July 18, 2012
A Letter to My Beautiful Wife:
Wow. I can’t believe it has been three years since we stood by the beautiful ocean water in Connecticut and promised our lives to each other. I remember every moment of our trip as if it were yesterday, and would gladly repeat the process over and over again every year (well, maybe except the misplacement of your driver’s license when we went to get our marriage license).
In the four years that we have been together, and three that we have been married, we have seen a lot of things, gone so many places, and experienced life in such a way that I could never thank you enough for doing it with me. Standing outside of the nation’s Capitol with you (and 250,000 others) and fighting for marriage equality was a highlight of our first year of marriage. While some states have gotten on board with same-sex marriage, while others continually try to take it away and repeal the progress that has been made, here we are, living our lives every day and becoming a part of our community just like everyone else. I guess what we have is just normal, everyday, boring MARRIAGE. I don’t think that we’re special or set apart. I think that we do the same things as other people, gay or straight: keep a house, do laundry and dishes, grocery shop, cook dinners, raise kids, pay bills. What some might be surprised to know is that we don’t go around doing everything in big gay parade fashion, with rainbow beads and balloons leading the way. Lawmakers would probably be surprised to know that we are not the deviants that they think we are, huh? I think that if one or two of them looked into our windows when we weren’t looking, they would be disappointed at the sheer normalness going on in here. And I guess we SHOULD apologize to all of the hetero couples of the world to being one of those couples who are destroying the sanctity of their marriage. I had no idea, when we got married three years ago, all of the countless affairs and divorces that our marriage would cause – did you? It is a huge burden and responsibility that we should take seriously, right?
It sucks that we still are not treated equally in the eyes of the law, but I pray that with each anniversary, we will be one step closer to progress. I am confident that we will see change during our lifetime, and hopefully our children will grow into adults who respect everyone for who they are as a person and not the color or their skin or who they love. I am blessed beyond measure to be going down this journey of life beside you. During our third year, you have gave me a beautiful daughter, and a sister to Nicholas and Noah – there are no words to say how grateful I am for this completion to our family. I am so excited for all of the many adventures that we will experience together with these beautiful kids we have been given! And during this upcoming fourth year of marriage, we will be blessed with a (cough) grandbaby. Yes, I know we are entirely too young for the role of grandmother, but as with any unexpected situation that has come our way, we adapt and roll with it, and just spread the love a little more!
So here we go, starting another year together as wife and wife. I love you beyond measure and I love the life that we have built together. Happy, happy anniversary with a promise of many more to come.
I love you always,
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So we’re kind of at a stand still right now with Harrison’s adoption. After we found out that we had to have an ad litem attorney (in San Antonio) to represent Harrison, that is where things have slowed down. Everything else is done, and now we are waiting for this last step to fall into place so that we can get a court date. I anxiously await for the phone call that says when we can go!
In the meantime, all across the nation, LGBT Pride was celebrated throughout the month of June. Dallas has its Pride parade each year in September, rather than June (like the rest of the world). But while most of the world celebrates equality and pride, there are still hate crimes and suicides happening to young gay and lesbians in our country. Just last week, in Portland, Texas (a suburb of Corpus Christi) a young lesbian couple was found in a waterside park, having each been shot in the head. One of the young ladies, Mollie, died from her injuries; her girlfriend, Kristene, remains in the hospital, recovering from hers. It did not make the news here in Dallas, but word traveled swiftly on news websites and social media. Soon, LGBT communities across the country reacted, planning candlelight vigils on behalf of Mollie and Kristene, signing and sending rainbow flags to their families, and raising money to assist Kristene’s family with her growing medical bills. Sadness, anger, outrage, and fear have spread throughout our communities, and only recently is there hope – the Portland police have reported that they have a possible suspect. The shooting has, however, been minimized in some media outlets, saying that they “aren’t sure that it was a hate crime.” Um, really? Somebody took this young couple and SHOT THEM IN THE HEAD. Whether or not it was because they were gay is irrelevant – it was fueled by hate.
Last weekend, before we headed to Dallas for the candlelight vigil in our gayborhood, we dropped the kids off with my mother and decided to catch a movie. We went to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter for some mindless entertainment. Since I have degrees in History, and we both enjoy a good vampire movie, we thought it would be right up our alley for a good time. Now, there wasn’t a whole lot about it that was historically accurate, except maybe for some names and dates, and few events. But when it got toward the end of the movie, and President Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address, it hit me – Abraham Lincoln GOT IT. He valued life – ALL life – and maintained that all man[kind] deserved freedom and equality, as set forth by our founding fathers. Think about it:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
The second paragraph reminds me of the LGBT community now, in 2012, and what could be equated as a modern “great civil war.” We are engaged in our great civil war, testing whether WE, so conceived and so dedicated, can endure. How many have given their lives so that WE, as a community, might live? How many Harvey Milks have there been over the years? How many young men and women have lost their fight on the battlefield of homophobia, and taken their own lives? How many Mollie and Kristenes have their been, losing their lives to hatred and violence?
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863
Just like President Lincoln being unable to consecrate the ground in Gettysburg, neither we can consecrate or hallow any ground where our LGBT sisters and brothers have lost their fight. It is they who do so for us. And while we have our marches, our rallies, our parades, and our vigils, most of what is said will be soon forgotten by our peers. But we cannot forget those lives, and we must always resolve that they, too, will not have died in vain. We can see change on the horizon, but there is still so much work to be done. I have hope that I will see our new birth of freedom during my lifetime, and that our government will return to the thought (and hopefully practice) that it is one of the people, by the people, and FOR the people – ALL people.
Lincoln had it right, even in 1863.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Fingerprinting was the step that I took to kick off our adoption process. My next step, which I did the day after my trip to the police station, was to meet with my attorney (aka, BFF Kim). I had filled out the Adoption Intake Form, which I have blogged about previously, to take to her, along with a copy of our marriage license and a copy of Harrison’s birth certificate.
We went over what else needed to be done, and I wrote the first check to her for the first phase.
Once we were past the initial paperwork and the fingerprinting (which I turned over to her), my next step was to get ahold of the social worker that Kim had for us to use for our home study. In the very beginning, when we first started talking and planning for the adoption, I had wanted Kim to petition the court to waive the home study, given that I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I had to do it in order to adopt my own child. Unfortunately, after speaking with some advising attorneys, she didn’t feel that it was worth it to even attempt a waiver of the home study – after all, we DO live in conservative Texas. With every step I want to stomp my feet and rebel against the system, or go to the state capital building in Austin and scream at Rick Perry while throwing tomatoes at the beautiful, domed rotunda. However, I won’t, since I would rather be granted this adoption instead of spending time behind bars…haha.
I was soon put into contact with the woman who would either become my new best friend, or who could possibly decide my fate in a less-than-positive way. My experience (which has been one time) with a social worker was several years ago, when Noah’s father was doing a step-parent adoption of Nicholas. That home study, with a social worker chosen from a list, was very nerve wracking for me. Hours of tense questions and answers, delving deep into our pasts – and he was MY kid! I wasn’t even the one adopting him! So when I knew that I would have to have a home study for Harrison’s adoption, all I could think about was how stressful the last one was. I spoke with her on the phone to schedule the visit, and she was very warm and laid back, telling me that she preferred to have two visits in order to cover everything that she needed to for a complete report. We scheduled it for a Monday, and I spent the days leading up to it tidying the house of clutter and cleaning what I could, without making it look TOO polished and unlived in. When she arrived, I was instantly put at ease by her capri pants and flip flops, along with her reassuring smile and personality. She took a quick tour of the house, not very in depth at all (which made me VERY happy), then we sat down in the den for almost three hours and talked, just she and I. She asked me questions about my marital history (now THAT was fun to explain), my history with Erikka, and about my relationships with both Noah and Harrison. She didn’t ask very many questions about Nicholas; I’m sure mainly because he is off and married now. It was very relaxing, and I felt like I was sitting and chatting with a new friend. When it came time for her to go, I called Erikka and we scheduled the second visit – for the next day. No time like the present, right?
So she returned the next afternoon, where she visited with Erikka for a bit, and then the two of us together. It was a wonderful experience, with no negatives whatsoever. Within two days, she emailed me her report and asked me to look over it before she sent it over to Kim for submission to the court. I couldn’t believe that the process was going this quickly! This could soon be a reality, one that is signed, sealed, and delivered in court! Our adoption process for Bud to adopt Nicholas took from August until December the year that we did it; this might very well all be done within a month or six weeks. I am simply amazed that it has gone this smoothly – and pray that it continues to do so.
Tomorrow I meet with Kim again to hand over a few more documents that we had to sign and have notarized. She found out at the end of last week that we will have to also hire an ad litem attorney in San Antonio – an attorney who will represent Harrison (also another ridiculous, but required, expense). I will cut a check to Kim for this attorney’s fees tomorrow, and then I believe that we will be done with all of the steps, aside from traveling to Bexar county to attend a hearing in court. She will send off my fingerprints to the DPS in Austin, and then all we have to do is wait for my criminal history report to be submitted to the court, as well as back to Kim. That’s it. Now we wait. I’m not very good at waiting…
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” ~Desmond Tutu
The time has finally arrived, and the adoption journey has begun. While we had to wait until Harrison was at least six months old to do it, it ended up being 7 1/2 months for financial reasons. Now I am sure that some of you have gotten the impression from me before, but I will say it again – it is utterly ridiculous and unfair that we have to go through all of these extra steps and a lot of extra money for me to adopt my own daughter. Every step of the process is just a reminder of the fact that we live under a state that is willing to change a constitution to make discrimination state law. But no matter how unfair it is, how inconvenient it is, how infuriating it is, or how expensive it is…I will do it, because it is THAT important to me that this little girl is legally and forever mine, too. I look at her, and she flashes me that crinkled-up-nose snaggly-one-toothed grin, and all I know is that I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
And the first step in my journey to becoming Harrison’s other mommy legally…began with some fingerprints.
I have known for a while all of the things that have to be done to get this adoption completed: file the petition with the district court in San Antonio, have a home study done by a social worker, get a set of fingerprints for my attorney to send to Austin for a report, then plan our trip down to San Antonio for our court date. I don’t know if there is a particular order, but I decided to go ahead and get the fingerprinting done, so that when I visited the attorney (aka my BFF Kim) with the paperwork to get started, then I could also have those with me for her to send off.
So last week I loaded up the baby and waited for a lull in the storms that were raging outside, and off we went to the police station around the corner. When we arrived, I loaded her into the baby carrier and strapped her to my front, grabbed my camera and off we went. My first stop was at the clerk’s window for the court, who directed me down a hall to another little window at the police station. Once I got to THAT window, I was then directed to a door leading outside, and told to walk all the way around the police station’s building to the new jail entrance. Ah. Okay. So off I went again, hoping that the dark, ominous sky would hold off until we got this done and back to the Jeep. When I got to the jail’s entrance and waiting room, I was once again at a little window – with no one behind it. Great. Um, hellooooooo? Anyone home?? I pressed a button on an intercom – nothing. Finally, a few minutes later, I hear the nice Southern drawl of an older lady come on the intercom, “What can we help you with honey?” Oh! “I need to get my fingerprints.” She came back with, “Alright sugar. I’ll let the jailer know that you’re up there. That’s an awfully pretty baby you have there.” Thank you ma’am.
Soon a nice young police jailer dude was at the window, asking for my driver’s license. He then called someone from somewhere in the back on his little batphone in there, and soon I heard locks clicking and he came out to the waiting area. He humored me while I took pictures, and even assisted in taking some himself while he proceeded to take me through the fingerprinting process. I asked him if he had ever fingerprinted anyone before who had a baby strapped to their chest, and he just laughed and said, “Well no. This would be the first.”
He was very nice and helpful, and I was glad to be happily fingerprinted – and unfortunately, I have done it unhappily before! Once he was done, we headed outside and trucked back over to the parking lot where I got Harrison back into her carseat just before the bottom dropped out and the torrential rains started again. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled to have taken the first step to begin the process! It was a beautiful, beautiful day.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
We didn’t get much of a spring in Texas, so as May comes to a close, we are already embracing temperatures in the 80s and 90s, hosing down the grills, and cleaning up our swimming pools. What better time for a California friend – well, MORE than just a great friend – to come to visit than Memorial Day weekend?
As most of you know, our dear friend here at The Next Family – Madge – has recently embarked on a whirlwind adventure across Canada and parts of the United States. We were honored to be the last leg of her journey, which started in Northern California and progressed into Toronto, Cape Cod, Boston, New York, Minneapolis, and finally here, Dallas. As the days passed leading up to Madge’s arrival last week, I grew more and more excited and filled with anticipation. I told my wife that I felt like my mom was coming to see me for the first time. Over the past year or so, I have been so blessed to have gotten to know her and become close with her. We have emailed and written, texted and called, and talked about oh so much. And now she was coming here, to see me, my family! So much to do to get ready for her arrival – I couldn’t have her coming into my messy house for the first time! I mean, once she has been here for her first visit, then she is more than welcome to see how we REALLY live, clutter and all…hahaha.
This past Sunday morning, we all got up and referenced the fairly long chore list that Erikka and I had developed. Noah did great doing his part and helping to get things done. She was due to arrive at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport just before 4 PM, and Noah went with me to pick her up. By the time she actually arrived in the baggage claim area, I think he was as excited as I was to meet her! I saw her before she saw me, so I ran up yelling, “You’re here!!!” with a big hug. How awesome it was to finally get to wrap her in a hug and introduce her to my Noah, who promptly hugged her as well.
Soon we had her suitcase (which felt like it was packed with pounds and pounds of rocks) and were off. I had to make a stop at Target for an extension cord, where she and Noah took off for the toy section and she let him pick out a couple of action figures. Already acting like a Mimi, or Grammy, or Auntie….whichever. From there we ran over to her hotel, where we got her checked in and suitcase put away, and then off again to our house. It was so sweet to watch as she met Erikka and finally, Harrison. The baby was a little skeptical of her at first, but finally warmed up to her and was soon smiling and squealing.
We soon loaded up and went out for a fabulous dinner, showing Madge some of our area and making plans for the next day – Memorial Day. Soon I was dropping off Madge AND Noah at her hotel; she discovered she had two queen beds, and after a joking comment from me, said that she would love to have him come hang out with her at the hotel for the night. He was thrilled, and was already saying that he thought she was “awesome.”
Monday morning, I woke up to scones and coffee, made by my sweet wife after she had fed the baby. I ate and showered, and then was soon dressed and ready to go pick up Madge and the boy. Erikka stayed home with Harrison so that she could get some work done, while I was to spend a good part of the day being tour guide for our California visitor who had never been to Dallas.
I picked the duo up and we headed to downtown Dallas, where we visited some historical sites. We walked around Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll, where JFK had been assassinated. We also walked to a JFK Memorial, just past the Old Red Courthouse, which I had no idea even existed! We then walked past a small, cabin-looking building, which turned out to be a historic post office from the 1800s! Around 11 AM, we decided to go to the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center for Tolerance, where we toured both the special exhibit on children from the Holocaust, as well as the permanent exhibit. When we left there, we walked about two blocks and got in line for The Sixth Floor Museum – a tour of the school book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald worked and perched from a window in order to shoot at JFK’s motorcade so many years ago. It was amazing. I have lived here, in North Dallas, my entire life and had NEVER been there. Even Noah was engaged and paid attention to everything, taking in the recount of the events that happened leading up to and following the death of John F. Kennedy. All of the photos, newspapers, audio, and video were put together in such a way that it felt like I was back in 1963, living it, hearing it happen – it made me cry. I felt really stupid for standing there crying as I listened to the audio of phone calls and A.P. wire calls, considering that I wasn’t even born yet! But I got a taste of what it was like for our country to have such a tragedy happen to the president, and it reminded me of where I was and how I felt the day that tragedy hit America on September 11, 2001. It was a great trip through a museum, and I am so glad that we decided to go there. We were soon on our way back to the North, and we stopped to introduce Madge to Fuzzy’s Tacos (which she seemed to enjoy). A trip to Dimples Cupcakes was in order, as well as the grocery store for the makings for our Memorial Day dinner cookout.
By about 6 PM, our good friend Holly (the friend that introduced Erikka and me) and her family had arrived and we all started changing to move the party out to the pool. We put Harrison into the pool for the first time, and she wasn’t really a fan at first.
Most of us swam for a bit, and then we got out to start getting dinner on the grill. I was thrilled to have Madge there to meet our friends, as they are very much like our family. It was a great, relaxing evening, just talking and laughing and eating and drinking.
This morning, Noah was off to school, after having said his goodbyes to Madge last night (he woke up saying that he missed her already). Erikka was off to work, so after I fed Harrison, we ran over to the hotel to pick up Madge and come back to the house to relax and hang out. We had a nice lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and Erikka left work to come meet us and be able to say goodbye to Madge. From there, Erikka and the baby came home while I took Madge to the airport. I hated to say goodbye and give that last hug, finding myself wishing for more time. I’m hoping that it will be sooner than later before we can see each other again, either here or in California. I know that Noah would love going to see his new pal, so hopefully sometime soon we can make that happen. Right now she is in the air, heading towards Los Angeles and back to her real life after what has been, I am sure, an amazing adventure. Thank you sweet Madge for visiting, and we hope to see you again very soon!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
“A good example holds twice the value of good advice” ~ Unknown
As the days have gone by since receiving the phone call from the assistant principal regarding Noah and his bullying incident, I have had a lot of time to think about all of the outside (and inside) influences that are in his life that may have contributed to his actions. I look at those of us in his life, as well as things like television and video games. I am constantly telling him that he needs to keep himself in check because he is now an example to his baby sister. But what kind of example am I being to my children?
In all of our talks that we had during the initial phase of him getting into trouble at school, I told Noah repeatedly that he was no better than anyone else. I asked him where he ever got the idea that he had any place to stand and ridicule anybody else for his perception of their failures. “How dare you!” I said sternly. But when I stop and think about it, I would be lying if I said that I never acted better than, or superior to, someone else; we all would. I can remember, as a middle schooler, being in choir, knowing that I had a relatively good singing voice. I had done my first solo as a fourth grader, so sure I knew I could sing – and I knew that I could sing better than some of my classmates in choir class. Did I ever make fun of any of them, acting like I was better? I hope not, but I honestly don’t remember. In high school, I joined journalism and became an editor on the school newspaper, and yeah, I knew that I could write. I knew that I wanted to write as an adult, for my profession, because I was “just that good.” Did I ever make fun of any of my classmates for their spelling and grammar mistakes? Probably. I will openly admit that one. I have a hard time even now keeping my mouth shut on those. However, just because I may write better than someone else doesn’t mean that I believe myself to be better as a person than they are. But now, years later and all grown up, what kind of example am I to my very easily influenced twelve-year-old, and for that matter, my soon-to-be seven-month-old baby girl?
I know that there have been times that I have been out and about and have seen someone who was dressed in what I decide is “odd,” with body parts hanging out that, in my opinion, should NOT be. So I am sure that I have made remarks, and yes, in front of my child. We ALL have done this – and nobody better comment and tell me that they haven’t – or else www.peopleofwalmart.com wouldn’t exist. We all have pointed and laughed at others, as adults, for one reason or another. But just because we have all done it doesn’t make it any more okay. I have been more and more aware of these kinds of actions in the past few weeks, keenly aware that I can no longer stand in ridicule of anyone else if I expect my children to hold to those same standards. Yesterday, this thought came blaring back to me as we were leaving, of all places, Wal Mart. A woman that I have seen there before was entering as we were about to leave. She is in a motorized chair because of a disfigurement – she has a regular sized, large torso, but with very small and disfigured arms and legs. I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I was checking out, and soon Noah was staring and saying, “Mom! Pssst. Look. Over there.” I kept checking out, refusing to turn in her direction. This then prompted a long lecture as we were leaving about staring or making comments or making fun of anybody, much less someone with a handicap or disfigurement. I was mortified once again. I know that young children stare and say things about people because they don’t yet understand that they shouldn’t – but HE is old enough to know. But kids learn that it is okay to do it by their parent’s example, don’t they? It really got me thinking, and it really got me thinking that while I don’t do that on a regular basis, I AM guilty of it, which probably makes me a hypocrite in Noah’s eyes. So just like he, together we will have to start thinking before speaking and/or reacting. I want my children to treat everyone as their equal, not ever as inferior or less than. I have been treated that way and don’t like it; so I know that others don’t either. Now, if everyone else could just take a self-examining look within, just think of how different the world would be and how differently we would – and could – all treat each other?
Change begins with a whisper ~ The Help
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
This is hard to talk about. It is embarrassing, humiliating, and somehow a reflection of how my parenting has somehow taken a wrong turn. I am one who has no tolerance for bullying – EVER. When my oldest son was bullied in high school by some redneck kid (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, went to the school, talked to an administrator, and it was straightened out and over. When my youngest son was bullied this year in middle school by a snarky girl (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, called the teacher, who spoke to the counselor and together they dealt with it. So imagine my absolute horror this morning when I receive a call from the assistant principal of the middle school: my son was in her office…for bullying.
She proceeded to tell me that he and another student had gotten into trouble during band class for talking too much, and when they didn’t stop, they got sent to the office. The other student had told my son to “shut up,” but when pressed for the reason, the truth came out that it was because my son had been picking on him for weeks during band. Teasing him and making fun of him when he got notes to the music wrong, or for making a mistake while they were all playing. I hung my head as I heard her tell me that while my child had told the truth and admitted his role, that it was indeed a form of bullying, and she had just suspended another for ten days for the same thing. What do I say? What do I do? I was immediately at a loss, and wanted to crawl under a rock. I told her that I absolutely did not understand where it was coming from, considering he had gone through the same thing just a short time ago in the school year. She also knew about the previous incident, and therefore didn’t quite understand herself. So she said that she wanted to put him into in-school suspension for today, and for the two days following; I told her I was absolutely behind her one hundred percent. But now I have to figure out what to say and do when he gets home – there has to be consequences here as well. I am just at a loss.
I have thought about it all day, since I got the phone call. When I called Erikka, she was at a loss as well. We have both seen how he can be with other kids, and have had talks with him about the way that he treats others. We know he is very intelligent, but with that comes the problem that HE knows he is very intelligent. We have seen and heard him with other kids, talking down to them like they are dumb, or not as smart as he. So now he is apparently talking down to kids in band, speaking to them like they aren’t as good as he is as well. After years and years, for as long as I can remember, he has been taught tolerance and to treat others as he would want to be treated. We don’t believe that we are better than anyone else, so I’m not sure where he would obtain this arrogant attitude. It is very troubling to me, as his mom, just as it was troubling when he was being bullied by someone else. I absolutely cannot abide my kid being THAT kid – but how do I stop it? I will, of course, call his dad this evening, and I am sure that he will want to talk to him. It just seems that no matter what any of us say to him, or take away from him as punishment, nothing seems to get through. I think this is what is the most disturbing to me – consequences don’t seem to phase him. How do I get through to him, to make him see all of the potential that he possesses in that magnificent brain, if only he would use it for making himself into a productive and successful person on planet Earth?
What do you do when it’s YOUR kid who is the bully?
I tearfully told him of my disappointment, embarrassment, and disgust over his actions. I told him about the little boy who lived a few miles from us, who killed himself three years ago at the age of nine, because he was bullied. That boy would be twelve today, and in the sixth grade. I told him that I could not tolerate my child being part of this horrible problem of bullying in this nation.
“Noah, you absolutely cannot be part of the problem, and it is a very big and very real and very wrong problem. You MUST be part of the solution. That kid that you picked on may not have very many friends, and what if you were the factor that pushes him to suicide – you don’t want to live with that kind of guilt. Every one of those kids that have killed themselves over bullying experienced someone who was part of the problem – the bully. You don’t want to be that person. You can be part of the solution. You can be his friend. We can never have too many friends.”
“You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.”
~ Jeffrey Benjamin
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Tuesday, April 24th marks six months that this amazing creature named Harrison has been in our lives. I can hardly believe that the time has passed so quickly! I mean, I used to look at Nicholas and Noah and think that, but I guess because it has been a long time since they were babies, I had forgotten just how quickly the time really does pass! I find myself stretching to remember tidbits of what life was like when the boys were babies, aside from the ever-present memories of the terrible reflux that they both had until they were 14 months old each. I am grateful every day as I watch Harrison grow stronger and happier, and less miserable as the reflux continues to diminish. And let’s think about it…the first few months with her were ROUGH! Poor girl was spitting up so much, changing formulas six times until we found the right one; I prayed regularly that she wouldn’t have to endure it until 14 months as well. When she started cereal at four months, she wasn’t very eager to use the spoon after the first time, so we did the thing that everyone says you aren’t supposed to do: we put it in her bottle. This only brought minimal relief to the puke party around here though. But when I started making her fresh veggie and fruit baby foods, she quickly got on board with the spoon, and soon was spitting up less and less. This may be no big deal to most people, but for us, watching our baby girl go from screaming and crying all the time to a happy, smiling one has brought daily joy to both of these mamas.
So now I sit and think that wow, she will be one year old in just another mere six months. No way! But alas, as I have witnessed with her brothers, time never stops and they are going to continue to grow, thrive, and learn. Right now she is like a little sponge, soaking up everything going on around her. She loves our daily walks/jogs in the stroller, taking in all of the goings-on around our neighborhood: cars, trees, birds, dogs barking. There’s just so much to see and hear! We are trying to teach her baby sign language, a few signs at a time, and have discussed that now is the perfect time for her (and US, too, for that matter) to learn Spanish. The advantage to being a sponge is that you can soak up so many things at once! We plan to start teaching her swimming this summer, since infants can learn what to do fairly quickly when put into the water. Noah was 18 months when I put him in Infant Aquatic Survival lessons, and it took about eight weeks before he could “fall” into a pool fully dressed and swim the length of the pool to get himself out. It is amazing to watch how much they can do when they are not hindered by fear! I also want to put her into baby Gym Kids, just to get her out and around other babies, doing some constructive motion while having fun. I also try to watch, however, the amount of arguing that goes on in front of her – from all of us, with each other. I tell Noah that she is always learning and always watching, so he should always try to be a good example to her. This can usually turn an attitude around for him, because he always wants for her to look up to him and to love him the way that she does now. It’s also a good reminder for me to watch my tone in front of her, since I have a tendency to get loud when I am irritated (as well as using words that I certainly hope that she doesn’t soak up as our tiny, baby sponge). I will soon have to start censoring myself better in the car with her, just like I do when Noah is in the car; I would hate to hear some of the things that come out in the car come out of this beautiful baby girl’s mouth!
The adoption will also be proceeding very soon, and I will be giving updates along the way. My goal is to definitely have it all completed well before she is one year old – it’s just a matter of getting everything done (and getting the money to do it!). So while six months have already come and gone, we have much to look forward to in the next six months…and beyond!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So here we go. Harrison is almost six months already. (Can you BELIEVE that???) Once she has been in my residence for six months, I can legally adopt her. In case you don’t already know, this is a huge thorn in my side; a thorn that creates an anger within me that just boils until my face is red and flushed. As we have already established, Harrison is my daughter. Erikka birthed her, and together we are raising her. But yes, because we live where we live, in a state that has determined that THEY can decide what and who constitutes a family, I have to go through the process of second-parent adoption to legally be my daughter’s parent. Ridiculous. Stupid. Maddening. UNFAIR. I guess what really gets me is this: if the courts do not grant this adoption, I can never try it again; but it changes nothing in our home. I will still live here. Harrison will still live here. She will continue to always and forever be my daughter. It will only mean that legally, as her parent, I will be screwed. So I have to do whatever I can, as soon as I can, to ensure that we have the solidifying legal paperwork in place so that I can always protect her to the best of my ability as her non-biological mama.
The first step, of course, is paperwork. My BFF, Kim (aka Auntie Kim to our Harrison), is the attorney who will be taking care of our adoption, as well as some other friends who are in our same situation. She emailed me the paperwork that we all have to fill out, no matter if we are BFFs or not. I printed out the five-page Adoption Intake Sheet, and will fill it out and get it back to her with the necessary documents and payment. Another one of the reasons that I get so angry when approaching the matter: all of the money that I, and many other couples such as us, will have to shell out to adopt their own children (now taking donations, by the way). Fathers are automatically given the title of parent at birth, even though they don’t actually give birth, without having to adopt their own children. It is SO NOT fair. So back to the paperwork.
The first question asks if it is a step-parent adoption or a second-parent adoption. I’m not sure how different these two really are, but this is why I am not an attorney – I am just surrounded by them! It then launches into my name, relationship to the child, blah blah blah. It asks for the name of the adoptive father, if applicable, name of adoptive mother (where I suppose I put all of my information again). Then comes the information about the biological mother, and asks if she has received or been promised financial assistance in connection with her pregnancy, birth, or adoption placement. Yes, I totally paid Erikka to adopt this baby. Pbftttt. I’m still trying to figure out how to pay what I actually DO have to pay to adopt her! It then moves on to the marital status of the biological mother – but do I say that she is single or married? We are married in Connecticut and all of the other states that recognize it. But in Texas, where the adoption is taking place, we are considered unmarried. See how ridiculous it gets when some states recognize marriage and others do not?? Do I say that she is divorced, since technically she is? And where it asks for former spouse name, do I have to include that guy??
Then it moves on to biological father, if known. Since we used a donor, do I just put his donor number in that blank?? We have to say why Erikka will not identify the “father’s” name. I have to say that no, Erikka was not married to the donor, and no, there is not a paternity suit in process. I have to also say that Harrison never lived with the donor, and he has never contributed to her support. Then it finally gets to Harrison, with information about her “current name,” date of birth, who she lives with and where, and if her name will be changed. That’s pretty much the end of the intake form.
The documents that are required to accompany this form include Harrison’s birth certificate, our marriage certificate, and any documents showing the biological father has relinquished rights. Do we even have that? When you use donor sperm and do artificial insemination, do they provide us with a form that says that he has no rights whatsoever? It is so confusing.
And have I mentioned, it is SO ridiculous?
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
I’ve had some writer’s block lately. Not sure why. Perhaps it is all of the many directions that my life is constantly moving in between. Let’s see. What has been going on around here?
Noah is doing better in school finally, and is enjoying the reactions that he has been receiving from moms, dad, grandma, and teachers. He has gained limited television access back, on weekends only, and has provisionally gained his guitar back (that he got for his birthday recently). Harrison is eating all kinds of foods now, foods that I totally enjoy making for her in our awesome Baby Bullet; consequently, she is spitting up a whole lot less, too! She is trying so hard to sit by herself, to crawl (which she kind of does, in reverse), and be mobile. She has found the uppermost octaves of her voice, and sits around squealing until we feel the piercing deep within our brains. She has two teeth that are trying so hard to sprout out of those tiny pink gums, and for something so small, they are making all of us miserable. Nicholas, as you remember, left for Navy basic training on March 1st. After a short time there, ten days maybe, he experienced an episode that sent him to a hospital via ambulance. It was deemed by the doctors to be a severe panic attack, and he was then monitored by medical personnel for a week or so before being sent home. He came home struggling with negative feelings regarding the whole experience, but arrived back to friends and family with nothing but support and love for him – after all, the military isn’t for everyone, right? We are so proud of him for the very fact that he left his comfort zone to even attempt it, because it is more than many will ever even consider. Erikka has been back at work for about three months now, and loves being a mommy to our beautiful baby girl. And me? I am here, taking care of the baby during the day, trying my damndest to get ahead of housework – which never happens. The cleaning is always lacking, the laundry never seems to be complete, and there is always more to do. On top of all of the things that I need to be doing, I am still taking photography jobs here and there, as well as an ever-growing salsa business and a budding cupcake one! I have done a few catering gigs with my friend’s catering company, which is fun, hard work that is great for some extra money. There is so much that I want to do, and so many places that I want to go – I miss traveling. We found out this past Easter weekend that traveling with an infant, even for just two days and one overnight, is an ORDEAL. The cargo area of my Jeep Grand Cherokee was packed to the roof almost, and most of it was baby crap! Pack-n-Play, Bumbo, bath seat, big diaper bag, small diaper bag, small cooler with baby food and water, grocery bag with can of formula, bottles, spoons, etc., Easter baskets; and then there was all of our stuff still! The thought of going somewhere for a week with the kids….oh wow. But I do look forward to the day when she is a little bigger, will need less stuff, and we can take the kids to Disney World and beyond.
All in all, we are busy, busy all the time. But I don’t think that we’re ever too busy to appreciate this life that we have, and stay grateful for the family that we have built. In a world where we are constantly hearing about breakups, among both our gay and straight friends and family, I am ever thankful for my wife and all of our awesome children – even the one that doesn’t live with us anymore.