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."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Surgery Rescheduled

Primary Children's called today and Graci's surgery will be MONDAY!! So soon-- which is wonderful in many ways, but kind of took my breath away. Part of me had hoped for some more time to just enjoy her and not worry about anything. We spoke to the head surgeon on the phone and though he went over possible complications and risks, he was overall very optimistic about everything. (: I will have to take Graci in to repeat her labs on Sunday (UGH) because the bloodwork has to be done within two days of the surgery. Then we will show up for surgery bright and early at 6 a.m. The surgeon expects to be done sometime that afternoon, and she'll go straight to the PICU. We are bracing for a 2-5 week hospital stay, but are hoping that it's only one week like last time-- what a miracle that was! The main things they will be doing during the surgery is closing her VSD (the hole in her heart), replacing synthetic valve with cadaver or pig valve, and ballooning some arteries.

As I was typing this, Graci came running in with a package. She was jumping up and down and saying, "TWO PACKAGES FOR GRACI-- WOO-HOO!" Yesterday she had gotten a package from her cousins with letters and crayons, and today she got a package from Auntie Heather with a cute pillowcase for the hospital. She was SO EXCITED and exclaimed, "EVERYONE loves me, huh!" Then she gave me a huge hug and just started jumping up and down again. So cute. She is such a ray of sunshine.

Yes, everyone loves you, Graci!!! So many people are praying for you and wishing you well!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Discussion with Jesi

Tonight our family was in the car as we drove home from Kung Fu Panda (pretty cute movie by the way). As part of the conversation I asked the three oldest kids if their school friends called them by their full first names or if they had nicknames. All three said their friends just used their names. Then I asked Jesi if she had a nickname at school. "Yes, I have a nickname!" "What is it," I asked? "My nickname is JessicaKate-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-Jessica," she said. Wow! What a mouthful. I then asked Jesi if she knew what a nickname was. Her response? "A nickname means you have love and kind in your heart." She was also sweet enough to say that all of our family have nicknames. She proceeded to tell all of us what our nicknames were. They all followed a similar pattern. Christi's is: "ChristianneGreen-4-5-6-Green" There is never a dull moment with our dear little five-year-old:)


Surgery Postponed

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we just got a call from the hospital. The doctor is very ill and Graci's surgery has been postponed indefinitely. We'll let you know when we hear more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So I have a thousand and one things to write about, but I’ve felt impressed to share something that has really had an impact on the way I view others—specifically those in my family. I wish I were a better writer and could really explain what is in my heart, because this insight really has changed my life.

When I was at Education Week a few weeks ago, there was a speaker who was teaching about using the scriptures as a marriage manual. He asked us the question, “When you think of the apostle Thomas, what adjective would you put in front of his name?” You could hear a chorus throughout the room of “Doubting, doubtful, unbelieving…”

Thomas, of course, gained his reputation for being doubting when the Savior was resurrected. He was not with the initial disciples who saw Jesus, and when they told him of his resurrection, he replied, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” When Christ did later show himself to Thomas, he gently chastened him, saying, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.”

I will admit that this is the one story of Thomas that I recalled from the Bible. The instructor went on to remind us of another story about Thomas. It is found in John, chapter 11. After receiving word of Lazarus, and knowing he was dead, the Savior asked his disciples to come with him back to Bethany. The disciples were worried for Jesus’ safety, and I imagine were also overwhelmed with the length of the trip. Then comes verse 16: “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Why is Thomas remembered as Thomas the unbelieving and not Thomas the loyal? Two stories in the bible, and which do we remember? Which has been his legacy?

I imagine that Thomas must have been an amazingly spiritual man to be chosen as an apostle of Christ. Indeed, after the resurrection he dedicated his life to the preaching of the gospel, and fervently proclaimed his message that Christ was his Lord, and his God. Tradition is that he died a martyr. He was loyal to the core.

What word do you think truly embodies the real Thomas? Doubting? Loyal? Why in that whole room of people listening to this lecture did no one mention anything positive about Thomas?

I choose to believe that Thomas is like so many of us. His faith was not perfect. He was human, and he made mistakes. But I think the real Thomas, the true Thomas, was Thomas at his best!! And that because of Christ, he can someday be perfected and be his best self at all times.

Our instructor asked us how we view the people closest to us. Do we think of them at their best, or them at their mediocre or downright ugly times?!

Jeremy, at his best, is an AMAZING man. He is a spiritual giant, a leader in our home, a thoughtful husband and compassionate daddy. He is a wonderful son and son-in-law, a caring brother, a hard and dedicated worker. He is the truest friend and kindest neighbor. He is fiercely loyal to his testimony of the gospel and not afraid to share it. He is wise and loving and sweet and fun.

Graci, at her best, is an AMAZING girl. She is kind-hearted and thoughtful. She is grateful and respectful and obedient. She has the strength of an ox and the courage of a lion. She is the perfect daughter and sister. She can make my heart sing.

I could go on with every member of my family. Are they at their best all the time? NOT EVEN CLOSE! (And neither am I). But the insight that I gained from the story of Thomas, is to look at every one that is dear to me and see them for what they are when they are at their best. That is who they really are—and who they have the potential to be at all times.

I am just positive that the Lord has a deep love for His beloved Thomas. I am quite sure that He knows that Thomas WANTED to be believing and obedient and perfect—but that he was human and sometimes struggled. I believe that Thomas has been perfected through Christ—and that if we can make it through this crazy mortal life, we all have the potential to be our best selves ALL OF THE TIME.

So, look at each member of your family. Take your spouse and really consider who they are when they are at their best. Take your children in your arms and think about who they are when they are at their best. And hopefully, you will find yourselves realizing the greatness that is in your family. The greatness that through Christ, we can attain on a permanent basis.

That’s all. Thanks for listening! (:


I bought some foam curlers to try in Elli's hair, but she wouldn't have a thing to do with them. Jesi and Graci, however, were enthralled with the idea. I was so excited because Jesi won't go near a curling iron, and since I've never thought of foam curlers, we've never seen her hair curly. Anyway, somehow I got pictures of Graci with her curly hair, but not Jesi. I'll have to do it again so you can see how darling Jessica looked. The cutest part was seeing the boys' reaction. They were seriously oohing and ahhing at their sisters. Parker has asked me several times since, "Mom, didn't the girls look so so cute with their curly hair?" (:

Jesi's party

Jessica is the most imaginative little soul around. I've talked about her "recipes" and dress-ups and "schools." I was on the computer the other morning and thought she was watching a show. Then she came in and announced that it was time to come to the party! She said, "Here is the delivery! It is your invitation!" and handed me a paper with a bunch of letters on it. I followed her into her room where she had our "party food" all laid out in a row. There was enough food there to snack on for a week, and I had just had breakfast, but she insisted that we eat it all! I tried my hardest to play along-- but there is only so many goldfish crackers one can eat on a full stomach. She burst into tears when I told her I was done, saying, "but Mom! I made this party for you! You have to eat ALL THE FOOD!!" Now I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but there were like five packages of fruit snacks, 10 pieces of turkey, fruit loop straws (UCK!) mango chips (sounded good when I bought them, but trust me-- these are not worth the money), and piles of pretzels, carrots, and goldfish. I do have a theory that God negates calories we eat when trying to please our kids, so I managed to choke down a little more food until she became distracted enough that I could hide the rest. (:

Anyway, as I have mentioned, Jesi has her Daddy wrapped around her little finger. He loves that she likes to create, and is always reminding me how cute it is and to let her have her parties and make her recipes. Well, I took this picture so the next time we talk about our grocery budget, I can use this as evidence that I need a raise. (; And also so that he can see why I can never stay on top of the dishes-- I swear this girl dirties an entire dishwasher full of dishes EVERY DAY!

Notice Jesi's "night hat." She insists in wearing it to bed. Where does she get these things?

Oh how we love her!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Daddy's Going to Jail

Jer and I took the boys on an overnight hiking trip last weekend. It was FABULOUS, but I'll save that for another post... Well, on our way there we stopped to get a shake. After Jer ordered, he realized that he had left his wallet at home. We were in a huge hurry to get started on the hike and didn't have time to go home. Jer pulled into the front of a Walmart, parked illegally by the front of the store, and ran in to get some cash from the bank there. The boys were FLIPPING OUT that their dad had parked in a no parking zone. They were seriously almost in tears and begging me to move the car. I assured them that it was ok- that we were just there for a minute-- and that if anyone came I would move the car. I think they were thoroughly disgusted with both of us for not moving. I guess that's a good thing-- they are very into following the rules. Anyway, I forgot about the whole thing until today, when Taylor came home with this letter in his backpack:

Dear Dad,

In our class we are talking about laws. I'm going to talk to you about why it is wrong to park elegaly. When you parked in front of the store everyone else saw you doing it and might think it is ok and if other people saw then everyone would start parking there and nobody would be able to go in and out and people could get arrested and they would think it would be ok and the store might go out of business and then people might have to pay more at another store or pay to drive farther. Follow the laws.

I couldn't stop smiling from this letter. Who would have known that we almost put Walmart out of business!! (:

And not to leave out our other darling son, I'll share the paper that I just found on the floor. It was written in Parker's cute handwriting and had just seven words on it that made me laugh out loud:

My mishon

1. capcher spy kids
2. kill them


Thursday, September 11, 2008


A couple of days ago, Taylor brought home a school assignment. The assignment was for him to complete a paper that started with: "My family is..." This is his paper, word for word and with his spelling:

My family is...strange because I have two adopted sisters and a brother and sister who died in my mom's stomach. Plus I have a sister whos brain doesn't work and one of my adopeted sisters is blind and the other has heart problems. I'm the fourth oldest in my family. I have two brothers and four sisters. I do lots of things with my family, vacations, playing games, bike riding and most importanty being together. My number one absolutely favorite thing about my family is that we are really unike [unique]. By Taylor Green

Truly, we are unique. It's amazing how wonderful that can be.

Graci is getting nervous about her surgery next week. We just hope she does as well as last time. Thanks for all of your interest, love and prayers!


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Elli in the pool

Birthday Fun!!!

I’m finally posting pics of the girls’ birthday parties! We had so much fun!!! Sadly, I didn’t take the camera with for Elli’s birthday celebration. We went to a place that was filled with inflatable slides and toys—she loved it!! I did take pics of her eating her birthday cake. She FLIPS OUT when she hears the words “chocolate” or “cake,” and when they’re together, well… that’s a girl in heaven!!! When I told her that we were having chocolate cake, she just clenched her fists and giggled and said “chocolate cake!” over and over. It was the cutest. (:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Our darling Jessica started kindergarten last week. KINDERGARTEN!!! How did that happen? I still cannot believe that she is that old!!! I must say that I am so glad that Utah doesn't have mandatory full day kindergarten like Tennessee. I think two and a half hours is perfect for a five year old!

Jessica is such a special little girl. When she was a baby, we began to notice some things that weren’t quite normal-- all of her milestones were met very late, she had poor muscle tone, wasn’t verbal, had frontal bossing of the forehead—just lots of things that we were concerned about. At eighteen months old, she qualified for help with the Tennessee Early Intervention System. Her delays made it possible for her to get occupational, speech, and physical therapy. We have watched her work hard and grow in so many ways. She has had excellent teachers in the special education preschools that she has been put in, and has truly amazed us at how far she has come. At this point, her diagnosis is "a genetic abnormality of some sort." Her symptoms seem to mirror those of William's Syndrome-- almost exactly. Her geneticist said we could just call it "Jessica's Syndrome." (: As Aunt Jenny put it, "Well, whatever she has, we should all have it!" That's a testament to her sweet, endearing, "sparkly" (her favorite word) self!

Because of Jesi’s delays and her August birthday, we originally planned to hold her out of kindergarten this year. We didn’t want her to be challenged even more by being the youngest in her class. Then we realized that she wouldn’t qualify for her special preschool because she was five—so the only way to get her services (like speech) would be to put her in kindergarten. By this time, the kindergarten classes at the new school (where the other kids are going) were full, so she had to enroll at the old school. What does that mean? It means I have kids at THREE DIFFERENT SCHOOLS this year! (Elli still goes to the special education preschool). Am I going just a little bit crazy? YES!

I must say that Jessica has amazed me at how well she is doing in kindergarten. She LOVES her teacher, and the worksheets she brings home are done very well. She has one little church friend that is in her class. His name is Elliott, and she just adores him. Apparently, he feels the same way about her, because his mom told me when asked what the best thing about kindergarten was, he replied, “Jesi!”

Luckily, Jesi lives in her own little world enough to not notice that she struggles with things that come easier for others. I doubt that she realizes she is behind. She is coming along, and we’re just hoping that sometime this year the reading thing will click with her. Right now, she cannot seem to get the concept of letters corresponding to sounds. In fact, the other day Jeremy asked her what sound “c” made. She responded with a high-pitched, “OOOOOOH!” We got a kick out of that one!!!

Our hope is that this year can be a great learning year for Jessica, after which we can transfer her over to the new charter school with her siblings and repeat kindergarten. That way, she won’t have the stigma of repeating (it will be all new kids) and she can hopefully be matched up better with her peers.

We LOVE LOVE LOVE you, Jessica!!! We hope you LOVE LOVE LOVE kindergarten!!!

Jesi and Elliott

Thank heaven for dads!

Parker and I were cuddling in bed yesterday and having a good talk. He LOVES to climb in bed with me, and I love it even more!! Anyway, at one point he said, "Mom, it's a good thing we have both moms and dads, because they teach us different things." I said, "Oh, yeah?" He replied, as seriously as can be, "Yeah, like Daddy teaches us how to put things in our noses and you teach us how to clean." I couldn't hold the laugh in, and to that, he quickly responded, "Oh, and you also teach us how to be good!" (:

First Day of School!

Today our oldest three started the new school year!! (Jesi and Elli started last week and I'll write about that next). They are going to a new charter school that we are VERY excited about!!! We had back to school night last week and we met their fabulous teachers and had a tour of the brand new building. They have to wear school uniforms-- tops are red, white, light or navy blue, and bottoms are khaki, tan, navy or black. I love it-- it makes getting ready so much easier because everything coordinates so well. And you don't have to worry about trends or anything being immodest. This morning found them so excited and nervous! I can't wait to pick them up and see how everything went!! Graci said she woke up six times last night because she was so nervous! (: We feel so blessed to have them in this school!