Welcome to the Scharrer family's real life story! Most of our story is written for, and about, our four kids and the spice they add to our lives. It's our story of happiness, craziness, and sometimes ridiculousness. We've journaled through childbirth, the terrible two's, private school (and our public school experience), an autism diagnosis, medical school, residency, and long-term mission work in Africa.

Now we're following a new adventure, which involves a 45 foot motorcoach, homeschool, and as many ski slopes as we can go down in one year.

For posts from while we were living in Zimbabwe and updates about our future plans in Zimbabwe, please see our mission blog...


09 April 2017

Maida's Fourth Grade Musical

I have to admit that I was completely blown away by these fourth graders!  They did an amazing job on their musical and put on a wonderful performance.  I thought each of their characters fit their real life personalities perfectly and that they all were able to show their individual talents to their full potential.  We will always be thankful for Mrs. Sehloff and all she does for her students.  This musical was just one of the many great things she's done with these kids this year!

Maida started the play as a Babylonian and then she had a costume change into a lion!

07 April 2017

Klaasen's Kindergarten "Informance"

 Klaasen's kindergarten class did an "informance" this year.  It was a small, low-key, performance.  The teacher used the time to demonstrate to the parents what the kiddos have been working on all year in music.  It was so fun to see!  Klaasen was EXTREMELY nervous, but did a great job.  We were SO proud of this BIG boy!! 

06 April 2017

Autism Awareness

Klaasen and I, on our way up to the bigger city for his therapy, stopped at McDonalds for lunch. Since we were running a little early, I decided to let him play for a bit.  Klaasen took off his shoes, put them in the playland shoe shelves, and went up into the tunnel system.  Without his siblings along, Klaasen didn't really know what to do.  His first instinct was to hang upside down (something he has used to regulate his body since he was very young).  After a while of standing on his head, he bravely decided to try the slide.  When he got up to the slide platform, though, there was a little girl sitting in front of it who said, "You can't go down.  This is MY slide."  Klaasen, already completely out of his comfort zone and being absolutely clueless about reading body language, tried to just go around her to get down the slide, almost as if he had never heard her words (and he probably didn't).  The little girl screamed, "NO!" and pushed him backwards.  Still unaware of what was truly going on, Klaasen smiled at her and tried again to get into the slide.  She then pushed Klaasen backwards again and kicked him in the stomach.  As I jumped up and, "Klaasen, let me help you..." was coming out of my mouth, I watched him grab his stomach where she had kicked him, suddenly focus on her for a split second, and then punch her in the face.

The little girl's mother jumped from her chair, screamed, "GET OUT!  GET OUT!" as she pulled her three kids out one by one.  She yelled, "Get away from that HORRIBLE NAUGHTY boy.  Hurry, before he hurts you, dears.  Don't even look at him.  Don't even stop to put your shoes on because there's no telling what such a NAUGHTY kid will do.  I can't believe his mother would even bring him into a public place.  Hurry!  OUT!  Get away!"

I sat in disbelief, my heart shattered, as Klaasen covered his ears and rocked in a corner of the slide platform, squeaking like he does when he doesn't know what to do.  This was the first time I had ever had an encounter like this.  This was also the first time I had ever been proud of my child for punching someone in the face because [even though I would never ever encourage this, or tell Klaasen it was an okay choice], well, I believe she deserved it and so did her mother. 😜

April is Autism Awareness Month.  For some people it's a celebration of the uniqueness of their child on the spectrum and it's the blessing to be able to share their child in a special light with the world.  For others it's a reminder of the brutal reality of the difficulties and devastation a child a the spectrum can bring.  Some claim that there is no need for an "awareness" at all because autism is so common now days, but I completely disagree.

Klaasen wasn't diagnosed with autism until age 5 (which is really late, by the way) and part of that was because we weren't aware of the signs and symptoms of autism.  We thought autism was the non-verbal kid who obsessively flapped his hands, totally disconnected from the world.  Surprisingly, as we reached out in desperation periodically throughout his toddler years, the doctors and other professionals we connected with were not aware, either.  Without being aware, our child went un-diagnosed, and we went without help, for five long, brutal, painful years.  Even though we're slowly making progress down this autism road, I am convinced, and studies show, that earlier intervention is more beneficial.

Autism awareness month to me first starts with feeling alright about having a child on the spectrum.  It almost took six months for me to be okay with this and to admit it was true.  Second, I hope that by openly sharing our journey, we'll maybe be able to help someone become aware who may have a child on the spectrum, not yet diagnosed.  Autism awareness to me is also about connecting with other moms who "get it," who join me in my frustrations and heartbreak over things like the McDonald's mom, and who also understand the tone in which I secretly condone my child punching another in the face.

If you don't know Klaasen, you should. He is seriously amazing.  He is my hero and autism is his super power.  Even through our trials and even on the harderst of the hard days, I know this kid is going to do big things in life and I'm honestly so honored and proud to be his mother.

28 March 2017

Scharrer Family Vail Ski Vacation + Seven Tips for a Smooth-Sailing Ski Trip with Kids

We just got back from a family ski vacation in Vail.  On the way there, I told the kids that there were only two rules for our ski vacation.  One, there was no bed time, and two, you had to have fun.  As you can probably guess, those rules were followed with a lot of cheering and questions like, "What??  No BED TIME???!!!!  Woohoooooo!"
Erik and I have only ever had one goal in mind when it comes to our kids and skiing and that's that they enjoy it.  Through everything from just learning to ski, to ski competitions, the main goal is always, and only, to have fun.

All four of our kids were on skis by 18 months old and I realized very early on that taking kids skiing is not an easy task for the mother role.  At ski competitions, I often joke with the other moms about how easy a swim competition would be compared to getting our kids ready for a ski race.  Haha, it's all worth it, though, and most importantly, I think it's both valuable and amazing to have an activity that our entire family can enjoy doing together.

As I packed for our family to go to Vail, I made note of a few things (besides the normal snow pants, gloves, hats, mittens, helmets, goggles, ski boots, wool socks...) that are essential to our ski trips running smoothly.  So before I officially document our Vail ski trip, here is my list of the top seven tips for a smooth running ski trip with kids:

1.  Invest in some good merino wool and learn to layer.  Erik is OBSESSED with merino wool and I have to admit that I am, too.  It is a bit pricey, but it will keep you warm.  It dries quickly, so it keeps you dry (which keeps you warmer).  It doesn't hold odor, so you can actually wear it multiple days in a row, making it a great choice for long ski trips!  It's easy to wash, which is great for those middle of the hill potty accidents.  It's also not itchy or too thick and easy to layer with.  I've heard that Minnesotans are expert layer-ers and I have to believe it 's true!  Warmth is found in layers.  Warmer warmth is found in layers of merino wool.  :)  

2.  Spend the extra money to get waterproof mittens.  We have had our fair share of mittens and one of the best things you can do for your kids is get them waterproof mittens.  Not only will their hands stay dry, but they will then stay warmer.  Before fully investing in waterproof mittens, I was carrying 2-3 pairs of mittens per child to the ski hill each time and changing them out every time they got too wet.  Having waterproof mittens is worth every penny!

3.  Put on as many things as you can before heading to the hill.  I used to worry about the kids getting too hot and would only half-way dress them before heading out.  I have learned, though, that half-way dressing and then hauling all of the extra clothes to the hill is way more work than it is good.  And you get hot carrying all that extra stuff, anyway!  We put e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on our kids, including ski boots, helmets, and goggles, before heading to the hill.

4.  Bring snacks/lunch with you.  Buying food slope side is expensive!  Fill everyone's pockets with snacks before heading out and if you can carry a backpack, bring your lunch.

5.  Have one goal: to have fun.  Erik and I try to be really aware of what our kids are feeling on the hill.  If someone starts getting bored or tired, we switch things up, take a break, or split up into two groups for a while.  Each of our kids have developed their own unique interests on the hill.  Maida loves to go fast and straight down.  Skogen finds every jump on the mountain.  Klaasen takes his time and loves to pave his own trail.  Torsten rides on the side of the trees, always looking for a trail he can take through the woods.  Being flexible and patient, encouraging them to have fun, and allowing kids to explore is rewarding.  Even with all our different styles of skiing and varying abilities, our family enjoys skiing together.  With keeping things fun and enjoyable, everyone is happy on the slopes.

6.  Bring a boot and glove dryer.  I  thought Erik was so dumb when he hauled this on our first ski trip 12 years ago, but I have to admit that I couldn't have been more wrong.  Even waterproof mittens get wet (sweaty) and will need some drying before using them again.  Ski boots also need drying out each night.  With four kids, we run our boot dryer all night long until everyone's things have been dried out.

7.  Use a humidifier in the hotel room.  Another mom suggested this to me  this year and I will never leave home on a ski trip without one again.  Especially when travelling somewhere with high elevation, a humidifier helps your body stay hydrated over night.  It also helps with the dryness of the air, which eliminates the stuffy noses in the morning.  

To be honest, I could probably add a hundred more things to this list, but these seven are my favorite.  Now before another year passes I better "scrapbook" the Scharrer Family Vail Ski Vacation...

This ski trip was very different than any other ski trip we've been on.  There was no extended family along to help with the kids or teammates to hit the pool with.  It was just Erik, the kids, and me.  We had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be so amazingly wonderful!  Our main purpose in going to Vail was for Erik to attend a medical conference there.  He had conference from 7:00am to 10:00am every morning and then again from 4:00pm to 7:00pm each night.  These hours worked out perfectly for our family!  The kids were able to sleep in while he was at morning conference.  Then I'd get them ready to ski and we'd head to the mountain when Erik got back. Four to five hours of skiing a day for little legs is plenty.  We'd head back to the hotel in the afternoon, Erik would go back to conference, and I'd take the kids for the free s'mores provided by the hotel every day, and then to play in the pool.  We ate a late dinner every night and had a lot of fun with big dinners since we never spent money on lunch.

On day three, Erik took the big boys skiing while I took Maida and T shopping.  Skogen and Klaasen were so excited to go with Erik.  They hit every black diamond they could find, they dropped cliffs and skied the bowls on the back side of Vail.  Erik couldn't believe how hard it was for him to keep up with them!  While they skied, Maida got her touristy-type things she wanted.  We took Torsten for ice cream, too.  It was a much needed break from skiing for all three of us.

On day four, we all took the day off from skiing.  This was really hard for Erik to do, since it was a nice sunny day, but it was important for the kids to have a break and he had lots of surprises up his sleeve, too!  The first thing we did was find a playground!  Ski towns are full of fun things like parks, ice skating rinks, and other kids activities.  Next we rode the gondola up to the top and went to Vail's Adventure Park.  The older three got to ride snowmobiles!  They had never driven anything like that before in their lives, so it was fun to watch them!  After snowmobiling, we got coffee and hot chocolate at a little shack on top of a peak, and then we headed off to the Alpine Coaster.  We had originally decided that Torsten would be the only one to ride since he was too small for the snowmobiles, but when we got to the top, the guy working offered for our entire family to ride for free!

We got done with our activities a little early, so Erik was able to join us in the hot tub for a while before conference!

On day six of our trip, we decided to splurge and take the kids to do something none of us had ever done.  We took the kids dog sledding!  It was such an amazing experience and something we'll never forget!

After an early morning dog sledding trip, we skied Beaver Creek. All four of our kids went down the DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND Birds of Prey run.  This is the course that is used for the World Cup races and where several of our kids' favorite skiers race.  It was a tough hill, but so worth it!  People were clapping and cheering for Torsten as they passed by on the chairlift.  I'm not sure if many other four-year-olds even attempt it!

After skiing, we got some quick appetizers, and then went ice skating!  It's safe to say that the Scharrers are better skiers than skaters!

On day six, we skied Keystone open to close.  It was a long day, but Keystone had a lot for kids and such a great variety of terrain.

We left Keystone around 6pm, stopped in Denver for dinner, and we were on the road home by 9pm.  Erik and I switched off driving about every three hours and we made it home by 10am.  It was such an amazing vacation.  I honestly can't imagine it being any better.  I am so thankful for Erik and how hard he works - even while on vacation.  I could not have gotten up every morning at 6am, but he did it and never complained once.  I am thankful for Mayo Clinic for paying for our entire trip.  I am so happy that our family has an activity that we enjoy doing together and it's something that we can do together all over the world.  My little babies looked so cute in their goggle tan lines when they went back to school on Monday! I can't wait for many more Scharrer ski trips!!!

We write to taste life twice, once in the moment and in retrospection.”
~Anais Nin