Archives for January 2011

Why blowing your budget is a sometimes a good idea

I thought I’d be within my $700 budget this month. Until I found chicken tenders for $1.49 a pound at Albertson’s and boneless breasts for $1.25 at Wal-Mart.  $50 and nearly 40 pounds of chicken later I have enough chicken for 3 months.  Yeah, I’m $50 over budget for January, but every chicken meal for the next 3 months is going to cost us less money thanks to stocking up during a great sale.

Now I’m off to sautee chicken, and make 4 pans of chicken enchiladas, and several meals worth of teriyaki sauce.  And I think we’ll have rice and sriracha chicken for lunch.  Yum!


And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes…
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

That He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,

Precious baby

Finally yesterday I got to meet my newest little niece, shown here with her beautiful momma.

What a gift from God she is!

How adoption affects siblings

I was asked by Amber Haines from The RunAMuck to contribute to the Idea Camp, and talk about the effect of adoption on other children in the family.  This is an important issue, one that tends to be only briefly covered in most books about adoption.  I could give you a whole lot of generalities to consider, but it feels most meaningful to just tell you about our own experience.

When we first adopted back in 1998, our four biological kids were 10, 8, 6, and almost 4.  We expected that the adjustment would be much like adding any child to a family:  some displacement jealousy, especially with our youngest bio son, but not a whole lot else.

Looking back, we were both right and wrong.  We were all surprised at the amount of attention centered on our new little guy from Korea.  He was 4 months old when he came home, and cute, cute, cute.   The used-to-be baby, also pretty darned cute, was nonplussed by the attention shift. A lot of the attention was probably because our newest child was Asian.  Our Ethiopian girls experienced similar levels of intense attention when they first came home, uncomfortable for them, and strange for older siblings who as part of the Caucasian majority in Idaho felt suddenly invisible.

Our second Korean son came home a year and a half later, in 2000.  He was 20 months old, only 2 months younger than our first adopted child, which means we basically had twin toddlers.  It was a tough year helping him settle in while juggling the needs of all the other kids. We as mom and dad were busy, sometimes tired from being up at night, and expected more from older kids. They took in in stride and did well with the challenge.  But I am sure there were times when they wished we were more available.

We didn’t adopt again until 2004, this time a 20 month old girl from Ethiopia.   It was good timing for our family.  By then our youngest boys were 6, old enough to do some things on their own, and certainly old enough to wait when our new little girl needed mom.  She adjusted easily to our family and we all really enjoyed having another little one.  In 2005 when we adopted a 6 month old girl from Ethiopia, that adjustment also went well.   The older kids were used to adding siblings and helping mom and dad.  And they adored having a tiny sister.  I remember marveling at how naturally the bigger boys could show affection to this new little baby, even as they were growing up and wanting less hugging from me.

Babies add a wonderful dimension to family life for older children. I am the oldest of 8 kids, and have rich memories of carrying younger siblings around, doing their hair, dressing them, and enjoying the feeling of being a competent older sibling, complete with all the adoration that the little ones showered on me. Yeah, they get into your stuff and cause extra work.  But it’s pretty darned hard to be a cranky teenager when you’ve got a tiny sibling patting your face and unabashedly loving you.

Adopting older children brings a different set of adjustments to the family.  In 2007 we brought home 9 and 11 year old sisters from Ethiopia.  We were so eager to welcome them that John and I both went to Ethiopia for them, bringing our two littlest girls along too. The new girls were thrilled to meet their little sisters in Ethiopia, and began bonding to them even before they felt comfortable with us.  Once home, the girls also gained great comfort from having other kids close to them in age in the family.  (Our Korean boys were born the same year as the younger girl, and our older girl is about a year younger than our youngest biological child.)

It was more of a mixed bag for older kids.  Our newly arrived 11-year-old greatly resented sisterly advice and correction from our older bio daughter, age 17.  The 11-year-old had never been anyone’s little sister and our 17-year-old couldn’t remember being anything but a big sister.  They collided at times, with both girls feeling like I favored the other in my attempts to encourage harmony.

Also difficult for the older kids was the rule-testing by the new arrivals in our family.  Oh, we tried to help ease the transition, in every way possible.  For a time we gave our new daughters a lot of extra grace, conscious of the huge adjustment and all the grieving they were going through. We were hoping once they bonded with us better, they would be more concerned about pleasing us.  But three months in, everyone’s patience with the disruptive behavior was wearing thin, including the older siblings who sometimes felt aggravated that the newbies seemed to have a different set of rules.

Our youngest girls were 2 and 5 when the older girls arrived, and after a few months were mimicking some of their behavior.  Nothing earth-shatteringly awful —  just arm-crossing, eye-rolling, avoidant, pouting behavior that we’d never allowed in our home before. That was one of the hardest things for me to see as mom.  Here we wanted our home to be a haven, and it seemed to be heading in the opposite direction instead..  Around the 6-month mark after a lot of prayer and pow-wows between John and me, we got serious about giving consequences for every unacceptable behavior.  Though bonding still wasn’t readily apparent, and I worried that we were slowing down bonding with all the consequences, the girls’ behavior gradually improved.  That made it easier for everyone (especially me) to feel gracious and loving towards them.  And though they still had plenty of times where they wished for nothing but their old life, they gradually began to feel like they really truly belonged.

In the spectrum of older-child adoption adjustment, our new girls were very much in the normal range.  Some kids adjust more quickly, and others have much more severe issues.   But for us it was hard enough.  Oh, that first year was slow and difficult! Many times I wondered if the price our other children were paying was just too high. I was thankful many times for the clear way that we’d been led to adopt these very kids.   Because when I remembered how God had led us to them, I also remembered to trust that He had a good plan and He would also lead us through the challenge.

Now that the older girls have been home 3.5 years, they are happy, usually respectful, and are so much better settled in.   It was a tough journey with many bumps and valleys and they’ll always have memories of loss.  But they have overcome so much, and I get the sense that in their hearts they’ve finally arrived home. We are so blessed to have each and every one of our children in our lives. Relationships all around have grown and flourished.  These days one of the delights of my life is watching our teenage sons teasing their Ethiopian sisters.  They thoroughly enjoy each other.

In looking back I can see how John and I have grown as parents through the challenges.  I can also glimpse some of the reasons why God might have allowed those challenges to touch all our children as well.   It could be that in the future they might need some extra compassion for the struggles of others, an understand of how grieving and trauma affects people.  It could be that the extra patience they developed through all this may help them with their own kids. Often God grows us spiritually through difficulty, and so I will trust that this adventure He led us on will be one that will benefit every member of our family.

We look forward to the future where we hope to have a houseful on weekends even after kids are grown.  I think of the friendships I treasure with my own siblings now as an adult.  Each of my siblings blesses me uniquely, and irreplaceably. I am thankful for their friendship and love and support, and I look forward to seeing those kinds of bonds grow among my children as they move into adulthood as well.  In a big family you’re never alone in the world. And that’s something to celebrate!


In writing this post, I tried to be honest while honoring my children and the journey they’ve taken to get to this point. I hope my love for my children also shines through. I feel vulnerable in a way, putting our struggles out there, and yet I do so because I fervently desire to play a part in helping potential adoptive parents be well prepared.  To see both the challenge and the joy, and to decide for adoption anyway.  Because these kids are so very worth it.

To better understand the reasons for a newly adopted child’s grief and pain, please read my friend Shaun’s post The List.

For another view into growing an adoptive family don’t miss this article by Melissa Fay Greene.  (Melissa is also the author of the amazing book There Is No Me Without You.)

Book Review: Made to Crave

Made To Crave KINDLE GiveawayRecently I was sent a review copy of Lysa TerKeurst’s book Made to Crave. Lysa writes about her struggle with weight, and how she ended up losing 25 pounds.  Instead of focusing on a specific diet plan, she talks about the cravings that make weight loss challenging, and shares her faith-struggle as she incorporated exercise into her life and gradually began to replace her food-focus with a clearer God-focus.

Some of what she wrote has mirrored my recent journey toward fitness.  She described how it was hard at first even to run between two mail boxes, a lot like the telephone poles I’ve struggled with as  a new runner.  Lysa talked about the foolishness of defining ourselves by the numbers on a scale.  (For a similar message from a different angle, check out this Casual Kitchen post about scales.)  Instead of that laser-beam focus on the scale, Lysa suggests a prayerful focus on obedience in each ‘next choice’ as it comes along, whether it be food-related or exercise-related.   I liked her point about body size not being a key to happiness in life.   Food can’t fill soul-emptiness, and neither can skinny jeans.

Overall the book didn’t contain breakthrough messages for me– maybe because I have already processed some of this stuff in my own journey.  But the book’s focus on getting to the heart of your own food issues is a valid one.  I found the book to be interesting and encouraging, especially regarding keeping the right focus in my life.


In honor of her book’s release, Lysa is giving away a KINDLE  on February 8th.   Details here!

Book winner

The winner of Ann Voskamp’s lovely book 1000 Gifts is Sabrina. Congrats, Sabrina! Thanks to everyone who shared their precious moments this weekend.

Best mom tricks

Missy of It’s Almost Naptime is hosting a link-up this week where moms share their best tips.  Here, in utterly random order, are some of mine.

1. Quick thickener? Ever tried to save a batch of watery oatmeal, or wished you could make chili or stew just a little thicker?  I’ve discovered that couscous works great in both of those situations.  Pour a few tablespoons into already bubbling cereal or stew, and within 2 or 3 minutes the couscous will have soaked up the extra liquid and be soft and ready to eat.  And it is neutral enough in flavor that it won’t really change the flavor of your food, whether it be sweet or savory.

2. Durable mattress protection? If you have preschoolers, chances are you’ve dealt with bed wetters.   Over the years I’ve been woefully disappointed with the plastic zippered mattress protectors you can buy in the store.  The plastic isn’t nearly strong enough and tends to rip in the center of the mattress right where you need the protection most.   Once I happened to need a new mattress protector right at the time I was also replacing a shower curtain.  My old curtain had ripped-out holes at the top edge, but was otherwise intact and was a nice heavy-duty plastic.  I discovered it made an exceedingly durable mattress protector.  Tucked in under the mattress it stays in place nearly as well as a fitted cover, and has lasted literally years with no sign of wearing out.

3. Save a buck here or there?

  • Cheap hair conditioner makes good shaving cream for 1/4 the price
  • An electric toothbrush only needs to be plugged in one day a week to function all week long.
  • Olive oil can be mixed half and half with less expensive oil to be more affordable.

4. Bake a potato twice as fast? We love having baked potato ‘bar’ at our house, but sometimes I don’t remember to put potatoes into the oven a whole hour before people are hungry and I hate the texture of microwaved potatoes. Here’s what I do:

  • Turn on the oven to 400
  • Scrub/pierce potatoes
  • Microwave potatoes just enough to warm them (3-4 minutes is about right for 6 potatoes cooked together)
  • Transfer potatoes to regular oven and bake 30 minutes (or a little longer for larger potatoes).

When you pull the potatoes out of the microwave, they’ll already be hot, which allows you to reduce the baking time  by half, allowing you to feed those hungry kids 25 minutes sooner!  (Our favorite toppings:  cheese, sour cream, butter, sauteed mushrooms, green onions, diced pepperoni.  Yum!)

What mom tips do you have?  Share them here or over at Missy’s blog later this week!


I will glory in my Redeemer
My life He bought, my love He owns
I have no longings for another
I'm satisfied in Him alone
I will glory in my Redeemer
His faithfulness my standing place
Though foes are mighty and rush upon me
My feet are firm, held by His grace
My feet are firm, held by His grace.

One Thousand Gifts

Oh, the craziness of this week! The dreaded 5 AM alarm and a dark drive to my son’s driver’s ed class was the beginning bracket of each day.  There was writing at the coffee shop waiting for Daniel to be done with class, with a return home just as the sun was peeking over the mountains behind our house.  Then breakfast, dishes, homeschooling with half a dozen or so children moving from task to task, needing math help and a listening ear for reading and occasional reminders to treat each other kindly.

After lunch, a drive back into town to drop my son off for driver’s ed (actual driving practice this time).  From there we head straight to play practice, which for little kids ends at 6.  Driving home I’ll see the sunset. A couple hours at home, and then time to collect the bigger kids who won’t get home til after 9. By that time dark night has again decended, and I rejoice that I can soon trundle off to bed.

It is Missoula Children’s theater here this week, you see, a delight that makes my children’s eyes sparkle with joy each year.  One frenetic week of practice culminates in two Saturday shows, by the end of which I am a limp noodle, and my van’s gas tank has been emptied at least once. Worth it?  Oh yes.

But this evening, driving my youngest home, with still one more trip into town later for older ones, I am bone weary.  I am looking forward to Saturday, and certain this is a worthwhile sacrifice of my time for all my children learn and experience.  But the pace of this week has worn me into the ground.

And then I think of some of the words from Ann’s lovely book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  It came in the mail earlier this week and that I’ve been nibbling at it in odd moments for a couple days now.  The words?

“I don’t really want more time, I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh….”

And the voice of my little girl in the back seat of the van comes suddenly loud and crisp in my ears and I tune in, really  tune in to the high clear animated sound of her.

“…I like the song we’re learning and at the end we get to make a pose, but we can’t lie down on the floor…”

“…and she looks really scary when she makes that face, but she’s just acting.  She’s actually nice…”

“…and we have to bring a lunch that doesn’t make a mess, otherwise we’ll get the floor dirty, and we have to bring water, not koolaid….”

Her sweet chatter goes for miles and I listen and respond in the right places.  I marvel one minute at her grown-up sounding sentences and another minute I am clutching a mispronounced baby-word to my heart, wondering if this is possibly the very last time she said that word like that.

And this is it, I know.  The very best bit of my day.  And it is partly because my precious one is sharing her experience with me,  but more because I am really tuned in, not rushing in my head on to the next thing.  And I am thankful for the words of Ann, reminding me to slow down and see the gifts all around me.  Thanks, Ann, for helping me see what is best in my life.


If you would like to win a copy of Ann’s lovely book, will you do something for me?  Will you pay extra attention to your life today, and come back at the end of today or perhaps on Sunday or Monday to share a meaningful moment with us? An ordinary time, fully appreciated?

I’ll pick one winner on Tuesday.  I look forward to hearing about the good in your life.

Chatting with Good Housekeeping

This afternoon I’ll be over on Good Housekeeping’s Facebook page chatting with folks about keeping that grocery budget down. Come join us!  And for folks who wandered over here from there, welcome!   For more money-saving food ideas, check out these posts from the Owlhaven archives.

Only have a few bucks for groceries this week?

Do you have to use coupons to save money?

How to save money at almost any store

Our cash-only grocery experiment, part one

Our cash-only experiment, part two