Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Story You Need To Share.

Here's an older email I came across today, one that is still very much 'required' reading for parents in our day and age. I'm posting it here, hoping that maybe it helps someone, somewhere keep their kids safe.

*For those of you with children and/or grandchildren, please take note.*
Keep your kids safe. A.S.K.
- ALWAYS- Keep your computer in a family room, where you can see what the kids are doing online. And read your kids "histories" on their chat logs. It's informative to know what they're talking about, and with whom. (Learn to read their short hand too. It's stupid, but it's necessary. POS= Parents Over Shoulder. PAW= Parents Are Watching. etc.)
STAY ALERT- Keep your eyes and ears open- even if you don't like what you see and hear.
KNOW EVERYTHING- who your childs friends at school and in the neighbourhood are. What their phone numbers are, know their parents (at least to call if you're worried about something).

Let your kids talk to you about things. Try not to jump to conclusions, or to judge too harshly. Sometimes the best lesson you can teach your kids is that they can talk to you about anything.  Give them information about staying safe in today's world, and let them know they can turn to you for advice, and they will.

Remember, it isn't prying. It's PROTECTING your children to know EVERYTHING they do. I do it, my husband does it. My Mom and Dad did it. Your Mom and Dad did it too. They were just smart enough to not get caught. And that may be part of why you're here today.

Because parenting is hard, and it means fighting your kids everystep of the way (through teenage years), to keep them safe while they stretch their wings.

Parenting means protecting them, even when they tell you that they are old enough, smart enough and strong enough to protect themselves.

And if you're careful enough, and loving enough, and try your hardest not to judge their decisions, when they do catch you prying, they will know it's only because you love them. Remember though, that the dangers of our youth, were not the same as the dangers of theirs.

Now,  whether your kids hide their online activities from you, or whether you're on top of everything under your roof, print off the next section, and let your kids read it. It might just be enough of a wake up for messaging online "friends" that they don't really know. I don't know if it's a true story, or one made up to help illustrate to children some of the potential dangers out there. But it's worth using every tool in the bag to keep your kids safe- isn't it?


Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home.
The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster.
"You're being silly, she told herself, "no one is following you." To be safe, she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back and she was glad she was almost home.
Shannon said a quick prayer, "God please get me home safe." She saw the porch light burning and she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there. The sidewalk was empty.

After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and get on-line . She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her "Buddy List" and saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message:

Hi. I'm glad ur on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!

LOL U watch too much TV. Why would some1 be following u? Don't u live in a safe neighborhood?

Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't see anybody when I looked out.

Unless u gave ur name out on-line. u haven't done that have u?

Of course not. I'm not stupid u know.

Did u have a softball game after school today?

Yes and we won!!

G oTo123:
That's great! Who did u play?

We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees. LOL

What is ur team called?

We r the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They are really cool.

Did u pitch?

No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!

Catch u l8r. Bye

Meanwhile......GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1993
Age: 13
State where she lived: North Caroli na

Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.
Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the eighth grade at the Canton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the conversations they had on- line. He had enough information to find her now.

Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ballpark that day. She didn't want th em to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her.

Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely.

He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the sudden fear she had felt.

After the game , he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she! walked past him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her.

Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home, and once he saw where she lived, he quickly returned to the park to get his car.

Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room.

"Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa.

"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting story about you."

Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!

"Do you know who I am, Shannon?" the man asked.

"No," Shannon answered.

"I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123."

Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He's 14. And he lives in Michigan!"

The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true. You see, Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to injure kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to talk to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. You name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"

He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn't it?"

She nodded.

"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line.
The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a
lesson from this and won't do it again. Tell others about this so they will be safe too?"


What could have become a tragic situation was averted; but other children are not so lucky. Teach yours to know dangers, and to expect them from the internet. The internet is NOT a toy. It's a TOOL- one used by child predators. And ALL kids are at risk- even the smart ones.

Please send this to as many people as you can to teach them not to give any information about themselves. This world we live in today is too dangerous to even give out your age, let alone anything else. Besides child predators, there are identity theives, con artists, and most everyone on the net is at risk. Lower yours.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Who doesn't want a 3D cake? I don't. Not anymore.

Alright, here's the thing about birthdays. I love/hate birthdays. I love them because they are so much fun. I hate them because I'm insane, and have to stop myself from overdoing everything.

I used to be the mom that every other mom ended up hating after the birthday party was done.

But over the years, I did get better. Now, I'm at the point where NOT doing anything is a huge relief. Oh, but THAT's right- just when Bugs is too old for parties- the girls are starting to want them.

When Bugs was 3, we invited EVERYONE over. I cooked, cleaned, baked, decorated, filled waterballoons for the kids, fed, and BBQ'd for hours. It was horrible. I barely remember that party. But, it was the first party I'd thrown, so I didn't know any better.
The year he was 4, we had a family and some friends at a waterpark and the goody bags were individual pinatas (they took forever to make, and I learned my lesson- sort of).
 For 5, we had family, friends and children at the waterpark with a homemade pinata (I swear, I don't do pinatas anymore).
At 6, we went to an amusement park and chased a billion kids around.
Half of the billion kids.
At 7, we went to a "ChuckECheese" style place, his cake was a 3D tank.
At 8, we were back at the amusement park- with less children but a 'ninja cake'.
9 was the year we were in Ontario visiting family- so I got a 'by'.
10 saw us back at the amusement park with a 'Zelda cake'.
This year he only wanted to have his friends do a day of video gaming (we switched that to a day of laser tag and pizza). Thank GOD! I still made a cake- of a skull erupting from a grave (I love kids- they're disgusting and hilarious).

Last May, I saw a 'Groupon' deal which involved 6 x costumes for the kids (to keep), crafts for them to do, gift baggies, cupcakes, a head table and all for only $40? Done. That's super easy. I got two of the tickets. And we're having the party at the Children's Museum tomorrow. It should have been super easy.

Except I have friends with little girls who are Brat's age, and boys who are Bugs' age. And family. Aw dammit! Right now, attendance is standing at 19 kids, and 13 adults. That's straight up B.S.- but it's my own fault for having friends or family I suppose. I'm moving to a hermitage.

One year, Brat had a party at the museum with a 3d Princess cake, and I made the goodie bags from the dollar store.  And the next year we went to Michaels' Craft Store, and had the party there, including crafts and lunch. Easy. Pay the money, have the party, leave. Good plan.

This year, I discovered something. It could/ should still have been so easy. Pick one or two kids from school and invite them. But no. No, girls are very different from boys. And that sucks for me.

It was never a problem with Bugs if we only invited 2 or 3 boys from his class. No big.

It's a BIG deal now. You can't invite just one or two of the girls from the class. If you don't invite them all, your child will get ostracized by the girls who are left out! How did this happen? Because parents let their kids decide who to invite. And because little girls are evil. Pink tutu owning, tiny wing wearing, tiara headed demons.

I gave out the invites with my breath held, hoping that at least 3 of them wouldn't be able to make it. No such luck. Most of them are coming- and some have smaller siblings that are coming too. Fine. I'll cope- because turning kids away from a day at the museum just isn't my idea of nice- especially when their older sibs are going. But it's out of control.

When I was a kid, mom had a rule, and that was, if I was 7 there could be 7 (AND ONLY 7) kids at the party. 8=8, 9=9. I hope you get the picture. It was never out of control. And it was at our home. And my mom got to make the cake herself.

I understand what happened here though. What I don't understand is why other parents fall for it. It can't possibly be the exact same situation for all of us? Can it? Are you all being railroaded too?

My theory is this: kids have gotten so smart that they've fooled ALL parents everywhere into some kind of ridiculous birthday race. Every kid wants the coolest party, and the biggest coolest cake (okay, I want the big, cool, cake too). And they threaten social stigma if we don't give them the best party.

Well, after this year, I'm officially out of the race. I won't play this game. It's going to be downhill from here for my kids.

I NEVER want to have a children's party at my home-  because I have NO desire whatsoever to clean up after school aged horde of locusts. But maybe I'll try to convince my daughter her birthday is in June and use a park.

I don't know what we'll do when Monster is old enough for parties. Maybe we won't ever tell her about her birthday. If she never knows when it is, she can't ask for a party can she? But then the fun for me is in the cakes- and I don't want to miss out on cake.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Random Bragging and Math.

Report cards came in today. And it's official.

My kids are smarter/ cooler/ more awesome than other completely normal kids are.

My boy got almost straight "A"s, except in his legibility.

My daughter got some very nice comments (in Kindergarten they don't grade)- except she's a bit flighty and overly talkative.

That's all. Combined, they are a metric tonne of awesomeness squared. Or a year of time cubed.

You can so cube a year of time. And a year of time cubed is roughly equal to how awesome my children are.

Equation proving above claim is:

MxMxM= T+L  where M= one year

See. Proof indisputable that my kids kick serious ass. If you need one, I can figure out the equation for your children and their awesomeness factor too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm so lame, and I know it.

I admit it. I watched Twilight. Not the new one, but the previous ones. And I read the books. Now, to be fair, I only watched that first movie because a friend was over and she wanted to watch it. It was about what I expected (given that I hadn't heard anything at all about the movie, or the books before she mentioned it)- and I expected stupid.

But I can no longer claim ignorance as my defense for watching these movies. And I *have* watched all of the movies since then. Unfortunately for the hours of life which I'll never get back, more than once in a couple cases. I also read the books. Again, more than once.

I do NOT understand the fascination with these books. I don't understand why the teenage girls (and grown up women [me] love Jacob) love these movies/ Edward so much. But conversely, I don't understand the raging hatred for the books, movies, characters or the stigma around reading/ watching them.

Personally, I don't run around telling people I want to see the new movie, because I don't really care if I do. I'm not above watching it sometime though. And I realize that is the reason so many of you will think I'm lame.

But I've got so many WAY better reasons for you to think I'm lame. Here are a couple, free of charge: I also watch StarTrek (all of them, even Enterprise), StarWars, Firefly, Matlock and pretty much anything else I like. And I hope one day Gordon Ramsey decides he doesn't actually love his wife/ mother of his children and he wants to marry me instead. Fat chance, but still, a woman can dream.

So, I'll cop to being lame. I am. I once tried to learn Klingon, even so far as to practicing my pronunciation. (I almost wrote "pronounciation"- you know, when you're dealing only with pronouns.)

Anyhow, I don't hate Twilight. I think the vampires are rather stupid, but I do love me some young werewolves. And Bella is an idiot- but no stupider than I was at 17. And that's saying A LOT (I was remarkably stupid- if you knew me back then, you're probably just glad I grew up NOT to be a vampire).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Special Friend (well, five special friends)

I have one friend (but not only one), who has been a huge part of my life. When I first moved out of the house at 18 years old, and went away to university, I was all alone (I felt) in another city. All my 'best friends forever" from high school were off in other cities, in other places. I was so scared.

Then I met Tom. And he was a weird one. He looked completely insane, with hair popping up off his head (at the time, I didn't know he used a blow dryer every morning, to make it look that stupid), skinny as a rail, wearing 2XL shirts and pants. I thought he was a lunatic.

Then I got to know him a bit better as we lived in the same dormatory. I was right, he IS a lunatic.

But he's also been one of the best friends I ever made. We got to know each other better over that year, him, Jesse and I. The three of us were virtually inseparable. Jess' girlfriend (now wife) lived in another city, Tommy's lived in another dormitory, and I was dating as many different people as I could, trying to find someone I liked.

That first year was a great deal of fun. The second year, the boys and I rented an apartment near campus and that was even better (except that they are DISGUSTING). Since that first day of university, there were ups and downs for each of us. But the three of us spent almost three full years living within arm's reach of each other, and spending all our free time together as well. They were the best part of those years for me. Sometimes years go by when I don't get to see them (we now live so far away). But I know they are there if I need to see them, or talk to them.

I still have contact with them- enough that when Tom found out that he and his wife were pregnant, I was the second call he made. To be important enough for your friend to call you- anytime, even in the middle of the night, whether the news is bad or good, that's a special thing.

And I am so very proud, and feel so blessed that I am important enough to Tom and Stef that they needed me to know about their joy too.

I don't have many friends that I can call day or night, any time, for any reason. I have several hundred acquaintances on my facebook. People who, I am sure, are wonderful, special people- to somebody out there. I have about a dozen people I see regularly, that I think are awesome- but that I probably wouldn't call in the middle of the night just because I need to.
There are only five people that I know will always be there. My husband is my best friend- that should go without saying.

Tom is my laughter.

Krista helps bring my "misspent youth" back to me.

Michelle is my sounding board (and a bit of a role model for me).

And my newest friend may turn out to be another one of those special people that change your life and never let you down. If she's not- well, that's okay too, because she's still an incredible person.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Worth fighting for.

I have been reminded recently there are things that are worth fighting for, and things that are not. My children are worth fighting for. And this is the story of my particular fight. Please keep in mind, this is all ten years old to me. I'm going to try to tell it they way it happened for ME; but, while I remember these feelings, I no longer suffer through them in the same way. So, if you read this and think to comment rudely about my sons' birth mother. Know this: I am fierce. And she is my friend.

Something that not everyone who knows our family is aware of: ours is a blended family. My son was adopted, at the age of 2, by me. He is my husbands' biological son from a former relationship.

When he was just past his second birthday, his biological mother chose to move overseas. I was already dating my husband, and was just "daddy's girlfriend".

When C (my son's biological mother) left, my whole world became chaotic, unmanageable, messy, financially unstable and full of noise. And I'll tell you, the first four months were a type of systemic shock I wouldn't wish on anyone. It was the worst four months of my life. I wouldn't go back and change it for anything.

Suddenly, without warning I was parenting. It was something I'd always wanted, yet not something I had put a great deal of thought towards.  And this child was angry and scared. "You're not my mommy. Where's my mommy?" I didn't have an answer. And there were days when I didn't know if trying to build a relationship with this screaming, demon- child was worth it.

But here was a little boy- still in diapers- who was in a haze of: confusion; terror; and hurt. I felt that I didn't have a choice- he was a great kid and I liked him tremendously (mostly when he wasn't screaming, biting, hitting or whining), and I didn't enjoy seeing him hurting and scared. I just kept trying to be a source of comfort to him.

My husband (back then he was just my boyfriend) was working long hours, late in the evenings and sleeping late most days. Since I was there anyways, it became my job to wake with a toddler, feed, dress, interact, teach, play and console.

Within four months, this small person was my whole day. Waking, sleeping, planning, clothing, feeding, disciplining and then one beautiful day, no longer consoling. He began calling me mommy.  The strongest feeling in the world- I was beyond thrilled. I loved him already. I already thought of him as MY child. My husband and I were planning on becoming married and that first "mommy" cemented all those feelings and my heart.

That left C in an awkward and strange position. She was so far removed from his life- not calling or trying to communicate with him at all as it was 'too expensive'. When she decided to move home again more than a year and a half had passed, and he'd been calling me mommy almost that entire time.

My son didn't know who she was. And hearing from her made him feel physically sick, vomiting and crying- he was still just a confused 4 year old.

But he wasn't the only person in our house who felt sick every day. So did I. My nights were a torment of terrifying dreams. What if something happened to my husband (then still just a boyfriend)? "They" (Government, grandparents, C) could take my son away. I'd been his mom for so long, but legally, didn't have any rights when it came to him.

I was constantly frightened something bad would happen. I worried incessantly. I was in a rage all the time against the injustice of it. In my mind, it would come down to kidnapping my own child if something happened to my husband.

Finally, my husband understood how this hurt me, preyed on my mind, every single minute of the day. We went to a lawyer.

The lawyer told us there were two things we could do. We could wait another four or five months, and I would be able to apply for a 'de facto' adoption- which meant that since I'd been his everyday caregiver for 2 solid years, he was legally mine. But this would also mean a court battle if C chose to fight. The lawyer told us that there was a less than 0 % chance the courts would give her custody, since she'd already abandoned him once, but I was still scared. Then he explained the second thing we could do- an open adoption. Which would be better for everyone involved if C agreed.

So, we had a meeting with her, her husband, my husband (married now) and I.

She may not have wanted to sign the adoption papers- but my husband and I made it clear that if we had to, we would fight in court for custody. We would do everything in our power to have her declared unfit. There was no chance in Hell that I was ever giving him back to her- she was still virtually a stranger to him, and he didn't like her very much at that point in time.

We also explained to her (and her husband- who didn't want kids of his own, let alone somebody else's) that they would still be able to see him one day every week; but that if they fought in court and lost, visitation would be entirely at our discretion.

The only question she and her husband had was about the child support payments they owed us (they were outstanding at the time). Not visitation, not familial rights. Just whether or not they'd still have to pay child support. I think that was the hardest part of the whole process for me personally to deal with. I'd have risked everything in the world just to keep him with me.

*It took me a very long time to get over my frustration, my anger and my disappointment in C's reactions and behaviour. Partly because I was told by one of her best friends the reason C hadn't been paying her child support (outstanding over $1500.00 at the time of the adoption) was because she was "busy" paying more than $5000.00 CDN to a weight loss clinic. It made me so sad, and so angry when I heard that. There were times back then when we didn't have money for basics- but she had money to pay someone else to help her lose weight; not to mention getting her hair done every month and all the clothes/ shoe shopping she did. It was very nearly a mortal (emotional) blow that she put her appearance ahead of her responsibilities- ahead of our son. Thankfully, the rage and frustration are gone; yet still the guilt remains to remind me- "What if I spend this money now; then don't have enough to buy X for the kids, when they need it most?"  I need to get over that, and learn to not feel guilty about needing something for myself, and I am working on it. Back on track.*

 When it finally came time to sign the adoption papers, OUR lawyer told HER lawyer who told C that if she wanted to be a part of his life, she would have to make a permanent commitment. She couldn't keep coming and going from his life- he needed her to be stable, and to remain part of his life. She couldn't leave Canada again for more than 30 days consecutively. That was our only stipulation. She agreed to it.

By all accounts, we had a WAY more open adoption agreement than most families do. We offered 1 day/ week, with every other weekend being an overnight visit. We offered pickup for afterschool visits when wanted, family gathering visits as requested, summer vacation time, holiday times. In short, we offered co-parenting; with us as the decision making family.

All she had to do was ask, we would accommodate. She only ever asked once for an extra visit- which was to take him to her work. But, my father had come to visit (he lives over 2000 kms away, and we rarely get to see him); we had to say "Not this time." She never asked again. She told her family that we wouldn't allow it. She told her family we wouldn't let her come get him before 3pm on weekends (we told her and her husband repeatedly that he was up by 7, they could come anytime after that). Or, on days when they had him over night, they told family that he had to be home by 3, in reality, all we asked was that they tell us what time he'd be home.

In short, she convinced her family that we were keeping them apart. And because her family didn't know she'd relinquished parental rights to me, they thought we were just being "mean and spiteful". They didn't know that we called her every day, asking when she'd come by, that we invited them for dinner. That we tried. Hard.

It was hard, always being portrayed to her family as the horrible one. The mean one. The evil 'step mother' keeping her apart from her child. Her family spent five years: condemning me; hating me; calling me names; telling everyone they knew that my husband was abusive and that C had 'run for her life' from him (which was later apologized for- but damage done). For five years, they made our lives HELL.

And because we were trying to maintain a decent relationship with C, who hadn't told them about the adoption, we didn't defend ourselves. It hurt though to be made into a monster. The family frequently told Bugs how horrible it was for him to have to live with us. That hurt worse, because it hurt him. He came home from visits crying almost every time. He wanted to be with us, to be where he felt safe- but other people- people he loved and trusted too- told him he shouldn't feel that way, told him he should want to stay with C. He handled it the only way he could. He cried a lot.

Because C and her husband regularly partied, having a child over for a visit every weekend made that hard to do. So they cancelled visits more regularly than they actually had them. There was always an excuse. Sometimes it was "I can't miss this party- I/ he need to network" or "I can't miss this concert- it's my favourite band" and once "His mom is visiting, and doesn't want Bugs over until I'm there to take care of him". And it all hurt so bad. I was the one left explaining to a child why his visit wasn't going to happen, and I'd take him to do something else fun instead. And he cried even more. 

When C's husband decided he didn't like Canada; missed his 'mommy and daddy' too much; he decided to move back to Scotland. C told her family I said she should go too. I didn't.

I asked her if she would end up hating Bugs if she had to give up her husband in order to stay in Canada. She said yes, if she gave up her husband, she would one day hate and resent our son. That was, and still is, untenable to me; so I said she should do what would make her happiest, and what would keep her from blaming a child for her own choices.

So, less than 2 years after signing the papers where she agreed to stay in Canada permanently, C moved back to Scotland again- and this time a 6 year old was left upset, feeling worthless (how many times can you walk away from a child before they think it's their fault?), angry and unloved (by her). We could at that time have legally closed the adoption: to her; to her family; to her friends. Except that it would have broken my son into a million pieces. It was hard enough for him to lose her a second time; to have lost her family as well? That might very well have killed his spirit completely.

My son had a very difficult couple of years after C left that time. Fighting, back talking, misbehaviour. More notably, an obsession with food which resulted in almost 30 lbs gained in just one year- despite his father and I trying to help him make good food choices, and encouraging exercise. All in all, it was a traumatic experience for my boy, and he wasn't yet 7 years old. He had problems with separation anxiety- every single time I left for work, he would cry and beg me to come home again. It was heartrending.

It is also in the past now. We work everyday to show him we love him; that we value him; that we will never leave him behind. It is probably going to take the rest of his life to prove to him that we love him and that he IS desperately wanted. He has been scarred irreparably- and where there is a scar there is also a reminder to take care in the future. 

In the intervening years from then to now, there have been fights.  MANY fights. There have been many a flurry of angry emails from us to her, from us to her mother, from her to her mother, from her mother to us, from her to us. And every time we fight; we also keep in mind what is best for Bugs. Regardless of how we might feel in that moment, it will be resolved, and we will still have that relationship to contend with. So, we have to work to achieve and maintain a happy relationship.  Each of us has only one thing we want- happiness.

We want peace and happiness for our family, C wants that for herself, and C's mother just wants to be a good advocate for her daughter and her own family.

Throughout all of this we have remained firm. He is OUR son. Ultimately, decisions about him, or his interests lie with us. But he is also a part of their family. And they are a part of our family. We are a family. Disfunctional? Yes. Extended? Stretched to the limits might be a better description. 

It has been a hard, hard road to travel. It's been painful. Full of tears, anger, recriminations, and guilt. More than anything else though, it has been joy.

Joy for me- I have my children, and nobody can take them from me.

Joy for my extended family who love all of my children very much.

Joy for my husband, who knows how much I love him, and our children.

Joy for C, who has been able to move on with her life, have a visit once a year for a few weeks, party as she pleases the rest of the time, and still be an 'auntie' to the other kids.

Joy for C's family who still see their grandson every other weekend, but now also consider our other children their grandkids as well.

 Joy for our son, who had the most painful experience any child can have- twice- but who still has an open heart, full of love, hope and knowledge that his father and I, his mother, will fight for him no matter what.

One day, I hope my son can understand the many reasons behind each decision that was made. The reasons we pushed so hard for C to sign the papers; and the reasons she chose to leave, both the first time and the second time.

I hope I have made clear to each of my children that they are worth fighting for. Worth risking everything for.

I would do anything for my family- except give up.