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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"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ode To Stay-At-Home Daddies

     My husband, Pat, is the recipient of the blessed curse known as being a stay-at-home Daddy. To clarify, I say "blessed curse" because his daily tasks are equal parts a blessing and a curse. When the children are playing nicely together and he's able to achieve at least 3 out of 100 things on his to-do list, this is a blessing (believe it or not, 3 out of 100 is darn right miraculous at this point!). And when the children are stabbing each other with sticks and screaming at the tops of their lungs, this is a curse. This "blessed curse", however, works in the opposite direction for me, making it my "cursed blessing". For example, when my husband gets things done on his to-do list and then I come home from work and immediately have to take over with the kids (because his frazzled and harried expression means only one thing.... someone is going to literally die if he does not get some relief and alone time), causing me to get nothing done on MY to-do list, this is a curse. And when I'm getting ready for work and the kids have already started the next World War (complete with cardboard nukes and hanger machine guns), I get to leave them and go to work with severely mentally ill people, which is my blessing (yes, it's true that dealing with other people's "crazy" is just so much simpler than dealing with your own house of mixed nuts.)
     Throughout the last year and a half, I've struggled with jealousy and a bit of bitterness towards my husband. How is it fair that he gets to work from home while I have to go to work all day? Why should it be him getting to be the Mommy, holding the baby all day long, going on field trips with the kids and enjoying outings at the park? Why does he get to bond with our children while I feel like a stranger to them half the time? Why why why?!?! Poor, poor me!!!
     These are thoughts that I held inside for a time, before exploding them all over my husband in one big, nasty, emotional outburst (because, yes, I have tantrums). He listened to me whine and cry and then whine some more. He offered support and comfort. He did everything a dutiful husband should do... and then he gave me a little perspective into this fairy tale motherhood that I had devised in my head.... he talked about how he never gets to talk to other adults, how he's exhausted all the time, how he feels like he's drowning in a never-ending cycle of washing bottles and doing laundry and breaking up fights. After listening to each other (and actually listening, not getting into that "my day was worse than your day" mode that we as adults are really good at, despite it being a child's sport), we decided that life would be perfect if only we could go one week on and one week off, trading each other's schedules each week. I would stay home for a week and he could go to work, then we would trade. It would be the best of both worlds and solve all of our problems (minus World War III).
     We smiled for a moment as we thought about how grand our scheme was before reality reminded us that we are stuck with the roles that we have, for better or for worse (hmmmm, I remember hearing those words somewhere...) and that we needed to support and appreciate each other's roles more. Such a simple idea, you'd think the therapist of the family could've come up with it long ago, but sadly, my brain turns to mush the second I walk through my front door.... I'm just one big, mushy Mommy for the rest of the evening.
     So, I came home from work and grocery shopping, had a thousand bags to put away and dinner to get on the table. Cameron was already in his room for being a dork, and my husband gave me "the look". It was time. He needed to get away. He informed me that he had things to do in town, he'd be gone for a few hours, and that he would like to take a nap when he returned. "Sure!" I said, with great enthusiasm. I was feeling confident that my Mommy skills would take over and my mushiness would be at a minimum for at least a few hours..... as long as I had a plan:
Step 1) Make dinner. 
Step 2) Eat said dinner. 
Step 3) Feed baby while the older two get ready for bed. 
Step 4) Play board games with the kids. 
Step 5) Give the kids their vitamins and snack while they watch an educational t.v. show.
Step 6) Tuck kids into bed and help baby get to sleep.
     Ten minutes into my "plan" I had already broken up two battles between Cameron and Taylor and the baby had puked on me. But, I was still holding onto my dignity.... afterall, these are the moments I just said that I was jealous of my husband for experiencing all day, so I need to rise to the occasion! A half hour later, Taylor was in tears, Cameron was in time out, and the baby had puked down my shirt for the second time, creating a pool of milky vomit in my sports bra. Awesome. At the passing of an hour, we had finally finished playing two board games (which, by the way is virtually impossible.... trying not to "Spill The Beans" while holding a 7-month old has to have it's own circle in Hell), Taylor was yelling at Cameron for doing anything (including BREATHING TOO LOUDLY), Cameron was intentionally breathing, and the baby was screaming each time I wasn't giving him my undivided attention, all while my phone is ringing and the dogs are barking at the neighbor dog with ferociousness (very loud ferociousness). Hour two was basically the same, with Taylor saying my name repeatedly as the baby is screaming and flailing, knocking my phone off the couch and sending the pieces flying in all directions, and Cameron informing me incessantly that he can see my bra.... BECAUSE THE BABY IS PULLING ON MY SHIRT!! OH MY GOSH, WHEN WILL PAT BE HOME!?!?!?
     Thankful for Melatonin and it's ability to render my children unconscious, peace finally came. Isaac still fussed, but was able to receive more attention with the other two in a partial coma, so his squawking took on a much happier tone. And then I heard my husband's car pull in.... and I waited with baited breath as he entered the house. All I could muster was an expression that said, Help.... Me.....!! It was in that moment that I realized that our blessed curses and cursed blessings are best resolved when we have each other. We were not meant to walk this road alone and we certainly weren't meant to walk it bashing our most precious supports over the head for not getting the dishwasher started or for getting the wrong type of bread from the grocery store. He may get to be there for the fun outings and the baby's first steps, but I get to save their lives when he tries to kill them at everyday at 4:30.... so, all in all, we both win.
     To all of you stay-at-home Daddies out there, a big hearty "Thank you" and "'Attaboy!" goes out to you. Your job is tough and often thankless. There are social stigmas, male ego issues, and "woman's work" that you face on a daily basis (to this day, my husband can still fold an amazing fitted sheet, whereas I lose my mind and end up throwing the sheet across the room 2 minutes into the process). And to my husband, Pat.... I love you for what you do. I appreciate your efforts, your time, and your sanity despite it all. I think God knew which one of us could cope with Them better all day, and it's you, hands down. I may still load the dishwasher better, but you soar at being the parent that I'm trying to be to our kids. Happy Father's Day, Baby.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Judgments Away

     There's a slightly judgmental side to me that I try to keep hidden (if you've made it to my family and friends plan, you probably already know this).  And I think that each of us has this tendency, at least every now and again, to look at other people's circumstances and think to ourselves, "If I were in that situation, this is what I would do instead...", or (more bluntly put) "What the HECK are they THINKING!"  Before children (from here on noted as B.C.), I would look at other mothers and judge, ever so politely, knowing that I would certainly do things differently (AKA perfectly??)....
     B.C., when a child would spill a glass of milk, I would imagine myself saying something like this: "Oh, Darling, it's alright. Accidents happen.... here, let me help you clean that up. Would you like another drink?"
     In reality, I fear that my reaction is a little more like this: "SERIOUSLY? How many TIMES have I told you not to set your drink that close to the edge of the table! No NO NO, STOP licking it off the floor! And don't you even think of asking for another drink until you're 40!"
     B.C., when I saw parents letting their children run amok through a church, I thought that I'd never have children that were anything but perfectly behaved, exhibiting superior self-discipline as they played tic-tac-toe quietly in the pew, sharing coloring books and getting along splendidly.
     And now? Now, I'm the one with the children that scream each other's names at blood-curdling levels in the middle of worship as they share, not crayons, but pinches and right hooks. The only people being moved to tears in the service are my children.... after they've been sufficiently threatened to straighten up or they'll get an extra long dunking in the baptismal.
     I feel ashamed to admit it, but I did judge other mothers out there from time to time.... and a particularly large judgement occurred when I was told by other mothers, "You just wait until you have kids... then your sex life will go out the window!" Thinking to myself I would say, Really? Who can't commit to at least three times a week? The kids go to bed by 8 pm, you do a few dishes, and then you sit down with your hubby for a little cuddle and B.C. time.... you're in bed by 10 and feeling fantastic for work the next day! And it's now that I realize that there are many, many more factors that come into play!
     First of all, we have to take into account that the couple actually liked each other B.C. Therefore, having sex was an activity that was at the top of the Needs list. But once children suck the life out of both of you as you argue over whose day was harder, who left the fridge open, and who has to do those dang dishes, there is a definite possibility that sex gets moved down the Needs list!! (Probably just below "OBGYN visit" and just above "have a lobotomy".)
     Secondly, once those chores are completely done, you're looking at closer to midnight, am I right? And midnight sex in your 20's is one thing.... but midnight sex in your 30's is like trying to make love while moving through tar.... the effort needed to make the simplest body movements is just sometimes not worth the exhaustion of it all! (And frankly, we aren't as fit as we once were.... no one wants to deal with a sweaty, asthma-inducing, back and knee aching activity that late at night! If there's not time to stretch before or clean up after, don't even go there.)
    And finally, even though you realize you love each other, oh so much, there's always that tense wonderment of will they hear us??? Because you know that as soon as the first kiss is launched, naturally there will be a knock at the door asking for a drink of water, complaining of a tummy ache, or scared because they "heard a noise". (OF COURSE you heard a noise! Mommy's back went out again and Daddy needs an inhaler.... why is Daddy's face red, you ask? Because his blood pressure medicine isn't strong enough for sex now that he's a PARENT!)
     Against all odds, my hubby and I were finally able to muster up the love, energy, and courage needed to produce our monthly hanky-panky (yes, monthly.... and we're pretty sure we missed last month's session, so judge away, you perfect Mommies, but this Mama now understands the difference between B.C. and REALITY!). We were actually both in the mood (at the same time!), the kids were sound asleep, and the baby had just finished his last bottle. The table was set and we were prepared to feast!
     (Fast forward an amount of time that I promised my husband I would never share....) After all was said and done, feeling wonderfully blissful and cozy, I rolled over and sighed with contentment. It was then that my husband choked a laugh and asked me, "Um, honey? Did you know that you have a binky stuck to your back?"
     "What?? No I don't.... really?"
     "Yeah, it's actually stuck to your back.... you must've been laying on it toward the end there...."
      The craziest part is that I didn't even feel it! You KNOW you're a mother when you have sex and end up with a binky stuck to your body like a star fish.
     So, I've decided that judging other parents is an issue of the past. Afterall, I'm the one having monthly sex on my son's pacifiers. Besides, parenting is not about perfection. It's going to look different for every family, in every situation. My judgments are about as useful as tits on a boar hog, as my mother-in-law would say, so I might as well ditch my B.C. ideals and run wildly into the arms of chaos, fully embracing my perfectly flawed family. (And I'll be checking the bedding before next month, just to prevent future mishaps....)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kodak Moments

     Sometimes it seems that my life consists of one major life event followed by another. Court hearings, adoption meetings, wedding planning with a friend, church duties, gymnastics recitals, doctor's appointments, birthday parties... I spend so much time thinking of "the next thing" that I neglect to take in the daily breaths that I need, recognize the everyday events that take place, and celebrate the momentous occasions that I should have the camera ready for. Sadly, I am usually without my camera. And I'm often too busy to notice a Kodak moment when I see one. This became dreadfully apparent when I began making scrapbooks for the kids and I realized that I had not been the photographer of more than a  handful of those pictures.... nor was I in many of them. What the crap, I thought! Someone else is living my life while I'm busy.... living my life! 
     I'll admit, I was a wee bit salty at this realization. Sure, I'm there for the major events... I take off work for most court hearings, and I was there cheering like a lunatic for at least half of Cameron's soccer games, and applauding with gusto at both of Taylor's recitals. But what about the mornings (most mornings) I neglect Tay's hair for school because I'm running late for work, or the Family Fun days she has in her classroom each month where all the other mothers come in for a mini party? And what about Cam's field trips that I specifically joined the PTO so I could attend (PS, I only made it to one PTO meeting... but let's be honest, those things are a drag anyways)? Ashamed of my inability to be super-woman, I decided that my life simply doesn't allow for me to partake in every event, so I need to find a way to capture these moments using creativity (ooooo, the C word). So, in honor of photo companies everywhere, I want to use this post to take a moment and log mental snapshots of the past week. The winner of this week's photo shoot is none other than my very own Baby Isaac.
     Before getting into the mundane, I do want to acknowledge a major life event for us regarding the Little Fella. We had a court hearing last week in which the judge (in all his wisdom and loveliness) granted us a goal change of adoption! This means that our adoption workers will begin filing papers to terminate parental rights and granting us the ability to adopt Isaac after termination occurs. Being one step closer to keeping our baby feels equal parts like an elephant sitting on my chest and being as free as a bird to fly. But I will NOT let myself dwell on all of the "what ifs" that travel through the round-a-bout that is now my mind.
     Onward.... life event #1) Isaac got his first tooth! I'll be darned if the kid will let me get a picture of it (the one time I have my camera, too!), but I can assure you, it's in there! Smack dab in the bottom front of his mouth has emerged a little hippo tooth... his drooly grin flashing its cuteness during every moment except for when I pick up my camera to grab a shot. So for now, I take a mental picture. (Click.)
     Life event #2) Isaac had his first topple off of the bed. This was completely my fault... and I am so grateful that my husband and baby both seem to have forgiven me for my awfulness. The scenario was this: he was almost sleeping on my king-size bed. My husband called me down to give him a hand with the plumbing real quick. I surrounded him with pillows on the one side and the dogs surrounded him on the other. Three minutes later, I heard a thump. I didn't hear a cry, but I knew. I ran through the house like a crazy person and my heart literally stopped when I reached my bedroom door and my baby was no longer where I'd left him. I ran to the other side (the side the dogs HAD been guarding) and saw Isaac lying on his belly, crying a terrified cry. I scooped him up and did my best to soothe him before I had to relinquish him to Daddy, who had more right to comfort him, since he didn't let him fall off the bed. And let me tell you, that was a hard moment, right there. I hurt my baby and therefore lost the right to comfort him. Let's just say that I will be building a brick wall on the perimeter of my bed before I leave Mr. Rolly alone again! Lesson learned. (Click.)
     Life event #3) Isaac has slept through the night for an entire week! And the people say Amen while the angels sing Hallelujah! (CLICK!!!!)
     Life event #4) Baby Boy has found his penis. (Disclaimer: this is NOT something I am trying to take a picture of.... just an everyday moment I'm noting, since it seems to be sooo very exciting to him!) I don't know if it's every little guy or just ours, but he seems to find his Winky just about every time we take his diaper off (and sometimes he goes on the hunt even while fully clothed...he's turning into quite the exhibitionist, I tell you).... but it's not just that he grabs himself, it's that he makes this weird monkey face and grunts while he does it. Never having had a baby boy before (nor a penis) I'm not sure if this is unusual or par for the course. Either way, it seems to be the highlight of Bear's life, so I take a MENTAL picture. (Click.)
     So maybe you're all thinking, sure, take time to note the cute baby's life events while your other two red-headed-step-children get neglected. And by all means, if you feel the urge, come on out to my house and take pictures of Taylor as she picks her nose for the 30th time that day, and honor the greatness that is Cameron forgetting to change his underwear....for a week. I won't stop you! As for me, I will be busy building brick walls on my bed and taping the baby's diaper on so he can't grab his junk in public.... but maybe next week.