Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gotcha

I love the quote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”  The past two days have been filled with those moments for me!  Yesterday morning at 10:00, we finally met our Conner.  It has been over two years since we first saw his face in a video taken by another adoptive parent visiting his orphanage.  By the time I was done watching the video, I had tears streaming down my face and had already dialed Jeremy’s number to tell him that I was pretty sure we had a son in China.  (:  My feelings about whether or not he was right for our family and whether our family was right for him have been all over the place since that moment.  I have had to remind myself many times of how I felt when I first saw that video because sometimes, honestly, adding one more just didn't seem like the right thing and the thought completely overwhelmed me.

After spending the last two days with this young man, I can honestly say that I KNOW that we were meant for each other. (: (: (:   And it’s a good thing too, because at about 10:30 this morning, he officially became Conner Allen Green.   Our son, our brother-- your grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. 

He is absolutely precious.

We have learned so much about this sweet boy over the past two days.  First of all, we have learned that his mother is smitten with him. (:   Second, we have learned that he is absolutely positively THRILLED to be part of a family.  I can’t count how many times he has said “I love you, Mama,” or “I love you, Baba,” or “I love you, (insert Taylor, Parker, Graci or Cali).”  And we certainly can’t count the number of hugs and kisses he has given us, because they are constant.  I mean, it’s in the hundreds for sure.  He is the most affectionate guy I have ever known.  CONSTANT affection.  (This has proven to be a bit of a struggle for a Daddy that does like some personal space once in a while.)  (;  He has the most PERFECT smile that just lights up his whole face.  He is so, so happy.   So happy.  I LOVE IT.

Conner is very smart.  His ayi (nanny) pulled out a braille book when I asked if he could read.  She handed it to him and he proceeded to read faster than most people can read print.  As he read the book and was talking so fast, it was pointed out that his mouth can’t keep up with his fingers.  I feel  SO bad that he is going to have to learn a different braille system (English and Chinese braille are not the same) but I have no doubt that he will be able to do it quickly.  He absolutely soaks things up.  Today he has been dazzling us with his spelling.  I will say something like, “Cali is behind us,” and he will say, “behind—b-e-h-i-n-d—behind,” just like he’s in a spelling bee.  It’s so cute.  I just said to Jeremy, “Makes you wonder, huh?”  Conner, hearing the word ‘wonder’ said to himself , “Wonderful.  It is wonderful.”  He keeps trying out the phrases he obviously learned at school.  I think he will be picking up English very quickly.  (:

The night before we met Conner, our guide told us she had a surprise for us.  It was a newspaper article that had been published that day (Sunday) about Conner.  It talked about what a gifted piano player he was and all of the competitions he had excelled in.  It spoke of how he was the orphanage “superstar” and how some top Chinese adoption officials have given him special attention because of his talent.  It told a little bit about his life in the orphanage and how he was going to be adopted by a family where both the mom and dad were accomplished piano players and how they had a piano waiting at home for him.  It was so neat.  Today when we were meeting with the orphanage director, she asked if we would be ok with the media being there on Thursday when we visited the orphanage.  Apparently, both the TV and newspaper want to do a story on his adoption.  They were worried that we would not be ok with the cameras.  Jer and I kind of laughed at that, being as how we've had our share of cameras in the past couple of years.  (:  So of course, we said yes—but asked if we could please get a DVD of the segment.  They promised that they would send us two—one for us and one for Conner.  What a special souvenir that will be for him!!!  They also gave us many mementos of his life in the orphanage.  We received a scrapbook, professional pictures, books, and other special things.  His foster mom sent him two big bags of his favorite snacks.  We were told she couldn't stop crying when she said goodbye.  Absolutely breaks my heart.  They also gave us several very nice pieces of sheet music from his piano teacher.  Apparently, he has been a student of a very prestigious music professor who loves him very, very much.  This professor will be doing a concert in Washington this July, and we were invited to bring Conner if  possible.  We are crossing our fingers that we can somehow make that work as it is obvious how much his teacher adores him and would love to see him again.

Speaking of the piano, there is a very nice one here in the lobby of our hotel.  We were so excited to finally hear Conner play, but when we went over to it we were told that it could not be played.  It was for decoration.  Ha.  I had a hard time taking no for an answer and kept pushing it to no avail.  Later I went and asked to talk to someone who spoke English.  I explained how we had adopted Conner earlier that day and had been waiting for two years to hear him play the piano.  I asked if there was any way they would let him play just one song.  The man agreed to let him play two.  (:  Oh my goodness, it was so incredible.  He would be considered a very good pianist if he could see, but knowing that he is completely blind made it all the more impressive and beautiful.  I can’t wait for him to share his talent back home.  I have no doubt that he will touch many people’s lives with his beautiful music.

Last night we took Conner swimming in the hotel pool.  He was such a good sport.  He seemed so nervous, so I asked if he had ever been swimming and he said he hadn't.  It is quite a beautiful thing to be part of so many “firsts” even though he is thirteen years old.   He is very easy going in many ways.  He LOVES to talk and ask questions (so grateful for our guide and for Graci and Cali who can interpret) and always wants to know exactly what’s going on, but he is willing to do whatever we do, eat whatever we eat, etc.  Yesterday he asked what we eat for breakfast in America.  I started to laugh, knowing how hard it has been for all of my Chinese kids to adjust to American breakfast—especially because there are many days when we just have cold cereal.  I told our guide to tell him what we had and that I was sorry it wasn't the kind of breakfast he was used to and he just smiled and told the guide to tell us, “It’s ok.  No worries.”  When he asked what our family liked to do, Jeremy mentioned we like to hike and to swim.  He told our guide to tell us it was ok that he couldn't do those things because he would learn.  He said to tell us he will learn whatever we want him to do.  He is such a gem.

I am so grateful for so many things right now.  I’m so grateful for everyone who made it possible for us to get into our new home.  It has already blessed our lives tremendously and now I am seeing how much it will bless Conner’s life.  I am getting a sense of his spirit and I know that he is worth every moment that was spent on that house.  Thank you again and again and again to everyone who was involved in that.  I am grateful for Leslie, Ty and Laura, and Mom and Dad for taking care of our other sweet kids while we are gone.  I know it is a tremendous task and I am just so grateful that I don’t need to worry about them right now because they are in such good hands.  I am so grateful for a husband with such a generous, sensitive heart who would be open to bringing another sweet child of God into our family.  Lest I have painted the picture that it is easy, I will assure you that it’s not.  Conner is worth every sacrifice and struggle, and there are many.  I am grateful for the absolutely amazing travel companions we have in Taylor, Parker, Graci and Cali.  They have been wonderful.  Adoption trips can have fun moments—but they are not vacations.  There is a lot of work, jet lag, not-so-great food, boring times, sacrifices, etc.  We are so blessed to have kids who have been stellar through it all.  I am grateful for America—for the many, many, many wonderful things about it that we so often take for granted.   I am grateful for China.  There is much to love here.  I am grateful that it has given me seven beautiful, amazing children.  It has given me perspective.  It has humbled me and made me aware of how fortunate I am. 

Most of all, I am grateful for my Heavenly Father.  He has given me the perfect trials and blessings I need to make me turn to Him.  I adore my Savior and am so blessed to know Him.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and can bring us so much joy.  I know because of Him, all of my children will someday have all that is lost in this life restored to them again.  Eyes will see, legs will walk, arms will hold.  What more could I ever ask for?


Happy Adoption Day, Conner Green!  I love you!!!













Monday, April 21, 2014

The big day!

It's 8:15 a.m. on Monday morning here in Wuhan, China.  We left Xi'an late last night after some really great experiences, and we'll do some more travelog type posts soon, but right now we just wanted to share our feelings on this blessed morning.  I just got off the phone with my brother, Tyler.  He and his wife have been taking care of Elli while we're gone.  He pointed out that we'll be getting Conner on Easter.  Not Easter where we are, but Easter where we live.  I really loved thinking of that.  What better day to start anew?  What better day to come into a new family?  What better day to add a precious child of God to our wonderful group of kids?  Such beautiful timing!

Last night as we went to bed, Christi and I were both feeling very nervous.  What a responsibility to add another child.  How are we going to meet his needs during this trip and during the next many months when he doesn't speak English?  How do you entertain a young man who can't see?  Why didn't we tune our piano before we left?  Lots of silly, oh-so-important questions.  We prayed and went to bed feeling a bit uneasy.  (I'm sure this was impacted by the crazy schedule and lack of sleep we've had over the past 72 hours.)  But we awoke this morning refreshed and at peace.  We talked about how strongly Christi has felt that Conner will be a tremendous influence for good in our family.  We talked about how everyone who has met him has spoken of his sweet demeanor and spirit.  We talked about some possible ways to get him the music training he will desire.  And we talked about how much we already love this young man who we will meet in about two hours.

We are grateful, humbled and excited to be where we are.  As my father-in-law was leaving with the younger kids on Wednesday I told him that it is a privelege to be called to such a work.  It is indeed a privilege.  We are indeed blessed.  We are SO excited to go get Conner!  We feel your prayers on our behalf.  Thank you!!!

As we think of each of our amazing kids, we both feel so blessed to have been given stewardship over them for a short time in this life.  We are so grateful for the Savior's atonement, and what that means to each of them.  The miracle of the resurrection and of a perfected body is unfathomable.  The miracle of His saving grace is even more so.  We love Him and are grateful that because of Him, we can live eternally with our Father in Heaven and with our beautiful family.



-  

 Jeremy and Christianne

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is it possible to go on a 28 hour trip and not have something go wrong?

Why would losing a piece of luggage along the way be a good thing?  How can an aching back actually help you have a better experience on a 13-hour plane ride?  What do you do when you forgot to book a hotel room in the first city you're staying in?  Tune in tomorrow for the answers to these and other burning questions.  Right now it's exactly 3AM and we just got the kids down to bed.  Talk to you soon!

-Jeremy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Journey Begins

We are sitting on the plane in Los Angeles. We have a 13 hour flight ahead of us but are truly feeling grateful.  Air China was nice enough to put us in bulkhead seats near the restroom which will make things substantially easier for Cali.  But not only is it nice for Cali, I have legroom like I've never had on a flight before.  Yay!!!

We are all so excited.  We're hoping to get some sleep on this flight.  Christi and I each got less than an hour and a half last night and we're pretty beat.  Things were actually going fairly well getting ready yesterday, but then we had a catastrophe.  Jesi, Xander, Lexi and Sophi were gone with Grandma and Grandpa Nelson.  Cali, Graci, Taylor and Parker were all still up around 10:30pm and packing.  All of the sudden Elli started screaming in her bedroom.  Usually she sleeps very well, so we were surprised to hear her.  Parker went to check on things and returned with a sad report:  "Elli threw up everywhere!"

Poor little girl was laying in it and it was covering her face.  She was so sad:(  Christi and I have a developed a pretty good system over the years.  When Elli gets really messy, Christi cleans Elli and I clean the clothing, bedding or whatever has solid matter on it.  It works out well as each of us prefers our job to the other person's.  So Christi put Elli in the bath.  I scrubbed the sheets and sanitized the rubber sheet.  We worked hard for 30 minutes or so and got things to the point that Elli could get back to bed.  Christi gently helped her back downstairs, tucked her in, and...Elli promptly threw up all over everything once again!  We repeated the entire procedure.  

This time Elli seemed to be a bit more settled, so we tried to put her back downstairs in her bed.  Usually Elle is very good about going to bed, but that room had traumatized her at this point and she really faught us.  Finally Christi told her that she would stay with her for awhile and Elli seemed to be ok.  Eventually she fell asleep and did well the rest of the night.

Parker asked me why I thought something like this would happen at the worst possible time.  I told him I wasn't sure but that there were likely lessons we could learn from it.  (Taylor actually complimented me on how calmly and peacefully I handled the situation.  Apparently I've had several opportunities to learn lessons in patience over the last few years!)

Anyway, the whole thing really threw us off our schedule.  But despite it all, we finished getting ready, slept for 75 minutes and made our flight.  Here we come Conner!  We love you!!!

-Jer

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!