April 26, 2010


Ok, this is just hilarious.
After Bright got his teeth cleaned today, his hygienist, Audra, asked him to smile for a picture.  This huge and slightly cartoon-like contortion is what he gave her. We laughed and laughed. She sent it to me this evening as an attachment in an email so I could have my own copy.


And here is Zion after his cleaning (his first ever). His hygienist, Kym, passed it along as well. I think both boys thought their teeth were the focal point of the picture, which makes sense since, in each case, the gal who just cleaned them was the one with the camera.
These two pictures make me...well...smile.

April 23, 2010

sweet spring rain

It rained today.

I stepped out onto the deck of the second-floor apartment where we temporarily hang our hats, and listened to the rush of pouring water on the trees.  It made my heart swell, it really did.  I haven't heard rain falling on anything but concrete in nearly two years.

And the smell...oh, the sweet smell of Spring rain in the woods.  Short of a fresh-cut Christmas tree or a new baby's head, nothing quite tops it.

Bright stepped outside with me, xylophone in hand, to, and I quote, "...sing a little song about the rain."  This is what he sang:

"The rain is from God.
It comes from the clouds
that fill up with rain
and water the plants that he made."

Now, the tune was nothing to brag about, but the lyrics are impressive.  I think he, like me, is in a tighter relationship with the words of this world than with the sounds.  He certainly knows how to express himself.  Take our recent breakthrough, for example.  Since babyhood he has responded negatively to compliments.  He hates them, in fact.  We keep complimenting him, however, and he cringes every time.  It has been a bit of a problem.  Then, just the other day he said, "Mom, I don't want you to talk about what I do, I want you to talk about what I love."


The rain continued this evening, in the form of friendship, as we ate marinated chicken tenderloins off the grill with our dear friends, Wes and Allison.  Wes happens to be our pastor, and Allison my treasured mentor, but they are our dear friends first and foremost.  Time spent with them, and their sweet daughters, waters our hearts.

Brave had a nasty fall, which sent Daniel to Wal-Mart for infant Motrin in the middle of his buttered sweet potato, but bumps and bruises included, the evening was warmly spent.  Our hearts drank yesterday evening as well,  as we ate stuffed chicken marsala with Daniel's childhood best friend, Tyler, and his beautiful wife Casey (who is fast becoming a favorite friend of mine).  We laughed and laughed, and swapped stories of new beginnings, quirky kids, and traveling prophets.  To quote my friend, Lou's, Facebook page, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in

Here is Bright, singing in the rain.
 Here is what we did to pass the time on this rainy day.
I finally got Zion to smile for the camera today, maybe because he wasn't wearing his glasses.

Plain Cookies

My mother-in-law, Shari, who the kids call MoMo, makes "Plain Cookies."  They are the size of hamburger patties, lightly sweet, cake-like, and perfect in every way.  Her recipe calls them "Tea Cookies," and claims to be a very old Dutch recipe.  Maybe that is why I like them with such intensity.

Plain Cookies don't usually show up until the holidays, but now and then MoMo stirs up a batch just to see us smile.  She made them for us this afternoon, and I ate one warm out of the oven to the delight of my every sense.

When Daniel and I were engaged and I would fly down, starry-eyed, to Arkansas to see my darling fiance, Shari would fill her cookie jar and Daniel and I would snuggle up to some Dish Network with an old quilt, a glass of milk, and Plain Cookies.  A few years down the road, when we were in town for a visit while I was pregnant, I snuck down to the kitchen in the middle of numerous nights to subdue my ever-growling and ever-growing belly with a Plain Cookie.  Their perfection and plainness have followed me through the years.

So here you are, world, a little taste of my life.

Plain Cookies
4 C. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C. lard or shortening
2½ C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together the first three ingredients. Cut in the shortening. Stir in the sugar. Quickly and barely stir in the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Knead batter slightly, adding flour if it is too sticky. Roll thick; cut into large cookies. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes approx.

April 17, 2010

"I want some butts!"

This morning Daniel threw out the phrase, "I want some butts!" and it made us both miss our friends back in East Asia.

Our friend, John, is a really funny guy.  He keeps Daniel giggling like a middle-schooler most of the time.  John has taken to quoting the line in Top Gun, when Maverick does his fly-by stunt and spills that guy's coffee and the guy says, "I want some butts!"  Now, among our friends, it has become the thing to say, and it makes me laugh every time.

Here is a video, on John and Alisa's blog, of Daniel and the kids at the ball pit in our city.  Daniel has a great beard and the balloon room was full of balloons that day.

And here is a picture of almost every kid in our little expat community in our city, taken just after our egg hunt on Easter afternoon.  Bright, Zion, and Brave are tucked into the mix.

We are SOOO enjoying our friends here in Van Buren, while remembering with love the friends we get to return to when our visit here is through.

p.s.  Today was Bright's "American" birthday party, which was a sloshy, wonderful time! Our camera is still not working, however, and I just can not bring myself to blog without pictures.  Soon I hope.

Deep-fried and hog-tied

We went to Paul's Bakery this morning, and while Daniel was inside purchasing chocolate-covered perfection, the kids and I were sitting dwarfed by the mammoth pickup trucks all around us in the parking lot.  We saw pickup trucks in Thailand last year when we were there to birth Brave, but they were the little Toyota variety.  This is another breed entirely.  A tawny beast with a shining chrome grill pulled up to my side of the car.  Her huge, gnarly tires lifted her so high, and she came in with such gusto that, if I would have had my window down, I could have ended up with "GMC" imprinted on my face.  The pickup drivers are young, gangly, small-town boys in their Starter gear with patchy goatees and tattoos in other languages that they have no idea what they mean.  The trucks might be extensions of what they wish for themselves - to be larger than life, and tough, and loud, and able to bust through any boundary.

In any case, it is extraordinary to observe these enormous, gas-guzzling machines in the only land on earth where they flourish unabashed.

Here's to pickups and good donuts.  Woo Pig Sooiee.

April 16, 2010

12 minutes late

I don't have any pics to post today, because the motor in our camera lens died on us, but I am feeling like blogging tonight anyhow. 

I received my first dose of reverse culture shock today, at the beauty shop of all places.  Due to the fact that I have three kids and have forgotten how to drive a car, I was 12 minutes late for my hair appointment this afternoon.  All three beauticians and both clients inside the shop made sure that I felt the magnitude of what I had done.  As my hairdresser went into the back room to stir up the bleach for my hair, I felt a lump growing in my throat and I couldn't hold back the tears.  I felt like saying, "You don't understand, I just came from a culture where you could never be 12 minutes 'late' for anything because the guy who says he will come on Wednesday morning to fix your dryer might show up sometime Friday afternoon," but then I realized that the first part of that sentence would be completely true - they don't understand.

So, I swiped my eyes and swallowed hard and began to talk to Viki about her Greek heritage as she foiled my has-not-been-properly-attended-to-in-nearly-two-years hair.  I paid with a check (something that took me a while to write out because I had forgotten how), being sure to tip her (something else that I am totally out of the habit of doing) and drove away, feeling for the first time the "still an American but not really" feeling that everyone warned me about.  And so it begins.

April 15, 2010

Hunger pangs

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare."  -Isaiah 55:2

I am reading these words hungrily this morning, as I am watching the sun rise over Lee Creek.  If I were a starving person and I was handed $10, wouldn't I buy bread instead of a new purse?  Instead of favor with men?  Instead of highlights in my hair?  Hunger would drive me.

May hunger drive me today.  May I notice that I am starving.  May The Bread of Life be my only craving.

April 14, 2010

Hot Rod Bright

It is just past 4 a.m. and I am wide awake. I'm fine with that, since the kids are still in their beds. Zion is singing from his bed, but at least he is in it.

The benefit of jetlag is that one has many more hours in the "day," with which to do things like blog.

Yesterday, while we were trying to keep the kids out in the sunshine, this happened:

The cute little dame in the passenger seat is Bright's three-year-old cousin, Eliana.  The Mustang is hers, though she never really drives it (women!).  Bright, having never driven a car before in his life, saw it, got in it, put it in reverse, backed it up, and then drove off.  Bright does not get excited or emotional about things, though he will talk about it for days afterward.  When he sees something he likes, he is all business.

April 13, 2010

I'll just be jetlagging

Being back in America is swell. I am not the culture-shocked boob that I thought I would be. I went to Wal-Mart and I conquered, not even balking at the bloated selection of cheeses, or the arguably rediculous number of sliced bread options. I didn't stare at all the...robust...white people ambling about, or at all the long noses, or at all the light hair. I just grocery shopped, like I used to do, and then I checked out - or Daniel did, rather - using a cool little invention that I had forgotten about called the debit card. We loaded my mother-in-law's large, truck-like vehicle with our spoils, strapped the kids into the carseats (which they don't understand why they are suddenly being forced to use), and drove along wide-open roads, listening to people on the radio talk about their faith and their opinions of the government. Then we pulled in to the air-conditioned apartment that Daniel's sister and brother-in-law are so graciously letting us stay in. It has a dishwasher and a garbage disposal. Our first night in the apartment, we were trying to find the kitchen light and we flipped the garbage disposal switch and the grinding sound that bore out of the sink nearly dropped us to our deaths. We had completely forgotten about garbage disposals.

The worst part of being back is, hands down, the jetlag. In Bright's words, as he sprawled out on the waiting room chair at the Revenue Office, "I'll just be jetlagging." I had experienced jetlag before, but never with three little kids.Two nights ago, we put them to bed at 8 p.m., and 2 1/2 hours later they were up and ready to start their day. We spent the next 5 hours fighting with them to stay in their beds, and then at 3 a.m. I gave up and turned on the lights and got them dressed and poured them bowls of cereal. We kept them up the entire day that followed, shaking them when they threatened to slip into sleep, and then finally Bright hit a wall at about 5 p.m., at the Mexican restaurant, and he passed out. I do mean passed out. You could have tattooed his forehead at that point and he would have kept right on sleeping. I tried to feed him a soft taco, by manually opening his jaws and inserting the food between his lips, but that didn't work so well. We have decided that jetlag feels so wrong because our bodies were not intended to experience it. Human beings were not supposed to be able to travel to the other side of the world in one day. It should take months, and there should be a coinciding gradual time adjustment. To end up 13 hours behind where you started, before your first airline meal has had time to digest, is not natural.Yet here we are, natural or not, and in spite of our discombobulation, we are thrilled to be in the land of (Vitamin D) milk and (real clover) honey once again.

April 08, 2010

Straddling the ocean. Celebrating life.

Yesterday we celebrated Bright's 5th birthday. We went to the ball pit (the only place for kids here) with most of our friends and it was a blast! Then we went to Papa Johns for a pizza party, and that was a hit, too. Happy 5th, Bright Eugene. In your own words, "5 is a big deal." Now you can go camping with Daddy, and tromp along on your first hunt, and take part in most other things that boys do. On the sentimental side, I cannot believe nearly 6 years have gone by since we found out, while staying in Holland, MI for the summer, that we were going to be parents at long last. I have never felt greater joy than the moment they put you in my hands. The delight of knowing you has only grown with time. There could not possibly be a more wonderful son to have in all the world!Brave riding a cow.Sweet Zion. He is in a not-smiling-for-the-camera stage.Bright, giving you a wink.The really surreal part of Bright's birthday celebration was that it was our second-to-last day in East Asia before we visit America for 4 months. So many awesome people are waiting on the other side of our 13 hour flight to welcome us home, and yet we are leaving our home behind. It is like our hearts now straddle the ocean.

Zion doesn't remember America. He calls it, "Numerica." He does know the pledge of allegiance, though. I was able to do that much. Bright remembers every single thing and can not wait to be where he doesn't have to eat a helping of rice with every meal. I take that back, he doesn't remember everything. His memory of America has faded some, which saddens me. He can not picture The Cracker Barrel, for example, which was always his favorite restaurant. He says he will miss his friends here, and his toys, and he has made me tell him several times that we are, in fact, returning to East Asia. And then there is little Brave, who has never been anywhere but Asia, even in the womb. Even Daniel and I are feeling a little apprehensive about how we will react to being back in our homeland. I am a tad concerned that I might curl up into a ball in the corner and rock back and forth, murmuring "Mei shi" over and over again to myself.

Across the board, though, I am feeling joy. Joy and gratitude, for a life like this one. I wouldn't trade one single hour of jetlag or one single difficult goodbye. It is my humble opinion that life is like a good vinaigrette. It needs to be shaken up every once and while or you miss the flavor.

April 06, 2010

Always an adventure with Anita!

My friend Anita is Cantonese Canadian living here in East Asia with her husband, Jeremy (just a plain ol' white guy) and their two kids, Callie and Zane (with another boy on the way). They have been good friends of ours since we moved here in August '08. They were the ones who met us at the airport in the middle of the night when we were stunned and bedraggled travelers fresh from America. Anita made us waffles and homemade sausage the next morning and we ate it together in our empty apartment surrounded by unopened luggage. I called Anita 2-3 times a day in those first weeks (and even months) asking her to translate for me, or help me buy pantry staples like vinegar and flour. Jeremy and Anita are two of the most giving and thoughtful people I've ever met.As time has gone on, Anita has become my get-my-nails-done buddy, my go-shopping-for-deals buddy, my swap-recipes-and-kitchen-tricks buddy, and my try-new-things buddy.

Our most recent excursion was to a local Cantonese restaurant (the food she grew up eating in Canada) where she introduced me to DimSum. I was pretty proud of myself as I chowed down on this chicken foot (my first one ever).The report? It has no meat so only partake if you enjoy thick, rubbery skin. I remain indifferent. I also ate pork sausage in wonton wrappers with some sort of orange fish eggs sprinkled on top, sticky rice cooked in a giant leaf, shrimp-stuffed boiled noodle balls (best way I can describe them), steamed buns filled with Cantonese BBQ, radish cakes, and Cantonese spring rolls. Always an adventure with Anita!

April 04, 2010

Braving Easter

Here is Brave and his uni-dimple on their first Easter. This is as close a thing to an Easter outfit as we could find for him. At least he is wearing a hat! Check out his new chompers. Pearly whites with a sizable gap and an irresistible overbite.Here he realized I was walking away.Boom.