I Don’t Want The “D”!!!

It’s true!  I DON’T!  Not now, not ever, but it has been a discussion.

Divorce.

That’s a thing.  Well, let me rephrase that.  It’s not a “thing” in the sense that it’s gonna happen ( I don’t think), but it’s something that in the past year, in all of its craziness and joy and happiness and flow, has been something that has been thrown into our arguments now and again.  About 6 months ago, it became a real discussion, and so, we began to go to couples therapy.

Has it worked? Welllllllllllllllllllll  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that’s subjective.  I would say for me it has.  Callie would say, probably not, but I keep going and I keep showing up, and I keep practicing what we are told to do.  Whether or not it’s been reciprocated seems pretty subjective as well.  So, we’re here, another week of arguing and another week of trying to figure out where we go from here.

The thing is, it has nothing to do with love, and I think we both know that.  It has everything to do with communication and listening.  See, most of you know, I did quite a bit of intensive therapy for the better part of 2 years.  I spent 2+ months inpatient, then did 3 weeks in a partial program, then did 90 days in a substance abuse program, and then did 20 months in an outpatient, M-F 8-3pm DBT program, where I really worked on the things that had been plaguing me my whole life and I became very aware and in tune, and was taught and learned how to be an effective communicator and active listener.  Callie struggles like hell a little with the “active” part, and is so quick and chomping at the bit to get her point across that she totally misses what I’m saying, and sooooo, arguments start because I refuse to listen since I wasn’t listened to, and boom!  Disaster, and then divorce comes up.

I get it!  5 kids in about 3 years is no joke!  It’s just been transition into transition into adjustment and then adjusting to THAT adjustment.  These 3 years have been beautiful but also bananas!  So I get it, especially when you have a person like Callie who generally speaking, doesn’t do well with change , who needs a lot of sleep to function (so you can imagine that with 4 under 3 currently, is quite impossible), and who needs things planned out pretty strategically in order to make it all work.  I, on the other hand am pretty much the complete opposite. I LOVE change and embrace it (I move the furniture in the rooms in my home 2-3 x’s a year because I get bored looking at it the same way), I can survive on about 3 hours a sleep a night (so long as I get a day a month to just crash and vegetate!) and spontaneous plans always seem to be the best to me.

I’ll be honest though.  This is sort of the abridged version of what has been going on in our relationship the better part of the past year.  There’s the hoarding issue for me and the cleaning issue for her.  There’s the “you don’t help enough” issue for me, and the “you want to do too much” issue for her.  There’s the “can we go out and stop being antisocial because I need people in my life?” issue, and the “don’t we have enough people to entertain today?” issue for her.  I mean, it’s lots of stuff, and it seems to not be getting sorted out quickly enough, which could potentially cause more damage since we both seem to just want this sorted out but can’t seem to figure out how to get there!

We are creeping up on 7 years together in 2 weeks, and I’m wondering if that “Seven year” nonsense could potentially be a real thing.  With some of our close friends divorcing after 7 years together, we wonder if that’s where our lives our heading. Can we just not agree on anything?  Can we just continue to not be intimate after months! Is it really all about winning and losing, or who is right and who is wrong?  When will all of this anger, resentment, anxiety, and helplessness subside?

As much as I love my wife is the same amount as I have been struggling, particularly these past 3 months, to stay.  To try and understand some of her needs that just seem really crazy and illogical to me.  I’m trying!  I’m really trying, because I love my kids, and I love this family, and I love the time that we share together, and I fucking love my wife, but admittedly, I don’t love to feel ignored, or to be treated like I don’t count, or to be so angry and sad all the time.  We have amazing, beautiful moments nearly every day, but the arguments are so ferocious and so angry and so loaded with venom that it’s difficult to see past it sometimes.

I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep fighting because I don’t want to be away from my family or my wife, but for my own sanity, I don’t know how much longer I can take the arguing and the need for her to be right all the time. It’s really hard, friends.  Really fucking hard. Hopefully, this is fleeting.  Hopefully, this is just a “thing” kind of like conversations about separation and divorce are at the moment.  Hopefully, we can muster up the courage to just say “Yes dear” for a little bit for the sake of peace and sorting things out.  Who knows how this will all work out!  Worst case scenario, we have a mother/daughter set up in the house, and the basement is currently rented.  It could suddenly be unrented with 60 days notice according to their lease.  Hopefully, THAT won’t also become a thing.

With anniversary looming, and seven years on the line, I’m committed to trying my best to make US our best and have THE BEST life possible…especially because our kids are so damn awesome and I’d hate to fuck them up with a possible divorce.  That would be the worst thing I could have imagine for not only my life but their also.  And I wanted to say in advance, thanks for reading this and letting me vent because I have 2 people that I have been able to talk to this about for the sake of not getting too many opinions and not talking to our friends who are invested in our lives and marriage the way we are in theirs.  One is my bestie blogger friend, and the other is my mother, both who understand how difficult this is, but also encourage me to both follow my heart but also to keep fighting.  My heart and the fight are one in the same. So, I’ll lace up these boots, fill my Camelbak (With Chardonnay!), and get to trekking on this journey of recovering what we lost somewhere between bliss and 5 kids.


To lighten up this post a little….TADA! The kids!

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1ST DAY OF 4TH GRADE! WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN!?!?

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SUNLIT BOY

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“MAMA! MAS JUGOOOO!!!!!”

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ALWAYS EATING!

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“LOOK MAMA! YOUR CRYSTAL MADE RAINBOWS IN MY EYE!”

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MY FAVORITE PUPPY

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NOT TO BE OUTDONE BY MY FAVORITE KITTY!

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PAPO IN MY FAVORITE PJ’S BECAUSE THEY ACCENTUATE THAT DELISIOUS BELLY!

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CAREER DAY AT DAYCARE

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MAMAS BOYS

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So What’s One More?!?

When Callie and I decided to become parents, we went back and forth about how many children each of us wanted.  I was easily talked off the “19 Kids and Counting” ledge, and I tried my best to help Callie creep a little closer to the “Maybe Brady” mentality.  We met somewhere in the middle of my ideal family of 7 kids and 2 moms and her “I hated being 2 kids so 3 is more my speed”, and settled on 5.  Until we had 4!!! I swear to you, about 6 hours from our youngest being born, our thoughts became audible when a massive “FUUUUUUUUCCCCKKKK THAT” could be heard in our hospital room when someone had the audacity to ask us if we were thinking of having more.  Or maybe we just imagined that!  Who knows!  We were delirious.

We’ve gone back and forth several times about the subject of baby #5.  Some weeks (when we are totally head over heels again and find that cute little pocket of “how we used to be when we first met”), we are ALL OVER baby #5, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our relationship has been, well…”going through it” right now.  I haven’t really talked about this in depth, but Callie and I have been going to therapy bi-weekly because things have been less than stellar at home. My wife is a hoarder collector of things (diagnosed or not!) and it is a HUGE source of contention in our house/relationship/family life.  I grew up in a house that was immaculate.  No, I’m serious!  Like, NOT normal immaculate, so I’ll give Callie that one.  But she also grew up in a house where I had no idea there was a dinner table because it was literally a mountain of CRAP (still is!) in the middle of the dining room.  A space where you have to shimmy down the hall to get to the bathroom (which also, I refuse to use…you get where I’m going with this!).  Totally not normal either!  I just want to live somewhere in the middle, and that has become increasingly difficult because now she is not just hoarding accumulating things for herself, she is also hoarding amassing everything that belongs to the other 4 members of our household.  Good thing is, things are getting better, communication has been WAY more effective, and we’ve been able to find more middle ground about all of the totally useless shit Callie’s “valuables”.  Most of the past 6 months have been a lot of working on communicating, finding middle ground/compromise, and learning how to bend and give in sometimes.  We’re not perfect (wellllllllllllllllllllllll…. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) but we’re working on being good spouses which I think got a little lost somewhere in the chaos of 3 under 3, and a moody, likely hormonal, premenstrual Pre-teen! (SEND HELP!)

So the prospect of my already so loved 5th child has been dwindling because of, well, life, and I have to admit, it stings a little.  Sometimes it feels like 4 is just the perfect amount of kids, and sometimes I do headcounts in my head when we go out and I automatically say “…4 ANNNNDDDD 5!” without really thinking about it, and suddenly my heart gets so sad about Littlest Mendez possibly being a figment of my imagination.  As I’ve been stewing over this (im)possible decision and life change, and also grappling with the craziness that is OUR LIVES ALREADY, I decided, “You know what?!  Now isn’t really the time.  Maybe it’s NEVER really gonna be the time.  We are so busy with the 4 we have already.  Activities are expensive! Time and efforts are already spread so thin.  GROCERIES! Individually dedicated time is hard enough with FOUR let alone five!  Now isn’t the time!”

And no sooner do I utter those words, do I get a phone call:


“Hello Mrs. Mendez!  This is Ms. S from the Resource Unit at ::Government Agency::  We have a 7 month old little boy that has been sitting in the Pediatric Unit since 10 am (currently 4:45pm) and we haven’t been able to find placement for him.  Would you and Mrs. Mendez be interested in caring for him?”

“Ummmm….ummmmm…ummmm…ummmmm””

“I’ll let you speak to her, and then you can give me a call back and decide.  He’s such a good baby.  Severely neglected, head is very flat, has no muscle control, and can’t sit up or hold his bottle yet, but he is so oblivious and won’t stop smiling and laughing.  He has blue eyes and dirty blonde curly hair.  If she has any questions, have her call me and I can give her more info! Even if it’s just temporary for a few days until we find a permanent placement, he needs somewhere desperately!”

“Ummmm….ummmmm…ummmm…ummmm, sure! I’ll call her!  Let me get back to you!”


I give Callie a call, but she already knew what was going on.  She had already heard the voicemail because apparently the worker had called her first.  Callie of course had her reservations becuase FIVE KIDS with 4 UNDER 4, but she called and had a few more questions answered about the biological family, the conditions he was found in, if they have any immediate concerns and things like that.  (SB: Callie is MUCH MUCH better at the “nosy neighbor” thing than I am.  She can formulate about 100 questions before I can think of just ONE!)  After speaking to the worker, Callie called me back to let me know what she thought, and she thought a hell of a lot of stuff.  We talked about our concerns, our hopes, our reservations, our interest in investing time and energy into an infant that likely has some developmental and emotional delays.  But one thing sealed the deal.

His name.  This past year, I have begun to restore my faith in Something bigger than me.  And before Callie and I had spoken, I asked the Universe and God to send me a sign and let us know what to do.  When Callie told me his name, I knew!  My heart, OUR hearts knew!  His name was the same name that Callie and I spent my entire pregnancy arguing about.  She wanted to name Austin, well, Austin, and I wanted a different name.  A 4 letter name to match Levi and Noah, but she wasn’t having it!  When they told us that the baby had the name that I so desperately wanted for our youngest son, Callie and I looked each other in the eyes and knew.  We just knew he had to be with our family, albeit temporary, but we have to see what this “5 kids” thing is about.

So, at 6:15pm Wednesday 8/23/17, just over a week ago, Little R joined the Mendez’s.  He is a smiley boy, with big expressive blue eyes, adorable puffy little lips, and this tuft of wiry dirty blond hair.  He was kept in a car seat most of the time, so even when you pick him up, his little legs stay in a sitting position, and his head really issssss super flat, so we’ve been avoiding putting him down if we can (get those back and neck muscles strong), offering super cuddle puddles with ALLLLLL the kids (because from what we understand there wasn’t a lot of interaction or human contact for him), singing to him, rocking him, and giving him LOADS of tummy time.  Even the teachers say they see a pretty significant improvement from last week!  Guys, I have to say, this baby is a dream!  He is the least trouble of all of the kids, sleeps from 6:30pm to 6:30am without waking up, and even when he is tired or hungry, it’s two little cries and wait. That simultaneously makes me really happy (YAS!!! No crying infants!) but also really sad (did no one ever come to this crying infant that he doesn’t even bother!?!)

So, at least for now, we are a family of seven. Two ladies who lost their damn minds, a prepubescent almost 10 year old daughter (LORDT, help us!), 3 toddlers (enough said!), and an infant who couldn’t have been a better addition to our family!

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HANGING OUT WITH KITTY

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ALL THE CUTENESS!!!

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EXCUSE MY FACE…LOL!

Sleeves in Summer

Halfway through the summer, and to say that it’s been busy is an understatement.  There has been SO much going on! Between shuttling the kids around to different activities, house/apartment hunting, vacationing, boating, and SURGERY (that’s really what this post is about), we’ve barely had time to do laundry and grocery shopping! Here’s a few pics of summer so far, just to fill you in! Few bullet points while I’m at it too!

* Mariah is having the summer of her life! Vacationing with grandparents, sailing school, soccer camp, and a visit with her birth mom coming up (ugh for us, yay for her!), she’s exclaimed several times, “BEST. SUMMER. EVER!”

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Hiking the Adirondaks!

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Learning to sail on her own

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They were next!

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Tubing on the Delaware

* Noah has really had an explosion of language this summer.  He can often be heard around the house saying, “Ackkk-shully, I don’t want that! And ackkk-shully, it’s my turn!”  Yeah…”actually” is a real thing that my 2.5 year old says incessantly and in context.  Also, “oh shit!”  He says that quite a bit too.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  He has suddenly become this animal/bug lover and INSISTS on saying hello to every animal he sees on the street, even pigeons and squirrels and like, WHY?!?!  He is 98% potty trained with the exception of having had a handful of poop accidents, but even then it’s mostly our fault because we know his “times” and we still haven’t gotten it down to a science.  He’s working on recognizing the letters of his name, and can get through the N and the O before repeating them again for the A and H…sorta like, “my name is  NOAH and my letters is N..O…N…O”..  Yeah, that’s basically his name these past few weeks.  “NO, noah..no!”  Still as cute as ever though!

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“SHEEEESEEE MAMA!”

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Potty Time!

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Insisting on being a “sirena” like his sister!

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My little animal lover

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First time fishing (catch and release upon Noah’s insistence!)!

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He loves his mama

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Dapper young sir

*Levi has really been a terror these past few weeks.  There have been quite a few transitions at home with vacation, packing for moving, my surgery, a new teacher in his classroom, and if there is anything we have noticed, he does not do well with change.  Throw in A LOT of change, and well, he’s miserable.  He is absolutely our rough and tumble kid though.  There is nothing that scares this kid!  Not heights, not rocks, not the dark, not the threat of a pow-pow on his tiny hiny, NOTHING!  He jumps from the 3rd step, climbs the highest chair, and always has to run, “fast, fast fast, with my light shoes”!  He’s 2 seconds from riding a two wheeler and can almost always be found sitting on his blue balance bike, even while he sits in the living room watching Mickey Mouse Roadster Racers (if i hear, “mamaaaa, kiki mouse roader racies is alllllll done! AGAIN!” one more time, I may lose it!) eating blueberries with no clothes on.  Yes, that has happened.  Several times.  He’s still our super funny, super affectionate boy who has a sweet tooth for DAYS and the tiniest sweetest little voice when he respectfully asks, “mama….may i peeeeese havie my pacieeee-fiiiiiyah!?!” Also, math skills for days.  Can count to the mid 20’s in two languages and sorting for him is a joke! Cool kid for sure.

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Fisrt train ride was EVERYTHING!

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“MAMA, I swim!”

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He absolutely LOVES karate!

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Bubble time

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Handsome Buddy

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Loving rides on Mama’s back

*Austin, well, there is so much to say about this little guy.  Currently at 19 months he outweighs his brothers by close to 7lbs (who who think he was under 4lbs when he was born!?), and is still not really speaking.  We got him approved for speech services and have been working with the coordinators to find him a bilingual therapist. He’s our best sleeper, eater, and traveler.  Most of the times he can be found on a mound of pillows mushing and cuddling, all of his own doing.  He’s expert climbing and sliding without any assistance because of the 4 words he DOES have, 3 of them are “ME DO IT!” although no one else would understand it because it sounds like, “MEyoueeeee”.  He has this ability to just know when people are not well, physically, emotionally or mentally.  In fact, we were coming out of an elevator the other day, and a woman was waiting to walk in.  2 seconds before the door closes, Austin rips outta my hands, runs towards the elevator, into the woman’s legs and hugs her.  She immediately reached down and picked him up, he hugged her, and she cried.  “I just needed that and you knew”.  The most beautiful thing?  He let her hug him and he hugged her right back.  Normally, i wouldnt be cool with this sort of thing at all, but he is such a special boy.  Love, Joy, and a different kind of innocence exudes from this kid.  Also, everyone keeps INSISTING I get him a haircut. NOPE!  So glad he’s ours…

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Being all patriotic!

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Ice Pops are his absolutely FAVE!

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One of the handful of words he knows is “CHEESE”

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Scheming lakeside

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Rainbow Avenger

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Sleepy time cuddly boy

*The Wife is working hard, getting promoted every time we have some major life event happening (2 promotions in less than 4 months!), still interested in fostering/producing more babies now that we have a big HOUSE (more on that later!), momming on level EXPERT, and still being an amazing wife to me even though I have been a less than stellar wife to her (not excusable, but you’ll understand…read on!).  Also…still the hottest woman I know, and still the best thing that could have happened to me.

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Me and my Love

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❤ ❤ ❤

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Always feeling lucky with this lady

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A “whaley” great time on family vacation 7/17

 

So about 1000 words in (you are seriously long winded Sammie, sheesh!), the real reason for this post.  “Sleeves in Summer”  is alllllll about the surgery that I had a month ago.  On 7/6/2017 at 6am, I went in to have weight loss surgery.  A month and 3 days later I am down 31 lbs and under 200lbs, which hasn’t been a thing for me in 17 years.  Since 2000, which happens to be my junior year which is why I remember it so vividly and accurately.  I remember declining going to the senior prom with a friend because I couldn’t fathom trying to find a “fat dress” since I was over 200lbs and all of my friends were all wered double 0 and shopping at Aber.Crombie which, I couldnt fit in my luscious size THIRTEEN jeans!  Seriously! a freaking 13!!! Like, Marilyn Monroe wore a 13 and I wouldn’t go to Macy’s and get a dress from the “Plus size” section! So this has been a thing for as long as I can remember.

Weight loss surgery was something that came up before with my PCP, but we always sorta said, “You’re young.  You have time.  You can always lose weight later”, but all things said and done, weight loss never happened.  I have tried EVERYTHING with the exception of Weight Watchers (mainly because I’m cheap but also because I freaking hate routine on my free time).  Curves, Insulin Resistance Diet, diet pills, dieting, exercise, food restrictions, boot camp, you name it!  It would work for a few weeks, and then i would just plateau or gain it all back.  We discussed a little more after seeing the endocrinologist how my hormones and PCOS plays a huge role in my weight loss plan, but ultimately, it was the MAIN reason I could now lose weight and KEEP it off.  I could go into very exact and medical reasons for not losing weight due to PCOS, but generally speaking, hormonal imbalance due to PCOS makes it difficult to lose weight, and losing weight is the only tried and true way to “cure” PCOS.  SO since i was about 16, it’s been this vicious cycle of +/- 50lbs every few months, which you can imagine is NOT GOOD for a human body.   So after I gave birth to Austin, Callie and I decided to look into this as a solution for a lot of my medical issues (also tied in with PCOS {and because of PCOS} is HBP, High Cholesterol, High Glucose, Sleep Apnea, and ulcers in my stomach.  Throw all of those health issues into the mix with 4 beautiful children and a hopefully LONG ASS LIFE, and nothing was jiving, so we decided that this was the best option.

I’ll say, there were two times when I thought it was the WORST possible thing I could have done.  I cried my face off saying, “WHAT HAVE I DONE!? I’ve ruined my life!”  But a month and 3 days out, 31lbs down, BP normal averaging at 127/65 (my average was usually 160/100), sleeping ALL NIGHT, and all the size 38 and 40 and XXL and XL stuff out of my closet, I have to say, best decision I could have ever made!  I may not have loads of energy now (portions are literally less than a quarter of what I used to eat so still adjusting to getting in the correct amount of protein a day which BTW is TOTALLY a process and entirely time consuming) but it feels like I’m getting back to my old self every day, and I wouldn’t change anything about this decision. Heartburn is the WORST thing i have ever experienced (never had heartburn EVER prior to surgery), but all in all, feeling good, and doing good.

I originally didn’t want to tell people that I was having this surgery.  I just didnt want people talking shit or making assumptions about me being lazy, or about me not “wanting to lose weight enough to do it naturally” (yes, someone actually said that!!! I KNOW!), but then I reminded myself, “MY life, my story, how I want it!”  And i did it.  And i couldn’t be happier.  Well, I’d be happier if I could have chocolate ice cream with chocoloate fudge, topped with Oreas and chocolate sauce!  MMMMMM! Chocolate!

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BEfore in MAY 2016 when I started the process

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July 22, 2 weeks after my procedure, same jacket

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On vacation one month PostOP 8/6

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1 month Post Op

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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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….

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…

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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes…

In May, we went to family court to start to determine what was going to happen as far as Mary’s permanency was concerned.  Mary’s birth mom felt that if she didn’t commit to signing a Conditional Surrender ([CS]signing over your parental rights with certain conditions attached) she would never be able to see her daughter again.  She figured that the court would see her as unfit and decide in our favor and that the termination of her rights by the court and not of her own volition, is not what she wanted.  Signing over her right would allow her to negotiate the terms of the surrender, and she would essentially be in charge of her own fate.

Before court that day, in fact, once they switch Mary’s track from reunification to adoption, Callie and I had been discussing what the conditional surrender would look like if Mary’s birth ever even considered it an option (initially was very adamant that she would NEVER, EVER sign a surrender!).  We decided initially on no visits and bi-annual emails.  Eventually, we put our own feelings aside when we really started listening to Mary and what she wanted.  She absolutely wants to be able to see her mother and her baby sister and loves them dearly.  Having grown up without knowing or having access to my biological father has affected me in ways that I didn’t even know until multiple therapist have brought it up!  After really talking this one out, we wanted what was best for Mary emotionally, developmentally, and mentally.  We figured keeping her connected to her birth mom was important for her, and as her moms, we wanted to make that happened.

A few days after all of the paperwork was signed in court, we doubled down on our promise to Mary about keeping her connected to her birth family by sending her mom an email.  We wanted to makes sure that if we were going to begin to foster a relationship with B-Ma (Birth Mother), we wanted to establish some ground rules and really, tackle the elephant in the room. That BY LAW we are now her mothers, and BY LAW she was not.  Callie and I sat over the course of the next couple of days deciding the best way to address our current predicament.  Callie has a much more gentle and well rounded approach. I am a lot more direct and tend not to sweeten or soften things up, so most of our time was spent reviewing the email and her telling me that I can’t call her a ” drug addict who needs to get her life together because you have two kids that aren’t in your care, and how many damn chances do you need?!?!”.  We sent an email expressing our concerns about beginning a relationship with her and how her behavior and  inability to be consistent and present for Mary is detrimental to her.  That in order for our relationship to work and for her to be a part of Mary’s life besides the 4 quarterly visits a year, we needed to be able to trust her.  We needed to be able to take her word.  We needed to be able to communicate effectively. That we needed to see for ourselves that she was committed to being an active member of Mary’s life.  Of all those things though, our emphasis was TRUST, because honestly the only information that we have to go on and the only experiences we have with her have proven to us that “trustworthy” is probably the last quality would we would think of to describe her.  In fact, if actually asked that question, I don’t think “trustworthy” would be a word that we would even think about!  But, we sent the email.  And, she responded, an was so happy and excited that we were willing to give the opportunity to be in her daughter life.  We’ve been corresponding quite a bit.  In fact, she even bought Mary a ton of summer clothes and sneakers, a new writing journal for her stories, and underwear and socks.

In compliance with the CS, we’ve been in touch with Mary’s caseworker (since she is technically still a ward of our county, Dept. Of Social Services is still responsible until adoption is fully granted) who is responsible for setting up the first meeting of these quarterly visits. After going back and forth most of July with B-Ma about making arrangements for a visit in August, they decided that Mary’s Visit with B-Ma would be 8/2.  Our worker ended up having a family emergency that day and had to reschedule. So they did, for 8/9, but because of transportation issues with Mary going to camp outside of our county, they had to reschedule the visit again to submit a request for out of county transport and it required 14 days to approve.  Visit now scheduled for 8/24.  After emailing a few times, and B-Ma being in contact with the caseworker, everything was on track.  Wednesday morning, we sent Mary to camp with one of the outfits her mom had given her and a huge smile on her face.  She boarded the bus, gets to the facility, meets her worker, hugs him, gets in the elevator and heads up to the visiting room only to find out that B-Ma….

Didn’t show up!  She didn’t freaking show up!  After all of the emails, all of the confirmations, all of the arranging and re-arranging to accommodate her!  After a clean drug test 3 days before.  After having discussed in detail what her missing visits does to our daughter and how it is so detrimental to her!  After all of that and you don’t show up?!?!?!   Are you serious!?!  And you want to know why?!  Because her boyfriend, the new babies father, didn’t leave her a Metrocard (A $2 and 75 cent fucking card!) to take the bus, and she didn’t bother calling, better yet, EMAILING the worker who has NO ACCESS to his computer during a visit, until 11:20 when the visit started at 11!  You guys!  You have to read her email and her desperation to see her daughter because 3 months is “the longest I have gone without seeing my baby”, which is bullshit because she disappeared for over 6 months a year and a half ago!  And then you don’t fucking show up?! So, our worker, who is incredible, took Mary outside to the waterfront, to eat Icee’s and play I-Spy, and after the hour was up, put a really upset kid back on a bus to camp, to sit in her own sorrow the rest of the day.

Luckily, it seems like Mary is kind of over her B-Ma, and we’re cool with that.  I think that she is starting to recognize that her mom is just never really gonna be good at making the right choices.  Despite the days events, she was in one of the best moods I had seen her in all summer.  I think the concert at the park, gourmet grilled cheeses for dinner, unlimited use of my Pokemon GO app, and ice cream cones before bed helped make it better, for sure!  But I couldn’t let it go!  I wrote.  And I wrote. And I wrote.  And Callie edited, edited edited!  And an email was put together reminding B-Ma that that was strike one of two, and that we aren’t going to be doing this anymore.  That Mary is our daughter and we treat her and love her like our own flesh and blood.  That she is our first baby, and that as parents we would do anything to protect her from being hurt.  That we would do anything to ensure her happiness.  And that we would not allow her to continue to hurt her. No, we will NOT be rescheduling your visit.  You can see her in November.  And NO, we will not make up lies and tall tales to protect Mary from your inconstancy.  And mainly that we, unlike the system, are not paid/inclined to give her a million chances, and that we will absolutely, without question, no longer tolerate all of your fuckery!

She hasn’t responded.  Not sure if she will.  Callie blames her missed visit on forgetfulness.  I blame the forgetfulness on pregnancy brain…oh yeah, I filed to mention…She’s pregnant again…

 

She Knows…

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Tuesday evening, the elevator climbs up the 3 floors to our apartment.  Before I put my key in the door, I take a deep breath and prepare myself for what will possibly be a tough night of explaining what happens next and trying to manage loads and loads of tears, but before I turn the key, I hear squeals and laughter.  I slowly open the door, and the boys are sitting on the floor stacking a few boxes and knocking them down, thinking it is the most hilarious thing they have ever done/seen.  I hear voices in the kitchen…more laughter.

Mary and Callie are talking.  Mary is sitting on the step stool, elbows on her knees, chin resting in the palm of her hands.  She looks…happy…which is not really what I expected.

Hey my two favorite ladies!  How’s everything? What are you talking about?!

I have a lot of feelings.

Hmm, you do?  Well, what are they?! Wanna talk about it?!

I was talking to mommy about it.  I was telling her I went to parenting. (Mary goes to parenting for an hour once/week.  Her and her mom meet with a therapist who monitors and corrects/applauds/helps with positive and appropriate interactions)

Oh, yeah!  And how was it?  Did you and your mom play games?

No, we just talked.

About?

Adoption.

Oh!  Well, that’s important stuff to talk about!  And what did she say about it?!

She said that I’m getting adopted.

SHE DID! ::GASP:: And how did that make you feel when she told you that?

It made me feel really happy and really sad at the same time.

You wanna tell me more about that?  Why happy and why sad?

Sad because I won’t see my mom so much anymore.  I can only see her 4 times a year, so that means I can only see my baby sister 4 times a year, and I won’t be able to see my family, like my Titi (mom’s sister) or my grandma (who passed away right before Austin was born and mom still hasn’t told her) or my cousins in Florida, that I forget their names, and that makes me sad.  But happy because I never have to leave again and I can stay here with you and mommy and my brothers, and we can be a family. Oh, and I can sleep over Wita’s house with Izzy whenever I want!!!


We didn’t think that Mary would be able to absorb this huge news and process it so quickly, but it’s 2 days later and all we see is the hugest change in her behavior and her demeanor.  She’s always been upbeat, funny, helpful, but lately it hasn’t been at the level that it’s always been.  She’s been dragging her feet a little more, being a little more whiny and complainy about the tiniest things, short of patience, lots of errors on her homework from being careless and uninterested, but just in the past 2 days she has somehow, in some weird way, flourished.  It’s like she became a whole new kid, literally overnight!  She set the table without being prompted.  She’s not only been brushing her teeth, but FLOSSING without having to be told.  Her bed has been made the past 2 days before I am even up in the morning.  Not a single mistake on her homework in the past 2 days.  She can concentrate.  She’s been sleeping (she was having severe anxiety and hasn’t slept soundly in a couple of weeks).  I mean, who would have thought that just KNOWING that you aren’t leaving again can make such a huge difference.  That same afternoon she came home with a Green Card from the after-school program.  I don’t know, but it can’t possibly be a coincidence that Mary hears the news that she is going to have a forever family after 5 years in foster care and gets rewarded for EXCELLENT behavior.  I don’t know why we were expecting her to be beside herself, and lost.  She has expressed over and over again that she wants to be adopted.  We should have known that this news would flip her life around, but in an amazing way.

When Mary went to bed, Callie and I talked.  Mary and her mom met with the parenting therapist from 2-3pm , and then Mary went on her own to touch base with her individual therapist from 3-3:30.  Mary’s therapist had called Callie and told her how it went down.  Lisa, Mary’s mom, explained that the judge had made the choice to make Mary adoptable.  She told her that she would only be seeing her 4 times a year.  She also said that Mary could see her whenever she wanted as long as we thought it was ok, and the parenting therapist cosigned that ish!  Callie and I were pretty upset about this, but luckily Mary had told her individual therapist that it was said, and she corrected it right away telling Mary that the judge said it was only 4 times and that was it, and also confronting the parenting lady and telling her that it was inappropriate to agree with that.  We aren’t really fans of the parenting coach.  This is the same lady that let Mary’s mom tell her that we aren’t her parents and that those aren’t her brothers, and Mary came home really hurt and upset about it.

Mary asked mom some hard questions.  “Why didn’t you do the right thing so you could get me back?  Why didn’t you make good choices?  Why is it so hard for you to make good choices?  Don’t you love me?”  I can’t imagine being a mother and having my kids ask me questions like that.  But the interesting thing, the one thing that we absolutely did NOT expect…Mary didn’t cry.  The whole time.  Not once.  In fact, when she got home, she shed about 3 tears, probably because she felt safe and comfortable enough with us to do so, and just because we know her so well, we knew that they were forced, almost like she thought that was what we expected.  It was like she was fighting to keep the smile OFF of  her face.  Friends, this kid is so, so happy, despite it taking her away from her biological family, it has cemented her place in her, permanently, in ourd. Her chosen family.  The place where her heart is.  That is all we wanted for her…safety, happiness, and permanency.  We’re almost their friend…we are almost there…


Day 4 of Operation No More Bobo’s is a success!  They haven’t asked for bobo’s once today and they are both currently napping!  Thanks the bobo gods!

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WHAT 5:30 PM LOOKS LIKE AFTER 2 DAYS OF NO NAP!