November 01, 2017

To be understood

Jubilee is adopted. Sometimes that makes her feel special, other times embarrassed, and still other times confused. She wonders, Am I Chinese? Am I American? I tell her she is both! She's Chinese-American! She smiles. She likes that. I go on. You have the rich history of your Chinese ancestry, I tell her, and the bright future of your American citizenship. She likes that too. She leans against me and takes my hand, and I kiss her silky black hair. We sit in contemplative, companionable silence.

The truth is, as hard as I try, I'll not fully understand my daughter. Honestly, how can I? My birth mother packed my lunches with love notes and is, even now, just a phone call away. Jubilee's birth mother will remain a mystery for the rest of her life. My birth father threw me up into his arms when he got home from work, and grilled me a delicious pork chop just last summer. Hers?

Then again, I also don't have parents who chose me in an email. Who raised money to bring me home. Who sent me care packages to my orphanage. Who signed a piece of paper they didn't have to sign - while I sat shivering and crying in their strange arms - promising to love me forever no matter what.

Her story is layered and complex a gourmet dish. My story is greasy-spoon diner-fare in comparison. I will never see life the way she does.

Which is why I'm so glad she's had a string of people in her life with whom she can feel completely understood. I pray she will always have friends like these!

Sweet Xan, who has become something of a big sister to Jubi. Xan was also adopted by a petite blond lady. 
Cutie pie Kai. He had just been adopted in this pic. Jubi and I went to be with my childhood friend Kathy and her husband Nick when they came to adopt Kai last month. Look at the little bond between these two already!
Jubi on Halloween with her friend Lily. Lily's mother and I were talking about these two long before they came into our arms.
Jubi sitting by her friend Maggie at a princess party. Maggie is Xan's little sister. 

October 12, 2017

There's no place like home (school)

Every year I tell myself, "Kayla, you don't have to do this anymore. Just finish this year out, and then we'll see."

But every year I do it again.

Are there days I wish we weren't a home school family? Heck. Yes. I get no break from my kids, nor they from me (poor dears). "Me" time? Forget about it. Peace and quiet? Never (my ears literally ring when I lay my head on the pillow at night.

The kids don't have access to amazing sports programs or music programs. The house is NEVER fully picked up (there are five of us inside this apartment all day, every day, year round).

The reasons to quit home schooling are many.

But the reasons to keep with it are more. The kids are home, with me, every day. Their childhoods are almost, but not quite, anxiety-free. Awkward stages slip by in the privacy of our family, un-teased and un-unnoticed. Difficulty learning this or that is given all the time it needs until, painlessly, it's gone.

If someone has a deep philosophical question at 9:30 p.m., we can spend two hours talking it through because the next morning we can all sleep in if we need to. We're hardly ever sick (that's a huge bonus). My kids are each others' best friends because they spend every day together.

And best of all, their teacher can give them big hugs and kisses on the tops of their heads without getting in trouble for it.

Home sweet home (school).

Desks. They help us take ourselves more seriously (it can't be all fun and games)

The writing co-op I host on my rooftop.
Chemistry co-op, Periodic Table cookies
Cool dudes make cookies. Gene on the left, his buddy Reister on the right.

The junior chemistry co-op. Brave on the left, his buddy Mason on the right.
Making Russian gingerbread during our Russia unit in history (Jubi and her classic Chinese squat)

September 09, 2017

Six boys and a girl

There is another family in town with three sons. Over the years we have become increasingly close to this amazing family of tall, athletic, like-minded and like-hearted people.

And they know how to have FUN!

A few weeks ago they took us to this crazy place on the edge of our city where we actually went tubing on a manmade lake! (If you've ever been here, you know how unheard of that is).

Michelle brought tuna salad and I brought bread and our kids jumped and ran and swam all day. Jubilee, the only girl, hung with the six boys like a champ.

August 13, 2017

Michigander flies home

Before school starts I'd better put up an America post! It's amazing how much fun a family can have in under three weeks.
This pic says it all. The flag, the boating tube, the minivan, the mobile home. 

America has Meijer stores, and Meijer stores have slushies. It's one of the first things we do.

America has brothers. 

Family pic 2017. The gang's all here!

Our family's favorite inland lake. Grandpa has a pontoon boat now.

My dad. XOXOX
Four generations!
My mom. XOXOX

Not to be outdone by the grandkids.
The beach. Of course.

They've been carrying kids' beach toys to the beach for 40 years now.

My parents pack a mean cooler.
And then there's Liz. Of course.
We stayed here for a night. "Linda's Place," it was called. Linda has...interesting taste.
Bowling balls were growing in the garden.
We had a blast, in spite of Linda's garden! Ha!
Ah, Michigan. Until we meet again. XOXOX

August 06, 2017

My baby is 8

So we snuck back into America this summer, for less than three weeks this time. If we didn't see you or give you a call, don't feel badly. It was worse for us! A globe-crossing series of flights, followed by two weeks of jet lag, then a mere five days of normalcy, only to get back on airplanes heading home to East Asia for another two weeks of jet lag. Not exactly a dream summer...but necessary for visa purposes. We do what we must.

So it was that Jubilee celebrated her 8th birthday while in the United States. Which is funny. This kid, who has never lived anywhere but her birth country, has now celebrated 3/8 of her birthdays outside of her birth country.

But she didn't complain too much. She woke up at Grandma and Grandpa's on the morning of her birthday, to the usual streamers and balloons and a present or two.

Then we met up with Liz and Cadence at Airtime in Grand Rapids. Jubi LOVVVVVES her friend Cadence. This lovely Dutch girl is a full head taller than Jubes and hasn't even turned 8! But their height difference doesn't mean anything to them.

After Airtime, Liz took the girls to an art event for kids.

The following Saturday the whole family came together, Momo included, to celebrate again. Jubilee had her cousin Sharlet by her side this time!

Probably her favorite gift was the shirt I ordered from Etsy. The kitten looks like our Moses, and green is her favorite color.

The grand finale? GETTING HER EARS PIERCED! Grandma and Momo and I took her to Claire's at Rivertown Crossings Mall. She chose yellow gold and cubic zirconia studs.

Her ears just before the piercing.
The lady who would pierce her ears was kind of nuts. Jubi is laughing at her.

She's laughing at her again. 
The smallest look of pain on her face. Nothing more.
And she's done! Look at the sparkle in those ears! Grandma bought her two more pairs for later.

Jubilee, my only daughter, my sweet companion, my favorite girl. You have a golden heart, a level head, a quick wit, and a look of beauty. There is no doubt that girls like you are rare. We are so thankful for you, and we can't wait to see where you will go in life and who you will become! Happy birthday, sweetheart. We love you with all our hearts.