My daughter got a very intricate dragon kite for her birthday last month. It was complex to me. It has 2 large green and black wings. Four long red ribbons lined the 2 edges of the wings. There were black wires that one had to put end to end so the wings stood in place. All of this were attached to a long white rope that kids can use to fly the kite in the sky. I assembled the kite for them awhile back. At least I managed to put the black wires end to end so the wings can stay in place. That was all I could do. I tried to unruffled the rope so they could fly the kite but to no avail. All my attempts meant that nothing flew in the end. Not the dragon nor it’s lavish red ribbons. That is until this morning.

Fixing their kite!

I watched from the window as my daughter and her brothers took a stab at making the kite fly. They worked on the wings, fixed the dragons tail, even strung the rope as best as the could. Then she ran. My daughter ran and the kite, I couldn’t fly, flew right behind her. Her brothers were delighted. I was too amused. Here was a kite that I gave up trying to fly because it was to complex, but my kids didn’t give up. They tried and tried until they got the outcome they wanted. Which is my keep for today is to remember being child-like as you soar or fly your kites.

Whereas I gave up, because it was too complex and intricate, my kids didn’t. They stood up to the challenge and learnt something in return; that they are at very center, the very heart of all the possibilities that resides in them, all the boldness too. They instinctively gravitate towards problems, those great and small, those within that capacity to solve and those they barely know where to begin. They also collaborate or reach out to others for help. I watched as my sons stood patiently behind the dragon as my daughter made sense of the rope for flying. Her brothers fixed the green tail, the lavish red ribbons and were right behind her cheering her on as she took flight with the kite. Something about this moment made me realize that we are all part of something bigger when we open up to problems together. Also, we all need some of the energy and optimism of children. They boldly go where adults may fail to go and they never give up especially when things they love are involved.

This combination of possibilities and being bold, are fundamental life lessons that remain long after you pass through childhood. It’s also one of the greatest blessings I have as a black mother in light. Granted, there are days when giving up is necessary, a self-care remedy even, for a world so corrosive to our being. On those days, I am like myself when I tried to make sense of the kite. I’ll do my part, make sense of what I can, and let go of what I can’t. But on the days full of possibilities, days full of audacity, I am like my children and their dragon kite. I never give up. We give up at our cost. For I remember when flying kite was a child was magic. It’s probably the reason I buy kites every summer for them. A child’s ability to make sense of the kite, to watch as it rises up on wings, and soars through the wind, has always been powerful to me. I always felt alive, watching something we make fly. This question of being bold and knowing your possibilities is very important to me, and when you watch children, my children put it into practice, I am thankful. They helped me return to my childhood watching them fly their kite over and over again. I intend to remain like them as I fly my kite. The possibilities are endless indeed.

We went by water yesterday. My kids and I. Not a big water park as before. But a small indoor pool perfect for cooling down the rays of heat of a truly scorching summer.

I didn’t want to go. I still remember the meltdown from our prior excursion to a water park. I didn’t even bring out my green swimming suit. No need to swim when your mind and eyes need to stay alert. And I was prepared to stay alert this time around.

I spoke to my son with a gentle ease. I do it all the time too, eyes to eyes. He seemed to listen with ease, talking and repeating word for word like a gentle breeze. I told him we would go by water again and this time we will have a great time. I reminded him of the need to not cry. I took him to the side to quell all the noise I knew his brain was destined to make. Spoke power to him to overcome them, to enjoy being one with water, to look forward to the experience coming to an end too. I did all this because I didn’t want to end as we did the last time. I didn’t want eyes on us. I certainly didn’t want a meltdown like before. I still feel tense whenever I recall the experience. I also know he doesn’t mean it hence why I would still take him by water even though I know it may end badly.

We got dressed. He wore his favorite blue swimming shirt and pants. The words fortnite in a camo print were written on his shirt. Praying to not rewrite history still kept me alert. I watched as he gently made sense of all the water around him. I did so watching his other siblings too, better than any hawk would too. His sister went up and down a large yellow water slide. His little brother found joy up and down a red water slide. My son stood next to the water dripping down in a progressive style next to the water slide. The twirling water from little spouts seemed to make him joyful and surprisingly gentle.

He seemed happy to just watch water gush out of the spouts gently. Watching him watch water kept me in a state so gentle. Honestly words failed me. Here I was expecting the worse given our prior attempts at a water park that left me so drained. But he once more proved why children on the spectrum are truly divine by design. By the end of the day, approximately 20 minutes to my timed departure, when I said it’s time to leave, he asked if he could have one more turn on the silde. His response kept me stunned that all I could do was nod my head.

I watched as he went up and down the slide one more time, watched his face light up with joy one more time, saw as he came out of the pool with his brother and sister one more time, all with a gentle ease that kept me stunned for a long time. Here is truly my son, whose spectrum is perfect and by God’s design. I cannot fully make sense of the changes we go through with him all the time. But I am grateful to see the boy his is growing up to be one step at a time. Keep these gentle ease for kids like him. Great days are full of joy, full of ease, truly gentle, and all by design.

My awakening summer was 2020. Like the entire country, I was literally in labor. Something wonderful was born on this day, by 9am last year. We became parents to our fourth child. We call him Ranyenna. In Igbo, it means giving him back to God.

His hair was full, short, brown and crinkled. His eyes were big, brown and beautiful. They moved slowly to see this world we live in. His voice was tender, very mellow, very hush, except when he cried and only food, stopped all the fuzz. I imagine he was weary. I was too. The world was unfriendly and unkind, squeezing through my canal, equally unfriendly and unkind and he choose to make his arrival in the middle of a pandemic and a long overdue racial reckoning so unfriendly and unkind.

The times were changing but my baby was as beautiful as the setting sun. The loveliest thing about life, about love, was in my arms. I was prepared to protect him like an eagle. Nourish his being for he was regal. Watch him soar unfettered like a seagull. For he was mine to gaze and hold so dear. His entire being filled me with enormous pride. I too was prepared to say, here is my child, with whom my joy for life, cannot be denied.

Love was more than a four letter word, more than a feeling, more than I can even put to words. Love was him and together we were loved. To see a child pass through the different stages of becoming a being. To listen from the beginning and watch till the end for over 9months until they they make their arrival to this world defies words. I have been through this 3 times already, but everytime has a magic of its own and Ranyenna’s birth was no different.

I felt no pain, expect during the critical times of labor. I didn’t even know I was in labor. And people continue to underestimate my labor. We walked into the hospital the night before, with our masks on like never before. We were 2 days early. I felt contractions. They weren’t painful or I seem to know how to tolerate pain. My husband asked whether we should go check it out. I did so because he suggested. I felt completely fine. I left my purple hospital bag in my car. These were the terrible beginning months of the pandemic. I feared even my bag wasn’t safe on hospital grounds. I was taken to a room where the nurses started to check whether I was in labor or a false alarm. I was in labor, 4 cm dilated, and I didn’t even know.

They took us to a plain-colored room around 1am or so. I was curious about birth in a pandemic. I expected it to be surreal and unlike my other 3 births. It wasn’t, except for all the mask people wore around us. My husband and I wore no mask in our room. They put all their tubes, started epidural, and waited for labor to progress. I went to sleep. By morning, they broke my water. And my labor started in full force by 8:30 am on that fateful Wednesday morning and by 9am he made his arrival known.

My Ranyenna cried, piercing tears that were so melodic to my ears. Then he came straight to my body. Flesh for flesh, love for love, I held him completely mesmerized that he was mine. Completely in awe that I passed through the journey for the 4th time with no problems. I am the last person to ever share news of being pregnant. My mom once said that because pregnant women go through a journey called pregnancy, it’s best to keep mum about the journey until you become a mom. It has always been my philosophy to keep mum. Until they arrive.

With baby number 4, his arrival illuminated my spirit and set my world ablaze. My soul has been on fire ever since. Because of him, being fearless is all I know. You would too if you watched yourself give birth to a living being. It’s an out of body experience that I can never fully wrap my head around. This gift called motherhood. One that I will forever cherish because I am never overlooked. I struggle with that a lot. Struggle with when I should speak or stay silent. When I should lead or follow. Even when I should stifle my drive so others and their drive are not stifled. It’s a struggle I’ll admit that means women like me get overlooked and underestimated all the time.

But with my children, with my greatest treasures, with my profound creation, with my cup that overflows, I am looked at, with eyes that say I love you and words that speak it all the time. Love that knows no despair. Love as gentle as an evening prayer. Love that never wears or tears. Love that is always there. Love that allows me to go anywhere. Love that I will follow anywhere. Love that leads me anywhere. With them, I found strength for this thing called life. Their love is all I need to get by. Your love Ranyenna is all I need. Happy birthday my gift I gift back to my God always.

My love, happy birthday!

The idea that grace is all we need has been stuck in my head since Sunday mass.

Three times I asked to take it away, the reading said. But the answer, was my grace is all you need. My power is greatest when you are weak.

I was weak this time last year, waiting for the arrival of baby. The pandemic was raging in full force. The sun too, blazing in full force.

My son crossed his legs by the piano, unaware of our stares. The sun was still blazing outside and finding ways to stay cool preoccupied our minds.

The piano preoccupied his mind. It was a dusty brown piano with broken notes that created melodies unmatched but perfect for his mind.

Counting down the arrival of baby was eminent on my mind.

Until he started to play as if he prepared.

Watching as he belted a tune by ear awakened my mind. He has had no piano lessons. I keep planning to sign him up for one. I figured having one in the house would suffice for now.

So watching him play with no lessons made me beam with pride for all his hue.

It’s always the small things with son number 2. Surprising things too.

Though we focus on the bright side, his meltdowns have a way of robbing us of his best side.

Like playing a piano as if he had a clue. Mary had a little lamb was all he belted in tune. From the beginning to the lamb going everywhere.

We are always prepared to go anywhere. Knowing that grace is always somewhere. So long as we keep it as our prayer.

As a flower, Hibiscus ranges from white, to pink, to orange and red. It’s beauty greets your eyes and leads you on a journey where your heart is fully fed. The diversity of its shape, it’s size and it’s color, even it’s shrub is outstanding, full of brilliance, full of elegance. My hands touched a hibiscus this week. It was at the swimming lodge by our home, where my children attended a week-long swimming camp. It sent the petals on it way, whirling through the air, these tiny specks bobbing, all through the air. A brilliance seemed to surround the flowers, all around them beamed, a great brilliance. It’s power I noticed, strikes you in the heart and in the head. For one brief moment, you too are like the Hibiscus, and brilliance fills your being wholly.

I imagine this is what great days in the summer are like with children. Brilliance like pink hibiscus flowers that, wholly fill your being with a joy, you may never have imagined, joy that you hope to capture, even if fleeting, for even now, you maybe wondering, how joy became your portion, with the demands of your children occupying every single minute of your day. As hibiscus flowers open up, as their brilliance radiates in full bloom, even if for a moment, you will feel joy, screaming through your pores, even when you lay helpless wondering how the summer days will last. My motto, take it one moment at a time. Summer days as a mom are supposed to be brilliant and they rarely are. The demands of your children are supposed to end once you address their needs, but they rarely do. The hot air is supposed, to want them to stay cool, even lay low if they can, but they never do. Yet through it all, how we mothers find ways to reach and teach, listen and lead the scenes, all of them from summer camps to summer schools, even for brief rare moments, leaves me thankful for the blessed assurance of Hibiscus.

I knew that summer days following homeschooling and a pandemic would be tough. What I didn’t plan for was to be sent home early after only day 2 of swimming camp with my middle child. I knew that anything with water would be a problem for him. But I also wanted him to learn to manage his meltdowns whenever he goes by water. Day 1 involved crying at the end of the day, because I didn’t bring a change of clothes. I was following the camps instructions and hoped for a better Day 2. It was disastrous. I wondered why I kept insisting that my son learnt in this way. The camp counselors called an hour into camp and noted he was crying. He wanted to go on the slides. His shorts had rivets. Campers with rivets are not allowed on slides. My son had a meltdown. They asked what to do. I said try saying Dad was on his way to get him. They did. He cried louder. I eventually came and got him. This was only Day 2. These meltdowns are dreadful. Especially when his minds cannot get past the denied access for example. It’s denial makes him cry non-stop, repeating the same phrases over and over again. Like ‘no slides.’ ‘But why.’ Nothing seems to end it. The anguish subsides for a moment when you remove him for the place causing the meltdown. He may still sob. But eventually, it comes to an end, and slowly his brilliance returns and surround his being. Day 3, armed with new swimwear and a change of clothes, meant that my son had a brilliant day. The utter brillance in his demeanor, left the counselors stunned. It was like night and day. We know, always that when the conditions are right, his being would be brilliant. The conditions were right the rest of the week. By Friday, the last day of swimming camp, he got an award for the individual with the most fun. His sister got one too for the best participation. She was instrumental with helping to ensure he had a great time at the swimming camp.

Looking back, the brilliance of this week were like those that surround hibiscus flowers I noticed at the swimming lodge. A brilliance seemed to surround us this past week with swimming, all around a great brilliance. From the meltdowns, to the upside down nature of mothering on the spectrum, the diversity of nurturing from moments to moments, keeps my head and heart fully fed with joy. Keep the brilliance of Hibiscus for mother’s during summer days.

I often underestimate the power of positive affirmation with children. I got a brilliant reminder from a letter in the mail today. It reminded me of why saying positive words to children matters always. Especially in cards. The letter was from my son’s school teacher. It stated that he followed directions. He was also kind and had a sweet demeanor. The best part that made him so happy: ‘he does his very best in every thing he does.’ I read this out loud during dinner. He has been carrying the card all around, even took it to bed. Thank you for this reminder. I am keeping here too so I never forget to tell him how kind he is, how much I love his sweet demeanor and of course how proud I am for when he does his very best.

My son loves to go to water parks. It always ends in disaster. I also seem to forget this happens all the time. Today maybe the last time. We planned to go to a water park awhile back. Today was the day. The kids have been waiting for it’s arrival. It began like most days, very uneventful, but full of excitement. They all got up early. Took their bath without prompting. Got dressed, ate breakfast. I should have known that the ease with which the day began was premonition of sorts. We got to the water park. Things started to go out of control the moment they saw all the rides. My son on the spectrum became another being. Gone were his stimming or anything that makes him recognizable as being on the spectrum. There are no signs, no visible scars or disabilities to say out loud, treat him with care at the park. So naturally everything went out the door with him.

He was cutting lines, jumping from one water park slide to another, all with pure excitement that almost all children at the park had. I knew I was in for trouble the moment I said, lunch. Any other day, my son would be ready for lunch. Ready even to tell you what he wanted. I also have code words for leaving parks. For example at the Zoo, we almost always end the day with trains and then ice-cream. It works all the time. Maybe it’s because we go to the Zoo frequently. I had no exit plans for the water park and I knew I was in big trouble. I said let’s get some ice-cream. Nothing. Let’s get Papa John’s pizza. Still nothing. Can we listen to music. Nothing. What about Dad? Should I call him. Nothing. Absolutely nothing I said to him helped to usher our departure. And so what started as a fun, even uneventful day, ended up in massive meltdown.

I was that mom with a child crying inconsolably that everyone started to stare and stare. If I could hide, I would. He screamed, shouted, shaked himself, almost took his clothes off even, all because I said we were leaving the water park. It took us close to 30 minutes to change his clothes and the whole time he was crying nonstop. Everyone was staring at us. Everyone. I tried to calm him down. Asked to take deep breaths, even held him tightly to quell the meltdown. Nothing worked. It didn’t help that it was an extremely hot day and everyone was tired. His cries meant, baby was crying as he wanted my attention. My other neurotypical son who is pretty chill during these occasions started to cry himself asking that I hold him too. We literally cried from the park all the way to the car and all the way back to were we are staying for the weekend. And yes by the time we got home, I was that mother that said emphatically ‘no more water park.’

I have said it before during our last meltdown 2 years ago during another similar incident at a water park. Something about water parks just doesn’t work for my son. I know he loves water and he would love to stay at one all day if he could, but the meltdowns at the end are so severe that it makes me look like a bad mom with everyone just staring with eyes that question why we can’t control him. I wanted to shout that he is autistic. Stop staring and leave us alone. But that would be futile too.

At the end of the day, after still giving him music and ice-cream and pizza post the meltdown, he seems like the angel I know. I almost feel tempted to go back and say, see he is not a terrible kid, just on the spectrum and kindly show empathy to us, to him. It’s the keep for me. Autism is tough, but we are tougher and when you see any child crying uncontrollably, don’t stare. If you can, help to console him. Otherwise, move on with your life. Your staring makes it’s worse as he feeds off your stares and no we are not bad or terrible parents. Just parenting as best as we can even through the meltdowns and your questioning stares. And stop staring. It only makes things worse and doesn’t help. Keep this in mind the next time you see an autistic child crying inconsolably at a water park.

‘I want to be everywhere where Mama is.’ These words from the book Me and Mama are the representation my children and I have always longed for. To see ourselves, our mundane activities, illustrated in a book is every bit as powerful as the words are poetic. That black children can have special days that unfolds from morning routines with brushing teeth, to bedtime routines that are full of love, are rarely seen, rarely shared, and rarely portrayed in stories. Cozbi Cabrera celebrates the bond between a black mother and her daughter beautifully with this book. And as a mother whose daughter and sons want to be everywhere I am, I am keeping the message with this book here for all times.

Reminiscing is when you indulge in an enjoyable recollection of past events. I did so today with my daughter. The event was her 4th birthday. Her smile was as dazzling then as it is today. This was a time when growing up was brilliant, when candles on a birthday cake evoked an endless happiness, when being a child was forever full of excitement. My Belle’s wide-spirited loved for her born day, didn’t start today and the celebration continues today past even the d-day. Everyday with her remains a true manifestation of God’s love, a divine encounter with love so tender, it can only be God. I see it in her everyday and on days like today where we reminisce, we do so enjoying every moment of our love, his love, perfected in each other. Keep reminiscing.

We are, some of us, loved. Not the kind you never see, nor the kind you never feel. Not even the kind you never know, or the kind you never hear. We are, some of us, blessed. Not the kind you never say, nor the kind you never shout about. Not even the kind you never jump around in joy, nor the kind you never pinch yourself about. We are, some of us, persistent. Not kind that gives up, nor the kind that quits. Not the kind that never gets up, nor the kind afraid to get on their knees. We are, some of us, light. Not the kind that hides it’s glimmer, nor the kind that forgets to glow. Not the kind afraid of the dark, nor the kind unsure of our spark. On this day and at this very moment where I brought you forth into this world nine years ago, My Belle, know that you are loved always, you are blessed always, keep persisting too, for you are light. Like a city built on a hill, your spark can never be hidden. Happy 9th Birthday.

Lotanna is 9!