Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lots of Teenagers!

We have a lot of teenagers.  Six, to be exact.  Five of them are 16 or older.  All five of these were on dates last weekend.  How fun is that!  They really have great friends.  Cali went to the Herriman High prom and the rest of them went to Providence Hall Sadie's.  The highlight of these dates was Conner's first time being asked to a girl's choice dance.  Robyn, a fantastic girl our family loves, asked him to the Disney-themed dance.  They went in the same group as Parker and his date.  Conner and Robyn were lost boys, Parker and his date were Peter Pan and Wendy.  Fun night!

Here is Conner's date asking him:


And here is Conner saying "Yes!"





















Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Thanks to John Hasebi at Citywide Home Loans.  (He helped us with the mortgage on our new home and he is FANTASTIC to work with!)  He periodically buys out an entire first-run movie and invites his clients to attend.  We were able to take our whole group to see Beauty and the Beast last night.  What a great show!  The kids all loved it.  Parker, in particular, was pining after Emma Watson.  Poor guy, he SO wishes he had been born a few years earlier and had been the redhead cast as Ron Weasley;).

A couple of pictures from a great night out with the family:



Monday, March 20, 2017

Solo Hikes

I think I've documented here how much I love to hike.  The scenery, the views, the exhilaration of making it to places that few people go.  All of these things make me truly grateful to live in Utah and have so many opportunities to get out into nature.  Last September during the week of my birthday, Christi was sweet enough to take care of everything on the home front while I went on a monster hike.  I was all by myself, which I love.  The silence and the grandeur are amazing.

For many years, the boys and I (plus Christi or my brother Tyler or Christi's brothers Matt and Danny) have hiked into the Lone Peak Wilderness and camped at a serene spot near a river.  We love this opportunity every year.  As I've looked at maps of the surrounding area, I've long had a desire to visit Lake Hardy.  We start our annual hike at about 5500 feet elevation and ascend around 2000 feet to 7600 feet.  Lake hardy is just under 10,000 feet.  It can be accessed from our campsite, but there is also a more direct route.  For my birthday hike I took the more direct route.  I started at 5500 feet elevation and hiked first of all to bighorn peak at 10,900 feet.  Then I descended about 1300 feet (to 9600) to get back to the trail and went up again to 10,000 feet to get to Lake Hardy.

What an experience!  I hiked 12.5 miles and ascended a total of just under 6000 feet.  I was on the mountain for 10.5 hours.  Without my GPS it would have been a bit challenging getting back.  By the time I reached my car it was pitch black outside.  (I brought a flashlight with me knowing this would likely be the case).  I didn't see much wildlife besides some birds I think were grouse.  They are completely silent until you're right on top of them, at which point they flap away in a tremendously loud flurry of wings and scare the tar out of you!

Here are some pictures and one video.  Be warned, the video is of an old fat guy with his shirt off and you can't unsee it.

The starting point 

Fall colors make this my favorite time of year to hike


One of those mischievous grouse!







There were dozens of these critters on the trail once it got dark.  They're about 3-4 inches across with eyes that glitter in the glow of the flashlight.

Here is my route from my hiking app.



Last week I embarked on another solo hike.  I was working in Southern Utah and had to stay overnight.  I decided to hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park.  This 8 mile round trip, 2200 foot elevation gain hike is fantastic.  The views are extraordinary.  When you get to the overlook, you're looking down about 700 feet onto the top of Angel's landing.  Along the way there are some incredible views down into slot canyons 100 feet or more high.  You're surrounded by the beautiful Southern Utah red rock throughout the hike.  And of course the view of Zion Canyon at the top is unsurpassed.  I sure love where I live and work!  It is also wonderful that locations include so many
great memories with my family.  Taylor, Parker and Christi have shared many days with me in the Lone Peak Wilderness.  Taylor, Parker, Xander and my dad have explored many hikes with me in Southern Utah.  I'll always remember my dad hiking with us to the top of Angel's landing.  At age 73!  What a great sport:).





Angels landing is the prominent point almost dead center in this picture.


If you look closely at this picture, you can see a waterfall in the middle.  The water is flowing from a "hanging canyon."  Waterfalls like this only occur in the spring when there is snow melt or if there is a really heavy rainstorm later in the season.  Very cool!  It's the first time I've ever seen one flowing.







Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ups and Downs!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  It has felt like that around our house for the past few weeks.  To kick it off, about three weeks ago, we had a bit of a miscommunication about who was in charge of making sure Elli's bathwater got turned off.  In addition to the obvious problem in that situation, Elli had also managed to disable to the overflow safety pipe.  The water basically poured through a hole in the tub onto the drywall ceiling below.  Awesome!  Once we got it stopped, we had two different disaster repair companies give us estimates in the $2,500 range.  Not loving the thought of that, we cut holes in the drywall and used six fans for the next 5 days to dry things out.  Not sure when we'll repair the drywall.  As you'll see in a moment, I'm glad we didn't do it immediately!

The water in the basement was mostly in our exercise room which has an easily removable (and easily dryable) modular foam tile floor.  We took out all of the tiles and let them dry.  On the 5th day we put the floor back together and got the room cleaned up except for the holes in the ceiling.  On the 6th day...Elli flooded the bath again.  We had decided we would no longer use the bathtub as a babysitter.  Usually, she loves the bath, which she actually uses as a shower.  We have a disability showerhead in there, and she sits under it.  As part of creating the first flood, she put the plug in the drain, which is unusual.  For the second flood, Christi was hyperaware of the overflow danger, and went to check on her after just a few minutes.  But sweet Elli had done something she had never done before.  She had grabbed the disability showerhead (on the end of a hose) and threw it out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor.  So this time, instead of all of the water overflowing directly onto the drywall below, the water pooled up on the main floor and went down through two air vents and any other cracks and crannies it could find.  Which means it affected different areas than the first flood.  And some of the same areas.  Meaning it was great that we hadn't fixed the original holes in the exercise room ceiling and we were fortunate enough to need three more holes in the boys' room ceiling.



Now for a major up!  A few days later, Christi and I anxiously watched a videoconference for my work.  They were announcing the winners of the 2016 Pinnacle award.  This fantastic award for the top 7.5% of the sales force each year takes a lot of hard work and a whole lot of luck to win.  And I won!  Which means in May, Christi and I get to go on an all expenses paid vacation to the beautiful island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos.  We're staying at the Palms hotel and we are SOOOOOOO excited!  Like I said, a major up!!!

About a week later I was at work and got a text from Christi:  "Call when you are in a good mood."  I hate that text!  Of course I called immediately and tried to convince her that I was indeed in a fantastic mood and she could tell me whatever dire news she needed to share.  The shower upstairs had been going (not Elli) and Xander noticed water dripping down from the holes in the exercise room ceiling again.  Aaarrgghh!  Fortunately, it was a very small leak.  I think it was just the result of old caulk not sealing out the water around the tub.  So I took two and a half hours, cleaned the old caulk and put in some new.  Hopefully it will take care of the problem.

Other challenges and craziness over the past few weeks have included Elli losing track of her days and nights and screaming through much of the night, lots of parent conferences and IEP update meetings, a need to completely remove Elli's foam tile floor (due to many diapers leaking) and Christi and I replacing it with sheet vinyl.  Xander had to spend the night at Primary Children's Hospital because the doctors weren't sure if his abdominal pain was an appendicitis or something to do with his CLOVES syndrome.  (It was his CLOVES, but he's doing better at this point.)  Xander also had minor surgery to remove a very ingrown toenail.  We've had to go through medications for thrush, driver permit tests, evaluations for Cali to get hand controls added to a minivan (that we are in the process of shopping for) and many other crazy and exciting activities, illnesses and events.

Through all of this, we've had one overarching AMAZING thing that our entire family has been looking forward to.  Over a year ago, we started planning and saving for a big family vacation.  We have five kids graduating in the next three and a half years, so we wanted to do something super fun before we start losing control of their schedules.  The kids have been working hard and putting most of their money towards this trip.  All we asked for from Santa was help for this vacation.  Through all of our adoption trips we have accumulated enough frequent flyer and hotel points that our airfare and hotel is free!  So next month we are headed out on a trip of a lifetime.  We are all (except Elli :( who does not travel well) flying to Orlando, spending a few days at the theme parks, then going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with ports of call in Cozumel, Costa Maya and Grand Cayman.

So I guess we can weather a few of those downs!

Jer

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kids these days

I have always been grateful for the many incredible friends that my kids have.  I have been impressed with their level of respect and thoughtfulness and I genuinely love having them in my home.  But my real love affair with “kids these days” started in September when I learned that Graci was nominated for Homecoming Queen.  Graci is beautiful and bubbly and friendly, but she had not come out of her shell when it came to boys.  We often joked that she would have to actually talk to a boy in order to get asked out on a date.  (;  When Graci found out she was a finalist, she was so ecstatic and adorable and happy about it except for one thing—she didn’t have a date.  She had been told she needed to be at the dance the next evening in case she was crowned and wasn’t quite sure what to do. Well, I sent out a text to a couple of friends and one hour later, the nicest young man—one who hardly even knew Graci—was at our door with some pizzas in his hand.



If you are a parent, you may have an idea of what that did to my heart.  Not only did was he a charming and handsome date, he showed up in this car to take her to the dance:




Graci was indeed crowned Homecoming Queen and had a wonderful, special night thanks to one of these “kids these days.”



In the days following Graci’s Homecoming date, Cali hinted several times about how much she wanted to be asked to her Bargain Ball.  We have a rule in our family that you can’t date until you are 16, and Cali would have her birthday the day before Bargain Ball.  Of course, my mama heart wanted so badly for her to be asked, but not only is Cali very soft spoken and shy, there is the fact that she is in a wheelchair.  I was worried that boys might be a little intimidated by that fact and not really consider her because of it.  I tried to tell her that a lot of times girls don’t get asked out right when they turn 16 and that it might take some time to get asked on a date.  So a few days later when Jeremy and I, out on a date together, got a text from Parker with this picture, you might understand why we both started to cry:



One of the cutest and most popular guys at school had asked Cali to the dance.  She was over the moon, but I’m pretty sure Jer and I were even more so.  Hunter treated her like the princess that she is and she glowed that night!



Cali has continued to go on dates with such great guys.  Here are photos of Winter Waltz with Bobby and Sweethearts with Nathan:






And, she already has a handsome date (Gable) to Prom in a few weeks!



But perhaps my most favorite moment with “kids these days” came this evening.  Conner turned 16 last July, but hasn’t been asked on a date.  Because he is in ninth grade, most of his friends aren’t dating.  It's difficult for him to ask girls out because most of the girls he is friends with are too young.  It’s been a little hard on him, as he loves girls more than, well, anything!   Well, tonight a sweet girl named Robyn showed up at our door and asked for Conner.  I’ll just let the video tell the story.




After Robyn left tonight, Conner came in my room, gave me a hug and said, “Mom, I feel like I’m in a dream.”  I thought I’d melt into a puddle right then and there.

All of my kids, regardless of their special needs and even because of them, are worthy of fun and laughter and friendship and parties and dates and love.  I know that, and I think they know that.  But I will admit that I was worried that other kids their age would not know that.  I was worried that even though there are many kind hearted and outgoing and wonderful kids that they would be afraid of blindness and wheelchairs and broken English and missing arms and shyness. 

Bryant, Hunter, Bobby, Nathan, Gable, Robyn—you prove wrong anyone that wants to categorize  “kids these days” as self-centered and entitled.  You are selfless and accepting and just all-around awesome. You see my kids for what they are-- amazing and incredible and courageous and worthy.  Erin, Tanner, Marcus, Tannon, Aspen, Kaytlin, Lily, Anna, Kara, Sehdi, Cora, Payton, London, Claire, Carissa, and so many, many more in our community and around the world who accept and love and include everyone for who and what they are, I salute you.  You have my gratitude.  You have my admiration.  You have my heart.