September 29, 2014

a little research

My agent and I are still waiting to hear back from the publisher(s) about my freshman novel, and in the meantime, it's on to my sophomore novel. Presently I'm doing a bit of research. One of my research excursions was to a symphony in town, featuring a dramatic piano solo. Have you ever heard a Brahms piano solo? Banged out with utmost gusto by a Chinese woman in a red strapless dress?

Wow. It was just wow.

My company that night were these four women, who are (from left): a tiny Korean lady, with whom I communicated in Chinese, a very tall American watercolor painter who grew up in Papua New Guinea, a Finnish pianist and friend, and a very cute French teacher from France. And me - the one with four kids at home and a wonderfully supportive husband who wants me to be a novelist probably even more than I do. 

I kinda love my life.

September 25, 2014

A choice to make

Growing up, my mom always said to me, "You are only ever as happy as you make up your mind to be."

And so in the midst of trials, I declare that today is a good day.

September 18, 2014

What to do when your kid's not a star

When Eugene and Zion were asked by me, "Boys, do you want to run cross country again this year?" they both said, "Yes!!" So I signed their names on the line, taking up two of the coveted first-come, first-serve slots on the annual International Community Home School Cross Country Team.

But here's the thing: my two eldest sons aren't running stars. Which is a bit gritty for me to chew on, since I was a runner myself. I mean I loved to run. I was fast. I was strong. I didn't let people beat me if I could help it. That goes for all sports, actually, not just running. I was an athlete, my parents can tell you. You couldn't have kept me off the sports teams.

Gene and Zion? Not so much. They are lean and strong, mind you. They look like athletes. And they are a lot of fun! They enjoy exercise and games, especially soccer, but the thing is they aren't out there for blood. They aren't out there for glory. They're just...out there. 

And I have to be okay with that.

On an afternoon two weeks ago I was not okay with that. It was hot, humid, and testy. Even the mosquitos were ornery as they ground their little suckers into my sweaty skin. The boys didn't want to run. Gene walked half the time (being in the older age group, he has to go twice the distance of Zion) and I found myself glaring at him from where I sat on the fake grass. When he finally finished his distance workout, I let him have it.

"Why did you tell me you wanted to run this year if you're not going to run? I dragged you and your brothers and sister all the way across this city this afternoon for you to walk around the track? This is not like you!"

But what I really meant was, "This is not like me!" 

News flash, Kayla: our kids are not extensions of ourselves.

I wish I could say the next practice I got it right as a mom, but I did not. I came closer, but it wasn't close enough. I still forced him to run, not allowing him to walk one single stride, but this time I ran by his side the entire way, soaking through my blouse like some kind of moron. I said, "Gene, we are soldiers, at war against the pain!"

Yes, I actually said that. (By the way, my husband is out of town, can you tell? He never would have let any of this happen).

Gene finished his workout that day without walking, but he cried the last four laps straight. And as for me, well, I limped over to my purse under the hushed scrutiny of the other moms, who were standing in a tight clique by the water bottles, in their size 2 yoga pants with their sixth children sitting fat and athletic-looking in sleek running strollers. I am not your typical sports mom, can you tell? Me and my kindle usually find a shady spot away from the crowd, where I bury my increasingly introverted head into my Lilian Jackson Braun mysteries and try to avoid meeting any more freckled, friendly people named Melinda or Jamie or Blair. On the rare occasion that I mingle at the sidelines, I inevitably hear comments like I did the other day, in response to a five-year-old having run an impressive quarter mile split. A cute-haired mom exclaimed, "That kid is going to be a star. Would you look at his calves?! [at which point she emitted a long, low whistle while the other moms nodded their heads in agreement]. 

And that's when it hit me: I don't want anybody judging my kid by the structure of his calf muscles! A light bulb turned on and a little voice in my head asked the question, "So what if he walks?"

So what??!!

That, my friends, is when this ship turned around. "Gene," I said, pulling him aside. "You can't quit, 'cause we gave these kind folks our word that you and Zion would compete in the race on September 25th. But you don't have to run."

"I don't?"

"Nope. If you need to walk, walk."



And then I unwrapped a fun-size Snicker bar and shoved it in his mouth, swatted him on the rump, and sent him off to practice. You can probably guess what happened next, can't you? He ran. Like the wind. Okay, not like the wind, but dang it he ran, without stopping, seven times around the track to beat his previous time by a full two minutes and without so much as a tear.

Though I'll fail many, many more times as a mom, this time I got it right.

September 13, 2014

25 and counting

Daniel and I were with John and Lydia Harrigan, Jack and Candace Chaney, and Lee and Korrie Harper the night Jason Upton and his band challenged the married couples in the audience to reproduce. Incidentally, all 8 of us accepted the challenge. Never mind the fact that all 8 of us were penniless newlyweds in the depths of grad school with no idea how to raise houseplants much less children. At that point, I don't think I'd yet made a successful pie crust. What were we thinking??

We weren't.

We weren't. We were trusting G0D (nobody can trust G0D like the young and the poor, am I right?)

And this week, Daniel and I and our kids received the Harrigan family into our home. On Monday, John and Lydia will become parents once again, this time to their beautiful Chinese daughter Lily.

With the addition of Lily Harrigan, our little group of 8 has now officially become a group of 25.
The Harrigan/Rupp kids (minus Lily) in order from back to front: Zion, Samuel, Eugene, Benjamin, Brave, Bethany, Jubilee. 

September 08, 2014

NEAR and dear

This week we have a family in our home who we've known and loved for years and years. Lydia shared an office space with Daniel at his first ministry job, her husband John stood up in our wedding, they were there in the hours following the birth of our first child, etc. Having them here with us is a blessing beyond description, truly.

More pics to come, but here is our kid bunch minus Bethany who was a teeny bit too nervous/young for the ropes course.
The Harrigans are here for their second adoption, this time to bring their daughter Lily into their family in just a matter of days! Graciously they gave us the week prior to the adoption, flying to our city just to see us. There is oh so much catching up going on over here, and card playing, mass Lego building, pound cake eating, and a general soaking up of each others' company in this brief but glorious visit. We only wish we could have met Lily, too, but we will meet her next summer when we go Stateside.

Now if only the Chaneys and Harpers were here, too..

September 07, 2014

shared past

Amongst a hoard of boy cousins - in the midst of all the deer hunting, snowmobiling, four-wheeling, baseball watching, cigarette smoking, and coarse joking - three little girls forged a cousinhood of Barbie dolls, mudpies, and french braids.

And ten years after our last reunion, we three were finally together again at my brother's wedding last week. You would have taken us for drunk people the way we laughed. You would have thought we were best friends, or long-time colleagues...certainly not three women who haven't been in the same place at the same time in over a decade.

But that's how it is with cousins. That's how it is with family. A shared past is the strongest, thickest glue of all.

September 04, 2014

Little Apartment in the Far East

I loved going over to the Rizner's house to play when I was a kid, and not just because violin music floated up from the basement where Mrs. Rizner constantly taught Suzuki. I loved going there because Caitlyn Rizner had everything we needed to play Little House on the Prairie - bonnets, aprons, and all the rest. I always wanted to be Laura in her grown years, teaching in a one room school house.

And now I have a one room school house of my own.
Funny how our childhood games have a way of becoming reality.

September 03, 2014


Don't hate me, but I snuck in and out of America last week without telling you I was there.

Low down and dirty of me, I know.

But I had to. You see, there was this handsome country boy getting married (who happens to be my big brother) and I only had six days to help him with the wedding, catch up with my dad, giggle with my mom, cuddle with my nephew and niece, have coffee with Lou, meet with my agent, and go fishing on my little brother's boat. I didn't even have time to eat at Olive Garden!

(Shout out to Daniel, who held down the fort while I flew halfway around the world and back again in the time it takes for leftovers to go bad)

But I tell you, the wedding was a down home blast. Horseshoes scattered among the centerpieces, chickens roasted over a pit, taxidermy in the reception hall and the groom in cowboy boots.

The thing I love about weddings is that no two are the same, just as no two marriages are the same. My new sister-in-law Carrie, for example, ain't gonna be tide down by no apron strings. She's a visionary and a go-getter, a real take-the-reigns kind of girl (literally and figuratively). When it comes to horses, she jumps and rides, shows and knows, and seems to live life in much the same way. I'm not going to go so far as to say that she will wear the pants in the family, but she will definitely be wearing pants.

My brother, on the other hand, is more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. He's more than happy to shovel crap out of the stalls day after day, enjoying the early morning sky and the breath from a horse, lingering warm and sweet in the dusty air of a cold barn. He's got pants on too, but they're not quite as cute as Carrie's, and he likes it that way.

Me, I'm more like my brother, while Daniel is more like Carrie. That's what so beautiful about marriage. I heard a quote from Downtown Abbey, "There is more than one kind of good mother." How true is that! Similarly, I think, there is more than one kind of good marriage.

I met a guy on the plane from Abu Dhabi to Chengdu the other day, a 42-year-old teacher from northern England who doesn't believe in marriage. He doesn't see the point. He was with the same woman for 23 years and it was "so easy to split up" 18 months ago when she left him for his best friend. She moved out, he moved to China. It was that simple.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it.

That's when I want to say to him, "Buddy, what a waste of 23 years." It's like renting a house for 23 years and then moving out. All that money down the drain. Nothing gained, everything lost. Buy the house, buddy. Invest. How is she supposed to feel treasured by you if you are only in it on a month by month basis?

I saw the movie The Vow. If you didn't see it, you should. I cried, of course, but I watched it on the plane and my mom says the reason we all cry during airplane movies is because of the altitude. But anyway, what I LOVE about the movie is that Channing Tatum (bless him) took a vow and he intended to keep it.

Gosh, if only everybody saw it that way.

Parents of the groom. Still married after all these years.

The groom. Took a vow, and intends to keep it.