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Happy Mother’s Day – From Huffington Post

"...the random kid at the neighborhood playground who responds to Nick's opening statement of "I have two moms" with "I have a pet hamster -- want to see it?"

“…the random kid at the neighborhood playground who responds to Nick’s opening statement of “I have two moms” with “I have a pet hamster — want to see it?”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the families out there!

There are so many ways to make a family. Whether you’re a mom, a grandma, a step-mom or Mr. Mom, this is a day to celebrate all of the things you for the children who have chosen to be a part of your life.

I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post to celebrate our family. Read the entire article here.

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A Little Piece About Peaceful Learning

Summertime…and the learning is peaceful…

We had a lovely time at the Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts this weekend, even though the “Arts” part was your standard street faire fare of patchouli, woven bracelets, and shapeless, vaguely ethnic, sun dresses.

I think I even saw a painting or 2 of Dawn of Aquarius style sunrises with human silhouettes…and dolphins.

Sunday was HOT.  But the kids did better than expected for the 3 hours that we wandered thru Evanston’s multicultural melting pot.  I thought we blended in quite nicely, though one woman complained to us that the unwashed masses from Chicago were slowly ruining the event…before we revealed that we were part of this migration north.

She practically choked on the self-important foot she had thrust so far into her mouth.

General Custer himself made an appearance, even though I mistook him for Tweetie Bird in a Civil War uniform.  Gabe mistook him for a yellow-headed freak of nature which sent him screaming down the cobblestone path as fast as his 2-year-old legs could carry him.  That poor actor in his poorly ventilated suit tried to make nice with now-terrified Gabe – waving, doing a little jig – but Gabe would have none of it.  Once he was safely in Lori’s arms, he shook his fists and shouted, “NO NO NO!!!  DON’T DO THAT!!!!

He’s had the same reaction to the porcelain dog at his grandma’s house.

I think we need to get him out more.

He settled down once we reached the stage area, though we had to wait 20 minutes for MC Blackfoot to wrap up him polemic about the inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans in the media before we got to the actual performance.

Seriously dude?  This is Evanston.  You’re preaching to the converted.

The performance itself was nice – an audience participation Peace Dance that our kids refused to join.  It always surprises me that we’ve raised sideline kids.  They’re content to watch, but god forbid they should be in the spotlight, even if it’s with a group of soooo Evanston Race-for-the-Cure, March-Against-Racism, Insert-Cause-Here T-shirt clad families.

Then again, we’re not Wiggle Worm folk.

We’re the ones rolling our eyes in the back row wondering when the backwards Alphabet Song – turn your back to the audience ha ha HA – will finally end.  We’ve become less cynical now that we have children, but it’s telling that a silent Comic Bookstore Guy “duh” accompanies most of Nick’s responses.

“Sweetie, get your shoes.  We’re ready to go.”
“They’re sneakers….(duh!)

It’s something we’re working on.

The highlight for Nick was a life-size Super Mario Brothers Tennis EXTRAVAGANZA (read: one big ad for the Nintendo Game – Play real tennis!  Play fake tennis!  Go home and demand that your parents buy you this game RIGHT NOW!)

He played for a good 20 minutes, though when it was time to go I had to football-hold him out of the game room since he refused to put the Nintendo 3DS after 3 5-minute warnings.  At some point, he will be too big, and I will be too decrepit, to do this.  I think he knows this, and is just biding his time.

There has to be a better way to extract him from these things.

Once we got home, I thought the fair would become just another faded family memory from the summer of 2012.  But instead, Nick and Gabe recreated their own Native American/Pentecostal/White Party version using the mini trampoline as their stage and singing into plastic yard stakes – pointy side down, of course.

“The World is Spirit!  Spirit is the World!  Everybody has Spirit in your Soul!”  Nick sang at the top of his lungs while Gabe did some sort of Ninja Sword dance with the stake.  Oddly enough, the non-stop reggaeton bass from the apartment building next door only enhanced the experience.  At the end of the concert, Nick captured a firefly between his hands and walked over to me, Lori and Olivia as we swung gently in the hammock.

“This is a Peace Fly,” he said, lowering his voice to a reverent whisper.  “We have to set it free to spread peace.”

“Happy Birthday,” Gabe added randomly, though equally reverent.

We watched the firefly take off from Nick’s hands.

Passive, maybe.
Receptive, definitely.

They really do take everything in.

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Fly Arrow – Straight and True!

Let the boys be boys…

Last night at Navy Pier, Nick and Gabe could have collected more numbers than The Biebster at Old Orchard Mall. Unlike their parents, our boys have charisma up the wazoo, which is why people stop what they’re doing to talk to them.

Nick and Gabe love the attention.  With men, they are polite. Engaging, with a hint of reserve.  But with the ladies, the charm goes to 11.  They smile, chat, laugh – in other words, they flirt.

Yup, our boys are straight.

We had hints with Nick.  When he was 4, he kept staring at a girl who looked about 5 across the street.  Long hair, prairie skirt…

“Nick, do you know her?”
“No, but I want to.”

They start so young….

Gabe, being the younger brother, trumped Nick by about 3 years.  As a baby, he began copping feels anytime a buxom broad picked him up.  At first it was cute, then it became comic after we corrected him with a gentle, “No, sir” which he then added to his repertoire:

Cop feel.  Smile. Say “No, Sir” with cute toddler lisp. Rinse and repeat.

If he’s doing this at 10, it’s a problem.  Then again, if women are picking him up at 10 – either literally or otherwise…yeah, a much bigger problem.

Where oh where did we go wrong?  Was it something we did?  Or didn’t do?

But what if…they were just born this way.

We’ll have to remind ourselves that God doesn’t make mistakes.  Even when the non-stop calls from HS girls start coming – which is why we plan to bury these hyper-athletic boys in sports to keep them TIRED and BUSY – we will say we are not here to judge.

Unless the girls are skanks.  Then all bets are off.

We’ll do our job as parents and raise them to be the best versions of who they are, no matter who they love.  That’s what our parents did for us.  How could we do anything different?

I’ll wrap up with a tribute to the late Donna Summer.  I love to love my disco, but I feel love for her duet with Musical Youth – my absolute, all-time fav 80’s song.

clip art courtesy: valentine-clipart.com

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Scout’s Honor

This weekend, we discovered Gabe’s strawberry allergy. One moment, he was happily chomping on a strawberry popsicle. The next moment, it looked like someone had pressed his face into a Berber carpet. (Hey, they actually use real strawberries.  Huzzah!)

Luckily, I’m a worrywart, so I always have children’s Benadryl on hand.

Yesterday morning we offered him almond-buttered toast; he insistently pointed to the strawberry jelly with an emphatic, “I want dat!”

Not going to happen, kiddo.  Back and forth we went until Lori decided to add some explanation, even though we were unsure whether it would make sense to his two-year-old brain. “If you eat this,” she said, picking up the jar, “you will get yucky bumps on your face. Remember?” She touched his cheek to reinforce the point. “Itchy. Owie.”

“Itchy. Owie,” he repeated, before covering her hand with his own then finally accepting the toast – sans jelly.

That afternoon, when I picked Nick up from school, he ran to me, face radiating with joy, emphatically waving a flyer. “It’s a club! Just for boys! They do fun things! I want to go!”

“That’s awesome, kiddo! I bet – “ My heart sank when I saw the logo.

The Boy Scouts.

Great, we’re going to have that conversation.

“I bet,” I began again, as we drove home, “that it does look like a lot of fun, but here’s the thing – they don’t like families that have 2 mommies or 2 daddies. And I know it’s not fair, and it doesn’t feel good, but that’s just the way they think. It doesn’t make it right.”

“Oh.” I could see the spark fading from his eyes…then, an idea forming.

“What if only you or Mommy takes me, but not both of you and I tell them I have a daddy.”

“But you don’t have a daddy. You have 2 mommies, just like…” and I listed the same-sex families we had purposely surrounded ourselves with, knowing that the children of these relationships would need to see themselves reflected in others. “Oh, and don’t forget Joshua – he’s got 2 mommies and a daddy – how cool is that? And Elise, she has 1 mommy. And Kevin, he has 1 mommy and 1 daddy. See? There are lots of ways to make a family.”

Nick was silent, staring out the window, no doubt, still processing.

“Sweetie, if we told them that you had a daddy, that would be lying. Would that feel good?”

“No,” he sighed. “I just really wanted to go fishing.”

“Hey! We can all go fishing as a family, or maybe you and mommy can go?” But not on a boat that moves, ’cause your momma will turn all shades green…hmm, teaching moment! Link back to something he already knows…

“Hey Nick, do you remember Martin Luther King, Jr.?”

“Yes.”

“And how he had a special day and wrote lots of letters and talked to lots of people?”

I saw him scrunching up his face, trying to reach back to January.  “And he said we all have to love each other?”

“That’s right. Did you know that some people didn’t like him because of the color of his skin? It was brown like yours and mine. Did you know some people didn’t like people who were Chinese like Mommy – ”

“Nana,” Nick interrupted with his half-scolding-Barry-White-deep voice, which meant he was about to lay down some serious learning. “There is no brown skin or white skin. That’s just the ladder inside us that makes it that color.” Hurray for introducing DNA and the concept of pigmentation early!

“That’s exactly right.” My little six-year-old genius, so wise beyond his –

“Wait, are there any orange people?” And we’re back.

“Hmmm, I haven’t seen any, but if I did, I bet I would be nice to them.”

“Yeah, me too.”

That night, for story time, Nick reached for a book we hadn’t read in weeks – Leo Lionni’s Little Yellow and Little Blue. Maybe he just likes color theory, or maybe our mini lesson in prejudice stuck.

Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter.

We created this family – 2 moms, 3 kids and a dog – through love. And try as we might to protect these wonderful kids from the evil strawberries and outdated prejudices in the world, we can’t.

All we can do is explain what we know, and love them the best that we can.

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News Flash: Adopted Kids Are Bitter, Vengeful and Murderous

Light/Dark
Good/Evil
Natural/Adopted

Didn’t get the memo?  No worries.

The new Avengers movie lays it out for you.  Loki, the Big Bad, is adopted, which explains why he killed 80 people in 2 days.  Phew.  Thank goodness that’s settled.

C’mon, Joss.  Really?

You gave us high school as hell in Buffy, warned of technology’s dark side in Dollhouse, and explored the costs of chemical warfare in Firefly.  Big ideas with snappy dialogue is your thing.

In other words, I expected better.

While the audience chuckled, I fumed for the rest of the movie.  Why?  Because it’s an easy joke that plays to a common stereotype. Why not make a crack about Nick Fury being in a gang (‘cause he’s BLACK!).  Or Black Widow being a ho (cause she’s a CHICK!).

Loki is not a murderer because he’s adopted, Joss.

He’s just batsh** crazy.

Am I equally crazy for being angry over a throwaway line in a summer movie?  Nope.  A few key words on Google pulled up a slew of commentary including the following:

“I’ve read from other sources that some oversensitive adoptive parents have a problem with that line. I’ll take that hit. I may be oversensitive about it, but you know what? As an adoptive parent, it’s my job to be sensitive to it. It’s part of the gig.”
– Of Masks and Men

“Think about what that one dismissive little line says: ‘He’s adopted.’ In other words, it’s not Thor’s fault that Loki is such a jerk. Loki’s not a real member of the family.”
73adoptee

“The joke in “The Avengers” just confirms for children waiting for adoption their perception that they are unwanted, unlovable, or different.”
– DRBethRobinson

“…a lot of people are calling the line what it is:  a needless, throwaway, out-of-character joke at adoptive families’ expense.  They’re bothered by it, and they’d prefer the line not be in the movie.  They’re also surprised that a writer with an ear like Joss’ didn’t catch the negatives of this line, and they’re criticizing him for that.”
– The Backfile

“I guess it would be cool if we could all give those seemingly simple one-liners a second look, and that goes for all movies and stereotypes. How does that joke make others feel? Is that joke necessary? What message is this movie sending? What positive conversations can we have from this?”
Embracing the Odyssey

No matter where words are spoken, they have power when they are heard.

Even in a Marvelous universe.
Even in an ordinary world.

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
– Buddha (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

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A Chink in the Armor

“Chinky pig! Chinky pig!”

I narrowly avoided driving the minivan onto the curb as I pulled the car over and pinned the 6-year-old seated behind me with my WTF gaze.  His fingertips had stretched the corners his light blue eyes to his hairline while his thumbs pushed his nose upward.

It was not his best look.

“Hey, Matt.  Where’d you see that?”

“My uncle Dan showed it to me.”

Deep breath.  Deep breath.  Do not yell at Nick’s friends on his birthday. 

“OK, well.  Nick’s other mom is Chinese and what you are doing is very inappropriate. We don’t make fun of other races in this family.”

Justin, another 6 year old, piped up next him.  “This one time, I was making fun of a guy who couldn’t talk right and it sounded funny to me, but then my mom told me that it wasn’t nice to make fun of people who were different.  So then I stopped, because I was sad that I did it.”

Two different families.  Two completely different experiences.  And both were good friends of Nick.  I knew the parents of both boys relatively well, but this drive to Jump Zone had given me a whole new level of insight as to what went on behind closed doors.

Kids don’t have a filter – at least mine don’t.  And once they learn to talk, they telegraph the inner workings of the family with crystal clarity.  They are Thoth personified – as within, so without.  The Egyptian God who introduced the system of writing is the perfect avatar for the pre-self-conscious child.

Nick has telegraphed many things from our family life that I would rather keep private –

  • Like the time Gabe had a brown ring around his mouth and a piece of dog poop in his hand (Seriously?!)
  • Or the time Nick used Lori’s go-to swearword correctly…in class (Bonus points for context!)
  • Or the time Nick told a teacher that his little brother has touched his penis in the bath (Note to self: Time for to have the no-touching-the-bathing-suit-zone talk).

Before we had kids, Lori had a potty mouth and I drank from the sarcasm font daily.  Now that the little ones have joined us, we are veeeeerrrrrry cognizant that what we say and do can and will be held against us in any public forum thanks to the wee eyes and ears that absorb everything and say anything.

No pressure, right?

But what a gift these kids have given us!  They encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves – which are definitely works in progress.  Lori still loves her F bombs and I still struggle to convince people that I am being sincere in my compliments…no really.

Do we really need to be perfect?  No.

Do we need to be aware of our behavior?  Absolutely.

Big brother, little brother and little sister are watching.