Sunday, September 30, 2012

Elli, Elli, Elli...

Poor Elli!!!  Friday evening, Christi took Sophi, Jess and Lexi up to Rexburg, ID to attend their cousin's baptism.  This was a fun trip for them, but left me at home to get the other children ready for church this morning.  Taylor, Parker, and Xander?  Piece of cake.  Graci?  Does it all on her own.  Elli?  Remember, I am just a man.  I have developed some ability to do my daughters' hair over the years, but cannot come close to Christi's expertise.  And Elli's is far and away the most challenging hair to style.  Not only is it the thickest and longest, you also have to contend with Elli's sudden jerks and jolts and fits of frustration as you pull a comb through the tangled mess.  Actually, the tangles weren't too terrible because I washed and conditioned it first.  Nevertheless, if you were an 8-year-old girl, I would not be your first choice of hairdresser:).

But I pressed forward and gave it my best effort.  I dried her hair, put in four ponytails and got her breakfast.  A few minutes later, Parker, not knowing I had done anything other than get her out of bed that morning, said, "Dad, I probably wouldn't worry about doing Elli's hair today."  Ouch!  When I told Parker I had already done it, he said, "Well, you could take it two ways.  The glass half empty would be that the hairdo you did for Elli looked like it might not have been fixed since Mom did it two days ago.  The glass half full would be that I thought the job you did was good enough for church!"  Guess I'll look on the bright side.

On top of her hair, she had to deal with a rather interesting group of wardrobe coordinators.  I picked out the purple dress and black ponytails.  I asked Parker to get her a pair of leggings.  He asked if black was ok.  I said yes, not noticing the butterflies until we were at church.  Finally, just before we walked out of the house, I asked Graci to get her some shoes and socks.  Graci's fashion sense being what it is, she chose white shoes and white socks with multi-colored beads at the top.  This is the result:

So, dear Christi, I apologize.  I know you will be mortified when you see the way I dressed your daughter this morning.  But on the bright side, I did get all six of us there and in our seats no more than two minutes after services started.  And, as usual, sweet Elli shared her exuberance with the rest of the congregation throughout sacrament meeting.

On a more positive note, Elli has done a couple of things in the last few weeks that help us catch a glimpse of what's going on inside her mind.  First of all, she is being more verbal lately.  Sometimes we can understand what she's trying to get across.  Sometimes we can't.  But just having her express herself is really a treat.  Second, Elli used a pronoun!!!  (I guess she uses a pronoun often, but the only way we have ever heard her say it is "I want [insert some type of food here] please!) Unless you know someone with severe cognitive disabilities and an almost complete lack of intelligible communication, you cannot understand what an amazing leap forward this represents.  Parker was talking to her and said, "Elli, you're so beautiful."  After a couple of seconds she replied, "I so beautiful."  Parker's and my jaws both dropped.  We stared at each other in as much dumbfounded shock as if she had jumped up and started flying around the room.  Finally, Elli communicated an idea to Parker and I today, all on her own.  Parker was again playing with her (he is a remarkable brother, by the way) and out of the blue she said a line from her prayers:  "We thank you for...........Parker!"  What a beautiful way for her to express her gratitude to an older brother who frequently takes time to talk to her, hold her and tell her he loves her. 

These tiny, giant steps forward we see Elli take are a reminder that she understands far more than we might assume.  For some reason (I believe it is because of her valiant spirit and lack of a need to be tested in this mortal life), Heavenly Father has seen fit to allow her to live in a body with these special needs.  Although her brain does not transmit or receive information the same way most of ours do, I believe she is making memories and developing relationships with us that will last beyond life on this earth.  I love you Elli.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Emily Anne

To the most exquisitely beautiful little girl we have ever known.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Puzzle Them Home

There simply aren’t words in the English language to convey what we are feeling in our hearts right now.  We are profoundly grateful, giddy, humbled, excited, overjoyed.  As Parker said in his prayer last night, “We are so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so thankful.”  Even that doesn’t do our gratitude justice.   Not even close!

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s start from the beginning—earlier this year—when we fasted and prayed over whether or not to adopt beautiful Cali and handsome Conner.  How could it be right?  A girl in a wheelchair.  A 12-year-old who was blind.  Twelve people in this already very full house. 

And yet it was.

Our answers were sure, and peace was given.  We knew it was right, and that our Father in Heaven approved.  We took that scary step in the darkness, trusting that there would be light.  We decided that sweet Cali was better off in a home that wasn’t wheelchair accessible than she was in a group home without a family.  We believed that Conner would be happier with nine brothers and sisters and all of their things to trip over than in an orphanage by himself.  They would have the gospel, medical care, an education, opportunity, and lots and lots of love.

Still, we prayed.  We prayed specifically that we could get a new home that would be better for our family.  We yearned for a place that Elli could freely play without being so destructive.  (We don't think we can even convey how life-changing that would be for us)!  We wished for a way to make things more comfortable for Cali.  We prayed earnestly night and day.  Jesi began to add to her prayers, “…and if it so be Thy will, please let it be from Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”  (;  As you may remember, both she and Xander sobbed when they realized that that show had been cancelled.

But it seems something even more wonderful is happening.

A few months ago, we got a phone call from a friend in the ward, Chrissy.  She had seen our video announcing our upcoming adoptions and was calling to let us know that she had felt impressed to lead a fundraiser to help us build a new home.  Can you even imagine getting a call like that?  We were speechless and overwhelmed with gratitude. We immediately felt the Spirit confirm in our hearts that this was something from God. 

We felt so loved.

That phone call has evolved into something beautiful.  Chrissy joined forces with some wonderful, amazing people in our community.  They have met weekly to discuss and brainstorm and plan and organize.  They have spent hours and hours on our behalf.  They have caused us to literally jump up and down with excitement!!  They have brought us to our knees with tears of gratitude.

They have carved out a place in our hearts that will always be theirs.

Go ahead, check it out! And please know that whether you support us through donations or by spreading the word or by your thoughts or prayers, WE LOVE YOU.  We are humbled by this beautiful miracle.  You can be assured that we are dedicated to spending the rest of our lives giving back.

Thank you for being a piece of the puzzle.

Jeremy, Christianne
Graci, Taylor, Parker, Jessica, Elli, Lexi, Xander, Sophi, Cali, and Conner

 (One of the things that the committee did was arrange for Fotofly to take our family photos free of charge so that they would have them for the website and for the completed puzzle.   It was our first professional family photo since 2006.  Our clan can be hard to photograph--and they did a great job!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sweet, Sweet Soph

On finding joy:

This weekend when Jenny was in town, she gave Sophi a couple of dollars.  Today Sophi holds these up and says to me, "I got my moneys back.  Jenny gave them to me.  Now I can be happy!"

On herself:

Me: "Soph, I love you.  You're so special!"
Sohpi:  "I know.  That's why Jesus made me this."
Me: "Made you what?"
Soph:  "SOPHI!"...pause..."Dad, you're just kidding."

On gender:
Me:  "How was school today."
Sophi:  "I cried."
Me:  "Why?"
Sophi:  "Kevin wasn't my bus driver."
Me:  "Who was it?"
Sophi:  "It was a girl!  That's so silly!!!"

On Love (and self-confidence):
Usually when we ask Sophi who loves her, she says "Mommy!"  Then we ask, "who else."  She'll name another family member, we'll ask "who else" again and this goes on and on.  Today Christi asked Sophi, "Who loves you?"  Sophi replied:  "Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Taylor and Lexi and Dad and Graci and Parker and Elli and Jesi and Xander and Grandma Rose and Grandpa Green and Jenny and Debbie and Yoshi..."



Monday, September 24, 2012

Over the Hill

Jeremy turned 40 yesterday!  I told him for weeks that he had better kiss me all he could before his birthday because I didn't think I could kiss a 40 year-old, but as it turns out, it's kind of hot!  (;

Jer's sister, Jenny, who happens to share the same birthday, flew out from Portland to surprise him for the weekend.  Believe it or not, I managed to keep it a secret (didn't tell the kids) and he was genuinely shocked to find her sitting in the living room when he came home from work on Friday!  We had a great weekend with a perfect balance of spending time as adults and hanging out with the family.  On Saturday, Jer, Jenny, and I went to the Hale Theatre to see "Arsenic and Old Lace."  It was fantastic!  While we were there and the big kids were home babysitting, Parker managed to find the time to write Jeremy this awesome poem:

Dear dad you are great
although often times late
but man you can cook some good chili,
 you also keep your cool
 as we get ready for school
and our family runs all willy nilly.
You teach us to obey
to love and to pray
 and to never break the first law of camping.
You help me with scouts
and often sit on the couch
and sometimes tell us no snacking. (Hypocrite)
You’re my dad you’re my coach
you’re my lad you’re a cockroach,
no I’m just kidding about that last one,
 and now that your forty
 I can call you an oldy
but we can still have a lot of fun.
 You take me on hikes
and taught me how to ride a bike
but not how to write a good poem.
From Lone Peak to kids day
your awesome in your own way
and I guess I’ll end by saying
Happy 40th Birthday!


Jeremy was also treated with a darling dance from Jesi and Graci that they spent hours choreographing.  Oh, and we mustn't forget Lexi.  While Jenny and Jer were sleeping in on their birthday, she asked if she could write letters for them.  We pulled out her brailler.  She started out, "Dear Dad," and then paused for quite awhile.  I asked her if she wanted to say, "You are a great dad" or talk about how nice or handsome he was and she said very seriously, "No.  I just want to say, 'You are so old'."  So that's what her letter said-- "Dear Dad, you are so old.  Love Lexi."  Jenny's was a bit better-- "Dear Jenny, you are 37.  Love Lexi."  (:

Happy Birthday, Jer and Jenny.  We love you!


Friday, September 21, 2012

It's all about spin...

It's only 9:30 a.m., and I have already:

1.  Written a thank you to a friend
2.  Played dolls with Sophi
3.  Made my family chocolate chip waffles
4.  Reviewed spelling words with Xander
5.  Had Sophi practice Spanish
6.  Changed Elli's sheets
7.  Trained for my *marathon
8.  Made Elli's bus drivers feel beautiful
9.  Had 3 clean loads of laundry ready to put away
10.  Scrubbed the toilet
11.  Done some deep cleaning
12.  Given myself a facial
13.  Completed Xander's physical therapy
14.  Made dinner plans for tonight
15.  Washed some windows
16.  Done some light reading
17.  Taken out the trash
18.  Done some handyman work
19.  Built extended family relations
20.  Blogged

1.  Via text
2.  For about one minute
3.  Eggo
4.  As he was running out the door, I asked him to spell the three words I remembered from his list.
5.  Dora
6.  Out of pure necessity
7.  Ran around the house trying to get 7 kids out the door on time 
    *marathon-- when we add two more kids to the brood
8.  By walking out there in my p.j.'s, messy hair, and no make-up
9.  Delivered this morning by my laundry fairy
10.  Again, out of pure necessity
11.  Straightened the cereal in the pantry
12.  As I opened the dishwasher
13.  Held his hand and walked up and down the hallway one time to practice not limping
14.  Picked a restaurant for date night
15.  Because I realized as I walked outside, it was not nearly as hazy as I had originally thought while looking out my kitchen window.
16.  On the newly cleaned toilet
17.  Set it on the porch for my boys to take care of
18.  Changed batteries in a toy
19.  Emailed my sister
20.  (:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Diamonds and Dumpsters

Christi has a history of bad luck with expensive jewelry.  Well, with both pieces of expensive jewelry she's ever had.  And expensive is relative.  The first is her wedding ring.  The second is a reasonably nice bracelet I got her one year for our anniversary.  The bracelet somehow turned up missing within about a week of my giving it to her.  Never did find it.  Oh well, it wasn't that nice.  Now the ring...

First was when she ran the vacuum over it.  She immediately knew what she had done and was able to recover it, but it was mangled and completely unwearable.  She put it up in a corner of a cupboard, and there it sat for years.  During this period, Christi would wear her wedding ring du jour.  These were Walmart specials with rhinestones way bigger than any diamond we could have afforded.  They would quickly lose their silver or gold colored plating and become a dull brown color.  But at least they let the world know she was taken!  One time she actually had a girl come up to her and compliment her on her "two-tone" wedding ring.  If you counted the nasty green color it turned her finger, it could probably have qualified as a three-tone ring!

Next came the time she lost the diamond.  Fortunately we were blessed with a minor miracle and it turned up again.

So it was no real surprise the other day when Christi mentioned she was missing half of her wedding ring.  It is a two-part ring that interlocks.  She hadn't realized for awhile that she only had one of the pieces on.  (Of course it was the piece without the diamond:).  She wasn't sure where she might have left the main piece, but she thought it might have been when she took the ring off to cut the boys' hair.  We looked all through the hair-cutting supplies.  No luck.  She wondered if it might have been vacuumed up with the hair.  I think we both thought the other one would look through the vacuum.

A few days later it still hadn't turned up.  I called the kids together and offered a $25 reward to whoever found it.  This was definitely enough to get their attention.  They did some searching, but it remained lost.  Later that day, Christi asked me if I had looked through the vacuum.  It's a bagless model so you just dump the canister directly into the garbage can.  I told her I had not looked through the vacuum and in fact, I had just emptied the vacuum into our outside garbage can.  She looked somewhat panicked.  She told me she thought there was a very good chance her ring had been dumped with it!  She said she would go out and look through the garbage can.  I have never seen Taylor or Parker volunteer so quickly for a job, particularly such a disgusting one.  They literally jumped out of their seats and ran to the garbage can.  Sure enough, less than ten minutes later, Taylor came in victorious.  I immediately paid up.  Parker was quite discouraged, feeling he had tried just as hard, but had been gypped out of 25 bucks only because he had seen the glint of the ring a split second later than Taylor.  It just wasn't fair.  I pulled out one of our family's favorite lines (or at least mine!):  "Fair is overrated."

Anyway, Christi has her ring on her finger once again.  How long will she keep it this time???

Camping Season

We are a sports family.  (Well, some of us are.  This past Sunday in Jessica's primary class, the subject of the BYU-Utah rivarly game came up-a bit of a sore spot for those who love the cougars!  Some of the kids said, "I love BYU!"  Some of the less-fortunate kids said, "I love Utah!" Jessica said, "I don't like BYU or Utah.  I love ballet!")  Taylor, Parker, Christi and I love college football.  Sophi is on the right path.  Graci hates it.  Since Graci hates it, Jesi hates it.  Lexi is ambivalent.  Xander wants to like it, but can't understand it.  (He and I have a date this Thursday to watch the BYU-Boise State game.  I've committed to help him understand how it's played:)  So many of us like to watch our sports.  Taylor and Parker are also great athletes.  They both play baseball and basketball, with  basketball being their first love.  These two sports keep us busy from November until June.  Then comes camping season!  Love it!  No games.  No practices.  A time to rejuvenate, relax, and enjoy the fabulous fall (and summer) weather in Utah's great outdoors.  (Not sure how many more years I'll be able to talk the boys out of playing football, but so far, so good!)

This is our camping season.  And for those of you who have followed us for awhile, you know that one of our favorite trips is Lone Peak.  The have been several memorable moments on our trips.  The first year (2008-Parker was just 7!) was the we-ran-out-of-matches-before-we-could-start-a-fire-and-boy-were-we-glad-we-brought-the-emergency-magnesium-fire-starter year.  It was also the year I had to alternate carrying the boys' packs on one of my arms 'cuz they just couldn't do it on their own.  And it was the infamous, "I think I saw a bear!" year.  (We do take a can of bear spray with us each time we go, although we've never had the occasion to use it.)  The second year was the never-drop-your-sleeping-bag-over-the-edge-of-a-cliff year.  This experience prompted my development of the oft-quoted first law of camping:  "Don't be stupid!"  (Christi is not a huge fan of this law, but Taylor, Parker and I just see the simple brilliance in it:)  The third year was the Dad-left-his-money-clip-at-home-and-now-we-can't-buy-some-of-the-snacks-we-were-going-to-get year.  And the fourth year was the we-finally-made-it-down-the-mountain-but-dad-locked-the-keys-in-the-car-and-his-cellphone-is-dead year.  Fortunately, that was the one time Christi couldn't make it, so she drove the 30 miles to bring us a spare set of keys.  Despite the challenging moments, each time we go, the experience is amazing and the views are spectacular.

This past weekend we went again.  It was a fantastic trip.  We started up the trail around 5pm on Friday:

Yes, that is a loaf of french bread on top of Parker's backpack.  On our very first trip we stopped at Smith's to get some snacks.  Christi suggested we get some french bread to bring along.  I admit I ridiculed her a bit for attaching a loaf of bread to her backpack, but after toasting it by the fire that night, we were all sold, and that loaf of french bread has been on the menu every trip since.

In the parking lot we met another hiker who was heading up.  We're not exactly speed-hikers, so we figured he might beat us up there.  I asked where he was planning to camp.  He said it was a secluded spot above the waterfall.  Our hearts sank as we thought he might take our campsite.  Christi quickly said, "Sounds like the same place we're headed to.  I guess we can camp together."  Smart girl.  This guy obviously wanted to be up there by himself.  We saw him at the top, but he stayed away from "our spot."  This year in addition to the usual mango, jerky and starbursts, I packed each of us a bag of grapes and a bag of carrots to keep us going.  Loved the grapes.  Great hiking food.

We made a few stops on the way up and then the boys enjoyed the views from our lookout rock:

The sunset that night was spectacular:

The night went well for awhile.  We had a great dinner of sweet and sour pork and turkey tetrazini (and french bread:)  We finished up with s'mores.  We were just getting ready to hike back up to the rock to enjoy the night sky.  Parker looked up at the hillside directly north of our campsite.  He stared at it for a few minutes and then asked, "What's that?"  We all looked.  It was dark by now.  We saw what looked like smoke coming up over the hillside next to us.  It had a faint reddish glow.  Unless you live under a rock, you know that this has been a terrible year for forest fires in the west.  We have suffered through several in Utah, including one in July which was only a couple of miles from where we were camping.  What we saw that night really looked like a forest fire had developed and was headed our way.  We didn't panic.  (Well, most of us didn't.  No names will be mentioned:) We called Christi's brother Matthew and asked if he had heard anything about a forest fire near where we were.  He said no, but that he would look online and call us back.  In the meantime, we went into let's-get-out-of-here mode.  We packed up just about everything in camp and were preparing to hike down the very steep three-mile-long trail in the dark.  Matthew called back and said there was a small, older fire that was completely contained at this point, but that was all.

So we had to decide what to do.  Matthew had received his information from the Alpine City fire department, and believe me, if a fire was putting off the kind of smoke we thought we were seeing, Alpine would know about it.  So we said a prayer and decided to go up to our rock and see if we could get a better view of what was going on.  Once we got there (and knowing that there wasn't a raging fire nearby) we figured out that we had seen a high cloud bank (in an otherwise cloudless sky) come into view over the hill next to us.  The orange glow was the reflection of the light in Salt Lake City.  How dumb did we feel.  Hiking down the mountain at 10pm would have been a serious violation of the first law of camping!!!  How grateful we were that we had cell service and could get some information quickly.  And how glad we were that we didn't go find that other camper and frantically tell him he needed to evacuate (as was our plan while WE were frantically planning our own evacuation!)
We got back to camp and laid out our beds again and tried to sleep.  Taylor slept like a log.  Parker woke up three times, which to him was a lousy night's sleep.  Christi and I tossed and turned all night.  It's a bummer how getting old makes camping so much less restful.  The next morning we enjoyed one last  moment with our breathtaking views:

On the way back down, we always try to stop at horsetail falls.  Many people come up the trail part of the way and get to a viewpoint where this waterfall is visible.  It's beautiful, but these people are really missing out by not going all the way there.  When I first visited the falls back in college, the friend who took us there only knew one way to get there.  We had to bushwhack through some pretty steep and overgrown terrain.  But the falls was absolutely worth it.  A couple of years ago, we found a relatively easy trail and now make it there without any troubles.  The water is very, very cold, but we are very, very brave, hence:

Now Christi, on the other hand, was not so brave.  She delicately dipped her toes in the water, adamantly refused to sit in the waterfall.  We coaxed and cajoled, but to no avail.  Then I had a brainstorm.  We promised her that we would each make dinner for two nights if she would go in.  It took her no time at all to agree to that deal:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Torturing Myself

Today I received a really sweet email from a childhood friend, Missy.  In it, she mentioned the summer when we put up bulletin boards in her dad's seminary room, and it immediately brought back a flood of memories involving that room.  Why I'm sharing them now, I do not know!

The first one that came to mind was "the fly incident."  This is a memory I have tried to suppress, but apparently it's still there.  I was in 9th grade.   In Utah, we can choose to have release time to go to a church class called "seminary."  This particular week was a "battle of the seminary classes."  Our teacher began the class that day by telling us that someone in period 2 had eaten a fly, and if we were to stay on top of the battle, someone from our class would have to eat one too. (This from one of my favorite teachers???)   He asked for volunteers.  Of course, practically everyone raised their hand... it was the only cool thing to do.  I raised mine with the rest of them, but was caught off guard when he said, pointing at me, "Ok, Christianne.  You're the lucky gal."

I acted all cool... not ruffled in the least... but inside I was DYING.  A FLY?  Are you kidding me?!  A couple of the guys had already gone to task finding the biggest one they could find.  And let me tell you, I am not exaggerating when I tell you the thing was HUGE.  They took great pride in it, and presented it, still twitching, in a kleenex.  I went to the front of the classroom where everyone began to chant, "maggots, maggots!"  Um... thanks.

Luckily, two guys in the class were my heroes that day.  One of them, Marcus, told me, "It's just like when you're riding your bike really fast and you accidentally get one in your mouth and swallow it right down!  You can totally do it."  I'll never forget the comfort in those words.  The other gave me a piece of licorice to eat when all was said and done-- I have never been so grateful for a piece of candy in my life.

The rest of them found WAY too much joy in watching me try to be brave as I held it above my mouth.

Believe it or not, I ate the fly-- just like that.   I can't remember if I chewed or swallowed whole-- I just remember wanting to never think about it again.

And here I am thinking about it.


Still, that memory isn't quite as bad as the other vivid one I have from that room.  It was my senior year this time, and I was on the Seminary Council.  (Hey, maybe eating that fly paid off somehow!)  It was one of the best experiences of my life serving on that council with such amazing young men and women (including Missy, by the way.)

One of those young men was Scott.  Scott was one of those guys that most girls had some sort of crush on at one time or another.  He was athletic (ended up playing college football), funny, good and smart.  Though I was dating Jeff at the time, just considered Scott one of my best "guy friends," and never had anything romantic with him-- there was always a little bit of a crush going on, and at the very least, I enjoyed flirting with him.

This particular day, the council had been asked to go and speak to the junior high seminary classes.  We were sitting on a table facing the classes, and there was a break.  We were just chatting (eight of us or so) when Scott looked sideways at me and let out a little laugh.  Before long, it turned from a snicker to a full-on, couldn't-catch-his-breath laugh.  "Ummm... what's wrong?" I asked.  At this point, all the other council members are of course all-ears.  It took him awhile to spit it out.

"I guess you're growing a beard, there!"

He reached over and pulled out a course, DARK hair from the bottom of my chin.  It was like, three inches long-- no joke.  How I never saw it myself, I do not know.  All I know, is that it was the second time I found myself in that room wanting to die.  I was "growing a beard" and it was discovered by one of the cutest guys in school.

To Scott's credit, I don't think he was intentionally being mean.  In fact, he was one of the nicest, sweetest guys in school (hence all the crushes.)  I just think that seeing a black hair growing out of the chin of a strawberry-blonde caught him off guard.  Go figure.  (:  To this day, I still rub my fingers over my chin searching for that little course hair-- which seems to grow off and on-- and believe me, if it gets even a fraction of a millimeter long, I will tweeze and tweeze until it's out of there!

You know, speaking of Scott, I have another very "fun" memory that involves him.  It was a Sunday in December, and I believe I was 15.  My friend, Jessica, had asked me to accompany her and a couple of others on the piano at her ward's Christmas Sacrament meeting program.  I was more nervous than normal because, well, guess who was in her ward?

Jessica and the others were going to sing first, followed by a talk, then a song on their violins.  I was to accompany both songs.  As I stood up for the first song, her mom whispered, "Don't forget to put the lid up on the piano."

Putting the lid up makes the piano sound a bit louder and more clear.  I walked up to the front of the chapel, started to lift up the lid, and immediately heard an audible gasp from the congregation.  The Bishop had bolted out of his chair and was stretching out his hands toward the piano.  It took a second for it all to make sense.

The violins had been sitting on top of the piano lid.

(Just like the hair-- how I missed seeing them, I will never know!)

They were now sliding OFF of the lid, through the hands of the Bishop, and (with a very. loud. bang.) onto the floor.

This would have been bad enough any Sunday, but this particular day the chapel was full to overflowing for Christmas.  There had been a reverent, peaceful spirit as we celebrated the birth of the Savior, and I had to go and knock the violins to the ground.

You know...  I think I'm going to stop reflecting on my teenage years now.



Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes yesterday!   It was a good day, and I felt loved!  I spent most of the day being much lazier than normal and trying not to feel guilty about it!

Jeremy and I have never taken all of the kids together to a restaurant before (fast food is an exception-- but even then we usually bring it home to eat) because A) it's too expensive and B) Elli.  Last night we decided to throw caution to the wind and brave it for my birthday.  We thought it best to start small (something live Olive Garden terrified me) so we went to Rumbi Island Grill.  Yummy food, no fancy tablecloths, small, and happy Hawaiian music to drown out our noise!  I'm happy to say it was a success-- the kids were all great, Elli only had to be taken out for a walk twice, and the food was a hit.  (:  After dinner was done, the kids were eyeing the dessert menu.   I told them they could have like, one bite of dessert there, or I could go to the Smith's next door and pick out something bigger for the same amount of money.  I bought a dozen donuts from the bakery (made that morning and marked down to $1.49) and a box of ice-cream bars for the same price as one little dessert at Rumbi. And it's a good thing, too, after paying for dinner for the ten of us!

My friend Heather sent me an email that read in part, "Here's wishing you a quiet night, a hot bath and a nice dinner out on the town...wait who am I kidding.  Let's try this's wishing you a messy homemade birthday cake decorated and made by 4-8 kids, a noisy but lovely rendition of happy birthday, and 5 minutes on the couch with at least 2 kids on your lap.  Ha!"   I laughed and was sure that she was right on, but I am happy to report that she was closer on her first wish than the second-- I did get dinner out on the town, and after we got home, Jeremy sent me in to have a long, hot bath while he got the kids to bed.  Not too bad!  (:

 So grateful for good family and friends!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This morning Taylor had a minor sore throat.  He was doing all he could with his body language to demonstrate to us that if he went to school, he would probably pass away before the day was over.  Christi was going to let him decide, but with the possibility that he will miss a week or two while we are in China, I wanted him to go if he could.  I asked him how he felt.  He said, "I'd really just like to go back to bed."  I replied,  "I would like to go back to bed, too."  Immediately,  Jesi and Sophi shouted out, "NOOO!"  Jesi followed that up with, "You can't go back to bed!  You have to go to work so we have money for food and clothes!"  Sophi then said the same thing.  Thanks for the news flash, girls:).

Speaking of girls shouting...Sunday night I stayed with our friends the Merediths in Tennessee.  They have six kids.  A bit smaller than our family, but still a large group by pretty much any standard.  I got up on Monday morning in time to have breakfast with them and say good-bye to everyone as they were leaving for school.  The difference between their house and ours on a school morning was astounding.  They were calmly paced and quiet.  You seriously could have had a reverent church service in their living room.  Then this morning I'm back at our house.  Multiple times during the get-ready-for-school rush I had to say (shout?), "Everyone quiet so I can hear so and so."  It is absolute chaos around here in the morning.  Uber-impressed with the Merediths.  Sometime maybe Christi and I can go spend a week observing them and see how they manage to be so organized and on top of things!

Christi has been working on Sophi's plurals.  Soph finally got the hang of adding an "s" to a word.  Yesterday she came home from school with a picture.  Christi asked, "Is that Little Bo Peep?"  "Yes!  She lost her sheeps!"  Gotta love English?!?

Thursday through Saturday of last week:
  • Thursday morning:  Xander has an appointment to get his drainage tube removed from his leg.  Christi is going to take him while I go to work.
  •  9:30 am - Christi finds out she has an important meeting she needs to attend.  I have to rearrange my work schedule to take X-man.
  • 10:30 am - Arrive at the doctor's office
  • 11:00 am - Doctor comes in and removes the drainage tube.  This thing has been in Xander's leg for well over a month.  I had pictured the hollow tube extending an inch or two into his leg.  Instead, this thing came out!  It entered his leg just below his knee and went almost down to his ankle.  Nasty!!!

  • 12:30 pm - Drop Xander off at school.  Looks like he's doing well.
  • 5:00 pm - Christi brushes Xander's skin and practically gets burnt.  X has a 104.4 degree temp.
  • 9:00 pm - Ibuprofen has kicked in.  Temp is down to about 99.5
  • Friday morning:  Typical ridiculous madness to get kids off to school (other than Xander of course.  He's already missed enough school to make him repeat 2nd grade!)
  • 8:01 am - Christi calls Primary Children's to see if Xander needs to come in.  They tell her to call back at 9:00
  • 9:00 am - Christi calls and tells nurse the situation.
  • 9:30 am - Doctor calls back and tells Christi she needs to get X-man in right away.
  • 10:30 am - I have a video conference call.  Can't have a screaming Soph in the background, so Christi drops her off at the Blackburns on the way to take X-man to the emergency room
  • 11:30 am - Xander enters the emergency room and has bloodwork done.
  • 12:30 pm - infection confirmed.
  • 2:00 pm - Christi obviously can't pick up the kids from school, so I have to rush home and get the crew.  On the way home I take a preliminary survey among the kids:  If mom and Xander have to stay at the hospital, would you rather:
    1. Try and have all of us (minus Christi and X) go camping tonight?
    2. Go to the ward event but just stay for dinner and games and then sleep at home?
    3. Skip the campout altogether, stay home, watch a movie and have popcorn?
  • I get a mixed response.  Jesi and Lexi desperately want to go camping.  Graci wants to go to the dinner.  Taylor doesn't care.  Parker wants to go to Cole's house and play.  (In case you hadn't noticed, that wasn't one of the options.  But does that stop a kid from asking?)
  • 2:15 pm - Drop Parker off at Cole's house to play until further notice.
  • 2:17 pm - Elli arrives home from pre-school.
  • 2:18 pm - Elli is balanced on the stair rail singing "We will never, ever get back together."
  • 2:20 pm - Christi calls to let me know the doctor wants to admit Xander and keep him at least one night while he starts an antibiotic.
  • 2:30 pm - I decide we'll go to the dinner and then come home.  Dinner starts at 6:30pm.
  • 2:35 pm - Don't know how I can finish my paperwork and juggle the remaining kids by myself.  Get a great idea!  "Lexi, do you want to play at Erin C.'s house?"  "YAYYYYY!"
  • 2:40 pm - Call and ask if Erin C. can play.  Her mom is going out, so Lexi can't go over there.  But if Lexi would like Erin to come over to LEXI's house....  Why not.  Come on over.  A gaggle of kid is a gaggle of kids.
  • 2:46 pm - Lexi announces to the house that Erin C. is coming over.
  • 2:47 pm - Jesi begs to have Riley come over.  Sure.  A gaggle is a gaggle...
  • 3:00 pm - Riley and Erin are now at the house.  They take Parker's and Xander's places, so there are eight children beautifying our home and the universe is right once again.
  • 3:15 pm - I have tried to escape to my office to get some work done.  Jess, Lex, Erin, Riley and Soph are playing together and entertaining each other.  Taylor is reading.  Graci is the oragami queen.  And Elli is doing whatever it is that Elli does.  All was well until the girls decided to play dolls.  I forget that when Jesi was looking for an Elli-proof location for Penelope's bedroom the best option turned out to be in my office.  Normally this isn't a big deal.  If Jesi is playing with Penelope in there, it is usually just her.  A few quiet comments to Penelope add ambiance to my work environment.  On this particular day, however, Jess and Penelope were joined by four other girls and at least one more American Girl doll.  Made for quite the focused finish to my work day:).
  • 4:00 pm - Parker calls to check in.  I tell him we will be leaving for the ward dinner around 5:45.  (It's about a 30 minute drive away.)  Call again around 5:30 to make sure we're going.  
  • 5:30 pm - Parker calls to check in.  Begs to stay at Cole's house instead of come with us.  Permission granted.
  • 5:40 pm - I finish up a project, jump up from my desk, and think I can get everyone ready in 5 minutes and leave by 5:50 at the latest.
  • 5:42 pm - I call Erin's mom to make sure she is back and I can drop Erin off.  She volunteers to pick her up.  I decline this offer.  Dumb mistake!
  • 5:43 pm - I send Riley home.  (2 minute walking distance).
  • 5:45 pm - I ask Graci and Taylor to help Elli and Sophi get in the car.  They do.
  • 5:52 pm - I finally find Sophi's shoes and ankle brace.  I take them to the car.  Do a quick head count.  Still need Lex and Jess.
  • 5:56 pm - Lexi now has socks and shoes on and is in the car.  Jesi is still missing.
  • 5:57 pm - Find Jessica in her room with a cute little bag filled with jammies, toothbrush, etc.  "What are you doing?" I ask.  "Packing for the campout."  Apparently daddy did not explain clearly enough that due to a lack of sufficient parental units, we were not going to be camping tonight.  I now tried to gently explain that we were only going for dinner.
  • 5:58 pm - Total meltdown from Jessica.  End-of-the-world-level tragedy.  This is the only time she would be able to camp with Riley.  Her best friend.  Who is moving to Canada soon.  We have to go camping.  PLEEEEASE, Daddy!"  Broke my heart.  Can't do it.
  • 6:05 pm - Finally get Jess in the van.
  • 6:06 pm - Run downstairs and grab a sleeping bag and pad just in case Riley's family is there and is willing to let Jess stay with them.
  • 6:08 pm - Leave to Erin's house to drop her off.  
  • 6:12 pm - Arrive at Erin's house.  Jesi says, "Dad, you didn't let me get shoes."  Let you?  You're nine years old!
  • 6:15 pm - Almost back home for the shoes.  Tell Taylor in the passenger seat, "When we get there, you jump out with Jess, unlock the door, and lock it behind her when she's done."  
  • 6:16 pm - Taylor and Jess are in the house.  Lexi says, "I have to go to the bathroom."  This is not going to be a quick stop.  Figure I might as well change Elli at this point.  I had forgotten to change her after school and had grabbed a pull up and wet wipes as we left the first time.  Go around the van.  Look at Elli's feet.  No shoes or socks.  Sweet Grace.  Sometimes she has the common sense of a cantaloupe.  When I asked her to put Elli in the van, I had assumed she would realize that socks and shoes were indicated.  Not so.  Kudos to dad, I didn't say a word.  Just took care of it all myself.
  • 6:22 pm - Off like a herd of turtles.
  • 6:51 pm - Arrive at the dinner.  Still plenty of food left, and no long line!  Late has it's advantages.  Send older kids off to eat and play.  Set Elli and Sophi up in the stroller by a table and set Lexi up at the table.  Go to the buffet to try and dish up food for the four of us all by myself, using three plates.  Manage OK.
  • 7:02 pm - Get back to the table with food.  Am surrounded by angelic women who see a floundering father in need.  Thanks to Channy Phillips, Missy Jessup, Nikki Bailey, Julianne (and Rick) Rawlins, Amy Bills, the Pedersons, and anyone else who helped feed, hold, play with and otherwise take care of my children that night.  It was EXTREMELY appreciated!
  • 7:45 pm - Dinner is done and the older kids are having a ball playing with their friends.  Taylor is up a tree:

  • Graci is playing with Allie and letting Lexi tag along:

  • Jesi is having the cutest time with a bunch of kids her age.  They are playing tag and "wizard, elf, giant" and all kinds of games.  It was a joy to watch her.
  • 8:30 pm - Time to go to home.  Mosquito bites are abounding.
  • 9:15 pm - pull into the driveway.  Sophi is sound asleep...until Lexi jumps out of her seat and crawls all over Soph trying to get out.  Still try to put Sophi straight to bed.  Doesn't work.  At one point she ways, "I want a new family!"  At least that's what I thought she said.  Figured out she was really wanting family prayer.  So we skipped the whole striaght-from-the-car-to-the-bed thing and did the whole nighttime routine.
  • 10:15 pm - Littles are tucked in.  Parker has come home.  Finished watching a college football game.  I head out to Smith's to get ice cream and "The Muppets."
  • 11:00 pm - Start the movie.
  • 11:30 pm - I tell the kids good night and crash in bed.
  • Sometime around 1:00 am - My wonderful older kids turn off the TV and get into bed themselves.  Quite the 36 hours we had.  I've run on too long as it is, so I'll just skip Saturday.  
Life is never dull around here!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


After getting off the bus today:  "Kevin (bus driver) is so so special to me!"

After asking the kids to do something:  "Mama, I can't.  I don't have arms!"  I replied, "Oh, is that so?" and she very seriously said, "Yes-- see!  Look right there!  (pointing with her feet to where her arms should be) See!  I don't have any!"  I hadn't noticed!  (;

After Jer had been gone a few days to Tennessee:  "Why doesn't my Daddy live here anymore?"  I tried to explain he was coming back, and she replied, "I want him to come home NOW!  You can go away!"

After driving back from the hospital and complaining about the long drive:  "I want a different Mommy!"  I pretended not to hear her, thinking it best to just ignore her.  She said, "MOMMY!  I said I want a different Mommy!  You 'posed to cry!"  I pretended to cry and she immediately said, "Ha, ha!  I just kidding Mommy!  I want you be my Mommy!"

And after overhearing Lexi say out of the blue, "Mommy, thank you for coming to China to get me," Sophi chimed in, "Yep!  Thanks Mama!  That so so  sweet of you to get me from China!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Tonight after family prayer, Parker asked if we could say another prayer "to bless all of those who were affected by 9/11."  I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and wondered what spurred it.  Later on, we were driving to the store when he told me, "We had a really touching assembly at school."  The fact that an 11-year-old boy used the word "touching" was "touching" to me!  He went on to tell me all about this assembly to commemorate 9/11.  His history teacher, Mr. White, gave a really cool presentation, and Parker told me all about it in detail. He talked about Mr. White being there during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and the feelings he felt as he watched the plane hit.  Parker talked about Mr. White's conviction that America was great and the many experiences that had shaped his life.   Parker had really, really listened and had been moved.  At one point in the conversation, he said, "Mr. White is my role model.  Not because I want to go into the military, but because I want to really make something out of my life like he did.  He's like a hero."

I felt so grateful in that moment that Parker recognized greatness, and that a great man would choose to be a junior high school teacher.  I don't know if there is a more noble profession, and I am so grateful that the school my kids attend has so many wonderful role models.

From Mr. White's biography on the school webpage:

...In June 2001 I signed up with the United States Coast Guard, and after finishing my boot camp in Cape May New Jersey, I received my first PCS orders to Alexandria Virginia/D.C. in August 2001, serving in the Presidential Honor Guard working out of the White House, Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.

During my tour in Washington D.C., I performed as a member and NCO of various body bearing teams and platoon formations, carrying out over 250 ceremonies for the Military District of Washington.  Some of these experiences include Armed Forces Full Honors Funeral for former president Ronald Reagan, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Armed Forces Full Honors Arrival for several Presidents, Prime Ministers and Dignitaries from other countries, involving numerous missions at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

My aspiration to teach springs from the desire to give, to shape, to make a difference, and to edify the minds of our youth. I have finally found my passion and knack in life. I had an unforgettable experience while serving in Washington D.C. during the 9-11-2001 attacks.  Since then, I have been given the opportunity to share my military experiences with various colleges, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, while obtaining a B.S. in Social Science Composite from Southern Utah University.  I am exceptionally excited and eager to work at Providence Hall Middle School, and to work with such an amazing team.  I am absolutely thrilled to educate and make a positive impact on our youth, and I promise to make learning about history fun and unforgettable here at Providence Hall. GO PATRIOTS!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Let it Shine!

Today is Elli's 8th birthday!  My heart has been overwhelmed with love for her today.  In fact, I've been sitting here at the computer for quite some time-- not being able to type anything because words seem so inadequate for what I am feeling.

I guess I can start by telling you about her day.  Jeremy's out of town, so the kids and I went downstairs to bring her breakfast in bed this morning.  We walked in the door to find her huddled on top of the upside-down papasan chair completely wrapped up in her blanket.  She had taken off her jammies and her pull-up had been torn to shreds all over her bedroom floor.  The room did not exactly smell good!  Her keyboard had two keys broken off of it and her toys were scattered around the room.  She was singing.   (:  I got her cleaned up and laid her on the bed.  We sang "Happy Birthday" and fed her breakfast, then gave her one of her presents-- a new music toy.  She took it and pushed a button, a smile immediately spreading across her face.  She giggled.  The kids were so, so excited that she liked it.  Then I told them that the best present we could give her would be a clean room-- so we all worked together to clean it up while Elli figured out her new toy.   The next two hours were spent bathing all the kids and getting ready for church.   We made it through the Sacrament with all of us in the chapel before Elli started making loud noises and Xander started to complain that his leg hurt.  I took X, E, and S out into the hallway for the rest of the meeting, where Elli happily jumped around in circles for the next 30 minutes.  Then it was off to Primary.  After all the kids were settled in their classes, I sat down in Sunday School by myself.  I couldn't concentrate on the lesson because I was just consumed with thoughts of Elli.  How difficult she was.  How precious she was.  How grateful I was for her sweet teachers who were spending time with her so I could enjoy some spiritual enlightenment.  How guilty I felt that someone was taking care of her.  How far she's come since she was placed in our arms 5 years ago.  How little she's come since she was placed in our arms 5 years ago.  How I can be so completely overwhelmed by her and completely overwhelmed with love for her at the same time.  How the sound of her singing is probably my favorite sound in the world and how the sound of her screaming is probably my least favorite sound in the world.  How being her mother is at the same time so painfully bitter and so perfectly sweet.

How I yearn for her healing.

I thought of the scripture in John 9:2-3--  "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?  Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."  You know, when I was younger I always thought that Christ was referring to the fact that He was going to heal him, and that was how His works would be manifest through the blind man.  I look at it differently now.  I know that Jesus could heal my girls of their blindness.  But I think that because of their blindness, His works are manifest through them in a way that they could not be shown otherwise.  I feel this because I have seen how they strengthen others and lead them to more Christlike lives.  I feel this because their blindness has changed ME.  It has made me a more patient and understanding person.  It has filled me with a love for Christ that I don't know if I could have gained without them.  And Elli's autism and subsequent cognitive delays and behaviors has somehow further deepened my love for Christ and my relationship with Him.  For she is alive in Christ!  She is a celestial spirit.  And though I admittedly can easily forget this when things are particularly tough with her, I always know it in my heart, and I feel of her spiritual seniority in our home.

I remembered another scripture-- one of my favorites-- found in Isaiah 42:16.  It's the one I have clung to many times (I even named her blog around it) but have not thought of recently.  "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."  He has not forsaken her.

He will not forsake her.

So though I didn't necessarily pay attention to the lesson being taught, I feel like the Holy Ghost gave me a lesson that I needed more-- a reminder of the special spirit that Elli is, of the Savior's perfect plan for her, and how grateful I am to be her mother.

After dinner tonight we had banana splits-- one of Elli's faves.  I then put in a new CD  I bought her-- a children's gospel singalong.  The first song was the one that starts, "The Lord said to Noah there's gonna be a floody-floody" (I forget the name) and I started singing and dancing to it.  Pretty soon the girls and Xander had joined in.  Taylor and Parker just kind of rolled their eyes and laid on the couch reading their books.  I tried to get them to join in to no avail.  We kept dancing through the next songs before I came up with a great idea.  I announced that the child who danced the least would get to clean up dinner!  Wow... I had no idea my boys were such amazing dancers!  We laughed and danced through the next 10 songs.  It was so much fun.  Elli just sat there, but I think she enjoyed the music.  When "Kumbaya" came on, we all held hands and swayed and laughed.  (For those of you that don't know, when our kids argue, their consequence is often to hold hands, look each other in the face, and sing "Kumbaya."  It almost always ends in smiles!)

The last song we danced to was "Let it Shine."  This has been one of Elli's favorites for a few years now.  She doesn't sing as much or as clearly as she used to, but I remembered that we had gotten a video of her singing this a couple of years ago when she was more easily coached into singing and would sing a song all the way through!  She was also unusually happy and calm during this video.  I'll put it at the bottom of this post.   It's a great reminder to me of how she shines with the light of Christ.

After our dance party I asked the kids to each tell Elli something they liked about her.  Taylor's response was particularly sweet.  He said, "Elli, I love you because you have so many trials that you just deal with, and when I get discouraged, I look at you and think of how blessed I am and you make me feel like I can do anything."

I love what Elli teaches our kids, and the pure love they give her in return.

Happy 8th Birthday, sweet Elli!  I hope you dream of chocolate and Thai food and almonds and mangoes and noodles and bananas with peanut butter and pumpkin pie and breadsticks!  I hope that somehow as you close your eyes, you can dream with color and images and clarity of mind.  I pray that you can feel the perfect love that your family and your Savior has for you, and that you can rest your mind and body from the hardships they endure while awake.  Sleep peacefully, birthday girl.


PS  Elli was not cooperative at all during our family photos.  She wasn't horrible-- she just wouldn't take her hands off her eyes and didn't want to stand or sit still.   We tried with all our might to at least keep her hands down from her face.  Smiling was just not going to happen.  After family photos they took individuals of the kids.  Elli still wouldn't smile-- we tried EVERYTHING we could think of.  Then someone remembered how much she loves when Grandma Rose does "Peter Piper" in pig-latin.  LOL.  Jeremy did it for her and we immediately got a big grin!  It's funny, though, as I looked at the pictures of her-- I tend to like best the ones where she isn't smiling-- it seems to capture the Elli that we know most of the time, and I think she is beautiful.  (: