2015, A Recap

2015, A Recap

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

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

IMG_1345

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

IMG_1358

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

IMG_1410

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

IMG_1459

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

IMG_1520

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

IMG_1550

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

IMG_1564_2

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

IMG_1650

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

IMG_1980

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

IMG_1959

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

IMG_0063

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

IMG_2357

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

IMG_2737

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

IMG_2361

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

IMG_2477

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

IMG_2777

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

IMG_2605

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

IMG_2691

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

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

IMG_2704

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

IMG_2840

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

IMG_2907

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

IMG_2926

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

IMG_2962

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

IMG_2998

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

IMG_9927

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

IMG_3037

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

IMG_3077

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

IMG_3182

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

IMG_3365

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

IMG_3612

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

IMG_3678

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

11695951_10154133996664972_4597725284840763421_n

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

IMG_3686

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

IMG_3690

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

IMG_3735

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

IMG_3799

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

IMG_3840

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

IMG_3927

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

IMG_4065

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

IMG_4147

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

IMG_4254

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

IMG_4215

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

IMG_4287

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

IMG_0225

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

IMG_4308

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

IMG_4336

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

IMG_4381

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

IMG_4490

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

IMG_4671

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

IMG_4700

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

IMG_4710

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

IMG_4811

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

IMG_5032

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

IMG_0437

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

IMG_5088

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

IMG_5117

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

IMG_5138

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

IMG_5150

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

IMG_5203

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

IMG_5206

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

IMG_5250

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

IMG_5265

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

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

IMG_5333

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

IMG_5043

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

Tesi

On being lonely, a year and half after a move.

There’s this crane that always sits on the edge of our dock. Every day I see her multiple times a day by herself just looking out on the water. I finally had to do a little research on cranes because I was so curious if it was normal to have a crane be alone for so long. It’s not, as it turns out, and yet there she sits-by herself for the last year and half.

IMG_9340

For anyone who has moved somewhat recently you know when I say I’m lonely that it doesn’t mean that every hour that passes I lament moving here. Most of the time I am caught up in our day-to-day life, one that wouldn’t look a whole lot different if I were still in Iowa actually. Wake up, meditate, hustle kids to school, teach a few classes, grocery shop, dog snuggle, Snapchat lunch and dog snuggles, homework, post-school activities, husband snuggles and bed. All the same no matter the state.

Anytime I cried myself to sleep thought about how badly I’d miss my sisters and friends before we moved to Michigan, I would tell myself that in this stage of life we really didn’t see each other much anyway. It’s the ebb and flow of life, right? I think perhaps nowhere besides motherhood do you feel that so succinctly. When my kids were little I needed my girlfriends in a desperate sort of way, in a bring-me-coffee-and-come-over-quickly-so-our-kids can-play-together-and-we-can-speak-about-anything-but-kids kind of way. It’s no coincidence it was during that flow of life that the idea for the first Wine to Water event was borne.

But this ebb? Even in Iowa a good portion of my friendships were handled via long text conversations while seated at a baseball game. Some of my best friends live on the west coast and I only see them once a year yet we make up for lost time as soon as we are together again. That was all the proof I needed to believe I would be ok not living close to friends and family.

What I failed to realize, though, was that I was able to enjoy my long distance friendships because I also had no distance friendships. I couldn’t possibly have foreseen that when the vast majority of my friendships were on the long distance side, it would tip the scales and send me reeling-even 1.5 years later after the move.

I couldn’t possibly have known that investing all of my time into creating friendships that were deep, powerful and so very life affirming would make it so much harder to see women in my new state and have to talk about stuff like the weather or our kids (we are so much more than mothers, no?). Though I haven’t dated since I was 19 (!) I imagine dating feels remarkably like trying to make new friends without the additional perks of make out sessions and free dinner-and really, who wants to be dating without those?

I went to an acupuncturist a few months ago. When she was doing her typical assessment she hovered her hands over my heart and said simply, “You have deep sadness.” Even after I tried assuring her that I felt pretty great she interrupted me with, “You have deep sadness, it is not my business whether or not you choose to acknowledge it but it’s there and it’s undeniable.”

I’ve always been one of those “make the best out of any situation” kind of people. I recognize that it can often be annoying but it’s kind of my set thermostat. Only recently have I realized there are some cases where that might be a crutch with which I lean when I’m too scared to admit that I’m a little sad, maybe a little lonely. That even though life is terrifyingly good in so many ways, I just miss the hell out of my support system. Perhaps that’s why when the acupuncturist told me I had deep sadness the first face I saw in my head was that of my sister’s and then in quick succession my best friend and other sisters.

I’ve been lucky though, to have made a few friends here who are my kind of people. I was at lunch with a few of them the other day when I turned to one and said, “I’ve always been teased about how quickly I eat but the first time we had lunch together we finished at the same time and I knew we were going to be friends.” And it was true. Though I buffered the sentiment in a joke, what I was really saying was, “You have no idea how good it feels to have so much in common with someone geographically close to me again.”

But I’m realizing that being happy and hopeful about certain aspects of life in MI doesn’t negate the fact that I cry every time I leave Iowa to head back home. Spending time with those I miss the most almost makes it harder, which honestly surprised me to learn.

Zach will sometimes make comments about the time I spend on my phone texting/checking in with social media. I admit it’s gone up over the last year, though I’m currently doing better about putting it away thankyouverymuch. I have no problems admitting I maybe overuse it as a way of staying grounded to a life now gone, that checking in with the people I miss on social media gives me a false sense of being there being in their lives in a more tangible way than I currently am. It’s a long cry from sitting next to them sharing a plate of chips and guacamole and a bottle of wine but for now I’m giving myself time to ease the transition.

I know if my life were a romance movie I would be looking deeply into Zach’s eyes telling him that wherever he is-is home for me, and it’s partially true but it’s missing the big picture. Because most women know in any happy family photo if you zoom out you’ll see the best friend who just helped with hair and make up, the sister who just dropped off the one kid with the suspicious looking chocolate mustache and the various other women who all played a part in making the woman in the center of the picture smile broadly with her chest proud. If you look closely enough you’ll see the tension between the woman and one of her little children and then, upon even closer examination, you’ll see one of the friends quietly lifting mom’s arm to put around the shoulder of that child. Bridging the gap of humanity and brokenness one encouraging word at a time.

The longer I live the more I’m convinced we were never made to live in isolation. If the last year and half has proven anything it’s that naiveté really does favor the young. So even though I’m sure it will get better, today I’m just admitting that it’s hard. And maybe I’m just a little too old for this shit. 😉

This morning after my meditation I was slower to open my eyes than usual. I could hear the kids starting to wake up and I just wasn’t ready to enter into the madness quite yet so I sat there and just breathed in the silence. After a few minutes I heard a weird bird call that wasn’t familiar so I opened my eyes to place the visual with the auditory and there she was-the crane on the edge of the dock.

Though this time there was another one with her.

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. 😉

DSC_0073

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.

DSC_0042 DSC_0050 DSC_0057 DSC_0058 DSC_0063 DSC_0066 DSC_0336

 

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.

DSC_0300

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. 🙂

DSC_0071

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.

DSC_0393

 

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.

DSC_0379 DSC_0420 DSC_0451 DSC_0475 DSC_0493 DSC_0491

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.

DSC_0275 DSC_0489

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.

DSC_0335

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.

DSC_0500 DSC_0501 DSC_0497 copy

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. 🙂

 

Wine to Water 2013

On November 16th somewhere around 300 people gathered in an otherwise empty space to reveal clean water once again to the people of Uganda.

735768_684687264883294_879086587_o

1397181_10152002510209593_1260051520_o

 

1412570_10152002511634593_598481515_o

 

It was such an amazing night. It went by too quickly, as is typically the case. We had fabulous music first by Lojo Russo and then by my talented husband and friends who ended the night with Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and my personal favorite, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”.

1398474_684687291549958_939051046_o

 

The art was through and through my favorite of all time. And though I didn’t eat nearly as much dessert or consume nearly enough wine, whiskey or beer it was all so delicious and perfect.

1401931_10152002509149593_1303337643_o

1404704_10152002509509593_1533556509_o

 

The crafts put together by some of my favorite people a few days prior looked better than ever too. (Sidenote: There are still 6 bean soups, 3 lentil soups and 6 soy candles left. Let me know if you’d like them, shipping is on me! 🙂 )

1402901_10152002528369593_2145404975_o

 

The centerpieces. Oh the centerpieces! I met Marjie when she first walked into my yoga class a few years ago. Since that time she has designed flowers for my sister’s wedding, donated centerpieces for the last two Wine to Water events and painted two beautiful pieces for the event as well. She is one of those people you would absolutely despise for being so incomprehensibly beautiful, sweet, smart and creative if she weren’t so disarming because of all of those things as well. Lucille Marie Designs in the Quad Cities, she’s perfection.

1398198_10152002513784593_609087440_o

906480_684687238216630_2118588891_o

 

Becky Straw, Co-founder of The Adventure Project made it to the event as well. She had one of the most intense few weeks of her life prior to the event and yet she showed up. I have such a thing about showing up. I loved having her there and I loved introducing her to so many of the people I love. They had heard me go on and on about her since meeting her a year ago, it was easy for them to see all of the reasons I love her and TAP.

1403011_10152002511974593_816536618_o

 

But let’s just be honest here for a moment. One of my favorite parts of the whole thing is working with this little lady really closely for months at a time. I know I say it all of the time but I somehow managed to get best friends for my in-laws. My siblings have married the very best, as have Zach’s siblings. Does that happen in other families? I feel like it’s not possible everyone is as blessed as I am. But Leslie? Yeah, we would’ve found each other in this lifetime even if we didn’t marry a couple of really good looking brothers.

1404848_10152002515439593_2003661295_o

 

I feel in a lot of ways this was our most successful year. There were considerably more people this year than any other year before. We ran out of all of the alcohol and had just a few bits of dessert left at the end of the night. There were people who had not ever been there before, even people who hadn’t heard about the water crisis as well.

I also think when it’s all said and done we’ll be really close to my personal goal of $15,000 heading straight to The Adventure Project, which is not only the most we’ve ever made but also a lot of money for this community of mine.

I don’t know what else I can say about the event that hasn’t been said in years past. Man, it’s such a great night, it really is. I love finding where my passion and God’s divine providence meet. I guess that’s why every year I feel like going barefoot-for me it’s all holy ground.

*If you missed it this year and would still like to donate there’s still time! Help us reach our goal by going here. Please and thank you! https://adventureproject.wufoo.com/forms/donate-wine-to-water-2013/

Online Art Auction!

For three of the last four Wine to Water events we have offered the art that is auctioned off at the event to the online community. We started this knowing that our online community is just as generous as our Quad City community and we wanted to give them the chance to buy art for a really good cause. Over the last three years, the online auction has brought in thousands of dollars, providing clean water to thousands of people.

So here’s your chance once again to be part of something bigger than “just” art. We all know really great art has the power to move people into feeling something they wouldn’t ordinarily feel or to look at something or someone in a whole new light. We believe offering this art to you—our online community—is a way of encouraging that. We believe every time you look at this painting or quilt or piece of pottery you will remember that a group of people acting together can make a real impact on changing our global community.

Here’s how it works: The online auction begins right now and will end Saturday, November 16th at 12pm CST. Send your highest bid to tesileagh@gmail.com. We will have someone bid on your behalf at Saturday night’s Wine to Water event. Remember, all bids (and subsequent donations) are 100% tax deductible. You will donate the cost of your purchase directly to The Adventure Project. Once we receive confirmation of your donation, we will ship your piece of art directly to you! (Thanks to generosity of our event hosts, the shipping costs are on us! ☺)

So bid away! And if you really love something, make sure you bid high!

Keep in mind this is just a portion of the art that will be available on Saturday night. If you’re in the Quad City area make sure you have plans to attend the actual event this Saturday night.

7–10pm

3rd floor of the Redstone Building

2nd and Main, Davenport.

At 8:30pm there will be a short presentation on The Adventure Project.

Also, you’ll see within the description below that certain pieces of art are only available to local residents. Those pieces are just too big or heavy to ship. If, however, you feel like you still really want it and you are not local, we would be willing to ship it to you as long as you will help with the shipping costs. (Keep in mind we’re just a few people passionate about fixing the water crisis—our budget is limited!)

Every year we are humbled by the outpouring of support this event brings. Thank you all for your continued thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. We’re looking forward to another amazing night. Happy bidding!

1) This is a 4 piece canvas, each piece is 11×14.

IMG_1423

2) “Wine to Water” oil on 24×12 canvas.

IMG_7711

3) “Tree of Life” 18×24 acrylic on canvas.

IMG_7729

4) “The Gathering” 12×36 acrylic on canvas.

IMG_7730

5) “Africa: My home. My Heart. My Motherland.” 16×20 acrylic on canvas (This was done by an 8-year-old Ethiopian adoptee, y’all! She’s amazing!)

IMG_7731

6) “Symbol of Change” 18×24 mixed media acrylic painting.

IMG_7733

7) Acrylic 18×24

IMG_7734

8) “African Summer” quilt.

IMG_7735

9) “Waterfall” quilt.

IMG_7736

10) “Breath” *this is a local piece only* . Piece is 43″ in diameter and features 16 different light colors.

IMG_7738 IMG_7737

11) “Spiral Paradise” *Local piece only* Pottery bowl.

IMG_7740

12) “Fish bowl” *local only piece* a 2 piece jar.

IMG_7741

13) “Baren to life” quilt.

IMG_7743

14) “From a well emerges life” a 12×12 acrylic multi media piece.

Mrs.Art

15) “My Cup Runneth Over” 16×12 canvas.

DSC_0076

16) untitled abstract 8×10 canvas.

DSC_0072

 

17) Photo etching 11×14 framed.

IMG_2671

 

18) mixed media 5×7 frame.

IMG_2669

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.

images

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.