Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Carefree Christmas

The town of Carefree, Arizona is just north east of Phoenix and about an hour from our house.  It has a very "new old West" feel to it in that it has many wild desert spaces intermingled with a small town setting.  That, and everything in the town is perfectly manicured and "set" for tourists.  It has a population that is very upper middle class and higher, and is filled with beautiful homes done in a modern adobe and southwest style.  The downtown is filled with art spaces, galleries, and craft stores that reflect the old west atmosphere that Carefree tries so hard to portray.  It's a pretty area, and at a slightly higher elevation then the Valley of the Sun it does get colder.  On some rare occasions there is snow topping the saguaro cactus and Joshua trees.  It's in Carefree that we spent this weekend relaxing before Santa arrives two weeks from now.

Two of the Dads that run the Carefree Resort sponsored an outing for our Phoenix Gay Dad's Group Saturday night.  We arrived in the afternoon to a beautiful suite and headed to an absolutely wonderful dinner in the main dining room of the resort.  Our hosts were two new dads of a five month old boy.  After the fantastic food and drinks, we hoped a shuttle to downtown Carefree for the annual Christmas parade and festival.  Due to the cold, Sabrina was attired in her cozy warm "New York" coat and mittens, her ever present blankie, and her blinking Christmas light necklace.  She loved the electric light parade, where every float and marcher was adorned with Christmas lights.  Elaborately decorated fire trucks, ponies, marching bands, and floats drove past us all lit up.  Being guests of the resort, we had front row seats.  Even the Grinch himself, America's toughest do nothing corrupt Sheriff Joe rode down the street in his gigantic monument to wasted taxpayer dollars, his tank, looking like that was the absolute last place he wanted to be.  (Until then I'd never heard booing at a Christmas parade, but...)  Based on the scowl on his face, I imagined the stick up his ass was candy cane striped.  But I digress...

Sabrina started the day at swimming school.  Arriving at the resort, we took a quick hike of the grounds.  The dinner had kids swarming all over and they laughed and played for two hours at least.  So that's why it was possible for her to fall asleep three quarters of the way through fire trucks and marching bands.  She waved at every single one, and as I watched the waving get slower and slower, I knew she'd never make it to the end.  Not to mention the after parade schedule was bouncy houses, playing in 25 tons of imported snow, and fire works with Santa.  Nope, at parade conclusion, we boarded the shuttle back to the resort.  Just as well cause I was freezing my cute little patootie off!

Turns out that was OK, because she awoke in our room just in time for Gregg to hear the fireworks starting.  Out on the balcony, we had the best view ever of the show.  Sabrina loved it, and has been shouting "Boom boom fireworks, boom boom!" all day.  Since she was awake, we went back down to the lobby in time to see some of the other families arriving back at the resort.  After another hour of running and playing with the kids, getting her to sleep after just one reading of The Cat in the Hat wasn't too hard at all.

This morning we got up and had a great breakfast at the hotel, then headed back to town to see what we missed the night before.  This worked out because it was not crowded at all, and we got to play in the snow and visit all the shops after all.  We even climbed a platform and rode snow discs down the steep hill to the bottom.  Of course, most people wouldn't sit a 2 1/2 year old on a round piece of plastic and push them down a hill, but I'm not most people.  Besides she insists on doing everything herself, so...

Santa's head on a platter

The Frosty Float

I think some kids worked hard on this one

Fun, and hygienic soap bubble snowflakes

Father-daughter Olympic tryouts

Flying solo.  She was so proud of herself!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Potty Jar

Potty training is a lot slower than I thought it would be.  Sabrina's been using the potty for a while now, but she's not consistent about it.  If she's involved in any fun activity like coloring, dancing, or watching the Republican debates on TV and nature calls, into the diaper it goes.  And poop, I think she's done that twice on the pot; most of the time she's off in the corner hiding until she's finished and you begin to smell it.  Not unlike a Labrador retriever I can think of.  If only there was some reward, some sought after item I could tantalize her with to make her want to use the potty every time...

Something like this.

Since the above is not currently an option, we opted to create our own.  Off to Target we went, and returned with a plain glass jar.  To invest her in it, we got out the paints and stickers, and in no time at all, The Potty Jar became a reality.

Easily rivals some dusty gold box, and won't melt your face off.

No one's prouder of The Potty Jar than Sabrina, who is fond of telling people "Look, I painta' dis Potty Jar," whenever you enter the bathroom.  We filled the Jar with the toddler world's gold standard of healthy snacks, Swirly Fruit Roll Ups.  If you haven't seen them, picture taking six colors of fluorescent Play-Dough, mixing them, adding a metric ton of sugar, and then rolling it all flat with a rolling pin.  The resultant "Potty Prize" is relished by toddlers and dentists everywhere.  Now all we had to do is promise a Potty Prize after each successful whizzing, and potty training's a snap.  Not so fast...

While Sabrina loves getting a potty prize for going potty she's still not committed, and some unexpected ground rules have appeared in our little game of potty cat and mouse.  For example, if there are more delicious treats to be had elsewhere, who cares about potty prizes or even going potty at all.  So home made Christmas cookies are like potty training kryptonite.  We also quickly realized that Fruit Roll Ups are not what you want to feed a 2 1/2 year old right before bed.  On more than one occasion we've had to scramble to substitute out a less sugary treat.

Like this unsweetened cat food.

There's also the dreaded sit and wait.  As in, gee I'd love a Potty Prize, but I don't have to pee.  Let's see how long they'll let me sit here until I do something.  So we've had 30 minute waits.  In the end it pays off, but sheesh!  I haven't spent that much time in the bathroom since I was a teenager.

All in all we're making some progress.  When it comes to potty training, eventually everything comes out OK.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Do Kids Know Anyway?

I got a text message from my sister today, out of the blue, which said,

"Hey Bob...I talked to the kids and we decided that you guys don't have to do gifts for them this year...We want you to put it towards the adoption."

I was moved by that.  Our nieces are 16 and 13, and our nephew is 10.  They really don't live that far away, but we don't always get to see them as often as we should.  They know adoption is complicated, and they know it's expensive.  They also know it's important to us that we complete our family, and they love their little cousin.  I called my sister this afternoon and told her to thank them, but we know when Santa stops here he'll drop off some stuff for the kids anyway.  That's just how he rolls.

This year, one of the things I'm thankful for (and proud of) is that I have kids like that in my family.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Well something like 30 people voted on the last post regarding our "main" photo for our birth mother letter, and the votes were overwhelmingly for Picture 2.  Nothing personal rest of the Internet, but we're going with Picture 1.

Me and My Mooks

We chose this one because of the eye contact, and the fact that it looks so vibrant.  The one drawback is the bit of space between me and Sabrina, but I think that's outweighed by how much the picture seems to engage the viewer.  The main photo is meant to be a visual greeting from us to a potential birth mother and I think this one gets to that feeling.  The second picture is adorable, but it shows us as a happy family; I don't think it brings the viewer into the photo quite like this one does.

We went over these and about 80 other pictures with our adoption counselor today and narrowed the field down to about 18 candidates to be included on our letter.  Those and about 20 others will go onto our eventual adoption website.  We're already done with the letter text, so I hope to take the next two weeks to put together the actual brochure.  After submitting our final bit of paperwork, we hope to be live by the end of November.  Then the real journey begins, and I'm so glad I have you guys to share it with!

Monday, October 17, 2011

This or That?

With the text of our "Dear Birthmother" letter approved, it's time to work on pictures.  I've uploaded a bunch to a sharing site and we'll discuss them with our adoption agency sometime later this week.  The most important one is the "Main Profile Pic" which will grace the cover of our letter.  Here is the one we used last time, after I don't know how many tries...

Nice, but what's my left hand doing?

We've narrowed our personal choice down to two photos.  Please weigh in with your comments on which one you think you'd like better, with the mindset that you are a birth mother looking for a family to potentially place your as yet unborn child with.  Why do you like one better than the other?

Picture 1

Picture 2

*Pictures taken by our good friend John Morey from John Morey Photography.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cut the Blue Wire!

What's wrong with this picture?

The language explosion in the second year of life is amazing.  We have video of Sabrina on her second birthday in April, and while she's able to talk pretty well, the last few months have seen her increase her vocabulary by leaps and bounds.  Short sentences come flooding out of her mouth now at an almost Sarah Palin level of comprehension.  (OK, OK, I know some of you like Sarah Palin and I admit comparing her to a toddler isn't fair.  One of them is only now learning about the world and using newly developed language skills to form simple sentences, and the other one is a toddler.)  But we've now reached a new level: Negotiation.

Bedtime in our home as I like to define it is the period of time between getting Sabrina's pajamas on and enjoying a glass of wine on the couch.  Sometimes it's quick and painless, and sometimes...well sometimes it isn't.  On those occasions that period can be filled with crying, screaming, and stomping of feet, and that's just from me and Gregg.  When she doesn't want to go to bed, she let's you know it.  Last night, however, a different scene was set.

The normal routine is pajamas, teeth cleaning ("Brusha-Brusha"), saying good night to Papa, quiet reading of a bedtime story (or two or three) in her room, lights out, one or two songs, and off to sleep.  Since Gregg cooks the dinners, my job is the story-song-sleep bit.  I'll usually sit in the room with her for a little bit until I'm sure she's about to head off to sleep and then quietly step out.  If you don't hear anything from her within about a minute, you're golden and Malbec here I come.  Otherwise, let the games begin. 

Last night I tip toed out of the room, shut the door, and headed down the hall.  I stopped and waited to see which way tonight was going to go.  After about a minute, her door opened a crack and she stood there in her most innocent pose wearing her Frog Princess nightgown and clutching her blanket.  Silent.

I walked over and she didn't come out of her doorway but just stood there.  I bent down and gave her a kiss and said "What's the matter Chipmunk?".
"Daddy, I can't sleep anymore."
"Well you haven't been to sleep yet, so I think you should try again."
"Um, Daddy?"
"Yes Sabrina?"
"Um, I can't sleep anymore."

You know how every action movie has that inevitable scene where the hero is trying to diffuse the bomb and it's down to cutting the red or blue wire, and you hold your breath knowing if he cuts the wrong one all hell will break loose?  That's what went through my mind as I cut the parental blue wire by taking her hand and saying, "Well let's go back in bed and see if you can sleep some more".  I braced for a tantrum, or at least a scream, but none came.  Silence as we walked back into the dark room towards the bed.

"Daddy?", she said softly, now sitting on the bed.
"Yes Sabrina?"
"I don't want to go to bed."
"I know that, but everybody is sleeping because it's night time, and that's what we do at night."
"Is Ripley sleeping?"
"Yes, Ripley is sleeping."
"Is Chase sleeping?"
"Yes, Chase is sleeping too."
"Is..."  We now launch into a list of almost every person we know and what their sleep status is at the moment.  I realize she's stalling, but we're back to cutting the blue wire.  Let her ramble and look for a way to get her back in bed, or cut her off and risk her wrath?  When we get into inanimate objects, I make my move. 

"Is moon and stars sleeping?"  A-ha!  She messed up--she could have started on a long list of Sesame Street characters and kept this up all night, but instead she asked an open ended question.  I pounced on her inexperienced negotiating skills.

"No the moon and stars are up in the sky watching us while we sleep to help us have good dreams.  Here why don't you lay back down and I'll tuck you in."  Take that!  I bet her head is spinning on her rookie mistake.  But wait...she's pulling the trump card...the most cliched, hackneyed phrase in the history of the war on bedtime...her head half way to the pillow, she looked up at me and calmly checkmated her opponent by saying...

"Daddy I have a drink?"

Noooo!  She's taken this thing nuclear!  Before I even realized I'd swallowed the bait she was sitting straight up and I was half way to the door to get a cup of water.  How did this happen?

She did lay back down after the water, and three choruses of Winnie the Pooh's theme song, but reappeared at her door several times after I'd snuck out and we had to repeat selected portions of our dialogue.  Gregg was laying in bed watching TV, and getting ready to go to sleep early anyway, so all three of us won in our own way.  Sabrina got to go cuddle with Papa, Gregg got a quiet night cuddling with Sabrina as they fell to sleep together, and I...I got what I wanted in the first place.  An evening to myself with a glass of vino...Hmmmmmm.

Late night shenanigans make for a sleepy breakfast.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

At the Car Wash...

Some parents forget why they had children.  I didn't.

Just like finger paints.  Really.

OK honey but the other kids all scrub just a little bit harder.  You don't want them to have more fun than you right?

Daddy it's hot...

Finish up honey and when you're vacuuming the inside I'll put on the air.

Building character starts at a young age.

*No toddlers were harmed in the making of this blog post.  While I did need my car washed, it's not like I shipped her off to Nike or called up Kathy Lee Gifford and bragged about her sewing skills.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Well?  Well things are rolling along here with Project Baby, the Sequel.  We were notified that our home study has been approved by the court, which means for the next 18 months we are legally able to adopt a child.  We've finished our medical clearances, and sent the first draft of our birth mother letter to the agency for approval and guidance.  We still have to watch a video and take an exam that will teach us how to parent in an interracial family in case our second child is not the same race as one of us.  Yeah, I know.  The way I figure it, I have an interracial parent/child relationship, but Gregg doesn't, so he should have to watch the video alone while I head to a Labor Day BBQ or something.  It's a hoop.  We'll jump through it.

We won't be done with preliminary gigantic monthly payments to the adoption agency until November so technically nothing can happen until after that.  Right now we're gathering pictures for our letter, and a friend of ours who is a photographer is coming over in two weeks to do a photo shoot with us for our main picture.  If you've been with me a while you'll remember what our last letter looked like.  This one has to be four pages instead of two and frankly will look a little nicer I think.  Last time we matched off of our letter in three weeks of being in circulation, so we want to make sure this one hits the mark as well.

It's funny; we've been performing the steps necessary to reach our goal of having a baby for some months now, but it's only since our home study has been approved that I have those butterflies banging away in my stomach telling me a baby could join our family as soon as the beginning of the year.  Of course it could take a lot longer, but we've crossed a threshold that has started those old feelings creeping up on me again.  We have a ways to go and a forest of red tape to cut through, but we're definitely on the way again...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Twin Elephants of the Apocalypse

Our previous inflatable pool met it's demise earlier this summer when it was slashed by either a desert tortoise or a Labrador retriever.  No one's copping to it.

Prime suspects

Today we got a new one, complete with elephant water slide and trunk sprinkler. 

Rickety and Wobbly, your fun summer pals!

Now as everyone knows, real fun always has an element of danger, like riding in the very front of the roller coaster or Christmas fishing with Scott Peterson.  The Chinese must have had that in mind when they came up with the Spray N' Splash Elephant Slide.  It looked like fun on the box, with the inflatable elephant slide that sprays water from the trunk.  I figured since it's a water toy, most of the toxic lead finish the Chinese use to shine it up will probably wash off after a few uses.  Summer toddler fun!

Even using our air compressor, this thing took about half an hour or more to blow up.  I made sure to fill it extra firm so it wouldn't squish down with the 35 pounds of toddler that would soon be jumping on it.  My original plan was to fill it, make lunch, then go swimming.  That ended when I suggested this to Sabrina, who responded with "No Daddy, I go down a slide".  No manner of cajoling was going to change her mind.  Knowing how to pick my battles, I decided we could eat lunch after swimming.  Unbeknownst to me, children are always hungrier after taking their lives in their grubby little hands.

Now this slide has two loops on it where you tie it down to the bottom of the pool to keep it from floating away.  To be fair, the instructions call that point out.  What they don't point out is that the slide is as unstable as Michelle Bachman at a gay Pride parade.  It turned out to be almost impossible for Sabrina to climb without my assistance.  Even with all the air I pumped into it, the sides are useless for holding on to and keeping steady.  One wrong turn and it would come tumbling down, even with the two inches of safety string tied tight.  Usually it's the kid on the slide that holds her breath before hitting the water; in this case it was me.


Works as designed.

When it did work without killing her, it was fun.  But this required lots of lifting and helping on the side of the father.  So much for relaxing in the chair.

And go...

The sprinkler part did work well.


Oh and I do apologize for the misleading title of this post.  By now you know I mean the pool by Twin Elephants of the Apocalypse.  Not these two:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Potty Mouth

Admit're never happier than after taking a big, satisfying dump.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the smile on that over eager toilet.  He's as happy to see you poop as you are.  He even sings about it after you're finished.

Poop on me...

Sabrina's doing well on the potty, using it both home and at daycare about 75% of the time.  And when she does use it, you'd think she hit the lottery.  Squeals of "I did pee-pee!" with a big smile on her face as the potty sings along with glee, followed by telling anyone who'll listen.  And poop, well that's an event in itself.  Little kids and old people sure love to tell you about their pooping.  Sometimes we have to sit there awhile before anything comes out.  We know in advance it will be a wait because Sabrina will tell us "Papa, pee pee is stuck".  But that's OK, that's when we break out our copies of Elmo's Potty Tales and Men's Health and just wait it out.  Hey, you can even have a contest to see who poops first if you want.  There were a few times when it dragged out forever.  And yes, I admit it, I have asked her to please shit or get off the pot.  Nicely of course.  But I digress...

Since I'm taking some time off next week, I might try to see if we can get through an entire day of successfully using the potty and not wetting pants.  Perhaps a bribe of wearing big girl underwear.  Watching TV and using crayons are the danger zones, because if she gets too involved in either activity, well potty be damned.  I guess before we had DVR's and the ability to pause live TV that was an understandable, if not practical, choice.  But unless you're a toddler,  Betty White, or some crazy astronaut lady with a stalker complex, wearing diapers and peeing when you're distracted isn't really feasible. 

I think kids need to be ready for potty training.  We tried on and off since she turned two, but she only really started to get into it in the last few weeks. We're pretty sure she'll be reliable quickly because once her stubbornness kicks in there is no stopping her.  I just hope once that happens she'll calm down about it.  I don't see too many executives running around the office screaming "I did poops!  I did poops!".  Well that one guy from shipping...

Happy to see you, or just dropped a deuce?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The War on Terror

In this family, we don't negotiate with terrorists.

Or at least try not to.  It seems that at 2 years and 2 months, the battle is beginning to heat up.

False promises are made...

National Leader:  If I let you have one more cookie, will you stop crying?
Terrorist:  I promise!
National Leader:  OK, here you go.
Terrorist:  More cookie!  *Anger and Tears*

Secretive Tactics are used to gain the upper hand...

National Leader:  I want you to finish all your broccoli.
Terrorist:  Mmmmm, bwok-wii.
The nation drops is guard, but soon re-engages the enemy.
National Leader:  Ahh, good you've eaten it all.  You can get down from your chair now.
The terrorist smiles deceptively.  Released from captivity, she waits until she's almost out of sight to pull up her shirt and allow a mother lode of bwok-wii to spill to the floor, rewarding her canine minions...

Fierce battles are fought, with little to no territory gained on either side...

National Leader:  I just want to change your diaper!
Terrorist:  Nooooooooo!!!!!
National Leader:  I'm not kidding you better come over here right now!
Terrorist:  (throwing everything within reach off her bed onto the floor)  No!  No!  No!  Arrrrrggghhhh!
National Leader:  OK if you don't come over here right now I'm going to waterboard give you a spanking!
Terrorist:  (screaming and crying)  No way!  (Jumping up and down.)
A valiant battle is waged by both sides, and in the end, once the diaper is changed, both sides forget the whole thing.

If you're not with us, you're against us...

Allied Nation:  Sabrina do you want some ice cream?
National Leader:  Mom, you just gave her a cupcake.
Allied Nation:  I know but she likes ice cream.
Terrorist:  Eye Keem!  Eye Keem!  (Jumping up and down with glee.)
National Leader:  No, you're not having ice cream you still have frosting on your cheeks from the cupcake.
Allied Nation:  Oh just let her have a little.
National Leader:  She doesn't need it.  And how come we could never have cupcakes and ice cream when we were little?
Allied Nation:  (Lying through her teeth)  Oh you kids got everything you wanted.  (To Terrorist)  Chocolate or Strawberry?
Terrorist:  Yippie whoo hoo horray!*
National Leader:  Sigh.

* I have no idea where she got that from...

In the heat of battle, true loyalties emerge...

National Leader:  No, and you better stop screaming.
Terrorist:  No no no no!  (Starts banging her tricycle against the front door)
National Leader:  OK that's enough where do you think you're going?
Terrorist:  G'ama house!  (crying) G'ama house!
National Leader:  Good go to Grandma's house!  It's not so great I grew up there you know.  They're fooling you!  I don't know who those people are that replaced my parents but move in and everything changes.  Ice cream and cupcakes will disappear and you'll be doing dishes and vacuuming in no time with zero privacy... (trailing off into territory only a trained therapist is qualified to tread on...)
Terrorist:  (The terrorist has heard only two words, stops crying and says)  Eye Keem?
National Leader:  No, you're certainly not getting ice cream!
Terrorist:  (screaming louder than ever)  Arrrgh!  Eye Keem!  Eye Keem!
National Leader:  Ugh...

The war will be long, and there will be casualties.  Eventually justice will prevail.  But we must be ever vigilant.  Pick our battles wisely.  And above all, realize the scorched earth policy of the terrorist will leave no furniture undamaged, electronic devices soaked in apple juice, and car keys slipped into the kitchen trash can when no one is looking.  Yes it will be a battle for our very souls, and we will fight on, only giving up when we realize it will be the terrorist who will some day choose our nursing home...

The terrorist has won...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dust in the Wind...

...and your face, your car, house, streets, etc etc...

Since my last two posts are now weather related, you can see how exciting our summer is turning out to be so far.  We're in adoption paperwork limbo, although we're getting good at writing out gigantic checks again.  Here is video of last night's Duststorm (or haboob, if you want to be specific) that hit around 7 pm and is a normal part of our Arizona monsoon season.  This morning everything is covered in dirt, including the entire inside of the parking garage here at work.  (I mean at work, since of course I'm not typing this on company time.  Perish the thought!)  At 10,000 feet high with winds around 50 miles an hour, this was one of the bigger ones.  At least there was no rain...then the dirt is even harder to wash off. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


There is no point to this post except yeah, it's hot.  But at least you don't have to shovel heat.  Ugh.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

1-2-3 Eyes on Me

16 in 2008.
17 in 2009.
20 in 2010.
8 as of June 5, 2011.

Those are the totals of how many children have drowned in Maricopa County, Arizona, since 2008.  I think as of today we're at 10, so we're on track to tie or surpass last year.  We live in the  desert, and while there are lakes, most if not all of these deaths occurred in backyard swimming pools.  My heart breaks every time I hear one of these stories on the news:  "I ran inside for two seconds", "There was no fence around the pool", "We thought he was in the house", "I thought you were watching her", "He crawled out the doggie door".  I don't know how you go on.  I am not sure I could.  I hear this stuff, and I think how could they let that happen?  It's not possible.  But it is.  Ask yourself you know where your toddler is and what he/she is doing every second?  Even the five second gap it takes to get out the back door and into the pool?  Five seconds.  That's all it takes to end a life, and change others forever.

We don't have a pool in our yard.  We do have one in the community, and most of our family members have one at their homes.  I have that in my mind when ever we go somewhere.  This is one area of parenting I think you have to have in your mind all the your kid...especially if there is water anywhere in the vicinity.

Sabrina loves the water.  I'm glad she does; nothing gives kids more fun all summer than playing in the pool with family and friends.  But it does scare me a little.  I don't want the pool to be something she's drawn to before she's ready for it, before it's safe.  So we enrolled in Swimming Lessons.  It's mostly water safety at this point, and she's learning to climb out of the pool, breath control, and floating, among other things.  It's important to help young children develop skills that can make a difference in an emergency.  And have fun doing it.

Please.  Watch your kids around water.  Two seconds is too long.

Come on in the water's fine...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

You're In Charge Of It

As I was taking this picture, I was thinking about the smile on her face.  I thought about the comments people make to Gregg and I, about what a lucky little girl she is.  I'm not sure why but that's what people say when they don't know anything about our family and how it came to be.  As I usually tell them, no, we're the lucky ones, because we were chosen to be her Daddy and her Papa, and to love and take care of her.  As a parent knows, seeing that smile makes you smile, and gives you that fluttery feeling in your gut that swells up and lights up your face with pride.  I started to think about the responsibility of raising a child--schooling, love, learning about the world, and so on.  I think though, the most important thing a child will take with them after they're grown, is the memory of childhood itself.  And yeah, you're in charge of that too.

I'm lucky.  I fall into nostalgia on a regular basis thinking about growing up.  My parents are still married, and my family is still intact.  My parents weren't rich by any means, but securely middle class.  With five kids, there was always a juggling act with finances I'm sure, but we weren't made aware of that.  There were always great Christmases, summers spent camping and going to the beach, time playing with our cousins, and lots of love.  The memory of childhood is powerful, and it's why I get teary eyed every time Frosty melts no matter how hard I tell my adult self snowmen can't come to life.  It's why I know all the really important breaking news is announced by a frog in a trench coat, and not some partisan hack.  Breaking the no tag backs rule gets you ostracized from the group, if only for a few minutes, and architectural wonders can be created with a cardboard box and some broken crayons. 

I know I'm lucky, because there are people I know who's childhood memories aren't that great.  I want Sabrina to look back on these years with fondness as I do.  So far I'm sure we're on the right track.  But we've got a lot to teach her.  I'm listing my priorities below.  Leave a comment and tell me what you still need to teach your kids so they have great childhood memories as well.

Things Sabrina Needs To Know:
  • The secret identities of all the Super Heroes, and that no matter what anyone says talking to fish isn't really a useful super power (I'm looking at you Aquaman!).
  • How to make twirly whirlies out of maple tree seeds, even if they are few and far between in Arizona.
  • Picking out the best stick for roasting marshmallows.
  • Blanket fort building.
  • Even if he yells, it's still totally worth it to sneak up on Papa and drop an ice cube down his pants.
  • Hand stands in the pool.
  • Watching the (original) Star Wars movies with Daddy and Papa for the first time is important, even the one about the army of hamsters.
  • The President of the United States is an important man no matter what grown ups say.  Yeah even the last one.
  • Frogs aren't gross until you're over the age of 10.
  • How to throw a Frisbee and ride a bike.
  • Digging a large hole in the back yard for no reason at all always seems like a good idea at the time, until your parents find out.
  • Saying good bye to Ripley and Chase one day is going to be very hard, but Daddy and Papa will do their best to get you through it. 
  • Even if your prom date looks like Tyson Beckford or Brad Pitt, your fathers aren't going to like him.  Stare at him yes, like him, no.
  • Be awesome and show your personality in everything you do, no matter how strange it might seem, and your fathers will be there for you.
So tell me, what will you do for your kids to make sure their childhood memories are the best they can be?

Tortoise Farmer

Saturday, May 7, 2011

When World's Collide

Based on today's mail delivery, we can assume the mail man knows we're gay parents...

Happy weekend!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vote for Pedro

OK I've been wrestling with this for over a week now, but I've finally been convinced to appeal to the masses for votes.  I'm not sure who or why I was nominated, but somehow Those Two Daddies ended up in contention for one of the best LBGT Family blogs on the net.  So not unlike Sanjaya, I'm shamelessly begging for votes.  Click on the badge to the left to vote for my blog.  You can do it each day but only until May 13th.  Grassy-ass!

Groundhog Day

D.J. #1: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today.
D.J. #2: It's coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
--The Opening Radio Dialogue to "Groundhog Day".

And so we soldier on through the home study.  Finger prints, letters of reference, home visits, financial documentation, etc. etc.  Today we had our home visit and although we cleaned all weekend, it was sit down at the dining room table with coffee and danish while we chatted about how different everything is now that we are parents.  This is the sixth or seventh time we've talked to our social worker Windsor (she did our last home study and post placement visits), so it was all very relaxed and very familiar.  She even condensed our study down from two visits to just one.  (Well one visit with two payments!)  We've done all this before, know the players, and the process hasn't changed, so it's almost kind of a redo.  It's nice to have something that's somewhat relaxed in the otherwise stressful time that is adoption prep. 

I also called our main agency, the IAC, and told them we're ready to get the ball rolling on "re-upping" with them.  We know the ropes there too, so we hope to be ready, approved, and on the books by summer's end.  Right now the only difficult part is, well, paying for it.  Luckily we don't have to pay the entire thing up front, but handing over thousands of dollars a month for the next six months or so isn't going to be exactly child's play.  I'm sure we'll figure it out...Powerball anyone?

To prove we're Dr. Spock approved parents, I submit the following certificate.  Being voted class clown at 2 years old might be cute, but I'm not sure what the future holds on that one...we may end up regretting it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2nd Time Around

Well here we go again.  We've started our home study for the second adoption.  Last week we went down to the local adoption agency and had our finger prints taken for the background checks, and Monday will be our home visit from our social worker.  We have the same person as last time, a very nice lady named Windsor, who you'll remember I did compare to a short Mrs. Doubtfire, but in the nicest way possible!  Gregg spoke with her on the phone the other day and she said she'll only need one visit.  I'm hoping she walks in, finds that the baby is still alive and doesn't live in a rabbit hutch, then tells us the home study is approved and it's off to the races.  Unfortunately, the reality is that after the visit we'll still need to file references (again), get medical clearances, wait for her report to be cleared by the court, and so on.  I am hoping the final approval takes three months or less.  Last time was around four, but now that we know the ropes I'm hoping to push the envelope.  The faster we get this part done, the closer we are to moving the entire process along.  We have not contacted our actual agency, the Independent Adoption Center, just yet to let them know we want to go for another round.  We'll do that sometime next week I suppose.  We're not looking forward to the mountain of paperwork and letter packet designing that is going to entail, but it's a necessary evil.

On a side note, Sabrina's wardrobe creation notwithstanding, we'll need to pick her out a better outfit then the one she put on herself.  It's fine if this was a Cindy Lauper concert, but I think we'll go for something a little more conservative.  (Did I just say that?  Errrr...)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Laurie Berkner Interview

As I've posted before, there is one thing that makes toddlers drop whatever they're doing and pay attention.  What is this magical charm you ask?  Why, it's the Laurie Berkner Band of course!  If you're a parent, Laurie and her band need no introduction.  If you're on the road to becoming one, well, you better listen up.  You can either listen to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ad infinitem until you wish global warming would destroy the planet faster so you don't have to hear it again, or you can get into the "Kindie Rock" scene and Laurie's band for music that you'll claim is on your iPod for the kids but you (not so) secretly listen to on your own.  As Laurie's website states,

 "If you think the Beatles made a splash in '63, wail 'till you see the mayhem caused by this woman." - Good Morning America

Sabrina worships her, dancing to the music and pushing every button on my iPod to make it repeat.  She's made up her own routines to songs such as The Goldfish, Five Days Old, and My Family.  The other parents I've heard from report similar behavior.  I admit, Gregg and I dance with her too (although we do a mean version of Beyonce's Single Ladies as well, don't get me wrong!).  So I decided to reach out and find out where all this "Kindie" stuff as it's called came from.  And who better to ask then the Queen of Kindie herself, Miss Laurie Berkner?  Laurie was kind enough to do an interview for Those Two Daddies blog, so get to know her a little below...

The Laurie Berkner Interview:

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for me!  I really appreciate it.  So tell me, at what age do you remember first being interested in music? When did you decide it was something you wanted to do as your career?

Laurie Berkner:
At age two and a half I loved to sing and listen to music. I was about 10 when I realized I wanted to do it for a career – I realized not only did I like to sing, but people seemed to like to listen to me. When I graduated from college I thought no one would pay me to be a musician - luckily that turned out not to be true.

Who are your musical role models?

When I was a kid it was Julie Andrews for singing and acting. I felt so inspired by seeing the musicals she was in. I have a ton of respect for Paul Simon and I think he’s an amazing musician as well as poet and composer. I find his songs sprinkled throughout my life – I want to sing them as part of my day a lot. I also love Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading.

We're definitely on the same page there!  Music seems so natural for you.  What was the first instrument you learned to play, and how many do you play now, besides guitar of course!

I remember that in school, at about age 6 we all played recorder, but the first instrument I took lessons on was the piano. I started when I was 7 and continued my lessons for about 8 years. I also learned clarinet and violin, playing in school band and orchestra. I always wish I’d learned to play drums.

I think the recorder is a rite of passage on the East coast!  I know you started out in an adult band. How did you make the decision to begin playing music for children?

I had a job as a preschool music specialist and found that I was both feeling more creative and getting lots of great feedback from writing music for kids. I felt more satisfied than playing in the “adult” bands, so eventually I switched over.

Was making the transition from adult band to the children’s set full time hard to do, and how did you realize that was where you wanted to be?

It wasn’t hard. I remember the gig that made me want to switch fully to just playing kids’ music. I was feeling really sick and had gone to Long Island to play a late night show. Then I had to get up really early to play for a kids birthday party the next morning. Even though I felt lousy, I enjoyed myself at the party, whereas at the show the night before I remembered wishing that I didn’t have to be there. I realized I didn’t want to switch back and forth anymore. Something else that really made it clear to me was when I played at the birthday party, I played music I wrote myself that the kids and parents were requesting and loving. And all the kids were dancing. This was so different from the the night before, when I was trying to figure out what cover songs the mostly apathetic audience wanted to hear.

I'm not surprised to hear that parents were requesting songs as well as kids.  I hear from a lot of parents, and all of them (including myself) really enjoy listening to your work. Our children are big fans as well. Why do you think your music style appeals to adults and children alike? Most music seems to fall into one or the other category.

I try to come from my own feelings and memories when I write, both in the lyrics and the music. I think that helps me to combine both the child and adult sides of myself, and hopefully appeal to other kids and adults. I also try to write music that I want to listen to myself – repeatedly!

With kids, "repeatedly" is the magic word!  Where do you find inspiration for your music?

Aside from my own memories of being a kid, I listen a lot to children around me. I did that a lot when I was in school working directly with kids, and now I do it more sitting on the bus or at playdates with my daughter and her friends. Also, If I find something cool I think, “Did I think it was cool as a kid too?” If I did, then it’s something to consider writing about.

We first discovered you on Nick Jr, on Jack’s Big Music Show. How did you become part of that show, and is it difficult working with puppets? I think I’d keep looking at the puppeteers!

I was asked to make a video for the pilot because they knew it was going to be a music show. Originally we were only slated to be in a few episodes, but the response was so positive during the testing period they asked us to be regulars. Most of the videos were filmed completely separately from the show (we were in NYC and the puppets were in Chicago). The few times I was on set I didn’t really see the puppeteers;, they were below me. What was actually most difficult was that because of camera angles I wasn’t even supposed to look at the puppets. I had to pretend in order for it to look realistic. It was quite difficult looking at nothing.

Tell us about My Family. As adoptive parents, we find a lot of meaning in the lyrics. Is there a story behind how you wrote it?

Nick Jr. asked me to write a song with the theme “family” and I realized that I have a lot of strong feelings about what family actually means. To me personally, it’s not just the people that you’re born to and I wanted to find a way to express that, that love is truly what makes a family. I was also very aware that every family is different, and I wanted to write a song that would hopefully represent all families, no matter what they look like.

The video for My Family is fun. Our daughter Sabrina dances along to it just like the kids on TV. Where did you find the families for the video?

I didn’t actually, that was all Nick Jr.

One of the things I noticed is the inclusion of families with same sex parents. For families like ours, it’s nice to see them represented and joining in with the other families in the video who are also quite diverse. Since this video airs on a channel for young children, did you get any push back for including them? There are always some segments of society who are not happy

We did get some emails and calls, but not too many. I was glad about that because it really made me feel angry that people felt righteous about who they thought should be allowed to be on a video. . . a video about FAMILIES! I mean, who has the right to decide what other people’s families should look like?

You do a lot of charity work. What charities are near and dear to your heart?

Oy, the list is long. I usually choose to do a lot for children-centered charities through my music, and I particularly love having worked with CHOP (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and meeting some of the amazing kids who have been treated there. There are also a few groups that I always find myself donating to personally that I don’t talk about as much. They are: Heiffer International (they give animals and training to families in order to provide better nutrition and ways of generating sustainable income), FINCA (which microfinances low-income entrepreneurs in countries all over the world), The WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society which saves wild places and animals all over the globe as well as running the NYC Zoos and Aquarium) and two NYC based charities, NYRP (The New York Restoration Project, founded by Bette Midler rebuilds public spaces and parks in NYC that have deteriorated from years of neglect) and Riverkeeper (New York’s “clean water advocate”, they are also dedicated to protecting the Hudson River).

My toddler stops dead in her tracks whenever she hears your music. What is it like having Laurie Berkner for your mom?

You’d have to ask my daughter that one!

What’s next for you and your band?

Our new DVD, “Party Day!” will be released in July. It’s going to be packaged with a bonus CD that has a new, acoustic version of the “My Family” song.

What is your favorite Laurie Berkner song?

Hmm, it always seems to be the latest song I’ve written. Right now it’s “Party Day,” the title track for our new DVD - so you’ll have to buy it and find out what it sounds like! 

I’ll end with the toughest question: Elmo or Barney, and do you know either of them?

Elmo. I can’t say that we hang. He’s never invited me to tea. I can talk like Elmo, by the way. Ask me to do an impression sometime.

Thank you so much Laurie!

I know I'll be first in line (OK at for Party Day when it comes out!  Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of the interview, and if you're a Laurie fan.  Trust me, listen to her once or catch a video on Nick Jr. and you'll be hooked.  Now, where is my iPod...?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Weekend of 2's

We had two important milestones this weekend, both having to do with, well, two.

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember a post from April 18, 2009. The day our lives changed forever, the day our sweet Sabrina was born. She officially turned two today, Saturday's party not withstanding, which means we've woken up for 730 days in a row believing today was the day we loved her the most and being wrong when we in fact somehow loved her more the next day, as impossible as that seems. She really did have a blast over these last three days, and enjoyed every minute of it. From the party on Saturday, to playing with all the new toys Sunday, and spending today riding the train at the Railroad Park with Daddy, she was laughing the whole way through. (The last few "one parent" days have been "Papa Days" as Gregg took off on times when I was out of town for work. So today I got to have a "Daddy Day" of my own!) 

Our other "two" milestone is that after the Railroad Park and a quick visit to Grandma's house, I met Gregg downtown at the adoption agency office to get fingerprinted and start the ball rolling on our home study for adoption number two.  Gregg has always wanted two children, while I had to come to terms with it.  I was happy in the "one and done" club.  But I know in the end, that's what's best for Sabrina and for our family.  Still, I come to this decision with mixed emotions.

Honestly, when Project Baby started back in March of 2008, as much as I wanted a child I thought we were about to give up a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of emotions, and in the end remain childless.  Call me pessimistic, but it kept nagging at me that "You're gay, this is Arizona, they're not going to allow you to have a child".  Of course, I had not yet been introduced to the Gay Parent "scene" at that point.  The journey has been fantastic, and I consider myself sort of an advocate for adoption in general and same sex parenting specifically.  Then the wonderful day two years ago when Sabrina came into the world.

That day, as joyous as it was, came as a bittersweet time.  For as in all adoptions, the happiness we gained as our family grew came at the cost of grief as a mother went home without her child.  Sometimes I still get stuck on that thought.  I know that one sentence is not really a fair statement as it has volumes of thought, emotion, and decision making propping it up.  The feelings of a mother considering what to do; weighing her options, being fair to her other children, loving her unborn baby.  Investigating avenues, reaching out and trusting strangers--almost blindly.  And finally--going home, leaving the hospital, but not with the child she carried for nine months.  If you've not experienced that day, signing a paper and becoming a parent, it teeters between pure joy and extreme sadness.  It affected me deeply.

We pushed gently on a mother who decided on no contact, happily reaching a point in the first few days where picture exchanges were permitted, and working up to a reunion visit ten months later when we were back in California to finalize the adoption in court.  Our email contact is sporadic; mostly me sending pictures back there, but I have to respect the comfort level.  It's possible there may be a trip out here to Arizona over the summer, so I'm hoping for that but have decided to stop pushing it.  (I noticed myself mentioning it in almost all of my emails.)

I've also become aware of an anti adoption movement on the Internet, made up of mostly (from what I can tell) people who were either adopted years ago before open adoption became the norm or birth mothers who were coerced back in those times to give up their babies due to societal or familial pressures.  This blog was targeted by those individuals who left hateful comments towards me and my family as profiting over the deeply personal loss of birth mothers by adult adoptees bitter about their circumstances.  I realized we were talking about circumstances from two different worlds, but I read some of those blogs, and it's hard not to be affected by what they say, even as I know their situations are so different from ours.

So I'm letting myself, carefully, allow the joy of another baby creep into my psyche.  I know that without a personal connection and trust of a future birth mother I will not be able to allow myself to feel comfortable about a match with her.  The good thing is Gregg and I both want to find someone as great as Sabrina's birth mom, so I know unless the understanding is there between the three of us we'll just keep searching.  I tend to have thick skin when it comes to myself, but get hung up thinking about the pain of others.  I'll have to remember why we're all doing what we're doing and making the decisions we're making as we move through the process.  When we make the connection that it's really about the child, I'll know it's right.

In the future I'll look deep into a newborn baby's eyes, know it's right and think, if this is so great for all involved, why did this kid just throw up all over my shoes?

Hamming it up with my new water and sand table from Grandpa and Grandma