Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Schedule

Today was the first day where it felt like Robert could get back on the schedule that his foster mother so lovingly provided for him.  He really has been a little trooper considering that he doesn't understand the language, he misses his family, he misses the sights and smells and tastes that he is used to. And knowing that he loves to play outside, it's been so hard as the weather here has been terribly hot.

Rob and I are also figuring out how to be parents and teammates.  It feels a lot like on-the-job training.  We're figuring it out as we go.  It may not be pretty, and I may forget to pack a few things in the diaper bag and Rob may forget to put the remote control to the TV out of sight, but luckily we have lots of people praying for us and for Little Rob and that's the power that we're drawing off of right now.

I probably won't be posting as much now that we are home. Perhaps for his birthday and some milestones.  My time is so limited now and I need to use any bit of time I can steal during naps to clean, get back to a little Bible study time, and "speak" Rob's love language of quality time together.

The adoption experience has been hard. It has a lot of ups and downs, and downs, and downs.  We know that's what all parents experience, but of course, it's all worth it.  The past two years has led me to a dependence on God that I had never experienced before.  I had more times on my knees in prayer.  I had more real conversations with God than ever before.  And I got to experience God's love through the people he put in my life like never before. I may look like a frazzled mess right now, but inside I'm content knowing this was God's plan all along.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Finally Home

We are finally home after being awake for 36 straight hours. Taking two flights with a toddler is difficult, but add to that a little guy who misses his "umma" so much and you have a very stressful airport/ airplane situation.  It was, without a doubt, the most stressful day of my entire life. Since our flight didn't leave until 10:00 at night, we had a full day of activities before we even headed to the airport. We went, once again, to the indoor mall called the Coex, but this time we went to the aquarium-- along with hundreds of screaming toddlers and school groups.  Craziness.

We left for the airport at 6:00 pm, but Little Rob fell asleep in the van. We were worried he wouldn't sleep on the plane so we tried to keep him awake, but I've learned that when this guy wants to sleep, there's no stopping him. As I am writing this post, the gardener is outside of his window with a leaf blower and Robert hasn't stirred! Suffice it to say, our experience at the Incheon Airport was my worst nightmare. Two straight hours of screaming, tantrums, biting, scratching, throwing himself on the floor, ear-piercing screams, and a lot of dirty looks.  Luckily for us and for the passengers on the plane, our little trooper slept all 9 hours to Hawaii (plus an extra hour we sat on the plane while they kicked off a customer and then forgot to get his items from the overhead bin.)  Of course he woke up about 10 times and screamed at the top of his lungs for 2 minutes, but it could have been so much worse.

In Hawaii, we had to go through Immigration with our Resident Alien and it took forever. They actually told us they forgot about us because they were changing shifts. I seriously don't know how that was possible as we had a crazy toddler running up and down the place and trying to enter the booths. Nonetheless, we got through Immigration but still needed to check our bags back in. We only had 30 minutes until our flight was taking off, but we found out that our plane was delayed 3 hours. Oh, the torture continues. I texted my friend Melanie to ask for prayers, and that girl has a direct line to Jesus because we had a good airport experience and even got seats together with an empty middle seat between us. The people around us at the airport gave us smiles, and even the people on the flight congratulated us and gave us compassionate looks when Robert cried out for his umma.

So we got home at 3:30 am local time.  Our wonderful small group friends had a sign on our house for our arrival. So awesome. We all fell asleep around 4:30 am.  Home.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 5

Sorry I'm a little behind with the updates. Yesterday was both wonderful and difficult. Our time with the foster mother was heartbreaking. She loves him so much. She has been a foster mother to many babies over the years, and our son is her last. We were surprised to find out that there never was a foster brother or father. She actually has two older daughters and a sister who helped her.  Robert loved his sister and clung to her for a long time until he was ready to play with Rob. The foster mother told us over and over again how smart Robert is. Her nicknames for him were "genius" and "doctor." She said he is calm and reserved and very clean. He will eat anything, and he eats a lot!! She told me his schedule, and he really has stuck to it today. She said he loves to go outside, ride in cars, and go in the stroller. She made me 3 picture albums of him with cute captions. It was obvious he was well loved by many family members including her mother who is over 90 years old. She said he was the superstar of the neighborhood. We have found everything she told us to be true. We call him the little prince because he has a way of getting you to dote on him. (Yes, he even came with a fan so when he's hot, someone can fan him!)

Here are some things I've learned about him in the past two days:

He looooves to eat! He especially loves snacks. He fills his mouth up like a chipmunk.
He does not like to take baths. At.all.
He loves electronics and figures out how to use them quickly.  My iPad has a film of crackers all over it. He knows how to turn on an iPhone and then swipe it to get to the main screen.
He loves Rob.  Rob can make him laugh like no other.
When you take his picture, he does a one-finger peace sign, kind of like a number one sign, next to his mouth. He likes to see the picture after you've taken it.

That's all for now. We are all getting up from naps. We are going out to dinner and then we have a photo shoot with our photographer, Greg Samborski.  If you are coming to Korea for an adoption, you have got to let me tell you about him.  He's super awesome!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Family Day-- Tuesday, August 7

Here is a preview. I'll write more later.  He is sleeping in the hotel room right now.  :-)

Day 3

Today we had a tour provided by our agency.  Michael was our guide.  He's a 19 year old, originally from Korea, who lives in Seattle and will be starting school in Pasadena in August for automotive design. This was his first time as a guide for Holt. He was awesome!

First he took us to Gyeongbokgung Palace.  It was an interesting place, but it was so hard to enjoy it because it was SO HOT!  We stayed long enough to see the changing of the guard and then took a taxi to the markets at Insadong. Vickie and I did a little souvenir shopping.  Then Michael took us to a tea room where we enjoyed cold pomegranate tea and some kind of sweet made with red bean paste in rice cakes. We tried to do a little more shopping but it was just too hot. So we had sandwiches with Michael for lunch and then we took our lives into our hands once more by hailing a taxi to head back to the hotel for showers and naps.

Right now we are getting ready to go out to dinner. I've just gotten the diaper bag ready, along with all the gifts for the foster family, the doctors, nurses, and staff of Holt Korea.  We probably won't get much sleep tonight! :-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 2

Today started with egg and muffin sandwiches at Dunkin Donuts. We then ventured out on our own. We took a cab to the Coex Mall which is a giant indoor mall/conference center/food court/aquarium.  It has many shops with brands we are familiar with, and many shops with costume jewelry and trinkets. We bought charms for our Christmas stockings and some Pororo toys for Robert.

At lunch we went to TGIFridays and ate fajitas while watching the USA men's Olympic basketball. It felt like we were at home!

Seoul is a very safe city so we decided to walk to the Olympic Stadium.  Um, bad idea. It was at least 90 degrees and there really wasn't anything to see there so we just took a couple of pictures and hailed a cab!

After we freshened up back at the hotel, we had dinner in the hotel lobby and then we had a tour bus pick us up at the hotel for a tour of a market and N Seoul Tower. Unfortunately for Rob, the market was actually another indoor mall. I bought some wedding ducks (white ducks) to give Robert when he gets married. The N Seoul Tower was spectacular. It is the 3rd tallest tower in the world, with one of the fastest elevators in the world. The 360 degree views are amazing. Before we left, we put a lock on the railing for our family.


I finally figured out how to get pictures to load, but they may come out sideways! All of the directions on my iPad are in Korean!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 1

Well, we finally arrived in Seoul!  It's a little like "planes, trains, and automobiles!"  We were up for a full 24 hours, ate breakfast, lunch, and 3 dinners before finally sleeping. We had two nice surprises on the way to Seoul. The first was being served "anniversary cake" on the Korean Air flight.  I think my dad must have arranged for us to be served a treat because they put a special sticker on my seat and kept asking me when I wanted my cake. When they served it to me, they said, "Happy Anniversary!" So thank you, Dad and Jeri! The cheesecake was delicious!

The second surprise were the wonderful letters that our small group friends wrote for us to read on the plane. I pulled them out about 40 minutes before we landed in Seoul.  It was exactly what I needed--advice, encouragement, humor, love, support, and Scripture--written by those who have been through this journey with us from the beginning. We love you guys.

Seoul is amazing. It is so much bigger than I thought. We are staying at the Marriott Renaissance Seoul on the 16 th floor. Our plan for the day is to find food, look for things to do around the hotel, and tonight we are going on a night tour of Seoul Tower.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Family Day!

Our Family Day is scheduled for Tuesday, August 7 at 10:30 a.m.  So so so happy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Call!

Today we got the call we've been waiting for since May 2011!  Our agency called this morning and told us we could book a flight to Seoul any time this weekend!  I can't even describe the mix of emotions that I'm feeling right now.  Of course, I'm excited.  But I feel stress, nervousness, gratefulness, elation, and relief all at once and in waves throughout the day.  It took an hour, but I was able to get tickets for Rob, my mother-in-law Vickie, me, and Little Rob with just one stop each way.  We will be leaving this Friday and we will return on Thursday, August 9.

I will find out tomorrow whether we will be a family on Monday, August 6 or Tuesday, August 7.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Official....Almost!

This morning I called the U.S. Embassy in Washington, D.C. because I had heard that other families with our agency had just found out that their children were scheduled for the Visa Interview tomorrow.  I have already called the Embassy twice in the past 2 weeks, so I had low expectations, but still I was nervous.

When I called this time, I gave our case number and our son's name, but then I was asked for the petitioner's name (Rob), and after that I was asked who I was!  This was sounding very official!  I was then told that our son was scheduled for his Visa Interview tomorrow, July 17th!!!

I immediately called our agency, only to find out that the Holt Korea offices will be closed for 2 weeks so they can move to a new building.  There will be no travel calls until August!  I asked if we could have Little Rob escorted so that we could get him sooner, but they said that no babies will be escorted until August.

So we are hoping to get travel approval in July so we can book our flight and our hotel, but we know that we won't be able to have our Family Day until August.  Please pray for us to be PATIENT as we anticipate the phone call from our agency!  And please pray for a miracle that would allow us to travel in July!

Robert is ready to come home!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Surprise Update!

Today we were stunned to learn that our Emigration Permit (EP) was approved on July 3rd!! We were expecting to wait 4-5 weeks for approval, but instead it was approved in less than 2 weeks!  This is truly a miracle!

Our agency has said that the families will still have a 4-13 week wait for our Travel Call, but we feel like a weight has been lifted!  We could possibly be traveling to Seoul at the beginning of August!  Our son just needs a Travel Certificate and a Visa Interview and then he's ready to come home!!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Counting My Blessings

I once heard a statement at church that has resonated with me for over 10 years.  The pastor said, "There are no personal decisions."  What he meant was that when we make a decision to do something--it will have an effect on someone else.  I've thought about this a lot as Rob and I have been waiting for Little Rob.  Our decision to adopt has certainly had an effect on the three of us, but it has also affected our family and our friends as well.  And the incredible blessing has been how our adoption has brought out the BEST in the people we are closest to.

A gift from Grandpa Dave
Over the past 18 months, I have seen an outpouring of love, prayers, and generosity that just amazes me.  Friends and people we don't even know yet at our church have been faithfully praying for our son to come home!  The teachers and staff at my current school and at my former school have had toddler showers for me amidst the chaos and busyness of the school year.  Friends have allowed me to cry for joy and sadness on their shoulders (countless times).  Parents at my school have given me clothes and toys for Little Rob and have given me donations of clothes to take to Korea.  Other families going through the adoption process have offered suggestions and support through an online forum that I check daily!

And our families...I don't even know where to begin.  God has used each of our family members in powerful ways.  They have given us the emotional support and monetary support to make this adoption happen.  And they have given us the constant reassurance that they support us and will love Little Rob.

So today I am counting my blessings for you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's Happening While We Wait...

Many people ask me why it takes so long now that the Emigration Permit has been submitted.  I'll try to explain what I know as best as I can!

First, the Emigration Permit has to be approved.  This normally takes 4 weeks, but we are in such a large group of families that we have been told it could take 5 weeks.  The Korean government reviews all of the paperwork for each of the families and approves them all at once.

Each child also needs a Visa Physical.  This can be done during the 4-5 week wait for EP approval or after.  We feel very lucky that our son already had his Visa Physical--even before his Emigration Permit was submitted!  This seems like a very good sign that they are getting him ready to travel.

The next step after EP approval is to apply for a Travel Certificate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This could take 5-8 days.

After the Emigration Permit is approved, our agency also sends each child's packet of information, called the P3, to the U.S. Embassy.  This can take another 5-8 days for approval, and it leads to the final step of the process--the Visa Interview. For the Visa Interview, the foster mother must take the child to the U.S. Embassy in order for the child to be photographed and given a one-way visa to leave the country.  The Embassy only schedules a limited number of Visa Interviews each week.  I will be able to call to see if Robert's Visa Interview has been scheduled or has taken place.  Once I hear that it has been scheduled, I will know that the Travel Call is soon to follow!

And FINALLY, the Travel Call!  As soon as everything has been approved, our agency will call us with the date we will meet our son!  They only give about a week's notice, so we cannot book our flight or hotel until the last minute!

So, as you can see, we still have many prayer requests!  We know God's timing is perfect.  We know He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Visa Physical!!

Today we received more great news!  I got an e-mail from Holt letting us know that Robert has already gone in for his Visa Physical!  In the past, the Visa Physical came after the Emigration Permit (EP) had been approved.  But now the hospitals where the physicals are conducted allow them to be done before EP approval.  This doesn't make our approval come any quicker, but it just means that it's one less step needed once we are approved, and it can allow Robert to travel sooner!

In my next post, I'll try to explain all of the steps that need to happen before we travel.  Please pray for the Holt Korea staff as they manage all of the necessary paperwork and appointments.  Praise God that so many babies are coming home to their forever families!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Emigration Permit!

Today I decided to start a blog for our future travel photos.  I was enjoying spending time with my dear friend Melanie, who was helping me while she cared for her one month old twin girls.  While we were working on our blogs together, I wanted to play a song for her that I was hoping to add to my adoption video. As I got my phone to play the song for her, I saw that I had received an email from Holt, our adoption agency, with the subject "EP submitted today, June 20th!"

The EP is the Emigration or Exit Permit.  Each family must have an Emigration Permit submitted.  Then the families wait about 4 weeks for it to be approved.  And after it is approved, the families begin to receive travel calls.  Unlike other countries, the travel calls are staggered so that the families do not all travel to Korea at the same time.  We are hoping to be one of the first families to receive a travel call so that we will have plenty of time to spend with Robert before school starts in the fall.