March 29, 2014

early childhood in true form

Only a six-year-old boy says he wants to be the following when he grows up: a cowboy inventor who lives in an underwater eco house and teaches all of his children to play the harp.

And only a six-year-old "smiles for the camera" as he says this, because he's convinced our life is a movie. And then plops down on the rug to create a geometric picture of a mother bird feeding her baby.

I will miss Zion at six. His early childhood has been purely delightful to watch.

March 27, 2014

What new motherhood taught me about life

So many cute babies being born to my friends this spring. Their googly pictures on Facebook have me thinking about what new motherhood taught me about life:

Take it one day at a time.

Because there is no formula for success during those first few weeks of parenthood. Parents of newborns are not in control, and any false notion of control (Babywise be darned) will only drive them mad.

New parents must take one diaper at a time - open, wipe, apply Desitin, wrap and seal. Before they know it they have a fat crawling child in soft leather shoes who takes two regular naps, and dinner is once again at 5:30.

I am here to report, nine years later, that it, too, shall pass. Your baby will one day stand as tall as your shoulder, wash his face with acne soap, and memorize the details of WWII. Just remember the lesson you learned when he was colicky, because it transcends: take it one day at a time. There really is no formula for success. We can do no more to manipulate our lives than we can the behavior of a newborn. Maybe we can control the temperature of our morning showers (unless you live in Asia like me) but we can control little else.

For me, that is a freeing realization.

When you are cooking the morning oatmeal, focus on the oatmeal. Never mind all those things that are weighing you down which you can do nothing about. Cook the oatmeal. Serve it with a smile. Enjoy it. Clear the table and wipe it down. Kiss the top of your daughter's uncombed hair. Now you're ready for the next thing, and nothing more. Do that thing and do it well, and then move on to the next thing. It works, my friends, it really does.

In fact, if there were a formula for success, "One day at a time" just might be it.

March 23, 2014

Marriage: a compromise, or a gift?

When we marry, do we lose ourselves, or do we gain a companion?

I recently read an article in a back issue of Real Simple magazine that instantly ruffled my feathers. The first line of the article, written by Cathi Hanauer, reads, "One of my biggest fears about getting married was that, by becoming a wife, I would gradually lose my toughness and independence."

When my feathers are ruffled by something I read, I either slam it closed or read on. This time I read on.

Hanauer, as it turns out, is quite a lot like myself. She is "five feet one in thick socks," able to "smack a football or outrun a boy," and lacks "a certain fear gene." In her 20s, she "lived alone, ate alone, traveled solo, and happily took care of herself." While I never really lived alone, I loved (and still do) eating alone, and when I was just 19 I flew to Australia by myself to backpack in the bush.

The author went on to say that after almost 20 years of marriage, the strong and independent person that she used to be has turned into what she always feared - a waffle-making bandaid applier who relies on her husband to fill the cars with gas.

At this point in the article I was ready to retort, "But Mrs. Hanauer, you aren't less of a person because you no longer change light bulbs! You are freed up to do other things, and do them well. You and your husband are a team, you know. If you both did all the same things independently of one another, you'd waste the opportunity marriage affords for people to be twice as productive in one lifetime."

But I needn't have worried, for it turns out that Mrs. Hanauer does know, and she says so. Her article concludes with the thought, "being part of a team doesn't mean I'm lazy or can't do something myself. It just means that, right now, I'm lucky enough not to have to."

I agree.

To illustrate this point, I'll make myself vulnerable by posting something I've never posted online before. My muscles.
I've had these since I was a kid, beating the boys in arm-wrestling on the playground and popping my chin over the pull-up bar much to my brothers' dismay. I do absolutely nothing to keep these around. I show them now to prove that being married doesn't mean I need to be led by the arm, but rather, I get to be. There's a difference.

March 18, 2014

heroes of the faith

"Why do we have to go out for Indian food?!" exclaims my son Gene, suddenly deflated. I have just told him of our evening plans.

"Because Daddy's boss is taking us out, Gene. It's very nice of him."

"Well he's not my boss! I never asked Daddy to do this for a living. I never asked to be raised all the way over here. I didn't eat the apple! I hate Adam and Eve!"

Oh dear.

"I'll tell you what," I venture. "Why don't you stay behind and eat dinner at Mrs. Ko's house with Emma? Would you like that?" I know Tanja won't mind. She loves Gene.

He considers, brightening. "What are they having for dinner?"

"Homemade Russian dumplings," chimes in Emma, who has been shuffling around nervously, pretending to be interested in our radish nursery in the windowsill. "My mother has been making the dumplings all day."

"That sounds good," sniffs Gene.

Whew. Crisis averted.

There is a group of people coming from America next week to minister to our kids ages 8-12. They will be leading our kids in discussions and fun activities to help them process their feelings. They can't get here fast enough.

It would be a challenging way to grow up, on the other side of the world from your culture and your people, without ever having signed up for it yourself.

My kids are my heroes.

It happens

See that rather expensive walkie-talkie in Gene's right hand? You guessed it. Moments after this shot was taken, the darn thing fell in the drink.

Here you see the nice boatmen, fishing it out for us.

If you're gonna have little boys, things like that are gonna happen.

They sure are worth it, though. XOXO

March 15, 2014

Guess what?

I signed with a literary agency!

My agent is Ann. She believes in my book and is very kind to me. To say that I am thrilled would be an understatement.

And so it begins.  Stay tuned.

March 14, 2014

single women

A dear, sweet (used to be) single friend Michelle posted a link to this blog post on her Facebook page. WOW. Give it a read, folks. It is a superb article, one that communicates to "marrieds" the unique needs of "singletons," particularly single women.  The article gives practical ways that we paired-off people can love all the amazing singles in our lives/churches/communities.

Michelle in the green shirt, Kate in the gray, are both used-to-be singles who taught us how to love and be loved by single women! And Justin and Zach, we love you, too!

March 11, 2014

two seeds in the same pot

They were planted in the same pot.

The American suburb pot. The poor as church mice pot. The very young parents pot. The hand-me-down EVERYTHING pot.

They clung to each other when they were uprooted and moved to a new pot, halfway around the world.

And now they are growing in the same pot again. The TCK pot (Third Culture Kids). The get-stared-at-and-touched-everywhere-they-go pot. The missing their homeland pot.

And together, as always, they are thriving.

March 10, 2014

my baby

Jubilee is one month younger than Brave, but because her maturity level is so high, and his is so low not, Brave is the baby of the family, in terms of roles anyway. And consequently, it is Brave to whom I can rarely say no. If the kids are smart, they'll always send Brave to ask for Snicker bars in the checkout or extra time outside before bed. I just can't resist that dimple. It's pathetic of me, I know.

And the other thing is, he wants to be with me. What mom doesn't love that? On Sunday mornings, when everyone else goes trotting off to Sunday school, Brave stays behind and sits between Daniel and me, quietly playing with the ends of my hair, or playing airplane with his hands. He's so easy-going and cuddly. I just can't make him go in there and cry his head off. I just can't.

And on Saturday mornings, when everyone else is sleeping-in or playing with legos on the rug, Brave is right by my side, begging for food, or wanting to be held (he's so heavy now that I make him jump up on the count of three so I don't throw out my back). And on those Saturday mornings when I make eggs with a splash of cream, a fistful of cheese, three dashes of salt and a pinch of pepper, scrambled fluffy in a pool of melted butter, I have a handsome, dimpled-cheek helper in fuzzy blue pajamas.

Oh the love.

March 08, 2014

I love tweens

Apparently girls are menstruating earlier. Apparently it has something to do with the hormones in the food we eat.

And apparently boys are starting puberty sooner, too.

And apparently we have a name for this age group. "Tween." Kind of like the name teen, but with a "w" thrown in, making it a derivative of the word "between," I suppose, which is what these kids are, with one foot in childhood, the other in adolescence. Of course this stage of development has always existed, it just didn't start so early for us.

In fact do you what they're saying? They're saying that the "tween" stage starts at age 8! Holy cow, really?!? That means that for any of you who are new parents, who are reading What to Expect The First Year, you will have a tween on your hands before the wallet in your pocket wears out.

It goes way. Too. Fast.

Let me bring it home. We have a purple one-eyed puppet on a stick named Fez, who has always given the kids their Friday spelling tests. The kids love Fez. He's real. The preschoolers come running from their free-time play to hug and kiss Fez. Zion and Gene light up when Fez comes out of the drawer. They tell Fez about their week. They ask Fez questions about himself. And of course, all the while I'm standing right there, moving my mouth (I'm no ventriloquist), but the kids don't care. Fez is real.

Until the day when he isn't. For Gene, that day was last Friday. Out came Fez, and Gene turned his head away.

"What's the matter, Eugene?" said Fez in his throaty voice.

No response.

"Are you mad at me, Gene?" asked Fez.

"You're...just a puppet," said Gene sadly.

Fez froze. I froze. My throat closed up and my eyes stung. Zion looked horrified. I could tell Gene was crying now, even though is head was still turned and he made no sound at all.

Wordlessly, Fez and I left the room. We went to the kitchen. I laid fez beside the sink and stared out into the gray city beyond my window. I lowered my head into my hands and wept.

And then, when I'd mourned for a few minutes, I dried my eyes and thanked God for the wonderful years I've had with my kids, and for all the wonderful years ahead. Resolutely, I took Fez back into the school room to give Zion his spelling test. When I was through with that, I put Fez back in his drawer and gave Gene his spelling test, grown-up to "grown-up."

Time marches on.

But the cool thing about transition is, it's like getting the best of both worlds. It's the engagement phase, the intern phase, the phase when the lovely smell of vanilla, egg, and cake flour fills the house but the toothpick still doesn't come out clean.

Because an almost-9-year-old boy should be able to sneak back into the school room later in the day, when he thinks I'm not looking, lift his old friend out of the drawer, kiss its purple face and say, "I'm sorry, Fez."

So here's to tweens everywhere! I hope we grownups will, by the grace of God, love you just how you need to be loved.

He nailed the lips

Zion's art this week was Star Wars based. This one was my fave.

He nailed the lips, don't you think?

March 06, 2014


If you thought some of my other posts were brutally honest, get ready for this one.

Recently I have fallen in love with this blog, which is written by and for women serving overseas. Every Friday, Velvet Ashes posts a prompt to which we are encouraged to respond. The prompt today is "fear." We are to share our greatest fear with all of you, without a contrived hopeful conclusion.

So here goes.

Deep breath.

I am terrified of having a prodigal.

I'm scared that all of this scripture memorization and long talks about the gospel, the Phil Vischer movies, the morning devotions, the fact that we are raising them "in the field," will come to nothing - or worse yet, backfire - and I'll be sitting across from a scowling atheist and his mouthy girlfriend every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life!

My greatest fear is that my kids will abandon the faith of their youth and live as the world lives: unruly, bitter, unhappy, and confused.

Can I guarantee this won't be? No I cannot, and neither can anyone else.

So there you have it, my greatest fear, raw and bleeding and dangling in your face.

And here you have a picture of me without makeup, with my best "What You See is What You Get" face on, because if we're going to do this "being real" thing, then let's do it all the way.

March 04, 2014

Three men in a city

Daniel is a fun guy, but only with John and Travis does a grueling week of meetings in Hong Kong turn into a string of adventures.

The harbor.

The Venetian.

The fame.

The history.

The horse races.

Up close and personal.


Hong Kong.

March 03, 2014

Their first communion, East Asia style

I support traditional faith practices. I see the wisdom in belonging to a denomination (accountability, leadership, reference, to name a few). But when you live in an international community of believers on the other side of the world, things get interesting.

We don't have a pastor over here, for one thing. Actually let me rephrase that, we have hundreds of pastors, but none of them wears a tie or gives the weekly benediction. So when our kids get saved, we baptize them ourselves in our bathtub. And when they ask, as Gene and Zion did last Sunday, "Can we take communion today, Mom?" we take them into a corner of the "sanctuary" (which is an old restaurant in which Americans, Europeans, Africans, Indians, and Asians gather to worship) and Daniel explains what communion means with respect to the strong faith they already have. They are as ready as they'll ever be.

So we let them dip the cubed baguette into the dish of grape Fanta. And we whip out our phone for a few pictures. And there you have it, first communion for Rupp Boy #1 and Rupp Boy #2.

Sure it's unconventional. So is peeing over a trough with no bathroom doors, but we do that all the time. Our whole lives are unconventional.

The point is JE#US.

And we're pretty sure our kids are getting the point.

March 01, 2014

Burp Trip

Gene, Zion, and Brave are planning a Burp Trip.

When they are 16, 14, and 12 they plan to take a trip together to India, where they can burp all they want.

Aren't I proud.