Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finding the Familiar

See? Oregon isn't that far away!
 My mom knows pretty much everything about babies and children. One of her highest-priority pieces of advice centers on routine. "Children thrive on what they know," she's told me approximately 1,237 times. "They don't do well with change. Stick with what they can predict, and everyone will be happier for it."

But she was never a military wife.

Still, what she says has merit. So despite the fact that we're stuck in a hotel room for a month with just our suitcases, Jack is out of school, Avinly is sleeping with us (and nursing like a newborn) and Jude has no idea why we're here, I am trying to find the familiar. I'm hunting for it like a Robertson in a duck blind.

Hence, we revel over finding a street named after our beloved state and eagerly Skype to best friends back home.

Hi Gustins!
 We rejoice (as in, jump up and down, squealing with glee....and you should have seen the kids) when our much-missed minivan finally makes it to England two months after leaving Salem.

Oh Austen, we have missed you! No more Jack and Jude sitting next to each other!
 Of course, not everything can be the same. Our cloth diapers are still with our household goods, which we don't get until the first week of December. So Avinly has been experiencing not American Huggies or or Pampers diapers, but British Nappies. (P.S. I had forgotten how much disposables cost -- sheesh!).

Everywhere the Kupper family looks, we see differences. And when you're just a few months or years old, that's a big deal. The only people the kids recognize are their parents (and the Youngs, also stationed here) and the lone thing from home they can hold onto is their blankie. It's rough.

Like two days ago, when Jude (nearly three) climbed up onto my lap. His lip jutted out. "Mommy, I wanna go back my old house," he pouted. Amazing, since this is the first time in two months he has complained about all of his toys and belongings being carted away by strange men.

Yet no matter how backwards out little world may be at the moment, there is something we all know and recognize: love and friendship.

Meet Sarah, a Compassion International advocate
like myself. We "met" through this awesome child sponsorship organization a few years back. Sarah is British and was quite happy to hear we were moving here, and I must say, knowing I would be in the same country as her did help a little.

Sarah and her father

Sarah and I have never met in person. We only know each other through our online activities (though hopefully that will change in the near future). Yet that didn't stop her from mailing us two giant "Welcome to Britain" packages in the royal post.

Thanks for my British remote, Ms. Sarah!
To Jude, she gave a sticker atlas of the UK; to Avinly, a remote control toy (and did you know Fisher Price records each toy's voice with the local accent?); and Jack, a travel game called "The Great Game of Britain," because she "knows how intelligent Jack is."

Sarah saved the best gift for last. To me and Nick she enclosed a gigantic package of Cadbury's chocolate buttons. She had no idea that Cadbury's is my favorite kind of chocolate in the entire world (a habit passed down by my grandma Audrey). But God did!

The kids eagerly dove into their unexpected gifts (and when no one was looking, so did I). We played the game before bedtime, learning about the different major cities in the UK and having a ball all the while.

Jude was the designated dice-roller. Jack practiced his reading on each card. And Avinly gurgled and happily reached for the choking hazards. It was everything a happy family evening should be, really.

Nick would probably want me to inform you that he won.

So while everything here is unfamiliar, life daily reminds me that no matter where you are in the world, people are the same. We may not have the same accent or background, but we can all understand love, friendship, a helping hand, a considerate deed, a smile, a thoughtful gesture. We're all humans designed for connection with our Creator and each other.

Love and happiness are not confined to America, in other words. They're universal, if only we can see them in everyday treasures.

And those gifts -- from an unmet-friend, relative, lifelong buddy or complete stranger -- will always be familiar.