...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


blossoms from portugal

I've recently discovered that "Z," a dear friend of mine, has been spending some time healing - and finding solace through her hands - crafting beautiful little doll girls [and boys!] to life. Using her favorite fabrics, these Blossoms carry an expression that could only be saying one thing- love me.

By Crafty Doula

By Crafty Doula

Not surprisingly, her collection from this lot [above photos] have sold quickly - but you can still find a few similar ones at her online store - or inquire about a custom order by visiting her crafting blog. Owning or creating a handmade doll of your own is like owning a piece of history - as young girls before the age of time have played, danced, and shared tea with their stitched playmates. If you're lucky, you have one passed down to you from your own geneology map. But for the rest of us, we can't help but create a history of our own - buying handmade, and bringing childhood - as it was meant to me - to life for our own kids - in paisleys and polka dots of course!

Zelia created this one for Ava - and we're excited about her arrival next week all the way from Portugal! She will be cherished and played with - and of course, hear all of Ava's stories and secrets she has yet to share...

By Crafty Doula

About the crafter:: Ze
Zelia Evora is one of those moms we wish we could emulate more of - natural in every fiber, she parents the way she lives - nurturing all those that surround her - so it wasn't surprising when I learned that she's also a doula! When we first met through the blogging world - she graciously sent me a package containing beautiful Portugal fabric with a handwritten note - to hopefully inspire me to create dolls of my own. I have yet to do so - but every time I see her fabric sitting on my desk - I think of her and her motivation for mothers to express themselves creatively.

At home in Portugal, you'll find her running her own baby-wearing business and crafting - from dolls to quilts! Visit Zelia's online store, or handmade blog to see more photos of her Blossoms or send her an email about your custom order.

after the rain

Comatose on the couch, I was amazingly awakened by my toddler son pulling my fingers and saying over and over again, "helmet, helmet" while pointing to the closet. When I finally lifted one eye half open, I saw both of them standing with the closet door open, heads tilted back, looking up and wondering, how do we get our helmets down?

"Do you guys really want to go for a bike ride?" I say, hopeful that reverse psychology will work this time, and sigh unconvincingly, that the idea was ludicrous. And naturally, they both shout an astounding, "yes!" and then pull their shoes out of their baskets.

Now - a few days ago I ranted about how terribly hot the weather has been lately. But today, our summer's enemy was no where to be found. I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity to be outside and let them ride with the summer's slow evening winds, gently blowing in preparation for yet another storm. That would just be evil of me. So I got up.

Ah... rain - I just love how our neighborhood looks - with its towering trees and greener grass - after it rains.... I love watching the kids - ride side by side - until curb side trash gets in the way - and they zoom past each other [with toddler caution].




I love the frequent stops they make to pickup fallen leaves, wave at neighbors passing by, or say "aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh" out loud so that they can hear their voices vibrate over a rough patch in the sidewalk....

I love how they linger at the end of each block - like puddles, waiting for something to happen....


And I love how tired I am, walking behind them, holding Aaron's hand and having some alone time to finally catch up, talk and dream up ideas. But what I love most of all - is God's presence in the rain - and these gifts He leaves behind for us - to cherish - after the rain...

mothers do know better


Noah strutted around us as if the bruising around his eye was a figment of our imaginations. We tried to sustain as much of a normal routine as he was used to - cautioning Ava to be "extra careful" around Noah's face - no matter how tempting it was to slug him after knocking down her castle - three times in a row.

When Dr. Lee, the on-call pediatrician, first looked at Noah, he scrunched his face and made that "ouchi" noise as if he just witnessed Noah getting hit with a bat right then and there. Of course, I tense up. "What is it? What do you see?" - but within seconds learn that this was his way of empathizing with us. I felt immediate comfort with him - and how clearly he understands parents' reactions to such occurrences. Noah wouldn't let Dr. Lee touch his eye - no matter how much we bribed him with candy, stickers, or juice. And Dr. Lee said not to worry. Here's what we do... and here's what we don't do... and so on...

And just when I thought I had everything under control from this experience, taking extra care of my Noah - licking his wounds and protecting him from the salvages of childhood injuries, we visited a children's ophthalmologist at Children's Medical Center in Plano. I'll forego mentioning a name here – because what I’m about to tell you is so unnerving, that you may find yourself casting stones at this office – if not boulders.

This experience I can’t even wish on my worst enemy. For one, I don’t have one. But if I did – I wouldn’t want this to happen to you. It has me bent over backwards and on the verge of mandating that they take a course on how to handle children with care and communicate with parents – and not be able to practice until they have done so. They clearly must have failed the first time the course was offered (I'm sure of it).

Deep breath. [Exhale]. When the nurse asked me to bring Noah into another room to dilate his eyes, she didn't explain what she was doing. I've had my eyes dilated before - no big deal right? But then again, I wasn't two years old – nor did I have an orbital fracture. She asked the assistant doctor on duty to hold Noah's head down and for me to hold his hands down. Like robots - we did. I just did what I was told, not questioning what she was going to do - or even flinch when Noah physically disapproved of the entire arrangement. They are the experts. Who am I to know any better?

Since having children -from doctors to lactation nurses - I have somehow made myself feel that I don't know anything. That I should do what I am told. Because after all - they went to medical school. And that gives them all the authority they need to do whatever they want. Because they know.

I tried to soothe Noah as I held his hands - telling him that he's such a "big boy" and that "they are going to fix your eye Noah!" while holding his hands crossed over his chest. His body wrangling from underneath me, I can't help but to slowly let go - I have never been in a situation to force him physically like this. The nurse, prying his injured eye with both hands, squirts 2 drops inside - and does the same to the other. I see the effort roll right off his cheeks. He is crying. Heavily. His one good eye shut so hard, I can see every wet lash pressed – and curled together in vain.

But it wasn't until his loud cry for mercy – one that I have never heard before - that I snapped out of my insecurities and told the nurse to "stop. Stop. Hold On!" and then pull him away. In my arms he continued to cry - hyperventilating until I could calm him down and point to a playground outside the window – where we would go when we were finished if he’d let them. (Awful mother. Still bribing him.)

Embarrassed by Noah’s demonstration - both the nurse and doctor stood behind me in silence. I hear their thoughts in my head - what kind of a mother are you? We’re doing this for his own good. You're wasting our time. You spoil your kids don't you? What? You don’t ever let your kids cry?

The nurse finally speaks out loud to me and says, "OK Mama. We can skip the third eye-drop. But we must do the fourth one. That one is the most effective."

In an attempt to prove myself - my motherly convictions that "mother's do know best" - (which is what the doctors say is the best) I lay him down, tell him to sit tight, be strong, and that it'll be over soon... when once again, the earth begins to shake.

Only this time, they don't stop at my interjections. As if they vetoed my protests and thought they were doing us the favor - she forced his eye open and continued to squeeze drops into his eyes. I am having an out-of-body experience I tell myself. This isn't really happening! Delayed by the shock of it all, my voice exploded out of me and I pulled him straight to my chest and walked out of the room.

I took Noah into the examining room - where we had left Aaron and Ava. Noah was able to calm down – after seeing that it was just the 4 of us in the room. Distracted by a barking toy dog, I rattle off to Aaron how horrific the experience was. But Aaron, trying to be tough and realistic looked at me with the, “I’ll go finish with Noah.” But before he could finish that thought I dart Aaron an evil "don't you dare!" look to buy me enough time to reason with him that this process was unprofessional and unnecessary. Visits to the doctor should not be like this. We should be told what to anticipate – what the tests are for. What to expect or how some children may react… They tormented him! They didn’t stop when I told them to…. of course, my voice comes back to me and I am able to confront the incident and tell the jury in the room everything that had happened – but only wished I had much, much earlier – when my tongue was glued to the back of my throat.

The doctor finally shows up, flashes her lights in Noah's eye - and proclaims that there is no damage to his eye. He will be fine. Relieved - somewhat - I am curious about the ordeal we just went through. Since Noah didn't get "all 4 drops" in each eye - was she still able to see everything she needed to see? Before I could finish this thought, Ms. Hyde in Dr. Jekyll turns to me in defense and says, "I just told you. He's fine. You can see for yourself. His pupils are dilated just fine."

Just fine I think. Then why didn't your nurse stop? Why was she so persistent on forcing him to take all 4? Then make me feel like the worst mother on this planet when I wouldn’t let her finish? Why didn't she just quit after one drop – and see if it worked, instead of making him go through all of that - when one, as it turned out, was all that you needed to see he was ok? I ask these questions to the wall behind her - then collect my things. Slowly. No longer acknowledging her. Or her time. Or the nurses poised outside our door waiting to see some reaction.

The doctor's last words to us were - "your exit is on the left." And we ignore her. I couldn't help it. The last hour was spent riding on the trust of these complete strangers - rather than my own child. I'll never have that hour back. I did know better, but I traded that innate feeling inside because I have always listened to people carrying badges. But when it comes to your child - badge or no badge - a mother's instinct should always prevail. And this I am slowly learning. I can only hope that Noah will trust me again.

As we gathered our things, we walked slowly towards the check-out - and took our time picking out our favorite stickers and black plastic sunshields provided for patients - disregarding anyone else in the room - just because...

another hot summer

Every summer I am always confronted with the same question. Why am I still living in Texas?

There were just two things that struck the Yankee right out of me that first summer we moved here- One, the unbearable heat, and two - seeing animals I've only ever seen in a public zoo eating grass in fenced backyards on my way to school everyday. Well, I got use to the farm animals - but two decades and kids later, I'm still singing the refrain from an adapted country western song - "why am I --- still living in Texas?"

The Texas heat is somewhat bitter-sweet to me. Sweet in that you can always count on sunshine to fall on your back - comfort and encourage you to finish writing that theology paper you need an A in. Bitter in that sometimes, the sunshine punches you in the face, making you feel like you can peel layers and layers of your skin off, and then some....

It's hot. And no matter how often I chant my disdain for the Texas heat, I still find myself outdoors, melting and enjoying the summers....

picnic on the lawn

watermelon picnic

With toys scattered on the lawn, I can't help but join their quest to make the most out of the moment - albeit hotter than all the wood burning pizza ovens in Italy combined - we throw down an old bedsheet and indulge on nature's cooling weapons - watermelon!

watermelon pops!

Noah plunges his plastic fork into one and up comes a watermelon-"pop" which he quickly shows me with his one eye. [*Side note - Noah's eye is healing beautifully! Thank you for all your prayers and emails!!]

looking for ants

Our picnic turns into an obstacle course, as the kids find it hilarious to pass the box of blueberries up and down the slide to each other. They stop and take notice of the ants - unearthed by their barefeet, and then bring one to me. I slap Ava's hand and send the ant spiraling somewhere onto our food and then shout, "they're coming! hurry, hurry! they are going to bite you! Let's go inside!"

Shameful... I know. In one breath, they grab their blueberries and run upto the front doorstep and turn. Both had a disappointed look on their face - as if they were expecting to see armies of ants marching in rage, ready to strike, behind them in their shadows.

The so-called invasion on the other hand, was only threatening in my head. I wipe the sweat, the only deathly pandemic to this summer day - off of my brow and say, "Whew. That was close. We better go inside - where it's safe...."



I don't understand it. My heart aches even when I try. There's a rainfall of guilt, and helplessness - watching him look at me - unintentionally with one eye.

Aaron said he didn't cry very much after he fell. Little did we know that 6 hours after stumbling from his own feet, his body would take care of the wound itself, and create a wickedly big purple patch over his right eye.

He showed off his ER bracelet when he got home. We played in his bed and made airplane "swooshing" noises until the batteries ran out. So we spooned and listened to the locusts flying into the window. Laying there, next to him, I couldn't help but cry.

I cried because I couldn't prevent it from happening. Nor could I snap my fingers and make it disappear. I cried because he has an orbital fracture. I cried because at 2, he can't tell me how he's really feeling. I cried for all the reasons why mothers do at a time like this... and more.

Your prayers for a healthy recovery are appreciated. In the meantime, we're all having a lot of chocolate ice cream ... which I am told by Noah, is indeed helping.

falling in love...with water

Summers have come and gone in the 7 years we've lived in our home where Aaron and I wouldn't swim in our backyard pool at all. The daily need to skim, brush, and maintain the pH balance and water level, quickly moved to the bottom of our chore list. And once Ava went mobile, a child-proof latch on the french doors sealed the deal permanently.

But the growing algae on the walls, crumbling tile, and over grown trees nearby caught our attention. Especially our finances. We spent the last 3 summers reviving our back yard - chopping down trees, replacing the filters and motors.... and most of all - our perception of how a pool is a blessed extension of our home.

Now that the kids are a bit older, it has become an extended playground for us all. At the first sight of heat waves disappearing, the kids grab their suits drying in the bathtub, and wait by the back door.


Noah calls the pool an "ocean" - which is exactly what it feels like sometimes when we get a glimpse of a dolphin jumping waves...

catching a dolphin

And if we're not throwing water balloons, playing "shark" or spinning in circles creating waves, we're dining by the pool for breakfast, lunch, or dinner...

lunch by the pool

filling up

Backyard maintenance is no longer a chore, but a family effort. Ava helps us skim the top of the pool while Noah waters the landscape. And the best part? Cleaning up toys has never become problem. Because they too - enjoy being left by the water.


Getting wet this summer - our tips
1. Whether you have a pool or not, there are several alternatives to integrating a wet playground for the kids. From hoses to sprinklers to inflatable pools - all offer kids a healthy way to enjoy the summer days.

2. Invite creativity into your pool/water playtime by imagining scenarios the kids love. We play "Da-Na, Da-Na" which is what we crescendo while trying to chase the kids both in and out of the pool.

3. Swimming builds strong appetites in kids - which I absolutely love. Leave it to nature to evoke their desire to choose and eat fresh fruits and salads all on their own...

4. It's easy to accumulate inflatables, tubes, and pool toys each summer - which clutters the real purpose of using the pool - to swim. Skip the extra plastic toys that are tempting to buy and ask your kids to use what they have [barring they can get wet] to swim or play with in the sandbox.

5. Keep a large plastic or metal container by the door filled with clean towels, sunscreen, and their outdoor toys. Having it all in one place and ready to go eases the burden on you to rush and find everything when the kids have already beaten you outdoors - and it gives the kids a sense of responsibility to swimming - let them retrieve items on their own and drop off used towels, suits and toys in the bucket on their way to bathtime!

happy birthday aaron!


Aaron celebrated his 32nd birthday last Friday and the kids helped me bake his favorite - double layered butter cream cake with buttercream frosting! The mixer is a lot of fun, and as soon as Ava figured out the speed she preferred, the batter was whipped to perfection - which is our secret tip for baking smooth spongy cakes.

Daddy agrees. Happy Birthday Aaron!



The annual family beach vacation we started last year, faced many obstacles this year. Aaron and I deliberated back and forth whether or not this was something we should forego and pick back up when the kids are older. My parents and sister were traveling out of the country, work was piling up, and the need to save now - more than ever - were all working against the dream.

The recent adventure to PV would have sufficed our need to bury 40 toes in the sand - except our family is really a bigger one - and extends into my own. There is something very nostalgic about family traditions. When I was young, we'd spend almost every weekend with our cousins - I can still smell Coney Island - hear the chatter of aunts and uncles coming in and out of Bebe's kitchen - and see my Bobo jan, over a century old, sitting in the backyard and watching all the grand [and great-grand] kids play baseball with tennis rackets. Many of my fond memories of childhood reside in those years - where weekend reunions with extended family were as common as the regular work week.

On shoestring budgets - each family came together to raise their kids as they were raised by generations before them. By the age of 10, all of that stopped, and my parents' obligation to save prevailed over childhood memories ever since.

Before using a lesson my Mom instilled - which was to refrain from making promises or plans - because "you never know what's going to happen tomorrow," I promised Ava we'd all go to the beach. No one forshadowed the recession. Aaron losing his job... or Dad's extended stay in Kabul. But I made the risky promise anyway - not accepting - how fast next summer would really come...

So when my bid for a new project was accepted, and the thought of saving it felt right and responsible, I decided that saving my promise to Ava - was even moreso.

we're going to the beach

The day after we returned from PV, Ava asked if she was going to go to the beach with Humzah. She recounted the van we rented...flying a kite with "uncle greg" and other memorable souvenirs from last year's trip. Enough said - the trip was back on! The night before we left, I stayed up all morning to make goody bags and tshirts for each child... All the while, thinking, how this was going to be our family tradition -

for our children to grow up and remember - together.

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Look! A Crab!




Wet Feet

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Searching For Crabs

We enjoyed a wonderful week in Seacrest, Florida - the beaches of South Walton are truly maginificient in every way - making it one of the top family destinations in the US.

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The karma from the gesture brought us unexpectedly to an Andante Penthouse where for one week, it was our home... where from the doors of my master bedroom, I stepped onto the beach... family gathered around the kitchen for gourmet meals prepared by chef Masaud, and children camped out in their bunkroom.

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Gourmet dinner

Andante Penthouse - Living

Andante Penthouse - Media

Andante Penthouse - Master

The Andante afterall, is a "smart house" where it took us 3 days alone to master the remote control. Everything is automated - from lights to curtains and fireplaces to thermostats - what we loved about this experience - was that it was 2 vacations in 1. Close the sliding doors, and your senses would deny that it's even summer. The decor, amenities and layout make you feel like you're in a Manhattan high-rise. Open them, and your senses will flood you with what summers are all about...


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As we watched the waves crest and fall, underneath the sunset, we thanked the beach for being a gracious host to our families... and then listened.

"The beauty you see in your children... and your family... and for life...

Is as natural and clear as my body.
As infinite as the horizon you see here.
Forget not, that you are as much apart of me, as I am to you...

Leaving the beach

... and I will see you next summer!"


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