Friday, December 26, 2008

Vacation entertainment

We have been fully enjoying winter break here in Fitzville, especially with the daily entertainment provided by our cast of characters.

I wasn't sure who to deem the most insane with this one... Fitz for snowblowing a 15 foot mountain of snow in our backyard...

Or Charlie for deciding to snowboard off it... Even with the melting the past couple of days, it was awfully high and steep.

And speaking of Charlie, we are all very aware of Charlie's obsession interest in Australia... he is planning to move there when he is 18. So his list for Santa this year didn't surprise us... same country, different theme. Last year was the outback, this year it's Rugby, Australia World Cup style.

And last but not least, this is that you get when you ask the youngest member of Fitzville to set the table...  (and yes, that is Charlie in the background gearing up for yet another cartwheel, maybe off the dining room table this time.) 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Do we know it's Christmas?

I have always liked the song "Do They Know it's Christmas", but for some reason it always put me a little on edge as well. I guess I had always thought that was the intention of the song... to make us think, to make us feel a little guilty for all our excesses here in the States. But yesterday, as I drove to the mall to finish up my shopping, I sat and listened to the song again. I realized exactly what it is that has bothered me all along. It's that one line... the title of the song. "Do they know it's Christmas?"

I get the idea of the song. It was a wonderful project and an incredibly successful fundraiser for a worthy cause. But how presumptuous of anyone to question whether someone knows it's Christmas just because they live in a third world country. How sad it is that we have all come to believe that we "know" Christmas because of our trees and parties and eggnog and our expensive gifts. 

Pipo arrived just a week before Christmas 3 years ago, and I know it was overwhelming for him. With the language barrier back then, it was impossible for him to tell us exactly what he was feeling, but I would love to have gotten inside his head. I am pretty sure he thought we were all nuts with the tree inside our house, and lights hanging on the outside, and the fat guy in the red suit everywhere. But the one thing he definitely knew, and knew with a faith that humbled me, was that Christmas was the birthday of Jesus.  

In the 3 years since, that faith has come through many times. This is a boy who has lived the life of all those people 'Bandaid' was trying to save back in the 80's. He has seen the devastation of Aids firsthand, he has gone without meals, he has gone without water. But he never was without faith, without God.  He had never seen a Christmas tree, or tasted eggnog, but you can bet he knew what Christmas was about, and without any English at all, he let us know that he knew.

As I sat in traffic yesterday, I wondered what someone from a third world country would be thinking if they had a glimpse of America these last few days. They would see the haggard people, standing in long lines, bleary eyed and sucking down luke warm coffee while trying to buy that last minute gift. And I am pretty sure I know what they would be thinking... they would look at us Americans and think "Do they know it's Christmas?"

Saturday, December 20, 2008


A foot of snow out there, and it's still coming down hard this morning. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... finally. 

The kids were outside pretty much all afternoon, and then at a snowfort building party at a friend's last night. We need to build an addition to put wet snowthings to dry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3 years tonight

Tonight we celebrated Pipo's 3 year anniversary.  It's amazing to me how quickly it's gone by, and how much he has grown and changed in 3 years. That first night, Fitz had to carry him upstairs to bed, because he was to weak to climb the stairs. This Friday, he will compete in his first wrestling match. (Well... first 'real' one, on a team... as opposed to the frequent matches in our basement between brothers!) It's hard to believe this strong, confident boy was that same weak, sick little thing that came into our lives 3 years ago.

Pipo requested Korean food tonight, so Fitz very happily took him out while we made a cake for him.

Good thing he was full of korean food... he decided to share the cake with us!
This last shot is just because. I can't believe how old he is looking.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gotta love this kid

I was out with just Tommy today for an audiology exam. It was a long test, and he was very patient, so on the way out I bought him a pack of gum. Driving home in dark van, I reached my hand back and asked if I could have some. "Sure," he replied sweetly, as I felt a wet glob being smeared across my fingers, "you can have half of mine!"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas card 2008

So the cards have been sent, and the feedback is starting to roll in... this year's card is a hit.  I had posted earlier that I was feeling under pressure this year to come up with a good one.  The new header picture is the front of our card. It was one of my easiest pictures... no worrying about red eye, or people blinking, or even everyone looking at the camera and smiling. They were a bit sillier doing this shoot, but it just made it that much more fun...which led to the inside picture...

Peace Out!

Friday, December 5, 2008

He's 6

It's hard for me to believe that this...

Is now this...

You honestly couldn't ask for a sweeter kid. This morning, Charlie came downstairs and said "Happy Birthday Tommy!" Tommy very sweetly replied "happy birthday to you too."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cartwheel Boy

I have mentioned before that Charlie puts the capital H in adHd. He has always taken every physical outlet to a whole new extreme. His 'thing' for the past few months has been cartwheels. He does cartwheels everywhere. Cartwheels in the hallway, in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, in the middle of a soccer game... I will even throw in some pictures of Charlie doing cartwheels in the kitchen. Recently, Fitz and I met with a psychologist who is doing some testing on Charlie. She asked about his activity level, and his impulsivity. We mentioned the cartwheels to her. Later that afternoon, I stopped by her office to drop off some paperwork. I had 4 of the kids with me, Charlie included. Yep... right in the waiting area, as I am speaking with the psychologist... a cartwheel. At least it was a good example for her.

But lately, the cartwheels seem to have taken a new toll. I bought Charlie some new sneakers recently. By recently, I mean a week and a half ago. The other day I noticed some stitching coming undone. These were good New Balance sneakers, so I wasn't happy to see them falling apart after just a week and a half. So the next day I brought Charlie and his new shoes down to the shoestore. The very nice shoe man, who has been working at our small town store for decades, looked at the shoes and told me that Charlie has set a new record. If it was just the stitching coming undone, we could call it a defect. But this boy had worn much of the tread off of the shoes in several different places. In the words of the shoe guy "It's like he's some kind of machine!"

Laugh if you want... you are not the one buying shoes for this kid.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's that time again!

It's time again for the annual Christmas picture. With Fitz and I both coming from big families, there are many, many aunts and uncles that expect this picture each year. Every year I plan a day of torture picture taking, and get the kids dressed in their matching outfits. They all whine and complain smile and hug, and just make it such a ridiculously difficult wonderful, easy job for me!

But seriously, we've got some good shots over the years... The last two Christmas cards having all 7 kids together.

So at my Mom's recent party, all my aunts and uncles were asking about this years card. I feel like I have upped the anti, and am under pressure this year to come up with something good. So Monday night, with some last minute scurrying to get things together, we did it. And I wish I had a video camera going at the same time. I don't think there is anything more comical than trying to get 7 kids organized for a picture. It's like trying to lasso a herd of cats. And with one of those cats being Charlie, it makes it that much more interesting. Honestly, out of about 30-40 pictures last year, I think I got 2 or 3 shots where Charlie was standing relatively still and looking in the general direction of the camera.  I am glad we can all laugh during and after the process, because if not, we would all (me) go insane.

So now you will just have to wait till the card shows up in your mailbox.  And when it does... please think of me... of me and my sanity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Life is good

If there is anything that we have gotten out of the last few weeks, it is a reminder of how precious life is. How we need sit back every so often and appreciate every little thing we are given. This past Sunday we celebrated my mother's 70th birthday here. It was an amazing day, with a houseful of friends and relatives, many of whom I hadn't seen in years. My mom is one of 10, and many of my aunts and uncles live a good distance away, and don't travel as much these days. So many of them hadn't seen my kids since they were babies... had never even met Pipo. There is nothing to remind you of your own blessings like seeing your children through other people's eyes... especially someone older.

Some very dear old friends of my parents sent us a beautiful note today thanking us for inviting them to the party. They gave us one of the highest compliments I think I could ever receive... that we have created a "real home" here. It reminded me how silly it is that I stressed about the matching hand towel in the bathroom, and what color the tablecloth was. The things people noticed was the warm open environment they felt coming into the house. They didn't notice the cobwebs in the corner, or the dust on some of the picture frames... they noticed Kaleigh playing music with an older cousin she had never met. They noticed Charlie telling stories to his namesake, my Uncle Charlie.  They noticed my kids and my brothers kids racing around the backyard after a soccer ball.

We are so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing family... and not just the people in our house... the uncles and aunts that drive great distances, my brothers that came and laughed and talked about old memories with cousins, my parents, celebrating another big milestone.
Yesterday I had dentist appointments for all 7 kids. For some, that might sound like some type of torture, but lately with our ever growing schedules as the kids get older, it's so rare to have all 7 of them together. I sat in the waiting room looking around at all of them talking and laughing, and I thought about this past weekend. I thought about family, and it's importance, and I fully appreciated that stolen time in the dentists waiting room. I could only be so lucky as to celebrate my own 70th someday, and have my children around me talking, laughing and remembering old times... even if it's old times in the dentists office!

(This above picture is random... just a much needed reminder of summer on this 30 degree day!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008


How do you say goodbye to someone you thought would be around forever?
How do you explain to your children that that person is gone?
How do you get beyond all the 'whys' and 'what fors'?
How do you manage to start life again when your family is one person less than it was yesterday?

Last night Fitz and I stood by and watched his brother say goodbye to his best friend, soulmate, wife of over two decades. We watched as our three nieces said goodbye to their mother. We stood and watched a heartwrenching beauty unfold... a scene so powerful and moving and horrifically sad and beautifully spiritual all at the same time.

Talking to all the kids was as expected, they each took it in very different ways. But little Emma, curled up on Fitz's lap said it best of all... "How cool... Aunt Karen is my Godmother, and now she's going to get to see God!"

Yes, Emma, Yes. And this is how we go on, this is how we say goodbye... by having Faith in things beyond us. By knowing deep in our hearts that there is something more, something even better, something beyond the pain and suffering.

Yesterday, after I had gotten the call from Fitz that it would be very soon, and we should come at once, I turned on the radio in the car to try and calm myself down. The song playing as I turned it on was "Carolina in my Mind" by James Taylor. Karen was a huge James Taylor fan, and I couldn't stop the tears as I listed to the words...

Karen she's a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shinin'
Watch her watch the mornin' come
A silver tear appearing now
I'm cryin' ain't I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

There ain't no doubt it no ones mind
That loves the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe the sky's on fire,
I'm dyin' ain't I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

She was amazing in every way possible... as a mother, a friend, a sister in law, a daughter...
She is a shining silver sun now, I have no doubt of that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Random Photo

I had said I was going to be better with my camera... and I have. I just haven't been better with posting pictures.

Conversation between brothers

Friday, October 31, 2008

My new Haitian daughter....

Pipo's Halloween costume... this was all his idea!

And I just had to get a close up of his hair... I was very proud of it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Helping Misha

Many nights, I find myself browsing the various adoption blogs around the internet. I have connected with some great people this way, and have found some great resources as well. Every once in a while I will stumble upon a story that really touches my heart. Misha's story is one of them. Maybe because he such a beautiful kid, maybe because the rare condition he is afflicted with is the same as our neighbor and very good friend, or maybe because this family's story is so similar to our own. In whatever way it touched me... it touched me deeply, and I want to help. I desperately want to help in any way I can. Fitz and I will be spreading the word in our area, and finding sources of fundraising. I know more people read this blog than actually comment, so if you are reading now, I ask you a simple favor... visit Misha's blog... take a look, see if you can help, and spread the word.

I know when we were bringing Pipo home, we had no idea what we were getting into. 6 kids already, living on a teacher's salary, we were not in a position financially to bring home an older child with serious medical issues. But with every wall we hit, we were blessed. Over and over, family, friends, and even complete strangers reached out their hands and hearts to help a little boy in a desperate situation. I look at Pipo now... he is absolutely thriving. I can't even think about where he would be if it weren't for the kindness of all of those people. The reality is, he wouldn't be here. His doctor in Haiti told us he wouldn't make it much longer. I am so incredibly thankful that we were told about him when we were, and that so many people were there to support us. I can't imagine life without this boy. He is heart and soul part of our family, and it's hard to remember what life was like without him.

Please consider helping make Misha a part of his new family. Help save him from a fate he doesn't deserve. Take a look at their story, and pass the word.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another phone line?

I am pretty sure we will need another one in a few years...

My 8 year old Fabio

Another phone line?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Politics and money

I rarely talk about politics. Never here on this blog, but it's rare for me to get into a political discussion anywhere. My brain shuts off and I look for a quick escape if I see that is where a discussion is heading. But I am going to break from my usual habits to just discuss one thing.

Recently, we received an invitation to a fundraiser for someone running for State Representative. Now, I have nothing against this candidate, and a dinner at a local restaurant sounds fun, and a good way to raise some funds. But it had me thinking about the bigger picture. During this presidential election I have been listening more to the news about the money involved in financing campaigns. It's always made me sick to hear the size of the figures mentioned, but this time around it is hitting me harder. Maybe it's our own personal financial strain, maybe it's reading about Pipo's home village being hit so hard with the recent hurricanes, or maybe it's just the huge downward spiral our economy is in. Whatever the reason, hearing the amount of money being shoveled into all these campaign funds is making me want to vomit lately.

I think maybe it started back in February when the Clinton/Obama race was heating up, and Hillary loaned her own campaign 5 million dollars. I listened to that on the radio, and my head started spinning. With rising oil costs, how many families here in America were struggling to heat there homes? How many families didn't even have homes? How many were struggling to feed their families? That 5 million sure could have gone far.

Clinton wasn't the only one though... all the presidential candidates were racking up huge numbers. It's estimated that this years election will cost about 5.3 billion dollars. Think about that... 5.3 billion dollars. How many 3rd world countries could be helped with that? How many hungry people fed? How many economies helped towards stabilization?

For just once, I would like to see a candidate that wasn't rolling in money. An average Joe kinda guy... someone who works and struggles and lives life the way most of us do, just trying to get by. And I would like to see that candidate run a money-free campaign. Just picture it... someone just plainly telling us how they would like to help our country. How they would like to make a difference without racking up those big numbers. Someone who would just walk into small town public schools, town halls, and stand right outside on our sidewalks saying "Vote for me... you don't have to pay for it." With the technology of today, especially the internet, it wouldn't be hard to run a free campaign. Post some Youtube videos of why you should be president, start an email campaign, blog about your beliefs... I'll vote for you.

Anyone who would take public spending that seriously would easily get my vote... anyone with me on this?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catching up

Okay, so I did go out with my camera, we did play, but life caught up to us again, and I have hardly had time to upload pictures. Here we go...

Emma going off the bike ramp

Tommy, doing some homework. This boy loves kindergarten!

Charlie reading... something he can't get enough of lately! So cool to see him sitting still for once in his life!

I have more, but for some reason Blogger keeps flipping them sideways when I post them. I keep trying to fix them, but I am out of energy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

First of a few

Tonight is the annual dinner for the Saint Boniface Foundation. This is the organization responsible for our becoming parents for the 7th time. Not only did we find out about Pipo through a good friend who is now their programming director, but the Saint Boniface hospital, and there wonderful doctors, are what kept Pipo going until we could get him here. Pipo's specialist here in Boston is continually commenting on how well he is doing, and how amazing it is that they were able to keep him going all that time in Haiti considering their limited resources. We are forever thankful for the good care that he recieved from Saint Boniface.

Pipo was very excited to get dressed up for this dinner tonight. He looks forward to it every year. So many people that work in Haiti attend each year, and it is so nice to hear stories about our son when he was small. It's so great for the people there to see a success story too. All of these people knew Pipo when he was very sick, so it is incredible for them to se him happy, healthy and thriving.

And I must say... he is an incredibly good looking kid! (Not that I am a biased mom or anything!

Life in chaosville

In one of those funny coincidences that life likes to throw at us all, the same weekend that my little niece had a burst appendix, I got a call from the school system. A kindergarten teacher had been rushed to the hospital with a burst appendix as well.

Both patients are home now, and recovering well. I, on the other hand, was thrown straight into the fire of full time teaching again. And I can tell you... I wouldn't recommend teaching kindergarten full time while raising 7 kids and trying to run a house. I'm not sure my family would recommend it either. Not unless substitutes were paid enough to hire a housekeeper... and a cook... and maybe a nanny. But alas, even regular teachers don't get paid enough for that, so it's just me, trying to keep all those balls in the air. With some help from a phenomenal best friend who has picked up the slack (and he cooks too!).

Honestly, I love being back in the classroom, and it's nice to be in one place, where I have gotten to know the kids well, and am able to really come up with my own lesson plans. But the laundry is still there to greet me each night, along with 7 hungry kids, and a house that needs cleaning. Soccer practice, band, chorus, CCD and 4-h are still going, and people need rides to and from. And grocery shopping... it's a never ending cycle. I swear, while we are all out of the house each day, gremlins must come in and eat, because we can't seem to keep food in the house.

So sadly, something's got to give. And it seems to be blogging. I am looking at my camera sitting here by the computer gathering dust, and realizing at the very least that I should try to take pictures. It's a beautiful fall day, and the laundry pile can wait, dinner can be a bit later tonight... the kids need someone to play with, and someone has to be there to remember these moments. So I am holding myself accountable here in print. I am off to play, off to take pictures, and I will make myself post them at some time in the near future.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shout out and prayers

This is Tommy with my niece and godchild, Tori. This weekend, Tori was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Not a common thing for a 5 year old. She is doing well, recovering from surgery yesterday, and waiting and watching for infection. She is a spitfire of a kid who holds her own with her 2 older siblings, so I have no doubt that she will be up and about in no time. But it's no fun to be cooped up in a hospital when you are just in kindergarten!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Okay then...

I've been called fairly regularly to sub the last 2 weeks, and it's something brand new everyday. Part of the fun of it for me is having a whole new set of kids each day, sometimes whole new age groups.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in one of the kindergarten classes. One small girl sitting in the front row during story time was frantically waving her hand. When I finally called on her, she held her hand out to me and said "Mrs. Fitz, I picked some boogers out of my nose... can I go throw them away?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Childhood memories

There are childhood memories, and then there are childhood memories. What stands out most prominently from my own childhood, are not just the cool moments, but the people involved in them. Yes there were good friends, cool teachers... but every once in a while, there would me some one that stood out in a different way. In my childhood, that was the mailman and the milkman. Two people in everyday jobs, that could have just gone about there work and never made an impact. But they didn't. They stepped out of their box, and made memories for myself and the other kids in our neighborhood that define what childhood should be.

Our mailman always came by late afternoon, after school was out. Inevitably there would be a neighborhood game in progress, usually being played in the road. When a car came, (which was rare before 6pm when all the Dads came home) we would all yell "CAR" and move the street hockey nets, stickball bases or whatever was out in the road with us. Almost every afternoon, our mailman would take a short break, drop his bag on the nearest lawn, and jump into our game for a moment. We all loved it. No matter whose team he jumped into, we would all scream and cheer as he grabbed the whiffle ball bat, or slapped a tennis ball by our goalie.

Our milkman came by late morning, and before I was school aged, I can remember hearing his truck pull into the driveway. I would race outside as he rolled up the back door to his truck. He would let me climb in, and wait as long as I needed to pick out my favorite icecream flavor. Then he would make a big deal as I helped him carry in all the 'very important' things my mom needed... milk, juice, eggs. He made me feel like his most important helper every time.

I am sure part of this was fun for these guys... maybe a much needed break in a somewhat mundane day. But to us kids, this was the world. It was an adult letting us into their world, taking notice of us, letting us know we mattered.

My kids have lucked out in getting just such a guy in their own lives. Our ice cream man is the stuff of childhood fantasies. From the first day this man pulled in front of our house (when not only were my 7 home, but several neighbor kids) he has treated my kids as if they are his own grandkids. No matter if I happen to have a few spare dollars on me that day or not, he makes sure no one leaves empty handed. He almost always slips me a few extra ice cream bars, and says "For you and your husband... you work so hard for your kids!" He never charges for those extras.

This afternoon, my kids heard the truck coming a mile away, and were dancing around the driveway in anticipation. And what a treat it turned out to be. It was his final round of the season, and he was cleaning out stock. He let the kids pick their favorites from what he had left, and then said he had a surprise for them. He handed me a box overflowing with treats.

The kids all thanked him a million times, dancing around with their ice cream covered smiles. But I don't think they realized what they were thanking him for. The ice cream was gone in minutes. The extras in the freezer will probably be gone by tomorrow after sharing with all our Wednesday night friends. But the memory of today will be there forever. As I have reminisced and told my kids about my mailman, and my milkman... I know all these kids will be sharing the story of their ice cream man with their own kids some day. And what a sweet memory for all of us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Starting the rounds

I've been up since 6:30am... no matter that it's a weekend. After taking the last of the soccer gear, (countless pairs of black socks and black shorts) out of the dryer, I begin to fill water bottles. I just dropped Kaleigh off at the highschool to catch the bus to her varsity game, over an hour away. Fitz and I will spend the day tag teaming, getting the rest of the crew to their various games in various towns. I have boy duty today... Charlie's game is about 40 minutes away, and we lucked out... Pipo and E.J.'s game is on the way home, just off the highway. Fitz will be doing TigerCub duty with Tommy and trekking Margaret to the next town over. And so go our Saturdays.

Why do we do it? We both work hard all week, why spend what could be a rare day off shuffling from one field to another, rushing them all from one game to the next? It would be easy to say we love it, but I'll admit there are those mornings we definitely don't. It would be easy to say the kids love it, and I am pretty sure they do. But the reality is, this is one piece of the puzzle of living in a large family.

I want my kids to be able to do anything they want. But the reality is, 7 kids on a teachers salary doesn't put us in that position. And it's not just money... it's time. If 7 kids were doing 7 different activities, there just wouldn't be time enough in the day, or the week to get them all where they need to be. Soccer is such a great sport... it allows them to be with friends, develop skills, stay fit, learn teamwork and determination... but most of all, it's inexpensive and convenient. Many of them practice on the same field. The schedule is organized with families of multiple children in mind... the games are all staggered throughout the day.

And with that thought... I will load up the van. Game on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Emma is loving second grade and learning all kinds of new things. Apparently, the new word she has learned is "Vertical". And in only the way that 7 year old minds can work, this morning she said "I'm going to find everything that's vertical. What's vertical? Telephone poles are vertical!" Do you know how many telephone poles we pass on our ride to school? 8,472 of them. I know, because that is exactly how many times Emma shouted "VERTICAL!" on our way to school this morning.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First day of ?

For 11 years now, I have been a stay at home mom. None of our kids have gone to preschool, so they were home full time until kindergarten. Tommy had his first day of kindergarten last week, and there were no tears, not even a misty eye here. It was exhilarating driving away that morning... knowing I had done a good job, shown all my little chicks their wings and taught them to fly.

Pipo and E.J.'s school had not started yet though, so I was still home with them. Today, the boys went off to school with Fitz and I drove the other 5 off to their respective schools, and after a quick doctor's appointment for Kaleigh, I came home to an empty house. After 11 years, I wondered what emotions would be going through my head at this moment. The strongest one was the most unexpected. Not joy, not exhilaration, not sadness, or wistfulness... it was depression. I sit here now wondering who I am all of a sudden. For all these years I have fully embraced the role of "mom". It was who I was.

Now I am fully aware that I am still a mom, but for 6 hours a day now I need to redefine myself. I will be substitute teaching this year, and I know once I get started, I will feel once more like the teacher I was many years ago. But today I have no role... no purpose. It's a hard feeling to sit here with.

I am beyond excited to see who my kids are turning out to be. No sadness here about days gone by, no more babies. But who am I turning out to be? What have these 11 years given me? Who is going to show me my wings?

People always told me I would probably cry when my youngest went off to school. I always laughed at that, and said "no, not me!" But they were right. I just had no idea why I would be crying. It's not the loss of the babies and toddlers... it's the loss of myself.

* * * * * * * *

And on that note, I am going to pirate a cartoon of my brother's... I only wish it was this easy...

Thanks Jim.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


We had stopped home for just the night last week, before catching our flight for the West Coast. Fitz had cleaned out the refrigerator while we were away,and it was completely empty so we ordered some pizza for dinner. When it arrived (our usual 2 large cheese, one large meatball) I called the kids up to eat. Pipo was absorbed in the television, and did not come up right away. When he did, the meatball pizza, his favorite, was gone. He came to me very unhappy. I was in the middle of sorting clothes and packing for 9, and had no patience for crying over lack of meatballs. There was plenty of cheese pizza left. I sent him outside to Fitz, who was doing schoolwork on his laptop out on the porch. I continued with my packing, and eventually sent all the other kids up to bed. When Fitz came in later, he told me that Pipo had cried outside for over an hour about that meatball pizza.

My initial reaction was impatience and anger. We were doing all this work to take a great trip, and treated the kids to pizza to make things easier, and this is his reaction? Then Fitz told me another part of the story. When we had arrived home that night, Pipo did the first thing he always does... he went and opened the refrigerator. I didn't think much of it at the time. I knew it was empty, and I told the kids that we would be getting pizza. We didn't need to shop because we would be gone for the week.

Now though, I thought about exactly what this meant to our son. Every time he comes home form anywhere, he looks in the refrigerator. Fitz does this too, and I thought it was just a 'guy thing'. But for Pipo, the need to look in that refrigerator is so much greater. He spent so much of his young life hungry, and he needs to know that there is food available. Even 2 and a half years down the road, he still doesn't always trust that the food will be there.

Before bringing Pipo home, I read everything I could find on adopting older children. There has been much written about food issues, and I myself had taught Russian orphans who had food stealing and hoarding issues. We prepared ourselves for this, and when Pipo arrived, we treated him as the 'new baby' in the house, feeding on demand. I cooked a lot of spaghetti and hot dogs those first few months. We talked to the school about it, sent in lots of snacks and assured him that he could take breaks to eat any time he wanted. it definitely worked, and we never saw any of the major food issues that we had read about.

This pizza incident brought home the fact though, that early food deprivation scars run deep. As Pipo has gotten older, more stories about Haiti come out. He has told us that being so sick wasn't always bad, because at least in the hospital he knew he would get food. At home with his grandmother he couldn't always count on that. I look back at those early pictures of him and see the distended belly, and it breaks my heart to realize how malnourished he was. And I know now, that checking the refrigerator is not a habit... it is a deep internal need that all the love and assurance in the world won't erase.

We bring children into our hearts and homes, and at times we think all our love and affection, and the 'things' we can give them will eventually "fix" all those wounds. But some wounds run so very deep. Some will always be with them. We can do our best to ease them, and help them cope with them, but we will never erase them. The past is something that can't be erased.

* * * * * *

On the same note, please join me in praying for Haiti. The damage cause by hurricane Gustav has just made things so much worse for the people there. Roads have been washed out, crops destroyed and people who have suffered hunger most of their lives are now in an even more desperate situation.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Back from beyond

Another month has past without a new post, but not for lack of things to write about. Simply for lack of time to write. All told we ended up spending close to 6 weeks at camp this summer, which the kids couldn't have been happier about. At the end, it was incredibly difficult to leave. How do you say goodbye to a place you have come to call home? How do you say goodbye to people you have lived with, laughed with, cried with for such a stretch of time? How do you say goodbye to those same people who have loved and cared for your children as their own? We are just thankful to know what a huge place Windsor Mountain has become in our hearts and that it will stay a major part of our summers in years to come.

We left camp to spend another wonderful week on Cape Cod with family and friends, and then ended our summer with an enormous bang, flying out to the West Coast for the wedding of Shannon, our oldest niece. All 9 of us on a plane, it was quite an experience. The wedding was amazing, held at a gorgeous vineyard outside of Portland, OR. But after the wedding, we spent a few days in one of the most beautiful places I've seen... Manzanita. What a perfect way to end a perfect summer. All 9 of us together, with bonfires on the beach, long lazy breakfasts, and fulfilling Charlie's life long dream, learning to surf!

I have so much in my head, I will try to be posting more in the near future. But as soon as the plane landed in Logan, we were back to reality... school, soccer and all the scheduling that goes with it. So for now, we will look back at the pictures, and remember the magic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


It's been almost a month since I've posted, almost a month since I have been home. Our 10 days at camp stretched into 2 weeks, which quickly became 3. We drove straight from camp to the Cape for a few days of R&R before we head back to camp this weekend. I have been splitting my time at camp between the HMO (infirmary) and the kitchen. My time in the kitchen is worthy of an entire post of it's own, and when I have the time and energy in the next few days, I'll do just that.

But the busyness of my days has kept me way from my camera, and I haven't been able to capture the pure magic this summer has been for our kids. I haven't been able to capture the way they have been consumed by independence, even little Tommy running off in the morning at the sound of the bell, eager to start a new day. Or the way E.J. has broken out of his shell, volunteering for a 3 day trip to rural Maine to perform original plays at local libraries. Or how Margaret was so determined to improve her swimming that she took swim class every rotation and was able to pass through two levels. Or how Pipo impressed all the boys from Spain with his header goal in the last minutes of the soccer game. Or how Charlie took a short break from playing sports each and every period to sign up for Japanese lessons (or could it have been because of the cute little 8yo Japanese camper?) Or how Emma immersed herself so much into the girls side of camp she was surrounded by teary friends on the day we left.

I am sad I wasn't behind my camera to capture all these moments, but I know in my heart that my trusty old Canon wouldn't have done them justice. Even the most advanced of cameras can't capture the magic we have seen in the last month. We will head back to camp this weekend, and I will try to break free of my duties a bit and snap a few pictures, but the magic that can't be captured will live on in the hearts of all my kids. They are truly having a summer out of childhood fantasies.

Although we haven't seen Kaleigh in almost a month as well, I am sure that she is experiencing just as much if not more of the magic that the rest of us are. We spoke with her on Saturday, and it was clear that this has been the trip of a lifetime for her. As much as we miss her, I am incredibly thankful that she had this opportunity, and we can't wait to see her next week!



There is nothing that magnifies the passage of time

Like that of a youngest child

Every time he holds my hand

I fear it will be the last

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The young boy pulls his hat down lower, self conscious of his newly bandaged face, of the deep scars visible under the brim of his cap. He is spending the day with a family he doesn't know, and he is nervous and shy. The customs, the people, the language in this country are all strange to him. He runs through the park, following the other kids, but not entirely sure why he is there. Eventually, he is encouraged by their laughter, a universal language, and he joins in their antics, climbing the trees and running through the winding paths created by the shrubbery.

Later, at the strange family's house, he sits quietly off to the side, watching the kids play games that are foreign to him. The lady speaks a few words of Kreyol to him, trying her best to remember the native language of one of her own sons. He nods his head quietly, acknowledging her with a soft "Wi." She points to a rack of bikes in the driveway, and the boy shows some interest, but hesitates, shy again. She holds the bike, and he climbs on. He stumbles, catching himself, rights the bike and tries again. She holds the back of the bike and guides him a ways down the street. Slowly, surely, the boy gains his balance, and wobbles along on his own for a few feet. A few more tries, and he is riding on his own... a freedom he has never known before.

Finally, she sees what she has been waiting for. As he rides down the street, even the hat pulled down low on his face can't hide it. His smile begins slowly with just a hint at his lips. By the time he is riding past her, it has blossomed into a wide grin. For only a moment, the fears, the strangeness, even the new scars from his recent surgery are forgotten. He is a little boy, who has just learned to ride his first bike.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Adopting the older child

There have been many blogs lately talking about older child adoption. These moms are speaking from the heart, openly sharing there experiences and putting it out there for other parents to read. This post really struck close to home for me, made me think. The same blogger wrote more posts that are beautiful and heartfelt, and explain how each child is so different... there is no way to prepare completely for any child at any age. The more I read, the more I found... parents adopting at all different ages, all having very different experiences, but in so many ways, similar experiences. Blogs like this one, and this one.

Reading all of this made me think about our own experiences. I have always tried to find a good analogy for adopting the older child, and used to explain it as a game of chess... where you are always thinking three moves ahead. But that doesn't explain it fully. Our 'low' times with Pipo are few and far between these days, and much less severe, but they are still there. We had one such moment over the weekend, and Fitz and I spent half a day trying to understand this little boy, trying to figure out where he was coming from, why he acted the way he did. And suddenly it dawned on me. It is like reading a book.

Have you ever read a long, complicated novel? Harry Potter stands out to me. Often in the Harry Potter series, I found myself flipping back chapters, to remember certain scenes, certain conversations between characters to help me understand what was happening in the current part of the book. Much in the same way, I often find myself doing this with my bio kids. When they react to a situation in a different way than their siblings, I can look back through our share of stored memories and understand where they are coming from. Tommy had so many health issues as a baby and toddler; it makes sense that he is terrified at doctor's appointments. Kaleigh had a horrible experience accidently hitting a beehive in the woods with Fitz. She is terrified of bees. She is so much more dramatic at the sight of a bee than any of the others. I have read each and every one of these kids' chapters... I can flip back and remember, and use that information to help me navigate the present.

With Pipo, we started this book many chapters in. Those chapters are gone, cut out of the book, and I don't have them to look back through. Pipo, arriving at almost 9, was old enough to ask about those chapters. Occasionally, memories will surface and he will share them, but we have never experienced them... there are gaps and pages missing for us. Every time something comes up with him, Fitz and I try desperately to understand, we so desperately want to help him through. We do our best, but sometimes, many times, we are working blindly.

All this being said, it is one of the best 'books' we have ever read. I constantly find myself dreaming about the chapters to come... the ones that haven't even been written yet. It's a challenging book, this older child adoption, but one definitely worth the read.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I interrupt this blog for a very important announcement. Pipo and EJ came brought home the 2nd place trophies for Minor League baseball tonight. Pipo has waited 2.5 long years to earn a "big trophy" like the many big sister Kaleigh has. He was not going to let go of that thing. He even managed to ride his bike home from the park while carrying it!

Summer has begun

Our first trip to the Cape is officially past, having left the day after school got out last week. We arrived home early yesterday, and i set about getting all the unpacking, laundry, and small errands done so we can head out again on Friday. Summers over the past few years have developed a fairly consistent routine here. We head out on an adventure, be it the Cape, camp up in New Hampshire or our annual pilgrimage to Vermont. We come home for a day or two in between, to do laundry and repack. So here we are home for our first 'in between' visit.

I have posted before about how much I love this town. Everything about it, from the fantastic schools, to the great neighborhood we live in, to the coolest little downtown with every great type of restaurant you can imagine. Often, when I am running around, toting various Fitzlings to school or soccer practice, or a baseball game, I see something that reminds me how much I love this town. It could be a group of high school boys playing a game of pick up basketball at the old elementary school building, it could be an elderly couple strolling hand in hand towards downtown, it could be neighbors out doing yard work or chatting over their fences or even watching my own crew racing up and down the street with the neighborhood kids on their bikes. I often look around me and think that this is Norman Rockwell in living color.

Yesterday, as I drove through town running all my little errands, I saw all of those scenes pass by. But this time, it didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. The sun was shining, and it was a gorgeous 75 degree summer day, but I was not in a great mood. I wasn't looking around me thinking proudly how this is 'my town... this is where I belong'. In fact, I was feeling very much like I didn't belong.

Suddenly I realized that all my good thoughts revolve around 9 months of the year. 9 months of the year, this is our home, this is where I want to be more than any place in the world, where I want to raise my kids. But these days, those other three months, we don't belong here. We belong on the sandy beaches of Cape Cod. We belong on the cool clear waters of the lake up in New Hampshire. We belong on our old blue bus, traveling down old back roads, laughing and arguing about where we will be next. For 3 months of the year, we belong anywhere but home. And as I drove through town, I realized my foul mood... it was resentment.

These trips home are a necessity though... the taking care of the small details so we can keep on traveling, keep on making our adventures. So I go about my errands, and I push away the resentment. I am thankful for our summers... I am thankful that our lives have brought us to this place, where we can travel about, all 9 of us, having the time of our lives.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My kids, however, feel none of this resentment. They fully enjoy each and every day of their summer freedom, and decided to throw an impromtu backyard carnival... just to add to our normal Wednesday night chaos. Here are a few pictures from last night.

The apple bob...

The sponge toss...

The marble tournament...

Kaleigh's tatoo parlor...

Charlie's new tatoo...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


at 7:05pm, E.J., along with the Fenn School Treble Chorus, will be singing the National Anthem for the Red Sox game at Fenway park. I don't think life could get any better for a 10 year old boy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Recently, I recieved a phone call from a neighborhood mother that two unnamed Fitzlings were teasing a younger boy in the neighborhood. When I asked the two culprits, they both confessed quickly to the crime. They were asked to go immediately to their room to each write two notes of apology, one to the little boy, and one to his mother. They did so without questioning. After they were written and inspected, they rode their bikes down to deliver them. The mother called immediately afterwards, surprised, and thankful that I had handled the situation so quickly, and asked about the use of apology notes.

Apology notes are standard here in Fitzville. They have been written for everything to disrespectfulness to a soccer coach at practice, to forgetting a major assignment for a teacher, to breaking the toy of a sibling. A personal favorite note of mine is saved... stashed away in a folder somewhere. This particular child was left in the care of a grandmother while Fitz and I were away. When we returned, said child was up in their room, and Grandma told us she was writing a note, and would be down soon. When the note was handed over it read "Dere Gramma, I sawwy I thwoed da Kat." It was hard to keep a stern face in that instant, and remind the child that tossing the new kitten in the air was not a good idea. But despite the age and lack of spelling skills... the note was written, the point was made. All of our kids have had to write notes over the years (some more than others) The length and content of the note depend on the age of the child. As they have gotten older, they know that it is not a simple "I'm sorry". They need to reflect on why they are sorry... and how they can make it better.

This has worked well for us in so many ways. It is an immediate consequence, it makes them really think about why what they did was wrong, and helps them understand exactly how their behavior affects other people. And as an added bonus, it boosts writing skills! So many times I question my parenting tactics, especially when dealing with the multiple personalities in this house. (The kids... not mine!) But this idea has worked with each and every one of them. The ones old enough to really reflect on it, have even understood that it makes them feel better after writing the note. Works for me.

(Note:the above photo was only used as an embellishment. It in no way implies that the subject in the photo has done anything wrong. In fact this, child never does anything wrong at all. She is a princess. Ask her.)