December 31, 2008

Christmas in hind-sight

We are back online, at long last! Our computer crashed this holiday season so our life froze sometime back in November. But here we are, back in touch with the world at large.

And though we are about to take it down and throw it in the compost pile, here is our beloved tree. Bright and Daniel went to the very outskirts of town in a three-wheeled, lime green vehicle to this landscaping nursery where they picked out this tree. It was delivered a few hours later, potted in a green plastic pot, and we squeezed it under our high ceiling. We trimmed a few stray fronds, wrapped it in colored lights, hung our ornaments, which we brought with us from America, and the result was more than comforting...it made our whole Christmas. The smell filled our living room as Daniel and I stayed up past midnight that first night, cutting and taping little pieces of paper to make a paper chain for our Christmas tree.

The funny thing is, there was a sack of spiders in that tree, unknown to us, which burst a few weeks later. We spent three days smashing baby spiders against our ceiling and walls.

Here, too, is a picture of our little family-away-from-family.
From the left: Daniel, Kayla, Bright, Zion, Anita (with her tongue out, holding baby Callie), her husband, Jeremy, behind her in the elf shirt, LeeAnn, Amy, and Cristina. We had a great Christmas, and thank you to everyone who sent goodies our way. We missed home, but felt your love across the miles.

December 08, 2008

Two-for-one Top Ten Lists


Top Ten foods we crave while living in Asia (not what we would have thought)
10. fresh Jalapeno peppers
9. cottage cheese
8. Chick-Fil-A
7. Cheesecake Factory
6. A good, medium-rare steak smothered in seasoned butter
5. CORN tortilla chips (not a lot of corn over here)
4. real butter
3. real milk
2. A turkey sandwich on wonder bread with a slice of Kraft Singles cheese, mayo, and crushed potato chips
1. Dutch pea soup (Kayla) and corn dogs (Daniel)

Bonus: Top Ten smells that throw me over the edge right now (I'm pregnant, remember)
10. My three-year-old's hind end, which gets washed every night
9. My gas range stove turning on
8. Everyone's breath
7. The inside of my refrigerator
6. onions
5. cereal that has been sitting in the milk too long
4. flowers
3. Zion's poopy diapers
2. Daniel's gas
1. pretty much everything except dryer sheets and airheads candy

December 04, 2008

We're having another baby!

We are 12 weeks pregnant today! We've been waiting to make the announce- ment until a healthy 12-week check-up. So here you are...a picture of our little trouble-maker. When I say trouble-maker, I mean TROUBLE. I've been sicker than a frat boy on Sunday morning.

This has been hard to keep off the blog. It's been our whole world for the past 6 weeks, mainly because of how sick I've been. The boys have eaten nothing but PB&Js and bananas, and Daniel has been eating...I don't even know what. Whatever he can find, poor guy. He's a champ, though. Where his wife once stood, he now has a haggard lump on the sofa under a blanket in her pajamas. We don't have heat and it is COLD so I rarely change my layers and layers of clothes except to shower (which doesn't happen very often because it makes me sick). My sister-in-law, Kerry, sent me a sweater for my birthday in October and I wear it almost every day. Last week I turned it inside-out, and for a split second Daniel thought I had put on something new.

And I must tell you about my ultrasound appointment today. Men and young children beware. First of all, getting dressed and out of the house is a big deal, so I didn't want to go far. I opted to walk around the corner to the neighborhood "hospital." Let's just say it was no St. Joseph's. After asking me how far along I thought I was, they asked (literally translated), "Want, yes or no?" It took my friend, Alisa, a few seconds to figure out that they were asking if I wanted the baby. "Want, want, want!!!," she said in their language, shocked. After the ultra sound, they handed me the pee cup. A nurse actually followed me into the bathroom, and stood over me while I squatted and peed in the "squatty" (a ceramic hole in the floor), taking my full cup before I was even finished peeing! Then it was time for the exam. I was ushered into a room where a woman was still pulling up her pants. I saw her entire backside in full-moon, and the nurse didn't even balk! The lady smiled broadly at me as she kicked her feet back into her shoes on the muddy floor and walked out. At least they wore gloves and took their instruments out of sealed packages. Yikes, people!

The due date is June 18. This one will be 25 months younger than Zion, who is 25 months younger than Bright. Can't wait to meet baby #3!

November 28, 2008

Ingenious...

While there are many things here that leave me confounded, and sometimes truly disturbed, recently I have discovered something utterly ingenious that this country has done.

They have revolutionized toilet paper.

No more cardboard roll in the middle. What that means is you get the same amount of toilet paper, except they cut out an entire section of the manufacturing process AND a ton of dead space in shipping.

What might not be clear at first is how to use this new technology. Therefore, I have included four visual aids to walk you through the process.

What is clear, however, is that East Asia is taking TP to a whole new level.

November 26, 2008

Our House!

We wanted you all to see some pictures of where we live. I sent some of these to our family, but forgot to send them all - so enjoy the slide show! And... feel free to stop by anytime. The Corner Restaurant has great fried red beans and all the tai ban (sizzling beef) you could want!

My "Hog"


As many of you know, I have a slight commute (33 kilometers to be exact) to one of the places where we spend a lot of time. After spending a minimum of two hours one way on the very popular and beloved 98 and 170 buses, I decided that something must change. Thankfully, it did.

Allow me to introduce you to "the Hog." Yes folks, she's a beaut and totally electric. I make 50 km/hr in an easy 10 seconds and with a range of around 50k I am free as a bird. Here is a list of the top ten things I see on the road around here:

#10 - Five 98 buses, and 3-4 170 buses, all in my rear view mirrors and all full of people. For at least 3 seconds I feel sorry for them, and then I move on.

#9 - A dozen horse drawn carts, carrying anything from scrap metal to incredibly enormous pieces of foam.

#8 - 7.2 million people who are far from familiar with the rules of the road, American rules that is.

#7 - An entire generation of young men in incredibly tight jeans and David Bowie hair holding lacy sun-umbrellas over their girlfriends' pretty heads as they walk and chew on chicken feet.

#6 - Car, after truck, after horse drawn cart, after weird tractor-like vehicle, after Mian Bao Che (literally bread van, because it is shaped like a loaf of bread) stuck in traffic as I zoom past in the bike lane.

#5 - The beautiful mountains that are normally hidden when one is deep in the streets or between the tall buildings of our city.

#4 - Many old ladies, each of which uses her entire body to hock up a massive loogie that I must be sure to dodge.

#3 - At least twenty "smelly" dofu carts, frying away their shockingly smelly dofu (tofu), which I have tried once and can say with certainty that I have had my full.

#2 - The face of the shop owner near campus who so graciously lets me charge the Hog up for my ride home.

#1 - One massive, vintage, projected picture of Santa that covers the entire side of one building and totally weirds me out.

November 20, 2008

A very special story is being written

I haven't posted lately because every time I'm on the computer, I'm reading a particular blog. My heart is consumed with lifting this family up to The Father. The story is, a little over a month ago, David and Jennifer Dierking were driving with their two-year-old son, Josiah, in the back seat. Jennifer was 32 week pregnant. They hit another car head-on at 50 mph. Josiah was unharmed in the back of the car. David and Jennifer broke their legs. The baby, who they named Kacyn, was taken ceserian that day, 8 weeks early. Other than being premature, he had suffered trauma and there was internal bleeding, including on the brain. At just over 4 pounds, Kacyn was the family's main concern. Then, Jennifer went into cardiac arrest and coded. She had to be resuscitated. What was this? It was bone marrow and other material that had leaked out of her broken femur at some point and were poisoning her body. Some of the toxins had made their way to her lungs and other organs. Suddenly Jennifer was fighting for her life, and she has been ever since (that was October 28). Kaycn is doing well now, which is a miraculous story all its own. But please lift up Jennifer, as she is not doing as well. The doctors say she may not recover from her current state: lying in bed, barely responding to stimuli, with possible brain damage from needing to be revived. The family is believing for a miracle, and their story is amazing. Follow it. Join it. Let's make sure these little boys don't lose their mommy without a REALLY BIG FIGHT from the rest of The Body.

November 12, 2008

Desperate times

When we moved to Asia from America, and moved to the city from a small Southern town, we found ourselves craving...country music.

Yes, it is the salve for homesickness, brought to us courtesy of YouTube. We especially like the cover versions, performed by starlets all over the country. There is this one guy in his basement with a ball cap on, who kind of reminds us of our friend Clay Newcomb, singing "Three Wooden Crosses." Daniel has become such a fan that this morning he said he liked it better than Randy Travis himself. Quite a compliment.

We also listen to Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts, along with some John Denver and, though I know it's not country, I've delved into some Rod Stewart when no one is around.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

November 10, 2008

The best job in the world

This morning Bright was very fussy so I got down at eye-level with him and, trying to change the mood, I asked, "When you grow up to be a man, what do you want your job to be every day?"

He didn't respond, but he quit crying. I continued, "A fireman?"

"I decided something else," he said, sniffling.

"A policeman?" I suggested (I was beginning to sound like a kindergarten teacher).

"I decided something else," he repeated.

"Well, what have you decided?" I asked.

"I'm going to play with my children."

November 09, 2008

Quote of the Week


"Can righteousness be legislated? No. Now, where's the beef jerky?"
-Daniel, responding to my concerns about the definition of marriage in America.

p.s. I love Daniel Rupp

November 06, 2008

The benefits of a stint overseas

The kids are becoming indigenous. Here is Zion, doing as a native child his age would do with a bowl of milk (or noodles, or wonton soup, or what-have-you). We did not teach him that, by the way. He picked it up on his own. Bright is also showing signs of a broader worldview. Two days ago he said, "'Little brother' is how you say 'DiDi' in English." I had to think about it, but he was right. He was translating backward, with the assumption that 'DiDi' is the correct way to say it and 'little brother' is our version. What a neat thing to watch in my previously ethnocentric children. Now, if only some of that would rub off on me. I guess it's harder to teach an old dog, or something like that.

November 05, 2008

Halloween!


This was my first time to dress up for Halloween in years. And I loved it. For less than $10, Kayla and I were transformed into Breathless Betty and Buccaneer Bradshaw (our assigned characters at the murder mystery party we attended). In case you don't know... A Buccaneer is a highly skilled sailor hired by the Governor (played by Josh) to bring rebellious and pesky pirates (played by John and others, see below) to justice. Breathless Betty was the Governor's daughter and a young lady I had my eye on for sure. If I could have brought a pirate to justice during the evening, I would have gained her hand in marriage... Unfortunately, I failed miserably, so Breathless is not mine. Thankfully, Kayla Rupp is.

Just imagine the attention we attracted before the party as we walked out of our apartment, down the street, waited at the #1 bus stop, took the extremely crowded #1 bus, and then walked to our friend's apartment in a tuxedo with tails, a sword, and a full length Victorian dress. If you are the least bit self conscious, then dressing up for Halloween and traipsing across the city in East Asia is not advisable. But, it is definitely fun.

p.s. The new pic at the top of our blog is our city from a small hill to the North. Look closely and you can see the top floor of our apartment complex in the bottom right hand corner. It's the only reddish brick one, and it's our home.

October 26, 2008

You...can be...anything...

Life with Bright is like living out a different episode of "Reading Rainbow" each day. Whatever book we've read last, we all become the characters in that book. Three days ago we were all cows. Bright's name was Mooey, mine was Cheese Ball, Daniel's was Bully, and Zion's was...oh yes, Ice Cream (although Daniel kept calling him Ice Cube, which made me laugh hysterically). Last week we were all birds, and after his bird bath each night Bright would request that I sit on him in the nest (bed) until he hatched. Since yesterday we have all been owls. Hootie (Bright) asked for Honey-Nut Mice for breakfast, his milk at lunch had mice in it, and he enjoyed two slices of Mice-adilla for dinner. Owls eat mice you know! Today Daniel had to inform Bright that it is not polite to hoot at old ladies. Through all of this, Zion has learned to moo, hoot, and flap his wings to "fledge." Let's hope he knows he is human.

October 24, 2008

He gives and takes away

In the last view days I've been thinking about our second child, Washington. We never met him. His microscopic heart was only beating for a few weeks before his Father took him home. At midnight on Mother's Day, 2006, I woke straight up out of a deep sleep. My heart told me something was about to happen. Moments later, it did.

Two months earlier, Daniel and I stood flabbergasted before a positive pregnancy test. Bright was only a baby, and everything was set for us to move to East Asia in the Fall. Now we were unexpectedly pregnant. This wasn't the plan?!

The night before I had had a dream that we were pregnant with a son, and in my dream Daniel was seated before his friends, proudly announcing that our son's name would be Washington, after George Washington, because he would "lead the charge."

So as we stood before the E.P.T., stunned and confused, my first thought was, 'Oh my, we are going to have to name him Washington.' I chuckle at myself now. It's funny the things that go through our minds in important moments. I remember my first thought after Daniel proposed was, 'Oh no, I have bad breath.'

So we canceled our one year in East Asia. There was no sense in going now, only to spend a third of the year wrapped up with a new baby. We shifted gears from world travel to a second child, and began to get really excited. And then, the very One who gave us that child took him away. What was left was the strangest kind of grief. Unlike someone you knew, when you grieve the loss of an unborn child you have no memories of him, just memories of the love you felt for him while you were ever so briefly his mother. And there is also the loss the dreams you had for him. And the way you thought your family would be with him in it. But that is not all we felt. In the midst of our grief and the changes our life had taken over the past two months, we felt so loved and cared for by our Creator. It is difficult to explain, but the memories of these things are sweet to me.

So with no East Asia and no baby, the three of us moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, and Daniel got a job at the fellowship where he grew up. He learned a lot about teaching the Word and loving people and being patient with himself, and I gave birth to Zion Daniel in May of 2007. East Asia came back into the picture and we ended up here after all, according to His plan.

When I think about Washington, I love to think about the fact that he fulfilled his purpose in this world. He was to "lead the charge." And lead the charge he did. If not for him, we would have come to East Asia 2 years ago, we would have never spent the time in Van Buren (which provided us MUCH in the way of training, dear friends, and wonderful memories with Daniel's family), and we never would have had Zion. Washington is just as much a part of our story as any other member of this family. And even now, as I think about him, I am filled with love for him. One day we will all be together, and I will look into his face, and I will smell his hair, and I will thank him in person for not living. Is that weird? I don't know. But it is, nonetheless, the peace I have been given: someone bigger than all of this is in control.

October 22, 2008

A New Name


Yesterday my language teacher, who has us call her "Maggie," started class as usual. We rushed in and set down for a dictation. For thirty minutes or so she will pronounce words and phrases in this beautiful, but difficult, language and we will try our best to write what she has spoken.

Afterward, I usually need about 10 minutes to calm down from the stress. And a few more minutes to remind myself that my worth as a person does not lie in how high my score is.

But on this day there was no break. Maggie, calmly proceeded to name us.

As I watched it happen no one else seemed to mind. Effortlessly, she looked at each of us and then wrote our new name on the chalkboard. Amy's name became the word for a particular kind of flower - it sounds very pretty. Christina's is now a combination of the words for "spring" and "hope," also very nice. Yet, as she turned to me, my spirit shifted into the gear you only use moments before an accident or some sort of trauma. And just as quickly as a car wreck, my name became Ru Jun.

She moved on to the next topic as if nothing had happened. But now I needed more than a break. I found myself looking out the window, miles away... No longer in Arkansas and no longer in this place. I couldn't pin down what was happening. It was so disturbing, yet so right all at the same time.

Then I realized that this was all part of His plan. My identity is being forever reshaped by this place and these people. There will be a whole city, a whole world of people who will never know me by the name Daniel. I was coming to grips with the fact that I will never be the same.

Then I began to remember how long ago, one of our fathers, Daniel, became Belteshazzar in a moment. In an instant, a totally pagan king renamed him at whim. How must he have felt? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were certainly not called as such in their precious homeland of Judah. Transformation is par for the course in the kingdom. To become who He wants me to be, I cannot remain as I am. - Something I once read in a book probably, or heard in a class, but now a truth I possess a little more deeply in my heart.

Then, just as quickly, Maggie brought me back to class with a new list of vocabulary words to learn.

October 21, 2008

Little eyes are watching

They tell us our children are studying us. Nothing we do or say escapes them. Scary, isn't it?

But sometimes, the meager obedience we display shows up in our child's behavior and we, as parents, are motivated to go on trying.

My case and point: today at noon, as I was dishing up mac-n-cheese (straight from a recent care package, keep it coming:) Bright said, "I'm not eating lunch today. I'm fasting."

What would you have done? I'll tell you what I did. I let the kid skip lunch. What a tragedy it would have been to squelch a 3-year-old's efforts to embrace the practice of fasting. Though he was just trying to get out of eating lunch so he could get back to his toys, someday I trust he will be forgoing mac-n-cheese to increase his hunger to know the Father. And that day will come sooner than I think. Until then, he IS watching.

October 12, 2008

Attitude adjustment


"Zion is very extrictable today," Bright announced this morning as the two of them pushed trains on their bedroom rug.

I didn't ask what extrictable means, mostly because I don't have the energy on this rainy Monday. I have a headache and I'm very tired and I need to turn on my DVR and review for my language lesson this afternoon, blah, blah, blah...

It's amazing how easy it is to get a bad attitude. When I was a kid, my dad would ask sternly, "Does someone need an attitude adjustment?" Now that I'm an adult, there is no one here to keep me in check. It's a good thing my 3-year-old knows when to make up a new word, and my 1-year-old knows when to flash his dimples my way. Show me a person anywhere who can frown when she watches her children at play, and I'll show her a psychiatrist.

We adults would run a pretty gloomy world if we were it's only inhabitants. Thankfully we share this stuffy old place with children.

October 11, 2008

You know you're in Asia when...


...you find a piece of dried rice in your belly button.

(This actually happened to Daniel about two minutes ago)

October 06, 2008

It's a rough life, but somebody's gotta do it

Yesterday my husband was late for dinner, but for good reason. He had stopped to buy me birthday roses. The roses he bought cost him a little over $0.90. Not only that, but the man who sold them stripped all but three of the leaves from each stem with a special tool, pulled the bud-protectors from each bloom, blew the blooms open with his breath, one by one, and then wrapped the thorny bouquet with newspaper to protect Daniel's hands on the bike-ride home.

All for $0.90...

Now tell me that's not a perk. And this is supposed to be roughing it. Shooot.

October 01, 2008

Turning up the heat

Today I cried on the walk home from my teacher's place. I usually walk the 1/4 mile jaunt through the alley to our place without much incident. The ladies knitting on the ground beside their giant woks, stirring it's contents from time to time. The washing woman hanging her customer's sheets up to dry. The school children doing their arithmetic while eating bowls of noodles. The funky young men around a table, gambling in a cloud of cigarette smoke. The old, old men sitting around the Buddhist fire outside the temple, chanting in matching blue smocks. I usually observe these things from a distance, even though I am so close to their woks and laundry that I can smell the hot bricks from their fires. But it is amazing how detached one can be from her surroundings when she wants want to be, whether for sanity or survival, or just out of ignorance and immaturity. Whatever my reasons for detaching, they fell away today. Today I was there. My walking slowed almost to a crawl as I took it all in. I suddenly realized how foreign I was. It hit me that I live in Asia, and I am not Asian. I don't fit in here.

And I'm not supposed to. That's part of the point.

And so I began to cry. And I began to turn a very important corner. There is something happening in me. Something good. And though it burns a bit, I am very grateful to feel the heat from the fires of refinement once again.

September 29, 2008

Oh brother

Our sons have reached the age of being playmates. They are brothers. Two little voices squealing through the house, one behind the other. Two pair of pudgy hands squabbling over the same matchbox cars. They pour water on each other in the bath, make silly faces at each other at the dinner table, and every night before their PJ's go on, there are two little naked rumps chasing Dad through the halls.

Having a family has exceeded all of my expectations.

September 28, 2008

Bao Mi Hua


My greatest love on this earth (that isn't alive) is popcorn. I grew up on it. My dad would pop a huge batch many nights before bedtime, and I would curl up on the couch and scarf down. He always popped it on the stove in oil and then added lots of salt and Parmesan cheese.

Needless to say, it is my top comfort food. And in one's first few months in another country, comfort food is very important. But let me tell ya, popcorn is NOT easy to find around here. I had hunted for it for weeks at all the local import stores, but no one carried it. They had Pop Secret microwave popcorn, which I MIGHT have settled for temporarily if it weren't so expensive. The national brand microwave pop corn was affordable, but after I discovered that it was sugary sweet and flavored like milk, I determined to hold out.

So last night, at a store called "Blue Sky," I found a pile of unmarked bags of dry popping corn. I bought six of them, and carried my prize home eagerly. When I opened one of the bags, however, a very strong chicken feed smell met my nose. 'It just needs to be washed,' I thought, and proceeded to wash the kernels with veggie wash. I then rinsed them with clean drinking water, and began the popping process. I got out my wok, poured 1/4 cup of cooking oil in the bottom, fired up the gas range, poured in 1/2 cup of kernels and waited for comfort to pop.

Well, comfort tasted like popped chicken feed. It tasted like the floor of the market (not that I've ever licked the market floor, but you get my point). Imagine my disappointment! Maybe I'm too picky, but I am a popcorn expert, after all. In fact, the word for popcorn in the language here is "Bao Mi Hua." Its beautiful, isn't it? I got a lot of practice saying it as I was hunting for it from store to store. "Bao Mi Hua?" "Bao Mi Hua?" I like the sound of it so much that I'm considering it for my local name (we all have a local name, one that is easier for the locals to say). I wonder if they'd laugh to have a friend named popcorn.

But alas, as beautiful as the word sounds on my tongue, the hunt for Bao Mi Hua continues. Maybe I'll have to commission one of you to send some my way.

September 26, 2008

The D-train



















No, it's not a form of public transportation. The D-train is good old diarrhea, and it becomes a regular part of life here. I'm not sure if it's the new viruses that we're not used to, or the food that we refuse not to eat, or the germs on the handles of the taxi doors. Truth is, there is no avoiding it. They say it will subside after six months or so, but for now, it comes and goes and we don't think much of it anymore. Thankfully, the kids are affected the least. Must be their young bodies adjust more easily. And please don't let the fear of the D-train keep you away. When you come visit us, you'll have such a great time that you won't even notice the extra time you spend on the John.

The good news is, I've discovered the cure for dehydration. 1 tsp. salt and 8 tsp. sugar dissolved in 1 liter of warm water. It tastes a little odd at first, but if you heat it up in a mug and sip it like tea, it's actually quite relaxing. I have grown to rather crave the stuff. Something about the salt and sugar combination helps your body to absorb the water better than water alone, and it doesn't come shooting out the second you drink it. (Lovely imagery, I know).

So, if you're ever plagued with the D-train, in the states or abroad, make sure you have salt, sugar, and clean water on hand and you'll be fine. Oh...I forgot about the most important remedy...a positive attitude. Absolutely a must.

September 25, 2008

Welcome to Our Neighborhood!

Though the video is a little low quality, we'd love to show you around our neighborhood!


video

September 20, 2008

Learning to live

Bright wrote his name for the first time yesterday. I was sorry that he wrote it on a dry-erase board, and not on a piece of paper that I could keep. At least we got a picture.

Speaking of pictures, here is one of our house helper, Xiao Fu, teaching Bright the language. He of course loves every minute of it. She is a true gift to us. Not only does she help with the housework, freeing me up to focus on the kids, learn the language, and participate some in the work at hand, but she is showing the boys that they can love and trust the people here. Their fears and anxieties are diminishing by the day, largely due to her being a part of our family. Praise be to the Father for providing in such ways.

Another gift to us is Skype. Bright and Zion LOVE to get on the computer and talk to Grandma and Gramps in Michigan, and MoMo and SueSue in Arkansas. Here are a few pictures of them gazing at their beloved grandparents. What a gift!!!

September 18, 2008

Mooncake madness

The Mid Autumn Festival is over, though I doubt we'll EVER eat all of the mooncakes in our dining room hutch. The festival is all about mooncakes. Buying mooncakes, trading mooncakes, giving mooncakes, and eating mooncakes. A mooncake is like a bloated Fig Newton, only it is rarely filled with figs. Most often it is filled with bean curd, egg yolk, sugared ham, etc. There are fruit-filled mooncakes, which are much more kid-friendly.

So with the festival over with, we can FINALLY settle in to a routine around here. Tonight the kids are in bed, Daniel is out picking up milk and yogurt at the corner store, as well as bread at the bakery, so we'll have something to eat for breakfast. I am munching on some VERY sweet candy that Daniel's teacher gave him for the holiday. I know he won't eat it. My teacher gave me...mooncakes. The ham variety. They are still sitting on the end table next to our couch.

September 06, 2008

A little grace

Just as we feared, the boys are treated like monkeys in a cage. Zion doesn't mind, due to his age, but Bright has been miserable on account of it. People lean down to peer at him in the stroller and poke at him, and even when he says "NO" in their language they just think it's cute and they keep coming back for more. It is not uncommon for people to take out their phones and snap photos of the kids. We even had a taxi driver get out of his car to photograph the little white boys who rode in his cab.

So this morning, before we went to the I.F. (the "building" we attend on Sundays that requires a foreign passport for entry), we sat on the couch and cried out to Him for help. I wanted to try this and try that, but my sweet husband gently pulled me back to wisdom's side. "We can try a million different things," he said, "but nothing will work apart from His grace. If He'll give us just an ounce of his grace, the problem will be solved. We need to ask Him for it." So we did.

And then just a few hours later, after building, on our way to lunch, it occurred to me to let Bright walk beside the stroller. We had been purposely tucking him away in the back seat of the double stroller to "hide him" from all of the unwanted attention. But it wasn't helping. 'Maybe,' I thought, 'If he is walking on his own two feet, he won't be such a sitting duck.'

Amazingly, he hardly drew a single glance as he walked by my side. IT WAS THE STROLLER! The double stroller, in a land of one-child families, was what attracted every one's attention. Everyone just HAD to see what was under those double canopies.

Grace.

And so we celebrated with our friends, Josh and Danielle, over fried buns with sweet dipping sauce. Our next purchase will be a single stroller for Zion...and Bright, putting one foot in front of the other, will learn to face his new world. Praise the One who does not leave us alone to fight our battles.

Back in the saddle

Today, one of the things I've been looking forward to the most occurred. In college, I had a great mountain bike and spent most of my time on it. Well life changes surprisingly quick and before you know it, the things that were such a big part of your life one moment are a memory the next. While we've had a lot of "Good byes" in the last few weeks, it was so nice to have a "Hello." Today I got my bike.

One of the perks to living here for a mountain biker is that you can get a really nice bike for really cheap. And, they custom build it for you! That's right people, I hand picked all my hardware - unbelievable. A friend translated, while Bright and I oooohed and awwwed over all the neat toys in the bike shop. The frame itself, weighs just over 4 lbs - UNREAL PEOPLE. By far, the best bike I've ever owned.

Unfortunately, while we were in the very small, very cluttered shop Bright stumbled over a rice cooker on the floor. He got a very minor burn on his arm. Normally, it would have not been a big deal except he was already late for lunch, away from mama, and half way across the world from anything normal - except for Skittles. We quickly ran to a nearby shop and bought a pack of skittles and a cold orange drink, which he didn't like the taste of but the cold bottle sure felt good on his arm.

When we got home, Kayla doctored it up with some aloe and a special band aid. This concerned him greatly until we decided that part of the special band aid package is having your favorite Thomas character drawn on it. His choice was James.

September 04, 2008

Ants in our pants

This morning we woke up on day three of our team retreat, which was a great time of bonding with our team and casting the vision for the year. About midday we headed back home. Though we've only lived in our apartment for two weeks, it is definitely home. Bright ran through the door and went right to his train set, and I headed straight for the bathroom (a place we have all gotten very familiar with lately:)

The highlights of the last two weeks in country might be (just to name a few):
-the fried red beans, a specialty in our province
-trying cow stomach, which isn't bad, by the way
-sitting in a hot tub filled with fish that nibbled away at the dead skin on our bodies (the locals were fine, but we giggled uncontrollably)
-seeing the sky over the lake outside our city, and realizing that the sky looks the same everywhere
-wok popcorn!!!!!!!!!!!!
-learning how to say our address correctly for the first time
-finding green olives in a tiny import store
-meeting new friends
-Skype!!!!!!!
-knowing we are smack-dab in the middle of His will

The low lights might be (though we don't like to focus on them)
-32 consecutive travel hours with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old
-diarrhea
-croup
-ants in our bed at the hotel
-ant bites all over our sons' faces
-7.2 million people that want to touch our kids
-not knowing the language (yet!)
-our Internet being down for over a week
-missing our family and friends back in the states

Overall, He has been so faithful and we are doing remarkably well. We will try to blog frequently, so stay tuned. (Daniel took this picture at a park in our city)

July 30, 2008

Rading the pharmacy

The update is, we are in the middle of packing up everything we need to take to East Asia, applying for visas, finalizing our travel plans, moving out of our apartment, setting up a living will, opening new bank accounts, etc., etc. Just yesterday I bought $300 worth of deoderant, tampons, razors, pregnancy tests (just in case), children's toothpaste, our favorite shampoo, and everything else we can't find where we are going. I was sure someone would question me at the checkout for buying six boxes of allergy medicine, what with the current meth situation in Arkansas. But no one did. I did get a few weird looks, though.

So we've been a little busy. We'll pick up on the blogging again when we get in country. Just a few more weeks!

July 08, 2008

Time Marches On

Once in a lifetime, twice if you're lucky, you find that couple, of which your husband loves her husband and you love her husband and she and you are made for each other and she loves your husband and your kids are best friends. And then if you're REALLY lucky, like us, you get to live right next door to them for a year or so. And then if you're REALLY, REALLY lucky, like us, you're not only next-door neighbors, but your front doors are 20 feet apart and you share a wall. Apartment #1 and apartment #2, that was us. We talked every day and our kids played together many evenings a week. We spent Saturday mornings in our pj's, husbands included, eating fresh doughnuts from Paul's bakery.

Just one week into our stay in Orlando, we got a call that Darci's husband, Matt, had been offered his dream job an hour a way, and of course he accepted it. "I don't think we'll be moving out before you get home," Darci said on the phone. A week later, she called back and said that they were moving out the next day. We still had 2 1/2 weeks in Florida. I couldn't even talk to her because I was crying so hard. Though I knew we would see each other a few times before our big move to East Asia in August, our whole way of life with Matt and Darci and their kids was gone, and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to it.

And now, as I think about pulling back into our apartment on Thursday, it pains me that apartment #1 will be empty and dark. Their bikes and scooters will not be leaning outside their door. There will be no "Welcome Home" sign on our door like there has been before.

And today, as I was driving in Orlando, I picked up my cell phone and dialed their old number, thinking it might still ring. But it didn't.

"The number you dialed is no longer in service," was all I heard on the other end. I laid the phone down and bit back the tears. Time really does march on.

June 29, 2008

All in a day's work

Things we've done in the last 48 hours:
~ pulled a dead cat from our air conditioning unit in our car
~ ate a whole fish, head and all, at a Philipino restaurant
~ made a safety belt out of a Target bag to keep Zion in the high chair at the Philipino restaurant
~ cancelled our trip to the Kennedy Space Center with our friends from England so we could clean up our townhouse
~ picked out lingerie (for a friend who is getting married)
~ Stood in line at the Old Navy sale for 25 minutes (to pay for the lingerie)
~ Got peed on by Zion while in line at the Old Navy sale
~ watched a documentary on the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart
~ Stood in the rain because it felt good

June 22, 2008

Forever Young

Last night, Daniel and I felt young again. A typical date night for us is grabbing coffee and thumbing through magazines at Barnes and Noble, or ordering desert at our favorite riverside restaurant. I hadn't realized how middle-aged we had become.

Until last night.

We took advantage of our passes to Sea World (one of the perks of being here), and ran in after dark to ride the Kraken. Neither of us had been on a roller coster in over a decade. With the wind in our hair, we screamed our way through every loop and drop. When we came to a halt, I felt like 10 years had been stripped away.

Next, we ran through the park and peeled out of Sea World's parking lot (that might be a dramatization) so we would make it to our movie in time. Rather than our usual thought-provoking selection, we bought tickets for "Get Smart." I highly recommend it. It felt so good to laugh like that.

We left the theater after midnight, hand-in-hand, amongst cologne-spritzed teenagers. I felt like I was 19 again.

Who needs age-defying make up? Just get out there and do the things you did when you were a kid (the appropriate things, of course) and you'll feel like you are one. You really will. It's good for the soul.

June 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home

It has started to "hit me" that we are moving to another country. My residency will not be the United States. Yesterday, in cross cultural training class, I noticed the tiny bouquet of flags in the center of our table. The stars and stripes were, coincidentally, flying right beside our soon-to-be country's flag. I stared at it for a while, and as I did, it occurred to me that even if we move back to the U.S. in three years, this particular country (which I won't name for security reasons) will have become part of our family's story. Just then a girl across the table moved and I noticed a tattoo on her wrist, a tattoo of a verse in the language we will someday speak. I looked at my wrist and thought (though I'm fairly certain I will not get a tattoo) that a similar tattoo would someday make sense on my own wrist. These thoughts are baffling and lovely.

And just today, after lunch, I was practicing the phrase "thank you" in the language we are learning, and Bright, who overheard me from the across the room, said, "No, Mom, you don't say it THAT way." He then went on to correct me. I didn't know he even knew how to say thank you in that language, but alas, he DID sound more authentic than me and I took his advice.