Friday, March 27, 2015

Disneyland!

Sometimes it takes us awhile to blog significant events.  This is often because there are so many pictures and so much to share that we get overwhelmed at the thought of sitting down for so long to journal that part of our lives.  So I'm going to break up our Disneyland vacation into at least a couple of posts.

Last October over fall break, we decided to make the trek down to Southern California!  What an exciting trip for all of us:)  Elli does not travel well, nor does she do well with crowds, so she stayed with Christi's parents while we were gone.  Thanks, Dean and Larita!  We left on a Saturday and drove to St. George, where we stayed with Christi's sister.  It's always fun to see the cousins.  We arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday, where we checked into our hotel.  We had two rooms, each with two double beds and a hideaway.  They also had a refrigerator and microwave, dishes and a dishwasher, so we were set!  The space was cozy, but sufficient.

We were able to spend time at both Disneyland and Disney's California adventure, and we also spent a day at Huntington beach, playing in the sand and the surf.  It was a fantastic trip and a fun adventure for all of us:)  Here are some pictures and video.


Loaded and ready to go:

Proof that Parker doesn't always look good.

On the tram:

When we first arrived, we went to the desk for assistance with special needs.  They were SO helpful and sweet.  Among other things, they helped us get in to see Elsa and Anna.  All of the characters were amazing with our kids.  They let Lexi and Conner feel their outfits and their faces.  Disneyland is the best!


Taylor and Parker don't look too sad to be with these princesses ;-)

In the Disney Jr. Playhouse:

With Sophia the 1st:


Sophi continues to be convinced that Jake from "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" has a crush on her:)




Conner and Xander with a statue of Mr. Disney himself:

Again, Minnie was so sweet with Conner and let him feel her ears and arms:








Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brave Sophi!

Sophi's new shoes:



Sophi is such a brave girl:)  She tackles the challenges in her life with an indomitable spirit.  I look forward to seeing how she continues to impact the world as she grows up.  WE LOVE YOU, SOPHI!

-Mom and Dad

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Dare You To Find Anything Cuter Than This...

The best part about this is that these two received NO coaching from us.  They were excited about being "twinners" (both  freshly bathed and in braids).  Sophi called out to Christi, "Mom, can you video us?"  This is the result:



So charming!

-Jer

PS.  Can you guess which of these two takes the lead in this sisterly relationship?

PPS.  Dad:  Can you believe these are the same two girls we brought home from China four years ago?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Amazing

This amazing man is an inspiration!  There seems to be no limit to what people can achieve.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sophi's movie review

In case you wondering whether to see the new Cinderella...






Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sophi-isms

Taylor's high school band concert was tonight.  Taylor is the first chair trombone and played very well.  It has been fun to hear his progress through the years.  After we came home, most of the kids were getting ready for bed, so it was just Sophi, Taylor and me in the kitchen.  Both kids were wanting a bedtime snack.  Sophi asked for a glass of milk, which I got for her.  When I set it down in front of her, she said: "I LOVE milk!"

I love to tease the kids, so I asked her, "Do you love milk more, or Taylor more?"  (I know, I know.  What kind of a dad asks such an awful question.  I suppose I should start thinking before I open my mouth!)

Sophi thought for a short second, then responded with a grin, "I love TAYLOR more!"

Taylor quipped:  "Good job, Soph!"

Sophi's grin grew larger and larger and she excitedly asked, "Did I answer the test???"

Yes, Sophi, you passed with flying colors:)

------------------------------

Jessica is one fantastic human being.  She is a joy and a light in our lives.  She has some very unique and quirky ways of interacting with others.  She often wants to communicate through sign language.  Not actual ASL kind of sign language, but her own made up variety.  On her first attempt to explain something this way, it's kind of cute.  When she decides she's not going to use words despite a 5+ minute "failure to communicate," it can get a bit tiresome.  Another way she likes to get her point across is through handwritten notes.  Sometimes these notes are written left to right, top to bottom like normal English.  But if she runs out of room, they may just float around the page wherever she finds room.

This morning I was making lunches.  Jessica was eating breakfast at the bar.  She said, "Today you don't have to ask if I want home or school lunch.  You can just look!"  As she said this, she pointed at the refrigerator, where the school lunch calendar was posted.  I walked over and looked at the calendar.  Today's menu was ravioli.  I wasn't sure whether that meant home or school.  I asked her to clarify.  Again she pointed at the fridge.  No words.

"Jess, I don't understand."

She points down.

"I look at the floor."

She deigns to verbalize.  "Look under the calendar."

I look below the calendar.  Aha!  A handwritten note:

I turn it over:

So I look at her meanu [sic].  I get that the snack is popcorn (no idea what is in the first set of parenthases) and see that it is from last night.  The fruit is mango.  Dessert is girl scout cookies (mint kind).  The drink is a quarter.  And the main dish is...potato chips?  As you look at this menu, you may think, "don't you need something substantial?  A sandwich perhaps?" Well, in addition to Jessica's quirky communication, she has a patently persnickety palate!  Trying to find food she is willing to eat can be quite the chore.  Sandwiches of any kind definitely do not fit the bill.  I asked, "Are potato chips really your main dish?"  She takes the note and points to the long arrow.  I stare blankly.  She points to the long arrow and gives me a very intense glare.  Perhaps an attempt at mind control?  I continue to stare blankly.  Finally I say, "Jess, I don't understand."

Unimpressed with my lower-than-average intelligence, she rolls her eyes and says, "The arrow is going both ways.  That means they are switched.  POPCORN is my main dish!  Two handfuls."  (Now I see what the first set of parentheses says.)  Gotcha.  And potato chips are the snack.  I try to explain that popcorn, girl scout cookies and potato chips don't constitute a very healthy meal.  "Well, I do have mango."  Back and forth we go.  This entire exchange is taking far too many valuable before-school minutes.  I become a bit frustrated, let out a loud sigh, lean back against the counter and slump down with a look of exasperation on my face.

Sophi, who has witnessed the entire conversation from her perch at the bar, smiles sweetly at me and, in her most patronizing-because-I'm-talking-to-a-kindergartner voice says, "Dad.  Where's your happy face?  Let's put a smile on!"

Thanks for the reminder, Soph.  Life does go on!  I can't even remember what ended up in Jesi's lunch, but I'm pretty sure the chips got nixed.

-Jer

PS.  Jen-A little alliteration with your favorite word to get your morning started right ;)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Star!

Taylor always gets out of Sunday dinner clean-up by baking the bread/rolls.  Tonight, Parker asked if he could get out of it too by playing us a song.  Parker is usually so, so shy about playing/singing, so we jumped at the chance--telling him it was a deal if he let us record and share.  I can't believe he said yes!!!  We're proud of you, Park:)

-Christianne

PS.  Loved the way Graci spontaneously went to share the experience with sweet Lexi.  Grace is an AMAZING big sister!!!

Special Kids

Christi and I were asked to speak for a missionary preparation class today.  We shared a message about how working through challenging times can help us grow and develop spiritually.  As part of the presentation we showed this video that Christi put together.  We've posted a version of this before, but this has been updated:


Friday, March 13, 2015

Beautiful Cali

Last night I heard Cali upstairs singing this song over and over so I snuck up to take a little video. To my surprise, she kept singing even when she realized I was there-- a huge feat for our shy girl. I love this beauty of mine and thought this was such a fitting song for her to sing as she is beginning to become a confident young woman. "Take your make up off, Let your hair down, Take a breath. Look into the mirror, at yourself Don't you like you? Cause I like you"  -Christianne


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Courage

The other day I saw a quote that really hit me.  It is from John Wayne:

"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

What a great concept!  I'm not ashamed to let you know that multiple times every day I feel scared to death.  Sometimes it's on an evening when Christi is gone and I have to get the kids dinner, help with homework and get them to bed all on my own.  It may be the thought of having enough resources to feed, clothe, school, and everything else we'll have to provide for our 10 children over the next many years.  Sometimes just the morning alarm clock can trigger a veritable panic attack:)

But for the past couple of weeks, I've thought of this quote.  When these moments hit, I think to myself, "OK, Jer.  Time to saddle up!"  Another lesson I've learned in life is that things usually aren't as dire as they seem.  If I just saddle up and start riding, I can make it through a lot.

The other night, Christi and I watched "The Good Lie,"  a movie about the lost boys of the Sudan.  Seeing the incredible trials that others have gone through is always a good way to re-focus on the blessings in our own lives.  And we truly are blessed.  So when tomorrow's challenges start to scare me, I'll just saddle up and get moving!

-Jeremy

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Find Me

Over two years ago, we were contacted by a filmmaker who was creating a documentary about Chinese adoption. They were interested in showing the backstory of adoption and specifically wanted to follow an adoptee traveling back to visit China. I think it was more than a mere coincidence that we were just getting ready to leave on our trip to adopt Cali and had already planned on bringing Graci along to visit her wonderful foster family. The director of the film, David Peters, specifically wanted to film her "finding place" aka the place where she was abandoned. I didn't know what to think about that at first, but it ended up being one of the most special things I have ever done in my life. Standing there in the place that we knew her biological father had been with her for the last time was something I can't describe, and I felt like I was walking on holy ground. I admit, having cameras following us around for several days was not exactly "my thing" (I'm always self-conscious on camera) but I am SO grateful we took part in this and were able to have those experiences with Graci, as well as our adoption of Cali, beautifully documented by such wonderful people. We have come to know and love each of the families featured in the film and will be forever grateful for such a neat opportunity. "Find Me" Find Me - the documentary will be be making its Utah premier on March 26th at 6:00 p.m. at The District in South Jordan. We will be doing a question/answer session following the film for whoever is interested in staying. If you have ever contemplated adoption, been interested in China's culture, or just want to see a beautiful film about the workings of God in our lives, I think you would love this film. Click HERE to view the trailer.  Tickets are on sale now and you can purchase them HERE.  If you are wanting to come, we'd suggest you buy tickets now, as we are not sure if there will still be tickets available if you wait until that day!  We are not trying to promote our family-- but we ARE trying to promote adoption!  (:

--Christianne

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Princess

A few weeks ago I was at church.  I was talking with a sweet couple that lives up the street from us.  They have three young children of their own.  The mom shared something that brought tears to my eyes.  Their oldest child, a girl about three or four years old, says the cutest thing every time she sees Elli at church:  "There's the Princess!"

I was confused as to why the little girl would think that Elli was a princess.  The mother explained.  Every time this little girl saw Elli, Elli was in a dress, twirling in circles.  Of course she's a princess!  Who else would constantly perform pirouettes?

I was grateful for this little girl's ability to see beyond a lack of sight.  To see beyond loud screeches and pop songs sung during the sacrament.  This little girl saw the princess inside of Elli.  And what a princess she is!









Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spy Kids

Graci is a fantastic big sister.  She plays so many games with her siblings.  She tells stories and plays make-believe and is basically a best friend to Sophi, Lexi, Jesi, and Xander.  They all love her so much.  One of the games that she and Jessica play is "Spy."  Both of these girls tend to be a bit camera shy (Jesi, sadly, is learning that particular trait from Grace:(, so getting footage of them playing this game was quite the feat.  I had to stand in the kitchen and pretend I was talking on my phone while I was actually taking video.  That's why the camera is sometimes at an angle.

My favorite quote is this (starting at about 35 seconds):

Graci:  "J07"

Jessica:  "Copy"

Graci:  "Um, the butterfly is landing."

Jessica:  "K"

Graci:  "That means...help...K?"

AWESOME spy code!

-Jer


Friday, March 6, 2015

Taylor Basketball Pics

It's pretty difficult to get good action shots with your phone, but I tried.  Here are a few shots from this year.  (My favorite picture is the last one where he appears to be flying forward:) Taylor played so well!  He was the leading scorer on his JV team and shot over 50% from the 3-point line.  He worked hard in practice and harder in games.  Way to go!















Nutrition Lesson

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sounds about right

I sat down to my computer this morning and woke it up.  On the screen was an article that Christi had been reading.  It was about special clothes for kids with autism.  I read the first sentence and stopped.  I contemplated.  And then I figured it sounded pretty plausible:

"A study found that mothers of kids with autism have stress levels compared to those of combat soldiers."

An interesting thought.  The stress level that goes along with caring for a child with autism really is off the charts.  And the moms often bear the brunt of the workload.  Thanks, Christi, for always taking such good care of Elli.  For always sending her to school with her hair done up beautifully.  For working so hard to teach her the things she is capable of learning.  I love both of you.

-Jer


Monday, March 2, 2015

Year of the Sheep!

Every Chinese New Year, we gather with other local families who have adopted kids from China and have a little Chinese New Year party.  I think it's a great opportunity for the kids to be around other kids who share similar histories.  This year, Taylor babysat Elli at home so we could enjoy the festivities a little bit more (in the past, one of us has pretty much had to be in the hallway with her the entire time-- she doesn't do well with large crowds.)  Parker had a basketball game and Jesi stayed home-- so we just ended up with six kids.  I had forgotten how easy just having six kids can be!  We had a great night eating yummy Chinese food, visiting, crafting, and doing the annual "Dragon Parade."  Happy Chinese New Year!




 Graci always hides when there's a camera around...


 ...but we were able to catch a little glimpse!





Of Boys and Baking

How did our 6'3", basketball star, top of his class, teddy bear of a son add to his "he's-pretty-much-the-perfect-future-husband-for-your-daughter" resume?  He took up baking!  Like, he bakes.  Really.  Our fifteen-year-old son bakes a batch of whole wheat bread and a batch of white rolls every single Sunday.

A few months ago, his young mens group at church was working on a cooking project.  He was assigned to bake bread.  With Christi's help, Taylor did a great job, but he felt like he had wimped out just a little by getting so much assistance from mom.  So the next week, he decided to prove to himself he could bake on his own.  He made a batch of white bread which turned out fantastic.  As we were all ooh-ing and aah-ing at his delectable creation, a plan began to percolate in his mind.  "Hey Mom and Dad.  Do you think if I bake bread on Sundays, I wouldn't have to help clean up after dinner?"  Of course Christi and I pounced on this opportunity immediately.  A tradition was born!

For a couple of months, he baked three large loaves of white bread each week.  This was fantastic.  Then Christi started us on our "Fit in 6" program and she and I could no longer eat white bread.  I asked if he could make whole wheat bread instead.  He was willing to, but was such a fan of the white bread that he decided to make two batches.  So he made wheat bread and a batch of white rolls.  (Both recipes are from Grandma Rose--thanks Mom!)  Since then, he comes home from church and immediately starts on his baking.  Once in awhile he uses some of the white dough to make cinnamon rolls.  We are spoiled!

Last week Christi gave me an expansive shopping list.  (I told her I was going to Walmart and asked if she needed anything.  Maybe not such a wise question?!?)  Some of the items on the list were baking necessities for Taylor.  As I picked up a jar of yeast, the strangest thing happened.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the short amount of time that many of our kids will still be living under our roof.  I was hit with the realization that in just over three years, our amazing Taylor will graduate high school, and life will never be the same.  Our chipper, ever-smiling, wonderful son will no longer come home from Church on Sundays and bake bread.  Tears sprang to my eyes right there in Walmart.  How will we possibly adjust as our children move out and go on to bigger and better things?

I guess all we can do is enjoy them as much as possible right now.  I sure do love them.  Thanks to all of our children for filling our lives with such priceless experiences every day!

Love,

Dad




Sophi eating anything is just about the cutest picture ever!  This is cinnamon roll frosting:)





Sophi, with a bit of a 'batting-her-eyelashes' type of feel:  "Can't I take a picture with my big brother?"  Of course you can, Soph!