Last night was the very last night of New Zealand ministry for Rich and me. He met one last time with "A Few Good Men" and I with "Girls and God". We each had an excellent "last hurrah" with our respective groups.
I had hoped to do something really special for those girls for our final gathering. Instead, they did something really special for me. Over homemade chocolate-raspberry cake, they each gave their own little "toast" to me - each girl spoke for a few minutes about what part of our time together has been most special or most fruitful for her personally. They went deep. I was awed - and a bit sheepish. They all laid hands on me and prayed. We talked and exchanged mutual assurances of gratitude, respect, affection and enduring friendship. It was incredible. It was emotional. It was very, very, beautiful.
The boys group took Rich to the paintball field and shot him repeatedly.
It's amazing that there are actually people in the world who claim there is no substantial difference between the two genders.
Now that we are done with ministry, these last five days are just party, party, party. And packing. And errands. And phone calls to airlines and banks and hotels. Actually, everything is upside down. Joseph finished yesterday with his five day frenzy of full-afternoon hospital IV outings. Desperate to entertain him hygienically amidst the hordes of tiny pneumonia and croup patients, I gave him my sanitized cell phone to play with. He was delighted - and happily changed my phone settings so that my outgoing texts can now only be written in Chinese characters. Other than acquiring a language barrier, things went well on the ward. They'll retest him tomorrow to see if he's cured. Meanwhile, our house is like a train depot - so many comings and goings. Ladies traipse in and out to match wallpaper samples and window treatments. Burly men (covered in what my daughters call "scary tattoos") are measuring and replacing windows. Carpenters are banging and smashing walls as they update the office soundproofing on the other side. But the truth is - I like it. (No sarcasm.) It feels like closure. It creates a definite mood; there is a palpable feeling of hustle and bustle that puts me in just the right mood to clean and pack efficiently and get the heck out of here.
The kids are a bit overwhelmed by it all. Particularly Maria. The other two have some built-in protection called "oblivion". But Maria really gets the total upheaval - and does not have the sense of how temporary it is. Even though Rich and I do know it's just temporary, we're a bit overwhelmed too. We aren't crying quite as much as Maria, but we have had some very funny interludes concerning the packing process. When it comes to transition, I like to dive in, plan, organize, get busy, do stuff. Rich likes to stick his head way down deep in the sand and pretend that no change is coming until the change is actually physically taking place. He'd rather I not start packing anything until a few hours before we have to leave for the airport. I'd like to have finished packing last week. Right now I'm making piles, cleaning things and stuffing suitcases. At the very same time, Rich is taking things out of my piles, dirtying things I have just cleaned and negotiating the return of items from perfectly packed suitcases. I wish I'd thought ahead and asked some of the guys to invite Rich to go out with them (a lot) over this past week. The next time I have to move, someone remind me to do that.
For the past six days he has been asking me to reveal the whereabouts of Moo, Baa, La La La. I keep telling him that it's packed already.
"But it is Joseph's favorite book!"
"No love, Toilet Time for Girls is Joseph's favorite book" (it has that working flush button)
"Well, it's his second favorite book."
I think actually Baby Signs for Mealtime is Joseph's second favorite book. I say so. I also mention that I'm almost positive that the animal book with the lift-the-flap windows is third for him - but that really, he is quite happy to bite the pages of any board book - indiscriminately. I think Moo, Baa, La La La might be Richard's favorite book (to read to Joseph). In fact, I'm pretty sure of it.
Today I finally realized I'd have no peace until I surrendered Moo, Baa, La La La. In exchange for possession of this Sandra Boynton classic and three free hours tomorrow to go play board games with the guys, Rich has solemnly pledged no more interference whatsoever in my packing ritual. He earnestly promised to set no more limits, make no comments and demand nothing back. We shook on it. Then he read Joseph the Moo book. Twice. He triumphantly informed me that Joseph had laughed on every page. I hadn't noticed - I'd been busy, quietly packing up all of Rich's underwear.