Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you the things you really need to hear.  Thank goodness I have good enough friends to tell it to me straight.  I got a little dose of tough love that I needed today.  Like a vaccine, it stung initially, but long-term it will be good for me.

So, one of my shortcomings as a friend is that I tend to talk too much.  I have so much I want to say and share, that I have a tendency to cut people off or monopolize a conversation.   Sometimes I will go weeks without thinking about this.  Then, I'll be with some of my friends and realize that I am a conversation hog and get embarrassed.  I will make a conscious effort to be a better listener.  But, eventually I slide into my bad habit.

Confession time:  Tonight, I was talking to one of my favorite people in the world.  We were discussing something that we both felt strongly about, but didn't necessarily agree completely on.  In my rush to debate the issue I cut her off.  Several times, I am embarrassed to admit.  Finally, she called me out, as only a real friend can and said, "You never let me finish." 

Ouch.  Sting.  That's the shot I needed.  I can't let my enthusiasm overtake the common respect I should be giving to anyone nice enough to have a conversation with me that doesn't involve Legos, Star Wars, or Princesses.  Her words were not intended to hurt, but to help our friendship.   I am pretty lucky to have friends that will say the tough stuff in a loving way, and with forgiveness and no grudges.

Please tell me I am not the only one with a personality trait or two that needs tending.  I hope I am not the only one who continues to struggle with a few annoying quirks that haven't quite gone away.

This is something that I have struggled with for a long time.  I prayed about it once a few years ago.  God answered that prayer a little too well. 

I had prayed, "God, please help me be a better listener.  Please?" 

This prayer took place less than a week before Ben and I were going on a long weekend trip to Duluth, MN.  (We try to take one 2-3 day trip alone each year).  I hadn't been sick at all, but the day before the trip, I lost my voice.  I couldn't speak louder than a whisper, and even that took a lot of effort.  And I am a girl who never loses her voice.

So for 3 days, I had to listen, truly listen to my husband.  I listened to him for a 2 1/2 hour car ride up and back.  I listened to him at restaurants and museums.  By the end of the trip, I think I was listened out and he was talked out.

This experience proves that God answers prayers, and that He has a sense of humor.

Hopefully, I can continue to have friends loving point out how I can improve in the friendship arena so God won't have to work as drastically to get the point across to me.  To all my friends I have cut off - I'm sorry and I'm working on it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thank You, Readers

So, its been about a year and half since my first official blog post, and I've got to say I'm surprised!  My expectations were fairly low as to who might be interested in my family.  I assumed my mom would read this (at the library, of course, because they don't have internet at home) about once a week.  Maybe a friend or two would pop on in every few weeks.

Imagine my surprise to hit 25,000 views.  It can't all have been spammers, right?  

I remember the excitement I felt the first time someone from another country viewed my blog.  (Thanks, Canada!)  I have been keeping track of the countries that have been viewing my blog, and so far people from 74 countries have popped in to sneak a peek at my life.  Hey there, Gabon, Pakistan, Luxembourg, Chile and the rest!  And, hello to my US readers.  I'm continually fascinated with how everyone else lives, so would if any of you would be willing to share your blog in the comments, I'd love to stop by and have a non-creepy voyeuristic look.

I've had two main goals all along with this blog.  

     1. I've wanted to keep a record of some of the details of our family life and a journal of sorts about my thoughts and opinions.  I'll look back on some of the things I have written later on and wonder, "What was I thinking?"  

     2.  I also want to be an encouragement to others.  I am hoping that I have been honest about my life (including my shortcomings) so that other people will have a realistic idea of how other families really live.  It is so hard when I read other people's blogs and there is only talk about their perfect lives, perfect kids, perfect houses, perfect vacations, etc.  I want to share my joys with you, but I want you all to know that life is hard and messy sometimes, and that is okay, too.

 In my first post, I said of my blog, " Please maintain low expectations and I will do my best to meet them."  I hope I have fulfilled my end of the bargain and that you will continue with your low expectations.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mama's Lap is Never Empty

Have you ever noticed that you've been in a streak of ungratefulness?  I don't mean overt or conscious vocalizations of displeasure.  I mean the way you settle into life and forget to look around for a moment and be thankful.

I realized that I had drifted over to that land of entitlement.  The one where things are going fine, so I take for granted the amazing blessings in my life.

Fortunately God snapped me out of it.  It happened in church, which is really as good a place as any for God to get a message to me.  Assuming I am in a focused prayerful sort of mind, and not a "Quit poking your brother" saying, sippy cup retrieving, or boo-boo kissing mode.

So my family and I were lined up in our pew, listening to the sermon.  I had Veronica on my lap first.  Then she wanted to sit on her daddy's lap.  Connor immediately sat on my lap.  When he came down, Riley looked expectantly at me and asked if he could sit in my now vacant lap.  Remember now, Riley is 8 years old.  He's fairly small, but even a small third grader can get pretty heavy.

I hoisted him on up, knowing that there won't be very many more times when he will do this again, especially in view of his growing-more-important friends.  But, still.  This time he wanted to be close to his mom.

And it was as if God spoke in my ear and reminded me, reminding me that I have not had an empty lap in over a decade.  I have been blessed beyond measure with five beautiful children and another child waiting in China, soon to be sitting on my lap.

People are often unsure of the benefits to having a larger-than-typical family.  While I don't think my family is that huge, especially compared to families a couple of generations ago, I know we are an anomaly in our area.  But if they had over 10 years of snuggling with a child always eager to be in their lap, wrapping their arms around their children and breathing in the sweet smell of child (break in the nostalgia - They don't always smell sweet.  Sometimes they smell like spit-up or little-boy dirt), those doubters would know the blessings.

It took nearly 60 pounds worth of an 8 year old boy to remind me to be thankful. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Favorite Accessory

My favorite accessory?  My "I Voted" sticker, of course.

I have intentionally kept this blog pretty apolitical, but those of you who know me know that I tend to get fired up about politics.  Don't stop reading.  That is NOT what this blog post is about.

Instead, I'm going to tell you what I am fired up about.  I am so proud of the engagement of my fellow citizens in the voting process.   I'm especially proud of my state of Minnesota, who has had the highest voter turnout rates in the last three presidential elections.  My home state of Wisconsin (always close to my heart) came in with the second highest turnout.

So, why is voter turnout a big deal?  Why do I encourage all my friends and family to vote - even when I know their vote will often cancel out my own?

It is the ultimate expression of faith in our country and government.  It shows that people believe they can make a difference and that their government will take into account their best interest.  Yes, even when I disagree with a politician or their proposals, I don't doubt that they have the best interest of our country at heart.

Do you realize how incredible this is?  Have you stopped to think that this feel-good "I voted" sticker represents what hundreds of millions of people around the world long for.  It is what people dream about and die for.  This is my chance to change the world through my vote.

Tomorrow, the results will be in.  Some people will be rejoicing.  Some people will be grumbling about how long the next four years will be.  But today.  Right now, we are joined together as a country, all taking part of this democracy.

Yes, I did wear the red and white striped shirt because it was my most "patriotic" looking one. 

Indulge me in a little bit of idealistic optimism here.  As we speak, millions of people are shoulder to shoulder, with only a flimsy plastic divider separating their secret ballots from each other.  They did not go through metal detectors to get in that booth.  They did not pass armed guards silently representing an oppressive government hosting symbolic elections.  They did not risk their life to vote, nor are they in fear that their life will be in danger if their choices are discovered.  They believe that the system will run as smoothly as possible.

And they know that tomorrow, whatever the result, our country will continue with no threat of civil war or cataclysmic disaster.  What an incredible country we live in.

God Bless America and God Bless the World!

Please, please get out and vote.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

L O A !!!!!!!!!

I know I had taken a brief hiatus from this blog, but I am back.  And what better way to restart this party than with great news?

Finally, on Day 94 of the wait, we received LOA, which stands for Letter of Acceptance from China.  The wait time to get this document varies tremendously.  In the last couple of months, people have waited anywhere from 12 days to 163 days to get this paperwork.

What does this mean?  This means that not only are we another step closer to our sweet Levi, but we can send a care package and request an update.  It also means that I can publicly share pictures and information about our newest little one.

Here he is!!!  Levi QingHai

These pictures were taken when he was 8 months old and he turned 1 on September 1st.  He is from Shanxi province and is from Yuncheng SWI.

I can't wait to get this sweet boy home.  Usually families travel about 3 months after receiving LOA, however that is right around the time of Chinese New Year.  Government offices close for a week in celebration, and that could delay our travel till the end of February.

Admit it.  He is just about the cutest thing you have ever seen - isn't he.