August 28, 2016

Jubi Sue is seven

You can't have it all, right? You're either beautiful or brilliant, congenial or gifted, athletic or musical. You're either focused or flexible, generous or kind, witty or down to earth.

Unless you're Jubilee Rupp, and then you're all of those things. And more.

Happy belated seventh birthday to the most incredible little girl I've ever known. What did I ever do to deserve the privilege of being your mom?! I love you sooooo much!
Making her wish.
Eating her requested birthday breakfast. The girl loves protein!
She turned seven at Grandma and Grandpa's!
Her very own Rey costume!
She looks so cute in it, too! Look at the strength in that face. That beautiful face.
Celebrating her birthday at the beach with Sharlet and Cadence.
She's such a little lady now!
Such a good sister to her three big brothers.
Such a good sport.
Such a world traveler.
Such a quiet soul.
Such a gift.

August 26, 2016

California dreamin'

My first visit to California in the summer of 2016 was not unlike my first bite of beignet in the spring of 1996: sweet and warm, strangely comforting, and yet utterly unique.

The sky is so blue.

The specialized snack options for people like me are ENDLESS.

Where else can one snap a selfie with Mario Lopez in the background?

If you go to Southern California, you must try the restaurant at Malibu Pier. Oh. My.

The first week we were there, the kids and I spent our days with our dear friends, Tanya and Patrick and kids, while Daniel was in class. To say that it was good to see them again would be a huge understatement.

These girls. Besties reunited at last, if even for a short while.

Though Gene and Zion were having a blast in Michigan with my parents, they hated to miss the chance to see Sasha and Emma again. But we pray that another chance will present itself someday.

I'll go ahead and post some pics of the boys during this time, having the time of their lives in Michigan, reeling in the fish faster than Grandpa's filet knife could keep up.

The second week in California, Daniel's mom and sister and the rest of the gang came to join us! To say that it was good to see them would be a catastrophic understatement. Again, Gene and Zion were grieved to miss out, but at least Brave and Jubilee got to spend some quality time with their cousins. And Daniel, though he was in class most of the time, was thrilled to be with his family. It was a splashin' in the waves, cruisin' Hollywood, nibbling on fried fish by the boardwalk kind of time.

And we finished everything off with bangs for Jubilee. No more barrettes! She's a big girl now.

August 24, 2016

The "Big Lake"

When I was in high school, when my parents bought me that used Ford Tempo, I would drive out Port Sheldon Road to the "Big Lake" (the pet name we Michiganders call our beloved Lake Michigan). I would drive out there when I was feeling especially blue, something I felt often at 17 years old, and I would walk through the beach grass to the old weathered lifeguard chair. And there I would sit, allowing my ears to be abused by the deafening crash of Autumn waves against the cold beach, and I would wonder about all things, big and small.

If I had been a tortoise, that chair was my shell. If I had been an eagle, that chair was my cleft in the high rock, overlooking all the world as I knew it.

Last summer when I was in Michigan, I noticed (to my dismay) that my chair is on its last leg, so to speak. Pieces of it were laying in crumbles beneath the sagging chair, where the roots of the beach grass met the grains of sand. Gingerly, affectionately, I gathered a few of the pieces - wood so gray and soft it may as well have been the bones of old man's hand - and I placed those pieces in the pocket of my sweatshirt.

Now they are here with me in East Asia. I will keep them with me always.

And this past summer, during our very quick stop in west Michigan, we made it to the Big Lake, of course. And I touched my chair. And I swam in the waves. And I sucked down the fresh lake wind. The empty storehouses of my heart filled up once again, readying me to face another two years of polluted city life in East Asia.

And now I'm back (back "home," you'd say), sleeping in my own bed in my own apartment, stirring pudding over my own stove. But all the while, as I turn the whisk around and around at the bottom of my IKEA pan, I am thinking and dreaming of the Big Lake. And I can't help but smile.
The view from "my chair"
My dear Uncle Tom, driving the kids to the beach from his house 
My bearded Arkansan husband, hotdog and Gatorade in-hand.
My Liz, ready to roast her dogs. Cutest Michigander ever.
My little bro, with the names of his children lovingly tattooed on his arm. 
My dad, lighting sparklers for the kids.
Another generation of Big Lake magic.
The gold of the sand at sunset.
The gold of the sunset itself.
The gold of the glowing fire.
Mom's crinkly laugh and hubby's happy face beside the fire.
Hubby's bad relationship with cool air.
My favorite friend in my favorite place.
My favorite friend and her favorite little girl, looking at the sunset with identical profiles.
Liz's daughter, Cadence, burying Jubilee and Zion in the sand.
My brother Jack and his wife Melissa.
It's a big, big lake. xoxo