December 29, 2016

Every year

I remember so clearly our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Rupp.

That was the Christmas he presented me with the handmade cedar bed he'd been working on behind my back. That was the Christmas I gave him the crude quilt I'd made for him.

That was when the farmhouse on Doe Run Trail still teemed with life, it's blue-painted kitchen brimming with baskets of tea cookies and tins of thins. Vintage lights blinked on-and-off. Flour fairly flew from the shortening-smeared fingers of my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law, as Turner Classic Movies played "It's a Wonderful Life" and Daniel and Philip stuffed their faces with nutballs, sausage balls, and fudge.

That kitchen is dark now. The house is quiet. The land is overgrown.

How time has flown.

Which brings us to this Christmas, our 15th together. Much has changed - and much hasn't. I still love him every bit as much as I did when I made that quilt. More in fact. And he still stuffs his face with sausage balls. Christmas comes around every year, generation after generation, reminding us that a child was born.

A child who lived, died, and came back to life. To give us life. Forever.

Here we are decorating the tree. Another potted number, but this time an ACTUAL evergreen. The old paper chain finally had to be replaced this year. The paper cutter was put to good use on red, green, and white card stock (and my hand - ouch!)

My three younger kids were in a home school choir this Christmas. They learned how to use their voices for something other than giggling, squealing, and making engine sounds.

All four kids were in a little pageant with the rest of their Proverbs Club. Jubilee, being the only girl in the club, was obviously the virgin mother. Her brothers would not let her use one of her baby dolls, since all of her dolls are girls. Zion provided a (male) puppet to wear the swaddling clothes.

Daniel had two huge papers due this Christmas, so he spent a lot of time writing by the Christmas tree while wearing these ridiculous noise-canceling headphones from his toolbox (in order to drown out those giggling and squealing sounds I mentioned earlier).

Advent is a huge part of our Christmas. The kids love advent. I mean, it's just candles and the real story of Christmas, which they knew by heart before they could read, but still they get so excited about it. It just goes to show that our craving for a perfect king is greater than our craving for stuff.

But of course we do get stuff. And give stuff.

Jubi spent almost all her "Lady and the Panda" money on gifts for other people. Hashtag generous.

Gene wanted an Ollie more than anything else in the world, so an Ollie is what he got.

He also got a sweet deck of playing cards from Uncle Kody and Aunt Carrie in Indiana. The cards are made of high quality plastic so they won't rip (nor get soggy with mud on Scout campouts).

Zion was thrilled about his first pocketknife (inscribed with the words Z.D. Rupp).

I am in love with my new 9-person waterproof tent from America.

Speaking of being in love...

The day after Christmas we were exhausted. I couldn't even lift a knife to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So we went downstairs to the dumpling joint just outside our gate. Everybody's favorite.

Another wonderful Christmas gone by.

December 22, 2016

Show Biz!

Last summer I was in L.A., hunting stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of a famous face. A good look at Mario Lopez's dimpled left cheek was as close as I got to a run-in with stardom.

And then I came back home to East Asia, and while I'm going about my life, an opportunity arrises for me and my whole family to be in a movie. A real one. Look it up on IMDb, it's called "The Lady and the Panda," and it's a true story about the first panda to come to America in 1936 (the panda, which was only a baby, was smuggled out of China in the handbag of a prominent American named Ruth Harkness).

And it wasn't just my family who took part! A whole bunch of our besties were there too. Because the movie is being filmed exclusively over here - so as to be near the pandas - caucasian people were needed to fill their "Chicago zoo" scene and their "ship bound for New York" scene.  For a meager 500 kuai per day (which is less than $100) we hung around their mountainside filming location for two days, sleeping in rooms with no heat, and eating hardly anything but squid-flavored potato chips and boiled buns.

But we got to be in a movie!!

(Or so we think. Maybe all our scenes will be cut. In fact, probably they will).

But we're telling ourselves we get to be in a movie!!

Places, places everyone!

Back to wardrobe.
Makeup check.
Every hair in place.
Looking good!
Why don't we dress our boys like this anymore??
Daniel hanging with the actors. 
Staying warm between shoots.
Alisa and I weren't exactly obeying the signs.

Passing the time.
The champion of our home school co-op was there, bringing Christmas crafts, Sunday School materials, and books to read to the children (she's nothing short of amazing).
Daniel and I on set. A steamship station in "Shanghai."
Selfie on set.
We did a lot of sitting around. Our vintage shoes were not comfortable. (That is fake sunlight streaming in the "window")
And we took a lot of pictures between takes. 
He should have been an actor.

And the best shot of all? Are you ready for it? Children, cover your eyes...

December 21, 2016

Scout's Honor

We always knew our Eugene was cut from a very specific piece of fabric. We also knew there had to be others.

It turns out they were in Troop 2717.

That's right, we have Boy Scouts..way over here. It is a registered troop with Boy Scouts of America. I know that Scouts has changed a lot in recent years, but try to imagine Boy Scouts circa 1955 and you've got a pretty good idea what this troop is like. The boys are bowing their heads together and pledging their allegiance together just like the good ole days. Even the scouts who are not Americans stand respectfully during the Pledge of Allegiance, and even the scouts who are not Chrlstians recognize a moment of silence during prayer.

And few of them - arguably none of them - are as devoted to Scouts as Gene. He eats, sleeps, and breathes Scouts. Our son, who could not be convinced to wear a button-down shirt under any circumstances during the first 11 years of his life, now proudly sports his heavily-buttoned uniform.

Troop 2717 was given its name in reference to Proverbs 27:17 which reads, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Like I said, this is a very special troop.

You can see in the picture above that Gene is the scribe. He takes that job very seriously, as you can imagine (if you know him).

He's always been serious, always been focused. For years he would get himself caught in a black hole of focus, from which we could hardly pull him. What he was lacking was forward motion. The carrot needed to be ever out in front of him. And there's no place like Scouts for a bounty of unachieved goals! There are more merit badges available than he could ever earn (and he is currently working on four of them simultaneously, of course). Now he can put all that focus into getting somewhere, instead of spinning his wheels until he's buried under ground.

Building a structure 6 feet off the ground with nothing but rope and bamboo.

Gene is the one with his hands on the rope a lot of the time:)

They found a very long piece of bamboo!

Gene flanked by George and Andy.

Andy celebrated his birthday on a campout.

Eugene earned the Scout rank in time for the Court of Honor ceremony two weeks ago. He was so...proud. There's no other word. He is comfortable in his own skin, which makes us very happy parents. There is nothing like watching your child come into his own.

The pack is almost as big as him:)

Early morning risers sending him off on his first Scout campout.

Court of Honor ceremony.

His fanclub (and future Scouts)

Receiving the rank of Scout.

Refreshments afterward with Reister and Josiah.

Iron sharpening iron.