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!!!