Mountain Men
The only reason I'm looking forward to winter. These boys have been firewood fiends. Salvaging and hauling downed trees to our yard. It will be all worth it when we have warm toes in January.


Tomorrow is Friday. As a member of the gainfully employed again, I can say that Fridays mean something to me once more. I'm sure you're dying to know all about my new job. I have a degree in English Literature and spent several years as an editor for a small publishing company, and then freelance editing once the kids were born. (Which is embarrassing to admit because I don't always spend a lot of time proofreading my blog posts and sometimes I catch horrible, horrible punctuation and grammar and spelling mistakes that would make my old boss weep with shame.)

I've got a background in reading, basically. I was paid to read. It was the best job ever in the whole wide world!!! Triple exclamation marks!!! (Unless you offered me a job tasting chocolate while watching Harry Potter movies over and over again and then I would have to say THAT would be the best job ever in the whole wide world.)

So what's my new job? Eh hem... if you guessed the Medical Technician at the middle school, then you would not only be totally nuts for guessing that, but you would totally be right. That's me. Just call me med tech Cathy.

Here's the skinny: I'm at the middle school a lot. And by a lot I mean all day every day. It just so happened that the old medical technician quit and there was an opening. It's only two hours a day, and my primary role is to give medication to the kids who need their daily dose at lunch time. My job also includes a lot of filing, checking immunization records, and being the "nurse" when kids are sick or hurt.

My very first day on the job, a girl fell while running outside and landed on her mouth. Another staff member brought her to the office and was helping her but then it was all me. There was blood everywhere. And I was trying to see if she still had her front teeth. We had to call 9-1-1 and I was there to make sure she didn't pass out. When they trained me for the job, they didn't tell me something like this would happen! But you know what? As a mom, you just take over. I have more medical experience as a mom than I ever dreamed of, and when it comes right down to it... I'm pretty good in a crisis situation. And I'm really good at comforting kids with upset tummies.

I love my job. I love the really bad kids that are trying to get out of class by complaining of "cramps" and can they please call home. I love the sweet little 6th grade girls who get overwrought by a hangnail. And I love the big, tough boys who are reduced to mush when they don't feel well. (Wanna know a secret? Middle schoolers are just like elementary kids... only they're in bigger bodies.)

A year ago I would not have been the best person for this job. But a year ago I had three pretty healthy, pretty "normal" kids. All that has changed. Lily has been on, and continues to be on, so much medication it makes our heads spin. And if she had to have an afternoon dose, I would have been mortified for the office staff to know what she was on and why, and I would have convinced myself that they would have judged her and labeled her. At this point in my life, I understand what it's like for your child to be unwell. And I know what it's like for a kid to really, really, really want to be normal but their brain is not functioning correctly. Through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, their minds and bodies don't work as well as their peers. And medication helps them. I am now fierce for these kids. Fierce as in don't you dare look down on them of label them or think of them as problems. I happily help each and every one of them every day, with no judgement... and no labels. I know what to do if one of our students has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes (it's not pretty) but I am there to do it and I'm happy about it. I know what to do if the Type 1 diabetic becomes unresponsive. We've had broken arms, a concussion, and a Black Widow spider bite. And we have more Epi Pens in our office than I even want to think about. (Can you say peanut allergy overload?)

My job is a little strange, but it is so rewarding and it feels so right. Who knew this would be my mid-life calling? I'm just glad I can do it.


I had a whole 5 minutes to upload some photos. Enjoy.


Happy Birthday, Carver

Today Carver turns... No, I can't even write it. I CAN'T!!!!  He's ...
(insert long pause while I bite my nails and procrastinate and eat more birthday cake)

There. I said it. It's actually worse than when I turned 40. Much, much worse. I mean, honestly, how the heck did this happen? 

Carver is a steady source of joy and comfort in our lives right now. I am so incredibly thankful for him. Despite his best attempts to head to the emergency room twice a week on his bike, skateboard, roller blades  and tree climbing, he is healthy and happy and just awesome. 

And we need a lot of that in our house right now. (I have a feeling pretty soon I'll be divulging more of what's been going on in our lives this past year... but rest assured Carver is just what the doctor ordered.)

I have some totally awesomesauce pictures on my camera that I hope to upload before the year 2017, and when I do I'll be sure to post them here. For now, I am a proud mom to a growing young man. A young man who was entrusted to us by his birth mother 14 years ago. 

We love you, peanut.


Maybe It's Time
to quit blogging. I mean, really. We're past the excitement of our Ethiopian adoption, which was the reason I began this blog in the first place. I'm also past the excitement of our move and kid transitions. And I'm currently only blogging once every three to seven days. What does that all add up to?


With a capital B.

I just started a new job at Carver and Lily's middle school, so I'm never, ever home anymore (at least that's how it feels). I'm also wrapped up in life with my family, so taking time away from them to work on the computer just isn't as easy as it used to be. And I'm mostly exhausted with life right now and coming up with "fun blog topics" kinda sucks.

So... I don't know where I'm going with all this yet, but suffice it to say that if you're looking for engaging reading material, you're not likely to find it here.


What We're Reading
I'm telling you... we are reading our little tushies off around here. Even Lily! And you know how rare that is.
Without further ado, I give you:

David recently finished this one. It was required reading for a lot of staff in our school district, but David was onto it months ago. He was reading it sporadically over the summer and finally wrapped it up. None of the information was new to him, but it is presented in a way that is a must-read for anyone that is engaged with young minds.

I just (as in yesterday) finished this little number. I was doing some research in the library on anxiety (trying to help Lily) and stumbled across Agorafabulous!* I love this book so, so much. The author is hilarious, but candidly shares her life story and struggle with a little bit of OCD, a lot of panic attacks and anxiety, her breakdown when she could not leave her apartment, and her recovery with medicine, doctors, and a lot of hard work. I would love to meet her in person someday. If you have never had anyone in your life, family, or circle of friends struggle with mental illness, then congratulations. Mental illness remains woefully misunderstood and isolating and I appreciate Sara's bravery in telling her story.
*Note: the woman has a potty mouth. Big time. If you are easily offended by a lot of F-bombs, then this may not be your new favorite bedtime reading.

Carver is reading some awesome futuristic post-apocalyptic story that has him removed from the family for most hours of the day. He is working his way through the list of 20 books recommended by his middle school library. Carver wants to finish all 20, and he is really enjoying this one.

Let's see... which member of the family could possibly be reading a book on agility training for dogs? If you guessed Lily, you'd be correct.

Zinabu has more or less freaked us out with what he can now read. It's almost as if he skipped second and third and fourth grade books and went straight to fifth. It breaks my heart a little because I feel like he missed an entire genre of stories, but he's incredibly engaged in all the Rick Riordan series and can't. get. enough.

Life just isn't as sweet without a good book--at least for me. I'd love to hear which page-turners you can't put down.


I'm Guilty

Of bragging on my kids. Yes, I am. It's hard not to, when your child does something great and you know they worked hard for it or they finally reached a goal. Of course we all want to share the love when our kids feel great about something. But lately I'm seeing a trend on Facebook that leaves me with questions. People posting their kids' grades online. Is this really necessary? And it's NOT the report cards that have one A, two Bs, and two Ds. No way. It's STRAIGHT As FOR LITTLE SUSIE OR JIMMY. I'm talking actual photos that people take of their kids' report cards and update their Facebook status with them.

What the what? I guess I feel it's kinda tacky, but maybe that's just me.


I have known my friend Lisa for three years now. Her daughter, Grace, is good friends with Carver at school and Lisa is a delightful, funny, sarcastic, witty, and deep soul. Lisa and her family lost their house this summer in the Waldo Canyon Fire. All of us who know her were shocked, not only because of the utter devastation but because Lisa's husband, Gerard, has been battling pancreatic cancer for several years now. It just felt like too, too much.

Gerard lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday evening. His decline was fast and furious... so fast it took us all by surprise.

So here is my friend Lisa, who is now essentially homeless and widowed--all within the span of 3 months. I feel like all the air has been knocked out of me, and there is nothing, NOTHING I can say to comfort her. I am at such a loss. However, please go find your loved ones and hug and kiss them and be thankful for them. Be thankful for the roof over your head, and your children's artwork casually displayed on your refrigerator, and your clothes and belongings that could vanish in an instant. Be thankful.


What???? September?
A little bit of info on me. My favorite season is summer, hands down. I do love fall--the colors, the crisp air, the events like back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, pumpkin patches, apple cider, soup. What I do not like, though, is winter. I hate the days getting shorter and the freezing air. I hate when it's dark outside when David leaves for work in the morning. I hate when it's dark outside when we come home from after-school activities. I feel like the walls are closing in on me--literally--when I can't open the windows to air out the house or go outside for an after dinner game of basketball with Zinabu. I hate that all that is right around the corner. It's making me feel claustrophobic already.
So we will make the most of the next two months, with hikes in the mountains and playing outside. Outdoor fires and football games. All that and more.
I've got to find a good half marathon or 10k to sign up for, so I don't succumb to my usual "oh, it's dark and cold out so I won't exercise today," which repeats itself over and over again until the next thing you know David is having to talk me down from ice cream binges and sweat pants. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)


Why going back to school is like buying a new pair of jeans...

The newness wears off pretty fast and pretty soon those jeans look and feel like every other pair of jeans in the world. It took about 4.2 days for the newness of school to wear off, and now this year feels like every other year. Sure, there's still some new hip things going on, but for the most part we are "over" all the fun and excitement. Homework has started, and darn it if I don't have three kids who prefer that I sit with them while they work... and they all work at different paces and at different times so my evenings are going to pretty much be homework from 5pm to 9:30 pm. I'm the mom and I'm happy to do it, but I might have to enforce family homework time and stick to that. Also, Lily and Z started new schools and the glitz and glamour of new books and buildings and schedules now just feels like school. Lily has some pretty severe anxiety around school and it started to just plain blew up yesterday. Hopefully today will be better. And I'm pretty sure David felt like he was back in the grind when he had to chaperon the Luau Dance at his school on Friday night. Nothing like having to wear a Hawaiian shirt while hanging with teenagers when you'd rather be home watching Netflix with your wife.

And you? Has the newness of the new school year worn off yet? Or have you not started yet?


First Day of School
My back-to-school pics of my kids are always a crap shoot. Some years they are fantastic. Some years, they look more "authentic." Like today. Very authentic. Zinabu was nervous (and mad) that school was starting. Plus it's a new school, and we're navigating the whole drop-off and pick-up and where to go details. I admit, it tugged on my heartstrings to send him off to a new place where he knows no one. I asked for a big smile for a great back-to-school photo, and this was the best I got. That's ok. He's still my awesome rock star 8 year old.
Now, when you have middle-schoolers, you're lucky if you can get them to stand within 6 feet of each other, let alone hope for perfect smiles. I consider the picture of Lily and Carver a huge success, regardless of the photo quality.
So they're off. The 2012-2013 school year has begun. Cheers!


We are finally at the final stretch of all the repairs needed after the Hellish Hail Storm of 2012. The basement carpet has been replaced and put down, the sheet rock repaired and painted, and all the furniture moved back. This week they replaced the roof and repainted the house, and all that's left now is new gutters. It has been LOUD here. Pounding and more pounding... but we are so grateful for the repairs. Every house in our neighborhood is also getting a new roof and repaired basement. It was quite a storm.

David has been very busy getting ready for the first day of school (Monday) and preparing for his 30+ students who lost their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire. I'm very proud of our school district and the schools that were mostly affected. They've done so much for the families, staff, and students.

My kids are ready for school to start. Is there anything that drags out more than the last week of summer vacation? They just need to start already. While Zinabu is still not thrilled about his new school, he's willing to give it a try. He needs to make a buddy and then he'll be fine. Being that he's so sweet and helpful, I don't think that will be a problem.

We are holding our breath for Lily. She successfully attended 6th grade orientation, got her locker and schedule, packed her supplies, and knows a few other girls there. We are ever hopeful.

Carver is his usual happy-go-lucky self. Can't wait to see his friends. Can't wait to be an 8th grader. Can't wait to own his own cell phone. Can't wait to grow up. I'm doing my best to prevent that last part but he keeps thwarting me.

I am really proud to say I am a runner again. Last fall, my knee surgery put a big dent in my get-up-and-go. I didn't really get moving again until December/January, and even then it was mostly walking on the treadmill. I had started running a bit in early spring but if you recall I got some nasty virus that turned into a sinus infection and I was sick for 6 weeks. By June I was back to square one. Weak legs and even weaker lungs. But I've kept at it and I'm now up to a decent level of fitness. I run four times a week: 6 miles three times a week, and one three mile run at a very fast pace, to teach my lungs that they can't get lazy. My goal is to stay injury-free during the winter and pick one or two races this winter/spring to participate in. If I can do that, I will be really happy. I try never to take my health for granted.

Happy end of summer!


Wordless Wednesday


Today Blows
I'm so tired I actually walked into a wall. Our dog bit someone. Lily's hair is a hot mess. Carver is being mean to Zinabu solely because Zinabu is 8 and an easy target. David's car is in the shop for 2 weeks. There is more debate of Gabby Douglas' hair and leotard color than an issue that actually matters. I didn't get to run today, which is probably adding to my foul mood. It's just one of those days where you wish you could pull the covers over your head.


Believe it or not, school starts for us in 18 days. Our summer vacation begins early and we go back to school early. I rather like it that way. But this school year brings with it some major changes. Two of my three children are starting new schools. Lily is entering middle school and Zinabu is switching to a different elementary school. The reasons for Zinabu's switch are long and many, and he's not very happy about it. This makes David and I pause, wondering if we are doing the right thing. After multiple conversations we've finally almost sort of convinced Z to give the new school a try. Basically it means that for the next 18 days Z is covering his ears anytime we mention the "s" word (school) and he cries every. single. day. that we are the meanest parents in the world.

All this over third grade.

It is so hard being a parent when you know what's best for your child but they don't see it AT ALL! Zinabu is pretty contrary to begin with, so anytime a new experience presents itself to him his first response is always "no way!" Usually, though, once he gets going he likes the new experience and conveniently forgets all his previous bellyaching. We hope the pattern repeats itself with this new school.

And Lily. Starting sixth grade. I was telling a friend just this morning that I am probably the ONLY mother of a middle-schooler that is hoping some peer pressure will rub off on their child. Lily certainly marches to the beat of her own drum--and I don't want to change that at all--but she is so painfully shy I'm hoping being in a new environment will push her to make some new friends and put herself out there.

I don't know. This year could go either way. A huge success or an epic failure. Wanna place your bets?


We Are
Watching the Olympics
Enjoying the last minutes of July
Beginning to think about the "s" word (school)
Being forgetful... me, especially. Where is my brain?
Having our roof and gutters replaced and the entire house repainted because of that nasty hail storm
Needing to shop for new clothes because my children have outgrown EVERYTHING they own
Playing and bugging one another
Living joyfully


Wordless Wednesday


Home Again
We pulled into our driveway late Monday night, after a long day of driving. Driving 16 hours TO your vacation seems to go by so quickly, but the 16 hour drive home feels twice as long for some reason. But we made it and are slowly getting our groove back. Our trip? Pretty much awesomesauce. We had a wonderful visit with David's brother, sister, and mom in the small town where David grew up. We brought the kids bikes so they could ride anywhere and anytime, and they took full advantage of that freedom. When they weren't outside, the kids were visiting with their grandma in her apartment or riding the ancient elevator with a gate for a door. So cool. We also took advantage of the local pool and old jars from Grandma to catch fireflies.

To double the fun of our trip, we headed over to the Twin Cities for the Mehaber, which is the huge picnic for families who have adopted from Ethiopia. It was at least 6,000 degrees that day and I wound up just standing in the shade visiting with amazing friends. Zinabu and Carver played soccer and ran around, while Lily found Jayme's kids and pretty much spoiled Izzie all day. Hands down the best part of the day was when Zinabu expressed interest in the Ethiopian clothes and wanted new pants and a shirt. He's been wearing them (as pajamas) every single day since. (Thanks for the tip, AnnMarie!) We chowed down on Ethiopian food, which by the way was so, so amazingly delicious.

Seeing Tesi again was just plain amazing, but meeting her kids was so, so special. I always feel bad for the kiddos of my blog friends because I feel like I know them so well and I can't help but gush over them while they look at me with a "Should I know you?" expression. Tesi is really lucky I didn't pack her kids up in my suitcase and take them to Colorado. And Binyam? Well... you haven't lived until you've met Binyam.

I also got to meet Kim and her husband and boys, yet I have no photographic evidence because I am lame. But meeting Kim and seeing her boys on their first big outing since arriving in the United States just 3 months ago was a privilege. Talking with Jayme and Katie and Kari and Molly and AnnMarie and Stacey and  Cindy and so many others was just icing on the cake. We had so, so, so much fun. (I'm dropping the word "so" a lot but it's necessary!)

David's aunt and cousins had a gathering on Sunday morning so we could see them all. It was heartwarming for several reasons. Mainly, David's dad died before I met David so I never had the chance to get to know him. Being with that side of the family makes me feel a little closer to him. Also, one of David's relatives has 5 children from Ethiopia, two of which were adopted the week after we adopted Zinabu. These boys were in the care center together and certainly played and ate meals together. It astounds me.

We feel especially thankful for good friends and family. Our world of loved ones grows in number each year, and it was fantastic to see them all face to face on this trip..


On Our Way
And we're off... AGAIN. I am now the expert packer. You name it, I've packed it. This includes flippers. Yes. It does.

Tomorrow EARLY morning we're pulling the Swagger Wagon out of the driveway and heading to Minnesota. My beloved Minnesota. We will have a few days with David's mom and then a brief 36 hours in the Twin Cities to attend the Mehaber. That's the Ethiopian Kids Community annual picnic and family gathering. We plan to hook up with old friends, good friends, and new friends. Friday is my birthday and I get to see Tesi (that's "Hotflawedmama" to the blogging world) and I am about to bust all the seams in my pants I'm so excited. I can't think of a better birthday present... except maybe getting Zinabu to shut up about Ice Age #Whatever opening on that day. Seriously.

So I apologize for another lapse in blogging, but I will return with great photos and stories.



We were very fortunate to be able to escape the heat and the fire over the 4th of July. David's school building was shut down so they could work on the electrical system, so we took advantage of his forced time off and went up to the mountains. We were torn, because so many of our friends were shifting through rubble and ash in their neighborhood. We feel guilty that we have a home while others do not. Through email we were able to still be in touch with many families, even pointing some to a rental house that David learned about. And we were relieved when some of our friends were allowed to move back into the neighborhood and assess the damage. The fire here is almost 100% contained, and each evening at shift change, people line the streets to cheer the firefighters who are coming off duty. Our city has been hit hard, but we have also risen to the occasion. The outpouring of love, assistance, donations, and support is incredible. David's real work will begin at the end of August, when school starts. He will have many, many students who have been displaced.

No fireworks in Colorado this year due to threat of forest fire, but we still had a wonderful holiday.
Played in the creek

Took in some skateboarding

Rode the gondola to the top of the mountain

Actually got along with one another


Cooled off in the pool

Hiked and biked

Enjoyed the scenery


We Are OK
The last few days have felt like a thousand years. We are exhausted and in shock. While we live a few miles away from the fire damage, the fire burned the neighborhoods where our children go to school and where David works. All of the 346 homes that were destroyed are in the attendance zone for David's school, Carver's (and next year Lily's) middle school, and Zinabu's elementary school. Many, many, many of our friends, teachers, and community members have lost their homes. I had to tell Carver this morning that one of his best friends found out last night that she is officially homeless. I am constantly writing texts like "How are you?" and am receiving texts like this one from my friend Lisa, "We are with friends but we know our house is gone."

It feels like too much.

My aunt and uncle are staying with us with their dog and cats. They fled the fire on Tuesday night and showed up at our house covered in ash. My friend Heidi told me the harrowing tale of seeing flames behind them as they were in bumper to bumper traffic, trying to get out of her neighborhood. Dawn told me there was so much smoke she wasn't sure what they were driving into. Others who had been packed for days and ready to evacuate wound up driving through their garage doors because the power was out and they couldn't escape their garages. It was horrific and crazy. Even the federal fire experts who are here working the command center said they have never seen a fire move like that.

The fire had been burning for days, and the smoke in the city was significant, but the flames were staying behind the one ridge that separated our neighborhoods from the fire. But on Tuesday night, the winds kicked up and everything exploded. At first all we could see was smoke. Billowing, choking smoke. But later that evening when the winds shifted and blew the smoke off the ridge, we saw the entire canyon up in flames. David and I stood in front of the television and wept.

But we are thankful. David's school is fine. Carver's school is fine. Zinabu's school is still standing. It is an epic miracle. Some of our friends still have their homes. Everyone we know is safe and accounted for.

In fact, here is a picture of Carver's school.

The fire crews are using the school for staging and planning and the field behind it for all the firemen to sleep. We are so, so thankful for them.

While my aunt and uncle wait for good news and the hope that they can return to their home in the next week, my kids are showering them with attention. It's keeping my children busy and happy. David and I have everything packed for an evacuation ourselves--should the unthinkable happen. Ash is everywhere. Everywhere. And it only takes one ember to start a new fire. So we are prepared.

We don't know what tomorrow will look like, let alone next week or month or year. But for today, we are ok.


Watching our beloved mountainside and canyons burn is horrible. The city is a cloud of ash and smoke. Carver's camp is surrounded by fire. It's just so heartbreaking. We are safe. The fire can't get to us. But many, many of our friends have been evacuated and have no clue when they will be able to return home and don't know if the fire will reach their houses. David's school is a command center for media, and Carver's school is a command center for the federal government and fire crews for staging and relief. We feel helpless and weak and trapped. Please pray for a miracle rain cloud.
The wildfire is huge. This photo shows one edge of it creeping toward a neighborhood.

The smoke is overwhelming.

This is what we see from our back porch at night. 


What We're Reading
Hooray for summer reading. I love me some mindless "beach" novels, and I always love to use the summer to read up on budgeting and household organization. (If you did not already know that I am a total geek, I pretty much just confirmed it.) Summertime is the best time for me to evaluate what's working (or not working) in our home with money, schedules, stuff, and lives. Unfortunately, when we were in Washington, D.C., a crazy storm parked itself over our neighborhood and dumped 4 inches of rain and 2 hours of hail. Our poor gutters couldn't keep up and the overflow, runoff, and groundwater went straight into our basement. It was a gigantic mess, and bless my mother's heart she was here all by herself to deal with it. In typical Murphy's Law fashion, our brand new carpet was destroyed but our worn out 15 year old furniture was just fine. Grrrrrrrr. Almost all of our neighbors had flooded basements, too. Even the ones with sump pumps. And we all get new roofs because of so much hail damage. Despite the fact that our house is a mess, it could have been worse and we feel thankful for our blessings. If only insurance would cover the water damage...

I digress. So our house is a mess. The entire downstairs is torn up, and because that is where the kids' rooms are I'm not exactly in a position to determine how things are working in that department. I still love organization books, but until our basement is restored... what's the point?

Right now, David is reading Passage To Power. He is in a league of his own for reading material.

When we were in D. C. I read drivel. It was awesome. Right now I am currently reading the Steve Jobs biography and  seriously reconsidering my iPhone. Jeesh.

Carver is reading faster than I can keep up with. He's on his 7th book this summer, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and he loves it.

Lily is finally reading a little. Together we are reading The Report Card, and I adore it. I will probably write an entire blog post about this book and my thoughts around it.

Last but not least, Zinabu. I got him hooked on some classic Beverly Cleary. Right now he's plowing through Henry and The Paper Route. It's so cute.

Some of you emailed me, wondering which book I read and referred to in my previous post. The book is called Bringing Up Geeks. I highly recommend it, knowing you can take what works for you and leave what doesn't. 

That's what's on our nightstands. How about you?