I woke up with anxiety because I had eaten the entire dish of Indian yogurt last night and that stuff is richer than the guys who startled Google. The worry train took off down the track at that point, and I wasn't even out of bed! Why can we not find the other two hammers from the boys' tool set? We need three hammers because we have three boys! They can't have walked off on their own. Oh my, what will the pumpkin shortage mean for us? If America is short on canned pumpkin, you know they won't be sending their excess to Asia for us to buy in our import stores at outrageous prices. What will Thanksgiving be this year without family OR pumpkin pie?! Oh darn, I forgot to thank Danielle yesterday for her quick response to my email. I must get online right now and thank her, even before I go to the window seat to read the holy book. Uh-oh, now I am feeling guilty because I gave the first fruits of my day to Danielle! Oh, my depravity! Chug, chug goes the guilt train now, puffing down its well-worn track.
I am a complete mess by the time I plant myself in the window seat. I look out over the rainy city, and I feel absolutely awful as I open John 4. I read, and read, blah blah blah blah, down the page. Then comes verse 10. There is ALWAYS a verse 10, isn't there? That one verse that won't let you keep wallowing in the comfortable excuse of your sin.
Chr!st said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of G0D and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." That daft Samaritan had the savior of the world right in front of her face and she was worried about their cultural differences. I sat on that window seat with the savior of the world right in front of my face and I was worried about toy hammers and calories and email etiquette and pumpkin pie! He said "If you knew the gift" that sits before you now, you would not need to drink the things of this world, but you would ask for a drink from me and I would give you living water.
So, I repented for being an idiot and tearfully asked the L0RD for a drink. Like the Samaritan, who left her jar behind when she ran into the world because now she herself was the jar, I traded my cans of Libby's for that of which there can never be a shortage. I am still shallow enough, however, to request a pumpkin pie recipe that uses actual pumpkin. Any leads?
p.s. The pic is from last year. I couldn't resist.
You might remember my mentioning a nastalgic love for the book, Bread and Jam for Frances. After the librarian practically had to pry it from my hands this last time, I decided we needed our own copy. A few clicks on Amazon.com this summer in the States and we had a copy in our hands.
Let me warn you NOT to buy books from the HarperCollins "I Can Read" line. Nowhere on the cover of these books, neither front nor back, will tell you that they have been - in the words of the HarperCollins customer service rep that I waged an email war with - "lightly abridged for the early reader."
The horror is that someone reading Bread and Jam for Frances who had not grown up with it would not know that it was missing some of its words. It was that close to the original. Why was I so irate, then, you might ask? Because we are talking about classic childrens' literature that has been tampered with WITHOUT MENTIONING so anywhere in or on the book. How many kids out there who's first exposure to Bread and Jam for Frances are not aware that she spread her lunch out on a doily? Oh, just throw that wordout, the editors must have said (22-year-old kids, no doubt, who grew up watching Barney). No one says the word "doily" anymore. Did you know that "doily" was originally the name of a fabric made by Doiley, a 17th-century London draper? No, you didn't, and neither will the next generation of readers.
Needless to say I was quite hot over this whole word-snuffing outrage. I told HarperCollins to be more careful in the future, as there might be someone like me who has more time on their hands and could make things very uncomfortable for them. Daniel, who was in the bath during this particular rant and needed a washcloth, simply said, "That's nice, honey, will you throw me a doily?"
Around 8am this morning Bright and I (Daniel, because I never blog…) hopped on my electric motorcycle and headed for the mountains. I had no real plan other than I wanted us to make it to the top. Rain was imminent, testosterone was high, and adventure was a guarantee – more so than I expected.
There’s lots of mountains all around our city. Our apartment sits at about 6,212 feet (according to Google Earth, my favorite program ever) and the spot we wanted to hit was right at 7,165 – almost a 1,000 foot climb. As we approached the base of the mountains I was looking for a saddle or finger that we could make our way up. I eyed one and we just started making our way to it. Before I realized it, we were driving through a turret factory. Turret, as in they were making turrets for tanks there. We were well into the place before one of the guards stopped us.
Ok, we’ll be going to jail now – I thought... I played the I-have-a-white-kid card and explained that my son has been wanting to go to the top of the mountain and asked if he could point me in the right direction. He did just that. We continued on through the turret factory, out it’s back gate and onto a mountain road. It was really muddy so we couldn’t go very far because my electric bike barely goes on the road much less up a mud slide.
We pulled over at a little shack where a little man quickly put a leash on his extremely old dog as if it was going to eat us – I took it as a gesture of hospitality and we parked there. I asked him how to get up the mountain and he simply pointed up… Thank you sir... I figured we’d take the road till we found some sort of trail, but these mountains are straight up and the road was loaded down with the standard issue huge blue dump trucks that billow exhaust and have horns so loud they pierce your soul.
Truck after truck let us know we shouldn’t be there, and starting to think I shouldn’t have my son here… Until, one of the trucks stops and the passenger door flings open. YES! Why would I not hitchhike in this situation? The driver and I were soon fast friends. He was an extremely nice guy and graciously took us almost all the way up the incredibly terrible road. Suddenly, up ahead I saw a great spot to get off and make the last few hundred feet to the peak on foot. So we hopped out and were within striking distance of the summit.
Bear Grills always says you never know how steep something is until you rub noses with it. And there’s a reason why he’s famous and I’m just some guy with a child carrier on my back trying to hitchhike up a mountain. It was a lot more serious than I thought, but Bright took it like a champ. The last thirty to forty yards were too steep for me to hold his hand and help us climb so he jumped into the carrier to finish it out. We came up the back side of the mountain, walked over the top and saw our city below. We had done it!
Just then two goats jumped up from being bedded down and scared the crap out of me! I raised my fists as if they were going to punch me or something. Bright and I stood in wonder of the “mountain goats” – actually quite regular and tame goats but because of the context how could I possibly tell him we hadn’t encountered some wild animals? We stopped to enjoy some water and Bright’s first Snickers bar, with the goats lazily staying nearby. We were men together, we had braved the mountain, the goats, and we celebrated.
On the way down it poured on us. Bright was back on my back and we were under an umbrella though seriously soaked. He said, “I like the top and the bottom but the middle of mountain climbing is kind of difficult.” I agreed. Back on the road again, we were headed down. Except now the road had become an ankle deep stream with all the runoff water. It was awesome. The trucks were lurching up and down the mountain so slow that we were making almost as good of time as they were, until I stepped knee deep into a mud pit with Bright still on my back… Way too much fun, Bright loved it.
Soon another kind man, this time in a red dump truck, was kind enough to take us down the mountain to the man with the very old dog that was once again put back on his leash for everyone’s safety. He sent us away with some fruit and a smile. I had already said goodbye when I realized my motorcycle wasn’t working… I think some rain ran down into my throttle because I was showing a lot of juice but getting nothing when I pulled back on it. So we pushed it through the ditch, onto the road, and coasted down the mountain. I tried two different repair shops – the first of which was low on staff probably because they were asleep… the second of which were more than happy to take my bike apart but were not able to actually make it work.
Finally I gave up. I pushed it down the road for quite a while and pulled over to a man who was smoking a cigarette out of a huge bong thing they use here. He was elated to see us and loved the idea of me parking my bike there. As I was explaining the problem to him my bike suddenly worked! Questionable? Yes.. rain water in an electric motorcycle. But I didn’t want to leave it with cigarette man, so we chanced it, and after it cutting in and out for a few hundred yards it ran perfectly all the way home for a shower and lunch. As we drove off I turned around and pointed up to the top, which was still covered in rain clouds, “We climbed that Bright, you and me.”
For the longest time we had two boys and a baby. We would say, "You take the boys, I'll take the baby." Now that Brave is walking and hollering and wielding a foam sword of his own, we are fast becoming mom and dad to three little boys.
What a daily test of every ounce of our patience blessing!!!
Yes, we do have date nights. Every Wednesday evening Daniel shaves and opens the cologne bottle, I bust out the eye shadow and fitted jeans, and we hop on Daniel's electric bike and off we go.
Three Wednesdays ago it was Cacajas, the Indian place down on Wun Lin Jie, for Chicken Masala, chai tea, and Indu Suan Nai (Indian yogurt, THE BEST desert in town).
Two Wednesdays ago it was Feiyan Tepanyaki (Japanese steakhouse) for cubed sirloin, grilled zucchini, and a personal chef with a tall hat and fast hands.
Last night it was The Vintage Cafe down by the alley, French owned and run, for lamb and blue cheese salad and chicken pesto paninis. Then, because it was a holiday (The Mid-Autumn Festival) we headed to Green Lake Park where Daniel paid 5 kuai for cotton candy from a guy who was pedaling it off the back of his bicycle. When I say pedaling, I actually mean pedaling. As he pedalled, the back wheel ran the motor that spun the sugar into cotton candy. Fascinating and delicious. With our cotton candy in hand, we walked through the lantern-lit park, the only foreigners amidst thousands of local celebrators, and we listened to opera singers reminiscent of ancient times, and we browsed the merchant booths, and we watched the lights (that adorn the eaves of the sloping tile roofs) as they danced off of the still water. As the smells of milk-sweetened popcorn and fire-roasted meats followed us along our way, we marveled at the fact that what would be for some couples a once-in-a-lifetime, long-awaited, and very expensive vacation was for us, simply, date night.
Too bad we forgot our camera.
(and too bad the lamb salad, or maybe the cotton candy from the back of a rusted bicycle, sent me to bed early with stomach pain that would cripple a vulture)
This is an actual sign on an actual cage at the wild animal park here in our city (notice the way that "believe" is misspelled). I was thinking about this sign yesterday, and it's implications. Beyond the obvious humor of it, I was thinking about how "strongly believing in Rebirth" (with a capital "R") affects the way that I live. I should still restrain myself from stupidity and not climb over the short cage wall at the wild animal park, but I am free to do the things that I would not otherwise do if I thought this life was all that there was.
I would never move to another country, for example, in the prime of my life, making it impossible to share the day-to-day with the ones that I love. I would never leave my parents in one of the last decades of their vitality so that I am left reading their blog about their bike rides in other states and their outings with their two "remaining" grandkids. If I didn't believe that I will have an eternity with my parents, I would still be in the USA. If I didn't believe that my sons will spend millions and millions of years hanging out with their uncles, we would be there now. If I didn't believe that Sue Sue will once again pat my leg and call me "sugar," I would have bit the bullet and flew back for her funeral this month so that I could say a final goodbye. But there are no final goodbyes for those who believe in the One who conquered death forever on the cross. We are free to give these short lives up for the purpose of helping more people, across the globe, join the ranks of those who will live forever with the King of Kings.
This is Zion's favorite book. If you've never read this charming book to your small children, the three owls are siblings who are wondering where their mother has gone. The oldest, Sarah, is certain that everything will be ok. The second owl, Percy, is a bit uncertain but remains hopeful. Sweet little Bill just keeps saying, "I want my mommy." Bill, who adores his mommy. Bill, who doesn't care where she has gone or why, as long as she returns. Bill, who finishes the book (there is a happy reunion, by the way) with the exclamation, "I love my mommy!" Bill, who is exactly who Zion would be if he had been born an owl. My dear, sweet, adoring little "Bill."
"Glory is continuing to do really well overall...she is in CVICU 'step-down' unit where parents provide most of the care around the clock. She is scheduled for esophagus surgery on October 11th...please pray that she will continue to improve and that they will be able to connect her esophagus [to her stomach] at that time. Please look at the new pics...to see what your prayers have done....thank you for partnering with us." -Kerry Morton, my sister-in-law and the around-the-clock mommy of sweet Glory Danielle
Daniel (a.k.a. Uncle D) with Glory when he was back in the states this month.
...when we ate fresh bread from our bread machine in the mornings because the bakery bread had an aftertaste.
...when my husband would bring me fresh flowers when he brought home the milk.
...when I wrote my kindergarten lesson plan on a notebook each night.
...when I taught the kids in the courtyard on a blanket. I never want to forget: Bright and Zion dressed in their dragon pajamas because we are currently reading "My Father's Dragon;" our picnic snack of raisins, cut-up hot dogs, and pretzels that we ate lying down after washing our hands in a bowl of water, all just like the Romans (we are studying the Romans in history class); and me at 49 kg (you do the math and then feel free to be proud of me).
...when our toy bins were labeled in two languages.
...when we had to make our own graham crackers.
...when Bright's handwriting lesson included characters.
...when a little cartoon panda bear named Little Pim was the kids' first language instructor.
We should have turned in last night, but we stayed up late and watched the BBC miniseries Sherlock. Six hours later my alarm went off and it was raw determination that got me out of bed and into the window seat to read John 20 and pray for my family and plead for energy, patience and perspective for the grinding out of another day.
Today was day 1,618 of my motherhood (including Leap Year, of course). After crawling out of my window seat, I burst into tears. Daniel in his towel, dripping and steaming from his morning bath, came to my side and listened to me cry and cry about my life (he's heard it all before).
"I am set up to fail!" I wailed. "Every morning I face a day of work that tests my patience at every bend and if I make one mistake I break a little heart, if even for a moment. How does one hold up under that kind of pressure?! And tell, TELL ME, who on this earth can make it to the end of the day with three young children and all the squabbling and whining and time-outs and spankings and diapers and butt-wiping and outfit-changes and sippy-cup lid malfunctions and busted lips and "take three more bites or you won't get a cookie" and on and on and on (on top of trying to run a kindergarten) WITHOUT losing one's patience at least ONCE? Introduce me to this person and I will faint, I really will!!!"
*sobbing into hands*
"It's pride," my husband quietly says. I look up at him with relief. If my problem is my own pride, I can do something about that. If the problem is my own sin, THANK G0D because that can go away!
"Go on," I say.
"If the success of your day is measured by whether or not you can make it through your day without making any mistakes, then you are under the impression that the power is in your hands. That's pride."
"To think that you can make or break these kids, that's pride. The success of your day should be measured by whether or not you gleaned the treasure G0D intended to give you that day - the unique treasure that can only be found in the unique circumstances you are in. Our trials are a breeding ground for the things of G0D that we long for. Grab them. Don't miss them. In your weakness, his power is perfected."
Right about that time, the kids began hollering, "It's 7:00!" from their rooms (they are not allowed out of their beds until we fetch them). I looked at Daniel through puffy eyes and smiled.
"And so it begins," I said.
He laughed and said, "It's like in Gladiator when they are standing ready to enter the Coliseum and they hear shouts and stomps from the people of Rome..."
"And they are peeing themselves," I point out.
Daniel laughs again, "Strength and honor, baby, strength and honor."
We named him Brave, thinking it would help him to overcome the adversaries in his life. We did not anticipate him overcoming the tables, the couch, his older brothers, his lunch bowl, the baseball bat, or the pitch of the next-loudest kid in the room. We knew we were in trouble this summer when he crawled straight into the waves at the beach and kept on crawling to his would-have-been-death. It doesn't help that he is now a 1-year-old, and everybody knows that 1-year-olds, like puppies, always head for the nearest source of bacteria (the toilet, the trash, his poop-covered thingy) whenever off leash.
Should we have named him something more neutral, like Joey or Tim or Cornelius? Nah.
In looking through old pictures for a memorial project I am working on in honor of Sue Sue, I came across this picture of Daniel when he was a kid around the time that we met.
This is EXACTLY the way he was when I first laid eyes on him. It was Spring Break, 2001, in Memphis, TN, and we were both there for two reasons: to fix up houses as a way of spreading the love of Chr!st, and to meet each other (even if we didn't know it). He was dirty and cocky and recklessly in love with the L0RD.
When the one who was never made and will never end decided to create all of this, he knew. He knew that it wouldn't be the stars or the canyons or the tide that would make us tick. He knew that the good stuff would be "the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones, and the light of the lamp" (Jer 25:10). He also knew that to take these things from us would "completely destroy" us (Jer 25:9).
On days when the creator is on the background of my mind, I forget that he is the one who provided a way for the workmen to finally cover our squattie toilet with a real one. He is the one who brought daddy back from America safely, lookin' all hot in his Top Gun T-shirt and Tom Cruise shades (that is a true miracle, lookin' hot after a 30 hour trip).
He is the one who is giving us the reason to paint the nursery pink.
We've NEVER seen a rolling pan and roller in that color at our house before. Ex-CI-ting.
He knows whats up. As he so perfectly puts it in Jeremiah, it's falling in love, good hard work, bread, and evenings of rest with family and friends that make this life worth living. Our job is to remember that not one crumb of coffee cake graces our lips that didn't get there by his good graces alone.
I always, ALWAYS forget to carry our (very big and clumsy) camera when we go out into the sunshine every afternoon before dinner.
Today, I grabbed the thing and stuck it under the stroller so that those of you who have not been, nor ever will be here can visualize afternoon playtime for the Rupps.
The view from Brave's bedroom window while we put on our socks in preparation for playtime:
The crazy white kids running around the play yard:
Brave in the play yard, with a peer and his/her grandmother. It is impossible to tell small boys from girls because they shave all heads so their hair will grow in thicker and they dress all babies in pink. Also, it is rare to see a small child out to play with his/her actual mother, for she is always at work making money, like her husband, to support her parents or in-laws while they stay home and care for the small child (only one child, since that is the law).
The store beside the play yard from which I purchase eggs, milk, and juice while the kids play. I could also buy, should I fancy, beer for the equivalent of $0.50 a can, liquor, glass dishes, candies, nuts, dried fruits, pickled everything-under-the-sun, butchered animals of different sorts, one bazillion different kinds of mushrooms, Coke (of course), a truly delicious array of vegetables, cleaning supplies, shampoo, ink pens, cigarettes, red-bean-flavored yogurt, or cuts from jiggling slabs of tofu.
The wonton makers in the store across the way. This store, other than fresh daily wontons, sells mostly oil, rice, vinegars, green leafy vegetables, packaged rice noodle soups, and toiletries of all kinds.
The view looking up as we begin our walk back to our door:
The hen we stop to visit on our walk back to our door:
The tea house that we pass just before our gate entrance:
A nice lady from the tea house who emerges to play with Brave. She actually speaks some English, and the kids are delighted!
We have been reading The Boxcar Children, and so naturally when Daddy announced that he was going away for a week, Bright declared himself "Henry," the oldest of the boxcar children and the one who goes into town for work and who fixes things and protects the other children.
When I fell ill this weekend, My Little Henry (pictured here with "Mat Man," the way to get a kid to draw if he doesn't like to draw) really stepped it up. He was picking up the house "so it wouldn't look junky," and being extra nice to his brothers, and keeping his attitude in check, all on his own! He would even stop by the couch periodically to lay his little hands on me and pray for my recovery.
Last night I was disappointed with something he did and I let him know it, and then later as I was on my way to bed, I thought about what a wonderful "Henry" he had been for me this week and I felt bad for being so hard on him. I snuck into his room, climbed into his bunk, and whispered "I love you" into his little ear.
What would the world be like without little boys? Not a very good world, that's for sure, and I would not be a very good woman without mine.
I am at home, of sorts. I am sick. I guess that makes me home, sick. And homesick.
A very unfriendly virus has decided to prey on me, leaving me listless and shivering and in several kinds of pain. Daniel is still in America. My boys are still young, and the amount of work it takes to keep them dressed and fed is enough to bring me to tears when my very bones seem to be aching and I can't swallow nor keep anything in my stomach.
Don't worry too much, Mom. Remember that I am dramatic, especially in writing.
I am taking Amoxicillin, though I doubt this thing will go down that easily. What I would like to do is praise my friends here in this city for picking up the reins and going out of their way to help us. Before I got sick, my friend Amy took me out for coffee to get me out of the house. Since getting sick, Brooke, Marianne, Anita, and Alisa have brought food, milk, and juice. Jeremy brought me the antibiotics. Alisa and John, with the help of our new friends Kate and Michelle (and maybe Kristy, I'm not sure) took all three boys to the fields this afternoon to let them run, and then fed them dinner on a picnic blanket. While they were gone, I took a long nap, sipped on a bowl of egg drop soup followed by a bit of strawberry jello with whipped cream, and enjoyed the quiet and some rest.
Though it would be nice not to be on the other side of the world from my husband and my mom, I am enjoying the bright Spring City sunshine and the warmth of my own bed. Just now I felt the wind blow in and it smelled like ginger and onions and mountains. I am alone in the house (I mean, apartment) in a city that was as foreign to me two years ago as the moon, probably more so, and yet, because people are good enough to care, I am going to be ok.
I was helping Daniel pack for America two days ago. This time, he was packing his black suit and black dress shoes. Two ties, one for the visitation, and one for the funeral. Two white undershirts. Two pair of dress socks. A good razor for a close, respectful shave. Tylenol to ease the pounding of any unwanted stress headaches. Dramamine to keep him asleep when he should be, seeing that this is his second global trip in a month.
He came out from the bedroom with his dress pants on, a horrified look on his face.
"I can't get them buttoned!" he admitted with alarm. I looked down at his 29-inch-wasted pants and sure enough, they were zipped but not buttonable (never mind the fact that his incredibly slim waste was still as flat as a board).
"Well," I said, as kindly as I could from the perspective of one with stretch marks that could land me a gig in the freak show, "You haven't had those pants on in two years. You're 30 now. Everyone's bodies change as they get older."
"Not MINE," he pleaded, and something about the hunk that I married realizing his own mortality endeared him to me in a new way. His body looks the same to me, and is undoubtedly envied by 30-year-old guys everywhere, but for him the unforgivable button was putting an end to the illusion that death might somehow pass him by.
Death passes by no one.
This weekend, as Daniel wears his black suit (I moved the button) and bends over his grandmother's carefully powdered face to weep, we are 8,000 miles away and grieving in our own ways. Bright has been talking out loud to Sue Sue, having conversations with her, teasing her and laughing with her. I have been scanning through old photo files, studying her hands and her chin and the way that she looked at my kids. Otherwise our daily routine is much the same. I apply lotion to my crows feet every morning, trying to slow the process. I put Splenda in my morning coffee because my metabolism isn't what it used to be. I count down the days until my husband comes back, and from there the days until my Savior comes back, to make everything ok again.