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:

IMG_1748.JPG

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. 

In Between.

 Visa photo of a tired girl.

Visa photo of a tired girl.

It’s been rough. I feel burned out. And we are getting ready to go to India, which is restful and not, all at the same time.

This morning I have been taking some time just to feed the artist girl. Watching videos and listening to songs that inspire. I’ve had a lot of tasks lately. Marketing and bookkeeping. Making lists and travel plans. Family and homeschool. This is my home, but I sometimes I crumble under it all. 

The artist girl needs to be free. Rides on the bike. Running, listening to birds call in the morning. The darkness that calls me awake. Coffee. Sleeping in tents. Sleeping under trees. Watching the sky in all its different colors. Pictures keep me awake. I make mistakes in my words and with my own voice. I would rather sing than do anything.

I am a mother, artist, and wife. I am a writer, monk, and mystic. I am a follower and a leader. I wait in the morning for inspiration. I claw words out of my brain. I censor myself. I try to be true. I am always relating. Always a friend. Always longing for paint or pencil. Always a mess.

The blue sky calls me, asking me to fly in this dance between surrender and freedom.

Sometimes it is all too much. 

Sometimes I cannot hold myself to the schedule. Get the tasks done.

Sometimes all I can do is pray and wait.

Sometimes there is no action point, no way to fix it all. Just a way to live here and there. In the space between what God is calling me to, and what I am now. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I'm so thankful for you! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Patrons- the vlog and day in the life videos for January are up!

Dear Leafy Boy (a letter to my twelve-year-old son),

 Goofball on the left.

Goofball on the left.

You are twelve and that is impossible. My dear, shining glittery one. The two year old who used to tell us, “I have so much love in my heart for you,” in your funny voice. My quirky boy, walking on furniture, dreaming your heart out. Twelve years old. Okay, deep breath, how strange it is—simultaneously—that you weren’t there twelve years ago, and that you have been in my life twelve years. 

(End mother rant about time passing and age, the stuff your dad says, “Yeah, Rachel, yes, yes, they are older, it’s true, that’s how it works…” about.) 

Everyone should have a Leafy Boy in their lives. Here are some of the things a Leafy Boy offers in our lives. 

- Humor (You wanted to cut a slice of pizza the other day and asked, “Does anyone have a knife… or a sharp hand?” and we all died. It’s your timing, the way everything you say is unexpected and funny.) 

- Quirk (Life would be boring without our Leafy boy.)

- Encouragement (the amount of times I have heard you pipe up in someone’s defense lately… even if they are just down on themselves) 

- Someone to explain all the things, including scientific things, to me. Lately I ask you more and more, “Where did you learn that?” after you explain tesla coils, or electricity, or the way boats work. “I read about it,” you say. 

- Someone to hug me first thing every morning. We call it my Leafy Hug. “Here’s your Leafy Hug,” you say, as you come into the studio to greet me and the day. 

- Quiet inventions. I expect great things in the future.

- A constant, loyal friend. 

- A fan. (You asked me yesterday if we couldn’t just give the immigration officers signed copies of my books instead of doing all this work and paying all this money, as though I am a star.) 

- Someone who makes great videos.

 

It is the very Leafiness of you that I love so much, the way you take the world in, the way your heart works in compassion, the focus you have, your belief that you will be able to build anything and everything. Your life in superhero worlds. The fact that Naomi told you to sing a little encouraging chant (“Mama is awesome”) while shuffling sideways like a crab and clacking your hands, and you did it. More than once. I love seeing you walk along with your arm looped around your sister's neck, hers around yours. I love the way you exploded with joy when you found out that Auntie Becca is coming to India with us. You have a big heart. Goodbyes mean a lot to you, and so does time that we get to spend with people we love.

A friend of yours moved away this year and it has been hard for you. I long for you to find another friend like him. There will be one. I know it. One of the best things about the friend you had was the way his family took you in and enjoyed who you are. It’s what want for you, for others to get to experience what I know about you, to get the Leafy zing and sparkle. Your three year old cousin gets it. As she said the other day, "Leafy, your magic comes from your nose." I would have to agree.

I think this year is going to be amazing. I love to see you marching through the world, walking your circles, thinking your thoughts. I can’t wait to hear more of them. I am so so so glad to have you dear one. You have a place in my heart that no one else does.

IMG_0025.JPG

Love,

Mama

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I'm so thankful for you! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me.

Suddenly choreography.

 It's almost as impossible as photographing a group of kids. Someone is always making a face.

It's almost as impossible as photographing a group of kids. Someone is always making a face.

I woke up today and walked into my friend's kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Dreams of meeting with almost everyone I ever knew were still clustered behind my eyes. We were having some kind of gathering, and everyone was taller than I remembered. Taller and still alive, some of them. There was dancing. More than one person asked me to dance with them because they were too shy on their own. 

Waking up was a like climbing a mountain. The alarm annoyed me but the birdsong invited me to join the wakened world. All these birds! My friends live in the city, but their neighborhood must be some kind of bird sanctuary. I did once see a lovely older birding couple here, binoculars around their necks. I am thankful to have beings awake before me, to coax me along. It's right that they are birds, I have followed them around the world.

I'm on a last minute trip to Chiang Mai, as part of our on-going raising-kids-in-remote-places gig, we have begun sending or driving the teens (my two and two friends) to youth group every other week when we can. Sometimes we put them on a bus and a friend meets them there. Sometimes I bring them. Yesterday I had extra inspiration, as we wanted to see Thor Ragnarok.

It did not disappoint, and at one point, at the introduction of a new character, I nearly stood up and cheered, stopping only when I remembered that I had four teenagers sitting next to me. I was glad we were able to see the movie. It was iffy for a while. There was a power out five minutes into the opening scene, after we had already sat through the half hour of trailers and commercials, and stood for the King's song. We sat in darkness for a long time, and finally the power came back on and we watched our movie.

There is a special delight in driving a long distance with a car full of happy teenagers. I don't feel very old, but I have children who are taller than me or as tall as me, and are really very nearly full fledged grown ones. At least, they seem full grown until certain moments when I stare at them, wondering if they can really think the thing they just said. A teenager is like a grown person talking to you, telling you a story, then looping it into the logic of an eight-year-old. Flash, I'm an adult. Flash, I'm a kid. My brother loves to joke with Kai, patting him on the head and saying, "It's okay, you don't have a frontal lobe." It is still developing, one has to hope.

We talked about many things. We listened to Arcade Fire and Imagine Dragons. I started a silly dance to a song and Kai imitated my actions so it was suddenly choreography. I saw Kenya join in in the rearview mirror and I felt buoyed up by goodness, by the gift of these kids. A teenaged son dancing with his mother is very nearly a miracle of God. I am thankful for the miracles I receive. 

We talked about their generation and mine (the tiny 7 year group called X-ennials) and Generation X, and what it was like to grow up without the Internet, and how they can't imagine not having touch screens anymore. We talked about the Nintendo 64 I played at my friend's house when I was small. We talked about learning to speak a new language, and settled on the fact that it is easier to learn a new language if you have already learned a second one. Vrinda and Taran speak three languages each. 

All four are proficient little world travelers, used to buses and planes, to backpacks, to finding your way around places when you can't read the signs. Kai told us a story about a Youtuber who got stranded in Thailand after he lost his debit card and couldn't get a replacement. We talked about ways you could prevent that from happening. (By making sure that your bank mailing address has people who can forward you your card, for those who are interested. Travel tips.)

Increasingly I know that I cannot predict the future as a parent. And there are too many stories from those who have gone before me, of the ways our children can take unexpected forays into the deep, unrelenting strangeness of the world. But I pray and I pray, and I have every gift of each day. Moments of dancing and laughing. 

We ate at the Burmese restaurant. Taran was happy to find that it tasted better than he remembered, but Kai was sure it didn't. Vrinda was in heaven. So was I. And Kenya was too polite to complain either way. Taran told us a story about a joke he and his father have, that makes them laugh so hard when they are watching a series together that they can't focus on the show. They started to get a bit irritated with each other, as jokes became sharper, and I waded with all my Auntieness and Mommishness, asking them to be patient with one another. And then I dropped them off at youth group, sighing with relief at the silence after the precious, precious noise. 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, Kathleen Anderson, and Timothy Silva. Your support keeps this writer going! 

Swimming through my gold.

23275735_1985514171475501_1830067303948253702_o.jpg

Leaf was at our house the other day, and asked Leafy what projects he has planned. (Is that too confusing? Leaf is my friend and Leafy is my eleven-year-old son.) 

"I'm back to my computer project," he said. "And if I can get a paraglider, I'm going to build a foot-powered airplane."

Both of our jaws dropped. 

Everyone needs a Leafy in his or her life, I think. Someone who is so completely unexpected, who doesn't see any limits to what he or she can do. Some of us are crocheting blankets, others are planning foot-powered airplanes.

I was having a hard night and my friend Winnie told Leafy he should do a crab dance every day (you open and close your hands like crab claws and shuffle from side to side) and chant "Mama is the best, Mama is the best!" So sometimes he does it. It always makes me laugh. He is pure gold.

When the things I love get broken, when I have only five minutes of time to myself in the morning, when the mess doesn't stop or it is a quarrel-filled day, I like to run through the things I love about my kids. It's my version of swimming through my money. 

I love Solo's wild interpretive dancing. On Facebook I saw this video of a bearded man doing a ridiculous dance in a woman's one piece bathing suit, and I commented that I won't be surprised if someone sends me a video of Solo doing that one day. When I told him this, he acted shocked and offended, but later in the evening, his dancing became so wild that he was rolling on the ground and leaping into the air. He loves to shake things up, and I love that about him.

Kai gives the best hugs. He has come back to himself in a beautiful way, after having a difficult couple of early-teen years. He is gracious and wise, and still has the biggest eyes and the widest smile.

Isaac is fuzzy and sweet. Now, when we lie together before he goes to sleep, he reaches out and rubs my back with his little hand. There's not much I love more than holding his hand, walking somewhere together. He is straightforward and funny. He dances with Solo. He waits for laughs. When he gets angry, it's hard not to find it cute. He has ridiculous dimples.

Leafy never says what you expect a person to say. He is always surprising, and I love it. When I work, he gets so excited by the act of creation that he has to jump up and walk around the room. He tells me he loves me when the love wells up so big, and that often happens when I'm working on something creative. He just loves to see people making things. 

And Kenya dances now with headphones on. She is shooting up, nearly as tall as me, but wants to be shorter, so she bends down to hug me with her head against my chest. She carries the posture of the responsible girl with a wildness all her own. She loves every creature. She is a living poem.

***

There are so many things I cannot do. Numbers and tasks elude me. I can be easily duped. My lists evade me. But I can see beauty, so much beauty. I can see fun and quirkiness. I find the ridiculous. I may be grumpy in the morning, but I can stop to listen to a bird. And I have made countless mistakes as a parent, but I see the beauty in my kids.

I think we all have these things. Maybe one of you can't put words together, but finds worlds in numbers. Maybe some of you know all the constellations. Maybe some of you are able to be even-keeled. (This is absolutely miraculous.) It's easy to be hard on ourselves. Make yourself a list, today, of all the little things you are good at. Muffins, kung fu, making beds? And make a list of the things you love in your people. Your spouses and kids, your uncles and aunts. None of us are quite whole, and we are far too ready to focus on what we can't do. Change it up today. Focus on what you can. And then tell me about it. I'd love to hear.

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, Kathleen Anderson, and Timothy Silva. Your support keeps this writer going!  

Patrons! The first Q and A video is up! I have a little monologue for you on friendship. I hope you like my rambling. It's my first vlog ever. Find it here.