Monday, April 30, 2012

Us and YOU

Last Monday, I posted about Us and how we (like many parents) have struggled to find the balance between being parents and being spouses/best friends.  It is such a delicate balance. As I mentioned before, it can be challenging for mothers to look beyond the mode of the constant urgent needs of our children (especially in their younger years) and remember our spouses and ourselves, for that matter.
Unfortunately, divorce is at an all time high and marriages and families are crumbling all around us.  Fortunately, however, we live in a time where there are SO MANY resources available to us if we choose to tap into them and fight for our marriages and families.

There are marriage counselors, books, marriage seminars, DVD's, apps, and websites around every corner.  It's all at our fingertips.  Advice from those who have had lasting and healthy marriages.  They've walked in our shoes and want to point all of us in the right direction.  All we have to do is TRY.

I have such a passion to see marriages and families thrive - including ours.  I want to share with others some of the resources that have helped keep us connected (or reconnect us when disconnected or off track) and moving forward together.  If you know me, when I find something good, I don't like to keep it to myself.  So, here are a few of my favorite marriage resources:

:: Night Light: A Devotional for Couples is a great devotional for couples with short stories,
   inspirational messages and questions to grow deeper together. It's laid out in a way to be read every
   day of the week.

:: Our new favorite is the Focus on the Family app.  It's an easy and way to get encouragement,  
   gain insights and prompt conversations for the daily journey with your spouse.  It has ideas for date  
   nights, conversation starters, tips and encouragement.

:: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts is a very eye opening book that reveals the
   different love languages people have, how to discover yours, your spouse's and how to love them in 
   their "language".

 :: Ask.  I can't seem to remember the full name of this book or find it on Amazon for that matter.
   Anyway, this is such a fun little book to take with you on dates or car rides or before you go to sleep
   at night.  It has conversation starters that really help you get to know your spouse and how they think.
   You could even make up your own "deep thought" questions like: "if money weren't an option, what 
   would you do with your life?" or "who was/is the person who inspired you most in life?"

:: Laugh Your Way is the marriage seminar we attended last weekend.  They also have a website that
   offers various resources, tips, a "marriage minute" podcast and dates for their events.

:: Focus on the Family is an amazing ministry that does just that.  They focus on helping marriages,
   parents and families thrive.  Their website offers a plethora of resources, articles, marital advice and
   ways for you to find help if your marriage or family is in destructive path or on the brink of shattering.

I hope this will encourage someone today.  We would love to hear ideas and resources from you also.

No one ever said this journey or these relationships would be easy, but they are well worth it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I love having a large(r) family

I remember conversations with some of my best girlfriends several years ago, after we were all newly married.  "How many kids do you want?"  "We want 5 or 6."  "We want 4." "We want 2."  I was always the one on the lower end.  I was so surprised by how many children they all wanted. By no means was it because I didn't want children or didn't think they were a blessing.  Quite the contrary.  I have always wanted to be a mother, in fact, I have always felt it was something I was born to do.

I think it was because I had life all "planned out" in my mind.  I had big dreams and even dreams of what we would do for God.  My husband and I had both been doing foreign mission work since we were teenagers.  It's a huge passion of ours.  In my mind, I couldn't imagine loading a bunch of kids on an airplane and traveling thousands of miles into developing or third world countries.  It seemed like more than the average 2.5 children would put a bit of a damper on that passion.

Fast forward into the future a bit and we had one baby girl, then two, then three, then [gasp] FOUR baby girls.  What surprise was in the air. : )  For us, for our families and for my girlfriends who had always heard me giggle at their dreams of multiples.  It was like I was the turtle in the "race" and came around the corner so fast that I passed the whole team up.  Here I was, the one with FOUR children before any of us could blink.

My husband and I sometimes laugh, almost asking ourselves how this happened (don't worry, we have it figured out).  It's been so amazing that our "plan" didn't work out exactly how we expected.  Having these precious girls in our lives has been the most amazing experience we could possibly imagine.

Oh, about the traveling.  Two of them have touched their feet on foreign soil and yes, someday we'll be the crazies on the airplane traveling with these FOUR {ahem...or more?!?!?} girls.  What a great team we'll have with even more hands to help those who need it most.

Thank you Lord for messing up our plans!

Starting next Thursday, I'll begin sharing every week why I love having a large(r) family.

Monday, April 23, 2012


This past weekend, my awesome husband surprised me with a mini getaway.  I could tell something was in the works and I was excited, but since having four small spontaneity has dwindled a bit.  Therefore, I was a little nervous about being "whisked away" overnight without being involved in the planning.

We had an amazing time!  We attended a marriage seminar by Mark Gungor (founder of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage-definitely check it out).  It was hilarious, enlightening and refreshing.  That night, we stayed in an executive suite with an in-room jacuzzi at a hotel, which thankfully my frugal husband used his points to get for free.  My bag and our baby's bag (who joined us since I am nursing) was very precisely packed.  All matching accessories included.  I was amazed!  Needless to say, it was such a great and much needed time together.

I remember years ago, in my B.C. (before children) days, I was talking with a co-worker of mine.  She had five children and said she had not been on a date alone with her husband since their first child was born.  I was flabbergasted.  Here I was, a (childless) newlywed who went out almost nightly with my husband.....I couldn't imagine.

Then....we had children.  Four of them within four and a half years to be exact.  You mommies out there can relate.  Diapers, discipline, messes, potty training, "mommy mommy", etc.   It's difficult to to find time and ENERGY to give to your spouse after taking care of all of the urgent needs of children during the day.  Many times us moms want to be left alone on a deserted island after so much interaction and occassional chaos.

We ended up like my former co-worker and didn't do the best job of preserving our "US" time in the early stages of parenting.  It was (and still can be) very challenging.  I am so thankful that we now have an amazing babysitter and family who help us to better do that.  I love being able to spend time alone with my best friend and the man I couldn't wait to spend my life with.

We are loving this parenting journey together (challenges and all) and these little girls have captured our hearts.  We know, however, that someday they are going to move on and have their own lives : (  It will be just "US" again and we don't want to look at each other and have to ask "who are you?"

So, mommies, I want to encourage you today to reevaluate your relationship and time with your "honey".  If you are like I have been at times and many other tired mommies and have had the tendency to give your leftovers to your spouse - today is a new day.  Keep loving and caring for your babies as well as you do, but don't forget the guy who helped you get them here [or helps your raise them if you're adoptive parents] : )

Next Monday, I want to share some ideas and resources that we have tried to implement to stay connected, have fun and grow together.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day freebies {Frugal Friday}

April 22nd is Earth Day. For me, I like to be reminded of the awesome planet we have and all that we have been given. We definitely have not "arrived" in this area, but we try to make an effort not to be wasteful with resources - whether it be natural resources, money, etc.

We are trying the best we know how to teach our girls to reduce, reuse and recycle and to be mindful of being resourceful.

Here are a few fun and free ways to do this in your home, as well:

Starfall is an interactive website with a lot of free activities and games (most of which are educational). They have a cute one, called Earth Day, that allows your child to clean up a park by placing the trash in the appropriate bins - recycling or trash.

Michaels is offering this free Earth Day craft on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We Choose Virtues Review

In a world that seems like it is filled with anger, impatience, selfishness, etc. I (like many others) am always looking for opportunities and resources to help teach and exemplify [key word here] character in our family.

I recently came across We Choose Virtues and knew almost immediately that we would like it. I was right, we ordered some items and began implementing them into our homeschool time a few weeks ago. I like them just as much as our girls and they seriously bring a fresh perspective to living out these virtues.

The parenting cards are one item that we purchased and they come with a short lesson on the back. They even offer challenges for the whole family to do together to help instill these virtues in everyday life.

The materials are colorful and fun and use creative ways to help teach children [and their parents!] about several virtues such as contentment, sharing, kindness, etc. They are definitely not just for homeschool families. They can be used at home or in any class for children (they offer faith based and non faith based materials).

Here's a little tip: you can use the promo code spring30 for 30% off of the parenting cards and also download a free corresponding coloring book. Just click here to check out the website.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Love [your kids] in many languages

Several years ago, when we were newlyweds, we read a book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. It was such an eye opener. It's a pretty well known title and many people have read it. If you have not, I would definitely recommend it. It was one of those times where the proverbial "light bulb" came on. Kind of like, wow, that totally makes sense.

The author, Gary Chapman, describes the five different love languages and that everyone has a primary love language. He goes on to discuss how you can determine the love language of yourself, your spouse and/or the other people in your life and how to respond to that.

Obviously, when reading this as newlyweds, it helped us to better understand one another. It helped us to see how to better serve and love the other person in a way that makes them feel
appreciated and valued.

Now that we have four children, it has been so amazing to see their different personalities and characteristics develop. The concepts in the book are once again shining the light bulb on how to love our children and how each one responds to different ways of being loved.

One of our daughter's love languages is unmistakably quality time. You can spend the entire day with her and she'll beg for more. If her grandparents or other family/friends come for a visit, she dreads the moment of their departing. She loves people and enjoys special time with the people she loves. Many times, I have let her forego her "quiet time", while her sisters nap, to spend time with me. You would have thought that I had just given her the crown jewels. She was elated.

Another daughter thrives on physical touch/affection. She is our snuggler. We could have all of her friends over and they could be playing her favorite games and she would come and sit next to me and hold my arm (a.k.a elbow for those of you who know her). I can't tell you how many times each day she says "holdy, holdy" (as in hold me). This girl loves to snuggle and we love that she does.

It has been so amazing to see how our children respond when we speak their love language. They come alive and literally thrive. We look forward to the rest of the journey that we have with them to learn about how to better love each other and each of them.

I really do encourage you to check out this book so that you can learn how to reach the hearts of those around you. It can be really discouraging to put forth a lot of effort into loving someone only to feel like they are not responding or like you can't ever do enough. That is usually because you are not speaking their "language".

Monday, April 9, 2012

Some of our favorite children's books

I love children's books. Amazon and bookstores could be dangerous places for me - well for our budget. Thankfully, however, we have an amazing library that offers an array of literary eye candy for us. I'm also grateful for Swagbucks which allows me to indulge in some occasional free books for the girls through Amazon.

We all know that stories are a great way to learn lessons. Even Jesus often spoke in parables or short stories to make his teachings more understandable to those who were listening.

We have found several books that do just that and wanted to share them with you. They are cute stories with big life lessons in faith, character and virtue. Here are a few of our favorites:

Fool Moon Rising is a cute story about humility and how the moon cannot boast about it's own ability to shine brightly.

The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God's Gift of Purity [With CD (Audio)] is a story with a message about purity. It's a great book for girls as a reminder of the amazing gift of purity and honor they bestow.

The Carrot Seed By Ruth Krauss is a short simple story with a big lesson about perseverance and faith. It's about a little boy who plants his carrot seed (obviously) and waits and waits for it to grow, despite what everyone else is saying.

Our girls like to remind us of all the ways we can pray i.e. eyes closed or open, hands folded or not, etc. Every Which Way to Pray (Everyday Zoo) is an adorable story of a group of animals who pray every which way. This is a new one that we all love.

Papa's Pastries is a book about kindness and faith. It's about a family who is struggling reaches beyond their means to help others. I also like the fact that it is based in another culture. Honestly, the girls haven't read this yet, but I'm sure they will like it as much as I do. (They are going to receive it soon).

(Note: the links in this post are my referral links).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy 5th birthday to our first born!

Exactly five years ago today, on the Saturday before Easter, God blessed us with our first baby girl. Oh how that moment changed our lives forever and what a joy she is! She lights up a room when she enters it. She takes special care of her little sisters (I can't tell you how many times her little sisters have run directly to her for comfort when they get hurt or in trouble.). She rode her bike without training wheels on the first try and she speaks Spanish with an accent that makes me envious : )

What makes our hearts most happy is that she also passionately and unashamedly expresses her love for her Savior.

Needless to say, we love this little girl and we are so proud of the person she is becoming.

Happy five years little Lai Lai!

P.S. (Thanks for letting me brag on her for her big day).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 book list update

I, for the most part, finished this book and really enjoyed it. This book is great in that it is divided in a way that you can pick and choose the topics/areas that you want focus on. It's some what of a reference. It was very helpful in helping me to establish some routines in our larger family. It also gave me many great ideas as how to streamline schedules and chores to be the most effective.

I'm still reading this one and am enjoying it. It really encourages me in the area of motherhood and what a grand scale of ministry being a mother is.

This book was recently added because we are reading through it with our church Community Group. I'm so glad we are. It's an awesome reminder of God's Crazy Love for us and challenges us in our response to that great love. I am currently still reading it. There are also short videos on the book website that go along with it for those visual learners.

I haven't started this one yet, but I am really looking forward to it.

I have not started this one either, but hear great things about it. I have snooped around on the website and I am already challenged in my faith by what I have read and hope to be challenged even greater when I read the book.

Looking forward to this one too! I am already "loving the little years" and hoping I can soak it all in.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Celebrating Easter and Holy Week Preschool style

Discovering what's inside these Resurrection Eggs, which each contain a piece of the Easter story. They are a great way to tell the story and help little ones understand. The girls (and their mom and dad) love these. They were a gift from a friend/co-worker and came just in time. Thanks Dawn!

On Palm Sunday, Daddy read about Jesus's trip to Jerusalem.

Making palm leaves.

Waving their palm leaves was a big hit. I wish I had taken pictures of the girls and their daddy (the actor) reenacting the journey to Jerusalem and the waving of palm leaves. It was so sweet and engrained a picture in their minds forever.

Egg coloring/hunting and cookie making soon to come!

How do you celebrate this special occasion with your family?

Monday, April 2, 2012

A roll of tape and crosses

This weekend, the girls were playing - with a roll of tape. They spent a long time decorating the windows. The two oldest realized that they were creating crosses all over the window. They were giddy and happy. It was an appropriate and beautiful display to remind us of such an important week.

Christians worldwide are reflecting, they are remembering the sacrifice. The greatest love.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

We are His friends. He laid his life down for us.

Oh how I want these little artists who made the crosses on the window to know that. To know Him. To understand the magnitude of this great love.