Already Home

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually enjoy public speaking.

I have to do a lot of it for work.

And like everyone else in my church, I have had to take my turn giving talks (sermons – our church does not have paid clergy, so we all take turns doing the work of Sunday services).

I can even do well enough to get positive feedback sometimes.

Other times I make mistakes the same as any speaker, like the one time I thought I was speaking for 15 minutes but it was supposed to be 50 minutes.

(15 and 50 lip read the same, by the way.)

Sometimes my nerdy self has something to offer, other times I’m asked because of clinical experience but it doesn’t always transfer to church spirit-ness and I struggle to make it work.

But I don’t ever actually enjoy it.

In fact, I get so anxious – every time – that by the time I finish speaking, my body is covered in hives.

It’s all very unpleasant, actually.

But my family needs the money, so I do it for book tours or clinical seminars, and at church we all have to take turns so that we learn together, like it or not, so I am willing in an obedience kind of way.

And tomorrow is my turn.

Except it is in Salt Lake.

I got an email, the same email everyone else for these meetings got, and it included the agenda and all the conference talk topics – which had my name on it!

Not Just Survive, but Thrive, by Emily Christensen, it said on the program.
I emailed back, asking if they meant to have my name on it or if they meant someone else.

They said they meant me, but would talk to me later.

Several weeks went by, and no one called me back, which only made me more anxious, so I checked in again to follow up.

That time they gave me an appointment to call.

I called the priesthood department back at the correct time and he said, “Your life has been hard for several years, we thought you might want to talk about that.”

Not particularly.

“And your baby, is she still with us?”

She’s not dead yet.

“What a miracle that one is.  We just wanted to invite you to share your story.”

They went on to discuss in detail all the crazy things that have happened in the last eight years.

That was a fifteen chapter book, like literally.  I don’t know how to turn it into one talk.

It would be fine, they said, because I would be the luncheon keynote and have the whole time to speak.

Gulp.

So I have tried my best.  

I have studied and prayed and written and prayed and rewritten and edited and prayed and edited some more.

I have practiced the timing and tried to remember to look up from my paper once in awhile.

But I have been covered in hives since last night, and by tonight was in full blown panic attack.

I have a lot of stressors in my life, but I am not a panic attack kind of girl.

A talk, though?  That will give anyone some anxiety.

It’s just my turn for that, too.

Besides that, I am so homesick I am nauseous, so it’s all just a bad mix.

And maybe I am anxious about more Kyrie results tomorrow, or missing my children, or being off work so long, or going back to work the day we get home, or just how to give that talk tomorrow in front ofthose people who know and care and serve so much already.

It was bad enough that I finally had to reach out for help.  I messaged Nathan, who, speaking of panic attacks, is back home counting the minutes until he gets to take the other five children to his parents’ home tomorrow!  We did our scripture reading and we prayed, but he also was very sweet and sent me a song.

It’s a Brandi Carlile song, and I don’t even know if he knows how that takes part of me way back in a good and comforting kind of way.

But it was soothing.

Part of the song says:

I was already home, 

right where I was supposed to be

You were right in front of me

And I guess, whatever it is that makes any of us anxious, the easiest thing is just to run, or to hide, or to fight your way out of it.

But I am home with Nathan, already, even when I miss him.

And giving a talk isn’t the end of the world, I suppose, especially when your talk is about how adversity isn’t the end of the world.

So ironic, right?

And opposition.

So much opposition, so dark and cold, and all I am trying to do is tell my story.

Or maybe I am trying to avoid telling my story, since it leaves a girl so vulnerable when there are so few safe places in the world and this feels pretty public, more public than writing a book about it.

Excepting I don’t have to talk about me.

I just have to testify of my Savior, the one who rescued me, and that I can do.

And when I am homesick, having to give a talk so far away from Nathan’s encouraging smile, I just have to look in our little book he hid in my suitcase for this moment.

It’s the book we started on our wedding day, with love notes back and forth between us these five years.

Next week is our anniversary.

And I open it up to the newest entry, where he has written me a sonnet.

Of course he has.

And with love from a Savior,

and love from a husband like Nathan,

the world can’t be such a scary place, right?

A girl could do anything, with love like that.

Conference Weekend

Mary was so excited to go to conference!

We started out once, and Mary was to cold in the dress she picked and I was a genius to start out without my shoes.

We turned around and got my shoes and changed her dress and grabbed her a sweater, and then got there again without our tickets.

We finally made it inside on the third try, after getting ourselves together proved to be more challenging than the rain or protestors.

Mary couldn’t believe how big it was, or that she could really see the choir!

The Deaf section is on floor level at one side, where we have a large screen to see up close for lip-reading, one tv for the ASL, and one tv for closed captions.  It’s so great!

Also, the ASL is all done by Deaf interpreters.  They study the speeches ahead of time, and translate it into ASL natively.  Then during conference, they watch a hearing interpreter who signs what is being said so they know if anything is different and what is benign said when – but the hearing interpreter is not shown, only the Deaf interpreter.  It’s so perfect!

Back home, Nathan set up a “King Benjamin tent” for the other children!

Not only was conference so good, but almost all of my talk that I have to give on Monday was mentioned in one place or another, so it was a relief to know I am on the right track.

Know what else was amazing?  This bowl of vegetable soup after walking in the rain!

Mary, however, was more excited about this candy apple she got the day before, and which may take her all week to eat!


This morning we each had a biscuit from the bakery and some apple juice, which we got Friday before the crowds came to take over the local shops.  

We watched conference from our hotel room today, because Mary wanted to give away our tickets while we were having the traditional Sunday picnic at temple square.

We finished conference this afternoon, and then had a lovely simple meal of a v8 we pretended was tomato soup, nuts and dried berries, and a bit of cheese.


I suspect she will be finishing off that apple tonight, as well!

We have gotten much needed rest, been fed spiritually, and made special memories together on this adventure.

I have also been able to continue working on my talk for tomorrow.

We also talk to Kyrie’s doctors tomorrow for clinic, so hopefully that will be helpful.

Mostly, we are very homesick.

And in need of more colored pencils!

Homeschool: #LDS Church History

Mary was up and ready to go right away this morning, and specifically all ready to swim.

I did some laps and then soaked my travel muscles in the hot tub while she played.

Then she came to soak her feet in the hot tub next to me, sharing that swimming is more fun with five siblings than by herself.

We got cleaned up for a walk, then, and headed through City Creek toward temple square.

She was delighted with everything.


We worked so hard for so long to get language into Mary that this was the first time she was actually understanding the history we were trying to share with her.

In our faith tradition, we understand that the fullness of the gospel and the priesthood of God was lost after the Apostles were martyred during New Testament times.   We are indebted to and grateful for those who gave their lives since then protecting and passing down the scriptures so that we can have what is the Bible today.  But the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood needed to be restored again.

In the 1800’s, the boy Joseph Smith was growing up in the time of “the Great Awakening” in American history, and he was looking for that fullness.  He read in James about asking God for wisdom when you need help knowing what to do.  So he went off in the woods alone to pray about which church was true, because they were all competing and clamoring for people to join them.  He didn’t know which one to join.

We believe that in response to that sincere prayer with a young boy’s faith, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visited him and began, through a series of other visitations, what we call “the restoration” of that fullness – even the priesthood of God.

Part of that restoration included passing down what we now call “the Book of Mormon”.  We study it in addition to the Bible, not instead of as many say.   It is a record of a family who left Jerusalem at the time of Isaiah, when prophets were warning of the destruction to come.  The family made it all the way to the Americas, and the book is about what happens to that family as a consequence of the choices they made – and what promises are still in store for those who keep their covenants.

But also, because the priesthood was restored, then so were temples.

Temples are a place of learning and worship and peace, in addition to the meetinghouses where we go to church on Sundays.

When the early saints built the first restoration temple in Ohio, they had to leave it behind because of persecution.

They were driven to Nauvoo, just outside Missouri when the governor issued an extermination order against all “mormons”.

“Mormon”, by the way, is the name of one of the prophets in the Book of Mormon, and he was named after a river where early believers were baptized.  That’s where that comes from.  And it’s “the Book of Mormon” because he gathered the family records, condensed them, and then helped his son hide them to be kept safe until the records were later found by Joseph Smith during the restoration.

But the whole book isn’t about him.

It’s about Heavenly Father, and covenants, and the plan of salvation made possible because of Jesus Christ.

That’s why the subtitle of the book is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” – another, as in besides the Bible, which we also study.

Anyway, when Joseph Smith was killed, the saints had to leave the Nauvoo temple behind as well, barely completing construction before having to flee for their lives.

They ran west for safety and freedom of worship, settling in Salt Lake.

So building the temple here, and that we got to keep it, and that it is still here, is pretty special to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS” or “Mormons”).

This is the temple built in Salt Lake City by the early pioneers.

Mary was so excited to be here and to touch it!

It is also special to Mary because part of our faith practice includes being sealed together in temples, like an eternal adoption.

Think Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18:

And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This means Nathan and I didn’t just have a wedding ceremony to be together “until death do us part”.

We were sealed in the temple by priesthood authority with the capacity and authority to do so, and now we will still be married even after we die – for time and all eternity.

The same thing happened for the children when they were adopted.  When we finished their civil adoptions in court, we drove all the way to Oklahoma City for their sealing.  For us, that makes their adoption eternal.

And today, Mary understood for the first time how the temple was built – one stone at a time.

And that here was a plan and a design before the temple could be built, just like with us before we were born on Earth.

And how hard the men and women had to work to build the temple, just like we work hard at being a family.

And see up close what Moroni looks like, and the words at the top of the temple.
We even got to examine a dollhouse type model of the temple, and explore all the different things we do in temples.
We even had some very grown up conversations about church history, like black men waiting for the priesthood, and about women already being within the veil.


And then we celebrated with a lunch date!

I got sushi.

She was homesick and chose something a little more sophisticated.


We also found a market to get fresh food this week, and bought our food for Sunday.

We had a big day!  Nathan and I do try to regularly spend time with each of the children individually, but an extended adventure like this is obviously pretty special!  Our time together this trip is very important, and so very special, and has already been so very good.

And we did finally find her some more children to play with before meetings start later this afternoon!

Because dinosaurs.

Settling in Salt Lake City

If Alex and Kirk were jealous of Mary for getting to fly on an airplane, wait until tomorrow when we show them the little silver sports car we get to drive!


Mary was just super excited to be in a hotel and have her own bed she doesn’t have to share with her sisters!


Somehow because of our points package, room service was included the first night.

I told her to enjoy that because it’s not happening again!

But it did make things easy for settling in after our long day – and gave us leftovers for lunch tomorrow.


She finally settled in with a book about slavery, as any young girl would read for bedtime material.

For those of you who don’t know, what she is wearing on her head is a silk hat.  She and Anber sleep in these hats to protect their black hair from breaking or their braids from getting too fuzzy too soon.  It’s just a part of being black, and a part of caring for their hair.  They are so grown up!


She is finally asleep now.

We are so worn out!

It was a very exciting day.

We have plenty of plans and book signings and meetings that start tomorrow, so I am glad she finally settled down to get some sleep.

I am so thrilled she is feeling so special and enjoying herself!

Look at the view we have outside our hotel window!

Mary’s First Flight

We said goodbye to the children this afternoon.

And got ourselves through security… 

Can you see our friend Brother Anderson working in the background in the top left of the picture?

Then Mary had an upgrade on her recent social studies homework about how to use maps.  I showed her our tickets, and what everything meant, and I showed her the board and how to read the graph.

Then it was her job to find our gate!

She did so great!

And there was a little restaurant that wasn’t super busy just across  the way, so we were able to wait comfortably.

She got so excited when our plane arrived!

And then even more excited to find our seats on the plane!

She completely freaked out when the plane took off, shouting, “We are flying!  We are flying!”  It was so funny!

With two and a half hours to fly, though, she settled down soon enough.  

We don’t go anywhere without art supplies, and so enjoyed the time drawing together.

I loved her drawing… we are big Hidden Figures fans, obviously.

We spotted all kinds of different types of clouds – best science ever!

And guess who we sat with on the plane?!

Some of our very most favorite people!

Which meant Mary had a new friend to play with for most of the flight!

We are so excited to be back in Salt Lake City!

Nature Walk with Shannon

Here are the children with our friend Shannon, who teaches at the high school and is famous for sitting behind us in church.

Her daughter was one of my young women, now all grown up, and we are grateful to this family for their ongoing kindness over the years.

But Shannon is also famous for being the one I pulled out of sacrament meeting the time one year old Anber was throwing a screaming baby fit in the hallway at church – right next to some kind of snake that had found its way indoors!

I didn’t care what kind of snake it was, only that she move it away from my daughter!

Shannon scooped up the snake quickly, telling me it was such-and-such a snake, and not to worry because it would only bite if I did this, which she then did just to show me how it bites!

I stood there, my daughter screaming in the background, while Shannon held her hand in my face with a snake hanging by its fangs.

It’s maybe my favorite church story ever.

So naturally, if there were anyone to boost our medically induced homeschool program, Shannon would be the teacher to call.

This is a huge excitement to the children, and a huge blessing to me and Nathan – she is taking the children on nature walks once a week.

And it was so quiet at home!

She gets to play with little ones, they get to escape Mom for a little while, and I get to meet my therapy goal of doing something for myself once in awhile – which today consisted of an entire hour in my pajamas doing nothing.

Well, except editing that talk for Salt Lake next week.

And doing Kyrie’s feeding tube.

And putting away laundry so Mary and I can pack.

And getting dinner served out of the waiting crockpot.

But that’s the thing: it all got done!

And they had so much fun!

And they got to touch everything we have been studying in school!

It was amazing!



Attachment Wins

Today we got an unexpected last-minute impromptu appointment for Mary’s hair!


I can braid her hair, but our friend Shae can do it in half the time and tighter.  I am always grateful for her help!  The boys got their haircuts while we were at it.


Then we had a hilarious discovery to find out that Shae, who braids Mary’s hair when I cannot, was actually Kirk’s preschool teacher and babysitter ages ago!


How cool is that?  Moments like these are HUGE for attachment, and so critical especially for foster and adopted children.  We were so thrilled to make the connection, and Kirk positively lit up as they swapped stories!

I was able to connect with all their families while we waited, and though Anber’s grandparents were both working, everyone else was able to meet us at the library for a surprise visit.  We hadn’t seen any of their biological families since getting home from Ohio, and it was past time.  They need the visits, and their parents need he visits.

Alex’s biological parents came:


Kirk’s mom and baby sister came:


And we were even able to catch Mary’s mom:


Mary’s mom was high and speaking faster than anything, and I had to redirect a lot of conversation, and it really made the progress of the other parents so much more apparent.   We have all worked on our relationships, even beyond safety, and feel so close – as much as you can with such challenging dynamics and difficult circumstances.  It was a reminder of how far at the beginning Mary’s mom is still, even just from not participating, besides what choices she is making.  

But even then, it was an important moment for them.  Mary called her mom out on a bunch of stuff, and her mom actually apologized directly without making excuses.  I was impressed.  And Mary, without missing a beat, said, “I forgive you,” and hugged up her mom – but also had the boundaries to talk to her about not repeating those mistakes and the importance of trying again “because forgiveness doesn’t make it ok.  It just makes it your problem and not mine.”

I have never been so proud of any of my children, as I was of Mary in that moment.

All the children have had hard conversations with their parents, and those are conversations that are theirs and I don’t need to share here.

But watching Mary and her mom today showed me how much progress the other children have made, and their families have made, and I am glad they are doing that healing work now and not just starting when they are 18.

Everyone had such fun!








I am so grateful for these families that love these children – even loving the now adopted siblings that are not their own biological children – and I am so grateful they do the hard work of participating, even at a moment’s notice, because it means the world to these babies.

And it gives such hope for their relationships as they grow up, too.

It’s just love.  So much love.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 

God sets the lonely in families,he leads out the prisoners with singing…”

~ Psalm 68:5,6

Book Updates

The first three volumes of my Book of Mormon commentary were released in paperback this morning!  CLICK HERE to see!  And please share the link with your LDS friends!

 

More of the children’s books dropped on Amazon this morning, too, if you want to rate any of them for us!   CLICK HERE for the Kyrie’s ABC bookCLICK HERE for the G-tube bookCLICK HERE for Kirk’s book about cerebral palsyCLICK HERE for Mary’s book about deafness and cochlear implantsCLICK HERE for Barrett’s book about siblings with special needs.

But you can still buy them cheaper if you get them directly through us!  CLICK HERE for the discounts and the full set!

 

 

That is all the pre-dawn excitement I have to offer.

The kids are going to be so excited when they wake up!

I can’t wait to show them!

Crayon Walls and Dryer Bubbles

The day began with this:


I didn’t get out of my room fast enough this morning, and my amazing children started their homework while I got ready for the day… which meant Kyrie had access to the crayons, which she used on the wall(s).

I got the magic eraser and gave it to her to scrub off the crayon.

She informed me she was too sick to clean it up.

I informed her she wasn’t too sick if she was well enough to color on the wall in the first place

She told me she might die.

I told her to go out with honor.


She did a good job, so I made her queen of wall scrubbing.  She thought this was pretty funny.  We declared it to be Funny Day, and had a blast!


It was one of those days where everything went miraculously smoothly.  Homework got finished, progress in math and reading unfolded, chores got done, and we still (obviously) spent a lot of time playing.

I even took a nap, I think.

We bragged on the children, and how well they had done.  We wanted to point out how our “good day” happened from being kind to each other and following directions.  Every morning the children pray “help us to have a good day” and we have been encouraging them to pray more specifically about what a good day looks like and what kind of help they need to make that happen.  This morning Kirk prayed for help “that we can be kind to others and follow directions” – and today they did!  So we wanted to point out, to help them feel and experience how that specific prayer really did unfold and was answered and did impact us as a family.

They were very proud of themselves, really and we made a fun dinner with carmel corn as a treat for dessert to celebrate.

And then someone (reluctantly) confessed to dropping a bottle of bubbles down the lint trap of the dryer.


And so our day ended much the way it began.

Because that’s parenting, the experience of caring for others through the mess of mortality.

“Fathers and mothers, your foremost responsibility is your family. By working together you can have the kind of home the Lord expects you to have. By showing love and consideration for one another and for your children, you can build a reservoir of spiritual strength that will never run dry.” 

~ Spencer W. Kimball

Mortality was, at least, cooler today.

And my new cochlear implant processor batteries went out tonight as I was typing this, so that’s how long they lasted.  I can’t remember anymore when I got them, so that’s no help in figuring out how long they lasted.  It was somewhere between three and four days, I think.  

So that’s two batteries per ear, so four batteries twice a week, so eight batteries a week.  I think I might have enough to last until Christmas.  Maybe my flex card starts over in January.

If not, maybe I will just have the children draw some batteries on the walls or fish some out of the lint trap of the dryer.

Mr. Bingley

I woke up around four this morning, and got up to do my scripture study and prayers while I could.  I had barely laid back down as the sun was coming up, when a little bark knocked at my door.

Kyrie woke up as Mr. Bingley today:

The real Mr. Bingley, named after the Jane Austen character, is back at our host family home in Ohio.

We spent the morning playing “broccoli tea party picnic”:

Today was also fun because we visited another ward for a friend’s son’s ordination to the aaronic priesthood.  That was my first time to be invited to that or witness such a special blessing.  We were so honored to be there, and it was good for us as we prepare our boys in just a few years.

Kirk and Mary played scripture chase on the way:

Even better, though, it was at the Brookhollow ward where I was baptized!  

It was such a homecoming for the anniversary of my baptism eight years ago!

What a crazy thing, to be back there in that building but now with my own family when that had once seemed so impossible.

And if all that were not exciting enough, it was their primary program day!  Our children missed theirs because of us being in Cincinnati, so at the last minute our children ran up on stage also and joined in that ward’s program!  It was marvelous!  I was so thrilled they got to enjoy that experience, and even Kyrie went up with the toddler class!  It was so funny!

We did make her little syringes to be blessed with the bread and water at sacrament, and that worked really well!

She was so excited to take sacrament again!

Barrett was excited to play in the hallways instead of stay in class!  We talked about it HERE.  That boy cracks me up.

It was raining when we got home around four, and even Alex was calmed by it.  Suddenly it is now nearly ten o’clock and the evening is gone already.  I was grateful dinner was already in the crockpot when we got home, but the rain helped cool down our house as well.  We will be able to do some cleaning and organizing tomorrow after last week’s not even being able to move from the heat.

Kyrie survived more surgeries, woke from her coma, narrowly avoided a chest tube with her collapsed lung, and seems to be nearly recovered from Pneumonia.  She’s a little miracle, that one, so we will see how she progresses this week.  But I couldn’t believe she was just standing on stage with the other toddlers this afternoon!

So much gratitude this Sabbath, and it seems to bring peace and calming in a way I needed, which makes me even more grateful.

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 

Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:6-7

Oh, and so far my new ear batteries have lasted that first afternoon, and two whole days.  That’s more than I thought they would!  But my new processors do fall off my head constantly, so it’s super annoying.  I will need to get stronger magnets for them to stay on consistently.  The features do make it worth it, though, so I am going to keep trying them.