Saturday, March 29, 2008

Adopting the older child with medical needs

When we first discussed adoption, early in our marriage, older children was not a consideration, and definitely not children with serious medical issues. But our situation with Pipo fell into our laps. Or to be more accurate, came crashing in over our heads! We never really stopped to consider what we were getting into, or how it would affect our lives. That said, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Two years down the line I am amazed at the benefits I have seen of adopting an older child with medical issues. While we were waiting for Pipo to get here, I read everything I could get my hands on about adoption, including the books our social worker gave us. The one big word that kept popping up was ‘attachment’. I knew this was one of the biggest struggles with older children, but I was at least confident in what I had heard about Pipo’s past. He had had a loving family… a healthy start towards attachment. But even so, he was an almost 9 year old kid, being dropped into a foreign country with a bunch of strangers. Who knew if he would trust us, if he would like us, if he would ever begin to love us?

Almost immediately after his arrival, he was hospitalized. He was so sick and weak. I spent the entire week with him, and it was a long stressful event. Everything was new to him. As soon as we were admitted, we had to take an elevator up to the 7th floor. Fitz and I walked him onto it without even thinking. He flipped out. Completely. Screaming, crying, grabbing onto us for dear life. Thus began a week’s worth of elevator trips to different parts of the hospital for the many tests he would go through. And for every trip, I would have to sit on the floor of the elevator and hold him in a bear hug while he cried. Talk about forced trust.

As the week went on, each scary experience would have him turning to me more and more. With his limited English, he learned “Mama” very quickly, and yelled for me as soon as a nurse or doctor came near. I quickly became his strongest supporter, the one person he knew he could turn to. He trusted me.

Not that attachment happened overnight with that hospital stay, but it was a big leap we made there. A big step in the right direction. Once we were home, we settled into a routine of doctors visits and medications. He slowly started to get stronger and healthier. For him, this was a blatant, physical sign of our love for him. He knew he could trust us, knew we loved him because he could visibly see us taking care of him each and every day. In his Sunday school class this year, his teacher asked the kids to write notes thanking someone important in their lives. Pipo wrote a note to me and Fitz, starting right off with “thank you for taking care of me, thank you for giving me my medicine.” To a boy who spent much of his life sick, and in the hospital, this is a huge thing for him. Two people who care enough about him to make sure he gets well.

Even now that he is doing so much better, we have many trips into Boston to the different specialists he sees. Each of those trips averages 3 hours of travel time. 3 hours of one on one with me in a car. I worried that he would tire of these trips, but honestly he loves them. He loves the time alone, and loves the fact that he gets a lunch out with mom. We have so many great conversations on these trips. Some days he is telling me about his favorite TV shows, some days he tells me stories about school. And some days are more serious. He asks me why he is sick, why there is no cure for FSGS, why his mom had to die, why Haiti is so unsafe. I don’t have many answers for him, but together we try to figure them all out. He told me recently he wants to be a policeman, to help people. But he wants to go to Haiti and make things safe for people.

In a house with 7 kids, it could be easy to get lost. These trips to Boston are a guaranteed time for him to be heard, and I treasure them. For anyone considering adopting an older child with medical needs, please consider all these thoughts. It’s a beautiful thing. Our lives have changed because of one little boy. And any worries I had about his kidney disease affecting us… it has been the opposite. As much as I would like to make him well, to erase this sickness, and finally find a cure, FSGS has helped us in a strange way. It has showed him he can trust us, It has showed him we love him, and that we are in this for the long haul. And he’s right… this love is forever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Earlier today, I saw a young kid walking down the street towards our house. Nothing out of the ordinary... except that it's a school day, and school isn't out yet. I was cleaning in the kitchen, and could see him through the front window. As he got close to our house, the van in the driveway blocked my view of him. He didn't reappear on the side right away, which seemed odd... so I looked out there. Suddenly, the young punk starts to sprint past our house, with basketball in hand. Our basketball. I opened the door and yelled, but he was already around the corner.

I noticed the neighbor across the street backing out of her driveway and she pulled up and asked what that was all about. She had seen the boy running, and as he rounded the corner he hopped into a minivan that was parked there, and they drove off. I told her that in 10 years of living here that has never happened. Our front yard is always littered with bikes and toys, and never has anyone ever taken anything. I said if it was more than a beat up basketball, I would call the police, but it wasn't worth it. She drove off to run her errands.

Two minutes later, she comes to my door and tells me that there is a group of young guys playing ball down the street, and the same minivan is parked nearby. At this point, the 'mominator' in me kicks in... no young punk is stealing my kids' ball! I loaded Pipo (home today for a doctors visit) and Tommy into the van and drove down the street. I jumped out and walked right up to the court, asked the kid who had taken it to hand the ball over, and he looked at me like I was crazy. I said (with hands on hips) "Now listen, I saw you take the ball, I saw you get into that minivan, and my neighbor saw you as well. Why don't you just give me the ball back and thank me politely for driving over here instead of calling the police?" The kid still looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about, but his friend smacked him in the head, apologized to me, and gave me the ball. With a smile, I hopped back in the van.

Pipo and Tommy were sitting in there wide eyed. "Mom," Pipo said, "those kids were big!" "Yep," I replied. "And there were four of them!" he exclaimed. "But it was our ball, Pipo." I told him. "They looked scared of you!" he said.

And that was the best lesson of the day. I said "Yep Pipo, it doesn't matter how big you get... Mom is always in charge."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter by the numbers

5 am wake up of kids

7 Easter baskets on the table

24 lbs of turkey

15 lbs of ham

43 people to eat ham and turkey

180 plastic eggs

18 children to find them

6 hours of guests

1 tired little boy

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from Fitzville!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This house...

With the construction going on around here, it makes me stop and think about our house. On yet another trip to Lowes today, I passed one of my favorite houses. It’s a big old Victorian with a wrap around porch a few towns over. It’s on a winding side road, very private with fields and and a big creek stretching behind it. I slow down every time I pass it. I admit it… I suffer from house lust.

I drive by slowly and imagine having enough bedrooms for all our kids. A dining room big enough to seat a huge crowd. The big wrap around porch to spend rainy days lazing on. Open fields and woods for the kids to explore for hours on end. Nooks and crannies everywhere for them to play hide and seek. In my mind, that house is a magical place, a place where everything would be just perfect.

I thought a lot about that house today, as I searched Lowes for more plumbing parts, and thought about it some more on the drive home. Tomorrow is Easter, and we are having a crowd over that seems to grow with every phone call. A house like that would be just perfect for gatherings like that.

As my mind wandered, I began thinking about our own little house, with the small bedrooms filled with bunk beds, the dining room that we all squeeze into on crowded Wednesday spaghetti nights, the little porch Fitz built me, just big enough for a swing. Suddenly, that other house isn’t looking so perfect anymore.

How quiet a house must be with so many bedrooms… could you still sit at the top of the stairs after you put them to bed and listen to the whispers and giggles that continue long after they should be sleeping? A large formal dining room would be lovely, but would it feel the same without kids piled like puppies, elbowing eachother until someone falls off a bench and the rest dissolve into laughter? Big airy front porches are beautiful, but what good is it if there are no neighbors close enough to call out to in the evenings as everyone gets home from work? And children running through fields is a pretty picture, but is is the same as kids running from house to house, gathing more kids for a backyard kickball game?

No… the magic is right where we are. This house is perfect. It has the only feature I could ever ask for, a large, open front door with a welcome mat that calls out to everyone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Home Improvement Bonus

An added benefit to remodeling your bathroom... the box that large showers come in make for a great extra bed for several children!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life in a construction zone

When your husband finally begins work on the bathroom he demolished 2 years ago, you don't complain when he sets up a circular saw in the middle of the living room. You don't even complain when you have to live for several days with only one toilet in the house... the house with 9 people living in it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can they even see?

It is a well known fact that after a while, dogs and their 'people' begin to resemble eachother.

This table..

I remember that day clearly. Years ago, Fitz had broken through the wall between our kitchen and dining room to make one massive space. The space needed a new table. We spent a morning driving around, looking at dining room sets. But nothing seemed to jump out at us. Until we saw "the one". We were at an upscale, funky furniture store, with prices way beyond anything we would be willing to pay. But it was artsy and eclectic, and fun to browse. The table jumped out at both of us. Solid pine, 7 feet long and 4 feet wide, with a built in drawer. It was huge. And it was beautiful. And it was about twice what we had thought of paying for a table. I remember leaving the shop, and sitting in our old truck for a good long while discussing that table. It was too much, not practical, too big. But in the end, we had both fallen in love with that table and went back in to buy it. It cost enough that we knew we wouldn't even be able to buy chairs to go with it. But in the same philosophy that has gotten us through many years of marriage, we figured "it'll all work out somehow."

That table turned out to be one of the best purchase of our marriage. I remember bringing it home, and a friend helping Fitz carry it in. Once in the kitchen, it looked twice as big as it had in the store. For a brief moment, we wondered what we had been thinking. But it was beautiful, and we still loved it.

Those early years, we only had a small handful of kids, and they were just babies. But it was a strong, sturdy table, and just right for toddlers learning to climb. There are pictures somewhere of kids at various ages sitting right in the middle of that table during dinner. Pictures of babies sound asleep on their plates, sitting in their clip on highchairs. Many, many pictures of birthday cakes at that table. Thanksgiving dinners, Easter Brunches, and the buffet set up at our infamous Memorial Day birthday bash.

As the years have gone on, that table has seemed smaller and smaller, but it is still just as sturdy. It has nicks and grooves from Hot Wheels crashes. The top is faded and here and there are hints of old stains from play dough and markers. Wednesday night spaghetti sauce and spilled wine. Each small dent and stain just adds to the history of the table, the history of our family.

As the kids grow, it seems there are always extras at the table these days. But it doesn't matter, we've never yet had a meal where everyone didn't fit. Whether it's just the 9 of us, or there are several friends at the table too, it's always cramped, loud, and incredibly full of love. Kaleigh had a friend over for dinner last night. We barely made it through grace before some milk was spilled. You could hardly hear the person next to you, with everyone talking over eachother, telling the stories of their day, laughing and teasing. Towards the end of the meal, Kaleigh's friend said it was the best dinner he's ever had. I'd like to pat myself on the back for the awesome lemon chicken and roasted potatoes I cooked, or my apple stuffing. But I know that's not it. That table... it's magic.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nice shot...

Emma: Charlie hit me with a ball on purpose!

Charlie: I didn't mean to hit her!

Emma: You yelled "Bullseye!" when it hit me!

***Does anyone have any advice on how to discipline a child when you are laughing so hard you can hardly breathe?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Learning curve

I spoke yesterday of my pride in learning to do Pipo's hair. Honestly, since Pipo's arrival, I have been pushed into learning many things quickly. Within weeks of his arriving, I became fairly conversational in Kreyol. Beyond dreadlocks, I got very good at two stranded twists and even made some attempts at cornrows. I could probably teach a class on nephrotic syndrome and FSGS. I am a pro at managing the meds of a chronically ill kid, and could probably teach ESL at this point as well. But by far, my biggest achievement to date is learning to drive in the city. Anyone who has ever driven in Boston before knows it is absolutely insane.

With all Pipo's specialists, I find myself driving into Boston fairly regularly. And because it's more practical, I find myself driving in during rush hour. Actually... that sentence holds no logic does it? I don't think it's possible to use the word practical when talking about driving in Boston at rush hour. But because I have a limited timeframe of getting in and out between dropping off and picking up kids at school, the only time to fit in a drive to Boston has me driving during the height of the morning commute. I will admit, those first few drives, I was near tears, being overwhelmed with 18 wheelers on each side of me pinching me on the Mass pike. But now I hold my own with the best of them, muscling between the pushy cabdrivers downtown, avoiding the jaywalkers that jump in front of you from nowhere, even navigating the lovely Boston catastrophe we like to call the 'Big Dig'. I have learned that the estimated time of our drive in there is anywhere between 1-2.5 hours. There is no rhyme or reason to the traffic. Sometimes I sit on the Mass pike for an hour or so, sometimes I whip right through... no matter if it is the exact same day of the week, at the exact same time. I've learned to appreciate my big beast of a van, as the rules of the road are that the bigger car gets the right of way. I've learned to let go of my politeness, and yell right back at the smaller cars I cut off.

I am quite proud of my new skills. After almost 40 decades of growing up not so far from this big city, I am finally confident to drive in there. For any of you out of towners looking to learn... here is a great link for you. It's all true, I can vouch for it!


After watching the movie Once, Kaleigh (and me!) have been loving the soundtrack. Falling Slowly won an academy award this year, and I think it's Kaleigh's new favorite song. So she decided to put her little brother to work and work out the song together.

People have often joked that we are the new Partridge Family, especially with the bus and all. But honestly, it is so fun now that the kids are getting old enough to really start playing together!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hair... again

So it's been about 5-6 months since we decided on 'locking' Pipo's hair. Every week or so I have been retwisting, but it has been fuzzy and loose, and sometimes discouraging to me, as I have put so much time into it. But I can finally say it is looking fully locked. If I let it go a little longer, it's staying pretty tight. I am obnoxiously proud every time someone asks who does his hair, and he points to me!