Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rate That Name!

We're going to play "Rate That Name." Leave a comment rating each name (you can refer to them by letter) on a scale of 1 to 5. Five being the coolest name ever. One being super lame. Remember, our child will not be white, so think about that when you vote. You can leave a comment about your reasons if you'd like. Otherwise, just the letter and the number is fine. Still looking for more suggestions, so if you have any, now is the time to leave them. And here's some incentive, if we pick the name you suggest, I'll mail you a gift card of your choice for $20. And be creative! Come on, my name is Justice and my son is Mateo. Don't be afraid to experiment!

a) Isaac

b) Kelvin

c) Dominic

d) Adriel

Monday, December 29, 2008

Help Us Name Our Baby

Well, just some suggestions please. No, I'm not pregnant. But we are putting our homestudy "back on the market" for another child. A boy. Age 0-2. So we're looking for names. I have a huge list of about 100 names I like for girls, and can only think of 2 boys names and my husband hates both of them. Here are the rules.

1. No "R" names. Our last name begin with R and it just doesn't ring well for me.

2. Unique is a must. But not celebrity inspired my-kids-will-hate-me-in-a-few-years unique. So, that means no Harlem Aladdin or Zinx Storybook Wednesday-Afternoon please.

3. Nothing on the top 10 most popular list or up and coming trends. That means no to Aiden, Jayden, Caden, or Hayden. Or anything else that rhymes with those.

4. No ridiculous weird spellings of normal names. Like, Jaymz or Mykkell (James and Michael). And NO EXTRA LETTERS that serve no purpose except to confuse teachers!

5. Lastly, no names that sound like they're from my Grampa's generation, even if they are making a comeback. I'm mainly talking about Henry. It seems to be very popular these days. I think Julia Roberts started it (again with the celebrities). It's a very nice name but all I can think of is a great uncle who used to call us "young lady" and "sonny boy" and talk about the days of the depression when they lived on moldy potatoes. No thanks.

Well, that's kind of a lot of rules, but see what you can come up with. This will make it a whole lot easier for me to find a name for our future child. Saves me from reading those God-awful long baby naming books. Of course, I might just veto everything and pick my own. Or keep the name the child was given if I like it, or if he seems particularly attached to it. If I like the name you suggest and pick it for my child, then you win! Yes, you win. Let's win....well, why don't you suggest something you'd like to win as well. There. We'll keep it nice and easy. Boy I'm lazy.

Thanks for the help!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Favorite Holiday Picture - Mamarazzi

Here's my favorite holiday picture that I'm linking to the mamarazzi blog I follow.

I used the Canon Rebel for this picture. I just like the look on his face. It's like he's thinking about something happy.

THE Embarrassing Moment of the Holidays 2008!!!

So, we had lots of wonderful memories this holiday season with our family and friends. We celebrated Christmas Eve at our house with a few close family and friends and exchanged gifts over appetizers and dessert. Then Christmas night we had the big family party at my aunt's house. More food, dessert, and presents. And lots of fun.

But my favorite part of Christmas had to be when my young son totally groped an older girl at the big family party in front of all my family. It was a cousin of a cousin from the other side of the family. This young girl (probably 20 or so) is someone I recognize from other family parties, I know her by name, but that's about it.

Well, she happens to have some big knockers. Really big knockers. And she wore a very low cut shirt and they were basically spilling out all over the place. She was sitting on the couch talking to my cousins (who are teenagers), ironically about her breast reduction surgery she recently had, when Mateo noticed her. She was also texting on a very fancy looking phone so I thought he was looking at that. Turns out he was looking at more than just that. So Mateo walked up to her, again I'm thinking to grab at her phone or something, but, no, he stuck his hand right down her shirt and into her cleavage. My cousins start cracking up. I have to admit I chuckled, but was holding back. I'm one of those people that laughs when people get hurt, fart on accident, and I still think it's hysterical to jump out and scare people. When I get going laughing, I can't stop. So I was really holding it in. But even cleavage girl was laughing and didn't seem upset about it, so I wasn't concerned. I was more concerned that my son was interested in them already. Not to mention he likes older girls and tries to kiss them. I think I'm going to start calling him Rico Suave. Although, I don't know how suave it is to out right grab someone's boob just because you like them. It's a bit obvious. I'm sure Dad will work on that with him when he's older. Or at least in preschool.

By the way, I'm watching West Side Story right now, which I haven't seen in years, and I just have to laugh a little. Nothing says tough like pirouettes and tapered jeans. And why does Tony look more Puerto Rican than Maria? And is it just me or are some of those "teenage hoodlums" in their 3o's?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Montage!

My favorite pictures from the Holiday Season 2008!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Cow Who Pees on the Couch

I kid you not, this is exactly what happened while playing on the couch today. Mateo found an old wipe box in the closet and wanted to play with it. So, in an effort (again) not to discourage him from experimenting with non-traditional gender roles, I gave him a few wipes to put in the box, a diaper, and his baby doll. Then waited for the magic to begin. Here was the game he came up with.

(Sitting on the couch with Cowie and his box of wipes.)

"Tssstsstsstss. Uh-oh. Cowie potty. Cowie potty couch."

Takes out wipes and scrubs couch cushion. Lays Cowie back down.

"Tsstsstsstss. Uh-oh Cowie potty couch. Mess, mess."

Cleans couch with wipes again.

"Phlpbbpbpbpbp! Oh man! Cowie potty!"

And so on.

At one point Mateo laid down on the couch and made a farting noise, complete with hand gestures acting out something coming out of his diaper, then said...

"Uh-oh! Me. Me potty."

So I told him to clean up the mess. If only he could do that when he really does potty.

This "fun" game combined with a sudden interest in not liking to be wet, not wanting to wear clothes, and the fact that he can just about change himself at this point, makes me wonder if he's ready for potty training. But we won't. Not because I don't want to. But I'm lazy. And I really don't want to. Okay, okay, when we get back from Disney we'll start. But I have to hold out till then. Would you want to be traveling on a plane and going on rides with a half-trained toddler?

But the main point of the story is that my kid is weird. Seriously, where does he come up with this stuff? Not once have any of us ever peed on the....well, there was that one time....

Anyway, even more important than my son being a bit odd, is that he can talk! (Enter whooping and applause) But really, this is huge! Those of you who've been following my blog will have read quite a few posts about my son having a "significant" speech delay. But he is (finally) catching up! I'm less concerned that my son likes to talk about potty way too much and more excited that he is actually putting words together to form weird, disturbing little sentences! YAY Mateo! YAY me! And YAY to all the taxpayers of CT who paid lots of money for speech therapy!!!

Now here are some random photos from our snowy day today.

all geared up to go play. it took him a few minutes to figure out how to walk in the boots

he liked it for...let's see....8 minutes?
then he refused to wear gloves and cried cause his hands were cold.
that's mateo.

Daddy trying to throw snow at me in the doorway

Our Newest Family Member (sort of)

Okay, here's the deal with Bean. That's the codename for the little boy we are mentoring (and marketing for a family). He is 7 years old and has lived in and out of hospitals and institutional settings for his whole life. Not because he has behavior problems, but because of medical issues. He is in a residential group home right now because they can not find a family willing to foster or adopt him. Bean can walk and talk and read and play, but is in a group home with severely handicapped children. Not really the best environment for a kid like him. But there are no other options at this point.

How I met Bean. My mom used to be his Occupational Therapist. She fell in love with him and thought about adopting him herself but there have been some obstacles. It is still a possibility in the future, however. After hearing her talk about him so much, I decided to meet him, to see if it would be a possibility for my husband and I to foster/adopt him. I met Bean this summer but the timing was not great because Mateo was going in for surgery and he was having some medical problems. Plus, it was looking likely that my mom could start the licensing classes that fall. Well, a few months later, things fell through with my mom, Mateo was doing great, and I started thinking about Bean again. In fact, I just couldn't get him out of my mind. Which, to me, seemed like a sign. I am one of "those people" who believes and is always looking for "signs" that something is the right thing to do. Usually from God, sometimes from my own imagination. My husband was not on board with the foster or adoption idea from the beginning, so that plan was out. But I still felt like I should do something. That's when I got the idea for mentoring.

Actually, mentoring is the closest one word I can think of to describe what we're doing, but it's not really accurate. We are planning to integrate Bean into our family for outings and occasional weekends to give him the experience of a family, since he's never really had that experience being in hospitals his whole life. He does have a birthfamily, of course, but they are minimally involved at this point.

So we went to visit Bean in his group home yesterday, we brought some toys and were able to just play with him and get to know him. He is a delightful child, albeit a bit quirky, but surely interesting. He definitely has many special needs. He is delayed, but in regular kindergarten and learning to read. He does have hearing aides and a feeding tube, but is making progress eating by mouth. He is fun and cute and energetic and affectionate. But he's also a lot of work. Which is why we can not adopt him at this time.

I am open minded (and hearted) and there is the possibility that while developing a relationship with him, we both fall in love and change our minds. But at this point, with an active and needy two year old, we would be in over our heads. Believe me, it took a long time for me to come to the point where I could accept that I can't be Bean's mommy. I can be his friend, big sister, auntie, whatever, but not his mom. And that was hard for me to do, because I have such a big heart and hate to see children left behind. Bean has tons of potential but will only get so far living in a group home without a permanent family invested in his future, that can love and nurture him. The reason social services is allowing us to do this (besides hoping we will change our minds about adopting him) is because they believe every child deserves permanency in their lives. Children being cared for in group homes or being tossed from foster home to foster home don't develop consistent relationships, which as we all know, can lead to problems attaching and becoming a successful person in the real world. So they are allowing us to be that caring "somebody" in Bean's life that can provide permanency and consistency. We are happy to oblige, it's the least we can do for this sweet little guy. After all, it's not his fault he can't be with his family and there is a shortage of medically complex homes.

So we have committed to taking Bean out into the community with us or to our house for the weekend at least once per month until he finds a family (and maybe longer). Hopefully, someone will come forward soon, or my mom can be licensed and we can really be Bean's big brother and sister! But for now, I'm hoping we can at least give him a positive family experience and a consistent relationship with people who care about him.

They are looking for an adoptive family for Bean, so if you, or anyone you know, would be interested in this special little boy, please leave your email address in my comments :)

My Funny (maybe) Husband

I don't talk much about my husband. If you were to ask him, he would say I'm the funny one of the family. Well, besides Mateo, who is, let's face it, a class clown. I'm anticipating phone calls from future principles about the stunts and pranks Mateo pulls to get a laugh from his friends at school. But my husband is quite funny at times too. Here are two recent examples of how funny my husband can be. Yes, I can only think of two.

Upon realizing Mateo needs to get an X-ray of his throat because he might have something called a "strider" (not the hot character from Lord of the Rings) having to do with his cleft palate, which they told us was merely a cosmetic problem (enter sarcastic laughter). So I called to make an appointment at our state children's hospital. Sidenote: After calling three times and waiting more than 20 minutes before giving up trying to reach a receptionist, I finally resorted to using the "calling from a physicians office" line, in which someone picked up right away. I did have to pretend I was in a doctor's office though, a downside if you have a problem with lying. I don't. Back to the story. So I talked to the ENT guy on the other line for several minutes to make the appointment. Dave was sitting close by, playing with Mateo. Turns out we have to do a Barium swallow before we get an X-ray, so I had to get all the details, which was frustrating. After hanging up, I look at Dave and say...

ME: Barium Swallow!


Dave: Like a bird?

Okay, maybe you had to be there. Sorry if I've wasted your time. But the next one is really funny.

I was blog stalking and read about a family that had a very strict schedule of homeschooling, Bible study, no TV or video games, chastity belts, and singing "Kumbaya" every night before bed. Dave and I were having a nice laugh over this idea and simultaneously feeling horrible for their children when Dave said the following....

Those kids will most likely become serial killers...

and as an afterthought added,

or missionaries.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha-

Still nothing? Sorry. I did my best. Dave, you'll just have to get some better punchlines to make it on my blog. Maybe Mateo can help you out with that.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about a special little boy we will be mentoring and doing respite for, who really needs a forever family. Can't be us, I'll explain why. But I've made it my mission to find a family to adopt him. Could it be you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Help! The World is Being Taken Over By Jolly Fat Men!

Oh the Santa's! Everywhere we go, Santa is there waiting to give us presents and candy and shake our hand or give us hug. The first two times it was cute. Now Mateo is probably thinking the world is being over-run by white fat men in silly red suits who laugh too much. But seriously, I would expect a Santa at the mall, and even our social services family holiday party, but church? Yes, really, Santa came to church today, in a fire truck. It was great, the kids loved it, but I was a bit surprised. It's church. Aren't churches not supposed to believe in that kind of stuff? Shouldn't Jesus come riding in on a fire truck? Well, I guess the finale of that version wouldn't be as good as Santa and his "Ho, ho, ho's" and candy canes.

Santa #1 - quiet mall Santa who is kind but especially photogenic

Santa #2 - DCF party Santa who brings a present for all of the
foster/adopted children in our office area.

Santa #3 - Church Santa who's too fat for the kids to sit on his lap. Notice the uncomfortable face Mateo is making as he's pushed off the lap by Santa's jolly ole' belly.

On another note, I have completely given up on having a modest Christmas for Mateo. Since my husband has very little self-control when it comes to buying toys. I'm wondering if his love language is giving gifts. Or maybe he's still trying to make up for leaving us fatherless while he went to China for 3 weeks. If that's the case, just a diamond or two would do for me. So I've tried to keep the presents to a minimum. He is 2 after all. He'd probably be happy with a balloon on a string and never know he missed out on anything. But Dave is obsessed with making the perfect train table for Mateo. When I agreed to the train table for Christmas idea, Dave was planning to duplicate a smallish one we saw at Ikea. Well, he ran out of time to build one from scratch (big surprise), so he bought a Melissa & Doug brand one from his company at a discount, and the thing is gigantic. Seriously, it's huge! And we have a very small house. And I don't mean a modest size house that's small to mansion standards, I mean it's tiny. Really tiny. Anyway, we planned on putting the train table in the living room corner, but upon assembling this new one, we realized it would never fit in one small corner. Mostly, because it takes up the entire living room. Like, all of the floor space we have in our living room. So, now we have to take everything out of the playroom, which will become the train table room, since that's about all that will fit in there. Ugh! You can see that I'm thrilled about this idea. Well, I guess the payoff will be that Mateo absolutely loves the thing and plays with it for hours on end leaving me to surf the internet and stalk more blogs. Think there's any chance that will happen?

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Latin Music Star

Turns out we may have a future Ricky Martin on our hands. And I'm not even saying that because Mateo is hispanic. I try not to feed into those stereotypes that he will automatically have good rhythm, drive a low-rider car, or want to clean houses. But when Dave was flipping through the satellite music stations and happened to stop on a Latin station, I'm wondering if genetics will play a role in Mateo's future career. When Mateo heard the Latin beat, he started dancing this funny jig we've never seen him do before. Normally he loves to dance. And he dances to all sorts of music in your typical toddler way of bumping up and down, and although we noticed he's had great rhythm since he was a baby, and even though he tries to break dance and can do the "neck thing", we didn't think much of it. Well, when Mateo started doing this new dance to the Latin music, it was cute at first and we laughed and clapped along. But as we watched, we noticed this was no ordinary toddler dance consisting of moving various body parts in spastic patterns while trying hard not to trip over themselves. This was good. Too good. And we stared, mouths open, in disbelief. Mateo was doing the salsa. An actual salsa step. With alternating feet to the rhythm, hip movement and everything! It was scary.

Where did he learn this?

Had he been taking dance lessons on the side without us noticing?

Was his daycare teacher teaching them latin dance steps during play time?

Will he have a future on Dancing With the Stars?

These were the questions swirling through my mind. For months I have been saying to Dave that we should look at enrolling Mateo in either martial arts or hip/hop class when he turns three. Dave has written me off up till this point. Yesterday, he said, "how old do you have to be to start dance class?" Hidden potential found. We can count on retiring early after Mateo wins "So You Think You Can Dance" season 39 and becomes a huge television success.

Ooooo....maybe he'll even be on Broadway! Okay, someone stop me. I'm living vicariously through my children. I swore I would never do that. Pretty soon I'll start acting like a....gulp....stage mom! Aaaaaaaaaahhhh....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Adoption: blessing or curse?

I need to get serious here for a moment and get some things off my chest about adoption. Read with caution.

As I grow and learn and mature into becoming an adoptive parent, I am starting to realize the dark side of it all. I thank God for Mateo everyday. I thank Him for adoption and the opportunity for us to grow our family through adoption. But isn't that so sick and twisted? That I pride myself on being "one of those people", who's willing to open my heart and home to adopt a child who can't be with their family. While it's a beautiful and wonderful blessing for me, it is certainly not for my son. Or any child from a domestic, international, or foster care situation either. It's sad. And horrible. And I don't know why we are rejoicing and thanking God for the gift of adoption.

My son lost his birthfamily. He lost his culture, his race, his DNA, his genetic connection to anybody, his history, his lineage, any birth siblings, and more than I can ever know. That's sad. That is not joyous and happy. That is nothing to have a party about or baby shower or whatever. Mateo's adoption means loss. It means sin and imperfection magnified in this world. It means grief and trauma and possibly guilt and shame.

It also means rebirth, hope, another chance, and a new family. But I can't choose that meaning for him. It may be what it means to us, as parents, but it will probably not mean the same to Mateo. People say he is so lucky. The pat answer adoptive parents give is that we are the lucky ones. But Mateo is not lucky. It wouldn't even be "lucky" for him to have stayed with his birthfamily. It would be normal. That's what he's entitled to, isn't it? All the things I mentioned above. The genetic connection, acceptance, and love all children should have. He deserves to be with a family that looks like him. Not one that looks like the same people who oppressed his race for so long. For Mateo to be with his birthfamily would just be natural, the way things should be. But relatively speaking, is it "luckier" for a child to be adopted then hanging around in foster care or in an orphanage possibly dying of hunger and never forming any connections? Of course. But is it really lucky, compared to most families where children aren't abused or neglected or starving, and stay with their birthparents that love and want them?

And what about the parents who are the "lucky" ones to get to adopt a child? What about those who have to make great sacrifices in raising a child with RAD or special needs or medical problems they didn't know about? I can tell you that through the struggles we had with Mateo, I didn't feel very lucky to have adopted him. I don't think people living with RAD feel very lucky to have adopted a hurt, broken, child who has changed their life so drastically. That doesn't mean they don't love their child or feel a deep bond with them. But lucky? I don't know about that.

Obviously, many children can't be with their birthfamilies, because of sin. Because the world is messed up. Because Adam and Eve ate that damn apple from that stupid tree. I don't think it's better for kids who can't be reunited to languish in foster care forever or grow up in an orphanage. Of course I believe in permanency and family and trying to make the best of a sucky situation. But I am torn between being so happy that I can have Mateo because of this sin and imperfection, and being so sad that he has to be with us instead of the birthfamily he deserves. I don't know whether I love adoption or hate it. Whether I want to be a part of it forever or never again. I definitely shouldn't feel happy about adopting children. How could someone be happy about a child being ripped away from a family and culture they will never truly know, whether it's anyone's fault or not?

I certainly can't teach my son how to be a biracial hispanic and african american man in today's world. The best I can do is provide someone else who can teach him. Even still, the people who love him the most look nothing like him. They don't talk like his people or eat like his people or live like his people, for the most part. Yes, obviously we are all human beings, and Americans, and blah blah blah, but come on, everyone would admit there are differences in the way people of different races live. Whether it's speaking Spanish among family, cooking soul food, or specific slang words. When I worked at a camp for inner city foster children, who were mostly african american, I couldn't understand what they were talking about many times. And I'm young and pretty hip! Those nuances are important sub-cultural social clues about a person. Most transracial adoptees would agree they missed out on that. It made it harder to relate to their peers, the ones that looked like them. That's why black people raised with white parents are often accused of "talking white." So they are not truly accepted by either group. And family is supposed to be comfort and acceptance and the one place in this world where you can be yourself. What if you don't know who yourself is? And what if your family doesn't feel like your real home, or you're not entirely comfortable there? Then what do you have? Nothing. You're lost. And that's the worst place to be. Lost.

So, I know that I've drifted in my discussion here. But it's all related, in my head anyway. Sorry if it's hard to follow. Just some thoughts I've been having lately. Especially hearing other parents who are so excited for upcoming adoptions (I am too, so I'm not blaming anyone), I just think we all have something to learn by looking at adoption from another point of view.

This is just me being open and honest about something very complex. I don't mean to blame or judge anyone, only myself and my own feelings. So don't take any of it personally, but feel free to leave a comment, whether you disagree or not.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The REAL Story of the Christmas Picture

Here is a picture. A picture after decorating our tree and house for Christmas. Isn't it adorable? We will put it in our photo album and look upon it fondly for years to come. I will put it on facebook, probably tonight, and say, "Look at my beautiful, perfect family! We just love Christmas! We are so happy!" But what we don't see is the story behind the picture. So, I share with you tonight, a rare look at the true story of Christmas.

Mommy spends 20 minutes unraveling the string of beads for the tree. Mateo spends 20 seconds messing it up.

Mommy takes beads away from Mateo. Mateo does not like this. Mateo has a giant fit.

Mommy is tired of dealing with the toddler and the tree and yells at Daddy to help out more. Daddy begrudgingly puts the lights on the tree.

Mateo, still unhappy about the beads, tries to hit Mommy.

Then continues to whine and demand to be held....

Until bribed with a brownie to sit in front of the tree....

...for this picture.

Seriously, I can not make this stuff up. These are the actual pictures that I took tonight hoping for a couple iconic images we can remember for years. Mateo delicately placing the first ornament on the tree. Daddy getting tangled in the lights and laughing while teasing his son. Mommy making hot chocolate and baking cooking (shoot! I forgot about the cookies!). Well, that crap doesn't actually happen in real life. What I posted above, does happen. It's time to embrace it. Post it on facebook. Put these pictures on your blog or in your scrapbooks. If for no other reason, it will make me feel better.

Merry Freakin' Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mateo's Posse

That's right, my son is involved in a gang. It's his gang, made up of various animals and dolls. And it keeps growing. I'm not sure what the initiation policy is to get into this gang, but it seems to be particular to Mateo's specific standards and interests. So here's the run down about who's in, who's out, and what's going down on the east side.

First and original member, the all-important... Cowie. He's had this frumpy but still friendly looking stuffed cow puppet since he was a baby. It even had a hospital bracelet on it's leg. It has certainly seen better days, but remains a treasured friend and confidant. I'm serious about the confidant part. I'm convinced Mateo thinks Cowie is alive. He talks to it and expects a response back. He will keep saying the same thing over and over to Cowie, getting louder and louder until I finally answer in the best cow voice I can muster while trying to be covert. I don't think ventriloquism is in my future, but I manage to keep Mateo happy.

Notice the balding on Cowie's back. It's a stressful life being Mateo's go-to, right-hand (or is it hoof?) man.

So, the next honorary member of Mateo's crew is "Ellie". I know, we're not creative with the animal names. I don't have brain cells left to think up creative names for fabric stuffed with polyester. Ellie joined the rest of the gang a few months ago despite sitting around the house for the last year with not so much of a hug or hi from Mateo. I'm not quite sure what Ellie brings to the group. Maybe it's the fur (since Cowie is losing his) or maybe it's the way his eyes just look into your soul. Only Mateo knows for sure.

After Ellie joined the crew, then came "Panda". I guess I don't need quotations around that name, it pretty much speaks for itself. Panda came up while Dave was away in China. I bought Mateo the movie, Kung-Fu Panda to pass the time while Dave was away. Mateo calls it "Hi-ya!" (very enthusiastically) and I can pretty much recite it verbatim. It's a good movie... the first 10 times. After that, well, let's just say one can go mad. Not me. No, not me. No, no, no, definitely not me. I love the panda. I embrace the panda. The panda talks to me in my sleep. I eat the panda for dinn-errr...uhh...anyway...

We've had this stuffed panda since Dave's last trip to China when he brought it home for him. Mateo liked it then for a total of...I think, 8.5 seconds, then forgot about it until a few weeks ago. After watching "Hi-ya!" (I swear I didn't teach him that) too many times to count without gagging at the mere thought of the movie, I showed him the panda and said it was "Po", like from the movie. Mateo loved it from that point on and Panda now has exemplary status in the gang. Oh, while I was calling him Po the first day, Mateo decided that name did not suit him, so I asked what he would like to name the panda and he said, "Daddy." When I told this to Dave, thinking it was very cute and a high honor, Dave said, "so I've been replaced by a stuffed bear?" Since Dave's been home, "Daddy" has been renamed to just "Panda", which is right in line with all the others.

Next choice was a bit surprising to me. I found this baby doll that I used to teach baby massage with in the closet and took the opportunity to allow Mateo to develop his nurturing side without pigeon-holing him into gender-specific roles. Mateo took to the baby right away, hugging it and putting it to bed. Then banging it's head on the floor to wake it up. So sweet! Can you guess it's name? That's right. Baby! Do you see a pattern emerging here? So now we have Baby added to the bunch.

And finally, the last member. Cowie #2. This is our "back-up" Cowie in case we ever lose the original. Mateo found it and was quite pleased, and a bit confused, about having two of his most dear and favorite toy. I figured it might be worth it to let him get used to it and wear it in a little because original Cowie's head has already fallen off once and it's looking a little sad. There may be one day in the future where we have to make the switch. Maybe it won't be too bad if he's already used to Cowie #2.

Yes, can you believe this is what original cowie used to look like? It actually had fur and even moo'ed. That was a long time ago. A long, long time ago. Poor Cowie.

So, there you go. You are now introduced to the cast of characters in the Mateo Show. It's a very exclusive club. Dave and I are awaiting our invitations. I think they're in the mail.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Move Over Michael Kors

Check out this ensemble!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Possessed Train and Other Scary Toys

So I guess irrational fears start at age two because Mateo now has a fear of anything with a face (not people, just objects .... well, maybe some people). Especially the items below. It started with a possessed train my mom gave him last year for his birthday. Of course, at the time it was not scary at all and seemed to be the best thing that had ever graced the earth. Since I rotate the toys frequently the train made it to the attic for a few months only to magically reappear a couple weeks ago. This time, Thomas was not the favorite toy, but something of the devil. Mateo handed me the train and frantically said, "up, up, up" and pointed to counter. He did not want it anywhere near his toys or where it could "get him". To be fair, it is definitely at the top of the freaky toy list. When it's off, its eyes are closed, but when you turn it on the eyes slowly open and it starts moving toward you. From a little kid's perspective, that's equivalent to watching that creepy girl's head turn on the Exorcist. Here's a picture to give you a better idea.

innocent enough

freakily possessed

So, Thomas the Possessed Train kicked off the irrational fear phase. The next item that became a problem is this clock.

It's been in his room since he came home 14 months ago. Did you get that? 14 months ago! And he has never noticed it before. But all of the sudden he woke up from nap one day and told me he was scared of it. Mateo doesn't really talk well yet (because of his speech delay) but he has this thing he does when he's scared. It's hard to describe but basically he opens his eyes real big, puts his hands "stick-em-up style", and shakes his head and hands back and forth while saying, eh, eh. People who don't know him think he's having a seizure. So I tried to explain that it was a clock and fake and not scary at all, but he would have no part of it. Again, to be fair, it is kinda freaky-looking, especially since it's right above his bed, looking around while he's sleeping. What is that thing looking at anyway? I'm not trying to traumatize him or give him nightmares, I honestly thought it was cute. Guess I was wrong. So, into the closet goes the clock. I thought I would be sly a week later and put it back on the wall thinking he wouldn't notice. But it took him all of 10 minutes to realize it was there. And that time he told me specifically to put it back into the closet. So now this fear has translated into any object with a face.

Here are some other things that have recently topped the scary list.

Ironically, he's not scared of the easter bunny, who, to me, looked like something out of Watership Down that might try to knaw his head off. Last year he wanted nothing to do with Santa. This year he was scared but tolerated it because I told him he could have chocolate chips if he sat on Santa's lap and said "cheese". So he followed those instructions to a tee in order to get his candy. I am telling you, bribery with candy is the unspoken gem of parenting tips no one ever told me. And I am so happy Mateo is old enough for it to work now and I only pray it continues to work just a few years longer.

As for the train, we conquered that fear using a classic psychotherapy technique (Freudian, I think) called "Scare the Crap out of Your Child, Then Laugh at Him." You're probably thinking what kind of horrible mother am I to purposefully scare my child with a possessed toy train? To which I say...... it was so freakin' funny! No, seriously, it's not funny.... no, I can't lie. It is funny. Seriously, you weren't there. It was so funny! I egged him on to go touch the train, so he would very quietly, as if sneaking up on it, go towards it, and when he got close I would yell, "Watch Out!" The first few times he had a look of terror on his face then came running to me on the couch. But after he saw me crack up laughing (I'm telling you it was funny!) he started laughing too. Then it became a game. After he realized it was funny (it was!), the train became harmless to him. So, there, I'm not a bad parent after all! There was a method to the madness and it worked. Maybe I should try that with the clock.

What are your kids afraid of or what were you afraid of as a kid?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy December!

November is over, which means National Adoption Month is over, so I will stop pedaling adoption from foster care now. Tomorrow I'll be posting about Mateo's passe of animals he's been hanging with. It's quite funny to watch him carry them in shifts from one room to another because there's too many to carry at one time. I also have some funny stories about Mateo's new found fear of objects with faces, so I'll post about that. But to leave you with happy thoughts today, here's a couple pictures from Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude Tag

Someone tagged me! Here are five things I am thankful for this year (in no significant order).

1. My best friend and team mate in life, Dave. When he was gone in China this month I felt like part of my soul was gone too. He is the most patient, gentle, loving man. He is a great husband and father.

2. Mateo's birthmom. She may have messed things up in her life, but it was no mistake giving birth to the baby we call our son. We are so thankful for adoption and the opportunity to love Mateo with all our hearts. I am thankful Mateo's birthmom was courageous enough to carry him full-term and allow social services to find a family for him without a fight. She is a brave woman and I hope we get the chance to meet her someday.

3. The best kid in the universe, his feisty personality, and everything he has taught us in the last year!

3. My best friend (and her husband) Devan and Scott. They keep me sane, grounded, and laughing every week. It sucks that they live so far away but I'm happy they are willing to run up their phone bill talking to me almost everyday and visiting at least twice a year.

4. Family! My mom who is the best Nana ever and has a great relationship with Mateo. She also watches Mateo overnight for us every time she has vacation days. My grandma who I can credit for all the good things about me. She is the greatest role model I had while growing up and gave me my heart for needy people.

5. Our jobs which we love and are passionate about and which give us the financial resources to own a home (albeit very small), afford food and all the basic necessities, allow us to give to the ministries we feel led to, and luxuries like going on vacation to Disney after Christmas!!!

Yes, I guess you can say I'm thankful for Disney World.

Now I'm tagging: Devan (via facebook), Melodie, Heather, Scott, and Rachel

Happy Thanksgiving, again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Mamarrazi blog picked "eyes" as the theme for this month. So here is my version of eyes.

This is Mateo after a bath about one year ago. I love how dark and deep his eyes are and how long his lashes look in this picture. He really is a handsome boy!

Hint: If you click on the picture you can see it bigger and the detail of his eyelashes

This is my cousin, Frankie, he is five years old and has the biggest eyes!

Both shot with Canon EOS SLR

Monday, November 24, 2008

Justice's Tips for Adoptive Parents

Again, I have reason to believe I am important somehow. That people want to know my opinion and hear what I have to say. This may not be true but it's the only reason I can justify keeping up this blog. So, in the theme of National Adoption Month, here are a few tips for adoptive families that are awaiting their child. So, no credibility here, just what I learned from Mateo. Maybe you can get something out of it or maybe it is further confirmation that I am a self-obsessed, know-it-all, who thinks she is far more important than she really is and you'll never visit my blog again. Either way, here it is.

1. Be prepared to not be prepared. What I mean is, know that you will have feelings and emotions that you didn't expect to feel. And that is okay. You really can't be prepared for what this will be like.

2. It's a good idea to be prepared for stupid questions and assumptions from others who don't understand adoption. Sometimes these people are ignorant and inexperienced. Sometimes they are curious and don't know better. And sometimes they are just mean. I've found most of the time, people are just uneducated about adoption etiquette. Example; at Mateo's adoption party an old friend says to me, "so you're not gonna have any kids?" Another time, after noticing Mateo wasn't talking as well as other kids his age someone asks, "is he slow?" and "will he ever be normal?" It's a good idea to have some pat answers for these situations.

3. Know that you will have feelings about being a transracial parent (if you are going that route), even if you think you won't. Hidden prejudices will come up for you, your family, and your friends. You may experience some negative comments from people you thought loved you, and they probably do, but haven't had to think about what they say before. Again, have responses ready, you will have to do a lot of educating.

4. Flexibility is essential. You may have to change your plan and tactics as your child grows and develops, and as the attachment strengthens. Be open to new ideas.

5. Be patient! Give the child time to adjust and don't expect to see results right away. But be happy with the small successes. For instance, it took Mateo almost a year to learn how to go down a playground slide by himself. Which is a small success for a typical child his age. But for us, we about had a party when he finally did it. I called our friends and family to let them know and they were just as excited. You would have thought he won the Nobel Prize or something. But it does make life better because we don't take the small accomplishments for granted.

6. Expect ups and downs and set-backs. Mateo is constantly cycling through behavior problems and emotional problems. I can't say what he'll be like 6 months from now. I don't know what behaviors patterns are gone forever or will be back in a matter of a few month or a few years. He can regress quickly in certain circumstances as well. This is normal for a child with a background of trauma. And all adopted kids have experienced trauma. Even if they have not been abused, they've had trauma just in losing their birthparents.

7. Be prepared to change your preconceptions of parenting and erase what you think you know about parenting. Throw away your parenting experiences because it won't be the same. This is especially true for parents adopting an older child.

8. You may have trouble relating with other parents who have not adopted. You may feel like you're looked at differently or feel like an outsider. This is why it's important to get to know other adoptive families.

9. Take care of yourself!!!

10. Get help quickly if you feel you need it. There is nothing wrong with seeing a counselor or therapist. And there is nothing wrong with asking for professional help for your child either.

I will be doing a final Adoption post before the end of the month, then it's back to my normal funny stories and rants. Have a good Thanksgiving everybody!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Daddy and Mateo Video

Here's a video montage I made for Dave. I am just obsessed with making these videos so I'll make one for any reason at all. My next post will be tips for adoptive families by yours truly. I know, I probably give myself much more credit than I deserve. Just trying to go along with the National Adoption Month theme.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How to Become a Foster/Adoptive Parent

Like I promised in the beginning of the month, here are the steps to becoming a foster or adoptive parent. Keep in mind, this is how it works in my state of Connecticut, but I'm pretty sure it's similar in other states as well.

1.) Attend an open house at your local social services office. They usually hold them once or twice per month. My state has them twice a month and you can find a list on our state website. At the open house you should hear a presentation about the process, the kids, the system, etc. You should also be able to ask questions.

2.) In my state, the next step is to have a social worker come to your house for a short preliminary interview. This is to be sure you have an appropriate living arrangement for a child (i.e. no exposed wires, lead paint, construction projects, etc). Usually they will ask you a few questions about what your looking for and a tour of the house. Then they will perform extensive background checks to be sure you are able to be licensed. If all is clear...

3.) You will be invited to attend a class. In my state, it is 10 weeks of classes, once per week for 3 hours each. This is when you learn even more about working with the system, the legal process, the kids, the birthparents, etc. This is also an assessment period for the social worker to get to know your family and for you to decide if this is the right path for your family. The classes are tough and give you lots to talk and think about. During these classes you will also be completing a lot of "homework" and paperwork.

4.) After you complete the classes, the social worker will write what is called a homestudy. This is a compilation of a written summary and pictures of your family. The social worker will also do a series of interviews, usually once individually, then once all together. They do pry into your background and experiences a bit. They will ask about your upbringing and are pretty nosy, but it is in the best interest of the children in care.

5.) After the homestudy is completed, you are licensed! If you are just fostering you will probably get kids right away. They are usually matched to you by the office "matcher". There is one, or maybe more, social workers whose sole responsibility is to match the kids coming into care to a family that will take them.

If you are adopting, the process is different. After completing your homestudy, it goes into the central office of the state. When a child comes up that a social worker is looking for an adoptive or pre-adoptive home for, the placement team picks several homestudies that fit with the needs of the child. Then they have a meeting where all team members read the homestudies and the child's file, and then rate the families for the best match. Whichever family has the most points, wins! Well... basically.

Who Can Adopt?

~ over 21 years of age
~ rent or own a house with adequate space
~ able to pay your bills and support a child
~ single men and women
~ same sex couples
~ grandparents

Who Can Not Adopt?

~ anyone with a violent criminal history
~ anyone who's had a substantiated abuse or neglect conviction with social services
~ a registered sex offender
~ anyone who lives with someone with a criminal history, sex offender, or abuser

I have some blogger friends that have adopted internationally :) While I am so happy for them finding their child(ren) and are glad their are people willing to build their families that way, I am a huge advocate for adoption through foster care. So, of course I have to talk about what I think are the benefits of adopting this way versus a different route.

1. Shorter wait time. Licensing takes, on average, 4 months. After being licensed we got our son in 2 months. So, in total, it took 6 months to have our family. This does vary, however. If you are only willing to accept a white healthy infant, I can tell you right now you might as well go elsewhere. It just ain't gonna happen. The more open you are to disability, race, age, gender, the faster you will be placed. Of course, you have to do what you are comfortable with.

2. MUCH lower cost. Actually, in CT there is NO cost. Every part of the process is free. And actually, the state pays you to care for the child before the adoption, then most adoptions continue with a subsidy until the child is 18yrs. In our case, Mateo is considered medically complex (because of a peanut allergy) so we get twice as much per month as a typical child until he is an adult AND free health care and college tuition.

3. Did you hear me correctly? FREE COLLEGE TUITION! Well, in CT, but more states are offering that as well. And free health insurance. We don't have to pay a single co-pay.

4. Most of the time you know more information with state care kids than with kids adopted overseas. When you take a placement, you are given the child's file with every detail the social worker's know about that child.

5. Usually no language barrier.

6. Pre and post adoption support groups, family events, advocates, and support through the state agency and social workers. This is where my job kicks in! We do a Christmas party, beach day, family picnic, bowling, scrapbooking party, Harvest fair, amusement park day, and more every year for our foster/adopt families. Here is where we get support and encouragement from others in our similar situation.

There are plenty of pros and cons to every type of adoption. I would encourage anyone to research extensively and consider every option before making a decision. Either way you do it, adoption is a beautiful choice.

If you have any questions, I am happy to oblige if I can. And I hope everyone would consider how they can help a foster youth in their area. If you don't feel you can handle fostering or adopting, there is a need for respite providers (overnight babysitters) and youth mentors as well. I can promise you, you won't regret getting involved in the lives of foster children.

Christmas Card Pictures

Here are some pictures we took today trying to get something good for our Christmas card this year. A couple of them came out good so I thought I'd post them so everyone can see how cute my little family is! And wouldn't it be even better with another little one?

Here's our serious look

A cute father/son moment

I think we're gonna go with this one
(although I'm quite mad at my hair, but that's not unusual)

Just some more cuteness!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Adoption Month

So here's our one year later video made for Mateo's Gotcha Day, which was August 29. Tomorrow I'll post about the process of becoming licensed to foster or adopt and how you can get involved without having to become a parent. Without further ado, here's a brief, happy view of our experience with Mateo the last year. If you've seen it already, sorry.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Conclusion

Okay, so we are nearing the end of our story of Mateo's adoption. About 9 months after he came to us, things began turning for the better. Ironically, that's also when we finalized the adoption. On May 23, 2008, we legally adopted Mateo. It was around this time that he stopped his extreme rages, tantrums, and aggression.

I wish I could say everything is perfect, but that is not the reality. Mateo still has some self-control and impulse issues. He has very little tolerance for being out of his routine, being hungry, overwhelmed, or over-tired. He has quite a temper and gets frustrated easily. This interrupts his development because he doesn't have the ability to problem solve through situations. He still hits and scratches when he's mad, this problem goes along with the self-control issue. But he responds well to time-outs and we continue to work on this. Mateo also becomes overstimulated easily and then he gets very hyper, loud, and rough. We have to use a lot of calming down techniques when he gets this way. And we always have to be conscious of the volume of our voice and emotions. He also has a significant speech delay, partly to do with the cleft/lip but not entirely.

But the difference between parenting him now versus just a few months ago is amazing. And it just gets better and better as time goes on. I can take him out in public and not feel like I have to explain why he is acting a certain way. Our attachment is that of a normal parent and toddler. We are most definitely his mom and dad and he loves us!

But Mateo is also very sensitive to loss and sometimes overreacts to certain situations that trigger some memory or negative feeling. I can't always pinpoint what it is or why, but sometimes I can just tell he's having an emotional purge of something from his past. I wonder if this will always be with him, showing up when normal childhood hurts happen. The loss of a pet. A friend moving away. Changing teachers in school. Will this elicit a huge emotional response? Will he wonder if we're gonna leave him too? I guess we'll see.

In a way, I envy other parents for being able to bond with their child so easily and naturally. Especially since I feel like we had to go through hell to get what other parents have for free. But in another way, I am glad we had to fight for his love and trust. It makes our bond stronger because it wasn't given freely. The fact that we did go through hell proves to Mateo the commitment and unconditional love we have for him. And we all know that we can handle anything he throws our way. And that is actually a comforting thought.

I am falling in love with him more and more everyday. Now when people ask me if I love being a mom, I can answer truthfully, yes!

Tomorrow I'll post another video. And for the rest of November, since it's still National Adoption Month, I am going to promote adoption through foster care. I'll give more information about it and how you can become involved. After November my blog will go back to it's original intent of being a place to vent the frustrations and humors of being a parent.

Pictures from Adoption Day!