The 30 Day Challenge Completed!

Day 30-A picture

It’s taken me a few days to finish up this 30 day challenge (more like 40 day challenge, but whatever!), but here we are at Day 30 (give or take a few days) and I’m sorta sad that it’s over.  I was really enjoying sharing my life with you all in some type of systematic way.  Now, I’ll just have to randomly insert stories into my post by *sidebar* or *parenthesis* as I usually do!  Anyways, without further ado, Day #30…

IN 24 DAYS, 15 HOURS, AND 47 MINUTES, I WILL BE 32...AND THIS WILL BE MY BIRTHDAY PLANS AS IT HAS BEEN FOR THE PAST 5 YEARS...BESTIES, BOAT, BEER!

IN 24 DAYS, 15 HOURS, AND 47 MINUTES, I WILL BE 32…AND THIS WILL BE MY BIRTHDAY PLAN AS IT HAS BEEN FOR THE PAST 5 YEARS…MY BRIDE, BABIES, BESTIES, BOAT, & BEER! LOTS AND LOTS OF BEER!


This past weekend was a great weekend for our little family.  On Friday, after work, I went home, changed my clothes, piled the 3 kids and the wife into the car, and headed to our little local amusement park.  When I was younger, our parents would take us once a year, and every time, it was the awesomest thing ever!!  Being so young, I didn’t realize that my parents probably blew about 3 days salary to take the 5 of us, and sometimes a cousin or two.  Back then, you could only buy tickets, not the super great “unlimited rides” bracelet that they sell now for one pretty fair price.  Rye Playland ,the amusement park in “Big” staring Tom Hanks, is the equivalent of a County Fair that is set up indefinitely.  It’s been there for decades.  The Dragon Coaster (featured in Mariah Carey’s Fantasy video) has been there since the 1920’s!  You can’t go there without riding it. I invited my sister and my two nieces, and we hung out from 6-11pm when the park was closing.  It was really great to be able to share such a huge part of our childhood with Mary and my niece.  It was even cooler watching them get their adrenaline on, and ride that Dragon Coaster by themselves.  That’s pretty brave for 7 year olds!  Went home and got ready for the next day!

Saturday, thanks to all the junk and cotton candy that Mary ate, she was pretty much out of commission all day!  She was vomiting from the second she opened her eyes at 6:30am, until she went to bed at 7:30pm.  It was pretty horrible!  I feel like such a bad mom when she’s throwing up, because just the sound of her retching is enough to keep me on the opposite side of the apartment.  “You okay honey?!  Do you need some water, or a paper towel, or a cold cloth for your forehead?!?!”, I shout down the hallway.  When she was finished, I would escort her back to bed, tuck her in, set up the iPad with the Netflix on, glass of water on the window sill, and check on her pretty often.  Most of the day she slept, the poor thing, so most of the day, we slept, babies on our chests, TV blaring, bodies sweating (we have corduroy couches – I KNOW!), and phones on silent.  It was actually not a bad day.  Sometimes, you just need a day to veg out.

Sunday, my sister Raquel had an impromptu BBQ at her place.  Her fiance, my soon to be super amazing brother-in-love on 8/1/15, was killing it on the grill!  The kids had a blast playing on the swing get, eating ice cream, kicking around a soccer ball, and enjoying the beautiful weather.  I talked to my mom about the boys baptism and in true mom fashion, she insisted that we needed more things than we had originally bought for the BBQ after the service, and made plans with Callie to go on Tuesday (yesterday) to pick up some more stuff (They picked up a TON more stuff thanks to my moms Visa card because we totally cannot afford any more frivolous purchases, and spending $50+ for “extra paper goods just in case” is just so dumb to me).  We played dominoes for a little while, and then head home, but not before getting this picture of the boys and their favorite cousin Jezenia…

LOOK AT THOSE FACES!

LOOK AT THOSE FACES!

Monday, good Ole Memorial Day, was wonderful.  First, let me say, although we haven’t been impacted by the loss of someone in our family or any of our friends, we do have a lot of family and friends who are service members in The US Navy, Marines, Air Force and Army.  4 of my first cousins have served on the front line in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, and all over the Middle East.  They have lost many of their friends and comrades, and the day for them takes on a completely different meaning.  Our hearts were with all of them as they felt the weight and the burden of having survived while their Brothers were casualties of war.  I won’t let the politics of it all taint my vision or stop me from sharing in the fact that we are very fortunate to have these service men and women put their lives on the line for us daily.  All the time I pray that Memorial Day won’t take on a different meaning for us and our families one day.  So before we started our day, got our swimsuits on, and headed out to a cookout, we talked a little bit about why we have a “home day” and why we honor the courageous men and women who defend this country and our freedom.  I think Mary got it.  Like, really got it.

By 11am, everyone was dressed, packed, and ready to spend the day with Grandma and Pop on the boat.  We had bought the kids a small little pool to place on the back deck, and it was a hit with ALL the kids at the marina.  All 3 of our kids had a great day enjoying treats, lots of hugs and affection and attention, and splashing!  Lots and lots of splashing!  The boys only took 1 nap and weren’t even cranky all day!  We watched the military planes fly over head (there was a huge parade and military plane show at a park a few blocks over), fed baby swans, and Callie and I got to hand the boys off, have a beer, and play a game of spades just like the “Good Old days”.  Well, the days pre the new “Great Old days”!  It never ceases to amaze me how huge our village is.  It’s always so great and comforting to see how much love our little family gets.  You never really get used to it. After a long day in the sun (no sunburn, woo hoo!), we had all of the kids fed, bathed, and sleeping (completely knocked out for the count!) by 7:30pm, giving me and Callie the opportunity to “watch some tv” in bed without interruption.  Great show!!  Realllllllllyyyyyy great show! I’d have to say, all in all, the weekend was pretty successful, and with a short week at work, a meeting with our Pastor at our place tonight, an RE appointment yesterday morning (PW protected post to follow), and some last minute stuff for the baptism in 2 weeks, this coming weekend is upon us with more plans for great times with my kick-ass little family…

HOW CUTE, RIGHT!?

HOW CUTE, RIGHT!? (LEVI [L] NOAH [R])

MIRA MAMA! LOOK MAMA!

MIRA MAMA! LOOK MAMA! I’M SPLASHING!

ME AND BY KIDS...HAD TO FIT IN THERE SOMEHOW!

ME AND MY KIDS…HAD TO FIT IN THERE SOMEHOW!

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30 Day Challenge – Day #13 & Day #14

Just a quick story I wanted to share before I get into this challenge…

Lately, when we are out and about as a family, it’s me on one side with a baby in the Moby, Callie on the other with the other baby in the Infantino, and Mary smack in the middle of us both, holding our hands.  We look like that around our neighborhood, at the park, at the grocery store, walking on the Avenue, pretty much everywhere. People always comment on our family and how cute our kids are.  More recently, people have been lingering longer and asking about the babies, and our family, and somehow it always comes up that Mary “looks like the perfect combination of both of you!  My goodness!” But we never really know how Mary is gonna react.  For a long time, when people would say, “And these are your moms?”, she would quickly counter with, “NO!!! They’re not my moms!!!” and that soon turned into, “Not my REAL moms, but my foster moms!” But lately, she doesn’t say anything.  She sorta shrugs and smiles her shyest smile, and then looks at the lights on her sneakers, or changes the conversation quickly to take one of our attention away from engaging in the conversation.  At the grocery store Sunday night, a women and her very pregnant daughter approached us, and as they were admiring our family commented to Mary that she’s beautiful and that she has my nose and gap and the my big round eyes, but that she has Callie’s complexion and eye color and freckles.  She couldn’t believe how well we did that she looked “just like the both of us!” (I’m still not sure whether or not I should be offended about this, but we’ll just say Kudos to social services for literally, a PERFECT MATCH!)  I noticed her withdrawing at that point, and shifting from one foot to the other, so we said “thank you and have a nice day” and went about our grocery store business.  Callie and I talked about it and her behavior when we got home.  We weren’t sure whether or not Mary felt uncomfortable and was withdrawing or if she wanted us to acknowledge her as our daughter.  So yesterday morning before school, Callie had a conversation with her over hairdo’s and shoe-tying.

Callie: You know how people ask if you’re our daughter?
Mary:  Mmm hmm…
Callie: Well, we’re not sure what to say, so we wanted to ask you!  We don’t want to say we’re your “moms” in case it makes you upset because we know you have your other mom too, but we don’t want to say “foster moms” because we love you like a real daughter, so we just wanted to check and see what YOU wanted us to be called.  What do you want us to say when people ask us?
She thinks about it for a minute before answering and then, smiles, but quickly looks embarrassed and nervous…
Mary: Moms..just regular moms….

And that was it.  We are officially, in her heart, her moms…


Day 13-Goals

I don’t have very complicated goals at all.  I mean, I think we all have those universal goals…good job, family, nice house, car, you know the usual stuff, but really I just have one real goal, and it’s one that I have lived by for as long as I remember.

“Make someone laugh every day”

That’s it!  The other stuff in my life, all those material things, finances, jobs, those things all come and go.  They are here one day and gone the next. One year I had over $10,000 in my savings account and the next, I was splitting Ramen for dinner with my best friend.  But the one thing that has never faded from my life, is the laughter.  It resonates! And even in my darkest times, it’s the laughter that stands out the most.  It whirs around, tickling me from the inside out.  I know how it has illuminated the hollow person that I was for so many years.  Laughter can makes someones day, especially those days where it seems like everything’s amiss.  My goal, every day, is to share laughter with as many people as I can.

And speaking of which…How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?!?!  TEN tickles!!!!  ::drops the mic::

Day 14-A picture you love

OUR SPOT

OUR SPOT

This is probably my all time favorite picture of me and my best girl.  It’s so simple, yet everything about it reminds me of our love and how it came to be.  We fell in love right in that spot, on a rainy summer day, while we fished and talked about life, and heartache, and love, and work, and family, and everything that two young people getting to know each other could talk about.  It was there that we cemented out love, and threw out anchors in the water hoping to never drift away from one another.  It was in that same spot that I set up candles and dropped rose petals on the coldest of winter days to propose.  It was there that we told Callie’s parents that we were having twins.  The same spot where Mary caught her first fish, and we knew that this kid, regardless of what happened, was definitely meant to be in our lives.  And this will be the spot that we will teach our boys to swim from, and where they will also catch their first fish or net their first crab.  This one particular spot, in between dock fingers, has become “our spot”, and this picture, no matter how infrequently I see it, always brings a smile to my face and makes the offspring of the offspring from the original butterflies years ago, hatch from their cocoons and flutter all over again!

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.

There’s Something About Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve Got Ourselves A 7 Year Old!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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