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't...be 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!

October 25, 2012

without daddy

Daddy goes out of town every now and then.  A few things look different around here when he does (out of necessity, you understand).

Here are two examples.

We focus on the easier school subjects.  Not that learning how to draw Harry the polar bear is easy, but it is easy to get them excited about it.

We eat breakfast on the kitchen floor - a banana in one fist and a sweet potato biscuit in the other - in an effort to cut down on the number of times I need to sweep under the dining table.  Notice the pile of dishes in my sink?

Daddy comes home late Saturday night and we'll be more than ready to see his face!

October 23, 2012

The one that got away

Remember your idiot years?  Those were the years when we thought 1.) we knew everything 2.) our parents knew nothing 3.) our maturing process was complete.

Right about age 17, I would say, wouldn’t you?

For me, it started earlier.  Age 14 more like it.  And it lasted until after I was married (granted, I married young).  You can ask my aunts, who threw me a wedding shower at which I would eat none of their labors from the beautiful spread on the buffet because Daniel and I were in the middle of a week-long fast.  Yikes!  That’s an example of spiritual immaturity if I’ve ever seen one.  My dear aunts, if you’re reading this, do forgive me.  I was a dumb kid.  Of course, you knew that at the time – I was the one in the dark.

Perhaps the most glaring evidence of our stupidity during our idiot years was the person we were “in love with,” the person we thought we couldn’t live without.  Usually he was a nice enough boy.  In fact, most of our high school boyfriends have become relatively fine men, have they not?  But at the time, they were just as idiotic as we were, and together we made quite an irritating pair.

On the evening that my 3-year-relationship with Mr. Idiot came to an end, I was watching TV with him at his parents’ house.  He had come home from college to visit me, and he had I'd rather be on campus right now than sitting here with you written all over his face.  I knew it was over.  The writing had been on the wall for a number of weeks.

When he drove me home, I said, “You want to break up, don’t you?” (or something like that), and he said, “Yeah” (or something like that).  The punk pulled up to the curb – the curb – in front of my parents’ house, and I stepped out of the car and walked to the front door alone.  He drove away.  I went into the house and collapsed into a heap on the welcome mat.  

Here’s the point of this post.  
They are such patient individuals.

They run behind the two-wheeled bike for hours, sweating through their polo shirts, waiting for you to stop wobbling.  They nod their heads but stick to their guns when you stand before them insisting that no one else in the world has such stubborn parents.  They stop kissing you when you say you’re not a little girl anymore, and they wait.
They wait for you, while you fly around with your damp wings, and they are there for you, for your first crash-landing.  They are there to pick you up off the welcome mat and kiss you like the little girl you still are. 

My favorite memory with my dad from furlough this summer was the day we spent at Carrie’s family’s lake house, fishing for bass and catfish on the edge of the retaining wall, bating hooks for my kids and reeling for them when the fish were fighting too hard.  We were a team, just like old times, taking on the beasts of the water under a sparkling Michigan sun. 

There was this one bass that got on my line, and I knew I it was a hum-dinger.  I called to my dad to get the net, but either we hadn’t freed it from storage yet, or it wasn’t where he could reach it, I don’t remember.  Regardless, he didn’t have it, and we stood over my huge catch - he and I on the retaining wall, and that big bass pulling on my line at the surface of the water – until SNAP!  It got away.

I was disappointed, to say the least.  I almost jumped in after it, and I probably could have caught up with it.  The cocky thing was ambling off like a guy who just got rid of a girlfriend by dropping her off at the curb.

But my disappointment didn’t last long.  It melted away completely when I looked beside me and saw a strapping, bearded man in his sixties who was still there, and would always be there, for me.   

October 21, 2012

Adoptive Mom's (support) Group

For 14 months now, I have been praying for G0D to sustain me through this journey as an adoptive mom.  He has been doing just that, but now he has given me a very practical help.

Every-other Sunday afternoon, I sit around in a circle, sometimes popping chocolates and/or sipping coffee, with a group of fellow adoptive moms.  A counselor and friend (and adoptive mom) leads the group, and under her guidance we attempt to navigate the waters of this vast ocean upon which we are all sailing (or swimming in, depending on the day). 

Until I was invited to join this group, I had nowhere to go with the feelings that are so specific to adoptive moms.  It turns out I am normal.  Sigh of relief there.  It also turns out there is hope.  Sigh of relief again.

There is nothing quite like being understood.  Practical advise from those who have been sailing longer than I have is invaluable, too.  I am so grateful to have my new (support) group.

G0D provides what is needed for his children.  Every time.

October 20, 2012

her favorite color is green

She chooses the green cup every time, or the green bowl, or the green balloon.

This weekend I took her along for my pedi (another perk of living in Asia) and I let her pick my toe nail polish.  Guess what color I ended up with? 

Love my little girl.

October 18, 2012

shengri kuaile

Daniel is 33 today!  (the same age that CHR1ST was when he was crucified for us, as Daniel pointed out in his Facebook status this morning)

Last night, some local brothers and sisters treated us to dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant.  One of them had baked a pineapple upside down cake.  We sang, "Shengri Kauile" (happy birthday).  After dinner the kids ran around in the alley in the dark, flanked by people who were slurping spicy noodles and smiling to see little blond kids dashing about.  We had a great time.

Tonight, we double-dated with John and Alisa to Mooney's Irish pub at the Shangri la hotel.  I went all-out and baked Michelle Paisley's Grandmother's famous chocolate sheet cake for the occasion.  Mmmmm.

At Mooney's, John ordered the 1-kilogram burger.  Oh.  My.  Word.  Alisa and I laughed so hard when they brought it out that I thought I was going to fall off my bar stool.  I was blushing, and I don't even know why.  People were gathering around us to snap pictures of this thing.  It was amazing.  It had an omelet on it, among other things.  Wow.  I still can't get over it.  (John ate 1/4 of it.)

After dinner, we went for a walk along the river and ate our chocolate cake with our fingers. 
John and Daniel were throwing bits of cake at the bats to throw off their sonar.  One bat got especially flustered and made a dash down toward my face.  I screamed.  I swear I saw the thing's teeth.  John and Daniel might act 15 when they're together, at best.  It wouldn't be a birthday without the Greenes.

Happy 33rd to my awesome, awesome husband!  I love you, Daniel Rupp.

October 15, 2012

earning the yellow wrist band

Now that I have retro-blogged once about our summer in the States, the stories are coming to me like ducks to a bag of bread.  Bear with me.  Retrospect might be the rule for a while.

I forced the two older boys to take swimming lessons.  It was selfish, really.  I didn't want to have to watch them so carefully near water.  Neither of them were excited about it, but neither did they pitch a full-fledged fit.  I wasn't too excited myself, as it considerably cut-in to our furlough schedule. Daniel was perhaps the least excited, as he was the one who had to sit and roast on the hard bleachers of the indoor pool for 10, 45-minute sessions in a row.  He doesn't like to be hot.  Come to think of it, he doesn't like to be cold.


Bright and Zion were put into the same group.  The can't-swim-at-all group.  At seven, Bright was the oldest one.  Zion was one of the littlest, and cutest, with his prescription goggles and ill-fitting wetsuit shirt.  Without that shirt he would shiver so badly that the exposed ends of his foam noodle-float, which he was perched upon at the armpits, would wiggle uncontrollably.  Like his dad, Zion doesn't like to be cold.

The pair of them learned to swim, little by little each day.  By the fourth day, Zion had stopped crying and had started to smile at Ms. Anita, the ornery old swim teacher who stuffed herself into a black Speedo every day and who wasn't fooling anyone - she loved those kids no matter how much she griped at them.  By the end, Bright could swim 1/2 the length of the pool with no help before wearing out, and Zion 1/4 the length.  We were proud parents then, knowing that two of our four kids would not be goners if they slipped and fell into a Chinese fountain.  It was time for the reward we had promised since the beginning:  The Splash Zone, picture right, which is at the same indoor pool facility where the kids were taking lessons.  My hometown tends to do things a bit extravagantly.  Holland, Michigan.  Ever heard of it?  Best small town on the planet, if you ask me.

So, Splash Zone day finally came, and we coughed up the fee and my mom and I skipped mascara that morning so we could all have a grand, wet, teeth-chattering time.  We were happily enjoying toddler water wonderland when Bright asked if he could go in the huge, huge, huge (and very deep) practice pool off to our left.

"Sure," I said, "but you'll need to take that swimming test first."

He looked, and there stood a very ominous and tan life guard with a whistle, beside a line of shivering pubescent kids in sagging swim trunks, each waiting his turn to prove his swimming skills so he could hang out in the enormous pool.  Each kid was given a chance to swim to the marker, which looked about a mile away, and if he succeeded, he was given a yellow wrist band.  The wrist band that set apart the men from the boys.  The wrist band that my little Bright suddenly wanted with all of his heart.

"Honey, I don't know," I faltered.  I didn't want to see him fail in front of all these big kids and start crying.  Something like that might scar him, I thought.  But he was determined, so I let him get in line.  He looked like a midget, standing there with all those chin hairs and Justin Bieber haircuts.  He jumped in when his turn came, and that little guy powered himself half way to the marker, like a frightened kitten in a river, at which point he reached out and grabbed hold of the wall.  The whistle blew again, and he was signaled to leave the pool.  I waited for the tears.  I waited for the fit.  I got neither.

"I'm doing it again," he said, jaw set.  He was panting from exhaustion.  He had just swam farther than he had ever swam before, but it was only half of what was required for the wrist band.  I thought about protesting, but I instinctively knew that this was something my son was going to have to sort out on his own, just he and the pool and the preteens around him.  I nodded and he got back in line.  The same thing happened.  He might have made it a few feet farther, but he was a long shot from the marker.  He got right back in line and tried it a third time.  The life guard was getting a bit tired of seeing him, I think.  I could hardly bear it any longer when he finally decided he had had enough, and back to The Splash Zone we flapped.  I hated it, I really did.  I hated it for him.

Then the most unexpected thing happened.  Twenty minutes later, he announced that he was going to try it again.  I knew.  I just knew.  Like it had all happened before in a dream.  I knew that this time, somehow, he was going to do it.  And you know what?  He did.  He swam and swam and swam, a faraway look plastered serenely on his face, until he reached that marker and received the coveted yellow wrist band.  There were no shouts of joy, no immediate leap into that huge pool to use his new freedom.  In fact, he didn't want to swim in that pool at all.  He just didn't want to be told that he couldn't.  He quietly walked back to The Splash Zone and went back to the game he had been playing with his cousins.

He had faced his giant and won. 

October 14, 2012

the beauty's got brains

Jubilee fits right in with her brothers.  She's got brains.

This morning in threeschool, she pulled my attention away from the bigger kids when she said, "Look, Mommy, there are 7 gray crayons and five green ones!"  At first I thought she had miscounted the gray crayons, but then I noticed that one of the crayons in the gray pile was actually gold.  Organization, identification, counting.  I was impressed! 
This is a kid who only weighs 20 lbs, and only just heard her first English word 14 months ago. 
You ought to hear her recite scripture! 

Yep, she fits right in with the rest of 'em.

October 13, 2012

Daniel's briefs and another brush with death

Brave could have died.  Quite a few times now.  When he was just a few hours old he stopped breathing, right in front of me, while I was changing his first meconium (tar poop).  I was all alone and my clothes were undone from nursing but I didn't care as I rushed, busts to wind, into the hall, holding my blue baby in the air and hollering, "HELP!" at the top of my lungs.  A crowd of Thai nurses gathered around us, grabbing my baby and rushing down the hall.  One of them stayed behind to tie up my smock.  I couldn't run after them because I had just delivered that blue baby and I was doing well to be on my feet at all.  When the nurse who had stayed behind helped me to the room where Brave's airways were being suctioned by a vacuum tube, I could see that he was going to be alright.  It was explained to me later that it's common for newborns to have mucus and fluid in their heads after they are born.  Apparently, when I laid him on his back to change his diaper, that gunk shifted and inhibited his breathing.  Close call.

Then at 18 months his intestines telescoped and became completely blocked, a yucky misfortune called intussusception.  We were told that he would have died had we waited a day a half longer to get him checked out.  Note to parents:  if your baby screams and holds his belly every ten minutes around the clock, do not wait 5 days to get an abdominal ultrasound.

Then there was the peanut incident.  Another rushed flight to Thailand.  Another week in the hospital.  Another note to parents:  don't let babies eat peanuts.  I would wait until age four, at least.  One quick spell of laughter or one protesting cry and those chewed pieces of nut can get sucked into places you might never get them out of.  Fortunately for us, the friendly folks in the OR at Bumrungrad International were able to remove the tooth-sized piece of peanut from Brave's bronchial tube.  Close call, again.

Brave's most recent brush with death was never documented on account of the fact that we had no internet this past summer.  The story is just too good not to share, even without a single picture to prove it, so I'll retroblog for a sec.

The setting was a campground, on a fishing lake in Michigan.  The kids were scrambling about on the docks likes cats on furniture, and nobody was keeping too close of an eye on them.  The water below the docks was very shallow and still, stagnant even, and we dismissed it as harmless.  My last note to parents for the day:  shallow water - shallow stagnant water - is most definitely not harmless.

There was a splash.  All adult heads turned toward it.  I was sitting several docks over, with a fishing pole in my hands.  I couldn't decide what to actually do.  Had someone fallen in?  Who?  There were other families on the docks.  Immediately, though, I knew the situation pertained to me, as Bright began wailing in terror.  He was watching his little brother sink face-down into the muck, for muck is what it ended up being, not water at all.  Black, heavy, silty muck that dragged its captives out of sight to finish the job in private.  There wasn't much time.

An instant later, there was another splash, and my mom was thigh-deep in the mire, pulling with all her arthritic strength at the body of my son.  There was a sucking sound, and then she had Brave in her arms, then above her shoulders, then on the dock.  At least I assumed it was Brave, based on his girth and height, though he was completely unrecognizable covered every inch in inky black mud.  I had been tripping over my own feet trying to get to him, so that when he was deposited onto the dock, I was there to receive him.  He was breathing.  He had not inhaled while under "water."  Praise G0D.

In the next moment, my husband, who had also made it onto the scene by that time, was pulling on my mother by her arms, trying to free her from our base and ruthless opponent.  He got her out, but the enemy succeeded in keeping both of her shoes.

"Oh, I lost my shoes in there," she said, though not demonstratively at all.  I think it was more of an observation than anything else.  She had done what any grandmother would do - what her sister would have done if she only could have.  Life is so precious.

Daniel, who was filled with gratitude that his son had been saved, jumped in to retrieve his mother-in-law's shoes, but not before dropping his shorts.  I guess he figured we had acquired enough mucky laundry for one day.  And I guess he figured no one would mind seeing him in his navy blue Hanes briefs.  I didn't mind.  My little brother didn't mind, who was there by now, too.  I have to say, though, the rest of the docks area cleared out pretty quickly, and there were several 13-year-old girls who walked away blushing.

Later, after Brave had been bathed several times, and Daniel had won his long and tireless fight with the "water," coming out victorious with two unrecognizable shoes, we had a good long laugh about the whole thing.  In the days that followed, Daniel became a bit of a campground icon, known as the Underwear Guy who's son could have drowned if not for the grandmother who defied the limits of arthritis to save her grandbaby's life.

Our son Brave.  There's one in every family.

October 11, 2012

picking up his socks

I stoop to pick up his socks.  Every day.  He takes them off cuff-first, pushing them past his ankles and then over his heels, so that they are left in two bunches on the floor.  This requires that I physically un-bunch them before tossing them into the hamper.  I do this every day.

Its not just socks.  There is usually a sweatshirt too, with one sleeve inside out, needing to be righted and folded and put away.  I lift the heavy cotton to my face and breathe in, the familiar scent of him triggering a flood of memories, dating back to that first day in March of 2001.  We were so young back then, our eyes full of stars, living our lives like a revolution.  A smile unfolds on my face as I proceed to fold the sweatshirt, thanking G0D that I still have the man who wears it.

It used to bother me, picking up his socks.  I couldn't understand what was so hard about putting them in the hamper, which is strategically placed near his side of the bed.  Every day when I saw them I would sigh and stoop, wishing that I didn't have to do it.  I know now that he never meant not to abide by my wishes, he just never got in the habit I wanted him to form.  Habits are hard enough to form when we want them, let alone when someone else wants them for us.  So it never took, and I eventually gave up.

The funny thing is, anymore I rather like seeing his clothes on the floor.  It says that I have a husband.  It says that he has a job and stays away during the day, busy and happy and fulfilled, providing for the kids and me.  How many widows in the world would do anything to find a pair of their husband's bunched socks?  Or divorcees who's hearts still ache for what was, and for what is never coming back.

There are so many virtues that a person develops as her marriage rolls out over the years, and gratefulness is among them.  Gratefulness wards off bitterness every time.

October 09, 2012

stay cool and never change

Today I read poetry to the kids, to the backdrop of songs like Ben Harper's, "The Three of Us", from his album Welcome to the Cruel World.  I read poems by James Stevenson such as:

At the planetarium,
Small children stare
Out the windows
Of the buses,
Looking for the universe.

After we read poetry, we snacked on cool-cucumber-flavored potato chips.  I love teaching my kids at home. 
There are some wonderful things about institutionalized education, however, that our kids will totally miss out on.  A new one occurred to me just today:  yearbooks.

Yearbooks!  Those hard-cover collections of glossy, black-and-white pictures of the band and the debate team and the soccer team, zoomed out so far that actual faces are impossible to decipher - unless you were the one with the horrible perm that semester or unless you were the cheerleader on the grass, front and center, doing the splits.  The rows and rows of small square head shots, no one looking their best.  The pictures of teachers you would rather not remember, who smiled for the camera while walking down the hall, and that was the first time you had seen them smile all year.  The winners of "Best Eyes" and "Most Likely to Succeed,"  which always went to the same people because high schoolers are notoriously predictable.  And then there was the very best part of all - the signatures.  There was the full-page signature from your best friend, in which she wrote around and around in a giant cyclone that culminated at the center with a curlycue heart.  There was the signature from your boyfriend, in which he did not declare nearly the amount of love for you that you had declared for him.  You pardoned him on account of the fact that other people would be reading your yearbook, but not before shedding a few tears in the girls room after 6th period.  There was the signature from your best-friend-that's-a-guy, and it was infinitely sweeter than your boyfriend's signature, which made your day.  Everyone else wrote a variation of, "Stay cool and never change," except for that one guy who always scrawled along the margin at the binding with the words, "I was the first one to sign your crack!" Your mother saw that later and exclaimed, "Oh my, who are these people who go to school with you?"  You thought to yourself, 'Mom, if you only knew.'  But she knew perfectly well.  She had been to high school once herself.

I guess the kids will be alright without yearbooks, now that I think about it.  They can look at mine, if they must (which I've kept because the darn things cost $45 each) and they can see who played the viola at Holland High School in 1997.

October 06, 2012

thirty two

My birthday has come around 32 times now.  I don't care much for big parties.  Fusses make me squirm.  I don't mind affording myself a few simple pleasures on my day, however.  There is no harm in that.

So this October 6th started off with me opening the package from Miss Candle (CDC), after which I quickly donned my new scarf and earrings from the package and wore them to breakfast at the golden arches with the Greenes.  When we were finished devouring our sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffins, the kids rode their bikes on a stretch of concrete behind McDonald's and we adults laughed about stupid things.  It was grand.

Next we swung by our favorite bakery and picked up the tiramisu-chocolate layer cake that my hubby surprised me with.  What a sweetheart, and what a delicious cake. 

Then I opened my birthday gift from Allison, and inside the box was a brand new pair of red Tom's!  I love them.

I spent the afternoon getting a massage with Alisa, followed by a long, hot shower at home.  Glorious.  Then we six Rupps skipped next door to eat Chinese takeout with Alan and Shannon and their kids.  I went to bed with loose back muscles, and full tummy, and a happy heart. 

October 05, 2012

chiggers and a hen

It turns out that chiggers are not just an Arkansas thing.  We spent Monday at a friend's village home, at the top of a cool, damp mountain, eating steaming thick curry with fluffy white rice, picking pumpkins, rock-climbing, and getting chiggers.  My legs are covered in those little red bumps that Southerners know so well.  For those of you who are not from the South, chiggers are nasty, tiny bugs that burrow holes in your skin into which they deposit their eggs.  These eggs hatch and the larvae use your skin for a nursery until they are big enough to leave the nest.  The whole process takes about two weeks and it is AWFUL.  The itching is so bad right now, it wakes me from my sleep.  I learned an important lesson Monday.  Don't climb the rocks here unless you are wearing long pants!

Actually, I learned two lessons.  If you buy a live hen from your friend in the village, the bird can be calmly transported to town in a sack, providing that you cut a hole for its head.

October 03, 2012

old leaves are beautiful

My parents are on a color tour in my home-state's upper peninsula (Da U.P.) with my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Chris.  Aren't they a cute ol' bunch?
Look at that clear, cold lake behind them.  I have built up lots of immunities to homesickness over the years, but a picture like this one gets through my defenses.

I asked Mom to take some pictures of the fall colors for me, and this is the first thing I saw on my Facebook wall this morning.
Inspired by this huge red tree, I will take out the apple-scented candle I lugged across the world in my luggage this summer and I will burn it all day.

The colors of fall fascinate me.  It tickles my metaphor-loving bone that the most beautiful phase in a leaf's life is the phase just before it drops from the tree.  The kids and I learned this morning why leaves turn color.  When the days get shorter, this is a signal to the chlorophyll to stop turning sunlight and carbon dioxide into food.  The chlorophyll retreats, leaving the tree to live off its food stores for the winter.  When the green is no longer on center stage, the other colors in the leaf can have their 5 minutes of fame. 

No offense to the four handsome people in the picture above, but they look to me like the leaves on their color tour.  They are done making food.  It is time to live off their stores, wave in the breeze, and look radiant.  And radiant they certainly look!

October 02, 2012

quirky family fun

There is no Chuck-E-Cheese's here, and anything like it costs almost 10 USD per kid.  So we do quirky things.  Like this place that Travis found, where we pay to let our kids drive motorized vehicles for several hours while we drink bubble tea and visit with one another.  That is what we did last Saturday, and we actually had a great time.

Even baby sister enjoyed herself, boyish as the activity might have been.

I admit, this pic was staged, but he sure looks cute checking out that engine trouble!

Vroom, vroom...

October 01, 2012

faves of late

My favorite book lately?  That's easy. The Fault in Our Stars.  It is a bit irreverent, and theologically incorrect, and definitely PG13 (at least), but the book absolutely rocks.

My favorite movie lately?  Again, that's easy.  Warrior, with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.  Best Gladiator-type movie to come out since Gladiator.  It's that good.

My favorite movie soundtrack lately?  The Lucky One soundtrack, especially this song. 

My favorite snack lately?  Youzi!!!  Also known as pomelo, it is a large, citrus-type fruit that the street vendors are selling around here.  John and Alisa got me hooked on the dang things.  I am eating one right now in fact, making the keyboard a little sticky.  Here is a picture I took of my youzi this morning when I was messing around with the manual focus setting on Daniel's camera instead of cooking the kids' breakfast.

My favorite new habit?  A yogurt a day.  It is an effort to improve my tummy health, but it really just makes me happy.  Not to mention, it gives me something else to look forward to, each and every day.

My favorite new home school toy?  Typing Instructor for Kids. My 7-year-old and 5-year-old sons know their home row and quite a few other keys after just three weeks, and they beg me to let them do their typing.  It's like video games that teach them to type.  So cool.

My favorite recipe lately?  Home made cream of chicken soup!  I'm whipping up batches of this every week for my casseroles.  Let's face it, cream of chicken soup is the staple of all families with small children (unless you're vegan or on the GAPS diet), and the home made version is so much more natural and delicious.  Here's how you make it:

CREAM OF CHICKEN (or mushroom) SOUP, equivalent of 1 can condensed
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. chicken or mushroom bouillon powder*
1 cup milk

Melt butter over low heat in a saucepan.  Add next four ingredients, stirring with a whisk.  Cook and stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly; boil and stir 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk in milk.  Return to heat and bring to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute.  Set aside until ready to use in a recipe.

*I use bouillon powder that is local to where I live.  If you live in America, you might have to adjust the amount of bouillon powder a bit, but probably not too much.  Just a heads up on that.

Happy Chinese National Day, by the way!