Family Ties

When my phone rings at seven in the morning, it’s usually one of two people – My mother, who gets up at 6 in the morning regardless of what day it is and thinks the rest of the world does too, or my brother  Rhett who doesn’t believe in time zones. When our phone rang this morning I hoped it was my brother.

So of course, it was my mother.

‘You didn’t tell your great auntie Mildred that you were pregnant?’
‘My great auntie who?’
‘Mildred! Your uncle Caleb’s mother.’
‘I have an uncle Caleb?’
‘Honestly Rhye, sometimes I wonder if you’re even part of this family.’

I often wonder the very same thing.

In my defense, I have a very large family. They all live in far away, exotic places like… Germany (okay, so maybe not the MOST exotic of places, but whatever). After a long, long conversation with my mother, I learned that Mildred was indeed the mother of Caleb, and Caleb was my aunt Josephine’s third and fifth husband. Don’t ask. My aunt Josephine, in turn, isn’t really an aunt at all. She was my grandmother’s cleaning lady. And my mother expects me to keep up with this stuff. Not only that, but she expects me to call all 1257 members of my clan with news. Regardless on whether I’ve ever even met these people.

I can tell you right now that’s never going to happen.

But perhaps I can send great auntie Mildred my blog url.

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We Eat All Kinds Of Religions In This House

After Cash’s announcement that we were eating Muslim for dinner a few days back, Sadie announced that she would like to have Quakers for breakfast this morning. Well, Quakers and gator.

“I have Quakers and gator cheese. Peace.” Were her exact words.

“Sadie wants crackers with grated cheese. Please.” Cole translated.

It’s nice to have an interpreter in the house. I might have taken her seriously if there wasn’t.

After all, this is the girl who asked if she could eat the cat food our two cats Julian and Luna deemed inedible.

I Made My Husband Break The Law

I nearly clobbered my husband to death with an empty milk jug today. He committed the unpardonable sin, you see. He used up all the milk. We had no more milk in the house. None. Zip. Nada.

‘Why would you even do that?’ I wailed, waving the jug in his face. ‘Why, man? I NEED MY MILK!’

His response was backing away slowly with one hand up and reaching for the car keys with the other.

‘I’ll go out and get some.’ He said in a high-pitched, panicked voice.

‘That’s right you’re going out to get some!’ I shrieked, hitting him in the arm with the jug. ‘You’re going right now!’

‘I am! I’m going right now!’

He came back half an hour later with 6 jugs of milk, and a speeding ticket.

No joke.

Damien Returns

I thought we could be friends. Sure, I was a little intimidated by his size and his stern look at first, but my mother always said not to judge a book by its cover and I was trying hard not to. But then, during our very first meeting, he stole from me. A plastic baggy filled with goldfish crackers and a five dollar bill were carefully removed from my pocket.

I told him no and forgave him. We all make mistakes. We all need people in our lives that teach us right from wrong. And he’s only 9, after all.

But then, during or second meeting, he pinched my butt. With his teeth. It left a mark the size of a plumb, and I realized we wouldn’t be friends.

My nemesis, Tator Tot

Don’t let the name fool you. This horse has it out for me. He gives me the side eye every time I come close and bites me when I try to be nice. Then when my husband joins the saddling party because I’m 30 weeks pregnant with twins and couldn’t possibly lift a saddle, Lil’ Tot dials up the cute and Hubs doesn’t believe me when I say this creature is not a horse, but the Antichrist. He reminds me of Damien, mowing down his mother with the Tricycle of Death. Tater Tot is planning something similar. I just know it.

Let’s hope that Cole is assigned a different horse for his next riding lesson.

And that they don’t make tricycles in Tater Tot’s size.

Some Questions, Answered.

Considering I’ve written only a few posts so far, I’m chuffed to bits by the site stats and emails I’ve been getting. A lot of you had questions for me, and I’d like to thank all of you for phrasing them as politely as you did. Truly, you have restored my faith in the internet! I will try to answer them the best I can, but I trust that you will understand that some of the details are not mine to share. They are Cole and Sadie’s stories, and they belong to them.

Didn’t you write a different blog a while back?
Yes, I did. I deleted it when we decided to welcome Cole and Sadie into our home, unsure of any consequences it may have while we were going through the process of taking them in. I’ve since learned that keeping a blog is completely fine. Of course, this will not be a place to share the ins and outs of their lives, but they are part of our family and I don’t feel comfortable with ‘filtering them out’. I’ve always written about my life quite openly and they are a big – huge – part of that.

I used to read your old blog, but was unaware you had two children already?
That’s because I didn’t. They have only been living with us for a relatively short period of time. My husband and I are not their biological parents, but have been in both their lives since they were born. We are/were very close to their birth parents and have always considered them family. Due to a variety of circumstances, they are now in our care.

Are you and your husband their foster parents?
No, they are not in foster care. We were godparents first and are their legal guardians now.

And you’re pregnant?
Yes, I’m 30 weeks pregnant with twins who Cole and Sadie have dubbed their ‘Bristers’ because we’re not quite sure if they will be sisters or one of each. There has been some confusion about the sex of Baby A, and instead of trying to solve the mystery we decided to let it be a surprise! Baby B is definitely a girl, though, and Cole and Sadie were put in charge of picking out a name for her. I adore their choice.

I hope that clears things up for you a bit!

Failed Romace, Questionable Food and Cowardice

Sam: ‘I love you more than Nutella.’
Me: ‘Whoa.’
Sam:I know.

Sam: ‘Do I smell Chinese food?’
Me: ‘No, but I think Lucy just farted.’ (Lucy is our dog)
Sam: ‘…Remind me of this moment next time I suggest picking up Chinese food.’

Sam’s Best Friend, Cash: ‘Teach me something very Dutch to say.’
Me: ‘Vanavond eten we mosselen.’
Cash: ‘What does that mean?’
Me: ‘Tonight we eat mussels.’
Cash: ‘Ah, alright. Vanavond eten we moslim.’
*My husband and I crack up laughing.*
Cash: ‘What, did I say it wrong? What did I say?!’
Me: ‘Tonight we eat muslim.’
Cash: ‘That’s… not good.’

Cole: ‘What would you do if we got robbed, like, RIGHT now?’
Sam: ‘Watch them run.’
Cole: ‘That’s all?’
Sam: ‘I’d probably pee my pants, too.’

*Spotting a rainbow*
Me: ‘Look! So pretty! Quick, be romantic!’
Sam: ‘Okay!’
*He puts his arms around me and we snuggle*
Sam: Quick question.
Me: ‘Hmm?’
Sam: ‘Are we looking at that rainbow, or the lady with the epic camel toe?’

One Day, Maybe

I’m a girl’s girl. Always have, always will be. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own when it comes to guys – growing up with 5 older brothers will do that for you – but when it comes to friends, I prefer my core group to consist of girls. À la Sex and the City, sad as that may sound (but not as sad as living in a world where Sex and the City seems to become more and more outdated).

I want the brunches, the lunches, the drinks before dinner and the movie nights in. I want the shopping trips, the occasional gossip, the make-up tips, the somewhat arrogant simultaneous snort when a grownup wearing Crocs is spotted. I want to be able to completely bitch something out and have nodding heads instead of raising eyebrows. Because a guy would just not understand, you know?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe I’m weird. But nevertheless, these are things I absolutely need in my life.

The hardest part of moving was leaving my girlfriends behind. Because although it was something I had certainly done before, never had I ever spent such a long period of time in one place. These girls, they were not merely friends. They were my tribe. They had my back as much as I had theirs, and we survived our early twenties because of each other.

Sometimes I miss them so much it physically hurts. We stay in contact, of course, but that doesn’t help me deal with the little pangs of jealousy whenever I see a status update from the lot of them out and about, having fun. Without me. Because I’m oceans away.

I desperately need a new tribe. As much as I adore spending time with Cole and Sadie, as much as I adore my husband, as much as I adore all my sisters-in-law… I need some grown-ass lady friend time with kick ass woman that are not related to me by blood or marriage. Is that too much to ask for?

Apparently so.

Making friends while pregnant is hard. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a relatively young mom, but I don’t seem to fit in anywhere. No 30-something woman is quite on the same wavelength, and no 20-something year-old girl wants to hang out with a pregnant chick who also happens to be caring for a 6 and 2-year-old. I’m still hopeful that there are other misfits like me out there, preferably in my area, but until then…

I miss my tribe.

The Louisiana Baby Apple Tree Massacre

‘What is an abomination?’ he asks, stomping back into the house with his basketball under his arm after leaving to play outside a mere five minutes before. He has a puzzled look on his face, trying to make sense of a word he has undoubtedly never heard before. His big brown eyes focus on Sam, who in turn looks at me. I put my fork down.

‘Why?’

‘The Kid From Next Door said he couldn’t play with me because his mom said you guys were that.’

Of course she did. This lady has been pissing me off since day one. At first because she sucked up to us like nobody has sucked up to us before. Then, when she realized we didn’t give a tiny rat’s ass that their fence, baby apple trees and extension were technically on our land, her other side came out. Disgusted snorts clearly audible to every member of my family who happened to pass her house while she’s outside. The pretending she doesn’t see us when we bump into each other at the super market. Loudly referring to us as ‘Her, That Boy, That Damned Dog and Them Kids’ when we are within earshot.

It has all been very lovely.

But her son and Cole are roughly the same age, and they get along, so I had no problems with them hanging out and shooting some hoops. After all, you can’t blame a child for their parents’ racist ignorance. But apparently we have cooties now.

My husband sighs the sigh of a frustrated man, and I can practically hear him grind his teeth from across the table. Sam’s not usually the one who loses it over these things – I am. I am the one who’s always ready to knock on some doors and spit in people’s faces, and pregnancy hasn’t helped with these impulses. If it weren’t for Sam dragging me back into the house by the back of my pants, Mrs. HolierThanThou would be missing several chunks of hair by now.

But this time, while I struggle to find a decent answer for Cole with my mouth open and no words coming out, it’s Sam who pushes back his chair with so much force that for a second I’m scared the legs will give. Then he realizes there are two big-eyed children looking at him and he smiles a smile that is so obnoxiously sweet that it chills me to my very core.

‘I think I will do some yard work.’ He announces, and leaves through the back door.

Uh-oh.

Cole sits down at the table. ‘Is Sam mad at me?’

‘No, hun. He’s mad at the neighbors.’

‘Is it a mean thing to say?’

I think about that for a minute, then shake my head. ‘It’s a dumb thing to s-‘

I’m interrupted by the sound of a chainsaw.

We all look up like a bunch of meerkats, turning our head from the left to the right and looking at each other for confirmation of possible danger. Then the three of us stand up simultaneously and rush to the nearest window to witness Sam mow down their tiny apple trees – our tiny apple trees, officially – in three quick motions. On the other side of the fence, Mr and Mrs. HolierThanThou are purple in the face and screaming what the F he is doing.

‘She said a bad word,’ Sadie comments with a giggle, clapping her hands over her mouth. We watch Sam ignoring them completely and walking back to the house, before I tell them to wash up for dinner.

‘Nice example,’ I scold him as soon as he walks through the door.

He shrugs. ‘Enough is enough.’

‘Yea, well, use your words next time, ‘ I half-joke.

‘That probably would have been worse.’

But three days later, he does exactly that. When they ask him who the F he thinks he is, he tells them ‘I’m the effing person who owns the ground part of your house is built on, and frankly, sir, those trees were an abomination.’

Immature? Maybe. Effective?

F yes.

Firsts

‘Mommy,’ she chirps in that high-pitched toddler voice. ‘Mommy, I have a question.’

As is Sadie’s way. This girl always has questions. She even raised her hand in church a few weeks back, to ask what a certain word meant. It’s not the question that is new in this scenario. Her calling me mommy, however, is. My husband is not daddy, my husband is Sam. Only she pronounces it as Sham, much to the amusement of the rest of my family. And before today, before this moment, I was Rhye. Pronounced Why. And now I’m mommy.

It’s a difficult moment, for reasons I can’t pinpoint. Standing there with a soapy plate in my hand, I wonder if I should correct her… But then I ask myself why I should. I may not be her birth mother, but I am the one who will feed her, clothe her, make sure she does her homework and – when the time is there – question the guys she dates profusely. I will make sure she has a roof over her head until she’s ready to venture into the world. I will be the one who will help her with her college application. I will be there.

My mother always said that ‘mom’ is a title, one that you have to earn. You can be someone’s mother without being their mom. And I always agreed with her. Yet, I don’t want to take this title away from the woman who neglected her in more ways than one. There is no doubt that she has made mistakes, and that the mistakes she has made were harmful to her children. But it feels wrong to ‘invalidate’ her.

Because Sadie isn’t her only child we now have custody of. There’s Cole, too. Big brother Cole, who is 6 years old and thinks the world of his mother – and yet doesn’t. At the moment everything is very confusing to him, and I don’t want to pile onto that by suddenly becoming their ‘new mommy’.

It’s the little things that make caring for children that are ‘not yours’ very difficult at times. I’m not yet aware of the appropriate names, terms and language. I struggle with how much I should tell them, and what to shield them from. Sometimes I have to do some soul searching myself before I even come up with a decent answer to their sporadic questions.

But I’m learning. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and nobody can expect me to know exactly what to do in every scenario that might pop up. All I know for sure is that I love these kids, love them to pieces with the fire of a thousand suns, and I trust that we’ll work through all of it one step at a time.

This, and many other things, is what this blog will be about.