The danger in assuming love will conquer all.

The danger in assuming love will conquer all.

When Zach and I were getting married I wanted to engrave “Love conquers all” on our wedding bands. Like most unmarried 20-year-olds, I had no idea what it took to stay married but I had a whole lot of love for words and Zach and I assumed those would be enough to get us through our decades together.

This year we’ll have been married for 14 years which, truth be told, made me a little nauseous just writing that. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in our years together is that love actually has very little to do with a mostly healthy marriage. Sure, it’s what initially propels him to get down on his knee and ask for your hand in marriage and it’s probably also mostly why you say yes (although mine was also because Zach’s damn eyelashes are something I still can’t quite figure out how to say no to.) But at some point in your relationship you’ll have to invest your time in more than just love.

Because when you’re in the delivery room and there are sights and sounds that are a miracle, yes, but also really quite gross love will not sustain you. A desire to welcome this new life into the world together because of a shared commitment will be the key. When the last grunt happens and the baby gushes out into the world along with other various fluids, you’re going to need more than love of each other to feel hopeful about the birth of a new family.

When there’s a screaming 3-year-old in your kitchen who has lived with you for all of 2 weeks and nothing you do will calm him down, love doesn’t even enter the room. Because adoption was mostly your idea and your husband is looking at you like maybe this wasn’t entirely thought out? You’re a little bit angry that he’s looking at you that way and he’s a little bit frustrated that the child won’t stop screaming and the three of you are all just a little bit scared that this will be the rest of your life. Forever. Love isn’t what causes you to wrap your arms and legs around the screaming child until he calms himself, giving you just enough time to reach a hand out to your husband as a peace offering. In that moment you hardly even like either of them and yet you look at both of them and are reminded why you entered into the relationships to begin with. A promise, sure, but also the knowledge that you’re willing to work the hardest you’ve ever worked on building a foundation so strong even a 3-year-old screaming in an uncommon language can’t shake it.

In sickness and in health sounds all well and good until one of you is literally puking and pooping simultaneously in a worn down hotel room in Ethiopia. When your betrothed enters the bathroom to that horror there is no way love enters with him and so it’s something else entirely that makes him turn on the shower, lift you up and help you clean yourself off. After he wraps you in a towel and lays you on the bed, puts on your clothes for you and gets to the messy business of cleaning up the bathroom you better hope you’ve built your marriage on way more than love. Because love leaves when you’re elbow deep in excrement and vomit, it’s the years spent doing tedious things to make life easier for one another that propels him to take care of you in this rather extravagant way.

Love and sex? Great. But after a decade or so of being together you’ll start to notice the reasons you have sex often have very little to do with love. Sure, you still love each other fully and completely but more often than not you’ll have sex because he’s felt a little distant lately and you know he becomes an open book afterwards. Or she steps out of the room dressed for your date and you can’t believe how beautiful she looks despite being devastated over losing two of her pets. You’ll do anything to make her feel good so you take her into the bedroom before the movie the kids are watching finishes. Maybe you’ve had a little too much wine or maybe it’s just because you’re bored. I remember when love and lust were bigger parts of the sex equation but the longer you live with someone the more in tuned you become with the rhythms of their entire bodies and so the less it becomes about love and the more it becomes about the physical expression of the known rhythms. It doesn’t sound as sexy but the sex can still be hot as hell. Do not fear.

And when something big does shake the foundation: a colossal mistake or painful words uttered in anger or fear-love will be gone. That’s the thing about marriage that no one tells you, love leaves from time to time. Of course you will continue to love each other every day but the emotional manifestation of love is fleeting at times. Sometimes the only thing left is the determination to not have wasted so much time, energy, communication and kleenex on the same person. Stubbornness can be a detriment if used against another person but if you can harness that energy for another person then stubbornness can often be the thing that gets you through the bumps in the road.

Sure, “love conquers all” sounds a lot sexier than “stubbornness, commitment, communication, devotion and forgiveness conquer most” but the latter is infinitely truer. It’s true I love Zach more than anyone else on the planet but it’s also true that sometimes I don’t like him very much. I know he loves me more than anyone else and yet I can once in awhile slip into being the most unloveable human there is. Yet there he is, making room for himself next to me on the couch and snuggling up until I’m forced to forgive myself too.

I often wonder if the causes of so many divorces aren’t what we think: money, affairs, loss but of the assumption that love would conquer all. I think as a society we’ve placed too much focus on love and not enough on the stuff that actually carries a marriage. We’ve put all the emphasis on a feeling and have forgotten that feelings are shit when it comes to the dark days of a marriage. Action is the metaphorical bridge over the river of doubt in a marriage. If the foundation crumbles a bit and you’re both just waiting around for love to swoop in to clean up the pieces you’ll be waiting forever. At some point you’ve got to forget about love and pick up your stones of forgiveness, responsibility, devotedness and get to rebuilding. Love might have you sending flowers on Valentine’s Day but it’s not going to come to you in the middle of the night after harsh words and heavy silence with an apology and a promise to do better next time. For that you’ll need constant acts of sacrifice, time spent in the trenches and relentless proof of commitment to small things that actually add up to big things.

Love certainly brought us together and continues to be a thread weaving through our life and our marriage but I’m incredibly grateful that I never engraved “love conquers all” on our wedding bands because sometimes it doesn’t. And when love left, Zach stayed. Which we all know is far more powerful.

Love can be as slippery and fickle as sand, dear ones. Let’s build our lives and relationships on something a little more sustainable. I hope you’ve found those willing to enter the trenches with you even when love has left the building. A love like ours may never top the box office but it sure will be a fun story to tell our great grandkids. I’m totally ok with that.

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Coming to Terms with My Own Struggles So I Can Better Help My Kids Come to Terms with Theirs.

Last night we had to sit down with one of our sons and break the world down for him a bit. We’ve noticed this child has started to do things just to be cool. For now it’s nothing alarming, mostly just wanting to wear all the “right” clothes. He layers on his accessories like he’s never heard the phrase “less is more”. Bless.

If one of the kids has a friend over this child is known to say things that are so clearly wrong -last night it was telling a friend that tofu was a fruit-only to try to sound smart. He also claimed to have finished a book his siblings had already finished so that he could watch the movie with them. With just one question about a main plot point in the book it was quite obvious he hadn’t read it.

Even just a few weeks into school we are starting to see a pattern where he’s finishing his tests and work in class as fast as he can or not bringing work home to study at all. Though his intention is to look smart/cool, it all crumbles when he receives a D on his test. His friends might not know about his terrible grade, obviously, but he momentarily forgets that his mom has 24 hour access to his grades online and that she checks it roughly once every hour knowing he is not a kid who will be able to skate through school on his smile and good humor alone.

In some respects I believe this is typical behavior for boys his age. The struggle between the illusion of independence from parents and the obvious dependence on the parents is real. It is, of course, the human condition to want to be liked and admired. I don’t even believe this in itself is a terrible thing. More often than not when other parents or teachers talk about this son of mine they mention how kind, caring and respectful he is-all attributes built from the same place his desire to be liked is housed. A double edged sword indeed.

But it’s also typical orphan behavior as well. This charismatic son of mine did what the adoption community calls “mommy shopped” for almost 2 years before we met him. His desire to be loved and seen as cute/cool went spectacularly in Ethiopia, every time a friend of ours went to Ethiopia before us they gushed over his adorableness and his friendliness. As soon as I was able to make public his photographs I received an influx of emails from people who had traveled the previous 2 years saying roughly the same thing, “As soon as we got home my husband and I prayed about going back for him. If we could’ve gotten the resources together we would have. You are so lucky!”

I remember when the kids were little being physically exhausted roughly all the time. Trysten and Dailah slept through the night since they were 8 weeks old (don’t hate) and the boys have all been phenomenal sleepers since we brought them home as well so I’m not really referring to the sleepy fog. I’m talking about being physically exhausted in the way that, when Zach got home, I basically threatened him within an inch of his life to not touch me. I so vividly remember being a human playground and often the only one able to comfort an upset child.

As the kids continue to get older I’m no longer physically exhausted, the tables have reversed a bit in that department-I’m typically the one smothering them when I’m feeling a little low or needing some personal connection. Parenting older kids feels so emotionally exhausting instead.

This thing with our son has stirred up some heavy reminders of when I used to be so concerned with being cool. I never did it in the ways he is doing it: I didn’t ever care much about what I was wearing or being the smartest in class. But I did care about my status as an athlete, always having a boyfriend, being liked by as many people as possible.

I’ve done some pretty terrible and painful things to other people and to myself in the name of “being cool”. One of those things I did when I was roughly the age of my son that still haunts me from time to time. My best friend in elementary and I had decided to be locker partners in middle school, we had bought the mirrors and other things in which to adorn our shared locker. But that summer I started hanging out with someone else more. She seemed so cool and didn’t have the elementary baggage that my other friend had (by the way, none of this is on the middle school friend-she continues to be one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know) so a week before middle school started I called my elementary friend to let her know I was changing things up and would no longer be sharing a locker with her. How she forgave me for that (and many, many other things) over the years and continues to be a friend I have no idea.

And honestly, as I got older, the stakes were higher and so were the MIstakes. The need to be loved and adored was so acute I hurt people so deeply that some, rightfully so, haven’t forgiven me since.

Last night I related all of this to my son and told him, “Do you know why I fell so hard for your dad? He showed up to our first date in clothes from Goodwill and shoes made of duct tape. He was the first person I ever knew to be so completely him all the time. Your dad has never put much thought into what people think of him and yet people love your dad. They are so devoted to him because they know the person they are claiming their devotion. They know it’s not going to shift and change depending on the season-your dad is your dad-take him or leave him.”

Then I reminded him that we aren’t expecting an overnight success in his ability to just be ok with dropping the masks and showing the world just who he is. We are ever evolving humans after all and, though Zach has inspired me to drop all of my masks since the day I met him, I continue to struggle with the old demons from time to time. That struggle is the reason I got “I am God’s beloved” tattooed on my collarbone-it’s a daily reminder that no matter how badly I’ve effed it all up (and woof are there some doozies in there) I am so completely and incomprehensibly loved.

And so is he. Because, as I told him, the people who will be put off by the real him were never meant to be in his life in the first place. And the people drawn to him? Those will be the people who will live and die for him. Those are the only people he needs to worry about doing right by.

I slept so poorly last night because I just kept thinking of ways in which I could save all of my kids, this son in particular, from making the same mistakes I’ve made in my life. I longed a little for the days when I was terrified of outlets and steps rather than BIG feelings like self acceptance and people pleasing gone too far. The risk feels greater now, the repercussions heavier. It’s impossible to know whether I’m doing the right thing as a mom now that my kids are becoming fully formed young adults before my eyes but every night I fall asleep knowing I did my very best and will apologize in the morning for the ways in which I fell short.

The risk is indeed greater but so is the reward. Getting to know my 5 on a personal level is one of the coolest experiences of my life. It’s so humbling to watch them wrestle with the same things I did at their age and so gratifying to watch them beat the beasts that took me so much longer to conquer.

Last night I looked my son in the eyes and said, “God made you so perfectly, son, I am so in awe of how wonderful you are. I love you so much there is absolutely nothing you could do to stifle that and nothing you could wear to make that love any bigger. Let’s show everyone else the son I get to see-they will be awestruck by the awesome.”

He smiled and went to bed and as he did I realized I was talking to myself, too.

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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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Tomas is 11!

Tomas is 11!

The first time I met Tomas I could tell he had been well rehearsed on how to act when meeting his new parents. Of course I was happy to see him but I wanted so badly to know how he was really feeling.

Last week we were talking about Zach’s long hair he was rockin’ when we picked up Tomas and Binyam. Zach is a bit embarrassed of it now but I was curious what Tomas thought then so I asked him, “Tomas, what did you think when you first saw us in Ethiopia? Did you think ‘what’s this guy with goofy hair doing here?”’

“Oh mom, I don’t remember what his hair looked like. I was just so happy you were finally there. I finally had a family. All of my friends had gone with their families and I watched them go but finally it was my turn.”

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At the “going away” ceremony in Ethiopia I could feel the fear in the boys, it was palpable. Tomas was going from Ethiopian adult to Ethiopian adult, never coming by Zach and me and Binyam played with a balloon for 2 hours straight.

So when it was our turn to cut the cake I wrapped my arm around Tomas and, even though he didn’t understand a word of English, whispered, “I don’t know when, but it’s going to be ok. We will be ok.”

As nervous as I was about bringing these young men into our family, it was nothing compared to what they were experiencing. But Tomas? Other than a few rocky initial weeks, he has entered almost every bit of life with a joie de vivre that defies his circumstances.

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The day before his birthday we invited 3 of his buds over for Skyzone fun. He is a head taller than most of his friends but is the gentlest giant I know.

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I was able to pick up some birthday donuts and, true to form, on the day of his birth he waited for everyone else to pick out their donuts before picking out his own. This is despite the fact that I had publicly stated Tomas and his friend Riley were to go first.

Like his older brother, he too chose Buffalo Wild Wings for his birthday dinner out. Tomas isn’t a foodie so much as he is a lover-of-all-food. Cooking for Tomas (and Tariku) is my favorite thing because I can’t remember a single time they didn’t proclaim each meal to be the best they’ve ever eaten. When Tomas (and Tariku) go to a friend’s house and I ask how it was, 99% of the time they will talk about how great of cooks the parents of the friend are. I freaking love that.

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There is a weird dichotomy to how I feel about Trysten getting older and how I feel about Tomas getting older. With Trysten I get to just embrace every new step towards adulthood. With Tomas, however, I feel a constant tightening of the chest as he gets older. He’s gone from this squishy faced, adorable 6-year-old brown boy (as he liked to call himself) to a sturdy, solid 11-year-old young, black man.

Studies prove over and again that being a young black man is one of the more dangerous things you can be in America.

So though I as his mother still see so much of his childlike innocence, I also get a front row seat (quite literally since Zach and I are his coaches) to the basketball games when the moms of the opposing team yell that he (and Tariku) are being aggressive and out of control even though they are playing almost exactly like their white counterparts. Though Tomas has a smile that lights up the whole world, I know that only those who know him are able to focus on that as a symbol of his undying love of all the things. Everyone else? Well it’s clear they don’t always look much further than his black skin.

I worry more about it with Tomas, I think, because sometimes social cues are lost entirely on him. Not because of some inability to see them but rather because he has a genuine need to and gift of seeing the good in everyone. As he’s gotten older so many of our conversations have been about becoming friends with kids who do the right thing and encourage him to do the right thing. Tomas is so easily susceptible to the kids who manipulate because he wants to believe they are as good as they say they are.

It blows being in a world where this son of mine who walks around this world as if he’s not wearing any skin can so easily be hurt. But there it is. And since it doesn’t seem to bother him, I’m trying to live every day the same way.

Happy birthday my Tomas-ay. May you continue to serve as a reminder to us all that being vulnerable can be the most beautiful and brutal thing in the world. But that the beauty is always worth it.

Love you.

Trysten is 12!

Trysten is 12!

It doesn’t matter how many times I say it or write it, it’s as if my brain refuses to accept it. Alas, it’s true-our oldest is 12.

Last week a few days before his birthday Trysten started saying he wasn’t feeling well. Since he was a tiny baby it’s always been obvious when Trysten doesn’t feel well, his eyes sink in and he gets dark circles around them. Also since he was little, he’s been open to sitting next to me and letting me try to heal him by giving him a head massage. Also we sometimes wear the same sweatshirt.

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This 12-year-old of mine happens to be a foodie. When I asked him what he wanted to do on his birthday all of his recommendations revolved around food. It could be said that most of my thoughts throughout the day revolve around food as well so I was happy to oblige.

We began the day at a local coffee shop that makes super legit cinnamon rolls. My system has started staging minor revolts when I consume high fructose corn syrup so I took a hard pass on the roll and enjoyed watching my eldest devour his with gusto.

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Trysten went to school just long enough to get all the attention every 6th grader deserves on his/her birthday and then I picked him up (per his request) so we could hang. He chose lunch at the same cinnamon roll place, mostly because our small town of Three Rivers doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of non-Applebees joints but also because their lunch has vegetarian options and Trysten wanted to make sure I would enjoy the lunch as well. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that my kids are getting old enough to start looking out for me in small (and sometimes big) ways. I really dig it.

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He wanted ice cream afterwards so we grabbed some to go. It was one of the first days I can remember in this harsh Michigan winter where the sun was shining bright enough to make it hot in the car. We sat in our warm, sunshine-y minivan, eating our ice cream and talking in the Meijer parking lot. What people don’t tell you when you’re holding your newborn baby (or small toddler, in the case of my boys who were adopted) is that no matter how much you love snuggling that little one-it actually gets better. Because soon enough you’ll be having conversations. Real, awesome, true conversations. You’ll be able to get to know those little ones as their own-apart from you- humans and it. is. awesome. Especially when those little ones turn out to be as great as Trysten.

After a little shopping at Mejier we headed home so I could get some work done and he could play a game we were not letting him play until he was 12. 🙂 Despite being allowed to play a game he had been wanting to play for years, he came up soon after and asked to make birthday brownies with me.

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Per usual, the son of vegetarians chose Buffalo Wild Wings as the place to have his birthday dinner. Even foodies can’t resist buffalo wings dipped in various high sodium sauces, apparently.

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In some ways it’s a miracle Trysten is such a well adjusted child, especially if one looks back at the pictures of his first hours on earth. He was greeted by one bleach blonde, long haired parent and one short haired parent who exclusively wore old baseball sweats for weeks in a row (ironically, that was his dad and mom respectively).

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I credit so much of his cool, laid back nature to the fact that he’s loved reading the classics since a wee one. It helps, I do believe.

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I’m not sure Trysten gets enough credit for our whole family’s transition to Michigan. Whenever people ask how our kids have handled the move, Zach and I marvel at just how well they’ve adjusted. When I really think about it, I can’t help but realize a lot of credit goes to Trysten. As much as I hate to admit it, eldest siblings have a lot riding on their shoulders (you win Kara!). I have no doubts that if Trysten were angry with us about the move or hated the idea in the first place, there would be 4 other children echoing his sentiments. Zach and I repeatedly joke that if Trysten were any more laid back he would be asleep for all of the hours but it’s true, and some days it’s exactly what this family needs.

I’ve seen so much growth in Trysten this last year. Though I can sometimes see him wrestling with his independence and our rules, he always does so respectively which is something I admire. A few nights a week we have a “make your own” dinner where each kid is responsible for…you guessed it, making his/her own dinner. Though the younger ones often go for leftovers or cheese crisps, Trysten has started venturing out to pancakes, eggs, etc. He whips up enough pancakes for 14 people and then proceeds to eat them all. There’s a chance he’s growing physically as well.

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This kid has always been good at making good friends. When he asked if he could invite a handful of boys (as opposed to the 2 we usually allow) to his party I knew it would be fine because I knew they wouldn’t be too much to handle. I’m not sure who enjoyed the trip to Skyzone more-me or them-as it was just so much fun hearing them interact with each other. They continued to be well-mannered gentleman throughout the sleepover-making their parents proud and allowing me to listen to my podcasts in peace.

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The years continue to speed by with regard to mothering this son of mine. Though I absolutely loved our time together when he was young I’m just not sure I’d trade it for the moments when he comes up and throws his arm around me now. Sometimes to tease me about my (rather beautiful) opera voice or because he’s upset and just needs a little reassurance. For all the times we spent oooohing and aaaaahing over his first words, I still maintain talking to him now about our shared passions or passions I will never understand (I’m lookin’ at you NBA2K15) is infinitely more fun.

Happy 12th birthday Trysten Zachary, may you continue in this next year to be the kind, independent, funny, hard working young man you’ve shown us in your previous 11 years!

Love you.

Colorado

Colorado

A few weeks ago I took off for Colorado to hang with some of my very best friends. I remember the first time we got together I was so nervous. I had loved these women and their online personas for so long I just wanted so badly for them to be exactly how they seemed. They weren’t. They were even better.

So this year I was just excited-counting down the weeks, then days-excited. Mostly for these women but also because I love Colorado. You guys, I want to live there. There, I said it. It’s gotten so bad Zach isn’t sure he wants me to visit anymore. I just love it! The mountains, the lakes, the culture. Everyone seems to be out and about all day, eating well and moving their bodies. I love it. Also, come on. It’s beautiful.

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Chandra picked me up ass early from the airport (that’s just what I do-make 34 week pregnant ladies wake up at 5:30am to come get me at the airport) and brought me to her house. I was so excited to meet all of her boys, including her awesome hubs. This is her backyard, by the way. I see you Colorado.

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We headed up to Deirdre’s new place in the mountains (near Winter Park-Frasier). Carrie and Sarah’s plane from Seattle made a pit stop in Nebraska (!) and ended up being many hours late so Chandra, Cathy and I made ourselves comfortable in Deirdre’s house without her. 🙂

The rest of the week was spent mostly with either coffee or wine in hand chatting on Deirdre’s couches. Also eating. Lots of delicious, delicious food. Cathy, Chandra and Deirdre spoiled us with their fine cuisine.

Friday the 8th happened to be Sarah’s birthday so we celebrated it by taking a pontoon out on a lake in the mountains. Right after I posted about gaining my Michigan boater safety license Deirdre texted me, “Glad you got that. How about you drive a pontoon boat for us on Friday?”

I take my duty very seriously, as shown by me asking the dock hand what I should know about the waters and vegetation and such.

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The weather was absolutely picture perfect but the conversations were my very favorite part. It turns out nature was pretty great at celebrating Sarah’s birth as well. That Sarah, she is amazing. Grateful for her, as always.

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We had lunch on the boat and then tried many times to get the perfect picture of all of us.

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The weather was perfect…until it wasn’t. A storm rolled in so I opened the throttle, Deirdre (with the metal rod in her back) hid and Cathy and Carrie just went on acting like nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

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Rocky Mountain National Park was equally kind to us.

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We even got to see a moose! This was a first for me, no idea why we were all so taken by it but we watched it move for a really long time. Nature is incredibly mesmerizing.

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We went on a few hikes, welcomed another adoptive mama for dinner, slept in bunk beds and allowed each mama as much sleep as they could possibly want or need.

I remember in 1st grade Trysten came home and told me about how his teacher told him we each have a bucket. If you’re nice to a person you fill their bucket, if you’re mean-you poke a whole in the bucket. The lesson being, obviously, be the kind of person who fills buckets.

We’re in the home stretch of summer over here in Michigan, this means a whole host of things-namely abject chaos. When my kids are nervous/anxious about something it presents itself in a myriad of ways, all of which are on this side of annoying.

So thankful I had the 4 days in the mountains to fill up my bucket, memories from my week with these women work to offset some of my frustration at the last week of summer. Though I have so many good friends who live closer, these women get my specific kind of mothering in a way not many can. They are the ones I text or call when news of Michael Brown comes out (more on him later), the ones I text random things to with the question, “You think adoption related or boy related?” They’re my people. Make sure you make time for women like them in your life, so that on days when you’re pretty sure you will be driven insane by life you can text them and they’ll say “Yeah, it’s Lord of the Flies over here too.”

*Also of note, I got to check out an awesome run shop in Denver started by a guy with whom I went to college. Pat is and has always been a top notch dude. He’ll take care of you right Denverites, go get your gear from him.

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*I got to see Common in the airpot on my way home. He smells of sex and baked goods. Trust that I don’t like being objectified and believe in my heart we women shouldn’t do it to men but come on…it was Common. I took a terrible sneaky pic and then “casually” made my way next to him so that I sat by him on the train. We parted but I’m pretty sure he’s just as torn up about it as I am.

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*My parents are the very best. Every year I text my mom, “Girls weekend x date, can you watch the kids?” So when Zach is pulling 18 hour days and I’m off drinking wine and eating carbs my parents are taking my kids on more adventures than they get in a year with me. So thankful for them.

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Energy in, energy out

I go in waves of reading, you guys do that? I’ll read every day for hours on end for a few weeks and then I’ll not read a page for the next few weeks. I’m currently in a reading mood-something about winter does that to me. We keep our house a bit on the chilly side just so I can have a cup of coffee constantly in hand and a blanket (or 2) constantly wrapped around me.

I just finished Rob Bell’s, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. My mom-in-law graciously lent it to me whilst I was out with bootfoot. Once I was freed from my boot prison I went on quite the dry spell of reading (that’s what 9 weeks of heavy reading/TV watching will do to a person) so just got around to reading it the last few days. Last night I read this and have been percolating on it since,

We don’t transform our shadow side by denial but by entering into it, embracing it, facing it, and naming it because we believe God is with us and for us.

When we do this-name our fears and sins and failures and own up to them, describing them as clearly as we are able-we pass through them into the new life on the other side. We have faced the worst about ourselves and we have survived, making us strong in the only sense that actually matters. This is why resurrection is so central to the Jesus story: he faces the worst that can happen to a person, and comes out the other side alive in a new way. It is not a false strength we gain a posing and posturing and pretending, but a quiet, humble, grounded strength that has done the hard work of facing our most troubling inner torments and then watching them be transformed into sources of vitality and life.

Do you guys love that as much as I do?

When I look back on the last couple years of my life, years where I’ve been really trying to do the hard work-to face that which scares me the most about myself I realize it’s been both the worst few years (it was so much easier, on the surface anyway, when I was in denial) of my life but also the very best. Not only have my close relationships gotten stronger, more vibrant and beautiful but so have I. And it isn’t because I’ve scrubbed myself clean and come out on the other side smelling like roses-it’s because I’ve come on the other side battered and bruised with the realization that I am still utterly and completely loved.

Before-back when I was in complete denial about my shadow side-I tried so many different ways of earning love. Some didn’t hurt me or anyone else, some really hurt me or other people I love. I was floundering for an easier way to come to terms with grace. We all do this, right? When we aren’t convinced of how much we love we go over the top in trying to earn love, perhaps that’s just me.

Of course this showed itself in a myriad of ways but I was thinking this morning about the ways my denial affected my parenting specifically. I believe very much in the energy we put out into the world. I think for a long time the energy I was putting out reflected my inner turmoil. I would be telling my kids one thing, “Do the right thing, be honest, no lying, you are wholly and completely loved” but my energy was saying, “Lie if you’re scared of the truth, ehhhh I’m not convinced a person can be completely loved when all the shit is out there.”

Of all my kids Tariku was the best at projecting back to me exactly what I was putting out into the world. Perhaps that’s why for a very long time I didn’t fully attach to him. Who was this kid skeptical of my love, constantly lying and totally ill equipped for accepting love? Oh right, that kid is me. I am he. How terribly frustrating it can be to parent a child that exhibits the same behaviors and attitudes you dislike about yourself, right?

I’m sure you see where this is going. As I continue every. single. day to own my shit and walk through it, Tariku is mirroring that as well. The lying has all but stopped, he actually let me hold his hand for half a movie the other day. When I look at him to tell him I love him he looks back and I can tell more and more of him each day is taking it in-allowing it to settle into the parts of his heart darkened by the pain, loss and heartache he’s had in the past.

I think as parents we owe it to our kids to transform our shadow sides, don’t you? I think if we don’t we run the risk of our kids being so scared of their shadow sides they’ll do anything to keep it hidden. The truth is I’m not at all scared of my kids’s shadow sides. The truth is, they are young enough I see most of it. But I want them to feel free to discover it on their own and then talk it through with me. Then maybe when I tell them I love them or that God loves them they’ll know that I mean all of them-even the parts of them that hate me sometimes. 😉

I guess my goal for the new year is going to be that-to keep discovering that which scares me about myself and to step forward in faith-knowing I am God’s beloved. And to maybe take that leap of faith to share with my children all the ways in which I have failed so they know it’s a completely human and acceptable experience. I think they’re worth it, I think I am too.

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