Friday, December 30, 2016

Party Time

I just got back from a whirlwind vacation in Southern California.  We celebrated Hannukah, Christmas and my in-laws' 50th anniversary with a Disneyland vacation and a surprise party.  It was non-stop excitement for ten of the twelve days we were there.

We flew in on a Friday and Sunday night was the surprise party.  There were about 30 people in my sister-in-law's house waiting to surprise my shocked and underdressed in-laws who thought we were heading over to decorate cookies.

When we first walked in my boys clung to me.  They were overwhelmed by the number of people at the party who were strangers.  They have always been friendly with new people but only with a daddy by their side.  After a few minutes, though, they started to explore the house with their cousins.  They went down to the play room and that was the last I saw of them for a while.

I actually got to have adult conversations at a party!  It was thrilling.

Even six months ago I don't think I could have done that.  I love that my boys are able to socialize and be on their own.  I have no idea what their older cousins were teaching them, but I didn't care for most of the night because I was having adult conversations at a party!

We had several other get-togethers while we were in California.  We had a big party on Xmas eve and on Xmas Day we had new family members come over with a 4 year old and my boys played with him very nicely too.  The "I-must-watch-my-child-every-second-of-the-day" phase seems to be fading away.  I'm feeling like there is more time for me to be me again.  I'm enjoying watching my kids grow up.  I had flashbacks to all the parties my parents hosted or went to when I was a kid and the hours of fun I spent in the basement playing with the neighborhood kids.  It's so wonderful to enter this new phase.  I've heard that the ages from about 4-10 are called The Golden Years because the kids are still cute, loving, affectionate, not having tons of tantrums and not old enough to want to distance themselves from their parents.  I can see how parenting is rewarding.

We are hosting a New Year's Day party for some friends with kids.  While I fully expect some tears and fights over toys I also am looking forward to sitting back with my mimosa and talking about adult things instead of spending a party playing with trains and eating with one hand while holding a child in the other.

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


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. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Will They Be? (Part Three)

It's both exciting and scary to watch my kids' world open up.  Now that school is out and I am home with them most days this summer I understand a parent's need to have structure.  If we were home all day every day with no plans I think I would go insane.  So off to classes we go.  Their interests are growing and it made me want to write another installment of "What Will They Be?" since I keep predicting what their futures will look like.  Watching their interests develop is exciting.

We started taking gymnastics class a couple months ago and we are continuing that.  It works well because Aaron uses some of his limitless energy and Jeff is improving his coordination.  The boys enjoy it and the teachers are great.

Last week we added swimming lessons.  I took the boys to the pool with their new Paw Patrol towels and got them ready to swim.  On the way in Aaron saw a pool with a twisty slide and immediately decided he wanted to do that.  I explained that he had to learn to swim first.  So we went to class and the boys swam with their floaties and pool noodles and had big smiles on their faces.  Both of them enjoyed it and at the end of the class Aaron stated that he could now swim and was ready for the slide.  I explained that when you fall off the slide you splash into the water and your head goes underwater.  That was a little too much for Aaron so the slide will have to wait but he still tells me that he can swim after just one lesson.  (In his defense he did swim without holding on to the teacher.)

A few days ago we started ballet class.  Aaron had been asking for dance for a while so I got him some dance shoes and registered him for class.  Jeff did not want to least not the first week.  He wanted to watch.  When we arrived at dance class Jeff told the teacher "Aaron is a little scared."  Aaron nodded in agreement.  The teacher asked if Jeff wanted to join class with his brother and he immediately said yes.  He turned to his brother and said, "Aaron, you don't have to be scared because I'll be with you and I'm not scared."  Jeff took Aaron by the hand and walked him into class.

My heart melted.

So gymnastics, swimming and dancing are all a hit with both boys.  Jeff still loves numbers and reading.  Aaron still loves to run non-stop.  Jeff is sweeter than sweet and recently got two dimes for doing something nice for me and asked if he could give one to his brother.  Aaron enjoys singing, cooking and trying to get my not-so-social cat to smell his finger.

My new predictions are that Jeff will do something with finance since he loves numbers so much but will reform the whole banking system to be an honest one because his heart is just that way.  Aaron will be an Olympic runner/swimmer/gymnast and be a vet in his spare time.

Only time will tell if these predictions come true.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Grateful and Lucky

We made it.  The boys just finished their first year of school today.  I am so sad to be losing their teacher.  Ms. Long has been phenomenal in every sense of the word.  We really lucked out to get such an amazing teacher and her three assistant teachers.  But time marches on and kids grow up so it is time to say goodbye to Kristin, Shela, Catalina and Becky (as well as Stephanie and  Kayla who were there earlier in the year) and look forward to the exciting world of junior kindergarten.  My boys have grown up so much over this year.  They have learned how to write their names, color in the lines, socialize with other kids, play new sports and more. 

I have learned something too.  I learned why there is a joy to parenting.  Now that the tantrums have stopped (mostly) and the boys' personalities have emerged I found myself looking forward to spending the summer with them.  I have entered "The Golden Years."  It's those years when they are old enough to act like humans and yet young enough to not ask a parent to walk 10 feet behind them when they are out in public.  (Sorry, Mom, for asking you to do that.)  They have a desire to experience the world and they do it in an appropriate way.  This summer I can take them to a butterfly garden or a street fair and not worry that we will have a melt down because the lemon lollipop is too yellow or their hair is too heavy or the Rice Krispies treat is too crispy. 

They have personalities that are fun.  I have fascinating conversations with them and learn things like "97 infinity" is an actual number in their world and that queen bees can give another bee a time out for stealing all the honey.  I've learned from them that somersaults should be done in the summer, falling to the ground is only a short fall when you're four, Donald Trump may have broken then elevator in our building and you have to wait 25 years for your next pretend birthday but only one year for your next real birthday. 

The world of a four year old is complex.

I'm am hopeful this summer I'll be writing about all sorts of fun experiences with the boys and the three of us will have big smiles on our faces.  But just in case, I may still keep the babysitter's number on speed dial.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Children's Museums

Here are some little known facts about children's museums.

  • In 2007 more than 30 million children and families visited children's museums.
  • Seventy percent provide school outreach.
  • In 1985 there were 38 children's museums in the U.S.  By now there are almost 250 children's museums with 70 more being planned.
  • Indianapolis, IN has the largest children's museum with 433,000 square feet.
  • The oldest children's museum is in Brooklyn which opened in 1899
  • At any given moment about 93% of parents are bored out of their minds at a children's museum.
OK...I'll admit that last one has some questionable research associated with it.  It came from the research firm known as "Michael's Bored Brain."

See, today I spent the day at the science museum.  And was I bored?  Yes.  Here is what I did.

  • We saw a Thomas the Train 4D movie that was fun for about three minutes until my kids got scared because the train lost control and sped into a dark tunnel.  They didn't like that.  And then the 17 droplets of water that were sprayed at us when the train splashed into a puddle was not appreciated by four year olds who, I might add, love splashing in the bathtub.
  • We saw a 20-something employee (who I'm guessing was someone who recently spent eighty grand on a theater degree at a Boston college) read a book about a bunny and teach us six words in Spanish.  After about seven minutes the audience of kids got restless and bored and half of them left before the actual bunny was taken out.  Most people were gone by the time the "Puppet Time" part of the presentation came which consisted of the unemployed actor allowing the children to pet or high five a rabbit puppet on his hand.
  • Derek and I watched the boys touch almost every button that they could find.  It didn't matter that they had no idea what the exhibit was for.  It was just a button so it MUST. BE. PUSHED.
  • I spend a lot of mental energy wondering what child has sneezed, licked or coughed on every button and figuring out how to make my schedule for the week work out if my kids get sick from the museum.
  • We saw frogs.  That was actually interesting.  I didn't realize quite how varied frogs can be.  However I spent the entire time at the exhibit holding a 35 lb. child.
  • The kids complained they were hungry.  Every hour.
  • We bought lunch at the museum.  It was surprisingly not "break-the-bank" expensive. 
  • We went to the Discovery Center which was basically the play area for young kids.  It reminded me of every other play center we have been to.  The boys liked the area with air sucking balls into tubes.  My plan to leave by noon-ish didn't work.  Somehow we didn't leave until 2:30 which led Aaron to fall asleep on the train ride home so I had to carry him the three quarters of a mile from the train station to home.
Luckily we got free tickets to the museum but for most families this fun filled day would be theirs for the low, low cost of only $100!!!

I know museums are educational.  I get that they expose kids to concepts and fields of interest.  I hope that one day I'll be more excited by them.  But for now it's comforting to know that when I Google "why I hate children's museums" I see I'm in great company.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Let The Overscheduling Begin!

It has been almost two months since my last post.  I am constantly saying to myself, "I should write a blog about that!" and ten seconds later I have forgotten what was so important because the next fight over a train is happening or I have to sweep the floor for the 10th time today or there is a tushie that needs wiping.  Life with two four year olds is definitely busy...especially when you couple that with the 20ish hours of work I've been doing and the show I was in that just closed.  The last few months have been good, though.  I'm back to interpreting.  I did a great show.  I am lucky Derek has been so supportive of my crazy schedule.  I have some summer plans to look forward to.  All is well even if I feel like I never have a minute of rest.

Tonight (it's after 10 p.m.) I decided it was time to blog again because today was the first day of gymnastics class.  I guess technically this isn't the first class the boys have taken.  We used to do music class when they were babies.  This class, however, is their first after school activity.  And it's not one of those "mommy and me" classes where the parent participates.  The boys are off on their own jumping, hanging, swinging and tumbling with me watching from the sidelines.  I am thrilled to watch them tackle new challenges and develop new skills.  It's exciting.  I was a gymnast for about six years when I was younger so there is definitely a little kvelling going on as I watch them.

Let's be honest, though, about why they are in gymnastics.  I searched and searched for a class they could take.  As summer approaches I worried about having no structured activity at all so I wanted to get them into something.  The art school down the street doesn't take kids until they are five.  Ditto with the drama program.  Piano lessons for two kids was going to be expensive and I'm not quite sure they would have the focus for piano just yet.  Sports camps in the summer are often one week long and I was looking for a weekly class.  I don't feel like I could handle two kids in the pool for daddy/child swim lessons.  The other gym I wanted to go to had classes that conflicted with school or ended at 5 p.m. and I didn't want to deal with rush hour traffic.  So off to the suburbs for gymnastics it would have to be!

I do like the class and the teachers are good too.  I am extremely satisfied with the program and the boys are having fun.  It gives Aaron a way to burn off some energy and it gives Jeff some practice balancing so maybe he won't trip over his own feet as much. 

Nowadays we read that martial arts are good for learning discipline.  A foreign language should be taught young.  Sports teams teach teamwork.  Music lessons help with brain development.  And if your kid hasn't started young he or she will never be a prima ballerina or a major league baseball player.  It's tough to raise a kid these days when there is pressure to give them all the advantages you can (or can't really) afford.

A lot of people I know already have their kids in swimming lessons, horseback riding classes, t-ball leagues, ballet class and more.  I know over the next few years I will become a full time chauffer  when the school bell rings at the end of the day.  However, after school activities will have to be picked based on school schedules, work schedules, traffic patterns and locations, interests, costs and more.  Life will become one big game of Tetris.

I just hope I remember to not give in to the pressure of scheduling something for every minute of the day.  I have big dreams for my kids.  I want them to play piano (I need someone to help me practice my audition songs), become fluent in Spanish (like I never did), be able to dance (it was hard to take my first dance class at 18), and be great scientists (who will discover a way to give energy to parents of twins).  But I also want them to be kids.  Sometimes playing with trains and making chocolate chip cookies is enough.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Absence Makes The Heart Want To Binge Watch Netflix

Derek and the boys have been gone for a week. that again to make sure you understood it because I almost don't believe it myself.

It's true.  Derek had a conference right by his parents' house.  He asked me a while ago, "Do you mind if I take the kids with me for a week and my parents could watch them?" 

"Hmmmm..." I thought.  "The other option is that I'm alone with the kids for a week.  I think your idea is better."

So last week I said goodbye to my kids for 8 days.  This is the longest I have been away from them.  I think it might be the longest I have been away from Derek too.  And here are some things I have learned.

- Binge watching Netflix is NOT overrated.
- I really do like to exercise.  When I'm not exhausted and stressed out it's fun.
- Trains tracks are not a permanent fixture on my floors.
- There is a world of social opportunities out there and I will get back to it one day.
- Having fun myself doesn't mean I love my kids less.
- I still have no time to do all the things I need to do but I stress about it less when it's just me.
- I run my dishwasher so much less when I'm not feeding kids five times a day.
- My floors can be free of Cheerios and raisins for more than a day.

I also have been working three days a week for the last two months and have noticed that simply having time to go to work makes time with the kids better.  I didn't understand how Derek wouldn't want to get out on his own during the weekends like I was dying to do.  Now I understand it a little more.  When you don't stay home with your kids five days a week the weekends are family time.  When you see your kids for only ninety minutes a day before they go to bed you want to help get them dressed in the morning.  It's good to have a break and get away from the family from time to time.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder -- and you can eat an ice cream sundae in peace.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jeff Is Reading

Back around Thanksgiving we were all driving back to Boston after visiting my family for the holiday.  We stopped for dinner at a Chipotle and in the middle of eating Jeff randomly yells the word "out!"  Derek and I had no idea why he blurted out that word.  When we asked him what he meant he pointed to sign hanging in the restaurant that included the word "out."

"Did you read that???" I asked.

"Yep!" he said proudly.

A few weeks later we were driving to a strip mall and I hear from the back seat, "Old!  I see old!"  right as we drove by an Old Navy.

Maybe four to six weeks ago I brought the kids to school one morning.  The teacher always puts a white board outside the classroom with information about what is going on that day.  It always starts with "Happy (insert day of the week)" and then says things like "we have gym today" or "today we will be learning about snow."  Jeff has recognized "Happy (day of the week)" for a while now but he has started to read more words.  One day Jeff was reading all of the two, three and four letter words and making a good attempt at the longer words with some help from me.  One of the moms saw Jeff reading and asked if I had been practicing sight words with him. 

"No," I said trying to play it cool but really bursting with pride.  "He has started reading."

A few weeks later I caught him on video reading a book.  His reading is getting better and better every day and it is amazing me. 

He already recognizes a lot of fingerspelled words and signs so signing secrets is working less and less.  Spelling out c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e is one of my last ways to talk over his head.  Pretty soon Derek and I won't be able to have d-e-s-s-e-r-t without s-h-a-r-i-n-g.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I thought this was my 100th posting but then I realized my list of posts includes the drafts of a few posts I haven't published yet.  So much for a fun 100th posting.  I guess you'll have to enjoy this not-so-momentous 97th or 98th posting. 

I have survived despite a lack of sleep for 11 months, a "poo-nami" of epic proportions, cats crossing over the Rainbow Bridge, moving across the country, potty training, playground moms, the snowiest Boston winter ever, the first day of school, and more. There have been a lot of tears but I'll try to remember the laughs.  Here are some of the best quotes over the last few years.

March 16th, 2014
Daddy Michael: Aaron, when Daddy Derek does something nice like that you should say "thank you" to him.
Aaron: Thank you to him.

June 27th, 2014
Jeff: You drinking coffee?
Grandma Judy: No.  This is Pepsi.
Jeff: Pupsi?
Grandma Judy: No.  Pepsi.  PEPsi.
Jeff: PUPsi.
Grandma Judy: Pepsi.  Diet Pepsi.
Aaron: You drink pupsi?
Grandma Judy: This is Pepsi.  Not pupsi.
Aaron: You drink dogs!

October 9th, 2014
Grandma Judy: What does J-E-F-F spell?
Jeff: Me!!!

November 29th, 2014
Daddy Michael: Did you know Daddy Derek and I are getting married next year?  Do you know what happens at a wedding?
Aaron: Marriage gives you a big, big ouchie.

February 9th, 2015
Aaron: I have to do a big jump.  On your market, get set, go!

March 22nd, 2015
Daddy Derek: (going down the stairs) I'm going slowly.
Aaron: I'm going fastly.

February 27th, 2015
Daddy Michael (reading): Little Quack found a quick place to hide -- right behind Mama.
Aaron: And she didn't poop on him.

April 2nd, 2015
Aaron: Aaron, Jeff and grandma Judy will die.
Daddy Derek: Dye Easter eggs.

May 1st, 2015
Jeff: My feet are pointing to the front so that means I'm growing.

May 13th, 2015
Aaron: One, two, three, four...twenty eight, twenty nine, twenty thirty.

June 8th, 2015
Daddy Michael: I think we are going to be a little bit late.
Jeff: I think we are going to be a little bit on time.

June 11th, 2015
Daddy Michael: Where does a chicken come from?
Jeff: An egg!
Daddy Michael: Where does a penguin come from?
Jeff: An egg!
Daddy Michael: Where does an ostrich come from?
Jeff: An egg!
Daddy Michael: Where did you come from?
Jeff: I don't know.
Daddy Michael: Did you come from Shannon's tummy?
Jeff: Yes.
Aaron: No.  We come from Chicago.
Jeff: Yes.  And the doctor pulled Aaron out and then Aaron pulled me out.

July 15th, 2015
Aaron: I took the wrapper off and took a taste.
Daddy Michael: What did your lollipop taste like?
Aaron: Pink!

July 24th, 2015
Daddy Michael: We could go apple picking and make apple pie.
Aaron: Yum.  Or blueberry pie.  Or peach pie.  Or cake pie.
Daddy Michael: Cake pie?  What is that?
Aaron: You get a cake.  You bake it.  You put a pie in it and eat it.  Yum!

August 10th, 2015
Daddy Michael: Do you like my wedding ring?
Aaron: Yes.  Do you have a wedding ring for me?
Daddy Michael: Oh.  Are you getting married?
Aaron: Yes.
Daddy Michael: Who are you going to marry?
Aaron: You.
Jeff: And I'm going to marry Daddy Derek.

August 10th, 2015
Daddy Michael: Hmmmm...I wonder how you got that corn on your toe.
Jeff: Maybe from eating corn on the cob.

August 15th, 2015
Jeff: That was a toot.  It's a good idea to toot in your underwear, but it's not a good idea to pee and poop in your underwear.

September 9th, 2015
Aaron: When I grow up I'll be the boss.
Daddy Michael: The boss of what?
Aaron: The boss daddy.
Jeff: And when you grow up, Daddy Michael, you can be the grandpa. 
Daddy Michael: Oh.  OK.
Jeff: And when Daddy Derek grows up he can be the grandma.

October 10th, 2015
Grandma Judy: Hurry up and pee.  I have to go to the bathroom too.
Jeff: Maybe we can go to the bathroom together.
Grandma Judy: I can't, sweetie.  I have to sit down to pee.
Jeff: Do you pee from your butt?

October 24th, 2015
Jeff: (looking at an adult book) This isn't very exciting.  It's just words and pages.

October 30th, 2015
Grandma Phyllis: Trick or treat.  Smell my feet.  Give me something good to eat.
Aaron: Trick or treat.  Give me something good to smell.

November 27th, 2015
Aaron: (knock, knock)
Uncle Mark: Who's there?
Aaron: Aaron.
Uncle Mark: Aaron who?
Aaron: Aaron boy!

September 11th, 2015
Daddy Michael: Do you like chocolate pudding?
Jeff: Yes.  But next time we should make rainbow pudding.

December 10th, 2015
(The boy put on toy watches.)
Daddy Michael: What time is it?
Jeff: It's fifty.
Aaron: My watch says sixty ten.  No...wait.  Mine says four, five six.  No.  It says four five-ty six.

December 13th, 2015
Aaron: I want to wear my Mickey Mouse hat so no bugs get on my head.

January 3rd, 2016
Daddy Michael: What was Panda doing in the car while you were playing.
Jeff: Chilling.
Daddy Michael: What is chilling?
Jeff: It's when you have the chills.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Want It All And I Can't Have It

It's happening.  It's really, really happening and I'm freaking out.  It had to happen at some point and that point is now.  I'm about to spend a few days a week with adults.  It means adult conversations, using my brain for work and no dried Play-doh or Itsy Bitsy Spiders for several hours.  And it all kind of happened without me knowing it was happening.  Let me explain...

I went to an interpreting job and, long story short, the student liked me.  I went back the next week. She asked if I would be her interpreter for the spring semester.  I was excited to be offered this opportunity, but I didn't know if I could make it work.  The three sitters I had previously used were not available for the hours I needed.

Out of the blue a woman who I had worked with in Chicago told me her daughter was moving to Boston and looking for childcare work.

Hmmmm....this just might work!

As I was talking with the daughter about potentially being my new sitter I got offered a bunch of interpreting hours by another student.

All of a sudden I had offers for several days of work and a sitter.  I also had a role in a show this spring that was booked long ago, a job interpreting a show in May and another job to interpret a show that just popped up a couple weeks ago.

I grabbed work.  I booked the sitter.  I was so excited for all of this to happen.

And now it's happening.  Change -- even change you want -- can be scary.

I have been the primary caregiver to my boys since birth.  We have had sitters over the last few years, but I have always felt like I was there more often than not.  Now things are drastically changing: they are at school a few hours a day, a sitter will pick them up from school three days a week, I won't be making them lunch every day, and some nights I won't get to tuck them into bed.  I know it's good for me.  It's a big step to getting back a part of me that was lost for a long time.  I know it's good for them.  Their world is expanding beyond their parents.  The sitter is great and Jeff is in love with her even though he's known her for about 4 hours.  But it's still hard.  Someone told me, "You'll love the change.  After a few weeks of being out of the house you'll adjust and enjoy work and home more."  I believe it...but it doesn't make this transition easy.

Lord help me the day they leave for college.  Just a warning, folks, clear your schedule for the fall of 2030.  I'm going to needs lots of support -- and chocolate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

School Choices

It’s that time again.  It’s school lottery time. 

We live in a town that has something called controlled choice.  Basically that means I should go around to the dozen or so elementary schools and rank my top three choices.  Hopefully my boys will get into one of the top choices.  It’s all based on proximity, gender, socio-economic levels, siblings already at the school, etc.  I’m not sure I’m loving this process, although I guess I do like that there is some flexibility and some parental involvement as to where my kids will go.  As a renter it’s not the worst thing but I could see how people buying in this town might be upset that their children get placed at a school that is on the other side of town or ranked low according to some websites.

I’m getting off track. 

I went to my second school tour today.  While the tour guide was showing me the gym and the cafeteria and how the kindergarten kids have bathrooms inside their classrooms (yes, that is a big selling point) I started to tear up a little.  It wasn’t because of the excitement of knowing that my boys won’t have to poop with 5th graders (although that is exciting).  It was the world of possibilities that awaits my kids.

During the two tours I have seen school gardens where the kids learn about growing vegetables.  I watched kids sing a song in a round.  I saw projects about families and animals hanging on classroom walls.  I visited libraries and saw where children learn to research projects and understand technology.  I went to an auditorium where students will watch performances and even produce their own musical.  The world is opening up for my boys and I am so excited to watch it happen.  I wonder if they will be interested in music and drama like me.  I wonder who their friends will be.  I wonder if they will excel at math or reading or science. 

I know as they grow I will have to deal with things that will hurt my heart: a boy who is upset he didn’t win first place in a science fair, a crying kid who was bullied on the playground, a sad child who didn’t get the role of the dolphin in the school play and has to be a whale.  As the years go on I’ll be dealing with peer pressure, staying out late, dating, driving and more.  For now, though, I’m going to try to enjoy the excitement of possibilities.  This is the joy part of All Joy And No Fun.