Two Lesbian Moms Raising A Boy... And A Food Festival

Feast may be bordering its pre-teen years, but Taylor is in full-on toddler mode.
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Courtesy of Welch/Huang

My mom always told that when I got older, time would fly. I didn’t believe her until recently. But somehow another year has passed, and as I do every year, I wanted to check in with two of my favorite lesbian moms and food festival aficionados: Carrie Welch and Jannie Huang. The two are at the helm of their very own PR firm, Little Green Pickle, and Carrie is one of the co-founders of Feast Portland, while Jannie is the creative director. They are the proud parents of an adorable little boy.

Feast may be bordering its pre-teen years, but Taylor is in full-on toddler mode. So things are a little different at the Welch/Huang household this year. Here are the two momtrepreneurs on raising a festival and a bouncing baby boy in Portland, Oregon.

Block: In some ways, you’ve given birth twice. Once to a food festival and once to a little boy. Are their similarities between raising up the two?

Welch: That is how it feels a lot of the time! I do sometimes refer to Feast as our first born ― it definitely felt like giving birth that first year. Similarities, yes, in that they both require consistent attention, feeding, encouragement, learning. Differences in that Feast is out of its toddler years and is starting to border on pre-teen… We are lucky to have a fantastic team of seven, including our co-founder, Mike Thelin, and our director, Emily Crowley, who co-parent Feast on a daily basis!

Huang: One takes a lot more of our attention. Feast Portland has an amazing team of people to help create each year. With Taylor, it’s Carrie and me 24/7! We love both, but Taylor just takes our hearts every day. We do get help from grandparents. Thank goodness one set moved here and the other set visits!

Block: When we caught up with you last year, you were in pursuit of a second child. How has the past year been in terms of that process?

Welch: We still are. It’s a little like a very important, possibly life-changing side job that we do on and off. Everyone knows when I’m not drinking and exercising more that means we’re trying again! I had a miscarriage last year right before Feast, and while it was very early in the pregnancy it made me gun shy for a while. I struggled through getting over it more than I realized at the time. It was hard not to feel like a failure, and I was embarrassed that it didn’t work, even though I’d only told close family. I deeply empathize with anyone who has had a miscarriage, as it’s one of the hardest things I have done in my life, and I know many women have gone through more and worse. It’s important to me to talk about it and not be embarrassed because, like everything in this crazy birth process, it’s not something you can control. My body decided that one wasn’t the right one, and I had to accept it and move on.

It was good to take a break and be a family, just the three of us. I know we’ll have another one way or another (adoption is something we are definitely keeping on the table), and it’s important to enjoy this sweet time with just Taylor. Every day we’re reminded what a miracle he is ― he’s so full of joy and happiness, and he really makes our world go ’round. All he wants to do is pick flowers in our front yard (we keep a section of wildflowers just for him) and play his guitar. He is OBSESSED with the guitar and wants to play it every second!

Huang: We have tried a couple times and have taken a break to really concentrate on being a family. It’s emotionally draining trying to have a baby and we don’t want to miss out on being with Taylor. Definitely easier than the first time, but still a little rough. But we’re ready to try again!

Courtesy of Welch/Huang

Block: You are raising Taylor in a relatively liberal city. Still, having two mommies can present challenges for a kid in a world where that is not how the majority of families look. Has Taylor started asking questions about your family? And, if so, what has he asked?

Welch: Taylor asks about daddies a lot, as most kids he knows have one, and you’d be surprised how often fathers are referenced in mainstream media. We’ve read a lot about it, and it’s tough sometimes to tell him he doesn’t have one, but we try to be straightforward about it. He has a great extended community in our neighborhood where he hangs with older boys and a wonderful male neighbor of ours who opens his door, literally, every time we walk by his house!

I read a book he recommended, as he also has a son, called The Wonder of Boys. It was so helpful in explaining how boys tick and the types of communities and support they need to flourish. Taylor also connects with his grandpas for guy time which is fun to see. He is very aware that we are his parents and we know we’ll have to keep explaining to him, kids at school, kids on the playground and even other parents that we are two mommies. We are so proud to be his moms so we are ready!

Huang: He constantly talks about Daniel Tiger’s dad or this person’s dad. But never asks us, “Where is my dad?” Recently, at his pre-school, his classmate asked, “Does Taylor have a daddy?” We are honest and gently let her know, “Taylor doesn’t have a daddy. He has two mommies.” She was adorable and said in a sad voice, “Oh, I only have one mommy and daddy.” Oddly, it made me feel a little better for a moment, like it was awesome to have two mommies! But I also let her know having one mommy and one daddy is great too!

Block: How have you explained daddies to him?

Welch: Through lots of straightforward repetition right now ― he has two mommies, and other people have daddies. All families are different, and that’s okay. More explanation will be necessary real soon, as Taylor’s vocabulary and communication is growing by leaps and bounds now that he’s been in preschool for a while. He is so sweetly inquisitive, “What are you doing now, Mommy?” “What’s that? What’s that?” I love answering his questions, even when it’s hard to explain things like daddies sometimes.

Huang: We just keep repeating, “Taylor has two mommies, no daddy.” And sometimes we ask, “How many mommies do you have?” Thank goodness he answers two mommies. We’ll see how it all sticks.

Block: Have you found resources to help you with his questions?

Welch: Honestly, I am frustrated and disappointed with the lack of children’s books that represent LGBT families. There are almost no television or online shows that depict anything close to our lives as well. It’s sad that there is a whole group of parents out there that are not being represented in media, and we are then explaining to our kids why there aren’t shows about two mommies or two daddies. I tell myself it’s okay, as Taylor will learn tolerance right away, but it feels unfair sometimes. There are a handful of great books, and one, Zak’s Safari, that’s even about a boy conceived via sperm donor, but it’s not enough and it all pales in comparison to the amount of books with straight parents.

Now that we’re having full-on conversations with Taylor, I’m excited to read some of the books written for LGBT parents. Again, there are several, but I just feel like there could be so many more to represent our diverse community. I just finished My Two Moms by Zach Wahls and it was incredibly uplifting and inspiring. Taylor saw it on my nightstand and said, “He has two mommies!”

Huang: We have found a couple children’s books here and there that involve two mommies, which Taylor requests to read all the time! “I want to read ‘Tale of Two Mommies!’”

I highly recommend. Love that book!

Courtesy of Welch/Huang

Block: What do you wish was out there in terms of resources for queer parents?

Welch: More, more, more! More of everything in this space. We are shockingly underrepresented, especially in mainstream media. There is not one children’s show on TV with gay parents. It’s striking.

Huang: More children’s books. More books about other moms and their stories. Maybe we should write one? I would even appreciate a book with all different kinds of families. Different races, different types of families. Some families have only one mommy or one daddy. Wouldn’t that be nice if all kids understood that?

Block: Although you are just starting on your queer parenting journey, do you have any advice for other queer parents?

Welch: It’s the same journey for everyone. Ours might just have some extra questions. But I’m sure all parents feel that way to some extent. For me, I can’t change who I am, and I would never change the family I have. I am proud to be a gay mom, lesbian mom, whatever label mom you want to use. We are Taylor’s moms, and that’s all that matters to me. So I guess my advice is be yourself and don’t be afraid of any question or any awkward interaction or situation. We’re lucky to live in Portland, which is so wonderfully open, they expect to have lesbian moms present, but there are still times where it gets weird. I just keep moving, keep being me, and try to teach Taylor to do the same.

Huang: Just take it day by day and love your kid(s) as much as possible.

Block: Does Taylor have friends with two mommies or two daddies? If so, does that help matters? If not, do you think that would be helpful?

Welch: Not quite yet. We do have gay friends and straight friends who are all having babies right now! It’s exciting that we’re all in the same time in our lives and sharing tips and fun gifts. We send cloth diapers to everyone as our sister-in-law introduced us to them – they make the most absorbent burp cloths. There are gay parents in our neighborhood, and we feel pretty at home either way. Taylor does enjoy when he sees a kid with two mommies, it’s a “they’re just like me” type moment!

Now that Taylor is in preschool, it’s a whole new world of parents and families that’s just starting to open up to us. We went to our first preschool birthday party recently, and we had no idea what we were doing. It was super laid back, and all of the parents welcomed us as they knew we were all new to the school. It’s like starting anything new – you can’t help but feel like the kid in the school cafeteria carrying your tray, looking for someone to sit with.

Huang: We have a lesbian couple who is about to have a baby. We are excited for them! Others are back on the East Coast so we don’t see them as much. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter to me. Parents are parents. It’s all very hard and when we all get together, especially for birthdays, it’s just so much fun.

Block: Is Taylor already becoming a foodie?

Welch: Of course he is! It’s probably the thing we’ve focused on the most. He loves most foods and will always try a new food. His favorite is guacamole ― he eats it with a spoon. Jannie has been amazing about cooking a lot, throughout his whole life. I attribute some of our success with his eating to exposing him to lots of fresh fruits and vegetables very early on. This sounds annoying, but it really worked – we pureed them and made our own baby food (hey, we live in Portland!). It wasn’t as hard as you’d think. We even made our own dinner and pureed that instead of giving processed baby food. I think it gave him a good foundation of what vegetables in particular are supposed to taste like – fresh, sweet even, not over-boiled and bitter.

We eat out a couple of times a week, and Taylor has had lots of practice being in restaurants. He gets iPad time now at the restaurant (always after 5 p.m. and for a short amount of time that we monitor). He interacts with us during the meal, and we play educational games together, like Daniel Tiger and Sarah & Duck. He eats what we eat – we usually avoid the kids’ menu unless it’s one of those nights where he just wants a plate of pasta, which definitely happens. Why do kids’ menus only include burgers, pizza, fries, grilled cheese? Is that really the only things that kids will eat? Is it because that’s what we tell them to eat? I know it’s different for everyone, but I feel like we’re feeding into with that mentality. I LOVE when restaurants have a thoughtful kids menu! Salare Restaurant in Seattle has a kids menu that included black figs and hummus, and Taylor ate every bite.

Real talk: It’s so imperfect. I wish everything I just said happened all the time, but it doesn’t. We don’t get hard on ourselves during chicken nuggets and fries nights (yes, Taylor has eaten at McDonald’s a few times and really loves our local chain Burgerville). We just keep trying and we don’t give up on good food because it’s important to us.

Huang: Yes. He loves almost everything. Eats everything at the farmers’ market, Korean bbq, loves a great ribeye or balsamic Skirt steak, favorite dim sum. He asks for it at least once a day. We go, probably too often. And don’t worry, he hates things too. When he tries a new food, he holds it barely to his tongue to try it out and will either eat it, or say, “I don’t like that.” Slowly trying to get him to say no thank you.

Courtesy of Welch/Huang

Block: Does he have any sense of what Feast is?

Welch: He knows our logo and that’s our work. He knows our team and gives high fives when he comes to the office. He loves running around the office and spinning in the desk chairs. Attending Feast isn’t really possible (21 and over only!), but he has visited the event HQ in the past!

Huang: Every time he sees the Feast logo, he says, “That’s mommy and momma’s logo!” He only knows that’s where we work. I can’t wait for him to be able to go one day!

Block: Any funny Taylor related Feast stories to share?

Welch: Taylor is Feast’s biggest cheerleader! He knows our logo and that mommy and momma work with chefs. He’s been inside of crates, worn onesies from our charities, has circled our events and even been denied entrance because he’s not 21 (yes even for the co-founders’ son!). He has made multiple interview appearances in the background of phone calls and even a few photos.

Huang: The first year he was born, Carrie was still breastfeeding. We stick by our rules of no children at our main events. I basically circled around Sandwich Invitational with Taylor, said hi to people entering the festival, and waited for Carrie to be done. It was fun taking him around and meeting everyone. It was like he was there!

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