Monday, April 30, 2012

Red Flags and Culture Bumps

Tea in Istanbul
I have been very fortunate to travel to several countries around the world.  I have traveled for work throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe. I have attended university courses in Amsterdam, Cape Town, Madrid, Brussels, Kampala, and Arusha and I have lived with host families in France, Morocco, Madagascar, and Mongolia.

And in all my travels I have experienced many a "culture bump". A culture bump is what happens when your expectations of how an exchange/event will play out "bump up" against the reality of how the host culture reacts to the exchange/event. Many times a culture bump is signaled by a "red flag" thought, like the ones listed below.

Sometimes a culture bump can result in a negative response.
As in: "Why is everyone laughing at me?" (red flag thought)

Sometimes a culture bump can result in a positive response.
As in: "Wow! Everyone here is sooo friendly!" (red flag thought)

When you experience a sustained series of culture bumps the resultant confusion can contribute to the phenomenon of "culture shock"--which can very quickly lead to depression, the desire to withdraw, and the desire to return to your home culture as soon as possible.

But with a little extra effort you can transform the disorienting experience of a "culture bump" into a lens for deeper understanding of your host culture. The key is to move past the initial surprise of things not going the way you expected them to into a mode of identifying *why* you received a particular reaction. What cultural norms or values are expressed through the reaction? What cultural norms or values are expressed through your *expected* reaction?

Once you are able to identify the cultural values involved you can find common ground between the norms of your host culture and your home culture.

One culture isn't better or worse than another culture, they're just different.

In my home culture (the culture of my home country, my community, my socio-ecomonic class) it is common for parents to spend a lot of time on the floor playing with their infants and toddlers, reading books to them, and guiding them through games/flashcards/activities designed to maximize their developmental potential. Many parents expect that toddlers and babies will sit in a high chair to eat and will fall asleep in a crib by themselves. Parents fret over which method of discipline is best for their child, and often attempt to correct unwanted behaviors.

In my youngest son's home culture, and particularly in his foster-care environment, YH has a small amount of toys and books that he plays with/looks at during specific times of the day. When he was an infant he spent his day cozied in a carrier on Mrs. S's back, accompanying her on her errands. Now that he is mobile he is free to wander around the house and explore, even during mealtimes. If his circuit brings him close to the dining area Mrs. S will feed him bites of food. If his wanderings do not keep him close to the dining area, Mrs. S will follow him around and give him bites as he explores. At night he beds down on a mat in the main area of the apartment, near his foster parents. YH is rarely scolded or told "no"; if his safety is at risk his foster family will intervene but otherwise his behavior goes "uncorrected". If he feels like ripping up a book he can do so without consequence.

One culture isn't better or worse than another culture, they're just different.

As I read through the accounts of families returning from Korea with their newly adopted children I am finding lots of expressions of "culture bumps". Lots of families asking why their child exhibits a particular behavior or why their foster family chose to parent in a particular way. It is important for us to recognize that the children joining our families weren't just raised in another country where people speak another language, but in another culture where the shared values influence parenting practices. This is why your toddler will help clear the table, sweep the floor and fold up blankets. It is why he/she will bow to adults. It is also why he/she will react so strongly to being told "no". It is why sleeping in a room by him/herself, down the hall from your bedroom, can be hard for your new family member.

I know I can never replicate my son's home culture. But I will do my best to pay attention to my "red flag" thoughts. I will do my best to recognize when his expectations and mine "bump up" against one another. I will do my best to help us both achieve greater cultural understanding.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Internet friends.

I am doing my best to sit serenely on my sofa, a cup of coffee and a beagle by my side. But instead I am kind of nervously clicking from one adoption forum to another trying to ferret out any new information about the current batch of emigration permit submissions.

We have been led to expect that the second batch (OUR batch!) will be processed within 4 weeks from submission date. 4 weeks from submission date is NOW. My phone is not ringing (yet).

Once we are notified that our emigration permit has been approved YH needs to have an embassy appearance and a visa interview and all kinds of other procedural boxes need to be checked. In the best case scenario that all takes a week or less.

And then the BIG phone call will come. The one that says "We invite you to come meet your son."

Sean and I have recently turned a corner in our travel plans. We decided to just take a risk and plan to travel in mid-May. We have reserved a hotel and were really close to buying tickets on crazy sale last night (alas, our return date made the whole thing invalid--boo!).

But, tickets on our preferred airline are still within reasonable range. Of course my definition of "reasonable" is based on what I've paid in the past to fly to South Africa/Mongolia/Madagascar so it's probably a bit skewed compared to most other travelers.

We finally put YH's room together. Sean converted the crib to a toddler bed and sweetly arranged the blankets I sewed  for YH last summer. During a commercial break on "Dance Moms Miami" (don't judge) he called me in to see his work.

And I burst into tears. YH's room (really a small nursery attached to our bedroom and closed off with french doors) looks so beautiful and cozy. There is enough room for his bed (although we anticipate co-sleeping for a while), a small plush bean bag to flop on, a bright rug to play on, and a cozy spot to look at books. We need to finalize the lay out and hang decorations--but his belongings are organized in bins on the built-in shelves. All it needs is the little boy who will *very soon* call the space his own.

Ring phone, ring.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Urgh part II

So on the faceplace there were many kind comments about my last post. Lots of thoughtful compliments about how Miss A handled herself, and how our discussion about body image and bullying language played out. And I appreciated each and every piece of positive feedback.

And then my friend from high school said that Miss A's story took her back to a time in her life when she wasn't so strong. And that she's tried to *be* strong and do the right thing ever since that period in her life.

And I read her comment and thought "YES. This."

Because in fact: I was a mean girl. I absolutely said hurtful things about girls who were my friends, behind their backs. I did worse. I participated in the exclusion of members of our group. I participated in elaborate "jokes" that would end in the humiliation of a friend.

When I think back on some of the things my group of friends and I did it makes me sick.

I can vividly remember specific incidents, usually involving the same friend, where my group crossed the line. I wish I could tell you that there was a reason for our behavior. That each of us harbored some secret that would explain away our cruelty. That we saw this behavior being modeled for us by parents/older kids/the media.


I can never take back what we did. It was wrong and hurtful and NOT how I want to be remembered. 

In the moment, when we were actively being mean to a friend, I remember feeling badly about what we were doing. But it always seemed that things were too far gone to stop it--that surely if what we were doing was actually mean someone else in the group would say something. If it was really really mean surely the friend being targeted would stop hanging out with us. Right? I kept waiting for someone else to speak up and put an end to it.

I was a coward. A giant coward.

And I am so sorry. If you knew me then, and I was mean, I am so very sorry. I own that behavior and I sit with it and all the discomfort it causes me. I hope you can forgive me, forgive all of us.

I want you to know that I am doing everything I can to make the playground a safe place for your kids and my kids. I am remembering how easy it is to slip into an unhealthy pattern of "friendship" and I am arming my children, and their friends, with the knowledge of how to speak up when they see similar behaviors. I am extending a listening ear to the bullied and the bullies--compassion for both.

Both sides hurt--I know this.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Tonight after dinner Miss A came over to me and whispered in my ear "Am I overweight?" She was clearly nervous and was wringing her little hands as she waited for my response.

I hugged her and said "Does your body do what you want it to do? Can you do a cartwheel when you want to? Can you run as far as you want to? Do you have enough energy to swim when you want to?"

She nodded slowly.

I told her that that is all that matters. If her body is strong, and does what she wants it to do, then she is fine.

Then I asked her "What would happen if you *were* overweight?"

And she said "I would be embarassed."

And I (dying a little on the inside) said "Why? Would the size of your body change who you are on the inside? Would it make you less smart or kind or funny?"

And she told me a story.

It seems that earlier this week Miss A was having difficulties with a friend. The friend had suddenly ditched her for another girl, and the two were now whispering behind their hands and giving Miss A sideways glances. It hurt her feelings. She tried to talk to her friend, but the friend would walk away and pretend she hadn't heard Miss A.

It made Miss A feel so sad. She wrote poems about the situation and cried. A lot.

Then! Miraculously the friend came back. She gave Miss A a cootie-catcher in morning assembly and wanted to sit next to her at lunch. They giggled together and all was right with the world.

At recess the friend wanted to walk around the playground and talk. Miss A was thrilled. As they walked they saw another girl running on the track.

Miss A's friend said "Ewww. Look at her running so slowly. I bet she's so slow because she's fat and she's fat because she eats so much and that means she isn't very smart. I don't like her, do you?"

And Miss A said that yes, actually she *does* like this other girl--very much. The friend rolled her eyes and walked away from Miss A.

And at this point in the conversation with Miss A, when she is recounting this for me with tears in her eyes, I can barely hear her over the rush of angry thoughts screaming in my brain.

I work SO HARD to help my daughter be proud of her body, be proud of all her friends, see how strength and smarts can come in bodies of all sizes...and the words of one seven year old start to undermine those efforts.

So I took a deep breath.

And we talked about how we have friends and family members of all sizes. And they are all smart, kind, funny, and worthy of our love--whether they are small like person X or larger like person Y. We talked our our friends--person N and person S--both of whom are exceptional athletes. One is big and one is small but their size has no bearing on their accomplishments in their sports of choice. We talked about how Miss A is smaller than many of her friends but that doesn't mean that she is bad or stupid.

We talked about how it is ok (great even!) to acknowledge that people come in all sizes, just like they come in all colors, but that the way a person looks on the outside has little to do with what they are like on the inside.

We talked about our dogs: our three-legged beagle looks cute and harmless, and our big pitbull-mix looks strong and scary to some people--but at home it is the beagle who steals food, chases the cat and barks and lunges at other dogs. The pitbull-mix rolls on her back for dogs of all sizes, and almost never barks.

Most of all we talked about how today Miss A is one size, but that over time her body shape and size may change. We talked about how that is a normal part of growing up. We talked about how her body and mind will tell her when they need food for fuel, and they will also tell her when they have had enough food/fuel. We talked about how her dad and I believe in taking care of our bodies, and her body, by making healthy meals and by moving our bodies every day.

Then we wrapped things up by discussing whether we thought her "friend" was being kind to her OR the other girl by making those comments at recess. And she decided that in fact her friend's words were mean--they made Miss A feel uncomfortable, and they were intentionally unkind towards the other girl. 

I told her how proud I was of her for sticking up for the other girl and not just agreeing with her friend's mean words. It is hard to be rejected by someone for days and then have them come back into your life, only to reject you once again.

It would have been easy for Miss A to agree with her friend (after all, no one else heard the mean comments) just for the sake of avoiding more conflict--but she didn't.

Second grade is hard. Friendships are hard. Maintaining positive body image is hard.

And I hate that my sweet girl has to deal with any of this.
But I am so proud of the person she is becoming.
So proud.

Friday, April 20, 2012


On April 21, 2006 I sat with my very large and very taut belly pressing against the side of our dining room table. My husband and mother sat across from me, pretending to be interested in their own activities as they gave me side-eye glances. For three weeks my mid-wives had been telling me I was 3 cm dilated--I could go into labor at any minute.

"At any minute" turned out to be a cosmic joke; my 3cm dilated cervix and I walked around for close to a month with no further signs of labor. I carried my 19 month old daughter, wandered the aisles of Target, and watched hours of television. Waiting for my boy-child to make his debut.

Finally, eleven days past my due-date, I called my midwives in tears. I was trying so hard to avoid a hospital birth and if I made it to 14 days past my due date I would have to be admitted. My midwives, knowing that I had exhausted all other "natural" means of induction, brought out the big guns: castor oil. One midwife recommended 2 Tbsp in a blueberry smoothie. The other recommended 4 Tbsp followed by a glass of wine. They told me to expect a lot of gastro-intestinal movement, follwed by labor--5 or 6 hours after taking the castor oil.

I went the smoothie route. Nothing happened. Hours passed. NOTHING HAPPENED. I began to weep and panic. My husband took our daughter out for a treat at the coffee shop, so that she could escape the oppressive atmosphere in our house.

15 minutes after they left I began to pace and pant like a caged tiger. Sean hurried home from the coffee shop and handed Miss A over to my mom. I got into the car we drove as fast as we could to the birthing center.

The midwives met us in the parking lot and escorted us into the birthing suite. I complimented one of my midwives on her cute shoes and began to push. 40 minutes later my son, my love, my heart, came into the world with a full set of wild dark hair.
I love this child SO MUCH it is physically painful. At almost-six-years-old he is the most amazing creature. His limbs have suddenly grown long--while still shorter than most of his classmates he is at least 75% leg. His face has thinned out and his bone structure is becoming more apparent.

He is hilarious. His comedic timing is enviable. He is nurturing and a dedicated friend. He loves his big sister best out of anyone in the world, and this love and admiration make him want to be the best big brother to YH possible. He is sensitive to other people's feelings and if he thinks he hurt a friend it will break his heart.

He wore a princess dress over his "street clothes" for a year. Slowly he added different pieces of a Darth Vader costume to his standard ensemble (starting with the cape) until finally he transformed fully into the Dark Lord.

He loves to build ships and castles with his Legos. He loves his cat. Over the course of a day he went from being a pre-reader to a child who reads books out loud with fluency. He is an asthete. I always ask him for sartorial advice because he appreciates a bit of fancy.

In preschool he was friends with twin girls. The girls gave him a straw fedora for his fifth birthday and he wears it all the time. It suits him perfectly.

He is a cuddler. He is still content to sit in my lap and I dread the day that he stops wanting to be wrapped in my arms. He inherited my monkey-like feet (long knobby toes and fallen arches), but somehow on him they are adorable.

For his birthday he wants to do the following:
1) eat chocolate chip pancakes, followed by dessert
2) Play miniature golf
3) Eat lunch, followed by dessert
4) Take a bath with his new rubber ducky
5) Open presents and play with them
6) Eat dinner, followed by dessert
7) Sing happy birthday and blow out candles--but not on a birthday cake; he wants a pork pie

Sweet boy--I will move heaven and earth to make your dreams come true tomorrow and every day that follows.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cora and Mercy

Over the last two weeks I have closely followed the blogs/facebook posts of the first group of adoptive families to take custody of their South Korean children this year. Within this group were two of my friends, both meeting their five year-old daughters for the first time. The girls were best friends while in the orphanage together and their adoptive families plan to work hard to sustain that bond.

Their daughters do not fit the typical profile of a child born in South Korea and joined through adoption to a family in the US. The girls are of an age typically considered "unadoptable" in the South Korean adoption landscape; they have special needs and they have lived most of their lives in an institution. This contrasts with the majority of children adopted from Korea, who tend to be toddler-aged (2 and under) and who mostly live with foster families.

And the girls are beautiful. And wonderful. And sweet. And struggling to adjust to their new realities.

One girl now lives with a Korean-American adoptive family, and one now lives with a caucasian family. Both girls have older siblings in their new families. One family speaks Korean at home and one family does not.

Please meet Cora.
Please meet Mercy.

I am reading about their adjustment to life in their new families with great interest. Mercy's mom writes about the benefits and unexpected challenges of speaking Korean with her new daughter. Cora's mom writes about how Cora used her older brothers as a bridge to trust-building with her new parents.

Both women write about the grieving their daughters have exhibited. Grieving their former lives in an orphanage, grieving for their caretakers, grieving the routines of life in a group home.

I am thankful for the upfront and honest accounts of their transitions to family life.

As a new prospective adoptive parent I made an elaborate matrix of what did/did not constitute an "ethical" adoption. In my mind I conflated "ethical" with "painless" and as part of that scenario I was quick to dismiss the possibility that a child raised in an institutional setting would feel anything but relief at being placed with a family. I would like to think I have evolved and grown from that naive perspective, and reading about Mercy and Cora's grief has certainly helped me to continue to grow my awareness of the grief and losses inherent in adoption.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brilliant post over at Third Mom

This post over at Third Mom is well worth a read.

"That work includes balancing the imbalanced adoption dynamic: the fact that adoptive parents control so much of the experience, from the surrender of children down to their children's identities. Adoptive parents need to remember that we exist in our role because bad things happen to other people. In a perfect world, we wouldn't exist at all because children wouldn't need us: they would be with the parents who gave birth to them, and those parents would have the means and desire to parent them. And that would be a good thing, a very good thing indeed.

We need to embrace our superfluousness, not fear it."

--"The superfluous adoptive parent", Third Mom

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Have passport, will travel

Now that our trip to meet YH is imminent (pleasepleaseplease), many of our friends and neighbors have been asking what our travel plans will look like.

Since we don't know *when* our travel call will come it is difficult to book plane tickets and hotel rooms. It is kind of scary to sit and watch flight prices sky rocket with each day that creeps by. I thought I was being smart and managed to reserve a 3 bedroom hotel suite for a couple of weeks (intending to cancel without penalty as needed), but just found out last night that the 3 bedroom suites are booked for the foreseeable future. So much for smart. We anticipate traveling in the first two weeks of May but can't say for certain that that will come to pass.

What we do know for certain is that our older kids will be traveling with us.
No question.

It would be SO MUCH CHEAPER to have them stay at home and make this just a Nora-and-Sean trip. They wouldn't have to miss school, or have their routines disrupted, or deal with the 14-hour-plus flight to Seoul and the ensuing jet-lag.

They also wouldn't get to experience the sights and smells of their little brother's home country. They wouldn't get to practice their burgeoning Korean language skills, to ride a subway, to try new foods, to visit ancient palaces and ultra-modern shopping malls.

They wouldn't get to experience what it feels like to be a visible minority in another country, to develop the empathy that can come from being constantly visible and remarked upon. To experience being in an unfamiliar city, where signs are written in an unfamiliar script, and where everyone around you speaks a different language.

I cannot think of a greater opportunity for learning and personal growth. I cannot think of a better investment in my children's education than to foster frequent and meaningful international/intercultural experiences for them.

The truth is that the extra money we are spending to have the children accompany us on this trip is money that we would have spent on international travel anyway. We live in a modest house. We drive modest cars. I have a thing for shoes and Sean is a music collector--but overall we are not big spenders on "things". In our family the biggest rewards come from investing in experiences, and as long as our heads are sheltered and our bellies are full at the end of the day, we have no qualms spending any extra resources on exploring the world with our children.

When I taught a course to undergraduates that focused on "Integrating the International Experience" I had my students complete a self-audit that listed the skills and characteristics they had gained from studying abroad. The intent was to help prepare the students for future job interviews--but the content of the audit beautifully articulated some of the goals I have for my children:

"I have a greater capacity to accept differences in others and to tolerate other people’s actions and ideas that may be vastly different from my own.

I am more knowledgeable about another culture and lifestyle.

I have improved my ability to communicate with people in a second language

I have a greater ability to empathize (i.e. to sense how an event appears and feels to others).

 I understand that there are many ways to accomplish the same task and that those approaches are only “different,” not necessarily better or worse.

  I have learned to improve interpersonal communication through increased abilities in listening well, speaking clearly, and paying attention to nonverbal cues.

 I have more curiosity about, and respect for, new ideas.

I am more flexible and able to adjust to changes in others.

  I am more tolerant of ambiguous situations, that is, of situations that are confusing and open to differing interpretations.

 I realize why stereotypes can be so harmful and hurtful, both to others and myself.

 I have learned how to recognize when I have made a cross-cultural mistake and can use culturally appropriate language and measures to repair any damage.

  I understand and appreciate how much educational systems can differ across cultures.

I have a greater willingness to take on roles and tasks to which I am unaccustomed.

I understand more fully my own strengths and weaknesses.

I feel more confident in undertaking new travels or projects. 

I can accept failures and shortcomings in myself more easily.

I am more confident and assertive when facing new situations.

I have become a more patient person.

I am more willing to share my thoughts and feelings with others, and to be open when others wish to share theirs with me.

I am less afraid of making mistakes or being laughed at than I used to be. "

(Adapted and expanded from: The AFS Student Study Guide published by the AFS International/Intercultural Programs (Washington, D. D., 1979), reprinted in: Clyde N. Austin, ed., Cross-Cultural Reentry: A Book of Readings (Abilene: Abilene Christian University Press, 1986), pgs. 273-27.)

Yes. Yes please to all of the above.
I am so excited to see my children discover another part of the world and to recognize the commonalities that unite all of us. I want them to meet Mrs. S and to show her what YH's life will look like as the "baby" of the family. I want them to play with other kids at Lotte World and learn that the same things make them all laugh out loud.

I want this to be our first, but decidedly not last, trip to Seoul as a family.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


See that picture? That picture proves that our friends are the greatest friends on the face of the earth. Our friends know us well enough to know that along with the mountain of tiny socks, board books and adorable outfits we will also need a good stiff gin and tonic every now and then to help us through the upcoming weeks. As we say in Texas, bless their hearts.

The toddler shower that our friends put together for us was incredible.

Friends who have cheered us on over the last year, friends who are parents, friends who don't ever want to be parents, friends who are just starting their parenting journey, friends who just like a good party--all gathered to help celebrate YH. The gifts were so thoughtful--in pretty much every picture (except the one above) I am making a crying face. Because they ALL made me cry!

Personalized t-shirts for the whole family with our roller derby names on them to wear in the airport (MamaKaze, PapaKaze and MiniKazes 1-3), personalized rash guards for YH to wear to the pool (with matching swim trunks), a book of recipes handwritten by one of the hostess' Korean mother, a library of board books curated by a true friend, Robeez with yoda ears, bunny slippers, a stuffed fox that perfectly matches the bedding I sewed for YH, on and on. A parade of items picked with love for our sweet boy.

And as I looked around the party at all our supporters I finally exhaled.
I have been holding my breath for the last 10 months or so.
Job stress, adoption uncertainty, family crisis--with each challenge I held my breath a little tighter, closed myself off a little more.

Until last week. When finally it felt safe enough to let it all out in one big "whoooosssshhh".

I know that the "thank you" cards I spent all week writing will never be enough to accurately express my gratitude to our people. How do you say "The fact that you showed up to celebrate our growing family gave me the strength to finally let go and be happy" without sounding like a loon? And yet, it's true. The collective love and energy of that party was exactly what I needed to buoy my spirit.

After I started to breath again, I crashed. I slept SO much over the last week--which is really out of character for me.

And each time I woke up I felt lighter. I am excited and nervous and anxious to start our life as a family of five. I can't wait to meet my son. My SON!

I'm ready. I'm taking deep breaths and letting them out. I'm ready.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coming together, coming apart

Underneath the tidal waves of excitement that I feel is a strong current of sorrow at the thought of all that YH is about to endure. As I shop for last minute toddler items, Mrs. S is putting his things away. As I look forward to bonding with YH, Mrs. S is slowly detaching from him.

For the second time in his short life my son will lose everything he knows and all the people who love him. First it was the familiar rhythm of his mother's heartbeat, the smell of her skin and hair, the warmth of her touch. Now it will be the loss of a foster mother who dotes on his every move, a foster father who takes him exploring in the park, a foster brother who makes him laugh with games and tickles, and a foster sister who holds his hand in restaurants. He will lose his routine, his language, his favorite foods, the sights and smells of his city.

It is horrifying and heartbreaking to think of my sweet little boy trying to process all that is about to befall him.

When YH joins our family he will be grieving these losses. He may rage. He may withdraw. He may seem to adapt immediately, and then melt down six weeks later. He may not sleep. Ever. He may refuse food. He may reject me/Sean/both of us. He may "shop around" for other caregivers in group settings. He may bite, scream and hit. He may weep inconsolably.

In order to support our son during this difficult transition we will be keeping our world small during our first weeks as a family. We will be cocooning at home. We will be declining invitations to big gatherings, we will eschew unnecessary trips to the market/target/etc.

We will not allow other people to hold YH, or feed him, or get him drinks/toys/snacks. This is not because we don't want our friends and family to LOVE him; it is because we want YH to learn that we are his parents. We will fulfill his needs and we are the ones he should trust to take care of him.

We are so thankful that we have such a fantastic community. Our friends and family are amazingly supportive--and we wouldn't be able to do this without them. We very much want to celebrate YH with all of our loved ones, but that will not happen during the first few weeks/months that he is with us.

 Instead we hope we can rely on our friends and family to offer playdates for Miss A and Sweet Bubs, meals for the whole family, sympathetic ears to listen to our growing pains, and a hug when we need it.

As frustrating as our wait has been, it pales in comparison to what YH and Mrs. S are about to experience.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Happens Next

I am still over the moon excited that our emigration permit has been submitted!

This is a big step in the Korean adoption process and it signals that after 14 months of our acceptance paperwork sitting on a desk somewhere, the Korean government is finally ready to make progress toward YH joining our family.

Many people have asked: what happens next?

In short, we spend the next three to five weeks in a frenzy of "getting ready" activity waiting for our phone to ring with the official travel call. This call will come from our US agency and it will tell us that YH is paper-ready to join our family. We will have one to two weeks to get to Korea and officially take custody of him.

The plan is for all four of us, plus my mom, to travel. We will need about 7 days to get everything in order on the home front--pet sitter, a sub for Sean at work, letting the kids' school know, packing...and so on.

We hope to travel on a Thursday, arrive in Seoul on a Friday, and spend the weekend exploring/recuperating. On Monday we would have our first meeting with YH and Mrs. S., hosted at our Korean placing agency. The kids will spend time with my mom while Sean and I go to the meeting. We will dress nicely and do our best to assure Mrs. S that we will parent this child with all the love that we have. There will be tears--so many tears.

Depending on how the first meeting goes our social worker may arrange a second meeting later in the week, or she may recommend that we take custody of YH the night before our scheduled departure.

We hope to return to the US on a Thursday or Friday, after spending a full week in Korea.

It all feels surreal right now.
Our friends threw the most amazing and fun and fantastic toddler shower for us (that gets its own post!) and so now I sit surrounded by YH's things--his things--and try to imagine the little boy who will soon be playing with/wearing all this cuteness.