Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Glimpse Into My Future

About a year ago I was looking at schools in our town since we get to rank our first three choices.  As I went from school to school I observed classes with kids ranging from about 4 to 12 years old.  I remember seeing kids in second or third grade working independently on projects or quietly reading a book on their own and wondering if that would ever be my kid.  It's hard to imagine my kids being so independent and (relatively) mature when they were wild three year olds.

My boys went on their first after school field trip this week.  After their six hour school day they walked about a half mile, in the rain, with about 40 other kids to a bowling alley to play 10 pin bowling.  I met them at 5pm and we stayed to eat some dinner with some other families.  During the day I worried how their little bodies would cope with the extra long and stimulating day.  When I got to the bowling alley 8 hours after school started they were bowling and having fun and smiling.  They were doing OK figuring out this crazy world we live in.

This week I also volunteered at the book fair at my kids' school.  The hour that I worked in the library was the same hour that the middle school kids (I'm guessing 7th graders?) came to the book fair.  I watched the boys and girls look at all of the books and count their money trying to figure out what they could buy.  More importantly, though, I saw how they were interacting with each other.  There was a group of gossipy girls talking about how they heard someone was busted for stealing books from the fair.  There were some boys roughhousing with each other in the corner who needed to be reprimanded by the librarian.  There was the kid who bought some sci-fi books and seemed to be mostly by himself.  All the stereotypical teens seemed to be represented.  Of course my imagination started to run wild with who my kids will be in about 10 years and how they will navigate their way through school.  Will they be the nerds?  Will they be popular?  Will they be kind?  Will they cause trouble?

Today I worked at a hospital and in the waiting room a TV talk show told a story of four high school students who witnessed a car accident, helped take care of an autistic child who was in the accident and even slipped $40 into the single mother's bag to help pay for the groceries she lost in the accident when she refused to take their money.  Knowing there are kids like that in this world give me some hope.

So will my kids be the ones who tackle new experiences or sit back in the corner?  Will they be leaders or followers?  Will they be the popular kid who is kind enough to include the outcast or will they be the outcast who gets picked on?  Who knows.  I wish I had a way to see into the future to see what will happen.  I'm not very good at waiting.  I like to know what's going to happen so I can plan for it..and then have a back-up plan...and maybe another plan or two for just in case.  But all I can do is wait and see what life gives my kids and help them through it the best way I know how.

Parenting is so freakin' hard!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

When I was going through the surrogacy process I felt alone at first.  My agency connected me with a single father with newborn twins (I hope he survived) who I talked to once but the poor man was overwhelmed and didn't really have time to help me with my journey.  My music teacher got me connected with a friend of his who had gone through surrogacy as well and I talked with him once or twice which was very helpful.  Overall, though, I felt I was one of very few people in the world who was having my experience.

I started my surrogacy blog so my child (before I knew it would be children) would know what I did to have him or her.  A few weeks after I started blogging I found a blog of someone else going through surrogacy.  That led me to another and another and another.  Pretty soon I was connected with 20 or 30 different blogs written by intended parents and surrogates themselves.  It was amazing to see all of their different stories. I felt like I had an online family.

We all supported each other as we went through our own, unique journeys.  Many were thrilling.  Some were heartbreaking.  Most were a mix of ups and downs.

It is now four to five years after many of us became parents/gave birth or tried to at least.  Not everyone's dreams were coming true when last I heard from them.  There are still so many stories that stick in my head.


  • There is the woman who gave birth to a gay couple who lived in Poland. She flew to Poland once to visit the baby after the child was born.  Her story was beautiful.
  • There was the altruistic surrogate who gave birth to a baby of someone she didn't know without any financial compensation and I fell in love with her heart and soul.
  • There was the funny gay couple in DC whose blog always made me laugh.
  • There was the couple who had twin boys who were a little older than my boys.  They were living in India -- or maybe it was Nepal? -- for several years and if I remember correctly I believe they had moved to The Netherlands.  It was fascinating to read about life as a gay couple with kids in other countries.
  • There was a straight couple who tried several times to get pregnant through IVF and never seemed to succeed.  I believe her PCOS was a big hurdle.  They kept struggling to figure out where to use their funds -- try more IVF or adopt.  Every time their pregnancy test came back negative my heart sank.  
  • There was a lesbian couple who seemed so in love with each other and they wanted a child so badly.  Their pregnancy tests came back negative every time too no matter how hard I wished for a positive one.
  • There were two couples who had triplets.  There was also a woman in Australia who had two kids and then got pregnant with triplets.  Can anyone imagine having triplets?
  • There was the snarky lesbian who used her own eggs to give birth to a baby for her gay friends.
  • There was the couple who used a surrogate in India.  The surrogate gave birth to boy/girl twins.  The mom was literally stranded in India for months because her son was too sick to be transported back to the U.S.  When she finally did get out she was dealing with a very sick boy who eventually passed away a little before his first birthday.
The last story was the most compelling.  The mother wrote a blog with such compassion, humor, love and strength.  

Now, years later, I wonder where all these children are.  I really wish I had updates on all of these stories.  There are a few parents and one or two surrogates who are my Facebook friends now.  I have a few bits of information about these children and surrogates, but nowhere near the details I had as we all went through our journeys.

Many of those IPs and surrogates followed my surrogacy blog but not as many follow this one.  I'll post something on that blog and if you followed my blog or I followed yours please put a message in the comments about how you're doing or post an update on your blog!  

Friday, October 21, 2016

I Can't Always Be There

Some days a parent's heart hurts because he or she can't solve everything.  I'm starting to have more and more of those days.

My boys are off on their own more now.  School is six hours a day which means they have to navigate a classroom with I believe 19 other kids lunch in a cafeteria, recess, art class, music class, free play and more.  We recently went to two birthday parties and their worlds are becoming more complex. 

When I hear that a child wouldn't play hide and seek with Jeff or someone bumped Aaron on the playground and my child wonders why that happened it hurts me.  I want to rush to their aid.  I tell Jeff that he can find another friend and I let Aaron know that some kids don't know better, but their world getting rocked a little is something I can't totally fix.  They need to find their own friends.  They need to stand up for themselves a little.  They need to join the right crowd.  As parents we may guide our children towards certain goals or away from other goals, but the truth is that they are the ones leading. 

I have tried to raise empathic, caring, sweet boys and some days I wonder if a little more assertiveness wouldn't hurt so much.  There are times in this world where you do have to claw your way to the top, but there are times when I believe compassion for others is really the ultimate skill.  In this day and age our children are supposed to be independent, but watched 24/7.  They must be academically pushed but also left alone to be a kid and play.  Children must be learning about technology because that's our future but not have too much screen time.  When a child shows an interest in something we are supposed to encourage that but then, if a child wants to quit, we shouldn't encourage quitting but at the same time we shouldn't force them to do something they hate.  Parenting is a constant balancing act where too little of something can be just as bad as too much of something.

So as my boys struggle to figure out how to make friends I know there is a delicate balance between me wanting to be their friend and me allowing them to fail on their own.  Parenthood is hard.  I see what people mean when they say the problems become more complex.  It's no longer about how many cookies the boys can have (although I believe there will always be struggles with cookies) but about hurt feelings, social relationships, gender roles, and more. 

Wish me luck.  As my former teacher once said, "Life is like a roller coaster and you just have to ride it until the end.  There's no getting off until the ride comes to a complete stop." 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Fear

Apparently there is a lot of fear and trepidation in our home these days.  But if you look hard enough you can find a silver lining. 

At dinner tonight Aaron brought up the fact that he still wants to be a fireman when he grows up.  Jeff responded by telling us he was going to be one of four things: a fireman, a construction worker, a something-I-can't-remember, or an audiologist.  Aaron then hoped that Jeff would be an fireman so they could be together.  When Jeff said he was really considering becoming an audiologist Aaron then decided he would be an audiologist too.  He then turned to me and asked if I would be an audiologist so the four of us could be together.  He seemed truly scared to be away from Jeff when he grows up.  He said that he wanted to work with Jeff.  We did our best to assure Aaron that even if he and Jeff work in different places, they will always be brother who love each other and his daddies will always love him too.  While the actual fear and sadness was heartbreaking it was sweet to know how much he loves his family.

Jeff had some behavior problems today and this afternoon I sat him down and asked if he was feeling sad or mad or scared or angry.  He said no to all of them.  Then, after reflecting on his answers for a minute, he told me that he was scared about starting junior kindergarten in a couple days.  His beautiful little eyes got wet and scared.  I hugged him and told him that his brother would be with him as well as two friends we had met on the playground.  I promised him that he will get to play new games, read new books, sing new songs, etc.  I reminded him that we will get to visit the school as a family on Wednesday and see what his classroom will look like.  I'm sure he is still scared about this new adventure, but it impressed me that he was able to actually verbalize his fear.

I'm scared too.  As a parent of course I'm worried about my kids.  They will in the youngest grade in the school and most likely they'll be the youngest kids in the class.  It's their first time being in school all day.  I'm nervous that they won't eat their lunch or that no one will help them open their yogurt.  I'm worried that they won't make friends or that someone will pick on them.  I hope they have a good teacher.  I hope they learn a lot.  I hope they have fun.  I'm also wondering what life will look like for me when they are in school all day and how I can balance work and parenthood again.

I am looking forward to the summer ending and having time to do things for myself again.  I believe I am a better parent when I have some of my pre-kid life back.  I'll be performing in a show this fall and I'm sure I'll be able to figure out my work/life balance.  But school starting is a realization that my boys are growing up, becoming independent and needing me less.  I know I have been craving that most days, but it is bittersweet...well, let's say 10% bitter and 90% sweet.  ;-) 

Years from now, when my boys read this, they'll roll their eyes at this last part...

Every night, for as long as I can remember, I sneak into their room before I go to bed.  I kiss each one on the head and most nights I tell myself that I will try to be a better parent the next day.  I think about how they will always be my little men and how I hope they are happy.  I know that in a few years they won't want kisses from me and they won't dance an impromptu hula dance in the kitchen with me to The Pina Colada Song like we did today.  I want to protect their happy lives for as long as possible, but I know that we all must grow up and face the big, scary world at some point.  Still, when my mom or dad tells me everything will be alright or sits down with me to eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie they still have the power to lessen my fears even just a little bit.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Broccoli and New Hampshire Pizza

A few years ago I heard the story of new broccoli.  Apparently it's better than regular, old broccoli.  My friend told me that her friend's kid refused to eat broccoli.  The parents tried every which way to get the child to eat the vegetable and all attempts failed.  One day, when the mom was cooking dinner, she told her son that she wasn't making broccoli; she was making new broccoli.  He probably wouldn't want it since he didn't eat broccoli.

Of course the child wanted to try anything that was called "new" and has been a broccoli fan ever since that day.

I have to brag a little and say I think I do a pretty good job of getting my kids to eat.  While they aren't the kinds of kids who will be adventurous enough to try tika masala and escargot, they do a pretty good job of eating overall. 

Aaron, however, won't eat pizza. 

...

I know.  I know.  Pick your jaw up off the floor and keep reading. 

When the boys were about a year old I started taking them to a pizza shop around the corner from my Chicago home.  It was amazing pizza and for about $5.00 I could get enough pizza for the three of us for lunch.  The boys happily gummed their pizza and I got out of the house for an hour.  It was great.

One day, when Aaron was maybe two years old (I'm totally guessing) he declared that the red sauce was "sour."  (Sour was the word for any food he didn't like.)  I thought it was a phase but for the next two plus years pizza was verboten on his plate.

My parents live in NYC and white pizza is popular there.  My parents introduced him to white pizza which is basically just bread and cheese.  We were now able to go out for pizza as long as the place could make a white pizza for Aaron.  Over the last two years we have scoped out the restaurants that could make pizza without sauce and life was decent again even if we had to order double the amount of pizzas we wanted.  At least we came home with leftovers and I could have cold (white) pizza for breakfast.

A few months ago a parent at my boys' school decided to treat the kids with some pizza.  Aaron asked the teacher for white pizza.  The teacher explained that the "red pizza" was the only kind of pizza she had and Aaron could eat it if he wanted or eat nothing at all.  He ate it.

I was shocked.

But now I knew that eating pizza was a possibility.

This past weekend my family headed up to New Hampshire to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary.  One night we got pizza.  We ordered a red pizza (or as everyone else in the world calls it: a pizza) and a white pizza.  Aaron ate a piece of white pizza and wanted more.  Someone (I think it was me...but maybe I'm stealing the credit) told Aaron that we ordered New Hampshire red pizza which was different than other red pizza.  Aaron decided to try it. 

He ate it.

He liked it.

He can now attend birthday parties where they only serve pizza -- I mean New Hampshire red pizza.

Yesterday we went to a food court and I ordered a piece of white pizza and "New Hampshire" red pizza even though we were in Boston.  Miraculously they make New Hampshire red pizza.  (wink wink)  Aaron ate it and liked it.

So we have learned a few things. 
  • Broccoli is yucky. 
  • New broccoli is yummy. 
  • Red pizza is yucky. 
  • New Hampshire red pizza is yummy. 
  • Kids are easy to fool
Now, if only I can figure out a way to get both of my kids to eat mac 'n cheese again.  They stopped eating that a few days after I bought a package of 18 boxes at Costco.  Ugh!


Monday, August 8, 2016

Our Family Doubled

About a month ago Jeff came up with a magical, invisible friend.  She (I believe it was a she when she first appeared) showed up a few times over the course of a week and would often stay for a short time.  Aaron's magical, invisible friend came a few times too but very rarely. 

Then the friends disappeared.

A few weeks later Jeff's friend came back again.  She is here to stay, it seems, considering how often she has been with us.  Over the last week or two I have learned several things about her.  Her name is Silly.  She sleeps in Jeff's bed most nights under her own blanket but sometimes sleeps up in our lofted space on the toddler sized plastic slide.  (I'm sure that's not very comfortable.)  She has two moms.  She sometimes eats with us or comes into the car with us but sometimes she will eat the dinner her moms cook or ride in a car with her moms.  Oh, and her moms are named Miss Movie and Miss Candy because they let Silly watch movies (i.e. a cartoon on Netflix) and give her candy.

Aaron's friend is named Shiny.  We don't hear much about her, although we do know she is a she.  Just yesterday I found out that she is not a human being; she is a star.  Aaron drew a picture of her and she was a red and orange "star" -- although it looked more like an amoeba and she may have been red and orange because those were the colors of crayons Aaron got at the restaurant.

So it seems that our family of four is now eight and it includes two daughters (one human and one star) and two moms who are named after overindulging their children.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cindy the Librarian

"You look tired," Cindy said to me.

"Yeah," I replied secretly impressed with how well she knew me.

My boys and I met Cindy almost two years ago.  She does a sing-along/story time for kids at the library near our home.  She runs her story time well and my boys started sitting through her performance after just a couple weeks even though they were only two and a half years old.  She started to know us because we showed up to the library quite often.

I don't remember when but shortly after we moved to Massachusetts my parents came for a visit.  I'm guessing it was around Halloween because I remember they were visiting so they could watch the kids trick-or-treat.  I took some work (or maybe I just ran away from home for the day) and my parents took the kids to the library.  My mom, who will talk to just about anyone these days, started talking with Cindy and immediately they were like old friends.

The next time I came into the library Cindy made a big point of learning my name, Jeff and Aaron's names and even Derek's name.  I remember she wrote it on a piece of paper and knew our names from then on.  Every time we went to the library she greeted us with a personal touch. 

Over the last two years the kids have grown to love her.  When we walk into the library they look for her.  They tell her stories about their lives.  They ask her questions.  She always gives them her full attention and respect.  Who knew a librarian would be such a big part of our lives?

So yesterday, when I talked with Cindy, she saw I looked tired.  She could tell something was different.  I told her what was bothering me and she validated everything I was feeling.  She told me about her experience as a mother (her children are now grown) and empathized with how hard parenthood can be.  She told me that she is like Lucy and she always has a sign saying "The doctor is in."  The wonderful thing is that she means it.  She made me feel so much better about myself and my feelings.  If she accepts my insurance maybe I should start seeing her once a week.  Although Lucy only charges five cents so I could probably afford that even if she's out of my network.