12 Years

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

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have survived 12 years of marriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read also about How We Met.

11 Years.

#1-Learn to hang frames

As I said in my original post-this one I’m a little embarrassed about. There has been a small pile of picture frames, thread portraits and even a random piece of wood that fell off our wall left for Zach for far longer than I care to admit. It’s summer which means Zach works extra long hours, often not getting home for good until I’m deep into my REM cycle. It has always just felt wrong (though I admit it’s been done) to leave a list for him on the fridge of things that need fixed and hung for when he gets home at night.

Let me just say had I known I’d be able to accomplish this first small task of mine barefoot, in a swimsuit cover up and while drinking beer I maybe wouldn’t have waited so long to give it a go. Full disclosure, it was all the measuring and the math that got me nervous. And Zach’s OCD. He tells me everyone wants their stuff perfectly hung so that each room the items are hung at the same height and feature the same width between them. (He’s lying, right?!?!? That can’t be true.) Either way, I totally nailed it.

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I’ve gotten some really great ideas so far from you all. Stuff you are doing in your life or stuff you want to do. I’m going to definitely take on some of them! Keep me posted if you have any more ideas.

I sent my friend this picture with the caption, “Well into my year of Tesi.”

Her response, “Only you would start the year of Tesi in July.”

And it’s true. But the reality is I’m not promised January. I might only have a few days or weeks to teach all of my kids (with special thought of Dailah) that you’re never too young or old to learn new tricks. And to quit running from things that scare you. Of course the kids were all curious to see their mom with a hammer when dad was standing right there so I explained my year or learning new things.

Yesterday Dailah was invited to her friend’s house across the lake. Normally she would ask one of her brothers to row her over but yesterday she said good bye and I looked out to see her rowing herself.

A year that goes beyond DIY

Last week the tire on my minivan that had been slowly leaking for a week or so finally got tired of my constant refilling and popped. Fortunately, just off the interstate was a tire shop. Unfortunately, the tire shop was chock full of the single reason we women hate going to auto shops-garden variety male chauvinists who earn an A+ for patronizing.

After a good 10 minutes of him lying to me (we don’t have air to fill your tire, it will be 1.5 hours for us to change into your spare, etc) I stormed walked off and, with the help of my 5 children, put my spare on. I left with a quick, “Just so you know, I go through about 6 tires a year, big mistake-big. Thanks for nothing asshole.” In my head it came out like a stronger version of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman but the way my face was distorted in anger and my breath constricted it probably came out a little less mentally stable.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about other areas in my life that I’ve willingly given away my own agency. There are many perks to our culture’s specialization. We outsource everything from getting our oil changed to meal prep-we’ve talked ourselves into allowing “the experts” in each field to do for us what just the generation (or maybe 2 generations) ahead of us did themselves. In a lot of ways this is great-it allows people more time to work on their areas of expertise as well. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s not at least a bit detrimental to our health as a society as well. Simply put, for those of us who love The Walking Dead, most of us will die in hours should the zombie apocalypse happen. 😉

For me though, it was hard to coalesce the feminist in me who wanted to throw the man in the auto place on his back and tell him to go to hell (namaste as well, obviously) and the woman whose first instinct was to call her husband as if he-being 2 hours away-could make this all go away. How am I the woman who has no problem taking her 5 kids on solo road trips all of the time and also the woman who cried one dark, dark night after Zach had been gone for a week because I couldn’t get the wine bottle open?

I’ve decided that for the next year I’m going to start taking back a bit of my own agency. This isn’t about DIY-though I love the idea of that movement as well. This isn’t about craft projects or hobbies, I want this to be more about survival, home ownership-adulthood. It’s also not about things typically categorized as “male” or categorized as “female”. I have ideas on my list that could fall on both sides of that.

I have small things on my list (hang picture frames-don’t judge, I just always have Zach do it) but I also have big things (change the oil in my car, spend a full day/night on my own outside). I don’t know if you are like me at all but my nature is that if it scares me-don’t do it. If I won’t be immediately great at it-perhaps I just wasn’t meant to do it in the first place. My heart knows none of that is true but my head often easily wins and I’m just kind of tired of allowing it so quickly.

Here’s what I want from you-what are your ideas? Male or female what are the things that you wish you knew how to do or maybe are embarrassed that you always have someone do for you? While in Iowa this week I told a few of my good friends about this idea of mine and each one (male and female) was excited about it. They gave me some really great ideas as well. It helped me in numerous ways but perhaps most of all in knowing I’m not alone. Not alone in being a smart woman who is left befuddled at the mere sight of tangled TV cords but also not alone in wanting it all to change.

Obviously I will bring you along with me. If I know myself at all I know there will be loads of foul ups but also little and small victories-both celebrated equally and unnecessarily I’m sure.

So tell me, what should be on my list? What would be on your list? Email me tesileagh@gmail.com, no ideas are bad ideas. I’m excited and nervous but mostly excited. Also scared.

Let’s do it.

Weekending

Since we’ve moved to Michigan at the end of April we haven’t had a weekend without visitors. Have I mentioned how lucky we are to have so many family and friends willing and able to make the trip up to see us? Last weekend the Klipsch contingency arrived with my two brothers-in-law, their wives and children. This weekend marked the arrival of my parents and our good Bajun friend, Marlo. I would say the theme for each weekend is “eat too much, drink too much and stay up way past my bedtime.” But I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

The weather here has been so beautiful. Hasn’t gotten so hot that we can’t be outside yet (does it get that way in MI?) so we are taking advantage of every moment!

My kids are finally at an age where they love “competitive tubing”. No more of that drive slow and stay straight boring stuff. 😉 My entire childhood was spent challenging siblings and friends to tube battles so it feels like the best kind of deja vu to now have my kiddos doing the same.

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Though the older kids were mostly unseen because of all the excitement at being together again, we did get some QT in with the littler cousins. I kind of can’t help but gush about my nephews and nieces. It’s just that they are so incredible.

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I also can’t get enough of watching Zach and his brothers together. I hope beyond hope my boys are able to have as much fun as Z and his brothers do as they get older.

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I recovered from their visit on Thursday, which is exactly when our friend Marlo showed up. 🙂 Saturday we went right out on the lake. Though Zach is a great boat driver it’s just really hard to beat my dad-the man with 30 years of experience! And I must tell you my world got a little more perfect when I sat in a boat with my dad as the driver. So many memories of my childhood involved my dad driving the boat while we tubed and skied/wake boarded so imagine my delight at recreating that magic! I even brushed off the wake boarding skills and went for a few runs.

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Dailah HATES tubing. Thankfully she’s got a mom who will not be raising a daughter to just sit around and sun bathe while all the dudes are out enjoying life. 😉 We negotiated and I allowed her the request to have her daddy ride with her. Daddies have a way of making us feel safe and loved don’t they?

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Then Dailah hopped off (not true, my dad actually dumped her and Z) and it was back to competitive tubing for Marlo and Z.

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I also force encourage all of my kids to wakeboard/ski when it’s time. Yesterday was the first day that all of them got up (except Trysten who gave it a good D effort. 😉 )

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Last night ended with some card games, cigars and drinks on our covered porch while the rain came down. It was absolute perfection. (You know you are a yogi when you tell your son to get down in the front and he does this. Oh Trysten.)

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Hope your summer weekends have been just as full of love and laughter!

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.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

I genuinely believe if you ask any adoptive mama their thoughts on Mother’s Day they would all tell you some variation of the word “conflicted”.

My friend Jody once said it best (and it has been spread throughout all the interwebs for all of the days. So awesome-and surreal-to see a friend quoted by random people in the Twitterverse and the Facebook. I always think, “If only they knew her in real life they would know this is at the bottom of the list of brilliant things she has said in our last phone conversation alone.”)

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me. 

It’s impossible when looking at 3 of my sons on Mother’s Day to not think about the beautiful women who gave birth to them.

My heart is so full because their arms are empty.

None of that is lost on any of us adoptive mamas, at least none that I’m aware of.

I used to get a little melancholy on big holidays but I started to realize it wasn’t doing anyone any good. I want my kids to feel exactly what they are genuinely feeling. If they are feeling sad then I can walk through that with them. But if they are feeling genuine happiness and desire to spoil me rotten with abandon who am I to stop them?

And spoil me they did. Not anything out of the ordinary, per se, but there was more intentionality in their praises. If I’m being honest I love it more when they utter words of love or sweetness unprompted and without reason. Though I believe they meant every sweet sweet word they wrote yesterday, there’s just something about moments of vulnerability not sponsored by Hallmark. 😉

That said, my parents had “offered” to come help us paint Mother’s Day weekend. In hindsight, I’m so thankful they did as it would’ve been my first ever Mother’s Day wherein I wasn’t sharing it with my mom or Mom-in-law and sisters. Half the fun of being a mom is sharing the experience with those women so I am so grateful my mama was with us.

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It was just the second day (and first that Zach was with us) in which the temps reached high into the 80s. My parents have owned a boat since I was born so I would definitely consider myself a water baby. Of all the elements, water is where I find the most peace. Whether I’m in it or just near it, I am as close as I get to a fully realized individual. (My first shot at kayaking-I’m in love!!! Now that I’m used to paddling I’m wanting to switch to a stand up paddle board. And then paddle board yoga. Yes please!)

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I am not exaggerating when I say I think anything nice my kids might ever be able to say about me would only be true because Zach is such a great dad. The competitor in me can’t rest until I’m keeping pace with this guy. I’m always far behind, but that’s to be expected when they have Zach (who took the littles out to teach them how to properly paddle, and rescued our indoor kitty when he broke out into the great outdoors etc) for a dad.

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I got to spend an hour with Trysten in the hammock talking about life, love and his hopes/fears about middle school (he starts in the fall. Bless it). Certainly my favorite moments of motherhood are spent one-on-one with my kids when I rediscover who they truly are and when they can feel my supreme love for them.

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I’m not sure if you remember but I’m also a mama to 4 four-legged babies too. If you could see my pictures on my phone I would be totally embarrassed with the sheer amount of photos I have of my 2 dogs and 2 cats. I find them irresistible and adorable.

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Local beers were also involved because you guys, this is the best beer I’ve ever tasted. I love all of the Bell’s beer that I’ve tried.

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I loved all of my notes and gifts from my babes but this one was just precious. I could tell he spent a little more time on it, which made it super special. (Note: “Tomas creeping you out” is an inside joke. When Tomas first came home he really, really didn’t like me so he would just sit in a corner and stare at me. When we now talk about them first coming home we tease Tomas about “creepin'” on me and all have a good laugh. No need to worry, Tomas no longer creeps me out. 😉 )

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Look, I love being a mom. It’s my favorite. I’m often amazed to find I love motherhood even in the very worst moments. Even in the fear that I’m effing it all up, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else with my life. But I also believe yesterday was a day to celebrate the aunties in our lives that treat our babies so very well. Or the birth moms who can’t hear “mother” without thinking of loss. Or the women who have lost children who feel the same way. Because I am a mama of dogs and cats I recognize these women deserve a mention too-not everyone treats animals as humans-I think that’s pretty special.

So Happy (belated) Mother’s Day, fellow women. Thanks for inspiring me and encouraging me and helping me along the way. Many blessings.

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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