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

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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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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