Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Christi got new glasses. She then plucked my eyebrows. Is there a connection?

Taylor and Parker thought the two of them together could take me.  Turns out they were wrong:-)

We got the all time best/worst game for the kids to play on New Year's Eve. Hungry Hungry Hippos. Kids love it. Parents get a headache.   :-)


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

We had a wonderful Christmas!  Our "no presents from each other or Santa" idea fostered a lot of extra time to create special memories.  We sent Santa a letter telling him all about the many things we have been given this year and how we would love if he would share our presents with another family.  As I'm sure you can imagine, this lifted a lot of the holiday stress from our lives!  We implemented many of the ideas given to us by you creative readers-- thank you!  One of our favorites was judging Christmas lights.  We found a "Best Holiday Lights" certificate online and printed out ten of them.  We then spent a couple of hours driving around different neighborhoods and finding beautiful Christmas light displays.  Our top ten received treats and a certificate.  I think that's one that will have to continue as an annual tradition!   We tried very hard to do something every day in December that would bring the spirit of Christ into our home.  We read lots of Christmas stories, watched Christmas movies, and had lots of fun with secret service.  Many days were busy with school and homework and activities and we were only able to do little things, but it still helped us keep our focus in the right place.   At one point we told the kids that we wanted them to each come up with their own idea of a service project that we would help fund.   For example,Taylor's idea was to pay for someone's groceries the next time we were at the store, which turned into a beautiful Christmas Eve memory.   We have been given SO MUCH and we are so grateful for opportunities to give back in little ways.   I am grateful for wonderful children who know what Christmas is all about.   (:

Of course, the kids did get to be on the receiving end too.   We had cousin gift exchange, gifts from grandparents, new p.j.'s from our adopted grandparents, fun neighbor gifts, and of course, grand bags.  Most importantly, we were able to spend time with lots of extended family-- we love you all!



 Sophi and Alaya gave to each other

 She got her baby doll!

 Grandma's house

 Mariah and Jesi exchange gifts

 Celeste and Graci

 Lexi and Charity

 Cali and Charity-- Cali just loves her!

 Neighbor gifts waiting on our porch when we got home from visiting Grandma's-- thank you!!!!  We received one very special gift-- a Christmas jar--for which we are especially grateful.  If you are out there, please know how much it meant to us!

 Arby's and Christmas lights

 Jer kept telling them to smile, but Parker continually made faces at the last minute.  Ha.

 New jammies-- thank you, Russ and Candice!

 Grand bags!  (i.e. bags from Dad full of all your favorite, often non-healthy foods that you normally don't get and that you are not obligated to share-- big time fun!)

Every time Sophi pulled out something she would exclaim, "MY FAVORITE!"  She is so much fun!!!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The World of Candyland and the Amazing Ro

Jessica had to write a story for a 4th grade assignment.  This is it:

Once a pon a time there was a girl named Ro.She  lived in a country called rainbow land.She often would look around her.She had blond hair rosy cheeks a purple dress with a smile.She was a very happy girl.Ro was a very adventurous girl.She had  a big sister that was a girly girl type.After ten years passed in rainbow land 100 gummy bears turned evil [notice the "evil" gummy bears on the cover page].And when Ro heard  about it she was so so surprised then she went in and asked her mom what to do to help the people in the country of rainbow land.And her mom" sweetie you need more people to be able to fight.I know me and my friends are calecting more people but  we need to know how to fight them.Ro' s mom exclaimed  and hurry .Go in the shed it has plenty of things to fight with.Ro went and got the fighting stuff and her friends came and got the things to fight with.To defeat the bad gummy bears and then the girls turned the gummy bears back to good.and they had a feast and they ate all of it and every body lived happily ever after the end or is it.

We love our Jesi SO much.  If ever I was asked to fight evil gummy bears, I would want her by my side with her fighting stuff!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Lexi and Dad...

…go four wheeling in the snow in Ferron, UT.  Good times!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Measure of a Man

What does it mean to be a man?  I remember as a kid wanting to grow up and do the things my dad did: mow the lawn, drive, stand on the balcony railings as he cleaned the gutters.  All pretty over-rated stuff.  As a teenager I felt pretty manly when I came home from a pick-up basketball game having scored a lot of points or having viciously blocked a shot.  Getting my first real job felt pretty important.  Planning a fantastic date with my wife or going camping with my kids or even scraping the snow off of the van before I left for work to save Christi the effort have all made me feel like a man.

Today I attended the funeral of Grandpa Great.  He was a man.  As I watched dozens of pictures that had been put together on a video loop, I saw a man who took care of his family and a man who defended his country.  Several of the images were of him as a sailor in the Navy.  Pictures on tropical islands with his shirt off as he worked in the construction battalion.  The pictures were taken during relatively peaceful moments.  But there were many moments and hours filled with bombs and bullets.  He endured those moments and persevered and overcame.  A true man.  I am ever grateful to the men and women who have defended and continue to defend our amazing country and our hard-earned liberties.  Many of the pictures were of him with his wife.  Every interaction I ever saw of him with his sweetheart was tender and loving.  He obviously treasured her and put her welfare ahead of his.  A true man.

I had an experience today that made me feel like a man.  Perhaps more so than any experience I have ever had.  It took about 20 seconds and five steps.  As I carried my sweet Cali across the snow from the car door to where her wheelchair was, as I cradled her in my arms and did something for her that she simply could not do for herself, I knew that I was doing the right thing at the right time.  That I was doing what the ultimate example of manhood would have me do.  Somehow it eased some of my burdens.  It's not easy being father to so many.  But it is providing me opportunities for growth and love and service that I could not experience any other way.  I still hope that when I grow up I can be the man that Father in Heaven would have me be.  I'll keep working on it.  One step at a time.



Only half awake, a groggy Lexi stumbles into our bedroom.  Jesi says, "Lexi, I can't find my glasses.  Will you help me look for them?"  Lexi replies, "Sorry Jess.  I can't right now.  I have to take a bath."  You can't make this stuff up:)

Today we attended Grandpa Great's funeral.  It was a wonderful day and fitting tribute to a great man. At the viewing, Sophi was very interested in talking to Grandpa Great and telling him goodbye.  She put her little foot on his hand and was very loving with him.  She was reasonably reverent during the service and had so much fun playing with cousins during and after the luncheon that was provided for family.  On the drive back to Grandma's house, Sophi was talking to Parker and said something about how it was sad that Grandpa Great died.  Parker replied, "But it's ok, Sophi, 'cuz now where is he?"  Sophi promptly responded, "In a box!"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Graci's Kingdom

Graci, Jess, Lexi, Xander live half of their lives in the make-believe kingdom that Graci created.  It is peopled with many characters.  Several of them are played by our kids, many are imaginary.  Names for the characters often stem from the middle names of our children.  Tonight at dinner I was half listening to the conversation they were having.  I asked Jessica a question and she said, "I'm not Jessica."

Me:  "Who are you?"

Jesi:  "Princess Annika."

Me:  "Grace, who are you?"

Graci:  "Princess Katianne"

Me:  "Sophi, who are you?"

Sophi:  "Princess Sophia."

Me:  "Lex, who are you?"

Lexi:  "Lilian."

Me:  "Princess Lilian?"

Lexi  "No.  Just plain Lilian.  I'm a villager."

Me:  "Oh."  (To Graci, the created of the kingdom):  "Why are the three of you princesses, but Lexi is just a villager?"

Graci:  "'Cuz she married Jake."

Me:  "Oh.  Why does marrying Jake make her a villager?"

Graci:  "'Cuz Jake's a villager."

Me:  "So did Jessica marry a prince?"

Graci:  "No.  She was born  princess."

Me:  "Oh.  Were you born a princess?"

Graci:  "No.  I married Jonathan."

Me:  "Who's Jonathan?"

Graci:  "Annika's brother."

Me:  "Who plays Jonathan."

Graci:  "Nobody, he's imaginary."

Me:  "How did you meet Jonathan."

Graci:  "Well, Max and Jonathan were playing kickball and I bumped into him."

Me:  "Is Xander Max?"

Graci:  "Well, right now he's Philip, but sometimes he's Max."

I think this conversation could have gone on forever:)


Update on Cali

One of the commenters on a previous post asked for an update on Cali.  This person is considering an older child adoption.  So here goes:

Cali is doing unbelievably well.  Her English has really skyrocketed over the last couple of months and she has become very conversational.  She has many friends at school, including a fairly large group of girls that gets together monthly for "late-nights."  She loves to go to activities with our family, whether it's basketball games or band concerts or trips around town.  She loves her extended family and gets so excited when we are going to see grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins.  

Her closest sibling relationships are with Graci and Jesi.  Grace and Cali still speak a lot of Chinese together (which makes Christi and me very happy).  Cali can't do every chore around the house, so we have a couple that she is able to do and does well.  Sometimes she helps Lexi get ready for bed.  She helps clear the table.  Occasionally she even cleans the bathrooms.  She generally helps out with a willing spirit and seems genuinely happy most of the time.  She does miss China and some of her relationships there.  She is very much looking forward to going back when we get Conner.

Older child adoptions can be wonderful. They can also have many challenges.  Our entire family has been so blessed with how well Cali has adapted and with how much she has bonded with each of us!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Band

Taylor and Parker love playing basketball.  It's so fun to watch them together when they play on their Jr. High team.  I love how much effort they put forth and the teamwork and dedication they are learning.  It's fun that they're playing for their school team and often have friends cheering for them in the stands.  The pep band even comes and plays at the home games.  Taylor plays trombone in the band, and enjoys being a part of that during the JV games.  During the varsity games, Taylor is on the court instead of in the stands. 

After a recent game, Taylor asked Christi and me, "Did you hear my band cheering for me?"  We had, in fact, heard his band cheer loudly for him every time he made a shot.  I'm so glad the boys are getting this marvelous experience of shining in front of their friends.  And it's amazing how much more joy it brings to me than it does to him.  Parenthood is such a magnifier of emotions!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Great Night!

The day after Thanksgiving we went on a family outing.  While we were out and about I said to Christi, "You know, most parents don't get the sense of accomplishment that we do from simply taking the family out on the town!"  And I must say, it requires constant vigilance and razor-sharp senses to manage our crew on the road…

As a Make-A-Wish kid, Graci continues to get invitations to local events.  It's great!  We love the camaraderie of other families who understand, Graci feels special, and it offers us opportunities to do things we otherwise wouldn't.  On the day after Thanksgiving, Make-A-Wish was sponsoring free ice skating at a picturesque outdoor rink in downtown Salt Lake City.  Now you may be saying to yourself…"Let's see. Blind. check. Wheelchair. check. Missing limbs. check. Autism. check.  Yep!  This is a perfect group to go ice skating!"  Well, we weren't quite that brave.  We got a sitter for Elli and headed out with everyone else.  (It's important to remember just how poorly Elli does in crowds.  A night at home for her is generally much happier than a night when there is a ton of sensory input.)

To make it a bit more of an adventure, we decided to take TRAX into town.  We drove 10 minutes to the nearest TRAX station, hurried to get on the train cuz' we were barely going to make it, then sat on the train and waited…and waited…and waited….  What was going on?  Why wasn't it leaving?  I had looked up the departure times in advance.  So I picked up a paper schedule, looked it over closely, and finally found the fine print that on Thanksgiving and the day after, TRAX would be running on a Sunday schedule.  I quickly scanned what Sunday trains would be like and realized it wouldn't work!  They didn't run late enough to that particular station!  We had to get off that train before it left!  We all rushed for the doors and barely beat them.  Our excursion was experiencing a bumpy beginning.

Christi drove while I looked at the various options for TRAX.  It looked like we might be able to park at another station about half way into town.  The kids were excited to ride the train, and we already had non-refundable day passes, so off we went.  We parked, caught the train, and enjoyed the ride into SLC.  Lexi was particularly excited when we passed the Mill Creek stop.  (She attends Mill Creek elementary.)  Once we got to our destination, we walked a couple of blocks to the skating rink.

I'm sure we were quite the sight on the ice!  Christi or me trying to hold onto Sophi while maneuvering the large crowds on skates we weren't great on ourselves.  Lexi using one hand to hold her cane and grasping onto Christi for dear life with the other.  Graci flying solo but falling at least a dozen times.  (Poor girl!)  Jess clutching the rail on the sideboard with all her might as she traveled around the rink at whatever the opposite of light speed is.  The three boys really picking it up quite quickly.  (I was particularly impressed with Xander.)  And Cali, refusing to go out onto the ice in her chair.  (Fortunately, as a Make-A-Wish gathering, they actually had a designated time when only kids in wheelchairs and their helpers were able to be on the ice.  Cali and I went 15 or 20 times around the rink.  She became a bit of a star.  On one of her passes, Jesi held out her hand to give Cali five.  When other people saw it, they did the same.  Before we knew it, there were at least 75 people with their hands out waiting for Cali to give them five each time she circled the rink.  The whole skating trip was way more fun and way more successful than I had imagined:)  Sophi had a blast, even cozying up to the Grizzly Bear mascot of the Utah Grizzlies hockey team.

After the skating was done, Santa Claus came for a visit!  He completely fell in love with our kids.  He was quite overwhelmed and even became emotional as he talked to and held Sophi and Lexi.

From the skating rink we walked through downtown Salt Lake to City Creek Mall and ate at the Chick-Fil-A in the food court.

Sophi demands that the sunshade be down on her stroller.  Rain or shine.  Night or day.  She insists!

Taylor and Parker think they're too cool for the rest of us ;)

Graci sweetly entertains Lexi and Xander with make believe scenarios that have been ongoing for approximately forever:

Cali won't let me take a picture of her…

…but apparently has no problem with selfies!:)

After our meal, we walked a block or two more to temple square and saw the lights.  Wow that's a popular place!  It was the first night they were lit and I felt like we were navigating Disneyland during spring break.  (Yes, we've been daring (crazy?) enough to do that!)  The lights were amazing.  The life-sized nativity scene was particularly beautiful.  And the spirit that could be felt as so many people celebrated the birth of baby Jesus was a privilege to experience.

We boarded TRAX for the ride back.  There were some pretty colorful characters on the return trip!  We made it back home over seven hours after we had left.  Christi and I went to bed that night very tired:)  But we both felt so grateful for our wonderful kids.  They bring us so much happiness.  What a blessing it is to be surrounded by such spiritual giants!