Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy (almost) Halloween!

The kids don't have school today so this morning I got them dressed in their Halloween costumes and we went over to Shawns pharmacy to do a little early Trick or Treating. Every year that I can remember we've taken the kids over there in their costumes and it's always really fun and this year it's the first time his coworkers got to meet Clarissa, so it was extra fun!

I've had Clarissa's Halloween costume sitting in her closet for the past year. I bought it the day after Halloween last year from a costume website that was having a big clearance sale.

Since we got our referral that costume has kind especially been on my mind because we didn't know if we were going to get Clarissa home in time to wear it. Whether or not Clarissa was going to make it home for Halloween has been a frequent topic of discussion around here for the past few months!

So putting the costume on her today was really really exciting. She made it home in time to wear it! :) I've looked at that costume a million times over the past year and imagined what she'd look like in it. Getting to finally see it on her was awesome!

I'm going to be taking a lot more pictures of the kids in their costumes tomorrow when they get ready to go Trick or Treating, but I got a few today of Clarissa. Enjoy the sneak peek. :)

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Korea Revisited

Because of my limited internet access while we were in Korea and the lack of time I've had since we've been home, I feel like I never got to talk about our trip to Korea as much as I wanted to. I've been meaning to wait and do it when after I had a chance to go through all the photos I took so that I could post photos and talk about each one, but at this rate it's going to be months before I get them all done and I'll forget my stories by then.

So today, and maybe occasionally over the next week or so, I'm just going talk about what happened on our trip and share the photos I have had a chance to go through so that I get them all down in my blog before I forget them. My blog has been kind of a journal for Clarissa to read when she's older and I want to make sure that she has all these stories. So some of it might be long and boring, but it's important to me to write it all down. I won't feel bad if you skip it, it's almost more for mine and Clarissa's benefit more than anything.

So just humor me, I have a lot to talk about!

Let's start with the plane ride over there. You all know how much I hate to fly, right?! I've literally been terrified for months about getting on that plane. The morning we left for Korea was so hard for me. I was emotional anyway because we were about to go get Clarissa, plus I've never left the boys for that long and I was having a hard time thinking about being away for that long. Add that to the fact that I was dreading getting on the airplane and I was kind of a mess!

I always worry way too much about flying and it always ends up not being as bad as I thought. Will someone please remind me of that the next time I freak out about flying?? The flight from Boise to San Francisco was a piece of cake. It was close to two hours but I swear it felt like 10 minutes!

The flight from San Francisco to Seoul unfortunately did NOT seem like 10 minutes! We flew Singapore Air and really it was as comfortable as economy class on an 12 hour flight could be, but still, it was long and not all that much fun. When we got on the plane the pilot announced that it was going to be a bumpy flight because we would be flying around a typhoon. Seriously, the last thing a plane phobic person wants to hear is that they'll be flying around a TYPHOON! I was pretty sure that we'd all be dying a horrible firey death.

But we didn't and I survived. It was a pretty bumpy ride at times, but thankfully turbulence on a great big plane doesn't really feel as scary as turbulence on a little plane for some reason. Frankly, we were so tired that I'm not sure anything would have phased us much at that point!So for 12 long hours we ate really bad airplane food, we watched a bunch of movies and we tried to sleep for a while and finally we made it over the ocean, around the typhoon and I looked out the airplane window and saw Japan!! I watched as we flew over Tokyo and it was really amazing. For a girl who had never left the country before and hates to fly, seeing Japan out the airplane window was when it really hit me that I was embarking on a pretty amazing adventure!

Finally we passed Japan and crossed into Korea. I'll never forget seeing Korea for the first time outside the airplane window. For two years I have waited and hoped for Clarissa and thought about her life in Korea every single day, and suddenly I was seeing it for myself. I sat with tears in my eyes and watched the sun set over Korea out the airplane window. It was an experience I'll never forget.


video

We landed at the Incheon airport, which is on an island just outside of Seoul, and we made our way through the airport. I was so happy to have my feet on the ground again and all the way through the airport I kept saying "can you believe we're in KOREA?!" It still didn't seem real! The Incheon airport has been ranked one of the best airports in the world and it's REALLY nice! It's huge, but really easy to maneuver and it's really clean.

Oh! Here's something cool about the Incheon airport! First of all, they have a big kids play area in the airport to keep your kids happy while you wait which is amazing, and second, they have really cool family bathrooms. There's a little room off the main womens bathroom (maybe the mens bathroom has one too, I don't know) and you slide open the door and there is a regular sized toilet, the CUTEST little toddler sized toilet and a baby changing area. How cool is that?! I changed Clarissa in that room on the way home from Korea and I couldn't get over how nice it was.
Anyway, back to the story. At this point we had been up for something like 19 or 20 hours and we were completely exhausted!! We got our luggage and went to airport entrance where a driver from the agency was supposed to meet us, but we were a little early and he wasn't there yet. That was OK with me because I was so excited to actually be in Korea that I just wanted to look at EVERYTHING! I went in a few of the airport stores and I bravely used Korean money to buy lipgloss at a cute little makeup shop. I was so proud of myself! It was also the first chance I had to use the tiny bit of Korean I know, which I was all excited about! (Seriously, the amount of Korean I know consists of things like Hello and thank you. Not so impressive.)

It was also where we started our fun little game of pointing out poorly translated English. If you ever go to another country, "spot the poorly translated English" is a fun game to play. We had a good time with that through our whole trip. :)




So I bought lipgloss, we giggled at the Kraze Burger slogan (in case you can't read it, their slogan is "It's my burger more than a burger") and we waited for our driver.

In the meantime, here's something interesting about Korea. Korea is obviously a very technologically advanced country and I read a statistic that 90% of Koreans own a cellphone. At the airport you can actually rent cellphones for $3 a day (plus per minute call charges). Super cool! So we stopped and rented a cellphone for the week so that we could call home and make calls during our trip. We used that thing a lot!

While we waited for the driver I took video:


video

Finally the van driver arrived and we made the trip into Seoul. The airport is actually about an hour outside of Seoul, so it took us a while to get to our hotel. It was an amazing ride though because we finally got to look around!

Here are the first two things I observed about Korea. First of all, there are some BEAUTIFUL bridges around Seoul that are all lit up at night. I saw so many pretty bridges on our trip. I really wished I could have stopped to take pictures of them.

The second thing I observed is that Koreans are crazy drivers!! I spent way too much time worrying about dying on the airplane on the way over there when what I should have been worried about is dying in a car accident while I was there! We had some interesting driving experiences while we were in Korea. For one thing, practically every single car has a GPS navigation system on the windshield-and they also broadcast live TV! So you'll be flying down the freeway at 70 miles per hour and everyone is watching TV while they drive.

But driving in Korea is an interesting thing, which leads me to the third thing I observed. Koreans are extremely nice and respectful of others. They might be driving 70 miles an hour, watching TV and weaving in and out of traffic, but they're all very calm about it. Cars will pass on the right, swerve into other lanes, merge into traffic like they have a death wish, and everyone is all very nice about it. Cars will move out of the way for each other, no one honks and screams out the window and I didn't see one middle finger! I saw no road rage in Korea!

So pardon the tangent, but seriously Koreans are the calmest, nicest people I've ever met. One day on our trip we were in a cab in Seoul and our cab driver came about two inches from running over some guy crossing the street (because that's what happens when you watch TV while you drive!!). I totally thought he was going to hit him and we were going to see him flying over the windshield. But he stopped just in time and the guy walked around to the side of the cab and I was fully expecting him to start screaming obscenities at the cab driver for almost plowing over him and the guy leaned into the cab drivers window and smiled and waved. The cab driver waved back and the guy continued crossing the street. I LOVE Koreans. :) I have a ton of stories of the nice people we encountered in Korea, which I will eventually get to.

Anyway, back to the story, the van driver finally got us to our hotel. It was a REALLY nice hotel, called Lotte City. From what I could tell, the Lotte company (pronounced Low-tay) pretty much owns Seoul. There are Lotte hotels, a Lotte amusement park, a Lotte mall, Lotte Mart, which is like Koreas version of Target only bigger, and all sorts of other Lotte things. Actually, we later realized that the Korean grill we own is a Lotte brand. The Lotte name was everywhere in Korea.

The Lotte City hotel is in a business section of town and it's really kind of a business hotel. It's a new hotel, very modern with lots of glass and marble. It has a really pretty fountain out front and a Dunkin' Donuts across the street. :) There are a LOT of Dunkin' Donuts in Seoul!!

We got checked into our hotel and a few minutes later we finally got to meet my friend Jin-Ha!Remember when I talked about how NICE Koreans are? I think Jin-Ha is the ambassador of nice Koreans. We couldn't have had a warmer welcome and she showed up with a bag full of food so that we'd have breakfast in the morning. That came to be a theme with Jin-Ha. Everytime we turned around she was providing us with more food. She constantly worried about us being hungry!

I actually took photos of the food she brought because some of it was so...foreign! Jin-Ha's husband owns a milk company, so she brought us a bottle of milk from his company, which we thought was kind of neat (we actually washed out the bottle and brought it home! I think I'm going to keep change in that bottle...), and she brought us some fruit and some snacks that I still have no idea what they were, but they were good!








Here's my next tangent-Korean fruit is HUGE! From what I could tell, Koreans don't really eat a lot of sweets (aside from Dunkin' Donuts, I guess!), they eat a lot of fruit. We ate a lot of fruit in Korea and it was all delicious and it all looked like it was on steroids! We ate grapes the size of plumbs and pears the size of melons! Koreans are very proud of their Korean pears. Someone told me with much pride that Michael Jackson liked Korean pears. They're gigantic and REALLY good. They're crunchier than any pear I've ever had, more like an apple. Yum. If you ever go to Korea, make sure you eat a pear!

And speaking of food, that brings me back to the story. After Jin-Ha met us at our hotel she took us out to dinner. At this point I think we'd been up for close to 24 hours and we were completely overwhelmed and exhausted, but really excited for our first real Korean experience. We were so blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with Jin-Ha while we were in Korea and we got to experience a lot of things that we wouldn't have if she hadn't been with us. I'm really grateful for that.

She took us to a little restaraunt near her house. One of those "real" Korean places that a tourist would never go because they'd have no idea what to do there! We sat on the floor around a little table that had a grill in the middle of it and they brought us strips of pork to grill on it. Then they brought us lots of little bowls filled with all sorts of things I've never seen before. I saw this same type of meal several times during our stay in Korea. Every meal involves lots of little bowls full of interesting things, most of which I still can't identify.

One thing I CAN indentify is kimchee. Kimchee is served with pretty much every meal in Korea. Kimchee is basically fermented cabage that has been marinated in a really spicy sauce. Koreans LOVE it. Me? Not so much, lol. Let me just say that I am NOT an adventurous eater. I knew that food was going to be the hardest thing for me in Korea because it's hard for me to try new food. I'm ridiculously picky. I did try everything though! I even ate seaweed! Multiple times! I never thought I'd eat seaweed...

You can tell that Koreans are proud of their food. It's always served beautifully and I could tell that they put a lot of work into it. Korean food tends to be spicy though, since a lot of it is made with red pepper paste, which my tounge can only handle in small amounts!

Anyway, that first meal with Jin-Ha was really fun. It was really neat to see real Korean food and try lots of new things. I think Jin-Ha was amused watching us try all of the food that she sees every day but we'd never heard of before.

So here's my last tangent and then I'm done with stories for the night. Koreans use chopsticks with every meal. The table is set with chopsticks and a spoon, never a fork. That was fine, we were super excited to work on our chopstick skills, but every single time a Korean person saw us holding chopsticks on the entire trip they would inevitably wrinkle their brow and offer to find us a fork. And on the entire trip no one was ever able to sucessfully track down a single fork for us! We didn't really want a fork, we wanted to use chopsticks, but apparently we were doing it all wrong. Jin-Ha's son tried to show us the right way to hold them, but he eventually gave up on us. :) We ate just fine and we manged to get food to our mouths, but Koreans seemed to be really amused by our chopstick skills. We tried, we really did! :)

Ok, I'm going to bed now. That was a super long post about a lot of random things, wasn't it?! At this rate it's going to take me a long time to get through all the stories of our trip. I've got lots more to talk about, so stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mediocre Media Wednesday

Wouldn't that title have sounded SO much better if it had been Monday?! :)

So I was thinking today that I wished I had more photos and video to share, but I'm so ridiculously picky about that sort of thing that I never want to post anything until I've taken a bunch of really good shots and have had time to go through them all, pick out the best ones and do a little touchup editing on them and these days I just never have the time for that!

So today I decided that my goal is to post things even if I cringe a little that they're not perfect. The photographer in me wants everything to look perfect, but sometimes I just want to be a mom taking snapshots!

So anyway, there are two new photos on the dropshots website that I took today. I wanted to take a few of Clarissa and the boys but by the time I got them all sitting together I realized that I only had one shot left on my memory card (because all the Korea photos that I STILL haven't gone through are one there!), so I took one really mediocre shot and called it a day, lol. I also took a photo of Clarissa earlier today when she was playing. She's been in a really good mood today!

Then as I was getting ready to post them, Josh was sitting on the floor playing with Clarissa and he had her laughing SO much! It's the most I've heard her laugh since she got here! So I grabbed my little Flip video camera to capture it, but the video turned out really washed out and grainy. I can't win today, lol. But it's cute hearing her laugh, so I'm sharing it anyway! Pardon the mess of the toys all over the floor. This is what it looks like in my house right now after a day of playing on the floor with Clarissa. :)

Anyway, enjoy!

www.dropshots.com/Wenders11

Code brown, all units respond!

Clarissa has has some constipation problems since she's been home. The other day I bought baby food prunes. I fed them to her two days in a row. It just solved the problem.

Lesson learned-be careful how much baby food prunes you give a baby.

Carry on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The new normal

Has Clarissa really only been with us for a week and a half?? It already feels like she's been with us forever.

Things are really going amazingly well around here. The first week was a little rough at times (mostly at night!) while we all got used to each other, but the last few days have really been wonderful. Last night Clarissa slept through the night for the first time!! WOOHOO!!

We decided to keep her up a little later to see if that would help and it did. I've always been a stickler for bedtimes and our kids go to bed fairly early, so it totally went against my instincts to keep her up late, but it worked. She slept from about 10:30-6:30 on her yo all by herself!

The last few nights I've been sleeping next to her yo on a twin sized mattress that we dragged off her bed, but last night she was doing so well that I decided to try sleeping in my bed and it worked! She sleeps on the floor right next to our bed, so if she needs me I'm right there, but she didn't wake up once all night! Yay!

I've noticed that she's been a lot less clingy and nervous the past few days as well. When she first came home she hung on to me for dear life 24 hours a day. But as time has gone on she's been less and less clingy. We still do a TON of cuddling, but she's more comfortable being put down. When she first came home she cried if I sat her down for a minute to make her a bottle or run to the bathroom, but now she's totally fine if I walk away from her for a minute. I think she's starting to trust me a little more and she knows that if I walk away for a second I'm going to come back.

As she's gotten more comfortable her personality is coming out more and she is SO much fun! She's the happiest baby, her smile melts my heart. Sometimes when she's sitting on the floor playing with toys she'll look up and me and grin and it's the greatest thing in the world. I think she's come amazingly far in a week and a half. She's really easy going and cheerful and she absolutely adores her brothers. Her face lights up when they walk into the room.

I was just saying to Shawn today that I'm almost nervous about how well everything is going. It's like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Some of the attachment books I've read refer to a "honeymoon period", so maybe it's possible that she's going to melt down at some point, but at the moment she's not really showing any signs of a meltdown. She's smiley and giggly and the sweetest thing in the world.

Shawn came home for lunch today and we were sitting there with her watching her play and we just kept saying how blessed we feel. We were talking about how glad we were that we waited for the referral as long as we did because if it had been a day sooner we wouldn't have been matched with Clarissa, and we can't imagine loving any other baby more than we love the one we got. I wish I could go back in time and tell that to the me who was complaining every day about how long the referral wait was. I'd tell myself to be patient because in the end it would all be TOTALLY worth it.

So there's my much too sappy post for the day. Life is good here. I feel more content than I've felt in a while. I have three beautiful children who I love more than anything in the world and life is just really really good. (See what a good nights sleep can do for you??) :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New layout

I decided the new chapter in our story called for a new blog layout! But I'm still frustrated that my photos always look a little grainy when I post them here! Does anyone know why my photos look bright and clear in Photoshop but a little dull and grainy here? I've messsed with the Photoshop settings and tried to save the photos a million different ways with no luck. I'm picky aboutthat sort of thing and it's driving me crazy. If you know how to fix it, please share! :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The photo shoot...sort of!

Today ended up being a super busy day!! This morning a friend of mine who does ceramic handprints and footprints offered us one for free as a baby gift, so we went over and made the mold of Clarissa's hands and feet. It will take a few weeks for her to finish it, but I'm SO excited to see it!! We never got a copy of Clarissa's handprints and footprints from birth, so doing them now means a lot to me.

Then I went and ran all the errands that I should have done days ago but didn't because I spent the week snuggling with sweet Clarissa, so that took up most of my afternoon!

But I did manage to cram a quick photo shoot in this afternoon. It didn't turn out as well as I hoped but I did get a few decent ones. It was cold outside today, so we had to make it quick and Clarissa wasn't nearly as excited about sitting in the leaves as I thought she would be! She absolutely refused to look at the camera and she got really mad when we kept telling her that she couldn't eat the leaves, lol.

So I'll share a few of the photos I got, but I'm going to try to do some more maybe tomorrow or later next week if it's a little warmer. I also didn't get any of the boys with her today. Matthew was busy working on a project and Josh isn't feeling well today, so I decided not to torture them with pictures. Hopefully I'll get them in photos tomorrow. I still don't have a photo of our whole family! Trying to find a time when everyone is home, dressed up and happy hasn't been easy so far. I'll try it again tomorrow when we're not so busy!

Anyway, the photos are at dropshots if you want to check them out!

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sleeping like a baby??

Why do they call a good nights sleep "sleeping like a baby"?? I've now had three babies and I've decided that "sleeping like a baby" should really refer to someone who wakes us screaming every few hours and has to be soothed back to sleep, lol.

So obviously the lack of sleep is getting to me. :) Every night we come up with a new theory about how we're going to get Clarissa to sleep and none of our little schemes have been working.

That brings me to a Korea story that I haven't told yet, and you get a free Korean culture lesson at the same time! Aren't you glad you stopped by my blog today? :)

In ancient Korea, houses were heated by piling hot stones underneath the house, which made the floors warm. Since that's where the heat came from the floor, that's where they slept. They slept on padded mats called a "yo". Even now that there are modern heating systems, most Korean homes still have heated floors and it's still very common to sleep on the floor. They sleep on a yo and the cover themselves with an "ee-bool", which us basically a comforter. In the morning they roll it all up and put it in the corner. It's nice and tidy!

So that's how Clarissa has been sleeping for the past 8 months. She's never slept in a crib as far as I'm aware. She was sleeping on a yo with her foster parents.

Clarissa's foster mother has never fostered before and after Clarissa she decided that she doesn't want to do it again because it was too emotionally difficult to love her and then have to say goodbye. So all the baby things that she had in her house belonged to Clarissa in her mind. Most foster parents keep all the baby things for the next baby but Clarissa's foster mother really wanted all of Clarissa's things to come to the US with her. That's just another testament to how much Clarissa was loved by her foster mother and I appreciate that so much, but taking all of her clothes and toys and things home was kind tricky because we only had so much room in our suitcase.

We showed up for one of the meetings at the Korean agency last week and found that the foster mother had brought us Clarissa's bedding. I had heard her mention that she wanted to give us bedding for Clarissa, but I was only vaguely aware of what Korean bedding was exactly. So I was quite surprised when the foster mother presented us with two GIGANTIC bags of absolutely adorable but really big and fluffy bedding. It consisted of a yo, an ee-bool, a pillow and several decorative pillow cases of different sizes.

Her foster mother just couldn't stand the thought of Clarissa going to the US without Korean bedding. I love her for how much she cares about Clarissa, but when I saw those bags I started panicking a little! There was absolutely no possible way that we were ever going to be able to pack it in our suitcases. Even if our suitcases had been empty I it wouldn't have fit! We told the social worker that we didn't know what to do because there was no way that we were going to be able to get all that home. He called in another social worker and they had a long conversation in Korean about what to do about the bedding and eventually a few more people were called in to confer about our predicament.

I feel bad because I think the foster mother got in trouble for it a little. The foster parents aren't really allowed to give any gifts that can't easily be packed in a suitcase. But since she had it there we definitely didn't want to turn it down. It seemed really important to the foster mother that Clarissa have her bedding.

So finally the social workers dug a huge box out of a closet or something and they stuffed all the bedding inside of it. Then the carefully taped it all up, even added a handle for us and we decided that we'd be taking it home on the airplane with us.

I have to admit, I was a little stressed out at the thought of hauling that huge box of bedding all over Seoul and getting it through the airport with the rest of our suitcases and Clarissa. We had SO much stuff to bring home with us and I had no idea how we were going to manage it all.

But we did manage it somehow and the big box of bedding came home with us. Fortunately since we had a lap ticket for Clarissa on the way home we were allowed one more piece of luggage and we were able to count the box. We had to drag the box to an over sized luggage area, but we did manage to check it in. (of course when you enter the US you have to pick up your luggage and then recheck it if you have a connecting flight, so we had to get all of our luggage in San Francisco, haul the big box through that airport and recheck it for our flight to Boise! I do admit to cursing that box a bit, lol.)

Anyway, to make a long story shorter (you know I don't tell short stories!) we did manage to get home with the box and when I was finally able to unpack it all and really look at what it was, I was SO thrilled that we hauled it halfway around the world because it's awesome! I never got a good look at it in Korea, so I wasn't completely sure what it was until I got it all out of the box at home. It's an absolutely adorable pink yo with little cartoon girls on it and then a matching ee-bool and matching pillows. Its all pink and fluffy and seriously, it's the cutest thing I've ever seen. It's what a little girl would be sleeping on in Korea, but it's something that you never see in the US, so I'm so excited that we got to bring it home with us and have a little bit more of Korea in our home.

I've been letting Clarissa take naps on it during the day and she absolutely loves it. I can tell that she's used to sleeping on the floor and that's where she's the most comfortable. I hesitated letting her sleep on it at night though because I have a fear that she's going to wake up in the middle of the night and crawl away and we're not going to know it. In the US we're using to corralling our kids in a crib until they're toddlers! Also, we wanted Clarissa to sleep with us at night to help with bonding and I didn't think that everyone sleeping on the floor was going to be an option.

But after a week of sleepless nights with a baby who hates sleeping in our bed, EVERYTHING is an option. :)

So last night I gave in. I put the yo on the floor in our bedroom and that's where Clarissa and I slept. Clarissa had the best nights sleep she's had since she's been here. I can tell that she was relieved that her idiot parents had finally figured out that she wanted to sleep on the floor, lol. I can't say that I slept well though! It's a twin sized yo, so we both sort of fit on it but I kept waking up all night finding that I had rolled off of it and was sleeping on the carpet. That's hilarious to me now, but it wasn't so much at two o'clock in the morning, lol.

So tonight I'm on to a new scheme. I think maybe I'm going to get out the foam pad and the sleeping bag and see if I can have a camp out next to her and not on the yo. She won't sleep unless I'm next to her, so putting her on the floor and me in the bed just isn't an option at the moment. When she's falling asleep she will keep opening her eyes to check and make sure I'm still there. She also holds on to my hand or my arm while she's falling asleep for security. It kind of breaks my heart for her, really. That poor kid is terrified that another mommy is going to leave her.

So one way or another I'll stick close to her, even if that means I have to sleep on the floor for a while. Eventually I hope that she decides that this mommy isn't going anywhere and she'll be more comfortable sleeping alone. In the meantime, I'll do whatever makes her feel secure.

But I have to admit, I snuck away from her this morning at about 5am when I was sure that she was sound asleep and I crawled back into my bed for a bit. That bed has never felt more comfortable! I didn't fall back to sleep though because I was afraid that she would wake up and find me gone.

Here's a picture I took last night of Clarissa in her yo.

I'm going to get better photos of it later because it really is SO cute! Normally I don't post photos of Clarissa on my blog, but you can't really see that much of her face, so I decided that it was OK. I won't make you go to dropshots for this one!

And speaking of photos, my big plan is to do a family photoshoot with Clarissa tomorrow. I have the cutest dress that I've been dying to put on her and the fall leaves are so pretty right now, so I'm hoping to go outside and get some fun pictures. Hopefully she'll be in the mood for photos and the weather will cooperate. If so, check back later in the weekend and I might have some fun photos to share! :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Busy Busy Busy!!

I know people are waiting for updates on how things are going here and I keep meaning to give long updates filled with photos and fun information, but I'm so busy with Clarissa that the day gets away from me and by the evening I'm too exhausted.

When I think of the kind of mom-with-a-baby I want to be I imagine that I'm going to be one of those moms who is always dressed with my hair done by 8am and a nicely organized to-do list. The house will be clean, we'll have the errands run by noon and we'll spend the afternoon at the park. It's all very nice in my head, lol. In reality at the moment I'm one of those moms wearing pajamas at noon with sweet potatoes on my shirt and rice cereal in my hair. My house looks like we invited hurricane Katrina over for a play date and last nights stimulating family conversation was whether we should have Arbys or Carls Jr. for dinner.

Having said that, I AM ridiculously happy with our current situation I just wish I was a little more June Cleaver and a little less Rosanne Conner at the moment, lol.

Having a baby in the house again has thrown me for a loop a little! I totally feel like a first time mom again! It's been six years since we had a baby in the house and in that time I've apparently forgotten how to to do it, lol. Clarissa is SO much fun and I'm having a ball with her, it's just taking me some time to figure out how to take a shower when you're home alone with a baby and to remember that you can't go grocery shopping when it's nap time! We'll figure it all out.

Clarissa is a really happy baby and I'm loving playing with her during the day. When she grins her whole face crinkles up and it melts my heart every single time. The boys are so in love with her, she fits in to our family absolutely perfectly.

She's still super clingy to me though, which is totally normal given what she's been through. Everything I've read about attachment says that they often pick a "safe" person and hang on for dear life at first. She's not necessarily clinging to me because she loves me yet, but at the moment I'm her safe person. The love and trust develops over time. I have to admit, I kind of like it-she's SUPER snuggly and loves to be held and cuddled. I could snuggle with her all day long. It's the reason I'm not getting anything done though!

We're still having sleeping issues with her because she only wants to sleep ON me. Not next to me, but on top of me. She's sleeping in our bed for the time being, which we planned on all along, but she can't realistically (or safely!) sleep on me all night, so we've spent a lot of time awake with her a night. I wait until she falls asleep and then try to roll her off of me and lay her next to me, but she's on to that trick. It doesn't work.

Every day she is becoming more and more comfortable with us and is more comfortable playing on the floor with toys during the day and being away from me a little bit, but when it comes to night time she's still hanging on to me like a life raft in the ocean. I feel really bad for her, she must be so confused. She likes us fine but I'm sure she's still wondering where her foster mother is and when she's coming back. The lack of sleep is really hard for me, but I have to keep reminding myself that what I'm going through is nothing compared to what she's going through. So I'll keep being patient and hopefully over time she'll relax a bit and be more comfortable sleeping on her own at night.

So between the fact that I'm not sleeping at night and I have a baby who loves to be snuggled all day, my hair isn't done, my house looks like Toy's R Us threw up and dinner often involves pepperoni and a delivery guy. It's still week one though. Maybe by next week I'll have the schedule down a little better and I'll magically become June Cleaver. I DOUBT it, but we can always hope! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two new photos from this morning!

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Monday

I feel like I have so much to blog about these days and so little time to do it! :) I'm going to try to hurry in a quick update since Clarissa is still asleep.

Things are going really well, except that we're dealing with sleep issues. Clarissa is so happy and so fun all day and then at night...well, we're still working on it, lol. She has her days and nights mixed up a little still, so we haven't gotten much sleep in the past few days. It kind of feels like having a newborn! :)

We had a really quiet weekend where we just spend family time together at home, but the kids went back to school today and Shawn went back to work, so it's time to go back to real life! It's going to be kind of nice to be home alone with Clarissa during the day, actually. We can work on getting a nap schedule down and I can spend a lot of time bonding with her. She's going to be sticking pretty close to me for a while!

Other than the sleep issues, she seems to be settling in well with our family. She really is SO much fun to play with! Her personality is starting to come out a little more and she's a happy, easy going baby. Her tummy issues are gone, which is good, and she seems to be getting used to American food. She's eating different things now than she was in Korea and I worried that it would be hard for her to adjust, but it hasn't been.

Part of me still can't believe that she's actually here!! Did we really go all the way to Korea and come back with a baby?? It all feels like a dream! :) All the waiting and hoping and wishing we've done over the past two years is over and it feels really really good. No more wondering when the referral is going to come, no more worrying about USCIS paperwork or when her Visa is going to be approved or wondering when we'll get updated photos of her. Now I can just snuggle up with her and kiss her cheeks and enjoy every second of her. I feel like our family is complete now and that's a wonderful feeling.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More photos!

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

I finally got some more photos of Clarissa up on the dropshots website. I'll be adding more of Clarissa soon and I'll also be posting a bunch of photos of Korea soon, but I'm having a hard time finding enough free time to work on them these days! :)

Clarissa is doing really well. We had a fun day with her yesterday except that she was having some tummy troubles which weren't making her very happy. She was super super clingy to me all day yesterday, so I didn't get much accomplished besides doing a lot of cuddling, which was definitely OK with me!!! She's been a little less clingy today though, so I took advantage of a few free minutes to get the photos posted. Look for more coming soon!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Home at last

What an absolutely amazing adventure this week has been. I'm sorry that I'm just getting around to blogging, I know people have been waiting for updates! I had this great plan of doing a daily travel log on our trip, but my computer never cooperated. We needed an ethernet adapter for my netbook and I was never able to track one down. We were also SO busy every second of the trip that I had a hard time finding the time to sit down and blog even when I did manage to get computer access! I have a ton of photos to go through and I'll be posting them in next few days as things settle down a bit.

Anyway, you don't want to hear about that, you want to hear all the exciting news! At the moment Clarissa is sleeping next to me, cuddled up with Shawn. She's beautiful, she's amazing and she's forever ours.

Wednesday afternoon we nervously went to the agency to pick her up. We were afraid of being late so we left ridiculously early and ended up being a half hour early for the meeting. We just couldn't wait one more minute!! :)

They took us up to one of the meeting rooms and we talked to the social worker for a bit. There were a few forms we had to sign and she went over the immigration process we'd have to go through at the airport. Then she left us alone for a few minutes while we waited for the foster mother.

I knew that the foster mother meeting was going to be hard, so I spent a few minutes trying to collect myself and prepare, but the second she walked in the door with Clarissa we both burst into tears. She brought her sister along for support and Jin-Ha was also there with her son, who I absolutely adore. We spent the first few minutes exchanging gifts. I brought a bunch of things for the foster mother to take with her, including a pretty gold locket with a photo of Clarissa in it, and she gave us some more momentos of Clarissa's time in Korea, which are really special to us.

The social worker asked us if we had any more questions for the foster mother and she gave us a few more tips on things Clarissa likes and dislikes, and then it was time for the hand off. The foster mother handed Clarissa over to me and we were both sobbing by that point. We took a few photos together, but we both look terrible in them, with our eyes all red from crying.

Then we all went downstairs together and said final goodbyes in front of the agency building. It was hard, I know that the foster mother didn't want to leave. She had told Jin-Ha previously that her biggest worry was that Clarissa would be crying when she walked away. She didn't want her last memory of Clarissa to be of her crying. I knew how important that was to her, so I tried everything in my power to keep Clarissa happy while she walked away. Clarissa was confused about what was going on and she was a little fussy so I just kept pulling more toys out of my bag in an attempt to make her happy until the foster mother had walked away. It was mostly successful, I'm pretty sure that the foster mothers last view of Clarissa was of us waving and smiling.

With our arms full of gifts and Clarissa we made our way back to the hotel. By the time we got into the cab Clarissa realized that the foster mother was gone and she started to cry, and I was super emotional anyway, so it was a hard ride back to the hotel. Having Clarissa in my arms was amazing though. I just kept kissing the top of her head and saying a silent prayer of thanks for such a wonderful blessing. As difficult as it was, the moment she finally became ours was a beautful moment.

We got back to the hotel and Clarissa was pretty upset for a while. I expected that, and we dealt with it. There was a lot of crying going on for a while, so we just sat with her and did whatever we could think of to try to cheer her up. After a completely exhausting day we all fell asleep pretty early with Clarissa between us and we all slept soundly all night long.

This morning we woke up and Clarissa had a whole new attitude. She was happy and smiley and we had SO much fun with her!! Unfortunately it was time to pack up and go home. I have more Korea stories to tell later, but let me just say-we bought a LOT of stuff in Korea! So much that I don't know how we managed to pack it all in our suitcases, but somehow we did. I went a little crazy with the souvineers, lol.

A note about the time...we left on Thursday afternoon, which was more than 24 hours ago (I think?), but because of the time change it's still Thursday! I still don't completely understand the time change, but we've basically lived Thursday twice, so when I talk about today it was really probably yesterday for the rest of you, but it was Thursday in Korea. All I know is that I woke up at about 5am Thursday morning in Korea and now that we're back in Idaho it's 11pm Thursday evening and somehow I haven't slept in about 30 hours.

Jin-Ha came over while we were packing and said her final goodbyes. We will miss her, I'm so glad that we got a chance to spend so much time with her in Korea. She was wonderful to us.

Finally it was time to get to the airport. A van from the agency picked us up and away we went. It's a long ride to the airport from the hotel and I enjoyed getting one last look at Korea. It was emotional for me. This trip was so special to me and I also realized that Clarissa was getting her last look at her birth country. There were a lot of tears shed on this trip. I pretty much cry about everything these days!

We got to the airport and got our stuff checked in and Clarissa was NOT happy with us. I felt bad for her, I know that we were messing with her nap schedule and that she was confused about waht was going on. My biggest fear for months has been that she would scream on the airplane all the way back to the US.

But fortunately I was in for a VERY pleasant surprise! Apparently Clarissa loves airplanes! She was super fussy while we were getting settled in our seats before takeoff and the second the plane left the ground she snuggled right into me and fell asleep. We were lucky enough to get bulkhead seating with a bassinette that we could put her in, so we got her settled in there and she pretty much slept for the entire 10 hour flight from Seoul to San Francisco! What an answer to a prayer. The flight couldn't have been easier. Feeling the plane leave the ground was emotional for me because once the plane leaves the ground there's no going back for Clarissa. She left Korea on a one way Visa, so knowing that no one can come back and take her from us was comforting. The second the wheels left the ground she became ours forever. As sad as I was to leave Korea, it was also really exciting to know that we'd made it. Clarissa is ours!!

We had a tiring layover in San Francisco and I think the air conditioning must have been broken in the airport today because it was a million degrees in there!! It made all of us a little tired and cranky. Clarissa had been a trouper but we were SOOO ready to go home.

Finally we boarded the plane in San Francisco and made the trip to Boise. It's a short flight and that's a good thing because I was so excited about getting Clarissa home that I was practically jumping up and down in my seat!!! We left Korea at 5:50pm on Thursday and arrived in Boise at 5:45pm-five minutes before we left. The time change still boggles my mind. :)

Because I'm overly emotional I started crying as soon as the plane hit the ground in Boise and I cried all the way to exit doors, where the paparazzi of family and friends were waiting to greet us. Seeing Josh and Matthew standing there at the airport with pink baloons waiting anxiously to meet their sister was probably one of the greatest moments of my life. I will never forget walking through those doors and seeing them there. I love my family so much.

As soon as Clarissa saw my mom and the boys and my friends who had come to greet us, she turned on the charm like I hadn't seen before! She was so excited about the balloons and the boys and she smiled and laughed like she understood that the party was for her. My friends took plenty of photos and a small crowd actually gathered to watch the excitement. It was a really fun moment that I'll never forget.

We finally made it home and it's been a whirlwind of an evening getting settled. There were bags to unpack, presents to hand out, we're still trying to figure out what food Clarissa likes to eat and work out sleeping schedule for her an all of that, so I think it's going to be crazy around here for a bit. The boys are ridiculously in love with her, and she's mesmerized by them. No one can make her smile like Josh and Matthew can.

She does also have moments where she's not so happy though. I know that all of this has to be really confusing for her. She'll be really happy and having a good time and then she'll just suddenly burst out crying and be inconsolable for a while. I know that she's confused about what's going on and I know that she's missing her foster mother and her life in Korea. Bonding and attachment isn't something that happens over night. She's enjoying spending time with us for the most part, but I know that the weeks ahead are going to bumpy while we all adjust. We're just rolling with the punches right now. When she's happy I'm happy and when she's sad I'm happy just to sit with her and snuggle until she feels better. We'll get there. She had a pretty big meltdown tonight when it was time for bed and Shawn walked around with her for a while until she fell asleep. I expect more meltdowns in the days ahead, but I hope that as the days pass she'll learn to trust us and feel secure with us. She been through a lot of transitions in her short eight months of life.

So for now I'm going to bed while things are quiet. She's sleeping soundly beside me and every now and then I can't resist touching her cheek or smoothing back her hair. She's here! It still doesn't seem completely real, but I'm loving every second of it. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The big day

In 90 minutes I'm going to get in a taxi, go to the agency and walk out with my daughter. I've dreamed of this moment for two years and I can hardly believe that it's finally here!! So many emotions are running through my head right now. I'm excited and scared and nervous and happy and I'm also so sad for the foster mother. We've gotten the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her over the past week and I've grown to love her. I love her for being such a wonderful mother to Clarissa while she's been in Korea. Clarissa is happy and healthy and loved and safe and I have her foster mother to thank for that. I don't know how to thank someone for such an amazing gift, but today I'm going to try. It breaks my heart to know that while we're walking out of the agency with our daughter, she'll be walking out alone. My heart hurts for her.

But through that sadness is so much happiness knowing that Clarissa is finally going to be in our arms. Yesterday we had a quick meeting at the agency to be with Clarissa for her final medical checkup and while we were there the foster mother gave us a bag of Clarissa's clothes. When we got back to the hotel I opened the bag and started going through the bag and all of a sudden I had this moment where it hit me that these are my DAUGHTERS clothes. It suddenly felt so real that it took my breath away. This is real!! Clarissa is actually coming home with us! Just typing that brings tears to my eyes. I'm so excited that I can hardly sit still!

This afternoon when we get Clarissa back to our hotel we're going to spend some quiet time in our room, just the three of us, getting to know each other and it's time that I'm really looking forward to. Tomorrow we're going to do some last minute shopping if Clarissa is up to it and then we fly home tomorrow evening.
There are a few events in your life that you can define as life changing and I think that this week in Korea has been one of those times for me. I can't even describe how important this trip has been to me. Every moment of it has been a gift that I will be forever grateful for. I'm going to be sad to leave tomorrow. I will miss the wonderful people here and all the beautiful things we've seen. Korea is an amazing place and I've been so blessed to have experienced it.

So now it's time for me to put the computer away and prepare to leave for the agency. The butterfies in my stomach are performing an Irish jig in there, I think. :)

The next time I post I'll have Clarissa by my side. What a wonderful thought. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tuesday

I can't believe that in a few days our trip is going to be over! It has gone by so quickly! Yesterday we had an awesome day shopping and spending the day without anywhere we needed to be. We had a wonderful trip, but very little downtime to just wander around, so yesterday was that day.

When we were with the tourguides the other day we went to a really good restaurant in Insadong and we wanted to go back there again yesterday. We thought we knew exactly where it was, but Insadong is full of little side alleys that all look alike and we couldn't remember which alley we had gone down. It was pretty comical, really, lol! We wandered around forever looking for it, and we finally found it and had a wonderful lunch!

Then we wandered through the shops in Insadong for a while and I had to resist the urge to buy EVERYTHING!! I want reminders of Korea in our house and I so badly want to buy art and dishes and everything else, but of course that's not realistic. We have to get it all home! So we have bought some fun little souvineers but unfortuately not enough to completely redecorate my house. :)

This morning we're going to Namdaemun market, which is a huge outdoor market, to do some more shopping and then this afternoon we have another meeting at the agency to see Clarissa again!! YAY! :) We're coming armed with books and toys this time. :)

Tomorrow morning we're doing some last minute sightseeing and then at 2:00 we FINALLY get to take Clarissa with us for good. We'll go over to the agency and say our final goodbyes to the foster mother and then we'll bring Clarissa back to the hotel with us for the night and the next day we'll fly home. I'm so nervous about the final goodbyes. I'm trying not to think about it too much yet, but I know that tomorrow is going to be really hard.

For now we're off to start our day. It'sa beautiful day in Seoul and we're of to enjoy it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New day, new hotel!

Today we got moved to our new hotel. We're in a different part of town now, so I kind of feel like we're on a different vacation now! The other hotel was fancier, but the room was small and it was in a business section of town. The new hotel isn't as fancy, but the room is huge and it's right in the middle of the fun tourist areas. So we've lost our fancy toilet, but now we're down the street from all the good tourist shopping! I'd say it was a good trade. :)

Today we were planning to go on a picnic with the Jin-Ha and Clarissa, but Jin-Ha has gotten a bad cold, so we sent her home to rest instead. She's been so wonderful to us, I can't even begin to tell you all the wonderful things she's done for us while we've been here. We've barely had to buy food at all because every time we turn around she's feeding us something! Today she picked us up at the old hotel and brought us to the new hotel (before I realized that she was sick!) and she brought along lunch for us. It was very funny, she made what she called hot dogs, but they definitely weren't even close to what we think of as hot dogs! They were kind of like pancakes filled with a molasses or jelly of some sort. It was really delicious!

Once we got settled at our hotel we walked down to a big bookstore. I've been dying to find a place that sells books and DVD's because I wanted to buy a few books and some childrens shows in Korean for Clarissa and I wanted to buy a couple of the Korean dramas that I love. We managed to find both and I'm really excited about that!!

The big problem we've been having on this trip is internet access and I thought that moving to this hotel would fix the problem, but it has actually made it worse. I still can't connect to the internet from my room and the business center here charges money for internet use. I need an adapter for my computer in order to make it work in my room, so we just need to find an electronics store, but we're having a hard time finding one. The language barrier is making it tricky.

So I don't know when I'll be able to blog again. If I can find the adapter I need it will be soon, and if not I may only be able to do another post or two before we leave. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, we're probably still alive and having fun! :)

For now we're off on another adventure. More shopping, yay! :)

Another day another adventure

I never have enough time to sit down and blog like I hoped I'd be able to, but I have a few minutes so I thought I'd give you a quick update on our Korea trip.

We're having an absolutely amazing, but completely EXHAUSTING trip! I've never been so tired in my entire life! I'm not sleeping very well because my body is all messed up by the time change and then we get up in the morning and go go go until late at night, when we crash back into bed.

Yesterday we took a tour of Seoul with a tourguide from the agency and we walked around Seoul for six hours. Then we got back to our hotel completely exhausted and Jin-Ha called and said that she had something fun planned for us. It was about 6pm at that time and we were so tired, but we want to take every opportunity we can to go out and do things while we're here, so we told her we were up for the adventure.

First she picked us up and took us to her house for dinner. It was so much fun to spend time at her house and see what family life in Korea is like. Then she said that she was taking us to a festival of lights at a local park. I was SUPER tired, but it sounded harmless enough, so we agreed. There somewhat of a language barrier with Jin-Ha, so I don't always understand exactly what we're doing until we're doing it. The other thing you have to know about Jin-Ha is that she has energy that would wear our the Energizer bunny. I don't know when she sleeps because she is always on the go!

So she drove us to the park, which is called Sky park. Do you want to know WHY it's called Sky park?? Because it's basically on top of of a mountain so you feel like you're in the sky. Oh yeah, and you have to climb the mountain to get up there. What did I get myself into, lol?? We had already done a walking tour of Seoul that day and it was after 7pm when we started our journey up the mountain. It was easily over a mile and it was straight uphill. Jin-Ha was marching up there like it was no big deal and I seriously thought I was just going to lay down and die about 50 feet into the walk.

We DID eventually make it up the mountain and I didn't collapse and die (yay me!) and when we got up there the trip became TOTALLY worth it! Every year they have this festival at the park and tons of people were there. It was dark outside and they had tons of big lights that moved in rythym to music. They had a live performance by a group who played traditional Korean instruments and sang traditional Korean music. It was really beautiful and such a wonderful cultrural experience. It was a beautiful night and I really enjoyed the lights and music. Unfortunately when it was over we had to walk back down the mountain, which fortunately I managed to live though. :)

Today we had an absolutely AMAZING day!! We got to spend the whole day with Clarissa!!! Jin-Ha knew that I really wanted to visit the DMZ so she planned a whole day trip and invited Clarissa and her foster mother along! The DMZ is the demiliterized zone between North and South Korea. It's the buffer zone between the two countries. I've been really interested in Korean history and especially in North Korea, so I really wanted to visit the DMZ.

But before we went to the DMZ we all joined Jin-Ha for church. Her brother is the pastor of a Korean Baptist church in Ilsan and her whole family goes there, so she was really exited about us meeting her family. We're not Baptist and we don't speak Korean, but Jin-Ha has been so wonderful to us that we really wanted to meet her family and experience her church. We may have had quite a language barrier there, but it really was a really great experience. Koreans are some of the nicest people I"ve ever met in my life and the people at that chuch couldn't possibly have been more welcoming. They were just amazing. We had the church service and then they served lunch afterwards. Getting to experience such a real slice of Korea away from the usual tourist spots was such a wonderful exprience that I will never forget. I have grown to love the people of Korea more and more every day that we've been here.

After church we went to the DMZ, which was really neat to see. At the South Korean side there is a beautiful park, called Peace Park (I think) and it has a little amusement park, restaurants and other fun things. There's pretty much just razor wire and a small river that seperates North and South Korea, so you can walk up a big platform and look right into North Korea. There's not a whole lot to see, it was pretty much just hills and trees, but it was amazing to see it. I never thought that I'd see North Korea.

After that we drove out to the countryside and visited a little farming town that was the most beautiful place EVER. A friend of Jin-Ha's family owns a dairy farm there, so we stopped and visited the farm. Oh my gosh, it was the greatest place ever. I want to live there really bad! It was so scenic and beautiful and peaceful. They sell fresh milk and cheese and we got to eat cheese that had just been made. It was so good! We also ate Kim Bap, which is a common food in Korea that looks a lot like sushi, but with no fish. It's rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. I'm a super picky eater who doesn't like to try new things and I've actually eaten seaweed twice today. I can't say that it's my favorite food ever, but while I'm in Korea I'm eating like a Korean! Jin-Ha is a wonderful cook and has made us a lot of delicious Korean food!

After the farm we drove home, but it was a pretty long drive back to Seoul. It was an interesting drive back because we could see North Korea from the freeway all the way back to Seoul. On the side of the freeway there is a razor wire fence, a river and then North Korea on the other side of the river. Every so often there would be a guard tower on the side of the freeway with soldiers with machine guns standing there. It was eerie, but SO interesting to see.

We just got home and I sat right down to blog before we go upstairs and crash.

So all day long Clarissa was with us and it was wonderful!!! We got to spend so much time with her and she's finally warming up to us. I got to hold her during the church service and she fell asleep while I was holding her, which was pure Heaven. I've been waiting to snuggle with her for SO long and I cherished every second of it. I can tell that the foster mother is having a really hard time letting Clarissa go, but she's been wonderful to give us time to bond. All the time we've been able to spend with Clarissa on this trip is going to make the transition when we finally take her for good so much easier. I hope!!

So now I'm on my way upstairs to crawl into bed and relax. I'm completely exhausted. Tomorrow we're switching hotels, which is going to be kind of a pain, and then we're meeting Jin-Ha, the foster mother and Clarissa for a picnic. I'm looking forward to it!

This trip has been an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget. I have so much more to say but unfortunately not enough time to say it. Once I get home and settled with Clarissa I may revisit some of these stories and tell you more about our Korean adventures, but for now I'm off to bed!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Another busy day!

I don't have a lot of time, but I thought I'd give a quick update about our fun day! This morning a tour guide picked us up at our hotel and took us on a siteseeing trip. We went to an absolutely AMAZING ancient palace. It was another one of those times on this trip that I've almost had to pinch myself to believe that I'm really here! I never thought I'd be touring a palace in Seoul, Korea!! The palace is over 600 years old and so beautiful. Seoul is such an interesting mixture of old and new. It's a very modern city with big skyscrapers and then right in the middle of them there will be a palace that is hundreds of years old. It's amazing to see.



After we visited the palace we went to lunch with our tour guide and had the best Korean food EVER, and then went shopping in Insadong, which is a really cool part of the city full of all sorts of neat traditional Korean shops. It's an awesome place to buy souvineers! We picked up a few things for the kids and we'll be going back there in a few days because it's right down the street from the hotel we're switching to on Monday.



Here's a photo of Shawn and I at the palace having a great time!

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'M HERE!!!

Greetings from Korea! I bet you all thought I had dissapeared! :) Unfortunately I can't get the internet to work on my netbook in our room so I've been without internet access since we got to Korea. At the moment I'm sitting at the business center in the hotel. This is the first chance I've gotten to sit down since we arrived!!

Ok, so on to the good stuff!! We met Clarissa!!!! Seeing her for the first time was the most amazing experience ever. She's beautiful and wonderful and amazing. I've kissed those sweet chubby cheeks so many times that she's sick of me!

So let me give you a recap of what has happened since we arrived. Settle in for a long read because I have SOOO much to say!!!

We left San Francisco and made the 12 hour flight to Korea. So we all know how much I hate to fly, right? We got on the airplane, sat in our seat and the pilot comes over the speaker and informs us that there is a TYPHOON brewing around Japan and that we're going to try to fly around it but that it's going to be a bumpy ride.

A TYPHOON!!! When you have airplane anxiety the last thing you want is to hear that you're going to be attempting to fly around a typhoon. I have to say though, the experience flying on an international flight is WAY different than taking a short domestic flight, which is all I've ever done before. The plane was HUUUGE and much more comfortable than any I've ever been on. There was a video screen in front of each seat that had tons of movies and TV shows and games that we could watch whenever we wanted. That was pretty cool!

The flight did end up being pretty bumpy, but frankly at that point I was so exhausted that I slept through the last few hours. Twelve hours on an airplane is tough, even when it's a comfortable plane. I was so grateful for the small amount of sleep that I was able to get.

We left our house in Idaho at 6am on Wednesday and 19 hours later we were in Korea, only it was Thursday evening when we got here because of the time change. The time change is still confusing me.

So we only managed to sleep a couple of hours on the plane in those 19 hours, and there was still more adventure ahead of us in Korea before we finally went to sleep!

We got to the airport and there was a driver from the agency waiting to take us to our hotel. By the time we got to our hotel it was 8:30pm, and aside from the few hours of sleep on the plane we had been up for close to 24 hours by that point.

My wonderful, amazing, fantastic Korean friend was dying to meet us so she met us at the hotel when we got here. Let me just say before I go any farther that my Korean friend (whose name is Jin-Ha and I'm going to talking about her enough, so you might as well learn her name, lol) is SO AWESOME! I don't know how anyone visits Korea without Jin-Ha to help them. She met us at our hotel with a bag of food so that we would have breakfast in the morning and then she whisked us off in her car to take us out to dinner.

The fun thing about Jin-Ha is that when we're with her we're not aimlessly wandering around Korea looking for tourist traps. She takes us real Korean places that we would never know how to navigate on our own. So for our first night here she took us to a little Korean restaurant near her house where we got our first crash course in Korean culture! It was one of those traditional Korean places where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor and it was definitely REAL Korean food, lol! There was a grill in the center of the table and the waitress brought out strips of pork that we grilled ourselves on the grill. Then she brought out TONS of little bowls full of several things that I still can't identify and Jin-Ha thought we were hillarious, lol. Some of those things are tastes that I have never encountered before, let's put it that way!! :) We ate Kimchee and some sort of bean paste and tofu and Korean salad with dressing on it made from red pepper paste, and a bunch of other things. Jin-Ha also enjoyed watching me attempt my poor chopstick skills. I suck. :)

After dinner she took us around town and took us to a friends house. At this point it was about midnight Korean time and it had been so long since we slept that I don't know how we were even functioning. We had a wonderful time, but it was really time for bed. One thing I've learned about Korea is that everyone stays up REALLY late! I saw kids playing at midnight and it was a school night! That seemed to be totally normal here. In fact, at 10:30 Jin-Ha's teenage son was still at school! He takes English classes some evenings until really late.

So finally we got back to our hotel at about 1pm and I'm pretty sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Oh! Before I got on I have to tell you about our hotel!! Seoul is a very technologically advanced city and we've encountered some pretty cool things! When we got to our hotel room we couldn't figure out how to turn any lights on. Then we realized that you have to put your hotel card in a little slot and leave it there. That turns on the electricity. Then there is a panel next to the bed that works all the lights and electronics in the room. It took us a bit to figure that out.

The bathroom has the coolest toilet ever and we giggled over it for a while. There's a whole electonics panel next to the toilet and it performs lots of tricks! The seat is heated, little jets of water will clean your uh..parts...and then a blast of air dries everything off. It's an adventure, let me tell you. We're still giggling about it. I've actually taken photos of the toilet that I will share with you later. I'm sure you can't wait! :)

Anyway, after our night of Korean food and fancy toilets, we slept like a log and woke up the next morning early to get ready to go to the agency to meet our daughter!! Thank goodness for Jin-Ha again, she met us at the hotel and drove us to the agency.

We walked into the agency, told them who we were and they took us upstairs and put us in a little room with couches and chairs and a social worker talked to us. A few nervous minutes later the door opened and the foster parents walked in with the most beautiful baby girl who was ever created. She was dressed head to toe in pink with the cutest pink hat on. Seeing her for the first time took my breath away. It was really her! Unfortunately we were a lot more impressed with her than she was with us. :) Let me just say that she is loved by her foster parents more than you could possibly imagine. You can tell that they have a very tight bond. Her foster parents are absolutely AMAZING people. They don't speak English, but thanks to Jin-Ha and the social worker translating, we were able to ask them lots of questions. They brought us several things including a huge, beautiful baby book full of info and photos of Clarissa, back from the time she was a little baby. That book is absolutely priceless to us.

We spent about an hour in the room getting to know Clarissa and the foster parents. Clarissa was OK with us holding her for short periods, but I think she was really overwhelmed by all the people talking to her and her crazy mother kissing her face, lol. We would hold her for a bit and then she would get upset and we'd give her back to her foster mother for a few minutes.

The whole thing was wonderful but very emotionally exhausting. So many emotions were running through me. Her foster parents clearly love Clarissa so much and are having a hard time with the thought of her leaving. My heart breaks for them. This is their first foster child, and she will be their last. They didn't realize how attached they were going to become and they don't want to do it again. So Clarissa is always going to be very special to them and they will always be very special to them. I promised to send letters and photos and keep in touch. I'm happy to know that Clarissa has family in Korea who will want to keep in touch as she grows up.

After an hour or so of spending time with her, she still wasn't warming up as much as they hoped, so the social worker scheduled another meeting for us to come back and try again in a few days. We're hoping to spend a lot more time with her before we leave Korea so that she has a chance to get used to us.

But because we needed to schedule another meeting, Tuesday is the only day they'll be able to do it and that's the day we were going to go to Clarissa's hometown to visit the hospital she was born in. So the social worker suggested that we leave and go to the train station and go there right then. We hadn't planned on making that kind of a trip that day, but it seemed like the only way, so off we went.

The town Clarissa was born in is on the complete opposite side of the country from Seoul. It's a three hour train ride by speed train and it was already noon by the time we left the agency. So we were wisked off quickly to the train station and the next thing we knew we were on a train headed across Korea. The view from the train was really great, it was amazing to see so much of Korea. Korea is a beautiful country and I'm really glad that we were able to see so much of it.

Three hours later we got off the train and were met by a social worker. We were lucky enough to get to meet the social worker who handled Clarissa's case when she was born and worked with Clarissa's birth mother. What a gift that was. She told us a little more about Clarissa's foster mother and then took us to the hospital where we were given a tour of the maternity ward. We got to see the room Clarissa was born in and the nursery where she spend a few days afterwards. I can't even tell you how powerful and important that was to us. Getting to see where her life began was really important to me and it's something I'll never forget. We didn't get a lot of specific information about Clarissa while we were there, but just getting to see everything was totally worth the trip.

After the hospital visit we had a couple of hours to spare before we had to go back to Seoul and the town we were in is a beautiful coastal city, so we headed off to the beach!!

Never in my life did I imagine that I'd ever be walking along the ocean on the coast of Korea. While we were there I kept saying to Shawn "did you ever think you'd be standing on the beach in Korea?!" What a journey. The beach there is beautiful and I discovered why I never find any good seashells when we go to the beach in Oregon. Korea is hogging them all! :) So we walked along the shore and collected lots of shells that we'll put in a special place for Clarissa. It's a little piece of her birthplace that I hope she'll enjoy looking at someday.

After our fun walk on the beach we headed back to the train station and made the long trip back to Seoul. We arrived back in Seoul at about 10:30pm and again we were so exhausted that we could barely walk! Not to mention I had about six pounds of sand in my shoes...

We took a cab back to the hotel, but when we got in the cab we realized that we didn't have the adress of the hotel and the cab driver didn't know where it was. Crap. Thank goodness for my tiny bit of Korean and the time I've taken to study the subway map and I was able to tell him the closest subway station to the hotel and he understood that well enough to get us back here. Whew!

We got back to our room after 11pm and crashed. We've done very little sleeping since we left Idaho.

So through this whole insanely busy trip I've been stressing over the fact that I had no internet access and absolutely no time to sit down at any computer anywhere and update my blog. There just haven't been two free seconds since we arrived.

But I woke up at 6am this morning and couldn't get back to sleep (despite my lack of sleep my body is still confused about what time it is and it's messing with my sleep!) so I decided to wander down to the hotel lobby and find a computer that I could use, and here I am. Shawn is still upstairs sleeping. In two hours a van from the agency is picking us up and tour guides are taking us on a tour of Seoul. It's going to be another extremely busy day!!!

I could go on for so much longer about our experiences here. Korea is a beautiful country full of absolutely amazing people who are so friendly and open and willing to help bumbling foreigners. :) Jin-Ha has been with us constantly, driving us to the agency, making sure we find something to eat, taking us to the train station and helping us buy tickets...she's been a lifesaver for us. I'll never be able to repay her for all that she's done for us here. We're going to see her again this afternoon, apparently she's got another adventure planned for us!

Also, we've been very lucky that Jin-Ha and the foster mother have developed a friendship. Jin-Ha has visited their house and we will also be visiting their house and spending some time with Clarissa. On Sunday Jin-Ha, Clarissa and the foster mother are all coming siteseeing with us and on Monday we're all going to a park for a picnic.

Clarissa has been so blessed to have so many people in Korea who love her. Between Jin-Ha, the foster mother and me she has a whole team of mothers fussing over her.

As much as I absolutely love and adore Clarissa and I can't WAIT to finally get to take her with us permanently, I've had so much sadness since we've been here that we're taking her away from such a wonderful place. I know that there is no long term solution for her here, and I know that being with our family is the best option for her in the long run, but I do feel a lot of guilt and sadness about taking her away from Korea. Clarissa has had a happy life here so far, and Korea is a wonderful place. She has been blessed to have AMAZING foster parents. I just can't say enough about how wonderful they are. I can clearly see that Clarissa has been well loved.

I can honestly say that I've never been so emotionally drained in my life. I'm loving our trip here and we're having a wonderful time, but this is a really emotional journey for us. The trip to her hometown yesterday and meeting her foster family and really being able to understand Clarissa's life story so far has been extremely emotional for me. I cried for her birth mother yesterday. Standing in that hospital knowing that eight short months ago she was in that same room making the agonizing decision to place her beautiful baby for adoption was very difficult for me. More than anything I wish I could meet her birth mother and let her know how much we appreciate her. I can't imagine what she's going through.

There is so much more I could say and I'll have so many more stories to tell later, but for now it's time for me to get back up to the room and get ready for our day.

I don't know when I'll be able to post again, and I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to post photos. We're actually switching hotels in a couple of days and I think that there's wireless internet in the new hotel where I'll be able to use my netbook. Then I'll be able to post photos and more blog posts. I know that people have been waiting for an update and I've felt really bad not to be able to provide one! I have so much more to talk about! I took photos of our meeting with Clarissa and I'll post them later along with more of the story. Just bear with me until I have better internet access and more time to sit down and breathe!

But for now, I'm off on another adventure! :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I like to stop at the duty free shop

Greetings from San Francisco! For as much as I was dreading the flight from Boise to San Francisco it was actually SO easy! I'm claustrophobic on airplanes, especially small ones, but somehow we got lucky enough to get the front row seats right by the exit door. From where I was sitting I couldn't really see what was happening on the rest of the plane and ignorance is bliss on airplanes as far as I'm concerned! The flight felt SUPER short! We took off, drank ginger ale, put our seats back in the upright position and landed. Best flight ever.

We have a fairly long layover in San Francisco so we've been hanging out here for a while. We ate terriaki chicken, I discovered the joys of duty free shoppping and we've had a good time wandering around. I'm properly medicated and feeling pretty mellow at the moment. Mellow is good. :)

In about an hour we're going to get ready to board the plane for the long flight to Seoul. I'm not actually sure how long the flight is, but I think it's around 12 hours. I'm planning to watch movies, read a book and hopefully manage to sleep for a bit!

When we get to Seoul there will be a van from the adoption agency waiting to take us to our hotel. When we get there we're going to call my Korean friend and she's coming to take us out to dinner. Then we''ll go to bed, get up the next morning and go meet Clarissa!!

I'll update again when I get to Korea. Holy crap, we're going to KOREA!!!! :) :) :)

The adventure begins!

Well, the day has arrived! We leave for the airport in 15 minutes and I seriously don't think I've ever been so nervous about anything in my entire life! I'm going to be keeping my blog updated throughout the trip, but it may be sporadic depending on when I have internet access.

I've gone past the point of butterflies in my stomach. Now I feels like there are elephants dancing around in there. The boys spent last night with the friends who are watching them this week, so we said our goodbyes to them already. I miss them like crazy! I'm fighting the urge to go over there and wake them up to say goodbye one last time.

Ok, I can hear Shawn putting the suitcases in the car, so I guess this is it. Wish us luck-the adventure begins now!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Away We Go

Well here we are, it's our last day home before we leave for Korea. So many emotions are running through my head today. I'm excited and scared and nervous and happy and I just want to hurry and get this day over with so we can go!!!

I've spent some time this morning reflecting over the journey that brought us to this point. We've now been working on this adoption for over two years. It was the summer of 2007 when we first started thinking about adopting and so much has happened since then! I remember looking at the projected timelines and realizing that we wouldn't be getting our baby until 2009. That seemed so far away!

I'm really glad that I've blogged my experiences and feelings over the past year or so. It's really neat to look back and see how far we've come. One of the reasons I started this blog was so that Clarissa will be able to read her story someday. As soon as we get home from Korea I am going to use Blub.com to have my blog turned into a book that I can put away for Clarissa. Someday when she's ready to learn more about her adoption story I hope that she will read through it and understand the story of how her life began and how much she was cherished and loved from the very beginning.

I've been thinking a lot lately about Clarissa's birth mother and her foster mother. Clarissa is so lucky to have so much love in her life, and not one but three mothers who love her. I know that her birth mother has to be hurting right now. Choosing the place a child for adoption has to be such a heartbreaking decision, but I know that it was a decision made out of love. We know from the info we received with our referral that Clarissa's birth mothers main concern was what was in the best interest of Clarissa and she knew that there was a better life waiting for her than what she was able to provide. I will be forever grateful for her sacrifice.

I've also been thinking a lot about Clarissa's foster mother. As we're preparing to go to Korea and say hello to our daughter for the first time, her foster mother is preparing to say goodbye. I know how much she loves Clarissa and this is going to be a really hard time for her. My heart hurts for her and for Clarissa. As much as I can't wait for the day that we finally get to take Clarissa with us, I dread it at the same time because I know that I'm taking her away from people who love her and will be very sad to see her go. I am so grateful to her foster family. Clarissa has been loved and cherished for the past several months and I don't think I'll ever be able to properly thank them everything they've done. They've been a huge blessing in our lives.

So today I'm filled with excitement, anticipation, sadness and joy. A new chapter in our lives is beginning and I'm feeling a nervous excitement for what lies ahead of us. I feel so blessed that we've been able to go down this path. I know in my heart that Clarissa is meant to be a part of our family and I look forward to finally having her in our arms. The next weeks and months will be filled with lots of adventures, some fun and some maybe not so fun. But I know that this is a journey we were meant to take and for better or worse, I'm ready for the ride. So hold on tight Clarissa, here we go! :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

One day closer!!

Oh my gosh, I can't believe we're leaving for Korea the day after tomorrow!! I'm super overwhelmed and stressed out, but also REALLY excited!

We still have a million things to do before we go. In typical Wendy fashion I've totally procrastinated and now I'm rushing around like crazy trying to get things done. I always say I'm not going to do that and then I ALWAYS do. So tomorrow is going to be a super crazy day. We'll get it all done though. As much as I hate to fly I'm looking forward to finally sitting on that airplane and knowing that all the planning and packing is DONE.

I talked to the agency today and we went over exactly what's going to happen while we're in Korea. Here's how the trip is going to go.

We get to Seoul Thursday night and we have a meeting scheduled for Friday morning to meet Clarissa! I'm glad that we don't have to wait very long after we get there to meet her. I think I'd go crazy! We'll get to spend some time with her on Friday and then Saturday we have a half day sightseeing tour set up that the agency puts together for us.

Sunday morning we're actually going to church with my Korean friend. It will all be in Korean and it's not our religion, but I'm looking forward to the experience! Then we're having lunch and spending the afternoon at the DMZ, which is the military patrolled buffer zone between North and South Korea. That's something I've really wanted to see and my Korean friend has been nice enough to offer to take us there.

Monday we have a picnic planned with my Korean friend and a new friend of hers who is currently taking care of a super cute, chubby cheeked baby (we're not talking about it right now, but I will be able to talk about it on Monday).

Tuesday we're taking the train to the town Clarissa was born in. We were able to schedule a meeting with a social worker there, so we're leaving first thing in the morning, taking a two and a half hour train ride across the whole country and we'll meet with the social worker who will take us to the hospital Clarissa was born in. Then we're going to spend a little bit of time at the beach and then get back on the train and go back to Seoul in the evening.

Wednesday we're going siteseeing in the morning and then the big event takes place in the afternoon! We offically get Clarissa for good at 2:00 in the afternoon. We'll take her back to our hotel and smooch her sweet face all day long, she'll be with us overnight and then Thursday we'll pack up and come home!

We're going to be there for a week, which sounded like plenty of time when I started planning the trip, but now I'm worrying that we're not going to have time to cram everything in! There are so many things I want to see and do and every second of our trip is going to be pretty packed. It will be fun though, and we're so lucky to have my Korean friend to help us navigate the city. She's been absolutely wonderful and I'm really looking forward to finally meeting her in person!

So for now I'm going to crawl into bed and try to get a good night sleep so that I can run around like a crazy person tomorrow and get everything packed and ready to go! Only one more day! It's finally here!!!

P.S. THE PASSWORD IS CLARISSA!!! Don't forget! :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stress!!

If we make it through these next few days I think it's going to be a miracle!

First of all, I got a call yesterday from the place I booked our hotel at and apparently the hotel is full. It's the hotel we REALLY wanted to stay in, so I was bummed about that. So I started looking for other hotels and I swear every hotel in the entire city of Seoul is booked next week! I was really starting to panic. Then the reservations place I used called back and said that they had a cancellation at the hotel we liked, but it's only for the last four nights of the trip. So they're trying to get us booked at one hotel for the first half of the trip and the origional hotel we wanted for the second half. Because this is Chusok weekend in Korea right now he was having a hard time getting any good answers for me, so he's going to call me back on Monday.

So as of now we're not really sure if we have a hotel to stay in next week, which adds all sorts of excitement to my life.

This morning we woke up and made a gigantic list of things that need to be done before we leave town on Wednesday and it included a bunch of shopping that needs to be done before we go, so we packed up the kids and headed out to run errands. Today is the first day in about a week that I've been out of the house or even moved around much. I've been so horribly sick this past week that I've pretty much just been in bed. I still don't feel great but I really don't have any more time to be sick, so I'm forcing myself to start moving. We made it to the mall and I bought two things on my list before I had to go sit down. I feel crappy. My cough is getting better, but I still have leftover cold symptoms. My head is still stuffy, I can't really hear very well, my appetite still isn't back (I've lost about 8 pounds in the past week, woohoo.) and I still just feel really weak.

So then as we we were sitting on the bench Matthew announced that he doesn't feel very good. I looked at him and he really didn't look very good. Faaabulous. So we gave up and came home. Matthew went and laid down on the couch and was asleep five minutes later. That's really unlike Matthew. He doesn't take a nap during the day like that unless he's sick. I'm concerned that maybe he's got the beginnings of the same thing I've had all week and I'm super stressed out about that. We have to leave town on Wednesday, sick kids or not. I don't really know what to do. A friend of ours is watching the boys for the first half of the trip and then my mom is watching them for the second half. I really don't want to drop sick kids off at my friends house on Wednesday and I don't want to leave Matthew if he's sick.

So basically what we have here today is a huge to do list full of things I don't feel well enough to do, a child who is getting sick and I'm not sure if we're going to have a place to sleep when we get to Korea. This is shaping up to be quite an adventure, isn't it?

Ok, so now that I've complained about all of that, I do have some fun news! We got a well baby checkup report for Clarissa in the mail today! YAY! :) We haven't gotten one in a while, so we were really excited. At 7 months old Clarissa weighs 22 pounds!! She's such a chunk, lol! She still has two teeth, she can sit unsassisted for short periods, she is starting to scoot like she's thinking about crawling, she can play peek-a-boo and the report says that she can say mama and dada, but I think that's translated, because I heard (from a source that we're still not discussing, lol) that she actually says omma and appa, which is Korean for mom and dad. Super cute and exciting either way!

So she's developmentally on track, she's healthy and she's ready to come home!! YAY! :) I can hardly believe that a week from now we're going to be in Korea kissing those sweet cheeks in person. I may be completely stresssed out right now, but I'll muddle through all of it if it means that we finally get to meet our sweet Clarissa. I might be sleeping on a bench in the subway next week, but it will be worth it, lol.

By the way, if you haven't read the post below this one, make sure you do. It's about my plans for posting photos of Clarissa while we're in Korea. THE PASSWORD IS CLARISSA! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Photos of Clarissa

OK, I've been thinking about what to do about posting photos of Clarissa and I've come up with an idea.

For now I'm still not supposed to post photos of her on public sites. I can post them on password protected sites and give people the password, but I can't post them publicly. It's frustrating me because I know that I'm going to want to share a million photos while we're in Korea and I know people are going to be waiting to finally see her.

So here's how I'm going to get around it. When we get to Korea and I take photos of Clarissa, I'm going to post them on a password protected site and I'll put a link to it on this blog. The password is going to be Clarissa. I'm going to make sure that everyone knows now what the password is going to be, but I'm not going to mention the password when I post the photos, so don't forget that the password is Clarissa! I'll mention it a million times before we leave and then I won't mention it again. So spread the word, the password is Clarissa, lol. When you see a link on one of my posts that takes you to a password protected site, the password is Clarissa.

It's silly, I know, but I don't want to risk getting in trouble with the agency and this is how I can share photos and not get in trouble. So write it down, the password is Clarissa! :)