As a family with three adopted children, we're well acquainted with the notion that one doesn't need to be biologically related to be family. Everyone in this household well knows that it doesn't matter what uterus you came from, if I trip over your shoes one more time so help me god I am going to throw them away.
Because that's family.
Our family first grew in ways we didn't expect with the surprise arrivals of babies number four and five and hasn't stopped growing since. No more babies but lots of Siblings, Cousins, Aunties, Grandparents, Uncles--all biological relatives of our adopted children. Last Sunday evening after a really nice visit with some of this extended family, my oldest daughter said to me, "It's nice how we get all this extra family now." (And she's not even biologically related to any of them. I'm sensing a theme here.)
They've been in our lives for a few years now and I realized there are a bunch of little things that truly make me feel like family when we visit, like:
1. The kids know right where to go to find the toys at both Uncle Pop-Pop* and Great Grandma's homes.
2. We feel comfortable digging around in their refrigerators.
3. We have traditions together--the first year we met Great Grandma, I had a coupon for one of those free photo calendars so I had one made for her, unsure of what else I could give her. She ADORED it. I can't believe I just made her sixth one. She treasures the old ones and saves them every year.
4. Laughing together. Not polite chuckles but honest-to-goodness belly laughs.
5. Being genuinely happy to see one another, being hugged, kissed and flat out told, "You're family. So put your damn shoes away before I trip on them."**
*Hey, unique relationships sometimes result in unique names.
**Okay, they've never admonished me to put my shoes away. But they have told me repeatedly, "You're family now," which fills me with so much joy.