Sunday, November 24, 2013

Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys

We are blessed with four girls. Dramatic, gentle, quiet, nurturing, self-controlled, calm girls.

We also have three boys. Rambunctious, curious, destructive, loud, busy little boys.

When our first son was born, I didn't realize that boys were wired SO differently than girls.

At only eight weeks old, he would awake from a sound sleep with a grin on his face and his little feet kicking rapidly.

He was loud. And silly. And wild. He was amazingly

When he started walking, he wasn't content with coloring or looking at books like his sister.

Instead, he stuck his hand in toilets.

He climbed up on the kitchen table.

He jumped off  anything and everything.

He played BIG and loved BIG and the only time he was STILL was when he was asleep.

I remember the first time I tried doing "school" with him. He had just turned two years old so I put him in his high chair and gave him a coloring page and a handful of crayons.

I told him to color, then turned to my four year old and got her started with her schoolwork.

By the time I turned back around, he had broken all five crayons and dropped them all on the floor, one by one, and was watching them roll away.

"All done, Mommy!" he exclaimed, with his hands out-stretched and waiting.

I sighed.

(You mamas of busy boys know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?)

I had my first lesson about little boys that day. And while I'm still learning, today I wanted to share a few of the lessons I've learned since then.

How to Find Joy in Little Boys:

1. Embrace the Difference.

It's easy to look at your little *boy* and compare him with your friend's little *girl*, and wonder what am I doing WRONG? Look at how docile she is! Her little girl will be content to sit and play with a bucket and shovel in the sand for an hour while your little boy is throwing the sand (to make a windstorm, Mommy!), jumping off the side of the sandbox (I'm flying, Mommy!), and running off a hundred times in the first ten minutes of the play date.

You just can't compare boys with girls. Their entire physical, emotional, and educational make-up is different. God made them that way---so DON'T compare.

We mothers are GIRLS and so we often don't understand the way our boys think. It's unfair to expect them to act like little girls when they are wired so very differently.

After church one Wednesday night, when Nathaniel was four, his teacher approached me.

"Nathaniel said he doesn't want to color in class."

"I know. He doesn't like to color at home either."

"But he says it hurts his hand to hold the crayon that long. I think he's lying and you should deal with it. He needs to learn to color."

"Well, I will talk to him about it. But he isn't lying. He really, really has a hard time coloring for a long time."

I was tempted to come down hard on my little guy after this conversation. But then I realized something. This teacher was comparing my little guy to the only other child in her class--a GIRL who LOVED to color and did so elaborately.  My little guy had many strengths, but coloring just wasn't one of them. :) Don't compare boys to girls. Let them be different. It's okay.

2. Embrace the Energy.

We have three boys (ages 9, 6, and 4 right now). Just one of my boys has more energy than all four of my girls put together.

If I fight this fact, and expect them to sit all day, docile and quiet, I frustrate both myself and them. :)

Every single day, these precious little boys awake with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

If you can learn to laugh at their antics, redirect their rough play ("Balls are for throwing OUTSIDE. Here are your shoes."), and engage their energy in creative ways, you will find such JOY!

*Be a Mama Bear and get down on the floor and TACKLE your Baby Bear.

*Surprise your little boy by grabbing his hand and jumping with him across the parking lot.

*Have him stand to do his homework, run to his room, and crawl to the kitchen table.

*Let him "race" to complete every task. "How fast can you pick up all of these Legos? Ready, set, GO!"

The next time you find yourself frustrated at your little boy's energy level, think outside-the-box for a way to exercise that energy in creative ways.

3.Embrace the Opportunity to Train .

Sometimes parenting a child brings you to a point of frustration.

My husband and I always say that there are two options for frustrated parents.

*One--lower or change your expectations so the child can meet with your joyful approval.

*Two--train more efficiently for the desired behavior.

Yes, little boys are different than little girls. Yes, they are full of life and energy and we need to be understanding and creative in our interactions with them.

BUT--they are NOT un-trainable! They absolutely CAN learn self-control, gain a quiet spirit, and be obedient!

My boys LOVE to play "rough", to sword-fight with sticks, to chase the girls, and to wiggle through their schoolwork. :) But all three of them were sitting quietly through multiple church services at a year old. All three of them would stay on their blanket time for thirty minutes by a year old. These may not be goals you have for your little boys, and that's okay---each family has different goals, expectations, and experiences.

But every little boy can begin to be taught how to channel all of that energy into appropriate behavior.

Now, my boys are not quiet little robots by any means. :) When I take them all shopping they get antsy and sometimes very foolish. :) They are still a glorious work-in-progress.

Aren't we all? :)

I have found the key to not being frustrated is by setting the goal HIGH but working towards that goal with baby steps.

If he can't sit still for an hour, try 10 minute increments. If he is has too much energy to focus for three hours on his schoolwork, try shorter bursts of time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. Give lots of praise and tiny rewards when he gains skills that don't come easy to him. Stay positive.

Appreciate the fact that your little boy's most annoying qualities will most likely be what drives him to be a successful man someday.

Let me give you an example. Remember my two-year-old-crayon-breaker/thrower? He still doesn't love to color. But he will read (without moving or getting distracted!) for over an hour now. He will RUN to accomplish any little task for Mommy. He is by far my most nurturing, protective, tender little soul. He is still loud. He is still busy and energetic. But he is learning to turn that energy into productivity.

That early riser who never seems to need sleep? He's going to jump out of bed to go to work each morning with a smile.

That energizer bunny? He's going to work circles around his laid-back college friends.

That loud, embarrassing, over-the-top little guy? He might be a preacher, unafraid of what people think, willing to speak the truth at all costs.

That curious, take-everything-apart, destroyer? He just might change the world with his inventions.

Perspective is EVERYTHING. Embrace your little boys for who they are--and who they will become.

Set goals for your little boys. Help them learn to focus, to complete tasks in a timely manner, to stay quiet when necessary. But don't just EXPECT them to obey---TEACH them how to do it.

Little by little, one baby step at a time. :)

When I began parenting BOYS, I was frequently frustrated. I wanted quiet, still little angels and was shocked at boyish behavior. Thankfully, the Lord worked in my heart, gentling me toward these sweet little men. Now I wouldn't trade my busy boys for all the "quiet" in the world. :)

Embrace Boyhood--and you will find such JOY in little boys!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long Overdue Update

It's been WAY too long since I've done a plain old regular update on our family. I will use the common excuse--life has been crazy-busy--and it is, in fact, true. :) I really really desire to write so much more than I actually do. But then I get behind, and instead of just posting in short little bursts, I just stop altogether for awhile. I appreciate the emails and messages when I've been absent for a time!

I'm including a bunch of more recent pictures in today's post, just for fun. :)
--At the Zoo!

--Seven at the zoo
 We have been in full-time ministry for six months now. We sold EVERYTHING in our home and moved into a 35 foot travel trailer.

Yes, that means all nine of us are in a very tiny space, all of the time. :)

 Maybe the next post will show how we live now.  I have grown to love our life in the trailer! The adjustment hasn't always been easy but God has been so so faithful to give me the strength to face such a huge change. He is good!

--Brent and Alyssia
 Our 15 passenger van has seen over 25,000 new miles since June. Every week we present our ministry (Little Fish Ministries) to new churches. Our hearts are in South Africa now but we know this time is vital to raise prayer and financial support.

Please pray that we can raise our support quickly and that we will have many partners for our South African orphan ministry!
---A picture of the three of us for Alyssia's yearly report to China
 The children have adjusted well to our lifestyle change. Johanna struggled at first (which we expected) but she has settled in nicely now. I know I've posted a bit about the huge challenges we faced at the beginning of Johanna's journey. I will be honest and say that it was very hard at times. We stuck to what we know to be true----that God would give us strength and wisdom to parent this child He had so clearly called us to----and I am so happy to share that things are MUCH better now. The skills we have learned as we have followed the Lord down this unknown path have better equipped us for future ministry.

---Johanna (16) :)

 EVERY child is a treasure and deserves to be loved and nurtured.

--From preemie to "big girl", Gabriella
Our tiniest treasure is finally growing! Gabbey is over 25 lbs now. She has turned into quite the little social butterfly, too. :)

---Eliana, 11, going on 16 :) She has grown many inches this year!

 My Ellie is growing into a lovely young lady. It makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I'm thankful for the blessing of older daughters to share in the joys (and work! lol) of our family

---Fun at Daddy's expense :)

---Say CHEESE! (See how tall Eliana is now?)

--Ellie and her sweet friend, Emily

--Noah, 6
 Noah. Sweet little middle child. He is such a cuddlebug. I love watching him learn to enjoy school. He is in the tooth-losing-stage and always seems to have a tooth coming or going.

---Nathaniel, 9, my young man
Nathaniel was such a busy, curious toddler/preschooler. He and Ethan are my energizer boys. :) If there is something to climb, hit, tackle, or cross, they are GOING to do it. No fear. I love the way Nathaniel is maturing into a little young man. He LOVES LOVES babies and is incredibly gentle and good with them. This past few months, Nathaniel has discovered the world of BOOKS and is loving reading every day.

---Ethan is FOUR now!

---Gabbey and Lyssie are both FOUR now, too!

---Birthday books from cousin Ruy!

---Chinese baby dolls from Nana and Grandad for their birthday (my parents)

---Not babies anymore! My "big" girls.
My "babies" are all four now. :) This should mean more "free time" for Mama, but with our ministry change and life-on-the-road, all of that "extra"?? time seems to be accounted for. There are no more diaper bags or strollers (for now anyway) and we are enjoying the sweet blending of our adopted/biological family. If you remember, we adopted all three girls in just 9 months and that change took a little adjusting time. Now it feels as if we were all always together and we are embracing the new opportunities the Lord is bringing our way.

Remember, I blog over at Little Fish Ministries, too, as time allows. I'd love for you to follow me over there!

Thank you for your patience with my infrequent blog posts. If heart's intent were allowed, I'd have thousands of posts by now.

They're just all written in my head for now. :)


Saturday, August 17, 2013

10 Things You Wish You Knew About Adopting An Older Child

1. You will fall in love with a picture and a child a world away, and you will lay awake at night, thinking of this child and wondering about the days, months, years that you have missed. You'll wonder if you will ever truly be "Mommy" and if your love will fill the void of an empty heart. An ache will fill you down deep in your soul and it will become your necessary strength for this journey.

2. You will try to share this crazy, incredible adoption experience with your closest friends and loved ones and find their blank stares and "Are you completely crazy?" comments unnerving. They won't get it, and that's okay, because you know in your soul that you are this child's mother and you will give up trying to explain it to everyone.

3. Your "Gotcha Day" might not be filled with cute pictures you can't wait to post on the internet of  you and your new child. In fact, the hand-over will be quick, the paperwork a blur, the guide will pat your back and say, "See you tomorrow!" and you will find yourself in a quiet hotel room, alone, with a child whom you loved from afar but cannot even begin to communicate with. The newness and shock will wear off within a day or two and then reality will set in, for both you AND your child, and your world will start spinning with thoughts of "what have we done?" and "can we DO this?" and their world will be spinning with thoughts of "I'm scared!" and "I want to go back to the orphanage!" and even if you know this is for the very best you will both be struggling under the weight of the UNKNOWN yet to come. You will lie awake at night with a stranger in the room and hope you haven't just made the biggest mistake of your life. You will long for your other children, for home, for sights, smells, and sounds that are familiar---knowing all the while your child is losing exactly what you miss.

4. You will get home and things will settle down a bit. You still can't communicate much, but charades and Google Translate and baby talk will work for a while. The jet lag will just about kill you, but once that wears off, the honeymoon will begin. Your husband and other children, your friends, and your family will lavish attention on the new child, and you will breathe a sigh of relief. This may actually work after all! The smiles, the giggles, the joyful, abandoned way your child embraces new experiences will delight you and encourage you. You will stress over schoolwork and foods for awhile, then shortly come to the realization that there are far more important things to be learned.

5. You will be shocked by this child's immaturity. No matter how old their paperwork says they are, in reality they are more like a toddler. So you have to start with toddler basics---things like: sit quietly at the table, don't wipe your snot on your shirt, don't throw yourself on the floor when I tell you "no". And you will begin the long process of repeating yourself, daily. Some new behaviors will be learned quickly---but other ones will take every.last.drop. of energy you ever possessed. You will have to teach your child how to snuggle, how to seek comfort, how to need people, how to read their body signals, how to do just about every last thing. You will cease to stress over schoolwork and such and will learn to appreciate little victories---like the first time you take your child to the store and they don't crawl under the clothing racks or run around in loud circles. Or the first time they fall and get hurt and run TO you instead of AWAY from you. You'll capture the first unsolicited kiss or hug and the first "I love you" and keep the memory and sweetness of it tucked away for the next exhausting day.

6. The honeymoon will eventually wear off completely, and your child will begin to grieve and rage heavily. The immensity of the loss ("Why my China mommy not keep me? Why you not adopt me when I a baby??? Why I not see my friends in China anymore?") combined with the inability to process their feelings in a healthy way---and the language barrier---will send the child almost completely over the edge. The mourning process may be quick but it may be lengthy and you will be dealing with hours and hours of crying, screaming, raging, defiance, or running away. This child who never learned to obey will defy you at every turn. You will need to help this child yet will feel the guilt of not being able to meet the needs of everyone who needs you simultaneously. The new child "needs" the most so the other family members must take second place for a time. And your guilt continues. You will, out of complete necessity, pull back from EVERYTHING else in your life.

7. You will keep the "bad days" to yourself, far more than you should, simply because you want this to work and you know you're right smack in the center of God's will and you don't want to hear the "I told you so's" from the crowd of dissenters. You will fear scaring off potential adoptive families if you tell the truth about how very hard this is. You will find your entire world is turned upside down for a while, and you will wonder if life will ever return to normal. The house you used to keep spotless will become messy, the children you used to have well-trained will begin to struggle, and you will find every aspect of your life in fragile disarray.

8. Your other children will "love" this child, then hate this child, then learn to truly love this child. This process will rip your entire heart right out of your body, yet it will teach all of you about Jesus' love. You will turn into a full-time counselor, guiding precious little hearts towards choosing love and forgiveness. YOU can take just about anything, but when your other children come to you and express their honest thoughts and struggles over this new child, you will come very close to wanting to disrupt, to start over, to go back to the safety of your "old" comfort circle. You will need other adoptive friends who can encourage and equip you to carry on when the going gets tough.

9. You will choose to continue on this journey, not because it is easy, but because it is good and right and necessary for healing. You will hold the raging child for hours and hours, you will redo and script and discipline and train and repeat yourself until you think you're going to lose your mind. You will snuggle this child when it makes your skin crawl, you will love this child even though you don't even like them some days, you will drop into bed drop-dead exhausted---and then you will get up again the next day and do it all over again, because you are committed to helping this child blossom. You will not rely on your feelings, because they will be all over the stinkin' place at times, but you WILL rely on your husband, your faith, and your unwavering commitment to parent this precious child. You will dig down deep and plow ahead, KNOWING the rewards will be worth it.

10. You will wake up one morning and realize that you've both made it through the dark valley and you're finally on somewhat even ground. Your child will brush their teeth without being told, will use a napkin and manners at the table. They will not whine, cry, quit, or cheat at their schoolwork. They will seek out affection and receive it willingly. You will smile as your children play together nicely and whisper sweet secrets in the dark at bedtime. You will listen and weep as your child finally opens up about their past, the abuse, and the heart of why they are who they are. You will take a breath and realize that you no longer love the image of this child--you truly love them. And you will find that your child is not the only one who has grown during this journey---you will not be the same person as before. You will be better. You will have no regrets as you realize you would gladly do it all over again to get to TODAY.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Announcing: Little Fish Ministries

Please forgive my extended absence from posting. I wish I could always balance family, ministry responsibilities AND active blogging, but the truth is, I can't. :) Sometimes one must take precedence over the other and such was the case for the past few months.


I am thrilled to finally be able to announce that God has called our family to be missionaries to the orphans of South Africa! After several months of preparation, we are now traveling full-time, presenting our ministry to churches and raising financial support for our family.

Click HERE to view our brand-new ministry website---Little Fish Ministries. You can read all about our vision for LFM, the story behind the name, FAQ's, and much, much more! If for no other reason, visit our new site just to view our ministry video. Our sweet Johanna (adopted 2 years ago, at age 14) shares her story in her own words---and you do not want to miss it! I still cry every time I watch it.

I will be blogging over at Little Fish Ministries on a regular basis about our life on the road and our ministry updates. If you're curious as to how we're going to travel full-time with seven children, follow the LFM blog as I plan to have fun video updates, including a tour of our new living quarters, and interviews with each of our children. I will link over to the LFM blog from time-to-time if I feel a post might interest my readers over here.

*For starters, check out "The Longest 24 Hours EVER" :).

My plan is to get back to actively blogging over here again, now that most of the behind-the-scenes ministry work is complete (our website, prayer cards, display banner, and ministry video).

I'm so excited to finally finish the popular Grace Parenting Series and share more about The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Uglies of Older Child Adoption. I'm also going to tackle homeschooling on the road and teaching our children to be servants, among other topics.

I'd love some honest feedback on our new site, as well as prayer support for our family. This new journey requires great faith on our behalf, as Brent is not working a "traditional" job and our current income is very small. God has miraculously provided for our needs in so many ways already and we are humbled and excited to see how He will continue to do so. Should you feel led to participate in our miracle, you can do so HERE.

Looking forward to chatting with you all again soon! :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Long Absence

I've received numerous emails and messages from those of you wondering where I've been lately and why I haven't been posting.

The Lord has been opening new ministry doors for our family, and I've been unusually busy trying to prepare for this next phase of our family's ministry.

I'll be back very soon with a long update, and hopefully be back to regular posting at that time, too.

I've missed you all!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 13: Parent, The Teacher, Part 3

*Disclaimer: This post is long. I know that. I'm asking you to consider taking the time to read every word, slowly. I really feel like this is the essence of Grace Parenting. It's the foundation all of the other thoughts, tips, and methods are built on. With that in mind, I'm asking you: Please don't skip this post. 

Last time, we talked about the importance of teaching our children in the areas of education and emotions.

Today we're going to talk about how we can teach our children spiritually.

Because, in the end, if we have gained the whole world, but lost the soul of our child....we have truly lost it all.


Many parents talk about God with their young children. It goes something like this:

"Johnny, what you just did was BAD. Jesus is sad now. You don't want Jesus to be sad, do you? Well, then, you need to obey."


"God hates lying. The Bible says 'XYZ' about lying. You better never lie again."


"God punishes me when I disobey Him. That's why I have to punish you now."

Each one of these scenarios (while mixed with some truth) is NOT giving our children the gospel of grace.

It is using God as a discipline threat.

We shouldn't be shocked that teenagers are running as fast as they can from a God who is viewed as nothing but a sad, angry, disappointed disciplinarian.

The question is, then,

How can we point our children to the true, living, grace-filled gospel of Jesus Christ?

First, we must define what the gospel IS and what it is NOT.


The gospel--in a nutshell--is that God, the creator of the universe, had a plan when He created everything.      The first man, Adam, was sinless until he ate of the forbidden tree. Every human since Adam has also sinned against God.

God set in place the beginning of His plan for mankind: a way of atonement, through a sacrificial system, to offer forgiveness for those who broke God's laws. A person would bring a lamb to the high priest to be slain for his sins. Atonement was found in the blood that was shed. (All of this is found in the first three books of the Bible.)

For thousands of years (as documented in the Old Testament), this sacrificial system remained in place. With a few exceptions, most believers in the true God were Jews. But all through the Old Testament, starting with the fall of man, we see the promise of a Messiah.

At the appointed time, God sent Jesus, His only Son (and equally God AND man) to this world, as He had promised. Jesus, the Messiah, became the once-for-all sacrifice that ended the need for the original sacrificial system. His blood was shed when He was crucified (He became the lamb) and He ended the need for a high priest. Believers can now come boldly to the throne of grace! 

Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, and seen by many before His return to heaven. He left us with a new promise, that He would one day come again and bring all believers to live with Him eternally.

Forgiveness of sins--for all people, of all nations-- is now found ONE way: through redeeming faith in Jesus Christ.

I love this passage:

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. BUT God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were YET sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath to through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that ALL have sinned....For if  by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the FREE GIFT came upon all men unto justification of LIFE. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound, But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5)"

The Gospel: Jesus died, was buried, and rose again the third day. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven is found only through faith in the gift that Jesus offers.



The gospel is not found in church membership. Or baptism. Or communion. Or mass. Or good works. Or giving of your money. Or because your parents were Christians. Or by following the law.

There is NOTHING we can do to earn our salvation. 

It is a GIFT. It is not earned. We cannot do enough "good" things to earn our salvation. The work has already been done! Now, true saving faith will be known "by its works" other words, our faith is shown by our love and works for God, but only HE can do the work of redemption and forgiveness of sins.


      The Gospel of Grace In Our Parenting

I'm sure by now you're wondering, Where is she going with all of this?  

Stay with me, cause this is where it gets good. :) These thoughts revolutionalized our parenting and revitalized our relationships with our children.

Many parents give their children a rule (law) to obtain, blame it on the Bible, punish every single infraction of that law, and teach the child to try even harder next time.

Why is this so against the gospel of grace?

Because without the gospel, they will never be more than moral hypocrites, full of righteous pride, yet completely empty inside.
You see, if we cannot work hard enough to please God, why are we teaching our children that they should?
We are giving them the law--"Work very hard and maybe you will eventually please God and your parents."--instead of the gospel of grace: There is nothing we can DO to earn God's approval. It is ONLY through His power that we can choose righteousness.

We do right because it shows our love for Him and for others, not because it earns His approval or makes Him "happy".


Why is this so important?

Many children are raised in an atmosphere of perfectionism.

They never measure up to God or their parent's approval.

They spend their childhood frustrated that they are never "good enough"....and these feelings carry into adulthood, causing relationship and spiritual problems.

Perhaps this rings true for you. Maybe you remember all too well the feelings of inadequacy. If you were raised under a harsh, law-filled parenting style, you can vouch for what I'm trying to say. You know what it feels like to think that ADULTS can fail, but children must be perfect.You know the pain of not measuring high enough.

I believe part of the problem is that we make the mistake of teaching our children that they must succeed at being "good" in order to meet the approval of God and man.

The truth is, they will NEVER be truly good. Instead, they will spend their life failing, seeking forgiveness, and trying again. They will need to daily seek power and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, and even then, they will still fail.

The goal, then, is not perfection. It is a right relationship with both us AND God.

With this in mind, it is SO vitally important that we raise our little ones in an atmosphere of grace, second chances, forgiveness, and restoration.

We need to teach our children that they will always fall short of God's perfect standard but that HE finished the work of salvation at the cross, and that His love for us is not altered by our behavior. Our treatment of our children should mimic His.

God wants willing hearts, not perfect actions. We must focus on their hearts, not merely their behavior.

We cannot afford the high price of teaching them a false gospel---their very souls are at stake.

Thank you for sticking with me in this long post. :) My heart longs to offer encouragement to you on your parenting journey. Blessings!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter On Her Birthday

Dearest Eliana Rose,

Today, February 13th, 2013, is your eleventh birthday.

I remember the moment I found out we were expecting you. It had been a long road of infertility, heartache, doctors appointments, and disappointments in the years before you. There has never been a moment in my life where I have felt such incredible joy as the first time I saw two lines on a pregnancy test. You were on your way, and I was finally a mother.

We chose your name because it means "My God has answered my prayer". You were and are a gift from heaven. You were His before your birth, you were His at the moment of your birth, and you are His still.

-Three weeks old-

Your birth was my first attempt at an unmedicated birth. Thinking about touching you, kissing you, nursing you, and smelling your newborn smell is what got me through the long labor. You were worth every ounce of pain and I would have labored forever just to experience the joy of holding my first child in my arms. From the moment of your birth, we were inseparable. Where I went, you went, for years. I couldn't stand even a short time away from your sweet little self.

-One Year Old-

You loved to nurse, snuggle, sleep with Mommy, giggle with Daddy, and play with books. Lots and lots of books. You had a shy nature and reserved your jubilant personality for those who knew you best. You were a gentle and quiet soul, easy-going and self-entertained.

-8 Months Old-

As our firstborn, you were granted "guinea pig" status. We learned so much about ourselves as we learned how to parent you. I'm so sorry for the times we were too hard on you, the times when we didn't realize how unreasonable we were being, the times when we were harsh in the name of "godly parenting". We know better now and I love watching you as you learn to parent gently by caring for your siblings. You will be an incredible, patient mother someday.

-2 Years Old-

I remember how badly you wanted to have long hair like Mommy. For a very long time, your hair just did NOT grow! We began to wonder if it would ever get long! (it finally did and now it's gorgeous!)

-Just Turned Five-

Two busy little brothers came in quick succession after you. Even though you played with boys most of the day, you were (and are) a girly-girl at heart. We stuck close together, you and I, playing dolls and tea parties. You prayed daily for a little when I got pregnant again, you were hopeful that it would be a girl.

-6 Years Old-

-Just Turned 7-

Instead, God blessed us with another boy. :)

-Ethan, One week old, Ellie, 7 years old-

-Ethan, 3 weeks old-

You continued to pray for a girl, and your dream came true the following year when we traveled across the world to meet your sister for the first time.

-Gabbey's Gotcha Week, China. Ellie, almost 9-

Gabbey melted your heart the first time you held her tiny body. She attached to you right along with Daddy and Mommy. I love it when she cries for "Sissy!!" to sit by her in the van or at meal-time. You are truly "buddies" and have been so good for each other.

BUT--God wasn't done answering your prayer just yet! Instead of just ONE sister---in just nine months, He blessed you with a total of THREE sisters!

-Sisters by adoption, Friends for life--Johanna, Eliana, Gabriella, Alyssia-

I'm most proud of you for how you've welcomed Johanna into our family. Sharing your first-born place in the family was harder than any of us imagined....and yet you gracefully and repetitively have chosen to love Johanna. You two have become the best of friends, growing into sisters in the true sense of the word. You have taught Johanna how to share, how to give sacrificially, how to treat others, and how to forgive. I want you to always remember, that even though you are no longer the "oldest" in the Bergey Bunch, our love for you in unchanged---deep as the deepest ocean, high as the highest sky, never ending, always growing.

Daddy and I stand amazed at the mature young woman you are becoming. You still have lots of "little girl play" left in you, and I kind-of hope you never lose that. :) Your innocence is radiating. I'm so thankful that you're not swayed a bit by the typical pre-teen fads, fashions, and moods.

Always remember that true beauty is not found in body-size, makeup, clothing, or accessories....True beauty comes from a genuine walk with God, and an unselfish love for others.

In our eyes, you are truly beautiful.

Our only prayer for you is that you will serve God with complete abandon. Hold nothing back--only follow Him. Let Him mold you into His perfect masterpiece. Nothing else will bring you radical, radiant joy in life.

I promise to do my best to hold your hand through life's greatest joys and trials. I will encourage you, I will help you pick up the pieces, I will rejoice with you, and I will cry my eyes out with you. I can't promise you that life will always be easy, but I know without a doubt that you will overcome the challenges that come your way. Know that I pray for you daily---always, I'm praying for you.

Happy 11th Birthday, my beautiful daughter.

I love you, more than words can express.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Day in the Life of the Bergey Bunch

I'm thoroughly enjoying the 30 Days of Grace Parenting Tips series.  From the feedback I'm receiving, I think many of you are enjoying it as well. 

But I thought a little break might be fun, especially since I haven't been adding pictures to most of the posts, and let's face it---blogs without pictures Right? 

Don't you enjoy getting a peak into other families' daily lives? It's like sitting down to tea with a new friend-- through cyber-space!

This post is for those of you who have ever wondered what a typical day looks like in our house--- or for those of you who just enjoy pictures. (Cause there is a TON of pictures in this post.) 

I will warn you, however. I am not a professional photographer. 

All those cute pictures on my blog? My amazing sister took them. She's the family photographer. Not me. :)

These pictures are just quickly-captured-candid-moments of 

A Day In The Life Of The Bergey Bunch

FYI: None of this was staged. As a matter of fact, I didn't even plan this in advance. I did my best not to make it fake. (as evidenced by my make-up-less face. lol) Anyone can stage photographs to make their lives look perfect. :)

I get up, do my morning routine, and start waking children up. As soon as the youngest children are awake and pottied, they go to their highchairs to play until breakfast.

Nathaniel starts the morning with sorting laundry. Normally we do all of our laundry on Tuesdays and Fridays, but we spent Tuesday afternoon with my sister so we were a little behind. 

Wednesday morning is bath morning, so no one gets dressed just yet. :) 

The girls make their bed, Johanna fills the water cups, Ellie helps me fill the plates, and everyone heads to the table for breakfast. 

 On the menu for today---French Toast sticks, strawberries, and yogurt with granola on top.


Here's what my kitchen looked like during breakfast. :) 

The other rooms (besides the boys bedroom, I think) were pretty clean, though. 

Breakfast over, Johanna and Eliana head to the shower. Nathaniel starts his schoolwork and the four youngest stay at the kitchen table with toys and puzzles. (I keep them close when I need to clean---otherwise, they are making messes as fast as I'm cleaning them up!) I get to work on the kitchen, folding a load of laundry, and helping Nathaniel with his work as needed.

A certain little munchkin (Ethan, 3) tries to convince me he needs to get out of his chair while I'm folding laundry. Even though he IS adorable, the answer was still no. :)

Ahhh. A clean kitchen. I don't function very well in a messy kitchen. With 7 children, however, it gets messy several times a day and I'm learning to just go with the flow. Some days it's easier for me than others. :)

Johanna and Eliana finish their showers, do their hair, and start their school. 

 The youngest four (and Nathaniel, once he's done on break) watch a 20 minute movie. This gives me the time I need to teach a math lesson to the older girls and get them working on their school for the day.

School gets done in all rooms of our house. Here Johanna is reading on her bed. (She's reading English at a second/third grade level now and her math is up to sixth grade! So proud of her.)

I finish up with the girls, send them off to work, and make a nice cup of coffee for myself. :)

Wow. Nothing like keeping it real. I didn't take a shower because I it was bath day and I wanted to run on the treadmill here's the un-showered all natural Mommy look. LOL

The movie ends all too quickly and my quick break is over. My second cup of coffee gets cold as I forget about it and get to work on bath-time. 

I send the three-year-olds to the bathroom to undress. This is quite interesting to watch as they wiggle their little bodies and work all of their clothing off. (Yes, they are in their clothes from the day before. I am that kind of Mommy.

They will SO kill me for this picture later. Lucky for me, they're too young to care now and I think they are the.cutest.thing.ever. 

Everyone has to go potty before they get in the tub, because Mommy doesn't like putting her hands in PEE WATER. (Yes, they think it is funny to potty in the tub. I don't. Think it's funny, I mean. Well, I don't potty in the tub, either. Okay, I better just stop now.)

While the babies take a long bath (I think they played for about an hour!), we take turns watching them.

Johanna, Eliana, and Nathaniel continue their schoolwork, and Noah plays alone in his room.

Nathaniel takes a turn watching the babies play, while I tend to Johanna. She was disappointed about an upcoming event that she doesn't get to attend, and had a nice long crying session about it. It took me awhile to get her regrouped and realizing that I was not going to change my mind. 

Okay, back to bath-time. I lay out all three outfits on my bed, wash up the little ones, and call the older girls to help. We each dress one child, making it much quicker than if I was doing it alone!

Next up, hair time. I dry and "style" each child's hair. I keep all three with me in the bathroom so I know what they're up to. :)


A math question interrupts the hair party in the bathroom. :)

Johanna and Nathaniel find a quiet place to work on more schoolwork.

Everyone enjoys a snack of almonds.


The babies settle in for some fight over the same green spoon play time. (What? You thought my children never fought over toys? They're CHILDREN, not angels. :))

I solve the green spoon problem, switch over the laundry and start getting lunch ready.

Eliana works on a story she's writing while Johanna folds the next load of laundry.

 The youngest five go outside for a few minutes while we get lunch on the table. Turns out, it's a rather warm day and they come in with all kinds of plans for the afternoon play-time.

Here is how I prepare most meals. I set out seven plates, fill them while I'm cooking, and take them to the table when it's time to eat. Johanna always fills the cups and Eliana is in charge of bibs for the babies.

Lunch menu: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, chips, bananas, and graham crackers for a treat.

Only six cups today, because one child "lost their sweets" for a week. (One of our family consequences.)

After lunch, each child has a job to do. The littlest ones stay at the table again while we clean up from lunch.
Alyssia and Gabriella LOVE to color! They beg to "coloring".

After jobs are done, I take a break and sit down on the computer for a half hour while everyone heads outside to play. They have so much fun playing spy and building with ropes and sticks.

Next on the schedule is nap-time. I call the youngest five into the house, set up Nathaniel and Noah (8 and 6) on the Wii and get the babies ready for their nap (potty, drink, diaper for the one that might wet her bed, etc). Normally, the older girls will read or play in their room during this time, but because the weather is so warm, they stay outside.


I put the babies down for a nap in the same room, so the other rooms are freed up for the afternoon.

 They ask me for "a story, Momma!" so I tell them Goldilocks and The Three Bears (complete with silly voices, which they LOVE). I turn off the light, turn on the fan, close the curtains, and sit down in the quiet room. Ethan needs help settling down, so I rock him on his bed for a couple of minutes. Then he whispers, "Mommy, I think I'll be more comfortable if I lay down." so I lay him down. They're all asleep soon.

(I took the pictures of them sleeping with my flash, so it looks bright in the room, but it's actually very dark!)

I LOVE this picture of Gabbey and her baby. She snuggles this baby every time she falls asleep....

It's now 2:30 in the afternoon. I turn off the Wii and send the boys outside to play with the girls, change my clothes and hop on the treadmill. Thirty-five minutes, 2.5 miles, and one sweaty mess later, I'm ready for a hot shower. NO, I didn't have the girls take pictures of me during this time. Sorry, but a girl's gotta have some dignity. :)

I call Johanna and Eliana inside. Johanna helps me fold the last of the laundry and we are both happy it is done until Friday. 

Eliana practices her violin.

Nathaniel comes inside and gets his violin out. We work on some music together.

The babies wake up, go potty, snuggle Mommy for awhile on the couch, and get a small snack. They want to play outside, so off they go, with their buckets and a pile of rocks.  

I need to peel potatoes for dinner, so I put Noah next to me to work on his reading flashcards.

 Johanna works on her penmanship. (She and Eliana are trying to copy the entire book of Matthew in cursive.) Noah works on his seatwork.

 The laundry pile, ready to be put away!

We have church on Wednesday evenings, so I fix everyone's hair, lay out the Bibles, quiet books, and music for church, prepare dinner, change Gabbey's clothes (since she got dirty somehow), help Nathaniel and Noah get ready for church, and put everyone's shoes on before they sit down to eat dinner.

Eliana and Johanna fix the plates and drinks for everyone's dinner.

On the menu: Leftover ham from Sunday's lunch, mashed potatoes, green beans and pineapple for dessert.

AND this is where the pictures end, although the day wasn't quite over yet. It just got too busy for me to grab the camera. :)

Brent arrived home. We finished dinner, scrambled to clean up the kitchen, loaded everyone (and all the "gear") into the van, and headed to church. Brent stopped at WaWa and got me a coffee----heaven!----and we listened to music the whole (long) hour drive to church. :)

Stayed after at church to fellowship while the children played with their friends, then started the (long) trip home. Brent and I tucked the very tired children into bed at 10 pm, sat on the couch for a few minutes, and dragged our own tired bodies to bed at 10:45.

There you have it. A Day In The Life Of The Bergey Bunch. Not very exciting, was it? Nevertheless, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into years, years turn into a lifetime of ordinary days. So I am thankful for these boring, sometimes monotonous days. They are the makings of a lifetime!