Adoption Papers…and…where the heck have we been?!

Dear friends, it has been just over 10 months since our last contact – – – Wow.

There’s reason for it for sure, as life has been a true ride since then. Honestly, not a very sweet and lovely ride, but a hard and painful (albeit evolutionary) one for our family. So much to share and catch up on that it has been overwhelming just to think about where and how to start. But, I will leave the catch up thang for just a little bit later. Just know that there are serious plans to sit our selves down, turn on the camera, and give a real update ASAP. It’s coming.

The Fam to the Courthouse

For now, I would like to share happy news. Firstly, yesterday October 10th was Ella Lynn’s second birthday. This means that Ollie’s birthday was 5 weeks ago, September 6. We have two year olds now! There are endless amounts of gushing that could be produced concerning this journey and celebration, like any parent. But that is not my mission this evening.

Instead, I would like to discuss the dynamic that having two children from different moms, with a shared father, and what that means in the legal world in regards to parenting. Basically, the moms (Dani and Melinda) have automatic rights and are legally mothers of their “womblings” (Ella and Ollie, respectively). Additionally, Jon has automatic paternal rights to both of the babes, which has proven a helpful link when the “real parent” is needed in certain situations. Echem.

That’s right. There are situations where my identity as Ollie’s mom is not valid, because he didn’t come from my body but from my wife’s. And vice versa for her, despite the length of our marriage (domestic partnership), the fact that we were present since conception and through their first breaths til now, or that we each breast fed both babes. To be fair, we haven’t encountered this challenge too many times but we don’t like it. And of course there are so many “what if’s” concerning health and “the-system” related possibilities for the future. So the plan has always been to legally adopt each other’s womblings.

Luckily and cosmically, the Governor of California approved the SB 274 in October of 2013 – mere months before the babies were conceived. The legal lingo from the bill is:

This bill would authorize a court to find that more than 2 persons with a claim to parentage, as specified, are parents if the court finds that recognizing only 2 parents would be detrimental to the child.

Under Section 1 of this bill stands a very powerful description that will provide for our case I believe:

(a)Most children have two parents, but in rare cases, children have more than two people who are that child’s parent in every way. Separating a child from a parent has a devastating psychological and emotional impact on the child, and courts must have the power to protect children from this harm. 

This law isn’t a very well known one, but it is there. And it is our ticket to all three parents being legally what we are in real life – parents. Well, it’s been talked about since the babies were born, but about 8 months ago I really felt a passion to make it happen. I dove into researching adoption and found that there is something called a “Step Parent Adoption” that “easily” allows for legal step parents, including domestic partnerships, to adopt the child of their spouse without a lot of legal battle. Thus, I completed two versions of the required paperwork – one for my adoption of Oliver and one for Melinda’s adoption of Ella Lynn. A process…as I’m sure you can imagine.

Those completed packets have been gathering dust in my to-do pile as life has rushed around like a tsunami of work, school, babies, emotional upheaval, and all that. I’ve been waiting for a day when all three adults could make it to the courthouse, an impressive scheduling feat. We did that about a month ago, but ended up going to the wrong courthouse so it was postponed further…that is…until today.

Filed papers!

Today! October 12, 2016. We finally filed the adoption paperwork! Oh, what a relief to have those stacks gone-away. But alas, it’s not a simple as stamping “FILED” on the documents. There are still several more steps…including the inevitable challenge we face…no one knows about SB 247.

Specifically, our sweet tribe of 5 bumbled our way into the correct courthouse and eventually found our way to the correct window and clerk. As I proudly turn over the two packets explaining “We are filing for two step parent adoptions”, the clerk looks over the first few pages.

“And you are, I’m sorry?”, she gently requests

“I’m Danielle”

“And Melinda is…*I point to her*…your partner?”

“Yes.”

“And Jonathan is…”

*I point to him* “The father of both, yes.”

“Ok, I’m assuming he has a signed consent?”, she follows up with.

“Uumm…for?”

Then you could see her process a bit deeper, but still produce the standard response…”To give up his paternal rights.”

“Ummm…that’s definitely…not what we’re doing.” I stammer.

“Well…you can…only have two parents.” I think she’s seeing how this is going to go, as our two toddlers scurry around with both Melinda and Jon indiscriminately as I handle the paperwork.

“Uhhh…” I look at Melinda who is the most knowledgeable when it comes to SB 247. She takes it from there.

The clerk seemed rather at peace and professionally supportive of our situation, repeating that she has never dealt with a situation like this and would need to talk to her director. She wrote down the Bill and gracefully filed our 8 month old documents. She reported that the next step is to wait for packets in the mail that will request further documents like birth certificates and domestic partnership proof.

I imagine that there may be a need to attend court as well, being that the Bill states “if the court finds that recognizing only 2 parents would be detrimental to the child.” You can betcha’ booty we’ll be ready for that one. And I’m feeling that a little public light shined on this situation may very well be a powerful tool for others that may be in somewhat similar situations!

So for now – a huge step forward to an incredibly important goal we have had for a long time.

Superior Court

P.S. For those interested in having conversations about Privilege, as I often do in my schooling these days…this is an opportunity to consider one’s Straight Privilege. Most male-female couples are not required to go through the process of “proving” their parental rights or their marriage for that matter. True we are taking this one step further to include three parents, not just a same-sex couple…but perhaps that gives yet another opportunity for Privilege examination…Monogamy Privilege. Hmmm…interesting. For more about what Privilege means, check this quick youtube video out.

How we organize the kids’ clothes…OR Raising boy and girl twins in an intersectional and gender conscious way

How we organize the kids’ clothes…OR Raising boy and girl twins in an intersectional and gender conscious way 

FullSizeRender

It’s been a real blessing that 99% of our baby clothes have been given to us by friends and family, and saves us quite a lot of money. Being that we have two babies, both a boy and girl, we have a high “need” for clothes. We go through them fast in dirt and growth…and somehow we must keep this large collection of tiny outfits organized, size appropriate, and accessible. It has taken a while to figure out a system, given that we have both “boy” and “girl” clothes of all layers and the same size.

I decided to take on this project around 4 months old, choosing to separate the clothes by type (short sleeve, long sleeve, pants, jackets, etc) and then further by gender assigned to that article of clothing by the manufacturer…which basically means color, word IMG_0913choice, and character scheme depicted. Though I chose this technique for “ease”, it clearly makes a distinct identity on each article of clothing. THIS provided quite the inner dialogue and moral dilemma for me, especially when I decided to label the clothes cubbies in order to assist Jon and Melinda in keeping with the system (I had been noticing way too many mounds of jackets in the pants cubby for my comfort and ease).

Enter (Un) Hidden Agenda Opportunity…”Intersectionality* of Gender”

FullSizeRender_1My clothes cubby label choice? “Chick” or “Dude” fill in the blank with clothing type (Quotations included on label). Again, it’s a choice I made for organizational ease, but it sits with slight discomfort every time I reach for a new baby shirt. This type of introspection on gender labeling happens repeatedly throughout every day. The most obvious is when we pick out clothes to put on our babes – as the boy and girl clothes are the same size and ultimately interchangeable. But the issue bubbles over to so many other realms parents are faced with: toys given/encouraged, emotional and communication expectations, discipline, word choice, strength and sensitivity judgments, introductions with new people, etc. I often find myself contemplating how I am possibly over influencing a culturally assumed gender identity on the kids based on their birth sex. Even more of a trip is how I may over influence them in the opposite way in an effort to ensure non-traditional exposure.

No doubt, navigating the appropriate amount of influence on your IMG_1370children is a tricky issue. Not only do I feel the need to expose them each to clothing, games, communication, etc of the “opposite gender”, but I also feel cautious not to forcing that too much on them too. It takes a significant effort to create a neutral, child-choice environment in a world of pinks and blues, baseball and IMG_1934softball, and lingering gender stratification. Do I put Oliver in a yellow tu-tu and Ella in the brown “Dirt makes me Cuter” tractor print onesie today, just to make a point to be neutral? (Ironic as that sounds)

 

 

 

 

To make things more “complicated”, or perhaps more clear…theseIMG_0044IMG_1734 two kids seem to display a rather traditional gender preference when given a choice. Ella will immediately and confidently selecting the rainbow colored flapper tutu dress out of the mixed selection of clothes I present (something this tomboi bio-mom has been known to flinch a, tisk tisk), and Ollie will rush to a wheeled toy to drive around in true delight. This isn’t to say they don’t occasionally chose non-gender-typical options…but queer as their surroundings may be…it seems consistent!

Being part of our unique family, with a self-identified straight dad, and two bisexual moms (one dominantly straight and the other dominantly queer), provides a rainbow of exposure for these kids. And being born in a era and location where conversations about a flexible spectrum of gender identity is common enough that preferred pronouns are asked at parties and transgendered folk speak openly about their journey in public places for any to overhear. This is a truly powerful element of our surrounding culture that I am proud to witness, be part of, and raise my children in.

As a lovely example of how gender flexibility and neutrality is of every-day conversation ‘round these parts, I offer the story of “Cave-It”. I recently had the pleasure of spending my Sunday with a wonderful couple, Emily and Claire. Claire repeatedly shifted her voice in a cute way that I assumed was similar to how most people shift when talking to babies. Emily spoke up however and playfully informed me that the voice change is actually Claire’s gender-neutral alter ego named Cave-It. Neither a male nor female, Cave-It is a sweet creature that comes from a humanoid species that lives in dark caves with no light. Thus, the Cave-It people don’t see or assign a gender in their culture…it is only when they come out of the cave and into this strange world of ours that they witness the strict gender confines and definitions that our culture puts on its members. A children’s book waiting to happen, no doubt! I hope my retelling does Cave-It and Claire justice, as I only got the quick version and I’m sure there are layers of intricate philosophy woven in…that I am eager to hear more about one day.

In the end, I believe we young parents in this extremely gender IMG_1387 2conscious culture, need to make true effort in providing choices for our kids. Choices that withhold expectation and judgment in many topics, but especially gender as it is one of the first identities our culture imposes on children. There is a delicate line to walk while figuring out the role of our and our own parents’ traditions and tendencies, innate preferences (if there are any?), and a plethora of diverse cultural influences when it comes to shaping the minds and hearts of our littles. I feel confident that we do a pretty good job at this, while not being overly zealous!

 

 

*Intersectionality defined by Wikipedia: Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is the study of overlapping orintersecting social identities and related systems of oppressiondominationor discrimination. The theory suggests that—and seeks to examine how—various biological, social and cultural categories such as genderraceclass,abilitysexual orientationreligioncasteage and other axes of identityinteract on multiple and often simultaneous levels.

 

Summer 2015 Update Q&A

Hello folks!

It’s been a while since we posted a new mini-sode, and so we are happy to give an update. This Q&A session was done this summer, probably July 2015. It explores the following questions:

  • Why are you moving?
  • Any new poly issues?
  • What about Dani having a lady lover?
  • How’s the sex life at home?
  • How’s the financial situation?
  • The changes in the fall…

Some follow up comments on the topics discussed:

Why are you moving?

During the filming of this Q&A, we were living in Oakland at the time, but had decided it was time to move our family back to the Santa Cruz area. There is a point where Dani says “It’s just not safe for our family anymore”, and we want to give a bit more information. Though we were living in a part of Oakland that did have a lot of crime rate that endangered us and our property, it’s important for us to illuminate that the safety also had to do with the simple fact that the kids were getting mobile and we lived on a busy corner in a house with 3 doors leading outside. The pollution from the cars was constant. And with virtually no play space, especially outside, we felt it was better to relocate the family.

I want to make a specific point about the public perception of Oakland, however. Though it is notorious for crime, racial issues, illness, and poverty – the media fails to illuminate the truly wonderful things about this town and the East Bay in general. The community and its efforts to make improvements and increase safety is something to be applauded. The local art, displayed on so many business and residential walls, is powerful to show the talent that is blossoming forth. It is too easy to make jokes about the raw living in Oakland, I (Dani) am guilty of this. It is more challenging and more powerful to stand up for the hardships experienced by so many without a fair education, work opportunity, health access, and so on. I value my family’s time in Oakland greatly – it was humbling, diverse, and in so many ways feels more “real” because it is so raw.

New Poly Issues?

There was a good deal of talk regarding Polyamory going on at that time, as Melinda had begun exploring her affection with another man outside of the relationship. It was our triad’s (plus babies) first time to really attempt this. We discuss it a bit in the video, but felt that it wasn’t the most carefully communicated experiment. The spoiler alert is that situation did not proceed. However, while composing this blog (Nov 1, 2015) we are again facing a struggle with communication and emotions regarding a new love of Melinda’s. It has become a rather distinct issue that we face on a daily basis now.

What about Dani having a lady lover?

At the time of this filming, Dani was about to take off (with Ella) to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival – notorious for its lesbian presence. The idea of her “playing” at this festival was proposed by friends and discussed by us. Seemingly reluctant permission was given to Dani to play lightly with kisses and cuddles. But in reality, Dani was there to be with Ella and that just wouldn’t have been a realistic possibility.

Her time there did, however, inspire Dani to move a forward with her pursuits back at home. Since the filming, Dani has very slowly begun the process of enjoying the company of another woman she has been interested in for years. So, both Dani and Melinda have opened the door to outside interests, but in dramatically different ways. So the discussion of outside partners is a very hot topic these days…

Sex life at home?

In this Q&A we discuss the recent realization that the “trade off” technique we had begun using since the babies were born, has started to decrease in novelty. With the low-sex-life between Melinda and Dani, Jon is pretty much the crutch of a V style poly relationship – sexually at least (emotionally it is a fully functioning equilateral triangle). Since this was filmed, we are realizing that a mid-love-making-session trade off is not preferred. Some reasons are:

  • The lady in the second shift is waiting in the other room with the kids, trying not to fall asleep, and potentially wrestling with feeling “left out” or jealous”.
  • The lady in the first shift is constantly distracted by whether or not she is taking too much time, if the other lady is struggling with the kids by herself while “I” am enjoying myself, and the knowledge of what it feels like to have to wait.
  • The ladies are not experiencing the full start-to-finish love making dance that is so precious and powerful. And a rush to relieve the other mommy leaves to a lack of “after-glow” time.
  • Jon is having to adapt to the sexual needs, energy, and style of each of the ladies mid way through his love making experience.

Our solution is naturally unfolding recently. Simply – trade off nights, not sessions. This way the lady not making love can just go to sleep, which is a resource in high demand and low resource these days. And each of us gets to experience the entire process of love making with the other. One day, we hope to get back on track with all three of us making love together, but that will be dependent on moving the kids to their own bedrooms!

Financial situation?

No extra comment! Just happy this is finally smoothing out.

Changes in the fall…

Also since that filming, the move has been complete and we now live in the Santa Cruz area. Melinda has re-joined her original school to continue her Chinese Medicine education. Dani has begun a full time ASL Interpreter Program in Fremont and commutes (with a dear friend and classmate) three days a week. Life is very busy for our family and it has been challenging to find time with each other. This also means that Jon has taken on solo dad days, which is no big deal now – but when this Q&A was filmed, it seemed like a HUGE deal as Dani was primary caregiver for the babies. He’s an amazing father and is providing tremendous support (physical and financial) while Melinda and Dani dive into school full time.

Finally since this was filmed, the babies turned ONE YEAR OLD! We threw a joint bday bash for them in October, which was beautiful. Technically, that was the “end” of filming for this documentary…but being that our world has cracked open to new issues regarding poly in our life, we’ve decided to keep the camera’s rolling…and more accurately, we’re trying audio recordings to catch the live and emotional discussions we’ve been having. So, we’ll need to manifest an animator who can help us with some visuals to accompany the audio…when the time comes. (Got any suggestions?)

Thanks for following along – we hope our story offers insight, inspiration, education, and entertainment.

To watch our first set of Q&A’s conducted when the girls were 2-3 months pregnant, see this blog: Complete Q&A Session…one year later!

PS – special thanks to my brother who has been visiting, for doing the subtitles!

 

ABC Nightline aired, our response

Last week, ABC Nightline released the segment about the fam that they filmed waaaay back in March. It’s been a while, but that’s fine with us.

Watch it here, and read their accompanying article.

Our family didn’t watch it live because we don’t have a TV and Jon went out of town for work. So, it was interesting to read and hear other people’s reactions before we even got to see it! Happily, the reactions from our friends and family were very positive, which means a lot.

Once we finally got to watch it online, we came to agree that it was done rather well! Of course we were nervous about putting our story in the hands of a corporation (owned by Disney) and all that. But we’re pleased that it was handled with care and respect.

We would like to follow up with a response to some things however.

Firstly, I noticed that the closed captions on the online video don’t seem to work. There is a “CC” at the bottom of the window, but I wasn’t able to figure it out. So, I’d like to apologize to my Deaf and Hard of Hearing friends that aren’t able to access the ABC story. I wrote ABC about this issue and hope they resolve it asap.

Beyond that, here are some thoughts:

Dani’s “Sugar on top” situation. The segment touches on a running “issue” in the family, which is that Dani often brings up the need for another woman partner to fulfill her more lady-lover desires. This is because Melinda, though a woman, is more naturally drawn toward men sexually (Dani says “basically straight” in the segment). Thus the initial drive to find the perfect man for our relationship. Though the love and life-partnership between Melinda and Dani are unshakably deep, it’s an area that we discuss often as to how to make sure everyone’s needs are met fairly.

It’s so very important for me (Dani) to share that this doesn’t mean we are unhappy or unhealthy. We are in constant communication about this, always growing and learning how to address each person’s needs in a positive way for our family. Also, I’d like to emphasize that my connection to Jon is more than just “Fun” as I stated in the segment. It is powerful, loving, healing, sexy, and evolutionary. Though Melinda’s need for a man may have been the catalyst to finding Jon, I could not be more grateful for him! “Making things happen” is one of Melinda’s super powers that make our relationship and life amazing.

What is Polygamy vs Polyamory? There is a part where Melinda goes into detail about the difference between polygamy and our family. I wanted to provide a bit more clarity and resources for that. Soooo, check out our Resource Page.

Harder to come out as Poly than it is to come out as Gay or Lesbian. Dani was asked about to compare her process of coming out as a lesbian vs poly, this was her answer. I (Dani) want to make sure to express that I honor the challenge of people coming out as gay or lesbian. It is an individual journey and each one is different. For some it is a smooth and wonderful experience for others it can cost them their lives. By this comment I meant that poly is another step beyond being lesbian for me and came with its own intense set of challenges that were harder than coming out originally as a lady-lover. Big love to the whole queer community and their bravery to be who they are. For those queer and poly folks that are still “closeted”, I respect your reasons and hope for your safe and happy liberation.

A bit about Ann Valliant (pictured and interviewed). Ann is a dear friend of ours that Melinda and I connected with in 2010. She is a classic “old hippy lesbian” with a southern style and gentry. Brilliant and still true to her roots within the Civil Rights Movements, she is known for her eloquence and ability to be upfront and honest. We love her dearly and were so happy she came to celebrate openly with us!

Complete Q&A Sessions…One Year Later!

So, back in April 2014, when the girls were 17 and 15 weeks pregnant – we did this interview session. Our videographer/editor Stefunny came up with about 10 questions and asked them to us each separately. Then we spliced the answers together to compare them. We broke the interview up into 5 parts, 3 mins each, because we all know how hard it is to sit through a 15 min video these days!

Continue reading Complete Q&A Sessions…One Year Later!