Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How do you respond....

It's not every day that I get a call from my sister.  Let alone a call from her while she is in tears, begging me to tell her how to sign her rights as a parent to the children I am guardian of...  away.

You heard me right.

It was so surreal hearing her voice.  A voice that is so similar to my own.  She kept crying.  I was in complete shock.  I kept asking her to calm down.  The girls are my primary concern, yet I told her, "Please don't make this decision when you are so upset.  Please wait until you are calmer.  I don't want you to regret this."

It's what I've been wanting.  I want to protect those girls from the evils of the world that she exposed them to.  And yet I am trying to play Jimney Cricket, and be a voice of sound reason to her.

I kept asking her what brought this on.  I kept trying to calm her down, but she was crying so hard.  I thought maybe I heard a baby crying in the background, but it was brief.  She sounded so tired.  So defeated.  Like she was an army of one standing against an army of one million.  Kind of like life has beat her down so many times, that she refuses to give it the satisfaction of a good fight.

My heart broke.  I was at work... and I'm pretty certain it fell out of my chest, and I rolled over it with my office chair a couple of times.

M can't understand my connection with her.  He has no love for her, and was thrilled to hear that she is at this breaking point.  He is ready to call the lawyer, go to the justice of peace and get married, and move on with being a "real" family.  I on the other hand remember that she was the one I always played dolls with.  I remember cleaning our room for her because she never was much interested in cleaning.  I remember her taking her Lady Lovely Locks dolls to school for show and tell, then coming home w/o them, and mom being so upset at her for losing her new dolls, but my sister saying, "but mommy... she wanted them, so I gave them to her."  I remember fighting over boys with my sister... and neither of us wound up with any of them.  I remember nearly punching a school mate at the bowling alley b/c she always gave my sister heck, and I was fed up hearing her hurting my sister... again.  I remember how proud she was of me when I graduated from high school.  I remember coming home from college, and staying up late at night with her watching Practical Magic.  I remember her being my only sibling who backed me up when I left my abusive ex husband.  I remember calling her when I needed someone to talk to.

So many people can't understand why I still love her.  But she's my sister.  I will always love her.  I don't agree with decisions and choices she has made.  But she is my sister.  She is my blood.  She and I look a lot alike.  We sound a lot alike.  We act nothing alike.  We shared cut knees, and Barbie doll clothes.  We share the same family.  We share the same blood type.  Heck if one of us needed a kidney... the other could probably provide it.

So I'm listening to her cry.  Speechless.  She is begging me to tell her how to sign the girls over.  I finally get her to tell me why she is so upset.  She is moving away again.  To Arkansas.  This Sunday.  My throat closed, and breathing became difficult.  She is going away again.  This may be the last time the girls or I see her... for a very long time.  Scratch that... the girls won't see her.  They're not ready.  I probably won't see her either.  I'm not ready.  She is going away again.  She is choosing to leave with her boyfriend again.  The same decision she made two and a half years ago.  All over again.  I ask her why.  She tells me that her boyfriend has a job offer... making $20.00 per hour.  She says that she can't be pitted between her boyfriend and their son... and us and her other children.  I can tell this is breaking her heart. 

I tell her again that she doesn't have to do this.  That there are other ways.  She tells me that she isn't as strong as I am, and that she couldn't raise the girls as good as I can.  She tells me that she has to go with her boyfriend back to Arkansas because she has to stay with the baby, and can't bear to be with out all four of her children.

So she's leaving again.  At this point, I am happy that I have protected the girls from knowing she is close.  I am happy that I haven't given into her pleas to see them.  They know nothing about this, and I would like to keep it that way.  Their brother knows about the new baby, and he worries about him, but he has kept it to himself, and hasn't brought his sisters into this insanity.  So admirable for an 8 year old.  He just loves his sisters so much.

I called dad when I got off the phone with Jess.  I let him know what transpired on the phone.  He in turn called mom and made sure she was in the loop.  I know they want to see her one more time before she goes.  Who knows how long it will be before she is back again.

A good friend of mine told me that this is a sign that we need to adopt them.  There is so much to that, though.  M and I might have to get married.  I am a marriage-a-phobe.  How do we even begin the process of adoption...  I e-mailed the Children Services branch in our county, and inquired how we could go about fostering to adopt the girls.  The lady who responded wasn't terribly helpful, and told me I need to go through an attorney or the probate courts.  We have been looking into the Dave Thomas Foundation to get a grant, and from what I understand, we need to be going through an adoption agency before they will consider us.  I am thinking of writing them a letter, explaining our situation, and seeing if they can't help us at all.  Adoption is expensive.

So that is where we stand right now.  I'm still trying to keep a straight face around the girls, and shower them with all the love and affection I can.  V has been struggling in school.  She has graduated from biting into hitting, yelling, screaming, and name calling.  She's very aggressive, and doesn't listen at school very well.  We are hoping this is a phase, and we've just been gently reassuring her of our love, and hoping she will pull out of this too....  quicker than she did the biting.  It's all part of the Reactive Attachment Disorder, though.  She will push and push and push until she realizes we aren't going anywhere.  DQ continues to talk out of turn in class.  She has been on yellow and red more often than green this year.  We just keep trying to redirect the behavior.  I had her write sentences the other day, "I will not get out of my seat or talk out of turn in class."  She did it with little complaining.  Maybe one of these days we will get through to her.  Until then... we just keep trying!

Aunt TT

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seven Years Ago Today

Unlike some other moms, I don't have the bittersweet stories of birth.  I can't compare photos of how big I got when I was pregnant.  I can't talk about how wonderful (or horrible) the birth process it's self was.  I can't recount to my children even the exact time of their births... or how much they weighed.  I simply don't remember these facts.  I hope my mom has them, and I should really get with her soon on all of this info, as I would like to put a baby book together for Vampire, and finish DQ's.  But I don't have any of that. 

What do I have?  I have vague memories of their births.  I have a half finished baby book for DQ.  I have a button that I wore after V was born.  My birthing helper badge!  I video'd post birth of Z-man, and I'm fairly certain with DQ as well.  Mom has that video, and I really want to get a copy of it.  V came so fast that there wasn't time to video her birth.  But I did cut her cord... the doctor tricked me into it.  I didn't really want to do it, but he was all "here will you hold these" and handing me the scissors... then next thing I know, he's like "OK - cut right here."  And I'm like, "WHAT???"  Good times...

On this very day seven years ago I got called to the hospital in the early morning hours.  Z-man and DQ both made their entrances into the world in the wee hours of the morning.  V was right around lunchtime.  I raced to the hospital, giddy, excited, nervous about my second live birth.  We knew my sister was having a girl, and I was so excited to meet my new niece.  This little girl held a special place in my heart because my sister had informed me that she would be my namesake. 

DQ was born just before dawn.  I can tell you that she came out healthy, and normal.  She cried and fussed.  I cried and fussed all over her.  My sister was exhausted but happy to see that her baby was healthy.  Mom and dad were both there too, and they were elated.  Another successful birth.  Another beautiful baby in the family.  DQ was mom and dad's 5th grandchild, and welcomed into the family with open arms.

DQ - you spent your 5th birthday with me.  I had custody of you for just over 6 months by then, and your big 5th b-day present was getting your ears pierced.  You were so brave through the first one, and with a little bit of coaxing - you let them do the 2nd.  You were so happy to feel like a big girl.  We had a little birthday party at home and invited all of your friends/family.  You were so happy.  Your biological mother had called a few days after.  She did not forget your birthday.  You were too interested in playing with the DS that you got for Christmas, though, and didn't really speak to her much.

For your 6th birthday, again we had a huge party at the house.  Family and friends came again, and we celebrated the day that you came to be in our lives.  Your biological mother didn't call this year.  Circumstances kept her away.  She was a mother again.  To your little half-brother, Brayden.  But I am sure she didn't forget you.  Daddy and I got you a new game for your DS, and some new clothes.  Again, it was a good day.

We celebrated your 7th birthday last weekend.  You wanted a party at Skateway, and that's what you got.  We invited all of your cousins, and because our family is so large, we couldn't invite any other friends.  Mommy and Daddy just couldn't afford the money we would have to pay for the extra kids.  You were amazing on skates!  You won the limbo contest.  You seemed so happy!  You got to roll a huge dice, and ended up winning 200 tickets to spend!  You bought some crazy mouthguard that lights up when you push your tongue against it.  Daddy tried to fix your broken DS, but it didn't go as well as he hoped, so we will be buying you a new one here soon. 

But today is the day.  The wonderful day that you came into our lives.  We plan on taking you out to dinner tonight at the place of your choice of course.  I baked you cookies to take to school and share with your class mates today.  You got to wear your "birthday girl" ribbon on your shirt.  You were such a good little girl today while getting ready for school, and when I commented on how enjoyable it was to not fight with you, you  smiled and said, "It's MY BIRTHDAY!" 

On the ride to work, we talked a little.  You asked me what time you were born, and I told you early in the morning.  You asked if I was there, and I said of course!   I recounted what I remember of your birth.  You called your biological mom by name, and asked me about her.  You asked where she moved away to.  I told you Arkansas.  You asked me if she was still there.  I told you she is living in the area.  You asked me if she had her own house now, because you told me that you remember living in a car with her.  I told you that I heard she is living in a trailer now.  I asked what you remember of your biological mom, and you told me that you remember living in a car, and having only one toy.  You remember me coming to get you one weekend and taking you and your brother to the water park.  You remember me taking you somewhere to get your face and hair painted. 

I asked you if you were asking me about your mom because you are hoping she can become stable and that you might want to go back and live with her.  You told me that you don't want to live with her, but it would be nice to maybe see her now and then.  I told you that we would talk to the therapist about it, and go from there.  You were happy, and you smiled.  Through this whole conversation you smiled.  I marveled at your strength, and I thanked all of the powers that be that you want me. 

When we got into the car so I could take you to school, you put your hands on your little hips and said, "MOM - where is my birthday present?"  I said, "Now you know that Daddy and I are getting you a DS."  You quickly responded, "I know - I meant my OTHER present!"  I was puzzled, and asked you, "dinner tonight?"  You smiled and said, "No mommy - my birthday hug!!"  I reached back from the driver seat to the back seat and hugged you.  I had hugged you countless times this morning, but I'll never turn down a hug from you. 

So I love you DQ.  Today is your day.  I hope it is the best day ever.  I'm so happy you have come to live with me.  My heart fills with such love and joy when it comes to you and your sister.  You are such an intelligent, beautiful, and talented child.  I will thoroughly enjoy continuing to watch you grow and learn!!

Aunt TT

Monday, January 16, 2012

Can a Villain change?

Once upon a time in a kingdom not so far away there lived a peasant woman.  She had, by the age of 30 endured much more pain and suffering than joy.  Most of the pain and suffering was all by her own decisions, though, and she bore it as if it were a badge.  For the first time, she was free of abuse and tyranny, as her ex husband was no longer in the picture, and she was trying to get out on her own.  By early June of 2009, she had been divorced for nearly a year, and was in process of purchasing a cottage of her own.  She was very happy, and very proud of herself for scraping herself together enough to accomplish something like this.  She moved into her parents home and was waiting patiently on a closing date, so that she could move back out on her own.

She was childless.  And for the second time in her life (a brief stint at University), she was free.  The little two bedroom cottage was a great starter home for her and her dog and cat.  Life was looking up. 

At this same point in time, the peasant woman's sister was struggling.  No one really knew the heart of her struggles, but because of her history, they assumed a drug addiction.  The sister had been struggling for a long time.  She had help, as the peasant woman would take the kids now and then and go do fun things with them, and their parents helped her in every way they possibly could.  Yet she still struggled.  She just couldn't seem to get her head on right.  Then one day near the end of June 2009, she did something that no mother should ever do, and abandoned her three children to the car of the peasant woman, and her mother. 

The peasant woman was able to report the abandonment to Child Protective Services only because she knew that the life these three young children had been drug through.  They never had a stable home.  They were always exposed to men who didn't love them, or take the time with them as they should.  Their toys were sold or traded for drugs and alcohol.  They were neglected, and left to fend for themselves quite a bit at the young ages of 6, 4, and 2.  There had also been instances of abuse.  Life was not good for them.  This was a chance to change all of that. 

Because the peasant woman's sister had been such a monster to her children, it was easy to cut ties, and to do what was right by the kids.  It was easy to view her as the villain in this story.  For two years, the peasant woman raised the two younger children, both girls, aged 4 and 2 when she gained custody of them.  The older boy went to live with the peasant woman's mother and father, and they all worked together caring for the children.  The peasant woman's small cottage was soon full of the sound of laughter of children, a music so sweet, that it has no comparison.  She poured her life into these children and made all the necessary changes to make them a home. 

The peasant woman's boyfriend made it clear that he wanted to be a permanent fixture in their lives, and he also helped to raise the children.  Sometimes doing more for them than the peasant woman - due to her work schedule.  They stood as a family, on shaky legs.  The girls began calling the peasant woman and her boyfriend mom and dad.  Life seemed somewhat normal.  The peasant woman was afraid to trust in this, as life was never really normal for very long.  She kept waiting for the rug to be yanked out from under their feet.  Always timid about trusting strangers and family members who weren't close, and always on guard with the children.  She never knew who was on the side of her sister, the villain. 

The years passed by slowly.  They were full of ups and downs, but the peasant woman wouldn't change things for any amount of money or promises.  She had fallen in love with being a parent to these children, and they seemed to love being her kids.  There was little to no contact with the peasant woman's sister.  She wrote a few letters in the beginning - professing how sorry she was for having left her children.  Asking for forgiveness.  The peasant woman left the letters unanswered.  Uncertain that she should fraternize with the villain in this story. 

Then one day the villain came back.  She seemed to no longer be the villain.  While the villain was away, she had another child.  A handsome little boy who looked quite a bit like the youngest girl that the peasant woman was raising as her own.  The peasant woman felt outraged when first learning of this new child.  Wondering how she could possible break the news to the children "left behind".  The villain made contact with the peasant woman in April 2011, saying that she would like to maybe do shared parenting with the girls, and have them 1/2 of the year, while the peasant woman had them the other half of the year.  To the peasant woman, this was unacceptable.  The children could NOT be bounced around like that.  She told the villain that there was no way this could work, and let her know that she had been gone nearly two years, and that the children now called her mommy, and were happy.  The villain was very upset upon hearing this, and promptly hung up on the peasant woman.  Leaving the peasant woman crying.

The days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, until Christmas was upon the whole town.  The villain sent a message to the peasant woman, that was full of love, and again asking forgiveness.  Stating how sorry she was for everything.  The peasant woman was scared.  She didn't know what to think about this.  She feared this was a ploy to get her to relinquish the children.  The peasant woman told her sister that she loved her, and that she didn't want to continue to hold a grudge, that life was just too short, but she had to do what was in the best interest of the children.  The villain told the peasant woman that she understood, and would wait however long it would take.

The peasant woman's parents went to visit their other daughter, the villain, and came back to the peasant woman with a good report.  Saying that it seems like she is trying to get herself together.  To learn from her mistakes.  The peasant woman could hardly believe her ears.  Searching their words for something that would keep her sister the villain.  She wanted desperately to know that her sister was not a capable and fit mother, and that she was doing the right and true thing by raising these children.  But her parents assured her that she was taking good care of the youngest child, that she was trying to learn how to embroider and sew, that she was a stay at home mom, and seemed very devoted to the little boy, and that she learned from her old ways, and didn't smoke around the child. 

The peasant woman sat there.  At a loss for words.  She couldn't believe that the villain.... was no longer the villain.  Or maybe she was.  Maybe this was just a guise.  Maybe it wasn't.  Who knows.  The peasant woman had clung to one thing these past two years, and that was she was doing what was just and right by these two little girls... but now she questioned if she was.  Frantically she went over and over the situation in her mind.

How would she let her sister back in her life... knowing that she was now mother to the children her sister gave birth to? 
How would her sister handle it?
Most importnantly... how would the children handle it? 
Would they want to go back to their biological mother? 
Would they grow to hate the peasant woman because they felt she kept them from their bio mother?
Would they ever be able to understand what happened, when the peasant woman didn't really even understand it?
Would talking to the villain help clear up some of these issues, or would it all become lies and deceit, as it had been in the past?
Could the peasant woman truly ever forgive the villain for all of the heartache?  Especially since the peasant woman still hadn't any children of her own yet. 
How could a villain stop being a villain? 

The peasant woman knew that she should talk to her sister, maybe even meet her to discuss things, but grew petrified before she could pick up the phone and make arrangements for such a meeting.  The gash in her heart snagged open a little deeper, being pitted between the sister she once loved so deeply, and still held love for, and the two little girls that were now her world.  She didn't know how to mesh the two together into a workable happy situation for everyone involved.  And the peasant woman never did well with the unknown. 

From personal experience, the peasant woman clung to the theory that a leopard doesn't change it's spots.  She feared that her sister would always be the villain.  There was a nagging spark of hope deep inside, though.  Hope that things had changed.  That one day, she wouldn't feel so bad about stepping up into the shoes she wore.  That she could go forward with the adoption that everyone seemed to feel she needed to do, and make the girls hers... forever.  She hoped that after that adoption, she would no longer fear her sister taking the children back, and that her sister would be satisfied with seeing them every now and then.  She wondered if she could share the limelight with the girls' biological mom, or if her heart would break, when they ran to hug the bio mom after a dance recital... instead of her.  Could the peasant woman bear it if the girls stopped calling her mom, because their mom had re-surfaced?  Could this situation ever be... "normal"?  All of these wonders hinged on one question.  Can a villain really change?  Can someone see the error of their ways, and really truly let go of something so dear to them?  Just to give that something a better chance at life?  Or will it all be the same?  Lies... deceit... pain...   There is only one way to know... but is the peasant woman brave enough to take that step..  Can a villain really change?

Aunt TT

Friday, January 6, 2012

Didn't know how lonely I was...

I didn't know how lonely I was until I heard your voice. 

OK..  so "your" applies to two people.  The first?  Our therapist.  I had to call yesterday to schedule an appt b/c in the hubub of our holiday schedules we forgot to schedule one.  When I heard her voice on her voicemail message, something inside of me broke a little, and I almost started crying.  Yes.  I am pathetic.  I miss the girls therapist.  And it's only been two weeks since we've seen her.

The second?  A dear friend of mine who moved away last summer.  She called to tell me about her new job, and she sounds so very happy.  I am so happy for her, but I just miss her so much.  So very much.  She was my friend with kids around my kids ages.  We did a lot together.  I depended on her in many ways for a social life. 

What's that you say?  Go make new friends?  Oh if it were that easy for me.  I'm backward.  I'm a homebody.  I would rather be reading a good book, or working on my writing.  I'm socially awkward.  I don't hear as very well as I should, and sometimes miss things being said.  I guess I appear snobby b/c I was always taught to be seen and not heard.  Did I feel bad that there were NO kids at the New Year's Eve party for the girls to play with?  Yes.  Bad enough to get out there?  Put myself on the proverbial tree branch, and make friends?  No.  I'm pathetic at dance class when talking to the other dance moms.  I'm quiet.  I'm shy.  I play solitaire on my cell phone, and wonder when it's appropriate to break into conversation.  They're talking loudly enough that I can hear what they say.  But are they wanting me to jump into the convo?  I want to invite them and their daughters to DQ's b-day party, but our family is so large, there are so many kids in it - can I afford the 40 extra bucks to have them come?  I worry that they think I am weird.  I worry that my breath stinks b/c I usually race from work to dance, and haven't brushed my teeth since I left that morning.  I'm usually thirsty and hungry, and exhausted.  I'm not the best me I can be. 

LIFE IS FULL OF SUCH STRESS!!!

Then I retreat into my shell.  Where I sit at home and read, work-out, and write.  My happy place.  But do the girls suffer b/c of my social ineptitude?  *sigh*

In other news....  my sister is resurfacing.  She and her boyfriend? husband? baby daddy?  have a FaceBook page now, and they have been befriending folks.  My paranoia sets in.  She's on FB.  Is there anything she can glean from my page and some day use against me in court?  My page is private.  She isn't my friend... she can't access things.  So is there anything she can glean from my friends pages?  Why am I so afraid of her?  That one is easy.  The legs I stand on as a parent are so shaky... because I didn't give birth to them.  Would a judge rule that she deserves them.  She is living in the state now, maybe 20 minutes away from us.  She has asked to see photos of the girls.  Why is it so hard for me to say yes?  I guess I am still a little angry at her for this entire situation.

My blog.  Will she find my blog?  Is there anything here that I don't want her to see?  I have always only ever spoken the truth, so I have nothing to hide.  What am I afraid of?  Hurting her.  I'm afraid she will stumble across this blog, and be hurt by my writing.  It was never intended to hurt her.  Only to keep a record of what has transpired, and a place for me to get these emotions out.  There are no support groups for custodial aunties in my area. 

Then we still have the horrible awful dreaded thing that happened in the beginning of December.  It is still unresolved.  Depending on the outcome, our lives may take a drastic turn.  I may be forced into a decision I never wanted to be forced into.  M and I have both been trying to stay busy and not think about the ramifications of what could happen.  But it's hard.  It's very hard.  I was crying a little last night while M was finishing up dinner b/c of it.  He and I had been talking, and I'm emotional right now anyway.  The girls were playing downstairs in the basement, and ran up.  I wiped the tears away, but they could tell I was crying.  They asked why, and I told them, "Daddy and I might be forced to make a very difficult decision soon."  They both asked what it was.  I told them, "when the time comes for you to know, we will tell you.  So don't worry about anything until then."  V says, "Is there a baby in your belly mommy?"  M says, "I wish."  I smile and tell her, "No.  No babies in my belly sweetie.  Now you two go wash up, it's almost dinner time."  Then I cried again.

I could scream at the injustices of the world, but where would it get me?  Nowhere.  Should I quit blogging about everything?  Should I make my blog private?  So that only the followers can read it?  Should I say to heck with it - if she finds it, she finds it?  She made her bed...  but I still hate to make the sleeping in it any worse than it is.

I like to end these blogs on a positive note.  So I will also tell you the good that has happened.  The girls got crocheted hats from one of my friends for Christmas.  THEY LOVE THEM.  DQ got a violin for Christmas, and is learning to play it.  V has been a very sweet child lately, some of the things she says just melt my heart into a puddle on the floor.  M and I get to go away on our annual adult only trip in a few weeks and we are looking very forward to it.  DQ will be turning 7 in a few weeks, and we are looking forward to that celebration.  We are all healthy.  DQ was thrilled to get back to school after her break, and they are sending report cards home today.  She is such an intelligent child.  I can't wait to see what the report card will say about this 2nd quarter of school.  Hobie, our 90 lb lab is down to 78 lbs since he was at the vet two years ago, and is now all up on his vaccines.  He also had an infection in his eye, but some antibiotics fixed that.  It was really swollen, and he looked like he had been in a fight!  But now that it's healed, M can't call him Rockey Balboa anymore....  and tease him about how Apollo Creed whipped his butt. 

I will post a blog of a bunch of photos.  I am overdue for that, but it will have to be the next blog I do.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and got to spend time with your loved ones.  I also hope that 2012 brings you all the happiness and joy that any one person can handle!!

Aunt TT