Callie’s Job and One of Those Days

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions for about a week now.  All I wanted to do was cuddle my boys and sleep. Yesterday I spent most of my day avoiding people as tears continuously made their way down my cheeks.  I never let people see me cry, especially people I hardly know, but for some strange reason, yesterday on lunch break, I unloaded on one of my co-workers.  She has 2 kids that just went off to college, and can totally relate to the “I miss my kids terribly when we are away from them” feelings.  It was just a miserable day, and I can’t shake it.  This feeling of helplessness and despair, and anyone who has suffered from depression and anxiety will understand the ” cold, empty feeling at the pit of my stomach”, and that is the feeling I have had for 4 days now.  That is the feeling that refuses to leave me, and it’s making me terribly sad.  I miss my wife, and spending time with her.  I knew that having kids would change things, but I don’t know why I didn’t expect our time to be consumed with all things “children”, and I feel like I’m losing it!  I didn’t expect it to be this hard.  I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be juggling work, parenting 3 children, my relationship with my wife, keeping our home tidy, and maintaining relationships with my friends and family.  It’s hard as hell!  And right now, it’s all hitting me at once, and I’m having a breakdown.  I know I’ll get over it, and I know I just need a good cuddle from my wonderful wife (who I miss like crazy!) and a good cry (which I’ll have later as we lay in bed catching up on our tv shows).  Hopefully the rest of this week will be better and I’ll be able to shake off all of this horrible sadness.  What worries me is that this is a feeling I have had before, and dealing with it was very difficult and complicated.  I might actually seek some professional help, at least for a little while, if this issue doesn’t resolve itself.  I want to be here for my family, and I want to be present and happy, and not just going through the motions as I secretly deteriorate inside and am of no good to anybody.

HOW I'VE BEEN FEELING

HOW I’VE BEEN FEELING

Wanna know what doesn’t help?  The fact that Callie’s job called her today to let her know that the position that she has held for the past 13 of 15 years at her company was given to someone else.  She has officially been replaced!  Her Human Resources manager and District Vice President called her today to break the news to her.  They sort of didn’t really know what to say when Callie shot back with a bunch of questions.  Basically, I’ll give you the abridged version of what’s been happening at her job…

Callie has always been in good standing at her job.  She has been awarded “Diamond Director” (revenue of over a million dollars for her school), she has been sent to other schools in her district (NY, NJ, CT, PA area) to train other directors and show them the ropes, and she has never been written up (until the week before she went on leave, and was written up for supposedly 3 years worth of infractions).  During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, everything sort of changed.  Carmen, the new district vice president (who really didn’t like Callie before becoming DVP) claimed that Callie didn’t care about her school and didn’t make her way there to check on the school and see what the status was.  She claimed that Callie was being irresponsible, and told all of the higher ups that Callie made no attempts to communicate with her.  If you lived anywhere in the Tri-state area during Hurricane Sandy, then you know the devastation that it caused.  Although we were without power, heat, and the roads surrounding our house were completely flooded and the surrounding neighborhood was almost a foot under water (we literally live across the street from the Long Island Sound), Callie managed to save power on her phone by keeping it off and touching base with her boss and checking voicemails, AND calling Con-ed (our local power company) to check the status of her school.  IMG_0409

BEFORE THE STORM EVEN STARTED WE WERE UNDER ABOUT A FOOT OF WATER ON MY BLOCK

BEFORE THE STORM EVEN STARTED WE WERE UNDER ABOUT A FOOT OF WATER ON MY BLOCK

She was as responsible as you could be during such a horrible time.  Well, her boss didn’t see it that way!  They had a huge blow out, and since then, they have kept their distance.  They only communicate when they have to, and really any time Carmen has something to say to Callie she communicates it through one of her district managers.  It’s annoying and infuriating! Needless to say, the past two years have involved challenge after challenge for Callie (unnecessarily) mainly because her boss doesn’t like her, making it difficult for Callie to run a successful school.  They blame her for poor teacher retention rate, but what teacher with a masters degree is going to work for $13/hour?  The DVP has the ability to approve a higher pay rate, but she won’t because she hates Callie and that she is a fighter for things that are right and fair.  If the teachers keep leaving because they feel that they aren’t getting paid for the job that they are doing, the parents are seeing inconsistency in the program, so lots of families started leaving.  I would pull my kid too if he went through 4 teachers in 6 months!  Callie managed to persuade some of them to stay because she has such a great relationship with them and ultimately it’s a great school and a great program, but really, it’s been an uphill battle trying to get that school to run.  Callie didn’t want to go back, but after working in the field for so many years, she was scared to make a change and start fresh.  This is kind of the push that she needed, but it’s the principal!  They waited for her to go on leave, surpass her FMLA, and within 3 days of the allotted time frame they replaced her!  They couldn’t even give her the decency of calling before hand and asking her what she wanted to do.  If she was planning on coming back or if she was extending her leave.  It’s just been a mess!  So with all the other stress that I am dealing with, I now also have to figure out how on my salary, I am going to support a family of 5, while Callie tries to find a job that pays half as much as she was getting paid.  It’s going to be a struggle, and no doubt that we can do it, but it’s making my situation and feelings much worse.

I want to be the best Mama I can be, so I’m doing my best…but man, these times are hard…

And to lighten the mood a bit, these guys:

LEVI JAMES - THE MACHO MAN

LEVI JAMES – THE MACHO MAN

LJ1 LJ2

Sleeping Nene nene1

NOAH OSCAR - EL NENE

NOAH OSCAR – EL NENE

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5 Weeks and Finally SLEEP!!

Yes folks! You’ve read correctly! We are actually getting some sleep in our house (I am posting this against the advice of my great blog friend The Lady King)! Somehow the boys are more fussy, but only one at a time, which means we can alternate caring for them, in turn, allowing us more time for sleep! I’ve actually almost felt well rested! When you’ve only been getting about 3 hours sleep from 10pm-6am, things can get a little hairy, like making tons of errors at work or having unintelligible conversations with people, or fighting off sleep and trying your damnedest not to nod off as your boss pulls you aside to discuss some important emails that need to be sent out every month to another department. Yeah, all of that is a true story! After starting to use the wonder weeks app and getting little snippets of the book, we understand that this past week the boys are experiencing their world through new eyes. They are seeing well past the 6-10 inches in front of them and are scared and anxious at this great new world that has opened up in front of them. They have just needed to be held and understanding that there really is nothing wrong with them when they cry except the need for safety and security makes it a lot easier to deal with the incessant crying. So we just hold them, which settles them pretty quickly, sleep with them on our chest for about 3 hours and then feed and change them and go back to sleep. The past 3 nights, I’ve gotten more sleep than I was getting on a pre-baby night! I KNOW!!! It won’t last, and we are aware of that, but for right now sleep has been pretty decent, and being back at work hasn’t been so bad either, especially when your wife floods your text and emails with pictures like this…

KISSES FOR MAMA WHILE SHE'S AT WORK

KISSES FOR MAMA WHILE SHE’S AT WORK

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WHAT MOMMY DOES TO THEM FOR MY ENTERTAINMENT

WHAT MOMMY DOES TO THEM FOR MY ENTERTAINMENT

This past Sunday (I’m a little late, I know!) the boys turned 5 weeks old. They are getting much bigger and pretty heavy. Noah is almost completely out of newborn clothes but Levi still has a little ways to go. We think he loses more calories because he cries so darn much! He is definitely the needier of the twins, for right now, but he’s just so freaking cute, that even when he cries I can’t help but wanna cuddle and kiss and coo at him and nurse him . SB: I gave up on trying to produce milk (which was really sad for me) but I comfort nurse whenever I can or whenever I feel they need it. I’m not passing judgement here, but I don’t know how every mother does not want to nurse!!! It’s spectacular, milk or not!

The boys are really beginning to enjoy the play mat.  There is a star that flashes lights and plays music and they are both totally in awe of it.  Levi makes the best faces when looking at it.  It’s like he’s never seen anything cooler!  He can lay there for quite a while just looking at it.  Also there is this really creepy (at least to me) video on youtube if you search “Infant Brain Stimulation”.  It’s this black and white video with moving shapes set to classical music.  When we watches it, it’s like mouth open, where am I, why is this so cool, kind of reaction.   He loves it, so we play it once a night for about 5 minutes.  Noah will have nothing to do with it! He usually just passes out.  They also really like tummy time, and have been doing really well (trying) to hold their heads up.  It’s such a joy watching them grow one day at a time…

WEEK 5 AND STEADILY GROWING OUT OF NEWBORN CLOTHING! (STOP GROWING MY BABIES!)

WEEK 5 AND STEADILY GROWING OUT OF NEWBORN CLOTHING! (STOP GROWING MY BABIES!)

TUMMY TIME FOR THE BOYS

TUMMY TIME FOR THE BOYS

TUMMY TIME FOR THE BOYS

TUMMY TIME FOR THE BOYS

HANGING OUT ON OUR PLAY MAT WATCHING "ESTRELLA" DO HER THANG!

HANGING OUT ON OUR PLAY MAT WATCHING “ESTRELLA” DO HER THANG!

TPR

I entered this blog post last night, but I’m not sure why it’s not showing up in the feed.  Here it is anyway, for anyone interested in reading it… There is Something About Mary .

Then you’ll understand the rest of this post.

Mary’s mom finally made contact, after 3 weeks or not calling and not showing up to meetings, visits, and sessions.  Her excuse?  She has been having a hard time getting off from work, and her phone was broken…for 3 weeks.  I’m the type of person that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, but this sounds a little fishy to us.  The case worker text me yesterday asking if it was alright for her to switch her visit from Thursday at 3:30 to Wednesday at 3:30 since she was able to clear out some stuff on her schedule and it was imperative that she speak to us as soon as she could as she had FINALLY received an email from Mary’s mom.  Unfortunately, I was at work, but Callie was home and was able to see her, and boy was she ever pissed!

According to her, there are lots of things that she will tolerate.  Not communicating with the case workers is one that is a non-negotiable.  Mary’s mom gave her a ton of excuses as to why she wasn’t able to call, or email, or find any way to communicate with any of the workers or therapists.  I don’t think the case worker was buying it, at all.  She spoke to Callie for a while about feeling like the inconsistency has gone on long enough, and that she feels mostly bad for Mary, who doesn’t deserve to be lied to every week about her mother’s whereabouts.  That Mary is going through a ton of transitions right now, and the last thing she needs is her mother’s absence.  That she will officially be starting Termination of Parental Rights paperwork(TPR’s) this week.  In the next few months we will know if Mary will become permanent in our home and has found her forever family who loves her dearly, or if she will be dragged through the foster care system a little longer in hopes that her mom gets it together.  Either way, in NY state, if a child is in care for 15 out of 22 months, unless the judge orders some sort of stipulation or appeal, a child will automatically get a TPR.  Looks like we just might have some adoption paperwork to fill out in our near future.  We are scared, nervous, excited, worried about the rug being pulled out from under us, and feeling a bit overwhelmed.  We want what’s best for Mary in the end.  Let’s see how this plays out in court in April.  We have our fingers crossed for our little Mary.

There’s Something About Mary

On March 17th, it’ll be a year since Mary has come into our lives and has become a very loved, cherished, and important member of this family. Her story isn’t as horrendous as some of the ones we have heard from other foster families, but it’s a sad one nonetheless. It’s one that leaves a child confused, torn, and scarred for what we assume will be the rest of her life. Mary came to us a broken, scared little girl. My, how things have changed!

Mary had been in “the system” before. She was with 2 different families before she got reunified with mom on a trial basis. She needed to comply with certain things and would have someone checking in on her constantly. During the probationary period, mom made some bad choices and absconded to Florida where she was found thanks to some coordinates on FB. Social services went down there to get Mary, and as soon as she got off of the plane, she was driven directly to our home as an emergency placement. They called to let us know they were outside so I went downstairs to find a little girl, light brown hair, dirty purple winter coat, passed out in the back seat of a white 4 door, hybrid sedan. With her came a backpack and a box of clothing that was probably a size (or two) too small. I picked her up and carried her to our apartment. She opened her eyes, smiled at me as Callie spoke to the case worker and the “mover” and found out some specifics about the case and some information about Mary. They never really tell you much but as far as we knew, she didn’t have any allergies and needed to be taken to the pediatrician. The workers left and the three of us sat on the couch watching a movie at a little past midnight.

When the movie finished, we had her brush her teeth, and showed her her new room. “That’s not my room! This isn’t my house!” We had fostered other children before but never encountered this kind of attitude or this much push back. It’s always been the opposite actually!!! That night and the next morning were really tough. “These don’t taste like my moms pancakes.” “My mom doesn’t like when my hair is in pigtails!” “Why am I here and where’s my mom?!” We did our best to distract her by going outside, visiting with my family since my niece is the same age, and going out shopping to buy her some clothes and sneakers. That weekend we also took her to Billy Beez, an indoor kids play space, where she spent a good 4 hours running, crawling, sliding and jumping with my niece.

We knew that Mary would be with us for a long time because of the nature of her case and this being a repeat situation for mom. After about a month of being in our care, we had our first service review meeting. This is where we discuss how the child is doing in placement, how they are adjusting to their new school and surroundings and a chance for the case workers, resource workers, foster parents and bio families to meet. We were told some things about the case that we didn’t know, including some pretty traumatic stuff for both mom and Mary. They informed us that our first permanency hearing was about 6 months into placement, in October.

The hearing came and went and basically, in less words, the case worker was pushing for termination of parental rights because mom has been inconsistent, and in Mary’s 6 short years of life, mom had yet to provide her with a safe, stable home. But mainly the inconsistency was the point the workers wanted to emphasize. At this point, Mary had been in care for almost 7 months and mom had JUST started 3 of the 5 mandated programs. She had missed many meetings and supervised visits, and she had a hard time returning the case workers phone calls. Moms lawyer fought for longer visits and unsupervised. The judge wasn’t trying to hear that! She gave Mary’s mom 6 more months to get herself together (complete program, get an apartment, a job, and stay sober) or she would begin paperwork to terminate rights.  Mom’s lawyer said that mom was complying and was wondering if there was any way to meet back at the half way mark before the next hearing.  The judge agreed to meet in January.

During this time Mary’s mom did the damn thing! She worked the hell outta all of her programs. We began emailing and sending pictures of Mary, telling her mom how proud we were of her and all of the hard work she was doing to get her daughter back. How if she needed anything, we would be happy and willing to help (within reason). She got an apartment, she started working a full time job, and at her parenting sessions with Mary as well as her supervised visits, she was showing interest and helping Mary with homework. She was having more age appropriate conversations (according to the case worker), and what we thought was most important, she was helping Mary to understand why things were happening the way they were. Why she was staying with us and how she was working hard to not lie and do the right thing to not be in “Mommy Time out”, and that Mary should do her best to listen to us, follow our rules, and be on her best behavior. All of these are a big improvement from the first few meetings, where mom showed Mary pictures of Sugar Gliders and puppies telling Mary she was going to buy them for her and have them ready when she comes home “soon”, which we all knew wasn’t the case.

Up until recently (about the past 3-4 weeks) everything was going well. Mom even stopped sending gifts home with Mary, and would hold on to them after their session and take them back home with her. But then came the week before Mary’s birthday. She has 3 different scheduled visits during the week. Tuesday it’s individual therapy, Wednesday its a parenting session with her mom, and Thursdays it’s now a 2 hour weekly unsupervised visit with mom, which will eventually lead to weekend overnights, and ultimately transitioning Mary to live with mom again (up until the first week of January it was one hour bi-weekly supervised). The therapist for the parenting session called and said that she couldn’t get in touch with mom so her session was canceled. We didn’t think anything of it until the next day Mary’s caseworker called us and cancelled the visit because she couldn’t get in touch with mom. Wednesday and Thursday she didn’t see her mom. Mom had asked if she could possibly see Mary on her birthday (that coming Saturday), which we were absolutely fine with, via email. We waited and waited and waited for a response. The original agreement was that Mary would have her ice skating party which was over at 4pm and then we would meet up with her. I got an email that morning asking if it was still ok (no one has spoken to her in almost 2 weeks!) and to have Mary call her at 4, to which I said sure! Once we got home from skating, we called at 4, and then 4:10, and then 4:20, and finally after our last call at 4:30, we decided to make some hot chocolate, popcorn, and make it a movie night, the five of us cuddled on the couch.

Callie and I were heartbroken for her. You had to see the sadness in her face. Despite having probably (according to her) one of the best birthdays ever, hearing from her mom was really all she wanted. She seemed so defeated after every “Mom, it’s me Mary. Remember, it’s my birthday. I’ll call you back in a few minutes! I love you! I’m 7 years old today!” message, that we just didn’t allow her to call anymore. How could mom not answer the phone when SHE was the one that asked us to call at that time? How could she not make a minute or two to wish her daughter a happy birthday?! What could have possibly been more important that being able to have an extra visit for an hour or two in a week considering that she missed the 2 days before that.

It wasn’t until the Tuesday after Mary’s birthday that I received an email from mom, saying how horrible she felt and how sorry she was for missing Mary’s birthday. She seemed to throw blame at us for calling her from a blocked number and that she doesn’t answer blocked calls. I’m pretty sure if I got a message from my daughter calling from a blocked number saying she was going to call back IN TEN MINUTES, I would answer the damn blocked call! She wanted me to send her pictures and video of Mary’s skating party. I have yet to respond to her email, and three more weeks of cancelled sessions (no one has heard from her AGAIN in three whole weeks!), Mary has yet to see her mom. I don’t know if I’m more frustrated that there are no consequences for her actions or if she’s hurting our little Mary and I wanna grab her and shake some sense into her! The caseworker is concerned, the therapist is concerned, we are concerned, but this is the same behavior she exhibited before when she grabbed Mary and left for another state. We know our time with our girl is limited. We know that she basically has one foot out the door already. There is another permanency hearing the first week of April. That will decide when she goes home for good, and more than likely, where “home” will be. I’m sure they’ll let her finish out the school year, if she ends up leaving. I’m certain they’ll give us a 2 week transitional period. I’m almost positive we will be able to still have a relationship with her once she goes home with mom, but I can’t begin to describe the fear that we have about her going home.  And now the added stress of trying to figure out what we will do with 3 children on 1 income (Callie got replaced at work while on leave as Director of a Child Care center- but that’s for A WHOLE OTHER POST!) if we end up adopting Mary, which we more than likely would given the opportunity. We hope we’ve given her enough in the time that she’s been with us to stand up for herself, to have higher self esteem and a better self image. That we’ve shown her how intelligent she is, how athletic, how artistic and crafty. That people love her and she can love in return. That she’s better and worth more than she thinks.  That no matter what, she owns a piece of our hearts forever, and that she will always be a part of our family…

4 Weeks Old & Back To Work Mama Goes

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The time is just zooming by.  Every day I wake up, and my children are a day older, and those days accumulate into weeks, and those weeks into months, and before you know it, I’ll wonder where the years went.  Yesterday, the boys turned 4 weeks old.  In two days, they’ll be a month old (that’s weird how that works, because you always assume four weeks is a month, but not really!) and on such an awesome milestone, I was due to return to work.  Yesterday, was one of the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced, until I left my house for work this morning. The saddness hit me like a ton of bricks, and it took everything in me, not to bawl most of the day ( I snuck off to the bathroom to do most of my crying while I flipped through pictures on my phone of my babies, wondering if the were missing me as much as I was missing them).

In these 4 weeks, they have changed so much. Their personalities are really starting to become more distinct and they are getting easier to tell apart. They do this thing when they are near each other where they start to grunt and squeak, and they go back and forth like they are in full conversation. It’s so interesting to watch. I wonder what they are saying to each other. Probably talking about the ridiculous faces that we make and how two grown women can get their voices to be so squeaky and two octaves higher. Levi likes to punch Noah in the face…A LOT! I see this sibling rivalry getting a little crazy! Maybe a lot crazy! But Noah always manages to turn his whole body around by kicking his legs like a frog and in the process kicks his brothers head, shoulders, back, stomach, so he gets his licks in too!

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They really love the water. When you take their clothes off they cry, and when you take them out of the water, their screams reach a decibel that makes the dog downstairs bark, but while they are in their little bucket of water, they are in complete and total
bliss. They eat the water off of their hands and they are truly relax, which is a nice change to the gassiness and the constipation they have been experiencing. It makes me excited to think about taking them out swimming this summer. We were really hoping they would be water babies, and they are!

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Back at work today, I was just really feeling miserable. I had about 1400 emails to go through, a new office (they moved all of my stuff while I was out, so there was no type of organization), a ton of work to catch up on, and no wife and kids. I didn’t expect the transition back to work to be so difficult for me. I’m a pretty social person who likes to be around people most of the time, but honestly, the only place I want to be is at home. I feel guilty too that Callie is by herself taking care of two babies, a 7 year old, the house, laundry, cooking, and pretty much everything! I touched based about 100 times more than usual just to make sure she wasn’t feeling overwhelmed (snow day today so Mary was home too, making it Callie’s first day home alone with ALL THREE OF THEM!). She did send me the cutest picture with the song “I just called to say I Love You”. It really made my day!

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I know the transition will get easier for both of us. She’ll adjust to caring for the both of them on her own, and I’ll get comfortable with being back at work and doing as much as I can when I get home. We’ll fall into a different routine and continue to balance each other out as we’ve always done as parents. I just wish I didn’t miss them so bad. When I got home today, I said hello to everyone and gave hugs and kisses. When I held Levi and started talking to him in Spanish, he gave me the biggest smile. I know it probably wasn’t at me being silly and making funny faces and funny noises, but the timing was perfect and made me feel like he really missed me. I didn’t think I could love anyone so quickly with so muh of my heart. And it’s happening twice! At the same time…

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3AM

If you ever wanted to know what a 3 am feeding at our house looks like, well, here you have it, my good people. And by the way, it looks ridiculous!

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When it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t trade a single second of it. Well, maybe the few seconds of screaming while mommy gets the bottles. But when they finish them and they look at us so intensely, i forget that their screams really just sounded like they were wailing , ” I’m starving! I’m sttttaaaarrrving!!! I’mmmm staaaaaasrrrrviiiinnnggg!!!”. (No seriously, that’s what it sounds like!). Also these pictures are interchangeable with the 12am and 6am feedings. What does 3am look like at your place? Probably as tragic as ours!

3 Week Old Baby Boys

So we’ve made it to week 3 and neither Callie or I has died of sleep deprivation. Winning!

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We had a check up on Friday for the boys. So they are both officially over the 6 pound mark. Noah is weighing in at 6lbs, 12oz and Levi is weighing 6lbs, 5oz. They have both basically gained a pound since their birth. I can’t believe that their due date is actually 3 days from today. In the 3 weeks that the boys have been here, lots has changed, but somehow nothing has changed. I don’t really know how to explain it. I will say, I have never been so in love with my wife. There are times that i just catch myself staring at her for minutes at a time, watching her interact with our children. I listen to how she worries, how she coo’s at them, how she sings to them while changing their diaper. I see the way her eyes sparkle when she talks about them. Her voice goes up a half step when she tells me the cute little things they did. I haven’t see her smile this much in all the time we have been together. I have never seen her so happy. She’s been more affectionate despite being so tired. We started putting the boys in the pack and play to sleep, and that has taken the cuddle time up 10 fold although I miss baby smell all night long. We haven’t cuddled since the hospital!!! It’s been nice…really really nice! I just love what motherhood has done to her, and it makes me happy to have been chosen by her and by our Dude upstairs to be such an integral part of her life.

Our pictures came in from our photoshoot at the hospital. So we got our announcement cards made.

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We can’t wait to send them out! Also, yesterday was the Super Bowl. I come from a family of die hard NY Giants fans! We don’t even care who’s playing in the big game, we always wear our colors!! We BLEED BLUE!!!! And all this cuteness makes it all worth it.

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Next week I go back to work, and I’m counting down and dreading the idea of 1)leaving Callie to do everything on her own, despite not being fully healed or feeling even 90%, but my mom will be by 2-3 times a week to help keep the apartment clean, cook dinner, and just help with caring for the boys and 2) Having to leave the boys after spending every waking and sleeping moment with them. I get all teary eyed and have heart palpitations when I think about it. Im gonna cry all day my first (second, third, fiftieth) day back. But bills need to be paid and babies need to get fed. So sad already. But aside from that, life in the Mendez household has been fantastic. Callie and I have a system that we use that we kinda got into without ever even saying anything. We just kinda flow and work well together. But my Bubba is gassy and needs me to bicycle his legs, so hope everyone has a great day (snow day if you’re in the northeast.)

We’ve Got Ourselves A 7 Year Old!

Today, our little Mary turned 7!!! Our little CooCoo is a whole year older. When you’re a foster parent (or really, just a parent) these milestones get you
thinking about “day one”.

It was early afternoon on a Wednesday morning in late March. I got a phone call from our resource worker to let us know that they had an emergency placement and she needed a home right away. Usually when they call, they give you a brief description of the child, a snippet of their history both medical and family, and an estimated date for their placement. Callie and I never really care too much about any of that stuff. When we get called to foster, we always say yes without listening to any of those things. They’re irrelevant, but Mary was a little different. She was 6 (we are signed up for 0-5), which meant school-aged, and that was a lot more complicated for us (scheduling and child care wise) than we were really ready/willing to deal with, but we took a leap of faith, crossed our fingers, opened our hearts, and hoped for the best. And we’re so glad that we did!

I will admit, on some days, it has been a struggle. There are days when we’re exhausted, but there’s homework to be done. There are days when Mary is rebellious and sassy and tries our patience like no other, but on those same days, she throws her head on my shoulder and holds my hand while I read her a bedtime story. Sometimes I feel like she’ll eat us out of our apartment, but she always saves the last piece/sip for us.

There have been huge accomplishments. When Mary first came here, she barely knew any of her letters. 10 1/2 months later, she reads the boys bedtime stories and is obsessed with “The Magic Treehouse” series. She knew 0/33 sight words and now she gets a perfect score and 100’s on her spelling tests every week. She refused to do chores when she first came to us, and now the first thing she does every morning is make her bed, and she’s proud of herself. And last night, for the first time since she’s been with us, Mary called me Máma and Callie mommy!!! “Mama, thank you for my special day. Mommy, I really love you.” Last night, Callie and I couldn’t stop smiling. Last night, we felt love from Mary in a way that we hadn’t experienced before. It was incredible!

We wanted to make sure that we gave Mary as special a birthday as we could. Last night we blew up about 2 dozen balloons and threw them on the floor of her bedroom. She loves my chalkboard announcements so I wrote a special birthday message for her and set it on her art desk so it was the first thing she saw when she got up. At 7:25am, a tiny knock on the door. I told her to come in, ” MOMMY! MAMÁ!!! OH MY GOSH!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!” Thats just the reaction we were hoping to get.

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Then it was time to get ready and head to her Ice Skating Party! For a kid that’s never been skating before, I was blown away by how quickly she picked it up. She never slowed down, she fell maybe 3 times, and that fantastic gap toothed smile was permanently plastered to her face for the 4 hours we were there (and a few more when we got home). She got a ton of really cool gifts ( a Lite Brite!!!!) from friends and family, and we gave her an Easy Bake Ultimate Oven where she made pretzels for everyone (which were actually pretty good!), and I made one of her favorite meals for dinner. While she was helping me cook dinner, we sang every song from Frozen at the top of our lungs and danced together as we waited for our pork chops to cook.

I’m glad we were able to give Mary a great birthday that she won’t forget any time soon. It makes me sad to realize that next year we won’t be sharing her birthday with her (that’s for another post). But for today and while she’s with us, we’ll love her, grow with her, encourage her, teach her, and pray that she continues on the positive path that we have begun to help her pave.

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