January 31, 2009

Not in Arkansas anymore

You know you live in Asia when your 3-year-old mistakenly calls butterscotch chips "butter chop sticks."

You might also live in Asia if your 3-year-old says, while squinting in the back seat of the taxi, "I don't like the sun because it gets in my eyes! But I want to have hot water..." (Our water heater is solar powered).

Another clue might be your 3-year-old saying, while skipping down the brick sidewalk, "Watch out for those big globs of yogurt!" (I don't have the heart at this point to tell him they are spit-wads. I'll spare him that part of our host culture for now:)

January 28, 2009

blood and tears

My head is pounding as I recall the events of the last thirty minutes. Yours would be too, I suspect.

Lets see...I was asleep in my room when Zion woke up early from his nap with a bad diaper. He smelled so bad that I decided my full bladder would have to wait. After the diaper change, I headed to the laundry room with the soiled diaper, holding an under-rested and screaming Zion in my arms. On my way past the kitchen, I noticed the ground beef I was thawing on the sink.

I get my beef ground at the market, which gets tossed into a cheap plastic baggie for keeping. The baggie was leaking thawing blood into the equally cheap paper bowl it was sitting in (the paper products here need to be individually rinsed to rid them of factory dust before using, but that's a whole different story).

Anyway, I knew I had to get the meat into the fridge before it got too warm. Balancing Zion on one hip, I tried to slide the bowl onto the bottom shelf next to the eggs, when the bowl's edge caught on something and began to tip. As I saw thick red blood oozing down the side of the fridge, I panicked, overcorrected, and somehow managed to splatter blood all over me, the condiment door, the floor, and the laundry behind the door (amazingly).

So for the next 15 minutes, I sopped cow's blood from my entire laundry room, then proceeded to wash everything until the butcher smell was replaced by lemon fresh. I was crying (of course) and one by one teddy bears were brought to me by concerned little boys.

Finally, after it was all over, I washed my hands, took two Tylenol, put in a movie for the kids, and sat down on the toilet for that pee I never took. Now it's just about time to pull that meat back out and begin browning it on the stove. I think I'll use both hands this time.

Come on over

If you could have paid us a visit this afternoon, you would have enjoyed (or endured) Daniel's 80's mix on Pandora Radio, rocking out to "You Can't Hurry Love" and "Oh Sherrie." You could have helped me season my creamy dill dip for girls' night tonight. I could have used it. I couldn't seem to get it just right. You would have read Peter Rabbit to a chapped-faced one-year-old over and over so I could slip off and get some things done. You would have watched Daniel come and go on his electric bike, bringing home milk and apples and a new portable oven with a door that will hopefully stay shut. You would have seen a blue sky above the tall buildings outside of our bay window, the sun warming the vines and pavement by our gate. You could have snacked on a banana if you got hungry, our helped yourself to a glass of coke or clean water. Dinner would be leftover Swiss Cheese Chicken with peas. Nothing fancy, but sharing any meal with you would bring us great joy.

Living on the other side of the world has made us realize how much time we wasted, with just a mile or two separating us from our friends and family for the first two and a half decades of our lives. If I were you, I would go see the ones I love, today. Don't stay in your brick or vinyl-sided fortresses and miss out on each other. And you will - if you're not careful - miss out on each other.

January 20, 2009

Blessed among women

Well, the verdict is in! The baby whose little kicks I am now feeling is a boy. The third in a line of sons. The youngest brother. Bright was in the ultrasound room with us in Thailand, pushing a bulldozer, when he heard the news. He looked up and said, "I'm excited about having two brothers, but I wanted a sister." He was so cute about it:)

So for the past few days all I've been thinking about are my three sons. My motherhood experience has become quite specific, and I feel both honored and awestruck at the life I have been called to live. I am not, after all, nor will I ever be, male. And yet my heart burns with love for them (males, that is). I love a man who's name I bear, who's dinner I cook, who's heart I, and I alone, fully know and appreciate. I love two boys who's ears I scrub, who's undies I wash, and who's little needs only I can anticipate. I carry a baby boy who depends completely on my body for his very life. I worship a man who walked the earth 2,000 years ago, who now sits at the right hand of a Father who breathed me into existence in the first place. My heart belongs to men.

And yet, I can't help but wonder what I will do while they are on their weekend hunting trips? Who will take me shopping when she is in high school, to keep me fashionable? Even now, in hotel rooms, we flip to car racing or sumo wrestling or construction site coverage on the discovery channel. Even now, the background sounds in my home are those of engines, and the after-dinner activity is tumbling with Dad on the rug. During all of these things, I sit on the couch and observe, while I fold laundry or read a book, bored by what catches their attention, fascinated by the things that drive them. They are male. I am not.

Today, we sat by a little Asian girl on the bus at the airport in Thailand, and I whispered to Bright, "That is what your sister might look like some day. Would you like to have a beautiful little sister like that?" He smiled and nodded his head. True, she won't have my hands, and she might not slip perfectly into my wedding dress, but who really wants to wear their mom's wedding dress anyway? I know in my heart that a Ruppette will join our little brood. Oh, but I am not waiting for that day. This day I am pregnant with a precious, treasured little boy. I feel blessed beyond explanation, and honored among women, and just downright happy to the core. Thank you, Father, for what you have given to me - to us. Thank you so much.

January 11, 2009

Eat to live

Cooking is a whopper of a task for all moms (and dads, in some cases, though not in ours). First the cook must take inventory of her pantry, freezer, and fridge, in order to avoid collections of things like baked beans, marshmallows, etc. Next she must haul out her recipes, which are most likely not organized, and fumble through the same scraps of paper she has fumbled through hundreds and hundreds of times. The menu for the next two weeks must be hearty enough for her husband (which means meat at every meal) healthy enough for her two small boys (taking into consideration that Bright doesn't like peas and Zion doesn't like carrots or corn and she herself is very tired of green beans). It must not be too spicy (for the kids) but not too bland (for her husband) and cannot contain strong herbs (due to her own food aversions caused by pregnancy).

Meal planning alone can take an entire afternoon. Then there is the task of getting to the store to buy the ingredients. In America, that means piling your kids in the car, driving to the nearest Wal-Mart, piling your kids into a cart that is supposed to fit all of your groceries as well, and trying very hard to keep your kids quiet without bribing them while you push your way down every isle twice (because you will inevitably forget to grab the Jiffy when you are in the baking isle, and you'll completely forget you needed cottage cheese which is all the way back by the milk and then when you are at the checkout you'll realize you can't bring the casserole you signed up to bring to the potluck on Sunday unless you race back for the Durkee french-fried onions).

In our city here in Asia, grocery shopping is a whole other experience. There is a Wal-Mart, but what they sell is definitely not on your grocery list. We go there for baby wipes and cleaning supplies, but that is about it. I suppose if you'd like to buy a duck hanging by it's neck, or have your choice of hundreds of different kinds of fungi, then Wal-Mart would be your place. To find American ingredients, it is necessary to tour all over the city, in and out of cabs, to four or five different stores. To do it all in one day would take all day. We go to Metro for sliced bread, cereal, salsa, popcorn, frozen mixed vegetables, butter, cream, and pot-pie pastry. We go to The Wicker Basket for hot dogs and buns, frozen pizzas, cream cheese and other specialty cheeses (like mozzarella and swiss). We go to Carrefour for Land-O-Lakes extra sharp cheddar cheese. We go to Paul's Import Store for rootbeer and spaghetti sauce (in a pinch) and candy. There is a very small, very shady import store/booth on the other side of town that carries a variety of spices, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, bar-b-que sauce, and vinegars. All vegetables are bought fresh the day of, at the market (which is too dirty for toddlers, so your husband will get to know the market very well on his way home each day).

After collecting all of that, it is time to cook. Preparing meals always requires TIME...time when the kids are sleeping or occupied (unless you enjoy toddlers hanging on your legs as your drag them around your kitchen). Here in Asia, however, cooking requires even MORE time. Sour cream, for example, is not available. To make sour cream from scratch, one must pour two or three capfuls of vinegar into a small bowl of cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Cheese is only sold in bricks, and must always be shredded at home. The meat here is very tough and must be tenderized before suitable to eat. That can take hours, and makes a big mess. Until you get used to baking at the altitude we live at (about 6,800 ft), your first year in town will be marked by one failed cake after another.

As one who used to enjoy meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, I can tell you that after a few years of this, I'll be ready to burn my apron (or I'll be a master chef in any circumstance, whichever comes first). And as one who used to enjoy eating, I now wish we were more like automobiles and could just pull up to a fueling station and insert a hose.

Now, if Daniel and the kids and I were willing to eat Asian food at every meal, that would be a different story entirely...

January 09, 2009

Cute bellies

Zion and Bright's bellies are showing because they were finger painting (and I don't have any paint clothes for them), and mine is showing because I was 16 weeks pregnant in this picture. I thought about putting a picture of Daniel's belly on here but his is a little hairy.

January 04, 2009

Learning to learn

Bright has been learning to read and write, all on in own of course since I barely make it out of my bathrobe most days let alone have the energy to home educate my three year old. But his little brain is finding its way on its own, and it is really cute. The other day he was spelling words on the refrigerator - word's like "cat" and "chip," which I pretended to be excited about while I juggled my multiple-skillet dinner in the kitchen. Then he said, "Look mom, I spelled 'quiet time.'" I looked up and saw this. I had to grab the camera. 'Quiet time' is what we call his daily devotional time, which is him in his room spending time alone with Je*us, listening to the Adventures in Odyssey audio Bi@le. I wasn't at all surprised that he tried to spell this phrase, but I WAS surprised at his phonics. I guess he got tired of thinking about it toward the end, but I am proud as punch even still.

January 01, 2009

Love is in the air

Bright was in his first wedding. He was a ring- bearer, and as you can see, the whole thing was one big cute-fest. Two days before the wedding, we realized we had nothing for him to wear. So we walked two blocks down to our neighbor- hood tailor, handed him a pair of Bright's jeans and one of his shirts, and returned the day of the wedding to pick up this adorable little tailor-made suit.

Let me just remind you that Bright hates being in the public eye, and has a particular aversion to the locals here because of their touchy-feely ways. So, when he was asked to be in a local wedding, we agreed (so as not to offend), but all we could imagine was a complete disaster. For the weeks leading up to the wedding, we talked about what an important job he was going to do, and that if he didn't bring the bride and groom their rings, they couldn't get married! He slowly warmed up to the idea, out of obligation, of course, and decided he would do what needed to be done:) The best way to deal with Bright is on rational terms. He is three years old but reminds me of a 30-year-old sometimes.

As it turns out, the wedding went off without a hitch. Although, on his way down the isle he spotted me in the congregation and veered down my pew saying, "Look Mom, I've got a surprise...it's a ring!" Daniel quickly rushed up the isle from the back of the ceremony and ushered Bright and his little pink pillow to the rest of the wedding party, who were waiting for him by the podium. It was cute, though. No harm done:)

And of course, as weddings go, Bright received his first kiss...from beautiful little Annette. This picture only shows the cheek kiss, but Annette did plant a ripe one right on his lips. Who could blame her, really.