You know how when you are going through the birthing process and you’ve been pushing for 3 hours (no? just me?) and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because it’s the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced and then the baby is placed on your belly and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m totally doing this again.”?

Or when you’ve hit the 4th snag in your adoption process, this process that was supposed to take x amount of time is now taking 3x and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because seeing the face of your angel so far from you and not being able to go there is the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced. Then you meet that little one and you feel heaven slam into earth and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m definitely doing this again.”?

That space in between, that’s an empty space. You’re drained of your energy, your commitment, your time. It feels like you’ve poured it all into the process and now it’s gone and you’re all, fuuuuudge this sucks. Then you get through it and switch to, “Well I guess it wasn’t that bad.” because now you’re full. Because you’ve completed the process and all of that energy resulted in something and you look back and you forget how empty you once were because now you’re just so full!

I am totally empty these days.

My energy, my love, my time is being poured into Miss A and I am worn. out.

I have friends who have adopted little babies/toddlers and they talk so real about how trauma has affected their peanuts even though they were so small. I adopted only boys over the age of 3 so it seemed not so big a leap to assume the boys remembered/felt their loss (this is not to say I didn’t believe my friends, only to say I knew my boys were feeling it because they could tell me). Then we started taking care of A and anytime she meets with her family she has explosive diarrhea and night terrors for 2 days. 2 days. Her fear, her trauma, her past is so visceral this not yet 2-year-old doesn’t tell me she’s scared verbally but boy is it obvious!

So I pour it on, oh I lay it on thick. “How smart you are saying please and thank you!” “You are so beautiful!” I correct behavior that was learned under the fight or flight mechanism and I look her in the eyes and say comforting words or give a firm redirection. I pretend like I’m super glad she found me in the bathroom when I was hoping for a few minutes alone. Well, I do all that when I’m full-after a date night with Zach or lunch with friends.

When I’m empty I talk less, she looks at me sideways. She’s smart-yes she is. She knows when someone is only going through the motions and so she’s on to me when I’m empty. When I’m empty it exacerbates all of her issues.

And so I’m empty.

It feels so unfair to my kids who get only half the mom they were hoping to get (to be fair, they often fill me up when I need it as well). It feels most unfair to Zach who, yesterday, woke up to me saying, “I’m not going to talk to you right now. Everything is fine, I just can’t right now. I love you, but I can’t talk to you.”

I am in the middle.

A few months ago-I was out of the process. Before foster care we were in such a good rhythm that I had forgotten what it was like. I was so full I was giving energy away for free, man, here’s some of mine-take what you need.

Despite being empty and exhausted and near tears a lot of the day I’m so thankful I’m here. Because it reminds me that everyone is going through something. It reminds me not to pretend like I know the answers when my friends who are empty ask why I’m so full. It reminds me to say, “You’re in the thick of it. Press on, mama, you can do it.” Instead of, “Meditate, pray, have a big glass of wine.” Those things help but they are quick fixes to a long, laborious process.

So if you’re out there, if you’re empty too, just know that we are in the thick of it. Know that I love you, I get it. Press on, we can do it.

The Table

Confession: I am really bad about making Ethiopian food. For as much as my beloved Ethiopian sons love the food, it is positively sinful I don’t make the effort more.

That said, a friend of mine brought us some injera last week and Tomas-daily-would open the basket and take a big whiff exclaiming, “The best!” I knew it was time.

At church a few weeks ago one of my pastors was talking about the significance of the table in the early days of Christianity. He was talking about how Jesus would invite “the outliers” to eat with him because they weren’t allowed to go to temple. If I remember correctly my pastor even said the Hebrew word for table roughly translates to “little temple” or something like that (I seriously might be making that up, my memory is a little fuzzy). The point being, Jesus knew sitting around a table and talking was just as good-sometimes better-as going to temple. And Jesus knew everyone was invited to sit at the table.

I love that. Mostly because I love food and I love talking over food. I found myself nodding in agreement a lot as the pastor spoke about the significance of breaking bread together.

Then Zach, Tomas, Tariku and I made Doro Wat and Shiro Wat together.


When it was done we all sat together, toasted our families in Ethiopia and ate.


And sure enough, God showed up. He showed up in the way Tariku belly laughed his way through dinner, He showed up in the way Tomas legit shoveled the food into his mouth. He showed up when Trysten and Dailah-usually not game for anything resembling spicy-ate a few bites and gave their brothers the thumbs up.

I think sometimes we think God’s only in the really spectacular places and we risk missing Him in the smaller ones. The table, for instance.

I know if you’re anything like we are, dinners often resemble the trading floor on Wall Street. But sometimes? Sometimes they can feel like going to church.

Bodies Revealed

Friday the kids and I got to see an exhibit at our local museum, “Bodies Revealed”. It. was. fascinating. IMG_5801

For those not familiar, the exhibit features real bodies donated to specifically to the display. The bodies are put into different exercise poses (there was a soccer player, a golfer, etc). The skin is stripped off revealing muscles, bones, ligaments, etc. There are also separate cases with different organs.

My favorite part was definitely the discussions with the kids as they walked through the exhibit. There were lungs blackened from smoking, heart/lungs enlarged by obesity and a liver corroded by alcohol. Fascinating.

There was one case that featured a lung full of pneumonia. One of my darlings whose story is entwined with the disease was found coming back to the case over and over.

The body is an incredible thing. It made me remember just why I love being a fitness instructor/personal trainer-watching people learn to work with their bodies (as opposed to against) is a wonderful thing. Training people to fall in love with fitness and health is a really exciting job because it shows me every day that people are stronger than they think they are, they can do more than they believe and their bodies are capable of miraculous things.

If something like this comes into your town you must go see it! Then come back and tell me what you loved about it.

Until then, another picture at the exhibit, this one with my precious nephew Cassius!




As soon as I had Dailah I knew I wanted a sister for her.


My sister, Kara, and I are just 2 years apart and though we weren’t always super close growing up (she looooved reading books by herself in her room, I looooooved hassling her to come play with me) our relationship is now one I rely on daily.


I see the boys interact with each other and want that for Dailah. She typically plays with the boys pretty well but every once in awhile I’ll see her alone in her room playing with Barbies having to shift from one spot to the other, changing her voice as she goes so that she can successfully act out a scene.


The boys ask for friends to come over or stay the night but not like Dailah does. Daily Dailah has a new note for me, “Mommy I know I ask all of the time but can (x) PLEASE come over and play with me?!?!?”


My girl is a social butterfly. When the boys discuss new concepts they learned in math or the book they read in english, Dailah talks about who said what and who got sent to the reflection room. She physically looks like Zach but behaves so much like me sometimes that it takes me back a bit. A few days ago Dailah told me she has resorted to developing an imaginary friend to talk to because Binyam listens really well but doesn’t talk very much.


I told Zach wanting a sister for Dailah was one of the reasons I wanted to be a foster parent. Of course it wasn’t the main reason but I thought it was a way that we could give her a person to play with (preferably a girl) and maybe, if it was the right fit and the child’s parents experienced termination of rights, we could adopt her. Zach told me it probably wasn’t a good idea to do anything just because I wanted a sister for Dailah.


Obviously he was right in the sense that it would be a pretty horrible reason if it were the only reason, but the reality is I love girls. Dailah is so much fun. Two nights ago Zach and I were going on a date night and, after seeing what I was wearing, Dailah went in to help Zach figure out his outfit as well. She helps me pick out all of my accessories too but she also loves to learn about cooking and fashion. Dailah is the only other girl in our whole family, she and I share a little something extra because of that fact.


Though our relationship can one day be like friends and confidants, I don’t believe it should be that way now. It seems unfair that the boys have each other-best friends in every sense of the word-right in their own home and she has no one.


I wish you could’ve seen how excited she was that we got a girl kitten. A girl. kitten. “We have another girl in the family, mom! Aren’t you so excited!” It doesn’t take much to excite Dailah, for that I’m thankful.


I think it’s safe to say having Miss A around has been kind of a wake up call for us both. Yes, she’s a girl and yes, she’s of age that they play well together some of the time, but it’s just not exactly what we were thinking.


Clearly I know no relationship is perfect but I’ve heard Dailah changing her tune a little bit, “Mom, I guess my friends at school are kind of my sisters, right? And Adley Sue and Tayehu (her cousins) are kind of my sisters, right? And Eli, even though he’s a boy, he’s like my sister because he’s my best friend.” Yes, Dailah, they are just like your sisters.



I told Zach I realize that I don’t want a sister for Dailah, I just want another Dailah. She is so much fun. If I could twin her I would. The three of us would get into some real shenanigans. But I can’t, so there’s that.


Last night I was thinking about my best friends. With a few exceptions, they are all my sisters. I have one biological sister but I have four sisters-in-law that I’m really close to. Close to in a way I didn’t think was possible before I married Zach. With my brother’s wife I often talk to her way more than I talk to him. Though I love him dearly, I’m often more excited to see her than I am to see him (only because she likes to talk as much as I do. heehee)


Zach’s sister is nothing but a soul sister of mine. I like to think of her as a better looking, smarter, taller version of myself. I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with Zach this long if his sister weren’t part of the package. 😉 (In below picture she is right next to me). The women Zach’s brothers married are equally amazing. I look forward to the days when we’re all together and can often be found “encouraging” Zach to make that happen. I love how easily we slip back into conversation even when we haven’t seen each other for a bit. I had no idea I would find actual sisters in my marriage, but man what an extravagant blessing.


I wish I could look into Dailah’s eyes and tell her that she’ll find sisters throughout her life and have her believe it. I wish I could tell her sisters are often not found in the family you grow up with but in the relationships you build throughout life.


As I look at my life I realize sisterhood isn’t a place you’re born into but a place you build. I want her to learn how to develop a sisterhood wherever she finds herself. I want her to learn early on how to encourage other women, how to build them up and root for their success. I want her to learn to invest her time in strong female relationships so she’ll always have someone on her side who will tell her when she’s being ridiculous but also tell her when she’s all she was made to be.


I love my sister with everything, but I also happen to believe even if we weren’t born into the same family we would’ve found each other anyway. Though we are two very different people, we work.


So I’ve taken the pressure off Zach and me (somewhere Zach says, “Hallelu!”) to provide this for Dailah. Because I know her and I know how smart she is, how funny and beautiful. Because I know everything about her I know she’ll have no problem finding a sister herself-she just won’t find it in her home. And finally (I think) I’m ok with that.


Where We’re At

Zach has been gone a lot more than usual lately (sidebar: never before have I felt such admiration for single moms/military wives) which culminated in this past weekend him being gone all weekend. Overall the weekend was good/fine but I could sense those little moments of stress building into a bigger moment of total Tesi breakdown. I tried everything to get rid of it-meditating, praying, drinking-so that when Zach got home he wouldn’t be met with a total bust of a wife. I think I did a decent job but still felt an underlying tension.

Tuesday night Zach works late and it happens to coincide with the night that Dailah has dance and Tomas has piano. My in-laws are so very generous and typically take the kids and me to dinner following the activities. Last night the plan was to meet at a restaurant that is a little further from home because they are giving some of their proceeds to the Y and who’s going to argue with that? When the kids and I arrived they told us it would be a 15 minute wait, which is not so bad considering we were going to be having 8 people and a high chair.

30 minutes later and we were still waiting. Little A, who is generally a very good almost 2-year-old, was being completely crazy. I knew she was hungry and tired but there was just nothing I could do in the small and crowded restaurant (and look it was beginning to snow again!). When we were finally seated-close to 45 minutes later-she had hit her wits end. The other 5 were as good as possible for also being overly hungry and tired but there were little spurts of mothering that had to be done with them as well. Little A decided she’d like to have a few very loud, very public tantrums. During one super special time I had to take her outside I was holding her little head in both my hands trying to get her to breathe and look at me. I noticed a couple come in with their teenage son and I remember thinking to myself, “I hope this looks nurturing and not threatening.” As soon as I could get her to look at me she calmed down and we were able to go back inside. I saw that couple immediately-the woman gave me one of those, “You got this, honey, it’s ok” looks and I almost started to cry.

Towards the end of the meal my father-in-law asked for the check and the waiter told me that nice couple had bought the whole meal.

It’s hard to put into words what that felt like. Because I’ve always had a genuine knack for exaggeration I will tell you it felt a little like I was drowning and that couple submerged their arms to recover me. Obviously my father-in-law was going to be equally generous and pay for it so it wasn’t about the money-it was about the act. When I sent the kids over to shake their hands and introduce themselves the man kept saying, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about but boy aren’t these kids lovely!”

I got in my car and just cried. It felt like grace, if grace were to put on a few pairs of skin and walk around.

The last few weeks with Little A have been eye opening. The kids we thought were on solid footing within the family have found themselves feeling completely unearthed. Zach and I feel a little like two ships passing in the night. Though we still have a knack for communicating openly and honestly it feels like this beautiful, sweet 22 month-er has wedged herself in between us as well (sometimes physically as she sleeps in our room) and that’s probably been the hardest of all for me, honestly.

Today a friend was at the house showing me pictures from her trip to Antarctica (beautiful!) and she asked if it was a bad time-as the kids were louder and crazier than normal. I found myself saying, “No, seriously, please don’t go.” I don’t remember the last time I felt so overwhelmed. Clearly neither did she, as soon as she left she sent me a text, “You and Zach need to go out. You want me Thursday or Friday?”


This Sunday our pastor talked about the possibility that sometimes people are prone to not being able to accept grace fully. That even though they might know they are deeply loved by God they might not know it enough and so, consciously or subconsciously, they find themselves still trying to earn that grace.

Well shit I think he’s talking about me.

I know I’m beloved by God (I have the tattoo to prove it!) but I do think deep down I don’t totally understand how the whole grace thing works.

Until it shows up in the form of a paid-for meal or an unsolicited offer to babysit 6 children.


Super thankful I don’t have to have it all right or all figured out to have grace that defies understanding. More thankful I don’t have to do anything to deserve it, because right now I feel like total garbage with regards to deserving grace.

And yet there it was and is. Phew.


I’m Moving!

Such exciting news over here. I finally did it. I finally moved my blog.

It’s been a long time coming, you see. I’ve been over the title “Hotflawedmama” for as long as it’s been in existence but when I mentioned to people that I was going to be moving they’d say, “You can’t do that! You are hotflawedmama!”

It is true that I am flawed, a mom and-when the light hits me right-hot (to Zach) but it was never supposed to be an actual blog name.

So I created a new one. www.tesiklipsch.com. You can go over there from now on. I’ll be blogging the same boring stuff but I now feel fancier.

If you’re inclined, I would love for you to follow me over there. Change me in your google reader and all of that jazz. I’m still figuring out wordpress so there will undoubtedly be a learning process but I’m excited! Once I figure out how to move all of my posts over there (anyone have any idea how to do that?) I’ll feel like it’s official.

See you here!


This new blog has been a long time coming. I originally started hotflawedmama so that I could comment on different blogs-one of them being my sister-in-law’s whose blog was titled “hotchristianmama”-and blog with a bit of anonymity. As soon as I started actively blogging I was already over the title “hotflawedmama” but by then it was too late, it was kind of my “thing”.

In reality it is still my thing. I am still unceasingly flawed and my husband thinks I’m pretty hot, clearly one of the things I’m most proud of is my being a mama-and yet I feel I’ve outgrown the title.

So here I am at my new digs. If you’re readers of Hotflawedmama, thanks for joining me here! You can switch the titles in your google reader or click on this blog to follow me. If you’re new-welcome!

I was recently asked by someone getting their master’s in communication a few questions about blogging. Her final question was, “What do you love best about blogging?” I couldn’t think of just one reason so I wrote a few paragraphs. In the end though, I love putting my thoughts to “paper”, I love looking back at how our family has grown and the areas in which we still need to grow. I love reading your thoughts in the comments or in your own blog and I’m eternally grateful for the friendships I’ve made through my blog. But also I love the idea of my kids one day reading the blog and knowing my voice as something other than “mom”. I’ve always known I have way more to offer my children than what can sometimes be found in a day of parenting-perhaps this blog will serve as a good supplement as they get older too.

Thanks for reading!

It’s Going to Hurt

Having little A has been mostly amazing, obviously a little stress and exhaustion are mixed in there too, but mostly amazing.

Today I was changing A when I felt Tariku staring at me. I smiled at him, “What’s up, babe?”

“I like watching you with A, I feel like that’s how you would have been to me if you had me when I was 2.”

“Oh Tariku, I think I would’ve been even better with you. Because you are my son and I knew it from the moment I met you. With A I don’t know how long she’ll be with us so I can feel myself holding back a little bit. Sometimes it’s scary to fall in love with someone if you know they might leave. You ever felt like that before?”

“Yeah, I know exactly what that feels like.”

One of the more remarkable things that has come with us becoming foster parents is just how it’s affecting our adopted kiddos, specifically Tariku. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see they are reassured of their permanency every time another child comes for a bit then leaves.

I’m so thankful for where we’re at. It was a long road to get here but dammit it was worth it.