Day 2: Cocoa Beach!

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

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

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

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This one is pretty good too.

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

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

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

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!

On Trayvon

There are far too many well written things already done on the George Zimmerman case out there. The truth is, they are written by people who write for a living and/or people who have a much higher stake in this “game” (i.e. people of color) and so I defer mostly to them. Take a look at some of the links here or friend me on Facebook where I’ve linked to a few great posts as well.

On Monday when we were riding in the car listening to NPR the kids started asking me questions. Having always been open and honest with them on every topic, race included, I stayed the course and tried to answer their questions with every bit of honesty I could. At one point Tariku asked something to the effect of, “But why did George Zimmerman think Trayvon was suspicious?” God help me I started crying. Because I was looking at the face of my gorgeous black son and had to tell him, “Because he’s black.”

Of course I saw it on his face, and the face of Dailah who started crying too. I went on to explain I was crying because the thought of someone finding my sons-my brilliant, kind, generous, loving sons-threatening scares the ever lovin’ shit out of me. I was crying because Tariku, of all of my kids, would be the 17-year-old out buying his little brother skittles and iced tea wearing a hoodie in the rain. I was crying because the reality was, until I adopted my 3 boys I had no idea just how bad our system is in protecting people of color, I had no idea just how deep my white privilege was/is.

As much as I want to feel badly about the years in which I definitely said racist things and perpetuated racial stereotypes, it does nothing in the way of furthering my commitment to to stop doing that. So many of the people I grew up with, people also born in white suburbia, don’t have to acknowledge racism because it isn’t a part of their reality. But I want to challenge all people not to deny something exists just because it doesn’t happen to them.

I will raise my 3 black sons to live in a world that will treat them differently than it treats their white brother. I will raise them that way because I have to. And I say that knowing it might not freaking matter. I say that knowing there is still a chance a man with a gun might confront them and “stand his ground” all while not allowing my sons to “stand their ground”.

I also know this is true. My 3 black sons have 2 white parents. My umbrella of white privilege will most definitely cover them when they are with me, and will undoubtedly cover them a little more while they are out in a community in which we are known. But that will not stop me from acting on every racist thing I hear anymore, it won’t stop me from acting in any way possible. I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, but I have a feeling in the coming months and years there will be opportunities for me to reveal my true character on racism and I will not be found wanting.

The stakes are too high, not just for my boys but for millions more just like them. Cute little afro-ed boys who turn out to be strong, black men.

So please, educate yourself. Set aside your politics or your pride and just. freaking. do. it. Open your ears and your heart, let your mind burst wide open with the possibility that things might not be the way you’ve always seen them. And read. Read like crazy. Start with blogs and then go get this book. The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the time of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is one of the best books I’ve ever read about race and our country’s really, really terrible justice system.

Thank you, thank you.

What have you read about the case that speaks to you?

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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Somedays

I get so mad at the world. At God. At the agency in Ethiopia. At whoever is around, really.

A few of my boys have issues that were so clear to us even when we picked them up in Ethiopia it angers me that they were never brought up in their reports. Nothing, not a word or a hint to any of it.

It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, we would still have brought these little rays of sunshine home, but it would’ve helped the transition I think. I could’ve gathered the necessary troops and had them prepared for battle upon my little ones gaining their American visas. Instead, years in, we are still playing catch up.

I told Zach today that it would almost be easier if the boys were diagnosed with something. I think for a lot of us in the adoption world people look at us funny when we say, “Well they are different. They’ve been through too much, it changes people.” Or we look like we are making excuses for behavior that is not “normal” for a kid their age. I always feel a little bit crazy saying things like, “I know he looks x age but please understand that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

When I told Tariku’s teacher that he needs to eat every few hours or he’s practically incapable of making good decisions she patted me on the shoulder and shook her head. She made sure he ate every few hours but I couldn’t help but feel like I looked slightly off my rocker (perhaps I was projecting, the teacher was actually fabulous).

When I say I think it would be easier if they were diagnosed with something please don’t misunderstand…I know having children diagnosed with anything is many things but rarely easy. I just meant that if there’s no diagnosis, if there’s nothing we can point to and say, “My kid has this, please treat them delicately” then we end up feeling really overwhelmed and lonely.

My precious Bean is struggling a bit at camp. For a kid who is developmentally on target in a lot of ways, he struggles in social settings. If a child picks a different “swim buddy” over him he automatically assumes it’s because he’s not loved. If a counselor tries to redirect a misbehavior (which that counselor has every right to do!) he assumes-and will tell you-that it’s because he/she doesn’t like him. If he trips on accident, he assumes people are laughing at him. If he is overwhelmed-he shuts down, if he is over stimulated-he shuts down. Though camp is rife with all of these situations, I really believe it’s a safe place for him to grow and learn new and better ways of coping socially with his peers.

And you know what? He was like this in Ethiopia. He never played with anyone while we were there. He never talked to anyone when we were there. We never saw him interact with any child or caregiver during our time there. It was so obvious to us even after a few days, and yet no mention in any of his reports.

I know I’m shifting blame here, I get that. But sometimes I feel so hamstringed in raising kids who have such painful pasts because there isn’t the same kind of support that there is for kids with say, diabetes. There are no “Walks to Cure Trauma”. We parents in the trenches have no color that people would identify with what we’re going through, no slogans for which to paint on signs and march the capital streets.

The closest thing we have is this, blogs, and so here I am.

I get that it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but sometimes I feel like screaming my head off and saying, “Someone help them! Fix it for them!” Because I’ve spent so much of my time as their mommy wishing I could take it from them.

I broke down today because I just don’t understand how we live in a world in which boys like mine feel, even for a second, like they are unloved. That we live in a world that in many ways is full of various ways of connection but can sometimes feel so very isolating.

I don’t know, I’ve never wanted a life for my kids that was easy, I just wish it wasn’t this hard sometimes. I just wish one time I could look up during a moment of stress for my kids and see a look of determination and not fear or shame.

Probably all I’m wanting now is to know I’m not alone because my kids are everything to me. I won’t stop helping them until there are t shirts and walks to help kids like them, if that would actually help.

And I’ll keep relying on all of you to support me and guide me along this often blind path of raising these truly remarkable children.

Mother’s Day

I love Mother’s Day. As much as I hate other Hallmark holidays, I just really love this one. I have no idea what it is exactly. Probably equal parts homemade cards from the kids and a day that I get to do no “typical” mom activities. My family is so good at spoiling me on every day but this day in particular they get just as excited to show me the love.

When we ask Binyam to write a thank you to someone it is indecipherable. This card? Can almost read every word. He claims he had no help from his teacher but I’ve never actually heard him use the words, “lovely” or “fabulous”. Regardless, I accepted with the most humblest of exclamations.

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Dailah’s…I mean it’s too much. The sleepy (beautiful) picture. Love it.

 

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Tariku gave me the standard one about growing from school but then he created this. Interestingly, we have never even referenced “saving” him so I had a little talk about that but otherwise the message (and art) is simply breathtaking.

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Tomas. “Mom, you are awesome because you have done almost everything to get Ethiopia water that is way awesome. You are sweet and cute and I thank you for doing stuff you are the best mom in the world.” I mean, really.

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And Trysten. My personal favorites, “My mom loves me and she loves to exercise and burn calories.” and “The best thing about my mom is everything.” Oh of course, “My mom loves me and she loves to eat veggies.” All true, of course.

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My friend Jody posted a status update that has gone positively viral. I was so thrilled to see many friends reposting it and knowing it came from a genuine, true place from Jody. The reason it was shared so much is because every mama of a child born unto another feels this way-or at least they should.

“Children born to another woman call me ‘Mom’… the magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me this weekend.”

Makes me teary just re-reading it.

Even though I love Mother’s Day I am acutely aware of how hard it must be for women who have lost children, who have made the decision to make an adoption plan. For women who want children but who haven’t known that pleasure yet. And for those two beautiful women whose sons I am humbly raising.

Sunday morning I woke up to my kids singing, “Happy mother’s day to you” and all I could think to do was offer up a prayer to Tariku and Tomas/Binyam’s mom.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

To all you mamas out there. Whether it be children you’re currently raising, have raised or will someday raise. To mamas of fur babies. To mamas who will never have children but choose instead to birth art or books or music that moves the next generation into beautiful action. To you aunties who help raise your nieces and nephews, to you besties who love your friends’s children more than they will possibly ever know.

I love you and am so honored to be amongst you.

Happy Mother’s Day

 

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On Teacher Appreciation

When Trysten first went to Kindergarten I didn’t think a whole lot about his teacher or school. I know, I know, shocking. But he was a smart kid with 2 parents who weren’t going to let him fall behind on anything so there wasn’t a huge concern.

Then we brought Tariku home and we started to think more about education. We moved Trysten from his school that, year after year, gets the highest test scores in the district and some of the highest test scores in the state. We moved him because most of his school looked like him, which is fine, but the school didn’t look like us. Our new family now contained a little precious boy of color so an almost all white school wasn’t going to do.

We moved Trysten to quite possibly the most underperforming school in the district. Worried grandparents and community members chided us for the bold move but we knew it was right because Trysten would be fine. Regardless of how the school overall did on standardized tests, Trysten positively excelled.

And then we brought home Tomas and Binyam. There was only one school in our district with full time ESL people on staff and we knew bringing home a first grader we would rely heavily on ESL the first few years, so we switched again. This time to a school that usually ranked towards the bottom on standardized tests. We knew it would be a perfect fit, however, when we first saw there was a large minority population at the school and then that a really great family friend-Mrs.Meinert- would be Tariku’s Kindergarten teacher.

Pretty soon after bringing Tomas and Binyam home we could tell they might need a little more attention in school. Tomas’s phenomenal teacher proactively worked with Mrs. Meinert to have Tomas come down with her class during reading and math. At the end of the first year Tomas’s teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, showed me his first words he had written and I cried during the whole conference. Watching how much he had grown from August-May was nothing short of a miracle and I knew, though Zach and I encouraged him at home, it had everything to do with the two teachers who loved and nurtured him in his first year.

Binyam started out in preschool with Dailah but we could tell he too needed a little more work. His YMCA preschool teacher arranged a meeting for us at our local AEA. They tested Binyam and agreed he needed an all day preschool the following year at-you guessed it-one of the worst performing schools in the district (but which boasted Binyam’s Uncle Jake as the principal) 🙂 . When Binyam began his (second) year of preschool he had no idea how to spell his name, his speech was very poor and he had 0 fine motor skills. At his first conference his teacher showed us little scraps of paper that Binyam had written, “Binyam” and “Mom”. With tears running down my face I grabbed her hand, “Thank you, thank you so much.”

The last few years for Tomas and Binyam have carried on much the same. A tribe of advocates have surrounded them and fought for them, working alongside us. And though my other 3 don’t need the same degree of help, their teachers have kept them challenged and loved just the same. Watching these teachers (my kids usually have the same teachers as the sibling who went before them) love, nurture and cherish my babes finding their footing as well as my higher level learners has been an enormous blessing.

I have gotten emails from these teachers at 10:00 pm, “Hey what do you think about trying this for x?” I’ve gotten more phone calls during the day than you can possibly imagine (I quite literally just got off of one) from teachers and administrators, “Hey wanted to let you know x is having a great day today! Make sure you praise him/her for doing their best during reading!” Notes in planners talking about the progress on a letter or a sound or a journal entry. I’ve seen these teachers have to switch from this kind of technique to another, back to the first and then-no wait, let’s do it this way-within just a few months.

And always, when I’ve cried asking, “Are they going to be ok? What more can I do?” They’ve looked at me, usually with tears in their eyes and said, “Of course they’ll be ok, your kid is amazing and we’re going to do everything we can because they are worth it.” And I believed them.

One of my best girl friends was talking about one of her babes that struggles in her class. As Ashley talked about the little girl I just started crying. I can’t get over how much our kids are loved by their teachers. These teachers who work so much, get paid so little love. our. kids. Incredible.

I know not all teachers are like this, I know that. But we’ve been so incredibly grateful for the teachers we’ve had.

I think on days like today when I get a completely unprompted call from the kids’s school, “Hey, Binyam’s teacher was thinking about him…” I am humbled beyond anything else that there is so much love surrounding my kids. I am so thankful I never have to go through this parenting thing alone. So thankful for our community who has trained and support teachers, imperfectly I’m sure, that are as amazing as they are.

So to all the teachers. The ones I’m related to, the ones I am friends with and the ones who have prayed and thought about my kids every day for a year-thank you so much. My words fail me at a time like this but I am forever indebted to you!

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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5 years

I can hardly believe 5 years ago we landed in the Quad Cities for the first time with Tariku as our son.

This picture was captured the moment after we met Tariku for the first time.

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As much time as I had spent staring at his picture the months leading up to us flying to Ethiopia, I was shocked by him in the flesh. I couldn’t get over how bright his eyes were-even more than in his pictures-or how small he was. I had no idea that his smell would smell familiar even though I had never been to Ethiopia before, never held a strange 3-year-old and called him son.

When I look at that picture I see so much innocence in all of our faces. As well as the troubling realization that I overplucked my eyebrows. We had no idea how much work was ahead of us to actually feel like a family. It felt so real so immediately I think it blindsided us all when it took a little longer to find our footing. 

But mostly when I think of this day 5 years ago I think of how much I have changed because of Tariku. I knew that I could be an advocate for my child but I had no idea the strength I possessed before him. I knew I had a remarkable capacity to love, but I had no idea that sometimes wasn’t enough for my babe who felt so much loss. I knew from the moment I saw his sweet picture on my computer screen that I would love him for the rest of my life but I had no idea how that very love would open my eyes and tear off my skin in a way that had never been done before.

That day 5 years ago was a new stage of vulnerability for me that I was ill prepared for but has reaped in me a newer, better human. If it weren’t for Tariku, I genuinely don’t think I’d be who I am today. Despite all my flaws, the me now is so much better than the me then.

Today as I meditated I fought back tears the whole time. The feeling of gratitude is so alive on days like today-days that I recognize the magnitude of what happened 5 years ago.

So thankful for that day, and for this day. Because then and now Tariku is my son. My amazing, beautiful son.

*I blogged about our first trip to Ethiopia starting here if you’re interested.

Welcome!

This new blog has been a long time coming. I originally started hotflawedmama so that I could comment on different blogs-one of them being my sister-in-law’s whose blog was titled “hotchristianmama”-and blog with a bit of anonymity. As soon as I started actively blogging I was already over the title “hotflawedmama” but by then it was too late, it was kind of my “thing”.

In reality it is still my thing. I am still unceasingly flawed and my husband thinks I’m pretty hot, clearly one of the things I’m most proud of is my being a mama-and yet I feel I’ve outgrown the title.

So here I am at my new digs. If you’re readers of Hotflawedmama, thanks for joining me here! You can switch the titles in your google reader or click on this blog to follow me. If you’re new-welcome!

I was recently asked by someone getting their master’s in communication a few questions about blogging. Her final question was, “What do you love best about blogging?” I couldn’t think of just one reason so I wrote a few paragraphs. In the end though, I love putting my thoughts to “paper”, I love looking back at how our family has grown and the areas in which we still need to grow. I love reading your thoughts in the comments or in your own blog and I’m eternally grateful for the friendships I’ve made through my blog. But also I love the idea of my kids one day reading the blog and knowing my voice as something other than “mom”. I’ve always known I have way more to offer my children than what can sometimes be found in a day of parenting-perhaps this blog will serve as a good supplement as they get older too.

Thanks for reading!