#RemeberOurFamilies

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A birthday tribute to my dad, who taught me the most important life lessons about what it means to be a father. 

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Sometime shortly after sunset, our family will gather around the dinner table to light the first candles on each of our Menorahs. Led by an authoritative and pleasant voice on our Hanukkah app that also keeps track of which night of Hanukkah we're celebrating, we'll recite the Hebrew prayer that accompanies the candle lighting.

After a round of "Happy Hanukkahs" and kisses for the kids, we'll instruct Levi, Sadie and Ella to select one present each from among those lying on the floor under our Christmas tree and marked with their names. While there are always more gifts than we’d prefer, the truth is most don't come from me and Ferd, but instead from loving family and friends who tend to ignore or resist our pleas to limit the number of toys our kids get.

The gifts they open tonight will be their "first night" gifts, and we've found that the process of choosing which present to open first tends to be the most exciting part of the whole gift-giving experience for them.

Brian with his three kids

With the kids still pre-occupied on the task of unwrapping their presents, Ferd (my non-Jewish husband) will put out the platter of his delicious made-from-scratch potato latkes that always bring me back to my own childhood watching my great-grandmother standing over her cast-iron stove doing what she loved doing most: feeding her family.

Before getting the kids off to bed, we'll put out a bowl of milk and a plate of fresh-baked cookies for Santa and his reindeer to snack on. Every year the kids tell us they'll stay up waiting for Santa, but the excitement and anticipation somehow works against them, and they always fall asleep soon after settling into bed.

On Christmas morning the kids will invariably wake before us, but they're under strict instructions not to open any gift before we've joined them. In addition to more gift openings, we all look forward to Ferd’s Christmas breakfast treats reminiscent of his Dutch childhood.

Having been together for almost 25 years, Ferd and I started blending our holidays a long time ago. We used to be more relaxed about how we spent them. Since becoming dads, we are much more focused on celebrating holidays that hold special meaning for us. We've been creating new traditions around these holidays that I hope will stay with our kids well into their adult lives.

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Waiting for our flight in Newark Liberty Airport; checking out the El Al goodies; getting ready for take-off

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I've been living with HIV for close to 30 years. I don't need to wait until World AIDS Day to reflect on the tremendous impact HIV and AIDS have had on my life.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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