2015, A Recap

2015, A Recap

What a year it’s been! WordPress sends out a yearly review of this blog and it was brought to my attention that I only blogged 25 times this year. Could that be true? That means I missed a lot of what we did this year so I wanted a place to recap 2015. It’s my blog, I can photo dump if I want to.

January 5 Ian Matthew was born and the world will never be the same. I wrote about this little bit of squishy preciousness here.

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Zach and I tried teaching Dailah to snowboard and Binyam to ski. It took multiple hours, numerous utterances of the F bomb and this one selfie of Zach flipping off the camera with a gloved finger for us to cry out uncle and literally never return.

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Dailah received a 1st place trophy for cheerleading. Even though our alarm clocks rang out at 3:45am we still managed to hoot and holler louder than anyone else.

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We had our first experience with toboggans. The hill is on the left, only 2 people the employees of the hill had ever seen crash halfway down are on the right. We assume it’s because not many things were meant to carry 2 Klipschs due to sheer head size and overall beefiness. We lived and I peed a little laughing so hard so not all was lost.

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My kids continued to eat me out of house and home. I now double a recipe if it says “serves 8” and usually the kids still eat more fruit after all of that is gone. If you hear of giveaways that feature blessing someone with groceries for a year I’d be much obliged if you would enter us. I’ll have to start working if these people continue at this pace. 😉

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Tariku and Trysten filmed a commercial for summer camp. I’m not entirely sure why anyone would use anyone other than my kids in their commercials after seeing how adorable they were. 🙂

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I helped a fitness studio start up. Though I’ve done marketing for over a decade it was fun to be able to shape the tone and “voice” of the business from the beginning. Plus I got to work with my good friend Kyle Taylor in creating the logo (thanks, Kyle!)

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We said good-bye to our first family car-the Honda Pilot. Zach got in a car accident and it was totaled. The airbag shredded the gloves he was wearing with the force of the accident-I can’t believe how fortunate we were that he was ok. Despite the fact that she had seen better days, that every part of her was dented and bruised. Despite the fact that she was perpetually dirty from living at a camp and that her bumper stickers signified a moment in time now gone, she also brought home 4 out of my 5 kids. She was the place the 7 of us were first a family and on the back of one of her seats was where Tariku decided to practice writing his name in ink. In her trunk was where we said our final good byes to Abe and Aristotle and, above all, she protected Zach on her final trek. She was a good car.

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We bought a Subaru (great car!) and soon after Zach took Trysten on a road trip with my dad, uncle and cousin to Colorado for a week of snowboarding. Zach took this picture, one of my all time favorites.

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We said good-bye to my sister’s white boxer, Leo. Leo lived with us a few times throughout his long life and I sure did love the way he took care of my sister when she lived on the east coast away from us. Once Ian was born it was as if Leo knew my sister was going to be okay so he let go. I can’t stress enough how much I love dogs and Leo was one of the good ones. Miss ya, buddy.

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We took a family trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes for spring break.

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The kids played baseball/softball which I do believe is the longest season of any sport. The older 3 tried out for All Stars and were selected. Tariku’s team made it really far and was a fun team to watch. Tomas and Trysten’s not so much. 😉

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The big 3 were all on the same team as it has been for many years mostly because Zach and I don’t want to make too much work for ourselves. So it was that they were often in the field together. In the below picture Tariku is playing short stop, Trysten was pitching and Tomas was playing catcher. It was more fun than you can possibly imagine.

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They also played a lot of soccer! (My favorite!) My parents came over for quite a few games considering they live 7 hours away. This surprises no one who knows them.

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While playing 3rd base, Tomas took a ball to the face from the hardest throwing pitcher on his team. This was soon after I posted a picture making fun of little girls wearing face masks in softball. I feel largely to blame for this injury but true to his nature Tomas was smiling the whole way through getting stitches.

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We went vegan/plant-based. More on that later.

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We had a visit from my friend Chandra and her 5 kiddos. I loved watching them play and have so much fun together. It’s weird that a few of my great friends have never met my kids except through my blog and the stories I tell when we get together so it felt ridiculously good to have Zach and my babes meet this friend of mine I always talk about.

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My good friend, Alex, brought her boy toy and dog up to camp for a weekend. She used to live at our previous camp as well so to say I miss seeing her randomly most days would be an understatement. She’s a fellow Harry Potter junkie and just overall top-notch human.

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Tariku offered to hold my hand for the first time. On Facebook I wrote this to mark the occasion:

Last Thursday after his baseball game, one in which he got a minor injury, I asked him if he ever just wished I was there. To comfort him, give him a hug, make it better. No, he says, sometimes I wish the animals were there though.
I told him how when we first adopted him that used to kill me-that he would never let me hug him or snuggle him, not even hold his hand. I told him now I realize it’s not that he doesn’t see me as his mom but that he really just doesn’t like physical touch so I didn’t take it personally anymore (and that I never really should have).
Then on Saturday while walking around camp, with tween girls in swimsuits everywhere, he told me I could hold his hand.
My relationship with Tariku continues to be a reminder that the most beautiful things in life are often the result of a lot of hard work and sweat/tear equity. It’s also a reminder that the culmination of that hard work can sometimes be in something as relatively unremarkable as an outstretched hand and an offer.

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Leslie and Jake finally got a dog! Though I think Leslie is still on the fence about Daffy she hasn’t gotten to the good stuff yet where Daffy is no longer chewing everything and is instead comforting my nephews or niece when they are sick or sad. Hang on, Leslie, you’re almost there!

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My nephew Caden John was born!! On my birthday! Which happens to be my mom’s birthday too! He’s a smiley little man and I love him so. I wrote more about him here.

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We played more rounds of basketball in the front yard/court than ever before. We even talked grandparents and dogs into playing along too sometimes.

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The kids finished their last day of 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd grades respectively.

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Doozie competed in Regionals for cheerleading where they took home 1st again.

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I continue to do the marketing for my brother’s Chiropractic business, Dawson Chiropractic near Des Moines, Iowa. I do it mostly for the free adjustments but also because he is genuinely the best chiropractor to which I’ve ever been. Oh and because it forces my little brother to talk to me on a regular basis, a perhaps not naturally occurring thing for a quiet dude like him 😉

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While at an orthopedic appointment for Binyam our car was broken into and stuff was stolen (also, weirdly, the thieves tried on every pair of my sunglasses but didn’t take any. It took me a good while to put them back on my face after imagining some weirdo trying them on. Also made me seriously question my style that they didn’t deem any of them worth stealing. But that’s neither here nor there.) I called the police and then about 5 minutes later called Jimmy John’s since we hadn’t eaten lunch and it was well past 2pm. Jimmy John’s arrived first which was hilarious to us all.

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Zach started seriously training for triathlons and I continued to take hundreds of pictures of my pets. Zach is on the left swimming in the lake while Hagrid and I kayaked next to him-keeping him safe and looking adorable in the process.

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All of the Klipschs came to visit-even Kait straight from the NYC. I continue to be beside myself with gratitude that I count Zach’s siblings and significant others as some of my greatest friends. And time spent with my remarkable niece and nephews is always exactly what I need.

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My 5 all went to Camp Eberhart for a week and had a ridiculously good time. Trysten got to go in the bigger kids cabin where they stay up a little later and hang with the older girls cabin over campfires. I pretended to be all cool as a cucumber but there were def a few nights when I drove past “on my way home” just to see what was what.

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A few weeks later Dailah was off to cheer camp. It was her first time at an overnight camp that her dad wasn’t in charge of and at which we didn’t live. Despite her smile here she actually hated it-coming home with bruises and bumps covering her legs from being dropped and thrown around (as fliers are, obviously). Soon after spending $250 on this camp she decided cheerleading wasn’t for her and asked if she could not try out for the coming year. This perfectly sums up the personality she was born into by nature of being her father’s daughter.

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Tomas’s face was used for marketing purposes. This makes sense because of all of my kids his face best translates constant joy-which is what you get when you send your kids to camp, obvs.

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We let the kids sign up for tackle football for the first time. I held off for as long as I could on account of me loving their healthy knee joints and beautiful, developing brains. I’m still hoping they choose cross country or soccer over football but now at least I know it’s possible for all of us to survive football season.

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My sister and I got another matching tattoo (we both have the purple cross on my sister’s foot, along with our mom, from when I turned 18). This time we got the two “d”s. Before marriage our maiden name was “Dawson” and in high school sports we were called “the double Ds” not due to mammary size, clearly. She and I are polar opposites in so many ways but I love her like no one else. That veiny arm would be mine. Gorg.

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I got a selfie stick. I don’t always use it but when I do everyone loves it. 😉

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My parents took us all to Adventureland-an outdoor roller coaster and water park. It never disappoints, especially now that the kids are old enough to go on all the rides by themselves if they want to.

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Then my parents took my kids for a long weekend while I flew off to Colorado and Zach stayed in Michigan to work. I spent Thursday-Sunday with my blogamiga friends for the 5th year in a row. There is just no way to tell you how much these women mean to me. Mothering can be really quite lonely despite having little ones in your business all day e’ry day. Adoption parenting adds another layer that can add to the loneliness, particularly if it’s an adoption of a child from a different race. Sometimes there are just too many things that are specific to that where other friends just can’t possibly understand because they haven’t been there. These women though? They’ve been there. And they are better women, better mothers, nicer people, bigger hippies and funnier than I am. So I basically spent 4 straight days stealing all of their knowledge and then claiming it as my own when I got back. I love them more than they can possibly know.

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Upon my return my parents took us all to the Iowa State Fair. If you love fried food, the smell of animal shit and people watching, then the Iowa State Fair is a must see. It’s ranked as the #1 state fair in the country and with good reason-I really do love it.

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We took a family trip to National Bridge State Park. Despite Tomas’s look of confusion we had a tremendous time together.

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Zach and his good friend, Isaac, participated in two olympic sized triathlons: the Three Rivers, Mi and the Chicago Tri. It’s always good fun watching the two of these old friends together and I tend to get all the feels when I’m watching people I love compete in feats of strength.

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I left Binyam home alone, on accident, for 20 minutes-marking this as the first time I’ve ever left a kid anywhere on accident. I knew he was going to be ok when I got home (he’s 9-years-old for goodness sake and Zach was literally working a few hundred feet away) but I still felt like total crap. Until we pulled into the drive and saw him sitting on the front steps looking ridiculous presh with his soccer stuff ready. He had no doubts I was coming back to get him-I love that about him.

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I celebrated 13 years of marriage to this guy. Even in my darkest moments he’s been my harvester of light, what a lucky thing it is to be his wife.

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The kids started another year of school. It’s already been a trying year in many ways so I’m just constantly praying we get through it with our grace and sense of humor still intact.

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We talked our good friends the Korandas into coming on one of the busiest athletic weekends of the year. Declan Zachary handled it like a champ and I was a smitten kitten getting so much time with him, his mommy and daddy.

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I had the distinct honor and pleasure at being asked to be Ian’s Godmother. Until he has questions about God I am assuming my role is to just spoil him with chocolate, candy and more kisses than he could ever want. I take this very seriously.

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Zach and I tried acri-yoga after watching a few videos that looked easy enough. This is as far as we got before Zach told me I was about to expose my breast. This wouldn’t normally be cause for concern but since Trysten was capturing this glorious moment, Zach thought he would save poor Tman a year’s worth of therapy and just stop. The idea crossed my mind to put on a bra but I kind of have a strict policy about not doing that while at home so we scrapped the idea altogether. Maybe 2016.

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Zach taught the oldest 3 to shave. Since both Zach and I are legit at growing facial hair-it’s no wonder Trysten already had a decent amount at 12. (Truth is he was born with it. Zach’s first words to me when Trysten entered the world from the womb were, “He has your sideburns!” Bless) Now if someone could actually get them to wear deodorant every day I would feel a lot better about their future prospects.

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Trysten and Tomas went out for the middle school cross country team. They worked hard all season and both did really well. I could genuinely care less how they rank as long as they give it their all when they are out there and they did that-it was a fun season!

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The Jake and Leslie Klipschs, Isaac and Papa Frank came up for a weekend where the men went off to the Notre Dame game and I got 7 uninterrupted hours talking with Leslie. The next day we took everyone to the Notre Dame campus. Watching these cousins together is just too much of all the good things.

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We went trick-or-treating with the Dawson and Klipsch cousins as well as the Smitty besties. It was the first year my kids, Oliver and Eli and the Smittys went off by themselves to tour the neighborhood when the adults got too cold. I got to go with my niece Landry and listen as every. single. house told her she was the cutest they had seen all day. It’s true-she’s 100% ridiculously cute.

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We celebrated my brother-in-law Frank’s birthday with his adults only party again this year. Zach and I went as Doc Brown and Marty McFly and the birthday boy went as his own spirit animal. See if you can tell what the other Klipschs were…

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I also talked all of the Dawson side into coming this year too! My brother was a legit Wolverine and my sister-in-law as Steve Bartman went over super well in a house full of Cub fans.

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My father-in-law was elected as Davenport, Iowa’s new Mayor! I was so happy we could be there and the kids could watch the whole process unfold that night. He will undoubtedly be the best Mayor that city has ever seen. Grateful as always that I married into that crazy group of justice seekers and public servers.

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I got to work with Leslie on our 7th Water Party together. I’m so proud of how she’s taken over since my move to Michigan and made it bigger and better than ever before. This year the event raised over $35,000. That is beyond my comprehension as I so vividly remember the first year sitting up at midnight counting the $10,000 in cash with Zach. I am grateful for every penny then and every penny now. We have the most generous friends and family of anyone I’ve ever known. I always go through Leslie withdrawals after the event because I’m so used to spending an insane amount of time talking and texting with her leading up to the Water Party. I’m just really lucky to count her as a best friend.

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Not sure if you heard this or not but we all went to Ethiopia. 🙂 I’m ready to go back.

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Barbara Streisand and Hagrid just continued to be off the charts adorable on the daily.

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We had such a fun time cheering on our Iowa Hawkeyes this season! Though they lost to our current state, we are excited to see them dominate the Rose Bowl tomorrow!

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The bigs had their band performance (Trysten on drums, Tomas on trumpet) and the littles had their Holiday music concert. Binyam had a speaking part for the first and probable last time of his life. He went as Harry Potter and was nervous as hell. I was beaming and crying and waving like the fanatic I am. Proud mama heart burst moment for sure.

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Just before leaving for Ethiopia Trysten tried out for the 7th grade boys basketball team and made it. They went on to become conference champions. Man were they a fun team to watch.

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Trysten and Tomas had their first semi-formal middle school dance. Tomas was true to his nature and asked his girlfriend what color of dress she was wearing so that he could match her. He could be found trailing a few feet behind her wherever she went. Trysten was true to his nature and translated loosely “semi-formal” by wearing basketball pants and a t-shirt until I begged him to at least wear jeans and something that didn’t stink of puberty and hard work. He and a few of his buds went stag with plans to tear up the dance floor seeings they had no ladies to tether them down.

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While the older 2 were at the dance, the younger 3 were painting snowmen for the elementary PTA. Dailah took her job seriously, as she always does when it comes to creative outlets, and the other two were mostly there for the cookies.

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Dailah chopped off her hair. She told me she was ready for an adventure and had read about donating hair to kids with cancer who lose theirs. I asked her on the way to the appointment if she was nervous, “Nope just excited! You’ve got to think about the worst that can happen and if it’s not death or lots and lots of pain then there’s no reason to be nervous!” I love that about her.

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On Christmas Eve the kids made a fort that took up the entire “fun room” for the second year in a row. This one had separate rooms and everything. Christmas continues to feel so magical with these kiddos. As they get older I appreciate even more how close they all are and how often they want to be around just each other. My most common prayer is probably that they continue to be best friends throughout their lives.

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We had a truly great Christmas both here and in Iowa celebrating with grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins. So much so that I didn’t take very many pictures. 🙂

While Trysten fights off the pneumonia that has been plaguing me for the last few months (I legit broke a few ribs coughing so hard. My cough is mostly gone but the pain in my ribs is redic. Avoid that at all costs.) the other 4 are at Winter Camp at Camp Eberhart.

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I think after writing the post about being lonely some might think I don’t like living here but it’s even more obvious after looking through the pictures of the year that my life here is full of goodness. I think if nothing else, the moments when I’m lonely only make it super obvious that overall our time here has been overwhelmingly happy and great. This year has been one full of growth for all 7 of us and with that will surely come some growing pains in every sense of the phrase. But at the end of the day I get to kiss the 5 sweetest, kindest, funniest most beautiful children in all of the world and cuddle in next to the funniest, most loyal husband out there. What more could I possibly ask for?

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Happy NYE everyone. May you find peace, happiness and insurmountable joy in the coming year. Thanks for reading. Love to you.

Tesi

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Abe and Aristotle

I know most of you who read this blog (does anyone still read this blog?) are my friends on Facebook as well. So you know about my Abe and my Aristotle. But writing for me has always been therapeutic on some level and after spending the entire day on the couch watching Season 2 of Sons of Anarchy (love/hate that show) and crying at the mere sight of my dogs’ water bowl I decided maybe I’d try to write about them.

About a month and half ago Abe started showing signs of something like a UTI. He peed in our house for the first time since he was a pup and had to go pretty frequently. Took him to the vet multiple times over the next few weeks and nothing was working. He stopped eating, slowly his legs stopped working properly. It wasn’t good. So I sent a little Hail Mary to Facebook and the next day we fed him heated hot dogs. He ate 6 at one time. There was hope! We took him to a new vet who decided to go a different route with treatment and it worked…

Until it didn’t. The last 2 weeks I could tell he was giving up. Finally, last Wednesday I laid on the floor with him and I just knew. I knew it was time. He hadn’t eaten, he looked like this.

I told Zach I thought it was time but he didn’t think so (we all know we humans handle these things differently). He asked me to take him to the vet Thursday morning. A good friend met me there. She had to lift him into her car. As we virtually carried him into the vet, I was swallowing that lump of emotion. Over and over. Until Abe got on the scale and it showed he was 110lbs. I. lost. my. shit. My Abie baby was always around 165 (I know this because Zach had a small obsession with how big he was as he was growing). The vet said if the meds didn’t work, Monday would be the day.

You know where this is going, of course. The weekend was spent with Abe on the couch. Time spun too quickly, as it often does and I felt that pull in my belly. The blanket of sadness, the constant tension in my throat, the tears at the brim. Sunday afternoon I took my nap with my baby knowing it would be our last.

And did I mention that Thursday, when I had my “talk” with Abe, he walked off with Aristotle? I was outside and saw Abe walking okay for the first time in weeks. He and Aristotle were walking towards the horse pasture where they pulled many shenanigans over the years. I thought to myself, “Man, it looks like Abe is breaking the news to Aristotle like he just broke it to me.”

And later that night, our Aristotle didn’t eat. Our Aristotle who would literally eat an entire bag of dog food if we let him. Stopped. eating. I told Zach I thought he was sad, you know, because Abe just told Aristotle he was done fighting.

But then when I was in Chicago Saturday Zach told me Aristotle wasn’t walking right. He still wasn’t eating.

I told myself even if he had whatever the hell Abe had we caught it earlier and would be able to treat it. Or maybe he was just sad.

And then Sunday morning Zach let Aristotle out before church. That afternoon he still hadn’t come home. Hours of us searching camp for him proved unfruitful. It was going to get cold that night.

I knew. I knew he walked off. I could just tell. He was always the dog that looked out for the family, he would never want to be the reason for our sadness. Never.

Sunday night was the. worst. night. The kids said good bye to Abe. It was heart breaking. I can’t even write about that. Maybe some day but not today.

Monday morning I dropped the kids off at the bus stop and then drove around looking for Aristotle. It was a ridiculously beautiful morning. One of those mornings that Aristotle and Abe would’ve spent chasing deer and other woodland creatures.

I told Zach I just needed to get it over with. I couldn’t watch Abe like that anymore. He could no longer walk and he couldn’t/didn’t need to pee. It was time. So we took him to the vet, we kissed and petted him until he was gone. Shit that was hard. But there was closure, you know? Why do we need that so badly? I don’t know but it was done. He was gone. 
A few hours later we were coming home from my sister’s house (what the hell would I do without my family and their terrific distraction and love? I don’t even want to know) when Zach called. Aristotle had been found. “Prepare yourself, honey, he looks like Abe did. It’s not good.”
I was just so thankful he was found. Remember that closure thing? He was hiding under a cabin. The cabin was directly across from our house. 
When I got home Zach had him in our shower to warm him up/wash him off. The kids gave him a kiss. For the next 20 minutes we were on the phone with 3 different vets. I was about to spend a lot of money that we don’t have to save him. Anything, I told Zach, so that I didn’t have to lose another beloved dog that day. 
He sat up, looked at us, laid back down and was gone. 
Best buds. Brothers. As poetic as it was/is it shattered my damn heart.
Abe was hilarious. A gentle giant. Always kind of a mama’s boy. He loved to “dance” with whoever would offer it. He constantly creeped onto couches. He was a lap dog born in the wrong sized body, was all. My mom once spent the night and tried sleeping on Abe’s couch. She said she woke up to him staring at her. What the hell was this mere human doing on his couch? It was not surprising that he spent his last days curled up on the couch with constant attention and love poured out upon him. 
Aristotle was the lover of all, but the fiercest protector. The one time I saw him aggressive was when a guy coming to clean our carpets approached the house. Aristotle bared his teeth and growled, backing the man into his van. As soon as I saw the guy I too got the heebie jeebies. Aristotle knew, and he wasn’t going to let that guy near us. I never once felt scared living out here when Aristotle was around. He was always the dog that came and laid his head on my lap when I was sick or sad. When Zach was gone he would follow me everywhere. To every room, every bathroom break. Watching. Always. If Zach was there he trusted I was safe and relaxed, going off on his trips around camp, in any pool of water he could find. It was no surprise to us that he let Abe have the attention his last few days. It surprised no one who knew him that he walked off to die. And certainly came as no shock to hear he made his hopeful last stop at a place where he could still keep his eye on us. Under a cabin. 50 feet from our doorstep. 
Here’s the deal. If you aren’t a dog lover, this probably sounds a little crazy. But if you’ve ever loved an animal then you know what I’m saying is true. I knew everything about them. All their little ticks and quirks. And I loved them with a fierce mama love. 
And they’re gone. 
It’s a little unreal.
And so today I thought about loss and love. About how right now love is kind of associated with loss. And pain and hurt. So I turned away my best friends and family because sometimes there aren’t any words and sometimes it hurts worse to talk to other people you love when you just lost something you love because you know it’ll all end this way. And normally that’s ok but not today. 
Today nothing is really ok and so you wake up, still groggy, waiting expectantly to hear the sounds of tails wagging and tongues licking and get none of that. It’s too quiet. 
Later you’ll try to wash towels but then you realize they smell like loss and so you throw them in the washer and leave to go lay back on the couch where escaping into the TV is too tempting to ignore. 
And then your kids will come home from school and ask if they can go visit Abe and Aristotle. You say yes. Because you know the two who asked have seen death in an even worse way and have come out the other side and so, of course, yes go talk to our beloved dogs. Especially because their daddy made a beautiful tribute to them at their burial site. 

And then you’ll realize why one of those boys specifically has been so hesitant at times to welcome the love you’ve poured into him. Because love. fucking. hurts sometimes. And if he’s known that since he was 3 then maybe he’s onto something you’re just getting around to realizing. 
Maybe the loss of these two most adored pets is another way God is showing you that even though we haven’t all traveled the same paths to get where we are, we can still relate to each other in our shared struggles. Our shared loss and our shared joy. 
And so when those kids return from their walkabout you will look them in the eye and tell them you love them. Knowing that there will be days that love for them (and theirs for you) will fucking rip. your. heart. out. But you’ll get up and do it again the next day because sometimes love. will. save. you. 
I got a tattoo recently that says “Expecto Patronum”. It’s from Harry Potter. It’s a spell that keeps Death Eaters away. In order to escape the kiss of death you need only think of your happiest thought. Light overcomes dark. Joy overcomes sadness. 
I keep looking at that tattoo today and am left with the image of two big dogs chasing rabbits as 5 kids play a game of baseball around them. A mom and dad drinking coffee on the porch, hands entwined. 
Expecto Patronum