The Kid Who Has It All

December 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

By: Ted Peterson

“What do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked as he gave Mikey a lollipop.

“This?” Mikey answered, referencing the sweet.

“No, I mean what else, besides the lollipop?” Santa replied, with a ho ho ho.

“A Christmas tree for Jimmy, and one for Evan, and one for Bryan,” he said, rattling off three of his best friends at preschool.

“That’s very nice,” the fat man chuckled. “But what can I get for you, little boy?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Mikey.

We have an unvicious circle with our son.  If you captured any one moment of his life out of context, you would think he was either horribly spoiled or almost saintly in his altruism, but the truth is a little of both.  He gets pretty much anything he wants, and he shares it all, anytime of year, holidays or not.

I myself was raised on a similar philosophy.  One of our family stories has my grandfather calling my mom from a toy store, asking what he should do –I was crying about some toy.

“Here’s what I would do,” my mom said. “Buy it.”

Kids are grabby, greedy little things, but their needs for toys, for stimulation, for something to spark imagination and laughter, is as pure as rain water.  People talk about education and play as if they’re two different things, but in a child, they aren’t.  I am not going to deny my son anything that I would have fun playing with him, and I’m not going to apologize for it either.  He knows the word “no” not because we say it all the time, but because we say it rarely, and when we do, we mean it.

Last weekend, we were going to my brother’s house for a holiday party, and Mikey wanted to bring along a beloved wind-up chick he had been playing with.  He left it in the diaper bag because there were other toys to play with, and as we were leaving, he asked my brother if he could have one of the small containers of Playdoh.

When he was told he could, he ran to his diaper bag and gave up his wind-up chick in exchange.  I wouldn’t have asked him to do this in exchange for a gift.  It just seemed fair to him.

For some reason, Mikey’s been empathetic for as long as we can remember.  He runs to help when he hears another kid crying, he loves to share, and when he is faced with a baby or an animal, he always assures everyone he will be gentle before he touches them.  At his preschool’s holiday show, he stood immobile at the front of the stage with the other three-year-olds, occasionally mouthing the words, occasionally waving to the audience, acting just the same as the rest his age.  Then at the end of “Feliz Navidad,” he looked at the boy closest to him, and decided that he needed reindeer antlers.  Jimmy started to object when Mikey took off his own antler hat and put it on him, but he realized resistance was futile.  He gave his friend a high five in return.

So, what do you get the kid who has it all, who just wants to share and do things for other people?

Mikey has his own idea he came up with after he told Santa that he only wanted Christmas trees for his friends.  He was looking at the Christmas card from my cousin’s family who is expecting their third child.  I pointed to the mother’s belly and the expression on her daughter’s face, and said, “It looks like she’s saying ‘Look, that’s my baby brother in there.’”

“Oh,” said Mikey, frowning and studying the card more. “Can I have a little brother too?”

Probably not for Christmas, kid, but we’ll see.

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A Hot One

October 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

Last week, when temperatures soared into the triple digits, our electricity went out. It was seven o’clock and I was just getting dinner on the table. The kids were in the bathtub and there were leftovers being brought to life in the microwave. And suddenly, it was dark. The kids shouted for joy because they like anything weird and dramatic and vaguely apocalyptic.

“Blackout, blackout,” they shouted.

My husband and I scurried around, looking for emergency supplies. We turned up two very small flashlights and an assortment of scented candles. When we got them all lit, a slightly sickening combo of orange-vanilla-gardenia-cucumber-amber-grapefruit mingled with the aroma of twice microwaved pasta. Delightful.

“We are so screwed in an earthquake,” my husband said.
“We really should get our ducks in a row,” I said and I made a mental note (mostly because I couldn’t see to make a real one) to buy candles and whatever else we might need to keep us safe in a crisis the next day.

“Look up emergency kit on the internet,” my son shouted.

“Can’t,” I said. “No electricity means no computer.”

“What?” he said, the enormity of the situation beginning to hit.

“Yep,” I said. “No computer, no television, no radio, no i-Pod.”

“This is crazy,” my son said. “What are we going to do?”

“Eat dinner, talk about our day and go to bed,” I said. “We can read books by flashlight.”

“Boring,” my son said.

Somehow, we made it through dinner without succumbing to ennui. The candles flickered and we talked about our day. We talked about homework and heat and we wondered how long the lights would be out.

“I’m scared to sleep in the dark,” my daughter said.

“But we always sleep in the dark,” I said.

“Yes, but we know we can turn on the light.”

I assured her that we were safe, that the lights would come back on and that in the morning, electricity or no, there would be sun.

“Okay,” she said. She snuggled down into her bed and went to sleep.

Though we talked of emergency kits, this wasn’t a real emergency. We had a full refrigerator and running water. Because we could see the lights on the hill opposite ours, I knew that the Trader Joe’s was open and so we were in no danger of starvation. We have two working cars and enough room on our credit cards to check into a hotel if we had to. But we didn’t. We spent a night without lights and in the morning, there was sun.

I am grateful. (And I am going to stock my emergency kit.)

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Girl Birthday

September 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

My daughter turned six last week.  In keeping with her exacting nature, she had very specific plans for the celebration of this momentous event.

First, there were to be two parties: the “kid” party and the “grown-up” party.  The kid party would take place on a weekend.  There would be a tent set-up in the back yard, chicken and jam sandwiches would be served.  There would be no games, but there would be many prizes.  Lemonade would be sipped through colorful straws.  There might be a magic show or a rock concert or an aquarium.  This birthday would be an animal birthday and a tea party.  There would be necklaces and stickers in the shapes of cats.  There would be a pony.  The party would be girls only.

My daughter was more flexible on some of these requests than on others.  For instance, we did have colored straws, but we did not have a pony.

In one area, however, she remained rigid. Aside from her brother (who was family and also might provide the magic show or rock concert) she was adamant that there be no boys.

Only one boy was deeply distressed by this.  This boy is my son’s best friend.  This boy is the kind of guy who enjoys a tea party.  When he joins us for play dates, he is just as happy building Lego battleships with my son as he is moving furniture around in my daughter’s dollhouse.

“It’s not fair,” this boy said.  “I’ve known you your whole life.”

“I know, but it’s girls only,” my daughter said.

“But I always come to your birthday,” the boy argued.

This boy made my daughter a video in which he and his brother (wearing matching striped pajamas) sing a birthday song while accompanying themselves on guitars.

“Don’t you want to invite him?” I asked.  “He’s a good friend.”

“Mom, it’s my party,” my daughter said.

“But he’s singing to you.”

“It’s my birthday,” she said.

I spent the better part of the week trying to wrangle this boy an invitation to the all girl tea-party.  I asked my daughter to recall his sensitivity, his love of tiny, plastic guinea pigs, his exemplary behavior at tea-parties gone by.

“He’s so nice to you,” I said.

“It’s my party,” she said.

In the end, I let it go.

I thought of my own life and of all the sad boys who have passed through it.  I thought of the boys who bought me a beer or complimented my smile.  I thought of the boys whose only kind gesture was to pick up the check or hold my door.  For a long time, I felt like I owed these boys something in return for their kindness, no matter how slight it might be.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the strength and confidence my daughter has at six will stay with her at sixteen and twenty-six and beyond.  I am hoping that one day she’ll kiss someone because she really wants to and not because she feels it’s the polite thing to do.

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Radical Unschooling

September 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Julie Gamberg, Single Parents

By: Julie Gamberg

I’ve recently become a fan of The Diet Soap podcast. The podcaster “unschools” his kids, as he mentioned when he had the guest Dayna Martin on his show to discuss her book “Radical Unschooling – A Revolution Has Begun.” Since hearing their talk, I have begun to fret that if I don’t unschool my baby she will grow up to be an authoritarian/obedient cog in the capitalist machine, blinded by the illusion of consumerism and never experiencing “the real” (if “the real” is not already “dead”). And that outcome would occur even if I gave up on public school and somehow managed to send her to the hippy private school that holds bake sales with quinoa-agave brownies to repaint their crumbling buildings but actually costs, literally, about as much as I make in a year. But what’s particularly great about my latest mental obsession with unschooling and all things equally obscure is that the more I talk about that, the more people might not even notice I’m a single mom!

Yes, unschooling is not the only obscure or alternative parenting idea that I obsess over, or actually do. Perhaps you read my recent article about elimination communication. I was not surprised that the first couple of comments were of the that’s crazy! ilk. Along those lines, a new friend recently wrote an article for Salon about eating her placenta. The comments she received make crazy seem like an endearment. They were plentiful and for the most part really vitriolic. Salon told her she received amongst the most irate and negative comments for any piece they had ever published. Impressive. For cooking and eating her placenta and writing, I feel, very eloquently and descriptively about the experience.

And speaking of eating, my mom just shared with me that she had been kicked out of a casual restaurant for breastfeeding when I was seven weeks old. She and I were completely covered with a shawl, neck to hips. Yet another diner complained to the manager that the sight was making him lose his appetite and the manager asked her to leave. Due to general lack of support, my mom was only able to breastfeed me for another six weeks. No wonder!

Although that was nearly forty years ago, we still seem to have a real squeamishness at the corporeal aspects of parenting, as well as any type of parenting outside of the mainstream. And at the same time, I hear over and over again that mainstream, or conservative, parents feel bullied or intimidated by alternative or crunchier parents. Yet mainstream parents are in charge. Mainstream parenting controls the agenda, the conversation. I keep hearing about the “breastfeeding Nazis,” but almost all the new moms I know have inadequate pump-at-work situations; out-of-hospital lactation consultants are still not paid for by insurance; and I can’t remember the last time I saw truly public breastfeeding.

This sense of the mainstream feeling threatened by the alternative is reminiscent of my twenty plus years’ of vegetarianism. Although I am an ethical vegetarian, I am not an animal rights activist. I’m pretty picky about what goes on my plate, but totally relaxed about what goes on yours. The majority of vegetarians I come across are similar (obviously animal rights activists are in a different category being, well, activists). Yet I can barely get vegetar— out of my mouth before someone is rolling their eyes, apologizing for ordering meat, explaining my wrongheadedness, or telling me how they’re sick of being attacked for their choices.

I don’t know how many of you who eat meat and either secretly or not so secretly think you shouldn’t. But I do know that I do loads of things, like drinking frappuccinos at Starbucks, or watching crappy sitcoms, that some imaginary better self wouldn’t do. And I know the feeling of running into someone who grows their own coffee beans on their organic patch of community garden and would never walk into a corporate chain, and who hasn’t seen TV in twenty years, and feeling instantly attacked by this sanctimonious zealot with no sense of humor and no tolerance for ambiguity, who dared to say “Hi!”

And sometimes I feel that way just hearing about this person secondhand. You know her. She works in a homeless shelter. She grows her own food. He’s reduced his garbage output to one bag a month. He gives away 90% of his income. He also meditates and exercises daily, and only reads serious literature. Any “vices” are so prettied up that they are nearly virtues. For example, she brews her own scotch using an ancient recipe which otherwise would have been lost. She eats meat from roadkill.

So here is where y’all go ewwwww! in the same way folks did for my friend’s article about eating her placenta or, to a lesser degree, to mine about EC-ing lite. Or how the customer did to a mother trying to feed her baby. And this is what I’m wondering: Is that ewwww reaction all really and truly ewwww, or does some part of us feel guilty, judged and even attacked for not being in touch with something more earthy, more authentic, more squishy, and somehow more real?

I have a friend who does not feel bad in the least about going to Starbucks, or watching crappy TV, or buying $600 boots. She would not cook, nor encapsulate, nor even probably want to hear the word placenta. And I imagine she does not think that her ewwww is anything other than a real ewwww. The same one we would all have if asked to snort raw maggots.

And I’ll give that to her about my imaginary zealot who eats roadkill. Maybe even about elimination communication. But the ewww that I am having trouble believing is the one about unschooling, or not using punishments/rewards, or nursing toddlers. I’m worried that ewwww is how we express a vague or complex relationship to guilt and confusion that we have about how we should be doing things.

As a working, single mom, it is very unlikely I will be able to unschool. My schedule is flexible enough that I could probably participate in a co-op, but one way or another, I’ll likely have to find some sort of public school situation. There is a part of me that wants to identify and fixate on all of the real or imagined things that might or must be wrong with unschooling. Yet what would it be like to come to terms with believing that there is a much better way to parent, but I am choosing not to do it? Or that my circumstances prohibit it? To appreciate those who are doing it, and to mourn its loss for me?

Every once in a while I run into a carnivore who says something along the lines of they’re pretty committed to meat, but they’re very vegetarian-friendly. Or they’re working toward becoming a vegetarian but they’re very much not there yet. I am so much not an animal activist that my heart rejoices nearly equally at both. Simply not being harassed for being something outside of the mainstream is such a pleasure.

These are extraordinarily dense times and I realize we all have trouble keeping up. We fib and fudge, and are too tired, or overworked, or not in the mood, or overwhelmed. I know how much pressure women feel, for example, when they can’t, or don’t want to breastfeed. And yes it would be good if no one were made to feel like a pariah because of it. Yet I do think when we feel most attacked or judged for our parenting choices is when we are most ambivalent about them. It seems that when we acknowledge that ambivalence, it’s a lot easier to say “I’m not there yet, or may never be, but good for you.” A hard and heavy look at the truth behind our attitudes could be just we need to feel lighter.

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We’re Pregnant

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

By: Heather Somaini

We’re pregnant – pretty amazing words. I was finally able to say them…out loud. We were pregnant. It even sounds cool today five years later. We were so excited. Elated…it had finally happened. It only took six vials of our donor, one operation, and some drugs, but it worked!

We told my parents. We told our closest friends. I told my boss and his wife. Everyone was ecstatic, especially us. We had no idea what was really happening, if it was one egg or two and we had to wait…again. Dr. C said we should come in for a routine ultrasound at 8 weeks. We were only two weeks in. How were we going to wait another SIX WEEKS?!

We waited and waited and waited. It seemed like forever but at least this time we had good news instead of the torturous limbo from before. This time we could talk about baby room colors and strollers and pre-schools and well, we could talk about anything we wanted. And we did. We talked about everything for six weeks. For six weeks, the world was our oyster.

About two weeks before our ultrasound appointment, Tere had a complete meltdown one morning on her way to work. I answered the phone and immediately knew something was really wrong. Maybe some of the pregnancy hormones had finally kicked in but she was in a state. She had come to the conclusion that by six weeks she should have had some morning sickness and she hadn’t had any.

I calmly and rationally explained that not everyone has morning sickness. Maybe she was one of the lucky ones and would skate through with none of it at all! I must have done a pretty decent job because eventually she laughed and smiled and went about her day. As I hung up the phone, I wondered for a moment if I should be worried and then immediately put it out of my mind. I’m sure it crept back in a time or two but I banished it as quickly as possible.

Finally the day arrived for our ultrasound appointment. We were happy – giddy even. Everyone at the doctor’s office was so happy for us – they knew how much this meant. We chatted with the nurses until they were ready for us in the ultrasound room. The technician explained what she was going to do and what we should expect. I had searched online for 8-week ultrasounds pictures so I knew what we would see – well, sort of. There just isn’t a whole lot to see at that stage. The ultrasound started and I desperately tried to make something out on the screen. No luck. We weren’t going to know anything until Dr. C came in. She arrived and ran the ultrasound again. I waited.

It was one of those moments when your head finally takes over the job which your heart has been in charge of. Time slowed and then sped up and then slowed again. The room was silent. I watched Dr. C and so desperately wanted her to say something but feared her words. Each moment that passed brought hope and devastation. I looked at Tere and then back to Dr. C. Nothing had changed. She gave nothing away but my heart sank. I knew. My world was about to tilt and spin.

I looked at Tere again and realized she hadn’t noticed the change; she was still expectant. My heart sank further knowing I would have to watch as it happened. I held out the smallest hope but knew it was in vain. Dr. C asked when we did the insemination and then checked her pregnancy chart.

I couldn’t bear to look at Tere but I knew I had to. I forced myself to. She was still waiting, hopeful. I could see it in her eyes. Something inside of me died. I was crushed, knowing that I could do nothing to shield her from the next few moments. I couldn’t soften the blow. There was nothing I could do. I knew it was about to happen and tried to steel myself for her pain. I knew the only way I could make it through was to not feel and be strong for her. It was the only way. I could deal with me later. Right now it was Tere that needed all of me.

Dr. C told us there was no heartbeat. I waited. We weren’t pregnant.

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Wedding Bells, Part 2

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family

By: Brandy Black

We got in a fight before our wedding. On the ferry ride over. I can’t remember why. Could it have been the make up? Things were tense. We had been planning a wedding for a year from another state and it was all happening on this overcast day after waiting 2 years for sun.

We parted at the wedding site to go to our separate rooms to get ready and we weren’t speaking –on our wedding day! I was fine at first, chatting with my girls, putting on the amazing gown that I had been dying to step into for months, but I kept wondering how my bride-to-be was doing. Her sister came over to pick up the infamous make up and I asked. I didn’t get the answer I had been hoping for. Susan apparently wasn’t talking much and I knew what that meant and now here I was forbidden to see her before I walked down the aisle to say I DO. I began desperately trying to manipulate seeing her and was told by everyone I asked that everything was fine and I shouldn’t see her before the wedding. The schedule was set for her to get pictures with her family first, then me. I made my way down early hoping to see her but she was done. I took my pictures with the family all the while pre-occupied. I pressed further and explained that I needed to see Susan to give her a present. It worked, somehow someone sent her my way and I pulled her into the dark hall where we later had our first dance as a married pair.

“How are you? Are you OK?”

She was quiet at first and than we grabbed hands and looked at one another and all of it disappeared. At that moment the wedding was no longer about guests or flowers or make up or rules, it was about us, my best friend, my wife to be, standing before me, more beautiful than ever before. I cried. She bowed her head and looked up with her big brown eyes as if to say “There you are.” We kissed. I later found out when reviewing pictures that the photographer was there, snapping the whole scene. We didn’t even notice her. I could have escaped to the getaway boat right then and there; it was all that I needed…that moment.

A voice came from the distance: “Susan, it’s time! You have to go to the other side; the string quartet is playing. Come on.”

We ignored it. Susan grabbed my hand and led me to a small window where we watched all of our stunning guests – from LA, Chicago, Seattle, New York, Colorado, Boston –they were all there for us.

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Picking a Donor

September 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Family

By: Heather Somaini

Picking a donor – it sounds kind of funny – like picking out a car or a toaster. In some ways, they are somewhat similar: color, size, options, sunroof, air-conditioning, bagel-toasting options.
The first time I went to the California Cryobank website, I picked out what I thought was a good candidate. In this Internet age, it’s no surprise that you can do it all online. You pick hair and eye color, skin color, hair type, height, weight, religion, level of education…the list just keeps going. Pretty much anything you can think of – it’s there. Then you hit search and voila, your “matches” show up. I decided to pay the $25 or so to see my chosen donor’s information package. He seemed great…tall, Italian, educated, cute baby picture.

I’m going to preface this next section with a disclaimer – it makes really very little sense looking back, but apparently it made sense at the time.

We wanted the donor to look like me. Since Tere was going to carry first, that sounds like it made perfect sense. But since we were going to use the same donor for Baby #2, which I was supposed to carry, that really doesn’t make much sense, does it? That meant that Baby #2 was going to look ONLY like me. Well, I guess we didn’t really think that one all the way through.

To be sure we picked a good one, we decided to pay the extra fee, which has increased considerably since then, and met with an In-House Donor Selection Consultant. Her name was Latrice and we met her on a Monday morning in June, June 27, 2005, to be exact. She was great. We explained that the donor should look like me and that he needed to be at least part Italian…I’m a quarter Italian. He needed to be tall (at least 6 feet), athletic, smart, educated and definitely good-looking. We had a couple options picked out but I was sure that we would go with “my guy” from my first initial search. Latrice listened carefully and selected about six different donors for us to consider.

We started to narrow them down when she excused herself – she wanted to check the donors’ actual hard files just to be sure she knew exactly what they looked like before we made our final decision. While she was gone, Tere and I narrowed it down some more and by the time Latrice returned, we had THE ONE. I explained that we had made a decision and pointed to our “new guy”.

She said “no.” No? What was that about? She pointed to another one and said “that’s the one.” That wasn’t going to be enough for me. I asked “why?” She said, with a slight tilt to her head, “if my 15-year old daughter were here, she would say he is FI-I-INE.” She had me at “fine”; we both immediately said “yes.”

He wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned – he was 5’11”, half-Spanish, a quarter Italian and a quarter English, and he had green eyes. Latrice couldn’t stop gushing about his gorgeous green eyes. She almost swooned. My Dad has hazel eyes so the idea of little green-eyed babies was ridiculously hard to deny. He had very high SAT scores, a Bachelor’s degree in History, and was a 4th grade teacher.

One of the things the Cryobank does is rank all of their donors’ attractiveness. I just HAD to ask how that worked. Apparently, there is an Attractiveness Committee! This committee of six has to be in complete agreement. If a donor candidate falls below a certain number on their 1 to 10 scale, they won’t even accept him into the donor program.

The key things that were super important in our donor was height (Tere’s pretty short), athletic ability (Tere thinks she’s a weeble wobble), and attractiveness. Our guy was an 8 on the Attractiveness Committee’s scale where they’ve never given anyone a ranking of higher than 8.5.

Being the competitive type she is, Tere was happy that we met her requirements.

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Wedding Bells, Part One

August 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family

By: Brandy Black

Susan and I were engaged for two years. I’d like to say it’s because I’m old-fashioned and wanted to be sure that she was “the one” but really it’s because we wanted to get married in Seattle and there are only 2 guaranteed months of sun (if that), we were on a long waitlist for our outdoor island wedding. We, well I, started planning early, about a year out, and I was time crunched. This was Susan’s first introduction to the neurotic side of Brandy Black. I think no matter how organized I am I will always think that stress is an essential ingredient to a good event.

When the weekend finally rolled around, I was beyond prepared. I had gathered my team, my lists, my vendors, my charts and we got on a plane –two beautiful, white gowns in hand –and flew to Seattle.

To this day, whenever I lie in the guestroom bed at my parents’ house and look up at the ceiling, I can still find the two nails side-by-side where our wedding dresses hung, hiding from one another. I will always remember that first night, giddy with excitement. I felt like a bride; I felt beautiful and special and loved. My father turned on Besame Mucho –a family favorite that year and one of “our songs” and we all danced in the living room. Twirling each other, we sang “Mucho Mucho Mucho”. The song became part of our soundtrack as we stuffed welcome bags in a living room floor assembly line. These little moments, with friends and family, were the sweetest parts of our wedding.

When I prepare for any party these days I always remember the infamous boat party the night before our wedding. We had a three-hour cruise around Lake Union. This was important to me, as I spent my college summers as a deckhand and bartender, watching the breathtaking sunsets from the water. I insisted on this being the welcome party for our guests. It was out of the budget –which I’ve never really cared about anyway –but Susan, on the other hand, had to chime in. After the special Susan and Brandy font our calligrapher and I had created for the invitations, to the elaborate honeymoon plan, to the getaway boat, Susan was starting to get a bit anxious. So I settled on cheese and fruit plates –simple food –prepared by us with no extra catering fees. My aunt and mom offered to help set up. But somehow when we arrived at the boat, everything went haywire and nothing was ready and we went into full-blown panic mode as the guests began to arrive. This was the start of what I feared would be a long, disastrous weekend. Susan and I raced around prepping, slicing, flowering and couldn’t handle it on our own. Guests began pitching in, which was far from the original plan. I became overwhelmed and began to feel like a failure at my own party. But then I looked around and realized that people wanted to help, they were happy, it made them feel good. I let go, I relinquished, I couldn’t fight them, and 15 minutes later, the table was filled with beautiful food prepared with great love.

Every time I go to pick up my Lancome mascara, I think of our wedding day. I recall the many conversations with Susan leading up to the big day, one of which was:

Me- Do you need me to buy you make up?
Susan- No.
Me- No? You’re going to wear make up aren’t you?
Susan- Yes
Me- But you don’t have any
Susan- I’ll get some

A couple weeks’ later:

Me- Do you need me to buy you make up?
Susan- No
Me- No? You’re going to wear make up aren’t you?
Susan- Yes
Me- But you don’t have any
Susan- I’ll get some

Day before the wedding:

Me- Did you get make up?
Susan- No
Me- What? What are you going to do?
Susan- Borrow yours
Me- I can’t see you before the wedding
Susan- I know, I’ll have someone come get it

And that’s what she did.

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My Love Child

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Sheana Ochoa, Single Parents

By: Sheana Ochoa

Because this month’s theme is love, and feeling guilty after writing my last blog about my unmanageable (I think I referred to him as a “wrecking ball”) toddler, this writing is a kind of balancing of the scales, a love letter to my son, Noah. By the way, I’m happy to report my sister’s discipline advice worked and we are on the road to clear boundaries and understanding consequences, i.e. no more hitting mama.

August 22, 2010

Dearest Noah,

When I told your grandpa I was going to have a baby on my own, choosing an anonymous sperm donor, he was quiet, taking it in. You’ll soon discover that grandpa is a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them. He has an opinion the size of a sermon on everything that concerns him. But this was a new concept for him, being a product of the 1950s and a first generation Mexican-American who graduated from high school, marrying grandma soon after. When they had kids, five of them, none were planned, least of all me, being the last of the clan who caught them completely by surprise (a euphemism for I was not exactly wanted). Like most families, they had kids not because the time was right, but because sex leads to conception.

Our story would be different: I planned you. So, ever since you were conceived, grandpa has referred to you as a “supernatural” child, partly because half of your genealogy is a complete mystery, but mostly because you were willed into this world on spirit wings straight from the depths of my heart.

You have enchanted the family ever since you were born. And it isn’t just family but anyone that comes into contact with you, whether it’s a babysitter or a cashier at the checkout stand. You just induce love-at-first-sight. And it isn’t because you don’t have a biological father (since most people aren’t privy to this information), but because the love we all seem to feel is in its own way “fatherly”: proud in a Willy Loman-type way that exceeds our expectations and is boundless. We would do anything for you.

Which brings me to an interesting revelation. Recently my boyfriend, Michael, and I started recording film reviews on YouTube to help people find good films to rent. Our last review was of a film where the protagonist was being executed under the death penalty. Michael asked me if someone murdered him would I want the killer to get the death penalty? Without hesitation I said I don’t believe in capital punishment and began my litany on how the United States has the proud distinction of being fifth in line in the number of people put to death under the death penalty after such exemplary countries when it comes to human rights as China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Then Michael asked me what if someone killed Noah? My mind spun a 180 and without skipping a beat I said that I would kill the bastard myself (excuse mama’s language). That’s how unconditional, all- consuming, and clear my love is for you. Okay that’s all kind of morbid but the point is this: I have never loved another human being the way I love you. I never imagined love itself could redefine my most fundamental beliefs, could reach beyond my mind’s eye and consume my very essence.

Every day I fall in love with you all over again. Right now you’re in a phase where you wake up crying for your “baba,” screaming if I don’t get it to you fast enough. And even though my first glimpse of you is a runny-nosed, tear-streaked visage, it never fails. I take one look at you, lift your warm body out of your crib, take in your sweet baby smell, and I’m struck by the fullness of my heart. I see God in you, the beautiful infinity of love and light. And this love never falters; it’s infinite.

Love,
Mom

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The Wild

August 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

Still riding the high from my weekend away with The Husband, I packed another bag.  This time, it held swimsuits, goggles, sunscreen, hats, tiny plastic, pastel-colored ponies, a stack of Scooby-Doo DVDs.  We were headed to New Mexico to spend five days with my family.  Just me and the kids.

The Husband stayed at home with visions of take-out Chinese dancing in his head.

Going home to New Mexico means going home to my Mom and my Step-mom and the house my father built.  It means going home to my brother and his wife and their daughter.  It means going home to the biggest, bluest sky and the whitest, fluffiest clouds.  It means that my lips will crack from the sudden assault of dry air and my eyes will feel parched from bright sun.   Going home to New Mexico means I will eat green chili and drink Tecate and kick red dust up with the toe of my shoe.

No matter how long I stay away, New Mexico always feels like home.

To my kids, New Mexico, is “the wild.”  When we visit, they get dirty and forget about a bath.  They wade in the stream that runs behind my Step-mom’s house and follow animal tracks in the arroyo mud at my Mom’s.  On this trip, we saw bear scat and the big round paw marks of a bobcat.  My son climbed a fallen tree and got an ankle full of cactus prickles.  My daughter trailed big, black beetles and picked wild paintbrush flowers.  We saw four different kinds of hummingbirds and in the evening, bats swooped low and silent around us in the yard.

For two nights, we camped beside Navajo Lake and the kids climbed huge sandstone formations and swam in the cool water.  They leaned over the dock to see sunfish and carp darting just below the surface and learned to cut a worm into thirds to bait a hook.  My son drove a boat and my daughter and her cousin paddled through muddy water like little frogs.  I let them run wild.  I let them walk by themselves down to the beach (though I watched them carefully from above.)  We sent them on errands to the dock for ice and ten-cent bubble gum and watched as they walked farther and farther away.  They felt powerful in their little group of three. They are growing comfortable in the wild.  They are growing brave and confident and certain.  My trust in them helps them grow.  It is a wonderful thing to see.

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