Monday, April 29, 2013

The Impossible Dream

Christi and I love watching YouTube clips of Britain's Got Talent.  We are blown away by some of the amateur talent showcased there, and of course Simon Cowell's snarkiness adds a certain zest:)  The clip I am embedding here is possibly my favorite of all time.  These two brothers introduce themselves as sandwich makers who love to sing classical music.  Of course this elicits a "please-get-me-out-of-here" eye roll from Simon.  Then they proceed to sing this:

The Impossible Dream is one of my mom's favorite songs, so I grew up listening to this song and playing it on the piano.  Once in awhile my mom and I would belt it out together as I would play it.  (We didn't sound quite as good as the Johnson Brothers:)

Christi and I were both getting chills as we listened to this performance, so we replayed it several times.  Each time we were struck by the humility and sweetness of the performers.  About the fifth time through, I really tried to find the meaning of the song.  "To dream the impossible dream.  To fight the unbeatable foe.  To fight with your last ounce of courage.  To run where the brave dare not go.  This is my quest.  To follow that star.  No matter how hopeless.  No matter how far.  To fight for the right, without question or pause.  To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.  To reach the unreachable star."

I started thinking about what that might mean to different people.  To the Johnson brothers it might mean, as it once did to me, to find success as singers.  I truly hope they do find success, because I would love to listen to their album!  For others it might mean athletic accomplishments.  It could entail spiritual goals, educational milestones, or climbing to the top of a mountain.  I ran through dozens of possible meanings of "reaching the unreachable star."  And then it hit me.  Sophi is our star.  Graci, Elli, Xander, Lexi, Cali, Taylor, Parker and Jesi are our stars.  We have dreamed a dream that at times seems impossible.  We have fought with our last ounce of courage, even if the only foe is the daunting task of bedtime for nine children.  We have run where the brave (or perhaps the sane) dare not go.  It has at times been a hopeless road, a road eternally far.  But it is the right road for us.  And I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't admit that we have been through some terribly rough patches as we have pursued this heavenly cause.

But like the mountain climber who endures intense discomfort and puts forth supreme physical effort to earn the reward of the panoramic views and gorgeous vistas, so we have been rewarded with unbelievable joy and beauty.  A priceless hug from Soph.  A sincere and grateful smile from Cali.  The unsurpassed expressions of pure happiness from Lexi.  And so many, many other ways we are blessed by our children.  (Not to mention Puzzle Them Home!)

I hope each of you who finds this post can enjoy this beautiful, inspirational music as much as we have.  I hope each of us can reach our unreachable stars.  The world is a better place when are all making the effort to do our very best.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Two amazing boys

Many of you who read this blog are likely aware of the passing of "Miracle Ryker."  The story of his courageous battle with heterotaxy has touched so many people.  Ryker is the most adorable little guy on the planet with the biggest, most handsome eyes you've ever seen.  I don't know him personally, but having connections to his family somehow makes it all more personal.  Ryker's brothers, Trett and Jad, have played baseball with Parker for many years.  They are such good boys and my heart is breaking for them.  Also, Ryker's aunt Missy is a good friend of mine and has been Elli's teacher in primary.  I love her.  In addition, the charity that is working with us on our home, Children and the Earth, has also been helping Ryker.  I can tell you from many meetings we have had with them that Ryker holds an especially tender place in their hearts.  These small connections make Ryker's story more real to me even though I have never met him, and he has been in my thoughts a lot lately.

Yesterday especially, Ryker was really on my mind.  Being in the hospital with our own little heart patient who is currently doing so well was a reminder of all of the blessings and miracles I have been part of.  As I thought on him and his story and read through the many comments made on facebook, there was one common thread:  that he had an AMAZING family.  It's true-- the absolute ADORATION and perfect, selfless love that this family has for their children is easily sensed as you watch his videos and read his story.  If there was one bright thought that I had as I pondered his death, it was that he was and will forever be completely cherished by a family.  He was never alone.

As we were getting ready to have Graci discharged yesterday, a sweet lady showed up at our door.  Her name is Deanne and she is the mother of 17.  Jeremy and I had met Deanne and her husband Doug for dinner before, but we had yet to meet their beautiful children.  They just returned a couple of weeks ago from China, where they adopted the most adorable boy, Gideon.  He underwent open heart surgery Thursday morning and he had just been moved to a room a few doors down from Graci's.  As I went to meet Gideon and his new siblings, I was overcome at the amount of love in that room.  Gideon looked fantastic-- he had energy and was moving about and just doing so great.  He has been astounding the doctors with his quick recovery.  They had anticipated spending 3 weeks in the hospital with this surgery, and instead it looks like it might be less than one.   As we were talking, I asked what his specific heart condition was.  Deanne said, "You've probably never heard of it-- it's really rare.  It's called heterotaxy."

Of course, my heart instantly went to Ryker.  As it so happens, heterotaxy is so rare that from what I understand, it affects only 1 in 1,000,000 children.  And yet here I was being touched by two little boys with the same condition on the same day.  I pondered on it the whole drive home.  The prevailing thought I had was how both of these sweet, beautiful boys were part of such amazing, loving families.  As I said, nearly every comment on Ryker's facebook page talked about what a loving family he had.   Sweet little Gideon has now been blessed with that same kind of family.

I think with all of the times I have jumped on my adoption soapbox, you know where this is going...  (:

What would have happened to Gideon had Deanne and Doug not taken that leap of faith to bring him home?  I know they had many fears and many reasons (16 of them come to mind!) that they could have used to justify leaving him there in China to die.  A doctor, in fact, gave them that advice.  But they went forward with faith knowing that they might only have him a very short time and now-- regardless of what heterotaxy does to him, Gideon has an eternal family like Ryker's.   A family who loves and cherishes and sacrifices for him.

 Reading their thoughts as they have been on this journey gives me no doubt that despite their grief and shattered hearts, Ryker's family would not give up ONE SINGLE DAY that they had with him.  That if they had to do it all over again, they would still choose life.   I also know that despite whatever challenges come their way, Gideon's family is firm in their decision to love him and give him a family.  I know that both families will be forever blessed to have these little boys in their lives.

With that in mind...

What if just ONE of the wonderful people who have been touched by Ryker's courage and beautiful spirit considered bringing home one of the millions of children who are facing their own battles ALONE.   What if they loved and adored and cherished that child just as Ryker's famiy cherishes him.   Can you think of a more beautiful tribute to this brave little guy? 

I used to be less bold when I talked about adoption.  I had a friend tell me one time several years ago that because of how much I talked about adoption and my desire for more people to adopt, she felt judged.  It broke my heart.  That is so opposite of what I want to do.  I don't want people to think I look at them and think that they are in any way "less" because they haven't adopted.  I also really don't want people to think that I hold myself higher in any way because we have.  I truly do not.  Most of the people I admire and look up to the most and totally want to emulate haven't adopted, so believe me, it is not important to me in how I look at someone.  Adoption is such a personal decision and I know full well that it is not for every family.  I also know that many families have the desire to but cannot.  That is heartbreaking.

But I wouldn't be being true to myself and the thoughts that the Spirit places on my heart if I didn't share that I think adoption is BEAUTIFUL and NEEDED.  It would be crazy to have discovered chocolate and not share it with the world, right?!!  (:  Likewise, we have discovered something amazing and life changing and beautiful.   When I see the Christlike, perfect love Ryker's family holds for him I just ache for others who are left alone.  So I HAVE to share!  (:  I would shout it from the rooftops if I could.  Gideon has a family now!!!  It's a beautiful thing!!!  And if my being bold can fan a spark in someone else to do the same thing, well, then I guess I will be bold.  (:   Please know that it comes from love for these children and a desire for others to experience something sweeter than chocolate!    It does not and never will come from a place of judgement.

Just consider it.  That's all.


By the way-- Graci is doing so well.  I am so thankful for the miracles of our Heavenly Father and of modern medicine, which in my opinion, go hand in hand.  Thank you so very much for your prayers.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home At Last!

Graci finally came home! She was discharged around 4:00 pm tonight. It's so good to have her back and so good to see her looking so much better. Christi and I haven't seen each other since Tuesday. It's so nice to be back together as a family again. We're exhausted. We'll write more tomorrow.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Another Night

Graci had a pretty good day overall, but she is still not eating or drinking enough. Because her hydration correlates to her blood pressure, the doctors are having her stay in the hospital another night. Her temperature has also gone up a bit and she has a low fever. Christi is up there with her tonight.

My night at home with the kids was pretty interesting. I'm a bit too tired to share it tonight, but if I'm still alive tomorrow, maybe I will then:)


Getting Back to Normal

Graci is doing so much better this morning. Her blood pressure, pulse and temperature are close to normal. And she is much more like her normal self, which, when I'm around, usually consists of giving dad a hard time. We are hopeful that she'll be able to go home sometime today. She's still not eating much, but at least she's eating something. She didn't want anything for the first 24 hours she was in the hospital.

Grace is a tough kid. She's been through so much and continues to be resilient. I know there's a TV show that says it's someone else, but the real truth is: Everybody Loves Graci!!!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Out of ICU

The good news is that we've moved out of ICU into a regular room. Graci's blood pressure and pulse are much better. The echocardiogram was normal (for Grace), so that's a big relief. The bad news is she continues to be extremely lethargic. Her fever has returned so she's back on Tylenol. We can't get her to eat anything, and she's only drinking the smallest amounts of water. She's getting fluid through an IV, but will have to start eating and drinking on her own before they'll discharge her.

Some friends of ours are up here at Primary Children's while their newly adopted 2-year-old is recovering from open heart surgery. This is their 17th child (yes, you read that correctly). Most are adopted, some are biological. I often hear people say, "Nine kids??? How do you do it???" I feel exactly the same way about these sweet people.

While Grace and I are up here, life continues to move on. Baseball practices, Providence Hall fine arts night, meetings with contractors, subcontractors, landscape designers and more are keeping Christi busy and me on the phone. The secret is to enjoy the journey. The Lord knew that I needed lots of practice on this one, so he's given me lots and lots of experiences to enjoy!


Graci Update 2

Another quick update:  Grace has slept all morning. (Wish Jer and I could say that!)  Blood pressure continues to be low but the doctors are more concerned now about her heart rate which has been having a very wide range.  They are trying to get that to stabilize.  An ECHO has been ordered and it will be done right in her PICU room.  Fever is still down.

Thank you so much for all of the prayers and texts.  We know that Heavenly Father is watching over her.  I just want to fast forward til she's home with us and being her usual fabulous self.  (:


Graci Update

Graci is doing better! Her blood pressure is still pretty low, so she is still in the PICU, but the fever has been controlled all night. While she was still at Riverton, they tested for both bacterial infections and viruses. During the night we got the virus results back and it turns out Graci has influenza B. This likely explains all of her symptoms, but they may still do an echocardiogram to rule out any problems or infections around her heart. If she continues to be stable but with the low blood pressure they will likely move her out of ICU into a regular room.

I'll update as soon as I know anything more.


Poor Graci part 2

It's 1:15 a.m.  I just arrived home from the hospital and I'm a little wired right now so I thought I'd give a quick update on Grace.  Jer had it mostly right (we'll forgive him for minor details being as how he learned everything through texts.)  Grace had been sick, as he said, but actually woke up this morning feeling better and went to school.  Just after school let out, I got a phone call from a teacher there saying that she was worried about Graci-- she had her head on a desk and wasn't acting like herself.  I went in the school to pick her up and she was in tears, saying that she was dizzy and didn't feel well.  She could barely walk out to the car.  I got her an appt for an hour later and by the time we got to the doctor, her fever was 103.8.  It wasn't the fever that concerned me so much as how she was acting-- very delirious and unwilling to sit up straight or move.  Strep test was negative and the dr. did a chest x-ray that showed some possible signs of pneumonia.  He was also worried about the way she was acting and her low blood pressure and sent us to the ER.  By the time we got to the ER, Graci was very delirious.  She would go from being in a total daze to lashing out-- which she has NEVER done.  The doctor that treated her there was fantastic and thorough.  He first thought that she was likely septic and possibly had meningitis.  Sadly, Graci's scar tissue from her back surgery made it difficult for them to get any spinal fluid.  They put the needle in three times and couldn't get it.  She was hysterical during that time, screaming in the most pathetically soft voice, "Please stop hurting me!"  It was awful-- especially when it didn't even work.  They started IV fluids and antibiotics and waited for her lab work.  The strange part is that all of her labs were normal.  As her doctor said, "She has everyone baffled."  By 10:00 tonight they finally got her fever down.  While that was of course, good, her other stats started going down too-- her oxygenation and blood pressure.  The doctor had talked throughout the night about possibly transferring her up to Primary Children's in Salt Lake, but hadn't felt an urgency yet.  Apparently her drop in blood pressure did the trick.  They are concerned that she might have endocarditis.  As the doctors here spoke to the doctors there, it was decided that she needed to go on life flight straight to the PICU.  That way, she would be attended by pediatric ICU nurses rather than EMTs on the way up there.   About 15 minutes before she took off on the helicopter, Graci started to come around.  She was talking a little and looking so much better.  She even gave a big goofy grin as I took her picture getting onto the helicopter.  I'll post that later if she's ok with it.  Made me feel so much better to send her off when she was able to do that!  The flight from our hospital to PC is just 7-8 minutes and Jeremy was there waiting for her.  I came home to take care of the 8 cute kids I left here alone all night!  I was so grateful that I had Papa Murphy's pizzas in the fridge-- Taylor was able to cook dinner for everyone and put them all to bed.  Parker cleaned up the kitchen.  What wonderful kids I have.   I wish that Jer and I could both be with Graci, but I am grateful that I have an actual bed to sleep in for a few hours (there are no beds in the PICU and all of the "guest beds" have been taken tonight.)  Now if I can get my mind off of Graci and get some sleep so I can conquer tomorrow!  That girl sure knows how to worry us!  It was such a blessing that I was able to see her smile and respond before I had to say goodbye for the night.  Thanks in advance for prayers her way.  


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Poor Graci

Our sweet Grace has had it rough lately! Sunday she came home early from church because she wasn't feeling well. She has slept most of the time since then. She had a fever around 100 so we gave her ibuprofen. She has missed school all week. Then this afternoon, she had a 103 fever, so Christi took her to our family doctor. Not only did she have the high fever, her blood pressure was extremely low. The top number was about 70. The doctor sent them over to the emergency room at Riverton Hospital.

At the emergency room they were worried about meningitis, so they tried to give her a lumbar tap, which was extremely painful and unsuccessful. They are not sure yet, but Grace will likely end up riding in an ambulance up to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake tonight. Second ambulance ride in a month for the poor thing! (Feeling very grateful for good insurance right about now.) And of course I'm on a business trip in Denver until tomorrow. Fortunately there was a late flight available, so I'll be able to get home tonight.

Pray for Grace, poor kid. She's been through so much.

We love you Graci!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Like Kids in a Candy Shop :)

One of the most difficult features of our current home is our kitchen. The narrowest spot is so tight that opening the refrigerator (and this is a center open fridge) completely blocks the passage between the kitchen and the dining area. The floor space in the kitchen is way too small to accommodate even half of us as we try to clean the dinner dishes, so each night one big kid, one medium kid (Jess or Xander) and one parent is assigned to KP. And as you know from our Dynamite video, we don't fit very well around our table, although this situation is vastly improved since a kind neighbor gave us a beautiful Pottery Barn table with benches instead of chairs.

So you can imagine how Christi's eyes lit up today when we went in to pick out our cabinets. She walked up to one of their display kitchens and went into a sort of stupor...glazed eyes, goofy grin on her face, tongue lolling slightly out of the corner of her mouth. The beautiful, three-and-one-half-foot deep island counter top kept her transfixed. The four-foot-wide walkway between the island and the wall counters had her mesmerized. It was all we could do to get her to come over to the desk and decide on specific layouts, woods and colors for the cabinets throughout our home. I must admit it was REALLY fun. I'm so excited for all of you to come see it!!!

And sweetheart, admit it. In spite of how worried you were, I really was easy to work with. Right? I mean, I was, wasn't I?


Monday, April 22, 2013

The foundation is in!

I seriously have to keep pinching myself.  What wasn't even a consideration a year ago has gone from seeming impossible to improbable to unlikely to impossible to maybe to no-way-on-earth to this-might-really-happen to Holy-Cow-There's-A-Massive-Hole-In-The-Ground!!!  Last Wednesday they began excavation.  Footers were laid on Thursday.  Today they poured the foundation.  I really can't express how unbelievable this entire project is.  We are SOOO grateful and excited and bouncing off the walls around here.  We go visit the property multiple times a day.  I really can't tell you all what this means to our family!

Thank you for all you have done!


They had to perform a water-pressure test at the nearest fire hydrant...

And so it begins!

I'm a construction novice, so this seemed like the coolest thing ever!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This is a repeat of a post from January.  This particular post was getting so many anonymous "check out my blog" comments that we deleted the original and reposted it here:)

First of all, I want to say that I had a very good reason for not writing last night.  I'll leave it at that!  But because I promised 50 posts in 50 days, I plan on doubling up one day--- sound ok?  (:

I've realized that we never did post the rest of our pictures from China.  As you may recall, we had a lousy internet connection there and had a super difficult time posting pictures.  So... this is a catch-up post to satisfy the grandmas' desires to see more China pics!

Us with Graci's "China Mama" and "China Baba" (foster parents for four years-- we LOVE them!)

Jesi holding Ling Long (Graci's "neice")  Notice the spread on the table-- this wasn't the kitchen table, just the table in the living room.  It was ALWAYS filled with all kinds of food that they were constantly offering us.  Such AMAZING hostesses!

China Mama and Baba and aunt and uncle-- taken in the aunt and uncle's home

Jesi and Ling Long-- they referred to Jes as Ling Long's "Auntie Jessica" (;  and as you may recall, they refer to us as Ling Long's "America Grandma and Grandpa"  Ha!  I didn't think I would be ready to be called "Grandma," but honestly, I loved it!  It was so much fun to hold her and realize that many of our own grandchildren could look so much like her!

Jesi was seriously like a rock star at Graci's former school.  The kids would touch her hand and then sway dramatically as if they had just touched the hand of Taylor Swift.  As you can imagine, Jesi ate it up.

"China Brother" holding Grace and Bei Bei (Graci's friend)

At a zoo in Hangzhou-- they don't exactly have the same safety precautions there as in America.

Feeding carrots to the bears!

One of my all-time favorite pics of one of my all-time favorite people-- Graci's "China Grandma"

Saying goodbye at the airport is always so hard, especially for China Mama.

Our "guide" turned friend, Sara, is on the left.  We LOVE her, and she has become part of Graci's China family since our initial adoption trip to get Graci.  They have taken her in as one of their own--  she was even there for the birth of Ling Long.

Gotcha Day-- taken moments after seeing Cali for the first time.  Such a beautiful moment.

Taken right after Cali was saying her goodbyes to her house mama, top left.  Lots of tears.  Such a brave little girl.  It broke my heart to watch her sadness-- I can hardly bear to look at the picture even now.
Taken the day after Gotcha Day, when we returned to the Civil Affairs office to make it all official!

Cali signing the papers saying she wished to join our family.  I believe Jeremy blogged about how special this was to watch...

Beautiful handwriting!

Ok, I just LOVED this family!  They were from Spain and they were seriously one of the cutest couples I have ever met!  This is their second day being parents-- beautiful!

We were given this gift of calligraphy by one of the officials to celebrate the finalization

Meeting Cali's biological relatives.  Above right is her grandmother.  Between Jeremy and myself is her auntie, and the man is the auntie's husband (whom she doesn't really refer to as "uncle")

Cali and auntie

Cali and granma

Saying goodbye.  I am happy to say that it wasn't really hard for Cali-- as Duna (far right) said, she was already much more comfortable and happy with our family at that point.  We were so grateful for the opportunity to meet them, but Cali isn't really interested in keeping up a strong relationship at this point, which of course, we honor.

Xi'an smog-- ugh! 

Cali's scarf was given to her as a going away gift from her house mama, and she wore it all the time.  (:

Ok, this doesn't even begin to do it justice, but this is a pic of the Terracotta Warriors.  One of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.  This is just one building out of three.

The girls (especially Cali) thought it was extremely funny to have me be their "dog."  The lady in the pink coat was our guide.

It was soooo cold and we had been walking a long time.  Cali was so sweet to offer to let Jesi ride with her.

Out of the cold into beautiful Guangzhou

Pedal boats

We always get such a kick out of the English translations on signs!

Signing out!