October 31, 2011

Tragedy and THE HELP

Most people like the book, “The Help,”and for good reason.  It is a superb book.  Though, I have to say, the whole thing hit a little too close to home this weekend, as I frantically devoured it three nights ago, finishing up sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  Daniel, meanwhile, was driving through the night with our help, Xiao Fu, and a hoard of her closest friends and family.  Xiao Fu, who held my hair back when I was pregnant with Brave, who came with us to meet Jubilee, who brought her friends to lay hands on every wall in our house when Zion was struggling, who makes me chicken noodles with cilantro and lemon when I’m sick – my dear Xiao Fu wailed hysterically on-and-off for the whole 9-hour trip back to her village. No one in the car dared ask her to stop.  Her older brother had just fallen to his death, after all. 
Earlier that day, I had heard an eerie howling sound coming from the other room.  I dashed around the corner and saw Xiao Fu, who the kids call Ayi, collapsed into a heap on the floor of our mud room with her cell phone in hand.  That eerie sound was coming from her gaping mouth. 

I called Daniel to come home right away, and then I fell to my knees beside her, trying to keep her from hurting herself while she thrashed and wailed.  I asked Bright to bring us a pillow, which he did with lightning speed. 

“What’s wrong with Ayi, Mama?” Bright asked when he returned with the pillow. 

“She just received news that her big brother has died,”I said, which is what I was piecing together.  “He has fallen off a mountain.”

Bright and Zion then went straight to work with the markers and construction paper, making sympathy cards.  The first one Bright brought out was on a hot pink strip of cardstock and it read, in brown marker, “Cher Up!”, with a heart drawn next to it.  He laid it at the feet of his precious Ayi, who was lying in my arms, and then he went right back to the school room to make more. 

Xiao Fu’s friend, who works in a foreigner’s home on the 4th floor of our building, came pounding on the door.  I let her in, and she fell down beside Xiao Fu, her yellow ruffled maid’s apron still tied around her waist.  She herself lost a brother in a tragic accident last year, and her tears were still fresh.  I moved to the background then, sensing that I was not a part of this moment.  I am not one of them, in my Chaco sandals and my sterling silver earrings, unable to speak but a few stupid sentences in their language.  I hung my head and began to pray.

When Daniel arrived, he dropped to the floor and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, like a brother would, while she beat her chest and cried, “Ge Ge Wo ai ni!!”  (which means, “Big Brother, I love you”)  Even though Daniel could have spoken to her, he did not.  His arms were still and strong, and she seemed to relax in them, just a little.  I knelt a few feet away, praying and crying quietly, wishing this had not happened.  Wishing her brother had been sick this morning and stayed in bed, instead of going up the mountain with the goats, like he had done thousands of times before. 

This was only the second tragic emergency of my lifetime.  The first time was when I was a teenager, and I watched a maintenance man die of a heart attack, right before my eyes.  I watched as the paramedics tried to revive him, watched his skin turn blue, and then gray.  I made a plaque in his honor out of plaster in art class the following week.  His name was Erk.

It didn’t take long for it to become clear: Daniel would be driving Xiao Fu and her people to their village, 9 hours away.  There is no train that goes there, and we are the only folks she knows with both a vehicle and a driver’s license.  It was 4 O’clock in the afternoon, and we would have to cancel dinner for friends we were planning to host that evening, but we knew Daniel had to go.  When he offered, the people who say no to everything the first two times, said yes right away.  Their usual pride was gone.  They needed the white guy in his green polar fleece, and they needed him right quick.  Daniel had one hour to regroup, eat two tuna fish sandwiches, grab some bottled water and a toothbrush, and head out the door.
The kids overheard me asking friends over the phone to pray, as the roads are not good and the way is not lit.  I felt bad for the kids.  They were sad and worried.

“You know what, guys?” I said, suddenly realizing something.  “We have no need to worry.  Not only because G0D is going to protect Daddy and Ayi and the other mourners, but because if there is anybody in the world that I would trust driving a bunch of people in a cheap van over mountain roads at night, it’s your daddy.”  And I meant it, too.  One of the first times my crush on Daniel really flared up, back in 2001, happened while watching the ease and fluidity with which he backed a truck and trailer into a tight parking spot in downtown Memphis.  Being an Arkansas country boy does come in handy from time to time. 

At some point, I spilled grape juice all over my kitchen, which won’t get it’s usual attention for weeks now that “the help” is 9 hours away and broken into a million tiny pieces.  I got down on my knees with a wet dishrag to wipe sticky purple spots from every inch of cabinetry, thinking about Xiao Fu thrashing around like a fish in the bottom of a boat.  My heart was so heavy that I thought it might spill right out onto the juice stains.  I just wished so badly that this had not happened.

At 2:48 a.m., I got a call from Daniel.  They had made it to Xiao Fu's village, a cluster of mud structures high, high up in the cold mountains, where men wear furs and cows sleep in the living room.  I hung up the phone and closed my eyes,“The Help” still by my pillow.  I missed my husband, and I missed Xiao Fu, and I missed the illusion, which comes and goes in life, that everything is OK. 

“L0RD,” I whispered, on my way to sleep, “help us.”

October 25, 2011

a little down and out

Please pray that Glory will recover from this latest heart surgery, so she can go home and watch Curious George with her sister.  We're ready for giant hair bow pictures, again!  The recovery process this time has been slow, and she is uncomfortable, and we are all a bit concerned.  Thank you, as always, for praying for our Glory Girl and her family.

taking the blame

Jubi Sue is a great sleeper (a lot of that has to do with her medication, but anyway) and still there are nights when sleep escapes her.  Sleep requires relaxation.  Relaxation requires security.  Security is taking hold in her bones, but the process is slow, like the setting of Jello. 

The other night she was definitely not crying her "I don't feel like being in my bed" cry.  She was crying her "Oh G0D have mercy on my unsettled heart" cry.  I went racing into her room to hold her.

She kept pushing away from me, to get a good look at me.  She kept touching my face and crying.  I said, "Jubilee, are you seeing a time when Mommy was bye-bye?"  (she knows the word "see" and she knows the word "bye-bye").  She howled out, "Yeeeeaaaahhhhh!"

"Oh sweetie," I said, "Mommy is sorry I was bye-bye."

"I fordib you, Mama" she said.  We both cried then.

Here's the thing.  When you adopt a child, you agree to take the blame for saying goodbye to her, even though all you ever did was say hello.  She doesn't know how the story goes.  She's barely out of diapers.  All she knows is that there was a time when her mommy (me) wasn't there.  She's right.  I wasn't.

And I will gladly take the blame for that.

October 24, 2011

It's (not exactly) Autumn!

I will be baking my first batch of pumpkin bread this week.  I will be pulling out my tiny box of Fall decorations.  I will be bagging up the kids' shorts.  Fall is here.  That's right, the year-round sunny and warm weather that our city is known for has turned...sunny and warm.  We don't really get seasons here.  But pumpkin bread will be baked, nonetheless.

Pictures from my Mom will have to suffice.  Oh Michigan, the land of my youth, you are so perty this time a year.


October 22, 2011


Neediness is a repellant.  Everybody knows that, from a needy girlfriend getting dumped to a needy friend with a quiet telephone to a needy parent getting the cold shoulder from her teenager.  Our tendency as human beings is to squirm free of the grip of a needy hand. 

And then we come to the topic of toddler adoption, and suddenly "needy" is brought to a whole new level.  We're talking shameless, unabashed, every second of every day need.  There's no pride.  She doesn't care who knows it.  Its as if she would climb inside my ribcage if she could, and stay there, until the clouds part and CHRlST himself comes down to calm her nerves once and for all.

The problem is, I am not CHRlST himself, nor do I have his level of patience.  I need my space, people!  Its not like the constant sucking and crying of a newborn.  That stuff is just physical, and even as it grates on you night and day, testing your mental skills, and piercing your ears and making your arms ache, your heart is pretty much left in tact. 

Not so much now.  My heart is torn at all times between wanting to be for her what she has never had, and needing to take care of myself (so I don't end up losing my mind).  I want her to have what she needs, but I am just a person, and I can't be the medicine for her wound.  Only G0D can be, and she is too young to know him.

So as the holidays roll in (which are always hard for me, anyway) please remember me in your prayers.  I have a little girl with a lot of pain, but dinner still has to get cooked, and Brave still needs his mama after his nap, and Bright needs to learn how to voice his opinions respectfully, and Zion needs an audience for his puppet shows, and we need to be done with 1st grade by May.  I'm going to need supernatural strength this winter, my friends.

And please pray for my precious Jubilee, that she will grow to be a woman with a spirit that soars like the eagles, on account of what she has overcome.

October 21, 2011

real life and a birthday

Last night we celebrated Daniel's 32nd birthday, two days late.  It was a great day, which was good, since two days earlier on his actual birthday we spent the day arguing over who's life was more miserable and who deserved to have a bad attitude more (you know the kind of day I'm talking about).  Now, Daniel and I have learned to argue well, so we don't mind our kids being around when it happens.  We figure they might learn a thing or two about real life.  It was Jubilee's first time to see her parents working through a conflict, however, and she was a little nervous about it.  The poor dear kept bringing us little toys, in an effort to distract us, wearing a very sheepish look on her face.  We just scooped her up and covered her cheeks with kisses, letting her know that all was well. 

And it truly was.  People who really love each other are not afraid of a good argument.  In the end, it was determined that neither one of us is miserable and neither one of us deserves to have a bad attitude.  You could have told us that, right?  I tell ya, selfishness is a pesky, if not terrible, thing.

Anyway, Daniel turning 32 was redeemed yesterday by a potroast and his favorite carrot cake, the hardest cake I make, and one that I have yet to turn out right in East Asia on account of hard-to-find ingredients, weird milk, small eggs, and high altitude.  I've been tweaking it for three years now and yesterday I nailed it.  I have a happy man in my house today, cutting himself slice after slice.

And for the record, my life could not be further from miserable, with the L0RD as my stronghold and Daniel Rupp as my husband.  I have said it before and I'll say it a thousand more times, G0D smiled on me when he turned Daniel's eyes my way.  Last night he said, to a whole group of friends, "My wife has one of the most beautiful lives I know."  I melted.  He wasn't referring to my circumstances, either, he was talking about me.  Man, I love this guy. 

And I love this picture.  There's the cake, and there's Jubilee, looking like the cake just landed in front of her from outerspace, and there's Zion's two dimples, and if you look closely, you'll notice in the background how we've taped one of Jubi's orphanage pictures onto our blown-up family print.  And there's the handsome B-day boy, of course, 32 years young.  I really love this picture.

 Happy Birthday, Baby!  My love for you is as real as it gets.

October 19, 2011

the way home

I have a friend named Korrie, who has fabulous taste in all things, including food (of course), and vintage clothing, and folk music, and rustic dinner plates, and men (we love you, too, Lee), and handkerchiefs, and children's books, and handwritten letters.  She is one of those women who makes womanhood look good, you know the type?  Not to mention I love her to death.  Korrie is one of my all-time faves.

I may have posted this pic before, but I LOVE it.   The funny thing is, I don't even know which of her daughters she is holding.  Clementine, Korrie, am I right?

So...last year Korrie and Lee sent a care package that never got to us.  She later told me that there were VINTAGE APRONS in that box.  I think I almost cried.  She probably did cry, considering the cost of shipping a box to East Asia.  It was the only box, meant for us, that has ever gotten lost.

Last month, Korrie took a deep breath and tried again.  She waited and waited.  She sent me several emails, wondering if I had seen her package.  I had not.  We were both getting worried, thinking it too terrible for TWO of her heartfelt, heartsent packages to have gotten lost.

Last week she let me see the address she has been using.  OH NO!  She had been using our first address in East Asia.  I never sent her our new one!  (They don't use the forwarding system here) Oh, Korrie.
Thankfully, we know the girls who moved in to our old apartment.  Before breaking the news to Korrie about the wrong address, I sent Daniel over to those girls.  He knocked on the door, but there was no reply.  The gate keeper said that the foreigners who used to live there had moved to another building, just last month, and he took Daniel right to their door.    They were home, and they had our package!

I danced a little jig when he came home and handed me that padded envelope.  Oh thank you L0RD!  

And now, Daniel has a new favorite T-shirt.  It hails from the part of Kentucky that was the birthplace of our friendship, almost a decade ago.  Niiiiiice find, Korrie!

And I have a new favorite top!  The girl knows me.

And Brave really loves the basil-scented Mrs. Meyer's aromatherapeutic cruelty-free dryer sheets, "uncomplicated products for a clean and happy home." I cannot wait to try them!  They made everything in the package smell as good as Korrie looks;)
Jubilee took her dress very seriously.  Anything that is solely hers makes her serious, like she must now become very responsible about this new thing.  She loves it, Korrie, and it is a perfect fit!

I hope Korrie won't mind me sharing that, in her two-part, handwritten letter, she writes of the small stinging pains of homesickness.  Korrie and Lee and their (now five) kiddos recently moved from their old Kentucky home to the suburbs/urbs of Shreveport, Louisiana, far away from the hills and horse pastures and stone fences of their homeland.  They are among wonderful friends, and blessed with a great job for Lee, and a great community, but leaving home is never easy.  I can certainly relate to that, especially this time of year, when my heart burns a little in my chest thinking of the rest of you enjoying colorful foliage and apple cider and hay wagons and tailgating, and your families.

So you see, there was something deeply sweet about this package making its way into our hands.  Across all the miles and through the hands of lots of shady postal workers and in spite of being posted to the wrong address (totally my fault), this package made its way, eventually, finally, and only a little bit battered - home.

And so will we, Korrie.  One day, my lovely friend, so will we. 

October 17, 2011

the pleasure is all mine

Motherhood is a thankless job so far.  Six years of the hardest work I have EVER done and hardly a word of thanks from the little darlings.  They thank me for handing them a second Oreo cookie, but that is just good manners.  My husband thanks me, from his heart, and often, but though his thanks are vital, he is not under my care. 

Just when I feel that I can't take one more step, Bright Eugene hands me this.
I hang it on the door of the school room, and I am good to go for at least another six years.

October 16, 2011

trusting my Rotel to Pioneer Woman

I guard the American items in my pantry with my life, including chocolate chips, canned green chilies, Hershey's cocoa, Kraft Mac-n-cheese packets, and shortening, to name just a few.  Chief among these is always Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chilies, for you northerners).  When a can of Rotel is opened around here, it is for a very good reason.

Yesterday I took a gamble on Pioneer Woman's "Frito Chili Pie" recipe, which calls for a can of Rotel.  Ree Drummond has yet to let me down in the kitchen, so it wasn't too huge of a gamble (which is why I took it), but it still made me very nervous.  I guess I was feeling trusting, or else my fall chili craving was just too beastly to tame.  I went so far as to thaw a brick of REAL cheese, which I hoard in my freezer, and which costs about $11 a pound.  This meal was either going to be a great success or a cause to mourn. We would find out which, come about 5:30 p.m.
The Fritos that are available for purchase at the import stores are incredibly expensive.  I opted to skip the Fritos and scoop this very thick, very "Frito Chili Pie" chili over the best cornbread you'll ever eat.  (Shout out to Anita for introducing me to this recipe 3 years ago).  Light and sweet, it is almost like cake.  Zion calls it "corncake."

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
In a medium-sized bowl, combine first six ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine last four ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until moist. Spread in an 8 x 8 greased baking dish/pan. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes, or just until toothpick comes out clean.

The results of my risky Rotel move?  DEE-LISH!!!  Not your typical soup-chili.  Very meaty (2 lbs of beef) with lots of great flavor from the 1/4 cup of cornflour thrown in during the last 20 minutes of simmering.  The flavor was great, and the whole thing just worked so well ladled over our cornbread.  I did have to up the salt, since I was skipping the Fritos, and I had to add water throughout the simmering to keep it from getting too pasty-thick, but otherwise I followed the recipe exactly (obeying the "more to taste" next to the Chili powder in the ingredient list).

Even little miss sunshine ate some, though she would have much preferred her usual rice with meat, vegetables, and fishy soy sauce. 

Looks like I will be trusting Pioneer woman with my precious American ingredients again, maybe even with my Crisco!

October 15, 2011

not a caucasian toddler

Jubilee is not Caucasian.  There are many clues that lead me to this conclusion, other than her Chinese passport.
- Her English has an accent.  "Car" is "kigh."  "More" is "muoy."  "Door" is "doy."  Not your typical toddler twang.
- She has no rear end.  Enough said there.
- She runs like a dis-jointed penguin being chased by a polar bear.  It is adorable.  No marathons for this girl, I'm afraid.  I am not saying this is true of all Chinese people, of course.  Not hardly.  I'm merely saying that Jubilee is not exactly built for speed.
- When our family gets a headcold, she doesn't seem to suffer with pressure and pain like the rest of us.  It all just comes pouring out.  In fact (bear with me here), if you get a hold of something with a tissue, you can pull the whole cold right out of her face.  It's fascinating, really.  I'm no doctor, nor anthropologist, but my guess is the structure of her face and the position of her sinuses must cause this?  Asian friends, does this happen to you?  It really must be nice.
- Her skin has a year-round brown tone, always even and glowing.  Now THAT would be nice!
- Her mouth is wide, with plenty of room for her teeth to sit sit-by-side.  Again, jealous.
- She hates to swim.  I am not so much noting a Chinese trait as much as I am noting the fact that white people really might just as well have webbed feet.

Though it might seem funny for me to be talking about my daughter's race, and comparing it to my own, this is a very common practice around here.  They tell us we have big noses.  Well, we do.  They tell us we are fat.  Many, many of us are.  They aren't being cruel, they are just interested in these differences.  Among their own race, they talk about what people-group a person is from, and how the different groups compare.  When locals see Jubilee, they want to know where she is from.  As soon as we tell them she is GuangDongRen, they say, "Ah, yes, she has the Cantonese nose."  We just nod.  We don't know the differences as well as they do.  What we do know is that she aint no white, softball-playing Arkansan, nor is she a towering, volleyball-playing dutch girl from Holland, Michigan.

And that is just fine with us:)

October 14, 2011

something from nothing

Bright and Zion both like to draw, but their styles are as different as their faces.  Bright likes to recreate what he sees, and his recreations are very good!  Zion, on the other hand, who has never liked to be told what to do or how to do it, likes to look at a blank sheet of paper (or napkin or whatever) and just let the pencil do its thing.

Here is a recent drawing by Zion.  Let me tell you what you are looking at: a spaceship with two sets of landing gear, in case the ship gets flipped around while coming through the atmosphere; a tiger hiding behind rocks (probably because he is afraid of the landing spaceship); and the long rectangle across the top of the page is "space," filled with, from left, the Milky Way, a star, Saturn, the moon, and the sun.

Here is another Zion creation, doodled on a piece of scrap cardboard while in Hong Kong with Daniel earlier in the week.  You are looking at a monster underwater, surrounded by a cloud of its own stink, a tuna, a clownfish, and a whitetipped shark who is protecting his smaller fish friends from the monster.

I can't wait to see what your creativity leads to, Zion!  Hugs and kisses from Mama.

October 12, 2011

sweet suffering

I was looking into the rugged face of my precious Brave this afternoon, during a moment alone that we shared in the sunshine, drinking water and eating Swedish Fish candies.  I was thinking how sweet it was of the L0RD to give us two medical emergencies in one year, requiring two 5-day stays in a hospital room, just Brave and me.  My baby boy and I did nothing but cuddle up to Discovery channel programs and eat hospital food until we fell asleep together on my cot, his IV line drip-dripping through the night . G0D knew we would need those memories come August, 2011, when baby boy would have to share my lap with baby girl.  Those memories are a treasure to me. 

As I sat with Brave today, chewing on my fourth Swedish Fish, it dawned on me that all of my most precious memories with my children are surrounding crises.  The 2 months that Daniel and I spent fighting for Zion's peace of spirit (untold story, no more about that) served to knit our three hearts together in ways that would not otherwise have been possible.  When Bright was four, we felt we were losing him every day that he spent at preschool.  With a newborn in the house, we made the difficult decision to home school him.  There was never a tougher or, you guessed it, sweeter time with Bright. 

My favorite memories with Jubilee are the four nights at the hotel in GuangZhou, before we knew how to get her to sleep on her own.  I spent all four of those nights propped up on a pillow with a warm little girl on my chest, one who was scared to death to be anywhere but right there, listening to my beating heart.

I think this is what the L0RD must feel, a smile creeping over his face, as he thinks back on the times spent in the darkness of crisis with me.  Is that why he allows me to suffer sometimes?  I don't know the answer to that popular theological question.  No one does.  But I am going to think about this the next time I am reduced to tears and flat on my face before his throne, knowing that he is not sitting up there with a straight back, his large hands resting one on each armrest.  He is down on the throne room floor with me, making memories.

October 11, 2011

different hands

Jubilee has been our daughter for 8 weeks now.  I don't know if she remembers anything but us anymore, at least not most of the time.  She rises happily in the morning and plays and eats and cuddles throughout the day like any toddler in a loving family.  Sometimes, though, when I look at her, I can tell that she is remembering.  When that happens, a dark cloud rolls in over her head and she weeps.

I used to think, during these times, that she was mourning the loss of her life at the orphanage, and maybe she was.  Now, however, I can tell that she isn't.  These tears seem to be coming from deeper within, and from farther back; from the street corner where she was left, perhaps, when she was only a week old. 

I will never be able to fully understand my daughter.  I know this.  No matter the weariness and woes of my days on this earth, I will never know what her tender heart has known.

My mother and I, after all, have the same hands.

And yet, she and I share the very thing my mom and I share.  It is hard to describe, is it not, you mothers of daughters?  It is what Jubilee mourns the loss of when she weeps, what I miss on my birthday, what makes my mother take her mother upstate to the cancer center every few months for a checkup, and what bowls my friend Liz right over when she looks at Cadence.

It is what Jubilee and I have been given.

Having the same hands, it turns out, has nothing to do with it.

October 10, 2011

heads up

What does Daddy do with his kiddos when he takes them away from mommy for an hour or so?  Stand them underneath landing airplanes, of course.  Duh.

October 09, 2011

picnic pics

Tomorrow Daniel takes Zion to Hong Kong for his quarterly eyeglass prescription adjustment.  Today, therefore, we really went all-out on the family togetherness.

Here are the best pics that were taken while at Hai Geng Park this evening, where we enjoyed a picnic dinner, a lovely sunset, and lots of space to run around ON the grass for a change.

October 08, 2011

IVs in the trees

Yesterday I took out a recipe and chuckled when I saw, in orange ink, "East Asia Friendly" scrolled across the top.  When we first moved here (back when I thought this was just going to be a quick stay), I went through all of my standby recipes and tried them out.  The ones that worked (i.e. ingredients were available and high altitude didn't affect them) were marked with an orange marker.  The rest were stashed away in the back of my binder to be used for the rest of my life in America.  I am beginning to wonder if I will ever make, "Boursin-Stuffed Baked Chicken Breasts" again.


My point is that we have been here a long time, and are planning to keep staying, evidenced by the fact that we are talking about getting a cat (I know, I know, but we can't be taking a dog up and down the elevator all day long to pee).  We've been here so long that I forget to post cool East Asia posts because nothing much strikes me anymore.  You, however, might be struck by a few things now and then, so here you are. 

They really like their plant life.  We are not allowed to walk on the grass.  There are signs above the grass that read "The grass has life, please do not walk on it" (translation).  Many of these signs are in close proximity to a billboard advertising a great place to "take care of your problem of pregnancy" (abortion), but that is beside the point. 

In these pictures you can see how much they love their plants.  This tree, which does not look at all sick to me, is being nursed back to health, with an IV!!!  We see this ALL the time. 

October 07, 2011

pretty in shoulder pads

Because I'm on a roll with the womanhood sentiments, I will repost this picture that my mom posted to Facebook yesterday for my birthday.  I had never seen this picture until yesterday.  Wasn't my mom gorgeous?  Too bad the only thing I inherited from her was her not-so-gorgeous feet.  That and her arms, which I'm increasingly thankful for as I get older.  That doll face, though, did not get passed on.  What a pity.
Love you so much, Mom!

October 06, 2011

aged to "perfection"

The other day a group of us sat around choosing the age we would stay forever, if we could.  Some chose early 20's (myself included): newly married, great new job, no responsibilities after 5 p.m., no stretch marks.  The rest chose the year that the last kid leaves the house.  I almost chose that one.  Peaceful dinners, fresh mornings, and time left to chase our (other) dreams.

One friend chose whatever year she is in.  Darn.  That was the right answer.

Today is my 31st birthday.  I sniffled to my husband while the toddlers napped, "I had fun at McDonald's this morning, I really did, and I loved watching the kids feed the pigeons at the park, and our date last night was wonderful, and I had a lovely lunch out with Alisa and Anita today, its not that..."  

"What is it, then?" he asked.  Sensible question.

"Its just that, what I really want is for my big brother to take me out for pancakes at Jackie's Place.  What I really want is to be sitting in Sue-Sue's living room eating her chili, followed by a huge piece of chocolate cake with boiled icing from Paul's Bakery.  I just want my dad to make me his lemon chicken, and I want my mom and to make me one of her homemade birthday cards and hand it to me IN PERSON.  I want to go home.  Just for a day.  Just for today.  On my birthday."

The thing is, "home" is not just 7,000 miles away anymore.  The things I remember about "home" are in another time, now, and that time is lost forever.  Sue-Sue passed away over a year ago.  Her living room sits empty and dark this fall.  There is no one cooking chili in the kitchen.  My parents' house has been sold.  Jerry and Marcy now watch their news magazine programs from the sofas of their nice, tidy condominium.  Time marches on, so they say; but it would seem that in my case, time carried off a whole lot of loot when it went.

And yet, with the passing of time comes treasures gained.  Maturity and wisdom, for starters, along with a gradual mellowing, a settling of spirit, a tenderness, a knack for empathy, a greater measure of patience, a tendency toward sincerity, a quickness to forgive, and a longing for what is coming in the end.  The things that burn-up my early-20s friends just don't do it for me anymore.  I look to my friends in their 40s and think them the most beautiful women I've ever seen.  A slightly curved back from years of holding children.  Lines around the eyes and mouth from laughing at their husbands' corny jokes, from laughing with girlfriends they've known since grade school, from laughing with their moms over everything under the sun. Gray hairs around the temple from too many nights sitting up with feverish toddlers, or waiting on phones to ring, or burying parents who died too early.  Ringlets gone limp, sweet voices worn thin; all these things the world tells us we should mask, put-off, deny, cover-up, dye, and moisturize.  What a shame.  There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the tell-tale signs of a life lived in honorable service to the business of womanhood.

Please remind me of that in 20 years, ok?

That said, I am now prepared to officially declare the age I would stay forever.  31.  Why?  Because I'm just old enough to look back at my 20's and say, "Wow, I've come a long way," and I'm just romantic enough to still think graying temples are beautiful.  Like a good cheese, I am ready for the cracker.  Like a good avacado, I am neither green and firm, nor spotty and mushy.  I have just enough wisdom to do a few things right, and just enough energy to carry them out.

Right where I'm at, yep, that's where I'd stay.  Eight little arms wrapping around my neck every day and one handsome guy sauntering in to steal a kiss while I stir the soup.  I think I can safely say that it doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
My birthday date with D. Rupp.  Masala chicken and Diet Cherry Coke.  Mmmm.

October 04, 2011

good pizza, funny friends

We get to hang out with some pretty wonderful (and hilarious) people over here.  Jarred and Shelley are no exception.
Example of wonderful: the other night they invited us over for make-your-own-pizza and the kids were in pepperoni heaven.  Bright tried really hard to make a dragon with his toppings.  The amazing homemade sauce was a hit with the adults.  We really love these people (and not just because of their pizza).

Example of hilarious: Jarred's blogpost (below) from a couple of Autumns ago.  You will laugh out loud, I promise.

Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009

I always thought that Spring was the season of love and romance, and maybe it is for animals, but I have discovered that when autumn arrives, it is as if every 20 something American white woman comes out of hibernation and is dancing in the clouds. It really makes no sense to me why they love autumn so much, but I know that they all get excited like sorority girls on bid day. This excitement generally is centered around the availability of seasonal consumer products. Here are some things I noticed they get excited for in the fall:

1. Scented candles- mostly those that smell like apples
2. Colored leaves- in the Summer, when it makes sense to be oustide, they complain about bugs and sweat and nature. But in the fall, they have no problem walking around picking dead rotting leaves to decorate your house with.
3. Cold weather- Women who usually complain about being cold suddenly love it when that cold is associated with the arrival of fall. Forget that this change of weather also brings about the flu virus, they get to wear sweaters!
4. Christmas- I love Christmas… in December. These women turn Advent into a 3 month event and Target takes full advantage.
5. Pumpkin Spice ______ (you fill in the blank). The thing I find the most intriguing, more than anything else, is young American white women’s obsession with pumpkin spiced everything. Candles, pies, lattes, fruit dip, toilet paper, beer. I am convinced that if McDonald’s could make a pumpkin spiced McRib, 20 something white women everywhere would leave their hummus, run to the Golden Arches, and there would be a national shortage on whatever animal product that thing is made of and Diet Coke fountain syrup. If you hear that some company is thinking of making a pumpkin spice variety of whatever product they sell, buy stock… and futures for that matter.

I recently married a 20 something American white woman, so my life is no longer immuned to the love of fall. We cannot buy canned pumpkin here in East Asia, nor can we get lattes, so I thought I would have a free pass on this gourd obsession. However, my wife lives very close to another 20 something American white woman who told her where she could buy a pumpkin and how she could mine said pumpkin for its precious pumpkin meat and proceed I guess to “spice” it for whatever fall delight she desires. These women are like South Carolinians in deer season! Thus, I received a text message from Shelley on Monday that said “can you come downstairs and help me carry the pumpkin upstairs. It is too heavy for me.” And this is what we ended up with:
Now it doesn’t look like a pumpkin you would carve for Halloween, but who cares about pagan holidays when your pumpkin yields this much precious pumpkin meat? And by the way, we paid about $1.75 for this [pumpkin] baby.

But in order to use the pumpkin meat for pumpkin spiced stuff, you first have to “roast” the pumpkin, which involves slapping it onto a baking sheet and putting it in the oven…
Our oven barely held the pumpkin. You literally just put it in the oven until the meat is soft, just like a baked potato. And come to think of it, this thing is about the same size as one of those baked potatoes at McAlister’s.
And the result… let’s just say its a good thing they don’t sell Eggos here because our freezer now[is packed]…with bags and bags of frozen pumpkin.  Whoever is going to eat this much pie is beyond me, and the idea of putting that in your 4 dollar coffee is gross, but to my wife, it is downright delicious. One piece of advice I received from my old man before I was married that I have always strived to keep since being married: happy wife, happy life, and nothing says lovin to a 20 something American white woman like 20 pounds of fall obsession.
for more go to: http://jarredandshelley.blogspot.com/2009/11/american-white-women-and-fall-season.html

October 03, 2011

where have I been?

I was tucking her in.  Same routine: wash and dry her body; rub lotion into her lesion; cradle her to pour 2 ml of Propranolol down her throat; say "hi" to the three princesses on her pull-up before she slips her dark, pretty feet into the leg holes, first her right, then her left; put on the same footed pajamas, stopping the zipper halfway up to let her finish the job; hold her in the bright teal chair to read Pooh's 123 and A Little Girl's Prayer; pray for everyone in our family, ending with herself.

Until tonight, she had never said her own name.  When her perfect little mouth garbled, "Boob-uh-leeee," that was my first clue that tonight was different.

She switched off the light.  She knows that word, "off."  I switch on the noise machine and the wall fan.  That's her cue to lay her head on my shoulder for our slow walk across the short room in the almost-dark to her crib, while I sing ABCDEFG.  She lifts her head and we look at the two songbird decals on the back wall.  We chirp to them.  I lay her head on her pillow, cover her with the blanket that her daddy brought back from America for her last fall, and the blanket that her grandmother knitted for her last spring - a grandmother she has never met.

Then, as I am leaned in, and between kisses on the flat space between her black eyes, I catch a look on her face in the almost-dark.  It is a look I have never seen before.  She is as surprised by what she is feeling as I am:  she loves me.

In the next second, the look changes, and suddenly I am breaking into a million pieces.  The look says, "Where have you been all my life?"

I want to answer.  I want to tell her that I would have been there if I could have.  I want to wipe the confusion and hurt from her beautiful face.  But she is only two-years-old, and she just now knows the word, "off."  I think that perhaps, "The world is a broken place, darling, and the best we can do (for now) is make something wonderful from the pieces," is a bit too advanced for her at this point.

So I kiss her again and walk out of her room, choosing to focus on the thousand little fireworks going off in my heart.  A broken world this may be, but seven weeks after they are introduced, a daughter loves her mother.  Something wonderful, indeed.

October 02, 2011


The toughest little girl in the world.

October 01, 2011


In keeping with my deviation from Jubilee posts, and in order to prove that I have balance in my life, I will feature Bright Eugene today.

He reads Isaac Newton while sitting on the toilet.  He fasts through lunch nearly once a week. This, by the way, gets tricky when we're at the playground and Bright is lying on a park bench sipping water.  "He's not sick," I assure the other moms, "he's just fasting." He lays hands on his little sister in the doctor's office.  He makes up his own expletives to express his emotions, such as "Joff!" (used to express frustration or disappointment).  He recently learned about divorce, and has decided that a man's second wife should be called a "step wife."  Why not?  He needs a haircut (as evidenced by this picture) but his mother doesn't have time for that these days.  He won't give up his mesh shorts for the season, so his legs are constantly goose-bumped.  He still picks his nose in front of girls.  We're working on that.  He bakes a mean batch of banana muffins.  His free-hand drawing is suddenly quite impressive.  He knows more about most things than I do, and I get sad when I haven't seen his moonlight-pale face in over an hour.  Bright Eyes, you are quite a guy.