January 24, 2015

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A Movement to Empower Children



I was given a gift of caring about children when I was just a child myself. I've always felt protective of them. My heart turns especially to children who don't have someone to tell them of their worth. Many times a child is told they are nothing or not good enough. Sometimes a child looks different or acts different, and is misunderstood by others. The truth is that every child on this earth is of great worth no matter the circumstances they find themselves in. We want them to understand that. 

In our small way we are initiating a movement to empower children. Of helping them know their worth, of telling them that they matter. We have a line of t-shirts planned with empowering messages. This is the first one.

In the spirit of this movement, we're donating 25% of the money you spend on these shirts to help children in need. With this shirt, all donations will go to Bethel China, an organization of wonderful people who empower vision impaired children. 

Introducing our "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" T-shirt available for children now!
Sizes available: 2T, 3T, 4T, and Youth Small (7-8)



Go check out our t-shirt collection here!

September 08, 2014

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People Helping Orphans - Mollie Fitzpatrick

There is an old story about a man who was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy in the distance.  As the man got closer, he saw that the little boy was standing among thousands of starfish.  He was picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. The man asked the boy, "What are you doing?"  The boy replied, "If I don't get them back into the water they will die."  The man said, “Why are you wasting your time? There are so many of them and only one of you. You'll never save them all. What difference does it make?” The little boy picked up a starfish, and as he tossed it back into the ocean said to the man, “It matters to this one.”


That's how I feel about orphan care. It matters to each child. Each child's life is significant.
My name is Mollie and I'm a kindergarten teacher. I grew up in a very small town in southern Ohio. Most of my friends were just like me: middle-class white kids.  When I went to college, God opened my eyes to a world outside of my tiny midwestern hometown. He showed me the beauty of culture and diversity.  He showed me a world in need of Hope. This God I had known for so long suddenly began to draw my heart to the underdog...the hurting...the needy. I began reading about international adoption, and before I even graduated from college I had set up a savings account and began praying and saving for the child(ren) I believe I will adopt someday. I had heard statistics and I had seen pictures, but I wanted to know them and hold them and LOVE them, so when I decided to spend two years living and teaching in China I knew orphan care would somehow be a part of my journey.

 


I moved to a large city in China during the summer of 2012. Shortly thereafter I began volunteering at a nearby orphanage. I can't even describe what happened in my heart when I walked in and saw the rows of cribs and the severity of these kids' needs.  The things I heard, saw, and smelled that day are forever engrained in my memory.  The ayis asked me to feed some of the babies, and as I held them I couldn't fathom how something so small and perfect could be in this place.  God began a work in me that day that has forever changed me.  Those faces are the ones that keep me up at night.  They are the faces that continue to challenge me to dig deep and decide what I'm going to do about this overwhelming need.


During my first year in China I read a book by David Platt called "Radical" that challenged me in many ways, but this was the thought that stood out to me the most:  "We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes."  How true that was for me during those first visits to the orphanage.  Everything changed.


Upon beginning my volunteer work, I immediately fell in love with a little girl, Leah, who has severe CHD. She captured my heart with her suspicious glances and her blue lips and fingers. It took Leah some time to warm up to me, but soon we were pals and I couldn't wait for the next week to come so I could spend my Saturday morning holding her. She wouldn't let me put her down, but I didn't mind. I spent those hours praying for her and begging God to do something. These were the words from Scripture I prayed over Leah during those moments:  The LORD will fight for you, Leah; you need only to be still.  (Exodus 14:14)  I asked the orphanage about her adoption status, and I was told she had been deemed “unadoptable.” She was too sick. No one would want her. I wanted her, but I'm not old enough to adopt.  I knew if she could capture my heart so completely, someone else would surely fall in love with her.

During this time, a quote from Andy Stanley that I read years ago came to mind and it's been on constant repeat in my brain ever since. “Do for one what you wish you could do for every one.” Leah was my one. She was my starfish.

 


Although I moved back to the U.S. a month ago, I'm continuing to pray and fight for Leah.  There are some exciting things ahead of her...I'm confident of that.  Other people have fallen in love with her just like I knew they would.  The same God who created Leah has a plan for her future. He is good, and His plans are good.  His heart is kind.  While she waits for a family to journey to China and make her their own, I'll continue to toss her back into the ocean as many times as it takes. 



If you are interested in impacting the lives of Tianjin's children at the Children's Welfare Institute, or using your specific skills to help, please go to International Committee for Chinese Orphans to find out more about volunteering.

If you would like to donate to help their cause, go here

Thank you Mollie for sharing your heart!
September 05, 2014

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People Helping Orphans - Michael Rottina

I have admired Michael Rottina and have watched how he flies back and forth between his home and China to do everything he possibly can to help orphans. Michael is the founder of findMe International . Michael says, "The Me in findMe refers primarily to Jesus. It can also mean helping adoptees find themselves and adoptive families finding "me", the orphan."

I am so grateful he took some time out of his busy life to answer some questions. 

How did you get started helping orphans?

In 2001 something was seriously stirring in me about adopting. It had been something thought of for a long time. I was sad to think of another child growing up without a family. Without parents, brothers or sisters.
In 2004, we travelled to Hubei, China to adopt our wonderful daughter. She is a great blessing of Joy to have as my daughter.

Why did you start findMe International? 

Along the way we have advocated for orphans, yet findMe intl has been established to connect Chinese adoptees with the people of China. A friend and I have had the great experience of searching for and finding my daughter’s foster mother. We (my daughter included) would love to help others do the same. In addition we are working on some things that will turn homeland tours into something we like to call homepeople tours. The emphasis is in building relationships with the people of China, particularly those from the adoptees past and orphans, so that the adoptee can experience the culture from within, and create lifelong relationships.

What in your life prepared you for this?
So many things have prepared me. Most important is Jesus' Spirit in me.

What is your favorite thing about it?

Doing something that makes the kids smile. To see a solemn face go to a smile, especially with the older kids, satisfies my soul and puts a smile on my face as well.



What is one of the hardest things about it?
One of the hardest things is when Cameron aged out 3 days after I got there this past June. So many people knew about him. It was very hard, since so many of us thought for sure he would have a family someday soon.

What are your favorite experiences?
An incredible experience was having the opportunity to allow a boy who is matched to a family, pick another orphan who he wants to be his brother and go to America. The following day we took the two boys, with Cameron out shopping, to dinner and Dairy Queen. It was two days I will never forget.

Another experience was the one that started findMe intl. It was when I saw on Facebook that someone was going to adopt Lucy Kim. She was the first that we had advocated for (when I had no idea of the advocating world) and were shocked with pure joy to realize that we found her a family in less than one month.


Here is her family's story
, and an update


Emily was the 2nd girl Michael helped to find a family, and since these two girls, many children are finding their families. Emily is coming home to her family soon!

Find Me - "Emily" from Global Story2 Films on Vimeo.


What would you tell someone who wants to help? 

I would like to encourage those who want to help to signup for our e-mail list. We will be having regular updates on ways each one of us can help. Like supporting our visits to the orphanage so that we can create opportunities like tutoring for kids who have aged out but are still in the system (ages 14-18), helping to build better/updated "files" for the kids, regularly visiting them and taking some out for the day. Do you know many orphans are lucky if they get out of the orphanage 1-2 times a year? We have helped many get out and have some fun. Cameron has been able to get out 3 times since April this year, with the help of those like you and me. Also, there are some other wonderful missions that we are working on and will let you know about.


Our e-mail list is the place to find the latest as well as the basic missions that findMe intl is working on to help the kids. If you enjoy helping children who cannot better the situation they have found themselves in, sign up for findMe intl e-mails here.

Thank you Michael Rottina for all you are doing to make children's lives better!

July 11, 2014

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Families Adopting - Campbell Family Update

You may remember the Campbell family who was adopting a 7 year old boy from South Africa. Well, here is an update on them told by his mom, Cassi!

The meeting
It's a cute story. I'm not sure what I expected when we met. We were told that because he was older, we would need to do daily visits until he felt comfortable. Our first meeting was about 12 hours after we arrived in the country. When we drove up to the home, he was waiting on the porch and ran out to meet us. Our social worker, Anna, pointed us out and he took my hand and ran into the house to show me his book. We talked for a minute and Anna asked him if he'd like us to come back tomorrow. He said he was ready to go with us now. So, a little jet-lagged and a lot overwhelmed, we all drove away together. The whole time, I kept thinking, "What do we do now?"

What did you love about South Africa? 
I love everything about South Africa. It is beautiful, but the people are the best and that's what I loved when I was a missionary 20 years ago, and that's what our family loved when we went in March.


What were some good things in country?
We took our 4 children with us and I was amazed at how well all 7 of us did together for 3 weeks. We enjoyed being together even though a lot of the time it rained. I loved that my kids got to see how others live - my 3 teenagers especially "got it."


What were some hard things in country? 
The hard thing was trying to set a routine and discipline and bond with this new family member. Especially the last week, we found ourselves looking forward to going home. 

Can you think of some moments where you thought, "we are making progress"?
Most of the moments that I felt like we were making progress came after we were home. The toughest transition was the 3 weeks after we first arrived home. After that initial time, we started to see that he was more comfortable. He would actually push his plate away and say he was full. Less and less were the comments of going to find a different family or going home. He began to realize that everyone had responsibilities and wanted to have a job. He even told us outright that he had decided to stay. 


What advice would you give a family thinking about adopting an older child?
I don't feel like I'm worthy to give anyone advice on any subject, but expectations can be your biggest enemy. I like to plan everything out and know when things are going to get better and I love to "fix" everything. When you adopt, and probably especially an older child, the less expectations you have, the more satisfied you are with your progress because you take joy in every little piece of progress. I remember our social worker telling us that we would feel like we are "saving" this child, but they would never appreciate it. I do feel unappreciated a lot of the time. We did think we were rescuing a child from an uncertain circumstance, but it turns out that he is saving us.
July 07, 2014

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Families Adopting - the Kladder Family - S Korea, Ethiopia, U.S. and China

We are the Kladder family: Ben, Holly, Bereket, Ellie, Ezra, and XuBin, who is waiting for us in Henan Province, China. 


From the very beginning of our relationship we talked about adoption. It wasn't a matter of if, but when. Both of us felt a prompting and a call to build our family through adoption. That call was so strong in our hearts, that after we had been married for three years we chose to begin the process of adoption, prior to trying to conceive. We were young, 24 and 25 years old, and we surprised both of our families with the news that we were pursuing the adoption of a child from S Korea.

Ellie came home in December of 2006, at the age of 6 months. She was a Child of Promise, or a child considered to have special needs. When we accepted her referral, we knew there was a chance that the virus she was carrying had been contracted in-utero, and that she could experience life-long struggles because of that. Knowing that information did not deter us from pursuing the child we felt in our hearts God had chosen to join our family. We wanted to provide a family for a child who may not have one otherwise and we felt strongly that Ellie was perfect, exactly the way she was. 

In 2008 we again felt God tugging on our hearts, but this time He was pointing us to Ethiopia, where AIDS had claimed the lives of entirely too many parents, and children were left alone to fend for themselves. We saw the long lines of prospective adoptive parents waiting for a healthy infant 0-2 yrs in age and knew we couldn't join their ranks, not when there were children aged 4 and older who had no one lined up to adopt them. God was also pressing another plan into our hearts, that of adopting a child with HIV. At first we were scared, namely because we were so very uneducated about HIV and modern treatment options. But God wouldn't drop it, so we educated ourselves and then we amended our homestudy to include that we were willing to adopt a child with HIV. 

Bereket came home to us in August of 2008. Her health status was the least of our concerns compared to the difficult transition we faced. She was full of fear and insecurities, and battled us to control every minute of every hour of every day. It was with God's help alone that we were able to make it through that first year, and through the second as well. We learned the true meaning of unconditional love in the years following Bereket's adoption. Today, thanks to modern medicine, she is physically healthy with an undetectable viral load. And thanks to God and the power of love, she is emotionally healthy as well, with a heart bigger than the ocean and a joy larger than life.

After Bereket had settled into our family we decided to try to conceive. It was heart-breaking to find out that we could not. The desire for a little newborn, and to experience the natural bonding that is only possible through birth was so very strong. A war was waged in our hearts and we almost allowed bitter envy to take root as we witnessed several instances where young unmarried women conceived a child. It was temptingly easy to say "We did everything right! We were "pure" before marriage! We answered the call to adopt! We love you God and we follow after you, and this isn't fair!"

God is so patient. He is so very, very patient. He allowed us to throw our temper tantrum and to sit in self-pity, but He was waiting for us to see the truth. We had said that we wanted to serve him, that our purpose in marriage was to serve Him better together than we could apart. Our joy was not supposed to be dependent on whether or not we could conceive a child. It was not supposed to be dependent on ANYTHING other than the knowledge that we were precious in His sight, that because of His love, He gave His one and only son on our behalf, and that He had invited us to take part in His Kingdom work here on this Earth. There is no greater joy! Not only that, but we could not love our girls any greater, even if they had been born to us. Yes, they came to us because of tragedy. Yes, we had to work harder than others to build strong relationships of love and trust with our children. But God himself gave up His only son, so that through pain and rebirth, we could build a relationship with Him. He is so good. 

Ezra came to us through domestic infant adoption in 2011. We had been open to all races and many special needs, but Ezra happened to be completely healthy. After the difficult transition with Bereket, and the pain of infertility, he slid right into our family, hardly making a ripple. However, it was not lost on us that had we conceived we would not have pursued a domestic infant adoption and would not have our precious new baby boy. That was almost too painful to even think about.


At this point in our life, we thought maybe we were done with adoption. We were not done with orphan care of course, and would always be involved in some way... through sponsorships, through advocating, through supporting organizations that supported at-risk women and children. We also talked about getting licensed for foster care and opening our home to these children once ours were a little bit older. 


Then in the Fall of 2013, we saw a picture of toddler twin boys who were living in a very poor orphanage in southern China, who were available for adoption. We both felt the familiar convictions and rush of adrenaline that came with each of our previous adoptions. We researched adoption from China, looked into several agencies, and even wrote a letter of intent. Although another family was eventually matched with the twin boys, we knew that God had used their story to show us a door opening before us, and that He was inviting us to follow Him to China.

We found Xu Bin on CCAI's Special Focus list in late December, just before Christmas. We inquired about him, and his entire file was in our email inbox that very day. No other family was reviewing his file. He was listed as having a Cleft Palate, Hepatitis B, and a third small private issue. We spent Christmas break reviewing his file and staring at his picture. But it was the meaning of his name that pierced our hearts as we wondered if God truly was asking us to step out again into another international adoption. Xu Bin translated means "having both likeness and appearance of the rising sun". Our long-time favorite scripture and life verses are Isaiah 58:6-12. It is the scripture that we have come back to again and again as we try to follow after God. Vs 10 says, "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." It seemed to us that God was using our favorite scripture to confirm that in His goodness and mercy, He had chosen Xu Bin for us, and us for Xu Bin. 


And so it is that we find ourselves mom and dad to another precious child. How did we get to be so blessed? We cannot wait to welcome him into our home and teach him what it means to be a part of a family. Our greatest desire for Xu Bin and for all of our children is that they will come to know the LORD in a dynamic and personal way and that they will find their identity and security in Christ. We want them to grasp that the greatest joy in life comes only by following the way of Jesus, and that joy is independent of life circumstances. We pray that we are being living examples of love, mercy, peace, and justice.

If you would like to follow along as we pursue XuBin, feel free to visit and like our Facebook page.
http://www.facebook.com/lovexubinhome

We are expecting to travel to China in either October or November of this year.

Thank you so much to the Kladder family for sharing your adoption story!
May 01, 2014

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ALL of the Sprout Tops - LWB Cleft Exchange hats

I was so overwhelmed last night to get all of these photos of the children LWB helped, in our hats! It is like a dream come true to help and be a part of this in this small but important way. The lady who sent me the photos said that the animal hats made the nannies and kids laugh, so we sent them some smiles too!

If you have any questions about orphans or adoptions, feel free to ask me. At least I can point you to the right resources. Thanks again for your help! Enjoy these precious children.

We'll start out with precious Alana (top) and Ander

Here is Aimee, Harley, and then Aimee and Harley together being cute.






Introducing Freddie (the Frog)!


and sweet Tyrone (top) and Eddard as giraffes


one more of Tyrone in his owl hat


Can't forget Beautiful Karis




or Jennifer!

and handsome Kenny (top) and gorgeous Maureen


Aren't they all sweet?

April 30, 2014

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Thank you for your help with LWB's Cleft Exchange

Because you bought a hat at Sprout Tops, or you bought a hat for an orphan on our Love Without Boundaries page, you were a part of this wonderful event! So many miraculous things happened and so many children's lives were changed forever. 

Here are some of the sweeties who are wearing Sprout Tops hats!


 

And here is the whole story!

Love Without Boundaries 2014 Cleft Exchange - 30 surgeries, 30 transformations, 30 children's lives changed

Reading these updates every day warmed my heart and broke my heart all at the same time. Thanks again for the part you played in helping these children. 

Getting Ready photos of the kids, thinking back to previous cleft trips

Easter Baby Hunt - finding the babies on the train and getting to snuggle them. 

Easter Sunday - arriving, prepping, pre-op exams, meeting the kids, Robin's story

Monday - first two babies to get surgery, careful mom and tender father, loving nannies, weighing in

Tuesday - the "tens", some have to be turned away, the LWB "love ward", preparing Robin

Wednesday - beautiful repairs, the volunteers get jealous of the nannies getting to hold the babies, Robin's surgery

Thursday - operations, education, the meaning of "cleft exchange", and somebody got a family!

Friday - healing and playing games with the doctors

Saturday - "baby pile" for Dr. Ness's birthday, saying goodbye to the children they love, reality sets in

Transformation: Past, Present, and Future - Read the story about Emily! what a determined little spirit she has.

I hope we get to be a part of this next year!


April 21, 2014

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We have some new cuties wearing our hats!

When Chloe, from Bethel sent these photos to me, I just about melted. Are these not the sweetest children?



Thank you so much for helping us send hats to these precious children through our "1 for you, 1 for an orphan" program.




All of the children at Bethel are either completely blind or have some sort of vision impairment, and sometimes other special needs in addition.


Bethel gives them a family type environment with lots of love. They teach them many life skills and how to be self-sufficient and live life to it's fullest. 




Thank you again for being a part of helping orphans! You can learn more about Bethel, volunteering there, and how to help here. If you would like more information on how to adopt a child with a visual impairment or even one of their children, start here

I will leave you with their most recent movie. I just bet it will brighten your day!

 

April 12, 2014

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People Helping Orphans - Laura Lofy

I was really happy when Laura Lofy agreed to tell us a little about her journey helping orphans.


She is an adoptive mom of three children adopted from East Asia, an educational psychologist, and advocate of orphans.



"I said, 'Somebody should do something about that.' and then I realized I was somebody."  - Lily Tomlin


How did you get started helping orphans?
I have always had an interest in child welfare. I was an exchange student in China during college in the eighties. I am an adoptive mother of three Asian children. I am an educational psychologist. I have lived and worked in Shanghai, China...first as the Director of Youth Services for the Half the Sky Foundation and then as a psychologist at Olivia's Place Pediatric Therapy Center. I now work in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a child development center conducting psychological evaluations for children with special needs from many different cultural backgrounds. When it comes to the orphans in China, like Lily Tomlin, I realized I am somebody and I needed to do something. China Kiddos is the name I have given the informal charity that I have started. It is not yet a stand-alone 501(c)(3) nonprofit nor does it yet have any financial backing. It is essentially me and my computer with the support of some loyal friends in China and the US. Together we do what we can to advocate for the rights of a few children. 

My mission statement is this...
For every child...a meaningful education, a loving family, a promising future.

I started China Kiddos a couple of years ago after I joined a group of professionals from my own adoption agency on a visit to an orphanage in Shandong province. While I was there, I helped to evaluate a group of children (mostly boys) who by all accounts looked like they would be spending their childhoods living in an institution. When I left that institution, I made a commitment to myself and those kids that I would do whatever I could to find them families.


Sweet Gracie is still waiting for a family

I started out with grandiose plans of finding homes for about 25 children, but soon realized how hard it was to match these older children. Instead of giving up, I switched my focus to helping one child at a time. I started with a child whose life was at risk given a complex medical condition. I remember the first e-mail I wrote asking for advice from a mentor. I quoted the Chinese proverb that reminds us that "a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," and said something to the effect of "I don't know what I'm doing or how this story will end, but I'm going to try to find this kid a family." It took two years and a lot of help from doctors, social workers, foundations, and the advocacy community, but that boy finally has a family and should be going home this summer.


From that first step, I started to learn the ropes and established a network of like-minded advocates. A few successes have led other individuals to ask for help advocating for the orphans they know and love. Since then, I have worked together with other advocates to help four other kiddos find homes. My hope is to keep making a difference - one child at a time. Here I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for those who have helped me learn about and do this work: Joanna Ren, Jasmine Xu, Rebecca Chang, Jessica McComas, Nancy Reffsin, Pamela Neail Thomas, Brooke Henningfeld, Johanna Cannelongo, and Rebecca Coleman. 

What in your life prepared you for this?
I feel like my whole life has been a road toward this work. All of my interests, skills and training have collided to put me in a position in which I can help bring a few children together with their forever families. It is helpful to have knowledge of the issues related to institutional care and adoption from both the professional perspective of a psychologist, but also from the personal perspective of a mother to three adopted children. I think my ability to understand both sides of the adoption equation has afforded me the ability to serve as a bridge between those who are caring for the children while they are in China and those who will ultimately become their parents. I think this may be my niche in the world. 

What is your favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing about this work is that it changes the course of children's lives. I really cannot think of any activity that is a better use of my time. Another great thing about this work is that it allows us to demonstrate what is possible when individuals step up, take responsibility for a child, and refuse to give up. I love working alongside my Chinese friends and learning together how much we can accomplish when we work together on behalf of these children. 


This little guy is John. He is still waiting to be adopted. 

What is one of the hardest things about it?
It is hard to raise money to support the adoption of children with special needs. Money is tight for everyone and there are so many worthy causes competing for charitable donations. I find it hard to ask for money, but am willing to do it for the kids. It is harder to wait and wonder whether or not there is a family out there for one of "my" kiddos. It is hardest to know the vast number of orphaned children with special needs who need families and also know that many of them will never have families and may never know a life outside of an institution. 

What is your best experience?
The ultimate reward is when a family comes forward and makes a commitment to a child, and when the child goes from being a "China Kiddo" to being a child with parents to call his own. To me, these are truly matches made in heaven.


What would you tell someone who wants to help?
There are many ways you can help me help these kiddos.

1. Visit the website chinakiddos.org (It is under construction, but keep checking back.)



2. Join the China Kiddos mailing list. E-mail me and I will add you. 
3. Spread the Word. Share the information on the the China Kiddos featured children, and ask others to share it as well! Post links on your social media and share their photos and stories with everyone in your network. The broader the net we cast, the greater the likelihood of them being found by their future parents. 
4. Contribute to China Kiddos and help me fundraise. I fundraise in order to provide adoption grants to families interested in adopting one of the China Kiddos. Adoption grants have proven to be an effective means of improving a child's chance of adoption. Help me fundraise by having a sale, a raffle, an auction, collecting change, getting your church to do a special collection, put a tin can out in your office, etc...

There are two ways you can donate to my partner charity, Homeland Children's Foundation, which has agreed to safeguard the China Kiddo adoption grants for me. Homeland is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit whose founders have devoted their personal and professional lives to helping orphaned children. They will send you a receipt at the end of the year.

1. Send a check (with "China Kiddos" in memo line) to:
China Kiddos
c/o Homeland Children's Foundation
121 New York Avenue
Congers, NY 10920

2. Donate online
-Through Paypal
to homelandchildrensfoundation@gmail.com 
indicate funds are specifically for China Kiddos

-By selling or buying on Ebay
indicate funds are specifically for China Kiddos

Thank you so much Laura, for letting us peek into your world. We appreciate all you do for these precious children. 
-Jessica
March 05, 2014

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Everyday Families - The Young Family


What is your parenting style and why?

I need to admit that my husband and I have never read a parenting book or taken a parenting class but we both have wonderful parents who were great examples for us. Of course, we had our own ideas about the kind of parents we would be. When I was 21 years old, I wrote a page in my journal about raising children:

-I will let them make choices
-I will honor their decisions
-I will let them say "No"
-We will have fun together

Although I haven't followed every piece of advice from my 21 year old self, there were a few words of wisdom in that list. We have always tried to trust our children to make good choices. For example, from the time they were very young, we never felt the need to hide the sweets in the house and they have never overindulged in sweets. The Halloween candy usually sits in the cupboard so long that we end up throwing it out. We have found that when we utilize quiet moments and really talk with or observe our kids, it's pretty easy to tell if something is bothering them or if they've done something wrong. Some of the sweetest moments we've had are when we tell them what we've noticed and we talk about mistakes and what they can do to be a better person. These moments don't always come easily though. At times we've even had to take a child to their favorite restaurant to get them to talk to us, but it's always worth the effort.

What have been some hard times and what are some tips for keeping strong through those times?
About half way through my pregnancy with our 3rd child, we found out that he had spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and club feet. The lesion in his spinal cord was so high that the doctors thought he may not be able to breathe on his own or survive beyond birth. My husband and I were most worried about how this would affect our two other children. I remember feeling that this was too much for our family. After many days of constant prayer and sleepless nights, we decided to tell our two children. We explained their little brother's situation and then our 4 year old daughter took my hand and said, "Don't worry Mommy. We'll help him and he'll be fine. But I still wish he was a girl." Our 7 year old son shed some tears, not because his brother would be disabled but because he simply wanted him to live. During this time a scripture came to my mind from Psalms 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God". I felt a calm assurance that everything was in our Heavenly Father's hands and with His help we could accomplish anything.

Any tips for keeping a close-knit family?
We love spending time together away from life's distractions. We have found that when it comes to spending time together, quantity is just as important as quality. We try to plan something for every school break or day off, even if it's just a family outing to explore a park we haven't seen before. Wherever we go, we always try to find a quiet, out of the way place to stay because our favorite moments are usually not the sightseeing or the swimming, but the evenings without computers or video games when we play board games, watch a movie together or just hang out.

Thank you Young family for sharing the things that are important and sacred to you.
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