Monthly Archives: August 2011

Westward Ho, Gay Pioneer!

My junior year of high school, which feels like it was about a hundred years ago, there was an exchange student from Amsterdam at our school. She and I were friendly, but she really hit it off with my best friend. The two women have kept in touch ever since.

They don’t see each other often, but they get together whenever they’re both on the same continent. Last week they were able to introduce their spouses and children to each other and had a chance to catch up.

At some point, the conversation turned to people they knew in high school, and my friend mentioned that my husband and I have adopted two children. Our friend from Amsterdam smiled, and then stopped the conversation for a moment so she could explain the following to her husband:

“It’s noteworthy because in America, gay men do not often adopt children. It’s not like at home. Here, having adopted children makes Mark a civil rights pioneer.”

The story makes me laugh for a few reasons. First, that someone from Amsterdam might need to have it explained that gay people parent less frequently than straight people. Second, the idea that parenting could make me a pioneer when people have been parenting since the dawn of time. And third, because the whole process seemed so matter-of-fact!

When my husband and I applied to become adoptive parents, the woman I spoke to on the phone at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families said something awkward. I can’t remember the exact words, but she said something about how different social workers have different levels of experience and comfort working with same-sex couples. It was, literally, the first and last time I heard anything like that during the whole process.

In our training class, three of the ten couples were same sex couples. We weren’t even the only gay male couple in the group. One of our social workers was a lesbian. The foster family that our sons lived with when we met them is a lesbian family. It was a complete non-issue every step of the way.

Still, it’s interesting to hear someone else’s perspective. Obviously, the Netherlands is light years ahead of the United States in terms of gay rights, and that translates to increased visibility of LGBT people, especially in urban areas like Amsterdam. But I’m not sure if gay rights in Massachusetts really lags so far behind in reality as it does on paper.

(And I soon as typed that sentence, I got mad at myself. It does lag behind, even in Massachusetts, because of federal law. One of my husband’s friends has spent the last five years terrified that his partner of nearly two decades will be deported back to Mexico. And I would be irresponsible if I didn’t say that federal laws like DOMA have a disproportionate impact on some families over others. As white people, with a husband who has a good job and a house in the suburbs, I’m able to feel like we have full equality much of the time.)

Well, I can at least say that social attitudes have changed more quickly than the law.


Movie Review: Spy Kids 4D

I’ve been sick all week, and am just getting back up to speed. Well, I thought I was getting back up to speed. This morning, I took my five-year-old to camp, and the normally simple process of walking from the parking lot to the playground was unusually exhausting. So I guess I’m not there yet.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to hand the blog over to my son for the day. He went to the movies yesterday and saw Spy Kids 4D (yeah, it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was a camp trip, and I’m a pushover). So here’s Andrew’s review:

What movie did you see?

I saw a movie and the movie was named Spy Kids.

Sounds fun! What happens in the movie?

There are kids, and they become spies.

Well, that fits the name. Does anything else happen?

There is a bad guy named the Time Stealer. He tries to steal time.

Scary! What happens when he steals time? Do people get older, or move more slowly, or something?

No. When he steals time, they have less time.

Oh. What was your favorite part of the movie?

When the baby flips over the bad guy. It was funny. Isn’t that funny? It was so funny.

Sounds funny!

It was.

Anything else you want to tell me about the movie?

There was a scratch and sniff card, and when the number was on the movie, you scratched the number, and it smelled like you were in the movie.

Thanks, Andrew!

Queen of Cups

Last summer, there was one way to make sure that mealtimes in our house were pleasant. Andrew, then 4, needed a yellow plate and a yellow straw for his cup. If the yellow plates or straws were in the dishwasher, or — god forbid! — accidentally given to his little brother, calamity ensued. There would be crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth … full disaster mode.

It faded away as unexpectedly as it had arrived. My parents gave us some new dishes at Christmas, and the boys thought the Nana/Grandpa plates were the most exciting thing that had ever happened. Best of all, since the plates were all the same color, there was no more negotiating yellow plate politics. Around the same time, he stopped caring about having a straw in his cup. (I suspect someone must have told him that big boys don’t need straws. Pronouncements like that from fellow preschoolers carry enormous weight.) And setting the table became normal again.

I was extremely glad (Wait, no. Not glad at all.) when Jordan began to exhibit the same color preferences in dishes. Instead of yellow plates and yellow straws, Jordan (now 3) requires a blue cup. If he has a green cup, he announces, “Green not my favorite color!” and collapses in a heap at the table.

I assumed that it would be just like last summer, and we’d just need to make sure there was always a blue cup at the ready for a few months. But this week, Andrew has figured out a new way to throw a wrench in the machine.

“It’s not fair!” he declared at breakfast. “Jordan ALWAYS gets the blue cup and I NEVER get the blue cup!”

My husband turned and whispered to me, “I thought YOU were the drama queen in this house. You’ve been de-throned.”

No. I am, and remain, the Queen of Cups.

Wedding Bells

My brother’s first anniversary is in three days, and I’ve finally got a hold of the DVD with the photos from the wedding. There are some really nice (as in, not taken on my iphone!) photos of the boys, and a few good ones of Austin and I.

It makes me feel like I’m nine when I say this, but having to browse through all the photos to find the ones I want? Too many photos of my brother kissing! Nasty! (And I mean no offense to my sister-in-law, who is awesome.)

So Camp

It was “Halloween Day” at camp this morning, so my five-year-old was wearing his Robin costume from last Halloween. Want to know how to tell that I’m new to this whole parenting thing? I thought, for just a moment, that it would be possible to leave my house this morning with only one child wearing a costume. You know, since only one kid was going to Halloween Day at camp.

Stupid Daddy!

Obviously, I needed to dig through the closet and find the three-year-old’s Super Why costume so he would have something to wear in the car.

Lies Michele Bachmann Told Me

Usually, I do a pretty good job of not taking insane bigotry personally. You know, when some politician says that gay people are disordered or dysfunctional. I mean, I find it offensive, but my internal monologue says something more like, “What an idiot!” and less like, “I can’t believe he said that about me!”

Lately, Michele Bachmann is getting under my skin, though. Maybe it’s because she’s everywhere, or maybe I’m just having an off week. Maybe my normally automatic defenses are malfunctioning because I’m in shock that a candidate this ridiculous is getting so much mainstream attention.

So first, let’s recap just a few relevant pieces of Bachmann’s rhetoric. Back in 2004, at the National Education Leadership Conference, Bachmann said that being gay is “part of Satan.” Which is pretty extreme really. It puts her in pretty extreme company, with people like Fred Phelps and Sally Kern. And she doesn’t think that families like mine are families. We’re just a group that somehow formed a … group, I guess. Also, she’s pretty happy with the way “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has worked, so she would reinstate it if she were president.

But don’t get confused. We’re satanic, not families, and are a risk to the security of our nation’s armed forces, but Michele still loves us. Why, she “ascribes honor and dignity to every person, no matter their background.” Isn’t that nice? I’m a dignified sort of satanic.

Knowing all of this about Bachmann, it really made me scream last night when I read a Politico story about how she lied about going to a family reunion. I mean, she spends all this time talking about how God tells her how to live her life, and spends all this time saying how people who don’t live like she does are basically satanic, and she can’t even be bothered to stop making up lies about things that don’t even matter? I mean, come on.

My husband and my children may not be a family in Michele Bachmann’s eyes, but at least I teach my sons that lying is unacceptable. I consider that to be a family value.

I Cast Magic Missile at the Darkness

My first experience with Dungeons and Dragons was in eighth grade, when I got a boxed set and tried to run a game for a couple of friends one weekend. Needless to say, I was not a particularly skilled dungeon master, and we spent most of the game arguing over how the rules worked. (Actually, that sounds like a lot of adult D&D games, too, so maybe we weren’t as far off as I thought.)

I’ve been playing D&D on and off ever since, but that weekend in eighth grade is the last time I tried to be a dungeonmaster. Until yesterday!

I’ve started a campaign for a few of my World of Warcraft guildmates (are you seeing the layers of geekdom here? playing D&D with friends from my gay World of Warcraft guild?), and we had our first play session yesterday evening. It actually went pretty smoothly, and I think everyone had a good time.

The most difficult part was bending MapTools to my will. I spent a lot of time last week making sure that everyone’s abilities were properly scripted so combat would go smoothly. It may have gone a little too smoothly, because my players completely steamrolled their first combat encounter. But that’s ok, because we left off at a cliffhanger, with an army of skeletons surrounding them.

It’s the Thought that Counts

It’s the thought that counts, right? Every day, Andrew has been sticking a craft bead or gem or something like that in his pocket, and collecting them in a little pile at home. Today, my husband asked if he is saving them for something special.

“I want to glue them,” he said.

“Glue them? Glue them to what?”

“I thought we could glue them to the wall, and make the kitchen look pretty.”

All Day Buffet

It’s not quite 9:30 AM. We got up, we got dressed, we got the boys dressed, and we fed the boys breakfast. Jordan and I took Andrew to camp, and we got home maybe twenty minutes ago. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and a little voice in the living room said, “Mark, I’m want you to make lunch.”

“Oh, buddy, it’s too early for lunch. You just finished breakfast.”

“Mark, I’m want you to make lunch NOW!”

Thrown toys, tears, screams. Good morning!

Milk at a Speakeasy

Yesterday, my mother was telling me about being contacted by a distant relative who was trying to put together some information about the family. My mother was able to find a picture from the wedding of this woman’s parents, and it was a photo she’d never seen before. It got my mother and I talking a little bit about our family history, and prompted me to remember a story my grandfather told me. It’s a story my mother didn’t know, either, but it sounds plausible.

“If Grandpa told you, it’s probably true,” my mother said. “Nana is the one who would have made up a story.”

Here goes. I will try to avoid my tendency to embellish, since I know so little.

When my grandparents were dating, my grandfather took my grandmother to restaurant. Well, he thought it was a restaurant. But it turned out that it was a speakeasy. My grandfather told me that he was embarrassed to have taken a nice girl like my grandmother to a speakeasy, so he ordered two glasses of milk. Apparently the bartender thought that was extremely funny, and went to the corner store to buy milk so he could pour two glasses for my grandparents.

I really hope that story actually happened, because it’s kind of awesome.