Interview with Lisa Regula Meyer

Interview with Lisa Regula Meyer for The Next Family

 

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF? 

It’s been great.  I love reading all the different perspectives here, and all the types of families.  I especially enjoy seeing the common themes across all families (“Am I doing the right thing?”  “My kid isamazing!”  “How do I explain this to a child?”  “Parenting is hardwork!”  those sorts of minutiae), and how those themes are interpreted through different lenses (adoption, surrogacy, same sex parents, single parents, etc.).  And let’s be honest- writing about something besides invasive plants and native amphibians is a great distraction from my dissertation, even if my advisor disapproves.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

We’re the same as every other family in that we love each other, even if we do sometimes struggle.  We have to juggle work, house work, social life, school, community work, extended family, and much more. We’re our own best support system, and know we can count on each other.  But, like every other family we have our own unique variation of life.  I’ve heard that most kids don’t attend professional conferences for vacation.  And I’ve heard a rumor that it’s not normal for a six-year-old to know more about TARDISes and Daleks than s/he does about sports.  I guess our main difference is our extreme collective geekiness.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not, explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

Eh, some members of the family accept various parts of our life more than others.  I don’t think that there’s anybody in either Dwight’s or my family that 100% agrees with how we live and the choices we make, but for the most part, the differences are in the details, not the broad picture.  Some family members aren’t fond of surrogacy and/or our closeness with the LGBTQ community, others dislike our activism. A few family members disagree with our choice to pursue higher education, and some just wish we didn’t live where we do (usually wishing we lived closer).  But if we all agreed on everything, life would be dull as all get out.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

Hahaha!  I’ll let you know that answer when I figure it out, probably sometime after I conquer the mass of clothes to fold.  I don’t tend to balance things, more often than not there’s one area of life that gets lots of attention, while the rest is ignored.  And then something that was being ignored gets all the attention, while everything else is ignored.  And the cycle continues…

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

Most important: There but for fortune, go you or I.  Don’t hold someone else’s situation against them, because you could find yourself in a similar situation someday, and then you’ll need others to be understanding and supportive, as you’ve been in the past.  Practice not sympathy, but empathy.  Lesson to unlearn: Judging others.  We’re all in this life together, and we can choose to either be a positive influence or a negative influence, and prejudice, discrimination, all the “-isms” preclude our being a positive influence on the world.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

Look past direct effects.  Yes, they’re easier to understand, but they’re less interesting and don’t show the whole picture.  And you can do a lot if you just set the bar low enough.  Either do a few things well, or try a bunch of stuff.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

Know that I’m not trying to be a jerk or insult anyone ever, I just don’t often have the right words.  And I’m about as blunt as a club. But I do care- a lot.  So feel free to call me out when I screw up getting the point across.  I’m a work in progress.

 

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Interview with Holly Vanderhaar

Interview with Holly Vanderhaar by The Next Family

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

It’s great. I tend to think in “personal essay mode” anyway, and I often find that, in the process of writing my entries, I work through the issue and I find answers to questions I didn’t even realize I was asking. I’m also honored to be able to contribute my voice to such a wonderful community of families.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

Wow. This is a tricky question. I expect that we’re like every other family in that we have our ups and downs, moments of tension and turmoil and not liking each other very much, mixed with laughter and adventures and moments of being completely in sync with each other. Those are the extremes, and most of the time, we just kind of roll along and live our lives. My job is to try to make the positive extremes outweigh the negative ones!

I think every family is unique, though, so pinning down how ours is different is tougher. You could argue that we’re unique in that I’m a single mom by choice who has identical twins; I only know a couple of those, even counting my wide circle of online acquaintances. I think my membership and participation in Single Mothers by Choice (an international organization started by Jane Mattes) makes me feel like I’m part of a huge community of “like” families. But we’re different in the same way that individuals are different.

TNF: Did  your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not, explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and  your lifestyle.

Yes, my family has been incredibly supportive of my choice to become a single mom, even if some of them had their doubts in the beginning. I get a lot of help, even though we don’t live near them anymore.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

Not well, I’m afraid. I feel like I’m constantly three steps behind, remembering appointments at the last minute (or not at all), and I often end up working after my kids go to bed. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a flexible schedule, so I can pick them up from school and help with homework and violin practice, but that means that I end up working after they go to bed at night. I do try to focus on them for those few hours, but I’m not always successful, and if I have a deadline looming, I end up working on the weekends when I’d rather be hanging out with my daughters. But I’m not an organized person by nature, and my house is a mess, and I’m constantly shamed when I drop them off for play dates at their friends’ immaculate houses. My fantasy is to live in a spotless, uncluttered, and well-run house, but I’m afraid it’s probably destined to remain a fantasy.

TNF: What  lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should  unlearn?

I think generosity is incredibly important. Generosity of time and attention and support as well as generosity of material goods. Compassion. Thinking of others and not just ourselves. Approaching life from a position of abundance and gratitude for what we have rather than what we lack. Taking a long-term view: what kind of world are we leaving behind for future generations? And a love of learning. All of these are very important.

I think we have lost sight of the importance of the common good, of sacrificing some things to help those who have less. We’ve also forgotten how to slow down, I think. And we have lost the art–if we ever had it–of disagreeing in a civil and respectful way. We as adults have a responsibility to model mature behavior and civil discourse to our children. We demand it of them, but we aren’t willing to demand it of ourselves.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

Joseph Campbell said it first and best, but my advice is “follow your bliss.” And believe that everything you need will come to you.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

Not really. It will probably all come out in the blog eventually!

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Interview with Danny Thomas

April 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

Interview with Danny Thomas by The Next Family

 

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

I love blogging for TNF. It’s been a fun journey into myself, a great way to explore what is important to me as a person and as a father… and also as a writer. I have discovered, through writing for TNF, some thematic ideas that come back again and again in my blogs and in my thinking and that has helped me define and refine my personal philosophy and how I approach the world and my family.

It has been nice to have a reason to write… something that forces me to do it. I love writing and have fun writing, but have lacked discipline as a writer and TNF has been a great motivator… I get wonderful feedback and it has sparked some interesting exchanges as well…

Finally, all of this inspires me to write more, develop my voice, develop my stories, hone my craft and continue the exploration.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

Wow, this is  a tough question…

There are so many different kinds of families, and in so many ways every family is different, and yet, we share common ground. I think I’ll just have to tell you some things about my family and you can decide…

My wife and I share in all of the household responsibilities, however, she is the primary income provider and I am the primary homemaker…

On the weekends we like to have big breakfasts; sometimes we go out to breakfast, sometimes we make it at home… and a lot of times we get donuts.

We live in a two-story three-bedroom house; our two oldest daughters share a room and sleep in bunk beds… they love dancing and singing and Strawberry Shortcake, and also swimming, gymnastics, riding bikes, Barbies, princesses and pink stuff…

the baby has her own room; she likes breast milk and sleeping.

My wife and I share a room, we just got a king-sized bed. We like reading and movies and television. She is a Theatre Professor; I am a sound designer and a musician. I write blogs and poems… some people might say we are artsy, or bohemian… we just think of ourselves as people.

We have a cat named Puss Puss..

As a family we like to make up songs and stories, read books, go for walks, have adventures, play games, and watch movies.

Some things that are important to us are honesty, equality, good food, laughter, and friendship…

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

My family is very supportive of my lifestyle, occasionally throughout my life my mother has encouraged me to “get a real job” or be more “career oriented” and I think both my mother and my wife’s mother have struggled occasionally with how we challenge gender stereotypes… in that each of us is not “being taken care of” in the “traditional” manner they imagined… that is, I am not bringing in the money, and my wife is not cleaning and cooking for me… but these struggles are not persistent.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

This is probably the biggest struggle in my life right now.

I just don’t know how to do it; as a family we are working on it and trying to come up with some systems of time management, but I don’t have an answer for this question because I don’t know…

I mean, the only answer I can give you is that everyday I let at least one or two balls drop.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

Be open to new things and enjoy learning. Know yourself. Be true to yourself. Trust yourself, and find at least one group of people besides yourself that you can trust and depend on. It’s okay to make a mistake, that’s how we learn. Work hard, but have fun and laugh as much as you can.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

I don’t feel qualified to impart words of wisdom… I am just bumbling through this life trying to find balance and peace, trying to laugh and absorb as much as possible.

I guess one thing I have learned about being in a relationship, and being in a family is that it is a choice; my wife and I make the choice everyday to be committed to each other and to our family. It’s not always easy, or fun, or beautiful, and it means a lot of sacrifice and a lot of tough conversations…

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

I am a terrible driver; my wife is a terrible passenger.

Her favorite food is potatoes, mine changes moment to moment, right now it’s falafel. ‘Zilla’s favorite food is peanut butter toast, and Lil’ Chaos’s favorite food is probably Top Ramen, although she may be like me and it may depend on what is right in front of her at the time… Zuzu’s favorite food is breast milk.

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Interview with Meika Rouda

April 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

Interview with Meika Rouda by The Next Family

 

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

This is my first time blogging and it has been wonderful writing for TNF. The community is vibrant and active and I have learned many insights from readers. It has also provided a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, from finding my birthmom on Google to difficulties parenting my own two adopted children. I appreciate the common ground and ability to say what I want unedited in a community forum.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

I like to tease my husband that he is the odd man out because he is the only person in our immediate family not adopted. We are a regular nuclear family with a mom, dad, daughter, and son; we just don’t have a biological connection.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

I am grateful that as an adoptee, I have always felt very loved by my family both nuclear and extended. I have never felt any different than the members of my family, like cousins and aunts, who are biologically connected. As adoptive parents, we have never confronted any judgment about our decision to adopt.  It has always been a very happy and loving choice and embraced by our family and friends. That said I have been confronted with little mishaps that have stopped me in my tracks. Like when I had a friend ask me what it is like to mother “somebody else’s baby.”  So although everyone is happy for us, there are still some misconceptions and stigmas attached. I have also had a family friend tell me how wonderful it is “what we are doing for those children.” The truth is “those children” made us a family, which was our dream. While these comments are rare, they do happen.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

Being a working mom was one of the hardest things I did. I felt like a spinning wheel  twenty-four hours a day. My job was stressful and I was not able to be the parent I wanted to be. It was hard to admit that working full time and mothering was too much for me. I wanted to be the super mom who can handle it all but I was depressed, moody, and strung out. I work freelance now so it is job to job and the stress is more manageable and the gigs are short term so I can be a mom most of the time. We have a lot less money because of it and have had to make some adjustments to our lifestyle but the sacrifice is worth it for us. I am also fortunate to have my mom and sister nearby who can help when we need child care support.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

Children have an amazing ability to forgive one another quickly. If they can hold on to that ability to forgive it will serve them well in life. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to truly learn but one that can have a great impact on how you see the world and how to keep your brain and soul happy. We don’t realize how much we as adults hold on to things that really aren’t important anymore but weigh us down emotionally.

I think parents should unlearn the need to have everything be perfect all the time. Sometimes family life is very challenging and that is OK too, you don’t have to blame yourself or feel that you are failing because your two-year-old refuses to eat or wear clothes. The idea of the perfect, well behaved family is a fallacy.  The truth is, parenting is about compromise, negotiation, and reaching deep to find strength when you feel helpless. And when you are trying to rationalize with your dictator of a two-year-old, you sometimes see how perfect those moments of imperfection can be too.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

To remember that families are something we choose to be a part of.  Family takes work and is not to be taken for granted. It is something created and held together by love and commitment and you may find yourself having to fight for those relationships. Whether it is getting through a rough patch with your partner or fighting with your teenage daughter, family is a little microcosm of the world order and it is important to work through problems and keep peace. I know many people who don’t speak to their parents or have strained relationships with their siblings and I find that really sad.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

As an adoptive parent, I feel that because we went through so much to become parents,  I need to enjoy every minute of parenthood. Well sometimes I don’t enjoy it, sometimes I am pulling my hair out while trying to get my 4-year-old to stop hitting his sister. It is the way family is and you don’t have to feel badly about struggling sometimes. You get through the hard times and there are so many wonderful moments to balance it out that it is all worth it. But I try to remember that life is about how you navigate the bumps in the road, not how you drive on the freeway.

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Interview with Lex Jacobson

March 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Lex Jacobson, Same Sex Parent

An Interview with Lex Jacobson by The Next Family

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

My family is small right now. It’s myself and my wife and we are trying to add to our clan. I believe our family is like every other family – straight or LGTB – who struggles with infertility. Our family is like every other family that has to face the obstacles of not fitting to the “norm” (if there is even a thing). Our family is like any other family who has to deal with mental illnesses and all of the stigma that comes with that. Our family is like every other family that struggles with money, and doesn’t have enough time in the day. Our family is like any other family that has ups and downs, laughs, cries, dreams, grieves and learns. Our family is inclusive. Our family is blessed.

Our family is not any different from others than one person is to another.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

I am lucky enough to say that my family accepts both my lifestyle and me and I am blessed with a supportive, loving network of people who I can trust. My parents are quite liberal, though it was not always that way. I think when I came out to them and they had to deal with a daughter who would marry another woman and potentially give them grandchildren, they worked through a lot to get themselves to a place where that was acceptable and, dare I say, encouraged. I think after the hell we went through as a family when I was very sick with a mental illness and addiction problem, having a gay daughter was a breeze!

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

Right now the work at home does not include caring for a child, but it is still busy. My wife and I work full time long hours, commute to the suburbs everyday and don’t get enough sleep. We hope to move to an urban center, close to work and close to other alternative families, before our baby is born.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

I think we really need to push the idea of tolerance and acceptance. We live in a world where there is so much diversity that is often seen as a bad thing. I want my kids to grow up choosing their friends based on compatibility and not color. We need to teach generosity – or at least encourage it. We are responsible for all humans and if we can teach our children that it is not okay for children to die of hunger, gay teenagers to commit suicide, cultures to be seen as less important, then the next generation will hopefully do a better job than we’ve done.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

No wisdom. Just be nice to each other.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

­We feel really blessed to have found a community of people at TNF who give us hope in humanity. We look forward to introducing our child to this community.

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An Interview with Ted Peterson

March 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

An Interview with Ted Peterson by The Next Family

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

The horror, the horror. Heh heh heh, I’m kidding, of course. It’s been great, but challenging. When I started blogging three years ago, there was a lot of drama going on: becoming a foster parent, getting our first placements, dealing with the new experience of being a parent, and finally adopting our son. Since then, we’ve established our routines and the dramas are thankfully few and far between. That’s good for my life, but not great for finding subjects to write about. I’m getting more comfortable now, telling our stories which are really just everyday stories. One of my friends says -I think kindly- that I’m sounding like Erma Bombeck.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

All the ways we’re different aren’t so unusual one by one, but when you add them up, we are the weird. We’re a same-sex couple who adopted a biracial son, for starters. My partner Ian is British, though he’s recently picked up American citizenship as well. Culturally, he’s a super-Brit, and has taught our boy to love Marmite and bangers. I am a Midwesterner boy with a close, loving family, but when you dig a little deeper, we’re pretty eccentric and quite proudly so.

When we get together with any other family with a three-year-old, we speak the same language. Potty training and preschools, stubbornness and sleep deprivation, toys, books, Disney this, and Disney that.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

When I came out to my parents, the first thing my mom asked was if I was seeing anyone special. I told her no, and she said that I should try to find someone, because life is so much better with someone to share it with. They would know, my parents are best friends. When I met Ian and brought him home, they treated him as one of us immediately – which on recollection, is pretty strange. In a sense it was a test to see if he could hold his own, and he passed with flying colors, and that was the end of that.

My parents eloped, and even though I think they were puzzled that we felt the need for a big party to celebrate our marriage, of course they came. They weren’t at all puzzled by our decision to adopt, and they cried along with us when we lost our first two placements. Now that we have Mikey, he forever wants to see Grandma and Grandpa, and of course the feeling is mutual. It’s too bad they’re on the east coast and we’re on the west, but we manage to see each other a couple times a year.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

I was lucky enough to be able to take off the first four months we had Mikey, which was so important for bonding. When I went back to work, Mikey went to daycare, which he loved, but I predictably was guilt-riddled about. Now, we’re at preschool and we have a routine, which includes two alternating nannies who pick him up from school. It’s tough though, because my industry demands I put in more than 40 hours a week, so I often will just see Mikey first thing in the morning when we bring him to school, and dinner and bedtime.

Juggling work and home is a work in process, but the one thing I’ve figured out is that when I’m home with Mikey, unless I’m in my office, I am 100% there for him. No checking email or texts while we play. I am happy to let the phone go to voicemail.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

It’s funny, I never think about lessons. I believe that play and learning are the exact same thing – ideally throughout life and certainly in childhood. Playing with Legos and setting up train tracks, dancing and singing nursery rhymes, trips to the zoo and the beach and the theater, all are all about learning.

I was talking to a friend of mine about whether everyone should challenge authority, or whether childrens and teenagers should learn to do as they’re told. I said I think children and teens should especially challenge authority, and they do whether you want them to or not. The word “challenge” makes it sound like an aggressive, confrontational act, but I take it to mean a variety of actions – question authority, engage with authority, ask “why” of authority, et cetera.

Children and teenagers should grow into independent adults capable of critical thinking, and the only way to that goal is generally polite, thoughtful, practical, but unrelenting challenging of authority. Including us, I might add. Our job is not to avoid conflict but to help our children win arguments with us.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

I think the chief secret of my relationship with my partner and my son is that I find them both incredibly interesting. I want to be with them all the time and ask them what they think, whether I agree with them or not, and I feel them doing the same for me. The result is that even though we’re a family that laughs a lot, we’re also a respectful family in the best sense. I think that’s the most solid foundation you can build for relationships.

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Interview with Tanya Dodd-Hise

March 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

TNF:  How has it been blogging for TNF?

I have been blogging with TNF for a little over a year now (I think), and have loved the TNF family that I have gotten out of the deal!  I wish that it was my full-time job, and I really hope that someday it moves into that.  I enjoy the deadlines and being able to write, on a regular basis, with a purpose.  I also enjoy reading the blogs of the other writers on the TNF site, as it gives me insight into many other people’s lives, as well as the opportunity to glean wisdom and advice when needed.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different? 

Our family is like any other family, in that we have our ups and downs, battles over homework and grades, decisions over what to make for dinner and where to go on vacation, and a household to run with bills and repairs.  How are we different?  Hmmmm.  I guess that we might be different NOT because there are two moms, but because we make it a daily point to teach acceptance and tolerance of ALL families.

TNF: Did  your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and  your lifestyle. 

They are getting better and better at it.  When I was dating my wife, we were not accepted at all.  When we got married, the wedding was not discussed, and it was not accepted.  When we announced my wife’s pregnancy, we were met with skepticism, but over the course of the pregnancy they started coming around more than ever.  Now that our baby is here and we are proceeding with plans for me to adopt her as a second parent, my family is coming around more and more.  It has been an interesting dynamic to watch, but I am thankful that it is FINALLY happening.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs? 

Fortunately for me, I work from home most of the time.  Sometimes I am out of the house for a photo shoot or a catering event, but most of the time I have the baby with me and am able to take care of things at home (well, the best I can!).

TNF: What  lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this  day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should  unlearn?

I feel very strongly about teaching love, acceptance, and tolerance for all families.  Ours is not that out of the ordinary, or weird, and neither is anyone else’s.  My kids have been bullied because their mom is a lesbian, and I would never want them to behave that way in return.  There are lessons, as parents, that we were taught from our parents that involved judging the condition of another person’s family if it was different from our own; that should most definitely be unlearned because it has involved a lot of hurt and damage to many of us over the years.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers? 

Be proud of who you are and the family that you have made for yourself.  No one should be able to take away your joy with their ignorance – so don’t let them!

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family? 

We are just like you, so always remember that and treat us like we are!

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Interview with John Jericiau

March 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

Interview with John Jericiau by The Next Family

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

I’ve always loved to write, but writing for an audience has been especially rewarding. I love getting the feedback about my writing and using it to improve in the following week’s blog. I’m always surprised when someone in my circle of friends or even in my community sounds so sincere about just how much they enjoy my writing. Wow! I love sharing experiences that my family and I are having in the world, since I’m just so proud of my family. Even the act of writing “my family” in the last sentence brings me such joy.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

Sometimes I feel like June Cleaver because I’m part of a typical American family. We try to get through the day with upbeat optimism like any other family. As a couple we have concerns about money and the economy, we argue about silly things just like anyone else, and we try to raise our children to become productive members of society. We get annoyed at each other for hogging the comforter on a cold night, and at the end of the day we can’t wait to tell each other how our day went. As a family we love to travel together, sing together at the top of our lungs in our minivan, go to the movies, and read books together. We cherish our similarities (like we all were born on the 22nd day of a different month, or all of our first names end with the letter n) and we marvel at our differences (like we are each a different skin shade).

On the other hand our family is unique. One is Armenian and one is Italian. One is adopted and one is the product of IVF. One is African American and one is a blonde surfer type. One of us can sing really really well, and one of us appears to be a good dancer. One of us graduated with a 4.0 from Berkeley, and one of us has swam around the island of Key West. One of us was born in NYC, one in Tehran, one in Santa Monica, and one in Hollywood. We all speak two languages, though not the same two for everyone. We all love to swim.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

My family accepted me almost immediately upon telling them “the situation” when I was fresh out of undergraduate school. A bit puzzled at first since I was very athletic, had most recently been in a 3-year relationship with my college sweetheart, and had many (and I mean many!) girlfriends in high school, they listened, grieved, and then showed nothing but acceptance from that point forward. I had some trailblazers that, before my coming out, taught my parents a few things about gay life: 1) an uncle; 2) a very close family friend; and 3) Billy Crystal on an old primetime sit com called SOAP (although Billy didn’t exactly help my cause!). And it wasn’t until Greg Louganis came out that my parents felt that the whole athletic jock thing jived with being gay.

TNF:How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

It’s a daily miracle that anything gets done around the house. Except for an average of 4 ½ hours per week of physical therapy (my life profession) that I perform in the evenings at a nearby clinic, I have abandoned my career to be a stay-at-home dad. It’s commonly referred to as a SAHD, although it’s not sad at all. I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity, and never have and never will take it for granted. I worship the ground that Alen (the breadwinner) walks on, and try my hardest to support every endeavor (and there are many!) that he attempts. Anyway, it’s a challenge to deal with everyone’s schedule and laundry and taste buds, but I’m trying my best! Being organized helps. Being proactive helps. Going with the flow helps. Sleep helps. Prayer helps.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents, should unlearn?

Teach, no, demand tolerance in your children. Tolerance of the diversity that exists in this great world. The diversity of cultures, of genders, of races, of lifestyles. Give children specific examples and show them that it’s okay to be different. Johnny has two mothers? Great! Mark in your class likes Barbies? Awesome! Maria speaks Spanish? Fantastic! Teacher Talin wears a scarf on her head all the time? Interesting! Even parents need to learn to “clean the slate” and accept things that they may not have grown up with or be accustomed to. It’s amazing how closely our kids watch us and learn from us. Once when the boys were 2 or 3, we were riding in the minivan and I was cut off by someone not paying attention. I blurted “IDIOT!!!” and that was immediately adopted by both boys as the name to call each other when they’re mad. To this day I have to live with that erroneous outburst. I lost an opportunity to teach them that although Daddy was not happy with her driving skills, he should be tolerant of everyone’s driving skills on the freeway, even if she was applying makeup in her rearview mirror.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

Each and every person on this Earth is trying to make it through each day in their own unique way, with their own unique thoughts, and with their own unique past. To expect people to fit into a few neat perfect categories is ludicrous. Diversity is normal, expected, and needed in a world where people help one another to survive. I learned some things in my athletic career that have stuck with me. First, I can look at the thousands of other runners in a marathon I’m racing in, and although we are all running at our own pace, we are all feeling the same pain as we push ourselves along the course. So it is in life. You’re less different than you think from the people around you. Secondly, I’ve learned to take things one step at a time. When I left home on my bicycle to embark on a 5500 mile solo ride from New York to Washington State and then down the entire Pacific Coast to San Diego when I was 22, I would have been completely overwhelmed had I thought about the magnitude of my endeavor as a whole. When I have raced the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run), it wasn’t prudent to consider the whole race at once. Dissect the race or the ride into smaller more digestible parts, and it’s a lot easier to swallow. So it is in life. Accept the challenge ahead of you, and then attack it one day at a time, one hour at a time, or one moment at a time. And if you’re just a regular family trying to teach by example tolerance and understanding, start with one neighbor, one classmate, one person.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

My one vice is Diet Coke. And ice cream. And gum.

My family life has been viewed by thousands of people through a 15-minute documentary called A Family Portrait, which has shown at many of the major film festivals around the country. Due to its overwhelming success, the producers have turned it into a feature film (which they are currently filming) called Modern Family: A Documentary. (http://www.indiegogo.com/Modern-Family-Feature-Documentary)

My family will grow by at least one in the next year with the (fingers crossed) successful pregnancy of our surrogate after the (hopefully) beaucoup production of fertilizable eggs from our donor. This will be immediately followed by the ceremonious tying of each others’ tubes in a quaint gathering among family and friends.

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Interview with Tanya Ward Goodman

February 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman, Urban Dweller

Interview with Tanya Ward Goodman by TNF

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

I really enjoy blogging for TNF. Writing about things that are happening in my life and in the lives of my children gives me a chance to really absorb them. By turning these events around in my head a bit before I put them on the page, I find I often wind up feeling them more deeply or differently than I expected. I learn a little bit about parenting (or at the very least, a little bit about me as a parent) every time I write a new blog.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

My family is like every family in that we laugh and shout and leave our dirty socks on the floor. I’m not sure we are different.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

My family always accepted me and my lifestyle. If anything, they were a bit surprised that I was so straightlaced. Once I got fired from my job as a camp counselor for having one sip of beer and I think my folks were actually pleased to see that I had a teeny bit of a dark side.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

My job is my work at home. When I’m not blogging for TNF, I’m working on other writing. When I’m not writing, I’m buying groceries, cooking dinner, doing laundry and playing with the kids. There’s still lots of juggling going on, but it’s all happening at home.

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents, should unlearn?

I work hard to teach my children gratitude. I want them to be grateful for stuff, of course, but I also want them to be grateful for less tangible things like time and space and beauty. I try to help them notice things. We go for walks and look for lizards, we find shapes in the clouds, we take a moment to appreciate a full moon or a great sunset or the way grass grows at the bottom of a chain link fence. I want them to understand that there is potential for greatness everywhere. I am grateful for this.

As for unlearning, I think if I could unlearn something, it would be the urge to say “good job.” It pops out of my mouth at the most ridiculous times. You ate all your cereal? Good job! Got a good grade? Good job! Washed your hair? Good job! It’s meaningless and I annoy myself by saying it so often.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

Slow down. Take more naps. Cook with your kids. Spend as much time outside as possible. Read a lot of books.

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Interview with Tosha Woronov

February 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Tosha Woronov, Urban Dweller

An Interview with Tosha Woronov, TNF Managing Editor, by The Next Family

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?

It’s so important to me. I love that I have this small collection of stories to mark my life as a mother. It goes by so fast as we all know, and anything I can do to memorialize it in some way gives me a shot at holding on to these times. I hope I can come around to start writing more. I’m either too lazy, or too blocked, or too something. Sometimes I have a hard time opening up. My warped thinking is, if I feel safe enough to share it then it must not be that interesting (and therefore not worth sharing). On the flip side, if it’s good – if I want to really rant or really open up about life as a mom/wife/woman, then it’s too risky to share. It’s a catch-22. And I’m impressed that so many of our writers can navigate this issue so much better than I. We have some who can write about normal stuff – dropping off her kid at preschool, or a son’s first zit – and the result is pure poetry.

But I have another special role with TNF that I really treasure: managing editor. I read and edit each and every piece before it goes live on the site. And I love love love editing. When Brandy, our editor-in-chief, first approached me three years ago about being a contributing writer, I was psyched, but said in no way could I work with a site that permitted grammar or spelling errors, from any of its writers. So voila! I was editor. And I’m proud of what we’ve done, and all the unique writers we have from so many interesting backgrounds. Their stories are all special to me.

TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?

We are just like any other family (which is like every other family and also different from every other family). Except I’m quite certain we are wholly different from your typical evangelical Christian Tea-Party family.

TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.

I hail from some pretty conservative, Republican parents. But I turned out to be a liberal who attended the People’s Republic of Boulder (as my dad refers to the University of Colorado at Boulder) and then married a liberal who works in entertainment. I think they’ve accepted it but will never love it, and we’ve had some problems with it in the past. It can trickle down to bigger things, like our differing views on parenting. But in the end, we are family, and we love each other very much, and as long as we don’t watch Sarah Palin being spoofed on SNL, we have a great time together.

TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?

I can’t juggle, so I don’t try. It’s more like dodge ball. Stuff flies at me and I either catch it and execute, or it smacks me hard in the face and I sit on the floor blubbering. I work from home, which is great because I get to work and still be there full-time for our son. My paychecks are teeny but I get to wear pajamas all damn day. And sometimes I can blow off a project and watch Real Housewives. I don’t have to fake sick. (And I love sick days!) What’s rough is that moms – no matter what other outside work they do or don’t have – are always busy with the job of managing a house and family. And so I have a hard time separating the two. I’ll be in the middle of a project, go downstairs for a fresh cup of coffee, and get blindsided by the pile of dirty dishes. Or Real Housewives. But really, I don’t want it any other way. I make it to all of Leo’s sports practices, I host gazillions of play dates, get to be field trip chaperone, be room mom at school and a carnival chairperson, AND I have a job. Also, I get to be at work with our cat sitting on my lap and the dog snoring away on the daybed behind me. A dream!

TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?

I feel that our generation of parents just worries too damn much. And look, I’m part of it! I’m talking about myself here. And this emphasis on careful parenting has been a good thing – it was necessary. But (and perhaps this is some remnant of conservative blood in my veins) sometimes I think we should all just calm down and let life happen to our kids – just a little bit. Maybe it’s time to sway the parenting to the other side, back to an older time. Let’s see how our kids handle life rather than rushing in so fast. I don’t think we even allow kids to feel their frustrations or fears – we are so quick to swoop in and fix and bandage and wipe tears and mediate and call the school and intervene. I heard someone once refer to the “helmet-free” parenting of the 70’s – when I grew up -and it stuck with me. I’m not talking about toughening kids up, but actually letting them think and feel and make mistakes. And jesus! – let them find their own ways to entertain themselves that don’t involve an app or a charger!

That was for the parents. For kids, oh man I wish more than anything we could just teach them that it’s OK. It’s OK to love, and it’s OK to fall down, and it’s OK to wear that color to school, and it’s OK that you still love stuffed animals, and it’s OK that she has two moms, and it’s OK if he likes boys, and it’s OK if they were adopted. It’s OK that you’re scared and it’s OK that you’re pissed off and it’s OK that you’re sad and don’t know what to do.

And it’s OK if your mom wears pajamas when she picks you up from school.

TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?

I’m the last person who should pass on any wisdom, but let’s see…

Let your kids cry it all out, while telling them it’s OK to cry it out. I stopped shush-ing Leo (I don’t even hand him a tissue anymore) because I believe that fully experiencing anything – even sadness – can bring joy. I think it’s helped him.

Please, people, know this: You REALLY CAN use the word “me” in a sentence! “I” only sounds better when it’s the appropriate usage. And it’s almost never appropriate to use “myself”.

Forgive your mother, as you’d want to be forgiven.

Read read read! And let your kids see you read! And get books from the library, or a bookstore, even Amazon – not ONLY loaded on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Can we stop referring to everything as a “journey”? You’re having a baby; you’re getting married; you’ve written a novel. No journey! It’s only a journey if you’re wearing a khaki vest and a safari hat. And even then it’s only an expedition.

Don’t be the first to break a hug.

TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?

We have 1,000 nicknames for our dog and cat. The cat: Dr. Kits (“paging Dr. Kits!”), Spotted Belly Boy, Apple Face, Long Cat Number 205. The dog: Fluffito, Cha-Chi-Cho-Cho, or Chimini-Chee-Cha, Gruffalo. Or Mr. Proud.

I stay up too late. Crazy late. Like 4am. My circadian rhythm is all screwed up. I’m beyond ashamed to admit it but now that it’s out there I feel better.

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