Colorado

Colorado

A few weeks ago I took off for Colorado to hang with some of my very best friends. I remember the first time we got together I was so nervous. I had loved these women and their online personas for so long I just wanted so badly for them to be exactly how they seemed. They weren’t. They were even better.

So this year I was just excited-counting down the weeks, then days-excited. Mostly for these women but also because I love Colorado. You guys, I want to live there. There, I said it. It’s gotten so bad Zach isn’t sure he wants me to visit anymore. I just love it! The mountains, the lakes, the culture. Everyone seems to be out and about all day, eating well and moving their bodies. I love it. Also, come on. It’s beautiful.

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Chandra picked me up ass early from the airport (that’s just what I do-make 34 week pregnant ladies wake up at 5:30am to come get me at the airport) and brought me to her house. I was so excited to meet all of her boys, including her awesome hubs. This is her backyard, by the way. I see you Colorado.

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We headed up to Deirdre’s new place in the mountains (near Winter Park-Frasier). Carrie and Sarah’s plane from Seattle made a pit stop in Nebraska (!) and ended up being many hours late so Chandra, Cathy and I made ourselves comfortable in Deirdre’s house without her. 🙂

The rest of the week was spent mostly with either coffee or wine in hand chatting on Deirdre’s couches. Also eating. Lots of delicious, delicious food. Cathy, Chandra and Deirdre spoiled us with their fine cuisine.

Friday the 8th happened to be Sarah’s birthday so we celebrated it by taking a pontoon out on a lake in the mountains. Right after I posted about gaining my Michigan boater safety license Deirdre texted me, “Glad you got that. How about you drive a pontoon boat for us on Friday?”

I take my duty very seriously, as shown by me asking the dock hand what I should know about the waters and vegetation and such.

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The weather was absolutely picture perfect but the conversations were my very favorite part. It turns out nature was pretty great at celebrating Sarah’s birth as well. That Sarah, she is amazing. Grateful for her, as always.

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We had lunch on the boat and then tried many times to get the perfect picture of all of us.

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The weather was perfect…until it wasn’t. A storm rolled in so I opened the throttle, Deirdre (with the metal rod in her back) hid and Cathy and Carrie just went on acting like nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

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Rocky Mountain National Park was equally kind to us.

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We even got to see a moose! This was a first for me, no idea why we were all so taken by it but we watched it move for a really long time. Nature is incredibly mesmerizing.

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We went on a few hikes, welcomed another adoptive mama for dinner, slept in bunk beds and allowed each mama as much sleep as they could possibly want or need.

I remember in 1st grade Trysten came home and told me about how his teacher told him we each have a bucket. If you’re nice to a person you fill their bucket, if you’re mean-you poke a whole in the bucket. The lesson being, obviously, be the kind of person who fills buckets.

We’re in the home stretch of summer over here in Michigan, this means a whole host of things-namely abject chaos. When my kids are nervous/anxious about something it presents itself in a myriad of ways, all of which are on this side of annoying.

So thankful I had the 4 days in the mountains to fill up my bucket, memories from my week with these women work to offset some of my frustration at the last week of summer. Though I have so many good friends who live closer, these women get my specific kind of mothering in a way not many can. They are the ones I text or call when news of Michael Brown comes out (more on him later), the ones I text random things to with the question, “You think adoption related or boy related?” They’re my people. Make sure you make time for women like them in your life, so that on days when you’re pretty sure you will be driven insane by life you can text them and they’ll say “Yeah, it’s Lord of the Flies over here too.”

*Also of note, I got to check out an awesome run shop in Denver started by a guy with whom I went to college. Pat is and has always been a top notch dude. He’ll take care of you right Denverites, go get your gear from him.

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*I got to see Common in the airpot on my way home. He smells of sex and baked goods. Trust that I don’t like being objectified and believe in my heart we women shouldn’t do it to men but come on…it was Common. I took a terrible sneaky pic and then “casually” made my way next to him so that I sat by him on the train. We parted but I’m pretty sure he’s just as torn up about it as I am.

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*My parents are the very best. Every year I text my mom, “Girls weekend x date, can you watch the kids?” So when Zach is pulling 18 hour days and I’m off drinking wine and eating carbs my parents are taking my kids on more adventures than they get in a year with me. So thankful for them.

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12 Years

On Sunday Zach and I celebrated the fact that these two crazy kids

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have survived 12 years of marriage.

I know it’s not romantic to say “survived” but anyone who has been married will tell you that’s essentially what it comes down to.

In the car a few days ago some terrible love song came on and I switched the station. Dailah asked me to switch it back so I asked her why she liked the song. She liked it for all the reasons young people like love songs: it’s a man/woman professing their undying attraction/lust/warm feelings towards someone else. We want that for ourselves.

And I get it, totally. I considered letting my 8-year-old in on the secret about real love but decided maybe it’s not the worst thing that she believes that’s love for a little bit longer.

The truth is love inside of a marriage is more about doing hard things. It’s about both people waking up in the middle of the night when your great dane has a terrible case of butt pee and, wordlessly, divvying up the disgusting task of clean up. No arguing about who did what last but just silently agreeing that you’re in this together. Also no more letting the grandparents give the dog bacon.

The truth is staying up until 2am talking about what’s got you both upset even though the kids need to be at school in a few hours and a day full of meetings is within breathing distance. It’s knowing it would be a lot easier to ignore it for a few more hours/days and discuss it when it’s more convenient but also knowing it’s too unhealthy. Knowing that resentment builds, shit is dug up from the past and by the time it’s more convenient the original anger has been blown into World War III proportions.

The truth is after 12 years together I would buy the shit out of a song that expressed the sexiness in hearing your husband say to your kids, “Can you believe your mom works this hard for us?” Or describes that moment when your husband looks at you-all decked out in sweatpants and on day 4 of unwashed hair-and you know he is overcome with love and the slightest bit of lust. That’s the good stuff, right there.

I want a song that celebrates the mundane just a little bit more. I know that’s what scares so many singletons before marriage-waking up to the same person every morning and doing basically the same thing every day-but what no one can tell you until it’s arrived is that there’s some comfort in that. There’s some comfort in waking up to see coffee made, my favorite mug (Dumbledore, obviously) positioned next to the pot. The slow dance we do around the kitchen with him starting toast and me putting away clean dishes. Get out the peanut butter, two step, grab the knife, two step, fill two cups with ice water…

My in-laws watched the kids so we could go on a date for our anniversary. We chose to go to Boyhood at our favorite Kalamazoo theater. We liked the idea that Boyhood was a film that took 12 years to make. The parallels were perfect.

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And I loved the movie. Absolutely loved it. Because nothing really happened. I don’t want to give it away but it really is exactly about what the Director set out to make it about. It’s about 12 years in the life of this boy and his family. As someone who consumes entertainment on the regular I’ve been classically conditioned to expect major life happenings but was so pleasantly surprised that instead it was just life. On the big screen. It was beautiful.

Probably Z and my marriage won’t inspire any Hollywood blockbuster. In the end if someone were to have been taping us all along  I think it would be most easily described as “it wasn’t really about anything.” But for those who are also living their lives with the people they love I also believe they’d end it with “but it was beautiful.”

Love you, Z, thanks for doing the hard work to make this life so beautiful.

Read also about How We Met.

11 Years.

Camp!

Last week all 5 of the kiddos went to resident camp here at Camp Eberhart, this marked the first time for Binyam (he’s always just done a week of day camp-coming home every night) and the first time for them all at our new camp. Though they all wanted to go back to Camp Abe Lincoln for a week as well, we just couldn’t make it work this year.

Every summer I try to plan their week of camp towards the end of summer for one main reason: we are positively sick of each other. If I plan their week away too soon after school lets out we are still in the honeymoon stages of summer. All blissed out on late nights and sleeping in. I’ve found a few weeks before school returns is the best time for all of us to send them away for a week. 😉

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It was a little bizarre for me not knowing all of the procedures for drop off and the like at this camp. Having lived at Abe Lincoln for 7 years I knew all of the ins and outs, as well as most of the counselors and all of the staff. I’m not quite there at Eberhart so I got to experience what a first time mom must feel like when dropping her kids off-a little overwhelmed. But because I’ve been there let me tell you-don’t let it stop you. It’s short lived uncomfortableness for a week of (mostly) bliss!

In past years I would often see the kids at least once a day, either walking by our house (at Abe Lincoln our house was in the middle of all camp activity) or at meals. This year I made it a point to stay away all week- I wanted to give them a legit camp experience. Though they saw Zach off and on during the week (hard to avoid when his office is in the main lodge) only Dailah saw me once and that was because she brought two of her friends to our house during their open period. 🙂

Zach and I had an awesome week together, heading to Kalamazoo and Chicago for some quick getaways. I’m so grateful for his new job that allows him to sneak away for a bit during the summer. Other than that one time when we had to go pick up our 2 new sons in Ethiopia for two weeks (!) Zach hasn’t been able to take an hour off any summer, let alone an afternoon or a whole night! Felt a little like playing hooky, which we all know makes everything feel a little more exciting!

The kids had so much fun. Every year I’m reminded why I send them to camp-they come back so mature and so proud of themselves. Remember how you felt the first time you really fled the coop? I remember the first time I came back from college I was walking just a little taller, feeling so much older because I had managed to survive without my parents. I think that’s essentially what camp does for kids. Yes, Trysten wore the same shirt for 6 straight days and Binyam forgot to bring a pillow altogether (one of my rules is that they are responsible for packing their things. I will not bring them anything they’ve forgotten). Yes, Tomas only wore his swimming trunks all week and Tariku lost his voice from all the camp songs and the yelling. It is not what our week would’ve looked like had they been with me but they lived and it only took 3 days for their feet to dislodge all of the dirt.

But more than that the reports from their counselors said things like, “He is a remarkably polite and respectful young man.” “He was so good at including everyone in group activities!” “He has a very amicable and generous personality which made him a joy to be around.” “He was one of the nicest boys I have ever had in my cabin.” “She brought just the perfect amount of joy, friendship and sassiness to the whole cabin!”

I love that. You’ve heard it said that character is what people are doing when no one is watching, right? For kids I think it’s what’s being done when their parents aren’t watching. I’m so proud of them for sticking to their guns even when it would’ve been pretty easy to forget all they’ve learned.

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As a quick aside for adoptive parents…camp can still be a little hard for my babes. Tariku actually picked a fight with me an hour before we dropped him off. Even though I knew it was a defense mechanism it was still really hard to not go for the bait. It’s so much easier for him to say good bye to us for a week if he convinces us all he never loved us anyway. And Tariku is always upset for a few days upon returning home (as evidenced in the above photo). This was the first year he didn’t cry for the first 2 nights home begging to go back to camp. Even Zach said this year that it was hard to see Tariku so loving with the kids and counselors-his arm flung around their shoulders. Looking like the weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Even after 6 years we have to remind ourselves that it might always be this way-life in a family is really hard, life in a group of friends with fewer expectations and fewer emotionally charged memories is WAY. Easier.

That said, every year gets a little bit better. Every year they assimilate a little more back into the family structure and every year I think it helps remind them of their permanency here. So please don’t let that be a reason you don’t send your kids.*

Note: no one pays me to endorse camp. Zach is such a stickler for rules, we even pay for our kids to go (should anyone question who is the better human between the pair of us they need only listen to our conversations about paying for camp. This involves mostly me whining about the cost and the fact that he’s the director maybe they should go for free and him reminding me that it is a non-profit and because we pay camp is able to afford to give a spot to a kid who can’t afford it. Point-Zach.)

*Obviously you know your kids better than I ever will so if attaching isn’t going well at all, probably they aren’t ready for camp.