Tag Archives: family

Operation Home Study – Isn’t our home lovely?

As part of our journey towards becoming foster parents, we have been getting ready to have a home study. The words “home study” are enough to put fear in many an adoptive parent’s heart.

A stranger comes into your home and peeks into cupboards and closets and bathrooms to make sure you’re a good housekeeper and that everything’s kosher. Our housekeeping these days? Meh. Back when I was working full-time, we had a housekeeper come every two weeks. Now that I’m no longer working, that fun task falls to Steph and myself.

We had to have the bedrooms ready to show – with space for each child that will be placed with us. We will be licensed for 3 children, and we won’t know genders or ages, so Steph and I busted our butts over a 2 day period to turn two rooms from this:

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To this:

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Gorgeous Girls’ Room
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Sweet little boy room

Our house was also the cleanest it has been in a long time. Here’s a pic of the play room with Liam making an appearance:

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For our home study, we had to do the following:

  • Have beds and a week’s worth of clothing for each child we are going to be fostering
  • Purchase 2 fire extinguishers and have them tagged and officially inspected.
  • Lock our alcohol up (thank God we have a liquor cabinet!)
  • Lock all of our medicines and cleaning products up
  • Show that we have a first aid kit
  • Show that we have a ladder for the second floor, in case of fire
  • And a lot, lot more

Five minutes before our case worker arrived, I did a once-over on the house. How would we look to an outsider who was considering putting children in our care?

Everything looked good, except for the two tommy guns by the front door. WTF, I asked Steph? She shrugged. Must have been left over from the Halloween party we threw on Saturday, because we don’t have guns in the home. Except for on home study day.

I wandered in the kitchen. Four bottles of wine sitting on the counter in various stages of full. At this point, I about gave up and left them there. If the state doesn’t want a bunch of winos, then so be it. 😉 Again, it was from the party, so I quickly put them in the very full liquor cabinet. I squished them in there, like how my belly goes into my pants these days, and slammed the door shut.

Ok, ready for action. The case worker showed up while I was upstairs in the attic helping Steph put away shutters that have been precariously leaning on our upstairs railing for oh….about 6 months. Suddenly, today, we decided they needed to go up in the attic. Ophelia let the case worker in and I hustled downstairs, out of breath from hoisting shutters up to Steph.

Welcome to my home.

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The caseworker was super nice. She’s very young – I won’t make any silly quips about her age in case she reads this one day. We really liked her, and she really seems to have her shit together, which is a relief.

Before the walk-through, we sat down with her for some time, and she asked us why we are interested in fostering, about our jobs, and what we like to do as a family.

We talked about how quickly the certification seems to be going. Her goal is to have everything in place so that the day we graduate from class, she can submit our packet to the state. She said that in her last class, she had a family certified 5 days after their class ended. She called to tell them that they were certified and she said the woman burst into tears, she was so happy. She had to interrupt her and tell her that there was more – that she had a 2-week old baby that they would like to place with her. I don’t know whether to smile or cry at this, so I did both.

We also talked a bit about reunification. Reunification is always the goal when children are removed from their home. But today was the first time that I heard a stat from her that 50% of the time, children do not go back home. That gives me such mixed emotions – sad for these families that are torn apart, and anticipation and excitement that adopting through foster care WILL happen for us!

The walk-through went great. She loved the rooms, and didn’t raise an eyebrow at anything – even the copious amounts of Halloween decorations we have up that make us look a little obsessed with the dark side. As she walked out the door, she turned and said “Let’s get you some children here!” I closed the door and smiled.

I still can’t believe sometimes that we’re doing this, and at how quickly everything is going. At first I was thinking we would have children by Christmas, but now I’m thinking it might be by Thanksgiving! Though it makes me sad to think of children being removed from their homes during the holidays, I hope that Steph and I can make it a little easier by making them a part of our busy, fun family –  for however long they are here.

Next up for us is our inspection by the Department of Health on Thursday. They’re visiting to make sure we don’t have any sink holes, craters in our walls, or otherwise dangerous things going on in our home. I think we should be okay there. Especially now that I’ve gotten rid of the tommy guns. 

 

 

Becoming Foster Parents – Our New Journey

Steph and I have made no secret about wanting a large family. After our third miscarriage last month, we decided to change course and get started immediately on something we’ve thought about for a long time.

What’s our path to our Brangelina-esque family? Steph and I have always known we wanted to adopt. We actually started down the adoption path after our second miscarriage, before we got pregnant with the twins. At the time, we went through Children’s Home Society, and were looking at adopting a baby. I desperately wanted a baby.

Now that we have two babies, I don’t feel that desperation, which is a relief. We want to adopt, but it’s ok if it’s an older child. In fact, we would welcome that! I’m ready for full-length Disney movies, running at the park, and soccer games. I’m not sure our 1-year-olds would take kindly to any of those.

So, after the miscarriage, I made the call to enroll in the “Foster to Adopt” program. We know a couple who adopted 4 boys through foster care, and that was the road Steph and I decided to go down next. In that program, you are fostering children who’s parents are in the process of getting their parental rights terminated.

Turns out that program no longer exists. You can’t just go into fostering saying that you want to adopt the children that stay with you. It doesn’t work that way. The goal of foster care is always re-unification with the parents. Most of the time, the children do go back home. It’s only when the parent can’t complete their case plan that parental rights are terminated and adoption becomes an option. If you have been fostering children for a long period, and their parental rights are terminated, the judge typically looks to you first to see if you want to adopt.

So, after some thought and talking with Steph, we decided to go down the foster parent route, knowing that we will have to give back most of the children we help.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m scared of what it’s going to feel like to give children back that I’ve loved as my own. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that. Especially when it comes to abuse and neglect, and knowing that a child that you love may be going back into a hostile or dangerous situation. But, you have to be strong enough to try to do what you can and then let these children go.

Really, in a way, a foster child, who may be with you for a day, a week, a month, or a year, is no different than your own children. Nothing is a given and you have to pack in all the love you can muster in a short period of time.

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We’re 3 weeks into the 7-week classes to become certified. Every Wednesday and Thursday, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm, you’ll find us in class, learning about grief, trauma, hope, and raw humanity. The first class was a doozy. I came home with a splitting tension headache from the stories I heard. And that was just the first class.

After we finish, we have a home study completed to make sure that our home is safe and sound. Then, everything is submitted to the state to get certified.We are hoping for children by the holidays.

Who will our children be? How many will we foster? The state allows each family to be certified for up to 5 children, including your own. You also aren’t allowed to have more than 2 children under the age of 24 months. We already have those 2 children, so we are hoping to foster a sibling set of three children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old.

That means that our bustling family is about to get even crazier! I’m not sure where this road will lead for Steph and I – whether we’ll end up fostering for years, or whether we’ll adopt children quickly. I just hope that we can do the best job we possibly can in truly making a difference to children who need our love. It’s a privilege to be able to give that love.

We’ll keep everyone updated!

 

8 Ways Parenting is Different When You’re Older

I was 18 when I had my first baby – almost 40 when I had the twins. A lot has changed since I did it all the first time around. Food comes in pouches now, cloth diapers have made a mad comeback, and there are all sorts of wonderful inventions that make it easier to have an infant. I’m a fan. As my grandmother likes to tell me – don’t let anyone lie to you about the “good old days”. Everything was harder back then. It was HARD raising babies.

But accoutrements are not the only thing different this time around. The biggest difference is me. Parenting when you’re 18 is a wild ride. In some respects, it was easier. I honestly didn’t know any better. I remember distinctly when I found out my first year at Barnard College that I was pregnant with my second child. Ophelia was 10 months old. “Whatever,” I told their dad dismissively while on the pay phone. “Two can’t be that much harder than one.”  Ignorance definitely got me through that time.

Just how different is it being a mom at 40? Here’s my two cents.

1. First, let’s start with the obvious. You’re no longer the “young hip mom”. And if you try to be hip, you end up like this. No words. I can not.

2. You get tired more easily. We actually weathered the twins first year pretty well. We were tired, but I don’t ever remember being exhausted. That may because I now have brain damage from sleep deprivation, but hey. They were easy babies.

3. Your body doesn’t jump back. Honestly, it kind of just sits there – all obstinate. When I was 18, I popped right back up. Now that I’m 40, I’ve got these changes that just make me raise my eyebrows. You know how women will hoist their boobs in, and then UP? You know – bend and snap? Yeah, well that’s what needs to happen to my butt. There’s some serious spread going on there. Sigh. WTF? In and up, ‘tocks. Get with the program.

4. You have a strong sense of your mortality. I was 38 when my first two children were adults!  Now, I’ll be 60 when the boys are grown. That’s retirement age! Having a child with special needs makes you particularly thoughtful when you’re older. August will likely never live alone. When he’s 40, I’ll be 80. His life expectancy is 65. That would make me 105 – ain’t gonna happen. These are the things I think about.

5. Parenting is the journey and the destination. When I was young, I was on fire. I went through wanting to become an architect, doing child abuse research, becoming a famous young writer, getting my Ph.D in spiritual ecology (I’ve got my acceptance letter for that one!), becoming a neurologist, moving to DC and studying American Relations. I could go on and on. God that was exhilarating. The whole world was there for you to craft. Today, I still have tons of interests and I’m still driven, but my family is my crowning piece of art. When you’re older, it becomes more about your relationships and less about what you’ll accomplish. Your family is your accomplishment.

6. You become a worry wart. I thought I would be an old hat this time around. I’m an experienced mom – I’ve successfully raised two children. Not so fast. I have this sense of dread and anxiety that often follows me around that I have to get bossy with to make it go away. I worry about accidents constantly. I think it’s because when you’re older, you don’t take for granted that things will be okay. Because sometimes, they’re not.

7. An intolerance for drama. Now that I’m older, I’m able to brush things off more and focus on what’s most important. Because I. do.not.have.time.for.petty. I’m able to quickly rid myself of drama and crazy.

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 

8. More $$dollars$$. Now I can buy formula AND fix my teeth!

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Being older can mean you don’t struggle as much with money. Raising babies when I was 18 was some crazy shit. It was Maslow’s Hierarchy all the way. Thank God for paper food stamps and WIC government cheese!  You can raise happy healthy children on very little money, but it sure is easier when you’re stable.

And there you have it. 8 ways parenting is different when you’re older. Now, I’ve got to go downstairs and do some squats and give my butt a talking to.

 

2 Months of Crazy – A Big Fat F For This Stay-At-Home Mom

I’m just finishing up my second month staying at home with my 11-month old twin boys. I wrote a post about my very first day here.

Since that first day, things may or may not have gone a little bit downhill.

What’s been going on in the Buckman-Shaar household? Where do I start?

In the last 60 days, we’ve hosted a baby blessing for a close friend, planned and executed a Great Gatsby-themed fundraiser for almost 100 people, hosted a vegan potluck brunch for 50, hosted a fundraising event for our local Equality Florida folks (gotta do our part to help get gay marriage passed in Florida), and lord…I don’t even remember what other events. They were all fabulous, and I wanted to do them all.

During those 60 days, I also went to Chicago to a blogging conference for a week, and decided to throw myself into this blogging business.

We had three different sets of house guests in our home.

We bought an above-ground pool off of Craigslist and have been working our butts off making it nice and neat and lovely. What I thought would be a small job (how hard can it be to slap up a pool?) turned into an entire backyard excavation project.

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I could go on, but the purpose of this post is not to brag “Hey, I’ve so GOT this stay-at-home thing. I do 20 Pinterest projects every day, BAM.”

It’s actually the opposite. If this were a job, I think I can officially say that I failed my 2-month review of staying at home.

Why? I did not meet my goals and objectives. I left work to be able to spend time with the boys. To really enjoy this. To do it. I dreamed of play dates (I’ve had one) and trips to the library for book time (nope) and really nesting in my home. (this place is trashed.)

Instead, what happened is I filled my plate up to overflowing, because I could.  They were all things I loved, but it didn’t matter. I heard something wise at the BlogHer conference I went to in Chicago. The things you say “no” to are more important than the things you say “yes” to.  Saying no to things you don’t want to do is the easy part. Do you want to travel through Texas on a cramped sweaty-smelling Greyhound bus? No thank you.

But, saying no to things you are passionate about – that make you feel on fire – that is the hard part.

But we have to do it. Why?

Because if we don’t, we end up depleted, exhausted, cranky. And that doesn’t much make sense, does it?

So, my challenge for myself over the next 60 days is to chill the fuck out. I mean seriously. There are no awards to be won for staying busy. I have worked so hard to be able to be present in my life – filling my hours with things and beings that I love. I have got to turn things down – to say no more often. And I need to stop fancying myself an unpaid event planner. My new mantra is this “Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

Why? Because this is how the boys look when I fill my plate up too much:

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Because I want more moments like these right here:

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This post was in response to a writing prompt that asks you to talk about a current challenge you’re undergoing. You can read more on this topic from my lovely blogger friends here.

 

 

 

Back to School? 4 Reasons We Might Homeschool Instead

The boys are the ripe old age of 11 months, and I’m already thinking about school. Why? It’s back-to-school for Duval county today and my Facebook news feed is packed with kids starting kindergarten, or 3rd grade, or high school. It makes me nostalgic from when Ophelia and Dakota were in school. The excitement of seeing them running up the steps of their elementary school, with their new backpack, freshly cut hair, and smiles on their faces.

It also makes me think of my own schooling. I adored school, and abhorred summer. To me, school was a place where I could excel. I loved the discipline, my friends, the learning. Those first few weeks of school were always a tonic to me – fresh, clean and potent with possibility.

But my rosy school experience is not everyone’s. People choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons. The U.S. Department of Education very wisely decided it should know why, so conducted a study to see why homeschooling has become the biggest trend in education, with over 1.5 million children being educated outside of traditional school.

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).

The graph above is interesting, but I think that 9% other has a lot going on in it. We are considering homeschooling, and for us, it’s about the following. I reserve the right to change my mind, but here’s why I’m considering it, at least while they’re young.

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1. We want to travel the country.

The thing about school is, you’re suddenly on the school’s schedule, instead of your own. Steph and I love to travel, and do so quite frequently. We have dreams of taking the boys to all the national parks, one by one. Of taking cross-country road trips to visit historical sites. We just found out that because August has Down syndrome, he – and up to 4 car passengers – all get a FREE LIFETIME PASS to all of our national parks. I’m pretty obsessed with our national park system, so we will be all over that one. And, I’d prefer to do that traveling in off-seasons, when most of the country is in school.

Traveling to all these places is going to take a while!

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Image credit: Maps of World: http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/national-parks/

 

2. We want to “learn in context” as much as possible.

When I went to school, a lot of my learning occurred in the context of a book. Let’s take history, for example. When we were learning about the paleolithic period of human history, we read about what that meant in chapter 7, and then took a quiz to see what we remembered. The problem is, I remember none of that now. I actually just had to Google it to see if paleolithic dealt with the history of the earth’s development, or of human development. I’d rather our learning be experiential and “real-life.” To learn about geothermal pools in Yellowstone, and about the erosion that caused the Great Canyon to occur. To learn about geometry because we want to build a new playset in our backyard, and need to pay attention to angles.

3. We want the boys to grow up with a healthy sense of self-directed learning.

My caveat is that I know a lot of schools aren’t like what I’m about to describe, but many are. Teachers have to teach to a standardized curriculum and a test of basic skills. In Florida, it’s called the FCAT. When I was in school it was the CTBS. My older kids have been out of the public school setting for a while, but I know there’s a huge debate going on and that a lot of teachers are incredibly unhappy, because they can’t focus on learning what their students find interesting – they have to teach to the test. To me, that’s bullshit. I realize there has to be some accountability and standardization, but we have created a system where not only has a child’s self-directed learning been abnegated, but the teachers’ have, too. It makes me cringe.

4. I have a son with special needs.

August has Down syndrome. His twin brother Liam does not. Most classrooms are still not integrated with children who have special needs and more typically-developing children. I would like for both of them to learn in a mixed environment, where each can help the other.

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Home-schooling philosophies – like much in life – run the gamut from radical unschooling (where there is no curriculum, and a child has 100% autonomy in deciding what he/she wants to learn) to a “school-at-home” approach, complete with a desk, workbooks, quizzes and tests.

Where do you even start? Here are a few quick resources:

1. A super quick explanation of the main forms of homeschooling.

2. Something that goes a little more in-depth on the homeschool philosophies. Lots of links here.

3. A really, REALLY  good article on why the hell someone would consider homeschooling in the first place.

4. National organization of homeschoolers, which publishes research.

Our philosophy?

Honestly, I don’t know yet which path we’ll go down. It’s really not a decision to be made lightly, and thankfully,  we’ve got time to do some solid research and soul-searching. My guess is that we’ll err on the side of unschooling, but with  direction, and accountability.  I’m also pretty intrigued by Waldorf.

Some homeschoolers can be a touch militant, and are staunchly anti-school. That’s not me. I think that different settings work best for different children. And, I think there’s more than one way to get an education.

Who knows – we might make a different decision when the boys are older. But for now, I’m dreaming of owning our own schedules, of the boys growing up with a sense of personal responsibility for their education, and of traveling the country to learn about things “in real life” as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling?

White Chica In Spanish Harlem

I’ve just become part of a small group of rock-star women who are writing their way to internet fame…one post at a time. One of the things we’re doing is a weekly link-up, where group members each write about the same topic.  You’ll find links to my blogger friends’ posts at the bottom of this post.

This week, our topic is “The Scariest Thing I Ever Did”.

Here’s my story. It’s actually been one I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time, because I think there’s a message in it for my 40-year old self.

When I was 17, I got knocked up with my daughter Ophelia. That’s not the scary part. When you’re 17, nothing much is scary. It’s just like “WHATEVER, I CAN TOTALLY BE A MOM, I’M SO MATURE.” So, I went on with the business of being a senior in high school, going to graduations, and being sick as a dog in the bathroom next to Mr. Lipp’s Physics class. (Turns out you shouldn’t swig anti-nausea medication, because it actually makes you more nauseous.)

No…the baby wasn’t the scary part. The scariest part is what I decided to do next. At the ripe old age of 18, full of wisdom and spunk, I took my daughter and moved from my home in Jacksonville to New York City to go get the best education I could find. My son Dakota was spared some of what follows, because he wasn’t born until I was all grown up at age 20.

I’d been accepted into Barnard College – the sister college of Columbia University – and having a baby didn’t seem like a good enough excuse to let go of my dreams of going to an Ivy League college.

And, so I went. I moved there with baby daddy and found a sweet little duplex for $1224 monthly on Columbus and 107th. Holy mother, I was so naive. I thought it would be safe because it was within walking distance of the college. I was wrong – at the time it was one of the most drug-infested neighborhood in the NYC metro area.

I’ll never forget stepping outside my building with Ophelia in a stroller to a gang of men running past me with guns. One of them stopped and grabbed my arm. “Do you want you and the baby to live?” he asked me. “Yes”, I announced, smartly. “Well then turn around and go back in the building.” Which I did. With a quickness.

I broke my lease soon after, tired of seeing people shooting up in windows of the building next to ours. I was naive to the intricacies of poverty and addiction, and couldn’t comprehend how people would choose to fuck up their lives like that and shoot up. It terrified me.

We left that hell-hole and moved up to Spanish Harlem, to 151 and Broadway, where I felt much safer.  I became known as the “white chica”. I got heckled A LOT, but it was harmless. “Hey sister!” guys would smirk at me.  One in particular thought I was cute and yelled “You have a fat ass! Can I take you home?”

I kind of think he meant “phat” as in awesome, because I was poor and scrawny, and had no padding, but whatever.

After 107 and Columbus, Spanish Harlem was like a pleasant, gated community. I lived 6 blocks away from the subway station, which meant that I only had 6 blocks to walk before I got to the safety of my apartment complex, where we had a 20-year-old Russian as our guard. I kid you not.

Our rent was something like $995. I cobbled together enough to pay living expenses through student loans, Western Unions from my mother, and welfare.

We were so exquisitely poor. And not the kind of poor that’s like “Oh, we were all happy, so we didn’t even know we were poor.”

Bullshit.

While I was busy learning about music theory, 19th century women’s literature, and physics in the big halls of Columbia, my daughter and I were busy being broke-ass poor in our little hovel of an apartment.

So poor, I would run out of diapers and have to put Ophelia in the bathtub.

So poor, I would borrow money from my friend, Saint Liz, so that I wouldn’t have to walk in the snow with Ophelia from 151st to 107th street to her babysitters because I didn’t have $1.25 for a subway token.

So poor, I left my daughter with a complete stranger  while I went to school. Minerva – who would feed her “mucho Farrina” and smile and nod at me, because we had a huge language barrier. Turns out Minerva was a gem, thank God.

So poor, that I put my daughter’s sleep area (certainly didn’t have money for a crib) in the little closet. I can close my eyes and see it now. A blanket folded up on the floor , in the nook of the closet. A kind man came to exterminate one day, and saw Ophelia’s nook. “Does your baby sleep there?” he asked me. “Yes.” “Well, you shouldn’t put your baby in the closet. They’ll call DCF on you.”

I – who can’t remember huge chunks of my life – remember that interaction in excruciating detail.

One day, I was walking in the cemetery in Harlem and honest to God saw a $20 bill lying on the freaking ground like a holy grail. I caught my breath. And quickly raced over with my crappy-ass baby stroller and snatched it up so fast you would have missed it if you blinked. I bought cans of formula (they were $2.50 a piece back then for the concentrated kind), and a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. Because when you’re 18 and are poor and come into money, you decide that Coca Cola is what will cure your ails.

I was naive, young, and poor – so out of my league, I didn’t even know there was a league. I know I had  angels watching over me – the entire lot. Gabriel’s Gang.

Why did I do it, when I could have (should have?) just gone to school here in Jacksonville?  One day, Ophelia and Dakota’s father described a scene to me, that I didn’t remember.  We were living in Brooklyn at the time, and it was snowing and he looked out of our 2nd floor window to see me pushing the double-stroller with all my might through the snow so that I could make my way to Barnard for yet another class on something that had absolutely no relevance to me at the time.

That day, many years later, he asked me a simple question “Why did you keep pushing that stroller in the snow? Why didn’t you just turn around and come back inside?

The simple answer is that I was so young and driven that I didn’t even know that turning around was an option.

When I was 19, I just did the scary things without second thought. Like there was no other choice. Because my life was in front of me and I needed to do the scary things in order to create the life I wanted – even if it meant being broke-ass poor. Even if  it meant wandering around in a huge city, with my one friend Liz, and my army of angels to help.

Now, at 40, I think long and hard about the scary things I do, because I’m more mature and realize that my actions affect others- like my children, who if given a choice, would prefer not to live in poverty. But, I wouldn’t change any of my choices from when I was young. It’s a part of the fabric of each of us – me, Ophelia, Dakota. It was our journey.

Today, I try to capture the ignorance of being 19 and mix it with the wisdom of being 40 to constantly push myself to do what I’m afraid of.

Is She Your Mother? Explaining my Same-Sex Relationship to a Child

Well…it’s been happening more and more often, now that we have children. Other children, seeing us with our twin boys, ask the inevitable. “Who’s babies are they?”, or “Which one is yours?” Children who don’t know us look at us quizzically – back and forth, trying to make sense of it all.

Tonight, we had family visiting us from Texas. Our sweet 7 year old niece K was quietly watching Steph and I, and she looked utterly confused when I called out several times to my “honey”. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more.

“Is she your mom?”, K asked me, while she floated in the pool.  I quickly gloated (I’m so blessed to look so youthful) and then said “Nope.”

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Oh my! I look so youthful, it’s almost embarrassing.

 

“Should I say more?”, I thought. But I distracted myself with keeping the boys upright in the pool.

I didn’t need to wait long before the next question came.

“Do y’all live here together?”

“Oh yes”, I said. And made funny faces at the boys.

More swimming and silence. I continued to gloat about my youthful charm.

“What is she, then?”, K asked me.

I had to tell her then. “She’s my partner.”

With no pause, she asked “What kind of partner?”

“My life partner.”

“Oh.” She nodded, like she understood.

But the thing is, she didn’t understand. She was truly trying to make sense out of everything, and I was not being helpful in the least. In fact, I was being rather obstructionist.

It really bugs me that I didn’t have the hutzpah to tell her what Steph and I are to each other. To take this experience and turn it into a teaching moment and explain to K about how two women can love each other, or two men, and that there are all different types of families, and that they are all beautiful. That God, or spirit, or whatever you believe in, doesn’t make mistakes. To show her that we are just like other families. To help plant the seed of tolerance, so that it spreads.

K is a very sweet girl, but ignorance breeds hostility, and if we can show others that we’re normal, loving, parents that are no different than their own parents, then that’s probably about the most important thing we can do.

But, I didn’t say or do any of these things. Instead, I continued to float in the pool, acting like I had no elephant to address in the room.  Why did I sit there floating, like a spineless idiot?

Honestly, I’m shy about all of this. I feel like it’s not my place to explain it – that it’s their parent’s place. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries. I say that, and yet I have the gut instinct that I need to get over myself. That parents would probably prefer if I explained it in my own words. And, honestly, I really irritate myself when I am quiet about it – like there’s something wrong.

I’ve never once in my life felt like there was anything wrong with being in love with a woman, so I’m not sure where my hesitation comes from.

Thoughts?  Should I get over myself and matter of factly explain things to a 7 year old? Or should I leave that to her parents?

That New Baby Smell

I just opened the baby box that I packed up about 6 months ago, after the hubbub of the holidays died down. In the box, I had carefully placed their holiday outfits – Santa suits, Halloween onesies – ridiculous My First Thanksgiving suits, with turkeys on the butt. I’d also tossed in some of their first onesies that I was attached to. The others had long ago been passed on to other new babies. But the special yellow one was there, that Hopper had worn with his new fair hair. And the blue and white striped one, that the Lion had worn in his first months, when he was so intense, with his fists clenched.

As I opened the box, I wasn’t prepared for what happened. The new baby smell – that curious mix of expectation, excitement, freshness, and buzzy sleeplessness came rushing into me.  I broke down into tears. I’m not an overly sentimental type, so it really caught me off guard. We just didn’t know what was ahead of us. It was all a blank slate.

Anticipation

Almost a year ago, we were brand new again at this parent thing. Entrusted with two beautiful baby boys. Perfect, new, fragile, trusting, pure. That smell evokes all of that. And reminds me of my first two children, grown now. All the excitement of newness long gone for them,  replaced with a bustling of their new adulthood.

Babies just bewilder me with their pureness. That scent is just pure and ripe with possibilities. What will these boys become? I didn’t know their personalities when I packed those boxes. Not really – they were only 3 months old. I had no idea how much I would grow to love these boys. I thought I loved them as much as I could when I packed that box, trapping in all those smells. I was wrong! The love just keeps growing.

Newness

I know that smell won’t stay around forever. I probably just released most of it when I opened the lid. But I really hope that I can remember that overwhelming sense of newness and possibility when I come back to read these words years from now.

I read a quote once – As long as you’re still living, there is time for change. As we walk through life, day after day picking up experiences, locking in our personalities, I hope that a reminder of babies who are new and precious and un-invested in how they are in the world, helps to move us to be willing to be open to possibilities.

PossibilityQuote

This is what August and Liam have reminded me of this morning, when I opened that box and smelled their newborn baby scent.

Now, it’s time to go downstairs and play with them. They’re so fun, and they demand me to experience their cuteness!

Day 1 – My New Life as a Stay-at-Home-Mom

The real title of this post should be “My first blog post after becoming a stay at home mom wherein I document in painstaking detail every single thing I did today so that I can remember this day.”

But, that’s not search friendly, so I’ll just call it “Life of a Stay At Home Mom – My First Day Home”, or something important and dull like that. Steph wants me to call it “My First Day as a Housewife”. She’s rude.

So, let me begin. Today is July 1st, and it’s my first official day being a superfly “Stay at Home Mom”. Since I have tons of time now that I don’t work, I decided to take a break from eating my vegan bonbons to write out what today consisted of. You know, so that I can remember when I’m old and feeble, which will likely be next year.

Here’s the day:

6:45am: Woke up rested after a glorious uninterrupted sleep from at least 3:30am on and demanded asked politely for Steph to get me some coffee. I grabbed my To Do List that I had written the night before so that I could stay focused, HEATHER.  I realized that I had not written a single thing about the tasks that had to be done for the boys – bottles washed, diapers washed. SMH. I’m a real winner.

7:15am: Played with Liam and August while hanging out in the bed, and then went to go get my own damn coffee.

7:30am: Brought the boys downstairs and hooked them up with some breakfast. Who’s your momma???

8:00am: Got dressed in my running clothes because TODAY IS MY FIRST DAY AS A SAHM AND I NEED TO PROVE SOMETHING. My new iPhone armband and I fought. The short line to the earplugs made me have to run with my head cocked to one side, all crooked. The long one dangled and tried to get me all tripped up.

The boys look like they had fun, right? Especially August.

BoysRunII

 

8:15am-9:00 am Ran/Walked/Stumbled around confused for 2 miles with the boys. Umm, yes, it did take me 45 minutes to get through 2 miles! Might have something to do with the fact that I stopped about every 2 blocks to try to adjust my headphones and armband. I also may have gotten lost in my neighborhood, but that’s another post.

9:00am – Arrived home just in time to do a Skype conference call, where I debuted as a crazy beet. I knew I had a conference call, but didn’t realize it would be video, and I was bright red and ugly from my run. Nobody ever said this would all be peaches!
The boys were fantastic, and didn’t get into any trouble at all whilst I was on my call.

LiamPill

9:30am – Played with boys and sliced up some fruit for Steph’s and my breakfast. I’m doing the Whole Foods Cleanse again because I like wine a little too much.

10:15am – Uh oh! Have to leave soon for a marketing meeting at the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville. Quick shower, got together my lunch and stuff for boys. HEATHER, DO NOT REMEMBER YOUR OWN LUNCH AND FORGET TO BRING THEIRS.

11:15am – Race over to downtown area and only got there about 10 minutes late! First time out to a meeting with both boys! Did pretty well – I participated in the meeting while feeding myself and them! Decided I need to travel with my own Dust Buster because we leave a trail wherever we go. I’m not used to this and I feel really guilty, like I don’t care about trashing other people’s spaces. I apologized about 43 times.

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2:00pm Head back home, trying to keep The Lion awake until he gets home, since he has a tendency to not go down if he’s woken up abruptly. I make it to about a half mile away from home.

2:30pm Success! Both babies down.

2:35pm August decides he’d like to get up and have no nap, thank you very kindly.

2:36-3:45  August and I hang out in the playroom. I start working on the silent auction that I’m doing for an upcoming fundraiser, and start gathering addresses for the invite that I’m about 4 weeks late in sending. Oops, my bad. August keeps looking at me like MOTHER, HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THAT YOU ARE NOW A SAHM MOM AND ARE SUPPOSED TO GAZE INTO MY EYES?” I explain to him that I have events that need planning.

AugustGoogleEyesII

3:45 The Lion joins us and we have a snack. I discover that August has a trick or two up his sleeve. I refer to this video as “Snack Time and August is Being Shady”.

PS. I just started using YouTube for my own videos. Here’s the welcome email I got. August looks smashed. And yet they are proud of me.

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Moving on, then.

4:00  Steph’s mom comes and hangs out with the boys. This allows me to unload the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, start a new one, talk to Miss Ophelia, make plans to go shopping for the fundraiser, and generally get some shit done.

5:15 Dude. The boys are cranky and hungry. Steph goes to take her mom back to the Assisted Living Facility and I feed them dinner (Rutabagas and Spinach – YUM). Then, it’s upstairs to give them both baths. They have started playing in the bathtub lately, so instead of it just being a task, we let them hang out and just enjoy themselves. August looks concerned about the junk in Liam’s trunk.

TheBoyzCropped

6:15 Boys are dressed in their pj’s but still no Steph. So, I prop up Lion’s bottle on the bed and hold August while feeding him. Steph arrives just as Lion sits bolt upright on the bed and smiles big. {Please note, this is not cute. He is supposed to be feeding himself to sleep.} “Excellent!”, I announce. “Take the boy!”. Steph brings him into the nursery and turns on the sound machine to feed him and put him to sleep. Meanwhile I keep feeding August, who’s eyelids weigh about 347 pounds each.

6:45pm The Boyz are OUT. Time to head downstairs to make dinner and write this post.

As of now, it’s 7:30pm. Not bad for my first day! The boys ate three meals AND A SNACK. They wore real clothes. We went on an outing. They behaved during my marketing meeting. I count this all as a smashing success.

And now, the wines. Mommy loves the wines. The wines are very, very good to me. Notice that the wines are next to my To Do List. The one that had no baby items on it. Wine keeps me focused, so I am finishing up my list whilst I drink my wines.

TheWines

 

That’s all I’ve got! And the glorious part is that I get to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. Perfection! xoxox

PS. Not that many people read the blog, but I’m going to act like I’m famous and important and dedicate this to my new friends Anne and Emily. They will be having twin boys soon, and this is the kind of schizznit they have to look forward to! Emily is on bed rest in the hospital, so hopefully this post will cheer her up a bit, knowing what she has to look forward to 🙂

A Letter To My Dad on Father’s Day

My father died in a trucking accident when I was 14. He left behind me, my two younger sisters – Sarah (10) and Rebecca (7), my mom, his parents, and his brothers and sisters.

I let most Father’s days pass by me, without much thought other than a few silent words to my dad.  After all, I don’t have my dad here to gush over. This year, though, he is on my mind constantly, even more so than usual. It could have to do with the fact that I’m 39…the same age he was when he died. Here is what I want to say to him on this Father’s Day:

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Dad –

You are so missed.  I think about you all the time, and to this day, I can’t talk or think about you without my chest feeling like it’s under a ton of bricks. I think that’s the weight of grief.  You leaving us was so abrupt, and it was during a time in my life that I was miserable. For that, I am sorry. 14 is a hard age. I was sad and confused. You were a rock, though, and I always felt safe with you.

What I remember most about you is that you worked SO HARD. I don’t even know how you had it in you. I have to tell you that many people have asked me throughout the years how I did what I did in college – being in NYC with the babies. I have no answer, really, other than that you worked so hard and got up every morning at the crack of dawn to go pick up your haul and head out to deliver yet another load in yet another city. How could I do anything different? Ophelia and Dakota’s dad always told me that an image he couldn’t get out of his mind was me pushing them in the snow in Brooklyn one winter day, so that I could take them to the babysitter and go in to Barnard College for my classes. “Why didn’t you just stay home that day?”, he later asked me. I remember being confused. “It was never an option”, I said. I learned that from you, dad.

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Cooking dinner for Sarah and Becky after a full day’s work. Dad is still wearing his work shirt! I think that’s kielbasa he’s cutting up.

 

Taking the easy route was never an option with you. You worked so hard. I know you had other dreams than just being a truck driver. You told me you wanted to be a teacher. You would have been an awesome teacher, dad! I think it’s awesome that you saved enough money to buy your own semi, though! 7122 – Commercial Carrier Corporation – CCC. I’ll never forget it. They’re still out there, dad. I see the CCC fairly often. But none of the cabs look like yours – silver and big and beautiful, with colored swooshes. You worked from pre-dawn til dusk. I remember you’d often go to Jacksonville – where I live now. Where did you drive, dad? What loads did you deliver? I know that West Palm Beach was another place you’d often deliver loads to. That was where the accident was – where you died. What were you trying to deliver there?

Dad, I remember that morning. The last morning you had. I remember your alarm clock going off at 4am. You were supposed to get up to start your truck run. I remember waking up to the alarm clock and being too tired to go into your room to make sure you were awake, like I often did.  I don’t know if that was survivor guilt making me have that memory , or  if it really happened. But, I often think of what would have happened if I had been there to make sure you weren’t late for your run. I’m sorry, dad. I know I didn’t have control and that this was beyond me, but I’m still sorry. I wish I could have been there for you.

Dad, you were also playful. I’m not quite sure how, since you worked such long hours and took care of the three of us, but you had the best sense of humor!

DadGoofyEars

Dad, there are so many memories I have. Mostly, this Father’s Day, I want you to know that YOU ROCKED at being my father. Even though you left me when I was at a terrible, pushing-back age, I listened to every word you said. I remember them all now.

You’ll be happy to know that I have lots of joy in my life. I have four beautiful children, a loving partner, and great friends and family. I try to walk through life causing no harm, and bringing joy to people. I learned that from you. You cared so much about everyone and were so sincere. I want to honor you and I try to walk through life in a way that would make you proud. I am also a ridiculously positive person – I have an ability to pretty much always look at the bright side of things. I think it’s because I’m a survivor. I just know that I got that trait from you.

Dad, Mom, and me (about age 3?)
Dad, Mom, and me (about age 3?)

I know you can see the rest of us – Sarah and her beautiful brood of chirren 😉 Becky and how beautiful she is, my mom and how hard she works making us feel loved by feeding us copious amount of food. Your mom and dad, and how grandma is busy at 92 making quilts for all her great-grandchildren, and how grandpa pops up on Facebook to keep it real and admonish us for not calling grandma enough 😉 I know you see all that and I hope it makes you smile. We’re always your family.

MomAndDad

You are loved, dad. You are missed. I’m not sure what I believe about heaven. But, I do feel your presence from time to time. I wish you were here so that I could share my life with you – to show you how I turned out. That I’m ok! That I made you proud.

Anyways, dad. I think I’d like to write to you from time to time if that’s ok. This feels really awesome. I know you’re out there. I know you can see how I turned out. I know you love me, mom, Becky, Sarah, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Marley, Uncle Kurt, Aunt Laura, Uncle Tim, and all of your grandchildren that you never got to meet.  I hope you’ve been able to spend time with your brother, Chris. To comfort him and surround him with love. You know what, dad? We love you, too. Your memory is kept alive. And I know you’re out there somewhere to sense and understand that.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! My present to you is to keep trying to make you proud. That’s so important to me. Please know that you were a fine specimen of a human being and that I wouldn’t be me, without you in my life to shape me for 14 years. You’re always my dad, and I hope beyond hope that I am able to connect with you again one day. Until then, I’ll write letters.

Love you,

Heather

PS. To keep it light-hearted, I have to end by posting this old Olan Mills photo of us. Can we submit this to Awkward Family Photos? Why is Sarah so prayerful and the rest of us just oblivious?

PainedFamily