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 amazon.com) 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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Party for Birthday #2

Happy Birthday From Elmo!

We celebrated Sabrina's 2nd birthday on Saturday with a party in the park.  Elmo, by far her favorite character, dominated the scene with his cakes, balloons, and accessories.  We had some good April in Arizona weather, sunny and high 80 degree temps.  Everyone had a great time.  I'm sure you've been to a two year old's birthday, so I won't bore you with details, just pictures.  Sabrina's actual birthday is Monday, so we're playing hooky from work and daycare and headed to the railroad park, after which we have our first meeting at the adoption agency to kick off our home study for Project Baby--The Sequel.  Details on that to come.  For now, it's a party!

Personal Sized Elmo

Take That Candles!

Now You're This Many Sabrina

Elmo, You're Delicious!

Morning Surprise

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Arizona Spring Surprise

While a good portion of the country is still encased in ice, April is spring time in Arizona and the signs are all around...

Flowers on the front yard hesperaloe

Cactus are starting to bloom

Tomatoes are starting to come in

Whatever this is has buds on it

Young men's fancy turns to babies once again

Yes, that picture is true.  Can you believe it?  Our exciting news is that we may soon have fresh tomatoes!

Also, we're starting the process to adopt our second child...