Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 reflections

i decided to post our family christmas letter, as it is an entertaining look back at our year, written by my hubby... it's long, but enjoy! (p.s. the mohawk is gone, as sam is starting nursing school & wanted to make a professional impression :)

Dear family & friends,

With 2009 coming to a close, we are so thankful, even through the ups & downs. This year we continued the now 2-year-old family tradition of blueberry picking in Michigan. They actually were not as good as we had remember…actually some of them were just down right sour! Now, I am mad about spending money on sour blueberries! I guess the new rule is do not pick blueberries in a orchard that is next to the interstate highway in which we can see the cars passing while picking! We also did some apple picking at Edward’s Apple Orchard & now the whole family is addicted to honey crisp apples. I (Sam) eats a minimum 2 a day so he can keep the doctor away, but really all that means is that he has been pretty regular, clinically speaking, during the picking season. We also took our first road trip to the Colorado Rocky Mountains (a definite highlight of the year). Let me just say that we have some amazing kids that were excellent during the 20+ hour car ride. Our Favorite Little Mister read most of the time (we didn’t even know he was there most of the time, as he was lost in his books), Sunshine Girl talked to Julie the ENTIRE trip & colored princess drawings created by Juile—thank You Jesus for a wife who has a B.F.A! (I knew that degree would coming in handy…), & Pumpkin-Poos pretty much sat in between the kids trying to see what they were doing (or pinching them to get their attention). Humorous story—on the way there we get to Aurora, Il (a mere 25 min into the drive) & Sunshine Girl starts saying, “I really need to go POO!” So we end up stopping at the McDonald’s right off of the highway to which we end up having a second breakfast of pancakes & magically Sunshine Girl does not need to go anymore. After another 20 minutes in the car, Sunshine Girl again says, “This car ride is SOOOOO long—how long is it going to be?” Thinking how relieved she would be when we actually get there (20 hours later), she pops out of the car & says, “That wasn’t so long! Colorado is so close Mom!” Ahhhh… the time perception of children.

Well, onto the annual report of the members of the Chen clan…

My Favorite Little Mister is 6 ½ years old & is our building, thoughtful, jumping bean of a boy. He continues to be a hodgepodge of Julie’s reserve, diligence, judiciousness, astuteness & eating preferences, combined with Sam’s energy, humor, & love for science. He is in 1st grade to which he has made some pretty cool friends. One of which is our car pool partner has been a great companion building LEGO’s® & playing make believe. His favorite part of 1st grade when asked is, “MOM! We get THREE recesses!!” which I have heard is a big hit with kids. He still is a LEGO® fanatic & has built some amazing things such as a dog (which is Pumpkin-Poos’s favorite animal), robots for mommy, spaceships, etc... He loves to read & enjoys the math homework that we find on the internet for him, even sometimes exclaiming, “I love these things!” Oh how I hope that is the case when he is studying for the SAT’s… He is our most thoughtful kid, as he is constantly making books & notes to tell us how he appreciates us & loves his siblings. He even created a phonetic book for Sunshine Girl to help her learn how to read! This past summer at vacation bible school he also publicly professed that he believes that Jesus is his Savior. Just recently he lost his first tooth in which Julie & I were on a date & missed it (& literally it got lost down the drain). Two days before losing his tooth, he mentioned (mimicking his dad), “There is no such thing as a tooth fairy—it’s just mom or dad giving the money…“When we got home that night, the fairy visited & left a red envelope (the kind used for Chinese New Year) with 2 quarters in it under his pillow. He then awoke the next day not even knowing it was there & Julie pointed it out to which he exclaimed: “Now we can tell daddy the tooth fairy IS real & ours is Chinese!!!” Love it! He continues to amaze us with his heart, intellect, & skills as he has become pretty skilled with stapler & a roll of tape to create a lot of things. One last observation is his great sense of humor to which has been a combination of the new found introduction to Calvin & Hobbes (introduced to him by yours truly) & by the genes passed down through his Ah-gong (grandfather) as some of his favorite jokes are— “what do you call a old tire?...a tired tire! Hahaha! Get it?? Tired tire??” Another one: “What do you call a bird that steals?...A robbing robin! Get it?? Robbing robin??!” Ahhhh the lesson on homonyms was a field day for him in class. This type of humor has been replacing much of the potty/poo/pee/fart/burp jokes so I enjoy this measurable exhibition of becoming more mature.

Sunshine Girl is 4 ½ & can be summed up by combining Julie’s beauty, love for art (can’t stop drawing), with my spastic personality, love for music with his sleeping & eating preferences. Come to think about it, do I even have a eating preference? I suppose “contain calories” is a preference, or is it just quantity? Anyways…she still is our entertainer as her favorite activity this year was ballet class & loves to demonstrate at home to which Pumpkin-Poos loves to join in & mimic her. She is CONSTANTLY singing, creating her own songs (with motions of course) & repeating the songs she learns in preschool. Unfortunately, she sings a bit flat…actually just plain monotone, but to make up for the tone she really cranks up the volume. She will sing loud…I mean really LOUD to which the passengers in the car with her (My Favorite Little Mister) will say, “You are singing so loud I can’t even think!” To which she will take it from a level 11 to a level 9 in volume. Of course being the star performer she dislikes anyone singing with her & will “shush” others to make sure her performance is heard. She has been known to wake up the others when they are sleeping in the car on the way home from a night out, but we still LOVE her singing. She continues to enjoy school & has made a several good friends, including a boy to which I have been thinking my deferment in procuring an intimidating firearm/weapon may be shorter than I expected. As mentioned, she has demonstrated that she has my sweet tooth & eating habits as she is our second biggest eater next to Julie (wait, OH, I mean Sam) & can be found eating whatever & whenever. She also is our night owl as frequently we have begun to name her “the bump in the night”. While My Favorite Little Mister plays super hard throughout the day & falls asleep within 5 minutes of putting him to bed, Sunshine Girl will be found frequently at 9:30 or later (1 ½ - 2 hours after their bed time) singing, kicking the walls, bringing out toys, reading books in the pitch dark. She continues to make us laugh & enjoy life as she enjoys so much.

Pumpkin-Poos is 2.20833-year-old & is probably best describde by a ball full of passion. In terms of her looks, she has been mistaken as adopted when Julie was alone with her—though she does have Julie’s ear lobes. We had put it to a vote & the clear winner of our loudest child has been won by this little girl. (Ama has said that all of her energy is going into her voice). Clearly I had made the right choice to change her Chinese name from “the Lord’s peace” to “the Lord’s joy” (shout to the Lord with trumpets & the shofar joy). Despite her volume, she does have trouble speaking & is in speech therapy, but she can communicate in many ways. Julie has become somewhat of a linguist as she can delineate between “bbaaabaa” from “baabaaa” which mean blanket or baby doll with the closing eyes & not the one that is battery powered. I think there was some Russian influence as her best word is still “DA!” which means several things: Yes (most of the time), Dad, That, & I am saying something…anything so I get out of this lecture about taking my sister’s markers. She is our most avid dog lover & can spot one from a very long distance which I am thankful for her excellent eyesight. Just a couple of months ago while in a shopping cart, she started shouting, “WHoooHHOOO!! WhhoooHOOOO!!”—which means, “Woof woof look there is a dog!!” I could not see it for the life of me until I had walked another 40 feet closer to a endcap which contained gift cards & one of those gift cards was for PetSmart & had a .75 cm dog on it. How she saw it was amazing to me. She continues to adore her older brother & loves her sister with that sisterly love. You know the kind of love that is fiercely competitive & likes to play the “let me pinch you for fun” game with Sunshine Girl. We can really tell they love each other as Sunshine Girl will reciprocate by loving her back with a “I will squeeze you till your eyeballs pop out & then fall on top of you” hug to show how much she loves as well. We are so thankful for such expressive daughters. We love how Pumpkin-Poos brings so much passion & joy to the house—it would be boring without it.

Julie continues to be the most amazing wife in the world. juggling the kiddos while taking care of the house & all of the freelance work she gets from Tyndale, which we are really grateful for. Probably the biggest thing that has happened with Julie is the opening of Life Verse Design, Inc. in which she is doing some AMAZING designs with God’s Word & other inspirational quotes to encourage people & bring them a visual picture of God’s Word. This is the link to the store if you want to see what she is doing: ( Not only has she been able to use her artistic gifts, but because of God’s grace, Demdaco (company that sells the Willow Tree® people in Hallmark stores) has decided to license her design! ( As you can see we are not kidding! God is really generous. Julie also has started a blog: & you can read up on her latest doings.

Sam has finished up his 7th year teaching at Community College & has made a big switch as he was granted a sabbatical to obtain a Masters of Nursing Science in Chicago. So he will be studying for the next 18th months…ahhh the circle is complete now the master has become the student—no wait that is not how it goes! Anyways, this last year he had been involved in leading worship & that season is coming to a close. He has met some amazing student that love Jesus intensely & has been encouraged to do the same.

Well those are the updates & we again, we hope you remember the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ & celebrate his gift to us as we await His return! May you worship Him fully and trust in His grace to keep you for the new year.

Sam, Julie, My Favorite Little Mister, Sunshine Girl, & Firecracker (Pumpkin-Poos)

Friday, December 18, 2009


head on over to this fun, inspirational blog for the chance to win an 8x10 print of your choice from moi!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


as of yesterday, i am 36 years old! wow. where has the time flown? (though, photo disclaimer: this pic was taken last fall, i have no current pictures of me since i am usually behind the camera)...

last week, at my MOPS meeting (Mothers of Preschoolers, an organization to encourage the mommies in the world) our speaker asked the question, "If you look back 10 years ago, would you have thought this is where you would be NOW?" i have been thinking a lot about that now, as my birthday has arrived and i have pondered where i am at in life and where i want to be in 2010. i guess my answer is yes & no.

if i think back 10 years, to 1999 i would have been married just 2 years and happily working full time at Tyndale House Publishers, designing books. since i unexpectedly loved my career so much, kids were not on the radar (cuz i knew once i became a mom, i wanted to stay at home with them full time). though, i DID want kids somday: 2 of them. my hubby & i are not the "5 year plan" type of couple... we just take life as it comes and pray for wisdom in the choices laid out before us.

but, after that speaker asked that question & really emphasized that so much of our lives are the unexpected blessings which we did not plan & that those things are really what makes our life full it got me thinking...

so, fast forward 10 years to now:
did i always want to do art? YES.
did i ever think i would actually own my own creative business, creating inspirational art for the home? NO.
did i think i would live in the suburbs of chicago forever? NO.
do i love our little town? YES.
did i think i would love book design so much? YES.
did i dream i would get to work on such books as the Left Behind series (books 4-12) and the Jesus Storybook Bible that would literally change the world? NO.
did i think i would have 2 kids? YES. (or at least i hoped)
did i think i would have 3 kids? NO. (for i am the "middle child" and have always wanted an even number... but, then our "love child" came along :)

just thinking about what God has done in my life over these past years puts me in awe. my new creative outlet & relationship with Demdaco & Tyndale are huge blessings. as well as blessing number 3! i wouldn't trade it for the world and i am incredibly thankful.

so, though i will NOT be making a 5 year or 10 year plan, i do have dreams. those dreams are simple:

1. to love Jesus much, much more than i already do and grow in my relationship with Him
2. to be a loving and encouraging wife
3. to be the best mommy i could be
4. to serve the body of Christ through my gifts

and anything else, well, we'll just see what is to come... better days even, i am sure of it!

grace & peace,

Monday, December 14, 2009

project 320

last week, a friend of mine told me about this blog & this awesome group of women who are joining forces to provide clean drinking water in africa. they are partnering with
and are hoping to raise $5,000 this week!

go to their blog, and for every $10 donation you make to the cause you will be entered in a raffle to win a prize bundle! (not just one prize, but many are in each bundle)

they already have overwhelming response from artists and crafters around the country, receiving 300 donated items.

below is the 8x10 print i have donated.
ephesians 3:14-21 happens to be MY life verse (as i have said before, what can be better than knowing God's love?!), so i was so excited that they have chosen ephesians 3:20 as their key verse.

now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine ... to Him be the glory forever!

let's see what He can do with this cause and a bunch of generous hearts?!

for more details, go here.

grace & peace,

Saturday, December 12, 2009


what "makes" christmas for you? i think i have decided for me, a big part of it is the music and how i am able to worship Jesus through the wonderful christmas songs. also lately it is of course, the traditions we are trying to establish with our kids: of the advent calendar (chocolate of course!), reading the christmas story in a variety of ways (since i love children's books), baking, trimming the tree, and painting ornaments every year so that by the time they leave home they will have many for their own tree some day.

honestly, though we have done some of these traditions already this year, i must say i don't much feel in the spirit of things. my business (thanks to you all) is booming and i have been busy doing shows and filling orders. i am just plain tired and spiritually i feel dry. i am incredibly thankful and honored that so many people are loving my art and having God's Word and other beautiful pieces fill their home, and i must say i am looking forward to the "lull" in january. (come the 2nd week of january i will most likely be sad that sales are slow :) ha!
in any case, we had a little photo shoot this morning before sunshine girl's preschool program. my mom bought the girls beautiful christmas dresses so they freaked out this morning to put on their "princess clothes" and we put them in the stairwell with the natural lighting (and to force them to be close to each other, since i like tight shots) and we shot away. daddy was a crazy monkey (or something?) behind me and i got to practice using our new canon 7D!
i must say i think i have the best kids in the whole wide world...
and of course, the silliness begins... can't do a photoshoot without crazy faces or butt shots!
here is my favorite little mister, now 6 1/2! last tuesday night while we were at the chris tomlin and christy nockels christmas concert (though very sad to say christy was sick... i almost left right then, but decided to give chris a chance)

anyways, he pulled it out by himself! (this is something i did not like doing as a child and have feared as a parent... the day i would have to pull a tooth! though, with him i don't think i'll have to touch one!)

we got home and our babysitter said how my favorite little mister pulled his tooth out while they were reading stories. our babysitter told him to put the tooth on the counter so he did. later on our other sitter was cleaning the kitchen and put his tooth down the garbage disposal thinking it was a crumb!!!! (of course i got out the flashlight and looked down the disposal trying to recover the tooth)

anyways. he said my favorite little mister was a bit upset of course thinking about the tooth fairy now not coming since there was no evidence of a lost tooth. (which is funny to me, since 3 days earlier daddy & little mister were talking about how santa & the tooth fairy are not real)!

well, i could NOT wait to see him in the morning with this gap in his teeth. (he is adorable :) so, he came down & i of course made a big deal & made him tell me the story & i said, "did you look under your pillow?" & he said, "why? i LOST the tooth!" & i told him to go check. he comes running back down a minute later with a chinese red envelope which enclosed 2 shiny quarters and his exclaims to me, "MOM, now we can tell daddy the tooth fairy IS real, and that OUR tooth fairy is chinese!" (priceless)
and here is my sunshine girl at her performance today. she had been singing and doing her poem for weeks. when we got there and all dressed in her angel costume, she got so upset but wouldn't say why. later on tonight when i asked her why she was sad (if she was nervous or what?) she said she was sad because she had to wear the costume and that meant people could not see her new dress. (so funny!)

anyways, as of today because of her program and just taking more time with the kids to read and share and enjoy cookies, i am feeling more in the spirit.

if any of you still need one of a kind gifts, something meaningful and unique, please jump over to my shop!

grace and peace,