After last week when I blogged about some postural hints for parents from a physical therapist’s perspective (mine), I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback:
“Good tips, thanks!”
“Is that really you in the picture?”
“Got anything else to share with us?”
Well, you’re welcome, sorry that’s not me, and of course I can scrape up a few more pointers. Here goes.
When you’re lifting your child, remember to first get them close to your center of gravity as we discussed. Of equal importance, however, is making sure they are in your “safe zone.” Your safe zone is the area of your body between your chin and your belly button. So if your child is sitting or standing on the floor begging to get into your arms, be sure to kneel down so that your child can climb himself onto your body in the safe zone, instead of you reaching down and lifting your child up to your arms. In the same way, if your child is up on her loft bed and wants to get down for breakfast, do not try to grab her and lower her to you or the floor. A better plan is to ask her to climb down the ladder a few rungs until she is level with your safe zone, and then climb aboard. The likelihood of injury is greatly diminished with this technique, especially when it comes to some action that you might potentially do day after day after day, for years!
Here’s another one. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? I’m trying desperately to get my child to fall asleep in my arms on the sofa. He is fussy and cranky, and I admit that I am fussy and cranky too. All I want is to get this kid to sleep. I’m fantasizing about lying in my own cozy bed. But I’m stuck on the sofa and there’s no end in sight. But wait! He has found his sweet spot in my lap and has miraculously fallen asleep. I slow down my breathing and even reduce my heart rate so as not to wake him up again – I’m that desperate. I stay absolutely frozen in that position that he has chosen for me, but unfortunately it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’m developing a deep ache on one side of my neck, and one of my hands is falling asleep. I try to shut out the pain and discomfort. Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep myself right then and there, only to wake up hours later with more profound aches and pains.
This is not a smart move. Pain is your body’s alarm system. Ignoring the alarms can lead to more permanent changes and chronic pain. Make sure that you are comfortable before your child gets comfortable.
Keep yourself well conditioned. A rule of thumb of 30-60 minutes of exercise for 3-4 times per week is a good one. I personally try to incorporate walking, one of the world’s greatest exercises, into my conditioning regimen. Even though I run 10 miles or so about 4 or 5 times per week, and swim whenever I have the chance, or else ride the bike, I still try and squeeze some walking in. My husband recently gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day, a device worn on your wrist that keeps track of your daily steps and syncs the data to your computer for your review. In order to maximize my step count, I’ve taken to walking around much more. I walk the stroller and baby to the store instead of drive. If I do drive, I try to park a block or two further away than I normally would park. I’ve noticed that my boys are even getting more used to the thought of waling everywhere. Just the other day I planned a visit for us to the in-law’s house on the other side of Los Angeles (26 miles away), and as we headed out the door my middle son asked “Are we walking or driving?” I think this is a good thing.
If you’re not a walker, at least try to sit less during the day. Sitting wreaks havoc on the spine, especially when done improperly. It’s not a coincidence that most of the occupations that involve lots of sitting (truck drivers, desk workers) also have a high rate of back dysfunction.
As you can see, there’s a lot of information to share. Hopefully I’ve made you at least more aware of some issues that affect you as a parent. Instilling this information in our children at a young age is one of the best things we can do to help them grow up to be healthy smart parents themselves. That is if we ever let them date.
Last night we celebrated our friend’s birthday and enjoyed an evening of fun, frivolity, and meeting new people. Fun and frivolity are always goods, but meeting new people is always a crapshoot. You just never know what you’re going to get.
Well last night we got lucky. We spent almost the entire night with two different lesbian couples. One couple was about 3-4 months away from being ready for the adoption journey. We reminisced about parenting classes, the paperwork, the birthmother letter, and the home study. That seems like ages ago, but I was happy to give my words of caution. Having experienced the loss of a child after 24 hours in my home, I might have a unique perspective on the whole adoption thing. While the end result of my adoption journey was a beautiful healthy baby that is now a really great 6 ½- year old, I still find that I get a pang of worry for those embarking on this endeavor. Hopefully through the stories of my ups and downs, the new parents of today can have a little easier go of it. In some ways little ole me might be a kind of trailblazer.
Just when I’m up on my high horse, I meet the second lesbian couple and realize that I am speaking with true pioneers who took risks in the past that those of us in the current can hardly fathom.
Jane and Mary (not their real names) have been in love for 38 years. Jane had a son from her first marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive husband. The ex-husband is out of the picture, and the son didn’t turn out so well due to the collateral damage of divorce. In fact, although they live in the county next to his, they have no contact with him.
They brought a daughter into this world with the help of a gay friend with premium sperm, a turkey baster of some sort, and a cooperating uterus. Since it was illegal at the time and the place they were living (i.e. the United States of America), they had to suffer through a clandestine pregnancy and birth before presenting their daughter to the world.
They were finally able to consummate their relationship last year with a fabulous wedding attended by 800 of their closest friends. They are supremely proud of their daughter, who is successful in her business and out & proud in her own gay life with her own loving wife who is now pregnant with their first child, a baby girl.
Most of the night was spent learning about the great pains they had to go through in the workplace, in their daughter’s school, and even their own back yard. They remain completely amazed how things have turned around in this country, and how much easier it is to live as an out gay person. Alen and I had to confess that we often forget that we are actually a gay couple, not because sex after children has dwindled to a trickle, but because we perceive so much support from those around us, namely family, friends, and neighbors. We realized after we left the party that we owe our perception (and in most case reality) to all the Janes and Marys of the world who came before us and made today easier for us to survive. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Originally sitting down to write a blog on nature versus nurture, my auto-correct took over and changed nurture to neuter. I decided that this change was appropriate.
We have three sons now, and one might assume that there might possibly be a smidgeon of similarity between at least two of them. After all, two of them spent nearly nine months in the same womb, were exposed to the same foods and the same hormone levels in utero (which some say makes a difference in the outcome of the child), and even had their cord cut by the same two guys (Daddy and Papa, that is.) It’s even possible that they both share the same paternal genetic material, since Daddy and Papa randomly donated the Y chromosome and let nature decide the rest. If you’re asking yourself why we would randomize it, we considered the feelings of our adopted son in our decision. We did not want him to think that the genetic link was so important that we would manipulate the conceptions so that each father would for sure be biologically related to one offspring each. Where would that leave our adopted son? Since there was no chance that our adopted son has a genetic connection to us, we wanted to show him that the parental connection is what matters to us the most, not the genetic one. Granted, it is interesting to see yourself in your son or daughter, whether through physical features or personality characteristics, but personally we could care less about the biological link. Anyway, even to this day, half the people we meet swear that the three boys are mini-Daddy, and the other half have no doubt whatsoever that they see Papa staring back at them when they look in our sons’ eyes. This is despite the fact that our adopted son is African-American, and our other two sons have light or blonde hair, while both fathers have dark hair and are obviously white.
Daddy and Papa often talk about the fact that we see our sons differently than others. For example, we are often taken aback when someone mentions that our oldest son is black. Really? We do everything we can to honor his heritage, we take pride in the fact that we have black friends, and we think he is an incredibly beautiful boy, but the black is often lost on us. We just see our son. And as funny as it might sound, and this might be a function of being at the birth of all three of them, but I actually feel like I personally gave birth to them. Of course I did not feel the physical pain, and I don’t want to minimize the role of the bio mom or our surrogate/friend, but the emotions I felt in the hospital were so great that I felt like I myself willed them through the birth canal.
The fact that we see our sons as homogenous parts of one big happy family, all nurtured in the same way by the same two guys, makes their differences all the more shocking. I won’t name names, because I don’t want one or both of them (although one of them is much more likely) to have a meltdown if or when they finally read this blog later on in their life. But how can one of our sons eat everything you offer him, while the other still to this day refuses a slice of bread? How can one son make friends the minute he walks into a crowd, while the other son treats everyone with trepidation and suspicion? Why will one 6-year old laugh at the top of his lungs when Daddy drops on the floor his just-made model Lego Dinosaur, while the other 6-year old collapses to the floor in the middle of a restaurant when his plain pasta (no sauce, no butter) arrives from the kitchen with a single microscopic drop of marinara sauce on it? Why will one son try (and mostly excel) at every physical activity presented to him, while the other will complain of a side stitch, roll his eyes constantly, and basically state that “humans were not meant to be treated this inhumanely. “
Honestly, I have to give that particular son more credit. He has a heart of gold, and is one of the most caring individuals I know. I love him immensely. And as he heads closer and closer to pre-puberty, he has shown signs of changing and maturing. When he is talking to adults, he finally is looking directly at their chest. He now likes yellow in addition to pink and purple. He recently licked a tangerine slice. Are we fathers doing anything at all differently to bring on this change? Not really. We’re nurturers remember, not manipulators. They are our sons, for better or worse. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. And love love love them.
TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations.
Tickets available through March 16th under the Big Top at the Santa Monica Pier
There was a time when it seemed like everyone that I knew was dying. Probably 15 to 20 years ago, I would panic and cringe every time I heard my home phone ring. I would know well or at least recognize at least one guy every time I looked at the obituaries. The face of AIDS was nearly always the same: the smiling handsome face of a thirty or forty something who leaves behind his mother and his father, his sisters and his brothers, with no mention of wife or kids, let alone partner or lover or significant other. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to anything BUT an AIDS organization. Writers of these cryptic obituaries had no clue that they were making the cause of death so damn obvious.
To this day I still glance through the obituaries whenever I happen to read the printed version of a local newspaper, searching for a friend or foe. Thankfully, those sightings are few and far between, and I am so very grateful for that. Someone as young as I was back then should never have had to endure over and over again the sadness and the pain of the death of a friend. It has left me with wounds that have only slowly healed over time.
Flash forward to present time, 2014, and now I’m a 52-year old man with three young kids and a husband who is (thankfully) 10 ½ years younger than I am. We have four ageing parents between us, all of who are rushing toward their 80th birthdays, and all of who have their own list of ailments and disabilities. The inevitability of the situation is horrifying, to say the least. It seems like only yesterday when we each suffered through the death of our respective grandparents, and not a day (or two) goes by when I don’t at least think of them, if not long for them. I’m in no hurry to go through that loss again, especially with my parents.
It’s a morbid thought, but death has started to rear its ugly head all around me. I’m stuck in a battlefield now that I’m over 50, and some grenades are landing and exploding in the distance, some are close to me, and without a doubt someday one will land directly on top of me. The distant ones are just constant reminders of the danger. Like when you get the Breaking News email about this actress dying or that singer dying. It announces their age and the cause of death, and you immediately figure out the difference in years between the deceased (them) and the living (you). Unfortunately, that difference in years is getting smaller and smaller.
In the distance are also family members (mostly parents, uncles, etc.) of peers. At my age it seems like many friends are either traveling to a funeral or returning from one. I try to be supportive, partly because I know that I’m going to need their support when the grenade hits closer to home, and partly because I’m afraid and sorry.
Other reminders of the doom are just the near-death experiences as well as the signs of the fragility of health. At this precise moment between the two of us, one of us has a parent in the hospital. One has a cousin in the hospital whose water broke too early in her pregnancy. One of us has a brother with newly diagnosed cancer. One of us has sleep apnea (not really life-threatening but it makes me snore really loud.) The point is that it’s a constant barrage of bad health news that only seems to be intensifying, and I don’t like it. I want it all to stop, but it can’t.
Inescapably, my mind turns finally to my young children. I’d take the grenade for any one of them. In fact, I’d hold it in my mouth if it meant keeping them out of harm’s way. I remember the serious fever my firstborn son had in the first month of his tiny life, and how I begged, I prayed, I wished that no matter what, I would leave this earth before he would. Do not make me suffer through the loss of my children or my husband. I’m sure they’ll all be just fine once I kick the bucket, but if any of them go first, I can’t imagine that I’d ever be the same person.
My sons have started asking me how old I will be when they are my age, because they want to go swimming together and be able to race me across the pool. I matter-of-factly and with a straight face give them the answer (98), but I add that beating me in a race will be the least of their worries. But for now, my sons, just enjoy learning to read and learning to swim. Leave the worrying to Daddy.
By Brandy Black
I met her in a diner on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. We flirted in a bar a few weeks later. We first kissed in my bungalow. We had long talks in the car outside of my apartment. We ate ice cream cones on the curb of Fairfax. She dragged me to yoga. I dragged her to dance clubs. We moved in together a year later and shared a 500 square foot apartment. We went to Palm Springs on a whim and learned to aim at a shooting range. We mastered craps in Vegas and stayed in a suite on the strip. She wore sunglasses at night. We ran a marathon and dreamt of our future. We mapped it out. It came true. We bought a condo in a less cooler place than West Hollywood. We planned a wedding when it wasn’t legal. We were engaged for two years. We were married on an island with 80 of our closest friends. Everything went wrong. The wedding was perfect. The honeymoon even better. I learned esposa means wife in Spanish and used it while at Maroma in Mexico. We sold our condo, made some money and bought a house. We dreamt of babies but couldn’t make them, we tried everything. We got a dog. We loved him. I was still sad. We went to Italy and hiked Cinque Terrre. We were still sad. We did IVF. A couple times. When we were about to give up, I got pregnant. It was a miracle. Life was perfect again. We got pregnant again, this time with twins. We sold our house and moved into a bigger one. We got an au pair. We said goodbye to my Audi and got a bigger car. We juggled twin babies and a 3-year-old, it was tough. We muddled our way through. We started date night. That helped. Our twins are 2, our oldest 5, on Friday it will be sixteen years since that first kiss.
The Next Family caught up with Gabriel Blau who is the Deputy Director of Strategic Advancement at Family Equality Council, a national organization advocating for and connecting LGBTQ families. He is married and has a son. I was able to chat with him about life as a dad, how he met his husband, and his job at Family Equality Council.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Gabriel: My husband and I have been together for over ten years. We had a big wedding with our family and friends in 2006 and then we were legally married in New York in 2011. We were one of the first gay couples to legally marry in New York City. In 2008 we were able to welcome a child into our family; our son is now 5 years old. We adopted domestically –a private adoption in the United States.
TNF: Did you have any challenges?
Gabriel: The greatest challenge was getting the information we needed to make the decision and to understand the process. But we were lucky to not face any serious challenges. We were fortunate enough to work with the right people -both at home and where our son was born- people who had experience working with an LGBT couple.
TNF: Was it was a tough decision?
Gabriel: It was as difficult and as easy as it is I think for most families. There’s a lot to consider. Certainly there’s access; we couldn’t leave it up to “chance”. We both wanted to have children. It happened a lot faster than we expected so when we began the process, we assumed it would take much longer. We knew a lot of people who had a great deal of difficulty adopting, or it took a long time so we were prepared for that timeline. But it happened a great deal faster than that. And it was the best decision we ever made.
TNF: How did you and your husband meet?
Gabriel: We met back in 2003 and it was through a series of coincidences that ultimately brought us to be with the same group of friends on the same night at a synagogue in New York. We’ve been together ever since.
TNF: Do you feel any different than other families?
Gabriel: That’s a complicated question. We’re very lucky to live in a community and in a neighborhood in New York where there is a lot of diversity. We deal with the same issues most families deal with: hectic schedules, school, playdates, balancing work and home life, the stresses of being responsible parents in general. There are times that we’re reminded that we’re “different”, whether it’s by gendered forms that ask for “mother and father”, by comments or questions from teachers or other parents, or by assumptions being made at the doctor’s office. But because we are personally very lucky we are able to see these moments as opportunities to learn and grow and to make our community and family beautiful. We are a fairly visible family, which can create other challenges, but I think that’s less on being LGBT. We’re very conscious of being LGBT. In other parts of the country we really do feel different but we’ve worked to build a community that is supportive where we have a diverse group of friends…I think that community aspect is really important. Most parents that I speak to really appreciate those opportunities no matter where they live. They realize when they are in a situation that they are with other LGBT families they really start to feel different, it’s important for their children to be in those environments and they feel secure…it’s a big part of the work that we do at Family Equality Council. We have over 150 parent groups we work with across the country; we have experiences like Family Week in Provincetown every summer -this past year we had over 1500 participants there. It’s an important part of the work of building community and building support systems.
TNF: You referenced schools, teachers, doctors, assumptions being made. Do you feel accepted generally?
Gabriel: In New York, generally we do, yes. There are moments when we have to explain things. But you explain and you move forward. That’s an experience that we don’t want everyone to go through, and so we hope by us going through it, we are helping those doctors, providers, teachers, etc. know how to speak to other parents, not just LGBTQ parents but all parents, to not make assumptions about family constellation and family creation. We don’t face it often but it happens. In our work we see LGBTQ people across the country, facing issues in more severe ways – like not being able to be out, like LGBTQ parents not being able to rely on a school to get the protection they need for their kids. It’s a very real issue. It’s something that is as important to correct as the legal issues we have to work on. Going through life always having to explain who you are, to be treated the way our families are being treated. It’s not the American dream, it’s not what we strive for in this country.
TNF: Are you seeing a change now that gay marriage is legal in 15 states? Are things getting better?
Gabriel: Things have been continually getting better. The movement has been working very hard to make these changes. Throughout the country our families are still facing the same issues they faced last week and the week before. Certainly the national conversation is turning in a direction that is more positive and we’re seeing more legal equality. But, we’re seeing it in marriage -we haven’t seen it in other areas. There are a lot of other areas that we have to deal with. Let’s not forget that, even with the momentum we’ve had, we have equality in 15 states, that leaves us still with 35 states –and that’s just the issue of marriage equality. Our LGBTQ families across the country are still not able to have legal relationships with their own children; they don’t have access to culturally compentent care; 42% of children report being harassed because of their family constellation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has not passed yet. It was a great vote in the Senate but it is not yet the law of the land. These are the issues affecting our families everyday. LGBTQ families are more likely to live at or near the poverty line. They are hard working families trying to do well by their children. Second-parent adoption is not even available in certain parts of the country, so, assuming you can even do that, it’s a whole process you have to go through. It costs money, takes time, and, frankly, can feel very demeaning.
Every single parenting study comes to the conclusion that stability is a critical factor in successful parenting. How can we expect our families to do the job they are fighting to do if our country can’t provide them with basic stability –that they are not going to lose their jobs, that if they break up, one of the parents won’t lose his or her relationship with their child, that they won’t lose their housing, that their children will be protected in their schools?
TNF: If you could pick one goal that is close to your heart while you are at Family Equality, what would that be?
Gabriel: I’m going to give you two: the top goal is to achieve social and legal equality for our families throughout the country. And the specific issue that is always at the top of our priority list is family security, the parent/child relationship. There are a lot of components of that but we need to secure it; it’s absolutely critical. So that will always be at the top of our agenda. We are working now in 15 states, and we always hope to increase that. There are limited resources and it takes time. This work is not just about a single bill, it’s about creating a culture that puts family first.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Gabriel: It’s meant everything. It’s the greatest thing in the world. Our son is everything to us. He’s what drives our work..I’m the luckiest person alive…I can’t imagine being any happier.
For more information on Family Equality initiatives, check out their website and see all of the services that they provide for LGBTQ. Some of the outstanding programs they have include Family Week, Families in the Midwest, Outspoken Generation, and Pearls of Wisdom.
Thank you Gabriel for taking the time to speak with us. You have a beautiful family and we wish you much success.
What a strange twist of fate that I am so ill as we head into a new year! It’s only my third cold of 2013, or my first one of 2014, depending on which year you want to give credit to. What a pity that most of my resolutions revolve around the very thing that is suffering: my health. What a bummer that I wasn’t able to start clean on January 1st!
Yes, it’s only a head cold, or maybe a mild case of influenza, and that’s good. This is despite the fact that I marched our three sons and myself to the flu clinic for an annual vaccine right when it hit October, but so be it. They say my symptoms would be much worse now, but who knows. Our five and six year olds get the flu mist (the spray in the nose), so it’s no big deal. They happen to be enjoying nearly perfect health as we speak (except some growing pains in the legs and some bothersome loose teeth in the mouth –upwards of 8 teeth in my five year old!) However, our 13-month old baby and I are deep in the depression of the illness, with sleepless nights and constantly running noses the norm, despite the fact that we both barely tolerated the injectable type of vaccine (old guys over 50 and babies and cannot get the flu mist.) With both of us sick and me the stay-at-home dad, I think we are playing a never-ending game of ping pong, with the ball being a slimy gooey colorful mess that we sneeze back and forth to each other as I hold and comfort him.
I can’t keep anything down and that’s also good, because one resolution involves reducing my weight by 16 pounds (I’m 166 now.) I still have in my mind that 150 pounds is my perfect race weight for running and triathlons, even though it’s been a few years (or eight) since I’ve enjoyed that weight, and it’s been a few years since I’ve done a real triathlon (can’t remember exactly, but I’m guessing 10 years.) Come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s even reasonable or honest to call myself a triathlete anymore (good friends will say at this point: “Well, you do have a trio of boys.”) Readers of this blog will remember that last year’s list of resolutions also included a weight reduction (of 16 pounds) to 150 pounds, but I really feel like I can get there if I really want it. And more than ever, what with our third and final son out of his boot camp (i.e. over twelve months of age), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that I need to get my physical fitness (and six-pack) back to what I once enjoyed.
So it’s been just under a week without Diet Coke, without peanut butter chocolate ice cream, and without popcorn, and I feel resolute in my resolutions. Although I have the appetite suppression of my illness in my favor, I think I can do it this year. And it’s not just for me. It’s for my husband, who deserves to sleep every night with that hot body he met ten years ago. And it’s for my trio of boys, my triathletes, who need and I think want their Daddy’s company for as long as they possibly can have it.
P.S. Yes, I have other resolutions but if I don’t have my health what good are they?
P.S.S. My husband and I enjoy at least 50 movies per year, and during each of those movies we enjoy(ed) one or two large Diet Cokes and a large refillable popcorn. It turns out that one can indeed overeat popcorn.
This time last year Justin and committed to starting our family through adoption. Despite all the hustle and bustle of the season, Justin and I love Christmas. We love to decorate. We love to give gifts. We love spending time with our family — well at least a few days before we are ready to strangle each other!
The best part for us is that moment when all the gifts are under the tree and the last dishes from a big dinner are being washed that makes it all worthwhile. There is not another store to go to or another gift to buy. There is nothing else we can do but sit back and enjoy time with the family with a full stomach.
Justin and I have many nieces and nephews to spoil while we wait for our own child to adopt. My favorite was my niece and her glitter boots. She was so excited when she opened the package that she dropped the other gifts around her to put them on. And she wore them for 2 days straight! Only taking them off for bedtime. We love watching the kids get excited opening the gifts. It’s truly the magic of the day that makes us leave but at the same time want to adopt a child of our own even more.
Justin and I look forward to sharing the joy of Christmas with our child in the years to come. It will be like reliving the joy and excitement of the holidays with our little one that we experienced when we were little. We look forward to building new traditions with our family of putting up the Christmas tree, counting down the days until the big day, and spending time with grandma and grandpa on Christmas day.
I can’t wait for day we are putting out the cookies and milk for Santa. Or the excitement in the morning when we have a toddler jumping on our bed to go see what Santa brought them. Hearing the excitement in their voices as they rip open the paper to see a gift will make the wait to adopt all worthwhile.
We are lucky to experience this with our nieces and nephews while we wait…hopefully next year our wish to adopt will come true and we can start to experience this magic during the holiday season with our child.
We are an approved family with Independent Adoption Center. Visit our profile and Dear Birthmother Letter at http://www.jasonandjustin.com.
Happy Holidays Family and Friends,
You’re probably as shocked as we are that yet another year has come to an end and we welcome 2014. I had always looked ahead to this particular year as a marker … 20 years ago (1994) I bought this Santa Monica house that we live in to this day, and we continue to try to transform it into the chic modern house we know it can be. The other date is 30 years ago (1984), when I took that now infamous solo bicycle ride from New York to San Diego, which literally changed my life and brought me to the happy place I’m in today with my incredible family of one husband and three sons. I’m a full-fledged stay at home Dad now, and have never been more content, more tired, more in love, or more fat. And other than one 10K running race to raise money for the school (in which the baby and I won the stroller division), I can’t list much in the achievement column except for adding twelve months of activities, experiences, knowledge, and love to our three sons’ lives. For that I am grateful and proud.
Speaking of proud, Alen has continued to wow the family with his career achievements. His knowledge of end-of-life care and palliative medicine has received accolades from around the nation, and I am not exaggerating. His continued work with HIV patients has inspired other physicians to follow suit. Our family-owned wellness clinic continues to grow exponentially, thanks to Alen’s medical direction. And if he was not busy enough, Alen was accepted into the Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Program at prestigious Indiana University. He just received straight A’s in his first semester (the dude is smart.) The boys and I miss him when he travels monthly for a three-day stint (the rest is online), but the homecoming is always sweet. He manages to work on everything and yet still has plenty of time for his family. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our oldest son Devin is now a certified 6-½ year old teenager in first grade. How did he become so cool with his school chums, so agile on his feet, and so comfortable in his skin? Devin loves reading his chapter books and writing some too. He loves being quizzed in Math and challenged with puzzles. He continues to take Spanish Immersion after school twice per week, plays on the basketball team and takes swim lessons at the Y, a little gymnastics, and rounds it all off with a weekly Crossfit workout class with his brother and other classmates. Devin is kind, caring, with a great big heart. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our middle son Dylan wavers between wanting to be more independent like his older brother and wanting to be cradled like his younger one, so we give him both, which seems to suit him just fine. Flourishing in his kindergarten class (where I am the room parent this year), Dylan loves math and art, and is just beginning to read signs as we drive around town. He has enjoyed after school Spanish class, gemology, Top Chef class, Lego, and Pop Star classes. He likes his weekly gymnastics class and has tolerated his jazz dance class, although he has expressed interest in giving tap-dancing a try. Like his brother, he also works out at Crossfit weekly and at the pool twice per week. He still has yet to eat a slice of bread in his life, but he has managed to add at least a couple of new foods to his extremely limited diet. It hasn’t affected his growth, however. As he has since he was one year old, he ranks in the 128th percentile for height and weight. He towers over everyone in his class, and wears bigger clothes than my 10-year old nephew Jackson. He aspires to be a veterinarian some day, which I can envision because he is nurturing and sensitive. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our baby Dustin, now 13 months, has transformed into a toddler right in front of our eyes. With over half of his baby teeth present, he is enjoying, and willing to try, many different foods, although fat-free milk is still his favorite. All signs point to another big boy: at his doctor’s appointment his weight and height ranked at the 95th percentile. He is doing everything except walking, but we are not rushing him into anything. He loves his weekly music class at the park across the street from our house (both Devin & Dylan went to this same class.), and will start a gym & swim class at the YMCA in January. At the moment he cannot get enough of Alen (can’t blame him for that), but he is such a happy-go-lucky boy who waves and yells Hi! to everyone he sees. He loves his older brothers, and they are already showing him “the ropes” and lots and lots of love, and Dustin does likewise. For that I am grateful and proud.
This summer we tried bungee jumping for the first time. Alen loved it, I’m still nauseous from it, and the boys were traumatized by watching it. We also continued our tradition of vacationing right after school let out for the summer. Last year was Costa Rica and this year was Puerto Rico. All three boys seem to really love the tradition, so we will keep it up each year, making memories to last a lifetime. Speaking of traditions, California finally came to its senses and allowed all of our friends to marry, just as we did in 2008. Seventeen states in the US now have legal same-sex marriage, and we hope by our next letter that even more states will realize that our family deserves the right to express our love and commitment just like anybody else. We are all about love and commitment. For that I am grateful and proud.
Love and wishes for a great New Year,
John, Alen, Devin, Dylan, & Dustin