DIN# D.A.D…

A DIN# is the the Department Identification Number given to inmates in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections.  It is a number that is given to those who need access to an inmate, either on a visiting day or by corresponding through written snail mail. 07***03 belongs to my father.  My biological father that I know nothing about.  The father, that in my 31 years of life, I have only seen twice and written to a handful of times.  A father who barely knows anything about me, let alone all of the exciting things that have been going on in my life as of recent.

My whole life, I grew up in a home where my parents were the center of my life.  I have an amazing mother and a wonderful father that took me in at age 2 when he was only 17 years old, and raised me like his own.  To this day, that’s my Papi, my Papá, my Daddy, and no one will ever take his place.

Yesterday was my nephew Andy’s 2 year birthday party.  He is my brother Harry’s son, my only brother from my biological father.  We met the week before fathers day, on a 100+ degree day in mid-June 6 years ago.  Since then, our relationship has flourished and he has allowed me the opportunity to share in his life.  He has blessed me with a sister-in-law that I love and adore, a gorgeous and funny niece, and a handsome and ridiculously smart nephew.

ANDY

ANDY

SADIE

SAYDIE

Both of our relationships with our father is incredibly strained, and futile at best.  While at my brother’s home, I noticed a photo on his refrigerator.  It was a Polaroid of my brother, my father, and myself taken those 6 years ago, on Father’s day, when we decided to take the trip upstate, and visit our father for the first time at his correctional facility.  It was all really overwhelming, but what was even more overwhelming was how fate played a huge role in making that long awaited for day take place.

Some 13 years ago, my maternal uncles wife was the instructor of a step aerobics class at a small karate studio some 5 miles or so from where my family lives.  A few women attended the class weekly, 2 of which were my uncles 2nd or 3rd cousins.  This aunt, (let’s just call her PB for Psycho Bitch, but that’s for a whole other blog post!) had no clue the relation between her husband and these women.  One day my uncle goes to PB’s class to drop off some stuff for one of their 4 daughters game, and is greeted by none other than his 2 long lost cousins that he hasn’t seen since he was a teenager.  They get to chatting and asking about each others families and all the siblings and rest of the cousins, being that they lost touch around the time that my mother was pregnant with me.  She asked about me, my mother, and if I had seen my biological father lately.  My uncle responded with, “What father?! She knows who her father is!”  (All of my aunts and uncles are very protective of my relationship with my stepdad {i only use step-dad for the sake of not confusing anyone during this post})  The cousin replies, “Well, I know where he is! He is married to the cousin of my cousin, and in the Dominican Republic!”. PB was intrigued and started asking the questions about my bio father every week (you can see already the beginnings of why no one in my family speaks to nosy ass PB).  A few months later, I am at a friends house, in a drunken stupor, playing our 5th round of “Sequence”, and listening to depressing love songs and a ton of slow jams, and my phone rings with a weird 718 number that I don’t recognize.  I asked my friend to answer it..

“Sammie’s Phone!”

“Yes, I look for Samantha Leyba”

“If you mean Samantha Mendez then, yeah, how can I help you?”

“Jew Samantha? I calling frong jew father.  Thees eh his seester.  I call for Samantha.”

“Hold on please….(wide eyed and mouth agape) HOLY SHIT Sammie! This lady on the phone claims to be your aunt!  From. Your. Father’s. Side!!!”

Cue racing heart! I had always thought about that day, but you can imagine how conflicted I was when it actually happened.  What’s my {step}dad gonna think?  How am I going to explain to him that no one would ever take his place?! How do I tell my mom that I am actually going to meet these people, this other side of me that I never even bothered to think existed?  How would I feel once I met them? How would I react to their sudden affection and questions about my life?! Was I ready to come out to these people?  Was I ready to let them in? All of these questions started flying through my head the second that I got off the phone with her.  All I got from the conversation was that they lived in the Bronx, they would all be together (my 2 aunts, 3 uncles, a slew of cousins) that coming Saturday, they would be beyond excited if I went, and the they had been looking for me for so many years with no success.

I go to the store, I buy a new outfit, I get my hair braided, and I prepare myself for the emotional mess that I would probably be that Saturday.  I show up, and walk into a room filled with people embracing me and welcoming me into this huge extended family.  I meet my aunts and my uncles, and I immediately see the resemblance.  We all have the same nose! My whole life I wondered about my nose, and now I knew the answer.  We sit and chat and they ask questions for the better part of an hour.  They shove a plate of food in my face but I am too anxious and nervous to eat.  I pick at chicken and rice.  The door bell rings.  Everyone’s faces freeze in time and look directly at me.  My aunt gets up to answer the door.  She tells me, “Ven aquí”, come here, and I make my way to the door.  As she opens the door, it’s like looking into a mirror.  My face is reflected back at me, and I knew.  I knew right away that it was my brother.  We looked at each other and ran and hugged, both sobbing hysterically.  He’s feeling my hair, and touching my face, and I do the same. “Is this real?!?!” “You’re my brother/sister?!?!?”  “Is this happening!” “We have the same nose!” “Our eyes are the same color” “Look at your hair so curly like mine” “We were gonna call the radio station to look for you!”.  The words are coming out a mile a minute.  Our family watches on with tears in their eyes.  We meet.  Finally.  Without me even knowing that he existed and i had missed him.  Terribly.  We talk and make plans to see our father the next day, Father’s Day 2008.

HARRY AND I TWINNING

HARRY AND I TWINNING

The next day, we meet up early, and make the 1hr 40 minute trek to the correctional facility.  Our father has no idea we are coming.  He doesn’t even know we have met or that they found me.  We get scanned, head in to a large room filled with white tables and blue plastic chairs that look like elementary school chairs but super-sized.  We wait facing the door where the inmates come in.  Every man that steps forwards could be him, but we somehow knew it wasn’t.  When our father walked in, we squeezed the others hand because we knew.  We stood up, and we walked towards us, tucking in his shirt, fidgeting with his pants, and standing straight and tall seeing his two grown children waiting for him for the first time in God knows how long.  He hesitated and then hugged us.  We all cried, but our reunion was cut short with a reminder of, “That’s enough physical contact inmate!” It was awkward and weird, and filled with a ton of truths that I’m still not so sure I’m ready to hear, but it began a relationship with my brother that I cherish, and a relationship with my father that is a constant work in progress.  I left that day feeling confused, hurt, loved, connected, disjointed.  The ride home was a quiet one as the space between my brother and I danced with the ghost of our lives before this day in the sunlight of our futures together.

The reason I am writing about this is to find some clarity and remember the hope that I felt that day.  I’ve been struggling with letting him know that he is going to be a “grandfather”.  That there are these two beautiful little creatures on their way into this crazy world.  I feel like I am betraying my {step}dad even though he is probably the only grandfather they will know for at least the next 10 years.  But I look at my brother.  He told our father about the kids, and went to see him twice, but nothing has changed.  They are still grandfatherless kids. He doesn’t call.  He doesn’t write.  He doesn’t send birthday or Christmas cards.  Will anything really be different? Will anything really change  I hope that thinking this through calms my anxiety a bit, and I find some clarity and courage to write the words to him that I need to write and express.  My boys will have their “Wito” (short for Abuelito) and they will have Harry Sr. who they probably won’t ever remember seeing.  The worst part is, it’s not like my {bio}dad doesn’t want a relationship with us.  It can just be incredibly tedious and frustrating to foster a new relationship from behind 4 iron gates and cement walls. For now, I will write to him, with my heart and share good news that he probably needs to hear…his little girl is having 2 little boys.

14 Weeks and Gender Reveal Planning

It’s been 14 weeks into this pregnancy (well today is 14w3d but who’s counting?!) and things are still rolling along smoothly.  Callie is starting to get what we assume is some round ligament pain. It’s down really low in her pubic area and only to one side.  Since neither of us knows what it’s really supposed to feel like, we’re just sort of assuming that’s what it is.  The “Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy” pretty much describes exactly what she is feeling.  She’s also been getting headaches pretty frequently. They aren’t every day and they don’t last very long, but we’re going to ask our OB when we see him this coming Thursday and make sure that there is nothing wrong or abnormal about that.  We understand that preeclampsia starts with headaches and is more likely to happen when carrying multiples. We bought ourselves a Sonoline B fetal Doppler and we listen to our babies every night, but we do miss seeing them once a week terribly! Pro’s of not going to the fertility clinic every week – Not going every week! Cons- it feels like we NEVER get to see our babies and we were used to seeing them at least once a week, sometimes twice! Hopefully, they might be able to tell us their gender.  Either way, the following week we get to see the Perinatologist who said she would more than likely be able to see as long as they cooperate.  We keep getting told that our babies are very well behaved (stretching alllllllll the way out when we have U/S’s), and that it takes half the time to scan our twins than it does to scan a singleton.  Hopefully, it’ll stay that way!

When life hands you lemons! (Ain't she the cutest?!?!)

When life hands you lemons!
(Ain’t she the cutest?!?!)

Hopefully, they will definitely be able to tell us the gender of the babies by the first week of September because we have already sent out the invitations for our Gender Reveal Party set for September 13th! It’s really exciting, but it would be really bad if we had no idea what they were.  Knowing our luck, they wont want to cooperate.  We’re both very reserved about out “privates” so our guess, our babies will be too! We’ve invited about 60 people, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t.  Just my siblings, their significant others, my parents, and my nieces and nephews are 14 people. With Callie’s parents, brother, and her grandmother, we are almost at 20, so technically we really only invited 40 people, which is reasonable.  Everyone is so excited because they are ready to shower these babies with so much love, which in our eyes, they already have.  We have to keep telling people, PLEASE NO GIFTS, because they keep asking what we want or what is customary! We just want to share that moment with them.  We did really well with buying all of our decorations.  Thank you Walmart.com for all of your 87 cent stuff! We got enough decorations for 8 tables, pink and blue plates and cups for 100, cutlery, 100 gender reveal napkins, 8 mini honeycomb gender reveal signs, pink and blue balloons, and pink and blue crepe paper. I only spent $43!!!  We are having it at the marina where we keep our boat, under the gazebo, BBQ style. My mom is going to make her famous yellow rice with pigeon peas, and Callie’s mom is going to make her mouth watering Mac-n-Cheese.  Other family has volunteered to make some other stuff, and my sister ( who is a year younger than me and just got engaged Friday night at the Coliseum in Italy—WOO HOO!!!!!) is getting about 50 cake pops for us from a friend of hers.  How are we gonna tell everyone, you ask?  We bought 60 black balloons.  Inside the balloons with be either blue or pink confetti, or both.  Everyone will pop the balloons at the same time and TADA!!!! Confetti color=a lot of excited family and friends. Hopefully, it will all go off without a hitch and no one will pop their balloons too early, but I’ll make sure of that! I’ll have to cut someone! J/K, or am I??? We are making copies of the u/s’s from our first to the most recent, backing them on pink and blue construction paper and stringing them as decorations.  We are painting clothes pins blue and pink and adding little pink bows or blue bows at the top and letting people wear their guesses. There will also lip cut outs and mustache cut outs on straws for good measure.  Should be a good time.  Time to get my craft on!  With my busy schedule, I have to start making all of these things now.  I’ll be posting pics in the next week or 2 with some of the finished decorations.  Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming about these babies, and first pray that they are healthy and safe, and then that I have one of each, so I wont have to throw myself off of a bridge but If I don’t, I’d be just fine…

An Emotional Hot Trainwreck of a Mess…

And that’s just how I have been feeling!!!  I don’t know what is going on, but it feels like I am getting all of Callie’s pregnancy symptoms.  She feels great AMAZING, and I, on the other hand spend most of my days wishing we were together (we work opposite shifts and my days off are Friday and Saturday, so we get one day for “family day” per week), crying as I listen to music and catch up on my TV shows (Thanks A LOT “The Fosters”!), craving chocolate like it’s no ones business, and dealing with the soreness/tenderness of my breasts as I continue on my journey to try and establish a significant milk supply/flow to help sustain my twinfants. I’m basically feeling everything that Callie is feeling (with the exception of the actual babies, which she technically isn’t feeling yet, although this morning she sent me a text that she THINKS she might have felt one of them but it might just be that she was really hungry) even though I’m not pregnant.

As I was driving to work at 5am, I was listening to a CD that Marco made for our drive up to this past weekends hike. Ed Sheeran (with his amazing soothing voice and fantastically ginger hair) started playing a song that I had heard before but never really paid much attention to.  To make a long story short, it has to do with miscarriage and is incredibly touching and heartbreaking (Ed Sheeran – Small Bump).  When I tell you that I needed windshield wipers INSIDE my car, that is no exaggeration.  The waterworks were in full effect.  My first thought was , WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!?! I started to analyze why I have been feeling the way that I have, not just recently with the whole pregnancy, but for the better part of the past 2 years while simultaneously scrolling through FB.  I was reading a friends post about vulnerability and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and then it hit me!

For the better part of my life, I was very guarded, as I’m sure many of us are.  I grew up in a family where everything was great, and don’t you dare say otherwise.  “Don’t you dare cry, or I’ll give you something to cry about” kind of home.  Don’t get me wrong, I had the best time growing up.  In retrospect I had the best childhood that anyone could have asked for.  I lived with my loving, accepting, tolerant and encouraging parents who drove us to all of our soccer, field hockey, basketball, softball games and swimming, karate, and attended every concert or musical that we were in.  I have 4 incredible siblings that I would die for.  We are all very close in age (I’m 31, sis-almost 29, bro-27, sis-26, bro-25 as of yesterday) and spent lots of time in cramped spaces, like 8 hour road trips to Niagara Falls.  I wasn’t allowed to go ANYWHERE unless all the ducklings were right behind me.  To this day, family dinners on Sunday at my parents are a non-negotiable, and I love that about my family.  We all live within 10-15 minutes of each other with the exception of my youngest brother who lives in Brooklyn, but him and his boyfriend visit all the time and probably spend the most time at my parents of all 5 of us (Yup! My handsome and hilarious younger brother is gay too and has been with his partner for almost 3 years).  If I’m to speak candidly, (and why wouldn’t I?) sadness was just one of those emotions that got pushed away.  “What are you sad about? Look at how great your life is!” Although this was probably said to teach us to appreciate everything we have and think, “Hey! It could be worse!”, for someone as emotional and sensitive as me, it was pretty difficult to deal with.

I learned very early on to bottle up my emotions.  To cry only in the shower where no one could see me.  To wait until my sisters had fallen asleep so that then, and only then, I could grab my pillow and scream into it until I couldn’t scream anymore.  To take out my aggression and express my anger on the playing field.  To become these characters in the school plays and musicals and in some ways live vicariously through them, even if it was fictional and temporary.  All I really wanted was for my mom to kiss me and my dad to hug me when I was sad or mad (they did plenty of it all the other times, believe me – my family is incredibly affectionate), but they rarely did, and even then it was awkward and uncomfortable.  So being sad or angry was just not something we did well with.

Being or allowing myself to be vulnerable was out of the question. It would mean that I could be hurt, and the hurt would lead to sorrow, and sorrow would lead me into this abyss of darkness, despair, and depression.  For a long time, I lived my life devoid of anything that would lead to the risk or possibility of getting hurt.  For the better part of 16-26, I was just a mess.  Drinking, drugging, cutting class, obsessed with my relationships and my inability to let them go, and not allowing anything to effect me emotionally.  A lot of people even went there, and called me ” A cold-hearted bitch”.  It’s fine because I totally owned it.  I might have even been proud of it! I didn’t give a crap about anything. You’re mom died? Sorry! People die everyday.  You’re dog died? He’s a freaking dog! You lost your job? What the hell am I supposed to do about that? (I didn’t really feel like this, I swear it, but I wasn’t sure how I was really supposed to feel or express any of it) I was so numb that on 3 separate occasions I tried to take my own life (19, 21, 26).  At 26, I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. Another failed 4 year relationship and I was done.  I committed myself to an inpatient hospital where I spent 2 months of my life doing Intense therapy, DBT, and acknowledging that my way of coping was not effective at all.  After that, I moved back in with my parents (who after the birth of my niece have become emotional wrecks themselves and have NO ISSUES WHATSOEVER showing us tears of joy, relief, sadness, anger and every other emotion you can possibly think of).  My mom visited me in the hospital every day, brought me dinner every night, asked how I was feeling, and listened.  Really listened.  They actually said, I HAD to move back home and that they weren’t taking no for an answer. I have no way to repay them for what they have done for me.  They helped me enroll in a full day outpatient DBT program which my dad drove me to M-F and picked me and asked me what I learned about myself every night at dinner. That gesture in itself was therapeutic.

One of the most important things I learned was to embrace being vulnerable. “Open myself up to these things? What the hell for?!?” But the more I practiced, the more I realized that for every possible little bit of sadness that I let in, I was also letting in possible joy.  Even when there was sadness, I had all these amazing feelings of happiness to override that.  That feeling sad wasn’t that bad! You feel it, recognize it, and move on.  I could actually feel things and come out the other side a better person.  Like, really feel them, and feel them with people and for people, and have an appropriate response.  What I realized the most about allowing myself to be vulnerable was that it actually felt like I was living.  I wasn’t simply going through the motions.  I was truly knee deep in life.  All these things were coming at me from every direction (my aunt who is my second mother getting diagnosed with beast cancer, a huge fall out between a ton of my family members, trying to start a new relationship after nearly 2 years of selfishly working on myself, losing a great paying unionized job as a carpenter in NYC because of my time in psychiatric care, moving from the NYC where I had been for nearly 10 years back home to the suburbs which I had outgrown) and I dealt with them.  And I wasn’t the worse for wear. Who woulda thought! I was alive and feeling, and that was okay with me.  Better than okay!  It was amazing!  So now, after having analyzed this, I see that my pseudo-pregnancy symptoms are just me living and feeling and accepting.  Of course I feel sad when I hear the terrible news about someone losing their precious baby, or when pets leave us, or even when something as simple as a rain storm ruins our one family fun day that we had been looking forward to.  How could I not!?! So even though they are sad tears, they are still happy tears for me.  My kids will always know hugs and kisses and validation of their feelings.  They will see their Mamá cry, breakdown, pick up the pieces, pray, laugh, dance, and love.  A Mamá with a big ole’ vulnerable heart.  Mi corazón estará abierto para ustedes…<3

My amazing family...

My amazing family…

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13 Weeks, Baby Registry, and Hiking with the Bestie

We have officially made it out of our first trimester.  As of Thursday we are at 13 weeks.  Everyone is in one piece including me, although mentally is debatable. Callie is still feeling better than she ever remembers feeling (until that weird feeling of “blah” that took over briefly Sunday morning), and Mary is still with our family and still ridiculously excited about the babies.  We asked her if she was ready to be a big foster sister.  Her reply was, ” They don’t know I’m not your real daughter, so I will just be their big sister. Not their foster sister! Just their sister”. Hello warm fuzzies in my heart!

My beautiful girl at 13 weeks

My beautiful girl at 13 weeks

Now in our second trimester and in the clear, so to speak, we decided to take the leap into “Baby Registry” world.  What we anticipated being a quick 1hour trip to our local Babies “R” Us turned into an almost 4 hour affair, with a lot of “Mary! Stop bouncing that ball!!!” and “Do we really need that?!?” and “You’re kidding with that color right? Because I can’t!”.  We didn’t argue, but I think it had to do with both of us getting a registry gun and sort of doing our own thing.  We did the main stuff together (twin stroller and car seats, pack and play, high chairs, bottles) but all the smaller miscellaneous stuff was done as we walked up and down the aisles, clicking away separately and comparing notes at the end of each aisle.  It’s kind of hard to put stuff on the registry when so much of it is gender specific and we don’t know what we’re having yet.  There was also the dilemma of whether or not to add 2 of everything.  Some stuff we obviously needed 2 of, like car seats and high chairs, but things like a bouncer or a pack and play only needed 1.  Needless to say, it was quite the experience, and the staff was fantastic.  They had ice cold bottles of water for the 3 of us, and even had the general store manager come over and greet us, congratulate us and wish us luck.  The whole same sex parents thing wasn’t even noticed, which has always been a concern of mine.  Being the non-belly mama, you sort of expect to get overlooked often, and luckily, that hasn’t really happened to me yet.  Still waiting though… We ended up with over 150 items on our registry (as big as a Glider for $500 and as small as infant Q-tips for $1.89), and a really happy Mommy who didn’t have to walk to far!

Expectant Mom

Expectant Mom

After the craziness of this past week (lots of catch up laundry, house cleaning, shopping, running around, full time job, part time nanny-ing, fishing for dinner to satisfy Callie’s craving, 6 hours of sleep in 3 days, and cooking) it’s fair to say my tolerance level was nil.  I found myself snapping at EVERYONE, cursing more than usual (which says a lot because I rarely speak a sentence without the F-bomb in there once), and wishing more than anything that I could have a major bitchfest with my best friend on a 10 mile hike in the middle of nowhere.  I didn’t think that was going to happen, as my only 2 days off are Friday and Saturday.  My best friend Marco works weekdays, and Saturday is usually our family day, since it’s the only day of the week that Callie, Mary, and I are all together.  Callie must have known that I was going to blow up soon because when I suggested if it was alright to possibly go hiking with Marco, she was quick to say, “YES! Please go and enjoy yourself.  What time will you be back?!”  So Marco spent the night Friday, to Mary’s delight as uncle Marco gave her cheese sticks and animal crackers for breakfast the next day. And wouldn’t it be just our luck that Saturday morning we woke up to the sound of a torrential downpour! So our 7am start became a 10am start, with an almost 2 hour drive to my favorite place in the world, The Shawangunks.  We were originally supposed to hike Peekamoose Mountain in the Catskills and continue our quest to become members of the 3500+ club (hiking all the peaks of the Catskill Mountains over 3500 ft of elevation), but due to a late start and a possible 3 hour drive, that wasn’t really an option.  Either way, it ended up being just what I needed to feel refreshed, grounded, and ready to start plans for our gender reveal party scheduled early September. I got to gossip, laugh, talk about life and these upcoming twinfants, decompress, get my heart rate up,  and Marco and I got the opportunity to reconnect.  It’s nice to know that our friends are just as excited and riding side by side with us on this journey.

Marco and I at Awostig Falls at Minnewaska State Park

Marco and I at Awosting Falls at Minnewaska State Park

Awosting Falls

Awosting Falls

And last but not least, NY Giant’s Preseason starts today!!!!  LET’S GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!

First come love, then comes marri…wait?!

Callie and I started dating exclusively September 22nd, 2010.  Even before that, it’s fair to say that we were only dating each other although I had a girlfriend that moved from NY to FL right as our relationship was starting and I hadn’t seen her and had barely spoken to her in 3+ months.  It was a whirlwind kind of thing that involved a lot of fishing, rainy afternoons, and late night phone conversations in hushed whispers.  I was living back with the Parental Unit for about a year after 2 months in a psychiatric ward recovering from earth shattering depression after the dissolution of an almost 5 year Domestic Partnership. Borderline Personality disorder is a b*tch tho, ain’t it? Needless to say, they weren’t any less strict than when I was growing up.  Even the keystrokes on my laptop at 1am with my parents behind their closed door and me behind mine, across the hall, on the OPPOSITE side from the door, was enough to send my mom into a tizzy! (SB: My mom is AMAZING, just don’t eff with her sleep!)

Unlike any other relationship I had been in, we worked out the kinks early on.  We had no qualms about discussing what we were and weren’t okay with, what we could and couldn’t deal with, pet peeves, and relationship no-no’s.  Neither of us was trying to waste anymore time in our lives.  Nearing 30 with several failed relationships under our belts, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t figure out 5 years down the line that it simply wasn’t going to work.

So fast forward 4 years later, December 2013, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I finally buy her a ring.  It may not be the most expensive or the biggest diamond, but my gut told me she’d love it.  I researched long and hard to make sure that it was something that she would love and that matched her personality and who she was. Not that she wouldn’t love it anyway because I think at that point she was convinced I would never ask! Everything had to be just right though.  Nothing on a whim.  Perfectly calculated.  That was the only way.  Callie is a storyteller, and there is nothing she loves more than a great love story, and I was going to give her one! I started it by talking to her father and asking for his blessing.  He hesitated for a second, but only because he was choking up and didn’t really know what to say. “As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.”

She’s always pressing me to buy Groupons for scavenger hunts, but I was just never really that interested.  So what better way to ask her to marry me than to give her the ultimate hunt? Got family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who wanted in to help (thank you Facebook events). Wrote out clues (in perfect rhymes may I add), distributed them as needed, and got everyone in position, but not before I had emailed the itinerary at least 10 times and confirmed with everyone that they knew EXACTLY what was to happen and they were not to be late, OR ELSE!!!

January 4th, 2014 – 11am start

Clue #1-Her parents place, where she was raised, and dad gave her the second clue sending her off with a hug and kiss.

Clue #2-Mani-Pedi’s with my sisters. She has only 1 brother and wanting sisters was something that’s never left her. And besides, you can’t show off a shiny new engagement ring with your nails looking a mess!

Clue #3-Bowling alley in my home town where we had our first real date.  We were non-dating for a while (read first paragraph).  She walks in to find a spread of all her favorite bowling alley snacks, and a few drinks with 2 of our closest friends.  After noshing on some good eats, they gave her…

Clue #4–  My parents came in with my brother and his boyfriend (yeah! 2 gay kids out of 5!) and drove her back to their house, where I grew up, where my sisters would do her hair and make up and a new dress and shoes were waiting for her.  After some shenanigans and lots of wine, my parents gave her clue number 5.

Clue #5– Off to the marina, where we had our first kiss.  Where we fished in the rain for hours and knew that the other was “the one”.  Where we played spades and she wiped the little beads of sweat of my nose which for some strange reason she thought were so cute.  Where she held my hand and kissed me.  Where our whole relationship lost the rockiness of the seas and finally reached the calms of the harbor.

On the car ride to the marina, my friends gave her my iPad which had a 12 minute iMovie of our whole relationship playing our soundtrack.  It’s the exact amount of time from highway to marina. She cried for 12 whole minutes, only to arrive, be blindfolded by my best friend Marco and walked to the beginning of the gangway. 30 or so people, in 2 straight lines holding sparklers, rose petals all the way down the gangway and all over the dock, and candles leading the way to me. I asked her to marry me in our favorite place surrounded by all of our favorite people. It was incredible! And freezing! Coldest day in NY the whole year! -4!

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Well thought out clues

Mani-Pedi, Bowling Alley snacks, wine with my family, movie of our love, and blindfolds for the reveal

Mani-Pedi, Bowling Alley snacks, wine with my family, movie of our love, and blindfolds for the reveal

Waiting for my love

Waiting for my love

She said YES!

She said YES!

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Our favorite place in the whole world

eng6 eng7Almost 8 months later we still aren’t married, but totally pregnant! This is not how I had envisioned this going at all! It’s all kind of backwards, isn’t it??? I never really thought about it much until I took Mary outside 2 days ago to play with her new sidewalk chalk.  I was busy opening some mail when out of the blue this lively little 6 year old turns and asks,

Mary: “Why aren’t you and Callie married? You’re having babies and you’re not married? Pssh! Weeeeiiiiirrrrdddd!”

Me: “We just didn’t have time kiddo.  We’ve been really busy getting Callie’s tummy ready for a baby, remember?”

Mary: “Yeah, but you’re ‘upposta be married first!”

Me: “Well, it’s a little different for us honey.  I can’t help Callie make a baby, so we have to go to the doctor and get all those medicines.  We needed money for the doctor, so we had to use the money we saved for our big wedding. Now we have to wait a little while before our we get married.”

Mary: “You don’t need monies! You just need to love each other! I’ll draw your marrying day!”

Callie and I getting married thanks to our 6 year old

Callie and I getting married thanks to our 6 year old

 

Somehow she put things into perspective.  We don’t need money or anything extravagant.  We don’t need flower arrangements, DJ’s, or wedding planners.  No hugely overpriced cakes or 100 hours of arguing about who can and can’t sit at what table. Maybe we’ll just go to our local government office and tie the knot there, with our family and closest friends by our sides, followed buy a small intimate dinner.  Maybe we’ll have something bigger when the babies get here.  Maybe we won’t. All I know is that we just need what we needed since day 1.

Trust. Hope. Faith. Passion. Understanding. Honesty. Love.

Above all things love, and that we have covered.

Week 10

There is nothing more awesome to me than watching my beautiful Callie get excited about our weekly “chalkboard update”. Every Thursday for the past month I have been documenting the stages of fetal development via a $5.99 chalkboard I bought at the Home Depot. I then add everyone to a MASSIVE mass text (about 20 of our closest friends and both of our families which include my 5 brothers and sister, mom, dad, Callie’s parents, brother, and her 2 aunts) and watch the craziness ensue. Our phones go off about 100 times in 10 minutes with a ton of “awww’s”, “how cute!”, “she’s glowing!” and “love the weekly lessons”. It’s nice to have everyone in on our joy, being that they have all been on this long, trying, and exhausting journey with us and are just as invested in these kiddos as we are. They’ve helped us through the really dark times when we thought there would never be any light to alleviate the sadness. They’ve been amazing and we’re extremely lucky. Everyone calls them “our babies”. One of my best friends Nikki texts us all the time, “How are our babies doing?” It’s actually really cute, comforting, and nice to know that we have such an amazing support system and so many people on our side.

This week was no different. Callie got home from work, kicked off her shoes, pet the kitty, gave hugs and kisses to Mary and asked about her day at summer camp, and was ready for her weekly snapshot. Let me not forget to mention that she peed about 3 times while all of this was happening. We set up the board and took our picture. The whole time, as usual, I’m thinking to myself, “Look at her smiling! She’s so happy! She is so damn beautiful! How did I get so lucky?” My best girl, in all her pregnant, baby carrying splendor. All mine! I hope our twinfants look like her. Freckles, beautiful green eyes, red hair (this week they are actually developing peach-fuzz on their bodies). I hope they are musically inclined like I am (thanks to our months of pouring over Latino donor profiles and waiting for the perfect one with a musical background, and not having webbed fingers anymore this week helps that too!). 2 healthy babies is all we can ask for. Until they’re here, I’ll keep marveling at what Callie is doing to her body for us. I’ll continue to assure her that as her belly grows and grows so does my heart and love for her, and that I have never been happier in my life. 10 weeks of babies, but a lifetime of love already…

weeks

That is NOT a penis…unfortunately!

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Every time we go to an ultrasound appointment, I kind of hope that they’ll be able to tell me what gender my babies are.  I know that it’s technically not possible yet, but what’s wrong with hoping right? Our 9 week ultrasound was no exception!

We get into the room, the Dr. steps out, and my Callie goes through the usual routine.  She quickly undresses before the Dr. comes back in (they’ve probably seen that thing as many times as I have this past year and a half), throws her pants and underwear at me but not before she tucks the underwear into the folds of the pants as EVERY woman does when she goes to the GYN (why is that???), and sits on the table, excited as ever to see our tiny humans again. 

Sidebar: We opted out of our appointment last week because our Dr. was on vacation and rescheduled for this past Wednesday, only to find out that our Dr. was in his NYC office that day and we wouldn’t be seeing him anyway.  Fantastically enough, we got his assistant who allowed us to really spend some quality time watching our babies wiggling around. IT WAS AWESOME!!!

So Callie lays back, and no matter how “safe and sound” we know our babies are, there is still this little twinge of fear when they do the ultrasound and you’ve seen baby 1 and not baby 2.  You have no idea the wave of relief that comes when you see baby 2 and hear his/her heart beat (let’s say “his” in hopes that the God’s will hear me and grant me my one true wish!). I’ve been a good person for the better part of my adult life, paying it forward, lending a helping hand, and doing the best I can do.  A son to watch my NY Giants with would be the greatest blessing, but two healthy babies, regardless of gender, takes the cake.

Having my partner, our Foster daughter Mary, our kitty Gracie, our 3 birds (2 females), our rabbit, and myself, it’s fair to say that our house might as well be called Estrogenfest!  Imagine we have 2 girls?!?! I will probably make front page on the Daily News with the headline, “New Mama throws self from Tappan Zee Bridge because she did not have a son!”.  Still, we look at the monitor and see what’s going on.  I’m happy to say that there are still 2 little ones in there, cute as ever.  They actually have little bodies, and aren’t just bean-looking anymore.  There are heads, and noticeable little paddles for hands and feet, and the best part, no tail! We no longer have tadpoles but tiny humans, big heads and all! What a difference a week makes. But I see something in the image.  Something LONG and smack in the middle where genitalia should be.  I know it’s too soon to tell, but in my head I’m like, “OH, HELL YEAH! My son is PACKING!”. I know damn well it’s the cord! And then the Dr. confirms what I already knew , “And that’s just the cord, not the penis.” DEFLATED! I start cracking up, mainly because I was JUST thinking that, but also to hide that weird farty sound that balloons make when you let that last little bit of air out of them.  I guess the personalized infant NY Giants Jersey I have in my cart on the NFL store website to match mine will have to wait a few more weeks…hopefully…twins1

My Babies are what size?

     I have come to find that Google can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  I have a headache that hasn’t subsided for 3 days.  Google tells me it could be cancer (GASP!) or I haven’t slept well enough.  If I have incessant dry mouth, thanks to Google, it’s Sjogren’s, HIV, dehydration, or side effects of THC.  Needless to say, it has been a great resource for finding information on all things “baby”.  The pro’s and con’s of disposable vs. cloth diapers, which bottles are the best, best pediatrician in my state and county, breastfeeding advice, and pretty much anything else you can think of, but my favorite so far has been knowing approximately what size my little ones are. 

     Every week since conception they are compared to a different fruit. Weeks 3&4 they were poppy seeds, week 5 we had apple seeds, week 6 (my all time favorite veggie) sweet peas, week 7 blueberries, and week 8 we had little raspberries.  But there was something about this fetal growth chart that bothered me.  Foods, especially fruit, can vary in size.  If you go to Stop and Shop, their strawberries and lemons are so small! Go ahead and go to BJ’s and their strawberries look like oranges in disguise! It was making me nuts, so i scoured the net a little more, and YESSSSS!!! I found it!!!!!! “Tarzan’s Ultimate Guide to Baby Sizes Week-by-Week For Soon To Be Fathers”. That’s what I’m talking about! I may not be a father, but I’m the next best thing, and this list doesn’t really leave much open for interpretation.  If my baby is the size of a quarter at 8 weeks, that really isn’t going to change much, is it? Or the head of a hammer (unless you bought you’re hammer at Ikea, which is abnormally small), or the size of a baseball, or a marble.  I found this to be über exciting! Callie has a reference point (she’s a foodie) and I have a reference point (hand-on ex construction worker, avid hiker, outdoorsy person that I am). Couldn’t be more perfect.  My week 9 babies (today actually) are the size of marbles, which I might be losing soon if Callie keeps moving around so much in bed at night! But for now, my little marbles are doing what they do, eating, resting, and growing all cozy and warm in mommy’s belly.

 

Link: http://www.hisboyscanswim.com/605/tarzans-ultimate-guide-to-baby-sizes-week-by-week-for-soon-to-be-fathers

Foster Mama

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

Hungry AGAIN?!?!?!

8 weeks and 1 day pregnant.  So far, so good! Everything seems to be as it should, and our little world has yet to be disrupted.  Luckily for my gorgeous Callie, she isn’t very symptomatic for a twin pregnancy. She isn’t showing much fatigue ( she ALWAYS falls asleep at 9pm and wakes up at 1pm the following afternoon AND naps), there isn’t much breast tenderness (she’s been experiencing this symptom for the past year and a half since she’s been on fertility medications) and every day we thank our lucky stars no morning sickness! Everything so far has been great! It’s fair to say that she is having the perfect pregnancy, if there even is such a thing.  But boy, can she eat, or should I say, can WE eat!

Callie has always had quite the appetite.  Being 5’3″, 115 lbs for most of her adult life, I could never understand how she could pack away so much food and not gain a single pound! I have been around 200lbs (give or take 20+/-20) since I was 18 years old. I never even come CLOSE to eating as much as Callie does. No, seriously, let me explain.  Not even 30 minutes after having had a huge meal I hear her utter from somewhere in the front of our 2 bedroom apartment, as I hear the refrigerator door squeak open, “I want something, but I’m not sure what I want! Ugh!”  She proceeds to come into the living room with chips, a pickle, a cup of hot chocolate with a huge dollop of Fluff, possibly a piece of chicken cutlet left over from dinner, and lets not forget the always readily available glass of water.  This was all BEFORE she got pregnant!

It’s never been an issue to me that she has such a huge appetite, and honestly, even less so now that she is feeding my 2 apparently very hungry babies.  What the issue is here is that every time she eats, I have been eating! This has to be some type of phenomenon!  I remember when my younger sister was pregnant, her fiance gained about 30lbs. during her pregnancy.  We made our little jokes about him, you know, the ones where you say “I don’t know which one of you looks more pregnant” or “How many months are you?” or even go to the extreme of rubbing his belly saying, “Tia (aunt is Spanish) is here!”.  Am I going to be that person?

I already feel like I can’t close my pants! My button down work shirts look like they are bursting at the seams when I sit at my desk (and sorta make me look like a cased sausage). Maybe its the anxiety. Maybe its the fear of being an inadequate parent.  What if my babies aren’t as attached to me, their mama, as they are their Mommy because I didn’t actually give birth to them?  What if the swing shift at work (3 days 5:30am-1:30pm and 2nights 9pm-5am which already make me extra cranky because of lack of sleep) makes me emotionally unavailable? And lets not even get started on the drama of trying to plan a wedding on a really (really, really, really) tight budget and a short amount of time (Thanks NY state for not allowing 2 women who spent TONS of money and planned these babies for years to not put the non-belly mama’s name on the birth certificate without being married)! Even as I write this post I’m eating Sour Patch Watermelons, pork rinds, and a Vanilla Coke with chocolate chip cookies on deck, thinking about what I can have for breakfast when I get home at 5:30am, and why I didn’t bring a Cup-O-Noodles, leftovers, a sandwich or something more substantial and filling than sour watermelons. Something tells me I’ll be gaining the average 37-54lbs with the twins. Another one of the joys of soon-to-be mamahood!