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Cheese Curds and Kimchi-Our international adoption story



We live in Wisconsin, the land of cheese. Our baby will be born in South Korea. Follow along as we become parents through international adoption. Our blog is a candid conversation about the hopes, fears, and challenges we encounter along the way.



Last Build Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2018 11:56:01 +0000

 



Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Mon, 07 Dec 2015 17:19:00 +0000

(A catch-up post)November 2015 Dearest Little Brother,Well my sweets, you are three-years-old now. Or ‘bee’ as you say. Which of course, I adore.I wish you could have had the lovely birthday party with your cousin and Grandma and Papa as we had planned, but no, you poor dear. You spent your birthday sick. Again.Last year you had double pneumonia. You were so sick that I didn’t even bother to write you a letter. Instead we were frantically giving doses of medication, interspersed with doses of ibuprofen to the keep the fever down, and washing endless sheets. Because when you cough, you throw up.Every. Single. Time.Yes, I’m glad we all survived your two-year-old birthday illness. On to the three-year-old birthday plague which came in the form of the flu. Though we had dutifully taken you in for a flu shot just weeks before.This birthday brought you temps of 104.4, a visit to urgent care, and more chest x-rays. But hooray for all of us! Just a little puking.We have high hopes that for your 4th birthday we might actually be able to follow through on the party we plan!You’ve had such a year! We have delighted in watching your personality bloom as you grew more comfortable with us and our new surroundings.You are a really funny boy. Your antics keep us giggling and your little smile is irresistible. You are happy and easy going mostly, except when that dratted two-year-old ‘I want it now’ mode kicks in. Then, you are quick to throw whatever is in your hands. We've learned to get out of the way or quickly disarm you.But fortunately you are easily distracted and move on. You are a loyal little brother, which is befitting someone whose Korean name means ‘merciful friend.’ You love to follow Little Man around (which infuriates him) and attempt to copy everything he does. You adore him, though never miss an opportunity to antagonize him. And even when you are fighting like foes you will do a random act of kindness which melts the bad feelings away.Gracefulness is not one of your gifts. Somehow you end up bleeding one way or another from crashing into things, falling down the stairs or scratching yourself. But you are tough! Really, your pain threshold is amazing. Even when Daddy had to carry you bleeding from the playground to get your eyebrow glued together, you weren’t crying from pain---you were just angry that the play session was cut short. With your stocky build, low center of gravity, and high pain tolerance, we joke that you would be a football coach’s dream. Hate to tell you though…Mama isn’t going to let them get you!What you lack in grace and agility, you make up for in engineering skills. Your favorite thing is to construct, destruct, and reconstruct. Blocks, Legos, Magformers, Rokenbok, Hot Wheels, train sets….if it can be built you will build it. You will stay busy building for over an hour. Mommy really loves that!Some favorites of yours:Activity: Playing with the Hot Wheels track or building train tracks.Song: "All about that base" by Megan Trainor (Don't judge us, haha.)Color: BlueFoods: Strawberries, seaweed, rice, oatmealBook: Anything with Thomas the TrainWell sweet boy, you bring such light and joy into our lives. I know big things are in store for you this year. Just don't lose your sweetness and love of snuggling!Each day we thank your birth family. There aren’t enough words to tell them how we cherish you. We hope they are safe and at peace. Love you bunches---Mama [...]



2015 Korean and adoption Christmas ornaments round-up

Wed, 02 Dec 2015 23:02:00 +0000

(Grrr Blogger....apologies for all the crazy font variety in this post. It wasn't intentional and I can't figure out how to fix it!!)Another year flown by and I realize that I've been a totally lame blogger. I really miss writing. Miss sitting down and having time to think and reflect. It's good for me. Slows me down a bit.So a quick update on our past year. We are JUST starting to feel settled after our big move to Portland last September. New jobs for both of us. Temporary housing in an apartment with all our belongings stored until we could find a house. Another move (moving twice in a year is NOT recommended). Another school change for the boys. Little Man turned 5 and started kindergarten this year. Little Brother turned 3. And me...I'm started to breathe again. Starting to think about how I can try and fit in a little more time for myself, but many days it seems that we are barely holding this ship together. People say life will get busier and crazier as the boys get older. Sheesh...I can't imagine.Last year's holiday ornament post was popular, so I thought I'd try to do another. I think many of the links for last year's finds might be good still, so be sure to check them out.As always, Etsy totally rules for finding Korean ornaments. I'm totally loving this satin/fabric ornament from OrnamentDesigns on Etsy. Made to order for $25. Seller says it's created with Hanbok fabric purchased on a trip to South Korea in 2014.Craftmaker LifeStitchedTogether has these very cute (and inexpensive!) maps, though I'm not sure they would be done in time for the holidays. $13And check out these simple but sweet outlines of South Korea from WDShoppe for $11.50.One last find on Etsy worth thinking about---these cut wooden ornaments that feature South Korea from PalmettoEngraving. Laser cut from birch and can be custom engraved with names/dates. Super steal at $6.99!Be sure to check out Amazon. A simple "korean ornament" search led to this porcelain ornament.http://amzn.to/1lqd2pgAlso discovered on Amazon were these beautiful traditional norigae, typically worn to adorn hanboks, but I think they would look fantastic on the tree. These are not likely to be here in time for Christmas, but maybe next year? http://amzn.to/1XCWR48Cafe Press and Zazzle both have quite a selection of custom printed ornaments. I have no idea of the quality but you can even create your own designs. Here's a selection from Cafe Press.Mandy's Moon also has a great selection of ornaments and cards that reflect multicultural families, not just Korean adoption families. They have customizable options for skin tones on ornaments, cards, etc. At our house we really love creating our own decorations and keep them from year to year. This year we'll be doing a paper doll craft, based on this free pattern. http://www.education.com/worksheet/article/paper-dolls-world-asia-XII/The dolls also might look cute tucked into a clear class Christmas ornament with strips of Korean Hanji paper and glitter. Or something like that. [...]



Single motherhood in Korea, KUMFA holiday gift drive

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 18:30:00 +0000

Mission complete! We just filled Korean Unwed Mothers Families’ Association last requested donation for a single mother and her five-year-old daughter in Korea. I can't tell you how happy that makes me! This program advocates for the rights of unwed pregnant women and unwed mothers in Korea. It was started by single mothers themselves!

The majority of children placed for adoption from South Korea are from single mothers. Think back to the taboo of unwed childbirth back in the 1950s in the USA. There's that type of stigma (though I think it's much worse) that still exists in Korea today.

This is a complex topic to understand. It's so culturally ingrained in the society that it's really difficult for a woman to buck the system.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/f0SyJpn5Fp8" width="480">


Eat Your Kimchi posted this great video about the topic. One stat they had that blew my mind. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2007, out of 100 pregnancies by a single woman, 96 of them will have an abortion (though it is illegal there), and only 4 will give birth.

Of those four, three children will be placed for adoption due to social discrimination and financial difficulties.

One in 100 single mothers actually are able to keep their children! So heartbreaking.

Single mothers are ostracized, keep their status secret or they can be fired from their jobs, are alienated from friends and family, and there is no source of public funding available to help them. Children of a single mother are also treated sub-standardly.

There are some uncomfortable stats and information in the video about adoption.  I can't deny these make me squirm a lot. I have to acknowledge that adoption agencies do have a part to play in the messed up culture of unwed motherhood in Korea. Of course don't condone a practice of coercion by adoption agencies in getting these women to place their children, but the alternatives (abortion, for one) is heartbreaking too. More on that in another deep, philosophical post.

Anyhow, be sure to watch the video for more insights on single motherhood in Korea. And also check out this excellent post about KUMFA and their programs to support single mothers.

And if you are interested in donating too, here's the links:

For more about single mothers, read our previous post "Forever family and single mom's day in Korea".



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Sources for Korean Christmas Ornaments

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 21:24:00 +0000

Our 2014 family ornament from HERE.Christmas is right around the corner! I'm trying not to panic! I'm using too many exclamations!We aren't big-fuss holiday folks. Maybe that's because it's been just the two of us for most of our 20+ Christmas celebrations together. But I LOVE decorating the tree. We have boxes of ornaments, most of which were given to us as children. We ooh and ahh as the memories come back. Those ornaments are like tiny time capsules. The special ones from Iran given to The Man by his Aunt Shirley. The salt dough gingerbread man from my childhood who has survived for 40 years. The yellowed and frayed angel that my sister and I used to fight over every year.We hang those ornaments on our aluminum tree, and somehow, all the Christmas love of the past is magically brought to the present. It's one of my favorite traditions.Since the boys came home, we've been giving them ornaments each year too. We have some really fantastic ones that represent their Korean heritage, as well as a reminder of things they are interested at this specific age. Throughout the year we keep our eyes open for things that can be used as ornaments, writing the boys names and dates on them.This year's special ornament was ordered from Etsy seller Geraldandkellyhong. It's a beautiful porcelain design in a light green glaze. It reads "family" and commemorates Little Brother's homecoming this year.Another adoptive mama (Hi Yvonne!) was recently searching out sources for Korean-themed ornaments. They are hard to come by! So I thought I'd do a round-up of all the different adoption/Korean Christmas ornaments that I've been able to dig up.We haven't ordered from most of these retailers, so I cannot speak about quality. But if you try them out or have favorite retailers of your own, please comment!I LOVE these tag ornaments from EthiopiaDad. They are made from laser-cut wood and priced reasonably. He's taking pre-orders so if you like them, you should hop to it! There are also Korea-specific ornaments, but I really love this one. There's ornaments for plenty of other countries too such as China, Africa, and Guatemala.  http://www.ethiopiadad.com/collections/405960-korea-ornamentsBronner's Christmas Wonderland in Michigan carries this blown glass South Korean flag.http://www.bronners.com/product/korean-flag-glass-ornament.doEtsy has a great selection of hand-crafted decorations. Try a variety of searches such as 'hangul' or 'korea christmas', 'korean ornament', etc. I LOVE these porcelain ornaments made by seller geraldandkellyhong. This one says 'family'. https://www.etsy.com/listing/170789641/korean-family-ceramic-ornament?ref=related-0There's a waiting list for this adorable nativity scene made from Etsy seller mysakuraprincess.I'm guessing you won't have it for this holiday but maybe get your order in for next year? There are other selections such as the three wise men. https://www.etsy.com/listing/167812432/korean-nativity-set-hand-painted-6?utm_source=OpenGraph&utm_medium=ConnectedShop&utm_campaign=ShareSeller rusticcraftdesign has these wooden ornaments which say 'I love you' on the front and can be personalized with a name or date on the back. https://www.etsy.com/listing/120351718/korean-i-love-you-with-heart-rustic-wood?ref=sr_gallery_20&ga_search_query=korea+ornament&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=galleryThis little polyresin ornament features a girl in Hanbok. There is also a version with angel wings. http://www.afk.com/catalog/Detail.tpl?command=search&db=afkstore.db&eqSKUdata=ORN302W&cart=1415745177192566This ornament features a girl in Hanbok, made out of resin. Sold at Mandy's Moon.http://www.mandysmoon.com/store/korean-girl-christmas-ornamentThese miniature Korean drums aren't necessarily Christmas tree ornaments, but they would look great on our tree! http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Korea-Drum-crafts-macrobian-drum-4-h-p01622/919551590.htmlAdoptiongiftsonline.com has a few ornaments[...]



National Adoption Awareness month: it's complicated

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 05:59:00 +0000

Here we are, about smack in the middle of National Adoption Awareness month. If you are not in the adoption world, you might not be aware that it's also a time when there can be heated debates between different parties involved in adoption who use this time to air opposing perspectives.Before we were an adoptive family, I could not have dreamed there could be so many opinions on adoption. You either get adoption, or you don't, right?But as with any issue, there are a myriad of opinions about this subject. Adoption is....complicated. You have your "adoption is child abuse" folks. Countered by "adoption is the biggest miracle there is" people. There are those who have infertility issues who often had not previously considered adoption for their family. They are often at odds with preferential adopters who intentionally chose adoption.There are those that hate agencies and consider it a form of child trafficking. And others who uphold the works of agencies. Some absolutely decry interracial adoption, denouncing the practice that removes children from their birth country and culture. And others who feel that having a home is the most important factor, and if a home is not available in their country, why not another?And let's not forget the foster care (U.S.A.) vs. international adoption debate. All that, and we haven't even yet talked about adoption's specific players---first family, adoptee and adoptive family.Complicated, right? There is no one truth about adoption. Everyone's experience with it is uniquely their own, though it may mirror other's experiences at times.That's why it's so critical for anyone touched by adoption to hear a wide variety of viewpoints. Specifically, adoptive parents can gain great insight by listening to adoptees and their first family's experiences.Those opinions may not be comfortable for us. It would be much easier to just read things that affirm our personal beliefs about adoption. But it's vital for adoptive parents to understand that this adoption journey belongs to more than just us. Adoption is something we chose. For the adoptee, adoption is something that happened to them without their control. I don't believe they are victims, but they definitely bear the brunt of dealing with the choices that other people made for them.While adoption brought the joy of children to our lives, it also is born of a tragic heart-shattering loss of our children's first families. Adoptees process and accept that loss on a spectrum. And there is no right or wrong on that spectrum. All viewpoints are valid and important. Check out #flipthescript to get more viewpoints from adoptees who are taking a stand on National Adoption Awareness month, and making sure their voices are heard.Another important viewpoint is that of the first families. Regardless of the circumstances that led to our children's adoption, they ARE their first families. That connection will always live inside them and can we know our children fully if we do not know their first family? So, the stories and experiences of first families that we can read and explore can go a great way in helping us to help our children.OK. Soap box rant over.Here's some of my favorite reads so far this month:"Did you ever mind it?": On Race And Adoption: (The Toast)National Adoption Awareness Month: A Thought Experiment in Korea: (Rok 'n Roll Radio)Interview with Joy Lieberthal Rho, adopted from Korea at six years old: (KoreanAmericanStory.org) ---powerful moments starting at minute 11 of interview where she describes meeting her first mother and her viewpoints on being an adoptee.27 Breathtaking Photos of Adoptive Families Uniting: (HuffPost Parents)Abandoned: Heartbreaking pictures of parents leaving their children in China's notorious 'baby hatches': (South China Morning Post)'Gotcha Day' isn't a Cause for Celebration: (HuffPost Teen)AKA Dan: Korean Adoption Documentary: (YouTube)Adopted: (Now watch for free on YouTube!)On celebrating adoption and re[...]



Asian and multicultural dolls for kids

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 04:15:00 +0000

Hi all.

Just a quick note. I recently learned about this great company called Pattycake Doll Company, that specializes in dolls that aren't...mainstream.

You know, boy dolls. Asian dolls. Multicultural dolls.

I haven't purchased from this company so I can't vouch for the quality. But I know that hunting down dolls of color can be a challenge.  In our house we only have one doll set, the Plan Toy Doll House Asian Family(image) . I think it's important to have dolls that reflect a variety of faces and cultures, but our boys tend to prefer animals at this point.

Here's the link to Pattycake's Asian dolls page: http://www.pattycakedoll.com/asian_dolls

Have you ordered from Pattycake before?(image)



Big Brother is 4!

Sat, 11 Oct 2014 22:19:00 +0000

(Finally getting around to posting this....Little Man turned 4 in July!)Dear Little Man, The kids were all gathered around party table as I put the candles into the chocolate cupcake topped with purple frosting.One.Two.Three.As I prepared to light the candles, The Man says, "you ARE going to put one more on, right". Ack! I still couldn't get it into my brain. You are 4 now!Four years old!생일 축하합니다!  We filled the hallway with balloons again this year, so you would wake up and know it was your special day. We were going to put them in your bedroom this year instead of the hallway, but you've taken to getting up in the middle of the night and we didn't want to scare you if your room was filled with balloons.For breakfast, a big chocolate birthday doughnut. With sprinkles of course. You LOVE sprinkles.We had quite a few birthday celebrations for you. Our little family celebrated on your actual birthday. Then a small party at your school the next day. And then the big shindig over the weekend. A gymnastics party! It was lots of fun and you had a blast running with all your pals at one of your favorite places to play.Here's some things that you do and like at this age:Pink and purple still reign as the colors of choice.You love silky short soccer outfits. You want to wear them everyday, to bed and to school. We often have to wash the outfits at night so you can wear them days in a row.You are a very talented gymnast! We put you in classes six-months ago and you have been promoted three times already! You are now in a class with 5-6 year olds and you can do everything they can do easily. The teachers are very excited about your progress and the team coach says they are keeping an eye on you. I am partially thrilled by this, partially terrified. I know what a commitment competitive gymnastics is, and I also don't want to be one of those crazy gym moms who lives and dies by what skills their children can do. You absolutely love gymnastics and we are enjoying watching you explore this sport.You love snap hair clips. You like to wear them in your hair all the time. You found some pink and purple ones at Tar.get and begged us to get them for you. They are one of your favorite possessions.One of your front teeth has turned gray. This makes me so sad! We were playing in the living room and you crashed, slamming your teeth into the floor. Three weeks later, your tooth started to turn gray. :( The dentist says it's going to stay that way until you lose your baby teeth. You don't like the gray tooth and each night try to brush it away.You can ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels! We got the bike at the beginning of the summer. You were outgrowing your balance bike and were very ready for a new one. The pink one at the shop was too big for you. You settled for a cool black and red one and picked out a baby blue flugel horn to jazz it up.You are very shy in new situations, but have shown great improvement in being brave and doing things although you are nervous.Change is still difficult for you. We have to approach transitions during the day with lots of warning, as well as big things that are upcoming during the week. You are slowly (slowly) becoming more able to deal with these things. But usually change or transition results in tantrums.Speaking of tantrums, you are still in the tantrum phase. Massively.Your favorite holiday is Christmas, because you love Christmas lights. Your favorite TV show is Magic Schoolbus. Your favorite thing to wear is your Johnny Cash shirt and silky sports shorts. Your favorite drink is lemonade.Arts and crafts are your thing. And baking. You and I do these things together a lot! You ask to do artwork every day. You are very precise about how you do things. You have been very into printed tapes lately and spend a long time wrapping up construction paper with tape to make "packages".You know how to write your first and [...]



Things change

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:07:00 +0000

Hey there. Remember me?I'm the dimwit who wrote a season-ending giant cliffhanger a few months ago, saying things were going to change.And then I never returned. So let me catch you up.First there was this:And this:And then all of this.See? BIG!!The Cheesecurds are no longer in the Land of Cheese! We are now, hell, I have no idea what they call folks here. Doesn't matter though...we are still Cheesecurds. We just live in the City of Roses now. Portland, to be exact.You might be saying "holy hell, I can't believe they picked up and moved!" and that's my thoughts exactly as I drive around our new city. It was a decision a long time in the making, though when the gears starting turning it happened incredibly fast.The Man and I were both born and raised in the northwest. After marrying, we knew we wanted to settle down in the northwest as well, but not before we ventured out and explored other parts of the country. We lived five years in California, six years in northern Wisconsin, and nine years in southeast Wisconsin.We loved it there. Had a great house. Amazing friends. Good jobs. We lived in the best school district and a fantastic neighborhood. We were definitely setting deep roots but still felt unsettled because we couldn't say no to the idea of returning to the northwest once again. There was the weight of the "should we or shouldn't we" question hanging over every thing we did.The past few years we've had so many losses in our family and we were feeling the pull to return even harder. A great job opportunity coincidently opened up for The Man when we were visiting the northwest for my sister's memorial, so a few quick job interviews, and wham, next thing we knew we were moving!*******Though it was something we had talked about for years, we were completely unprepared to actually move. And, because I suck at change, The Man basically had to drag me kicking and screaming.I got focused on all the negatives of leaving Wisconsin. It meant giving up a career that I had dedicated myself to for the past 15 years for...no job in sight. The odds of both of us lining up jobs at the same time were close to none. We opted to go for the higher wage and follow The Man's job. But that meant walking away from a very good journalism job at a time when the number of journalism jobs have been falling faster than apples in October. This move could mean that I've walked away from journalism. I was heartsick.It also meant leaving a network of amazing friends. Seriously amazing. There are our besties---for 15 years we have hung out, grown our families together, and watched our children become friends. I know we'll stay friends for life, but it will be darned hard not to call them on Friday at 4:30 and say, want to meet at the park in 1/2 hour for a beer?And then we were lucky enough to make some new friends, brought together through adoption and parenting. You know how hard it is to find a couple where all four of you just click? We had that. (Sniff.)And not at the end of the list are countless people (GB! MLS!) that were an integral part of our lives and we miss every day!Of course, another huge concern was the boys. Little Brother was just settling in. Finally sleeping through the night (mostly) in his own room. He had only been home 4 months when we started packing up for the move. And Little Man handles change as well as I do. To say he was out of control would be putting it nicely.We all struggled.Into the fray came my mom. Poor thing. Two weeks before we moved she came out to help. (THANK YOU MOM!!)  I realized that there was no way we were going to be able to get out in time. The Man and I were completely exhausted. We had been packing between 8 p.m. (after boys went to bed) and midnight, and there was just no more juice in our tanks. My mom came in full of energy, and when she wasn't chasing our very busy, very emotional kids, s[...]



Nanny in the house

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:25:00 +0000

I never really saw us as nanny people. That very word seems so pretentious and conjures up images of an uptight, elderly fussbucket who caters to rich families and spoiled children.However, I'm changing my tune.After four months off of work, it was time for me to go back to the real world. But Little Brother was clingy and still a little scared. We were concerned (OK, mostly I was concerned but The Man went along with it) that it would be too much for Little Brother to go to the preschool that Little Man attends. Although there are two regular classroom teachers, many other teachers rotate through the class for break times, and the two teacher's schedules don't align, so he could have a different set of teachers each day.He's a sensitive kid and scared when just one of us leaves the house. So I figured that when both of us left, and he was in a strange place, it might just be too much for him.Our friends have had a nanny for a few years and rave about it. So we decided to go for the nanny option too. I haven't regretted it for a minute!We found our nanny through Care.com. She's a sweetheart! She's a college student and works with autistic kids. Patient, kind, and gentle. All the things our boy needed.Because we haven't been together very long, I was a bit freaked about leaving him with a single caretaker, fearing that he would attach to someone else. But he's a loyal little guy. And I don't think our attachment has waned in any way.His first few weeks with the nanny, I stayed close to home, occasionally running a few errands. I wanted to hear how she interacted with him and see how he responded to her. She did a great job of redirecting and occupying him. She handled his throwing and hitting well (though one week she did have a large scratch across her forehead).After the initial first few days I tried leaving the house for a few hours at a time and built up the duration over a week. He really struggled and very upset while I was gone. Boy, that was really tough to leave him. He would throw himself at the door as I walked out and screamed the same frantic way he did when he left his foster mother. Knife. To. The. Heart.Friends were super helpful with supportive phone calls at this time and making lunch dates. Thank goodness because all I wanted to do was go back home! He did get a little fearful of the nanny for about a week. As soon as she came in the morning, he'd run to us and start crying. He knew what was coming and he wasn't happy about it.It's been about 4 weeks now and he's doing really well. He no longer cries when she arrives, and though he cries a little when we leave, it's fairly mild and short-lived.He's just gotten to the point where he's started laughing with her and being silly. She would arrive in the morning and see him happily interacting with Little Man, but when we all left he grew very serious. He's finally started giggling with her and she loves it.When I come home, I hear his happy screams as I get out of my car. He runs to the door and climbs up on me, patting my chest furiously and babbling. He then turns to the nanny and waves good-bye, as if telling her "you can go now"! Such a great welcome home!Each morning she comes in and it's great to have an extra set of eyes and hands while we get ready in the morning. She will immediately change, dress, feed or occupy Little Brother, and keep the brothers from causing too much chaos as we try to get ready for work.Honestly, the most challenging thing I've found about having a nanny is keeping our house clean. I've become a total house nazi and keep a schedule of cleaning on the fridge. This isn't cleaning that the nanny is doing. It's the cleaning WE are doing because the nanny is there! Ridiculous, I know. What makes it even more ridiculous is many people have their nannies do the housecleaning while the babies are asleep[...]



Three years a family!

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:20:00 +0000

(image)
Starting our life together. 5/10/2011
(This is a catch-up post. Our family day with Little Man was May 10. I'm only a few months late which is pretty good for me lately!)

*****

Family. Before Little Man came that word only referred to The Man, myself, Gus the wonder dog and our kitties.

But now it's much more. Three years ago our definition of family was revolutionized when a quiet boy was placed in my arms, sitting stiffly in my lap during our taxi ride away from the adoption agency.

I think back to that baby---that stranger who I called my child. I remember how he behaved then, small indicators of his amazing personality that would soon be revealed to us.

How he clung to a bottle and shyly shared his first laugh with us. An open mouthed belly laugh.  It was the sweetest thing I have ever heard.

I remember the guarded look in his eyes. And how he didn't cry. How he kept his feelings bottled inside.

How he babbled and sang when alone in his crib.

And how he watched everything we did very carefully. And then tried to repeat on his own, getting frustrated when he couldn't get the exact same results. He'd try again and again, the absolute definition of determination.

He's still all these things. And of course, so much more. He's a child of extremes and intense emotion. Whatever he's feeling is all consuming for him, (and for those around him as well). He's incredibly physically gifted and one of the most agile children I've seen. He's smart. Sassy (which isn't always a plus). Courageous. Compassionate. Observant. A challenge. A mystery.

He is the leader on this great parenting adventure. Of course, we are the adults, but he is the leader. We follow him through it's twists and turns. Try to figure out how to help him stay on the path. He is forgiving of our mistakes and missteps.

From him we learn more about ourselves---how we react when pushed to our limits; how we need to find more self control; to realize that we really have no control at all; to figure out how to love something and let it go at the same time.

He's a tiny dynamo who inspires me to be a better person, shocks me with his joy for new things, and awes me with his ability to express his emotion completely. He's likely to be my life's greatest challenge and he's definitely my life's greatest adventure.

I can't believe it's only been three years together. And I'm thankful that we are family.(image)



Catching up

Sat, 05 Jul 2014 15:20:00 +0000

Wow.I have no idea where these past months have gone. Wait...yes I do. They've been spent changing diapers, fostering a sibling relationship, trying to carve out some time for me, finding a nanny, returning to work, struggling to stay ahead of the never-ending laundry. You get the drift.So, here we are, nearly four months post-placement and we are surviving! Sometimes I even think we are thriving! The boys get along (mostly). We are getting onto a solid schedule (usually). We took another trip back to Washington state to visit family. This time Little Brother did much better with the flights! Yay! He also seemed to handle staying away from home easier and understood that it was a temporary thing. We've completed two of our three post-placement visits with our social worker. And at the end of the month we'll have our court date to formally re-adopt Little Brother in the state of Wisconsin. We have to do that to get our state issued birth certificate. Sort of a pain considering he's already a U.S. citizen and legally ours. But that's the process for you.We received our Certificate of Citizenship. It's so nice having this step of the process completed automatically. It's one benefit of the recent changes in Korea regarding international adoptions. However, the downside (must there always be a downside??!!) is that the COC is in his Korean name and we'll have to resubmit to get it in his American name. More paperwork. More time. More money. Sigh.As for family life---Little Man has probably struggled the most through all this. He's had some potty training set backs. Expected, but still frustrating for us. He's pretty good about dealing with his new brother overall and is very forgiving when he gets hit or scratched (which is often). I'm so impressed with this! Little Man is an incredibly emotional kid so I figured he'd be completely out of control when these things happen. But he seems to take them relatively in stride.The biggest surprise with his was the change in his sleep patterns. He's always been a rock solid sleeper and slept through the night for years. Until now. I'm sleeping in Little Brother's room and Little Man has taken to getting up in the night and crawling in with Daddy. He's never slept with us before so this is a bit of a surprise, but we've allowed it with all the huge changes in the house.Ah...sleep. It's sorely missed. Little Brother is not as good of a sleeper. One night I started counting how many times he woke up crying, needing a change or wanting a bottle. I lost track after 17. To say I'm exhausted is an understatement. We've tried breaking some habits that were inhibiting his sleep but it's still a daily challenge.The lack of sleep wasn't a huge issue while I was off of work. But after four months, I finally returned. This week was my first back. Tough to be away from Little Man and I miss our daily routine. But sort of nice to be around people all day who can feed themselves and don't need diaper changes.We decided to use a nanny instead of sending Little Brother to preschool with Little Man. He's much more fearful than Little Man was and our hope was that staying in his home each day would ease his anxiety when we are gone. He also needs the consistency of caregivers and at preschool there are 3-4 teachers in the classroom each day. So...we hired a nanny. Which has it's own set of challenges. Mainly that we needed the house to be clean enough for someone else to come to it! We found a nice girl who is compassionate and gentle. Little Brother really struggles when we we leave each morning and throughout the day. I make sure I'm the first out of the house each day or else I'm a puddle of tears listening to Little Brother's wailing as I head out the door.There's another huge change ahead for us. I'll fill ya in more on that short[...]



We're all doing OK

Wed, 28 May 2014 03:04:00 +0000

Thanks to everyone who reached out in different ways after my last post. Your emails, messages and thoughts are greatly appreciated and helped during difficult moments. I know I am not the only one to have experienced losing a sibling and hope everyone who has been through it has as much support as I have had. I feel very thankful.In the few weeks since we've been home following my sister's memorial we've all been doing OK. We have our ups and downs, but over all, I have to say the boys have been amazing.Little Brother has really made big strides. While we were with family, he was fussy and sensitive. He'd cry when strangers entered the house. Wasn't sleeping well. And we had several hard-core grieving sessions, including one on the plane. (Be glad you weren't on that flight.)He wasn't his normal happy self but that was understandable since we were in a new place. I chalked it up to being tired from travel, in unfamiliar territory and being a toddler. A lot of the time though, he was playful and smiling, so I had no idea how strongly impacted he was by the trip. Until we returned home and walked into our house.His eyes lit up and he started jumping up and down in his daddy's arms. He couldn't quit smiling and ran from place to place. It really became obvious that he didn't think we would return. Ever. Totally heartbreaking to think that he was dealing with that fear during the trip. Now, he's back to his happy self and making we are seeing some signs that he's settling in.The biggest change is in his communication skills. He's started speaking more. Mostly it's Korean, but there are a few English words mixed in. I find this incredible because we use a lot of Korean words, but none of the Korean that we say to him are the words that he is speaking! We don't refer to ourselves in Korean because that's what he called his foster parents. We thought it would be confusing to him. We speak Korean for commands (don't throw, don't hit, go to sleep, take a bath, let's eat, etc.), objects & animals. Those kind of things.So it's a surprise that he started to refer to us as 엄마 (Omma) which means 'Mommy' and 아빠 (Appa) or "Daddy". He screams 엄마 (Omma) all the time. It's his go to word. He wakes up yelling it. He says it when he cries. He walks around babbling it. He also loves to say 마마 (mama) which means food.He's developing some strong communication skills by combining the few words he knows (usually Omma), and insistently pointing with his chubby pointer finger. When he wants something he will be persistent, and he lets you know if you are successful in giving him what he wants by enthusiastically clapping and laughing. If you choose the wrong thing, he swiftly turns his face away from you, or swipes his arms in a "get that away from me" gesture. His messages are very clear! This is a great thing for all of us. We are learning more about what he likes to do (he often runs to the radio/iPod player and points when he wants music), what he likes to drink and eat.He is spending more time very close to us. If I'm working on dinner or at the computer, he brings his toys to play at my feet. If he goes a distance away from one of us, he frequently turns back to make sure we are around. He wants to be held A LOT which is tough, but I try to comply as often as he wishes.When he gets hurt, he turns to us for comfort. THIS IS A BIG CHANGE!! He also wants comfort from us when he's been wronged (even if we are the ones who told him no) and when Little Man has taken his toys. He also brings things to us when he needs help or is frustrated. These are all very big signs that he knows we are dependable.Now that he's feeling more secure in our home, he's begun working on typical toddler developmental tasks. When he first came home [...]



For my 45th year

Thu, 22 May 2014 03:11:00 +0000


April 29

I turned 45.
Five more years until I'm 50.
Scary.
I'm now officially too old for the Korean adoption program. Thank goodness Little Brother made it home in time.
It was a nice day.
It was a normal day.

April 30

My mom calls.
My sister has died.
The world grinds to a halt.
The first day of my 45th year begins with a loss so cutting that I can't breathe.

*********
I can't really write about this now. It's all still too painful. When I think of my sister's death, I feel like I'm underwater in a murky tank, unable to figure out which way is up or down. She was 42. How is this possible?

Our past few weeks have been a swirl of family. Grief. Love.

We flew to the west coast where all of my family resides. The boys have been very moody. Little Brother is clingy and cries all the time. Perhaps they have tuned into my grief?

Little Brother has been home almost 8 weeks. The flight was a rehash of that awful trip home from Korea. Thank goodness it was only 3 hours long.

Home. Good to be together with my parents and baby sister. The days were long as we waited for test results. We wanted answers. We had long conversations that ended with silence and tears. We held hands.

We made plans to celebrate her life. Hard to celebrate a life ended too soon. We did it for her kids. And it was sort of healing for us too, I guess. It gave me something to focus on.

Back home now. Little Brother ecstatic to return. I think he thought we had left all this behind. That each plane trip means another loss. My heart breaks for him.

I forget for a minute or two. I get busy scrubbing the bathroom and then remember she's not here anymore. I can't wrap my head around this.

In the dark hours after the kids are asleep, I lie awake.

Where has time gone?

Did she know I loved her?

I miss her.

(image)



Little Brother: On your 1.5 birthday

Thu, 08 May 2014 19:47:00 +0000

Dearest Little Brother,Happy half-birthday! You are the ripe old age of 1.5 years old. And so much has already happened in your short life. Sometimes this makes me sad. But when I think about how much you've grown in the two months we've known you, I get happy again.That's a lot like you are. You are a happy guy. It's rare you don't wake up with a smile. You wake up in the morning and push your sweet face into mine. I open my eyes to your grin. I love that.You flop back down next to me and snuggle. I really love that.You like to make noises and sing-songs and have me sing them back to you. Your Daddy calls this your "call and response" time. We love that.When you are ready, you go to your bedroom door and pound on it. You get a huge smile when we leave the room and you toddle down the hall to the kitchen where The Man and Little Man are usually eating breakfast. When you came home just two months ago you were so used to being carried everywhere that you refused to walk. Now you are so fast that we have to hustle to keep up with you. We like that.You are a massive eater! You are retty spoiled when it comes to meal time though, and like to be fed. Which works for us because whenever we put food on your tray, you look at us and laugh. You then immediately throw the food across the room. We aren't so crazy about that.You are learning so much! You have figured out that launching toys over the baby gate to the basement results in interesting sounds as they hit the stairs on the way down. You also love to see how far you can throw any given toy and have deadly accurate aim. YOU love that. (The toys don't.)When entering a room you have three missions: pour out the dog water; pull all lamps off tables or tip them over; reach on top of the highest surface you can find and retrieve items placed there to be out of your reach. This results in Mommy and Daddy frantically yelling NOOOOO as they run toward you. You also love that.You can hold your own with Little Man, who thinks getting into your face is the appropriate way to communicate with a baby. He has been the recipient of many whacks to the face. This doesn't seem to be teaching him a lesson yet.Your big brother has taught you some useful skills though, like using sign language for 'more' when you are eating, how to brush your teeth, and how much fun wrestling with Daddy is. We all like that.You still grieve sometimes. You have a dynamite-fuse temper, which results in arms and legs swinging and throwing yourself to the ground. You think books taste good. You poop in the bathtub so often that we can only bathe you immediately after you've pooped. And even this strategy isn't enough to always avoid a brown floatie crisis. When we pick you up, you pat us ecstatically with both hands to let us know we made you happy. You are intrigued by the cats.Your first English word was 'uh oh'. You say it alot. Usually right after you do something you aren't supposed to.Your next words were 'doggy' and 'uh-mee'. The first is obvious. We finally figured out what the second one was.Mommy. Melt. I don't want time to pass too quickly. I don't want you to grow up too fast. But it's all spinning by at break-neck speed.I am looking forward to your next birthday though, because it will be the first we get to share with you. And that's a special thing.Love you bunches,Uh-mee [...]



Korean merchandise & online shopping

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 20:03:00 +0000

(Screen capture of hanboks for sale at http://english.11st.co.kr)It never fails. No matter how much I prepare for our trips, I come back and realize that I didn't buy something. Or couldn't find something. In this case, I don't have the traditional hat for either of the boy's hanbok. Which I'm not sure is really a huge deal since they stay on for all of 5-seconds. But still.So of course, with all the free time that I have (insert eye roll here) I have been obsessed with figuring out where to buy Korean items while outside of Korea. Let me tell you. It ain't easy. I've rounded up some sites for finding Korean goods and posted them to the handy dandy page (on the left side of the page) called....Korean Products & Cultural Products. Clever name, huh? Here's a few highlights from the list:Little Seouls: Toys, housewares, hanboks. Based in the U.S.Arts and Crafts Korea: Lots of really great items here, many that are handmade. Clothing, accessories, household items. Plus, they give adoptive families a lifetime 10% discount.Koreana Gifts And Art: Don't let the really horrible website deter you. Dig around and you'll find a lot of traditional dolls, knives, clothing and drums. They are based out of Los Angeles. Yes Asia: Toys, gifts, collectibles and K-Drama!! Lots here. Ships to U.S.HMart: The go-to place for Korean food items, but they also have plenty of household goods, kitchenware, and other items. Also lots of stores around the U.S. so see if there's one near you.Please go check it out, and definitely let us know if you've found any other places to shop from.And, if you didn't know, there's also a handy list of Korean themed items such as jewelry or dolls (but they aren't necessarily Korean-made or traditional) found on the Adoption Gift Ideas & Korea-related Products page. It's also located on the left side rail of this blog. There's quite a few great shops to find that special gift! [...]



What to say (or not to say) to an adoptive family

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:34:00 +0000

What do boob jobs and adoption have in common?

THIS AWESOME VIDEO. I love it. A lot.

Please watch. Repeat. Share.


allowfullscreen="" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/92651492" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">(image)



A few things to check out

Sat, 12 Apr 2014 19:58:00 +0000

I'd love to sit down and write out a nice long post. But the entire household is asleep (including the dog) and I'm savoring this little bit of quiet time!Wanted to share these adoption related things that I've run across. Thought some of you might find them interesting.Adoptionland: From Orphans to ActivistsThis Kindle e-book is available right now on Amazon for free. It's normally $9.99. I'm an Amazon Prime member so I'm not sure if it's free to everyone right now, or how long this will be available.Ever wondered what it’s like to be adopted? This anthology begins with personal accounts and then shifts to a bird’s eye view on adoption from domestic, intercountry and transracial adoptees who are now adoptee rights activists. Along with adopted people, this collection also includes the voices of mothers and a father from the Baby Scoop Era, a modern-day mother who almost lost her child to adoption, and ends with the experience of an adoption investigator from Against Child Trafficking. These stories are usually abandoned by the very industry that professes to work for the “best interest of children,” “child protection,” and for families. However, according to adopted people who were scattered across nations as children, these represent typical human rights issues that have been ignored for too long. For many years, adopted people have just dealt with such matters alone, not knowing that all of us—as a community—have a great deal in common. I read through a bit of it. It's likely going to be uncomfortable reading for many adoptive parents as many contributors to the book do not have a favorable view of adoption. However, I do believe their concerns are important to hear and understand, and in many cases completely valid.**** allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/70263925" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"> Finding Seoul - Trailer from John Sanvidge on Vimeo."Finding Seoul" was released recently. Prices are reduced this weekend, with a "rental" at $2.99, and purchase/download of the video for $7.99. Here's how the movie is described on the Finding Seoul website:Finding Seoul follows one individual as he attempts to find his birth parents. John Sanvidge was raised in upstate New York and brought up in an Irish and Italian household with his two siblings, who are also adopted. During his journey, he visits with his adoptive family to help them understand why he’s made the decision to look now and travels to Seoul, South Korea all in an attempt to reconnect with a world he doesn't understand.****We are loving these Korean-English books we found on Amazon! They have a ton of different varieties like sports, jobs, numbers, vegetables, etc. Super fun for us all to read and learn with!The quantities are limited right now, but they say they will restock soon.Here's a link to the search.****For Milwaukee area adoptive families, you might want to check out these classes at UW-Milwaukee this summer! Korean language and culture classes for 6-8th graders and 9-12th grade students.http://www4.uwm.edu/sce/course.cfm?id=28217Happy weekend!! [...]



What was missing: deciding to have two kids

Thu, 03 Apr 2014 18:45:00 +0000

Brothers. © Cheese Curds and KimchiWe picked up Little Man from school and loaded him into his car seat. Just an average Tuesday, with the exception that The Man was joining us for the pick-up.Little Man chatted about his day and munched on his snack. Little Brother was saying "mamamama" which means food in Korean. I watched as The Man adjusted his rear-view to see the boys in the backseat and I saw his eyes get a bit teary. He looked long and hard at the Dynamic Duo and then turned to me."This is the first time they've both been in the car," he smiled. "It's a strange feeling of completeness."***As most of you readers know, decisions don't come easily for The Man and I. We over think them. Belabor them. Turn them around  and around until we are turned around.Our decision to expand our family was no different. Before Little Man had come home we talked about having two children. After Little Man was home, we weren't sure about that at all. We loved having him and being a family, but the longer we waited, the more we questioned whether we were cut out to be a two-kid family. (Hell, there were days we wondered if we were cut out to be a one-kid family?!)We told ourselves all of the reasons that we shouldn't do it: Little Man was getting very self sufficient; he was finally potty trained; we dreaded going through the grieving process with another child; we are getting pretty old to be starting with a baby again (we are tired all the time already!!); we are finally comfortable with our family dynamics; Little Man is a LOT of kid....can we handle another? can we afford to raise two kids? and do we really want to be outnumbered??Then we countered with all of the reasons that we should: we want Little Man to know the joy (and sometimes strife) of having a sibling; we don't want him to be alone after we die; we want him to have a confidant, built-in friend (hopefully), and someone who has come to our family with the same background. Some of our fondest childhood memories are with our siblings. And when we picture ourselves five years down the road, we could see ourselves as a family of four. (Or five...but we won't go into that now...)I'm not saying that we didn't want a second child. We just weren't absolutely positive about it. It seems like semantics, but really, they are two very different things. I seem to run into a lot of people who are 100% sure they want another child. I wanted to be 100% sure too. I mean, it's a huge decision and you'd better know for sure that you are ready!Each time we returned to the "should we or shouldn't we?" question, I was hoping for some epiphany that would help me feel confident in our decision. But that AHA moment never came and instead, we spent months and months rehashing the same things.Finally, we just had to make a decision. I was getting close to aging out of the Korean adoption program, so it was now or never. We filed the paperwork, feeling about 65% sure that we wanted another child, and hoping we'd grow to feel 100% sure as the adoption progressed.*** Well, you know the rest of the story. Obviously we kept going, and obviously, we are completely thrilled to be parents again. As our time neared to bring Little Brother home, we absolutely could not wait to get him here. We were ready to be a family of four.Looking back now, I think we really wanted another child but our doubts and worries kept us from recognizing that. And now that he's here, I finally understand why we kept returning to the to the one-child-or-two debate.Something was missing from our lives. More specifically, someone was missing.And now he's not. He[...]



One week

Sat, 22 Mar 2014 02:45:00 +0000

Time passes when you are having fun. Or expanding your family. Take your pick.In our case, today marks one week since we arrived bleary-eyed from Seoul and started living life as a family of four. I can hardly believe how quickly everything is going by!In fact, it went so quickly that a week had passed before we managed to get the whole gang into a photo. We are adjusting well here. Dare I say, great? I'm not being pessimistic here, but still very much in the watch and see category. But really, things are good.Little Man continues to amaze us. He's a patient brother which is perhaps one of the biggest surprises for us because patience is not one of his strengths. We are so proud of him! After the initial first few days where he had a huge emotional let downs after being without us for a week, he started to return to his normal self. We've had an occasional freak out but no more than you'd expect from a regular three-year-old.Most of the time he's happy to share toys with his little brother, and he's starting to figure out that he can make Little Brother laugh by making funny noises or faces at him. He has told his classmates that Little Brother is from Korea and that he calls him "Boo Boo".The most challenging part for Little Man is having to share mommy and daddy time. He's a very attention-centric child (I guess most only children would be) and usually has an attentive two-person audience in all he does. Now, he's learning that mom and dad have to split their time and this isn't working well for him. One would think he'd hold that against the reason our time is split, his new brother, but amazingly, he doesn't. He is creative and finds lots of ways to regain our attention. Each day we are getting to know Little Brother better and better. He's a fairly mellow kid with an easy going temperment. And he's a snuggler. Yay for me!! Right now he's fairly comfortable with either of us, but seems to feel a little more secure with me. However, The Man is quickly gaining ground by being the silly guy, and Little Brother loves silliness. He has a short little cackle that bursts out when he is amused. It sounds exactly like a tiny terradactyl. I'm 99.9% positive this is how they sounded. He's starting to loosen up though and has let loose a few belly laughs. He finds sneezing incredibly funny.He also has a crazy amazing throwing arm. I'm sure you are thinking, yeah, right. The kid can throw. But seriously. This. Kid. Can. Throw. I'm fairly certain he has a future in baseball. Or will win a butt load of prizes at the carnival. He has incredible aim, and we are becoming masters in our ninja-like ability to block flying objects.He also has a smile that will melt your heart. Loves to say "yayayaya" over and over. Hums little tunes to himself when he's playing. Likes to follow his big brother around. And wakes up with a smile.Yep, things are going pretty well around here. [...]



Finally a family of four!

Mon, 17 Mar 2014 03:05:00 +0000

We are back! I thought I would be able to blog from Korea, but the Google Gods blocked me from logging in. Boo.

Now though, we are home and there's not a ton of time to catch up. I'll catch you up on our trip soon, but for now, know that we are settling in and things are going pretty well. Little Man is having a tough time sharing his mommy and daddy, but he's been a great big brother right from the start. He likes helping with diaper changes and feeding. And he is happy to show his brother the toys and give him kisses.

Melt.

Little Brother is a happy-go-lucky guy and seems to feel right at home. We are seeing more smiles each day and he loves following Little Man around. On Monday, we'll have been his parents for a whole week! It seems like so much longer than that, but there are small things that will remind me that we are still strangers.

Like when I'm cleaning his diaper and scrubbing like heck to get a stubborn piece of poop off his butt. And then I realize that it's a mole. :)

We are spoiled by having my folks here, which has made the getting-to-know-you phase a whole lot easier. They tend to Little Man, shop, clean, cook and remember to take the dog out! Parenting two children is going to be a lot tougher in about a week. I'd better live it up while I can.

We are concentrating on enjoying these first days together. And reminded constantly that life is a very sweet and special gift.(image)



Helping children learn Korean

Sun, 09 Mar 2014 12:00:00 +0000

We are plugging along on our Korean language here. I'm in my second semester of Korean at the local university. It was really easy to learn to read. And from there, super easy to memorize lots of words (animals, colors, things, etc.). But after that, putting together sentences....not so easy!

Little Man, however, is soaking up things at the rate of a dry sponge in a pool. I can't believe how fast he memorizes words. He's constantly asking me how to say things in Korean and keeping me on my toes!

Our recent Korea trip reaffirmed my belief that it's really important to help our children learn to speak Korean. Little Man's foster family was overjoyed that he was learning Korean, and people were delighted when he said please, thank you or good-bye in his native tongue. He has many more words than that, but he's a bit shy about talking to strangers.

I found this great blog where another family is working bringing more language into their home as well, and she had a great idea of using Korean words in familiar texts. Eric Carle books are among Little Man's favorites and this blogger has replaced words he knows with the Korean translations. Awesome!

Be sure to check it out and download the free .pdf to get started on your books!

http://keeperofthepark.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/korean-school-resources/(image)



Our Korean Adventure: Traveling in Korea, adoption and other random tidbits

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:00:00 +0000

The fourth and final installment catching you up on our first trip to Korea. Figured I'd better get all this in before we our off for our second trip.We had some awesome experiences that brought Korea nearer and dearer to our hearts. Our Korean school teacher here in Wisconsin had arranged for a dinner for us. SJ is from Seoul and she said a friend of hers would like to make dinner for us. It was sort of awkward for us because we weren't really sure we wanted to commit to spending time with complete strangers. But she really wanted to do this for us, and so we agreed. Mr. Kang's restaurant was really lovely. It specialized in fusion Japanese-Korean cuisine, mainly seafood. The seating and style is very traditional Korean with floor seating and ondol heating. He was waiting outside when we arrived by taxi and it was only about 5 minutes from our hotel. He gave us a very nice tour, but his English is very rough. We mostly communicated with one or two words and a lot of smiles. The restaurant was closed and he opened it up just for us!Then SJ's two sisters arrived to join us for the meal, and they had their teen daughters with them. Little Man was starting to feel some of the travel strain so he was a bit of a handful but really, the dinner was one of the highlights of our trip!The meal was about 5 courses (the food just kept coming!) and because we are vegetarian, he had two different meals---one for our family and food for the other families. One of the sisters spoke pretty good English, and our Korean teacher SJ was translating from Milwaukee via text. One thing we kept coming back to again and again is the extreme kindness of Koreans. I know we might be biased, but it's just so amazing to us how generous and kind they are. One example is in the subway---it's an amazing system and really easy to use, but our first time back to the subway we were studying the map and trying to remember how to get around. A man saw we looked confused as we were buying our trip ticket. He asked if he could help and consulted the map with us to figure out where we needed to go. He watched as we bought our tickets and then waved us to follow him through the gates and onto the subway. We thought, how nice, he's going the same direction we are.When we arrived at our stop (about 3 stops down) he popped up and waved at us to follow him out. I thought, wow, he was going the same direction we were! We followed him out of the turnstiles, he watched as we returned our subway card for a refund, and then he pointed to our exit. He waved good-bye and turned back to buy a new subway ticket before running back to the loading ramp. He went so far out of his way for strangers!!This happened again and again. When we might look lost or in need of help, someone came and offered it. We were so grateful.Finally, one of the best parts of this trip was meeting other adoptive families. There's something really powerful about being on a similar track together and it builds and instant camaraderie. One of the greatest joys for us was connecting with a family from California. Mama T. reached out to us via our blog and so happy she did! Our families have so much in common! The California family was also returning to Korea for their second child and their first child is Little Man's age. Through the weeks of preparing for travel we were tearing up the email lines, comparing lists of things we were bringing, what we were wearing and trying to figure out logistics like p[...]



The crazy ups and downs of adoption: we have a visa appointment in Korea!

Mon, 03 Mar 2014 13:00:00 +0000

Oh my gosh. There really aren't enough words to tell you how different this adoption process is from the first! The only words I can use to really describe it is ROLLER COASTER.This whole adoption has been filled with long waits, breathless anticipation, feeling like you aren't making progress at all, only to be catapulted forward and have things move so quickly you can hardly catch your breath.On Wednesday, our social worker emailed (?!) and told us the good news was that we had received preliminary approval from the courts in Korea on 2/7/14 and had officially entered the 14-day waiting period. Yay!She then followed it with the bad news---the courts had closed and were not processing final adoption decrees or hearing any new cases. The closure was for an unspecified amount of time but we were now on hold, likely not traveling until the middle or end of March.We were sick. We have spent the past two months living with the unsettling feeling that "any minute now" we'd find out about something--first waiting for our court appearance and now waiting for our return. It's been hard to settle and relax when all we could think about was when are we going?  And now, when it seemed that we'd be heading out the door any day, we find out that we still had weeks to wait.My parents had already begun the 5-day drive to reach Wisconsin. Based on estimates, we figured that our case would be closing on February 24. Of course, no guarantees, but because most families are only given 2-4 days notice before having to return to Korea, we opted to play it safe and have them here. The new timeline meant that they'd be hanging out in Milwaukee, able to enjoy all it's Polar Vortex gloriousness. I called my folks and told them not to hurry. I cried that night. Felt the lowest I've been throughout this whole 18-month process. I moped around and then slowly started trying to find the bright side of things. We'd have more time to prepare. Maybe Mom and I could sew some curtains for the boys room. I started making lists to help keep me busy for the next few weeks.And then, we received a huge reminder just how crazy this whole process is. On Thursday, The Man started calling and texting me. CALL ME!! Less than 24-hours after we were told we weren't traveling,  we received another email (really, isn't there a better way to notify us than email?!) telling us that we had a visa appointment in Korea and we needed to be there next week.WHAT?!! Seriously??Of course, the social worker didn't tell us exactly when our visa appointment date was or when we had to be there and we frantically tried calling her. After 30-minutes of busy signals, someone finally answered and told us that our social worker had sent the same email to 7 families and we were all calling. Duh. Not like we've been waiting months on end for this or anything.I reached out to other families who had court dates the same date as us. Two of them had received the same info on Wednesday, followed by the same shocking announcement on Thursday! One family has a March 6 visa appointment, and the other has a March 10 appointment.About 4 hours after the email, we had answers. As of February 26, we were officially Little Brother's parents! In addition, we have a March 11 visa appointment and so, need to be in Korea next week. We had a little more notice than some of the families, which is greatly appreciated. But it's definitely not the 2-week notice that our social worker had told us that "every one of[...]



Our Korean adventure, part III: the new process and court

Sun, 02 Mar 2014 02:56:00 +0000

As most of you know, the Korean adoption program has underwent a major overhaul since the passage of the new adoption law in 2012. There is virtually nothing about the program that is the same, other than the country.While we were in Korea for the first of our two trips for this adoption, I had some really interesting conversations with our Korean social worker about their opinions on the new rules. They feel that the new rules have hurt single mothers rather than help them. Now, all babies must be registered on the mother's birth registry until the time that they are adopted. At that point, the records will be stricken. The aim of this is to give adoptees more access to their birth records/family of origin.I asked whether she felt the passage of the law has led to more single women choosing to parent their children, (the intent of the backers of the law), and she said not really. She said there has been a decline in the number of children being placed. According to the social worker, more women are turning to "other" means---instead of adoption they are choosing to abandon their children or choosing abortion. I have also heard that because the new law requires that birth mothers cannot relinquish the babies until 7 days after birth, that some of the mothers have changed their mind during this time and decided to parent. Our social worker said yes, this has happened on occasion, but it is rare. So very sad.We looked at the Baby Reception area of the agency. The beds were very full and many of the children seemed older than when we had seen this area before. Typically, the babies only stay here until they are 5-months-old and then they are placed into foster families. But because the process is taking so much longer now, there are not as many foster families available.Another huge change for the program is the court process. With Little Man's adoption, we saw him once at his foster home and then took custody a few days later. We were technically his foster family here in the U.S. for the first 6-months we had him, and then we finalized in U.S. court where his name was legally changed and he became a citizen.With the process change, adoptive parents must have mandatory visits with the child and then go to court in Korea to get an adoption decree.The court process was intimidating and nerve-wracking. We just had no idea what to expect. Our agency didn't tell us a thing other than the date/time of our court date and that I had to wear a dress or skirt. We met at our Korean agency at the appointed time and three other families loaded into a van. We were handed a single sheet of paper for all the families to review with possible questions the judge would ask us. They ranged from what were our child-rearing philosophies, how we handled marital conflict, if we would give the child freedom of religion, and what pre-adoption class we found most beneficial. We were told to smile a lot and talk to the judge and not the translator.We arrived at court and our judge was running over a full hour ahead of schedule! We thought we had time to mentally prepare, but next thing we knew, they were calling in people from our group. We were last in the group of four, and each family was only in there about 5 minutes. They all walked out saying it was easy and more like a conversation than a hearing.Finally it was our turn. We had given Little Man a coloring book and bribed him with ice cream if he sat quietly during the heari[...]



Our Korean adventure, Part II: Toddler travel in Korea

Sat, 01 Mar 2014 02:33:00 +0000

Well, we were all kinds of concerned about bringing Little Man on this trip, but I can honestly say that we'd do it again! Some of the most powerful moments for us came from watching him experience Korea, a place we've read and talked about often. He was an incredible traveler and exceeded all our expectations which was a really happy discovery.We had talked a lot about the trip and what he would see at each step, and he had it all memorized. When we got on the plane he marched on, buckled his seat belt and never looked back. He only had a hard time about six hours into the flight when he was exhausted and couldn't fall asleep. The tears lasted about 30-seconds and he was done. Other than that, for both flights, he watched the televisions, played a little iPad, and we only opened about 2-3 of the activities I had planned for him in either direction.When we finally arrived Friday night in Korea we were totally wiped out. Another traveling family whom I had connected with through my Facebook adoption group were sweet enough to meet us at the bus stop when we came in, carried luggage and walked us to our hotel. No thinking required! Yay!Jet lag was a bit of an issue for us the first few days. We had a hotel with a kitchenette which was a lifesaver. Little Man was usually up about 3 a.m. Sometimes we could get him back to bed until 4:30 a.m., but a typical day had us up around 4 a.m. and making macaroni and cheese for breakfast. The bummer with this was that we spent a lot of hours hanging in our hotel room because nothing was open yet.We kept most of our days really light. Traveling with a toddler means you take things slow...painfully slow. We would head out in the morning, do or see something, return to the hotel for naptime, and then venture out again in the afternoon. I wish that we could have visited more cultural sites while there, but because of our schedules with Little Brother, that just didn't fit into our days.Our first day in Korea we stayed close to the hotel. We checked out the Buddhist temple Bongeunsa which was beautiful and so peaceful! Because of our difficult schedule, it was also one of the few places we went where Little Man would experience traditional architecture. After the afternoon nap we hit the aquarium at Coex, a giant mall one subway stop from our hotel.Sunday we ventured further from the hotel, heading about 45 minutes away to Seoul Tower and Namsan, which Little Man loved. It's wooded and beautiful but it was really foggy, so we couldn't see much. We walked about 30 minutes up to Namsan with Little Man in a backpack. After than, we splurged and took the cable car to the top. It was a fun ride but would have been amazing if it were a clear day.Seoul Tower has a tradition of people placing locks on the fences and other areas to proclaim everlasting love. This tradition seems to be a Korean thing as there are places near the North/South Korea border where people have done the same thing. In 2011 we put a lock for Little Man up, but an entire fence line of locks had been removed, including ours. Totally a bummer.This time we brought a brass lock, which The Man had engraved all of our names onto. We searched for a good place to put it where we hoped it wouldn't be removed. Who knows if it will last an eternity, but it was fun doing it.One thing many of our friends have asked us about was how the Korean people responded to Little Man. We often get double [...]