Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Solitary Tear

"How are you?"
Asked millions of times a day around the world.
Usually more a greeting than a question.

"How are you?"
I asked with sincere intent on Sunday morning.
Nine kids in a pew and on time to church
makes it hard to focus on anything else, but
there are some things that make you
forget yourself,
love another.

"How are you?"
Such a dreadfully incompetent question
for one who has just lost her mother.
A beautiful 17-year-old girl,
burdens now far beyond the petty but oh-so-real poignancies of teenage life,
looking after three younger siblings.
Seated directly in front of us.

"How are you?"
"We're doing OK,"
said with a real, if subdued smile.
My heart went out, trying to comprehend their incomprehensible loss.
I focused on them for a few moments, until
"Dad, she won't let me sit where I want to"'s
pulled me back to my world.
My oh-so-challenging
and yet
And my mind forgot their sadness.

She turned to look at her little sister.
A solitary tear sat halfway down her cheek.
And my heart broke.
Ounce for ounce, has there been a more emotion-filled tear?
Which of the multitude of fears and frustrations
had pushed that one tear
So composed.  So determined.  So strong.
Just one tear.

The opening hymn began
'Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden
Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.
He'll safely guide you unto that haven
Where all who trust him may rest.'
So grateful.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
It is true.
His love is there.
His love is real.
Nothing can soothe the loss of a mother, a child, a spouse.
Except His love.

I am grateful that this mother, now gone, cared so much about her daughter.
Cared enough to spend a lifetime preparing her for this time.
Helping her come to know Jesus.
To love Jesus.
And to be able to reach out
and feel his loving arms
surround her in this time of
unsurpassed pain.

I pray.
That somewhere in the midst of those emotions,
in spite of pain,
overcoming the agony,
is the light of
in that solitary tear.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Random Sampler

Me:  "Elli, will you be my valentine?"

Sophi:  "DAD!  She's not a treat!!!"

(By the way, you could probably put every word Sophi speaks in all caps and not be exaggerating:)

I have come to the realization that I feel a distinct thrill of pride when Taylor and Parker tell me how envied their home lunches are and what powerful trading prowess they command.  When I first became cognizant that I found this somehow fulfilling, I felt a bit sheepish.  But I now embrace my domestic triumph.


Xander had a fever the other day and stayed home from school.  He designed a "thermometer holder" so it would always be around when he needed it...:

Green Girls with green lick-m-ade...:
Jess has become quite the reader lately.  She's also a bit of  contortionist.  Combine the two and you get a sense of how she likes to relax...:

And of course when I took a picture of Jesi, Sophi demanded I take a picture of her, too!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes...

I fancy myself a decent singer.  It became apparent very quickly in Nashville that I'm nowhere near music star potential, but I feel like I can carry a tune, and perhaps even be of service to a choir.  Today as we were singing the opening hymn in church I sang the bass part.  I felt as though my deep, rich voice was nicely complementing those singing the melody.  Then Sophi gave me some insight into how those around me might perceive my musical capabilities:

"Dad!  Sing pretty!!!"

Pretty clear message:)


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where to turn...

I love this video.   I especially felt for the young man in the wheelchair.   One blessing of having children with special needs is having daily reminders of the need to be grateful for my body.  Watching them struggle to do things that are easy for most people can be heartbreaking and poignant-- much like how you probably felt watching that man try to pick that flower.   But ultimately watching their struggles and the courage with which they bear them gives me strength to do the tasks that lie before me and a beautiful, eternal perspective on life.  I am so grateful to know who to turn to in my trials and I am grateful that my children also know and have such perfect faith in Him.  I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fun times.

I have nothing cute or clever in me tonight.  It's been one of those days.  Started off when I woke up not feeling great myself.  Got worse when I went downstairs to get Elli out of bed and found out she had become sick in the night.  Not only had her messy diaper leaked all over, but she had thrown up and it was entangled throughout her thick black hair.  It was so sad.  Poor girl!!!  Poor mom!!!  Spent the day cleaning up the mess and then just doing enough to get by.   Jeremy was sweet enough to take the littles to the rec center and then make dinner to give me a little break-- during which time I promptly fell asleep.  Naps are the best!  Feeling more hopeful for a better day tomorrow.  (:


Oh, and since I'm sure you don't want a pic of the mess Elli made, I'll share this one instead-- Taylor, Grace, and Cali on their way to the youth etiquette dinner at our church.  (Parker missed it because of a basketball game.)  Can't believe I have FOUR in the Young Women/Young Men program!  I love these amazing kids so so much!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Elli meets the bureaucrats. (Or Jer's Soapbox)

Several of our children have been involved in IEPs over the years (Individual Ecucational Plans).  Kids who are receiving special services are required to have these in order to evaluate their progress and develop goals for their improvement.  With Elli, the progress is extremely slow.  This year, as part of the process, we have been asked to fill out a questionnaire.  The questions we are being asked about Elli have had me literally laughing out loud.  We are ranking her on an "Always to Never" scale for these:

-Stands up for others who are treated unfairly.

-Says nice things about herself/himself without bragging.

-Makes a compromise during a conflict.

-(This was doubly hilarious) Makes eye contact when talking.

-Stands up for herself/himself when treated unfairly.

-Does what she/he promised.

If you know Elli at all, you know that these questions are completely irrelevant to Elli's life.  As her educational plan is made, other bureaucratic balderdash becomes apparent.  In an effort to make things fit into their box, the legislature requires that kids have math goals, science goals, etc in their IEPs.  OK, that's really great in many cases, but have any of the people who create these guidelines ever been to Kauri Sue Hamilton???  Having a goal for Elli to be able to do addition up to 10 + 10 is more outlandish than setting a goal for me to part the Great Salt Lake.  It ain't gonna happen!

We are certainly grateful for Elli's FANTASTIC school and WONDERFUL teachers.  We will continue to check the boxes and fill out the surveys that must be filled out in order for her to attend.  I just wish those who were creating the standards and requirements would take the time to understand a little better just what these children need.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I think I just sent Elli to school in Jesi's shoes...

One of those mornings

The alarm didn't go off.  Christi had to leave at 7:30 to take Sophi and Cali to Shriner's.  I had to see Jesi, Lexi and Xander off on my own.  I still have to get Elli up, bathed, fed, hair done and on the bus in 25 minutes.  We were up until about midnight working on a Rube Goldberg project with Graci.  (Thanks OODLES to my brothers Steve and Ty who spent a few hours of their weekend helping her design the thing 3 weeks ago.)  Felt like a tornado hit.  The kicker was as I walked the kids out to the car.  Jesi sat down and I looked at her pants.  They are light khaki.  It looks like she got rasberry jam on her hands...and then wiped them on the front of her legs...and she has a hole in one knee.

They ARE very loved!  That has to count for something, right?!?


Monday, February 18, 2013

Puzzle Them Home Help

I really need to do a detailed update on Puzzle Them Home, but I don't have time right now (finishing up homework assignments with our Grace-- gotta love Rube Goldberg projects!)  We continue to be humbled and in awe of everyone's efforts in our behalf.  It is AMAZING.  It is SUPER HUMBLING.  It is so much FUN!  I will fill you in on how it's all going later this week, but for now I need to ask a favor!  The Puzzle Them Home committee has been given some awesome opportunities to reach out to the realty brokerages in Salt Lake and Utah counties, and they need some additional help.  They think that this opportunity could be very key in getting our miracle and want to capitalize on it as much as humanly possible.  They are going to have a meeting at 1:00 tomorrow here in Herriman to explain to volunteers how they can help.  They are looking for people who live throughout Salt Lake and Utah counties, not just here in Herriman.  If you think that you might be able to help with this, first of all know of my absolute LOVE and GRATITUDE for you!  Please contact me at and I will give you details on the meeting tomorrow.  We need SEVERAL additional people to spread out the workload.  This will be something that will take up some of your time over the next couple of weeks.  I HATE asking for help, but we know that it's important in making this work... Thanks so much!!!!!!!!


How To Scare a 40-year-old Man To Death

Have his 14-year-old daughter come up to him, giggle, and say "Did you know I can get my driver's permit this year?"



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Language Barriers

Parker is playing in a basketball tournament this weekend.  He played two games tonight with an hour break in between.  Cali and I went to watch both of them and Christi was coming up to watch the second.  During the break, I asked Cali if she wanted to go get something to eat at McDonald's.  Her face lit up.  As we were going out to the van she asked if we could have Chinese food instead.  I said we could and her face lit up even more.  This short Daddy Date was wonderful.  Cali was talkative and animated.  She loved speaking Chinese with our waiter.  She was bright and happy.

She is often bright and happy, but she also goes through spells where she seems pretty discouraged.  I think much of this can be attributed to her inability to communicate effectively with those around her.  She has Graci to speak to, but Graci isn't always around and even when she is, she doesn't always want to talk.  Earlier today, Christi was talking to someone and mentioned that she wished she could just fast forward through the next year for Cali and get to the point where her English is pretty good.  How her world will expand when she can have meaningful conversations with those around her.

Tonight was a good reminder that a little one on one time can go a long way.  Even though our communication is limited, if I spend time focused just on her, Cali is willing to try, and enjoys it.  She is a precious, precious girl.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Chinese New Year

We had so much fun at a Chinese New Year celebration for local families with children from China!  I arrived before Jeremy and Parker (they were at a basketball game) and immediately upon arriving, Elli went into one of her fits of rage.  I'm thinking, "How in the world am I going to manage all of these kids here?"  Within seconds I had all kinds of wonderful people helping-- getting plates of food for the kids, bringing us drinks, helping them with eating and crafts-- all people we didn't really even know.  I am SO grateful for all of the genuinely GOOD people in the world!  (: (: (:  We had a great night-- there were crafts, a parade, dances, skits, and lots of yummy Chinese food.  My kids loved seeing so many families that they could relate to.  Thank you, everyone that made this night possible!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Avacado Whisperer

(Read this with your best Rod Serling impression)

Picture this.  A man wandering through WalMart.  A glazed look in his eyes.  Stumbling around  trying to find the wonder ingredient hawked by the sample lady on his last visit.  A simple formula for fantastic guacamole.  He turns a corner, and there she is!  Setting up her sample booth.  Preparing to share her culinary cunning with another lucky customer.  The man rushes up and asks, "Are you the guacamole lady?  What was the secret ingredient you were selling last time?"  She replies, "Rotel.  End of aisle 7.  Top right."  The man rushes down the aisle.  There it is!  He also grabs four avocados.  In less than three minutes he has found everything he needs, so he returns to say thank you.  As he rounds the familiar corner, he stops short.  She's gone.  Three minutes.  Nothing left.  No booth.  No wares.  No lady.  Which makes you wonder:  was she  DA-DA-DAH!

Seriously, it was like I was in the Twilight Zone.  One minute she was there, the next she was gone.  Perfect timing to answer my question.  She was like my own little guacamole guardian angel.  I was never really a big guac fan until our November 2011 trip to Mexico.  There I became hooked.  And this Rotel stuff was great.  I made it about two weeks ago.  Half the kids loved it.  Half the kids hated it.  (I'm obviously rounding here!)  But that's par for the course in this home.  If it's not pizza, it's virtually impossible to find something that everyone likes.

Does anyone else go shopping at WalMart, fill up one cart, check out and load it into the car, then go right back in and fill up another cart?!?

I am still in love with price matching.

I took Taylor and Parker skiing the other day.  Started out fantastic:

Sadly it ended with Taylor taking a pretty good spill and spraining his knee.  Consolation prize--he got to go to the ER and get a pair of the coolest shorts ever:
Not to mention crutches and all the corresponding attention from the girls at school.

I love it when I find one of the kids "books" lying around.  Jesi and Xander are usually responsible for these creations:

I'm not sure if they contain more pieces of paper or more staples.

Me:  "I sure have beautiful kids!"
Sophi:  "Yep, you do!!!"


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stinky Houdini

We try so hard!  We double pull-up.  We use one piece jammies.  We have a washable, waterproof mattress cover.  We have been getting her up relatively early to avoid leaks.  Sunday morning I woke up a little before 8am.  I could have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but I heard Elli.  I thought to myself, "I'll at least go get her up and help her use the bathroom."  So I stumble downstairs and into her room.  As I open the door, an unmistakable announcement wafts through the air: Elli is messy.  But no worry!  Worst case scenario is a leaky diaper and the need to launder the sheets and mattress cover.  Unless....

Several years ago a rather unfortunate mattress purchasing experience left with an extra king-sized mattress.  For a while this was in the guest room.  This was a rather small guest room and the king-sized bed ate up most of the space, but it's a nice mattress and our guests seemed to like sleeping on it.  Then we adopted Lexi and Sophi.  This required Elli to move into the guest room.  So Elli has the most "bed-square-footage-per-person" in the family.  At first we didn't do all we should to protect this somewhat expensive piece of furniture from sweet Elli.  A $100 plus cleaning bill encouraged us to take more precautions.  So we bought a king-sized mattress cover.  This mattress cover is a beast to put on.  It slides over the entire mattress and then zips to completely enclose it.  It takes two people to do this.  Over time the cover has shrunk just a bit as it has been washed.  At this point we rarely zip the top.  But understand, just putting the thing on should be plenty of protection.  The bottom of the cover is between the mattress and the box spring.  There is no way to pull it off, or even more than a few inches down, without lifting the very heavy king-sized mattress.  Clearly beyond Elli's capabilities....

So when I went in and saw this:
I was amused, but still not fully comprehending.  Then it hit me.  She was INSIDE THE MATTRESS COVER!!!  This is virtually impossible. Look at the fitted sheet.  It is still covering all four corners of the bed, and therefore the mattress cover.  The only place there is an accessible opening to crawl under the mattress cover is at the top left corner:
 and there's seriously about a 1-inch gap there.  The only possible way to get under the mattress cover was for her to pull off the sheet, giving her access to the opening.  So in other words, she somehow managed to pull off the sheet, crawl head first under the cover and then pull the sheet back down over the cover.  All in a locked room!  This is patently impossible, hence the title of this post.  Here's a view of her after I pulled the sheet back:
And of course the kicker was that she was messy, had leaked, and we will once again have to seek assistance from a sure-to-be-spendy cleaning service.  Ah, life.

- Jer

PS.  In that last photo, Elli's legs are on the bed, and her head is the closest part of her to the ground:)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Honest Thoughts...:)

Jessica got a cute compact mirror while we were in China.  The type you could put in a purse.  It has rhinestones and beads on the outside and has mirrors on both sides when it opens up.  This morning she's been carrying it around and telling everyone to look at themselves.  She tried several times on me, but I was too busy making lunches.

She tried once more:  "Dad, do you want to see how you look?"

Me (having just seen the first round of kids out the door):  "Sure."  Then, looking at my reflection, "Man, what a handsome guy."  I gave her a raised eyebrow indicating that this was a somewhat sarcastic comment.

Jesi, very earnestly:  "Maybe not in the morning, but you do look better in the after...well, when you get all ready."

They sure do humble you, don't they?


Monday, February 11, 2013

Any potential moms out there?? (:

This is the conversation I had with Sophi this morning.  It is pretty much word-for-word-- I was so touched that I kept hearing it over and over in my head all day.  It was especially cute in her sweet Sophi voice.  (:

Soph:  "Mom, I love you."

Me:  "Soph, I love you."

Soph:  "I love you so much!"

Me:   "I love you so much!"

Soph:  "We love each others, right?"

Me:  "Right."

Spontaneous kiss.

Soph:  "Mom, thank you for 'dopting me."

Me:  "Thank you for being my daughter!"

Soph:  "Cuz I was lonely in China, huh?"

Me:  "Oh, I'm so sorry you were lonely!"

Soph:  "Yeah, I was sad, huh?  But now I not cuz I have a family, huh?!"

Me:  "Yes, now we're all so happy!"

Soph:  "'Cept my friends in China are still lonely."

Me:  "Why are they lonely?"

Soph:  "Cuz they want their moms."

  The first photo we saw of Sophi

 Some of Sophi's friends

  Sophi's "playroom" where she spent most of her day

 Sophi's "sleeping room"

She became very somber when we visited the orphanage

Second day in China...

No longer lonely!

"Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance."  --Mother Teresa

Sunday, February 10, 2013


While in Ferron (my hometown) over Christmas, we introduced Cali to the art of "farm sledding."  Grandpa ties up some sleds to the back of his Explorer and drives us around the farm.  It's a perfect way for Cali to sled because there is no climbing back up a hill when you're done!  She was VERY trepidatious at first as we were putting her snow clothes on and getting her into the car.  She kept giving me looks of, "What in the world are you making me do?!"  After about 30 seconds on the sled, she was hooked!   I don't know that I've ever seen her have so much fun.  When it was time to go, we couldn't get her off the sled.  She was frozen through to the bone and still refused-- Jeremy had to physically pry her hands from the sled.  (:  It was so much fun to see how much she adored sledding and of course we took her again the next day.   It's so much fun when we find an activity that she can do just like anyone else!

 Gotta love the no-make-up look combined with a tiger hat.  Hot!

My Dad's goal was simply to throw Jer off the sled.  It was hilarious to watch!

 Cali and Grandpa