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)