Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adjusting and the Reality of Coming Home

I think it is important to write a bit on the realities of adopting a 9-month old. I think everyone has this fairy tale image of a baby needing a home, a family wanting said baby, and a blissful unity. We think that the baby and family will be happily together and will have joy in bounds. The truth of the matter is, Luci already had a home. She already had a family with loving foster parents. She had routines, a secure environment, and everything she needed. True - this couldn't last because a pre-adoption foster home is temporary - an infant can't rationalize that. All she knows is that one day she has an Omma and Appa (mom and dad) that shower her with love and the next she's in a strange new home with strange new people speaking a strange new language and no Omma when she needs her. These little ones then go through a grieving process for that lost world and the loss of Omma. It is heartbreaking.

A friend of mine commented on this, relating it to his 24 years in the military. He said, "she'll have to break down for you to build her back up in your family". He's right. And so that's where we are right now. Luci will play and be cheerful while she's well rested, but when she's tired, she wants Omma.

The first night was the roughest. Her little body told her it was daytime and not time for sleep. She wailed and screamed as we walked the house, and it was obvious she was looking everywhere for Mrs. Kim. We tried laying on the bed (we now sleep in the floor of the living room) but that wouldn't work. Finally I told Heather we might as well be up since everyone was awake anyway. Bingo! It was playtime - out come the toys and out came the smiles and baby babble! Here's shot of that 2:00 AM bonding time that other families blog about (and we used to laught about).

Everybody got about 3 hours of fitfull sleep that first night. The next day, we were able to keep Luci awake most of the day with intermittent naps. It was sunny, and her mind told her to be awake but her body said sleep. It was kind of funny to see her fighting it while she played with us. Heather has learned to multitask with baby on her back, and Luci is quite content to let her work while she rides. The plan worked, and she actually stayed asleep for nearly 8 hours that night. She wakes up in a great mood - she'll play in between Heather and I for nearly an hour. She woke me up by kicking me in the throat (best kick to the throat I've ever had).

Yesterday was kind of tough. If we were having a bit of a honeymoon period, it is over. In between fun little play sessions, Luci gets pretty sad acting. She mopes and fusses. It hurts to see her hurting and not be able to do much about it. On the upside, she wants to stay attached to Heather - we hope this is a sign of attachment. I'll share a few pictures of happier times (as much for my own sake as for our blog followers) as we play with toys, eat strawberries and banannas (Cleo's favorite interaction - look in the background), and eat Grandpa Bill's blueberry muffins.

And that's about the size of it. She is adjusting, but the process doesn't happen overnight. She misses Mrs. Kim a ton, but seems to be at least a little comforted by us. She plays and cheers and 'walks' while holding on to furniture or our hands, but then gets sad again when something from her former home crosses her mind. She's our beautiful little angel and we pray that she feels our love and finds comfort and adjustment quickly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Long Journey Home

Well friends - we're back home. I'm backdating the next couple of updates so that you see them as they happened. There simply hasn't been time to do a blog update until today. We're a bit... preoccupied!

We received Luci on Monday morning, and a beautiful Monday morning in Seoul it was. Mrs. Kim dressed her impeccably, as usual. Poor Mrs. Kim - she really didn't want to let her go. We all cried and Luci just looked at us. Again, I can't stress enough how thankful Heather and I are for Mrs. Kim. She truly is a saint and our hero. I can't imagine how hard it is to pour your heart into these little ones and then let them go to their forever families. Here's a couple of shots of Heather waiting for Luci and the Eastern driver seeing us off at the airport.

Luci was such a trooper during our travel. This little angel has such a good temperament. We walked and played in the Seoul airport while awaiting our big flight. She rode on Daddy's shoulders and looked out windows and pulled his hair. We played in the seats at the gate and flirted with strangers.

Luci did amazing on the Korean Air flight from Seoul to Chicago. She mostly played and babbled in our laps - the plane was completely full and we couldn't get a bassinet or extra seat. She napped on our chests. At about hour 11 of 13 she got pretty exhausted and we were NOT the person she was looking for to comfort her. No amount of walking or baby-wearing would work. We express great thanks to a wonderful Korean lady that tied Luci to her back and walked her up and down the aisles while singing to her. When she got tired, a Korean grandmother took over. They kept coming back to comfort Heather and I (we were crying, too!) and telling Luci we were mommy and daddy. The rest of the trip went rather well. The layover in Chicago was relatively problem free, as was the flight from Chicago to Northwest Arkansas Regional. She slept in the carseat (YAY!) and fussed only a little when we reached our home and the welcoming party.

Below are a few shots of the welcoming committee. Luci eventually woke up enough that she played and babbled quite a bit for everyone - which was of course a huge hit.

I didn't have enough mental drive left to take many pictures - so these shots are blatantly stolen from Betsy and Grandma Marylin.

More on the first few days at home to come...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the Eve of Our Departure

Well friends... it is our last night here. Heather is upstairs packing for our departure and here I am in the computer room posting a few pictures from today.

We spent about half the day journeying around Seoul looking for an open flower market to buy fresh flowers to give to Mrs. Kim tomorrow. We made our way to Namdaemun Market again. Turns out that the flower stalls are the only part of Namdaemun closed on Sunday. We ended up finding flowers from a street vendor about 10 minutes from the guest house where we're staying. Go figure.

We spent the afternoon volunteering in Eastern's nursery. Changing poopy diapers and rocking fussy babies. I ended up with a little guy that was only 2 days old. He was born during our trip, which kind of drove home the kind of work that these fine folks are doing here. After that we had a final dinner at ChoonChunJip, and then we were off to the Insadong area for the festivities at the Lotus Lantern Festival. Tonight was the culminating event - a parade of lanterns. There was an estimated 100,000+ lanterns on the street from small handheld lanterns to giant, 2 0r 3 story, 100 ft. long dragon lanterns on wheels.

It seems strange to be leaving tomorrow. We've learned so much about Korea and through our immersion in Seoul, ourselves. We've adopted not only a beautiful little girl but also a colorful and amazing culture. We've made friends with other adoptive families and come to think of the folks here at Eastern as family too. We do look forward to bringing Luci home but at the same time the gravity of taking her from her motherland weighs heavy on us. All we can do is find ways to keep her connected to her Korean heritage as she grows up.

This brings me to our departure tomorrow. It won't be pretty, folks. We'll all cry like babies and Luci will be pretty confused by our actions. I cannot stress enough how grateful we are to Mrs. Kim for raising Luci so far. She is obviously very in love with this little girl and will miss her terribly. I can't fathom giving Luci up even after only knowing her in person for a week - she's giving up a little girl that she's given 8 months of love to. Please pray that she finds comfort in knowing how much Luci will be loved in America. We also ask that you pray for Luci on our trip - that she be comfortable with us and not be afraid.

That's all from Seoul, folks. See those of you in Arkansas soon, and the rest of you down the road...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Buddhas and Hymns at Insadong

Jason here blogging again...

Today we went back to the Insadong area to pass time until our departure on Monday. We started off at Bosingak Bell Tower. The tower was once used to sound the time, opening and closing of city gates, and to warn of fires. We didn't get to go inside as there was some sort of official event taking place. There were lots of older gentlmen that appeared to be retired military touring the tower. We headed down to the Insadong market area next for lunch at Gogung Bibimbap. We both had the dolsat bibimbap - mixed veggies, rice, egg, and chile sauce in a very hot stone bowl. It continues to cook as you eat it. Boy was this stuff good!

We bought Luci a wooden top made by some local merchants (after they showed me how to select a good one).

Next we headed around the bend to Jogyesa Temple. It was pretty amazing to behold. There were thousands of lanterns hanging overhead blocking out the gray skies with color. There were also hundreds of people there praying at the pagoda outside, hanging prayers on lanterns, and praying inside the temple itself. We wandered around outside taking pictures and then finally I got the courage to ask about taking photos of the Buddhas inside. The ladies tending an altar outside said it was OK - so inside I went. I was quite amazed that everyone inside, packed with bodies though it was, smiled and waved me along to some good spots for pictures. The inside of the temple was beyond beautiful.

After we left the temple, we went back up Insadong-gil for some dessert at a vendor and to buy a lotus lantern for Luci's room. There was a group of musicians playing Christian hymns on Korean instruments on the street. It was a neat sound. The rain moved in so we headed over to the National Museum of Korea. The museum was beyond huge and packed with all kinds of relics and art. The building itself was a wonder of stone and glass, but no photography was allowed so there are no pictures of it (though it didn't stop everyone else).

That's it for today. Off to bed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

3rd Visit!

Hey folks - Jason here blogging...

Today we had the most wonderful day. I have to admit, yesterday's visit with Luci left us pretty bummed. Sure, it was great to see her, but she wasn't in much of a mood to be social. She interacted a little with Heather but mostly acted like she was a little unhappy. We were more than a little depressed last night even though it is pretty easy to empathize with her and rationalize her moodiness towards us.

Today was different. It was fantastic. We started the day with a trip to Itaewon. The US military bases are nearby so Itaewon is fairly Americanized, or at least geared towards American citizens. We hadn't been off the subway 2 minutes and we were ready to get out of there. Funny how we've grown so accustomed to areas that don't see many foreigners. The touristy nature of this area really annoyed us. We were on a mission though. There's a guy outside the Hamilton hotel that paints cloth scrolls with decorative lettering and calligraphy. We got Luci a scroll with her Korean name - Da In - in Korean lettering. We also got her a stamp with "Luci" across the top and the Korean characters for her name on the bottom. Here's a shot of him painting her scroll.

As soon as we got the scroll in hand we got out of there and headed back to Korea. Our destination was Namdaemun market. We've been to 3 market districts so far. At each one, we think it can't get any crazier, but we always manage to find a wierder one. Namdaemun was beyond NUTS. It was a river of people and goods. If you can't find it there, it doesn't exist. I tried to get Heather to eat some fried bugs, but she didn't go for it. Wow.

After scoring a free lens cloth at a camera shop, we went back to Eastern to meet Luci for our 3rd visit. We were so relieved when we met her in the lobby and she quickly looked at us intently. We got to play with her for an hour in a playroom nearby. She was immediately engaged with us. She took no time at all to warm up to me (which absolutely melted my heart...). This girl is a wild one! She played on her side. She played on one foot. She played sitting down... standing up... on her head and one shoulder (seriously). She chattered and grunted. She outfarted me and it rattled the walls and windows. She crawled back and forth to each of us. It was amazing and beautiful and left us in tears with happiness. Here's a few photos of Luci eating my camera's lens cap and playing with us. There's also a video of her crawling to Heather.

And that's it for today. We revisited Choonchunjip for some more fiery dakgalbi (HEARTBURN!!!) and are off to the room to think about Luci.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

2nd Luci visit!

We got our 2nd visit with Luci today. She was a little bit leary of us this second go around...probably wondering why these strange people keep showing up to play. She would stare at us and play around us but not necessarily with us! Just look at that adorably beautiful face...

We received all our flight supplies and info...bottles, formula, diapers, etc...

The pre-flight update gave us information on what she is eating and how often. It also let us know what types of developmental things she is doing. She is crawling and taking assisted steps. (My guess is walking isn't too far off!) She is also "easily entertained when she is being held". We found out that she loves to be called by her nickname..."Yi-ppeun-yi" which translates 'pretty'. Every person we meet in the halls when we have Luci has been saying that phrase and now we know what it means. Start practicing everyone! It will get you a smile!

Best news of all...we get an extra visit with Luci tomorrow! We can't wait!!!

So what did we do with the other hours of our day??? Well, this morning we went to rock babies in the nursery here at Eastern. There are over 50 babies here under 2 months old. We learned that there is a shortage of foster mothers so babies are having to stay in the nursery longer. This is where Luci spent the first month of her life. We have no doubt that some family out there rocked her and we couldn't wait to go love on someone else's future son and daughter! I know we will be back a couple more times before we leave.

After our visit, we decided to go search out a toy market we had been told about...we found it and boy was it CRAZY!!! We thought of how nuts Dylan and Grace would have been if you turned them loose down this street! Talk about sensory overload! The picture below doesn't even begin to show the extent to this hysteria! We were definetely an oddity around there. When shopkeepers would ask which province we lived in, we always got the same response..."same as Bill Clinton???" Yes, he is popular over here!

Our final adventure of the day was when Jason decided to try some street vendor food and sucked me in too. I was hungry and it looked like chicken so I went for it. It was tasty!!! So then we got some more vendor food in the subway...this time it was a hot waffle concoction with butter and honey smeared on it. This was DELICIOUS!!!

Well, enough for tonight. Enjoy the pics! We hope to have some more of Luci tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Palaces and Insadong Marketplace

We didn't have a visit with Luci today, so to keep ourselves occupied, we went to a couple of palaces and did some shopping at Insadong marketplace.

First on our trip was Gyeongbokgung Palace. This amazing palace was built in 1395 and was the primary palace during the Joseon period. At one point, it was burned during a Japanese invasion but later rebuilt. We were absolutely blown away by the level of detail and ornamentation on the buildings. There is no such thing as a plain panel or undecorated piece of construction anywhere, and every bit of ornamentation was steeped in symbology related to the rule of the king.

As we were photographing the Hyangwonjeong (hexagonal pavilion in the middle of a lotus pond), a photographer signaled me to come look from where he was standing. My looking turned into 1.5 hours of coaching from him on the best angles, best lighting, best natural framing, and how to coax some pretty cool photos from our camera. I consider myself a hack at best when it comes to photography, so this was very much appreciated. I can't begin to describe how generous this man was in taking the time to help us. Furthermore, he spoke ZERO english. It just goes to show that there's no such thing as a language barrier when you take your time, are flexible, and patient. He also taught us that magpies are fun to feed and photograph, but apparently you must throw sticks at pigeons. Here's a photo of us with our coach.

Next we toured the Korean Folk Museum and then headed to Insadong for lunch and shopping. We followed the suggestion of the McFarrens, a fellow Dillon family that was just in Seoul, and searched out Sadong Myeonok restaurant. Also at their suggestion, we tried the mandu-guk (dumpling soup). These dumplings were absolutely huge! After a bowl of 3 dumplings in broth with other assorted goodies in for good measure, we were stuffed. Below is a shot of cooks making mandu (dumplings) and the meal itself.

After lunch and some shopping in the Insadong market, we went on an english (yay!) tour of Changdeokgung Palace. Our guide kept us giggling. She spoke very good english. It was apparent that we were on her last tour of the day as she was a bit smarmy, although good-natured. We had to laugh a bit when she bristled up at other tour guides and fended off questions that could have been a bit more thought out. The highlight of this palace was the secret garden area.

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the Kyobo book center and then headed back on the now-familiar subway system. We had a fantastic day and are now absolutely dead tired. Off to bed. Tomorrow we have lunch with Dr. Kim, president of Eastern Social Welfare Society. After that we have another visit with Luci!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Our First Meeting With Luci!

Today was the big day! We did a little paperwork for Luci's passport/visa and for USCIS, then we were off to meet our baby girl. Mr. and Mrs. Kim, Luci's foster parents, were so very nice and let us hold her right away. Luci was very curious about us and seemed really at ease. Here's a shot of Heather with sweet Luci for the first time.

She was not, however, an instant fan of daddy. She would let me be close and touch her but it took a little while for her to completely warm up. I'm pleased to report that she now has no issues with me and even likes to tug on the big red beard that probably freaked her out a little at first. And she likes anything shiny - watches, toy cars, jewelery. I'm toast.

Here she is enjoying a few choice toys. Mmmmm... Tasty!

And here's one final shot of Luci. What a beautiful little girl.

Mrs. Kim was so gracious and let us spend 2 hours with our baby girl. The initial visit was supposed to last only 1/2 hour or so. We even got to take her to our room when the Eastern staff needed the meeting room for another family. When our time was up once again, Mrs. Kim quickly handed Luci back to Heather and stuck a bottle in her mouth - we got to feed her and spend even more time with her. It made both of us feel so good that Luci's foster mom approved of us. We'll have another meeting Thursday afternoon. It's going to be a very long couple of days for us!
Well - we're off to find some lunch and explore the city. Hope everyone back home and wherever you are enjoyed the pictures and are keeping us in your prayers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Off to Get Our Girl...

Jason here, friends...

Heather asked me to do a quick update as she counts out vast amounts of Korean won (oh how I wish those were US dollars!).

It has been a real whirlwind around here. Our parents were here last night for a dinner at Hugo's and to pick up our pooch. Rest assured that while we're crammed into economy class for a cross-Pacific flight Cleo will be lounging and snoring in a leather La-Z-boy. Sorry dog...

I managed to get the yard mowed today before rain fell. Heather planted potatoes and carrots. Then she headed inside to finish a semester project while I replaced a few blueberry bushes that didn't make it through the winter. The carseat is in the SpeleoRover and for once, the thing is clean.

We leave XNA tomorrow morning at 7:45. We'll have a few hours to kill at Chicago/O'Hare before boarding the big plane and soaring to Seoul. We're in for some 19 or so hours of flying. We'll arrive in Seoul on Monday evening (14 hours ahead of central time) and will promptly be looking for our driver. At long last I get to be one of those people with a driver holding a sign with my name on it. My camera will be ready! We'll be driven to Eastern Social Welfare's headquarters and guesthouse where we'll crash for the night.

On Tuesday morning (Monday night here in the Ozarks) - we meet Luci's social worker briefly and then get to meet our baby in person! It will be a short meeting, but we'll treasure it for sure. We don't really know what other meetings with Luci are in store - all we know is that we'll recieve her permanently before boarding a jet to the US next Monday (Sunday in the Ozarks). In the mean time we'll be hitting the markets, tasting vendor foods on the streets (and avoiding dog soup - I just can't make myself try that one). We're hoping to visit a national park and do a bit of hiking later on in the week. Anything to keep busy and soak in the culture and scenery in between visits with Luci.

I hope this sprawling post helps you get an idea of what we'll be up to in the coming week. We're planning to update the blog and our facebook pages as we can, but don't count on it.

So long for now, friends - a storm is rolling in to water the blueberries and kill the power. See you on the other side of Seoul!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


We received the BEST news this morning! Luci is cleared to come home!!!!

I am still shaking but here is what I know now...
We will leave Fayetteville at 7:45 Sunday morning, go through Chicago and onto Seoul, arriving 4:10 Monday afternoon. We will be there all week and then leave Seoul to come back home on Monday, April 27 at noon. We will arrive home in Fayetteville at 4:55 that same afternoon (Monday).

I'll post as I know more. For now, I need to get to work and tie up all those loose ends! I'm excited beyond week I will be holding my daughter for the first time!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trying to keep busy...

I know you are wondering if we have any news...unfortunately, we don't. The wait is becoming excruciating! To keep ourselves from going completely insane, we have been keeping as busy as is humanly possible! We are ready for that travel call. All I need to do is throw in weather appropriate clothing for Jason and I, and close the suitcases. We have all our gifts bought and laid out on top of the gift bags they will go in with tissue paper already inside and sticky notes telling what goes in which bag and for whom. Our final gift consists of a photo album that I made for Luci's foster mother. I scrapbooked some pictures of us and our home so that could see who we are and where Luci will live. We went out Saturday and took the cover of Jason and I with Luci's picture. We will have to send her an update after Luci arrives...happy baby included!

In final preparations, I went to the bank today and got Korean won. Everyone at the bank was fascinated by it and wanted to see. They had never seen Korean currency before.

The nursery is finished too. It is soft blues and greens with Beatrix Potter artwork on the walls. Below is a picture...the view from the door.

We did receive word last week that someone from our agency would be making a trip to Korea this week and we could send a package for Luci. I called and offered to go in their place, but they didn't take me up on it so the package went instead. We should get an update when they get back with new pictures. Again, it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if we went before the pictures came back! I can look at them when I return!

So...that is our update...sad as it is...
Hope to post more jolly news soon! Stay tuned!!!