Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Difference of a Few Years

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (12/28/11):

It’s hard to believe, after all of the anticipation and waiting, that Christmas has already come and gone.  We’ve had such a busy few months:  new baby in October, her first Thanksgiving in November, and now her first Christmas.  It came and went too fast!  But on Christmas night, after celebrating for two weekends in a row, I sat and reflected on these holidays versus those of the past few years.  It is amazing the difference of a few years….and a baby, apparently.

When Erikka and I got together in the summer of 2008, we didn’t expect the sh*tstorm that would occur once people started finding out – namely, MY family.  By October of that year, my mother found out, and it wasn’t pretty.  Needless to say, I didn’t spend any part of Christmas with her that year; I took the boys over to see her on New Year’s for a couple of hours so that they could exchange gifts.  That was my first Christmas not only with Erikka, but with her wonderful family as well and the first without my boys.  I was emotional, and felt like an orphan with no family, all because I was now living my own life out loud.  The weekend before Christmas that year, as well as every year since, we drove to Henrietta, Texas for her family’s annual Christmas family reunion.  I had met some of them at Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t completely new territory.  We then traveled to Erikka’s parents for Christmas Eve, just she and I, where we had dinner, opened gifts, and spent the night to wait for Santa to visit.  Even though they barely knew me, they welcomed me into their home and treated me like family, for which I am forever grateful.  That was a hard Christmas, without my kids AND my family, so I was appreciative for being included in their Christmas traditions.  The day after Christmas, we spent the day together shopping and touring the Dublin Dr. Pepper plant in Dublin, Texas – hey, it kept me and my mind occupied!  I knew, even more, that Christmas that Erikka was most certainly the love of my life and the person with whom I was meant to share all of my Christmases.

Christmas Eve, 2008

By the time Christmas 2009 rolled around, we had gotten married and excitedly looked forward to the holidays, knowing that the boys would be with us that year.  The weekend before, we traveled to Henrietta again, taking both boys to join in on all of the craziness, which they loved.  I had arranged for a surprise for Erikka and the boys, and we drove from Henrietta to Oklahoma City to stay with one of my best friends, Burt (aka Lorrie “Hellcat”).  I had gotten tickets for all of us to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, where we dressed nice, took pictures, had dinner out, and enjoyed a fantastic concert and light show.  It was a great weekend, and I was eagerly anticipating Christmas as well.  We all loaded up, including the dog, and traveled to Erikka’s parents again, and the boys really enjoyed their first Christmas at the new grandparents’ house.  We had a white Christmas that year, and were snowed and iced in at the in-laws for the holiday, which was perfectly okay with everyone, I think.  Once again, I didn’t spend any time with my mother over the holidays, other than taking the boys by her house for about an hour to swap gifts with her once again.  I told her that I had come the year before without Erikka, even if it was only for a few hours on New Year’s, and that I wouldn’t do it again.  I told her that Erikka was part of our family, and I would not leave her at home to have some kind of weird Christmas dinner with my mother because it just wasn’t right.  I was shocked that she had a couple of gifts for Erikka, but she clearly acted like I wasn’t supposed to make a big deal about it.

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2010 was unusual, to say the least.  We made it to Henrietta the weekend before, and I’m not sure if we had one or both boys with us.  Nicholas had moved out and then come home for the better part of December, while waiting for a January move-in to an apartment with his friends.  I’m not sure when it happened, or who it started with, but it was like the plague moved through our house that Christmas.  The few days leading up to it brought fevers and vomiting, first to Erikka, then to Nicholas, then to Noah.  I was spared from the puking, but had the fever and congestion.  By Christmas Eve morning, it was clear that none of us was up to participating in any kind of family festivities, so we ultimately had to call up Erikka’s folks and cancel Christmas.  As it turned out, Erikka’s dad was pretty sick himself, so it worked out.  They had been planning to come to our house for Christmas last year, since we had just moved in and wanted to spend it here.  We had planned to go to my mom’s for a brief gift exchange some time over Christmas weekend as well, which didn’t happen either.  The boys’ dad came over on Christmas morning to see them and exchange gifts, but didn’t stay long so as not to get sick himself.  With that, we re-scheduled Christmas for New Year’s weekend – it was all we could do.  After spending a few more days sterilizing the house and getting all of the fevers finally gone, we planned for Erikka’s parents to come for our Christmas/New Year’s weekend, where we went to dinner, checked out light displays and shows, and stayed up until midnight to have a toast of bubbly grape juice with Noah.  He was thrilled to finally be included, and barely made it to midnight to toast the new year.  I think that on New Year’s Day, once the in-laws had gone home, we made our way to my mom’s to exchange gifts and have some dinner.  It was nice, but it was still a bit strained and there was not a lot of talking – except between the boys and me.

Christmas 2010 (before everyone got sick)

And Christmas 2011?  It has come and gone, and was a crazy, hectic, fabulous occasion!  My fourth Christmas with Erikka, with the addition of a daughter AND a daughter-in-law!  We went to Henrietta the weekend before and had a wonderful time with family once again.  Noah went with his dad and new stepmom on the 21stfor a few days, taking a trip to San Antonio.  Once again, we went to Glen Rose on Christmas Eve to Erikka’s parents for the night, where Noah joined us just before dinner.  Lots of gifts for everyone, and Santa as usual did an outstanding job for everyone.  We drove home on Christmas day around mid-day, before going to my mom’s for dinner and presents in the evening, where Nicholas and Krystal Fay joined us.  There was lots of talking and laughing once again – the first time in a long time.  And as I drove home, I couldn’t help but be thankful that while it had taken a few years, that my mom has been coming around a little at a time, and slowly.  I know that some people, when they come out to their parents and families, never see a change occur (which is totally what I thought would be the case in my situation).

Christmas Day, 2011

What have I learned about the holidays and about family this holiday season?  I have learned that traveling, even for one night, with a new baby is a pain in the ass.  There is so much to take and carry, to load and unload and then bring back into the house again upon return.  We have decided that we probably don’t want to travel anywhere again until Harrison is sleeping through the night…just sayin’.  And I have also learned that family is family, and when you add a new baby into the mix, the expectations get ramped up.  But the family we have is the family we have, and they are ours, and we love them.  Some, like Erikka’s parents and extended family, have supported us from the beginning; others have needed a bit more time to adjust to the fact that things don’t always conform to what they may have envisioned for their family.

And it is amazing what a few years, and a new baby, can do.

Merry Christmas 2011!

Merry Christmakkuhzaa!

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (12/21/2011):

After our multiple trips to the hospital, and our lack of sleep, and Harrison’s new development of reflux and a LOT more spitting up episodes, time is still flying by and she is soon going to be two months old.  On top of this, she turns two months on Christmas Eve.  Yeah, her first Christmas is already here, and she is oblivious to the wonder of it all.  But there is something about being in the Christmas season that brings out so much in so many, and while she may not know what is going on around her or what Christmas even is, it is still fun to walk through the holidays with a new baby.

Having a new baby during the holidays is always exciting, no matter how old they are.  It brings up reminders of holidays past, memories shared, gifts exchanged, family gatherings.  It also points to what is upcoming:  a new year.  There are hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our children, for our family; things to change, goals and achievements to aim for, and new memories to make together.  For many families like ours, those in the LGBT community, there is always a hope and longing that things will change in this country for us.  We look forward to a new year with hopes and dreams of equality, and changes in laws that will allow for equal treatment among all of its citizens.

Last year, we decided to begin educating Noah about Hanukkah, along with its history and traditions, blessings, foods, and games.  While it is too early to begin teaching Harrison about these things, I look forward to it.  Many people ask me if I am Jewish, to which I respond that I am not.  I have studied Judaism extensively while in graduate school, where my area of specialty was Holocaust Studies.  I decided a long time ago, even before I came out openly and publicly, that my children would be taught tolerance for others.  I have done everything in my power to keep them from acting intolerant or hateful towards others, and it only seemed fitting to teach them about other holidays and cultures as well.  Noah enjoyed hearing the story of the Maccabees, lighting the candles, spinning the dreidel, and sampling traditional, homemade latkes.  I was ribbed a bit for celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, but it didn’t matter.  At the end of the eight day Festival of Lights, I knew that my ten-year-old was probably more educated on the holiday than most of his counterparts, and for that I was proud.  I have also since learned a little bit more about the Kwanzaa celebration (of which I knew nothing before this year), and am debating on whether to educate him about that culture’s traditions as well.  It can’t hurt for him to expand his knowledge, right?

This year we have a unique opportunity to show him all three of these holidays.  Hanukkah will begin at sunset on Tuesday, December 20th; Christmas will occur, as usual, on December 25th; Kwanzaa always begins December 26th and lasts until January 1st.  They are all so close, we will be able to begin with one and celebrate three different cultures over the course of twelve days – not very many can say THAT!  And I may get criticized for my “unique” way of teaching my children, but I don’t mind.  Ignorance breeds hatred, especially for those things that one doesn’t know anything about.  Education breeds tolerance and acceptance, two very important virtues that I want our children to practice; and it begins with us practicing it ourselves.

So for all of our family, friends, and fans, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmakkuhzaa.  And a Happy New Year!

I Could Not Ask for More

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (12/15/2011):

I’m finding out that life as we knew it is no more.  Yes, I know that seems like it would be an obvious discovery, but silly me thought that our lives would be as before, with just a tiny addition.  Right?  Wrong.

Before Harrison arrived on the scene, we had a lot of freedom, even with a kid in the house.  Noah is eleven, self-sufficient for the most part, and visits with his dad every other weekend.  If we wanted to take a short getaway trip, we planned them for the weekends that Noah is gone.  If we wanted to plan a fun family outing, we planned them for the weekends that Noah is home.  We could go to a movie whenever we wanted, or out to eat or out with friends.  We had a very precious commodity that I likely will not see for a long time:  time to ourselves, just the two of us.  For this, it didn’t matter if Noah was here or not; every evening, after nine o’clock when he goes to bed, we had time to be a couple.  It was during these hours that we could talk, laugh, watch a movie if we wanted, or snuggle up together.  Since Harrison has arrived, these moments have been few and far between, and I’m realizing every day just how much I miss those hours.

Erikka keeps telling me that it will get better as I keep bemoaning that everything has changed and that we’ll NEVER get any time to ourselves again.  Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy in love with this little baby girl and wouldn’t trade anything to go back to life without her.  I suppose I am experiencing some growing pains, much like a sibling does when adjusting to life with a newer, younger sibling.  I’m sure I sound completely selfish to say it, too, but I miss my adult time with my wife.  I miss family time that is easy and the only complication in going somewhere was, “Noah, get in the car.  No, now.  It’s time to go.”  Going somewhere as a family now takes some prep time – diaper bag must be stocked, baby in the car seat, make sure she has a clean diaper and is fed and burped, do we have formula, a bottle, her blanket?

So now I feel guilty for even bringing any of it up, and I sound like a selfish ass, right?  Surely this is normal.  Is it because of my age that I am clinging so tightly to our former, easy-going life?  Is it because I’ve been here and done this before, having had Noah when Nicholas was 8 ½ years old?  I don’t know.  I know that I will adjust and that one day we will have those hours back every day when children are asleep and we can have intelligent, grownup conversations about something other than diapers, spit-up, and feedings.  I know that someday soon Harrison will sleep through the night, in her own room, and I will probably miss her being right next to my side of the bed where I can grab her the moment that she cries out.  I know that someday very soon my wife will be ready to leave her with someone trusted for a few hours so we can have a date night (which I am looking very forward to, by the way).  Patience has not always been one of my strong suits, but I am learning, through all of this, that I have no choice but to practice it.  I love my family so much that some days it seems almost too good to be true.  I look at our home and this beautiful life that I have been given and wonder what I did to deserve so much happiness – who am I to complain?  I couldn’t ask for more than any of this.

If We Blink, We’re Going to Miss Something

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (12/7/11):

Life continues, I have found out, even when you have a newborn baby, have health scares, are sleep deprived…whatever the case may be.  We settled in back at home for the second time, and before we knew it, our beautiful brand new baby girl was three weeks, and then four.  People still wanted their school and family photos taken and packages ordered.  I was soon discovering how difficult it is, at least for me, to juggle a new baby, a wife who is healing from two concurrent trips to the hospital AND major surgery, my own businesses (yes, plural), and all on only a few hours of sleep each night.  But you know what?  I’m doing what I can, and the rest is having to wait.  I have three beautiful and amazing children now, and each needs me in their own unique way.  And you know what else?  If we blink, we’re going to miss something.

My oldest son, Nicholas (the twenty-year-old), recently enlisted in the Navy.  It was a decision that surprised all of us, but in a completely good way and we support him completely.  The college route didn’t seem to “work” for him, much to my disappointment, so I am thrilled that he is doing this and will ultimately get his education during the process.  He also decided to marry his girlfriend before he left for basic training, and they opted for a wedding at the justice of the peace with a full wedding celebration later.  Now this was a decision that all of his parents thought might have been a bit hasty, but it was their decision and we would support them the best we can.  So on October 31st I drove to the courthouse and watched my son marry the girl that he loves.  At the moment that I stood there, taking pictures and listening to him say marriage vows, all I could do was cry because here I was, 41 years old and watching my baby boy get married.  Sure, I wished that he would have been older, but I also remember that no one could have changed my mind either when I was that age and decided to do something.  I love him so much, and only want the best for him, and now for his new wife as well.  They “work”, and for that I am so thankful and blessed.

The middle boy, Noah, has been absolutely awesome since his baby sister has arrived.  He loves her so much, and is always asking to hold her or feed her; and always kissing her sweet little head and telling her how much he loves her.  It was probably a little rough on him during the weeks that we were in and out of the hospital because he was shuffled around quite a bit, but he came out the other side like a trooper (well, his grades are a bit bruised from the last six weeks, but he’s getting his act back together).  He presently is looking forward to Christmas photos with the baby – just the two of them.  I’m simply amazed, every day, at the sweetness of his love for her, and wonder where all the time has gone since he was tiny and helpless like Harrison.

And the baby?  Harrison is six weeks old now.  She’s getting longer, but not too much chunkier (I know, photos are deceiving – all of her chunkiness is in her cheeks).  We had her first Thanksgiving, and she did great on her first road trip (albeit only two hours).  I was thrilled to have Nicholas and his wife on the trip with us (Noah was with his dad), and looking forward to all of us being together over the Christmas holidays.  We’ve had some ups and downs with Harrison’s eating and sleeping, and we are tired.  All the time.  Exhausted and suffering from a significant lack of sleep.  But you know what?  Next thing we know, Harrison is going to be grown and off to college and then getting married herself – and I will be OLD.  If we blink, we’re going to miss something.

Nicholas with his wife, Krystalfay, and baby sister, Harrison

Back to the Hospital

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (11/30/2011):

By the time that Harrison was four days old, the doctor was saying that Erikka was doing well enough to go home.  She was a bit pensive about this decision, and told me and the doctor that she didn’t feel like she was ready, didn’t feel quite right; nevertheless, we loaded up everybody and brought our brand new bundle home on a Friday.  When we arrived, I took her and we did a walk-through of the house, where I showed her everything, including her cool Dr. Seuss nursery.  We got settled in fairly quickly, and Erikka planted herself on the couch to rest, while we passed our sweet baby girl back and forth between us.  Soon, we had our first visitor at home, with more on the way over the weekend.  Erikka’s parents came to visit, while sorority sisters came to meet baby Harrison and brought meals for us to put in the freezer for the following week.  Over the course of the weekend, Erikka still didn’t feel very well and her blood pressure was steadily going back up.  It got to the point that whenever she tried to lie down she couldn’t breathe, which we totally did not understand.  Needless to say, she didn’t get much sleep in the first three days that she was home from the hospital, unless she was in a sitting position.

Monday came and Erikka was still feeling lousy.  It was Halloween, and we had been looking forward to handing out treats at the door while Noah went Trick-or-Treating with my sorority sisters.  But by the time he was getting into his costume, Erikka had taken one too many very high blood pressure readings, so I was ready to take her to the hospital.  She still was having a hard time breathing, and would get winded just going from our room in the front of the house to the den in the back.  So when Noah got picked up, I told my friend that I was taking her back to the hospital, and that I may need her to keep him overnight again if we were really late.  Off they went, and I went back into the house and told Erikka that we were going to the emergency room – which is what her doctor had recommended if she still had trouble breathing.  We loaded up, and they got her back fairly quickly, considering they had a pretty packed waiting room.  I waited there with the baby while she went through triage, and managed to call Holly, who was headed over to our house that night anyway.  I also called her parents, who I think went into panic mode and quickly dropped everything to come back to the hospital (they live just under two hours away).  Soon Erikka came and got me to come back with her, saying that they were going to put her into a room for monitoring – her blood pressure was high and her EKG showed some kind of abnormal reading, although she was unsure exactly what it was.  Once she was in an ER room, they started running tests, scheduling CAT scans of her heart and lungs, and waiting on the ER doctor to see her.  Once she did, she said that she heard fluid in her lungs and ordered lasiks.  While we waited, Holly arrived first, and later Erikka’s parents.  I was trying not to be freaked out, but I was scared and worried that something was really wrong.  After a while and many tests, the ER doc came back and said that she was admitting Erikka for the night so that they could try to get the fluid off of her heart and lungs – but thankfully there was no blood clot in her lungs like we had feared.  Oh dear.  They were admitting her.  Fluid on the lungs and heart.  What the hell was happening?

At around midnight, Erikka was in her room in the cardiac care unit, and Harrison and I were heading home…alone.  Thank God Holly was coming back to the house with me – I was freaking out!  I had a one-week-old baby, after not having ANY kind of baby for over eleven years now, and I was having to take her home and take care of her – MYSELF!!  I also had a big photo shoot scheduled for the next day and was going to have to leave the baby for the first time.  How blessed were we that Holly was available to come and stay with her, and we totally trusted her!

Holly ended up staying for three nights with me and Harrison, while Erikka remained in the hospital.  She made food and filled our freezer, helped me with the baby, and watched her while giving me precious time to shower – she was a lifesaver indeed.  Every day we would go to the hospital to visit Erikka, and every day I worried a little bit more because they were trying to get her blood pressure down, get fluids off of her heart and lungs, and try to figure out what caused this to happen in the first place.  On day five of this stay – her second stay – she wanted to come home so badly.  We thought that she was going to get sprung, and then late in the afternoon the doctor came back in and said that she wasn’t comfortable sending her home again until Erikka saw a cardiologist.  Well THAT didn’t go over well.  I finally decided that I would go home and get clothes and supplies, and Harrison and I would stay the night with her at the hospital so she wouldn’t be sad.  On my way back up there, as I drove I finally broke down from all the worry that I had carried all week.  I cried and cried – I was so scared that something was happening to my wife that the doctors weren’t able to correct.  I was so scared that I would lose her and have to do this alone.  I was terrified that Harrison wouldn’t know the wonderful mommy who had risked her health to carry and deliver her.

The next day, Saturday, a cardiologist came to see Erikka, having already gone over her tests and such.  He didn’t seem to be as nearly concerned about whatever was going on with her heart and blood pressure as our doctor had been.  He said he wanted to change her meds and see her in his office in two weeks, where he would monitor her condition.  Then he gave us the words that we had been waiting for days to hear:  You can go home.  Within about an hour, for the second time in seven days, I was driving Erikka home from the hospital.  Hopefully this time it would be the last time for a while.