AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Phineas, Tess

It’s The Great Pumpkin!

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to.

Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football…

I got a popcorn ball.  I got a fudge bar.  I got a pack of gum.  I got a rock.  

By the way, whatever happened to the world war I flying ace? Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in his Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol.

You kept me up all night waiting for the great pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle!

Maybe not only a beagle!

–FullPlateMom, who hopes you all find your Great Pumpkin too!

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!

 

Bowen, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Tess

DC–Day One

We’re vacationing in DC.  We came to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture, because when Ally came to DC two summers ago, she missed the opening by 8 short weeks.  We promised her we would go back, and here we are.

We’ll head there tomorrow, but today was all about one of Bowen’s great loves, our military.  Through a very generous Facebook friend, whose husband happens to work in the Pentagon, we scored an AMAZING day.

From there we went to Arlington to visit the Caisson.  

And to see the changing of the guard.  

We ate dinner and then went to Fort Meyer for the Twilight Tattoo.  Oh my gosh, Bowen was in absolute heaven.  

–FullPlateMom, who plans to take her military loving son on the Metro tomorrow, because he loves trains almost as much as he loves the Army.

Bowen, FPD

Have Sport, Will Travel. This Time.

FullPlateDad (FPD) and I have spent a parenting lifetime avoiding club sports, sometimes to the chagrin of our children. AJ, our 14-year-old son from Ghana, is very sad to never have participated in the highest level of soccer achievable. We put him on the mid-level, non-traveling team, on scholarship. When he asked why we wouldn’t apply for the scholarship for a higher level, we told him we didn’t personally agree with the culture of that particular club, it didn’t feel very diverse, and we weren’t going to spend our hard earned dollars traveling all over the Midwest for one child.

Ultimately, he understood. When we do participate in a sport, we try to get multiple kids involved in it. Everyone is on the swim team. Even if they choose not to compete, we have them get in the water for practices so they learn good habits when it comes to exercise. We choose sports where individual times are measured, but there is a team atmosphere. We tell the kids we don’t expect anything of them other than improvement in their own performance.

Ally runs cross country, as does Cam. Ally will never win anything. Sometimes, she is close to last one in from the course. Cam wins quite a bit. He narrowly missed making Varsity his Freshmen year. He did letter in both swimming and track. Ally won’t have a letter.

I am so proud of Ally. I am so proud of Cam. They are both working to their fullest potential.

Then Bowen entered our lives. He loves sports. He loves them the way Cam loves them, the way you love them when you have that innate drive to WIN, and I mean WIN with capital letters. He wants to get out there and blow away they competition.

His predicted adult height is 4 feet tall.

Bowen has Achondroplasia, the most common form of Dwarfism. His head and torso are average-sized, but his arms and legs are short, approximately half the size of other kids his age. As you might imagine, this makes truly competing in any sports very difficult. It makes winning anything nearly impossible.

Swimming is an excellent sport for Bo. It puts very little wear and tear on his joints. He gets to be part of a team, and he has individual times to help him measure his own performance. When he’s participating with average height kids, we make sure he understands that the only win or loss comes with a time drop on his own personal best. He understands and embraces that.

It took Bowen a very long time to even learn to swim. We put our other kids in the water as soon as they got to us, swam year round and most had mastered it within a year or by the time they were 5-years-old. That wasn’t the case for Bo, and largely, that wasn’t his fault. People are taught to swim by people who have been taught to teach average height children to swim. Bowen has to balance his short arms and legs against the weight of his head and torso. He had to learn how to accommodate for that. Accommodations like that can’t really be taught, it just takes time and getting comfortable in the water.

Two summers ago, it began to click. We put him on our summer team, and he made his big swim.

Last year he swam year round, on a summer swim team and over the winter with a club on a scholarship. Our winter club held a Paralympic swim clinic for athletes with disabilities and Bo got to meet a Paralympian.   He got to touch Paralympic gold and it was decided in his mind, that was his goal. So, this summer we took him to a local qualifying event. We had looked at the time standards and thought he stood a good chance of qualifying.

He did.

At the beginning of this week, Bo and FPD traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana for Paralympic Junior Nationals. We traveled 5 hours to get him there. We wouldn’t do that for any other kid in our family. There wasn’t one word about why Bo got this and the others didn’t. There wasn’t one bit of whining.

Instead, we painted the windows on the car to make him feel so special, to let him know that this is what matters, doing your best on that level playing field. In our pajamas, in the wee hours of the morning, the driveway was filled with FullPlateKids waving to the retreating silhouette of a sedan containing one very excited 8-year-old.He brought home some major hardware. Two golds, two silvers, and a broken record. Yes, our Bo broke a record at U.S. Paralympic Junior Nationals in short course swimming.

We couldn’t be more proud of him as an athlete.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to see where his next competition takes us.

 

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

One More Day–Day Thirteen

Today, to take our minds off the fact that we only have one day left before we bid Joe and Isabel farewell, we decided to head to the science museum.  It was one rainy afternoon in Bogotá and the kids were super excited to visit Maloka.

Then we went and ate familiar food.  Cam never complained once, but after two weeks without anything typically American, he was ready for something familiar.  So, we ate Burger King.

We came back to our little Bogotá abode and there was a beautiful cake waiting for us.  We celebrated our last night in Bogotá with our friends at Zuetana.  If you’re looking for a place to stay in Bogotá, Claudia who owns this guest house, is amazing.

I am processing so many emotions about leaving that I don’t even know how to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keyboard, to get them out.  I am leaving my daughter behind.  My fragile, malnourished, daughter.  There just aren’t words.  The bottom line is, I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish we could all just stay in Colombia and be with her until it is time to come home.

Alas, school is calling, literally, for the other kids.  So, tomorrow at 4am, we’ll rise to make the long trek home.

–FullPlateMom, who misses Isabel already.