Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making Family Home Evening More Fun

Every week (mostly on Monday nights) we hold Family Home Evening (FHE). It's a time for all of us (and there are 7 of us not counting the cat) to spend some time together as a family without electronics. Recently Cheryl and I have discussed making FHE more like Mutual Night. For those that don't know, Mutual Night is when the youth (ages 12 - 18) of our church get together for various activities. Some of these are just fun and some are more spiritual in nature.

So yesterday as I was thinking about what we would do for FHE it hit me: Minute To Win It. This activity is:

  1. Quick - games last only a minute and everyone can try them
  2. Purposeful - You have to think quickly how you're going to complete the task in a minute. 
  3. Entertaining - The activities can lead to much laughter
  4. Encouraging - The activities allow the non-players to root on the player and show support for completing the task.
Now if you have children with short attention spans (that should be about 99.999% of you, and yes if you're keeping track that is "five 9's") this is a perfect way to keep them attentive without "dragging on". So we implemented the plan and had two Minute to Win It activities last night.

The first was "Spoon Frog". This involves flipping a spoon into a cup. The layout is easy. You need 3 cups and 6 spoons. You lay the spoons so that the stems are on top of each other (two spoons per cup) and then once the time starts you catapult a spoon towards a cup and try to get it to land in the cup. Hilarity ensues when the spoons start flying. For example, Grace flipped a spoon and landed it in a cup that was next to the one the spoons were lined up for. As for myself, I'm so good I got the spoon to land so that it was balanced on the cup.

The second activity was "Cup Stack". Normally you would start with 36 plastic cups, start with one stack (all 36 together), then separate them into a pyramid (base of 8 followed by 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1), then stack them all together in one pile to finish. Now we had to improvise and changed the number from 36 to 10 in order to make it easier for the younger kids. This game also produced hilarity. It also produced creativity. Sam showed an easier way to go from the pyramid to the single stack by sliding the cups together from top to bottom. Levi showed that the perfect pyramid wasn't in the rules and so his pyramid wasn't triangular. Again fun had by all.

Of course after the activities we had to have a treat. Cheryl had made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies earlier in the day (you can ask her for the recipe). We broke those out and of course in my infinite knowledge of all things pumpkin had to break out the whipped cream to top the cookies. For some strange reason all but Grace (age 6) and Lia (age 6) were the only ones who thought that was a good idea.

Anyways, it was one of the more enjoyable FHEs that we have ever had. Even our almost teenager appeared to enjoy it and that is saying something.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We're Going To Brazil, but...

Last night the US Mens National Team clinched a birth in the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil. The 2-0 victory over Mexico in Columbus along with a draw between Panama and Honduras assured us a top three finish in "The Hex". For those who don't know "The Hex" is the World Cup qualifying finale for CONCACAF (basically North and Central America). It involves six teams that play home and away games to determine who automatically qualifies. The fourth place team has a "playoff" against a team from the Oceania conference (this time around New Zealand).

World Cup qualifying is NOT easy no matter what region you're in. Having to play road games in Honduras, Costa Rica and at the Azteca (Mexico's national stadium) are grueling. Sometimes the pitch is not well maintained, sometimes the crowd is extremely hostile, and sometimes the weather does not cooperate (anyone see the US - Costa Rica game in Denver earlier this year in the snow?).

The US has qualified. They have survived the qualification with 2 games to spare. However, the work is not done. I watched a report on USA Today that said the US can relax in their last two games, I disagree.

For starters, the defense needs to coalesce. The last two matches have shown weaknesses in the back four that other teams that make the World Cup will be able to expose. This needs to be worked on and strengthened. Especially on the outside where left and right back have to gain confidence. Too many times last night (and last Friday) the ball was given away by a defender which led directly to either a goal or a very good scoring chance.

Second, a midfielder that can back up Michael Bradley needs to be found. Kyle Beckerman is serviceable, but not up to par with Bradley. In my opinion we need to look at Mix Diskerud. His ability to be calm in traffic was shown last night as he took a deft touch into space and provided the cross that led to Donovan's goal. If Mix can get the confidence to play the same role as Bradley, then the midfield will be strengthened.

Third, starting the game on the right foot. Historically the US has started games slow. I don't know how many times we give up early goals and have to fight our way back. This has to change before we arrive in Brazil. The key to starting the game right is possession. It seems that it takes the US a good 15 minutes before settling down on the ball and stringing possession and building attacks. This is where the game can be lost. We saw it last night as Mexico had several chances early that they were (thankfully) unable to finish.

Juergen Klinsman has done a great job to get the US qualified for the World Cup. With two games left and a few "friendlies" before Brazil, the US should focus on the three areas above. Strengthening the defense, having another midfielder of Bradley's quality (or close to it), and starting strong will ensure that the US not only gets out of the group stage (something that should be expected by now) but will also help to move further into the tournament. The goal should be to get to the quarterfinals in 2014, the semifinals in 2018 and the final in 2022.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Of Roller Coasters and Miracles

I know I promised to update more here, but once again life had other plans. The last month has been a roller coaster ride and it has taken me this long before I could write about it. So here goes...

We were getting ready for school to start. We had purchased everything, backpacks, supplies, you name it we bought it (all except the $150 calculator for the oldest). We were prepared and ready for school to start the following Monday. Little did we know that things were about to change...

My oldest daughter has a good friend that she loves to hang out with. This friend has horses and Ellie has been there several times mucking out stalls and doing some riding. So the Saturday before school starts Ellie gets a call to come over and hang out. Ellie takes her helmet and goes over to the house.

The girls clean out some stalls and decide to take a ride on a horse named Turbo. Things seemed to be going well. The girls had the right clothes on, including Ellie with her helmet. They had been riding a while when it started to get dark and so they decided to head back.

Something happened on the way back that spooked the horse. Ellie was riding in front with the reins while her friend was in back. The horse reared and Ellie's friend slid off the back of the horse. The horse then bucked at least once and probably twice. Ellie was thrown from the horse and landed on her right side. The horse, still spooked, proceeded to step on Ellie's left side leaving a hoof print on her skin.

Cheryl and I get a call from Ellie's friend telling us that she fell off a horse and that her mom has called an ambulance. We were of the opinion that the ambulance wasn't necessary, I mean she had just fallen off a horse how bad could it be? Turns out, pretty bad.

Cheryl arrived at the house seconds after the ambulance. When she saw Ellie she was extremely grateful that the ambulance had been called. The EMTs were awesome. They handled Ellie with great care and concern. They got Ellie loaded into the ambulance and asked Cheryl what hospital to take Ellie to. Cheryl said Gilbert Mercy and plans were made. The EMT examining Ellie turned to Cheryl after a couple of minutes and said "If this were my daughter and she had these injuries, I'd take her to Maricopa County". Cheryl didn't hesitate, "Then we take her there". Good thing she did. Maricopa County is a Level One Trauma center in Phoenix. It's not only level one for adults, but for children as well.

Cheryl arrives with Ellie at the hospital and within a half hour Cheryl was escorted out of the room to do the admittance paperwork, while the doctors started doing what doctors do. Turns out Ellie had the following:

  • Two collapsed lungs - one of them punctured, this meant a tube in her chest to drain fluid
  • Six broken ribs - two on the right, four on the left
  • Damaged portion of her left kidney
  • Severe trauma to her spleen
  • Bruise on her heart
I arrived later along with our Bishop and his wife. Ellie received a blessing from mine and the Bishop's hands.  She seemed to rest a little easier after the blessing, however the night was far from over. We got results back from x-ray and CT scans that revealed some internal bleeding. A specialist (interactive radiologist?) was called in to perform a procedure to stop the bleeding in her kidney and spleen. The procedure started at about 2:30 AM and lasted until 4:30 AM. All the bleeding was stopped, but Ellie had to keep her right leg still for about 9 hours as the incision point went into the vein in her leg.

Ellie spent over 8 days in the hospital where she was constantly poked, prodded, tested, x-rays, etc. She was a trooper, even though it wasn't easy. She wasn't allowed to eat or drink for at least 24 hours. Then when she could start to eat, nothing tasted good. It made it hard to get the nutrition into her that she needed. Eventually she had to get a feeding tube put in which was one more unpleasantness to endure.

Like I said earlier, this was the weekend before school started. The other four kids had to be ready to go and had to get to school. Lia (our youngest) was starting kindergarten. Levi was starting Middle School. Chaos and mayhem were raining down on us. Luckily, Cheryl's sister Chris was able to come down and spend a week helping out. Cheryl stayed with Ellie and Chris and I took care of the house and other kids.

Did I mention we were also in the process of selling our home? So add keeping the house ready for people to see. Good thing our other kids were very helpful. The house was kept in great condition and this was a big bonus for us while Ellie was being cared for.

After a week, Ellie was still in the hospital. Cheryl's mom came down to take over for Chris and provide a level of help that I still needed at the house. I was able to relieve Cheryl one night during this ordeal and stay with Ellie in the hospital. It was the night the feeding tube was put in and so I got to be there for that. Eventually Ellie progressed enough to get out of the hospital and come home. This was a great day for all of us as Ellie's siblings missed her dearly.

Ellie still had issues eating (and continues to today) as foods don't taste right yet, and sometimes don't smell right either. However her spirits are up and she has started doing schoolwork even though she is not yet attending school. But just when you think the roller coaster is coming to an end, another hill, another corkscrew, another loop-the-loop appears.

Ellie had a follow-up exam last week and there is a possibility that her diaphragm is detached. The point of detachment appears to be near her aorta and this mean a surgery we are hoping is not needed. This past weekend we fasted and prayed that this surgery will not be needed, however we don't know yet and are waiting on word from the doctor. So we will be going in (probably this week) to run some more tests, drain some fluid in the chest and diaphragm areas and determine if the diaphragm is detached.

I titled this post "Of Roller Coasters and Miracles". You've read the roller coaster part. The miracles are as follows:
  1. Ellie is alive - The doctor told Cheryl that had this happened in a different country that she wouldn't be with us. Thank goodness for our country, its technology and the professionals in the medical field
  2. At every step things were found - The thoroughness of the injuries found and fixed is a miracle. The list above was not discovered in one shot, it was done over days of care
  3. Prayer works - I have no doubt that the prayers said on Ellie's behalf were answered and that she has been blessed because of the love of others
  4. Ellie will get better - It will take time, but she will get better and she will get to be a 10/11 year old girl. Someday she will look back on the events of this month and see the miracles that occurred
  5. The right people - From the EMTs, to the Doctors in the hospital, to Chris, Mom White and Carma Ono, to Ellie's friends and teachers, the right people were in place at the right time to help our family during this ordeal. Without them this would have been much more traumatic to our family.
And so we have our seat belts fastened, the bar has been lowered into place, we are ready (but frightened and nervous) for the next section of roller coaster. We will make it however and we will be stronger for having ridden.