It’s true! I DON’T! Not now, not ever, but it has been a discussion.
That’s a thing. Well, let me rephrase that. It’s not a “thing” in the sense that it’s gonna happen ( I don’t think), but it’s something that in the past year, in all of its craziness and joy and happiness and flow, has been something that has been thrown into our arguments now and again. About 6 months ago, it became a real discussion, and so, we began to go to couples therapy.
Has it worked? Welllllllllllllllllllll ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that’s subjective. I would say for me it has. Callie would say, probably not, but I keep going and I keep showing up, and I keep practicing what we are told to do. Whether or not it’s been reciprocated seems pretty subjective as well. So, we’re here, another week of arguing and another week of trying to figure out where we go from here.
The thing is, it has nothing to do with love, and I think we both know that. It has everything to do with communication and listening. See, most of you know, I did quite a bit of intensive therapy for the better part of 2 years. I spent 2+ months inpatient, then did 3 weeks in a partial program, then did 90 days in a substance abuse program, and then did 20 months in an outpatient, M-F 8-3pm DBT program, where I really worked on the things that had been plaguing me my whole life and I became very aware and in tune, and was taught and learned how to be an effective communicator and active listener. Callie struggles
like hell a little with the “active” part, and is so quick and chomping at the bit to get her point across that she totally misses what I’m saying, and sooooo, arguments start because I refuse to listen since I wasn’t listened to, and boom! Disaster, and then divorce comes up.
I get it! 5 kids in about 3 years is no joke! It’s just been transition into transition into adjustment and then adjusting to THAT adjustment. These 3 years have been beautiful but also bananas! So I get it, especially when you have a person like Callie who generally speaking, doesn’t do well with change , who needs a lot of sleep to function (so you can imagine that with 4 under 3 currently, is quite impossible), and who needs things planned out pretty strategically in order to make it all work. I, on the other hand am pretty much the complete opposite. I LOVE change and embrace it (I move the furniture in the rooms in my home 2-3 x’s a year because I get bored looking at it the same way), I can survive on about 3 hours a sleep a night (so long as I get a day a month to just crash and vegetate!) and spontaneous plans always seem to be the best to me.
I’ll be honest though. This is sort of the abridged version of what has been going on in our relationship the better part of the past year. There’s the hoarding issue for me and the cleaning issue for her. There’s the “you don’t help enough” issue for me, and the “you want to do too much” issue for her. There’s the “can we go out and stop being antisocial because I need people in my life?” issue, and the “don’t we have enough people to entertain today?” issue for her. I mean, it’s lots of stuff, and it seems to not be getting sorted out quickly enough, which could potentially cause more damage since we both seem to just want this sorted out but can’t seem to figure out how to get there!
We are creeping up on 7 years together in 2 weeks, and I’m wondering if that “Seven year” nonsense could potentially be a real thing. With some of our close friends divorcing after 7 years together, we wonder if that’s where our lives our heading. Can we just not agree on anything? Can we just continue to not be intimate after months! Is it really all about winning and losing, or who is right and who is wrong? When will all of this anger, resentment, anxiety, and helplessness subside?
As much as I love my wife is the same amount as I have been struggling, particularly these past 3 months, to stay. To try and understand some of her needs that just seem really crazy and illogical to me. I’m trying! I’m really trying, because I love my kids, and I love this family, and I love the time that we share together, and I fucking love my wife, but admittedly, I don’t love to feel ignored, or to be treated like I don’t count, or to be so angry and sad all the time. We have amazing, beautiful moments nearly every day, but the arguments are so ferocious and so angry and so loaded with venom that it’s difficult to see past it sometimes.
I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep fighting because I don’t want to be away from my family or my wife, but for my own sanity, I don’t know how much longer I can take the arguing and the need for her to be right all the time. It’s really hard, friends. Really fucking hard. Hopefully, this is fleeting. Hopefully, this is just a “thing” kind of like conversations about separation and divorce are at the moment. Hopefully, we can muster up the courage to just say “Yes dear” for a little bit for the sake of peace and sorting things out. Who knows how this will all work out! Worst case scenario, we have a mother/daughter set up in the house, and the basement is currently rented. It could suddenly be unrented with 60 days notice according to their lease. Hopefully, THAT won’t also become a thing.
With anniversary looming, and seven years on the line, I’m committed to trying my best to make US our best and have THE BEST life possible…especially because our kids are so damn awesome and I’d hate to fuck them up with a possible divorce. That would be the worst thing I could have imagine for not only my life but their also. And I wanted to say in advance, thanks for reading this and letting me vent because I have 2 people that I have been able to talk to this about for the sake of not getting too many opinions and not talking to our friends who are invested in our lives and marriage the way we are in theirs. One is my bestie blogger friend, and the other is my mother, both who understand how difficult this is, but also encourage me to both follow my heart but also to keep fighting. My heart and the fight are one in the same. So, I’ll lace up these boots, fill my Camelbak (With Chardonnay!), and get to trekking on this journey of recovering what we lost somewhere between bliss and 5 kids.
To lighten up this post a little….TADA! The kids!
…on the night before her adoption…
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,
(PS – be prepared for the BARRAGE of pictures that will flood my next post!!!)
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!
On March 28th, it’ll be 3 years since Mary has joined our family and stolen our hearts. It’s been just over two years that Mary has been the greatest big sister anyone could ask for. It’s been just under 10 months since Mary’s mom signed over her parental rights. It’s been 2 weeks since we told Mary why. And now, FINALLY, two weeks from today, this long, drawn out nightmare will be over, and we can start writing this new part of our journey as Mary’s forever family. And I can’t even describe what this family feels like right now…
When we told her that we finally got a date, the excitement that she displayed was incredible! Her cheeks got flush, she started sweating, her eyes aglow, and if you know my kid, you know there is nothing better than that smile of hers, but this one?! WOW! I wish there were some type of device that could bottle up the joy in children’s squeals when they recognize that they are getting the things they’ve always wanted. I’d take it with me everywhere and listen as a reminder of unadulterated joy! It was such a beautiful moment for Callie and I to share with her, and we relived it again several times after Mary was sound asleep.
We’re just as excited as she is for it! She’s REALLY gonna be ours! And not that she hasn’t always been, because she has, but now, no one can ever SAY it! Not unless they want a damn paper cut from how freaking fast I will whip out that damn adoption certificate! Don’t play wit me! But this just rounds out a pretty amazing week of awesome news; great times with great people, celebrating my sisters pregnancy and the coming arrival of the new baby (boy is my guess!), promotion, and now adoption finalization date! Friends, life is pretty freaking good….
Tuesday evening, the elevator climbs up the 3 floors to our apartment. Before I put my key in the door, I take a deep breath and prepare myself for what will possibly be a tough night of explaining what happens next and trying to manage loads and loads of tears, but before I turn the key, I hear squeals and laughter. I slowly open the door, and the boys are sitting on the floor stacking a few boxes and knocking them down, thinking it is the most hilarious thing they have ever done/seen. I hear voices in the kitchen…more laughter.
Mary and Callie are talking. Mary is sitting on the step stool, elbows on her knees, chin resting in the palm of her hands. She looks…happy…which is not really what I expected.
Hey my two favorite ladies! How’s everything? What are you talking about?!
I have a lot of feelings.
Hmm, you do? Well, what are they?! Wanna talk about it?!
I was talking to mommy about it. I was telling her I went to parenting. (Mary goes to parenting for an hour once/week. Her and her mom meet with a therapist who monitors and corrects/applauds/helps with positive and appropriate interactions)
Oh, yeah! And how was it? Did you and your mom play games?
No, we just talked.
Oh! Well, that’s important stuff to talk about! And what did she say about it?!
She said that I’m getting adopted.
SHE DID! ::GASP:: And how did that make you feel when she told you that?
It made me feel really happy and really sad at the same time.
You wanna tell me more about that? Why happy and why sad?
Sad because I won’t see my mom so much anymore. I can only see her 4 times a year, so that means I can only see my baby sister 4 times a year, and I won’t be able to see my family, like my Titi (mom’s sister) or my grandma (who passed away right before Austin was born and mom still hasn’t told her) or my cousins in Florida, that I forget their names, and that makes me sad. But happy because I never have to leave again and I can stay here with you and mommy and my brothers, and we can be a family. Oh, and I can sleep over Wita’s house with Izzy whenever I want!!!
We didn’t think that Mary would be able to absorb this huge news and process it so quickly, but it’s 2 days later and all we see is the hugest change in her behavior and her demeanor. She’s always been upbeat, funny, helpful, but lately it hasn’t been at the level that it’s always been. She’s been dragging her feet a little more, being a little more whiny and complainy about the tiniest things, short of patience, lots of errors on her homework from being careless and uninterested, but just in the past 2 days she has somehow, in some weird way, flourished. It’s like she became a whole new kid, literally overnight! She set the table without being prompted. She’s not only been brushing her teeth, but FLOSSING without having to be told. Her bed has been made the past 2 days before I am even up in the morning. Not a single mistake on her homework in the past 2 days. She can concentrate. She’s been sleeping (she was having severe anxiety and hasn’t slept soundly in a couple of weeks). I mean, who would have thought that just KNOWING that you aren’t leaving again can make such a huge difference. That same afternoon she came home with a Green Card from the after-school program. I don’t know, but it can’t possibly be a coincidence that Mary hears the news that she is going to have a forever family after 5 years in foster care and gets rewarded for EXCELLENT behavior. I don’t know why we were expecting her to be beside herself, and lost. She has expressed over and over again that she wants to be adopted. We should have known that this news would flip her life around, but in an amazing way.
When Mary went to bed, Callie and I talked. Mary and her mom met with the parenting therapist from 2-3pm , and then Mary went on her own to touch base with her individual therapist from 3-3:30. Mary’s therapist had called Callie and told her how it went down. Lisa, Mary’s mom, explained that the judge had made the choice to make Mary adoptable. She told her that she would only be seeing her 4 times a year. She also said that Mary could see her whenever she wanted as long as we thought it was ok, and the parenting therapist cosigned that ish! Callie and I were pretty upset about this, but luckily Mary had told her individual therapist that it was said, and she corrected it right away telling Mary that the judge said it was only 4 times and that was it, and also confronting the parenting lady and telling her that it was inappropriate to agree with that. We aren’t really fans of the parenting coach. This is the same lady that let Mary’s mom tell her that we aren’t her parents and that those aren’t her brothers, and Mary came home really hurt and upset about it.
Mary asked mom some hard questions. “Why didn’t you do the right thing so you could get me back? Why didn’t you make good choices? Why is it so hard for you to make good choices? Don’t you love me?” I can’t imagine being a mother and having my kids ask me questions like that. But the interesting thing, the one thing that we absolutely did NOT expect…Mary didn’t cry. The whole time. Not once. In fact, when she got home, she shed about 3 tears, probably because she felt safe and comfortable enough with us to do so, and just because we know her so well, we knew that they were forced, almost like she thought that was what we expected. It was like she was fighting to keep the smile OFF of her face. Friends, this kid is so, so happy, despite it taking her away from her biological family, it has cemented her place in her, permanently, in ourd. Her chosen family. The place where her heart is. That is all we wanted for her…safety, happiness, and permanency. We’re almost their friend…we are almost there…
Day 4 of Operation No More Bobo’s is a success! They haven’t asked for bobo’s once today and they are both currently napping! Thanks the bobo gods!
First, I wanted to say thank you to all of you and for all of your comments. I would love to comment back to each of you individually, but life is just so crazy right now…so thank you all for your love and support and for sending your prayers and positive energy our way. It is definitely being felt and totally working!!!
So this past week has gone by so quickly. The back and forth to the hospital, caring for our 3 other kids, and the holidays have just completely whooped us! Callie is back to work tomorrow and she is taking it even harder this time around. Not being able to spend a few hours with Austin Ryan at the hospital is very difficult for her, and getting about an hour a night after work just doesn’t seem like enough. I feel so terrible about it, and I wish that I could trade places with her or that I made 100k/year, but one thing that I’m learning through this experience is that life goes on outside of the 4 corners of the NICU, and we have to do our best to be present in it. It’s just so so hard.
Everyone is doing great otherwise. The boys are doing as great as ever, Mary has been challenging but she’s healthy and her report card was AMAZING so we’re doing something right, and aside from being sad about going back to work, Callie is doing awesome. Our relationship was going through a bit of a rough patch recently, but this little boy coming early has really put us in a place where we realize how much we need each other and how much we love each other and rely on each other for support. It’s been pretty eye opening. I found myself noticing how I was speaking to her and apologizing (GASP!) more often for being a little snot. I can be kind of mean when I’m stressed, under pressure, or convinced that I’m right. I have never been so thankful to have her or so appreciative to have someone who understands me and how I function. She truly is my better half and I have never been so in love.
Austin Ryan really is something else! This kid is unbelievable and such a little fighter! At 9 days old (yesterday) he was off the CPAP completely, since he’s been breathing on his own since day 2. He’s been tolerating all of his feeds, and went from 10cc’s of breast milk to 16cc’s in one day, and then from 16cc’s to 25cc’s in one more day! Since he’s getting everything he needs from mama’s milk, they don’t need to give him intralipids through his IV (I’m pumping every 2-3 hours and getting about 30cc’s [a little more than an ounce] each pump!). This, friends, was the greatest Christmas present we could have gotten. For Callie’s birthday yesterday, the best gift?! This…
Mamá got some snuggles too!
Things are going very well, and Austin amazes us each and every day with his will power and strength. My little Chispa will be home before we know it, and we can’t wait!
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!
If you ever wanted to know what a 3 am feeding at our house looks like, well, here you have it, my good people. And by the way, it looks ridiculous!
When it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t trade a single second of it. Well, maybe the few seconds of screaming while mommy gets the bottles. But when they finish them and they look at us so intensely, i forget that their screams really just sounded like they were wailing , ” I’m starving! I’m sttttaaaarrrving!!! I’mmmm staaaaaasrrrrviiiinnnggg!!!”. (No seriously, that’s what it sounds like!). Also these pictures are interchangeable with the 12am and 6am feedings. What does 3am look like at your place? Probably as tragic as ours!
Still no babies!!! Believe me, we are as surprised as you are! We definitely expected to have some babies by this point, but NOPE! Not the case! These past 2 weeks have been very difficult for us. With the holidays, Mary being home for 2 straight weeks while Callie was technically still on bed rest ( you can imagine the craziness!), and me having a pretty terrible upper respiratory infection, it has not been easy. Our apartment looks like it has been flipped upside-down! I’m a neat freak, and I like things clean and organized, but this week all I wanted was sleep, and lots of it!
I guess I should really start by acknowledging the amazing year that was 2014 (Happy New Year everyone!). 2014 for us was filled with lots of love, support, friendship, and hope. In 2014 we got engaged, became foster parents to some of the greatest kids, got approved for IVF, found out we were pregnant…with TWINS, welcomed a new niece into the family, got a promotion at work, celebrated my sisters engagement to a great man, started a blog where I found a great network of friends and like-minded individuals, attended some beautiful and amazing weddings, and got MARRIED! By far, hands down, 2014 has been the best year of my life!!! I’m excited to see what 2015 brings, but something tells me it’ll probably be just as amazing…Cheers to 2015!
So week 34…my two little Spaghetti Squash are just wiggling and growing in there like you have no idea. The boys hearing is apparently fully developed. That’s great, because they are going to be musicians (duh!) so it has to be on point. According to some of the apps we read, amniotic fluid peaks this week, they are measuring approximately 18 inches crown to heel, and should weigh just about 5 pounds. During the week, we noticed more or less what their sleeping patterns are and when they are wide awake (thanks to the karate chops and roundhouse kicks happening in Callie’s belly). For Callie’s birthday (12/26) we went out with some friends for Hibachi, and the boys absolutely LOVED IT, and spicy crab salad. They are gonna love spicy things, it’s kind of inevitable. Her belly has started dropping some, and it is definitely getting quite heavy. She is a trooper, and I am completely and totally in awe of the way that she is handling this pregnancy. She amazes me every day…
Week 35 you ask? It hasn’t gotten any easier on Callie, I’ll tell you that. She is feeling the most uncomfortable she has felt through this whole pregnancy. I’m pretty sure that at some point this week, if they don’t come on their own, she is going to reach in and pull them out! I am gently encouraging her to start walking some and try moving things along. After 12 looooonnngggg weeks of bed rest, the OB said she is officially off! Not that it matters much, because Callie is so uncomfortable that all she wants to do is lay down. A few days ago, we had a bit of nice, sunny weather, and we decided to take Mary outside to try out her new skates that she got for Christmas. I figured I could bribe Callie with some food from the local pizza shop about a block over. My poor honey damn near cried as we made our way around our building and to the corner. The pressure on her “lower parts” is excruciating, and the weight of the babies on her tiny frame are giving her some serious back pains. DAMN YOU GRAVITY for making my lady (and her lady parts) hurt so bad!!! We made it though, and the Sicilian slice she ordered was a nice reward for a pretty tough walk. Our OB appointment went rather well. They did a full scan of the boys tiny bodies again, and they are breathing on their own! It was so cool to see their little chests going up and down, up and down. We basically have 2 fully developed tiny humans as of right now. Both boys are weighing in at over 5 pounds. Noah is weighing 5lbs3oz and Levi is at 5lbs5oz. Poor Callie is carrying almost 11lbs of baby on her 5’3″ 120lb frame. She has only gained 33lbs during her pregnancy, but it’s fair to say that it’s all baby! Her belly is measuring 44cm, which our Dr. couldn’t even believe. Usually, it measures about a cm/week, so at 44 cm, she is already way past the full term size of a singleton pregnancy! And we thought that cervix was a problem! Unfortunately, Levi has decided to switch positions, and he is now transverse across Callie’s belly, so it’s looking more like a c-section if he doesn’t turn in the next week or so.
We finally got scheduled (in ink and not just penciled in) for January 27th at 11:30am. So in just over 3 weeks (at the latest) we will officially be MOMS!!! EEEEKKKK!!! This week with Levi’s positioning, Callie’s ribs have really taken a beating! Levi keeps head butting her in the ribs, and Noah keeps head butting her in the cervix. For Callie’s sake, I hope they come soon, so she can find some relief. I will mention, that her contractions are still pretty frequent, but for the most part, as of yesterday, they seem to be about 20 minutes apart and lasting a good 2 minutes or so. I haven’t seen her writhe and wriggle in discomfort like that at all (with the exception of the 2 finger cervix check), so with that being said, send all your “Babies, get the HELL out” (in a nice way) energy this way! I will officially be posting their eviction notice this evening.