January 31, 2012

a good mom

We were standing in the Chiang Mai airport, at a crossroads.  The kids and I were being ushered through one gate, headed home, while Grandpa and "Grammy," as Jubilee took to calling her, were going to need to find their own gate, headed to Bangkok, then Tokyo, then Washington, then Chicago, then home.

This goodbye was easier than goodbyes prior, at least on my part.  I knew that I would see my mom and dad again in early summertime, LORD willing, so I was prepared to give each of their shoulders a quick squeeze and be on my way.  Clearing security with four small children is no menial task, after all, and I was eager to get it over with.

But then my mom said to me, mid-squeeze, "You are such a good mom," and I found myself not wanting to let go of her velour jumpsuit.  Next came, you guessed it, the tears, because of all the things a girl wants in life, hearing her mother say she is doing alright tops the list. 
The thing is, I don't feel like a very good mom, especially in the last five months since Jubilee came home.  Just this morning, and I'll go ahead and blame it on the six hours, post-travel, that we all slept last night, I barked at her when she pulled the bookmark out of Bright's chapter book.

That's the sort of the thing that happens around here.  Jubilee's great English and easy-going personality make me forget that she is still new to us, and new to our way of living, our culture.  The other kids have known what a bookmark is since they were babies, and they learned early on not to remove one from a book.  Jubilee, on the other hand, saw two googly eyes looking at her from the nightstand, and she thought someone had left her a prize.

"Jubilee, NO!!" I growled wearily, and her face fell.  I had done it again.


What, then, was my mom referring to while we hugged at the airport?  What made her say that I was good at this?  I think I know.  It is the same thing that makes me remember her as a good mom, in spite of the times she undoubtedly growled at me.

It is the same reason Jubilee reached for me with her little arms this morning, which are deep brown from our trip to the tropics.  While I hung my head with regret, too ashamed to even look at her, she planted her lips against my cheek in a gentle kiss.

Because of all the things a person wants in life, to be loved tops the list.

I was loved, I had a good mom.  My kids are loved, they have a good mom.  Mother's who love their kids should know, "You are such a good mom."

January 28, 2012

Sereana's story

At some point within the last five years, this little girl was conceived.  In a test tube.  Using her biological father's sperm and an egg-donor's egg.
She and three other embryos were extras, and were frozen in case the parents who ordered their conception ever needed them.  They did not.  The embryos remained frozen, and would have eventually been disposed of, if this couple hadn't adopted them.
They named her Sereana, a family name.  She is ethnically Jewish and Italian.  Her adoptive father hails from Fiji, and her adoptive mother is from Wisconsin.  The pair, who do what we do (only in Nepal), tried for seven years to have children.  Their fertility doctor suggested in vitro, giving them a fair chance of success with their own...ingredients.

"However," he told them, "with your great uterus, you would have a fabulous chance with an adopted embryo."

A what?

Heather and her husband had never heard of such a thing, and neither had I until we met them in Thailand last week.  The two of them decided not to make more embryos, when thousands of babies who had already been created sat frozen.  It was a perfect fit for them, and they went for it.  

Rather than choosing to go through an adoption agency, a process which would have required a home study and would have come with a price tag of around $20,000, they heard through the grapevine of a doctor in L.A. who handles this kind of thing out of his office.  He took Heather on as a patient, and matched her up with another patient who had extra embryos and was willing to sign over the rights to them.  The whole process, including medical and legal fees, cost them just over $4,000.  

Heather, who was thrilled with the match, thinking Sereana's ethnicity to blend nicely into her mixed-race marriage, was implanted with two of the four embryos.  She and her husband were prepared for twins, but only Sereana began to grow.  Heather received hormone injections every day for 10 weeks, after which time she and the baby and their amazing pregnancy were on their own.  Last week, Sereana was born, in a Thai hospital, a perfectly healthy little miracle.

When Heather and her husband are ready, they will undergo the process again with the other two embryos, with the hope of giving their daughter one or two biological siblings.


I wanted to post Sereana's story because I didn't know about embryo adoption, and I thought maybe you didn't either.  To adopt or donate embryos through an adoption agency, Heather recommends:

For the inside scoop on the inexpensive route that Heather took, let me know and I'll give you Heather's email address.  Your local doctor could do all the preliminary work, but then you would need to travel to Los Angeles for the actual procedure.  Heather said she would be more than happy to answer any questions, or help in any way she can.

January 23, 2012

nothing but love

That's where I've been, not that anyone has been worried.  The only person who worries when I haven't blogged is my mother, and she happens to be with me.  WITH ME!  She and my dad came through the door a week ago, red-eyed and pale from their 32-hour journey across the world, and I literally ran to them and wrapped my mom up in my arms and cried.

A year and a half is too long.
We decided to meet-up in Thailand this time, since they've already been to our city, and after you've fumbled with chopsticks and floor toilets and painful digestion once, you've earned the Thai tropics, right?  Especially when you're 63 years old, and as awesome as my folks are.
Not only that, but Zion needed his big-boy passport (the one kids get when they turn five), and we all needed another round of Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, and I was out of shortening.  Thailand was in order for all of us.
So rather than blogging, I've been tossing the football in the sun with my dad.  I've been eating curry and drinking diet coke.  I've been petting elephants and feeding sting rays.  Elephants smell oily, like dreadlocks, by the way, and rays are perhaps the softest thing I've ever touched. 
I got to watch my parents meet my daughter for the first time.  My dad was in love from the get-go, chasing her around for hugs and kisses, to which she was averted at first and now loves.  My mom hung back for a while, letting Jubilee get used to her, like letting a horse sniff her knuckles.  They're pals now, though, and they kind of remind me of one another.  Both are beautiful, sweet, and kind, and both are tougher than most people know.
Other than one CT scan of Zion's head after a nasty fall, and one blue fingernail on my dad's hand from my mom slamming the door on it (accidentally, I can assure you), and one day that my mom felt dizzy and had to rest in her bed to the sounds of the whistling birds and rustling palms, we have had a marvelous time together.  Zion and Grandpa are on a "Grandpa Date" right now, in fact, while the toddlers nap in their prospective perches on borrowed sheets in the breeze.  I think Zion wanted shrimp and Sprite, so it is my understanding that the pair were headed to the The Duke's for an afternoon snack.  Grandpa slipped Zion a 20 baht bill, so Zion could "get the tab," and Zion slipped the bill in his new leather wallet, slipping that into the pocket of his blue cotton shorts.  Thailand is a great place to buy leather cheaply, and Zion is into his new wallet.  In fact yesterday he told Daniel, "I think I'm into wallets now more than sea creatures." 
Zion said to me, today, that he thinks he is in love for the first time.  With a girl named Risa, who he met after breakfast this morning, and who's family are workers like us, 30 miles from South Korea.  I saw them talking by the wooden swing, Zion and Risa, and Risa, who is five, was petting Zion's head like a puppy.  A little TLC goes a long way with Zion, apparently, for he declared, with flushed cheeks, just before lunch, "I think I'm going to marry that girl."

Nothing but love going on here in Thailand.

January 12, 2012

a pot on fire and a very good man

20 minutes after I started the oil to make popcorn, I suddenly remembered it.  Dashing into the kitchen, I lifted the lid to the pot, relieved to see the oil still pooled at the bottom, black and thick now, but not on fire.  In the next second, however, while I stood peering into the pot (like an idiot), the oil ignited into angry flames.  I jumped back with a yelp before my face caught fire.

"Daniel, help!"

Into the kitchen ran a naked and dripping husband (mine, of course), who had jumped from his bath when he heard me holler.  He grabbed a hot mit and put it on his left hand, and grabbed a fistfull of all purpose flour with the other.  Foomp, foomp went the flour into the pot, and out went the flames.

The kitchen filled with smoke.  Through the haze, I could see my husband, my grease-fire hero, covered with flour and wearing nothing but a hot mit.  It was hard to keep from choking, between my laughter and the smoke.

I remember a day at the bed and breakfast, when we were all smiles because there were no check-ins that evening.  We had the place to ourselves, for once!  I didn't even do my chores, I just laid down to take a nap or whatever.  I thought I had more than earned a break.  Then the phone rang, and a reservation was made, to check in 10 minutes later.  Daniel literally stopped mid-shave to vacuum the hall carpeting for me, because I had decided to blow off my chores that day.  I photographed the moment, a photograph that will forever epitomize that season of our lives.

Back to last night.  Hours after the fire, I was miffed at Daniel because he failed to be completely thoughtful in every way.  He wasn't happy about it, but he never once brought up how thoughtless I had been to leave oil festering over a hot flame for nearly half an hour.  He never once brought up how he held Jubilee on the couch through dinner, because she was sad, while the rest of ate our fill.  He just rolled over and went to sleep, leaving me lying awake, thinking about what a wonderful man I am married to, and willing the night to pass quickly so I could wake up and tell him so.  I inched closer to him as he slept, until my back was touching his, and I tearfully thanked G0D for my very good man. 

January 09, 2012

...because Glory happened.

"This was the morning after Glory Girl had gone to heaven. We told Eliana when she got up that morning. Not surprisingly, she didn't show her emotion like we had. We heard her banging around in the kitchen, and then she came out and brought each of us a big glass of chocolate milk:). I think it was her way of saying, 'Don't cry because it's over...smile because Glory happened.'"
-Kerry Morton, Glory's mom
Eliana with her grandmas, and their glasses of chocolate milk.

cuteness. pure cuteness.

January 07, 2012

Grand Parents

I don't remember my father's parents. At least I don't remember them well.  By the time I had my first loose tooth, my grandmother had already died, and my grandfather wasn't far behind her.  We didn't actually bury him until I had started to save babysitting money for $50 jeans, but after Grandma died, his mind just climbed into a hole and never came back out again.

My mother's parents, on the other hand, were young when I was little, and they were busy starting over without each other.  My sweet grandma loved me very much, but she had a new husband and years of her life to make up for.  Grandpa loved me too, but he had a lot of grandsons to take hunting and fishing and hamburger-eating, and he didn't know what he was supposed to do with me.

That was alright, as far as I was concerned.  I was too busy skipping rope and selling lemonade to notice the absence of any of them.

Years later, though, when my own kids started coming along, I did notice.  I noticed when my dad stopped using his vacation time for tee-offs and fishing trips, and started driving my mom to births across the country in the middle of the night.  I noticed when my mother-in-law took us in, when Bright was a baby and we had no place else to go.  I noticed when their screensavers became pictures of toddlers with mixing bowls on their heads. I noticed beloved children's books from 20 years ago reappearing in baskets beside the couch.  I noticed Daniel's mom collecting baby clothes in her closet, for grandchildren born and unborn.  I noticed my mom collecting charms, each carefully chosen to represent the grandkids she treasured.

When we moved to East Asia and my parents switched all their buying to a mileage plus card, I noticed.  When they started turning off 20/20 to sit in front of the webcam and give puppet shows on Skype, I noticed.  When my mom read "Grandparenting With Love and Logic," I noticed.

When my mother-in-law gave up her way of living to make her granddaughter's short life as sweet as possible, everybody noticed.

And this winter, we get the pleasure of welcoming all three of the kids' grandparents to the Far East, for a total of 5 weeks of grandfathery, grandmothery, grandsmothery fun!  United Airlines will be making four kids (and two grown-up kids) very, very happy.

Thank you, Grandpa, Grandma, and MoMo, for who and what you are.  It means the world.
Grandpa and Grandma with our nephew, Jack.
MoMo with Kerry, Eliana, and Glory
See you soon!!!!!!!!!!

January 05, 2012

Gooseberry Theology

If you've never bought a Gooseberry Patch cookbook, please do yourselves (and your husbands, and especially your kids) a favor and buy one in the very near future.  It ain't gourmet, I will admit.  Think going to your great-aunts's house for dinner.  Think meat and gravy, oniony dips, punch bowls, cheesy vegetable sides, caramel rolls, gelatin salads, pudding cakes and berry tarts.


Today I made buckeye bars from my newest Gooseberry Patch cookbook.  They're like the famous buckeye candies, those chocolate-hugged peanut butter balls that we get sick on at New Year's Eve parties, except they are infinitely easier to make.

I made them to take to our every-other-week women's meeting, being held tonight at Anita's, where we are discussing chapter 6 of Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney.  If Gooseberry Patch made a book on womanhood, this would be it.  No frills.  No hard-to-find ingredients.  Just extending grace to your kids, wearing cute undies for your husband, opening your home to those who are down-and-out, etc.  It's the kind of book with ugly brown flowers for cover-art and the scrolling-est title-font the publisher could find.  The kind of book I would never, in a million years, pick up and leaf through at the book store, let alone purchase and bring home and read on my way to sleep at night.

That's why meeting regularly, and intentionally, with other women of faith is so important.  It forces us to buy tacky-looking books which (if we stop rolling our eyes long enough to read) might actually change our lives.  It's like a dessert recipe with a yellow cake mix in the ingredient list.  Snobs like me go, "Oh come on, your grandmother impressed crowds for 30 years with this thing?"  Then, we try the dang recipe, and we eat our words along with our second and third piece of the cake.

Sometimes, marshmallows and condensed milk really are all we need.  Sometimes, meatloaf doesn't need to be reinvented.  Sometimes, a kind word and a listening ear really can change the world.

One 7-layer-dip at a time.

January 04, 2012

It takes a village to adopt a child

Some of our friends went to a local orphanage two days ago, a friend of mine was telling me over dinner.  There were babies filling a room, lying in cribs, being held only during feedings.  Unfortunately, the fact that the babies were held for feedings is remarkable.  Many times in these places, bottles are wired on a tilt to the bars of the cribs.

One of my friends cried much of the time during her visit, I was told.  She and her hubby are in the middle of their own adoption process, which means that their child, whoever she is, is still in a place like that, and it will be months before they get their arms around her.

While the details of this orphanage visit were being relayed to me, I was watching Jubilee from the corner of my eye.  She was high up in Daniel's arms, wiggling against his relentless tickling.  Her beautiful yellow face was all creased-up with joy.  She was laughing.  She had taco meat stains in the corners of her mouth.  She was wearing clean, warm clothes.  Her hair was shining and thick.

What a crazy thing, adoption.  A child goes from a row of cribs in a concrete room to, "Jubilee, finish all your cheese and milk or you won't get any cake." Not only does she not know she was adopted, she doesn't know that she is Chinese (yet).  Earlier this week she started to say, "Thank you," to Xiao Fu, but quickly corrected herself.  "Xie Xie, Ayi," she said, and then she turned to me and said, "Say 'Xie Xie' to Ayi.  Ayi talk Chinese."

Yesterday we received a box in the mail from the children's ministry at our home fellowship.  These people are our backbone, and I mean that.  Without them, and their precious kids, we simply could not be here.  And all of these people are waiting to welcome Jubilee home.  Waiting to love her.  Waiting to smother her with kisses.
They said so themselves.
I'm afraid Jubilee doesn't know what she's got coming.  Slip-and-slides and garage sales and hotdogs roasting on a stick.  You see, she didn't just go from "orphan" to "daughter."  Oh, no.  Much, much more happened when she left that orphanage in that rented car on August 15.  She became part of something HUGE, something most of us take for granted.  Community.

Let the sweet tea flow, y'all, because this little Arkansan's got herself a hometown.  Giddy up!

January 02, 2012

urban living

Not much space in this teeming city is allotted for the play of children.  Everybody can entertain their one child perfectly fine with the family pots and pans?  I don't know, but our little brood would rattle the windows if they got their hands on my cookware.  So into the van we pile on a day-off, and through the crowded, dusty streets we drive in search of a place, anyplace, for our kids to play.

Today's find?  This place, on the roof of a random 6-story building.  

January 01, 2012

Rock on!

Unfortunately, the adorable, naked, PG-rated music video of Brave and his guitar got recorded upside-down.

But this little performance in front of the dryer is awfully cute.