it began, 40 minutes of the best kicking and screaming tantrum any two-year-old could muster. People in the waiting room were looking at me like, “OK, my life might really suck, but at least I’m not that guy over there with the screaming kid!” There was nothing I could do but shut my brain off. If I only had one kid, I could have taken him outside the office, but I had to stay with Dylan. I maintained my patience and tried to ignore the screaming, holding Reid the entire time. After about 20 minutes, we were called back to the exam room where he continued screaming. Surprisingly, he settled down for a hearing test (the woman was great with kids) and did fairly well after that. The doctor wants to see if the fluid goes away in his ears on its own in the next week, and if it doesn't, he'll need tubes put in. We'll be back for another round at this doctor's office.

I have no idea what Reid's problem was, or why my taking away brochures set off such a long tantrum, but that’s a two-year-old for you. Once we were done, Dylan decided it was his turn for a tantrum, apparently angry about his choice of stickers they offered him. He fell on the floor, pulled his shoes off and threw them across the waiting room. Luckily, Reid had stabilized by now, so I just put Dylan’s shoes in the diaper bag, picked up Dylan as he kicked and screamed (which isn’t easy because he’s now around 33 pounds) and headed for the elevator. Dylan’s fit was short and sweet, as he settled down to push the alarm in the elevator on the way down.

So the moral of the story is, patience can be learned. And must be learned when you’re the parent of two-year-old twins. Or maybe the moral is, two-year-olds and going out in public don’t mix!