By Danny Thomas
my one year old
taught me something today
or stirred something
reminded me of something
some primal knowledge
that my body knows
that my heart knows
but that my silly samsaric mind forgets
as we wrapped up
after the shower
she looked up at me
bundled in her towel
and her eyes spoke so clearly,
slow down and hold me, daddy
so I put everything down
put everything out of my mind
put my phone in the other room
and held her…
and I’ll be damned if it didn’t feed us both
in our soul
to our core
as I sat there I thought
how is this something we
how is this something
we need to make time for?
this is the root.
this is the core.
this is how we love each other.
we hold each other.
this should just happen.
there are a million other ways
we love our children
and most of them are the things that get in the way of holding them too…
things that take time away from stillness…
isn’t that just the dichotomy?
isn’t that just the bitch of it?
but we must.
we must make holding our children
a main concern.
holding with intention.
physical tenderness while we let the rest of the world and its worries fall away.
it is good for us all.
the other bitch of it is
it requires not just intention on our part
we must be alert
to those moments
when they ask
not just with their words
but with their eyes
and their bodies
and their hearts…
it means we have to be patient
not just on our terms
when it fits
in between school
and video games…
but when it doesn’t fit…
for reminding me
what it’s all about
and giving me that
in your nursery
sharing that with me
as you fell to slumber
you asked me
just to sit with you
and not rush things
and not be distracted.
You asked me to focus on you
and be still with you
and that was pretty amazing
and a wonderful reminder.
now I need to make sure it happens with your big sisters too.
and your mom.
and the trees.
and the river.
and the sky.
and the moon.
and the mountains.
By: Danny Thomas
The only thing I can think to write about this week is gratitude.
My gosh, we are blessed.
What brings it to mind at this particular point in time is the fact that
I am being generously afforded the luxury of sitting on the couch and writing this blog by a friend who is holding my baby for me… who has spent the afternoon and evening with my kids… and is still enjoying their company enough to remain in our house, into the evening, and hold a semi-sleeping-sometimes writhing-probably teething baby…
Not only is she enjoying their company, she relishes it.
Thank you, Megan! Thank you universe!
And you know what?
Thinking about that puts me in mind of how, for the last 7 years… or 8… Jen and I have been fortunate enough to have generous, kind, dear, and beloved teachers, caregivers, friends, and family taking part in raising our kids.
From the moment we shared the news that Jen was pregnant with Lil’ Chaos our friends and family rallied around us… surrounded us with good food and good feelings… and we have been fortunate enough to have people in our lives throughout parenthood who have been both open-handed and big-hearted with our family.
I realize that not everyone is that lucky, and that some opt to hire extra-hands… but what a blessing it’s been, even just today to have someone give their time to our family so that Jen and I could take in an afternoon of theatre… do some household chores in the basement, uninterrupted and in relative calm, to have extra hands at dinner and bedtime, and to have someone here now, holding the child so that I may make a batch of brownies and write a blog.
It’s a reminder to think about all the blessings we have, that through life’s challenges and hardships, through all the stress and worry we are carried by the love of our loved ones…
Thinking of the kindness of the people we’ve known… and the people who’ve been brought in to our lives by our children, and those we already knew whose relationships with us have evolved and expanded to include our children too… fills my heart, it fills my heart.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the desperate moments and to spend our days focusing on what we don’t have, on things… and on times we miss or are missing…
But generous people and good relationships have worth without measure, and they keep us afloat, I have been, and will be grateful without end for the kindheatedness we’ve been shown.
This life is full of kindness and generosity of all stripes… these, I believe are moments of grace… little miracles… and they are there to remind us that even in the face of hard times love is the best response.
By: Rachel Sarnoff/Ecostilleto
Are expensive eco lotions and potions really worth it? When EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, heard about Natalie Portman’s secret — albeit expensive — weapon against stretch marks, they had to check it out.
According to Pai, their vegan Stretch Mark System—a cream to be used in the morning, and an oil at night—was Natalie’s go-to throughout her pregnancy.
No expense was spared in the formulation: Pai utilizes an omega-rich blend of seven oils, and eschews essential oils to make the duo suitable for all stages of pregnancy—including the stage where the scent of anyfragrance makes you want to throw up.
And no petrochemical crap’s in the mix either: Pai eschews synthetics, artificial fragrances, alcohol, parabens, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfate, among other things.
But is the cost worth it? Natalie Portman is one gorgeous mama. You be the judge.
For more beauty bits check out Ecostilleto
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By: Madge Woods
I am flying home from Texas as I write this. I want to put my thoughts down about my recent adventures around the country meeting Facebook friends and The Next Family writers. I decided to go because I love what I do and getting to interact with people on a daily basis.
My journey started with a Facebook announcement that I would be traveling to the cities where people expressed an interest in meeting me. I grouped those that were interested by region and my path was formed. I decided to do a test run in Northern California first. I was up there for four days; I had the best time and knew I was on the right path with my original idea.
So I formed the big trip: in fifteen days I would travel to Toronto, Cape Cod, New York City, Minneapolis, and Dallas. I would spend a few days in every location, staying in either hotels or writers’ homes or just old friends who offered. I booked all my own transportation and off I went with hopes of it all working out. Some people were added and some canceled, but I was hopeful that those who were willing in the beginning stayed willing. I just had a feeling it would be wonderful and that every visit would offer something unique and rewarding. I had no idea just how truly rewarding it would be, however.
In each city I was welcomed with open arms and lavish praise and love; it warmed my heart. Because I felt such affection for the people I was meeting, I was so thrilled to see it was beyond my wildest imagination. I met relatives, kids, friends, and random people on trains, buses, and planes. With each meeting a story happened, organically and without predetermination. I was shown sights that were both unique to each area and special to the people living there. Some days involved relaxing in jammies, eating in, and just sharing stories. Other days were filled with the sights and sounds of the cities. Some days I walked until my feet were tired and needed soaking.
All of the homes were as different as the people living in them. The kids I met showed such love to me and to their parents. These were real families with real life stories and the makeup of each family didn’t (doesn’t) matter. Maybe the conversations were different, but in every case the love within the family was evident. The kids and the parents seem to be thriving. Anyone who questions how a family is formed, who thinks it can only be one way are so, so wrongly directed. Families are made up of people who love each other, who respect each other, and who cherish each other. They are made of listeners and talkers. Kids grow up and have kids of their own and follow their own life paths. I urge everyone to think of families in new ways and in every combination possible.
As I shared my amazing journey I hope all came to understand how important it is to be tolerant, generous, caring, and respectful of everyone and how people love differently. It doesn’t matter how a family is formed, what matters is that love trumps gender and ethnicity. I plan on doing this again and again. Until my next adventure, I just want to thank everyone who made this one of the best adventures of my life.
You can read more from Madge on her blog
By: Danny Thomas
oh. my. god.
I have three kids
and a job
and a wife
who is at the beginning stages
of a career that is
the breadwinning career for our family
so she has to put in
whatever they may be
and she is a teacher
so that means
a lot of hours
during the week go something like this…
if the kids haven’t been in our bed since five
I wake up at 6:45
wake up the six-year-old to get her ready for the bus
prod her along the process of getting ready…
pee, clothes, brush hair, brush teeth
4 simple steps…
which, some mornings, is no problem…
other mornings it is like Hannibal marching elephants over mountains…
on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have to do this with the three-year-old too
Jen is usually nursing the baby at this point
but is sometimes able to lend a hand in this process…
then it’s scramble to get food in the six-year-old…
the three-year-old gets fed at day care on the “T” days… (Tuesday or Thursday)
and after the bus on the other days…
scramble to get everything in the bags that need to go to school…
scramble to get coats and shoes on and get out the door
wait for bus
we usually have some time to play and goof around for a minute while waiting…
then it’s either walk the three-year-old to day care
or come home…
then I have a couple hours to get house work done
sometimes I fold laundry and watch t.v.
sometimes I do dishes
sometimes I write
sometimes I cook…
sometimes I zone out, listen to music and Facebook or Pinterest…
sometimes I do yoga
or take a shower…
Then, at ten-ish I head out the door
on the non-T-days I drop the three-year-old at the YMCA for 3 hours’ drop-in care
and take the baby to work with me – when I get there I feed her with a bottle
which sometimes goes well
but sometimes she complains about the plastic nipple a lot
and that is uncomfortable for both of us
almost always I spill a bit of sticky breastmilk on both of us…
after I get her to sleep
I work for a bit
checking emails, returning phone calls, updating websites… doing whatever…
then at 1:20 I race to get the baby loaded up
and head to the Y to get the three-year-old
luckily, she is always happy to see me…
some days though leaving the Y can be a tough transition for her
pouting or shouting or just general poopiness…
lets be honest any transition, or dirt, or birds chirping, or air touching her skin
could be cause for nuclear meltdown…
she’s three, after all.
Then when we get home it’s more housework
or playing Barbies, or princesses, or whathaveyou with the the three-year-old…
until the 6-year-old gets home
then it’s a bit of homework…
until gymnastics or ballet…
or if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday…
I head home to tend to the baby about noon – so Jen can go teach…
Then back to work at 2:30 to try to get ahead of the game (which never happens)…
and home at 5:00 pick up the three-year-old..
then home for dinner…
and maybe some relaxed time with the family
a walk to the park
or a movie
Or back to work for Box Office Will Call…
oh. my. god.
this pace is pretty tough.
nothing is ever as clean as i want it to be.
our poor baby sleeps in third generation hand-me-downs with third generation hand-me-down stains… bless her heart…
i am always behind on at least a half dozen things…
I feel like most of what Jen and I do together these days is talk about our schedule and calendar and make arrangements…
updating our Google Calendars together
mapping out the itinerary for the week…
If you add to our agenda any
of the inevitable variables
illness, car trouble, out of town guests, plumbing, a home project or a board meeting, or whatever…
we go haywire
not to mention the drama of various relationships and acquaintances..
we are constantly haywire…
I’m sure it’s common,
I’m sure life is hard for everyone
no matter what the schedule
but I feel like, if I had to keep this up very much longer
my head might spin right off…
we only have to get through
a couple more weeks
then school ends
and we can re-adjust
but then summer camps start
Lil’ Chaos’s first drama camp…
and zoo camp
and wild buffalo adventure camp
and ballet camp
and all that…
I need a drink.
By: Danny Thomas
I remember something
that I thought of earlier
in the week.
Or recall that Jen said, “you should blog about that…”
Usually I don’t remember anything, and my brain
finds its own path.
I had a moment
that was all three.
I remembered an inspiring moment
that also happened to be something
Jennifer commented on…
and my mind took a little journey
along that way.
That is the best.
I was thinking about playing catch…
Earlier in the week,
I played catch with Lil’ Chaos.
We kicked a ball too.
I was also thinking about playing catch with my dad.
And my mom.
We played catch a lot,
It was the best.
Baseball, Football, Frisbee, Soccer…
And I was thinking about the ways in which playing catch are transcendent, rapturous, innumerable, and ineffable.
It is healthy; beneficial to the mind, body and spirit.
I was never much for Little League
I don’t think I had the attention span
for organized baseball…
I was one of those distracted by dandelions in left field..
An airplane over third base
could steal my attention from
whatever was going on in the game…
But I love to play catch…
The fact that Lil’ Chaos and I have
reached a point on our journey together
that playing catch
with a ball,
kicked or tossed,
for both of us
at least, for a period of time
is, for me, profound.
we played ball
in the backyard for
nearly an hour
worked on hitting for a while
and tossed the ball
and kicked one for a while too.
The peals of laughter,
as she caught ball after ball…
and as she figured out how to get a ball to me
how to “hit me in the numbers”
Also, I was thinking about baseball mitts…
The baseball mitt
is a singular experience,
a unique sensuality.
We had a few around the house.
They didn’t come from anywhere,
they were just there.
There was a catcher’s mitt I liked best.
and it was the one right handed mitt around that fit me,
so that was lucky.
Maya is a lefty.
She needs a new mitt
the one she has is too small.
It’s also pink
and has Dora on it.
We are beyond that now…
By: Joey Uva
Grace just turned seven last week. It’s hard to believe how fast the years have gone. We’ve been through good times, challenges, great times, and hard times but none of that has been able to stop the hand of time.
It has been said that every seven years begins a new cycle within one’s lifetime, and that every cell in your body changes within a seven-year period. The first seven years of life are said to be the foundation for growth and change, where language, concepts, structure, ideas, instincts of hunger, and the need for love and protection are developed. The first seven years of life set us up for the next seven-year cycle.
Grace is now entering the second seven years of her life; lots of changes are on the horizon. The second seven years of life are considered the cycle of continuous growth. The development of a sense of right and wrong and social responsibility starts to really develop. We broaden in our experiences and test our abilities of the outside world, much different than our previous inner world development. The beginning of new maturity approaches as we start to reach puberty and adolescence. We grow physically and physiologically. It is said that the habits learned in the first seven years of life are now part of the character of the growing child.
Grace is changing. She’s more independent, she knows her likes and dislikes and is beginning to develop more self confidence. I know she’ll mature and grow and this I hope I am ready for. This is a new cycle for me too. I have a new experience in life to be had along with her. I pray the habits she takes with her as she grows into adolescence are good ones. I pray that she becomes a responsible, socially conscience and empathetic person as she enters into this new phase of life.
Our daughter is no longer the little girl we knew at three, four, or five. She is changing and growing. She makes me proud to be a father and my love for her will be here for all the change yet to come.
Interview with Heather Somaini by The Next Family
The Next Family thought it would be fun to begin conducting interviews with our writers to get to know them a bit better. If you have any questions of your own, feel free to ask Heather in the comments section.
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF for over a year now?
Well, it’s been scary and exciting and somewhat torturous. I never realized how much time and energy it takes to write 500+ words. And I’m rarely happy with what I write.
TNF: What aspect has been scary for you?
Putting everything out there for everyone to see. I have to focus on not thinking about what other people will think about my writing or me or my weird thoughts. Otherwise, I turn into a pool of mush on the floor worrying that everyone will seriously laugh at me.
TNF: Do you feel like you hold back in your blogs for fear of judgment?
Sometimes, but I usually work through it and act like no one is ever going to read it. That makes it easier. The only thing that really holds me back is writing about people in my life right now that could ultimately affect me. So I don’t write about situations that have happened at work or with our kids’ school that I think are really sort of crazy. I don’t think I would want to write anything about my family that would upset them or start a rift with them. I guess I just don’t want awkward situations with the people closest to me or the ones I have to see every day. But I do have thoughts about them and the sort of crazy situations they put me in.
TNF: That makes sense, although I’m always drawn to the most vulnerable writers. How does your family feel about being written about all the time? Do they get approval rights before it goes live?
I always ask if they are ok with what I’m going to write about and give a bit of final approval although no one has really taken the opportunity to edit. Tere probably gets the least amount of choice in what I write or any approval rights. She definitely gets the shortest stick. The really funny thing is that some people in my life are not happy that they HAVEN’T been written about. Some are more straight forward about it than others but I guess everyone just wants to be acknowledged and celebrated.
TNF: I would think that Tere would get the most; it’s got to be tough being written about by your spouse. I guess that’s a sign of a good trusting relationship. I have found reading your blogs to be particularly interesting in that you have a completely different perspective than I do. You represent the other mother or the non-birthmother. How has that been for you –or do you even distinguish between the two?
I really feel like I’m some sort of new third type of parent that incorporates a bit of both a mom and a dad. It’s only a challenge when people expect me to be one thing and I end up being something else. We had a situation at our preschool last year and I think they were surprised when I pushed back hard on how things were playing out. It seemed their expectations of me were more “mom-like” and in the end I responded more “dad-like”. Those situations are difficult for me. I have a very unique “spot” and role in a family. It’s not a clear path and I feel quite often that I have to find my own way but I’m ok with that. I’ve never really taken the easy route to do anything so it fits.
TNF: That’s really interesting. Do you think the same happens to Tere or is her role more clear cut? Did the two of you have to work out who did what in the case of parenting or did you find it to be a natural transition?
I think Tere’s role is very clear cut. She’s the mom. Period. That’s it. The kids know it, everyone gets that. I think Tere was very stereotypical and wanted (still wants) to be Super Mom. My biggest challenge inside our house was to not be marginalized and shut out. It’s been and continues to be hard work to claim my space as a parent. It’s just not inherent in new mothers to share their parenting responsibility I think. They want to run the show and lots of dads are ok with that. I wasn’t. I wanted a say – a big say.
TNF: How did that go over with Tere?
Not well. It’s been a process. It still is. I’m pretty sure it’s not what Tere expected or maybe even wanted but in the end, I think she appreciates me. I think she would rather have it like this than having me check out and do my own thing. Or at least I tell myself that!
TNF: Do you think dads check out?
I think a lot do. Not all of them. We know lots of dads that are very involved. But at the end of the day, moms either end up staying home and take on the full responsibility of kids, or both parents work and the mom gets double duty. It’s just in our nature to take care of the people in our lives, especially the ones that really “need” us. So it becomes easy for dads to focus on work and other things.
TNF: I’m finding that less and less so in my observation of moms and dads, the roles seem to be shifting a bit but I get what you’re saying. How about your kids, are they asking the tough mommy daddy questions yet?
No, not at all. I’m not sure why. We don’t even hear much about other kids at the preschool asking or commenting. We’re the only same sex parents in the school and it almost seems like no one really pays attention, which is a good thing.
TNF: Do you have many friends that are same sex parents?
No, not that many. It’s unfortunate but in reality, most parents are straight – like over 95% of them.
Is it important to you to have other SSP’s in your life?
No, not exactly but it would be nice. It feels like there are so many components that go into finding other parents that we like, that have similar interests, similar challenges with their kids, similarly aged kids, etc. We can’t be too picky when it comes to who we actually like and connect with.
Thanks Heather for giving us insight into your world. It’s been a pleasure having you blog for us. Beautiful picture of the family too.
By: John Jericiau
My brand newborn son Ryan already had me twisted around his little pinky after the first twenty-four hours of the feeding/changing/sleeping cycle. As a single guy I had spent the last seven months supporting (emotionally and financially) the out of town birthmother but all of that didn’t matter after I first held my new son. I was drained but ecstatic. I was crying but content. And this was just Day One!
On his second day in my life we found our way to his first pediatrician’s appointment. I was excited to pop open the trunk and whip out his brand new stroller, just one of the hundreds (yes hundreds!) of gifts I had received from friends, family and acquaintances who wanted to show support for the gay triathlete/beach lifeguard/physical therapist who desperately wanted a child and chose adoption to fulfill that dream.
The new stroller was taking its time stretching out and opening up at our parking spot after being folded in a box for so long. I almost didn’t answer the phone when it rang in my pocket and echoed throughout the parking structure. I cheerfully answered with one hand as I draped the new diaper bag over the stroller with the other (new dads must multitask, I had been warned!). Whatever contorted position I was in when I answered that call was the position I held for the full minute it took for the person on the line to change my life forever.
What follows is a bit fuzzy. I remember that I carefully clipped Ryan back into the new car seat, and before I went back for the stroller I held his cheeks in my hands and stared deeply into his eyes, as if to burn the image of my face into his memory, and his into mine. I got onto the 10 freeway to return to my house by the beach with the new nursery and new crib, looking more of the time at Ryan in the rearview mirror and less of the time at the road in front of me. Of course when you want traffic to slow you down there is none; I was home before I knew it and was carrying Ryan in through the back door when the front doorbell rang out like the town square bell before a hanging.
The wonderful social worker was there with a used empty carseat, trying to console me with something about one window closing but another one opening soon, and reminding me that, as we had talked about many times, there was always a chance that the birthmother would change her mind and want her baby. She transferred Ryan out of my carseat and into hers, and as she walked with Ryan out the door and to her car, along with him went a piece of my heart.
Little did I know that the window the social worker was referring to had almost immediately begun to open! Almost two weeks later I met Alen (born June 22nd), a fellow triathlete/physician who became and remains the love of my life. Three years later, after several other challenging adoption tries, we witnessed the miracle of birth of our first son Devin (born May 22nd), followed exactly eight months later by the birth of our second son Dylan (born January 22nd) through surrogacy.
And there’s more to come! We are currently working on Baby Number Three (through surrogacy) while working through all the challenges that life as a married couple with kids has to offer. And this gay guy (born December 22nd) hopes to tell you all about it!
By: Amy Wise
The holidays are such an amazing time of year. They bring out the best in all of us. As I decorate, shop, and take in all the sights, sounds and smells of the season, I wonder, why can’t it be like this all the time? What is it about the holidays that makes everyone just a little bit nicer and smile just a little wider?
We all might celebrate different holidays this season, but no matter which one we celebrate, it’s all about peace and love. Right!? My mixed melting pot of a family happens to be Christian and we celebrate Christmas, but I love to share all the holidays with my amazing diverse group of friends. If we all took a moment to learn about each other’s religions and celebrations, the unknown would now be known and the scary wouldn’t be so scary anymore. It’s not about condemning, it’s about accepting. It’s not about converting, it’s about learning. There is nothing evil, or wrong, or “satanic” about a different religion…it’s just that…different. Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, it’s your prerogative as a citizen of the world to do just that…in peace.
So this year my wish for all of us is to learn about each other, accept each other, live with each other, and love each other. If you celebrate Christmas…I wish you a very merry Christmas. If you celebrate Hanukkah…I say, happy Hanukkah. If you celebrate Kwanzaa…I wish you happy Kwanzaa. If you are determined to be politically correct…I wish you happy holidays!
It’s okay to be proud of your religion and traditions as long as you respect what others celebrate as well. See how easy it is…let’s all stop walking on egg shells…if you celebrate it…SAY IT!!!
Amy Wise is a Writer in San Diego.