Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why is it...?

The other day we were getting ready to go to church, and I played the nagging wife role perfectly. "Are you really wearing that?" and "But your hair... it's, like um... sticking up everywhere!" I had just spent a frantic half hour making sure the kids did not have gaping holes in the knees of their pants, or stains on their shirts.

Fitz laughs whenever I get like this. He tries to convince me that no one will care if Tommy's shirt matches his pants, or if Emma's pigtails are uneven. But I know the truth. Everyone will be watching.

Why is it that when a family (especially a large family) goes out in public, the husband and wife are viewed so differently? If it's the typical chaos, and someone's shoes are on the wrong feet, someone's hair isn't brushed, someone buttoned their shirt wrong... people look at the dad and thing "Oh, that poor, hardworking guy... just trying to support that big family of his." But when they look at the mom, they are thinking "Man, why can't she get her act together? Those poor kids... she has so many of them she can't possibly care for them properly!"

I know society thinks this way. So for now I will keep spit-slicking my husbands hair down on the way to church, no matter how many times he smacks my hand away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Way cool...

Caribbean - July 2008

Fitz and I have talked lately about how thankful we are for what we have... especially these days. Things are always tight, and we scrape by, but we do it with fun and love and purpose. One of the things I am most thankful for is the experiences we have been able to give our kids.

All told, I have had it pretty good my whole life, but if there is one thing I regret, it is the lack of traveling I have done. Fitz has been around the world, and the big joke when he tells his stories is me saying "I've never been anywhere..." He promises me that someday I will be able to venture out of my little New England bubble.

My oldest daughter Kaleigh, however, is fairly well traveled for a 17 year old kid. Last summer, she had the amazing opportunity to spend a month in the Caribbean through the incredibly awesome Summer camp Fitz and I work at... Windsor Mountain International. Today, we officially found out that this summer, Kaleigh will be spending a month in Peru, in a full Spanish immersion program. How cool is that. I fully admit I am living my life vicariously through Kaleigh, and I am incredibly excited for this opportunity for her.

Every summer, Fitz and I must say a hundred times how lucky we are to have camp be such a huge part of our lives. Even before these trips, Kaleigh had such awesome experiences just being part of camp while we worked. And now, all 7 kids are getting so much out of it every summer.

We are just counting down the weeks now... the kids ask me regularly, "how much longer until camp?"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

All in a name...

Okay, time to get back to the lightheartedness...

There is nothing I love better than listening to my kids chatting away after they are supposed to be going to sleep. I just can't get mad when I hear them laughing and joking up there. Tonight, I lingered on the stairs a bit to listen to the 4 boys, all in one bedroom. They were discussing names, and why they had their names. Charlie was retelling what I had once told him... that I didn't care what Fitz called the baby if it was a girl, but if it was a boy, it was definitely Charlie. E.J. told the others that he was going to be Sarah if he was a girl (true), and they all cracked up and said they would call him Sarah now. In the middle of all this, Charlie says, "But what about sauce?" "Huh?" said 3 brothers' voices. Charlie went on... "but what about sauce, I mean why do we call it sauce?"

This had me laughing all the way down the stairs, to tell Fitz, where it reminded us of another story from years back. I was driving a van full of young kids, and they were all discussing animals. I was trying to impress upon them what a brilliant mom they had by classifying animals. I was explaining that a dog is actually a canine, a cat is a feline, but they are both mammals... etc. Suddenly, a small voice in the back pipes up, little Emma asking "Yeah, but what about croutons?"

I still haven't been able to answer that one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Walking the Line

When my blog suddenly got over 500 hits yesterday, I knew something was up. It seems yesterdays post was linked on another blog, and started quite a debate.

While some people understood my anger at the ignorance I witnessed yesterday, many thought I was jumping to conclusions, and being overly sensitive.

I have learned in the past three years that it is a very thin line walk as a parent of a black child. You want to be there to protect them, and to prepare them for the racism they may encounter in life. But you also want to teach them tolerance, acceptance and trust. I certainly don't want Pipo to be expecting people to judge him... and yet I don't want to raise him to be naive either.

It's hard posting things on a blog... so much is left to the interpretation of the reader. There's no good way to convey tone, inflection or attitude. I am sure that the woman yesterday had no idea Emma and Pipo were siblings... I wouldn't expect her to know that. But the tone of her voice, the expression on her face said everything to me when she spoke of the "African American boy."

Even before Pipo arrived, I had seen much ignorance. Having a big family puts us out there, so to speak, and leaves us vulnerable to peoples public (and sometimes very vocal) opinions. But I've learned over the years to listen carefully when people speak... and not just to their words. Two strangers can say the exact same thing to me, and have totally different meanings. When finding out we have 7 kids, I often hear, "Are you going to have more?" Picture these words spoken by someone with open curiosity and a smile on their face. I love talking to people who are genuinely curious as to what its like to raise a crew. Now picture those words spoken with a sneer, and a look of disgust. It's very hard not to read in the implications there... I'm overpopulating the world, I am irresponsible, I am creating tax burdens on those with smaller families, I can't possibly have enough love or attention for that many, and am therefore neglectful.

When we are in public, and Pipo yells "Mom!" to me, I get lots of reactions. I am the first to say that the vast majority of the reactions are positive. But it's the same deal. It's not the words, but how they are said. "He's your son?" with a smile and a curious look can often lead to a cool conversation about adoption. "He's your son?" with a look of disgust makes me wonder what the person is thinking. I actually had one person say straight out to me "do they all have different fathers?"

But I also know this ignorance is the minority, at least from what I have experienced. And even many of the most ignorant comments are from well meaning people. People who have just not been around different types of families, different types of people. (Don't even get me started on the dreadlock comments I have gotten!) But just because it is rare, it doesn't mean I should teach my kids that it is out there. Pipo needs to know, he needs to be aware. By not teaching him this I would be doing him a huge disservice. And so I walk that fine line, and try to teach him to not just hear the words, but the way they are spoken.