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.

Trysten is 11!

11. It seems impossible, it really does. A month ago I started to notice Trysten was getting more emotional than usual. At different times he would vacillate quickly from anger to sadness. So I asked him if he was going through puberty.

I asked my son if he was going through puberty. So weird. Though he hasn’t noticed any of the physical changes, I do believe we are on the brink of it all. He’s starting to prefer talking with Zach and me instead of watch cartoons with his siblings. At his birthday dinner he wanted to sit by me at the table instead of down by his cousins.

Trysten and I have always been extremely connected. Sure we are very much alike but I think it’s more than that. Probably it has more to do with the fact that I had him at 20-years-old and so we’ve kind of grown up together. Me forcibly so and he under the watchful, loving eye of his father and me (and countless family members).

Zach is often left bewildered by my ability to know what it is really going on with Trysten. He sees only the ways in which Trysten outwardly expresses himself but I know the motivations, the reasons behind it all.

I don’t know if it will always be this way. I don’t know if I’ll always know exactly when he’s about to tell me something important because he sucks in a small breath before starting or if I’ll know when he’s about to tell me-word for word-all about his latest Minecraft escapades because of the way one side of his mouth turns up. I assume our relationship will change like all relationships do. Not better or worse necessarily, but different.

None of this is to say he’s my favorite or my preferred child, it’s only to acknowledge that I “get” him in a way I don’t necessarily “get” any of my others (in the same way Zach “gets” Tariku more than the others). Oddly, sometimes Trysten can be the most infuriating as I see in him the same frustrations I see in myself. It’s also just to acknowledge that Trysten has now been alive for 11 years. I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that in one breath it feels like yesterday he was born and in the other breath it feels like he’s always been a part of me. I can’t exactly remember a time in which my heart didn’t beat at least partially because his did.

Regardless, there it was. His 11th birthday on the 25th.

The boy who loves pets in a “they are fun to cuddle with sometimes and laugh at their shenanigans but don’t expect me to get super excited about caring for them” way.

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The one who has his daddy’s sense of humor but a style all his own. Who still runs (okay…walks swiftly) up to us when he sees us at school and delivers a bone crushing hug.

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The one who chose a fire resistant safe for one of his birthday presents from his grandpa so he can keep all his stuff in it. This coming from the boy who tends to spend every dollar he gets just as soon as it’s in his hands and destroys even his most prized possessions with overuse and neglect.

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The one who would have Dickens claiming, “He was the best of brothers, he was the worst of brothers.”…and good luck figuring out which one woke up any given day.

This 11-year-old who still loves reading (though not quite as much as he has in the past), begins a task/sport/book/project with inspiring zeal only to taper off a week or two later and who keeps sweet notes/cards from his family to remind him of how much he is loved.

I am under no illusion that any of my children are perfect, I am so incredibly grateful they aren’t-it would be way too hard being as imperfect as I am and be their mom at the same time. But I am forever grateful God chose me for my Trysten Zachary.

Happy 11th birthday buddy. Love you more than you can think about measuring.

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On “Staying at Home”

I’ve been a stay at home mom (SAHM) for almost 6 years. Before that I had an incredibly unfulfilling job/career track that had a fancy sounding name, decent salary and an itemized budget that included lunch meetings and coffee outings.

I grew up with both of my parents working outside the home (pops is a CFO and moms a woman who put her master’s degree to good use as a high school guidance counselor before retiring a few years ago) so there was always pressure-though never expressly stated and probably more internal -to get a good job and stick with it. My siblings have both done very well at that, my big sister is a Pharmacist (she’s actually the pharmacist in charge at her store) and my brother the very best chiropractor in the biz (see!).

So it surprised me and everyone else who knew me when I announced I was leaving my “good” job to stay at home 6 years ago. I can’t say for sure what led me to that decision but I know for certain it had a lot to do with how miserable I was at that job. It also had a lot to do with giving birth to Dailah and having to drop her and Trysten off at the daycare where the other women would tell me how it looked when she took her first steps and Trysten got his first real injury. We were adopting Tariku later that year as well and, after reading all the things that could go wrong with an adoption, I was committed to pouring all my time and energy into healing his young heart.

I would say my first few months staying at home were really eye opening for me. Though I would’ve sworn up and down that I loved having a to-do list and thrived on being busy, the opposite was actually true. I really loved my mornings spent watching Trysten play and Dailah eat her Cheerios. I could feel the tension between living how the culture wanted me to live (succeed! make money! upward mobility!) and how I wanted to live (raise healthy children! leisure! live a life of contentment!). In the end, I found teaching a few hours at the Y each week was best for everyone. It gave me a little adult time every week and gave the kids some new friends with whom to wrestle. Though I was/am “working” I, in fact, don’t really even make enough money to cover the gas it takes to bring me into town so I’m not sure it qualifies in the way most would describe the term. 🙂

Now that all 5 kids are in school full time I would say the number 1 question I get asked from people who know me semi-well is, “So now are you going to get a job?”

So weird, right? Because for me, my job hasn’t stopped. My #1 goal continues to be raising healthy, loving, respectful, responsible young people and though I have so many friends and family who also have that as their #1 goal and manage to have full time careers as well, I still feel like home is quite literally where my heart is.

I’ve told Zach I’m now in this new phase of life in which I have lived in a space and time where I was doing exactly what I was “supposed” to do but was completely miserable there. I genuinely feel like those were the darkest of my years. Though I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the actual job, I also remember crying at my desk some days looking at pictures of my sweet babes. But I’ve also lived in a space and time where I was doing something that seemed so wonderful it felt almost counter-cultural. (hallelu I’m actually still there.)

I’m currently reading Brene Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection. Man, I love her. Though it’s not my favorite of hers (that title currently belongs to Daring Greatly), there are still some great gems inside. I think if anything it has reminded me that there is nothing to be ashamed of when I’m living my life in such a way that brings me and those around me lots of joy. Even when the people pleaser in me starts to put on the pressure to find a job so others can be proud of me or so I can contribute to the family’s bottom line I need to remember, “No one can define what’s meaningful for us. Culture doesn’t get to dictate if it’s working outside the home, raising children, lawyering, teaching or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us.”-pg.112

For those of you living out your great passions in whatever capacity you are, I salute you! It is not always easy but it is always worth it.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

 

Merry Christmas

Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the entire year. Of course it’s all about expectation and tradition. For my babes it’s the expectation of gifts in the morning, Santa visiting at night, time spent with loved ones. For me, though, I reflect on what this day represents for people around the world. My favorite Christmas carol is O Holy Night, I still get goosebumps and tears the majority of the time I hear it (lyrics below, my favorite bits bolded). “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” Love that.

For all who are weary I hope you feel even the smallest bit of hope in the morning.

Merry Christmas

-Tesi

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, 
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth. 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! 
O night divine, the night when Christ was born; 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, 
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. 
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming, 
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land. 
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger; 
In all our trials born to be our friends. 
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, 
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
With all our hearts we praise His holy name. 
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, 
His power and glory ever more proclaim! 
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Hey you-be nice to yourself

He is at his most handsome when he is laughing. Not the laugh he gives most people, no, the laugh he saves for rare occasions when surprise mixes perfectly with love and comedy. My beloved is often prone to seriousness but when he lets go his gums show and his eyes crinkle and I melt.

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Obviously I love seeing him in our bed, in a specific kind of derobedness saved specifically for me but I also yearn for those moments when his whole body exudes passion and a zest for life not often seen with him. Just as I’m prone to effusiveness he is prone to statue-like stillness. But not when he’s doing something he loves or talking about something in which he cares very deeply. In those moments his beauty shines from the smallest part of his heart’s center out to his phalanges.

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As Dailah grows I think more and more about body image. Specifically, how do I raise my daughter to see her the way I see her? I wonder that for my boys as well but the focus is often on Dailah because, let’s just be real here, being a young woman can be really terrible at times. I hate our culture’s rabid focus on the female body with a white hot hatred but I also know there’s nothing I can do to change that. So I always wonder how I can get my kids, in this case-Dailah, to live/survive within our culture.

I’ve had my own dealings with body issues, me and virtually every woman I know, so I went on a limb and asked Zach when he found me the most beautiful/attractive.

Women, come here for a second. Will you do this for me? Will you ask your husband/wife/significant other/child/parent that same question? Someone who loves you without condition- just ask them. You are not allowed to give them any qualifiers, “Hey babe, when do you find me the most beautiful? I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I’m just curious, my friend Tesi is really the one who wants to know, so you don’t have to answer.” None of that.

Back to Zach. His answer, “Attractive in a heartfelt sense is probably when you are interacting with Dailah. Attractive in a desired sense, probably right out of the shower.”

Yeah, he loves me right out of the shower. When my body is an unnatural shade of red (I’ve never met a hot shower I didn’t love), I’m all saggy boobs, stretch marks and acne. That’s it. That’s when he desires me most.

It got me thinking that maybe if I start to look at myself the way Zach sees me or the way Tariku sees me, “Mom, you are most beautiful when you’re dancing in our kitchen.” Or the way Tomas sees me, “You are most beautiful when you are taking good care of us.” Then I won’t actually have to teach Dailah anything, she’ll just pick it up from watching me.

I wonder if I can continue to “catch” all of my kids at their most beautiful and remark to them, “You are stunning when you are working so hard on that math problem!” then I will be the voice that is heard louder than all the other surface-level stuff our culture praises.

Do you think it’s possible? I don’t know. But I’m really beginning to believe that if the people I loved saw themselves the way I saw them then they wouldn’t say some of the harsh things they often do about themselves. I’m also beginning to believe if we can be nicer to ourselves then we can be nicer to each other. Our world needs people to be nicer to each other.

So let’s start with us. You and me. First, be nice to yourself. Next time you look in the mirror remember what your loved one said about you. This is going to be our hardest task, isn’t it? But let’s do it together. What’s the worst that could happen?

People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.

-Salma Hayek

Energy in, energy out

I go in waves of reading, you guys do that? I’ll read every day for hours on end for a few weeks and then I’ll not read a page for the next few weeks. I’m currently in a reading mood-something about winter does that to me. We keep our house a bit on the chilly side just so I can have a cup of coffee constantly in hand and a blanket (or 2) constantly wrapped around me.

I just finished Rob Bell’s, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. My mom-in-law graciously lent it to me whilst I was out with bootfoot. Once I was freed from my boot prison I went on quite the dry spell of reading (that’s what 9 weeks of heavy reading/TV watching will do to a person) so just got around to reading it the last few days. Last night I read this and have been percolating on it since,

We don’t transform our shadow side by denial but by entering into it, embracing it, facing it, and naming it because we believe God is with us and for us.

When we do this-name our fears and sins and failures and own up to them, describing them as clearly as we are able-we pass through them into the new life on the other side. We have faced the worst about ourselves and we have survived, making us strong in the only sense that actually matters. This is why resurrection is so central to the Jesus story: he faces the worst that can happen to a person, and comes out the other side alive in a new way. It is not a false strength we gain a posing and posturing and pretending, but a quiet, humble, grounded strength that has done the hard work of facing our most troubling inner torments and then watching them be transformed into sources of vitality and life.

Do you guys love that as much as I do?

When I look back on the last couple years of my life, years where I’ve been really trying to do the hard work-to face that which scares me the most about myself I realize it’s been both the worst few years (it was so much easier, on the surface anyway, when I was in denial) of my life but also the very best. Not only have my close relationships gotten stronger, more vibrant and beautiful but so have I. And it isn’t because I’ve scrubbed myself clean and come out on the other side smelling like roses-it’s because I’ve come on the other side battered and bruised with the realization that I am still utterly and completely loved.

Before-back when I was in complete denial about my shadow side-I tried so many different ways of earning love. Some didn’t hurt me or anyone else, some really hurt me or other people I love. I was floundering for an easier way to come to terms with grace. We all do this, right? When we aren’t convinced of how much we love we go over the top in trying to earn love, perhaps that’s just me.

Of course this showed itself in a myriad of ways but I was thinking this morning about the ways my denial affected my parenting specifically. I believe very much in the energy we put out into the world. I think for a long time the energy I was putting out reflected my inner turmoil. I would be telling my kids one thing, “Do the right thing, be honest, no lying, you are wholly and completely loved” but my energy was saying, “Lie if you’re scared of the truth, ehhhh I’m not convinced a person can be completely loved when all the shit is out there.”

Of all my kids Tariku was the best at projecting back to me exactly what I was putting out into the world. Perhaps that’s why for a very long time I didn’t fully attach to him. Who was this kid skeptical of my love, constantly lying and totally ill equipped for accepting love? Oh right, that kid is me. I am he. How terribly frustrating it can be to parent a child that exhibits the same behaviors and attitudes you dislike about yourself, right?

I’m sure you see where this is going. As I continue every. single. day to own my shit and walk through it, Tariku is mirroring that as well. The lying has all but stopped, he actually let me hold his hand for half a movie the other day. When I look at him to tell him I love him he looks back and I can tell more and more of him each day is taking it in-allowing it to settle into the parts of his heart darkened by the pain, loss and heartache he’s had in the past.

I think as parents we owe it to our kids to transform our shadow sides, don’t you? I think if we don’t we run the risk of our kids being so scared of their shadow sides they’ll do anything to keep it hidden. The truth is I’m not at all scared of my kids’s shadow sides. The truth is, they are young enough I see most of it. But I want them to feel free to discover it on their own and then talk it through with me. Then maybe when I tell them I love them or that God loves them they’ll know that I mean all of them-even the parts of them that hate me sometimes. 😉

I guess my goal for the new year is going to be that-to keep discovering that which scares me about myself and to step forward in faith-knowing I am God’s beloved. And to maybe take that leap of faith to share with my children all the ways in which I have failed so they know it’s a completely human and acceptable experience. I think they’re worth it, I think I am too.

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Last night while driving in the car I could tell Trysten was looking at me.

“What’s up, Tman?”

“I can tell it’s Wine to Water time, mom.”

“Oh yeah, how is that?”

“Your face looks like your concentrating all the time. You kind of look a little sad, even when you smile you look a little sad.”

I took a moment before I responded. Yes, I suppose it’s true. Obviously I have a lot going on in my head so that makes sense why I look like I’m concentrating all the time but sad? I don’t feel sad.

“You know I think what looks like sad is really just this heavy feeling. Ever since I was little when I’d hear about injustice I would get really anxious. I remember the first time I heard about slavery I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t imagine what that was like and I felt heavy with the injustice. As I grew up I started to think something was wrong with me because any time I heard of a little unfairness happening it always affected me way more than my friends. This isn’t to say it didn’t anger them or make them feel sad it’s just to say I couldn’t shake it. In my teenage years I would try to push it down because when you’re a teenager you’re nothing if not completely irrational. So I put on this mask of not caring. Not caring about me and not caring about the world around me when in reality I felt a deep pulling sensation in my gut whenever I felt one thing but acted a different way. Now I’ve gotten to a point where I realize God made me this way for a reason. If I’m feeling particularly devastated about something I believe it’s because there’s something I can do to help the problem. I can’t fix it, I’m just one person, but I can help. And so I do. I do everything I possibly can to just do something. Sure enough, the darkness of the injustice starts to dissipate when I act. So I guess during Wine to Water some of the darkness is always at the surface. I think about the men and women I want to help with this event and I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to help more and more of them. It’s the only way I know to chase out the darkness.”

I really believe that’s what it comes down to. If we as humans started acting on what leaves our souls restless-the results are almost unimaginable. Maybe for you it’s orphan care or education or the broken prison system. Whatever it is I think if we started acting instead of hiding the world would know us by our love.

Perhaps that’s what I want my kids to know about me the most. I am an extremely flawed person. I’ve made some really terrible mistakes and will undoubtedly make more (though different ones) in the future. But I hope they know me by my love. I hope they know that even if I messed up along the way, I tried my hardest to act kindly to love fiercely and to chase out the darkness with a little bit of light.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again-it’s why I got “expecto patronum” tattooed on my body. It’s why you’ll be inundated with posts about Wine to Water this week ( look for a special art auction on Wednesday!). Because every one of us has a light, let’s do something today that brings it out. Love you guys.

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Little of this, little of that

is what I’ve been up to lately.

Of course I’m preparing for Wine to Water. This year on top of local wine being offered as a tasting I have successfully convinced a local distillery to donate their goods to us and some people I love into purchasing a few kegs of local brew to sample as well. A popular local musician is back after a few years gone and having seen some of the local artists being featured I can tell you I want all of the things. We are T minus 2 weeks and I’m so. freaking. excited.

All 5 kiddos are playing basketball and Zach and I are the coaches for both teams. On top of my 5, my two nephews are also playing on the teams as well as my good friend’s 2 boys (aka my pseudo nephews). The bigs are at fun ages because they are coachable and eager to learn. Their team is made up of mostly 3rd and 4th graders who are playing on the 5-7th grade league because of Trysten’s age. Because I have spent the entirety of my life loving sports I find my main goal as a coach isn’t to win games but get the kids involved to learn to love the game. Even if they don’t love basketball, perhaps get them to see how much fun physical activity can be. Also I’ve been selfishly so excited to be spending so much time with these kids I love so much.

I’m looking for a part time job for the first time in 6 years. Yes, I still have my fitness instructing and am looking to keep those classes but I’m looking for something beyond that as well. Ideally it would be something else at our Y association (I really, really love the Y) but am basically looking everywhere. I have an entire blog being created (thus far just in my head) about the trials and tribulations of finding a job post stay-at-home-moming but I don’t have the heart to lay it out there yet. In short-it’s kind of depressing.

On top of that there have been things like:

-becoming a Godmother for the first time for my amazing nephew, Elihu. No words for how much it meant to see his little smirk at me while I promised to look out for him for the rest of my life. I often wonder how I got so lucky to be the auntie to so many amazing human beings.

-road tripping with my sister (scariest. driver. ever.) to celebrate a friend’s impending motherhood. One of the things about having 5 kids that becomes quite clear is the fact that we’re never raising our kids solely on our own. On any given day, at any given moment I’m counting on a few handfuls of people to help me raise my 5 babes. I wanted Wendy to know no matter how far away I live, Imma be part of her village that helps raise that beautiful baby of hers.

-Halloween parties. If you’re friends with me on the book you know Zach and I went as Siegfried and Roy this year. My sister-in-law, Emily, always throws a super party for her hubby’s birthday. For as long as I’ve known Frank he takes Halloween very seriously. Never before had I loved the holiday but I love Frank to the moon and back so, for me, it’s always important to try to show it in tangible ways. By dressing as a man the last 2 Halloweens I assume my brother-in-law knows that I love him more than I can possibly say.

-training in 2 new classes. Speaking of part time jobs, I’ve recently added 2 new formats to the classes I teach. On top of Bodystep, Bodypump and Bodyflow I now also teach Bodycombat and Cxworx. If you want to see what I’m talking about you can check them all out at www.lesmills.com. I love these classes because they are for the entire range of people. People walking in off the street never having worked out before can get something out of them as can the elite athlete-I think that’s pretty awesome. Truth be told I love working with the newbies most because typically they are there for long-term health not for the 6 pack. Though 6 packs are nice, for the overwhelming majority they just aren’t attainable without lots of dedication. I tell my kids all the time the reason I work out is so that I can give them piggy back rides until they are 40 and so that I can still get on the floor and play with my grandkids. Though I wouldn’t shirk at having a 6 pack it isn’t worth it to me to give up things like cheese, wine and Almond Joys-I’m in it for the long term goodness.

-enjoying life. It’s always entertaining with these kids of mine. Just today Dailah fell of a chair and yelled out, “I hurt my balls!” When I reminded her she did not, in fact, have balls she remarked, “Yeah but that’s just how I relate to the boys. If I yelled ‘I hurt my vagina!’ They wouldn’t even know what that’s like.” Touche. I say I’d like to freeze time but that isn’t necessarily accurate. I just am so thankful for this life, these people. I’m breathing it in and loving it out because, hell, life is really good.

on chores

I’ve always been a big proponent of “encouraging” our little cherubs to do their fair share of chores around the house. Since they were little they’ve been responsible for cleaning up after themselves and as they’ve gotten older their list of responsibilities grows as well.

Last week I decided the oldest 4 were old/responsible enough to really help me cook. For Trysten and Tariku that meant measuring out ingredients and doubling them, also chopping produce. They basically did the whole thing with me supervising.

For Tomas and Dailah that meant me helping them measure it out but them cutting produce and actually depositing ingredients/stirring them.

I never cook anything really fancy though I chose dinners that were a little more advanced than say-Tombstone pizzas (which the 4 of them have made on their own before).

I was shocked at how excited all of them were to cook with me. Though they’ve helped me in the kitchen before they’ve never been quite so responsible for dinner. Not only were they geeked up about cooking for the family, they were thrilled to get some one-on-one time with me.

Trysten and I covered the most, probably. He’s typically quiet around people but you get him one-on-one and he’s positively chatty. We covered topics ranging from boobs to drugs, minecraft and puberty. My relationship with Trysten is so awesome, I’m so thankful for where it’s at right now.

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Tomas typically just giggles incessantly when we have some alone time, he really is that precious. This time though I had ulterior motives-namely I had to get him to realize how vital choosing good friends is. Because this son of mine is so sweet, he tends to believe everyone is just as sweet as he is. As he’s gotten older the kids who love to manipulate have done so with my sweet Tomas. It scares the hell outta me. So I told him, “My friends from elementary school are still my friends. They have seen me at my best and my worst and they would still argue with anybody who tried to trash my name. If your friends wouldn’t stand up for you and if they try to talk you into trouble, they are not right for you-move on. Find friends who will put as much energy and love into you as you do into them.” Today I got a note in his planner that he’s much improved in school from last week. They are listening, mamas! Side note: Tomas was actually the most skilled chopper!

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Tariku is also one of those who isn’t necessarily an over sharer lest you get him on your own. During our kitchen time he told me about a kid in school who usually gets made fun of for being stupid and how he answered a question no one else knew during class. Then Tariku gave the kid a hug and almost cried for him. I’m not worried about Tariku’s ability to make friends, his ability to discern true motives is years ahead of where it should be at his age. No, for Tariku I only worry about my heart. Because one day he’s going to grow up and leave my house and I’m not sure how I’ll ever recover.

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Dailah is never one to shy away from conversation, no idea where she gets that. 😉 We just had a great time being together. I’m so aware of how I used to get so frustrated with math (and still do) and don’t want to put that whole, “Girls are bad at math” thing on her. I made her do math the whole time we were cooking. She definitely has a fixed mindset and gets easily frustrated when things don’t come naturally or quickly, I think cooking with her will be good for us both to push past our comfort levels and just enjoy it.

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Binyam isn’t quite ready to do full on cooking but on his days with me he’s responsible for setting the table, serving the food and clean up.

Zach and I believe very much that this big family of ours is a team. That’s how we’ve got the kids to buy into their chores as well and why they don’t ever complain. Also, they are old enough to get the correlation that if they want to do more fun things (stay up later, read more mature books, etc) then they have to prove they are responsible enough for it all. Only way to do that is by playing a bigger role in the family!

What about you guys? Do your kids do chores? Which ones do they love? Do they typically do them shirtless like mine? 🙂