Day 5: Magic Kingdom

I was so excited to show the kids Magic Kingdom because we all know it to be the quintessential Disney experience and it did not disappoint! Even though it was the 5th day straight of balls to the wall activity (is that an ok phrase to use on a blog? Whatever, it’s my blog I can do what I want I want.)-the adults kids did great!

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First stop was Fantasyland because we found starting with easier rides made the kids more aggreeable to go on the rest of the rides. 🙂

Rides we liked in Fantasyland:

Mickey’s PhilarMagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer

Ones to avoid, particularly if there are long lines:

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight

Next, to Liberty Square. The only thing we did there was the Haunted Mansion, which we enjoyed! I remember doing The Hall of Presidents when I was younger and liking that as well but we didn’t end up having time. If you or your kids are history geeks, I’d check it out!

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Tomorrowland was one of our favorite stops! We loved the Tomorrowland Speedway (particularly the 3 bigs as they all got to drive their own cars) and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Perhaps our favorite, though, was Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor!

The laugh floor ended up being the Monsters, Inc characters on screen with actual improv actors behind the screen, so they played and interacted with the audience. At one point they asked which kids knew who they wanted to be when they grew up. Our most excited child got chosen.

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When Tomas told the character he wanted to be the po-lice (he says it like they do on the Wire, even though he’s never seen the show it’s incredibly endearing) the character told 2 jokes about police:

Why did the police officer carry a blanket with him all the time? In case he had to go undercover.

What did the squirrel say to the 9-1-1 operator? *In a song, matching rhythm of “This girl is on fire” * This squirrel is on fire! 

Then the character asked what Tomas was for Halloween last year. When Tomas responded “football player” the character told a joke about football players.

I’m not just saying this-it was hysterical! The adults did not have high expectations but it surprised us all and I got many belly laughs from it, not to be missed for kid and adult alike!

We would avoid: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Stitch’s Great Escape.

*Sadly, Space Mountain was not working while we were there but I remember loving that, so make sure you get there.

*There is a really cool garbage can with a person in it that moves around Tomorrowland messing with people. It’s hilarious, try to find it!

We ate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for lunch and it wasn’t good. The veggie burger was gross and it was the one time Tomas didn’t finish his (and 3 of his siblings’ meal). Try something else instead.

We went to Frontierland after that and really loved Splash Mountain! We didn’t get super wet which was just fine by most of us. Also loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, even Dailah and Bean which is a pretty high endorsement.

In Adventureland the kids loved checking out Swiss Family Treehouse even though they’d never actually seen the movie. The littles, who were joined at the hip most of the week, also liked rides like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin because they aren’t scary enough to require an adult to sit next to them. They felt like big kids going on these no problemo.

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The only ride we didn’t like was the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nothing baffled me more than what Disney did with the Pirates franchise (more accurately: nothing. They did nothing-complete lost opportunity). In both Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, the Pirates rides were super disappointing. I have so many ideas on different ways they could take it so if you work for Disney, hit me up- I’m cheap. 😉

And now for my favorite part of the whole day! CINDERELLA’S ROUNDTABLE! We had booked the reservations for Cinderella’s as soon as we knew the dates in which we were going to be at Disney. If you learn nothing from me, learn this: if you have a girl, call Disney right now and get a reservation. Even though Dailah is 7 and was one of the oldest girls at dinner, she really really loved it. Truth be told, my mom and I did as well.

Also of note, every other girl in the room had what we dubbed “the princess treatment”. This included full make up, hair and costuming done to princess standards. Because I am a shit show firm believer that Disney Princesses are ruining girls’ self esteems everywhere just for fun and not something to model oneself after,  we did not have Dailah partake. Also because it cost $200. Mostly the last one.

Besides, I think she’s the most beautiful person I know just as she is.

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When you enter the castle you are greeted by none other than Cinderella herself.

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One of the things I loved about Disney World is the professional photographers throughout the park will take pictures with your camera. They are everywhere and take pictures with their expensive equipment then give you a card that stores all your professional photos during your entire stay. They are sweet enough to ask if you want to get in the picture every time too.

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I gotta say, the food was amazing. It’s pretty embarrassing how many pictures I have of the food I ate throughout the week but I love looking through them and remembering. Anyway, I started with an appetizer of cheese! Cheese! And the good kinds too! Then I ate some veggie gnocchi and a dessert that changed my life.

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Anywho, during the dinner 4 of the princesses move throughout the castle. Right when Dailah saw them she said, “I wish I still had my long hair.” Oy vey. Much to my delight, 2 of the princesses commented on how much they loved Dailah’s hair and wished they could go for that cut. Redemption!

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Dailah also ended up getting their autographs too, which was precious.

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Being the only girl in a crew of boys, Dailah has no problem thinking of herself as a princess on the daily but it was really cute how much she enjoyed everyone calling her princess and of course we loved our girl time. My mom and I even commented that Zach and my dad probably would’ve loved being there too and I saw that they were giving little boys swords upon their arrival. It has the potential to be fun for the whole family.

Our men ended up eating at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Zach was disappointed as there wasn’t anything good to eat as a vegetarian but everyone else seemed pleased with the options.

Magic Kingdom is definitely one of the parks at which you could spend multiple days but there was simply no time for that. Figure out what stuff at parks are must sees for your aged children and then see all the other stuff if you have time.

Day 4: Epcot/Blizzard Beach

My parents had bought the Disney package that included the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Hard to believe in the 7 days we were there we had a hard time figuring out when to fit in the water parks, but we really did. We ended up only going to Blizzard Beach for a few hours on this day. In hindsight, we all agreed there wasn’t any need to get the water park add on. Blizzard Beach was cool, and the kids enjoyed it, but it wasn’t worth only getting half day at Epcot. Plus, we took the Disney buses which was 2 hours just for transportation alone. Made the day super long and rushed, unfortunately. If you rent a car, it might be more doable otherwise skip it.

Started out well, though. Love our family pictures from Epcot!

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We decided to tackle Future World East and West in the morning because we had reservations at the Biergarten Restaurant for dinner so we knew we’d tackle the World Showcase then.

We started at Test Track which we all LOVED! Loved creating our own car and then testing it out. Hilarious seeing the children of hippies choosing a gargantuan truck that got about 1mpg and would’ve surely put a gigantic hole in the ozone every time it started out. That’s neither here nor there.

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We went through the Innoventions East and West but it didn’t thrill anyone, though I did enjoy that the boys chose this area:

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and Dailah chose this, because, of course:

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Rides/Attractions we loved in Future World East/West:

Mission: Space (Zach, my dad and Tariku chose the Orange team-super intense journey, the rest of us went on the Green team which was completely doable), Advanced Training Lab, Soarin, Captain EO, IllumiNations (must see!)

Ones we didn’t: 

The Seas with Nemo & Friends (seriously lame even for little ones), The Circle of Life (kind of boring, old stats but the moral of the story is good-humans can affect change in our environment either for good or bad)

After Blizzard Beach we came back to Epcot for dinner and the fireworks show IllumiNations. Biergarten Restaurant was really good as well! We thought we’d expose the kids to all of their heritages (African/German, you get the idea) while we were there. Kids loved the food and we adults loved watching our Ethiopian children dancing to the German music.

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After dinner we walked around the World Showcase a bit but didn’t get a chance to go into most countries. I remember loving it as a kid though, so if you have time check all of those out! Definitely get yourself some beer in German country though, not to be missed!

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Again, IllumiNations was really, really good but it’s just 10 minutes long. I recommend getting a spot about an hour early near the exit so you can be some of the first on the Disney buses. We did that and left about 2 minutes before it was all over so we could get the first bus back to the resort (you can see the fireworks decently as you leave). By the time the bus came there was a huge line for the buses so I would highly recommend doing that as well or you can count on not arriving back to your hotel until after 11pm.

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All that said, I love Epcot, it’s one of my favorites but I have a thing with being obsessed with other cultures and inventions and the like. If you do too, plan on a full day at Epcot!

Day 3: Animal Kingdom

LOVED Animal Kingdom! I never considered it one of the main parks at Disney but we all loved it enough that it is heretofore considered so at our house.

After learning our lesson at Hollywood Studios, we went to the easiest area first at AK-DinoLand. The crew went on TriceraTop first, I stayed to take adorable pictures. Super easy ride, what you see is what you get.

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Next on to Finding Nemo-The Musical we lurved this, only thing that could’ve made it better was if Ellen Degeneres herself showed up to be Dori.

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The kiddos played a bit in The Boneyard but mostly so I could figure out what exactly we were going to do that day for sure.

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We had reservations at the Tusker House (in Africa, obviously) for dinner but I noticed the characters were there during lunch so we swung by to see if we could sneak in then.

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Donald Duck greeted us which excited Binyam for obvious reasons.

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It’s a buffet style meal and, even as vegetarians, was really really good. I had purposely reserved Tusker house because they specify African cuisine and there were certainly a lot of spices reminiscent of our time in Africa. Needless to say, we LOVED LOVED IT! If you’re going, definitely go for lunch-so much fun for the younger kids (Trysten’s reaction-really? I have to get in pictures with them?).

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On our way out of Africa there was some great music being played. Tomas was talked into coming up front to dance where he promptly shook his booty. Classic.

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One of the reasons I personally loved Animal Kingdom so much was because there was so much to see just walking around the park-not just at the attractions. There is a huge tree at the center of the park that looks incredible from any angle and there’s this human who moves so slowly-it’s incredible!

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We also went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We enjoyed it because of how close we were able to get to the animals (in the jeep).

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Rides/attractions we loved:

Primeval Whirl, Kali River Rapids (we went on this twice in a row! Caution: you get soaked), It’s Tough to be a Bug, Expedition Everest-Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.

*There weren’t actually any rides/attractions we didn’t like, though we left early to return to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic so we didn’t hit everything AK had to offer.*

As mentioned, we ate at Tusker House, please do so as well!

Of course Animal Kingdom had a special place in our hearts because there was a small taste of Africa there. The kids loved playing on the drums, listening to the music and just overall being submerged in all of the “cultures”.

Day 2: Cocoa Beach!

We rented a van for the week for loads of reasons but one of them was so that we could see Cocoa Beach on Saturday which is typically one of the busiest days at Disney World parks. Trysten and Dailah have both seen the ocean but they were 3 years and 3 months respectively so don’t remember any of it, the other 3 never got to experience an ocean at all.

Let me just say, I am so happy we did this! It was a great way to recoup from a late night’s traveling and at Hollywood Studios, plus it was so much fun teaching the kids to boogey board and body surf.

Because of ole’ bootfoot, Zach did a lot of the parenting the whole week. Him combined with my parents made the week super easy for me. Not quite sure there’s a way to fully explain how great of a dad Zach is, but I feel like this picture is pretty close.

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This one is pretty good too.

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Kids also have a way of getting Mimi Connie’s attention as well.

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Zach even carried me out to the ocean a few times so I could enjoy the sand and surf as well, and watch Dailah dance like nobody’s watchin’.

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Whether you go to the beach or not on your Disney vacation, make sure you take time off to recoup as a family. We also called an early night a few times to let the kids swim at the hotel and relax a bit. I think that’s one of the many reasons the week went so well!

Adventure Awaits!

As I mentioned yesterday, we just got back from a HUGE trip-I think I even threw out the word “epic”-on Thursday. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you heard all about it. But for the next few days I’m going to document our trip for those of you who might be going soon and for scrapbooking purposes. 🙂

My parents are amazing, that needs to be said. They told us they were taking us all to Disney World and Harry Potterland (aka Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure) months ago. The last few months have been spent planning which parks when (and how is bootfoot going to get around all week?!?!?) and getting excited.

Being parents to 5 young darlings we knew we couldn’t tell them too far in advance lest we field the question, “Are we going to Disney World today?!?!?” 40982304823098029385 times from just one child-cough, Binyam, cough-not to mention the other 4 who would also be asking more than we can handle. Our intentions were to tell them when my parents were around and approximately a few weeks ahead of time.

Then schedules got cray and soon we realized there would be no time we were all in the same room together until the day we were meant to board a plane and leave. Because we are Klipschs and we love nothing more than a good story, Zach and I came up with a plan to up the dramatic story telling.

So we sent our 5 on a scavenger hunt. Each kid would get a clue that they alone had to figure out, then all 5 would go to the next clue, etc.

First was Binyam.

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He proceeded to be a bit confused the rest of the time about whether or not to bring the horses inside the house or what exactly to do. Classic. Next, Dailah.

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And Tariku.

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Tomas

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Trysten

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Then all of them figured out the next one…

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When the kids got to where my parents were sitting, we handed this note to Trysten to be read aloud.

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and then this happened…

It was so. much. fun. There were tears and obvious joy. Bean had no idea what was actually going on, he just knew it was exciting and he had to embrace the moment.

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2 hours later we were in the van on the way to the airport. Apparently when you tell your kids they are going to Disney World, they will give you back rubs and head rubs. At least mine did for the 30 minute drive.

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The whole day was exactly like we pictured it to be. Including when we got on the airplane and Dailah befriended the woman sitting next to us. This woman, a 1st grade teacher in Florida, and Dailah chatted the whole flight until Dailah got a little sleepy. Dailah laid her head on my lap and the woman sweetly grabbed Dailah’s feet and put them on her lap.

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10pm our ragamuffin crew found ourselves at Port Orleans Riverside resort in Disney World. And the adventure began!

My Bean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you Bean, happy birthday buddy.

Where it all started for me

You guys ever watch those, “Who do you think you are?” shows where celebrities go on a quest to find out what their ancestors were up to? I’ve always secretly geeked out on those, not because it’s celebrities but because I’ve always had this really weird fascination with the past.  

In my case, I’m pretty lucky to have grandparents on my mom’s side still alive and still willing and able to tell me stories about growing up. Though I could honestly say I would sit and listen to them all day, their generation is often more keen on letting the past go and sitting in silence while watching their ever-expanding family play. 

A few weeks ago most of my maternal family got together to celebrate my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary, my grandma’s 83rd birthday and my grandpa’s 90th birthday. This is them. They are the freakin’ cutest.

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Elmer and Delores successfully raised 5 kids (I say “successfully” because all children made it out still talking to each other and to their parents…this is what my dreams for mine have amounted to. 😉 ) That’s my ma there in the red, my auntie Glenda in navy and my uncles Neil (gray), Dale (maroon) and Vic (green). 

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Those 5 went on to marry (and have stayed married for a looooong time each one of them) (missing Uncle Gary in navy)

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and procreate at ever-increasing speeds. 😉 So I have a lot of cousins, and I happen to love and appreciate each and every one (I’m missing a few cousins in navy, one residing in Kentucky and the other in Chile). 

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Then we went on to marry and fornicate procreate/adopt at even more increasing speeds, creating roughly 16 great-grandchildren for Elmer and Delores. (3 not pictured, they live in Australia, we will forgive them for not showing up) 

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That Saturday I kept looking at us all wondering if my grandparents were looking at all of us thinking, “We did all of this.”

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Elmer and Delores live in a tiny town in Iowa called Frederika. I love “Fred”, as we call it, because it’s one of those towns I could let my kids walk around all day and not worry about a thing. I also love it because we had an open house for the anniversary and the entire town showed up. Not just that town, but seemingly every town within a 15 mile radius. From 3-7pm people were coming in, talking about how much it meant to them that Delores showed up to sit with them while they lost their mom to cancer or Elmer helped them build their barn. 

I must admit here that having three black sons in a town like Fred can make me a little nervous. The only ones with a hint of color for miles, they certainly stood out. But I also can’t tell you how thankful I was to watch my grandma throw her arm around Tomas and proudly introduce him as her great-grandson to her friends. I also can’t tell you how proud I was to watch my sons ask to throw away plates and cups for some of the older patrons and beam when the patrons would touch their arm and say sweetly, “Thank you sweet boy!”

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Of course I write all of this knowing I’m in a unique position of having biological children who will grow up knowing their biological great grandparents and also having children who will grow up not knowing their biological great grandparents. When I look at Elmer and Delores or my mom and dad, sometimes a bit of sadness creeps in that my boys don’t get to hang with people who share their eyes or facial expressions. When my grandma starts to laugh she looks just like my mom and I look just like the both of them. It’s remarkable to watch bits of myself play out in my grandmother. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to wonder about it all, like my boys have to do. 

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I suppose that’s why I’ve made a committment to do the digging myself on their families. Why I keep in touch with their families. I see their faces when they’ve received a letter from their loved one and I get it. 

I can’t imagine shaping a future when the past is marked with holes. I know I so often look back at old pictures of my family and gain a new understanding of why I am who I am. I’ll do the best I can with my boys but as for me, I’m so very thankful for my family. 

So very thankful for the uncles who gave me weird nicknames and “boop” my bun, for the auntie who prays for me and donates to all of my passion projects. For my cousins who took my fish off my line for me, played tea with me and even told me grandpa’s finger was stuffed in a jar in a closet (Dani!). 

And for Elmer and Delores who started it all. Happy anniversary grandma and grandpa, love you!

11 years

11 years

Saturday my handsome hubby and I celebrated 11 years of marriage. It’s still hard for me to believe these two twenty-year-olds

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became these two not twenty-year-olds (just ask my orthaped doc)

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I wrote about our “love story” here but what I reflect on the most every year on our anniversary is just how far we’ve come. I distinctly remember being thrilled and unafraid to walk down that aisle 11 years ago because I knew who I was walking towards. So much of our boldness in deciding to get married at a young age was rooted in equal parts faith in each other and naiveté about what marriage even meant.

Now I believe our boldness in continuing to choose each other is rooted in our faith in God and our understanding that almost all a couple can weather together-we have weathered. When you’re on the other side of some of life’s greatest storms and you still look at that person and say, “Yup, it’s still you, it’s always been you.” Well then it’s a little easier to get through the next day and the day thereafter.

Z is not perfect, but the best part about that is he married someone who is about as far from perfect as they come. I think sometimes we want to find someone who balances us out, right? Someone who is good at the things we are not. I agree with that, but sometimes I think it’s more about finding someone who looks at you when all the shit you hide from other people is out and proud and says, “Yeah I can live with that every day.”

I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to walk in my front door every day, shed off my skin, and know that all of my organs are fiercely protected by the man I married when we didn’t even have the ability to legally drink. 

Happy 11 years, my love. Thank you for looking at me in all of my imperfect glory and simply stating, “Yeah I can live with that every day.”

 

School!

This summer went incredibly fast over here at casa de Klipsch. I’m sure you all feel that way as well.

I know it’s not what I’m “supposed” to say as a mama, but the truth is I really do hate when school starts. In some ways, of course, I’m excited for it. I love how excited they get, I love the routine and schedule school provides and I love coffee in the morning with Zach. But I miss lingering breakfasts with the kids, listening to their adventures on their hikes, movie nights and afternoon swims. They are all at such fun ages (10, 9, 8, 7, 6) I just truly enjoy hanging out with them.

That said, yesterday was their first day of school!

(1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade)

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This year was the first year in 4 years that I didn’t have a Kindergartner trotting his/her little body with oversized backpack up the school steps for the first time. It’s also the last year of Trysten’s elementary school days, next year he starts middle school. I tell you this to explain my lack of posts/ status updates and general weepiness yesterday specifically.

Time, stop moving so quickly you fickle, fickle little thing.

Happy learning!

If I had a million dollars…

My kids often say things like, “If I had a million dollars I would…” and the things they say range from really sweet to totally ridiculous. But Tomas? Tomas always says, “If I had a million dollars I would give clean water to the whole world.”

I don’t have a million dollars and I’m guessing most of you don’t either, but that has never stopped me from believing that we as people can rise up and provide clean water to the whole world.

The further I’ve gone on my research into the clean water crisis the closer I’ve come to the realization that the solution is in the people. The people who are affected by dirty water are the ones who will have the most invested in keeping that water clean. I can ask you to donate $20 every day for the rest of my life and I still know you will never care as much as the person watching her child get sick from the water.

Which is why I believe The Adventure Project has the solution figured out. 1/3 of the wells built in the world are broken, what if instead of building more wells we create jobs that will fix them as they break down. Thus creating less need for wells (read: direct resources from outside the country) but continuing the source of income for that entrepreneur. You don’t believe this is a great solution? Watch what Diana from Uganda has to say about it.

The first $2500 raised will be matched by One Days Wages. I love knowing every dollar I donate is immediately doubled. Doubled dollars means doubled impact.

Go here and donate whatever you can. And go now, if you’re like me you’ll forget as soon as you go grab another cup of coffee.

I think sometimes we believe we could do so much more if we had more money, more time, more resources, a foot that’s not broken, etc and what we fail to notice is that we can already do so much with the (sometimes little) money we have and with the time we are given.

Whenever Tomas says he’d give the world clean water with a million dollars I tell him, “Don’t worry about waiting until you’re a millionaire, just set your sights on giving 1 person clean water and then work your way up.”

So that’s what I’m going to do. Join me.