February 26, 2015

We are part-shark, apparently

Taken just before heading to the dentist.

We noticed it last week during our nightly routine. Everybody had peed - the boys peeing altogether as usual, standing three abreast in front of our little makeshift urinal, while Jubilee sat daintily on the toilet seat and the whole lot of them filled the concrete bathroom with the sound of tinkling. After that, they had all stacked their clean clothes on my dresser for the next day and tossed their dirty clothes in the hamper. Then they lined up for their nightly tooth-scrubbing (they brush their own teeth in the mornings, but at nighttime those ivories are mine).

When Brave parted his poofy red lips, I saw what his brother Zion had at this age, and their brother Gene before that: shark teeth, when permanent teeth pop up behind baby teeth rather than pushing up under them. Two rows of teeth are the result. A visit to the dentist is the solution.

So I called Dr. Torres, our friendly Filipino dentist. We had a hard time finding his office, since we had only ever visited his Tongzilin branch, but when I called his personal cell phone, he met us in the parking lot dressed in white from his neck down to his toes (I'm serious, his loafers were tooth-white leather).

Tooth pulled! First tooth lost for our third child. 50 kuai slipped under his pillow while he slept (the tooth fairy is generous with the first one, after that it's 10 kuai per). Way to be brave, Brave!

February 22, 2015

Regards, Emma

Eugene and Zion were invited to a young lady's 11th birthday party.

Young ladies of eleven years no longer want princess parties, where all the guests are girls enrobed in sequined gowns dragged from the dressup drawer, ripped in the armpits and losing the tulle around the hem.
Emma reading on my couch.

Which is why when our neighbor Emma, short for Emmanuel (who speed-reads but struggles with spelling, who wears scarves on her head and dons flowing skirts, who frequently bakes little cakes using my vanilla and my recipes, warming all of our hearts with her reluctant smile and her Jane Austen ways) prepared to celebrate her eleventh birthday, she delivered the following invitation to our door:

Our boys, who HATE wearing anything but sweatpants, didn't complain about wearing button-up shirts, tucked-in no less, for Emma's "fomal" dinner party. Zion carried a bouquet of gerbera daisies and Gene carried a gift, wrapped in blue paper, which was a raquetball set. The door to Emma's apartment was opened for them and we heard their raspy boy voices croak, "Happy Birthday" in unison.

Sweet, sweet days in the lives of our boys.

February 17, 2015

It won't be long now

Though Daniel and I have each snuck back to The States since our last furlough, the kids will have been away for three years...THREE YEARS...when we fly to the U.S.A. this summer for six months of home leave.

Brave doesn't remember anything about America. How sad is that.

So while we gear up for another semester serving in East Asia, we look forward to seeing our families in just four short months!
Daniel with Momo, Kerry, Philip, and Eliana last summer in L.A.

My parents, newly retired, who are currently RVing all over the southwest.
The newlyweds! My big brother Kody and my sister-in-law, Carrie.
Grandma with my neice, Sharlet, and my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Melissa.
Grandma with my little brother, Jack, his son Jack, and his daughter, Sharlet.
We're coming home, fam! It won't be long now. XOXOXO

February 15, 2015


When at the first the wood is laid, it burns fast and bright, leaping into tall, explosive flames, even as the pit below remains hollow and cool.

Before long that first wood is gone, incinerated by the heat of the fire's beginnings. More wood is needed, harder wood this time, for it will burn slower. The flame is lower now. It rocks back and forth above the pit, rather than running full speed up the draft. It will last. 

Now the fire is old and the night is wearing on. The flames barely kiss the air. But deep in the pit, inch upon smoldering inch of hot red embers burn, hotter even than the fire used to be.


He really did build me a valentine fire. He knows me so well. I'd rather have this than all the long-stemmed roses in the world.

And just in case any of the kids woke up and couldn't find us, we left them a note:)

February 14, 2015

You never can tell

Practically no internet in Thailand, only to come home to find our internet broken at our apartment. Long time no type. But now we're back on the world wide web, so I can post a few of our best pics from January.



This girl is tougher than she looks. Fearless, actually.

That is one heavy Burmese Python! And it is giving Gene's leg a little kiss:/


Road trips!

Grocery shopping!

Good ol' Juniper Tree.

New friends!
Brave and Tim, never apart. Tim is Dutch and speaks three languages.

Tim's sister, Amy. She and Jubi climbed trees, played in the dirt, and practiced their soccer skills.

Gene and Toby! This was the second year in a row these two ran around together at The Juniper Tree.

Brave taught himself to swim! Here he is, the afternoon he became a swimmer.

And just for fun, here is a wild sow we found foraging at a rest stop along the road. You never can tell.

January 24, 2015

Just a wife and mom

I used to think there had to be something more than this. 'Surely,' I thought, 'I've been created for something greater than adding cream of mushroom soup to chopped, cooked chicken. But what? What is my purpose?' (other than the Great Commission, of course, but that is everyone's purpose). The answer came to me quite quickly. Writing. Writing, for me, is like kissing my husband in the kitchen. It is exhilarating, to be sure, and yet it is the most natural thing in the world. So I wrote a novel, loving every painstaking minute of it. My blood ran warmer, my dreams came clearer, and the sun shone brighter. I was more alive than the day I was born. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And with each passing month that no word came from an interested publisher, the picture I had of myself in my mind began to fade around the edges, until I could no longer distinguish its features. Was I an author? Or was I just a wife and mom? I no longer knew. No one was offering me a publishing contract, and because of that it seemed all of my self worth hung in the balance. I checked my email several times a day, halfheartedly attending to my other tasks. I wasn't writing anymore, as I was waiting for someone to confirm that I had talent before going to all the trouble of pouring my heart out again.
Daniel on his rented motorcycle here in Thailand.
But then we came to Thailand for January, as we are accustomed to doing. This is the place where I usually get the most writing done, since the guesthouse provides meals and laundry services. But this time the L0RD whispered, "Don't write," into my heart.  I felt Him urging me, "There will be years and years to write books, Kayla, but Gene is just a few hot showers away from needing to wear deodorant and your youngest doesn't need you between meals, and faster than an author can finish writing a mystery series, these kids will be gone." It was a big thing for G0D to be asking of me, giving up this one thing that keeps me sane. But alas His ways are higher than mine and He can be trusted, and so I told Him I would not write this month. In fact I will not write until further notice, other than this silly blog, of course, which is really more of a gift to my kids than anything else. So instead of plunking away at the computer while the kids play, I will be playing right along with them.
Eugene and his new glasses, which he refuses to wear. He says he doesn't feel like himself. If he only knew how handsome he looks!
Because you see, it doesn't matter that no one has offered me a publishing contract. Someone much more important offered me a diamond ring 13 years ago, and his are still the furry forearms I depend on to guide me through the doors of life. And every day, it seems, someone offers me a crayon drawing, or a drooping flower for my hair. I am offered handmade bracelets, faulty in the middle and too small for my wrist. Funny-colored pot holders like the ones I used to make for my own mom (and those were the only pot holders she ever used). Hugs around the middle, bleeding knees, peanut butter kisses on the mouth...all offered to me. Only me. Lucky me. And so it would seem I have come full circle, losing myself, and then finding myself again, in the daily miracle of being just a wife and mom.

January 12, 2015

Staying married for the full 8 seconds

Dad "bull-riding" at a rodeo in Texas last week. Pure awesomeness.
I have a special diet. This is tricky when we travel, especially to places where I won't be having my own kitchen. Right now we are at a guest house in Thailand, which has always felt like a second home to me. But on our first morning here, I got my heart broken by the management when they bawled me out for writing a "bloody rude" email about what I can and can not eat. I ended up running from the dining hall in tears.

After coming out to comfort me, Daniel went back to finish feeding the kids their breakfast, and so there I was, alone in our cabin, where I cried without consolation. I realized my heart was broken because I felt so completely unknown, so I decided I needed to call the two people in this world who know me the best.

My parents.

The Facetime call rang and rang, and for a moment I thought maybe they wouldn't or couldn't pick up. But then they did, and there they were, their smiling faces crammed together into the camera shot on Mom's iPhone. The backdrop behind them was the color of dust and filled with the sound of blaring country music.

"Hi Honey!" they hollered over the noise. "We're at a rodeo in Texas with Denny and Laura."

"Hi!" I said. I tried to smile but my swollen face and quivering lip betrayed me.

"Honey, are you okay?" They both leaned in closer to the camera, looks of concern on both of their brows.

"I'm okay," I said, and then the tears started to flow again, along with the whole story.

"I'd like to get my hands on them," Mom said lovingly when my story was through. Only moms can say stuff like that and sound loving.

"If they only knew your heart, Honey," Dad said, his voice deep and even. A constant.

We talked a little more and then I let them go, and Mom sent me the above pic a minute later to lift my spirits. It is a perfect picture of Dad because my parents, like most married people, had a rough go of it there for while. But Mom and Dad refused to give up on each other. They hung on, white knuckles and all, for the full 8 seconds, until the buzzer finally sounded this year and Dad retired! Now he has a wife who loves him and an RV that still runs, and six months of open road ahead of them to do whatever they please (like go to the rodeo with Denny and Laura). And here's the thing: when I needed them most, there they were, crammed together in the camera shot on Mom's iPhone. My parents, married. And all the world was right.

Everybody knows that kids never stop needing their parents, but maybe kids never stop needing their parents married. Maybe moms and dads considering divorce should look down the road at their daughter when she's 34, calling from across the world in tears to be utterly comforted by the fact that her parents are still together. A pastor was once asked by a couple in marriage counseling, "Are the kids reason enough to stay married?" To which the pastor responded by saying, "What better reason is there in all the world?"

So thanks, Mom and Dad, for hanging on for the full 8 seconds. Your love for each other, richer now than it ever was (in spite of, or because of, the tough times) is the best gift you have ever given me. I love you.