Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dear Violet (4)


Dear Violet,

On Thursday you turned four years old. You have known for a while now that you will start Pre-K when you are four, so on that morning when Samaya went to get dressed for school, you promptly followed her.  "Me too, right Mama? I have to get ready for school now, too. I'm four now."

And that is when you broke my heart a little bit. again. You do that rather frequently, and I think I finally realized why. I'm never prepared. I've known you your entire life. You lived inside of my life for nine months. But you, of all my children, are my greatest mystery. To the world, you are strong-willed and strong-mouthed and strong-armed. And even though this outer layer is paper thin, it is enough to fool even me. I know better, I do. I watch how when your little brother pulls your hair, you whip around in fury, arm cocked, and then melt into a puddle when you see him. Scratch at your surface, and a whole mess of raw, unfiltered love comes spilling out.*

The thing is, sometimes I forget to scratch. I see you hit your sister or wrench something out of your brother's hand and I see exactly and only this. On the days when I've had enough sleep though, remembered to say my prayers, and forgotten about the all-important to-do list,  I might take a second look--and see something else. A stab at justice. An over-tired/ hungry child. A tiny person who is feeling disconnected from her loved ones.

These are the moments when I march you to your room and, instead of slamming the door, I follow you in, cover you in kisses and tickle you until you beg me to stop. That outer gritty layer? Dissolved beneath my very fingertips.

It's not that I am surprised by your goodness. Rather, I am repeatedly in awe of how good, how pure-hearted, how thoroughly honest you are. Just this week when I asked why you had hit your sister, you replied matter-of-factly, "I didn't hit her. I punched her. It's not the same thing."

You offer others your food even though you LOVE food. You take away Daddy's headaches with a gentle massage. You stop mid-tantrum to comfort someone else in distress. And you give killer hugs.

You carry that big heart always in front of you, looking for other hearts to love. Everything else is irrelevant. For weeks, I tried to coax you into telling me what you would like to do for your birthday. All I could get out of you was a trip to the Kittery Trading Post to see the taxidermy moose. (Unfairly, you are also the funniest person in the family. Samaya and I frequently wet our pants.) As your big day approached, you repeatedly exclaimed, "I'm so excited!" 'What part are you excited for?' I asked. "The birthday part," you answered with absolute incredulity.

Right. Of course. Life is about living. loving. Not about doing. And that is why you are my precious gift.

Happy birthday, Violet Olivia.

*How fitting that you were born just two days before Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Class Valentines

 Samaya's kindergarten class is exchanging valentines on Friday and we made shrinky dink heart key chains for her classmates. I only do things that are crazy simple and this fit the bill. I cut out hearts on shrink film (4 per page), then the girls decorated one side with sharpies and wrote the names on the other side. We punched holes in each one, baked them for a few minutes, and attached the key chain rings. Finally we tied them to a simple heart valentine inscribed with Abdu'l-Baha's words on love: ..."let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ayyam-i-Ha 2015!

The adoption of a new calendar in each dispensation is a symbol of the power of Divine Revelation to reshape human perception of material, social, and spiritual reality. Through it, sacred moments are distinguished, humanity’s place in time and space reimagined, and the rhythm of life recast. 

So I'm pretty fascinated by how a manifestation can come and completely 'reimagine' our place in time and space. I'm not going to pretend to understand the implications of this, but I can at least rattle off a few facts about the Baha'i calendar...
  • There are 19 months in a Baha'i year, each named for an attribute (virtue) of God.
  • Each month has 19 days; hence the Nineteen Day Feast, or just 'Feast,' occurring at this interval.
  • To account for the solar year, the period of Ayyam-i-Ha occurs between the 18th and 19th months. Otherwise known as February 26 - March 1.
  • Quite literally, they are the days outside of time reserved for gift-giving, acts of charity, and celebration. 
One of the loveliest things about Baha'i holy days and festivals is that there are no traditions. Each individual/ family gets to hand-tailor them for their own specific situation. There have been a few religions before this one, so in addition to creating new traditions we have lots of tried and true traditions to draw inspiration from*. Right now, Baha'is around the world are preparing to celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha, and though there are certainly common elements, the celebrations will be as varied as the celebrators. We have been using this 'advent' calendar to count down the 19 days before Ayyam-i-Ha. Each morning the girls run to the calendar to see what the Ayyam-i-Ha fairy has left them.


And while treats are lovely and certainly serve to mark this time of year with sweetness and joy, I am even more interested in using this time to cultivate habits of the spirit in my still-small, still-impressionable children. I want them to wake up each morning and think, "How can I be of service today?" Because I know that if they can do this, they will have stumbled upon the secret to happiness. And if everyone can do this, we will have stumbled upon the secret to world peace.

Enter the kindness elves. 

Originally inspired by this idea, Matilda and Oscar arrive from Sweden each year to help us spread kindness for the 19 days (1 Baha'i month) before Ayyam-i-Ha. And during the actual days of celebration, they present the children with clues for finding their gifts hidden around the house. Everyone knows that the kindness elves aren't real. Everyone also knows that they are quite partial to chamomile tea before (our) bedtime. 


Their suitcase got delivered to our door the night before our countdown began, and in the morning the girls opened it up to discover their old friends and a suitcase full of Ayyam-i-Ha decorations. This year's list for spreading kindness and joy:

1. Decorate the house
2. Make 9-pointed star decorations.

3. Go Ayyam-i-Ha shopping for Daddy with Mommy.
4. Go Ayyam-i-Ha shopping for Mommy with Daddy.
5. Learn a new prayer.
6. Sing 'Happy Birthday' to a very special sister and shower her with love today!
7. Bake a cake for Violet's birthday party.
8. Help clean the house and decorate for the party.
9. Order seeds for your very own flower gardens in the spring.
10. Take a walk in the woods and feel gratitude for all that God has given us.
11. Make pinecone birdfeeders as gifts for our feathered friends.
12. Make Ayyam-i-Ha gifts for our friends.
13. Make gifts for Grandma and Grandpa.
14. Have an Ayyam-i-Ha-themed story time.
15. Listen to a story about Abdu'l-Baha giving cloaks to the people of Akka every winter, and donate some of your own clothes to the local homeless shelter. 
16. Make Ayyam-i-Ha cards for your cousins.
17. Have an Ayyam-i-Ha dance party!
18. Make gifts for Samaya's class.
19. Shovel a pathway through the snow in our backyard for a lantern walk tonight.

*Actually, I'm pretty convinced there's really just one unfolding religion