Our room was shaped like a square with a baby cribbed next to a wall covered in grey paint. There was a grey rocking chair for breastfeeding and a silver and white changing table stood next to the window awaiting the arrival of baby.

There were no baby rooms. I was never a decorator mom. I never took the time to fashion a room or think of ways to make it a child’s room. None of my other children had one. I expected baby to sleep in our room.

The researcher in me is to blame. When conducting a review on sleep in diverse cultural settings, I read somewhere about the benefits of children sleeping in rooms with their parents. In close proximity to their beating hearts, however you choose. A friend reminded me once, that we all grew up like this in Nigeria, in close proximity to our parents. All my babies have been doing so since then. They transition, when they get older to their rooms.

We began the day like any other day. Baby’s purple hospital bag was ready. I found it at a goodwill store by our home. It was purple and in great condition. Looking at it, one would have thought it was something befitting for a king. I bought it because my son is a king.

My mind was already in the labor room, even though my other children demanded it remained with them, at least for now.

One in particular was my three year old. His keen awareness for the times was incredible. Not only was he clingy, tugging my legs to carry him or hold him at every opportunity, he knew that the arrival of baby would mean he was no longer the baby of our home.

Looking at him, I had the sense that the joys, the fears, even the hopes of no longer being our baby were all lingering on his mind. To ease his concerns, we took him for a walk. Just Dad and I.

We choose to go out with him alone (wearing his baby-blue baby-shark pajamas), just so he knows he would always be our baby. Love will always be his, whether on his dad’s shoulder or on the arms of mom.

Whether by rivers or on top of bridges. Whatever life throws his way, love will be thrown right back. We are all never meant to walk alone. I wanted him to know that he would always find comfort and solace in us.

( I digress-but one of the side effects of the pandemic is an insistence on wearing pajamas. I wonder if other parents are going through this).

There were many flowers along the walk through Forest Park. Even flowers may shrivel and dry up as they cling to the day. Almost all flowers, bloom and whither with each passing day. But tomorrow, they awaken, like yesterday never happened.

It’s this vision of awakening that I want to cling to as well.

In moments where fear becomes intermixed with joy, in moments when things change, and your place is no longer what you expect it to be, even in moments when things seem to be moving at a pace beyond your control, I will always remember our walk through the park with my son. The full force of lesson he taught us this time last year, is only beginning to be clear in my mind. We are never meant to walk alone. Whether in joy or through moments of fear.

So we walked forward together, lost in his world, clinging to the solace and comfort we found as we watched all the flowers blooming in his world.

I begin this week in awe of becoming a mother for the 4th time. My last baby arrived this week, last year.

The pandemic kept us all distracted. This was the 4th month of mask wearing, social distancing and lockdowns. It was also a time where the virus was so debilitating that I feared a wrong move would put myself and baby in danger.

There were no research on its effects on pregnant women. There were more deaths in black and brown men and women. I did not want to watch the news for we lacked leadership from those sworn to protect all men and women. This was also the time of protests by brave men and women.

A wide-awakening was ongoing and finding ways to refine ourselves was eminent. Enough was enough was all we could muster even as we protested our rights to exist, amidst ignorance for their bluster. Of course I stayed home, but my mind was on the streets.

We stayed home and prayed God’s plans for his children were of prosperity. Baby’s due date was eminent and so I focused on how to create another baby, another life, within an already pandemic and race-inflicted world.

Creating a new life, a new being, a new beginning, a new purpose within a world committed to a path leading to doomsday, seemed to be the last thing anyone should be undertaking.

But then again, I am not anyone.

Exactly one year ago today, at our 4th of July barbecue.

By this time last year, it seemed that the most fruitful thing I could do to for a world so filled with darkness, was to shine a bit of light, with a dash of hope, and a sprinkle of love.

Imagining what his eyes would look like, his first smile, even his tears occupied my mind. It was a ‘He’. My third one for a world where I wished he was a butterfly. Love appears impossible in times of despair and frustration, but I choose it as a valuable experience. I choose it to fly away to the spaces and places full of brilliance, his brilliance, his beauty.

The beginning of love, a future full of hope, all of which seemed to be dissipating in the world at that time was a gift to the times.

So throughout this week, I want to keep these moments in mind. I want to relive this experience through words and pictures too. I want to contribute a share of myself to your world so you sense the light of my motherhood.

It’s a gift I continually gift myself. Like a restorative balm to soothe the realities of a world so full of harshness.

Motherhood shakes and informs every aspect of my being. It restores my soul too, in the way quiet streams of water do.

Like a Phoenix, I rise to every occasion, countering every interpretation necessary to showcase that my interior life, my nurturing life, even my academic life, as I define it, is so valued and revered and I wouldn’t trade this for anything else.

The beauty, the brilliance of being a black mother in light is my keep for the week. My doors are open. Enter if you may.

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.

Exactly one year ago today, we closed on our home. The experience seems hazy now looking back as it was at the beginning of a pandemic and I was expecting a new baby. Looking back, we didn’t do all the things people do when they purchase new homes. There were no housewarming or gathering of our families together to see the home. We didn’t move into the home until six months later. Some of that was due to the renovations we made prior to the move. It was extensive, but totally worth it. We changed the walls from an off white color to blue. Lots and lots of blue. We kept things from the home as is, like the gold colored chandelier the prior owners originally had and the large vanity mirror that lined one of the rooms and a guest bathroom.

February 2020, the moment we made an offer.
December 2020, the day we moved.

The renovations were more of a facelift in most places but totally worth it. When we moved in on the 23rd day of December, about one month and a half later, a massive winter storm hit our area. We were the direct recipients of it. It busted a pipe in the middle of our brand new kitchen and to say we were overwhelmed is an understatement. But God always has the last laugh. This time we lived in our home for over 1 month and a half as we began another daunting task to renovate. We uprooted everything from the kitchen and most of the basement. By the time we were done, the home was restored to its normal conditions thanks to our contractor who worked tirelessly to ensure things were back to normal.

The initial attempts at restoration.

The past year has been full of so many ups and downs and ups with this home, one that I would not trade anything else for it. One of the things the prior owners told us when we bought the home is that it would bring all the luck we need in the same way it did for them. They called it their lucky home. I agree. This home is lucky to us in all sense of the word. It keeps giving gifts that I will forever treasure, one of which is the endless array of flowers and trees that surround the home. We are so blessed and consider this a manifestation of Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11 in our lives. For our God alone knows the plans he has for us. Plans to bring us prosperity and not disaster. Plans to bring about the future we hope for. He did so with this home and I look forward to all the many plans he still has in store for us.

We love all our many shades of blue.

Bell Hooks took me on a journey today. The past few days have been full of work-related rejections with academic papers I wrote, one protocol and another a debate paper that I will dwell on another day. For now, transforming the language used by the rejectors is a profound passion. Bell Hooks reminded me of this. I am in the practice of freedom and language may be the deeply felt connection to rethinking how I deal with rejections, to reclaiming it for my own, even when it’s used to distract or keep you trapped as if you don’t know of all your untapped potential.

So I imagine language is always supposed to seduce you. Reduce you to nothing as it’s words intrude your thoughts, your being, you, even when used to reject you.

I imagine language is also supposed to be intimate. Fixate your thoughts to the way words violate you, or sedate you, as you anticipate the next sentence it creates, sentences that still may neglect you.

I also imagine that language should always be yours to possess. Caress too as it professes, rejections so intense, that no words can fully express, even as you try to digest the many ways words are used to suppress you, even upset you.

I still continue to imagine that language is supposed to be deeply luminescent. Omnipresent too as a weapon for every persistent resistance, even attempts to denounce you, that you can turn around in ways so profound that it astounds even you.

That’s what I am choosing to keep. The power of language. We have so little knowledge of ways to turn it against itself. We also downplay or ignore it’s essence as an oppressive weapon that can also be a blessing.

So I imagine that language is supposed to disrupt spaces too, interrupt oppressors that use it to only to obstruct where diverse voices seek to erupt. And so rather than speaking only in the oppressors language, I can be free to reconstruct language at my own will, not to destroy but to build me. So let me close in a vernacular that belonged to my forefathers and mothers.

I close by saying, language go have to change one dey. Even wen them dey use am to make you feel bad. Abeg free yourself. No be only them fit use this language too. Dem say your work no mata, no wahala. Show them say e go mata. No be them get this language alone. No be you sef too. The language wey I sabi speak supposed be the language wey I dey use all the time. Like for this tins wey I like to write but because I know say people no go understand wetin I write, that’s why I dey use their English. Yet many more people wey I know dey speak Pidgin English. I no say no be for everyone but if we go begin to change dey wey we learn from school, then people supposed to sabi Pidgin too. E fit help us all know each other better. E fit give us that freedom wey all of us dey look for. So even as I dey struggle with work, I know say dem no get anything where I dey because even the work no dey speak the language wey people I wan help dey use. And dey wonder why our work no dey last. How e go last when we dey use their language to talk to our people. Abeg may we free that mata for now. Instead, make una keep Pigin English and other broken English for your mind ooh especially if you dey in this business of health wey I dey.

I saw a vulture up close today. It is as menacing as literature as depicted it to be. My middle son actually saw it first. It was perched on our grounds and it stopped him in his tracks while running towards me. He kept saying I can’t come and I kept saying, just come. He managed to mutter that there is a giant bird on the ground. I ran over and sure enough the giant bird flew up to the tree by the side of our home. I tried to go close and the picture below is what I could take.

Vulture by our home!
Kids and I running close to the tree!

It doesn’t do enough justice. This bird is not only a giant among birds. But it’s perch is regal too. It looked at us unfazed and it wasn’t until we tried to get to close that it flew away. That’s when I saw it brilliance up close too. This bird is truly majestic. Every circle it took, was breathtaking. Every flight, fertile with faith. Not like the drizzle of a despondent dawn Achebe alludes to. But more like the rise of resolute rewards truly within reach. (The skies were crystal blue, so it can only mean rewards). Seeing this bird, felt like I was seeing a premonition of sorts. For every stride it took, was quite simply spell-bounding. I was mesmerized. I stood there for 1-2 minutes just watching the bird as it flew higher and higher into the sky. Every elevation, equally extraordinary.

Mama was gardening at the back of the house and I told her I just saw a giant bird. She saw it too and called it udene, which means vulture in Igbo. She also noted that it symbolizes bad luck. I said what, then why is it flying by our house. She noted not necessarily bad luck to us, but that it must be sensing something amiss around, like the carcass of something dead and it waiting patiently to perch low to grab it’s reward (I was right afterall). We never saw the bird again and so it’s hard to fathom whether it got what it wanted.

The researcher in me searched the literature to get a better sense of the bird alongside what our mama just told me. Sure enough the symbolisms of the bird are just as vast. Not only is a vulture known for its resourcefulness, but it’s also the most patient bird you will come across. They are the kings of finding things useful to them and when they do, even when it’s within their reach, the patiently wait for the right moment to grab their reward. That’s when it dawned on me. In life, seek things that will be useful to you and even when they seem within reach, still patiently wait for the right moment to take them. For what belongs to you will never pass you by. It’s an Igbo proverb too.

That and if no vulture is seen after an offering has been made to the gods, then something serious must have happened in the land of the spirits. The vulture is also a courier. According to my cherished Enuani book of proverbs, the vulture is expected to descend and carry the sacrifice to the spirits to whom the offering has been made. This August visitor by our home today can only mean that maybe all our sacrifices are not in vain and that even as things seem close, we must still patiently wait. It’s a tough one to understand as I know that being patient can be difficult for me but I’m listening. Thank you for the message and I’ll keep working on being as patient with my life dreams as the vulture. Keeping this here too for the right moment when this all makes sense.

From Enuani Maxims and Proverbs.

I once said to myself, you are in the business of being light. To do so, I became prepared for light to guard my thoughts, my words, my actions and all I profess to be. By light I leaned on words from the Bible: A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. By light, I clinged to these words by Toni Morrison where she asks: ‘Does your face light up when your children walk in the room.’ By light I also dwelled on these words by Chinua Achebe where he noted: ‘not to disparage the day that still has an hour of light in its hands.’ To become light, I was motivated by Ben Okri’s words where he asks that we: ‘infect the world with your light.’ And by light these words by Audre Lorde’s forced me to act: ‘The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live.’

If I am to become light, to truly be in the business of being light, then I knew that I had to be brave enough to see it and be it in my life in the way Amanda Gorman eloquently expressed during the Presidential inaugural address. But here in then lies my greatest dilemma: In being light you will come across places and people and spaces that try their hardest to diminish or put a glimmer in your essence. Your duty is to overcome them. How? By reminding yourself no matter whether you are on the journey alone, that always, you are light. You cannot be hidden. Let your face light up when all things come your way. Whether it’s your children or life and it’s many hurdles. Choose to still light up. For when you do, the whole world will be infected by your light. And the quality of you, your life’s product, will always be light. That’s truly what being in the business of light making entails. That you remain light always, against all odds and infect the world with it. Keep being light always.

The assignment was simple. The Cat in a Hat, comes to your house one rainy day and you have so much fun. Use your imagination to describe all the fun you have. My daughter let her’s fly. Mom and Dad went out, she began and left her alone with her brothers and a baby sitter. Suddenly, Cat in the Hat, came by the house. While one of her brothers were afraid, she was so eager to meet him. She watched as he played many tricks including juggling with weird items like a soccer ball, a fork, and a drum. She was afraid he would make a mess. He still continued to juggle, now with mom’s flowers and dad’s globe. And as he continued to have fun, mom and dad arrived. We too, she noted, joined in the fun which lasted until midnight. My daughter ended her story with scenes depicting the event. One showed her baby brother sleeping. Another showed, Cat in the Hat juggling all the sorts of items while she tried, though in vein, to ask him to stop. The final scene showed mom and dad arriving home from our meeting. Her imaginations with this assignment, as with so many others, are the necessary jolt I need, to wake up from my slumber.

I know I have written extensively elsewhere that to be in her world, in her imaginations, even in her illustrations is a gift I will forever cherish. She reminds me everyday of the possibilities inherent within ourselves if only we extend ourselves a little. On days where I feel overwhelmed, there is always a story, an image of hers lingering around our home, waiting for the right moment to cheer me up. It’s as if the universe knows that I will need a source of inspiration and she remains that steadfast assurance my imaginations needs to thrive in as well. Ours is a learning relationship I will also keep always. That our children can teach us things we adults need to learn is never at the top of conversations. Yet with her, I learn every day. I learn about the worldview of a child. Things I agree with and things I don’t. I learn about how they stretch their imagination, to places far and near, where anything, including a Cat in the Hat juggling flowers or a drum is possible. I learn about about her use of words. Some of the most interesting combination of words occur in the hands of children like my daughter, who are carefree in their thoughts and use their words for power. I also learn about how she does not limit herself to anyone’s depiction or discussion of how she ought to tell her story. Nothing blinds here to her imagination. Nothing tells her she to go high or go low, juggle items with a Cat in a Hat or pray he stops so he doesn’t make a mess in the house. Nothing stands in the way of her imagination. That’s the the keep for me today.

Keep a child’s imagination for yourself whether with Cat in a Hat or anything else. She knows herself well, conveys her story for herself well even to the delight of her teacher who shared this quote while grading the assignment: “what an imagination and way with words.” Her own contributions to my world and work will forever be sterling. She continues to give her imaginations a place to stand, to use it as a potent device to tell her story, her way and that is enough for me to join her teacher and say well done.

I almost missed writing today. It has been a crazy month trying to wrap up two major projects. As they slowly come to an end, I realize that all that matters isn’t that I skip writing but that I hold myself accountable. I began this journey to chronicle life as a mother in academia. It is one hectic journey. From time management issues to time set aside for family, all of that can get in the way of whatever goals you set for yourself with your academic journey. I choose to write about my experiences because both are meaningful and critically important to me. There will always be day like this that get in the way of writing here. But still I intend to hold myself accountable for what I do as a mother in academia isn’t reflected anywhere. This one is truly a reminder to me to keep telling my story even on days when time isn’t on my side. Tell the story so the world knows that to be a mother, a professor and a grant writer is a field worthy of celebration. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

In the spirit of resting, I had this grand idea to go by the lake yesterday. I have heard so much about Creve Coeur Lake and so the goal was to finally check it out. Summer plans for this year will include nature walks and trips to the lake at least in my plan, since it’s only 15minutes from our home. It was also close to 80 degrees by the time we set out around 11am. I anticipate this would be a long hot one given that it’s only May. The lake itself was beautiful. Simple with a long stretch of trail for walking, running or biking. Everyone seemed to be doing the same thing I wanted which is to simply be closer to nature. One of my sons on the other hand, had other things in mind. I keep forgetting about his love for repetitive behaviors whenever he comes across certain things he has done before. Today’s request, a boat ride on the lake.

At Creve Coeur Lake!

Early this year, I wrote a post about wanting to go on a train at the Saint Louis Zoo, just for us to end up on a boat ride next the Zoo because of a massive meltdown at the Zoo (the trains were not working that day). Little did I know that despite all his tears and pleas for the train, he actually loved the boat ride and well associated it with lakes, all lakes now. At the Creve Coeur lake, there were 2 white sailboats on the lake and a father with his 2 sons and a daughter kayaking. There were no boat house or places to rent a boat. And so the repetition began. Rather than simply enjoying the walk by the lake, or playing with the water as his siblings were, my son pleaded for a boat ride.

Next to the lake!

His insistence on going on a boat began the moment we crossed the street and started our walk until the end. I spent the nearly 40 minutes walk we took, assuring him that we will go on a boat ride, just not at this lake but by the boat house at Forest Park which was about 22 minutes from the lake. It was almost like I was talking to a brick as nothing I said to assure him seemed to work. He also seemed to a least walk along the trail so that helped a lot. Plus being close to nature I have come to learn does wonders for his being. Though his insistence for a boat ride occurred throughout the walk, he walked nonetheless, repeating the same thing, as he walked. When the walk was over, I motioned it was time for lunch. Then we go on a boat, he said, almost immediately. I said sure. We got lunch. He barely ate his, just focused on the boat. He even knew the road to the boat house. I never really think that he is paying attention, but with each passing day, I see and know first hand that he is. When we got to the boathouse, the place was crowded. An impromptu band was playing next to the restaurant. I drove up a bit to see if there were any boats sitting on the dock. There were some. So we packed our car and headed to rent a boat. The moment we got on it, my son looked like he was in heaven. Rest also became his portion. I also seemed to know how to drive the boat this time such that we all took the time to enjoy the many wonderful gifts of nature.

Like a white egret which flew across our path along the lake. Or the quiet streams of water flowing through the lake. Yesterday was as gentle and beautiful as I never would have imagine. And a boat ride, thanks to my son’s love for sameness, helped usher in rest. Sometimes society, myself included may feel like we have all the answers and know what is best for us. I am learning everyday with accepting my sons love for sameness, that connecting certain things together like a lake and a boat ride is just as powerfully as merely walking on a lake. We started the day walking next to a lake. I thought that was plenty. But we ended the day literally on the lake. It was the serenity I didn’t even know I needed until my son vocalized it over and over again. I listened and my soul at the end of the day, felt at ease. Keep boat rides on lakes in mind even if vocalized by a 7 year old on the spectrum. They do wonders for the soul. Ooh and now he thinks Saturday’s are for boat rides. Wish me luck this summer.