Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Scholastic Bookwizard

Our kids go through books like a newborn goes through diapers.  And one of the problems hurdles we have with living overseas is that our access to books is limited.  As of August, 2011, the kid's ebook selection is about 2 laps behind the adult ebook world.  It's catching up but at a grandma's pace. I don't have the luxury of ordering lots of books, just hoping my kids will like them.  My gambling margin of error is pretty much none.

Something I've discovered lately is this bookwizard from Scholastic

You can punch in a book that your kids have really enjoyed and the level you want them to be reading next.  For example, my kids have loved Magic Tree House.  But 2 of my kids can now read them in one bathroom sitting.  I can use this bookwizard to type in "Magic Tree House" but then I type in what level I want the search to include.  For us, I will type in 3 grade levels above Magic Tree House.

Voila! The bookwizard lists out the books of similar story lines, but more age appropriate for my kids.  It's like having a personal librarian without the hair bun, glasses on a chain and the snide comments about the Michael Jackson Fan book that you wanted to check out every week of second grade.

 Some of us still have scars.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

If I were to write a movie...

If I were to write a movie, this would be the premise:  You only have a limited number of words to use before you die. 

For each person, that number is different.  At some point in your life, there will be a light that goes off on some device planted in your hand to tell you that you have just 100 words left to use before you die.  So, for some people, that signal will come after a life has been lived, loves have been lost and relationships have been restored.  But for others, the last 100 words will come at a high school graduation or after the loss of a first tooth.  A signal might come at a time where the concept of death has yet to be imagined.  

When a person discovers he has yet 100 words to impart as a legacy, what an incredible scene to watch played out.  I imagine that a few people would escape to live a more monastic final existence, using their final breaths not to speak words but to meditate and reach inwards. A young bride might sit her new husband down and speak her 100 over coffee as she shares her dreams she has for him after she dies.  There might be a hero who uses his last words while issuing a "not guilty" verdict to a wrongly accused criminal.  Maybe an orphanage worker who's last 3 words are whispered "I love you" into the ear of a child.  

Thinking through this little script of mine, I've been reminded how often I waste words to complain, grumble or knock others down.  I imagine how different my life would look if I knew my words were limited. I smile at the conversations I would spend just listening and learning and not feeling like I needed to contribute anything.  I wonder what I would say to my husband, my children, my God.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Day Luck took a Vacation

We set off on a fairly simple journey to a lonely Taiwanese island for a visa run. Imagine for a second, the picture above was taken from those cute circle windows you find on luxury cruise lines. Then, come back to reality for a minute while I explain what happened.  

We were supposed to get to the city and catch the ferry over to this island on the first day.  Except that when we went to show our passports to check into the hotel, I realized that I had only brought all of the new passports.  The problem with this little scenario is that for 3 of our kids, their Chinese visas were in their OLD passports.  So not even 2 hours after getting off the train, I was getting back on one.  I spent two hours on the train, one hour taking the taxi back and forth from my house and running like I was being chased by an axe murderer.  I hopped back on the two hour train and made it back in time for dinner.  I had sweat through my shirt like a middle age bowler.

The next day, we boarded the ferry early and made our way to Taiwan.  For three straight years, I had perpetual nightmares of my children drowning.  Horrible, horrible scenes that I won't go into for fear I will plant these thoughts into your head.  But just know that these dreams instilled much fear in me when I thought of bringing my children on this ferry.  I brought a floatie with us.  Yes, I did.

My family made fun of me.  I just made sure to locate the safety devices and told myself in my head they would all thank me if this thing capsized.  I used my insanity to remind everyone of the Titanic and man's assumption that we think we all have control over things, when really we don't.  They still mocked me and my issues, but I felt better about the whole thing.

We made our way to the top and I told them all if they got too close to the edge, they would fall and be eaten by sharks. 

On the ferry, we ran into this sign.  

After the ferry, we headed to the water park where we managed to buy tickets, go to eat lunch and then lose the tickets on our way back to the park.  Lovely.  We re-bought tickets and headed inside to meet our friends. After dinner, it was late and time to catch our train, so we headed back to the train station.  It's now 9 pm and we're all exhausted.  We sit down and the guy next to us leans over to look at our tickets and tell us that our train has been canceled.  

Of course it has.

This entire trip was one of missteps.  So, we and the rest of China headed out to find taxis.  A cultural tid bit:  Chinese don't do lines...ever.  You have to throw elbows and push grandmas around to get on a bus.  It's just the way of things.  It didn't matter that we were dragging 5 kids around at 10:30, nobody would let us in a taxi.  We walked for about an hour on the side of the highway and still nothing.  

Finally, a random guy in a van stopped to pick us up.  We took him up on his offer and got to our hotel (hoping they had a room) around 11 pm.

The next morning, we had breakfast and a few gallons of coffee, then we waited on our train (which incidentally was also late).  We made it back home yesterday afternoon and crashed into bed last night.  

It was a crazy trip, but we're home now.  We got to the point where we just laughed and tried to enjoy whatever it was the Lord wanted to throw at us next.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Normal for a Day

We did a visa run this past weekend.  When you think of a visa run, think more of a visa trip, fall, crawl to the finish line.  More on that in another post.  Hanging out with these guys was the highlight of our trip. They finished up their adoption process right after ours and we've been excited to meet them ever since.

4 adults, 9 kids and nobody drowned when we invaded this new water park.  This water park had huge slides for the bigger kids and a great smaller kid area with slides, swings and spitting dragons.  

Before our train was supposed to leave, we headed to their place for dinner and dressing up like knights.

I cannot tell you how fun it was to play with a family just like ours.  For a brief few hours, our family felt completely and totally normal.  Even if normal looks like this:

This family was an incredible blessing to a crazy trip.  We cannot wait to hang with them again.

 *Love the fact that I am strangling my husband in one hand and holding a melted strawberry ice cream in the other.  Classic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Wide Gender Divide in our Home

In case you fall into the camp of thinking that there is very little difference in the genders, I want to share with you today's art project.  My girls worked diligently making their stained glass.  They made flowers and patterns and made sure that the colors matched. 

My 3 year old son made a robot. 
 A pooping robot. 
 A robot pooping on the head of the panda.
The end.

Our stained glass project today came out of our August box.  Because Chinese schools are out for now, we have the whole month of August to fill with activities that involve us not pulling each other's hair out.  We have had a blast picking one our each morning.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mexican food and my internet friend

I realize that this picture makes it look like we went bar hopping all night, but this is all I could get with my phone balancing on an half empty glass of water.  This is my friend, Michelle.  We were actually only internet friends until last night.  But, the thing that had bound us together was life in China with a large family....and a few of them are black.  She and her family went through the adoption process around the same time we did.  They brought home two sweet kids that we will get to meet when we invade their city again next week.  

We went to a Mexican food place last night because, well, a woman's got needs.  Chips and salsa might make my food pyramid a little wobbly, but it adds skip to my step.  As I walked there, I felt so nervous.  I had these anxieties as if I were headed to a blind date.  I found my stomach in knots, thinking "Will she like me?  What if we run out of things to talk about?  What if I offend her in the first 2 minutes and she crawls into the bathroom stall to look for a quick exit out the air vent?"  

But it went great!  I We scarfed down the chips and I cleaned my plate like it was the last edible thing on the planet.  We chatted about life in China with a big family and adoption issues and stupid things people say to us on a daily basis. We sat behind a noisy group of men downing margaritas when it donned on me that we two women represented 9 children.  She is one of only a handful of people on this earth that can fully understand our lives.  It was wonderful. 

I can't wait for the rest of my family to meet them next week.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On my way to the bus

I went on the bus today.  I brought my camera because going somewhere without my children dangling from my elbows allows me to take things in. It's a guarantee that I will see something worthy of snapping a picture.  These are a few of the things that planted themselves along my path as I walked to and from the bus stop.

A music note.

Two overstuffed, nightmare inducing bunnies advertising for a pharmacy.

An elderly lady collecting her retirement in the form of plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

A large performance with judges sitting in our apartment complex.  There were strobe lights, smoke machines and...

old ladies dressed in neon green, waving fans and doing Tai Chi.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

There's an Octopus in my Shower

As I sat in the shower this morning, I was hoping for a normal day.  Inside the draping cavern of my white shower curtain lived an octopus, a spider man book, and a lego truck.

For just a brief second, I thought how it would be nice to get my shower back from the nomadic village of toys that has taken up residence for the last 10 years.  I was wanting a normal adult shower. This week has brought spilled neon paint, broken coffee tables, no electricity, bath water that smells like burnt chicken stomach, a broken washing machine and 5 kids asking me "What do we do now?"  I asked myself why I coveted 'normal' and if I really knew what 'normal' meant for me.

Apparently, for me and my family, normal means things breaking weekly.  It means that we will consistently be thrown into situations that we have to use a second language to try and solve and sometimes that will mean that we will be seen on a bus holding a toilet seat we just purchased at a nearby market.  This is normal.

As I smiled at my octopus friend staring at me from behind my shampoo, I found myself being grateful for our normal.  Our normal includes chaotic laughter and desperate searching for the Lord's presence, because without that, we are just loud and lost. And one day, those toys will be gone and I'll have to redefine normal again.  But for now, I'm grateful for their presence.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

today i saw...electrons in her nostrils

today i saw...

This lady shooting electrons or magnetic shocks up her right nostril...in the grocery store.

I love this place.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Because He Loves Me"

 Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Because He Loves Me" was a wonderful reminder of the gospel for me.  I spent time in it each morning and felt my heart's affections being renewed as I remembered what was accomplished through the cross.  

The question that challenged me each day as I engaged her writing, was 

"In my pursuit of godliness, have I lost Jesus?"

This was convicting as I find myself in constant motion in my walk with the Lord.  I am always looking to do and improve, but very seldom am I saturated in the gospel message.  I want to pursue Jesus to the same degree that I pursue being patient with my kids or loving to my neighbors.  Non-Christians can purpose to do good things.  I can only do good things when I realize my motivations have been redeemed by a Savior who looked at me and called me His daughter.

Monday, August 01, 2011

ADHD Trials

Last year while in the States, both my husband and one of my sons were diagnosed with ADHD.  As a Christian, this has been a long road of prayer, changing diets, fasting, getting wise counsel, reading books and finally surrendering to professional counseling and medication.  For several years, my husband and I defaulted to the "If God wants to heal us, then let's allow Him to do it without medication."  Do I think that God heals?  Yes.  As a matter of fact, I know He does because I've seen it.  But in the words of my  husband, damage was being done to our family and there was no hope that things would get better any time soon.

After meeting with friends in the States and being painfully open about our struggles, they pushed us to get medical help.  He saw a Christian counselor, told the doctor that he hated psychologists and they've been friends ever since.  He took this diagnostic test and the Dr. told him that he was off the charts for ADHD.

Now, for those of you who know my husband, I'm sure you see this as a certain misdiagnosis.  As a matter of fact, when he came home from the appointment and told me what the dr. said, I laughed like Sarah did when God told her she would be pregnant at 90 years of age.  The thing was that I didn't understand the other side of ADHD.  The side that caused him to hyper focus and not recognize what was going on around him.  The side that had him thinking about the atonement of Christ while we were standing in the middle of the busy highway trying to get 5 kids into the taxi.

I saw all of this as selfish, inattentive to other's needs and consistently being patronizing to people who didn't think all day long.  What was really going on was that his brain was fixated.  It couldn't switch gears and as we have since found out, moved slower than the rest of our minds.  This seems counter intuitive because my husband is smart, responsible and capable.  But, it's like his brain is trying to barrel down the highway in first gear.  People, things, objects are flying past him at warp speed, so he would just turn inward because looking out was a blur and quickly became over stimulating.

As if you couldn't see the train wreck coming, this is not a great formula for marital bliss.  I think we had a great marriage, but between my stubborn independence and his overstimulation and fixation issues, we were quite the force to be reckoned with.

After we decided to go the medication route, the turnaround was nothing short of miraculous.  He noticed the gaggle of children dangling from me as I cooked.  He came over and helped instead of coming over and asking me what I thought about Romans 9.  Loud dinners and big get togethers with friends no longer tempted him to retreat to the other room.

Previously, we felt like he had no tools to be able to handle normal situations that arise daily.  As if you were to ask a paraplegic to get up and jump.  There is no way they could do it without being given a pair of legs.  Medicine became the legs that have helped him get up and jump.
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