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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!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Trip to the ER

It's been a loooong weekend. Reid has a double ear infection and Nick had to go out of town for a work. Poor Reid, whining and crying now for three days. It just kills me to see either of them in pain. Then I had noticed yesterday blood on his pillow. After his nap, more blood, and lots of blood in his mouth! Luckily our dentist lives nearby so I had her take a look. She could see his tonsils were inflamed and bloody and suggested going to the emergency room, so we spent the evening at the hospital. I think Reid was more scared than in pain, but he cried the whole time while we were waiting. It turned out that he has big tonsils and they were infected too, but since he's already on antibiotics, he just had to continue on the same course. The main concern was that he could have been reacting to the antibiotics, but that was ruled out. Hopefully he'll be better soon.

I was talking to a good friend of mine today from high school on the phone and she was telling me about how her son, who's in high school, may be pretending to be gay, or letting people think he's gay, just to "be cool". Wow, times sure have changed since I was in high school. Sometimes I worry about how my boys will be treated in school for having two dads, but then I forget that kids know a lot more these days, and it's not like they'll be the only kids with same sex parents. You hear the horrible stories recently about gay teens being taunted and bullied in the news, but I have to wonder if these aren't very isolated issues, or at least hope they're not the norm. I was never bullied in school, but then I wasn't out, and really didn't understand my own feelings at the time. I guess I was just sort of asexual through my teen years, so it wasn't an issue for me.

Fall is here, and today is gloomy, cool, and rainy. No frost yet, so the trees aren't turning much. Seems so strange that the season is changing, but time goes on. We haven't figured out what the boys will be for Halloween, but they seemed excited to help put up Fall decorations in the house and Halloween lights outside. Every time we go to the store, they get so excited when they see all the "punkins". They know something is up! The holidays should be a lot of fun for them this year. They know what candy is too, so I'm sure they'll catch on to trick-or-treating fast.

My parents are coming to visit later in the week, and possibly Nick's mother as well. Should be interesting if she comes since I've never met her and she's never met the boys. I think it's nice that my parents are coming every six months to visit so hopefully the boys will have some memory of grandparents.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

At Summer's End

Summer is coming to a close, although it’s still 90 degrees in Denver today. These pictures were taken at a nearby pool a couple weeks ago on a very hot afternoon. The boys still don’t want to go into deep water, but they have fun in the sprayers and the very shallow water. I can sit in the water to keep cool while keeping an eye on them playing, a great way to wear them out and spend a hot summer day. We just reapply sun block often.

The boys are growing and learning to talk, and have learned how to turn down 95% of the food presented to them at meal times. I guess that’s typical, but really, how many crust-less peanut butter and jelly samiches can two little boys eat? Guess we’ll find out. Reid is still ahead in language skills, and I’m surprised almost daily by the new things he says. He’s very observant and repeats as well as any trained parrot.

I’m starting a parenting class tomorrow evening that was recommended by neighbors. It’s a series of five two-hour classes, so I’ll see how it goes. I want so much for my boys, and want to be the best parent possible. I didn’t grow up around many kids since my family was small, and never had cousins with kids or really any point of reference as how to best deal with toddlers other than my memories of how I was raised. My parents were young when they had me, and I was spanked up until about age five. I remember once asking my mom to spank me instead of taking away my bike for a week for some infraction, and she told me no, that I was too big for spanking. At that point I realized that spanking was over with fast, but having privileges taken away hurt more. I was never hit or abused, just properly disciplined in my opinion. We’ve moved well into the discipline stage at this point, and Reid is very familiar with the “naughty spot”. I got that one from “Supernanny”. I’m curious to see how this class goes and what 21st Century parenting ideas they have. Maybe this will give me new blog material!

Full time work still evades me, although I had a quick contract job that I was able to do from home. My partner and I have decided to turn this work I’ve done into a business, so we started a corporation and have a website close to being complete. Neither one of us has ever done this before, but Nick seems very motivated and has the sales talent and connections. If this works out, it could be the perfect solution for us both. Otherwise, I’m continuing with my volunteer work and being a full-time papa.

I’m never thrilled about the changes this time of year from shorts and flip-flops to coats and socks. Winter can seem very isolating, and it’s so hard to endure the dark evenings. But this year the boys will probably have more fun with Halloween and Christmas. I dug through their clothes the other day and they don’t have a single pair of long pants that fit, or even a coat that fits. I picked up a couple pairs of Winter pajamas the other day, but we really need to do some clothes shopping. It takes all four of us together to go find clothes that fit. Like typical boys, they seem to not like trying on clothes. I haven’t figured out what they’ll be for Halloween, but they still keep dragging out their monkey costumes from last year and squeezing into them. Guess we got our money’s worth on those costumes! There is a bright side this Winter. The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s supposed to be warmer and drier than normal, so maybe we’ll still get lots of playground time after all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This and That

I know, it's been a while! Summer is busy, and I feel like every moment of every day is consumed.

Nick gave me air miles to take a needed break, so I spent five days back in California visiting old friends and neighbors. The best part... I got to sleep nine hours each night! It seemed odd to be carefree and off schedule, but I enjoyed the time away.

My unemployment benefits stopped a month ago, but they're supposed to start back up since Congress finally passed the latest extension. They really keep you in the dark on these benefits, and I didn't even know I was at the end of my first extension. I know people who have been on unemployment for two years, so I was a little surprised to have benefits stop after only nine months. Anyway, my extension is good through sometime in November, and I'm guessing there probably won't be any more extensions, or at least won't count on it. The last resort will be to get the boys in some sort of daycare before November and I go register with every job agency in town and take any job I can get. The alternative would be financial ruin for me! I've had a couple good interviews recently, but neither one has resulted in a job offer yet. One was a Federal job, and they can take months to actually get the offer. I try to calm my anxiety and have faith that everything will fall into place, but no matter what happens, there will be huge adjustments. Getting back into spending my days at work sounds daunting, although I think I need the mental stimulation. Putting the boys in daycare is another worry for me and cause of anxiety. I hate the idea of it, but I know plenty of people who use daycare and everyone adjusts and survives.

The boys keep growing, learning, fighting, and surprising me . Reid is saying new things almost daily, and Dylan finally started spouting off words here and there. The nice thing is that they can ask for things once in a while rather than crying and whining. We're working on ABCs and numbers too. Reid still gets into everything, and every time he makes another mess, I wonder when he'll grow out of this.

It's been hot here, so outdoor activities have been limited to evenings for the most part. We've been to museums and a few indoor activities, and tomorrow, we're riding the rails. They love trains, and loved the little train at the zoo, so tomorrow morning we're taking the light rail train out to a suburban mall. I think they'll enjoy riding a real train, and it's cheap entertainment!

One thing I've noticed in our neighborhood is that many of the stay at home moms seem to have their cliques, and I don't fit into them. I'm not taking offense to that, but being a gay stay at home parent can be rather lonely at times. Really, what do I have in common with these women, outside of parenting? I've been meaning to reach out to our gay dad friends to get together because it just seems more natural to be around them. When you're dealing with two-year-old twins, time seems to get away and it's easy to end up not being very social. I think I've become a bit depressed, partially due to the job situation, but also just feeling lonely, so I need to make more effort to schedule social time of some sort.

The boys like the pool, but they love the fountains at a nearby park more, so that's another evening activity we've taken up for hot nights. The weekend before last, our air conditioner went out and it was over 100 degrees, so we had to find some way to cool down. I'd forgotten about these fountains that were installed just for the purpose of play.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer is Finally Here

May has been a busy month, and it still isn't winding down! My parents were here last weekend, then headed up to the mountains for the week, and will be back for Memorial Day weekend. Their visit went well and they really seemed to enjoy the boys and all the silly things they do. Two weekends ago was our neighborhood block party, which was mostly work for me. Nick was out of town for work, so watching the boys alone at the party was a little nerve-wracking! They had a petting zoo, jumpy castle, train rides, a DJ, and lots of food. Many things for little boys to get into. Then last weekend we had a one year birthday party for a neighbor, and like all one-year-old parties around here, it quite the soiree. This Sunday is yet another party in the park that neighbors are hosting, a three year old birthday party, and keeping my parents occupied. Our neighborhood swimming pool opens up too, so it could be a busy weekend. Maybe June will be a little less crazy.

Nick has someone coming tomorrow to start the boys on piano lessons. I took lessons for a couple years, but the saxophone was my specialty, and I played all the way up to college in different bands. But I'm curious to see what can be taught to two-year-olds. So far, they have pounding on the keyboard down quite well! We also have a neighborhood soccer class that takes kids from 18 months, so we may try that too. Dylan definitely seems more interested in kicking a soccer ball and playing catch, but we may let them both try it to see if they like it.

No more Modern Family, Brothers and Sisters, or Desperate Housewives for a while. I guess we're supposed to be outside at the playground in the evening this time of year and not watching television. True Blood starts up again next month and Nick got me hooked on that one. I think we'll have to DVR True Blood and watch it after the boys go to sleep. They're getting to that age where we're going to have to figure out how to use the parental controls and block channels. We get every channel satellite TV offers, so I'm sure something will need to be blocked eventually.

Also on my agenda is potty training, at least for Reid. I really have no clue what to do here, and from what I've heard, no one else does either. You just try different things and see what works. But Reid has started grabbing his diaper and saying "yuk", and then took off his diaper twice in the past week to pee on the floor. Although it just seems wrong to me, at the advice of neighbors, we've shown them "how to pee in the potty" a few times. I suppose this makes sense. How else would they know how to go? We got a potty that hooks onto the regular toilet with a step for them to get up. Reid peed in the toilet after lunch today and got lots of praise and a sticker. Dylan seemed baffled by what was going on and kept going back to look in the toilet. I've heard that with twins, one will become potty trained and then the other one usually follows, not wanting to be left out. I've tried Dylan on the toilet and he just cries, as if something horrible were happening to him. I've dreaded potty training since they were born, but I suppose my motivation is that I'm spending at least $75 a month on diapers. This should be interesting.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This is my favorite picture from the photo shoot I did with the boys three weeks ago. Since Nick turned 40 a few days after the boys' birthday, I hired a photographer and did a photo shoot as a present for him. I bought a nice frame that's actually many connected frames and put all my favorites in it to create a nice piece of artwork that's now in the entry hall. Nick seemed to really like it and appreciate all the work that went into it. The boys' birthday was exhausting, but they had fun. Plus, after they blew out their candles, I surprised Nick with his 40th cake. I don't think he was expecting that, but I figured there was no sense in inviting 60 people back a few days later.

I had a great interview with four people for a job, but in the end, no job. The recruiter told me that two of the interviewers wanted to hire me, but the other two thought my "energy level wasn't quite where they wanted it to be". Personally, I think that was a BS excuse. I was interviewed by two men and two women, and felt like I connected with the women and one of the men. The other man had the energy level of a doorknob, and the recruiter said the other man was one of the two who wanted to hire me. I have a feeling I was vetoed by the women for some other reason. Maybe they didn't want a man in the position? One of the women stressed that the company was very "family oriented". For a gay father, that can mean more than one thing. On the surface, it sounds great for someone like me who is family oriented. But then that can also be code for "anti-gay", so maybe it was best that I didn't get the job. I doubt they thought I was gay since I brought up having children. One of the men asked what I'd been doing during unemployment, so I mentioned staying at home with the boys and my volunteer work. He seemed impressed that I was home with the boys, but asked if my "wife was working". I just responded "yes". So what should I have said? Times are tough, and putting a gay stamp on my forehead probably wouldn't have helped any. Coming out in the workplace is always a difficult process since your livelihood depends on you job. I was semi-outed in my last job after the boys were born, and had no issues with anyone. I'd prefer to work somewhere gay friendly, but somehow I always seem to end up working with mostly conservative old people! It's just difficult to keep your personal life personal when you have kids.

Hopefully I'll get an unemployment extension the end of this month as I keep looking. I'm on my first extension right now, but they don't explain how the extensions work or how long you really have. It's been almost a year since I was laid off, so I'm a bit worried at this point. One year, 140 applications, two in-person interviews, and two phone interviews. Very discouraging!

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Busy Week

So I have a real, in-person job interview next Tuesday for a decent job that would pay a fair amount more than I was making with my last job. That's good news, and with the boys entering their "terrible twos", it might be a good thing to have them in daycare and let someone else deal with the tantrums for a while! Case in point, Dylan had a major meltdown in the middle of Albertsons today. A full-on, four-alarm tantrum with snot and tears all over his face. I have no clue what the tantrum was for, and I felt like an idiot trying to use the self checkout as fast as I could while people stared at us. Of course I had a bunch of produce to look up, and I left the two bottles of juice under the cart in the parking lot because I was so frazzled. Oh well, I had forgot to scan them, so I didn't pay for them.

If I get a job offer, we'll have to scramble to find daycare. That's problem number one. Problem number two is that I'll have to go through the misery of leaving them at daycare all day and feeling sad/guilty. I've heard from other parents about how they cried the first few times they left their toddlers at daycare. I'm just so used to them being with me all the time, but then they'll probably learn more at daycare than being with me. I've heard from other parents that their kids are usually exhausted after a day in daycare and sleep better too. I'm trying not to worry about all the change and emotion that will come with going back to work, but it's inevitable. And if that's not enough guilt, I'll feel guilty for leaving the dog home alone all day. She's getting old, and we'll either need a dog walker or one of us will have to come home to let her out at lunch. When I was working, I rarely took a relaxing lunch. I either came home to walk the dog, or went to the gym. Going back to work makes life so much more hectic. Finding the right daycare is important too. It needs to be convenient (easy for drop off and pick up), someplace we feel comfortable leaving the boys, and then the price has to be right. The closest daycare down the street wants $2800 a month for both of them! We're on the list at another daycare that's non-profit and would be $1600 a month, but it's out of the way, and although we're at the top of the waiting list, they don't have two openings for us right now.

This week has been stressful with so much work and preparation for the boys birthday party Sunday. My brother is flying in tomorrow, and then I have last minute errands. The weather definitely isn't cooperating as we're on day two of cold, overcast, rainy weather. It's not supposed to be sunny and warm until next Tuesday. Why can't winter just give up and move on? Spring weather at this altitude is crazy. Actually, the weather in Denver is crazy from about October to May with violent temperature swings. It was in the 80s last Wednesday, then only about 50 today. I suppose Summer makes up for it though, as it's extremely pleasant for about four months with low humidity and not many bugs. I'm just ready to put away the coats for good!

If I get this job, I suppose it's meant to be, and life will change again as we enter a new chapter. I've been getting better at living in the moment and taking things one day at a time, so moving back to the work world will be quite a challenge. Things always work out for us, so my worries are just pointless.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Important Is Community for LGBT Parents?

I feel very fortunate to live where we live, in Denver, Colorado. We live in the actual city, not the suburbs, and have found our neighborhood, community, and city to be very accepting of LGBT parents and their children. According to American Community Survey, Denver ranks number 17 in the nation for percentage of gay residents at 8.8%. Not exactly San Francisco, but not bad either. It’s a liberal-leaning city with an active gay community. Although there is a “gay ghetto” in Denver, we don’t live in it. But our neighborhood, I would estimate, is well over 10% gay-owned homes. It’s also a great place to raise kids, and the majority of our neighbors have young children. We’re fortunate enough to be within 15 minutes of everything the city has to offer (restaurants, shopping, museums, parks, all sports venues, etc.) and have great public schools. Most of our neighbors with children are heterosexual couples, but they’re very accepting of us. I don’t remember the specific conversation I had with a neighbor’s six-year-old boy last year, but I do remember his response. “Uh… I know Dylan and Reid have two dads!”, as if he were insulted that I thought he didn’t understand our situation. Sometimes I can forget I’m gay living here since I’m in the same parenting boat as most of our neighbors, and they’re so accepting. For all these reasons, I love where we live. And since we have no family nearby, I’ve found it to be important to have such great neighbors, many of whom feel like family. In the absence of family or grandparent support, it can be very important for LGBT-headed families to build their own support groups. Trust me, the time will come when you need it!

I read “Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is” by Abigail Garner a couple years ago, a book I highly recommend to any gay or lesbian couples considering becoming parents. In her book, Garner showed how important community can be for gay couples raising children. Children who grew up in gay accepting communities had few, if any problems related to having gay parents, whereas children who grew up in more rural, conservative, non-accepting areas had the most issues with other children and other children’s parents. But as I recall, some of the kids she interviewed grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I’m curious if this is still much of an issue in 2010, as society has grown more accepting of the LGBT community in general.

We moved to Denver four years ago from a very conservative area of Southern California. We only knew two gay couples in our neighborhood, and although our neighbors were generally nice to us, no one ever asked us if we were a couple, or seemed comfortable discussing the fact that we were gay. A couple neighbors even made little comments that made me quite aware that they were anti-gay. When a few students at our local high school tried to create a “Gay/Straight Alliance”, it was met by outrage, protests, and negative media coverage. For this reason, among others, I didn’t want to raise children there. I’m sure there were gay parents raising children somewhere nearby, but it certainly wasn’t common. In our current neighborhood, we know many lesbian couples with children as well as a few gay couples with children. We had a gay couple nearby who went through the surrogacy process help us when we started the process, and now we’re doing the same for another couple. We even have an online gay parents group for our neighborhood.

Obviously many gay couples live in conservative areas, but it’s just not as big of a deal when it’s just the two of you. As a couple, you can pretty much keep to yourselves, and I think even in conservative areas, people tend to have a “live and let live” attitude. But once you have children, you can’t live in isolation. Your kids will eventually interact with neighbor kids, and you have to deal with the attitudes of your local schools and other parents.

So here’s my question to other gay and lesbian parents who are reading this.
-What type of community do you live in? Have you found the type of community you live in to be important for your family?
-Have you had issues with the schools and/or neighbors?
-And if you’ve had issues, how have you dealt with them?

I’m wondering if it’s just my perception that it would be bad for my children if we lived in conservative suburbs, or that we have it better living in a more accepting area. After all, it’s 2010 and times are changing. Obviously not all gay and lesbian parents are liberal, or want to live in a more urban environment. I’ve corresponded with a gay parent who was raising children in a very rural environment because that’s where he was comfortable living. And then it seems that most liberal, urban, gay-accepting communities tend to be expensive to live in, another drawback for families. If I had the time to research this subject, I think I’d find that gay couples are happily raising children in all types of communities across the U.S.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Twins are Turning Two!

The countdown has begun! We're planning Reid and Dylan's second birthday party coming up May 2nd, although their birthday is the 3rd, a Monday. Since they seem to love trains, we're going with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme, and rather than inviting 100 people, we've narrowed it down to only 70 this time. Only 70! We'll barbeque and have cake, and hopefully the boys will have a great time. They were thrilled the other day when we had to wait for a train to pass near our house, which always annoys me. But I suppose it was more fun seeing their smiles and listening to "choo, choo" for five minutes. Why is it that little boys are fascinated by trains and trucks?

May is going to be a busy month with the boys' birthday, Nick's 40th birthday, Mother's day, a baby shower... luckily I've budgeted for this several months ago. I have a secret birthday present for Nick that I won't reveal just yet. I had to get a little creative with my budget, but hopefully he'll like it since it involves a lot of work for me.

Back to television, I read an article the other day where Kirsty Alley said she really wants to be on Modern Family and play Cameron's mother. She'd be hysterical in that role! And I had totally forgotten about one of my other favorite shows, Brothers and Sisters. I was so happy that Scotty and Kevin's surrogate is pregnant! So far their experience has been very parallel to what we went through, except that we didn't use a friend for a surrogate. I really hope they have twins, because it would be funny to see what we went through on television. Another big first for television - a gay couple becoming parents through surrogacy. I know so many people who watch Brothers and Sisters, and some of them are conservative men, so maybe more groundbreaking television will change hearts and opinions.

Reid is here in the office with me, begging for the sidewalk chalk up on the shelf, so I guess I better get Dylan up from his nap and take them outside. Sidewalk chalk in the house, as we've discovered, isn't a good thing!

OK, I'll explain the photo above. This is what happens when certain little boys shove their Handy Manny tools into the slot in the fireplace where the heat comes out. It took us a while to figure out where that horrible smell was coming from !

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Role Models and Gay Parenting

Television has always provided role models for parents and families. The Cleavers from Leave It To Beaver were the near perfect parents in the spotless home. They rarely disagreed with each other or raised their voices. I read somewhere that although people in the ‘50s knew the Cleavers weren’t reality, it gave them something to strive for. In the ‘80s, The Cosby Show was touted as the new role model for black families in America. The Huxtables really weren’t reality either. Clair and Heathcliff were professionals, a lawyer and a doctor, yet they seemed to always be home, have time for the kids, and their beautiful home was always clean, despite five children living in it, and no one was ever shown scrubbing toilets or mopping floors. Even so, it gave families and parents, especially black families, a role model and something to strive for. I remember as a kid, wishing that I had a perfect family like the Huxtables. They were classy, and Clair was a strong, yet fun mother. And who wouldn’t want to spend time with a dad like Heathcliff?

By the ‘90s, sitcoms began to reflect reality a bit more. The home I grew up in much more resembled that of the Conners on Roseanne. A small, working class home with a blue-collar father who came home exhausted from back-breaking work and a mother who wasn’t all that fond of housework. Maybe the Conners didn’t so much give parents something to strive for as it just gave the vast lower-middle class of America validation that they were normal, and people liked watching them struggle through the same situations that the average family struggled with.

But for gay parents, we’ve had no role models. Maybe we’re finally getting our role models on ABC’s Modern Family with Mitchell and Cameron raising their adopted infant daughter. This show really cracks me up, so we’ll see where it goes. I can’t think of any other sitcom that’s depicted a gay male couple raising an infant, so this show truly is groundbreaking.

Sometimes I wonder if our family is “normal”, or even what should be considered normal for a gay couple raising twins. I’ve often found myself thinking, WWCHD? (What would Claire Huxtable Do?) when the boys do something like dump a pound of flour all over the kitchen. She had all the answers and was a perfect mom in my mind. But I’m not a woman, so it seems odd that I’m looking to an ‘80s sitcom mom for a role model. I guess we’re in uncharted territory here, pretty much left to figure out what the typical gay parent family does and what’s considered normal family interaction for us. I’ve found myself comparing my relationship with Nick to other married couples, which I never did before having children. I’ve thought that he’s done something no wife would have ever put up with at times, but gay men interact differently than a husband and wife, and what may be considered normal within a gay relationship would be considered odd for a husband and wife.

Gay male couples are often more independent, and the feminine/masculine roles aren’t always clearly defined. Just look at Cameron in Modern Family. On the surface, he’s the big queeny mother role who stays at home with the baby. If you met Cameron in real life, you might assume he’s the mother figure in all aspects. But he’s the partner with brute strength who stands up to anyone just as a strong father figure would do. He’s the one who used tough love with their daughter by letting her cry herself to sleep when Mitchell, the bread winner, acted like an emotional mother, wanting to run to the baby and coddle her every time she cried. Again, the masculine/feminine aspects of their relationship and parenting styles don’t fit the typical mother/father roles, but we see that between the two of them, they both mother (verb) and father (verb) their daughter. Cameron and Mitchell very well may be TV sitcom role models for gay parents as they seem to be reflecting the reality gay male parents live. In the meantime, I’ve decided to stop comparing our relationship and our family to married couples with kids. I’ll just love my kids and be myself, sometimes more feminine, sometimes more masculine. I think they’ll grow up to be truly unique young men, having been raised by two men who love them so much.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

Saturday we had an Easter egg hunt in the park across the street from our house. All the parents prepared a dozen eggs per kid and spread them out all over the park. The majority of kids in our neighborhood are under five years old, so there were about 50 toddlers involved!

Dylan and Reid are still too young to understand holidays, but they knew they needed to get at all those eggs in the park. We each held a boy while waiting for the hunt to begin, and since they have zero patience, both melted down, tears and snot running all over their faces. They became so involved in their tantrums that once the hunt began, they didn’t go. We had to drag them, crying, out to find eggs. But once they realized what was in the eggs, they suddenly became well-behaved.

Sunday we dressed the boys up in their new Easter sweater vests and went to church. Our church has daycare that they enjoy, but it was packed, as was the church. Otherwise, the day was fairly relaxing and we had a couple friends over for dinner. I had dyed a few eggs, but didn’t bother hiding them since we were in a rush to get to an earlier church service and didn’t have time for the drama that would have been involved. They loved their Easter baskets and ate more candy than they’ve ever been allowed. Sidewalk chalk from the Easter Bunny was a hit, but of course they can’t limit their artwork to the sidewalk, so there was a lot of chasing going on with that activity. And Dylan realized how fun it was to break the chalk apart. Boys, always destroying things!

I’m a big fan of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters (aren’t most gay men?) but they weren’t on last night, so I ended up watching a Kirsty Alley Big Life marathon. When things get boring in your own life, I suppose it’s fun to watch someone else’s life. Poor Kirsty. I’ve never been fat, so I can’t relate to her weight loss battle, but she’s pretty funny. It’s kind of amazing to see how really rich people spend their money, like on housing a bunch of lemurs, in Kirsty’s case. I need my own reality show and a staff of helpers! I wonder who’d want to watch a gay man chase twins around the house all day? I don’t watch all that much TV, especially these days, but usually wind down at the end of the day with a couple HGTV shows (I’ve watched enough HGTV to be a certified interior designer, or so I think) but tonight is Hoarders. I don’t know why I watch Hoarders since I’m such a neat freak. After an episode, it makes me want to go clean out a drawer or the storage room. If they ever have a show about compulsive cleaners and organizers, I could star in the pilot!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herding Drunks

For any of you who may be contemplating having kids through surrogacy, remember that twins and multiples are quite common. But know this: Twins sounds like double the fun, but really, it’s double the trouble! We wanted two kids, so we had twins on purpose. We weren’t getting any younger, and it was way cheaper to have both at once when you’re going the surrogacy route.

To be honest, there are pluses to go along with the extra work of twins. Sometimes they play together and keep each other occupied. You get double the hugs and kisses, and well, they’re just so darned cute! Especially when dressed alike. But talk to any parent of twins and they’ll surely have plenty of twin horror stories for you. OK, maybe not horror, but all parents of twins share a common bond and feel like they deserve a medal just for making it to age five.

Here’s a drill I like to refer to as “herding drunks”. I say drunks, because in many ways, toddlers are just like little drunk people, running around weaving, bobbing, tripping, falling, laughing, crying, and screaming for drinks. When I need to take the boys out somewhere, it’s at least a 30 minute process to get out the door. Maybe longer in winter when more clothes are necessary. But it’s just like having someone tell you, “OK, your mission is to go into the bar and find two drunk guys, take away their beers, get them to put on their coats, and get them out into your car. One’s a happy drunk and one’s an angry drunk”.

So here’s how it goes. I get myself dressed and ready while the boys are playing or watching “Wow, Wow, Wubsy”. They’re content and ignoring me. I bring down socks and shoes for both, which grabs their attention. “Shoes, Shoes”, they scream. I tell Reid to sit down so I can put his shoes and socks on, so he runs away. I grab Dylan because he’s a little slower. One trick I learned is to put on one sock, then the shoe for that foot, then move on to the other foot. If you do sock, sock, shoe, shoe, they pull off the first sock while I’m putting on the second sock, and back and forth we go. I can cut five minutes off the process by going sock, shoe, sock, shoe. Then I grab Dylan’s coat and at first, he sticks out his arm like he’s going to help. But then he goes limp and falls to the floor. It’s like he really knows this makes it much harder for me to get his coat on! OK, one down, so I now have to chase Reid around the kitchen island three times before I finally sprint to catch him. We go through the same sock, shoe, and coat routine. Now, they’re both ready. I grab Dylan, but now he has Elmo in his hand, and we can’t take Elmo with us. I take away Elmo and Dylan goes into an instant, hysterical rage, kicking and screaming. I take him into the garage, and insert him into his car seat, struggling to belt him in while he rages on. Very similar to putting a cat into a kennel if you’ve ever tried that! I give him one of the car toys to play with and he settles down. OK, we’re almost loaded and ready to go. I run back into the house to get Reid but find two socks, two shoes, and a coat on the floor and no Reid in sight. I hear a giggle behind the curtains, so I run over to get him and he bolts. Three times around the island, sock, shoe, sock, shoe, Reid goes limp, coat, giggle, giggle, and Reid’s in the car. Now I’m sweating, even though it’s 25 degrees in the garage. I run back in, grab my wallet, keys, sunglasses, and set the alarm. I get in the car, start the car, double check that the boys are belted in, and then the smell hits me. Somebody pooped! Shut off the car, back in the house, lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t think I’ll ever be on time again for the next 15 years!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 - A Year of Hope and Growth

So where does the time go when you’re a stay-at-home dad? It’s been what, nine months that I’ve been meaning to update my blog? I’m still unemployed, and the boys are doing great, progressing as they should. Reid’s still difficult, only now more in a two-year-old way. The tantrums are beginning for both, and parenting has switched gears from simply caregiver to caregiver and disciplinarian. I’ve perfected the “parent look”. You know, the look that sends them running! And they’ve definitely crossed the line from babies to little boys.

Other than the sometimes mundane daily routine of child care, I’m still looking for a job and have been volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I’ve been interviewing families who will receive homes and documenting their stories for newsletters and posting at the home sites. This has been rewarding in many ways. I’ve met amazing people, many who barely escaped chaos and violence in Africa and the Middle East, lived for years in miserable refugee camps, and finally immigrated to the U.S. They all seem so happy and appreciative of the new lives they have in this country. It has really put my life and problems in perspective. This volunteer work has also allowed me to at least keep my skills in use part time, and given me a sense of accomplishment every now and then. As for job hunting, I’ve applied for over 150 positions and had a grand total of four interviews, only one being in person. I have a feeling competition is fierce because a major newspaper in our city shut down three months before I lost my job. My main hope is that I find a job that utilizes my writing and communication skills before unemployment benefits run out! At times I worry, or become depressed. Other times I’m happy to have this opportunity to be close to the boys all day and bond with them. It’s been a great time to practice “living in the moment” for me.

We met another gay couple in our neighborhood who has two foster children – an infant and a three-year-old. They’re very nice and one of them only works part time, so we’ve scheduled outings with our kids throughout the winter. Although I’ve done play dates with some of the stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood, it’s nice to hang out with someone who’s completely in my situation.

Winter has been rough and colder than average, so we’ve just recently started getting out to the playgrounds. With the longer days, it’s so much fun to take the boys outside in the evenings to play with other kids in the park. Evenings were really brutal throughout the winter when it’s dark so early. That last two hours the boys are awake can seem like an eternity in Winter. They were probably sick of being indoors and bored with their toys by the evening. Taking them out to run and get exercise while I can socialize with neighbors is much better, so Spring has proved to be a great anti-depressant!

Another couple down the street from us has begun the surrogacy process, and we’ve given them tips and pointers just as another couple who had been through the process did for us. They’ll be great parents and we’re looking forward to seeing them have kids. They’re shooting for twins, the same as we did.

One thing I envy with other parents around here is that most have grandparents who help out regularly, or come to town and help out and give them a break. We don’t have that option, so we can’t get away for a short vacation. In fact, we’ve only been away from the house together without the boys on three occasions since they were born. I needed a break so bad that last November, I took a three-day trip to Portland, alone. I had never been there and always wanted to visit Portland, so it really was nice to have a little time to myself, get plenty of sleep, and have no responsibility, even if it was just for a long weekend.

The boys are almost 23 months old now, so preparations for the “big two” birthday are underway. We haven’t decided exactly what we’re doing, but it won’t be as big as last year when we had around 90 people at our house for their party. Maybe Chuck-E Cheese? My brother is flying out for their birthday and another friend of ours is flying in as well. My parents will be out a couple weeks afterward. Nick is turning 40 the week after their birthday, so I’m trying to figure something out for him as well, although with me being unemployed, I don’t have a lot to spend. I doubt I could surprise him, so it’ll probably be a planned party.

We’re getting new words from both boys all the time, and it’s amazing how much they understand. I can ask them to go find their sippy cups and bring them to me, and they will! Reid finally said his own name the other day, and I’ve been coaching them to call me “Papa”, which they’re catching on to. Dylan is still more laid back while Reid gets into EVERYTHING! Sometimes, I feel like I live in an insane asylum with every door and cabinet locked. If you miss locking a kitchen cabinet, Reid will be in it within a minute, making a huge mess. He’s dumped flour all over the house, and most recently, a packet of taco spice all over the living room. Talk about a smell you don’t want on your sofa! He seems to always be thinking, and more than one person has told me this means he’s probably very smart. He’s started testing me, looking me in the eye to see what I’m going to do just before he does something he knows he shouldn’t do. Every now an then, there have been days where I think I’m going to lose my mind because of the things he does!

I now fully understand the plight of stay-at-home moms. At this age, it can be tiring, mind-numbing, and unrewarding. There have been days when I crawled into bed at night, feeling like that was the only rest I got. But then they’ll come up to me and hug me, kiss me, and do the silliest things that makes it all worth the work. Sometimes I just turn on music and let them entertain me with their latest dance moves. It really is like people told me before they were born. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but also the most amazing and rewarding experience of your life!