December 30, 2011

For better or for worse

We utter phrases from time-to-time which can never fully be retracted.  Things like, "You disgust me," "I love you," and "I do."

Now I can add to that list the phrase, "I solemnly swear to be her mother."

The papers are signed and she has no place else to go, even if she wanted to, and neither do I, for that matter.  Sometimes we find ourselves in tears, she and I, holding each other warmly while fighting the urge to run far away and hide (because I know she feels it, too).  We are both waiting for the newness to fade so we won't mind the smell of each other anymore.

I do so long for the day when she isn't a child I met four months ago.  I want to have used up all the pasta that has been in my pantry longer than she has been in my home.  I want to be rid of the temptation to idealize the simpler days, before Daniel and I entered into a permanent agreement with a perfect stranger (without her permission, mind you) altering all of our lives forever.

It is toddler adoption.  It is the tiny, tangled threads that slowly, slowly, painstakingly build the web of this kind of parent/child relationship.  It is "come here" and "go away."  It is "why am I with you" and "how did I ever live without you."  It is messy.  It is beautiful.

It is bringing all of my sin to the very surface.  Let me tell you, that ain't pretty.

But in every moment I am learning to trust the One who picked this journey for us; this journey for her.  In the end, I hope all of us will know that His ways are always better than our ways.  Love is always better than simplicity.  Together is always better than not.  Coming through on the other side a better person, a better family, is always - better.

"I do,"

for better,

for worse,


December 27, 2011

Until next year!

Christmas was exhausting and wonderful.  Jubilee caught on pretty quickly: smile and agree to wear tights, and you get new toys. 
Other than our fridge going out, resulting in the loss of our Christmas dinner, things went off without a hitch.  (For those of you who have made/eaten chicken and dumplings, you can appreciate our loss).
I LOVE the clothes that Momo gave me, and I LOVE the earrings that my parents got me from Spring Sweet, a boutique in downtown Holland that is owned and named-after a childhood friend of mine.  I also LOVE the necklace that Daniel got me, which is a Chinese word that means "double happiness" and is used at weddings.  I am wearing all of them in this (rather interesting) photo.  Just to clarify, I have no illusions of being hot-to-trot.  I was showing Daniel how much of myself I wanted in the shot, and he snapped a pic.  Giggle, giggle. 
Brave and Zion both looked very handsome with one of their favorite gals, Miss Michelle.
And this picture of Daniel and Brave could be my favorite picture of my husband.  Ever.  He only cracks this particular smile when he is laughing at something that he genuinely finds funny.  He looks like this every time he is hanging out with Philip Morton.
Speaking of Brave, the cheap guitar I picked up for him at the last minute proved to be a sensational hit.  I have a PG-rated video of this that I will post soon, but a picture will have to suffice for now. 
And speaking of gifts, this was the year of Legos for Bright.  He is so into them.  The set that rose to the top was his RV set, from Grandma and Grandpa, of course.
Jubilee and I received DARLING matching aprons from Grandma and Grandpa, and at least one of us looks mighty cute in hers.
And let's not forget our favorite little redheads, our kids' best friends Kayleigh and Zeb!  Kayleigh and Bright are still planning on getting married when they reach the marrying age of 21, and Kayleigh is planning on having 20 daughters with Bright.  Bright has not commented on that detail.
And so, it is with many wonderful memories, made with many good friends, and it is with warm hearts and thick waistlines, that we pack up the bulbs and tinsel and drag our "tree" to the elevator.  Until next year, Merry Christmas to all! 

December 23, 2011

In order to understand why my back aches

- white chocolate-dipped pretzels with real, American sprinkles
- peppermint fudge, with real, American candy canes
- veggie tray, every last grub and trace of human fertilizer thoroughly washed away
- brine ready for tomorrow's chicken
- vegetables for tomorrow's broth washed, chopped, and bagged
- ice trays emptied and refilled with clean drinking water
- cheese ball made and rolled in walnuts
- four kids wiped down and put in bed by myself, again.  'Tis the season to hardly see my husband.

- rise early and bake a red velvet cake, with real, American red food coloring
- grab one or two kids and head to the market to pick out a 6 pound chicken.  I would buy a live one, but I don't know if Daniel has time to behead it for me.  I'll probably just choose one off the bloody wooden slab.
- come home and rinse the bird, then plop it in the brine
- take kids to get their faces painted and watch Charlie Brown Christmas with all their friends
- bake crescent rolls
- boil the chicken and remove meat, return bones and skin to the pot with veggies to simmer for 4 hours, the goal being broth for tomorrow's dumplings
- clean the kids up and put them in their Christmas best for our Christmas Eve steak dinner at the Greene's
- put kids to bed and finish wrapping presents

- get up with the chickens for an unwrapping frenzy in the living room
- Skype call our families in the States
- make sweet tea
- make cinnamon rolls
- make chicken and dumplings
- make sausage balls, with homemade sausage and homemade "Bisquick" (because Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for Daniel without sausage balls)
- have our friends over for Christmas dinner
- collapse

Pink rocking horse assembly: a first for Daniel Rupp.  XOXO

December 22, 2011

Mommy's right here

Jubilee is coming into her own lately.  I think our 6-day mother/daughter trip really propelled her into a place of security.  She is singing and dancing and sassing (oh yes, it happens, but don't think for a second that I put up with it;), and I even had an English-speaker on the bus the other day say to me, "She acts like you've always been her mother."  True statement, I think.  The speed with which Jubilee has become a Rupp, in every sense of the word, is honestly astounding. 
Disregard the laundry pile in the hallway.  I have four kids.  Enough said.
And yet, when the sun sets behind the skyline, and she and Brave have had their wild and crazy bath, and the giggling and wrestling and tickling are done for the day, she gets slightly - ever so slightly - nervous.  Her eyes widen.  Her grip on my shirt intensifies.  She stalls the bedtime progress with requests for bandaids, and suggestions on how to organize the bathroom.  Every night, I assure her, stroke her black hair, kiss the flat bridge of her nose, pray with her, but still the anxiety persists. 

Then, the other night, I said something to her that I haven't said, for whatever reason, since the moment she was placed in my arms. 

"Mommy's right here," I said, just like I did when I held her for the first time and she was screaming and I didn't know what else to say.  "Mommy's right here."

She stopped crying and looked at me from where she lay in her crib, and she repeated me, "Mommy's wight heah?" 

"Yes, darling, Mommy's right here."

She smiled, pulled up her covers, and blew me a kiss.  Apparently, that was all she needed to know.

December 20, 2011

Behind the wheel again

In almost ten years of marriage, we had never purchased a car.  Everything we drove before moving to East Asia had been given to us, and everything we have driven since has two wheels and needs to be plugged into the wall of the parking garage overnight in order to get down the road.

But then kid #4 came along, and one of our scooters was stolen (an uneventful occurrence over here, unfortunately), and we figured the time had come to buy a car.

So, after Daniel studied his brains out for an incredibly pointless driving test, and after he was handed a genuine local drivers license, he started researching vehicle options.

The best option for a "semi-longterm" family like ours is what they call a mian bao che (mee-en-baw-chuh).  It means, "bread van," because it looks like a loaf of bread.  The van on the right in this picture is a perfect example.
Not the coolest looking thing.  After much looking and pricing, however, Daniel found a great deal on a much more suitable "bread van" for a 32-year-old American guy who has never bought a vehicle and deserves something mildly cool.  I mean, c'mon, this dad has earned it.
And then (it really shouldn't have surprised us) the van fell right in line with everything else in our lives over here: nothing is what it seems.  First of all, it took 6 weeks after ordering the thing for it to arrive.  Second of all, Daniel was given three color choices: white, black, and green.  It was a no-brainer for him; the van would be black.  To which the salesman said, "No problem!"

The funny thing is, locals never know how to tell us "no."  Instead, they say, "No problem!" to everything, and then try to talk us out of our choices.  In this case, the salesman started by telling Daniel that a black van would take two weeks longer to come in.  Daniel told him, three times in a row, that he didn't care.  Finally, having reached desperation, the salesman looked Daniel right in the eye and said, "Green drives better."  Uh-huh.  Yep.  Welcome to our world.  Now Daniel knew what the salesman had known all along: the van only comes in green.  OK, the van would be green.

Moving on.

When the green van finally did come in, it wasn't exactly in mint condition.  The driver's side door had not been hung correctly and had to be slammed shut or the dome light would stay on.  The alarm system had a small glitch, causing it to constantly re-arm itself.  Not the best thing when you're trying to load four small kids in and out of the vehicle.  The dealership did throw in a free, dark purple tint job (yay, thanks for nothing), but it was so dark purple you literally couldn't see through the windows.  Needless to say, it had to be ripped out and redone.  There were no seatbelts in the back seats (there never are), and every single solitary piece of the vehicle had its bar code sticker left on it from the assembly line, which would later take Daniel and a bottle of GooGone 2 1/2 hours to remove.

Worst of all, as Daniel drove the van off the lot, he noticed the low-gas light was flashing.  Yep, they sold him a brand new car with an empty gas tank.

The cherry on top?  As Daniel tried to get to a gas station as quickly as possible, he realized that he couldn't get the van into third gear.  First gear, then second, a painful rejection from third, followed by a sinking fourth...Daniel was furious.  He had to puff and sputter, without the use of the third gear, to the gas station (actually four, because the first three wouldn't sell him gas), before returning directly to the dealership for repairs. 

For weeks and weeks and weeks, my incredibly busy husband spent almost all of his free time getting our new van in working order.  After all he'd been through to get the wrinkles smoothed out, he figured he would get the thing starched to perfection.  He needed something to go right with his green van.  Yes, folks, a custom roof rack was in order!  My poor husband cut his finger something horrible helping this guy sketch, cut, coat, and assemble the roof rack of his dreams.
But in the end, Daniel's finger healed, and we paid a ridiculously low amount of money (in cash) for a cool (and relatively safe) 1.378-liter 10-seater, with a roof rack for all our stuff and a smokin' top speed of 74.56 miles per hour.  I know nothing about cars, but Daniel tells me there are lawnmowers in the States with bigger motors.

But hey, we're not complaining!  It looks great, it goes down the road, and the kids and I no longer have to worry about helmet-hair and sore behinds.

And Daniel is just happy to get behind the wheel again.

December 18, 2011

family ties

We weren't there the day she was born.  We weren't there the days she lived.  We weren't there the day she died.
But we were family, and we loved her.

And now, we miss her.

We love you forever, Glory,
Uncle D, Auntie K, Bright, Zion, Brave, and Jubilee

December 17, 2011

This year

This time of year Daniel gets very busy, and I get very blue.  This being our fourth Christmas in East Asia, away from family, and my sixth Christmas in a row without snow, I tend to get a little pickled during the month of December.

Yet I have to say, this year my heart is lighter.  I can't figure out why.  Of all the years to have a light heart, this one brought the mourning of Sue-Sue's passing, and this week's end to baby Glory's long fight for her life.  There was the shocking death of my cousin's son, Karter, which brought all of us to our knees.  Daniel and I stumbled through three medical emergencies with Brave, a toddler adoption (hel-lo), spiritual warfare that nearly sunk us, Xiao Fu's brother's fatal misstep, and a bout with the yucks for me that nearly lasted half a year and smelled faintly of depression.

So why the light heart now?  Why the energy to keep wrapping and baking and lighting advent candles with my children?  Why the desire to crank up the jingle and the jangle of vintage carols and smile my way through "White Christmas" with Daniel?

Could it be all the times the six of us have been apart in the last few months, causing me to relish every moment with them?  Could it be all the encounters with death, causing me to recognize the blessing of every day life?   

Could it be that I am finally, FINALLY adjusting to "the pill" ? (ah-hem)

Could it be prayer? (um,yes)

Could it be me, getting older, and shedding a bit of the fuzzy down that characterizes the wobbly, chirpy beginnings of adulthood?

Or could it be the wail of a newborn baby in a stable in Bethlehem, signalling the end of hopelessness and the birth of happiness for all mankind?

I'm thinking all of the above.  Whatever the reason, this Christmas season, even as we grieve the loss of our niece and consequently long to be in America right now, I feel...well...pretty good.  Listening in on Daniel's conversation with Kerry on Skype last night helped, too, for who can ride the tide of gloom when Glory's mom is able to laugh with her goofy little brother?

Yes, this year, we are all going to be alright.

December 15, 2011

When the call came in

It was a warm day in Guangzhou, China.  My 2 1/2-year-old daughter of four months was taking a nap on the other side of our suite at the Garden Hotel.  I was looking from the window across the smoggy cityscape packed with millions, and I was praying for our family.  Glory's CO2 levels were rising and pretty soon her brain would tell her body to stop breathing.  It was only a matter of hours now.

The phone rang.

"Hello?" I asked.  I wondered if I should be sitting down.

"She just passed, honey," came Daniel's voice.

And that was all he said.  I gently said goodbye and we hung up.  Daniel and I had decided ahead of time that if she passed while I was on Jubilee's visa trip in Guangzhou, there would be no way to get Daniel back for the funeral.  My heart and my head fell.  All I could think about was Kerry. 

Yet, as I sat alone in room 1506, on the other side of the world, I knew that Kerry and Philip are not to be felt sorry for.  In this life they have been given two daughters, Eliana and Glory, and though Glory's life on earth has ended, her life eternal has only just begun.  She is free now, to breathe without laboring, and to walk and not grow weary, and to say all the words she couldn't in her 16 months in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Kerry and Philip will begin a new journey now, to live out the rest of their days in the spirit of their fighting baby girl, trusting in the One who gives and takes away.

Daniel and I were up past midnight last night, wearing black, when the call came in from Glory's funeral.  The music was beautiful, the arrangements were stunning, the casket was lovely, and the pictures of precious Glory were breathtaking.  Kerry and Philip, though grieving parents that they are, had an almost visible cloud of celebration around them. It was evident even through the webcam. 

I hope that when my call comes in, I am living and fighting and loving and trusting like Glory was when the L0RD called her home this week.  Like the pastor said in Glory's eulogy, some people live their whole lives and never live, their whole lives.  May my story be different.  May I live, as my niece did, for the glory of G0D.

December 08, 2011

going away for a while

In order for our little Chinese doll... be granted a visa for entry into the home of the brave and the land of the free, it is necessary for me to take her back to her province capital.  We leave tomorrow. 

I will be away from these guys for 7 whole days!  That is the longest my sons and I have ever been apart.  Yes, I got a little weepy about it today.
But I spent the day making pot pie, mexican lasagne, beer bread, and banana muffins so my four dear menfolk wouldn't starve.  And I lesson-planned for my substitute teacher, a smokin' hot young man who has graciously agreed to do more than wrestle and watch Bear Grylls movies while I am away.

And just in case the plane goes down, I left two handwritten letters in the stationary basket; one addressed to the best three boys on earth, and one addressed to their daddy.  You just never know.

Signing off until December 15th.  Have a great week!

December 07, 2011

How Brave felt about the whole thing

1.) Feeling quite apprehensive ("Things are about to change, aren't they?").
2.) Getting cold feet ("Who's idea was this?").
3.) Suddenly terrified ("Help, the poop is coming, without a warm, familiar place for it to land!!!!")
4.) Despairing ("They aren't saving me.  They aren't saving me.")
5.) The passage into childhood ("Oh, oh, here it comes.")
6.) He did it!  We all rush in to offer our congratulations.
7.) He hugs his prize.  Good job, son!  Yes, I realize I am letting you see my lovely East Asian bathroom in these pics, and I feel very vulnerable, so please be kind.
8.)  Suspicious ("That was a one-time deal, right?").  Look at those awesome cheeks!

From day one...

 to day now...
you have been a wonderful, tumble-ful, bundle-ful, my handsome Brave Ransom.  Welcome to the rest of your life.

December 04, 2011

to plot, or not to plot

Today at noon, over warmed-up enchiladas and over the sound of four kids babbling and giggling and dropping their forks, Daniel and I attempted to have a conversation.  About burial plots.

"My family is buying plots on Logtown Hill," he said to me.  "Should we think about joining them?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said, "I think I'd rather be cremated and scattered over the surface of Lake Michigan.  I'm a Michigander, y'all!"  (yes, that is a direct quote).

We took a few more bites of enchilada and poured one or two sippycup refills before Daniel picked up where we left off.

"I know why you want to do that," Daniel said, "but I think that might be weird for the kids.  There is something about looking at a body and then putting it in the ground, where it will stay until the end.  It makes sense.  Whereas, 'Mom is floating around in Lake Michigan,' just...doesn't."

I chewed my bite, seeing his point.  The grieving mind needs to have things fed to it, in a way that is easy to swallow.

"Where is the rest of your family?" I asked.

"Mam-maw and Pap-paw are up in Dripping Springs," he said, "and of course Pawpaw and Sue-Sue are in The National Cemetery in Fort Smith."

"What if we went up to Michigan?  We could buy plots near my family," I suggested, with a wink, because I knew Daniel would never be buried that far from his people.

"No way," he said, "too cold."  Oh for goodness sake.  "Besides," he went on, "I like the idea of a nice little place on Logtown Hill, in the shade of a tree, with the warm breeze blowing and the peace and quiet and all."

I rolled my eyes.  "See," I said, more emphatically than I feel, for the sake of friendly argument, "this is exactly what I am talking about.  The whole idea is absurd.  You won't be in the shade of a tree or feeling the warm breeze.  You may as well save everybody the trouble."

He was smiling broadly, happy to be getting at me, and he leaned back and said, "Ahhh...It gives a person something to look forward to."   That Daniel Rupp, he is impossible.  A lot of good a Masters of Divinity did for him.

December 03, 2011

let the land rest

We are 31 and 32 years old, with four young children, and we are at a bit of crux.  A fork of sorts, if you will; one tine going in the direction of what I mentioned yesterday (Hardy Boys books and all-day trips), and the other going in the direction of more and more and more precious little ones under foot. We are still so young, as many would say.  We have energy and arms and fertility, not to mention a heart for adoption.  Why stop now?

It's tempting, really, to keep receiving children into our fold, just because we can.  But then, just because you could eat the whole cake, doesn't mean you should.  The question is, "When does it stop?"  Or perhaps a more accurate question, "When should it stop?"

We have a handful of friends who believe that G0D alone should answer that question.  They have lots of kids, with no end in sight.  Is that what all of us should do, in order to prove to G0D that we trust Him with every last shred of our lives?

Or, perhaps, dare I pose, that G0D invented the machine to work, and is it possible that the machine has an off-switch?  Is it OK to use it?

Korrie once worded it very well, and in a way that rang true in my heart.  She said something to the effect of, "Think of it like a garden.  If you plant it, it will yield a crop.  Yet, everyone knows there is a time to sow, a time to harvest, and a time to let the land rest.  G0D could keep the seed from growing in the soil, true.  He certainly could.  But he has appointed us stewards, and stewards we must wisely be."

Still there is another reason (for me) to keep having more kids.  To put off the inevitable, and to pretend that time does not march on.  The truth is, time will march on for that baby, too, and the next, and the next.  At some point, I am going to have to face the fact that time is linear, and I must travel it.  At the end of the line is arthritis and hearing loss and hemorrhoids, and then death (if not sooner).  Having more babies can not change that.

When I look at my children, I will tell you what I see.  I see, among many wonderful things, all that I can possibly handle.

So, barring a direct call from G0D (which, of course, trumps all), the time has come, I think, to let the land rest.

December 02, 2011

six people in underwear

Gather all your loved ones together and party like its 1999!  Why?  On this day, December 3 (at least it is over here in East Asia), 2011, Kayla Rupp has potty trained her last child!  I'm finished, done, el finito, that's all she wrote, the fat lady has sung, the timer has rung, its closing time, the end has come.  It happened so fast, I hardly know what to think.  It just seemed to happen.

I'm sure Brave will have accidents, but he is way too far into it to turn back now.  I will buy diapers no more.

Yes, I cried.  Just now, while holding an XL diaper (which should have been an XXL on account of the size of Brave's cheeks but I couldn't bring myself to go there). So many emotions accompany me this day: soaring elation, disbelief, sadness, excitement, and wonder at how DARN fast time goes by.

For years, Daniel has been giving sermon illustrations about family life and he has always said, "When everyone in the family poops in the right place, then we will finally be somewhere."  Today, as I stared at two of Brave's turds floating in the toilet water, I thought, 'Here we are.  We are here.  We are somewhere.'

What's next?  No naps?  Oh MAN that will be nice.  Load the car in the morning and roll in with sleeping kids at bedtime.  What FUN we will have then.  Sure, I could wallow in grief that my babies are growing up, but I am choosing a different response.  I am ready to embrace the next phase of Rupp life.  Bring on the loose teeth and Hardy Boys books, because this mama has retired the Boudreaux's Butt Paste for good.