Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Please forgive the last post. I had just come home from 2 1/2 hours of tutoring algebra, after a full day of chasing small people, cleaning, only 1 out of 15+ loads of laundry done, canning applesauce, 3 1/2 hours of speech therapy (includes travel time) and then a nasty McDonald's on-the-go supper for the whole family. So you can see that I was truly not in my most reasonable frame of mind.

I mean, who in a reasonable frame of mind would think that anyone reading a caual blog cares about algebra formulas and passenger trains?

Please come back, reader! Don't abandon me! I promise I won't give you anymore algebra!!!

See? We'll talk about something else. Like Seth hiding from Rob in the drier, he didn't close the door. Or that Lily is starting to make the "p" sound at the beginning of words, and even a few "b" sounds! That's all much more interesting, right?

So, do you forgive me for my late-night math ramblings? We're okay?

Right Brain, Left Brain: Duking It Out

Many of you know that I studied English Ed in college. And some of you know that I love to read and truly enjoy expressing myself with the written word. Go ahead and think it: I'm a nerd. Would it help if I told you I play the clarinet? Yeah, I'm an even bigger nerd than you originally thought.

Last year, my friend's high-school-aged son was struggling with some of his classes. I offered myself as a tutor. This school year I stepped up once again to fill that role as tutor for him, in addition to tutoring his cousin. But it's not in Shakespeare, even though I did help him with his "Romeo and Juliet" worksheet last night.

Even though I have a deep and spiritual love for good literature, and I become almost indignant at misplaced commas and semi-colons, my left-brainedness is having to step aside--with pouty lips, if a brain has lips--because I've been hired as an algebra tutor. I admit it: I love algebra! You should see the nerd-radar go off in these kids' eyes when I get excited about manipulating equations and solving for x.

And tonight, we had one of those story problems with the trains moving in opposite directions. You know the kind that goes like this: If train A leaves Chicago going east at 90 mph, and train B leaves Chicago at the exact same time going west at 80 mph, in how many hours will the trains be 510 miles apart? Hey, I actually know how to solve this problem! The equation is going to look something like this: 80h + 90h = 510 (with h representing hours), and when you solve for h, you know that in exactly 3 hours, those trains will be 510 miles away from one another.

Okay, my right brainedness knows how to figure this out. My left brainedness is asking, "Why even ask this question...unless...

Two lovers, destined for heartbreak due to the misalignment of stars (No, I'm not into astrology...just making a reference to "Romeo and Juliet", prologue) must say their final goodbye on a lonely train station in Chicago, IL. The woman's grandmother has fallen ill, and she must take the train back home to care for her. The man, after recovering from a sluggardly and wasteful youth, has just been offered a promising job, and he must take it to make himself worthy of her love. He steps off the platform onto train A, and she reluctantly climbs aboard train B. Three hours later, they both reach their destinations. Will they be able to continue to be faithful to one another seperated indefinitely by 510 miles?

Okay, so at that point, it might be helpful to know about math and trains.

Who says math is boring?

(BTW, I've forgotten almost all of the math skills I acquired in high school and college, and every tutoring session finds me poring over the examples and formulas in the kids' textbook trying to relearn them so I can teach my pupils how to do it.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Brotherly Love

I found the sweetest letter today.

Of course, Seth must have realized that I'm sentimental and employed his super powers of contrariness (it is TO a word; I looked it up), and crumpled it up. Actually, he didn't just crumple it up; he rushed it outside as fast as he could, splashed water on it, and used it to wrap up a handful of peagravel from the playground before I could catch up with him. Have I mentioned here that he is somewhat destructive? At least he's truly creative in his destruction.

*Like the time he came into the room with a red crayon. "I found red," he said. He put the red crayon into my hand and walked away. I looked all over the house, up and down for NEW red crayon marks--he's already left a Crayola trail from previously destructive artisitc endeavors. (Oh well. I guess I WILL paint the natural wood entry closet after all. Yes, I have tried the Mr. Clean magic eraser and sanding it makes it look uneven.) But this time I didn't find the red crayon marks...that is until I ran an errand the next day, and the side mirrors of my van looked as if I purchased them from a little mirror store in Elmo's World. Yes, I found the red. Yes, I SEE RED! (OK, I really wasn't that mad since crayon washes off mirrors quite easily.)

*Or like the time he turned on the water hose this summer...and then came in the back door and began watering the flower patterns on the carpet of the laundry room.

*Or like just a few days ago when I took all my kids to my friend's UBER-TIDY house to babysit for her, and when she came home, he greeted her at the door with an open bottle of nail polish in his hands. (Ugh! How did he sneak past me with that? And why did she have to be the first to see it?) THANK GOD he hadn't yet decided what he wanted to paint.

Okay, so the kid sorta likes make things happen. He's kind of a cause-and-effect type of experimenter.

Back to the letter I found. Here's a picture of the front of it:

And here's a picture of its insides:

Let me translate this for you, as Gabe writes exactly the way he talks, and he sweetly misprounces some consonants: "I love Caleb. I hope you have..." (Oops he writes "you have" twice, I hate it when it when I do that.)"...a great day. Your best brother, Gabe." Isn't that the sweetest? (I love that he spells you YOOH. And why shouldn't he, when POOH is spelled like that? Crazy English languange. And seeing him write Brusr for brother just warms my heart. They are little for such a short time...)

I have tons of pictures of the two of them as a pair. My prayer since I first found out I was pregnant with my second child is that my children would have a close relationship with one another that would continue far into adulthood. My sister and I are very close. Our relationship had rocky moments in our childhood, mostly because our personalities are so different. But now, she is the first person I call when I need someone, and I absolutely treasure our relationship. I'm also close to my brothers, who have grown to be great guys, both of whom fear the Lord and have leadership roles in their churches. I want my children to treasure each other as well.

Here are some pictures of my big boys as a couple...a couple of brothers who are truly devoted to one another. (I have lots more, but I haven't digitized them yet, so you'll have to stop at my house and dig through photo albums if you want to see more!)

crime-fighting duo


french horn duet

"The play's the thing!" (Two of the Three Little Pigs...see the curly little piggy tails on their backside???)

Oh, and Seth and Lily have a little love thing goin' on, too.

"What do you think? Should I kiss her?" (These pictures were taken just a month after Lily came home to us.)

He loves her after all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Little Cherub

I am such a sucker for chubby cheeks! Maybe it's because each of my children was born with soft, so, so kissable jowls. Even Lily. A month after we began pursuing Lily, a dear friend left for China to adopt her own sweet daughter from Lily's orphanage. Lily wasn't there, but the orphanage director told my friend that Lily was doing great and "has a fat face." I love it. Thank-you, Lord, for chubby cheeks.

Take a look at the cheeks on this little sweetheart. Oh my word, she makes my heart flip! She was born on April 24, 2006. What a fun age she is right now, toddling all over the place, I'm sure getting into everything. I bet she keeps her nannies hopping. She was born in China, and she is listed as "Lisa" with Adoption House. You can see her here:

Her personality is described this way: "Lisa is a happy, extroverted child. She is active and enjoys being kissed. She likes to listen to music and will sometimes dance along. She also enjoys playing games, playing outside, and playing with colorful toys."

Is there a family out there for this precious one? She loves to be kissed; surely someone out there has some extra kisses to share.


I had the most lovely visit from a dear friend today. Tiana is an AMAZING woman, and I was so excited to learn that she was going to be spending a couple of weeks in the area, and even more excited when she arranged a visit. Her visit was such an encouragement to me. Tiana is the type of woman who steps into a room and dramatically enhances its warmth and beauty just by being in it. She is quick to see God's hand in her life, and in mine as well, and she simply encouraged me in my ministry and calling here in this land called Michigan. Even though we're really not that far away from family and friends, the reality of daily living and family life often allows months, sometimes years even, to go by without seeing people that are precious to me. I do often feel isolated, and sometimes I hear Satan whispering in my ear that I'm all alone. I know in my heart that's a lie, and rebuke it as so.

Even so, I can be quite vulnerable to loneliness if I'm not careful. Tiana told me about her parents' ministry in Alaska where she was born, grew up and still calls home, and I felt God ministering to my heart as I learned of the long-term commitment they've made to the people there and how even though they have been there for over thirty years (I think), the fruit of their ministry is not glamorous or completely obvious to the whole world. It's the same kind of fruit we're growing here, the kind that takes much labor and commitment and may seem very small or even invisible. But God sees, and He has never promised those who sow seeds that they will get to count the fruit and feel a sense of satisfaction at its abundance.

Sometimes the one who plants the seeds never sees one piece of fruit with her own eyes.

I choose today to stop wasting time looking for fruit and I commit to obedience in the task that God has set before me of planting seeds.

On a less philosophical note, I was cleaning off my entertainment center today and I came across a home video of baby Seth, only two days old, and two familiar, adorable little boys. Why do they have to grow up so fast? In most of the video Caleb, who was five, and Gabe, just a little guy of three years, were dressed up in all different kinds of costumes. They were so darn cute. And Seth was just this squishy, squeaky bundle of pinkness, grimacing and grunting like newborns do. Even though I would give just about anything to hold my children as babies just one more time, I love, love, love watching my kids grow and develop into the people that God created them to be and discovering gifts and talents that continue to amaze me.

For instance, my boys, once so small and sweet and gentle-spirited, have mastered the most challenging skill of arm farts. Really. I know, you're as amazed as I am, but it's true. This is a recent discovery, and it far outshines any academic or developmental accomplishments in their short lives thus far, at least as far as they are concerned. I laughed and laughed till tears poured out of my eyes as the three of them took off their shirts and produced a concert for me. Seth still can't make the coveted "pth pth pth pth" sound, so he just flapped his arms like a naked little bird. Then, here was the best part, the band members all paused and preceded to try to teach Seth the tricks of making it happen. Here's a snippit of that conversation heard backstage:

Gabe: "Seth, you just have to SQUEEEEEEEEEZE your armpit like this."

Seth: "I tan't do it!"


Seth: "I tan't do it!"

Caleb: "Sometimes I have to blow on my hand like this. And then SQUEEEEEEEEEZE."

Seth, after two puffs on his little hand and more flapping, "I tan't do it!"

Gabe: "Sometimes it hurts when you SQUEEEEEEEEZE, but that's what you have to do."

And they were so gentle in their instruction, but the show must go on, and they continued their music.

It was funny...until I noticed Lily trying to take off her shirt so she could try. Call me a chauvinist, but instantly I saw this vision of her 15 years in the future. In it, she is wearing a pale blue silk top with lovely, tiny flowers embroidered around the collar, a pair of comfortable jeans and cute, strappy sandles with heels not too high. Her hair is pulled up sylishly. She is the picture of feminine beauty, and she is out on date, her first date with a fabulous, godly man, whose intentions are pure. This could be the One, the future father of my grandchildren, if she plays her cards right. They are both extremely nervous. She thinks maybe if she makes him laugh it would break the ice a little. In a moment of really bad judgement, she remembers the laughter of her brothers, and she thrusts her perfectly manicured hand under her armpit and says, "Listen to this." He never asks her out again.

I said, "No, Lily. Girls don't need to make that sound." She said, "Oh. Ok." But I think she's secretly been practicing in her room when I think she's asleep.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fields of the Fatherless

***Platform alert***

Many of you who know me know that God has placed in my heart an open wound, sore and bothered by the plight of the orphaned child. God blessed us tremendously with the adoption of our own dear, sweet, fiesty Lily Chang, the daughter of my heart. What many of you don't know is that my soul LONGS for another child, but God is saying, "Not now." I scour the waiting child lists, especially those children from China where I left parts of my heart 19 months ago, and I don't think I'll ever get them back. Nor do I want to. If I am not to bring another child to my home, it is my prayer that God uses my voice to open other families' hearts to the possibility of bringing one of these little children into their own homes. Especially those children who are harder to place in families because of differences.

Can I just say that "normal" is my least favorite word right now? God delivers every child as a package. Each one comes with beauty and intelligence and talents and extreme value. Each child also comes with challenges, obstacles begging to be overcome, quirks that drive us crazy, rebellion that tests our resolve, and needs that must be met with sacrifice. Every single one of them. And at the end of the day, every decent parent will tell you that when we gaze upon the sweet face of our sleeping child, though we may be grateful beyond measure that our child has finally passed out and please, God, let her sleep through the night, all of the challenges that child's life has thrown at us throughout the day melt away into immense love and gratitude at the wonderful, beautiful, precious child that we've been given the PRIVILEGE of raising. And then we try to clean up the path of destruction our wonderful, beautiful, precious child(ren) left, and two hours into it we haven't made much of a dent, and so we sigh a big sigh, toss in one more load of laundry before collasping into bed with exhaustion, praying that God makes the next six hours of sleep feel like eight. (Okay, maybe that last part is just me.)

Regularly I'm going to be including in my blog a child's picture or profile. Each of these children are available for adoption at the time of my post. For security reasons, I'll only be posting pictures of children whose agencies do not require a password for viewing. Just so you know.

***Stepping off the platform, now.***

So, about this precious little face at the start of this post. Can you believe how cute this little guy is? He is listed with A Helping Hand Adoption agency. We worked with them to adopt Lily, and we had a great experience. He lives in China right now, and he has a cleft lip, that has been repaired (see that ADORABLE grin?), and he has an open palate. My heart is so drawn to these cleft babies. Lily was born with that condition. I would hardly consider it that much of a special need at all here in America where medical care is so readily available. That's not always the case in China, especially the poorer areas. We take Lily's surgeries--she's only needed two so far and maybe only one more in a few years--one at at a time, and they are very manageable. We do speech therapy a couple times a week. How many other kids around this country need speech therapy? Millions. It's not a big deal, and it totally doesn't define who Lily is. AHH's website is . Click on the "Special Delivery!!" link on the left. This little guy is named "Asher."

Bottom Hero

The first post of a new blog...this computer screen is blanker than a blank page of crisp, white paper, having the potential of either doodles and drivel or profundity. You probably should set your expectations closer to the drivel side of the spectrum. After all, I do have four small chilren, and they tend to make depth of thought a bit of a challenge. Ah, but the rewards. I'll share with you one of my bigger paydays from last week.

Seth, my almost-three-year-old, had a pretty bad diaper rash. I'm not sure what he ate, but he was playing outside when nature called, and he answered right into the back of his pullup. (Surely you must know that rarely a day goes by when mothers of diaper-clad children do NOT have poop discussions. Sorry to have to mention it here, in this my first post of a new blog. Please refer back to the part about expectations and drivel, etc.) Anyway, since he was playing outside, the poop radar detection system we have installed, i.e. our other children who prefer not to play in his fumes, was ineffective. So by the time I detected his situation manually, he had been sitting in mess--what DID that boy eat???--for quite some time. In the midst of changing him, he started to whimper that his bottom hurt. And then the whimpers turned to outright cries of pain. That poor baby's bottom was a red as his carrot-top head. So I did what any mother would do and held him at arm's length and trotted off to the bathtub and a bit of warm water. ("I'll snuggle with you when your bottom's either clean or covered, preferrably both.") Then I laid him on a warm towel and applied soothing salve and rediapered him. Okay, here's the payday part: He jumped up from the towel, wrapped his chubby arms around my neck and exclaimed, "Thanks, Mom! You saved me! You a good helper my bottom!"

I had saved him! And he thought I was a good helper for his bottom! Could a mother get a bigger compliment? I felt like I could accomplish anything for this child. I was his diaper hero!

Then, not two minutes later, I asked him to give Lily back her toy, and he blew me a defiant little raspberry with angry lips and landed himself in the timeout corner.

It was a short moment of glory.