Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Troy, Cowgirl and a Panther

I don't know that a little cold weather and snow has ever stopped a kid from chasing down free candy...

And it certainly didn't get in the way of this group of friends as they hit the streets in their costumes!

Meron reprised her always awesome role as Troy Polamalu - and it just seems to get better with age!

Mebbie channeled her inner cowgirl and channeled it well!

And Z-Dogg went straight WAKANDA on folks this year as he brought his east African heritage to life in his Black Panther outfit!

After 2.5 hours in sub-30 degrees weather... we made it home to see the goods!

The weather definitely didn't get in the way of the haul... that's for sure!

But the temps did catch up with some of us - that's little Z-Dogg thawing out in his jammies after what he thought were some frostbitten fingers (they weren't... just COLD!)

Weather aside - this crew had a blast this year having fun with costumes and friends - and we had as much fun watching them (and maybe sneaking a candy bar or two from their stash!)...

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fun With Friends!

There may be snow accumulating on the ground out there now...

But less than a week ago we were hanging out with friends in the sunshine!

Love having friends right in the neighborhood that the goofballs can hang with!

And come on Colorado - how about a few more days with that amazing blue sky!

Friendships are the coolest!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Flip Flop Cowboy

"Hey Z-Dogg," I yelled...

"Go gimmee your best 'Cowboy Lean' on that fence over there..."

I didn't realize he was rocking flip-flops!

Little dude has embraced the craziness of Colorado all the way... flip-flops year round!

I wanna be a flip-flop cowboy, baby...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sisters Serving Sisters

In case ya didn't know - there's a lot of hair in our house!

Like... a LOT!

And tonight - Meron wanted to de-tangle and get a few braids tossed in her gorgeous hair after unleashing it to be Troy Polamalu at school - but Mommy was jet-lagging like CRAZY and well - daddy is good for nothing in that space...

So who do you think stepped in?

Mebbie absolutely loves doing hair!

She is always Googling new styles to try out on her dolls and on her awesome mommy who lets her go to town on her head.

And tonight - she willingly stepped up to help out not just her sister - but the whole family.

Cuz trust me... hair in this house is a family ordeal!

I am absolutely loving this season that Meron and Mebbie are moving into right now!

Yeah - they're growing up - and I hate that - but they are so helpful and doing things like hair is seriously like a divine gift from above.

Not to mention watching their sister-bond grow deeper is nothing short of joyful.

When I asked Meron about her relationship with Mebbie recently - she looked at me and said with zero hesitation:

"Mebbie is my very best friend!"
You can see that love between them and I pray it never changes - only strengthens.

Way to be awesome, girls!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Wakanda Forever

So... somebody got himself an outfit for Halloween...

And hasn't taken it off yet!

He wore it all day at school.

He wore it to the hockey game last night.

He wore it to the airport to pick up mommy today.

he is taking the whole "I was born in East Africa and may actually be the Black Panther" thing super seriously...

I may have created a mini-panther-monster here... but I'm loving how proud he is of his heritage and the idea that a super hero was from his region of the world!

You do you, Z-Dogg!

Wakanda Forever!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Slap Shots and Body Checks

Some super generous friends gifted us with their season tickets to the Air Force Academy's hockey game tonight!

And since there were no good sports elsewhere (baseball season ended a while ago in this Yankees household) - we were all about it!

Their seats were first row - right on the glass - and it was awesome!

About 10 minutes into the game - Mebbie turned around and looked at me and said:

"Daddy... this is a violent game!"

Indeed... but what a fun time!

Huge thanks to our friends who graciously gave us these tickets!

What a way to wrap up the week with mommy being gone!

And the USAFA pulled out a win too!

Gooooooo Falcons!!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Couldn't Do It Without 'Em...

Look man... it ain't no joke when one of us is gone and we're still trying to keep Camp Hoffman rolling like the well-oiled machine it is.

There's a lot to cover:

... breakfasts

... different wake up times

... hair all done (I mean... this one is MORE than enough to own me)

... Meron meeting with friends to make it to choir practice

... Z-Dogg and eggs ('Nuff said... time STOPS when he eats eggs)

... lunches made

... snacks packed

... water bottles filled

... dogs fed

... dogs let out

... dogs brought back in

... walked to class on time

... switch gears to "work mode"

... make it home in time to pick them up from school

... squeeze in a run or two

... dinner?!?!

... homework

... play or goof off to let off some steam

... showers and baths

... bedtime routine (teeth, etc.)

... prayers (lots of them)

... get them to sleep

... clean kitchen

... wash clothes and dishes

... prep for next days lunches and breakfast

... fall face down and sleep

Wake up and do it all again!

And hear me - I am so thankful we have the resources and ability to do what we do with Brighton Their World and it's a true blessing to be a part of it.

But I couldn't pull any of it off without the daily (sometimes hourly) help from these two champions!

They are easily my right hand ladies and they get leaned on a lot (more than I probably should) - but they step up and contribute like no other... and I am so proud of them!

To all the single parents out there doing in day in and day out... MAD RESPECT!

I couldn't do it without a Meron and a Mebbie!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Happy Birthday, Brighton!

Oh man... this day.

Today is Brighton's birthday and if his race hadn't ended after 76 days he would have turned 11 years old today.

Happy birthday, Brighton Asher Hoffman!

The goofballs were super excited about picking out a cake for him and having the bakery write his name on there...

And Meron was especially excited about the colored flame candles she found for his cake.

Nothing but the best for their brother!

Man... this day wasn't supposed to get me like this... and it usually doesn't.

But today just seemed monumental for some reason.

... 11 years old, maybe?

... Laura being in country and actually visiting his grave today... could be.

... conviction around being too hard on the kids over daily dumb stuff... probably.

But whatever it was - today seemed to be harder than most of his birthdays for me.

Surrounding myself with these guys helped though!

I picked Z-Dogg up after school and apologized over and over and over again for being too hard on him about how CRAZY LONG he was taking to eat 1/3 of an egg at breakfast.

I felt so convicted during the day over it - and was fixated on the thought that I'd give anything to sit and watch Brighton eat an egg - even if it took him days to finish.

After we sang "Happy Birthday" to Brighton (complete with "Cha-Cha-Chas") - and the goofballs blew out the candles - we went around the table and shared something on our hearts about Brighton.

Meron started with:

"Every time I think about him - I think about how crazy (and cool) it is that I was in the same orphanage as him at the same time for about 10 days..."
I'm with ya girl... God knew what He was doing and knew WHO He was bringing to this table!

Mebbie was next and her profound self offered up this:
"If it weren't for Brighton and the plans God had for his life and his 76 days - things could be TOTALLY different. I mean we could all have gone to different families!"
She looked appalled at the idea! Good grief I love this girl and her deep, deep thinking... yes Mebbie - God was in control the whole time and He knew what was going to go down!

Finally, Z-Dogg - with eyes glassy and starting to wet up - whispered out:
"Us sitting here... singing to him and eating his cake and having a party without him... that's really, really sad..."
He started crying.

And I was DONE!

I wanted to share too... but I couldn't get words out.

Zechie came and hugged me BIG time, Meron was rubbing my back and Mebbie said:

"It's okay daddy... it's okay to be emotional about Brighton."

And she's absolutely right. I pray He never takes that emotion away.

Laura doesn't write on here enough (like ever) - but today she sent me an update after the team's day was wrapping up - which included a visit to Brighton's grave. Here's just a bit of what she said:
"I was asked today about the condition of the cemetery and why it is not cared for. I’ve never faced that question before but in all honesty, the state of it does not bother me.

For me, the overgrown weeds and plants, broken stones, and difficult path we walk, all represent the journey we are on. It’s messy. Broken. Full of places that seem too difficult to pass...

but the beauty we find when we continue to move forward outweighs the pain and ugliness of the path we took to get there. "
See what I mean? She has WORDS and needs to share them.

After we cleaned up and I pulled it back together - we headed towards bed - we prayed and I felt God smiling on us.

Look at this picture!

That's a dude with some hurt in his heart but completely surrounded by His joyous gifts.

I can't help but feel Him all around me all the time.

I don't deserve it - but He doesn't give it because we deserve it... He gives it cuz He loves us. And today - even in the weird, goofy hurt of imagining a million "what ifs..." of Brighton's life - i felt His love.

Happy Birthday, Brighton.

Your 76 days forever changed our remaining ones...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Flossing Granny

I love when these guys flex their creative muscles!

Ad I am always down to get silly, goofy and have some fun!

So stay tuned... cuz "Flossing Granny" is coming soon!

Girls... never stop creating!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bath Bombs and Mini Swords

Mommy hooked the goofballs up with a "Daily Grab Bag" surprise.

It's a bag for each of them that they get to reach in every day and pull a surprise to remind them mommy is thinking of them even when she's far away!

While I didn't get a picture of it - Mebbie scored a super neat science project of crystals growing into a tree - which she LOVED!

Meron has been wanting bath bombs for like... ever... and her bag had some!

She was stoked and went straight to the tub to try 'em out!

And falling squarely in the category of "What on earth were you thinking?" - she got Z-Dogg a mini sword.

Let me repeat that as cautionary announcement:

Z-Dogg has a mini-sword.

No less than two minutes after he had it opened - the "Don't do that with the sword..." statements began!

But ya know what? It's all good - because every night - I pull their bags out - they pull a surprise - and we talk about mommy and the team and we pray for them and it's a great way to stay connected some 8,000+ miles away!

You're a dope mommy, Laura... even from a distance!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

We Ask So Much

From church to the movies to goofing around to pizza for dinner... I had another blast of a day with this crew.

And as I was getting them through baths and showers and getting school clothes ready and lunches pre-packed... I got to thinking about them...

And just how much we ask of them as kids.

We ask 'em to sacrifice vacations, fall breaks, days off...

We've asked 'em to help save money, pinch in certain areas, give up certain things, basically re-route a lot of the family funds to Brighton Their World...

We've asked 'em to be strong and brave and help out when either mommy or daddy is gone. And sometimes they cry cuz they miss us (Zechie at the airport on Friday) - and sometimes they hide it beneath their tough exterior...

We've asked 'em to grow up a bit quicker... we're super honest 'round here and we talk about a lot of tough things from death (Brighton) to poverty to racism to being better people. We ask them to be more mature than any kid should have to be...

And while I was convicted a bit today by it all - as I just kicked back and allowed myself to be full on daddy all day - playing catch, eating junk food, watching "performances" and hearing songs being sung, breaking up fights and hugging and laughing and loving - I thought to myself:

"I don't think any of them would change a thing!"
I see it in their eyes when we talk and share about Brighton.

I hear the pride in their own voices when I overhear them talking about their brother or about Brighton Their World to their friends and what they get to be part of.

I see it when they jump at the chance to share at school or at church.

And they may try to act all gangster about it at times... but I think I know the real them.

God built them for this and He did the same for me and Laura and then He brought us all together to execute it.

It doesn't change what we have to ask of them though... and I am forever aware of it and grateful for their young but incredibly mature spirits and attitudes.

Goofballs... your sacrifices are not lost on Daddy. I am forever grateful for the young but amazing people you are!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Her Influence

Back in the day... there was no telling this guy anything.

"I'll never get married. I'll never have kids. No way."

I'd had some bad experiences and my stubbornness was the law of the land to me. I had it all figured out and nobody was going to tell me any differently.

Fast-forward to today... and I put on a badge that says "Child Advocate" every day when I walk into work and I've some how, some way dedicated and committed large chunks of my life to advocating for kids.

God's funny like that... isn't he?

Wanna know what was a big part of chipping away at my super tough guy, macho exterior that wanted nothing to do with kids?

The birth of this little girl in the mid 90s... that's what!

That's my niece Ansley...

The first child in my life that I would have died for...

The first child I "advocated" for and allowed to climb into my heart!

I mean look at us... I'm pretty sure she's laughing hysterically saying:

"Seriously, Uncle T... a beeper? A pager?"

A God I didn't even acknowledge back then - took the life of this little girl - and thrust her deep into my heart...

She loved me and laughed with me and taught me - with Him guiding - the LOVE OF A CHILD.

She was always a joy. Always funny. Always smiling and laughing.

And slowly... and surely... she helped to soften a hardened heart.

Years went by. I got married (God laughed at my previous stance)...

God gave us our kids and we started some work in His name... and I knew deep down in there somewhere - part of what brought me to even being able to do the work I do was the life of this little girl some 20 years ago.

And Laura and I prayed and prayed and prayed... we just knew that with as much influence she had had on ME - that she would be an amazing influence in the work going on at Brighton Academy.

And hear me... I could post a billion more pics of her life - cuz I have 'em - and she has never not loved me or my family any less than she started out with me.

I could post a bunch of those pics and tell a ton of tales of her life and her love...

But for now... I'll just post ONE more...

This one!

Because last night - with my whole crew around her - we prayed for her and sent her off with well-wishes and her Aunt Laura to head to Brighton Academy.

And my heart is full. Two of my favorite girls - headed off to be light shiners and life changers.

Ansley says crazy things like "I look up to you and Laura" and "I admire you and your life..." and crazy talk like that.

And she probably has NO IDEA what God did with my life through her.

Don't look up to me Ans! Look in the mirror and see God staring back... He used you more than you'll probably ever know.

I pray you have an amazing time and I can't wait to hear about it!

Thank you, Ansley!

Love, Uncle T

Friday, October 19, 2018

Z in a Tree


The title really says it all.

It's simple really...

Z in a Tree!

Love this little dude's infectious spirit!

Stay smiling, Z-Dogg!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I'll Keep It Warm For You, Daddy!

Fall break means no school tomorrow which means I told Z-Dogg he could stay up to watch the rest of the football game tonight.

"Okay Daddy! I'll keep your spot on the couch warm for you!" he declared.

Here's how I found him!

Zechie - I'll admit... you did a GREAT job keeping my seat warm, homie!

Next time we work on keeping our eyes open!

Sweet dreams, Z-Dogg!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bump the Set and Spike to Rest...

Somebody wrapped up their volleyball season this past week!

And while I ain't gonna lie... a reprieve from the hustling of getting everybody where they need to be is super nice...

I'm gonna miss watching her on the court!

She seemed to jump leaps and bounds this year - as did most of the girls on her team and the teams they played against!

Meron's serve has gotten SOLID and there were actual extended volleys - it was getting real out there!

She has definitely expressed an interest in getting involved in some more competitive play - so there may be some more league stuff on the horizon.

But for now... we rest!

Way to kill it out there this season Meron!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Daddy... Can I Sleep Like This?

He wandered into the living room - clearly employing STALL TACTICS - and asked:

"Uh... Daddy... Can I sleep like this?"

First off, little man... I see your attempts at stalling the inevitable.

Well-played homie... WELL-PLAYED!

And secondly... sure ya big goofball... go for it!

Sleep goofy, Z-Dogg... SLEEP GOOFY!