I get so mad at the world. At God. At the agency in Ethiopia. At whoever is around, really.

A few of my boys have issues that were so clear to us even when we picked them up in Ethiopia it angers me that they were never brought up in their reports. Nothing, not a word or a hint to any of it.

It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, we would still have brought these little rays of sunshine home, but it would’ve helped the transition I think. I could’ve gathered the necessary troops and had them prepared for battle upon my little ones gaining their American visas. Instead, years in, we are still playing catch up.

I told Zach today that it would almost be easier if the boys were diagnosed with something. I think for a lot of us in the adoption world people look at us funny when we say, “Well they are different. They’ve been through too much, it changes people.” Or we look like we are making excuses for behavior that is not “normal” for a kid their age. I always feel a little bit crazy saying things like, “I know he looks x age but please understand that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

When I told Tariku’s teacher that he needs to eat every few hours or he’s practically incapable of making good decisions she patted me on the shoulder and shook her head. She made sure he ate every few hours but I couldn’t help but feel like I looked slightly off my rocker (perhaps I was projecting, the teacher was actually fabulous).

When I say I think it would be easier if they were diagnosed with something please don’t misunderstand…I know having children diagnosed with anything is many things but rarely easy. I just meant that if there’s no diagnosis, if there’s nothing we can point to and say, “My kid has this, please treat them delicately” then we end up feeling really overwhelmed and lonely.

My precious Bean is struggling a bit at camp. For a kid who is developmentally on target in a lot of ways, he struggles in social settings. If a child picks a different “swim buddy” over him he automatically assumes it’s because he’s not loved. If a counselor tries to redirect a misbehavior (which that counselor has every right to do!) he assumes-and will tell you-that it’s because he/she doesn’t like him. If he trips on accident, he assumes people are laughing at him. If he is overwhelmed-he shuts down, if he is over stimulated-he shuts down. Though camp is rife with all of these situations, I really believe it’s a safe place for him to grow and learn new and better ways of coping socially with his peers.

And you know what? He was like this in Ethiopia. He never played with anyone while we were there. He never talked to anyone when we were there. We never saw him interact with any child or caregiver during our time there. It was so obvious to us even after a few days, and yet no mention in any of his reports.

I know I’m shifting blame here, I get that. But sometimes I feel so hamstringed in raising kids who have such painful pasts because there isn’t the same kind of support that there is for kids with say, diabetes. There are no “Walks to Cure Trauma”. We parents in the trenches have no color that people would identify with what we’re going through, no slogans for which to paint on signs and march the capital streets.

The closest thing we have is this, blogs, and so here I am.

I get that it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but sometimes I feel like screaming my head off and saying, “Someone help them! Fix it for them!” Because I’ve spent so much of my time as their mommy wishing I could take it from them.

I broke down today because I just don’t understand how we live in a world in which boys like mine feel, even for a second, like they are unloved. That we live in a world that in many ways is full of various ways of connection but can sometimes feel so very isolating.

I don’t know, I’ve never wanted a life for my kids that was easy, I just wish it wasn’t this hard sometimes. I just wish one time I could look up during a moment of stress for my kids and see a look of determination and not fear or shame.

Probably all I’m wanting now is to know I’m not alone because my kids are everything to me. I won’t stop helping them until there are t shirts and walks to help kids like them, if that would actually help.

And I’ll keep relying on all of you to support me and guide me along this often blind path of raising these truly remarkable children.

That’s what she said

So much good stuff in the blogosphere. I know these aren’t my most popular of posts but I really hope you read the links. And as always, let me know what you’re reading so my eyes can be opened too!

Sex, Part 2: Why Wait? by Jamie

To top it off, we’ve done a really bad job of teaching about sex in the Church. Our approach has been to shame girls for having it, and shame boys for wanting it. And when the smart kids ask, “Why wait?”, we shrug our shoulders like a hillbilly and say, “Because the Bible says.” Then we give the girls a purity ring and we give the boys nothing and we cross our fingers and hope they’ll cross their legs. So dumb.

A Woman’s Voice by Rachel Held Evans

And when I speak, I better find the sweet spot—that elusive, ideal combination of smart and cute and not-too-intimidating or else they’ll call me a bitch, or they’ll call me dumb, or they’ll call me emotional, or they’ll call me a traitor. But they won’t just be calling me those things.  They’ll be calling all women those things, because I’m here to represent my gender; I’m there to speak with a woman’s voice.  Should it falter, it will falter for many. 

Sex and the Path of Holiness also by Rachel Held Evans

Far too often, Christians talk about self-control as it relates to sex, but remain silent when it comes to self-control as it relates to justice.  Perhaps if we approach purity more holistically, if we talk about the importance of restraint and self-control in other areas of life, our feet will become more accustomed to the paths of wisdom, and sexual holiness will just be another part of a lifelong journey. 

Quit Pointing your Avocado at Me by Glennon

What we seek we will find and if we’re looking for a world full of judgmental mamas –  we’ll find it. Parenting is the most important thing to many of us and so it’s the place we’re most vulnerable. But even when we’re scared  – we can still choose. We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors – fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal – many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other.

I Walked Away from Fox News by Tim Stevens (ok he’s a guy, but you know, still good).

And you know what, I’ve regained hope. Rather than being spoon-fed what Karl Rove or Dick Morris wants me to believe–I am hand-picking my news through online sites. I’m choosing sources that weed out the commentary and don’t seem to be slaves to one of the political parties. And guess what–once again I think America is a great place to live. I’m no longer convinced that my president hates America or that the speaker of the House only wants to schmooze with rich people. I feel like a fog has been lifted from my eyes and my spirit; I’ve regained perspective.

Smokin’ Hot Conversations by Amy Martin

But attraction doesn’t have to lead to an uncontrollable vortex of possession/lust in mind or reality, and that’s why this whole mess is maddening to me. By binding two fundamentally different experiences together and controlling them with shame, we risk teaching people to disengage from the experience of beauty altogether. We teach people that beauty is dangerous. And women, oh how we know our beauty is dangerous – especially if we’ve grown up in the church. Our beauty has the power to make men stumble, it has the power to ruin lives, it has the power to put ourselves in physical danger – our beauty has the power to send men to hell. Therefore, of course we should cover up, stay quiet, avoid eye contact, disengage, submit. Is it any wonder then, when dealing with issues of gender and attraction, we constantly find ourselves in the non-amusement park of shame?

On Body Image and Self Worth by Erin

Historically, women did not expect clothing from a rack to fit them perfectly,” she writes, noting that the majority of clothing was taken directly to tailors for a custom fit. “As our society moves more and more toward convenience and emphasizes fast fashion, we’ve eliminated the expectation that our clothing would be altered at the tailors. After all, that’s time consuming and expensive. Instead, we want clothing faster and faster for cheaper and cheaper. The result is that our clothing is expected to fit straight off the rack, but rarely does.

I Love Gays and I Love Christians, I Choose All by Glennon

And while we’re at it . . . that still, small voice suggests to me often that He’d appreciate if Christians picked up a couple more issues other than homosexuality and abortion to address. You know, maybe a couple He actually mentioned…like care for the poor and sick and lonely and hungry and imprisoned and widowed and orphaned and recently immigrated. Maybe we should all be required to pick an issue that requires US to change  and not OTHERS to change. I think that’d be good.


The hubs and I

met in 8th grade. I am from Altoona, Iowa and he is from Davenport, Iowa but on that fateful weekend in 8th grade we were both at a basketball tournament in Burlington, Iowa. My friend Danielle and I were walking past the front desk when we saw a reeeealy cute boy checking in with his dad. As 8th grade girls are prone to do, we giggled incessantly and then went to report to the rest of our all female team that there were now boys in the building.

That night we were in a room when we heard a knock at the door. Upon opening, there was a pizza box on the floor. The only thing inside was a little piece of paper that read, “Meet us by the pool, the cute ones are #1, #2, #31”. And because most of us had never even kissed a boy, we were thrilled.

After what felt like a magical night of flirting and talking poolside with “The Davenport boys” we went our separate ways. Many times in the years that followed my friends and I in moments of pure nostalgia would reference “The Davenport boys” who, by then, had been recreated in our heads to be the cutest, sweetest, smartest boys we were to ever meet.

Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. After transferring to University of Iowa, I met a young woman across the hall who promptly told me she was from Davenport.

Me: “Oh really? Man, in 8th grade I met some really cute boys from there.”

Liz: “Really? Do you remember their names?”

Me: “Yeah, I remember one was named ‘Zach’ and then another named ‘Brian’.”

Liz: “I doubt it, but it might be the Zach and Brian I went to school with who also played basketball.

Liz (who went on to become a great friend, roommate and bridesmaid in my wedding) gave me Zach’s AOL screen name (yeah you remember those) and sure enough, it was the Zach. He remembered me! “Tesi from Altoona”. As we chatted for a bit we realized we would both be going to the coffee shop bars the next night and signed off with a kind of, “Well, maybe see you then.”

2:00am the next night/morning and I’m coming out of one of my favorite bars with Liz. I wouldn’t say I was sober, per se, but I was aware enough to hear someone yelling, “Tesi” right over my shoulder. It was Zach, of course, and after a little chit chatting I walked away with my friends-who saw him check out my booty by the way-promising to go out with him the next night.

And the rest is history. We went out on the town the next night, not really doing a whole lot but talking about everything into the wee hours of the morning. Boy was I hooked on this guy who was unlike anyone I had ever known. After 2 weeks, we were telling each other that we loved one another. After 8 months I found out I was pregnant in a Wal Mart bathroom (a Wal Mart bathroom, people!) and when I told him he said, “Ok, not what we planned but let’s get you some orange juice and figure it out.” 10 months after we first re-met we were married.

I’d love to say that the last (almost) 11 years have been as magical and fateful as our first and second meeting but of course they haven’t.

Getting married at 20-years-old is not recommended for a reason. Zach and I have had to grow up and learn some really hard life lessons. Thankfully, we’ve done most of that growing together but we can see how easily it would’ve been along the way to cash in our chips and take our leave stating simply, “We just got married too young.”

Here’s the thing: marriage is not easy, man, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. I think we even owe it to our kids to let us see the struggle (in a safe, non combative way) so there’s no perception for them that relationships should be easy all of the time. Gay marriage isn’t threatening “Christian” marriage, it’s our country’s high value on immediate gratification and selfish win-at-all-costs-no-matter-what-it-does-to-everyone-else that has subtly, over many years, trained us to run away from anything that pushes back.

But push back it will. Kids, adoptions, summer camp jobs, mistakes, day-to-day monotony-it all pushes back. Thankfully I married a man who is willing to look me in the eye and say things like, “No matter what, we’re in this together.” So we push back…together.

I never really believed fully in God’s forgiveness or grace until Zach. I hadn’t been able to imagine it until it showed up in a living, breathing human who is the best forgiver I’ve ever known.

I never really understand communication until I finally figured out just asking him to put his coffee cup away is a helluva lot easier than quietly stewing over the fact that he clearly left that coffee cup out on purpose to piss me the hell off. (Newsflash: he didn’t).

After 11 years, lots of prayer, great friends who have guided us and some good counseling, we’re in a sweet spot right now. Despite it being in the thick of summer camp (read: him working looooong hours and me single momin’ it) we are better than we’ve ever been. Not because of the fantastic way we met but because of the blood, sweat and tears we’ve poured into the rest of our years together.

The reality is, there is no one else I want to be on this crazy wild ride with. It’s not always easy but every day when he comes home I know he’s chosen me and I can’t help but feel relentlessly thankful for that.

Perhaps a part of me (clearly not the part in a bikini and crop top) knew that when I met Zach in 8th grade. Looking back at pictures of him at that time he was all braces, eyelashes and forehead. Sure there was some of his future gorgeousness in there but it was definitely hiding. I like to think in my heart I knew the guy who made me laugh by the pool that day would help me make/adopt beautiful babies was going to hold every bit of my heart in his hands and protect it with all that he has, but probably it was something closer to pre-teen hormones.

Still, it’s by far my favorite love story out there, especially because I’m living it and I know more than anyone else it’s not how we spent those first moments that we’ll be proud to tell our grandkids one day but the moments we’ve spent since. Arguing, raising kids, arguing, making love but typically ending with a glass of whiskey and a cigar on the porch discussing in full the reasons we love each other and our life together. And that, my friends, is the truest kind of love story.



Today he argued with me about mustard. The conversation went a little something like this:

Tariku: “Mom, you’re putting mustard on that?!? You don’t like mustard!”

Me: “Yes I do, honey, I’ve always liked mustard.”

Tariku: “No you don’t, you didn’t before, I remember that you didn’t like mustard.”

Me: “Tariku, I promise, I have liked mustard since before you were born.”

Tariku: “No, I’m positive, you didn’t like it before.”

and on and on for MINUTES. Minutes, people.

It’s been like this for about 2 weeks, which is to say the length of time in which the kids have been released into the wild on summer break. And most days I can let it roll off my back but some days he argues with me about my never liking mustard and on those days I want to call for a do over.

Because I get it. All of his disrespect, all of his angst, all of his constant arguing is always with me. Moms. They are an integral part in my Tariku’s story. Not just me, of course, but of his first mama who he reportedly looks and acts just like. When I think of her, I always think of him. Smile for days, bright eyes, playful and funny but mostly serious and determined.

And I have to believe there are times when he is interacting with me but thinking about her. I’m sure our upturned eyes when he says something funny or wise and our creased forehead when he’s on our every last nerve is vaguely similar. I can’t imagine the pain it causes him sometimes to see her in me or to look at me and be scared not because of what I’m saying or doing but because I remind him of her-of loss and heartbreak.

So on other days, days when it’s not about mustard-obviously, I’m sympathetic. I get it. Changing schedules means anything can happen. It’s why since the time he learned English he asks me what we are doing for the day and then if the car goes off course asks a million follow up questions to make sure we are doing exactly what I had said we were doing. Because of the day when he was told they were going one place and then instead went to an orphanage. That’s why he gets effed up when his scheduled gets effed up.

And I. Get. It.

But it’s fekkin exhausting some days. Some days I look at him and I can see in him the battered and tattered soul that must be looking back from my eyes too. Like two people hanging on to a tree in the middle of a windstorm. We want the same things: to be loved by each other, by other people and for God’s sake we want to love ourselves. Maybe one of those happens first, maybe they happen together-who the hell knows. But here we are, on the damn tree again. Clutching hands and searching for eye contact. A nod that we’re in it together but come hell or high water we will end up together too. Perhaps a little worse for wear but together just the same.

Some days, not days in which we argue about mustard-obviously, we do end up quite literally together. He’ll let me snuggle up to him on his bed. He’s never super relaxed, my Tariku, when I’m snuggling him but ever so closely I creep until he lets me throw an arm around him, sometimes even a leg. “I love you, you know that?” He smiles, nods his head. “No, I mean I seriously love you. Like sometimes I clench my jaw so tightly because if I don’t then I’ll squeeze you to death with all of the love I have for you. It’s too big for my body. My whole body can’t take it, so my big jaw takes it for me.” Laughs, nods. “Ok, just so you know, no matter what-it’s true.” And then as I get up to leave and my back is turned.

“I love you mommy, so much.”


So bloody, sweat and tear strained we retreat to our corners. Me thinking about how mind numbingly frustrating loving another human can be sometimes and him thinking about how I stayed. I freaking stayed.

That’s what she said

I am the kind of person who often processes life through the written word. Sometimes I find I read something and it unearths an emotion in me that I was feeling but didn’t know what to call it. I love reading. The last week, I have loved reading the below links. Hope you do too!

Everyone’s fighting something by Kathy Escobar

“help us learn to live without assuming, without judging. give us hearts filled with compassion because of our shared humanity, our shared experience, our shared trying-to-make-it-through-the-day-as-best-we-can-despite-the-obstacles, our shared desire to be known and loved and accepted not for what’s on the outside but for what’s on the inside, too.”

Where’s the Sanctuary by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

“We met each other where we were at in the most primal way because there was nothing false between us. No pretense, no makeup, no shoes. …Ok. She had shoes… But what more could we have done than sit and cry and talk and listen?”

Your Body is Never The Problem by Hugo

 I want you to know that while not all men are safe and trustworthy, men’s bad behavior is never, ever, ever, ever, ever “your” fault. Your miniskirt doesn’t cause guys (of any age) to do anything they don’t choose to do (no matter what they say to the contrary). It’s not your job to dress to keep yourself safe from men.

A Nation of Wimps by Psychology Today

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. “Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

When Your Mother Says She is Fat by Kasey

Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalising these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueller to us than we are to ourselves.

And this one I absolutely needed today, For the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back by Lisa Jo

These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years. But we do. They usually start with “help” and end with “thank you” and the middle? The middle is a thick layer of reliable wonder sometimes whispered, often shouted, always answered. The middle is me. The middle is you. The middle is just this one, sacred, take-off-your-shoes-worthy syllable, “mom”.

Mommy’s Got a Potty Mouth by Salon (explicit language)

In fact, researchers say, she’s not wrong. According to a recent study in Perspectives on Psychological Science by Timothy Kay of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, swearing offers plenty of compelling psychological benefits, including a sense of catharsis and pain relief.

What have you guys read that stuck lately?

My birthday

I love birthdays, not just mine-though I’m partial to it, all of them. I would say it’s a fairly common occurence that I’m more excited than the birthday person about his/her birthday. What’s not to celebrate? Life! It happened and continues to happen every day! What a gift!

Zach caught on early on in our relationship that I love birthdays and that on my birthday I just loooove to be spoiled. Not in the gift department, the truth is I really could care less about receiving any gifts, but in the thoughtfulness department. As the person who makes most of the decisions regarding the house/kids/babysitting/date nights, etc I get the day off! So if there is a date to be had, I don’t want to correspond with the babysitter. If there’s a meal to be prepared, I don’t want to think about preparing it. Truly that, for me, is the very definition of a gift!

If there’s one thing that became abundantly clear all day it was that I am loved by far more people than I deserve and that I’m far more grateful than they will ever know for that.

A few of my friends met me at the Y to do one of our favorite classes together. You know when you’re just in the same room as so much good energy that it rubs off on you and you’re left feeling like you just got a 2 hour massage? Yeah that.



Oh and I taught Bodypump. Ashley-far left in above pic-took this picture of me and captioned it, “It’s her birthday and she’ll pump if she wants to.” Loved that.



Zach had the kids bring me a balloon-just to my left in above picture-and flowers during my class and then took us all to one of my favorite restaurants afterwards. The Olive Tree is 2 thumbs up if you’re in the QC area!



I scheduled a hair trim (for the side of my head that actually has hair) with my favorite stylist EVER. Molly never judges what I want and is able to understand when I say stuff like, “I want a little shorter here, keep it long right there, probably get rid of some weight and then just guess the rest.” Also she just had one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen a few months ago and already looks amazing, we will forgive her of that indiscretion friends. (And did I mention they serve wine at the hair studio? Wine people!)



Bigs had a baseball game (actually littles did too but I wasn’t aware of that until we got the to the fields…that’s neither here nor there) and I got to watch Trysten and Tariku pitch and Tomas take a few hard hits to the outfield. Also got to hang with my nephew Cassius, win-win-win-win for me!



Finally, Zach and I tried a new restaurant for dinner. He set up the babysitter, he figured out dinner for the children, he made the night (and my life) everything good and lovely.



I happened to have been born on my mom’s birthday. So fun every year to call her on my birthday and sing her happy birthday. A day to celebrate my life and the life of one of my favorite women in all the world? It’s just too much happiness, really.

Do you guys love birthdays? You love gifts or thoughts more? Be honest. 🙂

Photo Dump



Zach trims Hagrid’s hair. We are too cheap to spend $45 on a dog’s hair cut, so it gets sub par trims regularly. No idea why it’s as adorable as it is.




Trysten ran into a door while playing hide and go seek. I’d say monthly I text my sister (a pharmacist) and one of my sister-in-laws (a PA) with a picture and the question, “Stitches or no?” We decided to try butterfly band aids on this one and it seems to be heeling fine-ish.



Zach makes this amazing spaghetti squash alfredo dinner. The man has lost about 25 lbs in the last few months and has taken a new interest in healthier cooking/eating. Everything about this picture turns me on.



I mean, seriously…



Summer has officially started! I LOVE having the kids home full-time (most of the time). Their picture on the first day of school (top) and last day (bottom). This is as close to Pinterest-worthy as this blog gets so Pin away people. 😉



Bridget was in Chicago for a wedding and I successfully talked her into swinging by on her way home. Though I wish it was for longer, sometimes you just have to be around a person to feel better about life-she’s one of those people.



The kiddos.



My big 3 do their own laundry. They each get a little basket and when it’s full, start the process. I love this system and it really has worked for us all…until baseball season. They’ve collectively decided it doesn’t make sense to wash the uniforms when they will just be getting them dirty the next day (who can argue with this logic? Not me). It’s reached a breaking point, though, and I’m really suppressing the Tes(i) by not doing their laundry for them. They are still ridiculously cute, though.



A camp counselor from the last few years (one of the favorites for sure) was at camp a few days ago and said, “I want to babysit your kids, how about Friday?” Um, yes. Any chance to spend alone time with Zach is treasured and right before summer camp is an almost necessity. Love him.



Yesterday was a super fun event Color the Quad (basically a Color run in the Quad Cities). Some of the money raised went to Camp Abe Lincoln and so all of the counselors got to be the ones spraying the children runners with color. Zach got to start the event so the whole family went and the kids ended up getting to be part of the fun too. This community is just so awesome.



After the running was over it became a free for all with my kids and counselors.



Binyam definitely go the worst of it. This kid who constantly has snot on his face had blue snot the rest of the day. Gross. When Tariku saw him he exclaimed, “Binyam you look like the guys from Bodies Revealed!” And it was kind of true.



So cute.



After the Color the Quad we went to the Farmer’s Market. Besides some local spicy cheese curds (a request from Tomas) and salsa (a request from Zach) we bought this-a bow tie for Hagrid. It was almost a necessity. Almost.