Thursday, December 30, 2010

To My Knight in Shining Tin Foil:

Dear Knight in Shining Tin Foil,
Thirteen years ago today I married my best friend, only at the time I didn’t realize it. 
We were so young and had so much to learn.  We’ve literally grown up together and come together in a way most couples never do.  We’ve learned the art of communicating, we’ve taught each other the “rules of engagement”.  We’ve learned how to love one another and support each other, even when many people thought we’d never last.

You’ve taught me so many things about life, love, and myself; I can’t even begin to list them all.  You’ve taught me that it’s okay to lean on people, not everyone uses it against you.  You’ve taught me that it’s okay to trust some people, not everyone misuses that trust.  You taught me that it’s okay to speak my mind, there’s just a better way to speak it so that I can be heard.  You’ve taught me that it’s okay to love people, even though they don’t always love you back.  You’ve taught me that I am worthy, even though I don’t always feel like I am.
No matter what obstacle we’ve had to climb, somehow we’ve always come out together.  I think we truly were meant to be.  Odd, how I always knew you’d be the one that I married.
I can honestly say that looking back at everything we’ve been through. All of the tough times, all of the rough times, all the times I thought we wouldn’t make it. And of course all of the wonderful times, the easy times, and all the mundane times.  I would do it all again, a thousand times over. 
I will always be grateful for our friendship above all else.  I think that is the part that has carried us through some of the toughest things we’ve been through. 
I will always be glad that I got on the roller coaster instead of the merry go round.
Thank you for all that you do for us and for the kids. Mostly, thank you for all that you do for me.  You make me feel special on a daily basis.  You make me feel like I deserve everything that you do.  You make me feel like I am the queen that you treat me like. 
I love you with everything inside my being.  I cannot imagine a day of my life without you in it.  You hear people say the infamous Jerry McGuire line “You complete me.”, all the time.  I can honestly say that it’s true.  Baby, you complete me. 
Thank you for loving me and thank you for being my best friend.
Love Always,
Your Resource Princess

That about wraps it up...

So I have a ton of ideas about things that I want to blog about, but rather than putting out a bunch of things that I haven’t thought through and are disorganized I’m going to make a list and start working on these blogs seriously.
For tonight since it’s been awhile, I’m going to catch you up on things going on around here.
Where to begin? Let’s see…I passed my classes. YAY! Winter break hasn’t felt like much of a break at all, save the fact that I don’t have to go to school three days a week.
The kids are bored to tears on their break but we did have some exciting visitors.  The boy’s biological dad and his new wife came for a visit, along with their biological Grandma and cousins! What a treat! We had a fabulous day, spent catching up and visiting with each other.  We went and played at Peter Piper Pizza then came back here and hung out some more.  Later that evening we let the boys go spend the night with bio-dad, and grandma and cousins.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel letting them go, but it seemed to turn out well.  Then the following day, the cousins came here and spent the night with us. 
It’s a tough call to make about letting the biological families not only visit, but actually take the kids.  There are so many questions that you can never really have the answers to.  Of course, you have the “will they be safe?” type questions, but more than that you question whether or not the contact is “good” for the kids.  Will they have a reaction? Will they understand? Will the situation re-traumatize them? None of these questions have answers.  I try to take it on a case by case basis.  Sometimes I take a trial and error type approach and others I follow my gut.  I’ve made mistakes and learned from them and once in a while things turn out well.  There will never be the perfect answer, I’ve come to realize. 
So far, our visit has turned out well and the boys are looking forward to another visit, which makes me happy.  Their biological father and I have discussed what his role is in their lives and he seems content to have the contact that we allow, and above all he respects our position and we respect him.  Mutual respect is definitely key to navigating these delicate relationships.  And obviously things can’t be so open with all parties involved.  It’s definitely a case by case basis and there are certain people which will never be allowed such close contact, if any at all.
With that, we should move on to the big day….Yes, Christmas!!!
The day went off without a hitch! It was peaceful and relaxing and we truly enjoyed ourselves.  This was the first Christmas in many years that we didn’t host a large party.  While it was sad in some ways because it was the first year without my Grandma, she did call me and we chatted.  It kind of reminded me of the days when I lived so far away and we didn’t have family close by.  It was nice to hear her voice and know that someone else was appreciating her on Christmas.  It was also enjoyable to not have to start cooking at the crack of dawn and we could eat dinner whenever we choose because we didn’t really have anyone to cater to! My mom did come over later in the afternoon and enjoyed Christmas dinner with us though and that was very enjoyable as well. 
This week we’ve had cousins in town and that’s been very exciting for us also! First, we have cousins we’ve never met before so it’s a chance to fall in love for the first time! My cousin and his wife have brought their year old twins who none of us have ever met along with their big sister who we haven’t seen in nearly 3 years.  It’s all very exciting to us, as well as big sister! The twins couldn’t care less either way but they seem to be having fun in their own right!  My kids are completely in love with big sister, as am I! She is so fun and so inquisitive.  I truly have enjoyed seeing her again! I have also enjoyed spending time with my cousin and his wife.  It’s been great getting to know her a little better. 
Friday will be mine and Jon’s 13th wedding anniversary and we will be going out to dinner with friends to celebrate.  It’s hard to believe 13 years has gone by.  I am looking forward to another hundred and thirteen!
So that’s our month in a nutshell!
Thanks for reading!
(pictures to follow)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Day Before Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving is a day that we are all reminded that we need to be thankful and that is absolutely what I intend on writing about but what I am thankful for besides the obvious (the most wonderful husband on the planet, the most awesome children, and the bestest friends anyone could ask for!), are two little boys who walked into my life on the day before Thanksgiving 2004.

I usually would prefer to write about current events, but today I would really like to write about that day and all of the joy, hope, frustration and insanity that day would eventually bring into my life.
We were new foster parents, having only been licensed for a short time and only receiving out first placement just a few short weeks before.  I was working full time and helping a dear friend coach cheer.  I got a call that day asking that even though we had room for only one more child, would we be willing to take these two brothers who needed to be placed together.  Being the super excited, more than willing to jump in with both feet foster parent, of course I said yes and my life has never been the same since.  Instantly I went from a new mother of two, to a mother of four.  And boys no less! I had no idea what this new adventure would bring me.
Sometime that evening the case manager brought me two terrified, hysterical boys dressed as if it was July and 105 outside.  No shoes, no jackets, no nothing.  And of course, we had no clothing that would suit them as we had never had boys before.  We had an amazing support system and our family and friends scrambled this Thanksgiving eve to find warm winter clothes, jammies and underwear for our newest family members.  And for that we will forever be grateful. 
The next few days were interesting as we were learning about these two boys and they were learning about us.  We also had the long weekend without the contact of case managers, or CPS support to try and figure out our new situation.  Trying to figure out odd behaviors, learning things about what made these two kiddos tick and trying to transition them into our family and routine was at times frustrating, scary, and even comical.  Looking back, it all happened surprisingly smooth and everything seemed to fall into place rather quickly; almost as if it was always meant to be. 
In hindsight, I think that the hardest part was learning about their “behaviors” and why they did some of the things that they did or felt the way that they felt.  Even today, 6 years later I sometimes have to remind myself why certain little things can cause such a ruckus in their lives.  Unfortunately, all of the foster parent training in the world cannot prepare you for many of the things that you will ultimately face when dealing with these broken little hearts.  And in our time, training did not even delve into behaviors and how to deal with them.  It doesn’t teach you that these kids are going to react because they had a visit, and then they are going to react because they didn’t have a visit.  They are going to react because their visit was cut short.  They are going to react because they saw something on TV that triggered some memory or experience they once had.  My boys were absolutely traumatized once because I got pulled over for a broken tail light and they were certain I was going to be taken away.  For most of these kids, the police are the bad guys that take mommies and daddies away; not the hero’s that most other kids think they are.  They are real fears and real emotions.  I really don’t want to go into specific details about my boys’ case, why they were taken into care, the trauma and struggles that they faced.  That is their story to tell, someday.  The people closest to us know what happened.  What I described above is a very general idea of what nearly every foster child in the system has experienced. 

But none of that is what I want to write about.  I want to tell you about our journey through the laughter and through the tears.  We had no idea that day we started down the road to becoming adoptive parents.  We had no idea that this day would forever change our lives.
The case went on for many months, almost in a mundane way.  It was very status quo.  The boys went on their visits, we had team meetings, they went to preschool, we began to bond as a family and we learned.  We learned about these precious boys. We learned about the system.  We learned about frustration.  We learned about heart break.  We learned about disappointment.  We learned about laughter and we learned about tears.  Then at some point CPS decided that biological mom and dad were not doing what they needed to be doing in order to get these kids back.  After many months of services being offered to bring this family back together the state was finally done and they were headed towards severance.  We were sitting in a meeting that day, discussing case progress(or lack thereof) and the case supervisor nonchalantly announces that they are no longer calling the case plan “reunification” but now its “severance and adoption and would we be willing to adopt the boys?”.  My husband and I had never even discussed this as an option.  Why would we? The case plan from day one was always reunification.  We never hesitated.  We looked at each other and simultaneously answered yes.  Looking back, I find it odd that we would make such a huge decision without even the slightest discussion on the matter.  Again, almost as if it was always meant to be. 
From there the next few months would mark the beginning of our journey.  Family that never knew these boys would come crawling out of the wood work like cockroaches.  People wanted to step in that had no vested interest in these kid’s lives other than their own gain.  Never in my life have I ever seen a family so at odds and so willing to tear each other to the ground for their own benefit.  Finally after months, the state had their chosen family to present to the court as the boy’s adoptive placement, and it wasn’t us.  The state’s interest is to almost always keep foster children with their biological families.  Rarely, unless there are truly no viable prospects does the state present a foster family as their preferred placement for adoption.  Thankfully for us, we had a judge who felt that the boys were very much bonded to us and there wasn’t much of a bond with the family members who were chosen.  In fact, there was no bond there at all, as the boys had never even met these people and had been in our home for well over 15 months.  This was probably the most frustrating part of our story, during this time the boys were allowed to visit these family members out of state in order to attempt to form a bond and get to know their would be “new mom and dad”.  One of the most defining moments for me was a time when I had to fly with them and drop them a state away with these people they never knew.  I was to immediately get on the next plane home without my boys.  I cried the entire flight back, feeling as if I had just completely abandoned them.  This went on for months while the court was trying to decide what was best for these kids.  During this time it seemed like we were fighting a two front battle.  One battle was to get severance on the mother and the other was who the adoptive parents would be.  Finally the court made its decision and for by the grace of God it was with us.  We still didn’t have severance but at least we knew they would be with us until they either went home or were with us forever. Eventually we would get severance and then we could begin the adoption proceedings.  All told, we went through months and months of court hearings and tons of red tape to ultimately be able to give these boys our name.  But the boys weren’t the ones that were given the gift, we were.  We were now their parents and it was the greatest honor ever bestowed upon us. 
Throughout all of this we realized that we weren’t just fighting for the boys, we were fighting for all of us, OUR FAMILY.
We learned so much during that time.  We learned what family meant.  We learned that blood isn’t always thicker than water.  We learned how to parent these two crazy boys that almost always kept us on our toes (and still do!).
They have taught us so many things.  They have made us laugh and made us cry.  They have frustrated us beyond belief and made us prouder than a peacock!  We have thousands of stories to tell, like the nipple incident (which I fully intend to blog about someday!).  I can truly say that since that day so many years ago there has never been a dull moment in our lives. And for that I am thankful. 
They have brought so much joy and laughter into our lives.  I honestly cannot imagine what our lives would be like had we not gotten that call on the day before Thanksgiving 2004. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My crazy, beautiful life...

Ok, where to start?
I guess I will just start by introducing my family to you.
First I am Melissa. I am 32 years old and a wife, mother, and student. Yes, that is my life. In a nutshell. While it does not sound exciting, you will see (providing I actually keep up on this thing!) that there is nary a dull moment in my home. I am hoping to keep you all apprised of all of the quirky, hilarious and sometimes frustrating happenings around here.
Next you should meet my knight in shinning tin foil, Jon.  We like to call him Daddy. He is so many things rolled into one. My best friend, my 6th child, my confidant, and the one who keeps me grounded. He is the best father I could have asked for, for my children.
Our oldest is Morgan. She is 14 and is teaching me about raising teenagers. She has the most beautiful soul and a heart  the size of Texas. She is learning to navigate the world of junior high so that means catty girls, lots of gossip and broken hearts.
Next is Ricky. He is 10, going on 35. Ricky is the second mama in our house and if you ever want to know where something is, he is the one to ask! His intelligence fascinates me, daily. He is tender hearted and sometimes I forget this. He is becoming quite the little smart aleck, which I absolutely adore! I love his little retorts to me when I am making a sarcastic crack.
Then there is Steve...Oh my where to begin...Steve is 9 years old and the family clown. If anyone ever needs a laugh, Steve is your guy! He is bright and loving, and probably one of the most caring boys I have ever met in my life. He is like a duck, everything just rolls right off his back. Nothing gets this kiddo down.
Tia, also known as Tia Tortilla, who is 6. She is quiet and shy. Loving, caring and extremely sensitive. Tia rarely requires a cross word, a look usually does the job and she's a puddle. She is both a mama and daddy's girl, equally.  Tia is ALL girl and ALL tomboy.  She is the girl who loves to play in the mud with her brothers, but she is going to look darn good doing it!
Finally we have Avery, age 5. Avery is learning how to be a big boy but is still the baby of the family.  He is navigating the cruel world of kindergarten, and learning that all kids don't share their toys simply because he is the baby. Avery is rough and tumble and 100% boy!