Dear Solomon, (A letter to my ten-year-old son)

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My love, you are ten. Ten years ago, you were born during the monsoon in India, during stormy, dark, wet rain. A long labor and then there you were, a little piece of sunshine. 

This has been a good year for you. Friendships are deepening, your confidence is growing, and you’ve grown stronger in reading and writing. You started gymnastics and we were all a little shocked by your headstands and ability to do the worm all the way across the floor. Or fall back into a bridge. 

You’ve grown so tall. You’re all arms and legs and knees and elbows. You’re most often moving. Whirling, jumping, climbing, hopping.

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You love to cook, to dream, to listen to music. You love to dance wildly. You love playing the piano and drawing. The way to your truest heart is through beauty. You are transformed by a sunset or a perfect music score. Your favorite movie is Song of the Sea, and you are a little heartbroken that you will never be a Selkie. Or have a Night Fury like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. It hurts you that fantasy isn’t real. (It is, though we can’t see it in regular life.)

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You are very kind. From a rough little three year old, you turned into a boy who I couldn’t imagine purposely hurting another kid. (Besides perhaps your siblings because let’s be honest, siblings are like a pack of feral puppies.) You hate injustice and you are sensible and empathetic when it comes to treating people well. You have a longing to connect well with other people. It is beautiful to see.

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You climb into my lap at any opportunity. I keep you there as long as I can, and then I have to tip you out because you are gigantic and my legs fall asleep. I love that you love to cuddle. Part of your identity comes from being different from any other person, and I love that about you! Sometimes things get too conventional, and you handle it by shouting loud non-sequiteurs that help you feel the balance of weird with normal. We take them in short chunks, and then tell you to stop when it becomes too much. 

What would I do without your wild music running all through my life? You are a strand of something unconventional; pure art and dancing. You give me courage. You are most at home in a dreamy world, and it churns with life. I can’t wait to see what you will create.

I love you at ten. I’ve loved you all your life. I will love you forever,

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Love.

Mama

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How Isaac sees me.

Isaac kept me up half the night last night, sleepless and a little scared. I lay beside him and cuddled him, though my thoughts often strayed to today, and what it would be like to do it tired. I don’t do sleep deprivation anymore. It’s not good for the octopus in my brain. 

But I love him. And he loves me. And it’s the simplest, lovely thing. So I helped him get back to sleep.

It was Mother’s Day recently here in Thailand. Mother’s Day falls on the queen’s birthday here, and everyone wears the queen’s color (light blue) and some kids wash their mother’s feet to give honor, which is a new fact to me and so beautiful. 

We haven’t been great at Mother’s Day in my family, partly because Chinua isn’t such a holiday guy (more of a spontaneous amazing thing guy) and partly because it falls on or near my birthday, so I already feel quite celebrated and don’t really want to ask for more. But Isaac is in a little gentle learning school now, and they had a party for us on Saturday. It was really quite sweet, and the best possible part was the art of myself that I received. 

This is how Isaac sees me:

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I’m magical.

 

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I’m curvy and wonderful. (I'm the yellow one. Isaac is the pink one.)

I see love in every line. I almost wish I looked like that for real. Life would be so interesting. 

 

A New Part of the Journey

All beginnings are also endings. And sometimes, to celebrate a beginning, you also need to grieve a bit for an ending, especially if you are a fairly melodramatic, questioning kind of a mother-person. The kind of mother person who still likes to lie on the floor when she is overwhelmed by life and documents.

But the beginnings still need to be celebrated. Change is beautiful, rich, full of life, a thing to be cherished, one of the aims of raising children. 

Kai is starting high school. This is a minor miracle. He came home from camp in April and told us (with a lot of excitement) that he would really, really like to go to high school. And so we began to pray about it and then miracles began rolling in. He has received a scholarship from a loving couple to attend an international school in Chiang Mai. Another beautiful family asked if he can live with them. He will come back on most weekends. And school starts on Monday.

The last months have been a flurry of filling out forms and figuring out details and I wasn’t really sure of anything, so I didn’t write about it. But everything is finalized and our oldest child is half-leaving the house, back on weekends and holidays, living in a city three hours away. 

This will be amazing for him. His brain and brilliance need more challenge, he needs peers and teachers and a good transition point between living in a tiny town in Northern Thailand and moving to Canada or the US when he starts university, three years from now. He will thrive, I’m sure of it. I’m incredibly proud of him and excited that more people get to see the coolness that is Kai.

And also it’s sooner than I thought it would be.

There is this very instinctual, instrinsic part of my mother self that feels like Wait! Watch the kid. Keep the kid close. That’s our job. That’s what we do. 

It doesn’t help that every time I look away from him I reimagine him looking like this:

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How can you send that out into the world? How can you give that away?

But I blink and look back and he looks like this:

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For scale:

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This is a healthy, normal change, but it is the ending of an era. We all lived in a house together for sixteen years. All the family. We had a lot of time together; Kai was always home. We traveled on trains and buses, planes, boats, one tractor, rickshaws, canoes, cars or vans, and even on foot. We did it together. We’ll do more things together, I know it. Kai will still be home a lot over the next three years. But a certain time of life, a quality of how we were as a family is coming to an end, and it brings with it great possibility and the sadness of things that can’t be forever. 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I am terrible at transition. Change often has me charging around dropping things, and stubbing my toes. I grow clumsy and vacant. I am overwhelmed. But I want to do this well. So I am writing, listening. We are in the city now, getting ready for school. Doing a bit of thrift shopping. Getting his bicycle fixed. Figuring out class schedule stuff. It’s all normal. I’m channeling my very best Molly Weasley. I’m pretending to be the mom who knows about school and grown up things, who totally has this. I totally have this. 

I mean really.

I do. 

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This and that.

This morning is heavy and humid already, with a hint of cooling rain on the horizon. In a few minutes we will get into the car to drive to Mae Hong Son, about 2 and a half hours away, to renew our visas at immigration. The drive is very beautiful, though immigration days are long. 

I have a few business-y things. Kenya and I are opening our new website soon... with little starts and stops. We're selling our own art, as well as some collaborative pieces. It's a fun, interesting process as we get used to working with each other. Anyhow, I've been painting up a storm and I have a couple of new paintings in my shop.

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This brown bear.

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And these quail. You can find them here.

Also I'm putting a call out for reviews on my World Whisperer Boxset. If you have read the books, will you consider reviewing here? Thank you, reviews help so much with getting the books out to the world.

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This week will be full of writing and painting and teaching. I'm still hard at work on World Whisperer 4 and it's going to be worth the wait. It's a hard book to write, though! Oh my goodness. Every day is so full of the best things. Kissing and hugging and helping kids sort through conflict, deep discussions of faith and love with the kids and friends who drop over, or friends at the garden. All these things are worth it on this Monday morning. I know it is still Sunday for some of you. (Happy Father's Day!) But how is your week shaping up? What things are there to look forward to? To be curious about?

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts.  I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

A beautiful gift.

Getting back to school at the beginning of our school season has taken my breath away, to say it in a somewhat dreamy way. I feel like I run from morning till night and sometimes we are doing spelling words or discussion questions at 9:30, right before bed. It is worth it, and I know that I just have a few years ahead of me that are very full, and I won’t wish them away.

They are full of the beauty of bad puns,

Cups of coffee under the white flowering tree,

Teens who sing me happy birthday (my own and others that I love)

Good discussion,

Endless discussion,

Discussion first thing in the morning when I’m still making smoothies,

Trips to the market,

Pencils and pens,

Being read to by a nine-year-old,

Love,

And fairy dust.

And sometimes I am very tired from it all. Even good gifts can make you tired. And sometimes good gifts take your breath away in even dreamier ways.

I just had a birthday and my beautiful, tall, kindhearted daughter gave me this as a present:

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I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face, because I couldn’t speak for several moments. I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at for a minute, because it was a print of Isika, a character that I made up in my own head, and how did that happen? But as it turns out, Kenya drew it, had it printed, and gave it to me, rendering me speechless. 

It bodes well for a magical year. I’m praying it is so.