Our First (Official) Family Photo Shoot!

The excitement of Adoption Day still has our family buzzing and feeling electric!  WOW!  It’s interesting, because nothing has changed, but EVERYTHING has changed!  Now, we’re busy planning sleepovers (since for 3 years she wasn’t allowed to sleep any where that wasn’t a certified foster home), getting passports for family vacations, (my parents are wanting to take us all on a Disney Cruise, and they want to take Mariah and my niece away for a week to Niagara Falls this summer), booking sleep away camp, and transferring all of Mariah’s documentation at all of her respective places.  You know, getting adopted seems like it means a lot less time with Mamas and lots more time with everyone else! Hmph!

Just a few more things to square away to transition Mariah out of Foster Care and into her Adoptive home.  And clearly, since you already know we do Milestone Parties pretty huge, Mariah will be having an “Oh-FISH-ially Forever Family” party which already has preparations under way and has an invite list of approximately 150 people!  You know, something light! LOL!   A colorful underwater extravaganza  with fish and octopi and mermaids GALORE!  Should be pretty amazing.

I hired a friend of mine to take some photos for us.  Jesse Rinka, you have outdone yourself again, friend!

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The judge was asking Mariah how she felt about her adoption. “EXCITED!!!”

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Papo paying close attention to the judge AND his bottle.

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Does this even need a caption!?!

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If anyone wants to know what my life is like? THIS! In a nutshell!

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OFFICIALLY A FAMILY!!!

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Mama being silly (as usual) to get some laughs and giggles from everyone.

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Annnnnndddd, they’re off!

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Whenever we go out, I can almost guarantee that this is the scene you will likely see. I’m sure you can tell, she’s the princess!

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Hugs for everyone!

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With her beloved grandparents. Her relationships with them individualy is so beautiful to watch. It reminds me of the special times I shared with my grandpartents and the special memories I always treasure in my heart.

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Our girl!

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“For those determined to fly, having no wings is just a little detail.” Jane Lee Logan

A Letter to My Daughter…

…on the night before her adoption…

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My favorite CooCoo,

Before you came to join our family, mommy and I wanted to be moms really badly, but Mommy was having a really hard time getting her body to grow one, and Mama wasn’t sure her body would be ready for it either. We decided that maybe being foster parents would be pretty awesome, and we would get to spend some time with some really fun (and cute!) tiny people and do our best to give them a good life and a place where they could feel safe.  We didn’t  EVER think that we would be so lucky to have God help us find each other.  Mary, since you joined our family everything has changed! Actually, we weren’t even a family until you showed up! It was just “Sammie and Callie”.

I remember everything about that day.  Mommy and I were sitting on the couch, all day, drinking hot chocolate, waiting for Ms, A. to call us and let us know that you were on your way.  When she finally called,  mommy and I started to get nervous.  We didn’t know what to expect!  We walked back and forth to your room several times to straighten the toys on the shelf, open and close the curtains, fluff the pillows and pull the comforter taut, adjusting the lampshade on your night table to make sure it lit up all the books that were our favorites growing up that we hoped you would love as much as we did.

The next 3 hours passed very quickly, but also REALLY slowly!  We watched TV, I chewed on my nails, mommy fixed her hair A LOT, and we sat thinking about what it would be like to have a daughter, even if it was just for a little while!  As we imagined our lives with a beautiful little girl in it, we were startled out of our seats when the door buzzer sounded.  I went downstairs to be greeted by a woman that told me that you were asleep in the car and that it had been a pretty exciting and scary day for you because you were taken away from your birth mom (super scary and really sad) but you got to go on your first plane ride EVER (which she says was super exciting for you).

I walked over to a small white car and noticed a little pink ball of fluff in the back seat and a white cardboard box sitting next to it.  Suddenly, the fluff moved, and that’s when I realized, that fluff was YOU!  I opened the door to these big, gorgeous green eyes, and I picked you up in my arms and carried you back to our apartment.  You had just turned 6 years old, but in my arms you felt much smaller that.  You put your head on my shoulder, and my heart knew I would always be your Mama.

It was just after midnight but we gave you a yummy snack, we watched some TV, and we showed you your new room.  You weren’t happy about any of the changes at first (we know how hard it was on you), but after a few weeks, it was like we had always been together.  Like we had always been a family.  Since then, a lot of things have changed (some good, some bad, some happy, some sad), but through all of those things, we have been a family and we have always gotten through those times with love.

In the 3 years since we’ve been a together we have seen you grow so much.  We have seen you not really know your entire alphabet and the sounds the letters make, to reading Harry Potter with me at night.  I’ve seen you go from coloring outside the lines to making fantastically colorful creations that our friends and family are so proud to display on their fridges.  You are the best big sister EVER, and whenever people take care of the 4 of you they always say, “We don’t know WHAT we would have done without Mary!  She is so helpful and really loves her brothers!”  That makes me and mommy feel really proud of you!  You have gone from a quiet, reserved, shy kindergartener, to a fierce, strong, soccer loving, friend making machine, with a smile that lights up the whole room!  CooCoo, you are the best kid that could have ever come to our family!  We are so, so lucky!!!

We know that you have a lot of feelings about finally being adopted.  You’ve told us about your excitement and your fears and concerns, and I promise you that Mommy and I will always listen to you and we will always try our best to give you honest, open, and loving answers to your questions. Sometimes, you may not like the things that we have to say, and sometimes those things will make you feel pretty sad, but it’s important to remember that we would never do anything to hurt you, and we want to always tell the truth, because remember what we always say at Casa Mendez, “This family doesn’t lie to each other because if we lie we won’t trust and if we don’t have trust, we don’t have anything.”

We love watching you grow.  We love watching you laugh.  We love watching you play.  We love watching you learn.  We love watching your relationship with your brothers. We love YOU.  You, You, YOU!

You’ll always be my best girl,
Mama

(PS – be prepared for the BARRAGE of pictures that will flood my next post!!!)

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Parenting With All My Might

Some days are hard.  Some days are harder than that! But every day I put one foot in front of the other, go through the motions because my kids deserve the best I have to offer them.  

Some days I wanna throw in the towels (yes, plural, because I have so much shit going on, one towel wouldn’t be enough!), grab a pack and some snacks, and hike the Appalachian trail and not come back home until my head is clear, my feet are blistered, and I’m forced to stay in one place or risk losing my feet for good!

Some days, relationship and wife-ing stuff gets so loaded and so crazy, that I wonder what the eff I was thinking ever WANTING, let alone thinking about doing this “adulting, married wth kids” thing.

Sometimes, there isn’t enough money, enough food, too many poopy diapers, and mountains of laundry I’ve conquered that would have made Everest look like a kids old school wooden climbing structure.

Some days, the darkness of my bedroom and the closed in feeling of the walls against my thoughts is all I long for.  A silent retreat inside myself, where I know a lot of the answers dwell, but who in the damn hell has any time for that!?!?

But today, is not “some days”, but today makes me recognize that “some days” are all I need to see the beauty in my life.  Today, I complained about having to get up super early because I had to drop the kids off to daycare despite having a day off.  “I take days off so I can spend time by my freaking self! GRRRRRR,” I yell at my sick wife, who just so happens to get sick EVERY FREAKING TIME it’s my day off (not that I don’t love my wife and want to spend time with her but also like, self care and whatnot!) . I was pissy, sure.  I was annoyed even…Irate? Perhaps…but then walking outside, after I begrudgingly get them all dressed for school, I see the joy and the wonder in their eyes at seeing the snow fall for the second time ever! 

Noah’s eyes darted across the sidewalk as he yelled, “WOAHHHHH! Mamaaaa! It’s! ‘no! It’s ‘no!”  Levi squealed as he skipped down the street, trying to catch the flakes as they moved in time and cadence with their laughter and giggles.  Austin opened his mouth wide, and it was then that I noticed the little nubbins of the two new teeth that are coming in.  

These simple little joys.  These constant reminders that there is so much to surrender to, including the nuisances of every day parenting. A reminder that every situation, no matter how bleak, has a silver lining.  That even when we are our most annoyed, upset, frustrated, desolate, angry, there is something that will always bring a little shine, a little sparkle to your life.  

And despite parenting with all my might, I fall into the trap of “I wish things could be different.  I shouldn’t have had so many kids.  I should have went to college.  Why do I even clean? Why do I…? Why did I…?! How could I…?!?”.  But today, for the first time, I really recognized my ability to change the outcome of my day.  I had to wake up early on my day off?! Worst thing that happened today! 

And I’ll keep thinking that…because some days are really shitty, but mostly, they’re pretty damn good…

Almost 3 Years…

On March 28th, it’ll be 3 years since Mary has joined our family and stolen our hearts.  It’s been just over two years that Mary has been the greatest big sister anyone could ask for.  It’s been just under 10 months since Mary’s mom signed over her parental rights.  It’s been 2 weeks since we told Mary why. And now, FINALLY, two weeks from today, this long, drawn out nightmare will be over, and we can start writing this new part of our journey as Mary’s forever family.  And I can’t even describe what this family feels like right now…

When we told her that we finally got a date, the excitement that she displayed was incredible! Her cheeks got flush, she started sweating, her eyes aglow, and if you know my kid, you know there is nothing better than that smile of hers, but this one?! WOW!  I  wish there were some type of device that could bottle up the joy in children’s squeals when they recognize that they are getting the things they’ve always wanted.  I’d take it with me everywhere and listen as a reminder of unadulterated joy!  It was such a beautiful moment for Callie and I to share with her, and we relived it again several times after Mary was sound asleep.

We’re just as excited as she is for it!  She’s REALLY gonna be ours!  And not that she hasn’t always been, because she has, but now, no one can ever SAY it! Not unless they want a damn paper cut from how freaking fast I will whip out that damn adoption certificate! Don’t play wit me! But this just rounds out a pretty amazing week of awesome news; great times with great people, celebrating my sisters pregnancy and the coming arrival of the new baby (boy is my guess!), promotion, and now adoption finalization date! Friends, life is pretty freaking good….

Nailed it!

A few weeks ago, I saw an open management position as an Administrative Assistant in the Diversity/EEO department with my current employer and I felt pulled to apply for it.  I didn’t know much information about the position, so I confided in my current supervisor that I was interested in learning more about it.  She is one of those supervisors that is ALL OVER helping her “good people” succeed and excel, and she sat with me for a little bit to talk to me about what the responsibilities are and what the position entailed.  So, after hearing some good stuff, I decided it would be the best more for me.

I applied, and about 2 weeks later, I got a call to schedule an interview.  Last week Thursday, I was scheduled for an interview at 9am.  I let my boss know, and she was beyond excited for me.  In fact, she coached me a little on some of the stuff that I didn’t know in regards to payroll and working our payroll system.  I handle a lot of job responsibilities, but payroll is not one of them, and I have NEVER done payroll before. Like, EVER!

I got a good nights sleep, didn’t have any breakfast for fear of vomiting, got dressed pretty snazzy with my lucky bow tie (the one I wore when I interviewed to secure this position, and the very one I wore when Callie said YES!), and was off to work to wait for my interview.  The hour wait was pretty nerve wracking, and I did my best to keep from sweating (so I wouldn’t look like I decided to take a dip FULLY CLOTHED on my way to work), and calm my voice (because my diaphragm was hanging out at a bouncy castle!), and review some of my possible answers to their possible questions (I’ve had a few internal interviews to move around  within the company already, and the questions are usually the same with one or two position specific questions).

My answers were LEGIT people!  I mean, I have honestly never had an interview where I just felt that all of my answers were on point. In fact, Callie has been the main hiring manager for over 15 years, and when I told her the questions and gave her my answers, she said, “Half way through that second img_6925answer I would have had you as my number 1 choice.  Woulda been hard to beat that!”  When I was done with my interview, I just new it!

Ladies and gents and everyone in between, meet the newest Administrative Assistant of Diversity and EEO (moi!), while I say hello to 6 weeks paid vacation, an increase in pay, and the sweetest deal of all time, FREE LIFETIME MEDICAL!  Yup…Hello all of that goodness!

 

8 things on Friday

I figured the “10 things on a…” would be the easiest way to get a lot of info in pretty quickly!  It has been quite crazy at Casa Mendez the past month or so.  Lots has happened! 

  1.  Noah and Levi celebrated year TWO of life!  They are weighing roughly 27lbs, 37 inches or so height wise, and lets just say those heads are the first things I look for on a playground when I’m trying to find my children.  Levi has almost all of his teeth…just waiting on that last set of molars to grow in and Noah as all but his 2nd set of molars and all 4 canines.  They are talking up a storm (like telling me about their day at school talking up a storm), gliding all over our neighborhood on their gliders, learning to go pees and poops on the potty (ugh!!!), singing up a storm (currently always singing “The Kindness Song” by Tori Kelly on Sesame Street, Shape of you – Ed Sheeran, and Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake), and really just being some kick ass kids.  They hardly ever give us a hard time, although Noah is very strong willed and independent (which, yeah great, but also, like WALK then!  I have to get where I need to go and you are moving at the speed of Sloth and refuse to let my pick you up!), and Levi is so, so mushy all the time ( which is amazing, but also makes it super hard for him to get to bed because he wants to be cuddled all the time!).  If I’m being honest, I think we hit the toddler lottery.  They are both so affectionate and so aware of what others around them are feeling.  When I walk through the door, and I’ve had a bad day, they can sense it right away, grab me by my hand, walk me to the coat rack and say, “mama, jacket off, please? I sit.  Mama and ____ sit.  We read a book!”  And just like that, all the worries of the day have melted away.  Those boys…I swear!!!
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2 YEARS OLD!

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SESAME STREET OR MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE??? BOTH!!!

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“MAMA! I RIDE A BIKE!”

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LEARNING TO NAVIGATE THE ROPES

2)  Mary turned 9!  Yeah, that totally happened, and sure enough, just like that, she is one year closer to being a teenager! She had a little party with some family and friends to celebrate, and then had a sleep over with our niece (her favorite cousin!) and her best friend.  They were up until past 2am!  It was really cute to see her having such a great time with her friends.  There has been a shift in her too.  More honest about her feelings, more in tune with people’s emotions and needs (which is VERY new!), and also, managing her own emotions a little bit better.  This is a pretty huge transitional time for her, and we’ve seen a ton of growth in her since we actually started getting more honest and stopped treating her like this fragile little flower, and started treating her and talking to her like the maturing young lady that she is.  I know that sounds crazy because she just turned 9, but when you meet Mary, you would assume she was easily 11 or 12 because of her demeanor and the way she expresses herself.  So, yeah…9! Should  be an interesting and pivotal year in Mary’s life and development…hopefully, with all the stuff coming up, we won’t fuck it up!

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SPECIAL BIRTHDAY BEAR AT SCHOOL FOR THE BIRTHDAY GIRL!

3)  Speaking of upcoming transitions for Mary, all paperwork has been turned in, and currently we are just in limbo waiting for the adoption attorney to call us and let us know what the possible dates are that we can select for finalization.  We were wondering what the heck the hold up was since we had submitted all of our paperwork before the end of December and we were told it normally takes about 2-3 weeks to receive a date.  Good for us for calling to see what the heck was going on, and our attorney tells us that she has been going back and forth with the court because our marriage license doesn’t have Mendez as Callie’s last name, and like, WHY THE HELL WOULD IT!?!?! Sammie Mendez wasn’t marrying Callie Mendez, was she?  NO! She wasn’t!  And instead of the lawyer having called me to tell me that, her assistant thought she would sort it out on her own.  So I just emailed her a copy of Callie’s new SS Card, her new license, as well as copies of the old ones and the receipts from the name changes at both the SS Office and the DMV.  All was squared away, and now, we are two weeks into this 2-3 week wait.  So, looks like, we’ll likely have our finalization late March – early April, which is actually pretty awesome because it is more likely that we would be able to host Mary’s “You’ve Always Been Our Daughter in our Hearts, But now the World knows it too!” party outside, so we can house more people without paying an arm and a leg!  Believe me!  The boys 1st birthday party’s ran us about $2k, and $800+.  And since technically this would be Mary’s baby shower, christening, and 1st birthday (all of which we missed) wrapped in one, we’re ok with going all out for her. (*Mary was given a choice between a big birthday party at some bouncy castle place or wherever with friends, or a huge adoption party, she chose the adoption party).

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SHE SURE DOES LOVE THOSE BROTHERS!

4)We had a discussion with Mary last Tuesday night about why she isn’t with her birth mother, L, anymore.  Her adoption worker was over the apartment, and we were talking about some stuff pertaining to the case, and some of the issues that have been arising regarding our conditional surrender. Whenever one of the workers is over, Mary gets all nervous giddy, and she starts doing little things to sort of show off in front of them.  Which, I mean, sure!  Whatever.  We’re used to it!  But after the worker left, Mary came over to us and started asking us questions about L, and for the first, first, first time ever, when we responded to the questions of why her sister got to live with L with “She doesn’t honey.  She lives with her grandmother because L still isn’t making good and healthy and safe choices”, she asked, “But WHAT choices?  You always say, ‘not good choices’ but like, like what?”  And so we told her…  We told her that her mom was a drug addict that had a hard time making good choices because when people use drugs, their brains aren’t usually working very well or processing things very well either.  She took the news surprisingly well, but there were a lot of questions about L using drugs, and why people sell them, and why she chose them instead of her, and if she is still using drugs and how can we keep her sister safe if L is still using drugs.  We told her we didn’t know if she was, because now that she is in THIS phase of the adoption process, we don’t really know too much else about her besides what she tells us, and that honestly, we only talk about how Mary is doing.  Ironically, Callie was flipping through channels, and got distracted with the boys and an episode of Intervention was on. Normally, this would NOT be age appropriate or content appropriate TV for a 9 year old, but the episode was about a mother who was addicted to PCP, Meth, and Vicodin and was in the process of losing her children.  We put the boys down to bed, and spent the next hour with Mary watching the show.  During the episode, we would pause the TV to explain things to her, and to answer any questions that she may have, which believe me, were a ton!  We did the best we could, and I  have to say, since that day, something has changed.  Something has shifted in Mary, and it almost seems like she is even more sure about who she is and why she is here.  I know that’s probably a super far-fetched concept for more 9 year olds, but Mary’s like was very different from the average pre-teen.  We talked to her therapist (who saw her the next day) and said that Mary had even more questions for her, but that she was surprised and impressed how much information we gave Mary and how easy we made it for her to understand.  I have to say though, there was one moment after the fact, where Mary and Callie were having a conversation ( I heard about it later)  in the car on the way home from school 2 days later.  She asked Callie about L doing drugs again, and she had to reiterate that Mary being taken away wasn’t Mary’s fault, and for the first time, Mary said, “It’s not?  Not even a little bit Mommy?  Like not even 1%? Nothing?  Even if she didn’t listen?  Even if I told her don’t take me to Florida and she did anyway?”  And we have confirmed this many, many times, basically since day 1, and for the FIRST TIME, the very first freaking time, Callie said she believed it.  And what gave it away?!  The incessant agonizing cries that came from the way back seat of our minivan.  When Callie told me, I lost it.  I couldn’t believe that finally, after more than 3 years, Mary is starting to believe that NONE OF THIS is her fault…and that moment made the really, really hurtful and difficult conversation of the 2 nights before so absolutely worth it.

5)Potty Training…this needed a bullet on it’s own!  Soooooo, I have trained so many kids while I did 10 years of childcare work.  A full week of having them run around in their underwear, a few messes here and there, but normally, by the end of the week, about 90% of my 2 year old classrooms were toilet trained.  We’ve been at this every weekend for the past month (that’s probably the main issue but like, who has time?!?!) and STILL no success.  Levi is much better about this than Noah, and has been more consistent, but good grief!  Why can’t these things come toilet trained already!?

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POTTY TRAINING BUTTS ARE TOO DARN CUTE!

6)  The sicknesses have run amuck in our home.  Callie had (and I quote her doctor) one of the worst cases of strep throat he has ever seen.  He had her on TWO antibiotics and even pain killers!  YES!  Pain killers for strep throat!  And also, all of my children looked like this for the better part of a week…so, yeah….img_6893

7)  Snow made it’s way up the east coast and I never thought I would have so much fun playing in it.  Having little kids makes the world so interesting again.  Really examining, really looking, really enjoying.  Seeing snow and playing in snow through the eyes of my kids made it such a beautiful experience, and I can’t wait for there to be more so I can take them sledding!

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ALL THOSE ROSY CHEEKS!

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“OH NO MAMA! HACE FRIO! (IT’S COLD!)”

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“MAMA, IT’S SNOW! NIEVE! BLANCA!”

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AUSTIN, SNOW…SNOW, AUSTIN…

 

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8)  The older the kids get, the more and more we miss all those late night wake ups, the shit ton of dirty diapers, the exhaustion, the bottles (oh god, the bottles!), the car seats and the amount of money that we used to have in our bank account, but mostly a tiny tiny baby in the house and in our arms.  So, we’ve decided that maybe Baby Mendez #5 is actually a thing that could and maybe SHOULD happen.  We’re talking about it….a lot….and have decided that when Austin turns 2 (but knowing us we won’t wait that long), we’ll get started on this baby thing…so…yeah…..

 

Conditions…

Another Christmas has come and gone, and I couldn’t be happier that all the holiday madness is over (for the most part!). The kids had a blast!  They opened up all their presents (AT 6:30 AM!), had our new favorite holiday tradition of Christmas Pancakes (just some green and red sprinkles in the batter)IMG_6440.PNG, went to my sisters, and spent time with family.  They haven’t stopped playing with their toys since Christmas morning.  You have no idea how fun it is to pry a toddler off of a balance bike while he grips the handle bars and wraps his legs around it, to the point that you just carry him AND the bike to the changing table and figure out how to NOT get poop on everything.  That LITERALLY happened!  Levi!  And my house is impeccable now that Noah got a mini vacuum that REALLY works. “Come on Nene, follow mama, and you clean, ok!?”  We haven’t had a scrap on the floor, what with the toy “real” vacuum, and our real human vacuum (Austin)!  Mary has been dying to ride her bike, but NY has had less than perfect Holiday weather filled with unseasonably warm weather with loads of rain, and the one day that was beautiful, we were just so busy, but she has flown her remote control hummingbird all over the house, and into ever single wall, sooooo…

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And since we are speaking of Mary, part of her adoption “contract”, if you will, is that her mom would sign over her rights under very specific conditions that have been agreed upon.  The two main conditions (which also have conditions!) are a monthly email with 2-3 pictures of Mary and a brief snippet of what her month has has been like, i.e. “she is doing well in school.  She scored two goals at soccer 2 weeks ago.  We’ll be on vacation next week and she’s looking forward to it”.  Simple as that.  Not über crazy and not too involved.  I get it.  She just wants to know OF her biological daughter, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be the same considering the circumstances.  She also gets a quarterly visit.  One visit every 3 months, 4 times a year.

Initially we thought everyone on our end would be ok with this, but we didn’t consider Mary’s behavior/emotional well being with the continuation of visits, and ALSO knowing that her birth mom has her baby sister and not her has been a real source of the constant PAIN IN MY ASS that I’m dealing with as far as Mary’s conflicting emotions are concerned.  We’ve noticed that this is a continuous cycle with Mary every time she does/doesn’t have visits, or whenever she does/doesn’t see her mom.  The behaviors, the anger, the sadness is the same regardless of whether these visits happen or not.  In August, mom missed her first visit, which led it be a little over 6 months since Mary had any contact with her birth mom.  She was great all summer, up until the week before she knew her visit was coming.  Then mom missed the visit, and all hell broke loose for about 6 weeks, behavior-wise. 3 more months pass.  Mom shows up in November, with a trove of gifts, which of course sends a whole slew of different messages.  And then the ” I really love my mom.  She’s a good mom because she buys me cool and pretty things” conversation happened, which was really hard to reign in because…ego…

I guess the whole reason I’m bringing this up is because her birth mom emailed me back this time, the day after Christmas (even though I send the monthly email on the first of each month, and she never writes back!) to ask for us to please consider inviting her to Mary’s birthday party.  That it would make her year, and that she would want nothing more than to share Mary’s special day.  Uh, EXCUSE ME!?!  Now?!  After 3 birthday invites?  So of course, despite trying my hardest, my alter Petty LaBelle showed up, and the response was so protective and almost guttural, verbatim, “Hi there.  Unfortunately, Mary is have a huge “Adoption Day Party” (her choice) and we’ve decided to forgo a 9th birthday party and will instead be spending a weekend at an indoor water park with her best friend and her favorite cousin.  Hope you have a Happy New Year.  Stay blessed! ~Petty Labelle” .

And now I feel HORRIBLE about it!  I mean, there was other stuff in the email that she wanted addressed (Mary’s current size, her favorite show/activity, what she’s into now [Descendants!], how her holiday was, what she got, etc.) which I had absolutely no issue with, but I was so caught up in the BS of kind of proving she’s OUR daughter now, that I forgot to be kind to her.  I can’t imagine the struggle.  I can ABSOLUTELY imagine what it’s like to not have my children, and it is the WORST feeling I have ever felt just THINKING about it!  And I should have been kinder, but also, the freaking audacity!  The times that we have invited her, she hasn’t shown up.  In fact, she promised Mary a cake, and fell of the face of the earth, so my “guarded” feelings about Mary’s day were totally warranted, but maybe my delivery was a little too much.

I’ll be kinder next time, placing myself in her shoes, but also, by being honest and beginning to address some of the issues we have with her, will communicate what OUR needs are to keep Mary’s heart safe and happy.  My gut tells me that Mary’s mom will be around, and despite everything, so long as the relationship improves and the honesty and trust us there, I’m pretty ok with that. In what capacity she’ll be around is still unclear, but I know their hearts are very connected, and I can’t see myself not honoring what my daughters heart is telling her, but I also know that sometimes we don’t make the best choices when we ONLY let our hearts lead the way.  Life experience is huge, and Mary has had tons but her loyalty is blinding…also, 8 years old!  Mary will learn things in her own time, as she should.  She will develop a relationship with her birth mom at some point, but for right now, we are in charge of those interactions, and reiterating who we are to Mary and to her birth mom, the gentle reminders of “you lost your opportunity to be in charge here” for birth mom, and also trying our damnedest to give love and hope and opportunity to the woman who gave us one of our most precious gifts…

We’ll always be somewhat indebted to her, and we should start reminding ourselves of that a little…img_6441

A One Year Old Miracle

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(I know I won’t have time tomorrow)  What a difference a year makes!!!  I think I am probably in more shock than anyone that our little Austin Ryan is ONE!  A whole year!  Our little miracle is doing so many things, and has done so well considering how early he was born. 29 weeks, 6 days, with 10 weeks to go, and he was ready to come meet the world.  I Still scroll through pictures of his first few days of life, and honestly don’t even recognize that baby.

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WELCOME TO THE WORLD AUSTIN RYAN

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6 HOURS OLD

Seeing those pictures always splits me in two.  Part of me still can’t believe that he came so early, and that we were thrown such a curveball and had to do so many things to adjust our lives to meet all of his needs, as well as the needs of two VERY HORMONAL moms and 3 other children.  But we nailed it, and it made our little family unit stronger.  And the other part of me is so excited that Austin came and changed EVERYTHING just when it needed to change.  It changed my relationship with Callie.  It changed my relationship with my children.  It changed my relationship with MYSELF, and all of these things came because Austin did…not too late, not too early, just as he should have.  So I thank the Universe every day for all of my miracles, but I say an extra thank you for bringing us Austin.

Stats: you can read the last post, since it’s all there!

He is quite the character!  He tries to keep up with his brothers, and does a pretty good job of it.  I can always assume that if one of the boys is crying, Austin is tackling him, crawling over him, bullying them for their toys, crawling away at lightning speed with one of their sippy cups, but they sure do love their brother!  I often hear them walking through the house saying, “Papo? Are-shu?? Ah are-shu!?!?!” and when they find him, ” HA! ::giggle giggle:: Dere’s YOU (there’s you!!!)!!! and it melts my heart every damn time!

Our little miracle boy is a whole year old tomorrow.  And my heart, every day, reminds me how lucky we are that he is with us, because his life, OUR lives could have been very different.  I think of all of the things I will treasure the most about Austin’s first year of life is the breastfeeding relationship that we had.  Guys, like many other mamas who have struggled with breastfeeding and supply, I BUSTED it trying to make milk for my tiny little Austin.  I never pumped more than 5 ounces in once sitting EVER (and that only happened 3 times because I hadn’t pumped or nursed in 6 hours!).  I was taking domperidone, all types of herbs, drinking all types of teas, and nursing, pumping AND hand expressing (because pumping never fully emptied me) and I was STILL supplementing a little less than half of his bottles, but it was so beautiful, and I really loved having that time with him.  We only nursed for 7 months, but it was awesome!  And when Callie has baby #5 (yup, that’s happening in maybe another year or so!!!!!!!!! YASSSS!!!!) I will do everything I can, to re-lactate and nurse the newest Mendez as well, even if it IS just a little snack (what I used to say to Austin when I nursed him).

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THE MAGICAL 5OZ DAY

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THIS BOY LOVES TO NURSE

So, yeah….our Miracle is ONE…img_35261


I was scrolling through my phone looking for pictures and had completely forgotten that for Austin’s first week of life, I didn’t have my journal, so I kept small little notes in my phone.  I’ve added them here below just in case they ever get lost…

Austin Ryan
12/17/15 – Thursday
Born December 17th, 2015 @ 4:53pm.  He was 3lbs 9oz, and 15″ long, coming 10 weeks and 1 day early.  He was breathing well on his own from the get. They had him on 30 oxygen and within the first 24hrs was taken down to 22! This little guy is a fighter and he is so tough and feisty! He’s a beautiful boy with Levi’s face and Noah’s nose.  He has the cutest little cry

12/18/15 – Friday
Today is our second day in the hospital.  I’ve been feeling pretty good.  Everyone seems surprised that im doing so well.  The nurses can’t believe that I delivered my baby is 3 pushes! I didn’t take any meds today and everyone is pretty surprised.  I also started pumping and getting a few drops of colostrum.  I put it on q-tip swabs so they can give Austin Ryan some oral care with my breast milk.  He seems to like it.  He’s still breathing well on his own and they have turned off the oxygen but still have the CPAP in to keep his lungs expanded.  He’s had a couple of apnea episodes and a couple of Brady’s, but is still doing really well! My baby boy is gonna be just fine.  My heart knows it! (Jesy, Tia Jenny, Tio Roberto, Kika, and Katie came to visit)

12/19/15 – Saturday
Lobster dinner was delicious last night! It was nice to sit there with Callie and share a little moment and celebrate our beautiful boy!  Today’s nurse is really nice.  Her name is Sue and she kinda reminds me of Arizona from Greys Anatomy.  She let me feed Austin today.  It was just putting 3cc’s of breastmilk in the tube and holding it up so that he could get it into his belly, but it was beautiful.  His bilirubin levels went up so they have him under the UV lights to help bring down his levels.  He also swats at the nurse when she tries to fix the CPAP that he keeps pulling out! This little guy is gonna be trouble! He does things in his own time and his own way, and that seems like it’s gonna be a theme with him! I’m gettin ready!

12/20/15 – Sunday
I was discharged yesterday and leaving the hospital without our baby is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I basically cried the whole day.  It was really really hard for me.  Those bonding hormones are no joke! AR is still doing great! Still off the oxygen, still on the lights, and tolerating the breastmilk really well.  I am so happy that I am able to produce milk for him because the doctor says it’s easier for him to digest it and to process it than formula.  Not much more progress than yesterday with the exception of taking out one of the lines from his umbilical cord and taking off the bilirubin lights.  Seems like his levels went down which is great!  They are supposed to be doing A PICC line tomorrow, and a head ultrasound either Monday or Tuesday to make sure he’s not hemorrhaging or that there isnt anything wrong with his little brain. Hopefully all goes well.

12/21/15 – Monday
Spent most of the afternoon in the hospital.  We got to hold Austin Ryan for the first time since the 5 minutes after he was born.  What an incredible feeling. I cried of course, and got to hold him and sing him my boys lullabies, “Beautiful Boy”, “Our House” and “Power of Two”.  Since I sing them to Levi and Noah all the time, i’m sure he heard them when in my belly.  I have to say, I really miss being pregnant. I feel like I got gyped out of enjoying my pregnancy.  It makes me sad, but if I dwell on it i start crying like an idiot! Today, he was back on the lights because his levels went back up again.