August 30, 2010

My goodbye to Sue Sue

She wasn't my grandmother, but she may as well have been.  She wasn't an angel, but she helped raise the man that I love, and she lived every day of her life in the most real way before G0D.  There is no telling how many lives she has touched in this world.  This is my attempt to process the news we got today, my attempt to wrestle with the passing of Emma Sue Haggard. 

Bright said, "Who will take care of MoMo?"
"MoMo will be fine, honey.  She's got Aunt KK and Uncle Philip."
Bright said, "Can a phone call reach all the way to Heaven?"
"No, honey," I said, beginning to cry again.
"I wish I were in space," Bright said, "flying through the stars, to Heaven."

Zion doesn't understand.  Three-year-olds are like dogs, they know something is wrong, but they're not sure what, so they go around kissing everyone in the room.

Daniel and I are quiet.  We tell stories and cry.  We wonder at being on the other side of the world at this time, on this day, of all days.  We are grateful for the summer memories we just made with her.  We are grateful that we had no unresolved conflicts with her.  We ache from the blow of this thing called death.

The thing is, we hadn't yet had enough of her.  What will we do with all of her paintings and perfume bottles and costume jewelery?  Who will lay with Bright on her bed and watch Oswald?  Who will call me "Sugar"?  Who will make the cornbread dressing on Thanksgiving?  How will we ever get along, for the rest of our lives, without Sue Sue?

Then, like cool water on a burn, I think about what a great day this is for Sue Sue.  Everything that she read about every day of her life is right before her eyes.  She ran a good race and crossed the finished line, with her lipstick on and her hair teased out, no doubt, and that is what I will choose to see in my head.  Well done, Sue Sue.  Goodbye.  I love you.  G0D knows how much I love you.  G0D knows how much I will miss you.  I will see you when I get there.

August 26, 2010

She gave all she had

Kindergarten is underway over here.  We are in chapter IV of The Boxcar Children, book #1.  We are building letters with wooden pieces.  We are making timelines and dotting our i's.  Bib1e class, history class, science class, handwriting, reading, math, and art.
Zion is enjoying his preschool class.  While Bright counts beads, Zion stuffs them into Chompy's mouth.
We are using Sonlight curriculum for our first offical go at this.  I should have looked it over sooner than the night before, but now that we are a few days into it, things are starting to come together.  The best part of this curriculum is the AMAZING book collection.  The second-best part was the free gift for mom, sealed in a little envelope that read, "Open in a quiet moment."  I opened it, in a quiet moment, and wept like a small child as I read the note that accompanied this little pendant.
Luke 21:2 reads, "He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  'I tell you the truth,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"

This pendant represents one of those such coins.  I cried because I needed this gift.  When days like today go by and I am filled with doubt, asking myself if this is worth it, if I should just send Bright off every day and get on with things, I can touch this little coin and remember.  When I get to the end of my life, I may not have much to show for the hours I spent pouring into my kids, but I will have given all I had.

August 23, 2010

One man's junk...

At the risk of overdoing cute Bright stories, I will share one more, also within the context of his new audio Bib1e.

Bright comes into the living room, where I am frantically trying to finish preparing for his first day of kindergarten (homeschool) tomorrow, and says, "Mom, my quiet time says that if we obey the ten commandments, we will store up treasure in Heaven."
"That's right, bud.  What do you think of that?"
"I want my treasure to be a bunch of turtles and crabs and lobsters that can help me cut things and make things."

Fair enough.

August 21, 2010

Thy Word

Bright has had a "quiet time" every day since he turned three.  For the last two years, he has listened to three tracks per day of the Adventures in Odyssey Eyewitness Set, which is a fictional audio drama that teaches the stories of The Word.

Now that he is five, he seems ready for The Word, itself.  Besides, Zion is ready now to start his "quiet times" and he will need the Odyssey set.  Before coming back to East Asia, I hit the "special" book store and picked up "The Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament Dramatic Audio Bib!e."  Today was the day I started it with Bright.  He is still in there listening to it.  He won't let me turn it off, and it's been almost an hour.  At first he didn't know what he was listening to, but when I went in to turn it off after three tracks, he stopped me and said, "Mom, no, I am listening to this.  It is telling me about being nice to other people"  (he was listening to The Sermon on the Mount).
"Bright," I said, "Do you know what you are listening to?"
"No," he said.
"You are listening to the real Bib1e."
His face lit up, and then sobered again with a sense of respect.
"May I listen to a little more?" he asked.
"Sure," I said.  After three more tracks, I went in again.  He pleaded with me, again, not to stop it.  "This is the parables Mom, please."

Their first loves

Last night I was reading Ruth Beechick's book on home education, The Three R's, when I came across the line "...each child has only a limited amount of time in his early years" (6).

So today I took all of my children's stuffed animals, each of which have been given a special name and lots of love, and lined them up on the couch for a photo shoot.  Years from now, when my sweet little boys are sweet young men, I will want to remember these animals and their names.  I don't ever want to forget.

Back row from left: Bird, Who, Alligate, Web, Shiny, Thumper, Thai, Bindy, Trunk, Tree Trunk; Second Row from left: DeeDee, Pola, Baby, The Cutie, Spinner, Panda, Raisin, Blue Dog, Velveteen, El, Rocky; Front from left: Curious George, Scoop, Ma Mhut, Ribbit, Pinky, Buzz Argue Fan, Cubby, Moosie, and Seal.  Not pictured: Happy (a tiny hippo), and Beary (in safe-keeping at MoMo's house, because he sheds and I can't stand to clean up after him). Hunty (a gooey rubber shark) and Chompy (a gooey rubber alligator) also missed the picture.

August 20, 2010

She got to hold her!

Kerry got to hold her 3 1/2-week-old daughter for the first time two days ago.  Glory was taken off the ventilator with hopes that she would not have to use it any more.  Unfortunately, she had to go back on it after an hour.  But for a solid hour, Kerry held her.  It was an hour that Kerry "can't really describe."

August 19, 2010

The wait is vanilla-scented

There is a baby doll in our house now.  She is vanilla-scented.  Her body is filled with heavy beads and her arms and legs are made of rubber.  Her hair is thick and her cheeks are pink.  We will bring her with us, sometime after the turn of the year, to the orphanage to pick up Jubilee.  We will hand our daughter this doll, her first gift from us, a symbol of our great and everlasting love.  Right now, her doll sits in front of her adoption baby book, on the end table in her future nursery.  Right now, I resist the urge to hold her, and kiss her vanilla-scented nose.  Right now, I speak words over my daughter, even as my heart aches to be with her.  I speak from Jeremiah 15:15.  "Remember her and care for her," I pray.

August 17, 2010

The heart grow fonder

We are home.
The Dear Montagues, who stayed in our apartment during their revisit to East Asia this summer, decorated our door for us.  They also left us toys for the kids, Jubilee in particular, and other goodies.

Our house helper (a.k.a. Angel from Heaven) put roses on the table that Andy and Erin Ashley left to us when they returned Stateside this summer.  She, our helper, also stocked our fridge with milk and juice and Coke.  She knows us well.  Our friends (Alisa, John, Anita, Jeremy, and others) kept the warm fuzzies coming, too.  Feels good to be home!

Before saying goodbye to my brothers back in Michigan, I took a good long look at the six weeks I had spent with them and realized that I know them better now than when I lived in the U.S.  The distance and years between us have brought us closer. My brother, Kody, and I talked about it and determined that siblings (except for some sisters, perhaps) who live in close proximity to one another all of their lives, might let weeks or months go by without meeting up.  They figure they have all the time in the world.  The truth is, they don't, and life passes by like a lazy afternoon until one day they are gathered at their father's funeral with their own kids and their own grandkids and they are wondering why they don't really know each other any more.

But...when you live across the world from your brothers and you have six weeks to spend with them every two years, you make the most of every minute.  I knew my brothers' schedules this summer.  I found out their future plans.  I looked them in the eyes and listened to them.  We laughed together.  I made them take me out on the fishing lake, just the three of us, and we had a time that I will never forget.  I have been back in East Asia for less than a week and I am already ready to give them each a call.

The same is true for my mom, the one who husks corn with her grandsons on a summer's eve.  She will never waste a moment that she has with them, not ever.
Not to be redundant here, but life really is but a breath.  Sometimes it takes being away to realize that all of us only ever have the day we are in.  Sometimes, as with my sister-in-law, who sits by her newborn's side at the Cardio Vascular Intensive Care Unit, the things we used to care about seem so laughable now. 

Absence (of brothers, or of all the time in the world, or of guarantees) indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

And stronger.

And wiser.

And better.

August 11, 2010

Wide open spaces

In our city in East Asia, there are very, very, very few wide open spaces.  There are very few open spaces.  There are very few spaces.  Just when you think the elevator could not possibly, under any circumstances, hold one more person, the doors open and 8 more people will cram their way on.  There are just so many people there.  People, people everywhere.

Here in America, we feel cramped if we can hear our neighbor's telephone ring inside their house.  In East Asia, you don't have a house, and you can practically hear your neighbors taking a pee.
We are headed back tomorrow morning.  We are packing.  Tensions are running high.  Kids are regressing (as in wetting themselves all over the couch).  Kids are lashing out with aggression.  Husbands are forgetting to be polite.  Wives are finding themselves retreating to the computer to blog while kids watch cartoons with great grandmothers. 

Everything is changing...for everyone...again.
Besides comforting processed American food, and besides the feeling of belonging in the culture into which I was born, and besides my Mom and Dad and brothers and nephew and niece and inlaws and friends - I will certainly miss, daily no doubt, the wide open spaces.

August 09, 2010


Yesterday I watched Glory bat her curly eyelashes, move her one unrestrained arm, wiggle her hips, blow bubbles through her lips, and cry and cry without making a sound (on account of the tubes going through her nostrils and down her throat).

She is being fed lipids and fluids through her veins, which seem to be working well because she has grown two inches and is gaining weight.  She has a long, red line down the middle of her chest from where they closed her up, one week after her first open heart surgery.  She has dark hair.  She has her mommy's eyes and her big sister's mouth and chin.  She has personality and fight.  She has doting nurses and a beautiful purple quilt (courtesy of Haylea Newcity).  She is frequently the recipient of one kind of procedure or another.  Morphine and her mom are her constant companions.

She is 18 days old.

Kerry and Philip and their 3-year-old daughter, as well as anyone who is there to help them, stay in a hotel a short distance from Little Rock Childrens' Hospital. Basically everyone in the hotel is either a patient or a family member of a patient at either the childrens' hospital or the new cancer treatment institute.  In other words, all of Kerry and Philips' neighbors have or are facing their greatest fears. What these people have realized is that the scariest thing there is isn't as scary they thought, and that life is not about new livingroom furniture or who their daughter's volleyball coach will be this year.  Yesterday, I talked with people who's blood or bones were full of cancer, who's hair was thinning, who's brother had months to live, or who enjoyed their baby day by day, never knowing which day would be their child's last.

And they were the most alive people I've ever met.

August 02, 2010

The little black dress

This weekend Daniel and I got away for the first time in six years.  Yep, I did say six.  Either we've been living out of state (or country) without the help of family to care for our kids, or on rice and beans with no breathing room in the budget, and sometimes both.  I don't need to say that this weekend was overdue.

So I made Daniel a carrot cake and we packed a little bag and headed just outside of town to the Bella Vita suites in Saugutuck, MI. 
We had a great time.  Lately I've been feeling as though I'm falling in love with my husband all over again, and this weekend I got to stare at him and laugh with him and admire him without the (sweet) distraction of our little boys.  We were, however, more than excited to see their little faces this morning, as they greeted us with mixed emotions.  They were happy to see us, mad at us for leaving, and sad that their special time with Grandma and Grandpa was over.

I want to point out the dress I wore to dinner on the second night of our stay.  32 years ago, my dad asked his new girlfriend (my mom) to accompany him to Chicago to meet his brother and sister-in-law.  Being the country girl that she was, my mom needed a dress for the big city!  Excited and ready to knock his socks off, she went out shopping.  At Gantos in Grand Rapids, in July of 1978, my mom bought this little black dress:
As it turned out, the poor country girl never did get to see the big city that weekend.  They stayed in and my uncle cooked them dinner because he and his wife had three little kids and it was easier that way.  Her snazzy little dress hung in the guest room in plastic and was never donned.  She ended up wearing it to many fancy occasions over the next decade, though, and it always suited her well.  To this day it looks brand new (good and faithful polyester), and though my mom did not wear a wedding dress the day she married my dad, her second husband, I will always have this dress.  I'd rather wear a piece of history, while eating Pad Thai with my husband at The Everday People's Cafe, than have a wedding dress in the attic that no one ever sees anyway.  Thanks, Mom, for keeping this dress for me:)