Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Poignant Moments

Being the parent of blind children is a tremendously humbling experience.  Watching (and I can see the irony here) Lexi and Conner perform the simplest of daily tasks can sometimes bring me to tears. Most of the time I don't even notice it, partly because they do things so well and partly because I'm just used to it.  But once in awhile the significance of living without sight hits me hard.  It may be Conner clearing his dinner plate and his helpless realization that someone has moved the kitchen garbage can.  Or Lexi sitting with us as we watch America's Got Talent and suddenly realizing that she can only really experience the singing acts.  Or transporting the two of them home from a camp with the Utah School for the Blind and watching as they struggle to get their suitcases back in the house from the garage.  Life is not fair.

And yet, these children who cannot see the light bring so much of it into the lives of others.  Lexi's infectious smile, gregarious nature and willingness to sing for pretty much anyone and everyone she ever meets brings joy to so many people.  Conner's dry sense of humor, continual insistence that he needs a girlfriend before he dies and his talent on the piano make those around him alternately laugh with him or be amazed by him.

I haven't mentioned Elli because the poignancy of her life transcends the struggle to sightlessly do what everyone else does.  She is often happy, and equally often at least contented.  But she also has many moments (or hours!) when she is in anguish, crying out for something.  Something we cannot discern. I don't know how much even she understands what it is she wants.  Sometimes she seems completely lost in a different world, but sometimes it feels like she knows exactly what she wants and is tormented by her inability to communicate her needs.

The other day I had two moments, one that made me so happy as I witnessed the ingenuity and cooperation of my kids, one that was a simple representation of what they have to overcome.

First moment: I walked into the kitchen and saw the cooks.  Lexi and Conner are both able to prepare their own ramen noodles in the microwave.  We have two microwaves, one above the counter and one below.  The lower oven has braille stickers that enable these two to use it.  Conner had put his noodles in the lower oven and started it.  Lexi didn't want to wait until his were done, so she put her noodles in the upper oven and shut the door.  Unable to tell where the numbers were, Lexi wrapped both of her arms tightly around Sophi's torso.  Lex then lifted with all her might, and leaned back so that Sophi was angled up.  Sophi reached out with her toes to put 3 minutes on the timer.  I wish I had taken a picture!!!  Watching these kids demonstrate their independence was a great way to start my day.  (And yes, it was breakfast they were cooking.  In China, there's really no difference between breakfast food and dinner food, so ramen noodles are great any time of day😋.)

Second moment:  I was tasked with changing the sheet on Lexi's mattress.  Lexi sleeps in the upper, built-in bunk in the room she shares with Sophi.  If you've never changed the sheets on a bunk bed, consider yourself lucky.  It's a bit of a challenge.  When we designed our home, we wanted built in bunks in the girls' rooms and we put in electrical outlets by each bed for reading lights, alarm clocks, etc.  A couple of incredible local artists volunteered their time to paint both girls' rooms with a Disney Tangled theme.  They painted pretty much every square inch of the walls, and it really does feel like you are walking into whatever kingdom Rapunzel lives in.  Part of their efforts included painting the cover plates on the electrical outlets.  As I climbed up to Lexi' bed to change the sheets, I noticed her outlet.  Again, one of those simple moments that sucked the breath out of me.  I saw this:


Once completely covered in paint, much of it has now been scraped clean by metal prongs as Lexi has tried to find the holes to plug in her phone charger.  Such a small thing, but a great representation of how challenging life can be.  It is also a great example of determination and perseverance.

I didn't start this post with any intention of advocating adoption, but I am suddenly overwhelmed with  a combination of compassion, sorrow and hope for those who could adopt but haven't yet.  Please consider it.  It is wonderful for the kids who become part of a forever family.  But perhaps the most powerful blessings come to those who bring these children into their lives.  You will be blessed.  Your current kids will be blessed.  Grandmas, grandpas, cousins, aunts and uncles will be blessed.  Neighbors, church congregations and entire student bodies will be blessed.  We have truly been blessed beyond comprehension by these giant spirits in slightly broken bodies.

Jeremy

On a humorous note: Sophi and I were talking and my large belly was stretching my t-shirt a bit tight.  I commented, "I can't believe I used to be 25 pounds heavier than this!"  Sophi looked at my stomach and said, "How did you fit on rides???"  Great question, Soph! 😂

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Field trip Fail

I thought I was being a great dad.  Sophi somehow found out that she was my only child I had never been on an elementary school field trip with.  (Except for Conner and Cali who were already past elementary when we adopted them.)  For the past year or so she has been asking "When will you be able to go with me?"  So the time finally came.  She was going to the zoo. I love the zoo.  We had a date!

I packed Sophi a fun lunch. I sat next to her on the bus.  I was super kind, patient and understanding with the great kids in her group.  I took pictures.  I joked with them.  I rented a wheelchair so Sophi's shorter leg wouldn't get sore from walking.  I carried her on my shoulders on the long walk back to the bus.  I kept my phone in my pocket so I could focus on her.

Later that day when I got home from work, I found Christi and Sophi talking in their bedroom.  I proudly asked Christi, "So did she have a great time?"

Christi responded:  "Well, Sophi said you did OK, but Claire's group got ice cream..."

Sigh.  The vastly underappreciated role of parent.  I guess it's a good reminder to look back and remember all of the things my parents did for me that I didn't realize at the time.  Well, at least I had a fun time Sophi, ice cream or not!


Loving the lions!


This peacock showed off for several minutes.




Polar bear swim anyone?



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines Crooners

Taylor and Parker are fundraising for a humanitarian trip to Ghana this summer.  They will be building an orphanage, which, of course, is something that is really dear to their hearts.  As they were brainstorming with Christi, trying to come up ways to raise money, someone had the brilliant idea of singing telegrams for Valentines Day.  So glad they ran with it!!! 😂


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I See

I was blessed with perfect vision for the first 42 years of my life.  About three years ago I noticed I that I couldn't focus when my kids would say "Look, Dad!" and thrust school papers, iPhone photos and various other items about three inches from my eyes.  I had to start pushing these items farther and farther out in order to read them.  Then about a year ago I noticed that my distance vision was getting blurry.  Large shapes (horizons, houses, etc.) were mostly OK, but trying to read street signs was getting more and more difficult.  It has been getting worse and worse on both ends of the spectrum.  From about 1.5 feet to about 8 feet away, it's all still very clear.

I have whined and complained to Christi about this for months.  In December we went to see The Last Jedi, and that was the first time I noticed that a movie was blurry for me.  After that I went to the optometrist and ordered a pair of glasses.  About two weeks ago, before the glasses arrived, I was in my room, looking at a picture on the wall about 15 feet away.  It was blurry.  "I can't see ANYTHING!" I griped to my sweet wife.  She quietly pointed to Lexi, who was also in the room.

Suddenly I was so grateful.  Grateful for all the years I have seen so well.  Grateful that even without glasses I can still see well enough to function.  Grateful that with glasses I am now able to improve my distance vision to what it used to be.  How grateful would Lexi be just to see shapes, or a little bit of color.  I love you, my three blind mice.  I look forward to the resurrection when I can see the expression on Lexi's, Conner's and Elli's faces the first time they see.  I love them so much!

Jer

On a somewhat related note...Cali got a letter in the mail today recruiting her to join the Marines!😂

Thursday, January 18, 2018

November love affair with hospitals

For reasons that sounded good at the time, we decided to torture ourselves in November by scheduling three different surgeries.  We began with Cali having her spinal cord untethered and a large lipoma removed from her back, resulting in a foot long incision and a tremendous amount of pain.  Then we moved onto Sophi, who had plates/brackets screwed into her left knee to stop it from growing.  This is because she is missing her fibula in her right leg, resulting in a much smaller, shorter, and weaker leg.  We are hoping that stopping her left from growing will allow the right leg to catch up somewhat, resulting in less of a discrepancy and helping her hip, leg and foot.  And finally, Xander had reconstructive foot surgery on both feet, including removing two of his very large toes and a section of foot, releasing tendons, adding brackets, and debulking throughout his feet and ankles.  I'm sure he had well over 100 stitches.  The poor kid was then put in double casts and given a wheelchair.  Through it all, they were the three sweetest, most resilient patients.  We dubbed a spot on our couch "the surgery spot" and each one spent several days there recovering after they were home from the hospital.

 I am so grateful that all surgeries were successful, and that we have access to fantastic medical care.  We are in love with Primary Children's Hospital and so thankful it is within an hour driving distance from our home.  We again found our ADA home such a blessing as we now had two kids in wheelchairs!   I am so in awe of my courageous kids who showed so much fortitude during those tough times, as well as those who stayed home and pitched in to help out here.  They are all recovering so well and Xander is even hobbling around!  Thank you to everyone who loved on them and our family during that crazy month!

Poor Parker must have felt left out, because in the middle of it all, he dislocated his shoulder (again.)  Despite physical therapy, keeping it in a sling for a couple weeks, and hardest of all, laying off of basketball for awhile, it has since happened twice more and he is scheduled for surgery as soon as the basketball season ends.  Because he wanted to be extra manly, he also took an elbow to the eye resulting in another trip to the ER.

These are the things we go through so we appreciate the easier times, right?!  (:






















Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Anxiety

In a turn toward a more serious topic, I have been contemplating writing this blog post for over a year.  I felt like it could be both therapeutic for me and possibly helpful to someone out there who might be experiencing something similar.  Let's delve into the fun topic of anxiety/depression.

My first experience with anxiety happened in 2007 while in China to adopt Elli.  I was soooo excited to finally get my arms around the sweet girl I had fallen in love with from across the world!  I quite honestly had much more excitement than nervousness and felt much peace about our decision.  I packed her suitcase meticulously, prepared everything I needed for Taylor, Parker and Jesi to stay with grandparents, and felt ready for this giant change in our lives.  But I must admit, with all of the preparation that went into that trip, I was very short on sleep as I got onto that airplane.  Landing in Beijing found me thrilled, excited, nervous yet peaceful, and completely EXHAUSTED.  I was grateful that we would have 2-3 days to recover from jet lag before we met our Elli.  But much to my dismay, I couldn't sleep!  And knowing how much I needed that sleep just left me trying harder to sleep and more frustrated when I couldn't.  Over the next 48 hours, I began to experience some very uncomfortable symptoms.   I felt as if adrenaline was coursing through my body at alarming speed, causing actual pain in my arms and legs.  My heart felt like it was pounding in my chest and in my throat.  I felt tingly all over, and would feel strangely removed from reality-- almost an out-of-body feeling that was extremely disconcerting.  But the worst part was the feeling of impending doom.  I seriously considered that I was dying, and even went through all of the thought processes of "how are they going to get my body to America?"  "What are my kids going to do without their mommy?"  These thoughts only worsened the physical symptoms I was experiencing, until I finally told Jeremy, "I need to be in the hospital."

After being admitted and talking about my symptoms, the doctors kept asking me questions about stress, and inside I was like, "Are you kidding me?  Something very wrong is going on and they are thinking it is just stress?"  My heart rate was very high, and they hooked me up to an IV.  In the meantime, flies were buzzing all around me, I was laying on a soiled sheet, and the man in the bed a couple feet away from me kept turning over in my direction to cough up blood all over the floor, which was sporadically "mopped" up by a dirty mop in the corner of the room.  Jeremy finally turned to me and said, "I don't care what is going on, being here in this hospital is only going to hurt you."  He carried me out, with the guide holding the IV machine I was still hooked up to.  

Back in the hotel, I laid in bed and thought I was probably going to die right there.  I know that sounds so dramatic, but it's how I felt at the time.  Jeremy finally got hold of our doctor in Tennessee.  After describing my symptoms to him over the phone, he told Jeremy that is sounded like I was having an anxiety attack.  He suggested trying to find a benzo until he could figure out how to get some medication to me.   Thankfully, another couple that we were traveling with had a prescription for Xanax and gave me one.  I remember thinking that there was NO WAY it was going to work, because this couldn't be a panic attack.  I was EXCITED about the adoption, not panicked!  My personality is easy going!  I was a laid back person and peaceful about bringing Elli into our family.  Why in the world would I be having a panic attack?

And yet, 30 minutes after taking the Xanax, my symptoms began to dissipate and I drifted into a peaceful sleep.  What. In. The. World?

Later that day, I felt the symptoms start to creep back and took another pill.  Magic.  And lucky for me, this was only repeated a few times before I was completely myself again.

Why do I start with this story?  Because for whatever LAME reason, I was completely embarrassed about the whole situation.  In fact, it took years for me to ever even admit what had happened.  We told the story about being in the hospital, but I was happy to let people assume I had had food poisoning or something of the sort.  Because why would someone LIKE ME (insert snort!) ever land in the hospital with something like anxiety?  And a panic attack?  Isn't that just something you can talk yourself out of?  Just calm down and take some deep breaths, right?  (;  Plus, it didn't fit my personality to have anxiety.  HAHAHA.

I did learn from that experience to have so much compassion and empathy for people dealing with anxiety, but I still didn't have an understanding of just how debilitating and awful it could be-- because mine was very short lived.  I did have a handful of other times in the coming years where (usually preceded by little sleep) I would feel symptoms coming on and take one of my magic pills I now ALWAYS carried with me.   

Insert 2016.  Various events in my life were such that I began to notice more often the symptoms of anxiety.  It was never a full blown panic attack like I had in China, but it was miserable and uncomfortable and disconcerting.  I finally, reluctantly went to my doctor and tearfully told him I needed some help.  He was so gentle and kind and gave me a prescription to help both my anxiety and also the depression that I found mixing in as I dealt with the effects of the anxiety.  Except the medication backfired.  It just made everything worse.  Over the course of the next few months, I delved into a full-blown battle with anxiety.  I tried four different medications before finding one that helped.  It was tricky, because medications take a long time to work and so it can take a very long time to figure out what works best with your body.  In the meantime, I tried supplements and exercise and therapy and basically anything I read about.   Even then, I found myself in the ER twice during that time.

Through it all, the very few people that knew what was going on would tell me, "It will get better!  You will get better!"  And I tried desperately to believe them.  It was LIFE-SAVING to have a mom, sister and best friends who had also dealt with anxiety and knew the right things to say and do to help me through a day.  My sweet mom came up several times to help.  My cute friends would come over and clean my house while I laid in bed and cried.  My sister would pick up the phone every day and listen to me cry over and over and over.  Having them understand was the most important part of my healing.  I remember telling Jeremy that I would do anything to just have the flu-- desperately wanting him to understand how awful of a thing anxiety is.  But even though he was helpful and caring, I NEEDED people who knew how to empathize because of experience.  And I realized how sad it was that there are people who go through this alone.  I cannot imagine doing so!  I literally don't know how I could have survived it.  I'm so grateful that I had women close to me that understood and were there for me, because at the time, I didn't talk to anyone else about it.  Most people had no idea of what I was going through privately.  Somehow in public I was able to hide it all. And thinking of the thousands (millions?) of people who do go through this alone made me realize that it's so important to TALK ABOUT IT!  Mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed about.  In fact, it should illicit the most tender feelings of compassion in people, because it is devastatingly hard.

I remember so many breakthroughs during the worst times of struggle.  One of those times will likely sound silly if I try to explain it, but it was profound to me.  During especially difficult moments, my mom taught me to take walks.  Walks around the block were too much for me (I didn't want to run into anybody I would have to talk to, I didn't know when I would break down and need to go inside-- plus I was usually barefoot and in my jammies!)  So I would walk around the sidewalk in the backyard.  My neighbors probably thought I was crazy.  Over and over I would circle it-- sometimes locking arms with my mom or Jeremy, other times by myself.  One time I found myself walking particularly fast, like I was trying to run from the anxiety.  I literally felt Satan creeping into my thoughts and I was trying desperately to escape him.  After fast-walking for 15 minutes or so, I had the simplest impression.  It was to stop, turn around, and walk the other way.  I did it, and I felt powerful for the first time.  It was like walking straight into the anxiety, straight into the negativity, and straight into my fears.  I started talking out loud.  I said, "You're not going to win.  This is just anxiety.  This is not me."  Over and over I would repeat those words, walking in the "direction" of the anxiety.  It was empowering.  I cried and cried.  Of course, it didn't solve it-- but in the moment it gave me hope. Therapy helped me tremendously.  There are definitely techniques and habits that can help in a battle against anxiety/depression.  But it usually takes more.  It takes a combination of many things to fight it effectively.   And it's sill a battle I continue to fight, although thankfully, I have found the right combination to keep it to a manageable battle.

Everyone who struggles with anxiety has a different experience.  There are so many symptoms, and everyone has a different combination with varied intensities.  There are some sites that lists hundreds of symptoms of anxiety.  Many of these symptoms can also be symptoms of something more serious, the thought of which causes more anxiety and the process becomes quite cyclical.  Also, medications often have side effects which can add to symptoms.  Over the course of a year, I found myself having MRIs, an endoscopy, and countless blood tests.  A very non-comprehensive list of some of my symptoms were/are as follows:

brain fog
numbness and tingling in hands, feet and face
dizziness
debilitating vertigo
headaches
chest pain
heart palpitations
back and neck pain
shortness of breath
burning skin
cold skin
feeling like you're going crazy
inability to sleep
extreme exhaustion
fear of impending doom
pulsing in ear
ringing in ear
sweating
trembling/shaking
muscle spasms
lump in throat feeling
body and brain zaps
flushing
feeling cold to the bone
feeling wrong/different/strange
pins and needles feeling
nausea
loss of appetite
increase in appetite
shooting pains in body
TMJ (isn't that weird it's associated with anxiety?)
dry mouth
feeling afraid
feeling hopeless
difficulty thinking
depersonalization
emotions feeling wrong
blurred vision

My purpose in sharing this???

PLEASE, if you have anxiety/depression, know that you are not alone!  As everyone kept telling me, it can get better!  There is a combination of solutions that can work for you.  

Don't be embarrassed or ashamed or self-conscious of your anxiety/depression!  So many people understand.  So many people empathize.  It is not an indicator of your strength or abilities.  

If people do judge you, let it go.  They simply don't understand and that's ok.  I was so worried to admit that I struggled with anxiety because I felt people would automatically think I brought it on myself, specifically by having so many children.  Haha. (Incidentally, I am 1,000% happy with that facet of my life). I've now realized that people have to understand that the number of children one has is not proportional to anxiety. Single people have anxiety. People with NO kids have anxiety.  People with 1-2 kids have anxiety.  People from every walk of life have anxiety.  People who are capable, happy, successful, spiritual--they can all struggle with anxiety.  It can hit anyone.  It doesn't care what kind of temperament or personality you have.  And it's mean!  It often creeps in when you are already going tough things like addictions, struggles with kids, health issues, death, marital problems, employment issues... there are so many stresses that can trigger anxiety/depression.  And then sometimes, there is no apparent trigger at all!  In fact, much of the time my anxiety flares up at the happiest, most peaceful moments of my life.  Anxiety and depression are completely unpredictable, and IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

Finally, if someone you love struggles with anxiety/depression, just LOVE them!  Have as much compassion as you can muster, even though we know it's extremely difficult for you, too!  Anxiety can leave heavy burdens on loved ones.  Know that it can get better.  Know that you are appreciated and noticed, even if it doesn't feel like it.  And there is one, GOD, who always notices and is there for you, too!

I want to close by sharing this talk by Jeffrey R. Holland and encourage you to watch it if you haven't.  You don't have to be a member of the LDS faith to glean something from it. 

The more open we can all be with our struggles, the more we can bless each other!   


--Christianne



This was the public me during some of the hardest months.  A good reminder that we can't always see someone's struggles by the way they look/act in public.   Everyone is fighting a battle.  

Incidentally, the meds that ended up helping me most also contributed to a lot of weight gain.  And I'm telling you, I'd be the 25 lbs heavier I am now than deal with severe anxiety any day!!!






Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Our little teacup!

Anyone that knows Lexi knows that she LOVES to sing.  She was soooo excited to be in 6th grade this year so she could be part of the school play.   If you can imagine, it's pretty difficult to learn the choreography to her dances when she can't see, and she was so nervous about performing.  We think she was the cutest teacup ever to grace the stage!

By the way, Belle is Broadway bound!  I have never seen such talent in a girl her age-- absolutely blow your socks off perfection.  So in case her parents are reading this, you should be very proud!!!










Monday, January 15, 2018

Back to blogging!

This is it!  It's been soooo long since I've blogged, but I am (as I type) downloading photos/videos from my phone onto the computer and as I browse through hundreds and hundreds of precious photos and videos, I am just KICKING myself that I have neglected journaling them!!!  Life is so overwhelming and busy most of the time, but somehow, looking back on all of those treasured moments makes me realize how quickly life is passing by and how important it is to keep a record of this beautiful time of our lives!

I tend to be someone that is all or nothing-- and so when I sit down to blog and realize I have a thousand and one topics I could write about, I typically just shut down and do nothing!  Come to think of it, I'm like that with a messy house as well!  (;  But NO MORE!  It's ok if I don't blog everything-- I will blog SOME things.  (:  And honestly, even if I write every single day, it's such a small slice of our life.  Days are so full of fun and chaos and heartbreak and joy and stories and setbacks-- it's impossible to capture it all.  Some of it I don't even want to capture!  And then there's the fact that some kids are more private than others, and we try to respect that here...  But for the rest of this year, I will be DILIGENT in recording many of the crazy, beautiful moments that are found here in the Green household.  And I will start with a tender conversation I overheard the other day between Conner, Lexi, and Sophi.



Soph:  "Lexi, do you think I HAVE to have arms when Jesus comes again?"

Lex:  "Hmmm.  I don't know.  Do you not want arms?"

Soph:  "I don't think so.  Because I like using my feet.  And it would be boring to be like everyone else."

Lex:  "Yeah, like it's so much better when everyone is different.  It would be so boring if like, everyone's favorite color was red.  I mean, what kind of world would that be?"

Conner:  "Yeah, I don't think I very want to see.  Because I like being blind.  It's good to be different. Not everyone should be the same."

Soph:  "Yeah!  Like, it's good to be special like us!"


My kids melt my heart.


Incidentally, Conner came home the next day and said, "I changed my mind.  I do want to see, because then I could find my friends at lunch."

And this is how my heart goes from soaring to breaking a thousand times a day...  I guess it's the cycle of a parent as you watch your kids navigate the ups and downs of life.  Times that by 10 kids and it's no wonder my heart feels like it's been through the ringer every single day.  Joy.  Sorrow.  Gratitude.  Disappointment.  Grief.  Love.  Frustration.  Pride.  Peace.  Worry.  Excitement.  Trepidation.   Repeat every few minutes.  Ha!




--Christianne