Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

Happy New Year!

Well, 2016. That was... well. It was a year to remember, and very possibly regret. And who knows what's coming for us in 2017. Life, for sure, in all its horrendous, glorious beauty. I don't really expect anyone to scroll through 30 pictures of my family in 2016. I did this for myself, mostly. Because WOW, it is all blur.  So it was helpful to scroll through memory lane (ie, our ridiculously bloated iPhoto folder) and try to punctuate our year. 

So here we go... 2016.

January. Happy New Year! We have no idea what we are in for! HOORAY!

February: ALL of winter happened at once, in one weekend snowstorm. This is us taking the subway to go sledding, as one does when one's car is buried under 4 feet of snow. (aside: I've never seen a group of people as gleefully attacking snow drifts as my West Indian neighbors did that day. Take THAT Winter!)

Still holding to our monthly date night, a habit that, alas, we did not finish the year strongly on. Here we are selfie-ing at the Whitney Museum.

That time they both had strep. 

City childhood. Climbing poles instead of trees.

April: Daniel is the star of his Hip Hop dance recital. Then he decides he doesn't want to take dance class anymore because tween.
 Lily turns 6! Daniel turns 10!

May: Is is summer yet?
June: I made a card with this photo for all her teachers with the caption "We Made It!" because PHEW. 

 July: Family Photo! Family Birthdays! Why is everyone yelling!?!

 Is it summer yet?

Proof that yes, I make my children do school work during the summer.
'Cause summer days are L-O-N-G.

I turned 40! Lord help me, I was an emotional wreck over this. Also I cut all my hair off.

Hubby turns 40! He takes it so much better than me!

 Summer! Road trip clowning around.

August: Maine. I could look at this view forever.

Lily charms her way into the band at our local fair.

 country childhood.
 city childhood.

Labor Day Weekend: We visit beloved family on the West Coast and LILY IS A FLOWER GIRL.
Many, many years of joy for our beautiful sister and brother-in-law!
(Lily: that was the best day of my life!)
 The pilots invited Lily to explore the cockpit on our way home. This was not terrifying at all.
 September: New classroom! New grade! New everything! All the weeks after I snapped this photo on the first day back at work is a blur.
 My wonderful husband got me a Saturday morning yoga session at the local museum. 'Cause I might have been a teensy bit stressed out this Fall.

Celebrating Meskel with a tiny bonfire

October: Obligatory walking in Nature and Admiring Foliage.
November: Campaigning.
 Joyously voting for the First Woman President! gulp.
Photos of the slow drunken nightmare later that night are unavailable.
 Happy Thanksgiving! ("Hi, my name is Lily and I eat about 6 foods, but one of them is Peking Duck. Go figure!")

 This is happening next June. Goodbye little boy, hello middle schooler! Hold me.

December: Merry Everything! Praying for Peace and a bit of sanity for 2017. 
Happy New Year dear Internets. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Three Reasons I'm Wearing a Safety Pin

phone banking for Hillary in happier, saner times...
There has been a lot of cross talk about safety pins in the post election whirlwind. First conceived by Britons concerned about the anti-immigrant/anti-muslim backlash after the Brexit vote this summer, the safety pin idea jumped the pond after 11/8/16. The concept is simple: wear a safety pin to show vulnerable people (refugees, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ folks, etc) that they are "safe" with you. It's a small act of solidarity and symbolism, and it's a whole lot easier than wearing a full length dress with the Declaration of Independence written on it.

BUT... some folks pushed back, like isn't this just another lazy way of showing 'solidarity' without having to actually DO anything risky or self-denying like protesting or escorting women at Planned Parenthood or boycotting Macys or something. Is this the ice bucket challenge of the year?

Well, I think, Yes. And. That ice bucket challenge did actually lead to new medical breakthroughs and treatments...

I've been wearing a safety pin on my clothes or jacket every day since Election Day. Here is why:

1. It reminds me of who I am. It can be so easy to get distracted by real life- by laundry piles and trip slips and grocery lists. It is fun to think about pie recipes or Christmas decorations. I wear the pin to give me a little mental pinch- don't forget. Don't forget that you are a smart woman, a Democrat, a Unitarian-Universalist, a mother of two beautiful African-American children, a New Yorker, and a teacher of children of special needs. I wear the pin to keep me focused on doing the vital work of being fully present in my life.

2. It might give someone else a sign that they are safe with me. If even one vulnerable person is felt held in love by my little pin, then it is worth it. If even one of the parents of my Muslim students feels a little bit relieved upon seing the pin, it's worth it. If a grocery clerk or a postal worker or a neighbor or a kid on the bus feels a tiny bit more ok seeing that pin, it's worth it.

3. It reminds me that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This election was not normal. The outcome is not normal. (I'm not prone to believe conspiracy theories, but it does seem like some Russion interference happened on 11/8, and that is both bad and really, really not ok.) This "transition period" is not normal. The President elect holding meetings with both foreign leaders and foreign businessmen and Neo-Nazis in his gold plated penthouse. NOT NORMAL. A President Elect tweeting nonsense and settling fraud lawsuits for 25 million dollars... NOT NORMAL. Most of the time I can walk around my life distracted by my to-do lists and grocery shop and worry about our budget. I live in my lovely "bubble" and I'm not going to apologize for it. BUT, the world right now is reeling from this terrible election, and the pin reminds me to stay grounded and stay sharp.

Do you wear a pin? Why? or Why not?

catching up - Ups and Downs

what's been happening with the Injera Mama Family this year...

UP: We started a school year without too much drama this year!
DOWN: We have really, really slacked off in our injera and wat eating. Like really. There's a whole lot of pizza and tacos and fries happening.

UP: Lily is doing really well in school this year! (PHEW)
DOWN: This is the last year Daniel will be in elementary school. I'm feeling a lot of feelings about his upcoming transition to Middle School. gulp.

UP: We refinanced our mortage!
DOWN: We will spend all the extra money on fixing our broken tile floors (someone is going to lose a toe)

UP: We traveled to California for a family wedding. Lily got to be Flower Girl, which was, in her words, THE BEST DAY OF HER LIFE. She had so much fun going down the aisle they had her do it twice.
UP: We got to see my cousins for the first time in 5 years, which was awesome.

UP: I started a new teaching position in the same school- self contained Special Ed! It's amazing!
DOWN: I now spend 1-2 hours every night working, or feeling guilty for not working, or worrying about my extra-special kids, or worrying about if all my worry and work is hurting my own children.  More worry and more work, in a nutshell.

UP: We are pretty confident that our Ethiopian family is healthy and stable right now.
DOWN: Ethiopia is not so stable or safe at the moment, so we won't get to see our beloved family in 2017. Hoping for 2018. Hoping and hoping.

UP: I turned 40! Hooray for all the giving a @#$* I don't do anymore!
DOWN: I turned 40. yikes. I should really start eating better and seeing doctors and stuff.

UP: Took my daughter to phone bank and then vote for (what we hoped would be) the First Woman President.

DOWN: Election Day 2016. sigh.

And how are you?!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dear Hillary,

Secretary Clinton
Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton,
120 West 45th Street, Suite 2700,
New York, NY 10036.

November 13, 2016

Dear Hillary,

Thank you.

Thank you for running for President. Thank you for your decades of service to our country.  And, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry that you didn't win the Presidency, because you sure would have made a great one.

We took our 6 year old daughter and our 10 year old son to vote with us. We live in an African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the line to vote snaked through the entire first floor of our school polling site. Everyone was cheerful and patient and looking forward to voting for the first woman President.

When we came home my daughter pulled out some paper and her markers and said, I'm going to write to Hillary and ask her to change the laws so I can become President someday too!

My children were born in Ethiopia, and adopted by us at ages 5 (my son) and 15 months (his sister). My daughter is like you- fiercely strong, determined, energetic, smart and passionate. Who knows, maybe the laws will be changed, and my African princess will ascend to the highest office.

I know my daughter will do something amazing with her life, and a small portion of that will be due to seeing you, a strong woman, run for President.

I know I have been inspired by this election. I've been inspired to speak my mind more freely. I've learnt the value of my vote, and to work for everyone to have that amazing gift (and to use it!)

So thank you, Madame Secretary. I hope you are enjoying a very, very well deserved luxury vacation in some warm and beautiful place. And after that, I look forward to seeing what amazing work you will do, 'cause I know- you're not done yet.

Thank you, and God Bless you.

- Becky 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

All American Birthday Party

This summer we went to a birthday party for one of my son's friends. The friend is a smiling, sweet girl with golden ringlets. She walks around the world like a Disney princess and is destined to break many, many hearts (hopefully not Daniel's!)

The birthday party was at our local YMCA. We splashed in the pool and then ate pizza and pasta and sliders with dripping hair in the rec room. The kids played silly games for silly prizes and then cut into a huge hot pink cake and were sent home with a giant goody bag of candy.

Sounds like any birthday party you've ever been to, right? And it was, it was absolutely perfect.

Because it was full of Americans- the beautiful blond birthday girl. And her gorgeous Spanish mother, and her sweet abuela, and her doting gay uncle, and her neighbors, two moms, and her curly haired mixed race cousins, and my African children, her friends. Every shade of human was there. Every level of ability to speak English, every kind of immigrant status, every kind of gender and sexuality and ages and faiths too. All having a blast playing freeze dance and eating pink frosted cake.

I remember thinking, way back on that hot July day, that THIS is the America I want to live in. THIS is the America my husband and I brought our Ethiopian children to live in. This is the American I love.

Well, apparently a whole bunch of my fellow white people don't like the multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-lingual country we've built. So they voted a racist, sexist, hateful man to be our next President.

I'm having a very hard time with this, and I know a lot of you are too. It's hard to imagine, especially for those of us who enjoy multi-racial, multi-faith and multi-cultural families and communities, how much other people hate us. It's hard to imagine just how many people in America hate and fear us.

This is a terrifying time, for so many reasons. We don't know which of the many crazy campaign promises Trump made he will keep. We don't know who of the many crazy, hateful people who have campaigned with him will get cabinet positions. We don't know if the Republican Congress will go along with the Trump agenda or push back.  We don't know how many "nice guys" voted for Trump out of Republican loyalty or misguided economic interests, and how many people voted for him because he is a racist.

There are so many lies and so much crazy. The one thing we do know is that there are a whole lot more work to do. Like many people who believe in a diverse, inclusive and respectful America, I've been woken up. My sweet bubble was shattered on election night. So here I am again, at my little computer with my little blog that I had all but abandoned (it's been a very busy season in our lives, and I found my well run dry)

We use the weapons and the tools we have. I have some words and I have a tiny little platform upon which to hang them up. I hope that if you believe in justice and fairness and respect for all you will pick up whatever tools you have and use them to build a better America - in the next 2 years, in the next 4 years... Use your phone to call your representatives. Use your voice to protest and stand up for those who are vulnerable. Use your fingers to type and your hands to heal and protect. Use your wallet to support organizations that defend your values and ideals.

And above all, use your heart. Love as hard as you can. It is the only thing that can defeat so much hate.

In the future we will hopefully build, I really want to invite you to a birthday party- a tan and pink and brown, laughing in all the languages, praying in all the faiths, holding all the hands, all-American, pink-frosted cake birthday party!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Clearing the cobwebs...

Once again I sit at my computer as Americans wage war against each other.  I have written before about gun violence, and policing, and the unnecessary, tragic deaths of young black people due to fear and racism. I find I'm running out of words. Tears come easier.

My own black child is 10 now, and he knows. He knows without me even telling him, even though I turn off the news when he comes into the kitchen. He knows; he sees my face; he sees my fear.

Yesterday we were walking through a peaceful, multi-racial neighborhood on a very hot day, on our way to eat at a Senegalese restaurant (which had its windows and doors open, but its AC off, because it's always this hot in Senegal, what is everyone so stressed about a little heat!?) My child sees another black boy his age carrying a big plastic water gun, on his way to the park probably, to cool off. He says, "I hope the police don't kill him."

Gallows humor, from my 10 year old black son.  He knows enough now to joke.

I asked him if he was afraid. He said, "nope."

My son, my Ethiopian lion. Thank G-d for his strong spirit. Mine feels crushed under the weight of all this; mine feels hopeless. I grasp onto his strength today...

Maybe, maybe when he has reached my age he will not fear for his children. Maybe we will fix this.  Maybe we will not be killing each other 30 years from now.

500 people killed by officers already this year; how can this be happening!?!

I meant to write about other things today- I meant to try and clear the cobwebs off this blog and see if I can breath some life into it. It's been a while since I wrote about birthday parties and trips to Sesame Place and how much the end of the school year saps my strength (so much, so very much happening allatonce. This post says it all, perfectly.)

Those things are happening too- we fight over screen time and we celebrate milestones (we made it through a difficult school year, phew!) we bake cakes and we take our water guns to the park too. It happens, all of it- life in great piles - heaps of love and struggles and chores and homework and dishes to do. Sometimes it feels too difficult to sort it out into a short blog post- here is what happened, here is a cute photo to illustrate my point. It's all happening at once- the shootings and the election (Good G-d this election!) and the laundry and the work and the birthday cake.

Now it is summer. The great gift of my career as a teacher is that I get 2 months each year to breath. Really breath. Sit on my front step or my parents' porch at the beach and breath deeply. Slow it all down, try and sort it all out. See all the glory and G-d in the messy heap of our amazing lives.

(I wish everyone had this gift of time off- time is the most precious gift we can receive. Yes, I've been listening to Hamilton obsessively... haven't you?!)

So here we are. Here is a cute picture to illustrate my point- the kids are growing up, fast as rockets. I'm growing up to. I turned 40 this week. Phew. It was scary- like turning the page in a terrifying book - I'm not sure what will be on the next page. I'll see if I can write to keep up...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Gun Control, Nerf, and my son

first let me just blow some of the dust off this thing... 

okay, here we go. Obviously there are lots of cobwebs I need to clear out on this page, and I plan to (what HAVE we been doing for the last 3 months?!)... but not today.

Today I'm going to have a conversation with my son about guns. Our son is 10, a tall strapping African-American about to-be-teen-man. And he's been asking for a set of Nerf toy guns since his birthday. And we keep saying no, and not explaining why.

Because I didn't think I could have the conversation without crying.

Because I was scared of admitting to him how scared I am.

Because I don't want him to be scared to be who his is.

But this is America. And apparently, there are very few people who can feel safe here just being who they are. Trump does, and people who look and sound like him, but that's about it.

So tonight I'm going to put a little rainbow candle on our table, and light it, and tell them about what happened in Orlando, and how we feel about it, and how we feel about guns. Which is, we hate them. We hate them and we will not have them, even ones that shoot soft plastic pellets, in our house. I will show my son a photo of Tamir. And I will say this my child, this is why I get so upset. This is why you cannot play with those things, not here, not in the park, not at your friend's house.

I'm planning on laying it all out for him, as calmly and as not-crying-embarrassingly as I can.  I will tell them:

This family believes everyone is worthy of love and respect. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

This family believes guns should only be in the hands of the military and the police and maybe a hunter, far, far, far out in the woods. That it is never, ever okay to touch or play with a gun.

This family knows that there is much, much more work to be done to ensure the safety and respect of all people, and we are committed to being a part of that work.

Our family's faith is Unitarian-Universalist, and our faith calls for us to love and respect each other- no matter our race, our religion, our gender, or our abilities. Not everyone shares that idea. Some people hate others because of who they are. This is not okay. But in the face of hatred, we will express only love. (Yes, even to Trump, although that's hard, because I really, really would like to punch that guy.)

This is pretty heavy stuff for a 6 year old and a 10 year old to hear, I know. But we live in a heavy world. We live surrounded by screens that are constantly shouting bad news at us. And my faith calls for me to hold onto hope- even if it is just the thin scrap I am grasping at today. That thin hope is this- that my children, and their friends and their co-workers, will live in a safer world, and be kinder to each other, and generously give each other the space to be who they are. Every single one.

Because  love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Lily and I went shopping today. She's been asking for two years to go to this dress shop we pass by every day. 

Today we finally went in! It did not disappoint. Fabulous poofy sparkly dresses everywhere!

Lily had a lot of fun loving all the dresses, and finally picked out two "birthday" dresses, plus... Her flower girl dress!

Her aunt is getting married this summer, and Lily has the great honor of Flower Girl. She is SO EXCITED! 

 (I may be a teeny-tiny bit excited too!)

Before I took her picture she said, "Wait! I have to put on lipstick!" 

I may have a little fashionista on my hands....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I gave up Facebook for Lent and this is what happened...

Absolutely Nothing!

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha... no seriously. I probably did miss an engagement announcement or some really cute baby photos, but mostly, I didn't miss Facebook at all. In fact, I would give it up altogether, except for a few connection on there that are precious and important to me - like other adoptive moms, and some far away friends whom I don't get to see in real life.

I don't know about yours, but for the last 6 months my Facebook "newsfeed" has looked something like this:

baby photo

No matter what new sophisticated emoticons FB puts next to the "life" button, a newsfeed full of negativity and politics was really stressing me out. I found I was dreading opening it up, but that I also was addicted to looking at it every day. Facebook was sucking up a lot of my precious time, and making me stressed out and disconnected.

So when the Lenten season came along, even though I'm not Catholic, I decided to give up this stressful habit for a while and see what happened.

I was surprised by how easy it was. I'm not the best at will power (ask my too tight pants), but I was never really tempted to cheat. I made it easy for myself: I deleted the app from my phone and i-pad, and I erased my browser history so Facebook wouldn't pop up. Still, I could have easily peeked, and I wasn't tempted.

So Lent is almost over... now what? I've been thinking about that quite a bit. Do I quit altogether? Limit my "friends" list? Try to monitor how much time I'm on it? I decided to copy my screen limits for my kids and make Facebook a weekend-only thing. Last Sunday I tiptoed back online and peeked- first at the Ethiopian adoption pages I'd actually missed, and then at my friends list and privacy settings. Finally I started scrolling through my newsfeed again... sure enough, all the passionate posts about Bernie had not changed the election, and all the passionate diatribes against Trump had not stopped him. Sigh.
you know, just checking my likes...

How do you manage Facebook in your life? Or have you left the book?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Trusting my mom-stincts

little ones

I remember about 3 days after our children came home from Ethiopia with us an acquaintance at the playground said (to my terrified, jet lagged, overwhelmed self) "Don't worry. Your instincts will kick in."

Well, it took a while, but they did. Five years later I can say that I've finally learned to trust my mom-instincts. ("mom-stincts"! ha! Do I live with a 9 year old boy? Yes, yes I do.)  At first I didn't trust myself- I was too busy drowning. Becoming a first time parent to two children, ages 1 and 5, from another country overnight was a little hard. It's still hard.

But I've learned to trust myself. Which is why when this morning, after Daniel said for the 2nd day in a row that he didn't feel well, we went to the pediatrician. Daniel has been sick exactly once in 5 years. In Kindergarten he had a mild fever for one day. All the flus, stomach bugs, coughs, and respiratory infections his sister and his poor parents get every year? Pass him by. He gets a stuffy nose about once every winter.  At 5 years old his body fought off, permanently, a virulent case of Hep-C. He is a tough kid.

So after watching him spend a day laying on the couch, we went to the doctor.  Sure enough, he's got strep throat. (And he still doesn't have a fever or sore throat - his symptoms were: tired with a mild stomachache.)  I knew he must be really sick. Mom-stincts for the win!

I still make plenty of mistakes as a parent. Just ask my kids! They would give you an earful about my yelling, my arbitrary rule creations, my crazy obsession with limiting their screen time. I make plenty of errors due to crankiness and exhaustion. Most of the bigger mistakes, however, are when I don't trust myself. When I take advice from others instead of trusting what I know is best for my family. When I follow our cultural parenting rule book instead of my gut.

So my friend in the park was right- my instincts did kick in. And then I had to learn to trust them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Baking with children

This post is dedicated to my mom...

Happy Pi Day! (Or, as I learned from the silly radio station we listen to on our way to school - Happy Potato Chip Day! And Happy Napping Day! - Who comes up with (and is probably paid good money for) these ridiculous celebrations of the mundane?! And more importantly, how can I get in on that gig!?)

Anyway, it's March 14th and Daniel recently discovered a love for apple pie. I'm happy to encourage any habit or interest that ends up with sweet deliciousness.

So this weekend I ended up with both children in the kitchen, baking.

I have some very sweet memories of baking with my mother in our little kitchen. My sister and I stood on either side of her as she guided us through baking bread or cookies or cutting out pastries. None of those memories include the amount of yelling, destruction or chaos that my own children experienced with me yesterday. I also don't remember my mom needing to pour herself a stiff drink afterwards, but perhaps she did...

Baking with children is one of those things that SOUNDS like a great idea, and will probably create the kind of sweetly scented memories we will cherish 25 years from now... but in the moment it's all:

Don't touch that!
No, NOT the salt! The sugar!
Put that down!
Don't use the knife to smash eggs!

But in the end, we did create a pie. A lopsided,  funky looking, unevenly moist, over sugared, but still delicious pie. The kids were thrilled. Actually, Daniel was thrilled. Lily wouldn't touch it, preferring her vanilla ice cream plain.
(Lily loves the idea of dessert, and always requests elaborate birthday cakes, but never eats a bite!)

Baking with children: not for the faint of heart. Just like parenting:messy, exhausting, surprising, and in the end, delicious.

Happy Pi Day!