I reminisced about those first few times my bio babes smiled and my heart was immediately full. I admired (and recognized the truth) in Adley's shirt.
I watched as this man, my man who pretends to dislike babies, held, fed, rocked and played with this baby. I remembered one of the reasons I fell in love with him.
I watched as my sons tried snowboarding for the first time. Trysten with trepidation and then elation. Watching him conquer something like this all while making it look effortless was a confidence boost he didn't necessarily need. I still admired his courage and penache as he dominated the slopes.
I watched as Tariku, who did need the confidence boost, also dominated the slopes. Slower to excel than his older brother but certainly more determined. I smiled with abandon watching his little afro cut down the slope. I recalled how easily physical things come to him, I clapped and cheered and yelled his name as he raced towards me.
I watched and chewed my nails watching Tomas give everything he had to keep up with his brothers. I watched as he fell, over and over, and stood up with a smile each time. I laughed as he befriended a slope employee and somehow convinced him to help him for the next few hours. I agreed when Tariku pointed out, "Tomas may not be the best at snowboarding but he is the best at making friends." I was thankful watching my brother and husband catch his falls and then prop him back up ad nauseam all day. I was just so, so thankful to see Tomas on the hills of Iowa.
I admired, warm and dry, my husband and brother as they patiently encouraged, helped, lifted and pulled the boys. I recognized the boys' big success had much to do with the love of these two men.
I hung with the two littles, one of which refused to wear gloves, ahem Binyam, ahem. I fawned over their intelligence, their wit and their ability to not complain while their fingers turned deep purple, ahem, Binyam, ahem.
I watched as Dailah, ever the brave one, coaxed my dad into letting her "ski" with him. And then watched as she coaxed Tomas into lending her his snowboard so she could give it a whirl. I jumped up and down as I watched her ride the little bunny slope the whole way, upright, effortless and then turn to me and give me the thumbs up.
I withstood my husband's endless fascination with my ability to wear the same gray sweatpants multiple days in a row and then go take them out in public.
I hung out with my oldest friends. We talked of old times and celebrated them while still managing to toast to the new.
We laughed. A lot. I remembered why I love them so. I remembered how each one of them is so different, but together we make a pretty amazing "Fab 4".
I watched as my mom doted on all of her grandkids. How she bartered with me to give them more ice cream, more chocolate, more donuts. I admired her grace, her unselfishness and her generosity.
We opened a lot of presents. A lot. I touched my hand to my face to try to loosen up the tight smile muscles. Too much joy. I clapped as Tomas and Binyam-eyes wide-enjoyed their first Christmas.
I heard Tariku yell my name to tell me Santa Claus was in the house. That he came all the way here. To wish us a special Merry Christmas. I heard Tomas tell Santa, "Thank you for everything you do for kids." I reassured Tariku that this was the real Santa, who came here because he was excited that Tomas and Binyam had come here recently from Ethiopia. I told him that Santa whispered to me that he came because I had the best kids in the world. And I thanked baby Jesus that was true.
I sat on Santa's lap, recognizing an old basketball coach in his eyes. I smiled remembering how encouraging he was to me, how fun he made the sport that was not always so. I patted his shoulder hoping he would know what I meant by that, "Thank you for this (Santa), thank you for that (basketball), thank you."
I salivated when our neighbor (and owner of one of my favorite restaurants in Iowa) brought my favorite cut of beef-Prime Rib-to our house. My stomach throbbed, my mouth watered and I waited with the anticipation of my kids on Christmas Eve.
And then we ate. So much good food prepared with love, by my mom. I laughed as Tomas emptied his plate and "almost cried" at all of the good food. I giggled watching Binyam attempt to gum his way through the prime rib. We toasted Jesus, each other and the year ahead. I looked around the table and said a secret prayer that God continue to bless this family with laughter, with love and with many more happy memories.
And on this day, like every other day, I was so thankful for these kids. Who made me smile, laugh and cry (a bit).