Monday, February 26, 2007

Back to school... this and that.

Haven't posted in a bit, mostly due to February break. We had a hectic week filled with sledding, swimming, movies, museums, and anything else I coud find to keep a pack of wild kids busy. But they were back to school this morning, and back to the routine here... well kind of.

Today I started watching the infant son of good friends of ours. I will have him 3 days a week for the rest of the school year. It's been a while since we've had a baby in the house, and I must say, as much as I enjoy it, I also appreciate the fact that he's not here 24 hours a day. I don't miss the constant needs of a baby. I don't miss the middle of the night feeding. And I don't miss the blow-out the sides and up the back diapers. I love the fact that I can say "get in the van" and 7 kids get in the van unassisted. I love that fact that all 7 kids can ride bikes with no training wheels, and we can take off for Saturday morning rides together. I love that we can hang out for 7 hours at a wrestling tournament, and the kids can all entertain themselves and be happy as can be for that long a period of time.

And thinking of all this makes me realize how much my baby has grown up. It has hit me hard lately. My little cling-to-my-side Mama's boy has started to dislodge himself from my leg recently. He has willingly gone off to play with a friend in the witing area of Tae Kwon Do class... without draggin me by the hand with him. He is even sleeping every night up in the big boys room with all his brothers... without once coming down to climb in with us. And today, with a new baby in the house, taking up much of my time and attention, Tommy suddenly morphed himself into a big-brother role, and insisted on getting diapers, holding the bottle and entertaining his new little friend all day. So as much as I miss my little baby... I am loving this big guy who is suddenly strutting around my house.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just got one of those email forwards on how funny the English language is... you know the ones, with the silly sentences like "If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth?"

It is funny when you think about it, but having lived with someone learning English for the past year, I also see the frustrating side. Words with multiple meanings can just be cruel. And reading...written English can be even worse! It's amazing how many sounds the letter "a" can make when you stop to think about it. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the phrase "this is a stupid language!" and how many times I have replied "I is stupid." And I am amazed that after just a little over a year, Philippe speaks so well. Most people we meet are amazed that he has been here such a short time.

Philippe also has the disadvantage of not having been to school before he got here. So he is not simply learning to read in a new language... he is learning to read from scratch. It is very frustrating to him, but he is doing an admirable job, and learning in leaps and bounds.

But recently we came upon some "illiteracy discrimination". We were told he could not make his First Communion until he learned to read. I had no idea that reading was a pre-requisite. Turns out it isn't, and Philippe is in a new class now, doing wonderfully and will make his First Communion this Spring right along with all the other kids who can read.

This whole experience made me sit back and think. We are lucky here in America with our free public education. I spent a good long time discussing this one day with a friend from Namibia. He has only been in the US for a short while, and was amazed at the fact that anyone here can go to school... that in fact it is a law that kids go to school. We take this for granted here. Throughout the world, education is a priveledge, usually for the priveledged. If you want to learn, you need money. This just seems wrong, but again... as an American I have taken this for granted all my life. Because of our ignorance, many Americans have the ignorant viewpoint that an illiterate person must not be an intelligent person. How can you possibly get to adulthood and not learn to read? I look at my son, and I see exactly how. He is one of the most intelligent kids I have met. And yet he can't read. Yet. It's very hard to be 10 years old in America and not reading yet. It's hard not to feel "dumb". It makes me think about adults here who can't read, and how they must feel. And it's wrong.

Our world is so geared around media these days... newspapers, books, computers. It makes it difficult to be illiterate, and it makes it easy for the ingnorant attitudes to persist. One more thing to think about. One more thing to fight.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Speaking of names...

Tommy announced today that we are no longer to call him Tommy... we need to call him Batman. We had a few bouts of tears, when various brothers insisted on calling him Tommy anyway. It's hard to be the youngest in this zoo we call home.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What's in a name?

I was at a class of sorts last night with Philippe, and at the end, the teacher asked if he would like to be called Philippe or Philip. He replied with a big smile, "Whatever you like!" She kept pushing it, and then I asked him "If you could choose, which would you rather?" He still insisted that anyone could call him whatever they liked. I got a little irritated. Not at him, but at the question he was asked. She didn't ask if he would rather his nickname "Pipo", or Philippe... she asked if he would rather Philip... which is not his name. I finally said that, to both of them. I assured him he was being very polite to let her make the choice, but that his name was NOT Philip. I think I got the point across to her.

On the way home, I talked with Philippe about it. I asked him if he knew why I told that lady to call him Philippe. He didn't know. I said "Philippe is the name your mom in Haiti gave you, and it's a beautiful name. I love your name, and I am happy your mom named you Philippe, because now I get to be your mom and have a really cool son named Philippe. You are not Philip. We call you Pipo because that is a cool nickname that also came from Haiti. He smiled at all this and said simply "okay."

But I have been thinking about it all day. I know how hard it has been for him to fit himself into this new life, and I know how hard he must try to 'fit in' all the time. I also know that he will have a lifetime of this, as much as I would like to avoid it. I am happy to see him adapt to American ways, and laugh at what a little American boy he has become. But he will always be Haitian too, and I don't want him to forget that, I want him to be proud of it. It made me angry that this woman would even suggest we call him by an americanized version of his name. It makes me angry to think there will be people throughout his lifetime that will make him want to conform to their standards.

In his 10 years he has been through adjustments many will never go through in a lifetime. But it doesn't change who he is. He is my strong, proud, beautiful son. Another mother, 10 years ago, brought this strong, proud, beautiful boy into the world, and named him Philippe. And I will make sure he remembers that. It will never be "just a name" to me, and I hope he learns that as well. Don't call him Philip... I don't know who Philip is.

Moving on over

I am just moving over here from Typepad, as I could never make my way through the maze my husband created there. Because of this, I wasn't posting regularly, which I hope to do now. To catch up on life in Fitzville...check back at my old blog.