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

Sleeves in Summer

Halfway through the summer, and to say that it’s been busy is an understatement.  There has been SO much going on! Between shuttling the kids around to different activities, house/apartment hunting, vacationing, boating, and SURGERY (that’s really what this post is about), we’ve barely had time to do laundry and grocery shopping! Here’s a few pics of summer so far, just to fill you in! Few bullet points while I’m at it too!

* Mariah is having the summer of her life! Vacationing with grandparents, sailing school, soccer camp, and a visit with her birth mom coming up (ugh for us, yay for her!), she’s exclaimed several times, “BEST. SUMMER. EVER!”

IMG_8576

Hiking the Adirondaks!

IMG_8670

Learning to sail on her own

IMG_8524IMG_8569

IMG_8632

They were next!

IMG_8613

Tubing on the Delaware

* Noah has really had an explosion of language this summer.  He can often be heard around the house saying, “Ackkk-shully, I don’t want that! And ackkk-shully, it’s my turn!”  Yeah…”actually” is a real thing that my 2.5 year old says incessantly and in context.  Also, “oh shit!”  He says that quite a bit too.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  He has suddenly become this animal/bug lover and INSISTS on saying hello to every animal he sees on the street, even pigeons and squirrels and like, WHY?!?!  He is 98% potty trained with the exception of having had a handful of poop accidents, but even then it’s mostly our fault because we know his “times” and we still haven’t gotten it down to a science.  He’s working on recognizing the letters of his name, and can get through the N and the O before repeating them again for the A and H…sorta like, “my name is  NOAH and my letters is N..O…N…O”..  Yeah, that’s basically his name these past few weeks.  “NO, noah..no!”  Still as cute as ever though!

IMG_8696

“SHEEEESEEE MAMA!”

IMG_8739

IMG_8880

Potty Time!

IMG_8904

Insisting on being a “sirena” like his sister!

IMG_9090

My little animal lover

IMG_9134

First time fishing (catch and release upon Noah’s insistence!)!

IMG_9104

He loves his mama

IMG_9027

Dapper young sir

*Levi has really been a terror these past few weeks.  There have been quite a few transitions at home with vacation, packing for moving, my surgery, a new teacher in his classroom, and if there is anything we have noticed, he does not do well with change.  Throw in A LOT of change, and well, he’s miserable.  He is absolutely our rough and tumble kid though.  There is nothing that scares this kid!  Not heights, not rocks, not the dark, not the threat of a pow-pow on his tiny hiny, NOTHING!  He jumps from the 3rd step, climbs the highest chair, and always has to run, “fast, fast fast, with my light shoes”!  He’s 2 seconds from riding a two wheeler and can almost always be found sitting on his blue balance bike, even while he sits in the living room watching Mickey Mouse Roadster Racers (if i hear, “mamaaaa, kiki mouse roader racies is alllllll done! AGAIN!” one more time, I may lose it!) eating blueberries with no clothes on.  Yes, that has happened.  Several times.  He’s still our super funny, super affectionate boy who has a sweet tooth for DAYS and the tiniest sweetest little voice when he respectfully asks, “mama….may i peeeeese havie my pacieeee-fiiiiiyah!?!” Also, math skills for days.  Can count to the mid 20’s in two languages and sorting for him is a joke! Cool kid for sure.

IMG_8814

Fisrt train ride was EVERYTHING!

IMG_8747

“MAMA, I swim!”

IMG_8697

He absolutely LOVES karate!

IMG_8603

Bubble time

IMG_9030

Handsome Buddy

IMG_9113

Loving rides on Mama’s back

*Austin, well, there is so much to say about this little guy.  Currently at 19 months he outweighs his brothers by close to 7lbs (who who think he was under 4lbs when he was born!?), and is still not really speaking.  We got him approved for speech services and have been working with the coordinators to find him a bilingual therapist. He’s our best sleeper, eater, and traveler.  Most of the times he can be found on a mound of pillows mushing and cuddling, all of his own doing.  He’s expert climbing and sliding without any assistance because of the 4 words he DOES have, 3 of them are “ME DO IT!” although no one else would understand it because it sounds like, “MEyoueeeee”.  He has this ability to just know when people are not well, physically, emotionally or mentally.  In fact, we were coming out of an elevator the other day, and a woman was waiting to walk in.  2 seconds before the door closes, Austin rips outta my hands, runs towards the elevator, into the woman’s legs and hugs her.  She immediately reached down and picked him up, he hugged her, and she cried.  “I just needed that and you knew”.  The most beautiful thing?  He let her hug him and he hugged her right back.  Normally, i wouldnt be cool with this sort of thing at all, but he is such a special boy.  Love, Joy, and a different kind of innocence exudes from this kid.  Also, everyone keeps INSISTING I get him a haircut. NOPE!  So glad he’s ours…

IMG_8604

Being all patriotic!

IMG_8618

Ice Pops are his absolutely FAVE!

IMG_8909

One of the handful of words he knows is “CHEESE”

IMG_8738

Scheming lakeside

IMG_8937

Rainbow Avenger

IMG_9094

Sleepy time cuddly boy

*The Wife is working hard, getting promoted every time we have some major life event happening (2 promotions in less than 4 months!), still interested in fostering/producing more babies now that we have a big HOUSE (more on that later!), momming on level EXPERT, and still being an amazing wife to me even though I have been a less than stellar wife to her (not excusable, but you’ll understand…read on!).  Also…still the hottest woman I know, and still the best thing that could have happened to me.

IMG_9058

Me and my Love

IMG_0369

❤ ❤ ❤

IMG_0401

Always feeling lucky with this lady

IMG_8995

A “whaley” great time on family vacation 7/17

 

So about 1000 words in (you are seriously long winded Sammie, sheesh!), the real reason for this post.  “Sleeves in Summer”  is alllllll about the surgery that I had a month ago.  On 7/6/2017 at 6am, I went in to have weight loss surgery.  A month and 3 days later I am down 31 lbs and under 200lbs, which hasn’t been a thing for me in 17 years.  Since 2000, which happens to be my junior year which is why I remember it so vividly and accurately.  I remember declining going to the senior prom with a friend because I couldn’t fathom trying to find a “fat dress” since I was over 200lbs and all of my friends were all wered double 0 and shopping at Aber.Crombie which, I couldnt fit in my luscious size THIRTEEN jeans!  Seriously! a freaking 13!!! Like, Marilyn Monroe wore a 13 and I wouldn’t go to Macy’s and get a dress from the “Plus size” section! So this has been a thing for as long as I can remember.

Weight loss surgery was something that came up before with my PCP, but we always sorta said, “You’re young.  You have time.  You can always lose weight later”, but all things said and done, weight loss never happened.  I have tried EVERYTHING with the exception of Weight Watchers (mainly because I’m cheap but also because I freaking hate routine on my free time).  Curves, Insulin Resistance Diet, diet pills, dieting, exercise, food restrictions, boot camp, you name it!  It would work for a few weeks, and then i would just plateau or gain it all back.  We discussed a little more after seeing the endocrinologist how my hormones and PCOS plays a huge role in my weight loss plan, but ultimately, it was the MAIN reason I could now lose weight and KEEP it off.  I could go into very exact and medical reasons for not losing weight due to PCOS, but generally speaking, hormonal imbalance due to PCOS makes it difficult to lose weight, and losing weight is the only tried and true way to “cure” PCOS.  SO since i was about 16, it’s been this vicious cycle of +/- 50lbs every few months, which you can imagine is NOT GOOD for a human body.   So after I gave birth to Austin, Callie and I decided to look into this as a solution for a lot of my medical issues (also tied in with PCOS {and because of PCOS} is HBP, High Cholesterol, High Glucose, Sleep Apnea, and ulcers in my stomach.  Throw all of those health issues into the mix with 4 beautiful children and a hopefully LONG ASS LIFE, and nothing was jiving, so we decided that this was the best option.

I’ll say, there were two times when I thought it was the WORST possible thing I could have done.  I cried my face off saying, “WHAT HAVE I DONE!? I’ve ruined my life!”  But a month and 3 days out, 31lbs down, BP normal averaging at 127/65 (my average was usually 160/100), sleeping ALL NIGHT, and all the size 38 and 40 and XXL and XL stuff out of my closet, I have to say, best decision I could have ever made!  I may not have loads of energy now (portions are literally less than a quarter of what I used to eat so still adjusting to getting in the correct amount of protein a day which BTW is TOTALLY a process and entirely time consuming) but it feels like I’m getting back to my old self every day, and I wouldn’t change anything about this decision. Heartburn is the WORST thing i have ever experienced (never had heartburn EVER prior to surgery), but all in all, feeling good, and doing good.

I originally didn’t want to tell people that I was having this surgery.  I just didnt want people talking shit or making assumptions about me being lazy, or about me not “wanting to lose weight enough to do it naturally” (yes, someone actually said that!!! I KNOW!), but then I reminded myself, “MY life, my story, how I want it!”  And i did it.  And i couldn’t be happier.  Well, I’d be happier if I could have chocolate ice cream with chocoloate fudge, topped with Oreas and chocolate sauce!  MMMMMM! Chocolate!

IMG_8754

BEfore in MAY 2016 when I started the process

IMG_0353

July 22, 2 weeks after my procedure, same jacket

IMG_8974

On vacation one month PostOP 8/6

IMG_8973

1 month Post Op

The Gall!

(This was written a month ago, but as you can imagine once you read this, things got a little hectic, AND I was very medicated!)


In case anyone was wondering, here is a list of things that have happened in my life that have caused LESS pain than the gall stones I was dealing with:

  • Getting hit by a school bus at 13 years old
  • Having both big toenails removed practically at the same time
  • Getting kicked square in the face, full force at a karate tournament
  • Jumping off a swing but getting my shirt caught and falling on my face busting my lip open
  • Slamming my finger in a car door at 7
  • Finishing a soccer game with an ankle sprain so bad my doctor didn’t understand how it wasn’t broken
  • Giving unmedicated, vaginal childbirth

And I’d do it 100 x’s over before I feel gall bladder pain again! And good thing is, I won’t have to because they took it out and GOOD RIDDANCE! The pain of these gallstones was unlike anything I have ever felt before.

So this is sorta how it went down. Last Saturday I went in to the ER at 4am (so really Sunday early morning) in excruciating pain.  I’ve never had heartburn before (I KNOW!) and when I told Callie what my symptoms were, she said it might be that and to take some tums. About 3 hours later (and half a bottle of Tums -is that even safe?!?!) I was keeled over the arm of the couch, DEMANDING that whatever the hell had crawled ALL UP INSIDE of me to get the hell out while simultaneously thrusting my abdomen into the same armrest doing a quasi Heimlich/dry jump maneuver.  Super sexy, y’all!  All of this while I cried and vomited profusely.  When I literally couldn’t stand anymore, I woke Callie up and told her that I would be taking a cab to the hospital and that I would give her a call and let her know what was going on.

Arrived to hospital at 4am, was seen by  a few nurses to take vitals and take care of pain management stuff, waited until about 8:00am for the ultrasound tech to tell me that what the doctors suspected was correct and that I had a pretty crappy case of gallstone.  Luckily, from what the ultrasound showed, my bile duct look good, there was no inflammation to the gallbladder, and my liver looked good.  So, they gave me some pain meds (IBUPROFEN!), and Zofran for the pretty intense nausea and sent me to a follow up with my PCP the next day.

That whole following week (4/4-4/8) I had a constant dull ache right underneath my right breast.  I would classify it as a 7 on the pain scale.  Painful enough that it was noticeable and definitely uncomfortable, but not enough to keep me from working.  So I carried on as usual, although something didn’t feel right.  Because I was petrified to feel that same pain, like, EVER again, I basically refused to eat anything besides bread and water all week, so on Saturday (4/8/17), when I started to feel the pain creeping up again around 3pm, I knew it wouldn’t be good.  We were visiting Callie’s grandmother about an hour upstate, and as we were driving back close to 7pm, the pain became intolerable and I had to pull over on the highway to switch and let Callie drive so that I could lie down and just breathe through the pain.  By 9pm I had taken three 800mg ibuprofen, a Zofran (the nausea ramped up big time!), and two scalding hot bathes that seemed to be the only things that would satiate the pain.   At 4am, I was back in a cab to the hospital.

It seemed like maybe they didn’t believe that I was in as much pain as I claimed to be in, but honestly, with the Opiod epidemic in our country currently, I get it!  Same lady, two Saturday nights in a row, on the floor, literally screaming, “GIVE ME DRUGSSSSSS!!!!!!!”  My blood pressure should have been enough to show them the pain I was feeling (177/117, yeah, I KNOW!) , but nope!  I had go all out!


Phone ringing….

Mom: “HELLO?!?!  Todo esta bien?!? (Is everything ok?!?!)

Me – “MOM!!! I’m in a lot of pain, and they wont give me drugs, and you need to come here, because I’m gonna punch someone in the face, and they don’t believe me that I’m hurting, mom , and this is some ole bullshit with these damn nurses that don…..” (all in one breathe)

Mom – “SAMMIE!!!  Jew nee to calming down becoz, de lady, chee not gonna give you nossin! NOSSIN if jew gonna be a meanie to dem.  So, jew know, taken it easy!

Me: “MOMMY!  You need to just come!”

Mom: “Ay Dios Mio!  Ok, Mami is coming…”


Mami got to the hospital in about 20 minutes, came in to check on me.  They had given me 4ml of morphine at this point, and NOTHING.  When my mom walked in, I was standing in front of the bed, rocking back and forth as if in labor pain.  I was crying, and in lots of pain.  My mom stepped out into the hallway, yelled at a handful of nurses, “My dotah es in a lotta pain!  Please!  Jew don hearing her!?  Chee’s berry estrong, and if chee is crying, jew job es to heling her!  GO HELPING HER!!!!”

So, thanks mom, because that Dilotin was EVERYTHING!  Same gig as the week before.  Waiting till after 8 for the ultrasound tech who basically said the same thing as the last week.  This time though, she thought it would be best to speak to the surgeon since I was clearly in a lot of pain, and it wasn’t going away even with pain medication.  So around 10am, the surgical team came in, told me they would admit me and monitor me, pump me up with antibiotics (since my white blood cell count came back pretty elevated) and re-hydrate me.   So I was admitted, sent up to a private room, and loaded up with meds, both painkillers, antibiotics, and fluids.  Next morning, head surgeon came in and basically said, “Ultrasound doesn’t look terrible, but you’re clearly in a lot of pain.  White blood cell count hasn’t changed much so you’re clearly fighting something, so we’re gonna go in this afternoon and see what’s going on.”

I was taken back to surgery at 3:30pm, and I’ll be honest, don’t remember much for the rest of that day.  On Tuesday morning after surgery, the surgeon came in and filled me in. Turns out my surgery took about an hour and 15 minutes longer than it should have because my gallbladder was so incredibly inflamed that it was starting fuse with my liver.  The way he described it was sort of like my gallbladder was chronically sick.  So, he’s glad they went in and took it out because he made it seem like that pain would be pretty consistent. And also, the 7 he said I felt all week was likely a 10 for a normal person and that he has no idea how I was able to work like that all week, and that when I was saying that my pain was at a 13, he knows it was well off the chart!surgery

Sooooo, all of that to say, my gallbladder is out, thank the sweet LAWD! It was quite the experience, and lest we forget the “no lifting for 6 weeks” rule, so you know it’s been pretty interesting and also innovative ( and sometimes ingenious!) trying to figure out how to move around 3 babies without lifting.  CALVES BE ON POINT, YO!!!

About a month later, I’m feeling pretty good, down 58lbs in 6 months (thanks to the additional 8.5lbs I lost in the one week from barely eating), getting ready for surgery again at the end of July (that one was planned and it’s for another post), spending more time outside with my family (the new flexibility with my schedule is INCREDIBLE), volunteering at my church more (finding God has been another adventure that I wasn’t expecting and has been BEAUTIFUL but more on that in another post as well) and really, just being the best mom, wife, and worker (in that order!) that I can be. All is well on this end, friends.  All is well….for the most part…

~S

Our First (Official) Family Photo Shoot!

The excitement of Adoption Day still has our family buzzing and feeling electric!  WOW!  It’s interesting, because nothing has changed, but EVERYTHING has changed!  Now, we’re busy planning sleepovers (since for 3 years she wasn’t allowed to sleep any where that wasn’t a certified foster home), getting passports for family vacations, (my parents are wanting to take us all on a Disney Cruise, and they want to take Mariah and my niece away for a week to Niagara Falls this summer), booking sleep away camp, and transferring all of Mariah’s documentation at all of her respective places.  You know, getting adopted seems like it means a lot less time with Mamas and lots more time with everyone else! Hmph!

Just a few more things to square away to transition Mariah out of Foster Care and into her Adoptive home.  And clearly, since you already know we do Milestone Parties pretty huge, Mariah will be having an “Oh-FISH-ially Forever Family” party which already has preparations under way and has an invite list of approximately 150 people!  You know, something light! LOL!   A colorful underwater extravaganza  with fish and octopi and mermaids GALORE!  Should be pretty amazing.

I hired a friend of mine to take some photos for us.  Jesse Rinka, you have outdone yourself again, friend!

IMG_7268

The judge was asking Mariah how she felt about her adoption. “EXCITED!!!”

IMG_7270

Papo paying close attention to the judge AND his bottle.

IMG_7271

Does this even need a caption!?!

IMG_7273

If anyone wants to know what my life is like? THIS! In a nutshell!

IMG_7276

OFFICIALLY A FAMILY!!!

IMG_7278

Mama being silly (as usual) to get some laughs and giggles from everyone.

IMG_7279

Annnnnndddd, they’re off!

IMG_7280

Whenever we go out, I can almost guarantee that this is the scene you will likely see. I’m sure you can tell, she’s the princess!

IMG_7281

IMG_7282

Hugs for everyone!

IMG_7283

IMG_7286

With her beloved grandparents. Her relationships with them individualy is so beautiful to watch. It reminds me of the special times I shared with my grandpartents and the special memories I always treasure in my heart.

IMG_7287

Our girl!

IMG_7288IMG_7290IMG_7293IMG_7291

IMG_7292

“For those determined to fly, having no wings is just a little detail.” Jane Lee Logan

A Letter to My Daughter…

…on the night before her adoption…

adoption-heart-22166905

 


My favorite CooCoo,

Before you came to join our family, mommy and I wanted to be moms really badly, but Mommy was having a really hard time getting her body to grow one, and Mama wasn’t sure her body would be ready for it either. We decided that maybe being foster parents would be pretty awesome, and we would get to spend some time with some really fun (and cute!) tiny people and do our best to give them a good life and a place where they could feel safe.  We didn’t  EVER think that we would be so lucky to have God help us find each other.  Mary, since you joined our family everything has changed! Actually, we weren’t even a family until you showed up! It was just “Sammie and Callie”.

I remember everything about that day.  Mommy and I were sitting on the couch, all day, drinking hot chocolate, waiting for Ms, A. to call us and let us know that you were on your way.  When she finally called,  mommy and I started to get nervous.  We didn’t know what to expect!  We walked back and forth to your room several times to straighten the toys on the shelf, open and close the curtains, fluff the pillows and pull the comforter taut, adjusting the lampshade on your night table to make sure it lit up all the books that were our favorites growing up that we hoped you would love as much as we did.

The next 3 hours passed very quickly, but also REALLY slowly!  We watched TV, I chewed on my nails, mommy fixed her hair A LOT, and we sat thinking about what it would be like to have a daughter, even if it was just for a little while!  As we imagined our lives with a beautiful little girl in it, we were startled out of our seats when the door buzzer sounded.  I went downstairs to be greeted by a woman that told me that you were asleep in the car and that it had been a pretty exciting and scary day for you because you were taken away from your birth mom (super scary and really sad) but you got to go on your first plane ride EVER (which she says was super exciting for you).

I walked over to a small white car and noticed a little pink ball of fluff in the back seat and a white cardboard box sitting next to it.  Suddenly, the fluff moved, and that’s when I realized, that fluff was YOU!  I opened the door to these big, gorgeous green eyes, and I picked you up in my arms and carried you back to our apartment.  You had just turned 6 years old, but in my arms you felt much smaller that.  You put your head on my shoulder, and my heart knew I would always be your Mama.

It was just after midnight but we gave you a yummy snack, we watched some TV, and we showed you your new room.  You weren’t happy about any of the changes at first (we know how hard it was on you), but after a few weeks, it was like we had always been together.  Like we had always been a family.  Since then, a lot of things have changed (some good, some bad, some happy, some sad), but through all of those things, we have been a family and we have always gotten through those times with love.

In the 3 years since we’ve been a together we have seen you grow so much.  We have seen you not really know your entire alphabet and the sounds the letters make, to reading Harry Potter with me at night.  I’ve seen you go from coloring outside the lines to making fantastically colorful creations that our friends and family are so proud to display on their fridges.  You are the best big sister EVER, and whenever people take care of the 4 of you they always say, “We don’t know WHAT we would have done without Mary!  She is so helpful and really loves her brothers!”  That makes me and mommy feel really proud of you!  You have gone from a quiet, reserved, shy kindergartener, to a fierce, strong, soccer loving, friend making machine, with a smile that lights up the whole room!  CooCoo, you are the best kid that could have ever come to our family!  We are so, so lucky!!!

We know that you have a lot of feelings about finally being adopted.  You’ve told us about your excitement and your fears and concerns, and I promise you that Mommy and I will always listen to you and we will always try our best to give you honest, open, and loving answers to your questions. Sometimes, you may not like the things that we have to say, and sometimes those things will make you feel pretty sad, but it’s important to remember that we would never do anything to hurt you, and we want to always tell the truth, because remember what we always say at Casa Mendez, “This family doesn’t lie to each other because if we lie we won’t trust and if we don’t have trust, we don’t have anything.”

We love watching you grow.  We love watching you laugh.  We love watching you play.  We love watching you learn.  We love watching your relationship with your brothers. We love YOU.  You, You, YOU!

You’ll always be my best girl,
Mama

(PS – be prepared for the BARRAGE of pictures that will flood my next post!!!)

adopt

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…

Conditions…

Another Christmas has come and gone, and I couldn’t be happier that all the holiday madness is over (for the most part!). The kids had a blast!  They opened up all their presents (AT 6:30 AM!), had our new favorite holiday tradition of Christmas Pancakes (just some green and red sprinkles in the batter)IMG_6440.PNG, went to my sisters, and spent time with family.  They haven’t stopped playing with their toys since Christmas morning.  You have no idea how fun it is to pry a toddler off of a balance bike while he grips the handle bars and wraps his legs around it, to the point that you just carry him AND the bike to the changing table and figure out how to NOT get poop on everything.  That LITERALLY happened!  Levi!  And my house is impeccable now that Noah got a mini vacuum that REALLY works. “Come on Nene, follow mama, and you clean, ok!?”  We haven’t had a scrap on the floor, what with the toy “real” vacuum, and our real human vacuum (Austin)!  Mary has been dying to ride her bike, but NY has had less than perfect Holiday weather filled with unseasonably warm weather with loads of rain, and the one day that was beautiful, we were just so busy, but she has flown her remote control hummingbird all over the house, and into ever single wall, sooooo…

IMG_6404.JPG

And since we are speaking of Mary, part of her adoption “contract”, if you will, is that her mom would sign over her rights under very specific conditions that have been agreed upon.  The two main conditions (which also have conditions!) are a monthly email with 2-3 pictures of Mary and a brief snippet of what her month has has been like, i.e. “she is doing well in school.  She scored two goals at soccer 2 weeks ago.  We’ll be on vacation next week and she’s looking forward to it”.  Simple as that.  Not über crazy and not too involved.  I get it.  She just wants to know OF her biological daughter, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be the same considering the circumstances.  She also gets a quarterly visit.  One visit every 3 months, 4 times a year.

Initially we thought everyone on our end would be ok with this, but we didn’t consider Mary’s behavior/emotional well being with the continuation of visits, and ALSO knowing that her birth mom has her baby sister and not her has been a real source of the constant PAIN IN MY ASS that I’m dealing with as far as Mary’s conflicting emotions are concerned.  We’ve noticed that this is a continuous cycle with Mary every time she does/doesn’t have visits, or whenever she does/doesn’t see her mom.  The behaviors, the anger, the sadness is the same regardless of whether these visits happen or not.  In August, mom missed her first visit, which led it be a little over 6 months since Mary had any contact with her birth mom.  She was great all summer, up until the week before she knew her visit was coming.  Then mom missed the visit, and all hell broke loose for about 6 weeks, behavior-wise. 3 more months pass.  Mom shows up in November, with a trove of gifts, which of course sends a whole slew of different messages.  And then the ” I really love my mom.  She’s a good mom because she buys me cool and pretty things” conversation happened, which was really hard to reign in because…ego…

I guess the whole reason I’m bringing this up is because her birth mom emailed me back this time, the day after Christmas (even though I send the monthly email on the first of each month, and she never writes back!) to ask for us to please consider inviting her to Mary’s birthday party.  That it would make her year, and that she would want nothing more than to share Mary’s special day.  Uh, EXCUSE ME!?!  Now?!  After 3 birthday invites?  So of course, despite trying my hardest, my alter Petty LaBelle showed up, and the response was so protective and almost guttural, verbatim, “Hi there.  Unfortunately, Mary is have a huge “Adoption Day Party” (her choice) and we’ve decided to forgo a 9th birthday party and will instead be spending a weekend at an indoor water park with her best friend and her favorite cousin.  Hope you have a Happy New Year.  Stay blessed! ~Petty Labelle” .

And now I feel HORRIBLE about it!  I mean, there was other stuff in the email that she wanted addressed (Mary’s current size, her favorite show/activity, what she’s into now [Descendants!], how her holiday was, what she got, etc.) which I had absolutely no issue with, but I was so caught up in the BS of kind of proving she’s OUR daughter now, that I forgot to be kind to her.  I can’t imagine the struggle.  I can ABSOLUTELY imagine what it’s like to not have my children, and it is the WORST feeling I have ever felt just THINKING about it!  And I should have been kinder, but also, the freaking audacity!  The times that we have invited her, she hasn’t shown up.  In fact, she promised Mary a cake, and fell of the face of the earth, so my “guarded” feelings about Mary’s day were totally warranted, but maybe my delivery was a little too much.

I’ll be kinder next time, placing myself in her shoes, but also, by being honest and beginning to address some of the issues we have with her, will communicate what OUR needs are to keep Mary’s heart safe and happy.  My gut tells me that Mary’s mom will be around, and despite everything, so long as the relationship improves and the honesty and trust us there, I’m pretty ok with that. In what capacity she’ll be around is still unclear, but I know their hearts are very connected, and I can’t see myself not honoring what my daughters heart is telling her, but I also know that sometimes we don’t make the best choices when we ONLY let our hearts lead the way.  Life experience is huge, and Mary has had tons but her loyalty is blinding…also, 8 years old!  Mary will learn things in her own time, as she should.  She will develop a relationship with her birth mom at some point, but for right now, we are in charge of those interactions, and reiterating who we are to Mary and to her birth mom, the gentle reminders of “you lost your opportunity to be in charge here” for birth mom, and also trying our damnedest to give love and hope and opportunity to the woman who gave us one of our most precious gifts…

We’ll always be somewhat indebted to her, and we should start reminding ourselves of that a little…img_6441

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes…

In May, we went to family court to start to determine what was going to happen as far as Mary’s permanency was concerned.  Mary’s birth mom felt that if she didn’t commit to signing a Conditional Surrender ([CS]signing over your parental rights with certain conditions attached) she would never be able to see her daughter again.  She figured that the court would see her as unfit and decide in our favor and that the termination of her rights by the court and not of her own volition, is not what she wanted.  Signing over her right would allow her to negotiate the terms of the surrender, and she would essentially be in charge of her own fate.

Before court that day, in fact, once they switch Mary’s track from reunification to adoption, Callie and I had been discussing what the conditional surrender would look like if Mary’s birth ever even considered it an option (initially was very adamant that she would NEVER, EVER sign a surrender!).  We decided initially on no visits and bi-annual emails.  Eventually, we put our own feelings aside when we really started listening to Mary and what she wanted.  She absolutely wants to be able to see her mother and her baby sister and loves them dearly.  Having grown up without knowing or having access to my biological father has affected me in ways that I didn’t even know until multiple therapist have brought it up!  After really talking this one out, we wanted what was best for Mary emotionally, developmentally, and mentally.  We figured keeping her connected to her birth mom was important for her, and as her moms, we wanted to make that happened.

A few days after all of the paperwork was signed in court, we doubled down on our promise to Mary about keeping her connected to her birth family by sending her mom an email.  We wanted to makes sure that if we were going to begin to foster a relationship with B-Ma (Birth Mother), we wanted to establish some ground rules and really, tackle the elephant in the room. That BY LAW we are now her mothers, and BY LAW she was not.  Callie and I sat over the course of the next couple of days deciding the best way to address our current predicament.  Callie has a much more gentle and well rounded approach. I am a lot more direct and tend not to sweeten or soften things up, so most of our time was spent reviewing the email and her telling me that I can’t call her a ” drug addict who needs to get her life together because you have two kids that aren’t in your care, and how many damn chances do you need?!?!”.  We sent an email expressing our concerns about beginning a relationship with her and how her behavior and  inability to be consistent and present for Mary is detrimental to her.  That in order for our relationship to work and for her to be a part of Mary’s life besides the 4 quarterly visits a year, we needed to be able to trust her.  We needed to be able to take her word.  We needed to be able to communicate effectively. That we needed to see for ourselves that she was committed to being an active member of Mary’s life.  Of all those things though, our emphasis was TRUST, because honestly the only information that we have to go on and the only experiences we have with her have proven to us that “trustworthy” is probably the last quality would we would think of to describe her.  In fact, if actually asked that question, I don’t think “trustworthy” would be a word that we would even think about!  But, we sent the email.  And, she responded, an was so happy and excited that we were willing to give the opportunity to be in her daughter life.  We’ve been corresponding quite a bit.  In fact, she even bought Mary a ton of summer clothes and sneakers, a new writing journal for her stories, and underwear and socks.

In compliance with the CS, we’ve been in touch with Mary’s caseworker (since she is technically still a ward of our county, Dept. Of Social Services is still responsible until adoption is fully granted) who is responsible for setting up the first meeting of these quarterly visits. After going back and forth most of July with B-Ma about making arrangements for a visit in August, they decided that Mary’s Visit with B-Ma would be 8/2.  Our worker ended up having a family emergency that day and had to reschedule. So they did, for 8/9, but because of transportation issues with Mary going to camp outside of our county, they had to reschedule the visit again to submit a request for out of county transport and it required 14 days to approve.  Visit now scheduled for 8/24.  After emailing a few times, and B-Ma being in contact with the caseworker, everything was on track.  Wednesday morning, we sent Mary to camp with one of the outfits her mom had given her and a huge smile on her face.  She boarded the bus, gets to the facility, meets her worker, hugs him, gets in the elevator and heads up to the visiting room only to find out that B-Ma….

Didn’t show up!  She didn’t freaking show up!  After all of the emails, all of the confirmations, all of the arranging and re-arranging to accommodate her!  After a clean drug test 3 days before.  After having discussed in detail what her missing visits does to our daughter and how it is so detrimental to her!  After all of that and you don’t show up?!?!?!   Are you serious!?!  And you want to know why?!  Because her boyfriend, the new babies father, didn’t leave her a Metrocard (A $2 and 75 cent fucking card!) to take the bus, and she didn’t bother calling, better yet, EMAILING the worker who has NO ACCESS to his computer during a visit, until 11:20 when the visit started at 11!  You guys!  You have to read her email and her desperation to see her daughter because 3 months is “the longest I have gone without seeing my baby”, which is bullshit because she disappeared for over 6 months a year and a half ago!  And then you don’t fucking show up?! So, our worker, who is incredible, took Mary outside to the waterfront, to eat Icee’s and play I-Spy, and after the hour was up, put a really upset kid back on a bus to camp, to sit in her own sorrow the rest of the day.

Luckily, it seems like Mary is kind of over her B-Ma, and we’re cool with that.  I think that she is starting to recognize that her mom is just never really gonna be good at making the right choices.  Despite the days events, she was in one of the best moods I had seen her in all summer.  I think the concert at the park, gourmet grilled cheeses for dinner, unlimited use of my Pokemon GO app, and ice cream cones before bed helped make it better, for sure!  But I couldn’t let it go!  I wrote.  And I wrote. And I wrote.  And Callie edited, edited edited!  And an email was put together reminding B-Ma that that was strike one of two, and that we aren’t going to be doing this anymore.  That Mary is our daughter and we treat her and love her like our own flesh and blood.  That she is our first baby, and that as parents we would do anything to protect her from being hurt.  That we would do anything to ensure her happiness.  And that we would not allow her to continue to hurt her. No, we will NOT be rescheduling your visit.  You can see her in November.  And NO, we will not make up lies and tall tales to protect Mary from your inconstancy.  And mainly that we, unlike the system, are not paid/inclined to give her a million chances, and that we will absolutely, without question, no longer tolerate all of your fuckery!

She hasn’t responded.  Not sure if she will.  Callie blames her missed visit on forgetfulness.  I blame the forgetfulness on pregnancy brain…oh yeah, I filed to mention…She’s pregnant again…

 

6 Months and So Much More…

IMG_5084

I can’t believe that this little guy is 6 months old! Well, 6 months, a week, and 2 days at this point, but nonetheless, 6 whole friggin months! I’m still in awe that my tiny little premature 3.9lbs baby is this chubby little wiggly, giggly, drooly thing.  It’s also interesting to think that just under a year ago, we did this TWICE over and it’s all still so new.

Austin Ryan is approximately 16lbs, you know, the “let me hold this baby while I weigh myself” strategy.  At 6 months old, adjusted age at 27 weeks or exactly 4 months and a day (which is weird how that works out!) he already weighs more than the boys did at almost a year old!  This kid can eat!  He drinks anywhere from 4-5 ounces every 2-3 hours.  The only time he doesn’t follow that schedule is when he is sleeping, but he’s not that great of a sleeper…at all.  Unlike his brothers, who by 4months were sleeping through the night, Austin is still waking up regularly every 3-4 hours.  He goes down at 8pm, then gets up just before midnight and takes another bottle, then goes down again until about 3am, and then again at around 5:30-6pm.  He’s still nursing, and we co-sleep after his 3am feeding, but we’ll get into that in a few.  I’m starting to wean (seriously sobbing here folks) and it’s really just a lot to handle right now.

We have had a few concerns with Austin’s development, so we had him evaluated by Early Intervention. As we anticipated, our suspicions were right.  Austin has a bit of a delay when it comes to his gross and fine motor skills.  He just recently (within the past 2 weeks) started holding his head up and pushing up on his hands, but still isn’t really reaching for anything since he is still heavily relying on his hands to hold him up.  He also started rolling from belly to back at about the same time.  The good thing is, cognitively, there are no concerns.  He follows objects with his eyes.  He coos and laughs.  He smiles socially.  Everything else looks pretty good, but he’ll be starting services pretty soon.  I’m scheduling a meeting with his coordinator as we speak, to try and get him started ASAP with his twice a week therapy.  Otherwise, this little guy is doing everything he needs to do.  IMG_5136

Now, breastfeeding…I’ll be honest, I don’t even know how to write about this without being in tears.  So for many reasons (which I’ll explain) I have decided to stop nursing Austin and start weening.  I’m super sad about it y’all, and haven’t stopped crying since last night when I finally made the decision.  I’ve been going back and forth about this for the past almost 2 months, since Austin went from drinking 3oz to drinking about 5oz.  So, since Austin was born, it has been quite the struggle to get my supply up.  From day one, he was taking 10cc’s of breast milk.  I was making just that.  When they were gradually increasing him in the NICU (2-5cc’s about every other day) my body was able to keep up with his needs, and I basically exclusively pumped and he was getting about 70/30 breast milk/formula until we left the hospital.  Nursing Austin those first few weeks at home were really difficult.  He was having a hard time latching and he wasn’t able to get all of the milk and properly drain my breasts, so most of my first few weeks of him being home consisted of nursing, pumping, washing pump parts and bottles, and doing it all over again.  For some strange reason, my left breast wouldn’t respond to a pump OR a baby well, so I always have to hand express the left breast, so if feeding and pumping wasn’t enough of a pain in the ass, I ALSO have to hand express! I’ve ALWAYS had to supplement with formula (almost always, 2 of his 8-10 bottles a day were formula, and I am absolutely OK with that!).  I’ve taken every herb you can think of, drank enough water to probably hydrate every person in China TWICE, and even used Domperidone as a last resort to increase my milk supply as much as possible, and even then, after all of that, I was still only pumping about 8oz a day. Not a session but A DAY, and that was a freaking good day, because on average it was closer to about 6.  IMG_5104

I gave it 6 god months and that’s not including all of the months that I did my best to try and nurse Noah and Levi.  I LOVE nursing Austin.  I adore the way he reaches for my fingers, or how he looks at me and smiles mid nurse.  I will never get enough of his big, beautiful brown eyes staring up at mine.  I don’t know how I’m going to handle this when he doesn’t nurse, AT ALL anymore, and even thinking about it is enough to make me tell me boss that I’m not feeling well, so that I can go home and throw myself onto my bed and heavily sob about it.  Nursing and pumping is such hard work, and the amount of hard work that it takes to come home after 3 30 minute pumping sessions with hardly enough milk to make one bottle is really disheartening and saddening and upsetting.  It’s frustrating that no matter what I do, I just can’t make enough milk.  And the shit is, I was totally OK with that until this past month.  I was absolutely fine with just nursing him when I was at home and diligently pumping throughout my work day, but it’s gotten to be too much for too little.  There are also other things that played a role in this.  For starters, my two big toes have pretty terrible nail fungus (all those years of playing soccer and ingrown toe nails and what have you) and the only way to correct it is to take an oral medication (which I can’t take because I’m nursing) or to pull the nails off and laser the nail bed (which they won’t do until I’m done nursing).  Also, I went to see a bariatric surgeon on Friday in order to get gastric sleeve surgery (that’s for another post entirely!) but because of the caloric intake that is required for nursing as well as the water intake, not only for myself but for milk production, it would be extremely easy for me to dehydrate if I were nursing. Those 2 things combined with the small amount that I’m producing, it just seemed like, for me, it was probably time, despite not wanting to at all.IMG_5128

I know that solid food if coming now.  I KNOW that he is getting what he needs from formula, but it breaks my damn heart to know that I won’t have all of our special cuddles, if that makes any sense.  I’m really struggling here friends.  This is a tough, sad day for me.  I’ve gone from pumping at  9, 12, and 3 at work, to 10 and 2.  Then I nurse him when I get home at 6, then I’ll nurse him again around 10, and then at 6 before we head out to daycare.  I’ll do that for the next week or so. Then I’ll take it down another 2 sessions, and we’ll go from there and re-adjust again.  And to makes matters all the more pleasant, I also started my period after almost 17 months!  Levi didn’t get approved for speech therapy because he doesn’t have a significant ENOUGH delay (he’s at a 12 month level for speech which only puts him at a 25% delay and he needs a 33% delay to get services), so that sucks because he needs it!  Noah is having tube surgery in August.  My poor baby couldn’t hear at the appointment when they did his hearing test (little drum tapping mechanical stuffed animals making noise in the corners of a room that he was supposed to look at when they turn on, and half the time he had no clue they were making noise), and of course Mama was a hot, snotty, crying mess!  Mary’s adoption may take longer than we originally anticipated because the caseworker that we have been working with for over 2 years got reassigned to a different district so we will have a new worker taking over who has to get all of her paperwork in order, and it’s just a true pain in the ass.  So basically, the past couple of days have been…days, to say the least.  Wish this mama some luck with keeping her emotions in check this week and if you don’t pray, do whatever it is that you do and send some calming, “help with this new adjustment” vibes this way.  I sure could use them…

Good thing this face helps…

IMG_5154

IMG_5095

IMG_5040