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

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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.

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Fundraising for the Middle Class

I have belonged to an organization for adoptive families who live in Oregon since before Davy came home. It’s mostly a social group who put on a few events a year. I find their Facebook page useful, but I have a pretty big community of other adoptive families and don’t particularly feel a need to “Join a group” to find people like me.

The few events that i have attend are always nice; and it’s nice to see families I haven’t seen in a while. It’s also nice for Davy to be in a gaggle of Ethiopians – I can find my people wherever I go. I am good that way. The group was very helpful when we were in process and I met a great group of waiting moms. Now that our kids have been with us for a few years, we still get together fairly often.

But a few weeks ago something happened with the group that really drove me nuts. The organization hosts a big picnic every year. It’s kind of their big event. As the event has grown, many of the expenses for the picnic have fallen on a few families (mostly board members), which i agree is wrong. 

In order to cover these expenses, they sent out some emails for a fundraiser. It didn’t just go out locally, it went out to several of the on-line Ethiopian support groups. You can bid online for the typical stuff you get at these kind of auctions, jewelry, coffee, soccer t-shirts etc. I was a little confused why we were doing such a huge fundraising effort. Was it for the kids in Ethiopia? Was it going to help other families adopt from Ethiopia? Was any of this money going to help Ethiopian immigrants living in Oregon (many of whom live in poverty). Nope. It was going to help raise funds for the picnic. A picnic that people who are attending could pay for. A picnic that while nice, isn’t necessarily doing much more then having our kids get together- which many of us do anyway. 

I made a few comments on Facebook, mostly clarifying that this money was being spent on a picnic, not on a social mission. The sale happened, so I let it go. THEN this week I see they are doing another fundraiser. That would be two fundraisers, for the same picnic. This time I made more direct comments on Facebook, stating that I didn’t understand why so much time and energy was used to raise funds for an event that is mostly attended by middle and upper middle class families. Why not just sell tickets?  I was respectful in my comments. I think that these are legitimate questions that should be answered (or at least asked). 

A board member chose to delete my comments. All. My. Comments.

Again, they were respectful, they were just asking the question “why” and giving others the option to ponder the same question. Why is this organization going through a lot of effort and time raising money for a picnic, when our kids come from a country with tremendous poverty? Why not just sell tickets? Why not ask the people who want to attend to just pay?

I understand that other groups raise funds for superfluous things, however I think when an organization tied to the adoption world, and Ethiopia in particular hosts a fundraiser, the assumption by many is that this organization is raising funds that will some way benefit Ethiopia and not just themselves. Furthermore, why would respectful comments be deleted just because a board member doesn’t agree with them?

Just something to think about. I can post it on my blog because at least it won’t be deleted here. 

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“So I am From Africa”

IMG_4648A few weeks ago we were having dinner at our fancy local supermarket. We like to go there because davy will actually eat the food and they have a tiny little play area, which she loves. On this particular instance there were two little girls there. They were both Ethiopian, i could tell, because I can spot a habasha a mile away. I am not sure if Davy can yet or was just attracted to the color of their skin. Our girl casually sidles up to these two and says “ Hi, I am Davy and i am from Africa”. They proceeded to play, fight, play, fight and laugh the only way little spunky Ethiopian girls know how. It was instantaneous recognition and kinship. The same thing happened at our friends Abe’s birthday party. She met a little girl, also Ethiopian and they just sidled up in the corner and created their own magic world. Not to say that this doesn’t happen with white kids, it does, but I don’t think it happens with the same intensity and recognition.

I think that as parents in a transracial family we do a solid medium job exposing her to kids like herself. We have a ton of friends who are adopted, our neighborhood and her kindergarten will pretty diverse, but right now our lives are admittedly very white. As adults we have very very few black friends. Whiter than they have ever been in our lives. Portland is a pretty segregated town. We haven’t put ourselves out there as much as we need to be. My friend Lori, who does probably does the best job I know, of creating relationships for herself and her kids with people of color often talks about how you have to make yourself uncomfortable for your kids. She is 1000% right.

I am admitting i made a pretty big mistake this summer. I put Davy in a very very white summer camp. I didn’t think about it. Her friends signed up, I thought “well Davy likes to dance and she loves Corrine and Adam, so lets do it”. What should have i done? Signed her up for the class at our local community center. It’s more diverse. I didn’t think about my kid having different needs than I do. It’s not the biggest mistake I will make as a parent, but I do feel kind of dumb about it.

To make matters worse, she isn’t even really likeing this camp. The first day I picked her up they said (I think I am going to get this a lot). “Oh Your Davy Beach’s Mother”. I answered, I laughed. She just wasn’t listening and running away. It sounds like her. It’s very difficult to get Davy to do something she doesn’t want to do. My daughter, God bless her, is neither a follower or a pleaser. Her teachers love her, because she is so smart and funny and challenging. Would I expect a 18 year old camp counselor to do the same? She only gets to know our girl for a week. I did call the camp and give suggestions to help her, that have worked in school. Like giving her special tasks, or just letting her do her own thing. Things like timeouts don’t work because they will NEVER win a battle of the wills. No they will not.

Yesterday, when I picked her up. The same counselor said “She was better but- she just has her own personality” She did not mean it as a compliment, but I totally took it as one.

So yeah, next year a camp with more diversity and one that has probably seen their fair share of strong sassy black girls. I am glad that Davy is young enough that we still have some time to learn from my mistakes.

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Moo Shu Pork Beach

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Last year on Mother’s Day weekend, we made the 50-hour trek to San Francisco to meet the newest member of our family, Moo.

She was originally from Idaho and due to someone seeing something special in her she ended up in a last chance adoption program at the San Francisco Humane Society, where my friend Audra works. Audra knew we were looking for a bulldog, and seeing something special in Moo, sent us a photo and said “she is yours if you want her”.
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So we drove and drove and drove.

Moo Shu and Davy hit it off right away, which was the most important thing. Moo Shu and Bella became best friends on the planet. However, one destroyed leather couch later and a “Reactive Rover” class at the humane society, the other aspect of Moo’s very sweet, highly protective, very neurotic personality came out.
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So in the past year, we have learned a lot about our dog, she is the biggest hearted ass-hat on the planet. Our neighbor (a vet) suggested that maybe we try some anti-anxiety medicine on our girl. It has worked like a charm. IMG_4177

There is no longer hours of starring off into space, working herself up into a tizzy over how the light shifts when the trees blow. She is calmer. She is still herself. A sweet, giant, goofy dog whose tooth sticks out when she smiles. She still runs laps in our back yard, but this time its for real squirrels not imaginary ones (a mix of a bulldog and pointer makes for a very inellegent pointing technique). She is a not-so charming closet pooper and she does like to hop up on the dining room table and finsih our food. BUT,She sleeps with Davy every single night and happily puts up with her antics. She has learned to enjoy a good long pet and she can snore like the best of them. And this is her happy sound http://youtu.be/F_XaIuw6K6Q

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She is a good dog. She is our dog. It has taken a year to say I love Moo Shu Pork Beach, but, by golly I do.

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Five Months

IMG_3650It has been too long. It’s spring now. Our sidewalk is full of the helicopters that fall from maple trees. We moved. My mom got sick and then got well. My father in law, nephew, bother and best friend visited. Davy Beach is three and a half.

She is growing. Still a peanut but catching up to her friends. She is full of imaginary friends, talking animals, tea parties, princesses and fairies. She doesn’t leave her house with out her crown. If people ask her if she is a princess she responds (annoyed)”No I am a queen”.

She prefers her shoes mismatched. She wants her hair to be “in puffs with some long beads”. She jumps in the water and swims to me without her water wings. She is fearless. She says she is a mermaid. She has a giant heart and those she lets in she loves big time.

Today she said “Mom, come here i have a secret”. I leaned close as she whispered “The secret is imagination”.

Yes it is sweet thing.

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Thanksgivemukah, Gratitude from Near and Far

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Our fist year of a family of three I had a holiday crisis of sorts. We were making a huge deal over Davy’s first Christmas but less so of Davy’s first Hanukah. It was really more of a crisis about how you raise your child, born in Africa in a culturally Jewish/Non Jewish home. I have a friend from high school who is gifted with spiritually and wisdom. She is an adult adoptee and practicing Jew and really (HINT) should consider becoming a Rabbi. If she was my Rabbi I would go to synagogue. Fact. Read her blog. You will want her to be your rabbi too, even if you aren’t Jewish.

She told me to calm down. That we get to make the rules. We get to say what is Jewish and how we want to bring that into our home. That I need to let go of my preconceived notions and baggage of my semi-religious upbringing. To let go. To make new traditions. Davy will love what ever we do. That year my mom found the worlds greatest kid menorah. It has children from around the world, and even includes Ethiopia.

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This year Hanukah fell on Thanksgiving and two weeks after Davy’s third birthday. I really didn’t want to do MORE gifts. The kid has toys coming out of her ears and frankly, it felt disingenuous to just throw more stuff at her. So we kept it simple. We just lit the menorah and said the prayers. You know what? It was magical. Davy tentatively says the prayers with me. She got to pick the candles and the “guys” she gets to lit. She always chooses the Ethiopian guy. She loves looking at her Menorah. The one that her Baba gave her. It makes me happy. For years I felt so conflicted about my upbringing. We are keeping it simple and she loves it. Thank you my Leslie for releasing me of my weird childhood version of Judism and giving me the notion that we can just do it the way we want to. Really. Thank you.

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Another wonderfully unexpected thing that has happened this year is that my friend Courtney has giving me a very special gift for Hanukah. She has given me 8 days of wishes via text message. It’s funny and sweet and random and kind and I love getting it everyday. I will be sad when it ends because I really do cherish them. It’s like an afermation that comes all the way from Southwest Portland. Thank you a million and one times Courtney. They make me laugh and feel loved. I can’t wait for Davy is old enough to appreciate 8 days of text messages from her mother, because I plan on keeping this as a family tradition.
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So there you have it. A lil’ bit of Judism and lots of gratitude and TWO blog posts in 2 weeks. Happy season of gratitude.

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