Sunday, December 21, 2008

Parker's Award-Winning Rap

Last school year, the PTA had a contest called "Reflections." Kids could enter artwork, songs, poems, etc. which were their original works. The theme was "I can make a difference by...." The night before it was due, Parker decided he wanted to enter, so he went into his room and wrote this rap entirely by himself. Watch out LL Cool J! He won an award for it, too:)

Joy to Everyone

We hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas week! We wanted to share a beautiful song and video which has touched our hearts this season. As our family continues to grow in a multi-cultural way, the pictures here were particularly beautiful to us. Click here to view it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's in a name?

I have just a few minutes, so I'm going to answer one of the many questions we've had about Dang Xu Chu. Hopefully I'll get some time soon to sit down and write more details about him.

Are we giving him an American name? Yes. The problem is deciding on the name. Trying to find one that Jeremy and I and all the kids can agree on is a little tricky! So I am enlisting your help! Please take a good look at this sweet face and let us know what names come to mind!

A few of our favorite are Skyler, Dallas, and Thomas. Feel free to weigh in on those.

His middle name will most likely be Philip, after my dad and grandpa.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clever Kids

This morning Taylor came in and proudly proclaimed: "Dad, I untied my shoes before I put them on." Like many fathers before me, I often extol the virtues of this simple procedure. When one does not untie one's shoes prior to putting them on, one runs the risk of smashing and ultimately breaking the material on the back of the shoe. Such an untimely demise requires the father to open his wallet and see more of his hard earned money sucked out as a new pair of shoes is purchased. (I don't say it quite like that to the kids.) Anyway, Taylor made this declaration, for which he was duly praised. I then asked Parker, who was standing right there, "Did you untie YOUR shoes before you put them on?" Parker smiled his goofy grin and said "Uh, I don't know. Well, no." So I again extolled the virtues of this simple procedure. Parker replied with, "But Dad, I always put my finger in between my heel and the shoe, so the back never gets smashed down." Ignoring the obvious sense of his argument (as a father is wont to do when his wisdom is questioned) I quickly came up with this comeback: "That will stretch your shoes out." Without missing a beat, he turned to me and said, "Then they'll last longer!!!" How was I to argue that?

Those of you who know Jessica know how amazingly sweet she can be. (You also know how temperamental she can be, but that's for a different story.) You know the tender, sweet voice she can use when she's in her sweet mode. One of her favorite things to do is say "If you need any help, tell me." Or, holding something in her hand, "If you need any (insert whatever item she's holding), tell me." So a few days ago, she comes up to me, holding several pieces of tissue in her hands. (When I say tissue, I really mean strips of toilet paper pulled off of the bathroom roll). She says, "Daddy, if you need any tissue, tell me." So, being the attentive father I am:) I immediately said, "Jesi, I could really use some tissue." "OK, Daddy," she replied, handing me a piece. I then pretended to blow me nose and threw away the tissue. Jesi then told me I needed more tissue, which I gratefully accepted and pretended to blow my nose again. After I threw that piece away, Jesi came right up to me (I was sitting down), stared up my nose, and said, "But Daddy, you still have boogers." I humbly accepted yet another piece of tissue and tried to eradicate the offending material from my nose. After this final attempt, Jesi again examined my nasal cavities and told me my boogers were still there. At this point, Christi came to my rescue and said, "Jesi, it's just hair. Sometimes daddies have hair in their nose." Jesi accepted this and we thought that was the end of it.

A couple of days later, Christi and the 4 oldest kids were in church (I had generously offered to sacrifice and stay home with sick little Elli.;) In the middle of the service, Jesi was sitting on Christi's lap, tummy to tummy. Before Christi had any idea what Jesi was doing, our little angel pushed Christi's nose up (like someone imitating a pig), stared up into her nostrils and said (again, in the middle of our church service), "Mommy, you have hair boogers." Christi quickly whispered in her ear that it isn't nice to talk about such things, to which she replied, "But Mom, you DO have hair boogers!" Christi, of course, was grateful to be enlightened.:)

That night at Sunday dinner, Jesi stood up on her chair and said, "GUYS! GUYS! Shhhh!!!! Listen to me!" After everyone quieted down, she announced in her very important voice, "Parents have hair boogers!" She thought she had made the discovery of the century. Thanks, Jes.

I learn so much from my children in so many different ways. In spite of the many challenges that come with parenthood, I not only wouldn't trade them, I'm excited to face the new challenges, joys, lessons, successes, and everything else that will come into our lives when we adopt Chu Chu next summer. By the way, we're very grateful and touched by the kind and excited comments so many of you have posted regarding our upcoming addition. Many of you have asked questions about Dang Xu Chu, and we promise to answer them. Right now, it's a little crazy around here, but we'll post some more details about him soon.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Our Darling Elves

Hey y'all. Our family didn't all fit in one elf movie, so we added Grandma and Grandpa Green and made two. Anyone with kids should try doing this-- your kids will get such a kick out of it!

Please note that this is NOT the "movie" that I've directed people to that has the fun surprise and that the kids were excited to share. That movie is underneath-- under the title "What's missing?" (:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's Missing?

The kids were SO excited to make and share their "movie!" (: Be sure to pause the music at the bottom of the blog before you push play. Merry Christmas!!!


PS-- We fixed the pausing problem, so it should be smoother viewing now:)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Random Thoughts

My Brother Matt will be heading to Iraq on December 14th. At least a year away from his wife and his kids. What a sacrifice. The fact that it is 11 days before Christmas only makes it a little more poignant. If you find it appropriate, I hope you will join us in taking a minute this coming Christmas morning to pause and thank God for the men and women (and their families at home supporting them) that are serving each of us as members of the United States Military. Matt and Carla, you are in our thoughts and prayers! We love you. Thank you!

Parker is now a Cub Scout! They don't make 'em much cuter than that, do they:) Taylor has loved scouts so much that Parker has just been dying to be part of the program. They both have great leaders, which really makes a huge difference. By the way, thanks to Grandma Rose for taking time during her recent visit to help Parker earn his Bobcat award.

Grandma Rose and Grandpa Green were here for about 10 days. They came the Friday before Thanksgiving and were here for Parker's baptism, which was a very special day. We're so proud of him and his commitment to make right choices. After Parker was baptized, Grandma and Grandpa took him out to get a CTR ring. For those not familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, CTR stands for "Choose the Right." When children are 5 or 6 years old, they get an inexpensive ring that says CTR on it. When they wear this ring, it helps them remember to make right choices. If you want to, you can also purchase a higher quality version, which is what Grandma Rose and Grandpa Green bought for Parker. I hope he will always remain as determined as he is right now to "Choose the Right!" Grandma and Grandpa Nelson bought him a beautiful set of leather-bound scriptures as a baptism gift. He loves both of them very much.

I love having my parents here. They're both tremendously helpful with the housework, laundry, etc. My dad looks all around for odd jobs that need to be done. He fixed a couple of holes in the drywall, glued together a broken drawer from the boys' dresser and loaded and unloaded the dishwasher at least twice a day. My mom did tons of laundry while she was here. They even let Christi and me go out overnight. What a treat! Needless to say, they're welcome to stay as long as they want! :)

A couple of weeks ago, Jesi had to go to the doctor to get some shots. She hid in a small cubby in her closet and basically said, "Talk to the hand..." Poor kid:( A least she was prepared for what was to come. Poor Elli had no idea what hit her!

Yesterday, Graci decided to clean behind our downstairs TV. This TV sits on a small, old entertainment center that is positioned kitty corner. There is a fairly large space that tends to collect stuff that falls down behind the TV. So Graci had me pull out the TV, and she and Jesi climbed through and cleaned up the junk that had collected down there over the past year. What a great kid!



Graci thinks English is so strange. Yesterday she tried spaghettios for the first time. She asked why they were called spaghettios, and I told her it was because they were shaped like little O's. She scrunched up her face and asked, "then why the other ones not called 'spaghetti-long-ones'?" (:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Miracles for Elli

Hey everyone--

Just wanted you to know that I started a new blog (not to replace this one). I'm not sure why I think I can keep up with another blog when I can't keep up with this one, but I'm giving it a try! You can visit it here.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Birthdays, Humor, Awards and Great Kids

Saturday was Parker's Birthday. As is the tradition, Christi served him breakfast in bed. Of course he loved that:) We threw quite the party for him. Most of you who read this blog are not steeped in the tradition of the Utah-BYU rivalry. It's not quite Michigan-Ohio State, but it has to be one of the longer-standing rivalries in the country, and people around here are quite passionate about their favorite team. For the birthday party we had a "football party" and kids were supposed to come dressed in the colors of the team they cheer for. (For those of my family who are "football challenged," the music playing is the theme song for Monday Night Football.) We had about 25 kids show up and it was split about 60-40 in favor of BYU. Although our family is a die-hard BYU stronghold, we decorated in both red and blue to make everyone happy. We had the kids play several games, and the winner of each would score either a touchdown or a field goal for their college. At the end of the party, BYU won by a field goal in overtime. This of course is a foreshadowing of how the game this coming weekend will end up! Anyway, the kids loved it. This was the first time we've ever purchased a birthday cake, but, as you can see in the pictures, it was worth it!

After the party, Christi and I went on a much needed date. We took in the movie "Fireproof." WOW, what a great show. I think every married or engaged couple should watch this movie. Completely clean (although the themes were too mature for kids), it was a wonderfully uplifting experience. It is a Christian movie, made by the same people who made "Facing the Giants" (another must-watch). Anyway, we really enjoyed being out by ourselves. After the movie, we went to Sonic to share a dessert. We ordered a strawberry-banana smoothie, but it wasn't very good. Well, I thought it wasn't very good. Christi had a hard time expressing just how disgusting she thought it was. Mostly, it was the texture. It felt like they had added some kind of powder to it and it hadn't been blended in. Anyway, Christi practically gagged when she took a sip. We ordered a carmel banana shake and headed off for home. We were sharing the shake, and would pass it back an forth to each other. It was quite delicious and very thick, so we had to suck on the straw extremely hard just to get a little bit out. In between one of my turns with the shake, I had the great idea to pull a switcheroo. The strawberry-banana fiasco was still in the cup holder right by my hand. So the next time I got the carmel shake, I handed back the strawberry smoothie instead. Christi, thinking she would have to inhale strongly to get anything at all, instead got a huge mouthful of the strawberry stuff which she couldn't stand. Needless to say, she complimented me on my charming sense of humor (or something like that!:)

Thanks to Dave and Marie Ausdenmore (visit them at for nominating us for an "I love your blog" award. We met Marie and "Aus" (as Dave prefers to be called) on our trip to China to get Graci. They were also adopting a beautiful little girl and we got to know them pretty well. By the time we met them, Christi had already returned home, so it was just Graci, Taylor, Parker and me! Aus and family were a HUGE help to me, taking the kids off of my hands several times over the week we were together and just being good friends. I might not have survived without them! Apparently, one of the requirements when you receive this award is to nominate four more blogs for the award, so here are four blogs (in no particular order) we think are just great. (There are tons of others which would be equally deserving, but these are just a few we have particularly loved.)

1. Michael and Heather Matheny at: This great family is one of the many that we came to love in Tennessee. They have been in our thoughts and prayers lately as they just returned from China on a trip to adopt little Max.

2. The Martine family at: We followed their journey to Maliah while were in the process of adopting Elli. We share their passion for adoption and their love of our great nation and our Creator.

3. The Smith family at: We share with them a love of Tennessee and the pain of losing a baby. We love Angie's humorous and uplifting slices of life.

4. The Stewart family at: They, too, share our passion for adoption. Plus they have the coolest Star Wars Halloween costumes I've ever seen!

One final note. I just can't express how grateful I am for the amazing children the Lord has blessed us with. Not a day goes by that somebody doesn't comment on how wonderful Taylor is, or how reverent Parker is in church, or how Graci is the favorite kid in her class at school, or how charmed someone is by Jesi, or how touched someone is by the special spirit that Elli carries with her. A couple of nights ago I re-watched the video I made of our journey to Graci and her return journey home. I was overcome with a small understanding of the love her Savior has for her, and an increased appreciation of what she has gone through in her life. She is a special little girl. I am excited to see what the future has in store for her! (The two youtube videos below are the first and second half of the videos we made for Graci. Each half is about 10 minutes. If you want to watch them, be sure to first scroll down to the bottom of the blog and pause the blog background music so you can hear Graci's video.)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008



This was Graci's first Halloween and she loved it. I guess when you're a kid and every house wants to give you candy, what's not to love? The weather was GREAT this year! In 2007 we were all freezing, but this year, the kids actually got too hot in their costumes. Dad was very grateful:) Here are some pics from Halloween night as well as from a party we went to a couple of nights before. Elli was a pumpkin both nights. Taylor was a "dragon ninja" (his description) both nights. Graci was "Wednesday" from the Adams family at the party and a witch on Halloween night. (Her "Stitch" costume from Lilo and Stitch didn't show up in time. Major disappointment!) With all the frilly girl stuff to choose from, Jesi wanted to be "Batman Girl" for the party (hence the music). She was not Batgirl, and she would get quite frustrated if people called her that. "I not Batgirl! I Batman Girl!" And don't forget it!!! She was a kitty for Halloween. Parker was a ninja for the party and Spiderman with the black suit for Halloween.

This morning, Jesi came in and cuddled between Christi and me before we got up. When I rolled over and gave her a hug, she said: "Your breath is stinky! If you will brush your teeth then the air that comes out of your mouth won't stink!" Thanks, Jess, I'll make a note of that:)

Elli is really growing up. It's the cutest thing to watch her when the school bus pulls up. She gets so excited she literally shakes as she walks towards it. She has a new bus driver with a new assistant, both of whom are very sweet with Elli. Jesi and Elli were both off track for the past three weeks, and it's been nice for Christi to have them back in school. Elli is only gone 3 hours a day, monday-thursday, but it really gives Christi a break and a chance to get caught up on things.

Taylor is really enjoying Cub Scouts. He's earned his Wolf badge and 5 arrows and is now working towards his Bear. Parker turns 8 on Saturday and can hardly wait until he becomes a Cub Scout. It's pretty cute. The two boys are amazing kids. They're so good with all 3 of their sisters. We are truly blessed as parents!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Fall Fun

The last week of October we took the family to Thanksgiving Point. (Thanksgiving Point is kind of an eclectic grouping of fun family-oriented activities. There's a dinosaur museum, flower gardens, a small farm, a movie theater, and other things to do and see.) Around the holidays they have several fun things to do. We took the kids to CornBelly's corn maze. In addition to the maze itself there are many other fun things to do. We went on a hay ride (accompanied by a GREAT headless horseman!), went through a haunted house, jumped on something akin to a giant trampoline (dozens of people could fit on it at once) and saw a pumpkin princess, complete with a horse-drawn carriage. The kids enjoyed pony rides and cookies and ring-tosses. They got to see several different kinds of animals, including llamas, sheep, peacocks and goats. It was a fun night.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sports Fan

This morning Taylor was doing his math homework. He looked up at me and asked, "7x4 is 28, right?" I told him he was correct. Then he said: "Football comes in handy!" That's my sports-nut son!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crazy, Fun Family!

Our lives are so crazy, but they're wonderful, too. On October 9, all seven of us loaded up into the Ford and drove up to Oregon for my little brother Tyler's wedding. This time Christi went with us, so it was a considerably easier trip, although a 12-hour drive always has it's challenges. We stopped overnight in Boise and stayed with my best friend from high school. It's always fun to see him and reconnect. Tyler's wedding was great and it was wonderful to have my entire family together for the first time in years. Matt and Carla and their 3 kids flew up from Dallas. Our boys really loved being with their cousins again. It was particularly great to see Matt, since he's in the army and will leave in December for a year in Iraq. Good luck, Bro! Thanks for your commitment to, sacrifice for and dedication to our country. We love you. Thanks also to Carla, Walker, Carter and Vivian for giving up your husband and dad for so long. We didn't take any pics while we were up there, but my sister, Jen, will be sending some soon and we'll post some of those.

Christi flew back two days before the rest of us returned, and my Dad drove down with us. We stopped in Boise again, this time at my cousin's home. You really do have to be a saint to welcome our three-ring circus into your home! Then on Thursday, Taylor, Parker, my dad and I left for a camping trip in SE Utah. We found a great campsite right on the Colorado River just outside of Moab, UT. It was a beautiful spot, with views up and down the canyon formed by the river. We arrived just in time to set up our tent while there was still light. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we built our campfire and it was dark as we roasted hot dogs and s'mores. Then we noticed an amazing sight. The light of the rising moon was vividly lighting up the western walls of the canyon we were in. Since we were so close to the eastern wall, we wouldn't be able to see the moon itself for quite a while, but the red rock in the moonlight was a tremendous sight. Parker brought his 3/4 size guitar on the trip, and played "She'll be coming round the mountain" next to the campfire. Since this is about the only song he can play, we sang it about 15 times. I played several of my songs as well. After that, we went into the tent and played Monopoly until 12:45. The boys loved it. Grandpa endured (with a convincing smile on his face, I might add!) It was a great night. (My dad didn't sleep well that night, due to the fact that he was freezing, but other than that, it was pretty much perfect.)

The next morning I fixed blueberry pancakes, thick-sliced bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. (For some reason I love to cook while camping. As Christi will testify, that's the ONLY time I love to cook:) Then we set off to explore Arches National Park. We hiked several beautiful trails, including the one around balanced rock, the windows arches, double arch. As the day was winding down, we hiked the 3-mile round trip, 480 foot ascent to delicate arch. (Utah's unofficial state symbol). On prior trips to Arches, this had been my favorite experience, so I played it up to my dad and the boys, and it did not disappoint. We arrived just before sunset and were able to see the red rock lit up like it was on fire. You can see in the slide show the large number of photographers there to capture the moment. And believe me, they were very vocal if some poor, unsuspecting hiker wandered too near the arch in those last 15 minutes of sunlight! That night we had tin-foil dinners (with potatoes, carrots and onions from our own garden!:) that were delicious. The boys were practically falling asleep on their plates, so dad and I helped them get to bed and cleaned up afterwards. A spare sleeping bag ensured that all four of us slept great that night.

Saturday we got up later than we had hoped and therefore almost didn't take what turned out to be by far the best hike of the weekend. The reason we had picked the Gold Bar campsite was because it was located directly across the highway from the trailhead for Corona Arch. This arch is not in the National Park, and so it is not very well known. Even though we didn't get away from camp until 1:00 pm, we decided it would still be nice to try this new hike (similar to delicate arch hike-3 miles and 440 foot ascent). WOW were we glad we decided to go. The best arch at Arches National Park isn't even in the park! The hike itself was absolutely magnificent with views of the colorado river, huge red rock cliffs and the LaSalle mountains on the horizon. The arch itself is huge. Over 100 feet tall, it is a very imposing sight. While we were there, we saw several people rappelling from the top and down the center of the arch. Scary! After returning from this hike, we went back to the park to see Landscape arch. Not as tall as double arch or corona arch, this is the longest arch in the park. It is over a football field in length, and ridiculously thin in certain parts. It looks like it should collapse any moment! We winded up the day visiting dead horse point state park, which is like a small version of the grand canyon. Amazing. We stayed there until it got pitch black and saw the most stars I'd ever seen in the sky. What a beautiful sight!

Instead of driving the 4.5 hours home, we just drove to my in-laws house in Ferron, UT, which cut off about two and a half hours for us. They weren't home, but were generous enough to let us use the "Hotel Nelson" for the night. The next day we went to church and then visited the cemetery to pay our respects to the boys' Grandma Great (Dean's mom). Grandpa Great met us there and gave us an amazing family history lesson as we walked around the beautiful grounds. We visited the boys great-great grandparents as well as several great-great aunts and uncles. As Grandpa Great showed us around, he pointed out that he knew a lot more people in the cemetery than in the town!

What a fun weekend. We feel very blessed to live in an area with such diverse natural wonders. We feel very blessed to live in a home with such diverse and wonderful children.


Surgery Went Great!

Dean's surgery went very smoothly and he is recovering well. Thanks for all of your comments and concern. He is still in ICU, but is progressing according to schedule.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wonderful friends

Thank-you, everyone, for your wonderful comments on the blog. They mean so much to us-- and we are so grateful for your kind words. I love getting comments from strangers and those who have followed our adoption stories. I have also received comments from a few old friends-- Kelli and others-- that have private blogs. I would LOVE to get in touch with you and follow your blogs, so please send me an invite at

Also, Marcy, if you are reading this-- I would love to get in touch with you and find out more about your sweet little girl-- please e-mail me!

Heart Surgery Buddies

I am just realizing that I have not updated on Graci's progress. She is doing SO SO WELL!!! She has been off of oxygen for two weeks now, and is back in school. You would NEVER guess that she just had heart surgery-- it's been such a miracle. She was able to go with us up to Oregon to Jeremy's brother's wedding-- and danced as much as anyone at the reception! (Jenny, I would love if you would e-mail me wedding pics so I can post them!) We are so so grateful for everyone's prayers and never dreamed this all would have gone so smoothly.

Now, may I ask anyone who feels so inclined to include my dad in their prayers this week. He following in Graci's footsteps and having open heart surgery tomorrow. He is such an amazing dad, husband, and grandpa-- and we are sure that our Heavenly Father knows that we need him for many more years to come!!!!!

Keltson Blackburn

Taylor has been blessed this year with a wonderful primary teacher. Keltson genuinely loved the kids he taught, and was a fabulous teacher and example. Keltson just received a mission call to serve the Lord for two years in North Carolina, and was getting ready to leave on his mission next month. On October 11, he overcorrected while driving, rolled his car, and was killed. It has been terribly hard on our church ward and neighborhood. Keltson lived just a few doors down from us, and we have so loved him and his family. We were so sad to have to tell Taylor and the other kids. He was very sad, and chose to delay his very anticipated vacation with Daddy to go to Keltson's viewing and funeral. He and his primary class sang "Called to Serve" at the funeral, and we know that Keltson loved it and that his spirit lives on. Thank-you, Keltson, for the wonderful example you set for Taylor and our family.

Don't cry over spilled milk?

Last night, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I heard a thud in the kitchen, followed by a, "Um, Dad-- I need help!" Taylor had gotten a brand new gallon of milk out of the fridge and accidentally dropped it. It busted open and resulted in a HUGE puddle of milk all over the kitchen. It took me quite awhile and several towels to mop it all up-- and being overwhelmed, I tried to ignore the fact that I was sure a significant quantity of milk had gotten under the refrigerator. Well, this morning we woke up to a horrible smell in the kitchen/living room area. I was trying to think of what it could be, when Taylor said, "I know JUST what it is! It smells exactly like the time the milk spilled in the van-- I just know it's rotten milk!" I thought it was funny that he remembered that smell so well (it was AWFUL) even though it happened a couple of years ago. So, as soon as I got the kids off to school, I pulled the fridge out. YUCK!!! It was so gross under there-- and took quite awhile to scrub the dried milk and nastiness that had been under the fridge. I did realize, however, that the smell was not coming from that-- but from the towels I had left in the sink the night before-- oops. Still, it was good to clean under the fridge, and I decided to clean the rest of the kitchen floor while I was at it. After I was done, I left the fridge out in the middle of the kitchen so the floor could dry, and went into my bedroom. A few minutes later I heard the sound of water spraying. I thought Jessica must be washing her hands and ignored it, but after a few minutes I got to thinking how LOUD the sound was. I went into the living room and saw Jessica sitting there coloring-- and followed the sound to the kitchen where I found water spraying like crazy from the wall where the fridge had been. Apparently, when I moved the fridge out, I had pulled out a tube that had been connected from the wall to fridge. Water was EVERYWHERE!! We are talking about a FLOOD!!! And to top it off, cupboards had been opened, so we also had flooded cupboards. So now I have cleaned the kitchen floor for the third time in less than 12 hours (after the spilled milk, the dried milk, and now the flood). Sadly, I have little to show for any of this-- the kitchen looks exactly the same way it did last night as we were going to bed. The joys of motherhood.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

First "I Love You"

Until very recently, Elli would never use words to communicate. She would copy words, even phrases, that we said, but would never use them on her own. Unless you are a mother who has with a child like this, I think it would be hard to grasp the emotions that go with having a child who cannot see and cannot talk. It is humbling and heartwrenching-- wanting so much to get inside their little heads and know what they are thinking. Wanting to turn the light on for them-- not even just physically, but cognitively. Wanting the world for them when they can't even tell you they are hungry or thirsty. Well, the past few weeks have brought some major breakthroughs for her-- she has spontaneously said a few things-- like "night night" when her head hit the pillow, "downstairs" as we start walking down the stairs, and of course her daily "OATMEAL!" when I first walk in her room in the morning. These few words have been AMAZING to us-- true miracles. We are so excited that she is learning that words have meaning and that she can use them to communicate. It is pure joy to hear her talk.

Today the absolute sweetest thing in the world happened. I had just picked the kids up from school and driven them home. Parker, who has always loved Elli in a very special and perfect way, was hugging and talking to her as she was waiting for me to get her out of the carseat. I came to the side of the van and said, "Oh, Elli-- did you miss your Parker?" She giggled as he hugged her and then said, clear as a bell, "I love you."

I couldn't believe it. Parker about flipped out with joy. I was so glad that there were two of us there to witness that she really did say it! I thought it very fitting that her first "I love you" was to the best example of unconditional love toward her that I know. Parker plays and loves on Elli in a way that is sweet beyond description. I will never forget the words he said to me just a few days after Elli was brought home from China: "Mom, if you could catch blindness, I would still want Elli." Pure love.

Another sweet thing happened with Elli on Sunday. It was the annual primary program at church. This is where, following the Sacrament, the children of the congregation put on the rest of the program. It is always a beautiful program with music and sweet testimony. This year's theme was "I Am a Child of God." The program began with 6 children standing up one by one and saying "I am a child of God." After the third child, Elli's voice spontaneously rang out with a very loud "I am a child of God!" It wasn't spoken perfectly, but everyone heard it and understood her and it brought many tears to the congregation. The children then sang, "I Am a Child of God," with the first verse in English, the second in Spanish, and the third in Mandarin. Our family was asked to sing the third chorus by ourselves. It was so neat to be able to stand there with our children, singing in the first language of Elli and Graci. Jessica held a picture of Graci since she wasn't able to be there (due to the heart surgery). Such a special day.

Yes, Elli, you are a child of God. And if He had favorites, you would be one of them!

By the way, the first time I heard this song playing, my heart nearly burst for the beautiful message in it's first phrase. I know it is true!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My surety with God

Well, I wasn't really going to journal about Emily-- because the emotions are still so personal and even if I wanted to share them, I really don't have the words. But I've been looking at her slideshow over and over, reminiscing about the days surrounding her birth and I thought it may be therapeutic to write down just a couple of the sweet experiences I was given during such a hard time.

I found out that Emily had passed away just a couple of weeks after finding out we were having a girl. I had been on blood thinner (after Jacob's birth/death we found out I had a blood clotting disorder) and so the doctors wanted me to wait 48 hours before delivering her so I could get the blood thinner out of my system. So for two days, I knew she wasn't alive-- but was sent home without delivering her. Those two days were, in a word, a nightmare. I was completely dysfunctional and my house completely fell apart. I had just gotten a large box of maternity clothes from my sister and that first night I threw the clothes, one by one, around the room in a mad rage. I didn't pick up one toy or one diaper or one dish or do ANYTHING besides try to make arrangements for her casket, dress, etc. Needless to say, my house (which wasn't clean to begin with) looked like it had been hit with a tornado.

When I was in the hospital, a dear friend came and borrowed a key from Jeremy. I guess a phone call from one church friend to another quickly spread, and when she arrived at our home with the key, mini-vans were lined up around the block to my home. It was lovingly dubbed "The Mormon Minivan Brigade." My house was not only cleaned and organized top to bottom, but all my laundry (we're talking LOADS) was done and the kitchen stocked. I was at first hugely embarrassed, but soon realized what an AMAZING blessing had been given to me. A friend kept the kids the first night we came home from the hospital, and instead of spending time trying to get my house in some kind of order after just giving birth, I was able to sit down with Jeremy in my beautiful home and BREATHE. We spent the night eating a wonderful dinner, looking through scrapbooks, listening to uplifting music-- and before the night was over I felt so much peace. So THAT was a beautiful, tender mercy of the Lord. Thank-you, my dear Tennessee friends.

The morning I went to deliver Emily I went into a total panic because I couldn't find our camera. I knew from Jacob how precious pictures would become and became nearly hysterical when it was time to leave and I still couldn't find it. Jeremy ended up going next door and borrowing the neighbor's. We took at least 50 pictures of her at the hospital, and more later at the funeral home when we let Taylor and Parker hold her. I needed to develop the pictures quickly so I could return the camera, so I went to Walmart's one hour photo. As I pulled into the parking lot to pick them up, I starting having a panic attack. I seriously felt like I couldn't breathe. Up to this point I hadn't really talked to anyone-- I was staying holed up in my room-- and was just a mess around people. I was so worried that I would go up to the counter and some young teenager would pull my photos out of the envelope for all to see and I would have to actually have to have a conversation about the pics and try to explain it and I was just PANICKED. Those pictures were, and still are, so precious and sacred to me and I didn't want just anyone to see them. I seriously felt like I would die if I had to look at them with other people around. Well, I tried to control my hysteria and finally made my way to the back of the store. There was a HUGE line. They were totally busy. PANIC!!! How was I not going to have a complete meltdown in the store? I said a little prayer in my heart and just cringed as I watched the person behind the counter pull out and flip through the pictures of everyone in front of me (making sure they were the right pics and they were happy with them). I finally reached the counter and gave her my slip.

She pulled out a big fat envelope with a sticker on it that said $0.00 and handed it over to me without opening it. She said, "It looks like there's no charge on these. Please have a good day."

I was able to walk out of the store without saying a word.

Whoever had decided not to charge me for the pictures, also printed doubles and THREE digital CDs.

A tender mercy.

I felt loved.

I knew then, beyond a doubt, that my Father in Heaven was aware of my every need. That He knew me and was holding me and was hurting for me. It was the simplest gesture-- worth just a few dollars, but it has never left me. It has made me wonder how often we are the hands of the Lord. How often does He work through us to accomplish His great purposes. I have often thought about that compassionate person in the store who didn't charge me for my pictures. So grateful he or she did what the Savior would do if He were here.

Am I still enough to hear His promptings? Am I in tune enough to help Him answer the prayers of others?

A lot to think about. I am so so thankful for my darling Emily Anne and the lessons that I have learned through her short little life. These are just two of the sweet experiences I have had because of her. She has impacted my life in a profound way. I will absolutely never be the same because of her, and I am so humbled to have her in my life. Thank-you Emily, for all you have given me. You and Jacob have done a tremendous work here on this earth. Thank-you for leading us to China, and for lighting the way home to heaven. You are my surety with God-- there is nothing I wouldn't do to be worthy to live with you again. I love you.

P.S. Graci is doing FABULOUS! (:

Happy Birthday, Emily Anne

Born, still in the arms of God.
Born, still in the knowledge
Of His grace, and of His love.
Born, still to us
But alive to God!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Modern day miracle

Just a quick note to say GRACI IS HOME!!! Can you even believe it? We are still a little shocked at how short her hospital stay was-- AMAZING. She is on a liter of oxygen (full time) and can't really be around anyone for awhile, but she looks GREAT and we are so happy to have her home. (:(:(:(: I know that this is due in large part to all of your prayers, so once again, a very heartfelt thank-you and we love you!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll try to post some pics tomorrow-- you won't believe how good she looks!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Random thoughts about my day that you really just don't need to know...

Graci is statting better, but they are still doing some additional testing in the morning to see if they can find out what was happening with her oxygen levels. Before the whole deal with the stats, we were told we would probably be going home tomorrow (can you believe that?)!!! After being told 2-4 weeks in the hospital, this is VERY GOOD NEWS!! So as long as they don't find anything too wrong tomorrow, we may be heading home. (:

My mom brought the kids up to visit Graci today. She was SO happy to see them, but not as happy as me!! I swear Jessica grew up a ton since Monday morning! She is so dang cute!! And the boys were so so sweet and lovey. Elli is still like oxygen to me-- I don't know how I survived without her these past few days. Her monkey screeches and cuddles just make my day.

We took the kids to the play zone here and they had a great time. There was a music class going on, and it was SO much fun. They had all kinds of interesting instruments for the kids to play with. Jessica was SO animated, and several times Elli just burst into giggles because she was so happy. They both love music. The boys were in heaven because they had a play station (we're probably the only family in the world that doesn't have one in some form or another).

After the kids left, Graci wanted to go back to the playroom. We did some crafts and I was actually enjoying myself until she asked me to play dollhouse with her. I'm just going to admit it-- I HATE to play dolls. Make-believe is just not my thing. I remember going over to Cindy Duncan's house growing up and pulling out the barbies. She had the most amazing imagination and I always felt rather stupid trying to create scenarios for the barbies. I like to dress them, but when it comes to the real make-believe part-- it's just not my thing.

Tonight I decided to give it a try-- for Graci's sake. You would think that being a former first-grade and preschool teacher I could conjure up some kind of make-believe storyline for the little dolls, but no. Graci kept looking at me to take the lead, "Come on, Mom, play dolls with me!" I fumbled my way through a pathetic story of mom and dad going out on a date and leaving the little kids with their grandparents. The grandma made donuts with the kids. The boy jumped on the couch. Grandpa told him to get down. The end. This got me through a whole 2 minutes with the dollhouse. Not going well. So I decided to take a new approach. "Let's rearrange the furniture, Graci." "I don't want to." "Oh, yes you do-- (as I'm dumping out every piece of furniture) it will be fun!" Rearranging furniture is something I can do. No imagination required. Luckily, by the time we got done with this, the playroom was closing. Phew. Are there any other moms out there that would choose to clean toilets rather than play dolls, or am I alone in my
make-belive woes?

After the playroom we went and got some dessert to watch a movie with. Graci chose a rainbow sprinkled cupcake, and I that fabulous mousse pie I have already raved about. Yes, I've probably averaged one slice of that heavenly chocolate every day since I came to the hospital. Graci, on the other hand, got settled into her bed and said, "I think I want to eat grapes for my dessert instead of the cupcake." This, friends, is why Graci can eat bacon for every meal-- and why my hips are no longer fitting into my jeans. I inhaled my pie while Graci delicately ate her grapes as we watched "My Little Pony." I was actually proud of myself for not eating that frosting-laden cupcake too-- is that pathetic or what?!

As we were settling down for bed, some elders from our church came around to visit with us and see if there was anything we needed. One was Polynesian and was wearing what my aunt Debbi has now told me is a "lava lava." It wraps around your waist like a skirt and looks so great with a shirt and tie. Debbi said that if you serve a mission in Samoa or Tonga, you don't have to bring a suit-- just white shirts, ties, and sandals to wear with your lava lava. Sounds comfy, huh? Anyway, Graci kept asking him, "Why you look like girl?" She was very troubled by the lava lava until he told her he was adopted too. That won her over. He also did magic tricks that had her bedazzled. The other elder brought up the fact that they attend the University of Utah. I told them they were no longer welcome in our room, and so began the battle of which team was better (BYU or the U). I handed him a box of tissues and told him to save it for the big game. This was mostly going on between me and the non-polynesian guy, who after five minutes or so decided to tell me that the polynesian elder actually PLAYS football for the U. Oops!!

I really liked Graci's nurse today. By the end of the day I felt like we were friends-- and she'll be here tomorrow, so I'm glad. We got talking about families, and how ours was big. Sometimes I have this complex about having so many kids. I remember looking at big families when I had maybe one or two kids and thinking, "how in the world can they possibly give enough attention to everyone?" Lately, it's really been hitting me that WE are one of those famlies! We're so, well-- BIG! Like the other night when I grabbed a box of granola bars to eat on our way to family pictures. I began passing them out and was literally shocked to realize that there weren't enough for all of us. We have more people in our family than granola bars in a standard box-- CRAZY. How did that happen?!!!! Seriously!!!! Or in the morning, when I'm making lunches and go through a WHOLE lOAF OF BREAD!!! What is that about?!!! I run the dishwasher twice a day, NEVER get on top of the laundry, have like a thousand toys floating around-- it's just nuts. And it's not really those things that get to me-- it's tucking one of them in at night and realizing I didn't read to him that day, or saying no to playing a game because I am doing homework with someone else.

As if to emphasize the point, a friend of mine recently told me that she knew she was DONE after two children. Why? Because she was one of five and said she never really felt like she had enough attention. That REALLY threw me for a loop.

So, back to the nurse-- it was very refreshing to hear she was from a family of NINE children and absolutely LOVED it!!! She said neither she or her siblings would change a thing. My friend, Heather, one of eight, just told me the same thing. I think I really need to hear those things right now!! Because I guess what it comes down to is that we KNOW each of these children are meant to be in our family. So really, it's got to work, right? Even though I cannot possibly give each of them the same one-on-one as I would if they were an only child, it can work. They can feel completely loved and completely, well-- complete, if we're willing to put forth the effort, right? Come on, folks-- I need some reassurance on this!

I'm probably feeling this way right now because I've been here at the hospital all week, leaving four of them at home. And I'm missing Jeremy terribly. Which is also probably the reason that I'm so long-winded in this entry. I need an adult to talk to. I love little Miss Graci Kate, and love one-on-one time with her, but I'm one of those parents that after kids get tucked in REALLY need some good adult conversation. So, thanks for listening to me ramble! Sorry this was so long-- I am now turning in!!

mother of MANY!!!!

Some concerns with stats...

Good morning! Graci had a good night, but this morning her oxygenation (sp?) stats were very low. They've had lots of nurses and technicians in here trying to figure out what's going on. They finally sent her down for a second x-ray, and we're waiting for results on that. Currently, the stats are back up again, but with higher oxygen than previously needed. So, we're interested to see what's going on... Her surgeon just now went to examine the x-rays.

I had a fun night last night-- I was on a friend's blog, and started linking to other blogs until I came across two of my dear high school friends! It was so much fun to see pics and read about their families. It's quite bizarre to realize how long it has been since I've seen them-- they are the kind of friends that you feel like you could start on right where you left off. By the way, Tiffany and Jessica, if you are reading this-- I would love to have your e-mails. Mine is

Also, I neglected to give a "Happy Birthday" to Jen and Mariah-- their birthdays are the same day as Jeremy's. Hope you had a great day!!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can you believe it?!!!

Our Graci Kate is out of the ICU!!!! It is so amazing how well everything has gone--we really never imagined it would go this smoothly! Graci is now in her own room in the Children's Surgical Unit. She's been watching movies and even making little crafts. This morning they did the cutest thing. All the kids in the hospital that were able to play BINGO from their own rooms. They had passed the most darling BINGO cards around, then had everyone turn on their TVs. They broadcasted a man reading the BINGO cards from the playroom in the hospital. When you got a "BINGO", you would call him on your phone and he would announce it on the air. So cute. Then they came to the rooms and passed out prizes (stuffed animals) to everyone that played. This is such a wonderful hospital. They've also brought all kinds of crafty things around for her to do-- fun, fun.

Tonight Graci wanted to get out of bed and go on a little walk-- YAY! She did great for a little while, then needed a wheelchair. She was so happy to get out of bed, but it really exhausted her. I took her to the bathroom afterward and she was falling asleep on the toilet. (: She's now sound asleep-- I'm thinking for the night.

The one bad thing about the day is that Graci's been coughing. It REALLY hurts her to cough, and she sounds awful. This is pretty normal after a surgery like this-- it happened last time-- but there is a concern that she'll develop pneumonia. So, the nurses are constantly trying to get her to cough it out-- which she hates-- and so she's been in a bit of a foul mood because of that. We have heard that coughing after heart surgery feels like a semi-truck rolling over your chest-- fun.

We've always joked that Graci wouldn't make a good vegetarian. I asked her what she wanted me to order her for dinner tonight and she said bacon, jerky, and chicken nuggets. Hmmm.... This is after requesting bacon for breakfast and lunch. I told her she could pick two meats and then she had to pick something healthy that wasn't meat. She asked if hash browns were meat. (: We settled on the hashbrowns (though I wouldn't put them in the healthy category), bacon, jerky, and lots of yummy fruit. Luckily, she's saving the jerky for tomorrow.

I am REALLY REALLY missing my other sweet kids!!!! Jeremy has been going back and forth-- he's still somewhat under the weather and doesn't want to be here too much. But tomorrow, the plan is to bring them all up here to the hospital to visit Graci and I'm soooooooooo excited! (:(:(: It's crazy how much you can miss your kids in three days. It's also crazy how sometimes after three minutes you can wish you had some alone time again. (:

It has been really fun when Jeremy is here with me-- we get to go down to the cafteria and eat together-- just the two of us-- and also have time to visit and hang out. So as much as it is stressful here, it's also had some very peaceful times too.

Well, I'm going to try to get some sleep. The nurse will be in and out of our room throughout the night to check stats and give meds, then Graci has an x-ray at 6 a.m.
Not exactly a perfect night's sleep, but possibly better than what I'd get at home!


Such Great Progress!!!

Wow! Graci has all of her tubes out! This is very significant progress, even quicker than last surgery. The only things she's attached to right now are one IV line and the oxygen into her nose. Christi and I were at breakfast when they took her tubes out, so we missed the fireworks, but I caught the tail-end of her crying when I came back. She was pretty animated. She's doing prety well right now. She's fairly drugged up, both morphine and lortab, so she's mellow and sleepy. The narcotics are also making her itchy all over. They anticipate that they'll move her out of ICU late this afternoon. Graci's excited to move upstairs because she'll have her own room!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finally -- a drink!

I'm back at the hospital, and Graci looks SO good! She was so excited at 6:00pm when she finally got to take a drink. She's also had a little ice cream:) She's experiencing some pain, but I don't think it's too bad. They're still giving her morphine. It was cute when I came in -- she gave me the biggest smile. She continues to do well and we're hopeful she may be able to leave ICU tomorrow.

Graci's voice is really quite hilarious right now. She sounds like a little mouse or something. It's a higher-than-normal pitch and extremely weak. So her nurse just came in to check on her. Graci had been asleep, but when the nurse started checking the lines on her hand and arm, Graci woke up. Graci started saying, in her pathetic, whiny falsetto, "Owie!, owie!, owie!" The nurse said, "Are you hurting?" And Graci responded with a nonchalant, "Not really." We all cracked up. I guess she was just anticipating pain. What a cutie:)


The vent is out!!!!

Oh, Graci looks so much better!! It is always so good to see someone get their vent out-- she is so much more herself! She was upset after they took it out because she had to sit up a little and it was hurting her, but she soon settled down and is now resting. She'll be able to drink a little in 4-6 hours and that will help her tons.

Our next door neighbor and mother of Graci's best friend is a nurse here once a week. It was her shift today and it was fun to be able to see her and have Graci see a familiar face. We just got done from eating lunch together and it was so good to have some company. Jer's still at home trying to rest up a bit. He's watching Elli so Mom and Dad could go to a doctor's appointment and come visit Graci. I thought that was a pretty crummy birthday-- not feeling well and having a daughter in ICU-- but then I read Leslie's comment about the success of the surgery being the best birthday present ever, and that made me feel better. I love you, hon! Happy Birthday!


The day after...

I am sitting by Graci's bed in the ICU-- I finally got smart and thought of bringing the computer in here so Graci could hear the music from the website. This was a good thing!!! She has finally settled into a restful sleep. The doctors have done their rounds and are wanting to take the vent out today (hooray) but we're not sure when that will happen. ):

Jer, loved your post about Elli in the night-- you got it perfect! Thanks so much for being patient with Jesi. And Mom, thanks for all your help with Elli. I actually got a better night's rest than the both of you!! That's truly something...

I've made friends with the family of the patient next to us-- they are from Rexburg, ID and have the cutest little baby girl in here who just had heart surgery as well. It is heartbreaking to see all the kids in the ICU-- and yet such a miracle when you think of all the technology that makes it possible for them to be here. So many of them wouldn't have survived in any other time than this.

I can't say thanks enough for your thoughts and prayers. Graci is definitely benefitting from them.

Good morning/Tough morning

I just spoke with Christi on the phone. She stayed overnight at the hospital. Fortunately, she was able to get one of the waiting rooms with a bed. She said that overall, Graci is doing well. In fact, they're pretty close to removing her breathing tube. Unfortunately, before they can do that, they have to bring her back pretty close to full consciousness. Up until now, she's been at least somewhat sedated, so she wasn't too aware of the pain, and wasn't too aware of the ventilator. Now, as she's coming out of sedation, she's in tears all of the time. She's feeling the pain in her chest and other areas. Probably most disturbing of all for her is the thirst. With the ventilator in, she can't have anything to drink (and hasn't had anything since midnight on Sunday!) so her throat is miserably dry. The only thing they can do is swab a little bit around her lips with a small, wet sponge. She also wants to be sung to all of the time, so Christi's vocal cords are getting a workout. But at least her progress is good.

I came home last night with an excruciating headache, which I had suffered through for most of the day. As I was able to get away from the stress of the hospital, eat some good food and relax just a bit, I started to feel a little better. I helped get the kids to bed, and got to bed myself by 9:30. I slept solid until 2:00 am, when I heard Jessica crying and starting to open my bedroom door. Then I heard my sweet mother-in-law, LaRita, quickly rush to Jesi's aid so I wouldn't be disturbed. I was just drifting off again when Elli started into her angry cry. Elli wakes up many nights. Some nights, she's just fussy and has a sad cry. Usually in this case, she can be calmed down fairly quickly and will fall back asleep. Not so on the nights she wakes up angry!

You have to experience the angry cry to understand it, but I'll try a little description. She puts every ounce of strength she has into this cry. (And she is a STRONG little girl!) This thing comes straight from the diaphragm and permeates walls, ceilings and other obstacles in it's way. (In other words, on a normal night, when Christi and I are both sleeping at home, if Elli starts into her SAD cry, I can reasonably be a lazy slug and pretend not to hear her while I wait for Christi to get up and help. But on such a night if Elli starts into her ANGRY cry, there's no pretending. I simply admit I'm a lazy slug and let Christi get up and help. Wait, there's not too much difference, is there? Well, I digress:) The angry cry is so piercing that you seriously feel like there is permanent damage being done to your eardrums as you approach her to hold and help her. Usually it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to calm her down. And usually, if she's woken up with her angry cry, she won't fall back asleep that night. What you hope for in this case is that she'll calm down enough that you can leave her in her room and go back to bed. After you get back into bed, you'll start to hear her again, but at this point, she progresses to her euphoric elation stage. She finds humor in something down there in her bedroom. We don't know what it is, but you've never heard laughter quite like this. She gets absolutely hysterical. Again, this strong, loud laugh is pretty permeating, but we've learned to sleep through the sound of that, while sleeping through the angry cry is virtually impossible.

Anyway, both the girls were going strong at 2am this morning. So I got up and helped Jesi while LaRita helped Elli. What really hit me at that point was how blessed I was. Usually, I'm not so great in the middle of the night. I can be a bit grumpy. But what a blessing. On a night when I really needed patience to get through Jesi's refusal to settle down, I was blessed with patience. It was also such a blessing that my headache was gone at that point. I'd had this headache (sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker) for about 48 hours. But when I woke up with Jesi in the middle of the night, it was gone. The tender mercies of the Lord can be so subtle that they're easy to miss. But they are tender mercies, nonetheless.

It took about 25 minutes to get Jesi back to sleep, and LaRita let me go back to bed while she continued to help Elli. (I fell asleep to the sweet sounds of laughter coming up from the basement.) I woke up this morning at 7am feeling much better. Whatever illness I've had seems to have settled in my chest and is localized to a pretty rough cough. But overall, I feel much better. The cough will severely limit my time in the ICU, so hopefully that will go away quickly. The kids (with Grandma and Grandpa's help-Dean went to Wendy's:) brought me breakfast in bed for my birthday. It was sweet that they would remember this little tradition in the midst of such tumultuous times. We have great kids!!!

Thanks for all of your love. It's neat to see how many of you are interested and concerned enough to check in on a regular basis for updates on Graci. We'll keep them coming!


Monday, September 22, 2008

We've seen our Graci!

Hi everyone!

We were finally able to go and see Graci. It took a little longer than we had thought because they had a little scare with her blood pressure dropping, but she is doing fine now. They had her covered with her cute blanket and she actually looked very good (considering). She's a little pale and puffy, but I think she looks better than last time. Right now she is still on a ventilator, and she's already communicated that she's not happy about that. She signed that she wanted a drink, and I told her we'd have to wait until the vent is out-- and I could see her fighting tears. She has several IV's in different places and four tubes coming out of her chest/abdomen. This was easier to see this time as we have gone through it before. I did ask her if she's hurting, and she shook her head, "no." She is resting well, though she is pretty aware of what's going on. She's barely opening her eyes, but she shakes my hand and tells me (by me guessing) what she wants-- which is usually to sing to her. Sadly, I forgot her CD's-- so we won't have those until morning. Jeremy was only able to be with Graci for 5 minutes before the combination of sickness, lack of sleep and stress made him feel like he was about to pass out. He headed home and hopefully he can get a good night's rest and come back refreshed and feeling better tomorrow.

It felt so good to have Graci communicating a little bit-- even if by nods and shakes of the head. It is SO NICE this time that she can understand English and have the comfort of having things explained to her.

Parents have to be out of the ICU from 7-8 for the nursing shift to change-- so that's why I'm here typing right now. It was hard to leave her because I could tell she wanted me to stay. I'll be so happy when she can move out of ICU and have her own room that has a bed for me so I don't have to leave her.

Taylor, Parker, Jesi and Elli-- I LOVE YOU!!! I told Graci that you were happy she was doing well and it seemed to make her happy. Thanks for being such good kids-- I miss you! I'm excited for Graci to get well enough that you can come and visit! (:

In closing, a scripture from Psalms:
"He healeth the broken hearted and bindeth up their wounds."
These words have been fulfilled today. (:

We've spoken with the surgeon

Graci is nearly done-- she is still in the OR because they are fixing an IV line, but she should be getting settled into the PICU shortly and we should be able to see her in about 30 minutes. (: Everything has gone well. She is stable and they were able to accomplish everything they wanted to do. They will, of course, be monitoring her very closely because of various risks, such as infection, bleeding, complications with the blood flow to the lungs, etc.

We are VERY HAPPY and relieved that she has come this far. As we've said many times, we appreciate every prayer offered in her behalf. Jeremy is still feeling under the weather, but has been told if he scrubs well and wears a mask he can come with me to see her. (: (: (:

This may be our last post for a few hours-- we'll see how things go in the PICU. Love you all!


4:10 update

We just spoke with the nurse and they are closing her up, putting in chest tubes, and making sure she is stable. Everything is still going well-- it is just meticulous work. Hopefully she will be done in an hour or so and we can speak with the surgeon to see his take on everything. I am almost ready to breathe a sigh of relief.

Have you ever tried to eat anything while your child has his chest cut open and ripped apart? Let me tell you, it's not an easy thing. You take a few bites, but can't escape the images in your mind of the sad state of your child. I had a very hard time choking down lunch... until I got to the most fabulous chocolate mousse pie-- yummy! I figured God must hae invented that just to bring some joy to this day. I was also able to giggle out loud from the latest entry from the most beautiful blog-- If you haven't checked this blog out, you should do it-- she is the most amazing writer and has literally thousands of hits every day-- no joke. Angie's from my favorite place-- Nashville, TN, and we've had some similar experiences that make me feel close to her. Her entry today was priceless, and I have to agree with her on the panties thing! See, now you're going to read it just to check out what I'm talking about. (: Another happy thing today--my dearest frined, Heather, just got her LOA for her little guy from China, which means they'll be travelling to get him in just a few weeks. They are the most beautiful family and I feel so blessed that Elli's adoption was part of what opened their hearts to their little Max-- such a cutie.

So see, there is always some sunshine in hard days... (:

3:15 update

They are all done with the work on her heart. They are now doing an echocardiogram to ensure that the blood flow is all correct. If everything looks good, they will close her up. If all is good, she should be done fairly soon. Thanks for all of your prayers. She has done very well!

2:15 Update

They are almost finished with the work on her heart! They have finished the patch on the VSD. they have attached the new valve to her heart and are in the process of sewing the blood vessel to her pulmonary artery. Then they will sew her back up. the nurse estimates another 1.5 hours. Good luck Graci!

1:00 pm update

We get an update every hour from the nurse practitioner who is assisting. Currently they are working on patching the VSD (hole in her heart). When they finish with that, they'll move on to the valve replacement. Graci is doing well.

Thanks so much for all of your love and support. It's amazing to me how many people are genuinely concerned about our little princess!


Still doing ok...

Another update-- Graci's still on the heart/lung machine. They are currently ballooning the pulmonary arteries, which were a little bit smaller than they had hoped but still manageable. They still haven't started the "big stuff"-- putting in the valve and closing the VSD.

You have no idea how much we appreciate your comments-- thanks!


She's on the heart/lung machine

We just received word that Graci is now on the heart/lung machine. Apparently, things are going a bit slower than anticipated, but she is stable. We should have another update in an hour or so.

New update

The nurse just came out with another update-- they are still working on getting her ready for the heart/lung machine. She said it's going slower this time because of her previous surgery, but it is going well and she is stable.

Graci is in surgery...

Graci went in to surgery at about 7:45 a.m.-- about two hours ago. We just had our first update from one of the cardiologists-- she is doing well, and they have made the incision and are working on opening the sternum. The surgery should last until sometime early this afternoon and we will try to post each time we hear anything new. It is really so crazy to think of the condition she is in right now-- so difficult, and yet such a miracle that they are able to do something so complicated and intricate. This would be so much harder if we didn't know she was in the Lord's hands.

We are going off just a few hours of sleep, but I'm feeling fine. Jeremy, however, is under the weather and could use your prayers. At this point he's thinking he doesn't feel well enough to go into the ICU when she get's out of surgery-- and I really want him there with me. So, we both appreciate your prayers...

Graci was in great spirits this morning. She called her foster parents (we call them "China Mom" and "China Dad") on the way to the hospital and they had a good talk. She complained afterward that it is getting hard for her to speak Chinese. ): She was a little nervous at the hospital, but smiling and sweet. The "silly juice" they gave her before the surgery really relaxed her and she left us giggling and loopy. We are so grateful to be in such a good hospital and to have such a fabulous surgeon.

Graci has been the princess for the last week-- favorite foods, no chores, late nights-- it's been fun! Jeremy took her for a Daddy Date last week and when she came home we had a little surprise party planned for her (Jeremy's idea). We decorated with lots of pink balloons and streamers, played Graci games, had ice-cream sundaes, and watched the movied of her adoption story. Her friends were VERY intersted in the movie-- and were so sweet about it. We also had each person paint one of Graci's fingernails so she could go into surgery with something from all of her friends. Graci was SO happy about the party and thanked us over and over.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, and thanks Mom and Dad for taking care of the kiddos. We love you!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

It comes more quickly than you think...

Sixteen summers ago I was living in an apartment complex just south of Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. I had three roommates, one of whom was a local kid from Alpine, UT (about 45 minutes north of us). One weekend he told us we should all go on this great overnight hike near where he grew up. I called my aunt and uncle Dave and Dian Gibb and asked if I could borrow one of their hiking backpacks and one of their sons (my cousin Jonathan) to go on this hike. So four of us headed up Dry Creek trail towards Lone Peak. I'm still not sure how many miles the hike is, but I do know you ascend two or three thousand feet in about two hours. We end up about half way up Lone Peak. It's a rigorous climb, but one that can be done even by a novice (if he's in decent shape!) We all loved the trip.

Over the years, I've led four or five other groups up to the spot. It's amazingly beautiful. There's a rock outcropping that you can sit on and and look out over Utah valley. You see Alpine and Highland, Lehi and the Oquirrh mountains and part of Utah lake. You can watch the gorgeous sunset and later look up at the endless stars. The place we camp is a beautiful little clearing right next to a river, but it's in a location that you would never find unless you had been there before. You have to bushwhack through the brush. There's no trail, but once you get there, there's a perfect place to put out a tarp and sleep under the stars. The river rushing by almost makes it easier to fall asleep.

The last few times I've gone, I've taken two of my brothers and my dad. Over the last 9 years, every time I've gone up, I've thought how great it would be to take my own sons some day. Well, someday came last weekend:) Christi, Taylor, Parker and I braved the mountain. There were several things I was worried about. First, I knew the boys couldn't carry full packs, so Christi and I would have to carry their bags and sleeping pads. I didn't know how that would wear on us, and I wasn't even positive the boys could do the entire hike even with smaller packs. Second, on every other trip I'd taken, everyone was an adult, and therefore responsible for themselves. On this trip, I was basically responsible for all four of us. I was leading us into a wilderness with no facilities, no running water, other than the river, possible encounters with wild animals, and an area where we had to pack everything in! Third, this was September, the latest in the season I had ever gone. So I was worried it might get too cold. I spent quite a bit of time preparing. I bought some packets of freeze dried food for dinner (Everyone but Taylor liked the lasagna. Nobody but me liked the Blueberry cheesecake:) I bought four new mummy bags rated for 5 degrees. I bought a hatchet and a small stainless steel cooking pot. I bought a magnesium stick (a last resort for starting a fire if you're not too great with the matches. Lets just say it was a GOOD thing I brought it.) And I bought a water filter.

Long story short: my fears were unnecessary. We had a WONDERFUL time. The boys were great sports, and loved the entire trip (although I did end up carrying one of their 7-pound packs in my hand for just about the entire hike. This was in addition to the 25-pound pack on my back. And I won't even go into the 40-pound spare tire around my waist!) In fact, when we were almost at the very top, it was Christi who felt like she couldn't go on. Both boys, but especially Taylor, were so sweet with their encouragement for her. The sleeping bags were great. The food was edible. But best of all is just the experience of being there. It is possible to drive to many beautiful overlooks in the world, and I have enjoyed many throughout my life. But there is something different about viewing something that can only be seen after you work incredibly hard to get there. We enjoyed the view at the top and even had a little testimony meeting under the stars as we looked over the valley. Each of us expressed our feelings about our Savior and His Gospel. It was a really great trip. We hope to make it an annual event.


PS. My favorite quotes from the trip:
Taylor: "Look! A lizard. I think it's a Geico!"
(not related)
Parker: "Dad. I think I saw a bear! And heard it! Or maybe it was a squirrel or a rabbit....yeah, there it is. It's a squirrel."