My Dailah Leagh is 8!

My Dailah Leagh is 8!

 

 

 

On Saturday my baby girl turned 8-years-old. If you have any kids or nieces and nephews I don’t need to tell you how quickly time flies when children are involved. For me I don’t see my aging every day-it hits me every once in awhile when I see a few more wrinkles in the mirror or it takes me a little longer to recover from a late night or hard workout. For my kids, though, it seems every morning when they wake groggy eyed and puffy I’m taken aback with just how much they’ve grown in the 8 hours we’ve been sleeping.

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Dailah especially. I think part of it has to be that when she was born prematurely I spent every waking moment watching her, memorizing every little thing. It startles the senses to watch the birthmark that started no bigger than the eraser of a pencil become the size of a quarter as her skin stretches to hold in her growing body.

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For her birthday she wanted only her best friend to stay the night. Even though that friend got a little homesick and wasn’t able to stay, Dailah rolled with it-asking instead to sleep on the floor of my room (Zach and I don’t really let our kids in our room. They don’t get to play there, they don’t sleep there-nothing. Being parents to 5 kids means we have to carve out sanctuary wherever we can-it works for us.) She’s pretty great at going with the flow, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how grateful I am for that.

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Hard to put into words how different life became 8 years ago when this firecracker came into our lives. She’s equal parts free spirit and loyal companion.

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If there’s a baby around she wants to be holding him/her. Very few things frustrate her more than when babies grow too old to be carried on her hip constantly.

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I’ve learned so much from her about delighting in the every day. About embracing and celebrating the smallest things: tater tot day at camp, catching frogs and sparklers for instance.

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I admit to feeling the most pressure in raising her. I see her constantly watching me. Dailah thinks the sun rises and sets with Zach, it’s true, but she’s learning the most from me. How to be a woman, how to express your feelings when friends let you down, how to care and nurture a marriage. Dailah is relentless in her pursuit of information, I love that about her.

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It is not easy being the only girl in the family. More often than not if she wants to play with someone she has to do whatever it is they are doing. Once in awhile she can talk them into doing something she wants to be doing-usually that’s a jumping contest off the dock. Dailah usually wins when they account for style and animation.

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Happy birthday my strong baby girl. May you continue to show the world exactly who you are. Love you.

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My birthday

So I had a birthday last week. I can totally see how women in their 30s say things like, “Oh man, 30s are so much better than 20s.” And then women in their 40s say that about their 30s, etc, etc. Because life just keeps getting better. Especially when 5 little babes and a handsome man woke me up singing the HBD song and presented me with these little tokens of love as I watched the lake wake up outside my window.

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Also doesn’t hurt to check the mailbox and find a good friend sent 2 of my favorite things all the way from Colorado.

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I often feel like I am making decisions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What we eat as a family, organic or not organic, what to do with this room or the outside of the house, how do I stop this smell from happening, etc. So on my birthday or on Mother’s Day the only thing I ever want (ok, I love presents too, let’s just be real here) is to not make any decisions. Not a single one. I know it’s not always awesome for Zach since I typically give him 0 guidance but it’s totally awesome for me. For my birthday lunch he asked me to meet him at the lodge for a delicious meal provided by someone else which sounded exactly like something I would be interested in. What I got after that delicious lunch was 30+ counselors singing happy birthday and delivering cupcakes over and over and over again. Every year I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten better and better at being by myself and I now realize I require a lot more alone time than ever before. So all of that left me feeling quite awkward and embarrassed but one of my favorite parts about being a camp wife is how often it reminds me not to take life so seriously. I mean look at their faces!

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I’ve also learned to appreciate the little things more and more every year. Last week a few plants that had yet to bloom decided to show me their beauty. I took it as a sign the world was telling me it’s going to be another beautiful and bright year.

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I was stepping out of the shower the other day and noticed my stretch marks on my stomach and thighs. It turns out as I get tanner (ahhhh lake life) my stretch marks become whiter and more pronounced. If our culture wouldn’t try to tell me stretch marks are ugly I would actually believe they are quite pretty in their stark contrast to my tan belly.

Anyway I was kind of caught off guard by my reaction to them. I think having been around a little longer and been more purposeful than ever about learning from and loving people who have completely different life experiences than mine has made me really appreciate those stretch marks. Because those stretch marks are there only because I was able to hold three precious lives (and give birth to two) within my body. This is not something I will ever take for granted. I’m not saying if you hate your stretch marks you are taking for granted the reasons they are there, I’m only saying every year I gain a little more understanding that life is a trade off. Very rarely do you find something in life that is a real blessing without trudging through some uglier bits to get there. Of course there are days when I mourn the loss of my perky boobs (and dammit I earned the right to mourn those! 😉 ) but it’s becoming increasingly harder for me to stay in my mourning for long without memories of nursing Trysten early in the morning and studying for my Women in Cinema class at the same time. Or the first time Dailah was taken off all of her machines and I got the go ahead to try nursing. Those happy memories far outweigh any momentary sadness about my physical body.

And of course I look at my hands and am sometimes startled with the lines that have recently become a little deeper. But I can’t look at my hands without thinking about how they held the hands of special people in Ethiopia. Their hands rough from the years of hard labor. I can’t see my slowly aging hands without remembering them being kissed and blessed by people that hold so much of my heart in their hands.

I guess I’m just so thankful to be getting older because perspective seems clearer and clearer every day. I don’t look at people in their 20s and think “Man they have no idea” because 1) it’s patronizing and 2) it doesn’t help anyone. Of course those older than me probably look at me with the same look (though I hope not, we should probably stop doing that to each other) but I’m ok with that because I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I’m alive y’all and I know too many people who would be my age but never lived to see their 30s. I’m infinitely grateful every year and every day that I wake up and get to experience another day in this life.

I hope you guys are too.

Tariku is 9!

My big 3 boys all have birthdays within 3 weeks of each other. My only saving grace is that I have never been one to throw lavish parties and so their expectations are as low as humanely possible. What I lack in pizzaz I more than make up for it in excitement over their birthdays. I countdown with them and pour over them weeks leading up to it. I’ve convinced myself they prefer it this way. 😉

Tariku is 9. For those who have been reading this since the early hotflawedmama days you have to be as shocked with this information as I am, right? He was 3 when we brought him home but I have to remind myself of that fact over and over. Sometimes I’ll look at him and swear I knew him as a bouncing baby, I can almost see his dimples in soft baby cheeks and eyes as big and beautiful as they are now. I bet he was the cutest baby this world has ever seen.

Because, let’s just be honest, he’s by far one of the cutest young men I’ve ever seen.

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He’s also one of the kindest, most compassionate souls I’ve ever known. You know how adults just find all the little shenanigans babies and toddlers do are just so cute and funny and always look at each other with a smile and an “ahhh look at that” facial expression? He’s the only kid I know who does the same thing. He’ll be looking at his cousin Sintayehu and she’ll do something funny and he’ll look at me like, “Well would you look at that? Isn’t she just the cutest?!?”

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When I asked him what kind of cookies he wanted for his school birthday party he said double fudge chocolate chip but then added, “Maybe make regular chocolate chip too so people who don’t like my kind can have a choice.”

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This picture that showed Tomas’s personality shows Tariku’s just as well. Tariku is always a little hesitant to try something. He would prefer watching someone else do it, multiple times if possible, so that when Tariku finally does it he does it really well. I don’t think “spontaneous” will ever be a word that describes this sweet son of mine. photo 1

I don’t know a lot of things but I know that if I can just love people the way Tariku loves people-despite how much it’s hurt him in the past-then I’m going to be one fully realized individual.

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We were leaving our Mexican resort on Saturday (more on that later) and I grabbed Tariku’s hand. In order to “hold hands” with Tariku, I have to physically hang on to his hand. His hand continues to remain unwrapped around mine. It used to kill me, that he wouldn’t return my affection, but now I just realize touching is just a little too intimate. I’ve realized as long as physical connection is initiated from him, then it’s with full force and strength. And when he leans in for a hug or kiss before I ask for one? It’s made all the sweeter.

Man, I love my Tariku. What a lucky mom I am to watch this boy take on the world for the next many decades.

Happy birthday my Chooch.

Tomas is 10!

Friday I walked downstairs just as the sun was peaking through. I love mornings when I’m the first awake, when I can start the coffee and maybe a good book before everyone else takes their first bathroom break. Truth be told I was really looking forward to a few moments alone, the last week has been crazy stressful, until I heard Tomas utter quietly under his breath, “I’m 10!”

As I’ve told many people, I have no doubt this second son of mine will greet every birthday of his until the day he dies with as much fascination, wonder and joy as he greeted his 10th. I think he might get that from me. 😉

I remember when we first considered adopting Tomas and Binyam how scared I was to bring a then 6-year-old boy into our home. I pictured someone really sullen, moody and temperamental. Of course any kid with his history would have more than enough reason to behave that way or even worse but I’ve never been able to describe Tomas with any of those words. From the moment I saw him, the light that came from his sturdy body was bright and I knew we would be ok.

Tomas has an alter ego we named, “Intensity”. The thing I love about this alter ego of his is that it doesn’t just come out in moments of competition or play, it comes out in love and friendship too. A few months ago he came to tell me that there was a new girl in his class and he was pretty sure he was in love with her. When did she start school? I ask. 2 days ago, he confirms.

Intensity (pictured here in the center).

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This boy who will be the very best partner in life as he’s constantly bending over backwards to compliment Dailah and me. When I asked him what he wanted for his school birthday treat, “Anything homemade. You are the best baker in the world.” I make all my baked goods straight from a bag or box. There is nothing special in my baked goods. But I tend to believe Tomas sees the extraordinary in the ordinary. (Pictured here with his awesome teacher and equally awesome Grandpa…oh and boxed brownies).

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Tomas chose Buffalo Wild Wings for his birthday dinner, as sons of vegetarians are prone to do apparently. Ahem. And, unlike his big brother, was thrilled when the place sang him Happy Birthday and delivered the biggest piece of cake I’ve ever seen.

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Tomas is the hardest working kid I know. He’s completely caught up (and passed) many of his 4th grade peers. This after entering his school in 1st grade knowing no english. He gets overwhelmed and and frustrated like we all would but then he works. I can’t imagine all that he’s done in order to catch up but man does it leave me feeling proud and humbled all at the same time.

For his birthday treats he chose some clothes, candy and iTunes gift cards. And, of course, had to bring back a little gift for Zach and me too.

Man alive I can’t wait to see what this kid does. Whatever it may be I know it’ll be done with more love than is necessary and more grace than is called for.

Love you so much Tomas-ay. Happy birthday.

My Bean

We are just coming back from an epic (I don’t use that term lightly) week and I have many posts coming regarding that, but for now I thought I should celebrate my Binyam WHO TURNED 7 ON AUGUST 31! Can’t even believe he’s 7.

This guy who has a threshold for crazy shenanigans from animals and humans alike.

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The guy who goes by “Bean” at school because he got tired of trying to get other people to say his name properly.

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The one who his teachers love for his huge smile and willingness to go with the flow.

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My babe who loves chocolate more than anything else in this world.

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Only thing that could compete with chocolate in his eyes are his siblings and cousins. Those people? Yeah he’d do anything for them.

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It’s always so fascinating to me that whenever I talk to people who know our family they usually say something like, “I love all of your kids but that Bean has a special place in my heart.” Of course I can guess the reasons for that, but at the heart of it all is simply-his heart.

He is light, love, joy and cotton candy goodness. His authentic giggle will have your sides splitting. Because he didn’t walk for his first 3 years of life (he was born with club feet) almost every time he runs I get a bit choked up. He also didn’t talk much his first 3 years so when I hear him in one of his rare monologues with his siblings I can’t help but believe in miracles.

Being the mommy to a boy like Bean is so very humbling because he’s a constant reminder that most of the shit we moms tend to dwell on just. doesn’t. matter. Do you love me? Will you take care of me? Will everything be ok? Then nothing else matters.

I love him, I am beyond grateful for him and I will spend my days trying to earn this gift that was given to me.

Love you Bean, happy birthday buddy.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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These two bond over fashion and make up.

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

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Oh my does she just. keep. growing.

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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,

Mommy

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!)

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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!

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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.

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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. 🙂

The Concrete Jungle

I have ridiculously generous parents. By “parents” I am, of course, referring both to my biological parents and my in-laws-I very rarely differentiate.

My sister-in-law, Kait, has lived in Brooklyn for close to a year now and since I love her so much, I’ve been wanting to check in on her. She also started interning for one of my favorite non-profits, The Adventure Project, and had been working tirelessly on their annual Gala.

Much to my surprise, my in-laws were paying attention and (after singing Happy Birthday 2 months early) announced they were sending me to New York to visit Kait and to go to TAP’s gala. Did I cry? Yes. Are they amazing? Yes.

Related note: My husband is also amazing. Even though camp season is gearing up and he’s getting busier and busier he encouraged this stay-at-home mama to jet off to the Big Apple while he held down the fort with our 5 children, 4 pets AND THE 2 GREAT DANES WE ARE DOG SITTING FOR MY PARENTS. Sainthood-he deserves nothing less.

My time in NYC was spent doing very non-touristy stuff-which I loved. (Though I did say hi to this beautiful lady as I was taxi-ing to Kait’s restaurant).

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Saturday we went to a new bar near her place that was really cool. I watched as she got hit on by multiple men wearing the same size jeans I do.

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And we celebrated my being in NYC (and out past 10!) with a glass of my favorite whiskey.

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Sunday was really crappy weather but we managed to walk around Brooklyn and visit flea markets, second hand shops, etc. We also caught a comedy show that night (Kait is seriously way cooler than virtually everyone I know. She hosts a comedy show out there and also co-runs this hip-hop blog with a friend of hers.) and I tried a few different Brooklyn lagers.

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Monday was the day of The Adventure Project Gala. I have this weird compulsion that I want to be helpful if there’s an opportunity for it. So Kait and I got to the TAP offices at about 9am. From then until 6:30pm when the event started we were helping set up and whatever else. I met some really great people during those hours-those who work for TAP and those who work for partnering organizations as well as other volunteers like myself. Then the gala started and I proceeded to enjoy the free cocktails and time socializing.

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I also caught up with a few women who I traveled with to Haiti, which was so fun.

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After the gala we helped pack everything up and take it back to the TAP offices. Then Kait and her friends decided they were hungry and one really wanted Korean food. All this resulted in me being up until 4am. Yikes. But Kait’s friends are as amazing as she is, so it was so enjoyable to be around them and share that part of her life with her.

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After not enough sleep, Tuesday was our day to finish stuff up at TAP and then explore the city. First we walked around the Highline, which was absolutely amazing.

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Walked through a Chelsea flea market where I found a coat that I’ve been dreaming about and lusting after since. I mean, seriously. SOMEONE MAKE THIS FOR ME!

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After a few days in the concrete jungle I had a serious hankering for earth. I get that I’m a bit of a hippie but I had no idea just how much until I hadn’t been able to touch the actual earth. You know, put my hands in some dirt, feet in grass, etc. So off we went to Central Park. We played frisbee with one of Kait’s friends and I did a bit of yoga. But mostly, just enjoyed the sights.

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We ended the night at a restaurant where we talked about things ranging from comedy to racism. One of my favorite things about Kait is she chooses friends who challenge her and encourage her to continue growing as a human. Love that.

Travel back home was complicated (seriously, I would love just 1 time of normal flights) but the end result was that I was home with my family.

The next day at home was spent teaching my classes and going to the kids’s school where they were all awarded various things. All day I was struck by the realization that I am so infinitely blessed to be able to experience NYC with one of my favorite people in the entire world and then to come home and experience life with my other favorite people-all in the span of a week.

What a lucky lady I am.

Binyam is 6!!

Our favorite “baby” of the family had his birthday August 31st. Because his is the last birthday of all the kids I will admit it often feels a little like an afterthought. I’m pretty sure on the 30th I turned to Zach and said, “Did you realize it’s Bean’s birthday tomorrow? What should we do about that?” And after 4 other birthday parties for the year I’m basically too tired to even feel guilty. Thankfully Bean is, bar none, the most easy going with those kinds of things so he didn’t hold a grudge.

School had started so by the time I picked up donuts and Zach and I started descending the stairs singing “Happy birthday” the kids were in full hurry-get-ready-for-school mode. Except Bean. That precious boy knew it was his birthday and knew we would “wake”him up. So in his bed he stayed, for probably 10 minutes, while his siblings rushed around to get ready for school. Love him for that.

Donuts. Of course he wanted donuts. Binyam doesn’t eat much of anything throughout the day unless it involves sugar and/or chocolate and, preferably, both sugar AND chocolate.

Binyam wanted cupcakes for his school snack. There’s an awesome local cupcake shop a mile from his school that I knew would do it up right for this special guy. When we got to school I was thrilled to hear he had asked his teacher and classmates to call him “Bean”. It’s what we call him and he definitely sees it as a term of endearment. Made my heart smile knowing he already felt loved enough in Kindergarten to deem that nickname appropriate. Pictured here with his “crown” chair.

His teacher came up to us at Kindergarten round up and said, “I am crossing my fingers I get Binyam in my class. He is so amazing.” It was then that I decided I’d cross mine too. Anyone who sees the goodness in this boy immediately is someone that I can trust with his precious heart. Here Bean’s teacher gives him 6 birthday high fives.

Binyam is so like me in that we know love when it shows up. All he wanted, always, for his birthday was a sleepover. And he was very specific about who he wanted. His cousins Oliver and Eli. His best friend, Maddox, and Maddox’s big brother, Charlie. Because I love all of those boys with all that I am and I knew it’d be fun to get special time with them for me too, I was ridiculously excited for the sleepover. Zach and I made our homemade pizza, poured ourselves a glass of wine and then celebrated with abandon this life we are so blessed to come alongside.

Annnnd I’m already crying. I don’t know what it is about Bean that makes me so overly emotional. I don’t know if it’s because he’s my “baby” that makes me feel so fiercely protective of every part of his being or if it’s because I’ve had the flu for the better part of this week (which explains the lack of punctuation and edited photos). Anyone who knows him will attest to the fact that they feel for him in exactly the same way.

Because he had a miserable start to life. If you can imagine the worst start to life, he had it. His birth member described Bean’s pregnancy as “worst possible scenario”. And then he came out with club feet and the world crumbled around him. But knowing him now I can tell you that he’s made conscious decisions to not let any of that define him. I know that because he is light and love. Because he’ll laugh, loudly, just because everyone around him is regardless of whether or not he knows why they’re laughing. I know it because he rocks a bright red brace on his leg every day. He wears it so proudly and boldly no one has teased him about it. How could you tease something someone is so proud of?

I know it because I know him. I know him as the little boy who shuts down the minute he thinks someone is upset or frustrated with him. His big, precious lips form a pout and the only thing that will shake him from it, the only proven method is getting him to smile. You get him to smile? And he breaks. After that you can talk rationally about what’s going on. He and I are good at this dance. We are down to just a few minutes of it. Because I get it, I get him.

And I freakin’ love him like crazy. I wasn’t there for his birth, I wasn’t there for his first breath but darn it if I don’t feel his life with every beat of my heart. I’m so thankful for that scary, wild day 6-years-ago. I’m so thankful I get to call him my son. I’m just so, so thankful for him.

Happy birthday my precious Bean.

My (early) birthday weekend

My birthday is in June. Every year just before my birthday Zach’s schedule starts getting crazy. Pulling 15 hour days and such. So we never really get to do anything big for it because Zach typically can’t leave camp and then there’s that detail about having 5 kids home from school for the summer.

So this year my birthday is a bigger one (30, woot!) and Zach was determined to do it right. He asked what I wanted and I basically wanted 2 things: 1) friends/family around me hanging out and 2) not to plan a damn thing.

My really ridiculously wonderful husband decided on Galena, Illinois. He sent out an email to some friends and family asking who could get a babysitter for the weekend to come hang with us. Zach rented a 5 bedroom home for Friday and Saturday nights. It boasted things like a bar, hot tub and couches made for cuddling. Oh, and a full kitchen because I expected my guests to bring their favorite dishes (I know, I’m kind of high maintenance at 30, as it turns out).

If I learned one thing this weekend it’s this: I am so very blessed. I cried many times and they were happy tears, grateful tears, bless-ed tears. I am a lucky lady.

There was dining at delicious Italian restaurants where they sat us in what appeared to be a wine cellar which, if you’ve been following this blog long enough, knows that is both the best and worst ideas for a lady like me. Yum.

There was Saturday morning golfing for the men and shopping for the women.

There were mixed drinks made (this one would be white sangria by my beloved bestie, Chrissy. Doesn’t it look delicious?) and overflowing hot tubs.

I enjoyed taking pictures (per usual). This one for my sister and her boyfriend…lest they need some pictures for their wedding album one day. Cough. Please God. Cough.

And this one for my brother and sister-in-law who will be celebrating 2 years of wedded bliss in a few weeks.

There was cooking (my favorite guacamole of all time by Mr. Bruce himself).

There was snuggling with the ladies who make up my Red Tent. This picture makes me cry. Damn I love those ladies so much. (Missing Chrissy 😦 ).

There were back rubs

And gorgeous views as we sipped our coffees and/or wine.

There was bonding of brothers

and fires built.

There was a protective sister asking sister’s boyfriend what his intentions are and then trying to make him understand how thankful we are that he’s made our sister so happy. Yes, there was lots of that.

There was some pretending that Ashley “Hot Pocket” was a Berger kid.

And also some begging that the smallest woman would sit on my lap to make me feel like a giant on my birthday weekend.

There was dancing, of course there was. (With a cup of “8:30 Perker” also known as coffee, Bailey’s and raspberry vodka. Pin it people, you’re welcome).

There were gifts from Chrissy. Mine is the palest dead looking arm the orange one that says, “Plant Peace”. I love it.

There was lots of sibling bonding. My first tears of the weekend came Friday morning when I sent off a simple text of “Woooooot” to those coming Friday night. My brother, who is typically short on words, replied, “Oh ya”. My sister, also short on words, “woot”. They were my first best friends. They are still a few of the biggest blessings of my life. I am so, so thankful for the beautiful relationships I now enjoy with both of them (and their significant others). We may all be very different but I would die for these people, I really would

Sibling bonding covered my brother-in-law too (obviously). He is just plain awesomesauce. Particularly when he’s laying in the grass commenting on the beauty of the stars or the song of the birds. Also when he…

makes weird faces in pictures. My brother made me a cake. It didn’t matter if it was from a box, my little brother made me a cake. I ate the shit out of that boxed cake and could definitely feel the love there.

There were some hangovers (as there usually is when celebrating one’s 30th birthday) and subsequent wearing-of-women’s-glasses by a typically reserved man.

And perhaps most of all there was a woman, who is about to turn 30, thankful for a man who loves her enough to set up spreadsheets and send them to her friends. Who organized the weekend of a lifetime. There was a woman who looked at her husband and knew that the last 10 years with him have been the best of her life but the next 70 are sure to be even better.

There was love. There was laughter. There were memories created and hugs shared. There was bliss.