How To

After this post I got emails and comments asking for advice or help (sure!) in doing a Wine to Water event other places around the country. I took a few days to decompress to make sure I had clarity on the night so I’d be better suited to give you tips, or what have you. If you have any other specific questions always feel free to email me ( Would love to help, I’m all about doing whatever we can to make a huge dent in the water crisis.

I need to first say this: if anyone got any impression from my post that I did the whole event on my own, that was my mistake. My first bit of advice for any kind of event is to gather a little team around you. My team consisted of people who did lots of big and little things (some I mentioned, some I did not) to people who did some little things (they were mostly not mentioned-only because the list was too long!). So that’s the first tip. My team consisted of family who I could ask to do all the super shitty boring stuff to really good friends who wouldn’t make me ask but just did and/or offered. There was also a handful of people who are just passionate about water and wanted to make it a really successful event, so those counted too. So that’s number one, gather your team.

Number two was space for us. Last year when Leslie and I sat down to hash out the event we knew what we wanted for space. We didn’t want a hotel or anything that was going to charge us for renting the place and probably for having their food/drink. We wanted to celebrate the local, if you’ll remember. And we both have eclectic tastes. We like things that look like they’ve been through hell and back a little rustic. When we were thinking of empty spaces in the downtown Davenport area I thought of the space we now use. It is owned by my old boss. I asked, and he said we could have it as long as we left it clean. So that was it, space. We wanted cheap and atmosphere, we got them both in spades. This brings me to…

Number three would be take advantage of who you know. My husband works with a printer through his job. Last year I decided to just ask this printer if he would print off our programs for a good rate…he did it for free. I pitched the idea, might have even cried a bit, and he went for it. This year I asked again and he said he was in for as long as I hold the event. I work for the Y, as does most of my in-law family, and so I “used” that connection to reserve tables and chairs free of charge for the event. I asked everyone I knew to bring Christmas trees, tablecloths and white Christmas lights. Oh, and did I mention extension cords? We borrowed mostly everything. Last year I did end up buying some centerpieces from craft stores knowing this would be an annual thing. This year I just used those centerpieces again and voila! We also got 4 dinners donated by one of our favorite local restaurants which ended up bringing in over $2000. If you learn nothing from this post, learn this, don’t be afraid to ask! Most people want to help when they hear what you’re doing, but asking can be scary. Just do it (or have your friends do it for you ;)).

Number four (though I just realized these are probably in no particular order necessarily) would be get the event funded. Overall, the event cost around $1000 to put on. Most of that money is used for the purchase of the local wine (more expensive than say, Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw, but it’s worth it to support a local winery in my mind!). So how I fund the event…I send out an email to my family and friends asking them to become a “Sponsor”, I think is how I phrase it. They get to be that simply by donating $100 towards the cost of the party (they write the check to me). I have friends/family who donate more than that, and Zach and myself add more than that, but that’s how I fund the party. This part, I hate. It’s the worst part, asking for money. But it’s a necessary evil. I wanted every cent that we raised the night of to go towards water, that’s how you do it…get the party paid for. You want to be a host of an event, you have to do the shit work too, and that definitely counts as such.

Other than that, the devil is in the details. That’s the thing about hosting, the details. Most of these details only you will know, they can’t possibly be divided out amongst people. It’s things like making sure the elevator is going to the third floor the night of (I almost forgot that, and only realized it about 4 hours before the event. I was literally calling around town frantically…and then I had to go change my shorts. It was touch and go for awhile). Things also like getting garbage and recycling things from the local center,  calling the fire station and letting them know there might be a call from the 3rd floor space and to not treat it as a prank, there really is someone up there right now! So many things like that. Stuff no one probably notices, but would notice if it weren’t there. Millions of little things to think about, but after you do it once it’s easier the second time, I promise!

Truth be told, I think the first thing you need is a passion for it. Planning the event is not actually a whole lot of fun if I’m being quite honest. But I hate that there is a water crisis. I hate hearing some of the stories my boys tell me that deal directly with water. So it’s all about perspective. It’s so worth it in the end. To see the community give to something like this, it’s all worth it. That’s why I do it, that’s why the people who help me do it. It’s always for the water. If you’re passionate about water (or anything else, really) this can work, I can promise that. Because it’s not about me, it’s never about me. It’s about water and God. God and water. Bringing water to people who don’t have it so they might be able to see God for the very first time as well. Simple equations.

So just do it. And I’m serious about helping in whatever capacity I can from my small little iMac in Iowa. 🙂

Free At Last

He’s free, he’s free! Binyam has no more casts. This is a very big deal, because he’s had them too much already in his very short life.

I need to tell you this. I’m a pretty happy person, very little can get me down. But no sun shines brighter than the one that shines on Binyam. He has carried himself throughout the last months in a way I could never have hoped for. There is a light that shines in this one’s inside that beams to his outside. I mean, seriously, look at him before.

I could tell he was a little nervous. With good reason, obviously, as the last cast removal was pretty intense. Intensity with his daddy.

Mmmk maybe we were all a bit nervous.

Our first sight of those precious, precious feet.

Socks on for the first time in 2 months! And we’re over the moon about it.

Have I mentioned how much I love him? And isn’t it obvious?

When we got home we decided a good soak on his feet was long overdue. We knew this because in the short time it took to get home in the car, there was a good pile of dead skin on his seat. 2 months of that just hanging on him, can you imagine how badly that itched?

Taking the strips off and scrubbing (gently) the layers of dead skin off his tiny little legs.

Binyam wanted a little trip to show aunts Kara and Lindsey and uncle Marcus his “new, little feet”. Dailah took advantage of her nearness to baby Adley and cuddled with her for many, many minutes.

A close up of the cleaner feet and scars. They still turn in a bit but he was fitted today for special shoes. The doctor described them as “tight shoes that look like they’re on the wrong feet”. (Quick 30 Rock reference, “I just learned about ‘air quotes'”). Either way, the doctor seemed quite pleased with the results!

No video yet, he is still walking gingerly on his feet and likes to hold on to his mama and his Dailah’s hands. I’m not one to turn him down.

Stay tuned for the live video coverage on his tremendous beauty and supernatural talents.

Wine to Water Event

I’m actually not even sure how to start this post. I started crying just thinking about the whole thing and then Zach looked at me funny because he’s had one eye on my sanity for the last few weeks.

But the event was last night. And it was amazing. In my opinion, it was actually better than last year in many ways. And more successful in some ways.

In the end though, we raised just a hair over $10,000.

This is amazing to me.


I wasn’t really expecting that because it’s been a bit of a rebuilding season for Water for Christmas. Plus, I never have any real idea what to expect with these kinds of parties.

But it surpassed even my pretty great imagination.

I think one of the things I was happiest about was the different people from last year. There were a lot of people hearing about the water crisis for the first time. The movement is heading east, and the Quad Cities is abuzz with what they heard last night. This is really exciting to me. The more people that hear about it, the more that can be done. It really feels like it’s just beginning a bit in the community I live and work in.

Can I just tell you that God is good? Ok, because He is. When I felt a little overwhelmed or stressed or like maybe, just maybe, I might delve into the wine at noon, He was there. And He constantly reminded me why I was doing this. To bring Glory to Him, to do His job down here. Be the place where heaven and earth collide. And truly, I think anyone who was there last night saw a little bit of heaven in a nearly empty space in Davenport. This community has heart, and it has soul, and despite what a lot of people think about Iowa. We are super cool. And this tiny state, just gave a nation in Africa 2 wells. Which is beyond words cool.

But I know you guys just come for the pictures. So first with the set up. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that to make this space what it is, it takes nothing short of 15 hours of set up on my part and fairly close to that to the people who love me beyond words. Family and friends were setting up with me from about 9am-5pm on Friday. Then some came back on Saturday and set up for another hour or two before the event.

The space is completely bare. No lighting (the only outlets are in the hall), nothing. So to make it have an atmosphere, we bring the atmosphere with us. In this case, by “atmosphere” I mean “almost 50 extension cords”. Thus, me and my favorite little brother extension cord-ing the hell out of the place.

And these two. Well, Leslie set up all the deserts and wine. And gave me emotional support and joy when I needed it. And set up all day Friday. Chrissy was, as she puts it (and properly so) my assistant. She did whatever I asked of her, and more. With a sinus infection. And strep throat. She put the backs on Africas, she set up and tore down and put thousands of pins in the wall. I’ve told you you need a friend like Chrissy and I’ll say it again. She’s the friend I don’t deserve, she’s the friend God knew I needed. gift.

Chrissy also fed the kids. Who sat for hours patiently as their moms ignored them and strung Christmas lights and filled pitchers and laughed and cried. We have some amazing kids, I don’t mind saying it.

I somehow don’t have any pictures of my parents or my sister setting up, probably because they were constantly busy or behind trees or windows or dessert tables but amazing people. So amazing.

I still don’t really have the words for last night. So I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

We auctioned Africas again this year. I think they actually turned out better than last year in many ways. I also decided to auction off other pieces of art this year and was so happy about that decision.

One of my favorites, “When Did You See Thirsty?”

My beloved and me.

Marcus and Lindsey in front of another of my favorites.

Some more Africas. These beautiful backs of heads were actually friends from outside of Chicago. One of them is a fellow Holt Ethiopian adoptive mommy. She brought 3 of her friends to the party, stayed out at camp and was, in general, amazing. I love getting to meet people I had only known through the interwebs.

Oh, here they are again. Talking in front of the merchandise table.

And then here at the end of the night. With the Africa Rebekah won.

Then there was Jess who came all the way from Wisconsin. I was supposed to finally meet her a few weekends ago but it didn’t pan out. So surreal when she stepped out of the blog and into the party. She was great, and beautiful, I only wish I would’ve been able to talk with her more!

The media came, which is always an interesting experience. I didn’t actually see what part they aired but I know they interviewed me.

And a really great guy by the name of Nicholas Martinez. A few of Zach’s counselors/staff helped with the tables and bid on some high priced stuff. In case you didn’t know, the people from Camp Abe Lincoln are second to none. He’s one of them.

The space, it’s perfect. So many more comments this year on how it feels like something from the east coast. It really does. It feels very underground, very 1920s, very secret. I love it.

The wine and dessert tables where Becky and Will stood (freezing) the entire night. Becky is beautiful (which we hate) and generous and kind and terrific (which we love). I didn’t get a picture of her last night but she seriously looked like a model (which, again, if you’re keeping track, we hate). 🙂

The glasses, one of my favorite parts of the party. I hate garbage, I like reusable, recyclable. Last night’s party is always about combining many different things I love. Local (only local wine, dessert, entertainment, mostly local artists, etc), global (water), environment (as much as humanly possible with a party), etc. You can do it all, that’s the message of last night. You can have passions that extend beyond one thing, you can make them work if you want (which I do). So when you come into Wine to Water you pick a glass. You can fill it with wine or water, but you’ll look classy regardless. This year a local church donated the glasses for our use. See, heart, this community has it in spades.

The BE Project, who was wonderful! Though I’m a bit partial to the 7 foot man there, he is the husband of one of my besties.

I gave a short presentation on water. Why it’s important. Who Water for Christmas is, etc. Undoubtedly my least favorite part of the night.

And the people. Over 200 people. Did you read that? Over 200. That’s more than last year for sure. I actually didn’t know everyone there.  This I liked, they were here for other friends or just to hear about water. Which I really like. (These people I actually do know). 🙂

But none of it would have been possible without “my people”. These people who told everyone they knew. Who begged, bribed and pleaded to get people in the door. Who stood by the africa bid sheets and bid people higher (sneaky little devils), who encouraged the Woodfire Grill live auction higher. Who were everything you could want in people. Who are a few reasons I know God exists. Because there’s just no way people this amazing just sprung into life with hearts this big and joy to match.

My family. Mere hours before this photo we were in sweats putting the final touches on the space. Mere hours before this I was on my knees praying and praising that I have family who isn’t afraid of a little sweat and blood. That I have people like this, not only willing to help with the fun stuff (setting up) but the crappy stuff (tearing it all down). That’s them. And they are beautiful.

And these two, who got a babysitter for my little 3 week old niece. Because they love me (and yes, we hate Lindsey for looking this good after birthing too, please keep up).

Of course my Chrissy (who also did my hair that night, she is a jack of all trades).

I was going to have another picture taken, but then remembered that this is what I look like with Chrissy and Ann. I like capturing that business.

And then this guy. Not only was he the best looking man there (that is no exaggeration) but he is the very best man, period. He loves me, in the “you guys are really gross because you’re so cute” kind of way. He did all of the technological things, all of the marketing stuff and, probably most importantly, was my support team. While the rest of the community got Tesi-with-makeup-hair-done-dress-and-heels, he came home to someone who sprinted into her matching gray sweatpants and proceeded to snarf down Cheetoes and chocolate chip cookies. But he still looked at me the way he did a few hours before. If I haven’t mentioned it here before, he makes my heart flutter this one. The perfect example, the perfect reason to believe in God. There couldn’t have been a better person to compliment me throughout life. Especially one who looks so good in pastel green pants and a bow tie.  Love you, babe.

On Hair

Every once in awhile I get enough emails asking about my boys’ hair to warrant a blog post. I’m not actually sure if I’ve ever written one because it feels slightly silly and weird. Of course their hair is different than mine, but it doesn’t mean it’s some weird mystery. Trial and error, it’s life, man.

But what we do. We love Carol’s Daughter. LOVE it. We use the shampoo and then some of the products. Our favorites are Hair Milk and Hair Smoothie. Mmmmm they smell good and look tres bien in their hair. It would be safe to say I feel like snuggling in and sleeping on their sweet hair. You want to see? Ok here you go.

Tomas has thinner hair. His curls are semi-tight but don’t tangle easily. He’s got quite the widow’s peak already, but I think it gives him an air of wisdom, no?

 Tariku has THICK, super thick hair. His curls are like corkscrew TIGHT. His hair tangles constantly. Truth be told, his hair could stand to be picked out multiple times a day. After laying on his head for 5 minutes, his little ‘fro lays flat to his head. But suriously, have you seen a more beautiful head of hair?

 Binyam has super loose curls (as his hair grows back Dailah constantly says, “Oh mommy I’m so happy Bini’s curlies are back!”) His hair is medium thickness and kind of fine. Bini has some scalp issues that I can’t quite figure out. It kind of looks like cradle cap, a little dry, flaky, etc.

For the last few months, this is how I clean Bini. I admit it’s kind of fun to pamper him though I will also admit I look forward to the day when I can just stick him in the tub and let him soak.

So we wash their hair twice/week. Those times we put the milk or the smoothie in. Otherwise, every morning I spray Tomas and Tariku’s hair (they have similar kinds of hair, Bini’s is not at all like theirs) with water and comb it out with a wide toothed comb. If it’s looking particularly dry then I spray Carol’s leave-in conditioner in it. Otherwise, that’s it.

Bini’s hair is honestly more like Caucasian hair than African-American. His requires nothing on a daily basis but I still do the twice/week shower with the milk/smoothie application.

I think their little afros are amazeballs, and I’m proud to say they believe the same thing. Tomas, almost on a daily basis, says something like, “My hair is beautiful mommy, I have the most beautiful hair in my whole school.”

Tariku, well Tariku wants to be Jimmy Hendrix for Halloween next year.

So we must be doing something right. As far as the ones with the wholly uninteresting hair:

Trysten got a hair cut. My poor oldest has my hair. Super thick, super coarse, cowlicks galore. Trysten, well he could never pull the Justin Beiber off. When we try to style his hair the sheer weight of it undoes our style in a matter of minutes. If you are ever around Trysten, feel his hair, it will blow your mind. But I love his new hair cut. I think it’s precious and it makes him look older.

And Dailah. Well Dailah was born with A LOT of super dark, super thick hair. She doesn’t have the coarseness Trysten has but we could certainly lose a Barbie or two in her long locks. I love having a daughter with long hair. Usually she’s good about letting me do whatever I want with it but for the last few months she’s only wanted to rock the headband. And who am I to say no? This past year I’ve started to have to add conditioner to her shower routine. Baby girl is growing up for sure.

Did you want to know what I do with my hair? Of course you do. I’m only telling you because I’ve been using this product for about 2 months and it is by far the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience. Wen. Have you heard of it? Natural product, it doesn’t lather like normal soap, stripping your hair of all it’s glory. Read about it, and order it. But order it from Amazon or QVC or something. It’s cheaper and they won’t automatically charge you every 30 days and send you more. I rock the Sweet Almond Mint. It’s expensive, I know this. But literally, I now only have to wash my hair 2 times/week where I used to have to wash it every day or I looked like a grease ball. So in the end it’s actually a bit of a wash.

Do you feel better now that you know about the Klipsch hair? Good. Carry on then.

My Orphans on Orphan Sunday

So today is Orphan Sunday (the whole month of November is actually National Adoption Month). I, of course, think about the plight of orphans all the time. Truly, if anything can keep me up at night, it’s this. What can I be doing, how can I be doing more? To say God has stamped it on my heart would be an understatement. It is, for many reasons, probably the single reason I’m so flippin passionate about water.

Today, I thought all day about my orphans. I’m not sure you can make “orphan” past tense, but I suppose you never have to. It will always be part of the my boys’ story, right? This thing that led them to our home and our hearts. They were orphans. They were orphaned. They lived, for some time, in an orphanage.

Think about that.

My boys, my beautiful, hilarious, ridiculously intelligent, ridiculously strong boys…they were orphans. They were without a mom and a dad and brothers and sisters for some time in their lives.

They were without.

Today we went shopping with my family for Christmas gifting. We were in a store and Tomas literally grabbed my hand and pulled me to face him. He looked me straight in the eye and whispered, “Mommy, thank you for giving your love to me.” My heart absolutely shattered.

I had never thought about that. That Zach gives his love to me, or my parents, or my siblings. I hadn’t thought about how blessed I am to have people give their love to me. But certainly once you’ve been orphaned love, in itself, this motherly love I ooze would probably feel like a gift.

The implications of that little phrase don’t escape me.

Lately Tomas has been whispering in my ear, “Thank you for bringing me here. I love my family, I love my home. I’m so happy here.” I think he’s starting to want to just put it out there. It seems he’s started to really love it here, and he’s clearly scared it will all go away just as soon as he’s started to really like it.

As his mom I’m desperate to make him understand that he gets this for the rest of his life, even when he doesn’t like it so much. But I know the mind of the orphan is different, it just is.

I suppose now would be a good time to tell you that I hate the word “orphan”. Hate it. I’m sure there are many reasons why I hate it, but for whatever reason I think people hear this word and give an immediate look of pity. Orphans don’t freakin need pity, can I just say that? People can take their pity and eat it. Pity does no one any good.

I’m a big believer in adoption (obviously) and foster care, and keeping families together and supporting mothers and, and, and.

I think Christians sometimes get stuck on the adoption/foster care narrative. And boy that is so sad. Because it’s a teeny tiny piece of the “Orphan care” complete narrative. Adoption is not for everyone. Said another way, please don’t adopt, please don’t even consider adopting if you’re not ready for more kids. If you don’t really want more kids but think God wants you to adopt, you’re deadly wrong. I don’t typically like to insert myself in God and the people’s business but I’m serious about that one.

I feel like sometimes I might give an all roses and flowers view of adoption. Because, truly, for the most part that’s what it’s been like for us. I’m not sure how, but we’ve been very blessed to have had pretty seamless transitions with our adopted babes. If you are considering adoption because of something I’ve written and think I’m the norm I want you to read her blog. Like she says, she falls under the “normal” of what to expect. Just get real before you take that step. Just get educated before you take the leap, right?

But everyone, everyone can do something. Have I mentioned water? Mmmk. Water is one of the things that orphaned my Tariku for sure. It’s also one of the things that could’ve killed my Binyam. I’m not wanting to go into details but believe me when I tell you that. Or Heifer. You guys know about Heifer, right? This can go a long way in keeping families together. There’s Doctors Without Borders, there are so many things.

But now is not the time to sit idly by. I want people to not only support the kids who have already been orphaned but support the families so they will never have to make that decision.

This is not just about families internationally, this is about families in our own US of A. Lest you think I’m all about you sending your resources overseas, I’m not. I’m all for combining the local and global movements. I assure you, you have resources enough to do both.

So that’s it. Those are my thoughts on Orphan Sunday. Can I tell you that it’s a complicated thing this “orphan” stuff? Zach and I never started on this path to “save” a little kid. We never did. I assure you some of my prayers are begging for forgiveness for being so thankful for these little boys. My gain was someone’s tremendous loss. You have no idea how heavily this weighs on my persons.

But it’s because of that. Because of this dichotomy that I live so passionately in the in between.

I have no idea where I’m going with this. But there you have it.

Why Love Orphans? from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

He Walks!

He’s doing it. All on his own. After doing lots of strength exercises and stretching and the like, yesterday it just clicked. But he still wanted to hold onto hands.

Then today he did it. He just let go and went for it. It was beautiful.

By the way, the reason for the scream? We have this little game where we call each other “Pooch” and kind of playfully spank each other’s butts. Well, Bini doesn’t know the difference between a butt and a vagina apparently. Because I was expecting him to hug me in excitement and instead he pooched me in the nether region. He was so happy all I could do was scream (in shock) and laugh (in joy).

Love him.


Love this from here:

But I am convinced that Christians in America can appreciate their country without worshipping it, be politically engaged without being politically consumed, and hold opinions about healthcare and the economy without insisting that God agrees. We can be civil because we know that people are infinitely more valuable than positions. We can be calm because we know that love will win in the end. We can laugh because we’re neither threatened nor dazzled by power.

How much do you guys love that? Because it’s so true.

That said, I’ll be voting tomorrow. I hope you will be too. I hope you’ve dug deep and figured out what’s important to you and yours. I hope you vote based on that, not based on how other people are voting or how great one candidate’s mustache is (seriously one of the Iowan Governor candidates has an amazing ‘stache).

In the end, in the end, love wins. Regardless, love wins.

Now vote. 🙂