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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"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bricks Of Love

     As an adoptive parent, I have to ask.... Is it OK to make my child wear a t-shirt that says, "I'm adopted. My parents apologize for your inconvenience"? If so, I will order them like underwear - one for every day of the week.
     I needed a shirt today as I looked at my ringing telephone. I always dread seeing the school's phone number on my caller ID. It's with hesitant breath that I ask the all-too familiar questions: "what did he do this time", "who do we need to apologize to now", and "do we need to have a conference". We've written all the "I'm sorry"s there are to write. There is not enough lead in all the world to fill the pencils to write on the pages the amount of sorry's that have needed to be said. We are, in fact, sorry'ed out.

     I'm sorry that he doesn't follow the rules.
     I'm sorry that he acts impulsively, despite the medicine, despite the therapy.
     I'm sorry that he lies to your face.
     I'm sorry that he manipulates.
     I'm sorry that he bullies your children.
     I'm sorry that he threatens to harm your students.
     I'm sorry that he pulls hair and pinches arms and trips passers-by for no apparent reason.
     I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'M SORRY, I'M SORRYI'm sorry.

     This is why I wish I had a shirt for him to wear. It would save me so many words and spare me so many disgusted looks. You know the looks. I know the looks. We've all given them to the parents of the screaming Walmart children and to the ones running amok through the library.  The looks that say, Why can't you control your child? What are you doing wrong?

     P.S. I ask myself those same questions every day.  And I have no answers.

     I'm truly sorry for his behaviors, but I didn't create this. His genes are chocked full of dysfunction and his past overflowing with abuse. In the 6 short years that he lived B.A. (Before Adoption), he witnessed more violence than most of us ever see in our entire lives. Not only did he experience Failure To Thrive due to gross neglect as an infant, he was shuffled from home to home and told repeatedly that he was not wanted. And when he wasn't being told outright that he was unwanted and unloved, he was shown through the actions of those who couldn't be bothered to care for him or train him. You don't have to be a genius to realize that you're not worth much to someone who can't even take a few moments to show you how to bathe or brush your teeth or how to count or say the ABCs.

     And anyone who is willing to use a belt on a kid's legs should be shot. Plain and simple.

     So when my kid shows happiness at your sadness, I'm sorry. And when he sends your child home from school in tears, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I know how terribly you must feel, because I feel it each and every day that I see that dreaded number on my phone. I want to hold your child and tell him/her that he doesn't mean it.... even though I fear that he might. I want to say that he'll never do it again.... even though I'm fairly certain that he will. And then I want to hold my child (after I scream and consequence and make him write the I'm Sorry's for the millionth time) and tell him that there's a better way.... even though it seems to do no good.
     Parents, teachers, peers - I need you to understand my child. But I don't need you to excuse his behavior. He was dealt a crappy hand for 6 years, but he cannot and will not become a victim of these circumstances. I don't need you to affirm him - he has parents for this. I don't need you to fix him - he has a therapist for that. Understand him, yes, and then hold him accountable for his actions. The last thing I want is to create a child/teen/adult that has grown to learn that he can play the "Adoption Card" with a few tears in order to avoid getting a detention or suspension or community service.
     But I don't want to break his spirit.... Listen. You have my permission to break whatever you need to break in order to show him that bad behavior will not be tolerated. Sometimes a will or a spirit need to be broken in order for a new one, an improved one, to be re-built.
     And re-build we will. Bricks of tears and prayers and love, mortar of therapy and meds, brick-layers of parents, grandparents, teachers, and forgiving classmates. And each time he self-destructs and crashes our efforts, we will build again. And when he finds himself in trouble for his actions and things look their worst, we will build again. And when I screw up as a parent and lash out because I just can't figure out what to do with him next, we will build again. We will keep building until the structure stands.
     In the meantime, accept our sincerest apologies and our grateful thank yous. We are trying. (T-shirts will be available shortly.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What I Wouldn't Give

What I wouldn't give.....

     How often do you find yourself saying those exact words, followed by some far-fetched dream or wish that, if answered, would literally make your life?
     I say these words often. Some call this discontentment. I call this sanity. I am sorry, but doing dishes and wiping butts all day just isn't glamorous enough for this lady! I mean, honestly, as much as I love taking care of my super-old house and running my kids to their appointments and nagging everyone in my life to death about everything, I allow myself to have dreams of What I Wouldn't Gives. And sometimes those dreams get me through the monotonous days of motherhood. Here's a list of my Top 20. Shall we see how many we have in common?

What I wouldn't give.....

1) To be thin. (Ding Ding!! Thank you, and goodnight.) There's obviously no one else who has ever uttered these words. Never after Thanksgiving. Never in the changing room as you stared down that swim suit on it's itty bitty hanger. Never as you held your breath while standing on the scale, hoping that the air in your lungs would somehow help you float and give you a smaller number.

2) To be able to read an entire book in a week. I used to love to read. The sad thing is, I probably still do. But I'll never be certain of this, because I live with small people. They are the holders of the time cards. They are the keepers of the books. And there is literally no time to test this theory.

3) To shower. I mean really shower. Shave, exfoliate, deep condition, soak, face mask. The Works. At this point, I'd settle for a quick Febreeze and a head-band.

4) To not be tired. Seriously. There are so many hours in a day and yet they seem to slip through my fumbling fingers week after week after week. I don't know where these hours go, especially the ones that happen while I'm "sleeping".... but I think the Sand Man and Father Time are in cahoots on this one.

5) To go on vacation. Who's with me? (I'm taking legitimate offers, here!) I will fly first class, business class, coach, or with the luggage.... I'll go by plane, train, car, or camel.... just get me to the beach, please!

6) To not have chin hairs. (Oooo, it's getting real up in here.) Yes. I'm starting my own beard collection. To date, my beard hairs come in black, red, blonde, and gray. Congratulations to me. I'm considering pulling a Hilary Duff and dying them aqua or lavender, help me and my beard fit in with today's youth. But the best part is, I can pluck until the cows come home and STILL get into my car, look in the flip mirror, and see at least 20 more little rascals that were waiting until they were in natural sunlight to show their ugly little faces. Next step? Hedge trimmers. Final step? Circus.

7) To have 7 brand new seasons of the Gilmore Girls. When I'm knee deep in piles of laundry, I fantasize about Luke and Lorelai pro-creating, Rory finding the man of her dreams, and Sookie having 30 more kids. I long for quick-witted, small-town characters to sweep me into their world, far away from my piles of socks and underwear. Someone get on that, would ya? Thanks.

8) To have a normal poop life. Yes. You read that correctly. After years of IBS, I would give anything to poop like a girl instead of like a trucker who's just eaten at Muffy's Burrito Stand.

9) To be allergy-free. Sneezy, Runny, Itchy, Coughy, Rashy, Wheezy, and Plugged. I am the new and worse-for-wear 7 Dwarfs, all rolled into one. Bring on the hay fever and pollen, Mother Nature! Come get me, dust mites and mold! Allergy shots to the rescue!

10) To be able to teleport myself away from my children when they fight. As fun as it is to hear the whining and the crying and the screaming, I think I'd rather just leave. Immediately. Until they're 20 and living independently.

11) To eat ice cream at the end of every meal. I don't think this is all that unreasonable. Especially if I could have my first wish come true in conjunction with this one. I would eat far less ice cream if I knew that I would get it again in a few short hours. In fact, this would probably help me lose weight, right?

12) To have someone clean my house. Now, I like cleaning. This is not the problem. I simply no longer have time for such nonsense as dusting, let alone washing base boards and moving the fridge to scrub the spilled orange juice. I want someone to wipe out my cupboards and flip my mattress and to wash the outsides of my windows -- to do the kind of cleaning that would make Monica Gellar proud.

13) To hire a personal shopper. I would love, love, love someone to take my measurements and magically know what would look amazing on me. This person could spend my pretend money going to any store she wanted and get me full outfits that are functional yet trendy, slimming yet breathable. And this person would become my best friend and I would share my mealtime ice cream with her.

14) To be a real writer. Like, a for real- I get paid for it- someone wants to publish me sort of writer. That way I could do what I love and be able to support my family all at the same time. (And this, folks, is the stuff that dreams are made of.)

15) To move to the beach. This would take care of my need for a vacation and many of my allergy-dwarf selves! Give me a shack, a shed, or a tent.... as long as I have warm breezes and constant sunshine, I'm a happy camper!!

16) To not be pooped on ever again. Today, my pastor and I went to meet with another pastor at his church. The baby came with us. He seemed to be playing nicely with his car, until I saw what looked like orange cement splashing onto the carpet around him. It took me a moment to realize that the ceiling wasn't leaking pureed carrots. My baby was crapping so ferociously that it was shooting out the top of his diaper, torpedo style, and then landing in heaps around him. I used all the wipes. I used all the spare clothes. I used all the plastic baggies. And it was not enough. There was a 6-foot radius of poop and no amount of scrubbing was getting that stuff out of the carpet, my clothes, or his hair. Yes. I would give anything to not have to do this ever again.

17) To go to the movies. Similar to my desire to read a book, there's just no time to go to the movies. Or money. Money and time.... maybe this list would be shorter if those were my only two items?

18) To have all of my family and friends live close to me. Sadly, many of the people that I love the most live all over the country. And there are times that I just want them (need them) to pack their things and move to my small little town and be near me. It's not like it's that hard to call a realtor, right?

19) To have more fun with my husband. (Get your minds out of the gutter, people!) When we weren't ships passing in the night, we used to laugh. There was time to unwind to the point that you could notice the funny things instead of bustling past them to get to the next chore or appointment. It was uninhibited, flirty, carefree laughter. What I wouldn't give.

20) To be a perfect parent raising perfect children. I want so badly to do everything right. However, this literally never happens. I do an awful lot of yelling and I make threats that I don't follow through with (mainly because they're outrageous and ridiculous threats in the first place, i.e. "I will quite literally BUY a bulldozer so that I can dig a hole deep enough to put all the crap you've hidden under your bed in.... and then I will bury it and build a 6-foot monument of my face to place on top of the pile to forever remind you that it's best to clean your room the first 30 times I say it!!!"). And I often focus on the little things, easily forgetting the big picture moments. But since my children are maniacal, dirty, pooping, weirdos (whom I love with every fiber of my being), our imperfections are often the highlights of our neighbor's dinner parties.... especially when they look out their dining room windows to see a muttering woman digging holes in the back yard with a large shovel (because obviously I could never afford a bulldozer).

     Those are my Top 20 What I Wouldn't Gives. What are some of yours?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jelly Beans And The Cross

     The Easter season is upon us, and whereas I normally don't dedicate posts to current events or specific holidays (I like to be one-note like that), I found that this particular holiday has collided quite dramatically with my Mommyhood experience. Perhaps some of you out there will even be able to relate.
     When Cameron and Taylor came to live with us (we just celebrated out 3-year mark last week, can you believe it?), they knew very little about God, Jesus, church, or even what a Bible is. Needless to say, Sundays were just another day to sleep in, Christmas was about Santa, and Easter was about the cavity-inducing Easter Bunny. It's been a slow process, but my family and I have done our best to incorporate the meaning of Christ not just into our holidays, but into our daily lives.
     Despite our best efforts, we often find that the children have developed some sort of holiday-related amnesia causing them to lose sight of the reasons we celebrate religious holidays throughout the year. This week it became very clear that my children as still suffering from this tragic disease.
     On Monday, Taylor and Cameron were both sitting at the kitchen table. Taylor was coloring and Cameron was criticizing her coloring. I told him to find a better hobby, but he seemed to be enjoying his current activity a bit too much. Taylor looked up from the page she was on and said to me, "Mom? I'm trying to make an Easter drawing and I can't think of anything to put on the page.."
     "Well, what do you have already?" I answered.
     "I drew a bunny and some eggs and a lot of candy, but I just can't think of anything else to draw...."
     "Those things are great, Tay, but why don't you draw a cross and a picture of Jesus?"
     She wrinkled her nose at me and shrugged her shoulders. "Why would I draw those things?"
     My mind flashed back to the previous year when I took the children to a Good Friday dramatization of Jesus' trial and crucifixion. Both kids had been moved to tears and Taylor especially found the event to be very personal. She spent months talking about what she had seen and would often express gratitude to God for sending Jesus to die for our sins. 
     So, I tried to prompt the conversation a bit more. "Taylor, do you remember why we celebrate Easter?"
     "Yeah, because of the Easter Bunny."
     For the record, I am not slamming the rabbit in any way, but he/she has literally never been part of our Easter celebration! I decided to push a little farther.
     "Taylor, what's the real reason that we celebrate Easter? It's the day that Jesus..... what?"
     "Was born?"
     "No, that's Christmas. It's the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Remember? He died on Good Friday for our sins and then He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. We celebrate salvation this holiday, not just the excitement of baskets and candy."
     She all of a sudden looked very concerned. "Oh yeah. I forgot. I hate this holiday."
     Cameron took this moment to chime in. "Yeah, I hate it, too.... except for the egg hunt."
     Thoughts began smacking me in the brain at full speed. I'm a terrible mother for not reminding my children of the true meaning of Easter all year long. My kids just said they hate Easter, what the heck do I do now? Who HATES Easter?? Me and this bunny are gonna have some words....
     "Ok, guys. Seriously. I have to know. Why do you both hate Easter??"
     Taylor was the one to respond. "Mom, it's just too sad. I don't like to think about Jesus dying all the time. Especially because it's my fault that he had to die anyway. I just want to think about the happy bunny instead."
     An all-too-familiar ping went off in my heart just then. Because how often do we do the same thing? When something painful occurs in life, isn't it just easier to ignore it and focus on a fluffy, shallow, insignificant replacement instead? Why watch a documentary on martyrdom when you can rent a Will Ferrell movie? Why work on self-improvement when you can ignore your flaws and go play? Why remember Christ's sacrifice for your sins and your need for a Savior when you can eat candy and pretend that his death didn't happen?
     Don't get me wrong.... I love Will Ferrell. And playing. And jelly beans, for crying out loud! I believe that God gave us so many ways to enjoy life that he wants us to laugh and have fun and not walk around carrying our own crosses, per say, day in and day out. But there is such truth in facing the reality that we are sinful. Even at an early age, recognizing that we have not, will not, and CANNOT save ourselves is so powerful. We don't celebrate Easter to be sad about Christ's death or the fact that He came to such a painful end on this earth because of our wrong-doings....
     We celebrate Easter to remember that our salvation wasn't cheap, it wasn't easy. Our salvation was bought with blood and tears and most importantly, with love. To leave out the tragedy of Christ's death is to ignore the beauty of His resurrection and the amazing grace that he washed us with.
     In my own life, I sometimes like to look for the Easter Bunny. There are moments when there is just too much sadness. Too much pain. It's nice to be distracted by the less significant things of life. But in the end, I only know joy because I have allowed myself to face the pain. Without acknowledging the lows of this life, I would never fully appreciate the blessings and the love and the precious things that have been given to an undeserving Me.
     It's a fine line to walk. But I do hope that as you spend this holiday season with your children, that you don't try to water-down or sugar-coat the Gospel for them. Use wisdom, of course! (The last thing I want are angry posts of children with nightmares or developing PTSD due to my recommendations!!) However, remind your little ones that we are all the reason that Christ died. That we are all the reason that He rose. And that we can offer this precious story of redemptive love to all those that we meet.
     And give them jelly beans. Lots and lots of jelly beans.