Sophi's annual request for her birthday is Dad's Apple Betty. This is a recipe that my Grandma Green and then my mom would make. It is a wonderfully sweet Apple Crisp. It's full of apples and brown sugar and oatmeal and cinnamon. What's not to love?
As usual, she wanted an Apple Betty birthday cake this year. As usual, Dad acquiesced. As usual, she wanted pictures taken in lots of different poses:
A month or so ago I took most of the kids to see Maleficent. (Loved it, btw!) Xander saw a movie poster and had to pose:
In keeping with his tough guy persona, our X-man shook off a double barreled soccer injury like it was nothing:
He took a ball right to the nose!
In more upbeat soccer news, X-man scored his first soccer goal a few weeks ago. We were so proud of him. When the average score for them team this season was between 0 and 1, a single goal is a huge deal. Way to go Xander Commander:)
Xander and I had the opportunity to build a pinewood derby car for his race in September. We worked hard and got a lot of help from Taylor and Parker, who found some joy in reliving the experiences they had had as younger boys. We started with a block of wood and created a pretty darn good looking car:). He won "Best of Show" for how it looked. It raced well enough to place second in several heats, but he didn't place overall. We sure had a fun time working together!!!
Jessica is wonderful! She has a unique perspective on most things in the world. She is bright and talented and brings so much joy into our lives. As I was doing some math homework with her, I was very impressed. It's been awhile since I've helped her with math, and I can see why. She is very good at it! Her mind clicks quickly and grasps concepts well. For this assignment, she was working on simple fractions with variables. It was new to her and she needed some guidance.
We went through most of the problems. She continued to do very well. Then we got to a problem that showed how creative and yet unique are the processes that go on in her head.
Problem: Windy Bay is 48 miles away. Make up your own fraction word problem with multiplication. Be sure to include a non-unit fraction. (Jess had to educate me on the definition of a non-unit fraction. Once again, I was impressed.)
I helped her create a problem: When you are 6/8 of the way there, how many _____ (I was going to finish this with "miles have you come?" But I wanted her to determine the units for herself. So I verbalized it: "When you are 6/8 of the way there, how many…." Blank stare. I repeated: "When you are 6/8 of the way there, how many…." Again, I waited for her to come up with the correct unit. Again a blank stare. Me again: "When you are 6/8 of the way there, how many…." Pause. Pause. "Cats?"
Jessica: "What?!? I was thinking of Halloween!"
One of many notes that make my life a rich symphony on a daily basis.
A dear friend of mine texted yesterday wanting to make sure we were still alive, given that there had been no new blog posts for a couple of weeks. Thanks for the encouragement, Mike!
Conversations with kids:
Sophi: "I'm going to be a ninja for Halloween. I LOVE ninjas! [pause] What's a ninja?"
Me: "You love ninjas, but you don't know what they are?"
Sophi, after a moment of reflection: "I know they have light sabers!"
I walked into Parker's closet a couple of days ago and noticed something on the wall about 6 inches above the floor. I looked more closely and it was a pin he had received for making the honor roll at school. A pin. Stuck into the drywall. Six inches above the floor.
Me: "Whose pin is this?"
Me: "What made you think it was a good idea to stick it into the wall?"
Parker: "I KNOW it was a good idea. I made the honor roll!"
Christi and I are talking in my office and Sophi, as usual, is Christi's sidekick. Soph follows Christi pretty much everywhere. Out of the blue Sophi asks, "How does Jesus build us?" This opens up a sweet, if very general, conversation about our bodies and where they come from. I love the faith in that simple question. Sophi knows that God created the world and that He has a love for and interest in each of us. She know that He is aware of her body and that He oversaw the creation of it. She accepts the challenges that come along with her particular special needs and loves the Lord for the things He has given her, rather than be frustrated at the apparent obstacles that may not have been removed from her path.
I love that girl. She brings so much joy to our home.
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!
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:)
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.
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:)
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:
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:
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!
-4/4 cup of cheese
-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?
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.
When we fell in love 15 years ago, we started down a path that has been challenging, exhausting, and breathtakingly beautiful. Here we chronicle the blessings and stressings of parenting some pretty amazing children. We think they're the perfect travel companions as we look forward to the next fork in the road. Welcome to our journey.
Grab a Button!
Jeremy and Christianne
Our oldest by birth, he's the voracious reader, BYU fan, spiritual giant, math whiz, sports nut, huge-hearted ray of sunshine!
The red-headed social butterfly, he's our all-star athlete, top student, outdoor-loving, spunky second-born, with a heart of pure gold!
Jessica Anne "Jesi"--10
Our little princess with the big smile, Jesi loves dress-ups and tea parties, reading, playing with her siblings, and snuggling. She sparkles!
Jacob Michael-- 6/8/2004
Little one of heavenly birth, born too soon to bloom on earth. You have taught us so much--we love you, Jacob!
Emily Anne "Emmy"--9/28/2005
Emily's exquisite little hands and feet have left their mark in this world. Her body was tiny, but her spirit enormous. We miss her!
Elizabeth Mei "Elli"--9
Elli's world may be dark, but she's the light of our lives! Lover of music, chocolate, and Mommy's arms, she brings joy to all who know her!!
Gracelin Kate "Graci"--15
Showing true grace throughout her battles with heart disease and pulmonary hypertension, our Gracester is loved by everyone! She's smart, gorgeous, friendly, and has faith to move mountains!
Alexander Philip "Xander"--8
With a spunk and smile that could outmatch anyone's, our Xander has not let Cloves Syndrome get the best of him. Adopted at age 4 from China, he loves having a family, eating junk-food, and playing with his many friends!
Alexis Li "Lexi"--9
Meet the friendliest girl on the planet! Blind from birth, Lexi amazes all of us with her braille skills, determination, talents, but mosly by the way she spends her days SMILING. She is an angel in every way. We are thrilled to have our darling daughter home three years from China!!
Sophia Breanne "Sophi"--5
Her eyes called out to us from half-way around the world. Little Sophi is beautiful, smart, and coy. She can do amazing things with her little toes and we think she's about the cutest thing on the planet! Welcome home, baby girl!
Calais Rose "Cali"--13
Charming Cali joined our family in December of 2012. This girl is beautiful both inside and out. Born with spina bifida, Cali is confined to a wheelchair, but that does not keep her from enjoying life to the fullest. She is smart, opinionated, strong, and lovely in every way.
Conner Allen-- 13
Meet our newest addition! Wu Jia Xia is from Wuhan City in China. Blind from birth, he will blow you away with his incredible talent on the piano. More importantly, we are told he is sweet, compassionate, hard working and ready for a FAMILY of his own. We can't wait to get our arms around you, Conner!