Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finding the words

I have tried so many times to write this post... only to delete it all when I am done typing. The picture I chose here, out of the hundreds I took, sums up a good part. The resort we stayed at was beautiful. The weather couldn't have been more perfect... gorgeous sunsets every single night. We did amazing fun, cool things every day. It was truly the trip of a life time, the adventure of a lifetime for all 9 of us. It couldn't have been better timing either, with Pipo having a tough winter, and finally reaching an age where he really 'gets' it, he knows this kidney stuff is going to be a lifelong battle. With Kaleigh heading off to school in the fall too, this was a window of opportunity for all 9 of us to have a true family vacation.

We are incredibly thankful for everything Make a Wish did in setting this trip up. Every little detail was accounted for. We had to think about absolutely nothing for the week... it was pure heaven. From the limo service that picked us up, to the reps at American airlines who treated us like royalty, to the luxurious resort that was beyond our wildest imagination. I don't think any of us could have imagined a better trip.

If that was all of it, it would be an easy post to write. I could detail the incredible meals we had, the white sand beach and the beautiful pool just steps from our cottage door. I could talk about how truly relaxed we were for the first time I can remember. But it was so much more than that... so much more than we ever expected.

For this I need to go back 12 years, to when we first moved to this little town. I remember telling Fitz from our very first days here how much I loved it. How for the first time in my life I felt like I was in a place I truly belonged. The longer we live here, the more I love it. Everyone seems to know eachother, and if you don't know someone, you know someone who does. And whether you know them or not, you would drop everything to help them if needed. It's the most amazing sense of community I have ever experienced. And now I have found it again.

As 'Kathleen', who sent us on our snorkeling trip, put it, "Key West might seem like a big town, but if you get rid of the tourists, it's really a small town. Everyone knows each other, everyone takes care of each other." And take care of us they did. Make a Wish had done an incredible job of setting up a trip of a lifetime for Pipo, but once the locals of Key West heard his story, the trip became magical. After hearing that he hadn't really caught much fish our first trip out, people got together and offered two more chartered trips. On one of those trips Pipo caught a 4 foot barracuda and ended up on the front page of the local paper.

This was the biggest magic of the trip, but all of the little things were equally amazing. It was the guys on the boats, yelling good morning to our kids by name as they ran down the docks in the morning. It was the shopkeepers, smiling and sharing their life stories with us, giving the kids little gifts like pirate coins. It was the waitresses at our favorite diner, hugging all the kids goodbye on our last day. It was the owner of our favorite "conch shack" surprising the kids with deep fried oreos one afternoon after lunch. By the end of the week, we felt a part of the place. We had truly been embraced and accepted into this small town. We can't wait to go back someday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pictures from our travel day

Had a hard time uploading the other day, so here are the pictures from Sunday, when we arrived in Key West.... PICTURES

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 1

Still having a hard time uploading here, but here is a sideshow of Day 1 in Key west. Check out the pictures here!

Living in a dream

I don't even know where to begin here. This place is like nothing I could even have dreamed of, and to be here, all nine of us, without a worry in the world... Fitz and I looked at last night and agreed, "we could go home tomorrow, and this still would have been the trip of a lifetime."

Our whole day was incredible, despite the fact that it was mostly spent traveling. From the time the limo service picked us up at 8am, until we were escorted onto this private island... we have been treated like royalty. Our favorite person by far though, was Brian from American airlines. He greeted us as we walked into Logan, and made sure our every need was met. He had already checked us in, took care of our luggage, and then escorted us to the Admirals Club, where he spoiled our kids (especially Pipo) rotten. We had a private board room with a DVD playing on a huge flatscreen, fresh juice and muffins, and he kept bring cups full of candy for the kids to pack in their backpacks. He led us out onto the plane early so the kids could meet the captain in the cockpit, and gave each of the kids wings. When we arrived in Miami, and were looking around trying to find our next gate, Emma looked at me and said "Is Brian only in the Boston airport?" I laughed and said "Yes, there is no Brian here." She looked so sad and said "I miss Brian."

But the real pampering is on this island. It doesn't even seem real. Sunset Key is truly the most tranquil setting you could ever believe. Our guest cottage looks out at the pool. I am having a hard time uploading pictures, so there are not nearly as many as I'd like, but the first shot here is from the pool, looking at our cottage. Yes, that two story building directly behind the gorgeous pool is our home for the week. I keep thinking this is a dream... this must be somebody else's life.

I woke up early this morning and couldn't sleep, so here I sit on the beach trying to get these pictures up. I will try again tonight, and maybe put a slideshow together. But even the pictures won't do it justice. You won't be able to smell the seabreeze, or the tropical flowers every where. You won't hear the excitement when Tommy sees a lizard on our front porch, or Pipo spots a 5 foot Tarpon (really!) swimming under the resort dock. You won't taste the amazing smoothies the girls order to sit by the pool with. You won't hear the utter tranquility... the silence, the water, the birds. You won't feel the complete relaxation that two stressed out parents have been needing for a good number of years. So for now, look at these couple of pictures and try to imagine... and even then, it might not be close.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pulling close

Two days ago, Fitz called me with some horrific news. An old student of his... just 18 years old, took his life. This was a beautiful boy, and that is truly an understatement. He was smart, athletic, popular, but so much more than that... kind, and polite, and a role-model for the younger students at Fitz's school. Most people will never know the demons he was battling, and the many, many kids who were affected by this are utterly devastated. I know Fitz and I have had quite a few 'what could we have done' conversations. We both loved this kid, but did we ever truly reach out? I know we are past the why's and what if's, but it's hard to push those thoughts from your head.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Pipo's Make a Wish trip, and suddenly this trip has taken on a whole new meaning. We have never taken a trip like this, and I am not sure we ever would have. We are headed down to Key West, and Pipo is going fishing... his big wish. The kids are beyond excited, and have been counting the days. Fitz and I are both at a point where this break is much, much needed. But at the moment, I am not thinking vacation. I am thinking of pulling close. The last two days I have been looking at each of my 7 kids hard. Wondering if they know how fiercely we love them, how there is nothing that could happen in their lives that would make us turn away from them.

It's interesting to have an older adoptive child, when you have several biological children. With Pipo, teaching him love and trust was such a conscious thing... something we worked on constantly, and still do. In the beginning, he questioned that love daily. He still does occasionally, but for the most part, I am pretty confident that we have shown him he is ours heart and soul. Even at the worst of times, even when he lashed out and fought, we pulled him close and told him he is our son, we love him, we will hold on to him no matter what.

You raise your kids doing all the little things for them day in and day out, and assume they know. You think they know that making a lunch, rushing to catch their soccer game, picking up that last item at the store they need for the project tomorrow... you think they know that this is love. That your world revolves around them, and there is nothing you wouldn't do to make them happy or take away any pain they have. But do they really know?

Tomorrow we leave for 6 days of pure family time. I want to pull all seven kids close, and make sure they know. I want to be their safety net, I want them to know we are always here to fall back on, we will always be here to pick them up.

We will try, we will do our best, but there is a piece of me that thinks about this beautiful boy gone from our lives, and I wonder... can we ever know? I don't think we can, but we can pull close, hold on, and hope that it is enough.