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.Where 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 LEVI 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
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!?!
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!
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!