February 27, 2013

41,000 words

I do my best writing while I cook.  I've had my hands in enough colanders of green beans over the years so that now it seems their heads pop off on their own, while I write in my mind, murmuring to myself in the kitchen window.  The stoic people living in the apartment that is level with ours, directly across the hairline street, probably think I'm nuts.

And I probably am.

But I feel like I owe it to the characters now, and their town, and their lives - and I feel like I owe it to myself, and to Daniel, and to my grandkids, and to Mrs. Rocker, and to my parents, and to my brothers and my dearest friends - to finish. 

And so I write.  Feverishly.  When Daniel comes through the door, dropping his shoulders and his messenger bag, I race to the computer and type what I wrote in my head while I cooked.

And that is how 41,000 words have been written.  I am half way through my book.

February 25, 2013

what could be worse?

Collin and our boys at his 10th birthday.
Bright made a best friend this year.  Collin, two years Bright's senior (with bigger feet than mine), came into our lives just after moving to our new home, and when he came, he brought our eldest son to life.  No other kid "gets" Bright like Collin does.  Not only that, but Collin doesn't mind bringing Zion along wherever they go, whatever they do.  Zion might fall down and get hurt, but you can bet Collin will dry his tears and bring him home, while Bright bounces ahead to relay the whole story.

On Sunday, Collin delivered devastating news to Bright:  their family is moving in two months time, to Washington D.C. (that's on the other side of the world for us) !!!  The news is bad for me, too, by the way, because Collin's mom, Rachel, is my new writing buddy.  But this post isn't about me.

Bright spent the better part of Sunday crying, on and off, while he struggled to get used to the idea of Collin leaving the country.

"I thought I would grow up with him," he lamented.  "I thought he was the friend I would play with for my whole childhood!"

"It's just that this is the first time I've ever had to go through something like this!" he cried.

"My best friend is moving away.  What could be worse?!?!"

It was a very tearful day.  I didn't know what to say to make it better.  I cried right along with him, because truthfully, a mother feels it almost as much as the kids do, thinking about her son's bosom buddy leaving him.

The only thing I could think of to say was, "Well, Honey, at least he's not moving to the middle of Nebraska!  We actually might go to Washington D.C. someday.  Every kid should."

"I went in the seventh grade!" Daniel hollered from the other room, where he was giving someone a bath or whatever.

"That's right, and so did I!" I said.  "We will almost certainly go to D.C. before you grow up all the way, and we'll visit the capitol and we'll stay with Collin and his family.  Won't that be fun?"

Bright looked at me, his face almost smiling.

"And maybe," I went on, "Collin will be the president of the United States some day!"

"Yeah, maybe," Bright said.  He was smiling now for sure.  I don't doubt that you could be the president, Collin.  You are a very, very, very special young man, and you were formative in my boys' early lives, and for that I will be ever grateful.  You will be missed sorely here in East Asia.  G0D bless you, son, and G0D be with you always.

February 22, 2013

the pay off

These are images of us enjoying our roof.  Walking up and down seven flights of stairs to go to and from our home is worth having this awesome private outdoor space.  So very worth it.

February 21, 2013


Passing along our latest writing assignment: Scrabble Dictionary Poem (I'm calling it)

Step 1: Get out your Scrabble dictionary (way more obscure words than Webster's) and pick a word you don't know.  AVOID looking at the definition.

Step 2: Write the word as the first line of your poem.

Step 3:  Write what the word sounds like, as the second line of your poem.

Step 4:  Write what you think the word probably means as the third line of your poem.

Step 5:  If the word were a creature, write what it would be as the fourth line of your poem.

Step 6:  If the word were weather, write what kind of weather it would be as the fifth line of your poem.

Step 7:  If the word were a color, write what color it would be as the sixth line of your poem.

Step 8:  Look up the meaning.  Write it as the seventh line of your poem.


Sounds like a hybrid
Probably helter skelter
Might be a flightless bird
Or a blue-green hazy day
Or the color of chewed gum
But it means full of a tree fungus.

Sounds like a resident of The Hundred Acre Wood
Perhaps a small but significant part
Or a brown fish with a red dorsal fin
Or a light drizzle that never ends
It might be the color of wet cinnamon
But it means anything that doesn't already have a name.

And Bright's poem, which is, as usual, way better than mine.  He hadn't learned this word yet, which led to a rich discussion about our salvation.

Sounds like a plop of goo
Perhaps a monster
Or an alien from the planet Blablabloobla
Or an L-shaped fog
It might be the color of old rocks
But sadly it means to whip with a rod.

February 20, 2013

screen time

Notice the utter lack of yellow tickets?  That's because I'm grumpy.  Poor kids.
Parents of every generation have had unique challenges.  Probably there were parents who, at one time, had to regulate their children's use of the family chariot.  "You'll either do as I say or you'll find yourself walking to school for the next month!" was probably said more than once (only in Egyptian, of course).

Alas, this is the generation of regulating screen time.  Whether you own an ipad or a Nintend DS or an XBox or a Wii or all of the above - or at least you own a home computer (except you, Kathy:) and a TV for educational movies if not also cable or dish - we are all battling the amount of time our kids spend staring at the screen.

In our home, we have started something that the Greenes learned for us at a parenting seminar (we don't sign up for parenting seminars, we just let the Greenes go to them for us and then we steal the one or two good ideas they got from being there).

Each kid gets one green ticket a day worth 20 minutes of free-time screen time.  If they make poor choices during the day, they can lose the day's ticket, or rather the ticket gets a big black X written on it.  If they make more poor choices, it is possible to lose the next day's screen time, and the next day's if necessary, and the next, and so on.  If a child maintains his or her ticket on any given day, it is possible to earn an additional yellow ticket, amounting to an extra 10 minutes of screen time that day.

Let me tell you the very best part of this new method:  my kids make poor choices on a regular basis, which means that the amount of screen time around here has been effectively hacked in half!  Woo hoo!  I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad I don't have perfect kids, or else someone would be playing Angry Birds all the time. 

February 18, 2013

first words

We all remember our kids' first words (or at least they are written in the baby book).  A baby's first words are usually "Mama" and "Dada," which pleases us greatly, and we hope for happy, wholesome words to follow, such as, "Love you," and, "Sorry," and "More peas, please."  The reality is that their first words after "Mama" and "Dada" are more often "No!" and "Mine!", or in the case of my big brother, Kody, I believe his first phrase was, "Daddy farted."

Around here we are learning Chinese.  The kids have a friendly graduate student who comes over twice a week with a satchel of lessons and gimmicks to help them acquire their second language.  She speaks just enough English to guide them along, and I've grown to trust the content enough to leave them to their lessons, while I make dinner or whatever.  Though I've been assuming they are learning a few phrases, I've not actually heard them speak.

Until yesterday.

I was discouraged (something that is not altogether uncommon lately on account of my having to wait a few months before the proper natural hormone therapy is available.  BOO HOO), but this time my discouragement was warranted.  I had purchased my favorite snack, youzi (honey pomelo), only to find that it's thick, usually very dry peel was heavily laden with water.  The fruit had been injected with water to make it heavier and therefore more expensive.  I would have just eaten it, but the water that is used for this trick is not the purified kind (BOO HOO, again.)

I tossed the fruit in the trash.
Bright said, "Why don't you ask for your money back?"
I said, "Oh honey, I don't know enough language to go into all that with the fruit stand owner."

"Just say, 'Wo yao wode qian!'" Bright said.

And there you have it, for all our training on contentment and gospel-centered living, my son's first phrase in his second language was, "I want my money." 

Aren't we proud.

February 16, 2013

pardon me

Watched Les Mis.

Cried like a BABY.  Jackman and Hathaway blew me away.

But what really blew me away is how far short I fall in the grace department.

Jackman's character lives every single day of his new life, and makes every single decision, based on the degree to which he was pardoned.  He sings, "Who am I?"  He knows he deserved to go back to prison, but because the priest extended grace to him (an act that was no skin off the priest's back), Jackman becomes a new man, ultimately impacting generations with love and kindness.

How is it, then, that I so easily forget the degree to which I've been pardoned?  How is it that I get so hung up on the the law, like Crowe's character, unable to put aside what is "just" in order to do or say that which is kind?

I cried for half an hour after watching Les Mis.  My husband sat with me while I cried, which is very noble of him.

"I have doubted G0D'S love for me my whole life," I said.  "And the only answer anyone has given to the 'Does God love me?' question is 'He died for you, didn't he?' But you see that has always fallen short for me.  I would die for lots of people, maybe even a total stranger if I felt sorry enough for her."

"But now I understand that G0D did not show his love for me just by dying for me," I went on.  "Like the priest who forgave Jackman for stealing his silver, and like Jackman who forgave Crowe for stealing his quality of life, G0D forgave me for breaking his heart a million, trillion times.  THAT is harder to do than dying.  THAT is love."

February 14, 2013

Alpha Male

A Thailand story.

So, we had been warned against visiting "Monkey Island," which was basically a big rock jutting out of the waves less than a mile from mainland.  The island was covered with low shrubs, clusters of cactus, and hoards of small, gray monkeys.  Here we are, headed out to said island in a nailed-together metal boat.

Other folks at our guest house there in Dolphin Bay had visited the island, and their reports were grim.  "The monkeys are everywhere, they'll jump on your heads, they'll pee down your backs, they'll bite!"  One child was taken to the military hospital in a nearby town for a rabies shot after being bitten.

Daniel: "Did you try to get the monkeys off of you?"
Victims of monkey attacks:  "No, they were so cute!"
Daniel:  "Hmmm..."

So we Rupps decided to go to Monkey Island, with the intentions of showing those monkeys who's boss.  No little gray varmints were going to keep us at bay (pun intended).  And really, when was the last time Daniel Rupp tapped out of a challenge?

So we loaded up the kiddos, and our camera in a Ziploc bag, and shoved off the beach.

Brave was less than keen on the idea.

Jubi was flatout terrified.

It took about 10 minutes to get to Monkey Island, and when we arrived, monkeys started jumping on our boat.  I have to admit, I was a wee bit nervous at this point.  (Do you see that monkey in the background pinning down one of his neighbors?)

I turned to Daniel and said, "You get out first."  He already had one leg on the beach when I said it.  And then, a monkey leaped right onto his arm!  What did Daniel do???  He grabbed that monkey and flung it to the ground, of course.

That was the last time any of the monkeys tried to get near Daniel, me, or the kids, and we were able to enjoy our visit with the monkeys without fear, just feeding them bananas and watching them play and nurse their young.

Then, the alpha male came out of the shadows.  We knew just by looking at him that he was the guy in charge, the big daddy-o, the king of Monkey Island.  He was twice the size of the rest, with a rich silver coat, and fangs the size of steak knives.  Where as the other monkeys approached Daniel skittishly, hanging back in the hopes that he would toss a banana their way, The King walked steadily, boldly toward my husband, on two feet!

I held my breath.

Daniel held his ground.

Apparently, The King had seen the way Daniel had tossed down one of his females, because when that alpha male met Daniel, he sort of bowed his shoulders and lowered his eyes, putting his right hand out, palm-up, in request of a banana.  Daniel, standing straight and tall, handed him one.

Dominance had been established.

The King stayed right by Daniel, eating banana after banana, baring his long, white fangs with each bite.  Daniel never refused him the fruit.  Then, when Daniel was out of bananas, he put his finger out and The King grasped it, ever-so-lightly, and Daniel snapped this photo.

You don't mess with the alpha male.

February 11, 2013

Thai much fun

Kayaking with Alisa
The elephant Daniel rode was 29 years old
Bikes were just 30 baht an hour
Biking with Alisa and Laura
Playing games that we checked out from the office
The kids have a love/hate relationship with child care
Swim caps??
Three words: Mango Sticky Rice. Mmmmm
He's a travlin' man
Cooling off with a beverage
Daniel's wheels, which he rented to get to town for a doctors appointment
Date night. Lemongrass soup!!



February 01, 2013

footprints in the sand

I walked down the beach, my sights set on the rocky outcropping half-mile ahead. I carried my Chacos in my left hand, because I would need them on the rocks, but for now I wanted to feel the seashells crushing beneath my feet.

Ouch! That was a tiny, spiny seashell. One of its spines stuck deep in the tender part of my foot. I tugged and tugged until it came out, watching the thin stream of blood mixing with the saltwater. Even this little injury made me smile, because I was on the beach, surrounded by islands and foam and weather-beaten palms. The bleeding only meant that I was really there, alive, along with all the rest of it.

Daniel kayaking Bright and Zion out to an island filled with monkeys.

I strapped on my Chacos and continued on down the beach. In my right hand, I carried a long fishing pole, and a small, purple cooler filled with crisp, cold shrimp. My ripped jean shorts were soaked to the skin, as was my thin, cotton long-sleeve shirt with little flowers all over it. I was wet because before I saw the outcropping, I stood in the crashing waves, casting out to sea toward the ancient, brightly-colored fishing boats that knocked about between the islands.

Just before I walked away from them, Daniel had said, on behalf of him and the kids, "Have fun out there! Take your time." I love my husband.

As I walked, I looked behind me, at the footprints I was making in the sand. The waves were sweeping them away as fast as I made them, lapping them up with their foamy tongues. I thought about our lives, and how we, like footprints in the sand, are there, and then we're gone. The sand is washed and dried and left exposed, ready for new prints from the feet of new walkers. It made me glad that I was fishing that morning, glad that I am tackling that novel I've been wanting to write, glad that I am mothering, and loving, and serving, and praying, as I walk this walk I'm on.