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?”


“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!









Yesterday we had court for Mary.  We didn’t know what to expect except what we had heard, which was mostly, sit back, listen to what they are saying and prepare for this to go any way.  That didn’t sit very well with us, but having had other friends who had gone through TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) we know that it can be quite the lengthy process.  Kids have to be in foster care any 15 out of 22 months before a TPR is filed and then after that the trial and disposition and finally a decision from the judge.  Depending on how long the child has been in care dictates (for the most part) how long the TPR process will take.  With Mary having been in care for over 5 years, we kinda knew this was gonna drag on and on and on.  Moms reluctance to give her up would make this last even longer! So, we showed up at 9:30am ready to lock our butts into the cold wooden seast and listen to what the caseworker was going to testify to.

Now, when you’re at a hearing, the evidence that is presented is ONLY from when the TPR is filed and before that.  Nothing after that. Since the TPR was filed, mom has been pretty consistent (guessing she doesn’t wanna lose her kid) but it’s a little too late.  They would be testify and providing evidence from moms WORST year.  The year that she disappeared for half of and tested positive on all of her drug tests for the other half and left all her different treatment programs (rehab, anger management, parenting, individual therapy).  Not a good look.  But we sat in the waiting area with our caseworker, her lawyer, and Mary’s Lawyer.  A few days ago Mary’s lawyer came to our apartment to interview Mary.  We weren’t allowed to sit in, which was a little unnerving, but Mary has been pretty adamant about being adopted but STILL seeing her mom if she was.

As we sit there, Mary’s mom’s lawyer walked over to us (the whole group, not just Callie and I). The caseworker’s attorney (let’s just call her Alyson) suggested to Mary’s mom’s lawyer that she should sign the consent.  The “consent” is a document that’s almost like pleading “no contest” in a court of law, except you admit guilt but no evidence is heard against you.  Makes it pretty hard for a judge to determine and prove negligence if there is no evidence, so then we go to the disposition where everyone can make their case, EXCEPT the Department of Social Services (DSS) won’t be able to use evidence from BEFORE the TPR, only AFTER! This is mom’s best option because if we were to use the information from AFTER the TPR, mom has a greater chance of getting Mary back, and Mary could potentially go home.

Mom’s lawyer went back to where Lisa (Mary’s mom) was sitting.  She gave Lisa the information and came back about 10 minutes later to explain to us that Lisa would be willing to sign the consent if, and and only if she can get an additional one hour visit every week.  Alyson and Mary’s lawyer (Saul) were both completely against it.

“That doesn’t even make sense! We’re in TPR! We can’t give her MORE time with the child! It’s counterproductive. Absolutely not!”

So Lisa’s lawyer went back and told her.  She was gone for quite a while.  She came back and said that Lisa would not agree to signing anything unless she got more time with Mary.  Our car worker called her supervisor to speak to him and see if it was something that was feasible.  After several more minutes, and sweaty palms, the caseworker’s supervisor decided that if mom would sign the consent, an additional visit a week would be the best option, and we could proceed with the case and the department would have one less thing to worry about (that’s mine and Callie’s take on it).

“I represent my client and what she wants and there is NO WAY I will agree to one more visit! My client wants to be adopted, and another visit a week is out of the question on the grounds that it would cause too much confusion for my client and remove her from school even more than the 3 days a week that she already is,” boomed a voice from the corner.  Saul is a small guy, about 5’6″, bald shiny head, small elvish features and tiny voice, but when his voice came through, we all knew this was a non-negotiable.  Lisa’s lawyer called an attorney meeting with the judge.

All 3 attorneys entered the courtroom and left all of us outside to wonder what was happening.  What felt like an eternity later (probably only 10 minutes though) all 3 attorneys returned, Saul and Alyson to where we were sitting and Lisa’s mom’s attorney to the opposite side of the area.  Saul said the judge said “ABSOLUTELY NOT!  We are in TPR and there is no way I would approve an additional visit.  This is not a permanency hearing (where they make decisions about visits, treatment, next 6 months) and it’s not beneficial for the child.  And I would tell your client that if she’s adamant about seeing her children, she may want to sign a conditional surrender because that’s her only guarantee to see her child.  We’re terminating her rights! She needs to understand that.” Callie and I are sitting there not saying anything, kid of taking it all in.  This is so new for is, and we had loads of question brut it was all going so quickly but also really slowly and time was crawling but feeling like we were in fast forward. We see Lisa’s attorney walking towards us.

“Do the terms of a surrender stay the same?”

All eyes on Callie and me. Blink blink.


Nods in our direction.

“4 visits a year. Quarterly. No holidays, Mothers’ Day, or birthdays.  Monthly email updates with pictures. Anything else at our discretion.”

“What about 6 visits a year? Every 2 months?!”

Callie, “Absolutely NOT!”

She walks away. She comes back.

She’ll sign the consent.

Everyone looks at each other and then look at me and Callie.  What the heck are they looking at us like that for?

“Wait?  She’ll sign the surrender?” says Mary’s lawyer.

SHOCK! She’ll what?!?! She’s gonna surrender her rights?! Somehow Callie and I heard consent, not surrender.

“Yes, she said she’ll sign the surrender so long as those conditions apply and so long as Mary is adopted by Sammie and Callie.”

Callie’s eyes brimmed with tears and Mary’s lawyer told us not to get too excited.  There are a series of questions that the judge would ask that most parents, upon hearing, change their minds about surrendering.

“We have to go back to the office and draw up the paperwork.  Everyone be back by 1:45pm.  I’ll inform the judge that she is surrendering.”

So we left, had lunch with my parents, had a Sangria because THE NERVES, and made our way back to the courtroom, waiting impatiently for them to call us in.

“PARTY FOR COLLINS.  COLLINS!” screeched through on the loud speaker.

Sweaty palms, light feet, we made out way into the courtroom.  I don’t know how any mother could have heard the words the judge said and not break down.  Are you of sound mind making this decision?  Have you had any alcohol or drugs today?  Do you realize that you are going to be losing custody of your child today once these papers are signed?  DO you realize that a day, a week, a month, a year from now, you cannot take back this decision?  All of those were asked, but the one that took my breath away, that left an ache in my heart for what this mother was doing/about to do, “DO you realize that once you sign these papers and walk out of this courtroom, your child will be a STRANGER to you in the eyes of the law?” “Yes, I understand”.  My heart broke for Mary’s mother, for the first time since having met her.

A stranger…and it’s double sided because she IS a stranger.  She’s BEEN a stranger.  But somehow not.  And as her penned hand mechanically moved across the paper, probably collecting tears and ink stains along the way, it was not lost on us the gift that she was giving us, the gift and the life that she was giving Mary, and we realized then that she loved this child more than we had expected.  That she loved her daughter so much that she was willing to give her away to give her her best chance, and all in one moment I had a new found respect for her.  A desire to make it work the way that divorced parents did, because really, more people loving our daughter is something we would turn our nose up to.  For the second time, she was giving Mary life, and for a quick moment, I loved her.  Genuinely, deeply, and unselfishly.

At 2:28pm on Tuesday, May 10, 2015, the judge announced that Mary was officially freed for adoption. We’ll talk to an adoption worker next week and start the ball rolling on paperwork and interviews and whatever else she needs us to do.  In just 3-6 short months Mary Mendez will be an official member of Casa Mendez.  It’s been official in our hearts for ages…

Mary, Our Best Girl

Sometimes I get really sad that I can’t legally post pictures showing Mary’s face, the joy that’s on it when she’s in her favorite place, sandwiched between her twin brothers and little tiny baby brother on her lap.  This kid LIVES for those brothers, and they absolutely adore her. They run up and down the apartment, sticking their head into her room, only to scream , “A-YA-YA” (their variation of Mary’s real name) and then run away so she will chase them.  When she gets home from school, she gives them all the kisses she has been saving for them throughout the day, and they love it.  Every second of it. And WE love it!  We love seeing her interactions with her family, her space, her things, because it reassures us that not only do WE feel that she is in the right place, but she feels it too…





So where are we with Mary, you ask?!  NO-Fucking-WHERE, that’s where!!!  Our next court hearing is May 10th, and we officially begin the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) trial.  What does this mean for Mary and for our family?  It means that records from therapists, teachers, doctors, case workers have been subpoenaed.  It means that most if not all of Mary’s “providers”(including her caseworker) will be called to the stand.  It means that we have to sit on our hands while all of these people dictate the life of one of our kids, the kid that actually made us parents!  So it’s really, really hard.  From what we understand, this could take a while.  We’ve spoken to Mary’s lawyer (he strictly represents HER and what she WANTS, not necessarily what is in her best interest), and he will be out our place on May 2nd to “interview” her and see where she is at.  That little letter up there ^^^ is pretty telling.

But how is Mary?  Well, “all over the place” sort of sums it up.  Let’s go back about 2 months.  Mary was talking to her teacher and telling him that she didn’t feel very well and that she wanted to speak to Ms. Kelly, the school psychologist, because she “had a lot feelings”.  So he sent her to Ms. Kelly’s office so that they could have a chat. Mary expressed that she had so many feelings that she didn’t know how to feel (she told us all of this when she got home.  We are firm believers in the whole confidentiality thing and prefer she tells us things when she is ready, which she almost ALWAYS does).  Most of the time, she was telling us that she had a weird feeling in her belly that wouldn’t go away, like she was going down a roller coaster, and anyone who has experienced this sensation knows that that is EXACTLY what anxiety feels like, and how crazy and in tune with her feelings is she,  that she was able to vocalize what is going on inside.  She may not know what anxiety feels like, but she sure is having some.  As soon as we heard that, we gave her therapist a call and they have been sorting it out ever since.  CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is hard…so so hard!  Adults have a hard time with it, imagine being an 8 year old!  But this kid, she really is something else.

Her behavior has been less than stellar, and it’s been hard for us as parents to discipline her because we know that she is going through so, so much right now.  I can’t imagine having to “choose” between 2 families that I love and adore (she doesn’t have to choose, but no matter how much we reiterate that, she is still, in her mind, the one that makes the decision).  How do you “choose” between your birth family, who may not have necessarily always done the right thing, but that’s your REAL mom and your REAL sister.  Or your “real” family, where you feel the most loved, and wanted, and cared for?  As parents though, Callie and I have some serious behavior non-negotiables.  School work comes first.  ALWAYS.  There will be no playing or watching of the TV if homework is not done.  She stopped doing homework and stopped caring.  We saw it as a red flag because she absolutely LOVES school, but having recurring thoughts and anxiety makes it not easy to focus.  We don’t play with school though.  SO we are stuck between disciplining her the way we normally would but also taking into consideration that she has a hell of a lot going on.  Also, when mom is super consistent, and I’ll give her that, because she has been, Mary’s behavior goes all haywire! Then 3 weeks ago, Mary comes home with a yellow card from the after school program.  These yellow cards are warning cards.  2 yellow cards=a red card.  First red card=suspension.  Second red card is removal from the program.  We can’t have that!  Neither of us gets home until after 6, so the after school program is a necesity! What’s the yellow card for?  KICKING SOMEONE!  What in the fack!  That is our second non-negotiable!  We DO NOT under ANY circumstance, put our hand on someone.  We could preach the whole self defense thing which is cool for maybe an older kid, but for young kids, there really isn’t any reason for that, ESPECIALLY because there is no hitting at our house.  Callie and I may scream at each other once in a while, but never once have we disrespected each other like that.  She lost her privileges for a week.  3 days later, she comes home with another freaking yellow card!  SERIOUSLY!?!? Apparently, she was wandering around the school on her own, when she knows that it is the afterschool programs #1 rule. NO ma’am, so she felt that one, because it was Easter Sunday and she sat…the entire time…and the only reason we let her do the egg hunt was because my parents and siblings and aunts and uncles BEGGED us to let her.  So she had a whole 20 minutes for fun for 2 whole weeks.  One for the kicking, and one for the wandering off.  Not even 2 days after that, I get a call from the therapist telling me that Mary got into a fight at school.  For crying out freaking loud!  It’s all been handled and the past 2 weeks behavior has been incredible, which is great because with 2 very sick and whiny almost 16 month olds, our patience was very, very thin!

Otherwise, she is still doing exceptionally well in school,  had even better grades on her report card then last time!  She’s really been opening up at therapy and working through her stuff, and also, she has been an incredible, loving and kind big sister and daughter.  Honestly, I hope the outcome of this whole trial is that she will be freed for adoption, because if she’s not, I might just break one of our #1 house rules, and just hit something!  We love this kid so deeply, that thinking of her not being a part of our family is heartbreaking.  Let’s pray that May 10th is the beginning of bringing Mary fully into our family, legally into our family, forever into our family…it just has to be that way….












When The Adoption Worker Shows Up

Yesterday, around 4pm, Callie and Mary met the new adoption worker.  She called on Monday to set something up to meet Mary for the first time.  It was pretty informal and it was just to give us a little more information about what the termination and adoption process would be like.  From what Callie told me, it was pretty uneventful, but with situations like this, we like to wait until the last minute to inform Mary because otherwise her anxiety goes through the roof, waiting and ruminating about how it will all turn out.  Usually we don’t even tell her she is having a visit with her birth mom until the morning of, nonchalant, as she is grabbing her backpack and walking out the door.  “Oh CooCoo, you might have a visit today with your mom! Have a great day!  We love you!”  She spends most of the day distracted at school, and then she only has 20 minutes to worry on the bus ride to see her mom.

After school yesterday (3:30pm), Callie let her know that the new adoption worker was on the way and that they were going to get to meet her.  Immediately, Mary shut down.  About 5 minutes later, she told Callie what was bugging her.  ” If I get adopted today, I’ll never get to see my baby sister!! Will I ever get to see my mom again?”  (When Mary had her visit last Thursday, her mom was supposed to bring her new baby sister to the visit but didn’t because it was raining…I know!  Don’t get me started!  Always breaking promises!).  She shut down because she thought she was being adopted right then and there.  Callie reassured her right away that the woman was not there to sign the adoption papers that day.  She was there to meet her and start to get to know her better, because we will be working together for a long time while all of the court and adoption things are going on.  Probably until all the way to 3rd grade! She seemed to calm down a little after that, but the whole time that the adoption worker was there, Mary wouldn’t even look at her.  She kept her nose buried in a book pretending to read.  She didn’t make eye contact, she was shying away from all of her questions, and acting like the shy girl that we haven’t seen since the first week she came to live with us 18 months ago.

When the worker left, Callie asked Mary how she was feeling, and she refused to answer.  She said she was reading her book.  When Callie asked her what she had read, Mary gave her the “oh shit! She knows I wasn’t reading!” face.  Callie didn’t push it.  She knew it was a lot for a 7 year old to take in.  A few minutes later, Mary asked, “Am I going to therapy this week?!?”  I love that she understands that therapy is where she can talk about these things and her feelings in a safe space, especially when she isn’t ready to talk to us yet.  Hopefully she’ll be able to sort some of those things out, and come home and pour her heart out, which is what she usually does.

How do I really feel about this whole situation?  Honestly, and I’ll be really candid here…I can’t wait for this whole shit to be over.  I can’t wait for my daughter to understand that everything that has happened so far in her life is not her fault.  She holds onto every. Single. Little. Detail of her past like you have no idea.  It’s her fault she was taken away from mom because “mom always listens to what I say and she didn’t listen when I told her not to go to Florida.  I TOLD HER!  I told her they would take me away again!  It’s my fault because she didn’t listen to me and she always listens to me!”  And then there’s the, ” I told mommy I really wanted a baby and so she had a baby for me.  Now they took the baby away, and it’s my fault!  I told her to have a baby and she always listens to me.”  This is what this parent has done to her child!  It’s frustrating and infuriating. I wish I could help her see that none of the circumstances of her life are her fault AT ALL!  In fact, they are completely, totally, and 100% her mothers fault, for making poor choices and having terrible parenting skills.  I wish that this adoption would move quickly, or that her mom would realize what is really best for her daughter, and just sign over her rights.  Callie and I are THOSE foster parents, the ones that always side with the bio-parents.  We really have no reason not to, because hey! Let’s be real here!  We’re all human, and people make mistakes, but when is enough enough!?  Callie and I were supportive and encouraging, and behind mom 100%.  We WANTED her to get her daughter back.  We’re not in the business of breaking up families, but it got to the point where we couldn’t support her choices and bad decisions any more.  We refuse to let Mary get hurt any more than she already has.  We refuse to continue to let her be a victim of poor judgement any longer.  We will fight, with everything that we’ve got, to give her a normal, stable life, with a family who loves her and does everything in their power to make good, strong, powerful choices for her and guide her life in the best direction we know of.  We love the hell out of this kid, and it kills us to see her go through the ups and downs of knowing that her mom loves her (she really does and they have a very loving relationship) but can’t seem to do the right thing often and long enough to give Mary what she needs.  I mean, imagine, you are on your way to adoption and mom misses so many of your visits, but has a new baby with a new dad that loves her, and gets to see everyday, and promises you that you’ll see the baby and then doesn’t show up? THIS friends, is what we are contending with…I really hope our love is enough…



7 Months Old Is WAAAAY Different Than 7 Years Old

My babies turned 7 months old yesterday!  Holy Moly!  I can’t believe a whole 7 months have gone by in what basically feels like the blink of an eye! One minute they are immobile, breastfeeding, milk inhaling, sleepless little blobs (meant in the most endearing and sweetest way possible) and the next they are crawling across the living room chasing the cat, harassing the rabbit, and grumbling and grunting their desire to stand up and walk around.  It all goes by too quickly, that’s for sure.IMG_2386Where are these little ones developmentally you ask?!  Well, I’ll tell ya!

NOAH OSCAR:  This guy!  He’s got so, so, so, so much energy!  He’s been trying to crawl for over a month now, and about a week ago he FINALLY figured it out.  No more frustrated crying after getting up on all 4’s and rocking back and forth for a minute until he realizes that he wasn’t getting anywhere.  Now he gets up on all 4’s, moves his left knee forward, then his right knee forward, and then drops onto his tummy about 6 inches from where he started, and does it over and over and over again, until he gets where he wants to go.  It’s pretty hilarious!  He moves similar to an inchworm.  Adorable!  He is perfecting his pincer grasp, which is WAY WAY early, but he’s gotten pretty good at picking things with his pointer and thumb (like puffs and cheerios) and trying to get them into his mouth.  Those two bottom teeth he cut on the same day are helping him chew.  He doesn’t quite know how to let go of the food yet, but I’m sure, given another 2-3 weeks, he’ll likely figure that out too.  He’s practicing drinking from his sippy cup, but really would rather just bang it around and furrowing his brow while he continuously gets water in his eyes.  He’s saying tons of consonants like, b, d, t and lately m.  We’ve also been teaching them to sign and “milk” is becoming more consistent, especially for their bedtime bottle.  I’ll see him wiggling on the floor, on his back (which is unusual for him) opening and closing his hands rapidly, and in his raspy little voice going, “MMMM, MMM, MMM!!!”  He also loves standing and would rather have his feet firmly planted on the floor than anything else. We’ll probably be breaking out the walker this week, being that his need to ALWAYS be on his feet is giving his moms some serious back spasms.  Personality wise, this kid is super serious, determined and a hard laugh.  He only laughs when his brother cries at his hands.  That has to be the funniest thing on the planet to him.  Also, he cracks up when Mamá walks through the door at the end of the day, legs kicking all over the place, but I think it’s because he associates it with dinner time!  He won’t stop something until he gets it, like putting those colored rings onto the pillar, even if they aren’t in order (did you know if kids can do this under the age of one, there is a 90% chance that s/he has a genius IQ?!?! Yup!  So we’re halfway there!).  He doesn’t like being held, and isn’t so great at playing by himself.  He is very aware of everything going on around him.  He’s not very cautious and definitely more impulsive.  And he never, ever, stops moving,  Something tells me he’s gonna be walking sooner than we are hoping for, and the baby proofing will be in full effect this weekend.  Yesterday, Callie stepped out of the living room to poor herself a glass of water.  When she comes back, not even 30 seconds later, he had made his way to where we keep the bedding for the rabbit cage, and there was pine alllllllll over the living room floor. 30 SECONDS PEOPLE!  I just can’t even!  One word to describe him: ACTIVE fair IMG_2381 IMG_2379LEVI JAMES:  Oh, my little Levi.  Something about this kid just lights up a room.  He is the perfect sitter, not yet even trying to crawl.  He is super content just sitting up (for super long periods of time) thumbing through books and rolling cars around.  Or flipping them over.  It’s all the same in his book.  He’s not as agile and coordinated as his brother, and still completely fists everything he can get his hands on.  Including my hair…all the time!  He has become a professional raspberry blower (especially at the most inopportune times, like through Aunt Brit’s ENTIRE memorial service, which she would have found absolutely hilarious!) and has been having a hard time with the teething.  His gums are super swollen and you can sort of see where the teeth are just about to break the surface.  Poor little guy has been miserable, and so has his sleep, and by association, so has ours!  4 nights of waking every 2-3 hours.  This hasn’t happened since he was 6 weeks old!  Levi loves to eat everything he can get his hands on, but especially everything he CAN’T get his hands on.  He has pretty much tried everything we have ever eaten in his presence in the past 2 months.  Chicken, steak, avocado, string beans, lemon, sweet potatoes, beans, whole peas, steamed carrots, fried dough, corned beef, rice, Pasteles, and anything else you can think of, he’s probably eaten it.  He’s just started to use his voice, and has gotten pretty good at the sound, Bu, bu, bu, but really, that’s about it.  He has learned to give “besos” totally opened mouth with a messy tongue,  and has started to give very squishy baby hugs.  He’s a pro at using his sippy cup!  I think he’ll be weened from his bottle sooner than the year we are hoping to get them off by.  He also is learning to sign but I don’t think he has picked up on the connection between words and signing.  Personality wise, he is our cautious, smiley observer.  He likes to scope things out, see what’s going on, and then do.  He goes into a new room and will let you put him down, but does the once over to see where everything and everyone is.  He looks at his toys and looks at us, and looks at his toys, and looks at us, and finally we say, “Puedes Jugar! (You can play!)” and then he’ll grab it.  He’s also hyper aware of where his bully brother is at all time!  And this kid has to be the friendliest baby on the planet.  You can’t even look at him without him smiling, and the best part is his full belly laugh!  Favorite sound to laugh at?  “QUACK QUACK!”  and any time I tell him he has a stinky booty!  He’s very calm, hardly fusses, and goes to sleep once his head hits the mattress.  He is usually the better sleeper (although the past couple of nights have been difficult with the teething), and is usually content just being.  One word to describe him: JUBILANT fair1 IMG_2382 IMG_2378

Now, let’s talk about 7 year olds!  Ugh!  So help me GOD, before I lose my ish!  When you have a 7 year old, it gets real!  When you have a 7 year old that is a foster child, well, there is nothing that can describe that amount of anguish and “I’m gonna stab myself in the face!” that accompanies that.  See, Mary is going through a lot right now in her personal life, but also through the developmental changes that the average 7 year old goes through.  7 year old’s are going through what would be described as a transitional phase.  They aren’t the wide eyed 5 kindergarteners anymore, but also not old enough for those “amazing” preteen years.  Being 7 is about asserting your independence.  It’s about making your own choices (like what “extra’s” you want to take part in) and about processing the world around you.  It’s about asking questions and learning new things.  It’s also when kids start to REALLY test their limits.  Talking back and lying and being stubborn just to prove a point. And I have to say, 7 at our house has been pretty damn shitty!

I contemplated writing about this (mainly for fear of judgment at our tactics to teach Mary that her incessant lying is unacceptable), but then I read a post by Lindsay over at Solo Mama and decided, this is the real stuff that we SHOULD be writing about because it’s not all rainbows and sunshine and fruit salad (OMG!  I’ve been loving me some fruit salad these days!).  This is the stuff that parenting nightmares are made of sometimes.  Imagine a little girl, who’s biological mother is inconsistent (and pregnant with a new baby due in two weeks = rejection), who is processing the idea of being adopted, by 2 moms, with a father who couldn’t care less about her, who has experienced trauma beyond anything that my brain and heart can understand who is also SEVEN!  Let me paint a picture for you!

Mary’s mom disappeared from mid January through the end of June.  The first 2 months of her mother’s absence were difficult.  I mean, ridiculously tough.  Talking back, attitude all the time, constant lying, and using a tearful “I misssssss mommmmmyyyyy!” as a reason to not get in trouble for breaking the rules.  We are educators.  We get why kids do what they do.  So we started implementing a “loss of privileges” and also giving Mary words for the things that she was feeling.  We also understand a lot of her history, and for a long time, she was taught to lie, was never disciplined and treated as a mini adult and mom’s best friend.  Slowly but surely, the loss of privileges seemed to be working.  We would start by taking away screen time for the rest of the day.  If she continues to sass mouth and break the rules, she would lose her privileges for 2 days, and so on.  It got to the point where she lost her privileges (screen time, playing in the bath, dessert, outside time) for up to a week!  Finally, FINALLY, she was back on track!  2 whole months later we were making progress!  More please and thank you’s, school grades skyrocketed, teachers weekly report stated that she was super social and helpful in the classroom, and the lying stopped all together.  This all happened at the same time that mom disappeared and we started getting more honest with her about adoption and her mom losing her rights.  Then, mom shows up, and for the past 2 months we have been seeing this behavior again.  All the time.  Every day!  The lying has been as unbearable as you can imagine.  And always about the same thing!  Brushing her teeth and washing her face.   The first time we caught her (she claimed to have done it, even though she couldn’t have been in the bathroom for more than a minute, and I gave her the opportunity to tell the truth and she didn’t, so I sent her to bed, only to go into the bathroom a minute later and find a bone dry toothbrush!!!!) she had lost her screen time for the next day.  Not even 2 days later, she lied about it again, so she lost her screen time and sweets for two days.  A steady progression of lies later, she was up to a week with no privileges. When we talked to her about it, she said that she was scared that her mom was going to get her back and that she didn’t want to leave our family.  We totally get it!  Anxiety!  But lying!  No way.  I was so fed up after the last lie, that the day that she gained her privileges back, I told her that the next time she lies, she would lose her privileges for 30 days!  She understood, or so I thought!

The next day, we let her have sweets, we made popcorn and hot chocolate, and watched the Minions movie.  When the movie was done, I told her to go brush her teeth, wash her face and get ready for bed.  She was in there for a few minutes, and when she came out to kiss us goodnight, I noticed that her hairline was completely dry, so I asked her, “Did you do as we asked you?”  “Yes”  “Are you sure?!”  “yes!”  “Are you really sure!?!” Blank stare!  Sure enough, I go into the bathroom, soup is untouched, toothbrush bone dry, and Mary is behind me, screaming at the top of her lungs, “I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY PRIVILEGES FOR 30 DAYS!!!!!!! WAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!”  “Well kiddo, you should have thought about that before you lied.  What were you doing in here that whole time?  Pretending?”  This little pain in my ass, had the audacity to shake her head yes (although I can’t be mad because she FINALLY, FINALLY told the truth), so we sent her to bed, beginning her punishment the next day.  In reality, we were only taking away her privileges for the next 2 weeks.  We continued to communicate with her therapist and touching base with her, and see if she would talk to Mary about her behavior, but she insisted that we be consistent and hold her accountable for her actions.  She was doing pretty well for the almost 2 weeks that she had lost her “freedom”, but the day before she was to gain her privileges back (Thursday evening), BOOM!  LIES! So we spoke to her therapist who said we had tried everything that we could to get her to correct her behavior, and that perhaps, if she felt what it feels like to have someone lie to you and disappoint you (which we thought would be nothing new considering her relationship with her mother), then maybe, just maybe she would learn!  So, we had to lie.  We didn’t want to, but we had to take our chances and hope for the best possible outcome.

This past Saturday was “Family Fun Day” for the foster care families in our county at a local amusement park called Playland (Mariah Carey shot her Fantasy Video there).  We were going to a BBQ lunch, with face painting and arts and crafts for the kids, and then ALl Day ALL You Can Rid wristbands.  We LOVE this place, and had a blast last year!  Initially, we weren’t gonna go because we didn’t want to reward her poor behavior and constant lying, but we took this as the perfect opportunity to emphasize why lying is so terrible.  So we got her super hyped up!  “It’s gonna be sooooo awesome!!! We’re gonna go on all the rides, and we can go on the Dragon Coaster TWICE!  We’re gonna eat cotton candy and fried dough and caramel and candy apples!  You get to play with all your friends!!!  It’s gonna be AMAZING!!!!”   After a little while, she started getting excited.  She was like, “YAS!! It’s gonna be so so so so so so so so so so so fun!!! I can’t wait!!! When are we leaving!?  Is it time yet?  Now? Almost ready!?  Will you sit on The Whip with me!?  OMG! The Funhouse is so….FUN!” and she kept this up in the car.  We even had a dance going and everything.  We get there, find a table, talk to some of our other foster parent friends, let her run around and get a butterfly painted on her face, and she did a ton of crafts, we ate lunch, and about 2 hours after we arrived, she was ready to go!  Sure, I said!  All the rides, I said!  So we gather up our stuff, start walking towards the park, and as we are passing rides, she’s saying, “Ooh this one?!?!”  “We’ll come back to it honey!”    We are walking with friends and start kissing them goodbye.  Mary asks if they are leaving.  “No, we are!”

“WAIT WHAT?!?!  But you said we could go on all the rides!?!

“I lied!”

Dead stare.  Tears on the brim.  She lets go of the stroller, and puts her head down as we walk into the parking lot, climbs silently into the car, and noiselessly releases a few tears on the 20 minutes drive home.  While we are driving, I let it sink it.  We get home, she goes to the bathroom, washes her face paint off, and goes directly into her room.  A little while later, we call her out into the living room to “debrief” what had happened.  We asked her what she was feeling.

“I feel sad, and mad, and disappointed because you said we could go on all the rides!”

“We are so sorry we lied to you, but we needed you to understand how lying feels.  When you lie to us, it makes us feel so sad at you, and so angry at you, and so disappointed with you because you make us feel like we can’t trust you, and that makes parents really really sad.  We were hoping that you would do the right thing all the time, and then you make poor choices that make us wonder if you deserve to have fun times.  When you do the right thing, we have a great time, like the Poconos, and when we went to Playland before, and the movies, and Glow in the Dark Putt Putt, and the arcade.  But when you make poor choices, we get sad at you and take those things away and then you have to earn them back.  We don’t like to put you in trouble, but sometimes, you leave us no choice.  Do you understand why lying is not the best thing? How people’s feeling get hurt?”

She shook her head yes, but we weren’t sure it had sunk in, until at dinner time, without being prompted, during a stint of silence, she said of her own volition, “I’m not gonna lie anymore.  I’m gonna do the right thing and make the right choices!”  Since Saturday evening, she has brushed her teeth and washed her face every day TWICE!  She has cleaned her station after dinner and cleared her plate and placed it NICELY in the dishwasher.  She has made her bed and made sure that all of her shoes were organized and her dressers had no clothes hanging our of them WITHOUT BEING PROMPTED!!! SAY WHAT!?!?!  By George, I think she’s got it. Also, my wife is a genius!fairy

She doesn’t know it, but today she starts gaining her privileges back, one by one, by going to an outdoor concert at the park, and for the first time in about a month, she’ll be able to take her bike with her.  Tomorrow night, we’ll be going with my parents and my nieces to the Carnival and she’ll be able to ride the rides, and Friday night, we will have a long overdue family movie night once the boys get to bed.  I’m excited for her to get her privileges back.  I’m excited that she’s understanding why lying is not ok!  I’m excited that she’s finally getting it.  I hate that we had to take it to that extreme, but I’ll consider the outcome a parenting win!  I will admit, that it took everything in me to not cry from the amount of disappointment that was sprawled across her face, but now, I see, that clearly, at least for the moment it has worked.

Tomorrow is our first TPR court hearing.  Wish us luck, and thanks for reading this eternally long post!

It’s Official!

As of 6w4d, we have a heartbeat!!!  Little Biscuit has a heartbeat, people!  I don’t know why I was so concerned about him/her not having one, but I was, and it scared that crap out of me, and I held my breath for the first minute of the ultrasound.  But then we saw it! That wonderful little flicker that lets you know that something in there is moving!  That your baby is alive and well.



Some of you may be wondering why this post isn’t protected.  Well, because for the most part, both set of parents know.  Sort of.  We were on Callie’s parents boat Saturday night after watching the fireworks, and Callie had told her mom that I was, potentially, maybe, a little bit pregnant, because she had asked me to help her move a very heavy wooden table.  Cal’s parents weren’t really down with the whole “another baby” thing when we mentioned thinking about having more kids, and soon.  Her reaction, well, it went sort of like this.  “You know it already?!  How can they tell so fast!? Ohhhh, wellllll, ok.  Callie, help me move this table then, so we can set up the boys pack and play so they can get some sleep.”  To say I was a little wounded (and angry) is a bit of an understatement, but that’s all I’m going to say about that, because along with this pregnancy comes all the pregnancy hormones, and let me tell you!  I have never cried so much in my life.  The joke about crying during commercials and whatnot? Not a joke to pregnant women!  In the lease bit!

Symptom wise, the nausea is really kicking my ass.  I sorta knew this would happen, and actually anticipated it, because my body really isn’t used to having all these hormones coursing through it.  With the PCOS, I’m pretty much a textbook case (said by EVERY GYN I’ve ever had),  where my lady hormones are really, really low and my male hormones are really high.  If it’s true what they say, that you carry like your mother, then I’m in for it!  my mother was sick for 6-7 months for each of her pregnancies.  Trust me when I tell you, that I refuse to feel like this for the next 5 months, and I am not to proud to get some meds to calm this nausea.  Yesterday, I threw up my early morning cup of water while brushing my teeth (yup, that totally happened) and then, I tried some crackers and water before I went off to work.  Promptly threw that up in the train station parking lot while getting our of my car, and nearly puked on my suede Clark Desert Treks!  I would have been really upset to have to get rid of my favorite, most expensive shoes!  There is also the excessive tiredness.  When I’m at work all day, it takes everything in me to keep my eyes open.  I pass out on the train ride in, take a short nap during lunch, sometimes I sneak off to the bathroom, go into the huge handicap stall in the back, and catch some zzz’s (about 20 minutes worth) before my alarm (which I tuck into my bra strap so I can feel the buzz) wakes me.  And then I pass out on the train going home for another 35 minutes.  When it’s bed time though, I have the hardest time falling asleep!  So most nights, I lie awake, listening to Callie’s deep breathing, Noah’s dinosaur grunts, and Levi’s feet constantly moving.  I try and count them, like you would sheep, but I end up laughing at the little symphony that the 3 of them are putting on without even knowing it.  And then of course, there are the tears…about everything!   I was putting together the ceremony that I will be officiating (my little sister’s wedding) and I couldn’t get through the first 2 minutes without wiping tears from my eyes.  I have NO IDEA how I’m supposed to pull myself together enough in the next 3 weeks to do this!  I HAVE to keep it together, but I really just don’t know how!  I’ll have to practice and practice and practice, otherwise, I’m pretty much screwed, and no one will understand the words that are coming out of my mouth, let alone be able to stand watching my snot faced, trembling lipped, shaky handed self try and keep my composure.  And that’s just the most recent episode.  So You Think You Can Dance (one of my top 3 all time favorite shows) literally has me a crumpled mess every Monday night.  It’s just terrible!

Aside from that, everything else is going pretty great!  I was getting a bit of an allergic reaction from the progesterone in oil ( in sesame oil) so they had to switch me over to oral and vaginal meds, which kinda suck, but I only have to do it for 2 more weeks, as I’ve graduated the fertility clinic, and have my first OB appointment on the 22nd.  Looking forward to that.  Not looking forward to being weighed, I will admit!  But hey, Big girls deserve babies too, and I’ve always been heavy, and weight isn’t an indication of health, so screw that! Here’s to being a big girl and getting preggers!  And just for information purposes, my last blood work came back with hCG at 22,763, and progesterone at 13.8, a little low, but the baby should be doing it’s own thing soon, so Dr. K wasn’t too concerned.  Friends, so far, so good!

July 4th weekend was pretty awesome.  We spend the weekend on the boat (has a Queen sized bedroom, and another room with 2 bunks beds, and also a living room couch that turns into a bed.  It’s our summer home away from home!) and everyone was really loving on all of our kids!  It’s nice to have the little boating community that we have.  Callie’s family has been friends with these 3 particular boaters for 30+ years, and it’s nice when all of their kids come home and we get to spend time together.  I love hearing their stories of all of the marina’s that they have spent time in, and the shenanigans that they pulled when they were younger.  it’s nice to see them having kids too, and know that our kids will all grow up together, and share some of the same experiences that Callie did.  I know she loves it too.  We watched the fireworks display as we lay on the bow of the boat.  The boys didn’t even mind (Noah actually slept right through), and Mary got to sit with Pop and look at their favorite fireworks together (the smiley face ones).



The next day, Sunday, Callie’s dad took us our for a swim.  We had a great day, but the boys slept through most of it.  Not even 10 minutes into our boat ride, they were passed out!



Mary had a blast “swimming” which actually means tying a rope to her ankle and putting a noodle between her legs while that and her life vest keep her afloat. We also threw a fishing line out and caught a sand shark and a fluke!  Good eatin’!

A good weekend had by all!



When “Mom” Shows Up…

It’s been MONTHS since Mary’s mom has shown up.  Last time was sometime in early March to be exact, but just once and Mary didn’t even get to see her.  Before that was mid January.  We’ve dealt with meltdowns, turmoil, questions like you wouldn’t believe, and really, thing that shouldn’t be asked by a 7 year old. 

“Is my mom dead?”

 “Is she sick in the hospital?” 

“Who’s gonna take care of my mom when she’s old and sick?” 

“Did she have the baby yet?!”

“Is my baby brother or sister gonna be a foster too?!”

“Did my mom forget about me?”

“Does my mom not love me anymore?”

These shouldn’t be things that a 7 year old should be concerned with. Does my mom still love me, should NEVER be a question that a kid asks, let alone even starts to think about.

Friday, Mary’s mom showed up.  It took about 100 emails, countless phone calls, visits to her home with no response, and a ton of prayers, both silent and outloud, with Mary leading, before FINALLY! last Wednesday, she showed up to the caseworkers office.  She left a note stating her new address. No number. No time to be contacted.  No, “Hey Lady! I’m alive and well!” Nothing! Smart on her part, considering EVERYONE who has ever dealt with the foster care system in our county KNOWS that the workers ALL have court on Wednesday.  Super smooth.  

The worker shows at her house.  No answer.  Karen (our worker) sends a letter to meet her Friday in her office.  Surprisingly, mom shows.  “I love my daughter and I want to see her! When can I see her?! I didn’t f*ck up too bad, did I?” ( Im pretty sure she batted her eyelashes a little when asking).  By law, she is entitled to visits.  By our judge, she has to take a toxicology test and not test positive.  Our caseworker claims that when she saw her, she “didn’t look intoxicated”.  I think looks can be deceiving. 

Mary has completely been a different child since we have been getting more honest about the outcome of her case.   180 different!   The therapist says the not knowing was causing severe anxiety.  We agree.  “We may be your forever family, honey” we say to her. 

“You’re just my real moms,” she says.  

“I’m gonna be a Mendez too!” she’s vocalized.

“What if the judge makes me go back with Mom and I wanna stay here?!” Good question my CooCoo. Really. Good. Question.

She has a visit with mom coming up on Thursday.  Her next Tuesday therapy visit was cancelled. Not good.  She has no idea she might be seeing mom.  We have no idea what will happen after she sees her.  We’re scared we have to start all over again. My heart hurts to know that she’ll cling to her mother and probably cry most of the visit and I can’t cuddle her and tell how much we love her and love having her in our family.  We’ll have to wait until she gets home, in a fit of resentful rage, wondering why she has to come back to our house, and not back with mom. It’ll be hard.  Really hard.  With lots of tears and snot, and that’s just us! Poor Mary will have nightmares, not want to go to school the next day.  Need more attention than we can muster with me working full time and Callie watching 3 kids until I get home, 2 of which are hardly 5 months old. 

Will mom hate us and will it taint our “relationship” when Mary tells her mom we said she’s “sick in her brain”, because you know, you can’t always see “sick”, our child friendly way of saying “dealing with addiction”?  Will it be more difficult to see Mary and spend time with her if, you know, this screwy system ends up sending her back home? Will the caseworker defend us when mom is flabbergasted that we would “badmouth” her to her own flesh and blood?!

We are unsettled today, gearing up for this visit.  We are considering a conditional surrender just to get it over and done with, even though that’s not really what we want.  We love the shit out of Mary.  She’s our one and only daughter.  She’s our baby.  She’s our heart.  She’s Mamá’s best bud.  I’m nervous, and I can’t shake it.  It’s gonna be hell in a day and half a time.  

We’ll be strong, we’ll push on and keep on trucking like the family that we are, but someone will be angry, someone will be resentful, someone will be jaded, and I just hope and pray and wish that it’s not Mary.  That it’s not us.  I never thought I would be *that* foster parent.  The one that wishes that the bio family will screw up so royally, that there is no other option by adoption. But I am, because now (and always) we love her. So fiercely. So wholey.  So…with everything! We worry about her. And we want the very best for our little girl….

TPR Revisited

From the day that Mary was brought into our home, we were convinced not only by Mary’s connection to her mom, but also by the words of several social workers, resource workers, case managers and therapists, that Mary would be inevitably returning to her biological mother within a years time.  We should have known better!  Every other placement we had, we were told that the children would likely be freed for adoption, but within a few short weeks, they were all transitioned to a relatives home, and Callie and I were left licking our wounds, sad and crying on our couch, as we cuddled and caught up on weeks of TV that were impossible to watch when you have toddlers who would not benefit from watching the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Mary has been a different case all together.  Considering her background and the hard work that mom had done in the past to get her back, we just sort of figured that Mary’s time with us was finite, and would eventually come to an end, no doubt breaking us all over again.

Over the past 3 months, Mom’s performance has been…less than stellar.  Actually, to be totally honest, no one even knows where Mom is, yet again! Since January, she has shown up for 2 visits, then goes MIA again.  Her excuse usually is that she doesn’t have a phone or she’s been working umpteen hours, but we all know that it isn’t that case.  Turns out mom is newly pregnant (about 4 months and decided to announce it to Mary at their last visit almost 3 weeks ago [which must make Mary feel really terrible because baby gets mom, but she doesn’t] but told the case worker that she isn’t really sure what she wants to do yet – sigh), and has had several other issues that go against the plan to get Mary back.  During the time that mom has been missing meetings and visits and therapy and anger management and parenting and her outpatient treatment program, we have been encouraged to not tell Mary the truth. We have been told to tell her that mom is working, or that she wasn’t feeling well, or that she had to cancel because of the weather, all the while dying inside because Mary isn’t your average 7 year old.  She grew up and socialized with adults most of her life, so she is well aware of the things that are going on, excellent at reading social cues, despite her OBVIOUSLY playing dumb (she does this too us ALL the time…”Where are we going Saturday?” after overhearing us say we are going to my parents from 3 rooms over!).

Wednesday morning we had a permanency hearing for Mary. We got all of the kids ready for the day.  Callie’s parents dropped Mary at school and came back to watch the boys.  We grabbed our notebooks and paperwork and head to county court to find out what would be happening with Mary for at least the next 6 months.  At our last home visit, our case worker told us that she was going to file a TPR, and if we were willing to adopt Mary.We quickly answered “YES!”.  Now this is something that I haven’t really spoken about because, well, as foster parents, you sort of expect to love all of the children that come into your home, but you never really know how you will connect with them.  I have a pretty awesome relationship with Mary.  Callie and Mary’s relationship, on the other hand, is a bit…strained.  I know that they both love each other dearly, but there is something about both of their personalities that don’t really mesh well.  My take on it*** 1) Mary is very attached to her mother.  Callie is very motherly/maternal.  Mary will not allow Cal to be her mom, because in her eyes, well, she doesn’t need one because she has one.  Callie feels rejected and subconsciously acts on it. Because I am more like “dad” which Mary doesn’t really have, it makes our connection different.  2) Callie is the disciplinarian.  I am not.  She has follow through where I have “but their just kids!”   It’s more fun to be with me than Callie.  All that being said, we have been struggling with making the decision that is best for our family, because after all, adoption is forever.  After much contemplation and weeeeeeekkkkkkssssss of talking it over, we decided that what is best for our family is to give all the love to Mary that we would our biological children, all the attention that she deserves and a chance at belonging and being part of a healthy (albeit crazy!) family.  She is THRIVING and excelling in our home.  She has done a complete 180 from when she first came to us.  And aside from all of that, how could we be willing contributors in the ruining of her life?  More transitions, more people that in her eyes “don’t love her and leave”.  It’s something that we wouldn’t be able to deal with.  Financially, we will be a hot mess, but we’ll figure it out.  We always have, and we probably always will.  (And potentially, if Mary’s moms baby goes into care, taking on another infant to keep siblings together—no need to tell us we are out of our minds….we know!)

We meet up at court with our case worker (we’ll just call her Krista from here on out), her attorney ( the county attorney really), Mary’s mom’s attorney, and Mary’s attorney.  We sat and spoke for about 20 minutes before our case was called in.  To all of our surprise (read:we were not surprised), Mary’s mom didn’t show up.  The lawyer was trying to contact her.  Krista was trying to contact her.  No answer.  They called relatives who tried to get in touch with her, and no one could reach her or confirm her whereabouts.  For some strange reason, my heart was so heavy for Mary in those moments before the judge said she’d give her another 10 minutes and the benefit of the doubt.  We step out of the courtroom.  We all knew she wasn’t going to show.  She didn’t want to hear it from the judge (who has been seeing this same case for apparently the 1087 days that Mary has been in the custody of the county).  10 minutes later, we all go back in.  The judge does not look happy, even with the 50+ snow globes adorning her desk (no seriously, like 50!!!).  After being sworn in, our worker gives her all of the details.  How mom has been missing, and that all of her therapies and programs have been cancelled due to non-compliance.  That they reduced her visits from 2 hours unsupervised weekly, back to 1 hour supervised bi-weekly and that mom still isn’t attending.  How despite all attempts (phone calls, emails, home visits, contacting family, and snail mail), it has been near impossible to contact her.  Her own lawyer, even made a point to say in court, that she no longer wants to represent her client and wants to be relieved because she is tired of chasing her around (in more words).  The judge was not happy.  She asked us how Mary was doing in our home, and what behaviors she has been exhibiting.  We were very candid and forthright with our answers.  She was having a hard time emotionally, but we were doing our best.  By the end of our 5 minute spiel, the judge had heard enough.  She changed the permanency goal to “Adoption”, and told our case worker that she wanted the TPR complete and on her desk within 90 days.

When we got home from court, we hung out with our boys and my MIL for about an hour before we went to speak to a lawyer about Callie’s job situation (another post, BUT turns out we have a case! And we’re gonna pursue it thanks to the New York State Division of Human Rights).  When we got home after that, Mary was waiting for us, as usual, to ask us how our day was.  We have a dry erase board in our kitchen that we update every month in different colors so that everyone knows what their appointments and activities are for the month.  On April 15th, our calendar said COURT.  She asked us if court was for her.  Callie and I looked at each other and decided that it was best to start letting her know the truth and begin to process what is happening.  We told her that it was, and that it was a very important meeting.

MaryWas my mom there?

Me:  She was supposed to be honey, but she didn’t show up.  A lot of people were really disappointed and sad at her today, including us.

Mary: Why was everyone sad?

MeBecause today the judge needed help deciding if you were going to go back to live with Mom soon, or if you were going to be staying to live with us maybe forever.  When your mom didn’t come, the judge didn’t really know what to think, and couldn’t ask your mom some important questions to help make her decision.

Mary: (with a weird grin on her face, she slowly walked backwards out of the kitchen and around the corner loudly whispering) Ooohhhhhhhhh kkkkkkkkkk….

MeCome back here coocoo…this is important…

Mary(hysterical and in tears)  But I really miss mommy, and I really wanna go with her.  I mean, I love living here, and you and Callie and the boys, so it’s not that, but I really wanted to go back with mommy!

Me: Would living with us forever be so bad?

Mary No,it’s good, but I just miss mommy!!!

Me And mommy misses you too honey.  Just because she can’t take care of you doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you with her whole heart.  She just has a difficult time making good choices that will keep you together.

And she hugged me, hard, for a long time, and cried into my tummy, telling me she loved us, and followed me around the house for the next hour, probably distracting herself from all of the thoughts that were going on in her head.  We spoke to her therapist and told her we were going to be more honest with her (in an age appropriate way) and that it would probably be really good to start working through and sorting through some of that stuff during her sessions.

Friends, I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but by the looks of it, we are going to be going down this adoption road sooner than we expected.  Mary might one day in the near future be a Mendez.  But in 90 days, the TPR will be filed, and the journey continues.  Her mom can appeal, but after 1087 days in care, and a judge that has given her 8 tries to get it together, I don’t think any number of appeals will help mom.  There is also the option of a conditional surrender (mom signing over her rights with “conditions”) but we would REALLY have to consider that…our little girl has been hurt enough.  We understand that these things can take anywhere from 1 1/2-3 years…so we’re waiting, patiently, nervously, for Mary to finally have her forever family.

Dolls, Ankle Socks, and PJ’s: A Foster Mama’s Frustration

We are having a serious issue, and I don’t know how much longer we can keep our cool.  We consider ourselves to be reasonable people.  Respectful women.  Kind folks.  When we are asked to do something (within reason) we comply.  That’s just who we are.

For weeks (months really), we have been communicating with Mary’s case worker about the amount of gifts that Mary’s mom has been giving her.  We have also spoken to the Parenting Counselor and Mary’s individual therapist as well, and all three have touched base with mom about the incessant gift giving.  They have given her the reasons as to why this could be detrimental to her development. 1) She doesn’t learn to value and appreciate things 2) When we have a reward system in place, it is difficult to discipline her if she continues to receive weekly gifts from mom (every Tuesday) and twice biweekly (every other week she sees mom Tuesdays and Thursdays).  And 3) Our apartment simply isn’t big enough to have 52 two foot dolls (one for each week of the year and those ridiculously scary looking Disney princess dolls).  All of these conversations were simply not heeded and Mary has continuously received gift after stupid freaking gift.

Finally, we had it!  With Christmas quickly approaching, we wanted to make sure that the holiday season with out family was a special one.  We normally buy gifts for each other, wrap them and promptly put them under the tree.  Not this year though.  We are teaching Mary all about the true story of Christmas, as well as the story of Old St. Nick.  We have wrapped her gifts and placed them in our closets and won’t be putting them under the tree until she is fast asleep Christmas Eve.  We decided that since mom hasn’t been listening to the workers that maybe we would reach out to her via email.  So Callie wrote her a very  nice letter explaining to her all of the above reasons as to why she should refrain from purchasing gifts, with the added, “And it’s the holiday season, so to avoid duplicate gifts, as well as making Christmas extra special for her.”  We also sent her the pictures that we took of Mary in her Christmas outfit in case her mom wanted to get cards made to send out to friends and relatives.  This was approximately a week ago.  Added to that email was a list of things that Mary doesn’t need (sneakers, short ankle socks, toys/dolls, pajamas, hats, gloves, winter jackets, t-shirts, house slippers) and things that she does need, since mom has felt so inclined to buy her things (longer winter socks, thermals, sweat suits, and winter boots).  Not that we can’t purchase those things for her, but since mom is going to buy her things every week, we might as well give her some clues for the things that she’d be better off buying.

Yesterday, when Mary returned from her visit, she came home with a bag full of stuff.  What was in the bag, you ask?  Welllll, you guessed it! Everything on the “DO NOT BUY”.  Ankle socks (It’s f*cking winter lady!), hats and gloves (last week she bought her 3 sets), house slippers (because the other 4 light up pair that she bought her obviously weren’t enough), another freaking princess pajama (because the 2 drawers full of pajamas that we have accumulated in the past 8 months certainly aren’t enough!), and a freaking Baby Alive doll that pees and poops, which we got Mary as a gift from Santa to help her in being a big sister.  That was the gift that we were most excited about.  That is the gift that we waited on freaking line for, refreshing the screen for hours on cyber monday in order to make her Christmas extra special because she wanted it so bad.  Needless to say, we were freaking PISSED!  Our case worker texted me on my way home from work to let me know that Mary’s mom had bought her a doll.  We knew it would be more than that because otherwise she wouldn’t have texted us.  We did not anticipate a bag full of crap, again, for the 4th time this month!  I let the case worker have it! When are they going to step in and tell her mom that it’s inappropriate and disrespectful to not respect the wishes of the foster family.  Does she not know that we hold all of the cards in our hands right now?  We can cancel visits when we feel like it.  We can cease all phone calls (we let Mary call mom whenever mom cancels a visit for something ridiculous like rain!).  We don’t ever have to send her another picture of Mary in a school play, or catching her first fish, or bouncing at a bouncy castle, or showing her face of wonder when capturing her first firefly ever. We have been nothing but kind to this woman, and nothing but understanding of her situation.  We speak highly of her to her daughter and encourage Mary to share her stories about her mother with us.  We have Mary write her cards and I put DVD’ together of Mary at her school functions.  We are the ideal foster parents and get blatantly disrespected like this!?!?!  How is it that we can comply and work with her and all of the multitude of requests, but our simple one is not even considered?  I can assure you, from this point on, we will be changing.  We will not be so accommodating.  It’s unfortunate, because Mary is ultimately the one who will suffer, but how do we make it clear that this behavior from mom is unacceptable?  How do we get her to understand, that her selfish behavior (the need to assert herself as “mom”) is not in her daughters best interest?  How do we explain to her that this is a partnership and that we should all be working together to do what is best for Mary?

On Tuesday, despite Mary’s tears and tantrums, we will be sending all of the stuff back (with the exception of the doll, which she loves, and makes us sad because we wanted to give it her) to her mother with a note indicating why it was all being sent back.  We will speak to the case worker and the therapist, and unless there is a valid reason as to why we will be receiving any more gifts, they are not to send Mary home with any more uselses crap unless it is pre-approved by us.  Is it a bit extreme?  Perhaps.  But we have rules in our home, and we expect them to be followed.  If Mary’s mom wants to have things handed to her by her sugar daddies and her stripper friends, so be it, but we will not be the parents that hand things to our children so that they expect everything to be handed to them in life.  They will work hard and earn them.  They will do chores for allowance, and learn the value of a dollar.  They will take pride in their achievements.  Those are the children that we will raise.  This situation has gotten out of hand!