Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Home Tour

Time to spread the cheer around here!

1. What's your favorite Christmas song?
"O' Holy Night" most definitely. I love belting that one out. Kinsley and I have been singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer about 6 times every night at bed time though. That will always be another favorite just because of that. 

2. Do you open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas day?
Growing up we always opened one gift on Christmas Eve after going to look at the lights with my Grandfather. We are keeping that tradition going and letting the girls do that as well. The rest are obviously on Christmas morning.

3. Are you a last minute present wrapper or are you done buying and wrapping 
presents way in advance?
Usually I am a last minute everything. This year I"M DONE! Everything is wrapped and ready to go! Considering the year we had I call this a giant win.

4. What's your favorite Christmas movie?
The Grinch. Is that weird? And this is also probably weird but The Family Stone. ha!

5. What are a couple things on your wish list?
You can read that here! It hasn't changed :)

6. What is a favorite Christmas memory you have? 
The same year that my mom passed away (2 months before Christmas) my cousin filled my stocking and put an orange at the bottom of it. It's something that my mother use to do and the stocking was always my favorite part of Christmas morning. It meant so much to me that she did that for me. 

7. If you are married, how do you split up time with each family?
Oy. This is something that is so hard for me. I have a HUGE family and we all get together in the same house. I love spending time there with them because it's always so much fun and there are many laughs. In the evening we usually go to J's Grandmother's house for their Christmas.

8. Do you stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve? 
No, I surely do not. We aren't partiers and we aren't drinkers so there's nothing for us lame-o's to do other than watch the ball drop. Why do that when you can sleep? lol  I'm so boring.

9. Do you get dressed up or get comfy in your pjs? 
In the morning we are still in our Christmas jammies. During the family Christmas we dress how we usually dress, which is preppy/nice anyway. lol

10. Do you have your resolutions planned by the new year or think of them once 
the year is here? 
I am not one to make resolutions but I do have a main goal for my photography business and that's to throw myself into it and get it up off the ground finally instead of random sessions.
Now for the home decor tour! There's just something about Christmas trees lit in your home that make it cozier than it already is. The lights and the colors always make me feel like my home is complete. Until January rolls around and then I'm ready for the clutter to go away.

Christmas tree #1

Christmas tree #2. We call this the Starbucks tree. The only ornaments on it are from Starbucks. lol

Christmas tree #3.

Next year we will have trees in each of the girls rooms and most likely the foyer. 

Ahem. Our fireplace. lol!

Want to share your Holiday Home Tour? Come link up!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be Still: Part Three

And that first phone conversation would change everything...

Let me tell y'all that the entire time I talked to Sarah on the phone the first time, I tried not to laugh out loud...A LOT. I literally made faces the entire time because of what she would say. Luckily I knew she was lying 95% of the time so it made it easier but the kicker was when she, and I kid you not, compared herself to Reba. Yes, Reba from the SHOW Reba. She said she really wanted that kind of relationship with her ex-husband and new wife.

Y'all...she said I was Barbara Jean.  BARBARA JEAN. ME! I still laugh hysterically at this because girlfriend has it all kinds of backwards. Comparing ME to a ditzy blonde who is the "new wife" is absolutely hysterical. Let me remind you that I'm a LAW STUDENT and she didn't get passed the 8th grade. I'm not even kidding. So to call me the dumb one was comical to say the least.

None the less, we talked about a lot of different things and things seemed to calm down a bit. While I didn't trust her at all, I did put my heart into it and was genuine towards her. She saw the girls a few times but continued to never call them and of course never pick them up during the week. We talked quite often about a lot of things and I did try to help her any way that I could.

A few months passed by and she tells me that Bob is going back down South for "work". She stayed in their town in their trailer but didn't have a vehicle because Bob took it with him. There were a few times where her parents would come get the girls and take them to her town so she could "see" them. The very last time she saw the girls they were there for maybe a day. L was jumping on the bed and had apparently been told not too several times. I got a phone call from Sarah asking me to talk to L because she wasn't listening and L wanted to talk to me. (Hello? Y'all the BIRTH mother called the STEP MOTHER to talk to HER child!) As soon as L got on the phone she was in hysterics. Bawling, couldn't catch her breath. I calmed her down and talked to her for a little while. She wanted to come home/leave from over there, so I called Sarah's mother to see if she was able to go out there and get her. Kins had her tumbling class and I wasn't able to leave on such short notice. We got off the phone, I called Sarah's mother, she went out there, and two hours later I get a phone call from Sarah's mother telling me what happened when they got there and picked the girls up.

Apparently, Sarah had told L that she was no longer welcome at her house because she couldn't listen. She said that when L was "older" she could come back. Sarah also refused to give L a hug and a kiss goodbye and refused to tell her "I love you too". Remember at the beginning of this when she told L that she "hated" her?! Yeah, pattern of verbal abuse here. (among other kinds). Her mother MADE her give L a hug. I was so heartbroken for L. This was the second time that I knew of Sarah treating her that way. I felt so bad that I wasn't there to protect her from that woman.

We told our attorney what happened and we were basically grasping at anything and everything that would come our way. We never ceased in prayer and we never gave up. A few weeks after that incident I got a phone call from Sarah while I was leaving Kinsley's tumbling class. She said she wanted to talk to me so we talked for a little while and she said that she wasn't a good mother, she didn't know what to do anymore with the girls, and she knew that L didn't want to see her anymore. She had said that I take care of the girls like they were my own and better than she ever could. There were a lot of "heartfelt" things that were said and while I'm sure she did mean some of it, with her you just never know.

Then the moment came that we had been praying for for so long. Sarah asked me how she can sign over her parental rights because she could not afford the child support and no longer wanted to be their mother. It took everything I had to stay composed and to not break down at that moment. Or scream with happiness. I told her what signing over her parental rights meant and I told her how the process was and we talked some more about other things (the longest conversation of my life! I just wanted to call J immediately!). As soon as we got off the phone, I called J and burst into tears, telling him what happened. He couldn't believe it and I was still in shock. I immediately called our attorney and left him a voice-mail. The next morning he had the paper work drawn up and we were in his office by that afternoon. We waited a week before we were able to take the paperwork out to her and I fully expected her to call me and say she changed her mind or that she was just kidding. Because she's like that, very unpredictable and deranged.

No phone call and no news was good news while we waited. I did keep in contact with her just to feel her out and test the waters daily. I wanted her to be sure that this was what she wanted 100% and it was. She saw an out and she was sure going to take it. When I had the paperwork in my hands I drove an hour away to her town just to take her to the courthouse myself and have it signed by a notary. I picked her up and I went into the courthouse with her and her two baby sons (who were the product of her cheating on J while being deployed). I even took her to Starbucks afterwards and treated her. Then I took her home and drove the hour back to Jacksonville. I bawled in my car on that drive. I was so happy but also so heartbroken for her. She had no remorse. She didn't cry, she didn't even talk about the girls. All she talked about was herself and her issues. I talked to her on my way home and she wanted to talk about some other girl that I went to High school with. Not one single thing was said about what we just did at the courthouse. Sarah signed her parental rights over like it was nothing.

I was so heartbroken because I can not fathom any mother signing over her parental rights and giving her children away. I don't even like sharing every other weekend with M because I miss Kins so much when she's gone lol I can't imagine just being okay with handing my children over. I have my bad mom days and think that I will never have this mom'ing thing down but those days pass and it doesn't matter how I feel during those days I always love Kinsley and show her that! It baffles me that a mother can treat her children the way she did and have no feelings about it whatsoever.

If you've been reading for a while then you probably read the original "Be Still" post. That tells you how the court proceedings went and my feelings on those days. Obviously, I was granted all parental rights as if I carried the girls myself. Sarah is no longer the mother and her family is no longer "family"  to the girls. I'm on the birth certificates and it's as if she never existed. Which is really how the girls want it anyway, sadly.

For months and months and even more months, we prayed, we cried, we screamed, we were furious, and we even lost faith in our legal system at some points. We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on our attorney. The reason we got married when and how we did is because on the off chance Sarah would sign her rights over, we wanted to be prepared and ready to go when it happened. We fought this so hard for so long, even when we thought that nothing would be resolved and that we would have to put up with her and what was happening for the rest of our lives. God is so good, y'all. This situation was the biggest test of faith that I personally have ever had to endure. It was a perfect testament to His timing is better than MY timing. HIS plans are way better than ANY of MY best plans. This battle brought us closer to each other and closer to God.

I told you all of the back story because I wanted to tell y'all this. The first week of November, Sarah and Bob were arrested for "neglect of a child" and they are both facing felony charges. They were sleeping while their sons (ages 1 & 2) left their trailer and wandered off into traffic a block from their home. A neighbor found them naked, filthy, and with spurs in their feet and legs. When the officer got to their trailer, they didn't answer. It wasn't until the officer forcefully banged on the door that a 16 year old answered the door. Sarah and Bob were sleeping (at 9:45 AM!). The officer said that they were not concerned one bit that the boys were off wandering the streets. In fact, they told the officer several times that the boys SHOULD HAVE WOKEN THEM UP. Again, they are ages ONE and TWO. The officer also said that he had to tell Sarah to watch her sons while they were talking because once again, she neglected them even in front of law enforcement.

They were taken into custody and the night in jail. They are now, as stated before, facing felony charges and have lost all custody of their sons. While I know Sarah didn't want to go to jail or face jail time, sadly this is exactly what she wanted. She didn't want her kids in the first place. She didn't want to be a mother and would look for any way out. I guess she finally found it.

I thank God every single day that the girls were mine before this ever happened and that they weren't a part of that incident. I'm grateful that nothing ever, ever happened to them either and even to her sons. Apparently, it wasn't the first time the boys had gotten out and wandered around. And it wasn't the first time the cops or DCF had been called on Sarah and Bob for child neglect.

28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still" -Exodus 14:14

Thanks for reading this series and continuing through to the end, if you made it that far!

Most importantly, thank you all for your continuous prayers and kind words. You have no idea how much they have meant to me and have meant to our family. We can't wait to begin to share the good times with y'all.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Be Still: Part Two

The final breaking point was when we had to have the Sheriffs office at every exchange and there were numerous contempt's of court filed against her. She filed one against us saying we were filing false contempt's (which obviously we weren't) and on my 27th birthday this year, I was forced to file a restraining order against her for harassment and threat to do bodily harm...

Unfortunately the restraining order was denied. The judge basically laughed at us and told us to take it to family court. We continued doing exchanges with the Sheriff's office there and continued to do things through our attorney. Sarah would still suck at being a "mother" and L would come home saying she didn't want to go back and would tell us things that would happen over there. The girls would continue not to eat over there or even get baths while in her "care".

Mediation was scheduled for April and when that day came we were praying so hard for a good outcome, one that was in our favor. Unfortunately, things stayed the same. Sarah did the fake facade of wanting to see the girls and wanting to have a "date night" with them during the week. She was also ordered to pay child support come October. A MOTHER ordered to pay child support is almost unheard of! We gave her a grace period until she had to start paying because she was not currently working. Sarah had odd jobs here and there randomly but could never keep one. She's never worked longer than a month in any given job. We knew that she would either not get a job or have excuses constantly for not paying though.

Once the "date nights" started once a week, she got them two times out of the 4 months of having this arrangement. Both times took the girls over to her parents so they could see them and watch them. After those two times, there was always some excuse as to why she couldn't come get them. No gas, no money, or she just wouldn't call and leave the girls waiting. Which 10 out of 10 times they didn't even want to go in the first place.

We kept telling our attorney everything she was doing but nothing could be done. Nothing could be amended or sent to her. We felt like we kept hitting a wall with this. No one would listen to us when we told them that the girls were in danger. I don't know how many times I said, "no one will listen to us and nothing will be done until something happens to those girls." We just knew that they would end up on the news because of this crazy woman and that no one would take us seriously. We talked to DCF numerous times (come to find out others had also reported her) and we talked to her county's sheriffs office several times as well.

Something you should know, if you haven't caught on already, is that Sarah is a pathological liar. Among other things. She would play victim constantly and make it seem like she was changing or this and that. A few months into this, I decided to have a change of heart and talk to her genuinely on the phone so things would smooth out. And if this chick needed help, I was more than okay with being there for her. I was just the step mother at the time so one way or another, whether we liked it or not, we needed to come to some kind of something in order for this to work.

And that first phone conversation would change everything...

to be continued in part three...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Be Still: Part One

When I think back on the past two years about how things happened and everything that we went through, I can't help but think "I told you so". Or "Karma is a bitch". I've been struggling something fierce this week to react as a Christian to what I'm going to share with you, but the mama bear in me is roaring, the non-Christian in me is laughing, and the Christian in me is sad for her.

If you've been reading for awhile or following me elsewhere, not in real life I hope, then you know about the birth mother to J's daughters. Who I adopted a few months ago. the kids not the mother, just incase you were confused for a momentWho SIGNED HER RIGHTS OVER. I always said I would not talk about the details on this blog because I was going to respect everyone involved. I've never respected this woman but I did pray for her...A LOT. I didn't want to cause drama or anymore angst with anyone. But because not one single person would listen to us or believe us, I'm going to share everything. Every little thing that I said was happening or would happen, happened.

My oldest, L, calls me her angel and THANKS me all the time for "saving her and her little sister". A 7 year old THANKS me for SAVING her. How sad and heartbreaking is that? NO child should ever, ever have to say thank you for saving me from the person who is supposed to love and care for you. No child should ever have to go through what these kids have gone through!

To start off this "mini series" I'm going to share with y'all the beginning of the story, with my husbands permission. (you'll understand why I asked him lol)

While J was on his 2nd? 3rd? deployment, (we shall call her Sarah. lol), Sarah stayed home with their two kids. And by stay home I mean pawn the girls off on her parents or his parents while she went out and spent all of their money. She would leave the girls for days and weeks at a time with no phone calls or texts to them, nothing. While on his last deployment, Sarah found someone, left the girls, got them evicted from where they were living (you'll come to see that this is a common occurrence with her), and lost/sold all of J's belongings. When J got off the ship she was no where to be found, she didn't show up to the Homecoming with their kids and only showed up at his parents house later that day, SIX MONTHS PREGNANT with ANOTHER MAN'S KID. Which is the second time she was pregnant by someone else other than her husband on deployment. The first time she had an abortion and made J think there were complications with the pregnancy and was "instructed by her Dr" to terminate it. (this is where I wish emoticons were available for Blogger)

At that point, J took the kids, the cars, and told her to leave. She didn't even fight him on it. All along Sarah never wanted those kids. Which will become easier and easier to see.
Sarah had the kid with the other man and they lived together with her parents. J filed for divorce and Sarah & the other guy moved to Miami so he could "work", Sarah got pregnant again, by someone, we don't know who. They say it's the same guy but we say otherwise because the kid looks nothing like him or his older brother. Nothing. But that's neither here nor there. While in Miami, she never called or even asked about the girls unless it was convenient for her. At one point during her stay down South, she got the girls for a week. By this time J and I had started dating. We later found out that while the girls were with Sarah and Bob (we'll call him Bob lol), Sarah would give L "cinnamon liquid candy" to make her sleep, which was cinnamon flavored cough syrup. We don't know how many times she did this but I can imagine it wasn't just one time.

In July of 2012 their divorce was finalized and unfortunately, J did not fight as hard as he should have during the divorce proceedings, I also wasn't heavily involved at this point. They were both granted 50/50 time-sharing with him being primary parent. Work fell through for Bob, as it always does, down in Miami so they decided to move back to Jacksonville and to a small town 25-30 miles away. They were there a few weeks? Possibly months before Sarah was Baker Acted. After that episode they both moved in with her parents, again. Weeks and weeks would go by without her calling and asking about the girls. In all honestly, the only reason she even came and got the girls on occasion was because of her parents. They wanted to see them.
Every time the L & G would come home L would have a horrible, horrible attitude. Just down right horrid and unbearable. At this point I was getting more and more involved. It wasn't until Sarah and Bob  moved out into a trailer in another city 45 miles away that I got heavily involved. I had had enough of the girls coming home filthy, tired, HUNGRY, telling us what happened over there, etc.

The final breaking point was when we had to have the Sheriffs office at every exchange and there were numerous contempt's of court filed against her. She filed one against us saying we were filing false contempt's (which obviously we weren't) and on my 27th birthday this year, I was forced to file a restraining order against her for harassment and threat to do bodily harm...

to be continued in part two...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Bucket List

Every year I have great intentions of carrying out certain things pertaining to Christmas. Last year I made a bucket list and we accomplished 90% of it so this year, to hold myself accountable, I've made another list. Naturally, since I'm type A. Y'all know I love my bullet points and lists.
Kinsley is so excited about Christmas this year. I think she finally understands what's going on and the excitement just oozes from her. She's already gotten into three of the Christmas presents under the tree though....and the spray to keep cats away from the tree doesn't work on kids. Sads.

  • Decorate the Christmas tree together. This totally counts because Swamp knocked it over three times and every time Kinsley and I had to put it back together. So really, we are overachievers. 
  • Look at Christmas Lights. This is Kinsley's favorite thing to do. It makes my heart so happy!
  • Watch Christmas movies
  • See The Grinch production at church
  • Bake and decorate cookies
  • Christmas photo shoot
  • Leave gingerbread men cookies out for Santa (because those are Santa's favorite.)
  • Christmas jammies
  • Read a favorite Christmas book
  • Make Christmas cards for the family (kids do this)
With this being the first year with all three girls, I am pretty excited about starting (and sharing) some favorite traditions with them. We have quite a few things that we always did as a family growing up, like going around looking at lights with my Grandfather or getting in our Christmas jammies and baking cookies while watching moves, so I can't wait to keep these going. I think it's really important to keep these going especially with being sisters! 

What is on your December bucket list? Don't forget to Pin the image above!