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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"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

They Call Me And

     I look forward to the day when I will be able to have conversations with my children. Actual conversations. Enough of this mind-numbing, one-sided, half-manical crap! I spend the weekdays narrating to Wyatt (5-months-old) all the ways that I'm going to eat his piggy toes and change his diapy-doos with the wipey-poos while my weekends are spent encouraging Isaac (2-years-old) to use his big-boy bed and to go pee pee on his big-boy potty, in between bouts of screaming for him to stop standing on the edge of high furniture or from jumping off of the stairs or to stop yanking the dogs' tails. My time with Taylor and Cameron (6- and 8-years-old) consumes the rest of my waking moments. This time is spent answering. Answering school questions, personal questions, random questions, questions that no one will ever need answers to nor care about ever in the history of the world because they simply DON'T MATTER!
     You know the questions I'm talking about, don't you, Mamas? They start the second that school bus door opens and they don't stop until the kids are sound asleep. (Exceptions to this include the sleep talker -- which both of my older kids are, lucky me. The ramblings continue even in the dead of night. There are times I feel that God is punishing me for some wicked deed I must've committed in a past life.)
     "Mom, why is the word "BINGO" on that truck?"
     "And Mom, why does that man have only one leg?"
     "And Mom, why did you give me peanut butter and jelly two days in a row?"
     "And Mom, what's that truck doing?"
     "And Mom, why are your boobs so big?"
     "Mom, what does this spell.... 9ostoffice?" (Said with a mouth full of food as the baby is crying... and for the love of God, why is there a number in there? And if we're gonna spell Post Office, can we include the space so I at least stand a chance of getting it right?)
     "And Mom, does the neighbor like our dogs?"
     "And Mom, what's for dinner? I know you said it already (5 minutes ago) but I forgot."
     And Mom, And Mom, And Mom.....
     I'm not sure when my first name became And, but it has become annoyingly apparent that the short people think my given name does not suit me any longer, so they have taken it into their own hands to rename me something more appropriate. And. Frankly, I think it's just indicative of the fact that the cluster of things spewing from their mouths is just one long, run-on sentence, strung together by a series of Ands, one ridiculous question after another.
     Perhaps their questions only go to show how intelligent they think that I am. After all, only a highly intelligent (psychic) person would know why the man we've never seen before has one leg or what the truck is doing or what is going through the minds of our neighbors. But I would bet the more likely explanation is that there is simply no filter on the mouths of these people that call me And. Every little thing that pops into their heads sequentially pops out of their mouths, their own ability to challenge their minds with silly things such as Rational Thought, Observation, or Problem Solving is shrugged off with a snicker. Oh my gosh, think for myself? Is she serious?? That woman, And, is Cra-Cra!
     So tonight, I shoved the little one in my husband's arms, answering 50 more unnecessary questions while I quickly ran up the stairs for some much needed alone time. I sat on the edge of my bed and contemplated my own piggy toes... there's no longer any time for painting, exfoliating, or lotioning the poor things, so there really is no worry of someone wanting to eat my tootsies. But in the seconds it took me to examine my aching feet, the questions continued to come through the door, loudly, so as to be heard above my screaming silence. I mumbled a few acknowledgements, even to the questions that I didn't really listen to. I think my ears actually hurt more than my feet.... So what do I do when the big ones fall asleep and the little one is finally content? I watch family videos on my cell phone.
     Their voices, cries, and screams sound sweeter when I can turn the volume down and when I don't actually have to respond to each And, wail, or scream. In those very precious, very few quiet moments, my arms actually ache for the baby, my heart aches for the toddler, and my mind aches for the big kids. It's true. I am Cra-Cra. But I look forward to tomorrow and all of it's ramblings.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pieces Of Us

     I am struggling to write this post to you. It's always been my desire to be honest and utterly raw with my words - no holding back, no judgement, no faking motherhood and all that comes with it. But due to my circumstances, I walk a fine line. There are so many things I want to tell, yet they're not mine to say. Times when I can show you my reactions but I can't tell you all of what caused them. Times that I can share my feelings of fear or anxiety, but I'm forced to leave out what's placed those feelings inside. Something that I've always known to be true, however, is that when I give you a problem - you faithful group of beautiful people - I am blown away with support. Prayers, comments, encouragement - all of it has stood alongside our family and has shown us the love of Christ so perfectly that living scared seems almost ridiculous. I'm so tired of standing on the fine line and writing fearfully. But even now.... I don't know what to say. So I will start here.
     Isaac will be two-years-old this week. When I sit there and watch him - how he interacts, the sentences he puts together, his grasp on humor, the empathy he exhibits when he sees someone cry (and the wisdom to know when someone is truly upset or when they're crying for no good reason... which was evidenced yesterday when Taylor dissolved into a fit of tears and screaming for being sent to her room and Isaac pointed his finger at her and sternly said, "Stop it, Taylor! Go!") - but when I sit there and truly see him, I feel eternally grateful for the ability to be the woman he calls Mama. Even though I can't take biological credit for his awesomeness, I claim every sarcastic look, stubborn moment, and loving touch.
     There are times when Isaac tries so hard to be independent. He wants to be one of the big kids in the worst kind of way. "Go 'way, Mama, I do it." He wants to climb the stairs on his own, open his own granola wrapper, and tear everything apart to see how it works. He's even taken this as far as wanting to parent Wyatt. He sees me struggling to hold the baby and do the dishes at the same time, so he offers to help, just like a little man. "I hold it, Mama, I get it," as he reaches for Wyatt. Isaac sees a need and tries to fill it, no questions asked. In this, I see Cameron. Even in the times when he tries to do something that is just a bit too big for his little body, the frustration is more than evident. The desire to know how things work, to want to be helpful, to be useful, but the intense anger when his ability isn't good enough for a task - it's as if he is Cameron's doppelganger.
     Then there are the times when things are going well. Everyone is calm. Everyone is getting along. Life is good. But then Isaac asks for something he wants and is told 'no'. I can't even tell you, but the drama is just below that of a menstruating teenage girl. He throws himself down, he screams until he can't breathe and chokes on his sobs, he holds his face with his hands in sheer dismay as he lays on the sidewalk/store floor/next to the car/pew of the church. You name it, he has flung himself down onto it! And as I sat there, wondering where in the world he could have learned such behavior, it hit me as plain as the nose on my face. Isaac is Taylor. Living in our home, we now have the reigning Drama King and Queen of Pennsylvania. Thankfully, he also inherited his sister's charm and utter adorableness, otherwise, we may have left the both of them on the sidewalk/store floor/next to the car/pew in church, etc.
     This weekend, my sister-in-law commented on Isaac's fearlessness. And let me tell you, something has to be said for a child, who has yet to turn two, that can scale an entire chain-link fence in less than 10 seconds! It's really no wonder that Isaac flings himself onto everything, because he literally has no fear of pain. There's no idea of danger that plagues him, no worry of consequences at all - just trust that he will be OK. And this, an attribute that is altogether beautiful and utterly terrifying, this is from my husband. It must have been from all those months of throwing Isaac's infant body 10 feet in the air to get him to smile, or letting Isaac fling himself backwards from Pat's big arms, only to be caught at the last second as he broke into a fit of giggles. Isaac always felt safe. He knew what strong arms felt like and he never doubted for a second that those arms would be there to catch him.
     In all ways, Isaac is a Costa. A name is just a name, but he is part of the Us that I've come to love so fiercely.
     Sadly, being part of our family isn't enough anymore. I thought that it was for a while. I thought that if I buried my head far enough in the sand and let myself be washed away by the lies that I would be able to pretend that this was enough - that our weekends with him would ensure that he grows up to love God. That my presence as his mother on the weekends would provide him enough security and love for the rest of his week. That my husband's strength would keep him safe. But it doesn't. It can't. Over the past few weeks, I've watched my baby boy with sadder eyes than before. He's anxious. He's aggressive. He's clingy. He's confused. When I lay with him before nap time, he holds onto me so tightly that little finger marks are left behind in my skin, long after he has drifted off.  He hates to leave us.
     There are people in his life that say that he's a boy - he shouldn't play with dolls, shouldn't be cuddled, shouldn't be given that kind of love. And there are people in his life that believe that discipline should be harsh and painful in order for it to be remembered. There are also people in his life that are looking out for their own well-being instead of his. People that are showing him violence, promiscuity, negative treatment of women, and illegal behavior.
     My baby is no longer a baby. He's a little boy. He has little boy eyes and little boy ears. He sees and he hears and he feels. He knows what it is to feel safe, which is why it hurts so much to know that he now knows what it is to be fearful. For as much as I look at this little life and see pieces of each of Us, I'm equally and painfully aware of the marks being left by the others. We were given the opportunity to save one child the grief of being exposed to so many things.... but alas, the system has failed him just like it did our other kids. We now only save children after they've been damaged and shattered and those pieces of Us can no longer be found.
     I will not be turning this post into something more than what it is. There will be no positive turn at the end or hearty chuckle to be had. I won't even begin to degrade the severity of this situation in order to make my blog more comfortable to read. I do, however, hope that discomfort moves you to pray for my child and all children in this predicament. I hope that it moves you to pray for our system. I hope that it moves you to pray for those that cause harm instead of good. Because this post reflects my circumstances, not my Spirit. The situation looks desperate and sounds desperate and feels unbearable.... but my Spirit reminds me that God bears what I cannot.
     For the small lot of you that are closer to this situation than others, I ask that you do not share this post on your Facebook wall. Instead, remember to be watching and listening, always attentive to what you see when you are out and about. If you see a child, any child, in need, be the one to help. Don't assume that someone else will step in and save the day. It just may be that it is my child and all his scattered pieces of Us that you end up saving. Pray, Friends. Pray, Watch, Listen, and most importantly, Do.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Sleepless Mama's Joy

     I am suddenly aware that my life consists of little more than putting people to sleep. Day in and day out, I assist in nap schedules, bed time routines, and midnight soothings. We eat our nighttime snacks, we say our prayers, we remind short people to brush their teeth, we put on footie pajamas, we sing the songs and we read the books... Please, don't misunderstand... I'm not complaining! There are worse things in the world than making sure your family gets their rest - Afterall, without adequate sleep, there will be no learning in school. And without the learning in school, there will be no graduating from high school. And without graduation, there will be no college, and no job, and no moving out of my house someday. Trust me when I say that it is with the greatest of pleasures that I ensure bedtime happens and that it happens well in our home!
     My one question, however, is this: When do I sleep? A question that was especially difficult to answer on this particular weekend. With all 4 kids in tow and a husband that was sick and cranky (in a way that only a husband can truly be), I waded through a sleepless fog, trying to break up sibling spats and clean up toddler messes and change umpteen diapers. But despite my best efforts, it was apparent that naps were in order - for all of them. But you can't call them "naps" and get the result you want, oh no! This isn't my first rodeo, Friend. This is the time to pull out the psychology degree and convince the little ones to take a nap without them knowing they've been fooled into sleeping. Phrases like, "You don't have to take a nap or anything, gosh, no! Just take the tablet to your room and play real quietly, maybe on your bed, so that I can get the babies to sleep." Meanwhile, I spray the house with lavender-scented Febreeze and let Rock-a-bye Baby play loudly over the baby monitor. Ten minutes later, the big kids and Husband are down for the count and it's just me and the little ones left (although Benedryl works better for the Hubs than Febreeze, I gotta say).
      Getting all the other kids to sleep is a walk in the park, however, compared to the toddler. Isaac has developed an internal clock that tells him its naptime - yet, this internal clock fights with his internal need to not sleep... ever. These two battle it out all the while creating an increasingly grumpy Tasmanian Devil that runs amok, throwing puzzle pieces and screaming at the top of his lungs. I watch as my cuddly, funny, lovable little boy turns into Satan incarnate over the course of the battle, until finally, and blissfully, he surrenders to sleep. This comes with a price, generally for me as the Mama. This weekend, I chose to pay this bill with a little thing called creativity, Folks.
     Just as the terror of Sleepy Isaac was in full force, I laid down on his big boy bed and cuddled up with one of his stuffed animals. When Isaac poked my face, I pretended to snore. This made him laugh hysterically and, unfortunately, caused him to poke my face repeatedly and with increasing firmness. I learned quickly to tone back the snoring so that he would get bored, which he did. (Heh, two-year-olds are so gullible.) I deliberately rolled away from him and curled up once again. I heard small feet climbing on his truck to get onto the bed with me and I then felt his warm breath as he whispered into my ear, "Mama?" I whispered back that Mama was sooo sleepy and she needed a tuck-in. I asked him to get me the blanket, which he did. I asked him to cover me up, which he did. I asked him to kiss me goodnight, which he did. He kissed my lips, my cheeks, my hair, my leg, and my elbow. I then asked him to read me a story. He pulled his book over and said his 1-2-3's, which are part of a different book, but I didn't argue. And when I felt we had reached a level of calmness needed for the final stage, I swooped in with the big guns.
     "Isaac, come cuddle Mama to put her to sleep, ok?" And that little guy didn't even know what hit him. He cuddled up to me and patted my back over and over, saying, "A'night, Mama. A'night, Mama." I had my eyes closed, but I could hear the yawn, that sweet baby yawn that makes getting tired sound so amazing. His head began to lower onto my shoulder and I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I had won. With one final motion, Isaac crawled onto my chest, laid down, and looked at me with heavy, sleepy eyes.... and then he farted. Long and loud. He smiled at me sleepily and whispered, "I poopin." And then he put his head on my shoulder and instantly fell asleep. I laid there for a while, trapped, holding my breath as long as I could before the need for air overtook me. And then I realized what had happened. I had been dutch-ovened, toddler style. It was he who had won the battle, not I.
     Luckily, the baby is still too young to win battles with this Mama. Once I was able to weasel my way out from underneath Isaac, I took advantage of Wyatt's need to nurse, knowing that he would be out cold after 10 minutes. And naturally, I was right. That doesn't mean that he didn't get his win later that night when he and Isaac tag-teamed me by waking up seven times in seven hours. Seven in Seven. There was one point when I put a baby down and looked at the clock (Oh, us Mother's, we know that clock. We're addicted to that clock, aren't we?) only to realize that I had slept for a mere 4 minutes before the next baby woke up wailing. And thanks to the Benedryled Hubs, I was on duty all night. Well, all except for the 5th time. The 5th time involved me punching him in the back twice and whisper-yelling, "NO! I won't do it again! YOU! YOUR TURN!!!" And he did, waking up the other baby as he went. It was a magical night.
     But this I can say, no sarcasm involved, is that one of the brightest and most beautifullest gems in my Motherhood crown is rocking my babies to sleep each night. There is nothing more peaceful and delicious than smelling that freshly-bathed cherub aroma while they rest their chubby cheeks on my chest and gaze up with droopy eyelids at one last attempt to stay awake before finally giving in to sleep. And I love that look. It reminds me that these little ones just want to ensure that Mama's there - that they're safe - before letting go and sleeping peacefully, like only a baby can. It is actually a privilege each night to lull them into the best sleep that they'll ever have in their lives. A sleep that is Ambien-free, stress-free, nightmare-free, worry-free, and carefree. In a few short years they will be bogged down with homework, drama with friends, heartaches, jobs, bills, household chores, and babies of their own that will need their help to fall asleep at night. And in that moment of rocking their own freshly-bathed cherubs to sleep, they will remember me, just as your babies will remember you. And all our sleepless nights will finally be worth their weight in gold.