A Christmas Moment I Still Think About

With the sorority sisters gone for the holiday, we emerged into the beautiful house.

It was 1991 and we had three children ages 4, 2, and seven months. Believe it or not, we were house parents in a sorority at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Graduate school had motivated us to drive across the country with a toddler just a few years before. I took a pregnancy test somewhere around Illinois and life as a soon-to-be family of four began.

Money was painfully scarce. It’s humbling to admit, but I used to pray that someone would invite us over for dinner after church so we could eat something really good. Then something amazing opened up to us.

While teaching childbirth education classes, I met a young couple who encouraged us to apply to replace them as house parents when they moved away. In this role, we had a one-bedroom apartment on the main floor of the house. At the time of this Christmas, our now three kids slept in the bedroom, while Russ and I slept on a futon in the “everything else” room. It was a tight fit, but with nearly all of our living expenses covered, we gladly wedged ourselves in.

That Christmas with no family near, we hosted a party with friends sharing food and gathering for a talent show in the spacious living room. We enjoyed sitting in front of the fireplace with cups of hot chocolate from the big machine in the industrial kitchen. One push of a button and the sweet liquid filled our cups.

On Christmas morning we sat on the floor of our little apartment as the girls opened the small treats in their stockings. Then we took the children into the main house and stood them in front of the heavy wooden pocket doors of the living room. Russ and I each pulled one door to the side to reveal a large red and blue Little Tykes slide. The girls ran to it with squeals of happiness while our little guy crawled as fast as he could.

It was a stretch to buy such a big toy, but as the kids played with it for days, we knew it was worth every penny. In a place where snow and very cold temperatures made it hard to play outside, the slide entertained our kids for hours inside.

Little did we know that slide would move with us from New York, to Colorado, to Idaho and eventually eleven of our children would play on it before we passed it to another family. Not bad for the one Christmas present of 1991.

Do you have a Christmas memory that has stayed with you through the years? I would love to hear!

I have a fun and useful new free ebook, Favorite Simple Dinners for the Busy Family. You can grab it using the form below this post or the large blue button in the top right corner of the site.

Book progress is flying along! We’re gathering the last couple of endorsements; I can’t wait to share them with you.

My heart has been heavy lately and I’m having a bit of trouble writing. Thank you for showing up and reading this when posts have been few and far between. You are the best readers in the world and I’m truly thankful for you.

Courage and Hope,


P.S. If you’re looking for more personal support, the Hope Circle is open for a few more days.

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Emily Wynsma
    December 13, 2019

    I love this story! It makes me so excited for Matthew to see his presents on Christmas this year 🙂

    Love you guys!!

  2. Debbie
    January 5, 2020

    Hi Lisa, I love this story and it’s so amazing because I live in Ithaca NY! We moved here 5 years ago with out 3 children. Thank you for sharing so much through the years. It’s touched my heart greatly. ❤️

    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 11, 2020

      This is such a nice comment, Debbie! We haven’t been back in years, but we remember Ithaca fondly and talk about visiting again one day.


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