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"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, The Puzzles We Face

     Have you ever had one of those eye-opening moments where you take a step back, look around you, and say to yourself, "How did my life come to this?"
     Oh good, you do this everyday, too? At least it's not just me!
     I mean, I love my life... seriously, I do. But during my days of Peppa Pig and peak-a-boo, I find myself contemplating earlier times. It wasn't that long ago that I was agonizing over which college to go to - which major to choose - which jobs to apply for - which man to marry - how many kids to have. I don't know that I realized it then, but my life would actually continue to exist once those big choices were made. Graduating, getting a job, and acquiring a family didn't, in fact, end my existence. However, the big choices in life have now boiled down to Gerber's chicken and apples or banana-mango-carrot - signing up for swim lessons on Tuesdays or keeping them on Thursdays - name brand face wash or settling for the DG brand. 
     For so long it seemed that my entire life was moving with such momentum, such intensity, in a direction that was still unknown.... and that was exhilarating! The highs and the lows of waiting for acceptance letters, final grades to be posted, promotions to be announced, proposals to be made - those feelings made me feel so alive, so anxious, and so ridiculously real all at the same time. I almost wish I could go back in time and whisper in my 18-year-old ear, "Don't fret about those extra-curriculars toooo much, girl. They won't help you budget the grocery money or plan a 7-year-old's Frozen-themed birthday party." 
     And it isn't just the major life choices that seem to have fallen to the wayside. As a working woman, a therapist, I found great joy and accomplishment in helping others - in figuring out how to work with each client to move the puzzle pieces of their lives around in a way that would allow them make sense of it all. Sometimes... sometimes I find it a little less than satisfying to work my current puzzles, puzzles like how to rearrange my entire to-do list around a baby's napping schedule (a schedule that seems to change daily), how to get a household fed, all the kids to pee, the dogs to pee, and the baby's diaper changed in a 15 minute time span before gymnastics, how to spend as little money as possible on Christmas without forgetting to show appreciation to my kids' teachers (God knows they deserve it for all my kids put them through!) and our mail woman (who blessedly allows extra time for me to come to the door, knowing that I have a baby and three dogs to manhandle with each knock, while she hand-delivers the Christmas gifts that I was too busy to go to the stores to actually purchase - and on the rare occasion that I'm not home, she clears away the muddy boots and left out toys to leave my packages on the dryest part of the porch), or how to sew the continuous holes and popped-off-buttons that my oldest son accumulates with each outfit he wears (this puzzle is particularly challenging because I am no seamstress!!).
     Wyatt is now 7 months old and our bank account is sadly dwindling with having gone the past 8 months on one salary. The time is drawing nigh for me to return to work. I will once again get to experience the joy of solving real puzzles - fixing real problems - experiencing real dilemmas.
     So, why am I so crushed to be handing off my diaper bag for my briefcase? Why do tears run down my cheeks at the thought of not doing hours of spelling words and subtraction problems each night? 
     Could it be possible that I've grown rather fond of the mundane? You'd think that after this week of cleaning up the big kid's throw up, the baby's throw up, the dog's throw up, the toddler's diaper blow outs, the baby's blow outs, and slipping in the dog's blow outs, I'd be ready to throw in the towel (that very dirty towel) and be hitting the pavement running to find a life that doesn't involve wiping anyone else's butt. Except I'd clean a million little dimply bottoms for the chance to hear my little man's first words - to be there to see him crawl after spending weeks on the floor next to him, showing him how to get up on his hands and knees instead of just power-humping the floor with all his might.
     Could it be possible that I'm still working out my own puzzles? Like, how to feel remotely sexy for my husband when my brain is screaming how shlubby and gross I am. Or how to get enough sleep to get through the day when the little people in my life need me so much in the nighttime hours. Or how to not lose my crap on the big kids when they daily test every patient fiber in my body. Or how to manage my fear that I will go to back work and no longer be good enough... for anyone. 
     I want to go back to that 18-year-old girl and hug her with all my might. I want to tell her that I DO understand her stress and the dilemmas she's facing - that despite our change of scenes, our decisions to choose one thing and leave the other behind is still very much real... and painful.  I want to tell her that it may not seem like it, but bedtime prayers and first kisses actually trump A+s and raises. And that one day she will find herself missing her college days and single life less and less. And that our puzzles will continually evolve as we move through life, but that we aren't defined so much by our ability to solve them as much as our courage to face them.
     This Christmas season, whatever it is you're facing, be it poopy diapers or company cutbacks or preparing for first-time parenthood or answering the time-honored question of "When will you finally settle down?", my prayer is that you will remember to love one another.
     Love each other well.
     While passing out good cheer, remember that the person beside you may have a puzzle that looks different than yours, but their puzzle, great of small, still requires a great deal of courage and probably a hug from a fellow puzzle-facer. So give the hugs freely this holiday. (And for God's sake, if you're the one with the dirty burp cloth on your shoulder, try to remember to take it off before the hugs this year, would ya?)

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sarcastic Welcome Wagon

            I never thought I’d say this, but….. I miss being pregnant. (GASP!) I know. I know! Those are the words I was pretty positive would never leave my lips, not in a million years. Now, I’m not saying that I long for the days of constant puking and horrible back pains – not a chance! But let’s just say that I didn't acknowledge the perks of pregnancy and give them their due at the time. But as I sit here in my grass-is-always-greener state of mind, I feel a tinge of nostalgia for the days of swollen feet and profuse sweating.

            This week, three evils have resurfaced in my life – evils that pregnancy had gloriously masked. And now, in the full light of post-natal day, I’m feeling rather deflated (and not just in my abdomen).

1)      Welcome Back, Nail Biting. Ugh! The habit is so disturbing I can’t even handle it. I don’t enjoy biting, I don’t like the way my nails look, and I can’t even handle thinking of the trillions of germs I’m ingesting each time I put a fingernail to my lips. And after 16 months of gorgeous, hard-as-rock nails, I’m back to square one. Me and my stubs are disappointed in my defeat. Pregnancy hormones did for my nails what nothing ever has – I had perfect color, shape, and thickness growing at rapid rates from my fingertips with nary a break, crack, or peal. But even though I’m still nursing my little man, the hormones had to eventually come to an end, bringing with it dull, flimsy, pealy nails. And what’s an ex-nail biter to do? Leave them there, all scratchy and sharp? My OCD wouldn't allow this. And so, with bitterness in my tone, I say Welcome Back, Nail Biting.

2)      Welcome Back, Period. In the past year-and-a-half, I’d forgotten just how horrible it is to bleed profusely and for no freaking reason at all. If this were a nosebleed, I’d already be at the hospital getting cauterized. Isn’t it bad enough that I’m still not able to fit into half of my old clothes? Isn’t it enough that I’m utterly exhausted and that I change more diapers in a day than I get hours of sleep? Nope. Apparently it wasn't enough. Because now I get to wear nipple pads AND crotch pads, along with my granny panties and my super huge nursing bra. I make Victoria’s Secret models weep. So, with sarcasm and utter hatred, I say Hello, Cramps. Hello, Tampons. Hello, Back Aches. Welcome Back, Period, you disgusting piece of crap.

3)      Welcome Back, Mood Swings. Perhaps this one goes along well with number 2, but it’s also a sign that my hormones have continued their decline from pregnancy and freshly-labored Mama to just a regular old crabby, menstruating machine. And unfortunately, these mood swings are running rampant! No one cries over a generic Christmas card. No one. Oh, wait…. I do! I cry over generic Christmas cards, staring at a pile of laundry, and each time I step on the scale. On the flip side of all this sobbing is the real problem. The rage. I never realized it before, but when I watch crime shows on television, I’ve now noticed that I’m one pick axe, roll of duct tape, and a trash bag away from finding myself on America’s Most Wanted. It’s crazy how quickly it creeps up! One minute I’m making dinner while quizzing spelling words, and the next minute I’m screaming my head off because my kids bought themselves gifts at Santa’s Workshop when they were told only to buy for their family. (The hundreds of dollars spent on presents currently sitting under the Christmas tree was obviously not enough for them.) I threw things, screamed things, grounded things, and threatened things. I was seconds away from bellowing to the entire world that there really is no Santa Claus! (Spoiler Alert?) And you know what followed this almighty tantrum? You guessed it. More tears. And alas, with bi-polar tendencies I holler a hearty Welcome Back, Mood Swings!

I can see now why women have more children. For a long time I didn't see it. I couldn't look past the terrible pregnancy symptoms and terrifying labor and delivery events long enough to realize that these women of multiple children are not crazy. No. They’re just putting off the Welcome Wagon a little bit longer. And to these women I tip my hat. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Problem With Stupid

                There has been a swift change in the intellectual order of our household – a disturbance in the force – an attempted dethroning of the smart by the dumb. For some reason, my 1st and 3rd graders have decided that they are, in fact, now smarter than I am.
I, for one, am elated to know that my tax dollars are allowing our district to hire such phenomenal teachers that my children are now able to leave home and make it in the world on their own at the ripe ages of 6 and 8 – their brilliance is utterly astounding, to be sure!
I am even more thrilled with the idea that I no longer have to carry the burden of thinking for myself, because I have been graciously blessed with not just one but two people that are willing to tell me everything I need to know. I need not question their reasoning, nor do I dare offer a secondary opinion. Oh, no… not a chance. Because, as previously stated, I am no longer smarter than the little people living in my home.
Just this week, I’ve had the privilege of being told how to pack a diaper bag… because obviously, I’ve been doing it incorrectly for the past 2 years. After all this time, you’d think I could’ve figured out a system, but noooo. I’m too low on the scholastic totem pole for diaper-bag-packing. I am also too under-educated to be able to complete simple math. The straight A’s I received all through school mean nothing to a 1st grader… a 1st grader that has received consecutive F’s on her timed math quizzes for the past 2 weeks.
Stupidly, I tried to offer rational thought into the mix, just for kicks and giggles. Not that I was saying she was wrong, per say, but I wanted her to be able to show me exactly how she arrived at the notion that 6 + 7 = 7… you know, just so I could learn from her brilliance and all. But that little nitwit got so defensive! How DARE I question her greatness?
“I swear, Mom! I swear that’s the answer! I know how to do math!”
Really? Your inability to do basic addition is worthy of a double-swear?
I reasonably tried to offer her an example in words that she’d understand. “Taylor, if you have 6 bracelets and I give you 7 more bracelets, you’ll have 7 bracelets in all? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Oh… well, not with bracelets. I’d have way more than that. But with math, I would only have 7.”
Well, who I am to argue with that kind of logic? After all, leaving the wipes out of the diaper bag was sheer genius.
And spelling must be the prized jewel of the school system this year, because both of my kids will argue to their death that they are spelling words correctly. I know, my spelling bee championships and medals earned mean nothing to these academic whizzes, but you’d think they’d at least throw me a bone every now and again, just to keep me feeling like I can in some way measure up to their awesomeness.
My son was utterly convinced that the word “shart” was one of his spelling words this week. Shart. (For those that don’t know what a shart is, look it up in Urban Dictionary because I won’t bother disgracing this blog with such...messiness.) After looking over his words, I noticed the words “short” and “shark” were on the list. Surely he’d made a simple mistake and combined the two words together to come up with a rather unfortunate new word. But let’s not forget, he’s now smart and I’m now dumb. I was tired of arguing and, frankly, I wanted to smack the smug look of “Duh” off his face with a shovel.
“Fine, Cameron. Spell “shart” for me.”
“That’s shirt.”
“No, it’s not!” This was equal parts yelled and cried.
I decided the best way to handle this was to let him play this one out…. at school, in front of his peers. And I will not feel badly when his teacher chuckles and his friends snort. Because I lack the brains to know how to feel shame, right?
I could go on. Really I could. I’ve been explained what it means to lock a door, how to fix my phone (because those who have never owned a cell phone are the new experts), how to raise children (because those who have never had children are the new experts), how to cook a good meal, and how to better manage my time. The last one really rubbed me wrong, since I not only manage my time, but the time of the ones calling my time management into question. They can’t even TELL TIME, for God’s sake! But pointing this all out is meaningless. They’re smart, I’m dumb. They’re right, I’m wrong.

Well, that’s fine by me. When I find myself wipeless, I’ll be forced to use a certain someone’s favorite shirt to tidy the baby’s bottom. And I have no problem giving out $7 instead of $13 when it’s time for the next book fair and the smart people want me to open my wallet to them. And I will no longer be ironing shirts for a particular little boy, only sharts. And since they’re so smart, I’m sure they’ll figure it all out eventually. Until then, I’ll just be sitting over there in the corner, pealing the wallpaper and trying to remember not to eat it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Raising Broken Children

            There are days when I forget how broken my children were when they came to live with us – days when I get to be a normal mom dealing with normal kid problems, like fighting over whose day it is to feed the dogs or who has to turn the light out because they were the last one in a room. There’s a part of me that smiles each time my kids don’t empty their pockets before their clothes go through the wash. And, although I may bark at them for it, I don’t mind stepping on thousands of Legos, silly bands, and barrettes as I walk from room to room. These are the things that kids do. They leave stuff out to be stepped on, send entire Kleenex boxes through the wash, and argue over light switches. And it makes me feel amazing inside.
            Then there are days when their broken pieces come a little bit unglued and their cracks begin to show. On those days, I do not feel like a normal mom dealing with normal kid problems. On those days, I’m reminded that parts of them are still broken and that they’re prone to shattering more easily than a “normal kid”.
            It’s often the small things that cause them to chip – their new, shiny beings that we worked so hard to polish up with pleases and thank yous, therapy sessions and reward charts, prayers and petitions. We put them in nice clothes and comb their hair until it glistens. We clip toe nails and remind them to stand up straight. They look the part. My kids look all new. They look so good that sometimes I forgot that when I raise my voice, my 6-year-old daughter will be unable to meet my eyes with hers and will hunch over, not with shame, but with fear. And my son can seem so friendly that you’d never expect him to pull out his own teeth when a child at school makes fun of the silver caps covering his less-than pearly whites due to being bottle fed soda throughout his baby years. It’s on those days that the small lines of their glued together parts are most evident.
            My 8-year-old has been suspended twice so far this year. Honestly, I had thought we were past this stage. After multiple suspensions at the end of Kindergarten (when he first came to us) and throughout first grade, we were pleasantly surprised to have no incidents in second grade. What a relief, I’d thought. Problem solved! But I was wrong. Because, you see, in his third grade class, there’s a boy that reminds him of a half-brother that he had to leave behind when he came to our home. A boy that was slightly older than him, whom he tried to emulate, despite the boy’s constantly bad behavior. All the long talks about being a leader and not a follower flew out the window this year in a desperate attempt to fit in, look cool, appear tough in front of this boy and his new classmates.
            My son stole a sweatshirt. He stole a sweatshirt and made up an elaborate story of how he earned the shirt by participating in a fundraiser. He stole the shirt, made up a story, and then wore it to school the next day. The poor boy who originally owned the item is in his class. (At least my kid is still somewhat stupid when it comes to his crimes.) After some more lying and lots of tears, followed by a suspension and a full weekend sitting at the table for a rousing rendition of “Read, Write, or Draw” for his grounding, I spent the better part of the next 4 weeks applying more glue to the lines and painting over the chips that had started to show.
            It wasn’t long after that I received another phone call from the school because my son had made “terroristic threats”. For the love of all that is good and holy…. As if on cue, my kid started his routine cover-up. Lie, blah blah blah, lie, lie, blah, lie, blah blah, lie, lie lie. After wanting to bang our heads off the walls, my husband and I were finally able to get the whole story. Cameron was caught cheating on a worksheet (it has to be noted, the worksheet was for fun, not even for a grade!). But he wasn’t caught by the teacher. No, he was caught by the sweet little girl whose paper he was copying not-so-sneakily. Naturally, she threatened to tell. And naturally, my son threatened to kill her family. I’m not even kidding.
            How do I explain to a little girl’s parents that my son is not, in fact, a sociopath, but that he was trained to lie, cheat, and steal at all costs in order to survive and escape beatings from his first dad? How do I get a freaked out mom to understand that her child wasn’t the only one threatened – that my child was also threatened by a large man with a belt that if he ever told on him for his many indiscretions, he’d “get it again”? And even if he did tell the truth to the nice people in his life that were meant to help him, he’d be sent to live with yet another family, leaving all his belongings behind, changing schools again, only to find that they didn’t want him either? How do I show her that I’m so so sorry and that I don’t condone my son’s words, without it seeming like I’m making excuses for him?
            Because I won’t make excuses. I can’t let him think that it’s OK to do wrong because of previous wrongs done to him. And I won’t let him turn others into victims and perpetuate a cycle of violence, theft, and lies.
            But there I sat, grounding and re-gluing him at the same time, wondering when my broken kid will just get the chance to be normal. No labels, nothing to live up to, no one to please, no one to fear – just be able to live without the cracks and chips. He broke into my thoughts to show me something he’d written during his long sit at the table. It was his autobiography, something they’d just learned about in school that week. It was only one page -double-spaced and written in large letters, but I could see that it was his best handwriting.
            It read something like this:
            “Once upon a time, I lived with a bad family. I was scared and had belt marks on me. And then one day I moved to a new family with a Mom and a Dad that are nice to me. They don’t let me do bad things and teach me to be good. I love my new life very much. The End.”

            While it may not be the end, it just may be a beginning. And in that moment, one small crack healed.