My dearest Marley,

Today is your sixth birthday. You have been so excited for this day that you have been counting down the days for at least two weeks now. Yesterday morning you said “one more day till my birthday”. I reminded you that it would be the last day, in your entire life, that you would be five years old, and you should try to savor it. Don’t rush, my love. Live and enjoy every moment. Once each moment passes it is gone forever. Stay with it as best you can.

With all of the ambition, planning, hard work, schooling, learning, studying, disappointment, frustration, joy, pleasure, and busyness that took over my life, somehow in the past 20 years, I seem to have lost the ability to do this. At one point in my life, after my parents divorced and my childhood seemingly fell apart, I constantly dwelled in, and lamented the loss of, the past. Then, as my ambition grew, my mind developed a one-pointedness. This served to fulfill my biggest dream in life, but conditioned me to live in the future. The innate ability we all have to live in this moment was lost somewhere inside of me. Perhaps it is buried with that inner child who, thankfully, has healed fully from the harsh lessons in impermanence that my life has gifted to me. I’ve been working hard lately to recover this ability. If I could pass this to you, it would certainly be the best gift I could ever hope to give to you.

When you came home yesterday, you handed me a drawing you made. On top it read: “Marley 5″. Below were three precious pictures, which you explained were happy events from this past year: you skiing in your purple ski parka and blue ski boots, you losing your first two teeth, and you learning to ride horses in your red saddle. I was impressed and pleased that you chose to reflect on the year passed.

This past year was that and so much more, a year rich in milestones. You started Kindergarten last fall. You have loved school and have thrived. I was so worried about “half day” Kindergarten but sure enough you are reading so well now, your math skills are well ahead of your level, and your social skills have continued to grow. Your teacher, Mrs. Mayo, has been just wonderful.

I showed up to our first parent teacher conference last fall having zero idea of what to expect. I felt like a bomb had been dropped on me when Mrs. Mayo said matter-of-factly: “Marley really loves to please and wants to get all of the answers right”. I was dumbfounded. My first thought was- “no one has ever described me so succinctly”. Suddenly, in equal measures, I was gripped with an unlikely mixture of relief and horror.

If this is true, and if you are just like I was in school, you will certainly know success. It will not come easily, but you will gladly and wholeheartedly put your nose to the grindstone. You will work tirelessly, willingly. Hard work and achievement will define you, they will inform your very identity. You will love school, crave it even, and you will rejoice in all of your hard-earned achievements. You will succeed in every endeavor, and you will grow up to do exactly what you set out to do. In this, my relief was founded.

There will be a downside, however. You will be a perfectionist. Any grade below an “A” will send you into brief yet irrational fits of despair. You will take so much pride in your achievements that you will alienate yourself from your peers. You will forget to learn for the sake of learning. You will forget to enjoy what you are learning. You will forget to enjoy life going on around you. You will forget almost everything you learned because you learned it solely for the grade earned. Worst of all, you will sacrifice everything else in your life to achieve. What you will lose in this unbalanced effort will be those precious moments, life. In this, arose my horror.

I realize you are not me, we are not the same. But if what your Kindergarten teacher surmised about you after knowing you for only a short time is true, I must help you learn to maintain a balance, to have a wider vision, to see all around you even when you are driving at that goal. I once believed that if I had opened my eyes any wider, I would have lost my tenuous grip on my dream. Somehow you must have faith that you can slow down and enjoy what you are living and your dream will still be realized.

In my morning meditation today I reflected on being pregnant with you and your birth. Although that feeling of having a baby move inside of me is fading, when I recall the very moment that you were born, it is as fresh as if it happened to me just today. Perhaps it is so from 32 years of desperately wanting a daughter culminating in the realization that, indeed, my wish would come true, or perhaps it is universal; that first second of physical separateness from one’s first born child. Regardless, bringing that moment to mind invariably springs fresh tears to my eyes and a wash of warmth, love, and gratitude for you, and for your coming into being.

It seems no accident that you were born just 3 days before Mother’s day. Today, I am grateful for you coming into being, and I have you to thank for me coming into being. I was a complete person well before I met you, Marley, but because of you, I am a Mother. This is what I am celebrating today. I love you and everything you are and, most of all, what you made me.

Mom

Marley and Javi-

We had a wonderful day today!  Even though I am still recovering from surgery we managed to squeeze in several Christmas traditions and even start a new one!

Daddy pulled up the Santa tracker online and we watched as Santa delivered millions of gifts around the world. Then Marley got a huge surprise when Santa called her personally! Marley you were beside yourself that Santa called you a princess and told you that you had been a good girl this year. He told you that he knew you wanted a doll for Christmas and that yours would be the first house in NH that he would visit. He also asked that you leave him a taco! He told you to go to bed early so that he could deliver your gifts!  You just kept smiling ear to ear and could not get over how he called you a princess and was coming to our house first.

Marley and daddy spread the reindeer feed and sparkles out on the front lawn.  Then we made cookies together and decorated them. While we were decorating, Santa called back for Javi!  He told Javi he had been a wonderful little brother this year and that he knew he liked trains. Javi you were so cute- you just kept repeating over and over again “Hi Santa! Hi Santa! Hi Santa!”  In a cheerful little voice.

We watched a Christmas cartoon while we ate dinner. Then you guys got to open one gift, a tradition we had in my family when I was growing up. Marley you opened some books from mom and dad, one about Acadia and the other about Andre the seal. Javi opened a train made of blocks from Tia Chris. Then Marley laid out her drawings she made for Santa by the Christmas tree, and we put the cookies out with your Christmas letter to Santa.

I remember the Christmas when I was five. After mom put me to bed, I peeked out my window into the starry sky hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa. I watched for a few minutes, then realized that Santa would not come if I were awake!  So I tucked back into bed and went to sleep. As I tucked you in tonight, Marley, you placed your head on your pillow right next to your window and said you would listen for Santa’s Jingle Bells. It reminded me so much- of me.

I’m so pleased we can give the two of you a magical Christmas. You will hold on to these memories forever, as I do now. Merry Christmas, my sweet sugarplums. You and your daddy are the best gifts I have ever received in my life, and I wish for nothing more this Christmas, and every other day of every year, than to spend my life with you.

Mommy.

Javi-

My sweet little boy, you are 2 years old today!  You have changed so much in the past few months and each and every day you grow deeper into my heart. My love for you cannot be described. I will tell you this- the look on you face when we sang happy birthday to you was one of the most special and beautiful things I have ever seen in my entire life. You were so genuinely happy, and your sweetness just shone through your eyes. You were so pleased that everyone was there singing to you.
One day, hopefully very far into the future from now, when I am gone from this world, do remember this- that moment was one of the most special moments of my life. I know you will be sad when I die but please, take peace in knowing that, whenever that day comes, I will smile and be happy as I go, with these simple beautiful moments in my heart.

javi bday smile

On your birthday you woke up singing “cupleanos feliz” and said “thomas party?” and “cake!”. We had a small gathering here at home- the family plus grammy, abuelo and abuela, and the Jones’ family. Daddy had (wonderfullly!) decorated the dining room in a Thomas the Train theme. We served fresh fruit, brie quiche, and baked french toast. For your gift mom got you a wooden train set and daddy built a table topper on which to put it. When daddy and Nate brought it up you went crazy- you could barely even wait to get your hands on it!  You had your little conductor hat on that daddy found for you and were so taken with this train that we could scarcely pull you away to open your other gifts! Later you sat in front of your Thomas cake as we sang. As daddy was cutting the cake you went ahead and dipped your fingers right in. By the time we finished the cake you had a blue mustache!  Later in the evening we went out to dinner as a family and upon our return home, we had barely even stepped foot in the house when you ran to the family room shouting “play choochoo!”. My heart is so full today, my lovie.

I’d like to innumerate all the things that make you special, but I know I cannot describe these well enough. I will do my best with a list:

The way you walk and run- bobbing up and down in your happy bouncy gait

Repeating everything in a cute sweet little voice, and answering questions in two word answers

Chasing the gatos around the house and laughing as you do so

Narrating your little life: “I playing”, “I climb it”, “I run fast”, “I jump it”.

Some things you say: “PLAY mommy/daddy/grammy PLAY”, “nooooo sissy”, “loon noise”, “buck-o up!”, “I do it”, “all done”.. I’m certain there are thousands more…

You eat constantly!  You eat everything, but some favorites are: cereal with milk, oatmeal, yogurt, tofu, bananas, bread, bread, and more bread, and pretty much anything else that someone else is eating, about to eat, or that is on another person’s plate.

You love the slide, your car track, the activity cube, birds (especially loons), and of course trucks, cars, planes, and trains. You love Mickey Mouse, Elmo, and Thomas.

We removed the side of your crib a few weeks ago because you have grown too large for your pack and play and we intend to switch you to a big bed soon. You transitioned so easily! You went from sleeping in the crib with no pillow or blanket to sleeping like a big kid in just 1 night. As you climb into bed you say “boy bed” (big boy bed) and ask for “go-wee” (glowey the glow worm).

You copy everything Marley does. You love playing with her little pet shop toys. You enjoy watching her but do not so much enjoy when she grabs you to hug you or tries to take you somewhere. You like to repeat things she says and you often laugh at her antics.

When I pick you up from bed in the morning you hug me and cuddle into my neck. I sniff you sweet curls and squeeze your (not so) little self. I relish your touch, the sound of your voice, the sparkle in your eyes. You and Marley and daddy are my world, and I cherish sharing our lives together.

Happy Second Birthday, Javi; may the joy I saw on your face on this special birthday be with you always.

Another month gone by? So hard to keep pace with the unfolding of days.

We had a wonderful Halloween. Marley you dressed as Princess Merida from Brave. Javi you were a furry red Elmo. Beautiful, and adorable. We trick or treated with Ada and Eli and Addy.

Marley you enjoyed Coyote Club this fall and learned all about edible berries, making fire, and finding shelter. You also continued to ride. Both you and Javi started back up with gymnastics. You have been tirelessly practicing your handstands while Javi loves somersaulting.

We visited your abuelos the first weekend. The third weekend we went up to North Conway with the Jones’. We did some shopping and played at an indoor water park.

Thanksgiving was the 22nd. Tia Chris came up and Grammy came over. We had all the usual food, but the gravy was the star this year!

Javi and I were sick this week, but everyone seems to be on the mend/ which is good because tomorrow we celebrate Javi’s second birthday!

Love you my sweeties!

Tungiasis w superinfection
Hernia
Speaking Malagasy
Indian food for dinner

Walk, psycho chicken, mud, basenjis

16 yr old acute heart failure schistosomiasis

Hydrocephalus and FTT

Severe malnutrition

TB

Actinomyces

Leprosy

Malaria

Worms

Dysentery

Holy howling dogs

Sunday September 23, 2012

Drive to Antiseramandroso, bumpy road, river crossing and back, meet nuns, see clinic, Indian dinner, spiders, dogs barking

Marley- today was your lineal soccer game of the season and right toward the end you scored your first goal!!! Mom and Dad and Grammy and Javi were so proud of you!!! You looked so pleased and had the most genuine smile on your face for hours afterward! What a wonderful day!!

I seem to have lost my post about this date, which is too bad because it was a very interesting day.

We started the day shopping at the market in Tamatave. There were so many shops selling local crafts: baskets, bags, other woven goods, carved wooden figures, spices, and more. I bought a pile of gifts, and spent only 40,000 Ariary, or $20. It was heartbreaking to see a woman breast feeding an infant and begging outside the market. Giving people money is discouraged, since it creates a culture of charity. Ginny says its better to teach them to work, to read, to do jobs that improve the infrastructure (like build latrines, for example).

In the afternoon Edwin gave us a tour of ONG St Gabriel headquarters and the computer literacy center, latrine market, and construction teaching site. It was so interesting to learn that they take graduates of the literacy program and teach them to build latrines, and basic business and economics.

After we visited a slum behind the train tracks, where over 22,000 people were living in very poor, very close quarters. Before ONG St Gabriel came around 10 yrs ago, they were in the habit of using the beach/ waterfront as the toilet. ONG SG came in and taught them the importance of sanitation. Last year they installed 3 centers in this slum that have toilets, showers, and rainwater collection and purification. They have also built several clean water stations where people can buy water for very little, which also provides jobs for very poor people.

We travelled to another slum to see these, as well as one if the literacy centers CRMF built. The slums were devastating, and left me feeling like I had the wind kicked out of me. As bad poverty as I saw in Haiti. Edwin also pointed out the river, which used to provide water and transport, but now is polluted beyond belief and not as usable.

Today will be our last day of clinic out at Analamaotra. We saw over 200 women and children yesterday, and today promises to be as busy.

I slept great last night, thanks to a friend sharing her sleeping pills with me. I feel so much more rested and ready for the day.

Yesterday afternoon we toured SANITECH. It was interesting to see how they are producing latrines at low cost.

The acuity in clinic was lower yesterday- I saw a lot of colds, allergy, ear infections, pneumonia, asthma, eczema; of course these were mixed in with cases of malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, worms, anemia, and more. I saw a 4 yr old girl with severe tungiasis infestation, which they cal “parasee” here. Several lesions were super infected and draining pus. I scrubbed layers and layers of caked diet off her feet, as she screamed, revealing open, draining wounds underneath around her toenails and between her toes. I covered her feet in antibiotic ointment and clean gauze and Conan. We taught her mom how to clean and dress them and gave her all the supplies she needed. Most importantly, we taught her that if the child wears her shoes always and washers her feet every night, this likely will not happen again.

I saw a nine year old with back pain. Her back hurts because she is bent over in the fields all day farming rice and lifting heavy bags.

I saw a baby who was having eye irritation from rock dust- her mother hammers rocks into gravel all day long with the baby on her back. The dust is inhaled, and cakes the nose and eyes, causing allergy like symptoms. You can’t tell them not to do these things anymore- if they don’t work, they don’t eat.

I also saw a lot of healthy kids who just needed my stamp of approval. I used the opportunity to teach them: brush your teeth twice every day, wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, always wear your shoes, and go to school as long as you can to stay healthy.

The work is difficult, the conditions are frustrating, but the most devastating part is this: billions of people live like this every single day.

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