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Friday, February 29, 2008

One last post from Seoul

I wanted to post one more time from Korea in case anyone is still reading after we wrenched your hearts out with the last video. LOL

SaRang slept from 8:30 last night to 4:30 this morning, napped again from 6:00-7:00, and again 10:30-12:00. I think we have worn her out!

We did decide to make a trip to Dunkin' Donuts this morning. SaRang clearly likes to be outside and to walk. In fact, she walked the entire way there (and it took us 20 minutes to walk yesterday so that's a long way for little legs). We decided to take the subway back because it was so cold (and we were getting lots of looks and stares from the Koreans), but we got off the wrong stop and ended up walking at least as much if not more than the way to Dunkin' Donuts.

After SaRang woke up at noon we sat outside in the hallway with the American couple and their 9 month old baby boy. It was nice to have some adult conversation and to talk about our experiences here. We fed SaRang lunch, and she seems to have turned a corner. She spontaneously gave me two hugs and is currently playing on her own with a toothbrush. This is the first time she has played at all, and she is walking around laughing.

We're taking a taxi to a local nearby hotel, and then a bus to the airport from there. I'm definitely nervous about the trip home, but I'm trying to stay positive.

Two last things. She is definitely my daughter. She wants her hands washed after every bite, and they didn't call her strong-willed in her reports for nothing.


Getting SaRang Video


This is Brian again. It is 3:55 a.m. in South Korea. I've been up since about 2:30 a.m. SaRang is sleeping well. I couldn't sleep knowing I had this video to get done for all of you back in the States. So the only music that seems to fit the videos so far are Steven Curtis Chapman songs. If you needed a box of tissues for any of the other videos, then you might want to go get a roll of paper towels for this one. I've watched it over and over, and I'm crying even as I type about it. What an emotional moment this was/is in our lives!


SaRang is ours

This afternoon was so hard. We were both so nervous, and, of course, there is no way to describe the magnitude and emotion of those few final moments with Mrs. Park and SaRang. I felt like time was whizzing by as Ms. Lee, the social worker, went through last minute papers, went through all the things that Mrs. Park had brought for SaRang, asked us if we wanted to sign up for the newsletter, etc. We quickly took a few pictures, and then Ms. Lee told us that we would say goodbye to Mrs. Park at the elevator.

The director of intercountry adoption walked with us and then Mrs. Park bent down to speak to SaRang. She was already crying pretty hard at this point, but she soon pointed into the elevator and told SaRang to go. She shook her head no and so Mrs. Park picked her up and set her in the elevator. At this point, SaRang is crying. I picked her up and tried to soothe her, but she did not want me. The director of intercountry adoption was trying to console Mrs. Park while Ms. Lee was on the elevator with us trying to soothe SaRang. Mrs. Park reached her hand out to SaRang to touch her one last time and then the elevator doors closed. SaRang cried until we got outside and then perked up. Ms. Lee walked us out and continued to speak to SaRang and I am sure that helped.

She did really well during the short walk back to the guesthouse, but began to seem more scared as we walked down the hallway into the room. She soon looked at me and just started screaming. You can tell that she is so aware that something is not right. We quickly turned on the Korean CD that Mrs. Park had sent, and she really likes it, but was glued to me. We tried to play with her with a little success, but not much. We also brought out the blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, and towel that were her favorites, and we laid down on the floor. She is currently still sleeping on the blanket and has been for the last 30 minutes or so. I know that when she wakes up, it will be hard. Please pray that we'll know the right things to do for her.


The "Before" picture - while we were filling
out paperwork and she was next to Mrs. Park.



The "After" picture - right after we returned to the room.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Countdown: 1.5 hours to go

1. I'm a basketcase. Apparently all the emotions have waited until now to come rushing out.
2. I'm having the worst hair day of my life on one of the most important days of my life.
3. I do not recommend watching this video of Losiah coming home if you're already emotional. (this is the video that convinced us to travel.) It did not help me to stop crying.
4. Brian left over an hour ago to look for some lunch and some flowers to give Mrs. Park. He's still not back.
5. I think we just might be really ready to come home. Well, after 2:00 today, of course.

New Video

Don't get too excited - there's no Rory on this video! Just more of life in Seoul.

Thursday's events

We woke up Thursday morning at 4:45 a.m. wide awake. It was a strange night. Actually, they've all been strange. I can't seem to keep my eyes open past 8:30, and I'll sleep like the dead but wake up ready to go at midnight. I take a sleeping pill, go back to bed and then wake up again about 4:00 a.m. Brian has had a similar schedule, although he's somehow been able to stay up later than me. It's actually a bit strange since when we're at home, Brian can barely make it past 8:00!

So, anyway, we woke up and were at the computer reading all the blog posts from those who had seen Rory's pictures and videos. We loved reading all your comments! We really look forward to the emails. While we're having alot of fun here, it's hard not to be able to share such a huge event in person with our friends and family. I don't know what we would have done if I couldn't blog and share pictures! We walked to the corner market about 5:30 a.m. to buy a calling card and called my mom. It was so good to talk to her! We were also able to talk to Camden and Brian's parents for a little while. They say that he is pretty fascinated with the videos. Talking to him made us really miss him, but he sounds as if he is having a great time. We debated long and hard about bringing him with us this trip, and I really think we made the right decision by not bringing him. It is way too crazy here; we're way too tired; and we'd prefer to bring both of them back when they're a bit older.

We hit Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast about 10:00, and then took the subway. Several different lines and 40 minutes later we arrived at Itaewon, another shopping market. This one was much more westernized, and the sales people were very aggressive. We did not enjoy it nearly as much as Insadong, although we bought several items. (Melissa, we got your necklace and the name scroll. Terrah, you've got a name scroll as well.) We were looking for a very specific artist to draw our name scrolls, and he was not in the area we thought he would be. After wandering the streets, I looked up and there he was! I was so glad that we had seen pictures of him before. We got small name scrolls for Camden and Rory with their Korean names (Shin, SaRang and Kim, Min Shik - for those of you who don't know their Korean identity LOL). We also got a large name scroll with "Our Chosen Family"in hangul. We plan to have it matted and framed for the living room. We also got name scrolls for two of our friends who had requested them. We ate lunch at a Paris Baguette. (Becky and Micah, it really did remind us of a French bakery.) It was absolutely delicious! We were able to sit at the bar that looked out onto the street and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the people. We also had a great view of the Coldstone Creamery. Yes, there is a Coldstone Creamery in Seoul!

After several hours of walking the streets, our feet and legs were killing us, but we took yet another subway to Eastern, which is the Korean agency that Camden was placed through. We took lots of pictures for his file that they keep. We wanted there to be current pictures in case his birth mother ever checks. We were able to find out that his birth mother asked for updates in 2007. Honestly, I cannot begin to process the emotion that invokes right now. I'll just have to deal with it later.

By the time we made it back to the guesthouse at 4:30, we were just exhausted. The amount of walking we have done here is incredible, and the mental effort it takes to find our way through the city and dealing with all the people and the language barrier takes up alot of energy!

Oh, and we had a little adventure on the subway on the way home. We were on our last subway line and just had to sit tight through about 15 stops so we thought we were home free. Well, we noticed that the speed of the train kept changing between stops. It would speed up, then slow down, then really take off, then slam on the brakes at the stop. Someone came over the speaker and was talking, but no one seemed to pay any attention. This happened for two more stops, then all of a sudden everyone got up and got off. We just looked at each other. A very nice man stepped back onto the subway and motioned for us to get off. He then helped us figure out how we were going to get back home since that train stop was out of commission for a while. It was a bit disconcerting. So, we finally find a working train, get back on, and then the fun really started. We were packed in there like sardines. And every stop, more and more people would get on. They push and shove and almost knock you over trying to find some space to stand. We had to ride like this for about 20 minutes. My hand hurt so hard from gripping the handle up above my head (the train really jerks when it takes off and stops because it's going so fast, and you'll fall if you're not holding on). I was so glad to finally be free from all the people, until we got above ground and realized we'd gotten off 2 stops too early, which mean that we had another 15 minute walk uphill.

We came back to the room and just crashed! There is an American couple in the room across from us (the only other ones here that we know of), and they received their 9 month old baby yesterday afternoon. We were supposed to try to go out for dinner with them, but the baby was very sad, and so they decided they should stay in the room. Honestly, we were thrilled! We headed out once again (you have no idea how much I wanted it to be like home where I walk a few steps to the car and go through a drive-thru for supper) and picked up sandwiches for me and for them, while Brian decided he really needed some bulgogi (a Korean dish). Our room now stinks even more than it did before!

And speaking of smell, we smell like Korea. Our clothes still smell like home, but the smell seems to just be seeping out of our pores. The longer we're here, the more the smell is bothering me. So, those of you coming to the airport, if you hug us and we smell weird -that's why! I actually think it might help Rory a bit since we'll at least smell a little bit familiar. But I do hope it doesn't last too long!

We're suppose to get SaRang at 2:00 today. As much as I'm looking forward to it, I absolutely dread the moment Mrs. Park has to say goodbye to her. I'm sure it will be one of the most emotional moments of my life. We may not be able to post again until we're home. Hopefully, we can, but we'll have to see how life in a hotel with a 17 month old is going.

Here are a few pictures. I haven't taken nearly as many as I wanted to (Chris, I might need to "borrow" some of your Korea pictures for lifebooks).

Starbucks in Korean. Most of them just have the
regular Starbucks logo, but this one didn't.



The artist who does the hangul paintings. He was amazing.
Melissa, I think this one is yours.



Eastern Social Welfare Society. Camden actually stayed in the baby
home here for several weeks before being placed with his foster family.


The only church we've seen in Korea. We must not be looking in the right places
because I know there are more. The largest church in the world is in Seoul; we just haven't seen it.



And more SaRang pictures - these were all taken in February by her foster mother.



A baby treadmill??

Random Things about Korea

I'll post about Thursday's events later when I've got a clearer head (and when Brian isn't hogging the laptop with all the pictures), but for now I wanted to make a list of random things about Korea. I know I'm giving probably a ton more details than any of you wanted to read, but it will help me remember what Korea is like in years to come.

Okay, some random things about Korea.

Everyone either speed walks or just plain runs. There is no such thing as a leisurely walk. We feel like old people with everyone passing us all the time. It's no wonder that they're all so trim. I have seen very few people, young or old, who looked out of shape.

The smell. Oh, the smell.
Korea definitely has a unique smell that I don't really know how to describe. Part of it is just cultural, I think, and isn't too bad. I'm sure it has to do with the different spices they use for cooking. But there are also times when the smell just smacks you in the face, and it is HORRIBLE. And I'm sure that smell has to do with all the sea food. In fact, our room is quite fragrant right now since Brian insisted on Korean take-out for supper (I stuck with a Quiznos sandwich).

Everyone is dressed up here. With the exception of maybe a percentage of college-age students, everyone looks great. I'm talking suits and really nice overcoats for the men and business suits for the women.

Along with being dressed up, the women are wearing high heels, boots, or in a few instances Converse tennis shoes. Mostly heels and boots, though. I have no idea how their poor feet survive. We have noticed alot of little tent-like shops along the sidewalks that have piles and piles of shoes. I think they must be repairing them. And if they're doing as much walking as we've done in the last two days, their shoes will need to be repaired often! Even the workers in Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts were dressed up. The women had on business suits, and the men had on dress shirts and ties. The skirts tend to be pretty skimpy! Lots of colored and textured tights to be seen.

Oh, and Dunkin' Donuts? They are all over the place, and they are quite upscale. Nothing like what you would find in the states. They definitely take donuts to a whole new level.

There are no public trashcans (or restrooms that we can find except in the subway). Seriously, no trashcans anywhere! Say you've got a Starbucks mocha or a gum wrapper and you just want to throw them away - you're out of luck! Just carry it with you.

And speaking of Starbucks, they are EVERYWHERE and everyone is drinking it. Coffee must be a big thing here because there are many varieties of very nice coffee shops. You really can find either a Starbucks or Coffee Bean or some other shop on every corner. They seem to be quite a bit larger than the the Starbucks in Nashville (no idea how they compare to other cities) and are very quiet and relaxing. We've visited several!

Once again, I have nothing to compare it to, but the subway system is absolutely amazing. I cannot believe how extensive it is. And once you've got it figured out, pretty easy to navigate. We have been all over the place and with the exception of getting off one stop too early (which was remedied by an extra long walk) and heading the wrong way one time, we have not been lost at all.

Koreans are very business-like. They do not make eye contact with us, and there are certainly not many smiles going around. They seem to ignore everyone around them. I'm wondering if this just has to do with being in the public because the people at the agency that we have met have been very personable. In public, however, not so!

There are alot of electronic gadgets around here. I've never seen so many cell phones, ipods, and other devices that I'm not sure of. We've noticed that almost everyone on the subway is either watching TV/movie on their phones or little screens, listening to music, or playing games. They all have headphones on. If I were more electronically savvy, I could tell you what they are, but I don't have a clue.

I think Seoul alone might be responsible for keeping all the Tennessee tobacco farmers in business. I cannot believe how many smokers there are - much more than the U.S. And they seem to be mostly men. I've seen some women, but the overwhelming percentage of them are men.

They do not believe in personal space. When walking down the street or waiting for the subway, they just push their way right on through. They seem to have no qualms about invading your space, you should just get out of the way! Even when you're standing in line for tickets, to order food, etc., if you're not already speaking and ordering, they jump right in front of you. And don't even get me started on how this affects you on a busy subway!!

I think I've given you more than you could possibly want to know about Korea for now. Here are a few more pictures of Rory taken in December by the foster family.



Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thursday morning

Wednesday night in Seoul, we decided to try to go out for supper about 6:00. We had directions from some other friends who have been here (Beth, we did not end up finding the restaurants you mentioned), and we walked and walked for probably 30 minutes in the frigid weather battling rush hour! Honestly, by 7:00 last night, I was just beat! We did find a Mr. Pizza (their slogan is "Love for Women" LOL) and it was decent. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way home and then arrived back here about 8:30. I was in bed by 9:00, woke up at 11:30 and played on the computer until midnight and then we both got up a little after 4:00 this morning and after a quick trip to the corner market at 5:30 a.m., we were able to call both of our parents this morning, and it was wonderful to hear English! We're going to get showered and dressed and then head out again for more shopping and sight seeing. I'm wondering if a nap might help this afternoon so we don't go to bed quite so early and wake up early. Oh, I've finally figured out that we're 15 hours ahead of Nashville time - now that makes for some serious jet lag!

This video is of our first excursion in Seoul. Look for more to come later.



SaRang's foster mother gave us a CD of 235 pictures of her, and we are so excited to have them. I will post a few each day until we're home and have "up-to-date" pictures. We are both seriously in awe of her smile. And, I'm already noticing a little father/daughter love - Brian just keeps saying, "she is so beautiful." It's very sweet.

November 18, 2007

October 23, 2007
September 30, 2007
(this is only 2 days after she arrived at the foster family's house)

Meeting Rory Video

This is Brian. I'm not sure I'm supposed to be hacking into Melissa's blog, but you'll think its worth it. This 15 hour time difference has us really mixed up. She went to bed early and I'm the one staying up late on the computer. That is always the opposite way at home.

I have successfully uploaded the Meeting Rory video! Grab a box of tissues and enjoy!


Meeting SaRang

I'm not even going to type anything until after the pictures - that's what you're really here for anyway! So look your fill, and then see my post below the pics. I'm warning you - it's long!







So, I dare anyone to tell me she is not the sweetest girl ever! We met the case worker at SWS at 1:30, and she was so sweet! Her name is Miss Lee. We were also able to meet several other staff members including the director of SWS and had our picture taken with him (I'll post that later). We then took a taxi to the foster family's house. It was about a 20 minute drive, and honestly we were both so calm. I have no idea how to explain it, but no nerves whatsoever. And, seriously, we should have been nervous. Not only were we driving to meet our daughter for the first time, but the traffic is so unreal here and we narrowly avoided who knows how many wrecks. We arrived at the apartment complex (more like blocks and blocks of high rises) and were all getting out of the car, maneuvering our gift bags, cameras, etc. and Miss Lee said, "oh, there she is!" SaRang and Mrs. Park (the foster mother) were outside waiting for us. Thank goodness Brian already had the video camera on. She was standing there in her little pink coat and pigtails - so surreal. We went inside to the apartment, and SaRang sat down and took off her own shoes and socks. On the wide screen TV in the living room was a slide show of dozens and dozens of pictures of her and the foster family from the past 5 months. Mrs. Park brought out her favorite blanket, pillow, and stuffed animal, and SaRang immediately sat down and started playing with the baby doll and picture book we had brought. As soon as we brought out our camera, she started cheesing it up. It was hilarious. She is clearly used to having her picture taken and really likes it. She smiled and smiled and loved it when we played peek-a-boo with her. She also enjoyed having her feet tickled and liked imitating us. We taught her how to give fives. She seems to have such a lovely personality - very sweet and full of smiles.

I had brought little fruit snacks with me, and when we asked if she could have them, Mrs. Park said she doesn't like snacks, but real food and brought out some yogurt for her to eat. She sat on the floor and ate (a.k.a. shoveled it in getting most of it her clothes - good thing she had a bib on). Mrs. Park also brought out some food for us to eat. There were things that we have no idea, but they included seafood with noodles as well as some kind of drink that was made from rice (and for those of you wondering, I drank the rice juice and ate one of the roll things, but did not try the spaghetti seafood). Mrs. Park went over the gifts she was sending home with us - a CD full of pictures, a hanbok, the clothes she was wearing when they received her from the orphanage, the outfits, and toys that we had sent to her, as well as her favorite picture book and CD (with her favorites highlighted), a framed cross stitched picture for us, and a different one for SaRang. We spent about 45 minutes at the house, and then it was time to go. She allowed me to hold her hand as they walked us out to the elevator and out to the street. I was even able to carry her down the stairs (she felt very light, although she looks bigger than I was expecting). She gave a big smile and hug to Mrs. Park when I handed her over, though. Oh, and the entire time Miss Lee and Mrs. Park both kept pointing to us and saying oppa and omma, which is father and mother in Korean. They also pointed to Camden's picture many times to tell her that was her brother.

We are not going to see her again until Friday at 2:00 and then she will be ours for good. While I wish it were sooner, I am fine with waiting until Friday. Mrs. Park clearly loves her to pieces and the interaction between the two of them was so sweet, and I want Mrs. Park to have as much time as she is able. I know that SaRang will be happy with her for the next two days.

By the way, I'm calling her SaRang for several reasons. First, this is her Korean name and what everyone is calling her right now, and honestly, it just doesn't seem right to call her Rory yet. There is plenty of time for that. And, second, I wish you could hear the way the Koreans say SaRang. It is absolutely beautiful.

So before all the excitement of meeting Rory/SaRang, we actually were adventuresome today. First, we went to Starbucks (which can be found EVERYWHERE) and had coffee and muffins for breakfast. We then decided that we had time before our meeting to try to find Insadong and to try to conquer the subway system. About 9:00, we left for the subway. Oh, my goodness! This must be their rush hour because we literally saw thousands of people coming out of the subway. It was a bit daunting - I felt like we were going to be run over, and we were a couple of times. It was confusing at first, but we got it figured out and changed lines a couple of times and made it to Insadong in about 35 minutes. Unfortunately, we had no idea that the shops don't open until 10:00, so we just walked around for a bit. However, once the shops opened, we had so much fun looking around. I wanted to call one of my fellow Korean adoptive parents so badly to ask them what to buy.

We did find someone to paint name scrolls for us (Melissa, I got one for you as well) and we plan to have it matted and framed for the living room. We also were able to get name stamps for Rory and Camden with their Korean names. Really the scrolls and the name stamps were the two main items that I knew we wanted for sure. Oh, we sampled meat on a stick as well as some kind of crab roll on a stick. But we hit the jackpot when we found a bakery that was AMAZING. We each bought something to lunch and then also bought some kind of dessert thingy that we brought back to the guesthouse to eat later.

I can't explain to you the odd feeling it is to be the only Caucasians around. I have only seen two other Caucasian men in the time we've been here, and we have seen literally thousands of people so far. Most people don't even give us a second look even though we are CLEARLY in the minority, but we have seen children staring pretty hard at us. While I know that Camden will not notice being the minority nearly as much because he is growing up in the states and will be used to mostly Caucasians in his world, it does give me a little taste of what it will be like for him as he grows older and has the realization that he does not look like the others around him. And, I have to tell you, that I find myself looking at the young men around me and wonder which one of them Camden would have been. Would it have been the hip guy with the longer hair and denim jacket who just seemed cool or would he have been one of the younger, suave business men we've seen. Would he have wanted to go to a local university or would he have chosen his education in America. I just don't know. It was hard to imagine what his life would have been like even before we'd visited Seoul, but now that we are here I have visual pictures in my mind.

Okay, I think that is about all for now. I had no tears when we met Rory, but I'm feeling pretty emotional now. Of course, it doesn't help that Brian is already working on the video so we're reliving it. I think that we should be able to go back to Starbucks and use their wireless connection to upload the video later tonight.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wednesday morning

I'm waiting for Brian to finish getting ready so that we can head out and look for a Starbucks and breakfast (we're STARVING - only airplane food for the last 36 hours), so I thought I'd post a few more details about our trip.

Both our flights were on time and completely uneventful yesterday. Just about as uneventful as hours and hours on a plane can be! Brian was so proud because I chose the Korean meal BiBimBap and seaweed soup to eat on the plane instead of the American choice. To be honest, I only chose it because I wasn't that hungry and knew it wouldn't kill me if I didn't like it. The BiBimBap was okay - it is cold ground beef, noodles, some seaweed stuff, and other noodles that I'm not quite sure of. You miss the cold ingredients with hot steamed sticky rice and then add soybean paste and sesame oil. Sounds interesting, doesn't it. Seaweed soup tasted about like you think it will - like water pulled from the ocean that has had fish swimming around in it for days. Unfortunately for us, seaweed soup (along with soybean paste soup) is listed as one of Rory's favorite meals. I'm going to have to do something about that! The second meal was American and pretty good, although they did include a crab salad that I did not even touch. Dessert was a rice flan that was very different, but good.

When we arrived at the airport, we stood in line for almost 30 minutes waiting to go through immigration. There were several young men ahead of us in line who were straight out of bootcamp and being stationed in Korea. They were none to happy about it and just seemed so young. They asked us several questions about how to do things here, but we were clueless, of course. After immigration, we went through customs and then to have our money exchanged - both fairly painless. Then we headed out of the airport to look for the KAL Limousine buses. They were actually pretty easy. It costs $14 per ticket for our ride to the Hotel Renaissance. From there, we were dumped onto the sidewalk and had to find a taxi. Several people were very helpful, but it was FREEZING outside, and we had a ton of luggage. SWS (the Korean agency and where we're staying) was actually very close and we could have walked if we had any idea where we were going, but the taxi was nice. The driver didn't speak a word to us the entire time - I'm pretty sure he did not speak English, and the flash cards that our agency sent us with the Korean and English directions certainly helped. I say it was close enough to walk, but I'm not sure I'd recommend walking anywhere or you will seriously get run over! There are so many people and cars here that it is just unbelievable. Believe me, they do not believe in "pedestrian's right of way."

We both slept really well for about 4 hours last night, and then tossed and turned for the next 3-4 hours. We were both up at 5:30. Honestly, the excitement over meeting Rory was not really on my mind. Trying to sleep and think about where we could possibly get some American food took precedence. Now that we're up and lucid, though, I'm definitely starting to feel butterflies. We're having trouble getting the laptop (and video program) to work with the computer here in the room so it doesn't look like we'll be able to share videos, but there will be pictures for sure just as soon as we can get back and get them posted.

Next time I post, we'll have seen Rory!

We've arrived!

Oh, my! First, let me just say that spending 14.5 hours on a plane does not constitute a good time for me. Neither does then spending 3.5 hours making it to the guesthouse. But here we are at 8:42 p.m. Tuesday evening starving but way too tired to make the effort to figure out where anything is. On our trip through Seoul from the airport, I have seriously never seen so many people and cars in my entire life! Korean Air Lines was definitely the best airline we've every used, though. The flight attendants were all gorgeous and extremely pleasant and helpful. The TV's actually worked, and there may have been an extra inch or two of leg room.

We're staying at our agency's guesthouse, and while I'm sure the conveniece will be nice, I wish we would have paid a bit extra for a hotel. I'm already feeling a bit clausterphobic. It is a room about the size of our living room divided into 2 rooms - a bedroom and a living/dining area. There are no windows, and it's pretty sparse.

We're going to head to bed pretty soon. We meet the social worker at 1:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) and will be going to the foster family's house to meet Rory. Make sure to check back for pictures. In the meantime, here is a video Brian put together from our packing day, as well as some fun stuff from Camden. You'll have to click on the link below because this computer is not allowing us to embed the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7irXzs11BQ

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trip Details

Depart Nashville: Monday, 6:55 a.m.
Arrive NY: 10:28 a.m.
Depart NY: 12:40 p.m.
Arrive Seoul: Tuesday, 5:10 p.m.

Depart Seoul: Saturday, 6:35 p.m.
Arrive Atlanta: Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
Depart Atlanta: 8:13 p.m.
Arrive Nashville: 8:24 p.m.

The time change makes our flight times look so strange! Pretty sure it will wreak havoc on our sleep cycles too. We'll pretty much miss out on Tuesday, but we'll have two Saturdays. We still don't know when we'll be meeting Rory - there should be instructions for us at the guest house when we check in. It will probably be Wednesday morning. Depending on how Rory reacts to us and how our first meeting goes will determine when we actually receive her for good.

It's 7:31 Sunday night. We're all packed up, and I'm going to crash. Here are a few fun facts about our trip.

Number of suitcases: 3
Number of carry-ons: 2
Number of shoes for Brian: 2
Number of shoes for Melissa: 2
Number of shoes for Rory: 4
Number of hairbows for Rory: too many to count
Time we're getting up tomorrow: 3:30 a.m.
Number of Diet Mt. Dews I stashed in the suitcase: 3
Hours we'll spend on an airplane tomorrow: 17 hours, 33 minutes
Number of songs Brian loaded onto his MP3 in preparation for all the emotional videos he thinks he'll upload and edit: 1,642,012
Number of Xanex I've packed to help me sleep: alot


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tired

We're exhausted! Preparing to travel across the world for a week and meeting a new daughter is hard! We've spent ALL day today running errands, packing, hanging curtains (I know - why did I wait until now), and attending the last seminar which completes the official "educational" part of the adoption paperwork. The seminar actually ended up being fairly useful. It covered attachment and adjustment, and while there were many things that we had already planned on doing, it definitely confirmed that we will be doing the right thing. Another adoptive parent was there to share her story, and let's just say one of their children had many issues that we want to avoid.

We're supposed to talk to our agency tomorrow night after they've received word from Korea about when we'll meet Rory. I'll post specific flight information after we hear from them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

We're going to Korea!!

We are leaving bright and early Monday morning at 6:55 for Korea! We arrive home Saturday evening on March 1. I will post full details about our trip as soon as they're finalized.

I cannot tell you the immediate sense of relief and calm Brian and I both felt when our agency called last night to tell us the good news. All the heaviness and tears and burden of the last several weeks just melted away. Because Brian had worked so hard earlier this week to finalize all his school plans while we're on our trip, he has a pretty easy day. He will be able to teach and then turn in his lesson plans for the next 2 weeks and then we'll enjoy the weekend.

Yesterday was my last day at work - what a bittersweet time it was. I have spent 11.5 out of the last 14 years of my adult life at this school. The first 3 were spent as a student, and the remaining years as an employee. It has played a very important part in my life, and while I was sorry to leave (and especially sorry to be leaving my friends), I am very happy that I am able to be a stay-at-home-mom, and I'm looking forward to beginning that new adventure. There was a lovely party with many sweet words and hugs, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I'm going to spend the day packing and working on the house as well as making final arrangements for our trip. We're waiting to hear back from the agency about when we will actually meet Rory, if we'll be able to stay at the guesthouse, etc. While there is alot to be done before we leave, I feel like we've got a good handle on it - our lists are made, we just need to get it done.

I'll post again when I know our specific plans.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

No news yet

Well, we frantically did laundry, made list after list, etc. last night hoping that we're going to get final approval to travel this morning. I expect that we will hear something pretty early this morning. They called yesterday at 8:15 so I'm hoping to know something soon. Of course, at this point, we are going to be so disappointed if they tell us we still have to wait, but at least we'll know that we're very close. Brian is very busy trying to get lessons plans and instructions for a substitute teacher for 2 weeks. He won't actually be out of the classroom for a full two weeks, but he is planning to be gone for about 8 days.

I finished this page up earlier this week. It is a picture of Camden and his Valentine's Day box. I bought Valentine bug stickers (it was the most boyish thing I could find), and he decorated it before his school party last week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Update!!

Seriously, the Korean coordinator at CHSFS is my new best friend! She called me this morning at 8:15 (which was wonderful because she didn't make me wait all day for an update!) and told us that Korea said Rory's visa is being issued. She also gave us her new measurements: 19.8 lbs and 30 inches long (isn't that pretty teeny tiny for a 17 month old?). And now for the big news! She said that she is going to call Korea again tonight and ask them if we can start making travel arrangements, and that she felt fairly confident they would say yes. So as early as tomorrow morning, I could be making plane reservations and getting ready to go to Korea!

Lunch Bunch day

Today is my final Lunch Bunch day. I am going to miss this group of friends so much. It is definitely the hardest part about leaving my job, but for today I'm going to just enjoy lunch. And because it's my last time, I get to choose. Of course, I always have the hardest time making a decision - so many good places to go!

Here's a page I scrapped weeks and weeks ago and never posted. It's a picture of all four siblings at Christmas.



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Packet 3

Well, no news from our agency yet, but we did discover that "packet 3" has left the Embassy in Seoul. Basically, this means that our paperwork from the NVC arrived at the embassy and was processed and then mailed to our Korean agency. The Korean agency will then send a representative to the embassy for Rory's visa interview. The embassy will then grant her a travel visa usually within 24 hours. Of course, we have no idea how long it will take for the agency to send a representative, but it's nice to see progress anyway!

Tuesday

Camden was so sweet last night. At 4.5, he still thinks it's a big treat to help me around the house, so we worked on laundry, the dishwasher and general picking up last night. He was so helpful! Brian is glued to the computer these days trying to research our trip and figure out the best way to share videos while we're in Korea.


I made the best chocolate pie over the weekend (mom and Becky, it tastes just like the Village Inn’s chocolate pie). The recipe came from Pioneer Woman’s blog, and if you want to see all her pretty pictures of the pie and funny description, click here. Otherwise, you can just copy the recipe from here.

Chocolate Pie
1 baked pie shell (no, I did not make mine from scratch)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used leftover Dove dark chocolate melts)
1.5 cups sugar
2 sticks butter (yes, the real thing)
4 eggs

Melt chocolate and set aside to cool. Mix 2 sticks softened butter with 1.5 cups sugar until fluffy. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Add 1 egg and beat 4-5 minutes (yes, it’s a really long time). Repeat until all eggs are in there. It really does take 20 minutes of beating! Pour into baked pie shell and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve topped with cool whip and chocolate curls.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Camden’s K-4 teacher Saturday morning discussing Camden’s recent behavior, and it was a bit discouraging. He has apparently made friends with one of the more immature (I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this) boys in his class, and it is drastically affecting Camden’s behavior at school. I was pretty shocked to hear that he is pushing and shoving other children, having instances of direct disobedience to his teacher, etc. This is what my mild-mannered, sweet, affectionate boy has turned into?? Unfortunately, even at age 4.5, children can make bad choices in their friends and so, while it may seem drastic to some, we have informed Camden that he is not allowed to play with, sit with, or be friends with this little boy. His teacher suggested that we take this action because Camden’s behavior has changed so much.

We’re supposed to receive a current update on Rory today, and I am so excited. I have my hopes up that there might actually be a picture. I have absolutely not reason to believe that there will be, but I’m hoping. And, of course, if there is I will post it here as soon as I have it. Yes, even during work hours. Because, seriously, who can focus on work at a time like this.

Here is a page I scrapped over the weekend. This is a picture of Camden that I took last week when we stayed home from school. He kept trying to catch the snow with his tongue.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy President's Day

Brian and Camden are enjoying some father/son time together today since they're both out of school. I am working, but find that I don't really mind. (somehow knowing you've only got days left to work make it not seem so bad!).

Friday night Brian and I left Camden at his Gram and Gramp's house and went to Olive Garden to eat. I had the lasagna rollatini (all those commercials about it really suckered me in!). Brian has his typical Tour of Italy. We then spent the next several hours running errands for our trip. We went to Target (my second trip of the day), Kohl's, a bookstore, and Toys 'R Us. (by the way, if you have any good suggestions for small toys that a 17 month old might enjoy on an airplane - send them my way because we're feeling clueless).

Saturday we took Camden to Chuck E. Cheese, and that was not an experience I want to go through again soon. Camden definitely had a good time, but it was SOOOOOO crowded and noisy that I was sure we were going to lose him among all the people. And video games aren't really my thing, but there were more adults playing the games than kids! After Chuck E. Cheese, we took Camden to the mall to let him pick out and buy an outfit for Rory. He was so proud of himself! We also found a great Tennessee Titans sweatshirt that was originally $55 on clearance for $2.97! We bought it for Rory's foster dad.

After the trip to the mall, we went to the airport to see Jeremy, Kim, Samuel and Baby Emma. It was so great to see them finally home with Emma after their long wait, and it was good for us to see in person that the process really does work. Hopefully, that will be us soon! I also think it was good for Camden. We told him that this is what our family and friends did when he came home - that they all came to the airport to meet him and they cheered and help up signs welcoming him home. We also told him that this is what we will do for Rory as well. I think it was a good "trial run" for him!

Brian and I have officially made our trip to Korea the main focus of every single conversation. I know we're probably driving everyone else crazy, but there is so much to think about and plan for, and we have finally jumped in head-first. We're both getting very excited and actually starting to believe that this is really going to happen!

I had a scrap page to show you this morning, but blogger is not letting me upload pictures for some reason, so you it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Friday!

So our Valentine's Day 2008 was quite eventful, but not exactly in the way we expected. Although it did involve beautiful cookies (from my boss) and gorgeous tulips (thank you, Micah, Becky, William, and Xavier), the rest of the day did not involve romance! I blogged yesterday about the news that we received on Rory. It was cause for many tears and no small amount of emotional anguish, but we're feeling much more calm and at peace this morning. And while we were not expecting this news about her medical condition, it does not change the fact that she is our daughter. The truth is, the doctors in Korea are only speculating. We could easily bring her home and things be either better or worse than we're expecting. We are trusting that God knows what is best. I was thinking on the way home from work yesterday about what would be the best way to explain to Camden, and I immediately thought that we need to tell him that "God made her this way. He doesn't make mistakes." And as soon as the thought entered my mind, I thought, "Melissa, pay attention to yourself! God made her this way and God doesn't make mistakes."

This could very possibly be my last Friday home alone! For those who know me, you know that I crave alone time. I am happy to give it up, however, to have my Rory home. I am going to try to join this day to the fullest. Of course, that includes grocery shopping and laundry, but that's okay!

Camden is spending the night with Gram and Gramps tonight so that Brian and I can go out to eat. I'm not sure if we'll see a movie or just come home for a quiet evening. If I can convince him, we might even shop!

Tomorrow we're finally taking Camden to Chucky Cheese, and then in the afternoon we're going to the airport to help welcome Kim, Jeremy, and baby Emma home from Korea.

Compassion International has sent a group of popular bloggers to Uganda to help promote awareness of the crisis there and to encourage others to sponsor children monthly. I'm going to link you to three blogs that Brian and I read regularly. There are some very moving videos of their trip there so you might want to settle in with a tissue before you read them. Incidentally, Ragamuffin Soul and Whittaker Woman are the ones who convinced us to travel to Korea to pick up Rory. Now, we don't know these people personally, but we ran across their blog by accident. They traveled to Korea to pick up their son Losiah from Korea and documented their trip with a series of videos. After viewing the videos, we immediately said that we *have* to go. If you want to see the videos, click here.

Ragamuffin Soul
Boo Mama
Whittaker Woman (married to Ragamuffin Soul)

I scrapped this page several weeks ago. If you scrap, I used Black Cherry, a collab by Gina Miller and Emily Merritt. It's on sale today.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday update

We heard from Korea this morning. The bad news is that Rory's official medical diagnosis has changed and they want us to make a decision about whether or not we will bring her home. The two possible scenarios they gave us sounded very scary initially. We did discuss the situation with our pediatrician, and he was not overly concerned and cannot see how they could have diagnosed her based on the tests that they have done. Either situation will probably mean some reduced physical capabilities, but not diminished life expectancy or mental capacity. They're going to contact Korea this evening and have them send us her most recent developmental updates.

The good news in this is that she is ready to travel, which means that as early as next week, we could be heading to Korea!

Happy Valentine's Day

Having the day off school and work yesterday was wonderful! We all enjoyed a quiet day. Brian spent some time working on his school and church work, which was very helpful. We also spent about two hours packing Rory's suitcase and making packing lists and "to do" lists of things we need to purchase and take care of before we leave for Korea. I'm feeling much more prepared after the time we spent planning yesterday. Yesterday was also the first day I was feeling better physically (my cold finally seems to be on its way out), and I also just felt better emotionally. I allowed myself to feel excited rather than worried about Rory. The apprehension is creeping back in this morning, however, since I know that she has had her medical tests and we now begin the wait to hear something from Korea about when she might be ready to travel.

Our Valentine's Day is pretty unromantic and boring! For the first time, I didn't even get Brian a card of try to do something nice. All of our energy is just focused elsewhere this year. We are going to try to go out either this weekend or next, but we're having trouble finding a time that works for us as well as with our babysitters (Gram and Gramps). Hopefully we'll get it worked out.

At supper last night we asked Camden if there was something he wanted us to bring him from Korea. He responded immediately, "yes, my baby toys." I'm not sure what we thought he would say, but I would never have guessed his baby toys. He's referring to the toys he had at his foster family. And, of course, he's only seen them in pictures.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snow Day!

Sometimes living in the country with a couple miles worth of side roads is worth it. It's a snow day for all of us. Brian and Camden are both out of school, and I'm taking a personal day off work. I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to risk the commute anymore driving on icy roads. It's just not worth it. Of course, it helps a bit that I've only got about 2 weeks left of work! We're all looking forward to a nice quiet day at home. Brian made pancakes for breakfast, and we've all had hot chocolate this morning.

Not much else is going on. In preparation for our trip to Korea, I'm doing my best to keep the house clean and all the laundry done so I won't have to worry about it when we get the call. I think I might start working on a packing list today.

I did scrap last night while watching American Idol.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday update

And this is why I can't just relax and enjoy the thought that Rory should be home soon. Our agency got a fax from Korea this morning stating that the test is going to be done Thursday and then they'll let us know whether or not she can travel. I'm so frustrated about all this! Frustrated that she might be sick and we can't do anything about it. Frustrated that it's more likely she's fine and this is just precautionary, but we still can't do anything about it! Please pray that we hear something Friday, and that it will be good news.

Monday

We had a nice weekend in general. The trip to Chucky Cheese was postponed because Camden had such a horrible day at school (we're talking a 2 page note from his teacher!!). I'm not really sure what's going on with him, but she did mention that he has been spending alot of time with another boy in the class who is in trouble often and she thinks his behavior is rubbing off on Camden. I'm hoping we can get it under control!

I was wrong on Friday when I said Brian only has a 3 day work week. That's not until next week so he started off today as normal by getting up at 4:00 and grading papers!

I'm very busy at work trying to prepare to leave for good. I don't think it's really quite hit me yet that I will not be returning to work. I have a feeling the next two weeks could go by very quickly!

We talked to our pediatrician on Friday night, and he was very reassuring regarding the news we had about Rory. Brian and I are both feeling much more at ease about it. Hopefully, Korea will honor our request to cancel the testing and let us take care of it when she comes home.

I did scrap some this weekend. It was the first time in weeks that I felt like it at all. This page uses pictures from Christmas. We were trying to get pictures of Camden, William, and Xavier, and as usual it was a disaster. I didn't get one single shot I could use of the three of them together. In fact, didn't get one of William at all!

Friday, February 08, 2008

NVC

We are logged in at the NVC as of yesterday afternoon. This means that if everything continues to go smoothly, I feel like our travel call should come in about 2 weeks. I'm trying to breathe a sigh of relief, but am not quite feeling it yet.

My plans for today are pretty normal, although I am going to try to take a little while and just relax. I am so stressed out because of the last week, and I'm hoping maybe a bit of quiet time might help. Camden filled up an entire sheet of stickers (he's hasn't woken us up at night in almost a month) so we're taking him to Chucky Cheese tonight. He is so excited. I'm sure it will be an experience. I have visions of 100's of screaming kids running around like mad.

Tomorrow I'm meeting two friends from work for lunch and a movie. I'm so excited to have a "girl's day out." Brian is pretty excited for this weekend to begin as well. He is off work Monday because of President's Day and Tuesday is a teacher workday so he really he only has a 3-day week next week.

I have not felt like scrapping at all this week. In fact, this page has been open on my computer and I've played with it all week, but finally made myself finish it up this morning. It's basically a list of things that Camden likes and is doing at 4 and a half.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rough Day

Today has been very difficult. Without going into any detail here, we got some news regarding a potential medical condition with Rory. We've asked the agency to allow us to do the testing here in the United States rather than wait on the doctors in Korea, and we're hopeful they will allow us to do that and this won't delay our travel call. Of course, we're mostly just concerned that she is okay. It is difficult when your child is sick at any time, but when your child is across the world and you are completely not in control of what happens makes it 100 times worse.

We're still not logged in at the NVC. The sweet supervisor at the NVC actually went down to the mail room digging through all the paperwork and DHL packets trying to find ours, but ended up giving up on it so we don't really know where the paperwork is at this point.

Our I600 did arrive today, and it was dated January 17, so we know we lost at least 3 weeks because of the immigration office's mistake.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring better news.

International Mail

We had an interesting mail day yesterday. My baby carrier arrived from Korea, and I received the nursery print I'd ordered from Scotland. Fun! I love this artist and wish that I could buy canvas paintings, but I settled for just a print. I almost didn't order anything because I was having so much trouble choosing a favorite. I ended up ordering Brian's favorite, and it is going to look so good in the nursery. I definitely plan to order from her again. Her name is Suzanne Woolcott. Her Etsy shop is here if you want to look around. Another Etsy shop I really enjoy is Boutique Mia. The handmade dresses are so sweet!

Memphis emailed me this morning and said that they have delivery confirmation that the packet was delivered to the NVC at 10:07 yesterday morning, so I'm not sure why the NVC is showing that they don't have it. Hopefully, they just hadn't finished processing it and putting it in the computer and that's why it didn't show up in their system yesterday. I'll be calling again today, of course!

Camden is starting to read! For weeks now, he's been obsessed with finding words that start with the same letter and sound. Sometimes it's a fun game to play with him and sometimes it can get to be a bit old playing it over and over again, but I know it's just the way he learns. So this morning, he was trying his best to sound out the words on the Diet Pepsi box. Then Brian started spelling out letters for him to sound and say, and he was doing so well!

Oh, and by the way, Camden is definitely my son. He loves to sit on my lap and ask to look at dresses for Rory! It's hilarious! Last night he found one that he really liked (he could have had a little direction from me, but he has very strong opinions about which dresses he does and doesn't like). I asked him if he wanted to buy it for her and he said, "well, I don't have any money, but my daddy does."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Afternoon update

It appears that Memphis did not actually overnight our paperwork to the NVC on Monday because as of 3:15 this afternoon, it still had not arrived at the NVC. Ugh!

What a night!

We had crazy thunder storms and tornadoes until about 2:00 a.m. so I am feeling a tad foggy this morning (yes, I actually stayed up to watch the coverage). We only went to the basement once, and by the time we actually got down there, it was okay to come back up. Camden never even woke up. Brian barely did!

No real news on our paperwork today, but I did speak with a very nice supervisor at the NVC yesterday, and because our paperwork was held up in Memphis, they are going to expedite it there. We're really hoping and praying (and think that it's possible) that Rory will come home in February.

Camden came home from school last night with a piece of paper that had been folded several different ways. He was so excited about it and wanted to tell me a story. I thought that he must have colored a picture or maybe it was a worksheet. Nope, just a blank piece of paper. But he told a very imaginative story about soldiers and the Israelites, etc. Funny stuff!

I went through Rory's closet last night and pulled out most of the 6-12 month clothing that we had bought several months ago and am planning to return it today. I just don't think there's any way she'll wear it so it will be better to get it out of the closet and taken care of before she arrives. I kept a couple of smaller outfits just in case. It was kind of sad because most of them were outfits we bought when we first saw her picture, and I felt pretty sentimental about them.

I've discovered hot tea and honey are my friends. My cold/incessant coughing/black plague/flu is still hanging on, and having a cup of hot tea really seems to help my throat and the coughing. I keep hoping I'm going to be better, but it's been a week now!

If we get any news today, I'll post an update.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Progress

So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we got an email from Memphis immigration office yesterday telling us that there had been a mistake and our I600 had never been mailed to the National Visa Center (NVC) two weeks ago like they had said. The good news is now that we know what the problem is and Memphis was sending it via DHL to the NVC and hopefully things will progress more smoothly from now on. We should be looking at about another 4 weeks before travel. I know losing two weeks in the process doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but when you're waiting for your baby girl to come home, two weeks seems like an eternity. I am very grateful that we know what was wrong, though, and that it seems to be fixed.

I am a horrible U.S. citizen. When I changed my drivers license a couple of months ago, I also applied for a new voter's registration card since we had changed counties. Well, it never even occurred to me until last night when I tried to find the card, that I never received it in the mail. So, no voting for me today. I will definitely have it fixed before November, though.

Brian has been so stressed the last several weeks. Teaching this first year has been pretty overwhelming. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours he is working each week, but it's ALOT. A representative from the state education board is observing in his classroom today so he's a bit nervous about that. He says he's not nervous about teaching, just nervous because you can never predict how twenty ten-years will act!

Monday, February 04, 2008

A New Week

I'm running late this morning, so I don't have much time, but wanted to pop in and say I'm hoping for a good week! I'm actually kind of happy to be headed back to work after almost a week off. It will be good to be back in a routine. My boss has been interviewing people to take my place and that is kind of exciting.

We did have a Superbowl party last night with family, and it was fun. Camden thoroughly enjoyed himself and picked the Giants to win from the very beginning (and he was quite enthusiastic about cheering for them throughout the game - that's a nice way of saying he was VERY loud!).

I did manage to scrap a bit this weekend. I can't believe how grown up Camden looks in this picture (taken in June). I think it's the camera angle that makes his legs look so long!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday

I started not to post today since I have nothing interesting to say - tracking down our immigration paperwork pretty much consumes our every thought and doesn't leave room for much else, but thought there might be someone actually following the saga so here it is. (I'm actually watching Pirates 3 right now, but it's boring me to tears and Brian is snoring away on the couch.)

No I600 today, but our caseworker did agree to contact the immigration office on Monday and try to inquire about it for us. I also contacted our senator's office, and they're going to look into it Monday as well. The lady I talked to said they've had many complaints about this office lately. Hopefully, our caseworker and the senator's office investigating into our case will get things moving. We probably would not be as proactive in this if we didn't have friends who recently have gone through a nightmare experience with the same immigration office, and I have no intention of letting that happen to us. And since it did happen to them, it helps us be more on top of things and know what to watch for. We're at 16 weeks since referral. We waited 18 weeks for Camden, which is quite a bit longer than the average, but unless there is some kind of miracle, we'll be waiting longer than that for Rory.

I'm still sick - lost my voice almost completely today, but I'm hopeful that I'll be feeling better tomorrow. Camden had a good day at school. He came home full of energy and played hard tonight. It was so funny - he's really into pirates these days, and I have no idea where he's even seen pirates (we waited until he was in bed to start the movie!). He is definitely all boy - playing pirates, soldier, football, etc. Well, all boy except for the fact that he's fascinated with The Food Network and cooking shows. He loves to watch them!