Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Off We Go.........

Finally we can go and get Conner!  It's been so long and we've had so many changes along the way.  But we leave our home at 6AM tomorrow morning to start our journey.  We'll make sure to keep you posted as we go.  Prayers and positive thoughts in our direction would be much appreciated:)

I'm utterly exhausted, and I'm not even packed yet.  But I had a neat experience today.  I was getting my hair cut and the stylist was trying to make small talk.  She asked if had plans for Easter and that opened up a discussion about our family.  She was touched by our story and we talked quite a bit.  At one point I said, "It's pretty crazy all the time, but I wouldn't have it any other way."  As I said it, I realized that I meant it with all my heart.  I truly wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you, Christianne, Taylor, Parker, Jesi, Elli, Graci, Xander, Lexi, Sophi, Cali and Conner for making my life what it is.  I love you all!

-Dad

Monday, April 14, 2014

Daddy Date

Once a month or so I go out of town overnight for work.  I have a few accounts that are a couple hundred miles from our home, so I pack up and make a road trip.  During the summer I always try to take some of the kids with me on these journeys.  Since this week is spring break, I decided to take Jesi and Xander with me.

We set out from our home fairly early this morning and headed south to Nephi, UT.  I called on a doctor there and then we meandered our way to the thriving metropolis of Delta, UT.  (Actually, Delta has the unfortunate distinction of being the location of one of the Japanese American Internment Camps during World War II.)  We then sauntered down to Fillmore and Beaver and finally winded up in beautiful Cedar City, UT.  Cedar has a lot of red rock cliffs surounding it.  It's quite beautiful.  My patient kids endured an eight-hour trip with me and were still going strong.  We did have a stop at a McDonald's with a playplace as well as a short respite at a local park.  But all in all I was quite impressed with them.

We pulled into our hotel about 5:45 pm and headed immediately to the pool.  (Jesi just came over to observe me.  After a couple of minutes she gave me some instrutction with just the slightest bit of disgust in her voice:  "Dad...keep your hands on the home row!"  And she gently moved my fingers to the appropriate keys.)  We had fun in the pool and the hot tub, showered and changed and went to Wingers for dinner.  Xander LOVED their original wings.  We had to hurry out of the restaurant to run over and catch the movie "RIO 2" in the nearby theater.  We all enjoyed the beautiful spectacle it was.

Finally, since we hadn't had time for dessert before, we stopped back at Winger's after the movie and ordered a small order of wings for Xander (just for Xander, wink, wink), an Asphalt Pie (mint chocolate chip ice cream on an oreo crust with carmel sauce and whipped cream topping!) for Jesi and me to share and an order of fried Twinkies for Xander.  Yeah, I'm a great dad!

I have had a great time with these two.  I'm so grateful for the many opportunities I've had over the years to spend time with just one or two or three at a time.  And I'm so grateful for all nine...soon to be 10!!!

-Jer

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

He just wants a family.

I just got done blogging about Costa Rica.  Reflecting on our trip put me in the happiest mood.  Then I checked email and was reminded of something that took my carefree heart and made it heavy.

His name is Cameron.

Actually, his name is whatever you want it to be.  "Cameron" was just assigned to him so his Chinese name wouldn't be shared.

He desperately wants a family and it is breaking our hearts.  Our friend, Mike, who was with us during Cali's adoption, has started a new organization, FindMe International.  One of their purposes is to make videos of some of the kids in China so that prospective families can feel like they are getting more information than they would if they just had a picture.  Mike recently took this video of Cameron.  Please watch!

Now here comes the super hard part.  Cameron's 14th birthday is June 8.  Which means that if he is not adopted by then, he will "age out" of the system.  There is not much time, but we believe in miracles.  We are starting TODAY to include him in every prayer.  We are also praying that somewhere out there, a mother and father will view this video and let Cameron find his way into their hearts.  His orphanage has waived their fee, which cuts the cost of his adoption by over $5,000!  They really care about him and desperately want him to have a family.  Mike spoke to the director a few days ago and she said, "I can feel his feelings from him.  He doesn't say it, but he has more feelings than others to have a family."  Breaks my heart.

In just over a week from now, our family will be at his orphanage in Xi'an.  Wouldn't it be the most INCREDIBLE THING IN THE WORLD if we could tell him in person that a family has come forward for him????  Wouldn't it be amazing to catch this on film for his new family?  Miracles CAN happen!!!  Please consider sharing this information and joining us in prayer.

Here is the info we have on him:

 "Cameron ONLY HAS UNTIL 6-8-2014 UNTIL HE IS TOO OLD TO BE ADOPTED. He is interested in studying. He is good at Chinese and Math. He is pleasant kid with a great smile. His smile turns solemn when asked about a family. He wants a mother and father so badly. According to the orphanage adoption director Cameron had heart surgery that was successful. However, he still struggles with circulatory problems that can cause blue skin and coldness. He really needs a mom and dad to love and care for him."



Costa Rica


lobby of Hotel Kokoro

We just got back from the most HEAVENLY vacation!
Jeremy had an excellent year at work and won the President's Circle Award.  He also won what our kids call "Guy of the District."  Between these two awards, our entire vacation, including the extra few days we spent by ourselves, was paid for.  WOO HOO!!!

It had been over two years since we had gotten away by ourselves, and it felt fabulous.  We left our kids in the very good care of my niece, Bethany, for the first few days and then with Jeremy's sister, Jenny.  It was hard to leave them, but knowing they were in good hands made the trip so much more enjoyable.  We were gone a total of NINE exquisitely wonderful days.  Big, contented sigh.  (:

As it turns out, Costa Rica has a wet season and a dry season.  We were there during dry season, which meant that when we got off the plane, it looked like we were in Afghanistan.  Luckily for us, we had spoken with some friends prior to the trip who warned us of this and told us to be sure to spend some time in the rainforest where it is GREEN.  We drove up to the most darling little town near Lake Arenal.  It is next to a huge volcano and was breathtakingly beautiful.  We stayed at Hotel Kokoro, which is now one of my top favorite places to stay.  We had our own quaint little bungalow and awoke every morning to the sounds of tropical birds.  

We did so many fun things on our trip, but the highlight for both of us was zip lining over the rainforest.   We went on a series of eight zip lines to get down the mountain, some of which were over a half a mile long.  It was among the most breathtakingly beautiful sights I have ever seen.   There are really no words to describe it.  The zip lining itself was exhilarating, but the highlight was the scenery.  Unbelievable.

During those three days we had alone, we managed to go zip lining, rappelling down waterfalls, soaking in hot springs, and white water rafting.  This is in addition to plenty of relaxing, beautiful drives, some shopping, and walking around the cute little town La Fortuna.

On Sunday we left the rainforest and met up with the rest of the award recipients from Bayer.  I was worried about having to spend so much time with Jeremy's colleagues because I didn't really know any of them very well, but as it turns out, we had a great time with them and I feel like I have new friends. (:  We were fortunate to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel, which is the premier resort in Costa Rica.  It was hands down the nicest place we've ever stayed.  The staff anticipated every need and was so friendly and kind.  We had access to beautiful beaches.  The trip included "excursions" that we could choose.  We went on a relaxing catamaran tour, where we snorkeled and saw tons of dolphins.  We had a couples massage (our first time ever-- LOVED it), went four-wheeling, and spent some time on paddle boards and kayaks.  


It was a dream.


Things I don't want to forget:

Jeremy's favorite place to get Chalupas
The longest 90 minute drive we've ever been on
Lake Arenal
Paying $20 to get into the National Park (inside joke)
ziplines
Pura Vida
the quaint little church at La Fortuna
watching how brown sugar is made
taking the plunge into the water hole on our rappelling adventure
Skittles
the hot springs
Frasier
white water rafting
rice and beans
the shades on our bungalow
monkeys
falling asleep on the catarman
couples massage
Jeremy on the paddle boards
seeing the sunset from the kayaks
water volleyball
The Utah group heading up the dancing
raiding the snack bar
dolphins and rays
lots of pina coladas
listening to the waves at night

Tonight I took out one of my shirts from my suitcase that I had only worn for a couple of hours and put it on.  It still smelled like Costa Rica.  Not sure how to describe the wonderful smell, but I went up to hug Jeremy and he took a deep whiff of it and about melted.  (:

Thank you, Jeremy, for working so hard and earning this most lovely trip.  
Thank you, Jenny, Bethany and Charity for your amazing help with the kids -- we love you!!!



Hotel Kokoro

We were EXHAUSTED by the time we arrived!

View of the bungalows
On our porch, Hotel Kokoro

Arenal volcano

Getting ready to zip line

Riding the tram to the top of the zip lines

Overlooking Lake Arenal



The trainer zip line

Practicing for the bigger zip lines





I loved these red flowers!

We had some of the yummiest food!

Getting ready to rappel



Watching them make brown sugar




Getting ready to leave Hotel Kokoro  ):

Arrived at the Four Seasons

Looking outside our window




On the catamaran-- we LOVED the afternoon spent here

Kayaking 




With Jeremy's co-worker, Sarah, and her husband Brady

We saw lots of monkeys!

We saw HUNDREDS of crabs on the beach at night
Jeremy had to take one last dip in the ocean


Happiness!




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sophisms

Last night I took Parker to football practice and ran some errands.  I told Christi I would be home by 6:00pm.  As often happens, things took longer than planned, and I didn't get home until about 6:30.  Since I was so late, Christi had started dinner without me.  Partway through the meal, Sophi asked where I was.  Christi told her, "He must have gotten lost.  He was supposed to be home at 6:00.

Sophi replied, in her precocious and straightforward way, "Mom, I think you need to marry a new guy!"

Thanks, Soph!

-------

This morning we were talking about how much fun the kids had with Aunt Jenny while we were gone.  (A post on our trip to Costa Rica is coming soon!)  I said to Soph, "Would it be fun next summer if maybe you and Jesi and Lexi got on an airplane and went to see Jenny in Oregon?  You could stay at her house for a few days."  Sophi screwed up her face in a disgusted look and said, "But you have sit still and be quiet on an airplane!"  Leave it to her to see the big picture;)

-Jer


Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Elli Moment

Today I was driving with Elli.  A radio advertisement began and a child's voice came on.  "Mom, do you known where my shoes are?"  

A moment later Elli's voice came from the back seat:

"Dad, do you know where my socks are?"

Sweet Elli.  How much do you understand in there?  We love you!

-Dad

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Science Success

Once again, Taylor is at the state science fair competition.  It's held every year on BYU campus, and it seems like just about every year Taylor is there.  This is certainly a testament to his strong science aptitude and his ability to communicate.  But it is just as strong a testament to the dedication of his devoted mother.  Way to go Christi! Doing a brief calculation in my head, I estimate that my relative contribution to the combined 467 science projects our family has completed over the past several years is approximately 2.06%.  (On the other hand, Christi's participation in the boys' Star and Life ranks in scouting is approximately the same number:).

Graci and Parker have also done well with their projects over the years, always advancing at least to the school-wide level.  Parker actually took first place in his division at the state level last year.

Despite the large number of science projects our family has already completed, we are still less than half way through.  But that's ok, cuz they're Christi's favorite thing to do!

-Jer

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trolls

I'm sure all of you with kids are aware of how challenging it can be to help your children keep their rooms clean.  It's difficult for kids to find the motivation or the belief that cleanliness is an important thing.  Many of you know what it's like to have a bedroom shared by two young girls.  One age nine, one age five.  It's a pretty tough prospect to ensure that the rate at which things are put away exceeds the rate at which they are strewn around the room.

Now imagine if the nine-year-old was blind and the five-year-old had no arms.  Entropy defined!  That's the situation in Lexi's and Sophi's room.  Christi will spend a couple of hours deep cleaning it with them. Graci, Cali and Jess will help get everything picked up.  No matter how clean it gets, you can guarantee that 24 hours later (at the LONGEST) there will be about eight million items scattered about the floor.  

There is always lots of doll stufff.  Often cereal or crackers or something edible and slowly crumbleable.  We have this container of craft beads that for some ridiculous reason we have never moved out of their room that gets knocked over at least once a week.  Every so often this tips over and scatters literally hundreds of beads around the floor.  It is virtually impossible for Lex and Soph to clean these themselves.  Pillows, blankets and stuffed animals from the beds are common as well.  (Being a man, I still don't understand the necessity of 18 decorative pillows on a bed, but hey, like I said, I'm just a man...;)

Probably the hardest thing about this situation is how challenging it is for Lexi to navigate her room when it's in this state.  Particularly when she wakes up in the night to use the bathroom.  She groggily stumbles through a variable and veritable obstacle course.  When we tuck them in at night, Christi and I try to at least clear a path from Lexi's bunk bed ladder to the door of their room in hopes that our sweet Lex can make it out unimpeded.  

Last night after the girls were already asleep, Christi called out to me, 'Look in here!"  I peeked in the room and saw rocks all over the floor.  Like, well over a hundred of them.  1/2 inch to 1 inch diameter rocks.  All over.  What?!?  We cleaned them all up and made sure Lexi could get out of the room without stepping on something painful.  

The next morning I asked, "Who put the rocks on the floor in your room?"

Both girls got BIG smiles on their faces and said, "We did!!!" with great gusto.

"Where did you get them?"

From the rocks at the bottom of the deck stairs."  (We have a nice gravel path that leads from these stairs to the grass in the back yard.)

Me, obviously not in touch with little-girl logic, "Why did you spread them all over your floor?"

Another big round of grins:  "We were playing they were trolls!"

Forunately I had seen Frozen and therefore understood this concept.  What cute little girls.  We had a small lesson about leaving the gravel where it's supposed to be:)

-Dad

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blind leading the blind...

Lexi loves to help out around the house.  Her lack of sight makes some tasks more challenging, so we are often looking for ways to include her in chores and other ways to help.  The other day we were all sitting down to dinner.  Elli was down in her room.  I asked, "Lexi, would you like to go get Elli and bring her to dinner?"  Keep in mind that when Elli doesn't want to come, even our strong teenage boys have a hard time getting her upstairs.  Without hesitation, Lexi said she would help.  With her cute and unique "excited walk" she headed downstairs.

Several minutes later, Lexi walks into the kitchen with her hands on Elli's shoulders, guiding Elli toward the dinner table.  (Fortunately Elli was feeling like coming up that day! :)  I was so proud of our Lex.  Always willing to take on any challenge, including being the "sighted guide" for her very disabled sister. Way to go, Lexi!

-Jer

"Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision."
-Stevie Wonder

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Valentine's Party

I was fortunate enough to be able to volunteer for Xander's and Jessica's class Valentine's day parties at school.  At each party I was in charge of a station that a few kids at a time would rotate through.  For Xander, I led a small relay race.  The first racer on each team would put a piece of paper with a heart on it on the ground.  They would then step on the paper with both feet.  The then placed a second piece of heart paper in front or them and stepped on the second paper.  Finally they would reach back, pick up the first paper and place it in front of them again.  In this way they slowly moved down the hallway and then back.  The kids had fun, although the papers were pretty hashed by the time we rotated to the fifth group.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to get any pictures.

For Jessica's class I led a "Minute To Win It" station.  The tasks that had to be done were:
-move an Oreo cookie from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands.
-Eat a piece of licorice without hands
-Move 10 Sweethearts into a cup using only a straw
-Stack 10 sweetheart into a tower
It was a fun station and provided plenty of laughs.  Jesi did a good job and won a couple of the events in her group:












-Jeremy