Thursday, August 16, 2018

Day 5 - Agency

Dr. Kim, the director of ESWS, gave an interesting talk about Korea and the agency's foundation and current work to us and 8 other adoptive families. They have done and are doing really amazing work here and in other countries. We enjoyed a buffet lunch at the agency while chatting with the other adoptive families. After lunch we got to meet our little guy again. It was a very precious and emotional time.
We also had a blast trying on traditional Korean dress called hanbok, saw a couple different areas of Seoul, including Gangnam (the area the old K-pop song Gangnam Style references), and once again had incredibly delicious dinner, grapefruit soju, and tiramisu ice flake dessert.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Meeting Stephen

A few random thoughts strike me after meeting Stephen. One is that we are not just the family swooping into to save this little boy. God is placing him in our family for the benefit of all the members of our family. God has specific and rich purposes in his giving Stephen to our family, not all of which may even be known this side of heaven. God will grow me and change me as a mother as I  love and learn to parent this little boy who is new to our family. The coming months will be hard, yet a joy to serve one of the least of these in the kingdom. Please pray for us all that we will seek to serve with hearts that are joyful and overflowing with God's love.

Also, I wonder how little Stephen will grieve the many losses he will be facing as he gains his forever family. He will recognize the loss of some of them right away, from his foster family, foster home, other beloved friends, his first language spoken everyday, his favorite play areas, comfortable foods, the smell of his home, being surrounded by people who look more like him, and the list goes on. We have learned about how each child processes their grief differently. I don't know if he'll be more vocal or internalized, more energetic or lethargic, deal with food, sleep, relational issues, etc. I know that God will give us grace to walk along side him as issues surface throughout his lifetime. Our good and gracious Father is always able to meet our needs. He gives us himself. He, himself, is enough. Please pray that we'll be able to point Stephen beyond our own ability to help him, to our heavenly and perfect Father.

There will also be an adjustment for our other kids that is different than expecting a new biological baby. Some of Stephen's needs will be surprising for our kids since they've been brought up in our household since birth, they have not only been taught about our expectations, they have come to expect them in each other. That will be new for our other kids to realize that although he's nearly two, he doesn't know certain things about life in our family that they knew when they were that age. Please pray for us all particularly in the first severals months of adjustment to just living together.

God also has incredible purpose in giving us beautiful connections to Stephen's home country. Both Stephen's foster mother and father, as well as Auntie Ji Hae, will be very special members of our extended family. We pray will be able to keep this connections strong for his own benefit, as well as for them and the rest of our family as well.

Stephen is a bundle of energy to say the least and I expect to be exhausted for much of the coming months. Please pray for my health and rest as well.

Thank you all for your prayers! Our Father hears and answers!

Day 4 - Fun walking around

A highlight today was conversation at the mall coffee shop
We had a wonderful day walking around Seoul today. We took the subway, ate sashimi for lunch, spent the hot afternoon in the mall, then walked around the university area near ESWS. God blessed us with some wonderful conversations and a special time today. Really, what a blessing it is to be here. Thank the LORD for all of you and thank you to all our family, friends, and church body who have prayed for us and supported us which has allowed us to be here on our journey to adopt our little one. Thank the Lord for Ji Hae our friend, guide, and translator.

Oh Korean BBQ, I love you! We especially enjoyed the kimchi stew.

Annaliese bravely tried a raw pepper - she had some water pretty quickly after that!!

An old-fashioned sweet treat made from melted sugar and baking powder, called "dolgona"

Delicious cream desserts at Cafe Oumt

15-layer crepe dessert

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Day 3 - First Meeting

Outside our agency, Eastern Social Welfare Services
We got to meet another family who was meeting their future son this morning as well while we waited downstairs about 45 minutes before our appointment. Then the couple went to do paperwork with their social worker. About 9:30 am, Annaliese, Andy, and I, all sucked in our breath as we realized that little Stephen was there with his foster mom and dad. It was a more sudden meeting than we had expected, but it was nice to be taken off guard so that nerves hadn't had time to set in. He just ran around in circles and at first, made some loud noises. Then we got out the little ball we brought for him. It was a hit! He loved running around, throwing, kicking, and sharing the ball. After a bit, we got out some bubbles to help entertain as well. Then the social worker took us all up to a small room and we shared some snack with him, talked with the foster parents, and had some rousing peek-a-boo under the tablecloth games! It was wonderful. The kid is full of energy!
Andy playing ball with Stephen
We rode the bus and walked around the market eating here and there. It was HOT and HUMID! especially in the market near the fryers! We also got to see the free Seoul History Museum, came back and napped for 4 hours accidentally, and then went out to dinner at 8 pm :)

Enjoying the market
Fish cake
Inside a small lunch place in the market to help Annaliese cool off
Beautiful new fan
Walked around the Seoul History Museum

Monday, August 13, 2018

Day -2 After a long day, we're here!

Whew! About 24 hours after we woke up at our house to leave for the airport, we arrived at the ESWS (Eastern Social Welfare Services) guest house where we are staying this week.
Bibimap - airline style

Flying Asiana was enjoyable because they were really efficient, boarding hundreds of people on to our plane faster than many much smaller planes that we often have flown. We read, napped, listened to audio books, and ate some airline food. During the middle of the 10.5 hour flight, they had the passengers close the windows so we could nap, which was helpful. Somehow, between the long flight, lack of sleep (it was around 1 am to our bodies), and postnasal drip I've been dealing with, I got airsick. Ugh. We arrived in Seoul at 6:30 pm Monday evening. We went through a painless foreign passport immigration check, picked up our two checked suitcases, then realized we left Annaliese's beloved fedora on the plane and waited for 20-30 minutes for someone to retrieve it. She had been in tears over losing it, but was overjoyed to get it back, so it was worth the wait ;)

We changed some money, rented a WiFi egg (like a personal hotspot) which will allow us to use WiFi everywhere we go for up to three devices for just W8,800 (about $8/day). Perfect! Then we purchased rechargeable cards for the subway at a kiosk, but had to buy a child's card (cheaper fares) at a convenience store, where we also could add money to all our cards. Finally, it was dark when we left the airport and got on the hour-long subway ride. We had opted for the subway (about $10/person) rather than $100+ for a cab ride. We were all worn out after just brief naps over the past 22 hours or so, but sitting up in the clean, bright subway helped us stay awake to get better rest once in bed. I made the mistake of trying to go with Google walking directions instead of pulling out the written directions from the subway station to the agency. So we walked around for 25 minutes, instead of 5-10 :( I was so beat, I just wanted to take a cab for those last 10 minutes. Annaliese was a brave, tired, sweet little trooper and I was so proud of her traveling like a champ. I think she did better than me at the end in fact! ;)
Our room at ESWS was clean, comfortable, and once we got the coolers and fans going, cool enough. We collapsed in bed around 10 pm local time. It was strange to travel across the globe, such that it had been day/light for us for about 20 hours. Although we had hoped to sleep in this morning, all three of us were completely awake and unable to sleep any more by 5:30 am. I felt much better after the good rest and a shower.

Andy and Annaliese are now on a walk to explore nearby places to eat which will hopefully be opening soon. We are so excited to meet our little Stephen this morning, as well as see Ji Hae. How can words describe what is going to happen here soon? We are going to meet someone whom our hearts already love, 100%. Yet, we don't actually know what he's like. Weird to think, but it doesn't matter what he's like - sweet, shy, crazy, whatever. No matter what he's like, whatever joys, sorrows, precious moments, and heartaches are to come, we know that God is giving us this new family member to love unconditionally. At the heart of the unknown, it is not so different from biological children. We love the babies that grow in our bellies before we know them. Granted, there are peculiar parts to walking the adoption road, but not so different in the sense that this is the child that you will always love because they are a part of your family no matter what.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Day 1 - On our way!

Brown, muddy water is not what you want to see in the bathtub, BEFORE your kids even get in it :P, but that's what happened last night (the night before we left for Korea). I called our landlord and he suggested we run the outside hose for 20-30 minutes to see if it would clear, but after 20 minutes it was a muddy trickle. So we were/are praying for rain and for the well to be sustained. However, I ended up going over to our sweet neighbor Emily's house to shower last night just to be sure. This morning there was clear water, but the kids and Didi will be waiting before they start drinking it. This isn't the first time this has happened, but at this point, our landlord is going wait on further action. God bless Didi for hanging tough and improvising!!!

As Zeke reviewed with us, "So you're going to Seattle, then to Korea, then meet Stephen, then go to court, then come home to say 'hi' to us! And then go back to Korea without Annaliese, and bring Stephen home." Yep, that's right, Babe!
SOMEONE is a little excited about every. single. thing. about this trip-- in all the best ways, as you can see! 

We took off from ABQ on time after checking 2 bags and having a leisurely smoothie while we waited. We had a scheduled 3 hour and 15 minute layover in Seattle, but at this point the flight is delayed another 55 minutes. Our gourmet burgers for lunch were delicious! Once we do get going, our flight to Seoul should be about 10.5 hours and they are 15 hours ahead, so we'll arrive in the evening there, but it will feel like the wee hours of the morning for us. 

We are staying at the guest house of the agency we are working with, called Eastern Social Welfare Services. Ji Hae plans to meet us there on Tuesday morning and we will be meeting Stephen for the first time at that time!

As you may have noticed, we can't post identifying photos of our little guy until all is finalized in Korea during the next trip, here's a preview of a family portrait by Annaliese. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Getting ready for Seoul!

Fro Yo in Old Town Albuquerque

Don't be bugged, it's just the Bugarium

Incredibly, last year at this time, we were knee-deep in adoption-related paperwork. In God's timing, we leave for Korea on Sunday morning, just over 48 hours away! No, I'm not ready. But I'm getting there. Andy's gracious mom has flown in from San Jose, California, to hold down the fort with Titus, Zeke, and Carys, through Thursday morning while Annaliese is with us in Korea. She has to get them to school before 8:00 am and it's 30 minutes away. AND it's the first week of school. (Sorry we're missing your first day of school, Zeke! #thirdkid) AND she has to do homeschool with two of them on Tuesday! She's pretty awesome! 

The Lord has also provided a wonderful sitter who will be helping us for the remaining three days. She is amazing and will also be helping us during the school year as well. God has provided for all of our many needs!

Highlights of the timing of our adoption so far...

  • 6/7/17 Mailed our home study application to All Age Adoptions Plus, our local agency
  • 7/28/17 Met a local birth mother (we were open, but she chose another family, then decided to parent)
  • 8/11/17 Submitted initial online application to AAC, our agency in Colorado
  • 8/29/17 Received special permission from Korea
  • 10/28/17 Home study completed
  • 11/1/17 Paperwork sent to Korea
  • 12/20/17 MATCHED with our little guy!
  • 3/8/18 EP Submission (Emigration Permission) 
  • 5/3/18 EP Approval by Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • 6/20/18 Family court date of 8/17/18 set
  • 8/12/18 Andy, Annaliese, and I leave for Seoul!
What is not shown in this timeline is that before the world began, God knew that this little boy with black hair would be born. He knew while our family was still feeling overwhelmed with all of life with 4 kids that He was preparing both our family and our little boy to be joined. In God's mysterious ways, He has designed that while the world might see this little guy as a mistake, the Lord has destined him to be loved by us before we've even met him, become a Dollahite (finally, a black-haired Dollahite ;) move to the US, and hear the good news that Jesus loves him and wants to be his Lord. Miracles, people. It's a theme. 

We have been so blessed with our family's support with the kids, friends helping to provide dinners while we're gone, neighbors watching the kids a bit while I get prepare for the first week of school and pack for the trip, friends helping with paying our sitter, our capable and trust-worthy sitter taking the time to live here for 3 days, and our entire church body and many more lifting us up in prayer. We appreciate all of you and give glory to God.