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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"

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Year

     It's been one year. One year to the day. I can remember it like it was last week; every word, every feeling, every gut-wrenching sob followed by a painful stillness in my heart, so still I half-wondered if it would simply stop beating. And in that moment, I had hoped that it would. Because nothing else seems important when your world begins to crash down on you, when the weight of shock and the heaviness of grief is so intense that it seems just possible enough to will your heart to cease beating.  It seemed surreal that just the day before we were so happy. Just the day before we were complete. All it took was one phone call to shatter our world and leave each one of us feeling broken and spent. One phone call.
     On July 19, 2013, we were happy. I had woken up early that morning to begin helping my friend finish up the final details of her wedding that was to take place the following day. We were packaging food, loading cars, and hustling around like a group of carpenter ants. Focused on the task at hand, it slipped my mind that we were going to find out "the news" any day now. It wasn't until I answered my phone that my heart began pumping double and rose straight to my throat.
     "Yes?", I answered, tentatively. It was Children and Youth Services. This was the moment we had been waiting for. Our caseworker's voice on the other end of the line was even and controlled, making it too hard to guess the answer that she was going to speak just seconds later. I wanted to scream at her to cut the small talk because it simply didn't matter. All that mattered was the answer. "Paternity was confirmed," she said. My furiously beating heart came to a crashing halt as I waited for her to continue. "And he's giving up his rights. Isaac is all yours!"
     It seemed like it took my mind an eternity to wrap itself around this information. This was it, then? No more testing father after father? No more permanency hearings? No more pleading with God that I would do anything if he would just let us keep our baby boy? This was it. "You're still on for Isaac's adoption in about 3 weeks!" Our caseworker continued to talk, carpenter ants around me continued to work, and I just stood there, phone to my ear, half-listening and half-aware of anything else. This was it. He's mine. He's ours. No more "Foster Son" titles and no more wondering if a father will turn up one day and demand we give him his boy. They found him... and he didn't want our baby. He was ours!
     I flashed back to the moment we first saw this sweet newborn at the hospital. He was smaller... gosh, was he smaller then! You don't think about how quickly they age until you watch one grow from scratch. Sure, we had his older brother and sister that we'd already adopted after learning that we weren't going to be able to have children of our own, but then again, they were 4- and 6-years-old when they came to us. Isaac was different. He was special somehow. From the second he was born he changed our family. It was utter chaos going from The Two of Us to The Five of Us in less than a year's time... in fact, we almost told CYS that it was too much and that we couldn't possibly take on a baby with two new children (and all of their behaviors) already in tow, especially not with only 3 days notice of the baby's arrival! But how couldn't we take him? After all, we already knew the family situation. Bio-mom: abused, addicted, prostitute, mentally ill, criminal history, multiple fathers for multiple kids, no known daddy for Baby Isaac. What would become of him if we turned him away? Would he ever know what a real family is like if we turned our backs? That was a risk we just couldn't take.
     It was nine long months of paternity tests from a list of 14 potential "baby daddies". Nine months that our little boy lived with us, grew with us, and taught us how to love unconditionally. From July 19th until July 25th, I was completely, unabashedly, overwhelmingly happy. It took one phone call to create joy. And it took one more to kill it.
     On July 25th, myself and the three kids were travelling across three states to go visit my folks. Husband had to work, so it was just Me and the Three. We had just pulled into a rest stop taking (yet another) potty break. I looked at the caller I.D. as my phone rang and I hurriedly answered, certain it was CYS calling to give us the details of the adoption date.
     "I'm afraid I have some bad news...", came the voice on the other end of the line. This time the voice was thin, as though it had been crying and was now putting on a professional facade. Once again, my heart leapt to my throat. Oh God, oh God, oh God.... it was as much of a prayer as my mind could formulate in that moment. "What? Just....what??," I asked with a tight throat. There was a pause before the thin voice continued. "He changed his mind."
     What?? How... Can he do that? When... what happened?? I couldn't form the questions quickly enough and I wanted to scream at this woman for not being able to read my mind and just give me all the information I was craving immediately! But as she continued, I started to feel dizzy. I was aware that two kids and a baby were sitting behind me in the backseat of the car, anxiously waiting to hear what was making me sound so shrill. But I couldn't answer questions. I couldn't form words that made sense because the entire situation didn't make sense. Why would this man change his mind? Why would he make us so happy, only to shatter our lives days later? He had never even seen Isaac. He hadn't changed a diaper, sat with him at the pediatrician's office, held him when he was miserable with colic, or rocked him until he finally gave in to sleep. As memories began to flood me and tears poured from my eyes, I realized that I needed an outlet, something to relieve the pressure that was building and threatening to consume me.
     So I screamed. I screamed. Passers by in the parking lot jumped and stared with open mouths. My kids covered their ears. The baby cried. And I screamed. I screamed because it wasn't fair. I screamed because I didn't want to believe it. I screamed because, in that moment, I hated everything. I screamed until there was no more breath to scream with.
     After talking to my husband and reliving the worst grief of my life, there was nothing left to do but to finish the journey that we had begun. It was a long, quiet ride. Even Isaac could sense the need for silence and blessedly gave in to heavy eyelids. We saw my family, we stayed for a few days, and then we drove back home. The house looked the same as when we had left it. I've always found that peculiar. When something so life-altering occurs, it's funny that the everyday things don't change. The house, the pets, work, the people around us.... nothing was different. And yet everything was different. Once the kids were asleep, it was time to process. Looking at each other with a tiredness that seemed to age us at least a good 10 years, my husband and I sat together and cried until we were empty.
     Looking back now, it's hard to believe that we were able to get up each day. It's even harder to believe that, in a month's time, I would be pregnant without even knowing it, carrying a child that I wasn't supposed to be able to have. I couldn't have imagined that Isaac's father, with as contemptuous as our relationship began, would want us to continue to take Isaac every weekend so that he could stay connected with his biological brother and sister, that he could stay connected to the family that he loves and that loves him. In the middle of that utter heart break, I never would've pictured myself going through 4 days of labor, finally birthing a little boy that no one could ever take away. I couldn't have imagined surpassing so many of the numerous behavior problems exhibited by our other children that only got worse in the months after Isaac was taken from us. It was a time that I thought our family had fallen apart, because my husband and I couldn't cope with such a great loss, with our kids' actions, with each other.
     But here we are, one year later. A family of 5 during the week, and a family of 6 on Saturday and Sunday. The two older kiddos gave their lives to Christ during this year. My husband got a new job that allows me to be at home with our newborn, who is beautiful and healthy. And I stopped hating. Somewhere along the way my heart began to heal, something that I simply wasn't sure was possible. My heart aches each Sunday evening when my now toddler is returned to his permanent home, but I allow myself a small window of tearful heartache before I force myself to count my blessings and say a prayer of gratitude to my God.
     It's been one year. One year to the day. And I'll always remember.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Post-Baby Bodies

     So, can we take a moment and talk about post-baby bodies? Are there any other Mamas out there struggling with the "Old Me Vs. New Me" syndrome as badly as I am? I mean, really, we all know we should be eating organically grown 5-star meals and exercising with a personal trainer 3 hours each day, but who says, "Wow, I just grew a human being for 10 months AND went through hours of labor a few weeks ago.... I'm totally in the mood for kale and a RUN!"? If you're anything like me, the only thing you want to run from is the person (doctor, husband, mother, inner-self) telling you to exercise in the first place. But what a hot topic this has become! Take a look at Hollywood, for instance... you can't watch an awards show or flip through a magazine without seeing a famous mother who had a baby "just 4 weeks ago!" looking like she's never touched a carb a day in her life. These well-known Mamas seem to be competing for who can lose baby weight the fastest, each one beating out another by a few days or pounds while graciously and humbly smiling and telling the world that it only took a little dedication and a few salads to get the job done.
     Don't get me wrong... there are some women out there (better known as "Freaks of Nature") that seem to bounce right back from child-birth. Their bodies miraculously take on their former shapes the second they leave the hospital and they're back in their pre-pregnancy pants by week's end (while the rest of us just hope to be able to get back into our "fat pants" before our babies start Kindergarten.) And frankly, these women kinda suck. Now, no offense if you're one of the Blessed, but really, for the sake of the rest of us chubby-flubby Mamas out there, couldn't you just pretend that it was super tough to get back into those skinny jeans? Anyway, these women are not the norm, despite what E! News depicts. And exactly how do I know this? Because I had a baby. I KNOW the particular kind of hell that a woman's body endures in order to grow a life AND (more importantly) to expel that life from her uterus. You can't tell me that it only takes "a little dedication" to unswell feet, erase stretch marks, and rectify a kangaroo pouch. (Don't even get me STARTED on incisions!) So, I'm calling these "dedicated" women and their crazy exercising-salad-eating notions out, and here are a few reasons why:
     1) Your baby needs you to spend time with him/her, NOT working out 10 hours a day in order to achieve a certain look. It's not a lack of dedication to your health, it's an increased dedication to bonding with your baby (who happens to love you just the way your are!). And honestly, who has the time to both bond and exercise? It's always feed the baby, change the baby, watch the baby to make sure he's still breathing, remember the other children, feed the baby again, change the baby, switch the laundry, break up a sibling fight, feed the baby again, change the baby again, make dinner but don't get to eat it, clean up the dinner mess, feed the baby, get everyone bathed, tuck the kids in, feed the baby, change the baby, and finally collapse with exhaustion for three hours until it's time to (you guessed it) feed the baby.... we don't all have nannies to step in so that we can hit the gym for a few hours. And even if I did, I know for a fact that I wouldn't look cute enough to take a Kim Kardashian gym-selfie to later be posted on Instagram, showing off my freshly flattened tummy, nor would I have the energy to hold my phone up to take the selfie in the first place, let alone lifting any ridiculous gym equipment.
     So, I decided to try a simpler approach to shedding those pesky baby pounds by attempting a work-out that I read about in an article showing all the wonderful ways that you can "exercise with your baby". The article said that this is supposed to increase bonding while burning calories all within the comfort of your own home. Perfect. But what it should have said was to have 9-1-1 programmed into your speed dial before beginning the work-out....
     Exercise #1: Place your baby on the floor beneath you while you do push-ups. Be sure to make silly faces at him or kiss his nose when you are in the lowered position. You'll be sure to get a smile AND a great work-out!
     BULL. Um, did the writer of this article even try to do a push-up herself?? Because let me tell you how MY "great work-out" went....
     I placed little Wyatt on his back on the carpet. His eyes were wide and little arms and legs were waving all over the place like they usually do when he's happy. Next, I confidently assumed the position. I got this, I thought. Piece of cake. Carefully, from the plank position, I slowly began to lower myself down to my 8-week old son. But you see, the problem is that I have absolutely no upper body strength since I went almost a full year without exercising. And there's also the dilemma of my monstrous, milk-filled boobs working with gravity and against me as they seemed to pull me towards my son's ever-widening eyes at great speed, giving new meaning to the term Fast Food. "Abort! Abort!", my mind screamed, but my weak arms were no match for my two-ton-tits. I stealthily flung my right arm forward and came crashing down onto my elbows just in time, missing my newborn by a matter of centimeters. I think this proves my point that exercise is, in fact, lethal and should be reserved for the military and Olympians, NOT new mothers. PS, I was not "sure to get a smile" from my little man, either.
     Exercise #2: Sit Indian -style on the floor with your back straight, baby in your hands. Then, slowly lift baby above your head for a shoulder press. Repeat 10 times.
     Ok, this one doesn't sound nearly as dangerous as crushing your baby with push-ups. So, I assumed the described position and made sure I had a firm (but gentle... always gentle...) grasp on little Wyatt. With back straight, I began to lift my baby high above my head until my arms were completely straightened. But you see, the difference between pressing a bar or dumbbell versus pressing a baby is that a baby is floppy.... AND squishy. As I held my 2-month old above me, I watched his head bob back and forth like a bobble-head doll. I tried to adjust my hands to stabilize his floppiness, but my squishy baby wriggled and squirmed (probably trying to keep his head from falling off) and I nearly lost my entire grip on my son! That's it.... CYS is going to take my baby... they're going to take my baby, all because I tried to work out!  Ultimately I decided that this was not the exercise for us.
     Exercise #3: Securely strap your baby to your chest with your baby carrier and go for a run.
     Oh, heck no.

     2) If you're nursing, you're still eating for two. Remember those dedicated salad-only eaters? Yeah... that kind of diet doesn't flow if you want your milk to. In fact, there's this crazy diet called the Breast-Feeding Diet (clever name) and it tells you all the nutritious foods you need to consume daily in order to have a healthy milk supply for your little one. Not only are you not supposed to do any form of regular dieting, but you're actually supposed to INCREASE your calories to 2500 daily in order to support your baby! All you need is 5-9 servings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, 70-100 grams of lean protein per meal, 5 servings of dairy, 90 oz of water (at a minimum), 2 small servings of fat, 6-9 ounces of high-fiber whole grains, folic acid, B12, Vitamin D, Omega 3s, and Vitamin C....that's it.
     To be honest, by the time I ingest half of my necessary water supply and scarf down a protein bar while running out the door with the kids, diaper bag, purse, and carseat in tow, I'm already feeling bloated and ready for a pee break! With 2400 calories to go by 11:00 am, I start feeling a little uneasy about not eating a bigger protein bar. Too bad I didn't get breakfast due to the fact that I was still upstairs getting the baby and me presentable after the first outfit got pooped on (his) and the second got spit up on (mine) and the third, fourth, and fifth ones just plain didn't fit (mine again). I had really high hopes of getting lunch this time around, but between library program and getting the older kids ready for swim lessons, I only had time to make them lunch (greedily licking the mayo from the knife) before my next duty called.
     Hmmmm, I ponder. I didn't see coffee in the diet plan, but surely they don't expect a Mama to do this uncaffinated.... I wonder how many calories are in my mug? (I look it up.) Only 120?? It's 4:00 pm and I still have 2280 calories to go?!? Better knock off another 30 for that knife-mayo I licked earlier.... Good, I'm down to 2250! Well, I guess I could eat a tub of ice cream for dinner to get my dairy in.... and I better do something about that lean meat thing. Crap, do we even have any veggies other than that mushy red pepper in the fridge? I wonder how many servings are left after I cut off the fuzzy parts? Did I even go to the grocery store this week? Shoot, what's today's date, anyway? Is this still July?? Oooo, a banana! I can eat that while I feed the baby! There's little chance of spillage and even if I clobber him with the entire thing, it won't stain (preventing at least one more clothing change for the day).
     By the time I get dinner made, clean up the kitchen mess, feed the baby, and sit down to finally eat my meal (which is now room temperature and soggy), I stuff my face as quickly as possible for 2 reasons: 1) it is impossible for me to answer any more questions from my 6- and 8-year-olds if my mouth is full, and 2) it is REALLY hard to chew and bounce a baby in his bouncy seat when he is bouncing at a different rhythm than I am chewing.... but bouncing means not crying and is therefore more necessary than my eating at a normal person's pace. After I eat, I estimate that I probably consumed close to 600 calories with dinner, bringing me down to 1650 left to consume in the next 4 hours. Yeah, that's not gonna happen. Maybe pre-baby I would've considered this a fun little challenge, but all I'm wondering now is when these silly children will go to sleep so I can finally close my eyes for a few precious hours before I have to start this all over again?
     Even though I do my best to consume at least something from the Breast-Feeding diet each day, I never come anywhere close to my calories. And with the 500 calories I burn daily by nursing, you'd think I'd have those pregnancy pounds dropped like a stack of hot cakes. Not so. Each morning I bounce to the scale and shake my head in amazement that I've lost only 1 ounce. Sometimes I've even gained a pound or two! Maybe there is something to this "just eat salads" thing.... but honestly, we've got newborn babies to tend to, ladies.... do we really need to be hungry on top of it all? Are a few measly pounds (or 20....30...40?) worth not making enough milk for our babies? Nope. I'll stick to my make-shift Breast-Feeding Diet, thank you very much.

     3) Your body needs time to heal. PERIOD. A few weeks ago I went to my OB for my dreaded 6-week follow-up appointment. Having had a c-section, my doctor needed to check my incision to make sure that I was healing properly. So, she dutifully asked if I was having any pain. I told her that there was no pain, per say, just some discomfort when I touch any area between my navel and my thighs (you can only imagine my husband's dismay). "Oh, well that will be there for months, maybe even a year... in fact, some discomfort may never go away," she said matter of factly. Excuse me? I don't recall this being printed out on any of the memos I received... "But feel free to start exercising. You're healing nicely."
     Ok, now just hold on! You're telling me that my stomach may never feel good again, but that I should go ahead and exercise?? Sure. That sounds super fun (I mean, "dedicated") and I can't wait to get started! In fact, I'll leave the van in the parking lot now and just jog home... considering the sponginess of my swollen feet and the fact that I am still 25 lbs past my normal weight, it's likely I'll even make it home before my 12-week check up... since I'm healing so nicely and all. I. Don't. Think. So.
     I have to admit, I was kind of hoping to have been told that my incision looked good, but that I should hold off exercising for a few more weeks, just to be safe. Crazy doctors and their progressive ways... promoting exercise and all that nonsense every chance they get. Not that I'm against working out, not at all actually! But on some level I think there is a little bit of fear in each new mom's heart... the fear that the pounds just won't go away, no matter how hard she tries. And no one wants to try and then fail, because the magazines will make it seem like she simply didn't give it a good enough effort. Afterall, if 99% of all movie stars can do it, surely the average Jane should be able to do it, too, right? (Although, I'd like to see Kate Hudson return to her size 0 frame while eating on a Save-A-Lot budget and arranging the summer schedules of 4 kids while getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Don't forget the laundry, cooking, and cleaning, Katie, dear!)
     I decided to give myself two extra weeks to be kind to my body before forcing it back into work-out mode (because, honestly, breast-feeding counts as exercise, right? I mean, I'm certainly hungry enough afterwards to feel like I ran a marathon.) But finally, at the 8 week mark, I reminded myself that I love yoga. And it's true. The breathing, the stretching, the relaxation... it practically calls for a nap at the end of each session. How utterly fantastic is that? I remembered the comfy pants and the feel-good endorphins, not to mention the fact that I'm actually very good at yoga and feel downright proud of myself during classes. After some fond recollections of the wonderful art of yoga, I found myself actually getting excited for my my first official work out!
     I arrived at the studio 15 minutes early to pick out the perfect spot. I was the first one there so I introduced myself to the instructor with enthusiasm. Certain I was going to be her star student for the day, I casually asked what level she usually runs her class at. Beginner. I felt a stab of disappointment at this news. I mean, if I'm gonna go to all this effort to get dressed and drive to the studio, I at least want to get an intermediate work out in, if not an advanced one! But I decided to make the most of my time and I reverently unrolled my mat in the center of the room.
     The studio was dimly lit with antique lamps that had vintage handkerchiefs draped over the shades. There was a low hum from the floor fan that created the perfect temperature. And from the cd player came ambiguous sounds of monk-like chants, flutes, and ocean waves. Ahhh, I could feel myself relaxing already. Excitedly, I perched myself on the center of my mat, closed my eyes, and began to take deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth....Yes, this was going to be fantastic.
     The instructor led us through a series of mild stretches and I noticed that I had lost just a bit of flexibility during the course of my pregnancy. No worries, though, by the end of this class I'll be back to normal, I assured myself. The instructor then brought us to our first Downward Dog pose. At once, I was aware of the familiar stretch in the backs of my legs.... and then some more in my lower back.... and again in my shoulders. Huh, this is a little unusual, I suppose. We were just starting a new series of deep breaths and... Oh my gosh, is anyone else super dizzy right now?? Whew, I almost feel faint! I noticed at once that my arms were trembling and my hands felt as if they were cramping up from the extra weight pressing them down into the floor. You can imagine my relief when the yogi called for Child's Pose, the best resting pose in all of yoga....
     ....That is unless you now have fat legs that hurt when they're tightly squished together as you sit on your knees. But I was determined to complete at least one pose by the end of the day, even if it meant that my butt was so high off the ground it could've been used for a bike rack. Trying to fight the discouragement mounting in me as we went through all the Warrior poses, my self-esteem boosted slightly when I was able to pull these off with a modicum of ease. Sure, I was sweatier than usual (way sweatier, actually), but that's probably just the hormones, right? A few more dizzying Down Dogs later and it was time for Cobra. Finally! We get to lay flat and rest for a second! Except laying on my engorged breasts and bikini-line incision was about as relaxing as swimming with piranhas that would attack at the faint smell of milk. Forget trying to arch any part of my back whatsoever, because I was pretty certain that my stitches were going to pop open, despite the go ahead from my OB just two weeks prior. What was even more concerning was the fact that I couldn't get my hips to even themselves on the floor. Yes, I know I still have a bit of a tummy, but that's not what I mean. It was as if my doctor had opened me up, removed the baby, and then put the rest of my organs back in any ole haphazard way! My body didn't feel like mine. Not at all. In fact, it just felt wrong. I've heard of incredibly advanced yogis being able to transcend from their bodies, but this was NOT the type of out of body experience I was going for when I wanted to center myself.
     I left the class dripping, dizzy, sore, and defeated, and in need of feeding my little man. Why was I putting so much of my worth into this work-out? I felt happy with myself before entering, and for the first time after a yoga class, I felt deflated. So what if Olivia Wilde weighs less than a bag of feathers weeks after having her baby? My body is my body, not someone else's. And my baby needs me and my body to be happy, healthy, and FULLY HEALED. In that moment I determined that no amount of Cobra poses or Us Weekly articles were going to make me rush this process I'm going through. I'll take my beginner yoga classes, slathering myself with extra deodorant beforehand, and be happy to discover whatever my new normal body will be. Afterall, having this baby has forever changed my emotions, the way that I think, and the way that I look at life. Of course it's going to leave my external body forever changed as well, and I am learning to love the new me.
The List

Monday, July 14, 2014

Listen Up

     Summer is officially halfway over. Whereas this news brings a stab of pain to my summer-loving heart, I have chosen to see the silver lining. For many of you out there, you know what that lining is. (Hint, it's NOT football games, gorgeous fall leaves, nor apple cider.) For any honest mothers out there, we can all agree that the silver lining is that the little people living in our homes will soon be OUT of our homes for a blessed 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week! (And yes, I am calling you dishonest if this news doesn't spark at least a small amount of glee in your soul.)
     Now, don't get me wrong here.... summer hasn't been bad. In fact, it's been pretty awesome. Since I've had the amazing opportunity to be a temporary stay-at-home mom for the first time since we adopted the older two kiddos, I've been able to get to know them in ways that wouldn't have been possible had I still been working 12-hour shifts. And I really wanted this time to learn about who they are, what makes them tick.... and to help them grow in each area of their lives. So we've done devotions, sang, exercised, crafted, cooked, had play dates, swim lessons, library programs, gymnastics, and we've even done homework daily in order to keep the smarts up while on hiatus from school. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well things have gone. Obviously, we've had the occasional "I need you to get AWAY FROM ME" days, and even the "Your life DEPENDS on you staying in your room" day or two. But all in all, we've had relationship success and I can honestly say that, for the first time, I actually feel close to Cameron and Taylor.
     And then there was today.
     It's not like anyone burned down the house. No one killed a neighborhood pet or even tantrumed for that matter. We (yes, WE) were all just tired.... tired of being together, tired of muggy, rainy summer days keeping us indoors, tired of trying to get along. I found their special "quirks" particularly annoying today, and they found my quiet grumbles rather frustrating. It was just a day.... if I heard a scream, I didn't care to who caused it this time, nor was I interested in doling out a consequence. When one tattled on the other one for the millionth time, I decided that it probably wasn't worth my energy to respond and simply walked away. Afterall, how many times in one day is a person expected to break up fights or repeat the same exact thing? They may be deaf, they may be dumb, but either way, this Mama was just tired of repeating herself.
     Sadly, not only were my children's memories failing to remember what I had said to them just 5 minutes prior, but their memories obviously decided that all the homework, flashcards, and learning we'd done for the past 6 weeks was just clogging up their mental freeways and that it was best to toss all that junk out to make room for more important things like thumb-twiddling and nose-picking. I realized this when we decided to do our homework lesson in the car today. I kid you not, this is how my car ride went:

Me: Remember to listen up because if you don't know the answer to your question, your sibling can try to get the point. Okay, Cam, what is the number ahead of 62? (My kids struggle with their numbers and have to start over counting from 1 whenever they're asked what comes next in a sequence... hence this learning lesson.)
Cam: Um....(wicked long pause)....63?
Me: Yes. Good. Taylor, what is one number ahead of 15?
Tay: 16?
Me: Very good. Cam, what is one number BEHIND 35?
Cam: (counting in his head)
Me: Cam, stop counting, think about what number comes before the number 5.
Cam: 8?
Me: Nope, not 8. What number comes right before number 5?
Cam: (counting again) 4?
Me: Yep, so what comes right before 35?
Cam: 72?
Me: (Wow...that's...not even kinda close.) No, Bud, if 4 comes right before 5, and we're in the 30s, the answer would be thirty-......?
Cam: 38?
Tay: I know! Is it 34?
Me: Yes, Tay, it's 34. Do you get it, Cam?
Cam: Huh?
Me: Cam, do you see how we got the answer 34?
Cam: 34 what?
Me: (Really?) Really?
Cam: Really what, Mom?
Me: (big sigh) Taylor, what number comes AFTER 99?
Tay: Hmmmm.... that's hard because I can't count to 100 yet.
Me: Tay, you just said the answer.
Tay: Is it 99??
Me: No, what comes AFTER 99?
Tay: (thinkin.....) Is it 99?
Me: Taylor, the answer isn't 99, the question is what comes AFTER 99?
Tay: (staring blankly)
Me: Remember when you count by 10s....
Tay: (excitedly interrupting) 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100!
Me: YES! Exactly, so if you are looking for the next number after 99, it would be....?
Tay: (nothing....just....nothing)
Me: Tay?
Tay: 99?
Me: (Oh. My. Gosh.) It's NOT 99, I promise. The number AFTER 99 simply CANNOT also be 99. If you were counting in the 90s, it would go 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99.....?
Tay: Well, it's not 99.....
Me: (Dear Jesus, please help me not to crash this van.... we have an innocent baby on board.) Cam! Wanna come in for the steal, Man? What comes after 99?
Cam: Huh?
Me: What. Comes. After. 99?
Tay: (whispers loudly to Cameron) It's not 99!
Cam: Duh, it's 100, Taylor!
Me: Good! Here's an easy one, Cam. If 100 comes AFTER 99, what comes BEFORE 100?
Cam: (Silence)
Me: CAM....
Cam: (Nothin')
Cam: Huh?
Me: Answer the question, Dude!
Cam: I wasn't listening.....
Me: What comes BEFORE 100?
Cam: Um.... well..... 24?
Me: Cameron, you just told me that the number that comes AFTER 99 is 100.... so the number that comes BEFORE 100 has to be....
Cam: Well, it's probably 23 then.
Me: Actually, it's probably not even close to 23. Taylor, it's all you and you GOT this one, Girl! What number comes BEFORE 100?
Tay: Well, it's NOT 99.....
Me: (turns up music loudly)
     And we're done. We've only been doing the same exercise for the last 6 weeks and all... it's not like numbers are important though. We just won't use them and that's that. Problem solved! And it won't matter if I give them the answer, because with how today has been going, they will just stare at me blankly and then proceed to tell me that they have no idea what I just said. They must be surrounded by an invisible sound-proof force field made of cotton and that weird foamy ear plug material. But because I've lost my mind, I decided that National Children Must Be Deaf Day was a good day to do a cooking project called Build Your Own Pizza. So we worked together (trying to be patient) and mixed up the dough. We then spread it out onto our own personal pizza spaces and began spreading the sauce.

Me: Now, carefully smooth the sauce around on the dough and try to keep it from getting onto the pan.
Tay: (Takes a heaping spoonful and smears it across the pan.)
Me: Yeah, great job, Tay.... way to listen.
Tay: What? You said to make sure to get it all over the pan!
Cam: Nah uh, she said to NOT get it on the pan, Taylor!
Me: HEY! Knock it off or leave the kitchen. I said to try to NOT get it on the pan, Taylor. It's just going to be burnt sauce now.
Tay: Well, I didn't hear you.
Me: You haven't heard me all day. LISTEN. Ok, guys, now sprinkle your cheese around your pizza and try to NOT get it on the pan.
Tay: OKAY. (said pointedly)
Me: Good job. Now put on your peppers and onions. Maybe even make a cool pattern with them for something fun.
Tay: Where's the cheese?
Me: (looking at her questioningly) The cheese? The stuff under your peppers and onions?
Tay: No, Mom, the cheese.
Me: Yes, Tay, the cheese is under your peppers and onions.
Me: For the love of all that his holy, what are you TALKING about, child?!?
Tay: Ugh, you never listen!
Me: (REALLY??? Hello, Kettle, meet Pot.) I hear you saying you want the cheese, Taylor, and I'm telling you the cheese is on your pizza... I'm not sure what else to say about this....
Tay: (HUGE sigh) Cameron, tell Mom I want the cheese!
Cam: Mom, she wants the cheese.
Me: (staring blankly at both of them) Someone... just please.... oh my gosh.... I just can't....
Tay: NEVERMIND. I just wanted the kind you sprinkle!
Me: Oh, the parmesan cheese?
Tay: YES!!
Me: You mean the stuff sitting directly in front of you??
Tay: yes.....
Me: Well at least we know that basically NONE of your senses are working and it's not just your ears.
     Fifty more days, folks..... Fifty. More. Days.