Woohoo...this is fun!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Grace is sure enjoying her tricycle. She's doing a great job riding it. She's got the pedaling down. Now, just to coordinate the steering at the same time....

For the love of a good book...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

There's just something wonderful about a good book.

Whether it's a Hardy Boys' mystery...

An atlas of the world...

Or simply a family photo album...

Reading is such great fun!

We've got some avid readers at our house, so we have to spread the books around a bit.

This bookshelf holds some of our favorite hardcover books.

This one is more of a catch-all bookshelf.

Paperback nature books, and CDs can be found on this little bookshelf.

This basket holds our weekly library books.

David made this little box to hold our weekly school library books.

Here's Grace's book basket.

And this one holds some of Yana's current reads.

This is Lily's current stack.

Of course, even with all of those "book spots", the coffee table always holds a number of books that are in the process of being read. The coffee table is Adam's favorite "book spot".

These George MacDonald books are some of my favorites. David gave me one for every holiday the first few years that we were married.

And this Coppleston's History of Philosophy was one of my very best great buys! I was going to graduate school in CA and got this whole set at a used bookstore in Long Beach called Acres of Books. Goodness! I spent a lot of time in that store!

These are probably David's favorite books. He got this set at Acres of Books, as well.

And here is my most recent book purchase. I ordered this book a couple of weeks ago and it just came in yesterday. The Lord has been speaking to me so much in regards to George Muller. I'm sure that I will have lots of things to blog about after reading this book.



Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year from our family (and especially from our three beautiful Chinese treasures!).

The Love that Keeps us Sane (part 6)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Look at this little angel (dress-up earings and all)! Who would ever guess that this sweetie could ever, ever pout or knowingly disobey?! Well......let me assure you, like every other child (and adult!), she can! But, the big question is, how does a parent handle the disobedience of a child? I'm certainly no expert, but I have found that certain things help a child toward joyful obedience and certain things do not.

1) The primary thing that I have found to be helpful is to always and only discipline in love. Our four older children know that the goal of life is to love God and to love others. If I discipline them out of anger or frustration, then I know (and they know) that this is not love. My motive is for them to grow in love. This can not be accomplished if I am irritated.

2) I know that sometimes I will fail in this goal (to discipline in love). Like my children, I also make mistakes. I am not a yeller (this is not really a virtue in me, just a personality trait), but I have spoken out of irritation towards my children. The solution?...Ask for their forgiveness. I let them know that no matter what they have done, it is not appropriate for me to discipline them out of anger.

3) I believe that children thrive in an environment where they know what is expected of them. I expect first-time obedience from all of my children. I figure if they can obey on the count of three, they can obey on the count of one (or zero!). Children generally know what they can get away with, and will always go as far as they are allowed to go. That is why David and I train our children to obey the first time they are asked to do something.

By the way, this helps tremendously with the irritation factor. It's generally when a parent has to ask a child to do something multiple times that the parent gets frustrated. If there is a consequence for the child the first time he/she disobeys, it doesn't give the parent time to get frustrated.

4) With a young child, I try to remember to only tell them to do things that I know that they can understand (obviously this is particularly important with a child who does not know english). I also only tell them to do things that I can follow through with. For example, Grace understands "Please come to Mama." But, I only say this to her if I know that I have the time to follow through with a consequence if she does not come to me. If I don't follow through, she will simply learn that I don't really expect her to come when I say, "Come."

5) I also try to give lots of exuberant praise when a young child is first learning to obey (or even for an older child if I know that the particular issue of obedience is difficult for them). Children love to be swept up in your arms with lots of encouragement when they successfully come when you call. With simple issues of obedience, I always try to smile as I am correcting the child. That way they know that it is not a big deal or an issue of anger, but simply something that they must do.

Of course, occasionally it is appropriate to speak sternly. There have been times, however, that I have used this strategy too much. If used too frequently, children learn to only listen when they hear that stern voice, or they become anxious because the correction seems like such a big deal. I try to keep things light, unless the occasion calls for something a bit more serious.

6) Attitude, attitude, attitude. It's no good to have sulky obedience. This seems to be more of an issue for girls, but boys can certainly have bad attitudes at times, as well. Of course, we don't want our children to pretend to be happy, but at the same time, it is just as easy to learn to be happy about obedience as it is to be sulky about it. This is an area that we are still working on, but we have seen a lot of progress simply by not leaving an issue until everyone's attitude has genuinely changed.

7) We try to address only a couple of issues at one time, with any particular child. For example, we might be working on obedience issues with one child who needs help in that area, and issues of self-control and patience with another child. In other words, we do not try to address every area at once. We all have areas of immaturity (adults included), and none of us can work on every area at once. Therefore, David and I try to determine which areas are of primary importance for each of our children at that particular time.

Again, I'd love to hear what some of you do in the area of discipline. I know that I can always grow in my ability to love my children (and others) and I also know that many of you have a lot of wisdom to share. What has worked for you? What hasn't worked as well? Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

Jadon and Grace

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today was a Jadon and Grace day, which did this mama's heart good. Jadon and Grace have gotten along fine up until now. But, there hasn't been the same sort of connection between them, as Grace has had with each of the other kids. Today, though, was a significant step in that direction.It started out with Jadon offering to help Grace get her socks on. After that, the morning was all about Jadon. Grace wanted to stand next to Jadon during our morning prayer time. She had to have the little blue tambourine (like GeGe's big blue one!), and hold Jadon's hand.We had our regular school day, but it just so happened (as in, God is in all of the details!) that David had planned on taking the three older kids to a Shara Pradhan (she is a missionary who has worked closely with Heidi Baker) meeting tonight. So, it was just Jadon, Grace and I home tonight. We started the evening off with a rousing game of Cooties.
It takes a lot of concentration to get those little antennaes in that tiny hole.

Jadon has his Cootie skills mastered.

After the game, we snuggled on my bed to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. By the way, after seeing Grace Snyder (Mr. Edward's wife) on Little House on the Prairie, Grace pointed to herself and said "Grace". This is the first time that she has acknowledged herself as Grace. We have been calling her Xiao Li, and pretty much figured that we would stick with that. But, now, I guess we'll see...

What a couple of cutie-pies!
Now, they are both snuggled up in bed. Jadon is in my bed until David gets home with the other kids. He wanted to be with Xiao Li until his buddy Adam got home. Of course, Rosie is in there too. She certainly couldn't be left out of the fun (and the comfortable bed to sleep in!).

Saunders family

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Many of you are already familiar with the Saunder's family. They had just returned from Africa with their two precious children (and are waiting to go to China to adopt their second little sweetie from there), when their house burned down. Everyone was safe, but the house is a total loss. Please be praying for this family and visit their blog at You will be inspired and encouraged. There are some precious friends of theirs who are trying to get them a new house. Go see how you can help by simply posting a comment. Let's bless this family, as they have already blessed so many!

hmmm...something's not quite right here

Monday, January 19, 2009

By the took about 30 minutes for Grace to decide that she wanted to get out of Rosie's crate. She was having way too much fun in there!!

Little Pumpkin

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Our sweet little Grace continues to stay little. She went to the doctor yesterday, and still weighs 26 pounds and is 35 inches tall. That puts her just under the growth chart for Chinese children. This is not a concern to me, just surprising. Our other children literally grew by leaps and bounds when they got home. Lily (who had giardia) was actually chubby within 2 months of coming home, and Yana grew a whole shoe size in 2 weeks! But, one thing on Grace that has grown (a bit!) is her hair. She can actually wear a little pony tail on top these days!! LOL!

Keeping Sane (part 5)

Friday, January 16, 2009

In order to consistently respond to my children in love, I know that I need some time and space away from them. There are 3 groups of people who particularly refresh me for the task of parenting.

1) Besides having daily time with the Lord, it is absolutely essential for me to have more extended times of prayer/study. As I've mentioned before, David and I trade off Fridays as prayer days. I love to walk and pray, and then make my way over to Panera to read/study and pray. What a gift this time is to me. I can pray over things that God has been revealing to me over the past couple of weeks, and really take the time to study and think about what He wants me to do in response to His voice. God, of course, is my true refreshment in all areas.

2) Similarly, I also need extended times with my sweet and wonderful husband. We have in depth conversations almost every day after the kids go to bed, but there is something special about having uninterupted time away from the house (and before I get too sleepy!). Since we have been home from China, we have only gone out on 2 dates and Grace has joined us for both of them. This is good and necessary for now, but it is only for a season. I know that the best thing for David's and my relationship is to have regular (at least twice a month) date nights.

This is something that I struggled with in the past. We have always tried to live simply so that we could give to others. I wasn't sure how paying a babysitter and going out to eat fit into simple living. Now, I realize that I was motivated out of guilt and not love. I understand now that it is necessary and good for David's and my relationship to have this time together. God is not short on resources. We have found that the more that we spend for love's sake (to be together or to give to others), the more that He gives to us to give in love again.

3) The third group of people that I must spend time with are sisters in the Lord. It is so good to have the encouragement, exhortation and love of godly sisters. At the moment, unfortunately, this is not occuring regularly. I am confident, however, that God will bring more godly women into my life who will be able to share their hearts and lives. I am asking Him for this, and I believe that He will answer my prayer.

What sorts of things do you do that refresh you for the task of parenting your children? I'd love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas.

Spicy Girl!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our little Guizhou girl likes things hot and spicy! Here is one of her favorite snacks.

Make sure you get enough!

Take a big bite!

Mmmm...that is good!

65 degrees

Saturday, January 10, 2009

There's just nothing like a beautiful, sunny day in January, to make you smile!!

The Love that Keeps us Sane (part 4)

Friday, January 9, 2009

We had such a great time cleaning the house this morning. I know that may sound crazy, but we really did. There are a few tricks that I have learned in order to make things go more smoothly, and for the kids (and myself!) to have good attitudes about cleaning.
First of all, everyone at this point, has the same job each week. As the younger ones get older, I will train them on new jobs because I want to have them learn how to do all of the cleaning. But, for now, keeping the same jobs works best. Jadon vacuums upstairs, Adam vacuums the stairs and downstairs, Lily cleans the mirrors and sliding glass door and vacuums the couch, and Yana dusts and washes the kitchen floor. I always clean the bathrooms because I like them to be really clean!
That brings me to my next point. I have to be willing to accept imperfection. Every once in a while, I may do some extra detail cleaning, but week to week, I rely on my children to help keep things clean. Some of them do this better than others, but they all do a reasonable job and I want to encourage them by not re-doing their jobs. Also, I really don't want to do any extra work!
I also try to remembr to really thank the children for their hard work. Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they have done. I can tend to take things that they do for granted, so I try to make a point of showing my gratitude in an enthusiastic manner.
Another thing that helps to make cleaning pleasant, is not to be too rushed. We can actually finish all of the cleaning in about an hour or an hour-and-a-half, but if we only have an hour then I get too stressed. Today, we had all morning to clean. It didn't take all morning, but we didn't have to rush, so we all felt very peaceful about getting it done.
A final thing that I have just recently been realizing is that I need to appreciate and utilize each child's strengths more. I have been so focused on strengthening them in their weak areas, I had been forgetting about utilizing their strengths.
So, for example, I have one super-cleaner, two willing cleaners who usually have good attitudes, and one avoider of all cleaning. In the past, I have worked and worked and worked (i.e. nagged) on helping this un-named avoider to finish up the assigned cleaning jobs. But, even though this child avoids a lot of work, she (okay, now you know that it is one of the girls) is also the most helpful when it comes to interacting with Grace. She loves to get Grace dressed, loves to get Grace's beakfast and Grace, in turn, loves it when she gets all of this special attention.
So, today, my avoider still had to do her work (in her own time), but I utilized her strengths in helping with Grace. That way, I could clean the bathrooms without being interupted (okay, so Grace did come in at one point because she really loves to scrub the toilet!).

In addition to their weekly jobs, the kids also have daily jobs. Of course, they make their beds and pick up their rooms. They also do all of the kitchen clean-up. Yana clears the table and deals with the trash and compost, Adam empties the dishwasher and wipes off the table and counters, Jadon fills the dishwasher and Lily either washes the dishes or sweeps the kitchen floor (whichever one is needed most at that meal).

They also walk the dog, fold socks, towels, etc. and do other general cleaning as needed. There are three main reasons that we teach our children to help with the cleaning. First, with 5 kids, I really do need their help in order to stay sane! Second, it helps them to learn to be responsible. And third, we want them to find joy in service.

After cleaning the house, we always try to do something that they enjoy. Since we do a limited amount of home schooling on Friday, we make time to go to the park, for a bike ride, to the library, etc. Today, we went to the library. It always amazes me how much they enjoy getting new books! So, an afternoon of reading topped off our lovely morning of cleaning! Oh, how I enjoy being the mom of these 5 precious children!

A Visit from Grandma and Grandpa

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We had a lovely visit from my parents last week. Grace warmed up to Grandma and Grandpa right away and they were smitten with her, as well. They had to make their way back to MN on Monday and everyone misses them!! Hopefully, there will be more visits soon. Until then, Grace (and the other kiddos) will have to be content to talk with Nai Nai and Ye Ye on the phone.

Keeping Sane (part 3)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Never let anyone come to you without coming away better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile." Mother Teresa

"The thoughtfulness of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was so great that they made Nazareth a privileged abode of the Most High." Mother Teresa

I love Mother Teresa. The thing that I probably appreciate about her the most is her willingness to love each person. It has been said by people who were with her, that she focused all of her attention on the person whom she was with at the time. She, herself, said "Every person is for me the only person in the world at that moment."

Then, there's her smile. From what I have heard, joy was always apparent in both she and the sisters who served along with her. That is the thing that drew people to them--the joy of the Lord.

This kind of love keeps us sane. Smiling at our children, enjoying our children, laughing at their silliness and applauding their growth in maturity keep us sane. The number one thing that can ruin a day for me is my own attitude. If I can't smile and truly enjoy my children, the day may as well be over before it starts.

Sometimes this is a discipline for me. I smile at my children, but do not feel cheerful. Sometimes, I have to make a special point to smile at one of them, because I am irritated by something childish that they have done. This, for me, is absolutely crucial in order for our relationships to stay strong. Smiling at them keeps things sane. It helps them to see and experience my love for them. And, it helps me to have a change of attitude.

One blog that I enjoy reading and that encourages me in this area is Tonya's blog over at Even though I have never met Tonya, it is always apparent to me that she truly enjoys her children. I am absolutely sure that she smiles at them A LOT. Go check it out and be encouraged. Then, smile at your own children (and your spouse!!). What a great way to keep things sane and show the joy and love of the Lord each day.

Two months of sweetness

Friday, January 2, 2009

It is absolutely remarkable to David and myself, how delightful this little girl is. We were prepared for a lot of difficulties. With two of our other children there were, understandably, some major adjustments. But Grace is doing so well. She is very attached to David and myself and her spirit is light and joyful. We would have loved her no matter how difficult the adjustment, but we are so very grateful for the ease of this time. We consider it a generous gift from our very loving Father. Thank you, Lord, for two wonderful months with our precious, sweet and loving little girl!!

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