Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy 7th Birthday Savannah

This beautiful, not so little girl turned 7 years old today.  7 years old.  
Phew!  Where does the time go?!

Savannah was a very happy baby.  She was super easy going...always quick to smile, slow to fuss.  She was very alert and would sit peacefully watching what was going on around her.  We could always get her to laugh by scaring her. We'd say "BOO!"  She'd jump and then squeal with delight!  

At age one, Savannah was all about taking a bath.  She could play in the tub for hours!  However, once it was time to wash her face and ears, someone was not such a happy camper.  This little girl took her sweet time to begin walking but once she decided she was ready, there was no turning back.  Watch out world!  

Bath time led to pool time.  By age 2, Savannah had definitely developed her personality and this picture shows you a just a bit of that personality.  She began having opinions, and she wasn't shy about letting us know what her opinions were.  I think she ONLY got away with it because she was so darn cute!

Meet our 3 year old Savannah.  The girl who could (and still can) sleep ANYWHERE!  By age 3, Savannah was proving to be a great student...very smart and respectful with a real desire to learn new things. Waking up early...totally different story.

Savannah.  Age 4.  The little girl with a big appetite.  This photo was taken one day while we were at work (DQ).  Savannah said, "Mom, this is Girl vs. Food and Girl is winning!"  Savannah's sense of humor really developed during her 4th year.

By age 5, Savannah had definitely found what I lovingly refer to as her "spice". Yes, she's a sweet girl, even shy at times but this girl also has some killer spice to her.  And I love that.  I'm quite sure there will be many a teenage year that I WON'T like that, but for now, I embrace the spice that Savannah possesses.  

This last year, Savannah's sixth year, my little girl found her strength.  Although she still has fears, and sometimes lets them get the best of her (don't we all), she can often be heard saying "I need to face my fears!"  She's still ALL girl, still smart as can be and there's still more sweet than spice in this chick.  

The years truly do fly by.  
Today, I enjoy the memories, as I anxiously anticipate the future.  
My little girl is growing up...right before my eyes.
Happy 7th Birthday Savannah!  Here's to another amazing year...
the best one yet!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I ordered these t-shirts a couple weeks ago from the Human Rights Campaign. This week I broke them in and proudly wore them as I went about my daily business.  Here is what I learned.

People.  Read.  Shirts.

I received many, MANY, MANY comments (compliments) about these shirts. Lots of "I love that", "Where'd you get that?" and even one "What's that mean?" All of the comments equal one thing.  An opportunity to talk.  About how simple, how important, equality is.

Not the speaking type?  No worries.  Let your shirt do the talking for you.

The HRC Store has lots of options.  Many ways to help spread the word.
Let's talk.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who's That Do Belong To?

Time for a haircut for me.  Maybe even a new do.  While online looking at gorgeous celebrities, trying to find a hairstyle that might look good on me, I ran across a super awesome web site that allows you to upload your picture and "try on" hundreds of different hairstyles.  I know there are many of these kinds of sites out there, but I'm not sure how many of them allow you to try on celebrity hairstyles.  Fun!


At first I was slightly alarmed at how unattractive I was in various celebrity hairstyles.  After some time, it really just became comical.  I quickly lost interest in finding a hairstyle, and rapidly began composing a blog post for my lovely friends.  

Let's play a game.  Below you will find Jeni-head.  Topped with celebrity hair. Can you guess the celebrity?  I will post the answers in the comment box.  I'm anxious to know your scores.  

Sit back.  Relax.  Grab yourself a nice, cool drink.  You're in for a real treat for the eyes, my friends.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Weekend of Jesse and Jeni

Good news!  
She likes me!  She really, really likes me!

I was nervous. All that I could think about was that I sure hoped that Jesse liked me in person.  If not, we were in for a long, awkward weekend.  Jesse reassured me that all would be well and also let me know that there was a hotel nearby should she decide she didn't care for my company.  Gee, thanks, friend.  :)   

I had a nice, smooth flight, even though I happened to be seated next to a young man who was not ultra aware of his personal space.  (Yes, that would be MY arm and shoulder you're leaning on.)  He was not unattractive, so I didn't bother to educate him on where his personal space ended and mine began.

The moment we landed, I received a text from Jesse welcoming me.  God Bless the flight tracker apps...what did we ever do without them?  We texted back and forth while I deplaned and headed toward baggage claim where Jesse was meeting me.  My heart beat quickly.  My hands were shaking.  

There she was.  I immediately recognized her and her cutie-patootie belly.  I ran (that's heels) to meet her and we gave each other a big hug.  We got my bag, went to the car and as we left the parking garage, I commented that the Milwaukee airport was quite nice.  Jesse thanked me for the compliment adding "I designed it".  Cue first laugh of the weekend.  

"Ticket FIRST!" scolded the parking attendant Joseph, (whom Jesse lovingly called "Joe") when she tried to hand him her cash.  Cue second laugh of the weekend.

On the way to her house, Jesse gave me a driving tour of the city of Milwaukee. I saw:

Lake Michigan (Great shot)

Milwaukee  (Jesse designed many of these buildings as well)

Brewer Field  Miller Park

Before too long, we arrived at Jesse's house which is actually more like a ranch, complete with a 130 year old house, a barn, a 2nd barn used to house limos, a wood burner used to heat the house and lots of land. I learned so many things about country livin' this weekend.  Jesse had arranged for a babysitter so that she and I, along with her husband Boy Jesse, could go to a fish fry.  Apparently while in Wisconsin, I needed to experience a fish fry, which comes with fried cod, rye bread, french fries and cole slaw.  It was just a little bit yummy...and by a little bit, I mean a lotta bit.  After dinner, we made our way back to the ranch, but not before I spotted this:

For real.

We stayed up late Friday night chatting the night away and having many, many laughs.  Boy Jesse even let me throw a log into the wood burner outside, and he showed me how the wood burner heats the house.

Saturday morning we hung out at the house and I thoroughly enjoyed me some sticky buns made by Jesse.  These look awful, right?

Don't worry.  We had fruit too so that we could have a "healthy" breakfast.

Jesse and I took the kids to lunch and a park before dropping them off at her Dad's house for the night.  It was here that I was able to see and learn about Drewry Farms maple syrup production.  Jesse's family collects and bottles the best maple syrup ever!

Miles and miles of line that transport the sap to a collection area.

I'm sure this contraption has a name but since I don't know it,
let's just call her the bottle filler.
The Final Product.
Once I had my syrup in hand, Jesse and I drove to the nursing home so that I could meet her mom.  Sue is a lovely woman full of spirit and equipped with an exceptional sense of humor.  It was an honor meeting her.  We had a lovely dinner out that night, just Jesse and I.  I was promised cakes of pan for breakfast Sunday morning.

Me, Mark (the driver), Jesse

Sunday was all about pampering!  Jesse was kind enough to make pancakes and sausage for us before we headed out, via a limo, to get our toes done.
Me, Boy Jesse, Jesse

Mirrored Roof...bow chicka wow wow...
Sparkling Grape Juice (for the baby)

We went to lunch feeling nice and relaxed with pretty toes to boot!  Sunday night was spent relaxing at home as I had an early flight Monday morning.

The weekend went far too fast.  We had far too much fun, and no matter how long it is before we get to hang out again, it will be far too long a wait.  One thing is for certain.  Jesse and Jeni will be Ling Losts Forever!

*Be sure to read Jesse's side of the story too. You can do that here. Jeni-Part 1

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Weekend in Wisconsin


10 AM.

I am headed to the airport, Wisconsin bound.  Eeek!  I am more than ready to spend the weekend with my Ling Lost, Jesse and her family.  We have been looking forward to this day for many, many months!   It sounds like Jesse's got lots of fun things in store for us, and you can count on the fact that we will be taking lots of pictures to share with all of you.

Fingers crossed that she likes me in person...

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  We sure will.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sharing The Good News

Recently I received a compliment.  One that really stood out to me and has stuck with me ever since.  The compliment went something like this:

"Jeni, what I admire about you is how open you are about your journey and the guys.  Your pride shines through."

While it was a VERY sweet compliment that I will always treasure, it really got me to thinking about something.  When I began this journey in my oh so conservative community I often refer to as a bubble within a bubble, I wondered what the reaction would be from my peers when they learned that I was carrying babies for another family...a gay family.  I have definitely evolved over the course of a year and a half and the way I present our surrogacy has changed a bit over that time, but one thing has always remained the same.

I share.

With anyone.  With everyone.  I share.

A pregnant belly seems to be a blinking neon light invitation for conversation. Even the most introverted person will want to chat it up with a woman sporting a pregnant belly.  A twin pregnant belly is...well...twice the invitation.

I am blessed, or cursed depending on how you look at it, with the inability to be quiet.  As soon as someone would want to begin chatting about my pregnant belly, I was ALL OVER IT!  I immediately shared, with an overwhelming sense of pride, that I was carrying twins for a couple from New York.  Yes, I shared with VERY young children that the Dr. had put 2 babies from another family into my belly and that I was growing those babies for them.  The children would look at me with big eyes and giant smiles.  Even kids "get it" in simple terms.  And yes, I shared with the VERY old couple (I'm thinking late 80's/early90's), as we waited for an elevator, that the twins that I was carrying were for 2 men.  May I add that the old couple told me that what I was doing was incredible and referred to me as an angel on Earth.  That old man used his cane to shuffle to the elevator door and hold it for me as I exited on my floor.

I quickly noticed, and continue to notice that I get an overwhelming amount of acceptance and even respect from every person I have presented the idea of surrogacy to.  Now, have there been those individuals that started out not approving of what I was doing?  Yes.  Did I receive a dirty look here and there? Yes.  Did I witness a mom at my daughters' school whispering behind my back that I was a surrogate and would "give the babies away"?  Yes.  Did any of this bother me?  Not in the slightest.  You see, I strongly believe in what I did and who I did it for (I have yet to meet a surrogate who doesn't), and I made it a point to NEVER allow someone else's opinion to change that.

As I have come to know SO many of you within the surrogacy community, one thing is for certain.  We are proud.  I invite you, all of you...Surrogates, Intended Parents, share.  Surrogacy is becoming more and more common.  There are still a great deal of assumptions out there, a large amount of misinformation.  I see it as my duty and desire (perhaps you do as well) to help clarify those assumptions and correct that misinformation.  Through sharing, I have personally watched as those aforementioned individuals who initially disapproved of what I was doing, slowly changed their way of thinking as they learned more about what surrogacy truly looks like.  That whispering mom? Now one of my biggest supporters.  Here are my thoughts about presenting surrogacy to others.

Pride is respected.  I present surrogacy with a great deal of pride.  It's very obvious that I believe in what I am doing, and that makes it hard (or at least very awkward) for someone to disapprove or find fault with what I have chosen to do. A lack of pride can look like weakness to some, and thus make you more vulnerable to attack.   I say tell your story loud and proud, my friends!

Enthusiasm is infectious.  It's impossible for me to talk about surrogacy without having a gigantic smile on my face.  I tell stories.  Cute stories about George and Farid and the babies, funny stories about things that happened during the pregnancy, touching stories about our delivery...happy memories.  I am usually met with a very interested ear, and the smile I share is almost always returned.

I never, EVER become defensive.  Being defensive sets the stage for an argument and that is not how I choose to present surrogacy.  I can make a MUCH larger statement by remaining calm and cool, understanding and accepting, than by becoming defensive.  I am open about every step of the surrogacy process.  There is not a question you could ask that I won't answer. Why?  Because if you're curious about surrogacy and what it's all about, it is my honor to share that with you.   The better one understands surrogacy and all that it entails, the easier it becomes to accept it for what it really amazing experience.

Together, you and I, we can make a difference.  We can help others to understand and fall in love with a topic that has changed all of OUR lives in one way or another.  Let's share the good news, people!

Who's in?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Title

Over the years Meredith Olafson has given birth to 15 babies – but only four of them are hers. She’s carried two sets of triplets, one set of twins and three singles for people who can’t have their own. She’s what you might call the mother of all gestational surrogates.
Olafson, who lives in Fargo, N.D., was so happy with her own kids, she says she couldn’t bear to watch others be deprived of the experience. So, over the years, when couples have approached her with a request to carry their babies, Olafson just couldn’t find it in her heart to say no.
“When you see those parents’ faces when they see that ultrasound for the first time and they see that heart beat beating – or they get to hear that heartbeat – that’s priceless right there,” Olafson, 47, told TODAY.
And those happy faces constitute most of Olafson’s payment for lending her womb for nine months.  Though some gestational surrogates make as much as $250,000 for one pregnancy, Olafson says she earns just a tiny fraction of that.
What makes it all possible is the ease of Olafson’s pregnancies. She’s never had morning sickness. She hardly gains any extra weight. And she’s usually able to work right up till the day she delivers.
And then there are those enviably short deliveries.
“My longest was my oldest daughter,” Olafson said. “She took me an hour and 15 minutes to deliver. My second daughter took me 30 minutes and the last two took me 20 minutes.”
Olafson contributes only her womb to the pregnancies, not any DNA. The future parents supply the embryo, or embryos.
“Those parents are the actual mother and father and so the mindset for you at that time is you know you’re handing  them their child,” Olafson said. “It has nothing to do with you whatsoever. It does make it a lot easier.”
One of the couples to benefit from Olafson's talent for growing babies is the Wegges.
Dan and Jody wanted a second child, but had been told that it would be dangerous for Jody to try to carry another baby after the harrowing birth of their first. They heard about Olafson by word of mouth in 1998, and once again she signed on to help a family in need.
Olafson agreed to have their embryos implanted in her uterus – and delivered in a big way. The Wegges have triplets that are now 12 years old.
“I love her,” Jody Wegge said.  “I just …  there’s not words to express how I feel about her.”
Olafson was working on her 6th pregnancy for another family when TODAY caught up with her.  She said this baby for a couple from South Dakota would be her last. “I am officially retiring the uterus,” she said.
Her last, as it turns out, is a healthy baby girl born on March 29.

Let's collectively move past the $250K remark.  Please.  *rolling eyes

Does Meredith deserve the title "Super Surrogate"?  You betcha!  11 surrobabies?  TWO sets of triplets?  She's earned her stripes.  Most likely those stripes are being displayed on the skin of her belly.  Wear them with pride, my friend.

I'm jealous.  Yes, I've only had one surrogacy journey and 2 surrobabies (so far), but darn it, I want a title!   I didn't realize a title was part of the deal!  Seeing as how most titles are self-created, I decided I'd do a little research.  I was leaning towards "Absolute Surrogate", so I searched for a more exciting word than absolute.

As I typed absolute into the search box, I was briefly distracted by a little trivia featured on the site.  
Did you know that hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is a REAL word?
Part of speech:  noun
Definition:  fear of long words
Hmph.  Interesting.

synonyms:  categorical, excellent, perfect, flawless, ideal, impeccable

How is one to choose?  So many terrific options.  I scratched my head, thought long and hard.  There really is only one good option.
It's only an option because I do not suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.  Ladies and Gents, my new title is:

Jeni Denhof
Categoricalexcellentperfectflawlessidealimpeccable Surrogate

I'm happy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Skyler and Savannah had lots of fun coloring their Easter eggs.  

I was NOT surprised to see that there was an egg for Farid and George.

And of course, one for the babies too!

I love that my kids love to love the people that I love to love.


Friday, April 6, 2012

5 Months Old!

How could it possibly be that Gustavo and Milena are 5 months old?  
Just when I think these two can't get any cuter, they go and prove me wrong.  
A few of my favorites from the last month:



George and Gustavo

Milena and Farid

Look who's eating REAL food! 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

20 Year Old Encouragement

This week I received some encouragement.  20 year old encouragement.  No, not encouragement FOR the 20 year old...I'm talking about encouragement FROM 20 years ago.  Twenty years ago.

Rick was in the basement going through a trunk full of stuff from high school. First, may I just say, I wrote many a love letter back in the day.  Oh, and they were folded super cool too.  Do you remember all of those rad folding styles? Do you remember?  It's quite possible I am dating myself here.....I digress.

In the trunk was a letter.  A letter from my volleyball coach during my Junior year of high school. The crazy part about this letter is that Ellyn was obviously speaking about volleyball.  She was speaking about me and where I was at 20 years ago.  Incredibly, I read this letter and realized that not only have I not changed much in the last 20 years, but the encouragement and motivation that Ellyn was giving me 20 years ago, I can still apply to my life today.


First, I'd like to say how much I appreciate your constant and continued humor. Yes, there were times when we (coaches) were too serious, and your smile lightened things up.  On the other side, I recognize your hard work and willingness to work hard.  Sometimes we needed more of that also.

Jeni, you have a good attitude on and off the court.  This will make players want to be around you.  Use this power to make yourself and your team better.  Don't be afraid of being pushed to a level of uncomfortableness.  Your skills should and will improve if those who push you see you want to improve. I feel you do have a desire to strive for greatness.  Take a risk Jeni, and you will surprise yourself.

I am proud of your growth this season and of the continued contributions you've demonstrated.  Good job Jolley.

Work hard and take a chance.


What a great message!  I am certain that I did not appreciate this message then like I do now.  What a cool thing to have surface twenty years after it was written and received.  Needless to say, the letter did not go back into the trunk, but instead sits in my nightstand where I will be able to remind myself more often:

  • No amount of humor will take the place of hard work.  Balance hard work with humor and you will succeed.
  • A good attitude will make others want to be around you, and will make you a better person.
  • Embrace being challenged.  Take risks.


And for those of you who are still feeling distracted:

Yes, I rocked those buns.
Yes, I was a Junior in high school 20 years ago.  
Yes, my maiden name was Jolley.  
Yes, I am proud of all of these facts.  :)

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