December 28, 2013

her prince charming

Our car was in the shop.  Again.

I should really note that we don't actually have a car.  We are indefinitely borrowing a tiny red van from an old British doctor who occasionally needs it for trips into the villages.

The van is old and cheaply made.  It goes in the shop a lot.  Yesterday morning we received the call that it was ready for pickup.  Daniel took his Saturday morning bath, and then tried to convince one of his light-saber-wielding sons to accompany him to the shop.  The Padowan Learner said no.  Darth Vader declined.  And Mace Windu turned him down as well.

Dejected, Daniel headed for the door alone.

"Wait," I said.  "Why not take your little princess?"

And there she stood, in a sparkling pink dressup gown, her Saturday morning hair not yet combed, looking up at her daddy with an expression of longing.

"Of course I'll take my little princess," Daniel exclaimed. 

Right away Jubilee went to her shoe-cubby to retrieve her prettiest shoes, and to the coat hooks to retrieve her faux-fur coat, all the while smiling from ear to ear.

"Tell her how beautiful she looks," I mouthed.

He nodded to me, and then opened the door for our daughter and ushered her out into the cold.  As they were leaving, I heard him say, "You are the most beautiful little girl I've ever taken to the mechanic." 

December 27, 2013

girl meets world (20 years down the road)

I remember it like it was yesterday, when in fact it was 21 years ago yesterday that our youth group pulled out of the CWC parking lot, headed for "Chicago '92."

It was the week between Christmas and New Years.  I was twelve years old.  I weighed about 85 pounds,  my bangs were sprayed into a stiff tube, and my face was oily in the T-zone.  I wore a big wooden cross around my neck, listened to DC Talk, and told my classmates at East Middle School that they were going to hell if they didn't repent and believe.

I had a lot to learn.

So anyway, that Christmas I had a boyfriend who I'd been "going with" for 11 whole months.  We were setting middle school records with the longevity of our relationship.  His name was Geoffrey, and I truly thought I was in love.  I think he did too, because he saved his greenhouse money that year to buy me a gold-plated cross pendant with a diamond chip in the center.  My mom was a little surprised, but not me.  I just knew Geoffrey was the one.

The conference in Chicago went great, and then it was time to head home.  As things go, I was assigned a different van than the one Geoffrey was in.  And as things go, Geoffrey was assigned a van with Abby The New Girl.  You see where this is going, don't you?

On the way home, my heart grew fonder in Geoffrey's absence.  In fact, it grew so fond that I found myself plotting to kiss him as soon as we got back to the church!  That's right, kiss him.  I didn't know where I would kiss him - whether on the cheek or the nose or the forehead - but I was going to kiss him for sure.  I could hardly wait to pull into the parking lot and plant my lips on my cute baby-faced boyfriend.

But when we finally arrived back at CWC, and when I ran up to Geoffrey to give him a kiss, he stopped me short and said, "I want to break up.  I like Abby."

I was stunned.  My heart fell.  I dropped my hot pink duffel bag to the pavement and watched him walk away from me for good.

It was New Year's Eve that night.  When my parents picked me up at the church, just moments after my first breakup, they drove me and my brothers to a party with some family friends.  I stayed up until midnight with everybody else, but while they threw confetti and popped corks, I lay alone on a bench in the hallway, weeping along to Auld Lang Syne.

But this is why I tell this story.  I remember my mom saying to me that night, "Honey, you're young.  20 years from now you'll be married with kids and ringing-in happy new years again."  I thought she was crazy at the time, but now here I am, 20 years later, married with kids, and ringing in the happiest years of my life.  Thank G0D for his providence.  Thank G0D for the wisdom of our mothers.  And thank G0D that we don't stay 12 years old forever.

December 26, 2013

Everybody's Favorite Chicken

What does a person cook for dinner the day after Christmas?  When the chicken-n-dumplings are gone, the sausage balls are dry, and the thought of a crowded restaurant induces despair?

Why, Everybody's Favorite Chicken, of course.

Lydia passed this handy-dandy recipe down to me in seminary, some 10 years ago (thanks, Lyd).   Creamy French dressing is a bit hard to find over here, but when I happen to see it for sale in the American food aisle of the supermarket, I buy several bottles.  I also keep Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in the pantry, for just such a day as this.

By the way, the name of this chicken recipe is a little misleading.  No chicken can claim to be everybody's favorite chicken.  Daniel prefers pimiento cheese-stuffed fried chicken breasts, for example.  Whereas you might like your chicken extra spicy with watermelon salsa.  Who knows? 

But I guarantee your family will like it.  And so will you, because it's good, and because you literally make zero mess in your kitchen, which frees you up to play with cute little guys like this one.

4-6 chicken breast halves (depending on the size), thawed or frozen
1 bottle creamy French dressing
1 can jellied cranberry sauce (or whole berry pureed in the blender)
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix

Combine dressing, cranberry sauce, and soup packet.  Pour over chicken in a 9x13.  Bake at 350 for 45 min-1 hour, depending on whether or not your meat was frozen.  Serve over hot white rice.  We like corn on the cob on the side. 

December 25, 2013

Christmas morning personality test

Our 12th Christmas tree.
THE SENTIMENTALIST: (Zion) He wants to love each and every gift, because we gave it to him, and because it's Christmas.

THE REALIST: (Bright) If a gift is cool, he responds accordingly.  If not, he responds accordingly.

THE SAVOR-ER: (Daniel) He savors.  Delayed gratification is his game.

THE DRAMA QUEEN: (Me) Everything I ever get is my favorite ever.

THE INTERNALIZER: (Brave) He absorbs.  He takes it all in.  He alone knows what his impressions are.

THE SKEPTIC: (Jubilee) She's not quite sure about all these new things.  Should she trust them?  Should she let them into her life?

So, which one are you?

Merry Christmas from the Rupps!
A new bed for Bay (Jubi's favorite doll).  Jubilee has tastefully hung a candy cane on the headboard.
Nothing like being a 6-year-old at Christmas.
My Mom gives the most thoughtful - and lasting - gifts.  XOXO
The real American Pop Tarts Daniel found in his stocking were thoughtful, too; though maybe not so lasting.
And the best gift of all?  Facetime conversations with family back in the States, of course.  In this pic, Daniel is talking with his sister.  Few people make him smile that big.

December 23, 2013

all is calm

Raising children.

Something like a hurricane.  The storm blows in when morning sickness hits for the first time, and doesn't let up until...well...until now.

Oh, I know the storm will hit again; when the kids are wearing antiperspirant and wearing our patience thin for the second time in their lives.

But for now, we are breathing deeply in the eye of the storm.  The kids - they play.  They giggle.  They wipe their own butts.  Our nights are still and quiet.  We call our evenings our own after 8 p.m.  Spankings are becoming less and less, and joy is becoming more and more.

So we are seizing the day (before the kids are too cool for us).  When we get a chance to travel cheaply, we do it.  We play "Yellow Car I win" on the road, Monopoly Deal on the train, or Ticket to Ride on the plane.  And when we get a chance to stay home, we usually do that too.

But this Christmas, we drove 2 1/2 hours, on a whim, to a place called Snow Mountain, where we slept on rock-hard beds with two pillows between the six of us (the lobby said the extra pillows were all "dirty").  The water in the faucets was ice cold except between the hours of 7:30 p.m. - 7:30 a.m.

But who needs hot water during the day anyway?  Not us.  We were too busy playing in the snow!  Too busy building a teenie-tiny snowman, to whom we gave the name "Junior."

Too busy making runs downhill on our new red sled.

I even consented to our two oldest boarding a tethered hot air balloon with Daddy for a short ride up into the flurries.

And I consented to my oldest being strapped into a zipline harness.  
I watched with horror and admiration as my eight-year-old jumped off the snowy precipice and slung out into the white.  The army recruiters are lining up.

The dry land assault boat was fun to ride.  Even I got into one of these things, to be shoved down the steep decline by a man in a straw hat.

And Bright was interviewed for the news.  Of course.

Doll Face did alright, until her princess feet got cold, and then we had to pull her in the sled.  

Brave was content to make snowballs.  For hours on end.  Except, of course, when he was hungry (which is often).  Here is his hungry look.  It says, "Give me food, or I'll never smile again."

All is calm.  All is bright.  Loving the season we are in.

December 20, 2013

The girls next door

This fall, three little girls moved in next door.  And by next door, I truly mean next door.
Ours is the door on the right.
Now, when we first found out that our neighbors for the year would be a family of girls (they have one boy, but he is a baby, so of course he doesn't count), we were all a little sad.  Except Jubilee, that is.  But as it turns out, girls make perfect daily playmates for a family of boys, as there is no competition, and lots of learning how to be ladies and gentlemen.  Our new neighbors are a home-school family like us, making home-life beside them fun and easy.  The mom is Russian (she was a teenager when communism fell in her country) and the dad is Hong Kong-American.  They hail most recently from California.  Such an interesting bunch! 

This afternoon, while the sausage balls cook in the oven, Bright and Zion are on the roof with a hand-held magnifying glass belonging to the girls next door. 
This is Emma.  She's the oldest.  A year older than Bright and as mature as me, practically.  Love this girl.
Bright and Emma have bonded; Zion and Emma's little sister Sasha have bonded (not pictured); and Brave and Jubilee have bonded with the littlest girl, Tamara (also not pictured).

Emma and Bright have developed a secret code.  They leave coded notes for each other to find inside the milk boxes and door handles of our shared entryway.  Here you see Bright writing Emma a note.

While they are too young to develop secret codes, Zion and Sasha enjoy making mud cakes on our rooftops, collecting rocks, and gluing leaves and petals to construction paper as gifts for their mommies.  The two of them are particularly friendly (at least they show it more to the adults), and they don't even care to be teased by Bright and Emma for being "love birds."  Zion looks forward to his wedding day - frequently calling it The Best Day Ever - and he doesn't mind at all if that day includes his best friend Sasha:)

Loving the sweet blessing of the girls next door!
Bright, Emma, and Zion.  Bright is trying very hard to smile while still looking cool.  The result is rather awkward.  My almost-tween standing beside his pretty neighbor in her pink coat, while little brother pokes his head into the shot.  Ahh, the magic of childhood.

December 15, 2013

The love story continues

My niece, Glory, went to be with Jesus two years ago last week.

She was 16 months old, and had never left the care of Arkansas Children's Hospital.  Her personality and fight inspired the many who knew her - and many others who didn't.

Glory's mom Kerry (my awesome sister-in-law), keeps a blog in Glory's memory.  Beneath this header
is the blog description: A journey to continue her love story.  A beautiful way for a mother to grieve, don't you think?  The death of her daughter was the end of an era, but Kerry had the wisdom to see that it was also the beginning of one.

What do I mean by that?  Let me give you an example.  In celebration of Glory's life and in remembrance of her passing, Kerry and her group STIR (a group of people stirred by hardships, whose mission now is to stir up purpose and love in the lives of those around them) brought holiday meals to families in Little Rock whose children are fighting for their lives at ACH.

Glory, from where she is - fully healed and waiting for her mama to join her someday - must feel so proud.

December 11, 2013

selfie (I had to)

Please don't challenge me to a singing contest.  No matter how badly you sing, I'll lose.  And all the plantlife within a mile will wither.  Birds will fall out of the sky.

Don't challenge me to a game of wits, either, unless of course you want to feel like the smartest person in the world.  Not that I'm an idiot or something, I just don't think well on the fly.  My brain is more like an electric blanket than a gas stove, if you know what I mean.

But give me a physical challenge, and I'll wear myself out trying to meet it.  Like recently, when my childhood friend Nikki Nicole, who is a personal trainer and fitness guru, posted two pics of herself doing some yoga-type stuff, and I just couldn't help myself.

First I met this challenge, which isn't actually all that hard.  Most healthy people could pull this off (except my dear Allison, who fell and broke her wrist this week, poor thing).

The next challenge wasn't so easy.  It looks easy, but believe me, it is not.

The first thing I did was dig through our storage closet until I found my old medicine ball.  Daniel pumped it up for me, while I changed my clothes.  Even though it was nearly midnight, I couldn't wait until the morning to meet this latest challenge from Nicole.  I had to give it my best shot before I lost momentum.

I tried, and tried, and TRIED, but I couldn't find that sweet spot, that equilibrium that would keep one leg straight in the air and the other touching the ball.  It was exhausting, and my wrists ached.

Thankfully, my dedicated coach kept me going.

Then, finally, in a moment of glory and triumph, I did it.  It was exhilarating.
  (My living room doesn't normally look this drab, I promise you)

Nothing feels quite like rising to a challenge.  And there is nothing quite like the love we have for our childhood friends.
Look at our outfits!  Nikki has one purple scrunch-sock over one cuff of a her tapered jeans.  Love it!
I am so proud of you, Nicole.  You are an inspiration to so many.  Thank you for who you've always been, and for all that you've yet to become.  Love you!

December 09, 2013

not bad at all


He used to play.  His team once won a state title.  We still have the ring somewhere (go Pointers!)

After all these years, he can still lace up a pair of stiff cleats and play defense with guys a decade younger.

2013 Turkey Bowl.  Some of the best guys on earth, I'd wager.
Many of them are still single, ladies...
But not the one in the blue shorts.  He's mine:)
Not bad for 34 with 4 kids, huh?  Not bad at all.

Thanks, Ed, for the great pics.

December 07, 2013

Turkey and noodles

This year I froze the turkey bones.

Because I knew I was going to do this, I didn't fuss too much with the carving.  I was going to make soup with the bones, and soup needs meat.

So yesterday, I thawed the bones and threw them in my large soup pot with water.  Into the pot I tossed the rest of the fresh herbs I'd bought for Thanksgiving, as well as a few haggard-looking carrots from my crisper drawer, some celery stalks with leaves, an onion, some garlic, salt, pepper, a lemon (halved), and a splash of vinegar.

Did you know vinegar will leech all the good stuff from the bones?  Neither did I, 'til my friend, Karis, told me.

I simmered the broth for two hours, adding water as needed.  Meanwhile, I made the noodles.  I had a helper.
No fancy noodle recipe was used.  Just my trusty, butter-stained, steam-wrinkled Betty Crocker that I got when I married, 11 years ago.

This part of the noodle-making process was tedious, and my helper lost interest.  He went to work, instead, on his friend Everett's Christmas present.  What little boy wouldn't love to open a handmade Ninjago banner for Christmas?  I assured Zion that Everett will love it.  It is now rolled-up and waiting under the tree.

Bright, on the other hand, spent his afternoon working on a romantic essay for home school about the dwarf seahorse.  Yes, I did say romantic.  Did you know that the dwarf seahorse, which is, incidentally, the slowest fish in the sea, forms monogamous pair bonds?  Neither did I, until Bright told me.

Okay, so the broth was ready after two hours, at which point I poured it through a sieve and began pulling delicious, fall-apart meat from the bones.  I added the meat back into the strained broth, along with four fresh carrots, peeled and sliced, and put the soup back on to simmer on medium-high for a half-hour, until the carrots were tender.  Then I added the noodles, which had been drying on a lightly-floured tea towel.  I left the noodles to boil, uncovered, until they rose to the top, and then I began testing them for doneness.  You want them firm but tender. 
The house smelled like Thanksgiving all over again.

And just about the time Daddy walked in the door, the preschoolers were up from their naps, and dinner was on the table.  I took my enzyme (to help me digest the wheat, garlic, and onion) and set to work devouring a huge bowl.  I needed it, too, because I'm fighting an early winter cold that WON'T QUIT.  Nothing like from-scratch food to feed the body and soul.