Wednesday, May 30, 2012


It's been a little over a week since I posted about my new running schedule.

And after five early morning runs, I'm completely converted. The cooler air, the quiet, the easy-breathing. All good things.

I got to run with my husband Monday morning before the rest of the city was awake. And at the end of four miles, I felt so good that we went one and half more miles. I haven't run five consecutive miles since my last run in Virginia on my favorite trail about ten months ago.

It felt so good...until, that night my heel felt like it was on fire. Yep. An injury. I guess I ran too long too soon.

So I've had to scale back. But I'm not going to give up.

We're adhering to my mother's motto around here: Hoe to the End of the Row. My mom grew up in Idaho surrounded by potato fields. And as a service project, her family worked on a church farm hoeing potatoes. The rows were long. And I can only imagine how dry and hot it was. As she worked on a row, her dad (my grandpa) would tell her to finish what she started...hoe to the end of the row.

So for the next couple weeks, we're hoeing to the end. The kids are hanging in there as they finish projects and take tests. I'm nursing my heel, but I'm not giving up on my running. I still wake up early to exercise and to make a hot breakfast before school. I finished my last day of teaching preschool and hosted a preschool party.

Plus I'm gearing up for a couple adventures on the horizon (I'll post about those soon).

We may feel a bit overrun, but we're still going. And we're looking forward to celebrating all the good things that come when we hoe to the end of the row.  

Monday, May 21, 2012


Running here in Jakarta has its complications. First, there's the heat. Each time I step out my front door, the air is bathwater warm - which is lovely, until I try to run. Second, there's the pollution. I've written about this before - the fumes, the grit between my teeth, and the nausea that hits me after about 20 minutes of running.

I've been running since I was six. My Dad would come home from work, and I would join him on his early evening runs. I entered races starting in forth grade. I ran track and cross country in high school. And when I had kids, running became more than recreation, it became a necessity. My therapy, my stress relief, my me-time.

But about two weeks ago, I actually entertained the idea of quitting running. At least for my remaining two years here in Jakarta. The nausea and pollution-induced asthma were making me wonder if I was doing more harm than good by trying to run. And unfortunately, I'm just not a treadmill runner (makes me go batty and messes up my ankles).

There was, however, one solution. I could get up early. Insanely early. 4:45AM early. And run before having to get the kids up and ready for school. That way, I would avoid all the traffic and pollution.

The idea intimidated me. Because anyone who knows me, can attest to the fact that besides food, sleep is crucial. I suddenly morph into Cruella Deville if I'm sleep deprived.

But I decided to give it a try. Last night, I set my alarm for the ridiculous time of 4:45AM.

The world was dark when I left my house this morning. But the streets were gloriously empty of motorized vehicles. I ran past guards sleeping on a bamboo mat in a driveway. A young man strapped ice blocks to the back of his bicycle for deliveries. I peeked inside the neighborhood Mosque and caught a glimpse of five men in white shirts and sarongs kneeling on their prayer mats. A bat flew beside me at head level for just a few moments. I ran from street light to street light and enjoyed the stillness.

As I rounded a corner, my foot caught on a speed bump hidden in the shadows. I took two lunging steps to try to regain my balance, then I skidded onto the asphalt. My right hand knuckles scraped where I was holding my phone. My knee took a beating. Again, I considered giving up running. But I brushed myself off and kept going, this time, paying a little closer attention to the road.

Then in the last five minutes of my run, the sky lightened from indigo to gray. The palm trees, gates, and houses looked black, like a charcoal drawing on white paper. And I felt that runner's high. That feeling that I could keep going.

Just as I finished my run and entered our neighborhood gate, I looked up. The sky blushed with the rising sun. Pink wispy clouds, like cotton candy, were strewn across the pale blue sky. An unexpected bonus for my early morning efforts.   

Anything truly rewarding in life, I've found, often comes with a price. To run here in Jakarta may require a little less sleep and maybe even a few scrapes and bumps. But if this morning is any indication, it will be oh, so worth it. 

4:45AM and I just might become friends after all.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I miss...

Today, I miss America. Very much.

It started with a trip to our grocery store. I knew it was going to be a big shopping trip because I hadn't shopped in a week. So even though the store is walking distance to our house (a HUGE blessing!), I took the car. When I arrived in the parking lot, it looked full, but still I asked the guard at the gate who was handing out tickets, Is it full? He shook his head no and handed me a ticket to proceed.

As it turns out, not only was it full, there was a line of five cars, just waiting for an open space. In America, when a parking lot that you pay to use is full, they stop letting cars in. And certainly, if you can't find a parking place and you go to leave, you don't have to pay. It's just logical. But not here. Not only was I unsuccessful in finding a parking spot, when I went to leave, they made me pay.

So I drove back home, enlisted the help of Meya and Leasie. And we walked back to the store.

I had some very simple items on my list. Flour, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, wild rice, and lemons. Back in the good 'ol USA, I would have had multiple choices of brands for each of these items (except maybe the lemons). But take chocolate chips - not only would I have had a choice of brands, but I would have to decide which flavor? White chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter swirl, milk chocolate, semi-sweet, mint.

Grocery stores here can be hit and miss. And on this particular day, none (yes, none) of the items I listed above were in the store.

So today, I miss America. I miss the choices. I miss the bounty. I miss the plenty. Something that, until living here, I took for granted.

I have, however, learned to be flexible. So, here's what I did find:

And after an hour of washing, soaking, debugging, and cutting, we have veggies and fruit for the next few days.

Which reminds me - I also REALLY miss my bag of frozen broccoli from Costco. From freezer to stove top. Done.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Ammendment

My Mother's Day Confession post has created a bit of a stir in our home. Particularly with my oldest, who after reading it, shrugged her shoulders and was unconvinced by the paragraph of "joyful moments" that to her seemed more of an afterthought than the main thought. And after re-reading it, I can see where my effort to be truthful came across as whiny and ungrateful. I guess you could say I'm feeling a bit of writer's remorse (kind of like buyer's remorse). I could, of course, delete the previous post. But somehow that doesn't seem right. Because my Mother's Day Confession is full of truth...just maybe not the kind of truth my 12 year old likes to hear.

So instead...let me add this amendment post.

There are a lot of things I love. I love running on the W&OD trail in the fall with the leaves crunching under my feet and cool air filling my lungs. I love reading a book that makes me cry - the leave-a-mark-on-my-soul kind of book. I love sharing a meal with friends, talking around the table while feasting on friendship and delicacies like apple pie or carrot souffle. I love sleeping in, especially when the bed is warm and the pillow is perfect and there is snow on the ground outside.  

But more than these things, I love being a Mom. I love the baby rolls, the elbow dimples, the saggy diapered-bums and the newly potty trained underwear-bums. I love morning stories, the afternoon book snuggles, and the nighttime chapter reading when we're all in pajamas. I love making cookies with a child standing on a chair at my side - both of us tasting, stirring, nibbling, rolling, and sneaking.  
I love the adventures I've shared with my children. The fruit picking, pie making, jam processing kinds. The museum going, zoo exploring, puddle jumping, NYC enjoying, snow sledding kinds. The build a fort with every blanket and pillow in our house kind. The raising rabbits and county fair kinds.
And then comes the love I feel for when I watch (usually in complete awe) as my children are brave and do hard things. Like when each of the twins had eye surgery (Tman twice, Meya once), when Leasie faced her new school here in Indonesia all by herself (her siblings were all at the other campus), when Madi joined the boys soccer team and stuck with it. When my children make good choices, even when it's not the popular thing to do. These are the times when my mother heart gets so full that I am sure this is a little bit what heaven feels like.  

When Madi was first born, I experienced what can only be described as falling in love. I was enamored with her. She could do no wrong. I couldn't wait for each day to begin. There were times I actually woke her up from her nap, because I missed her (Crazy, I know). That's how much I loved her. I didn't think I could love any deeper.

And then Leasie came. And then the twins came. And then CJ came. And I have since watched Madi serve and help in our home. I've watched my children learn to love each other. And my love just grew exponentially.

Motherhood has stretched me to my limits. And because of that stretching and growing, I have learned patience and I have experienced the kind joy that only comes from serving. I love the opportunity in my life to be needed and loved and to have loved back with fierceness and tenderness (Momma Bear mingled with Mother Teresa).

I know when I look back on my life, family and motherhood will be what I learned the most from and where I experienced the greatest joy. Very possibly, motherhood will be my greatest test in this life.

But most definitely, it will also be my greatest reward.

A Mother's Day Confession

Confession: 100 7th graders are easier for me than my 5 children.
This is a truth I've been wrestling with, rolling around in my mind, and trying to figure out, since I returned home from the Bali 7th grade trip. It all started the night I got home. Tman, in his enthusiasm to greet me, tackled me in a huge hug. His knee hit my mouth (yes, it was that energetic of a hug) and I had a fat lip to show for the love. 

Then the next day, I spent the morning with CJ. We played playdough for an hour, we baked cookies, we practiced ABCs, and we crawled around on the floor in a chase game. When the other four returned home there were snacks to distribute, homework to facilitate, instruments to practice, dinner to prepare, and emotional support (aka a listening ear for each of them). By the time they were in bed and I still had lunches to pack for the next day, I was exhausted and sore - much more than I'd been all week long with all those 7th graders. 

So how is that possible? I started to wonder if something was fundamentally wrong with me.

But I've decided that the reason my own 5 children are more challenging/exhausting for me than 100 7th graders is simply because I'm their mother. And that means that not only do I get to receive awesomely enthusiastic hugs and crawl around on the floor, I am invested in what my children are doing, what they are choosing, and how they spend their time. I care about them and how they are progressing through life.
And being truly invested takes a lot more energy than just going with the flow - which is basically what I did all week long in Bali.

So, there is, in fact, nothing wrong with me. Quite the opposite. All the good mothers I know, the ones I look up to and am trying to emulate, are exhausted by the end of the day...because all day long they were invested.

I often think back to my own Mom. Somehow she managed to work full time, make me a hot breakfast every morning, keep the house clean, do the laundry, serve in the church, and still go running with me, read my essays and attend my choir concerts. 

Was she tired? Yes. Invested? Yes. And her investment is one which I am still reaping the benefits of today.

There is a different kind of joy that comes from invested effort, don't you think? A joy more fulfilling than anything else - even Bali. Sticky banana kisses, bedtime cuddles, coaching a soccer team, cooking side by side in the kitchen. 

Small moments of incredible joy.

So to all you tired, exhausted, swollen-lipped, playdough playing, cookie baking Moms,
Happy Mother's Day!

A Mother's Day photo in our front yard.
Our last soccer game on the eve of Mother's Day. Coach Abbe is now just Mom again.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bali with 7th Graders

 Our trip started at 3AM Monday morning when we were expected to arrive at school - needless to say, I didn't sleep well between 10-2AM, worried I'd miss my alarm. After a mad scramble of finding kids and bags in the dark (because it was 3AM!), we boarded buses and headed to the airport. Checking in was nothing short of cattle prodding. Having had experience with youth conferences and girls' camps, I wasn't as traumatized by the experience as I could have been. 
Still I found it pretty miraculous that all 150 kids, teachers, and bags arrived in Bali by 10 AM.
I was assigned 16 students, and I had a teacher-partner for the week. We had the same bus, bus driver, and Balinese guide for the duration too. Each day started at 6AM (5AM for me as I tried to sneak in a 30 minute run on the beach) and ended at 9PM. We were bussed to various activities from mask making, to bridge building over the Ayung River, to white water rafting. Here are some of the highlights...

The first night we arrived we went to a festival at a nearby village. The entire village participated in a procession. These cute girls posed for me as I walked down the gravel road. I talked to them in my broken Indonesian. And when I left they said in perfect English, "Goodbye. Thank you!"

Below, shows the Gamelan Orchestra which greeted us as we entered the village temple. I was enamored by the little girl who sat on her father's lap for the entire show. She sat perfectly still and watched his mallet strike each key again and again. 

  We ate Indonesian food all week long. This was my favorite meal (served at the Bamboo Foundation). I loved the bamboo plate and the variety of dishes. Chicken sate with peanut sauces. Delicious.

After a team building exercise on the river, we took refuge in the shade under this bamboo pagoda. A spring fed swimming pool helped too. I dipped my feet in - while most of the kids swam.

Because I was with the school trip, I had the opportunity to participate in activities I'd never do on my own as a tourist. We visited a famous mask maker, Pak Anom, and watched him take a block of wood, hold it between his feet (as he was sitting) and carve first the eyes then the cheeks before revealing a nose. His hands moved quickly and precisely. His work shop smelled of pine.

I learned how to carve shadow puppets out of leather and how to paint the swirls and embellishments on the finished product.
And I got to return to my favorite place - Gunung Kawi. Though it was a much different experience with 40 7th graders than it had been with my family. Still, the rice patties and stone carvings wielding their magic and I felt the calmness of the place...if only for a few moments.

Bali with 7th graders
It was the laughter on the bus rides that turned thunderous by the late afternoon.
Our stutter-start "count-off" - restarting at least 3 times each morning.
The feel of a paint brush between my finger tips.
Patting a shoulder, offering a "mother's" hug to a homesick girl.
The cold of the river water soaking my clothes.
The other-worldly, can't-believe-I'm-seeing-this-with-my-own-eyes experience of rafting the Ayung river.
Towering palms. Cliffsides drenched with deep green vegetation.
The background music of the ocean crashing against the shore at night.
Morning runs in the dark, using my cell phone as a flashlight.
Comforting crying girls at the dance.
Remembering what it was like to be 13.
Thankful for being 38.
Fresh papaya for breakfast.
Battling (and losing) mosquitoes in my hotel room.
Cold showers - not by choice.
Making friends.
Dinner on the beach.
Laughing until I cried - partly out of exhaustion.

Best subbing gig.