Sunday, December 28, 2014


A few days before the winter solstice, I took the children to the local Waldorf school's celebration of the Winter Spiral. The tradition, observed during the darkest time of the year, involves a spiral created with pine boughs, the center at which a candle burns. Children and adults of all ages take turns carrying a single unlit candle to the center flame, lighting it, and placing it along the spiral. Onlookers sit in silence or sing quietly as the scene before them gradually fills with light.
This is our first winter spiral and we don’t know a soul here. To start with, we are expecting it to be outside, and so we come all bundled up only to find it being held inside a classroom. The girls are eager to participate, but going alone seems too daunting. Hoping it won’t be too disruptive, when it is our turn I stand up with the baby in the sling and the girls on either side of me. We approach the ‘angel guide’ and she graciously asks in a whisper if we would like to go as a family. ‘Yes,’ I whisper back, and she hands Samaya an apple with a beeswax candle inserted into it.  I know (of course I know) that Violet wants a candle of her own, but when none is offered I can't bring myself to disrupt the sacred flow of the ceremony. We step carefully to the center candle, Samaya lights her own, chooses a spot along the spiral to place it, and then we continue along the path that leads to the opposite side of the room.

Now in different seats, Violet immediately pseudo-whispers that she wants to carry a candle too, but I whisper to her that our turn is finished—that Samaya carried the candle for our family. Now Violet, who is a little girl with big feelings, and who periodically struggles to keep her big feelings in check, and who has been experiencing one of these periods as of late, was not at all pleased with this information. After a couple of failed attempts to quiet her, I lead my less-than-peaceful little people out of the room, at which point Violet now feels at ease to turn up the volume a bit. It is certainly not what she is capable of, but it is enough for me to feel quite embarrassed. I tell her as much, and hurry to stuff them into their coats and (superfluous) winter gear, which of course Violet is not having.  I am on the verge of blowing my peaceful mama cover. It is then that another teacher comes out into the hall and very lovingly invites us into her own classroom. I tell her thank you, but we are leaving, offering as clarification that Violet is very sad that she did not also get to carry a candle.
“I understand,” she says directly into Violet’s eyes. And I can see that she does. More importantly, Violet can see it—her own feelings validated and reflected back to her. A brief moment, and then, ‘I have a very special candle you may have. Would you like to see it?’ Violet blinks and then nods, and we all follow her into her classroom. She cradles a tea light mounted on a watercolor star. ‘It smells like bees,’ she tells Violet. ‘Because it is made of beeswax.’ Violet takes it, her only outward reaction an easing of her facial muscles. I thank her in Violet’s place, and we walk quietly to the car. She is taking this small act of kindness in, turning it over and around in her mind. I am taking it in too, grateful for the mothering I myself have just received. This woman has just ever so gently, without threatening my own motherhood for a moment, reminded me to ‘understand’ my child, however seemingly trivial or inappropriate or embarrassing. Violet doesn't need to know that her mother is embarrassed or angry. She just needs to see her own feelings handed back to her. And then, once we're both looking at what is, we can navigate a way to what could be.

I need to be her mirror; to reflect HER truth. Not mine. 
The next day, I hear this story from Tom Price:
During World War II, there was a nun who worked in an orphanage in France. Children were being orphaned at an astonishing rate—higher than at any other time in human history. When the children were told what had happened to their parents and that they would be living at the orphanage indefinitely, they would often be traumatized, sometimes permanently. The nun realized that if she told the children a story about other children with the same information and the same details, the children would invariably come to the end of it and say, ‘Oh, is that what happened to me?’ And because the nun had provided them with a mirror in which they could see truth isolated from themselves and approach it on their own terms, in their own time, with their own understanding, they were far better equipped to process the information.
Tom Price used this method with his own children, telling bedtime stories about little turtles whose lives bore striking resemblance to his own children’s lives. One time, he came home from work to find his daughter crying hysterically. When he asked her what had happened, she refused to answer. He later found out that she had dumped all of the yogurt from the yogurt maker into the bathtub and had proceeded to take a yogurt bath. Her mother was not at all happy. That night, when Tom came into his daughter’s bedroom to tuck her in, she said, ‘Tell me the story about the turtle who took a yogurt bath.’ She wanted to process what had happened, but from a safe, non-threatening distance. 
I only heard this story because a friend referenced it in her own recounting of the stories she tells to her daughter. Stories about a little brown fox whose life bears striking resemblance to her own daughter's life. Stories that began around the time that her marriage was ending. She knew that to an almost three-year-old, the splitting up of her parents could potentially feel like trauma, and so the little brown fox and her mother told their story, night after night. While the real girl and her mother looked on from the safety of each other's arms. 

Mirrors reflect. In nature, reflection occurs when light (or any other wave) bounces off a surface, allowing it to be seen. 

Abdu’l-Baha said that, "If we wish to understand what the spiritual life is, we must look to the material world, which is an outward figure or symbol of the inward spiritual reality.” So this entire world of existence—everything from the sun to the soil—is one giant mirror. Science isn't in conflict with religion; science is religion’s reflection. 

Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha constantly use analogies from nature:

  • “The world of humanity has two wings—one is woman and the other man."
  • “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth."
  • “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value."
  • Flowers may be variegated in colors, but they are all flowers of one garden..."

Nature is infinitely complex. No matter how many times we look in its mirror, we will always see something new. Something beautiful.

When asked one time why everyone who entered his presence left with such a shining countenance, he replied that he saw his Father’s face in everyone he met. I want to see that. I want to notice the candle they hold in their hearts. And reflect it back to them.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

(Human) Race

My silence on this topic is not out of indifference. It is, however, out of three other reasons: Samaya, Violet, and Isaiah.  Yes, there are also elements of fear and ignorance.  Of offending. Of saying the wrong thing. Of exposing my own prejudices. I will own that. I must own that. After all, it is denial that has not only kept the gaping wound of racial inequality from healing, but has driven it deep under the skin to systemically poison our collective body.

It is just that at this moment and most of my other moments, I am surrounded by tiny, open ears. And what I want, need, those ears to hear is this:

How generous of Violet to offer you her only cookie!
You show such love toward your brother!
How just of you to stand up for your friend!
I am moved by your compassion.
The manager at this store is ALWAYS joyful.
I notice your patience.
I see your kindness.

I want them to hear these comments and others like them so many times that they cannot help but notice these qualities in themselves and others before they notice anything else. I want them to walk through the world noticing justice and unshakeable joy. I want them to walk through the world seeing genuine kindness and love. I want them to walk through the world feeling and acting on compassion. I want them to walk through the world really seeing all the beautiful bits and pieces of their brothers' and sisters' souls.

I am not naive. I know they will also see things uglier than I can imagine. I am certain they will encounter unspeakable injustice and deep sadness. I know that they will hear of shocking cruelty and hatred. I even know that they themselves will turn a blind eye to another's pain and do nothing at all.

I am just praying that when they find themselves in a dark room, their immediate inclination is to find the light switch. Strike a match. Pull the curtains.

Abdu'l-Baha once said, "Darkness is the absence of light: when there is no light, there is darkness. Light is an existing thing, but darkness is nonexistent."

It seems to me that healing our collective broken family will be achieved not through the tearing down of nonexistence, but through the building up of the existing good, however small it may be. Even if exists only in the state of potentiality.

My oldest daughter is in kindergarten this year at a public school in Maine--the whitest state in the country. She is the only brown child in her class. She is acutely aware of this fact because, as it turns out, children are not blind. I listen carefully to her observations. I validate her feelings of wanting to be white, of having straight hair. I tell her, honestly, that I think her skin color is beautiful. That I used to desperately wish for curly hair. I tell her what Abdu'l-Baha had to say on the subject:

"Flowers may be variegated in colors but they are all flowers of one garden."

And then I ask her what acts of kindness she saw at school that day. Because it is true that we are many colors, but it is more true that we are one race: the human race. And kindness--love--is our shared currency.

In October, Oprah interviewed Raven-Symone, who boldly and unequivocally renounced all other labels (including African American), declaring, "I want to be labeled a human who loves humans."

This is what I want for my children: to grow up as humans who love humans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Isaiah. One.

Dear Isaiah,

You are one year old now and I am just as crazy in love with you as the day I met you. You. You are my gift. My joy. My love. I wait for the moment every night when you crawl from your bed into mine, push your head into my rib cage, and immediately fall back to sleep. Somehow, the ridiculous awkwardness of it comforts us both. And the fact that you don't generally abuse your free pass to my mammary glands.  It's been a few weeks now since your first turn around the sun and honestly if I had written this in a more timely manner, it would have been something along the lines of, "You're still my baby. But also, you're still a baby." I don't know if I can say that anymore. The first part, always. But suddenly the space you occupy in the world is so much more animated, communicative, conscious, defined, capable, toddler-like. 
That you manage to pull off this toddler-esque persona is actually quite remarkable considering the only words you consistently say are 'Dada,' 'zhis,' and a version of 'cockadoodledoo'--and that you are still a crawling person. But you also stand with your back against the couch and catch balls. You climb the bathroom stool. Then stand on the top rung and hitch your leg onto the counter. Another week and you will be on the counter. Anyone who has been to our bathroom can attest to the sheer height and potential disaster this scenario suggests.  You play ring-around-the-rosie with your sisters and tear down the hallway on your radio flyer push wagon. Just today I realized you know where your belly button, nose and toes are. And that if someone says, 'too loud!' you cover your ears with your hands. Also, you're a great kisser. This afternoon when I asked Violet to tell me the time, you waited until she walked away and then crawled to the spot she had been standing, pointed at the clock, and spouted off what I'm sure was a very accurate description of the exact angle of the sun's rays. In another language. 
When I ask you if you want to sit in your high chair and eat dinner, you adamently tell me, 'uh-uh,' which sometimes means 'HELL NO' and sometimes means, 'YES!' You won't ask for milk in a respectable manner, but you will stick your fist down my shirt and insist on 'zhis.' And then there is the near constant shrieking. (Yes, you cover your own ears when you do this.) You spend a good portion of your day attempting to drill into your sisters' heads the concepts of personal space and free will. Another good chunk trying to get your distracted mother's attention. Both regretfully require high decibals. (You and the Vitamix account for why Mama's earplugs live perpetually on the kitchen counter.)
Your favorite book: Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Favorite activity: swinging in your new birthday swing
Favorite foods: bananas, meat, and water
Favorite toys: balls and anything with wheels
Favorite human being: Daddy. In fact, your love is so great that he has started sneaking in the door when he gets home from work just so he can take off his coat and shoes before your urgent Dada-shrieks claw at his ears and your tiny hands claw at his pants. There is no point at which you tire of him. (The reverse cannot also be said.) No point at which you willingly share him. You have many rituals together, involving cleaning each others' ears, watching dogs bark on YouTube, playing with feathers, and switching on and off lights.  
On your first birthday, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Julia, and Uncle Sina, Ferida and Yue joined us for dinner, you became intimately familiar with frosting, and we took you trick-or-treating for the first time wearing your new mouse hat thoughtfully made by Auntie Julie. I made you your felt birthday crown, your sisters made you cards, and Daddy hung your tree swing. It was as simple as it gets. Leaving plenty of room for you. Happy belated birthday,  Isaiah. You filled all my empty, dark corners.



Monday, October 20, 2014

The Birth of the Bab

Today was the commemoration of the Birth of the Bab, a manifestation and forerunner of Baha'u'llah. Our family attended the community celebration last night with prayers, readings and refreshments, and it was lovely... But the actual holy day awaited us in the morning and we had not a single plan for honoring it. That didn't feel right.
Before I went to bed, I sent the word out to my mama friends that there would be a birthday party for The Bab this afternoon at our house. And yes, there would be cake. Let me start by saying that I should ONLY throw parties without any prior foresight or thought. It leaves absolutely no room for stress and opens wide the doors of simplicity and joy. I never even had a chance to lose sight of the key components: the Guest of honor (in this case, The Bab), the children whose hearts I wished to connect to this Guest, and cake.
While Samaya was at school, Violet and I made a trip to the grocery store for the crucial ingredients. We ate lunch, baked cupcakes, whipped together some frosting, cleaned up the house. The children came and we all sat down to make watercolor cards to give to The Bab. When we had finished, we sat in a circle and read them out loud so He could hear them. There were hearts and stars and messages of love and...portraits. Today I asked Samaya, 'How did you know The Bab's favorite color was green?' (It is actually associated with Him.) But tomorrow I will attempt to convey "the impossibility of representing, in any human form, whether pictorially, in sculpture or in dramatic representation, the person of God's Manifestation"(UHJ) and that even attempting to do so is disrespectful. Their station too great. Our understanding too limited to even approach Their true nature through artistic representation. 
I read a brief story about The Bab's birth and early years, and then it was time to sing Happy Birthday. Though The Bab was there in spirit, He was not physically able to blow out His candles, and so we each took it upon ourselves to make a wish of peace for the world and blow out a candle for Him. Upon further consideration, it was also deemed necessary to eat two cupcakes each, one for ourselves, and one get the point. And that was it. We played outside, we said our good byes, and, on another whim and stroke of utter (lazy) genius on my part, we made green ice cream for dinner. Definitely a new tradition. A whole bunch of kale thrown in the vitamin with frozen cubes of coconut milk and frozen bananas. Instant, healthy, fun dinner. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Evolving Perfection

Too often, I have this nagging feeling in the corners of my mind that perfection keeps slipping just out of my grasp. The house is a disaster despite constant cleaning. The children need baths despite having bathed last week. I still look pregnant despite having given birth almost a year ago. I can't seem to find the peace of mind to sit down and write despite knowing that writing gives me peace of mind like nothing else. 

But last night, perfection knocked me to my knees and squeezed my heart with both hands. We were watching The Velveteen Rabbit. Violet was captivated. At the end of the movie, the boy watches, devastated, from his father’s arms as his beloved rabbit awaits the fire along with all the other bedding contaminated by scarlett fever. The father, in turn, weeps, having finally realized that though his wife may have died years ago, his son is very much alive. He begs his son’s forgiveness for his physical and emotional absence. It is a powerful and complex moment. Violet is standing in the middle of the carpet, absolutely still, unable to sit. When she turns to me, silent tears are streaming down her face. She is feeling what this father and son are feeling. And I am overcome. Overwhelmed. By the empathy, depth, understanding she has just exhibited. Never have I loved her more than at this moment.

Many tears has this child shed in fits of rage or pain or anger. But these tears. These quiet heart tears. She has never shown these to me before. And I feel honored. Privileged. To have witnessed such perfection. 

And all the rest of it...evolving perfection. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

A loose tooth

My first baby showed me her first loose tooth today. I thought she was delusional. Then I thought it was wishful thinking (she's been desperately hoping for one ever since her best friend lost a tooth). Then I thought she was teasing me. Then I realized SHE HAD A LOOSE TOOTH. Then I hoped I was delusional (this. just. cannot. be.) But I felt it. I saw it. Sal's words from One Morning in Maine echoed in my ears: "You could even see it wiggle." I searched desperately for a way out. A way BACK. How did we get here already? I stood in the hallway for multiple seconds, staring incredulously. Everyone always tells you they grow up. Kids, that is. But honestly, I thought they were mistaken. Maybe their kids grew up. But what did they really know about mine? You know, besides whatever Facebook told them?

I called my baby's daddy. He already knew. He laughed. How could he laugh as our daughter surely and steadily slipped from our grasp? The full realization of her separateness suddenly sunk into the pit of my stomach. I fought back tears. I suppose I knew in theory that she was born with her own soul. I just hadn't experienced all hers and mine before. Not even when she started school. Not even when she developed her own social circle. Her own friends. Her own life that I simply had no idea about. For whatever reason, the universe chose this moment--this wiggly-toothed tiny moment--to shove that space at me.

Small consolation came at the end of the day.
"What was the best part of your day?" I asked her.

"My loose tooth!" She unhesitatingly declared.

"What was the hardest part of your day?"

"Waiting to tell you that I had a loose tooth."

"Really?" I choked, incredulous yet again. For now, for today, I was her first thought: I can't wait to tell Mommy.

I'll take it. I'll take everything this confident, exuberant, glowing, GROWING five-year-old throws at me. And I'll do my best to slow down and savor every bit of it. Forget you, miserable life-sucking to-do lists. I'm making a new list. One list. It goes like this:

1. Samaya
2. Violet
3. Isaiah

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Winter Recap

Naw Ruz (the Baha'i new year) has arrived! (Yes, I started this post more than a month ago, but I'm finishing it WAY before next Naw Ruz. So. many. points. for. me.) It seems timely to briefly mention some key events over the last few months...

10.30.13: Isaiah was born. I have never been so deeply happy and content and complete. Somehow his arrival shifted everything else around in my life and heart to settle squarely on balanced.
Seriously, we LOVE this boy. His seemingly endless smiles showered upon family and strangers alike are just...well...I can't even talk about it in a coherent way. Just come and let him smile at you and you will feel your whole heart smiling back.
His best quality: sleeping when tired. Yes, it is too a quality. I've never had a child who does this. It's awesome. He LOVES his daddy. He discovered his (loud) voice. He decided he actually likes the car. He loves his sisters. He gets scared easily. He doesn't like to be put down or carried in a carrier. He loves new people and places. He blows raspberries. He's trying to roll over.  He tried a couple times to roll over a loong time ago and realized he actually had no interest in such activities whatsoever. Sitting, on the other hand, is totally his thing. He sucks his thumb when he's tired. He has teeth!!

Two teeth baby!

We got lice in December. Mostly, I got lice and the girls got a louse or two. Which one of us is in preschool?? My head was crazy itchy for a couple of weeks at least before I had any idea. At which point I learned that the panic/paranoia/obsessive-campaign-to-eradicate was very much an American response when held up against my husband's shrug-of-the-shoulders, we-got-it-all-the-time mentality.  As much as I admire his even keel, it was not what got rid of the infestation. Nor was it poison-in-a-bottle-which-doesn't-work-anyway. The prize goes to an entire bottle of olive oil, a few bottles of dollar store conditioner spiked with tea tree oil, a tiny comb, and many sacrificed hours. We have never had a relapse, but that doesn't stop me from reaching for that tiny comb every time I itch my head--just to be sure and all.

Shortly after Isaiah was born, the girls embarked upon a dedicated and persistent fascination with all things birth. Neither had any interest in being present at their brother's birth, but a few weeks later they suddenly could not get enough. They have poured over Lennart Nilsson's "A Child is Born,"  spent many hours playing 'Midwife,' and watched countless videos on Youtube, all of which I screened for unnecessary intervention, fear-based models, and foul language, but of which I otherwise did not censor whatsoever. This means they have seen and fully understand what labor and birth can entail, ranging from (relatively) easy, peaceful births to very intense, often painful births. My mother cannot watch what they watch. I want them to know what a woman's body is capable of. I want them to know that it is rarely easy, but that it can be peaceful. I want them to know that it always pushes a mother to her edge, but never beyond. I want them to know that it is the most difficult, rewarding, and empowering experience they will ever go through. And most importantly, I want them to know and trust that their bodies were designed to bring life into the world, should they choose to do so.
We have weekly children's classes and 'pray dates' in our home. This year, I stepped down from teaching children's classes, and we currently have a team of four (four!) teachers. Each class focuses on a spiritual concept (truthfulness, service to others, the unity of mankind...) and uses the Ruhi lesson plans. It has been wonderful watching this community of young and old(er) develop bonds of love and friendship--a microcosm of future generations. 

Our pray dates for 0- 3 year-olds have been going on for more than a year now and they quite literally have been the answer to my prayers. Laid back enough to allow for the organic evolution of the deep friendships I so desperately needed, and structured enough to anchor both the children and adults in a lovely routine of prayers, songs, story, and movement. I feel blessed to be part of a grassroots community-building space that I hope continues to grow.

Violet turned 3. We had a perfectly lovely party at home. Sledding, fishing, bowling, snow (inside), play dough cookies, purple frosted cupcakes, and Pin the Heart on Violet.

Samaya made that shirt for her.

We went out for coffee. and ice cream.

It snowed. repeatedly.

(No, I absolutely did not take this while driving with 3 kids...)

We spent many a winter hour in front of the fire with a good book. or three.

I learned to clean up the house before I sleep. And then I forgot. And then I relearned. And then I forgot. And then I remembered to at least clean up the kitchen so I could spend the next day doing something besides cleaning up yesterday's mess. Or at least have room to cook and make a new mess.

Ayyam-i-Ha happened. The kindness elves dutifully arrived 19 days before to assign us acts of kindness. And when the celebration began, they gave us clues to find our gifts. We made cookie cutter cookies (with cashew flour!) for Samaya and Mora's preschool class and read 'Maggie Celebrates Ayyam-i-Ha' to the class. We made bird feeders for our feathered friends. We delivered cookies to friends. We had a ballet recital! 

A ballet recital! A most generous friend has been teaching ballet to Samaya, Violet, and Mora for the last several months and they had their first 'show of work' at the end of February. It was sweet and joyful and oh-so-hilarious.

Isaiah got at least one bath. This photo serves as proof. There are benefits to being number 3 (for instance, your mom is so much more chill), but cleanliness is not one of them. Basically, you get bathed if you stink. Which could take a while if you are a baby. 

Violet wrote the alphabet. WITHOUT THROWING A TANTRUM. Perfectionism...a blessing and a curse. 

I turned 30 and Sisay turned 64.

We celebrated Naw-Ruz with our traditional family trip to the pool and a party in the evening.

We are currently celebrating Ridvan, the period of time when Baha'u'llah stayed on an island outside the city of Baghdad, and announced that He was the Promised One for today.

Monday, January 27, 2014

An Extended Babymoon

If I had written this a couple of months ago, many of you would most likely be questioning my sanity and/or how many illegal substances I had consumed. Because after Isaiah was born, I was seriously and ridiculously and completely high. You know when you fall in love and the world is so stunningly beautiful that mashed potatoes and puddles and snowflakes all have equal ability to bring tears to your eyes? 
I was that kind of high. 
At my baby shower, a dear friend gave me Leah Dietrich's book of Thank Yous in which she thanks everything from clean sheets to assumptions to scissors. I loved the simple, creative exercise in gratitude, and took up the practice in those early weeks. To give you an idea of just how high I was, the first time I took Isaiah grocery shopping, he projectile vomited the entire contents of his stomach all over the store. Here is what my journal entry was for that day:

"Dear projectile vomit, 
Thanks for making an ordinary trip to the grocery store extraordinary."

I thanked projectile vomit. 

This pretty much sails right past the optimistic half-full mark and lands squarely in the deep end. 

So how did so many things in my life come together to create this ulterior universe of rainbows and butterflies that made even vomit look beautiful? I could get all 'airy fairy and hippy dippy' on you and pull the Grace-of-God card, but if you already are a God-fearing individual your response would be something like, 'duh,' and if you are not a God-fearing individual there would be a certain amount of eye-rolling. Neither of which I am interested in eliciting. The truth is, I'm not entirely sure. I can only guess at the practical steps I took as well as the circumstances I had no control over that seemed to contribute. incomplete (legal) recipe for extreme happiness:

1.    After transitioning from a vegetarian diet (no meat, lots of grains) to a paleo diet (no grains, lots of meat) six months before getting pregnant, I miraculously reclaimed my health. And miracle, it did seem. I know that many suffer much worse physical ailments, but living with chronic fatigue and two small children was easily the most difficult period of my life. It didn't bode well for my marriage either. By the time Violet was a year and a half, I knew something needed to change. I was doing these children a serious disservice and that wasn't fair. Close friends had recently embarked on the GAPS diet (extreme paleo), and the girls and I soon followed suit. It was a slow uphill, but it was steady. My pregnancy with Isaiah was WORLDS different than with Violet. Energy! A mere two weeks of mild morning sickness! (Relative) emotional stability!
2.    When Isaiah was born, Sisay stayed home for an entire month. And he did EVERYTHING. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, morning routine, school drop-off and pick-up, grocery shopping, and—most impressive—getting up with the girls at an hour that only slightly resembles morning but is more akin to torture. And he did it all with a smile. I had the luxury of being fully immersed in my babymoon, my only job being to nurse (while reading a string of excellent novels), change diapers, and gaze into my sweet son’s eyes for hours on end. 
3.    Food! We had friends bringing us amazing dinners for TEN days after the birth. It was overwhelming. It was delicious. It was the most helpful thing anyone could have ever done. If you know of anyone having a baby, go to RIGHT NOW. You will be providing such a service.
4.    Grandparents. We’ve lived under the same roof with my parents now for a year. I now know that feeling of being utterly-alone-never-alone that I thought was par for the course…doesn’t have to exist. Shouldn’t exist. It really does take a village to raise a child—or at least to raise a sane parent. Need someone to hold the baby at 7 AM so I can take a shower? Call Grandpa. Need a break on Saturday morning? Have the grandparents take the girls to the children’s museum. Need to separate the girls so they stop beating each other? Send one to Grandma to work in the art studio. My dad cut back his work hours when Isaiah was born (I swear I never asked him to!) and he now doubles as Samaya’s personal chauffeur to and from school and my mother’s helper. (He prefers ‘au pair’ but he doesn’t speak French.) On Thursdays he escorts us to the grocery store. It’s pretty much the highlight of the week.  
5.    Sisterhood. Over the past few months, Samaya and Violet have gotten increasingly closer. There was a noticeable shift when Samaya started school. She thrived. Violet audibly sighed in relief to have a couple hours every morning in which she didn’t feel compelled to compete. They both seemed to find a peace that had previously eluded them. And when they were reunited at the end of the morning, it was like the angels were singing. Or akin to that for a mother. They would immediately get lost together in deep imaginative play, often for hours at a time. (Their rotation of games most often includes ‘Midwife,’ ‘Doctor,’ and ‘Mommy-Baby.’)
6.    I changed my goal from ‘being perfect’ to ‘being happy.’ Simple dinners, unfolded laundry, dirty dishes, skipped playgroups, even (gasp!) screens. This last one has been hardest for me, but you know what? I’m pretty sure Barney is far less damaging than their mother yelling at them. Also, I’ve given myself permission to feel incredibly accomplished even if—no—especially if I hang out in bed all day with the babies.
7.    Better communication with the husband. Maybe before I die I will make in through an entire day without accusing or assuming. It’s astounding how detrimental these two ‘a’ words can be and remarkable the difference when they are replaced by another little ‘a’ word: asking.
What do you mean? (by that tone of voice, action, word)
How can I help?
Can you help?
8.    Sleep. I finally learned how to sleep when the baby sleeps. Sleep is precious. Sleep cannot be underestimated. Sleep is a game changer. Sleep can be soooo hard to choose at 7:30 PM, but oh so worth it at 4:30 AM. It’s time to recommit to this one.
9.    The third child. Yes, you know the drill by now. Breastfeeding is second nature. Their first cold doesn’t send you to the doctor’s office. Baths are completely optional. But really each child is so unique that so many things you thought you had under your belt are simply irrelevant. What really makes the third child easier is that you stop trying to figure it all out. On a good sleep schedule? It won’t last. Not sleeping at all? That won’t last either. I spent so much of my time with Samaya and Violet pouring over child development books and googling ‘how to get my kid to sleep through the night without crying it out’ and ‘techniques for dealing with an angry/ fearful/ sensitive child.’ I got so carried away with trying to fix them that I forgot to really enjoy them. I still do my best to pay attention to what Isaiah is trying to communicate to me, but I make sure his voice is louder than all the parenting books and well-meaning mothers combined.
10.  I figured out how to say no to any commitment that was unnecessary/ put stress on our family. It turns out others arise who are far more capable than I and everyone wins. 
11.  Screens: iPads. iPods. iPhones. Computers. Televisions. They are friends. Not enemies. Quality time interacting with real people is of course ideal, but watching countless youtube videos of ‘babies being born’ (the current obsession) and plenty of PBS is more than okay as well. They are learning just how powerful women are, strengthening math and literacy skills, honing interpersonal skills, and, most importantly, not learning what it feels like to be yelled at by an overtired/trying-to-cook-dinner/need-to-get-something-done parent. 

12. The baby himself! My beautiful, perfect son who makes my heart ache with love a million times a day.

Truly, the stars aligned for us and for that I am so profoundly grateful.