Friday, March 28, 2014

New pics and an update!

Since Yun Li's referral information was over a year old, I ordered a phone update through Ladybugs N Love a couple of days ago. They sent me the update FAST! I'm impressed!  Yun Li sounds like she is going to fit right in at our house. I can't wait to meet her!  I love her so much already!

Here are the questions I asked and the replies the orphanage gave:

1. What are YunLi's communication skills like? 
She can say some simple words, such as daddy, mommy, big sister, etc. she can understand adults.  
2. What does she learn in school? 
At preschool, she is learning language, numbers, art and crafts, gymnastics, etc.  
3. What does she like to eat and drink? 
She is not picky. She has good appetite. She likes to eat vegetable, fruit, cake, juice, etc. she loves them all.  
4. Does she have a nickname? 
Li Li. 
5. What does she like to do for fun? 
She loves to work. She loves to help teacher at preschool. She likes to help others. She likes to help foster mom to do chore.  
6. What is she good at? 
She is good at some simple work and chore.  
7. What things are challenging for her? 
Writing or learning school.  
8. What is her foster family like? 
There is a foster father, foster mother, and a big sister. There is also another little boy from the orphanage. They all love Yun Li.  
9. What is her personality like? 
She is active, restless, independent, and brave.  
10. Is she potty trained during the day and night? 
She is potty trained. Sometimes if she plays too hard and might have some accident. 
Her updated measurements:
Height: 103cm; Weight: 18kg; Head: 46cm; Foot: 17cm.

I need to plot her measurements on a Chinese growth chart, but she sounds like a tiny little peanut, like Thalia!  I'm loving that she isn't a picky eater, that she does gymnastics, and that she's active. Like I said, she's going to fit right in!  :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adoption education - DONE!

We received our adoption education certificates late last night, and I forwarded them to the agency.  That means all they're waiting on is two letters of reference, and then they can print our homestudy and I can send in our I800A. That has to be some kind of record!  Seriously!  Woohoo!

An update on Joshua, and a current address

I feel badly that I haven't been posting more information about Joshua.  I feel torn between wanting to share what he's up to and wanting to protect his privacy and that of the people he's working with.  I never use the names of his companions or the individuals/families in his life, but I still sometimes worry that someone might be able to recognize themselves in what is said and not feel comfortable with it.  In any case, I don't think I have shared that Joshua has been working as an assistant to the president for the last couple of months.  His companion is Elder B, who is from England, and Joshua says that everyone gets a kick out of the accent.  ;)  He misses being able to teach as much as he used to, but they've had some amazing teaching experiences in the last couple of weeks.  They have an investigator who has committed to be baptized but is really struggling with her family (who does not want her to be baptized).  Joshua says she is absolutely amazing and that she is always teaching others about the gospel even though she's not yet baptized herself.  She could really use our prayers for help finding peace with her family.  Also, his dear friend J who was baptized last year was able to receive the Melchizedek priesthood and is planning to go on a mission late this year.  He is so excited for his friend!

If you'd like to write a letter to Joshua, it can go directly to the mission office:

Elder Whicker
7111 W Edgerton Ave Ste 100
Greenfield WI 53220

Elder B and Elder Whicker

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Not the way I would have chosen to spend the day...

One of the requirements of a homestudy is that all people and pets in a household have had a recent medical exam.  Last time we adopted I tracked down all the providers that had seen any of our kids during the previous year and had them fill out the agency-provided medical form and get it notarized, and then made appointments for the remaining kids and for Curtis and me (who had to be seen by a physician rather than a PA or NP).  This proved to be a huge hassle, so I decided that this time, I'd just take everyone in for a quick check-up and get it all done at once so that we only had one provider to deal with.  Thankfully, with the help of a very kind nurse, we were able to arrange for one physician to see everyone, and for one notary to notarize all of the forms.  The kids did amazingly well in spite of the fact that it wasn't much fun for any of them.  You can see from this photo that the annoyance level increased with age.  ;)

Jackson wasn't seen this day because he got beaten up during recess a couple of days earlier (yes, really) and I'd had to take him to the clinic to be seen, so his form was filled out by someone else and was waiting for us when I picked up the others.  (He is OK, but he was very sore and the PA thought he had a mild concussion.  The joys of third grade...)  After the kids' visits, I had to take our dog and cat to the vet to get their immunizations done, and because I couldn't find our cat carrier, a brand new shirt that I was wearing is now in the trash thanks to my terrorized cat shredding the crud out of it.  Waaaaaahhhh!

The kids were seen on Monday, and Curtis and I had our doctor visits on Tuesday.  I made cookies for the nurse, doctor and notary that pulled all this together for us, picked up the forms, and mailed them off to our agency that afternoon.  Awesome!  I am amazed at how quickly this is all coming together!  The only thing our agency is still waiting on is our education certificates (which will be emailed to them tomorrow) and two letters of reference (which should hopefully get there this week).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pre-approval for Lydia :)

Today we received pre-approval from China to adopt Lydia, so I can finally post a couple of pictures.  Unfortunately, the only ones I have are a) embedded in the referral documents and b) more than a year old.  To celebrate getting our PA, I ordered a phone update through Ladybugs N Love which should also include some new photos.  They automatically request updated measurements on kids, but we were also able to ask 10 additional questions about Lydia.  We asked about her communication skills, activities she likes and is good at, things she has difficulty with, what her foster family is like, what her personality is like, etc.  I'm looking forward to getting to know more about her.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

State gymnastics meet

Yesterday Maizie and Sofie competed in the state gymnastics meet in Missoula.  It was a LONG drive for only a couple hours of competition (in fact, the awards ceremony was almost as long as the competition!), but it was a lot of fun and the girls did great.  Maizie placed first on floor and Sofie placed 4th on beam, and they both placed in the all-around (I can't remember off the top of my head where).  I have much better pictures on my camera, but here are a couple I shot with my phone during the awards ceremony.

Zoe came to stay with the other kids so that Curtis and I could take Maizie and Sofie to the meet.  It happened to be our 23rd wedding anniversary, so while it wasn't exactly a romantic getaway, it was nice to have some time to ourselves and to cheer on our girls.  We didn't get each other any gifts since we have such huge expenses coming up with YunLi's adoption, but we both think she's a wonderful gift!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

12 and 14

Today was a very special day.  We celebrated Maizie's 12th birthday (a couple of days early) and gave all the kids a present they'll never forget: news of #14.

12 candles!  Is it possible?!

Cutting the cake.  It's pink!  What could that mean?
We told the kids that they were going to be big siblings again (except Beck, who's a first-timer!) and asked them to guess whether they would have a brother or sister.  They were split about down the middle, but one guess what the boys were hoping for!  ;)

The first glimpse
When Maizie opened up her first present, she thought at first that she was looking at old pictures of Thalia, but nope!  That's not Thalia!  :)  The kids were all screaming and laughing and talking and asking questions at the same time.  It was delightful madness!  
Nope!  Not Thalia!  
A monster collection of loom bands from Grandpa and Kathy T

A new iPad case from Mom and Dad
Our kids had a thousand questions, so maybe you have a few, too.  Here's the story...

While we were in Shenzhen adopting Thalia in February of 2013, we met a little boy with Down syndrome who was very sweet and charming - so much so that when we got home, I tracked him down and was able to determine that he was available for adoption.  With our adoption so recent and our funds so lacking, bringing him home wasn't an option for us, but I did advocate for him and tried for a while to find him a family.  Because I had inquired about him and a couple of other kids over the past year, the China adoption program director of the agency he was listed with sent me information a couple of times.  I looked again at this little boy, as well as another darling boy with Down syndrome, but they just weren't "our" kids, and realistically, we just don't have the resources to be considering another international adoption.  The 9 adoptions we've done have completely wiped us out!

In spite of our financial circumstances, I kept having this nagging feeling that we needed to be open to another child with Down syndrome.  It wasn't something we were actively pursuing by ANY stretch, but the thought was there, just kind of floating around in my brain.  I started praying about it, and I essentially told God that I was willing to do whatever He wanted me to do, but that it would have to be a situation that would basically fall into our laps because we didn't feel we could look due to the cost.

So after getting the information about these two sweet boys and telling the agency that neither boy was right for us, I was asked what the "right" situation would be.  I replied that if I could hand-pick, I would want a girl (for the trivial reason that we wouldn't have to rearrange bedrooms yet again.  I'm really tired of rearranging bedrooms!), I would want her to be between 5-10, and I would want her not to have serious cardiac or other health issues because our distance from a children's hospital.  But even if we could find a child who met all these criteria, there was still the matter of our seriously battered financial circumstances.  It seemed completely hopeless, at least for a few more years.

This all happened on Monday of last week.  On Tuesday, I got yet another email from the agency that said that they had just had to return the file of a just-turned-6-year-old girl with Down syndrome to the shared list because the family that was working to adopt her had to withdraw for personal reasons.  I saw the girl's picture and was surprised to see that I remembered her from when she was first listed on Reece's Rainbow.  She was adorable and looked so much like Thalia!  I was definitely interested, but the money issue held me back from getting too excited.  It was frustrating not to be able to just call Curtis up and say, "Hey, what do you think?" and jump on it!

A little while later, I got on Facebook and was surprised to see the same little face staring back at me on my computer screen.  A friend who adopted using this agency often posts pictures of available children, and this was the child she had posted that day.  I scrolled through the comments, noting that most of them said things like "So sweet!" or "Adorable!" or "I wish I could talk my husband into adopting her!"  But then another comment caught my eye - one that said that this child had a substantial grant available to go toward her adoption.  I was immediately spurred into action!  I checked to be sure the grant was real and found that it was, so I called the agency, and said (and I quote), "Lock that file!"  The program coordinator was so sweet and so excited that there was already a family available for this little girl who had just lost a family, but as we talked and she worked to get the file locked, she discovered the key code she was supposed to use wasn't working.  We both started to panic knowing that because she was on the shared list, any agency could snap her up at any moment.  Finally the coordinator said that she was going to call "an agency [we're] friendly with" and have them lock the file so that it would be safe, but we could transfer it back later.  I waited 30 agonizing minutes to hear back from her, and when I did it turned out that she had called their in-China staff person at 1:30 in the morning, woke her up, made her FaceTime with the agency, and that they were able to get the file locked!  Whew!  I was so relieved I was practically in tears!

So from that point, we had 72 hours to make a formal decision, and the clock was ticking.  The first order of business was to share all of this with my husband, who had no idea what was about to hit him. As it turned out, he was working only a couple of hours that day, so when he got home from work I showed him the pictures and told him the story.  Curtis has always been awesome about embracing my crazy ideas about adding to our family, but often he needs some time - sometimes quite a lot of time! - to pray and research and consider for himself before we make a decision together.  On this day though, tears filled his eyes and then he laughed and laughed and said, "What in the heck are we doing?!  We're crazy!"  We hugged and laughed and decided to celebrate by going out for lunch and then to get passport photos that the agency required as part of our application.

The next order of business was to be certain that we would really be able to use the funds that were available for this child's adoption.  We knew from Thalia's adoption experience that when you sign up to have a fund with Reece's Rainbow, you sign a contract agreeing that any money that is raised for the child stays with that child in the event you decide you can't continue with the adoption.  We knew this was the case, but we wanted to get the official word before submitting the formal adoption application.  We didn't get an immediate answer, but the next evening (which happened to be my mom's birthday), we got word that the money was indeed staying with the child.  I cried and cried and prayed and cried some more.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, and felt so certain that somehow, my mom had a hand in what happened the way that it did.  The timing could not be coincidence.  If I hadn't asked about those boys when I did, and if the agency wouldn't have told me about the girl, or if I hadn't seen her on Facebook later that day, none of this could have come together like it did.

For those who may not know, my mom died rather unexpectedly after a month-long bout with complicated pneumonia.  She died the very day that Curtis and I were supposed to be flying to China to get Thalia.  It was such a heart-wrenching experience, and because of the timing, Thalia's adoption and the death of my beautiful mom are forever linked in my mind.  I fretted that my mom never got to meet Thalia, but I came to feel that she watched over Thalia over the month that we put off our trip to go get her.  Now I feel so strongly that my mom is not only watching over our sweet new daughter-to-be, but that she actually had some hand in bringing this all about.  Don't get me wrong - I know this is my Father in Heaven's doing, but I think of her as being on the sidelines cheering for us.  Getting this amazing news on her birthday was and is such a blessing to us.

So that's the story.  This wasn't planned, but it feels so incredibly right.  We've had so many staggering expenses over the last year that I really didn't let myself even think about another adoption.  But God has no limits, and He knew what He was doing.  I am so grateful to Him for providing this miracle to our family.  At the same time, I pray and grieve for the family that I'll never know who must be absolutely devastated for having to walk away from a child they thought would be a part of their family.  I don't know what happened in their lives to prevent their being able to fulfill these plans, but I know whatever it was, their hearts must be aching.  I pray that they will be comforted and somehow know that we will love this sweet child without end.  I will tell her that there is another family who also loves her from afar.  I love that she has been so valued and so wanted.  She deserves nothing less.

Now for the practical info.  ;)

Because our homestudy has been continually updated as part of Thalia's post-placement visits, we have two more visits with our social worker scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and then our homestudy is DONE!  This shaves a substantial amount of time off of our process.  We'll have to get background checks and driving record checks for the homestudy, but once those our received, our I-800A application can go to the USCIS office.  In the meantime I'll work on getting our dossier documents gathered, notarized and authenticated.  I really think that it's reasonable that our dossier can be on its way to China in 3 months given how much time we're saving with the homestudy.  From there, it's about a 6 month wait.  We could have her home before the end of the year if all goes smoothly.

The number one question our kids are asking is what we're going to name her.  We have no idea.  Her Chinese name is YunLi.  Her birthday is in February 2008, and she's cuter than sin.  As soon as we have our pre-approval from China, which should be this week, we'll post pictures.  We're supposed to be getting an updated social history and medical information too because her file is more than a year old.  She's tiny for her age, like Thalia, and has no known heart issues.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy birthday, Mom

My mom would have been 69 today.  I think she would have been horrified at the thought of being nearly 70, but she sure as heck didn't look anywhere near 70.  Or 60 for that matter.  If she were still here, my sister Jaime and I would have taken her out for a bagel and Diet Coke for breakfast.  I would have gotten her a gift, and I wonder what I would have given her.  Maybe some Sees Candies bridge mix?  Maybe something cute for her house or something to wear?  I don't know.  She and my dad would have gone out for dinner, and one of us would have made cake.

I thought about going to the cemetery today, but I don't get the same comfort from the cemetery as some people seem to.  I don't feel more connected to her there, and in fact, I think the reverse is true.  I feel unsettled and she seems further away.  I think I've been there maybe 4 times, but it's not out of a lack of love or respect that I don't go there more often.  It's just that she's not there.

Where I feel my mom the most is in my home.  I talk to her here.  I sense her around me when I've had a challenging day, or when there's something unusually good going on in my life.  I feel her with me when I watch my children perform in concerts or sports or other activities that she would normally have attended.  I don't always feel her here, but it happens often enough that I'm 100% certain that she is aware of us and our circumstances, that she loves us and that she enjoys being near us when she can.

I have a good mommy.  I can't wait to see her again one day.  Until then, I take comfort in knowing that she can see me.

How to be a good husband and father

Last night, I was writing a letter to Joshua to send along with the cookies I made for him and Elder B (chocolate chip oatmeal-pecan, if you must know.  Sheesh.  So impatient.)  I was thinking about the fact that the boy that I sent out 17 months ago is no longer a boy, and that the man that comes home will be nearing the time that -gasp- marriage and family will enter his mind.  I was also thinking about the fact that my Curtis has been such an amazing father to his children and husband to his wife (that's me!), so I decided to give Joshua a little advice about how to be like his dad.  Here's what I wrote:

Joshua, your awesome dad is a good man.  Always be like him.  When you get married, always be the kind of man who treasures your wife even if she sometimes asks like a spoiled poop head (not that I know anyone like that…)  ;)  Always play with your kids and ride skateboards and run and be active and don’t wear “dad clothes.”  Eat and live adventurously.  Do things that other people don’t do.  Honor your priesthood and go to the temple as much as you can.  Play Xbox with your sons and Bitty Babies with your daughters.  Cook and bake because it’s fun and a creative outlet.  Come home early from work as a surprise sometimes.  Take your sons out for ice cream after the priesthood session of General Conference and go out for Mexican food after baptisms, graduations and other important family events.  Remember to have family prayer and scripture study and Family Home Evening, and give your kids and wife blessings at the beginning of each school year.  Remember to ask your home teachers for a blessing for yourself.  Always be excited about missionary work.  Give your wife flowers just because.  Don’t get mad or stressed out if she sometimes cries for no apparent reason.  Learn to braid your daughters’ hair.  Pay your tithing first.  Go on a date every week even if it means you lock your bedroom door and eat takeout Chinese and watch a DVD at home.  Don’t spend more than you make and make sure you save money each month and slowly put together your food storage.  Go out on double dates with other couples.  Make sure those other couples aren’t all church members.  Write letters and notes to your wife.  Read the Ensign and enjoy your church meetings; don’t think of them as a chore.  Listen to loud music and dance with your kids.  Wrestle with them and get into tickle fights.  Let them stay up past their bedtimes sometimes, and let them have cake for dinner once in a while.  Save for a yearly vacation, even if it’s just a long weekend a few hours from home.  Read lots of books.  Watch conference and make sure your family does too.  Mow and shovel and rake for the widows or elderly that live close to you and teach your kids to serve others.  Deliver treats to neighbors and friends on Christmas Eve with your family.  Let your kids make forts in the basement.  Don’t eat too much meat.  At least once a year, send your wife out for a day alone.  At least once a year, go out alone or do something fun with a friend.  Do a good job with your church calling and see it as a challenge and privilege rather than something to be endured.  Be happy and “find joy in the journey” (Elder Wirthlin) even when you’re faced with challenges.  Propose to your wife-to-be in a really interesting and creative way.  Don’t go into debt to buy her ring.  Buy her a rock for your 10th anniversary.  Sing to your newborn babies.  Don’t worry and let negative comments  roll off your back.  Remember the scout motto.  Have fun at your job, even if it’s not your dream job.  Notice funny things.  Take your teens and their friends out for pizza during school lunch.  Have lunch dates in the school cafeteria with your little kids.  Give your wife a Valentine’s Day present even if she says it’s a pointless holiday and she doesn’t want anything.  Constantly think of ways to improve your life and your family’s life.  Call your parents every Sunday.  Think about adopting a child with special needs.  If you end up with a biological child with special needs, don’t grieve too long and recognize quickly that you’ve been entrusted with an amazing blessing.  Paint your daughters’ toenails.  Give way more than you think you can afford.  Tell your very pregnant wife that she’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.  Don’t worry when she calls her mom and cries sometimes.  If you slip and say a bad word, apologize.  Chocolate is always the right answer.  Don’t regularly eat unhealthy foods or allow yourself to become addicted to anything.  Exercise because it’s fun.  Don’t use credit cards.  Take each kid out for a daddy-child date every month, even if it’s just a trip to the store along with a chance to pick out a treat at the checkout.  Tell your people you love them every day.  Keep the Sabbath day holy.  Hug your kids and kiss your wife every day.  Expect good things to happen in your life.  Work hard.  Serve the Lord with all your might, mind and strength.  Listen.  Be encouraging.  When your wife frets over innumerable things, wrap your arms around her and promise her everything will be all right.  Ask her if she wants a blessing.  Have a dog.  Listen to great music or audio books on the way home from work.  Play indoor soccer on a men’s team.  Tip well.  Talk to strangers.  Teach your kids to drive a stick shift.  Don’t eat at McDonalds.  Do eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants, get to know the owners and ask them to surprise you with your meal.  Say sorry even if you’re sure it’s not your fault.  Stay in touch with your missionary companions.  Call your siblings on their birthdays.  Remember their kids’ names.  Don’t give your children everything they want, even if you can afford to do it.   No matter what you do, let your actions and words demonstrate that you love God and want to be with Him again.  Together with your wife, lead your family in righteousness.  Always have a prayer in your heart.

These are the things your dad does.  You’re already so like him in so many ways.  It makes me excited for what the future holds for you (and no, I’m not trying to make you trunky, stinkpot!).  I just want you to know that even though we’re far from being a perfect family, we’re as successful as we are because you have an awesome father.  If you’re like him, you’ll have a wonderful and happy life in spite of the challenges that inevitably come along.  Your grandpas are good examples too.  You’ve been very fortunate to have so many wonderful men in your life.  President Cutler (and Jones) is another man you can learn great things from.  You have been truly blessed to have been shaped and cultivated by your Heavenly Father through these righteous men.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This and that

My dad and step-mom came to visit last week so they could pack up the last of my dad's woodworking tools and haul them back to Utah.  While they were here, my dad helped Curtis put some drywall in the ceiling of our entry way since a faucet left running in the bathroom above damaged the old ceiling.  He also caulked all the joints of the new crown molding in our kitchen.  Kathy spent hours entertaining the kids, and we enjoyed every minute of having them around.  The kids are really loving having a grandma again.  :)

Curtis has been busy plastering the walls of our entry vestibule and main floor center hall.  I can't tell you how grateful I am to have him working on this.  We pulled the wallpaper off FIVE years ago, and it's looked like a haunted house ever since.  It had just turned out to be a far bigger job than we expected it to be because we discovered that the wallpaper (multiple layers) had been stuck to bare plaster that had never been painted.  Joshua patched all the cracks prior to leaving for his mission, so since September of 2012, we've had white joint compound veins covering the walls.  Not exactly an elegant entry space.

So Curtis is skim coating and sanding everything and then I will have the honor of priming and painting it all.  The whole stairway and upstairs hallway also have to be done, and we have to finish scraping the little remaining popcorn-texture ceiling.  Fun fun!

Here are a few pictures from the past week.

Ethan got his driver's license but refuses to acknowledge the camera.  Stinker.

Thalia making band bracelets

Thalia and cousin K making bracelets with Kathy

Monday, March 10, 2014

Joshua's update - week 72

This week was NUTS!

A few days ago we went to a member's house to have dinner.  The YSA sisters were there, but they were on exchanges, so there was Sister Z (who is normally there) and Sister W (who served here a while ago).  Right before they showed up to dinner, Sister W and Sister Z were on the corner of a street waiting for a bus.  Then out of nowhere, this kid ran up and punched Sister W right in the face!!!! Her nose was pouring blood and everything!!! What the heck!!!

As for missionary work, we had some cool experiences this week.  We actually had time to do some work this week! Woohoo!  So we went and contacted some people on campus at UW Milwaukee.  We talked to some cool people, but we were only able to set up a return appointment with one person.  It was a girl named J and she said she would read the first 50 pages of the Book of Mormon in 2 days... We were like... uhh okay!  So we set up an appointment to meet her on campus at 3:00pm on Saturday.

So Saturday came and we went to the meeting spot and waited for 10 minutes and she didn't show up.  So we called her and she didn't answer!  Dang it!  Well it turns out that was exactly where we were supposed to be, because an older couple came up to us and talked to us for a minute and then they went down a few flights of stairs to go back outside.  They had come to see a concert that was scheduled for 3:00pm.  They had just realized that it wasn't until SUNDAY, so they accidentally came a day early. Haha!

So we just sat there for a minute after they left and we were like... Dang... I wish we could have talked to them more..  Next thing we know, they're 3 flights of stairs below us, yelling up at us, "HEY!!! Do you guys want to get a bite to eat???!"

I looked at Elder B  He looked at me.  I looked back at them. I looked at Elder B and then back at them... "Uhhhh Yeah!!!"

We ran down the stairs like giddy little girls and they took us to the cafeteria and bought us some food.  We sat and they asked us questions for 1.5 hours about the Book of Mormon, so we taught them what it was about, and they were LOVIN' it!!!!  They're active [in another faith] (they were actually just about to [attend services]) and the husband, T, expressed to us that he's been concerned that he doesn't know the Bible as well as he'd hoped.  He told us that he'd been told by members of his church NOT to study the Bible personally, so he started studying it anyway and he's been noticing things he feels don't add up.  So we talked to him about the Book of Mormon and about the Apostasy and things like that and it was awesome!  They were so nice to us and they asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon!  I gave them one with our names and phone number and a link to the Bible videos on (T told us how much he loves watching Bible videos).  It was so legit!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, we went to campus another day and we were contacting some people.  It was pretty cold outside so we decided to text our investigator C to see if she was at school so we could go teach her.  We walked in the doors of the Union and guess who was standing 20 feet in front of us, teaching a Muslim guy about the Book of Mormon!!!


She's so LEGIT!  So we were able to talk to her for a while after she finished TEACHING this guy about the Book of Mormon and the true nature of God!  She had lots of questions and she told us that she felt the Spirit WAY strong when she read 2 Nephi 4!  WOOHOO!!!  She's got a study journal now and she writes TONS of notes!  She's on FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, that was pretty much our week! I gotta go but I love you all and I'll talk to you next week!

Elder Josh Whicker

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Just another day

Today was a pretty typical Thursday, except Ethan stayed home from school because he's been sick with a bad cold for two weeks, and ended up with a fever last night.  I went to the grocery store in the morning, and then took Ethan to the walk-in clinic to be seen.  We left with a prescription for an antibiotic, and then hit the Subway drive-through for some lunch.  Ethan ate a HUGE footlong and a bag of chips, so it would appear that his appetite has miraculously remained unaffected by his illness.  ;)  I had a 6" veggie sandwich and some apple slices.  It was yummy.

After lunch, I finished up the laundry, made the kids' lunches for tomorrow, and created star-bellied Sneetch t-shirts for my elementary kids for Dr. Seuss' birthday tomorrow.  Then I picked up the kids, took a couple to gymnastics, fed the kids snacks and worked on dinner.  I worked out (pilates and abs!) and then ate a simple meal of chili, cornbread, salad and fruit.  It was just right.

This was a pretty unremarkable day, but I found myself feeling calmer and happier than I have in a long while.  Part of that was due to finding out that Job Corps is agreeing to let Teffy graduate and leave even though she doesn't yet have a job lined up.  That's a huge weight off my mind.  But I also felt like I let myself be more open to the influence of my Father in Heaven today.  I tried hard not to let anything stress me out or make me angry; this is something I pray daily for help with.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let's pretend there wasn't a 7-month gap in entries, mkay?

So I decided that maintaining a blog was pretty pointless since there are so few people who read it, and I gave up updating it last July.  But this week, I was going back through entries in my old blog in search of details about Sofie's adoption day in 2005, and I got sucked in and blubbered my way through the posts and photos.  I felt so guilty over the giant hole I left in this one!  I decided then and there that even if only a handful of people read this blog, I need to keep at it because it serves as a journal for me.

So, where to begin?

Teffy is graduating from Job Corps on March 27th.  She has earned her high school diploma and has completed her trade requirements in culinary arts.  She and Zoe will be sharing an apartment in Billings (which I just found yesterday and applied for today - cross your fingers!)

Joshua has just 7 months left on his mission, as of Friday.  He was made an assistant to the president about a month ago, so he's been adjusting to a new companion, and a whole new set of responsibilities. He felt overwhelmed at first, but I think he's settling in and feeling more confident.  He misses being able to teach a lot more, but he's gaining experience with helping to train and counsel other missionaries.  Last week he spoke at 3 different zone conferences!  Oh, and he gets to drive the 12-passenger van around on transfer days or when they have meetings or exchanges.  There's no elder more qualified to drive a van like that than Joshua!  :oD

Zoe is about halfway through her cosmetology program and finishes in October.  She's planning to go to Southern Virginia University after that, but is actually giving some thought to serving a full-time mission for our church.  (Cross your toes!)  Her school program is 40 hours per week which leaves little time for working, but she has done some seasonal work and has a job interview at a steak house (ack!) tomorrow.  (Cross your, um, eyes?)

Ethan is doing well but has been sick with bronchitis for about two weeks.  He's taking his driver's license test on Friday and will be going on Chorale tour to North Dakota in two weeks.

Jonah just got back from basketball divisionals in Billings (he plays the drums in band/pep band) and is going on both Chorale tour (to play drums) and Eastern A band festival in two weeks.  He'll be gone the entire week!  He just got his license last week, and I am SO enjoying having another driver to help with shuttling the kids around.  We have to pay through the nose to have so many teen drivers, but oh, it is nice.

Loundia also just got back from basketball divisionals (dance team) and Key Club convention in Billings, and she's leaving again tomorrow for State in Great Falls.  She's starting driver's ed on the 18th.  Crazy!

Lily is also starting driver's ed on the 18th, which is just insane.  She made the cutoff by only 3 days, and she is so excited!  We're working on trying to get one of her interpreters to be present for the early morning classes because it will be awfully hard for her to pass without that help.

Maizie is working hard in gymnastics.  She and Sofie go 6 hours a week and have many meets.  Maizie placed first in the all-arounds for her level 3 age group at their last meet in Helena, and also came in 3rd in beam, bars, and floor.

Sofie placed 9th at the last meet, but it was still an accomplishment because there were a lot of girls!  She is my most voracious reader and when she's not at gymnastics, she always has her head in a book.

Thalia is doing SO well.  She loves dance and gymnastics.  She's making great strides in school, but her childhood apraxia of speech really gets in the way of her communication.  It's frustrating for her.  She uses about 40 words, but maybe 150 signs.  I did almost all of my continuing ed hours for last year on CAS, and have ordered CAS textbooks and materials so I can completely immerse myself in it.  She's the most challenging child (in terms of her apraxia) that I've ever treated, but I'm determined that she's not going to get stuck!

Cora is also doing really well in school.  She was falling behind last year, but now that she has better accommodations in place for her low vision, she's really taking off.  She is a great reader and speller now, and last year we were worried that she would always struggle.

Jackson excels at school, sports, dance and music.  Honestly, there's nothing that kid doesn't rock.  But I've also gotten a couple of phone calls this year about skirmishes at school.  ;)  Yin and yang, I guess.  He starts soccer in a couple of weeks, and I think that will help him meet some activity needs.  Baseball starts shortly thereafter.

Beck enjoys school and has a lot of great friends.  His best friend is a sweet girl named Robin, and we all chuckle over their relationship because they couldn't be more different.  She's this little ranch girl with horses and cattle and sheep, and he's this hip hop dancing black kid from Ethiopia, who at the moment is rocking a giant afro.  I love it!

My sweet, hardworking hubby is still working on getting our Billings office up and going, along with my brother-in-law.  They both work tireless to make the practice successful to help take care of their families and church responsibilities.  Curtis is the ward mission leader, and he is nothing less than ON FIRE right now with missionary work!  He meets with our four elders at least once a week (often 2-3 times) and they have set some lofty goals and made some amazing plans.  I love seeing him so excited about his calling.  Our family has been focusing on two particular families that we're trying to share the gospel with, so it's been a positive thing for all of us.

I'm just cruising along doing my usual thing.  Although my feminist-leaning 15-year-old self would probably cringe at the thought of me spending most of my day in the kitchen, doing laundry, helping with homework and getting kids to their activities, I'm really pretty darned satisfied with my life.  I have plenty of time to do the things I love, like work out/run, read, bake, etc.  Curtis and I go out on a date every week, and we have a fun 4-day trip coming up.  I am truly blessed.

Here are a few pictures from the beginning of the year to the present.

Thalia's 9th birthday.  NINE?!

Loundia's 15th birthday! 

Maizie - floor routine, Helena meet

Sofie, floor routine - Helena meet

Maizie - first place, Sofie - ninth place

Joshua (second from right) and some of his buddies at a zone conference.  The tall one is his old companion.  :)