Friday, March 30, 2012

Emigration Permit submitted!!!!!!!!

Yesterday morning at 9:30 I saw the first post on facebook. Someone with another agency was submitted for EP! The second batch was submitted in March!

My stomach clenched and my hands went numb. I hit "refresh refresh refresh" for twenty minutes--twenty unproductive minutes.

I decided to go for a run--grabbed the dog and her leash and hit the pavement. I ran like the wind. Whereas I am normally a slow and huffing runner, today I was a gazelle. A gazelle being pursued by a lion. The dog was confused--happy, but confused.

We got home an hour later and I looked at my cell phone--no missed calls. I looked at my email--no new messages. I logged on to FB and watched three people with late January ATK dates post that they had been submitted for EP. I started to sweat a little harder.

I wrote the following email to my (saintly) program specialist:

"Oh J***,
I feel like I'm going to throw up. Do you have bad news for me today re: the second batch?

I hit send. I hit refresh for five more minutes.
My home phone rang and I leaped across the house to answer it. Caller ID said "Childrens Home"

I grabbed the phone and said "hello?" in a super shaky teeny tiny voice.

My program specialist said "Nora?'

I said "Hi J*** how are you? How is the weather? What did you have for dinner?" and on and on trying to fill the space.

J*** said "Nora, stop. I have something to tell you."

J*** told me the good news and I started to cry. Heaving sobs. SOBS.
I hung up and called my husband. I cried some more. (I am still crying.) I walked around the house and picked things up, and put them back down again. I took the dog for a second run.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trudging forward

                                                 On a hike in Maine after big rains

I feel like I've been forcing myself to move forward every day this week. My heart and body want to stay in bed all day, but I will not allow myself the luxury of a good wallow. No. It will not happen.

So I get up and make lunches for my three loves (and wonder what my fourth love has for his lunch), and I help my two littles get dressed (and wonder what my third little is wearing) and I see everyone out the door with a cheerful smile (and wonder if I am fooling them).

I walk the dog--forever. We walk and walk and walk around the neighborhood. I take stock of every house with signs of a baby/toddler within. I stare at every stroller that crosses our path. I respond enthusiastically to every parent who says "Can he/she pet your dog?". I smile SO BIG at each toddler that I end up scaring most of them.

It's working. I am fighting the pull of blessedly-numb inertia and filling my days with forced cheer. I am checking things off my to-do list and resisting the urge to spend all day obsessively monitoring my internet information sources.

There have been MAJOR developments in the Korean adoption world this week. The first batch of emigration permits was approved on Monday and just 10 minutes ago I learned of a friend's travel call. The travel calls are coming! Hooray!

I am cautiously hopeful that next week will bring news of the submission of the second batch of emigration permits. I am even more cautiously hopeful that we will be among those submissions.

Forward. Onward. Upward.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dreams deferred

YH at 13 months old, wearing his cupcake jacket.

I hope you all really enjoyed those last two upbeat posts, because it's about to get gloomy in here again. It is now 15 months since we accepted YH's file and just under 14 months since our acceptance paperwork was sent to South Korea (this date, called "ATK", is what offically starts the countdown to travel clock).

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would still be waiting to take custody of him. Never.

We have entered the season of dreams deferred. The girl scout camping trip that I didn't register Miss A for (because surely we'd be traveling!) is this weekend. Summer camp brochures languish on the kitchen counter, I declined a ladies' weekend at the lake, plans for our annual trip to Maine are left unspoken... every potential event is an opportunity to have my heart shattered twice. Once because I decline it and twice because it turns out we are STILL here without our son.

It physically hurts me. My legs are sore, my heart aches, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

There is information floating around the internets that claims the Ministry in Korea will accept the next batch of emigration permits in early April. The first batch has yet to be approved, and due to its large size travel calls will likely be spread out over several weeks. Which means travel calls for the second batch won't come until after the first batch have all traveled and dear god it all makes me want to cry.

My friends are having a toddler shower for me soon and I cannot thank them enough for making some happiness for us. It sounds weird but it means so much to me to know that people will be picking out gifts *just* for YH. Up until now I am the only one who has ever purchased anything for him and sometimes it feels like I am buying things for a child only I can see. But my friends are saying "We see him too, we want to love him too".

I am disappointed that not everyone can see the huge wound I am wearing. In the wake of my loved one's crisis it is painful to recognize that caretakers don't get taken care of in their own time of need.  When you are a caretaker it can make you feel vulnerable and weak to ask others to tend to you--it takes a lot of courage to say "I am faltering, please support me. Please treat me gently, please acknowledge my son-to-be, please. Just, please."

Sometimes I don't ask for help when I need it, but this is not one of those times. I have asked, and my friends answered with love. And I am grateful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Update: Our awesomely dumb acquisition

Ruthie in the wildflowers

You may remember that just about a month ago our family made the awesomely dumb decision to acquire Miss Ruthie Millicent, canine wondergirl. You may be asking yourself "Hey--I wonder how that is going?"--unless you are my friend on faceplace, in which case you are asking yourself "Another picture of that dog???? This lady needs to get a life."

The answer to the first question is: it is going (mostly) well.  I think we have finally reached a place where having Miss Ruthie in our lives feels like part of our normal. Certainly during our first few days together I had many a moment of panic: wondering if we had made a terrible mistake, wondering if the cat would ever forgive me, wondering if we could handle the needs of a young energetic dog AND two-soon-to-be-three kids.

Part of my panic came down to Ruthie being under 2 years old. She's a big goofy teenage dog--with lots of love and energy to spare. For the last FOREVER Sean and I have had old crotchety dogs. Even Archie (the three legged beagle) came to us as a late-middle-aged fellow, and now he is firmly entrenched in the pursuits of old-mandom (namely: eating, sleeping, eating, barking, sleeping). Whereas our-pups-now-passed were essentially furry paperweights, Ruthie is a whirligig. She can't be expected to spend all day napping with an occasional pee break.

And so we walk her four to five times a day. Some walks are short and business oriented, others are long and leisurely. As a result the whole family is out enjoying the neighborhood more. Ruthie is by far the least leash reactive dog we've ever owned. Her normal pace is a "loose leash" walk, and when she spots another pup she wags her tail and waits for the chance to pleasantly greet a potential new friend. This applies to dogs of all sizes: she has shown equal enthusiasm and deference to a 170lb mastiff and a 13 pound chihuahua.

In fact, if we spent all our time together walking around the neighborhood life with Ruthie would be idyllic.

But we do spend a good bit of time indoors. And that is where we have some more work to do.

Miss Ruthie's back story is that she was brought in as a stray--and it shows. In her first days with us she had no idea what to do with a dog biscuit, but would eagerly snatch any scrap of paper with food residue on it. It took about two weeks for her to become more food motivated. Now she loves her training treats.

Her response to dog toys was similar--they were completely foreign to her and she had little interest (no matter how exciting I tried to make them seem). But slippers? And chair legs? And raised garden beds? ALL DELICIOUS. NOM NOM NOM. It took a lot of redirection and training diligence to get her to learn to love the kong instead of slobbering all over my boots. She still is freaked out by frisbees and only yesterday did I convince her that sticks can be fun to crunch on.

In all of her attempts to nom on verboten items it has become clear that this dog has no idea of her breed. She comes from a bone-crushing pedigree (as an aside: my mom would be happy to email you articles about Ruthie's potential to rip all of our throats out!) and is all muscle and yet manages to barely nibble the object of her desire. She mouths them and gums them and gives them delicate nibbles (the way a mom dog would nibble her pups)--but does not destroy or damage them. The beagle can eat through a door in a matter of minutes (he actually did this once at our former doggy daycare center), but Ruthie can barely pulverize a milkbone.

We are now at the point where we leave her uncrated in the house for brief periods when we are out. This works well, and the biggest casualty to date has been a tipped over rocking chair that she stood on to to look out a window. Oh, and a soggy doormat that she nommed on. When we are gone and the dogs are uncrated the cat is put in her safe zone in the back of the house. The critters are separated by a door in the interest of everyone's safety.

Ruthie has come a long way in learning to live with our cat. At first she didn't acknowledge the cat. Then she went through a period of barking at the cat. So in an effort to desensitize her to kitty, we started "jackpotting" her. It worked like this: Ruthie was on a lead in the house while kitty roamed free. Whenever the cat got near her I would make her sit and started giving her a steady stream of treats until kitty left the space. We repeated this for a few days and eventually Ruthie learned that sitting quietly when kitty was around earned her rewards. Now everyone can roam free when Sean or I are there to supervise.

We have started attending an obedience class with Ruthie and hope that we can help her reach her doggy potential.

Challenges left to overcome: jumping on people and an aversion to getting in the back of the car.

Overall I'm very happy she's in our lives. We're not so dumb after all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bust that mutton.

Lest you think my poor children had to spend all of their Spring Break with a morose mother who was consumed by thoughts of addiciton/adoption related anxiety, let me assure you: WE HAD FUN Y'ALL.

We went to the RODEO!

Boy howdy, as a native of the North East nothing makes me happier than the annual opportunity for our whole family to don western wear and gorge ourselves on fair food. This year there was red velvet funnel cake. RED VELVET FUNNEL CAKE PEOPLE.

For the past two years the main draw to the rodeo for my littles has been the opportunity to participate in a real-live-actual-honest-to-goodness rodeo event: MUTTON BUSTING. Now those of you who don't live in my state, who hail from my homeland, are probably thinking "Say what now?" (Except for my friend and former classmate who is now a real-life barrel racer! HI DEBBIE!)

Allow me to explain: mutton busting is like PBR for the elementary school set. Children between the ages of 5 and 7 are clad in protective head/chest gear, placed on top of a large sheep, instructed to "bear hug" the wooly beast and released into the arena. The children cling with all their might to the sheep for as long as they can, tumble into the sawdust and then get scooped up by a rodeo clown. The kid with the highest score wins and gets to kiss the rodeo queen.

Are you unsure whether to call PETA or Child Protective Services first?
It's cuuutttteeee you guys, for real.
And my kids freakin' LOVE it.

Miss A competed last year and was determined to better her prior score this go 'round. Here she is squeezing her sheep as hard as she can. She had a brilliant ride up until the sheep took a header trying to shake her off and rolled on top of her. She jumped right up and stomped to the other end of the arena. I could practically see her shaking her fist at that durn sheep. Her score was third highest.
Sweet Bubs had his inaugural ride this year, and he spent weeks developing strategies for  how best to win. He decided he would try to win the sheep over by telling it how much he loved it, how cute it was, what a good sheep it was--all while pretending he was a sloth with super-grip powers. Works for me kid.

Sweet Bubs' ride was pretty great too. His sheep tried to shake him off by rubbing up against other sheep.

In the end some kid named David with a giant belt buckle won. Whatever, David.

But the kids still got to meet the rodeo queen!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Exclusive ownership.

One week ago, before any of the recent crisis with my loved one kicked into high gear, Sean and I had a huge fight.

Over the course of our ensuing "discussion" I complained that he didn't acknowledge how stressful and physically painful our adoption process has become for me. I ranted for minutes at a time about all that *I* have done to prepare (y'all knew that would come up again, right?), all the stress that *I* experience each morning as I fret over whether or not our EP will be submitted, all the fears *I* have about YH's future if he doesn't receive intervention/therapies during this critical age window...

And when the rant was done I sat seething waiting for him to apologize, to bend over backwards to soothe me.

And instead he said "You can't even acknowledge that this is painful for ME TOO."


He's right. I was so wrapped up in my own pain that his pain didn't even register with me. I felt like I had exclusive ownership of the pain associated with YH and our adoption. I felt I had earned this ownership through the copious amount of worrying and energy I've devoted to the adoption over the last 14 months. I desperately wanted someone else (ie: Sean) to help me carry the burden of this pain and worry yet I was unwilling to give him the emotional space to do so.

It was a good reminder and much needed BEFORE my loved one's relapse set off a storm of dysfunctional behavior amongst those of us who love him/her.

When you carry shame or guilt about your loved one's addiction it is easy to succumb to a victim mentality. It is easy to let the feelings of guilt overwhelm you to the point where you can't let anyone else in. The pain is yours and yours only. No one else could possibly understand HOW MUCH this hurts you and so you nurture your pain and cradle it and bury it underground with you. And you definitely don't let anyone else near you to share the burden.

And when somebody else tries to lay claim to the pain, this pain that you have EARNED with your tears and worries, you get MAD. And you fight it--you try to assert your ownership claim with snaps and snarls until everyone else just LEAVES YOU ALONE.

And they will leave you alone. A lack of empathy or understanding, a practice of hoarding pain, is a surefire way to drive people from you. It will be just you and your pain, feeding off of one another in your fortress of despair.

I'm not going to let that happen to me. I'm not going to let the pain win. It needs to be brought into the sunlight. It needs to be talked about and passed around so that my friends and family can say "Let me help you with that". And as it gets passed around it will lose its power. And it may still be there, but it won't control me.

I want my kids, especially my daughter, to see that you can be sad and angry and that is ok. But you work through it, and you find a way to live in spite of the pain. You do not let the pain stand between you and LOVE.

Friday, March 16, 2012


You may have noticed a post disappeared from the blog. I allowed myself to be censored by someone who was uncomfortable with the content of my last post, and with my posts about this recent crisis in general.

I'm not 100% ok with that and I'm not happy that I took the post down, but it seemed to be the right thing to do. To be honest I thought about deleting the whole blog and never writing again. I thought about bottling up all my thoughts on this and adoption and everything else.

 It is my belief that *not* talking about addiciton, and *not* documenting how it hurts not only the addict but everyone around him/her, has contributed (at least in part) to patterns of addiction being perpetuated amongst my loved ones.

If you can't name it you can never beat it.
If you dare not speak it you can never triumph over it.
If you are so afraid of the rest of the world knowing your private pain you will die alone.

A few weeks ago I attended a parenting workshop geared towards adoptive parents--but so much of what was covered is applicable to all relationships. Especially the complicated ones, the ones marked by trauma.

And I'll just go ahead and say that addiction is TRAUMA. For everyone who loves the addict. For the addict. For the people who love the people who love the addict. And so on.

The main premise of the training was that all behavior stems from one of two primary emotions: love or fear. Those who have experienced trauma, who come from "hard places", live most of their lives in a state of fear/near fear. They are much quicker to shift from coping with stress to being overwhelmed by it and to reacting in fear. A person who has not experienced trauma may have the same daily level of tolerance for stress as a person from a "hard place" but the person from the hard place starts *each day* with his/her stress cup filled almost to the top. Thus the amount of outside stress needed to push that person into fear-based behaviors can be very small.

Fear drives us to fight or flight situations. It makes us shut down completely. It makes us tear into the people we love and try to destroy them before they can hurt us.

 If I reject you first you won't have the chance to leave me. If I make you cry first you won't be able to hurt me. I'll spit on you and curse at you before I ever let you know how much I need you. I'll pick up a bottle and drink myself into oblivion so that you never notice all the *other* ways I am a failure.

Right now those of us touched by my loved one's addiction are busy fighting each other. It is easier than fighting the addiction itself. We have no control over our loved one or his/her addiction, but we absolutely have control over our own anger and our own fear based behaviors.

We are trying to find a way to be vulnerable and sad around each other, instead of trying to one up each other in a pageant of bad behavior. We are trying to extend one another the benefit of the doubt and to treat each other with grace.

A good friend who has walked this road said "Relationships and addiction are complicated."

Yes. Yes they are.

Friday, March 9, 2012


In our household we make an effort to talk about the hard stuff openly and honestly with our kids. Death, sex, money, race, prejudice, social justice, illness, war--all of it. That's not to say that we let our children listen to adult conversations; rather we discuss these issues in an age-appropriate way. Sometimes the grown-ups start the dialogue, sometimes the kids do.

I don't want my kids to grow up with feelings of shame around any of these subjects. I want them to know we can talk about anything, together, as a family.

Yesterday Miss A learned of my loved one's recent relapse. At first she asked a few clarifying questions of my mom and I, and then suggested that my loved one seek out a hypnotist (for reals) and ran outside to play.

But then, at bedtime, the tears began to flow and the questions came.

Here are some questions that keep a 7 year-old awake at night worrying about her loved one and his/her addiction:

What does my Important Person feel like right now?
What does my Important Person's partner feel like?
Will we still see my Important Person's partner at Sunday dinners?

Why would my Important Person feel guilty about being sick?
How does my Important Person's sickness hurt others?
Will this sickness hurt my Important Person's brain?

How does addiction start?
Will my Important Person ever be fully healed of this sickness?

Can I make a get well card for my Important Person?

Does Sweet Bubs know what is happening?
Can I talk to my school counselor about this?

It's heartbreaking to see the strain on her little face as she tries to process all this information. It's heartbreaking to see her worry about her Important Person. It's even more heartbreaking to not be able to tell her "It will all be ok. Your Important Person will be fine."

And so we talk to her about her Important Person and addiction, and how we can love and support her Important Person but we cannot control another person's decisions or actions. We talk about how some grown-ups like the way alcohol makes them feel, and so they have one or two beers while watching "Friday Night Lights" on Netflix.

But some grown-ups can't stop at just one or two beers and sometimes drinking alcohol is the only way they can feel anything (or avoid feeling altogether) and so they drink and drink until they become dependent on it.

We tell her she can talk to us at anytime about this--she can ask as many questions as she wants.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another day.

As I write this my elderly beagle and our new dog are snuggled up on the sofa together. The beagle is kind of a bossy jerk, so the fact that he lets the new dog press up against him is huge! I bathed the dogs this morning so they smell sweet and their hides are extra shiny and sleek. Their coat colors are complimentary and they look so cozy curled up on the couch.

It is cloudy and humid today and the roses and sweet broom in our yard are almost neon against the gloom.

I spent the morning sorting through the mountains of paper that seem to accumulate when you have a school-aged child. So many assignments! So much artwork! I recycle some and put some in a drawer for safe keeping and for future display on our family room gallery wall.

I check my email and my adoption forums, but not with the urgency I did over weeks past. The emigration process has started--now I just wait my turn. It is a relief to know the gears are in motion, and I am looking forward to my friends' receiving their travel calls.

I look through all the pictures we have of YH and watch videos of him. I marvel over his recent bang trim, over his winning smile. I fret over his latest developmental report--trying to read between the lines. I double check his most recent measurements against multiple growth charts (preemie, WHO, Korean Boys). I start a letter to Mrs. S and have to stop when I realize there are no words to adequately capture how much gratitude I feel for her.

I am at peace with our adoption process today. I have to be, because I have no emotional reserves to spare.

I am not checking my phone because I am afraid there will be messages waiting for me. Messages about a family crisis. One that happened (again) on Monday night. Someone I love is struggling with addiction and right now addiction is winning.

I can't change or control this person's process. I know this. I know to "let go and let God".  I know that all I can do is support the people around me--are my parents ok? Is my loved one's partner ok? If my loved one's partner can't call for emergency services, I will. I will suck it up and tend to the people left hurting in the wake of my loved one's decisions. I will not "fix" anything, or clean up after my loved one, or excuse my loved one's actions/choices.

I will send a text every morning and afternoon. It will say, "I love you. Be kind to yourself. Let me know if you need a ride to a meeting." No judgement, no threats, no bargaining. I will not get a response. I know better than to expect one (but secretly I hope).

Another day. Another obligation to hold it together for my husband, my kids, my parents, my siblings, my friends.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pity party.


Good news: Several of my friends who have been waiting for so long to meet their children were submitted for EP today! This is wonderful! The process has started after months of no movement!

And if you were sitting across from me right now you would see how big my smile is and how many tears are coursing down my face.

Because: we were NOT submitted for EP today.

And I know-- I really, really know--that it was a long shot anyway. But it definitely sounded like there was a possibility. And I definitely let myself get excited about that possibility.

And I am struggling to feel anything.
I am numb and sad and envious of my friends who *were* submitted--and feeling guilty about feeling envious.

I want to scream about how unfair it all seems. I want someone to buy me a drink. I want to take a nap with my cat. I want to be thankful for what I do have, and to stop feeling this way. I want to be able to get off my rear and go grocery shopping. I want to forget this is happening.

I heard from our program specialist minutes before I left to read a story to Sweet Bub's kindergarten class. Her email was sweet, and contained updated measurements and photos of YH. It wasn't all bad news.

But the bad news was what stuck in my throat. The bad news was what made my eyes fill with tears as I read "My Name is Yoon" to a classroom of bright, shining faces. The bad news made me hug Sweet Bubs extra tight on my way out and had me sobbing in the car on the way home.

The bad news has me pinned to the couch, trying to remember that this will eventually happen. It has to.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


(exciting news people!)

(i'm still going to whisper this part so that i don't jinx it actually happening: yesterday our agency confirmed that the Korean government will start processing emigration permits on monday, march 5 2012. the first few batches of permits are expected to be processed more quickly than normal; families in the first batch to be processed may be traveling to take custody by the end of march.)


This is happening. After over a year of waiting, waiting, waiting we can finally say with some certainty that we are in the home stretch.

It is unlikely we will be in the first batch of families to travel--we're hoping for the second. That would probably mean travel in April.

And in case you are wondering what my mental state is like in light of this wonderful news, allow me to give you a glimpse:

YES! I can't wait! Let us be in the first batch please oh please!

OhmygodIamsonotreadyforthisyet. We still have so much to prepare!

I can't wait to be home with YH and to start caring for him. I can't wait to hold him and smell his hair and tell him how much we love him.

Ack! The new dog starts obedience training in mid-March. We can't travel before April or she won't get to finish her class and she'll be untrained and then what will we doooooo....

The new dog will be so great with YH. She's so chill and even tempered. She loves kids and senses when to be extra gentle with them.

I have to finish raking the leaves out of the yard! I have to set up a water table and sand box! I have to spend one on one time with my oldest kids! I have no time!

I'm going to make a dog cart just like  Sweet Juniper did.

 I am so bummed that Davy Jones died.

And so on.

Happy one minute, freaked the eff out the next minute.

Tomorrow I'm attending a parenting workshop ("Beyond Consequences" with Heather Forbes) at the invitation of my friend and fellow adoptive parent. I think it will be good to spend the day focusing on building parenting skills.

If you can--send out some extra positive energy on Monday.  Our agency will be calling families on that day to let them know whether or not their child's permit has been submitted. I have many friends who have been waiting for 15+ months to travel, whose children are about to turn 5 years old, who are READY to meet their child. I want their phones to ring with good news.