So What’s One More?!?

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

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

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

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


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

“Ummmm….ummmmm…ummmm…ummmmm””

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

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


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

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

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

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

IMG_9225[1]

HANGING OUT WITH KITTY

IMG_9308[1]

ALL THE CUTENESS!!!

IMG_9238[1]

EXCUSE MY FACE…LOL!

Advertisements

Parenting With All My Might

Some days are hard.  Some days are harder than that! But every day I put one foot in front of the other, go through the motions because my kids deserve the best I have to offer them.  

Some days I wanna throw in the towels (yes, plural, because I have so much shit going on, one towel wouldn’t be enough!), grab a pack and some snacks, and hike the Appalachian trail and not come back home until my head is clear, my feet are blistered, and I’m forced to stay in one place or risk losing my feet for good!

Some days, relationship and wife-ing stuff gets so loaded and so crazy, that I wonder what the eff I was thinking ever WANTING, let alone thinking about doing this “adulting, married wth kids” thing.

Sometimes, there isn’t enough money, enough food, too many poopy diapers, and mountains of laundry I’ve conquered that would have made Everest look like a kids old school wooden climbing structure.

Some days, the darkness of my bedroom and the closed in feeling of the walls against my thoughts is all I long for.  A silent retreat inside myself, where I know a lot of the answers dwell, but who in the damn hell has any time for that!?!?

But today, is not “some days”, but today makes me recognize that “some days” are all I need to see the beauty in my life.  Today, I complained about having to get up super early because I had to drop the kids off to daycare despite having a day off.  “I take days off so I can spend time by my freaking self! GRRRRRR,” I yell at my sick wife, who just so happens to get sick EVERY FREAKING TIME it’s my day off (not that I don’t love my wife and want to spend time with her but also like, self care and whatnot!) . I was pissy, sure.  I was annoyed even…Irate? Perhaps…but then walking outside, after I begrudgingly get them all dressed for school, I see the joy and the wonder in their eyes at seeing the snow fall for the second time ever! 

Noah’s eyes darted across the sidewalk as he yelled, “WOAHHHHH! Mamaaaa! It’s! ‘no! It’s ‘no!”  Levi squealed as he skipped down the street, trying to catch the flakes as they moved in time and cadence with their laughter and giggles.  Austin opened his mouth wide, and it was then that I noticed the little nubbins of the two new teeth that are coming in.  

These simple little joys.  These constant reminders that there is so much to surrender to, including the nuisances of every day parenting. A reminder that every situation, no matter how bleak, has a silver lining.  That even when we are our most annoyed, upset, frustrated, desolate, angry, there is something that will always bring a little shine, a little sparkle to your life.  

And despite parenting with all my might, I fall into the trap of “I wish things could be different.  I shouldn’t have had so many kids.  I should have went to college.  Why do I even clean? Why do I…? Why did I…?! How could I…?!?”.  But today, for the first time, I really recognized my ability to change the outcome of my day.  I had to wake up early on my day off?! Worst thing that happened today! 

And I’ll keep thinking that…because some days are really shitty, but mostly, they’re pretty damn good…

TPR Hearing #1 and 12 Weeks!!!

TPR HEARING #1

So yesterday was our first hearing for the termination of Mary’s mom’s parental rights.  It was, well…interesting I suppose.  We showed up at 1:45pm for a 2pm hearing.  We were hanging out and talking to another foster mom that we are great friends with who had a permanency hearing that day, and also to out Caseworker K and her attorney about what this court date would entail.  A whole lot of nothing was the short answer.  And for the most part, they were right!

We get called in at around 2:45. It was the caseworker K, her attorney, Mary’s mom, her new attorney (the one she had before fired her! Imagine!?!), her sister (LAWD!  There are too many and also not enough words in the English and Latin based languages to describe that tragic mess woman), their friend (who the hell brings a friend to the beginnings of a court case determining whether you keep your child or not!?! Seriously, who does that?!), Mary’s lawyer, Callie, and myself.  Also in the room, the judge (she’s NO JOKE, at least that’s what we hear from everyone…totally no nonsense judge) and the stenographer.  They call the case number, and ask everyone to list their names, and the relationship to the child or the respondent.  Mary’s mom is asked to give her full name, address, and a telephone number by the judge, which she sort of mumbles under her breath.  The caseworkers attorney says that it’s just a mailing address and that she doesn’t have a residence on file.  “You need to understand Ms. C****, that in order for the department to get pertinent information to you, you MUST provide a telephone number and address that will allow them to be able to contact you,” says the judge.  Mary’s mom straightens up, claims to be living with her new baby daddy, and states the new address.  She also states a new phone number and pens go flying to jot down all this new information that they have been trying to get from her for months.

The judge’s next question was if the parents have both been served. Since Mary’s father signed an affidavit when she first went into care stating that he basically didn’t want that responsibility, he only had to be served a notice that they were having the hearing, and they had tried to get it to him 5 times.  Since they were unable to, the judge stated it was ok to serve him via mail.  So that’s getting sent out.  Since Mary’s mom had never provided the address to where she is residing, they served her, right there, in court!  Callie and I nudged each other (somehow both knowing it was silent laughter!).  Then they spoke to Mary’s lawyer for a second and asked him he had spoken to her, to which he replied that he had and that she stated that she missed her mom and wanted to see her more often, but that she wanted to live with us.  **He spoke to her last Thursday after I had called him (he hasn’t spoken to her since about a month after she moved in with us) to makes sure that he was representing her and what she wanted.  He spoke to her and asked her a ton of questions, and she responded with wanting to live with us, but that she loves her mom, so he stated that in court**  At this point, mom and the aunt made this ridiculously annoying face as if this was news to them!  PssshhH!!! Girl, bye, ok!?  They’ve known this!  At some point the judge asked why they were pushing for termination, and the caseworkers attorney stated that mom has been inconsistent in the past year (something like 5 visits out of 20 since January), failing to turn up for drug tests, and not completing the requirements set forth by the court since the beginning of Mary going into care.  Here goes mom’s attorney! “As you can see, my client is visibly very pregnant and has been on bed rest for a high risk pregnancy the past 4-5 months.”  The 4 of us (Callie, myself, K and her attorney) looked at her incredulously. C’MON LADY!  It’s been a month, 2 at the most, and what about the other 18 months that Mary has been in our care?

To make the shenanigans that went down, a long story short, Mary’s attorney stated that he thought it would be in her best interest if we tried to settle on a conditional surrender (parent signing over their rights with conditions, like visitation and photographs).  Mom has always said that she would never sign her rights over.  So we’ll wait and see.  In the meantime, we go back to court in November, and Callie and I will have decided what we are willing to give her.  It’s tough because we know Mary loves her mom and loves spending time with her, but we also know that her seeing her mom is so detrimental to her.  She gets loads of anxiety and has verbalized that she is scared that she will have to go back with mom.  So we left court with no real indication of which way this case would go.  The good thing is that once we get down to the disposition portion of the trail, we will be allowed to have a lawyer and fight for Mary.  We are SO ready for that part.  And what was moms reaction to all of this?  Having her hot mess whore of a sister fight for custody in case the do end up terminating her rights!!!  BA! Yeah, OKAY!

What’s the most we would consider for a conditional surrender?  2 visits per year (not Christmas or Christmas Ever, New Years or New Years Eve, Thanksgiving, Mary’s birthday, Mother’s Day or Other’s Day (traditional fathers day and usually my birthday) and quarterly pictures.  Any other visits or pictures are at our discretion.  Also, if she shows up to visits and is even mildly intoxicated or high, no visit will happen.  If she misses two consecutive visits, we end the visits all together permanently!  We know she probably won’t agree to that, and that’s ok, but we aren’t bending on that.  And the truth is, if we take the case all the way to the end, chances are very likely that they will terminate her rights, and we will “win” to adopt Mary, and she won’t have to get anything, and that’s the best case scenario for us.  So yeah, court was court and it was not much of anything, and now there is another hearing in November that we are anxious to get to.


12 WEEKS

I really can’t believe we are at the 12 week mark already!  Seriously, it’s going super fast.  More than a quarter of the way done with this pregnancy. I always consider doing one of the pregnancy survey things, but then I’m always like, nah!  So I figured I’d just update you my own way and create my own sorta survey, if you will….

How I’m Feeling this Week: EXHAUSTED! Like, super exhausted.  Every time I mention going into our room for something Callie says, “To take a nap right?!”  Perrrr..hapssss…

How Big is Biscuit: Well, about the size of a half eaten corn dog!  YUM!  That sounds amazing!  Gotta get me one of those!  Or the size of a small measuring tape or the size of a lime.

Baby Bump News?:  So, I’m not showing AT ALL, but my mons pubis is starting to mesh with my muffin top, so there ya have it!  Fluffy piece meet, well, other fluffy piece!  You’re welcome!  Pants are a little tighter and I have used a pants extender about 3 times now:

Frequency of Everything:  I’m one of those people who can go a whole day at an amusement park without using the toilet once, despite the fact that I have downed about 120oz of soda!  Now, I can barely go an hour without running to the restroom. Meeting my Fitbit goals much sooner!  Also, I have been eating every 2-3 hours, but find myself snacking much more in between.

Sleep:  Yeah, still have as much of that as you can have with two 7 month old buddies, one of which is teething, and waking up once a night besides that to go to the bathroom!

Food Loves/Hates:  If there is any piece of lettuce around me, get that ish the hell away from me!!!  For whatever reason, I can’t even look at it!  Not that it makes me sick or anything, but the consistency and the texture and the taste just haven’t been kind to me these past 2 weeks.  And I know it sucks but if I have to have another 835471216461oz’s  of water, I might just have to kill someone.  Still absolutely loving ice!  It’s just so good once it hits your lips!  Also, PB&J.  I’ve had one at like 11pm every night this week.  I will wake up from a dead sleep and say, “OOHHH!  Peanut Butter and Jelly”  in my Homer Simpson voice…

Symptoms:  Nothing yet besides the tiredness. Thankfully all that nausea has gone away, and I’m just getting through every work day hoping my boss doesn’t catch me dosing.

Next Scan:  Our NT Scan is on 8/27, and we can’t WAIT to see Biscuit.  It’s not easy waiting for these once a month appointments!  We were spoiled (if that’s what you want to call it) seeing the boys almost weekly for most of Callie’s pregnancy.  We have tried to hear her (I’ll keep calling her her because I can’t help but feel like we have a little lady on our hands!) with our doppler, but there is just so much stuff going on in there, that it’s hard to hear.  Or maybe it just can’t penetrate the 4 layers of my winter blubber that I haven’t shed yet.  Who knows!  But we’re excited to see her and rule out any of the “bad” stuff.  Still not sure if we want to find out the gender.  Leaning towards no, but the excitement of knowing and connecting to Biscuit sure is driving me in the other direction!

Sex:  Yes please!  Thanks to Meredith over at Counting Chickens, Callie and I have started re-watching the entire series, and there is something about 2-3 lesbian sex scenes per hour that can sorta get things going…so thanks for that friend!

Overall Feelings:  It’s been a pretty emotionally draining month, with my sisters wedding, Aunt Brit passing, Mary being a royal pain in the arse, teething babies, sleep deprivation, and Termination Hearing, i’ve been feeling just that!  DRAINED.  Also, I absolutely hate the summer, so being uncomfortable and the 90+ degree heat for weeks at a time, and I’m just ready for Autumn.  For Marcos’ foot to heal so we can go on a few hikes before I get too big and it gets too cold.  For Mary to start school and soccer (I’ll be coaching her team in all my pregnant splendor!).  For Biscuit to be safe and to let me feel her.  For babies to be more mobile (I’m sure I’ll regret this statement as soon as they are).  For everything to just slow down for a little while!  I’m happy as shit, but just so tired and need a little break.  I’ll be so excited when we go on our Babymoon/5 year anniversary/1 year wedding anniversary trip.  Planning is officially in full effect!

Something I Didn’t Expect:  Holy Crap!  The amount of stomach cramping!  So, at first, I was all concerned because I was like, “This can’t be normal!  Something is wrong!”  But Callie thought it might be gas.  So I sneaked off (turns out “snuck” is not even a real word! WTF!?!) to the bathroom, waited until there was no one in there, and let out the MOTHER of all farts!  I kid you not!  Even I had to look around and say, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!!!”  Sure enough, relief!  Now, I let them out everywhere (except my work desk).  I walk through Grand Central Terminal and just, let them rip!  IN bed?  Yup, you guessed it!  At my mother’s house while everyone is eating dinner! Can’t stop me now!!

Almost out of the first trimester.  Let’s go Biscuit!  Keep on growing little one!

Foster Mama

One of the questions that I find myself asking more and more is, “Will I be a good mama?” I have been an excellent daycare teacher with the most difficult children’s parents saying, “How do you do that?!?!” I am a pretty awesome babysitter, hardly ever putting an infant down, and making sure that children of all ages have age appropriate ideas and activities to do and that the TV remains OFF! I treat all the kids as if they are my own and make sure that they feel loved, respected, safe, attended, and listened to. But what about my own kids?
Will I be as great a caretaker to my own kids when I can’t send them home at the end of the day and have a few hours to decompress before I do it all over again tomorrow? Will I be able to exercise the same amount of patience with my own babies as I do with a complete strangers? Where is my guarantee that after all of the craziness and turmoil that I experienced in my life, I wont emotionally scar my children with my indecisive, free spirit, “who cares what happens next as long as we’re alive” mentality? There are a lot of things that are still so incredibly unclear. So many things that are not guaranteed.
We have been on this pregnancy journey for about 17 months, but even before that, WAY before that, Callie and I had discussed what was most important to us and for the future of our relationship. One of the things that came up was the idea of adopting or fostering to adopt. We always knew that our hearts were big enough for more than 1 child. Heck, we knew it was big enough for a preschool sized room! Bring on the babies, we thought. 5 kids?!?! Make that 10! Our own soccer team to take to the 2026 World Cup hosted right in our own backyard! Why not, right? We had talked about it several times since then, and even after our initial consultation with the fertility specialist, we still agreed that it was something very important to us and that we wanted to do regardless. And lo and behold, we take my niece to a children’s carnival, and there right in front of us, about a week after another “foster/adoption” conversation (despite fertility consultation), a booth in support of National Foster Month! How could we not sign up and get more information?! How could we possibly pass the booth by when it was so very loudly screaming, “SAMMIE!!! CALLIE!!! COME HERE!!! WE NEED YOU!!!” So we did! Obviously! And we signed up that very same day for MAPP classes (a 10 week course in learning to become foster parents).
What were we thinking!?!?! We had Dr.’s appointments twice a week, I had a new job with an inconsistent schedule, Callie had a new boss who was pulling rank and switching schedules left and right, and the only class that suited us was a Saturday morning. Did we really want to get into this? Now? On our one day off together a week? No day but today they say, and we are so glad we decided to do it. We met some really amazing like-minded people who we still stay in touch with and hang out with pretty frequently, and we learned a lot of things about ourselves with through of the sensitivity training that they offered. It allowed us to open up more about some of the things in our past, and even opened our eyes to how different some of our parenting styles are. Ultimately, it was an amazing experience.
After a load of home visits with a slew of different people, 10 weeks of classes in an unair-conditioned room in the middle of June, some MORE home visits, and then almost 8 months of waiting, we got our first placement. A set of 3.6 year old twin girls. They were only with us for about 2 weeks, but they changed our lives. They made us realize how CRAZY the child welfare system is (but that’s for a WHOLE OTHER BLOG POST!!!), how in sync we are as parents, how supportive we are of each other when we needed some parental back-up, and how much love we truly have to give. Callie still cries about those girls. A few weeks later, we got the little lady that’s been living with us for the past 3 months.
When Mary came to live with us, she was truly a lost child. Having spent most of her life surrounded by her mom and mom’s friends (not being judgmental here but lets just say they aren’t the best 20-somethings to surround your 6 year old with), she truly had no clue how to socialize or play with other children. 3 months later she looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask if I can play with her and her friends on the playground. Apparently, its for “little kids and not big people” like me! She is truly a ray of sunshine in our lives. She’s feisty, smart, rambunctious, curious, and loves her “2 best foster moms ever!!!”. She’s learning to be independent and play by herself (mainly because she trusts us enough to know that she’ll be o.k. even if we aren’t with her every moment). She’s learning to share her emotions with us and allowing us to comfort her and show her our love and support (even when being ripped from her school without a goodbye from mom in FL, she never cried), but most importantly she’s learning that we love her, and that no matter what she does, right or wrong, we are going to be there from her.
Even with all of the things that we are able to teach her, I still struggle with the notion of having my own children and being able to do what’s best from them. I somehow still try to separate being a foster parent and being a “real” parent. Aren’t they one in the same? Isn’t being a foster parent being a REAL parent? But something resonated with me this weekend when we took some friends out for a day of boating and swimming. My friend T said, “You guys are awesome parents!” We are? Stated that simply and as nonchalantly as “Pass the Grey Poupon”, but you know what? We sure are! We are pretty awesome parents.
So back to where this blog started. Will I be a good mama? From the looks of it, with the support of our loving parents, our amazing friends (who might as well be our family), our doctors and our years of experience in the childcare industry (oh yeah and GOOGLE which I can hardly survive without), I think I might just do alright! We might just do alright! I might just be cut out for this “mom” business.