April 28, 2015

Elsa at last

For the first five or so Frozen birthday parties to which Jubilee was invited, she was the only little girl not dressed in icicle blue. In fact she had not yet seen the movie - hadn't even asked to see it - and of the course the rest of our household hadn't either. Each time a party host would gather all the Elsas together for an Elsa picture, Jubilee would obligingly step out of the shot. 

But then we went to Thailand and some kids were watching Frozen in the guest house movie-room one evening. All four of my kids watched along. It wasn't until their second viewing that I watched it too, and I gotta say, the writers of that movie were an awfully talented bunch. 

So...like everybody else...we love Frozen.

To Abby's birthday party, therefore, Jubilee wore icicle blue. She even got to be in the Elsa shot!
Look our for Spiderman sneaking around in the background!
Next time maybe she'll have a real Elsa dress;) 

April 27, 2015

Worth a truck

A few days ago, Lydia posted this pic on Facebook. This is our old truck, being driven away by it's new owner. When I saw this, and realized that our dear truck had been sold to a stranger, I broke down and wept. Jubilee held me while I cried.
The thing is, I fell in love with my husband sitting side-by-side on the tailgate of this truck, watching the stars, parked down in his valley in Arkansas. We drove away from our wedding in this truck, tin cans dragging behind the bumper. He taught me how to drive a stick-shift in this truck, in the hilly campus town of Fayetteville. I drove this truck from Kentucky to Arkansas barely pregnant with the baby we lost, pulling off at a Cracker Barrel to buy a vanilla taffy and a cream soda to quell my morning sickness. I lost the baby a week later. We hauled Christmas trees in this truck, camping gear, and our household furniture each time we moved. So when it came time to sell everything we owned and move to East Asia, we couldn't quite part with the truck.

Graciously, Lydia and John agreed to hang on to it for us, with the intention of giving it back to us upon our return to the States.

That was eight years ago, and the truth is becoming clear: we aren't returning to the States. (At least not any time soon). Maybe that is why I wept, more than the loss of the only piece of property we've ever owned. Maybe I wept because we aren't going back.

But then, there is no going back.

Because what I'm really mourning isn't the loss of a dream, or the loss of a truck, but the loss of time. The fact is the truck, sold or not sold, isn't worth much anymore. Time got the better of it.

Which brings me to the thought that finally stopped my tears: I still have the man who drove that truck! And the life we have together is better than I dreamed of.

And frankly, if people like us didn't do what we do, the 600 college students who heard about Him last semester...well...they wouldn't have.

That's worth a truck.
Us in our truck, newly married.
Just married. He'd just helped up into the truck when this pic was taken. 

April 22, 2015

Mountains and men

This year the guys went higher than last year...well over 16,ooo feet! Altitude sickness hit all of them to some degree - and some of them didn't summit - but all of them came back smelling of wood-smoke and dried snow. Daniel crossed the threshold of our apartment with a big smile creasing his wind-chapped face. For a full three days, nothing could get him down. Mountains and men, they go well together.
The town.

The guys.

The campsite.

The summit!

The man.

April 17, 2015

Running in place

I competed in sports before I was a mother. Naturally, then, I should be one of those active moms who gets up every morning to run with the rising sun (not mentioning any names, Candace). But notice I did not say I was a fitness guru, nor did I say I was a runner. I said I competed in sports. Give me a pair of shin guards and a jersey and I'll run nonstop for an hour, protesting if you try to pull me out of the game to give me a breather. But give me a gym membership, and I hate to say it but I'll probably cringe. It's just not my thing.

Consequently ten years went by and I never moved faster than chasing a toddler across the room. When depression hit in my early 30s, I blamed everything but my lack of exercise, not thinking that a girl who grew up in athletics would probably always need to move. When it finally dawned on me, I made up my mind to break a sweat at least every other day. I figured it was better to die of boredom in a pair of running shoes than drop out of life on account of depression.

Three major barriers: the pollution in our city is rarely under the hazardous mark, bad knees run in my family, and my four kids are never not in my care. Where to run to, when there is no clean air outside? How to run, without jarring my knees? How to break away from my kids? The answer: a miniature hot-pink stair-stepper that I bought for 200 kuai at our local sporting goods store. I can move it around the house, to wherever the kids are playing, even up on the roof if the air happens to clear. It doesn't hurt my joints, and it isn't too boring so long as I have a game of Battleship and a light-saber duel both going on before my eyes.

We moms of young children sometimes feel chained in place. Especially home-school moms, I think, because everything depends on us, and we can't check-out, even for a sec (or we feel like we can't). It gets tiring, and sometimes we wish for a chance to break away, even to run away, if we're honest.

But we can't run away, and we would never actually do that anyway. But we can run in place! We can put a hot-pink stair-stepper in the living room and use muscles we forgot we had, pushing pause on the timer to wipe a butt or pour a drink of juice. 

We can write a novel in our sweatpants while the kids build a pillow fort. 

My advice to young moms? Don't get stagnant. Stir things up a little bit! Stay healthy. Stay YOU. And whatever you do, stay in the game. Don't lose heart. We don't have to feel trapped. We can get our groove on, right where we are. Running in place.

April 15, 2015

Double Digits

The night before Gene's tenth birthday, he and Zion quarreled, if you can even call it that. They were grumpy with each other, better said. But Gene was in bed but a moment before he had hopped back out again, running into his brother's bed to tell him he was sorry.

"I didn't want Zion's last memory of me as a nine-year-old to be a bad one," he told me. Of course not.

Then he was back in his bed and I was tucking him in. I admit my eyes misted over. I looked at my firstborn child and said, "I can't believe you're ten! I've so enjoyed being your mom."

He looked at me puzzled and said, "I'm still going to need a mom." Of course he will.

The next morning, he awoke to a decorated dining room. Daniel and his streamer creations! Presents were opened (each and every one of them a Lego Mixel set) and Fruit Loops were eaten.
Later in the day there was a visit from his Chinese teacher. She brought him a children's book in Chinese, and for good luck, as is the custom, coins and an egg (usually a real egg is given, but this one he can keep).
Then I ventured to make a Lego cake. Again, without the proper equipment, the result was a bit less defined than its Pinterest cousins, but we made do.
A quick adjective search on Google provided the perfect words to describe our son.
Tacos for dinner, his three best friends to spend the night (his first slumber party EVER) and ten shining candles on the cake.
It was a happy, happy day.

Elijah, Reister, and Gabriel with Gene.
The next day, we went to Polar Ocean World, which is here in our city.
The place is old and a little crumbly, but the animals are obviously loved and well cared for, and the dolphin show rivaled that of any fancy aquatic zoo. Jubilee was very impressed.
They even had sharks! That's Brave against the glass, looking up in wonder.
Gene isn't the biggest ten-year-old around (though sturdy-built and unafraid), and he hasn't ever played on a baseball team. But he can speak a little Chinese, and he does know the size and brokenness of the world. But most of all, no other ten-year-old is loved any more than he is, and no other ten-year-old is happier.
Or handsomer, but I'm a little biased.
Welcome to the double digits, my son. May you live every day of your life on purpose. I love you.

April 05, 2015


And to think, I was worried about these two forming a bond. It's laughable now.
Calm, handsome, and fuzzy George. Sleek, sweet, and silky Winifred. George and Winnie are two of the best parts of my day. I love them!

April 04, 2015

Addy in the world

Addelyn Taylor Greene is here! (Addy will probably become her nickname)
Late night hospital selfie. I got to hold Addy all through her first night!
And here is the "belly cake" I made for Alisa's shower a couple of weeks ago. I promise you, I didn't mean to make such a plunging neckline, but with no ball-pans or fondant, this was the outcome. Alisa looks a wee bit embarrassed having her picture taken with madame cake, but I hear it tasted good (I'm gluten/dairy/egg free, so I can no longer sample my cakes).

For that matter, I was a bit embarrassed making the cake, rubbing my icing spatula down the cleavage and all. Although I did enjoy the process. I would have loved working at a bakery.

I love the ladies in my life!
At the shower, from the back: MySan, Sonya, Ashlei, me, Anita, Alisa, and Laura

April 01, 2015

Eugene's wedding

"I'm going to convince my fiancĂ© not to make all these plans. Let's just have our wedding on the grass, no tuxedos, just a few people invited. And it'll be right away! None of this waiting 52 weeks."


Alisa is going in tomorrow for the birth of her fourth child! She is sleeping at the hospital tonight, and the scheduled C-section is in the morning. I will sleep with my phone by my pillow tonight. I will wait eagerly for the call from John, saying that baby girl has arrived! Daniel is on call tomorrow to bring in big sisters and big brother, to meet their baby sister. Exciting times in our neck of the woods!

Tonight we two families went to Peter's to celebrate. Here is a pic of Alisa, pregnant for the last day, for the last time. A thing of beauty, isn't it?