Christmas 2014

This being our first Christmas in Michigan and away from family the pace of life seemed altogether much slower. Had we been in Iowa there would’ve been a lot more dinners and lunches involved whereas this year we were able to really just have so much more time as a family-it was really kind of nice!

Christmas Eve we decided to make our delicious homemade pizza but add a Christmas twist-we did them personal pan style! I even bought sausage and pepperoni (blech) for my meat eaters and spoiled myself richly with 6 different veggie varieties (when we normally do family pizzas it’s cheese and more cheese 😦 )

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Hagrid, dressed in his Christmas best, helped keep an eye out for Santa.

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We actually got a FaceTime call from Santa! Usually he stops by my parents’s house when we are there but since we weren’t making it back there this year he made a special call just for the kiddos. I was actually excited to hear from him too, he’s a pretty special Santa!

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For the last handful of years we have done something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read for our gifts for the kiddos. I really can’t say enough how much I love this particular form of gift giving. They also usually get 1 present from Santa and stocking stuffers as well. This year I wanted to add “to give” so on Christmas Eve we told the kids their budget from us and they got to pick where that money went. We let them look through the websites of various nonprofits we believe in and they got to direct their money to a specific place. It was rather fun seeing where they chose, each unique to their personalities. Binyam just gave to where Dailah gave, which is true to his personality throughout the year. 😉

A few weeks before Christmas we draw names for each other and then spend one night shopping at Target for that person. We duck in and out of aisles and try to hide from whoever it is we are buying for. It’s really fun! We open those on Christmas Eve and I just love seeing what the kids choose for their siblings (and for Z and me, of course) there are no rules so I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how thoughtful the gifts have been.

The kids had spent the few days prior building a fort big enough for all of them to sleep in on Christmas Eve. The excitement was palpable and we could hear giggling on and off all night.

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Z and I always set a time that is the absolute earliest the kids can wake us up on Christmas morning. 6am (oy vey) was the winner this year and at 5:59 I started hearing giggles and shrieks downstairs from the fort. At 6am we heard them all sprint upstairs and then high five, hug and more screams. Christmas mornings will continue to stand as my favorite moments as a parent-all snuggled with Z in our bed listening to pure joy outside our room. It’s all the proof I need that I’m the freaking luckiest in the whole world.

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Tariku might be my favorite to watch on Christmas morning. He always keeps his emotions so close to the chest that only those who know him best can tell if he’s excited or sad or angry. But even my Chooch can’t hide his sheer bliss on Christmas, I tear up just thinking about it. Love him.

After we opened presents and ate our Jesus pancakes (this is what they are called on Christmas, obvs) we headed to Davenport for the Klipsch family Christmas.

First thing’s first (I’m the realest), Sintayehu gave us her preschool program in its entirety and I had to keep snapping pictures so people wouldn’t see me crying. I remember when Leslie called to tell me of Sinta’s referral and how she was nervous about a potential heart defect (that proved to be nbd). Looking at her on Christmas day it was quite clear the only defect she might have is a heart that is far too big for her little body and a joy that shouldn’t have to be contained in small stature either.

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Her fellow Ethiopian cousins remained riveted-smiled when they knew she wanted it and clapped in between each song. (Julius was obviously equally impressed)

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Though I’m partial to gifts I will say it took me a second just now to remember what the gifts were because I’ve been so grateful and focused on what a blessing our extended families are to me. And what a blessing they are to my kids.

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Even Trysten (who typically just wants to hang with his older cousins) had some good heart to hearts with Julius, made me remember how great he was with little ones when he was a little(r) one.

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Oh my nephews and niece. I love them so much.

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Papa Frank and Mimi Terre got each of my kids an electric scooter, they are pretty frickin cute riding through camp I must say.

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The next day we celebrated my nephew/Godson’s 8th birthday and my sister (in-law’s) 28th birthday. I have 0 pictures of that except for this one of Z and Dailah playing the piano together. We’re going to say it’s because I was doing really well at living in the moment but it probably had more to do with the delicious bagels and coffee that were being offered. 😉

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I got to have lunch with my friend Alex (who gave me this ornament-so cute!) I would spend more time trying to find someone like her in Michigan but after agreeing with me that our lunch portions were too small and then ordering a 2nd meal (each) I knew it was just never going to happen. Someone who loves Harry Potter, food and sarcasm as much as I do is a once in a lifetime find.

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Also got to take the whole family to my bestie’s house to see her and her family (obviously) but perhaps maybe even more so her new puppy. 😉 Life without my bestie can be really, really hard sometimes. I’m grateful Z gets along so well with her hubby too because we forget about everyone else when we’re together. There’s a lot of catching up to do.

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My family all came into town Friday night. Usually we spend Christmas in Altoona but because my sister is due any minute (seriously God, let her deliver already!) we thought we should bring Christmas to Kara and Matt in Davenport. Friday night was remarkable because I asked Tariku if it would be ok if I snuggled him and he replied, “You can lay your head on my lap.” This is pretty big for the child of mine that abhors physical touch and touch wherein he can’t escape when it feels too BIG is just unheard of. Hagrid and Barbara Streisand saw an opening and both came to snuggle as well.

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The next morning my boys talked their uncles, dad and grandpa into playing some outdoor football. Though I believe the older men ended up enjoying it, I do believe my kids were beside themselves with happiness and will be thus making it an annual thing. (Right outside the door is the furthest I got-it was coldie out there!)

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My Landry Mae usually prefers her mom/dad or my parents over me but I was able to keep her on my lap with the promise of white chocolate covered pretzels. And really, who wouldn’t bribe this face!

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Of course there were presents involved here too. Man I love those little humans.

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Sunday we drove a few hours away to celebrate with my mom’s side of the family. Z and I talked on the way there about how lucky I am to have both of my grandparents. When we walked in (a little late mind you) both of them were playing cards and drinking whiskey. I think they are on to something! One of my cousins and his family from Australia were able to make it this year, as well as a cousin from Kentucky and one from Nebraska. (My grandparents with their grandkids/spouses. Only missing 1 in Kentucky, 1 in Chile and 2 in Iowa.)

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And their great grandkids! (missing 5)

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My Dawson family.

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I’ve been around long enough to know that it is a true blessing that I genuinely look forward to seeing every one of our family members. If you are one who has too many painful memories associated with the holidays or hates them because of how hard various family dynamics can be understand that I think of you often and don’t take one second of this for granted.

My favorite Christmas tune continues to be O Holy Night, the last verse consistently bringing me to tears.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever
! His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

I hope beyond hope you were able to find some joy this Christmas, if not then might I wish you peace for the new year?

Much love,

Tesi

Water Party!

Before we moved to Michigan I called my sister (in-law) Leslie and said, “Ok, we have to decide if we’re doing Wine to Water right now. I have 15 tubs of stuff stored in my basement that if we decide to do it will heretofore reside in your basement. And when I say “we” need to decide it really is “you” need to decide because your work load will approximately double and you’ll have to do all of the physical tasks.”

It was really hard being so far away during the planning stages of the event. Arguably my favorite part of the whole thing is getting to spend so much time with Leslie and other party planners so perhaps it’s no surprise that I went over my anytime minutes on my phone plan the months of October and November. 😉

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Leslie very smartly gathered a group of dedicated women to brainstorm new and creative ways to mix it up without losing the integrity of the event (Leslie and I are very passionate about keeping it low key, gritty, east coast vibe. We never want it to look like every other silent auction for non profits that can be found throughout the world for all of the days.) I got to FaceTime in on that gathering and was humbled to hear so many great women excited about raising more money than last year (which was our highest amount raised in the 5 years the party had been happening.)

Leslie and I had known after last year that we had to cut back some on the art (oftentimes it was the same people bidding on art over and over and those people, we figured, had probably run out of space on their walls.), scrap the craft station and develop a variety of things at different price points so that more people could get involved in the actual fundraising piece of the event.

So this year we featured a few pieces of art, some rather amazing baskets, a wine pull and various raffles. The crew from Davenport went above and beyond in gathering the supplies/gift cards/items for the baskets so that each basket was worth well over $100-some even closer to $300.

As with last year, Becky Straw the Co-Founder of The Adventure Project, flew out to thank the great people of the QC for being such great supporters of the organization. I saw her all night answering questions and speaking with donors, just another sign that TAP cares about their individual donors. I love them.

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We also had more community businesses partner with us than ever before. It was so cool to see so many great companies rally around the common goal of providing jobs and clean water to the people of Uganda.

Leslie and I decided (admittedly on a whim) to fly Andy Landers out to be our musical guest. It was such a great decision in the end because his music is always great and fits so well with the event.

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My family once again put in hours of hard labor to set up the event. Thursday night my parents brought a trailer to load up all of the tables and chairs with my brother-in-law and dad doing most of it. My mom, having had total knee replacement surgery just 2 weeks before, decided she was feeling up to holding doors and pushing dollies. Because she’s a hard ass. And also kind of crazy. 🙂

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My other sister (in-law) Emily simply worked her ass off. In so many ways she took my place this year and I’m so grateful for it. If you ask her she’ll downplay her contribution but she sincerely worked so hard I want to acknowledge the fact that she hasn’t gotten nearly the credit she deserves. (Pictured here, far right, serving wine). I really love her.

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Close to 400 people came this year which made our huge event space feel cozy and intimate. I loved seeing so many people I’ve missed these last months while in Michigan as well as people who were new to hearing about The Adventure Project.

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I also loved seeing the committee of women who helped organize the event take full ownership-encouraging bidding, selling raffle tickets, passing out desserts. It was awesome. And to see those who helped set up (including our one lone non-Klipsch, though Jason is Klipsch in our hearts obviously, who helped with the heavy manual labor) let loose and admire their hard work.

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I also got to see a few junior high/high school friends who came for the first time. It had been too long since seeing them but it was so great to catch up. I’ve always been prone to nostalgia so seeing them just really made my heart happy.

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Of course as it always does, the night went too quickly and soon it was time for the real celebration. Love the last bit of the night when I can really celebrate with those that made it all possible. And dance. I freaking love dancing.

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Becky Straw had identified 20 villages in Uganda that were in desperate need of clean water and our goal was to fund 5 of those (about $6,000 more than we had ever made. What can I say-we are forever optimistic).

WE FUNDED 6!!!  We far surpassed our goal and on December 11 we got an email from Becky saying our totals had reached $24,000 with more coming in since then! (that’s $10,000 more than last year for those keeping track!)

(Pretty sure that’s what we in the biz call “burying the lead” but whatevs. I like pictures and words.)

If you’re friends with me on Facebook you already knew all of this because I’ve been posting about it ad nauseam for weeks, but I wanted to make sure I had it on record on my blog for days when I was feeling dumpy and needed a pick me up.

Perhaps my favorite story of this year’s event is one that happened just a few weeks ago actually. A donation of $700 was made towards the party and when asked why she was donating the woman said she had heard one of our committee people ask a local business for a donation for a basket. Our committee person was talking about The Adventure Project and how what they do matters and is important. The person who donated was just eating at that establishment, an innocent bystander. She didn’t say anything at the time but instead researched it a bit and then made her donation. She’s completely anonymous but so generous. Isn’t that amazing?

Hope you guys have a Merry Christmas. If you’re looking to unload some disposable income before year’s end make sure you check out The Adventure Project. I truly believe in the work they are doing. Here’s an awesome video to put you in the mood. 🙂

*I am not getting paid by The Adventure Project, I just happen to really believe creating jobs=creating sustainability=less dependency=world peace. 🙂

 

School’s out for summer!

School’s out for summer!

Today my 5 officially finished their school year. Though I was thankful Michigan went longer than Iowa when we decided to move because it gave them longer to make good friends before the summer, I was getting pretty bored at home the last week or so and was itchin’ to have all my babes at home with me during the day!

This was them on their first day of school this year. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

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And today. Officially 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

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Truth be told I think our various graduations now celebrated (preschool, kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade, etc) are a little overzealous. I think we can all agree it doesn’t take much for our kids to graduate preschool and kindergarten, right? 5th grade is still a little goofy if you ask me, there just doesn’t seem to be anything special about graduating 5th grade/elementary school. That said, I do believe Trysten is special and so I was totally ok with getting to see him in his element on his last day of elementary school. 😉

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He was one of the main reasons we decided to move towards the end of the school year. I wanted to make sure he would have enough time to make some friends before heading into the twilight zone that is middle school. And man did he. The male 5th grade teacher gives out candy awards every year to the 5th graders. He picks different candies that fit the personalities of each kid. Trysten got M&M because he’s “Magnificent and majestic and he just oozes cool.” Any mom can tell you it’s so nice hearing your kid accurately described by teachers. It means the teacher has taken the time (in this case just a month!) to really get to know my kid and my kids trusts that teacher enough to show the real him. That’s a pretty big deal.

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Afterwards we had to go for ice cream to celebrate summer, for obvious reason.

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I am just incredibly proud of all 5 of them. Some have to work so, so hard day in and day out to keep pace with their peers and they do it. Of course there are tears once in awhile but those are mostly just from me. 😉

My favorite story from their new school was from a teacher. I was talking to her on one of Dailah’s field trips and she said, “You know I just have to tell you, coming here has been a really big deal for A (Dailah’s best friend). Before Dailah moved here A would get kind of picked on because she’s just quiet and sweet and never really stood up for herself. But Dailah doesn’t let that happen to her and in turn A has gained this whole new level of confidence we had never seen from her. On top of that, everyone in the school knows if they mess with one Klipsch or any friends of the Klipschs the others will be there to help out so A falls under that Klipsch umbrella too.”

I freaking love that. And I freaking love them. Off to hang with that ragamuffin gang I call my children.

The Weekend

The Weekend

This past weekend was my first weekend heading back to the Iowa-ay for a long ago planned celebration of my mom’s soon-to-be 60th birthday. Originally the plan was to bring my whole crew but Trysten had a 5th grade lock in he was really excited about Friday night so we decided it would make more sense to send me solo and have Zach stay in MI with the kiddos rather than make the long drive down on Saturday and back up on Sunday.

8+ hours in the car by myself all weekend? With Comedy Bang Bang, WTF and This American Life podcasts the whole way? It was really kind of nice! (Do you guys love any other podcasts? I dislike most mainstream music and thus rely heavily on podcasts and NPR to keep me awake during drives.)

I got to watch my niece Adley Sue play bam bam baseball Saturday morning. When we were discussing the game she told me I could call her “Suza” (which I do anyway) and to please make sure I yell really, really loudly so everyone knew it was her turn to bat. Twist my arm. I love that smart, funny little lady. I also love my new top for Mother’s Day. It’s super comfy and has the added bonus of promoting my brother’s Chiropractic business. Love!

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Saturday afternoon my mom had rented a limo for us to hit our favorite hot spots. The thing about my family is-I freaking love each one so much. I think they are hilarious and sweet and loving and fun to be around. My sister and brother married people I love equally as much. Am I wrong to believe it’s rare that families get along as well as ours and love spending time with each other as much as we do? I don’t know, either way, my prayer is my kids have the same relationship with each other as I do with my sibs/parents as they get older.

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At 6am the next day Adley Sue was waking me up asking to snuggle. Even though I was exhausted and wanted to roll over and sleep for 3 more hours, she is just too cute. And I am an absolute sucker for my nieces/nephews and requests for snuggles.

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I told Zach as much fun as I had back in Des Moines and as much as I missed seeing my family since we moved to Michigan I must say it felt really great to be home. Not just because I missed my hubs and kiddos so, so much but because I’m starting to get used to being a Michigander. Oh, also because Zach had found a paddle board and I got to cross off something on my bucket list-paddle board yoga! 😉

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Hope you had an equally amazing weekend!

And seriously-podcast recommendations, please!

Official Michigander

My whole life (except for a short, 1-year stint as a South Dakotan) I’ve been an Iowan. How weird to now call myself a Michigander.

We’ve lived here for just over a week now and I do believe we are settling in quite nicely. The kids started school a week ago today and are absolutely in love. They love their teachers, their new school and have made more friends than I could’ve hoped for in a week. That was my biggest prayer as their mama. Friends, please let them make friends! We were so pleased to discover one of Trysten’s friends lives directly across from our house on the lake. Doubly pleased to learn he has a sister in Dailah’s class! On Saturday that friend rowed his sister on over so they could play with our kids.

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There are many terrible ways people could describe me that would be true but “lazy” is not really one of them. (Although my marathon of The Walking Dead today might disagree). I can thank my parents-the hardest working people in the world-for teaching me to just keep working no matter how tired when there are things to be done. Thus the house is unpacked, the whole top floor is freshly painted and we even have our pictures hanging on the wall! 🙂

Can I just tell you that Zach has been the most amazing? He’s working really long hours and then still comes home to finish painting the top part of rooms or hang this or that. I have no doubt that if you were to ask him lately he would tell you he really hates that my love language is “acts of service” but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at him. What kind of man does something he hates for hours on end and asks to take a break only to go shoot hoops with his sons? That would be mine. Lucky, lucky lady.

As for me, I’m admittedly a little sad. I miss my friends. I miss my job. I miss knowing exactly where to go to get everything we need and who to call if I wasn’t sure. I miss having a bathroom that I didn’t have to share with some of my kids. 😉

But we’re doing it, you know? I’m so proud of all of us for putting ourselves out there and finding happiness in even the most mundane events. That’s what it takes right? To start to make a foreign place home? Find little bits of happiness whenever or wherever they come?

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Final Mexico post-Cousins!

Final Mexico post-Cousins!

When Trysten was about 6-months-old we had my mother-in-law sew on a onsie, “I need a cousin!” We strategically put it on him when Jake and Leslie were visiting from Chicago. A few months later they called us with the happy news that they were expecting. 🙂

Since that time I’ve so enjoyed watching my kids play with their kids. Now it expands to other cousins that have come along as well and it’s just increased my joy. There’s just something about cousins. I got to spend time with some of mine this past weekend too and I loved every minute. I’m so thankful my kids still think of their cousins as their best friends not because they have to but because they genuinely love each other.

Especially Dailah and Eli. Loved every one of the pictures of the two of them together.

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Mexico Trip-Siblings and Parents!

A little time spent with my family in the morning and then THE REST OF THE DAY with some of my other favorite people in all of the earth. I’ve not laughed that hard for that many straight days perhaps ever. I will not mention which brother wore only a Speedo all week. I will not mention how competitive we got at family water volleyball. I will not mention the dance party to “Happy” on the pool deck or the last night just how great Jake’s toast was.

But I will mention that I love these people so, so, so much. Oh you guys. Love them. If you see me in the next month and would really like to see me cry just mention these people and how I’m moving away from them. Just be prepared for the ugly cry and maybe some light puking.

What a lucky, lucky lady I am to have these siblings (in-law) and parents (in-law).

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Mexico-I am obsessed with my nephews/nieces

I’m sure I’ll get some push back from this but I want you to know that I love my nephews and nieces more than you love yours. 🙂

No but seriously.

Zach and I were talking about one of our absolute favorite parts of the vacation was getting to spend so much time with our nephews and niece. Oliver, Elihu, Sinta, Cassius and Julius made the whole trip so much sweeter for me. As with my own children, I felt like I really got to know these (other) babes of mine in a whole new way. I genuinely could watch Sinta swim or Dailah and Eli play for days upon days without stopping. And Julius baby snuggles? Fuggetaboutit. I simply delight in everything about them.

Obviously I thought a lot about the fact that we are prepping to move 4 hours from these remarkable young people. It tore me up inside to think about not seeing them for weeks. How did I get so lucky to get the smartest, funniest, sweetest most adorable people to call me “Aunt Tesi”? What an extravagant blessing.

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Mexico 2014-Family time!

My generous parents-in-law told us at Christmas our present this year would be a spring break trip…to Mexico…all 19 Klipschs. Obviously it was exciting then but the Sunday before we left NO ONE SLEPT because of all of the excitement.

And I have to tell you, it was better than I expected. I’ve said it here many, many, many times but I’m so lucky to have my in-laws double as my best friends. So 6 days with my best friends-no work, no school, no cooking or cleaning-it was bliss!

I’m currently trying to figure out how to blog about this trip of a lifetime but I thought I would start with arguably my favorite part.

Time spent with my immediate family. We are all early risers (except for Zach and Dailah, obviously) and so we were awake long before any other Klipschs. From about 7-8:30am we got to hang by ourselves having breakfast and swimming in the pool/ocean. Though we had our various phones/ipods in the hotel room they were only played for about 30 minutes at night so there were no distractions! I felt a little bit like I rediscovered each of my kids! One of my sweet cherubs, cough Binyam, cough, had been frustrating me for various reasons leading up to the vacation and on the last day Zach and I turned to each other at the same time and uttered, “I re-fell in love with Binyam today.” Yeah, because there was nothing else competing for our attention. We could just sit and watch our kids have the time of their lives with their cousins while we hung with our siblings. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

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I hate goodbyes

I mean hate hate them. I know no one loves them, at least I assume no one loves them, but I don’t know anyone else who is as awkward with goodbyes as I am. If you’ve ever talked to me on the phone you know what I’m talking about. I typically end my phone calls with something like, “Mmhhmmokbye*awkward laugh* yeahokayloveyou *awakward laugh*” click.

It’s even worse in person. I’m a hugger but if I don’t know whether or not the other person likes hugs I always go into one of those half handshake/half hugs which tends to force my outstretched hand towards the other person’s penis or vagina. Those good byes always include an awkward laugh as well, for obvious reasons.

That said, I’m about to have to say some really hard good byes and I know I’m simply ill equipped for the task.

Zach has been getting phone calls from various camps for the last few years. Apparently that’s what happens when you do really, really well at something. Zach and I both agreed we would be picky with any offers. It had to be a really good job for him, one that would be challenging but also something he is passionate about. It would have to be within driving distance of our families. It would have to be a place we would actually enjoy living.

It looks like we found it. Starting end of April the Klipsch clan will be moving to Michigan. Zach will be the new VP of Programs for the Michiana Y and will get to oversee operations of Camp Eberhart. As for the kiddos and me, we will live on site at camp. My new kitchen overlooks a lake, so I suppose there are worse places to move. 😉 It’s just 4 hours from the QC and 6 from Des Moines. All still doable for a weekend!

As always, it’s a bittersweet good bye. I love this community I’ve called home for 10 years. I’ve made friends who are more like sisters and I have actual sisters who live here! I have a job I love and coffee shop I love (oh Redband you can do no wrong!). My parents, brother and sister-in-law live just 2 hours from here-a doable drive in one day. My in-laws take us to week at least once/week. It’s really a pretty sweet gig.

But because Zach and I got pregnant and married at 20 we’ve never really struck out on our own. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying to think we will just have our crew for the first time in our lives if things go wrong (at least until we build up a community there).

So there it is. Big news. I’m terrible at the in between. I feel like I’m neither here nor there, which leaves me restless. And when I get restless, shit gets done. Which is why I have one room in the house packed and wouldn’t be at all surprised to find the rest of the house done in the next few weeks (would be days but we’re heading to Mexico-more on that later!).

If I’ve learned anything in my 12 years of marriage, though, it’s that home for me will always be wherever Zach and I can snuggle on the couch together drinking cheap wine and watching our kiddos wrestle each other. I guess that kind of makes me the luckiest lady in the world doesn’t it?

That said, pray for us will you? That Zach loves his new job as much as he’s loved his job at Camp Abe Lincoln. That the kids meet new friends at their new school and make the transition as easily as possible (they are actually really excited!) and for me. I rely so heavily on this group of friends and family I know there will be a lot of dark days ahead. 🙂

Michigan or Bust!