Perhaps I write stories about events and experiences every week, but don’t follow up well enough regarding the outcomes. At least that’s what I’m sensing lately, what with readers sending me private messages (more of them in the last few months for some reason) and asking me, sometimes begging me, to tell them how this turned out or how that is going. So I’m going to use this time to tie up some loose ends that I may have left hanging out in the blogosphere.
I wrote a while back about how I had gained some weight (I lovingly call it baby fat) in the last six years (my oldest son is six), which was difficult for me to swallow, unlike Krispie Kremes, which are not difficult. I started training and competing in triathlons and endurance events way back in 1979, so for twenty-nine years straight I was able to eat anything and not worry about gaining weight. I was a mean lean 150 pounds. Then came our first child, followed eight months later by our second child, and the perfect storm took over my body. I was training way less, eating way more and way worse, and sleeping less, which theoretically promotes weight gain. This was happening to a guy approaching 50 (whose metabolism has taken a nosedive) who also has obesity in his genetic makeup. Let’s just say that at least half of my ancestors do not resemble stick figures.
Today I’m at 170 pounds, unable to run shirtless on the bike path, unable to fit into my favorite outfits. I’ve worn pants with buttons that have popped off or fasteners that have failed, using a belt to hold it all together. I wear loose clothing, leave my Speedos home when going to the beach, and make love in dark (or very dim lit) rooms. It’s pretty pathetic. I wrote over a year ago about losing weight being way up top on my list of New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote about the many ways I would work hard to lose the weight in a slow and sustained manner, and I resolved to get right back down to my 150-pound race weight.
That never happened. But life happened. Son number three happened. Being the consummate optimist, however, I sit here in July of 2013 and still believe that I can get back to my race weight of 150 pounds. Just twenty pounds. I’ve begun to cut out the unhealthy fat-laden foods. I’m trying to exercise more. I’m trying to eat fewer calories. Give me strength. I’ve been here before, talking the talk without walking the walk, and I’ve failed. All I can do is hope that this time I won’t fail.
I wrote last year about the conflict we were having with our home. Should we move to a bigger house away from the beach, or stay put and try to make it work here. We love our location by the beach in Santa Monica, but who’s to say that we wouldn’t be happy somewhere in the valley, where we could have more rooms, an even bigger yard, and maybe even a pool. It would take lots of cash to fix up our place, and where do we start? Everything needs attention, updating, and fixing.
We decided then that, for now, we would stay at the beach. And we’ve made great strides towards upgrading. Out with the old rotted picket fence surrounding our property, and in with a sleek sexy horizontal wood fence. We converted our garage to an office/gym, which theoretically should help me with my weight-loss efforts. Our office in the house is converted to our guest room (and our most frequent guest — frequent being every weekend so that Daddy and Papa can have Saturday date night — is our surrogate/friend). Our old guest room is in the process of converting to our eldest two sons’ room, complete with two bunk beds with desks underneath, new furniture, and plenty of storage bins so that toys can stay our of sight. And the room our two eldest sons have inhabited since birth, which is attached to our master suite upstairs, will now become our youngest son’s room. We’ve had every hardwood floor in the house refinished, and we’ve repainted the entire downstairs. We’ve had window shades installed downstairs.
Yes we still have to paint and change the carpet upstairs, landscape the front and back yards, paint the outside of the house, purge all of the junk that has collected in the last twenty years, and finally get a mind-blowing tree house built for the boys. But we feel so pleased in the progress we’ve made and the way everything looks. It feels like we have a new house in the best location. We’re happy. We still check out open houses on occasion, however. It’s good to keep our eyes open.
Sometimes Alen and I just look at each other, shake our heads and just say “Life. Wow”. Because you can have a plan and the best intentions, but then life will throw you a curve ball: a son with tonsillitis (it’s happening now), a son who won’t eat vegetables (we have one), etc. The best plan is to work toward your goals, giving it all you got, but be willing to change course and adapt to current conditions as they happen. And so I will continue to work hard, until I’m in shape and living in my dream home, cooking vegetables for my healthy sons. Or die trying.
Then, and only then, will we entertain the thought of adding rooms to our house and a dog or two to our life. And putting in a pool.
And building a guesthouse. And buying some artwork. And rehabbing our kitchen, so I can have a nicer place to avoid.
We finally returned from two weeks of “vacation” in Puerto Rico, and it felt good to have my feet on the mainland. It had been a rough go, what with a sick infant and a sick toddler and a sick daddy, but overall we made the best of it and had a good time, despite the monsoon rain showers, sunburn, and high cost of everything. The important thing was that the kids had fun. So what that Daddy and Papa never got a single second to themselves. It doesn’t matter that Daddy hasn’t felt this sleep-deprived since the baby was two months old. There was a pool and an ocean there, and that equals fun for our boys. Well, that plus plain penne with Parmesan cheese on the side for every single meal. I don’t think I saw a single vegetable the entire trip. We’re usually pretty good about vegetables, but these were desperate times and we just needed to keep our sons fed and hydrated so that we could just get them back home alive.
We arrived home to a house that was completely empty on the first floor, except for refinished hardwood floors (that looked awesome) and repainted floors, cabinets and ceilings. The paint job left a lot to be desired. Missing paint in some places; too much paint in others. Ruined window treatments and a missing toilet paper holder rounded out the disappointment.
I had to keep remembering to breathe as I began to realize, now that we were back to reality, what was ahead of me. The next seven or eight weeks of summer vacation (okay, 52 days but who’s counting?) has been billed by Daddy as the mother of all summer fun (AKA Camp Daddy), but how could I start taking the boys to this beach and that hike, this play date and that movie, when I have an almost impossible to-do list staring me in the face? With a storage POD full of furniture and boxes waiting to be unpacked and gently placed back onto the perfectly unscratched floor, an eight-month old (who currently insists that if Daddy is in the vicinity then Daddy should be holding him) really puts me at a disadvantage. I have not yet learned how to unpack boxes with my feet.
As if the unpacking isn’t enough, I still have tax returns to finish, thanks to an extension we got prior to leaving on our trip. Maybe if I have a second I can read up on the changes that will be happening, thanks to the recent demise of DOMA.
I immediately did 8 loads of laundry upon our return, but I still have a crusty minivan that needs cleaning at the car wash as well as routine maintenance at the dealership. We had Devin’s epic 6th birthday party before we left, but we’ve only opened five of the seventy or so wrapped gifts that remain in our garage.
Friends have been calling for play dates, and I’ve been postponing. I’ve been trying to pay some bills but some will be late. And of course, as always, there are nails to trim.
Home renovations need to continue, since we are on a roll. The upstairs needs carpeting replaced and paint applied, so we will be clearing out that level next. We need new bunk beds for the boys, and we need to assemble the guest room’s IKEA sofa bed that sits in a box just outside the back door. Anyone who has ever bought IKEA realizes that I have just lost a day of my life from that purchase alone.
I’m going to completely ignore the fact that I have hardly worked out in the last three weeks. Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, I’ve been gently encouraged by my husband to start the P90X home videos that we have waiting for me in our home gym. Something, anything, to work off the baby fat that has accumulated on my bod in the last six years – fat that has catapulted me from my race weight of 150 pounds to my current too-much-on-my-plate weight of 170 pounds.
Groceries, doctor’s appointments, swim lessons. Managing investment property, going to the park, writing. I’m going to keep my cool, maintain my composure. For my sanity, as well as my family’s. And that’s just how I roll.
By: John Jericiau
As it has every year near the end of May, my mind wanders to the sad event that happened to me just over 9 years ago. To remind those that have read my blog in the past, and to get the rest of you up to speed, here’s a brief synopsis. I tried adoption as a single guy. My biological clock was ticking, and I was done waiting around for Mr. Right. After completing all the requirements, I was chosen for fatherhood by a young attractive girl when she was four months pregnant, and for the next five months we became emotionally and financially entwined, our long distance relationship strengthened by the intense phone conversations we would have every three days or so.
Just before she was slated to fly to California for the birth, my new son decided to make his debut in the world a couple of time zones away. But as she had promised, there she was a few days later, hobbling off the plane at LAX with a brand new beautiful baby boy (I expected nothing less from her!), plus a brand new boyfriend (him I did not expect!). After changing my son’s diaper on the floor of the bathroom at LAX, we were off to Santa Monica where she (and the boyfriend) could wait out the 48 hours before signing the relinquishment papers, while my son and I could go home and get started on our new life.
It turns out that as I was in heaven changing diapers, feeding, and burping my son, my friend the birthmother was going through hell from the pain of separation from her son. At the 24-hour mark, the party was over for me. She had called the social worker and said she wanted to return home right then and there with my/her son. Of course, I was devastated beyond belief, and I asked the social worker but was denied any further contact with my best friend of the last five months. I guess I thought maybe I could talk her out of it. No one besides me thought that was a great idea.
Of course, I spent the next who knows how long second-guessing my words and actions of the last five months. Should I have given her more money? Should I have put her up at a better hotel? Should I have let her name my/her son? Was it because I was gay? Was it because I was single but casually dating someone who I let her meet?
There was no one to answer these questions. I had no choice but to move on and hope that someone was looking out for me. And indeed someone was. Flash forward nine years and here I am on a family vacation in Puerto Rico with a husband I adore and three sons I cherish. I met my husband only a couple of weeks after the devastating event; something that I’m fairly certain wouldn’t have happened had the adoption gone through. And without this incredible man, I would not be sitting here with the three boys whose umbilical cords I cut, whose butts I wiped (and still wipe), and whose lips I kiss every night after we say our I love you’s.
Still, I’ve been having the dialogue with myself every year.
“I wonder how he is doing.”
“I would have a 9-year old son now.”
“Where are they living now?”
So imagine my surprise when, just the other day, I was checking my Facebook account on my iPhone, and up pops a friend request from the birthmother. I stared at it for quite a while, just to be sure that I was actually remembering her name correctly. Once I was sure, I clicked on ACCEPT. And I waited.
Okay, I only waited 15 minutes, and then I sent a personal message directly to her.
“Hi! I was surprised to get your Facebook request. It’s been a long time. Just over 9 years. To cut right to the chase, how is he doing?”
Of course, we both know about whom I’m talking.
“Hi John, I was a little hesitant to send it and wasn’t sure if you’d accept. He’s doing ok, he has Asperghers Syndrome. He was diagnosed at 2. He”s functioning much better then they thought he would. There are a few pics of him in my photos.”
I felt my chin drop to the floor. Asperger’s Syndrome is one of a group of neurological disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Asperger’s is considered to be on the mild end of the spectrum. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulty primarily in three areas:
• social interaction
• engaging in repetitive behavior
• rigidity in thinking and a focus on rules and routines
Since our next-door neighbor has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, I was well aware of the difficulties that can arise in activities of daily living. I had always been so thankful that my three boys had been spared that syndrome (although it’s still young and I guess anything can happen.)
Is that him? Cool name (although Ryan is cool too but I understand why you changed it). I’m not mad or upset with you, but at the time it was as if someone tore my heart out. I’m happy now with THREE boys: Devin, 6 yrs old, Dylan, 5 years old, and Dustin, 7 months old. Check out their pics on FB.
She ended up changing his name, or I guess I should just say naming him (since he was only called Ryan by me for one day) something similar to Ryan. I always wondered about that.
Yes that’s him I know and I’m so sorry that happend. I wanted to contact you so many times to apologize but wasn’t sure exactly what to say. I felt so bad about it all that I almost called you to come get him but I couldn’t. The boys are so handsome, congratulations.They look so happy.
If I had known at the time that she was so close to calling me, I might have taken some drastic steps to get in touch with or find her.
Thanks! I was at the pediatrician appointment when the social worker called me. It was a shock but I’m enjoying our boys so much. I guess it was meant to be. Don’t feel bad another second. He was your son and meant to be with you.
I guess you are not with that guy who came to LA with you?
I didn’t like that guy and I always imagined that it didn’t last long.
I think my mistake was thinking that I could spend that much time with him and still go through with parenting. I’m now with an amazing man, and I moved.
That’s good for her and her son.
That’s awesome! Congrats! Looks like he enjoys fishing with your amazing man. How is he doing in school?
Obviously, I’m curious.
The fishing pics are actually my amazing man’s 12 year-old son Dustin. And my son is doing really good in school. He does very well in any structured settings but gets pretty uncontrollable if anything goes awry.
Wait, are you telling me that both her and I have sons named Dustin?
Btw I read a few of your blogs. Great job !!!
If you get around to reading this one, my friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out. I can honestly say that I have closure. And for that I am forever grateful.
My editor probably thinks that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but I haven’t. Just the face of the continental United States. My family and I are right in the middle of a two-week vacation in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico. My parents lived here for five years in the late 90’s, but I haven’t been here for vacation since my Grandmother brought my family and I here when I was in sixth grade. New Yorkers love to go to the Caribbean for vacation.
We had planned on making it a tradition to go on vacation for the two weeks after the boys get out of school for the summer, especially since the success of last year’s Costa Rica vacation. I wish I had more time to plan it, however. Being the event planner, I felt a lot of pressure to live up to last year’s trip. Unfortunately, it seemed like time hit the acceleration pedal around the beginning of May, and before I knew it we were just a few weeks away from our intended departure date. Once you throw in kindergarten graduation, preschool graduation, and a teething infant, time is just sucked out of the day.
To add to the pressure, we decided at the last minute to have some needed home renovations done while we were out of the house, including refinishing our first floor hardwood floors and painting. The contractors of this work thought it would be best if all of our furniture were out of the house, so I rented a POD storage system that could hold all of our first floor belongings.
The day before leaving on our trip, while the boys were enjoying separate play dates at nearby parks, I drove to a nearby area where day laborers congregate and wait for people like me to drive up and ask them for help. Luis and Rodrigo were more than happy to take me up on my offer of $40 each to do the furniture transfer. I thought I had everything set to make their job simple, but I found myself frantically boxing up things and emptying furniture that was too heavy, pulling out wires and feeding two men, until we finished three and a half hours later and me $200 poorer. All of us were fatigued to the bone.
Twenty-four hours later, while waiting for the taxi to arrive, I’m still packing that POD with last minute things, like a microwave, chairs, and kids’ toys, while also packing our four suitcases, three carry ons, a stroller and a car seat, while also preparing our three sons for a redeye flight to Miami and then to San Juan. Apparently my husband had some last minute paperwork to do, having just arrived home from a business trip the night before (in time for a date night that we fit in to celebrate our 9-year anniversary which had gone uncelebrated the week before), because he was MIA until the taxi arrived to take us to LAX for that flight to MIA.
Luckily my 7-month old infant-in-lap and I had a good five-hour stretch of solid sleep, and the other boys did pretty well too. Our connecting flight had problems, however, when we found ourselves heading right back to Miami soon after reaching cruising altitude, due to the heart attack in row 37.
We finally made it just in time to check in at our hotel, the four star Ritz Carlton planted right on the coast in San Juan. We had a great view of the ocean from nine stories in the air, but I was underwhelmed with the room, the kid’s club, and the pool. The airport was only five minutes away, but that made the area more industrial than hip. Other areas fifteen minutes away, like gay friendly Condado Beach, were much more up our alley. With a little research time, I would have known that.
Nevertheless, the boys are having a fantastic time. They love the beach, the pool, the hotel room experience, and all their new friends. They wouldn’t know that a hot dog at the pool costs $12, that our little hotel room leaves no time for Daddy-Papa time, and that they are not actually in the kid’s club due to the $170 extra charge per day required for that privilege.
We are half way through this adventure, however, so Alen and I thought we could bite the bullet and make it for one more week, but now we’re not so sure. Baby Dustin has come down with his first bad cold, complete with high fever and congestion. Devin, our oldest beach boy, is suffering from an ear ailment, probably due to the high number of flips and cannonballs he has performed at the pool that is shared by many other kids of all ages. And Dylan, who is never sick, has a hacking cough and slight fever. All three were up last night sucking down Motrin, changing wet pajamas, and begging for a cup (or bottle) of cold water.
I’ve got some congestion and a sore throat now, but Alen is feeling good, gambling in the casino on the first floor. All the boys are sound asleep, well except for Dustin who just coughed himself awake in time for his next dose of Motrin, and Devin, who just told me he vomited in his sheets. In-between writing, tending to my sons, and channel surfing, I am already researching for next year’s adventure, and I might have found the perfect one. I think it’s called a staycation. All the comforts of home, because you are home. Sounds right up my alley.
Just a few days ago our idyllic beach town experienced tragedy that in the past we had only read about or saw in the news when it happened “somewhere else.” And the proximity of the event in relation to our home, our neighborhood, and our life is too scary for words, but I’ll try anyway.
This particular day was within a week of the end of the school year for both boys. After school activities had wrapped up for the year earlier in the week, so Dylan would need to be picked up from preschool (two blocks from the house) at 11:30am, and Devin would need to be picked up from kindergarten at 1:30pm.
After picking up Dylan and yapping it up with the other parents about vacation plans and kindergarten plans and how are we going to make it through the summer, Dylan and I jumped in the minivan. I decided that since President Obama was arriving at any moment for a lunchtime fundraiser at a home which happened to be very close to Devin’s kindergarten on the northeast side of Santa Monica (while the preschool and our house are more on the southwest side), I would immediately drive up to the kindergarten neighborhood. Previous visits by Obama and other presidents produce gridlock of epic proportions in Los Angeles, especially here on the Westside, and I didn’t want to be late for Devin’s pickup, so I took no chances.
I almost drove right past Santa Monica College to get to our lunch spot, but decided at the last second to head for another eatery even closer to Devin’s kindergarten than my first choice.
It ended up being a good choice. At around noon, the events unfolded something like this:
At 11:52 a.m. Friday, residents of a quiet neighborhood on the northeast side of Santa Monica reported hearing gunshots. Eyewitnesses saw a man in all black, wearing an ammunition belt and holding a semiautomatic rifle, standing outside a home engulfed in flames. Firefighters later found the bodies of two men inside the home, bodies that ended up being the perpetrator’s own dad and brother.
The gunman then accosted the driver of a Mazda hatchback, got in the car and told her to drive him to Santa Monica College. The gunman fired several rounds at random into the neighborhood with the semiautomatic rifle. Nearby, the gunman fired on a city bus from front to back, shattering windows. Passengers dived to the floor for cover. Two passengers were injured, treated at local hospitals and released.
At a parking lot at 20th and Pearl streets (our house is essentially at 7th and Pearl, and I was heading up Pearl before deciding otherwise) the suspect fired at a red Ford Explorer, hitting the driver, who died at the scene. A passenger in that vehicle later died.
Campus police intercepted the gunman on the edge of campus and exchanged gunfire with him. They continued to trade shots as the man ran toward the school’s library and shot a woman outside the building’s entrance before disappearing inside.
The woman outside the library later died at a hospital.
Inside the library, a group of people hid inside a “safe room” when they heard or saw the shooter coming. The group barricaded the door with materials found inside the room and dodged bullets the gunman fired through the drywall.
Three police officers chased down and shot at the shooter. He died of multiple gunshot wounds.
There are two handfuls of public elementary schools located in Santa Monica, a couple of which are located a stone’s throw from the areas where the tragedies took place. The district took the wise step of putting every single school in Santa Monica on lockdown, a word that by now has become a part of the vernacular of most kids in this country, including my own kindergartener. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear him say lockdown for a couple of hours, because lockdown means no one gets out and no one goes in.
As a crowd grew in front of Devin’s school, one filled with parents who were just as eager as I was to hug their children and get them home, helicopters flew overhead and police cars with loud sirens zoomed by, adding to the surrealism of the situation. At one point all traffic came to a screeching halt right in front of our school as Obama’s motorcade passed by. Really? Today?
At that moment I felt some anxiety building up inside of me, but I had to keep my preschool son calm, which wasn’t difficult since he was pretty much oblivious to the whole situation. We began to receive text messages from inside the school saying all the kids were fine, and robo-calls from the district with warnings that the perpetrator had not yet been subdued and that the situation was definitely a dangerous, ongoing one. I was hesitant to leave the school area and my son, but since my preschooler was aching for a restroom, and I needed to feed my almost 7-month old, I retreated with another parent back to her nearby home until we received word that all was clear.
It wasn’t too long before we got that word. We practically ran back to school, and all I wanted to do was grab Devin and get back to the safety of our own home.
“Can you believe we were on lockdown, Daddy?!? Obama was nearby, so they put us all on lockdown.”
I kept all the TVs off when were all finally safe under one roof, and quickly things returned to normal. To this day my sons remain oblivious to any tragedies that have occurred around our town or even the nation for that matter, and I’m happy about that. But I know that one day they will understand when the next Newtown or Columbine or Seal Beach happens, and their innocence will be destroyed forever. And that makes me very sad.
By John Jericiau
We just returned from seeing Before Midnight as our date night movie, right after Thai food and a Thai massage. This movie sounded good on paper, but I didn’t find it all that.
Nine years after Before Sunset, their highly-regarded sequel to Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater reteamed with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, which finds their characters together raising twin daughters. Jesse (Hawke) attempts to maintain a relationship with Hank, his teenage son from his first marriage, but their bond is strained even though Hank has just spent the summer with his dad and stepfamily. Meanwhile, Celine (Delpy) must make a difficult decision about her career.
Almost the entire movie is spent watching the two main characters, together for years now, banter back and forth, trying to one-up the other with clever words (Ethan Hawke’s character is a writer, and as I know, sometimes the words in a writer’s head slip out of the writer’s mouth instead of out of the writer’s hand.)
But this is not a movie review piece, or it least I didn’t mean for it to be. What happened in my mind as I watched this movie in our reserved stadium seats with a large popcorn and large diet Coke is that I spent most of the movie waiting. Just waiting for something to happen. The opening scene lasted about 10 minutes as we watched through the car windshield as the main characters talked back and forth while the twin girls were asleep in the back seat during a very long and windy trip in the countryside from the airport back to town. I sat with my mouth shut, not wanting to ruin my husband’s experience by telling him how sure I was that something awful was about to this family. I waited for the car to careen off the rocky cliff. I anticipated the head-on collision each time an oncoming car came toward them. I expected the terrorists to show up, kill the mother, beat up Ethan Hawke, and kidnap the beautiful twins that Ethan would try to rescue for the remainder of the movie.
But nothing happened! They talked their way through the movie, ending with clever words as quickly as it started. And I realized just how jaded I have become. All of the movies I’ve seen, all the news I read, all the Nancy Grace I watch – all of it has affected me in a very dark way. My expectation of tragedy has percolated into my daily life, especially as a father.
I worry about the kids. As they’re playing in the back yard, I listen from the kitchen (where I am barefoot) and wait for the scream of searing pain as one son bonks the other over the head with a newfound brick. If I hear a door slam, I wait for the sound of a finger to thump on the floor below, followed by the blood-curling scream of a 5 or 6-year old. And if I hear nothing at all, I peek outside the front yard and the street for a sex offender carrying my sons under each arm to his unmarked waiting car bound for Mexico. I worry when they’re at school. I keep alert for any phone calls from the school – I imagine that one of the boys “just disappeared after he walked out of the classroom to use the bathroom” or “he succumbed to injuries after the earthquake hit the school today.”
I worry about our parents. Between the two of us, Alen and I have four parents in their seventies: one who’s had a stroke brought on by chemotherapy treatments for cancer, one who just had a knee replaced, one who has diabetes, and one who had a hip replaced and cataract surgery in the same year. In my mind I can hear the constant countdown to the end, despite every attempt to silence it. No longer is it a question of IF something is going to happen, but WHEN. Where will we be in ten years, when they should be in their mid to late 80s? Odds are that things will be dramatically different.
I worry about the world. Plenty of natural disasters all around the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, blizzards, and floods. Lots of hatred and terrorism from our enemies. I’ve been prepared for the worst, ever since 2001 when I arrived home one morning after enjoying an early morning 50-mile bike ride before work. I sat down in front of the TV with my breakfast (two eggs and an English muffin) and was caught by surprise when I turned on the news just in time to see the World Trade Center, which my father helped build, fall into a heap of sadness.
As a family with two gay dads, we have to be even more vigilant. As more and more states recognize our relationship and force their people to recognize us too, whether by marriage equality laws or changes in the Boy Scout rules, I can’t help but worry that more hatred will come out of the woodwork and find its way right to my family. We have to plan vacations with safety in mind. We have to consider our surroundings every time we want to enjoy a “spontaneous” public display of affection. It gets old after a while, and I would be much more lackadaisical about it if it weren’t for our three sons. I hope that as we get older, our sons will understand that we did the best we could to balance safety and freedom in order to provide them with the best childhood possible. I really hope we can sit down in fifteen years and discuss all of this as a family. Unless, of course, my heart gives out before that.
By John Jericiau
On a good day I’m 5’10” tall and around 160 pounds. Not particularly big by any means. More of a runner’s build, with bigger legs like a cyclist and more of a chest like a swimmer. I guess that’s what 30 years of triathlon competition will do for you. Anyway I’ve done okay for what I’ve been given in life, although I was sized out of my first sport after high school graduation. While it seemed like nearly the entire football team sprouted over 6 feet tall in the course of our senior year, I was left in the under 6 feet crowd which made me search for another sport. Triathlon was it and I couldn’t be happier. No concussions in triathlons!
I ended up marrying a guy with identical measurements of height, weight, waist size, shoe size, etc. Convenient to say the least. Conventional wisdom might assume that as we grew our family, our offspring, particularly if they were boys, would be similar in stature to us. However, three boys later, and they’re turning out to be almost completely the opposite.
Okay, now Devin is adopted, so one wouldn’t have any expectations with him. And here he is turning 6 years old in a few days, and all signs put him significantly over 6 feet tall by age 18, which is so great, being that he really wants to be the next Kobe. I’d like to take some credit for his 6-pack abs that are taking shape, but unfortunately I can’t. He’s got great genes in the muscularity and looks department, but truth be told: they’re not our genes.
Dylan is a different story. Our big boy is barely over 5 years of age and is already tipping the scale at 70 pounds. He towers over most of his preschool classmates (and even a lot of Devin’s kindergarten class) by at least a foot. According to all the equations that allow you to predict adult height and weight by plugging in toddler height and weight, my son will be 6’5” when I watch him graduate from high school.
Whether I can take credit for his gigantic girth and humungous height is unknown, since Alen and I both threw our genes into the mix during the IVF procedure, which essentially randomized the XY chromosome and anonymously provided the DNA. Although some of Dylan’s other physical features might lead us to lean toward one of us over the other as the bio-dad, we both have some huge men in our genetic past, including my father as well as both brothers of Alen. Over the last five years, random people have made just as many comments about how much Dylan resembles me as they have about how much he looks like Alen.
Now it’s five years later and we are watching our third son develop.
“What is in the water in your house?” his doctor demands to know as she pokes and prods him at his 6-month appointment. “All three of your boys are large!” she gasps as she measures his head circumference (huge!), his length (long!), and his weight (above average). And again, due to our mutual donation of DNA, we have no idea which family tree to look at to predict the potential size of this apple that has fallen out of it.
While the riddle of the DNA has absolutely no effect on their upbringing, their size certainly does. And try as I might, sometimes I fail trying to keep up with their growth. First failure has to do with the groceries. I remember my Mom complaining to my brother and me all the time about how quickly the milk disappears, and years later here I am singing exactly the same tune. I buy many half gallons of nonfat milk at a time, but before I know it I’m nursing the last few drops of the last container into their cereal bowl because I just can’t make it to the grocery store every single day. Someone suggested trying a milk delivery system, but I haven’t had a chance to look into it.
Even worse than the milk problem is the clothes problem. They grow so fast that I cannot keep up with the increase in sizes. Baby Dustin flew out of the 0-3month bracket so fast that many of the cool outfits I had ready for him did not even make it on him. Dylan has shot to a size 10 pant literally overnight. It’s happened that I’ve squeezed him in pants and sent him happily on his way to preschool, only to find on his return home that he was unable to clasp them shut after a potty visit. And Devin always seems to be wearing shirts that show his bellybutton, while his waist has remained a size 4 for the last couple of years.
Organizing clothes and sifting through them to weed out the too-small items takes time. Time that I don’t have. So for now the dresser drawers are so stuffed with the old and the new that they can’t even close entirely. No child has ever died from stuffed dressers, so I let it go for now.
Most dire is the need for more space. Not so much the space in their room, although we are working right now to move them to a bigger room in our house. I’m talking about the room in their beds. For the past couple of months or more, neither Devin nor Dylan has been able to stretch out at night on their back. The size of the toddler bed necessitates that they if they want to sleep on their back they either have to sleep in a curved configuration or else crick their neck to one side or the other. I snapped this picture of Dylan the other night (even bright flash doesn’t wake them up) who I found getting some relief by pouring part of his body off the bed onto the floor.
Or maybe he was praying for that new bed. Or more milk.
Mother’s Day hasn’t been much of an issue for the first five years of the boys’ lives. They just started realizing in June of last year that they might want to make a Father’s Day card for their Daddy and Papa. Mother’s Day, on the other hand, snuck by them, hidden behind the big celebration of Devin’s May birthday. They were content saying Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and Alen’s mother, with no questions asked as to why they had no mother of their own. Last year they were on the same preschool campus (but different classrooms), and maybe all the teachers got together and decided to be overly sensitive about Mother’s Day, because besides coming home with an I Love You art project there was no mention of the holiday.
This year is a different story. Devin is in kindergarten, and Dylan is on the cusp. The same preschool teacher as last year is again being sensitive in the classroom with Dylan. They made an art project in class this week, and as classmates looked at Dylan’s masterpiece and saw Daddy & Papa written all over it, they asked about his mother. His teacher relayed his explanation to us.
“Everyone has a mother”, they would say to Dylan.
“Well, actually, my babysitter carried me in her tummy for my Daddy & Papa. I don’t have a Mom”, Dylan declared. “I have two dads!”
I must admit that I did have a ping of pain in my heart when I heard this, because I want things to be easy peasy for my boys as they go through life. Yes they have two loving fathers, but they don’t have something that almost everyone else has, and you know how kids (and adults) are when there’s something (anything) different.
Because I had such a great relationship with my own Mom, and because I grew up watching The Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, and The Munsters, where loving, caring Moms were central figures on the show, I have some sadness when I think about my boys being motherless. Yes we try and surround them with strong, loving women whenever possible. Women like our surrogate (aka the babysitter), our sister and sister-in-laws, our own mothers, and mothers of classmates and neighbors. But for our sons, especially the ones conceived through IVF, they don’t have a Mom. And thanks to the people at Hallmark, they’ll be reminded of it every May.
My oldest son is in kindergarten, and the festivities have ramped up. It goes beyond art projects this year. Now (well actually in about an hour from now), a Mother’s Day Luncheon will be held at the school. Devin had to wear a crisp white shirt and black pants as part of some surprise performance during the two-hour gala, and I’m invited. His teacher is so open and compassionate and all-inclusive, so the invitation from her several weeks ago was no surprise. Devin seems happy that I will be there, although when I picked him up yesterday from school he said he wanted to go tell the teacher something with me by his side.
“Teacher, my birthmother cannot make it to the luncheon, so my Daddy will be there!”
Devin knows his birthmother’s name, and that he was adopted, but we have not talked about her for a while, so this was out of left field. His birthmother lives nowhere near us, and is not an active part of his life, so her presence at this luncheon was never even a consideration. She wanted minimal contact with Devin, although if he ever wanted to contact her when he was older, we have her information. She did send a birthday card to him on his first and second birthdays, which pleased Daddy & Papa very much. A note in his second birthday card requested some pictures of Devin. I was more than happy to oblige, but I can still remember that as I was licking the envelope that would deliver to her two incredibly cute pictures of him, I thought to myself that she will love them but they may bring her some pain. I think I was right. We never heard from her again.
I’ve gotten to know most of the Moms from his class, some of them quite well, so I’m not expecting any sideways glances from them. It’s the classroom full of kids that I wonder about. I’ll be back with a report after the luncheon.
It was as if I had boobs and a dress. Besides being called Dad during the introductions, not a single child even thought twice when they saw me there with Devin. Every Mom was smiling, proud, and loving toward me, just as I had expected. And best of all, Devin gave me an unexpected hug in the middle of the lunch and whispered in my ear with a mischievous grin “Thanks for coming, Mommy.”
My son Devin is turning six years old this month, and I couldn’t be more proud. The calendar shows that there are about six more weeks of kindergarten left, and he seems ready for first grade. He’s reading and writing. He does his math homework. He’s learning Spanish (he’s already fluent in Armenian thanks to Papa and his side of the family.) While he tolerates his violin class, he really enjoys his karate class, his Glee class, his dance class, and his yoga class. He has progressed well in swim lessons, where now he can swim freestyle and backstroke across the entire pool. And yes, as I’m writing this I am realizing that he may be a tad bit overscheduled, but that’s a different story.
Above everything else, Devin seems to be in love with basketball. He’s hoping one day to be as good as “The Kobe”, but for now he plays in a league at our local YMCA, where we have a family membership. He has a strong desire to improve his game, and he has asked us to find him a basketball camp this summer. Although he is already enrolled in Camp Daddy, which will start promptly after school lets out and we return from our annual two-week summer vacation (the location of which is still being determined but last year was the first annual in Costa Rica), I think a one or two-week basketball camp might be really fun for him. A few of his friends have expressed interest as well. It’s not like there’s a lot of time in the summer break; school’s out June 11th but starts right up again on August 22nd.
So back to me being proud. It’s overflowing, bursting at the seams, and all that kind of stuff. He never ceases to amaze me, and I’m so thankful of the day that his birthmother, with six weeks left in her pregnancy, chose Alen and me to be his fathers. Our adoption journey had been a long and painful one, but for it to end with Devin in our lives made it so sweet.
Of course, our love for him is unconditional, and we constantly remind him of that fact. You say you want to be an actor instead of going to college? We will be supportive. You say you want to be a priest? We will start going to church. You say you’re gay? Let’s talk.
We want Devin’s life to be a smooth road, but let’s face it: the gay life can be filled with an above average number of potholes, especially if one has to spend most of it in the closet, where life becomes a string of lies that seem so real that even the liar starts to believe them.
Which brings me to Jason Collins. He’s the black professional basketball player that just made history by being the first athlete to come out of the closet while playing in one of America’s big sports. Martina Navratilova did it 32 years ago, but I guess tennis is not big enough. Ian Roberts, the incredibly big and incredibly macho professional Australian rugby player, did it in 1995, but I guess he’s not American. And Billy Bean (baseball) and John Amaechi (basketball) are two athletes who have come out, but they waited until they were safely retired before making their announcement.
Jason has twelve NBA seasons under his belt. He’s not even on a team roster for next year as of yet, since he is now a free agent, so he potentially has a lot to lose by coming out. But he has so much more to gain. The respect and admiration of millions of gay men and women around the world. A more stress-free life that naturally comes when the lies disappear. The knowledge that in all likelihood he is saving the lives of young athletes who are struggling themselves and need a role model to know they are okay being gay (and that it gets better, which was last year’s catchphrase.) Best of all is the freedom to be himself and love whomever he wants. Here’s hoping we hear wedding bells soon. And that he’s in a state that allows them to ring. And that Devin can, if he so desires, follow in his footsteps. Or The Kobe’s. Either way, Papa and I will be right there cheering him on. And loving him. So much.
Why make things more stressful than they have to be? I ask myself this question nearly each and every day, as I face the challenges of raising three sons. My three sons – how I love thee but oh how it might be the death of me.
I have always had to fight my natural tendency to procrastinate. Most people that know me might find that hard to believe (except for the editors of this blog who I apologize profusely to as the hours go by after deadline), but it’s true. If I’m faced with a challenge or project that’s difficult, boring, or time-consuming, and I feel the desire to put it off until another time come creeping into my head, I dive into the project head first and don’t come up for air until it’s all over. For example, we decided literally the night before to begin renovation on our garage the next morning. This garage, and its accumulation of 20 years of disaster, was filled to the brim and needed to be emptied. Literally without thinking I grabbed some items from the garage, placed them in our shed, and repeated until a couple of hours later it was empty. It felt so good to have completed the work. I try to remember this feeling so I can use it for motivation on the next project.
My housework and daily duties of daddyhood can be dull at times, so I try to use the feeling to push me through those activities too. I use it to empty the dishwasher, fold and put away the laundry (my least favorite job), and clean the turtle tanks (the boys have little turtles but pay almost no attention to them, so I’m stuck with their daily feeding and cleaning which I knew would happen and this is why I say no to a dog until they’re older.)
Some duties are not so bad, but I have learned to do them in advance to make my life easier. For example, to make the one hour pre-school morning easier (from wake up to out the door is about an hour), I will place the boys’ clothes in neat piles the night before, complete with underwear, socks, and the appropriate attire after a quick weather check on my iPhone. I will prepare the lunch box for my kindergartener as soon as it makes its way home empty, wet, and with a few crumbs, so that all I have to do in the morning is grab the box and stick it in the backpack, and then stick the backpack on my kindergartener. I will get the diaper bag of my five-month old restocked and ready for the next day and put it in its place in the minivan so it’s one less thing to think about in the foggy (brain) morning. I’ll put my keys on top of my wallet and these both go on my desk to be retrieved as I’m walking out the door.
I’ll even go as far as placing two empty cereal bowls and the accompanying spoons on the kitchen counter with two cups ready to be filled with their morning milk. I pack the minivan with all the necessary supplies, including karate wear, swim wear, a violin, yoga mats, water bottles, snacks, Spanish workbooks, and coupons to Yogurtland. I’m constantly checking supplies including the thickness of my wet wipes and the state of my diaper supply. The worst is to run out of diapers while on the road.
The boys don’t even notice the work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a single day, and my husband and friends get perhaps a slight rise from it. But this is not for any of them. This is for me, and it makes me happy.