Another week is upon us and that means that we're one week closer to our referral. We've almost make it through another month as well! April just might be our referral month. Realizing that we may really be within weeks of getting our referral gives me butterflies in my stomach. I'm so excited and SO ready. As far as I'm aware we're still #3, but as we saw last month, that can change quickly, so you never know what's going to happen.
This week the kids are finally back in school after a month of being on track break. I've enjoyed having them home, but it's nice to be back on a schedule and I think the kids were ready to get back to school. Thankfully I have kids who love school. Hopefully that continues as they get older!
I have several things going on this week, one of them being my birthday! I turn 34 this Saturday. It's kind of been a tradition for us to rent a cabin in the mountains for my birthday, which is one of my very favorite things to do, but we've decided not to do that this year. I don't want to spend that much money on a trip when I know that we're so close to our referral. Our referral will bring many exciting things and one crappy one. It comes with a gigantic bill, which is the final payment for the adoption. I would much rather have my birthday money go towards making sure we can pay that bill rather than take a vacation, since we already took a really fun vacation recently.
So we're planning to stay home, but I'm hoping to find a fun adventure for us to go on this weekend. Maybe we can go to the zoo or a movie, or go geocaching or spend some time at the park or something. Those are all things I love. The kids don't have school on Friday and I'm looking forward to a long family weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll get a referral for my birthday! :)
This week we're also in the middle of getting our homestudy updated. We were recently informed by our agency that we've now been waiting for so long that some of our homestudy info has expired. So this week we're running around getting new physicals, new background checks, we have to fill out paperwork again about our family finances and next week our social worker is coming over to do another home visit. Getting our paperwork updated won't hold up our referral, but it will be nice to get it out of our hair.
A homestudy is a surprisingly invasive procedure!! It's a hoop you have to jump that we were happy to do if it gets us to Clarissa, but it's a weird experience to go through. Our social worker (and whoever reads our file in Korea) knows absolutely every single last thing about our family. I don't think there's a single detail they didn't ask us about. When we first applied to adopt we had to fill out mountains of paperwork. It was an entire binder full of stuff. We had to fill out very detailed information about our finances, how much money we make, how much we have in savings and retirement and we had to fill out a paper on what our monthly budget looks like (they really need to know how much I spend on clothes every month?). We also had to state who would raise our kids if we should happen to die and we had to make a statement about that family members finances as well.
We each had to write a detailed life history detailing where we were born, what our family was like, how our relationship is with each family member, where and how Shawn and I met, how we handle marriage conflicts, how we parent our kids, etc. We had to fill out medical paperwork about every medication we're on, every surgery we've ever had, we had to have blood work done, including HIV tests, and our doctor had to fill out a very detailed form about our medical histories and have it notarized. We've been fingerprinted and background checked, both by the state and by the Department of Homeland Security.
Then the social worker had to come to our house and go through every room. She had to make sure that every bedroom has smoke detectors, we had to have a carbon monoxide detector by the kids rooms, she had to check out the bedroom we planned to put Clarissa in, she interviewed the kids about how they feel about us adopting and then she sat down and asked us a million more questions.
There were also a ton of other papers that had to be filled out. All sorts of questions about how we feel about raising a child of another race and how we intend to incorporate her culture into our family, etc. Seriously, I can't think of one single thing about our lives that isn't somewhere in our adoption paperwork!
It was an exhausting process and it felt very invasive at times. Having to revisit some of that this week has brought back a lot of memories of going through the process the first time. It's funny to look back and think about how naive we were about international adoption when we started the process. We felt so strongly that this was the right choice for our family, but we honestly didn't really know what we were doing when we got started! I didn't know a single thing about Korea and I had never met a single person who had adopted internationally. We had no idea what we were doing. So it's kind of been funny to revisit the homestudy process this week and reflect on how far we've come over the past year and a half.
I could practically write a novel on international adoption now. I've researched it backwards and forwards over the past year and a half. I know a ton of people who have adopted internationally now and I've soaked up every last detail of their experiences. I know so much about Korea now and I'm absolutely in love with the country and its culture. I love Korean movies, I love Korean music, I love Korean food and I love the Korean language. I feel such a connection to that country.
As hard as the wait has been, I'm really grateful for it. I know that there are still going to be surprises and unknowns ahead of us, but I feel like I'm going into this with my eyes open now. I think I've learned and grown over the past year and a half and I'm a lot more prepared for this than I would have been if the referral wait had been short. I've taken the time to really prepare myself and to educate myself and I think that's going to help with the transition when Clarissa does finally get here.
I'm not naive enough to think that I've got it all figured out though. I remember when I was pregnant with Josh. When I was growing up I was the neighborhood babysitter. I have been babysitting since I was 12. Then when I was out of high school I worked at two different daycares, I worked at a school and then I was a live in nanny for a year. I've always been really comfortable with kids. I enjoy being around children and I think I'm good with them. I totally thought I had the child raising thing all figured out. Then Josh came along and it took me about five seconds to realize that babysitting and being a mother are two completely different things! You can read about it, you can practice on other peoples kids and you can plan it out in your head all you want, but every situation is a unique experience that you can't really completely prepare for until it's your turn to experience it.
So I kind of view this adoption the same way. I've researched it, I've followed the stories of people who have been through it, I've read the experiences of Korean adoptees. I'm familiar with the ups and downs, I know what issues we're likely to face when she gets here and I know how I THINK I will handle them. But hearing about it, reading about it and planning it in your head is never the same as actually experiencing it. I think we're in for an adventure that we can't fully comprehend or completely plan for. I know what it's like to raise Josh and Matthew but I don't know what it's like to raise Clarissa. I know what other people went through when they brought their Korean babies home, but I don't know what it's going to be like to bring Clarissa home. Each experience has similarities, but is still unique.
I know that there will be sleepless nights, lots of tears (hers and mine!) and a lot of difficult adjustments that we'll all have to make. But it's a part of our life story that I can't wait to write. I know that this was the road our family was meant to take and that we're about to embark an amazing adventure. No matter where it leads us, it's a journey I'm ready to take.