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Saturday
Nov022013

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Monday
Jul152013

The Best Family Vacation - EVER: a Disney Cruise

We went on the most wonderful, fabulous vacation EVER in mid-January. (I know, it's July.) It was an eight-night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Magic out of Galveston, Texas. Never having been on a cruise, we were skeptical - I mean, trapped on a boat? When we're both susceptible to motion sickness. With our kids? For eight nights? Twenty-four seven? Are you kidding me? But the parents of our kids' classmate was telling us all about it at a holiday party in December, and seeming too good to be true, we booked anyway.

And boy are we ever glad we did.

The highlights: All inclusive. Kids sailed free (January through March). More activities than you could possibly have time for with no obligation to do any of them. Characters everywhere.

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Amazing servers who followed you from restaurant to restaurant in the evenings; A room steward who made awesome towel animals and knew we'd be back to nap midday so he'd tend to our room in the mid-morning; Heated pools on deck; More pizza, burgers, spaghetti, mickey waffles, mickey bars, and chocolate donuts than the kids could ever dream of.

Fresh fruit!

A Pirate night!

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Upscale, no-kids restaurant on board (the brunch was divine); A spa on board. Incredible Broadway-quality shows/entertainment (and I just saw a handful of Broadway shows in December so I know what I'm talking about!)

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Smiling, kind staff. Everywhere. All of them.

KIDS CLUB!!!!! (read: free babysitting. 9am to midnight. And if they're in there during a meal, THEY'LL FEED THEM!!

Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, was awesome. And included a Kids Club onshore:

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which meant Jennifer and I got to steal away for two hours for an adult beverage and an adult beach. Yes, please!

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We also had a chance to dress up. There was a semi-formal night and a formal night. And how cute did they look?!

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I wish more people would have adhered to the dress code for those evenings. Far too many parents allowed their children and teens to wear shorts and sideways ball caps to these evenings. Or any evening. Even when the dining room rules asked that no shorts or tanks be worn.

Other than that, though, the cruise was quite casual.

The wait staff had our drinks and the kids' food at your table almost as soon as you sat down. And did I mention Kids Club?! Kids Club staff would come whisk your kids away around the time your entree came (at the late seating) and take them to Kids Club so you could enjoy the rest of your dinner. Seriously.

Dark rooms perfect for napping and sleeping.

Decks perfect for journaling

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We had a day at DISNEY WORLD!

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And a night

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I'll post our packing list (I think it was a pretty good one, with some revisions) and tips later. Oh, if we could do this again, I absolutely would. Both Jennifer and I admit that it is the best vacation we've ever taken - with or without kids. The Disney cruise was the perfect balance of family time, couple time knowing the kids were well cared for (and having so much fun they didn't want to leave Kid's Club), and alone time.

Highly, highly, highly, highly, highly recommend!

Tuesday
Mar262013

An Open Letter on Why Marriage Equality Is Important to Me

{Following is the text of the speech I gave on Monday, March 25, 2013 at the Houston Marriage Equality Candlelight Vigil.}

My name is Rachel, and this is Jennifer, my best friend, girlfriend, and partner of nearly 13 years. She’s also my future-wife. These are our two kids Mateo and Harper and they’ll be 5 next month.

This morning, like many families across the country, we woke up. Late. The kids had breakfast while Jennifer and I scrambled to get ready for work. We packed lunch boxes, nap mat covers, and lovies and shuffled everybody and everything into the car for our morning commute to school and the office. Getting the kids to put their shoes on was a challenge, and some battles we didn’t even bother fighting – like the outfits they chose to wear today.

This evening, we’ll get home, ask the kids what they did at school, they’ll probably tell us “nothing”, then there will arguing about having to take baths, then more arguing about having to get out of the bath. Afterwards, we’ll pile up on the couch for family story time, before heading upstairs making up some game along the way to make brushing teeth be fun. We’ll pair off into the kids’ bedrooms, say prayers, and then tuck them in for a good night’s sleep.

Later, Jennifer and I will collapse onto the couch to talk about on our respective days, answer work emails, and then maybe have enough time to catch up on a favorite television show before we start getting everything ready for the next day. Please do NOT tell us how Season 3 of Downton Abbey ends, we’re still on Season 2.

Basically, our day in the life is remarkably similar to every.other.family.with.young.children.EVER.

Except that when we go to sleep at night, we don’t rest with the comfort and security of the rights and responsibilities provided by federal law currently limited to heterosexual couples. We worry. What if one of us dies? Is the life insurance policy enough? What do we need to line up to avoid probate?

Many regard marriage-equality and parenting as two separate issues. But they’re really not.

In fact, even the American Academy of Pediatrics made this connection last week when they issued a policy statement declaring its support for marriage-equality because allowing gay and lesbian parents to marry is in the best interest of their children.

What if something happens to both of us? Will their new school accept our two-mom family? What’s our backup plan if that doesn’t work out? We know children don’t discriminate until they’re taught, so how will their friends’ parents respond?

Marriage is about love and commitment. Jennifer and I are in love, you even can ask our therapist! I can tell you that after 13 years, we’re kinda committed.

Especially now that we have kids.

Jennifer and I have joked (and by ‘joke’, I mean we’re not joking) that if one of us ever split from the other, we’d hunt each other down, because heck if either of us is raising these two alone.

I mean, think about it, full and equal civil marriage would also protect the kids through full and equal divorce. Seriously: did you know that child support and visitation are rights currently afforded to the children of straight couples, but not same-sex couples?

As GLBT parents, we can – and did – secure as many rights as possible through an attorney, but it can prove cost-prohibitive, too.

We have medical powers of attorney, wills, life insurance policies to benefit the kids, guardianship agreements, and a second parent-adoption under our belts, a process we began when Mateo and Harper were 30 weeks. That’s gestational age. By the time the kids were 6 weeks old, Jennifer was legally their parent, too.

With all the planning and paperwork involved in securing rights, it’s no coincidence that just about every GLBT parent I know is Type A.

We are blessed to have the support of our family and friends. We met with our pediatrician and teachers and pastor and confidently introduced our two-mom family before engaging in relationship with any of them. We want to be sure our kids will be in a supportive and caring environment with the grown-ups in their world.

Still, all these documents and dialogues and conversations don’t guarantee the protections afforded straight married couples.

Protections like parental status.

When I visited the elementary school where our kids will attend Kindergarten, I was pleased to find out that we wouldn’t be the first same-sex parents to have kids there. But I was equally disheartened to be informed, ever so gingerly, that without proof of adoption, Jennifer couldn’t pick up a sick kid, or otherwise be treated as a full-on parent. Civil marriage, on the other hand, would give her automatic parental status without having to prove up her legitimacy.

Protections like leave benefits.

Last April, I broke my leg and had to have surgery to put a plate in the bone. For nearly two months, because I was not allowed to bear weight on my leg, Jennifer had to do just about everything with the house and kids while I...got to be a straight husband. Because I’m not legally Jennifer’s spouse, she could not take FMLA, which would have helped make those months more manageable. Even after nearly 13 years together, if I died, she technically could not take FMLA to grieve. Civil marriage would afford GLBT couples job protection and time off to tend to their family in times of need.

Protections like economic benefits.

Most companies do not offer spousal and family health benefits to same-sex partners. I am blessed to say that mine does. But for this benefit, because we cannot legally marry, I have to pay income tax on the premiums that total thousands of dollars per year. She’ll also have to pay a tax penalty on the inheritance of my retirement plan. Dollars that could otherwise be saved for college tuition, donated to charity, or otherwise be plowed back into the economy.

Children of GLBT families are CHOSEN, y’all.

We don’t accidentally have kids.

Mateo and Harper were dreamed of, prayed for, and meticulously planned for. For eight years. They are the most deliberate and sustaining legacy of Jennifer and I’s love and commitment. And our children deserve the economic and psychosocial stability that civil marriage affords.

Collectively, our children are our future, no matter the sexual-orientation of their parents. It’s our hope and prayer that the U.S. Supreme Court will honor and validate our commitment, and that of GLBT families everywhere, by moving marriage equality forward.

Thank you.

Happy New Year!
Monday
Jan142013

An Open Letter To Growth Spurting Four Year Olds 

You WILL eat again.

You just ate two waffles, 2 sausage links, half an apple, a glass of milk, and a boiled egg. There is not enough space in your belly for more.

When your socks don't fit, it doesn't mean that you now have a reason to never wear socks. It just means we need to get you new socks.

If you can, let us know when you START to get hungry. Because the walking up to me in tears as if your cat died only for you to say “I’m so hungry!” is a little freaky.

You WILL eat again. Really.

It’s okay to sleep a little longer. I promise you won’t miss anything big. No need to wake up before your body is ready and then march around like a cranky monster because HUNGRY!

The reason we “always” have to try on clothes is because your pant bottoms are at your shins and we’re trying to get a better fit for you. And it’s not “always”.

Your food is not going to run off your plate. It’s okay to slow down.

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Yes, we will be having supper today.

Monday
Jan072013

Hearing Range of My Four Year Old Daughter

Look at me!
Look at ME!
I want you to watch me.
Watch this
Look at me!
STOP LOOKING AT ME!
Look what I can do!
Why are you looking at me?
Look at ME!
I'm hungry! (Crying)
I don't WANT to eat.
What are you having? (The same thing)
Can I have some of yours?
Look at me!
Why did you break my chicken? (Crying)
I don't want protein.
I wants some of YOUR chicken.
Don't call me a princess, I am a kitty!
I am not a kitty, I am Harper!
I AM NOT HARPER!
I want milk.
Look at ME!
I can't find my woobie (Crying)
I want to wear tights! (the torn ones)
I want to wear a dress.
Not those tights or that dress.
Why do you always have to comb my hair?
No.
NO!
You are not doing it right.
These shoes are not perfect for my feet.
I'm a puppy.(panting)
You gotta say "hello, little puppy! You want some milk?"
I can do it myself.