To Davy on the Eve of Your Fourth Birthday

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Dear Davy
You are almost four now and there are things that I think you need to know. I want to tell you this because I don’t think it was ever said enough to me as a kid.

You are a kid. No longer a toddler or pre-schooler, you are big and mature and you know how to love.

You are beautiful inside and out. You will get a lot of attention for your looks, and you should because you are a stunner, but it is what is inside your heart and mind that count most. You may not like the attention now, but I do believe that life is a little easier because you are beautiful. It’s okay, just the luck of the draw. Be kind, don’t take advantage of people. Tell your friends they are beautiful too.

Sometimes when you are playing soccer I watch you run on the field and you are faster then all of the kids. You get a little self conscious and slow down. Please don’t slow down ever. You take so much joy in movement and your body. Please don’t ever feel like you need to dumb or slow your self down for others. Lead them in trying to catch you. Make everyone around you move faster. It’s your gift.

You love so big. You are so shy at first but once you let someone into your heart they are in big time. I love this about you, Those you love feel it big time. You will be a very loyal friend. I know that some of these kids that you play with now will be life long friends. You also need to learn to protect your heart from hurt. Kids can be mean and bewildering. Know that is has nothing to do with you. You are fine. As we say at home, sometimes kids can be “big jerks”. And you are fine. You are better than fine, you are great.

That said, do you ever become a “big jerk” don’t make others feel excluded or cry. Use your heart for all the bigness and love that you can muster, especially for those who need compassion the most.

People are going to ask you questions about your self and your history. You don’t have to tell them anything. It’s your story. There is no shame in your story, its just yours to share, not mine, or daddys our your friends or anyone. BUT know this. You are LOVED on two continents. LOVED big time. I think maybe this is where your giant heart comes from.

And most importantly, know this. Your daddy and I promise to always honor who you are. We love you one million precent. We know you. We are in your corner and we will always fight for you.

Happy Birthday big girl.

Contrarian

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Davy, by nature is a contrarian. Our bedtime rituals usually go like this,

Me: Hey Davo, lets read Olivia
Davy: No I want to read Thomas

Breakfast time is like this:
Me: Loooook Davy new cereal, I think your going to like it (it was Honey Bunches of Oats)
Davy: (touching it with her tongue) “It’s disgusting”

Getting dressed:
Me: Maybe you should wear your rain boots today, its gonna rain
Davy: No, I am going to wear my flip-flops

I know this is an age thing, but trust me, she is a child raised by contrary parents. We know a fellow contrarian when we spot one. Even when she plays with her dolls, they are contrary to each other.

It’s just who she is, we have figured out ways to trick her into thinking it was her own idea and ways around her contrary personality. We always tell people that when you first meet her, treat her as a semi-feral cat. Don’t look at her in the eyes and don’t’ come off as too needy. You follow those rules you will be fine.

I realize i have made a giant error when this comes to her Ethiopian identify. It’s really really important to us, that she is proud of who she is and where she comes by. I kind of find ways to work Ethiopia into the conversation all the time. I make us go to every Ethiopian event that is available to us, we buy her books and just generally work it into the conversation. It’s on my mind all the time. It’s really not on her mind that often, and i say that, because she is almost four and spends a lot more time thinking about My Little Pony (which is what she should be thinking about).

This weekend we went to an Ethiopian dance class. It was great class, but it totally freaked her out. Mostly, because she gets super overwhelmed by noise and chaos. It some point they were playing a game and she just burst into tears and ran into my arms. It was too too much for her.

It was at the class that I had a kind of epiphany. I realized that I was doing to her, what my dad did to me regarding my Judaism. He took it as a personal affront that I was never that interested in it. I still think he feels that he failed on some level because my brother and I aren’t’ very religious. It was literally shoved down my throat from an early age, and because of my contrary nature, I rebelled. If I am not careful, Davy will do the same.

I need to do a better job listening to my child and honoring her nature. I will still introduce Africa and Ethiopia into her life, but be more neutral about it. Let her come to it in her own time. Last week I bought her three books, Harry the Dirty Dog, This is Ethiopia and another one about monsters. I kept saying “lets read the Ethiopia one first” which, because she is contrary,she didn’t want to do. We read Harry a million times. I think if I just presented her the three books with out any value judgement, she would have eventually picked up the Ethiopia book. Also she hasn’t even gotten to the monster one yet, which is fine. I need to treat the Ethiopia book like the monster book, zero pressure. More neutral in attitude. Not expecting anything from her also separating her version of her African identity from what I feel like she should be experiencing.

Because we all know Davy Beach will get to it, in her own time, on her own terms. After all that is who she is.

Here’s to Chesire…. Here’s to Cheese

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When I was younger I had an album of Pete Seeger singing kids songs. I loved it. I listened to it as a kid and then got reacquainted with the album again in my twenties. Then I forgot about it again, until recently. I was getting tired of the same music I always play in the car (you can only listen to Call Me Maybe a million times before you want to stab your eyes out) and I downloaded the album.

Davy was riveted. On our road trip to California we listened to the Ramona Quimby audio books (19 hours) and she is really into listening to stories. When the song “Here’s to Cheshire… Here’s to Cheese” came on I got goosebumps. It quickly became Davy’s favorite too. I was so happy to listen to it together. We would both sing a long to the chorus together. Really, if you don’t have the album or know the song, you should. It’s really beautiful. Her other favoite is “Henry my Son” which she refers to as the “dead kid song”, because of this:

Where have you been all the day, Henry my boy?
Where have you been all the day, my pride and joy?
In the woods, dear mother
In the woods, dear mother
Mother be quick, I got to be sick and lay me down to die

We are never really in the car that long and we have to listen to the same 3 songs over and over we never really make it to the end. Today I started the album after those songs, so we can finally listen to the rest of the album.

The final song is “This Land is Your Land”. I turned off the music and told the story of how I sang that song to her on the plane as we landed in the United States from Ethiopia. Our tiny baby, our newest citizen, landed in Washing DC the weekend of July 4th. It was a beautiful quiet moment. I will never forget it. As I was telling her this story, I got a little teary. It seems like so long ago, but I can still smell her. The faint oder of Ethiopia, roasting coffee, incense, and diesel gas on her, holding my tiny daughter, singing a song that has meant so much to me. I paused to catch my breath.

She says “moooommm can we listen to the song about the dead kid again”.

alright…..

Buh Bye Binky

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Davy has used a binky since she came home. She loves her binky. At night she requires three things, binky, blankie and George. They were a trio that fallowed her around everywhere. We have been talking about getting rid of it for a long time. One night, a few weeks ago, she lost it in the middle of the night. Andy (at 3 a.m.) decided “okay your done, no more binky”. It kind of messed her up for a few days. Plus we were going out of town and leaving her for a few nights with friends and I felt like it was too many changes at once. So we decided that she could have the bink when we were gone but when we came back we needed to be done.

I asked her how she wanted to get rid of the binky, did she want to throw it away? bury it? put it somewhere special? She wanted to put it in a box “like Mezmur has” with a dancing woman on it and jewels. Gotta love my girl with her simple tastes. We found the box on Amazon. She put the binky in it. For the first week she carried her binky in a box everywhere. It was near, in its little precious box.

This week she hasn’t even asked for it. Like it or not, my little one is growing up. She is loosing those last vestiges of her baby self. It really does go so quickly.

We Are Not Outdoor People

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We always joke that we are raising an indoor child. It’s true. We are indoor people. So when our dear friends Erika and Susan asked if we wanted to go Yurt camping on the Oregon coast, we said “um okay, i guess, uh sure” we were that enthusiastic.

Truth be told, the key to vacationing with kids is to bring more kids, the key to vacationing with adults is to bring wine. Ergo, we had a fabulous time, despite our indoor nature. All of us had a good time. We all privately admitted that it was more fun than the horrible San Francisco trip.

So there is something to watching your kid run two steps and tumble into the sand laughing her head off. Getting progressively wetter and more naked as the hours ran on, until she had to ride her scooter back to the yurt in a sweatshirt and bare butt. There is something about feeding sleepy girls hot cocoa by the fire, there is something two having kind, like minded parents in your life who could take you out of your head for a bit. There is something about fresh salty air that makes us all grow a little taller

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Her Own Friends

The other day I went to pick up Davy from school, she was still asleep. I caught her three friends (funny, sweet, feisty girls like Davy) leaning over her, whispering “Davy wake up it’s time to play”.

I love witnessing her growing independence and the choices she makes.

This

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My friend Autumn took this photo of me least night. Our girls were playing and Mezmur had some tattoos she wanted to share. Davy wanted the tattoo with the purple sparkles that Mez had been saving for herself. Davy couldn’t have the tattoo and she started to cry, at first it was a vaguely fake cry of frustration. Sometimes it passes, and sometimes she forgets why she was so upset in the first place and just starts sobbing uncontrollably. That is what happened yesterday. I put Davy on my lap (she is naked because they were playing in the slip and slide) and tried to calm her down.

I never knew what these moments look like. I never really thought about what they looked like. A few hours when Autumn sent me the photo, I was kind of blown away.

Dinkenesh, Ages 3-4

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Every year I send photos to Davy’s birth family in Ethioipia. They are simply titled “Dinkinesh ages 3-4”. In it I try to sum up a year in about 100 photos. How do you sum up the essence of who your child is in 100 photographs? This week I started to compile the photographs and I was really stuck by how much change occurred this year. Very specifically this summer we have seen huge changes.

We always say that Davy’s cognitive leaps are so much painful then her physical leaps. At the end of July we took a trip to San Francisco and it was a really hard trip. In part, when Davy acts like a horrible 3 1/2 year old I really start to question my parenting abilities. This was a really really hard week, in a busy city, with a cranky kid. It was horrible. I left me feeling very depressed and like I was the worlds most mediocre mom.

Then at the beginning of August, Davy took a really long nap and woke up so much better. She began her imaginative play, she began making up games with her friends, she began to show empathy, she started telling really long stories. One day a friend made her mad and she got so emphatic, explaining what she did that was wrong. I had to laugh. She recently, she went down to my sewing room and said “wow you like to make stuff” and I said “its what i do, i make stuff for people i love”. She said “thank you momma”. She got it, she is growing up. She know’s love comes in many forms.

Yesterday she took another long nap (now becoming a rarity), and I swear, she grew two inches. That’s how our girl rolls.

Tonight she ate dinner outside, away from the adults with her two beloved friends Abe and Beti. It was so small, but it felt so huge. She is becoming a kid, a peer to her much older friends.

This summer a very dear friend was visiting. We took her and her family to this water park downtown. It is a tiny waterfall that all the kids can play splash in and its a local favorite. Someone had left this giant beach ball, and Davy took off rolling around and splashing the water. She was lost in her own physical self. This tiny girl with her giant ball. My friend said, “remember this image, because that is the best of childhood”. I will never forget it.

So in our 100 photos, I wish that I can explain all these thoughts. That this kid that we share, wakes up and is a different person, that she dances every time she hears Katy Perry, that she can be happy in her own world with a ball and water, that she knows how to be an amazing friend, that she understands that she is SO loved by all that meet her.

I think about going back to Ethiopia every day. Every day. I want them to know her as we know her. Someday we will go when she is ready. For right now, 100 photos will have to do.

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Three Years

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Today was our familivery. Three years ago, we stepped off a plan that originated in Ethiopia. Three years ago, my mom met her granddaughter for the first time.

This year was the first year that davy really “got what it meant”. We decided to make it a special day for us. Andy took the day off work and we went to a magical place called Enchanted Forrest. It is a weird amusement park from the 1970s that still holds a tiny bit of charm, in a Stephen Kind kind of way.
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It was a great day. A really really great day. One for the record books. Davy was totally in her element, dancing and staring at the ancient attractions is wonder. We came home, rested, and then walked to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, where we ate our faces off. Then she got a Sponge Bob Popsicle and we went home.

Three years ago, I longed for the simple pleasures of a great day with our kid. Not all days as a parent are easy. Not all days are ones that need to be appreciate and are special. Some are andsome aren’t. Today the clouds and stars aligned and we had a really really magical and terrific day. IMG_5194

Don’t Worry I’ll Be That Fat Girl at the Gym

About 6 weeks ago I was hit with a bout of depression. It is not unusual for me and it’s a feeling that is all too familiar. I am not one to dwell in my depression. I usually think “wow I am feeling really depressed. I need to do something about this asap”. I did what I needed to do. I talked about it, I saw my doctor and I made a concerted effort to work on my relationship with Andy. We have a good relationship, but well, you know…we have a kid. It’s easy to lose sight of each other.

I was also feeling exhausted all the bloody time. I am an eater. I love sugar. Some moms can’t wait to have that glass of wine. Me? Screw the wine, gimme cake. The drinkers are often thinner than the eaters.

So i decided i needed to do something so I could have more energy. I needed to curb my crappy eating. I just wanted to feel better. So I did, what I always do, I joined Weight Watchers. They have changed the program around a bit and its a little easier and more user friendly. I am doing okay on it. Nobody loves having to lose weight.

I also joined a gym. It is one of those bootcamp style gyms that promises to “kick ass”. I realize that I am not easing my way into it. Also joining a traditional gym never works for me. I hate going. I hate treadmills. I need a class and a schedule to make this work. Also I like that this place is so hard, I don’t have a lot of time to think about how miserable i am. I read the yelp reviews and it said that this place, while physically challenging, is very nice. There is no fat shaming. The instructors meet you where you are at.

So I have been going. Here is what is hard. I know am totally that fat girl at the gym. It’s okay. I am 43 years old. I know who I am and frankly, I am okay with who I am. I am not doing this to look better (that is an added benefit). My 3 1/2 year old can out run me. She is fast. Crazy-Ethiopian fast, and I need to be able to keep up with her. And most importantly, I am a much better parent when I am not exhausted all the time.

While going to the gym is physically freaking torture, emotionally its even harder. It is hard going to a place, where you are not used to going, where everyone is fitter and younger. It is hard to be in a place where you are publicly struggling to do something that others can do. Where people can follow the instructor while my dyslexic brain is trying to figure out which is left and which is right. It really sucks. But here is the thing- every time I leave, I leave a little teary because I stayed and I did it.

When i lived in New York my friend Erica and I used to go to the beach. We used to joke that it was okay because there was always going to be someone fatter in Coney Island, so we could just blend right it. It’s a mean joke that is told by my less empathetic self. There is a little bit of truth in it though. Women judge each other harshly, and we judge ourselves the harshest at all. If I can say to myself “hey I am not the fattest one” then I can make myself feel better, even by cheaply putting someone else down.

Today, i totally realized that I am that woman. I am indeed the fattest woman at the gym, and I am working my fucking ass off and every single time I lift that fucking kettleball. But it’s okay. I need to learn to judge myself less harshly. I am a 43-year old, over weight woman with a beautiful, fast and strong daughter. I don’t want her to grow up judging herself or others as harshly as I have done in the past. I need to work on accepting who I am, even if its the fattest woman at the gym, working her ass off. It’s really okay. For me being the fattest woman at the gym, now just feels like a badge of honor, a badge of courage. I have to remind myself of that everytime I go.

This post isn’t about about my weight-loss journey. Like someone with a drug or alcohol problem, I have been on and off the wagon of healthy eating my whole life. Right now my goal is one chin up and to be able to keep up with my speed demon of a child. If i fall off the wagon, don’t damn or shame or laugh at me (or anyone else). This shit is hard.