Category Archives: family

roadtripping

My son and I had a little adventure last weekend. We went to visit the grandparents in the country leaving J behind to do some seriously needed catch-up on her grading. I was initially unenthusiastic about the trip, but BG had been begging to see his grandparents for a couple of weeks, so when the opportunity arose, and when it was going to benefit my wife as well, I felt I shouldn’t pass it up. As is so often the case these days, my boy surprised me. He’s growing up, and with that he’s becoming so much more adaptable.

Leaving home and driving through wine country, Nick Drake played on the car’s stereo as we rounded curves and breathed in the first crisp of fall. The vineyards, even greener from our first rain of the season revealed only the slightest hint that soon they would change color. Between the backdrop of the vineyards and my steadfast attention to the road, I stole glimpses of my sleepy boy, his head lolling, his eyelids heavy, falling soundly asleep. His quiet snores soon offered another layer to Drake’s sleepy melodies.

For the first time in ages, I had a full hour to listen to music I wanted to hear and to think thoughts I wanted to think. Driving for me is therapeutic, and even though a good part of the drive consisted of some hairy California freeway driving, it was still just lovely to to be going somewhere. When he woke up, he alternated between “Car driving on street!” and “Going Grandpa Grandma’s house!” This boy was excited, and this enthusiasm was utterly contagious. I fed him car snacks of carrot chips and almonds. I let him finish my sparkling water. We were living on the wild side.

On our way there, my mom was finishing her teaching day, so we met up with her at a gas station before we headed into the foothills to their home. BG hugged and hugged his grandmother, and as we neared their house, my mom stopped at the post office and offered to let BG check the mail with her. He got to put letters in the slot, turn the key, and even bring the mail outside. He grinned broadly the whole time.

The time at the grandparents’ house itself was easy. BG got to visit the neighbor’s donkeys and goats. We took walks to see what was growing in the garden, and he stole not-yet-ripe strawberries, pointed out kale plants, admired the compost and the flowers. He lamented the broken “park swing”–a swing that had been attached to the branch of a huge oak tree twenty-five feet in the air from a single rope that allowed the swing to spin wildly and to swing wide and slow. On our last visit, the rope broke, and while no one was hurt, the swing now awaits Grandpa’s repairs.

The morning brought a visit to Great-Grandma’s, my 90-year-old grandmother. BG protested this visit, but as soon as we entered her warm mountain home, I swear he felt the same joy I did at visiting this home as a child. He kissed his great-grandmother and squealed when she brought out some toy cars for him to play with.

We also met up with my godmother, who has lived in Alaska for years, so that my mom could show off her grandson to her best friend. My godmother claims BG as her grandson too. He was blissfully unaware of our talk of birth and motherhood as he ate chicken and sweet potato fries.

On our way out the next day, BG and I were on our own getting ready as my parents had left for a football game. He helped me ready our bags, and off we went to see my brother and his one-year-old son. “No Baby Z,” my son chanted as we drove the hour to his house, but when we arrived, the boys shared snacks and played, pushing each other and otherwise being their toddler boy selves as my brother and I shared our challenges in our marriages, in our relationships with our father, in maintaining our selves as parents.

BG didn’t fall asleep quite so quickly on our way home. He was excited to discuss his visit. He recounted donkeys and gardens, Great-Grandma and her cars, Grandpa giving him icewater and making him eggs, Grandma letting him check the mail not just one day but two, driving in the car on the street. And soon he fell asleep as I traveled the freeway speeding ahead of the Sunday traffic thinking my own thoughts about the visit, a little sad that it was so short, that there never seems to be enough time with these people I love but so grateful my son has family, the sort of loving extended family that I knew growing up.

The boy continued to sleep as we made our way through the Carneros Valley (between Napa and Sonoma). I listened to Patty Griffin sing about lost spouses and making pies. I witnessed huge flocks of birds dipping in formation into the vineyards in a way they only do this time of year once the harvest is over and the vintners have left clusters on the vines. The birds dipped and swooped and flew in drunken patterns, high on the sugar of late-harvest Chardonnay. I smiled, falling in love once again with this place I call home because nothing compares to autumn in wine country.

Soon, through the rearview mirror, I watched my son slowly blink himself awake. He sipped his water and slowly looked around, and as he spied the vineyards, their leaves turning red and gold after our two short days away, he whispered sleepily, “Going home.”

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the post that was supposed to be about sperm donors

I have totally dropped the ball on this blogging every day commitment. The last week has been insane. So far, I have evaded the illness, but my wife and son are still only about 75% well.

I got the applications in, got the bare minimum of my work hours completed, and even hosted my dad with his brand new fiance (and a whole 24-hour’s notice) on Sunday.

I’ll hopefully join the sperm donor blog carnival here tomorrow, bringing up the rear. If not, I’ll hit it next time. I am just so, very tapped out.

I have to complain for a minute about my dad, though. My therapist has called him a sperm donor. I sort of take offense to that. I have more respect for our donor. At least he was selfless for a moment.

Here’s a little known fact: my own dad has not acknowledged my son’s birthday two years in a row. Oh, he was so excited about him during his first year. He came to visit a few times. It was really something else, considering he and I hadn’t spoken or seen one another in several years prior to the pregnancy. But then he missed BG’s first birthday (even though he had confirmed just a few days prior that he was coming–he had a church thing with a lady friend or something), and he ignored his second birthday entirely. I know it’s just a birthday, but it’s the damn principle. We’re an afterthought to him.

I think a lot of this ignoring of his grandson started when after about six months of not seeing my son, we ran into him at the hospital where we were meeting BG’s new cousin. BG had no idea who this man was who wanted to pick him up, and he was in the throes of stranger anxiety, so he cried. My dad got all bent out of shape and actually walked off in a huff. Yes he did. He walked off in a huff because an eleven-month-old child didn’t throw himself at him after not seeing him for six months. Oy.After that, in my dad’s mind, he had a reason not to follow through. The kid didn’t like him anymore, so he didn’t have to put in any effort. It’s just too much work for him to connect with his first grandchild (just as it’s too much work for him to connect with his first child). Life can’t be all about him when he’s around a young child, and that just doesn’t work out so well for him.

Oh, but he came for a visit yesterday, and he wanted me to meet his fiance whom he’s been dating for a few weeks (so lesbian of them). I found out about this engagement on his facebook announcement. They both insisted that J and BG and I come to their big church wedding. She said, “We want all of our kids there since we’re all going to be one big family now!”

Ha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha.

I have never been more than a distant relative to my dad, and in recent years, well, my readers know me far better than this man does. This lady is a little bit disillusioned–or my dad has given her a whole different picture of who we are to one another. I’ll tell you this: I don’t see myself sitting around a Thanksgiving table with her five kids and their multitude of children and my deadbeat, live-at-home and play computer games, 29-year-old half-brother. Okay, so my other brother would be there, with his sweet little boy and his wife, but I can see them elsewhere, which is what I plan to do because this whole big merged family thing is a joke to me, a really sick and sligtly sad joke.

I’m so tired of being expected to fake my way through a relationship with my dad.

My wife wishes I would cut him out permanently, but he’s family (sort of), and I have a hard time doing that with family. He did, after all, teach me how to drive. But that’s really what I’ve gotten from him. I have only a handful of memories with him, and most of them are about me putting in the effort while he ignores me (or while he takes and takes and takes because he’s an emotional leech). So I keep my distance. And I complain a lot whenever there’s an encounter. And I don’t go out of my way to see him–hell, I downright avoid him as much as possible.

It’s sad to feel this way about one’s father, but I am at a stage in my life where I have far more than my own feelings about missing out on having  a dad to deal with. I have a beautiful little boy who looks up to the men in his life so much,  a boy who falls in love with any man willing to read him a story or play tools with him. I can’t have him falling in love with this guy–his “Grandpops”–because he’ll break my boy’s heart over and over again. He’ll break my heart a thousand times over. I just don’t know where to go from here.

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90

I am out of town and without internet service, so this will be published upon our return.

We are at my mom’s to attend a party for my grandmother. She will be ninety this week. This woman has been alive for nearly a century, and you would never know it. She is still so full of life. She lives in a rural community in the mountains in northern California–by herself–where she still hauls in her own wood for her fireplace, still cooks and cleans and even washes her own car. She doesn’t garden in her yard much anymore, but her deck is full of flowers and even tomato plants. And sometimes, the lady wields a leaf blower. She still drives herself around her community, still even takes care of some of her younger elderly friends. She still has a regular game of Rummikub with her friends. She travels across the country every year, by plane or train, to see her kids in New York and Maryland. She’s a jet-setting old farm girl who won’t be held down by her years.

I am a lot like my grandmother. We’re both perfectionists–so much so that it’s a flaw. We are both headstrong to the point that we can be annoying about it. We’re both warm and big-hearted and full of love. I have her affinity for baking, her love of gardening, her enjoyment of crocheting (all of which are qualities she helped foster in me). And this weekend, as we looked through old photos, my mom pointed out just how much I look like my grandmother when she was younger. I love this. She’s my hero.

I can’t honestly imagine my grandmother not being here. She does have congestive heart failure, but honestly, most of us firmly believe she’ll be around at least another decade–certainly long enough to meet more great-grandchildren, likely long enough to meet great-great grandchildren.

I can only hope to live a life as full as hers, and I celebrate each year we continue to have her in our lives.

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a little water, a little sunshine

Today, we taught our son to run through the sprinklers. It was likely an expensive lesson given the cost of water in our city, but it was well worth it. Our whole family was soaked to the skin from running through the spray.  At one point, our son cheered my wife and I on from the patio, shouting “Run! Run! Run! Run!” as we ran through them ourselves.

We are having a lot of moments like these in our new place. We have routines. Every day, BG needs to check on the lawnmower in the shed. He touches it and either pulls his little plastic mower out or puts it back in. He washes rocks in a cool little water table my mom got him, and he has a whole system that I can’t even pretend to understand. We check on our little crop of heirloom tomatoes, which just now are starting to grow their fruit. BG will ask for “one pea,” so we give him a pea or two or three off of our sugar pea plants. He inevitably tries to feed us his partially masticated pieces in exchange for a fresh new one.

And so it seems the Reproducing Genius family is finding its way in this new place of ours. Our son is thriving. He said his first whole sentence a few days ago at a home improvement store. He touched a lawn mower (yes, an obsession), and J said, “You did it! You touched it!” and BG’s reply was, “Yes, I did touch it!” He kills me with his desire to say everything. He says “Cuisinart” and “dangerous.” He loves words, and we love his words.

My wife is also spending some quality time with BG at swim lessons where he is becoming more comfortable with the water and his goofball teacher who likes to randomly dunk unsuspecting children in the water. I love that they have this for themselves. He is always eager to tell me the tales of swim class when he comes home. I love seeing them off together, having an hour and a half to myself, and then seeing them come  home, hungry and tired from the pool, ready for hugs.

And the best thing that is happening, the very best, are these hug/kiss fests initiated by our son. If he sees my wife and I hugging, he’ll come up to us, reach up his arms, and say, “Big hug, Mama! Big hug, Mommy!” so we pick him up and hug him between us. He pushes our faces together to make us kiss, then he wants kisses too. It’s this beautiful moment we share every day in some unexpected moment that fills us all to the top with love. I can’t imagine ever feeling better.

Life isn’t all sunshine here. We’re lonely for friends and community, and we know it’s time to get out there and find all of that. I’ve got to do something to find more of myself again too–the scholarly me, the doula me, the wife me. But we’re getting there. We will get there, now that we have this place to thrive.

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blogging on

There are times with blogging–or not blogging, rather–when I have let so much build up that I enter a state of writer’s paralysis. Now is one of those times. So much has happened in the past month, so many interesting and great things, and one big, sad thing, so it’s really hard to know what to even write about. But there is one thing I have to write about.

On the fourth of July, my step-dad’s dad, my grandfather, passed away due to complications with a recently-discovered brain tumor. We went out of town at the beginning of this week so that I could go to the funeral. It was so sad because he was so very loved. He was the heart of the family, and we’ll all miss him terribly.

And as sad as that is to write about, as trivial as it feels to put it out there with such concision, this is what I have to do to keep writing. Without paying this tribute, I couldn’t write about the more whimsicle or critical or frustrating or even mundane things I have wanted to write about. But this man would not have wanted anyone to stop writing for him. He wrote every day of his life. What greater inspiration does one need to keep plodding forward.

 

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home home home

We recently taught our boy what “home” is, so any time we are out and about and we want to help him see that our activities are coming to an end, we can say, “Do you want to go home?” and he will chant “Home! Home! Home!” There have been times when he has done this without any prompting, and it warms me to hear it. Today, before leaving my parents’ house, I asked Baby Genius, “Do you want to go home?” And he beamed as if he had forgotten briefly that there was such a thing, and through his sweet smile said, “Home.”

So today we came home. We are all relieved and happy to be here.

Our holidays out of town were, in a word, chaotic. We spent the whole time at my mom and step-dad’s place beginning with Christmas Eve when we celebrated with the whole family. Our family dynamic has changed so much in the past two and a half years when my sister added the first grandchild to the mix. Now my brother, my sister, and I all have kids, and it’s a very different experience gathering together. Most of us are busy kid-wrangling, so the conversations aren’t as leisurely as they once were, and my mom, as sweet as she is, doesn’t see that we’re grown-ups who don’t need a bunch of gifts to be happy, so she overdoes it with gifts for us, and she overdoes it with gifts for the grandkids, and so much time is spent unwrapping that little time is left just for being in each other’s company.

But it is fun to see the kids together, and next year, when they’re 1, 2, and 3, it’s going to be especially joyful. BG loves his two-year-old cousin and will hug her and let her kiss him endlessly–until she gets overbearing (and she inevitably does). He loves to touch the baby’s head and call him “Behbeh.” It is so sweet to imagine these kids growing up together, yet I do wonder how it will be; all of them are being raised so differently. At the same time, staying at my mom’s with my sister and her child (as well as my sister’s new boyfriend) was not the warm family time I had hoped for. The two-year-old requires a great deal of attention, and my sister wanted to devote her attention to nearly everything else but her daughter. Tantrums and mayhem ensued. We found ourselves retreating to our room with BG on more than one occasion to listen to some quiet music and escape the chaos. By the time we left today, I know my poor parents were more than ready for an empty home, and yet my sister lingered. There is little that annoys me more than lazy parenting, and my sister is the laziest of parents who expects everyone around her to care for her child once she arrives and until she leaves. Consequently, BG gets little time with his grandparents, whom he sees far less frequently than the two-year-old does. It sucks.

Imagine my “delight” when my sister told my parents she’d be staying a third night. We were ready to get the hell out of there. Alas, that would not be our fate. We originally wanted to come home yesterday, but J caught a nasty stomach bug which laid her flat all day yesterday and last night. BG caught it late last night as well, so I spent a good many hours cleaning up vomit–off of me, off of him, off of the floor and the bathtub. At one point, I was draped in towels from head to foot as I snuggled the poor boy wrapped in a towel for a blanket. Yeah, it was that kind of night. Glamorous it was not.

Fortunately, today everyone was well enough to head home, so we trudged through the packing while the two-year-old threw tantrum after tantrum because she wasn’t getting the attention she needed. J and BG sequestered themselves in our room while my mom helped me pack the car, and we finally got out of there. I asked BG as we pulled down the driveway, “Do you want to go home, sweet boy?”

“Home! Home! Home!” was his reply.

“Let’s go home then,” J and I said.

And getting home, seeing his face light up as he saw that we were headed up our stairs, hearing him chant, “Home, home, home” as we neared the door, made all of that chaos melt away. Nothing feels quite so good as coming home after being away–except for seeing that through one’s child’s eyes as well. We may not love this apartment or this town, but it is home, and it’s damn good to be here.

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home again

Baby Genius and I have safely returned from our travels, and we are so glad to be home. Today’s journey was accompanied by a rather terrifying rainstorm, which we had to endure while traversing scary traffic between Sacramento and San Francisco. At one point, I had to pull off the road because I had zero visibility, for the rain was coming down so hard. I did see many rainbows, but I was so shaky and frazzled that I could scarcely make note of them.

We had a successful weekend all around. Baby Genius got to enjoy some time in the country with his grandparents. He enjoyed outside the most, and he practiced this word over and over. At Grandma and Grandpa’s house, there is a swing for the grandkids, which BG enjoyed quite a bit as evidenced here:

Grandma also is a collector of windchimes of various shapes, sizes, and materials. All around the house and decks are these chimes, and BG loves to ring them, and loves to listen to them even more.

Today was spent with family indoors, except for when Grandpa took a very bundled Baby Genius outside to explore in the rain. They then came in to warm themselves up by the fire. BG and his grandpa have not bonded much until now, so today was very special and so important for them, for all of us. My siblings came over with BG’s cousins as well, and BG finally got to properly meet his three-month-old boy cousin. He touched his head over and over, and when an attempt was made at a photo of the three grandkids, he pulled his hair. Yes, that’s my brutish son. Ugh.

BG’s 89-year-old great-grandmother (my grandma) wrangled him into her lap at one point, and he threw some gang signs.

All of the family time was incredible, but it was so good to come home, so good to see J again and to be back to my center. I missed us.

As a side note, the diapering went just fine, although next time I won’t overthink it so much and will bring our usual AIOs and pockets.

And now, to bed…

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