Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Tiny Little Moments

Yesterday was a special day.

Nothing happened.

Mondays are the only day of the week I do not teach yoga and so it's a very low key day.  The older kids went to school, I stayed home with Tori and Mari's mom who is living with us now.  Nothing extraordinary or worth bragging about happened.  But in that absence of the big, I noticed the small.  And the small is amazing.  The tiny little moments.

Like when we slipped on Tori's shoes to go outside, and she started tapping on the floor with the soles.  The hard rubber on laminate drummed as she stomped.  I started stomping in my shoes too.  It was fun because that sound, in that second, was all we needed to smile.

Every day is new with her.  Like yesterday she was going to breast feed her baby.  As I fixed dinner she brought a plush baby doll over and handed him to me.  I hugged and kissed him then folded his stuffed hand shut with my fingers, "Milk, Milk," I said, pretending like the baby was making the sign for milk.  She looked at me and then looked at the baby, smiled and reached for the bottom of her shirt.  She tugged on it with her fatty little fingers, started to pull it up, exposing her chunky baby belly.   She grabbed the baby out of my hands and hugged him.  She was going to nurse her baby doll.

Today Nala's teacher sent a note home saying that she caught her looking up one of the words during a spelling test.  I really like how Mari and I handled it, and I know that our stint homeschooling inspired our approach.  We didn't tell her that she was in trouble or order her never to cheat again or even tell her that she did anything wrong.  First I asked her if she thought it was wrong.  She said, "Well not really because it was just one letter that I didn't know from one word."

I told her that looking things up is a great thing to do if you do not know the answer.  We talked about the different resources: dictionaries, google, spell check, etc.  And then we talked about how what the school is doing is helping you to remember things without having to look them up, and the tests are really tools for her to use to help her understand areas that she is having trouble remembering.  The purpose of the test is to help her know what she remembers.  So there is no point in looking up for the test.  We told her that she'll never get in trouble for wrong answers and she shouldn't worry about how she does on the test.

We've gotten beyond tight with our finances lately.  Tighter than ever before.  At first it was scary, stressful and saddening to not buy things that I have been used to buying.  But now I notice that by not looking to external goods for enjoyment, it feels like we are looking and working together more internal.  And I'm grateful for that.  Grateful for this reminder of what it feels like to be simple.

Tori asked for me to turn on the music by pointing at the speaker and cooing.  Nala picked the songs and we danced in the kitchen while dinner cooked.  After 7pm I demand all the electronics are turned off and the kids start chasing each other around the house.  It's like a train, first Kaio runs by pulling Nala on a ride on, Tori toddles as fast as she can after them and Vovo follows, spotting Tori.  They round the kitchen island.  Each time the house shakes like an actual train and there are so many giggles.  I look at Mari and smile.

Smile because they are loud and silly and rambunctious and I love it.  Smile because we somehow created this.

This is a stage in life where I notice that I'm contemplating life and existence on a daily basis.  I know it's normal at this age to wonder if I'm living fully enough or if I'm on the right track.  Yesterday I got to listen to Mari's mom for hours telling stories of her family history back in Brazil.  They all grew up on a river island at the mouth of the Amazon.  I worked out that there are a couple things that seem like they have been important through the generations: being fed and being educated.  Food for the body and the brain, simple as that, seems to be the recipe for a happy heart and full life.

Seeing Kaio all grown up in comparison to Tori is such a trip.  I look at her and remember him, his cute little actions that were mischievous but well intentioned.  Her drive and bravery matches his.  I just pray that I can be the mom that he deserves and support his spirit in a way that helps him to thrive.  Unfortunately I think he was practice parenting, where I learned how to be the mom I really want to be by making mistakes in the beginning.  Now I'm trying to make up for all the yelling I used to do.

He doesn't like to let me take pictures of him but I just have to, he's so beautiful.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Catching Up

I've never gone this long without posting before but the last few months have been even busier than usual as I was working on a proposal for a new business.  Happy that I turned it in last Friday and things have slowed down tremendously.  My mother in law is living with us, which is wonderful.  My kids are so lucky to not only have one grandmother in the house, but two.  They get so much love.

We celebrated Kaio's 9th birthday last weekend.  The difference between this year and last year is beyond striking.  He is so much happier now.  If you've been reading my posts over the years, then you know that I've struggled so much in figuring out the right approach for him.  He started off in Kindergarten and once the academics kicked in, begged not to go every day, then I homeschooled him for a year in a half, and then put him back in school mid year last year.
Seeing him run around with his friends, friends fighting over who gets to sit next to him, it is wonderful.  Last year this time he was lonely, afraid of people,  and threatening to hurt himself everyday.  

He is so much happier now and rarely blows up with anger.  Academically, I wouldn't say that he's farther along than when we were homeschooling.  But I'm not worried about it because he's happy, and that is all that matters to me.

I have a tremendous backlog of photos of the kids and baby Tori.  Here she is with our family dog friend Xbox, and Nala's pet bunny.

When she sees the bunny, she makes a little clicking noise with her teeth.

Xbox gets jealous of the baby.

Nala is thriving at school.  I keep getting notes home saying that she talks too much to friends.  Seriously, I do not care.  As someone who was so socially nervous and awkward in elementary school, I'm happy that she's not like that.  Have fun girlfriend.

Tori is Nala's little babydoll.  Even though there is a 6 year gap between them, I feel they will be good friends and sisters.

Mari raced in a bunch of paddleboard races this year.  He now races in the elite league.  I love how we merge our vacations with paddleboarding events.  I love traveling with a mission.

This picture is from a few months ago.  I do not like to put baby gates on the stairs because it gives a false sense of security.  Kaio pushed right through the gate we had when he was a baby.  I want her to learn to go up and down them so I do not have to worry about her falling.  Tori is walking now, and learning to go up and down the stairs holding on to the railing.

As much as they fight, they also support.

Our bed taken over by the munchkins.  We moved a twin mattress onto the floor in the room for me and Mari to sleep in.

These pictures were months ago.  What will I do when she's really not a baby anymore?

Neighborhood friends come over often.

My little hummingbirds.

Kaio living in his world.  Using legos to craft the cockpit of a tank that runs on gas and crystal power.  He drew the controls on paper, and made the levers and engine out of duplos.

A selfie with my baby from springtime.

She's so cute.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Struck by Memories of a Vibrant Life

I moved a coat rack in the foyer and uncovered a framed 5x7 photograph hung on the wall that I snapped about 10 years ago in the Peruvian jungle. It's a picture of sunset over Rio Morona, near where it intersects with the Rio Amazonas.  My college friend, Ellen, and I, were sitting on the roof of a small passenger boat filled with leaders of the Ashuar Indian tribe after hitchhiking on tiny fishing boats from Ecuador to Peru.

Next to it was another framed 5x7 photo taken in the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu. We woke up at the break of dawn to start hiking.  It wasn't raining but a rainbow crossed from one mountain side to another. At the time it seemed like a magical welcome sign, like the entrance gate to Disney World. 

You know I've had these photos up for quite some time without thinking much about them - or maybe trying to not think much about them. Today, and in this particular moment, they struck me.  The calm blue grey hue of the water seemed the same shade of the walls in massage studios.   That color at the hardware store called Tranquil Blue. 

And the whole picture seemed washed out in a faded kind of way and I remember that's because the humidity in the air created an undeniable fog.  The rain-forest perspires constantly.  I remember the next day, before the boat docked in the city of San Lorenzo, there was this torrential downpour of warm rain.  It felt just like the derechos we get in Virginia summertime. It felt novel, refreshing and wondrous. 

When we made it to San Lorenzo we found a little cafe for breakfast serving coffee and rolls with butter.  A lady walked in with a baby monkey clinging to her shoulder. It was so cute and she wanted to sell it to me for five Sols.  I thought about how cool it would be to carry a little monkey around me for the rest of the trip but what I would do with it after it was time to leave.  Could I take it back to the US? Was it stolen from its mom?  Ellen talked me out of spending the $2 for the monkey, saying, "You don't know what kind of diseases it might have."

Looking at that picture it felt like a lifetime ago but I realized it had only been 10 years.  At the time I had the courage or maybe the stupidity to venture off into another country without knowing the language.  I traveled to and sought to hitchhike places the Lonely Planet guide didn't know anything about and I talked Ellen into going with me. I thirsted to learn about the world, to extend my horizons, to gain knowledge about different people and cultures, and to understand myself and my place better by seeing how other people lived.  It was an exercise in minimalism; I subsisted on as little as possible and spent as little money as possible.  One night we slept without a tent, on the sand in the river bank next to turtle tracks, aware that jaguars and alligators roam the jungle.  It felt so daring and so special.  

As I sat there staring at the photos, Tori climbed on my leg.  She'd been playing on the floor shaking seed packets for annual flowers I'd never got around to planting.  Periodically I fished colored erasures out of her mouth.  I picked her up, still facing the photographs.  These pictures represented my greatest achievement at the time and now I held my greatest achievement of the next 10 years.  

These kids are my new horizon and I learn more about psychology, my place in the world, life and the universe, though watching and contemplating them.  I could complain of serving them day in and out, but they are the beautiful landscapes I stare at mystified and the doorway to new friendships and experiences.  Every day is a grueling trek peppered with glimmers of smiles and giggles.  We bushwhack our way into the next segment of life, whatever adventure that may be.  

And so, for once, I didn't stare at the photos and feel untrue to my adventurous spirit for trading the travel bug in for a suburban family life. No, I looked at it and felt the air of the jungle, remembered the heat and the overcooked rice and dry plantains we ate for lunch every day.  I connected with the parallel journey I'm on right now.  Things are not better or worse now, just different.  And these pictures of beautiful places that are special to me are like the pictures I take of my kids.  I put them all up around the house to inspire me constantly to continue to live a vibrant life aligned with dharma.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nala's Sick Week

This has been a tough week for Nala-bala, and yet despite all of it, she remains such a ray of light.  A little over a week ago I found lice in her hair.  My first lice encounter, gross!  She had been itching and we received a letter about someone in her class having them.  I took a shower with her and washed her hair.  Apparently the water makes them dumb and slow, and when I found the first little fucker, errrrrr!  I was like, "You bastards get out of my daughter's hair."  I don't think Nala has ever heard me curse so much.  

So she missed school one day for that. Then the following day she had a stomach ache and missed school for three more days.  We've been trying to get to the bottom of this chronic stomach ache she gets.  This stomach ache that always miraculously disappears by the time we make it to the doc.  Well this time around we actually got an appointment in while she was still feeling it and have some leads now on what to try and what tests to start with.  I also finally convinced her to get blood work done and that was helpful.

This girl never fell sick for the first five years of her life, and now for the last year she's been getting fevers every 2 months like clockwork.  bizarre.  I got so worried about her one night that I was up late googling scary things.  
Nala loves high fashion, even on the battlefield

She writes everyone in the family love letters for no reason

She's effortlessly cool and graceful

Loving and gentle
inquisitive and artistic

Naturally joyous and playful

I just love her to pieces and seeing her not feeling well hurts me on the inside.  Last week when she had a fever she woke up at 3am coughing.  Tori awoke as well.  I stayed up with them and we partied.  Despite her weakness, every time she looked at Tori she broke out in a smile.

Parenting is like this fun and scary roller coaster that you're tied to and can never get off of.  You can laugh, scream, cry and feel like puking... or get puked on.

 I have to say that it was nice having her home with me and Tori, like a mini vacation day to craft and play.  She always ended up feeling better midday, but not quite well enough to go to school

Making avocado sushi

Obviously so sick

and finally...  the next little girl to enchant my heart.


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