Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hallelujah!

For a host of reasons, Easter is one of my favorite holidays in the year, mostly because it is the beginning of the sunshine season. Ever since the awfulness of this past winter finally subsided, I know I was not alone in my unfettered eagerness to see some evidence of spring. Hallelujah! 

The entire weekend was glorious, filled with sunshine and moderate temperatures.

On Saturday morning, we attended the annual egg hunt in the down-town section of our little village next to the Hudson River. It is a fund raiser for the local civic society. The event starts promptly at 10:00 and is pretty much over by 10:03, so it’s important not to be late.

Paul insisted we get there to register by 9:30. ‘Register’ basically means handing the nice lady behind the table next to the Easter Bunny a $10 bill. So, with that business was done in approximately 17 seconds, we now had half an hour to kill.

Paul can sometimes be a hair (or in this case, a hare!) overzealous in his approach to physical activities with our girls, especially if prizes are at stake. In his mind, it is all training for their Olympic debut someday. After seeing the lack of participation from India in the latest winter games, he has already devised a stratagem to compete under the Indian flag to ease the stress of qualifying.

In any event, the prizes were plastic eggs filled with penny candies, an apparent powerful motivator. Paul was determined we get our $10 worth. He used the spare time to circle the field and strategize. 

He found his preferred spot for the girls to start, a good distance away from any of the other children who lined up next to the registration lady, clumped in masses of unnecessary competition. Amateurs! Most children had cute little Easter baskets. Not us. Our girls had deep buckets. To be fair, Paul had the girls put stickers on them too.

Next, he started coaching the girls to pick up as many eggs as they can. ‘We’ll open them after the hunt is done…don’t stop and open them until the bucket is full…okay?’ he said with a sense of encouragement tinged with urgency.

Remember the movie Fight Club with Brad Pitt? I kept thinking in my head, ‘The number one rule of egg hunt is…you do not talk about the egg hunt!’

Because I enjoy making my beloved twitch, I started counter-programming the girls. Sidney, what color is your favorite? Yellow? Okay, only pick up the yellow ones!’  Paul, unimpressed, snappily jumped in to correct me, ‘Pick up all of the colors Sidney!’

Anyway, it was all great fun and they practically had an entire corner of the field to themselves. They succeeded in the chase and came home with a bucket full o’ eggs.

Later that day, it was time to dye the real eggs. We chose to do this craft in the buff as we were sure to be dyeing more than eggs.  I should clarify, the girls were naked…not us! As it turns out, egg dye works petty well on little hands too.

On Easter morning, shortly after 6:00, the girls woke up and climbed into our bed in a dazed bewilderment, as is the custom on most mornings. Our bed is the waiting spot for everyone to ease into the awake hours. Of course, you can be sure that only applies to the girls. Paul and I are expected to click our heels and be ready to serve immediately after their eyelashes part. This is often at odds with my need to lubricate my brain with a cup of coffee before I can satisfy anyone’s demands. Actually, I often wish I could skip the second cup of coffee and go right for the third!!!

Our trio can have very sweet moments but they are not at their best right after they wake up. Especially Aria, who typically needs 20 to 30 minutes to ease into the day. If you try and rush this process – as we often do despite knowing better – she goes off the reservation and usually gives us her best portrayal of a scene from the exorcist which quickly spirals into a chaos that you probably would not believe if I told you. Be assured, stuff will be thrown!

I only wish this were a great exaggeration however, Aria is our ‘stress-sensitive’ child. This is the term we learned at a parenting lecture last summer. We decided ‘stress-sensitive’ was just a nice way to say ‘cranky’ and while it sounds more polite, it also sounds more expensive to cure. But she definitely has that! We go to great lengths to keep her on the even keel and often fail miserably.

Anyway, once they arrive at the edge of our bed, the rapid-fire demands from their furrowed faces begin. They need to be pampered and cuddled and placed ever so gently on a pillow before they can proceed with waking up. We have realized over time that the trade off for good, sound sleepers is they have a process to emerge from their sleep-comas. If you try and rush this process, nobody wins. Nobody!

Meanwhile, I want them to be excited for what the Easter Bunny left them in the kitchen and they don’t have the slightest idea of what day of the week it is much less that it is a special holiday.

Eventually, we work our way downstairs and their eyes light up at the setting-in reality that this day shall start with CANDY!

Next up, it’s time to get all dolled up for church. We have a hit-or-miss relationship with church. If I take one or even two little girls with me, they are dainty little ladies who inevitably cause smiles at their palatable adorableness. When all three are present, we are often less admired.

Last Christmas, we brought all three to the Christmas-eve children’s mass, which was a late afternoon affair packed to the brim with eager, well-dress children and their extended families. As we entered, each child was given a small toy animal that would be placed in the manger next to baby Jesus later in the service.

Despite a few extra ants-in-their-pants inspired by no nap and a late afternoon activity, all was going mostly fine until it was time to line up for this manger drop-off bit. We were in the back of the church so we were at the very end of the procession. Once we arrived at the front, baby Jesus was flanked with a scene of plastic toy animals of all shapes and sizes.

Now, if you are three years old and are confronted with putting your little animal toy IN a pile or taking some of the choices OUT of the pile, which way do you think your little brain would favor?

Sidney and Vivian reluctantly forfeited their animal and then sulked away with Paul. I was left with Aria – our ‘stress-sensitive’ child – and she was not having it. She was the very last child and I did my best to gently persuade her to drop the donkey as her grip tightened.

Everyone is watching by now and giggling under their breath as they see a classic battle brewing. I am sure it looks adorable from the comfort of their pew. But I know better. I take the hand holding the animal and give it a good shake and it drops. I start to walk away.

Aria crosses her arms in protest and plants her feet steadfastly in place. I know I have about 6 seconds to evacuate before I have to make a reservation for confession for the words I’m about to say. I scoop her up and whisk her away so mass may continue. She immediately turns into a tornado of flailing spaghetti arms and legs as I realize we have now entered the danger zone.

I attempt to sit back down with the rest of our family but quickly realize we need to leave the church. I scoop her back up in my arms and start making my way out as she starts screaming. This coincides with the exact moment the children’s choir is introduced to start singing Silent Night.

As I am nudging my way through shoulders of parents trying to film their children singing, Aria starts screaming for ‘DADDY!!!!’ at the top of her lungs.

I fight through dirty looks of disapproval. I am sure that nobody knows this girl has a Daddy AND a Papa. All they can see is a sweaty man struggling with a girl who is screaming for her Daddy. There was no compassion for a parent dealing with a bad situation. Kill me now!

As I reach the door, I hear Vivian, who has become very upset that I am leaving the church, start screaming ‘Papa!’ from the other end while melting into a nightmare in Paul’s arms. 

I managed to make my way back in to the church for communion when the priest – a parent of 2 toddlers of his own - whispered to me, ‘…we are almost done, my brother. Hang in there.’

I’m mortified to think of all those parents and relatives with video on their smart phones of a sweetly sung Silent Night tinged with a screaming chorus of ‘DADDY! ….PAPA!’ in the background.

So as I was saying, Church can be hit or miss for us. To my delight, Easter morning did not include any special toys or processions. The girls were happy and pretty and behaved for most of the service, except for Vivian who wanted to sing, even when the singing stopped.

After mass, we hosted an Easter feast at our house. We were a group of 14 and enjoyed a bounty of good food and better company. We finished off the day with another egg hunt in our back yard and then a homemade apple strudel.

All in all, a glorious Easter weekend full of fun and smiles. Nonetheless, I was thankful for Monday when I could return to the relative comfort of the office.

Happy Easter!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whatever Happened To....

It has been nearly two years since I popped my head up in the blogger universe. For a host of reasons, that seemed to be the time to push away the keyboard and step away from sharing the stories that make up our days. Since then, it seems that most of the blogs I used to read have likewise met and passed their denouement. Where did everyone go?!? 

Over the last month, I have randomly received a few very thoughtful solicitations to find out what’s going on with our family.  ‘…a simple update would be grand,’ per one prior reader who met us in 2009 when we were just a couple of guys with a seemingly far-fetched idea for creating a family, as seen on Oprah!

I guess those emails have tugged at my heart strings, inspiring this update. Plus, to be honest, I have missed writing about the trials and smiles of our family. When I wrote in the past, I was able to capture events in words that confined a memory into an easy-to-revisit capsule. And I do revisit them every once and a while. Like a great old photo, those old posts usually demand a grin and typically a little fog of the eye too.

I am still a major-league nostalgic sap in case you were wondering!

Much more importantly, I imagine these stories will be fun for my girls to read, and relive though my eyes, at some point.  Some day, they will be able to process the profound significance they have had on our world. In the meantime, I shutter to think of the millions of little moments that are lost in the corners of my mind, having only had the pleasure of a short prominence before – POOF – they joined all the now forgotten gems of our girls’ story.

In looking back, I found a few emails from curious intended parents who, at the time, were considering traveling to India. Their first email to me was always filled with some level of anxious trepidation surrounded by a cautious hope of finding their path to parenthood. They read our story, saw our girls, and knew it could be true. The possibility was tangible and therefore less abstract….achievable in fact. I can totally relate to those first feelings. We have dozens of similar emails sent to those who went before us, prior to 2009.

The thing that got me was that those emails are from people who are now parents. I got a lump in my throat when I realized the role our journey and my blog played for at least a few families. As we faded back into our unshared daily life, I had forgotten how important our world-wide community of support became to those who embarked on this foreign adventure. We took turns celebrating successes and holding hands when mourning was necessary. It really was quite remarkable and special.

We became a forever-connected family of sorts. No matter what happens in life, we will have shared a path that was unique and special but at the same time, common. Our children will know pseudo cousins from all corners who share a similar story. 

And just like a real family, along the way, some went rouge for one reason or another. So, while we can be sure they won’t be at the table come Thanksgiving time, we still love them and their children for their perspective on our journey-in-common anyway. But, from afar is fine.

All of that being said, a few books worth of stories happened in the last 2 years.

First of all, I would be remiss if I did not admit that there have been times when I justly wondered if I would make it to the end of the day without collapsing into a pile of fatigued angst while clutching my fists above my head, declaring ‘WHAT have we done!!!

I’ll let you in on a little secret of parenting multiples that nobody will tell you when your little bundles arrive: despite the long hours of around the clock butt-wiping, feeding, puking, changing, shhhh-ing, rocking, and laundry, the baby years are – by a country mile - the EASIEST part due to their mostly rounded heads acting like giant anchors, safely securing them to the earth below your feet.

Sure, crawling and then the first steps inspire moistened eyes of pride and joy. However, once mobility fully sets in, it’s GAME ON, BITCHES!!! For a while, you can manage fine. In fact, you will rather enjoy the comedy styling of drunken baby bumper cars. But, once they secure their sea legs and add on top of that the vocabulary of emerging personalities, sibling competitiveness, and confidently declared independence, it’s a horse of a totally different hue.

Whoever first coined the phrase ‘terrible twos’ had not yet had a three year old…much less three of them! I am now in a steady state of lower back-pain from the human origami I play with my 35 pound juggling balls of wiggle. They insist on climbing, poking, and prodding from the very first, right up until the very last, moment of each day.

I have been known to start the day with an inspirational speech geared towards our attention-challenged trio. I sit the girls down and gently explain that there has not been a single day in their entire lives where they did not cry at least once. Could today be the day!?!? COULD TODAY BE THAT HOLY, LOVING, QUIET-ISH DAY?!?!

At the same time, I spend most of my days and nights engaged in extended discussions with toddler terrorists who are vastly more influential negotiators than anyone I have encountered in the business world. Truly…I am challenged to find the type of pushy persistence that is steadily hurled upon us with escalating urgency as that of a three-year-old who wants something. ‘No!’ is rarely a serious obstacle when they are in pursuit of something…anything. Seriously, I think their little brains translate the word ‘no’ to ‘INSIST LOUDER ‘CAUSE PAPA CLEARLY AIN’T LISTENING!!!’

At 3 ½ years old, if words could be converted into energy, the utterances of ‘I want…’ in our house could alone power a small village. Said in rapid succession with varied demands attached, it could make your mind positively spin on a quest for just one quiet minute where nobody is yelling, fighting, hurling things, or taking off their clothes for a moment of public exhibitionism.  

I am told this is normal but, our girls’ moral code of justice is questionable at best. The mind of a toddler does not fully understand accountability nor consequences of actions. So, if they pull hair or shove or hit a sister in the face, I can predict their answer with surprising (maybe not!) accuracy to the question of ‘Did you hit your sister?’ With a confident reply of ‘No!’while shoulders are being shrugged - despite mounting evidence to the contrary – we will then pursue an unattainable grain of remorse and compassion.

Potty training has proven to be our Everest! Despite all best efforts we have only succeeded in training 2 ½ of our girls. The ½ is for our holdout that has a special place in her bedroom that she affectionately refers to as her ‘poopy corner.’ I’ll save more of that story for another time. If possible, when it starts with a funny ‘Remember when she used to…’  

Notwithstanding all the challenges and endless chores and duties, none have been insurmountable.

There have literally been thousands of joyous moments of pure bliss that could not match the value of all the gold in the world. When you least expect it - and usually most need it - they become the reasons to wake in the morning and smile at the sky!

Random and unsolicited little voices saying ‘I Love You’ could forgive the worst behavior…resting their little tired heads in the crook of your neck while they take contented deep breaths while falling asleep….taking their sisters hand and skipping for no reason at all….dancing and singing like they are working to impress the back row of Carnegie Hall….telling me a joke – a really adorable joke – and getting the punch line JUST right….an unprompted ‘Thank You’ said to a stranger who had no idea of the morning we all just had….crawling into our bed and sighing as they plunge into deep pillows of lazy contentment….funny little stories and nicknames that grow more and more strange….

All of it continues to make us the happiest and luckiest - and often tiredest - people we know!

So, there you have it….not so much a story but a State of the Family.

Life is very good!

Since you made it to the end of this run-on tome, here’s a photo montage we made for INSTAR (Indian Society for Third Party Assisted Reproduction) in support of the SURROGACY WALK that has been organized for April 20. It's a walk beginning in Delhi at Nehru Stadium with participation anticipated from 500 surrogate mothers, their relatives, doctors, and supporters.

Surrogacy BUILDS Families!  TRUE 'DAT!  We are forever grateful for the journey!!!

Enjoy!

I have missed you and hope to hear from you too!




Friday, August 17, 2012

The End

We have reached that time.

It is certainly not the end of our story, however these are the last and final words that will appear on this blog.

I do not know what the future brings. At some point, I may write about our family again in a different setting.

However, for now, this is the end of our public diary.

I am grateful that I will someday be able to share the many stories, photos, and videos that resulted from this journal with our children when they have grown old enough to understand.

I have immensely enjoyed writing every syllable that you have been kind enough to read in the 350 posts over 170,000 page views that precede this one.

Our extraordinary journey is forever a part of our colorful history!

Thank you for coming along...

Farewell.

Love,

2 Daddies and 3 Little Girls
faithtovishwas@gmail.com