April 29, 2012

the serious club

What do my kids do on the weekends?  They launch private organizations.

They hold their meetings in a fort extending from the triple bunk beds.

Of course, there are clearly laid-out guidelines.

Activities include leafing through daddy's vintage war planes picture book, because, as Bright noted, "The military is serious."

Also in the minutes, reading from serious literature. 
 At one point, I dared to use the commode in the boys' room, and Bright said, "Who flushed the toilet in the Serious Club's bathroom?!"

"I did," I admitted, "but I did it seriously."

"Oh, that's OK then," Bright said.  Whew!  I was pardoned.  I hate to think what my penance would have been. 

April 28, 2012

Like the tearing of Velcro

Next weekend we are having a tag sale.  Under normal circumstances, nostalgia (which is very strong with me) would win out and we would not be selling our baby things or toddler clothes.  However, these are not normal circumstances.  In fact, none of my circumstances are "normal," now that I think about it, but back to the point. Because the movers this fall will charge us by the square meter, we don't want to move anything we won't use again.   

That's right, we won't use our baby things or toddler clothes again.  Please pass the tissues, because I am over here burying my face in tiny hooded sweatshirts and stained receiving blankets, breathing in the faint scents of diaper rash cream and pureed squash.  OK, so maybe the scents are all in my head, but that doesn't mean they aren't real.  The pain of parting with this stuff is real, I can tell you that.  As real as the Velcro on my Eagle Creek purse that I've been using since college, and the tearing sound is just as loud.

There are, of course, a few things I will never part with.  What kind of mother would I be if there weren't?  Like my favorite flannel shirt of Bright's when he was a toddler.
 And the corduroy sport jacket that Zion wore on his first birthday.
And this hand-knit pea pod sweater of baby Brave's.
And the gingham dress that Jubilee was wearing on the day that we met her, sweet little thing.
I tell ya, I may not be a baby person, but I am a my-baby person!  Even though I am done, done, done like the last steak on the grill, and as ready to put this stage behind me as my parents were to see the end of Disco, there is a part of me that will always ache to hold one of my babies, just one more time.

April 27, 2012

girlhood dreams

This little girl was born in southwest Michigan in 1980, to a tiny, freckled young woman and a happy, hairy young man.  She was raised in a squat, sturdy brick house on 34th Street, where she ran around until dark with neighborhood friends, pretending she was Laura Ingalls Wilder beside the creek, or a mermaid princess in her backyard pool.  She wanted to be a writer, a wife, a mommy, and a professional athlete.  She dreamed of seeing the world and reaching the lost with the good news of CHR1ST.

Well here I am, blabbing away on this blog, married with four kids, and living and serving in East Asia.  If you consider blogging "writing," and you disregard the professional athlete part, it looks like all of my dreams have come true!  My legs don't look like that anymore, but thankfully neither does my wardrobe.  Check out that TV in the background.  Aunt Cindy, was this picture taken at your house?

29 years after me, this little girl was born, somewhere in Guangdong Province, China, to a woman who could not take care of her.  She was left on the ground in the middle of the city, her belly button still weeping.  She went to live in an orphanage with lots of other kids, where she awaited an uncertain future.

(Be a peach, will you, and disregard the unfolded pile of clean dishrags and the random mismatched cushion, and choose to focus instead on the cutie in her playclothes.)

On August 16, 2011, that cutie became our precious daughter, Jubilee Sue!  She will play in the creek this summer, and she will splash like a mermaid in the pool.  She will dream of being things, and of seeing things, and of going places, and we will do everything we can to help make all of her dreams come true.  XOXO

April 24, 2012

warming up

Bright has finally starting showing an interest in learning the language.  I was determined to wait until he was ready, but I was beginning to think it would never come.  Now I am so excited to add language class to our curriculum next year, along with typing (which I've decided to add so Bright's fingers can start keeping up with his mind).  Zion needs more art, and they both need spelling help, and a good geography program, and some sort out-of-the-box history (they inherited my blank-stare response to timelines).  If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears!

Oh, sweet boys, I am so proud of you for wanting to shed some of your aversion to our host culture, and it warms my heart to hear you repeating a phrase or two.  If a certain group of people had been all up in my face for almost four years, petting my head, grabbing my arms, laughing at me whenever I fell down, and snapping photos even when I pleaded with them not to, I think it would take me just as long to want to speak their language.  You have been very good sports, my sons, and you make me smile.

You make your L0RD smile, too.

April 23, 2012

pasta perfect

Remember all that shredded mozzarella in my freezer?  Thanks to Paula Dean, I have four cups less of it, and one very happily-fed family this evening.  I suggest trying this fabulous pasta.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (I couldn't find diced, so I used stewed tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, which I pureed in my blender before adding to the sauce)
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. sugar
1 (16 oz) box bow-tie pasta, cooked and kept warm

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9 x 13 with cooking spray.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and cook 5 or 6 minutes or until tender.  Add flour, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk, tomatoes, and tomato sauce; cook for 5 or 6 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Stir in chicken, 3 cups cheese, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Stir in cooked pasta.  Spoon mixture into prepared dish, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 

I followed the recipe exactly (other than the tomato switcheroo) and it was fantastic!  Daniel asked me to make it again very soon.  I served it with roasted broccoli.  My kids devoured it.  Thanks, Paula Dean.

By the way, did anyone ever make that Love By Chocolate Cake?  If so, did you almost weep because it was so good?  Just wonderin'.

April 21, 2012

four more weeks

In the next four weeks, we must have a moving sale, organize our entire home to be packed for our move to a new province, pack for our trip to America, fly Zion to his eye doctor in Hong Kong, throw a 5th birthday party, say goodbye to Xiao Fu, say goodbye to our friends, eat up all the food in our deep freeze (consisting of mostly shredded mozzarella cheese, which means eating lots of baked spaghetti), finish up home school, and board the six of us on a plane to Arkansas.

That is not including whatever is on Daniel's checklist.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

How will Jubilee do on the big flight over the pond?  That's anybody's guess.  To be honest, I'm more worried about Bright and his new night-terror problem.  At home, we rouse him at 10 p.m. to keep him from plunging into a fit of craziness, but we have heard that night-terror kids are a real...well...terror on the overseas flights.  Our friend Tim has to toss his daughter, Natalie, into the airplane bathroom and let her go nuts until she finally wakes up.  Hmmm, things could get interesting.
Our schedule in America makes the next four weeks look like a long vacation.  Jubilee has the most to do, including being re-adopted, becoming an American citizen, and undergoing surgery to get her "pretty owie" removed.  Life for us continues to be one big opportunity to recklessly trust the L0RD. 

Four more weeks, friends.  Chick-Fil-A, here I come!

April 20, 2012

on the job

This morning, as my husband loaded his man purse messenger bag at the door, I said, "Bye, Babe.  I love you."  Then, with a look around the apartment at the breakfast mess and all the rest of it, I added, "Sometimes I don't like my job."

"Sometimes I don't like my job," Daniel said, "but in those moments I ask myself, 'Is it worth it?'"

With that, he was gone, and I was left with my lukewarm coffee and my bedhead and four kids with four thousand needs each.

There are lots of jobs out there, and they all have their pros and cons.  Take my job at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, for example.  I LOVED that job.  I literally couldn't wait to go to work in the morning.  Still, even that job had its downsides.  I had to go to Sam's Club for a birthday cake every time someone in the newsroom had a birthday.  It was a big newsroom, and I hate Sam's Club.  Without fail, I would end up in the checkout behind someone buying 45 boxes of frozen shrimp and 100 crates of insulated disposable coffee cups, or something like that.  The smell in there always bugged me, too, like a combination of freezer burn and dirty cardboard.

We all have a job to do.  Some of us, like my husband, can see very clearly the importance of his job.  If he didn't tell them, they wouldn't hear.  Others of us, like me, can see fairly clearly the importance of our jobs, though the gratification is delayed considerably.  Still others work blah jobs simply to pay the bills, or to put their kids through school, or to keep their wives (or husbands) from having to work. 

In the country where we live, people don't like their jobs.  Most people hate their jobs.  The government tells college students what their majors will be, based on what kind of jobs need to be filled.  If mathematicians are needed, a musically-inclined individual will be told she must major in math (unless she is an amazing musician, and then she will be told she must be a musician).  Daniel has asked several people if they like their jobs, and they just look at him blankly, as if he just asked them if they chose the weather that day.  In many ways, this aspect of the culture here is sad, but in other ways, it seems freeing.  The pressure is off to find a job they "love," and they can focus instead on why they are working, and who they are working to bless.

Which brings me back to my lukewarm coffee/bedhead moment.  The question isn't, "Do I love my job?" but rather, "Is my my job worth it?"  Oh, the answer to that question is easy.  Though it is so hard it sometimes feels like it will kill me, my job is certainly worth it, because those who are blessed by what I do every day (Bright, Zion, Brave, Jubilee, and especially Daniel) are worth more to me than everything else in the world.

April 18, 2012

when in Rome, grab the markers

Daniel would rather be in the deer woods, or under a house, or behind the pulpit, than working with paints and pottery.

That said, Daniel Rupp is a stellar dad.  Recently, without so much as a nudge from me, Daniel announced that he was taking Zion to the coffee shop down in the alley for a milkshake, and they were bringing along paper and markers.  I looked down at Zion, who had a bookbag full of art supplies slung over his shoulder.

"That's wonderful!" I said, trying not to act too excited, so as not to discourage this sort of thing from happening again.  There is, after all, no thrill-kill like one's mom getting all ooey-gooey. 

The really cute part?  When they got home, it was Daniel who had a masterpiece to show me.  Looks like somebody is a closet artist.  Or at least he is good at drawing vehicles.
Zion is a hard one to reach.  Content and pleasant people often are.  Not prone to begging or cajoling for attention, they can sometimes get overlooked.  Not this time.  Daniel found the place where Zion was, and he went there.

Good job, Daniel Rupp.  My cup runneth over.

April 16, 2012

moving (on)

It's official.  We are moving to a new city in the fall, after we return from our visit to the United States of America.  Last week, I flew to our new city with one of my favorite friends, Alisa, pictured here (she and her fam are moving there, too) and signed my name to a two-year lease and paid the landlord half a year's rent in cash.  That's how it's done here.  Boy, am I glad I didn't leave my purse in the airport ladies' room that day!  If only the petty thieves had known the kind of heat I was packing. Yikes...

Our new apartment is 7-floors off the ground with no elevator.  I will have buns of steel by this time next year, I am sure of it.  OK, maybe that's wishful thinking.  Just trying to look on the bright side, as I will have to tote four small children and their scooters and trikes and all of my groceries up and down those stairs several times a week.  Whew!

The reason we chose a top-floor apartment is the roof access.  For the first time since
504 N. Lexington Ave., where we lived in 2004, we will have private outdoor space.  Can you hear me singing?  I am.  I am singing a song of celebration.

Now, don't get me wrong, the place is a dump.  But a little lipstick and rouge and I think we will be very comfy there.  I want to put a picnic table on the roof, and a kiddie pool, and we might even pick up a cheap grill.  Now if only we could get our hands on some good, red, American beef to throw on the Bar-B.  Ah, but a girl can't have everything.

I have to tell you about the DRAMA that happened on our flight home!  Our flight was supposed to take off at 10 p.m., but it was delayed.  We didn't even board until 11:45 p.m.  As if that weren't enough, we sat on the tarmac until 2:30 a.m.  Yes, I said 2:30 a.m.  Well, at about 2, the passengers of the crowded aircraft formed a mob around the stewardesses, demanding answers.  That would have been no problem except that Alisa and I were sitting in the bulkhead.  Lovely.  What I am saying is, at 2 in the morning, after being up since 5 the morning before, we found ourselves surrounded by 50 or 60 angry and overtired people from a culture where yelling is acceptable.  The louder the better, in fact, it would seem.  The staff of our airplane, who we needed to get us home safely, were being berated to the point of tears.  Their petite hands were shaking.  It was in this state that we were finally cleared for takeoff, and the plane began to race down the runway with the mob still on their feet and pressed against our backs.  Alisa and I were squeezing each others' hands and praying out loud.  It was insane.

What did our husband's have to say about it?  I can't remember if Daniel had a comment, but Alisa's husband, John, voiced his disappointment that we didn't get it on video.


All that to say, we are moving.  We are moving to a new city, in a new province, into a great big dive of an apartment, with good friends by our side and the L0RD lighting the way.  I am buckling my seat belt right now.

April 15, 2012

growing season

In the United States and Canada, the growing season usually means the days between the last and first frost (Wikipedia).  The last frost for us was about two months ago, when Jubilee finally felt grafted into our family, and the first frost of the coming winter is, L0RD willing, a ways down the road.

So it is that we find ourselves settling into the growing season.  The diapers are gone, and along with them the nursing bras and nighttime feedings, and stacks and stacks of adoption paperwork.  This is a season of weeding, and toiling in the fields.  We get up early, and we crash into our beds at night.  There is no time to stop and rest.  There is no break until after the harvest, when the fruits have left the stalks, and what's left over gets plowed down, and sold in garage sales (or saved for the grand kids).

Though the winter is far from us now, and our crops are happy and even flourishing, this season of growing will have trouble all its own.  There will be rabbits dancing around and moles underground, and beetles and worms and drought and hail and flooding.  We will nibble our nails and watch the clouds and pray and pray and pray.

Still, there will be no other time in our lives like the next ten years.  This we have been told more than a few times.  We've got one shot to invest in these little people.  Though it feels like yesterday that Daniel and I were getting married, in that much time from now our eldest will be preparing to go to college.  If we think these last ten years flew by, I can only imagine the speed with which these next ten will pass.

My mom had a needlework on her wall, all while I was growing up, which read, "There will be years for cleaning and cooking, but children grow up when we're not looking."

May I be looking.  May I realize that this is what I was made for.  This is my magnum opus.  The crops have been planted and the sun is shining, and I am heading out into the fields now with my Bib1e in one hand and a bottle of extra strength Advil in the other.

And a song in my heart.

Let the growing season begin.


April 12, 2012

dishsoap and becoming Men

Dishsoap from Kayla Rupp on Vimeo.

Kayla caught an early flight this morning to the city we're moving to next year.  She'll be back tonight.  I wanted her to see the apartment we've been wanting to rent up there before we actually signed a contract on it.  Hopefully she'll manage to have some well deserved fun too.

During the toddlers' naps I realized we needed dishsoap - and instantly, instinctively, I knew this was a challenge that my two older sons must face, and they must face it alone...

(It is a six minute long video taken on my phone, so grandparents will enjoy it, others may disregard.)

Well done boys - navigation, decision making, looking out for each other, interacting with strangers, strange dogs, dish soap, spending money, getting change, and all in a different language.  You become more of men, and less of boys, every day.

April 11, 2012

a boy of seven years

Sometimes I think about my life before children.  What I think about most is how bored I must have been. 

Boredom ended in a delivery room in Lexington, KY, where my husband's quadriceps shook with fatigue from holding me up for hours on end.  Boredom ended in the afternoon of April 10th, 2005, when I pushed and hollered and joined the ranks of countless women, from Eve to the virgin Mary, to my own mother, who were forever changed by the arrival of their first child.

Now that wrinkled 6-lb bundle is old enough to read the newspaper.
Quirky and sweet, kind and deep, practical and aware, Bright Eugene.  You describe yourself as being "rather serious," after Otis from the movie Milo and Otis.  You make us laugh.  You pray over us and we cry.  Your little brain is full of such wisdom, your heart with such love, and such faith.  You could be anything, but I see you as a professor, or a pilot, or an author.  I know you'll be a wonderful husband, and I know your sons will look at you the way you and your brothers look at your dad.  You have added more joy to our lives in seven years than I imagined I would have in my lifetime.  Thank you for being you.

Your last evening as a six year old, you went to bed in tears, grieving the loss of the number 6 in your life.  Then you found comfort in the idea that you would meet up again with six when you turned 16 (your idea, not ours).  Your first day as a seven year old, you placed the candle from your birthday cake beside your plate and began talking to it.

"I'm getting to know Seven," you looked up and said to me, "to help me get over Six."

Oh how we love our precious boy. 

Happy 7th Birthday, Bright!!!!

April 09, 2012

Marcy is 60!

em·bar·rass/emˈbarəs/ : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress

I have to do it, I have to embarrass my mom, because 60 years is a long time to live, but 600 years is not long enough to know this woman.  My mom.  I hope to be just like her when I am 60.

Now tell me, does this lady look a day over 50????  I don't think so.  I love you, Mom!  Happy, happy birthday.


April 08, 2012

our first Easter bonnet

Praise be to the One who leaves empty tombs, and empty orphanage beds, in His wake.   Happy Easter!

April 07, 2012

That's one big gene pool

Zeb wants to marry Jubilee.  Alisa and I wonder what in the world our grand kids would look like.

April 05, 2012

Divorce is for quitters

My cousin and his wife, who were married the same year we were, went on a cruise this year commemorating their ten years.  They had T-shirts made for the trip, which read Divorce is for quitters.  When they proudly wore them on deck, countless couples stopped them and asked, "Where did you get those shirts?  We want some!"

Why did people want those shirts?  Because they are married, and married people know that divorce is only one, big, quitting move away for any of us.

Now, I absolutely acknowledge that divorce is not just for quitters.  It is also for the battered, the belittled, the betrayed, and the abandoned.  But lets face it, most of us are none of those things.  Most of us are just tired of working at it, so we poop out, just when it is beginning to get good!

I remember when our friend, Lee, turned 30 back in the day, and I said to myself, "I can't believe I am old enough to have friends turning 30."

Now I am saying, "I can't believe I am old enough to have friends getting divorced."  My heart aches in my chest every time I hear of another marriage taking its last breath.  Aches.  In.  My.  Chest.

I read an article the other day, in Good Housekeeping or something-or-other, which stated that people who have close friends or family going through a divorce are 70% more likely to go ahead and file for their own.  We do what our friends are doing, don't we?  Two of your friends announce they are pregnant, and suddenly you want nothing more than to be shopping for maternity clothes and barfing in the toilet.  An entire group of play-date moms ends up with an ichthus tattooed on their big toe...hmmm.  It's the year to buy a juicer?  It's the era to cut gluten out of our diets?  OK.  Oh, now we are all cutting bangs?  Got it.  Now we are all homeschooling? (I recommend jumping on that bandwagon).  Now we are all adopting? (I REALLY recommend jumping on that bandwagon).  We all join Facebook.  Then we all start tweeting.  Now we are all pinning (well, not me, but I'm weird).

You see what I'm saying.

The scary thing is, divorce is apparently no different.  Somebody makes it look good, makes it look better than what we've got going on, and we're in, or rather out.  WHAT??!!!  Come on.  Lets put a stop to that trend, yeah?  Cutting bangs you end up hating later is one thing, but dropping your kids off every-other-week to your once-precious husband and his hot new wife is something else altogether.
Daniel and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary next month, and let me tell you, that is something to celebrate!  Marriage is hard stuff.  And yet, it is worth it, oh so worth it.  The other day I had a really yucky morning and tried opening up to several friends, but they were too busy hollering over my shoulder at their own kids.  We all are.  The day just kept getting worse, and right when I was about to lose it, 5:00 p.m. rolled around and in the door walked my husband.  My husband.  My husband.  With one look he knew what I needed.  I laid my hand on his forearm and the waters settled.  In that moment, I was understood, and loved, and liked, and appreciated.  That is what we give up when we give up on marriage.  We give up having a partner to trudge beside.  Notice I didn't say dance, or skip, or giggle with unending butterflies in our stomachs?  Nope.  I said trudge, while kids are screaming all around us and jobs are eluding us and bank accounts seem to have sprung leaks and health problems present themselves and tragedies befall us and depression pays us unwelcome visits - we always, always, always have each other.

Nobody could convince me to quit on that.  Like my faith, you can undermine it all you want, but you can't talk me out of it.  The second I let go of it, I lose everything.

If you are divorced, I judge you not.  I truly judge you not.  This post is for the married, however, and to you I offer some tidbits from my own ten years.  Practically speaking, seek first all of your worth and satisfaction from the L0RD, and then your husband won't fall so short.  Then, seek to fill your husband's needs before your own.  A loved man loves back.  Take care of your looks.  If he isn't allowed to peak at the goods around him, make sure he's got the goods at home (don't put your man to the test).  Don't gossip.  You will lose his respect.  Don't breathe a word of his faults to anyone but him, and even that should be kept at a bare minimum.  If it doesn't really matter, let it go.  If it does, pray about it at length before bringing it to him.  Praise him.  Touch him.  Change your perfume every now and then.  And for goodness sake, if he doesn't like green peppers, leave them out!

Divorce is for quitters.

April 02, 2012

"We girls."

I've been busy lately (um, who hasn't been?), but here is my favorite photo of the week.
When the boys are doing their loud, flailing, crazy things, Jubilee says, "We girls," and then she snuggles her Cantonese nose against my very European one and we have a moment like this.