Friday, November 30, 2012

Slowly, Slowly

I thought I heard a rooster crow outside my suburban home's window this morning.  It made me fondly remember my China neighbor's feathered friend that gave the same morning salute each day (though I don't think I felt so fond at the time!).  And I missed China.

I made a Chinese friend at the toddler story hour at the library.  The next time I saw her, she gave me a little drum as a gift.  It made me remember the endearing idiosyncrasies of Chinese culture.  And I missed China.

My friend April visited our apartment the other day to check on some things for me.  She sent me a picture of my dining room table.  It made me remember all the joyful meals we've hosted there.  And I missed China.

I keep wanting to use the word mafan and, even after 10 months, my English still isn't as streamline as it should be.  After speaking with my new library friend, I remembered how much I enjoy conversing in that crazy cadence of rise & fall.  And I missed China.

Slowly, slowly, I think I'm getting ready to go.  Because it turns out that if you peel back all the layers of American comfort & ease, I miss China.  I really do miss China.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feelin' Kind of Stuck

So here we are...still in America...

Way back in the day, when we were planning this Grand Ol' America trip, it was going to be three months long.  Love on the parents, hug some siblings, enjoy the big blue thing called the sky, chow down on Western food, then zip back to China before you can say "Zai Jian, America!  Howdy, Big Chicken!"  

Then I got pregnant with Hudson and three months turned into six so we could deliver here, get our acts together with three kids, and then traverse thousands of miles on a plane with a still sleepy newborn.

Then the medical fallout happened.  Strabismus, torticollis, I-could-write-a-medical-dictionary-itis...The list seemed to keep getting longer and longer with my busted children.

Three months that turned into six that turned into eight that turned into ten.  The suitcases have been packed and unpacked and now sit mocking me in their incompleteness, their contents messy & strewn about the living room kind of like how my life feels.

I think my China friends think that this isn't such a bad situation to be in.  Holidays with family, college football on Saturdays (though I will admit that we've loved watching Johnny Football make a new presence for the Ags!w), date nights that are more than just China's finest of Papa Johns and Starbucks (though I hear Cold Stone has made it to town since we left), being able to run more than one errand a day with the fabulous luxury of my own car, still wearing flip flops in this fabulous Texas winter, not feeling humiliated on a daily basis with language faux pas...what's not to love about this delay?  

On the other hand, I think my American friends also think this isn't such a bad situation to be in.  A husband who's not working full time so he's around to help chase little people or wipe a bum, my dad cooking dinner for us almost daily, my mom doing my laundry just as frequently...what's not to love about this delay?

But that's just the thing.  There are so many things to appreciate & be thankful for in this delay that it might surprise you that I'm fighting & struggling for contentment.  No routine, no roots, not a lot of purpose beyond my three littles.  Constant transition, constant clutter, constantly just trying to keep my kids from breaking my parent's stuff.  Wouldn't God be more glorified if we could just be back in China?  Wouldn't God be more glorified if we were here--I mean really here--in the States instead of just on this long-term visit?  Wouldn't God be more glorified if I didn't feel so stuck in between two worlds?

During our Saturday long runs, my friend Leah & I were discussing this very thing.  Feeling stuck in life situations, feeling stuck at home with kids, just feeling stuck not to be somewhere else that you want to be.  Leah encouraged me with Philippians 1:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so this is has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest of that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  ~Philippians 1:12-14

If anyone had cause to feel stuck, it was Paul.  He was in prison, quite literally stuck behind brick, mortar, and bars.  From his perspective, it possibly looked like the worst arrangement of all time.  All his zeal & ardor, articulate apologetics, and relational connections wasting away in a cell.  But did he grovel in his situation?  No, he looked for the glory & purpose of God where he was.  And by the way Philippians reads, I'd say there's outstanding evidence that Paul was still being used by God, despite his physical setting.  While it's true that our situation certainly isn't identical to Paul's, I want my heart & attitud to be like his.  

I will say that there might be light at the end of the tunnel.  Hudson is going to be released from physical therapy next week.  I'm happy to say that his head is more or less shaped normally (no one's head really is perfectly round after all), and he does not need a helmet (which makes me quite happy, considering I found out those things run around $2000!).  Sam has an appointment with the eye doctor next Monday where we're also hoping to be released from his care.  We did find out that there is a pediatric ophthalmologist in Beijing that we can see if we need to in the future.  So it looks like the medical saga maybe...just maybe coming to an end.  Then it would just be a matter of getting medical approval from our company doctors and booking tickets.

Regardless of whether we go back to China today or in two months, or if the ophthalmologist isn't satisfied with Sami's progress, or if the pediatrician finds something concerning with Micah at his three-year well child appointment tomorrow, I want to be able to say with Paul that what has happened to us has really served to advance the gospel.  May my heart always say that His plans are wise & good!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Party of Epic Proportions

These are my first sons.  

The ones who ushered me from childless to mother.  The ones who took the thrill out of Fridays because the weekends look pretty much the same as every other day.  The ones who made sleeping in until 8 AM a luxury.  The one who, to this day, have never allowed me to get a picture of the both smiling or even looking in the same general direction.

The ones who make Kevin & me wonder what we ever laughed at before they were around.  The ones who are worth every ounce of energy they require.  

The ones who turned 2 & 3 this month and had a fabulous park party to commemorate it all.  

When it comes to parties (and pretty much anything else in life), low key is the way to do it, in my opinion.  Walking up & down the aisles of Party City and scrolling though Pinterest party boards make my stomach twist with anxiety.  So instead of parties, I throw "celebratory play dates."

This was my planning process...

I picked a weekend in November.  Was it going to be cold?  Answer: unknown.  I can't be bothered with things like weather.

I decided on a local park next to my old elementary school as our party's homebase.  Were there going to be a gazillion people there?  Answer: unknown.  They could just go ahead and join in on the festivities.  (As it turned out, we did have to share the park's pavilion with a cute little Girl Scout troop.)

I sent out an evite, including several recipients living in other states or countries.  Were my guests judging me for not hand making my invitations and actually utilizing the mail service?  Answer: unknown.  If so, they can go ahead and volunteer to address envelopes for next year's party.

I planned some games, knowing half of them would fizzle out before my gaggle of three year olds started to care.  I put together a menu of toddler treats like goldfish and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

And this was the preparation for my grande soirĂ©e. was party day.  Micah had been counting down since 13 sleeps ago.  (That's how we count time in our family.)  I guess you could say that the little buddy was excited.

Like any good party, we started things off where things should be started: food.

I made a little photo booth for the kids with my neighbor's costume closet.  

Then the highlight of it all...races.  I paid $.79 for a roll of crepe paper and used it as a finish line.  Biggest.hit.ever.

Being the youngest kid to care, Sam was last place in every race.  But that didn't stop him from trying.

The great thing about having a party at a park is that when you're out of planned activities, just set them loose for conventional park fun.

We did the whole sing & eat cake thing.  I should more accurately say sing & eat brownies.  Yes, I made boxed brownies.  Yes, I burned them a bit (so much so that 1/4 of the pan couldn't even be excavated with a knife).  Yes, the boys' friends ate them anyway (and some of the parents too).

An interesting thing I've noticed about birthday parties here is that kids don't open presents at the party. I guess it has something to do with toddler envy or their short attention span.  But it made a fun conclusion to it all when we returned with a few gifts for the boys to open at home.

I realize these pictures might make it look like they were rolling in the goods.  But in reality, our dear friends had helped contribute a few things to the boys' library.  Since it's kind of hard to find good English books in China, I thought this would be the best way to bless our sons.  Now I just have to figure out how to get this bounty back across the ocean...

I'm not sure how long I'll be able to get away with having combined parties for them.  I'm also not sure if, based on the fact that our friend pool is much smaller in China, they'll ever have a party this big again.  I'm not sure if they'll ever be served goldfish & ice cream cones at future parties (the imported price tag might defer that!).  I'm not sure if G & Pop will be able to attend many of their later birthday parties.  But what I do know is that this one was special & fun, if not simply for the fact that this might be the only one of its kind.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Little Boy Called Mud

There once was a little guy dubbed Mud
Whose mama refused to call him Hud
So instead of Hudson
She started calling him Mudson
Which then got shortened to Mud

Well, that little Mud of ours
Has now clocked 4,380 hours
Just to be clear
That's half a year
Time has streamed by like a shower

We think that he's a fab dude
Whose favorite past times include
Laughing, smiling, and sitting up tall
But thankfully he doesn't yet crawl
He's even started eating solid food

His hair is still mess
Enough to impress
The likes of Einstein
and the Medusa kind
To a haircut I'll finally acquiesce

There's lots of folks around here
Who find him quite dear
Grandparents like G & Pop


Moms, dads, and brotherly tots

Even though their affection sometimes causes a tear

Here are his stats for all who care:
10% head not including his hair
26.5 inches, that's 55 percent
Weighing in at 16.5 pounds (33%)--just like one particular parent
And now that I've written it down, these numbers will surely disappear from my head into thin air.

So three cheers for the smallest Peek
Whom we've definitely decided to keep!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Race Day

Don't call me crazy.  

Don't be impressed (because there's really not anything to be impressed about).

Because this is where my friend Leah & I were last weekend, amidst the sea of 25, 000 other runners.

And this is me finishing...

How do you like my amazing 6 pac abs six months post-partum?  Pretty snazzy, huh?  And I'm sure you also like my obvious Hispanic persuasion.  Just going to San Antonio turns me into a ripped Latina running machine.

Instead, this was me finishing, just happy to still be standing...

Not an understatement.  What started off as this kind of race...

Dwindled to a snail's pace around mile 9.  I crossed the finish line though, and I suppose that's the most important thing.  The blazing hot temperatures should have been my first clue that this was not going to be a PR race.  Or maybe the fact that I just had a baby 6 months ago.  Or that Hudson was not a fan of the bed I made him sleep in at the hotel, therefore sleep was an unobtainable luxury for me that night. 

The most grueling part was the mile walk I had to make after the race to make it back to the hotel to feed Little Man.  I crossed the finish line and just kept going without even sitting down.  So I guess my medal (that Hudson happily gnawed) counts for the total 14 miles that I moved that day.

Even though it wasn't my most star performance, I love race days and was so glad to be able to carve another notch on my running belt.  The adrenaline, the enthusiasm, the crowds, the cheering, the music...if you've never run or even been to a road race, I highly recommend it.  Here is but a smattering of all the entertaining things there were to see on the course that day:

  • the Alamo (It must be noted that the Alamo is directly across the street from Ripley's Believe It or Not and a few other tourist traps.  I wonder how Alamo hero Mr. Bowie would feel about that.)
  • A little boy with a sign that said "You better run faster...I just farted."
  • Two barefoot runners
  • A dog with three legs
  • A man running in a kilt
  • A giant dude who really could have been a player for the Spurs
  • A runner dressed as a hot dog
  • Another sign that said "This is the most boring parade ever."

I will say that my favorite part about training for this race was the quality time I got to spend with my old high school friend, Leah.  Our Saturday long runs were like a weekly coffee date--minus the coffee,  plus sore quads when it was all said and done.  In fact, Leah was the first one to sign up for this race and let me come along to crash the party.  So none of this would have been possible without her.

Overall, our little weekend getaway to San Antonio was such a blast.  Though the race wasn't as stellar as I had hoped, it reminded me that sometimes all there is to do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Such is running, such is life.  A very applicable life lesson when these days my heart is not so keen on returning to China.  So for now, I'll just keep on going.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ode to Sami

This is the Sam that we know & love:

I love seeing how far you've come developmentally, from a wee sprat of a baby to a big little boy.

I loved getting to know you through pictures when we were continents apart.

But I loved even more getting to meet you for the first time.

I love that God provided a special nanny for you when you were in Ethiopia.  She even cried when we took you away from her to bring you home.

I love how you've downed milk from the beginning and now insist on calling it "guk" even though I know you know how to say it correctly.

I love that you would be happy to eat bananas all day, every day (if i let you).

I love your giant brown eyes and am incredibly envious of your fabulous lashes.

I love all your facial expressions.

I love God's testimony of grace in your life regarding your seizures.  You've been seizure-free for over a year and off meds for months.  In fact, this picture was taken at the international hospital in Beijing the day of your first seizure.  Not even seizures could cramp your smily style.

I love it when you come in the room, look up at me, and say "Hi!"

I love that you think the Quaker Oats man is Uncle Chris.

I love your squishiness.

I love how your were a mad man on wheels in your "xue bu che" and made our toes thankful to be protected inside our house shoes.

I love your sweet, snuggly, sleepy self.

I love that you've already chipped your front tooth, even though you've had it less than a year.  Perhaps that's telling of what lies ahead for a rough & tumble kind of kid like you.

I love that you are a giant baby and would be pleased to be carried everywhere.  I even put you back in the Ergo a month or so ago and you thought that was pretty fab.

I love how you love your daddy.

I love how you open the fridge and announce to me that it's "peanut butter jelly time."

I love that you waited an entire year before learning to crawl.  Having one immobile child made the transition from zero to two children much easier.  And it preserved your babyness that much longer for me to enjoy.

I love watching you fishy second nature come out whenever we take you swimming (or give you a bath for that matter).

I love it when you find any excuse just to be snuggled, saying to me "Sit de mommy."

I love that you haven't figured out enough pronouns to know that while asking me to "carry you" is incredibly cute & endearing, it is utterly grammatically incorrect.

I love your fascination with backhoes, tractors, and all things wheel.

I love your laugh & and your smile.

I love your laugh when we play with balloons or throw blankets on your heard.

I love your incessant cries of "Yay!  I did it!"

I love seeing your connection with your brothers and how you want to do every single thing Micah does.

I love how you retrieve the syrup from the pantry as a not-so subtle request for pancakes.

I love that when you were first learning to talk, you would tell me your name was "I am Fam."  To this day, your nickname is still Fam.

I love when you declare to Micah "I like you!"

I love seeing the dare devil in you when you ride scooters in the cul-de-sac.

I love how you request to read "Most of All, Jesus Loves You" at least a dozen times per day.

I love how you're becoming so verbal, despite the fact that you have to duke it out with Micah to get a chance to speak.

I love your eye dimples.

Sam's stats:
(for all who care, including me who will promptly forget these numbers as soon as I type this)
height 34.75" (60%)
weight 29 lbs (72%)
head 48.2 cm (37%)

And Sam wanted to share a final word of thanks for all who love him:

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