That’s What She Said

Being laid up for 6 weeks has its perks, namely-I get to read lots. Take advantage of my situation.

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan with this.

Now as I kiss my 10 year old brown boy on the head at night, I wonder when he will be too big, too tall, too scary to walk to the corner gas station without risking the assumption that he doesn’t belong. Will he be labeled a thug if he dresses like Justin Beiber (hat turned around, baggy pants, big shirt)? I’ve been assured by friends that my boys are “good Christian boys” and no one would ever mistake them for thugs. But what if they shoot first and ask who they are second? I always knew I would have to teach them to navigate what to do if pulled over for DWB (driving while Black) but I had not really put a lot of thought into teaching them how to not look suspicious in their own neighborhood.

Nicholas Kristof with this.

Big Agriculture has dug in its heels, backing “ag gag” laws that punish whistle-blowerswho secretly document abusive conditions for livestock or poultry. The House of Representatives recently had the gall to amend the farm bill so as to nullify many state laws protecting farm animals. “In a single legislative act, it could undo two decades of state lawmaking to protect animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States; let’s hope the Senate-House conference committee will drop this amendment.

Rachel Held Evans with this.

Jesus used his privilege to extend the kingdom of God. We, on the other hand, tend to use our privilege to contract the kingdom of God. Jesus used story-telling to give voice to the Other and invite the Other in. We tend to use story-telling to give voice to ourselves and help us identify like-minded others. Jesus’ story-telling was other-centered and inclusive. Our story-telling tends to be me-centered and exclusive.

Again Rachel Held Evans with this too.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.  In short, we like to gang up.  We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

Kristen Howerton with this too.

Simply put, privilege refers to an unearned advantage. It usually refers to something inherent . . . something you were born with rather than something you worked for. There are many types of privilege: economic privilege, gender privilege, heterosexual privilege, and of course . . . racial privilege. Racial privilege can take many forms, from minor things to life-threatening things. White privilege can look like being able to grab some shampoo at the grocery store and being confident they carry products for your hair type. White privilege can look like being able to find a band-aid that matches your skin tone. White privilege can look like waling through an upscale residential neighborhood without anyone wondering what you are doing there. White privilege can look like wearing a baseball cap and baggy pants and no one assuming you are a criminal.

Emily Wierenga with this.

A culture that has lost the scope and art of beauty. The curve of beauty. The shape of beauty found in the rounded tummy, found in the soft cushion of an arm, found in the maternal hug. We’ve forgotten the beauty that can be found in a nurturing figure, in a real-life person, in the struggle and surrender of a body to nature.  We are hard on you, Kate, because we hate ourselves. But enough. We need to stop. Because we are hurting you and ourselves. We are hurting our daughters and our sisters for all of our self-loathing. And perfection isn’t attainable, no matter one’s size.

As always, link me to some of your favorites you’ve read lately!

My Dailah is 7 (!)

Dailah was born July 26, 2006 almost 4 weeks shy of her due date. Zach had just taken a 24 hour train ride to a conference in another state when I called to tell him it was baby time. I was sick, had a high fever and it was getting risky for us both. After a devastating miscarriage the year before, I will be honest with you that I was scared out of mind to lose her. Zach heard it in my voice on the phone and booked the next flight home. My mom, sisters-in-law Leslie and Kait (and Zach, of course) were all there for her birth. It was intense. After she was born they whisked her off to the NICU.

Big brother, Trysten, first seeing her just hours after she was born.



Her lungs were underdeveloped, she had a bit of a fever but was otherwise healthy. Almost 7lbs of dark-haired goodness.

I got to hold her a few days after she was born, one of the best days of my life.



I was able to spend the nights in the NICU with her so I could continue breastfeeding her (when she was finally able to eat after a day or so) and those were some of the most special nights when I felt like it was her and me against the world. When I’d be able to just rest in her strength and beauty and my ridiculous amounts of love for her.





A week after she was born she got to come home with us. She continued to be the strong character she gave us glimpses of in the hospital. And she continues to this day.

Getting her nails done by her pseudo-auntie Chrissy during her birthday week.



Dailah LOVES sleeping in. She’s always been my late to bed, late to rise kinda gal.



We got to have a really long FaceTime conversation with my niece Adley Sue. The two of them are hilarious together, I love seeing their budding friendship grow the older Adley gets.



Had a few people out for her dinner birthday, she was so happy they came out.



Her style. No words to describe how perfectly she executes outfits and accessories.



Dailah recently lost her front tooth, I can’t help but cry a little inside when I see my baby growing up before my eyes.



These two bond over fashion and make up.



She’s around boys all of the time so naturally a few of her best friends are also boys.



Oh my does she just. keep. growing.





Sometimes I’m at a loss to describe this little darling of mine. Of course I happen to think the world of her but it reassures me to know everyone who meets her thinks the same.

If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that she’s going to change the world. Probably not in this big, Ghandi-like way, but certainly in the way that she challenges people to love and appreciate every moment of life.

I know for sure she has changed my entire world by being the light in the darkness and the reminder to hold on to everything I value with all that I have.

And I also happen to know I love her with every inch of my body.

Happy birthday, baby girl. Love you more than you can measure,


Tiny Revolution

Today (Dailah’s 7th birthday) we were in the main lodge at camp for breakfast. Every few minutes a camp counselor would come up to Dailah, pick her up and twirl her around, whisper something in her ear and then put her back down. She always came away from these experiences with a really big grin.

Multiple times a day I recognize how blessed we are to live at camp. Though it certainly has its drawbacks, there are far too many good things that outweigh those less than optimal things.

Zach will often come home with stories about specific counselors. Things they have been through in their lives, hardships they have overcome. I’m constantly surprised by these stories because to me these beautiful people are just part of our camp family.

It occurred to me the other reason I was surprised these young adults were sometimes the kids in school who felt out of place is because camp is a place where the ragamuffins all feel welcome. As I looked around the lodge I saw people from every gender (including one transexual), race and nationality. We have tattooed people, the super religious, gay/lesbian/bisexual, long hair and short hair. We have the choir peeps and the jocks. The sorority/fraternity and the bookworm. And though they have their fair share of squabbles they all coexist in this amazing space of love and acceptance.

Zach told me at one of his supervisor meetings they were discussing dress codes and had settled on a basic uniform. Then he said, “Look, I think this makes sense for the other Y’s. It looks professional and welcoming. If you want us to do that at camp, I absolutely will. But at camp we are different. We like that about each other. These counselors come to camp because they are loved for all of their uniquenesses. That extends from their hair to their piercings to the way they dress. I don’t want that to go away because I think the kids that come to camp can sense that. I think they see our counselors and know that this might be the only place in the world where they fit in. So I’ll do what you ask here but I’m hopeful you’ll let that continue.”

Perhaps that’s what I love most about camp. I see a teenage male wearing a makeshift cape to camp and no one teasing him for it. I read the notes from campers to counselors thanking them for making them feel loved beyond anything they had previously experienced, I read the Father’s Day card to Zach from a teenage girl who had never known the love of a dad until Zach “Maverick” came into her life.

Because I’m not in the thick of the day-to-day operations (that can often bog down and make one forget the experiences of camp) I get to stand in awe of the powerful transformations that happen in both counselor and camper. I get to think about and pray for these counselors who become my children’s aunties and uncles for months (sometimes years!) at a time. Once in awhile I even get to lament the fact that I was never able to experience these same things when I was their age.

But my overwhelming feeling is that of gratitude that there is a place for us all.  I love knowing that there are still pockets of our culture that celebrate differences rather than judge them. And I am so grateful I live here and am a witness to it every day.

So grateful my ragamuffin family lives in a community where we are accepted and are part of a tiny revolution of people trying to love the previously felt unloveable.

That time when I was an 80-year-old woman and broke my foot walking

On Friday I was walking from the main lodge here at camp to my car. I would actually describe my pace as “yogging”, which is what Zach and I call it when one is half jogging, half walking. I was talking to Trysten who was a few feet in front of me when I suddenly went down.

Trysten would later describe it as, “One second you were there and the next I heard “Oh!” and you were gone.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

I knew the second I fell that I had broken something. I could tell I had rolled the ankle but it felt different from the many times I’ve injured my ankles and so I just knew it was broken.

Also it looked like this: (that little bump is the 5th metatarsal-say hello-and I just noticed my second toe looks like there’s a heart in the nail polish. Cute!)



Thankfully Trysten, who is always waaaay more level headed than I am, asked what he should do and then ran off to get Zach when I asked him to. Sweet Zach went and cancelled all of his stuff so he could drop the kids off at Terre’s and then take me to the ER. (Pictured here with my ever growing foot boob).



After some x-rays and a good chat with the PA about why I throw up when I’m in pain (don’t judge, it happens) he told me indeed the 5th metatarsal was broken and I jacked up all the tendons and ligaments in the ankle as well. Here’s a boot, don’t put pressure on it, go see a specialist on Monday.



Meanwhile, the boob continued to grow.


And grow, until it took over my whole foot and ankle…



Yesterday I went to the specialist. I was really hoping to hear, “Ok, you did x to yourself. You will be out of commission x time.” Instead I heard, “You broke your 5th metatarsal in zone 2 which basically means it could go either way. It could heal on it’s own or you might need surgery to put a pin in place. You might go 6 weeks and then we decide you need surgery. You also twisted your ankle enough that it needs physical therapy but we can’t do that until the bone starts to heal. You’re looking at 3 months of it being pretty weak and shaky but even then, it will probably never go back to normal.”

Blurg. Stupid foot boob.



I got the ok to stick with the foot boot instead of being casted. He okayed that as long as I didn’t put any pressure on the foot at all-which includes no driving for 6 weeks. 😦

I’ve never been a person who sits still very well. I will admit I’ve been pretty sad since Friday about the fact that I’m going to miss teaching classes (I LOVE the people in my classes), not be able to just get up and go with the kids and have to rely on other people to do so much for me.

Did I mention I’m not super at asking for help and gladly accepting it? So 6 weeks of having to ask my kids, hubby and friends to do basic things for me feels like torture.

The good news is, it’s become pretty clear I needed to slow down a bit. Monday when I was icing the foot boob Trysten and I spent 45 minutes just talking. Normally I would’ve been doing laundry or dishes or something busy and it wouldn’t have happened. So I am definitely embracing the silver lining in all of this.

And honestly, it’s been such a great reminder that we need each other. That humans are meant to share and be in community constantly. I think I often convince myself that I can do this little life on my own. What a wake up call to be reminded that not only can I not do this on my own, by why the hell would I want to? Life is better shared. People love helping. I hope even after this foot heals that I can remember that.

Friends are coming over today to paint nails, bring food for the family and hang with me, this is no small task since I live 30 minutes from town. Regardless of the foot injury, I am so very grateful for this life of mine.

If you need me I’ll be here, reading and watching my tomatoes turn red.



Blogamigas in Seattle







Hard to put into words just how needed my trip to Seattle was. I’ll get to that, let me start with the activities of the week.

Jody picked me up from the airport after a harrowing journey for her and a vomit induced journey for me. We went right to a hotel and talked into the wee hours of the morning, catching up on too much time gone by.

Next morning we woke up early so she could be my Seattle tour guide. Our first stop was the ferry that was to take us from West Seattle into the heart of the city. We had to do some jogging to make it in time, but make it we did.



(A lot of selfies were taken on this trip) 🙂

We successfully walked around eating our way through the beautiful city. Great vegetarian restaurants are there, as well as cupcake bakeries, so really what could go wrong? We also took a tour of the Underground city. Though perhaps a little anticlimactic, we did enjoy watching the other people also on the tour. Here we are trying to draw out the ghost that lives there with our flash. It did not work.



On the way back to West Seattle I snapped a few pics of the beautiful city. Really do love how it’s surrounded by mountains, water and then there’s a big city!



That night Jody dropped me off at Sarah’s where Cathy, Deirdre and Jayme had been deposited after their flights. After a night of wine, story telling and bonding we set off to hike a mountain the next morning.



I LOVED seeing this side of Seattle. Though cities are fun, I must admit nature is where my heart really belongs. Hiking? Talking with great friends? Watching kids fall in love with nature? These are a few of my favorite things!







After a delicious meal in Seattle we met at Sarah’s again where Chandra, Christina and Carrie were waiting for us. Alas, we headed to the house Sarah had rented for us. Near the beach, big enough for all of us (except Deirdre who decided she’d sleep in a closet a la Harry Potter).


It was perfect!



The next day was Cathy’s birthday. We spent a good deal of that day on the beach where Carrie brought homemade paninis. You guys, she made paninis and then carried them to the beach on a baking sheet. It was then that I asked her to marry me.

Chandra needed to put sweet Juniper down for a nap so Cathy and I walked back with her. Cathy’s family called her on FaceTime to wish her a happy birthday. Her face was pure mama joy, I had to capture it.



Deirdre and I had left to get some goodies for that night’s meal and to grab a few things for Cathy. She loves tea, so we had a little too much fun picking out her gifts.



We got home to news of George Zimmerman being found not guilty. I’ve spoken on that but let me just say, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but there-with these women. Celebrating Cathy’s life and talking about every. single. aspect of our lives.



Super thankful for each one of them, really.



Carrie said it so well, “But what I did not know as I took those first sure steps towards family is that along the way you would be woven into our lives.  To support.  And to listen.  To encourage.  And to share.  To lean and be leaned on.  Without judgement.  But with a heck of a lot of laughing (and wine) along the way.”

It’s so true. Before adopting Tariku I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I would find a few of my greatest friends online ( 🙂 ), through adoption chat groups. That adoption would perhaps end up being the least of the things that we had in common. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I would find my soul sisters in this group. Other women who are navigating the really wonderful parts of life: motherhood, marriage, friendship, etc and all the not-so-wonderful: other aspects of motherhood, disease, death, race, attachment, trauma, etc.

And yet, there we were, in that beautiful house discussing all of those things as well as the stuff in between. Laughing until we were crying, crying until we were laughing. Holding hands when needed, rubbing backs at times. Spoiling Juniper, spoiling each other.

Here’s the reality: female relationships can be interesting. Sometimes I’ve tried to create a friendship and realized, often too late, that it’s too competitive or not nurturing enough. I’ve walked into a room of women and sensed if I spilled all of my secrets I wouldn’t be understood or would be judged in some way.

But not here. Not with this group of women. These women are the best of the best. Offering advice but not pretending to be experts, recognizing when it’s just time to listen. Offering wine when needed, food always. Makes me incredibly sad that we’re all spread so far apart in this great nation.

Above all, I’m just so thankful for them. And thankful for my parents, sister/brother-in-law, brother/sister-in-law for watching my kiddos. Thankful for Zach who allows me to stretch our limited income every year far enough to take these trips. I’m thankful my mom once told me to pour energy into friendships that will sustain me through all the ups and downs life throws at me. Thankful I listened to that advice. Thankful to God for creating these women who would end up becoming such a blessed part of my life.

Love you, ladies. Thank you, thank you for being you and for accepting me.




On Trayvon

There are far too many well written things already done on the George Zimmerman case out there. The truth is, they are written by people who write for a living and/or people who have a much higher stake in this “game” (i.e. people of color) and so I defer mostly to them. Take a look at some of the links here or friend me on Facebook where I’ve linked to a few great posts as well.

On Monday when we were riding in the car listening to NPR the kids started asking me questions. Having always been open and honest with them on every topic, race included, I stayed the course and tried to answer their questions with every bit of honesty I could. At one point Tariku asked something to the effect of, “But why did George Zimmerman think Trayvon was suspicious?” God help me I started crying. Because I was looking at the face of my gorgeous black son and had to tell him, “Because he’s black.”

Of course I saw it on his face, and the face of Dailah who started crying too. I went on to explain I was crying because the thought of someone finding my sons-my brilliant, kind, generous, loving sons-threatening scares the ever lovin’ shit out of me. I was crying because Tariku, of all of my kids, would be the 17-year-old out buying his little brother skittles and iced tea wearing a hoodie in the rain. I was crying because the reality was, until I adopted my 3 boys I had no idea just how bad our system is in protecting people of color, I had no idea just how deep my white privilege was/is.

As much as I want to feel badly about the years in which I definitely said racist things and perpetuated racial stereotypes, it does nothing in the way of furthering my commitment to to stop doing that. So many of the people I grew up with, people also born in white suburbia, don’t have to acknowledge racism because it isn’t a part of their reality. But I want to challenge all people not to deny something exists just because it doesn’t happen to them.

I will raise my 3 black sons to live in a world that will treat them differently than it treats their white brother. I will raise them that way because I have to. And I say that knowing it might not freaking matter. I say that knowing there is still a chance a man with a gun might confront them and “stand his ground” all while not allowing my sons to “stand their ground”.

I also know this is true. My 3 black sons have 2 white parents. My umbrella of white privilege will most definitely cover them when they are with me, and will undoubtedly cover them a little more while they are out in a community in which we are known. But that will not stop me from acting on every racist thing I hear anymore, it won’t stop me from acting in any way possible. I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, but I have a feeling in the coming months and years there will be opportunities for me to reveal my true character on racism and I will not be found wanting.

The stakes are too high, not just for my boys but for millions more just like them. Cute little afro-ed boys who turn out to be strong, black men.

So please, educate yourself. Set aside your politics or your pride and just. freaking. do. it. Open your ears and your heart, let your mind burst wide open with the possibility that things might not be the way you’ve always seen them. And read. Read like crazy. Start with blogs and then go get this book. The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the time of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is one of the best books I’ve ever read about race and our country’s really, really terrible justice system.

Thank you, thank you.

What have you read about the case that speaks to you?

Off to Seattle!

Today, after a brief stop at Adventureland, I am heading to Seattle. My parents, sister/brother-in-law and brother/sister-in-law are taking the kiddos for the rest of the week so that I can jet off to visit friends. (It’s summer camp season, Zach will be holding down the home front with his 12 hour days-God bless him).

I’m going to visit Jody and most of these women. I am really, really excited.

And though I think at this point I might be the only one of those women still blogging regularly (ahem) I am so thankful for the blogging world that brought us all together originally.

In other news, as I was choosing my outfit today I thought probably I should wear a nice pair of underwear, you know, in case the plane crashes and I’m rushed to the hospital or something. Then I realized if the worst happened, Zach wouldn’t be able to identify my body if it were suited up in nice underwear. 😉

To Seattle!

Speak to me of Iron, Diamonds, Zombies and All Things Minecraft

Trysten. Being the oldest of the group he can often be found quietly observing the constant chaos of this crew. A few hours will pass with all of us in a car when I realize he hasn’t actually talked much, if at all, and has spent most of the time staring out the window or reading.

When you get him alone, though, he often won’t stop talking. And these days? These days it’s all about Minecraft. Oy vey. Minecraft.

On the one hand, I really kind of love that the kids all love this little game of theirs on their iPods. They are typically all building together in this fantasy land that consists of the most random and elaborate things. I love hearing them work together to create a fantasy world and then protect it from zombies and the like.

But seriously? When Trysten starts talking to me about Minecraft, I can feel my eyes start to glaze over. As excited as he gets (and boy does he!) I can’t bring myself to share in his enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I give it the ole’ college try and focus on the details of his monologue so he’ll know I’m listening when I’m able to ask him about it later on.

I think I realized early on in my parenting career that these moments of my kids telling me every minutia of their day is fleeting. Though I’ve always been one to (over)share with those I love since the dawn of time, I realize my kids will go through a time when I’m the very last person on earth with whom they want to talk. And though I’m sure it will hurt like hell when that time comes, at least I’ll know that while I had the chance to listen to them and revel in every detail of their lives that I did.

I also believe that by listening to the mundane, they feel more inclined to tell me the rest. More often than not, if I can hang on through the Minecraft banter, Trysten begins telling me other stuff too. About his friends, girls, school, etc. I think sometimes kids need that icebreaker and if we tune them out to the icebreakers, they  think we don’t want the deeper stuff either. I’m hopeful that one day when they want to talk to me about sex, for instance, I won’t shrug off their icebreaker talk about school or the weather or whatever just because I’ve heard it a million times before.

Like most things I’m sure I’m over thinking it a little bit. But for me, it’s so important my kids know that they have a safe place to discuss whatever is on their littles hearts in me. Even though right now it’s mostly Minecraft I know too soon it will be some bigger, sometimes scarier stuff and I want them to feel heard for all of it. The good, the bad, happy and sad. I know most of the time when we tell each other what’s on our hearts we aren’t looking for advice, we’re just looking to be heard and understood. To share in the human experience. If nothing else, I want my kids to know I’m ready to share whatever human experience they are currently working through. ‘Cuz sweet Jesus they are some of the best humans I know.


3 years

3 years ago Tomas and Binyam touched Iowa soil for the first time.

3 years ago I wrote this about being home.

3 years ago this was indicative of how Tomas felt about me.

3 years ago we would find Binyam awake, looking out a crack in the doorway hours after we put him to bed. So scared that something would change while he was sleeping, he remained vigilant until I figured out I had to sit by his bedside until he fell asleep.

3 years ago we didn’t have air conditioning in our house (yikes!)

3 years ago the kids looked like this.

So hard to believe it’s been only 3 years since bringing “The Birhanu brothers” home. I genuinely can’t picture my life without either of them and so to believe I have spent more time as a mom without them than with is kind of jarring to my senses.

We’ve come a long way from the time that Tomas wouldn’t look at me, let alone hold my hand. Most nights he can be found making a beeline for me to hug and kiss goodnight and forgetting to do the same for Zach. Binyam barely blinked the first few weeks home he was so over stimulated. He didn’t talk, he didn’t smile (much) he drooled constantly. Looking back, I’ve never actually seen a child exhibit fear in such a profound way at such a young age. Today he’s our giggle monster who falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow.

The first time I saw those two little boys I knew they were going to be ours. I knew they were adorable, I knew their social reports made them sound like perfect little angels. I knew of Binyam’s club feet and Tomas’s older age. I knew the bare minimum and yet, I knew they were my sons.

I had no idea Tomas was called “little mayor” in Ethiopia and that his ability to win over adults in split seconds would negatively affect our bonding. I had no idea Tomas would struggle so much with his working memory, forgetting details so easily-making it harder for him in school and any social setting that would require him to remember to bring things. 🙂

I had no idea Binyam would shut down when he felt attacked to the point of screaming and drooling for an hour at a time. I had no idea he would climb so far into himself that no one could get to him for hours or days. I had no idea that this would affect his schooling and his ability to maintain relationships.

But I also had no idea that Tomas would teach me all I ever needed to know about joy. I had no idea that when I heard Tomas laugh with absolute abandon for the first time that the sound would settle somewhere in my heart to be accessed in really tough moments. I had no idea that one day he would be the kid I turned to when I needed someone to tell me a story that would make me both laugh and cry. I had no idea one day he would hug me, without prompting, and I would feel more loved than I ever have in my whole life.

I had no idea that Binyam would one day look at me with his big eyes after getting discouraged and say things like, “I did it, mommy! I took deep breaths and I didn’t get angry like you said!” I had no idea that mothering Binyam would unleash a mama bear in me that had yet to be discovered. That when I didn’t think he was getting the help or attention he needed that I would unceasingly call every person I knew to get him an appointment with someone I knew could help. I had no idea when he gave me a kiss with those beautiful lips (snot included!) of his that I would know for certain all good and perfect things come to those who wait.

These last 3 years haven’t always been easy. There have been days when I wanted to give up. Days I wanted to start again. There have been many unanswered prayers, but many more answered even though I never thought to ask.

What I know for sure? Regardless of the fact that we knew nothing about these boys before we begged to adopt them, they have been two of life’s greatest blessings for me. Proof that we don’t always need to know every possible outcome of every possible equation to know fully what we are supposed to do. To me, Tomas and Binyam are proof of God’s grace to a gal like me, because surely no unworthy soul would ever be given two remarkable boys like them.