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All posts for the month October, 2015

Reflections on the Flight Home

Published October 24, 2015 by megchristo

Here we are…somewhere over Russia I suppose.  Six hours into our 14 1/2 hour flight home, I should be taking this opportunity to be sleeping, but my mind is racing with different memories and stories that occurred over the past 3 weeks and visions of our future as a family of 10.  I feel so close to being home with our other babies I can almost hear their laughs and squeals.  When I close my eyes, I can already see our dinner table with Matt and I and our 8 beautiful, unique, and loving children.  I can hear the answers and the pauses going around the table to share what happened best in their day.  Their groans of exasperation when I say this moment right now is the best part of my day.  Elle prodding me for a different answer.  She always wants to hear a story of something she didn’t see.  I will promise her a story before bed…that I will make up a good one tonight.  Mae giggling excitedly anticipating the story to come.  Griffin requesting that I not tell the Gryffon story.  Bo and Carsten laughing excitedly. Then there’s usually a chorus of voices requesting Gryffon.  I see Eve and Kat at the table taking it all in learning when to add their protests, and when to add to the laughter.  Soon enough I know they will find their rhythm in our family.

I think back to three weeks ago as MJ and I headed off for Beijing to adopt Kat.  We were terrified.  Completely and blindly walking in faith.  Our logical brains were screaming at us, “You know you are about to adopt a 14 year old girl?!  What’s your plan?  Oh yay!  I can’t see how this may end badly!”  Matt and I would make jokes about the leap of faith we were embarking on.  Jokes were our only coping mechanism.  Luckily jokes seem to be Kat’s coping mechanism as well….we speak the same language after all!  😉 The hard work here is still very much laid out before us, but with all of our determination, optimism, and a good sense of humor we will make it!

Eve was terrified when she met Matt and I.  I found out while on this trip that she was in a Taiwanese foster house the entire time she was under the care of the orphanage.  I believe the group that runs that foster home is called Nurturing Hands from Taiwan.  On the day we met her she was taken from the home she had ever known by people she did not know.  She was then driven to place she did not know by people she did not know and given to Matt and me……again….people she did not know. To say Eve was terrified would be an understatement.  The next four days were hard….gut wrenchingly hard.  She did not want anything to do with Matt or me.  She wondered the hall crying for hours.  She did not want us to pick her up, put her to bed, feed her, look at her, acknowledge her, nothing.  At one point I thought things were looking up on Wednesday.  She wanted to go for a walk.  So Eve and I headed out to the streets of Zhengzhou.  Everything started out well.  She was walking proudly beside me swinging her arm.  Then one too many Chinese people took our picture, and she melted down.  It was so scary.  Here I am trying to hold her.  She is riving against me, trying to bite me, throwing my sunglasses into the street.  I became surrounded by at least 100 Chinese people staring at us.  I really thought the police were going to show up in any moment.  Besides fighting to hold on to Eve and not get bit, I had to push my way through the crowd of people that were simply staring at the show.  Funny..I didn’t remember selling tickets to the show.  That was almost as hard as keeping a hold of Eve.  Thank goodness we made it back to the hotel before any police officers arrived.  I am positive that at least 12 Chinese people have the show videoed on their iPhone.  Who knows how many people have seen it now.  By Friday, we seemed to turn a corner.  Reflecting back on it, it was the day we let laughter back into our lives.  It caught on and seemed contagious amongst most of the other families we were traveling with.  When we didn’t really have anything that funny to laugh about we created our own stories.  All through our trip to the Zhengzhou aquarium we found approximately 1 million things to laugh about.  I mean ab work out laughter.  It seemed to be just the answer to what we needed to get through another week of adoption process.  There was another monumental step that day.  I know this sounds disgusting because it is, but Eve started handing me her boogers.  She was trusting me enough to take care of her needs.  It was really a turning point.  Then I could help her eat, help her clean, help her get dressed, etc.  Who knew boogers could be so important in building a trusting relationship.

Once we hit Guangzhou, the sun was just a little sunnier.  It’s a whole mix of things that helps lighten the mood.  First of all, it is sunnier, there is a lot less pollution, there is a Starbucks in the hotel, you are one week away from heading home, and there is some fun shopping available there.  One afternoon the girls and I headed out to do a little souvenir shopping.  We ended up doing a fun tea ceremony and talking a lot with one of our guides.  We also enjoyed going to the zoo.  We were able to hand feed and pet the giraffes….now that is a cool thing to do!

Girls tea Feeding the giraffes

On the way out we spent one free day in Hong Kong.  We packed as much as we possibly could into one day.  We first went to Disneyland.  The girls loved it!  Kat had her jaw on the ground through most of it.  We hit 9 rides and had lunch before we left to go see the Big Buddha.  The Big Buddha is set in the lush green mountains on Lantau island.  It is amazingly breathtaking.  The Buddha is beautiful and it’s surroundings and views are gorgeous.  We then headed into Kowloon to meet friends for dinner.  We met the Presley’s on our first adoption trip.  It was so good to see them, and good for my soul to talk with them.  After a prolonged trip to the hotel due to a ship hitting a bridge, we made it back tired with full hearts.

Big Buddha Mom and Kat at Buddha

Dad and Kat at Disney Girls at Disney

I can not wait to be home.  I can’t wait to find our new normal.  Most of all I can’t wait to wrap my arms around 6 little necks.  I will squeeze one a little tighter and give her an extra kiss because today is Mae Mae’s 4th birthday!  I can’t wait to celebrate you little Miss Mae!

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Kat and Eve…Day 10 and Day 6

Published October 17, 2015 by megchristo

We have arrived in Guangzhou.  That means that we have had Kat for 10 days and Eve for 6 days.  Kat continues to do very well.  People think that she has been our daughter for years vs days, which is a huge compliment and testimonial to how awesome Kat is.  She approaches everything with a complete zest and happiness.  I think her optimism will serve her well in the coming transition to American life.  In public when there are casual observers (aka the masses of people staring), she likes to make it clear that I am her mom and Matt is her dad.  She also will only generally speak English in those circumstances.  She likes to keep them guessing! 😉  On Tuesday, we celebrated Kat’s 14th birthday with some cake with the other families.  I still can not believe that this awesome girl came within 3 days of not having a family.  We are so blessed to call her our daughter.

Eve had a very tough first three days with us.  Her poor little heart was terrified.  It is so hard to see your child hurting and scared, and know that there is nothing you can do but give it time.  In fact, most of the time she didn’t even want to look at me let alone be consoled by me.  She really wanted Kat to mother her.  Since Kat herself is just getting use to being mothered, we tried very hard to curb this.  For the most part, it is working.  She is now letting me mother and help her, but she wants to be sure Kat is close by.  The last three days we have started to see her blossom.  She is scared less and less often, and the crying fits have gotten less often and do not last as long.  Progress feels good.  When we see her laugh and smile, it melts our hearts.  She is adorable. Unfortunately she hates the seat belts on airplanes.  The flight to Guangzhou was a small challenge for me.  I sure hope the flight home goes better…..much, much, much, much better.

Kat turns 14 in Zhengzhou!

Kat turns 14 in Zhengzhou!

A trip to the aquarium in Zhengzhou provided much needed laughs.

A trip to the aquarium in Zhengzhou provided much needed laughs.

Kat and Eve celebrating Kat's birthday.

Kat and Eve celebrating Kat’s birthday.

We finalized Eve

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

Four Days with Kat and the Eve of holding Eve

Published October 11, 2015 by megchristo

We have had a great few days with Kat in Beijing.  We arrived in Zhengzhou this afternoon.  The last couple of days in Beijing were action packed.

On Friday, we traveled a couple of hours to the northwest of Beijing to a small village to visit Kat’s foster family.  Kat lived with them for 8 years.  It was a very beautiful drive into the mountains.  We passed the three rings of the great wall on our drive.  Once we arrived to the village, the foster mother waved us into the right street from the highway.  The villagers were mostly farmers including Kat’s foster family.  They grew corn, millet, apples, and grapes.  When Kat introduced us to each other she said, “Mom, mom.”  It was sweet.  Her foster family lived very simply, and were very kind.  She actually had a foster grandma, grandpa, dad, and mom all living together.  They made us tea and offered us fruit that they had picked for us.  They offered to take us to lunch, but in Chinese culture the hosts pay.  We felt this would be too big of a burden, so we politely declined. After about an hour of chatting, we gave each other our good wishes and gratitude, and we headed back to Beijing.  I am so glad we had the opportunity to meet these wonderful people who are so important to Kat.  We have a great deal to thank them for. I am sure that much of Kat’s loving and out going personality comes from what they showed her and gave to her in the form of love and family.

Kat and her wonderful foster family.

Kat and her wonderful foster family.

This is a picture that the foster family had of Kat as a little girl.  They were not sure of the age.

This is a picture that the foster family had of Kat as a little girl. They were not sure of the age.

When we arrived back in Beijing we walked to the forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, and snack street.  This time I was brave enough to try fruit on a stick covered in sugar.  I just couldn’t go for any of the bugs, reptiles, or sea creatures.  One very funny moment was when I asked what the street vendors were hollering at me.  She looked at me strange and said, “Hello! Hello! Hello!”  I said, “Well, I guess it does make sense that they say that to the white girl.”  We all got a good laugh about that.

Matt and Kat at the Forbidden City.  Kat is a bit of a daddy's girl!

Matt and Kat at the Forbidden City. Kat is a bit of a daddy’s girl!

Enjoying sugar covered fruit on a stick on snack street.  Kat will love the Iowa State Fair!!

Enjoying sugar covered fruit on a stick on snack street. Kat will love the Iowa State Fair!!

On Saturday, we finalized Kat’s adoption.  We had go to the civil affairs office, notary office, and passport office.  While we were at the notary office we found out some very interesting information about Kat’s past in her abandonment certificate.  None of the information was a surprise to her.  She knows everything, and takes it all in stride.  She is unshakeable.  I just kept looking at her in shock.  She just would shrug, and ask me if I was ok.  I would just shake my head and say, “I just don’t understand.”  She would reassure me that it was all ok.  I feel like this information is Kat’s, and isn’t for me to share.  If someday she wishes to share it, that’s great.  I really just wanted to share the story to show how stoic and unflappable Kat is.  She really amazes me.  After all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed, we went to a late lunch.  During lunch I must have kept looking at Kat in awe.  Our guide asked if I was ok.  I said I was ok.  I once again feel like I am getting to enjoy this amazing daughter, and somehow I feel guilty for stealing this joy from someone else.  It is such a strange feeling that is very hard to explain.  We sure are enjoying her though.  She makes Matt and I laugh so much!  After lunch she asked if she could send a Barbie back to her best friend in the orphanage.  We said, “Of course!”  We went to pick out a Barbie for her friend.  Her friend is 12, and has dwarfism.  She should us pictures of her, and said, “Isn’t she so cute!”  We agreed that she was indeed.  She wrote a note to her friend sending her good wishes, and asking her to never forget her.  Kat is so thoughtful and loving.  Have I mentioned how amazing she is?!?!

Today we finally were able to meet some of the other families in our group.  I think all of them were as smitten with Kat as we are.  She helped translate for our group several times.  While we were in the lobby we had a Chinese man come up to us to talk.  He had lived in LA for 10 years, and just wanted to speak with Americans.  He asked where we lived.  We said Iowa.  He looked at Kat, and said, “I know you are Chinese.”  She said, “No!  I am from Iowa!”  Matt and I both looked at him and shook our heads yes.  We loved it!  We love how much she calls us mom and dad.  In public, she wants to make it clear that we are her mom and dad, so we hear it often.  It makes our hearts sing!

We received information on Eve this afternoon too.  It says that she is afraid of strangers and cries a lot.  We showed Kat the information, and she looked at me and shrugged.  She said, “She need you mom. I will be with dad.”  I smiled and said, “We will see.”  So on the eve before Eve, we enjoyed some laughs over Burger King.  We also are trying to mentally prepare ourselves for a very scared and crying 2 1/2 year old.  Please pray for peace in Eve’s heart, and for her to see the love in our hearts.  Ready or not here we come baby girl!!

Katina Marie WeiBo Christofferson

Published October 8, 2015 by megchristo

I know….I have only known Kat for less than 24 hours, but this young lady is remarkable!  She is breathtaking, funny, considerate, outgoing, sporty, and determined.  I was so nervous about meeting her.  I was worried she would hate us. Let me share with you a little about our first day together.

Matt and I left the hotel at 7:00 am to head to the orphanage.  Both of us were so nervous we could barely speak.  At breakfast we kept looking at each other.  Without saying a word we were saying simultaneously to one another, “What are we doing?  It will be fine!  Are we sure?  This will be great, right?!”  I am sure onlookers could pick up our anxiety.  It took about one and a half hours to get to the orphanage.  The day was beautiful.  The sky was clear and the sun was shining bright.  We felt this was a very good sign of things to come because the previous two days in Beijing were very hazy due to the pollution, and you could not see the sky or the sun.  As we were driving our guide said that today is a very lucky day….October 8th.  The number 8 is very lucky.  MJ and I agreed as we feel 8 children will be very lucky too!

Our guide had troubles finding the orphanage.  She said that there are very few adoptions out of this orphanage.  She said that the orphanage director said that they hadn’t had an adoption since 2011.  Once we arrived some very kind orphanage staff led us to a meeting room.  There were some older children in the courtyard when we arrived.  Our arrival created a lot of buzz and excitement.  We waited for about 10 minutes in the meeting room before they brought in Kat.  She bounced through the door saying, “Hello!”  I jumped off of the couch, and we both hugged each other for a good minute before we let go.  She then went over to give Matt a big hug!  All of these worries and fears I had were demolished in the first 2 minutes of knowing her.  We then spoke politely between us, the guide, Kat, and the orphanage staff and director.  We thanked each other for what we had done for Kat and what we will do for her.  We then took a few minutes to FaceTime the kids at home, so they could meet Kat.  They were all very excited and happy to meet their new “big sister”!  I think the orphanage staff enjoyed seeing our family too.  When we were leaving children shouted from their windows to Kat to stay in touch and to send pictures.  It was very adorable.

We then went to get our first official picture taken together and to sign paperwork.  Since Kat is 13, she had to sign paperwork like MJ and I agreeing to us as much as we were agreeing to her.  This was a first for us, and I rather enjoyed the moment.  When she finished signing, she looked up and said this was a lucky day!  Matt and I agreed!  How amazing that we all feel equally lucky and blessed!  Eight has always been my lucky number!  I was born on the 8th, we now will have 8 children, and we met Kat on the 8th!  Lucky indeed!  We asked her if she wanted us to call her her Chinese name or Kat.  She requested Kat, but she also requested that we shorten our last name.  LOL!  I said that I had been trying for that for years!  We all got a good laugh out of that one.

We then went to eat a nice Chinese lunch.  We had Peking Duck and other delicious food.  Kat seemed so happy.  She talked about wanting to be a doctor and a Chinese language teacher and a soldier.  You could see her future open up for her right there at lunch.  The endless list of opportunities and possibilities became real for her over Peking Duck, and she was embracing everything.  I loved seeing her mind race with ideas!  I just kept nodding my head yes, and saying, “Yes!  You can do that!”

After lunch we did a little shopping and went to see the famous snack street of Beijing.  I could really see her funny personality then.  She thought it was pretty hilarious that everyone kept staring at me.  She began mimicking them.  She’d look at me with big eyes, and act like she was going to run into a pole because she couldn’t stop looking at me.  I thought this was so funny! Most of the time we walked arm and arm, and we both had goofy, happy grins on our faces.  She also couldn’t get over how tall MJ and I are.  She was constantly worried MJ would hit his head.  She’d cover her head with her hands, look back at MJ and say, “Dad!” to caution him.  MJ would smile and say, “Thank you!” as he would duck a little.  On snack street she got some sort of a glazed fruit on a stick.  She had me try one.  I am not sure what exactly it is because the fruit was very tart.  On snack street we saw tarantulas, snakes, worms, bugs, sea horses, squids, and other interesting eats.  Kat wondered why I didn’t get anything….hummmmmmm….maybe tomorrow I will try snake…..or not!

Well, as you can see we are very smitten with Kat.  She really is amazing!  I can’t believe she came within days of never being able to have a family of her own.  She is a gem, and MJ and I are feeling very blessed to call her our daughter.  I can’t believe that once again fear almost got the better of us.  Now….we know there will be challenges as there is with any child, but she is amazing!  Her soul is so shiny!  She deserves all of the opportunities life can throw at her.  I can’t wait to continue to see her blossom in our family.  MJ and I can’t wait for the kids to meet her in person.  She will fit in beautifully!  They will absolutely love her as much as we already do!

Thank you all so much for the prayers!  We feel them, and hope you will keep them coming!

Dad, Kat, and Mom outside of the orphanage

Dad, Kat, and Mom outside of the orphanage

On the drive to sign paperwork, we decided to take a mother daughter selfie!

On the drive to sign paperwork, we decided to take a mother daughter selfie!

Signing her new name...Katina Marie WeiBo Christofferson! It will take some practice! :)

Signing her new name…Katina Marie WeiBo Christofferson! It will take some practice! 🙂

Snack Street was very interesting!

Snack Street was very interesting!