May 22, 2015

Jurassic Party

WARNING: Zion is 8
For his 8th birthday, our mop-haired man wanted a dinosaur party based on the movie Jurassic Park (which Daddy let him see on their last opthomologist run to Hong Kong).
Zion thought through the guest list, filled the favor bags, and browsed hundreds of images of T-Rex on my ipad before settling on this for his cake.
I did that icing-on-wax-paper-placed-over-desired-image thing.
It was a very cute group.
The cups were labeled, and everyone was sat, by Zion, accoring to who would best converse with whom over pizza. Zion is quite in tune to the complexities of group behavior.
I free-handed that dino mural on the wall, I'll admit. High school art class pays off at last.
Birthday candles were a problem last minute (I had none) but our neighbor, Mrs. Ko, came through for us just in time.

Zion has lots of friends, but his siblings are his biggest fans.

And he's not afraid to wear a dino costume at his party. Nor the hat while coloring in his new dino coloring book.

I love your raspy voice and your thunderclap laugh. I love your overflowing heart, your eye for detail, and your keen spirit. I love the way you feel the joy - and the pain - of those around you, without losing hold of your own fine identity. I simply melt to a puddle on the floor when your wrap your little arms, twisted with muscle, around my waist and bury your face, glasses and all, into the folds of my T-shirt. You and your box of crayons march into a room and everyone...smiles. We can't help it. We just do. YOU do that to us. You are a wonderful person, Zion Daniel. Happy 8th birthday to you!

I love you with all my heart,

May 11, 2015

Every day is mother's day

Before any of the kids were up on Mother's Day, I was awoken to the sound of my husband puking his guts out.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

But you know what? The day turned out to be a perfect Mother's Day - for me, not for Daniel, poor guy. Why was it perfect? Because it was a day like any other day. I fed the kids breakfast. I cared for them all morning. I ate lunch with them. I cared for them all afternoon. I made them dinner. We ate dinner together. We played together all evening. I put them to bed. Unfortunately because of Daddy's stomach virus, we didn't get to go to church.

The truth is, every day for me is mother's day. I get the rare privelege of being with my four precious children every single day, all day long. I've taught them all to read. I've taught them how to work long division, how to read music, how to build an electromagnet, how to grow radishes, type without looking at their hands, and find their way around using a map. Hopefully I've taught them much more than that. Hopefully I've taught them how to love each other well, how to argue well, and how to live well. Hopefully.

So on this Mother's Day, while Daniel stayed close to the bathroom, my kids and I took the scooter to KFC for chicken and ice cream.

And when we got back, someone had made his way, very slowly I'm sure, to the flower vendor and back. He's a great guy, that Daniel Rupp!

May 08, 2015

Fixing the problem

One week out of every month she is moody and irritable, driving him crazy, lashing out at him for no reason at all and then following him around sulkily in pursuit of his reassuring touch.

Sounds like many women I know (including myself), but pulling out his hair with her teeth? That's going a little too far. Unless you're a rabbit, and your mate's hair is long and white and soft, just perfect for padding a nest. Apparently, monthly hormone surges are a problem for other species too, not just humans. At least we humans can talk about our feelings with our mates. Maybe if our bunnies could talk, George would tell Winnie that he has been fixed and their is no need for a nest. Not now, not ever.

But alas, bunnies cannot talk, and we realized Winnie was going need to get fixed, too. The problem was, no one wanted to spay a female rabbit. Here, they raise rabbits for food; sterilizing one seemed like a crying shame. After much hunting, I found a vet who agreed to try, and the kids and I prayed all morning while Winnie was away that her little heart wouldn't give out during surgery.

It didn't! Daddy brought this pitiful creature home to us. Sweet Winifred.

What's even sweeter is that George has barely left her side, and he hardly eats a thing. They groom each other through the bars and wait, heavy-hearted, for the day when her bandages come off and they can hop around the veranda together again.

April 28, 2015

Elsa at last

For the first five or so Frozen birthday parties to which Jubilee was invited, she was the only little girl not dressed in icicle blue. In fact she had not yet seen the movie - hadn't even asked to see it - and of the course the rest of our household hadn't either. Each time a party host would gather all the Elsas together for an Elsa picture, Jubilee would obligingly step out of the shot. 

But then we went to Thailand and some kids were watching Frozen in the guest house movie-room one evening. All four of my kids watched along. It wasn't until their second viewing that I watched it too, and I gotta say, the writers of that movie were an awfully talented bunch. everybody else...we love Frozen.

To Abby's birthday party, therefore, Jubilee wore icicle blue. She even got to be in the Elsa shot!
Look our for Spiderman sneaking around in the background!
Next time maybe she'll have a real Elsa dress;) 

April 27, 2015

Worth a truck

A few days ago, Lydia posted this pic on Facebook. This is our old truck, being driven away by it's new owner. When I saw this, and realized that our dear truck had been sold to a stranger, I broke down and wept. Jubilee held me while I cried.
The thing is, I fell in love with my husband sitting side-by-side on the tailgate of this truck, watching the stars, parked down in his valley in Arkansas. We drove away from our wedding in this truck, tin cans dragging behind the bumper. He taught me how to drive a stick-shift in this truck, in the hilly campus town of Fayetteville. I drove this truck from Kentucky to Arkansas barely pregnant with the baby we lost, pulling off at a Cracker Barrel to buy a vanilla taffy and a cream soda to quell my morning sickness. I lost the baby a week later. We hauled Christmas trees in this truck, camping gear, and our household furniture each time we moved. So when it came time to sell everything we owned and move to East Asia, we couldn't quite part with the truck.

Graciously, Lydia and John agreed to hang on to it for us, with the intention of giving it back to us upon our return to the States.

That was eight years ago, and the truth is becoming clear: we aren't returning to the States. (At least not any time soon). Maybe that is why I wept, more than the loss of the only piece of property we've ever owned. Maybe I wept because we aren't going back.

But then, there is no going back.

Because what I'm really mourning isn't the loss of a dream, or the loss of a truck, but the loss of time. The fact is the truck, sold or not sold, isn't worth much anymore. Time got the better of it.

Which brings me to the thought that finally stopped my tears: I still have the man who drove that truck! And the life we have together is better than I dreamed of.

And frankly, if people like us didn't do what we do, the 600 college students who heard about Him last semester...well...they wouldn't have.

That's worth a truck.
Us in our truck, newly married.
Just married. He'd just helped up into the truck when this pic was taken. 

April 22, 2015

Mountains and men

This year the guys went higher than last year...well over 16,ooo feet! Altitude sickness hit all of them to some degree - and some of them didn't summit - but all of them came back smelling of wood-smoke and dried snow. Daniel crossed the threshold of our apartment with a big smile creasing his wind-chapped face. For a full three days, nothing could get him down. Mountains and men, they go well together.
The town.

The guys.

The campsite.

The summit!

The man.

April 17, 2015

Running in place

I competed in sports before I was a mother. Naturally, then, I should be one of those active moms who gets up every morning to run with the rising sun (not mentioning any names, Candace). But notice I did not say I was a fitness guru, nor did I say I was a runner. I said I competed in sports. Give me a pair of shin guards and a jersey and I'll run nonstop for an hour, protesting if you try to pull me out of the game to give me a breather. But give me a gym membership, and I hate to say it but I'll probably cringe. It's just not my thing.

Consequently ten years went by and I never moved faster than chasing a toddler across the room. When depression hit in my early 30s, I blamed everything but my lack of exercise, not thinking that a girl who grew up in athletics would probably always need to move. When it finally dawned on me, I made up my mind to break a sweat at least every other day. I figured it was better to die of boredom in a pair of running shoes than drop out of life on account of depression.

Three major barriers: the pollution in our city is rarely under the hazardous mark, bad knees run in my family, and my four kids are never not in my care. Where to run to, when there is no clean air outside? How to run, without jarring my knees? How to break away from my kids? The answer: a miniature hot-pink stair-stepper that I bought for 200 kuai at our local sporting goods store. I can move it around the house, to wherever the kids are playing, even up on the roof if the air happens to clear. It doesn't hurt my joints, and it isn't too boring so long as I have a game of Battleship and a light-saber duel both going on before my eyes.

We moms of young children sometimes feel chained in place. Especially home-school moms, I think, because everything depends on us, and we can't check-out, even for a sec (or we feel like we can't). It gets tiring, and sometimes we wish for a chance to break away, even to run away, if we're honest.

But we can't run away, and we would never actually do that anyway. But we can run in place! We can put a hot-pink stair-stepper in the living room and use muscles we forgot we had, pushing pause on the timer to wipe a butt or pour a drink of juice. 

We can write a novel in our sweatpants while the kids build a pillow fort. 

My advice to young moms? Don't get stagnant. Stir things up a little bit! Stay healthy. Stay YOU. And whatever you do, stay in the game. Don't lose heart. We don't have to feel trapped. We can get our groove on, right where we are. Running in place.