Wednesday, August 28, 2013


No matter how wonderful the home you're moving into, you still have to move!  We first slept in the new house last Tuesday, so we've been here just over a week.  Saturday we moved the majority of our stuff over here, but we still have a lot to go.  We're trying to unpack here, continue to pack up there, clean and do repairs at the old house to get it ready to put on the market.  All of this while trying to keep up with the rigors of daily life.  But what a privilege to do all of this in the such an amazing place.  We really do keep pinching ourselves to make sure it's not a dream.

The kids are absolutely loving it.  Sophi uses her sink a hundred times a day, just because it's there.  She loves to get up on her bathroom counter and brush her teeth.  Cali is so happy about the independence her elevator brings her.

A few days ago, three of the kids had friends over at the same time...and each of them was able to find space to play without being overrun by everybody else.  This house is unbelievably life changing for us.  Thank you all SO, SO much!  We truly love it here:)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lyrical Lessons

Elli loves music.  She knows the lyrics to dozens of songs.  Church songs, pop songs, even original songs I've written and recorded. Once she's listened a few times, she knows all of the words.  One thing she enjoys doing is substituting her name for random lyrics.  For example, she might change, "Give, said the little stream..." to "Give, said the little Elli...."  She sometimes finds herself absolutely hilarious when she does this, and belly laughs after each substitution.  Christi and I often play along with her and throw her name in at different spots in a song we sing to her.  Usually it's just fun for Elli.  Today, it had a profound impact on me.

One of Elli's favorite songs right now is "The Bus Stop," a song I wrote before we moved to Nashville.  It tells the story of a man who comes across a homeless family at a bus stop in Denver in the winter.  He is touched by the experience and the words of the Bible come to his mind.  This is the chorus:

At the bus stop downtown my peaceful world stopped
And I thought of a lesson mama had taught
Right from the good book, time couldn't dim
When you're helping His children, you're just helping Him
And you won't have to look far, to find Him around
He could be at the bus stop downtown.

The scriptural reference is Matthew 25:40  "...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I've sung this song probably hundreds of times.  Today, I was bathing Elli before church.  She sang her version of the last line, "He could be at the bus stop downtowm."

"Do you want me to sing The Bus Stop, Elli?"

"Yeah, OK."

So I started to sing to her.  During the first chorus, I threw her name in randomly.  Except the meaning was anything but random:

At the bus stop downtown my peaceful world stopped
And I thought of a lesson mama had taught
Right from the good book, time couldn't dim
When you're helping His Elli, you're just helping Him...

 I was struck by the truth in these lines.  First of all is the significance of the words, "His Elli."  Truly she is His.  Truly He must look down on her with special, tender affection.  And truly He must rejoice when I care for her with love and tenderness and His heart must break when I am less patient than I should be.  She is indeed His Elli.  I have a stewardship over her for the brief period of mortality, but she is His Elli.  I hope she will find my efforts acceptable someday in the eternities when she is with Him again.  When she is whole again.  For the splendor of His Elli at that time will surely be something I will want to be a part of.

Secondly, the significance of the words, "When you're helping His Elli, you're just helping Him...."  I have known the words in Matthew 25:40 as long as I can remember.  I have known that serving any and all of my children is a good thing that makes our Savior happy.  But in one of those moments of clarity where truth distills upon our spirits, I was touched this morning as I struggled with a little girl who did not want her hair washed.  When I'm helping His Elli, I'm just helping Him.  When I'm serving His Elli, I'm serving Him.  When I'm ignoring His Elli, I'm ignoring Him.  It instilled in me a greater desire to help, serve, love, look after, hold, care for and in every way be the best father I can be to Elli and to each of my wonderful, amazing, special children.  No father is more blessed than I am.  My children are incredible.  

Later today I had another lesson from Elli's love of music.  We were in sacrament meeting and Elli, as has been the case for the past several weeks, was yelling/grunting/screaming quite loudly.  I took her out into the foyer and fed her honeycomb.  She started to sing the Hillary Weeks song that Lexi and Jessica sang at Lexi's baptism.  One of the lines from this song is "When you stand with me, and I stand with you.  Elli once again modified the words.  In fact, these are the only two lines she sang: "I'll stand with mom.  I'll stand with dad."  I asked her, "Will you stand with mom and dad?"  "Yes," she replied.  Once again I was touched by this little angel.  It is extremely rare that she answers "Yes" to a question.  So it was particularly special that she answered "Yes" to this one.  One day she will stand with mom and dad.  Side by side.  No longer needing our assistance for her every need.  She will instead be a leader in His eternal kingdom.

It would be an amazing thing to see each other as God sees us.  To see the eternal potential of each of our spirits.  I would guess that most of us have had the experience of meeting someone who emanated something special and strong.  Someone that we could tell was good.  Even great.  We leave those interactions uplifted.  Edified.  More determined to do good ourselves.  It is sometimes overwhelming to be surrounded by the greatness of our children.  We have nine of these people in our home with us.  They are each truly special individuals.  Spiritual giants.  And the greatness of their spirits is somehow intensified by frailty of their physical bodies. 

I learn new lessons every day.  I feel as though I am in the circumstance described in Malachi 3:10 "...and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."  My quiver is full.  I am a blessed man.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Are In!

It still seems like a dream, but here we are.  Last night was our first night sleeping in our new home.  (Sleeping is a relative term.  Christi and I were trying to put stuff together until almost 2 am and got up for the first day of school at 6:30). Given how exhausted I am, I'm going to make this a very short post.  Suffice it to say we feel like we are in some sort of magical dream come true.  Which I guess we are!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Two items of business

I know I said my next post would be about Conner-- but I have two time-sensitive hings that I wanted to blog about first.
1.  Many people expressed a desire to come and see our new home after the parade because they didn't want to buy tickets for all of their kids or they couldn't make it before for whatever reason.  We decided to have have an open house tomorrow from 4:00-7:00 to give anyone who wished a chance to walk through.  Kids can go up in the tower playroom (we didn't allow it during the Parade because of liability issues) as long as they have parent permission (the rails are still not up on the bunk beds) and can play on the playgrounds outside.   We'll have cookies outside.  We will start to move in the following day, so this is the last chance to see it staged with all of the cute things we borrowed from our darling friends and neighbors, and it's likely the last time you will ever see every room clean at the same time again!  (: 

2.  I have a friend who was planning on hosting a Chinese exchange student this year.  They have met the student through Skype and she will be arriving on Tuesday.  Last week, this family found out that a job transfer would be sending them to Rexburg, ID.  Unfortunately, the high school there will not accept their exchange student.   They have no other choice than to find a new family for this cute girl, who has already been accepted by Jordan School District and is registered at Herriman High School.  Is this something that you might be interested in????  Again, she arrives on TUESDAY.  As in, two days from now.  (:  Here is some more info from my friend:

Our exchange student is a girl from Tianjin, China.
She is arriving on Tuesday, the 20th of August in SLC. She is currently visiting family in Seattle.
She'll be a Junior in high school.
A family would need to provide her a bed of her own, but she can share a room with one other female.
The family also provides her food.
She is bringing money for all other school expenses, etc.
The company that she is coming through would need to do a criminal back ground check on the family. (Super easy.)
They will also want to come and see the house and meet the family.
The family is asked to treat her like a member of the family and include her in their activities, etc.
We are not allowed to publish photos on the internet, but she is adorable.
She speaks really good English. She had to score high enough to get into school without taking ESL.
She LOVES little kids and doesn't mind a big family.
She will eat anything, and is willing to do chores.
She has no allergies.
We've spoken to her twice on skype and she is just excited to be in America. She is also excited to go buy Apple products! (Pretty typical.)
She plays volleyball and likes singing and dancing. Her favorite color is blue.
She also plays piano.
Her favorite music is Kpop (korean pop) and she wants to learn to speak Korean.
Her family wants her host family to visit China one day so that they can show them around.
She really wants a family with a mom and dad in the home.
She is a leader at her school.


Our lives are filled with joyous moments, aggravating moments, love, joy, pain, laughter, fatigue, and so on.  In other words, we are just like every other family.  One way that we are perhaps a bit different is in the number of poignant moments we experience.  For example, yesterday.  Lexi was in the room while I was loading the dishwasher.  She said, "Dad, have we had enough special needs?  Cuz I'm tired of blind."  What do you say to that?

I was thinking the other day.  We have gone through a lot off stress in our lives lately.  I've heard people say that moving is one of the more stressful things that can happen to a person.  I googled a list of the most stressful life events.  It had 43 items on it.  Marriage, death of a loved one, marital issues, adding a family member, getting laid off.  Lots of things that are most definitely challenging.  But as I perused that list, "leaving everything and everyone you've ever known to travel across the globe with people who look, smell and talk funny and trying to acclimate to a completely different culture with food that is awful and in a place where almost nobody understands you and fit into a family you had no say in choosing" isn't even mentioned.  So I hereby request that future lists of this type include, "being adopted into a foreign country" as one of the top stressors a person can experience.

I am so proud of Cali.  Despite the massive amount of change she has dealt with in her life, she remains strong, upbeat and resilient.  For the most part she is a ray of sunshine in our home.  But from time to time she gets down.  It may be a misunderstanding with a sibling.  It may be one too many times she looks down at an American meal she can't stand the taste of.  The language barrier used to really be difficult on her, but that is improving dramatically.  

A couple of months ago I heard her crying softly to herself.  I helped her into my room and sat her on my lap.  I cradled her in my arms and tried to see if I could help with anything.  I think there were a variety of issues she was dealing with, but I couldn't get her to open up about anything.  I kept asking, "What do you want, Cali?"  Finally she answered.  In her soft, broken English, she said, 

"I want to stand up."

I look forward to the day that I better understand why some people must deal with such outsized hardships.  Why do some of the purest among us suffer so much pain?  Or perhaps, does dealing with these special needs actually help to purify a person?  There are certainly few people more sweet or innocent than Cali, Lexi and Sophi.  I don't know the answers, but I do have faith in a loving Father who does know.  I have faith that when the time is right, I will understand.  And when the time is right, all will be healed and whole.  In the meantime, I will endeavor to be more patient and willing to deal with my own struggles, which pale in comparison to the struggles of so many in this world.

Thank you Cali, Lexi, Sophi, Xander, Elli, Graci, Jessica, Taylor and Parker for your tremendous examples to me.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Little Crush?

It's hard to believe the Parade of Homes is over.  We are SO excited to move in!  But there is a part of us that is truly going to miss the whole Puzzle Them Home adventure.  There have been so many angels surrounding and supporting us for so long that it's hard to imagine a more normal life.  But it will be good to get settled in and back to the regular chaos rather than the almost unbelievable insanity of the past many months.

I will miss my regular conversations with Bret.  We will miss Chrissy, Julianne and Lauren calling to check up on us.  We will miss the saws and hammers, nail guns and paint sprayers and all of the other tools and noises of the construction.  We will miss all of the Parade-goers milling around our home and their sweet comments and touched spirits. 

On multiple occasions Bret and others have commented on the protective bubble that has surrounded this house and this project from the beginning.  There is simply no way that a homemaker with absolutely no experience with running a business or raising funds or building houses should have been able to start a project that would raise a quarter of a million dollars and construct a dream home.  There is no way Bret should have been able to finish a 7,511 square foot home in 104 days.  God has been in the details of this entire endeavor.  Thank you to all of the angels here on earth who have served us in so many ways!

Tonight we decided to take several of the kids up for the last hour of the Parade.  As we were getting ready to leave, Sophi came up to me and whispered in my ear, "I have somefing to tell you."

"What?" I replied.

In a whispered voice she said, "The house is fantastic.  And I love Bret!"

We all love Bret!


Friday, August 16, 2013


Picture this...

Sophi wanders through the living room looking for flies and talking to Lexi.  Lexi follows her around.
Sophi yells out, "There's a fly!!!"  
Lexi smacks her open palm against the nearest surface.

"Dad, we're catching flies for you!"

Thanks, girls:)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Service for Gaylynn

Oh goodness!  Have you ever just felt like such a horrible person for not following through on something you promised to do?  That's how I feel right now!

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from one of the dearest teenagers in the entire world.  Her name is Mattie, and this year she had her world turned upside down as her mom passed away from a rare brain disease.  I LOVE her and I LOVE her entire family.  They are among the greatest, most humble, wonderful people you could ever know.  Her dad was our bishop for several years.  Her mom was my friend.  They are the kindest of neighbors and just such good people.

Mattie has put together several wonderful things to honor her mom.  One of those is a service project to take place this Saturday, August 17.  Her phone call was to ask if I would mind sharing that on our blog to help spread the word.  I feel just terrible that I forgot about doing it until now!  I hope I can make up for it by helping to get some more people involved in this wonderful project.  You can read about it HERE.  And when you are done, go through and browse her other entries in this blog-- you will be touched by Mattie and her tremendous love for her family.

Mattie was crowned prom queen this year.  (:

Monday, August 12, 2013

The home and some FAQ's...

I finally figured out why I haven't been blogging for awhile.  I had originally chalked it up to pure exhaustion (I can't even begin to say how crazy these last few weeks have been) but as I have sat here looking at the empty screen for the past several minutes, I realized that it wasn't exhaustion.

 It was a lack of words.

Because there is really no way to describe the incredibly wonderful, insanely amazing, utterly exhausting past few weeks.  And when I try to wrap my head around it all, I just get overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with LOVE and gratitude to everyone who has been part of this, overwhelmed with feelings of indebtedness to so many, overwhelmed with what this means to our family...

Just plain overwhelmed. 

I really, truly hope that every person who has been part of the puzzle them home project in any way can sense our love for you and our gratitude.  I hope you can know how much this means to us and how full our hearts are...

The house is beautiful.  More beautiful is the way Sophi's eyes light up when she turns on the light switch in her bedroom all by herself (it is low to the ground) or opens up a door with her chin (no more knobs!) or climbs onto her little sink to wash her feet all by herself.  More beautiful is the way the stairs to the Rapunzel tower were built in such a way that Sophi and Cali can actually make their way up them, and the way Cali's eyes shine as she speeds through the house on her wheelchair-- uninhibited by stairs, lack of space or thick carpet.   More beautiful is just thinking about how absolutely life changing it will be to have TWO safe, custom, wonderful spaces for Elli to play and explore and be happy without us worrying about her breaking things, getting hurt, etc. 

It's just too much to wrap my heart around-- I would cry all day if I dwelled on it!  We are so happy!!!

You want to know something kind of funny?  When we were first dating, one of our biggest "issues" was the size of home we each eventually wanted.  Jeremy said that he would love something that was 4,000 square feet or so.  I thought that was WAY too much!  I couldn't see a purpose for it and thought it was just crazy to even think about more than 3,000 square feet.  Then again, he always wanted EIGHT children and I couldn't begin to understand how he could be so stuck on a number like that.

Ha.   I guess we were both in for a surprise!

And yes-- for all those that have asked-- I AM scared of cleaning it!  (;  However, I am so looking forward to places to put things, and surely a "place for everything" will help with the cleaning aspect!

One thing we both really do love about the home is the way it's designed.  When we sat down with the architect and talked about the things we needed and the things we wanted, we both said that we didn't want it to look ostentatious.  We wanted LOTS of space, but we didn't want it to look intimidating from the front.  Well, I love the comment I just read on the Salt Lake Parade of Homes's facebook today, speaking of our home:  "This house seems about three and a half times bigger inside than it looks from the outside. Architect or magician?"  (:  Jamie Walker of Walker Home Design did a fabulous job of giving us SO much space, but laying it out in a way that worked so well for our family.  It doesn't have long hallways or corridors that you get lost in-- it's all feels very homey even though it's big.  We love it!  It fits all of our needs and then some.  It's more than we ever could have hoped for!  It also has some beautiful features that were donated-- such as custom wood mouldings (Marathon Moulding) and of course the amazing mural work!  (I need to get a link to their website-- anyone know of it?)

We have loved being there during parts of the Parade and listening to comments people make.  I'll be honest-- sometimes it is hard being so transparent-- putting our story out there for everybody to see.  But I have seen some really wonderful things come of it.   Obviously, our lives have been HUGELY blessed by this whole thing.  I am so happy when I see others blessed by it as well.  Many times while at the Parade, people will come up and hug us and cry and tell us how our children have touched their lives just by their stories.  (The story of each of the kids and the story of the home is told throughout the house.)  I am hopeful that the seed of adoption has been planted in some hearts along the way...  (:  People have been so kind and sweet in their comments to us while at the house!!!

As we were talking to our architect last night, he said that a couple of common questions that are asked of him have to do with the financial end of things.  I know I have addressed this in a past post, but I also know we have some new blog readers out there.  I also realize that though finances are in general a more private thing, the nature of this project is such that people have valid reasons to want to know!  So here it goes:   (:

The amazing, incredible, wonderful people who put together Puzzle Them Home have worked so hard for over a year now.  The concept of "buying" puzzle pieces generated over $35,000 in donations.  Again, I get overwhelmed just thinking of what that means.  I know there was so much love and sacrifice in that money.  I know MUCH of it came from you wonderful blog readers.  We are SO grateful.    Besides the cash donations, there was a tremendous amount donated in the way of discounted or donated labor and materials.  Much of this came from friends and family who pitched in to help.  Much of it came from strangers.  We have estimated that these donations brought the cost of the home down by about $225,000.  I know... again, there aren't words.  "Thank you" seems so small compared to what we want to say.

So where did the rest of the money come from?  What does Jeremy do for a living?  Just how much do we get paid to adopt these children?  Apparently, these are some of the questions being asked at the home.

I'll start with the last question, one that I'm sure made people who have adopted internationally giggle a bit.  We don't get paid anything.  Not a penny, darn it!  Adopting a child from China costs approximately $25,000.  A tax credit of around $13,000 is given toward adoptions, so that offsets the cost dramatically.  Jeremy's company also helps with adoption costs-- they pay $5,000 toward each adoption.  As far as receiving financial stipends or anything because of their special needs-- that is reserved for adopting domestically out of the foster care system.   I wish with all my heart that adoption wasn't so expensive because I know that MANY families desire to adopt, but cannot because of finances.

Which brings us to the next question.  Exactly what does Jeremy do for a living?   Jeremy has a wonderful job as a pharmaceutical rep for Bayer.  A pharmaceutical rep's average salary is $70-$80k per year, with the potential for some bonus.   So yes, we are very blessed!  Besides his job in pharmaceuticals, we have some ownership in the importing side of the 2012 Game of the Year, Perplexus.

I will have to blog the amazing story of this toy sometime, but suffice it to say, it has been a tremendous blessing for us and has definitely contributed to our ability to buy this home.

When Puzzle Them Home originally started over a year ago, the goal was to help us get into a better home for our family.  At the time, there was no way we could qualify for the kind of loan we needed and our current home was being appraised at MUCH less than what we had paid for it.  As things progressed and as we partnered with Children and the Earth, their goal became to have the home completely paid for.  Mortgage free.  While a wonderful goal, we realized at the beginning of this year that short of a miracle, we were far from having that happen.  After praying a lot about it, we decided to try and see if we could qualify for a loan.   We were in a different situation than the year before because, among other things, we could now count income from Perplexus.  Citywide Home Loans was told about the project and our situation.  They made some wonderful accommodations for us, including waiving their fees, to help us qualify for the loan we needed.  It was a bigger loan than we wanted to do, but we still felt good about doing it.  Personally, I thought that it was maybe because contributions would keep coming to puzzle them home-- helping to offset the size of the mortgage.   Many people involved kept talking about the possibility of this home getting national attention and therefore generating more donations.  It never did.  But we have been blessed!  Things are going well with Jeremy's work and with Perplexus.  The housing market has changed in our favor as we prepare to sell our current home.  So we continue to go forward having faith that we have been prayerful as we've made decisions with this home and it's accompanying mortgage.

Two questions that has been asked a couple of times online are along the lines of "Why would they build a house they couldn't afford without continued donations?" and "Why would they continue to adopt if they can't afford it?"   These valid questions were in response to a couple of articles on the home stating that Puzzle Them Home is still accepting donations for the home.   I'll do my best to answer that.  (:   First of all, concerning the home, yes-- donations are still being accepted at the puzzle them home page.  We are so, so grateful for the support.  This house could not have been built without donations.  One way that the bank worked with us was using pledges of donations as a down payment on the loan.  As far as continuing to accept donations-- those working on the project have expressed that people walking through the home often have a desire to be part of it.   They asked how we felt about a donation jar (to be shared with Make-a-Wish) being at the home.  We gratefully said yes to it knowing that we have a long way to go in paying off the loan!  But know that Citywide would not have approved us if they didn't think we could make it work.  (:  And yes-- we do realize that this home MORE than meets our needs-- there are many extras that are pure bonus-- like the sidewalk that circles the yard outside so Cali can have access to anywhere she wants.  We know it's amazing.  We are so grateful!!  We weren't trying to build a mansion-- but we do realize it is a VERY SPECIAL HOUSE. 

As for why we would adopt if we couldn't afford it... we can!  (:  There are actually financial requirements that must be met before China AND your homestudy agency will approve you to adopt.  We have been so blessed each time we have chosen to go forward and haven't had to fundraise to help with adoption costs.  However, if we DID have to fundraise, we would!  And we support as many of those who are fundraising as we possibly can!  (:   Adoption is one thing that I would be willing to receive help to do and I'm so GLAD that other families go forward with adoption even if it means asking for help-- these children are worth it!!!

So... I hope that answers some questions on the financial end of things.  (:  I am not offended by the questions, and like I said, I think the nature of this project justifies them.  People who have contributed especially have the right to know a little bit more about our situation.  Have you noticed I'm putting lots of smileys?  (:  That's because I really do want you to know that I'm happy to answer these questions.  (:

I was going to post pictures, but I've already spent much too long on here and I've had kids coming in every 30 seconds or so asking for things.  (;  So if you want to see pictures, go to and click on their facebook page.  Or just click HERE.

Love you all for your support!!  


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Dear Christianne:

Fifteen years ago we went with butterflies in our tummies to the temple in Manti, Utah.  Fifteen years ago we looked into each other's eyes and covenanted to each other that we would spend eternity together.  That we would do all we could to help each other along the way.  That we would be loyal and true to each other and to our marriage.

Christi, you have done all that and so much more.  I am so grateful for your patience with and endurance of me.  You have had to deal with so many of my rough edges.  Some have been worn smooth.  Some still remain pretty bumpy!  But still you stand by me and with me.

I am moved to tears as I think about the hopes and dreams we had that day.  (I think I actually wanted to be President of the United States back then, HAH!)  But the hopes and dreams we had for us, for our family.  How differently our family has unfolded than we could have ever hoped for.  And yet, with regard to the most important things, how close to our dream our family has become.

We have nine wonderful children who love the Lord and strive to live as He would have them live.  We love each other more now than we ever have.  We live in a beautiful place in a beautiful home (and in about 10 days will be moving into an unbelievable home!)  

So Christi, thank you.  Thank you for giving your all to me and to our children and to the Lord.  Thank you for enduring the hard times and enjoying the good times.  I love you.  Here's to 45 (or so) more years together here and forever in the eternities.

I love you!



So for the record, I am completely cognizant of the date of our anniversary.  The mistake on my end is that I woke up on Saturday thinking it was the 11th.  But can you really blame me for being a tad bit mixed up?  I mean, really.  With all that has been going on around here, I think it's actually impressive I knew what month it was!

Anyway, Happy Anniversary for real today, honey.  I love you!


PS.  The kids were very sweet today.  They let us take a nice nap after church.  Parker made us smoothies.  And Sophi gave me a Dove chocolate and said I could have it for my "avinursery."
Such good kids!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Love, Logic and Little Girls

I am a better person than I was 15 years ago when I got married.  I am a better person than I was 6 years ago when we adopted Elli.  I guess that's the goal.  To improve over time.  There is something about overseeing the needs of nine separate individuals that refines a person.  Helps them develop patience and insight.

I am surrounded by a lot of little girls.  Two teenagers and three pre-teens.  That's a lot of estrogen going on.  Little girls are not strong on logic.  (I could make a comment here about big girls, but I want to be able to sleep on the air mattress tonight...:)  Monday night I was taking all of the kids to the park for family home evening.  Christi wasn't feeling great, so I was flying solo.  Jessica and Cali were deciding which shoes to wear.  The last time we went shoe shopping, we did something rather unwise.    Seemed economical at the time.  Really dumb in retrospect.  Cal and Jess have the same size feet.  We got two pairs of shoes and said they could share them.  At first, they liked both pair equally, but they quickly decided that one pair was better than the other.  And so the drama began.  

It culminated last night.  Christi told Cali she could wear the preferred pair.  Jess wanted them, too.  Because of the way they're designed, the preferred pair is easier to run in.  When you think about this for two seconds, it is logical that Jessica should wear them if we're going to the park.  She will want to run around, and it won't make that much difference to Cal.  But of course using logic would be too easy.  I told Cali she had to let Jesi wear them this time.  I wasn't mean about it, but I wasn't overly tender, either.  Cali began to tear up.  The sunlight was rapidly waning.  We needed to leave.  The me of 5 or 15 years ago would have just stuck to the logic of the situation and firmly insisted that Cali remove the shoes.  But the me of today could see that this was about so much more than shoes.  I stopped, knelt down so I was at the girls' eye level, and lovingly talked with my two daughters about what we could do.  I assured Cali that I was just as concerned about her needs as I was about Jessica's.  It took about 10 minutes, but it ended up being a tremendous bonding experience for all three of us.  In the end, both girls were willing to let the other one wear the shoes.

I'm honestly not trying to pat myself on the back here.  Rather, I'm expressing deep gratitude for the blessings I have received from having my wonderful kids.  The blessings are innumerable, but patience is certainly one that stands out.  I love being a dad.  I love my daughters, even it they are a bit on the emotional side:)


Sunday, August 4, 2013


Our kitchen table, several dressers and most of our mattresses (including Christi's and mine) are up at the new home.  They add beauty to the staged decorations, but sleeping on the floor hasn't been great for my aging body.  Monday night we stayed up all night.  Tuesday I fell asleep on the floor during I Love Lucy and stayed there all night.  Wednesday I tried a couch.  Thursday was a foam camping pad. Last night I  made Xander sleep on the couch and I was on his mattress.  Suffice it to say, I've been pretty tired all week.  

On top of the mattress shortage, the lack of dressers has made it difficult to keep our clothes organized.  There was about an eight-inch layer of clean clothes on our bedroom floor for most of the week.  It was folded (thanks to our laundry fairies) but we just hadn't had time to put it away.  So tonight, Christi had the kids help her put all the clothes away.  She worked hard (while I took the kids to the dollar theater) and got our bedroom much cleaner.  We planned on filling up the air mattress and watching a Star Trek episode before going to bed.  I ran to the store to get some cheesecake for Graci's birthday tomorrow.  While I was there, Christi called me and said, "I have one of those things for blowing up air mattresses, but it doesn't have any batteries.  Do you want to buy some batteries, or should we just use the air compressor my dad got us?"

"The air compressor should work.  Let's just go with that."

Ah, the futility of the uneducated.  In case you don't know, an air compressor produces high pressure, low volume air.  A pump for an air mattress produces low pressure, high volume air.  We've now had this insanely loud compressor on in our bedroom for over half an hour.  The bed is probably 90% full.  Why didn't I pay more attention in physics class?!?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

It Is Finished! (And We Won!)

Our current home is a wreck.  Our kids have been tending each other for days.  We have lived on Wendy's and Little Caesar's for the past week and a half.  But it is finished.  And it is amazing.

I can't even begin to describe the past two weeks.  On Sunday, July 21, Christi passed out on the bed as soon as we got home from church.  (That was back when we had a bed...and a dresser...and a kitchen table....)  I called all of the kids in to the living room for a family council.  I explained that the following 10 days would be the craziest of our lives.  Parade judging would be on the 30th, and until then, we just had to plan on all pitching in and doing the best we could to get the house finished in time.  For the older kids, that meant a lot of babysitting and managing our house, since mom and dad would be spending every spare second at the Puzzle Them Home home.  I was so impressed with their willingness to shoulder the load.  And boy did they.  I heard so many "What can I do to help"s over that time frame.  I would come home and find kids cleaning or weeding the yard or playing with their younger siblings or even passed out late at night on the couch cuz they had been so busy during the day.  Thank you Green kids!  You are fantastic!

It was a whirlwind.  We had many people who were skeptical that it could be finished.  But Bret kept everything going.  He begged when he needed to.  He yelled occasionally:)  He timed things just right.  And we finished on time (barely, but I'll get to that later;).

The last four days were the most amazing.  Christi was doing a ton with the interior, and I was working on the landscaping.  We had not budgeted much for either of these categories, so we were trying to do the best we could with donations and volunteer labor.  You've already heard about the Deseret Book donation.  WOW!!!  During that last 10 days, we also had ALL the sod donated, ALL the mulch donated and ALL the topsoil donated!!!  Thank you Tracy Davis sod, Diamond Tree Experts and Mascaro trucking.  On top of all that, the volunteer labor was truly amazing.

We had blogged about, facebooked and spread the word at church about our sod laying party on the 27th.  Even so, I was amazed by the turnout.  We had dozens of people there.  Church friends, community friends, even facebook followers we'd never met before.  And boy did they work hard.  We got everything except the park strip finished in one day!  On top of that, some of the mulch was spread, some more of the sprinkler drip lines were hooked up, more plants were planted.  It was fantastic.  But by the end of the day, there was still SO much to do.  I was very afraid the landscaping just would NOT be ready on time.  We still had to bring in 6000 pounds of rubber mulch for under the play areas.  Put some borders in between the real mulch and the rubber mulch, plant 30-40 more shrubs in ridiculously hard soil.  Prep and lay sod in the park strips.  Spread a lot more mulch.  Assemble a couple of toys for Elli's playground.  How was I going to do this myself?

Sunday after church, we went up to the property.  We were planning on doing mostly interior stuff, but shortly after we got there, people started showing up to help in the yard.  And then more people.  And then more.  Again, we had dozens of people show up to help us.  For the second day in a row!  Apparently it had been announced in the church congregation we are moving into that we needed help to finish this on time.  And boy did the help come.  The planting got finished, half of the park strip was prepped and sodded, almost all of the mulch was spread, more drip lines were put in.

Still, I was overwhelmed with what we had to do on Monday.  But Monday evening, more people than ever showed up to help.  For the third day in a row, we had over 40 people out in our yard, working hard to get everything done.  Elli's toys were assembled, rubber mulch was brought in.  (That stuff comes in 2000 pound bags-we had to have a back hoe lift it off the truck and onto the play area!)  Borders were installed.  Sprinklers were finished.  Park strip sod was done.  Some of the people stayed until after 1:00 am, working hard to ensure our home was finished by the time the judges came the next morning.

Finally, we had done everything we could do on the landscaping until the sun came up the next morning.  The judges could come anytime after 9:00 am, and if we weren't finished when they came, we wouldn't be judged.  So the pressure was on.  I went in to help with the interior, including laying the floor in the last room of the house without flooring.  My brother Tyler and I laid Soft Tiles in the exercise room downstairs.  I made a 3:00 am trip to Walmart for a few last minute items.  Some of the designers were there until 7:00 am.  Bret, Christi, Tyler, Christi's sister Leslie, Taylor and I were there all night.  No sleep!  It was exhausting!  But we had to be done by 9:00 am!

Oh!  How could I forget the guest room ceiling!  About 11:00 pm I went down to the basement for some reason.  Leslie saw me walking toward the guest room and said, "Don't go in there!"  I walked in and saw Bret on a ladder with his head through one of three large holes cut through the drywall of the ceiling.  I about had a heart attack.  There had been a water leak.  It turns out one of the valves on the master shower had been turned on just a little and had dripped for several hours.  Since everything was stacked on top of everything else, the tile in this shower wasn't finished until the wee hours of Tuesday morning.  So this water made it's way down to the ceiling below.  But Bret called Brady the drywall guy.  He came over and sized up the situation.  We put fans on it until 5:00 am and then the fix it crew came in and it was good as new.

Since things were going on right until the last minute, Bret scheduled his cleaning crew to come in at 5:00 am on Tuesday morning.  But they overslept!  Once we realized that they weren't coming, we went into panic mode.  We barely had enough time to do the things we had planned on doing.  There was no way we could do that AND clean.  We were doomed.  Then God sent the joggers.  Two ladies we didn't know were jogging by our home.  They had heard about the project and poked their heads in to see how things were going.  They could see how crazy things were and how much trouble we were in.  They left.  Apparently they made some calls, because within 20 minutes, about 15 women showed up and started cleaning our home.  We went like crazy.  It was another miracle.  I am not kidding when I say that the judges showed up at the exact time we were leaving the home with the cleaning supplies.

After the judges left, and the helpers left, it got down to Bret and Christi and me.  It was silent in the house.  For three straight months there had been saws and drills, noise, noise, noise.  But now it was done.  I don't believe there has ever been a home built with more love per square foot than this one.  The spirit was strong.  Christi and I walked around, looking at this sanctuary that had been provided for us.  We embraced.  And sobbed.  We are so grateful.

Tonight we went we Bret and his wife, Lindsay, to the Parade VIP night.  It was where awards were handed out.  We won!  We are so glad for Bret.  He has put his heart and soul into this for months.  He donated his contracting fee!  We are so happy that he has a Parade of Home Best Home award on his resume.  Thank you Bret!  We truly love you!  Please come by and visit anytime you want!

It's late.  I'm still a bit groggy from lack of sleep.  I hope this post isn't too discombobulated.  Before I go, I just have to say thank you to the many people without whom this project simply would not have been completed on time.  There are so many of you.  Bret and I have talked about it so many times.  There were so many people who came just when we needed them and provided help with things we weren't able to do on our own.  This was a home of miracles.

I will get pictures up here soon.  It is amazing.  In the meantime, here are a couple of facebook links:  (The first picture on this page is not our home, but if you scroll down, you'll see some of our exterior.)

I will close with a verse of scripture.  King Benjamin taught the following in Mosiah 2:23-24.
"And now, in the first place, He hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto Him.  And secondly, He doth require that ye should do as He hath commanded you; for which if ye do, He doth immediately bless you; and therefore He hath paid you.  And ye are still indebted unto Him, and are, and will be, forever and ever..."

We are truly indebted unto Him.  If we have done any good in our lives, truly we have been blessed far beyond what we have done.  Thank you to everyone who has helped or even just offered their love and support.  We have never felt more loved.  We will try with all of our hearts to pay it forward.