Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An attempt at Yuletide news

So, last year I tried my best to provide some humor in sharing the events of 2005 and the current state of the Graham Union. I’ve put some extensive efforts into thinking of this year’s installment, but have truly come up blank. It isn’t that nothing funny has happened this year. It’s just that I’m too sleep-deprived to remember the funny parts. Suffice it to say that I recently described our daily life to my friend Gabe Brooks as a TV sitcom; complete with the smart one liners from our kids, the crazy “how will they get themselves out of this one” situations and the “it all turned out o.k. in the end and they are a happy family after all” kinds of endings.

2006 brought so much to our family. A year in a new home, complete with the planting of a garden (do we have to weed here too mom?), the upkeep of a swimming pool (it isn’t black with algae yet!), and the painting of a few walls. We’ve met wonderful neighbors and have enjoyed our location in Salt lake (kids and I hiked to secret lake, by ourselves this summer) and have felt greatly blessed to be near family and to have renewed friendships with old friends. The kids continue to grow right out of last year’s clothes, despite my continued protests. Each one of them is such a vital and undeniably necessary part of this family, my feelings of gratitude and wonder over all of them cannot be expressed in words.

*John ran his first marathon this June and finished with an impressive time! We were all there to cheer him on at the half way (as it was only a few yards away from our front door) and to scream and holler as he crossed the finish line. However, finding him after he crossed the finish was like finding a needle in a haystack. After sending out an APB for the cute guy in the grey t-shirt (all the runners were wearing grey t-shirts) we found John and carried him home (I’m teasing, he walked himself to the car and really didn’t seem to have much trouble recovering; a natural). His next feat of strength came in running a team relay called “the Wasatch Back” which involved taking turns running 100 miles through the back country of the Wasatch mountain range. He had a great time and his team had great success. John as already been invited to join in next year.

John finds enjoyment in his current role as head of Marketing for Mrs. Field’s gifts. I’ve heard him repeatedly describe his professional life as “a bake sale”. In this current role he regularly sends “test samples” through the mail to our home. These samples are carefully scrutinized for their weight, freshness and packaging. Unfortunately, then the contents are devoured by the Grahams. Needless to say, john and Katie are not as prepared for the upcoming triathlon season as they’d like to believe…guess we better get him out on those trails so the guys on the relay who read this message won’t renege on their invitation.

Mason keeps growing up and has become an absolute right hand man around the house. I know our window is very brief between “little kid” and “teenager”, but may I say now that I am loving every day of his life at this time. Not only do I see tiny glimpses of who he is growing to become (hardworking like his dad and a pie in the sky dreamer like his mom), but he has shown such a gentle nature with the kids and such a willingness to be of service to me as we manage life with a crowd. Mason visited his 13th country this year when accompanying John and me to Vietnam where we adopted our newest addition. Our time with him in that foreign land was absolutely priceless. His comments to me during and after the experience were not directed to the poverty he witnessed or the differences in culture, but to the goodness of a people not like him, of their kind spirits and their warm hearts. What a privilege it is to parent this kid. He continues to find success in school and has many friends who love to play with him. Mason is a budding artist, and still intends to use this talent in his future career; some days as a movie maker, some days as a cartoonist, but always as a creator and user of imagination.

*Bryn continues to be a successful dancer and student. Kind, thoughtful and loving, Brynley is a joy to our family. This year she chose to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints. We are impressed with her desire to keep the commitments she made through baptism, and feel she is a girl of great integrity. We expected a lot of Brynley during the time we were in Vietnam, and she did not disappoint. Helping her grandma with the younger children was a challenge, but she creatively led them in “preschool” with Madison as her assistant. Bryn orchestrated a lesson, activity and snack for Porter (4) Alex (my parent’s foster grandson) (3), Molly (2) and Taylor (my nephew, age 1). What an amazing girl to keep these little bodies engaged for like 30 minutes at a stretch! Bryn has enjoyed participating in the Ballet West production of “Nutcracker” this year and also dances at the local studio two nights a week. She is very excited to be adding “jazz” to her dance repertoire. We are very excited she is adding “multiplication” to her mathematical repertoire, and are very proud of her scholastic achievements as well as the development of her many talents.

Madison is our brown eyed beauty. Extremely gifted in school, Madison has had a little trouble with her eyes because she is reading more and longer than her little eye muscles can handle. Madi has participated in a neighborhood choir this year, and has LOVED finding her voice. She has a darling angelic sound, and can learn a tune after hearing it just once. Add to this her incredible talent at the piano and I believe we Grahams have a musical powerhouse on our hands! She was a contributor on the soccer team this year, with her only regret being that her dad wasn’t her coach (no offense coach Wade, you are awesome!). Madi’s competitive nature makes for fun around the house; as long as the competition does NOT include her oldest brother (can you imagine an 11 yr. old in tears with his 6 year old sister strutting a victory dance after a friendly board game?). We officially dubbed Madison our dolphin this summer, as she would have truly preferred living in the swimming pool day and night. While we were away in Vietnam the pool remained closed, and this was the most bitter of disappointments for Madi. Luckily her dear friend Sophie was willing to share her pool, which meant that there was no reason at all for her to want us to come home…

Porter is officially a school attending child. He goes to discovery preschool 3 afternoons a week (a forever thank you to DeAnne Flynn for championing him into that wonderful school!). Porter loves school and is incredibly excited about things like shapes, numbers and letters. He continues to be convinced that a “polkie-dot” must accompany the writing of his name, and insisted that his Halloween jack-o-lantern read on the back “Porter-4-.”He is the oldest kiddo at home during his time away from school, and feels the weight and privilege of this role as he tenderly tries to help Lucy and Molly endure my daily tasks of dishes and laundry. Porter’s latest love is camping out, in his closet. He takes all the blankets off his bed and turns them into a sleeping bag, laying them down in his “tent”. Then he brings his night light (a star shaped paper light we’ve had for years) into the “tent” to be his campfire. He sleeps this way night after night. I’m a bit terrified that he’s going to roll over onto his “campfire” and cause a real fire, so any suggestions to ease this concern are welcome!

Molly will officially become a Graham sometime in 2007. We are still floating with the sweet and wonderful news that Molly’s birth mom has chosen for Molly to become a Graham. This news came at such a critical time for us, and was truly a blessing from Heaven. We are awed and humbled at the trust a loving birth mom has placed in us to be the right family for the darling we all love so much. In addition to learning she will be forever called Molly Elizabeth Graham, Molly has also learned how to SCREAM. She has been a tender and loving sister to her new baby Lucy, and has been a fun loving terrorizing toddler to the rest of us. We love her desperately-even when she dances on the counter tops or eats sheet cake with her fists for breakfast! Swimming and holding her blanket are Molly’s favorite past times, she has no fear of the water which causes this mom to have an intense fear of our swimming pool! Good thing Molly picked up swimming as if she was born to do it. We love Molly’s sweet kisses and her beautiful big eyes.

Lucy is our newest addition and has been the highlight of our year. We spent the latter part of 2005 hurriedly meeting paperwork obligations to be ready to adopt a child from Vietnam as soon as negotiations to open that country’s adoption program were complete. Our dossier was sent to our agency in February, and the first adoption from Vietnam to an American family was completed in March. We were unaware when Lucy was born on March 16th to a mother who slipped away from the hospital just hours after giving birth. She was named Hiep Duc Nguyen by the hospital staff, after the village her birth mom had named on the hospital paperwork, and became officially “adoptable” on April 16th. We waited with baited breath and lots of tears and prayers for news of our dark eyed beauty. Finally, we officially received Lucy’s referral on May 31st. After an excruciating wait, John, Mason and I boarded the plane to Ho Chi Minh City on July 30th, and held Lucy for the first time on August 2. 5 weeks later Lucy arrived home to her family, and all is well. Many have asked if Lucy has adjusted to us, and if we have adjusted to her. Truthfully, from the second she lay in our arms we all felt at home. I will believe ‘til my dying day that she patiently waited for us with full understanding of our coming to her. I know she was meant to be our daughter from before this world was. Lucy has a happy and “laid back” demeanor, with a true light in her soul. She warms the heart of all who meet her. If you’d like to read more about her adoption, or about our time in Vietnam, you can visit lucy-evelina.blogspot.com and check out the archives of this most excellent adventure.

I continue to carry the expression of a deer in the headlights each day as I try and be all that our children need me to be for them to become independent adults and contributing members of society. I’m too busy to be overwhelmed, although John does notice now and again that I need the chance to purchase the groceries “unaccompanied”. I longingly look at my bike every once in a while, but try to remember that whole “time and season” thing. Someday, about 5 years from now, I will be found in the foothills on foot or cycling or pursuing my latest secret desire:. snowshoeing. Someday I’ll train all morning and then spend the afternoon (in my spotlessly clean house, of course) writing children’s books or finishing my long list of “to be done” scrapbook projects, contributing to the family economy by running my own small business. To be sure, this good life awaits, but just as sure is the fact that the sitcom life of now is exciting and fulfilling and funny any day I am willing to laugh.

At this time, more than at any other, we graciously acknowledge the love and mercy of a tender God, who has shown us the goodness of His ways and the truth that He is ever mindful of us all. We rejoice in the coming of His Son, even the Christ whose birth causes us to publish these glad tidings. With love and gratitude for wonderful children, a warm place to live and food to feed us we extend our love to you at this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

Feliz navidad

God Jul!