About Me

My photo
WE HAVE MOVED TO A NEW SITE!!! http://www.mommyhood-shivonne-costa.squarespace.com/ As of June 18, 2015, this is our new location. Please come join us!! I started blogging the week I got married. I thought it would be nice to blog the full first year, you know, to cherish those memories and share them with my family and friends. Little did I know, it was going to be my greatest coping skill for the craziness that comes with marriage! I found writing to be a fantastic way to reframe an ugly marital spat into a humorous event, allowing me to smile at the situation by the end of the post. And now, I am honored to share my struggles and joys of fostering, adopting, birthing, and raising 4 beautiful children. It's my hope that others gain laughter and new ways to see their own frustrating life situation through my writing. Because I love to write! PS, look for me on Facebook - "Mommyhood-Shivonne Costa"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

It's A _______!!!

     I'm pregnant!!! (Wait.... wrong announcement.) We're having a BOY!!!! (Ah, ok, there we go!) Although many of you already knew what we were having, I felt the need to make it official. Most of you know that I have trouble keeping big news inside, so it may come as a shock to you that we were able to fool our families into thinking that Baby Bean Costa had his/her legs crossed during the ultrasound, making it impossible to get a clear gender reading. Little did we know, Baby Boy Bean almost pranked us with this as well! After an hour and a half of unnerving picture-taking suspense, the little fella FINALLY uncrossed his legs just long enough to get a rump-and-weiner shot... and there was really no doubt about it... this baby is pure boy.
     Was I disappointed? No. Was I shocked? TOTALLY! I spent the prior 5 months convinced that I was carrying a little princess bean, only to find out that I was going to have to drop the double 's' at the end. So, no, I wasn't disappointed... but it was a concept that took some getting used to. Another boy.... Wowza!! To help me adjust to the idea, I made myself find the silver linings to the news: 1) I will never pass on my cracked-out-uterus problems to a boy. He will never feel a cyst on his ovary rupture, know the awfulness of menstruation, nor have to have any surgeries to laser grossness off of his innards. 2) Boys tend to be closer to their Mamas whereas girls tend to love on their Daddys... and I want this baby to be a full-fledged Mama's boy! (Well, at least until it causes him to get beat up... and then I want him to just snuggle with me secretly and kiss me a block away from the school yard, like any other closeted Mama's boy.) 3) We have so much baby boy stuff already that this will make my baby showers so much simpler! (And yes, I get to have a baby shower for the first time in 4 kids!!)
     Ok, back to the secret we kept from our families. For a full week, we knew the gender of our little nugget, but we painfully fibbed to our parents, telling them the leg-crossed story, leaving out the whole bit about him finally revealing his boyhood to us, of course. Afterall, I wasn't able to tell my family in person that we were having a baby because of our geographical distance... so I wanted to make sure I could tell them this news in person and in a special way. To do this, I wrapped up the ultrasound pictures in blue tissue paper and homemade confetti, complete with an announcement that we were having a baby boy. I then wrapped the gifts in regular Christmas paper and planned to have my family open their gifts simultaneously at our Christmas party, and then to have Pat's parents open their gift at our Costa family party. I also wrapped two little boy gifts for both Taylor and Cameron to unwrap and be able to keep and give to the baby.
     Awww, sounds sweet, doesn't it? WELL, there seemed to be a bit of confusion at the Grand Revealing. I watched my parents faces as they opened their gift. My brother and sister-in-law caught on right away, but my mother stared at the gift in wonderment, almost as if she were thinking, "Huh... what an odd gift of a random ultrasound picture that reads 'It's A Boy!'... Hmmmm...." I waited and waited for what seemed like minutes, but in reality it was probably no more than 5 seconds before my mom yelled out in realization as to what the gift meant for her as a grandmother! All were shocked, but happy.... all except for one small family member named Taylor. My almost 6-year-old looked at me with a frown and told me that she no longer wanted a new little baby in the family if it was going to be a boy. Immediately following her disdain, Cameron let out a whoop of enthusiasm that he was going to have another boy "on his side". However, his excitement was promptly followed by a look of confusion as he asked, "Hey, is the new baby going to be black, too?" My husband chimed in with a resounding, "He better NOT be!" as I decided against having a birds and bees talk with Cameron in the middle of our family Christmas party. So, we informed Cameron that this baby will be white, and Taylor that this baby will be a boy, and that if anyone doesn't like it, they're free to file a complaint with God, but that all negativity was banned from spoiling the moment!
     Our reveal to Pat's family was much simpler (probably because it had no choice to appear simple amidst the utter chaos of how this side of the family opens gifts!! Dear Lord, it was a wonder we all made it out alive!) His father was excited to have yet another Italian male in the family, his mother suggested we start a family basketball team, and his grandmother turned up her hearing aid so that she could understand what was happening (although I couldn't blame the woman for turning it down in the first place.... did I mention the CHAOS??) Needless to say, all were happy for us (even if it was an eventual happiness.... although I'm pretty sure my grandma is still miffed that she bought the baby little pink socks for Christmas, which she had no problems informing me of.... right after she reported to me and the rest of the room how absolutely LARGE I had gotten. Classy, grandma, classy.)
     So, for those of you that need to see it for yourself, meet Baby Boy/Bean Costa!!

Monday, December 16, 2013


     Yes, I realize I'm a bad blogger. What has it been, 3 or 4 weeks since my last post? Well, it was either be a bad blogger or continue to be a bad mother. So, I chose to take a break from blogging and focus my attentions not on figuring out how to spin my frustrated life into a comedy or a tragedy, but simply on letting my life run it's course.... no poetic labels, no silver-lining-writing, no audience.... just letting life be. And that's what I did.
     In the meantime, some new life events took place. For one, Pat got a new job! We were all very excited... that is, until we realized that I was going to be home... alone... with the little people that have spent the last 5 months terrorizing me. Since my husband had been doing the majority of the child care while I took a maternal hiatus (aka hid in my room taking long naps and crying a lot in avoidance of yet another family crisis), there were 3 terrified faces as Hubby/Daddy went off to work that first morning. I didn't know who was more frightened, them or me! Thankfully, my in-laws have been there to fill in the gaps when I've been too frazzled after work to deal with the woes of pregnancy on top of  the likes of my other two kiddos. Together, we were able to ease me back in to MotherLand.... It's a Land of Chutes and Ladders. One minute we're at the top of the board, and in the next minute we've spiraled to the bottom, left in that heap of broken dishes, covered in scrapes and bruises. But those little people and I had a talk. Plainly and simply, we agreed that none of us would kill each other that day. Wrong actions would have consequences, good actions would have rewards, and I wasn't going to care too much which one they chose to do, because my sanity is more important than their behavior. And when the kids "cleaned the toilet" using a roll and a half of toilet paper and hand soap (which all got flushed and severely clogged the toilet), no one got flogged or beheaded. And when I spent more than 30 seconds in the bathroom, no one went out, got the ax from the wood pile, and chopped open cans of paint in the living room. So all in all, I'm feeling mildly successful in MotherLand.
     Another new and exciting event is that, after nearly 5 months, my pregnancy symptoms appear to be tapering off and I am able to join the real world again (with naps and medication, of course, but still....). After passing out on the floor of a public bathroom while with a client, I decided it was time to go to the Emergency Room. I cried to my Mommy by phone the entire way there and it became clear that either my baby was going to kill me or I was going to get a doctor to help me in some way. The beautiful nurse and the very wise doctor at our local hospital confidently ordered me new anti-nausea and anti-constipation medications.... both of which worked after the first dose (which showed me that I needed to be veerrrryy careful when I took that second med!). Were there some side effects at first? Sure! I woke up in the middle of the night hallucinating that all my teeth had fallen out and were somewhere in my sheets. And was I able to stop running to the bathroom? Not a chance! And was I too disoriented to stand (let alone drive)? Absolutely! But ever since my system got used to the medications, life has been sooo much more manageable! In fact, since I haven't been tortured by so much gastrointestinal distress the last two weeks, I've actually been able to start enjoying my pregnancy.... and I felt that Little Bean kick for the first time this morning:) It's amazing how much more manageable life can be when you're not in constant pain. Not only have I been able to get a glimpse of my old life again, but this morning I was able to experience a precious moment from the new life inside of me.
     Looking at the next few weeks, I see a trip to Michigan, Christmas parties galore, Taylor's birthday party, cupcakes for school, invitations to be filled out, and that whole laundry list of things called "Daily Life".... so will I be a bad blogger again? I'm gonna guess YES! But I will be back, complete with war stories and glories, I'm sure. But if I don't blog before the holiday, have a very Merry Christmas to each of you and your families. I am so grateful for you and the love that you share each and every day to me and mine. Xoxo

Friday, November 29, 2013

8 Things You Wish Someone Would've Told You BEFORE You Went Off The Pill

     Before we get started, let the record show that I am absolutely, 100% elated to be having a baby. I can't wait to meet this little life inside of me, hug him/her, and tell that sweet little bundle of joy that they were "worth it in the end". That being said, telling an expectant mother such things while the vomit is still fresh on her lips is not only "unwise" but it's enough to get you punched in the testes....by a pair of angry ovaries. And maybe use a little wisdom before saying the words, "Just (fill in the blank) more months to go!" Because honestly, pregnant women aren't counting down the months, they're counting down the days.... that's 161 more nights that I can't sleep on my stomach, or 192 more days that I'll sneeze and wet my pants simultaneously, or 288 more meals that will send me dashing for a toilet!
     Blessed be the glorious women that say that their bodies "just looooved being pregnant!" Perhaps these women are giving birth to teeny, tiny angels as their Mama bodies crave only cucumbers and fresh berries. Maybe these women feel the gentle fluttering of butterflies coming from within instead of heartburn and pelvic cramping. Or maybe these women have stopped taken their medication and are immersed into a deluded state of denial. Either way, these women make me sick... (but they shouldn't take it too personally, because basically everything makes me sick at this point.) What I wouldn't have given to know the cruddy side of pregnancy BEFORE it happened! Look, I'm not saying it would've effected my decision to have a baby of my own, but as an educated, well-informed woman, I would've liked a little preparation for the task at hand. Here are 8 things that I wish someone would've told me about pre-pregnancy:

     1) Morning Sickness- okay, okay.... yes, I was AWARE that women got sick during pregnancy. I've had my fair share of health problems that have prepared me for just such an obstacle. However, what I wasn't aware of was that "not-so-much-morning" sickness will prevent a woman from sleeping more than a few hours per night... and that she will be forced to puke in a bowl while driving her car to work because she ran out of sick days already (PS, how is texting while driving illegal but puking is perfectly acceptable?? Thank God my foot automatically releases from the gas while I'm heaving!). How about the fact that the medicine to not-even-kinda-cure morning sickness is wicked expensive, and that the woman's insurance company will refuse to pay for more than 12 pills at a time, leaving said woman sobbing at the pharmacists' counter while he frantically tries to comfort her with tissues and found tablets of Zofran. Or how about the fact that this magical pill will cause horrific constipation for the next 9 months of her life?? Because that's how long morning sickness lasts, ladies.... 9 MONTHS!!!

2) Dog Nose- I've always found myself to have a rather keen sense of smell. My olfactory sense is actually one of my personal favorites... the way a smell can trigger a memory of an old friend, or how the aroma of baking cookies can leave you salivating, and that my husband's freshly-showered scent makes me hungry for affection. What I didn't know? That the smell of garlic will now make me nauseous... AND violent (because how DARE someone eat garlic and then come near me when they darn well KNOW it will make me sick?!?) And, little did I know, that I would be compelled by something deep within me to not rest until I have located and identified any offensive odor within a 12 mile radius. A word to the stink bug hiding in the back of my closet.... I'm on to you, my friend. And you're going down.

3) Fevers, Hot Flashes, and Cold Sweats- No, it's not the Bubonic Plague, it's just pregnancy. Do we judge a marathon runner for sweating while running, or an Eskimo for having a hot flash when temperatures hit 60 degrees? Of course not. But lets cast repulsive looks at the pregnant woman with pit stains halfway down her sides, or the fact that she has stripped down to her unattractive undershirt in an attempt to cool down. (Hey, it fit! AND it was clean-ish so lay off!) My personal favorite is when I read the pregnancy magazines that tell women to "strap on those tennis shoes and pull up those maternity yoga pants... it's time to hit the gym!" Oh, is it that time? Because I'm pretty sure I worked up a fantastic sweat while bending over to tie my shoes... and my fever spiked at least 2 degrees when I climbed the stairs to get the shoes out of my closet in the first place. Is it really safe for the baby to work out under these conditions? Because my leaky bladder and overactive armpits are starting to catch on to this "gym thing" and they're not happy. So I think I'm just gonna lay here and try to not sweat through the sheets on my bed (because God knows that changing them will spike the fever at least another 3 degrees...)

4) Alzheimers- Yep. It's truly a symptom of pregnancy to completely lose your mind. I can't remember where I set something down, what it even was that I set down, or if it's ever really important that I ever find that thing in the first place! (Gosh, I hope it wasn't one of my other children....) I have asked my clients a question and repeated the same question again seconds later. They stare at me as if I, their therapist, am the crazy one.... "You just asked me that," they say. "Oh, wow, did I?" I reply. "That's what you said the last time you did it, too!" Ooops. I definitely think that someone should've warned me that..... crap. Oh well, it will come back to me later.

5) Back Spasms- I don't know how Barbie does it, but after carrying around two gallon milk jugs all day, my back is killing me!!! Poor pregnant women experience spasms when they sit, when they stand, and when they lay in one position for more than 20 minutes at a time. You know when my back normally feels great? When I lie on my stomach.... oh, the cruel irony of it all.

6) Acid Reflux- Never having experienced heart burn before pregnancy, I was highly alarmed when I had a a sharp pain near my heart. Oh great, I thought. Heart attack is ANOTHER pregnancy symptom??? However, my husband lovingly informed me (AKA scoffed) that I was experiencing heart burn. Ahh, ok, good... no need to rush to the Emergency Room. But then the acid started. Whatever a pregnant woman eats, she better be prepared to order it with a side of Pepcid, because acid is all she will taste anyway. "What topping would you like on your ice cream sundae, ma'am?" Hmmm, definitely stomach acid, burning mucus, and a cherry on top, please.... Try to stay away from acidic foods? Sure! But I didn't realize that corn flakes were all that acidy. And buttered toast.... and turkey. Because what I'm sensing here is that NO ONE knows what causes or fixes acid reflex OR heart burn! It's all a bunch of lies told by the makers of Tums to keep disgruntled, acid-burbing, mommys-to-be dependent on those chalky Mixed Berry disasters.... (which sets off the morning sickness, by the way!!!)

7) Tearing... Oh, the tearing- When I was a little girl, I remember my mother telling me about episiotomies (hello, nightmares) and how they're important to prevent you from tearing when you have your baby (and then I prayed that God would change me into a boy while I was sleeping). Over the years, I worked through these nightmares and decided to brave the dangers of childbirth anyhow. But what no one told me was that my girl parts wouldn't be the only thing tearing down there. So, ATTENTION WOMEN!!! When you get pregnant, understand that your rectum will be torn for a good 9 months (at least) when your child-sized feces try to vacate your body after days of constipation (courteousy of pregnancy and the makers of Zofran). Did I know that the daily task of pooping was going to cause me excrutiating pain? Nope. Was I told that my husband was going to become my proctologist with his makeshift rubber gloves, a box of enemas, and tubes of cooling hemorrhoid cream? Uh, noooo. And was I notified that several times a week, I would wish for death as I grip my puke bucket with one hand and the side of the toilet seat with the other, screaming like a murder victim? (PS, thank goodness for country living... if I had anything BUT redneck neighbors, I guarentee the police would be at my door weekly.) But no.... no one told me that stool softeners don't soften crap (quite literally) and that passing an actual STEP STOOL would be easier than what us women have to go through. So ladies, do yourself a favor. When that pregnancy test comes up positive, don't run to your man, call your mother, or take a moment to revel in your joy.... grab a handful or raisins and a metamucil milkshake and start chugging. There will be plenty of time for others to tell you how "big you're getting!" later.

8) I'm not sure how to tell you this, but you need to be aware that your vagina may fall out. Ooohhh, laugh if you will, but if you're one of the rare women who's vag-in-a becomes a vag-out-a, you'll wish you had been prepared! While your body is pregnant, it creates a hormone that relaxes the pelvic floor (apparently our pelvic region has termites in it's flooring), causing your girl parts to exit when straining through bowel movement or heavy lifting. Thanks, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING.... I know where to get a great deal on nipple pads, but what about this vag problem I've got hanging around??? Sadly, this Thanksgiving, I lost my vagina to a battle with constipation. Those contraction-like pushes that occur when you're in the bathroom? Apparently it's possible to push out a little more than poo. With husband at my side (backside, that is), and me working through my pain (clutching the rug and cursing the day I was born) I felt an unusual sensation. When I tried to stand, I noticed that there was a warm numbness taking place, AND that I couldn't quite put my legs together. What the heck, NOW? I thought. So, I grabbed my hand mirror and had a looksie. Lo and behold, what used to be in was now out.... and it looked like I had the holiday ham between my legs. Oh my gosh, WHAT DO I DO!!!! Well, if you call your on-call doctor (as you should always do if your vagina falls out), he will tell you to ICE IT. Yes, of course it was a male doctor. No female would instruct a pregnant woman to ice her inside-out ham and actually mean it! But, ladies, if you do find yourself in this terrifying situation, know that you are not alone. Once the swelling goes down, you can do some Kegel exercises and gently push/shove/staple/whatever your parts back into their rightful place. I mean, I'm pretty sure my husband and I will never be able to have sex again, ya know, with my jello-y parts ready to fall out at any given moment, but at least I can somewhat sit and walk normally once again.

     Too much information? Well, I just wish someone had shared these bits of TMI with me months ago and saved me the awkward calls to my gynecologist. I mean, I tried to Google "How to fix a problem with my cell phone" and before I got to the word "fix", Google routed me to "Did you mean 'How to push your vagina back in?'" No, Google... not today, but thank you for knowing me so well... you're creepy, but sweet. And when little Sally or Johnny emerges from my screaming body this spring, I'm sure I will forget all of these crazy bodily quirks that have plagued me for 9 months. And then Google will be able to route me to pages like "How to make your nipples stop leaking while in Wal-Mart around all these wailing children". But until then, I hope that I was able to help some other women out there (PS, please read this article to your teenage daughters while having the abstinence speech).

     PSS.... I love my Baby Bean already :)
The List

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Pierogie Dilemma

     I just ate a box of pierogies. The entire box. This was not my intention when I set out to make dinner. In fact, it was the last thing on my mind when I came home from work. My husband took the kids see my niece perform in a play downtown, which left me home (on-call for work, but still home) alone. Knowing that I could take a nap, eat whatever / whenever I wanted, take a relaxing bath, and anything else my heart desired, I chose NAP. The couch just looked too comfortable to pass up after a very long day at work. So, before I knew it, I was cuddled up with the pillows and my soft, green throw, waiting until sleep overtook my fattening body.
     But just as I was about to drift off, I felt a very familiar pull coming from deep inside of me. I recognized it immediately as The Pangs of Hunger. Pre-pregnancy, I would've ignored such a calling and moved on with the nap (.... actually, pre-pregnancy, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking a nap in the first place, so, scratch that, I would've eaten anyways.). However, now that my belly has a life of it's own (hello, Pun), I've learned to eat whatever I can get my hands on and as soon as possible when the pangs arrive... if I choose to ignore this hunger, vomiting is sure to follow! So, I jumped (heaved) up and ran to the kitchen in search for something non-nauseating. Salad? ugh, gag.... Mac 'n' cheese? eh, that is sooo yesterday's accident. Tuna fish? oh my gosh, seriously? Not even on a GOOD day! Pierogies? PIEROGIES!! Ah, yes! Butter, onion, parmesan, garlic, potatoey-noodly-goodness? I needed it in my stomach as of 10 minutes ago, so I whipped out my ingredients and fired up the skillet.
     And this is where my problem occured. I tore the top off the pierogie box and began dumping in an amount that looked satisfying to this Mama that had been puking on and off all week, unable to eat nearly enough to even begin dealing with the 3rd bout of constipation creeping in. Needless to say, I was hungry. Perhaps a bit too hungry. After I finished pouring, I went to re-close the box, only to find that a meager three pierogies remained. Three, lonely pierogies, destined for freezer-burn, stared back at me in a plea to be warmed in a butter bath.  Ah, crap.... I can't just leave three.... that's not even enough for an appetizer! I did the only thing that could be done and I plopped the remaining potatoe noodles into the skillet. There was a satisfying sizzle as they thanked me.
     Fifteen minutes later, I sat with my platter of food as I caught up on this week's episode of Parenthood. (Fitting for a mother-to-be, right?) I dug in and was doing pretty well, until the wall hit me. And guess what? There were three pierogies left on my plate. Those little buggers had tricked me! They knew there was no way I was going to finish them, but they just HAD to be cooked, didn't they! I pushed my plate away in disgust as nausea stopped by to say hello. And as I sat there cursing my dinner and pleading with my stomach to take a chill pill, I vowed never to eat another pierogie again. I took the plate to the kitchen and curled back up on the couch for another 20 minutes as my stomach started to finally settle. Thankful for the relief, I returned to the kitchen for a glass of water.
     "Oooo, pierogies!" I said to myself excitedly.... and then I housed the three noodles down like I'd been in a prison camp for the last decade. I'd like to say that I'm ashamed of myself, but I know that if I had to do it over again, the results would've been the same. So I'm accepting my fat-kid status and moving on with my life. I mean, come on, my stomach is an idiot if it believed my vow to never eat another pierogie again anyways, so it had what was coming to it... which, incidentally, turned out to be three more pierogies.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23rd... Best Day of the Year

     You don't realize how much you need a purely lovely day until you wake up and it's right there, staring you in the face, inviting you to join the festivities. And today was that day. Despite having our family birthday party for him last weekend, Isaac's birth father suggested that we take Isaac for his actual birthday, which is today. Grateful for any extra second we get to spend with him, I promptly took the day off of work so that I could enjoy some needed one-on-one time with my little guy, doing the things that he loves to do. To top things off, today is not only Isaac's 1st birthday, but it's also the 1-year anniversary of Taylor's adoption. So, after sleeping in (just a little), I leisurely made my way downstairs and began prepping dinner and dessert for this evening... Taylor's favorite food is spaghetti, so I made a delicious spaghetti bake with glazed lemon pound cake to enjoy afterward. I felt very maternal and (gasp) organized as I did my prep work in the kitchen before the sun was yet awake. I EVEN multi-tasked by practicing the piano and choosing this week's worship songs as the meat browned the the smell of lemony goodness wafted towards me from the oven. I felt like writing, I felt like reading, and I didn't even feel like I needed a nap first! Having the house to myself, taking time away from work, and feeling productive doing things that I actually wanted to do, I realized an important thing: I was starting to feel like myself again. Actually, I was starting to feel like a better version of myself. (Afterall, that lemon cake was starting to smell way better than my old self! The aroma was so delicious, it had to be that of a Shivonne 2.0.)
     The next stage of this truly fantastic day was seeing my sweet boy's face as he came through the door in Pat's arms. Not having to wait an entire week to see him again was like magic. His big, toothy grin and slobbery kisses were all I needed to know that this day was going to keep getting better. As he crawled around, laughing at everything and playing with the balloons left over from his birthday party last weekend, we got our bags packed to head to the YMCA. (No, we had no intentions of working out... that's a task for Shivonne 3.0.) Instead, we headed to Isaac's favorite thing in the world.... the pool. If all babies like water, then THIS baby is a maniac for it! He'll splash anything he can from the shower, to the dog's water, to the toilet. Give this kid some water and you'll watch him go bonkers! And that's exactly what he did. We enjoyed 3 hours of splishing and splashing as Little Man made his way from pool to pool, saying "hi" to everyone he met, and laughing so much that he was easily the main attraction at the Y today. Chubbiness aside, I think he may actually turn into an excellent swimmer... he has, literally, no fear of the water, and he is willing to shove his face straight under without bothering to cry.... he pops his little head back up and there's nothing but smiles all over his wet face. He even naturally began to paddle his arms when Pat was holding him on his belly, moving him across the pool. Isaac was in his glory and so was this Mama.
     After a short nap, the kids arrive home from school and it was time to get the rest of the dinner finished. We had grandparents arriving to help us celebrate, so we tidied up while the kids entertained the baby with his new birthday toys. Together, we enjoyed a lovely meal as Taylor gobbled down her spaghetti bake and Cameron gagged down some salad. Even Baby Isaac discovered that spaghetti may very well be his new favorite food, just like Sissy! We scarfed down our dessert and then remembered something.... our beautiful day was ending. It was time for Isaac to go back home.
     Taylor began crying and I began getting irritable once again. As I shoved pots and pans back in their places and busied myself with the task of cleaning up from dinner, snapping at Cameron and Taylor as the arguing began once again, I realized that the gratefulness I had felt earlier this morning was being replaced by bitterness. If Isaac was ours, we wouldn't have to say goodbye week after week... we would know that we would get EACH birthday with him and not just hope for a weekend at a time. If I didn't have to go back to work tomorrow, I wouldn't have to do all these stupid dishes right now... I could sit down and do something to help me feel better about Isaac leaving. If this... If that... If only life were perfect... If only I were perfect...
     Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. Maybe it's just the stressors of life. Whatever it is... it has to go. I am helpless to change these circumstances I feel so burdened by, which I know is part of the problem. (Feeling helpless is soooo Shivonne 1.0.) The circumstances will never be perfect, my life will never be perfect, and I (most certainly) will never be perfect. So once again, I find myself reaching for that hope that sometimes gets lost under piles of laundry and in tearful goodbyes. And I remind myself that today was a purely lovely day, and that each day must come to an end. Tomorrow may be more lovely or less lovely than the previous day, but it is still another day where hope will find me (because sometimes I'm too weak to do the searching).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Moments in the Sun

     To be quite honest, I'm not sure if our family is in an up or a down.... are we cycling back upwards after several months of horrible anxiety, behavior problems, and tears? Some moments I think we are. (How long do you consider a moment? If you say "seconds", you're about right.) Then there are moments where I think to myself, Oh no.... here we go again!!  I've long ago decided that I am no longer Bipolar Mommy, but that I just live in Bipolar Family.... guilty by association, I suppose. The ups and downs are pretty normal, I get it, although they are a bit extreme in our house. Emotions fly like kites in May around here, and behaviors change as frequently as my daughter changes outfits per day. It's all I can do to keep my head up some days (literally... this Preggy Mama is T-I-R-E-D!). So, as suggested by my dear friend, I am trying to find one positive thing about my family members per day. (And sometimes one is REALLY hard, so don't judge lest you walk a moment (seconds) in my shoes (which are going to soon be extra-wide at the rate I'm "blossoming"!)
     Some classic positive moments from this week:
     Let's start with the hubsters.... afterall, he's the easy one! One of the many positive things my husband has let me do this week is this: REST. He has seen my exhaustion, frustration, and near-psychosis and he has taken over many days of cooking, cleaning, homework duty, and Officer Dad patrol. There have been days when I came straight home from work and this man, God bless him, let me go to bed... for the entire night. He brings me medicine (the minimal amounts I can take), chocolate, and beverages. My sweet guy even jumped on phone-duty, calling my doctor and Rite Aid to help me get my prescription filled. Although I think the pharmacist was being extra helpful, as I was standing at his counter sobbing the day prior when they told me I was only eligible for one Zofran tablet. ONE. The kind man gave me three, accompanied by a gentle hug, and told me just to come back tomorrow in hopes that my prescription would come through. I feel blessed that my husband, and our pharmacist, have my back.
     Cameron.... well, despite the increased tears over everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink, he had a moment that made me think "Upswing!". As I picked songs for church this week, Cameron took it upon himself to clean the house. I use the word "clean" very loosely, because he did wash the dishes without soap, and he dusted by blowing on the furniture with great force, and he swept the entire floor via the tiny shop vac hose instead of the sweeper. But he made an attempt to do something that would make me feel happy instead of mad (these are two of the only emotions he comprehends at this point, so it was a big deal for him to choose "happy" for me). Kudos to Cameron for his extended moment in the sun!
     Taylor.... this one was a bit tricky. She made attempts to be nice, but ended up being mean in the process, so it was difficult to choose a positive moment for her, sadly. In the end, I decided to be happy with the fact that she made me laugh this week. Despite flawed behavior, she caused me to crack a smile as we drove down the road on our way home from gymnastics. Taylor announced very matter-of-factly:
     "Well, it looks like the road people are trying to catch mice again."
     "They're trying to catch mice??"
     "Yep, see all the mice traps on the road?"
     "Tay, those aren't mouse traps, those are reflectors on the center lane."
     "Well.... I don't know what those are, so I'm gonna just keep calling them mice traps."
     Alrighty then.... you do that! Goofball. And there was a brief moment in the sun.
     Isaac.... my little man is still coming to see us on the weekends, although I find that I miss him more and more with each passing day. The weekends that I was so grateful for in the beginning have become a reminder that I don't get to hold and kiss my baby every morning and every night. There are times when I see his biological dad while I'm working, or I hear something I wish I didn't about him, and my heart sinks to my stomach as tears flood my eyes. In one unexpected moment I go from "I think I'm ok" to "Oh my gosh, I'm dying.... yep, pretty sure I'm dying!" In these moments I let myself look at our pictures and videos of Isaac from the previous weekend... him learning to shake his head and make himself dizzy, him saying "No" with finger pointed and brow furrowed, him attempting to blow kisses. Each one makes my heart heavy and light at the same time. So, I busy myself by planning his birthday party. He turns One-year-old next week. October 23rd. Last year at this time, I remember sitting in that hospital room, holding his teeny-tiny self, and wondering what the future would hold for all of us. This year, I feel a solemn resolve deep down.... he's not mine, but he's not gone either, and I plan to have the best 1st birthday party for him, complete with all our family and church friends to pour love onto the little/big fella. And what was my positive moment for him this week? The open-mouthed slobbery kiss he planted on my face while he held my cheeks. I'm pretty sure he bit me too, but he's still getting used to his teeth, so I won't hold it against him! He IS my moment in the sun.
     Baby Bean.... So, Bean is apparently no longer the size of a bean, but is actually now a Kumquat. (However, Baby Kumquat doesn't roll of the tongue, so I'm sticking with Baby Bean for now.) This little tyke is giving me a run for my money already! What, with the puking and nausea, headaches and exhaustion and all... BUT, I have found peace inside of my belly. For the first month I was pregnant, I was terrified I was going to miscarry. Every other day, I was sure that something had gone terribly wrong. PS, don't read the internet while pregnant.... to find out that Mama's with PCOS have a super high miscarriage rate is soooo not a good read at bedtime! In order to ease my mind and heart, God chose to give me moment by moment pregnancy symptoms.... which sounds horrible, but is really an answer to prayer. With each dry-heave I gag on, I know my Bean is still in there, swirling around like a good little kumquat. And good news from my doctor.... apparently my uterus is much larger than an average woman's at this stage in the game (along with my everything else), so my kiddo is not only in there, but growing like a stinking weed! Go, Bean, Go!! Grow to the sun!
     Have I figured out today's positive moments yet? Uh.... nope. However, I'm positive that a moment will occur... even if I have to look really hard to find it. And if I still can't find one, I'll just re-read this post (through tears) before bedtime to relive the moments from earlier this week. Happy moments to all of you tonight, as well!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Officer Mom

     WARNING: This post is not for everyone... it is for people who can appreaciate a mother at her wits end and understand the desperation that leads her to the state she is in. It isn't for the judger or the Perfect Mom or the "Love is the answer" person. It IS for the parent that can't see straight, who doesn't know where to turn, and who pleafully wants to know he/she is not alone.

     After two months of out-of-control behavior from my children, I've resigned myself to the reality that I am no longer a mother, but a correctional officer. I'm so good at it that it makes me question my current occupation with fresh eyes. Perhaps I missed my calling? Instead of spending so much energy over the last year-and-a-half trying to empathize with my new kids, trying to help them with their emotional and behavioral issues, and trying to get them to love me, I'm realizing that I could've used half the energy and just let the kids hate me right out of the gate!
     Despite my frustrations, believe it or not, I can still look at my situation "therapeutically", recognizing  they just lost their baby brother who was supposed to be adopted to us, and now we're going to be gaining a new baby in the family. All this change throws kids like this for a loop. But when I am truthful with myself, the problems we're facing now are really the same problems we've faced all along.... I am just now ladened with morning sickness, pregnancy fatigue, and a whole heap of hormone changes to boot! It seems that in order to make it through this alive (not even sane... I think I may have given up on that one!), I need to wear a uniform, carry a loaded weapon (just for effect... no shooting of children... today), and stop trying to have a relationship with the inmates. You want to carve words into the hood of my car (large AND misspelled... I'm not sure which I find more offensive)? Then meet Officer Mom. You want to take my deceased grandmother's jewelry after I've told you repeatedly that it's not for children? Then prepare for your bunk to be stripped and searched. You want to pee all over your room because you're upset with a decision I've made? Get ready to scrub that floor on your hands and knees.... with a toothbrush. Feel like hiding from me at 6am, making it look like you ran away in the night after ransacking the house? Prepare for a whole lot of time in your cell.... which will be complete with nothing but your bed and your clothes. Toys are for children, not criminals. Don't like what we're eating for dinner and want to complain repeatedly after you've been told to stop? That's fine. A mother would argue. But Officer Mom will tell you goodnight and that you can try again at breakfast time.
     My favorite is when people tell me, "Aren't you being a little rough on your kids? They're only 5 and 7, and they've been through so much already." But when your 7-year-old takes a threatening stance in your face with his fists balled as he screams bloody murder at you, and your daughter weilds weapons out of school supplies to destroy the window in the living room, you start to recognize your place. Your house is no longer a home and you are no longer in charge when you're a parent. The only way to gain back control is to buckle down and enforce the law. In the last week, I tried the loving approach (very heartfelt, tearful, laying myself out there in such a real way) and then was stabbed in the back with even worse outlandish behavior. I WILL NOT BE THE PRISONER! I'm tired of sleeping with my door locked, waking at every sound because of what things of mine they're breaking. Coming home to bad news and bad attitudes every single day. Perhaps a little juvenille detention is just what the therapist ordered.
     I read an article months back that said when you can't find it in you to be a good parent that day, just try to be a good babysitter. And on some days, that was relief enough. But on days you can't find it in you to be a good babysitter? Then let Officer Mom come to the rescue. Emotion-free living mixed with the simplicity that comes with it.... Except.... feelings do come with it. Feelings of failure as a parent, therapist, and person. Feelings of rage that my life has come to this. Feelings of deep sadness that children I wanted so badly hate me with a passion. Feelings of fear that these vindictive beings will harm me, my dogs, or my Bean. When I'm not busy feeling numb, these are the things that haunt me. These are the things that make me cry myself to sleep at night. Normal children have some sort of end point... a line they won't cross, a move they won't make. Sadly, my kids are just warming up. Not only that, they don't care. I asked my daughter why she ruined my car. Her answer? "Because I wanted to." I asked her if she thought about how that would make me feel.   "Very angry." Good... she knows the right answer. So when asked why she did it anyways? She responded with, "Because I didn't care."
     I'm torn between honest worries that my children are either demon-possessed or sociopaths. I don't know that I believe "human" describes them accurately, so I feel forced to look outside the box. I don't remember pods in the backyard the day they came, nor do shining UFO lights ring a bell. What I know? I'm terribly and fearfully unhappy. (And therefore, so is my husband.) Therapy, medicine, church, prayer, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, behavior charts, time outs, incentives.... nothing is making a dent (visible dent anyways... I know God is always moving and moves quite mysteriously at times, so don't take my rants as wonderment at his Soverignty.... once again, I am just a desperate Mother that wonders if she made the wrong choice at times... ok often.... ok DAILY.... HELLPPPP!!!) But until the invisible becomes visible, I'm going to keep my official badge and hat and pray till bedtime each day. Pray that we all make it there, alive and unharmed, and that those few hours of rest each night will be enough to get me through the next shift.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pregnancy Fun

     So.... pregnancy is interesting, isn't it? I mean, everyday, my body does something just a little bit grosser than it did the previous day. I know this to be true, because my doting husband reminds me of how gross I am after I inform him of each bodily changs. Terrified of miscarrying, I don't like to keep these changes to myself. What if, God forbid, I were to spontaneously pass out? My husband would be forced to rush me to the local Emergency Room and would have to attest to my every symptom. How would he know that my poo is green if I didn't tell him?? And how could he report to the ER doctor that I have a terrible rash on my bottom if I didn't tell him? You see, I'm doing this for my safety!
     Sure, it may kill the mood a bit, but no more than puking or ultra-sensitive ta-tas, so what's the difference? Thankfully, my sweetheart of a gynie prescribed me Zofran. It is the sweet nectar required to sustain me each day, and it makes it possible to move without barfing on my clients (yes, puking in front of the mentally ill is quite amusing.... I'm pretty sure the one fella thought I was hungover, since alcohol is what he bases everything in life around, and the other gentleman, who suffers from paranoia, immediately assumed I was contagious. Not quite, my friend, not quite.) Sadly, my lovely doctor was the only one helpful in getting me this miracle med I so desperately needed. Her office staff, the pharmacy (parmacIES), and the insurance company proved to be not only unsympathetic to my nauseous plight, but they were downright RUDE! Who the crap gets rude to a pregnant woman with morning/all-day-long sickness?? There has to be some missing rule in the Ten Commandments forbidding people to do stuff to tick off a hormonal gal.... Thou Shalt Not Withhold Zofran, or Thou Shalt Not Ruin A Lady's First Week Of Knowing She's Pregnant!!! But obviously, the people at Rite Aid are not Bible readers, and they CERTAINLY don't care about womankind in the slightest!
     At least my husband is helpful.... despite thinking I'm absolutely disgusting, that is. In an attempt to express his manly needs last night, he came upstairs as I changed out of my ever-tightening work clothes and into my X-Large pajamas. Perched on the edge of the bed, he waited excitedly for the "unveiling" to begin. Sighing in relief as the last clasp my my super-snug bra was released, I flung the boob-smotherer across the room.... only to hear my husband roar with laughter. (Just what every plumping woman craves when she disrobes.) Staring directly at them, he asked if he could draw faces on them with magic marker.... so that they would look like JACK-O-LANTERNS for Halloween! (Someone is highly mistaken if he thinks he's going to get any pregnancy coitus out of THIS pumpkin.)
     Despite our lack of intimacy in the last 2 weeks, my blessed mother-in-law offered to relieve Pat and I of our parenting duties for the evening.... which is the best present in the world, as our two little rugrats have decided to make my supposed-to-be happy week a treacherous one. Grateful for the date night, I made plans to do one thing.... sleep. My husband, God bless him, made plans to do other things on the bed instead. However, another symptom emerged. Good-bye diarrhea, Hello constipation! I went from chewing Immodium like it was candy, to sucking down stool softeners just to relieve the bloating and pain (in 12-72 HOURS!!!! For the love of God, don't they know that my baby could suffocate if this crap doesn't get OUT of me??) As it turns out, my miracle Zofran is the culprit of this new and unfortunate symptom. And the only solution? An enema.
     Two months in and I'm already in need of an enema.... like I said. Pregnancy is interesting. Two years ago, date night would've consisted of passionate kisses, decadent food, and a night on the town. But tonight, we will be left with me bending over as my husband "spreads 'em" and injects something uncomfortable into my already full back-side. To top it off? He's worried he'll get "happy" by this? Oh my gosh, seriously?? I promise that if he sticks around for the following half hour, his "happiness" will be running for the hills! At least that's what I'm hoping for... because if this enema thing doesn't work, I very well may find myself actually passed out and in the local ER. At which point, my husband really WILL be glad he knows about all my gross symptoms. So now, let date night commence. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

     My husband and I have been married for three years. Three years seems like such a short period of time, and yet, as we've reflected on ALL that has taken place during this time span, it feels as though we've lived a lifetime and a half! My biggest dream growing up was always to be a mother. As I got a bit older, I realized that I wanted other things as well... to help others, to have a job that required me to show compassion to the underdogs of society, to pursue music, to write, to love God and my family with my whole heart. After year 1 of marriage, it looked as if I was going to have to abandon one of my most precious goals in life: Motherhood. Crushed and exhausted from fertility pills that made me super-sick, we moved to Plan B: Foster Care.
     With so many children in need of placement, surely, we thought, we would get a child immediately! Ahh, but let us not forget the months of paperwork followed by the months of waiting. More Waiting!! Was it possible that even needy children weren't meant for us? Good grief!! If I can't have my own and I can't help someone elses', what was left? But lo and behold, after almost a year into the fostering process, we got the call. TWO children instead of one.... what a deal!! Two weeks after their arrival, CYS asked us to consider adopting them. Um.... they obviously haven't seen me mother... I'm really not very good! I always thought I would be this awesome Mom, but I've realized that I basically stink at it! But our hearts did what our brains couldn't.... and we said "Yes".
     Several months later, Baby Isaac came along. I'm pretty sure most of our family thought we were crazy by this point! Afterall, we were dealing with some "fun" and "interesting" behaviors (both from the kids AND from us!), but we figured that adding their baby brother to the mix would be worth it in the end. P.S. It was.
     Fast forward 9 months.... Both Cameron and Taylor have been adopted, Isaac is set for adoption, and then the bomb hits. Words like "biological father" and "reunification" started haunting my dreams and turning my stomach sour. After a month and a half, Isaac left us for good. Grateful for weekend visits, Pat and I tried to compose ourselves for the sake of each other and for Cameron and Taylor.... we left our weeping for late at night, in the privacy of our cars, our pillows, and the great outdoors.
     What I didn't tell you in last night's post is that Sunday night, just after returning Isaac to his father for what we thought to be the final time, we had one more change of events. My husband was at the video store, walking the isles in tears, desperate to find something to distract him from the great loss Isaac left in him. I was at home, getting sick with grief....literally. I texted him repeatedly, as he was taking an unusually long time. He assured me he would be home soon. I waited on the couch for him anxiously, knowing that the day had been more than we could handle, but that I was going to do what I could to cheer him. So, when my hubby walked through the door, the first thing I did was put my arms around him and we both cried. And the second thing I did was present him with a present:

     I realized that God loves poetry more than even I, because no one could have written this more poetically if they had tried. On the very night we lose one baby, God grants us another. Pat and I stared at the tests with their beautiful, pink, double lines, and we did the only thing we could in the moment. We laughed. It was much needed laughter in a moment that we were feeling so much sadness. We we overjoyed, nervous, and broken, all in the same moment, and laughter was the best release we found! After further thought, our giggles continued, because, not only had I not ovulated in 3 years, but we had only had a week of "sexy time" in a two month span due to feeling so distraught over Isaac. We made time for the obligatory "stress relief" that is supposed to occur for one's anniversary, and that was it! So, one egg in three years just happened to occur during a particularly long dry spell we were in? I don't think so. This has miracle written all over it! And that's exactly how I will always see it.
     Our little bean-shaped baby is 7-weeks along and due May 8th. Baby Bean's heart beat was small but strong. Watching the tiny flashes of light signifying Bean's heartrate filled me with such a peace that I haven't felt in years. I no longer have to imagine what this "would have been like". It's here. It's my moment. My baby. A baby that no one can ever take away. There has always been Hope... but Hope Realized is soooo much cooler! Ladies and Gentelmen, meet Baby Bean.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Final Hearing

     Today, my husband and I walked the steps towards Judge Dohanich's courtroom for the last time. And no matter how many times we enter the courthouse, I still get a knot in the pit of my stomach. At the last ruling, our gracious judge granted us an unprecedented gift of 5 precious weekends with Baby Isaac. We couldn't figure out why he made such an unheard of call, but as time went by, we began to realize that it was more than likely his way of giving us time to come to some sort of peaceful terms with Isaac's biological father. Thanks to my husband's smooth people skills, he was able to befriend the man in a way that I am simply not able to. They talked football and kids, weather and general "man stuff". The relationship my husband built with Isaac's dad, as small as it seems, caused the man to offer to let Isaac come and stay with us for his 1st birthday. Naturally, I ran straight to my boss' office and asked to take that entire day off work. I plan to make the day a complete bash from start to finish. I will pump my baby full of cake, lavish him with presents, and take so many pictures that the maker of Kodak will be able to retire. It will be an amazingly sweet day.
     Sadly though, the thought of one last day with Isaac, as good as that day will be, sickened my heart. Saying goodbye for the last time on Sunday was an all too familiar moment, and it was one I had never wanted to repeat. I actually went with Pat to drop Isaac off after we let Cameron and Taylor say their tearful goodbyes. I was friendly; I smiled. I did what I had to do as I handed Isaac over to his dad. Baby Bear kept reaching back for us, and even as we were getting in our car to leave, he swiveled his head back and forth to get his last look of us. It was heartbreaking, to say the least. I didn't even make it out of their driveway before the flooding began. Needless to say, we barely made it two blocks before we had to pull over as neither of us were fit to drive by that point.
     So today, with raw emotions and grief over the finality that today's hearing was to bring, we sat and listened to the testimonies of everyone involved as they made their recommendations for Isaac to be removed from foster care. There was nothing left to be said, nothing left to be done. The judge then proclaimed the final verdict: Isaac is now to be permanently in the care of his birth father and child services are no longer necessary. He thanked Isaac's father for stepping up to take Isaac when most fathers wouldn't. And then he thanked my husband and I for wanting Isaac when no one else was there to want him. He stated that he hoped an amicable relationship could continue for us all.
     As we all walked form the courtroom, choking back sobs, we acknowledged Isaac's dad with congratulations and best wishes. He shook Pat's hand and then pulled me in for a hug. And then, something lovely and unexpected happened. The man that my husband had built a relationship with over the past 5 weeks offered us the best that we could hope for in a situation that seemed overwhelmingly unbearable. He asked if we would still be willing to do weekend visits with Isaac. He realizes that Isaac loves us, that we love him, and that he has a brother and sister that adore him. He also realizes that he gets free babysitting on the weekends! And we all realized that Isaac deserves as much love from as many people as humanly possible.
     And so, our second "final goodbye" turned around once more! It's not what we had hoped and prayed for, but what kind of God does what my puny little heart wills when He can see the biggest picture of all and knows what needs to be? Isaac is now able to be apart of two families... he will be loved and cherished doubly. He will get to keep going to church and singing his little baby heart out in worship each week, and he will get to take that awesome, Godly spirit into a home that may not have ever had the opportunity to see it any other way. Since the big picture in life is not who lives where or what name I'm to be called by a child, but in seeing each soul come to Jesus, then it seems that God has found a way to bless us all. How can I be angry when He's so beautifully and creatively formed a path where there seemed to be a dead end? Can this man go back on his word? Absolutely. At any moment can he decide to never let us see Isaac again? Yep, he can. But I believe that God used my husband to bond with Isaac's dad. And I believe that God knows what we all need, not just want. So when it comes time for me to worry and stress about this current situation, I'm going to choose to remind myself of this one faithful thought. Hope has no end when it involves a very Big God.... and in a very Big God I trust.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Roller Coaster

     One more weekend. That's it, and then it's all over. We'll pick him up Saturday morning and spend the entire day trying not to cry. Then we'll take him to church with us one last time and try to take a mental snapshot of each moment so that it can forever be ingrained in our minds.... our last weekend with Isaac. Saying goodbye week after week has been so emotionally trying.... almost as emotional as the fact that it takes our baby longer and longer to warm up to us each weekend. He's forgetting us already. I was hoping I would never have to see that process, but apparently saying goodbye once is for the weak....we must be awfully strong if our family was given the task of doing it over and over and over again. (At least that's what I'm telling myself.)
     However, some of us are not handling this as well as others. And that someone is Cameron. Surprisingly enough, I thought Taylor was going to be the one we were going to have to worry about. But thankfully she has seemed to grow immeasurably during this time (which has helped me bond with her much more than I did before she was able to show an emotion!). But, sadly, not Cameron. My boy has turned into a complete and utter disaster. The poor kid can't keep a thought in his head (probably because his mind is spinning a mile a minute about Isaac, if the cat is going to leave, school work, things that are shiny...) and his already impulsive tendencies have exploded like a volcano of destruction, aggression, and hyperactivity.
     These are things you'd hear coming from my husband and my lips multiple times an hour if you were at my home any given day of the week:
"Cameron, WHY did you flush your sister's hair ties down the toilet??"
"Cameron, you can't threaten to run away every day.... it's definitely losing it's momentum, my friend."
"Is it yours? Then stop touching it. Now... stop touching it now."
"Cameron, keep your hands to yourself or I'll do it for you."
"Cameron, clean your room." (x 100)
"Teeth are for biting food, not people!!"
"How the heck did you break your lamp AND the toilet??"
"Cameron, stop riding your bike in front of the lawnmower and cars!!"
"Seriously?!? WIPE YOUR BUTT!!!!!"
"Cameron, take your meds... Cameron, take your meds... CAMERON!!!! TAKE. YOUR. MEDS!!!!"
     At school, he's getting in trouble for not listening, hitting another student, and getting out of his seat repeatedly on the bus. At home, he's hitting (himself and others), lying, stealing, binge eating, breaking things, and biting. Yes, biting. My toothless child has grown several teeth over the summer. Although I was thrilled his teeth were FINALLY coming in, I had no idea that he would use them as a weapon. Not only did he break skin on his sister's shoulder, but he attempted to bite my mother-in-law multiple times while she was trying to help him calm down during one of his fits! And to top it off, Cameron's binge-eating has caused him to gain almost 10 pounds since Isaac left (we literally had to buy all new clothes because he went up 2 sizes in 2 weeks!).
     Cameron has also taken to very large tantrums whenever he isn't given his way. Tonight, after he was told 3 times to get ready for bed and he continued to play instead, he was sent to bed. "What about snack??" he asked. I informed him that he'd missed snack time when he was playing and that it was now bed time, not snack time. This is what I got in return: "Not only are you the worst foster mom in the world, you're the worst REAL mom, too!! I hate you! You're mean and a jerk and I'm going to kill myself!!!" (The last part always seems to emerge when he's very emotional and then not given his way on top of it. We've addressed this multiple times over the last year and a half, explaining how serious this is and that he will not be given his way for a statement like that... but if he is serious and tries to hurt himself, he will have to go to a hospital, which won't be very fun.) However, over the weekend, he made the same statement and when he didn't get the attention he wanted, he decided to punch himself in the face... which consequently gave him a bloody nose. And the roller coaster just continues day in and day out... it's like the worst amusement park ride in the world and he, nor I, just can't seem to find the emergency lever to pull and get off of it.
     I think it's safe to say that his therapist has her hands full and that his current medication isn't cutting it. But more importantly, I have no idea how to make him feel better. I can't give in to his every whim, and I can't have him hurting people or himself.... I love him too much to let him turn into a monster. It would just be nice to know what to do. How to ease his mind. How to calm his heart. How to deal with his behaviors without turning into a monster myself! I feel too emotionally tired to try sometimes. It's easy to flip out and it's easy to ignore.... but I know he needs planned approaches to things. Cameron needs a well-thought out response to each behavior; one with the perfect amount of firmness and love, forgiveness and consequence, empathy and redirection. But how do I do that when, some nights, all I have the energy for is staring at the television until my eyes glass over and it's an acceptable time to go to sleep?
     Eventually we will tire of this ride enough to move on to the next one, and hopefully it will be a much more pleasant experience. I doubt it will happen before Isaac's last weekend, and probably not before our final court hearing for him on Tuesday. In fact, it probably won't happen for a while. In the meantime, I'm gonna keep trying to stay sane, pray A LOT, and work on my Candy Crush scores (because, hey, even mom's need a little mind-numbing fun, right?). Suggestions are always welcome:)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcome To The Zoo

     There has been a devastating amount of loss to our family over the last several months. It was only shortly after the passing of my hero, Grandma Keiser, that we began the upheaval of Isaac leaving. And between the dogs running away and Isaac coming and going every weekend, it's been a real struggle for each of us to find our way and to grasp on to happy moments once again. Unfortunately, my husband had one more devastating blow over the weekend. His beloved pet toad (of 4 years), to whom he fed bugs and played with while he "worked out in the garage", was tragically stepped on late Sunday night. (I don't know if you've ever seen a toad that's been stepped on.... but I don't even like toads and feel like I may have PTSD from the whole thing!) Pat was obviously crushed and left with an empty void; his friend of 4 years, taken so suddenly and grotesquely.
     Luckily, my family has decided to fill their voids with taking in stray animals. After one of our dogs cornered a kitten on the front porch, my weak-for-animals husband felt the need to nurse her back to health from her bone-thin, flea-infested frame. Now, my grandmother didn't have fleas, and even though Isaac pooped himself, he didn't get it all over the basement, so to me, it doesn't seem like much of a fair trade. But for whatever reason, my husband and children are running about with gaiety in their steps and smiles on their lips, talking about the kitty this, and the kitty that. My husband maturely "made a call to the humane's society" which consisted him of NOT making the call and playing with the cat instead, so I looked like the bad guy when I suggested we find a nice home for the kitty. Three hollow and shell-shocked faces abruptly popped up and stared at me with mouths gaping. I felt like Hitler, standing there commanding them into the gas chambers if they didn't hand over the feline!
     Oh, for heaven's sake.... FINE. We'll keep the darn cat! (For now.) How we're going to feed it? No one but me cares about that. Who will clean the crap out of the basement? Eh, Pat will get to it (eventually). At least Isaac got WIC to help with some of the financial burden.... do kittens get WKC or something, maybe? I'll have my husband "check with the humane's society" about it....
     So, since we have to keep the little critter, we might as well come up with a name for her, right? We had a family meeting and decided that the top contenders were:
Puddles (that was aaallll Taylor)
Cuddles (Taylor again.... they're learning rhyming in Kindergarten this week.)
Patrick (Cameron)
Esmeralda (Pat)
Persephone (Pat.... again. Apparently he wants his cat to be a Disney character or a Greek goddess.)
     All interesting options. However, the name that beat out all the rest was a nomination made by Cameron in honor of his and Taylor's favorite movie, Matilda. (However, the kitty's name is not Matilda.) The new name for our furry little feline is Miss Honey. She is a goldeny-orange color and she is very, very sweet (and sticky from the poo), so this name actually fits her like a glove (AND I don't have to yell "Persephone!" every time I track litter up the stairs.)
    In addition to the kitty, I mean, Miss Honey, Cameron happened upon a salamander in the basement and he decided that he couldn't live without his new friend. I informed him that that was fine, as long as he and his friend lived outside and at least 100 yards from my house. Cameron reluctantly told his red, spotted pal that I am a "Big Meany" and that he'll come visit him in the yard. So, not only can I not go into my basement due to the giant wolf spiders, salamanders, and cats that have taken over, now I can't walk in my yard for fear of stepping on toads or Cameron's little buddy.
     To top everything off, this evening, as I sat in the living room, plunking away on my piano, my husband bursts through the door looking like a kid on Christmas morning. Holding his hands together in front of him, he thrusts them out at me and says, "Look, Bubba! I found a NEW toad!!!" Just as the words were leaving his lips, the giant amphibian leapt from Pat's fingers and towards my face. Frog dampness flung and hit me in the mouth as the gross little creature landed at my feet and hopped across the floor. "He's a big fella, ain't he?" My husband was so happy, and despite my disgust, I couldn't help but feel a bit happy for him, too. Even though Miss Honey, Sal the Salamander, and Toad-The-Sequel can't replace what was lost to our hearts, I am grateful that the ones I love are able to find joy in the moment.... even if I do, officially, now live in a zoo.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Running Away

     My son is going to run away. Don't be fooled by his 7-year-old frame and poorly thought out plan. He is going to run away. Nevermind that he is in his boxer shorts and only has a bag packed with t-shirts.... I think we should take this threat seriously. Afterall, if we neglected to believe every child that threatened to run away, there would be at least 4, maybe even 5 kids that would just be lost in the wilderness, never to be heard from again. So I think it necessary to inform him of what he's going to face out in the wild, on his own (in only his boxer shorts).
     But to back up for a minute, let me tell you that my son got in trouble at school today (hey, this is an improvement from last year.... he made it 3.5 days without a hitch this time!). He and another boy decided to spit loogies on the cafeteria floor during lunch time. 1) This is gross. 2) This is a slipping hazard. 3) This is unhealthy. 4) This is my son. However, I did not flip my lid. Nor did I dole out a ridiculous punishment. I did, however, inform him that I was going swimming at our friend's home this evening, and that if he wanted to join us, he would first need to clean my floors.... all of them. His ADHD little self sped through the house like a man on fire (stopping briefly to stare at nothing, ask a totally unrelated question, or to touch something shiny). Finally, the floors were clean (ish) and we hopped in the car to head to the pool.
     Not only did we have a fabulous time in the cool water after a miserably roasty-toasty day, but Cameron LEARNED HOW TO SWIM!!! I'm pretty sure he drank a few quarts of pool water, but bloatedness aside, it was fun and super exciting for him. I was thrilled and praised the trunks off him the entire way home. As we pulled into the driveway, I gave very clear instructions: "Cameron. You MUST change your wet clothes and then clean your room before going downstairs to play with your sister. I will inspect your room before you play. Do you understand me?" He affirmed that he understood. Yet, knowing this child's attention span, I repeated the instructions, at which time he huffed and said "I KNOW!" Ok then. No problem....
     I jumped in the shower to wash the chlorine off and popped out 5 minutes later. It was eerily quiet upstairs and I called to my children. No answer. Hmmm. Never a good sign. I dressed and headed to Cameron's room. Lo and behold, Cameron was nowhere to be found, yet his room was exactly as he had left it the day before.... filthy. I calmly (it has to be noted that I was calm) went downstairs to find him playing, at which time he told me he was "just helping Taylor find.... um.... something..." I patiently asked him to repeat the directions he was given in the car.
     "You said to change my clothes, and I did!"
     "What else did I tell you to do, Cameron? Here's a hint. It's the same thing you were told to do yesterday, which you didn't do, AND it's the same thing you were told to do right when you came home from school, which you didn't do."
     "Um, I don't know?"
     "Perhaps some time in your room will help jog your memory. Here's another hint.... YOUR ROOM."
     Twenty minutes later, I called the kids for dinner, at which time Cameron came down looking very grumpy. The kind of grumpy that makes you say to yourself, Ugh, here we go.... He sulked through the first part of his meal and then tried to pretend that he had been nothing but peaches and rainbows, and asked (in his sweetest voice) which story I was reading them tonight. I asked Cameron if he remembered what the instructions were for when he came home from swimming. He amazingly enough remembered that it was to clean his room... but that he DID clean his room, it just got dirty again. (Um, that's not even a nice try, kid.) To which I responded, "I'm sorry your room got dirty again.... that must be so frustrating for you. It is equally frustrating for me to have my son not follow my directions when I've said them repeatedly, and then to lie to me instead of just being honest. There will be no story, not tonight."
     "You hate me don't you!!!" This is the go-to response when he is a combination of in trouble, tired, and stressed.
     "Never have I hated you, Cameron. You're my son and I love you very much. And because I love you, there will be no story, in hopes that you remember to follow directions better tomorrow."
     "You hate me and I hate it here! I'm going to tell Lisa (our caseworker) that I'm leaving you.... she's gonna come and take me away to another foster home and you'll be sorry!"
     "First of all, Lisa doesn't work with us anymore, Bud. Secondly, you're adopted, so this is no longer your foster home... it's your permanent home, for better or worse. And most importantly, I do love you, but there is still no story."
     At this point, Cameron began to yell loudly and cover his ears when I tried to interrupt his rant as he stamped his feet on the ground. Taylor stared at him in amusement and, to her credit, did nothing to intervene. When Cam finished his tantrum, I told him that it was his bedtime, that I loved him, and good night.      "But what about the rest of my dinner?", he asked frantically.
     "You have to wait two hours after screaming to eat.... and you'll already be asleep by then. Goodnight."
     There were more wails as he stomped up the stairs. When I finished my dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, I went to check on my little grumpus. And that's when I saw him, in his boxers, book-bag packed, and look of determination on his face.
     "So.... where ya goin?" I asked.
     "Oh! I'm running away. You just wait!"
     "Where ya running to, exactly?"
     "I'm going to Lisa's office to tell on you."
     "Don't you mean tell on yourself, since you were the one that didn't follow directions and then lied? And you were the one that did all this carrying on instead of just apologizing and moving on with our night?"
     "Uh, no... I'm not telling her that. I'm telling her you're mean and that I hate it here!"
     "Well, OK then. I guess it's settled. You're running away. By the way, Lisa's office is about a 5-hour walk, that's about how long it takes to drive to Michigan... and it's dark out, which means you'll need your flashlight.... oh, shoot. I totally forgot, you lost your flashlight when you weren't following directions the other day. Too bad. Oh well, you'll figure it out. Remember to bundle up, 'cause it's getting chilly at night. And take a map. Can you read a map? Oh, nevermind, you'll find it. Maybe some nice kidnapper will show you the way if you get lost.... Be safe, OK? I'll miss you."
     Ten minutes later, my son was fast asleep on his bed. See? It's a good thing I took his threat seriously.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


     I love moments of nostalgia. Not the "I remember when..." kind, but the type of nostalgia that seems to drift in from Never Never Land and invade each of your senses, leaving you feeling like you just woke up from the most serene dream imaginable. These moments are few and far between, so I cherish them even more when they occur.
     Today was an exceptionally amazing day. Not because anything spectacular happened (because, seriously, nothing even remotely "eh" took place), but because I had several times today where I was flooded with sweet sensations and memories that I wasn't expecting... and I felt so grateful for just those few seconds to feel peace.
     An especially beautiful moment came over me while I was driving home. I worked the 11am-7pm shift tonight, and the sun was just in the best part of the sky where it's in your eyes at every turn. Most people hate this time of day for just that reason, but not me. It's always been my favorite. The way the sun starts to turn everything a glowy gold color and shadows begin to get long on the ground.... the time of year that is late-summer and it's perfect to ride with your windows down and your hand making waves out the window as you drive, the cool breeze (and occasional bug) tickling your skin as you go. I took a back road home tonight. It was covered with rich, green fields that housed cows lazily chewing away on their cud. I could smell the scent of farm animals, feel the cool wind and the warm sun simultaneously, and hear the sound of birds fading to crickets as the sun sank lower in the sky. And for a moment, I could almost close my eyes and picture my 10-year-old self back in my hometown, riding my bike in the breeze, trying to make the most of the remaining rays of sun before the streetlights sent me back inside for the night. I felt relaxed and happy. I felt free.
     It's funny about nostalgia. It's such a sweet thing, but it always brings a tear or two, almost as if honoring the past with that tear is more significant than just having a fleeting memory on its own. And today, I was moved to tears. I miss my home. I miss my family. I miss my baby. Memories are always bittersweet, sometimes more bitter, sometimes more sweet. If there is one thing that I learned in my nostalgia this evening, its that a peaceful memory, even one worth a tear or two, will eventually come. The blessed feeling is a calming reminder that you once went through something and you already overcame it. And in the end was your peace... unexpected, unearned, and unparalleled.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy Distractions

     I fear that if a professional were to do a mental status exam on me this week, I'd fail. I know there are stages to grief. I know there are ups and downs. And I even know that me and my family will probably feel a lot worse before we feel better about life once again. But all that "knowing" isn't exactly making this any easier! The day after Isaac left from his first visit home with us, I thought to myself, Hey, I think I can do this... We will get all our chores done during the week, get lots of sleep, and spend more time with the other two kiddos. And then on the weekends we'll focus all of our attention on Isaac. It's not ideal, but it may just work out.
     The very next day, I found myself sobbing in the corner of Dollar General because I passed the baby section and saw one of the bibs that Isaac wears hanging on the shelf. A Bib. I'd like to say the rest of the week perked up, but I'd be lying. I ran into Bear's biological father 3 times last week through my job, and twice this week (so far!). All five times were unexpected and left me gasping for breath as my heart felt like it was going to explode right out of my chest. And God bless the clients that ask me how my kids and baby are doing.... They don't know. They're just being friendly. But I'm terrified that I may punch one of them in a moment of weakness. (Ok, I don't think I'd punch them for real, but there is a huge likelihood that I'd dissolve into tears and make quite the fool of myself, as I am not a pretty crier. I'm the girl with the red, blotchy, mascara-stained face who has a trail of snot streaming from her nose to her upper lip, face contorted the entire time.)
     And it's not just me. Pat is snippy and angry. Taylor is weepy and emotional. And Cameron is literally not able to remember a single rule because he is so focused on the sadness going on inside of his little boy mind. By the time Isaac came for his second visit, we were all exhausted from grieving our good-bye from the weekend before! And it broke my heart, but my baby boy actually took a couple hours to warm up to us fully and to seem like himself again. But we loved on him the best we could Saturday, and we battled our hearts as we prepared for the third good-bye on Sunday. Pat recorded him singing with me in church this weekend and I've almost worn out my phone listening to it over and over and over again.
     So, I asked God for some much-needed distractions to get my mind off things. And then I was almost in a car accident, my transmission in my car went bad, my husband and I had a ridiculous fight, my phone now drops every call, and PMS came to show me that it's very possible to cry over things OTHER than losing my baby! I quietly looked up and raised my hands in utter defeat. What do You want from me? I'm trying my best... I'm trying to trust you and to hold it together, and to help my family through this, but I'm failing.... I don't know how much more I can handle. 
     God often talks to me in lyrics. Yesterday He chose the honest words of an broken artist. "My heart can't see, when I only look at me. My soul can't hear, when I only think of my own fears...." 
     And I understood His message. Eyes off me, eyes on Him and others. I have looked at my situation every which way from Sunday, and the fact of the matter is.... there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. And I don't want to miss out on answers because I'm too busy looking at the problem. I don't want to miss out on Love because I'm focused on fear.
     So, as a happy distraction, I helped my kids focus on the first day of school. We picked outfits, packed lunches, and readied up the book bags. I gave Taylor a mani-pedi, cut Cameron's nails, and cleaned their ears. I even helped them both scrub up (rather vigorously) in the tub to make sure that we could separate the dirt from the bruises. It was during bath time that I found another distraction. I realized that, despite my thorough and repeated instructions, my kids have no idea how to bathe themselves.
     Cameron sloshed away from me as I grabbed his foot and went at it with the wash cloth. "Since when do we have to wash between our toes??"
     "Since when HAVEN'T you had to wash between your toes?!? It's right up there with washing your elbows and behind your ears!"
     "We have to was our EARS, TOO???"
     This conversation also informed me that Cameron sometimes only brushes some of his teeth.... you know, just the new ones. What in the world..... ?
     Another distraction came at 3:30 this morning. In my benedryll haze, I was pretty sure I heard a tearful "Mommy!" coming from the direction of Taylor's room. I realized that all the lights were on in the upstairs and that she had woken Cameron up because her ear was hurting her. He sleepily informed her that he was not a doctor nor was he a mother and that he should wake me up instead. So she did. I sat on the edge of her bed as she hiccuped and cried. I asked her what the pain felt like and this is how she described it to me: "Mommy, my ear is beeping."
     Beeping? "Honey, I don't know what that means.... let me give you some ideas and tell me which one is closest. Does it itch, ache, throb, sting, or burn?" This was as descriptive as my brain allowed me to be at 3:30am. "Uh, noooo. I said it's BEEPING." Well, I don't know what the crap that means, but she didn't have a fever and she really seemed to want me to answer questions about school, so I thought that perhaps her nerves had manifested themselves in the form of a beeping ear. My daughter... the one who wore her back pack around the house for "practice" the other day.... is nervous for her first day of Kindergarten. Being the dutiful mother that I had just hours before determined to be, I laid with her for almost 45 minutes talking with her about her classroom and what she will get to learn this year. We prayed for her ear and her school day, and then I tucked her back into bed.
     At 6:00am, Taylor began to cry again, telling me the beeping was back. I told her that I was sure her beeping would go away by the time she got to school and realized how much fun she would have learning with all of her friends. She looked a little tired, but then again, she was up quite a bit throughout the night. And she was slightly pasty... and she didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast. So I'm pretty sure the Kindergarten nurse took away my Mother of the Year award when she sent my daughter home just a couple hours later with a fever and an ear infection. "I TOLD you my ear was beeping, Mommy!" Ok, so maybe I got a little too distracted by focusing the kids' on the first day of school. Lesson learned! And we will try again for tomorrow.... assuming Taylor's ankle doesn't start honking in her sleep tonight. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013


     If I could change the child welfare system, I would do it in a heart beat. There is no end to the distress any given family experiences at the hand of caseworkers, judges, and lawyers. Everyone passes the buck and no one takes responsibility for their actions... they simply blame it on "the system". One minute the system is on your side, the next minute, you're chopped liver. One hearing you're looking at adoption, the next you're looking at termination. There are so many ups and downs in this program, it's a wonder they haven't started handing out medication and psychiatric business cards with the foster parent sign-up packets. Even with all the irrational craziness my own family has gone through in the last two years, nothing prepared me for the court hearing my husband and I attended on Friday for Isaac.
     Originally, it seemed unfair, almost cruel, to make us attend a hearing for the child we had to give up just days prior. Still grieving our loss, we showed up and were greeted by the sweetest sight these eyes could've seen. Members from our church were sitting in the lobby, ready to surround us with loving arms of support, prayers, and blessed distraction! Even though they couldn't come into the court room, there was so much love radiating from our friends in the hallway that it was like they were right there in the seats next to us.
     When the hearing finally started, we sat and listened to testimony after testimony as lawyers discussed Isaac's father, determining if he was fit to parent an infant. After being told we were not allowed to have a lawyer of our own present, we were asked where our lawyer was.... with questioning glances, CYS told us that we absolutely could've had our lawyer attend, despite the fact that we have the letter from them stating that we couldn't. So, being the only ones unrepresented, I felt a little unarmed and defeated before we even started! (Particularly after each party (Including Isaac's father) was allowed to read the letter that we submitted to the judge, stating our concerns about this man taking our child.... nothing like awkward.) Isaac's mother purgered herself on numerous accounts, Isaac's father made us seem like quibbling nit-wits for writing our letter to the judge, and the CYS caseworker reported inaccurate fact after inaccurate fact. All in all, it was like being tied to railway tracks as you watch the train approaching at full speed.
     The hearing began to wrap up after an hour and a half, which made my upset tummy grateful. Each lawyer presented closing arguments and each lawyer recommended that Isaac be placed in his biological father's care. My heart sank and my stomach soured. And then it was time for the judge's declaration.
     "After hearing the closing arguments, it seems that everyone is in agreement. Everyone except for me."
     Wait, what? I found myself staring at the man dressed in black with my mouth hanging open. I looked around the room and it appeared that I was not alone. "I am here for the best interest of Isaac. And I feel that it is unfair to the Costa family, to Isaac's biological siblings that live with them, and to Isaac himself to sever ties so abruptly." The judge then addressed Isaac's birth father. "Furthermore, you have two older children that will be starting school again very soon, and you said they were very busy with extracurricular activities. Your schedule is going to be changing quite drastically and you need to make sure this is something you can handle. Therefore, I have decided that Isaac will remain in the foster care system for at least the next month. During this time, he will reside with his biological father from Monday through Friday and he will spend Saturday and Sunday with his foster family. This is scheduled to begin this Saturday, tomorrow. We will meet back here in a month to assess the situation again."
     I'm pretty sure we could've heard a pin drop in the court room. I was prepared for everything BUT joint custody... is that even something they do? I mean, children who have been with foster families for much longer than 10 months get ripped away and placed with their criminal parents all the time. I've never even heard of this! And neither had CYS, nor the lawyers, nor the other judges. Apparently, this is an unprecedented ruling, one that left everyone baffled. I want to say I was elated. My baby was coming home the very next morning!! But there was a part of me that felt angry at the judge. I had already gone through saying goodbye once... and now I have to do it over and over again each weekend? The grieving process was something I'd already started. It's like saying that the child you buried may not have been as dead as you thought when you buried them... I mean, they still may be dead and all, but you have to wait at least a month to know for sure what the end result will be. How do I deal with that??
     In the end, I chose to look at this ruling through a more eternal perspective. God knew the results of this hearing from the beginning of time, so obviously, He's got a plan. I have absolutely know idea what it is, mind you, but I know that there is one. So, I chose to take these extra weekends with my baby as a blessing, knowing that in the end, I may be forced to say a final goodbye again and to go through this pain all over again. Perhaps this is the judge's way of giving Isaac's dad time to adjust. Or perhaps it's his way of giving him time to prove he's not able to do this afterall. Or maybe he saw my eyes and knew that I needed more time to hold my little boy. I don't think I'll ever know the reasoning behind his decision, but I'm grateful for time to smother Isaac with more kisses than he can stand.
     Saturday morning came and my husband, the bolder of the two of us, met with Isaac's birth father for the Great Baby Transfer. I stared at the clock, waiting for them to return home; waiting to see my chubby cherub and his toothy smile. And when the car pulled into the driveway, it was like he had never left. We played the same, we cuddled the same, we bathed the same, and we loved the same. Cameron and Taylor were elated that they get to have visits with their baby brother. In fact, I was worried that this change in plans would put them into an emotional tailspin. But I have to say, I've never felt more proud of two kids than I have as they've gone through this entire ordeal. They've taught me a thing or two about coping and grieving. They've also shown me to be grateful for each moment. They weren't worried about what saying goodbye to Isaac later would mean for them. They were just so excited to have him for the next two days. I was inspired by their ability to live in the moment and to enjoy this special gift with abandon, holding nothing back.
     As expected, it was hard to let him leave again tonight. But this time I was able to console myself with thoughts of next weekend. I am able to focus 100% on my job, my husband, and my other two children this week, leaving us to focus all of our love, time, and attention on Baby Bear this weekend. I have no idea what the end of this situation holds. But I know what I hold. HOPE.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodbye, Sweet Boy

     The worst day of my life came and went. When I woke up yesterday morning, my eyes swollen from crying and my body weary from restless sleep and nightmares, our family was informed that Isaac was going to be leaving us at 8:30am. I had an hour and a half left to hold my baby, smell his skin, and kiss his chubby lips. There is no amount of preparation that can be done to get ready for a moment like this. My parents, my in-laws, our grandmother, my husband, my kids, and myself all stared at Isaac with solemn faces as the clock ticked loudly on the wall. Baby Bear played happily, excited to have so much attention, not understanding that he was going to be leaving the only family he knows in a matter of minutes. Will he be scared? Will he think we don't love him or that we abandoned him? Will they keep him safe? Did they read the 4.5 page letter we sent with all the necessary information about our baby, or did they toss it in the trash? Will he remember me?
     My mind swam with questions as I played with the dimples on Isaac's feet for the last time. It's so hard not to worry... It's so hard to muster up the amount of trust needed to send your most precious possession into an unsafe town, with people he doesn't know, to a man that engages in illegal and unsavory activities. How do you stay strong for your family when you're already collapsing from heartache? Even still, I tried to keep my tears in for the sake of my other babies. My husband asked my father to pray over Isaac in our remaining 5 minutes. And as we held him tightly, my little girl's heart broke and she began to wail with unharnessed tears. All bets were off.... there was no more being strong in that moment. Hearing her cries and watching my other son's chin quiver while I could feel my husband's shoulders shake was more than I could handle. Our circle of 9 surrounded Isaac with freely flowing tears as the car arrived to take him from us. I tried desperately to stop choking long enough to get another smile from him, but as my husband placed him in the car, Isaac began to scream and cry. I wanted so badly to grab him from that car and just start running, as fast as I could, knowing that I wouldn't get far, but feeling like it was the only option I hadn't yet tried. I wanted to take away his tears and hold him forever. But I couldn't. I had to give up my role as Isaac's mother in that moment.
     The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster. As a family, we tried to keep the kids occupied (or maybe we did that for ourselves). Taylor learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and she regaled us with children's songs, pleased to have an audience. Cameron helped cut fire wood and showed us how he can ride his bike standing up. But every time I walked past the empty high chair or glanced at his picture on the wall, I realized that my home now felt hollow. We are missing a vital part of our family and each of us is painfully aware. Despite my desire to not move anything from it's place, or even to wash the last of his dirty clothes (for fear I'll lose the memory of his baby smell), I know that my family needs me to pack up some of his things. The constant reminder in each room is too much for any of us, and we need to get his things ready to send to his new home. And so, today, I started the process. I finished filling out his baby book and added to his life book that was made by his caseworker with the intention of him being adopted into our family. And it was then that I realized something.... Pat and I never wrote our letters to Isaac that would be displayed in his life book. But how do I write one now knowing that he is gone? How do I write him a letter when I'm hurting so badly? And will his biological father throw it out or keep it from him? So, I came to this substitute conclusion. I will write the letter to my baby here.... and maybe one day he will find it, or maybe one day I will have the chance to give it to him face to face. Or maybe I just need to write it for me.

Dear Sweet Baby Boy,
     My first glimpse of you was through a glass window. You were swaddled tightly in a blanket, sleeping soundly. Your Daddy and I were outside the hospital nursery, waiting anxiously to be let inside so that we could start a relationship with you that would forever change us. As we touched your little fingers and kissed your tiny toes, we knew that, no matter what, you had our hearts. We promised to love you unconditionally, and that promise we have kept. You found a way to make me a better Mommy before you could even speak, and you left your stamp on my life and on this family in a way that cannot be put into words.
     When I would hold you in my arms, I would pray over your life. I prayed for safety from sickness, danger, and bad decisions. I prayed for wisdom to always do what was right, no matter what the cost. I prayed for love to find you at every turn... and it's safe to say that every person that's ever met you has loved you. And I prayed for happiness and laughter to be in your heart, not because the world is always happy or funny, but because Jesus has put a joy inside of you that can never be tainted, broken, or destroyed. Baby, your name, Isaac, means "He laughs". Your birth mom didn't always do everything right, but what she did do was pick a name that fits you more perfectly than any other could. Your very name is a testimony to the effect that you have on others. The joy that pours out of you, even as a little one, has overwhelmed everyone that you meet, giving them that contagious smile that won't quit.
     We gave you the nickname "Bear" when you outgrew "Bug".... which was rather quickly! Your size and outgoing personality, along with your many grunts seemed to make the name stick. You were my Baby Bear, my cuddle bug, and my sunshine. Every smile pulled me in deeper and each laugh turned me to mush. It kills me that I won't be able to tell you these things myself, but these are some things I want you to remember:

1) You are so smart, and I hope you always know that. I won't be there to help you with your homework or to teach you to ride your bike, but you have such amazing abilities to catch on to things so quickly.... you can do whatever you put your mind to, so never give up. Try your hardest and let others help you when you need it.
2) There's an amazing spirit inside of you. From the time you could make noise, you figured out your singing voice. Each time I sat at the piano, you calmed instantly. When I sang, you sang. When there was a beat to be heard, you found a way to make your own beat to join in. And when it came time to worship, you were at full attention. Praise Baby would put you into a trance and church would get you shouting. Always worship that boldly, Isaac. Unashamed, unharnessed, unleashed. Let it out and always be passionate about who you serve.
3) There will be many things that sound like good ideas. Most of them won't be. People in your life may offer you things to "help you loosen up" or to let you "have more fun". Remember that every action has a consequence and every seed planted eventually gets sowed. You're awesome just as you are. Don't let anyone make you feel pressured to act a certain way in order to fit in. YOU be the leader of the group. YOU be the example that others want to follow and fit in with. And in moments when you feel tempted, or you slip up because you have a weak minute, don't throw in the towel. Every wrong can be righted and you'll figure it out. I have faith in you. And remember, I'm always standing next to you in prayer about any problem you have.... you're not alone, baby boy.
4) Women are tricky. So just take one, okay? No one has ever made their life better by sleeping around, having a string of loves, or a full little black book. Know what you want before you start dating and be the type of person that you want to attract. Start praying for your wife as soon as you hit puberty. Chances are she'll need someone covering her in prayer during those crazy years, as well. Respect her, love her, romance her, and put her before yourself. You'll know you chose right if she is doing those things right back at you. So never settle. A moment of fun is never worth missing out on True Love.
5) The final thing I want to teach you, baby, is that you will never go wrong if you love the things that God loves. He loves humility, so be humble. He loves a peacemaker, so make peace. He loves the brokenhearted, so help pick up someone's pieces with them. He loves forgiveness, so don't hold grudges. Be kind to everyone, especially the underdog. Always show gratitude to others, stay away from pride (but be confident, Bear, you gotta be confident!), and love endlessly. If you follow God's heart, you'll never ever lose. Love always wins.
     When I first found out that you were being taken from our family, I was devastated. Our family was never going to be the same because we were going to be missing our Laughter. When trying to make sense of the grief I was experiencing, I opened my devotional and read the Bible lesson for the day. It was about Sarah and Isaac. (It's funny how God always knows what we need to hear, when we need to hear it... don't forget to look for those moments He gives you, baby, because those moments will get you through the toughest times of life.) Most of the time when we hear the story of Isaac, it's about how God asked Isaac's father, Abraham, to sacrifice Isaac in order to show his dedication and obedience to Him. At the last second, God sent and angel to stop Abraham and to thank him for his faithfulness. I feel like I can finally relate to how Abraham must have felt when he was instructed to sacrifice his son! The helplessness, the questions, the sorrow.... But the Bible lesson I wanted to share with you was about Sarah, not Abraham.
     Sarah was very old and she was unable to have children (that's me... without the old part... yet). She prayed for decades to be able to have a child, but it never happened. Finally, when she was 100 years old, she gave birth to her only child, Isaac. She named him Isaac, because his birth brought Laughter to her soul. The lesson went on to share how Isaac's name was referred to as Isaac's laughter at times, and in other passages it referred to the laughter of his parents. The devotion then showed something interesting....in the middle of Abraham's preparation to lose his beloved son, it referred to Isaac's name as giving laughter to his parents. In the middle of the worst experience of their lives, God reminded their hearts that Laughter was already there. In the middle of utter loss, was the Ultimate Joy.
     Sweet Boy, you are my Laughter. Even in losing you, I have gained so much. I wouldn't change a second of my time with you, nor will I regret this experience ever. My secret hope is that you will one day come back to me. But I know that even if that can't ever happen, I will never ever stop loving you with my entire heart. I will continue to pray over your life, just as I did when I held you each night. And I will find a way to trust God more than I trust myself, knowing that He can keep you better than I ever could. Remember that you are special. You are chosen by God and loved by so many.... it's no wonder everyone wanted you for their own. I may have lost out on getting to watch you grow, but because of you, I have grown myself. Thank you for your amazing spirit, pure joy, and endless laughter.

Always in my heart,

Your Mama