December 31, 2009

Balloon Hospice

Bright has a beautiful heart.

Recently he had a cold, and I gave him a wad of toilet paper to have with him on his top bunk bed through the night. I intended the tissue to be used to wipe snot, not to bond with. But you can't keep that kid from bonding. The next morning, when the bed was made, the tissue was tossed in the trash (understandably). When bedtime came around again, and Bright realized that someone had thrown away his tissue, he cried out in anguish. I mean, the boy wept from the depths of his heart. "My tissue won't know what has happened to him, and he will be afraid without me!" he cried. Daniel and I just looked at each other, half stunned, feeling proud of this unique son of ours.

Three days ago, the gardener applied a fresh coat of white-wash to the bottom three-feet of every tree (something they do here, though no one knows why). Nothing escaped his big brush, not even "Trunk," Bright's "sitting tree." Trunk came into our lives last month when the tiny, sturdy, knobby tree, just off the brick walking path in our courtyard, became the first tree Bright ever climbed. The place where it's trunk forks provides a perfect perch for our introspective four-year-old to do his thinking. As you can imagine, Bright quickly bonded with his tree. He proclaimed that Trunk needed a steady diet of urine and therefore Bright, in caring for his tree, needed to pee on it regularly. You can see what's coming, can't you? When Bright went out to pee on, and then perch in Trunk that day, he saw with horror that his sitting tree had been slathered with white paint, still dripping into the ground around it. Severe drama ensued, and lasted for a good 30 minutes.

Now let me tell you about the balloon.

Yesterday we walked out of the back gate and under the overpass to the corner store behind our complex. We wedged our double-turned-triple stroller (we are always quite a sight) into the store, past the man curing an open pig carcass with a torch, past the 50,000 or so varieties of cigarettes, to the back of the store to buy a new baby tub because Zion had diarrhea in the old one last week when we were hit with yet another stomach virus. On our way out of the store, one of the clerks handed Bright a red balloon.

Typical of goods made in this country which are not intended for export, the balloon began losing air immediately. It survived the night, but today it looks like, according to our village-raised local friend, a cow's heart. Bright and I had a good long talk about "Balloo," which is his name, of course (boys don't typically come up with names like Herbert or Delilah for their toy friends, but rather, twin crocodiles are named "Croc" and "Odile," etc). After my rather solemn blog post the other day, I was primed to break the news to Bright that Balloo was going to die. "It is just a matter of time before all of the air is out of him," I said, "and he will be dead."

What did Bright do? He decided that if Balloo was going out, he was going to help him go out with a bang. The first thing he did was share with Balloo, in great detail, how to get into Heaven. Then he was adamant that I read Balloo the creation account, so he would know how it all began. He wanted me to set up his tent so Balloo could experience camping before he died. He told Balloo about fire (something that no boy or balloon should die without knowing), and he let him smell the (dying) Christmas carnations on t he end table. Our entire morning has centered around death, in fact, but there is a spirit of celebration in our home because of it. I am watching Bright celebrate life, through caring for an expiring friend. Bright is learning to say goodbye.

December 30, 2009

Grappling

Life is complicated. This morning I received the news from a friend here that her little brother back in America has been diagnosed with colon cancer. He is scheduled to have the mass surgically removed tomorrow, after which they will have a better idea what they are up against. He is 25 years old, and has a wife.

The longer I live, and the more my sphere of friends and acquaintances grows, the more news of this type I receive. I remember as a kid hearing my parents say things like, "That was the year So-and-so's wife died," or "That was the Christmas that So-and-so had a stroke." They were just names to me, not real people, and tragedies remained something that happened in far-away places to far-away folks, like tornadoes picking up entire houses and dumping them on the other side of the state, or like winning the lottery.

But then, when I was in high school, my childhood friend and longtime neighbor was killed instantly when an SUV slid on a patch of ice, ran a stop sign and broadsided her. She was seatbelted, but her head hit her door window with a fatal force. She was on her way to a school dance.

I remember sitting at her funeral, in the overflow seating, with all of our peers, wondering exactly what kind of world I lived in. It was like the rosy veil I had been wearing as a middle-class American kid in suburbia was being pulled back, and I was seeing things for the first time.

Now, more than 10 years later, I still think about her mother, and how she wakes up every morning with a hole in her heart.My dear friend and mentor, Allison, once sat across from me at Aroma's coffee shop in Van Buren, Arkansas, while I ate a breakfast gyro, and told me something like this, "If you are going to be a wife and mother who does not live in fear, you have to be willing to lose your husband and children and still go on in faith, with life in your bones and hope in your heart." The message was, essentially, you must let them go. Your beating heart must not be wired to theirs.

Wow. I chewed my gyro and watched another piece of that rosy veil fall away.

So tonight, as my children sleep in their beds and my husband is across town, I grapple with the fact that I may never see any of them again. I could get up to cross the room and have an aneurysm and hit the floor, like my Dad's late sister did, or Brave could stop breathing in his crib, or Bright could choke on a button, or Daniel could get run over by a dump truck on his way home. Seriously, there are no guarantees.

None.

But one. If you don't know about it, let me know. I'd be happy to tell you. I'd be happy to impart hope where there otherwise is none. That one guarantee is the reason I live way over here, because nothing...NOTHING else will last and if you tie your heart to anything else, when it goes down, you will go down with it.

Hope has one form, and peace has one name. You can bet your life on it.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's some video from our Christmas morning.

video

December 18, 2009

Red, White, and Who?


Before moving abroad, I was under the impression that the whole world hated Americans. Now I know that we are loved just as much as we are hated (at least in this country), and usually the feelings are simultaneous.

Daniel and I had an interesting discussion about this over lunch today (while the kids hooted like owls and ate their yogurt and bacon). We talked about how our close friendship with a Dutch couple, Robin and Tanja, has helped us see ourselves (Americans) from an outside perspective.

"We are easy to hate, and easy to love," Daniel said. I agreed.

"Who do we know like that?" I asked him. "Who do we know who embodies America? Or in other words, if America were a person, who would it be?"

We thought of someone, though I won't ever tell who it is.

He/she is headstrong and stubborn, thinks him/herself always right, makes statements of absolute truth about issues that he/she is not learned about, is immature, makes rash decisions, has many regrets, rises to every challenge, never turns down an adventure, feels very passionate about everything, talks fast and loud, is quite obnoxious, hurts many peoples feelings, steps on many toes, leaves a trail of tears, has a contagious energy, is impossible to deflate, has a good heart, would do anything for anyone, always wants to help, is always trying to learn new things and better him/self, is fiercely loyal, is a natural leader, and everyone knows who he or she is.

That is America. Some think us better than that, some think us worse, but on average, we are like a grating friend who you couldn't live without. A friend who has everything, who isn't beautiful but attracts everyone, who radiates confidence, who intimidates; who never remembers your birthday, but would die for you after only meeting you once.

December 16, 2009

Daydreams of a young mother


I am a daydreamer. I always have been. I remember in my younger days, when my parents were worried about me (as most parents are worried about their 15-year-olds), I had to answer the counselor honestly when asked if I daydreamed. Then, of course, the counselor, dressed in a flowing purple dress and smelling of lavender and aloe, would jot something down.

I let myself have a very nice daydream today (I do have control of them), in which I was an unmarried homeowner. I was fit and healthy, with long hair which was not in a pony tail, and long earrings (both things a woman with babies could never have). I had just finished my supper of roasted vegetables, fish, and fresh fruit (something that a mother could never have for supper, nor a wife of a southern country boy, unless she wanted to prepare two meals). I made myself a cup of hot tea and headed out onto my porch to watch the sun set behind the trees, and notice the way the clouds were moving, and appreciate the breeze across my face. As I drank my tea, I read the paper. When darkness came, I retreated into my sitting room, into my favorite well-worn chair, and under the glow of a warm lamp, I placed a phone call to my mother, then read from a novel until I grew tired and ambled off to my big bed, where I slept for 9 straight hours.

I will never have this life. I will always be a mother, and I will always be a southern country boy's wife. I will never be able to tattoo my back, for example, without first considering them, nor take off for a week in northern California on a moment's notice, nor decide it would be nice to legally change my name to Firefly.

Yet I am certain that if Firefly did have the above dreamed about life, she would wish she had a strong man with a tuft of chest hair between his collar bones to hold her when she is crying, and pairs of tiny butt cheeks to watch as they run dripping from the bathtub to their bedroom. She would most likely not sip her tea and read her paper without a twinge of discontentment, if not a strong pang of such, and she would daydream of a life exactly like mine.

So I am glad to be on this end of dreams fulfilled. I would rather over-live than the other way around. I am grateful for the fact that I am, at all moments, on all days, needed by several parties at once.

And I always have my daydreams.

December 15, 2009

Its Chirmas Time in the City

You've got Santa in the mall, we've got "Merry Chirmas." To their credit, it is quite a leap and they are trying awfully hard.

December 13, 2009

What really matters

To those of you who envied our 4-day potty training "success" with Zion, you can take a deep breath now. It failed. We have officially joined the ranks of parents suffering from fecal frustration, and we are learning that our first child and his soaring 3-day success at 2 1/2 years old was quite the exception. Our second child is just like your kid, pooping his pants and caring nothing about it. I apologize fully to anyone who was made to feel for a second that Daniel and I have any answers. Alas, we have none.

It feels darn good to say that, actually.

After weeks of beating our heads up against a wall, we finally gave in. We thought he was potty trained at first, but actually we were just putting him on the potty every 2 hours to pee and he was just holding his poop until he could hold it no longer, then unloading it in the warm, familiar surroundings of his pants. Then he stopped peeing on the potty, too. He's not ready. He has no motivation. He will not pee for treats. He will not poop for gifts. He doesn't even have the cognitive ability to understand such things. Our "big boy" is still a baby, and you know what, that's ok.

So we took the potty chart down from the bathroom wall and trashed it. I picked up his little Wall-E undies from the bathroom floor, soaked through with pee, and threw them in the wash for the last time. We put a diaper on him, for the first time since this all began, and he giggled and said, "Ooohh...diaper." We looked at each other and realized, as he ran off to play with his brother, that he has no idea that he was ever "potty trained" in the first place. He never was. I asked Daniel how he felt. "Relieved," he said. I, on the other hand, felt like a failure. I felt miserable. I felt defeated. I started to cry.

But then I looked into the hallway, and Zion was bouncing around in front of his baby brother, carrying his stuffed dog, Spinner, under one arm and his pink stuffed bear, Baby, under the other, hooting like and owl and saying, "I dancing like a doggy." How could I cry? How could I feel anything at that moment but gratefulness and joy? What really mattered was there, dancing and kicking and laughing.

And now we are free to focus on real issues, like issues of his heart, and we are free to enjoy Zion again, instead of being mad at him all the time. He will go to the bathroom in the potty when he is ready, when the motivation is coming from within him, not from within me. Until that day, we will change the nastiest diapers known to man, in a once-again relaxed and happy home.

"Cherish every moment," older parents are always telling us younger ones. "They have the rest of their lives to walk, to poop in toilets, to eat salad and read." It feels good to heed some advice every now and then.















December 08, 2009

What we eat


The other day, Daniel was on the phone with his sister, Kerry. She was talking about what she will cook for us in America this summer on our first home leave. As she was looking through recipes, however, she said she realized that maybe we wouldn't even like the same foods that we liked before. Maybe our tastes had completely changed.

There is some truth to that, I think, though I will be sighing uncontrollably when I sink my teeth into a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, and I will be in seventh heaven as I tear into a plate of crab legs at Red Lobster. Some things, however, no longer appeal to me. Velveeta cheese, for example, has lost its luster (quite literally). I have no desire to unwrap a gelatinous hostess cupcake, or pop in a toaster strudel, or heat up a Stoeffers lasagna. The thought of anything pre-made kind of makes my stomach cramp.

Since having the baby in June, we have eaten almost exclusively from the indigenous fair. Our diet consists of obscene amounts of rice, mounds of vegetables, small bits of pork, chicken, and beef, peanut oil, MSG, soy sauce, dried red peppers, yogurt, and warm water. The kids drink the milk (which we can't stand) and apple juice. Daniel drinks coke now like its going out of style. I drink hot strawberry tea with sugar, particularly in the morning. Neither one of us can remember what it was like to drink cold water. I wouldn't want to anymore. Chopsticks feel as comfortable in our hands as a comb or a toothbrush or a cell phone. We had Thanksgiving dinner last month, complete with sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, white yeast rolls, chocolate pie, macaroni and cheese, Turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry salad, and sweet tea. Sound good? Oh, it was, but I had the worst gut ache for a day and a half afterward. My body was in shock.

Oh, I almost forgot, every-other evening I add white and wheat flour, salt, sugar, oil, water, and yeast to my bread machine and set the timer to ensure warm, fresh bread for breakfast in the morning. Wal-Mart bread? I can barely remember eating it.

Bright is not a big fan of rice, so we fix him a small amount with butter just to fill him up. He likes the vegetables well enough, but his favorite is the meat, specifically "toothpick beef," pictured here in the Styrofoam carry-out box. It is spicy and salty and fun to eat. He requests it every time.

Also pictured here, for your enjoyment, is Brave after his first meal. Carrots. Some things are universal.

December 04, 2009

Looking in at each other


What are we all doing, anyway? These "blogs?" Who came up with the name "blog" in the first place? Does anyone know? What an ugly name!

We are the first generation of "bloggers" (again, so ugly I hate even calling myself one). We have no idea where all of this is going. Will the words last forever, preserved in cyberspace until the end of the age? Most of us are spending small fortunes getting them printed into books, because we don't trust technology, but even they have an uncertain future. Will our great great grandchildren keep libraries of "blog books" from the generations that have gone before them? Will my children's grandchildren really want to read every word of my life?

And who are we writing for? Are we really writing for the generations to come? Or are we writing to impress our friends? Or to see how many "comments" we can drum up? Or maybe, as in my case, I hope, we are writing for ourselves.

I have recently come to understand that there are people who follow blogs of people they have never even met, for no other reason than they feel a connection to that person. Ordinary people now have "fans," cheering them on in their every day endeavors. Cheering them on as people. So peculiar. So new to human history.

Case in point: here I am, blogging, and here you are, reading it.

The one very good thing about blogging - the one thing that redeems it from simply being a poor stewardship of time - is that the audience holds the blogger accountable. I can't tell you how many journals I have burned over the years, for FEAR that my children's grandchildren would read it. Private journals become a place to slander, to covet, to indulge in self-hatred, depression, remorse, etc. When the furious, or hurt, or sometimes (though never in my case) drunk blogger sits down to write, the 2 or 3 people who might read it force boundaries into the equation. Very nice for future generations, I think.

Blog on.

December 02, 2009

Year After Year

We have now decorated two Christmas trees since we last trod on American soil. It felt weird to pull out our Christmas decorations this year, like my parents always did, as if we have lived in the same house for 25 years. I remember one year my dad lost his glasses after we decorated the tree and he offered something like $20 to the person who found them. No one ever did, and he had to get new glasses. The next year, when we pulled down the decorations box, we found the glasses down in the bottom among the garland that we never used.

Christmas here is something like Christmas in the States, but also very different. This tree, for example, is potted, roots and all, in a pot with soil in our living room. We got it from a landscaping company that sells trees to be planted outdoors, not beside end tables. I'm sure these people think we are nuts. But you know, a potted tree is actually quite brilliant. No falling needles, no straightening and screwing the trunk into a tree stand, no excessive watering. When you are done with it, you simply donate it to someone who wants a cedar tree.

We bought our tree skirt from a ministry in town called Hearts and Hands, which employs deaf people who would otherwise not find a job. They do beautiful work. Our strings of lights, in the true style of the culture here, have 15 different blinking settings from which to choose. Our ornaments were carefully transplanted from our old life in America, and none of them suffered any damage in the journey. Hanging near the top of the tree, below the highest bow, is the engraved metal ornament that my 5th grade best friend, Teresa, gave me for Christmas almost 20 years ago. I am the furthest thing from a pack rat - to the point of throwing away things I shouldn't, like pennies - but I have kept every Christmas ornament I have ever received, and each year it is wrapped carefully in a paper towel and put away for next Christmas.

There are other things about Christmas here that could be summed up in the phrase, "Close, but no cigar." Family, for example, is simply not present. There are no aunts or uncles, no heavily perfumed second-cousins in heavy wool coats kicking the snow off their galoshes at the door. The people who are around us are nice enough, and we love them plenty, but they are not family. We try to have a meal together, for example, but we all have different expectations. I expect herb stuffing and buttered squash, she expects sweet potatoes, he expects chocolate pie, he expects pumpkin pie, she expects apple pie, he expects sausage balls, I expect date-filled cookies, the list goes on and on. We all eat our delicious yet comprised meal gratefully, while secretly we are each a little put off that the person sitting next to us is our friend's husband and not our little brother, who we haven't seen in 17 months.

Then, when I am having a particularly rough day, such as today, I sit down to nurse my baby on the couch and look up to see the teapot ornament my mom gave me when I was in college - and I am reminded that the miles can't take away everything. Some things endure year after year.

November 30, 2009

Diaper Graduation


He did it, folks. No accidents today. A trip to the ball pit to celebrate, followed by McDonald's for chicken nuggets.

And just like that, the baby is gone.

November 29, 2009

Potty Camp, Day 3!!!

Due to a minor setback (Zion's tummy sickness), we are extending our 3-day training to 4 days, risking the scorn of the die-hards. So, tomorrow afternoon we will be headed to the ball pit to celebrate our success, rather than today. I will say, however, all things considered, Zion is doing great. He did not have one pee-pee accident today, and only one poop accident. By this evening, he was telling us when he needed to go (rather than us simply putting him on the toilet ever hour). He isn't as interested in the chart or the rewards as Bright was, but then Bright has always been 100% on board with anything organized and clearly laid out. Zion is much more go with the flow (no pun intended), but even still, he will be potty trained in 4 days. Pretty darn good.

The highlights of the day were:

The rough start (Zion still feeling sick and spending his post-breakfast hour on a pallet by the heater, looking rather pitiful).


Bright making a "valentine" for Zion to cheer him up (which worked).


Playing baseball in the courtyard with our neighbors before dinner.


Zion wearing jeans for the first time without diapers (and barely keeping them up).

November 28, 2009

Potty Camp, Day 2 (and coming out both ends)


Day 2 was interesting. Along with cleaning up Zion's puddles of pee (which only happened twice at the beginning of the day, so we were pleased), we were cleaning up his partially digested macaroni and cheese. That's right, our little potty pupil got sick in the middle of his big weekend. Throw-up everywhere. More laundry, more mess, and much more pathetic pictures. Here is a picture of him sitting on the toilet after his warm bath, covered with a hand towel that is secured in front with a hair clip (it is VERY cold in our unheated bathrooms).

As you can see, Daniel is very stressed about it all.

November 27, 2009

Potty Camp, Day 1

It's that time again at the Rupp house. Not only for candy corn and herb stuffing. Not only for footed pajamas and Bing Crosby. Not only for hand-print turkeys taped to the window panes. Around our house, it is also potty training time.

This go-round, the man of the hour is Zion. We are repeating our potty-train-in-3-days method that I learned a few years back from my dear friend, Laura Pinkstaff. It worked for Bright.

Today was day one. Our calendar was cleared, the reward chart ready, the stickers, the prizes wrapped, the potty seat accounted for, the rugs rolled up, the tiny undies washed and folded for use. The first thing Zion did was drop a big load in his Wall-E undies. Poor Wall-E. But we did manage to get him to the toilet for a final offering into the porcelain. "YAY!!!" we shouted as he chose his first sticker.


The rest of the morning he sucked down cup after cup of Ovaltine, Carnation Instant Breakfast, hot cocoa, and apple juice, and managed to pee all over the floor five times. We were getting a little nervous, thinking maybe it wasn't going to work this time. But then, all at once, he got it. The afternoon was filled with hoots and hollers and stickers and prizes and more sweet beverages, pizza for dinner, and leftover chocolate pie for everyone to celebrate the day. We are well on our way to a two-big-boy household.

I really enjoyed spending the day focused on our dear middle child. Since this method requires that we not leave his side for three days, I got to spend lots of time just watching him play. His beautiful face, his spider-silk hair, his ivory skin. I watched his dimples pop in and out as he whispered softly to his trains.


Potty training is, for me, a rite of passage into childhood. As I watched Zion today, I was flooded with memories of our first weeks with him. The nurses handing me my 4.5 lb baby, who looked half like Daniel and half like a bird that had fallen from the nest. His soft-spot stretched from his hairline above his forehead to the crown of his head. I remember nursing him around the clock until he was 10 months old, trying to fatten him up. I remember realizing that he was going to be a cuddler, and being so thrilled to have a baby that would nestle into my neck and literally purr like a kitten. For all the picky eating habits and sleepless nights, he has been a pure joy of a baby, delighting us with his antics and making us roar with laughter. I will desperately miss Zion the baby. I will cry when he reaches the end of his potty chart. But I am ready, too, to see who Zion the boy will be.

November 24, 2009

Rub-a-dub-dub

Daniel takes a daily bath. The glitch is, here, at our new apartment, the gas water heater does not light on it's own. The switch must be flipped by hand, after crawling under the dryer vent hose behind the washer and dryer on our tiny four-season-type patio room, and even then it will only work if the water is running somewhere in the house. The other glitch is, the water heater will only stay lit for roughly 15 minutes, sometimes less. That is not enough time to fill Daniel's daily bath. If we stay on top of it, we can hear the flame puff out and run back to flip the switch on before the water running into his bath goes cold. But if we are busy doing things, as is often the case in our home these days, the water begins to run cold before we know it. In that case, the only thing to do is hold the spigot over the toilet until the water heats back up. Daniel can be found in this position almost daily. Since he is just sitting there, I sometimes give him one of the kids. Here is a picture of the above described scenario.

November 21, 2009

Lao San

In this language, the third child is called Lao San. "San," pronounced, "Sahn," means three. Everywhere we go, we hear people exclaiming, with awe and delight, "SANGE," pronounced, "sahn-guh." The "ge" is added to make it a measurement.

In this country, there is a policy in place to keep families from having more than one child. Most families hope their one child will be a son. Our three children, so close in age (not to mention their foreign looks), and the fact that they are all boys, makes us something to wonder at as we scoot by in our oversized motorbike-for-five. Everywhere we go, we are bathed in a constant stream of exclamations of "Sange!" We smile and wave, like we are in a parade, and Daniel says, warmly, "Here come the Sanges!"

Our Lao San, named Yong Gan (which means "brave"), is for us the extra log thrown on the fire. His pudgy little presence in our family brings a boost of light and warmth to our home. The boys make their hourly visits to his blanket on the floor, pressing a kiss against his cheek or giving him their finger to wrap his hand around. Brave is as easy a baby as there ever was. The other day, he silently allowed Bright to pick him up and drag him half by his neck across the room, up the landing, and into the office where I was.

Often, when I am holding him close, or nursing him in the predawn hours, I feel a sort of pang in my chest that I can only describe as love. I remember when Bright was our only child and I wondered how I could ever love another as much as I loved him. Some people say that there is a space in a mother's heart set aside for each child. I think I have a separate whole heart for all them.

November 20, 2009

Married with children

A picture says a thousand words

November 16, 2009

Playtime

I guess I'm on this "day in the life" kick right now. So here is some more. During the day, when we get a chance, we go out to the "playground" in our little "gated community." I've put these terms in quotes because I don't want those of you in America to envision a playground or a gated community like what you have in the US of A. Nothing like it all. But nonetheless, here are pictures of Bright on the see-saw, Zion with his friend, Brennan, some other cute playmates, and the snack selection (what you are looking at are tasty, crispy chicken feet...yum).

Day in the life.

November 15, 2009

Omelet, anyone?

Here is a little perspective. Imagine having to the wash poop, blood, and feathers off of each egg before cracking them into your brownie batter or whatever. Welcome to my world.

And yes, I am wearing food service gloves in this picture. I'm not about to touch that egg with my bare hands!

November 14, 2009

The New Ride

As you know, Daniel's electric bike got heisted last month while we were ordering coffee drinks. Two days later, out of a desperate need for wheels, Daniel headed out to replace it. Thankfully, things are so cheaply made here that replacing one of these babies is about as costly as replacing a good mountain bike in America. No chump change, I admit, but nothing to get sick over, either.

In fact, we were a tad grateful to our friendly neighborhood thieves for giving us the opportunity to pick out something with good brakes, less kilometers of wear, and more visual appeal. Looking at this thing, you would expect it to burst out into macho rumble when turned on, but this pretty kitten doesn't even purr. Like all electric bikes, the turn of the key results in complete silence. A true biker would be horrified.


So, with Daniel's Wolverine chops (leftover from Halloween), his Michael Jackson leather jacket (which our American friends make fun of and our national friends covet), and his Tom Cruise shades (which are just plain cool, lets face it) the new ride is complete. Eat your hearts out, ladies, he's mine.

November 08, 2009

Girlhood friends

Like many of you, I have lost touch with one of the girls who stood up in my wedding. I have no contact with the girl who wore the other half of my best friend necklace in the fifth grade. I haven't talked to some of my college roommates in years.

But there is a remnant, a precious few friends from my past, who remain a constant in my life. They knew me when I had braces and freeze-dried bangs. They stumbled along beside me through the torrent of adolescence, holding each other up when it was too hard to keep going.

I am convinced that two things cement girlfriends together forever: The Holy Spirit, and/or training bras.

Two of such friends are Kathy and Emily. Kathy (pictured here with me on the beach our senior year of highschool) was in my seventh grade science class. She was the coolest girl in school. I, of course, knew who she was and was frankly shocked that she was speaking to me. As it turned out, the dimpled and beautiful Kathy, who could play the piano and sing and act and play sports and wiz through advanced classes, was also the most genuine and kindhearted friend a girl could have. She was nice to everyone, cool or not, and for whatever reason, she liked me.

Emily (pictured here with me in her parents' kitchen our senior year of high school) was the star balance beamer on the gymnastics team, all six feet of her, and when I met her she was still a gangly, goofy kid, all knees and elbows. She was the girl who everyone loved. No one has ever said a bad word about Emily. She and I were quite a pair, and we stayed glued at the hip all through the last two years of high school.

That is not say that they, nor I, have always been perfect, nor have our friendships enjoyed a completely smooth ride. In 9th grade they signed their names (along with all of the other girls in school) at the bottom of a hate letter, addressed to me, after I committed the ultimate teen girl blunder...stealing another girl's guy (which was an accident, I assure you, but that is a whole other story). But as the years have carried us on, our bonds have stood the test of time. Whatever the preservative is, these two friendships, and others like them, have not expired, and I know now that they never will.

Just this week, I recieved a care package from Kathy. In it were books and magazines (English reading material is scarce here), candy and snacks, a hand-written letter (somewhat of a rarity these days, unfortunately, which makes them highly valuable), a beautiful birthday sweater (which I am wearing at the moment, in fact), a lovely journal which beckons my thoughts, country music, Christmas music, nastalgic photographs, recent pictures from Emily's wedding, and many more goodies. Kathy and Emily are two of my most faithful care-package senders. Here we are, nearly 20 years after we first met, and half a world apart, and our friendships are perhaps stronger than they have ever been. What a wonder.

So here is to friends - real friends - lifelong friends - and all the greatness that comes along with them. I love you, Kath and Em. Thanks for the laughs and the love and the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

November 02, 2009

Look-a-likes

The first picture is Brave at four months. The second picture is Zion at four months. What do you think? Do they look like brothers?

November 01, 2009

Kind of scary

While Brave is screaming himself to sleep, I will recap on Halloween.

Let me start by saying that I grew up trick-or-treating. Since we were not allowed to open gifts on Christmas Eve, Halloween was my favorite night of the year. My mom, bless her soul, is not the Martha Stewart type (at least not back then). There were no costume workshops sprawled out on our kitchen table for the last two weeks of October. We were never dressed like felt sandwiches or purple balloon grape clusters. Instead, my brothers usually threw on their football uniforms and I usually wore my mom's clothes from the 70's and flashed a peace sign with my fingers for the camera. One year, in a fit of desperation, at about 6 p.m. on Halloween night, my mom pulled a dozen items of brown, dingy clothing from the hall closet - sweaters and leather jackets and scarves and such - and told me to tell people I was Cinderella before she met her fairy godmother.

Trick-or-treating is a fascinating practice, when you think about it. I remember the first year that Daniel and I had a house (granted, it was a rental) and we realized on the morning of the 31st of October that we were going to need large amounts of candy if we were going to stay home that night. I realized, too, that we were expected to open our door over and over and over to tired and sugared-up kids and disrespectful teenagers, and pretend to be happy about it. Trick-or-treating, according to Wikipedia, "...resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain,[3] although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy."

There is no trick-or-treating, however, here in our country in Asia. Thankfully, no matter how far away you travel, it seems, you can always find a handful of other westerners who are more than willing to squeeze their European-descended hips into a black leotard and tights, stuff a long black sock with garbage bags and hang it from their butt, paint their nose pink and don a headband with attached cat ears. Why not?

This year, we brought our little Batman, builder, and frog to the annual expat Harvest Festival. The crowded room smelled, appropriately, like sweat, polyester, and hot dogs. All of the princesses and superheros (including mine) and butterflies and ballerinas were crying. All of the hippies and nurses and Hannah Montanas were flirting. All of the parents were pulling out their hair, all of the volunteers were cursing their inability to say no, and all-in-all I think it was a Halloween success. What would Halloween be, after all, without a mom hissing, "You WILL wear the tiara I spent three days making" into her daughter's ear as the poor little thing tries to stash it in her brother's stroller because it is pinching her head?

Why do we do it, anyway? Dress our kids up and take them in public? To outcute the other kids, of course. To show off our felt and glitter skills. To hopefully get a picture that will win the $2,500 prize on cutekids.com. We are Americans. We love junk food. We love to compete. We love to have fun. We love to pretend (in this case, that scary holidays are great for kids). We love to be social. Probably most of all, we just do what we have always done.

Kind of scary.

Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2009

Raising kings

I have been up since 3:30 a.m., first to pacify Brave, then to nurse him when that didn't work, then to worry if we came home from the Harvest Festival last night with all of the costume props we borrowed from a friend, then to peruse the house looking for costume props, then to flip on a light in the office and nestle into the futon with my NIV, my journal, and a bowl of oatmeal because I wasn't going back to sleep on this particular morning.

And thank goodness I didn't. You know those rare and delicious occasions when you are reading through some dusty book like 2 Kings and you are hit across the heart as if by a brick? Yes. This morning I was slatted to read 2 Kings 22 in my read-through-the-text-in-a-year plan (which I started, by the way, in 2006). So I am flipping to 2 Kings, la-dee-da, taking bites of wet oatmeal, when I read the first verse: "Josiah was eight years old when he became king...His mother's name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right..."

Now just to refresh your memory, Josiah's daddy-o, Amon, was a wretched man and a wretched king, as was his father before him. So how is it that Amon's 8-year-old son, Josiah, did what was right? Jedidah, of course. HIS MOTHER! These harem kids were not raised by their dads. King Amon probably couldn't have picked Josiah out of a lineup. These kids were raised by their mothers. No wonder the mothers and their lineages are mentioned throughout the book. Mother's shape the world.

Well done, Jedidah. Well done.

And now it is 20 minutes to 7 a.m. and all the lights will soon come on and there will be the flying of dirty diapers and the pouring of juice and the day will barrel forward. But today, I will keep Jedidah and her legacy in mind.

October 29, 2009

Rupp Academy

The classroom.The students.The work. Can you tell which one is my impressionist and which one is my realist?The teacher and the class pet. By the way, I usually look much different than this on school days, but I didn't want to post a picture of me in mismatched sweats and crooked glasses, understandably.Recess.