Dear Leafy, (A Letter to my ten-year-old son.)

 You are ten years old! TEN YEARS OLD! Somehow, despite the fact that your brother is thirteen and your sister is nearly twelve, you are the one that I can’t believe is still growing. What happened to the Leaf Baby? What happened to the little boy who used to rub mango all over his face like it was some sort of facial mask? The boy who fell face-first into a cow pie or who used to wear a cape 24/7? 

Wait—he’s still in there. Yes, he’s there, the little crazy Leafy boy.

“Oh, Leafy.” We say it a lot, dear one. Because you are always surprising us. Your mind is a wild jungle that has amazing fruit, and occasionally you bring it to us as a little gift, as though to say, “Here is something odd and delightful.”

You love to cook, and you especially love to come up with sauces and concoctions that you call SIM. (Stuff I Made.) You come to me every day to ask me if you can make some SIM, which at the moment is something made with milk and yogurt and jam, which you freeze and eat like ice cream. You have made your own, crepe-like, pancake recipe. You make salad dressing and something we call Leafy sauce, which is a pancake topping so delicious that I’ve seen your dad eating it out of the bowl. (Butter and honey and lemon.) If I tell you that I don’t want you in the kitchen at that moment, it is a little bit as though your life is coming to an end, that’s how much it means to you. 

You’ve also started to make movies, recently. I watch them and am in awe, though they are still very simple. But they come out of you, someone I MADE, so you can understand my feelings about them. I especially like one you made recently, called, Dinosaur Chase which involved many creative shots of you leaping over things and coming to the camera all shaky, running from an unseen foe, and also a shot of you journaling about it with a voiceover at the end. SO GOOD. It’s as though you have no limits. You look at what you have and then you start to make something with it. You come up with your ideas on your own and figure out what you need. You volunteer to go to the store to buy things if we have run out of something you need. You’re a starter, kid. It’s a good way to be.

You read voraciously. You are kind. I might come out of the studio and into the kitchen to find you making breakfast on a tray. “I’m bringing Kenya breakfast in bed,” you will say. Just because.

And funny. Oh my goodness. Nothing can knock your dad out of his chair with laughter like a Leafy statement. You are hilarious. 

Here’s a tiny example of a very normal interaction between you and me. The only thing I can’t insert is your timing, your incredible intonation and the way you tilt your head and move a little jerkily, in your own way, all your own.

Leafy: (As we are eating nachos with salsa.) “I see you made your old fluffy salsa.”

Mama: “Yeah, I didn’t mean to. I think I ran the blender too long.”

Leafy: “I like your old fluffy salsa just the same as I like your other salsa.” 

Mama: “Oh. Thanks!”

Leafy: “It’s just like how I like Kai and Kenya the same, but different. I wouldn’t want to only have one of them for a really long time and never seethe other one for a really long time or ever again.”

Mama: “…”

Here’s another from the other day. I was dealing with a tantruming Isaac in my room and you came in, threw your hands up, and announced, “I don’t know if this is a good time, but I have diarrhea!” And then you left. And dear one, for the rest of my days, I will treasure you at ten. And I hope your belly feels better soon.

You were a Tauntaun from Star Wars for a parade down the beach recently. :)

You were a Tauntaun from Star Wars for a parade down the beach recently. :)



I'd like to know what he'll name his first band.

The mornings are cool now, cool enough to wear a sweater, especially on the scooter. The sun still burns strong in the middle of the day, so that you look down at yourself suddenly and wonder why on earth you are wearing a sweater. It’s hot! you think. Why am I wearing this? Because the chill of the morning is a vague memory, and you don't even remember how uncomfortable it is to wash dishes in cold water on a cold morning.

I love this weather.

Tonight I lost it and shouted at the kids a bit, because they were fighting over turns on the computer and it drives me batty. Batty enough that I tell Chinua, "you'd better come in here because I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out to be a mother. I don't know why I'm realizing that right now." 

We worked it all out, and I apologized for shouting. We shared our vision again, of a family that helps the younger ones and looks out for each other, and spends time together and doesn't get rigid and miserly over things like computer turns. Most of the time my kids are the farthest thing from miserly, practically showering affection on our friends and visitors, the first to invite people over or suggest more hang out time or set their friends up on the computer. But with each other? Well, it's hard to live with a lot of siblings. (Great preparation for the real world.) 

Kenya suggested a game of Phase 10 after dinner, which turned into Phase 3 when Isaac was too sleepy for us to finish. Not that he was playing, but I needed to get him to bed before he keeled over. Suggesting Phase 10 was a good idea on Kenya's part. My kids love the crazy goofy mood I get into when playing any board game; part evil competitor, part wild encourager. I'm known to gloat a bit and also to start singing songs like, "I think you're amazing!" to the tune of Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, if anyone gets down on themselves for not finishing a phase. It's a strange combination, but it works for us. They love it. They basically love it when I leave off of being the super serious, slightly frazzled mother that I can be, and start having fun. It's a lesson to all of us. They also love it when I lie in bed with them at night, for the same reason.

Halfway through our game of Phase 3, Leafy went to get a glass of water. He's a budding chef, and he came back into the room and announced, "This is my famous drink, called Disheveled Puppy." 

I lost it. Wha? Leafy only gets quirkier as he gets older and he is always good for a lot of non sequiters. It turned out that I had heard him wrong and he had said "Shoveled puppy," because the spoon in the glass of plain water he brought in was the shovel and the water was the puppy. Still strange. 

I've started enlisting one kitchen helper per night so I can teach them more about cooking, and the way that I can tell Leafy is a budding chef is because he can't leave the food alone. "We have to sauté the onions and garlic slowly until they are really soft and almost see through," I tell him, and he says, "That looks and smells so good, can I eat a little bit of that plain, right now? Can you put it in a bowl for me?" And then when we add the tomatoes he's hopping up and down, he can barely wait to taste it.

He also comes up with good names, like Disheveled Puppy. 

Our friends from Australia arrived a couple days ago, two couples who are coming to be part of this budding community that is starting here. Of course, today I discovered that a weed whacker in Australia is called a whipper snipper, and though I have promised myself to stop laughing at what things are called in Australia, I couldn't help myself. Whipper snipper. Snort. I'm so happy I can barely contain myself. 

I've also been battling depression and extreme feelings of unworthiness and despising myself, so hey, how's the roller coaster? It's all over the place. I found myself googling "signs of depression" the other night, and I don't know what I was expecting to find. Maybe "Number of times per week it is normal to drive through countryside sobbing on a scooter?" or "degree of self loathing permissible for food that doesn't taste quite the way you wanted it to?"

I'm teetering. I'm not deep in it, but I tip over into it easily. I'm working on it, and I'm always afraid of writing about shame and depression, because that is what it does to you. But I'm going to continue, because I know it helps someone out there somewhere. And for all the reviews I get that say I'm too whiny, I get twenty more that say, thank you, you helped me. That's what matters. I'm glad that there are people out there who don't know what it feels like to be crippled by anxiety or depression, but I am not one of those people. 

I'll tell you the truth, because I can't always believe it myself, and in telling you, I'll tell myself. You are beloved by God and you don't need to be ashamed. Every day, every beautiful thing is a gift from His heart to yours, and you need to learn to reach out and take them. Take the Disheveled Puppy and the game of Phase 3, take the hug from your husband and truly feel it. Don't tell yourself you need to justify your existence by making money or giving a lot or being wise. Take the love from your kids or your parents, take it openhanded, because it is from God. Don't let the shame pit drag you down into it. You don't belong there, just because you got a little shouty, just because you over salted the food. You belong in love, and friendship, and safety.

On the town with the Leafy boy.

A couple of weeks back we had a community dinner at the Shekina Garden. A family joined us, and I was very inspired by their practice of making one minute videos of their days while they traveled. I'm always a bit daunted by all the video I take and never use, but my new friend showed me what he had done, and he made it look easy. 

So, when my Leafy boy and I went to Chiang Mai together to visit the dentist, I made a short video. This is what it feels like to be out with Leafy for the day. 

(I'm still learning about Youtube and copyright, so if you can't see the video, please let me know.) 

Any reason is a good reason to celebrate!

My kids have invented a new holiday. The other day they told me about the holiday in the morning, we talked about it all day, and when I brought pizza home for dinner, they said, "Yay! Pizza for celebrating Sun One Jun!" That's our new holiday. Sun One Jun. "We should get pizza for every Sun One Jun," Leafy told me, which I'm not sure if I'll remember, because the next Sun One Jun doesn't happen for another eleven years. 

It seems that Leafy looked at the computer in the morning and noticed that in the top right hand corner it said Sun 1 Jun, or Sunday, the 1st of June, since it abbreviated June--which doesn't strike me as a month that needs abbreviation, but I digress--and was thoroughly tickled by this. This would tickle Leafy, he is a little word play addict, constantly working on rhyming things or making word matches in his head. And although it was Leafy's idea, the other kids supported him in his Sun One Jun bliss, wondering what exactly they could get for Sun One Jun. Could they get ice cream? (Didn't happen.) A break from school? (Well, yes, but not for that reason.) Pizza? (Yes.) 

And where will we be when we are eating pizza in 2025 for Sun One Jun? I have no idea, but I do know that Kai will be twenty-two years old and Isaac will be twelve. Leafy himself will be nineteen and I'll call my tall, broad-shouldered man boy up and remind him that he needs to take his mother out for pizza, it's Sun One Jun.

If we get a hankering for a holiday before that, well, next year is Mon One Jun. 



Ever since Isaac was born, I sometimes look at him and feel odd, like I've had this baby before!  I'm sure some of it is the mystical connection that mothers have with their babies, but after looking through pictures, I realize that a lot of that feeling is due to this:











Apparently I HAVE had this baby before. 

Also, there are no pictures of Kai as a baby for two reasons: 

1. They are print photos, back in storage in California. 

2. He is the one who has a face like no other. He also hasn't changed since he was about six months old.

But remember when I had only babies?  When everyone was teeny tiny?