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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday wishes


To you and yours... whether they are the biological family or the "logical" family (read=friends) we all hope you have a very merry whatever you celebrate.


More later after the insanity.

Tom

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Papa's wish list


It all started a few weeks before Thanksgiving. While watching T.V. Anna would yell “I WANT THAT!” at everything that popped up on the commercials on Nickelodeon or Nick Jr. We handed her a Target toy ad insert a while back and asked her to circle what she wanted. It took her most of the morning, but she methodically circled every goddamned thing in the ad.
Well, she’s not the only person in our house that has a wish list. I have one too. Papa has been relatively good this year, so I feel confident asking the big guy (uh, Santa, duh!) for the following items:
1. I want to go to bed and sleep, and I would like to wake up on my own rested and ready for the day.
2. I want clothing that doesn’t need to be washed. The Sisyphean task of laundry with two kids takes the life out of me.
3. Is it too much to ask for quiet dinners? Really, I would like to have some sparkling conversation and talk about the day instead of screaming and yelling.
4. Kids that will eat anything that is presented to them and not complain and toss it on the floor? PLEASE? I am getting so tired of chicken nuggets and yogurt.
5. With that said, I want a dog that will actually come in and clean up ANYTHING that is on the floor. Oscar, I really miss you.
6. And while I am on it, a self-cleaning house with toys that put themselves away would be nice.
7. A cow, for milk. Honestly, after bananas, the next thing on the grocery list each week is milk. A few years ago, a coworker bought a flock of geese in my name for some poor village somewhere. At the time, I thought it was a nice gesture, but now I wish she would buy me a cow for my backyard. And, if it came with udders that provided both 2% and whole milk, that would be great.

Really Santa, I have been good. My nerves have been tested with these two kids, but I think I have done okay, so has Tod for that matter. See what you can do Mr. C. and we’ll see what we can do to keep your spirit alive on Greenwood for a few more years.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fatherhood Friday part 2: A very special Christmas tale



The big question with 4 to 5 year olds this time of year is whether or not they still believe in Santa Claus. Their belief in the Big Guy is tenuous at best, as there are many forces working against their desire to believe. Children see the multiple Santas around the malls and at parties and they begin to realize that the one doesn’t look like the other. They hear things from the older kids at day care, or at school. Maybe it’s sloppy hiding of presents by the parents, or a child who suddenly learns how to spell while their parents discuss P R E S E N T S over dinner.
Most experts agree that when the child is ready, you have a sit down and ask them what THEY believe. You neither confirm nor deny, you simply nod your head and listen.
But this morning presented a different problem. When do you tell your child about Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo? This morning, while getting ready, we let Eli play in the shower as Anna got dressed and Tod dried off. He likes to hang out and play in the water as it drips from the shower head, this distraction gives us time to get ourselves taken care of and to get Anna on the way to getting ready as well. This morning however, Eli had different plans. Instead of just playing, he used the shower as a toilet and dropped a Yule log right in the shower floor. I was still in my pajamas, so Tod was the lucky one who had to go in and clean up the deuce that Eli dropped while playing. Since the oral surgery on Tuesday, I have been on a myriad of drugs and my stomach has not been the best. I couldn’t take seeing or smelling the lump of coal that he delivered to us so I left the bathroom and began singing the “Mr Hankey” song from South Park as I helped Anna get ready.
“Papa, who is Mr. Hankey?” she asked. Her little eyes were big with wonder and excitement as she posed this eternal question to me. I had a lump as big as Eli’s morning delivery in my throat as I told her that this was not the year to learn of the wonders of Mr. Hankey, and that when she was old enough, we would share in the magical story together. Perhaps around the fire with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and warm fuzzy sweaters.
They grow up so fast I tell ya. It’s moments like this this that make the holiday season so exciting and magical . I am thankful for the story of Mr. Hankey, and I can’t wait to share it with Anna and Eli some day in the future. Until then, the faint calling of "Heigh-di-ho" will have to wait. Some day my children, some day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fatherhood Friday: from Bloghungry, what do you want us to know?

This week, and this past month have been stressful for sure. I won’t lie, I am phoning this one in as I don’t have the time or energy to sit down and compose a big, brand new blog entry. Once next week is done, and the winter break begins, I can start focusing on some of the ideas that have been running around in my head but haven’t made it to the computer. This was posted a few weeks back by Adam at Bloghungry. We’re both new parents this year (me, again, him for the first time with his partner) and he had these pearls of wisdom to share. I asked if I could repost and he kindly obliged.

Since I entered fatherhood I have gone back to work two 6 hour days a week. That means that the other 156 hours a week are usually spent caring for an infant. This time has become an intense balance of cuteness and exhaustion that no one can ever understand that has not centered their life around it. That said, there are a few things I need to send out into the universe to help the world become a better place for new dads:

1. Do not offer criticism thinly veiled as advice to complete strangers on how to care for their children. Several times a day strangers offer me their two cents, as if to say "you're doing it wrong" about everything from the color of baby clothes to the suggestion of old world baby remedies. Combined with the stacks of baby books, internet articles, and dueling grandparent advice, it's enough to drive an already insane person postal.

2. If you see an overburdened parent carrying a diaper bag, shopping bags, and a baby take a second to hold the door for them or try to give them room to enter or exit the building.

3. Do not assume you have the right to cut in line or expect any special treatment from a sleep deprived dad with a screaming infant because you are a woman that believes in "chivalry".

4. When making plans to meet with a new parent you must be on time. Nap times, bed times, feeding schedules, and daily errands are often tightly scheduled and if missed can end in tears for all parties.


Great stuff Adam! What would you add to the list? I would like to add the people who give disapproving looks at us when we’re at restaurants and Eli makes a loud noise. We are always very careful to make sure we are out the door by 6 at the latest and we tend to go to family oriented places so we’re not messing up someone’s date night.

What are your thoughts?

Comment away.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Under the knife



The blogger will be going under the knife tomorrow for two routine dental surgeries. One, a repair of the bone graft that was done back in summer as the previous dentist didn’t put enough in. Thanks asshole. More dead people's bones in my mouth. Neat.
Second will be the removal of a sinus polyp that is currently blocking my right nostril. This should help with my snoring and constant sniffles.

Your thoughts and prayers are encouraged and appreciated.

And, if the dead DO come back to life, remember to cut off my head. Mkthnx.

Friday, November 27, 2009



Anna helps Angela roll out some slabs on our slab roller.


The open house for my new pottery studio at the college last Sunday was a great success. We had a good turn out with a variety of folks from all over our demographic. From the “I have kids who want to make things!” to the “I haven’t done pottery in years!” we had it all. Over 50 people came through last Sunday afternoon, and one happened to work for the Citizen Patriot, our local newspaper.

Not sure if you saw this article or not, but I thought it was worth sharing.
http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/jackson/index.ssf/2009/11/pottery_not_that_easy_but_its.html

Free publicity? Can’t beat it.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The unconditional love of a good dog




Makes the heart glad I tell ya.


Enjoy the pics, and just be glad that I am not one of those crazy cat ladies.


Yukon is the best. Really.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Louise Nevelson vs Lexus



It was hated and reviled when it first came to town, and yet, thirty years later, the sculpture has the last word. Louise Nevelson’s sculpture “Summer Night Tree” was hit by a Lexus last night. The sculpture, made of steel survived quite nicely, the Lexus, however, did not.

More here:
http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2009/11/car_hits_summer_night_tree_scu.html

I have been a big fan of Nevelson’s work ever since I saw her piece Sky Presence 1 at the Toledo Museum of Art. The huge assemblage of wood, painted black, compelled you to climb up and touch, but as a good visitor and a student, I knew better. The piece always intrigued me, as it was lit with the regular gallery lighting, but it had two blue spot lights on it as well. To this day, no one has been able to tell me if this was a Nevelson choice or a curator choice. Depending on the day and conditions in the gallery, the piece could have a blue tint to it or it could be saturated with sunlight filtering in from the gallery’s sky lights. I also remember the piece having a distinct smell to it, one that reminded me of the painting studio in the School of Design located in the basement below the museum. It could have been the fumes wafting up from the basement, or it could have been the patina of paint that Nevelson and her workers applied to the piece. Regardless, it involved more than just your vision, and that’s what I loved.
It made your nose twitch with the smell of linseed oil and other studio smells, and it made your hands eager to explore the nooks and crannies created by the layering of the various shapes of wood by the artist. The piece here in Jackson was out in the town’s square for several decades, and countless people have done to it what I wanted to do to Sky Cathedral in Toledo. It was climbed on, ran around, touched, and explored by visitors of all ages. I used to drive by the site on my way to work a while ago, and I remember seeing the sculpture crated and sitting along the edge of the Grand River as the City Fathers decided its fate. I envisioned a Fox News type countdown in my head “NEVELSON HELD HOSTAGE: DAY 40” as I drove by it each day and witnessed its silent indignation along the side of the river.


My Modern Art Professor also showed us pictures of Nevelson herself during the lectures on her sculptures, as he knew that often times, the artist is indeed more interesting than the art they create. The pictures he shared of her screamed “Diva!” and we all knew, even though the word hadn’t been assigned to this demographic, she was probably a “Cougar” as well. And, decades before Christian on Project Runway would use the word “ferosh” she was bringing her fierceness to the masses with Amy Winehouse meets Tammy Faye Baker eyeliner and her rockin’ caftans.
So what have we learned today class?
Don’t fuck with Modern Art, especially a Louise Nevelson.
To the anonymous Lexus driver, I hope you are okay, but sleep well tonight knowing that your car was just pwned by one of the 20th century’s greatest artists.
Louise FTW!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The kids ARE alright!


Right after Anna was born we were approached by a researcher named Abbie Goldberg. She was doing research on how life was like after LGBT folks adopted, and what the transition was like for both us and for the child(ren). Tod signed us up and we began getting her surveys in the mail, as well as phone calls and emails. Her findings were recently published and the results are shocking. From a recent post on Queerty:
And the latest research concludes the children of gay parents "show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends,"
Whew, that’s a big relief, as that girl on GLEE has two dads and she’s a big ol’ mess. We could only imagine the damage that we were inflicting on this poor child, as we were cautioned by friends and family, as well as our own internal nagging that having two dads would damn our kids to the nerd line in high school.
This recent study has proved that Anna can indeed aspire to Homecoming Queen, Student Council President, or *gasp* just be a normal kid (that goes for Eli too, we’re not ruling out Homecoming Queen for him just yet). There were no guarantees when I was a kid that I would be devastatingly handsome, popular, or a genius. Thankfully, most of those came true and I was able to rise above my Heterosexual upbringing and become the fabulous person that I am today. And, full disclosure regarding the “Glee” comment: I lettered in theater in high school. If there was ever a red flag or “HEY YOUR SON IS GAY!” warning, this was it.
You can read the whole article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/magazine/08fob-wwln-t.html?_r=1
And for those of you who were worried that I might be sharing too much of Anna or Eli’s lives on line, we took a vow of secrecy with the researcher.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Something from the west coast


Our friend Robert posted this on his Live Journal, and yet again, it was too good not to share.
I know that my journal is quickly becoming the equivalent of the recent Britney Spear’s concerts with all this reposting and stuff, but life has been crazy here, and the time and desire to churn out some new content has not been there. I used to write with Robert for Les Wright’s former site Verisimilitude. We met up with him after years of email and chat on Live Journal last year the day of our wedding out in San Francisco and had a great lunch in the city. Anna loved him, as you can see by the pics. He posted a picture of the dish on his site, but I decided NOT to post it here. I won‘t lie, it‘s not pretty. It looks like something the cat either dragged in or hacked up. Sorry Robert. .

First Frost means Tijuana Pie!
Stepped out this morning and ventured my way through the first frost
of fall. The soccer field on the way to the train was covered in frost
- but not quite a crunchy one - - - but hard frosts like that rarely
come to the bay area.

When I was kid - the first frost triggered Tijuana Pie from my mom.
and we all knew it. I can see her seeing us off to school and going to
the kitchen and pulling the recipe card. Tijuana Pie is a crockpot
casserole. Layered in the crockpot between corn tortillas goes refried
beans, tomatoes, ground beef, chorizos, tomatoes, cornl, chilis and
repeated until the crock pot is full. this meal remains one of my most
favorite to this day. It comes out not looking all that great - (it
cooks down to the well, so that it looks like dog food) but man on MAN
does it taste great. My Mom would serve it over a bed of salty
tortilla chips with sour cream and guacamole.

My parents were big believers in 'everyone comes to dinner every
night' - there was NO skipping the evening meal. and as we became
teenagers this became a "whining point" - but nobody was ever late for
first frost tijuana pie night.

I probably won't be making a pot of tijuana pie this week - because
Dave is off on business travel - and well - I know myself - I'll eat
the whole damn crockpot full - along with a bag of tortilla chips - an
entire block of grated cheddar - and enough sour cream and guac to
turn me into a Macy's Float. I think we can all agree that is
something we need to skip. (wink)

But I do pull the photocopy of Mom's recipes out every once in a while
and make a big pot.

Here's Mom's recipe with added fresh stuff....

TIJUANA PIE

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 medium sized can refried beans (I do the low fat low salt version
these days but it's up to you)
1/2 lb. spicy chorizo sausage - finely chopped.
5 large tomatoes sliced in big bite size pieces
8 Bell Peppers (all four colours: red, green, yellow and orange)
sliced into strips.
1 can smoked poblano chiles (most stores 'll have these in the mexican
foods section)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3-4 c. grated cheese
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
1 (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 (16 oz.) can corn, drained
6 corn or flour tortillas (size depends on size of crock pot)

Brown beef, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Wipe inside crock pot with
oil. Place 1 tortilla in bottom. Spoon on meat mix (mix the hamburger
with the refrieds) - and a little sauce and cheese. Top with another
tortilla and layer on a bean, cheese and corn section. Do a layer of
nothing but fresh tomatoes and bell peppers. Continue layers, ending
with cheese top. Cover and cook low 5-7 hours. Serve with additional
hot tortillas. (sour cream and guac feeding frenzy optional)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Get off your ass and do something


My friend Brad on Live Journal posted this today, and I am doing his bidding and sharing it with you. I would ask that you do the same if you agree, hell, if you don’t agree, send it anyways. His words brought a tear to my eye and a fire to my heart that I haven’t felt since last year. Obama promised us HOPE and CHAGE, but we are getting more of the same. While I realize that there are other pressing issues on his plate, these are just as important. Read Brad’s words and let them inspire you to do what needs to be done.

Brad, take it away…

Today marks one year ago that I gathered with my family, friends, and fellow Obama campaign volunteers to watch the election results come in to campaign headquarters in celebration of all the things we have worked so hard for. Today I also woke to the news of the repeal in Maine that takes legal rights away from gay & lesbian citizens of that state. My friend and former boyfriend Tom is from Maine and lives there with the love of his life, Ray, with whom he has made a family for 15 years now. I called him this afternoon after hearing how distressed he was to offer some comfort and solace, and to encourage him to not be defined by this or to allow his love, his life, or his family to suffer one millisecond more of pain inflicted by these horrible people responsible for making this happen. Fortunately for us, love wins out and he and I both are fortunate not only that we have such a bounty of love in our own lives, but that we can celebrate it in each other because it matters.

There is a lot of responsibility that needs to be assumed and taken up. It's time once again to stop being complacent and start getting proactive, to start engaging one another and to call out those who mean us harm wherever they might be - loudly, without restraint, and without apology. ALL OF US have this responsibility, not just my GLBT brothers and sisters, but all of our straight friends and allies - if indeed you are our friends and allies. You can no longer stand idly by and watch as we suffer these indignations like it doesn't affect you, and if it doesn't affect you to watch those of us you call loved ones suffering the tyranny of second class citizenship, then we must force ourselves to question our loyalties to you. You cannot have it both ways because this is too important, and we can no longer afford to pretend that your silence isn't complacency. Speaking for myself, I would do that for each and every one of you because it is right and because it matters, and I cannot accept anything less than the same in return.

Regret is a terrible, numbing, cancerous thing. A few short decades ago hundreds of thousands of white people in this country stood by and said nothing when black people were denied civil rights, when they were tortured and killed, and they maintained an uncomfortable silence about how wrong this was, how evil discrimination is, all of the things they knew were true yet kept to themselves and those like them for fear of becoming vilified. That's a terrible thing living in that kind of fear, but it is also a wholly unnecessary thing and let's be honest - it's WRONG. It is WRONG to see an act of injustice and say nothing. It is WRONG to hear someone preach hateful speech about people you love and respect and say nothing. It is WRONG to maintain the status quo for the sake of comfort when it creates damage in the homes and lives of those you claim to love and respect. Moreover, it is WRONG to be silent amongst those perpetuating a wrong and not call out what you know is RIGHT. Silence is acceptance, and your silence is not good enough anymore. It never has been.

I am tired as I write this. I am life-tired. With everything that is going on in my personal life, I cannot help but be exhausted. I've been this tired before and I will be this tired again, but damnit - that's NO excuse to sit on my ass and not do any and every thing I can to say and do something that matters. That's all it takes, really - the courage to look fear in the eye and the drive to look into the faces of those who may never agree with you, who may very well even turn on you, even the will to push exhaustion aside long enough to make a declaration.

Because it matters. Because as my beautiful friend Greg recently learned and shared with me, it is a fact that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioniong teenagers are more likely to complete a suicide attempt than their heterosexual contemporaries - and one of them could be YOUR child. Because approximately one in four underage kids who come out to their parents are kicked out of the house. Because an estimated 40+% of the teenagers in NYC alone are GLBT and were kicked out of their homes are homeless by their god-fearing parents' indifference to love in favor of embracing religious hysteria. Because the average duration of life on the streets is one year after which it's death or prison. Shelters are run internally by gangs like crips, bloods. Sissy boys and butch girls are safer on the streets. Because there are homeless teenagers dying of HIV/AIDS as I type this that are beyond medicine and in support volunteers' homes so that they won't be forced to die alone. Greg knows this because he is volunteering his time for these kids, these children, the very same ones thrown into the trash by parents who are likely the chief constituent voting bloc that is responsible for the decision in Maine. Which, by the way, should never have been up for a vote in the first place.

That's what we're teaching our children, be they heterosexual or otherwise. That is what they are learning whether they are hearing it from the misguided voices harmonizing their collective bigotry or the deafening silence that results when such things are not being called out in opposition for the true evil they represent - and as I stated earlier, silence is acceptance.

So I'm challenging you all to share these words with as many people as you can. Repost word for word or cut and paste what you can personalize if you must, but you have an opportunity to throw a gauntlet down and step up and be a hero for me and people just like me, and we have never needed you to rise to this challenge more than we do now. Do it because it takes balls to do a courageous thing, no matter the cost. Do it because enough people have been beaten, tortured, and killed for simply being who they are and their voices and their hopes and dreams have been stolen from us all - and you can be their voices, hopes, and dreams so that their suffering is not in vain. Do it because nothing is faster than the speed it takes for compassion to die and it is the death of compassion that makes all of this necessary in the first place. Do it because Matthew Shepard can't and you can.
Or do it for the best reason possible - no reason at all - because you don't need a reason to do the right thing.

The choice to speak out in agreement is yours; I can only hope you will share this message with others. As many times as I've done this and seen one flame light a thousand torches to provide illumination for others to see, it isn't a choice for me - it is a necessity - a responsibility - and while your complacency is and will continue to be heartbreaking, I'm never giving up this fight until such a time that conversations in the future refer to this kind of discrimination against families like mine as a thing of the past. Do you understand what I'm saying? I will not be complacent, I will never give in to people telling me what is right and fair when they couldn't be more wrong, and I will no longer stand up to support those who will not do the same thing for me because they'd rather be cowardly and prefer the comfort they take for granted, something I refuse to do.

It is your turn to share this and spread these words so that others may do the same from your example. It's one small action that is all I'm asking for right now. It is your turn to say something, what will YOU do?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween


Been a rough few weeks as mentioned in the last posting. Life is coming around and we’re moving forward. Expect an update on aforementioned stuff, but in the meantime, enjoy this seasonal posting. I took this from my old and dear (although he is NOT old, but is indeed a dear) friend Michael at Spo Reflections.

Please to enjoy and add your own responses. And yes, that is me as the witch.

1. What is your favorite written work of horror fiction?
It would have to be “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King. It caused me to carry a crucifix with me whereever I went when I was in 8th grade. I remember reading that book in full day light and still being freaked the fuck out by what I read.
2. What is your favorite work of science fiction/fantasy?
Again, a Stephen King. “The Stand.” The trip through the Holland Tunnel is some of the best writing ever. The whole story is amazing and should be studied by the children of the future.
3. Who is your favorite monster?
It would have to be Frankenstien. I remember seeing several movies as a kid and loving them more than any others. Watching the Bride of Frankenstien when I was in Cub Scouts is a vivid memory. They brought in an old projector and showed it on a sheet with no sound. Blew my little mind.
4. What is your favorite Horror movie? House of a Thousand Corpses. Rob, you win with this one. BEST EVER! The shout out to Sir Graves Ghastly is great. But, An American Werewolf in London (the one from the 80’s with David Naughton) is a close second.5. What horror movie gives you the most chills?
Silence of the Lambs as an adult. The final scene with the night vision goggles is the stuff of nightmares. The Exorcist as a kid. I snuck downstairs to watch it one night when I was in junior high, much to my parent’s warning. I haven’t been right since. And then there was the screening of Night of the Living Dead in my 7th grade. We decided as a class to have a movie instead of a dance for Valentine’s Day. This was our choice. I remember being scared out of my little mind back then sitting in the auditorium of Jefferson Junior High in 1978.
6. What character from any horror film would you most like to play?
The dad in The Shinning.
7. Freddy or Jason?
Jason, natch. My friend Ed and I saw the first Friday the 13th in the theater when it first came out. That last moment of the film is forever etched in my head. You know what I mean. The reason why I hate going out on lakes in boats. You know…
8. What is your favorite Halloween treat?
Smarties.
9. Ghosts or goblins?
Ghosts for sure. Our house is full of them.
10. Friendly-faced jack-o’-lantern or scary one?
Both, we did one of each this year. One scary and one as a tribute to Lola.
11. What is your scariest encounter with the paranormal?
Pick a day, any day. They are strong here.
12. Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?
Hells yeah. They are, as mentioned above, very strong in this house. We had the house blessed when we bought it, but apparently it didn’t stick.
13. Would you rather be a zombie, alien, or psycho?
Tough call. I have great respect for Zombies after Shawn of the Dead. However, they are brutish and easily taken down. Aliens, too slimy. Psycho? I am an artist. Make your own call. I do, however, have a pretty good relationship with my Mom. FYI.
14. Favorite Halloween costume?
So hard… I went as a witch when I was a kid, good times. As an adult, I went as Medusa. However, the only time I have won as prize is when Tod and I went as Britney and K-Fed. Christ, I hope there are no pics of that lingering on the Internets.
15. Best thing about Halloween?
1. You don’t have to dust for a month. Nor do you have to remove spider webs.
2. You can let your Freak Flag fly proudly.
3. Creep out your friends and neighbors with your decorations.
4. Scare the shit out of your kids with said decorations.
5. Steal your kid’s candy.
16. Person in your family who most likes Halloween (not counting yourself)?
Doug, my brother. He and the wife got married very close to Halloween, and had a lovely Jack O’ Lantern at their reception.
17. Are you superstitious? Yes, to a fault. My rational brain says. NO! But, my other side says…
18. Share an unusual Halloween story.
I am tired of people dying around this time. I have had my fair share of people pass this time of year and it bothers me.
19. What did you do for Halloween as a kid?
Loved it. Got into it with my folks. Went to Haunted Houses with my Dad and decorated the yard. This is what I want for MY kids.
20. What’s the best Halloween party that you’ve attended?
Tough call. Been to many. Some remembered, some, not so much.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogger enuii




For now at least…

So much to say, so little time, energy or will left to do so. The past few weeks have been rough here in Jackson. There has been some illness, some loss, and a whole lot of craziness. Once we get our feet back on the ground, the postings will start again.

Until then, why not check out the archives?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 09: Climate Change


Climate change, for the better. Today is Blog Action Day 09, what is Blog Action Day you ask?

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be one of the largest-ever social change events on the web. You can read more here: http://www.blogactionday.org/

I would like to talk about a different kind of Climate Change, a change in the Climate regarding LGBT Issues here in the USA and beyond. In the 30 years that I have been out, things have indeed changed, some for the good, some for the bad. I came out in the mid-80’s, a somewhat goofy and happy time in our collective history. We were coming off the big hangover of the 70’s and moving into the blossoming tech-savvy world of the 90’s. As a young Gay man, I had a lot on my plate, college, finding a boyfriend, surviving AIDS. I shared this in an email to a former student, a bright young woman who is now in California chasing her dream to be an actress. She had talked about how going to see the Names Project AIDS Quilt during a class field trip had changed her life and made her more socially aware:
I will tell you that when I graduated from high school in 82, the future was indeed bright for me. I had been told by some family members, community folks and the church that as a gay person, I would lead a miserable, lonely life. I rebelled against that notion, and led a life that was robust, full of friends and people who loved me. Things were going great, and then this big disease with a little name showed up. For a long time, that cast a shadow on me as well. I viewed my life as terminal (which it is, but I thought I would die early as a gay man) and held little hope for living beyond 30. When AIDS first came out, it was pretty much a death sentence. No one felt safe, and there was little we could do to avoid it. I am blessed that I have avoided it, but I have friends who were not so lucky. Chris, Ed, Steve, Tam, all were lost at the beginning of the disease. They had lives full of promise, but this took them out early. My friend Reed couldn’t handle this at all, and he shot himself so he didn’t have to worry about getting sick and dying. To him, it was easier and not as scary to take his own life instead of waiting around. We never really knew why he did that back in 84. We don’t know if he was positive or if he just couldn’t deal. I was told that I would never have kids, that I would never find love, and that I would die early. So far that hasn’t come true. I have a family, I have a soul mate in Tod, and I am doing pretty good for a forty something.

While Amber has a great deal of respect for me (and me for her) it wasn’t always so. My position as a high school teacher kept me in the closet for much of my career. Oh sure, there were rumors that flew around like wild fire, but it was never actually talked about. Some students knew, especially towards the end of my tenure. I lead the school’s diversity group. We weren’t bold enough to call it a GSA, but that’s pretty much what it was. We were a rag tag group of students and staff. We were the misfits and outcasts, but we found strength and support in each other. It wasn’t until I went to the college and officially came out that things began to change in regards to my own personal worth and self esteem.
It wasn’t until I “graduated” and began working at the college that I finally came out in all aspects of my life. I was worried, as I was on the tenure track, and I didn’t want rumors or questions of my sexuality to detract from my tenure review. I had a very frank and open conversation with my former Dean and shared with him the need for a GSA on campus. We had gone to Chicago on the train as a departmental trip, and on the way home, a student came out to the entire group. It was an interesting and enlightening ride home for sure. With the Dean’s approval, the student and I moved forward with the creation of the college’s first ever GSA. I was having lunch with the director of Human Resources and she was talking about my work on campus with the group. I asked her if anything had been done in the past, and she shrugged her shoulders and remarked that she had been there for over 30 years, and that I was the first person on faculty to be out and in the open. Certainly there had to be others before me, but none were as out as I had become. In the past, I worked to hide my sexuality, but now, it was front page news.
Literally.
I got a phone call from the newspaper here in town and they did a story on the student and my efforts to create the group. It ran front page on National Coming Out Day. In the past, this would have been a reason to panic, but now, I was finally feeling like I was being true to myself and my identity. A high school teacher coming out is a big deal, and possibly a career killer, but a college professor, that’s a different story. I was concerned more about the student, who was a little shocked at the article’s placement, and its featuring of his story so prominently, but to him, it was a big step towards becoming who he was as a young Gay male. The issues that plagued my high school friends didn’t seem to be as big of an issue with this young man. It’s amazing what a difference several decades can make. When I was in high school, the only Gay characters were Billy Crystal’s on Soap and, in a strange way, Klinger on MASH. Oh sure there was Jack on Three’s Company, but he was just playing Gay.
But now we have a more open society, with entire television networks devoted to LGBT programming. Now we have the internet, a way to connect and find out who you are in a somewhat safe environment. I remember going to the card catalog in the library and looking up Homosexuality. I didn’t bother writing anything down, as I didn’t want to get caught checking out “those books” so I memorized the general call number and headed to the stacks, turning a cautious eye as I came towards the dozen or so books that this particular branch had in its collection. I remember my mouth drying out as I reached for the titles; books that are now probably out of print or out of touch with modern LGBT mores and views.
If I touched them, would an alarm go off?
Would the librarian with the lunch lady arms come and beat me with the ruler sitting on her desk?
Would my parents find out?
It turned out that I didn’t have to worry, as I ended up working at the library and was befriended by one of the male librarians. This man was probably one of the first Gay men I ever met. My folks were friends with a guy and I remember going to his house for parties, but that’s about it for my exposure as a kid. The librarian became my mentor and never failed to blow my mind with the stuff he would send my way. I remember checking out my mail box one afternoon and there was a paperback book with my name clipped to the cover with this note: “See me if you have any questions.” The book was Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” and I could hardly wait for work to be over so I could go home and begin poring over this new book. As a junior in high school, there was much I didn’t understand, but I took this man’s advice and asked away. He moved out of our small branch and took residency at the main branch downtown, a treasure trove of bigger, better, and more up to date books on what it’s like to be Gay. Vitto Russo’s “Celluloid Closet” was one of the first books I ever checked out proudly and openly as a young high school student.
I tore through Russo’s book at a furious pace, mentally replaying the scenes in the many movies he discussed in the book in my head. Mind you, this was 1981, way before the advent of Video Stores, Netflix, and You Tube, so I had to scan my young brain for snippets of what I had seen. As elated as I may have been to find this new freedom of the press, the words of doom that I had heard from my early critics came back to haunt me as I finished out the book, which ends with a chapter that outlines how all the LGBT characters die in their various films. It was a who’s who of who’s dead and broke my heart when I read it.
Was this my future?
Was I to die a tragic death as well because of my sexuality like these movie characters in Russo’s cinematic morgue?
Finding self esteem and self respect wasn’t easy back then, and for the generation before me, it was probably next to impossible. But things have changed for the better, and thankfully, the black cloud of what I had been told as a young Gay man when I first came out has since been lifted. We’re in a better place now here in the US. There have been many contentious ballot initiatives regarding LGBT issues, especially Proposition 8 in California, but with my rose-colored glasses, I see a not too distant future where these issues will be moot. Our President campaigned on changing the climate here in the United States for us, and I think we’ll get there. But in the mean time, I am happy to report that I am now legally married and have kids, something that I thought would never happen in my life time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You asked, she told ya.

The responses are in from the blog's first ever "Ask Anna" posting.


How is Preschool going?
It’s good, doing the computer is my favorite part.

Are you being a great Big Sister?
Yes, I give Eli hugs and kisses every day.

Do you enjoy being the only girl in the house?
Yes, because I am the BIG SISTER!

Patrick, Squidward, or Mr. Crabs?
SpongeBob (yes, I know, he wasn’t a choice) then Squidward.

What's your favorite trick to play on your dads?
When I put a spell on them with my magic wand and put us in jail.

My brother is about to have his first child, a little girl. This is the first girl in my family in 3 generations - I don't know anything about little girls!
What do little girls want/need from their uncles (she will have several).

They need big hugs and kisses, um, and, um, presents for their birthdays! Yes, and they should dance with us too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Art Prize, what you need to know

So the first ever Art Prize is one for the record books. I will say that I was mildly interested in the concept and was thrilled that art was being produced en masse here in Michigan. However, the stain of the DeVos family and their influence on trying to kill public education and working against LGBT equality here in Michigan made me stay away. I will go on record as saying that Rick DeVos (one of the creators of the contest) is smoking hot. But that does not excuse him from his family’s rather icky political doings.
So, if you didn’t get to Grand Rapids for the event, I thought I would summarize some of what you missed so you could talk about it over the water cooler and appear hip and with it with your artsy-fartsy friends. The winning piece, Open Water no.24 by Ran Ortner. If you grew up in the 70’s like I did, you probably marveled at one of these in Spencer Gifts on your trip to the mall for your Member’s Only jacket. Yup, Ortner’s piece is pretty much the static version of that.

3rd place, Portraits by Eric Daigh. Any horror buff will immediately be able to see the similarities. The portraits are made with thumbtacks and push pins. Oooo, office supplies as art.



5th place, Moose by Bill Secunda. Look out Mr. Moose, you never know when Sarah Palin will be in Grand Rapids for some helicopter huntin’.

7th place, Field of Reeds by John Douglas Powers. Okay, I will admit that this one is probably the coolest out of all the winners, but I can’t help but think it looks like a big dog brush.

9th place, Ecstasy of ... by Jason Hackenwerth. Balloons? Really? Is this (and the silly paper airplanes) what the art world has become? Jeff Koons needs to be taken out NOW.

10th place, winddancer 2 by Michael Westra. Nuff said.
Before I hear any calls of sour grapes, please note that all these references were made by my artsy fartsy friends when discussing the artwork. You can thank me later for saving you the trip north to Grand Rapids. : )

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Telling our folks


Once again, the Two Dads page on Facebook offered fodder for their Question of the Day. This was actually written back in January in preparation for THE BOOK that I am writing on this whole experience. This was the first chapter I wrote, and remains (at least to me) one of the most powerful pieces written in my creation of the book. While the plans to publish remain in line, the pages aren’t flying off like they were when I was on sabbatical and had only one kid to deal with.
This is an excerpt from the chapter on telling our friends and family:

When we first began talking about starting a family, our intentions were kept under wraps for a few months. I will admit that both Tod and I are pretty focused on what we do and what we want. And as teachers, we tend to over think most everything we do. Not that doing that is necessarily a bad thing. We decided to keep our desire for a family in the closet for a few months, as we wanted to test the water and see how things would float with our immediate circle of friends. We also wanted to make sure we could actually do this and make it happen before we got everyone excited and involved.
We also felt it was necessary to tell our parents together, as we didn’t want either one to know before the others. You know how grandparents get. We purposely put off telling our parents because we wanted to tell them in person, and we wanted to make sure that they both found out at the same time. The logistics were a little daunting at first, but we finally found a weekend when both of them could make the trip to Jackson for the weekend. We couched the weekend as a chance to relax and visit and nothing more. Tod and I hadn’t really discussed the actual telling; we just got busy with getting them settled and getting started with dinner. It was early spring, so it was right in the middle of Lent. My folks had given up alcohol for the season and were happy chatting away with water and soda as we nibbled on appetizers and snacks. The time came for another bottle of wine to be opened (it was a family visit after all), and as the classes were filled my Dad proposed a toast to family, and I blurted out, “And to extending ours!”
If you remember any sketch comedy from the seventies, often times there would be a sound effect of a needle being pulled off of a record to simulate a break in concentration/conversation/etc. In my mental soundtrack that night, after I said that, my sound effects team supplied that sound bite in my head. The room became quiet, and I glanced at Tod who was staring at me with wide open eyes. As mentioned, we hadn’t really discussed HOW we were going to tell them, but this seemed like as good of time as any.
The questions started a second later as glasses were raised to drink. When the parents realized that they would not be grandparents to yet another dog or cat and that this was an actual human child, hoots, hollers, and tears started to flow from all of us as this revelation was processed. The wine flowed as well, as my Dad mentioned that God probably wouldn’t mind he poured two glasses for him and my mom breaking their Lenten vow to abstain. As you can imagine, there were thousands of questions to be asked and answered and as we settled in to eat, we did our best to get them caught up on our plans. They were a little upset that we had not told them earlier, but were pleased that we had provided such a family centered forum for the disclosure. We told them that once this started, we were implementing our own “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and it was one that served our sanity well. We told them that we would keep them posted with any news, and that we didn’t want a constant stream of emails and phone calls asking how we were doing, and what we were doing to start the family. All of the advice books had told us to set boundaries with our friends and families, as the questions can get overwhelming at times, especially if there isn’t any movement towards a child.

As the night unfolded, there were many sidebar conversations throughout the house. Photo albums and memories were brought out and dusted off as the news of this new chapter in our lives sank in. We began calling our parents Grandma and Grandpa, and they all seemed pretty pleased with that title. My mom retreated to the kitchen to do some unnecessary cleaning, but I think it was actually a chance for her to process the information and how she was going to deal with my brother and his wife who were adopting as well. As I came in to the kitchen to check on her, she came over with tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug, the kind of soul grabbing hug that is given at funerals, births, or weddings. She looked up at me and told me that I would be an excellent Dad and said that our yet born child would be damn lucky to have me as a parent. She held back some tears and quickly asked me if I had told my brother yet. I told her that I had not, as we wanted to tell them first. She steeled her jaw and said used her best sotto voce to say “you need to tell him.” As with much of Anna’s birth and adoption, there was good and bad to be dealt with. The issue of my brother was one that would haunt this entire process and remains an issue to this day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ask Anna



Okay folks... bring your questions to Miss Anna, and just like Fraiser Crane,
she's listening.

What do you want to know about having two dads?

What's it like living with these two handsome men and your new brother?

What's it like being a Princess with these two queens?


Ask away. We'll ask her and post her responses.

No really, we will.

And don’t worry, as soon as he is done with his Caveman stage of grunting for everything, we’ll do the same with Elijah.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fatherhood Friday: White lies (Don't Don't Do It!)


A recent poll on a Gay Parenting website asked if it was ever acceptable to lie to your children. Oy. This opened a massive discussion about what was ethical and what was not. Let me draw my line in the sand first. Lies are okay, in fact, I encourage it. Kids are pretty much stupid and gullible.

• Christmas and Santa? LIES!
• Easter and the Easter Bunny? LIES!
• The tooth fairy? More lies!

Parents have been doing this for years and it works. Just when you need a motivator to keep the kids in line behavior-wise, Santa or the Bunny can’t be too far behind and can be that much needed carrot on the stick that you need to keep the peace. This is one of the reasons why I love fall, it’s the season of manipulation for both the parents and the kids. Every commercial that Anna sees on TV is punctuated with a “I WANT THAT!” We fire back that she’ll have to be good, Santa’s watching, etc. She made the connection last year that Santa = gifts so I think we’re good to go this year as well, or at least until someone at daycare or school spills the beans. I’m not worried about daycare, as Cheri will have the child who blows the secret publicly flogged. School however, we don’t have as much control over what she hears.

However, there have been a few lies that I have put out there to Anna that have back-fired and caused more harm than good. She is really good about opening up car doors and windows and demands that her window be down while we are driving. This is both noisy and annoying, and she uses it to dump whatever she has in her hands out on to the street. So I decided to make it more in her interest to keep the windows up. I told her about the dreaded Freeway Monkeys. You can’t always see them, but they’re out there, and they’ll jump in the car if you leave your windows down or doors unlocked. This was accepted without question and her proclivity for unlocking the door and opening the windows stopped. However, she is now afraid of monkeys and needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to see them at the zoo. A local car wash had a person dressed as a gorilla standing out front waving a sign. She saw the person and screamed “IT’S A FREEWAY MONKEY!” and began doing her fake sobbing in the back seat. Nice. Now her love of all mammals is tainted by this lie. However, she is now safe and won’t be rolling out onto the pavement because she’s messing around with the door. By the way, we do have the parental controls on, but she INSISTS that she be able to control the doors and locks.


Lies aren’t limited to parents. Grandparents can get in on it as well. Last weekend had a set of grandparents (who shall remain unnamed) to watch the kids while we went off for a weekend of camping. Anna and Grandma headed out to buy school supplies and Grandpa was at home with Eli. Eli had a full diaper and Grandpa had to call Grandma to come home to change it. When Anna talked to Grandpa about this, he said to her that he didn’t know how to change poopy diapers and that only Grandma knew how to do it right. Good one Grandpa. We’ll remember that. I also remember a phone call that took place between my Uncle Tom and my young cousin Abby. Tom was calling (around Christmas) to talk to my cousin Janet, Abby’s mom. Abby answered the phone, and as instructed, asked who was calling. Tom, with his deep voice, said “It’s Santa” and waited for a response. Abby didn’t say anything so Tom asked if she had been good. Apparently, enhanced interrogation techniques are not needed for toddlers, as young Abby started chirping like a bird and began voluntarily confessing to a variety of sins: she had stole her Mom’s lipstick and put it on, she had hit her brother, etc, etc.


Most recently, it’s been Anna’s new teacher, Mrs. B. She is everywhere, and she is more omniscient than St. Nick. She sees all, and is VERY disappointed when Anna misbehaves. Oh yes, we’re working that angle and it works. “Oh honey, what would Mrs. B say about all this? Mmmm, I think she’d be sad.” It’s all we need to say and it’s back on line. I couldn’t find pants that would fit Anna this morning, so I grabbed a skirt off the rack and handed it to her as we were getting ready for the day. Thank Jesus the school has a uniform policy, so the drama around clothing choices is non-existent. “I don’t want to wear this!” I shook my head and started lying, “honey, remember that note you brought home? Mrs. B said you HAD to wear this dress today.” That’s all it took and peace was once again restored.

I will however draw my line in the sand about what you can’t lie about. Don’t ever lie about how much you love your kids. Never say that you don’t love them, instead talk about how you don’t like their behavior. Separate them from what is bad and let them know that they are still loved. Love is precious, and it’s something that you can’t ever deny or use as a ploy for good behavior. However, from now until December 24th, Santa is your bitch, and you can use and abuse him all you want.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And so it begins...

The grand experiment that is public education. Some pics and comments from Anna's first day of preschool on Monday.
This is her teacher and her assistant during the home visit a few weeks ago. Yes, Anna gave her the apple, but you'll notice that she has something in her mouth. It would be a bite from the apple. Stay classy Anna!
This was a tough pic to take. She looked so big to me, but yet she is
still my little girl. Tod had already taken Eli in to the daycare, so
Anna and I decided to walk in together. She decided that she didn't need
to be carried and she most certainly didn't need to hold my hand.

First official school art project.


Eli was NOT happy to see big sister Anna board the bus. Either that or he was pissed that he was inside and we were outside.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is this the little pup I carried?


Those of you who have been following my blog for some time, behold the latest installment of “they grow up so quickly.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ewwwww! From the mouths of babes



A note from Tom: I read this on my friend’s Live Journal account and I asked if I could repost. I know that at some point in my life, I will have the same conversation with either Eli or Anna. I think that the way he dealt with this situation is both real and expected. I am thankful that he has allowed me to do this. I changed their names to protect their identity.

“Ew.”.....
It was so quick. It was off the cuff. It really was just a little knee jerk reaction from a little girl in elementary school. It wasn’t aimed at me. It wasn’t meant the way I took it. It was small.
It was one word....one syllable.

I know my response was excessive. I know it wasn’t intended to injure me. I know my child. I know there is a difference in what you see, know, and experience at home, with what you see, know, and experience at school amongst peers. I know I’m dealing with a young mind that is trying to learn how to better comprehend, better understand, better evaluate...all while dealing with the trials and all involved with being a 10 year old girl entering puberty.
I know.

I know. I know. I KNOW.

But one syllable.....two letters, brought every single fear and doubt I have of myself crashing into the middle of the room.

We were eating dinner. We were re-watching Glee, as Lori doesn’t stay up late enough to watch it when it regularly airs. Yeah, I know. We usually have the TV turned on when we eat dinner. Earlier in the episode, a girl learns that a guy she likes is interested in someone else, and assumes she knows who this someone else is. She is hurt and immediately throws a rock through the young man’s windshield. Later on, she comes back to the young man to express her sincere regret and she apologizes. She explains how she understands why he’d like this other girl she thinks he likes. He responds by telling her he lied when he told her that he likes the other girl. Suddenly, his face blanches a little, he looks around nervously, and you can actually see tears starting to form in his eyes.
He leans in real close and whispers, “I’m gay.”

Instantly, Lori looks up from her plate and says, “Ew.”

Mark and I both whipped our heads toward her, rather offended. “ EXCUSE ME? EW?! Did you just say, ‘Ew.’ when that boy told his friend that he’s gay?”

I raised my hand. “HI! I’M gay”
Mark raised his hand. “I’m gay.”
I sat there stunned. “Does that mean you think, ‘Ew.’ when you think of me?”
She was suddenly very embarrassed and looked down.
She muttered an ashamed, “No.”
”Well, what’s the difference?”

And bam. With no warning, I had tears in my eyes. I thought to myself, “Are you seriously CRYING?! This was nothing. What’s wrong with you?” I stood up, and mumbled, “I’m just gonna go to bed now.” I went into the bathroom. Lori followed me in. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
”Lori, do you understand? Do you GET it? Lori, how would you feel if they showed a special ed class on TV and we all sat here and laughed at those kids and said how pathetic they are?” I instantly regretted saying it. I watched the pain of my statement come across her face. “It would hurt my feelings.” I could see her crashing. I could see her heart sink and the sadness washes over her.
”I’m sorry. I know that was harsh. But I’m not sure you can know right now just how much you saying ‘Ew.’ about a boy telling his friend he’s gay really hurt me.”
I could tell that I was not yet to a space in my head where I could turn me off and focus on her and try to make up with her. I went in my room and shut the door. I laid on the bed and covered myself.
And I cried.
I cried because part of me believed that everything I’ve tried so hard to do, whatever it all is that I’ve ever felt I needed to make up for, trying to be a good dad, a good man, a good friend, an example......all that suddenly meant nothing, because after all that, in the end, I’m still reduced to “Ew.” in the eyes of my child.
Mark came in to hug me and express he knows I know she didn’t mean it, yet he knows how much that would hurt me. And he just laid there and hugged me.
Lori came in the room and sat on the bed next to me. She was crying. She looked broken. I felt like shit for making my child hurt like this. And I knew she felt horrible for me thinking she would intentionally hurt me. ”I’m really, really, really sorry.” She said through sobs. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings so much.” “Lori, why are you crying?”
”Because I just feel so so so bad.” And she collapsed against me and cried.
I said to her what I wrote above, why I was so hurt. I told her I knew she didn’t mean it, and it wasn’t intended to strike at me. I reminded her that, yes, I am gay....and guess what.....so is this man that lives with us. I explained that it just exposed some of my biggest fears in life....that in the end, my children will think poorly of me. That they’ll see me and think, “Ew.”
I told her that, in turn, I was sorry for making her so upset. I told her we’d be fine and I was tired anyway, so I thought I’d just go to sleep. I told her to go back on out to the living room, and she could watch tv a while longer until bed time.
I felt stupid. I felt sad. I felt overly dramatic.
Intermittently, I had sent out some texts after I first went into the bedroom. Just a few. The responses were all saying they were sure she meant nothing. I was told to just talk it out with her. Of course I’d talk it out with her.
As soon as I sent out the texts, I felt even more stupid. I knew what people would say to me. And I knew that it wasn’t what I would want or need to hear just then.
I just knew that I had this hurt. This irrational, too big a hurt issued from a small sweet child that loves and adores me. A child that still screams my name in greeting and runs to hug me. A child that calls me every single day that we’re apart just to ask what I’m doing and to tell me she loves me.
Of course I know the child’s heart.
It was just a quick moment when my guard was down. A moment where I faced and thought I was realizing one of my biggest fears.

I love my children. I love my children very much. I will protect them, provide for them, go without for them and use my last breath in trying to ensure that they are happy, know love, and feel safe.
I just don’t ever want to feel that fear again. Though, I imagine that it is that fear, amongst other fears and hopes and dreams and wishes that will keep me doing what I do.
If she didn’t “get it” before last night, I’m pretty sure Lori gets it now, though we’re both much sadder for it.

Me being gay is not an “Ew”.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour (now with hyperlinks!)

The routine has been good for the past few weeks, but as 4:00 pm approaches each day, a sense of dread comes over me. While I am eager to see and play with my kids and husband, the other life duties get in the way. The time between 4 and 7 pm are indeed insane, as we try to balance what has to be done with what we think should be done. I have become pretty good at whipping up quick and easy dinners and have done pretty good with getting food on the table in a timely manner. But, since we’re trying to eat healthy, the dinner prep involves more than peeling away a plastic film to reveal the brownie. It takes time and someone has to watch the kids. The nights when Tod is at a meeting are insane. Between the cat hollering for her dinner and the two eager kids demanding snacks, I feel more like I am on K.P. than a parent. I have found that Sponge Bob and the high chair can help facilitate dinner prep, but it’s not the best parenting, and I know that. My coworkers got Eli and Anna a great art center, and we set it up in the dinning room and Anna is quite content to tear through and color everything she can get her hands on. Eli however, is a creature of habit, just like the cat. When his hunger alarm goes off, food better be presented before him or ELSE! I have found that by breaking up a snack bar, or handing him one animal cracker at a time keep him occupied and not screaming at the top of his lungs. I hate to placate a kid with food, but this buys me time and helps with the meal prep.
So finally dinner is made, and then we start to eat. I have stopped making three different meals, and have begun incorporating bits and pieces of our dinner into what the kids are eating. Sounds good in theory, but it’s truly amazing how far a 16 month old can fling a plate of green beans that have suddenly become boring to him. He’s more adventuresome than Anna at this point, and will at least try something. I put a tablespoon of gravy on her chicken tonight (at her bequest) and it turned into a 30 minute ordeal to get the gravy off the chicken. I am resisting turning dinner time into short order cooking time, as I know families who have kids who will only eat this or that and the parents end up cooking separate meals for all involved. A friend of ours has a grandchild that would only eat chicken nuggets and little else. I know a bit about the young child’s dietary needs, and according to our physician, they will indeed not starve to death if they pick and peck at their food. I swear that Anna could probably live on yogurt and juice.
But back to the table and dinner: we used to be able to start with a prayer, but once Eli sees the food, it’s over and his caveman grunts and howls become pretty loud while we try to offer a brief thanks. I added to this blessing to our prayer at tonight’s meal as Eli wailed in protest of this spiritual delay: “… and God bless Eli, as he is apparently starving to death.” It was greeted with a grunt and a fist on the table. He must have some Viking in him. I have accepted the fact that those halcyon days of yore when we would listen to music and talk about adult subjects and not have to referee food fights are over for the time being.

Then the bed time rituals start, Eli goes down first and is a dream, so we are lucky with that. He’s out by 7, and sleep through until we go and rouse him in the morning. Anna, however, requires a committee and a UN Peace Keeping Force to get her into the bedroom, let alone getting her to think about sleeping. She is the queen of negotiation, and will twist your words and your patience as she resists settling in for the night. I don’t know what her problem is. She knows when she is tired (“Papa, you know I only pick my nose when I am tired…” as she stands there in front of you picking her nose) and she understands that she feels better after a nap or a good night’s sleep. Plus, she has, in my opinion, a rockin’ room. There are books and tons of toys, plus a really cool (IKEA!) bed. I’d be in heaven if someone told me to go there and stay put. Most nights she goes right to bed, but there are some nights when the banging on the door and the pathetic whines of:

“I’m thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirsty”

“I’m hunnnnnnnnnnnngry”

will go on for hours. Then there are the brain-jolting screams at 3 am for no apparent reason. I guess we are paying the price for having her sleep through the night at an early age.

I remember seeing an article about how parents can make time for themselves, and in typical Parents Magazine style, they presented a bucolic view of these two alleged parent’s evening routine. The highly posed and stylized photo had the tag line: it’s 10 pm, the kids are in bed so Marcia works on updating their children’s scrapbooks while John checks the latest sports scores and stock reports.”

BULL SHIT!

If it’s 10 pm here, my ass is in or near bed and the only thing I am working on updating is my beer consumption. Seriously, as Barney Frank so eloquently asked, “on what planet do you spend most of your time?” By the time the kids are in bed, the kitchen is cleaned up and we have prepped for the next day, it’s usually around 8 or 9. Then there are the work and other emails to check, blogs to quickly read or write (natch) and the occasional DVR’d program to watch.

Scrap booking?

Maybe Eli and Anna will get one when they are in high school. Were it not for one of Tod’s coworkers creating a baby book for Anna, we’d have no physical record of her first year. So yeah, the hobbies are kind of out for now. I have learned to watch and enjoy Top Chef on fast forward (sidebar, I could give a shit about any of the Cheftestants this season) and have begun to skip the interviews on the Daily Show. Our Netflix selections sit patiently on top of the TV in hopes that one day we’ll watch them. I recall my Mom talking about watching this movie of the week or this special on ABC when I was a kid. There would be much hype and discussion and when the big night finally came, it would be Doug, my Dad, and I watching while my Mom slept sitting up on the couch. I now know how she feels.

There are some nights when Tod and I barely speak to each other before we collapse in bed. But then the alarm goes off the next morning, and the day begins again. I used to laugh at the chattiness of my cat in the morning. I would stumble downstairs for coffee and she would trail behind me meowing to me her night’s adventures or screaming for food. I would “talk” with her and at times it felt like we were actually communicating. “How was your night?” I would ask, and a series of meows would follow. But now, after several pushes of the snooze bar and the promise to work out tomorrow, I go with Tod to wake up the kids. Lola, the cat still offers her morning commentary, but it’s quickly drowned out by the “AAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!” coming from Eli’s room when we open the door to his room and wake him up. Apparently we adopted a junior Arthur Fonzarelli. At the reception for his baptism last weekend, there were several young toddler girls in attendance. He was in his high chair, being doted on by the grandmothers, several of the girls walked by to go outside and play. As they passed, each got a “heeeeeeeeeeeeeey!” from our junior Guido.

Once Eli is up and around, Anna will call out from her room to be “waked up” by Eli, as she loves to have him come in and pounce on her bed. The squeals that drive me crazy at dinner time are fun and endearing at the 6 am hour as her little brother beats on the bed to find his big sister.

And then the day begins again.

There are breakfasts to be made, lunches to pack, and Nickelodeon to watch. Would I trade this for anything else? Hell no. These two are the best thing (after Tod) that ever happened to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Tree-hugger post

Tomorrow will be a sad day. The two stately trees that are in the front of our house will be coming down due to the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer. The smaller of the two is pretty much dead with a few leaves here and there. The taller one is alive, but is infected pretty bad. From a distance, you can’t see the holes the bugs make, but when you get up close and look into the bark, you can see what damage the little buggers have done. Two of our scientist type friends have diagnosed the problem, so we’re not just making this stuff up to get some new trees.

If these trees were on our property, and not the city’s property, I’d be crapping my pants, as the cost to cut these down will not be cheap. But, since they are on the easement and it’s the city’s property, I will rest easy tonight. At 9:00 tomorrow morning, our street will be closed so the crews can come in and take them down. Due to the larger one’s size, and age, they are closing the street in case anything goes wrong. If the trees do go down, I hope they point them EAST and not WEST towards our house.

The taller of the two trees towers over our house, it’s visible from down the street both ways, and is easily the tallest tree on our triangle. It is also filled with a bee’s nest. I have alerted the city crew to this fact and hope that they take me serious. The hole in the tree, which is at our second storey window level, is teeming with bees, honey bees, the good kind. A discussion of what to do involved all kinds of Pooh-ish stunts to gather the honey. Since I have a mild allergic reaction to bee stings, I think I will stay away from all that.

Tod has found a time-lapse app for the webcam, so we’ll set it up in Eli’s room to record the day’s events. Who knows, there may be some hot lumberjacks.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: From Chaos to Routine

The past two weeks have been nice, as we have avoided much of the chaos that defined most of the early summer and the past month since Eli moved in. We are snuggly wrapped up in our own routines with school, work, and daycare and life seems to be settling into a delightfully predictable grind. I went back to work full time mid-August but we did not have daycare for a variety of reasons (our day care lady’s desire to be a carnie, black mold, the usual). That left Tod with two kids who were still getting to know each other and the limits of our patience and that made for some stressful days indeed. I took advantage of my Dean’s offer for FMLA time off and ended up missing two of the Professional Development days offered the week before classes started. It was nice to have that down time to do nothing. No really, we did NOTHING one whole day. We sat on our butts and watched T.V. It was magical.
Since then, Tod has gone back to work, and Eli has survived his second week of daycare. He doesn’t seem to be too worse for the wear, but the mornings are a little stressful, as his screams come through the walls as we walk to the car to go to work. He is becoming more vocal, and any day now will start using words. I can feel it. Right now, he’s still in caveman mode, and relies on his canon of grunts and other noises to make his requests or displeasure known. He’s also quite the little beat box, and produces some amazing noises that Biz Markie would love to have in his repertoire.
He’s also become much bolder around Anna. He initially just took whatever she did to him, stealing his toys, hitting him, biting him, etc. Now he’s much more active in his reaction to these offenses and there have been moments where we have had to bite our tongues so we didn’t LOL at the situation before us. A perfect example of this took place at Tod’s parent’s house. Anna was playing with some Legos, and Eli had two of them that were ACROSS THE ROOM from her. She spied them in his hands and rushed over to grab them from him telling him, “NO ELI! I was playing with them, they’re MINE!”

Ever seen “Finding Nemo?”

Remember the seagulls?

MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXRgpum7OUo

Eli went about his business and found some other blocks and put together a pretty sizeable stack. He then came up behind Anna and smashed the blocks over her head just like a wrestler would do with a folding chair over his opponent’s head. He squealed with glee as he brought down the blocks to her head and then ran off. Anna then stood up screaming and crying in “pain”. I am certain that there was some pain involved, but I am also certain that this wasn’t just her head that was hurting, but also her pride. I had to look away as she put on the act of her young life and feigned outrage over his behavior. The pressure in my head from stifling the laugh about caused a hemorrhage in my skull.
But lessons were indeed learned that day. Anna quickly found out that Eli will be (and quite possibly already is…) a formidable opponent. They are now playing together in that bizarre way kids play. Many times this play is just running around screaming at each other and laughing hysterically when they catch each other or when they fall. Car trips are insanely loud, as Anna can get Eli to crack up by doing godknowswhat to him in the backseat. This causes her to giggle, which causes him to laugh even harder and it continues until my ears are ringing. The laughter is infectious and we usually join in or just shake our heads and drive on. They may not be siblings by birth, but they are falling into the groove of what it’s like to be brother and sister quite easily. Life is good and I am happy for that.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Young French Chef part two



I asked my friends on Facebook and Livejournal to send me their favorite quick and easy recipes. This is what I got. By the way, the REALLY good stuff is at the end.

From Meredith:
Initially she sent this: "Granola and yogurt, topped with fresh blueberries or raspberries." But later sent a more detailed meal.
"Salmon salad: Sprinkle a half pound of salmon with Creole spices and olive oil and grill on the trusty George Foreman grill - 7 minutes. While fish is cooking, put salad fixings on individual plates - romaine, baby lettuces, fresh herbs, onions, olives, tomatoes, etc. When salmon is done, divide salmon among plates, add croutons and drizzle with dressing of choice - we like a balsamic vinagrette. Since I make it spicy, we have a modest Pinoir Noir, like Berringer or Mirrasou, with this.
When my mother in law gave us a George Foreman grill, I was a snob and didn't even open it for a couple months, but it is the best thing - fast, dependable, easy to clean. You can do the same thing with - crab cakes, a nice little beef rib steak on sale, chicken breasts, a tuna steak, pork loin, big shrimps or scallops - variety dinner in 10 minutes, with very little clean up. In the summer we eat this all the time - change a few veggies and the dressing and it is a completely different thing."

From Sharon:
"Big sandwich. French or Italian bread, any lunch meat, any cheese, we like lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Have Anna help, she will love it."

From Iris:
"grilled fish tacos with cabbage and cliantro slaw." Note to Iris, we need the recipe for the slaw!

From Bryn:
"Nachos. Brown sirloin burger, turkey, etc and add a can of drained chili beans or black beans and mexicorn. warm it up, put ontop of nacho chips on foil covered cookie sheet, top with shredded cheese, bake at 325 for 10 min or so until cheese melts. serve with salsa and sour cream. Kids love it :)"

From Erick:
Not sure if healthy but taco ring is fun.
Crescent rolls dough layed out in a circle on baking stone. Add taco meat and chopped onions ontop and fold dough over. Bake till golden brown add tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded cheese to center of ring. Top with sour cream.

From Amy and John:
We got this from a Weight Watchers Cookbook (Cooking for Two) years ago. We love it. We make it often and have made it for others that love it too.

Easy Asian Beef and Noodles
Yield2 servings Serving size: 2 cups (although if you use the remaining coleslaw mix, as listed below, it could easily make two to four depending on the serving size.)

Ingredients
• 1 (8-ounce) rib-eye steak
• 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
• 1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
• 2 cups prepackaged coleslaw - (we usually just use the whole package of coleslaw mix it makes it bigger and enough for huge portions of guilt-free goodness or leftovers.)
• 2 (2.8-ounce) packages beef-flavor ramen noodle soup
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

Preparation
Trim fat from steak; cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan; keep warm.

Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use (we typically use both). Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated.

From Scottie:
I stole the bulk of this one form Giada De Laurentiis. It's meant to be a healthy creamy style sauce for linguini to be served with salmon. I didn't have salmon, or linguini... so I made a few modifications, de-healthied it and tossed it with penne :)Stuff you'll need:

1 box penne pasta (1 lb.)
3-4 oz. of goat cheese
2-3 oz. of cream cheese
1 bag baby spinach
2 cloves fresh garlic
3-4 strips of bacon (pancetta would be better)
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Some fresh basil

Chop up your bacon (or pancetta) and put into a small pan on the stove on medium head to render out the fat. Go ahead and start the pasta now too, this isn't going to take long.

While that's doing it's thing, toss the garlic into your food processor and give it a whirl until it's chopped up fairly fine. Next, open it back up and put in the goat cheese and cream cheese, along with about 3/4 of the bag of baby spinach, and the lemon juice. Now would also be a great time to add in things like salt and pepper. Give the whole mess a whirl for about 10-20 seconds or until it looks like a chunky dip. It might even stick to the blade in a big ball, it's ok. Don't over mix, since it's gonna go for another whirl here in a moment.
Back at the stove scoop out your meat and take about 2 tablespoons of the fat over to the mixer. Turn it on and drizzle in the fat. Take your remaining baby spinach and give it a rough chop, do the same with the basil.

Now all you need to do it bring it all together! Into your biggest bowl put the green sauce base from the mixer. On top of that put your penne pasta. Grab a spatula and start incorporating them. Next grab your chopped baby spinach and basil, throw it on and do the same. Sprinkle on some fresh grated parmesan, and you're done!
For the healthy version remove the bacon and use light cream cheese instead of the normal stuff.

A few notes:
When I did this I used 4 cloves of garlic, and it kind of overpowered the entire dish. Also, reserve about a 1/3 c. of the cooked pasta water. If the sauce is way too thick after mixing it all together use the pasta water to loosen it up. It should be creamy, but not a paste.

You can put the bacon, or pancetta, you used into the dish at the end. However, I found that it didn't really add much. All its flavor had rendered out, and it wound up being squishy bits of nothing after they absorbed liquid from the sauce.

And lastly, my two favorites, because sometimes you just have to punt.
From Glen: popcorn - 2 minutes on high. From Rob: Gin, tonic, lemon

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My life with the A to Z list



Some of you may know that I am a giant celebrity whore. If there is anyone from the Z to the D list milling about, I will find them and stalk them with my Sharpie and stack of note cards. So what have I learned from my 20 years of stalking?

• Julie Andrews signs with a silver paint marker.
• Vincent Price would sign your stuff and inscribe it for you.
• Tim Curry is really short and is apparently hounded by proprietary autograph hounds where ever he goes. I felt bad asking him for an autograph.
• David Hyde Pierce DOES NOT sign autographs.
• The Blue Men will sign your Playbill with a blue thumb print.
• Quentin Crisp was in the New York City phone book, and was thrilled to get my request.
• However, John Waters was NOT thrilled that I found his address on line, but signed anyways. He expressed his opinion on a post it note on the back of the picture I sent him.
• Mark Wahlberg is really short, but he told me where to pee in NYC.
• Eartha Kitt is really short too.
• Art Linkletter is a giant.
• Jeff Daniels is a dick.
• Henry Rollins is smokin’ hot, but not really tall.
• Moby will draw you a picture if you ask him, even in a parking garage in NYC.
• George Carlin would talk with you when he was peeing next to you at Sardi’s.
• Andres Serrano, when pushed to talk about censorship will send you a three page handwritten letter.
• Matthew Broderick sends his letters from an address in CA somewhere, for tax purposes.
• Lynn Johnston, of the cartoon, For Better or Worse, sent me a page from her sketch book.
• Nathan Lane signed a Timon doll right on the crotch for me.
• Sean Astin is short but loves kids.
• Karen Finley is not above signing an index card.
• Martha Stewart’s ink fades quickly.
• Margaret Cho will sign for cash.
• I apparently killed Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz, as he died shortly after I sent my request, but I still got an autograph!
• Bruce Vilanch looks like Rolf the Dog from the Muppets mated with Sally Jesse Raphael.
• Annie Liebovitz will send you proof pages she didn’t use.
• William Wegman will draw his dogs.
• If you write to Jimmy Carter, Plains, GA or Stephen King, Bangor, Maine, you’ll get an autograph.
• Amy Sedaris got the entire cast of “Strangers with Candy” to sign the picture I sent her, and she drew nose hair coming out of her nose with the Sharpie.
• My most cherished autograph was one of my first. Although I did not meet her in person, Julia Child signed my copy of “The Way to Cook” and the cover hangs in my kitchen. And yes, she signed it with a “bon appetit!”