Our First (Official) Family Photo Shoot!

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

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

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

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

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Papo paying close attention to the judge AND his bottle.

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Does this even need a caption!?!

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

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OFFICIALLY A FAMILY!!!

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

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Annnnnndddd, they’re off!

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

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Hugs for everyone!

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

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Our girl!

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

A Letter to My Daughter…

…on the night before her adoption…

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My favorite CooCoo,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll always be my best girl,
Mama

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

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Parenting With All My Might

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost 3 Years…

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….

Nailed it!

A few weeks ago, I saw an open management position as an Administrative Assistant in the Diversity/EEO department with my current employer and I felt pulled to apply for it.  I didn’t know much information about the position, so I confided in my current supervisor that I was interested in learning more about it.  She is one of those supervisors that is ALL OVER helping her “good people” succeed and excel, and she sat with me for a little bit to talk to me about what the responsibilities are and what the position entailed.  So, after hearing some good stuff, I decided it would be the best more for me.

I applied, and about 2 weeks later, I got a call to schedule an interview.  Last week Thursday, I was scheduled for an interview at 9am.  I let my boss know, and she was beyond excited for me.  In fact, she coached me a little on some of the stuff that I didn’t know in regards to payroll and working our payroll system.  I handle a lot of job responsibilities, but payroll is not one of them, and I have NEVER done payroll before. Like, EVER!

I got a good nights sleep, didn’t have any breakfast for fear of vomiting, got dressed pretty snazzy with my lucky bow tie (the one I wore when I interviewed to secure this position, and the very one I wore when Callie said YES!), and was off to work to wait for my interview.  The hour wait was pretty nerve wracking, and I did my best to keep from sweating (so I wouldn’t look like I decided to take a dip FULLY CLOTHED on my way to work), and calm my voice (because my diaphragm was hanging out at a bouncy castle!), and review some of my possible answers to their possible questions (I’ve had a few internal interviews to move around  within the company already, and the questions are usually the same with one or two position specific questions).

My answers were LEGIT people!  I mean, I have honestly never had an interview where I just felt that all of my answers were on point. In fact, Callie has been the main hiring manager for over 15 years, and when I told her the questions and gave her my answers, she said, “Half way through that second img_6925answer I would have had you as my number 1 choice.  Woulda been hard to beat that!”  When I was done with my interview, I just new it!

Ladies and gents and everyone in between, meet the newest Administrative Assistant of Diversity and EEO (moi!), while I say hello to 6 weeks paid vacation, an increase in pay, and the sweetest deal of all time, FREE LIFETIME MEDICAL!  Yup…Hello all of that goodness!

 

Conditions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6 Months and So Much More…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good thing this face helps…

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Mary, Our Best Girl

Sometimes I get really sad that I can’t legally post pictures showing Mary’s face, the joy that’s on it when she’s in her favorite place, sandwiched between her twin brothers and little tiny baby brother on her lap.  This kid LIVES for those brothers, and they absolutely adore her. They run up and down the apartment, sticking their head into her room, only to scream , “A-YA-YA” (their variation of Mary’s real name) and then run away so she will chase them.  When she gets home from school, she gives them all the kisses she has been saving for them throughout the day, and they love it.  Every second of it. And WE love it!  We love seeing her interactions with her family, her space, her things, because it reassures us that not only do WE feel that she is in the right place, but she feels it too…

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MY TIE IS ON POINT, BUT WTF WITH THE MUSCLES!!!! AND MARY ROCKING THE MID 90’S INSPIRED SIDE PONYTAIL!

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UGH, MY FREAKING HEART!

So where are we with Mary, you ask?!  NO-Fucking-WHERE, that’s where!!!  Our next court hearing is May 10th, and we officially begin the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) trial.  What does this mean for Mary and for our family?  It means that records from therapists, teachers, doctors, case workers have been subpoenaed.  It means that most if not all of Mary’s “providers”(including her caseworker) will be called to the stand.  It means that we have to sit on our hands while all of these people dictate the life of one of our kids, the kid that actually made us parents!  So it’s really, really hard.  From what we understand, this could take a while.  We’ve spoken to Mary’s lawyer (he strictly represents HER and what she WANTS, not necessarily what is in her best interest), and he will be out our place on May 2nd to “interview” her and see where she is at.  That little letter up there ^^^ is pretty telling.

But how is Mary?  Well, “all over the place” sort of sums it up.  Let’s go back about 2 months.  Mary was talking to her teacher and telling him that she didn’t feel very well and that she wanted to speak to Ms. Kelly, the school psychologist, because she “had a lot feelings”.  So he sent her to Ms. Kelly’s office so that they could have a chat. Mary expressed that she had so many feelings that she didn’t know how to feel (she told us all of this when she got home.  We are firm believers in the whole confidentiality thing and prefer she tells us things when she is ready, which she almost ALWAYS does).  Most of the time, she was telling us that she had a weird feeling in her belly that wouldn’t go away, like she was going down a roller coaster, and anyone who has experienced this sensation knows that that is EXACTLY what anxiety feels like, and how crazy and in tune with her feelings is she,  that she was able to vocalize what is going on inside.  She may not know what anxiety feels like, but she sure is having some.  As soon as we heard that, we gave her therapist a call and they have been sorting it out ever since.  CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is hard…so so hard!  Adults have a hard time with it, imagine being an 8 year old!  But this kid, she really is something else.

Her behavior has been less than stellar, and it’s been hard for us as parents to discipline her because we know that she is going through so, so much right now.  I can’t imagine having to “choose” between 2 families that I love and adore (she doesn’t have to choose, but no matter how much we reiterate that, she is still, in her mind, the one that makes the decision).  How do you “choose” between your birth family, who may not have necessarily always done the right thing, but that’s your REAL mom and your REAL sister.  Or your “real” family, where you feel the most loved, and wanted, and cared for?  As parents though, Callie and I have some serious behavior non-negotiables.  School work comes first.  ALWAYS.  There will be no playing or watching of the TV if homework is not done.  She stopped doing homework and stopped caring.  We saw it as a red flag because she absolutely LOVES school, but having recurring thoughts and anxiety makes it not easy to focus.  We don’t play with school though.  SO we are stuck between disciplining her the way we normally would but also taking into consideration that she has a hell of a lot going on.  Also, when mom is super consistent, and I’ll give her that, because she has been, Mary’s behavior goes all haywire! Then 3 weeks ago, Mary comes home with a yellow card from the after school program.  These yellow cards are warning cards.  2 yellow cards=a red card.  First red card=suspension.  Second red card is removal from the program.  We can’t have that!  Neither of us gets home until after 6, so the after school program is a necesity! What’s the yellow card for?  KICKING SOMEONE!  What in the fack!  That is our second non-negotiable!  We DO NOT under ANY circumstance, put our hand on someone.  We could preach the whole self defense thing which is cool for maybe an older kid, but for young kids, there really isn’t any reason for that, ESPECIALLY because there is no hitting at our house.  Callie and I may scream at each other once in a while, but never once have we disrespected each other like that.  She lost her privileges for a week.  3 days later, she comes home with another freaking yellow card!  SERIOUSLY!?!? Apparently, she was wandering around the school on her own, when she knows that it is the afterschool programs #1 rule. NO ma’am, so she felt that one, because it was Easter Sunday and she sat…the entire time…and the only reason we let her do the egg hunt was because my parents and siblings and aunts and uncles BEGGED us to let her.  So she had a whole 20 minutes for fun for 2 whole weeks.  One for the kicking, and one for the wandering off.  Not even 2 days after that, I get a call from the therapist telling me that Mary got into a fight at school.  For crying out freaking loud!  It’s all been handled and the past 2 weeks behavior has been incredible, which is great because with 2 very sick and whiny almost 16 month olds, our patience was very, very thin!

Otherwise, she is still doing exceptionally well in school,  had even better grades on her report card then last time!  She’s really been opening up at therapy and working through her stuff, and also, she has been an incredible, loving and kind big sister and daughter.  Honestly, I hope the outcome of this whole trial is that she will be freed for adoption, because if she’s not, I might just break one of our #1 house rules, and just hit something!  We love this kid so deeply, that thinking of her not being a part of our family is heartbreaking.  Let’s pray that May 10th is the beginning of bringing Mary fully into our family, legally into our family, forever into our family…it just has to be that way….

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A BEAUTIFUL SATURDAY AS A FAMILY OF 6

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MY GIRL IN HER FAVORITE TREE

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MARY AND OUR NIECE IZZY

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LOOK HOW LEVI LOOKS AT HIS SISTER…THEY LOVE THAT GIRL.

 

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HER FAVORITE PLACE