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 finally 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 blessing to 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


Lang Ju 3

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



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.


I swear….that fish was this big!


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

Stick with me Kid

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!

unnamed-3 copy

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?!?!?!



Published April 8, 2016 by megchristo

Today it has been 6 months since Matt and I met Kat.  What has changed for all of us in 6 months?  I told Kat that I wanted to gain her perspective in this blog post.  She said,
“But my English thoughts are not very good.”  I persuaded her to share her voice.  Her lack of perfect English doesn’t matter.  I will try to lightly edit her answers in way that fixes her English, but doesn’t change her voice or content.  I thought it would be easier on her if I asked her questions.  Ok….here we go.

  1.  Kat, how has the first six months been in the United States?

It’s been fun.  Sometimes I get sad because I miss my friends and the food.  I have a good English teacher, and I have good friends.  I have a big family.  I have a big daddy.  I have a beautiful mom.  I am always happy I have a family. I have visited Florida.  I like the holidays.  I like Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and Thanksgiving. My mom is crazy.  My dad is quiet, but sometimes he is funny too.  Sometimes my mom and dad always like to joke about my kung fu “boyfriend”.  It’s not real.  (side note by me….oh…he’s real!)

2.  What’s it like having a family?

We need to share.  We need to watch out for each other.  We need to have fun and be there for each other…you know the siblings or whatever.  (side note by me….or whatever!?!?!)

3.  What’s your favorite part of being a big sister?

Hummmmm…no idea.  I want to be a little sister.  Can you adopt a big sister?  (side note by me….no.)

4.  What do you think of school here?

I have a very nice school.  I have good teachers and friends.  People help me.  I learned swimming.  We don’t have too much homework.

5.  What has been the hardest part of the last 6 months?


6.  If you could change one thing, what would it be?

Change English to Chinese. (side note by me….I am not as smart as Kat.  I have now spent approximately 2 1/2 months in China, and I can only say about 5 things)

7.  What are looking forward to?

Having a job.  (side note by me….can you start by cleaning your room?)

8.  What were you most scared of coming to the US and being adopted?

The work would be too hard in school. I was scared my parents would hate me.

9.  What’s your favorite new food?

Cadbury Eggs

10. What has helped you the most in your transition?

I have no idea what you are saying. (I reask in a simpler way) My life is better than orphanage life.  I like my phone.  I can still talk to my friends in China and watch Chinese TV.  I think a dog would help me.  (side note by me….no)

11.  What else would you like people to know?

I can write, speak, and read Chinese better than English.  In China at my school, kids would tell me I live in an orphanage and I don’t have parents.  I hit one girl.  The teacher yelled at me.  I asked the teacher what they would feel if someone said that to them. I am super strong.  After I hit her no one said it again.  At first I would try to tell them not to say that.  That you can’t say that, but it wasn’t working.

12.  What would you tell other parents thinking of adopting an older child?

Very hard.  All children are very different.  Some children might cry.  I do not.  I knew about America.  Some do not know.  Give them something to talk to their friends. Talk with your child using the translator, so they will understand what you are saying.   Give time to your child so they understand what you are doing and what you are saying. Some child may cry all day.  Be very caring, and ask what is going on.  If you adopt a girl who is very sad and crying, you know some send them back to orphanage just like that.  Don’t do that.  (side note by me…Kat is talking about disruption.  She had friends who were being adopted by Americans, but when they cried a lot they were sent back to the orphanage). Just try to make them happy by playing with them…like play a game.  Some children don’t know English.  Find a translator to come to the house to talk to them.  Sometimes an older child can be trouble because they can cry because they miss China and their friends.

13.  How many children do you want to have?

Two…wait wait wait…one….wait…two…two or one.  I want to adopt an older child because I know what I am doing. (side note by me….I completely agree!  She would be a great at adopting an older child.)  You are so lucky for adopting a girl like me.  (side note by me….agree completely!  Lucky doesn’t even touch it girl!)

14.  What’s your dream?

My dream is to be a soldier or police woman.  When I was a baby a police officer picked me up.  When I was a baby I stayed with the police for 6 months.  (side note by me….her file does say she lived at the police station for 6 months.  We may have to look in to that more.)

Now here is what Kat has taught me in 6 months.

  1.  When you smile, the world smiles with you.  A smile can change your mood and those around you.
  2. American food makes you fat.  Kat’s very upset about this.  If you know Kat, she is far from fat, but has gained some weight since being home.  She has changed from calling me fat to talking about my food baby. I think I may have food babies now. I have tried to beef up on our vegetable intake though.
  3. Nothing beats a can do attitude!  Kat knows that she can do anything!  She is right.  Not only does she handle everything and every change with grace and courage, she does it with such a beam of positivity.
  4. You can never hear someone call you “mom!” too much.  Kat loves to call me mom!  I love to hear it. It’s like music to my ears.
  5. Showing someone a whole new world is fun and overwhelming.  The majority of the time it’s fun, but when you have to tell them to stop cutting in line and to buckle their seatbelt one hundred times….it gets a little tiring.
  6. Kat can trip over an invisible line, fall down, get up, and still laugh…which makes us laugh.  The way she approaches everything with humor is contagious.
  7. When your brain can’t take anymore new culture or language, take a nap…anywhere you feel like it. She fits her name.  She loves cat naps.
  8. What are you afraid of?Mom, Dad, and Kat



The Great Eight

Published February 10, 2016 by megchristo

Kids color

This is for “The Great Eight.”  I think you need to know this about each of yourselves individually and as a whole.

Katina Marie Wei Bo:

You are the bravest person I have ever met.  You left everything you knew to have the love of a family.  You have done all of it with such grace and positivity.  It has amazed me!  You are a strong, smart, and happy woman.  Your zest for life is contagious.  You know just how to make me smile. It is such an honor to call you my daughter.  Never let anyone sell you short.  Never sell yourself short.  You are seriously so talented and outstanding in so many ways.  The world is your oyster.  Crack that baby open!!!

Kat Color

Gabriel Matthew:

Gabe you are the most kind hearted, loving, mature 12 year old I have ever known.  You are quite simply amazing.  You have an old, old soul.  Your heart feels deeper than most could ever even hope to feel.  Seize upon that.  It’s a gift.  You will change this world in so many ways that I can’t even hope to foresee.  Never let anyone beat the gentle out of you.  This characteristic that lies deep within you makes you feel other people’s struggles.  You understand the world and its problems far better than most adults.  Never stop seeing the possibilities.  Never stop believing you can change the world because you can…you will!

Gabe color

Carsten Douglas:

First of all, thank you!  I feel like you changed nearly everything about how I see the world.  How could I ever pay you back for that?  I believe it is an impossible task.  You challenge me to be a better person every single day of my life.  I still have a long, long, long way to go to be as loving, forgiving, and as patient as you.  Please continue to be patient with me on my journey.  Keep telling me how much you love me.  It melts my heart.  Continue to change the way the world sees not only you, but all people with Down syndrome.  Take center stage son, and use your voice now!

Carsten close up

Bo Hansen Zhi:

You are my personal court jester.🙂 You know how to make the entire room laugh, and pay attention to you.  You are so insanely clever!  You know just how to bend people to your will, and be glad they did so.  That stubborn streak will serve you well throughout your life.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a bad thing.  Thank you for your humor and love.  Thank you for letting me be your hero.  I don’t deserve it, but I love it!

Bo Bo half smile

Michelle DeFore Yue:

Elle Belle you are one of a kind!  You are an absolute sponge for new information.  No matter what the topic, you can’t wait to take it all in.  Always asking tough questions like, “what is a brain.”  Keep asking the questions.  Hold people accountable.  Demand answers.  You can unlock great mysteries by asking great questions!  I also love how you like to prolong things you enjoy.  You will ask for 10 more kisses, one more song, one more book.  You know what you like, and you should take the time to enjoy more of those things! Always do what you love!  If you do, you will live a fulfilling life.

Elle smile color

Griffin Michael:

You see the world so differently from the vast majority of people on this planet.  You see everything through this uber creative and fanciful lens.  School may be a little challenging for you because of this, but I beg you to channel it in a positive direction that is authentically you.  You are a square peg, and square pegs don’t belong in round holes.  Do NOT conform.  The world needs people like you.  Those who march to the beat of their own drum, and see the beauty in the mundane.  You are sensitive and passionate.  All of these things will fall in your favor when you learn how to put them together synergistically!  Keep rocking it Griff!!!

Griffin heart color

Maelyn Ju Ann:

Oh my sweet, skeptical, curious daughter!  From the moment you were put into our arms you looked at us with such skepticism.  To this day, every new event, person, environment, and task you meet with that same level of skepticism.  I love it!  It keeps us all on our toes and in our place.  You also are the little mama.  You love to lead your siblings, and make sure they are on the right path.  If not, you are the first to correct them.  Never be a follower Mae.  You are a natural born leader.  You will lead people in the right direction due to your conscientious personality. Lead on sweet girl!

Mae smiling

Genevieve Jo Li:

You my dear are a natural born lover.  You can’t get close enough to me.  I think if you could melt into me you would.  You also are always sure your “opinions” get heard one way or the other.  People know where they stand with you.  It’s a trait that demands respect.  Then you can turn on that adorable smile laced with your sweet dimples.  People don’t know what hit them!  Keep demanding respect little one!  Be one worthy of that respect too!  Don’t forget to smile!

Eve laughing color

Now to “The Great Eight” as a whole:

You can see all of you have such amazing, unique gifts.  Don’t let that ever be a divide amongst yourselves.  Build each other up.  Support one another.  Laugh together.  Have fun together.  There will be many people that enter your lives that don’t add positive energy or support.  NEVER let that happen amongst the eight of you.  You are “The Great Eight!”  You are all amazing as individuals.  Together you are UNSTOPPABLE!  Be each other’s biggest fans.  You have a whole world out there waiting to tear you down. Family is where all of you can be anything you want to be.  If ever you are in doubt of that, just come home.  You’ll have a whole team of 9 other people waiting to cheer you on and build you back up.  That’s my promise to you.  You are favorite people in the entire world.  Your dad and I will never let you forget that.  Go out there and be awesome!  I love you all so much it hurts…hurts so good!


Love Always,

Your mama


Things That Changed My Life This Year

Published January 1, 2016 by megchristo

2015 proved to be another amazing year with lots of adventures and changes.  I thought 2015 would be a fairly tame year.  I think maybe tame and my life will never go together.  The more I think about that the more I like that.  I like chaos.  I like change.  I like challenges.  I love life!

Here are the top ten things or events that changed my life in 2015.

10.  Building our first home together.

MJ and I decided late in 2014 to build our “dream house”. It is at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in Johnston in our children’s school district, so about 5 blocks from our other house.  I learned a lot through this process.  Primarily I learned that it’s impossible to build your perfect house.  Inevitably you will screw things up.  That’s awesome because you got to make the mistakes, and learning to live with your mistakes is important. I feel like we nailed 95% of the choices and decisions.  I’ll take 95% every day of the week.  Our house is perfect for a big family, and it feels like home!  I am also SUPER happy that we ended the year only owning one house!!!!  That’s the first time in over five years that we can say that.  Boy…that feels great!

Our house

9.  Hy Vee delivery

I tell you what.  Having your groceries delivered to your home, and brought into your kitchen is the best thing since sliced bread.  This has given me back at least one hour a week in time…probably more.  Anything that makes my life easier, and gives me more time with my family is a major win!  Thank you Hy Vee!!

8.  The robotic vacuum Bob

This little guy was an awesome Christmas present!!  You push start on him, and he just starts making his way around the house cleaning everything in his path.  An added bonus is the fact that the kids are all intrigued by Bob, and follow him around with happy giggles and screams.  Child entertainment + self cleaning robot = major score.

7.  A trip to Japan with my sister from another mister

Finally Carrie and I were able to complete our girls trip together that we have been talking about for more than 20 years. Some ladies pick Vegas or a beach destination.  Not us!  We chose Japan to visit another sweet friend.  We had such a great time!  Japan is beautiful and full of culture and history.  We maximized every minute we could.  We visited Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Tokyo.  We saw so many amazing and breath taking places.  A few of our favorites were the Peace Memorial Park, the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine (the red torri gates), the Philosopher’s Path, sakura (cherry blossoms), the bamboo forest, Ginkaku-ji (zen temple), Gion (Geisha district), and Kinkaku-ji (the golden temple).

We also were able to eat and drink so much great food!  We loved all of the sake, sushi, oysters, ramen, yakisoba, sakura ice cream, the Ninja restaurant, bento boxes for breakfast, curry rice, udon, shabu shabu, yakitori, miso soup, omuraisu, korokke, okonomiyaki (I think this was my personal favorite), and takoyaki.  It was all so delicious!!

Mostly it was phenomenal to just get to spend that much time with Carrie doing something we both loved.  We loved site seeing, shopping (Mikimoto, antique shops, Japanese souvenir shops), eating, drinking, walking, praying, riding bikes….it was all great!  It was perfect actually! Then being able to spend a few days with my dear friend Renee and her precious family was just over the top fabulous!  Being with Renee and her husband as they began to discuss the possibility of expanding their family through adoption, was a true blessing.  I am happy to say that in a few short months they will have their beautiful daughter in their arms.  Guess what….their daughter is in the same town (Zhengzhou) as Eve was.  I told Renee when MJ and I were there I just felt their daughter was there too!  My intuition was right!  God is good!  Goodness…I want to do it again!  Renee and Carrie….are you game?!?!


6.  Hong Kong

Adoption is beautiful and amazing, and filled with love and hard work.  The adoption trip itself is grueling, emotional, exhausting, tough, and worth it.  Every trip we have made we have spent an extra day in Hong Kong.  I am so glad we do.  Just this one extra day is enough to feel like you have had a vacation, and reenergize us.  This time MJ, Kat, Eve, and I packed a ton into a short time.  We visited Disneyland, the big buddha, and went into Kowloon to meet friends for dinner.  All of the activities soothed our souls, and was so much fun!  We even ended up on the Hong Kong news. I LOVE Hong Kong.  It is beautiful!

Mom and Kat at Buddha

5.  Adopting Kat and Eve

I did NOT think at the beginning of this year that we would end the year with 8 amazing, unique, and awesome children.  I am so glad we did!  The Great Eight fill our days with so much love and laughter and chaos and mess, and we love it all.  Now somedays MJ and I are ready for bed by 7:00, but that’s ok.  If we are tired it means we are leaving it all on the table, and giving it our all.  Kat has added an energetic, positive spirit to our family.  Whenever I think I am at my max, I look at Kat and reevaluate.  If Kat can leave everything she knows (her friends, her school, her food, her language, her city) for the chance to be apart of a loving and caring family, I can dig a little deeper and give a little more.  Her bravery and positive attitude are amazing.  To know Kat is to love Kat.  Eve has reminded me that love is a choice.  It’s a choice that requires a lot of hard work and persistence…and a healthy dose of humor.  Eve has come a long way in 3 months, and when we see her amazing smile every bit of everything is so worth it.  She is a strong, strong girl, and we can’t wait to see more of her true personality emerge in 2016.  MJ and I love love love our family.  We chose a crazy life, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Family on Eve's notary day

We finalized Eve”s adoption in one action packed day. We went from Gotcha to the Civil Affairs to the Notary Office.

4.  ISU Kid Captains

Carsten and Bo being chosen as the ISU Kid Captains was such a tremendous experience.  I can’t even adequately put into words how much it meant for our whole family to see Carsten and Bo march out on that field for the coin toss.  The ISU players and coaches were all so sweet to the boys.  It was an experience I never even dreamed Carsten and Bo would get to experience.  I love that life is full of wonderful surprises.  I no longer pretend to know what life has in store for us.  The potential is endless for all of my children, and we can’t wait to watch what they do with their lives.

3.  MJ

My husband is the best.  I couldn’t have dreamt for a better partner and best friend in this life.  I love him more every single day.  Every single day he still surprises me.  From being able to say just the right thing to one of the kids to letting me spend precious time with my mom during her recovery to letting me travel to Japan with my best friend.  He’s amazing, and takes everything in stride.  As long as I have MJ by my side, all will be ok.

Matt and I on the Great Wall


2.  My mom’s heart attack

A few days after Christmas my mom suffered a massive heart attack, and flatlined on the way to the hospital.  Miraculously everything happened right to make it so she is still with us to usher in this new year.  Everything from my sister calling her right as the event started to her having her phone with her in the bathroom to the paramedics who brought her back to life to all of us being with her as she was taken to the cath lab to her incredibly skilled cardiologist.  We are a very blessed family, and are all fully aware of the miracle.

Mom and I

1. Carsten’s accident

On August 7th after a perfect fun-filled family day at the farm, Carsten had an accident.  It was by far the most terrifying incident I have every had in my life.  By the grace of God, everything turned out fine.  I promised God under a clear, starry night that I would return the miracle he gave me by letting me keep Carsten.  I promised Him that when I could be someone else’s miracle I would not hesitate, and I would do whatever it was He needed me to do.  That is how precious Kat entered our life.  Now I am doubly grateful for the two gifts he gave me in the face of one accident.  I vow not to take life for granted.  Every moment is a gift, and needs to be appreciated.  I also vow to acknowledge and be grateful for the miracles that happen.  To deny the miracles are to deny Him.


I am so excited to see what adventures and changes await us in 2016.  Along the way, I will maximize every moment I have with all of the people that matter most to me!  Thank you to all of our family and friends who make our life richer and filled with love.  We love you all!!!

Happy New Year!!!

first family photo of 10-X3