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.

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!

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!

Speak to me of Iron, Diamonds, Zombies and All Things Minecraft

Trysten. Being the oldest of the group he can often be found quietly observing the constant chaos of this crew. A few hours will pass with all of us in a car when I realize he hasn’t actually talked much, if at all, and has spent most of the time staring out the window or reading.

When you get him alone, though, he often won’t stop talking. And these days? These days it’s all about Minecraft. Oy vey. Minecraft.

On the one hand, I really kind of love that the kids all love this little game of theirs on their iPods. They are typically all building together in this fantasy land that consists of the most random and elaborate things. I love hearing them work together to create a fantasy world and then protect it from zombies and the like.

But seriously? When Trysten starts talking to me about Minecraft, I can feel my eyes start to glaze over. As excited as he gets (and boy does he!) I can’t bring myself to share in his enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I give it the ole’ college try and focus on the details of his monologue so he’ll know I’m listening when I’m able to ask him about it later on.

I think I realized early on in my parenting career that these moments of my kids telling me every minutia of their day is fleeting. Though I’ve always been one to (over)share with those I love since the dawn of time, I realize my kids will go through a time when I’m the very last person on earth with whom they want to talk. And though I’m sure it will hurt like hell when that time comes, at least I’ll know that while I had the chance to listen to them and revel in every detail of their lives that I did.

I also believe that by listening to the mundane, they feel more inclined to tell me the rest. More often than not, if I can hang on through the Minecraft banter, Trysten begins telling me other stuff too. About his friends, girls, school, etc. I think sometimes kids need that icebreaker and if we tune them out to the icebreakers, they  think we don’t want the deeper stuff either. I’m hopeful that one day when they want to talk to me about sex, for instance, I won’t shrug off their icebreaker talk about school or the weather or whatever just because I’ve heard it a million times before.

Like most things I’m sure I’m over thinking it a little bit. But for me, it’s so important my kids know that they have a safe place to discuss whatever is on their littles hearts in me. Even though right now it’s mostly Minecraft I know too soon it will be some bigger, sometimes scarier stuff and I want them to feel heard for all of it. The good, the bad, happy and sad. I know most of the time when we tell each other what’s on our hearts we aren’t looking for advice, we’re just looking to be heard and understood. To share in the human experience. If nothing else, I want my kids to know I’m ready to share whatever human experience they are currently working through. ‘Cuz sweet Jesus they are some of the best humans I know.

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Trail Run

Trail Run

Living in Iowa I am used to the varying temperatures daily-especially certain times of the year. Saturday was bitter cold (and yay! each kid had soccer games!) hovering somewhere around 35 when you factored in wind but Sunday was beautiful-closer to 70s.

Though I’ve never been a long distance runner (my collegiate track coach tried so hard, bless his heart, to push me into the 400-800 meter range but I was most comfortable in the 100-200 meter range) I do enjoy a good trail run from time to time. It just brings out the kid in me when I have to jump over puddles or logs.

After lunch on Sunday I asked the kids if anyone wanted to join me on my run and all 5 jumped at the chance. Admittedly I was kind of looking forward to a solo jog to find that meditative quality that can sometimes come but I’ve never been able to resist some QT with the kids and so off we went.

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At church that morning our pastor talked to us about how God is in every moment, yes, but that in particular he’s in this moment.  That our past is often clouded in shame and our future is often draped in fear but in this moment, the one right. now. we can decide to be in it. To invest fully in this breath, and then the next one and then the next. Not remaining imprisoned by the past or captive of the future just here and now.

I don’t know what it was about that run but I was doing it. And it was awesome.

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Watching the big 3 take off at a pretty quick pace and hold it the whole time reminded me how youth is wasted on the young (;)) what I wouldn’t give to hold that clip for 30 full minutes!

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Dailah enjoyed running with her arms open wide, lifted to the sun. It looked like 30 minutes of gratitude, it was beautiful.

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When I was talking to Bean’s Kindergarten teacher she said, “Bean exemplifies perseverance. No one perseveres like Bean does.” For kids like Bean who couldn’t walk before he was 3-years-old, perseverance is the only way they know how to live. I’ve found people go one of two ways when they’ve been dealt a hand like Bean has-they either give up or they fight like hell. My Bean is a fighter. I’ll never know what it’s like to run for 30 minutes on feet that have been operated on 3 times and still give me pain daily but I’ll know what it’s like to witness perseverance because I get to see it in my youngest every day.

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Days like today-post 9/11, Newtown and Boston I am infinitely aware of how lucky I am to hold my 5 babes in my arms. To be able to run! And laugh! And see the first signs of spring! I’m able to really breathe in the now because the now just feels so. damn. good.

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The Table

Confession: I am really bad about making Ethiopian food. For as much as my beloved Ethiopian sons love the food, it is positively sinful I don’t make the effort more.

That said, a friend of mine brought us some injera last week and Tomas-daily-would open the basket and take a big whiff exclaiming, “The best!” I knew it was time.

At church a few weeks ago one of my pastors was talking about the significance of the table in the early days of Christianity. He was talking about how Jesus would invite “the outliers” to eat with him because they weren’t allowed to go to temple. If I remember correctly my pastor even said the Hebrew word for table roughly translates to “little temple” or something like that (I seriously might be making that up, my memory is a little fuzzy). The point being, Jesus knew sitting around a table and talking was just as good-sometimes better-as going to temple. And Jesus knew everyone was invited to sit at the table.

I love that. Mostly because I love food and I love talking over food. I found myself nodding in agreement a lot as the pastor spoke about the significance of breaking bread together.

Then Zach, Tomas, Tariku and I made Doro Wat and Shiro Wat together.

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When it was done we all sat together, toasted our families in Ethiopia and ate.

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And sure enough, God showed up. He showed up in the way Tariku belly laughed his way through dinner, He showed up in the way Tomas legit shoveled the food into his mouth. He showed up when Trysten and Dailah-usually not game for anything resembling spicy-ate a few bites and gave their brothers the thumbs up.

I think sometimes we think God’s only in the really spectacular places and we risk missing Him in the smaller ones. The table, for instance.

I know if you’re anything like we are, dinners often resemble the trading floor on Wall Street. But sometimes? Sometimes they can feel like going to church.

Bodies Revealed

Friday the kids and I got to see an exhibit at our local museum, “Bodies Revealed”. It. was. fascinating. IMG_5801

For those not familiar, the exhibit features real bodies donated to specifically to the display. The bodies are put into different exercise poses (there was a soccer player, a golfer, etc). The skin is stripped off revealing muscles, bones, ligaments, etc. There are also separate cases with different organs.

My favorite part was definitely the discussions with the kids as they walked through the exhibit. There were lungs blackened from smoking, heart/lungs enlarged by obesity and a liver corroded by alcohol. Fascinating.

There was one case that featured a lung full of pneumonia. One of my darlings whose story is entwined with the disease was found coming back to the case over and over.

The body is an incredible thing. It made me remember just why I love being a fitness instructor/personal trainer-watching people learn to work with their bodies (as opposed to against) is a wonderful thing. Training people to fall in love with fitness and health is a really exciting job because it shows me every day that people are stronger than they think they are, they can do more than they believe and their bodies are capable of miraculous things.

If something like this comes into your town you must go see it! Then come back and tell me what you loved about it.

Until then, another picture at the exhibit, this one with my precious nephew Cassius!

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