Thursday, September 19, 2013

In Which We're Back at the Altar

Remember that day, seven years ago now, when you and I went off to Bei Hai, the lake in the heart of Beijing?  It had been, what, six weeks since our arrival?  Six weeks of training, and meetings, and learning to eat, and kidney stones, and what-the-heck-have-we-done. We went out for the day, all by ourselves in great big China.  Remember how we wandered around, taking it all in, the wide-eyed clueless kids that we were? 

I remember the clear blueness of the sky, the willow branches gracefully sweeping the water’s edge, the boiled corncobs that smelled deceivingly good.  We stumbled upon sculptures older than America, while fresh baby bums peered out of trousers nearby.  Old people stretched their limbs.  Dancers danced.  Musicians strummed.  Children frolicked. 

I remember on that day feeling, for the very first time, a few sparks of love for this place.  You felt it that day too.  We grasped on tightly to those bits of love, those whispers of hope, thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, we might make it here.  We marked that day in our hearts and in our China journey.

Now seven years and three babies later, we’re back at the lake.  Back to celebrate nine years of married love. We’re not the same kids that walked round the water that day. Lines have begun to peer out around my eyes.  You’ve got hints of grey in your whiskers now.  And I think how we grew up in this place.

Back then we meandered round the edge of the lake, quite unsure of ourselves, our lives.  But today we boat.   Today we’re out in deep waters, living out our dreams.  

In the midst of this dream-building, the child-rearing, the globe-trekking, the always busy, always tired, we sometimes lose each other, don’t we?  Funny how sometimes you can’t find the one who’s in the boat with you.

But today we found each other, just like we always eventually do.  Sometimes it’s over late night chocolate waffle dates.  Sometimes it’s catching each other’s eye, smiling proud over a child of ours.  Sometimes it’s squeezing past each other in our tiny box kitchen.  But we find each other again, and when we do, we’re back at the altar, crazy in love. 

Happy 9th Anniversary, Love.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

That Day We Went to China

21 days on Chinese soil ... or more accurately, Chinese cement!  

Thanks for understanding the silence over here on the blog.  As much as I’ve wanted to write, I operated purely in survival mode during our first several days, clouded by the fog of jet-lag.  The goal was simply to make life livable.

We’re settling in now.  I’m feeling my feet under me again (which is nice after all that flailing.)  Here is a snap shot one of the kids took unbeknownst to me sometime the week before we moved.  Really, it says it all.

So much I could write about.  But first off, I want to share about our trip here.  I know many of you were praying for us, coordinated by a prayer sign-up my dear friend made.  Thank you, thank you!! 

Here it is ... that day we went to China. 

In the dark, before dawn hits the palm leaves of So Cal, we load luggage and sleepy kids into the van. 
We make our way to LAX, pull up to the curb, and...Aiden vomits in his car seat.  Reeaally?  I turn to inspect the damage and realize that since it’s still crazy early in the morning and he hasn’t eaten anything, his stomach was blessedly empty.  Very minimal damage.

We pile onto the sidewalk.  Then my parents squeeze their grandbabies, their hearts breaking right open.  I seriously consider calling the whole thing off. 

We make it aboard the plane only to sit on the runway for over 90 minutes due to weather in Nor Cal (did I mention we only had a two-hour layover?)  We get to San Fransisco and look for our stroller, desperate to get to our next flight before it leaves.  We wait and wait, still no stroller.  We decided Aaron would wait for the stroller while I try to get to the next gate with the kids. 

Hey, kids, do you know anyone that’s a super runner??  Really?  YOU’RE  super runners?  Great!  Let’s see how fast we can RUN!!

Titus bounces, strapped to my chest as we jog, walk, stop, jog, walk, stop. YOU CAN DO IT!  We’re almost there! 

We DID IT!!  The gate is nearly empty.  Last call passengers boarding now.  I corral the kids to the counter at our gate, explaining my husband is on his way.  How much longer, they ask.  I don’t know.  Soon.  I think.

Kids, stay right by Mommy.  Aiden, no, come back here!

Then our angel appears. 

A mom of three little ones herself, she’s traveling alone (smart woman!).  On a bit of a vacation from kids (no jealousy here).  Upon seeing me and my hooligans, she doesn’t hightail it out of sight (as I might have done).  No, her mother heart beats for me, as one who knows.  She immediately starts grabbing backpacks, taking hands, earning the all-around-hero-of-my-life award. 

Then Aaron appears, sweating from his mad dash (when the stroller eventually did come out, it was in five pieces).  We maneuver everyone and our way-too-many-carry-on’s on board.  

That's when I think we have mistakenly entered a sauna room rather than the airplane.  It was about a thousand degrees in there.  We make our way towards the back of the plane, stuff and wedge our carry-on’s, and get us all seated.  Big, weary sigh of relief.

Then we wait. And wait. And sweat. And sweat.  The plane doesn’t move. 

An announcement is made that the air conditioning is broken.  Yeah, no kidding.

Then another announcement is made, first in Chinese. We don’t catch it. All the Chinese  people groan, stand up and starting grabbing bags. WHAT is going on??

Then the English announcement.  “Sorry folks, because of the broken air conditioning, we have to have everyone get off the plane, taking all of your things with you.”


But yes.  So we do.  Flight attendants see us ladened with children and bags, wrestling down the aisle, sweating of course. 

"Here!  Here’s water for you!" 

Sorry. No hands to take the water.  

"Let me put it too your mouth!"

I think someone was trying to avoid the headline/lawsuit: “Parents pass out from heat stroke aboard United flight.”

Or maybe they were just compassionate. 

Anyway, we make it off the plane, wait and wait, do multiple laps up and down escalators to keep the kids occupied so that will stop doing this:

Then finally, a few hours later, we get back on the somewhat cooler airplane.  As soon as the plane starts taxiing, all five of us fall dead asleep.  No one has any memory of take-off. 

We rouse to consciousness a while later.  I take stock of our fellow passengers.  All Chinese.  I am very glad I had our Chinese friend translate the note we put in our fellow-passenger-treat bags.  It went like this:

Hi There Fellow Passenger!

Here’s a little gift for you.  You are a lucky passenger traveling near a family with little ones!  We’re moving to Asia today with three kids ages 5, 3 and 1.  As parents we will do all that we can to keep our kiddos happy and quiet.  If at some point we should fail, these earplugs might come in handy.  Thank you ever so much for your grace and understanding, and please enjoy our little “thank you” treat.


The family of five traveling near you

Ellie passes out the bags, and we have instant friends.  She buddies up to a sweet ten-year-old girl in front of us, who entertains all the kids with a rousing game of peek-a-boo.  Aiden made a pal across the aisle, a fellow three-year-old.  Fits of giggles ensue.  Everyone coos over Titus.          

I chat with a Chinese student behind us, who thanks me for the treat bag and says, “I think your plan will works.”

Perhaps it was the way he said it, but suddenly my heart warms all over, reminded of the countless students we’ve had, of all the precious moments we’ve shared.  I needed that.  I needed right then to be reminded of why we were putting ourselves through all this craziness.  Why we said all those heart-wrenching goodbyes.  I look around at all the passengers loving on my children.     

My eyes all misty, I turn to Aaron and I whisper, “I love Chinese people.”  He smiles knowingly.  It’s not a matter of loving them more than anyone else or loving China more than America.  They are both forever entwined within us.  Because of that, our journey has us back and forth across the globe.  It’s hard.  Really hard.  But that heart warming was the millionth confirmation that for us, it is right, and it is good.  We grasp hands for bit and breathe, reminded that we will, in fact, make it through.