Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Day Baha'u'llah Was Born

The Birth of Baha'u'llah falls on November 12th each year. Manifestations of God are a slightly intimidating and overwhelming concept to grapple with as an adult. How exactly do you celebrate such a day? What could you possibly give a prophet?  

But for the under 3 population?  A piece of cake. literally. When I asked Samaya what she would like to give Baha'u'llah for His birthday, there was little to no hesitation. Bake a cake with pink frosting, paint Him a picture, have a party. Even Violet got carried away with the spirit of the occasion, throwing herself wholeheartedly into unloading the dishwasher for me. Service. Could there be a better gift?

Samaya's most cherished friend, Mora, invited us to a tea party to celebrate the occasion and what a lovely time was had by all. What really could be better than prayers, birthday cake, tea, and dearly loved friends? 

Happy birthday to the ultimate Gift to humanity. I am deeply grateful. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Double Wrong

If this post were a facebook status, it would read:

'I married my husband because of what he does to my soul; not for what he does to my grammar.'

It is, in fact, a blog post, so here goes the lengthier version:

Sisay: "Your daughter is eating paper."

Me: "Yeah."

Sisay: "Disturbing." (my response, that is)

Me: "It's better than plastic."

Sisay: "What is wrong with you?"

Me: Laughing, which turns into belly laughing, which turns into hysterical laughing. I don't know, probably because this moment illustrates one out of hundreds each day in which a child of ours does something that I deem normal and/or praiseworthy and Sisay deems highly dangerous and/or requiring medical attention.

Sisay: "Why are you laughing? Your daughter is eating paper and you laugh. That by itself makes double wrong with you."

That's when I really lost it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why I love Maine

because you can drive an hour north through winding roads lined with golden 'dancing trees' (as Samaya declared) and arrive here.

because of quaint cafes filled with local coffee, homemade apple cider donuts, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and apple turnovers.

because babies can be found tucked between hundred year old rows of apple trees in a little red wagon piled high with drops.

because of the way the October light bounces off two-year-old mountain climbers.

because of pigs exactly the way they appear in children's books--miles high in mud.

because of friends to share with you in the quiet pleasure of freshly picked fruit.

because of farmers who grow food with sunshine, rain, and good old fashioned hard work. So this mama can hand her baby that food and know it will do exactly what it was meant to do. Nourish.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Returning home from Ethiopia

We are back from a wonderful visit to Ethiopia and are so very happy for the places in this world that we call home (namely Israel, Ethiopia, and Maine). But there really is NO home like the one that has one's very own bed in it at the end of a long, very long, torturously long journey. I feel like Samaya has just released her breath after tensely holding it for a 24 hour trip around the world. She hasn't stopped singing all morning...

My Daddy eTOpia
Taking a walk
I wanna call Daddy
I wanna call Daddy
I wanna call Daddy
I wanna call Daddy
Daddy soon
Daddy soon
Daddy soon
Daddy soon
Daddy sooooooooooon
That's my Daddy

Even though we had to leave Sisay behind so he could attend his sister's wedding, he is very much here with us this beautiful September morning in Maine. Even as the afternoon leans into Addis Ababa and surrounds him and the rest of our family so many thousands of miles away. We love you all so very much.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Band-Aid Girl vs. Mommy

Under one of these band-aids lies an actual booboo. Any guesses?

I'm doing my best over here to throw control to the wind, thanks to the intensive program of personal growth my two-year-old had taken it upon herself to spearhead. I can generally gauge my capacity for this monumental undertaking on any given day by the lessons she deems appropriate.

Some days I'm clearly only ready for baby steps.

Want to use every last band-aid in the house on one leg. SURE! If one of us really turns up bleeding there's always a ripped up t-shirt and tape. Or did you already get to the tape too? Eh, garbage ties then.

Baking a cake with Mommy and coating the kitchen in flour? Christmas in July! Cracking the eggs-and their accompanying shells-into the bowl? Crunchy! Eating the raw egg? It's organic. And local. What are the chances?

Other days, either she suspects I may be ready for more of a challenge, or she delights in watching me crash and burn the mothering plane.

Today while playing at Green Acre in the nursery, a child rolled toward Samaya and her vacuum cleaner on a little toy car. Thinking he was coming to take said vacuum cleaner away from her (obviously!), she let out a blood curdling scream, and attempted to knock him unconscious with it. She missed. I immediately took her out of the room to have a little talk and she bit my arm. And here lies my weakness. I DO NOT like to be bitten. I'm pretty sure my amygdala is immediately hijacked whenever I am bitten. I jerked her body away from me so fast and practically flung her into the nearest bathroom before either of us knew what had happened. Thankfully I took a few deep breaths while she cried in the stall before I proceeded and I remained pretty calm. But there have been other incidents that are certainly not appropriate for this here blog. Or, you know, for a just two-years-on-the-planet little one to receive.

Now, she has quickly realized that the most reliable way to ensure my downfall as a mother lies not in the carefully crafted dramatic moment but in the systematic whittling away at my sanity through incessant whining and orneriness.
And so here I am living out my fantasy as a mother of littles having to REMIND myself that I love them at least a few times a week. (Ok, let's be fair. I have never once had to remind myself that I love Violet. Only that I should maybe stop eating her because she is so unbelievably yummy and I. just. cannot. get. enough.)

But seriously, the love thing. If I can hold it together long enough to inhale, maybe catch the faint scent of her still-baby hair in the process, or recall her exact intonation when she says, "I love you, Mommy," I can usually remember that I love her too! Then hold her or sit down and read a book with her or realize she just needs to eat or take a nap. And if I knew how to knit, I totally would just sit quietly on the couch with my needles while she proceeded with her tantrum. Not solving her difficulties or even claiming to know what exactly is so difficult. Just acknowledging that life is in fact so very difficult.

I'm not always very conscious of the deeper layers of myself, and trying to determine what my children are really trying to tell me can be even trickier. But I am fairly convinced that they are doing the best that they can at any given moment with the tools they have been given. Children act always out of purpose. And theoretically I know that when they are at their lowest, they need their mommies the most. To acknowledge. To be calm. To be present. I don't need to know what latest transformation their minds, bodies, or souls are undergoing, but I do need to be grounded so that they have something to hold on to while the world as they know it is tossed up in the air. Besides, isn't their behavior at least a partial reflection of the tools I have or have not given them?

And isn't my behavior the only thing I ultimately have control over? Let's work on the attainable, shall we? And Samaya, you work on being two, k?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to Chaltu!

Today was Chaltu's 1st Birthday, and so naturally this called for a cake, a hearty rendition of 'Happy Chaltu Birthday', and an ever-so-proper tea party. All before breakfast. Or rather, instead of breakfast.

Be proud of me. Be very very proud. The other baby of the family has been killing me with infinity night wake-ups and 5 am mornings, and so today when she slept until 7:30 it felt like Christmas. No, Ayyam-i-Ha. Also, remind me to fall asleep more often with Samaya. It makes for better parenting all around.

Samaya and Chaltu, my eager bakers.

Notice how I chose the only photo where her fingers
weren't wandering around in the batter.

'I'll take this piece.'

Tea for Chaltu.

Clearly giddy with excitement.

Raspberry buttermilk cake and tea. from the tap.

In related news, I've hired Maria Montessori as my personal nanny, and though I've known her for a while now, I am really just beginning to appreciate her magic. She certainly has a way with children. The secret? Put 'em to work. Even better: make them do YOUR work. If I write a follow-up post about Montessori in our home, it will probably be called Child Labor. Look for it.
I am always searching for ways to turn more control over to Samaya and considering she is very much in the 'do it SELF' phase of life, this can only mean fewer battles. Among other more profound things like increased self-esteem and becoming a productive member of society. So this morning in our birthday preparations, I prayed for detachment and then let her have at it. She poured all the ingredients in the bowl, tasting every single one. She cracked her first egg. She stirred, gracing the floor, the wall and most of her body with batter. She buttered the pan, and proceeded in taking a generous bite. She distributed plates and silverware to each of her guests. She poured many, many cups of tea and many more pots directly into her mouth. She washed and dried her tea set in her kitchen, washing a few more times for good measure.

The end result: a very messy kitchen, a truly grounded and happy child, a deeply satisfied mama.

Now, if only Violet hadn't fallen off the bed before lunch and I might have considered it a pretty good mothering day...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Samaya's 2nd Birthday

12 months successfully completed: check.

Mud: check.

Paint: check.

Water: check.

Bubbles: check. sort of.

Cake and ice cream: check.

One very happy birthday: check.

The sun smiled down on us after forever days of rain, Sisay's brother came from D.C., our dear friends Leigh and Ilianna came from New York, a wonderful group of friends came to celebrate with us, and the children had a delightful time regarding all things messy.
I learned that the simpler things are, the more work it actually is. But the satisfaction of watching children truly delighted, using their imaginations, playing hard together, dripping with homemade coconut milk ice cream makes it more than worth it.

The details, for those interested...

12 Months: Stolen from our friend and amazing photographer Negeen, we take a photo of Samaya on the 15th of each month (or as close to it as we remember), and string them up at each birthday as a lovely documentation of the year. I'll put them together in a scrapbook when I get around to it.

Mud Kitchen: My dad made Samaya an awesome table and I collected a bunch of thrifted kitchenware as well as a galvanized steel pan for a sink. For another awesome backyard kitchen, go here.

Paint: Sisay cleverly stapled old white sheets to pieces of cardboard and hung them on the fence for a creativity free-for-all.

Water: A kiddie pool that the kids turned into a giant bubble bath with the soap from our failed bubble solution. They had a total blast with this one. We also had a small water table (i.e. tupperware container) with matching foam shapes to fish out and a few boats.

Bubbles: I made some pretty cool bubble wands and attempted to make the bubble solution, but apparently I'm bubble impaired. We'll certainly try again though so keep an eye out.

Cake and Ice Cream: I used this ice cream recipe and this frosting recipe. Violet has a dairy sensitivity and we just like things wholesome around here, so everything was dairy-free and sweetened with honey or maple syrup. They were both YUM.

Happy Birthday banner: I made this last year before Samaya's first birthday and it gets taken out for each birthday. This was taken from Amanda Blake Soule's book, Handmade Home, who probably will never know she is one of my very favorite people.

Try something! And happy almost summer :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Grandparents

Apparently Grandpa almost strangled Samaya trying to get her bathing suit on today (his words, not mine), but mostly they do alright :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

First Born

So as not to forget about that other daughter who used to be the center of attention and now...still is (partly because of the incessant screaming that has permanently damaged my right ear), let us bask in the right now of an almost two-year-old...

Recently she's been bitten hard by the fashion bug. Yesterday it took me from breakfast until dinner to fold a load of laundry because apparently everything she owns is her absolute favorite and HAS TO BE ON HER BODY RIGHT THIS SECOND. Pink bathing suit: 'I LOVE THIS ONE!'. Dress that Sina and Julia brought her back from Sweden: 'SINAJUJUDRESS! WEAR IT!!!' Polkadot shirt: 'POKAPOTS!!!!! I am most definitely not exaggerating when I say that she wore every single dress she currently owns in the space of a couple hours, experimenting with the twirl effect and the freedom of pantlessness. With warm weather upon us, she still cannot get over that she does not have to wear pants, and so this fact must be commented on regularly. Shoes and diapers suddenly seem so superfluous as well. Actually, shoes in the car, store, outside in general: superfluous. Shoes on the bed: vital.

Warm weather is also playground weather. After putting on her socks, finding her jacket, removing her socks, and putting on her shoes, she inevitably appears at my side, declaring, "Mommy, I ready park!"

Her second birthday is coming up next week and we've been talking about it for weeks now. When asked what she wants to do for her birthday she will inform you that a purple cake is in order. And of course the obligatory singing of 'Happy to you.'

She has a family of Little People that have seen significantly more action as we launch into the magical world of imaginary play. Baby Lilac can occasionally be found pressing her hard plastic lips to Samaya's chest just before being chucked across the room. ('All done!') The four are referred to as friends and are often required to join her at the dinner table. They line up obediently and offer words of encouragement and commentary on the meal.

Her first true love of an inanimate object is her baby doll, who was a big sister gift from her good friend Asher. Chaltu (so named by Daddy) is carried in the sling, nursed ('other side?'), fed, burped, changed, and read to. It is so fun to watch all the tiny nuances she picks up on in our care for Violet.

I'm just now realizing that she might just be the messiest child in the universe, and only because we've been spending time with an insanely tidy two-year-old who actually manages to eat watermelon without dripping any on her clothes. Which can't be normal. Between the wardrobe obsession and the after-every-meal clothes change, and the cloth diapers, and the water play, and the, thanks Laundry Boy. I mean, Dear Husband of Mine.

The sweet, sweet sister love going on over here is enough to keep my heart in a permanent state of puddle. Violet is the first she seeks out in the morning, the most frequent recipient of her hugs and kisses, and a devoted audience to many a song and dance. Over the past few weeks, we've transitioned from 'Baby' to 'Whylet', indicating that the baby who showed up one day in her own Mama's arms with a shock of black hair has permanently set up shop as Samaya's adored sister, playmate, friend.

Her repertoire of all things scary includes beards, traffic, shadows, flying insects, seagulls, and waves. Spiders and thunder have recently been crossed off seeing as how one has a cute song and the other signals rain. Which signals a refreshing shower under the gutter, puddle jumping, and collecting rain in upturned umbrellas (obviously).

Now if I can only remember how darn cute she is tomorrow when she's breaking my one remaining ear drum...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Second Born

In case Violet decides to revamp her personality, let me just say for the record that she is yummy. delightful. pleasant. happy. sensitive. loving. lovely. content.

I thought it would be harder to fall in love with her. I don't know, not being the first or something. But a unique, perfect human being falling out of one's womb turns out to be equally magical the second time around. And this child...she just makes it so easy. Granted, she does NOT like to be misunderstood and when the big people in her life are deliberately disregarding her need for sleep she makes it quite clear. But other than that, she tosses smiles at perfect strangers. She contentedly examines and chews her hands for long periods of time. She loves her sister so intensely that her whole body spasms every time she sees her (and her big sister loves her just as fiercely). She is gorgeous. She nuzzles her head into your shoulder whenever she is held. If startled by a loud noise or sudden movement, she lets out a heartbreaking cry, then promptly stops once in Mommy's arms. She is alert and lively.

We all love our kids. No choice there. I'm just so blessed to like my kids. Even if they weren't mine, I'm pretty sure I'd pick them out of a crowd and say, "Hey, they look really cool. I'd really like to get to know them."

Lucky for me that just happens to be my current job.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Samaya has taken up the ever so dignified habit of 'HUH?' Conversations go something like this:

"Samaya, that shoe goes on your other foot."

"Please put your work back on the shelf, sweetheart."

"Can you bring Violet a diaper?"

"I love you."

"Uminuh bida gooby doo ba."
"Huh?" (We thought we'd at least give her a legitimate reason to play ignorant so she wouldn't have to pretend she plum forgot where that puzzle goes)

This morning's conversation went something like this:

"Samaya, today we have children's class at Gaby's house. What virtues have you practiced this week?"
"I said we're going to children's class today."
"Dearest Samaya; If you have not heard the words issuing forth from your mother's mouth, please kindly respond, 'Could you please repeat that, Mother Dearest?'"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mommy Heaven

Today is one of those days when all the stars align in the mommyhood sky to create something you'd actually WANT to gaze upon. Well, maybe not the floors or the kitchen counter. And certainly not at nap time when I chucked Samaya's baby doll across the room and told her SHE BETTER GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW OR DADDY WASN'T GOING TO GIVE HER ANY MORE MENTOS. But skies are big and surely those things are hardly noticeable.
Now, I love my children every day. every moment. every time Samaya sings the Mommy Song in the key of whine. Which is a lot. But I don't always love all the moments. And even though moments are fleeting and tend to resemble roller coasters, it's still nice when you're hovering at the top. So indulge with me before it all comes crashing down...

-Violet slept SIX hours last night!!! She's done this a few times, my 2 1/2 month old over-achiever. For those of you with young children, I need not say more about the love affair we all have with sleep.

-Totally wore a tank top all day today AND IT'S NOT EVEN MAY.

-Checked on my garden for the 40th time since I planted the first seeds a week or two ago and they were growing!!!! Itsy bitsy teeny tiny specks of green, but definitely in row formation. Hallelujah for another gardening season--minus the morning sickness plus an insanely adorable baby.

-Sacrificed the last perfectly ripe mango for coconut and raw almond milk ice cream. So worth it. I can't wait to tell Samaya she's having ice cream for snack when she wakes up from her nap.

-Went to mommy and baby yoga this morning and was so proud of my baby who contentedly sat beside me while I remembered where my abs were. This from the child who cried most of her awake time until a month ago. Thank GOD I took her to the Chiropractor and the Cranio-sacral therapist early enough.

-Samaya picked up the two lids to her kitchen pots and pressed them to her chest, declaring, 'Boobies!' I don't even use that word!

-Violet never, never fails to smile whenever she sees Sisay, Samaya, or I. And this girl smiles with her whole body, often accompanied by shrieks of happiness. Today she tracked Samaya around the room as she played, just grinning from ear to ear.

I can't wait to watch them play together. That is, when they're not fighting. But I'm sure those moments will be hardly noticeable.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why I Love My Husband

*He does a happy dance every time he sees us.

*He sings Itsy Bitsy Spider to Samaya every night when he's putting her to bed. Something about climbing mountains and wading through monsoons...

*He chose me.

*When he comes home from work, he asks us is we're happy campers.

*Because he was once asked by a girl sitting across from him if he was 'pulling her leg' and he was genuinely offended by the accusation.

*He always smells delicious.

*When I told him he was full of bologna, he asked if that was a meat. I'm not sure either, honey. I'm not sure anybody is.

I'll go camping with you anytime time, baby.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The (Relevant) News

The world becomes exceedingly small when one happens to have a baby in the winter with a toddler under foot. Today the three of us could be seen hanging out at the picnic table outside for two hours reveling in the warm! sunshine!. Sisay kept passing by asking what we were doing because I guess "nothing" didn't seem logical to him.

Mmmhmmm. You stay inside for six weeks and then ask yourself if there really is anything to be done when the sun is doing something other than lighting a dim path in front of you. Needless to say it was the best nothing I've done in a REALLY long time.

In other news...

-Violet's longest conversation to date was with our Chiropractor's secretary. There were a lot of 'goos.'

-I finally cut Samaya's fingernails. You don't understand. She's a neurotic nurser.

-I only changed my shirt three times today.

-Samaya decided our day should begin at 4 AM this morning with a full out tantrum. God forgive me for nursing her sister.

-I'm choosing to write this entry at 10 PM rather than sleep despite said very long day. However, I am not claiming to be sane.

-Realized sane people can't raise kids. They either started out crazy or quickly become it. And they're straight out lying if they say otherwise.

-I'm learning to throw out each and every item on my 'I'll never do that as a mother' list.

-My back. Oh God.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This Moment

Violet is almost 1 month old! It's hard to believe how fast the time goes despite how cliche it sounds and how little I feel I've done since her birth. Vacuum? Too loud. Laundry? Down a flight of stairs with two kids and a laundry basket? Not gonna happen. Leave the house? Convince me it's worth the work and I might consider it during the nonexistent moments between sleeping, nursing, crying, and pooping. Oh, and the blood curdling screaming from point A to point B. Cook? Don't remind me of my wasting-away family that I already have tremendous guilt over. But fear not! I am turning over a new leaf with the help of Feeding the Whole Family (awesome) and a successful trip to the grocery store (I never thought this would leave me with such a sense of accomplishment.)

We did manage to make it through my obligatory Olive Garden birthday dinner, largely due to the fact that they gave us our own section and two waitresses (did we look that terrifying?) So what if life has relinquished some of its bells and whistles? Turns out it was just a bunch of extra noise. Nowadays when anyone asks me what I did today, I tell them, 'I kept em alive.' And you know what? I'm damn well proud of myself.

I struggle with that whole 'living in the moment' thing. Believe me, I read a lot of zen-mama blogs in hopes that their endlessly tranquil, ultra creative, simple yet stimulating havens of family life will rub off on me. But alas...I still can't knit or even remember to breathe before uttering another 'STOP that!' or 'No!' or 'You're not listening! Why aren't you listening?' I'm still waiting for my 21 month old to answer that one.

Ahhh, knitting. It sure seems to bring Soulemama's life into complete balance. The meditative act of twisting yarn into something beautiful and, more importantly, something you can do while caring for little ones is enticing. I want that. I want to feel fulfilled while fulfilling my children's needs. I want to make room for more pauses. I know it's not knitting. But it might be knitting. Or cooking, dancing, or breathing, or praying, or walking, or writing, or gardening (Gardening!) The quiet work of living that makes you realize you have everything. You have always had everything. And right now, you have a very special kind of everything.

Here's to sweet sleeping sisters, amazing uncles, birthday candles, Grandpas coloring inside the lines, father-daughter moments, and my two beautiful girls in pajamas.