Saturday, January 31, 2015


We've had epic snowfall this week. I haven't written poetry in forever, but sometimes the world is too beautiful for 'so beautiful.'

Outside, faces up, powder dusts our lashes
and we blink them into drops,
changing winter into spring over 
and over. The black lines of
bushes flicker in and out of
so much white like television
and trees stand still so 
as not to disturb their 
perfect icing, a testament
to winter’s sweet tooth.
Where sky meets earth, 
a most delicate peach glow,
the only color in a world of snow.

Monday, January 19, 2015

(How) We Shall Overcome

--> Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As I'm sure it has in many families, the occasion has given rise to a number of opportunities for dialogue. Early this morning, Samaya and I found ourselves alone in the kitchen, everyone else still asleep. As she watched BrainPop's movie of the week on Dr. King, I stood over the pancakes at the stove marveling at how even a kid's app portrayal of this man can move me to tears.
"Why did they kill him?" she wants to know.

We've had this conversation repeatedly in various forms: the 'why do people do bad things to good people?' conversation. I’m not very good at it. I never feel like I nail it. If I can barely wrap my mind around it, I'm pretty sure my five-year-old is mystified. But sometimes the universe gives you answers to questions before they are asked. And occasionally you notice. 

Last night I was listening to the first episode of the new NPR show, Invisibilia. A freelance IT guy was talking about how, after his wife left him, he really struggled to be around people. He was becoming more and more of a recluse. It struck him one night that he was afraid of was rejection. He decided that if he was going to overcome this debilitating fear, he would have to face it head on. And so he made it a personal goal to get rejected at least once every day. It was harder than he thought. 

“There just aren’t as many no’s out there as you might think.”

“We’re always, always telling stories to ourselves about the situation we’re in and about other people. And that story becomes a reality for us. And that’s the problem,” he concluded.

This really resonated with me. Assuming my husband is thinking and feeling things he absolutely is not is our single biggest source of contention as a couple. I have been repeatedly made aware of the fact that the stories I tell myself are OFTEN inaccurate. I don’t think I’m alone. 

So when Samaya asks me why Martin Luther King was killed, I say: “Because a man told himself a story about how white people were better than black people. A story that his father probably told him. And he wasn’t willing to listen to any other story but that one.

The only reason why someone would do something bad to someone good is because they got the story all wrong.

We talk about how we all tell stories to ourselves constantly. And not all of them are true. For instance, she tells herself elaborate stories of monsters coming into her room at night. She’s terrified of cats and dogs. Of her brother falling down while walking, knocking out his teeth, and having to go to the hospital. And she can choose to believe these stories and be full of fear, or she can choose to challenge these stories and find out if they are true or not. And keep finding out. Because the thing about stories is that they are a product of the past. A new story is constantly being created. And it will never be exactly like the last story.

Abdu’l-Baha unequivocally asserted that, “the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past.”

And it's anecdote:
“Among (Baha’u’llah’s) teachings is the independent investigation of reality, so that the world of humanity might be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth; might tear off and cast away this ragged and outgrown garment of 1,000 years ago and put on the robe woven in the utmost purity and holiness in the loom of reality. As reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity, therefore different opinions must ultimately become fused into one.

How do we overcome prejudice? We investigate reality. Get to know each other. Become FRIENDS with one another. Realize that we are far more alike than we are different. And that those differences allow us to view more sides of the same truth. Like the blind men and the elephant, all our differing points of view, as if by magic, will fuse themselves into one reality. One human family.

On her way out the door to go to an indoor play place with the grandparents, I call to Samaya, “Make a new friend! That’s what Martin would have done.” 

She did, by the way. Her name is Lindsey.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

How to Thrive When the Third Child is Born

A number of friends are expecting or have recently had their third child, and it got me thinking about exactly why the birth of our own third child felt so incredibly...easy. This is not meant to be boastful in any way. It is more a testament to the family, friends, stars, and gods that aligned to make the sweetest year of my (our?) life possible. So forget surviving. Here's how to thrive when your third child is born:

1. Accidentally have the first two way too close together. Preferably of the same gender. Then wait long enough that they play (and fight) really well together. When baby comes, it will be almost like having an only child again, without the obsessive worrying/urge to constantly entertain that came with baby #1's territory. Plus periodic conflict resolution.

2. Especially at the beginning, but for as long as you can manage, let your agenda consist of nothing. Not even food. Let other people do that. I would do anything, ANYTHING, to wake up again and have no other thought besides, 'I'm alive! I LOVE being alive! And I love my babies!' For the rest of my life, I will be on a mission to be as fully present as I was those first months.

3. Speaking of food, make sure a friend has organized meals for your family using MealBaby or Meal Train. If they haven't, make your mom do it. Graciously accept the food at the door and kindly tell them you will let them know when the family is ready for company. Unless you're one of those folks that prefers to be surrounded by a constant stream of visitors the moment the baby pops out. I have met this mother. She does exist. For the rest of you, I give you full permission to hibernate. 

3. Have a husband who takes a month off from work and wakes up every morning to cook pancakes for the big kids. And then have the presence of mind to realize how awesome he is and tell him so.

4. Realize that you've had a partner all along who has been helping and who is happy to help even more. Now that you don't have a choice, let him, you control freak. Who cares if he uses too many dryer sheets and he does the girls' hair funny.

5. Don't ever for a second feel guilty that the other two are in any way deprived. If they are acting like hellions, act appropriately (ie. tickle torture them.) But if they are fine, be fine too. Actually, they're way better off because you're less helicoptery and they have each other.

6. Don't bathe them too often. That's what wipes are for. I can't tell you exactly how often I bathe the baby because Child Protective Services might pay me a visit.

7. Forget trying to get the baby on a schedule. I'm going to let you in on the best kept secret in the business: Babies sleep when they're tired. Despite quite a few (one might even say 'many') people actually having had a baby, this is a little known fact. I tend to believe this is because the American Academy of Pediatrics, hundreds of baby sleep books, and thousands of articles, blog posts, and parenting forums brainwash parents before they even have a chance to hold a real live baby and come to their own conclusions. The sheer number of voices on the subject drown out the only two voices that really matter: the baby's and yours. It is true that if your goal is to produce a baby that sleeps through the night in her own private nursery flat on her back as dictated by said books/articles/AAP, you will most certainly have your work cut out for you. It will not be pleasant. And depending on the method, many believe it is potentially damaging. Even if you succeed, your baby will start teething a week later and you will be back at square one. And then she will get sick. And then you will go on vacation. Just don't. It's not worth it. Listen to your baby and yourself. Maybe you have a baby that loves being snuggled in a wrap for daytime naps. Maybe you have a baby that prefers to sleep in her own space. Maybe you have a baby that hates being on his back but loves being on his belly. Maybe she just needs to know you're right there next to her all night. Maybe she's in agony because of whatever you're eating. Maybe he thinks he should have a nipple in his mouth at all times because every time he so much as squeaked when he was a newborn, you put one in his mouth. Pay attention. They'll let you know if you're willing to listen. If your baby barely naps one day and insists on taking a nap at 5 PM another day, roll with it.* You don't have to understand. You just have to accept that they have some say in the matter too. So relax, perfect the nursing-while-sleeping, and stay out past their bedtime occasionally. There won't be any schedule to ruin.

8. Figure out which standards you're willing to compromise on, and lower them all. This applies to screen time, food choices, cleanliness, housekeeping, and the number of pinterest activites you organize for older children each week.

9. Take that newborn and go on a babymoon. To your bed. Stay there for a week straight doing nothing but gazing into each others' eyes. Potty breaks are allowed.

10. Finally, live upstairs from the grandparents. Ok, ok. Now I'm boasting.

*Do not EVER let your toddler nap at 5 PM. In this case, you would not be respecting the child. You would simply be stupid.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


At some point along the way, I received the advice that, when it comes to difficult subjects, take their lead. When they ask, answer their questions (and only their questions.) I've realized though that the hard part is actually hearing their questions, from their 3 or 4 or 5 year-old point of view. What's not such a great idea? Hearing the topic, and spewing out everything I know in relation to it. I may or may not have this propensity. Especially with my first born, who, by virtue of being born first and born wise, can trick me into forgetting that five is actually quite small. Not all of her questions lead me down this slippery slope.

Some are just impossible: 'Where did the first strawberry come from?'
Some are simply beyond me (it doesn't take much): 'Why does the earth rotate on a tilt?*

It's the questions I have at least partial answers for that require that delicate balance between being honest and age-appropriate. And when the one asking the questions regularly appears at my bedside in the middle of the night to anxiously whisper that she's 'dehydrated' or that her newly emerging molars are most definitely causing pieces of her gum to fall out, or (like last night) that she can't feel her heartbeat(!), that balance becomes even more crucial.

The first time she asked why a friend from pre-k had two homes--one with her mommy and one with her daddy--I almost found myself attempting to explain the dynamics of love and the causes of divorce. First of all, unqualified. Second of all, she did not even ask about divorce. Instead, we had a brief conversation about families coming in all shapes and sizes.

After the twentieth time being asked about the sanitary napkin dispensers in the public restrooms, I gave it my best shot: When a girl grows up, her body is capable of growing a baby. Every month it releases an egg and the uterus prepares itself in case a baby does come along. It develops a thick lining made of blood and tissues which can nourish a baby and provide a cozy home. If the egg doesn't get fertilized by the sperm, then that lining comes out each month. The sanitary napkins absorb that lining. She was unalarmed by this information. A sign that I had achieved that balance.

But then there was the time that I found myself explaining how x-ray machines were used on pregnant women to see the unborn fetuses. It was new, exciting technology; mothers could see their babies before they were even born! It became very popular very fast. During this time, a female scientist noticed that many children were getting cancer.
(More questions: 'What is cancer?')
The scientist discovered that the x-rays were the cause of the children's cancer.
('How did she know?)
It took 25 years for the practice to stop.
We discussed how people are slow to change. Slow to accept a new manifestation. Slow to accept the equality of religions, of races, of genders. She kept wanting more. So I told her about her partner, the statistician, who did everything in his power to prove her wrong by looking at the data from every possible angle. And how grateful she was for him. She was interested only in the truth--even if it proved her wrong. Only he didn't prove her wrong; he confirmed her findings. By asking questions from every possible angle and welcoming others' questions, she arrived at the truth.

That was the easy part. She had to take that truth and do something with it. For 25 years she worked tirelessly to change the way x-rays were used so that no more children would be harmed.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure this one got away from me. She didn't seem too traumatized, though I'm quite sure most of it was over her head. Oh well--I just hope she got the impression that questions are good. Never stop questioning.

Maybe we'll revisit this later. If we do, I'll tell her to be like the statistician: Ask your own questions. Find your own answers. That if enough of us stop imitating the past, we'll have a chance at remaking the future. One in which we decide for ourselves whether the color of our skin, the name of our God, our gender, or sexual orientation actually mattter at all.

"By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor."  -Baha'u'llah

* I didn't have a clue, but encouraged her to hypothesize. Without so much as a pause, she said, "I think a piece of a planet from outer space knocked into it and made it crooked." Well, duh! I'm just going to assume from now on that she already knows the answers. She's just seeing if I do too.