October 31, 2010

Such times

Daniel and I frequently re-watch movies (we have limited access to English-speaking entertainment).  This weekend, we have been plowing our way through the extended box set of The Lord of The Rings - again.  This time, a quote from Gandalf hit me like an elvish arrow to the heart: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The thing is, that just about sums it all up.  Frodo didn't ask for the ring, but he was the only one who could carry it, and so carry it, he did.  My sister-in-law and her husband did not ask for a daughter with severe health problems, but she is their daughter, and so they continue to live in a retro hotel room, in a city that is not their own, spending their days and nights in a hospital that sees more tears than a funeral parlor.  I'm sure they are frequently asked things like, "How do you do it, day after day?  How does your mother, who is in her sixties, keep up?  How do you keep going in a constant state of weariness, concern, uncertainty, and overwhelming love, all mixed together, when you have not been comfortably in your own home since July, or comfortable at all, for that matter?"  I'm sure that my heroin of a sister-in-law just smiles at them, undoubtedly sometimes through gritted teeth, but always with compassion, and says something like, "We don't do it because we have to, as you might think I would say.  We do it because we want to.  We have decided to.  We can't decide much of anything in this life, we know that now.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
And so, I will get out of bed before I am rested enough to do so, and I will walk down the hallway to retrieve the three-year-old who is hollering, "Sarah, it's 7:00!" (Zion has taken to calling me "Sarah" in the mornings), and I will put aside any thoughts of a time when my life was my own, and my days were like a blank canvas.  I will pull three sippy-cups down from the cabinet, filling them half-way with juice and half-way with water, and I will repent silently for ever wishing, even for a moment, that I was anywhere but here, with Daniel and Bright and Zion and Brave, in East Asia, freezing my aching feet off.  The ring has to be carried, regardless.  The diaper has to be changed.  Dinner has to be made.  Someone has to get the toy out of the toilet.  All that I have to decide is whether I am going to carry it grimly, wishing for this leg of my journey to pass, or whether I am going to carry it willingly, gratefully, and with honor.  That is the only choice any of us really have.

October 30, 2010

Just to thoroughly bore you

My email has been down for weeks and weeks.  If any of my friends who are not on Facebook have been waiting on an email response from me, that is why.  I will hopefully have it back up in a week. 

This is DEFINITELY the most boring Halloween post on the web.  Do I win a prize for that?

p.s.  Thank you, Lou, for commenting on my derrière:)

October 28, 2010

Off again.

As with most things over here, the internet is on again, off again.  Lately its been off again.  This has been nice for our home's organization level.  We have bought, washed out, and loaded four new storage bins of little boys' clothes, most of which are on their third rotation into storage.  Some day, when we stop snapping blue onesies between pairs of feisty legs, we will get rid of all these clothes and I will cry.

Also during our extended period of being cut off from the outside world, we have finally gotten around to printing photos like this one (courtesy of our very talented photographer, Becky) in obscenely large sizes to be framed and hung around on the sunny yellow walls of our apartment.
Getting photos printed here involves loading up our his-and-hers electric motorcycles with poncho-clad children and venturing out into the dreary, drizzly cold to park under a city tree and wait while Daddy negotiates our photo order in the Kodak shop for 45 minutes.  You can see why it has taken us nearly 3 months to get around to it.  Daniel did meet two very nice ginormous African men while waiting on his turn to talk to the photo clerk; two men who were particularly fond of strong English curse words and who were simultaneously (and perhaps consequently) hilarious.  Regarding the dreary, drizzly cold, I would like to point out that there is a rumor floating around over here that the government is seeding the clouds with rain to make up for the drought this summer.  It would not surprise me one bit.

One activity that we have not done in past internet-famines, however,was bringing large amounts of hot-pink corduroy to the tailor to be made into a chair cover and matching window seat cover for Jubilee's room.  SO MUCH FUN!  We just found out this week that the office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved us to adopt one child, under the age of 2, from The People's Republic of China!!!  We are now one giant step closer to being a family of six.  We will keep you posted (providing that we have internet, of course).

October 22, 2010

Morning has spoken

Morning.  Blue circles under my eyes.  Black coffee.  Icy chill filling our concrete apartment.  One lamp on in the living room, casting light down over the NIV that I bought at Baker Book House back in college.  I read:

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you..."  Psalm 143:8

I begin to pray, and as my soul gives way to conversation with G0D, the morning stars fizzle and give way to this:
Morning has spoken.

October 20, 2010

31 years

Daniel has been on this earth for 31 years.  He has walked faithfully with his Maker for most of those years.  He has loved me for nine of them, making me the happiest woman alive. He has been a (truly impressive) father for 5 of them.  He has spoken a very difficult Eastern language for 2 of them.  He has been incredibly kind and sincere and passionate and magnetic and admirable for all of them.
I love you, Daniel Rupp.  The 63 weeks of nausea and vomiting and 30 total hours of labor that I have endured to do my part in building this family with you have been worth it.  I would do it all 100 times over to spend this short life by your side.  I look forward to raising these kids with you, now, and traveling the world, and dreaming up ways to spend lazy Sunday afternoons.  I look forward to family movie nights and backpacking with our slew of boys (and girl:), and to holidays of baking my brains out to put a smile on your face.  Happy Birthday, Babe, and love always, from the bottom of my heart.
Me, in our kitchen, preparing Cajun Chicken Pasta for Daniel's birthday dinner (the internet let me load this pic but not ANY of the pics I tried to load of the actual birthday boy...grrr)

October 18, 2010

Our blessing, and our curse

Two months ago, these people were strangers.  Now they are like family.  Such is the nature of our lives here.
Two weekends ago we went on a retreat with them, to bring the daily grind down to a heart-level.  It was a beautiful and blessed time.
The island  across the lake from our hotel (to which we ventured by giant row-boat and over which we hiked)

The giant row-boats, docked.
The whole lot of us, on our hike, including our dear friends, the Greenes.
One of the most difficult aspects of what we do is that folks like us stay on, year after year, while fabulous friends like this head back to the States each summer.  It is our blessing, and our curse.
It is better to have loved and lost, though, and we are loving it up in the Spring City this October!

October 12, 2010

Sooo last week

My aunt, me, and my mom in front of our house, circa 1990
I am old.

No Duh, you might say (depending on what generation you are from).

I am totally aware of my age every Tuesday when our friends come over for grub.  Four of these friends graduated from college this year.  I graduated from college 8 years ago, and I've spent the last 6 years staring at diaper rashes and applying dark circle concealer.  Let's just say that eight years is a long time in terms of popular culture.  Really?  How much you wanna make a bet?  Really!  Sheeyaaah!

Case in point:  One friend says, while preparing to leave, "After this round, I'm going to have to peace."  Daniel and I thought he said "pee" and we offered him the bathroom.  He looked at us like we had just peeled off our "with it" masks and revealed our true elderly identities.  "I said peace," he said, "As in I've got to go."


We are old, y'all.

October 11, 2010

Pimento Cheese-Stuffed Fried Chicken Breasts

I thought I would pass along a recipe that East Asia's Martha Stewart my friend, Brooke, passed along to me as her husband's favorite meal.  Daniel gorged himself on it, and then heated some up for breakfast in the morning.  Need I say more?

NOTE: Use the recipe below for homemade Pimento Cheese (don't stuff the chicken with the Wal-Mart Deli stuff) and I recommend roasting the red peppers yourself as directed. The leftover cheese is AWESOME the next day on crackers.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 t salt
½ t. pepper
½ cup milk
1 large egg
1½-2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1⅓ cups Pimento Cheese (see recipe)

Combine the following:
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces pimentos, or 1-2 roasted red peppers diced (Place peppers on foil-lined pan. Brush with olive oil. Roast at 400° until they start to turn black, turning periodically. Wrap in foil to sweat the peel off. Wait until cool. Peel and dice.)
½ cup mayo (more if making for a sandwich spread)
2 T finely chopped onion
1 T Worcestershire
¼ t salt
⅛ t pepper

(If making in East Asia, soak chicken in water with meat tenderizer for several hours)
Beat the chicken (not too thin or you will not be able to “stuff” it). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together milk and egg. Pour bread crumbs into a separate medium-sized bowl. Dip chicken in milk mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs.
Pour oil to 1.8 inch deep in a large pan. Over med-high heat, cook chicken about 10 min on each side (maybe a little more) until deep golden brown but not darkened or black.
Put the Chicken on a baking pan lined with foil. Cut a slit in the side of each breast. Spoon ⅓ cup pimento cheese into each piece. Bake at 350° for about 2-3 min until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

October 09, 2010

In Kerry's words

Below is the text from an email that my sister-in-law (Glory's mom) sent out a few days ago.  I had to share.

    I saw myself the other day…I mean the “old me”.  I saw her in a young wife chasing after her daughter at the Fall Festival in the Hillcrest neighborhood close to our hotel.   She was dressed stylishly…matching jewelry, really cute boots, and no doubt was worrying about getting her kids in bed by 8.  Maybe thinking about what leotard she would dress her daughter in for dance class the next day.  Maybe wondering what gourmet dinner she would cook tomorrow night when the couple from church come over to visit and let the kids play.  Maybe wondering when they will fit in their daily family Bib1e story with all the places they have to go the next day.  Worried about her daughter eating a funnel cake for dinner, and thinking that tomorrow she will try to get her to eat extra veggies. 
    I felt like an outsider…like I no longer fit in with this world.  I had on my everyday outfit which consists of worn-out jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  It’s a good day when I wear any jewelry at all.  I have dark circles under my eyes, and haven’t yet found time to get to the store to get make-up to cover them.  I’m just happy to be getting my 3-year old out in society for a few minutes to run around and play.  We have no oven and a non-working stove, so Eliana does not get many meals prepared by me.  No doubt she will be in bed after 10 tonight.  We’ll read in her Bib1e for a few minutes before bed, but there won’t be any family Bib1e study or devotional.  Sometimes just the knowledge that my youngest daughter is in CVICU and fighting for her life is more than I can bear to think about.
    One day I will again wear something other than a t-shirt and tennis shoes.  I will again worry about what to cook for dinner, or whether Eliana should take dance or gymnastics.  I will have a bedtime set, and my family will once again benefit from a church curriculum.
    But I’ll never be who I used to be.  I’ll enjoy the same things as I used to eventually, but it will never be the same.  I’ll enjoy them differently…in a different light.  Praise G0D!!  I’m being transformed, and sometimes it scares me.  Who am I turning into?  I found comfort in what I used to value.
    “…The L0RD gave me what I had, and the L0RD has taken it away.  Praise the name of the L0RD!”  Job 1:21.
    I’m learning that as G0D strips me of who I used to be, he replaces it with an unfailing trust in Him.  My prayer is that G0D will teach Eliana in this season through the example of her parents, grandparents, family, and friends.  That somehow she will see this season (although it is not always fun and her parents are by no means perfect) as an example of our invitation to suffer with Chr!st and the joy and blessings that come from it. 
The update on Glory is this:  they were unable to connect her esophagus to her stomach at this time, but she needs oral stimulation now or she will never develop it.  So, they have surgically run her esophagus out her upper chest area (underneath her shirt) where her "practice food" will drain.  She will continue to be fed nourishment through a feeding tube directly into her stomach, meanwhile.  This will go on until she is 2 or 3 years old.  All of this is in addition to her Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  The really good news is that Glory is strong and her heart is doing well, which means she should be in great shape going into her second open heart surgery and between now and then she might even be able to leave the hospital!  Keep praying, friends.  Keep praying!

October 06, 2010

Ringing in my 30's

My hubby took me out to a fab Thai restaurant for spring rolls and cashew chicken and mango sticky rice.  Entertainment was provided by the questionable Asian rodeo on the big screen TV over the bar; by my biting into a pepper that was floating in my curry soup, an action that started the room spinning and I nearly went down; and by the laughable antics of John Greene and his fantastic wife, Alisa.
I just have to say that I LOVE Alisa.
 After some window shopping at the city's ritziest mall, where we saw a watch with a $30,000 price tag, and a desert stop for Gelato at a place overlooking the city, we headed to The Green Lake Hotel (sans John and Alisa).  This was the view from our room.
These were the complimentary breakfast fruits that I devoured when I was up at 6 a.m. waiting on Daniel to rouse from his out-without-the-kids hibernation.
After scrambled eggs with stir-fried wild mushrooms at The Prague cafe, we sauntered home and this was among the birthday cards that were waiting for me.  He wouldn't let his babysitters, the Hedden girls, help him at all.  You make my heart SING, Bright Eugene!
This was the outfit that I wore out with my girlfriends (Kristy, Alisa, Karis, Marianne, Lindsey, Shelley, Anita, Krista, and Liz) for my birthday lunch at Salvador's where we shared three orders of their scrumptious bean dip and I slurped down my usual pumpkin soup.  Thanks, Mom, for the darling birthday jacket!
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway...I had a GREAT 30th birthday!

October 04, 2010

Remembering my pack

Cool, clear mornings like this one - in which I am drinking a strong cup of black coffee, and fresh air is coming through my screen-less bathroom window - I am taken back to the days when my strong back was frequently laden with 40 lbs of camping gear and my soccer-cleat-battered feet were stuffed into my trusty hiking boots.

I haven't been on the trail in over 6 years now.  My "strong back" now has a slight arch, no doubt, from carrying 35 lbs of baby weight out front, three times over.

I am turning 30 tomorrow.  I remember when I was 19 and I spent every cent of my savings (5 years worth of babysitting and candle-carving money), paired with a loan from my Dad, to fly across the world alone and hike the Australian outback.  There was nothing in the world that I feared back then.

Now, 11 years later, I am back to my fighting weight, and my hair is grown long and straight just like it was back then.  I am once again drinking black coffee, and I once again fear nothing.  Alot has happened between that hike and this morning.  As I pack my overnight bag today for the birthday outing that my amazing husband has planned in my honor, I will not be packing a water filter or a camp stove  - but I will be packing my well-worn Bib1e and a heart of gratitude for all the many ways that my Maker has fulfilled my dreams.

Best day yet

This evening, Bright made it all the way across the monkey bars - by himself - for the first time.
 Afterward, he looked down over his shoulder at me and said, in his tough-guy voice, "This is my best day yet."

The perks of homeschooling are countless.  I not only get to be the one who teaches him to read and write and add, but I am there when he makes it across the monkey bars.  

October 02, 2010

Better than nothing

Yesterday, Daniel was catching a cab when he spotted this tiny red bike for sale.  He stepped over to it, purchased it, brought it directly up to our apartment, and proceeded to tinker with it in the mudroom until he had it just right for our little Zion.  Zion, who has been content without a bike because he is so sweet and only ever begs for love, was ELATED with Daddy's four-wheeled surprise.  He took off on it like a champ out in the courtyard later that afternoon and his cuteness nearly took our breath away.

There are days with these children that my love for them literally drives me into another room to cry.  I cry because I want them to have all the best of everything in this life - the healthiest food, the best education, the most nurturing social environments, the most accurate view of G0D, the best memories, the happiest days.  What breaks my heart is that their primary caretaker is broken and flawed.  It doesn't get any better for them than you, Daniel says.  The sad thing is, he's right.

Before we had any children, Daniel brought home some audio teachings out of Kansas City that scared the b'jeebers out of me.  I don't want to bring children into this world, I told Daniel after hearing the teachings.  This world is not good enough for them.  They will suffer.  They will hurt.  They are better off not being born at all.  The combination of my biological clock and our desire to let G0D decide who is better off born or not drove these thoughts to the back of my mind and we were soon pregnant.  With each new positive pregnancy test I have had to beat back the pity I have for the poor little thing in my abdomen, happily growing in his warm bubble, completely unaware of the wasteland that awaits him.  I am not a negative person by nature, and I LOVE life and all the joy that it brings.  Life is good enough for me, you see, it's just not good enough for them.  I want perfection for them.  I guess, however, something is better than nothing at all.  I pray that they will know, all the days of their lives, that if I could have, I would have given them the moon.