On Baltimore

On Baltimore

On last week’s episode of the podcast This American Life they were talking about how studies show posting news articles or constantly making your opinion known on social media does nothing in the way of convincing someone from opposing viewpoints to change his/her mind. What does work, though, is when we get to know people with opposing viewpoints and can learn just enough to pull down the-relateively small-walls that separate us. TAL gave the example of people in California who were canvassing for the same sex marriage bill. It was proven through results of the canvassing that if the canvasser was gay/lesbian and was able to just enter into a conversation with someone who was against same sex marriage, more than likely that opposer would change his/her mind. Because now there was a face to the issue. (You can find the podcast here or just search “This American Life” in iTunes.)

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I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week as Baltimore has erupted in what has become a common scene in America. I see my white friends who do not have black children mostly silent other than a few posts celebrating the woman who beat on her son who was rioting or a post encouraging the police. I see the adoptive contingency being pretty vocal-at least numerous posts a day about really poignant pictures or prose that speaks to the racism still so prevalent in these United States. Many of my black friends are relatively silent on the issue, perhaps because it feels like the story they’ve been told for as long as they can remember continues to play out.

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I just want to take this moment to remind us all of one thing: you can say whatever you want about a situation, but that does not make it true. You can even believe it to be true, but that doesn’t make it so. You can say the sky is gray, but that doesn’t make it true. Just like you can say that we don’t have a racial problem in America, but that doesn’t make it true. You can say we don’t have a police problem in America, but that doesn’t make it true. We can say any number of things and yet, just because we want them to be true or we were told they were true-does. not. make. them. so.

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One of our dear, dear friends is an amazing Lt on a police force. He works his ass off to do the right thing by the citizens he protects and, of all of my kids, he’s quite partial to Binyam. I know him, I love him, I believe him to be “one of the good best guys.” This doesn’t mean I believe all police are like him. I can love and celebrate my friend while still demanding we take a long, hard look at why we’re throwing men of color in prison at much higher rates than white men. It’s taken me a long time to realize the two ideas (loving a police officer while demanding an overhaul of the system in which he works) are not mutually exclusive.

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I love America. I have been to other countries so the luxury of living in a country where I’m free to blog about this topic does not escape me. Not for one minute. But because I love America, I refuse to let this be part of our story. Zach loves me more than he loves anyone else and because of that love, I’ll sometimes get a text that reads, “For the love of everything holy when you drive my car will you please put the seat back before you get out so I don’t castrate myself when I try to get in?” He refuses to let me continue on any path that isn’t directly leading to me being the person I was made to be. If we don’t wrestle with our policies and our politics as a nation how in the hell do we expect to be the best in the world (as many Americans believe we are)? It’s impossible. Those two ARE mutually exclusive. If you want to be the best, you have to shine the light on your dark places and work. them. out.

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Now is when you start changing the conversation to the riots, right? Because that’s how these things go. Listen, no one wants property damaged. No one. I’m sure no one in Seattle wanted their property damaged when they won the Super Bowl and yet, it happened. Only this time they were celebrating a sports victory instead of protesting another life lost in police custody. The media coverage of the Baltimore riots is a smokescreen. They’ve not been showing the daily protest of Donte Hamilton’s family in Milwaukee who was killed by police 1 year ago. Peaceful protests with prophetic signs don’t sell-the destruction of property, the fires, the rage-it all sells. Do yourself a favor and be better than making this about the riots. If you take nothing from this blog take that, do not let the rioting enter into your conversations, it only goes to show you’ve taken your talking points from less than awesome media outlets (I know many of you will assume I’m talking about one media outlet but rest assured, our 24 hours news cycle has made it so there are handfuls of media outlets to which I’m referring.)

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The other night I walked downstairs to grab something from Trysten and Tomas’s room and Tomas was standing there shirtless with shorts on. Something about the way he was standing made him look like a teenager. He was obviously mid-thought so his brow was furrowed and his mouth, normally fixed in a gigantic smile, was downturned. I quietly closed the door so that he wouldn’t see me panic.

Every day I notice just a bit more facial hair on Tomas and Tariku. Every day closer to adolescence is another day their childlike, cartoonish expressions give way to more somber ones. Not because they aren’t the happy, loving boys they’ve always been but because they are seeing the world in a whole new way-they are going through everything we all did at their age.

But seeing Tomas in his room like that or having Tariku point out his mustache only works to take the Baltimore protests and bring them to my back door. For those who are not trying to raise black men and women in America undoubtedly you don’t feel the urgency or the weight of that truth but man is it heavy-particularly as a white woman who feels so incredibly ill-equipped to navigate the treacherous waters.

1 in 3 black men in America will spend time in prison. 1 in 3. Most of them for small drug related charges that Trysten is more likely to be guilty of (statistically speaking, not because he seems to have a proclivity for it at 12). I think you can understand why the weight of the 1 in 3 statistic weighs heavily on me.

I’m putting this out into my tiny corner of the internet with no expectation. I’m putting it out there because this blog started as a way for me to process the journey of adoption and motherhood. And though dossiers are in my rearview mirror, I find the actual mothering of these boys for which I prayed and cried is infinitely more complex.

I love my children the way you love yours. In our messy, complicated, probably overbearing way. I want to believe that if your child was facing some insurmountable obstacle I would come alongside you and, at the very least, say, “I don’t understand it but I hear you and I’m next to you and we’ll figure out a way to get your child through to the other side.”

Maybe for today we can just get there. Maybe for today we can speak out in grace, peace and love and let those be our guiding emotions instead of fear or self righteousness. Of course I know this can’t happen everywhere but I believe strongly in creating small ripples that lead to revolution.

Peace and love,

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Tariku is 10!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post for Tariku. I kept trying to come up with a way to say just how much I love him-to come up with a phrase that embodies who he is or what he means to me. It’s kind of eluding me quite honestly.

Have you guys seen the movie Boyhood? I loved it. At all of the press junkets when it initially came out the press would ask the creator Richard Linklater to tell them about the movie he would always pause. It was a pregnant pause to be sure because, even though he had undoubtedly been rehearsed as to what to say, it just meant too much to him. How can you talk about this baby you’ve created, sweated over and cried about for 12 years in a way that can be used in a headline for page 6? Well you can’t. He tried, of course, but anyone who has seen the movie knows that no matter what Linklater said in those junkets probably didn’t do the film justice.

If you’ve been here long enough (or followed this blog’s predecessor hotflawedmama) you know that no one has ever worked harder than Tariku at accepting love.

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Even from the beginning we certainly wanted to be mom and son. I had thought of, prayed for and cried over him for months before he came home and I have no doubt across the ocean he was hesitantly excited about the possibility of a family.

Reality was, of course, harder than the daydreams (always is) and so for the last 7 years we’ve fought tooth and nail to get where we are-described a little more here-but no one has fought harder than Tariku.

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It’s really hard to believe Tariku is just 10-years-old. If you watch Tariku interact with the world you get the sense that he’s seen it all before. If you’re having a conversation with him you’ll notice immediately that he is listening. Not just listening but listening. His brow furrows, he makes really direct eye contact and it genuinely feels like he’s listening to it all-the words, the body language, the cadence of your words. It’s incredible. If you get an audience with Tariku you run the risk of believing the world was made just to hear your words.

Boy is he inquisitive! Of course on the days in which I am less than who I was made to be it can test my patience but most days I admire him for it. There are no “just because-s” with Tariku. I’ve taught all of my kids to wrestle with and question the world but no one does it quite like Tariku. Needless to say, he learns so much quicker than so many of his peers because he doesn’t just want to know why 1+1=2, he wants to know why you’re adding in the first place.

If ever we need something found within the house we call Tariku. If I need something done well (all mamas know what I mean by “done well” oy vey the half assing of kids-it will be the death of me) I call Tariku. It might not be fair but he is his mama’s son and darnit if we are working we are not going to pussyfoot around-we’ll get shit done right. (Mom, no need to remind me of my earlier years, I’ve come so far. 😉 )

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Zach and I coach a basketball team with Trysten, Tomas and Tariku on it. It’s for 5th and 6th grade boys. Tariku is in 4th grade and so often when Tariku makes a play or a shot that belies his age Zach and I just laugh. Tariku is often 2 steps ahead of his teammates because he thinks so quickly on his feet. He is just so freaking fun to watch.

I got a note from Tariku’s teacher last week about how impressed she was by Tariku befriending a new student. She said he had been so kind and helpful and it’s made her job so much easier. When I asked Tariku what kind of cupcakes he wanted for his school birthday he asked me to get cupcakes of all kinds so that everyone could find something they liked. When I asked who he wanted for his birthday party it took him 2 weeks to decide because he didn’t want anyone feeling left out.

This is Tariku. This is the guy who is turning 10 and the guy a truly flawed mama like myself gets to mother every day.

I don’t worry so much for Tariku about the world hurting him so much that he breaks, the world has already done a pretty great job of trying and yet here he stands. I worry more that he won’t open himself up to love, that he won’t become vulnerable enough to reap the scary big benefits of a relationship with someone.

I worry about that only because I know what it’s like to be loved by Tariku, a young man who asked his mama to take a picture of the sunset on his birthday because it was just so beautiful.

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Being loved by Tariku is just like looking up at a sunset and believing it was planned just for you. In this moment. Regardless of how badly you’ve messed up in the past.

Being the mom of Tariku feels like a once in a lifetime sunset, an awe inspiring blessing undeserved.

Happy birthday my Chooch. Love you so much.

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Ian Matthew

Last Mother’s Day weekend when my parents were visiting us for the first time in Michigan I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I knew immediately she was calling to tell me she was going to be a mom. I knew because 1) I know her in a way I know no one else and 2) she and I share a mutual hatred for phone convos so to go above that and FaceTime me could mean only one thing-baby news!

My mom and I did what we do best-cried-and she did what she always does when we do that-laughs awkwardly. What I couldn’t say then due to all the feels was that I knew Kara was going to be a phenomenal mom and that I was so incredibly excited for her (and for me!!!)

Around 4 months later I got a call from my brother (who, as it happens, hates phone calls with the same white, hot hatred that his two sisters do. Text people, text!) asking if I had heard from our sister, that he heard something was wrong and she had to go to Iowa’s major hospital in Iowa City. I started immediately crying, because…above, and spent a few frantic minutes trying to get ahold of Kara.

Once I did I could hear in her voice something was not ok. It turns out at her 20 week ultrasound the doctor found something called a “double bubble” on the baby which can sometimes mean the baby has Down Syndrome (DS). Once Kara and her hubby, Matt, went to their follow up appointment the doctor said they were over 90% sure their baby had DS and that it would need surgery soon after birth. My sister is a woman of few words (it’s been told that I’ve taken them all from both of my siblings, probably some truth to that) so even though I could hear all of her feelings in her voice I also knew something that perhaps in those moments she had forgotten-she is bar none the strongest woman I’ve ever known. You know the expression “0 f*cks given”? My sister was the one that inspired the phrase, I swear.

I digress…Personally it was a weird dichotomy, I wanted so badly to be there for my sister in whatever capacity she needed but I was also still really excited to be getting this new niece/nephew. I have enough friends who have either given birth to or adopted children with DS so even though I didn’t know what it was like intimately, I had “watched” the other kiddos grow and was just really excited.

Over the next few months I watched as her belly grew and the excitement for the wee one grew as well (they did not find out the sex of the baby, much to my chagrin). I have many nieces and nephews but I must say there’s something different about having it all come from my sister. The woman I watched nurture her Cabbage Patch babies now nurturing a human life, so amazing. I watched as her heart softened a little bit every day, even as she grew more physically miserable. A week before she was set to be induced I texted, “I would like to be with you when you have the baby but if you just want you and Matt I’ll understand that too.” I assume because she knows me so well she knew what I was really saying was, “Come hell or high water I will be right outside the door whether you like it or not.” Sweet sister responded with, “If there is any way for you to be there, I would love it.”

Almost one month ago I posted this on Facebook:

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Kara was being induced because she had roughly triple the amount of amniotic fluid of an average pregnant woman and also because she is a strong woman and told them to take that little sweet cherub the fekk out. 🙂

After a drive that took about 1.5 hours longer than normal and ended with me drenched in sweat I arrived to find she was already having contractions. I also found her toenails were in terrible shape and seeings I’ve birthed 2 children myself and knew for the next day or so she’d be staring at her toes-it was time to take care of business.

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We weren’t supposed to get to Iowa City until 8 but with the weather and her contractions Kara, Matt and I decided we should head there early and just see what’s up. And by “Kara, Matt and I” I mean “Kara and I” as Matt just laughed and loaded the car with all of our bags.

By the time we got there her contractions were picking up and due to miscommunication the nurses assumed she came in because she was in labor and not because she was supposed to be induced a few hours later.

I’ll just say here that watching my sister in labor might actually be worse than experiencing labor. Granted, it’s been 8.5 years (the actual f*ck?) since I was in labor, but I really do stand by that. So hard seeing those you love in pain, even if they did bring said pain upon themselves willingly. 😉

My parents came a few hours later and while my dad tried to get some sleep in the waiting room, my mom and I watched as Matt supported Kara by primarily staying away. We both repeatedly commented on how great they both were doing.

Then things started to go downhill a bit for the baby. Heart rate dropping, needing to switch Kara side to side, give oxygen, etc. I could tell the moments that were relatively standard for a woman giving birth and the moments that were not (based mostly on the speed with which nurses/doctors came in and also whispering. Whispering is not good). It became clear after awhile that the baby wasn’t doing well so they took Kara back for a C section and left Matt with Mom and me to get in his gown and mostly just stare awkwardly at each other because…fear and nerves. A few minutes later a nurse ran in and then ran out just as quickly so before I could say “give Kara a kiss! Tell her I love her!” My 6’4″ brother-in-law, squeezed into a gown fit for a 5’4″ man, was off to become a daddy.

My dad had returned upon hearing things went downhill so he, my mom and I looked at each other and remarked how terrible we all looked. I guess that’s what sleep deprivation, anxiousness and lack of sustenance will do to a person.

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42 hours later (maybe it was 30 minutes, it felt like 42 hours so I’m sticking with it) Matt came in with a big ole smile to announce Ian Matthew had been born and both he and my sister were doing well. After showing us a few pictures, off he went to the NICU to hang with Ian while we waited for Kara.

Once we saw that she was ok my dad and I drifted out claiming an aversion to puke and moseyed on over to the NICU, hoping to get our eyes on Ian. Though it didn’t work out that time it was incredibly relieving to know Ian was out, he was ok and that I would get to put my hands on him in a matter of moments.

Matt was there the first moment I got to meet Ian but then Matt went to check on Kara so I got a few quiet moments alone with my new nephew.

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I cried, obviously, because he was just absolute perfection and also because I prayed over him and I always cry when I pray. I am supes good at being Christian. Anywho, while I was crying a sweet nurse came in so I explained myself by simply saying, “I’m his auntie.” She asked if he was my first niece or nephew and after I said no, that I had many I’ve cried over, she said simply, “Yes but this must be your sister’s. Feelings are bigger when it’s our sister’s baby.”

Perhaps that’s true, I just knew the big feelings over his health-which was shaky-and his tininess, made him look so incredibly helpless. It is a testament to how much I love Zach and my own children that I didn’t immediately move in and surgically suture myself to Ian. Sometimes that’s how much it hurts to love someone you know who will face some difficulties-it feels easier to just physically make sure when they do face those difficulties that you’ll be right there to face it with them.

I was trying to take pictures when that same nurse said, “If you give me a second he’ll be without his wires completely while I change them out.” Oh boy the excitement of knowing I would get to see what that little face looked like without all the tubing! It did not disappoint.

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I also happened to notice he had a certain turnout that his auntie has been relentlessly teased about for decades. Granted, his might have something to do with being squished in a womb for 9 months but I’m going to go with it being the first sign of him being a sprinter like his auntie. 😉

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When I got back to Kara’s room I noticed she wasn’t doing well. Though I never had to have a C Section, none of her symptoms seemed “normal” to me. It was really pretty scary, honestly. So for the next day Matt stayed mostly with Ian and I got to take care of my sister. As nerve racking, tiring and sometimes gross those hours were together I will tell you they felt so very holy at the same time. It’s been hard living away from my sister so to be able to share those hours with just the 2 of us is something I will never forget and always be incredibly grateful for (particularly because she made it out of them and is just fine). When I texted some of my friends about how she was doing I got so many responses with something like, “You are so lucky to have such a great relationship with your sister.” I knew it before but I definitely know it now. It’s a blessing I’ve done nothing to deserve to be sure.

The next night while a nurse was helping Kara I snuck out to give a quick kiss to Ian and see if Matt needed anything. In my few minutes there I’m pretty sure I talked Matt into going rogue and holding Ian, and if we had time maybe I should hold him too? At that point there were no secrets between my brother-in-law and me (that’s what happens when you spend 2 solid days, every hour together. Poor Matt. Oy vey.) so he just gave me a look that said, “You know how I would normally feel about this but I’m too tired to argue with you.”

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I wish there were words to describe how sweetly Matt took care of both Kara and Ian in those first few days. I mean really how do you talk about a man who is so sweet and easygoing jumping into action and becoming almost stern when doctors and nurses are talking about his son’s pending surgery or his wife’s bodily fluids? You just don’t. There aren’t any.

Since my sister was so sick for a full day she didn’t really get to see Ian at all so Matt took on the sit-and-stare duties of babies in the NICU usually shared between mom and dad. Every time Kara became aware of what was going on she lamented the fact that she couldn’t sit upright enough to visit Ian and so Matt came regularly with new pictures and videos that eased her pain.

Finally, over a day after giving birth, Kara could sit up long enough to be wheeled to the NICU. I cried. She beamed. It was as awesome as you are assuming it to be.

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Though she had already started feeling better, once she got to hold him it was as if she found a new determination to do it again. Ahhhh motherhood, bringing out the strength in women they’d never known since the beginning of time. She turned the health(ier) corner and never looked back.

Though I tried to coax Ian’s eyes open every moment I was with him, I first saw them when he heard his mama’s voice. Sweet little peanut hadn’t gotten the memo that auntie’s care more about those things.

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After an echo showed Ian’s heart was good and ready for his stomach surgery, Kara and Matt geared up for another round of emotional eating staring at each other. He sailed through surgery with flying colors and even though they learned of a follow up procedure he’ll need done within the next few months, everyone was happy to hear he was as strong and relatively healthy as we knew he would be.

Sadly, I had just a few short days with the new family as it was time to head back to Michigan with my family and my job. I got one last time to whisper how much I love him and how proud I was to be his auntie before I left. (Notice the vein in my neck. That is the cry vein. It is enhanced in that moment for obvious reasons.)

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It’s been almost one whole month and I’ve not been able to visit them again. The good news is both Kara and I have gotten over our disdain of FaceTime so I’m able to “see” him that way and make sure he never forgets this obnoxious voice of mine. We have plans to visit him in a few days ( 12, to be exact) and though all of my kids are excited to meet him it’s Dailah and me who are counting the moments until we leave.

I don’t know a lot about what the future holds for Ian in terms of his abilities or his Down Syndrome but I do know he has incredible parents who will navigate the waters of special needs parenting with the best of them. In my time as a special needs mama I know 2 things: 1) It will bring out a warrior not yet known inside my sister as she sets up meetings and appointments and champions Ian’s education and health and 2) It will be more rewarding than anything she has ever known or dreamt of in the past. Every new milestone becomes a miracle.

And I think we all know once we’ve witnessed a miracle, life in itself becomes inexplicably sweeter and fuller.

Love you to the moon and back my Ian Matthew. 12 days.

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*After 3.5 weeks in the NICU, Ian has been released from the hospital and is doing well. Hallelu!

And then we snuggled

If you’re not friends with me on Facebook then you don’t know that yesterday a seismic shift in parenting Tariku happened.

I was slow to wake up so Zach had opened our bedroom door to try to gently remind me to wake up (hearing 5 children run around and get ready for their day has that affect) when Tariku peeked his head in. He’s done this before, usually just says good morning and then is off.

But yesterday he hesitantly walked in a little further and came and snuggled with me. I hadn’t held my arms open inviting him (only because I was still groggy and hadn’t realized he was still in the room). It was all him initiating. And its as the first time it’s ever happened.

It should be said that Tariku and I have a very affectionate relationship but it’s always been because I’m an extremely affectionate person. Though 6 years ago he would bristle when I tried holding his hand or go in for the hug, he now lets me pretty effortlessly-though I would be surprised if he’ll ever be a hand holder, my apologies to his future wife. Tariku will sit by me if I ask him, he’ll keep his leg flung over my legs while we’re watching a movie if I place them there.

But to initiate it? It just doesn’t happen.

Because we’ve all felt that pain of rejection haven’t we? Our adopted kiddos more than most. Tariku has never been a risk taker-if you look hard enough you can physically see him weighing all options before he does anything. And initiating physical affection? Initiating love? Too risky for a guy who’s had his heart broken in one of the most significant ways one can. Though I’ve made more mistakes in parenting Tariku than I care to admit I can honestly say I’ve always understood that I would have to be the impetus for all the hugs and kisses and snuggles.

I guess I just hadn’t realized just how big of a deal it is to have someone you love so, so, so much crawl into bed and place his head on your shoulder without you asking for it.

But it’s a big freaking deal you guys.

Though I feel like it was a seismic shift I know that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen all the time now. I know it doesn’t necessarily mean things will be vastly different from here on out. But I do believe if I continue to be vulnerable and look for the moments I can tell he’s wanting an “in” then maybe he’ll feel as open to it as he did yesterday.

So mamas out there, believe me when I tell you to keep at it. Keep loving on that babe that often doesn’t know what to do with your love. Keep being vulnerable yourself. I know how hard it is to constantly be the one to ask for hugs and kisses but keep. asking. Because you are showing that sweet child of yours that even though it’s scary to ask-it’s worth it. And maybe they’ll need to witness you going first for years or months before they work up enough courage to try it themselves, but stay strong. Stay open. Stay loving. Forgive yourself for the days when you don’t have it in you. One foot in front of the other. Hug upon hug.

6 years you guys. 6 years and one cuddle from him has made me *almost* forget the whole thing.

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

I genuinely believe if you ask any adoptive mama their thoughts on Mother’s Day they would all tell you some variation of the word “conflicted”.

My friend Jody once said it best (and it has been spread throughout all the interwebs for all of the days. So awesome-and surreal-to see a friend quoted by random people in the Twitterverse and the Facebook. I always think, “If only they knew her in real life they would know this is at the bottom of the list of brilliant things she has said in our last phone conversation alone.”)

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me. 

It’s impossible when looking at 3 of my sons on Mother’s Day to not think about the beautiful women who gave birth to them.

My heart is so full because their arms are empty.

None of that is lost on any of us adoptive mamas, at least none that I’m aware of.

I used to get a little melancholy on big holidays but I started to realize it wasn’t doing anyone any good. I want my kids to feel exactly what they are genuinely feeling. If they are feeling sad then I can walk through that with them. But if they are feeling genuine happiness and desire to spoil me rotten with abandon who am I to stop them?

And spoil me they did. Not anything out of the ordinary, per se, but there was more intentionality in their praises. If I’m being honest I love it more when they utter words of love or sweetness unprompted and without reason. Though I believe they meant every sweet sweet word they wrote yesterday, there’s just something about moments of vulnerability not sponsored by Hallmark. 😉

That said, my parents had “offered” to come help us paint Mother’s Day weekend. In hindsight, I’m so thankful they did as it would’ve been my first ever Mother’s Day wherein I wasn’t sharing it with my mom or Mom-in-law and sisters. Half the fun of being a mom is sharing the experience with those women so I am so grateful my mama was with us.

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It was just the second day (and first that Zach was with us) in which the temps reached high into the 80s. My parents have owned a boat since I was born so I would definitely consider myself a water baby. Of all the elements, water is where I find the most peace. Whether I’m in it or just near it, I am as close as I get to a fully realized individual. (My first shot at kayaking-I’m in love!!! Now that I’m used to paddling I’m wanting to switch to a stand up paddle board. And then paddle board yoga. Yes please!)

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I am not exaggerating when I say I think anything nice my kids might ever be able to say about me would only be true because Zach is such a great dad. The competitor in me can’t rest until I’m keeping pace with this guy. I’m always far behind, but that’s to be expected when they have Zach (who took the littles out to teach them how to properly paddle, and rescued our indoor kitty when he broke out into the great outdoors etc) for a dad.

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I got to spend an hour with Trysten in the hammock talking about life, love and his hopes/fears about middle school (he starts in the fall. Bless it). Certainly my favorite moments of motherhood are spent one-on-one with my kids when I rediscover who they truly are and when they can feel my supreme love for them.

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I’m not sure if you remember but I’m also a mama to 4 four-legged babies too. If you could see my pictures on my phone I would be totally embarrassed with the sheer amount of photos I have of my 2 dogs and 2 cats. I find them irresistible and adorable.

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Local beers were also involved because you guys, this is the best beer I’ve ever tasted. I love all of the Bell’s beer that I’ve tried.

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I loved all of my notes and gifts from my babes but this one was just precious. I could tell he spent a little more time on it, which made it super special. (Note: “Tomas creeping you out” is an inside joke. When Tomas first came home he really, really didn’t like me so he would just sit in a corner and stare at me. When we now talk about them first coming home we tease Tomas about “creepin'” on me and all have a good laugh. No need to worry, Tomas no longer creeps me out. 😉 )

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Look, I love being a mom. It’s my favorite. I’m often amazed to find I love motherhood even in the very worst moments. Even in the fear that I’m effing it all up, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else with my life. But I also believe yesterday was a day to celebrate the aunties in our lives that treat our babies so very well. Or the birth moms who can’t hear “mother” without thinking of loss. Or the women who have lost children who feel the same way. Because I am a mama of dogs and cats I recognize these women deserve a mention too-not everyone treats animals as humans-I think that’s pretty special.

So Happy (belated) Mother’s Day, fellow women. Thanks for inspiring me and encouraging me and helping me along the way. Many blessings.

Merry Christmas

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

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

Merry Christmas

-Tesi

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

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

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

on chores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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