December 30, 2012

party girl

She went to a birthday party today, for her friend Lily, and I didn't go along!  Our little princess is such a big girl now.

December 28, 2012

a Zion

Zion could be featured on Animal Planet.  I can just hear the voice-over on the documentary, "A Zion is a small animal with thick fur on top of his head similar to that of a goat.  A Zion is not shy, and will approach other animals easily.   His strength is great for his size and he will prove an aggressive and quick-thinking opponent when challenged in any way.  A Zion is most known for his displays of affection, which come on suddenly, and often, throughout the day.  During such displays, a Zion can be seen tackling his mother with such force that she falls to the ground where he smothers her with kisses for minutes on end."

December 26, 2012

Had I known

A late night, post-nightmare photograph.  Cherishing these moments.
Kids don't have a clue what they've got.  I sure didn't.  Had I known half of what I know now -  had I known that I would spend my adult life on the other side of the world - I would have done a lot of things differently.

I would definitely not have wasted all of my afternoons on the soccer field and in the gym.  Instead, I would have come home and helped my mom with dinner (something I never did), or played cards with my brothers (something else I never did).  I would have gone for walks in the evenings in the snow with my dad.  I would have at least asked him about his day.  I wouldn't have argued with my parents about everything.  I would have trusted their judgement, and respected their authority in my life.  I would have listened to their laughter during the sitcom, instead of closing my bedroom door to drown it out, while I talked on the phone.

I wouldn't have dated.  All pain, no gain there.  I would have spent more time outdoors, knowing that one day work and motherhood would keep me inside for weeks at a time.  I certainly wouldn't have wasted a single minute being unkind.  I would have practiced my piano.  I would have paid attention in civics class.  I would have gone to my grandmother's house.

Had I known what I know now.

December 25, 2012

Lizzy Lou Handmade my Christmas

Christmas is the toughest day of the year for millions of people around the world.  Some folks are starving, others can't afford to buy gifts for their kids, still others spend the 25th of December crying bitter tears of grief.

Gratefully, I can't claim any of these things.  My woe is simple but sore: I miss my family.  Though friends surround us on all sides, there is no other time of year more equated with family than Christmas.  In five Christmases overseas, I have not made it through a single one without weeping.

Though this year was no exception, some happy tears accompanied the sad ones.  The sad tears came first, late on Christmas Eve.

"I just want to be with my mom," I sniffled to Daniel.  "My mom and dad."
"I know, Baby," he soothed.
"I just want to be with my dearest friends.  With Lou," I said, blowing my nose.

The happy tears came the next morning, in a private moment by our twinkling tree.  The kids were ripping apart my careful wrapping jobs.  Daniel was video taping, or freeing super heroes from the zip ties that bound them, or whatever, and I quietly picked up a package labeled:
To: Kayla
From: Mom and Dad

My mom is not the type to run out and buy something and toss it into a gift bag.  She thinks and thinks, and then shops and shops, until the perfect gift waits under the tree like a hug.  This morning, while no one was watching, I opened the gift and tears welled up in my eyes.  It was a beauuuutiful grass green bag, handmade by my very own Liz Sharda (Lou), with her business logo, "Lizzy Lou Handmade" (soon to be an Etsy epidemic) on the strap.  She made it with me in mind, my mom later told me, and Mom bought it from her business, and their collaboration made my Christmas.  I clutched the bag to the lapel of my dorky nightgown and I could almost feel my parents' arms around me.  And I could almost feel Lou's hand giving mine a squeeze as if to say, "You're going to be alright, my friend.  I love you."

And just like that, I have nothing to be sad about this Christmas.

Also, here are two random pictures of our Christmas Dinner at Subway.  Someone was ready to get out of her kitchen! 

December 23, 2012

dough poetry

On their cookie sheet, behind a membrane of cellophane,
my crescent rolls incubate, curled into a fetal position.
The stressful Christmas season storms around them,
but they seem not to notice.
The yelling children, the crying mother, the tested husband,
all producing warmth in the air for the crescent rolls.
The little things suck the warmth in, then slowly exhale,
puffing out doughy chests.
I stop,
on my way to the sink to wash my measuring cups for the 13th time today,
and while Bing Crosby sings, "the weather outside is frightful,"
I take a good long look at my crescent rolls.  I find myself
breathing slowly, like they do.  I find myself wishing
I were one of them.  Like babies in a hurricane,
my crescent rolls sleep, proofing peacefully,
like they otherwise would,
like they were made to do,
regardless of circumstance.

P.S.  I have a new friend in my life.  Her name is Rachel.  She is a poet.  I haven't written poetry (not really, anyway) since college.  This new friendship is fun!
P.S.S.  Here is my crescent roll recipe:

1/2 cup warm water (110°F/45°C)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 3/4 cups flour
1 (.25 oz) pkg dry active yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup butter, softened

Place water, milk, egg, 1/3 cup softened butter, sugar, salt, flour, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (I add them in exactly that order). Select Dough Cycle and press start.
When cycle finishes, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 12" circle, spread 1/4 cup softened butter (divided) over each circle.
Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Roll wedges starting at wide end; roll gently but tightly. Place point side down on ungreased cookie sheet, curling into crescent. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or with loose cellophane and place in a warm place to rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

December 19, 2012

boy meets world

I used to be his whole world.  I used to wish I weren't.  Give me a minute, I would think, and sometimes say, to his fuzzy little head as it bobbed around my legs by the stove.  He never would abide by my wishes, and I continued to trip over him while skipping from the bubbling sauce to the browning rolls.

And now, I am no longer his whole world.  Bright has made relationships outside the home, with good little boys for whom I am grateful every day.  My son talks on and on for hours about these relationships, and the computer games and action heroes and (lame) jokes that bind them.  He has picked up some of their nuances, and they his.  This is the stuff that will contextualize his entire existence from here on out (until he meets Miss Right).

No matter how nice it is to see my kids thriving, it would also be nice, just one more time, to trip over Bright in the kitchen... 

December 18, 2012


My Food Club friends' requests for traditional American Christmas fare this month sent me hunting for the perfect homemade eggnog recipe.

I found this one, and it fits the bill.  A kid-friendly, well-heated, no-frills eggnog.  We've been making it over and over again, because, as it turns out, Daniel is the world's biggest homemade eggnog fan.  Well, maybe the second-biggest...
And I never knew that eggnog is a good picture of love:  it doesn't look like much, perhaps, and it might even turn some people's stomachs, but when you try it, the stuff fills you up, head to toe.  And in the end, you hope you don't get salmonella?  (all analogies fall apart)

December 13, 2012

the end of the world

This morning, my house helper - who I struggle with, but with whom I am trying to be gracious and selfless by sticking it out as long as possible - came to me with a problem.  I understood bits and pieces of what she was saying, as usual.  Something about the number 21, and death, and fear, and light bulbs.

I was stumped.

I did what I always do in these situations.  I phoned Daniel.  When she handed the phone back to me, he said, "It's OK, Babe.  She was hoping that because you have a computer you could look up the pending threat of the end of the world on December 21st.  She is very afraid." 

Oh good, I thought.  She is not asking for 21 days off work because of a death in the family (which is what I feared she was doing).  She just wants me to do an internet search for her.  Whew.

Then I started searching.  Call me cut off from the rest of world over here (because I am), but I had no idea the Mayan calendar was predicting the end of the world to be next Friday.  Apparently, enough people are afraid of this happening that NASA released a video to calm everybody's fears.  If something were hurling through space toward us right now, scheduled to crash into our planet on December 21st, it would be one of the brightest things in the sky, Nasa tried to communicate to a terrified world. 

There is nothing in the sky.  We are all going to be fine.

Here's the funny part: in the moment that NASA put this thing to rest, Kayla Rupp, mother of four kids under the age of 7 who home schools and cooks all meals from scratch because there is no other option and cleans bunny excrement every-other-day to keep her apartment from smelling like a barn, was just the tiniest bit disappointed.

December 09, 2012

They don't pay me enough

When my husband wants to thank a volunteer, any kind of volunteer, he shakes their hand and says, "They don't pay you enough."  It's his way of saying how much their service is worth.

This job of mine doesn't earn me a dime.  I guess that makes me a volunteer?  Though I don't know if I knew what I was signing up for.  After a day like this one, I am thinking that when the volunteer sheet went around, I should have signed up for an afternoon a week at the soup kitchen.

photo by Zion
Today, this mama disciplined a child before enough thorough investigation.  The discipline, as it turned out, was unwarranted.  To my utter dismay, the accused was Jubilee.  I hate the combination of toddler adoption and discipline.  We adoptive parents want our children to trust us and feel loved unconditionally, but she pushes back like any kid does, and she wants to know that I am going to rein her in like any mom does, to any of her other children.  When I discipline her, it is necessary.

Except for today, which was nothing but a big fat failure on my part.  An F minus, a zero, a crash and burn.

Motherhood is so incredibly HARD.

Through bleary eyes I texted Daniel at work and told him what had happened.  "I am the one who needs to be disciplined!!!" I wrote.  He responded that me failing her is just part of Jubilee growing up in a family.  He's so right.  She could have grown up in an orphanage, where the staff would have smiled behind gritted teeth all day long for a paycheck.  But none of those staff would have loved her.  None of them would have stuck around longer than a few years, at best.  She would have grown to hate those plastered smiles, and she would have longed for unwarranted discipline from a well-meaning mother who, despite her enormous flaws, will never


leave her.

Being a part of a family is messy, but it is real, and it is lasting, and it is loving, and it is my life, whether I knew what I was signing up for or not.

December 07, 2012

a writing assignment

Due to the personal preferences of their teacher, my kids spend a lot of time writing and reading in home school.  It could be worse, right?  I could be a fanatical hairdresser, teaching them to give the perfect perm.


Yesterday's assignment was so much fun that I thought I'd share the idea.

Think of a color.  It can be any color.  Get that color in your head.
The first three lines will be things of that color.   
The fourth line will be how that color tastes, preferably compared to something of that color.
Then how it smells, preferably compared to something of that color.
Then how it feels to the touch,
and how it looks,
and how it makes you feel, all preferably compared to things of that color.

For example, here is the poem that Zion wrote. 

by Zion
Green is Brave's shirt.
Green is an olive.
Green is a flag.
Green tastes like celery.
Green smells like the woods.
Green feels like an old book.
Green looks like a monster.
Green makes me feel awesome.

Now here's the one I wrote.  Between the two poems, I like Zion's a whole lot more.  The voice of a child has a freshness and a purity of tone that adults just cannot replicate.

by Zion's Mom
Blue is a bruise.
Blue is a baby's bib.
Blue is a daydream.
Blue tastes like Kool-Aid.
Blue smells like fresh paint.
Blue feels like ice.
Blue looks like a mirage.
Blue puts me at ease.
photo by Bright

December 06, 2012

paired for life

When we found out that our two youngest children would be a month apart in age, we were: terrified, certainly; happy, barely; intrigued, mostly.  What would that look like?  One beefy white boy with a dimple in his cheek, and one wispy Chinese girl with a beautiful face and a painful past, paired to share the same age, the same home, the same parents, and the same last name. 

Would they share their hearts?

16 months after their first meeting, it is gloriously clear that no two hearts have ever been more shared.  They don't know that they aren't twins.  They are never apart, they rarely quarrel, and the ways in which they are different only serve to compliment one another.  She is gentle and patient and bent on blessing him, and he is powerfully loyal and eager to make her laugh (I pity the fool who ever tries to make her cry). 

In fact, to be perfectly honest, I have had the thought, 'It's a shame they can't get married and spend the rest of their lives together.' 

Then this evening, as they exchanged their usual, "You beautiful, Jubi," and "Sanks, Bwave, you handsome," it occurred to me that they will get to spend the rest of their lives together.  Their bond is legal and permanent.  They will be brother and sister forever. 

Oh how that makes me smile.

It's a funny thing, adoption.  Much, much more happens than a child simply finding a home. 

December 04, 2012


The pics were taken with Daniel's phone, so the quality is lacking, but the flexibility certainly is not.  Dance class doesn't start until age 5 around here, or she would be in a tutu, you can be sure:)

December 03, 2012

Eleven Trees

Eleven Christmases later, here we are, beside our eleventh Christmas tree poking out of our loaner van at the garden market here in our new city.  Do you see the tree's limbs casting shadows across our bodies?  Yes, folks, we had real sunshine on Saturday.  Ahhhhh, it was wonderful.
Not exactly like getting your tree at Home Depot.

(by far my favorite tree we've found these five Christmases in East Asia)

November 30, 2012

Jack, the Christmas Jack-O-Lantern

Day five without Daddy, and this mama has had it up to here.  The discipline load was so heavy today that we hardly cracked a book in school.  By 4 p.m., I was thinking, 'It's either time for me to get drunk, or throw out the daily plan and do something fun.'

Just kidding about that first option, friends.  I haven't been drunk in 12 years and the only alcohol I ever buy is for cooking (though even cooking wine looked good today).  Of course, we decided to do something fun.

Back in October when we were visiting our friend's village, we picked a pumpkin.  It has been sitting by our front door for almost two months now, looking all pale and twisty and classy.  The kids begged me all through October to carve it up into a Jack-O-Lantern, but I just couldn't bear to demote my lovely pumpkin from classy to tacky.

Today, I took a knife, and Christmas Season be that as it may, I stuck the flesh of my poor, unsuspecting squash (who had grown to trust me, I sadly think) and in a flurry I carved a classic Jack-O-Lantern face while my kids squealed with delight.  Afterward, the pumpkin and I stared each other down, my sardonic smile matching his, tooth for tooth.  What can I say?  I'd had a tough week, and the pumpkin was past its prime.  It was a perfect storm.

We stuck a candle in him, curled a red ribbon around his stem, and put him back by the front door, where he will stay until the New Year, I'm sure.  The kids named him Jack.

Jack, the Christmas Jack-O-Lantern.

Better than AA.

November 29, 2012

my friend Zak

Hello, this is Bright E. Rupp, the son of Kayla Rupp. I am 7 years old. I have just learned to type; and this is my first blog post! First, I am going to tell you the story about Zak. First of all, I know you are wondering who Zak is; he is an alien(stuffed animal) from the star(star not planet) Zuum. I ordered him with my tooth money. I had made a welcome-home sign two days ago, and his arrival all started when a package came: my mom said "If Zak is not in this package he will be in the next one." Well, I found a small box that said in big letters: open here. so I did. Inside was a bag. I 93% knew what would be in it. So of course I opened the bag and that was the very first time I saw Zak in real life. Now, I also had another alien named Jupiter from Jupiter. There is a story about him too and that is hole another story, but I will tell you anyway. It all started when grandma was knitting a teddy bear for Brave R. Rupp. But when Jupiter came, a note came with it; it said: 'Sorry! The teddy bear is green like an alien!' But we liked him as an alien so we named him Jupiter and he was our alien!
So Jupiter mite have also been desperately wanting Zak to come home!                   

November 27, 2012

a teddy bear in my bed

Daniel is out of town for the week, which means that one of my major appliances will break and one of the kids will what?  That's right.  Get sick. 

This week it is Bright's turn, apparently.  He has been having respiratory issues lately.  When he gets a cold, it goes right to his chest and affects his breathing, giving him a relentless cough which keeps him up at night.  Daniel's absence this week is a bit convenient, actually, as Bright fits right in bed with me where I can listen to his breathing.  Two nights ago, when he was at his worst and there was not going to be a wink of rest between us, we just said forget it and I popped popcorn and we propped the portable DVD player on the comforter and we watched The Sound of Music in bed together.  It was a lovely memory with my son which you won't catch me ever forgetting.

The next morning, I took these two pictures.  My brother, Jack, gave the teddy bear to me as a present when I was a girl, and now he belongs to Bright and goes by the name of Tree Trunk.  Tree Trunk has been bunking up with me these past few nights as well.  I guess he and Bright are a package deal.  It makes me think of my little brother and I like every bit of it.
Today, I am happy to report that the antibiotics and breathing treatments are kicking in and Bright is feeling much better.  Well enough to grab the camera, anyway, and take this picture of George Fuzzy eating celery, his favorite snack, while wearing a cowboy hat.

November 25, 2012

Food Club

I have lived in East Asia for almost 4 1/2 years and I have managed to make only American and European friends, probably because our co-workers until August were all Americans, and Europeans are close enough;)  Not only that, but it's one thing to eat tortillas every day and sleep in a hammock in a hut during a short-term trip to the Yucatan (I know because I did that in high school), but its another thing altogether to sell all of your stuff and move your entire family to another country indefinitely. In that case, a gal tends to make a home for herself much like the home she had in the old country. 

I remember as a kid judging questioning the Mexican-American immigrants in our town who bought homes in the same vicinity as one another and decorated their porches alike and spoke Spanish to each other and to their kids and celebrated Mexican holidays and ate Mexican food.  You are in America, now, I ignorantly thought, why don't you branch out a little?

Let's just say that I have eaten those words a thousand times since moving overseas in 2008.  Chewed 'em up and swallowed 'em.

Me, stirring up a cheesecake at Food Club.
And now, I am finally taking my own advice.  I am branching out a little.  You are looking at the co-coordinator of a multicultural community group for women centered around the theme of cooking.  Otherwise known as Food Club.

Ohhhhhh, friends, Food Club is where it's at!   Alisa and I teach our Chinese, Singaporean, and Filipino friends how to make meatloaf (your recipe, Lydia Harrigan) and twice-baked potatoes and cheesecake, and they teach us how to make pull-apart toffeed sweet potatoes and stewed ribs with star anise and chili paste.  Mmmmmmm.  The eatin' is so good and the fellowship is even better, as we share from our hearts and our pasts in two different languages and learn how The Father has done mighty works in each of our lives.

It is sweet.  All of it.  I am blessed, blessed, blessed by this tasty new part of my life!!

November 23, 2012

friends like these

Few things are as wonderful as a visit from the Hedden family.  Cold turkey-and-mayo sandwiches, maybe.  Pumpkin lattes on the roof.  Popcorn and Elf under a blanket on Thanksgiving night.  That last plate of stuffing with hot gravy before bed.  These things come close, but hosting 7 of the 11 Heddens the week of Thanksgiving tops it all. 

We had a week to remember.  xxoo
Andrew, Jubilee, Brave, Zion, Isaac, Bright, and Natalie.

November 16, 2012


We all judge our coffee by it's color (unless we drink it black).  When the color is right, we stop pouring the cream.  Too white and the stuff is too milky to drink.  Too dark and it is bitter. 

We all know to pull the cake from the oven when its aroma reaches the living room.  Sure, we grab a toothpick and poke it, because the cookbook tells us to, but we already know.

The holidays are coming.   For you, the signs mights be glaringly obvious, but over here we must rely on our keener senses.  The leaves don't change color, there are no toy commercials on TV (there is no TV at all), and there are no cornucopia decals in the window at Wendy's (as if there were a Wendy's). 

But nonetheless, I can feel them coming.  My cinnamon and nutmeg are whispering back and forth to each other in the pantry, as if gearing up for the game.  People are discussing who is hosting a meal next week and who will be a tupperware-toting guest.  Should we go with a marshmallow topping or a pecan topping on the sweet potato casserole?  How about one of each?  Should we make sure there are two pumpkin pies or should we change things up with a chocolate cream pie?  Is an 8 kilo turkey going to be big enough?  Why, oh why did my bread machine have to keel over this week?  Such unfortunate timing.  Even as I say it, there are happy jitters in my voice, because I have stocked up on butter and flour and sugar and THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING!

The holidays aren't the only expected visitors.  No siree.  Tomorrow, our dear, dear friends the Heddens will arrive after a 17 hour train ride from our former city, to stay with us until Friday!  Yahoo!  There will be much coffee-drinking and cake-eating and pajama-wearing, and tear-crying and story-telling and time-enjoying.  Having friends-that-feel-like-family visiting from out of town really makes it feel like the holidays!

I think I just heard a whoop and holler from the cinnamon and the nutmeg. 

November 15, 2012

eye of the tiger

I have a crush on my husband.

Tonight was date night.  We went to The Lazy Pug, a dark little den of a restaurant tucked under the street, run by an American gal with a sweet disposition.  We like it there.  As we ate our chips and salsa, I looked across the table at my man.  He's 33 years old now.  He has lost the gangly teenage look that he still had when we married.  He's sturdy, and steady, and respectable.  Tell me if those aren't attractive traits!  I rested my hand in his and I said, smiling, "I like who you're becoming."

This morning, at the breakfast table, after he led us in our morning devotions, Daniel led us in a sweeping rendition of "Eye of Tiger," complete with air jabs that would rival Rocky himself.  The kids looked puzzled (I was laughing hysterically) so we had to gather around youtube and watch the music video/movie clip where Rocky and Mr. T duke it out in the ring.

Working-out has come back into my husband's routine, as you can see from the pic.  He jumps rope.  I don't know if you've tried jumping rope for half an hour, but it is HARD TO DO.  I can't do it.  I tried.  Daniel can, and he tears it up out there in the cool night smog.  I hear the smick-smack of the rope and I admire.  

Daniel has a really tough job this year.  You may not know this, but he doesn't speak English anymore at work, or at least very little.  Sometimes when he gets home in the evenings, his English sounds funny, as if he's trying to construct sentences like he does in his other language.  It makes me smile.  He's tried so hard these last four years to learn how to speak to the people in this country.  I am so proud of him.

But it's hard.  It's exhausting.  He sent me a text this morning, after closing out of youtube and going in to work, and it read, "Just a man and his will to survive."

I told him he needed that printed on a T-shirt.

November 14, 2012


Today?  Let's see...

One lunch-hour marital squabble (aren't those fun?)
One broken crock pot
One breakdown in front of the kids
One house-helper asking for a raise because our apartment is so big (puzzling on so many levels)
One failed cake
One successful cake
Two side-dishes (thankfully I have a backup crock pot)
A full day of home school
All the faces on the coloring page scribbled dark black (counselors out there, any thoughts?)
Two apron strings in the toilet (don't ask)
Four spankings

And three dinner guests coming in an hour.

Yeah.  I know.

November 09, 2012

looped together

There are eight different types of fingerprints.  The type a person has depends on many factors, including sex, race, and specific genetic traits (like eye color, hair color, etc.)  You would think, therefore, that we six Rupps would have prints of varying types.

We don't.

When we collected thumbprints from the right hand of each member of our family for a home school activity this week , every single one of them was an ulnar loop. 

When G0D created Jubilee, He knew which family she would belong to, and He knew the day would come when we would take our fingerprints for home school, and He knew how she would feel when she saw that she was part of the group.  The loop group.  Our Father is so sweet.
(photo courtesy of Jessica Meinardus)

November 08, 2012

six one way, half dozen the other

The election is over.  We have a president for four more years.  Here's what I think about it.

Everybody does something better than somebody else.  For example, I bet you can't do a split leap as well as my husband.  That is a real photo, by the way.  He really can do that.

I bet your scalloped potatoes aren't as good as mine.  If you don't believe me, try them.  If I'm wrong, I'll eat my words. (No lactose-intolerant challengers, please).

5 large baking potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 quart whipping cream
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper

Layer potato slices in a buttered 9x13 baking dish. Stir together cream and remaining ingredients (it will seem like a lot of salt and pepper, but trust it); pour over potatoes evenly. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender, mixture has thickened, and there is a deep brown color all over the top.

In the wake of the election, you may or may not be thinking that America does government better than everybody else.  I tend to think we do, after seeing the way a few other governments do things.  But just because we do government better than others, doesn't mean we are outright better.  We are way behind the Chinese, for example, when it comes to healthy living, using public transportation, delicious street food, and shameless karaoke.  They do a better job at honoring their elders, using discretion, and memorizing information.  Where we only have to memorize 26 letters, they memorize (and flawlessly reproduce) thousands of intricate characters.

They also know better how to share (communism has produced some good qualities), and how to build relationships.  Americans are notoriously individualistic.

Back to the presidential race.  This is the second such election that I have witnessed from afar, and I have to say, I am beginning to enjoy the view from here.  The truth is, both candidates this year would have made good presidents.  In fact, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or your dad's buddy Jim would be far better leaders than many leaders in the world today.  As Bright put it so well, "I'm cheering for both candidates.  To make it as far as they have, they must be pretty good guys."

November 07, 2012

George F. Rupp

We all make those promises to our animal-loving toddlers.  "When you are seven," we say, "you may have a pet."

Then, in the blink of an eye, that toddler is seven and it turns out that children remember every single thing we say.

Meet our new pet.  A large, docile, 2-month-old bunny.  The children have named him George Fuzzy, and he isn't half bad, if you ask me.  He doesn't bark, he doesn't mind being in his cage (in fact, he rather prefers it), he eats very little and he is gentle and slow-moving.  We are pleased to have George Fuzzy!  A warm thanks to "Uncle John" for bringing him in from the great bunny warehouse - or wherever it is that Uncle John gets these bunnies for all the kids around here.  He's a regular bunny stork, that John G:) long will George live?  How large will he grow?  How long before I am tired of emptying his poop-and-pee tray? (Just kidding about that last one, George).

We shall see.  We shall just see.

November 04, 2012

smell my feet

We used to be those parents who didn't allow their kids to celebrate Halloween.  We aren't those parents anymore.  I'm not sure what happened.  Peer pressure, I guess.  Or maybe, in the 7 years since we've become parents, we've looked evil straight in the face enough times that, really, four little kids in dressup clothes don't really scare us.
What is scary is my oldest running around for a week chanting, "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat."  We had hoped that living out of the country and all, we might avoid such American cultural unpleasantries.  When I asked Bright where he had heard that phrase, he replied, "I read about it in a book."  Great.  Just like the rest of the world, my children are learning about the USA second-hand, through the media!  Now there's something scary.

Speaking of Americans, there's a bunch of us living in this city, and when we got all of our little ghouls together it was a thing to behold.  You can be sure the neighbors were wondering whether we'd all lost our minds.
How did we pull off trick-or-treating, you ask?  Sonya roped the store-owners on our street into passing out candy to our kids.  The store-owners didn't really know why they were doing it, but they were happy to oblige.  Our kids LOVED IT!  It was like a great, big, chewy bite out of home.  I could almost smell pumpkin guts, dead leaves, and apple cider.


After trick-or-treating there was a rooftop party, where we stuffed our bellies with frosted sugar cookies and orange Fanta, and watched Charlie Brown on a projector against a brick wall at dusk.  I have to say, this mama had about as much fun as any kid there.  It felt so good to act like the American that I am, even if it was in the name of Halloween;)
Dr. Brave with his buddy, Batman (Zeb).
Bright with his buddy, Cameron.

November 01, 2012

Carrie and Kody

Well, Kody might not have sent me a pic of himself in a Halloween costume, but he certainly has made the blog this month!  Today we opened a care package from him and his sweet girlfriend, Carrie!  We were more than thrilled to pull a box of Strawberry frosted Poptarts, a bag of Tootsie rolls, two awesome science toys, and a stack of trucker trading cards (my brother is a trucker) from the belly of a banged-up box.  Those boxes get worked over on their way across the world.  Thankfully, Uncle Kody has a girlfriend (I could stop there, but I'll continue) who carefully filled the empty space with plastic bags so that nothing was damaged.  Carrie coming into our family has more than filled the empty space.  She is wonderful, just wonderful, and we are happy to have her!

Thanks, Carrie and Kody, for the thoughtful package!  We feel cared for, that's for sure.  We miss you both very much.

October 29, 2012

Does this make me a hobbit?

I grew up with two brothers.  One was three years older than me, Kody, and he was sweet and thoughtful and a little cranky.  He hasn't changed much (wink, wink, I love ya, Kod).  The other was two years younger than me, Jack, a warm and funny over-thinker.  He hasn't changed much, either (wink, wink, I love ya, Jack).

I miss my brothers.

I call them from time to time, but you know guys.  They aren't the greatest phone conversationalists, unless they need advise from their only sister, or an ear to receive happy news during happy times.  I'm always here for them, though, cheering them on, and loving them, and appreciating them, and they know that.  Nobody appreciates you like your siblings.  They saw you slurp your cereal every morning at the breakfast table and they saw you with chicken pox and acne and they heard the awkward things you said in middle school.  In spite of all of that, and really, because of all of that, they love you like nobody else can.  Not in the same way, anyway.  Not in that fiercely loyal way, that unconditional way.  That stand-the-test-of-time way.

So now that I've gushed a bit, I will lighten things up with this hilarious and wonderful and perfect image of my little brother, Jack, dressed for a costume party this weekend.  My mom sent me this picture yesterday, and I went running through the house rounding up the husband and the kids to come and take a look at Uncle Jack.  I mean, he has always resembled Elijah Wood, but come on. This is just uncanny. I love it!

p.s.  I would have posted a picture of you too, Kod, if you would have dressed up.  Maybe next year?  xxoo

October 28, 2012

where a kid can't be a kid

We chose to raise our kids in a foreign country, I acknowledge that.  In doing so, I am acknowledging that the problem - our American kids can't act like American kids - is our own fault.

Still, I'm frustrated.

Here is the argument that our apartment complex staff would give:  You didn't have to parent four children.  You could have stopped at one like we do.  You didn't have to teach them at home.  There are schools where your kids can get their energy out.  If you sent them to school, they wouldn't need to run around the grounds here at our establishment, treading on our precious grass, climbing our dear little trees, etc.  You can't afford the international schools in this country, you say?  Then move back to your own country where English-speaking education is free.  You WANT to live here in our country, you say?  Then abide!!!!

To which I would have no reply.  They would be right.

Not only that, but He said to us, "Go and make discip1es of all nations," not, "Go and make the nations feel bad because they don't have the same child-rearing values that you have."

Still, I'm frustrated.  The children are shushed wherever we go.  They are told to get off the retaining walls and to step away from the water fountains.  We are not allowed to picnic on the grass.  They are ordered to come down from even the lowest branches of trees in the park.  Cars don't slow down for them in lots or driveways.  The water at restaurants is either scalding hot, or loaded with lemon pulp.  Outdoor space is devoted to landscaping (which children are not allowed to touch), architecture, sculptures, and slippery, uneven surfaces which are very artistic but especially difficult for strollers and little feet to traverse.  With all of these restrictions on children, you would think that playgrounds where children can play would be plentiful. Think again.  There are plenty of little carnival-type rides for youngsters, but they cost a fortune, and my kids don't get a bit of exercise while sitting in a spinning tea cup.  We come home from a place like that and they are still climbing the walls.

All of this and more is why we took this apartment with roof access, upon which we are about to put a full-sized trampoline.  I'm hoping that will solve all of our problems.  There remains the small problem of the neighborhood cats defecating on our roof, but Daniel has worked out a solution to that problem, he assures me.  I don't even want to ask (and really, neither do you).

East Asia, where a husband can use his giftings to make an impact, and where a kid...can' a kid:(

October 27, 2012


Had a rough one.  Up since 4:30 a.m. with Zion while he upchucked over the side of my bed into the trash can.  Momentous occasion, though, ya know? That first stomach virus after they're reasonable enough to use a trash can rather than their pajamas, sheets, covers, pillows, 52 stuffed animals, and the space between their bed and the wall.  Emptying a trash can is easy.

Jubilee has diarrhea, and strange sores on her face.  Some of the other kids in the neighborhood have Hand, Foot, and Mouth right now, so I would say she's got that except she isn't running a fever.  Who knows what all we've got.  I'll tell you what we've got, we've got DOOTSAKAS (Daddy Out Of Town So All Kids Are Sick).  Seems like we always get DOOTSAKAS.  You can put your money on it.

Daddy is coming home this evening, supposedly.  He just texted me from the airport down country saying that the plane is delayed.  Of course it's delayed.  I'd be shocked to hear otherwise.  The kids are in their beds with their sores and their trash cans, and I'm in here trying to avoid the house which seems to be screaming at me from every room, "Get these toys and books and things put away, we feel miserable!"  I'm surprised the house isn't screaming for a glass of water like Jubilee is doing.  I better go get the girl a drink before she bursts the lesion under her nostril.

Before I go, here's a picture of my three-year-olds having some downtime before DOOTSAKAS set in.  They are cute, and I love them.  I'm just ready for backup, y'all!