–Tonight I put Binyam to bed. The 3 bigs are at baseball practice and he always gets really nervous when everyone isn’t home when it’s bedtime. “Mommy, will the boys come home when I’m asleep?” That question is asked ad nauseom. The truth of the matter is, he doesn’t actually go to bed until they come home. I hate that. Not because he’s not going to bed when his little body needs him to but because he’s so concerned about everyone making it back ok. So concerned about loss and death and and and…these are things a 5-yr-old shouldn’t be thinking. Shoot, these are things that don’t typically even cross my mind as a woman of multiple decades. It is really hard to watch him look into my eyes to see if I’m just pretending that they’re coming back. To try to read through my smile and prepare his heart for more loss.

–You know that moment when your child first reads to you? And they are smiling the whole time and you start this weird giggle/hiccup thing. And they make it through their first sentence and then paragraph and then page. And then it’s done and you look at each other and you know that they get it. That in that moment you know they realize what a wondrous place books can be. Dailah’s there. I just came from her room and I’m still smiling.

–Ethiopia. Ethics. Adoption. What to do with family left there. How much support to the country? To the people? Blurg. It’s a freaking mess and it occupies too much space in my mind.

–I was talking to a friend the other day about why I haven’t been blogging as much. I think to a large extent is because I’ve been parenting. I’ve been preoccupied with throwing my energies into improving myself as a wife, mom, human and it takes it all up. I know blogs that somehow manage to (seemingly, I don’t know a lot of these people personally so I can only go based on their online image) both blog and parent successfully. I wonder if I’m one of them. These days instead of parenting in a way that would be applicable to this blog I’m just parenting. Crazy, I know.

I used to chase my kids around with the camera to document every moment of their lives to put down here. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’ve started to realize I was missing out on some parts of life when the focus was on documenting as opposed to experiencing.

So if I’m gone for awhile that’s where I am. Experiencing. Enjoying. Loving.

–That said I still obsessively read your blogs so commence to documenting please. 🙂

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9 years

The last 9 years have flown by. Absolutely flown. My baby boy turned 9 yesterday and I still can’t believe it. 

This blog post from 2 years ago has baby pictures if you want to see one of the cutest babies to ever be born. 🙂
But back to yesterday. What a great day celebrating such a great life. 
As always, as a family we came with a “Happy birthday” to wake up the birthday kid. 
Birthday hugs from daddy.
He chose donuts for his breakfast…which is pretty much what he does every year. He got to pick them for his siblings too, as you can see they are HUGE fans of fried flour with chocolate on top.
Had to add this one. They are incredibly cute together.
Lots and lots of phone calls from family and friends. He loved every one, even if he is complete rubbish at phone conversations.
Trysten chose Buffalo Wild Wings for his birthday lunch. Lots of loved ones came to celebrate this guy. Including these beautiful people.
We had a few minutes before the boys had their final basketball game so we stopped at a bookstore. Trysten spent the next half hour showing us everything they had regarding Harry Potter (his (and my) favorite obsession). *he ended up receiving this from his grandpa*
After a quick basketball game it was time to pick up the 6 boys that would be having a sleepover (2 of them are my nephews so I don’t really count them). 🙂 We had to drive 2 cars, in case you were keeping track.
Trysten chose pizza, root beer and chips for his dinner. His friends enjoyed his choices.
The 3 littles (my 2 with my nephew, Eli) took up their own space. Kind of loved that.
Only 1 injury. I was thankful it was mine, and thankful it seemed ok, relatively speaking. He was just dancing his little heart out and hit the edge of a door frame. 
Trysten doesn’t like cake so we stuck with brownies again this year. Crazy kid.
As of Friday 0 kids had RSVPd to his slumber party. When he got home from school that day he told me all of them were coming. As I had not heard from any of their parents I made him call them. Sure enough, they were all planning on it. No one had called, no one knew what time it started or any of those details. It was…weird. But upon hearing that there would indeed be people there, Zach and I rallied. We went to bed early Friday night and consumed copious amounts of caffeine all day Saturday.
But we didn’t let the kids stay up super late (in past sleepovers Trysten has been known to come home having not slept at all. oy vey). The boys were asleep by about 11:30 (I, however, was in bed by 10:30. Praise God my husband is a night owl).
This boy. This 9-year-old still lets me do weird things like this: roll into a tiny little ball to try to fit back into my belly. 
He also gives amazing hugs. Uh-mazing. Still at 9. Whenever I want. 
This one. Oh this one. My friend, Rebekah, She was talking about her eldest and said, “He is my son.  I won’t go as far to say he’s a momma’s boy, but he and I have a thing.  We like to be together, just because.  Maybe that’s the definition of a momma’s boy?”

Boy did I love that. Because that’s Trysten. We love to be together because, we just do. Because we have some shared interests, we think alike. We react to situations very similarly. The older he gets the more I want to be around him, just because. Just because he’s amazing, and funny, and smart and witty and wonderful. 

At times Zach is perplexed by him (mostly about his absolute obsession with Harry Potter). That’s when I realize that he is is own dude. Sure, he’s more like me. But he is him. He is completely unique and I love that about him.

I love that about our kids getting older. It’s different, you know, parenting older kids than toddlers. It’s less work in a lot of ways but more work in others. Their personalities are becoming so defined it feels like time is running out to shape them in all of the positive ways we want to as their mom. But we know, don’t we, because we’ve been there. We know that what we say and do will always impact our kids. Even if we are “parenting” less and less. There are less “no, don’t touch that” “you can’t say that” and more “pick your friends wisely, they have tremendous power to shape who you are and the choices you make”, “well, babies are made by…”

It’s different but it’s just as great, maybe even more so. I love being a mama to this boy, I always have. 

This boy who loves cereal, prime rib and cheese crisps. The boy who has fashion sense like no other 9-year-old I know. The boy who loves skateboarding, snowboarding and reading. Despite having 2 parents who loved sports (and were slightly above average in most) he has very little interest in them. He loves playing the guitar and video games. 

This boy who will one day change the world. Whether that world is “only” the family he chooses to have or the entire world, is yet to be determined but I know he’s changed mine. Man, has he changed mine. And I am so, so grateful for that. 

Happy 9 years, Trysten Zachary.

the weekend

completely abused me.

We went to Minnesota to do some snowboarding with my family. I am bruised everywhere.

I will be back with better blogging behavior after I can sit on my butt and not sit directly on 3 bruises.

See you tomorrow. Miss you guys. 😉

sweet, saving grace

I’ve been reading The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns the last week or so.

And of course, like any good book, it’s got me thinking a lot. It’s not that I hadn’t heard most of what he’s talking about, it’s just a reminder of lots of stuff I process on a daily basis.

Before Christmas a friend posted something on Facebook asking why so many Christians are so mean, judgmental, not Christlike at all. (I’m paraphrasing really poorly, as she wasn’t mean or spiteful in her question, she was sincerely seeking). I responded with “I have so much to say I need to just write a blog post”.

I wanted to write then that, unfortunately, just because people are Christians doesn’t mean they are any less human than other people. And humanity, as we all know, encompasses all kinds of beauty and ugly within it. The reality is Christians need grace just like everybody else, in fact more often than not, we probably need it more than everybody else.

I wanted to write that but remembered that I am often equally frustrated with Christians. Especially in a space like Facebook or the blogosphere. When I see someone quoting the Bible and then exploiting children, or leaning on scripture to ok their unethical adoption I become one hot little unit.

We aren’t perfect are we? Myself included, or rather myself especially.

Here’s the deal, for those of you who don’t believe the way I do, I get it. It’s a stretch. That’s why it’s called faith. I also get it if the only experience you’ve had with Christians has left you believing we are all fear mongers that use God as our shield to act any way we want.

I get it.

But I guarantee you there are also Christians in parts of the world that no one else will go. There are also Christians whose names you will never know doing things that are unimaginable. They aren’t even wielding their Bibles telling everyone they need to believe. They are quietly and with great fortitude bringing heaven to earth.

That is Jesus. It’s not in the adoptive parent (because, really, we all want the kids we are getting. There is too much selfishness in adoption to have it be considered Jesuslike, in my humble opinion), it’s not in the guy passing out Bibles to new college freshman.

It’s in the people quietly and steadfastly feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison. It’s in the people not just throwing money at problems but becoming part of the solution.

And it is frustrating when I see Christians who doesn’t seem Christlike at all, it is. But I know where I was not that many years ago still identifying myself as Christian. Not Christlike at all. And yet, and yet.

Grace.

Grace doesn’t come when I lodge hatefilled Bible balls at these unsuspecting Christians. That isn’t Grace.

So next time you see something that makes your blood boil, stand up for what you believe, sure. But not with hatefilled messages, with grace filled messages.

Grace saves, hate destroys.

We need each other (Christian or not) I really do believe that. I don’t like everyone. My personality clashes with other people’s that just the way it is. But that doesn’t mean I’m better or they’re better. We are different and there’s a space for us all to live peacefully together.

I think the world is changed by grace and love. I think minds and hearts are changed by those. I don’t believe they can be changed by arguing and posturing, I really don’t believe that.

Part of my New Years resolution, remember, is to tear off the masks. Here’s mine. Grace has saved me, people. Not just grace from Jesus but grace from the people in my life. They have quite literally loved me to Jesus. There has been no condemnation and that has made all the difference.

My pastor talked about heaven and earth last week. It was great (listen to it here, click on the last one “Focus 4” by Jason Holtgrewe) and I will unpack more of it as the weeks go on.

But what I loved was how he mentioned throughout the Bible God talks about bringing Heaven to earth. We’re not meant to just bide our time waiting to go to heaven. The reason God is bringing Heaven to earth is because earth is worth something now. The Bible talks about when God comes how He will throw out all injustice and ugliness.

So if it’s going to be thrown out then, it needs to be thrown out now.

Good stuff.

And I am on 40 different tangents but the purpose of this is to say this. Let’s do that*. Let’s bring heaven to earth now. By treating each other with respect, even when we aren’t treated that way. To love and not fear, to embrace and not push away. What an awesome world that could be.

Grace, it’s not just a tattoo.**

*When I say “Let’s” I mean “let us”, including myself. I am a recovering judger. It’s hard to shrug off the cloak of judgement. I am a work in progress. This is not a soapbox, it’s a rally cry. It’s a reminder for me, perhaps most of all.
**I have a tattoo that says Grace in Amharic

Today

Every year our local Y does an annual campaign they call “Partners with Youth”. This campaign helps raise funds for all of the amazing programs the Y does. (If you aren’t a member of your local Y, you should be. Especially if it’s as good as ours. Ours has the highest rating from Charity Navigator they are that good. And their programs? Fuggetaboutit).

My husband happens to be the Director of our Y’s Camp. Have I mentioned how great our camp is? Okthen.

When Zach took the reigns as Camp Director about 5 years ago the Camp ran in the red. By a lot. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This year? Well this year they are in the black. Zach will tell you it’s because of his great staff and such and such, but I know it’s because of his hot ass how hard he works. And how smart he is, etc. Camp being in the black is really awesome but…

Today the great people of the Y and the people who fundraise for them got to hear a story from a 15-year-old young woman about what camp means to her.

She was nervous, and a little quiet. She was beautiful. She started out saying she loves camp because it’s like a family. That she meets girls in her cabin and within a few days they are her sisters.

Then she goes on to say that she doesn’t have a dad, and doesn’t know who he is because he ran off. “So Zach is like a dad to me. I’ve never had one but Zach is a father figure to me.”

Are you crying? Because I did. The ugly cry.

This beautiful young woman was talking about my husband in a way that made me know this was what he was created for.

I’ve told you all before how amazing he is, and he is that amazing. I know how great of a dad he is, he is that great of a dad. But I loved hearing what kind of role model he is for other young people in our community.

I loved the way he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and talked into her ear. His reassuring kiss on top of her head made her smile, made her shoulders fall. Made her relax.

He is such a good man. I am so humbled to be walking this life with him.

You know those moments when you see God in the everyday and it takes your breath away? Love those.