Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Elli!

Our angel Elli turned 10 years old today!  It kind of blows my mind.  In so many ways, it seems like just yesterday we were traveling to China for the first time to meet our darling little girl.  In other ways I can't remember life before her.  She has definitely had a bigger impact on our family than any other person or event.  I've been browsing through her old blog and her new blog (which is also old), and have been filled with an overwhelming love for this beautiful angel.  She has in many ways been our biggest trial and yet has blessed us in the most sacred and wonderful ways.  I have said before that Elli is like oxygen to me-- I just have to breathe her in every day.  Her beauty and spirit is intoxicating.  She can scream up a storm, make bigger messes than you could ever imagine, scratch and bite until you want to just give up-- and yet she is perfection.  I love her with my whole heart and soul.

Happy Birthday, Elli Belly!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Hello Blogging World!

I'm back!  And in full force, being as how I just made a commitment to my sisters to blog 5 x per week for the next two months.  We decided we needed to set some goals for ourselves and I knew that blogging needed to be one of mine, being as how my kids are constantly asking when I am going to blog again!  The bad thing about starting back up on something you've neglected so long is that there is SO much to write about and it's a bit overwhelming.  I'm so excited to share about our family reunions, trip to New York, and tons of other things.  But for today, I am going to focus on our sweet Conner.

Conner is really suffering right now.  I think the newness and excitement of being in America has worn off and he is homesick.  But his biggest struggle he is facing is learning English.  Having two sisters that are fluent in Mandarin has been wonderful and beneficial in so many ways.  I would choose it again and again and it his made him feel comfortable in our family.  At the same time, I think it has really hindered his ability to learn English.  He is very close to his sisters and spends lots of time with them and with his "Mandarin speaking" iPod.   Because Conner is blind, there are many activities that just don't appeal to him-- especially when he can't communicate well.  So it's easy to let him spend hours listening to Chinese books or his iPod, even when we know that he needs to be using English.

We thought that school would be a good way for him to have to buckle down and focus on English.  And it probably is.  Which is probably why he pretty much hates it.  He goes without a fight, but when asked how his day went, it is always "no good."  (Though he does light up when he tells us about sitting by girls at lunch!  LOL)  He says that he doesn't understand anything and everyone talks so fast and that he isn't learning anything.  He desperately misses his school in China, where he was popular, excelled in everything, and got to spend a lot of time on the computer.

His school recently hired a para (aide) for him and we are hoping it will be a tremendous help.  His para served a mission in Taiwan and speaks Chinese, though Conner claims he only speaks "a little" Chinese.  (;  Honestly, it is probably just as well that he isn't as fluent as Conner wants so it can force Conner to work harder at English.  But the bottom line is, Conner is pretty depressed right now.  He loves us (there is no shortage of hugs and "I love yous" and all kinds of warmth from him) and is so happy to have a family.  Those feelings are genuine and we know that in many senses he is more happy than he has ever been.  It is almost breathtaking how much he loves us and how well he shows it.  At the same time, he is really grieving the relative ease of his former life.  I keep thinking of sending Parker or Taylor to China at their ages and expecting them to adjust and go to school and love it-- it would be pretty impossible for a long, long time.  And I just read that many times for older adoptees, the hardest time is between months 5-9.  Bummer!

The good news is that we know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We remember Graci and Cali going through these same things and see how absolutely well-adjusted and happy they are now.  We know that this is mostly a language issue.  But for some reason, for Conner it seems more pronounced.  Perhaps it's because his world is already dark that adding any burdens to it just feels awful.   Many things that the girls found joy in (watching movies, playing games, doing activities, etc) don't hold the same joy for him right now.  When you are blind, so much of your life revolves around talking to people.  Lexi LOVES people and loves to talk and talk and talk.  She loves to have things described to her and loves to converse about many topics.  When your world is dark, conversation is what lights it up.  Conner is like that too-- but is so hindered by language that he is lonely and frustrated.

So… we are really praying for him to learn English.  We know that many times, it is almost like a light turns on and something clicks almost overnight.  We are praying for that to happen with him and to happen soon.  He deserves it.  After all he has suffered, he deserves to be able to carry on deep, meaningful conversations in this new life of his.  We want him to feel as comfortable and included here as he did in China.  So if you feel so inclined to join us in petitioning the Lord for this blessing, it would mean the world for us.  I don't know if my heart can stand to watch him cry anymore…

One thing that Conner has been able to find joy in is learning about Jesus Christ.  We have been taking him up to Temple Square so that he can be taught by Mandarin speaking missionaries.  He has fallen in love with Sister Jin.  She is a very special person who just radiates the love of Christ.  Watching him learn about the gospel has been a beautiful experience.  When asked a couple of weeks ago if he wanted to be baptized, he said in Chinese "Yes.  As soon as possible, please."  So this Saturday morning he will be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He will also receive the priesthood and that afternoon, will be sealed to our family in the Salt Lake Temple.  We are so excited for Conner and for the blessings we know will come from his decision.  He is such a good, good young man who desires to follow Jesus Christ and be like Him.

Conner and Sister Jin
First day of school


Playing the piano









Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Xander Takes the Challenge Like a Man!

Aunt Jenny, you have officially been called out!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ZHESSS!

One of my very favorite things right now is how Sophi expresses excitement or satisfaction in something.  For example, this morning I reminded Lex and Soph about our activity tonight:

"Do you remember what tonight is?"

Sophi:  "What?"

Me:  "Xander's pinewood derby."

Sophi:  "ZHESSS!"

She's saying the word, "Yes!" but somehow she's come up with this completely darling pronunciation.  Sometimes she even does her version of a fist pump.  So cute:)




-Jer

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sophi's first day of kindergarten

Christi was invited to introduce Sophi to her new kindergarten class.  To help the kids learn a little about life with no arms, she put together this video.  Enjoy!:)


You Knew It Would Happen Eventually...

Jessica was challenged by her cousins and by her 5th grade teacher to do the ice bucket challenge.  Much to my surprise, she willingly accepted.  So at 6:15 am this morning, she braved the bucket!  (Unfortunately, Taylor wasn't quite as brave.  When a little of the water splashed on him he tried to avoid it and covered Jessica's face right during the money shot:(.  Oh well, it's still awesome.  Way to go, Jess!!!!!!!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Sweet Sophi was making a card for me yesterday.  As she was contemplating what to draw, she asked Christi, "What does Daddy love?"

"Basketball."  Christi replied.

"I know he loves basketball.  But what does he love more than basketball?"

Christi though for a moment then replied, "Food!"  (Thank you, sweetheart:)

Sophi responded, "I know he loves food.  But what does he love more than that?"…ponder…ponder…ponder…"I know!!!  Going to China and adopting a kid!"

I couldn't help but smile when Christi told me.  The picture below is of Sophi making a birthday card for a friend of hers.  Christi told her what letters to write, but Sophi wrote them on her own.  What a big girl!



-An overweight sports junkie with a bunch of kids:)

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Protoge

The other day I walked into my room and heard a noise coming from the closet.  I peeked in and found Jessica:




She's wearing my t-shirt, my tie, my slacks and at least 10 of my baseball caps.  I particularly like my one hiking boot and her medical boot on the other foot.  Love that girl!!!

-Daddy

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thinking of Tiffany

I had a dream last night about my little sister, Tiffany.  Tiff passed away in a car accident 10 years ago at the age of 22.  In the dream she was about 13 years old for some reason.  I don't remember the details clearly, but I do remember how I felt when I woke up.  I felt an overwhelming obligation to live well and to do good things.  It was as if she was telling me, "Your mortal life is a gift.  It is precious and it is something that I no longer have.  Don't waste away your time with silly or petty things.  Honor my memory by filling each day with the best things you can.  Be grateful for each precious moment."

As I've pondered more on this today, I've thought about how true that is.  Not only do I need to be grateful for each day here on earth, I need to be grateful for where I live.  So many in the world live in poverty and under constant threat of violence.  What a blessing to live here in the United States with the overall prosperity, safety and security we are blessed with.  What a responsibility we have to share our time, energy and resources with our brothers and sisters throughout our communities and beyond.

Thanks for the reminder, Tiff.  I love you.

-Jer

Friday, August 22, 2014

Feeling Loved

As many of you know, we have been incredibly blessed with the most wonderful laundry fairies.  This fantastic couple does so much more than wash our clothes.  They make us feel so loved in so many ways and with so many acts of kindness.

In spite of the many times they have told us they are glad to help, we sometimes feel a bit sheepish as we drop four large baskets of laundry at their home twice a week.  They always greet us with huge smiles and actually thank us for the opportunity to serve, but it truly amazes us that for over two years they have been such a HUGE help and have sacrificed so much of their time for our family.  The last couple of weeks have been super crazy and we missed two consecutive laundry dates.  Yesterday morning I took over four very full baskets.  They weren't home at the time, so as usual I left them on the front porch.  I kind of wondered if after a week without doing our laundry, maybe they realized what a lot of work it was and maybe they'd be really happy if we just quit bringing it over.  Instead, we got this text from Candice later in the day:

"I was happy to see laundry when I pulled in.  I thought we broke up and nobody told me.  Russ and I are in need of blessings.  We love you guys.  Xoxox"

What an amazing example of Christlike love and putting that love in action through service.  We love you guys, too!  Thank you so much:)

-Jer and Christi

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ingenuity

The other day I asked Xander to go downstairs and bring up the hose for the central vacuum.  It is quite a long hose, and a bit heavy.  Being the bright and creative young man he is, this is how he brought it to me:


-Dad:)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Daddy Dates

The current favorite location for daddy dates among the younger kids is Scheels.  The $1.00 ferris wheel rides are very appealing to both the kids and me:)  Over the past few weeks, Jesi, Sophi and Xander have all had daddy dates (Sophi got to tag along with X-man).  If you're not familiar with it, Scheels is a massive sporting goods store.  It is like a combination of Bass Pro Shops or Cabella's and Sports Authority.  The store in our area has a glass ceiling and a full-size ferris wheel in the middle.  The kids love to ride it!

Here are a few pics:

Looks like Mr. Lincoln couldn't hold Jesi's attention:


Dad didn't fare much better at keeping her entertained:)

Selfies on the ferris wheel:


Sophi wanted pictures of herself with all of the wildlife:



At Wendy's for dinner!

With George Washington:






Learning from President Reagan:

And my personal favorite:

-Jer

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Chilk Recipe

Jessica loves to create things.  One thing she enjoys putting together is unique flavor combinations in a new recipe!  The other day she introduced us to Chilk, so named because the ingredients include CHeese, CHocolate, Crackers and mILK.  Since it was such a delicious success, she wrote down the recipe in case others would like to try it.  Here it is for your enjoyment:



Here it is typed out:

The Chilk recipe

Directions
-get a bowl
-Let's just say you have done the ingredients already.  Then you put in bowl of ingredients in micourwave for 35 seconds then stir.  After that comes the funiest part of all.  Eating it!  Yeah.  Enjoy your dessert/meal!

Ingredeints
-4/4 cup of cheese
-choclate syurp
-1 rizles (Ritz) cracker
-A tiny bit of milk
-1/4 cup of cinnomen
-a marmellow that has been bitten 2 times

My favorite parts are the 4/4 cup of cheese and the bitten marshmallow.  Of course it's 4/4.  She filled a 1/4 cup measuring cup four times!  And how did she determine that the perfect amount of marshmallow required removing two bites before adding to the Chilk?  Serendipity at it's greatest!

We are so lucky to get such delights served to us from time to time, no?

-Jeremy

Thursday, August 14, 2014

He Knows Each Of Us

Last year we had the summer of I Love Lucy.  Just about every night during the kids' summer break we would watch an episode or two of Lucy.  It was tremendously fun to see the kids enjoy a classic show that Christi and I love so much.  We finished up that series earlier this year and then looked for another one to enjoy as a family.  Christi introduced the kids to the Brady Bunch, which they love.  Unfortunately, I can't stomach more than about 3 minutes of that particular show, so while the kids continue to watch it, it hasn't become the family activity Lucy was.

Trying again, Christi introduced them to The Cosby Show.  I hadn't watched much of his TV show when I was younger, but I was a huge fan of Bill Cosby's comedy routines.  I gave the show a shot and we had a winner.  At first we were just watching what was available on TV Land, but then we borrowed the first season from the library and we've been going through the episodes in order.  It's a great family activity.  The kids love the way Cliff Huxtable parents, and I must admit I've learned a few lessons from him.  Just about every night, the kids look up at us with hopeful eyes and ask, "Can we watch a Cosby?"  

Conner had never watched one before last night.  It's pretty difficult to get anything out of a television show when you can't see it or understand any of the words.  Usually he will be in another room listening to books on tape on his iPod or playing a simple Kung Fu game on the computer.  But last night we encouraged him to come be with the family.  Not only would he be around us, he would also be exposed to English, something that, over time, can help with his language acquisition.  

So we went downstairs and put on the next episode of The Cosby Show.  We didn't look for anything specific, we just turned on the next show in order.  We are half way through the second season at this point, and this was the first show Conner had watched with us.  This episode had Stevie Wonder as a guest star.  A blind piano player!  As we talked to Conner about Stevie, he really perked up.  He was so excited.  He earnestly asked a few questions:  "Does he have a wife?  Is she beautiful?"  He was so happy to hear that a blind person was able to have such a fulfilling life.  

Conner often asks questions like these:  "Will I be able to get a job?"  "Will I be able to get married?"  He is so concerned about his future.  I'm not sure what he was exposed to in China, but he is clearly lacking confidence that a blind person can have a rewarding life.  What a tender mercy from our Father in Heaven that the first episode he watched with us had such a fine example of a blind man who was able to not just get by, but to rise to the top of his profession.  It is another witness to me that our Father in Heaven not only knows each of us individually, but is there to guide us, to comfort us and to do so many things for each of us simply because He loves us.

-Jer

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Fix

The last couple of months I have been using youTube more frequently as I have been posting videos to our blog.  Every time I would pull up the youTube home page it would have multiple thumbnails of videos that could be watched.  Until today, these would be filled with "most popular" or "trending now" types of options.  The images on these thumbnails were often not very uplifting or even downright inappropriate.  These thumbnails also offered the option to "subscribe" to this channel or that.  I suddenly had a thought.  I searched for the "Mormon Messages" channel, found it, and subscribed to it.

When I went back to youTube's home page, suddenly the thumbnails were all inspiring and uplifting.  Messages about Christ and His gospel.  What a wonderful change effected with one quick click of the mouse:)

-Jer

Conversation with Jessica

A year ago on our trip to Island Park, Jessica apparently recorded this covert video.  I thought it was cute:)

-Jer


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Timeline

This morning I dropped Taylor and Parker off at the rec center.  They have put a TON of time into basketball practice this summer and they are doing very well.  They are both consistently hitting around 85/100 free throws.  (Both have a high of 89.  Both once got to 89/99 and then missed the last one.  Both were not very happy!)  They are both consistently hitting over 50% of their three point attempts.  Way to go, guys!

When I took them this morning, Sophi wanted to come along.  As they got out of the car we had the following conversation:

Sophi:  "How long will they be there?"

Me:  "90 minutes."

Sophi:  "WHAT?!?!?!?"

Me:  "90 minutes."

Sophi:  "But they will be dead!!!!!!"

Me:  "Sophi, it's 90 minutes, not 90 years."

Sophi:  "Hmm.  Berry interesting."

If you notice a trend that a high percentage of our posts seem to involve Sophi, that's because she says and does about 10 times more things in an average day than any of the rest of us do.  She's sort of like Hammy in Over the Hedge:)

-Jer

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sophi Plays With Mommy's Phone

Sophi loves to play with Christi's phone.  She listens to music, takes pictures and records video.  Here's a very small selection of her photos and recordings.  Enjoy!






















In the second part of the video below (the part where Sophi is singing alone) notice that she switches back and forth between English and Chinese as she sings "Let it Go."  She's seen both versions so many times she has them both memorized.  Well, the English is memorized.  The Chinese is a conglomeration of sounds she remembers and sounds she makes up:)  If you can't watch the entire video, at least watch from 2:30 to 3:30 and enjoy the way she uses her feet to mimic Elsa's hand motions from the movie.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Peas in a Pod


Sophi and Lexi are so unbelievably cute together.  I wish everybody could spend a day just watching the two of them interact.  Reality show, anyone?  A couple of weeks ago I found them playing together in Elli's room:





-Jer

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Scout Camp

Last month Parker had scout camp.  He was only able to attend the first two days, and I was lucky enough to go with him.  They attended the aquatic base on Bear Lake, Utah.  It was an amazingly beautiful setting.  The water is as crystal clear and blue as the Caribbean.   (Unfortunately, it's not quite as warm….)  With the weather as hot as it was that week, we actually went swimming in the lake several times.  It was quite refreshing!

I had such a great time being with Parker.  He finished three merit badges: geocaching, kayaking and discover climbing.  The food was pretty good and they had a great group of scouts and leaders.  I really enjoyed being there with him.  It was a lot of fun to see him rappel for the first time.

Sunset view from the dining hall:

Enjoying the heat:

Excited for the lecture portion of the kayaking merit badge:):

Volleyball star:



 Ready to get wet!

 Up the stairs to the rappelling tower:

 It's a long way down:










It brings me so much joy that both of my teenage boys still like having me come with them on their scout activities.  Love you guys!

-Dad