Saturday, December 29, 2012

We're moving!

I tend to write about tiny details and forget about life-changing events, so I thought I best put it in writing now before it's old news: We're moving! We are closing on our first home on Friday (6 days!!!) My parents and Sisay and I will be the co-owners of a beautiful home right here in Eliot. The first level is a completely separate in-law apartment and we will live upstairs in a 4 bedroom unit.

The stars have certainly aligned for us. Sisay was informed that we would have to move off the Green Acre campus within the next couple months, and after a brief moment of panic followed by a week or two, we had found our dream house and started the process. The house sits on 4.5 mostly-wooded acres. You know what this means, right??! Chickens! Gardens! Fruit trees! Free firewood! Nature walks! Goats! (okay, maybe not this one for a few years.) And to think that my babies get to grow up under the same roof as their grandparents! (who, by the way, are the ones who have made this all possible.) We are beyond excited. And we cannot wait to welcome as many of you into our home as are willing to make the journey to the far north. or pretty-far-north.

First up: Sisay's sister and her baby. They're coming about a week after we move and will stay with us for two months. Sisay will be leaving on January 13th to do some work in Haifa for 3 weeks, so it will be so nice to have the company. Anyone else? I've got my calendar in hand.

And so we happily, oh so happily, oh so VERY happily, say goodbye to 2012: the year of endless tantrums (Violet), incessant whining (Samaya), spiraling health (me), and that period of time we'll just refer to as March-april (no, I'm not referring to a girl's name.)

Here's to new beginnings and plenty of (forced) growth. Onward and upward, shall we?  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Baha'i Christmas!

We of course do not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, but we thought you should know our Baha'i children had plenty to play with on Christmas morning...

fairy 'tail' princess

more wheelchairs (it's an obsession)

rapunzel hair 
bedside lamp

bathtub laptop

While grocery shopping last week, an employee wished Samaya a 'Merry Christmas!' Without skipping a beat, she said, "Merry Christmas! We're Baha'is!" I thought she summed up our stance quite perfectly: although we do not celebrate, we are happy to share in the spirit of joy and generosity that permeates the season. 

And read Great Joy. This book makes me cry every. single. time.  

If you're interested in a more thorough explanation of the Baha'i stance on Christmas, this blog post does a lovely job.    

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Family: a book by Laurel and Samaya Sabera

Samaya and I have collaborated on our first book together:

My Family

By Laurel Sabera
Illustrated by Samaya Sabera

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On (home)schooling

So I posted a video on facebook a couple days ago of Samaya identifying countries on our giant map of the world.

It seems that people have been led to believe that this has something to do with homeschooling or is at least somehow connected to ME teaching HER. I assure you it does not. Yes, we stay at home a lot together. Yes, we have at least twice consciously and deliberately sat down for 'circle time,' to get our calendar on, sing some songs, and brainstorm lists of 'A' words. But all the days in between...mostly consist of me in the kitchen and the girls fending for themselves. I mean...learning to work/play together peacefully in a structured environment. And by structured I mean minimal, mostly wooden toys, a play kitchen, (too) many books, TV (yes, TV), access to basic art materials, and a distinct lack of multiples. This is mostly because we're to fork over the money for two of everything, but is also because it forces communication and cooperation. It also exponentially increases violence, but Samaya has so much hair that cleaning up a few tufts from the living room floor each evening won't cost her much we figure. We hope. 

I do have hopes of homeschooling and have had them for a while, but if we're going to be truthful most of the schooling that takes place around here is in the form of Violet walking around the house naked except for a backpack full of books. The script goes something like this:

Violet: 'Bye! 'Cool, k?'
Me: 'Ok! Have a great day. Are you taking the bus today?
Violet: 'Yeah. Keys? (holding out a hand. She's also the bus driver.)
Me: 'Here you go. Drive safely.'
Violet: 'K.' (Sits in chair making (bus?) noises and rolling her hands around. Jumps down.) 'Ready!'
(Then she disappears to the bedroom for a good 20 minutes, spreads all her books out on the bed, pulls up the covers, and reads each one.)
Violet: (running into the room) 'Back! Home!'
Me: 'Welcome home! How was your day?
Violet: 'Gook.' (I'm pretty sure she doesn't mean anything derogatory here.)
Me: 'What did you learn?'
Violet: 'AB.'

And then she usually goes to nurse her baby. Which, as it turns out, is so much easier to do when you're naked. And hey, at least somebody got their after-school snack.

It's funny how even the very young absorb this traditional version of school even when their own learning environment bares no resemblance. And if it's not called homeschooling quite yet, we surely do have a learning environment. Last night Samaya told me I don't go to school anymore. I am too old. I promptly told her that 'school' is just a place where we learn, and I learn everywhere I go. Therefore, I am always at school.

We learn on our weekly trip to the grocery store: budgeting, healthy food choices, courtesy and friendliness toward the cashiers, and how to distinguish Ethiopian coffee from Guatemalan coffee (What? Your kids don't sample the freshly brewed complimentary coffee at Trader Joes? That's because your kids are probably not 'eTOEpian,' Samaya will inform you.)

We learn at the library: ummm...what can you NOT learn at the library. Plus the look of pride on Violet's face when she puts her orange leaf on the felt board and runs back to Mommy is priceless.

We learn at our weekly Music Together class. You know, about rhythm and math and stuff. I'm sure someone could explain how music is great for brain development, but that someone ain't gonna be me. I just know it's pretty much the highlight of our week and for an hour every Friday morning I can guarantee I will be completely present and engaged with my children.

We learn outside: about our bodies in relation to the world around us, about ecosystems and their intersections, about seasons (and most recently the orbital patterns of the earth), and about the power of nature to calm. center. hold us accountable. make us present. (It's also the perfect opportunity to discuss where we go when we die and why 'knife' starts with 'k.')

And we learn in the kitchen.  Measuring, pouring, cutting, mixing, taking turns, the process from garden to table, LOTS of conversations about health, and the essential but grossly under-taught skill of putting good food on the table. Do you like your eggs on the crunchy side? I might be willing to loan Violet out for a small fee.

And heaven forbid we forget the School of Youtube. I often ask Samaya over breakfast what her plans are for the day and what she wants to learn. Last week we spent the morning watching videos of chickens laying eggs (thank you Jane Goodall) and spiders spinning webs because that was what she happened to be wondering about. 

THIS. This right here is what I believe to be the secret of education: Pay attention to what they wonder about. Do your best to answer their questions. If you don't know, find out together and let them be part of the process of discovering something new. Observe their play. Then jump through those windows of opportunity before they are replaced by new ones. 

I still believe in planning. I strongly believe in a weekly and daily rhythm. It's just that my "students" always come first. If the elaborate art project I finally got around to organizing isn't flying or Violet decides to have a colossal meltdown when it's time to leave for music or I think Samaya is ready to work on ending consonants and she's not, then I remind myself to graciously accept the lesson in detachment, pay closer attention to them, and try again. 

Or stop trying for a bit and take a field trip. Which is how the map was born. In September we finally got around to going to the Children's Museum after weeks of begging, only to find they were closed for their annual cleaning. So we went to the toy store across the street and bought a giant world map instead. I hung it in our tiny little kitchen because there was nowhere else to put it, not realizing what an utterly genius and obviously well-thought-out move this was. Not only did I choose the perfect location (Mama is always here), but my timing was impeccable. No, we weren't just about to start a unit on geography. We weren't about to travel abroad. But we do live at Green Acre Baha'i School where people from all over the world come to serve and attend programs. Samaya is old enough now to form attachments to all these people, and when they return home we find their countries on the map. She isn't randomly memorizing meaningless facts. She genuinely cares that Anisa was born in Japan but lives in the Czech Republic now. She knows her Aunt Julia lived in Argentina for a year and Duarte just returned to his home in Cape Verde. And of course that her Daddy is from Ethiopia. That she, herself, is Ethiopian. The world has become personal to her. 

So we're taking this opportunity. This precious and  critical opportunity to nurture her identity as a world citizen. In the words of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." We want her to feel that. Know that. Breathe that. And act on that. 

So yes, Samaya can tell where Estonia is. But it's not because of a worksheet or a puzzle or even a book. It's because a sweet little friend in our library story time is from there. And we thought to ask. And then run home and find it on our map. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A story told in two voices

It's been 3 1/2 months since I posted here so I thought it timely for another considering it's 6 AM on October 28th. My sweet darlings have been waking up at 5 lately and it's making me exceedingly depressed and ornery, so I thought writing would be a better alternative to being a spiteful mother. I'll probably do both.
Let me tell you a story this morning. Samaya overheard my retelling of this as well, so we'll take turns telling our own versions.

 Me: Years ago (I can't believe I just said that. What am I, 64?) when I was landscaping for the summer, we were working at a long-time customer's home.

Samaya: Once when Mommy was 6 she was land-skating. You know, when you jump and land when you're skating.

Me: The customer decided that it was probably about time to remove a pile of debris that had been on their front porch, mostly consisting of a few years' worth of old Christmas trees.

Samaya: Then she picked up a big Christmas tree. She's really strong.

Me: We removed most of it with shovels. I bent down to pick up the last of it with my gloved hands and picked up a bee's nest as a nice little bonus.

Samaya: There were needles in it and the tree stung her a lot of times. It hurt.

Me: I got stung all over my hand. It hurt.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My dad wrote this poem years ago for my sister and I. He read it at Julia's wedding last July (almost a year ago!) It was an impossibly sweet moment.

Two Sisters

Two sisters snacking on strawberry twisters
Dreaming of future misters
Two sisters playing on the sandy shore
Dreaming about the land of more
Two sisters sailing far away
Dreaming about their wedding day
Two sisters praying in the Holy Shrine
And me dreaming of when they were wholly mine

I choose not to imagine my own daughters building homes of their own somewhere in the world because I'd like to nurse the illusion that at least for a little while they are wholly mine. When I tell Sisay that I can't bare the thought of them leaving us, he says, 'I can. When they are grown, I will take you traveling around the world. And we can sleep through the night." I'm pretty sure the emphasis was on the second part, and I do hope that happens before they fly the nest. As for the traveling--I'm game. We've traveled around the world with them, and it's not all it's cracked up to be. (I know this defies a core belief of a good friend of mine. Sorry Deanna.) Then again, maybe it would be slightly different if I wasn't nursing both of them and we hadn't decided to lug a 23 lb. car seat to the horn of Africa. And then not use it. It was most definitely worth it. I just don't want to do it again for a very long time. 

So. Sisters. Certainly the best part of my life right now is basking in their complete and utter love for each other. This is not to say that we live in some sort of sibling utopia. Far from it. 'No!' and 'NNNNNNNNnnnnnnnO!' and also 'AHHHHHHHHHHH!' are probably the three most common words in our house. They are uttered by Samaya--when Violet takes her stuff (which is every time she has stuff) or when Violet is attempting to remove a large chunk of her hair simply for the entertainment value of it. 

And they are uttered by Violet every time Samaya moves in a way that could be interpreted as 'in her general direction' while she is in the possession of stuff, or when she is being restrained/hugged by her big sister. Or when she's itching to be contrary.
But there are so many moments of pure, unadulterated love. First, there are the hand-in-hand morning walks. Violet's request of "we!", small hand outstretched, inevitably brings Samaya to her side. We are not exactly sure how 'we' came to mean 'hold my hand,' but I do believe a more fitting word could not exist. Then there are the eerily quiet moments that could only mean two things--either someone's playing in the toilet water again or a rare moment of sibling harmony is taking place. In the (grateful) case of the latter, I can usually find them snuggled up in the book corner or on my bed, Samaya reading to a captive audience. Usually this launches into what is fondly referred to in our house as 'bed bed,' which consists mostly of snuggling under the covers, pretending to sleep, and giggling. Lots of giggling. 

At meal times, I often find them feeding each other and lately they have even been playing with the same toy in a civilized manner. Samaya will assign Violet the role of handing her the pieces and half the time she actually does. The other half of the time she makes a run for it, laughing maniacally with a puzzle piece clutched tightly in her fist. 

This afternoon during a thunderstorm, I sat on the couch nursing Violet. Samaya sat beside us reading a book. Thunder rumbled in the distance and, without looking up, she reached an arm around Violet's head and cupped a hand over her ear. We looked at each other then, and she matter-of-factly explained, "For the funder, Mommy. I don't want her to be scared." And then she turned the page.

Daily life these days usually leaves me strung out, but every day, more and more, I am so grateful that they are close in age. The developmental gap is still wide, but it is slowly closing. And I imagine once they both can talk and SHARE life will be so much sweeter. They get each other. They play. They connect. They love. They get angry too, but isn't it nice to have someone in your life you can give a good whack to every now and then and your relationship is none the worse for it? 

Here's to unconditional love, sister style. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On turning free

Dear Samaya,

Yesterday you turned 'free.' When you looked in the mirror, you said, "Mommy, but I don't look bigger...? I assure you my love, you are. Countless times a day I am amazed by your eloquence, your mastery of sisterhood, your sudden and shocking ability to identify and write (write!) all 26 letters of the alphabet. I told your father the first time you crawled to get that pencil on the floor you were going to be a writer. Looks like you're serious.

You started the day with your favorite breakfast of blueberries and yogurt and unwrapped your presents from Mama and Daddy. You got Press Here by Hervé Tullet, some other stuff, and HULA HOOPS! It turns out that hula hoop was actually all you really needed in life. Now to get my money back...

Our car broke down so strawberry picking got scratched. Instead, we made your cake while Violet napped. Then we walked to the river with a picnic lunch and had a lovely afternoon playing in the water. We should do that more often. The hula hoop came with us of course, and you flagged down a number of passersby so they could have the awe-inspring opportunity of observing your mad skills. You even got to play with Mora at the playground. Grandma came for dinner (you didn't eat it) and birthday cake (you did eat that). It was quite good, actually. Very good for a grain free, sugar free masterpiece. We kissed you and hugged you and snuggled with you a lot. When I asked what your favorite part of your birthday was, you said cake. Then you asked if you could do your hula hoop tomorrow. I said sure. (I was feeling indulgent).

Today we had a sweet little party for you outside. There were giant bubbles, spray bottles filled with paint, mud pies, a piñata, yummy food, strawberry cupcakes, thoughtful gifts, and- most importantly- dear friends. We are blessed, truly. You enjoyed the paint tremendously, as did my left pant leg and most of our guests' clothing. I even remembered to join in the play. I may have even made your friends giggle. (Isn't that one of a parent's highest achievements?) When I asked you what your favorite part of the party was, you said, "The thing you bang."

We'll leave that one alone for a while. I just want to say that I am extremely, impossibly far from being a perfect mom. I may make my own hummus and serve pineapple-mint infused water, but I'm not fooling myself. I know I have a long way to go. I also know my love for you is perfect. And you. YOU are perfect. I hope you grow up to believe that with every cell of your being.
Happy birthday to the one who made me mama. I will always be indebted to you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

No more milk for you!

We threw Samaya a weaning party...3 months ago. Hey, at least it's getting mentioned at all. Just because I didn't blog about it, doesn't mean it wasn't a monumental milestone in our lives. It was. It just means I had two babies within 20 months of each other. Both of whom are as strong-willed as their father. 

Oh, ok. And their mother.  

Which is also why we had no idea how this whole weaning thing would blow over. This is a child who does things on her own terms. She needs to walk around something a few times until she is familiar with the space it occupies in the world. Once she has memorized the way the light falls on it from each angle, she might be willing to embrace it. After the first few ear-piercing visits to the doctor, we finally picked up on this. We scheduled her second annual check-up two months in advance and spent literally every day immersed in doctor dialogue, role plays, doctor kits, and doctor-themed bedtime stories. By the time of the appointment, she was tentative but mostly willing. 

I did the same with the weaning. I decided that December 12th, her half birthday, was going to be the big day. In theory, I would have let her self-wean on her own terms. After all, breastfeeding is really more hers than mine. But in reality, I was done. Strung out. At my outer-most limits. I had been nursing for 2 1/2 years, nursing two for ten months. We had returned from our trip to Ethiopia in September, and for the entire month of November I had bout after horrible bout of mastitis. It was an amazing trip, but it was also the most stressful two weeks of my entire life, and my body was letting me know it. The plane rides alone were something I cannot even let my mind return to. 

So making it to December was going to be an accomplishment. Every time she nursed (only at nap and bedtime), I would tell her that pretty soon she was going to be a big girl and she wouldn't need milk anymore. Her body would be getting everything it needed from healthy foods and, instead of milk at night, we would end our day together sipping tea. And of course, we talked about the party. By Samaya standards, this was to be quite a to-do because there would be ice cream involved. Not just any ice cream, but PINK ice cream. In 'ICE COMBS.' By Mama standards, it was simple and sweet. I found two lovely tea cups and saucers at the thrift store, made dinner and strawberry coconut ice cream, and invited our good friends over. 

It was perfect. We ate yummy food (I can't remember now? pizza?), played, then Samaya and her friend Mora each blew out a candle after a smashing rendition of, 'No more milk for're a big girl now.' The ice cream cones were brought out and Samaya savored her little piece of heaven (and the rest of Mora's too). Then we brought out her 'big girl' gift, which was really just a doll house that she hadn't played with in a long while and had been in our basement.

After our friends went home, we made chamomile tea in our new cups, the pouring of the milk being the real highlight. It must be said that what happened for the next 20 minutes will always be one of my most cherished mothering moments. It was perfectly ordinary. We talked about our day, we listened to each other. But it was one of those rare moments in which I was completely and totally focused on the beautiful little girl in front of me. I wasn't thinking of the million things that needed to get done as soon as she went to sleep. I wasn't thinking of one of the endless daily tasks involved in caring for young children.  Instead, I was wrapped up, enveloped, immersed in this beautiful little person who I am privileged to spend my days with. 

And you know what? It was delightful. SHE is delightful.

Amazingly enough, she casually asked for milk the next few nights, but you could tell her heart wasn't in it. If it had been apparent that she just wasn't ready, then I was prepared to pick a new end date. But it turned out we both felt it was time. And I am so very grateful.    

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ayyam-i-Ha Highlights


Service: picking up trash in the park

The 'dance of jubilation' (from Maggie Celebrates Ayyam-i-Ha)

 Children's party at Green Acre

Mama-made quilts

New stroller 

Green Acre family party

Family celebration

First ever bubble bath with new bubbles (I know. deprived child.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dear Violet

It's hard to believe you're 1 year old already. Such a sneaky birthday really. I know because I've done this before. One moment you're a baby, and the next your scaling playground equipment and saying cranberry. Granted, we found out about you right after Samaya turned 1 and so she immediately got put into the big sister category and left babyhood in the dust. Don't feel guilty- she was VERY relieved to do so. Once you can say 'cranberry' you don't really have much use for babyhood anymore.

So, my sweet girl. Who are you right now? You can be fierce and fiery. You have a temper like NONE other. If Samaya so much as walks in your general direction while you're playing with something, you bellow ominously. If she takes what is yours...dear God. In fact, God is also my witness to a stream of daily tantrums, including but not limited to: diaper changes, putting your coat on, not being read to, getting buckled into anything (except the high chair-you've recently decided food is AWESOME), not being picked up, not being put down, and not wanting to be carried in the ergo.

The thing is, no one believes me. In public, you are an angel. You say 'hi' to perfect strangers and will go with anyone who offers to pick you up and show you around or to read you a book.

You love books. LOVE them. If there is an available lap on the floor, you will back that booty up so fast and park it for as long as the reader is willing. I love this about you, I really do. I will love it more when you can read Brown Bear, Brown Bear to yourself.

You love animals too. You point out every bird on every walk (signing 'bird' and calling 'AH, AH') and stand at our living room window watching the squirrels. You spot dogs before anyone else. Any animal you can't readily identify is a fish. naturally.

And art! I am daily amazed by your sustained interest in putting crayon to paper. Usually, I block off the art table because after you finish your still lifes, you like to climb on the chair, climb on the table, then stand up and call me to witness your mad skills. But I haven't barred your way, you're there creating masterpieces. And multi-colored teeth.

You use a combination of signs (many self-invented), a handful of words, and a whole lot of screaming to get your point across. Today you watched me dump your solid waste into the toilet and you said, 'Bye bye poo poo.' I thought that was pretty genius, though next time let's try to elevate the level of conversation, shall we?

Above all you are sweeter than sweet. Whenever your grandparents come over, your run into their arms. You are head-over-heals for your daddy, whose dance moves you have clearly inherited, and you give great kisses. Especially to your sister. Every time you wake up. It's like a bell goes off in your head: 'Awake; must kiss sister.'

You may have some frustration to work out regarding thinking-your-28-when-really-you're-not , but know this time in your life is fleeting. One day you will be 28, and you'll find yourself burying your face in your own daughter's curls. That's what I do, and I still can't seem to inhale enough of your sweetness.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rocky Coastlines

Maine's rocky coastline is the third longest in the country--longer than California, behind only Florida and Louisiana. It is beautiful and treacherous. 60+ lighthouses warn of its dangerous allure.

The landscape of motherhood is eerily similar. From a distance, even more so as one approaches, it is beautiful and alluring. How many times did I ache to hold my own newborn in my arms. To nurse her. To breathe in the particular scent of the crown of her head. To wear her in a sling while cooking dinner.

And later, to catch snowflakes on our tongues and plunge our hands into the still-cool earth to plant peas.

And later still, to laugh together until our bellies hurt, and whisper stories to each other in the dark, and marvel at her kindness. her generosity. her capacity to love.

Now that I am standing here on these rocks, it is more breathtaking than I could have imagined. Newborns are everything they're cracked up to be. And now, the way my first baby girl smooths back my second baby girl's hair and wipes her tears away with the edge of a sleeve is something to behold. Such tenderness. Such love.

But it is slippery. The rocks hard and cold. One poorly executed step and I am down. And there are many poorly executed steps because it really isn't until motherhood (and marriage, arguably) that life requires such ridiculous amounts of diligence. And there really isn't any training sufficient enough to prepare you for the new 25 hour days--none of which really belong to you anymore.

I turned 28 today. I cried about an hour into the day because my husband walked into the kitchen and asked how I was doing. It was 5:30. "I just want a happy day," I sobbed as my one-year-old sobbed over me. This child whose mind astounds me, who brings me book after book and never tires of them, who eagerly talks to anyone who will talk back, who hides behind the bathroom door waiting for someone to find her, who adores her sister, who gives the BEST open-mouthed kisses, who loves art almost as much as books, and animals almost as much as art. This child who screams every time her face is wiped, who kicks every time her diaper is changed, who gracefully flings her arched body onto the floor at the mere mention of a coat, who strongly objects when peeled from the top of the step ladder, who cries for some unidentifiable reason countless times a day.

I cried because, like hundreds of times before, I forgot that this isn't about me anymore.

So I stopped looking forward to the pancakes that needed flipping, the errands that needed running, the birthday that needed happy, and looked here. Now. To the baby that needed comforting. And when I finally looked down at the rock I was already standing on, I realized it was just perfect for sitting.

I turned the burner off, sank to the kitchen floor, and nursed my baby. She was happy. I was happy. I was having a happy birthday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ayyam-i-Ha Countdown

The Baha'i celebration of Ayyam-i-Ha is approaching and we are getting very excited! These are the four or five intercalary days from February 26th to March 1st dedicated to hospitality, charity, and gift giving. This is the first year Samaya is old enough to appreciate it, and I am determined to start some family traditions.

First up: Our 19-day countdown to Ayyam-i-Ha calendar pulled together just in time for the Ayyam-i-Ha fairy to make her first delivery! It is made entirely of wool felt with a stick slid through the top and hung on our kitchen wall. Every morning Samaya checks it for a small treat (usually a little bag of freeze-dried fruit) and an activity written on a rolled up piece of paper and sealed with a sticker. A mini clothespin with a flower glued to it marks the correct pocket. The activities are all geared toward some act of service, the practice of a virtue, or simply fun preparation for Ayyam-i-Ha. Here's our list this year:

  1. Look at a seed catalogue and draw pictures of how we want our garden to be this year. 
  2. Make felt balls for Violet’s birthday present.
  3. Make art for a friend in the community and deliver it to her.
  4. Take a walk in Vaughn Woods.
  5. Read ‘Something Important by Patti Rae Tomarelli. Pick out beads at the bead store and make prayer beads just like Maggie. Bring them to Abdu’l-baha’s room after nap.
  6. Bake a cake for Violet’s birthday and decorate the living room for her party!
  7. Listen to ‘The Sheep’. Bake cookies for the neighbors as an act of generosity.
  8. Make valentines for friends and family.
  9. Make melted crayon stars to hang in the window.
  10. Make pipe cleaner stars to hang in the living room. 
  11. Listen to Mommy tell a story about Abdu’l-Baha giving cloaks to the people of Akka. Then choose clothes to donate to Cross Roads for children in need.
  12. Decorate the house while listening to Ayyam-i-Ha music.
  13. Go out to lunch with Grandma, Grandpa, and Penny.
  14. Go to the Children’s Museum with the whole family!
  15. Read What a Mess and pick up trash at the park.
  16. Read Maggie Celebrates Ayyam-i-Ha and make pinecone birdfeeders to hand outside.
  17. Read My Dinosaur Celebrates Ayyam-i-Ha.
  18. Bake the cookies for the Ayyam-i-Ha cookie temple
  19. Make pizza with Mommy for our Ayyam-i-Ha party tonight! 
Tomorrow will be day 5 on our calendar and Samaya is really getting into it. Tonight as I was putting her to bed, she lay quietly for a few minutes before sitting up. "Mommy, you stay here and I'll be right back," she whispered. "I have to go see if the Ayyam-i-Ha fairy brought my treat.  

Monday, January 30, 2012


I thought we'd talk about Samaya's current favorite toys. They generally fall into two categories: 

1. Things scavenged in the recycle
2. My stuff

Examples of the former: assorted empty bottles (a collection of these in a basket occupied much of her awake time for a number of months)
Examples of the latter: underwear (did I ever show you the picture of her lower torso layered with every pair I own? oh that's right. and I never will.), scarves, tea bags, jewelry, kitchen implements 

Today's play largely revolved around an empty deodorant container, which I so generously offered to her this morning. ('For me? Oh, thank you Mommy!') A few minutes later I see her strut, very nakedly, to the middle of the living room. Her left hand is on her hip- a dead giveaway that some very important business is taking place. She sees me and informs me that she's taking a shower. I watch her (out of the corner of my eye, of course. A girl needs her privacy.) She turns on the water, washes her body and hair, then dries off with a towel. Next she goes over to her play kitchen (ie. bathroom counter) where a line-up of empty bottles now stands. She selects the newly acquired roll-on deodorant and applies it to each of her arm pits. Next, she selects the empty cinnamon container...and applies that to her pits. Then comes the oregano, followed by the vitamin bottle, and finally a sea salt container. 

'That's a lot of deodorant,' I comment. 
'Yeah. I a big girl, now,' she states importantly. 
I'm pretty sure she has just implied that I, also being a big girl, stink. I choose to ignore this. Instead, I help her get back into her tutu. That's what big girls wear, you know. 

P.S. Her resourcefulness is deliberately cultivated through lots of carefully structured unstructured time and a minimum of 'stuff.' Also, a large part of a child's play is the imitation of their parents' work. We take full advantage of this and have cleaner floors, more baked goods, and obviously fresher arm pits as a result.

P.P.S. The cinnamon bottle later got filled with water and sprinkled on the carpet for a more realistic effect. This may have been after the fourth removal of clothes (yay for practice in dressing and undressing!) The play was at this point structured. As in take it to the bathtub. now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Killing you with cute

I walked around the house after the girls went to sleep, capturing the remnants of Samaya's evening. 


'The stash'...

where all things non-Violet go.

Ayyam-i-Ha present,


31 months, baby. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Violet, sort of.

So my little three-toothed toddling ball of fire (I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course. Please don't hurt me. again.) We find ourselves at 11 months old tomorrow.  That's 11 months outside of me. 11 months of growing, or to put it more accurately, GROWING.
You, my sweet child, are ridiculously large. We're not just talking about the buddha belly your sister sports (which is so obvious even to herself that she has been telling me the baby in her belly is named 'Bimbi.') No, we're talking 2 1/2 neck rolls, segmented arms, ankles (ankles!) that I cannot begin to get a hand around, and bigger breasts than I had in 8th grade. Speaking of breasts, my own wondrous pair take full credit for each and every one of those rolls. And they could not be more proud. Battered and war-torn, yes. But proud, nonetheless.
You see, you are one of those babies. You know- the babies that refuse to be babied. You do not tolerate crawling. You have no interest in passively observing as an older sister takes your toy. And you have no use for baby food, nor does it make any difference to you whether it is called puree, mush, mash, or blended-form-of-whatever-we're-eating. You do however make mealtimes fearful and violent if you do not have EXACTLY what is on our own plates. And don't even try swapping that fork for a spoon. Not gonna happen. Pair this with your sparsely populated mouth and amazing ability to spit something out before it has even entered, and you get half a chickpea, the juice from an orange wedge, and possibly a sweet potato fry for dinner. Breakfast and lunch are usually not worth my effort. (Should I be admitting this?)
Last week when you were a two-toothed ball of fire, dinner was avocado oozed through fingers and splatter painted in a 15-foot radius. I mean, maybe you get some sort of sick nourishment from your artistic masterpieces, but it's probably just the milk. Here you were thinking this was about you and your 11-month achievements (so did I!) I'll blame it on Annie over at Motherhood and More who just wrote a tremendous ode to her A-cups, and obviously caused me to get so off track. But now that it's too late to go back: seriously- how completely awesome is it that I grew two babies from my chest?! I'm just saying.
Thank you. I'm just saying thank you. To the mothers who served as my examples while growing up, never knowing that by nourishing their own babies they were also nourishing mine. To my own mother, who nursed me and my sister for well over two years each. And to the God that granted me this one small service. The one thing I can give to my children that is, without a doubt, absolutely perfect.     

Sunday, January 1, 2012

On being very big and very small

I thought the volatility of childhood arose closer to puberty and somewhat less close to the age of two. Yet, here I am wondering how it is that one so small can place a hand on her hip just so and strut importantly away, while the next moment can bring her screaming back to me, hands pressed to ears, wailing about the 'boom, boom!' that can be heard from the floor above.

At least a handful of times a day I think to myself, 'Does she even need me anymore? I don't think she needs me anymore.'

And at least a handful of times a day I think to myself, 'Oh the neediness! Oh the massive, limitless expanse of her needs!'

Which can sometimes translate to, 'How very tiny and vulnerable you are in this wild and unwieldy world. Please God give me the capacity to protect you and give you everything you need to own it. and love it.'
And can sometimes (very, very rarely of course) translate to, 'Seriously!? How many times a day do I have to tell you that they are your NEIGHBORS. And they live UPSTAIRS. And they have feet that walk and make SOUND.'

We spent the past week at Green Acre Baha'i School semi-attending the annual winter school. It's lovely- old friends and new coming together to love and laugh and have deep, intelligent, real conversations about how to grow spiritually, thereby uplifting their relationships, thereby uplifting their communities, thereby uplifting some piece of the world- however small or large it may be.

It just so happens that my current responsibility in the upliftment department is to keep two human beings--complete with bodies, minds, and souls--alive. One might even add thriving. It's a lot, considering that you somehow have to keep your own body, mind, and soul alive as well. It's slightly more than a lot, if you yourself happen to be interested in thriving.

Anyway, my point here is that by 'semi-attending' winter school, what I meant was that I managed to feed us all and sometimes smile or even say 'hi' to people in route to the potty, nursery, or AHH THERE GOES THE BABY UP THE STAIRS AGAIN!

Samaya on the other hand owned it. I spent most of the time in the 'she doesn't need me anymore' category, watching from afar as she paraded around the place with her friend Becca. She ate meals with me, but only because it was enforced with a tightened seat belt. The rest of the time they stole people's coats and made forts under tables. They walked imaginary cats down the hallways. They made countless cups of tea and served each other plastic fries. And they quite blatantly pretended that their parents did not exist. You might think this made my life easier, but anyone who owns one knows that two can be a very dangerous thing.

On the last day after lunch, the girls had been going up the stairs to where the guests' rooms and the room of Abdu'l-Baha are. I had called them back at least a million times, and after Becca told me that they needed 'to pray' I finally gave up, Violet and I slowly making our way up after them. By the time we reached the third floor, screaming could be heard in the vicinity of Abdu'l-Baha's room. My first thought was that they were inside, fighting over prayer books and causing a scene while people were attempting to pray. Slightly mortified, I scooped up Violet and ran to the door--but it didn't sound like they were in there. I couldn't find her in any of the neighboring rooms either, and now Samaya was hysterical. Someone walking by started looking as well, and found them inside a room,  inside a closet. The girls had gone in, closed the door behind them, and found themselves trapped with no latch on the inside to let themselves out. When we opened the door, there was my daughter borderline hyperventillating and there was Becca. perfectly composed and unfazed. (I'm not sure how to even comment on this.)

I did my best to comfort them. I acknowledged how scary that must have felt. I held Samaya for a while. And then I of course stressed the importance of obedience and staying near our mommies and daddies in case help is needed. I got a promise out of both of them that they would ask permission next time and go upstairs only with a parent, and then we went back downstairs. The end.

Except it hasn't ended. Over breakfast, she tells me, 'Mommy, I got stuck.' Over crayons, she tells me, 'Mommy, member I got stuck?' She tells her father, 'Daddy, daddy! I got stuck at Geeker! (Green Acre)' And completely understandably. You try being two and getting locked in a dark closet with no way out. Being two was hard enough.

And here is where I am needed again. and again. again.