Tag Archives | siblings

Whose Family Values Are They, Anyway? Happy Adoption Day!

I wrote this post almost four years ago. In that four-year time, gay marriage has become law in almost half the states in the Union and yesterday Tylenol ran a new ad that celebrated all the different types of families you can imagine — including some that look like mine.  To celebrate #HowWeFamily, here’s this post again…

My extended family will officially, legally, extend by one more person today, August 29.

My brother is going to become a father.

It’s very exciting and my mom has gone out west to join him for the big day.  They’ll meet at the courthouse where the papers will be finalized and then they’ll go out to lunch: my brother, my mom, my now-official nephew, his mother, and a few assorted other relatives.

It’s an event that would make Michelle Bachmann’s well-groomed toes curl in horror and make all of Rick Perry’s hair stand up straight (Michelle’s would stand up straight, too, except she uses too much hairspray. Come to think of it, maybe Rick does too).  In fact, my brother is pissing off the entire cohort of the Far Right today, with one simple action.

My single gay brother is legally adopting his biological offspring, the result of a single woman’s trip to a sperm bank some fifteen years ago. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on June 23, 2015 in birth, Children, family, Feminism, Gender, Politics

what goes around, comes around: in which i suffer karmic retribution

Way back in the dim mists of time (which is to say, 1985), my family took a trip to France. I’d been studying in London and my mother, an eternal Francophile, had planned a two-week family driving tour through France at the end of my semester.  A two-week trip that she planned  before the internet.  There was no tripadvisor, people; there was no google map. It was like an artisanal trip: crafted entirely by hand.

Her plan: Paris, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, a few days driving through the Loire Valley and visiting historic chateaux; then Brittany, and the Normandy Beaches.  What a fantastic itinerary, you say;  that must have been the trip of a lifetime, you say.

Yep.  Trip of a lifetime:  My sister, sporting a slicked-back hairdo ala Princess Stephanie of Monaco, complained because the only sightseeing she wanted to do was in the Paris shops; my father threw his back out and was in dire pain for the entire two weeks; my brother only put down the book he was reading (Thomas Covenant) long enough to dart from the car to the highest allowable point of whatever chateau we happened to be visiting.  I’d like to say that I was a paragon, a perfect traveler, but alas dear reader, I fear that while studying in England I’d picked up the habit of smoking Gitanes and while I didn’t smoke in the car, I must have always smelled like a French bar at closing time. Plus I was all weepy-eyed and forlorn at having said good-bye to my Irish boyfriend, he of the peroxide-blonde hair, sea-green eyes, and cheekbones like scimitars.   I’m not even going to mention the hour we spent on the first day looping endlessly around the Arc de Triomphe, listening to my father (who didn’t usually swear) let loose a string of blue language that would make a Marine blush, as he tried in vain to get from the innermost lane to the outermost so he could make the turn towards Versailles.

Yep. A beautiful trip and mostly we were all assholes, in one way or another.

Sorry mom.

Oh the wheel of life, how it does turn.  Last week we were in Italy—there were school holidays here (the States get Columbus Day, we get Eid-Al-Hadha), the boys have been curious about Pompeii—and wait, really, who needs an excuse.  Italy: ruins, art, pizza, gelato, shoe shopping. Did I say gelato? Perfect family trip site, with something for everyone, right?

But the ghost of France in ’85 was never far away.

Liam’s feet hurt. Caleb was hungry. Why do we have to take the train? Why do we have to walk? Can we have more gelato? I don’t want more gelato. This church/building/museum/painting is stupid/boring/lame. I’m hot. I’m cold. It’s raining. It’s too sunny. He hit me. He hit me.

Ah yes, the Bicker McBickersons had apparently come along for the ride.  They had needs, dammit, and Italy was falling short of their expectations.  Liam wanted to know why episodes of “The Daily Show” weren’t downloading to his phone.  I mean really, no wifi? In the middle of Pompeii? Who can live like that? No wonder the Pompeiians died. Caleb wondered why Husband didn’t want to discuss the finer points of “Star Wars The Old Republic” as we climbed to the Vesuvius crater, which was a grave disappointment to him because of the lack of molten lava. He climbed all that way for what? A few rocks, a whiff of steam? Lame.

They wanted to know why it was a problem that they were just doing a little shoving, some fun shoving,  just some happy shoving, and they were just  goofing around because they were sooo bored. Why did I have to get so angry?


That may have been a bit of a low point. The loud swearing in the Pope’s museum. Yes. Well, Um.

Luckily we were surrounded on all sides by Chinese tourists with headsets on, so I am hoping they didn’t understand, or just thought I was praying loudly and with gesticulation.

And I was praying. Praying that someday my kids will take their kids on a lovingly planned family trip and that the karmic wheel will circle around yet again. Amen.


from a detail of a beautiful & rather disturbing tapestry titled “The Slaughter of the Innocents,  in the Vatican Museum. 



Continue Reading · on October 19, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Kids, Parenting, Travel

A day in the life…Or, life in an unfair state

This post, which I’m re-posting while I travel this week, reminds me that even though my kids still resemble the Bicker McBickersons, things have gotten better since the time I wrote this post. And of course now that I’ve said that, I’m sure I’ll go into the next room and see that they’ve taken knives to one another.  I’ve just violated the first rule of parenting: never talk about what is going well!

It’s another 3H Sunday in Manhattan: hazy, hot, humid. The kind of hot where the old gum melts on the sidewalks and re-sticks to your shoes. Two boys, one mom.  Let’s watch the whole scintillating day unfold, shall we?

7:03 I am asleep, happily, albeit unconsciously, enjoying the entire bed: Husband is on a business trip in Amsterdam and London.

You be the knight and I’ll be the marauder. Just go in mommy’s room and get her scarf for a cape.
You go get it.
No, you.
Why do I have to get everything?
Fine. Then I won’t play with you at all.

I am awake.

8:04 Whole Foods for muffins and Odwalla Mango Tango. (We go mostly because there is no half-and-half for my coffee and I refuse to drink lowfat 1% milk in my coffee. I have very few vices left; half-and-half is one of them. Which is a pretty goddam lame vice, if you ask me. I’m thinking about taking up meth.)

I want that muffin. He took the muffin I wanted!
Me (attempting reasonable tones): All those muffins look pretty much the same to me, actually. What about this one?
Fine. But it’s not fair.
When are we going to Petco for more fish?
Me: Later today. It’s not open yet.

He’s not even finishing that muffin. And it’s the one I wanted. Going to waste.
Me (attempting reasonable tones): Well, he’s done with it, so why don’t you eat the rest? Then you get more muffin than everyone.
Fine. But it’s not fair.
When are we going to Petco for more fish?

8:45 Liam hunkers down in front of the laptop that’s been repurposed for his use; Caleb dumps out every single lego bin.
Me (attempting reasonable tones): Why’d you dump them out?
Well, some guys went exploring into these bins and have never been seen again till now. So I have to find them and put them back together with their ship.
Me: Okay. But eventually all those pieces have to go back in the bins.
Fine. But you have to help me. Or else it’s not fair.  And when are we going to Petco for more fish?

I check my email to see if someone has forgotten to tell me about the wonderful beach house I’ve just inherited. No one has. I don’t seem to have inherited a nanny, either.

9:15 I pull out the laundry still in the dryer from yesterday, put in another load.

OW! He kicked me. For no reason!
You said I was stupid!
I did not!
Me (attempting reasonable tones): Maybe you two should play in separate rooms so you don’t bother each other.
No! I love Liam! I want to sit right here!  (Emphatic patting of ground next to his brother)
When are we going to Petco for more fish?
Me (tone in the vicinity of reasonable): At some point today, we will go to Petco, unless you ask me again. In that case, we will not go at all. Everybody clear on that?

Email again: still no beach house.  Not even a cabin on a creek. And no nanny.

I hate this computer! It’s so slow!
Me (reasonable tones wobbling): What’s the matter?
The game I want isn’t loading. It’s taking forever.
Me: Sounds like it’s the site, not your computer. That game always has problems, you know that.
It’s the computer!  It’s not fair!
Me: Would it be better not to have your own computer? You could share mine, when I’m not using it.

10:00 There is quiet talk and giggling from the boys’ room. I check to make sure that the laughter isn’t due to one of them about to make a blood sacrifice of the other and in fact they are playing some diabolical card game together. I put away the laundry; contemplate the Times Week in Review. The news is all bad; the world seems intent on taking itself to hell in a handbag.  I rummage in the cupboards. There is no chocolate. Why didn’t I buy chocolate at Whole Foods?

I’m hungry. I want a doughnut.
Me: (reasonable tones restored by bickering break):  Maybe after lunch. Not now. If you want a snack you can have a yogurt.
With honey?
Me: Yes, with honey.
Fine. But I really wanted a doughnut.

I’m hungry too. What’s for lunch? Can I have something with bacon?
Me: No, we’re out of bacon.
WHY? Then I want soup.
Me: I’m afraid we’re out of soup, too. I have to go to the store tomorrow.
Fine. But it’s not fair. We never have anything that I like.

I contemplate reminding him about the recent trip to Whole Foods but decide that I’m being asked a rhetorical question and don’t answer. Hot dogs are consumed, followed by jello. I realize, again, that “white trash” is an accurate description of my children’s diet. I wonder if it’s time for a drink, remember that I don’t usually drink, think that maybe it’s time to re-think that idea.

Me (aiming for cheerful): So let’s go to the pirate ship sprinkler park with your new MaxLiquidators.
Bor-ring. That’s for little kids.
Me (determinedly cheerful): Not really…and I think it would be good to have some running around time.
I hate that sprinkler park. I want to go to the one by Chelsea Pier.
Well I hate that one. Plus I don’t want to ride the bus.
Fine. Then I’m not going.
Can we go to Petco after? Wait, no, I didn’t mean that, I just forgot, never mind!

Me (wondering if it would violate any laws if I just left them in the apartment for the rest of the afternoon): Let’s take our scooters and go the pirate ship playground. It’s closer and maybe we’ll see the ice cream truck on the way. (Note: yes, this is bribery. Generally speaking, parenting books don’t approve of bribes. Generally speaking? Parenting books suck).

You said we’d get ice cream.
Me: If we saw the ice cream truck
Well where is it?
Me: I’m not in charge of the truck, sweetie. Maybe it’s not in this neighborhood today.
Fine. But it’s not fair.

We manage two hours at the playground. The boys are, in fact, the oldest kids there this afternoon, and with their (not very aggressive) water guns, I realize that they look VERY big and boy-ish compared to the toddlers waddling through the sprinklers. Caleb accidentally knocks into a little boy who has staggered in front of him. Caleb looks stricken, apologizes (unprompted, I might add), the mother rushes to her child (who is giggling), glares at Caleb and at me, then picks up her darling precious progeny to make sure Caleb hasn’t broken his ribs and maybe given him a black eye into the bargain. I decide I hate this woman.

2:35 The sky has turned steel-gray and the wind has picked up. The much promised rain is coming. We pack up to leave the sprinkler park that they didn’t want to come to.
Why do we have to leave?
Yeah. It just got fun now that the little kids have gone. (You’ll note that they have decided to collaborate. Oh goody.)
Can I bring home these water ballons? (Each water balloon looks like a watermelon.)
Why not? It’s not fair.
Can we get ice cream?

I’m too tired. I can’t ride my scooter. Can you carry me?
Hurry up Caleb! Iit’s going to rain and I don’t want to get wet! (Liam’s hair is still dripping from the sprinkler park)
Caaaaarrry me.

3:00 Home. The rain has just started.
Can we go to Petco and get more fish?
Me (the very paragon of reason): It’s just started to pour. Let’s wait until it stops raining. And please don’t ask again.
It’s not raining that hard. (Raindrops the size of peas hurl against the windows)
I hate waiting. Waiting stinks.

I want to snuggle with Liam.
I’m reading.

I smile and think that maybe I don’t have to post their pictures on craigslist to see if anyone would like to rent them for a long weekend.


Me (my tone now on the remote outskirts of “reasonable”): Separate. Yourselves. Now.

My facebook friends, god love them, tell me that it’s absolutely okay to make myself a gin-and-tonic.  I do so. It helps.

(Small pitiful voice):  Can I come out now?

I contemplate “not until next week,” and remember that Caleb is in my bedroom, so this would be counter-productive.  He is allowed out to roam, possibly to kill again.

Instead, Lego figures are assembled and a rousing battle begins; many things are blown up and elaborate weapons and guard towers are erected. Silence in the other room as Liam contemplates re-building his Yu-gee-oh decks for the standing card game he has during lunch at camp.

4:45 Early supper, featuring a variety of frozen items from Trader Joe’s, plus a tiny bowl of corn (Liam); and, for Caleb, six grapes, two baby carrots, and corn chips dipped in ketchup (dee-lish, eh?)

Me (cheerful, the G&T having done its job): Who wants to go to Petco?
Them: Not now! We’re playing Yu-gee-oh. Maybe in a little while. Or maybe tomorrow?

I begin writing this post, eat the herbed summer succotash I made for myself (upside of Husband being away: eating whatever I want for dinner, including succotash on crackers).

Can we go to Petco now?
And maybe get ice cream?

Me (reason restored; bedtime is only a few short hours away): That’s a great idea.

And when we walk through Union Square, a sweet post-storm breeze is blowing, there is a magician doing card tricks, and a guy playing a sequined digideroo (and assorted home-made percussive things).  We hold hands and tell jokes, and all is right with the world.


Continue Reading · on August 21, 2013 in Children, growing up, Kids, NYC, Parenting

Same recipe, different soup

I’ve just suffered through two school projects (one for each child) that involved–god save me–glitter. Plus glue, posterboard, construction paper, some rudimentary elements of design, and a smattering of factoids gleaned from actual books (!) and that there new-fangled internet thing.

For his project, Liam needed black construction paper, which precipitated crisis #1 (there were several): The pieces of black construction paper were not the same shade of black.  How could I expect him to put together a display about galaxies using a background of mismatched blacks.

The horror.

When I pointed out that the black paper–well, black and charcoal, I guess, to be precise–would be mostly covered up with images of galaxies and his various snippets of information, his disdain for my slacker ways was palpable.

He managed to rally–there was much arranging and re-arranging of images and text boxes for maximum coverage of our Pantone-related faux pas–but then there was too much glitter and then his lettering was crooked and then the glued-on text boxes started curling at the edges (glue, in this climate, is ridiculous: the humidity unsticks everything), which meant it was all ruined.

Liam lives his life in italics these days, in part because he’s a perfectionist whose vision of how things should be frequently outstrips what he can actually create. I’m well acquainted with that frustration (it happens pretty much every time I cook) and in his adjustment from vision to reality, there is much italicized gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.  Once he adjusts his vision, however, it’s all fine: the morning after his glitter-related crisis, he looked at his poster and said “this is really good, actually.” Those of us who were on the receiving end of the italics and the despair and the I’m going to fail may have been, hypothetically, slightly irked by this abrupt attitude shift and–purely hypothetically, of course–we might have said something wicked mature, like “we told you so.” Hypothetically.

The second glittery project was Caleb’s project about Aztecs.  He loves the Aztecs because he loves their weapons: huge slingshots! long spears! poison darts!  He settled himself on the couch and looked through two of his favorite books: World History and Ancient World. He typed some things into the computer, and then a few days later he roamed the internet looking for more information about warfare, food, warfare, houses, warfare, religion.  And maybe a little bit more about fighting and battles. We bought a sheet of green posterboard–like the jungle, he said–and glitter glue pens. (Would it be wrong to suggest that the person who invented the glitter pen be given some kind of lifetime achievement award for figuring out how to prevent glitter spreading through the air like so many sparkly germs?)

There was some cutting, there was some gluing.  He arranged his factoids in a kind of circular pattern; I suggested that perhaps some images of these various things would be a good idea.  He found some images, there was more cutting, more gluing, and then the glitter pens were used to write “AZTECS” across the top. The lettering was a tad crooked and the letters he’d done in green glitter sort of blended into the green posterboard. I asked if he’d like to go over the words, and he said “nah, it looks good. I like it.”  Here is one of his factoids:


It says “after sacrificing someone they might eat the left overs which is an act of cannibalism. Also chocolate was only drank by men and women drank pozolli (maize gruel). Also another thing that was popular among the Aztecs was Tortillas and casseroles. Aztecs also thought insects and bugs were a delicacy and in some parts of Mexico they still are.” This information was followed by a recipe for Aztec hot chocolate (without body parts).

Did you find that blue block text hard to read? Yep, me too. I mentioned that to Caleb, who shrugged. “I like blue,” he said.

Caleb is…not a perfectionist. I suppose this trait may prove problematic in the future (don’t ask me how I know this), but at the moment, I have to say it’s a hell of a lot easier to live with.

How did the same genetic mash-up produce two such different children? I know, I know, we’re all individuals and whatnot, but did you ever pause to think about how weird that is? It’s as if I reached into the same soup-pot and ladled out first one bowl of minestrone and then one bowl of chicken-and-stars.  How does that happen? Husband, in his ever-charming fashion, points out that he is a perfectionist (albeit one who frequently loses his perfect creations in the morass of his desk) while I am, in many things, a member of the church of “good enough.” So perhaps we created one mini-him and one mini-me.

Wacky stuff, that genetics. Maybe one of my kids could make a display about it.





Continue Reading · on May 10, 2013 in family, Kids, Parenting

second banana

Caleb is the little brother, the youngest, the baby.  His older brother, who isn’t very tall, nevertheless casts a long, long shadow: Liam almost always gets the top honor, the award, the prize. True, Liam’s competitive spirit would make Napoleon nervous, but–maternal boasting aside–Liam is both talented and a ridiculously hard worker.

Wait. See what happened?

I started this post about Caleb and just spent almost four sentences talking about Liam, who of course can’t help the shadow he casts; he’s just doing his thing. I do wonder what it’s like for Caleb, though, growing up in that long shadow.  How does he find his own light?

A long time ago, a nursery school teacher told me that Caleb had a Luca Brasi problem–too willing to be second banana, too willing to go along with the alpha dog, even if he “knows better”–and her comment has stuck with me.  Perhaps that’s not surprising–I mean, probably anyone would remember having her not-yet-in-kindergartener be compared to a Mafia hit man, right?

Caleb had been disappointed earlier this year when he wasn’t selected for a speaking role in the Year Four play (Liam was, of course, chosen for a role in the Year Seven play even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it); Caleb wasn’t chosen for “development squad” at soccer (promising kids from each age bracket are chosen for an extra skills/scrimmage session – Liam has been picked every term).  And while Liam sails on, frequently oblivious to his younger brother, Caleb wants only Liam’s attention and approval.  Sometimes it seems as if that long-ago teacher is right: maybe Caleb will be happiest as a wing man rather than a pilot.  Perhaps that’s a good thing: the world needs happy wing men and fewer pilot wannabes.

Or maybe Caleb is just a bit like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” who felt immediately braver when the Wizard gave him a medal for his courage during the battle with the Wicked Witch of the West.  The other day, the soccer coaches gave out their end-of-term awards and Caleb got “Player of the Term” from his coach:


The award is only a plexiglass triangle, but to Caleb it sparkles like crystal–if he’d buttons on his jersey, they would’ve popped with pride. Maybe this trophy will give Caleb the little confidence booster he needs so that he’s less willing to take the back seat.

Of course, the first thing he said after he showed me his award: “I can’t wait to tell Liam.”  Does that mean that he needs Liam’s approval to seal his achievement? Or is he wanting to challenge his brother’s supremacy (Liam has gotten this award three times)?

I’m not sure. But I do wonder if Luca Brasi had an older brother.

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Continue Reading · on March 23, 2013 in exercise, family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, sports

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