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.

I don't want to forget...

 Mom and Dad at the National Children's Day festivities. Dad is holding Isaac's balloon. (Not his own.)

Mom and Dad at the National Children's Day festivities. Dad is holding Isaac's balloon. (Not his own.)

Bad jokes from my dad that Kai always laughs at. 

Sitting with my mom at the bamboo bridges over rice fields, laughing at water buffalo who escaped their pen after a woman gathered them up and locked them in.

Devotion circles with my parents attending, singing and sharing in the circle. Hearing their voices in such a familiar way, in such a familiar place, but after a long time of being apart.

Having a second cup of coffee together in the late mornings.

My dad helping Solo get his bike fixed, Leafy build a project, or Neil and Chinua build a work bench at the garden.

My sister, Becca, turning up yesterday, all beautiful and laughing, getting hugs in the street as the younger boys caught sight of her. 

Dinners at our house, around our too-small table, cozy and happy. Papaya salad and fried chicken, sticky rice and corn on the cob. 

Eating cake for Dad's birthday and talking about what we love about him.

Sitting on the porch outside my house every afternoon together. 

Making quesadillas together in the kitchen. Brendan and Dad bonding over jokes. 

Going for a motorbike ride with my mom on the back, through rice fields and on narrow streets, looking at cows and flowers. 

A special dinner with the four of us last night.

Seeing Dad and Chinua walking up to the garden together, ready to work on building the work bench. Talking and walking together. 

My landlords trying to convince my parents to move here, doing their very best. Welcoming and kind. 

All the tiny, lovely moments that are beautiful and rare. I am so thankful for this visit.

 

Swan dives on shark slides.

IMG_9812.JPG

Yesterday we all sat around the table and ate stir-fried vegetables and rice, with fried eggs and kimchi on top. Taran and Vrinda, our teenaged friends, were over, and my dad (Mom has been sick, poor thing, so she was resting) and of course my own kids and Chinua (the very best Superstar husband in the universe, according to myself). 

Our table is small (it seemed huge when we bought it five and a half years ago) so it makes for an intimate dinner. Discussions varied from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Sublime:

Kenya mentioned that she had taken a closer look at the word chocolate, and noticed that it sorta-kinda contains the word “latte.” Maybe that’s where it came from? Cocoa and milk, since it was always a drink at first? I thought it was a pretty good theory. But then Leafy spoke up.

“No,” he said, gesturing with his hand the way he does when he’s explaining something. “It comes from an Aztec word, I’m not sure how to pronounce it—it has a lot of ‘x’s’ in it—xoxocatl? But they mispronounced it “choclat,” so that’s where chocolate came from.” 

(?!?)

Leafy is turning into this sort of genius encyclopedia that I can ask anything. He was explaining tesla coils to us the other evening. I am constantly asking him, “How do you know that?” This is a cool thing about homeschooling. You begin by plugging in the right skills (reading, research, an understanding of numbers) and eventually they outrun you. We are not perfect homeschoolers by any means. I’m sure I let any number of opportunities race straight by me. I have two other jobs, it doesn’t capture all my focus. But then Leafy knows the Aztec root to a word and I figure that despite all my failures, despite the fact that I can’t claim any credit, the kids are all right. 

(“Isaac’s reading is excellent!” his teacher told me when he started school. “I didn’t teach him a thing,” I said. “That was all Kenya.” Homeschool tends to trickle down after a while.)

Ridiculous:

First of all, the above egg was hanging out in the egg flat this morning. No one knew who created him. Of course I assumed Kenya, but it turned out to be a combined effort from Kai and Chinua. Kai drew the face, and Chinua came along and taped on the onion skin hair.

Then, in the afternoon, my mom and I took the kids to the local “water park,” which is their newest, beloved discovery. We had three extra kids with us, but all of the bigger kids rode their bikes to get there, so it was just Isaac, Solo, Mom and I in the car. The water park is a pool with those inflatable climbing things on them, and one giant inflatable slide. After I was there for a while, I figured that I was mainly there to call an ambulance if needed, with the way the kids jump from the top of the slide to the bottom. It’s very soft, but Solo did a head first leap that made me shriek for five minutes. I have these brave and athletic kids, and their friends are the same, and I’m always flapping my arms on the edges: “Careful! Oh! Careful!” Anyway, no injuries yesterday.

Mom and I sat in chairs and watched the light change on the mountains around the valley, and the cows and egrets in a nearby field. (Sublime.)

Then we got home and had the aforementioned dinner, and found out that when my dad, Chinua, and our friend Neil had been building a work table at Shekina Garden, Dad had hammered his thumb. Only Chinua made it sound like his thumb had been cut off, and Vrinda’s eyes got wider and wider. “We taped it back on,” Chinua said. “They reattach well if you get to them in time.”

“Cut off?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “and it will grow two heads when it heals.” 

Realization dawned, and she smacked Kai, who was in a fit of laughter beside her.  

I also thought the picture of Neil, my dad, and Chinua riding around in Hot Daniel was a nice one. Hot Daniel is our community truck, a tiny little thing with stars painted all over it. Chinua rode in the back, and at the hardware store they had to push it to get it started again. “Also,” my dad said, “we had to pass the handle back and forth to roll the windows down.” 

Oh Hot Daniel. Such a cute mess. 

Such beautiful days. Sublime and ridiculous.

***

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, send me your questions for January's Q and A video! 

Very special people.

We have a house full of Devenishes, Chinua says. My parents have come for a visit! I drove down to Chiang Mai the day before yesterday to pick them up, and we ate papaya salad, sticky rice, and grilled chicken in celebration before driving back over the mountains to get home. My sister was also here for a few days and will be back after she visits the beaches in the south.  

I see everything through new eyes; how beautiful Thailand is, as well as how sparse our furniture and how differently we live. How strange some of it would appear— no couches, little softness, our mattress on the floor. 

Yesterday we were all up in the dark making coffee in our outdoor kitchen. My parents woke up in the wee-est of hours, jetlagged and body-confused. I was up for work, so we drank coffee and sat on chairs in the kitchen. I went to write for a while, then came back to sit on the porch with them. My dad climbed into the chariot with me to drive to the market. I showed him off, telling all the market ladies that he was my dad, and they exclaimed that he was still so young and strong! Parents are a big deal in Thailand, so it is suitably gratifying to show them off. 

We bought a lot of vegetables and my dad pointed at various things and asked what they all were. He started planning a stir fry. Shopping for vegetables in the market is one of the very best things about living here, so it felt amazing to wander around the market with him. I’ll take him and my mom to the afternoon street market next. 

Yesterday we ate, and cooked, and rested, and talked. Leafy told Becca that her Star Wars name would be Chewbecca. My mom made friends with Wookie, our little white dog. Kai sat and chatted with us, breaking out with his amazing smile often, showing us pictures of what Wookie’s babies would look like and begging for puppies. Solo and Kenya went for a macramé class and when they came back, Becca and Kenya and I had some of our insane cuddles. At one point Kenya “sat” in my lap for a while, and Becca came and joined her, until I was on the bottom of a puddle of my favorite girls. Isaac ran around telling stories and refusing to give hugs. There was a lot of love, a lot of happiness. 

 Brendan and Ruby came over for Pad Kee Mao (a noodle stirfry) at dinner time and we pulled out google maps of Vancouver Island to explain how big it is and how it is oriented. Brendan told them about his retreat on a lake in Ontario, and they told him about living in Australia in the early 80’s, comparing place names and wondering if they knew the same people. 

I love it when people I love meet each other. I think it’s going to be a good few weeks of a lot of chatter and goodness. I want to remember all of it.

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. Thanks to new patron, Heather Cavallin! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. 

Patrons, send me your questions for January's Q and A video! 

Hard won.

IMG_9772.JPG

After a few starts and stops, I am sitting at my keyboard with a cup of coffee, typing my first blog post of the year. It’s going to be a good one, I can tell. Year, that is, not blog post. But actually, I have no idea whether the year will be good or not. But I have right now, and I have today, and those both seem to be all right.

I set intentions, and then I don’t reach most of them, but halfway is better than zero, so I continue with goals and ideas and thoughts about what I want in my life. When I reach for something, I get somewhere. The tricky part is not flailing around because the goal is too high or I’ve mussed it up again. 

For example. This hard won cup of coffee and sitting at my desk.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do use the New Year as a time to shift into a new season of work. Part of this season for me is getting up even earlier, at 5:00 AM now, in order to get more writing and work done before the kids get up. I’ve learned it’s the only way. If I am at home (and not on a writing retreat or something like that) any writing left to be done later in the day does not get done. 

So Rae’s number one tip for creative motherhood? Get up in the dark. Unless you are a night owl. Then stay up and be focused. It really helps to work when you are best, but I recommend getting it done first thing, because you will feel so accomplished later on. Yesterday morning was amazing. I woke very early, wrote out some chapter notes, and then went on a walk and dictated the first two chapters of World Whisperer 4.

But anyway, this morning I turned my alarm off. Great. My body is adjusting to the new wake up time, and I don’t even remember turning it off, but when my eyes opened, I heard the birds (a good signal that it’s past sunrise), so I groaned and reached for my phone, which read 6:28. I blinked into the dark room for a few minutes, reminding myself that there is always tomorrow, that waking up late is not a crisis, and other encouraging things that I have taught myself over the years, after a lot of dramatic behavior about the ruined early start. I’m so mature now. 

In the kitchen I discovered an empty coffee grounds jar, a new casualty of life, due to the fact that three other people in my family drink coffee now. Chinua has started, after sufficient scientific evidence that coffee is healthy, and my teens drink coffee (Kai a cup in the morning and Kenya occasionally). I have raised a parcel of kids who love hot drinks, an accomplishment I am very proud of, especially when my fifteen-year-old is introducing our friends to our tea collection. (Did you know iherb.com will ship tea to you?) But I have been known to mutter that I can’t afford to live now that we all drink coffee. 

I stared at the empty jar. I was too busy bottling kombucha last night to check out the coffee situation and time was already short. I looked at the tea, but nope. So I got on the motorbike and drove to the day market, where my favorite market lady laughed and said, “She’s here so early! Did you wake up early?” “I always wake up early,” I told her. “I just don’t come shopping early.” She showed me the dragon coffee that she was is the best in the shop. It’s the only place open so early and they don’t carry the coffee I normally buy. It’s pretty good, if a bit dark.

But anyway, I sped off in the growing light and ground some beans when I got home. I made a mess with the filter, and added too much cold milk. I reheated it in a pot and finally here I am, sitting with my coffee, my plans for the morning in shambles. 

But this is what life and intentions are like, and this is where the life is. Surprises, plans that don’t work out quite as you thought, crying kids wandering into your workspace, ignored alarms, accidental late nights. My advice is to just keep ticking on. You will not get it perfect, and either will I. If you are a creative parent you will need to take advantage of the moments between moments. Use your frustration. Laugh at yourself. Trick yourself into working by assuring your inner artist that you will only do five minutes, then write (or paint, or sew, or sing) longer. Make goals in order to get halfway there. Reward yourself. 

And make a practice. I am a monk, I remind myself in the early hours, when I don’t want to work. This is my practice. I am the kind of person who wakes in the dark and writes. I don’t finish things for deadlines, I am not polished or punctual. But I practice, and surprisingly enough, as I do, work happens. I’m excited for another year of writing in the mornings, for the beauty of words and for seeing the sunrise from my spot at my desk. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. Thanks to new patron, Heather Cavallin! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me.