We interrupt this regularly scheduled program where I tell you all of my shortcomings as a mom to do something really exciting.

WE ARE SELLING LIP BALM!!! All natural, organic lip balm. The best part? Your money goes directly to one of my favorite organizations of all time, The Adventure Project, to fund clean water solutions.

A few months ago I had coffee with my sis-in-law, Leslie and her friend (my new friend, woot!) Jennie to talk about what we could do to support TAP. Leslie had just written an article about making your own lip balm and it was there that the idea was born.

So here’s the deal. If you buy your tin(s) today you can help fully fund TAP’s program (read more at Jody’s blog here). Time is certainly of the essence. I want you to buy them for your moms, your sisters, your aunties. EVERYONE. If you’re like me and know of some of your women friends going through some stuff right now this would be the perfect, “I love you, I’m thinking of you constantly and please know I wish I could be there for you” gift.

This is the website Leslie set up to tell you more about ADVENTUREbalm.

So go here and buy 1 tin for $7 or 3 for $15. Leave me a comment or email me your address and I will send them. If you’re local I will hand deliver (oh yes I will!)

All directions are on this website.

Here’s what I know. I screwed up last night as a mom. I forgot to be the tooth fairy, I put the kids down early so I could start Desperate Housewives, etc. Despite all of that, I’m using this lip balm as a way to do something today to redeem myself.

Because grace isn’t always big gestures. Sometimes grace comes in the form of lip balm.


My (early) birthday weekend

My birthday is in June. Every year just before my birthday Zach’s schedule starts getting crazy. Pulling 15 hour days and such. So we never really get to do anything big for it because Zach typically can’t leave camp and then there’s that detail about having 5 kids home from school for the summer.

So this year my birthday is a bigger one (30, woot!) and Zach was determined to do it right. He asked what I wanted and I basically wanted 2 things: 1) friends/family around me hanging out and 2) not to plan a damn thing.

My really ridiculously wonderful husband decided on Galena, Illinois. He sent out an email to some friends and family asking who could get a babysitter for the weekend to come hang with us. Zach rented a 5 bedroom home for Friday and Saturday nights. It boasted things like a bar, hot tub and couches made for cuddling. Oh, and a full kitchen because I expected my guests to bring their favorite dishes (I know, I’m kind of high maintenance at 30, as it turns out).

If I learned one thing this weekend it’s this: I am so very blessed. I cried many times and they were happy tears, grateful tears, bless-ed tears. I am a lucky lady.

There was dining at delicious Italian restaurants where they sat us in what appeared to be a wine cellar which, if you’ve been following this blog long enough, knows that is both the best and worst ideas for a lady like me. Yum.

There was Saturday morning golfing for the men and shopping for the women.

There were mixed drinks made (this one would be white sangria by my beloved bestie, Chrissy. Doesn’t it look delicious?) and overflowing hot tubs.

I enjoyed taking pictures (per usual). This one for my sister and her boyfriend…lest they need some pictures for their wedding album one day. Cough. Please God. Cough.

And this one for my brother and sister-in-law who will be celebrating 2 years of wedded bliss in a few weeks.

There was cooking (my favorite guacamole of all time by Mr. Bruce himself).

There was snuggling with the ladies who make up my Red Tent. This picture makes me cry. Damn I love those ladies so much. (Missing Chrissy 😦 ).

There were back rubs

And gorgeous views as we sipped our coffees and/or wine.

There was bonding of brothers

and fires built.

There was a protective sister asking sister’s boyfriend what his intentions are and then trying to make him understand how thankful we are that he’s made our sister so happy. Yes, there was lots of that.

There was some pretending that Ashley “Hot Pocket” was a Berger kid.

And also some begging that the smallest woman would sit on my lap to make me feel like a giant on my birthday weekend.

There was dancing, of course there was. (With a cup of “8:30 Perker” also known as coffee, Bailey’s and raspberry vodka. Pin it people, you’re welcome).

There were gifts from Chrissy. Mine is the palest dead looking arm the orange one that says, “Plant Peace”. I love it.

There was lots of sibling bonding. My first tears of the weekend came Friday morning when I sent off a simple text of “Woooooot” to those coming Friday night. My brother, who is typically short on words, replied, “Oh ya”. My sister, also short on words, “woot”. They were my first best friends. They are still a few of the biggest blessings of my life. I am so, so thankful for the beautiful relationships I now enjoy with both of them (and their significant others). We may all be very different but I would die for these people, I really would

Sibling bonding covered my brother-in-law too (obviously). He is just plain awesomesauce. Particularly when he’s laying in the grass commenting on the beauty of the stars or the song of the birds. Also when he…

makes weird faces in pictures. My brother made me a cake. It didn’t matter if it was from a box, my little brother made me a cake. I ate the shit out of that boxed cake and could definitely feel the love there.

There were some hangovers (as there usually is when celebrating one’s 30th birthday) and subsequent wearing-of-women’s-glasses by a typically reserved man.

And perhaps most of all there was a woman, who is about to turn 30, thankful for a man who loves her enough to set up spreadsheets and send them to her friends. Who organized the weekend of a lifetime. There was a woman who looked at her husband and knew that the last 10 years with him have been the best of her life but the next 70 are sure to be even better.

There was love. There was laughter. There were memories created and hugs shared. There was bliss.

Mindless Monday

  • Some bloggers do a “Mindless Monday” and then have really interesting, dynamic and thought provoking material. This is not what this is. This blog is seriously “mindless”. You’re welcome.


  • A few people had follow up questions about my vegetarian post.

Do you pack the kids’s lunches? Yes we do. It looks the same pretty much everyday. A PB&J (with my grandma’s delicious homemade jelly!), a fruit (strawberries, grapes, blueberries and blackberries), veggie straws or apple straws (each kid likes one or the other so they get their choice), and then a piece or two of chocolate if we have it (around holidays usually) or my homemade granola bars. For a drink it’s usually water or chrystal lite. They love it and are bummed if we run out of supplies before grocery day.


Do you make the kids eat vegetarian/vegan? When we’re at home I’m cooking so yes, they eat what we’re eating. When we’re out to eat they can order whatever they want. I feel good about the fact that they are eating with us the majority of the time and are thus eating mostly a whole foods diet.


Do your kids really eat that stuff? Mine wouldn’t get near it! A few of my kids (Tomas and Tariku) are terrific about eating whatever I put in front of them. The other 3 don’t eat quite so quickly with certain things. 😉 The reality is, though, they know there aren’t any options. So they eat enough to satisfy themselves and then they are done. My hubs used to only eat meat and cheese. He hated vegetables and/or anything remotely healthy for you. Now he doesn’t eat meat and cheese and loves veggies. We really don’t want our kids to wait until they’re 30 to discover a beautiful taste palate.


What do you eat?!?!? We eat really well! For the most part I take advantage of our library system and rent new cookbooks all of the time. There are great ones for both vegetarian cooking and vegan cooking. That would be my best recommendation. There are good ones and bad ones. The good ones I put on a list of ones to buy and when I have enough that I’ll be able to get free shipping then I’ll just buy them at once. 😉 Also, there are REALLY great blogs devoted entirely to whole foods living. Google it, prepare to salivate!


  • Semi-Feral Mama wanted an update on our kitty, Mitigu. If you’re a texting friend of mine, you’re super annoyed about my Mitigu updates. I seriously text people pictures of him all of the time. It’s getting a little ridiculous. He is cute and funny and feisty and playful. He also thinks he is a dog which is kind of awesome. My 2 favorite things about him is that he loves snuggling on my chest, particularly when I’m blogging and that as soon as Tariku goes to bed, Mitigu crawls up the ladder and goes to sleep with him. So freaking cute. I will post pictures of him as soon as I can figure out how to do it on the iPad.
  • We are in the thick of sports central around here. The big 3 are on one baseball team again. Trysten is on a seperate under 9 AAU team. Then the 4 littles are all playing soccer (Tomas/Tariku on one team and Dailah/Binyam on another). Dailah is finishing her dance class with a recital on May 18th. The best part about having them so close in age (ok, there are many things) is that they all double up on teams. This means the amount of running around is decreased exponentially, which I love. It is so fun watching them play and love being involved in sports.
  • Binyam, because of his club feet, didn’t walk until he was almost 3. Saturday was his first soccer game (or really any athletic endeavor). He was smiling and laughing and sprinting. It was magic. He is magic.
  • My women’s league outdoor soccer season starts tonight. I am seriously nervous that I might die.
  • Tariku has decided he wants to tell “his story” at school. More on that later. One note: it’s weeks away and I’m already nervous about it. He is so brave.
  • The theme of our family lately has been “responsibility”. “Please be responsible and wash your little brother’s dish out for him”, etc. Some days they totally get it and I pat myself on the back before going to bed. Other days they fail miserably and I consider drinking at noon. C’est la vie.
  • Life is beautiful and complicated and wonderful and best served with friends.


What’s working for us-marriage version

That Claudia. (The last post linked to the wrong blog, my apologies, I think I fixed it). She is seriously persuasive. I wrote one blog, she wrote a follow up question and here I am responding. Only partially joking…I actually love the emails and comments I get asking follow up questions to my blogs, it gives me ideas for future posts (of which I have around 20).

So Claudia asked about our “secrets” for a successful marriage.

Real quick sidebar is necessary before I continue: Our marriage is pretty damn great, but it’s not perfect. We don’t believe in a perfect marriage over here. So if at any point in time you’ve read my blog and thought for a second that’s what’s happening over here, I apologize. My marriage is my most favorite part of my life, truly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes difficult and frustrating. It’s only to say that it’s worth it. That he’s amazing and it works really well.

Alas, the stuff that’s working for us:

1) We have a strict “no husband/wife bashing” policy. You know when you walk into a group of women or men and they are in a frenzy describing the latest horrible/dumb/frustrating/maddening things their husbands/wives did recently? I don’t know about you but it feels like an awkward joy suck whenever I come up to one. Zach and I realized even before we got married that we had no interest in culivating any kind of relationship like that. Because seriously, nothing good comes from those little sessions. At best, you say some things in the heat of the moment that you regret later, at worst your friends know every.single.thing your husband/wife has ever done to irk you. Then you call them and tell them you’re rethinking this whole marriage thing and instead of telling you to fight and to love and to give grace they say, “Well, of course you are, remember when he did this and this and this?” No good.

This isn’t to say we don’t tell our very best friends if something is bothering us. Of course we do. It isn’t a bash session. It isn’t a word vomit of all the bad things they’ve done in the last year. It’s simply “I’m frustrated because…” and the best part? My friends always says something to the effect of, “Shut your face, he’s amazing. Work through it with him, it’s worth it.” And isn’t that different? Yeah it is. One sucks the life out of your marriage and the other can, at times, give life to your marriage. Mama wants the latter.

2) Within the last year Zach and I have gotten down to the nitty gritty of what we want in our marriage. Our communication has gotten better than ever. We both came to realize in the past when we’ve argued one of us was trying to win the argument. It was a debate-college style. It was not “this is how I’m feeling about this action” it was “You’re making me feel worse than I’m making you feel”. Yeah that’s not helpful. So our arguments are better now because they really feel like discussions. Small difference reaps huge benefits for us. So we disagree well now. We don’t let the crud build up until it consumes us both, we take up our shovels the second we feel a toe disappear. Read that again, we both take up our shovels. We work together to get to the bottom of our junk. It works.

3) We also started to realize that the other person is actually not responsible for our happiness. I can’t look to Zach to make me happy. He can, of course, add to it. He can also subtract from it. Both of those things can happen, obviously. But he is not responsible for my happiness. I am. Even when I’m hurt or angry at him I get to decide how I react. He doesn’t decide for me. This revelation was like the parting of the Red Sea for me, it was HUGE. Because now when I’m feeling discouraged or frustrated or sad (sometimes for reasons outside of my relationship with Zach) I lean on things I enjoy to make me feel better. Quite a bit of the time those things include him but they don’t always have to. A workout, reading a book, watching really crappy TV. It all helps.

Mother skip the next one, no seriously, skip it.

4) Sex. You knew it was coming didn’t you? Yeah we do that. I remember when Zach told one of his friends we were getting married (at the ripe age of 20) the friend was horrified to learn Zach would never be having sex again. Ahem. There is certainly that stigma that married people don’t have sex, and rightfully so, as I understand statistics do not look good in that arena. However, there again we decided to try as hard as we could to not fall into the same marriage narrative just because we thought that’s what was done. So we have sex. And it’s the good kind (hubba, hubba!). But seriously, we both believe it’s important to us so we make time for it. Moving on…

5) Zach sets his phone to give him a reminder every time he pulls into our driveway to tell me he loves me. The first time I saw it he looked a little guilty and asked, “Does that kind of ruin it if I have to be reminded?” Hell to the no. Because every time he tells me he loves me when he walks in the door I know he’s choosing to say it new each time. I think that’s pretty amazing. On a related note, I decided awhile ago that everytime he entered the room I was going to smile and greet him (I do the same thing with the kids). I thought of it when we watched Avatar. That whole “I see you” thing really got to me. I thought the best way to show it on a daily basis would be to make eye contact with them, smile, and greet them. I see you. I love you. I am supremely happy you’re here, with me. It makes every connection of ours start off well. Also, even when we’re fighting I’m still really glad to see him, maybe even more so.

6) Laughter/joy/dancing all of those. They matter so much. He makes me laugh so hard. He is hilarious. When he laughs at my jokes, my head spins. We celebrate each other’s awesomeness and pick each other up from our weaknesses. Sometimes when we’re cooking together we turn on some old school club music and do a little dirty dancing. When we cook Italian food we slow dance with my head on his shoulder and his hand on my low back.

7) One of my favorite Pinterest cheesy poster boards says, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Cheesy? Yes. Right on? Absofreakinlutely. We both screw up but our marriage works so well because of grace. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have. Grace is pretty big around here. I am an imperfect human being who married another imperfect human being. If grace weren’t around it would be so difficult to not focus on the other’s imperfections. Thankfully it is around, in abundance, and so despite my careless mistakes I have a husband who looks at me with such adoration I could cry (and sometimes do).

None of this is new or original, but it is what’s working for us now. What about you? What works for you in your marriage or in your other relationships that I can learn from?

What is working for us

My blog buddy Claudia has another link up going on at her blog. She’s asking us to write a post about what’s going well in our lives, homes, families, etc. I like that. So I’m definitely doing that.

Especially because yesterday after a weekend away from our kids Zach and I looked at each other (upon our return home and subsequent reuniting with said children) and said, “We are so lucky to have such good kids.”Probably it hasn’t always been this way, though select amnesia would tell me it has been this good for so long that it feels like always. Let’s just say the rhythm we’re currently in is really nice. So what’s working?

1) Me staying-at-home. This is not to say it’s necessary for a rhythm, this isn’t for everyone so please don’t read it like that. But for our family? It works, really, really well. All of the kids are in school from about 8-2:30 every day. I teach classes at our Y a couple days a week but for the most part I’m not working. This works for us because it enables me to get all of our “home stuff” done before the kids get home. That means laundry, cleaning, baking, grocery shopping, cutting and dyeing my hair etc. Most of it is done while the kids are in school. So when they get home? I’m not stressed, there aren’t things that need to get done that could compete with their need to connect with me. It’s wonderful. I know it’s wonderful because I used to work outside the home so I know for our family this is best right now.

2) Ages of the kids. I don’t know if this is necessarily something that is currently working for us but I have to believe it’s connected. The kids are at really easy ages right now. They are all old enough to clean up for themselves. The older 3 of a range of chores that they are more than capable of completing well which is not only nice for me but also nice for them to gain responsibility. They play so well together. Seriously well together. Yesterday Zach and I were a little hungover tired from our trip to Chicago so we told the kids to go play outside and we didn’t hear from them for 2 1/2 hours. That may sound like negligence but it wasn’t, Zach checked on them often and was entertained by the images he saw of our kids playing things like: school, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (ok that one might’ve been a little disturbing but, I digress). Which leads me to…

3) This article I LOVED today. It speaks to the way we parent so much. After homework and reconnecting with the kids, they are sent outside until dinner. Quite a few times a week I’ll go out and read and watch them interact but I’ve found by and large they get along much better without me there. I’ve noticed when I’m there they recognize me as a mediator. When I’m not there they seem to work out disagreements a lot better knowing I won’t be able to choose sides, etc. This isn’t really a weather related thing either. For the most part my kids have been outside year ’round. There are a few exceptions but for the most part I just have them dress accordingly and then go wonder. I really attribute their strong sibling relationships to getting outside so often. Indoors can make kids feel pent up and boxed in but the outdoors the possibilities really are endless. They’ve come back from hikes holding hands, with arms around each other telling tales of saving bunnies from certain death, rescuing their sister from a mud puddle and the like.

4) Schedules. Schedules. Schedules. We rarely go off schedule. I tell the kids what is ahead for the week on Monday and rarely stray from that. For our kids who need schedules for their sanity, this is essential. As long as we do this, there are a lot less fights and a lot less negative energy in the house.

And perhaps most importantly…

5) a really good marriage. Again, this is not to say single mommies and/or daddies can’t find a rhythm, this is only to say this works so well for us. I think you all can agree that when there is stuff going on in the marriage it automatically trickles down to the kids. It doesn’t matter if you never fight in front of the kids, kids are great at reading every last strained facial expression, body language and energy in the house. True or false? Zach and I have hit the best rhythm of our marriage yet and I have no doubt that’s one of the main reasons the rhythm of this house is so good right now. This is, of course, not to say we never fight because we do. But everything has changed in the last months and it has made all the difference.

Something else I want to recommend for you out there? Meditation. I do it every day, usually twice a day. I’m sure that scares a lot of you but it doesn’t have to. You don’t have to repeat any mantras or words or make a big deal out of it. Just try to carve out a few minutes every day to just be. I like to listen to calming music and zone out. Typically I wake up before the kids and meditate before waking them up for school. Our mornings since doing this have been 0 hassle, 0 whining (from me OR the kids. ;)) and just so.much.better. I also try to do it before I pick them up from school. I want my time with them to be good. I want their memories of me to be good. I don’t want them to remember a frazzled, hurried, overzealous mama. I want them to be able to see very clearly just how thankful I am for every second I get with them. I’ve found when I meditate the stuff that can get in the way disappears. I am so present with them now, and that is huge for me.

There you have it. A few of the things that work for us around here. I can’t wait to read more. If you are participating or just want to leave in the comments a few things that work for you I would LOVE to hear it! I gain so much from knowing and hearing from you all.


a hike

Wild Cat Den is such a cool place to hike around here. As mentioned previously, this spring has been unseasonably warm. Thus, last week found our family, my bro, sis-in-law, niece, sister and sister’s boy toy taking a little hike. It was beautiful. I am so, so lucky to be surrounded by so many people I love so much.