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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!