Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In their own time...

None of our kids have gone to preschool. Not that I don't believe it can have it's benefits... it was just a personal preference. I didn't have any worries about socialization in our house, and I wasn't in a hurry for academics. In a way, maybe it's some sort of selfishness on my part. They are going to spend so many years in school, I like having them home with me for those first five years.

So when Margaret started Kindergarten, we soon received a note home from her teacher addressing some concerns. Margaret was 'the only child in the class who hadn't attended preschool' and Margaret 'didn't know all her letters'. Both Fitz and I being teachers, we laughed at the note, and tossed it (bad, bad parents!) We have a house loaded with books, and we read to the kids plenty. We weren't worried about Margaret, we knew she would read when she was ready.

About a month after this note, I was in my room folding laundry and Margaret was sitting on the floor in there with me. She picked up a book that was on the floor and started reading it out loud. The book was The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. I listened to her for a minute, and said "Margaret, that's a really hard book!" She said (with all the sarcasm a 5 year old can muster) "Uh Yeah..." I said "Do you understand it?" and without hesitating, she replied "This guy's really confused about God." Which is a fairly accurate summary of the book.

Nowadays, we are so quick to lump kids together, to streamline education and get everyone at the same level... simply because they are the same age. It can make things more efficient, but it can also hold some kids back, while crushing the confidence of others who might not be there yet. Aside from this incident with a new young teacher, we have been very lucky with all our kids. We love our school system, and have had some amazing teachers over the years, who have encouraged our children at whatever level they may be.

And all this brings us to a ten year old girl, curled up in a rocker, totally absorbed in Fahrenheit 451.

Pipo update

Yesterday was our follow-up with Pipo's nephrologist. He is very encouraged with how quickly Pipo responded to the meds this time. Everything looks great, and it seems we are headed into remission again. The only bummer is that the new immunosuppressant he is on is not going away any time soon. I naively thought it was similar to the last one, and he would be on it for a 3 month round or so, and then hopefully be med free for a while. But this is a drug he will be on for up to a year, or more. The good news is that this will hopefully get him off the prednisone, an keep him in remission prednisone free. It kills me to think what the years of prednisone have done to him, but with this drug, we'll be able to minimize it now, and hopefully he can do a little more catching up in the growing department.

Although if you judge by attitude he is way bigger than most 11yo boys I know!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snapshots of life in a large family

I walk down the walkway away from school, surrounded by small faces. Questions are fired at me faster than I can answer. "What is a hypothesis?" "Where do sycamores grow?" "What does s-o-a-k spell? What does it mean?"

Everyone walks in the door hungry. They are all independent in their own ways. One heats up some of last night's chicken, one makes a jelly sandwich, one asks for crackers, a teenager and her friend make cookies, and is quickly surrounded by siblings, like stray dogs, panting and begging for more.

Three boys are engaged in an all out battle of light sabers, racing through the house, shouting and laughing. One girl is oblivious, curled in a chair engrossed in a book. Another smaller girl is begging her teenaged sister to paint her nails.

Both sides of a dinner table lined with kids. The smallest girl asks to start grace. She begins the Hail Mary, knowing her brother is learning it for his First Communion. The teenager laughs at this with her friend, but passes me a knowing glance... I know her friend has told her she's envious of the fun at our dinnertimes.

A father sits in his recliner, every available inch covered with a child, as he reads from Captains Courageous. One lone child is finishing homework, occasionally shouting out a question, asking for clarification. The smallest child asks for help in finding his favorite pajamas.

A sudden quiet fills the house, as most of the kids are up to bed. It's a palpable silence, magnified by the echoes of shouts and laughter from just moments ago. I grab hold of it, knowing how brief it will be, and thankful for the noise to come in the morning.

Friday, January 25, 2008


As I walked up to the school to pick the younger kids up the other day, I passed a mom pushing a stroller, and holding the leash of a medium sized dog. She was walking this dog right past the "No dogs" sign, and all the while laughing with her friend about getting yelled at by the principal for parking in the fire lane. I left to go pick up E.J. at his school... it was around 4pm, and as I drove past the driveway that says "No entrance between 3:30 and 5:30PM" I watched a car pull right in. I went the way I was directed and pulled into the line of cars waiting for their sons. Another car pulled right past the line and pulled over ahead of it, to get their own child. Stopping at the store later on, I watched a young (20 something?) guy in a pickup truck pull into a 'cars with babies' spot, and hop out, no car seat visible in his truck.

When you're raising kids, it's so hard to teach them all the rules of society, all the 'rights and wrongs'. It makes it so much harder when every day they see people blatantly ignoring the rules. The other day, Pipo saw a "no littering" sign, and asked if the police would really make you pay a fine. I told him they would if they saw him littering, but that even if no one was watching you shouldn't litter. He said "yeah, because I wouldn't want to pay a fine." I stopped and thought about this for a minute. Then I started a discussion with all the kids on why we shouldn't litter... and why we follow rules. We don't follow these rules because we don't want to pay the fine... we follow them because it's the right thing to do. It's not so much that the littering is illegal, it's just plain wrong.

It's so frustrating to try and teach our kids these lessons every day, and every day they see adults just ignoring the signs, ignoring the rules. This parenting stuff... it's an uphill battle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Teeth (or lack thereof)

For a couple of months now, Pipo's top front tooth has been loose, and it has been driving me crazy. He was constantly pulling at it, picking at it, and twisting it. Last night, it finally got to him, and he tied a string around it and yanked it out. He was beyond happy.

At 11, he has really hit the age where he is self conscious about his looks. He likes having his hair done, he asks if his clothes look alright, he is constantly checking the mirror. The prednisone induced puffiness is really getting to him, so the tooth was just one more thing.

What's amazing to me is that at 11, he is just really starting to lose all these teeth. This poor boy will be in high school and losing teeth!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Charlie this morning...

"I had a great night's sleep! On Christmas, I had a really hard time sleeping, because I don't even know what sugarplums look like!"

(How do I keep a straight face with those big sincere eyes looking at me?)

Monday, January 21, 2008

On expressing themselves

Just read this thought provoker over on Heather's blog. Having been reading about, and seeing pictures of her boys for quite some while... they are all boy. Even with pink tutus on... they are all boy. It made me think about my own kids.

With four boys, none of them have similar hair styles. I do the haircutting here, and give them free reign over what they would like done. One likes a conservative military cut, one has dreadlocks, one has hair to his shoulders, and one (as you see in the last post) is loving his new mohawk. The thing is... their personalities are as different as their hair. I couldn't imagine doing anything to stifle that.

I was the youngest child of 3, and the only girl. When I was about 4 years old, my older brothers dressed me up in their hockey equipment as a joke. My mom had been so happy to have a little girl in the house, and to buy little dresses. They dressed me all up, helmet, stick and all, and called my parents in to laugh at how cute and funny I looked. My mom had other plans though, and when I was old enough, had me out on figure skates, with visions of frilly little skater outfits. I would have none of that. I saw my brothers in the next rink, flying around with their friends, clearly having more fun. My parents knew my personality had been there for the get-go, and weren't about to stifle it. 14 years after my brothers dressed me in their equipment, I was dressing myself to play division 1 college hockey.

What would life have been like if my parents tried to mold me into what they thought I should be... if they had forced the figure skates. If having 7 kids has taught me anything, it's that no 2 are alike. They come with ready made personalities from the start. And that what makes things beautiful... even when they dress like this...

Somebody got a haircut...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Under the weather

I am just coming out of a fog of a stomach bug here. Thankfully it wasn't the week long bug that Tommy's was. But life with 7 kids is no picnic with a stomach bug. Unless you have an amazing husband who takes over everything so you can spend several days in bed. And even gives up tickets to the AFC championship game in a record breaking Patriots season, so he can stay home with you... what a guy.

Thankfully, many of the big kids were occupied over the weekend with invites to movies, and birthday parties, and snowboarding. The little guys were just as happy watching movies here and building with legos. But when boredom sets inm they are more than happy to pose for Mom.

A rare, vestless, hatless pic of Charlie ( I convinced him to let me wash them!)

Australia bound...

So the saga continues. He is still wearing the hat and the vest... he has rarely taken them off since Christmas morning. The other big surprise on Christmas morning, was a note in Charlie's stocking saying that Santa's elves could not get a didgeridoo in time, and they would leave one for him in Washington. (This is after the "elves" at guitar center promised santa that it would be here overnight) Sadly, there was no didgeridoo in D.C. either, despite several calls to the 'elves' and several more promises.

Finally last week, a very long package arrived at our front door. It was the long awaited didgeridoo. It arrived with help to the 'elves' from the wonderful Uncle Jim and Aunt Chris. The 'elves' are not on my good list this year but Jim and Chris have certainly upped their status as favorite aunt and uncle with one little boy!

And now we have the luxury of listening to a 7 year old boy trying to learn circular breathing all day long.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


My blogging buddy Jane has blessed me, and I can't think of a nicer person to be blessed by! Thanks Jane!

The idea… it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too. We’re going to see how far the bloggin’ blessings can travel around the world and how many people can be blessed! Recipients of a bloggin’ blessing may upload the above image to their sidebar if they choose to. If you recieve a bloggin’ blessin’ please leave a comment on this thread here so that we can rejoice in just how many blessings have been sent around the world!

I bless...Becky, Kathy, and Renee... all 3 of them inspire me each day with their stories of family and faith.

I will pray for each of these friends and their beautiful families... may God continue to bless them!

and that’s it, nearly…

So, now my three four blessed buddies have to:

a) bless 3 blog buddies each.
b) Include the ‘God Bless you’ image in their post.
c) Explain briefly why they are blessing the people they are blessing.
d) pray/include in the post the prayer for the recipients of the blessing.
e)The recipient/sender of a blessing should type in the com box of this very post that a blessing has been sent to them to keep track of how many blessings are being given.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snow Day...

There is not much better here in Fitzville than a snow day that falls on a Monday, giving us a bonus long weekend. Fitz was equally happy about having the day off as he was about having the day with the kids. After a lazy morning, and a big chili lunch with a pack of neighbor kids here, we herded them all up (neighbor kids included!) and headed to the local hill for some sledding. While the kids were careening down the hill, Fitz and I struck up a conversation with the dad next to us. At one point, this guy laughed and said that he had "lost the draw" with his wife, and got stuck staying home with the kids for the day. Fitz and I smiled, nodded and gave eachother the eye. Neither of us could fathom thinking of spending the day with your kids as "losing the draw". But it's amazing how many times we have heard similar comments from people. Are we really that crazy for liking spending time with our kids?

Pipo is not much for cold, and while the rest of the crew was out in the snow all morning building forts, he was inside building a new lego birthday present. I am amazed at how far he has come, that he will patiently read and follow directions for a project this complex!

And the absolute best part of this snow day... For Christmas this year, Kaleigh gave us a gift card to a local restaurant, with a beautiful note telling us how much she appreciates what we do for all the kids. That in itself was an awesome thing, that she is old enough to be out spending her own money on us, and truly appreciates us. So we decided to take advantage of it tonight, and she had offered to babysit, since the kids would be in bed early anyway for school tomorrow. It was a great night out (Yes, we love spending time with the kids, but mom/dad time once in a while is nice too!), but the nicest part of all was coming home to a spotless house! And I already mentioned the pack of neighbor kids who were here today... the house was not in the best shape when we went out tonight. So this daughter of mine paid for us to have dinner, watched her 6 siblings and got them off to bed, and then cleaned the house while we were out... what did I do to deserve this kid? She is truly an amazing kid.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Pipo!

Pipo turned 11 today... a quiet family celebration of presents after church and dinner out tonight, bringing his best friend Guillo. Next week we have an outing planned with a good friend and neighbor whose birthday is Tuesday. It's amazing looking back over the short time he has been with us. Pipo's first birthday in America was only weeks after arriving. He had only found out about coming here a week before leaving Haiti. Our friend Conor was so afraid of anything going wrong, he didn't want to get his hopes up only to disappoint him. He had never celebrated a birthday, and didn't even know his age. On the way to Visa Appointment, Conor kept quizzing him, to remind him his full name and his age. He did very well with it... so well that when his birthday happened a few weeks later he refused to believe us that he was 9 years old. In his limited English he kept repeating "No... I am Philippe and I am 8 years old! Conor tell me I am 8 years old." It took some convincing, but once he realized that being 9 made him older than Margaret, he jumped right into the whole birthday scene. He was also happy to get his very first bicycle.

Last year was Pipo's first real birthday party. He understood things much better by then, and was counting the days. We had about 10 little boys over and took them down to Warrior's Way for some good fun sword fighting, and then back home for pizza and cake. He was in absolute heaven.

This year it is old hat to him. He was happy but calm this morning, very thankful for his few presents, and incredibly gracious out to dinner and having cake, making sure siblings all got what they wanted too. Once again, I am reminded that we are the ones who received a gift here, having this incredible boy in our lives.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thankful.... again

It's been a long few days. Tommy's little stomach bug didn't get much better, and he ended up in the hospital on IV fluids. By today, he was a new kid, and ready to go home. Our hospital is 5 minutes from our house, and because it is so local, I kept seeing people I knew which was very comforting. A teammate of Kaleigh's was recovering from knee surgery just 2 rooms down. I sat there, thinking about how lucky we are to have a good hospital so close. This summer, when Emma had her stitches, we were down the Cape and had to drive 40 minutes to get to the hospital. I remember being thankful that it wasn't something more serious, and appreciating more than ever how close our hospital here at home is.

As I thought of all this, it made me think of how much time Pipo has spent in the hospital. His village is very fortunate to have a hospital run by the Saint Boniface Foundation. For many people, they are thankful to be able to walk all day to get medical help. Children die regularly from things like the little stomach bug Tommy had. A couple of bags of IV fluids doesn't seem to be a big deal here, but in Haiti it is life-saving. When I think of how serious Pipo's issues are, I am in awe of what the doctors in Haiti were able to do, given their limited resources.

One more time, my son has opened my eyes, humbled me, and made me appreciate every small thing available to me in this country.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sleep... or not.

Tommy has had a little stomach bug the last couple of days. 2 nights in a row he woke up in the middle of the night throwing up. During the day he seemed okay, but very, very tired. So he has been laying on the couch just watching TV. Apparently too much TV. We have him sleeping in our room in case he needs to get up. Last night was the first night he didn't get sick and wake us up. Instead, I woke to a very loud "Let's Go!" in perfect Diego imitation. After I realized he was talking in his sleep, I heard a few more quotes from the show, some giggles, and then he was quiet again. Must have been some dream!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reality check

This is the spice rack in my kitchen, and no those aren't spices. These are Pipo's medications. He doesn't take all of them at once, and when he is in remission he doesn't need any of them. Fitz has suggested more than once that I put them away... just leave out what I need, keep them in a cabinet etc. Each time I have said no... I have a system. But really I need them all there. I need them to be out in the open. I don't want Pipo's disease to be something hidden away. It's the reality in our lives, part of our every day. It's also a good reminder to me to have them all there. A reminder that the disease is still there, even on the good days. A reminder that I can't let my guard down... I need to be on top of things to take care of my son.

Though I haven't talked about it, Pipo went into relapse just before Christmas. He's been back on the full dose of Prednisone and he is visibly puffy. Thankfully it's kicked in, his body is responding, and we'll be able to taper it off now. The down side of that is that now we get to start a new drug. Another immunosuppressant that he hasn't been on yet. Another whole round of new side effects. I look at that spice rack and the reality if all those chemicals in such a little body hits me.

Recently, an acquaintance asked about Pipo's health. I mentioned the relapse and the new meds we would be using. This person immediately asked if I had looked into homeopathic or holistic approaches. I smiled politely and nodded and quickly changed the subject. Inside I was seething. It's not that I am opposed to either of these methods... it's more that this person didn't have a clue about our reality. She feels 'so much better after taking this or that'. Her 'knees don't ache anymore' or 'she just has so much more energy'.

I don't put all these drugs into my son without thinking about it. I spend hours researching drugs that have been prescribed for him. But the reality is these drugs are not 'making him feel better'. These drugs are keeping him alive. FSGS does not have a cure at this time. It eventually leads to renal failure. These drugs are keeping his kidneys functioning, and helping us put off that eventuality. Hopefully we can put it off until there is a cure found. This is the reality we live with.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A different kind of hero

Last night, the boys were all downstairs watching Around the World in 80 Days, with Jackie Chan. I could hear them all down there laughing hysterically, and taking a peek, saw them literally rolling on the floor. A great sight to see with 4 brothers anyway, but it got me thinking.

Jackie Chan has really had an impact on our lives in the last two years, in a funny way. When Pipo arrived, he was hospitalized immediately, and he and I spent a week in there. He knew no English at all, and my Kreyol was just coming along. The one thing that kept us going was the hospitals huge video library. After watching Spiderman 18 times in a row, I knew I had to find something different. I asked Pipo if he liked anything else, and this is when I discovered one of the few things he could tell me with clear pronunciation, that I understood. "Jackie Chan". I quickly ran off to scour the titles, and came back with every Chan movie they had. For the first time, I saw my terrified, sick new son smile. And then laugh. If Mr. Chan was there at that moment I would have kissed him.

Then came the settling in at home. Kids don't need language... they seem to connect wordlessly and play together immediately. But for the long haul it helps to find some common ground. And that is where Jackie Chan came in. Not all of my kids are into the action/adventure/superhero movies, and the few that they've seen they don't like to watch over and over. But when Pipo introduced them to Jackie Chan, they discovered that they all loved him. Especially the boys.

And I will tell you, there is no better joy then seeing all your sons piled together on one couch laughing hysterically. Then laughing even more long after the movie has ended... acting out favorite scenes just to make eachother laugh again. So Mr. Chan... if you are out there, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.