Babies

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:

Kenya

Kenya

Isaac

Isaac

Leafy

Leafy

Solo

Solo

Isaac

Isaac

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?

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Wow. 

A moment from my day.

Tonight Solo wanted to do up all the snaps on Isaac's zebra pajamas.

He's not all that experienced with snaps, so each one took about three minutes and there are twelve of them.

I know enough now to know that the only thing to do was to sit back and enjoy the sweetest thirty-six minutes of the week.

Leafy was watching, and there was general hilarity when Isaac kept grabbing the top snap and trying to stuff it in his mouth.

Boy giggles. Little boy concentration. Brothers loving each other. Oh, I'm thankful.

I have my own word fever going.

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(Photo of Solo by Kai.)

I deleted a post that I've been working on for two days (I was only trying to delete a photo- hit the wrong button, whoops!) and right now it feels irreplaceable and I'm sad. Since it was a post for Kenya, my girl who has been nine for two months already and needs a birthday letter, it also feels like those things I remembered and wrote about her are gone forever.

Gone like all the years she's come through so far. I didn't write enough down! Where's her four-year-old face? Gone forever. FOREVER. Where's the pause button?

It is the last straw on a long weary day, losing words. How I hate losing words. Large pieces of me chip off and float away when I lose words. Is that melodramatic? Maybe. I could throw myself on the floor and wail right now, tired in the way that I am, feeling a bit dull and unexcited.

But here's the moment that saves the day. The two smaller boys were in adjacent bathrooms before bed tonight, talking with each other. Solo in the bath, Leafy on the toilet. Solo commiserating with his brother about not being able to poo sometimes. "Yeah," Solo said. "I've had that before. Poo fever."

Poo fever! Heaven help us. I love this kid. Quirkiness in spades.

What else should I write down about his four-year-old self before it's gone forever? I love the way he categorizes nice things and scary things by saying "I would go to that," or "I wouldn't go to that." As in, "I would go to dolphins," or "I wouldn't go to Gorillagators."

I picture dolphins coming into the shore, Solo wandering out to them, just going out there, going to the dolphins.

Poo fever. I'm telling you.

What I'm loving right now.

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* Railroad tracks. I will always love them.

* Cool mornings. Today my alarm went off at 5:30 because the coolest, quietest hours take place even before the sun lofts itself over the mountains. When I stop to listen, there are actually roosters all over the city, I can hear a chorus of them in the distance, some of them close enough to pick out individually. There are the plentiful Common Mynahs, grunting and clicking and singing, and there are people pulling their food carts out to the street.

But this falls into the background of morning sounds--none of this noise applies to me, I don't have to address any of it, so I will soak in my own silence.

* Old friends. Carrien came to Pai and stayed for a couple of nights. She arrived with her kids just a few hours after Chinua left and the two of us did our best to harness the delightful chaos that ensued. Nine kids in a not-so-big house. There was a lot of laughing and shrieking and bonding.

I'm pretty sure that Carrien is a superhero. She's just made an international move pregnant while her husband back ties things up in the U.S. She's been here a month now, and is handling everything with stamina and grace. Even the bus trip to Pai with all her kids, including a two-year-old. I've been doing this sort of thing so long that it's second nature to me (and to the kids), but everyone doesn't live their lives on buses and it can be so challenging at first. She's amazing, and very, very kind.

* Solo standing at the window in my room, saying, "Those are beautiful clouds, those are beautiful clouds..."

* Miriam's help. She is so kind and helpful. And when a German woman cleans your kitchen, your kitchen knows it.

* My landlady. Now she has gone and installed an air conditioning unit in my bedroom, because she is worried about Isaac being too hot. (She took it from another house, where she said they weren't using it.) We won't use it all the time, partly because I don't like the huge jump between air conditioned temperature and outside temperature, and partly because this house has too many gaps between the boards for it to be economical to cool. But I have felt badly about putting Isaac to sleep in my room, which feels like an oven in the afternoons. When I wake him up he's a puddle of sweat. It will be so nice to cool it down for him.

* A new thought. I started reading the book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, and I read recently about the importance of believing in our value as mothers. I've been mulling it over and carrying it around in my heart. Sometimes I feel as though my life and job as a mother is limited to breaking up fights and dealing with attitudes. It's been getting me down lately, despite how wildly I love my kids.

Thinking about my value as a mother has me contemplating how much they love me. They need me and love me and that makes everything I do important. I try to imagine how I look through their eyes, and I look necessary and lovely and lovable. And tall. So when I'm doing laundry or washing dishes, I think about this, about the necessary work of motherhood and about how I can do it with joy and contentment. Seeing myself through my kids' eyes is changing the way I feel about what I do. I'm their mom. They need me, and it's important to remember that, especially with the bigger kids who aren't as reliant on me in physical ways anymore.

It's Day 3 of the Chinua absence and I'm telling you, people in villages do not miss a beat. I was walking to the store last night and an older man at the end of my street asked me where my husband went. Since the people on my street are so kind, I told him. I think they will be the sort of people who will look out for me while Chinua is gone.

And with that, I'm off to start the day. The sun is about thumb height above the mountains. I think I'll get some lettuce out of the garden before it gets too hot, so we can have salad tonight.

Affection tyrant.

YaYa's shot of me.

I love it now that the kids are sometimes taking photos. The photos they take of me are almost always candid. I empty the card reader and find a dozen shots of me with my mouth hanging open as someone tells me a story, my chin receding into my neck at my least favorite angle. I love the unpreparedness of it- the fact that they think I'm beautiful, so they never try to make me look beautiful. How often the camera points up, because they are small, and I loom, tenderly, fiercely, absently.

YaYa took these shots when we were getting the roof ready for a devotion circle together.

"I want to take thousands of photos of you!" she said. And she meant it.

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*

We're all so excited about this baby, but YaYa and I are especially thrilled, almost giddy at times. We catch sight of a baby or even a photo of a baby, and we say, "I can't believe it! We get to have a baby soon!" A baby to kiss and smother with affection.

Our current "baby" is WAY over being smothered with affection. If you kiss him, he wipes the kiss away and says, "I don't like KISSES!" He'll only permit what he calls "Love hugs," a type of hug that he and YaYa made up. In a love hug, you smile sweetly at each other and move in slowly, making nice MMmmmm sounds to underscore how nice you're being. How loving.

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There are a lot of rules involved in hugging or kissing Solo these days. Only nose kisses and butterfly kisses allowed. And something called finger kisses. (Stroking one finger along someone's nose.)

But who am I to complain? There are also a lot of rules involved in showing me love these days.

"No elbows!" I yelp.

"It's too hot for long hugs."

"Don't lean against my belly."

"Who's stepping on my foot?"

"Why are you so sandy?"

"Just a little less around the neck, please, Solo."

"Don't breathe on my face."

I'm a super physically affectionate Mama. Usually I'm holding or sitting close to or hugging some child or another, at any moment of the day. But pregnant? And at the end of a long, hot day? I'm better in the morning, when my senses haven't been fully overloaded. Lately Solo wants to snuggle before bed every night, and it's a bit like torture in the most loving way. I lie in bed with him and inch away from his hot breath and try to uncinch his dominating arm from my neck (just to breathe a little better) I stare at his beautiful face and try to memorize it.

He won't be the baby for much longer.