Dear Leafy, (to my 13-year-old son)

IMG_5197.JPG

Dear Leafy,

When you have this expression on your face, we know the next thing that comes out of your mouth is going to be good.

Is the world ready for you?

You’re thirteen. (A sixteen-year-old, fourteen-year-old, and thirteen-year-old is a lot of teens.) 

Your hands, feet, and shoulders are bigger than any I have seen on a kid your age. I’m calling it: 6’5”. Let’s see if I’m correct. I’ve been taking a lot of photos and video of you. I want to capture you before you change. 

Here you are in this magical moment, living on the line between boy and man. You’ve traveled well this last year, blooming and exploding into confidence. You have a natural, lovely way of looking at the world, as if you expect it to offer you good things. And it does. It offers you humor, light, invention ideas, and new flavor combinations.

You love: creating food, seeing how things mix together, one-liners, Stephen Universe, singing and playing ukelele with Kenya, baking hard-tack or frying biscuits, and your family. You don’t love bees or being unsafe. You may be the one on the ground, telling the others to come out of the tree. You love justice. You hate injustice and you always have. 

We have some moon clay or something like that, that someone gave you for your birthday, and you brought it to me and said, “Look, Mom! It has almost no tensile strength but incredible compressive strength.” You love Science. You still walk in circles when you think. You don’t love it when someone interrupts your thought process. (Especially a younger sibling.) 

Also, you are hilarious. You always, always make us laugh, and your timing is amazing.

You’re just the most incredible kid. I really love you, Leafy. Life would be boring without you.

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 really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Aiming to miss the ground.

IMG_4720.JPG

This time it was Leafy. It often is. The spark of joy that reminds me of something like a blue sky, or a bird diving, or a nap on a quiet afternoon.

Kenya and I were sketching at the table and Leafy was rambling on about superpowers. He straps a compass to his arm. Says, “If only I could learn to fly, I could get anywhere with this. It would be the coolest to have the superpower of missing things. Then I could just aim at the ground and miss!” 

He gets up and runs toward the gate, as though he will try to launch.

Just being around him makes me feel more peaceful. 

He is creativity unfettered. 

***

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.

Sinking in

We’re in the wind up to a new year.

I love new years. I think I just love markers of any kind, but a new calendar year is certainly a good kind of marker.

I’m a bit repetitive. This year I just want joy. Wild joy.

One way to find joy is to sink into the joy that is here right now. To bat my eyelashes open and see.

I see last night. Sitting with the boys on Isaac’s bed, reading for Advent, with Isaac leaning on my shoulder. Praying for me, whispering, “I love you, Mama,” under his breath. I see raising a boy like Leafy. A broad-shouldered, kind and quirky boy.

A couple weeks ago, I needed to send them to a Christmas party with baking. Sometimes Leafy and Kenya board a bus (with a few other friends) to go three hours away to Chiang Mai, for youth events. When they are there, they stay with the family Kai stays with. They eat dinner, go to a youth group evening, and get back on the bus the next morning. This is how we cobble things together for them.

Anyway, it happened on a Saturday because of the party, and baking was required, but I was exhausted because of our benefit concert the night before. So I said, “Okay, let’s do this,” with a rather obvious slump to my spine. And Leafy said, “Oh, I can make the cookies.” And proceeded to do so. Joy.

Or the other day, I was teaching a group of kids about writing, and one of them rather dreamily asked me, “Are you a genius?” He asks non sequiturs often.

“No,” I said. “That’s a whole other thing. I’m smart, though.”

And Leafy got offended. “Of course you are!” he said, very seriously.

Rare shining moments. Often, mothering is being overwhelmed by the pants you need to buy. (For me anyway, easily overwhelmed by things like this.) Breaking up fights. (Least favorite thing in the world. Why can’t people just be civil?) Inching forward with education.

And then there are the evenings where you sit and cuddle, where your kids stand up and help without being asked, when they offer kindnesses.

And this is wild joy. Almost as good as ice skating, roller coasters, or dancing under the sky. Love and joy and being together. I want more.

They are teaching me.

Lately there is an occasional person who asks me how I’m handling all my freedom now that my kids are at school. And I laugh and laugh, because I am still homeschooling three kids. Which is only a small amount of kids to homeschool if you have been teaching more than three. I’ve been doing this four about thirteen years. It’s a commitment.

We’re having fun, just the four of us at home during the day. It’s a quiet bunch. They like to draw and create things on the computer. They need to be nudged back into study sometimes. Sometimes other friends come and learn with us. Another friend comes and gets a guitar lesson with Chinua. The house flows with learning.

Wookie is always around, cuddling with someone while they read or work. Often she’s with Solo. Those two love each other. I started a new English class so that I can really use the time wisely. After yesterday’s class, where we started the book “Elijah of Buxton,” and talked about the first chapter, which offered us a glimpse at our protagonist, Leafy started thinking about protagonists.

He came to me at 9:30, just before I fell asleep, to tell me what he had discovered. 

“I realized that almost all protagonists have more than one syllable in their name,” he said. “I've been counting them up and I would say nine out of ten.” 

I think I’m teaching them, but they are teaching me. 

“What is this chapter doing?” I ask. “What is it settling for us, right off the bat?” The family is warm, funny. Loves each other.

The family is warm and funny. Loves each other.

I cried, yesterday, missing Kai. It’s starting to sink in that he’s far away. I'm so, so happy for him, and I think he's thriving. but I am still his mother, and I miss him.

***

A few years ago,  I brought a few sticks of curry leaf tree home with me from India. One of them seemed to take, and I brought it to Devotion Circle to illustrate the concept of hope. 

“It doesn’t look like much,” I said. “It’s just a stick. But look at these tiny leaves. There is the hope.” 

Then I brought it home and killed it by forgetting about it. It wasn’t the most auspicious thing to do. I’ve been looking for a curry plant ever since. Leaf successfully transplanted a couple from India, but they are small and not mine to harvest, so though I have enjoyed watching them grow, I haven’t used their leaves more than once.

Yesterday, on my way back from driving Isaac to school on the motorbike, I saw a couple driving in front of me. The lady on the back was holding a big tree, and the leaves looked like curry leaf, but I’ve seen other similar plants that have fooled me here. Then the smell wafted back to me and I realized it was curry. I sped up so I could drive beside the couple and called out to them. 

“What is that?” I asked in Thai.

“It’s a curry tree!” the woman called.

“Are you selling it?”

They pulled over and I bought myself a giant curry leaf tree. 

IMG_2734.JPG

Leaf saw me and stopped to share the excitement. I put the tree in my basket and brought it home.

It’s as though God is telling me something. I am quick to lose (kill) hope. I despair over small set backs and slights. I grow disappointed, worried that God doesn’t see what is going on, what’s happening with my kids, what we need. But then the thing I need falls into my lap, and it’s almost as though that little hope tree has been growing the whole time. I didn’t lose it after all.

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.