Thursday, December 23, 2010

so the next couple of months...

it all passed in a bit of a blur...

We were excited that we were pregnant (well technically our surrogate was!). We knew it was twins. Which was funny in a way. We didn't know what to expect we were excited that it was twins as we thought it would be good that you would both have someone to play with as you grew up (more on that later!).

We were getting the updates from the clinic which were all good. You were both growing very well, our surrogate was gaining weight as she should have been etc...

I was a little bit worried deep down as we had lost the original set of twins. But we got past week 15. And then past week 20. We got the week 20 scans, which included the 4D scans which showed us you both for the first time. It was an amazing thing to see. Your little faces in utero. Your father then went on a frenzy to find out your genders. Indian law doesn't allow for the disclosure of genders when a woman is pregnant (namely as female embryos were being aborted). We found out that one of you was a girl and the other was indeterminable. I had the feeling you were both girls. I don't know why but I did...

Also your father was funny. He decided that he had to know what gender you both were so he made video of the DVD that we were sent from the Clinic to see if some of his friends and some of the people he went to school with could shed any light on "what" you were... It was funny to watch at any rate ;)


So all was proceeding along nicely. Your surrogate was gaining weight and was healthy. We were starting to plan for your arrival. We were talking about moving from Melbourne to move to a small town called Trentham (which we ended up doing). And your father and I would start commuting in for work (about a 90 minute round trip - not a lot of fun! Your Dad was ok with it but I hated it).

Anyway... we had one rather amusing hiccough. We were at 29 weeks and we got a phonecall from the clinic telling us that our surrogate had gone into labour. I get a phonecall from your father while I am on the tram home - cue 10 minutes of absolutely frenzy while I try to get a hold of the person who was going to be housesitting for us to see if he could start that day or the next. Your father was on the phone to Qantas to see if we could get a much earlier flight. Thankfully, your father had a 1 year visa and I had already renewed my tourist visa. I then get a phonecall about 10 minutes later telling me that they got surrogates confused. There was another surrogate with the same name who had gone into labour and the clinic thought it was ours.

This taught us a bit of a lesson. Not to take anything for granted and that you guys could realistically come any day...

The next blog post will be about when you were born!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The last night in Delhi

When we had arranged for the tour through Agra & Varanasi when we were first in Delhi, I had booked us a night at the Metropolitan Hotel (5 star hotel without being over the top) as I thought at the end of the trip we could use it. I was right... I really was!

Anyway so we get to Delhi, I'm feeling like a slightly dried up oil-slick by now due to the massage from Varanasi. I was so happy to have a shower I really was!

I had to ask to change our two single beds to one bed. We didn't tell our travel agent that we were gay (it was easier not to!). So when we were checking in - I asked. I think Larry was expecting it was going to be a bigger problem than it was. It wasn't. Keep in mind at this point (Feb 2009) homosexuality was still technically illegal in India. The hotel was fine with it. I guess it's one of the those things that can be easier when you're a foreigner - I don't know. But I'm also never going to pass for anything other than I am...

We actually did pretty much hide in the hotel for the next 24 hours. Apart from going off to get some ibuprofen. We walk into the pharmacy near the hotel and we're being asked if we want Viagra. I had to laugh - I did.

Following day was a quick flight to Mumbai and then a transfer to our Qantas flight home... we flew out of Mumbai knowing that our surrogate had tested positive and we were pregnant with what looked to be most likely twins (which we all know it was twins but at that point we didn't).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Varanasi


So we're in Agra being shown the carpets that our guide's boss sells. You soon discover in India most people are trying to sell tourists everything. And guide's seem to have multiple bosses... ugh! We even had the driver come in and tell the guide off a couple of times as we were starting to run late. Thankfully he saved us as we were running late!

So we get taken to Agra station to wait for the train to Varanasi. It's reasonably late... so it's a night train. We're standing at Agra station waiting for the train and I'm seeing rats... I don't like rats. So I'm trying not to freak out. I think I did ok. So we get on the train - feeling a little bit conspicuous as we're both tall and we're both white... Train starts to move, I try to read not thinking I'd be getting much sleep. I was wrong... I fell asleep after about 10 minutes.

4am and the conductor taps my foot says Varanasi wanders off this freaked me out slightly. 10 minutes later he's back and it's the same thing. I have no idea really of what's going on... I wake Larry up as I'm guessing we're approaching Varanasi. Which we were. I left my jumper on the train too :( It was one of my favourites. Another one of my favourite jumpers Larry left in New York but I don't mention that anymore as I promised I wouldn't.

So we're wandering the streets of Varanasi trying to find our hotel - which proved remarkably easy... although the hotel wouldn't let us check in at 4:30am - understandably so. So we wandered down to the bank of the Ganges (the hotel wasn't that far from the river). It is always amazing how quiet pre-dawn is. Pretty much universally. So we get approached by one of the people that rows the boats on the Ganges asking us if we'd be interested in a dawn "cruise" I'd guess you'd call it. We had nothing else to do and we thought we had the money.

I will point at this stage that to most Westerners the reach of the Ganges we were at is completely and absolute toxic! Totally... this again of course slightly freaked me out.

I do have to say though watching sunrise on the Ganges was a truly marvellous experience. And that includes everything that goes with it. The holy men bathing in the Ganges. Watching the women wash saris in the rivers. The Gahts, the Gahts are a little creepy though! But having the opportunity to have all this explained to us was pretty cool.

We even got to send some prayer boats down the Ganges. I had some of my prayers answered! They are currently downstairs avoiding their nap... cheeky monkeys! I think we ended up on the river for about 3 hours or so. And of course that ended up being a lot more expensive than what we were originally quoted. So we said we'd return later with the money. So we checked into the hotel, had breakfast, got some cash and paid the guy.

We met our tour guide and we were shown around Varanasi. I don't really remember that much of the tour apart from meeting his boss that sold fabrics. We did buy something! We have a rather gorgeous cashmere blanket. We were shown some of the Gahts and had the significance explained to us. Ghandi was cremated in Varanasi. We also got to some cremations happening. Not exactly the sort of thing you want to see vacation necessarily...

It was explained to us by a monk at one of the poorhouses that if you were cremated at Varanasi you were closer to Nirvana and I'm not sure if I am remember this correctly but you may not have to be reincarnated. I expect I'm wrong on this one though. But there is a migration of people to Varanasi who are dieing.

In a lot of ways I found Varanasi quite spiritual but that's probably to be expected.

It was also a little bit of a poignant trip. We met a young gay guy. He took quite a shine to Larry (at this point to be honest I was pretty much over the whole India trip... I really was - I wanted to go home!) and he was so incredibly sweet to both of us. It also made me realise that in so many ways those of us who live in the West are so incredibly fortunate. Gay people in the bigger cities in India have it alright - it's still not as easy for them as it is for us. Those in the regional areas have it really quite tough. This guy was saying that he will still have to get married as his parents expect if of him (and it will be an arranged marriage). I really did feel for him. I can't imagine what that would be like.

Our guide had arranged for us to meet his Guru. Yes folks we got to spend time with a real indian Guru. This was an absolute scream. And it's a bit of a swindle when you really get down to it. But it was fun. I had my fortunate told by a Guru. That's pretty freaking cool.

The whole Guru thing to be honest was a bit of a laugh. I'm a little bit gullible and a little bit cynical. I paid the equivalent of US$200 to have someone pray once a year to help get rid of my karmic debt. Seems my relationship and my actions with my mother previously had caused a little of karmic issues... so *ahem* I paid to have them fixed. To only then about a year later completely wipe all that away. Ah well! Life has to be fun ;)

One other thing that I had to do in Varanasi was get an ayuervedic massage - one of the ones where they drip oil on your head. It's meant to be very good for you. The whole time I was laying there I was trying to not think about whether or not the oil was clean and how many times it had been used before etc... It wasn't really *that* relaxing. And due to the timing issues... I didn't have a chance for a shower before we returned to Delhi. So I basically hopped on the plane feeling like a giant oil slick.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Agra, the Taj Mahal & a dead camera


So we get to Agra mid-afternoon maybe...

Check into the Holiday Inn - margarita time! Of course you're not meant to drink the water in India so this present a bit of a problem... No idea if the ice is made from tap water or filtered water. We survived so I assume it was filtered water.

I currently can't remember how long we were in Agra for - it may only have been the two nights... Agra is an amazing place. I was really blown away by it.

Ok onto the adventures. There's basically three things that you have see in Agra. The Red Fort, the Taj Mahal and the fort where Shah Jahan was imprisoned. We saw the Red Fort first. You have to take your shoes off! Seriously... this kind of freaked me out. I was also worried the whole time we were wandering around the Red Fort that our shoes were being held hostage (this ended up being technically true - we had to pay a RS10 minding fee). We were given a tour by a guy that basically latched onto us. Two tall white people tend to stick out. He kept telling us it was his sacred duty as a Muslim to take us through the Red Fort. So we have one of the insanest rides in an auto-rickshaw yet. Get taken through the Red Fort. I wasn't particularly impressed as I felt we were being swindled. Which we were. And that sucks!

So next we move onto the Taj Mahal and get the tour. I was completely and absolutely blown away by the Taj Mahal. I can not describe how beautiful it is except to say it is incredibly beautiful and none of the pictures do it any justice. They really don't. One piece of bad news is my 300D decided to die just as we were about to enter into the Taj Mahal *mutter mutter grumble grumble* so all my Taj Mahal photos and photos from that point were taken on my iPhone.

I think part of what makes the Taj so special too is that it's quiet. All of India is so loud and busy and in your face. And the Taj is honestly this little oasis of calm.

The Fort where Shah Jahan was imprisoned was almost as amazing as the Taj. The amount of workmanship and detail that went into these places is just staggering and so very beautiful.

The bit that really cracked me up about the tour guides is that you have to see everybody's boss. So... we ended up having to see some carpets and some marble. Because that's where his boss works or the brother of his boss or the great-uncle of his second cousin etc... it was funny, the driver had actually come in and tell the tourguide off as we were looking to be running late for our train to Varanasi.

I am so glad we took the time out to see the Taj Mahal. I was actually very humbled by it. It's beauty is honestly inspiring and breath-taking.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A brief visit to Delhi

So we got the train from Mumbai to Delhi - that was ok... it wasn't that bad really. A bit uncomfortable and a little chilly but all in all it was ok. The couple we were sharing a berth with were quite nice. Retired couple from London who were visiting family. Although she loved to talk...

So we get to Delhi. Schlep around carrying our luggage trying to find someone who didn't seem like a tout to take us to our hotel that we knew was somewhere in Delhi but not quite sure where... So we find a cab driver who will take us to our hotel for RS350 (I think from memory). We thought the hotel was a bit further away than what it was. We were wrong. We could have walked there. So we basically got done... in reality it was about AUD$7 but you always feel a bit silly when you get ripped off.

So we check into the hotel to find out it backs onto a rather large Mosque. The call to prayer was rather loud. It was actually quite a nice hotel (the Broadway Hotel) and done very nicely, if not getting a bit tired. I'm not sure at what point we decided to get a tour but we did. We ended up going to a travel agent and getting them to organise a tour for us. Probably in part because we were a little bit sick of getting ripped off (we still got ripped off but not as much). So we ended up with a schedule that took us through Agra & Varanasi and gave us a tour guide for each leg of the remainder of the trip.

The Hotel was actually really good as because our driver was picking up at 7am - we were up before breakfast was served. They gave us breakfast. It was actually a very kind and a very awesome thing to do.

Our driver from Delhi to Agra was pretty cool. He was a really nice guy and his english was very good, to the point where there was no struggling with accents. There was completely insane stuff we saw on the way like people hanging out of helicopters to clean the top of electricity transmission towers. Snake charmers & monkey trainers. I refused to get out of the car for that one! There's not enough money in the world to get me close to a Cobra. Really there isn't!

Our driver took us to his village. Larry loved the experience - I was a bit freaked out by it. It was rural India and it was quite strange. It was lovely having Chai with his family though and his family were very kind to us. We also got to go to the local school and meet the kids and have a quick chat with them. That was sweet. I actually didn't take any photos of all this as it just didn't feel right.

The drive to Agra took maybe 8 hours or so...
We ended up at a Holiday Inn of all places - which actually did pretty good margaritas from memory ;)


i'm a bit slack

sorry regular readers :(

I've been really slack with keeping up to date with my blog

I suck!
I will try to get some blogging done in the near future - I will :)

xo
michael

Sunday, September 5, 2010

i'm going to the movies


i'm going to the movies, originally uploaded by nettsu.

It's funny... I haven't been the movies for well and truly a year. I was trying to remember the last time we went to the movies and it may have been for the last James Bond movie or X-Men Wolverine. I really can't remember!

I've been a massive fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion since the 1990s when SBS first screened it. They screened anime in prime-timeish... Monday nights at 9:30. I was working a split shift and I'd be in bad by 8:30pm most night. But Monday nights I'd stay up to catch Neon Genesis. Fanboy/Geek/Nerd... that's me ;)

Then fast-forward to 2009 and I discover (rather belatedly) that there's been a remaking/re-imaginging of Neon Genesis. I hunt high & low for the DVD (well I fib I looked on ebay) so I got Evangelion 1.0 and I was blown away. I was back to where I was when I first saw Neon Genesis Evangelion all those many many years ago ;)

And as I follow madman entertainment on twitter - I found out that Evangelion 2.0 was part of reelanime (an anime festival) so I then proceeded to debate about whether to go or not.

Couple of problems:
Time. When? Trying to coordinate a time with Larry who's travelling a bit with work. The nanny and when she works. Trying to find a baby-sitter. It was almost too hard.

Did I really want to drag Larry to something he has no interest in.

So I decided to basically just get a ticket for myself for this Thursday. I have no problems going to the movies by myself - always have done - quite comfortable with it :)

So this Thursday I will be geeking out and since the nanny started a couple of months ago I will be doing something for myself... I will be doing something not baby related... how odd...

xo
michael

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Same-sex couples face injustice on adoption by Verity Firth

This was in the Sydney Morning Herald today and I'm just reposting it (lazy I know!)

Same-sex couples face injustice on adoption
Verity Firth
September 1, 2010

I recently met a family in my local electorate, Balmain. As in many
families, both parents work and go to playgroups and weekend sport. Their
cupboard is full of prepared gifts for the endless cycle of year 1 birthday
parties. They are expert in keeping the peace between their bossy daughter
and her baby brother.

The difference between this family and most others is the parents are gay.

Both men have the telltale bags under their eyes that come with juggling
work, raising two young children and trying to remember what a social life
was like. These are decent people who clearly have a deep love for their
kids and strong commitment to each other.

They came to talk to me about the inability of same-sex couples to adopt in
NSW. The issue affects their family directly. Despite raising children and
sharing their life together, only one is a legally recognised parent of
their children. The other has a parenting order, conferring many of the same
legal responsibilities, but there is no legal mechanism allowing his
parenthood to be properly recognised.

I left the meeting with two lasting impressions. The first was an easy
recipe for a bechamel cheese sauce to make recalcitrant four-year-olds eat
their veggies - which proved successful with my daughter. The second was a
deep sense of injustice about the existing adoption legislation.

Many arguments against same-sex adoption stem from a belief children have a
right to, or are best served by, a mother and a father. For most of us who
grew up with a mother and a father, perhaps this is an understandable
reaction. But it fails to acknowledge that many children grow up with single
parents or grandparents, in joint custody situations or with gay and lesbian
parents. When we deny these kids and their families legal rights, we are not
protecting children, we are punishing them for their family not resembling
the nuclear ''ideal''.

Research has repeatedly shown that kids growing up with gay parents are no
more likely to be gay, suffer from mental or physical illnesses or be
unfairly disadvantaged. In fact, one recent study suggested kids with two
mums were more likely to be well-adjusted and have higher self-esteem.

In 2008, I proudly supported the NSW government's recognition of lesbian
co-parents of children born through assisted reproductive technologies such
as IVF. The government has now removed every piece of discriminatory
legislation against lesbians, gay men and their families - other than the
Adoption Act.

The member for Sydney, Clover Moore, has introduced a bill to Parliament
seeking to remove adoption discrimination. I applaud her efforts. Both the
main parties have allowed their members a conscience vote on this, and it
looks like the vote will be close.

Adoption is not a right. Making same-sex couples eligible would not entitle
them to adopt children.

But reform would provide a mechanism for same-sex couples to have their
parenthood recognised, and to expand the pool of potential adoptive parents.
Currently, lesbian and gay step-parents and foster parents caring for
children across the state are unable to formalise that relationship.
Allowing adoption would provide these children with the legal and emotional
certainty of two legally recognised parents able to make medical decisions,
sign notes for school and ensure the children were protected if one parent
died.

Adoption equality is not just about substantive rights and legal
protections. Removing discrimination is about respecting human dignity and
ensuring everyone has the best possible opportunities in life, regardless of
their sexuality or that of their parents.

I was about 14 when it dawned on me that everyone should be free to love
whoever they fall in love with, and that a civilised society would never
stand in the way of something as giving and fundamentally human as this.

It is my firm belief same-sex couples and their children should have all the
same rights, responsibilities and protections as heterosexual couples and
their families. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is completely
unsupported by any evidence, and more importantly is unjust.

I am proud to be supporting Moore's bill to remove the last piece of
discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. I look forward
to a day soon when unjust discrimination is a thing of the past.

Verity Firth is the NSW Labor state Minister for Education.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

some photography tips & tricks I did for some gay dads groups

Hi Folks,

Ok, for those who don’t know, I’m an amateur photographer, quite a keen one and also it seems quite a good one (but that’s entirely subjective) – I still have so much to learn and much further to go. Anyway, I’ve had work exhibited both here in Melbourne on numerous occasions and also once in New York in an interactive exhibition (that was very exciting!). I’ve also had a couple of photos published - which was also very cool.

So I was thinking that it might be a good idea to compile a tips & tricks document that will hopefully become organic in nature. I’m not the world’s best photographer and I don’t claim to be.

For those who haven’t seen them:

My two flickr sites

My own -> http://www.flickr.com/photos/nettsu/ (which pretty much has everything I do in it! The good & the bad!)

My family photostream -> http://www.flickr.com/photos/larryandmichael/

Now down to the nitty gritty…

Your equipment shouldn’t matter (how many times have you heard this line!). You should be able to achieve good photos with any camera. Better cameras don’t make better photographers. Please don’t even think that to take good photos you need to spend the money on a dSLR. Learn what your camera can do. Read the manual (I don’t think I’ve ever read a manual start to finish to be honest). Learn what each mode does and what you can achieve with it. Find what you like and run with it :) Or basically play. Select the mode, shoot a couple of snaps and see if you like the result.

Take multiple shots. Memory is cheap – buy multiple memory cards. I suggest multiple shots for a number of reasons, children move fast! I’ve learnt this. Also I think its better if your shots of people with their eyes open rather than their eyes shut.

Auto. This can either be a bug-bear or a saviour. Most “real” photographers will tell you not to shoot in Auto. Ignore them – as a friend of mine said – camera companies have spent millions on developing these modes, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t use them. I personally will only use Auto when I can’t the image I want to work using my presets (normally shooting in full sun).

Flashes… well yes. Not a fan. I think in the nearly 11 months plus of the girls life I have used the flash maybe 3-4 times. I really try not to use the onboard flash as they are incredibly bright and while I may be over-reacting I am concerned about the potential damage that incredibly bright light can do to little eyes. This is entirely personal choice! But this ties into my next point.

Be aware of light and where light is coming from. Use it to your advantage. This is one of the things in my mind that takes a photo from ordinary to extraordinary. Be aware of the direction of the light and what it’s going to put in shadow. Also keep in mind you are much better taking photos in the shade/indirect light then you are taking photos in full sunlight. Now post-processing can help (I use CS3 but I don’t know nearly a tenth of what it can do) some images but the old adage is really true – crap in, crap out (or garbage in, garbage out). iPhoto from what I understand also has some pretty powerful, basic photo editing tools. Not sure about PC based programs sorry – I haven’t used a PC in a number of years.

Composition (or how you frame/shoot your photographs). At the end of the day this is what makes or breaks a good photo. A badly composed photo is a badly composed photo. We’ve all seen photos with people’s heads cut off etc… this isn’t really about that. This is more about space and negative space. Be aware of negative space and how you can use it to your advantage. As in if you have a child up against a wall maybe move back a bit to make it more interesting. Be aware of background elements in the photo you are trying to take as they can detract or add to a photo. Also don’t feel constrained to shoot in either a horizontal or a vertical mode. Mix it up a little, shoot on an angle. Get closer to your subject, get further away etc… again just play and have fun with it. Another idea is maybe try to get candid shots of people with your baby/babies. I think we’ve all seen the overly forced smile photos – you know the ones I mean where people either look constipated or in physical pain – a lot of people don’t like having their photos taken so try to be more obtuse about it and there is a certain sweetness or elegance that come through candid shots.

iPhone apps – there’s a number of iPhone apps that can be fun to use to create interesting and quirky pictures. There’s some for android equipped phones again but as I’m an apple fanboy, I have no idea about these things ;)

Amongst my favourites are hipstamatic for that wonderful toy camera feeling and Best Camera which allows a number of different treatments (fake polaroids for example). Cameraphones are very good for having on you at all times as you never know just what’s going to happen. I shot mostly with a dSLR but I have a point & shoot in the nappy bag and I always have my iPhone with me.

Further resources:

MIT has a bunch of photography related courses online -> http://www.petapixel.com/2010/02/16/mit-photography-courses-online/

The Melbourne Camera Club in South Melbourne has an introduction to photography course that we (Larry & myself) found quite educational -> http://www.melbournephoto.org.au/introduction-to-photography-course.html

The classes go very fast though! I think it’s $250 for 8 or 10 weeks from memory.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to fire away – more than happy to answer them :)

Cheers

Michael

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Election 2010 and how I'm voting

I still haven't decided how I'm voting. There's 6 candidates in my safe(ish) labor seat. The incumbent Labor member, an openly gay Liberal candidate, a greens candidate, a family first candidate, an australian secular party candidate and an australian sex party candidate.

Apparently Melbourne Ports has since been classified as a marginal seat... Don't ask me I don't get it.

So first the no's
I'm not voting for Family First. I absolutely, completely refuse to on principle. This is a party that espouses family values are more important than anything else and they are generally the most narrow minded and bigoted people you will encounter. Like pretty much being told that me raising my family is akin to child abuse because I have denied my children the right to a mother and a father.
I am not voting for the Australian Sex Party. I can never work out if these people are serious or not. I really can't. It always feel like it's a piss-take of some description or another. From their policy statement "The Australian Sex Party is a political response to the sexual needs of Australia in the 21st century. It is an attempt to restore the balance between sexual privacy and sexual publicity that has been severely distorted by morals campaigners and prudish politicians."
The Australian Secular Party is another I just don't get. They're all for the seperation of church & state but their philosophy confused me.
So the Labor sitting representative. Now I've never seen my local representative. I get the odd newsletter here & there which is the usual crap about what a fabulous job he thinks he's doing... Now he is his party's representative so I am judging him on that. I completely disagree with the ALP's stand on the proposed internet filter, this is a democracy, the government doesn't not have the right to censor information without the populations knowledge. We have the right to discuss, question and contest it - as we do now with our current classification guidelines. I also think NBNCo is a massive waste of money - wee fibre to home networks when large numbers of people are moving to wireless technologies... Then there's the leadership coup, that left a really bad taste in my mouth as to what our elected officials are capable of. And then there's the cheap vote buying ala this was in one of my local papers this week - "Danby flags shift on same-sex laws. Labor Melbourne Ports MHR Michael Danby told a crowd of voters at St Kilda Town Hall that he believed a policy shift on same-sex marriage was "coming". Although he supported Labor's stance leading into the election. He flagged the possibility of "serious movement" on the issue, saying many politicians supported overturning the same-sex marriage ban introduced in 2004." I find this really insulting personally. I do.

Then I'm torn between the greens candidate and the liberal candidate. I'm getting more conservative as I'm getting older (and also because I now have a family) which is part of it. I'm hestitant to vote for the Greens candidate as I don't want the preferences going to Labor and I really, really hate preferential voting. I also find the liberal candidate kind of endearing but also kind of irksome. He's "openly" gay but yet he refers to his partner in gender neutral terms, that annoys me...

I suspect I'll end up voting Liberal...

And I'm voting Greens in the Senate. I don't want either major political party with control of both houses.

Mumbai Memories


I really didn't like Mumbai.
It's hot, dusty, smelly, dirty, filthy, dirty, filthy. I know there's a reason for some of this namely poverty and being India's largest city people will migrate to it in the hope of making money or breaking free of the cycle of poverty - I admire them for that. But there was stuff that just made me shake my head. There'd be people squatting on the street and there'd be a toilet maybe 20-30 metres away from them (now I have never been in a public toilet in India and I feel that was probably a wise move!).

It really was a culture shock for me. I was confronted on an almost daily basis on the contrasts between the haves and the have-nots and just how people survive. I was miserable and I think I made your father miserable too! You also have the insanity of the Mumbai commuter trains. It's fun to watch (in hindsight) how intimidated tourists are to try to get on one of these trains. They are packed to the absolute brim with people still hanging out the edges and there seems to be some form of coordination to the chaos that took your father and myself a couple of trains to work out - we basically just took the plunge and jumped on the train. We were trying to get tickets to Delhi as that was the next place your father and I wanted to go to. This is where we met the next part of what I found to be really frustrating about Mumbai - everyone is out to scam you or alternatively there are just so many layers of bureaucracy it's crazy. So we were told that we had to go to a certain station to get tickets for the Rajdhani Express. So we go to that station - stand in a line to get a token, to then stand in another line to get to a ticket window to be informed we have to a different station (foreign national ticket office) to repeat the process... rinse, lather, repeat.

So we buy the tickets to Delhi. Your father wanted to go first class as the Rajdhani Express is meant to be quite an experience in first class. We ended up in Second Class as tickets are booked out months and months ahead for first class and there's only so many allocated to foreign nationals.

I will be honest and admit at this point that I love Indian Food, I especially love Indian Food in India (although I know it's not referred to as Indian Food). But it's so good, the thalis, the masalas, the sambar, the poha, the wedu... etc ;) I would get fat living in India! There was also a rather interesting restaurant that was attached to our hotel called Out of the Blue that did fusion foods. So a blend of western & Indian cooking - that was so good! I can still remember it a penne served with a creamy green chilli masala. Blew me away!

We did some of the typical touristy stuff before we left for Delhi - checked out Mumbai, the Elphanata Caves. India has such a sense of history that most places in the world can't come near and there's something very spiritual and humbling about it all.

We were in Mumbai for 3 days before heading off to Delhi. There was something else I was going to say I have completely forgotten now!



Thursday, August 12, 2010

American Airlines

Just wow
Seriously
Just wow...

We left Dulles on the 9th for what should have been a relatively straightforward flight to LAX. Should have been... The plane had a damaged spoiler they decided to tie down which then meant that we had to stop in Tulsa to refuel. The woman at the Admiral's Club reassured us that we'd make our connecting flight as the refuel only takes 20 minutes - HA!

So we're on the plane.
It's the usual bitter, twisted, miserable and rude staff. Dear American Airlines Air Crew if you hate your jobs that much - find a new one! Please!
Everything is too much effort. Mind you were given free headsets rather than being charged the usual $2 for them. The sound on the movie wasn't working properly as Larry was rather curtly informed when he was the 20th person to tell the crew the sound wasn't working.

Sorry I skipped ahead slightly.
The pilot had informed us that they had a choice of kicking 30 passengers off or flying slow & low and refuelling in Tulsa. They took option 2. Ok...
Refuelling took an hour...
We get to LAX an hour late. We obviously miss our connecting flight. We're directed from the international connections desk to the customer service desk. The girl at the customer service desk basically tells us that she doesn't care as her shift is over and there's not going to be anyone to replace her. So we have to go to the ticket desk to be reticketed... (I could have screamed at this point). Told everything is ok and that we'll be put on the next available flight to Melbourne (the following night) so in the interim we're being put up in the LAX Marriott for the night. It's currently after midnight LA time. So we head to the hotel... check in and there's one restaurant open and no 24 hour room service! Beyond that it was actually a very nice hotel.

So the following morning Larry rings Qantas to find out what is going on. They can't help us - so Larry rings American Airlines - they can't help us (this was about 2 hours on the phone). So he decides to head to the airport to talk to the Qantas and American Airlines desks. This was also an exercise in futility. Apparently there's only certain staff from American that are trained in the Qantas system so we had to wait for them to start.

So at 4pm we all track down to the airport (the cute baby factor can help!) to see if we can get home. So all seems well. We have tickets - we have bassinets for the girls. We also have a connecting flight through Brisbane but that should be ok. We ask after the luggage and are assured that everything should be ok.

So we head over to the airport again around 9pmish to wait for our flight. We get on the plane and all is easy. The girls sleep most of the way to Brisbane. And really it is amazing how different Qantas really is. We have to collect our luggage in Brisbane as we have to escort it through customs before flying to Melbourne. We're standing there and standing there and standing there... Larry had made a comment when we were walking through immigration that it would be funny if our luggage was lost.

Still standing there...
Larry wanders over to the lost baggage counter and I'm still waiting. I'm then informed that the last of the luggage is out. Our luggage is "lost".

FFS
It was en route to Melbourne on the plane we had originally been re-ticketed on... it actually beat us to Melbourne... The Qantas flight to Melbourne was lovely - all of the air crew were more than willing and happy to help us. So my fellow Australians the next time you whinge about how bad Qantas is - try flying American Airlines.

I really never ever want to fly American Airlines again!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Travelling... (Virginia Part 1)

It's a nightmare...
24 hours roughly of travelling.
The girls all things considered actually did really well. There was no major meltdowns. Louise didn't sleep much as she had to know everything that was going on. So she'd be asleep and someone would come talk to us about the girls and up would pop her cute little head - get a cheeky smile. It really is very, very cute.

I got the chance to watch 2 movies!
Which for a 15 hour flight is a scream - got to watch both Clash of the Titans & Alice in Wonderland, broken and interupted quite a bit but did eventually get to watch them. Enjoyed both of them.

Qantas I love you! The staff were awesome. The passengers were pretty good (better than our connecting flight). We were waiting for everyone else to get off the plane when we landed at LAX and we were getting congratulated on being able to deal with the girls as well as we did (which was a bit weird). Got patted on the back by a drunk bogan and got a resounding "well done mate". American Airlines - you suck. Larry and I get split up (nothing new for them) and we get put in seats that are nowhere near an aisle... yeah smart move with babies. I could have done with the smartass behind me though who quite loudly said great and rolled his eyes when he saw me with Olivia. I know travelling with babies is an imposition on a lot of people - but my girls are good ;)

We had a really nice moment at LAX when we were going through customs. My surname is different to everyone else in my family and the customs officer was a bit taken aback by that! That struck me as really quite sweet.

Oh and hire car shennigans! I wanted a Ford Fusion - you know a nice mid-size sedan. We got a bonus upgrade to a Saturn Vue. Which is a Holden Captiva in Australia which we looked at getting at one stage. Larry's impression of it - it's a boat! *giggles*

Oh and the internet is so fast here!

Friday, July 23, 2010

India Part 1 - Part 2 - the first baby video

video

I should have included this with the last blog post but technical issues in trying to find a .dat to .mov convertor that wasn't windoze based (apoligies too for the watermark but hey I'm only converting one video so I'm not paying for it).

Two of these blastocysts are Louise and Olivia. Pretty amazing isn't it? I just had to share this as it was and still is something so completely and absolutely amazing.

the other link to it is here -> http://www.flickr.com/photos/larryandmichael/4822821828/


India Part 1 (Part 1 of many)

There are so many things in life that just end up comedic. Or unintentionally comedic...

So anyway we were still trying to get pregnant. Now obviously there is only so much "stuff" that can be used before it runs out. We had our egg donor cycled and ready to go... and we get an email from the clinic. We had to be the next day to deliver more "stuff" or as we've rather delicately decided to describe it genetic material. Cue the fits of hysterics... the stress... the frenzied phonecalls/emails etc... basically explaining that we can not physically get to Mumbai by the next day.

So there's a frenzy of activity including me begging work for 10 days off so we can go to India. I seriously did work with an awesome bunch of people! I really did :) I still miss them at times. So anyway, we manage to get into Mumbai on the Friday (we were supposed to be there on the Wednesday) and had an appointment at the Clinic on the Saturday (that being Valentine's day - nawwwww!). Our babies we're created on Valentine's Day (nawwwwww!).

I'll digress for a second. There's something really quite surreal about being in Business Class on a Qantas flight and landing in the middle of one of the worlds largest slums. It probably was a pretty good introduction into the culture shock I was in for the next two weeks... I'm not a particularly well-travelled person, I will also admit that. At this point I've been to Hong Kong (enjoyed it!), Vietnam with your Dad (that was interesting), the States with your Dad (LOVED IT!), Singapore (I actually really had fun in Singapore) and the two trips to India.

We were very lucky in that we got to meet your surrogate and kind of in a roundabout way we got to meet your egg donor. Well we didn't get to meet her as such... but I was sitting in the waiting room trying to work out if the pretty woman on the other side of the room was your egg donor or not. Your father told me off for staring as I was most likely going to freak her out... which I probably did. I can have that effect on people. Just so you know - your egg donor is very pretty, she's very short (which is probably why you're both short-arses) and she just had such a beautiful face. Your surrogate was very quiet and very shy but she seemed to have a good soul - your father gave her some flowers to say thank you and she was left speechless (in a good way!).

So this was to be our sixth and final attempt. Although to be honest, I think your father and I would have kept trying until we got the desired outcome. As in we would have found the money for further attempts from somewhere. We wouldn't have given up but as we found out before we left India we didn't need to try again! We had found out that our surrogate was pregnant with twins.

The two of you were created on the 14th of February and you were transferred into the surrogate on the 16th of February. Your father and I were in India for about another week. We decided to have a bit of a tour around while we had the chance to do so. The next couple of blog posts will be about my experiences in India... should hopefully be entertaining!

I'm taking a brief hiatus :)
well not that most of you will notice considering how irregularly I blog... but we're off to Virginia for Larry's 20th High School Reunion and so the girls can meet their grandmother.

xo
michael

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kitchen shenanigans or just plain insanity



So my friend Elli made Nigella's donut french toast. The idea being that the french toast was based on a powered donut... Which got me to thinking - what if you made french toast out of donuts. So I set myself a mission to make french toast using donuts. Originally I thought Nigella would be proud. Now in hindsight I'd think Elvis would be proud...

Elli's effort and how the damn thing is actually meant to look - http://www.flickr.com/photos/1773/4765975036

Donut French Toast

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

60ml full-fat milk


4 slices from a small white loaf or 2 slices from a large white loaf, each large slice cut in half
 - this is obviously where I chose to use Cinnamon Donuts

25g butter, plus a drop of flavourless oil for frying


50g caster sugar


Serving Size : Serves 2

METHOD

1.Beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla in a wide, shallow bowl.








2.Soak the bread halves in the eggy mixture for 5 minutes a side.









Problem 1 - I soaked the donuts for a little two long and one split (you'll see in the next photo)

3.Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan, and fry the egg-soaked bread until golden and scorched in parts on both sides.










4.Put the sugar on a plate and then dip the cooked bread in it until coated like a sugared doughnut








These actually taste better than you'd think... they are incredibly sweet though. Disgustingly sweet. Would I make them again? No. Was it fun? Yes. I have any number of giggles about this over the past couple of days. Just the idea and then the execution. It's fun to play with food every now & then ;)




Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mommy Dearest…

Most of my therapy to date has been about my relationship with my mother. I have been in therapy for excess of 3 years. We had a break through this year – I admitted that I hated my mother. Now this is a pretty big step… I will have to venture in the deep murky depths of what my mother was/is and what it all means to me.

My mother left when I was 10 years old. She ran away with the man across the road in a tacky middleclass melodrama. I was very much a mama’s boy – I will admit that – I felt closer to my mother than I did to my father. And when she left I felt completely and absolutely betrayed.

It’s very clear in my memory. I woke up one early one morning and walked in her and Dad’s bedroom, she had packed all of her clothes in her suitcases. I asked her where she was going – she said on vacation. I asked her to take me with her and said no. I went to school thinking everything was ok. I got home from school to find my father sitting on the couch absolutely devastated. Mother had left – packed up all her belongings and left her husband and her two kids to run away with a younger man from across the street. This man eventually became my stepfather. This is also the day that pretty much changed your Opa forever. He loved your grandmother, I don’t think she quite released how much. European men have great difficulties expressing or showing emotion and your grandfather was definitely one of those kind of men.

So anyway…

There’s very much a history of your grandmother and I have problems. She’s had periodic contact with me through most of my life since I was 10. I went years without contact from her or contact with her.

One point I will make and this shapes a large part of my relationship with your grandmother. I was abused (she denies it but that’s to be expected) physically and emotionally. And those scars run deep! If you ever need confirmation just ask your Uncle Eddie he’ll tell you. Now a large part of the problems that I have with your grandmother stem from this abuse. We’ll get back to this.

So anyway through most of my teenage years I didn’t really have much to do with your grandmother. I think I got back in touch with her when I was 18 or 19. I seem to remember driving out to see her and my stepfather when I had my first car. Not long after that they moved to WA. I didn’t really have much contact with them after that.

I eventually got back in contact with her. I always felt like I needed my mother. I should have realised that my mother and I really don’t have anything in common apart from a blood connection and to be honest – that’s really not enough.

At the end of 1996, I moved to Western Australia. My then partner and I had split, were having huge problems and I thought why not! This is actually the first major mistake I made with your grandmother. I should have stayed in Brisbane. I was with your grandmother and stepfather for 2 days before I was in my own apartment in Rockingham some horrific little town about 90kms south of Perth. Your grandmother and I fought – a lot! She also threatened to hit me at one stage, which was when I decided I would move back to Brisbane. In the space of 24 hours I had sold up everything and I mean everything! What I couldn’t sell I donated. I bought a bus ticket back to Brisbane and I spent the night in the grounds of the Casino in Perth.

This is probably one of my regrets and a bit of a low point. I was a bit mean to your grandmother at this stage. Her and my stepfather did buy me some furniture and had set me up in the apartment with the bond and everything else. I did resent them because I didn’t feel particularly welcome. And also I suspect your grandmother wasn’t expecting to deal with an adult – I think she wanted the 10 year old back or she was at least expecting the 10 year old. Somehow I went from being 10 to be being 24. So anyway that went badly and ended badly. My mother and I didn’t speak for a good long while.

So eventually when I was talking to your Uncle Eddie he asks if it’s ok for mother to have my email address. I think sure why not. What’s the harm? If it will make her feel better that she’s back in contact with her two sons – then why not? So mother and I communicate by email for years. It’s nothing – it’s gloss, nothing really deep or personal is ever revealed by me at least. I think mother revealed more but I didn’t really care. I found it all a bit trivial and boring to be honest.

It all kind of changed with your father. Family is very important to your Dad, so I tried to repair my relationship with my father and improve my relationship with my mother. My father unfortunately was a lost cause (I may explain that much later). My mother was thrilled – she was so excited when your father and I committed to each other. She was also very excited to find out that we were trying to start a family. The starting a family came before the commitment – if your father and I were going to have a family then I wanted a commitment between ourselves (this at times proves to be a real challenge though – I do love your father so very much but we have our problems). I was joking for a while that it was a shotgun wedding.

This is about where the story starts to turn back to the darkside…

So anyway, my mother and I are getting on ok. I’m uncomfortable and awkward talking to her on the phone. I don’t like it – I didn’t like sharing things with her it just didn’t feel right to me. It really didn’t. She was missing for so much of my life – she missed all the important things and she didn’t care. Mind you the opposite was also true I missed so much of her life and I just didn’t care – at all. I realise how horrible this sounds – but getting over the betrayal of a parent leaving you is hard (if not impossible).

I was trying.

Maybe not particularly successfully but I was trying.

So back to where I was. We found out that our surrogate had miscarried. Your father was in London and I needed someone to talk to. I rang my mother. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really shouldn’t have. It gave the signal to my mother that everything was ok between us. It wasn’t but I felt I had done the wrong thing by ringing her and I wasn’t sure how to fix that.

My mother and stepfather had planned to come visit us in May 2009 (largely to meet the original set of twins) and they stuck to that after the miscarriage. The reunion with my mother was awkward for me to say the least. By this stage mother and I hadn’t seen each other for over 12 years. She was very touchy-feely and physical and I wasn’t comfortable with that. She was also a bit too curious about things that I felt she had no right to ask questions about:

  • how much your father made
  • how much I made
  • how much the house in the city was worth
  • how much the house in the country was worth

I just felt they were really inappropriate questions to ask.

There was a couple of defining moments though. She had known your father for less than an hour and she called him a snob. That just really set my teeth on edge for some reason. I just didn’t really think it was appropriate. The other was – we were meeting your Uncle Mike for dinner – I think he was curious to know what my family was like. So we’re walking past an aboriginal art gallery in Flinders Lane in the city and she’s telling me all about the darkies & the abos in Western Australia (these are two terms you should never use when referring to aboriginals) and I found it really surprising that my mother – who’s a migrant would use these terms at all. I was also really quite surprised that she was that much of a bigot and a redneck.

So the happy reunion was a miserable failure. I was happy to see the back of them to be honest.

She wanted to come back and visit after you guys were born. This concept freaked me out – mostly because she wanted to stay with us. I have not shared a roof with your grandmother for more than 2 days since 1996 and before that it was in the early 80s. This completely and absolutely stressed me out. I managed to delay her visit until late January 2010. And as the date was creeping closer I was freaking out more and more. So I rang her. I asked her not to come. And I have no idea of what happened from that point – it became a whole series of other people’s dramas. I will never speak to your grandmother again based on her behaviour from when I asked her not to come – I asked her to understand that it was what I thought was best for my family, a concept that I will admit is completely alien to her, and I didn’t mean for her never to come (on some level I did I’ll be honest).

There is more to this story but I will leave this here. It will get mired in the pettiness otherwise and this is a situation I need to move on from. I regret that I don’t have a relationship with my mother. But I am also relieved that I don’t have a relationship with my mother (if you get the gist of the catch22).

My sincerest and deepest hope is that I will be a better parent to you both than what my mother was to me. I don't ever want you guys to go through the pain, misery, hatred and agony that your grandmother has put me through.

My final comment on this - I was walking with your grandmother down the street we used to live in Trentham and she asked me if I had any happy memories of my childhood with her. I don't. I've searched for them. I don't have any. And that saddens me...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

back to the surrogacy story

So where we…

That was a bit of diversion really!

We will be back to me trust me. It generally works like that…

So anyways… we’re in early 2008. You’re father has just gotten back from the trip to London and he’s pointed out this article in the International Herald Tribune. So we start investigating whether or not we can do it. Financially, it’s much more viable for us (as surrogacy in India is considerably cheaper than the US). So we we start to investigate the possibilities. Now at this point your Dad is working in Singapore for 3 months (I did say he travelled a lot).

So while we were talking about and investigating the possibilities for us to create a family your father had the ability to fly from Singapore to Mumbai. It’s a 9 hour flight – which doesn’t seem like much really.

So your father was investigating two options.

One was with Dr Patel in Anand. She normally doesn’t deal with single men but she made an exception for your father. This is where your father and I had a bit of a heated discussion. I was also moderately offended that he was approaching her as a single man – to me it felt like he was creating our family based on a lie and I wasn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things from his perspective.

The other was with Rotunda in Mumbai. This clinic also had it’s own challenges. When your father went to sign up with them – they sent him home with his file cover sheet, which was what meant to identify him… so they lost “us” for about 9 months.

So as Rotunda didn’t seem particularly keen to begin with. We decided to progress with Dr Patel – we were very lucky and our surrogate got pregnant after the first transfer. We found out a couple of weeks in that it was twins! We were excited – your father and I wanted twins – I’ll explain that in a later blog post. We then found out it was in fact triplets. The third foetus was hiding behind one of the other ones. We were informed that at 12 weeks our surrogate would be undergoing a foetal reduction. A rather barbaric practice in India where one of the foetal hearts is injected with a solution that forces the heart to stop. The surrogate’s body then eventually rejects the foetus – this also potentially increases the risk of a miscarriage of all foetuses. When our surrogate was pregnant at 15 weeks, I get a phonecall from your father who was in London at the time – our surrogate had miscarried and lost the remaining two foetuses.

I had never in my entire life felt so devastated or crushed or alone. And your father was half a world away. I really didn’t know what to do. I have never before in my entire life just crumpled. After I got off the phone to your father I did just that – I crumpled. I cried for about 2 hours and then on and off for the next 5 days… The following day I also made one of the biggest mistakes of my life – I rang my mother. I’ll explain that in my next blog post.

So when your father came home from London we discussed options. Where did we go to from this point. We finally got Rotunda to realise that we were supposed to be doing something with them and they started the process of for us.

Your father heard my concerns about going through Dr Patel as a single man. Mostly how we would explain that we were both there at the birth to eventually pick up baby or babies. That I really didn’t feel comfortable starting our family based on a lie. I still will occasionally have my gay activist hat on.

So we had another 3 attempts – 1 with Dr Patel and two with Rotunda… I’ll be honest. Your Dad and I were running out of money. We didn’t know if we could afford any more attempts. We decided to give it one more try (which actually became our most expensive attempt to date! But I’ll explain in the post following the one about my mother – it’s the trip to India!!!).

now for something completely unrelated to parenting... help me decide


Hi Folks,

I'm trying to decide between two images for unsensored10. An exhibition of analogue photography that I am always thrilled to be involved with.

I've narrowed my shortlist down to two images - I did think of running both but I won't. I will just go for one larger image.

I'm debating between these two!
And I guess you really can't get two very different images really :)

Dangerous















Trentham Falls














If you'd like feel free to leave me a comment on which you think I should go with :)
thanks!
michael

Monday, June 14, 2010

This is the article that started our surrogacy journey

This is a very short blog post (well the actual post from me!)
As I am just posting the article that Larry read in the International Herald Tribune that started our surrogacy journey in India... (and the story of that journey is coming I promise!). This is purely being posted in my blog so that one day I can show this to the girls and say this is where it all started. This is why we went through India rather than the US or Canada.

Foreign couples turn to India for surrogate mothers