Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shaggy's God Adventure - Part II

So, where were we? Oh, yes. Shaggy is in Colorado. {Sigh. Sob. I miss my boy. Sigh.} He's attending a Musician's DTS (Discipleship Training School) through YWAM (Youth With A Mission). We brought him out at the end of September and he's currently in the "Lecture Phase" of the training time there in the suburbs of Denver.

Musician's DTS

During this Lecture Phase, there is a lot of classroom time, guest speakers, studying The Word, and reading books surrounding the issues and topics covered in the classes and lectures. In addition to the very typical classroom environment, they spend a good bit of time in prayer and they have work duties and small group accountability to fulfill. Shaggy pulled kitchen duty - a task I'm quite confident he's MORE than capable of conquering after all the "on the job training" he received here at home and at Chik-Fil-@ while he was in high school. Their small groups are broken down by gender and each day they eat lunch together to share their experiences and talk about what they are learning. They also use this group as their first line of support if and when they are struggling or have prayer needs to cover. We're hearing great things about the connections they are making together.

Lecture Phase also affords weekly opportunities to do outreach, working closely with food banks, shelters, and other ministries in the area. This affords the DTS students a lot of hands-on time in the local community while learning essential team-building skills and gives them a great place to practice all they are learning in class. They also participate in local conferences and concerts events. Last week, all of the YWAM bases in  the whole state of Colorado met for three days of teaching, prayer and worship together. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole event.

Once the Lecture Phase is complete, the teams move to Outreach Phase. This particular DTS will be breaking up into three different outreach trips. One team is going to Mexico, one is heading off to Kenya, and the third team will go to Thailand/Cambodia. This phase lasts about 2 1/2 months and is the REAL hands-on of all that the DTS has been working toward from the beginning. Shaggy has chosen to work with the Thailand/Cambodia trip. They will be supporting and working alongside of the existing YWAM staff at those bases. The goal is to put into practice all the ministry lessons they learned in the Lecture Phase. It's a very tough part of the world he's heading into and we are aware that there are some really hard things to which Shaggy will be exposed. The nature of what those bases do is hard to think about; it's hard to be "okay" about Shaggy experiencing and connecting with these parts of this very broken world. But we are so proud of the conviction he has felt about choosing this team. We knew when he told us of his decision that it was right for him.  We are fully expecting that Shaggy will be forever changed and set on fire by the love of Jesus, both at the state-side portion of the DTS and even more deeply and fully in the Outreach experience. And we are fully "okay" with that, even if it means hardship in the winning of it.

Even if it means he's leaving right around Christmas.
{Sigh... Again, we will all really need your prayers
at the holiday season, my friends!}

It's still daunting to think of the things that Shaggy is committing himself to in these coming months. When I'm particularly concerned or missing him and worrying for his future, I make myself go back to the things that I know God has spoken to us over the years about our kids and I speak them out over and over. I am confident that God has some very unique and creative plans for my boy. We know that He has equipped and provided us all thus far, so we truly cannot wait to see what He has for the rest of Shaggy's experiences this year. If you think of it, please pray for safety and protection for Shaggy, as well as continued financial provision. He has the Lecture Phase completely paid for, thankfully. But the Outreach trip to Thailand/Cambodia is not fully funded yet and we are seeking the Lord's favor for that.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to give a small word of encouragement to the mommas out there who feel as if they will be wiping noses and changing diapers for.EV.AH.  Please, hear my heart when I tell you that THESE MOMENTS of diligence and repetitive training that you are doing now are all pointing you and your little treasures toward the launching into God's plans such as Shaggy is experiencing now. It's not easy, this raising of our little ones to serve Jesus and love others. And it will look different along the way for every family. Likely even for every one of your individual little treasures. But it's worth it. 

And it CAN be done. It is BEING DONE even now in the spirits of your children. Make no mistake, this man of God that Shaggy is becoming did not happen by our own strength or great understanding. NOT BY A LONG SHOT!!!! It won't happen for you that way either. Not by your own efforts. But by His grace and His equipping. And your choice to stay the course. To be diligent to keep wiping noses while you are speaking life and love. THIS MOMENT of launching like we got to do with Shaggy last month is what the hard moments of some drudgery and endless repetition are for. And you can do it. He makes you able. 

Thank You Jesus, for that. Truly.

If you feel prompted to invest
in Shaggy's God Adventure,
click on the YWAM links above.
There is a tab on the 
top right of the YWAM Denver 
home page where you can
donate specifically to a student
in residence there by choosing
the Student Payment option.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shaggy's God Adventure! - Part I

Most of you know by now that our oldest son, known around here as Shaggy, recently left home for a 6 month missions training program with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).  I thought you might want to know a little bit more about the program and what he's doing there for this season of his life.

Back when he was cyber-schooling at home and the "college push" of his junior year was upon him, he really felt unsettled by the huge variety in types of schools, locations of schools, and thousands of different majors to pursue. We didn't push any of it on him, rather, encouraged him to start looking around and investigating all the options that sounded interesting to him. Apparently, that wasn't enough "relief" of the pressure - he was overwhelmed with calls, mail, websites, and the like. And when Shaggy has lots of options in front of him, he feels incredible pressure and responsibility to check out ALL the options. To research extensively. To analyze deeply and thoughtfully. It's how he's wired.

At about the same time that he was feeling all this pressure to check out school, he was spending time with a close friend who was a year ahead of him in school. She was in much the same boat, but was researching another kind of option entirely. Her parents had introduced the concept of a "gap" year to her and encouraged her to give a year of ministry to the Lord, to grow and to seek His plan for her life. She was heading to a ministry training program called YWAM. The program was unfamiliar to him, so he immediately dug in and started checking it out. He was quite intrigued by the idea. And shocked when we offered him the same option. He had always assumed that we were only willing to consider the "straight to college" plan, mostly because we have always made it very clear to the kids that our plan and expectation is for them to get a college degree. Which, is our plan and expectation. But, what I guess we didn't think to communicate was that we were open to and excited about the idea of our kids taking some time to figure out what that looked like for them. That we were open to the path having a bit of a round-about on the way.

That conversation began a season of thoughtful conversations, intentional prayer, and again, more research. Shaggy is nothing if not thorough when presented with his options. Early last winter, The Boss and I  felt sure that we knew what the plan was to be. But we also knew that Shaggy needed a deadline enforced to help him STOP researching and start trusting that what he was thinking and feeling was, in fact, God leading him to a decision. So we gave him till February 28th to let us know what he felt was the plan he wanted to pursue.

The long and short of it is that he finally settled in his heart that YWAM was an adventure he wanted to pursue. And the Musician's Discipleship Training School (MDTS) offered just outside of Denver completely captivated him with its scope, its purpose, and its location. He's our "cold weather dude" and just loves snow, mountains, and the idea of the ruggedness of the Colorado landscape.  However, mid-way into the planning, he discovered that if he chose this location, he would be unable to come home for the Christmas holiday.

THAT was a set-back that we needed to consider and pray over. Because Shaggy is also our "Christmas kid." He's the one begging for the Christmas music by the first week in November. He's the one that gets the "twitches" on the morning that we cut our tree, and again on Christmas Eve. He gets positively huggy and silly when we begin our baking. He's really a big, sappy, traditions-wallowing marshmallow from early November till early January. It's adorable. Anyway, he needed to figure out if he was willing to give that up for this first year out of school. We gave him permission to do whatever he felt was the right thing to do, with no pressure from us.

I'll be frank. Those couple days of praying and considering were harder than even thinking about him going all the way to Denver in general. To sit back and think of the holidays without him and figure out how to be okay with that if that was his decision. I'm still not thrilled with it, but knowing that he feels strongly that THIS particular DTS is where he is supposed to be balances my momma-dread. For now.

Get back to me in December. And pray for me, ya'll....

But I digress.

Come back tomorrow and I'll share with you a little bit about the program and what Shaggy gets to do for these coming months. He could really use your support and prayer - he's already feeling stretched and pressed and changed by the Truths that God is pouring in to him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

You are Cordially Invited...

My sweet friend Joslyn, strikes again!!!! Several weeks ago, I attended an Open House at her home, intending to pick up some new mascara for Lady Bug and myself, have some intelligent adult conversation and play with a bit of pretty jewelry. By the time the night was over, Joslyn had fully talked me in to hosting a big holiday event. And her friend, Karoline (of Premier Designs Jewelry) offered to join in. By the next day, we had two more home-based businesses on board and pretty soon, we were trucking! We've been busy all week gathering links, confirming participants and going live on Facebook.

I am so excited to unveil the big event here now, too. I'm even more excited to tell you that those of you who are not local to me can participate, too. Yes, it's true: You are ALL invited! You can also check out the "public event" here.

Isn't this invitation simply gorgeous? I'm always so impressed when folks can create graphic designs like this.  I'm also incredibly grateful for the time and effort that was put into this beautiful invitation and the support that each of these participants is lending to our event.


If you are here by way of the Christmas Frenzy linky event, thanks so much for stopping by. If you don't know what a Christmas Frenzy linky event is, stop by over there and check it out. And thanks to the Richards family for helping families get the word out!

If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to contact me at the above email (which is also the email attached here to my blog. And if you are the praying sort, we'd appreciate your prayers for a successful event for all of us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ummm, Let Me Think About That

Recently, we've been doing some re-arranging and cleaning up around here. As part of that project, Li'l Empress and I moved all her "teeeeeny tiny" toys with itty bitty parts into specially marked bins on her closet shelf. She was so! excited! to have her toys in bins just! like! Sissy's! and to have her "stuff" in her room. After babysitting last year for Li'l Guy and Li'l Gal, it was kind of fun to re-arrange and clear the family room of the toys and bins for a season. I know I'll be glad to drag it all back out when Mei Mei comes home, though!

Anyway, the new thing for Li'l Empress has been to play in her room after school or after her quiet/nap time. Yesterday, after a particularly, umm, shall we say, chatty afternoon, Li'l Empress asked me a question.

"Ummmm, Mommy? Mommy? Is it okay if I go up and play in my room with my big girl toys? The ones in my big girl bins? On my shelf? In my closet?" she sputtered out excitedly.

Yes. Really.
She really did use all those words
JUST to ask if she could play in her room.

"Ummm, I don't know, Li'l Empress. Let me think about that."

Yeah, right.

"Okay. Sure! I'll call you when Daddy's home."

"Yay! Thanks, Mommy. You are da bestest Mommy ever."

I am, Li'l Empress.
I really am.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sneak Peek #3

If this is the first of the "Sneak Peeks" that you are checking out,
do yourself a favor and head back to Monday's post.
Then read through Tuesday's to catch yourself up fully.
I'll wait. . . . . .



There. Ya done? Good, then let's get on with it. Again!

When I started brainstorming about the possible treats to share with you all, my mind immediately went to this next treasure. It's no secret around here that I am a huge, crazy fan of the beautiful, artsy tees by Wild Olive Tees. Even more, I'm completely in love with the purpose and the creativity represented by this company's mission. And seriously? The three women behind Wild Olive tees are all amazing women. In the months that we've been fundraising through their Adoption Fundraising program, I've really gotten so blessed by their hearts for moms, for those precious little ones waiting for their moms, and for their business to be a blessing and a tool in the hands of God. It's been a true pleasure to witness. An honor to partner with their minstry.

I had no idea how, but I just knew that this celebration of my wonderful readers HAD to include a treat from Wild Olive Tees. I was so convinced that I was praying about using some of the funds from our little Adoption Jar to invest in a tee or two. But I didn't feel settled about that. Instead, I kept praying and I put the word out that I had some big dreams and plans a'brewin' for my 1,000th post celebration. Boy, oh, boy, did God come through and bless me with this one!!!!!

Wild Olive

I am OVER the MOON with excitement to tell you that a very generous, anonymous benefactor has donated a $50 gift certificate to Wild Olive Tees! Yes, you read that right.

A $50 shopping spree
for one lucky reader
in celebration of my 1,000th post!!!!!

It's so much more than I could have ever expected when I was dreaming about blessing you all with a gift for hanging out here for all these 1,000 posts. The winner of this final amazing treasure will get to comb through pages of beautiful, wear-able artwork and choose some pretties. You can use them as early Christmas shopping, share them with a friend,  or just a Really REALLY cool treat to yourself - whatever trips your trigger. I'm just so thrilled to be able to offer this final treasure to one of you.

Because, when you get right down to it, the real treasures here at The Gang's All Here! are you, my readers. You are what makes this little corner of the blogosphere so incredibly special to me. And I canNOT wait to see what three names are going to get drawn by that interwebby randomizer thingy-ma-bob when this give-away finally happens. It's going to be a blast and I'm so grateful that you all hang out here to make it all happen.

Further details on just how to participate in this splendiferous give-away are just around the corner. Keep checking in and I'm pretty sure you'll be glad that you did. This is gonna be super-dee-duper!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday {always}

Someone is still young enough to LOVE
dressing up for school!

And someone is {always} sassy enough to pose.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head to 5 Minutes for Mom and link up.
If you are here from there, leave me a note.
I love visitors :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sneak Peek #2

If you are jumping in the middle of this series of peeks,
head back to yesterday's post to catch yourself up. I'll wait. . . . . .

There. Ya done? Good, then let's get on with it.

As I was saying yesterday, I am so excited about the milestone of 1,000 posts here at The Gang's All Here! I am still so surprised when I pick up a new reader, or when someone drops me a line and says, "Hey, I read your post today...." It's quite humbling to think that many of you who are virtual strangers would come by, take time out of your busy day, and bother to keep up with the happenings in my head as they happen to pour out on to the pages here. I don't take it for granted. I think you ought to be celebrated for your loyalty and for your support. Whether you are a new reader or you've been around since the first posting, I am so glad to have you in my little corner of the blogosphere.

That is one of the many reasons I am super excited to share this second give-away treat. I really think it's going to make you smile.


Many of you are, by now, somewhat familiar with The Sparrow Fund. This great non-profit was begun by my friend, Kelly and her husband Mark, as a means of supporting adoptive families waiting for children by offering grants for medical reviews. The files that come to families through special needs adoptions and international adoptions often require a good bit of interpretation and even extrapolation. Doctors with experience in International Adoption Medicine are very well-versed in understanding and communicating all of the potential issues and considerations. But access to those doctors is not free. Kelly and Mark saw that need and stepped in with The Sparrow Fund to meet it. We are privileged to have been a recipient of such a grant.

The Sparrow Fund didn't stop with offering grants. They have since expanded into family support before and after adoption through educational seminars, like the one in May about adopted children and school-related issues. Last month, they hosted Correcting While Connecting - a one-day seminar about discipline, correction, and training our children.

The Sparrow Fund has recently expanded yet again to meet the needs of the marriages within the adoption community. We all know marriage is hard work. Those of us know that marriage and parenting is really hard work. Well, the truth of the matter is, sometimes adding the layer of parenting adopted children adds a little extra "hard" to the "hard work." So The Sparrow Fund is hosting their first marriage retreat in February. Apparently the need is there: the event sold out within the first 24 hours of registration going live. In fact, I stayed up till midnight to make sure The Boss and I will be going. Who knows, it might be the last get-away the two of us get for a long while.... We're hoping to travel to our Mei Mei soon after this event.

But that's not all. The Sparrow Fund also supports fundraising families through a unique partnership with some adoptive moms in Kenya. These moms create beautiful hand-crafted jewelry, bags, stuffed animals and more. And each time one of these creations are sold, the money benefits both the adoptive family who sold it AND the Kenyan moms who created it. It's a meaningful and powerful way to impact multiple families in one transaction. I have several pieces of their jewelry and I love it.

And you guessed it.... YOU have the awesome opportunity to win some for yourself!

Isn't that so pretty?

In honor of my 1,000th post, The Sparrow Fund has graciously donated this lovely necklace and coordinating earrings. The necklace is just a tad longer than 12" and is crafted in beautiful fall colors of a brick-ish red/maroon, creamy off-white and metallic beading. I love this set and I'm so excited to share it with one of you!

Come back tomorrow for the finale of my Sneak Peek series....
You won't be sorry!

It's a promise.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sneak Peek #1

I'm so excited to share this series of posts with you all. And no, before you get all excited about the possibility of a peek at Mei Mei's sweet cheeks, I'm sorry to say that is NOT the focus of this post. I am going to be a good girl and respect my agency's wishes that we wait for the more official approval called LOA (step number 8 on this visual summary).

When we were waiting for Li'l Empress, I didn't wait and my SW at the time gave me a little talkin' to. So I'm gonna be good this time. It's killing me, but I'm trying. I really am.

But I digress. Where was I? OH! Yeah. My series of Sneak Peeks.

So, when I realized I was nearing my 1,000th post, I decided I needed to make an event of it. I mean, some of you faithful few have been here since the very first post, back in May of 2007. Wow. Can you even believe it's been 5 1/2 years together, my friends? I decided we needed to celebrate together. My little corner of the blogosphere has changed quite a bit over these 1,000 posts but what has NOT changed is my deep appreciation for all of my friends and family who keep reading. Whether it is my mindless drivel or deep brewing thoughts on life, love, and family, you have kept reading. And for that? You all deserve to be celebrated.

I dare say you even deserve a prize. Yes, I said it. This celebration includes prizes. I'm so excited. I love giving gifts to my friends.

Before I announce the particulars of HOW those prizes will be given out, I'm giving you sneak a peek at the goodies I'll be giving away. Thanks to some super generous and sweet-spirited friends, I have three outstanding treasures to share. I hope you will be as excited about them as I am!

This first gift is one that is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. You might remember my crazy begging for votes back this past Spring, when my new friend Joslyn entered me into a Mary Kay make-over contest. Though I didn't win a great big chunk of change for my favorite charity or money towards our travel expenses for this adoption, I did gain a sweet friend who has been so creative and generous in her support of our journey to Mei Mei.

Well, she's done it again!

In honor of this momentous occasion,
Joslyn has generously donated
a $25 gift certificate for Mary Kay products
along with a mini Satin Hands gift set for one lucky reader.

That's right. $25 of high quality Mary Kay products, free and personalized just for you and your skin type! That's right - it's all about YOU, my friends! Head here to check out Joslyn's Mary Kay site. She's really good at what she does and is super flexible and easy to work with.

Joslyn Hooker, Mary Kay Consultant
And just because Joslyn and I want to be sure that NO ONE gets left out of the fun, she is also offering 10% off of your Mary Kay purchase if you don't win the big prize package. All you have to do is head to her site, make contact and tell her that The Gang's Momma sent you. See what I mean?!? She's super generous and really excited about helping you look your best. I'm proud to call her friend and I'm excited to see who will score this particular give-away goodie. You'll get to feel as pretty as I did when she made me up all fancy-schmanzy.

Come back later and check out Sneak Peek #2.
I promise, you'll love it. I sure do!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Tried & True Recipe For You!

I cannot believe I've never shared this recipe before! I mentioned it recently on F@cebook and when I searched my "Notes" there and my archives here, I was seriously flabbergasted to realize that I've never actually typed it all out, proportions and all, to share with you. Forgive my oversight. It's one of the easiest and yummiest things I make from about September through April and is super "tweak-able" to suit your family's tastes and preferences.

(Yes, yes I did. I just made up that word. Tweak-able. Do ya like it?!)

So. A little history on this recipe. I like to call it my favorite "Ooops" of all time. I was trying to make one of my mother-in-law's scrumptious entrees into a crock-pot meal that would be a little friendlier for my schedule and for our health. We were having company and I knew they were okay with my kitchen experiments. (Don't ya just love friends that trust you like that?!) This was back when I was expecting Dr. D. Shaggy was a busy little guy, I was doing a "in home" dried flower and crafting business with a friend and we were fixing up (read: completely renovating!) our first home. So I threw all the main ingredients of my mother-in-law's original recipe into my 90's blue crock-pot and it turned out delish! It didn't look or taste much like the original meal did but we were hooked anyway. We tweaked it according to the ingredients we had on hand but that original version was very high in calorie and fat content.

Cut to several years later, when The Boss was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Then the tweaking began again in earnest. And really? What came of that attempt to re-work the original is the version we've stuck to the most closely over all these years. I think you'll all enjoy it as much as we do. It makes the house smell amazing while it's cooking and you will LOVE how easy it is. I promise. Now that I think of it, it's incredibly healthy too!

Mexican Chicken and Cornbread

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1-2 jars (24 oz.) your favorite salsa, to your preference
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed well (optional)
1 can (15 oz.?) fiesta corn (optional)
         (or 2 cups plain frozen corn)
1 9x9 baked cornbread
2-3 cups sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack

Lightly spray your crock pot and pour about 1/4 of the salsa into the bottom.  Place all the chicken into the the bottom of the crock pot. Pour the remaining salsa over the chicken. Cover tightly and let it cook for about 4-6 hours on low. If using frozen chicken (which I do all the time!), start it out on high heat and go back and break it up after about an hour or two. Then turn it down to low.

When chicken is cooked through, and about 1 hour before serving, open the crock pot and gently shred the chicken breast with a fork or two. Be careful at this step - it's hot!!! I use one big fork and mash the chunks of chicken up against the side of the crock to do it with the least mess. You can take it out of the crock to shred it on a cutting board if that feels safer to you. Then add the black beans and the corn if you choose. Stir just once or twice once the beans have been added.

If the shredding and the addition of beans and corn thickens the mixture too much, add another 1/2 jar of salsa. Cover again and allow to flavors to blend for another 45-60 minutes.

Cut the cornbread into squares and split them open on a plate or in a shallow stew bowl. Ladle the chicken combination over the open cornbread. Top with shredded cheese, and any of the suggested toppings listed below. Enjoy!!!!

Extra salsa
Sour cream
Chopped tomatoes
Chilies, Jalapenos
Black Olives
Guacamole, etc.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Crib

Just the other night, I had an awesome light bulb moment: we get to set up our crib again! That crib is so special to The Boss and I. I'm sure many folks feel that way about the furniture they used for their babies. But I'd love to tell you just a bit of what this crib represents for us as a family.

For one thing, this crib represents our very intentional plans to build our family as God led us to build it. When we were newlyweds, making a very meager salary supplemented by my part time job, The Boss and I purposed to tuck $10 a week into a little envelope in our pantry drawer. We marked it "Baby," and never touched it except to add to it. I prayed over it often, asking God to lead us and give us wisdom for the timing and the planning of the family for which we were dreaming. There were times in those early years that I just couldn't understand what we were waiting for. Looking back now, I'm so glad we did wait and use our time together to grow, pray, and build our marriage while we made so many great memories together.

Four years later, when we were waiting for Shaggy to make his appearance, we took our little envelope to the baby furniture store and ordered the crib of my dreams. I had looked around and studied up on cribs by then, quite extensively. I knew exactly what I wanted. I was content to order it when we couldn't find it on the show room floor. I remember that the wait for the shipment to arrive felt sooooo long and suspenseful. The day that the UPS guy hauled the boxes up the stairs of our little 2nd floor Victorian apartment was one of the happiest days of my pregnancy.

As The Boss set about to assemble that crib, NEVER did I dream that there would eventually be SIX Gang members rolling around that crib, gurgling and crying and snuggling in to the warmth of our family.  Never did I dream that our little stockpile would be an investment in SIX babies' futures!!!!!

And that's the other thing. This gift of little Mei Mei, chosen for our family at such a young age means that we are now 6 for 6 in little Gang babies starting their life with us in that crib.  I'm strangely proud of that. In today's throw-away society, I am bringing home a baby girl to sleep in a crib (or not sleep in the crib if the other siblings are any indication of how we do sleeping at these young ages! Ha!) that has stood the test of time, teething and tantrums (how's THAT for alliteration!). But seriously, it's not just the beautiful tradition of using the same crib for all 6 of my babies, which you all know I! I also love that our tastes and decorating style has withstood all the crazy trends of the last 19 years. This crib will STILL make for some adorable little girl style in Mei Mei and Li'l Empress's room.

Looking back on simple things like this crib, I'm so grateful and humbled by His Care for us all these years. For His nurture of the dreams He planted in our hearts, even as newlyweds when we were living on very little (So.Very. Little!). We had each other, we had HIM, and we had those dreams. It's so amazing to see how God has honored and poured blessing down on our lives all these years later!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The other day, I picked Li'l Empress up from Kindergarten and headed over to the church offices to take care of cutting the cards for our Chore Chart. On the secretary's desk there is a little candy bowl, always filled with tempting little packages of sweet minty yumminess. I'm convinced that it is the primary reason any of my gang ever willingly joins me when I head to the office to do work of any kind.

Anyway, as is her custom, Li'l Empress waited oh, about 45 seconds before asking (ever so politely and expectantly) if she could please have a mint. This time, I said "not now, maybe later." I went on to explain that it would be so nice if once in while she DIDN'T ask, but instead thought about waiting for ME to ask HER. Maybe if she would wait once in a while, I would get the pleasure of surprising her or blessing her with OFFERING it to her before she made it known that she wanted it. (Heh. AS IF I ever ever ever wonder if she wants one!). She nodded quickly and gave me a face. But as I had laid the ground rules down earlier about how to behave while Uncle Paul and the others were working, she quietly (and wisely) gave me one last look and turned around to play with the stash of toys.

So, on Friday, we were back at the office to print and fold and stuff the weekly bulletin. I settled her on the floor with her little snacky lunch, the toys and her chocolate milk. I could see her eyeing the candy bowl but just pretended I was too busy with my own tasks to notice. After her lunch was about 3/4 of the way to being done, she became a little more obvious. Looking longer. Getting up to walk over and peer into the dish close up. Really studying it. I was having a hard time keeping my composure.

After she finished, she cleaned up her lunch stuff and started playing on the floor. I was folding and stuffing the bulletin by now and she knew we were going to be leaving soon....

"Ummm, Mommy, ummmm, Mommy?"

"Yes, Li'l Empress?"

"Ummmm, Mommy?"  and she pointed emphatically in the general direction of the candy dish. Silently.

"What, Li'l Empress? Did you need something?"

"Ummmm, Mommy? Ummm, I'm not going to ask you for a ...." pointing even more emphatically, to the point of lifting off her little hiney and stretching her whole body into the point.

"What? What aren't you going to ask me for?" I asked oh, so innocently. Heh.

"I'm not going to ask you for a mint," she shook her head very solemnly.

"Oh, good, Li'l Empress. Thank you for remembering our talk the other day and obeying me about the mints."

"Yeah. I 'membered. And I'm going to wait for you to suhprize me. 'K? You are gonna suhprize me, right?"

Sigh. "Yes, Li'l Empress. Would you like a mint now that we are ready to leave?"


Sigh. ...Surprise...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! Off to Work We Go!

We are always re-vamping the chore chart here; you know, for seasons of the school year, activity levels of the various Gang members, and so on... I tend to be pretty loosey goosey about it in the summer, giving lots of grace and margin in consideration of our irregular schedules... And this year, I'm frankly quite late with the fall edition. But with all that we've had going on, just managing the "status quo" has been (more than) enough for us to keep a grip on. I have been working on this edition since we got home from Colorado and I think (after I blew $5 laminating the faulty edition! Grrr....) that I've got it now.

Here's the basics of how we do it ‘round here:
  • Each kid has a column. Each time a job is completed in that column, it gets flipped over to the blank side. I laminate the job cards for wear and tear.
  • We don't allow jobs to be done on Sundays.
  • During the school year, the kids have from Monday morning through till lunch time on Saturday to complete their jobs.
  • In this fall's edition, they each have 5 jobs that should take no more than 20 minutes each to do. That gives them a chance for TWO days "off" during the week.
  • I think I finally have a system down that allows for the revamping to be done quickly and easily: with this edition, I gave each job a "group number" so that when the rotations move to the next kid, they move together in a group.
  • We rotate jobs (by the numbered group) on Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings. Each grouping will just move one kid to the right.
  • If a kid fails to complete all the jobs in their column for the week, they keep those jobs until they are done and then the job rejoins its grouping on the next rotation.
  • If that kid is a repeat offender, I give another consequence till the jobs are all completed. Usually, loss of technology/electronics for 24 hours does it. 
  • The "Dishes" jobs are daily, and remain static, based on the kids's school day schedule

The is part of the actual job chart that I print and cut.

The chores are all organized now into three groups (see those little numbers at the bottom?) for the older three kids who are still home. Li’l Empress’s column won't change (her jobs are marked by the "A"). But she's on the chart now and I will add tasks as I see her maturity grow. For example, she's afraid of the hand vac, so that is still a "big kid job." But when Baby BlueEyes was 5, he was easily able to handle vacuuming the stairs and landing.

The finished product goes onto a regular bulletin board that the hubby divided into four columns. It's been fancier than this but I stopped spending tons of money and time on the aesthetics when I realized how often we realistically had to re-vamp. The cards on the board are the rough draft of this fall’s edition. The chart here will be laminated and cut up to be placed on the board this weekend.

Okay. So, you might be asking how on earth you can modify this for your younger household of kiddoes? Well, it’s really easy if you are willing to take some time to think it through. First, make a list of the jobs that you know each of your kids are capable of learning or accomplishing with moderate guidance and repetition. Even the little ones can participate, if only to get the feeling that they are part of the process. Simplify it for everyone by focusing on what you NEED to have done or have help with.

Then, make a chart with paper cards (don't laminate yet, till you have your system down pat) and have a simple rotation between the kids of jobs that all of them can do or can help with. Maybe make some of them "team effort jobs" to enhance morale and confidence. If you have varying ages, know that some of the jobs might not rotate at all (as in Li’l Empress’s column). Be careful not to overload the columns with the number of tasks and make sure that each task can be accomplished in a reasonable (per individual child’s abilities) amount of time. Again, simplify your chart (especially if it’s brand new to your family routine!) to the most important jobs that you know the kids are capable of and can do fairly well with minimal (read: normal, age appropriate) prodding or re-teaching.

Also keep in mind that at the younger ages, it's not about the QUALITY of the job when it's done. It's about teaching them HOW to contribute, HOW to work together, and HOW to share the load of being in a family. You will likely have to re-do the jobs (out of their observation) and re-teach the jobs many times till they "get it." And that’s okay.  It’s a learning process for everyone. In fact, even at my kids' ages, we often make them check in to tell us they've completed a job, to avoid slap-dash quality work through the accountability. And sometimes, I’ve been known to do “surprise inspections!) Because NOW? It IS about quality. OH! And illness prevention :)

I often have to chant to myself throughout the week: "It's about the process." Even though we’ve been at this Chore Chart process since we moved to our current home. To me, the Chore Chart is a tiny real life word picture to describe all of parenting: "It’s a process. It’s a process. It’s a process.” But it's one that is totally worth it in view of equipping your kids to care for themselves AND for those that the Lord gives them to care for. For example, I LOVE how confident I feel knowing that my kids can take care of the house and of themselves and each other when The Boss and I head off to China in the spring. But it took a while to get us all there and I had to be willing to dig into the process!

Shoot me some questions and feedback – I love hearing what works for you guys. And your input helps me think through the contingencies and exceptions I need to anticipate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Here's a Visual for Ya!

An adoptive momma friend shared this visual on her F@cebook page this week. I can take no credit for it and do not know it's origins. However, I thought it would be a good way to show you, my dear readers, all the steps in the process we are following to adopt Mei Mei.

So, picture me in the corner, only with much shorter, funkier hair of the much orange-er with little streaks of white variety. You know, sprinkled in to show you all my God-following life experience and wisdom. And in anything but PINK or polka dots...  And picture the cute little baby at the end with really chubby cheeks and no hair. But adorably chubby cheeks and sweet little rosebud lips.

I know. It's so not fair to torture you with descriptions of Mei Mei's cuteness and then not show you REAL pictures. Trust me, I feel your pain. Well, not really cuz I have her sweetness plastered all over the house. But I understand your frustration... Soon, my friends, hopefully soon.

Follow the numbers 1 through 15 to get an idea of the process. And bear in mind that there are often loooong weeks between most of the steps, no matter how you hurry to get your paperwork ready for that next all-important step. This is just a basic visual - it in no way conveys the angst or the joy or the waiting. Oh, the waiting. But you get the idea, I'm sure.

Then look for Step #8. That's where we are. Waiting for our LOA (which means Letter of Approval) from the CCAA (now called CCCWA).

And once that comes, then I can happily share pictures of our girl. The referral pics we have are from about 6 months of age. She's currently 15 months old and we've requested a very extensive update, including pics. So I'll hopefully have those to share by our LOA date also.

Clear as mud, right? But a little helpful, for those of us who are visual learners, right?

And there's your visual lesson on the steps of the Chinese Adoption Process :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday {Dr. D needs a hug}

Saturday morning, I observed to Li'l Empress
that Dr. D might need a hug.
This is what happened next.

Sometimes, there's nothing better than
a big brother's hug!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun
(or almost wordless! as the case may be),
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'm Just Sayin'

So. My 1,000th post is approaching soon. I can't even believe I've lasted for this many posts. More importantly, I can't believe YOU all keep coming back for those 1,000 posts.  In order to properly celebrate the grand occasion, I'm brainstorming a fun event. No details or solid plans yet, I'm just dropping this little bit of a teaser on ya'll. You've been warned. I'm just sayin'.

For those of you that come here via FB and only comment there, thanks for reading! But you'll want to be sure to click on through and keep an eye on the goings' on. It might just pay off big. I'm just sayin'.

For those of you that come by and read often but never comment? Well, thanks for reading, buuuut also? Shame on you {insert sad boo-hoo face here}. Bloggers like readers. But bloggers LOVE LOVE LOVE commenters. Really. You should know that by now. But just cuz I know you are out there and I do really like you too, I want to give you fair warning to keep reading. And maybe think about commenting. I'm just sayin'.

And for my regular readers who comment often? Ya'll Rock. {read it slow and fist pump for your bad selves: YUH. ALL. RUH. OCK!} And, you should be used to the teasers by now. I've done enough of them over the last almost-1,000 posts. But this time, it might just work out really nicely for you, my faithful loyal friends. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Evidence is Piling Up!

The pink stuff just keeps on coming.... It seems that every couple weeks or so, I am reminded by the evidence around me that there's some big stuff coming down the pike for our family. And I'm a little giddy at the pink-ness of it all!

This stash is stuff we've picked up here and there along the way, mostly gifts or hand-me-downs, which always bless the socks right off of me! There's a stack of disposable bibs for our trip, washable crayons to keep her busy on the flight home, and vinyl bibs handed down from a friend. Note the pretty "Mei Mei" pillow case, made by Lady Bug last spring in home-ec class. And the headband made by Li'l Empress and LadyBug one rainy day this past summer. So that Li'l Empress and Mei Mei can match. Cuz you all know how important it is for sisters to match! :)

Ooooh, and check out the beautiful canvas I found at our local thrift store.... JUST perfect greens and pinks and blues for the girls' new-to-them room. Next to the artwork is a super soft fleece blankie I scored from a massive clearance sale while school shopping for the big kids last month! Both pieces together came to LESS than $8. Yeah, that just makes it all the prettier, right?!

And while it's not pink, I did receive this beautifully framed ancient Chinese proverb in the mail the day that we left for Colorado, to settle Shaggy in to his YWAM school. It's from my Secret Pal in the online moms' group I joined. We all have fairly similar time-lines to our kids and the group is such a great support and resource during the long wait. I can't wait to hang it where I can see it every day and be reminded of the ties between my girl and her forever family.

Not that it necessarily means an expedited process for our journey, but I'm super excited to tell you that while we were in Colorado, we received notification of our Pre-Approval (PA in Chinese adoption lingo)! Dated just TWO days after our submitted Letter of Intent! We are submitting a letter requesting a medical expedite related to her need but there's no way to know just when that request will have an effect on the process. Prayers for continued funds to come in and for smooth, uncomplicated paperwork from here forward would be greatly appreciated.

Little things, for sure, but it's all adding up to fairly convincing evidence that a big pink change is coming to The Gang. And we are so excited about it all!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday {new bed}

Shaggy has a new bed.

In a new home.
At the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hop, Hop, Hop!

Just in case any of you are interested in connecting with other adoption-related blogs, there are two fun blog hops going on right now.

Several of my favorite local peeps have already linked up to both of the hops featured here. I'm looking forward to making the time to discover new friends and new resources that blog hopping always offers.

I haven't had time to do a ton of blog hopping lately, but I try not to miss many of those local gals excellent (and regular!) posts. And I thought linking up might lead to some more good reads for those cold winter days ahead. Ya know, when I'm not obssessing over the next set of adoption acronyms to show up in my inbox!

Check it out and see what ya think. Who knows? You might meet your new BFF while you are hop, hop, hopping around ;)