June 30, 2013

Kaden's Story



There are moments in your life that can never be forgotten.  Sometimes those moments happen and you don't know how you will ever get through them or even if you can.  Often times these moments are unexpected, something you never saw coming.

Recently, our family went through a big change.  But before I just tell you what happened, I need to give a backstory for you to get the full appreciation of this event.  So here is Kaden's story.  It involves heartache.  But also triumph.

Kaden is my oldest son and is currently 12 years old.  He was born when I was 18 and in a toxic relationship to say the least. That relationship ended when he was about a year and a  half.  His biological dad didn't have much parenting time, but stopped coming by altogether shortly thereafter and Kaden and I were on our own.

When Kaden was 3, I got into another relationship.  This guy--let's just call him Ben (NOT his real name)---and I had been friends for years and years.  As I explained in my last personal post, we got pregnant only mere months after getting together.  Given that Kaden was so young and we had another son barely a year after we were together, Kaden started calling Ben dad by instinct.  It only strengthened after Conner, my younger son, started talking.  We never corrected Kaden.  At the time, we thought we would be together forever.

Kaden and Ben had a close relationship.  He had bought him a dirt bike and they went riding often.  He taught him how to ride a bike.  Kaden stayed home with him when I was working, so they spent all the days before kindergarten hanging out and playing around.

Ben's family was also very close to Kaden.  We would all get together for dinners and we even went on vacations together with my family.  Even though we all knew "the truth", it was never discussed.  Shortly after Conner was born, I even wrote a letter to Ben's mother thanking him for making Kaden such a part of their lives.  He called them Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, etc.

After being together for about four and a half years, that relationship ended as well.  Our relationship was not ideal, but it wasn't as bad as the first one.  Our break-up, however, was really rough.  I had found out he was having an affair.  And I left.  No questions.  Just done.

He didn't want to break up.  For months and months it was constant turmoil between us.  I won't go into detail, but it was bad.  We were able (somehow), however, to be cool with the kids.  For months and months after our break-up, we were able to communicate about drop off times and locations, etc. about the kids without filing a single document with the Court.  This parenting schedule included all three of my kids--Kaden, Conner and Brielle.

But given the turmoil of our breakup as well as the fact that I was working retail until late at night or early mornings usually and living in Denver--an hour away from Ben, I was having my mom drop the kids off to him for me.  This lessened the tension with us a lot.  There was even a time there when we were quite civil with one another.  He had moved into a new house and showed me around.  We would go out to lunch together or just call and talk to each other on the phone.  Just like friends.

But it didn't last too long.  Nine months and some change after we broke up, the worst moment of my entire life came completely without warning.  And it changed the lives of me and my kids forever.

This is the last "normal" photo of my kids--the day before the incident

On the morning of March 23, 2008, my mom went to drop the kids off to Ben as normal.  I think that Ben and I had recently been arguing about giving the kids medicine or something but other than that, there wasn't anything super crazy going on.  I had actually had that day off and my best friend, Chris, had stayed over at my house.  It was a Sunday morning around 10:00 a.m. and we were watching Roseanne or Golden Girl reruns or something.  Suddenly, Chris' phone rang.  It was my mom (I had left my phone on silent in the other room, not expecting any phone calls).  And I will never forget her tone of voice or what she said on the phone.

"Robin!  I need your help!  All hell is breaking loose here."  After some incoherent screaming and yelling she informed he of what had happened.  I wasn't there, but this is what I've heard to happen from my mom, Kaden and my mom's then long term boyfriend.

Ben was living with his sister at the time and down the street from his mother and stepfather.  As my mom pulled up to the curb to drop off the kids, his sister was standing guard at the door.  My mom thought this was odd, but shrugged it off.  Conner, then about 4 and Brielle, then about 2, got out of the car and went to head inside.  They were quickly rushed in by Ben's sister.  Again, my mom thought this was strange, but didn't ask anything.  

Kaden said "hi dad" and went to run inside, but was stopped by Ben grabbing the collar of his shirt.  It was then that Ben informed him that not only was he not his real dad, but that he was no longer welcome to stay at his house--that day or any other day.  Kaden crumbled to the floor--terrified, shocked, saddened and confused.  Conner and Brielle stared from the window.  Screaming and fighting ensued and Ben's parents from down the street came running.  As his mother approached the house, my mom looked to her--a very kind woman who always loved being a grandma--for help and asked her if she knew what was happening.  She refused to answer my mom for a while but eventually said to her "I know God damn well what's going on."  Come to find out later, the entire family had discussed this prior and knew that this was to happen on this particular day.  No warning had ever been given to myself or anyone from my family.  There was more.

After Ben punched my mom's boyfriend in the face, Kaden was rushed in the house by Ben's mother and held captive there so that he could basically be brought down a line to be told that his grandma was no longer his grandma, his aunt was no longer his aunt, his cousin was no longer his cousin and his papa was no longer his grandfather.  He was allowed to grab what he could of his belongings--half of everything he ever owned--with his two arms.  He had since asked for things that were left there, including his dirt bike, but they were not returned.  Eventually my mom got Kaden and was able to leave and call me.  

I remember hanging up the phone and looking at Chris completely baffled and in shock.  "Ben just told Kaden he wasn't his real dad.  FUCK!!!!"  I stood up, I walked to my door slammed it, screamed some obscenities and got in my car.  Even though it is easily an hour drive from where I live to where my mom lived (in the same town as my ex), I made it there in 25 minutes.

When I first saw Kaden, he looked like a ghost.  His face was completely expressionless and pale.  His cheeks were stained with tears.  We took a walk to a local general store, got a snack and sat out on the picnic table out front to talk.  We talked for a long time.  And I told him that I was so, so sorry that this happened to him.  I told him that Ben was not his biological father, but I was so sure he had been willing to be his dad.  I was not sure what had happened to cause this.  I didn't really know what to say and nothing I was saying could help.

Kaden was only 8 years old.  He had already been abandoned by his biological father, raised by a man he believed to be his father for four years and now didn't know up from down.  He sat there quietly and then, he started sobbing.  "No dad!  No daddy no!  Please don't do this!  Please don't leave me!  I'll be good!  I promise I'll be good!  Daddy don't go!  Don't leave me!"  He just kept repeating it as I held him and stroked his hair.

The next couple of years were extremely difficult.  Kaden got into fights at school where he used to be a social butterfly with lots of friends.  He got constant stomach aches and headaches.  He was withdrawn.  I put him into counseling with an amazing woman.  He saw her for about three years.

It wasn't only Kaden that was affected though.  My younger son, Conner, was extremely scared.  He was still pretty young, but he is literally a genius.  He remembers everything all the time.  He always looked up to his older brother.  Suddenly, he was pulled between his dad and his older brother.  He went through times where he acted out (he was usually very complacent).  He felt guilty for what happened.  He was nervous for years afterward that his dad would do the same thing to him or that I would leave him.

The relationship between my boys struggled for a long time.  Kaden resented Conner because he got a dad.  Conner had been "chosen" by Ben and Kaden got left in the dust.  Conner just wanted things to be fine.  He wanted to follow his brother around, but his brother no longer wanted anything to do with him.  Conner went from spending every day of his life with his brother to only seeing him about half of the time.  He didn't know that Kaden wasn't his whole brother.  He was a middle child, now he was the oldest child when he went to his dad's house.

My daughter was too young to really be affected.  She doesn't remember a time where her brothers were always with her.  But she did act out a bit after it all happened.  From the moment she was born, her and her oldest brother were extremely close.  She called him "Ne-ne".  He would get her dressed in the morning, make her breakfast and she constantly held on to him.

The first time the three of the kids saw each other again was so difficult.  The younger two had been at their dad's for parenting time for a few days.  When they came back, Brielle did not leave Kaden's side.  So many questions, so much confusion.  Conner would talk about "his dad" and Kaden would correct him--telling him that no one could call him that anymore.  I would have remind Kaden that Conner and Brielle could call Ben dad.  It was heart-wrenching.

I never got an explanation from Ben as to why this happened or his though process.  I don't really want one.  For me, nothing could justify what he and his family did.  I have not talked to any of his family in any way since this happened.

Things were very difficult for a long time after that.  My boys had to learn to re-trust me again.  And Conner had to re-trust his dad again.  Kaden struggled/s with trusting men in general.  The two boys constantly struggled with each other.

I started dating Patrick about two years after this happened.  I was nervous to ever bring him around the kids and especially Kaden.  Obviously, though, Patrick did meet Kaden and the other kids.  It did take some warming up but eventually the kids saw what I saw in Patrick--a gentle, loving and responsible man who gave his word and followed through on it.  Kaden took to Patrick not long after he moved in.  He wanted to do everything with him, he looked up to him, he even started dressing like him.  Patrick taught Kaden things and Kaden would listen.

When Patrick proposed to me, it was one of the best days of my life.  I warned him at dinner later that evening, though, that I probably wouldn't be able to change my last name to his.  The therapist had told me this about Kaden long ago.  He had originally had the last name of his biological dad, but I had gotten it changed at the recommendation of his therapist to be the same as mine.  She worried that a disrupt in that connection--both of us sharing a last name--would make him feel, again, like an outsider.  It was at this point in our conversation that Patrick told me that he wanted to adopt Kaden.  And even though I was extremely happy during the proposal, it wasn't until this moment that I cried tears of joy.

As per the law in Colorado, we would have to be legally married in order for Patrick to adopt Kaden.  It wasn't long after we got married that we started the process.  With my background in family law, I drafted up the paperwork.  I hunted down Kaden's biological father and had him sign consent forms to give up his rights (he was happy to do so, worried only about whether or not he would continue to owe child support that he had never really paid).  Patrick submitted several background checks.  And after several long months, we got a Court date.

Originally, the clerk had told us that it would only be a relinquishment hearing--meaning that it would be the hearing wherein Kaden's biological father could be made aware of his rights and/or object to the adoption.  Because of this, we chose not to bring Kaden with us to Court.  We didn't want to run the chance of Kaden running into his biological father.  When the situation first happened with my ex, I told Kaden that he had a biological father and even half sisters and a half brother (his biological dad has three other children now) that we could find if he wanted to.  He never showed any interest in doing so.  In fact, the opposite--he was disgusted at this request.


So we went to Court.  And not only did the relinquishment go off without a hitch, but the adoption was granted!!!  Patrick was officially a dad, Kaden officially had a father and I officially have the best husband in the universe.  Kaden, meanwhile, was at a baseball game with my best friend Matty.  We told him later that night by presenting him with the Adoption Certificate.

His reaction?  See for yourself:

video

This story is personal, yes.  And it is very involved.  If I were to tell you the entire ordeal we've been through, it would take months.  But if this story tells you anything, I hope it tells you this:

No matter how grim your situation seems, no matter how broken your heart is, no matter how much faith you lose in humanity, no matter how sure you are that things will never get better--have faith.  Have faith in yourself, your journey and in other people.  Because if you are patient, if you are a good person and if you try your best to be your best self, good things do happen.  And our case, they couldn't have worked out any better. 


As this post posts, we are having a bbq to celebrate with all of our friends and family.  We are celebrating Kaden's journey to get here--four long years of sadness.  We are celebrating Patrick becoming a father.  We are celebrating an end.  And a beginning.

June 29, 2013

Victory is Sweet



The past few posts I've had have been scheduled and thus I have not been able to fully express how my heart sings with the news of DOMA being considered unconstitutional.

I've always been completely open minded about all people. I went on to have two best friends--both gay and male.  One of my cousins is gay.

The thought that our country and society is so close-minded that you can deny human beings the right to do anything that does not harm another person completely makes me sick to my stomach. 

 To me, denying gay marriage is no different in any way to those that used to preach that women should not vote, that people of another color shouldn't share water fountains or bar stools or that the mentally handicapped were to be hidden from public.

People are people.  And I for one am over the moon that we are taking a step in this direction.  It seems so small, but it's a good start.  Say no to H8!!!

"Rights for all people, damn right I support it"--Macklemore

Denim Mini-thrifted; Leopard Flats-Target; Sons of Anarchy Shirt-Amazon; Earrings-DIY and gifted; Chain Bracelet-vintage from Grandma



June 28, 2013

Mission #11, Day 5--Gemma Teller of Sons of Anarchy


It's our last day of Mission Week and I have to say, this was a fun one.  For my last television leading lady, I chose Gemma Teller of Sons of Anarchy . . .


I didn't nail this one.  After all, I don't think Gemma is the dress type.  She's more apt to pull out some bootcut jeans and boots.  But it is way too damn hot for jeans or boots.

This is the last time this dress was worn though.  I thrifted it over a year ago and I have only worn it twice.  I tried to make the hemline work, I did.  But in the end, it was just too damn short.

So, not an exact Gemma Teller--bad ass biker mom and old lady--look, but for sure an acceptable variation.  Leopard print, edgy wedges, leather jacket, blinging earrings and a low cut, short dress is for sure passable.

I would have liked to use Patrick's motorcycle as a prop to this photo shoot, but, as everyone likes to say these days "ain't nobody got time for dat".  I also thought about using Kaden's air soft gun as a prop but that could also go awry in a hot second.  So, we'll improvise with an empty bike path.

Powder Blue Wrap Dress-thrifted (I think Ann Taylor); Footless Tights-Target; Leather Jacket-Wal-Mart; Leopard Print Peep Toe Wedges-Naughty Monkey, gifted; Earrings-gifted


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June 27, 2013

Mission #11, Day 4--Nancy Botwin of Weeds

And we continue on celebrating leading ladies of style for this week's Mission Week.  Today's inspiration comes from none other than Nancy Botwin of Weeds . . .


Nancy Botwin is basically superwoman.  This woman has literally dodged bullets (well . . . except one) for eight seasons.  She is a suburban mom turned drug dealer.  She is casual in style, but also subtly sexy.  

I have to say, I think I did pretty damn good shopping my closet for this one.  Nancy's typical style?  Shear top.  Check.  Constant sipping on iced coffee?  Check.

Long, casual mom shorts?  Check.

Sky high platforms?  Check.  (One of my favorite episodes is when she is on the run from her drug dealer husband who is out to murder her and she tells the kids to pack up the car with what they can grab and she packs about 30 pairs of shoes.  She also cuddles with them after she is released from jail.  My kinda gal . . . well the shoe thing . . . not the drug dealing husband--he was never my husband LOL, jk--or going to jail)

And I even debuted my new iPhone case I got from Amazon.  It is pink and spiked!  I love it.  And yes, my iPhone is getting a collection of "outfits" as well.I figured being inspired by a thuggish bad ass drug dealing mom was a good excuse to break it out.

And no, I didn't wear this to work.  But Nancy would have.  And I love her for that.

Floral Shear Tank-gifted by Mom; White Bandeau-Wal-Mart; White Cork Sandals-Marshall's; White Bermuda Shorts-thrifted; Pink Studded iPhone Case-Amazon


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June 26, 2013

Mission #11, Day 3--Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City

How could I go through a Mission Week that celebrates the television style icons and not give a day to the icon of all icons, Mrs. Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City?



Honestly . . . I almost didn't.  For two reasons.  For one: it is total cliche.  I am pretty sure there isn't a style blog on this planet that has not at least mentioned Carrie Bradshaw in a post.  Seriously, I'm not even going to give the general plot of the show because everyone knows what it is.

The second reason is I honestly didn't even think of her at first.  Not because I don't love her character and the show and have an obsessive obscene intimidating impressive collection of SJP cover magazines hanging in my room, but because I just . . . hadn't recently brushed up on my SATC reruns in a while I guess.

Not a single fashionista can spot a tulle skirt without thought of CB passing through their minds, I'm sure of it.  And although I had momentarily brainfarted on including Ms. B in the Mission Week this week, I did not forget to check out my local Saver's and found not one but THREE tulle skirts in my size.  

This was one of them (obvi) and the other two will make an appearance on the blog soon.  Because I did buy all three (obvi).  Even though I already have a tulle skirt.

Because I believe that Carrie would back me up when I say: a girl can never really have too much tulle.  Amiright?  And I plan on dying my other one.  I'm thinking mint?  Yellow?  Red?  Any suggestions?

So today, we honor Carrie in all her infinite style inspiration.  Raise your cosmos to Carrie ladies for teaching us that you're never too old to wear tulle.  Or hit up the thrift stores.  Or wear crazy curly hair.  Or wear flower pins.  Or don jewelry with your name/initials.  Or have too many shoes.

Tulle Cream Skirt-thrifted; White and Cork Sandals-Marshall's; Blue Knotted Tank-gifted by Lynne; Flower "Pin"-no idea, very old; Mirrored Aviators-Target; Watch-gifted; Earrings-gifted; Necklace-Target


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June 25, 2013

Mission #11, Day 2--Ava Crowder of Justified


For Day 2 of Mission Week I chose to be inspired by Ava Crowder of the television show Justified on Fox.


Patrick and I got into this show a few months back.  Basically it is about a U.S. Marshall, Raylan Givens, cracking cases in his homestate of Tennessee.

Ava is a widow and a bad ass.  She actually killed her abusive husband with a shotgun.  She goes on in the show to marry her deceased husband's brother, Boyd.  

Ava takes no shit.  She gets shot and lives.  She shoots when necessary and she is great under pressure.  It also helps that she has that sweet southern belle thing goin' on too.

Ava's style is simple and understated, but also romantic and sexy.  She rocks the sundresses but almost always has her trusty denim jacket with her.

So I chose a country approach to this inspiration by donning my fairly recently thrifted chambray shirtdress and minimal accessories.

And luck would have it that I discovered the perfect country-esque photo location at a nearby dog park to where I work, complete with wood fence.

Perhaps not exactly the bad assery that is Ava Crowder, but I'll take it.  It was a good show but I personally don't like guns.  So chambray will have to do.

Chambray Shirt Dress-thrifted; Cognac Wide Belt-gifted by Lynne; Cognac Knotted Peep Toe Booties-Charlotte Russe; Beaded Bracelets-Kohl's; Sunnies-Target

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