Hide and Seek

Published August 26, 2017 by megchristo

As a mother, I try my best to create those spontaneous, crazy moments that my kids will always think of with a smile.  I remember as a child when my dad would play hide and seek with us under the darkness of night.  I now try to do this with my kiddos whenever the stars align and the moment strikes.   Tonight was one of those nights, and it was magical.

Now if you are reading this and thinking you want to try this with your family, let this master of hide and seek give you some advice.

First, always do it when it is dark out.  This is for several reasons.  It is more fun at night because of the mysteries of the darkness shrouding the game.  It also helps level the playing field between the benefits of the youth and the not-so-youthful.

Second, if it is nice outside always play it outside.  The dark is way more fun outside when the mind plays tricks on you.  If it is too cold outside, you can play it inside. While it is not as fun as the great outdoors, the winter months can drag a bit, so liven up the cold months with some fun.

Third, absolutely positively no flashlights are allowed.  Use all of your other senses…except common sense…let that one go.

Fourth, set physical boundaries for the game.  For instance, you can’t go past the corners of the house, into the pond, and you can’t leave our property.  If you are playing inside, you can forbid going outside, and you can’t hide on the 2nd level.

Fifth, always start out as a seeker if the kids let you.  This allows your eyes to adjust to the darkness from the comfort of home base without your heart racing.

Sixth, enforce the rules with fervor.  If a kiddo is caught passing the corner of the house, call it out and call it out loudly.  Enforce those rules. Make it known that breaking the rules is NOT allowed.

Seventh, figure out your children’s hiding patterns.  For example, Kat is an impatient hider, Gabe usually stays close to base, Griffin squeals in delight if you even get 25 yards from him, and Elle thinks you can see her far before your human eyes can actually see her.

Eighth, while figuring out these patterns, you will lose.  You will lose big.  The youth have all of the advantages.  They luckily just don’t know it.  They have the more acute senses, they are faster, they are in better shape, etc.  Your only real hope is to catch the four-year-old, and really is that even fair?  Do not despair.  You are in this for the long game.  Let five or six rounds pass just as stated above.

Ninth, let them know that you are slower, older, your eyes aren’t as good.  Play the “old card.”  Let it set in that you are extremely disadvantaged in this game, but don’t whine.  Take it like a woman. Lose with dignity.

Finally, this last step is crucial and will make you forever the master of hide and seek.  You will be a legend in the minds of your children, and they will have no idea how you do it….until they get old enough to read your blog.  You break rule #4.  The golden rule you have judiciously been policing for the safety and well-being of all involved.  You go out of bounds.  Sit quietly in your hiding spot for as long as feels good.  I promise you that your children will still love the thrill of the hunt.  Just sit there and breathe.  I mean to tell you I have sat out of bounds for at least 45 minutes in freezing temperatures before sneaking back in-bounds and safely to base. Honestly, the kids need to burn off energy anyway.

Now I know what your thinking, and you are right.  This is a terrible example to set for your children.  I have no real defense, except to say that the kids love it!  It is so liberating to get to base and scream, “Alle, alle, auch sind frei!” And I tell you it feels terrific to be the master of something in your children’s eyes.  Even if it is just hide and seek.

Say it with me now, “Alle, alle, auch sind frei!”  Doesn’t that feel gooooooood?!

I wish I had a picture to post of the kiddos and me in action. However, you know….rules #1 and #3 wouldn’t allow for that, and I am a rule follower.

 

Home Sweet Home

Published June 30, 2017 by megchristo

There’s something magical about home. I was born and raised in the same farmhouse in Bagley, Iowa. You have to take 3 miles of gravel road to reach it. Every time I crest the last hill to the farm my heart skips a beat. I love this place. While I took it for granted as a child, I can look back on those memories now and realize I had as close to a Norman Rockwell life as anyone. Bagley had around 300 residents, and I’d estimate that at least 1/3 were relatives. I had seven cousins, grandparents, and four aunts and uncles that lived within 3 miles of us. Then I had even more cousins, second cousins and great aunts and uncles within 20 miles.

Summer days were filled with bike rides to the bridge and the creek, exploring the barn, riding beans, playing with kittens, swinging on the tire swing, playing in the tree house, garage saling, and roller skating in town on the concrete slab. Most of the time it was just my sister and me left with our own imaginations. It was simple and yet limitless. Our neighbors were all the nicest people you could ever hope to know.

Now MJ and I love bringing the kids out to the farm for the weekend. We love doing all of the things we use to do as kids, and waxing poetic on how life use to be. It wasn’t perfect, but it was darn good. Is this heaven? No, but I can see it from here.

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I Hope Donald Trump is a Good President

Published January 14, 2017 by megchristo

Of course I hope Donald Trump is a good president. Actually I hope he is the best president. I hate being captain obvious, but here I am. I have seen countless memes on Facebook saying things like, “I hope Donald Trump is a good president.Wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane we are all on.”

Here’s the other side of that cute meme. Here’s what happened during the boarding of the plane. I took my seat in economy class. Wouldn’t you know it was my luck that I got the dreaded middle seat. It made me even more envious of those eight people sitting up in first class sipping champagne, and those 40 beautiful people sitting in business class with plenty of leg room. I wasn’t even lucky enough to get one of the 110 economy plus seats this go round, but so goes life. I am one of the 108 in economy seating. It doesn’t matter. At the end of this flight, we will all end up at the same destination. A destination all of us are excited about.

I began talking to the kind 22-year-old sitting to my left. She said she had just finished her bachelor’s in biology, and she had just been accepted into medical school. Her parents had brought her into this country as a baby, and she was living proof the American dream was still alive and well. The 38-year-old lady sitting to the right of me was super excited to be going on the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) this year with her parents. I was excited to tell them about my beautiful family of 10, and our journey to adopt five children from China. I told them stories about our two sons with Down syndrome, and how society was changing and making great strides in accepting them for the valuable people they are. We were all feeling so optimistic as this plane filled in.
Then the stewardess explained that we would have the privilege of hearing directly from the pilot of this plane. The plane’s occupants clapped politely. As the stewardess introduced the pilot she explained that he was a very successful billionaire. People’s interests were peaked. She then explained that this type of experience was just what this plane needed….something fresh and new to take this plane to new heights and get us to our destination quicker and under budget. Well, who isn’t in for faster and under budget? Then she said that this will be the first time he’s ever flown a plane, but not to worry because he has been a passenger on countless planes. In fact, he even owns planes. Ok…we are starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but there must be more to this story. The pilot then makes his entrance onto the plane to cheers and clapping. He then takes the microphone and begins to speak. Although his English isn’t the best, he starts out ok. He talks about how he’s going to take this huge plane to new heights. We are going to go so fast we will beat all records ever set! We will do it under budget! Everyone on this plane will get champagne, and we are going to bring back porcelain plates to the economy class. We all clapped. I mean who doesn’t love porcelain and champagne. My great grandmother used to tell me how flying on planes use to be quite the affair you would dress up for. You’d even wear hats, dresses, and white gloves. I was starting to feel nostalgic! Then he started talking about making the Muslims on the flight raise their hands to register. The lady sitting to my right started shifting uncomfortably in her seat. I patted her hand to let her know that I wouldn’t make her raise her hand. Then he started speaking about Mexicans. He said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” I look at the young lady to my left and say, “You are a good person.” She seems to take no comfort in my words, and gets a confused look on her face. Someone at the front of the plane who has a physical disability appears to speak up to try to correct the pilot. The pilot then mocks the person with disabilities and belittles him in a bullying fashion. Then the two ladies look at me with disgust in their eyes. The one on my right offers me a kleenex to wipe the tears from my eyes.

The pilot then hands the microphone back to the stewardess as he heads to take his place in the cockpit. Since he has no experience being in the actual cockpit of the plane, he accidentally broadcasts to the plane a conversation he was having with his male co-pilot about grabbing women by the pussy. The cabin gasps in horror, but some in the cabin start explaining that they were just having locker room talk. Since there now seems to be real concerns on whether this pilot should be allowed to fly this plane being responsible for all of these lives, there is a vote. It will not be a popular vote however. Each class will be given a certain amount of electoral votes. If the pilot gets enough electoral votes, he will be allowed to fly the plane. The popular vote will hopefully align with electoral votes. If not, it doesn’t really matter. By this time, half the plane has fallen asleep, and half of the people don’t even vote. No matter how hard their neighbors try to wake them they will not be bothered to raise their hand in a vote. After all is said and done, the pilot does have enough electoral votes to take the pilots seat even though he doesn’t have the popular vote.

Those of us who did not vote for him are still stuck on this plane with no viable escape plan. We are looking at those who voted for him with terror in our eyes. We are begging them to see the problems in this plan. They look back at us and say give him a chance! What could possibly happen? We are looking back saying, “I can think of a few things without even thinking very hard.” The planes next to us on the runway are looking over at us with total confusion. They are texting people on our plane saying, “Did you really just do this? Why are you doing this? You can stop this plane from taking off right?”

Well, I am on this plane. I can’t stop this plane from taking off. Yes, I see the issues here. Pardon me as I page the stewardess to bring me a double…a triple.  I raise my glass to the pilot!  May he get us to our destination safely and not in bankruptcy like his former airline.

Best Part of the Day

Published August 20, 2016 by megchristo

Some weeks are just down right tough.  You literally and figuratively drag yourself through thinking, “Oh dear Lord…please don’t make this my new normal, but if it is let me adjust quickly.”  This week was one of those weeks for me.  Every hour seemed to bring a new fire to put out, decision to make, or decision to accept.  To start things off, physically I felt exhausted and crummy.  I finally went to the doctor on Monday after feeling this way for about 10 days.  Sure enough I had bronchitis and sinusitis.  Not a big deal, but it certainly doesn’t help things.

On Thursday night, we said our goodbyes to our Seany Boy as he left for a new chapter of life in Portland.  After having him around every day for 3 years, it was a very hard goodbye.  He means so much to our family, and is such an import part of it.  He is so much more than a cousin or a manny or a godfather or a friend.  We love him, and we will miss him like mad.

We are also in the final full week before school starts up again.  That means you have to start thinking and preparing for all things school.  You have to fill out all of the paperwork that comes home from the kids’ new teachers to “get to know each other.”  When you have 6 going into elementary or preschool this becomes a much bigger task than normal.  You have to finalize transportation plans, communication plans, lunch plans, school supplies, clothing, shoes, backpacks, physical forms…wait did I get all of the physicals done?  Then when you have a child that just isn’t the round peg that fits perfectly into the traditional way of doing education, you stop and think, “Am I doing enough?  Is this right?  Will this year be better?  In 20 years, will I regret this decision?  How can the perfect elementary school for all of my other kids not be right for one?  Is that even possible?  How many more tough school years do we have ahead of us?  What else am I suppose to be doing?  How long before this effects his self confidence?”  When you can’t shake these questions while driving down I80 with bronchitis and sinusitis you do what every normal mother in this world does.  You stay up until 2:00 am googling school options.  You send way too honest of emails to people you’ve never met just to test their knee jerk response.  When you talk to this person the next day while driving up I35 and she says, “Griffin sounds wonderfully unique!  When can I meet him?”  You smile to yourself, let out a huge sigh of relief and anxiety, and say, “How late can you stay tonight?”  Then when you meet her and your son starts drawing pictures of good guys shooting zombies, she doesn’t even flinch.  She asks him about his portals, his zombies, and if he thinks he needs a red marker for blood.  When your son then turns to you with a huge smile and sparkle in his eye that you haven’t seen for too long, you tear up and hope this isn’t too good to be true.  You come home talk with your hub about the experience, and you both have the same main thought.  If we at least don’t try this, will we regret it later?  That’s followed by other minor thoughts. How will the other kids accept that one of the 8 is doing something completely different?  How do we tell the elementary school that we love that we want to try something different?  What if this is too good to be true?  What if this fails?  Why do all these decisions seem so crucial?  Do I have to adult today?

Why is being a mom so darn hard?  Oh that’s right! Because the gifts are too beautiful to mention and the blessings too many to count.  I get to experience it all times eight.  At the end of the day, we’ll sit around our dinner table and talk about the best part of our day.  Somehow the best part of my day always seems to be “right now” when we are gathered around the table as a family listening to the best parts of our day.  In those moments, there’s no decision to make, paper to fill out, phone call to take, email to look at, or consequences to consider.  Time nearly stops for a moment as we bask in each other’s daily glory. It’s simply the best part of the day!  As long as my table is filled with the people I love most on this earth, I guess there really isn’t any decision that crucial or week that tough.  I am grateful that my toughest decision this week was which elementary school will be best for Griffin.  I am grateful that the thing that broke my heart this week was seeing Sean off for his great adventure to Oregon.  I am grateful that the only thing wrong with my body is a passing infection.

Kat’s Friend Lang

Published June 16, 2016 by megchristo

 

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Lang with her friends

Kat has been an amazing, fabulous, funny, spirited, awesome addition to our family.  She is sweet and thoughtful and a great human being.  Kat has been in our family for 8 months, and she has made the transition with more grace and courage than I thought was humanly possible.

The hardest part for Kat has been the loss of her deep friendships in the orphanage.  They were very, very close.  They were a family.  Before we left Beijing Kat asked if she could buy a Barbie to send to her friend Lang back at the orphanage.  She knew that Lang would miss her very much because Kat was like her big sister.  Watching Kat pick out the doll, and write a note to sweet Lang made me tear up.  In her note, she asked Lang to be happy and to never forget her. I couldn’t even imagine the internal strength my daughter had to write that note to her beloved friend, and continue on the journey with two crazy Americans she had just met 3 days prior.  I immediately began asking questions to Kat about Lang, which was difficult because of the language barrier.  The CCAI rep helped bridge that gap.  I asked her if she would request that Lang’s file begin to be prepared.  She made the request.  When Lang’s teacher asked her if she wanted to be adopted, Lang hesitated.  She was afraid of leaving all she knew.  She was afraid of being half a world away from the foster family she once lived with and loves deeply.  She hesitated too long for the teacher.  He reported back that Lang did not want to be adopted.  I was sad for Lang and for Kat, but I also understood.  Agreeing to be adopted is a huge decision.  You have to be willing to take a huge leap of faith to leave everything you know (food, language, friends, culture, school, etc), and head into a world you can’t possibly begin to understand.  Around Christmas time Kat was FaceTiming with her friends back in China.  I was able to virtually “meet” Lang.  She has the sweetest smile!  She was so adamant that she did want a family.  She did want to be adopted.  I told Kat that Lang had to tell the teacher.  I couldn’t do anything.

In a world of too few second chances, Lang has been given a second chance!  The teacher very wisely waited and made sure she wouldn’t hesitate again.  She hasn’t wavered!   She wants a family!!!  They are preparing her file!  Here is the leap of faith I am asking of you…yes YOU!  Her file will not be available for 2-4 months.  She turns 14 on February 5th.  Once she turns 14, she will  not be able to be adopted.  YOU must begin the process now….before her file is ready.

Lang is a sweet, loving 13 year old girl.  She has dwarfism, and is amazing.  All of the kids really love her.  Kat says that she is very smart too!  She does go to school (which is AWESOME).  I am happy to answer any questions about adoption, the process, and help get you started!  Kat is happy to answer any questions about Lang.  She is very much wanting to help her friend find a fabulous family.  Here are Kat’s exact words,

“I have a friend called Lang.  She needs a blessed family very much.  Lang is born in February 5, 2003.  She grew up in a loving and caring foster family.  Few years later she move to the orphanage.  She lived in the orphanage happily, but that is still not as good as having a blessed family.  She need parents that will love her forever.  She is 4th grade and is doing very well.  She likes Barbie.  She is very lively, spirited, and adorable person.  A family needs her because she will make them happy!  So, can somebody please adopt her?! She doesn’t have much time left!!! If you can’t adopt her, then pass the news to everybody else!!!”

Let’s find Lang’s family!!  Are you her family? Lang Ju1IMG_5840.JPG

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What About Gabe?

Published May 1, 2016 by megchristo

What will Gabe’s life be like now?  After we found out Carsten had Down syndrome, MJ and I were so worried about a lot of things.  Fear crept into our brains, and we began to tell ourselves “stories” of the shadows that were hiding in our future, in Carsten’s future, and in Gabe’s future.  How would Gabe feel about his brother?  What would their relationship look like? How many fights would Gabe get into protecting his little brother?

It didn’t take long for us to see the strong bond that was forming between Gabe and Carsten. Gabe cherished his brother, and Carsten couldn’t take his eyes off of Gabe.

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I swear….that fish was this big!

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Just look straight ahead! That’s where we are headed.

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Stick with me kid!

 

 

As they have grown, Gabe is always sure to include his brother’s when he has friends over.  He is quick to defend Carsten, and ask friends to leave if he thinks they are being unkind to Carsten.  Gabe is Carsten’s hero.  To this day, they prefer to share the same room.  They always defend each other.  I love watching them interact.  The kids that Gabe hang out with ALWAYS include Carsten.  They treat him like one of the crew, and I think that is amazing!  What a great group of kids Gabe has as his friends!

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An interesting conversation happened this weekend.  My cousin, Erin, came over to ask Elle Belle to be her flower girl.  I was asking Erin and Nate who their maid of honor and best man would be.  Gabe’s friend, Tanner, turned to him and asked, “How will you decide who your best man will be?  You have three brothers!”  Gabe quickly answered, “That’s easy.  It’s Carsten!”  His quick, no nonsense answer made me grin.  I immediately thought back to the early hours of learning Carsten had Down syndrome, and how much MJ and I were worried about Gabe.  What about Gabe?  What will this mean for his life?  Those worries, questions, and fears seem silly now.

As for what the future holds, I have learned that I have no clue.  I have given up guessing, and am resigned to the fact that it isn’t for me to know.  I do know what Gabe says will happen in the future, and Carsten is in full agreement.  Gabe says that Carsten and he will live together.  When I ask, “What about your future wife, Gabe?”  He is quick to answer that she will love Carsten as much as he does, or he won’t get married.  I understand that Gabe’s future is completely for him to find. At the ripe old age of 13, I believe Gabe is as clueless about what the future holds as I am.  I love his heart though.  If Carsten and Gabe demand to live together, I may have to buy the neighbors house because I can’t imagine being without either of them.

 

When Your Bubble Pops

Published April 11, 2016 by megchristo

Warning….this blog post is raw and real.  I am writing this in the height of the emotion of it all.  Carsten and I are mourning.  We are sad.  We knew it was coming some day.  It has arrived.

You all know that I am usually a sunshine and rainbows person.  I love talking about the high points of this life.  Tonight is different.  I am not writing to complain or to throw shade on anyone in particular.  My hope is to brainstorm ideas to change things, find solutions, and to be real.

As most of you know, Carsten LOVES baseball.  He lives for it.  He loves playing it, talking about it, watching it, and watching movies about it.  He can’t get enough.  The Little League in our town has been wonderful about accepting him and including him.  Last year he played down an age group, and we had a great experience.  The coaches and kids loved him, encourage him, and included him.  I asked for him to play in the same age group this year again.  I had a phone conversation with the head of the league, and it went great.  They assigned Carsten to a team, and Matt and I were so hopeful for another great season.  Don’t get me wrong, we knew the end was near, but we were hoping for one more season.

On Saturday, Carsten had his first practice.  The kids were standoffish, but we were expecting that.  They don’t know Carsten. After all they are two years younger than him. The head coach took time to work with Carsten, and I was hopeful.  Then the parent meeting at the end of practice happen.  The coach talked about his goals being:

  1.  To have fun
  2. To learn more about baseball
  3. To be competitive – this is the real world

Ok….not a fabulous sign, but we weren’t out yet.  Give them time to see the real Carsten…to get to know him.  They would see the benefits of having him on the team.  Time.  That’s what we need here.  Don’t panic!  I mean how competitive can 8 year olds be?

Then tonight we had the second practice.  Carsten was sooooooo excited.  He practically jumped out of the car.  I tried to push that voice into the back of my head.  I watched as Carsten walked up to his team.  The assistant coach didn’t even acknowledge Carsten.  His team mates walked right past him.  Carsten laid down his bag, and worked on getting out his glove.  He then walked up towards the team.  Again no one acknowledged him.  The head coach was a tad late, and when he arrived he moved the team down the field a little.  My sixth sense was SCREAMING at me!  GO GET HIM!!!  LEAVE NOW!!!  GO GET HIM!!  With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I texted Matt to come and switch me spots.  I couldn’t do this. When he arrived he walked over to watch practice.  The coach did work with him.  He texted me optimistically that Carsten was throwing as well as some of the other kids.  At the end of practice the head coach walked up to discuss his concerns.  He was worried about Carsten not being able to catch the ball well.  Matt reassured him, and headed for home.  Once home Carsten walked up to me crying.  He said, “It’s over.  I want a team.”  I cried and held him.  I said, “I know Carsten.  What if we go back to the Miracle League.”  He shook his head and said, “No.  I play baseball.”  Uggggggg!! Carsten is so intuitive.  He get’s it.  He understands how people feel about him.  He is nobody’s fool.

This is the hardest thing I have had to tackle with Carsten.  I could have never predicted this 9 years ago.  I officially give up trying to predict the hurdles we will face on this journey.

Let me add that the people with the Miracle League do such a wonderful job.  It’s a beautiful field. The volunteers are top notch. It’s a fabulous program.  The problem is it doesn’t feel like real baseball to Carsten.  Judging by all of the smiles on the Miracle League field, I think Carsten is in the minority here.

What am I to do?  Where does Carsten fit?  He wants to play baseball with the kids he goes to school with.  He wants to feel like one of the team.  He wants to be appreciated.  He wants to be included.

We’ve come a long way as a society, but have we come far enough?  Does having special needs have to still mean being separate from their peers?  I see the kids at Carsten’s school.  These kids are the cream of the crop.  They get it.  They know there’s more to life than winning.  This generation can truly change the world.  How do we make sure they don’t succumb to the way we think? How do we adults get out of their way to let them do this?  What’s a mom like me suppose to do?  I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard spot….on a deserted island. I can’t believe Carsten is the first kid to be stuck in this no mans land.  It’s so strange.  Bo could care less about sports.  If I put him in the Miracle League, I am sure he’d thrive!  He’d love the activity, and love getting the extra attention.  That’s not Carsten.

Here I sit with the same question swirling in my brain.  How do we do this better?  What do I do?  Do I call Carsten’s friends and see if they will meet us at a field to play ball once a week?  Call it a “Carsten pick up game” for all of those that just love the game?  Honestly,  what do I do?!?!?!

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