The Question of Kissing Your Children

March 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By Shannon Ralph


Every morning on my way into work, I listen to NPR on the radio. Yes, I am one ofthose people. As a matter of fact, any time I am in the car—with the exception of when Ruanita is in the car with me because she doesn’t put up with my pretentious shit—I listen to NPR. In my defense, I watch very little television—with the exception of BBC programming (God, I sound incredibly white and remarkably old)—so I get most of my information regarding news and current events from the internet and the radio.This morning was an exception to that rule. For the first time in 2014, the air temperature is expected to climb above freezing here in balmy Minneapolis. It’s practically going to be 40 degrees today! I was feeling particularly festive this morning as I thought of pulling my flip-flops out of hibernation. MPR’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine simply did not match my festive mood, so I turned to my 2nd favorite radio station to listen to a little Katie Perry.The disc jockeys (is that still what they’re called or am I simply bolstering my geriatric white woman status?) were prattling on about a survey of listeners they had done the day before. The question up for debate was this:

Do you kiss your children on the mouth?

The overwhelming consensus among Twin Citians was a resounding no. Apparently, it feels “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable” to kiss one’s children on the mouth. Rather than singing loudly off key to a little Katie Perry “Roar” on this bright and sunny morning, I am now questioning whether or not I am an abhorrent deviant.

Shit. Not the plan, people. 

Okay, so let’s be honest. I kiss my kids on the mouth. And often. I also kiss them on the cheeks and on the tops of their heads and occasionally on their hands. When I do kiss them on the mouth, it is not a lingering kiss. There is no swapping of spit. No tongue action. There is nothing remotely passionate about the kiss. It is a peck usually followed by a big hug as they are rushing out the door to school or climbing under their covers for the night.

I do not find it awkward. Or weird. Or even a little bit uncomfortable. We are an incredibly affectionate household. We snuggle while we watch TV. We hold hands when we walk through Target. My 11 year old son still climbs in bed with his mommas for a little bright and early “Lukie sandwich” loving on Sunday mornings. Does this make us deviants?

We are all human beings. And humans crave the touch of other humans. The touch of another person makes us feel alive. It makes us feel secure. And loved. And protected. And honored. It makes us feel safe in an otherwise scary world.

Why would I not want to give all of this to my children?

I would argue that there is nothing even remotely sexual about kissing your children on the mouth and that avoiding it for fear of sexual subtext is unhealthy. It is sexualizing something that is in no way sexual. That, to me, is “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable.”

Europeans kiss everyone on the mouth. It’s a symbol of affection and nothing more. And they possess an infinitesimally tiny percentage of the American hang-ups and prudishness revolving around sex. Further proof that I should have been born British, but I digress.

So are Ruanita and I truly in the minority here? Do you kiss your children on the mouth? Is it weird?

And more importantly, where the hell are my flip flops?

If you would like to read more by Shannon Ralph, check out her blog
Photo Credit: Leonid Mamchenkov

Parenting Consultant: I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No

March 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown, parenting consultant

Let your child be angry

I’m sitting on the living room couch as I write this column. My twenty-month old puppy, Phila, is snuggled next to me, her head on my lap. She is snoring happily. I am petting her, completely content. I’m also watching out for Robin because as soon as I see him coming up the stairs, I need to push Phila off the couch and pretend she was never there.
Phila isn’t allowed on the couch. She also isn’t allowed to chew on my shoes. Or get her own treats from the drawer. Or be off-leash in the park. Or do most any of the things I let her do. I don’t like upsetting her so I pretty much just say yes to everything she wants to do.
This is very bad parenting on my part.
I love to point the finger at all of you when I feel you are afraid to draw the line with your kids, or stand by your convictions or when you allow yourselves to be held hostage by your child’s emotions. One of my favorite soapbox rants is the one about teaching your kids that it’s safe to feel sad or mad or bad or frustrated or disappointed. If you are in my classes or groups, I don’t have to tell you this because it’s all you hear from me – blah blah blah let them feel their feelings, blah blah blah, let them be mad, blah blah blah, don’t give in to whining. Sometimes you roll your eyes at me when I get going on this topic. Yeah, I see you.
I really do believe what I say to you, believe me. If we give in to our kids because they have worn us down or because it hurts us to see them so upset, we are teaching them that life is not worth living unless we get everything we want. Not to mention that we are also teaching them that crying – or yelling, or whining, or arguing, or sulking – is power.
The “yes” given by a parent to a child that has within it a long-suffering sigh of “Fine. You’ve worn me down. I hate you. Eat the stinking cookie “ is not a satisfying “yes” to either the child or parent. It is a “yes” that is steeped in dysfunctional manipulation. And teeth-rotting sugar.
Kinda like the “yes” I just gave Phila when she – wet and muddy from the river – jumped up on the couch next to me and put her adorable head in my lap.
“Phila,” I said sternly, “No. You are not allowed on the couch. Off!”
Phila didn’t hear me, evidently. I probably said it too quietly. My fault.
So I said, a little bit louder, “Phila, no! Off the couch!” I made sure Robin could hear me from downstairs since he’s always on my case about being too soft with Phila and letting her get on the couch.
Phila stared intently out the living room window from her perch on the couch.
“Okay,” I said, “I see you’re busy right now guarding the street. One more minute, though, and then you have to get off the couch, okay?”
Then I laughed to myself because I am always telling you guys to stop saying “okay” at the end of a sentence in which you’ve told your kid to do something. It completely invalidates the instruction you’ve just given; it turns it into a choice.
I said, “okay”, however, to Phila because she is so stinking adorable. And I didn’t want to make her sad. Which is a totally valid reason for making bad parenting choices. Also, I have a headache and it’s too much work to follow through with what I expect her to do.
Also, I am so comfortable right now on the couch and I have a deadline of, like, yesterday to get this column in and if I have to stop what I’m doing to get Phila off the couch and keep her off, I’m not going to finish this article until waaaaaay past midnight. And then I’ll have another headache tomorrow.
And so it goes.
It’s so much easier to just give in. Even though I’m going to have to rent one of those supermarket upholstery cleaning machines tomorrow for the couch because Phila has deposited about half of the Willamette River water, mud and funk on my couch. And then I’m going to hope the couch dries before my Monday night parenting group comes over. And then, during group on Monday nights and Wednesday nights, I’m going to have to stop facilitating the parenting discussion to remind Phila about a zillion times not to get up on the couch to cuddle with the people in group. And I’m going to have to pretend that I am shocked that Phila keeps jumping up on the couch, you know, because she isn’t allowed to. And Phila will give me That Look, the look that says, “Please. We both know you’re going to give in, anyway. Let’s stop the charade.” And I’ll be embarrassed and exhausted and I’ll feel like a bad dog parent and after everyone in the group goes home, I’ll have A Stern Talk with Phila about her bad behavior.
And then I’ll finish off the cookies from group. And the wine. And the Ferrero Roche in the freezer from Valentine’s Day. And I will look longingly at the cranberry walnut bread from St. Honore’s that I am supposed to bring to school the next morning. And I will think to myself, “I should never have let Phila get up on the couch in the first place.” I will be riddled with shame and self-loathing.
The only thing harder than making bad parenting choices is making good parenting choices. Well, actually, they’re both hard. It’s just that one (good choices) is harder to do at the beginning because it’s so much remediation and reminding and re-doing. But the other one (bad choices) is harder later because you hate yourself for having been weak and giving in and now you have a fifty-eight pound puppy who does whatever the heck she darn well pleases to do.
I’m lucky. Phila doesn’t whine or argue with me. She doesn’t throw her cup at me because I gave her the blue cup instead of the green cup. She doesn’t throw a fit at Trader Joe’s because I won’t buy the ten- gallon tub of chocolate covered almonds. And yet, I still hate to say no to her.
Which means that I’m going to be buying a lot of new couches. Which I cannot afford. Unless I start more parenting groups. Which I can’t, because all my furniture is funky from Phila and there will be nowhere for them to sit. Because I cannot say no to my dog.
But there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza…
Next week: Phila will give her rebuttal.


Photo Credit: Greg Westfall


Study Shows: Children of Lesbians Have a Higher Self-Esteem Than Heterosexual Ones

March 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent

Children with gay parents

In a new study, it has been discovered that children of lesbians have higher self-esteem and lower conduct problems than those of heterosexual couples, according to the study.

“By controlling for variables that might otherwise impact child outcomes, this study provides further evidence that raising children in families headed by same-sex couples is not a significant predictor of adolescent-parent relationships or of a child’s psychological adjustment,” Henny Bos, principal investigator of the study and former UCLA School of Law professor said.

The study looked at 51 Dutch children (25 girls and 26 boys) matched in age, gender, education and birth country, born to lesbian parents through artificial insemination.

Each child filled out questionnaires to figure out their relationships with their mothers, psychological adjustment and substance use.

According to the study, the kids of lesbian parents had higher self-esteems and lower conduct problems than those with heterosexual parents. This means, according to the study co-author Dr. Nanette Gartrell that “child and adolescent outcomes have more to do with the quality of parenting than the sexual orientation of parents.”

The conservative Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) believes that gay relationships are bad for children.

“Marriage encourages mothers and fathers to remain together and care for the children born of their union,” the filing said. Splitting up, “would powerfully convey that marriage exists to advance adult desires rather than serving children’s needs.”

However, last year the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families found that children of gay couples are “thriving in terms of health and familial wellness,” after conducting the world’s largest study comparing same-sex parents to heterosexual parents.

This story was brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian 

Photo credit: purple sherbet photography


Yummy Snacks For Kids

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Kids

Crispy Cauliflower


Chopped Cauliflower, Olive Oil, light sprinkle of chili spices, salt and bake at 500 for 15 minutes. Shake at the halfway point. Your kids will love this.  Adjust the spice accordingly.

Banana Pudding

banana pudding

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1½ cups ice cold water
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)  (PS: I think this recipe needs more wafers than the 12 oz box.  Next time I make this, I will use half of a box more than what the recipe calls)
  • 4 cups sliced ripe bananas
  • In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain. To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours – or up to 8 hours – before serving.

Pancake Bacon Dipper

pancake bacon dippers

1 box Bisquick pancake batter; 12 slices center cut bacon; lite syrup Cook bacon+set aside. Mix batter according to pkg . Pour into squeeze bottle with big enough hole for batter to pour from. (ketchup bottle). Cut tip bigger. Heat griddle to 300 ºF. Squirt batter in long oval shape little longer+wider bacon+place slice cooked bacon in center. Lightly press bacon into batter. Squeeze more batter over bacon. Serve syrup in 4 oz mason jars.

Kids Sushi


Remove crusts from bread. With a rolling pin or large soup can, completely flatten bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter/sunbutter and 1 tablespoon of Jam on each slice of bread. Roll each slice into a tight spiral. Cut each spiral into 4 pieces.

Chunky Apple Muffins

Chunky Apple Muffins

½ c raw sugar
3 T canola oil
1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites
½ c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c organic all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp each: baking soda, ground cinnamon
1 medium Granny Smith apple or 1 Fuji apple, cored, cut into 1/3” dice

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat sugar and oil in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Add egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Add 1 c of flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Toss together apples and remaining ½ c flour in medium bowl. Stir apples into batter by hand.

Spoon batter into paper lined or greased muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake until golden brown and make sure wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 22 minutes.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; serve warm or at room temperature.

Sweet Greek Yogurt Dip

greek yogurt dip

Use my basic recipe and then stir-in any of the add-ins that sound yummy to you.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use 2% and it must be Greek)
3 tsp honey or maple syrup (to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Add ins: 3 tbsp creamy peanut or almond butter, nutella, 1 tbsp cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, mashed raspberries, mashed strawberries, a tbsp of jam, graham crumbs, cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, sweetener, vanilla and salt. Stir until combined and smooth. Stir in any add-ins you like – to taste. Mix well. Serve with cut up fruit, graham crackers, pretzels, or cookies.


Sprinkled Poundcake


Let your children top their snack with raspberries, nuts, blueberries, whipped cream and more.

Broccoli Frittata


1 c finely chopped onions
2 c chopped broccoli (about ½ inch pieces)
2 tsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried, optional
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
8 egg whites
¼ c grated pecorino or mozzarella cheese

1. In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions for 5 minutes, until tender. Add the broccoli, garlic, and basil and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is crisp-tender but still vivid green.

2. Combine the salt, pepper, and egg whites and whisk until frothy. Pour the froth over the broccoli, tilting the skillet so the egg whites flow evenly throughout the broccoli.

3. Cook on low for 3-4 minutes, until egg whites are opaque and close to firm.

4. Sprinkle grated cheese over egg mixture and place skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until cheese has melted and begins to brown. Halve the frittata and serve.

Photo Credits: Gloria Cabada-Leman,Meng He, Aunt Emile


Look Ma, No Hands!

February 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Family


being hands free = diy a-frame tent

As of January 1, the state of Illinois passed a ‘hands free’ law while driving.  As we all know that means no talking on the phone while driving, surely no texting, email or surfing the net. 

When Max was a toddler and I had just gotten my first smart phone, a pink Blackberry Pearl, I was in love.  I loved the idea of the internet at my fingertips, the texting instant thoughts to my sister and snapping a photo to capture those fleeting moments.  However, I didn’t have any rules of when I was allowed to use these awesome features.

One day driving home from work, I was dabbling on my phone and not paying attention and was SO close to hitting someone.  Max was in the back seat, babbling about something, while I was white knuckled on the steering wheel hearing my tires screech on the pavement and screaming, ‘oh shit!’.  After the realization settled in that I did not hit the car in front of me, I had to sit there for a moment and collect myself.  A few beeps from the person behind me and we were on the go again.

I didn’t pick up the phone in the car again for a good month.

I did eventually pick it up while in the car, however I’ve gotten into this habit of only at stop lights.  Instead of just waiting patiently I am on my phone, surfing Facebook, Instagram, eBay, etc.

Here’s the thing … I find I am on the phone in the house or the library or the restaurant.  I am CONSTANTLY on my phone.  It could be considered an addiction.  Why is this so important?  Why cant I just put it down and talk to my boys?

I recently purchased the book, Hands Free Mama by Rachel May Stafford.  (nevermind the fact that I am trying to read a page a night and that is quite the challenge as I typically fall asleep.  she also has a blog of the same title, however I am refraining from looking at that as I will get overwhelmed by the amount of data and information on the site and then do nothing.) Simply, the book and the blog are about living hands free – no phones, no computers, no to-do lists, etc – for the sole purpose of enjoying life and your family.

I’ve been doing about one of two or three days of intentionally putting the phone down.  I need to make it a practice.  I want to be free of this addiction.  I don’t want to measure my life based on Facebook posts or trying to incorporate countless activities that all these ‘perfect’ moms are doing with their kids.

Being hands free, I will not be missing out on brotherly love between Max and Theo, watching my boys grow and learn and share special moments with them nor will I be giving them memories of their childhood of Mom always being on her phone.  Instead I will be engaging with my boys, engaging with my life, engaging with nature and family.  How exciting does that sound?

So many possibilities are out there being hands free.  I cant wait!

(though I will make proper time for meal planning, blog writing and bill paying … though most likely after the boys go to bed.)


Uncomfortable Conversations with Mom

November 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By Ann Brown

don't talk

Next April, when I turn 60, I will be eligible for senior services, including moving into the Jewish old age home.

This is awesome news.

A nice apartment, a restaurant on-site, a cleaning service, transporation to anywhere I want to go in Portland, and an emergency call button next to the toilet. Really, is that senior residential care or is it HEAVEN? I do not understand why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.

Fuck the commune, friends. We’re headed out to Jewish senior living. Pack your Zumba shoes and follow me.

Old Jews are my kind of people. Who else will be continually interested in the comings and goings of my intestines?

I bet in the Jewish old age home no one pressures you to, say, join the polo team or pray to craven images of God (which is what I suspect they do for leisure in the non-Jewish old age homes), two activities that I can do without.

On the down side, however, I bet they put out a better Happy Hour cocktail selection at the gentile home down the road. I suppose I could hit the old Jews for the brunch spread and then meander over to the gentiles for an apertif.

Whew. Okay, got that worked out.

I can tell you one thing for sure: my mom is NOT going to move to the old age home with me. She is – at age 89 – anti-old people. Whereas I – at age 59 – am already one.

She recently returned from a trip to Italy. She had invited me to go with her but I couldn’t, of course, what with my grueling schedule of avoiding working on the novel and posting selfies of Phila and me on Facebook. Plus, I’ve been to England and France and Greece and Israel and I cannot imagine there’s much in Italy that I didn’t already see in those other countries.

Except, according to Mom, penises.

I endured a ten minute phone conversation with her in which she described her two-week art tour, penis by penis.

“So many penises,” she said to me, while I desperately tried to unhear what she was saying. “You can’t believe the penises on those statues!”

Now I don’t know about you, but I am pushed way out of my comfort zone when my mom says the word “penis” even one time. When she says it eleven times in one conversation, I get clammy and woozy and look for the emergency call button next to my toilet.

“Penis” is not a word that sounds normal in a mom’s voice. A mother’s voice should say words like “soup” and “I bought you some new pajamas”. And, “you sound tired. Did you have a bowel movement today?”

Not my mom. She says “penis.” And “those penises were huge!” And, “they had big holes in them. Do you want to know why?” (no). “Well, I’ll tell you…”(please dear God, no)

I never should have let her go to Italy to look at art. I should have made her go to, I don’t know, Branson, Missouri. I bet you could spit a hundred yards in Branson, Missouri, and never hit a penis statue.

My mom is very comfortable with penis talk. I think it has to do with her becoming a therapist during the late 1960′s when nine out of ten therapists recommended that everybody let it all hang out. Unfortunately, during the late 1960′s I was a teenager. When ten out of ten teenagers recommended that their mothers put it all back in.

“You go to the plazas,” she told me on the phone, “all you see are penises. You go to the museum – penises. Statues everywhere – penises, penises, penises.”

“Uh-huh, ” I said, jamming the phone repeatedly into my eyes for distraction.

“Mom,” I said brightly, “how was the food?”

“Horrible. Feh. Although the fruit was delicious. But enough, genuch with the penises already!”

I’m pretty sure that’s how Pope Clement put it, as well, back in the the 1600′s. Presuming he spoke a little Yiddish.

So he ordered metal fig leaves to be put over all the penises on all the statues.

Which is why they all have those HUGE holes in them.

Hey, if I have to know, you have to know.


How the First Day of School Affects a Mom

August 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Same Sex Parent

By: Brandy Black


My daughter started kindergarten.  I remember the day my wife and I sat in a tiny Santa Monica office with a spiritual coach and tried to visualize our future kid.  We had been experiencing infertility for close to 3 years and a friend of my mother’s recommended “an emotional reset” so we went, skeptically, begrudgingly and mockingly.  She told us to picture the child that we would have and I saw her, she was a 5-year-old and reaching out to me.  She had a whimsical spirit and a huge smile.  Now, here I am, with my angel daughter who has begun elementary school.  I call my children my angels because I believe they truly are a gift, that I prayed for, hoped for, cried about and ached to have. Now three beautiful creatures later I adore my life as a mother.  I can imagine no better role to play in life.

The first day of kindergarten drop off both my wife Susan and I went along.  I was strong, stronger than expected. Susan was supposed to be this way but I fall to pieces, usually.  I was almost disappointed in my stoicism.  I wanted more out of the first day but truth be told I was so worried about having everything ready for her, getting to school on time and being strong, that I was empty.

But day 2 wasn’t the same.  I went alone, hand-in-hand with my daughter.  ”I’m not talking about being in Kindergarten anymore, I’m IN Kindergarten!” she said as we walked across the street to her school. The crossing guard guided us with her bright yellow vest and proud smile welcoming all the kids.  We got to the kinder area and found the sign that read her teacher’s name.  I chatted with other moms while Sophia shyly made friends.  Suddenly the line began to move and the parents were discouraged from following.  I watched the teacher walk away with the sign as my daughter marched proudly forward.  It was a coming of age, a change for us both. She is moving into another era, one that doesn’t include me as much as it used to.  I began to sob, this is the beginning, only the beginning.  She will spend half of her day learning a language of which I only know two words.  She will translate what the teacher is saying through pictures, hand signals and only the willingness to ask other students in true immersion fashion.  I am overwhelmed and overjoyed.  But she is thriving.  I see it in her glow when she comes home and raves about kindergarten.  In one week she has managed to grown up, with her first loose tooth and all and I will sit back and watch and hopefully be invited to join the ride as often as she will permit.




The Pierce-Ralph Family-Do we change our names now that we can get married?

August 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


I was asked an intriguing question this week. Completely out of the blue and totally unexpected, Ruanita (a-little-too-casually) asked me the following:

“So…do you think we should hyphenate our last names after we get married?”


To be perfectly honest, this had never occurred to me. Amazingly—despite the tornadic whirlwind of wedding planning and re-planning I have done all alone in my bustling little brain—the question of changing my last name never even crossed my mind.

Here’s the thing, I experienced a bit of buyer’s remorse sixteen years ago when we had our illegal (I like to use the term “ illegal” because it makes us appear much more hip and dangerous than the bland couch-huggers we really are) commitment ceremony. At the time, we decided to keep our own last names. Actually, I don’t know if we ever even consciously made that decision. We just did it. Or rather, we just didn’t do it. Probably out of simple laziness.

Looking back now, I wish we had changed our names. Or at least that one of us had. Ruanita has never been very keen on becoming Ruanita Ralph (I don’t blame her…sounds like your everyday 8th grade dyke P.E. teacher, doesn’t it?). I, however, would have no issues with being Shannon Pierce. It just didn’t occur to me at the time.

When Lucas was born, because Ruanita and I did not have the same last names, we made the rather innocuous decision to hyphenate his last name. He became Lucas Matthew Pierce-Ralph. Not an altogether bad name.

If truth be told, however, I despise hyphenated names. I don’t know why. I know some perfectly lovely people with hyphenated last names—including two who were expelled from my very own vagina. (Okay…that is a lie. They were born via c-section, but “expelled from my own horizontal lower abdominal incision” doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz.) But I still hate hyphenated names.

As such, I really have no desire to hyphenate my last name. I mean Shannon Pierce-Ralph wouldn’t be so bad, I guess. I could get used to it. But there is still the “ick factor” with hyphenated names that I can’t get past.

I think I am just old fashioned. I firmly believe the members of a family should all have the same last name. That is so very anti-modern of me, I know. But I can’t help it. I am a product of my homogenous 1970s Southern Catholic school upbringing. I went into a mild mourning state when my mother remarried for the first time years ago and was no longer a Ralph. I’m a Ralph. She’s my mom. Logic would dictate that she should be a Ralph, too, right? Today, she is Shirley Marie Hardesty Ralph Robbins Bauer Ralph. Why can’t everyone just be a freaking Ralph?

As you can imagine, the fact that my children have hyphenated names bugs me. Besides the fact that they do not have the same last name as me, I am kind of saddened by the fact that I can’t buy any of the cheesy monogrammed stuff that places like Oriental Trading Company sells. You know, those wooden plaques and Christmas ornaments and tote bags and door knockers and mailboxes that say:

Pierce Family

Est. 1997

I can’t buy those because we’re not the Pierce Family. And we’re not the Ralph Family. We’re not even the Pierce-Ralph Family. My kids are Pierce-Ralphs, but I am not. Ruanita is not.

This is one of those instances—few and far between—where I would like to go back in time and make a different decision. Given the option of a do-over, I would have become Shannon Pierce sixteen years ago. My kids would be Lucas, Sophie, and Nicholas Pierce. We would have been the Pierce Family. The Pierces, Established 1997. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Alas, I am not a Pierce. And neither are my children. We already have three people in my family with hyphenated names I do not care for. Why add two more to the mix? And I don’t think my kids would be keen on changing their last names now anyway. I mean, my daughter spent the last year of her life being referred to as Sophie P.R. in school because there were three other Sophies and/or Sophias in her class—so much for original naming. (As a side note, why she would not be Sophie P. instead of Sophie P.R. is simply beyond me. I mean…what the hell?) I think my kids like being Pierce-Ralphs. At least, they’ve never complained about hyphenated names. I am pretty sure, like so many other instances, I am the only one with an issue here.

And, aside from the psychological toll of changing a ten-year-old’s name, can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare legally changing five last names at once would be? I don’t even want to think about it!

So do I want to hyphenate my last name? No. Do I want the members of my family to all have the same last name? Yes. Is one possible without the other? No. Am I shit outta luck? Yes.

There you have it.


Life Just Became Overwhelming

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Same Sex Parent

By: Brandy Black

I have been sucked under for the last two months and have yet to even take the time to document the madness in my life. Having a family of five means that everything hangs in a delicate balance and when one tiny thing goes amiss, it feels as if walls begin to crumble. And if you know me, I don’t like it when the handcrafted balance that I have worked so diligently to create for my family, gets disturbed. So you can only imagine my dismay when our au pair decided to go back to Germany with no notice. I had to take the advice I often give my five-year-old and take a few deep breaths, I had to make a plan quickly and put up a front to my wife and kids that I was not utterly destroyed and terrified on the inside. I do this often, pretend I’m stronger than I am, I think I sometimes convince myself of my superhero powers but ultimately, I will admit I’m tiny and constantly on the brink of a meltdown. I’m also awful at asking for help, I bare my pains quietly and fear that I will burden others but this was a time of desperation. I emailed everyone I knew asking for help, within 2 hours of learning of our au pairs departure, I had 3 back-up sitters scheduled until our new au pair arrives. I realized in that moment how truly lucky we are to have all of the incredible people in our lives that support us. I was reminded how much people like to help when needed. And “it takes a village” kept running through my head.

The house has been crazy, the babies adjusting to multiple people coming in and out, juggling schedules with my wife, our preschooler graduating to elementary school, summertime, vacations, it’s mayhem and I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m beginning to see that my life will always be a puzzle and the pieces will forever be scrambled and I don’t have to know all the answers right away and that perhaps embracing chaos is a part of life’s little challenge to me.
I wonder if there will ever be a day that I worry less, that I sleep more, that I bring my shoulders down and fully trust.

I doubt it.


LGBT Family Screening–Outfest

July 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent

Every year Outfest hosts an LGBT family screening with games, crafts and food for the kids.  This year the film will be The Croods.  Come check it out.  See you there! The screening is this Sunday, July 14th at 1:00PM!




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