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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 😉

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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. 🙂

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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. 😉

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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 😉

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

Tesi

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The Burden and the Blessing of Genetics in Adoption

I look like my mom. I have my dad’s nose and his genetic code that forces us to eat every few hours or we feel faintish like the damsels in distress in old black and white movies. But when I walk by a mirror and catch my reflection I’m always taken aback by how closely I resemble my mom. I have this image of her and me in a van we rented for a family vacation when I was around 6. This was a time before seat belts so I was sitting on her lap, facing her in the back seat. I was undoubtedly telling her a captivating story when I put my tongue between my teeth and made that fake fart sound that is all the rage with that age group. My mom belly laughed hard. So I did it again and again until she was crying happy tears and gasping for air. I’m not sure if the vivid memory of her face while laughing is what she actually looked like at the time or some combination of what I look like now and how I remember her from my youth but either way-we look and sound eerily similar when we are belly laughing.

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My most favorite thing about our trip to Ethiopia was that my boys finally got to do that too. Tariku’s special person stands exactly as he does in pictures. Exactly. When Tariku was playing soccer with his special people they played so similar. Nevermind that they’ve not played together for 7 years, all of their idiosyncrasies in the sport were the same. And their disappointment if they messed up? Identical. When Tariku’s special person put all of Tariku’s people on the same team there were always 5 identical reactions happening after any given play-either that of joy or frustration.

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Ethiopia is like every other developing nation in terms of the way dogs are treated. For the most part they are wild and often rabid, the closest they come to family pets is with regards to being a guard dog. Though even as guard dogs they are tied to a short leash and left in their cages, barking throughout the night. Not Tariku’s people though. They have an actual family dog that follows them around and helps them on the farm. When we went into the hut to enjoy lunch together the dog came too, lying at the feet of one of Tariku’s special people. Of course the one family in all of Ethiopia with a pet dog belongs to Tariku. I say “of course” because Tariku has always loved animals far beyond the average child. Obviously Zach and I have an affinity for animals as well but Tariku came to us like that, he was never scared of dogs the way every other child adopted from Ethiopia often is. Tariku loved it when we pointed out that he clearly came from a long line of animal lovers.

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We were able to get a picture of Tomas and Binyam’s special person they lost. “Look at the furrowed brow Tomas! Oh my goodness it’s yours exactly!” Tomas beamed, “It really is, isn’t it mom?” Tomas met a special person who shares his big heart and tendency for happy tears when the occasion allows-when they first saw each other both broke down in undistinguishable happy tears. When a funny story was told of Tomas I was hit by a surround sound of identical laughs from him and 2 of his special people. It made the rest of us in the hut echo their laughs as well, happy tears springing from my eyes as well.

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Binyam looks just like one of his special people who always found her way next to him. This special person knew Binyam was shy and liked to keep to himself so she never pressured affection but she would often try to catch his eye and together they would smile-an exact mirror of one another. Binyam was obsessed with the chicks at the farm and spent the entirety of our time with his special people holding at least one chick. That’s funny, one of Binyam’s people said, another special person shows a tenderness to the chicks when he’s feeling anxious too. When Binyam’s special person was saying the Kembatissa word for “anxious” her miming looked just like Binyam’s-right down to the way her eyes became twice their normal size and her mouth-pulled tightly at the sides-almost looked like she was smiling.

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We had a chance to ask their special people about the ones they have lost. What were they like? Do you see any of them in our boys? The expression on my boys’s faces at their responses always reminded me of Harry Potter’s whenever someone told Harry about looking just like his dad with his mother’s eyes. It’s been said many times over on here how big of a fan I am of the Potter series, I think I became an even bigger fan after we adopted Tariku. There’s a scene in the first book where Harry Potter finds the mirror of Erised, a mirror that shows the user his or her heart’s deepest desire. For Harry it’s his parents standing behind him looking content and pleased. Of all the things for an 11-year-old to choose and he chooses to see his parents, this is a pretty big lessen for adoptive parents if we allow it to be.

The movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", (alt.: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), directed by Chris Columbus, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.  Seen here, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter gazing into he Mirror of Erised, seeing his mother, Lily Potter (played by Geraldine Somerville) and father, James Potter (played by Adrian Rawlins).  Initial world premiere (London) November 4, 2001.  Screen capture. © 2001 Warner Bros. Credit: © 2001 Warner Bros. / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz.  Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

In many ways the genetic code can feel a bit like a tether, reminding us of who we come from and where we are when it feels like we’re on our own floating into the nothingness. A visible marker that proves we matter to someone. But it can also be a burden, particularly for kids who have suffered trauma or loss at the hands of those carrying their genetic code. I don’t want to oversimplify the experience our boys had while connecting to their like DNA coded kin because the truth is now that my kids know from whom they received the look of their eyes or the furrow in their brow it can be a reminder at moments that are not the most ideal to process adoption related emotional issues.

For kids who are 11 or 10 or 9 being reminded when you look in the mirror of the person who caused you the most amount of pain-no matter how worthy or right the reasoning-is a really hard thing to work through. And sometimes due to the lack of maturity in their physical ages and the stunting that takes place developmentally when trauma is introduced into the equation-the manifestations of the shared genetic code are disrespectful, rude or hurtful. When those manifestations happen it’s hard to remember that they aren’t actually hiding their pain from us as adoptive parents but are indeed showing it to us in a way that speaks to their age. Though I don’t share any DNA with my boys, when they are in pain I feel it just as viscerally as if I did share their DNA and so am called to remember to respond in a loving way-no matter how annoyed or angered I am. This isn’t always easy but sometimes it’s a little less complicated for the precise reason that they look differently than I do. This difference in our physical appearance triggers the reminder of the pain so when I’m at my best, which I regret to admit is not always the case, I’m reminded of the trauma and can engage in a nurturing way.

I don’t claim our trip to Ethiopia has been a life altering thing for the boys yet, I think it’s both too soon to tell and also too early in their maturation for them to vocalize its true effects. I do know, though, that this morning in the bathroom Tariku was combing his hair when I was putting on my make up. He smiled a big smile so I asked him what he was thinking about. “Sometimes I just like to smile because I look like my special person. Sometimes in the mirror it looks like he’s smiling back at me.” I smiled back at him, “I totally get that, Tariku, when I’m having a bad day I do the same and I see Mimi Connie as well. It feels like exactly what I need some days.”

He shook his head yes and turned towards the mirror as did I, both of us smiling. Our own Mirror of Erised infusing love and support into our splintering hearts. Together we left the magical moment and went about our day, still feeling the power of our special people behind us. The burden and the blessing. Today I’m grateful for them both.

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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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Tips on dominating Disney World

I’m sure you’ve picked up that we had the very best time possible our week in Disney World. There are a few factors you all wouldn’t necessarily be able to control:

-Age of my kids (7, 7, 8, 9, 10)

-Greatness of Zach. Zach was at his very best that week. For a man who loves leisure, Disney World is anything but and he didn’t complain once. Oh, and he had to keep track of the kids and me being that I was relegated to a motorized scooter.

-Greatness of my parents. My parents are in really great shape, they managed to keep up with my motorized scooter and exciteable children, calm fearful Binyam kids and appoint themselves manager of the large task of not losing Binyam anyone. Not only did they pay our way there, but they bought each of my kids souviners. If there’s a way for you to get parents like them, I would highly recommend it.

-The weather was perfect. A bit warm, yes, but because we didn’t wait in lines it never felt insufferable.

-The time of year we went (September 7-12). Yes, we took the kids out of school for a week, yes that’s bad but it was worth it. I have little lovies with IEPs and some in TAG, some who didn’t blink being gone a week and some who are now working double time to catch up. The thing they all have is 2 parents who who are willing to work their asses off to make sure they are as successful as humanly possible. Clearly we knew all of this ahead of time but we also knew it was the beginning of the school year and that a) no one else would be at the parks and b) the kids would have the rest of the school year to catch up-worst case scenario.

-Having a motorized scooter. I’ll admit when I first broke my foot I was pretty devestated at the thought of exploring Disney sitting down. It ended up being quite the asset. Turns out when you’re on a scooter you can get a handicap pass that allows you (and up to 6 other people) to go to a different line. Though we didn’t have to use this every time (due to the already short lines) it still came in really handy.

The good news is, there are things you can control and really should!

-Once you have booked your trip, start looking at Undercover Tourist, particularly their crowd control tab. I used this to figure out which park to go to on which day. I happen to believe it played a roll in not waiting in line. I also bought a book about Disney and Universal that I did flip through but in the end probably could’ve found all the same information online.

-After you have loosely figured out which parks you’ll be on which days, check Disney World’s website for the restaurants that peak your interest at that park then book them. We tried a few days to walk in to restaurants without a reservation and it didn’t work. Granted we had 9 people, but the reality is it’s so much easier to have reservations. I ended up calling Disney and a helpful cast member booked them all for me right there-the process took 5 minutes (actually 10 minutes but we ended up bonding over children, generous grandparents and broken limbs). We all agreed it was the most relaxing part of our days. There was no guesswork, we just walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.

-My parents bought the dining plan for our week there. I know there are mixed feelings about the dining plan but I can’t tell you how often we commented on how much easier it made our lives. They give you a really cool bracelet (see the cutting edge technological arrows I used below), you enter a password, scan the bracelet and voila! no money exchanged. Trysten was able to eat 2 prime rib dinners (each typically costing over $30) on this plan. Word of advice on the plan: eat a counter service breakfast, snacks for lunch and then a sit down dinner. All of this is included on the plan but we were a little confused the first few days what exactly was included. If you eat it that way- bigger breakfast, snack lunch and big dinner-you won’t be as miserably stuffed as we were the first few days.

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-Park hopper-get it. My understanding is this is an add on to a regular ticket. Park hopper refers to the ability to go to whatever park you want whenever you want. Normally you get to go to a specific park for a day and then a different park the next day, park hopper allows you to go wherever you feel like going. 🙂 As mentioned before, we ended up going to Hollywood Studios 3 times and Epcot twice. Had we not tried to go to water parks (again, not worth it in our opinion) or Universal Studios (totally worth it) we would’ve hopped even more. Can’t really picture our week without the park hopper.

-Fastpasses-genius. Download the Disney Experience app on your phone and you’ll be able to create 3 Fastpasses at a time. Disney created Fastpass for their biggest attractions to cut down on wait times for rides. You can get on the app, figure out your top 3 rides and assign times to come back to those rides at a specific time while visiting the lesser populated rides/attractions. When you come back at your allotted time you walk right on the ride, as opposed to waiting in the “standard” line that could range from 15 minutes to hours. Once you’ve used your first 3 Fastpasses you can create 3 more if the need arises. Take advantage of this, it might have you going across the park in seemingly random ways but we set up our Fastpasses and then decided where we were going the rest of the day. If our Fastpass was in Adventureland in the morning and Tomorrowland a few hours later, we would go on the ride in Adventureland then see the rest of Adventureland before heading to Tomorrowland to that ride, so on and so on. Genius.

-If at all possible-rent a car. Though we only used our (15 passenger!) van a few times, in hindsight we should’ve used it most days. If you rent a car, you can park free anywhere in Disney. A few hours of our time each day was spent waiting and riding Disney buses. Obviously there’s cost associated with renting a car but if you’re short on time (or even if you’re not) it would be worth it.

-What to wear. I am not ashamed to admit I googled “What to wear to Disney World” before I left. I didn’t know what backpack/purse to wear every day, what shoes, etc. Look back at my posts if you’re interested in what I wore, it mostly consisted of loose shorts and tank tops. I was fascinated to see the range of outfits consumers of Disney World were wearing all week. I went for outfits that were comfortable, would dry out quickly if we went on water rides and were (loosely based) fashionable. I wore these shoes, more accurately I wore this shoe and a boot:

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It was such a good idea. Love Clarks, they are so comfortable and incredibly cute. I also wore these Crocs (I know, I know, Crocs fashionable? Yes and comfortable) and didn’t regret it. My mom carried a smaller purse and I carried, not so much “carried” as “put in my scooter basket”, a small Nike backpack.

*If you have any questions about our time in Disney, ask in comments and I’ll do my best to answer!*

Day 6: Universal Studios/Harry Potter World/The day all my dreams came true

It has been common knowledge around here that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I don’t actually remember where I first heard about the books or what first got me started reading them, I only remember that I started becoming a fan when I was pregnant with Trysten. Zach and I used to sit out on our front porch together, he would read me Harry Potter drink wine and have a cigar while I rocked on our porch swing. We were only 20-years-old at the time so I remember feeling like I was straddling two completely different worlds: the young adult in me loved the books for myself-the sense of adventure, etc and the soon to be mom in me loved them for the child I was about to have.

Since then, the books and the movies have only meant more and more to me. Trysten started reading them in 1st grade and just yesterday completed his 4th time through the series. He and I bond over all things Potter. In him I see the reader I have always been, able to pick out every nuance and subtlety within the pages. I love that his favorite books also happen to be mine, but even more than that I love that he sees the themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and love. He totally understands why I have “Expecto Patronum” tattooed on my arm, which is a pretty cool thing to share with my eldest.

Tariku is on the 5th book and has also started really loving it, though it’s hard to tell if he loves them for what they are or if he just loves staying up a little later watching the movie once he’s completed the book (that’s a household rule-have to read the book before watching any movie based off a book). 😉 He doesn’t pour as much into reading as Trysten and I do so often he’s a little lost with the movies as well or can’t predict what’s about to happen. Nevertheless, I perhaps see more of Harry’s characteristics in him more than anyone else in my family.

Dailah is also almost done with the first book and is really enjoying the whole thing. She, too, doesn’t have the memory of an elephant such as Trysten and myself but gets by with her avid imagination. I can see that above all else is what she loves about the series-it requires a stellar imagination.

Tomas and Binyam have yet to be interested in reading the series, but after visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has changed!

All of this to say, I am obsessed with all things Potter. When my mom and I were talking about what we were going to see in Florida, I told her there was no way I could go to Florida and not have, at least, Trysten and me go to Potter World. After some discussion, Zach and I realized we would doubtfully ever get to go back so we might as well have everyone experience it whether or not they were crying with joy at the thought excited.

We chose to get the 1 day pass just for Islands of Adventure so we didn’t see anything in the regular Universal Studios park. Right when we got there I put the petal to the metal on my motorized scooter towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. *goosebumps, shudder, tears*

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Hogsmeade

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Now would be a great time to tell you that if you’re a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed in the Wizarding World. I read that JK Rowling was very specific about the World looking exactly as it does in the movies and perfectly described in her books and I believe it! Moaning Myrtle was in the bathrooms, there were newspapers with moving characters and of course these: butterbeer and pumpkin juice (both REALLY delicious!)

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We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride first. “Ride” is not even what it should be called, “experience” is more accurate. We didn’t wait on any lines here either but if we had, the stuff shown while waiting for this experience was amazing. This experience actually takes place in Hogwarts, truth be told I got a little teary eyed walking into the castle.

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Right away you walk through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse before entering the castle. Look for many of the plants mentioned in the series including the mandrakes! After that, into Hogwarts you go! You’ll recognize much of the little things within the castle, including the Mirror of Erised, Potions classroom, Sorting Hat, Triwizard cup and the house points.

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After walking through some of the castle, you find Dumbledore’s office with a projection of Dumbledore just above his desk. Make sure you point out the pensieve to your kids, only thing missing was Fawkes the Phoenix.

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Then you move on the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you. They let you know you’ll be able to fly through the castle undetected, etc because Hermione (of course) has figured out a way.

As far as the actual ride goes, it was amazing. I have pretty terrible motion sickness so for the parts that were simulating riding on a broom I had to close my eyes (I was legit getting “the puke sweats” as I call them). The ride goes from broom simulation to real life action (in the castle) at one point bringing you face to face with dementors where I enjoyed hearing many a Klipsch kid yelling, “Expecto Patronum” and saving us all! 🙂

We did ride this twice and simply cannot be missed if you’re able to go to Universal Studios.

Next we were off to the Flight of the Hippogriff which is really mild and fun for all ages, keep your eyes peeled for Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak himself!

Myself and the kiddos ended up checking out the rest of Potter World while Zach, my mom and dad tried the Dragon Challenge. They really loved it but did mention it’s pretty intense.

We decided to tour the rest of Islands of Adventure while we let my stomach settle to see what was about. First going to Seuss Landing.

Suess Landing was really great, most of my babes were a bit old for the rides and attractions but Dailah, Bean and Tomas actually got excited to see the characters.

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We ended up riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. All of them were just fine, a bit boring but if you have kids any younger than ours make sure you check them out.

Trysten is also a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series (I read them and enjoyed them as well but, let’s just say, Rick Riordan is no JK Rowling) so we went by Poseidon’s Fury but didn’t take any of the rest of the tours of The Lost Continent.

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Next on to Toon lagoon where we rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Super fun! We got drenched, so mind your Ps and Qs before going on this one!

Marvel Super Hero Island is THE place for the thrill seeker! And by “thrill seeker” I mean “Zach, mom and dad”. 🙂 Everyone but the littles and myself (they were too small, I just didn’t feel like throwing up that day) rode Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and loved it enough to ride it right after. The thrill seekers rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, managed to live through it and tell great tales about its awesomeness afterwards so if that’s your thing-by all means!

Everyone rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even though I got the puke sweats on that one too, I have to say it’s incredible. The technology is just out of this world! Everything is so well done that it feels like a complete 4-D experience. Even our littles loved how real it felt!

Even if you don’t like rides, the atmosphere on Marvel Island is really cool. There are characters everywhere! If I were a comic book fan at all I would’ve been completely jonesing when 8 of the characters came from their various stations to hop on their motorcycles and zoom out of the park-super cool!

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After eating a picnic lunch back in the car we returned once more for Harry Potter world. First making a pit stop at Jurassic Park.

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Our longest wait for a ride anywhere the whole week was in Jurassic Park for the Pterandon Flyers. We waited 45 minutes for this 80 second ride. The ride is actually specifically for children so if you don’t have a child with you they will not let you go at all. It was fun but please, please skip it if there’s anything resembling a line. Definitely not worth it. Though I must say for me, I enjoyed a little break in the action and also watching these two who behave so similarly it’s creepy.

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Jurassic Park River Adventure was enjoyed by all, particularly because you don’t get nearly as wet as you think you’ll get! Even if this one says there’s a line I’d wait it out-over 20 people can fit on a boat and there are lots of boats going at any given time.

Finally, we returned home back to Potter.

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If you’re going to do family pictures and all of that, take them on the backside of Hogsmeade (coming from Jurassic Park) there were a lot fewer people and better views of Hogwarts!

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My parents promised the kiddos a wand so we waited in line at Olivander’s. Let me break for a moment and tell you that you really have to do this, even if you don’t plan on getting a wand. They escorted about 20 of us into the shop…

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Tariku was chosen to come forward (squeal!). I have video of what happened next but it’s not wanting to upload. Regardless, if you’ve seen the first movie when Harry’s wand is chosen the same thing happens in the shop. Tariku’s wand chose him “for protection, creativity and self-discipline.” Olivander went on to say, “Clearly, your loyalty is much admired among your friends.” I. was. crying. Tariku was beaming, it was such a cool moment!!! Seriously, whether you’re fans or not check out Olivander’s! After that we were all shuffled in to the next part of the shop that houses all of the wands both character wands and wands that might pick you for other reasons.

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All of our kids (and my dad!) chose wands that were perfectly matched for them.

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As hard as it was to leave The Wizarding World, we had to do so as the park closed at 7pm. I ended up purchasing a few things in the gift shop, because, of course.

I must say this: Universal was so cool! If there’s any way for you to make it there please do yourself a favor and go! It was really interesting to me how different a feel Universal was from Disney. Say what you want about Disney, but they sure know how to have their brand permeate throughout their parks. Every “cast member” is happy, loving and patient everywhere you go which was not really the case with Universal. Universal felt grittier and a bit darker but it is also marketed towards a slightly different audience (20-40 years).

I must also say there is a very good chance upon retirement I force Zach and myself to move to Florida so I can work at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-I think I would make a most excellent Professor McGonagall don’t you?

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!