Last weekend was Homecoming for the school where David works. There are various activities leading up to the big weekend, plus the parade, football game, and dance on Saturday. It's a bid deal, because the entire west side of our city turns out for the parade. It's been a long-standing tradition for the school, and I feel pretty lucky that my family gets to be so involved in all the festivities.
Principal David, reporting for duty. Such a stud!

Hannah, Lily, and BFF Bailey.
Carver with his super wattage smile.
David, making the rounds with the Homecoming King and the Superintendent of our district.

Zinabu. Talking. As usual. But dang, he's adorable.

In the parade! There was no room for me in the car, which is typical. But I was okay with capturing the moments in film. And after they drove by, I popped into the tattoo shop you see there in the background. (Kidding)

It was a really fun weekend!

I had the stitches taken out of my knee the other day, and I am doing pretty well. A little more pain now that the swelling is down, but nothing I can't handle. I have the OK to start walking and stationary biking, so look out. (Whatever that means.) I have discovered that being vegan is harder after strep throat, surgery, and family crisis. I crave salt (read: cheese) and the more stressed out my life becomes the more lack of discipline I have over what I eat. I shouldn't be surprised, but I hope when life calms down a bit I'll be able to hop back on the vegan bandwagon. Let me just say that if one more things breaks or if I get any more bad news, I might start eating bacon.


There are other things going on in our lives. It's true. The world has not stopped turning. I have about 50 photos to upload and post about. But for now I am enjoying my very last week of being a mom to children. On Saturday, I will become a mom to a teenager.

My mind cannot grasp this.


My Heart
When you become a parent, your chest is sliced open and your heart laid bare. You don't feel it at first because you are so smitten with this beautiful new person who has entered your life. You kiss the little toes. You smell their essence. You marvel at every coo, blink, word, movement. You are so enamored, you forget that this deep love you have for your children comes with a dark side: the pain you feel when they are pained. You don't notice your heart is on the cusp of being put through the ringer. It will be. And it is. Over and over again.

But you survive. You tape it back together. Breathe deeply. Let it heal a little bit before the next crisis or medical diagnosis or letdown or disappointment. You feel in the recesses of your mind that it would not hurt so much if you did not love so much. But the love, oh the love, is so precious you wouldn't give it up for anything.

This past week has been the kind of week where my heart has felt beaten and bruised. Midnight tears and morning worries and the wish that it would all go away. My sweet Lily. My precious Lily is facing what feels insurmountable. We're ok. It's not an emergency. I won't go into details here--which means you're all imagining worst case scenarios of multiple things (don't), but I want to respect her privacy--but it is the kind of thing you hope happens to someone else so that you can keep on living your happy little life. Instead, we are the ones sweeping up the pieces of our hearts. She will be fine. She has to be fine. But right now it is grueling.

Have you ever wanted to quit? To say, "I don't want any more of this pain." Discomfort, sure. Inconvenience, no problem. I got all that and a bag of chips during the get-them-sleeping-through-the-night era. But watching your child hurt? No. I'm the first to admit that I did not sign up for this. Which sounds so weak. But it's honest. I'll say it again. I did not sign up for this. I did not have this in my plans. There was no instruction manual to prepare me. To prepare my heart for the pain of raising children. To prepare myself for a road I don't want to travel.

Yesterday David's high school hosted a statewide cross country meet. It was spectacular. The pageantry and the speed and the teams and the hype and the noise and the cheering. There were 38 teams, all racing their very best. The runners were fluid and practiced and determined and strong. We were watching at a spot about halfway through the course, and long after the boys had finished--right before the starting gun went off for the girls--came a boy all by himself. He was vastly overweight. He was dead last. He was so slow that he shuffled. He had absolutely no reason to be out there except to try. He was not running for the fun of it, because he was stared at, gawked at, and laughed at. He was so far behind he was completely alone, with no one to direct him through the course. He knew most of the girls would finish before him.

And yet he ran.

I watched him the way a mom watches their child take their first steps. I was so proud of him. I wanted to run beside him and hug him. I wanted to tell him that he was the best kid out there. I wanted him to know I had his back and that I thought that if he could do this... in front of thousands of people... he could do anything. He did not give up. I clapped for him. I yelled at him to not give up. I watched him huff past me, carrying not only his physical weight but the weight of everyone's eyes following his painful, slow trudge through the course. He ran because he knew, deep down, he could finish. He did the best he could.

He will never know how much he inspired me. I feel like I'm dead last, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But what are my options? To give up?  I don't care that people see me struggling, or that I'm dead last, or that the road I'm on is not pretty. Despite the pain in my heart, I love my child.

And I will not give up.


If You're The Prayin' Type
...would you please pray for us? For Lily, especially.


Make A Difference Monday
Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5      Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

There are nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can't wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we'll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps. 

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren't so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world's first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond--or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity's baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don't do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn't want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother's hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya--the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, "I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm." The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. "We don't have enough food now...our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues."

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on--in nine generations of 5x5x5...we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do:
  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!
I'm looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you're interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn't wait. She doesn't wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn't wait for us to decide if she's important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on...please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped--you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don't move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you're life is busy like mine, you probably won't get back to it later. Let's not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let's leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!


Tree Lover
This is where Lily has taken to doing her homework.
Really, can you blame her? This summer she turned into an uber-outdoors enthusiast. She's going to grow up and be a vegetarian, veterinarian, octogenarian tree hugger. She'd much rather be outside than anywhere else. She'll go out and sit on the rocks, or climb a tree and write in her journal or do her homework. Any time I can't fine her, I just go outside and call her name and she responds from somewhere in the woods.

I love her.

My knee surgery was yesterday and it went well. I didn't do very well in recovery because of the anesthesia. I hope I don't have to have any kind of surgery ever again. Ugh. It was awful. But my knee feels better now than it did before surgery. I had a decent sized tear in my left meniscus and the cartilage had rolled back on itself, which meant that my knee hurt all the time and I couldn't really walk faster than an easy stroll. I miss exercising and running a lot, but this will still be a long recovery. I really wanted the  surgery done asap because when we go to London we will probably be walking about 10 miles a day. After a couple of months of rest and light activity, I can start to get moving again. I am grateful for doctors and surgery and I'm grateful to live in a country where I have access to health care. Not everyone on the planet can say that.

Books we've been reading: Benjamin Franklin. Carver especially loved reading this one. You'd be surprised how many things Franklin invented and how he pursued education and writing to better himself. He was amazing. I'm not a big history buff, but this book was a winner!



Lately these two have been inseparable. They've usually gotten along well and often play together. But something shifted in the last few months. These days, they are always together. Always. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that they were born on opposite ends of the globe, yet were thrust together due to some crazy life circumstances. And now? Now they're siblings. "Real" siblings.

Kinda makes you want to be nice to everyone on the planet, no matter where they're from, doesn't it?


The Post in Which I Try to be Positive

Can you tell school has started? I'm back to my old ways... getting up early, food for everyone, driving everywhere, volunteering, homework, volleyball, music lessons. That means no time for blogging. Or reading blogs. I feel disconnected from my adoption community, not to mention myself. Slowly but surely we're getting back into the groove of the school schedule. As of today, we have not yet been late or forgotten anything of major importance. I don't know what this qualifies me for, but I'm proud.

The past few weeks could easily have been titled "Bye Bye Bank Account." Between the window(s) and a bathroom sink and our brand new dryer and the Certificate of Citizenship fee and back to school and medical co-pays, I'm ready to kiss August good-bye. I could easily wallow in self-pity, but I'm constantly aware that there are worse problems in the world (hello, can you say starvation?) so I try not to give in to it. I am very happy with the progress on my to-do list, which makes August not a total bust. The only things left on my list to finish are our will (have the paperwork, we just need to finish filling it out) and selling the jogger (David needs to fix the tires before I can Craigslist it). All in all, not too shabby.

We had the {BEST} Labor Day weekend ever. The weather was spectacular. We hiked and biked and played and had a campfire with s'mores, plus we saw two mornings worth of balloons for the hot air balloon festival. My kids played like they were on an episode of Survivor: filthy, dirty, happy, and outdoors. A weekend like that makes me greedy for more of summer, but I will acknowledge that I'm okay with fall being right around the corner. It has already arrived in the mountains.

As for today, all the members of my family are at their respective schools, and I plan to catch up on lots of little things. Fingers crossed that no one comes down with a fever or starts vomiting. I feel like I live my life in 45 min. increments. My days are loosely planned, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But isn't that the definition of motherhood? Waiting for the other shoe to drop while trying to get things done. I think so.


Some amazing things happened this week:

1. Zinabu's Certificate of Citizenship for the United States of America came in the mail. In some states you wait up to 6 months for them to issue that certificate, but I guess here in Colorado the Department of Homeland Security is having a slow season. I mailed our application in 2 weeks ago. Amazing. I wish I could describe the feelings of joy and relief that washed over me when the mail carrier rang my doorbell and had me sign for the document. I am so, so relieved. No more waking up in a cold sweat at night, remembering that I have to get this done. It's done!

2. One of my kids began taking an anti-depressant. I write those words and I think, "Is this my life? Has it really come to this?" Indeed it has. The doctor we saw this week confirmed what we suspected--and what the counselor suggested--that our kiddo suffers from anxiety, a little OCD, and because of that some mood disorders. Amazing that what we thought had been years of strong-willed behavior turned out to be brain chemistry. We are starting with a super low dose and seeing if this brand works with our kid's brain. I am so excited to think they could begin having relief from being anxious a lot of the time. As hard as it is for me to be in this place--this place of diagnosis and medicine and therapy and rough days--there are far, far, far worse things we could be struggling with.

3. I was with two separate groups of moms yesterday and I heard two blatantly racist comments. The first group of women I had a lot in common with. The second group of women I had almost nothing in common with except that we all have children and we love them very much. I was floored at their ignorance, their snobby-ness, their superiority.

4. My friend Sarah rocks this world. 5 for 5 has raised over $20,000 for famine relief in east Africa. And she was featured in the Huffington Post. Read it! I'm praying the publicity spreads and we make it to $50,000 by the end of September. If you already gave, thank you! If you haven't, what are you waiting for?

5. In one month I will have a teenager. Let us not speak of this any more.

6. Last night we went to the first high school football game of the season. It is officially fall.

7. I called the IRS to find out about the status of our refund. You know the one. The one we filed for back in February? After waiting on hold, they were able to tell me they haven't even looked at our paperwork yet. I can expect another 60 day wait before they tell me anything, and it could very well be that they tell me to wait some more.

8. Despite all my best efforts, I am amazed at how many times I still fail as a mom. And despite all my failures, I am amazed at how sweetly and deeply my kids love me. I am amazingly blessed.