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

xoxo

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

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Iowa State University Kid Captians

Published November 15, 2015 by megchristo

What does it mean to have your children walk onto the football field at your alma mater holding hands with football captains to join in the coin toss….an experience you are all but certain they will not be able to replicate?  It means everything!  It means the world!  It nearly brings you to your knees it is so breathtakingly amazing!

When I first read that Blank Children’s Hospital was taking applications for the 2015 seasons ISU Kid Captians, I was excited. I admit.  I thought it was a long shot.  I knew that I couldn’t nominate just one of my sons with Down syndrome.  I had to send in one application for both.  I wasn’t sure if they had ever allowed two children to fill one spot, but I had to try.  In July, I received an email that started out, “Thank you for taking the time to nominate your children, Carsten and Bo, for the Kid Captain program…..It was very difficult decision to select only 6 Kid Captains.”  I nearly didn’t continue reading.  I thought that was the beginning of a rejection letter.  The next paragraph said, “We wanted to let you know that Carsten and Bo have been selected as Kid Captains!”  I nearly dropped the phone I was so excited!!!

When I told Carsten and Bo, they were so excited to “get to play football!”  Shortly there after we went for their photoshoot at the hospital.  It went surprisingly well, and it was starting to feel real.

Carsten and Bo sporting their ISU colors!

Carsten and Bo sporting their ISU colors!

Finally November 14th arrived!  The big day that we had been talking about for 4 months!  We were so worried about how the weather would be. I had prayed countless times for good weather.  Low and behold it was an absolutely perfect day!  Friends hosted the sweetest tailgate for our whole family.  Let me just add that invites for our WHOLE family do not come along often!

Tailgate

After the tailgate we headed into the stadium to watch the team warm up on the field, and meet with our host from ISU, Brendan.  During this time Carsten started to get stage fright.  I was saying prayers over and over and over for him to get the courage to walk out onto that field.  At one point I looked at Brendan and asked, “Have you ever had a Kid Captain not walk out there?”  He looked at me very confident in the situation and said, “No. They all do it.”  No pressure….they all do it….Carsten…buddy…you can do this!  Please!!!!  Shortly after that Bo decided that Brendan should hold him.  Here’s a picture that shows Carsten’s fear, and Bo being Bo.

Waiting for the band

Holding the boys

I then handed Carsten off to MJ for a pep talk.  He just kept saying, “I am so scared!”  I was again holding Bo. I looked at Bo, and asked him, “You ready buddy!”  He shook his head and said, “Yay, mama!”  My brave, sweet, tiny boy is ready.

Bo and Mom at ISU

Then the football players came out, and walked over to us.  Bo went over to them immediately.  Carsten saw what was going on with Bo, and not be out done…he got down and went over to join the fun.  They were so sweet to the boys!  Levi Peters and Alan Lazard leaned down to talk with them.  Then Coach Rhoads came over to meet them, and thank them for being apart of the team.  It all was so surreal and amazing.  It went sooooooo fast.

Al Lazard and the boys Coach Rhoads, Levi Peters and the boys

Then they grabbed hands with the ISU captains, and headed out to the middle of the field.  It was at that moment….at that very moment….complete and utter happiness and pride nearly brought me to my knees.  The feelings and memories crashed over me.  I thought a million thoughts in one moment.  I remember being in the hospital after Carsten was born.  MJ and I having tearful talks about what Carsten’s life would look like.  I remember a crying MJ saying, “He’ll never play football,” as we were coming to grips with what our life and Carsten’s life would look like.  For an ex high school football coach, this fact and others like it were emotionally crushing just hours after what is meant to be one of the happiest moments of your life.  Yet here we were proud parents standing on the sidelines watching Carsten proudly and bravely walk up the fifty yard line at Cyclone Stadium.  In those first moments and even months after his birth, we had no idea what an amazing life he would live.  Now we accept that we don’t know, and just enjoy being along for the ride…beaming from the sidelines as he marches away from us.

Walking on the field at ISU Levi Peters Pep Talk

I also remembered having long conversations with MJ about feeling led to adopt Bo. Knowing that half a world away we had another son with Down syndrome waiting for his mom and dad to conquer their fears, and bring him home where he belongs.  Just 16 months previously he was sitting in an orphanage with the bleakest life and future imaginable.  Now he was walking onto the field in front of 8,000 cheering fans.  Even the Cowboy fans from OSU loved that Bo wants to grow up to be a cowboy.  🙂  You know we aim to please in this house.  Actually I feel I need to clarify.  He wants to be a cowboy like Woody from Toy Story.  However, if OSU is offering a free ride, I think he would love to be an OSU cowboy too. 😉

Carsten and Bo as Kid captains for ISU! Boys at the coin toss

And there we were in this moment.  This unbelievable moment where two brothers with Down syndrome walked onto the field  holding hands with the Iowa State University football captains.  It wasn’t a separate game or different event for people with special needs or “special” place for people with disabilities to shine.  It was at the ISU vs OSU football game on November 14 in Jack Trice stadium.  It was the very definition of inclusion and awesome!  I urge all of you to please share this story.  If your university teams don’t do something like this, please encourage them to start.  Let’s inspire even professional teams to start doing this if they are not.  I can tell you from the bottom of my heart and my boys’ hearts it is events like this that makes us feel “normal.”  It makes us feel wanted and included.  Now this….this right here….is what makes Carsten and Bo feel special.  Being apart of the game they so love and admire.  Even if it is for just a few brief shining moments.  These are the moments that will live forever in our memories and our hearts.  These are the moments that we will never forget, and never be able to repay.  Thank you Blank Children’s Hospital and Iowa State University for making two little boys’ dreams come true!

high five good job And it's over

Forever Grateful and Proud to be One,

Megan Christofferson

Mother of Carsten and Bo…and Kat, Gabe, Elle, Griffin, Mae, and Eve

family on the sidelines family on side lines watching

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!