Monday, August 31, 2009

Lazy Post

We rarely make political statements here, but this excellent video was deserving. Combine my conservative views and love of cleverly crafted songs and you have a real winner here! Enjoy:) Courtesy of one of our favorite commentors-Terynn. (I recommend double clicking and viewing it on youtube. Otherwise about 25% of it is cut off.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Week Later

We've been home over a week! Jet lag has subsided. Life is good:)

I just cannot tell you how wonderful Xander is! All of our children are wonderful. Each member of our family has blessed our lives and added a richness to our home. But along with the blessings that have come, our previous adoptions have added a lot of challenges and stress to our lives. This is a normal thing, and many, perhaps most, adoptive parents experience these challenges. But I can honestly say that with Xander, there are almost NO challenges! He is amazing. Several months ago my mom shared some feelings she had about Xander. She said that she felt he was going to be a huge blessing to us in different ways from our other children. She felt like he was going to be a great comfort to us and help us in some of the challenges we were having. This has absolutely been the case. He is SO sweet. He is SO loving. He is SO helpful. He is SO kind. He is SO generous. He is SO obedient. He is SO amazing. He is SO cute!!!!!!!! I LOVE this little bug so much. I believe he is also very good for our Graci. She clearly loves him and has been touched by his sweet spirit. She can be very tender with him and helpful and protective of him as well. Xander is a precious gift from God.

Last Monday the three older kids started school. Jesi and Xander have become great little friends. They are extremely cute together. (They do have a tendency to follow Christi around and make it almost impossible for her to get any alone time. The other day I walked into the boys' bedroom. Christi had given up trying to read the scriptures in solitude and was lying (Jen: is it lying or laying?) on the lower bunk reading the Book of Mormon. Xander was on the top bunk and Jesi was on the floor. They were in hysterics, throwing stuffed animals back and forth to each other and making tons of noise. I commented to Christi that now would be a good time to escape to another room. "It wouldn't do any good," she said. "They'd find me in less than a minute!") So they do tend to be a bit clingy:)

Xander loves to pick up the older kids from school. Several times a day he'll go over to the key rack, point to the car keys and say "ge-ge! ge-ge!" (big brothers! big brothers!) He's adjusting very well, but can still have some moments of confusion and sadness. Last night, Christi and I were going to a wedding reception and wanted to take him with us. We dressed him up in the cutest traditional Chinese outfit and got him in the car. He was very subdued on the way there, unlike his normal self. To figure out what was up, I asked him if he knew where we were going. He quietly said "fei-ji" (airplane). As we had been walking out to the car, Christi had pointed out an airplane to him, and he thought we we getting on an airplane. Who knows where he thought we were going. Did he think we were taking him back to China? I don't know, but when I explained that we were not getting on an airplane, but were just visiting some friends of ours, he immediately got a big smile on his face and was bright and happy the rest of the evening. This morning, we turned on the video of our trip to China. When the clip of us meeting him for the first time came on, Xander started to howl! He was inconsolable for quite some time. Ironically, in the clip he was giddy with happiness! Again, who knows what was going through his poor little head:(

Today we took him to church for the first time. He was so good! I'm sure he hadn't been going to church in China, but he must have had some experience with being part of a congregation/audience listening to a speaker. He kept pointing to the speaker, then looking over at us and putting his finger to his lips and saying "shhhh." How cute. I sat with him through sunday school, and he was very good until towards the end when the song leader said "Now we're going to sing a welcome song to a new member of our congregation...Xander." She, of course, said this with a big welcoming smile on her face. But he burst into tears and was crying through almost the entire song." He is very resilient, and once he realizes that mom or dad is with him, he rebounds quickly:)

This morning, Parker came in and said: "My best friend likes Hannah Montanna, too! We were both just too embarrassed to admit it." OK, let's hear the story behind that one, Park! Apparently Parker's friend had done something that was common to a character on Hannah Montanna. Parker noticed it and asked where his friend had learned to do that. His friend kind of hemmed and hawed until he finally spit out, "They do it on Hannah Montanna." Parker was ecstatic! "You mean you like Hannah Montanna, too?" he asked. Apparently they have even more in common than they thought they did.

Jesi continues to charm. Elli is up and down. Taylor is our rock. And Graci is...still developing socially. But we love her tons:)

Talk to you soon!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

We made it!

Hey everyone, just a quick post to let you know we made it safely home. As seems appropriate this trip, our flight from China was late and we missed our connection in LA. Instead of arriving home Friday night, we got here Saturday morning. We're EXHAUSTED!!! The boys and Xander love each other tons. It's way cute to see them together. Xander is very curious, getting into a lot of things, including many toys/games/etc. that belong to individual kids, but everyone is being very patient with him. We'll post more later, but I just wanted everyone to know we're safe:)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

We’re Coming to America!

Date: Aug 20, 8:00 p.m. China Time

I’ve been singing it all night long! We cannot wait to get our hands on our three other kids—we’ve been missing them so much! We’re also missing American bathrooms (complete with toilet paper), ice-cold drinks, our favorite foods, cool summer evenings, church, extended family, and blue skies!

HOWEVER, we are really going to miss China!! We love it here. We particularly love Guangzhou—it’s a little piece of heaven on earth watching all of these children join their forever families. It’s also wonderful to have a little break from normal responsibilities, and I must say we’re more than a bit scared to come home and face them! We know from experience what jet-lag is like, and to combine it with work, 5 kids starting school, 1 kid at home who will surely be into EVERYTHING, laundry, housework, cooking, and adjusting to our new family seems daunting. We are grateful for Teri’s specific prayers that we will have strength beyond our own over the next little while. (:

Our Xander continues to be such a joy. We love him so much and can’t wait to see him in his new surroundings! He is excited to come to America, but I wonder what that means to him. How can he have any idea how much his life is about to change? Over the last several days I noticed he would always longingly watch any little kid he saw on a bike. Yesterday, he was just staring at one little boy’s tricycle, and I had Graci tell him that in America, he would have a bike. His eyes got big and he started clapping and cheering. It was so precious!

Today we traveled to the American Consulate to take the oath that everything in our paperwork was true. There were 50 other families there taking the same oath. Xander then received his visa to go to America, and he will become an official US Citizen upon arrival in LA! Pretty amazing.

Well, we leave tomorrow evening. This is likely our last post before arriving home at midnight on Friday. Hopefully the next thing you see on here is pictures of all the kids together—woo-hoo!!!

Thanks again for all of your support and love during this journey to Alexander—oh, and I keep forgetting to mention—his name is actually Alexander Philip Green. We had gone back and forth between Chase and Philip, and finally decided on Philip, in honor of my grandpa and dad. He couldn’t have better men as namesakes, and we hope he will follow closely in their footsteps. My dad is a particularly amazing man in every way. We love him so much! And a sidenote-- “Philip” means “lover of horses.” I think this suits Xander well, as he is drawn to every horse figurine that we see in the shops. It will be fun to take him on the farm and see some real horses! :):):)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweating and Shopping

August 19 10:03 PM China Time

The title of this post pretty much describes what we’ve been doing for the past few days. I really quite enjoy Guangzhou. I love the association of so many people with big hearts here to adopt kids. I love the shopping. I love the fact that I really don’t have anything to do while I’m here other than wait for Xander’s visa to be processed. We just hang out at the hotel, shop, swim, enjoy each other’s company, shop, eat, wander around the streets and shop. There are so many little shops around this area. They sell some really cool stuff. One of my favorite parts is bargaining. For example, today I was looking at some North Face knock-off hiking backpacks. Real ones would probably go for $150 in the states. The lady started at $55.00 for a big one and $28.00 for a small one. I ended up getting two big ones and two small ones for a total of $92.00 :) I’m pretty good at it. Two years in Thailand and an ornery streak give me the background and the personality to get some pretty deep discounts.

We also sweat a lot here. It was 97 degrees here today and about 75% humidity. I tend to take a couple of showers a day. At least there’s great air conditioning in the hotel. You have to feel bad for the shopkeepers here. None of them own the shops they’re working in, and the owners will only let the employees turn on the air conditioning when there’s a customer in the shop. So I guess I can look at it like this. The longer I stand there trying to get my cost down, the longer the employee gets to enjoy the cool air. I never realized what a nice guy I was!

Hope you like the pics. Xander Commander is a nickname that one of the other dads in our travel group has given the X-man, and I kind of like it:) The red couch pictures are a tradition for adoptive families here. It is in the White Swan hotel-the place that most adoptive families stay while in Guangzhou. (We’re on the cheap side of the tracks over at the Victory, but honestly, we’re so glad we chose this hotel. We got two rooms together, which we couldn’t have afforded at the White Swan, and it makes evenings quite relaxing.) Xander with the swords is in front of one of the shops I referred to. You can see some of their various and sundry items in the background. Jesi LOVES to pose for the camera (or just for you, if you’re willing to pay attention:) and Christi loves to take pictures of her kids. So we’ve included just a small portion of the pics she took.

Last night we took a cruise on the Pearl River. It included dinner and some entertainment. The entertainment was a clown who juggled and spun things on her hand. Not terribly exciting, but Graci did get called up from the audience. The clown held Graci’s finger up and spun a soccer ball on it. Graci was nervous, but excited to be part of the show.

All in all, things are going GREAT. We are still so in love with Xander. There continue to be opportunities for learning and some boundary issues, but we really can’t believe how much he is fitting in to our family. He seems extremely happy to have a mom and dad. He loves to play. He’s absolutely adorable. We’ll be home on Saturday-call us and you can come meet him:)

I’ll leave you with this romantic note. Christi and I are going to watch an episode of I Love Lucy as soon as I’m done with this post. She ran down to 7-11 to buy us each a candy bar for the show. She got a Snickers for her and a Dove bar for me. She just opened her Snickers and leaned over and offered me the first bite. She said, “That’s so I can have a bite of yours…not because I love you.” Hey, I’m still the luckiest man alive!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Still Enjoying the Ride

August 17, 2009 1:11 PM China time

Oh, so many cute moments in the last week! With each picture being worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slide show be most of the post. But here are a few comments.

The pedal boat ride was in Zhengzhou. I took the kids out for a walk to give Christi a break. We came across a beautiful park with a lake. The park was several blocks wide and long. After the boat ride, we wandered around. This was also where the birds were. (By the way, Graci informed me that they were good eating.) By the time we started to head home, it was getting dark. We finally made it out to a street, and I was completely lost. It was after dark, and here I am in China with three little kids. I knew I couldn’t be too far from the hotel, but I wasn’t sure which way to go. I had brought along our hotel key card specifically for this contingency. So I hailed a cab. I showed the driver the hotel key, but it was clear that without glasses, there was no way this guy could read the name of the hotel on it. Makes you wonder how much he sees as he’s driving his taxi?!? The second driver was a woman and she took pity on my urchins and me. She drove us back to the hotel-it took about 45 seconds (sheepish grin on my face). I tipped her wellJ

Xan-man loves to swim! The hotel in Zhengzhou required swim caps for all swimmers, and Xander looked particularly cute in his. He’s like a little fish, and keeps begging to go swimming here in Guangzhou, but we’ve been instructed to wait until after his TB test is read. That’s this afternoon, thank goodness!

Graci has been so cute with Xander. She is very anti-kissing in general, but for some reason, she has no hesitation kissing X-man. She loves to carry him around, take care of him, help him when he needs something, etc. She’s being a great big sister. It’s fun to see her be so nurturing.

Jesi has fixed several “tea parties” for us. This is a re-creation of the “tea parties” fixed for her by her Grandma Rose. They generally included such dainties as stale fruit loops, humitidy-sogged-crackers, and this nasty/funky jello-chunky-drink stuff. (To clarify, Grandma Rose’s tea parties have much more delectable items on the menu.) Jesi likes to stand by the side of the table, directing our eating and ensuring that we consume everything that has been served to us. (Fortunately, she is easily distracted, and some of the stuff ends up in the garbage.)

The matching shirts have been around since Taylor and Parker were about 2 and 3. There are actually two of the smaller sized shirts. The older boys LOVED to wear them with Dad. Xander was pretty excited, too.

Not too much longer ‘til we come home! We’re looking forward to some normalcy-if you can call anything about our family normal:)


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Loving Guangzhou!

Sat. Aug 15, 10:32 p.m. China Time

Jer and I are in heaven. I am sitting here BY MYSELF at the computer while he is out BY HIMSELF purchasing necessities for the night (chocolate, cold drinks, and chocolate). How are we by ourselves??? Well, we originally booked a suite here at the Victory. We stayed in it last night, and awoke bright and early to the sounds of construction going on right outside our room. We knew immediately that the noise was not going to work for us, so we asked about trading rooms. Turns out the only other available suites were on the smoking floor. Instead, we got two adjoining rooms and we LOVE it! The kids were so excited to have their “own room,” and we are even more excited for ours! We leave the connecting doors open all of the time, but are enjoying the space and little moments of peace and quiet. (:

Our sweet Xu Chu is still just perfect! He is a blast—full of fun and personality, with the right blend of sweetness and seriousness too. We continue to fall more in love with him each day. This morning Jeremy took him for his physical. Because we are a Hague family (this is not worth explaining), poor Xander had to get SIX shots and a TB test. I think that’s pretty over-the-top, considering he has already had his immunizations. The whole Hague thing can really get me going. Right now there is a family that had to leave their child (newly adopted) in China because she tested positive for TB, even though she passed the sputum tests and was therefore deemed not contagious by a whole panel of doctors. The child will have to stay here for at least 2 months, going through tests EVERY DAY. The parents were unable to stay here with her as they both have jobs and more children at home. It is such a tragedy. So there is a little part of me that is worried he won’t pass his TB test—what a mess that could be. We’ll find out Monday.

Besides the physical, we haven’t had much going on today. Jeremy did more paperwork with our guide while I stayed with the kiddos. We went to Lucy’s for dinner—yummy—and took a stroll along the water. I love Guangzhou. The area our hotel is located on (Shaiman Island) really caters to adoptive families and has all kinds of little shops. It’s great. The only negative thing is the heat and humidity. We are all sweaty messes by the time we walk a block. The evenings aren’t as bad, so we try to venture out more then.

Earlier today I was playing with Xander in the bed—wrestling and being silly. He was all wound up and giggling a ton. I got up for just a couple of minutes to check my e-mail, and when I turned around, he was all cozied up in the bed, fast asleep. He slept over two hours before I woke him up. I think the doctor’s visit had been a bit traumatic for him.

Tonight Jeremy told him that in 6 days we were going to America and he was going to see his brothers. Xander TOTALLY lit up and starting clapping and grinning. We talk to them pretty much every day (thank-you Skype) and he loves seeing them. I can’t wait to have them together!! Graci and Jesi have been so so cute with him, and he with them. I am surprised that we haven’t really had sibling issues yet—YAY!

Well, Jeremy’s back with our treats, and I am therefore done! (: Goodnight to all!


P.S. I can’t find the USB cord to download our pictures—but we’ll find it tomorrow and post some for sure—we have some super fun ones! Holly, there should be quite a few pictures on our blog—even of Gotcha Day, so try looking again! (:

Editor's note - Holly - the pictures are there - just keep scrolling down!! I'm a tad frustrated with blogger and image limitations - but hey, it's an imperfect world!



August 15 5:20 PM China time

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 1 of 6)

Thursday, Aug13, 6:43 p.m. China time

Anyone that has been on an adoption journey (at least anyone that’s not super-human) knows that it is exhausting. Mentally, physically, emotionally. The time change alone really throws you for a loop, and then you add the nature of the trip—let’s just say that sometimes it’s hard to even keep your eyes open. It is the most taxing time of our lives. So it’s no wonder that for a short time this morning, Jeremy got just a tad bit overwhelmed. It is VERY hot and humid outside (my normally straight hair is a curly mess), cute little Xander is testing his boundaries, Jessica is a bit exhausted and therefore not being a good listener, and Graci is just being Graci (interpret that as you wish). As we were eating lunch today, Graci leaned over to me and said, “I think we should call Daddy ‘Grumpy Mr.’” To his credit, he heard this and responded with something close to a laugh. It kind of took the edge off, and he has come around to his normal self. In fact, he just now voluntarily took the kids on a nice, long (HOT) walk so I could have some time to blog—we are much too tired to write once the kids are in bed. Still, if any of you out there want to give “Grumpy Mr.” some encouragement, and a reminder that his best friends (Taylor and Parker), his nice, king-sized bed, and his beautiful backyard really DO exist and are awaiting him at home, I’m sure it would be much appreciated. (:

As tough as it all can be, Jer and I both agree that it is so much easier this time around. Our last trip to China was very difficult in many ways. Graci had such a hard time adjusting to our family. She was unique in that she had a very loving foster family who loved her as their own, she had many friends at school, and had been very, very happy before being thrown on the biggest roller-coaster of her life by joining our family! It was a bit of a ride for everyone! We learned a lot that has helped us with this trip. Our expectations for Xander have been low, so we are pleasantly surprised that he does listen and obey some of the time! We have learned to cut him lots of slack, while sticking to our guns on a few important things (like hitting). He is doing GREAT! I am so proud of how well he is adjusting. I cannot imagine what it is like for him to all of a sudden become part of a family—and to have that family speak a different language! I think it has made a difference that he has come from an orphanage instead of a foster family. Though we would have loved for him to have had the love and care of a foster family, he hasn’t had to go through the same kind of grieving as Graci did . He has had some moments of quiet sadness and some of obstinance and frustration, but is mostly just HAPPY! It is so fulfilling to watch him giggle as he wrestles with Jeremy, jump up and down when we tell him we’re going to the pool (the first time we went he was quite scared), cuddle us as he is waking up in the morning, laugh as we let him jump on the bed… there are just too many things to list!

We just LOVE him.

He is so so wonderful. He can be a little stinker, yes, but I think so much of that will go away with time and language. Mostly he is so loving and charming. He learned the word “please” today and has found that he can use that to his advantage! There was some chocolate that I had given him, and told him that he could just have one. He went and got a second one, walked over and scrunched his face into his best grin and said, “Please?!” in his cutest little voice. Of course it worked, and Jeremy teased me for giving in. The next time he walked over and did the same thing to Jeremy, who couldn’t help but start laughing and give in as well—he’s just so darn cute! Jeremy has said at least three times, “I feel like we won the lottery!” Oh, and Jer’s new nickname for him—“X-man.” (:

A few facts about Xander:

He likes to dip his waffles in soy sauce, his Pringles in soup, and his watermelon in sweet-and-sour. He loves to brush my hair and blow on my tummy. He will put his head under water for a good five seconds and then burst out of the water with big eyes and a huge laugh! He always puts his shoes on to go to the bathroom in our hotel room. He is very good to let me brush his teeth. He knows he is charming. He has a super-cute, LOUD voice. He likes to be carried ALL OF THE TIME (this is the source of many of his melt-downs, as we can’t always comply). He sleeps with his bottom lip sunk in under his teeth. He loves to drink, but surprisingly stays dry all night without waking up to go to the bathroom. He has super soft skin. He smells good (polar opposite from when we first got Elli—took weeks to get her smelling good:)), he doesn’t let his legs/feet slow him down, he can be very good at sharing, he can be very bad at sharing, he is very independent (sorry, Taylor, but he cuts his food up better than you do!), we think he is ambidextrous, he has GREAT teeth by China standards, he’s trying hard to learn English, he LOVES gum (if you want to be his friend for life, give him his own pack), he gives the sweetest little kisses, and he truly seems so love us. (: This morning, Xander was going around singing, “Wo ai ni Baba” (I love you Daddy), “Wo ai ni Mama,” “Wo ai ni Jie Jie (big sister) “Wo ai ni Ge Ge” (big brother). He was just singing it to himself, over and over as he wandered around the room. It just melted my heart.

While we are enjoying our time here, we really can’t wait to get home to our other kids and be a complete family. And while we truly love China, we’re missing Utah’s mountains, blue sky, and cool summer evenings! Tomorrow afternoon we’ll fly to Guangzhou to complete the adoption proceedings and get Xander’s visa. We’re staying at the Victory and we’ll be there for a week, arriving home at midnight next Friday—YAY! I need some Elli, Taylor and Parker hugs!!!!!

Again, thanks for all of your love and support! We can’t wait to show off this little guy!


P.S. I’m attaching pictures of our visit with Graci’s foster family. They have become so dear to us. I don’t know how to label them all as I send them, but hopefully you can figure them out from reading the posts we sent from Hangzhou. There are some cute pics of Jesi with her BFF (fiancĂ© of Graci’s foster brother), Graci with her “China family,” the amazing meals they prepared for us, Jesi’s birthday cake, etc.

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 2 of 6)

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 3 of 6)

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 4 of 6)

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 5 of 6)

Grumpy Mr. and his cute little X-man - with pictures (part 6 of 6)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Of Course He Did

August 12, 2009 8:53 PM China time

Christi’s favorite phrase of late is: “Of course it is.” or “Of course he did.” or “Of course…” you fill in the blank. This is a reference to the general craziness of our lives. For example, today there were several occasions when the “Of course he did.” phrase would have been quite appropriate. “Xander knocked over a glass and it shattered on the carpet!” “Of course he did.” “Xander spilled his Sprite all over the floor.” “Of course he did.” “Xander found the chocolate and smeared it on the white bedspread.” “Of course he did.” You get the idea. This is actually quite a fun phrase and can be used in a variety of ways. “Christi, I forgot to tell you that I’m out of clean white shirts.” “Of course you did.” “Mommy, the toilet paper’s all gone!” “Of course it is.” “Christi, our dessert cost as much as our entire dinner.” “Of course it did!” (More on that below.) We officially give all of you permission to use this as you see fit:)

We are so in love this little guy. He’s our little Tasmanian Devil, ever curious and ever exploring, but he’s absolutely impossible not to love. He has THE MOST charming smile I’ve ever seen. It totally makes my day every time I see it. He wrinkles up his little nose. His eyes pretty much completely disappear. And he just lights up the world. We are both SO in love.

Xander loves swimming. The first time we went, he was very quiet and nervous as we walked into the pool. It didn’t take long for him to warm up, and the next time we took him, he went running in with a huge smile on his face. The swimming pool has circular life preservers that the kids can use as floaties. All three of them are loving it. They put their heads and arms through them and paddle all around the huge pool. Xander also loves it when I throw him up into the air. He counts with me, “One, two, three” and up he goes.

I think Christi mentioned that he’s a lot smaller than we had envisioned. It’s a sweet, sad thing to observe him. From the waist up, he looks like the skinniest little guy. He looks like he should be very light. But from the waist down, he is very different. His legs are both enlarged. One leg is way larger than the other. Both feet are also enlarged. I had thought the masses on his legs would feel a lot more solid. They almost feel like jello. They are filled with some kind of fluid, probably blood, and weigh much more than you would think from looking at him. But in spite of his physical abnormalities, he has the brightest outlook on life. He is constantly smiling. Despite the weight of his legs causing him to walk and run awkwardly, he walks and runs often and always does so in high spirits. He is truly a little ray of sunshine in our lives.

Today was fun. It was a day with no specific plans, so we ate a late breakfast, went to the hotel playroom, went swimming and just enjoyed ourselves around the hotel. Yesterday, Graci heard our conversation about forgetting it was our anniversary. She immediately hatched a plan. She insisted that we not go out for lunch today. Instead, she had us stay in our room. She asked me if I had a suit. I didn’t, so she made me wear the dressiest outfit I had with me. She did the same with Christi. Once we were dressed, we both had to sit on separate beds and keep our eyes closed so we couldn’t see each other or see what Graci and Jesi were preparing. It was the cutest thing. The used a towel for a tablecloth on the small table in our hotel room. They set a little lunch for us with the snacks we had here. Each setting had an apple and several grapes. There were also several small oranges on the table. At first I thought they were for us to eat, but Graci pointed out that they were in the shape of an 11-for 11 year of marriage. After we opened our eyes and saw everything, Graci said, “Now you can talk about love!” and she ran away giggling. How cute:) As we ate, the girls first served as our waitresses, then they danced and sang to entertain us. We have such good kids!

Tonight we went out for dinner. There’s a GREAT restaurant next door. We’ve eaten there twice and love it. We had a nice dinner. The total for he 5 of us came to $24.00. Very reasonable. Then on the way out, we noticed a freezer with ice cream for sale. We each ordered a small ice cream, and it came to $23.50! The girl who sold it to us noticed my eyes bug out of my head and she let me know that the two Haagen Daas ice creams we had ordered were $9.00 each!!! Are you kidding me? These were ½ cup servings. For $9.00??? They were even freezer burnt. Caveat Emptor! We will make sure we ask the price of things before we buy next time.

Well, it’s late and we are exhausted. We’ll post some more pictures tomorrow. Thanks for all of your comments, love and support. By the way, some of you have asked how we’re posting when blogger is blocked in China. Our friend, Dave Ausdenmoore, is posting for us. We just send him emails and pictures. Thanks, Aus!


PS. In the five minutes that have passed since I finished this post, Christi sat on a cup of Chinese jello that Xander had hidden under her pillow. Of course she did…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Anniversary

August 11, 2009 11:00 PM China time

About 6:00 tonight, Christi looked over at me and said, “Hey. It’s our anniversary!” So this was our most memorable, but least remembered, celebration of the greatest day of our lives. (Or at least my life. Sometimes I think Christi got gypped. But I do know she loves me tons:) Just prior to that realization, we had returned home from a full day. Notarization and registration of documents took several hours. Then we went with the kids to a Lotus Shopping Center (bigger than WalMart!) We made the mistake of going through the toy section. Anyway, while at the shopping center, I snuck a Dove chocolate bar into our cart without anyone knowing. When we got home, I pulled Christi into the bathroom and locked the door. We both took a deep breath and treated ourselves to a few minutes of peace and a few bites of chocolate. Christi was seated on the edge of the tub. I was on the toilet. You know you’re getting old when that’s as romantic as it gets on your anniversary:)

So now the kids are in bed and Christi and I are just about to settle down and watch an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series on the computer. (Christi had never seen a full episode of any Star Trek prior to three months ago! I introduced her, and now she’s a little Trekkie:) We’ll post more tomorrow, but know that we are still so in love with X-man (as I like to call him). Oh, we got him a pair of sandals today that seem to be MUCH better for him. Shoes are going to be interesting…


Monday, August 10, 2009

Complete and Utter Perfection Part 1

8-10-09, 7:00 p.m. China time

Oh. My. Goodness!

I am rarely at a loss for words, but I cannot seem to find them today. We have experienced a piece of heaven on earth today. We knew that Xander was special, but he has far exceeded anything we could have imagined.

We drove to the Civil Affairs Office this morning with 5 other adoptive families. We were all so excited and anxious. Two of the families were becoming parents for the first time! We pulled up and got out of the bus. We were the first ones out, and I looked in the building and saw children already there! Luckily, there were children from two different orphanages, and they arrived 15 minutes apart—so we were able to video for each other. We saw Xander playing in a little play area—and honestly, I recognized him from his feet, not his face! He was smaller than we were expecting, and 1,000 times cuter! I cannot even describe his mega-watt smile!! It lights up a room!!! I walked over to him and he immediately grinned and gave me a big hug—it was a breathtaking moment. Jer and the girls were close behind, and he was equally as happy to see them. He knew who we were from the photo album we sent, and seemed completely at ease with us.

We immediately discovered that whoever filled out his original paperwork was dead wrong on one aspect. They said he was an introvert! He is instead the most extroverted little ball of energy! He immediately went to town opening up his backpack and discovering all of his treasures. Jeremy and I were smitten. Cancel that—we ARE smitten. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces, and I think we have said, “He is SO CUTE!” about a hundred times today! Jeremy won him over with all his funny little tricks, and has had him laughing all day. I cannot wait to see him with our boys—he will LOVE them! He is such a boy! Loves to be silly and play. He is also very very smart. He picks up on things very quickly, and is super observant. He has charisma galore, and I think Jeremy summed him up when he declared, “This boy is going to be student body president!”

He is perfect.

I know that the Lord has watched over this process from day one. I am quite sure that had his paperwork not said “introvert” but instead correctly described the this outgoing little sweetheart, I would have been scared off. To be perfectly honest, I was a little relieved to think we were going to have this quiet, timid little guy. After Graci’s adoption, I wasn’t sure we could handle another spitfire. But I was wrong. He is SO SO SO perfect for us! I mean, truly, he is something very special. We cannot get enough of him. I can’t wait for the language to be there so I can really express to him just how much we love him!

Xander’s legs/feet/bottom are probably worse than I expected (we had seen lots of pictures, but I still didn’t realize the severity of it all), but we are THRILLED with how well he gets along. He is like any other little four-year-old—running, skipping, jumping. I cannot believe how well he does—I am in awe.

We have had a great day—going out for lunch, completing paperwork, video-chatting with family, swimming, and ordering pizza to our hotel room. Parker and Taylor LOVED seeing him on the webcam, and he kept trying to give them fives and feeding them licorice through the computer! We can’t wait to get the three of them together!

Xander is currently on a little outing with his “Baba.” The only time he has cried today was when Jeremy tried to leave with just Graci and Jessica to run a little errand. They walked out the door and his chin started to quiver—then he burst into tears. It was so sad/sweet, and I immediately called Jeremy back to the room to get Xander. (: He seems equally attached to us both—which is a huge blessing—and he gets along with the girls great. I kept thinking I should pinch myself, as everything is going so amazingly well.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I know that Xander will likely have some tough times ahead, and can continue to use all of your prayers. We love him so very much! And we are so excited for our other children to have him in their lives!

Once again, Taylor, Parker, and Elli—we miss you so! Can’t wait to come home and have our family complete!!

Happy Gotcha Day, little Xu Chu!


Complete and Utter Perfection Part 2

Complete and Utter Perfection Part 3

Complete and Utter Perfection Part 4

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We have arrived in Zhengzhou!!

August 10, 2009 12:45 AM

If you haven’t done so, read Jeremy’s post below.

I have so much to tell about our time in Hangzhou with Graci’s “China family,” but right now it is past midnight and we are EXHAUSTED! I will hopefully find time to share later, but for now just wanted to say that tomorrow morning, (in nine hours, to be exact) we will have our Xander!!!

It is hard to believe that this day has finally arrived. We are excited, overwhelmed, grateful. I can’t wait to share his “Gotcha Day” with you tomorrow.

Dear Graci and Jessica,

You have been such troopers! We have loved loved loved having this time with you in China. Jessica, you have been such fun, and such a treat for everyone to be around. You captured the hearts of many dear Chinese people. Graci, I am more in love with you than ever. I am so grateful for the privilege of mingling with your sweet China family. I love them, and I can see how much they love and adore you. I know it was so hard to say goodbyes, and I pray we have the opportunity to bring you back someday.

Dear Taylor and Parker,

We MISS you like CRAZY! It isn’t the same being here in China without you. We love hearing updates from Grandma and are so glad you are having such fun. We can’t wait to see you again—we love you.

Dear Elli,

Your giggles on the phone tonight made our day! We are so glad you have been such a good little girl. We know you are in PERFECT hands. We miss your hugs and smile and cute little voice. Can’t wait to hold you!

And Dearest Xander,

Tomorrow morning your life will be turned upside down! How we wish you wouldn’t have to go through the sadness to find the joy. We can’t wait to get to know everything about you, but we feel we already know your sweet spirit. It has permeated our home since the day we laid eyes on your handsome little face. We are praying mightily that you will be comforted in the upcoming days as you adjust to a new way of life. We are praying that you will have the gift of tongues, and be able to learn English quickly. We hope that you will somehow know that we are yours, and you are ours. We are privileged to have you join our eternal family. In it, you will always find unconditional love and acceptance. We can’t wait to teach you about our Father in Heaven and His perfect love for you. We know He has been watching over you when we could not, and we are so grateful He has placed you in our lives. Sleep well, little one—your last night alone. We love love love love love you!

Mom and Dad

Cultural Immersion

My sister, Jen, is a self-described Anglophile: one who loves all things British. Well, more accurately, probably all things Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. I could probably be accurately described as a “languaphile”: one who loves languages. I can say hello in about 15 different languages. I’ve worked to become pretty good with my pronunciation and accent. I’m fluent in English and Thai and can get around very roughly in Spanish. A few months before we came to China to get Graci I started working on Mandarin. I was able to speak a very little bit on that trip and then as Graci’s English improved, I quit using much Chinese. Then a couple of months ago I started working on Mandarin again. The last two days have been very helpful in becoming able to actually converse with people.

For those of you who don’t know, it is recommended that when you come to China to adopt, you arrive at least a couple of days prior to your appointment to receive your child. This allows you to get over the jet lag and be more ready to handle the joys and challenges of a new family member. Most families use these days to tour Beijing. On this trip, we came to Hangzhou first. This has allowed us to spend these two days with Graci’s foster family. She lived with them for almost 4 years, and came to love them very much. They also love her very much. We contacted a local interpreter, chartered a van to take us all around, and had intended to treat the foster family to meals and activities while we were here. Instead, we have been treated like royalty. Instead of having the van meet us at the airport, the family somehow came up with two cars for the weekend and they all came out (an hour drive) to pick us up at the airport. They helped us check in at the hotel and insisted on paying for our stay here! They have treated us to two very nice restaurant meals (more on that in a minute!) and showered us with gifts and food. After the meal last night, I asked our interpreter to let them know we would like to pay. The father said, “We’ll have to fight.” Anyway, it’s been a great experience, and different than any of our previous trips. On most trips, we’ve been with other adoption families who are also English speakers. On this trip, we have been surrounded completely by Chinese speakers. We’ve had the opportunity to experience a deeper immersion in Chinese culture as we have seen this family interact with each other and with extended family. (Grandma and Grandpa and aunts, uncles and cousins have come to visit Graci.) It’s been really great. And it’s been great for my Mandarin capabilities. I’ve had several conversations with friends who speak no English at all. In all, it’s been a great two days. Graci has been just giddy with happiness while we’ve been here. She was particularly excited to see her older foster brother. Now we can see why. He’s 27 years old and just wonderful with her and with their new foster child – a four-year-old boy who has a family from the US waiting to come get him. Jesi has also had a ball. She is very much adored by all who meet her. She has a new BFF-the brother’s fiancĂ©, who has been so cute with her. Graci’s foster mom has also been so cute with Jesi and they give each other hugs all the time. I think Graci’s foster mom and Christi’s mom are kindred spirits. They are both blessed with the gift to love children in an extraordinary way.

The one downside to this cultural immersion has been the meals. Let me just say how proud I am of Christi. She is a somewhat picky eater. No seafood is a big rule of hers. And she doesn’t like exotic stuff at all. Fortunately at each meal, there has been at least one chicken dish. But last night we were also served: duck tongue, turtle soup, pregnant eggs (if you don’t know, you don’t want to!), cow intestine soup (which Christi was specifically asked to try-and did!), and various other things we didn’t dare ask about. We have been able to get by eating quite a bit of the most palatable food and kind of skipping past the most challenging. The one thing that we might have offended in was the pregnant eggs. Graci’s foster mom asked Graci why we wouldn’t eat them, and Graci asked us in English. I don’t even remember what I said, something like “No thanks.” I think they are considered quite a delicacy. Graci ate at least two herself. But there is just a switch in my brain that will not let me eat an embryonic duck or chicken, regardless of the consequences.

Well, we’re doing well. Oh, I forgot to mention the sweaters that foster mom knitted for us. It’s crazy how much time she must have spent on these things. They’re amazing! The most beautiful things we’ve ever seen hand-knitted. They are all so sweet.

Tonight it’s on the Zhengzhou. (We’re hoping our luggage arrives at the Hangzhou airport before we depart!) We’re getting so excited to meet Xander. Wish us luck!

Oh, almost forgot. Thanks for all of the prayers. They worked!!! The typhoon turned toward the south, and should not impact our flight. Yeah!!!


P.S. This is Christi here. The biggest problem with the meals is the way the food keeps getting piled on your plate! If Christi’s mom and Graci’s foster mom are kindred spirits, then so are Christi’s Grandma Larsen and Graci’s aunt—neither will take “no thanks” for an answer when it comes to food. We have both been eating five times the amount of food we normally would from just trying to be polite! Food is put in front of us every three minutes or so. They closely watch what you seem to prefer, then go out and buy more of it and insist upon you eating this. If you mention you love the grapes, then it’s off to the market to buy you a whole bushel. Corn on the cob tasty? Let’s go out to the garden and get more to cook immediately! During the first meal they paid close attention to what we preferred to drink, and at every subsequent meal those drinks were in abundance in front of us. You had to be careful not to drink too much, or your glass would be filled to the brim again. It was so extremely thoughtful! They are the kindest, most giving family in the world! And I hope that it’s understood that we do recognize and appreciate that VERY much, while still saying our stomachs are about ready to pop from all the food and drink!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

You really can’t make this stuff up…

Ok, so we’re moving through today, thinking things are going pretty well. We left San Francisco on time. With the help of some Ambien, I slept a couple of hours and Christi slept about 4 hours. The girls were terrific. I can’t tell you what a huge blessing that has been. They are little troopers.

We get to Beijing, check at the baggage claim just in case (no luck-and no baggage). Then we go and wait for our flight to Hangzhou. Graci seems to fascinate the local travelers there. She’s obviously with us, and obviously wasn’t born to us. She speaks some Chinese, but doesn’t sound like a native. Who is this little girl? Eventually she was surrounded by about 10 people, all fascinated by the idea that we were her parents and that she was originally from Hangzhou. They also got a kick out of her cute efforts to speak Chinese. (It really is sad how much she’s lost. But it is getting better as she goes along.)

Anyway, we’re sitting there and having some discussions with the couple of people who speak some English. We mention that we’re flying out of Hangzhou on Sunday night to meet up with the little boy we’re adopting, and one of the people there says (rather nonchalantly, I might add): “Oh, they may cancel that flight because of the typhoon.” WHAT?!? Hold on there partner, did you just say typhoon? (In case you’re not aware, a typhoon is what they call a hurricane if it’s in the Pacific ocean. Don’t know why they aren’t all just called hurricanes, or all typhoons for that matter. It seems silly to me, but hey, I’m just a guy who learned to speak Chinese from a CD entitled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speaking Mandarin,” which presumably makes me…a complete idiotJ) So there. You really can’t make this stuff up. If I was trying to pull your leg, would I say, “Uh, yeah, like…uh…a hurricane’s gonna stop us from getting to Zhengzhou…yeah, that’s it…”

With that little bit of information, we board the plane for Hangzhou and arrive minutes late. Graci’s sweet foster family is there at the airport to pick us up. It took them about an hour to drive there. Since we don’t have our luggage, I obviously have to talk to someone about getting it back. We have learned that, at least at this point, Graci is useless as an interpreter. So I send Graci, Christi, and Jesi out of the secure area to meet up with Graci’s foster family. (From what I heard, it was a sweet reunion. They are very pleased with the improvements in Graci’s appearance and health.) I, myself, stay in the secure area and initiate a lost baggage claim. Oh, how I wish I had the next two hours on video. I must say I’m rather pleased with myself. My Chinese was better than any of their English. (This is NOT a good thing!) But you know what? It took quite awhile, and several people listening to me with creative ears, but I explained our situation to the point that I’m 90% sure they know what’s going on. If all goes as planned, which it obviously doesn’tJ, then we’ll have our luggage on Sunday just in time to catch our potentially-typhoon-cancelled flight to Zhengzhou.

I think I may have said this before, but we would sure appreciate your prayers :).

Well, everyone has crashed except me. I had to call our travel insurance and our adoption agency (and Parker and Taylor, just cuz I missed them). It’s now 2:36 AM. I’ve had about 10 hours of sleep in the last 78 hours. Good night, and good luck.


PS. Once again, a huge THANK YOU to Boyd and Shelly and the Ausdenmoore's. Aus and the gang showed me how to use Skype, Boyd and Shelly had it on the computer, and now I can call home for 2 cents a minute :) :) :)!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Patience is a virtue...

A big THANKS to Boyd and Shelly for letting travel with this computer:):):):)

12:21 AM - Christi bursts into tears. We explain again that if we don't get on an earlier flight than the on China Southern is offering, Graci will not be able to see her family in Hangzhou. And who knows when that opportunity might present itself again.
11:15-1:30 AM - We're all praying fervently in our hearts. Graci counts at least 16 prayers she has said herself.
12:23 AM - Agent number 1 (Aaron) enlists the help of agent number 2 (Tunisia). Tunisia has been observing Christi's hysterics (OK, hysterics is a bit of a stretch, but there is definitely some seriously smeared mascara at this point). Tunisia gets back on the phone with China Southern. The key is China Southern has to stamp our paper tickets and endorse them over to United. If this happens, United can book us on anything they want to. Apparently, this is against China Southern policy. But HOORAY for Tunisia. She pushes and pushes and pushes...and pushes until the China Southern agent finally agrees to do this endorsement. But it's late. And the China Southern agent is technically off work. And she has to physically stamp the paper ticket. And it took 15 minutes on a shuttle to get from where she is to where we are. And Jer is wearing floppy sandals. See Jer run. See Jer forget to take off his backpack. See Jer forget to take of his jacket. See Jer realize that LA is much more humid than SLC. See Jer thinking "Man I'm grateful I lost that 13 pounds before we travelled." See Jer thinking "Man I wish I'd lost 13 more." See Jer's back start to ache. See Jer running out of breath. See Jer try to use a luggage cart as a skateboard. See said skateboard start spinning out of control.
12:55 AM - Jer finds the China Southern agent and she endorses the ticket. At this point she also informs me that our luggage has been locked up for the night. It will go out on China Southern's next flight. The one that leaves 48 hours later:( This means we will not get our luggage until 2 days after we arrive in Hangzhou. (I'm developing more empathy for Boyd and Shelly on their trip to Ethiopia at this point. (Check them out here.)
1:15 AM - I make it back to the United ticket counter and they start working on re-routing us.
2:00 AM - Re-routing complete. We are scheduled to leave LA at 7:36 AM. We will go to San Francisco, then to Beijing, then to Hangzhou. We are now scheduled to arrive a mere 8 hours later than originally planned. We are very, VERY happy with this outcome at this point.
2:15 AM - Catch shuttle to airline-provided hotel.
2:30 AM - Lights out.
4:50 AM - Christi gets up and showers.
5:03 AM - Jeremy gets up.
5:20 AM - Jesi never got up. Jer carries her as we leave for the airport.
6:00 AM - The humidity has completely negated Christi's shower at this point. She stops at a shop and gets a new shirt with some of Dean's "airport money."
7:36 AM - We are on our way again!!!

So now we're waiting in San Francisco. We're feeling grateful to be going so soon. We're also feeling extremely tired. The girls have been amazingly wonderful through all this. I couldn't believe Graci last night. I've seriously never seen her run before. If I ask her to go quickly, she shuffles along a little faster. If I ask her to run, she will do a half-hearted jog for a few steps and then start walking again. But last night, when we explained that we were trying to catch a 1:50 AM flight and if we didn't catch it, we might not see her China family, she ran. Really, REALLY ran. And this was with a broken toe! I was very impressed.

So the start of our trip has been a bit rocky. But trials are, after all, one great way the Lord instructs us. As we were boarding the flight to San Francisco this morning, I said to Christi, "I've come a long way." She knew exactly what I was referring to. She complimented me on how patient I had been with the girls and how friendly and kind I was the with the customer service people along the way. (Obviously, since I've come a long way, this was not always my modus operandi in stressful situations.) Anyway, we're doing well at this point. Next time we talk, we'll be in China. I hope...

BTW-Terynn, we're already feeling that "supernatural refreshment." Thanks SO MUCH for the prayers.

Grin and bear it...;)

5:45 pm - Planned on leaving our home for the airport. (This gave us plenty of leeway)
6:10 pm - Actually left the house. No pressure at this point.
7:00 pm - Arrive at airport. (Thanks to Dean for "airport money" he slipped us as he dropped us off!)
7:45 pm - Find out the flight from SLC to LA is delayed one hour. Start to sweat the connection a little. We will have to leave security, go to China Southern ticket desk and clear security again in LA.
9:30 pm - Find out the flight from SLC to LA is now delayed 1.5 hours. Starting to get quite nervous.
10:40 pm (PST) - Arrive in LA. Ask several personnel how to get to the international terminal. Directions are not clear. Man, is LAX a beast!!!
10:55 PM - Find shuttle to international terminal. (Flight leaves at 11:50 PM)
11:10 PM - Arrive at China Southern ticket counter. Our flight is listed on their display, but there is no one there at all!
11:17 PM - China Southern agent arrives and lets us know the flight is closed. We beg and plead and play the adoption card, but she will not budge. She tells us we can catch the next flight to Guangzhou - 48 HOURS LATER!!! We know there's an Air China flight leaving for Beijing at 1:50 AM. Can she re-route us on that flight. Of course not. We will have to BACK to the United terminal and talk to them because it was their flight that was late. Ticket counter for Air China flight will close at 12:50 PM. RUN!!!
11:40 PM - Arrive back at United terminal. Wait several valuable minutes as three agents help one group of people and another agent cooly stares us down and decides whatever she's doing is more important than helping us.
11:52 PM - Christi goes way outside of her comfort zone and approaches an agent with a plea for help.
11:53 PM - Agent informs us that there is nothing he can do since these are China Southern's tickets. If they were United tickets, he would gladly re-route us on the next available flight.
11:54-12:20 PM We plead, agent tries very hard. Agent calls China Southern who refuse to let United change the tickets. United agent continues to try. We realize we are not going to make the 1:50 AM flight.

to be continued...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jeremy didn't mention...

Graci's broken toe-- as in really, truly broken
The van's broken door
Our broken camcorder (just stopped working!)
My injured knee
The blue Chinese dress that got mixed up with some very cute, formerly white clothes

Seems about right for this week, as we just recovered from:
the bathroom flooding
our rental house leaking
the refrigerator breaking down completely

After the storm comes the rainbow, right?! I think ours is coming Monday morning, bright and early!! (:

Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm thinking somewhere around 2037 we'll get a break...

A few minutes ago Christi and I were working side by side in Elli's room to clean up the fecal matter she had smeared all over her wall prior to falling asleep (which had now had several hours to dry!) I looked at Christi with a smile on my face and said, "I just want you to know now that there's no way I can be ready to leave in less than 48 hours. So you'll have to go to China without me." I don't think she took me too seriously. Man, I could really use a break...


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Conversations with Jesi

Jesi was standing at the kitchen table, writing in an old math workbook of one of the older kids.

Jesi: Dad, this is my work.
Me: Great, Jesi. You're doing very good work.
Jesi: DAD, don't interrupt me while I'm doing my work! Cuz' my work is very more important than your work. Writing is more important than the computer.

So there:)


Saturday, August 1, 2009

This and that...

I only have a million things to do before going to China, but as I know that Xander's adoption is going to be our main focus over the next few weeks, I wanted to take a few minutes to record a few of the happenings over the last month or so.

Our Taylor turned 10 on the 4th of July! I cannot find words to express how much we love him!!!! He is the dearest, most wonderful son we could have ever hoped for. Taylor is compassionate, extremely intelligent, righteous, fun, competitive, hard-working, ever so sweet, innocent, athletic, dedicated, cuddly, and just plain good. He is quick to to say "I'm sorry!" and sincere about it too. He often puts others before himself and in my opinion, has the most handsome smile of any 10-year-old anywhere! This year finds Taylor into reading, playing basketball and baseball, ice-cream sandwiches, pancakes, reading, scouts, riding bikes, reading, waterslides, Hershey bars, sleeping in (our only kid who likes to do so), playing with friends, oh-- and reading.

T's nickname has been "Sunshine" since he was a very little boy and it fits him perfectly. Taylor, what would we ever do without you?? You will always be our most darling, precious first-born! We are so thankful for the example you are to your brothers and sisters. You will never know how much we love you and how proud we are of who you are!

Taylor showing his gifts!

Getting the traditional breakfast in bed

This year we had the brilliant idea of a combined birthday party for Taylor, Jessica, and Graci. Their birthdays all fall within a month of each other, and planning three separate parties is a little chaotic. With the China trip coming up, it was a perfect year to celebrate with one great big party! We had about 50 kids in our backyard and it was so much fun! We were able to get a great deal on a giant, 18-foot inflatable movie screen-- like the kind they set up in parks for a "night at the movies." We hung up a dozen helium balloons for decorations and called it good. We had Jesi's friends play games on one side of the yard and the older kids on the other-- and played for about 45 minutes. Then we opened presents and had ice-cream sandwiches. By then it was dark enough to start the movie. The kids had all brought bean bags, chairs, or blankets. We passed out big bags of popcorn with M & M's and had a big cooler of water for them to fill up cups with. It was the easiest party ever, and it counted for THREE KIDS! We are thinking this is going to be an annual event! My camera died after taking just one picture, but my sister took lots and I'll post them when we get them. I do, however, have a pic of the girls right before the party. They wanted make-up on, and I cannot tell you how excited they were for their friends to show up!

As I went to find the birthday pictures on the camera, I came across all kinds of treasures! Graci had taken about 100 pictures of the TV-- gotta wonder what was going through her head! She also tried so hard to get a good picture of Elli-- and out of about 50, these are the best ones by far:

I'm not planning on hiring her as my personal photographer anytime soon, but do admit that Elli is very difficult to take pictures of! She also took SEVERAL self-portraits!

I also found this treasure-- so glad I took it as I would have forgotten. One day I had searched EVERYWHERE for Jessica, and was getting a bit panicky! No one had seen her for quite some time and I couldn't figure out in where in the world she could be. I called her loudly many times, and had looked in her room at least twice before I noticed this:

I'm calling it "Snug as a bug in a what?"

I realize I'm being completely random here, but here are a couple of stories to show how thoughtful Graci can be. I had taken her shopping at JCPenney, and she had found a "High School Musical" nightgown that she loved. It was on clearance, and so she on her own initiative bought not only one for her, but one for Jessica as well.

Jesi was SO excited and the boys were a little jealous of their night masks. The girls went off into their bedrooms for the longest time and came up with these for the boys!

Another day, all the kids were gone except for Graci when the ice-cream truck came by. She pulled out her hard-earned money and went and bought ice-cream for everyone. She was SO excited to give it to them, and they were pretty happy too!

Realizing this post is all over the place... A few weeks ago the kids had their second annual "Downstairs Day." This was my sister's great idea to let me get all kinds of stuff done upstairs while the kids spent the day downstairs on their own. The night before, I get a schedule all ready and tape it to the wall, along with a laundry basket full of everything they will need-- food included. The day includes crafts, games, and of course TV. The kids LOVE it. One of the things on the schedule was to go into the storage room and make things out of play-doh. I normally couldn't get my kids to play long with play-doh, but I had a twist. I had given them directions to take anonymous pictures of their own creations for me to judge. I told them that I would look at the pictures at the end of the night and give a prize to the winner, stressing that they were not to tell me whose was whose. There was only one problem: the pictures all had the FEET of the one taking the picture, making it hard for me to be impartial! And the winner goes to...


In other randomness:

Parker's All-Star team!

Um, Jesi? That's a big bowl of watermelon!

Jesi, Graci and cousin Charity in curlers!

Sadly, I didn't take an after-curlers picture, but I do have a cute one of Jesi!

I have realized while going through my pictures that I need to take more of Elli, Taylor, and Parker! Somehow, Jesi and Graci seem to find their way into every other one!

On to China preparations!!! We are getting SO SO excited! Today Jeremy spent hours putting together a new dresser in the boys' room so Xander will have a place for his clothes. It wouldn't have taken hours, but this very good Daddy let his kids put it together with him-- we are talking start to finish. It takes a lot of patience to have four children trying to put together a dresser, and I was proud of them all.

I can seriously feel the electricity in the air-- I love it!! We love you, Xander Green! We will be holding you soon!