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twinspiration

featured, happiness, healing, twinspiration

Deep in the earth

I’ve finally realized as of late what really makes me happy in between crying jags over my lost brother is to have my fingers sunk deep in the earth or rapidly slicing something bright and green on my bamboo chopping block. What better combo is there then but gardening and cooking? It couldn’t have come at a better time, this realization: My mother-in-law, wife and I are in a serious weight-loss challenge (the first person to drop 20 pounds wins two $20 gift certificates to the store of her choice).

For Earth Day (but really for our own personal slice of happy home on earth), my wife and I spent the weekend judiciously selecting plants for planting, and then I turned around and made all sorts of fun (and surprisingly delicious) vegetarian meals.

On Sunday afternoon, my trusty helper and I got started.

kid-gardening

OK, truthfully, that was snapped during Leo’s nap and Mama’s quickie trip back to the gardening store for more potting soil. But we did plot out how exactly we’d rule our yard during this rare one-on-one time.

Once all four of us were properly suited up in our lesiure yard clothes, diapers were changed and the laborious snack routine finalized, we got started laying out all our plants, from the veggies we’ll hang our next three grocery bill bets on to the fig tree that might one day be our bread and butter to the citronella plant that will save Mama and Leo’s sensitive skin in the summertime from all those crazy skeeters who don’t have any use for Rocco’s and my German blood.

rosemary

Perhaps the most exciting plant for me is the rosemary bush, which takes me straight to heaven in a single whiff. I’ve no idea why though perhaps it’s the idyllic childhood I longed for–one wrapped up in homemade pasta sauces, filets and pastries instead of the tastes of Hamburger Helper and Kool-Aid still sourly burning the tongue attached to the latch-key kid I wish I weren’t. I think perhaps that’s what has me hell bent on providing my children with a true farm-to-table childhood, and I am thankful my wife feels the same way. She grew up privileged with a lemon tree always ripening for lemonade and limoncello in her grandparent’s backyard, a loving mother and doting grandmother cracking and cackling away at some feast in the kitchen for a dozen or more for there were always people wanting to come by and welcomed when they did.

 bell-pepper-bud-gardening

We planted among other things green bell peppers (pictured above), golden bell peppers and yippee-kai-yay jalapenos to spice up our salads. My love already has a healthy lettuce garden donating handfuls of greenery to our bowls almost nightly.

gardening-buddy

My son, forever dubbed “meatball” because he ate far more than his fair share in the twin beds he and and his brother took up residence in while in utero, aims the hose at whatever interests him. As soon as my hands entered the soil to get dirty and happy, I no longer had access to the camera. And that made me happy, too, since it was another step from removing myself from technology. Though I’m sad I haven’t got the proof of our joyful gardening afternoon, except this fabulous Celeste fig tree we potted, just in case we move, in which we’ve invested probably too many hopes and dreams.

celeste-fig-tree

However, I did go veggie crazy starting last week, preparing all sorts of scrumptious vegetarian delights (who knew barley made an excellent substitute for risotto?), and I bought an enormous collection of Swiss chard. I’m admittedly a Swiss chard virgin, and I didn’t really even know what I was looking for as I scanned the veggie section at my local grocery store. And before you nutty shop-local-or-you-get-the-stink-eye folks get up in arms, know that I must shop only in places that offer me and my twin toddlers a double-seated grocery cart. 

kale-leaf-knife

Today I skipped working during my sons’ nap for a chance to enjoy myself in the kitchen instead, slicing off the leaves of Swiss chard and prepping them for our vegetarian burritos tonight.

chard-rolled-sliced

I took full academic pleasure in learning how to slice Swiss chard, which, if you don’t know, you cut the leaf as close to the rib vein running down the middle, roll the leaf into a tight cigar and slice it from there.

vegetarian-burritos-black-beans-corn-slow-cooker

After my concoction of corn, black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes and Mexican seasoning simmered in the slow cooker for a hefty 4 hours, I chucked in the chard for 20 more minutes to let it wilt enough to be delicate to chomp through. I added the mixture to warmed wheat tortillas, heaped on the all-important sour cream, cilantro from our herb garden and some salsa verde and called it a night.

That’s what made me happy today. What about you?

healing, quotes, twinspiration

Happiness in a glass

elderflower-cocktail

My wife and I have deep discussions about our passions all of the time and how we can best pursue them whilst changing our twin toddlers’ diapers, tempering temper tantrums (we have not mastered this new activity), maneuvering the constantly mounting piles of laundry (hey, at least it’s clean laundry), maintaining our tidy home, grocery shopping for the insanely huge and rapidly changing appetites of our 2-year-old sons, and somewhere along the way, fitting in sleep (which has been newly interrupted by one of our son’s curious fascination with screaming himself hoarse for no apparent reason like clockwork at 3:41 a.m.).

What are our passions? We’re artists who love to create, and we thrive on serving the under-served, which is why we launched Equally Wed, an online magazine covering gay and lesbian weddings. And we’re currently raising funds to launch Equally Family, an online resource for LGBTQ parents.

But we have to get outside sometimes, too, especially with the approach of warmer weather. Maria and I both love working outdoors, her building and me, well, not so much working but I’m willing to hammer a few nails if the end result is that I can relax on a deck with a cocktail in my hand, taking in the greenery amidst the wafting scent of freshly cut mint from my drink, Kindle in hand and my children nicely taking turns on our little toddler playground we just installed for their birthday.

It’s not necessarily the effect of alcohol in my system that brings me happiness. It’s the concoction of the cocktail: the art of slicing the cucumbers, the snipping of the fresh mint, the expert popping of the champagne cork, the adding of crushed ice (oh, how I love crushed ice), the pouring of bubbly, the layering of thinly sliced crisp cucumber and  aromatic mint, and topped with St-Germain, a delightful elderflower liqueur that instantly brings to mind bicycling in the Alps, a lung-clearing air-fresh exercise for the body and soul. It is the enjoyment of the process that delivers me from any dull or dark thoughts that might be looming around in my brain. That’s how I find happiness in a glass.

Photo: Zested

 

motherhood, twinspiration

Twice the joy: a celebration of my sons’ births

twins-birthday-leo-rocco-two-years-old

Two years ago today, my heart swelled to the size of the moon when I delivered my two sons, Leonardo and Rocco, into this wondrous world. Maria and I wanted them more than we could ever explain, and our journey to pregnancy was peppered with challenges but ultimately we triumphed in becoming mothers.

31 weeks and counting

31 weeks and counting

Carrying twins is not for wimps, and though I’ve always been impressed with the human body in general, I developed a massive amount of respect for my own body during my 36 weeks and five days of pregnancy. I experienced the usual suspects of issues associated with most pregnancies, from backaches to heartburn that required about half a bottle of Mylanta a day to an insane appetite that would rival any high school soccer team. But I really never was bothered by any of this. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I reveled in my pregnancy. I was practically euphoric knowing these darling little lives were growing inside of me, cradled in a little cocoon that my body made for them, and that soon my two sons would enter the world, our family and our home. I was giddy with anticipation. When I was laid off at 8 months pregnant from my metropolitan newspaper editorial position, I was worried sick about insurance until my company offered to keep me insured until after I gave birth. And I was able to get back to my toe-tapping excitement.

Twelve days before I gave birth, and one day after my 33rd birthday, my specialist OB (a maternal fetal medicine doctor assigned specifically to high-risk pregnancies) sent me to the hospital because of high blood pressure, spotty vision and protein in my urine. I had developed a potentially fatal condition called preeclampsia. I laid in an emergency room bed with multiple monitors attached to me for a couple of hours, my concerned wife holding my hand, until finally the doctors decided to admit me for hospitalized bed rest.

My closest friends and family members were worried about my comfort and boredom during this time, but I really didn’t mind because I would do whatever it took to keep our bambinos safe. My only sadness was caused by the fact that we weren’t going to have the “it’s time” moment that other parents get. You know, the one where you rustle your partner awake in the middle of the night and they get so mixed up trying to run around gathering your suitcase and your pillow and your meditation CD and the camera and whatever else you have ticked off in that screaming instant.

After laying in a fairly comfortable bed, away from the cozy home I shared with my wife and our dogs, for 11 long days filled with visits from friends, family, and crazy amounts of doctor and nurse checks, I woke up on the 12th day feeling different deep down in my soul. I waddled the short distance to the bathroom–the only trip I was allowed to take–and lo and behold, my water broke. It was a shocking rush of ohmygodohmygodohmygod this is really happening! And the best part? My wife had spent the night on that ungodly sliver of plastic cushion decoy (we’re pretty sure it was a slab of cement beneath) so she could be present for an early morning ultrasound. I was able to tiptoe in my hippopotamus-like state over to my sweet wife, rustle her awake, grin at her like a kid in a massive candy store, and say, “It’s time.”

If labor begins when your water breaks, then I was in labor from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., when the more “active” labor began. Before this time, everything from the horrifyingly painful epidurals (the doctor hit a vein the first time and had to redo it) to the bed-rail-clenching waves of knife-stabbing contractions was clinical and made for a hard day of waiting. When it came time to push (the classic 10-centimeter signal), the lights went bright, as if my wife and I had stepped out to center stage on Broadway, and teams of militant baby generals marched in, pushing big, tall carts made for baby warming, washing, weighing and measuring. They were ready for us. For Leo and Rocco.

But just as suddenly as the lights had shone into my eyes, they dimmed to a softer, more subdued level of brightness. I was encircled with a team of women, two nurses and my OB and Maria, my wife. The hospital moment had transformed into what felt like a home birth with female power and love and goodness and encouragement. I felt like a warrior goddess in the bed, curling my head toward my stomach (not a far distance with that small Mini Cooper growing from my midsection), gripping my thighs, listening to various women’s voices coach me with pep, love, cheering and maybe a little militant direction, too. Before that last push for baby A, my eyes filled with tears as I knew what was on the horizon: I was about to be united with this sweet darling who had been bouncing on my bladder, I was about to meet my son, face to face. With one last push of the unknown (I pushed as hard as I could, but I blessedly and tragically couldn’t feel a darn thing below my waist), Leonardo Vincent Palladino was out of my body and into the world at 11:31 p.m. on March 14, 2011, weighing in at 4 pounds 15 ounces. He was blitzed over to his assigned warming station before we could even blink, because I had another child to deliver whose life hung in the balance. Six concentrated pushes later, Rocco Bruce Palladino arrived at 11:38 p.m., weighing in at 6 pounds 9 ounces. With both boys safely delivered and the knowledge that they were healthy and we’d not have any NICU time, we were able to allow the euphoric rush of bliss and raw heart-thumping emotion to overwhelm us. Maria was invited to cut Rocco’s cord, and cameras were whipped out, phone calls were made, and our lives took on a new form that we will forever be grateful for.

baby Rocco

baby Rocco

baby Leo

baby Leo

There’s no role I love more than being a mother, and I love my children more than I love myself. I believe that I was made for Leo and Rocco, that they are the perfect culmination of my loving relationship with Maria, and that they make life make more sense than ever was possible before they arrived.

Our first professional family photo, at 5 weeks after birth

Our first professional family photo, at 5 weeks after birth