Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beautiful Partnerships

Life is not always easy. There are ups and downs. Choosing to share your life with someone is a personal choice. and who you choose to share it with, even more difficult and more personal.

I cannot remember a time when I did not believe that same sex relationships were beautiful. Maybe it was the family I grew up in. I remember cousin H and his boyfriend, I remember cousin R. The older generation, the G siblings seemed just as excepting of them as any other relationship in our family. Maybe it was just my perception. But that is my memory from about the age of 5 on, sitting in Aunt F and Uncle H's back yard, being welcomed and welcoming others into the family.

It is very much how my Grandma B was. She was not judgmental. Very accepting and loving of people for who they are and what they were able to being to the table.

I chose a life partner who believes the same way I do. We believe, when finding love, sex/gender is not an issue.

One if my favorite memories of the kids, when they were little (Belle was 4 and Bob was 5), was a Sunday morning, J and I were trying to doze while the 4 were watching TV on our bed. Bob said to us, "Belle thinks that two girls can get married!" J and I simultaneously in our sleep blurted out, "she's right!" I added just not in the state of MD yet, but hopefully soon. They took it and moved on. You see it was 2006 and by then same sex marriage was legal in Massachusetts...we were hoping that Maryland wouldn't be far behind.

I have tried to take the opportunity to point out the beauty of relationships, healthy ones, whenever I can.

Recently, a friend from college received an award for his journalistic piece on DOMA. I was cuddling in bed with Bean and telling her about it. She said "mommy, I don't know why they make such a big deal about people who love people who are the same gender, it just makes it seem like they are different - but they aren't, they are the same, they just want to marry the people they love..."

How right she was, my heart filled with pride...it was so matter of fact for her, it upset her that people made a big deal.

And then this past Saturday night, as we were lighting candles to bring in the holiday of Shavuot, Belle was asking why I got to light 2 candles and the kids only 1.

J explained to her that girls light one before they are married for themselves, and two after- one for themselves and one for their husband. Without a split second of delay Belle said, "or wife!"

Two very amazingly proud mommy moments for me. They give me hope for the future and the feeling that with all the ups and downs of parenthood we are clearly doing something right.

I hope and pray that our four beautiful children will each find a life partner who loves them as much as their father loves me, who is able to bring out the best in them and who can support them in their life journey navigating through life's ups and downs and celebrating the beauty of all healthy relationships!

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Favorite Holiday

My favorite holiday used to be Passover, but that changed back in 2007. So for the past five years I have been trying to create new traditions for my "new favorite holiday," Shavuot. Shavuot starts 7 weeks after the first day of Passover. It tends to be a lesser known Jewish holiday - maybe because as a friend recently said it is after most of the learning during the school year is done, or maybe because only 7 weeks after all the work of passover another holiday is almost too much to think about.

5 years ago we made our way to Bethany Beach - we rented a house with NES (who was pregnant with L), her lovely husband M, and E who at the time was 16 months old. It was a testament to our friendship - can  you imagine 9 of us, in a 3 bedroom house for a week - two of the days being holidays with NO TV or electronics of any type. It is one of my favorite memories.

And then we did it again the next year! L was almost 6 months old and this time with 10 of us in one house

It is amazing to know we have people in our lives that we choose to spend time with and see benefits all around! I think that trip with Bob and L really began their love affair. This is one of my favorite pictures! (He wanted her to look at the camera).

Unfortunately in 2009 things got more difficult Bean got sick, and over the weekend of Shavuot we were in Vancouver and Seattle for J's Grandma's funeral. And we didn't get our "get-away." In 2010 while we got to cohabitate with NES and family we didn't get our "get-away" either. Rinse repeat 2011 sans the baby and snow - though we did get to spend a Shabbat at NES's home in November.

One of my favorite traditions from our Beach Shavuot was fondue, the boyz men didn't like it as much as NES and I, but they put up with us. So while we haven't gone away the past few years, we have brought a little bit of the beach memory/tradition to our home.

Gather 3 fondue pots, 7 children and 4 adults and you have my favorite ingredients for my new favorite holiday! For the past few years we have done just that.

Not going away has blessed us with the opportunity to add new friends to our tradition - we have welcomed  S and M and Little SJ. So make that 8 children and 6 adults.

And while it isn't a "get-away" it is nice to know that we have friends who "get" us, accept us and have helped create new traditions and memories for my new favorite holiday.

I look forward to Shavuot 2013 - when it is only a few days past Mother's day. Maybe we will "get-away" maybe we won't - but the Minhag has been set - fondue and friends are on the menu.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bouncing Bean and the Shabbat Bride

I know that often people portray themselves differently in different situations and children often behave one way at school/friend's homes and another at home. Sometimes this is positive and sometimes, not so much!

In our microcosm at SCentral this is true with 50% of our children. For Belle and Puppy, they are who they are where ever they are, what you see is what you get. But for Bob and Bean, I can tell you if I wasn't SURE the person was talking about my child I would think they had me terribly confused. 

It is most prevalent with Bean. She has always been - as I LOVINGLY call her a "$h!% disturber" - with our family, we say they are "messing" with people. I wrote this post about her almost 4 years ago exactly!  I could really just cut and paste the ENTIRE thing right here and change her age to 8 instead of 4!

She is often the most difficult kid in our house but at other times the most amazing helpful accommodating person in the world! It is hard for me to balance her two personalities often. 

Last year, when she was in first grade, her beloved teacher, Ms. H stopped me on the way up the walkway to school to tell me what a "pleasure it is to have her in class" and how she is "blessed" to have her...I love Ms. H - she really is a talented and loving teacher - she had Belle during one of her most difficult years and in my head it was almost like - she was getting rewarded with Bean after having Belle. Yes, it was totally in my head. Ms. H wrote in Bean's report card - "(Bean) is the most soft-spoken, quiet..." really can't tell you what else it said as there was no way they were talking about my child. People who are friends with our family laugh when I tell them that story, or people's perception of Bean at school...they know her, they have seen her in action - it blows them away.

I fear that we don't give her as much positive feedback as she deserves - I started writing this post on Thursday, the day of her "Kabbalat Shabbat" (welcoming the sabbath) program in her class....but yesterday, Saturday we had another family with 4 children come over for lunch and a play-date for the afternoon. That can be a separate post, but what was one of the most powerful things that came out of seeing a family that very much mirrored ours in many ways, was how their third interacted with the family.

They described a child very much like Bean (although we have not seen him that way when we observe him at school or at our home), and what the parents also described was how the other children don't give him the benefit of the doubt, "he will" or "he always"....

That is what happens to Bean. From all of us. She wants attention, any way she can get it - positive or negative. I need to be able to try to remember that - reward her amazing qualities and pay less attention to the "other stuff" to give her the praise she is able to get at school which probably does a lot to reinforce the positive behavior she shows.

But Thursday, at school - we watched her shine. We watched her in her element with her face beaming

and her truly being a leader in the class.

And I felt it inside. I really did - and non more proud than when J blessed her, as he does every Friday night...but this was different.

She is a gift. Her ability to move and dance the ways she does is a gift, 2 years in remission is a gift

This is the picture of her I hope to keep in my mind, the picture of her that I would prefer to present her as to other people, the picture of her that I hope to reinforce with all the positive things we can do. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Accentuate the Positive

As I alluded to in my previous post, things have been difficult. I know I can personally get hijacked by things like that...so I am trying to highlight some of the more positive things - not to hide my feelings or truth about what is going on, but to realize there is always a balance - and to truly appreciate all I have.

So in the midst of things going on with Puppy at school, his teachers keep telling me how they are so incredibly impressed with his cognitive abilities. I so love the kindergarten program at the school our children go to. It is a dual curriculum with Hebrew/Judaics and English/secular subjects. 

One amazing part of the curriculum that they have done year after year is the section about artists. This is our fourth time through kindergarten as parents, our fourth time through kindergarten with these two teachers - G'veret S and G'veret M, and each time I am more and more amazed by this lesson. 

They talk about artist like Yaacov AgamPablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, and Michelangelo to name a few. 

G'veret S brought me to the back of the class and said they were learning about Marc Chagall yesterday. One of the things they do is show them pictures of the paintings these amazing artist are known for. They talked about how sometimes artist look to others to gain inspiration and technique before they find what suites them best. The book had pictures from Chagall like: 
Puppy's response to the pictures was - "oh, he must have studied Picasso when he did cubism!"

G'veret S and G'veret M were VERY impressed. I am too. I am not artistic, I know nothing about art, really - if I have a question or need to know something I have Google and NES to educate me on the fly (I didn't know what cubism was - I had my friend Google help me!). But Puppy - he loves art, loves creating art, loves learning, loves to use what he learns. 

Time to accentuate the positive! To really appreciate the things that he is able to do so well, even during a time when things are difficult on other fronts. 

He is a great kid. Empathetic, loving, bright, cuddly, sweet and artistic to name a few. I know one of the reason art is so loved is that it helps us stop to take a moment to live in the moment and appreciate what the artist was thinking and doing in that moment...even how it might relate to us in this moment. 

Today I appreciate art a bit more, for helping me take a moment to appreciate all this amazing 6 year old has to offer and what a bright future he will have. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome the newest member of the family!

Back in December J and I spent a week without children! It was a great week. J and I had to work, and the kids had break. Lolo and Unc drove down on a Thursday night, stayed with us through Sat night when they drove the kids in our van up to my parents' home. The four of them juggled the four kids for the week.

The next weekend J and I went away to a bed and breakfast for New Years and met the kids and my parents back at our house on Sunday. It was the longest time we have been without our children in the almost 11 years at that time we had been parents.

Sometimes when couples do this they come back pregnant...or thinking about a baby. Not us. We decided we were going to adopt a dog!

I had said for years, "we aren't responsible enough for a dog." And at the time, we weren't! Our kids were young and we traveled often. But as te kids gave gotten older and we watched how they loved and were so good with J's parents' dog, Oliver. And then we heard about how great the kids were with Lolo's new puppy, Oliver....and my mind was set.

I set out in search for a rescue. A doodle of some sort, golden or lab. We researched breed, temperament, need for exercise, and mixes. Our preference was a goldendoodle f1b- 3 parts poodle, 1 part golden retriever.

While the family watched Cesar Millan ad nauseum, and J and I read books....(well J read and I skimmed), I filled out applications and forms and referrals. 

But each time we were next on the list, our names were passed over. We have 4 children, between 6 and 11. We didn't make a good forever family on paper. But we had made our decision, and worse yet, we had told our 4 children!

So I started researching breeders. Making sure we found one that wasn't a puppy mill or a backyard breeder...one who didn't cross more breeds than the two we wanted. One who did genetic testing on the parents and line for breed known issues. One who did temperament testing on the pups to match them with their homes.
And we found a breeder! And she helped match us with the perfect pup for us!!!

Meet Cooper (We have started taking pictures like he another child!):

Cooper right before he came to us

Cooper is HOME!

Cooper is home!
Cooper's first bath!

Cooper is getting bigger and VERY cuddly
Cooper and his kissing cousin!

Cooper and his favorite toy!
Here are his parents: 

Cooper's Dad - Pepper

Cooper's Mom - Fergie

Here is his litter:

Cooper's Litter
Cooper on Left (Gunner on right)

Cooper on Left (Gunner on right)