Saturday, April 21, 2012

He's my son

I have spent a decentpasty of this vacation week dealing with various government agencies, and reliving some of the process we went through for Pipo's adoption. Six years later, we are still trying to make him a citizen of this country. But that is a story for another day.

I haven't spoken much on this blog about the technical part of Pipo's adoption. We didn't plan it, we didn't use an agency, we didn't follow the normal process, and because of all this it has been a long and difficult journey. It took almost a year to be granted the medical visa needed to get Pipo here from Haiti. It took a long 6 months to be granted formal guardianship after he arrived. It took a very long 5 years for the adoption to become legal. And who knows how long it will take for my son to finally be recognized as a citizen of the country he lives in now.

Going through this process puts me in a very grumpy mood. I hate the cold brick courthouses, the grouchy, overworked clerks, the dusty old files and paperwork that I need to search through.  I was thinking about all of this as I lay in bed this morning, and wondering why it all puts me in a bad mood. I love Pipo, but this paperwork puts me over the edge.

That's exactly the problem. The paperwork that tells people he is my son. The government officials whose decision it was for him to become my son. The perfect strangers who hold those decisions in their hands. It's not right. Laws and paperwork and formal decrees are not what makes him my son.

He was my son the day I heard his name. He was my son the whole time his picture was on our refrigerator, waiting impatiently for him to arrive. He was my son when he stepped of the plane and into my husband's arms, a scared sick little boy who didn't speak a word of English. He was my son while I sat by his side in the hospital that whole first week he was here having scary test after test performed, and stabilizing his health so he could come home and join his new siblings. He was my son as I watched him build a relationship with each of those new siblings. He was my son when I walked him into school for the first time in his life, holding his hand and reassuring him it would be fine. He was my son during every rage I held him through, letting go little by little of all that anger bottled up inside at the unfairness of everything in his early life.

He is my son now. He is my son every time I take him back to that same hospital for his many, many doctor's appointments. He is my son when I stand behind him for over an hour re-doing his hair. He is my son when I make him do his homework.  He is my son when he runs to hug me after winning a wrestling match. He is my son every time he asks me "what's for dinner?".

I know he had another mother in his early years. And I know with all my heart she is up there somewhere, incredibly proud of the young man he is becoming and giving me the blessing to be his mom now, here on earth. She has the right to give me that blessing. They don't. He's my son.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Large Families and sustainability

Having 7 kids is not the norm these days and it's amazing how 'not being in the norm' opens you up to people's comments and opinions. Over the years I have heard many such comments, but there is one that I have heard on occasion that is the most insulting. Some people are subtle with their wording, but others come right out and say it... "Don't you think it's selfish in this day and age to have so many children?" With such limited resources on this precious Earth, how can we choose to add to that drain, over and over.

But the funny thing is, every single days I see examples that it is just the opposite. It's vacation week here in Fitzville, and that always means extra kids at the house. The other night, some extras were at the dinner table with us. I noticed several times that non-Fitz kids regularly reached out for 2nd and 3rd helpings without thinking twice. I also noticed the occasional horrified look on a Fitz kid's face. Being one of 7, each of my kids have had it drilled into them that you always ask, always make sure there is enough to go around. Though neither Fitz or I was ever the star math student, our kids' math skills are extraordinary. Put any amount of food on the table, and they will instantly know the number of servings available and how those servings can be equally divided.

And it's not just food. Any resource available will be divided in their heads, making sure everyone gets their fair share. It's an amazing skill in this day and age. As much talk as there is today about sustainability, it seems to contradict the current philosophy of our culture... "as long as I get mine." It's amazing to me to look around America and see that while family sizes have decreased over the years, the size of everything else has increased. Sure our family drives gas guzzlers, and sure we been questioned on how 'eco-friendly' our vehicles are. But you can't just look at MPG. How about the PPMPG... or the persons-per-miles-per-gallon? With 9 of us in our gas-guzzling van we don't look so bad compared to the mom with the one baby seat in the big honking SUV. Then there are houses. We live in a smaller sized cape compared to the houses in our area. All four boys share a bedroom. The girls share as well. But drive down most area streets, and you will see 3000 sq ft houses occupied by 3 or 4 people.

Growing up in a large family naturally trains you to be aware of others, to make sure everyone is taken care of. The greatest factor in sustainability is sharing, and what could ever teach you to share more than growing up in a house with 8 other people? Add to that growing up in a large family living on teacher's salaries, and you've trained 7 kids to make do. I don't feel like we are taking from the worlds' supplies, I feel we are adding 7 people to it who will know how to take care of it more than most.

And here are those 7 kids, sharing a birthday cake for Kaleigh, at the brand new kitchen bar made from the recycled beams of a 200 year old house.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Such a long way we've come...

Several years ago, I posted about Pipo starting wrestling. For us, the major reason for wrestling was to teach Pipo how to lose well. His sportsmanship was severely lacking back in those days, and when he showed an interest in wrestling we jumped at the chance. It helped that Fitz is a wrestling coach, and was overjoyed to finally have a son show an interest.

It didn't take long for Pipo to learn to lose with his head held high. And it's a good thing he learned quickly, because his days of losing didn't last too long! Another outcome of the whole venture, was that I turned into an obsessed wrestling mom. I admit it, I love every moment of it. And this year, with all three boys wrestling for their school team, with their Dad as the coach... I am in wrestling heaven.

Yesterday took the cake though. Pipo and Charlie had a middle school tournament. They both did well, coming in 2nd and 4th respectively. But the highlight of the day was during the awards ceremony, when Pipo's name was called for a sportsmanship award. Such a long, long way we've come!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New friends

We'll start with the biggest story of our year. This is a story that needs to be documented for later years, as it is unique in and of itself, but it also reveals so much about the personality of E.J.

Last March, we headed down to DC to visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Chris. As usual, we made a stop at the zoo, one of our favorite places down there. We always laugh at how our kids are just as excited about the petting zoo type animals (goats, sheep, cows, etc.) as they are about the lions and tigers. This visit, they spent quite a bit of time watching the alpacas. Having spent a month in Peru, Kaleigh was quick to relate her experiences.

Once we got back home, Charlie seemed to have the alpacas stuck in his head. In typical Charlie fashion, he started hyper-focusing and spending huge amounts of time researching alpacas on the internet. It wasn't long before he found alpacas on Craigslist. He mentioned this to brother E.J., who had been saving up money to purchase an ipad at the time. E.J. quickly did the math and realized he could purchase a pair of alpacas for the same price as the ipad.

When he first came to me with this idea, my reaction was the expected "Are you crazy?!?! Don't we have enough live beings around here?!?! Who will take care of them? Where will we put them? What will they eat? Where will they go in the summer?" E.J. calmly listened to me rant and rave, listened to all my questions and then gave me all of his logical, practical, so-very-E.J. answers. Then I pulled out my ace-in-the-hole... "What about your ipad." He quickly and seriously replied that he wanted to do this instead. And this is what stopped me. How many 13 year old boys out there would choose 2 alpacas and all the care that comes with them over an ipad. And how long would he be thinking this way. So to the utter bewilderment of all of our family and friends, I said "Okay then."

Before long the boys were out back converting our old shed into a barn complete with a hayloft. They were building fences and planting pasture grass. They were researching Massachusetts alpaca farms, and talking with camp about bringing the alpacas with us for the summer. This was really happening. And last April, they arrived. Spitfire and Melvin. E.J.'s two new best friends.

Each morning now, I watch as my son bundles himself up for the 6am cold, and trudges outside to break up the ice on their water buckets, give them fresh grain, and spread their bedding hay around. He is out there after school, shoveling frozen manure, and cleaning their barn. He never complains. He never procrastinates. And I never once regret saying "Okay".

Coming back...

My husband has been reminding me lately that I have not blogged in over a year. So here I am, trying to remember how to even work this thing. I have a new look, let's see if I can find some new words. So much has changed in a year, and so much has not. Life is still as hectic, crazy and fun as it ever was, but I am determined to find some time to write again.