Large Family Tips: Setting the table

It feels like I have been away from my blog for ages…and tomorrow I leave for Seattle, so my blog will be neglected once again. Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal rate of posting.

I am surprised by how much I enjoy blogging. Thank you for leaving comments and emailing me – it is great to hear from people.

I feel a little sheepish writing about this because I know so many women who excel at making their homes beautiful. The young mom who coordinates my running group has a home that looks like it was lifted out of a Pottery Barn catalog, even early on a Saturday morning.

I know ladies who make amazing floral arrangements, whereas I feel like I’m doing a good job if I have a few tulips in a vase.

However, since I’ve been writing my blog, I have gotten a number of comments on how my table looks, and since I have a busy day and don’t have the mental energy to write about hefty adoption issues, I offer my simple tips on setting a pretty table.

People often think my table looks nice because there is a tablecloth on it. Truth be told, the finish on my table is bad, so I keep a cloth on it because it looks better. My table is ten feet long and tablecloths can be expensive, so I often look for them on sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Ross, or Target.

I have three dark-colored ones that stay nice for a few days, depending upon the menu. I shake the cloth off after dinner and, if it still looks good, it goes back on the table. If not, I flip it over and use the other side. I also put plastic placemats at Eby and Little Man’s places, which helps stretch out the number of times a tablecloth can be used.

Dishes make a big difference.

About nine years ago I realized that very few of the “everyday dishes” from my wedding were still intact. I decided to choose new dishes that would be tough enough to survive my children (six at that time) and could be easily replaced as needed. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune.

Fiestaware fit the bill since it doesn’t break easily, comes in lots of colors, and goes on sale regularly, making it downright reasonable.

The first year I asked for all white Fiestaware and got them for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day. Once I had twelve white place settings, I started gathering different colors. Now I have enough dishes that I can feed a big gathering at one time.

Sometimes we set the table all in white, but in the fall and winter we add cobalt, dark red, dark green. In the spring I break out the light yellow, light green, turquoise, poppy, and other fresh colors. Most of the time we mix it up with kids picking out favorite plates as they set the table.

I also have “fancy” glasses that we use on Sunday and for other special meals. The defining quality of a “fancy glass” is that it must have a stem; at least according to my children.

I bought iced tea glasses, which have a short stem, for barely more than $2.00 each and they add something special to the table. I also have inexpensive wine glasses that come in handy for smaller hands.

The other key to my dinner table is that we nearly always have candles. My mother always has candles on her table when she serves dinner – always. They add a touch of beauty to even the simplest meal.

My favorite candlesticks are tall, and with a taper candle, they look elegant (these are similar in height). Their height makes them look a little more special than shorter candlesticks.

I don’t live anywhere near an IKEA, but my sister lives near one in Seattle and she buys candles for me at a great price. All in all, candles make me happy.

In the spring and summer we cut flowers from our yard to make a simple centerpiece. When the lilacs bloom we fill the cut-glass bowl, which once belonged to Russ’ grandmother, with blossoms. They are too fragrant to have on the table while we eat, but they look pretty the rest of the day.

Sometimes I encourage the younger children to gather dried leaves, pine cones, or other interesting things to arrange in a basket, but honestly, I’m not very good at centerpieces. I did, however, once make a really great one using our old Fisher Price farm animals, but that was about twenty years ago.

If I can set a nice table, anybody can do it, and it doesn’t take lots of money or time, which is a very good thing.

I need to get back to packing! We have two days of various medical appointments at Children’s. We’ll meet our friends, Andrea and Kevin (and children), for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant Wednesday night.

Beza has even promised she will speak Amharic to the waitress and help order our food. She has been very hesitant to speak Amharic since she has been home. I also plan to see my parents and sisters, which will be great.

I’ll be back!


Family Tasks for Christmas Break

Little Man helping me pack away Christmas decorations

If you come to my house, you will find this list posted on the refrigerator. Christmas break is winding down and the pace is picking up. Today we are packing away Christmas (with tears from Dimples and Eby) and making progress on “the list”.

Christmas Break Family Tasks

Dad: Replace kitchen faucet, repair dining room wall, recaulk tub and toilet, install drawer in kitchen

Mom: My list is too long to type, but begins with “Declutter file drawers” and ends with, “Sleep at least once before Christmas break ends”.

Sweet Pea: Clean and organize food cupboards. Declutter and organize little girls’ clothes.

Mimi: Paint main floor bathroom. Clean refrigerator and freezer.

Noah: Clean light fixtures and replace bulbs. Declutter and organize downstairs landing (mudroom).

Samuel: Repair broken drawer sliders in kitchen. Clean light fixtures with Noah.

Rusty: Organize garage pantry. Move all photos from memory cards to folders, and burn CDs.

Ladybug: Declutter toy cabinet in bedroom. Organize cabinet in family room. Clean kitchen cupboard doors and drawers, and counter tops.

Honeybee: Declutter and organize pen and phone book drawers in kitchen. Declutter toy cabinet in bedroom with Ladybug. Kitchen cupboards and counter tops with Ladybug.

Dimples and Boo: Clean baseboards on main floor. Clean door knobs and light switches.

Eby and Little Man: Help Dimples and Boo and generally try to be cute.

With so many of us living in a “not so big” house, there are always tasks to accomplish, but we aren’t able to do some of these more time-consuming jobs during school. I hope this will give the house a bit of a lift until we can tackle a few more things in the spring.


My New Year Project

The people we love grace the wall of our dining room. We change the photos each year after Christmas.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but as I think about 2008 and what is in store for us in 2009, I desire to become a more prayerful person. Above all I want to pray more with Russ and more intentionally as a family. This year was one of our best for keeping up with Advent readings, so we have already established a good routine at the dinner table which we would like to keep going.

Through our adoptions, we have been blessed to make many new friends. One family from Texas has become particularly dear to us. Some of their children even live in our town which has given us the opportunity to meet our Texas friends in person. We also were blessed to visit their children and photograph them when we were in Ethiopia, giving us a special bond. They are still waiting for a successful court date, along with some other dear friends, and we know all too well how difficult the wait can be.

Last fall I mailed Honeybee’s adoption announcement to them along with a family picture, and my friend emailed:

… your family now resides in our prayer journal on the 25th of each month. Your photographs have taken their place in what would more accurately be called a scrapbook of sorts. Each page designates a day for a family/families for specific prayer during our family worship.

“Wow,” I thought, “they pray for us every single month on the 25th, that is so amazing.” Then I thought, “A photo prayer journal like that is an awesome, wonderful, fantastic idea. I want to make one!”

It has been brewing in my mind ever since and I decided to make it a priority project for the New Year. I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look. At first I thought I would use a simple spiral-bound scrapbook, but then I wouldn’t be able to change the pictures from year to year. So I decided I would use a three ring binder with page protectors in it and mount the photos on paper. My girls vetoed that idea because it wasn’t nice enough (but it certainly would have been inexpensive and simple).

Yesterday I went to Michaels and settled on a reddish 12 x 12 album with slip in pages. I took all of last year’s Christmas pictures off the bulletin board in the dining room and organized them loosely according to family, friends, etc. I put 30 pages in the album, one for each day of the month, and wrote the number in the upper right corner of each page. Then I began putting photos on the pages. Day one features my parents and my two sisters’ families. Day 2 features Russ’ parents and one sister with her family. Day three is set aside for another sister and all of her children,and so on. Most of the remaining pages will be dedicated to our friends or other people for whom we pray. I have one page for missionaries and another for our pastor and other pastors we know. I plan to have a page for leaders, such as our president and state officials, and another for our friends in the military, local police officers, firefighters, and paramedics (especially our friend Gretchen!).

It is a work in progress, but here are some things I have already learned:

The album I chose is too big to fit on the bookshelf in the dining room. It is going to have to lie flat on the top, which is unfortunate. If I were going to start over, I would choose a smaller album.

The pages are probably larger than I need, although I plan to keep adding photos to the pages over time. Yep, I probably should have chosen a smaller album.

I am having a hard time deciding how many people to put on each page, so I am going to place the photos on each of the remaining 22 pages before I glue any more in. I was trying to be casual and not over-plan this, but I can’t decide if I am putting too many people on a page and will end up with half an album of blank pages, or if I’m going to end up with too many families left at the end of the month.

Here is the plan: each night toward the end of dinner, we’ll get our prayer album and Bible down from the top of the bookshelf and dedicate a few minutes to pray for the family/families who grace the “page of the day” after we read our Bible. I am very excited about this project and hope that my children will grow in their passion to pray for others.

I love learning from one another. I have gotten some great responses to Tisha’s questions which I hope to post tomorrow.

Always learning,


Poignant Moments

There are moments in my life as a mother when my heart grabs in my chest and I am so thankful for my beautiful children. Today one of those moments was dropped into the midst of a normal, messy day.

The big boys are all nearly on Christmas break, so I asked them to help me get the four younger ones settled for Quiet Hour. I went upstairs to tuck Little Man in his crib while Noah settled Eby into his napping spot. As I came down the stairs, I could hear Dimples carefully sounding out words. I walked into the family room to find her sitting with Samuel in the “ugly chair” reading a children’s Bible storybook. In the dining room, I found Rusty listening as Boo read to him.

It was a proud and happy moment for me to see my boys being so patient and kind with their younger sisters. I love my kids and I’m so proud of the people they are becoming.

I have received a few new questions that I am excited to share with all of you. But I also got a response to our last question that I want to share first:

I have thought about this question that Les asked. I saw it in the comments several days ago. I don’t think everyone is cut out to have “a lot” of kids. However, what constitutes “a lot” is different for everyone.

I think you have to be seeking what God wants for your family and not just what you think you want or don’t want. We can have selfish reasons for wanting more children or not wanting more children. I think the main thing is to be open to God’s leading.

I wanted to have more than our two biological children, but God did not have more children for us and when medical intervention failed God did not convict my husband to have more children by other means at that time, although I had the desire.

That is something else I completely believe in – that the Lord leads the husband and we need to listen to them. We should definitely be praying for them as the Lord speaks to them and guides them, but we need to be careful to follow our husband’s leadership. God gave it to them for a reason.

I also think that the Lord has timing that is unique and special for each family. He is a personal God and doesn’t give everyone the same things at the same times. I would suggest that Les and her husband pray and ask God to guide them and to show them how and when (or if) to grow their family. He will give the strength and ability to do what He asks of them.

I can relate to the problem of letting go of order and control. I did learn – with the Lord’s help – that control and order are not as important as my kids. They grow up so fast you don’t want to be spending your time obsessing about a perfect house or keeping the perfect schedule. Those things are still important to me, but I try to keep my priorities in perspective.

We have raised/are raising two bio. children. Our daughter is nineteen and our son is forever 14, he died not quite two and a half years ago. After his death, my old dream of adopting came back in my head. I prayed about it for several weeks, asking God to speak to my husband’s heart about it as an answer to me about the timing. To my pleasant surprise, my husband was open to praying about it and had a positive response. Sometimes God spaces out your family and surprises you with his own plans that are always better than ours!

You can find the rest of Lori’s story at:

I was particularly touched by her “Lessons on Grief and God”. There is so much that we can learn from one another, and so much we can gain just from knowing one another online.

Today has been a day of poignant moments, an unexpected email from an old friend, a short video sent by a new friend, and memories of Christmas five years ago when I was very ill. I’m thankful for a place that I can write, share, and learn from all of you.

Thank you once again for stopping by.


Answers to Large Family Question #4

A few moments ago at my house

Once again I have to thank everyone who took the time to respond to this question:

Are there some people who are cut out to have a lot of kids and some who aren’t?

Let me share some of the great answers I received.

Lisa H. wrote:

I’ll jump in on the question regarding being cut out to have a large family. I think the question is really “How is God wanting to use my life?” I don’t think that God has called us all to have large families, but I think He has called us all to have a place where we get our hands dirty and our lives messy in meeting the needs of hurting people. It might be ministry to single moms, prisoners, the poor, the homeless, widows, inner city kids, immigrants, the sick, etc…, but SOMEWHERE God has a place for each of us to serve that will complicate our lives, and our homes, and our personal space and time….AND that place will be a place where we know a special kind of fulfillment and satisfaction and where we are used to have eternal impact. For the lucky ones of us, it’s the call to parent children who need families! :o)

Yes, that call has involved giving up personal time and space, living in a home that rarely reflects the ideal I have in my mind, and feeling a little over-stimulated, even, at times, from the comings and goings of our crew. But I KNOW that this is the call of God on my life and our family, and even in my worst moments, I know I’d never choose to miss the precious children God has brought to our family for a little more personal time or a more magazine worthy home.

Last summer I had the afternoon “off” as my husband cared for our children. I went out to lunch and sat in the sun at an outdoor cafe while I sipped tea and read a magazine. After a while, I thought, “This is great! I needed this!….But this is nothing to build a life around!” and I was ready to go home, and be back in the game with my family.

We are all unique creations and we have different needs for space, quiet, order, etc. We need to respect these limits and live within them. But we need to be sure that we’re not resisting God’s desire to stretch us and push us out of our comfort zones as He enlarges our hearts to love the world through us. It’s a hard, painful process but the end result is JOY, for us and for those we’re called to love… I think if we are faithful to ask God His intentions and to be seeking His wisdom with open hearts, then He will show us which situation applies to us.

My .02 on a great question!

Lisa H.
Mom to 7


Blogger Signe said…

I have been thinking about this question for a day or so. I think Lisa H. summed it up well.

I can very much relate to Leslie. I am also an introvert that likes to have quiet time. God has allowed me to work with that in my family. Some seasons have been tougher than others, but God will give us the grace we need to travel through whatever He calls us to. I think we are “cut out” to follow Him wherever that may lead. I certainly don’t think everyone is called to have a large family, but I don’t think there is a type of person that is more likely to be good at it either.

I know many Moms that keep their families very organized no matter how many they have in their home. I also know many that need a little quiet time. Sometimes going into the bathroom and locking the doors to have some time with God meets that need.

I can say that God has done amazing things with my children that I can not take the credit for. I was willing to welcome them into my home and to trust Him. He has worked out wonderful things in each of them. We have had valleys, but we have lots of mountain tops as well. My kids are still young so I have a lot to learn still, but I am willing to take more in if that is what God calls me to.

God uses our weakness to show His strength.

An anonymous friend wrote:

I do not have a big family… my husband and I have a 2 year old and I am due in about 7 weeks with our second. We are hoping to someday (after baby is born) look into adoption. We’re thinking a sibling group or family, depending on what God decides! My husband and I just had the “are we cut out for a large family” discussion yesterday and I thought I’d share what we came up with.

My husband, although a emergency 1st responder is a little squeamish of the whole “birth thing” and thinks having 2 bio children is enough. He has always said that 2 or 3 children are enough, I have always hoped for many children, bio or adopted, as I love children and have thoroughly enjoyed our son. I can tell my husband’s heart is changing toward children tho, because as we were looking on the state adoption website at some of the available situations last week, there was a family of 4 children he said, “Maybe that’s what God is calling us to do, take in a family of children and raise them for Him”. I was totally blown away, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined him saying something like that! After praying about it that night, we decided to call the state and just see what we’d need to do and if or not we would be eligible. The children had just been placed on hold that morning due to a pending family. I can only say “Thank you Jesus, for changing my husbands’ heart” tho. I feel as though God surely has a plan for those 4 beautiful little children and for our family also, and my husband opening his heart was a “first step”. Yesterday when we were discussing if we were cut out for a “large family” we talked about Psalms 127:3-5.
127:3- Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
127:4- As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
127:5- Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Children AR
E a heritage of the Lord, the Bible calls them a REWARD! We believe whether they are bio or adopted, that is true. The next verse says they are as arrows in the hand of a mighty man. When we were talking about that, my husband pointed out that “what good is an arrow that does not have a target or goal?”, we felt like unless the parents had a vision for their children, a purpose in Christ, that maybe just having many children was not the answer. We decided for our family, just “having lots of children” was not good enough. We felt like if that is God’s plan for our life, we would need to train the children, regardless of how many for HIM. To give them a purpose in Christ, a reason for living. We do not have any experience in this, just God’s promise to be with us and to guide us, so I don’t have any “practical applications” to stick in. We feel like with God’s help, lots of patience, love and His wisdom, we would like to let God decide the size of our family. Jesus said, “…With men, this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b)

Blogger Laurel said…

Les … I am the mother of 13 children (10 bio. and 3 adopted from Ghana this year). When my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted a “large family”. But, we thought a “large family” meant 6 kids. We had no idea that the Lord would give us 13 (so far).

I do not believe that all families are called to have a dozen or more children. However, I do believe that the Lord is grieved by the amount of Christian families that choose to limit their family size.

With 3 children under 6 years old, your life might be overwhelming right now. While now may not be the time to enlarge your family, that does NOT mean that things might not change later on.

I just heard of a woman from our church who decided years ago that she would complete her family before she was 30 years old. Where would such a hard and fast “rule” come from? Not the Lord. I had my 10th bio. child the day before I turned 40. We thought we were “done”. But, at 45 the Lord started stirring my heart towards adoption.

I am 46, my husband is 48 … we do not know whether the Lord is done enlarging our family (either bio. or through adoption). While my peers are celebrating their “empty-nests”, I am so glad that I have MANY years of homemaking and homeschooling left (I have 2 children in 1st grade this year).

And, if it is your personality that you are worried about. Maybe it is children that the Lord wants to use to refine you. If you don’t want to give up order and control … maybe the Lord wants to give you a large family so that you allow HIM to be in control. My husband and I are “naturally” very orderly and controlling people. The Lord has definitely used our children to teach us flexibility. We must loosen our control, in order to give the Lord ALL of the control.


Laurel 🙂

Wow, with these women writing, I have very little to add! I also do not think that we are all called to have large families. I do think that if we are Christians, we are called to lay down our lives and give ourselves to the work that Christ calls us to do. I love the Jim Elliot quote, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Elisabeth Elliot, the late Jim Elliot’s wife, has been like a “spiritual mother” to me. I have read some of her books many times, and ten years ago I had the privilege of hearing her speak in Denver. I still have the notes from that day in my old Bible. A woman in the audience asked the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” Elisabeth talked about a number of principles, but she ended with one I have never forgotten: What do I have to do that nobody else can do?

For me, my ministry, for the past 21 years, has been in my home as a wife and mother. I have many interests, but my family has been my number one sphere for ministry. When I began to pray about how God might want to use me to serve Him in new ways, it became clear to me that since my home and family were my focus, adding children to our family through the adoption of orphans was a natural fit.

It has not been easy adding four children to our family, but we know that God has led us every step of the way. Our expectations of what the experience of international adoption was going to be like were unrealistic. Not many things turned out the way we expected, but they turned out just the way that God planned. I do believe that God chose these children to become part of our family – we did not choose them. We may have received referral pictures, but God put in our hearts the children who were meant to be ours. In fact, Dimples and Honeybee were not even on “waiting child” lists when God spoke to us that they were to become our daughters. It has been a deeply spiritual experience.

I could write more, but (speaking of ministry to my family), I need to put dinner on the table. I have loved these questions and I would be delighted to present more to all of you. If you have a question you would like me to post, please email me at [email protected] You are welcome to ask it anonymously. The issue can be big or small!

It is snowing and after dinner I am making a favorite Christmas cookie recipe with my big girls. It is going to be a nice evening.