Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The kids were all up at about 7:30 this morning so I turned the TV on while I got a few things done and a few minutes later I looked over at them and they were all lined up on the floor watching cartoons together. Seeing the three of them together makes me smile. Clarissa loves her brothers and wants to be doing whatever they're doing. So I got the camera out and captured the moment. Normally I don't get excited about seeing my kids eyes glazed over in front of the TV, but today it was cute. :)
Then about a half hour later Clarissa was sitting on the floor happily playing with toys so was checking my e-mail on my laptop and when I looked over at her a couple of minutes later she was standing up! She had pulled herself up on one of her toy baskets! I totally didn't expect to see her standing, she's not even fully crawling yet! I got a great "caught in the act" photo of her. She was pretty darn proud of herself!
So obviously things are going pretty well around here! We're healthy and happy and getting excited about going to grandmas house for Thanksgiving in a couple of days. This will be our first car trip with Clarissa and our first night with her away from home, so I'm hoping that she's a good traveler. I'll keep you posted! :)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
We got a childrens book called Bee-Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park. If you have a Korean child, or even if you don't, you should totally buy that book! It's a rhyming book (that will get stuck in your head!) about a girl helping her mom prepare Bibimbop.
It goes through all the steps to make it and at the end of the book there is a recipe for it and the instructions list things that a child can do to help prepare it.
It's seriously the CUTEST book and so fun to read. My kids love it! The recipe is really easy to make so tonight I decided to give it a try. Bibimbop is rice mixed with meat and veggies. I looked at several different recipes for it on the internet and it looks like the one in the book is pretty basic and kid friendly. It's a great meal for kids. My kids gobbled it right up and they're pretty picky!
I left out a few ingredients that we didn't have in the house, so I'm not sure how authentic the version we ended up making was, but it was SO good! My version basically just had the marinated meat (which is basically a bulgogi maranade, which is my favorite food in the world!), carrots, green onion, egg and rice. The real version has more veggies in it and it's also usually mixed with gochujung, which is Korean red pepper paste that is way too spicy for my kids! You're also supposed to serve everything seperately and mix it yourself if your own bowl, but I mixed it all before I served it just because it was easier that way and then I only needed one bowl.
So OK, real Koreans would probably laugh at my Bibimbop, but it really good! :)
Here's the recipe and photos of the finished product. Yum!
1 pound tender lean beef, such as sirloin tip
1 pound fresh spinach
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound mung-bean sprouts (available in Asian markets)
3 cups cooked rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
TO MARINATE BEEF: In large bowl, combine garlic, onions, soy, sugar, oil, sesame seeds, sesame oil and pepper. Slice beef across grain into very thin slices. With eager hands, toss beef and marinade together for 2 minutes. Set aside.
TO COOK EGGS: Whisk eggs together. Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in one-fourth of eggs, tilting pan to spread thin. Cook for 1 minute. Flip. Cook other side for 1 minute. Slip egg pancake onto cutting board to cool. Repeat (adding oil, if necessary) to make 3 more pancakes. Stack pancakes. Roll stack tightly. Cut roll into 1/4-inch slices. Unroll slices into medium bowl. Fluff into heap of yellow ribbons. Set aside.
TO STIR-FRY CARROTS: Peel and cut carrots into matchsticks. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large skillet over high heat. Stir-fry carrots until tender. Transfer to another bowl. Set aside.
To stir-fry spinach: Boil spinach for 2 minutes. Drain. Cool. Squeeze. Stir-fry over high heat in 1 tablespoon oil. Transfer to another bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
TO BLANCH SPROUTS: Boil bean sprouts in lightly salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer to another bowl. Set aside.
TO STIR-FRY BEEF: Heat large, dry skillet over high heat. Scoop meat from marinade. Add to hot pan in 1 big sizzle. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
TO SERVE: Set all bowls and skillet on table. Allow each guest to scoop rice into soup bowl, then add meat (with its juices) and vegetables. Top with egg ribbons. Mix, like crazy. Enjoy!
I'm still here, just SUPER busy these days! Life is wonderful but it's zooming along faster that I can keep up sometimes.
Clarissa has now been home for a little over a month and we couldn't possibly be happier! She's made an amazing adjustment and things are going really smoothly. She's growing and learning so quickly and it's fun to watch her explore her new world. She's getting up on her hands and knees now, ready to crawl any time now! I was looking back at some video that we took of her in Korea a month ago and it's amazing to me how much more grown up she seems even since then. They change so fast at this age!
It's been kind of chaotic around here for the past few weeks. I was just getting Clarissa on a good schedule during the day and then the boys track break started. They're out of school for the whole month of November, so that's given me a little more to juggle around here. It's pretty much go go go from morning till night around here these days. I feel bad because I feel like I've abandoned my friends a little bit this past month. I have only chatted with Jin-Ha a couple of times since we've been home and I haven't been checking in with my friends in town much. I've got e-mails to respond to, blog posts to make...I think everyone probably thinks I fell off the face of the face of the Earth!
I haven't, we're just enjoying a lot of family time right now and I'm getting used to being a mom of three!
I never finished my blog posts about our trip to Korea and I haven't forgotten about it! I'm going to make another post in the next day or so about the fourth day of our trip. I have a ton of stories to tell about that day! It was the day we visited the DMZ, the dairy farm and went to church with Jin-Ha. I think that was one of my favorite days of the trip. I'll have lots of stories and photos ready for you in the next few days!
For now I'm going to go get Clarissa up from her nap and start thinking about dinner. We're having a Korean dish tonight called Bibimbap, which basically translates to "mixed up rice". It's a little like Koreans version of fried rice. It's rice mixed with vegetables and meat. Sounds good to me!
Friday, November 13, 2009
Things are going really great around here. Honestly, better that I ever expected. I'm just constantly amazed at how well Clarissa has adjusted to our family and how easily she fit right in. I thought long and hard about adopting a child before we decided to go ahead with it and I have always felt so strongly that this was what was meant for our family, but honestly I had a few moments during the wait where I would wonder what it would feel like to raise a child who wasn't biologically mine. I wondered if it would feel different at first and I wondered if it would take a little time to really fall in love with her and feel like she was really mine.
Now that we're past all of that, I can tell you that it took about five seconds, lol. The immediate bond that I had with her actually surprised me. For some reason I thought it was going to be harder than that or that there were going to be more complicated emotions involved, but there wasn't. Holding her for the first time was very much like holding my boys for the first time after they were born. There was no question-they were MINE and I was in love.
In a few days Clarissa will have been home a month. In some ways the time has flown by and in other ways it feels like she has been here forever. This blog post was prompted by the fact that I was just laying down with Clarissa trying to get her to take a nap and as I was laying there with her and watching her fall asleep I just had a moment of overwhelming love and gratitude for her. I was thinking as I was laying there that it feels like she's always been here. I know without a doubt that she was meant to be a part of our family. For years I've felt that there was someone missing in our family and every time I look at her I know that she was meant to fill that empty spot. I feel like someone just snapped the missing peace into the puzzle. I feel ridiculously blessed to have three such wonderful children who make me smile and make my life so full of love and joy.
So yeah, things are going pretty well here. :) Clarissa is such a joy! She's so happy and easy going and so fun to play with. She's cuddly and loving and we couldn't possibly love her more. We're all pretty smitten with her! She loves her brothers like crazy and the feeling is mutual. I love watching her face light up when the sit down to play with her. Seeing all three of my kids playing together is really great. This is what life is all about.
My house is a little messier these days and by the end of the day I'm completely exhausted, but my heart is full. These days I'm just sitting back and enjoying life. We went through so much to get here and now that the wait is over I just couldn't be happier. :)
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I really do love our doctors office. The nurse is the nicest person ever and she was so excited to finally get to see Clarissa! Unfortunately Clarissa wasn't all that excited to see her! She wasn't all that happy about me taking her clothes off so that she could be poked and prodded. Poor kid!
They did her measurements and she's 23.5 pounds and 29 inches long!! I love our chunky little princess! :)
Then the doctor came in and Clarissa wasn't all that impressed with him either. :)
One of the many wonderful things about adopting from Korea is the quality of medical care they give the babies while they're there. When they gave Clarissa to us in Korea they gave us a file folder with all her medical charts in it and it was very detailed. The doctor was impressed that we had so much info. She did have some immunizations in Korea so she's not super behind, but there are a few we have to catch up on. The doctor is great about spreading things out so that she doesn't get too many at once, but she did have to have two today.
I seriously hate it when my babies need shots. I know that they're necessary but it seems so mean to hurt them when they don't understand what's going on. She was sitting there happy and all of a sudden the mean nurse hurt her leg for no reason. It makes me sad!
Clarissa and I both survived the trauma though and we finally got to pack up and go home. She's done well since she had them, she doesn't seem to be having any problems. Immunizations make me nervous, so I always worry for a few days afterwards.
Shortly after we got home we had to pack up the boys and take them to the dentist for their six month checkups. I LOVE our dentists office! If anyone in Boise needs a good dentist, I know a great one! Every time we've gone in there for the past two years they've asked us how the adoption process is going and they were SO excited to hear that Clarissa is finally here! She was the star of the show when we went in there today, lol.
First of all, the dentist lived in Korea for two years doing missionary work for our church several years ago, so he's been excited for us to go there and tell him about our trip. Then when we got in there today I discovered that they have a new receptionist-and she's a Korean adoptee!! She was really excited to hear about the adoption and I was really interested in talking to her about her experience as an adoptee. She actually has two older brothers who are biological, just exactly like our family! She has a very positive view of adoption and has had a happy life with her adoptive family, which made me really happy to hear. I don't know very many adult Korean adoptees so when I come across one I always feel like I want to hear every detail about their lives. I had to stop myself from asking a zillion questions!
So today was kind of an exhausting day of doctors appointments, but it was fun to finally get to show her off to people who have been following our adoption story for a while. For the longest time it felt like everywhere I went people would ask me how the adoption process was going and my answer was always "slow"! It's SO great to finally be able to have a MUCH better answer to that question!!
In a couple of days Clarissa will have been home a MONTH! I can't believe how fast the time has flown! In about a week and a half it will officially be two years since our paperwork went to Korea and we went on the waiting list. We had no idea where our journey was going to take us when we started this process, but I can't imagine being more thrilled with the outcome!!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Korea Revisited, part 3
Day three was full of lots more amazing adventures! The day before we had been told by our social worker that a tour guide was going to be picking us up at our hotel at 9am to take us on a walking tour of Seoul. We were really excited to do some sightseeing so we woke up that morning ready to go!
After a minor mix up (we were waiting for our tour guide in front of the hotel and she was waiting for us in the lobby! Oops!) we finally met up with the tour guide and we were on our way. I've been dying to tell you about our tourguide because we were completely in love with her! Her name was Ji-Hee and she's a college student in Seoul. She was super bubbly and friendly and a complete joy the entire day. She actually had just gotten back from spending a year in the US, so while we were excited to talk to her about Korea, she was just as excited to talk to us about the US. We were amused by her obsession with Pottery Barn and The Cheesecake Factory and she was amused by my love of Korean dramas, lol We had a lot to talk about! We have actually kept in touch with Ji-Hee since we've been home and there's a chance that she's going to coming to stay with us next summer!! Here is a photo of us and Ji-Hee:
She started off by giving us a little lesson on getting around in the subway. She showed us how to buy a subway card and how to follow the colored signs to get where we needed to go. We took the subway to Gyeongbokgung palace, which is a 600 year old palace in the middle of Seoul. When we got there we met up with another tour guide and another adoptive family and we were excited when we realized that we knew the other adoptive family from the Korean adoption message board we both post on! We enjoyed spending the day sightseeing together!
One of the things I loved most about Seoul was that it was such an interesting mixture of old and new. There are brand new big glass skyscrapers right next to palaces that are centuries old. It's really neat to see.
According to Wikipedia, Gyeongbokgung Palace was first constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867. It was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, "Gyeongbokgung," translates in English as "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven."
When you walk through the front gates of Gyeongbokgung Palace, you feel like you've transported to another time. It's hard to believe that you're still in the middle of a modern city. They have palace guards who stand at the gates dressed as the ancient guards would have been and everything looks like it's been untouched for centuries. Unfortunately it hasn't been though. When Japan controlled Korea they burned most of the palaces in an attempt to erase Korea's history and everthing had to be rebuilt. It breaks my heart to think of that beautiful palace being burned.
On a tangent, I think that's one of the things I love so much about Korea. Throughout history they've endured so much and no matter what happens they rebuild and go on. They're very proud of their culture and I think they appreciate it even more because they've had to fight so hard to perserve it. I thought about that a lot while I was at the palace. Knowing how much work went into perserving the beautiful palace and all the history that went with it made me really grateful to be able to see it. I felt a lot of love and respect for Koreans and their wonderful culture that day.
The palace is actually several buildings which are all spread out on the palace grounds. We saw the Kings private residence, the room where they held their political meetings, the Queens private area, and lots of other interesting little buildings. The architecture is beautiful and the rooms are furnished the way they would have been when the palace was being used. Ji-Hee was a wonderful tour guide. She knows a lot about the palace and it's history, so it was fun to walk through the buildings with her and have her explain the history behind each room.
After touring the buildings we walked through the park that surrounds the palace. What a beautiful and peaceful place! Again it was really hard to believe that we were in the middle of a gigantic city. It was quiet and beautiful and I enjoyed every second of our time there.
After resting at the park for little bit the group decided to head over to Insadong to have lunch and do some shopping! YAY! :) Insadong is an area in Seoul which is basically a long road lined with really neat shops that have a lot of traditional Korean art, pottery, jewelry and lots of fun souvineers. If you want to go souvineer shopping in Korea, Insadong is definitely the place to go! We actually ended up spending a lot of time (and money!) in Insadong throughout our trip.
Insadong is basically across the street from the palace, so it was a short walk to get there. When we first got there we decided to stop for lunch. Insadong is one long street and it has lots of little side alleys that shoot off from it and there are tons of neat little restaurants in those alleys. Our tourguides took us to a really neat little restaurant in one of the alleys and we had delicious lunch! One of the dishes we had there was called Tang Soo Yook, which is kind of a Koreanized version of Chinese sweet and sour pork. It was SO good!! Seriously, I'm thinking about it now and it's making my stomach growl. I want to go back to Korea just to eat at that restaurant again, lol. I actually have another story to tell about that restaurant later....
After lunch we walked through Insadong and had a lot of fun doing some souvineer shopping. I bought Josh a traditional korean stamp with his name in English and Korean and I bought Matthew a traditional Korean wooden mask that he had been begging for ever since seeing one at Jin-Ha's house on the webcam one night.
Finally after six hours of walking through the palace and shopping in Isadong, our feet were tired and we were exhausted so we decided to say goodbye to our wonderful tour guides and the other adoptive family and we took the subway back to our hotel to rest.
One thing I'll always remember about our trip to Korea was how exhausted we were!! We crammed SO much stuff into the short time that we were there and we were constantly on the go. Dealing with jet lag, the emotions of meeting Clarissa, never getting enough sleep at night and spending every day walking for hours was hard. We always hated to stop and take a break because we knew that our time in Korea was limited and we wanted to experience everything we could, so for the most part we pushed on, even when there were times that I think we could have curled up on the nearest bench and happily fallen asleep!
But that afternoon I was particularly tired. We really had hardly slept for the past three days and my body was screaming at me to sit down and rest! So we went up to our hotel to rest for a bit.
We hadn't been up there very long when Jin-Ha called to tell us she had a big adventure planned for us! Rest time was over far too soon!
I know I've said it a million times, but Jin-Ha was wonderful to us on that trip. We saw and did so many wonderful things when we were with Jin-Ha that we never could have done if we had been on our own. Our adventure that night was no exception!
First she picked us up and took us to her house. Getting to spend some time with her family in their home was so much fun, we loved getting to experience their culture and see what life is like for a family in Korea. They live in an apartment building, like most people in Seoul, and it was really fun to visit. They have an awesome balcony on the back of their apartment that looks onto a playground. I liked it a lot!
Jin-Ha has two sons who are about 8 and 12. Off on another tangent, Koreans actually count their age differently than we do into the US, so their Korean age isn't the same as it would be in the US. Koreans consider babies one year old when they're born. They don't start at zero the way that we do. Then instead of changing to the next age on their birthday everyone switches to the next age on Korean New Years Day. So if a baby is born in December they're one when they're born and then when Korean New Year comes along in January they would become two! So in that case a baby who was a month old by our counting would be considered two years old in Korea. Interesting, huh?! Anyway, that's why I'm still not sure how old Jin-Ha's sons actually are, lol.
My point in talking about her sons was to say that I've never met two sweeter, more polite children in my life! Her younger son was with us quite a bit during our trip and I absolutely love that kid. We totally wanted to take him home with us by the end of the trip! We didn't spend as much time with her older son, but he was so nice to us while we were there. One thing I was particularly impressed with was that when we got to their house he was watching TV and instead of just mumbling hello like most American teenagers would do if their moms friend came to visit, he got up and bowed to us so politely. I was impressed by Korean teenagers our whole trip. They're a lot more respectful than American teenagers.
After spending a little time with their family, Jin-Ha made us a delicous meal and we had a really fun chopstick lesson from her older son. We really enjoyed the time we spent at their house!
After we ate it was about 7pm and we were off on another adventure! We all got in Jin-Ha's car and she took us to a park where they were having a music festival. Jin-Ha lives close to the World Cup stadium in Seoul and we drove past it on the way to the park. That thing is HUGE and they were having a game there that night. We could hear the crowd from quite a distance away! It was really cool!
I already told the story about our experience at the park in a post I made while we were in Korea, so I'm not going to tell the story with as much detail this time. But let's just say that it was an experience that I'll never forget!
I really had absolutely no idea where we were going or what we were going to do there until we got there. The park is called Sky Park and they call it that because it's on top of a mountain! It's absolutely beautiful there, but in order to get to the top you have to walk up a really steep path up the mountain. Normally I would have been fine with that, but I was so ridiculously exhausted by that point that I thought there was no way that I was going to make it up that hill. My body was screaming at me to sit down! Jin-Ha and her younger son, who came with us, are total balls of energy and were sprinting up that path like it was no big deal. I, on the other hand, probably looked like I was five seconds from passing out and dying, lol.
It was a long walk but we did eventually make it to the top of the mountain and I was SO glad we did because I had a wonderful experience there that night. Again, it was one of those things that we never would have done without Jin-Ha. It wasn't a tourist experience, it was a real authentic Korean experience and those experiences are the ones that meant the most to me on that trip. I'm really grateful that we got to experience real life in Korea away from the typical tourist spots.
We sat on the top of that mountain overlooking Seoul that night and we listened to beautiful traditonal Korean music and had a wonderful cultural experience. I can't really even express how much I grew to love Korean people and their culture while we were on that trip. I feel such a connection to Korea and I felt so blessed to be on that mountain that night. I will always be so grateful to Jin-Ha for giving us those special experiences.
At the end of the night we went back down the mountain (easier than going up, by the way!) and Jin-Ha took us back to our hotel where I very happily climbed into bed. Finally, it was time to sleep!! :)
And so ends day three of our amazing Korean adventure. Look for part 4 coming whenever I have another chance to sit down and type it all out!:)
Sunday, November 8, 2009
All dressed up
I have a whole closet full of cute dresses for Clarissa that I've been dying to have a reason to dress her up in and today was the day! :) Before we left for church I took a few quick photos and I'm completely in love with how they turned out. I took a photo of Clarissa and the boys and I think it's my new favorite photo!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Korea Revisited, Part 2
In Clarissa news, she learned how to clap yesterday and we've been playing pat-a-cake over and over and over all day. She loves it and it cracks me up to watch her do it. When we get to the "throw it in the oven" part she throws her hands in the air and gets a big grin on her face and it melts my heart every single time. She could not possibly be any cuter. :) I'm going to try to get her new trick on video soon.
OK, so now onto my Korea stories! I have so much to talk about! I left off at the end of the first night in Korea. Day two in Korea was even more eventful!
But before I go on, I have to post the photos of the fancy hotel toilet! I mentioned the fancy toilet in one of my posts while we were in Korea. It may have been our lack of sleep, but we were ridiculously amused by the fancy toilet in our room. It had a panel of buttons on the wall you could push to make the toilet perform fancy toilet tricks. The seat was also heated, which is always enjoyable. :)
Also, while I'm at it, here's a photo of the view outside our hotel window.
After being up for over 24 hours on our first day in Korea, we finally got back to our hotel and slept. I've never been so happy to sleep in my entire life!After a fantastic nights sleep we woke up the next morning ready for the biggest event of the trip-it was time to meet Clarissa!!
Our meeting at the agency was at 10am and Jin-Ha was nice enough to pick us up at our hotel and take us to the agency. Just getting to go to the adoption agency was amazing. I've heard so much about it over the past two years and I've seen pictures of it, so getting to FINALLY be there in person was awesome.
The agency is in a tall skinny building on a busy street. We walked in the front door into the reception area and a nice women sent us upstairs where our first meeting would be. We talked to our social worker for a minute and she got us settled in a cozy meeting room with couches and bookshelves and toys. It felt like a little living room.
My stomach was SO nervous at that point!! What a big moment! A few minutes later the door opened and in walked the foster mother holding the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She had on jeans, a pink shirt and the cutest pink hat ever! She looked really nervous to see us and I'm sure she was wondering what the heck was going on! It didn't help that I took one look at her and burst into tears, lol. I'm sure she wondered who the crazy crying woman was.
We sat down and Clarissa stayed with her foster mother at first. The social worker sat with us and talked to us for a minute while Clarissa warmed up to us. She told us a little about Clarissa's time with the foster family and finally the foster mother handed her over to us.
Holding Clarissa for the first time was like a dream. I just kept kissing the top of her head! She was pretty nervous with us at first. She kept looking at her foster mother and then back at us. After a few minutes she decided that she wasn't sure she liked us and she started to get fussy. I expected that and it was OK, I handed her back to the foster mother for a few minutes. We definitely didn't want to overwhelm her.
The meeting took about an hour and in that time we took turns holding Clarissa, we talked to the social worker who translated for the foster mother all the things we needed to know about Clarissa. She told us what Clarissa ate and what her sleep schedule was like and all of that. Honestly, a lot of that first meeting is already a blur to me. I was SO happy to finally be seeing Clarissa that I wasn't paying attention to everything going on around me! I don't remember a lot of what was said in that meeting.
OH!! I can't believe that I forgot to tell this story!! I'm off on a tangent, here we go! A few months ago when I first started talking to Jin-Ha online I mentioned to her that I wanted to learn Korean so that I could thank the foster mother when I met her. After all she's done for us, the least I could do was thank her in her own language.
So Jin-Ha told me to write down what I wanted to say and then she translated it for me and helped me learn to say it. It was five sentences and I practiced it a TON. Basically what it said in English is this: "I was very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking such good care of Clarissa, you are very special to our family. We will raise Clarissa to be proud of her Korean heritage and I hope that we can come back to Korea to visit soon." That's easy enough to say in English but much trickier in Korean when you don't speak the language!
I practiced my little speech in Korean a million times. I practiced it at home, I practiced it in the airport, I practiced on the airplane, I practiced in the hotel and I practiced in Jin-Ha's car on the way to the agency. It was so important to me to say thank you to the foster mother in Korean, but I was so worried that I would get nervous and mess it all up!!
Fortunately when the time came, I didn't mess it up. At the end of the first meeting I told the social worker that there was something I wanted to say to the foster mother in Korean and then I gave my little speech. I was SO nervous but I pulled it off! Jin-Ha says that my Korean pronunciation is good, so I'm pretty sure the foster mother understood me. I hope what I said made sense! She seemed to really appreciate it and I'm SO glad that I did it. It's also really fun to say my Korean speech and pretend that I speak Korean, lol. I sound pretty convincing for those five sentences!
All too soon the first meeting was over and it was time to say goodbye to Clarissa for the time being. The social worker thought that Clarissa seemed nervous enough around us that she thought we needed to schedule a second meeting for later in the week. That was fine with us, of course, but the problem was that the only time they could do the second meeting was the day we were supposed to be going to Clarissa's hometown to do a tour of the hospital she was born in, so we needed to do some rescheduling.
There is a branch office of the adoption agency in Clarissa's hometown and a social worker was planning to meet us at the train station and take us to the hospital and it turned out that the only other time she could do it was that day. So the social worker told us to get down to the train station quickly and get ourselves down there. We were off on another adventure!!
So we said goodbye to Clarissa, jumped in Jin-Ha's car and we were off to Seoul Station, which is the big train station in Seoul. It was about 11:45 by that point and we were trying to make the noon train. Unfortunately we missed it by about two minutes.
So we bought tickets for the 1:00 train and Jin-Ha took us out to lunch while we waited. Seoul Station is attatched to a department store and to Lotte Mart, which is Korea's version of Target or Walmart. There was a food court there where we ate. Again it was one of those places that we never would have gone without Jin-Ha because we would have had no clue how to order or even WHAT we were ordering!
It was a food court similar to what you would see at a mall in the US, but there was one central cashier where everyone places their order that services all the little food places and then you sit down and wait for your order number to come up on a big board on the wall and when you see your number you go to the food booth and get your food. We would NEVER have figured that out on our own!! It was hard to decide what to eat when everything looked completely foreign and I had no idea what anything was, but we chose something that looked sort of like bulgogi (my favorite Korean food!) and it was delicious!
At a quarter to one we said goodbye to Jin-Ha and we boarded the train for our long ride across Korea. Clarissa was born in a coastal city called Busan, which is on the complete other side of the country from Seoul. Busan is the second largest city in Korea next to Seoul. By car it's about a six hour drive but by train it's just under 3 hours. So it was already 1:00 in the afternoon and we had a three hour train ride ahead of us to Busan and then three hours back in the evening so we knew we were in for an extremely busy day.
The train ride to Busan was actually pretty cool. Getting to travel all the way across Korea was an amazing experience. It was neat to look out the window and get a view of what Korea looks like outside of Seoul. There were lots of fields and trees and farmland along the way. I enjoyed the ride.
When we got to Busan we were met by a social worker who was super nice, but it was 4pm on a Friday and I could tell that she was kind of ready for her workday to be over. Because the trip was so rushed and last minute that day, we really didn't know exactly what to expect or what we'd be doing in Busan, so I really didn't know what our plans were with the social worker. I kind of hoped that maybe we'd get to sit down with her at the agency or somewhere and ask all of our questions. We did ask some questions about her birth mother and the circumstances of Clarissa's birth while we were on the way to the hospital, but I just really wasn't sure what was OK to ask and I didn't feel like I was prepared or if the car was the best place to ask my questions. I thought there'd be more time to talk later.
We got to the hospital and a nice women at the front desk took us all up to the 5th floor, where the maternity ward was. Being in the hospital where Clarissa was born was really emotional for me. I just kept imagining her birth mother and I kept thinking about what she must have gone through while she was there and it was really overwhelming to me. The woman who gave us the tour was SO nice. She took us back to labor and delivery, showed us the room that Clarissa was born in and the nursey where she spend her first few days. It was really interesting to see a Korean hospital. It was really quite similar to what you'd see here, just a little more basic. There is good healthcare in Korea and it didn't look like a bad place to give birth.
But again, I just kept feeling Clarissa's birth mother so strongly when we were there. I felt like I was walking in her footsteps, retracing everything she'd gone through and it was so emotional for me. I know from talking to the social worker that she didn't made the decision to place Clarissa for adoption lightly. I know it must have been so hard for her and my heart hurt for her while we were there. Thinking about her leaving that hospital without her baby broke my heart. I have nothing but love and respect for Clarissa's birth mother.
But getting to see where Clarissa was born was also really neat and exciting. It was a long and exhausting trip to Busan, but I will always be SO glad that we went. I'll never have to wonder what Clarissa's first few days were like. Someday when Clarissa asks I'll be able to tell her all about it and pull out photos, and I'm grateful for that.
And speaking of photos...
We didn't learn a lot of specific information about Clarissa or her birth mother at the hospital, but just getting to be there and see where she was born was a really special experience for me. I felt like I was just trying to memorize every detail and every second of our experience there so that I can tell Clarissa all about it someday.
After we sat on the beach and watched the sunset we walked across the street and ate dinner at Burger King! As much fun as we had eating Korean food on our trip, we were so happy to see something familiar. :)
After our quick dinner we hailed a cab and got back on the road to the train station. OK, remember me telling you about the crazy drivers we encountered in Korea?? We were about to have one of those crazy driving experiences. For one thing, I think the driver took advantage of the fact that we didn't speak Korean and had no idea where we were and I'm pretty sure he took us on a scenic tour of Busan. He drove FOREVER, watching TV the whole time. We would have asked him where he was going if we knew Korean, but we didn't so we just settled down for the ride.
FOURTY FIVE minutes later we finally arrived at the train station. I'm pretty sure that the cab driver is still laughing about the ride he took the dumb Americans on, lol. He was watching a TV show while he drove and I think he decided not to stop until the show was over. Anyway, we did make it back to the train station in one piece and we boarded the train for the long ride home.
The ride to Busan was really interesting and fun. The ride HOME from Busan...wasn't. It was dark, it was late at night and we were SO tired. We tried to sleep and we managed to for a little bit, but it was still a long ride home. In 48 hours we had gone from Boise to San Francisco, San Francisco to Seoul, all the way across Korea on a train and back again, all on maybe 6 hours of sleep. We got back to our hotel around midnight and crashed into bed.
And there you have it, day two of our adventure in Korea. At this rate it's going to take a really long time to finish my Korea stories!! It's important to me to write it all down though. As much as I think I'm never going to forget all the amazing things we did in Korea, someday it will be a fuzzy memory and I'll be glad I can go back and read this and remind myself what an great adventure we had.
Stay tuned for more stories of our adventure coming soon! :)
Monday, November 2, 2009
So our planned Halloween festivities were a little modified. Josh didn't feel well enough to go Trick or Treating so he stayed home and handed out candy with me and Clarissa and Shawn took Matthew out with an extra candy bucket so that Josh wouldn't miss out on the candy. I'm glad that we put the kids costumes on and took them out to Shawns work on Friday morning before Josh got sick because that ended up being the only time I got to see all three of them in their costumes together this Halloween. Josh is hoping that his Darth Vader costume will still fit next year so that he can give it another try next Halloween. Poor kid, being sick on Halloween is no fun!
So our weekend ended up being really low key and uneventful. Yesterday we stayed home from church and watched movies in our jammies all day. Frankly it was a MUCH needed day of rest. After all the craziness of the past month I think we all really enjoyed a quiet weekend.
Josh is home from school today but he's feeling much better and his fever is almost gone, so I'm hoping that he'll be back on his feet tomorrow. He's been sick a lot this fall, so I'm glad to see him feeling better. Today we're hanging out together watching a lot of Phineas and Furb and eating Halloween candy. :)
Aside from the swine flu things are going pretty good around here. Life with Clarissa is getting easier and more fun every single day. She has really settled into our family nicely and I'm getting used to having a baby in the house again. Now that Clarissa is more comfortable with us her personality has really come out and we're enjoying her SO much! She's extremely easy going and laid back, which is nice. I really expected her to have a more difficult transition, but she's come a LONG way in two weeks. She's gone from being scared and clingy to being really relaxed and happy. She's smiley and giggly and so much fun.
Last night was a big milestone because it was the first night she slept in her room all by herself!! She's been sleeping on the floor in our bedroom in her Korean bed, and that was working OK, but she's kind of a light sleeper and every time we made noise it was waking her up. So yesterday I moved the Korean bed into her bedroom and let her take her naps in there and she did so well that we decided to give it a try last night and it worked great! I think she's happier to be in her own room where it's quiet. She sleeps from about 8:30pm to 7:00am or so. She sometimes wakes up briefly during the night but if we pat her back for a minute she'll go right back to sleep. Considering that two weeks ago she wouldn't sleep unless I was holding her and even then she would only sleep for a couple of hours at a time, I think we've made amazing progress!!
I'm so excited to finally have her sleeping in her bedroom. When we moved into this house five years ago I immediately declared her bedroom the perfect bedroom for a little girl because of the cute bay windows and I've been going into that room for five years thinking about what it would be like to have a daughter in that room. We got it painted and decorated for her last January and I've loved to go in there and put clothes in the closet and sit on her bed and think about what it would be like to have her home, so putting her to bed in that room last night was pretty great. I'm so glad that she's finally here with us.
I'm still planning on making more blog posts about our Korea trip, but my laptop cord broke this weekend so I'm without my normal computer until the new cord gets here, and the edited versions of all my photos are on my laptop, so I'm going to wait until I get that fixed before I got back to telling my Korea stories. Hopefully I'll be back up and running in a day or two.
Also, I noticed this morning that for some reason a few photos have been deleted off the dropshots website! I have no idea how that happened, but the Halloween photos are gone! I'm going to reupload them when I get my laptop back, but in the meantime they're gone and I have no idea where they went. Weird.
Anyway, that's all the news from our house. I'm off to gorge myself on Halloween candy and spend some quality time with Josh and Clarissa! :)