Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LifeBook Progress!

Creative Memories to the Rescue!
It was nearly like opening presents on Christmas Eve when the FedEx truck stopped by yesterday afternoon with the package from Creative Memories ( My scrapbooking material (for the LifeBook) had arrived! I ordered extra writing notecards since this book will contain much more writing than a traditional scrapbook. (Of course, my urge to take pictures means I will also need significant space for pictures of anything and everything pertinent to Rai's story.)

LifeBook Sections
Today, I went through a series of websites for ideas on the various sections in include in Rai's LifeBook. So far, here are the sections (in no particular order):
- The day you were born: Birth Information, Other events on this day
- The first year: Foster Family, Milestones, Celebrations, Tol (1st birthday)
- The story of your adoption (Adoption Milestones: Application to Travel)
- A baby shower
- Our journey to you
- Our very first meeting
- Coming home (date, your trip, you wore)
- Your new home (baby's room, what we did your first day)
- Introductions & Celebrations
- Your announcement
- Your adoption buddies
- Your first year with us
- Firsts and favorites (word, toys, sleeping, foods, walking, songs, others)
- Your first birthday with us
- Your adoption day
- What we know about your birth family and where you came from
- Family trees
- Our family
(based on forum post on

We need your help!
What categories have we left out? What should we add? We also need pictures, stories, and anything you think we can include in the book. Nothing is set in stone so far, but I've managed to finish a few pages.

Here are the sources we've looked at so far for ideas:
(And several others I can't find at the moment...)

I'll post more later this week!

Monday, December 15, 2008

One small step but every little bit helps!

Homestudy Approval through Lutheran Social Services!
We finally got our packet from our local agency which stated that our HS was approved on 12/12/08 and sent to USCIS! YAY! We should get a phone call (or letter) from USCIS any day now to schedule our fingerprinting, so that they can approve our I-600A immigration paperwork. In the meantime, Holt should be reviewing the homestudy sometime this week and sending our official referral. YAY!!! The timeline on the right is finally moving along!

Holiday Gatherings
This past weekend was rough. Being sick among all of these social gathering is frustrating, but I'm pulling through! The lunch with my old roommates was so much fun. We have more video of everyone and called Katie to wish her a happy holidays!

Not too long after our lunch, we met up with my cousin, her 3-year old son, my aunt, and my parents. I haven't seen my cousin Melina is years, and it was so much fun to meet her son, Vance! My parents got a little taste of grandparenting, and I'm sure my mom's shoulders are worn out from holding Vance up to see the cats in their various hiding spots!

My stomach bug nearly got the best of me, but I managed to pull through until we could go to Heather's party. Seeing their babies' room (yes, twins) for the first time was such a treat. Now, I need to get started on Rai's room!

Christmas Cards!
I finished up the last of the Christmas cards on Saturday and realized we had 60 extra! Yes, 60! I didn't realize that Walmart had a promotional offer where they gave you 20 extra cards with so many, so we ended up with 60 free. *sigh* I think I've given nearly every family member, friend, co-worker, and a few neighbors a card. We even gave everyone on our co-ed soccer team a card. So, if you would like a card, send me an email with your address! Rai will look a little different next year, so they're not exactly easy to re-use. :-)

This morning, I sent the last of the Christmas cards to our list from the Holt Bulletin Board. Only a few hours later, I checked the mail and we had 5 more cards from families on the board. Our mantel is looking so festive, and it will be so much fun to show Rai the cards next year as they flood in! So many families who have been touched by the adoption process!

Well, I should get back to work. I promised myself I'd play a little piano for once in many years before I get back to researching. With less than 1 month before spring classes begin, time is running out on my to-do list! Before you know it, spring will be here and soon Rai will, too!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

No baby updates but some progress on our end

I-600A & Homestudy
Our social worker has been working diligently on the homestudy, and we hope to have approval from both the regional office soon! Once the regional offices approves the homestudy, they send it on to 2 places:
1. Department of Homeland Security (Dallas Office) - awaiting homestudy for our fingerprinting appointment to process our I-600A form (1st immigration paperwork)
2. Holt - awaiting homestudy for approval before sending our official referral

Hopefully, you'll see the dates on the right column fill up soon!

Rai's Room
We're slowly making decisions on what furniture, toys, and decorations will go in Rai's room. So many people have given us ideas, so I hope to post pictures as we get the room put together little-by-little. It turns out that my best friend from middle school (yes, middle school) is pregnant with twins, so we're planning a trip to Babies R Us to start decorating.

Christmas Cards!

It has been so exciting to finally share pictures of Rai with family and friends through our Christmas cards. I can't tell you how great it is to have this approval before the holidays! We'll wait until our official referral is processed to post pictures online. By then, we might receive an updated picture to share.


Now that the semester is over and grades are done, I finally have time to get started on Rai's lifebook. For those of you not familiar with the term, a lifebook is a baby book which contains the story of a child's life through personal stories, pictures, copies of documents/legal paperwork, etc. It was believed many years ago that children were not capable of understanding adoption until much later in life and keeping the adoption a secret was the best solution until the child was ready. Based on our reading, adoption classes, and many other resources, we've come to understand that this concept is no longer supported. In fact, the more information an adopted child know, the better. The lifebook serves as a method for sharing this information. This will be just one of Rai's many books we will read, and as he grows, he'll understand more and more about his birthfamily, foster family, and adoptive family (us).

Although this is far more personal than a scrapbook we might show to others, I hope to get the help of friends and family by asking for your:
- Stories about the adoption and our family in general
- Pictures of our family and friends

The supplies will be in by Tuesday, thanks to our neighbor Paula and her scrapbooking business! Hopefully, I can get organized this weekend and have our pictures, stories, and paperwork for the stages so far ready. Who knows, I might even get a story or two out of Aaron. :-)

Holidays and Friends
This has been a good few months not only for our adoption but also our friends. As I mentioned before, many of our friends are expecting new additions (babies not rooms) to their families. This adoption has been a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends, celebrate with current friend, and meet many new ones as well!

Tomorrow, we're meeting up with three of my old roommates (Biju, Kimsan, and Mili) from college for a holiday lunch. I'm sure the guys are not nearly as excited about our holiday lunch, but they'll live! :-) It's not every day that we can all get together and catch up.

Speaking of old roomies .... a BIG CONGRATS GOES OUT TO KATIE ON HER STEM CELL RESULTS! (Yes, Katie. I'm reading your blog!) I nearly cried reading the good news! Now, I'm keeping fingers, toes, and eyes crossed until your stem cell transplant is complete. Poor Rai will wonder what's wrong with his mother's eyes until then...

I know I've already mentioned the Christmas cards, but have I said how great it is to get Christmas cards and updates from everyone this time of year? It was a rough year with so many great friends moving away, but each card, email, and phone call reminds me of how wonderful it is this time of year to have the holidays as a reminder of keeping in touch with those we are close to.

Well, I've rambled enough for tonight. I'll post again when we have baby news. In the meantime...


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Getting Ready!

Now that we have approval from the Waiting Child Committee at Holt, we are in high gear to get ready! Our social worker thought it would be about March (2 months earlier than I expected) when we travel, so we need to get moving with the house let alone the immigration paperwork! Four months sounds like a long time, but once spring classes begin, March will be here before we know it.

The goal for this month: Finish Registry.
Now that we know how much Rai weighs (19.1 pounds in Nov.) and approximately when we will travel to Korea, we can start to estimate what he will need when he arrives. The Holt Forum is a wonderful first start, and the books in the What to Expect series have been really helpful. Now that we have the baby quilt fabric chosen, we have the furniture chosen, but there are few things that match black/white/green/red. The panda theme will definitely come in handy, though. We're hoping we'll get a flood of panda things for Christmas to get us started. I say that because I've been told that I am not allowed to buy anything until after Christmas. :-)

The goal for next month: Baby-Proof.
Somehow, we never end up at home on the weekends. Although Aaron did start baby-proofing the house, we still need to think about office solutions (primarily computer cables) and slowly putting away furniture/small items that will need to go when the baby gets here. I'm thinking the glass top living room tables need to go in the garage... I've also been told that preparing space for the baby (especially in the pantry, fridge, and cabinets) takes a while. We may need to reorganize little by little to make room.

The goal for February: Finish Rai's Room!
I can't imagine we will get the travel call any earlier than March, so I think February is a safe month to finish Rai's room. Of course, it is now primarily bare with the exception of Christmas presents and a few items that need to go to Good Will, but it will take several weekends of furniture assembly (Aaron's favorite) and decorating to get everything together.

But first, the goal for this week: Get Immigration Paperwork Moving and Make To-Do List

Immigration Paperwork
Our social worker is finishing our homestudy this weekend to push the immigration paperwork through. Until we get our formal referral from Holt, that will be the next step in getting Rai home as quickly as possible. We'll try to keep everyone posted on the various immigration form completion dates as we proceed. It's this incredibly long list of paperwork that prevents us from going to Korea any earlier.

To-Do List
There are several things that will go on the bottom of the priority list once Rai arrives, so I'd like to start writing down this To-Do list before the wait is over. Some of these things include:
- Prepping summer classes: Music Appreciation & Asian Music
- Finish video/audio editing from summer fieldwork in Japan
- Read several articles and books related to summer fieldwork in Japan
- Finish all photo albums! (I've done nothing since I returned from Japan!)
- Play a few more rounds of Quake with Aaron & Mark
- Take a few naps :-)

Well, that is all for now. I'll post updates as soon as we hear anything.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The committee met today and said YES!!!!! Yipee! Hooray! Woohoo! Ok... Gotta run but will blog more later...

By the way, here is the video of Rai:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nails are officially bitten off...

First of all, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and stopped for a moment to be thankful about something. We had a busy four days between hosting Thanksgiving for my side of the family and then leaving to visit Aaron's side of the family for the weekend. As a side note, Aaron's mom, grandmother, and I picked out fabric for Rai's room and we decided on pandas! Yes, pandas are found in China not Korea, but they're cute! And the chances of finding panda things for a baby room are pretty good considering the popularity of Kung Fu Panda. Now we're just hoping Rai doesn't have a fear of pandas... I'll scan the material and post pictures later this week.

Monday's appointment with the pediatric neurologist went well, although we had so much information to cover in such a short period of time. We have a game plan now that we're been in communication with our social worker and Holt after reviewing the notes from our visit.

So that makes it officially 2 down and 1 to go!

We just heard a few minutes ago that the video is on the way from Holt! We should receive it tomorrow morning, so if all goes well, we can review it and send our notes in time to allow Holt to re-present us to the committee this Thursday. I'm not sure if it is all the grading at work or the adoption process that is to blame for the poor condition of my nails., but in either case, they're gone! :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So Happy I Could Cry!

After a very encouraging phone call from our social worker last night, I called our pediatric neurologist's office and nearly begged for an earlier appointment. Only a few hours later, the lady in charge of scheduling called back and said they can fit us in on MONDAY! With a video on the way and the neurologist appointment in less than one week, the holidays are getting brighter and brighter!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


We are hosting Thanksgiving again this year, and although life has been a little crazy over the last year, we have so much to be thankful for.

I'm thankful that I have a loving husband, a wonderful family, and the greatest circle of friends. This is my first year to be a full-time professor, and this is my first year since the first year of high school that I haven't seen my knee surgeon for even the smallest appointment! And of course, seeing Rai's picture and now knowing we have only about one month before we obtain the adoption decision is so exciting!

So I wrap up this list of posts today with a question, what are you thankful for this year?

Lifebooks and Family Stories

One year ago today was Thanksgiving Day, and one year ago today was also the day my Aunt Sandy passed away. Only a few hours after our Thanksgiving meal, my cousin left to take her a plate. When she called, I knew immediately why. My Aunt Sandy had lost the will to live many months beforehand, and when she refused to get out of bed, she immediately went downhill. By Thanksgiving Day, she was in no condition to leave the Retirement Home safely and did not seem to be concerned that her unwillingness to get out of bed meant missing Thanksgiving with the family. When we learned that she had passed away in her sleep, part of us was relieved that she would no longer suffer, but part of us was angry (at her for giving up, at us for letting her give up, at everyone). Needless to say, it was a rough holidays of grieving, and it did not help that she wasn't buried until many months later. Although we still grieve the loss of a great woman, the memory of her lives on in our stories. From the moments where she locked my Aunt Pat out of her own home for a good laugh to the many great summers I spent with her, we will have many laughs in her honor this year and many years to come.

This brings me to a slightly different topic. As we prepare for the possible addition of Rai to our family, I am reminded of the many people Rai will never have an opportunity to meet. In addition to those we have lost recently, Rai was born on the same day as Aaron's grandfather, Poppa Bob. I never had the opportunity to meet Poppa Bob but have heard such wonderful stories. Rai will also never meet my grandparents, and I am especially sad that he (and Aaron) will never meet my grandfather, Gordon Burnside.

Now that we are so close to obtaining approval for Rai's adoption, I am starting to plan out a Lifebook for Rai, which tells a story of Rai's life before, during, and after his adoption. It is far different from a typical scrapbook, and it's incredibly personal content allows an adopted child to hear the story of their adoption while understanding that their story is not just an "adoption story." To further emphasize this point, I would like to include a series of pages for each family member in Rai's life. This can include his birth family, his foster family, and his adoptive family (us). I would also like to include pages on the family members Rai will never meet but will shape his memories as he grows older. I want to be sure he remembers hearing the stories of Poppa Bob falling and breaking the toilet just as he hears the stories of his aunt asking what made the tree was scared (petrified tree). So this year, I'd like to ask each family member to donate pictures (scanned is fine) and stories. Although I won't share Rai's personal lifebook publicly, I would be more than happy to share the stories of our family.

First Birthday Tomorrow

Yes, tomorrow is Rai's first birthday, and we have mixed emotions. It's an exciting time since he will be celebrating Tol, a Korean traditional first birthday, sometime in the next few hours (it is almost the 23rd is Korea now). At the same time, we're sad that we'll miss his first birthday, and without an official approval from Holt at this time, we still feel uneasy announcing his adoption just yet. The good news is that this week, we've had many updates and even though things have been slow, they are moving along!

UCP Visit
Our visit to United Cerebral Palsy was Wednesday morning, and it was definitely an eye opener! We visited with the pre-school director who reviewed Rai's medical records and introduced us to a variety of children with CP and/or other needs. Each child was between 2 and 5 and their needs ranged from a tight heel cord requiring the use of a brace to keep the child from tip-toeing to much more severe needs. It was great to see such a caring staff and technology to help children with even severe needs communicate, walk, etc. The director also provided additional resources that might be helpful depending on Rai's needs when he arrives. They all seem to be very excited, so we will need to keep them posted as well as we continue on this adoption journey. So one task down, two more to go!

Video Coming Soon!
I bugged Holt once more this week after our updates from UCP and was promised a forward of any response they receive from Korea regarding the video. Friday morning, I received an email stating, "We took the video, but it is too short. He was not cooperating. We can try again. Do you want us to send the video as is?" Hmmm. This is REALLY vague, but I could imagine what happened. Requesting a video from Korea is fairly rare, so it sounds like they asked Rai's foster mother to bring him to the agency. Since the original request (from Sept. 28) asked for a display of his development, they may have asked that he demonstrate everything on the development checklist. As many of you with young children realize, children do not respond well to on-to-spot performance, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. It sounds like he got tried/frustrated/etc. and started crying. I called Holt for clarification, and our contact agreed. We both decided that unless the video was only a few seconds long, it was probably enough to move forward with the second task. WHEW! They have asked the Korean agency to send what they have. Once Holt receives it, they will overnight it to us for viewing. Ok. Almost two down...

Pediatric Neurologist
I was even more excited yesterday when the pediatric neurologist's office called. Earlier appointment? No. :-( The office staff only need additional information to complete Rai's file before our appointment. We're on the cancellation list in case an earlier appointment is available, but with the holidays approaching, it looks like we may have to wait until Dec. 17th. *sigh*

Committee Dates
When we first learned of the pediatric neurologist appointment date, we were frustrated that we may have to wait until January for a decision. The committee only meets on Thursdays, and we didn't think they would meet one day after our appointment. The next two Thursdays are holidays. :-( Luckily, our Holt rep. said they could meet the following day since they have already reviewed our file once before or the Tuesday after. This means we'll know before Christmas! (As long as we get the video before then, too.)

First Birthday Gift
We completed most of our Christmas shopping last weekend, so we have Rai's first birthday present! Since he won't be here this year, we'll wrap it and put it in his room. We'll do the same for his Christmas present, so he should be loaded with toys before he arrives!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Almost walking!!!

Happy Monday!

Thank you to everyone who has offered to help in our tasks we need to complete before we continue this adoption for this little guy. (As a side note, we decided on the first name Rai, so this will replace "little guy" from here on. We will keep his Korean name as a middle name.) Rai has some signs of mild Cerebral Palsy, such as not bearing weight on his heels or tip-toeing, and was born premature with a weight of only 2 pounds. Although he is developing quickly and now weighs over 19 pounds at nearly one year of age, our agency would like us to be prepared in the event that his needs are more severe than we originally thought. To show we have considered this carefully, we have been asked to do the following tasks:

1. Watch a video of Rai to better see his development
2. Visit with a child who has CP at United Cerebral Palsy (in Dallas)
3. Have a pediatric neurologist review his file for a consultation

We have already requested a video, so this requirement will speed up the turnaround time. Videos are not common with adoptions, but CP can vary greatly. We do have pictures, but this will give us much more information. In addition, we'll be excited to have our first baby video to help us get through this wait.

Rai's 1st birthday is November 23, which is next Sunday. It's hearbreaking that we will miss this birthday, but with any luck, his foster mother may be able to send pictures or possibly a video to capture it for us. As soon as we are given approval for his adoption, we will send a video of our family to Rai in Korea.

UCP Visit
Luckily, we can complete this task this week! The director was very understanding of our situation, so we have an appointment this Wednesday for a tour of the entire facility. UCP provides many services for children and adults in the area who have other special needs in addition to CP, including therapy and a Pre-K for children between 18 months and 5 years which provides an entire school day of therapy and development building. Our tour will include meeting the children in the Pre-K program, so we will visit with several children at once.

Pediatric Neurologist Consultation
So far, the earliest appointment for a Pediatric Neurologist is Wednesday, December 17. We are on the cancellation list, but with the holidays approaching, this list is quite long already. I put in one last plea to the office on Friday since we do not need an entire hour without the child present to examine. If I sound impatient, it is only because the committee only meets on Thursdays, and since the committee will most likely not meet the day after our appointment, we may not have a decision until after the new year. :-( We'll keep our fingers crossed that something comes up earlier.

Picking a name...
Choosing a name is not an easy task! When I let Aaron pick out our cat's name, he chose Little Wing Lucille. ("Little Wing " after the Stevie Ray Vaughn song, and "Lucille" after BB King's guitar.) Needless to say, we just call her Lucy. In the case of our baby, we were 99.9% sure we would be adopting a boy since girls are more popular in Korean domestic adoption. After we came to this realization, long before Rai's medical records came, we started brainstorming names. Aaron found it amusing to yell out signs during our roadtrips to see if they would work as a name. (I can't really see naming our child Buda or Lewisville.) My strategy of getting a baby name book was just an ineffective. Most of the 60,001 names are either the popular names throughout history (John, Robert, etc.) or they really aren't names a child would be caught dead with (Dacosta, Gormlee, Joktan, etc.). There are a few amusing lists of names (i.e. Names for Vegetarians or Future Nobel Prize Winners) but the book was overwhelming. The online lists were a little easier to take in, and from the list of names I had in mind, Aaron liked Rai the most.

I chose Rai because it's Japanese but could also pass as an American name. Although Rai is Korean, his name will very much reflect his personal identity. First name - Japanese (Japanese influence from my mom's side and my own work), Middle Name - Korean (his birth culture which we plan to add to our own family culture), and Last Name - American/European (the culture of his adoptive family and everyone else he will come in contact with once he arrives), although our last name, Young, is also a Korean name as well.

We nearly changed our minds because of the meaning (second son), but everyone seems to like it. Yes, he will have to endure "Rye, like the bread?" since it is pronounced the same, but there are worse nicknames. Amy also has a friend will the same name (different spelling - Ry), so it is a real name. :-)

And now for the finale - Almost Walking!
On Thursday, we received an update from Holt with Rai's recent doctor's appointment. Since the doctor was on vacation in October, this is the first update we have received since early October. Words can't begin to express our excitement. NO MENTION OF TIP-TOEING OR CP! This does not mean these things are no longer an issue, but he is not currently showing the symptoms that were flagged for CP before. For example, he was crawling rather quickly, but his lack of sitting balance was a sign of neurological problems. Now he is not only sitting without any support but standing holding on to furniture!! (Baby gates, toilet seat locks, door/cabinet locks are becoming a sudden realization. Aaron has already installed a few cabinet locks, but we have much to do before we travel to Korea!) And he's getting bigger! At 19 pounds, I think this puts him in the 12 month clothing size. It's hard to predict what size he will be wearing by the time he comes home.

I think that is all for now. I'll post sometime after our UCP meeting this week with updates, and hopefully we will hear about an earlier appointment and/or the video in the meantime.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A few more steps to go

After talking to our social worker and hearing back from the committee, we have been asked to complete a few more steps before we can proceed with this little guy's adoption. Yes, it's heart-breaking to hear that because we are a young, childless couple we need to undergo more tasks to show that we are ready for this particular child. At the same time, however, we can understand the concern of the committee in wanting to see a little more information before they can approve our request. We will do whatever it takes.

Last night through this morning we have already contacted several people and hope to expedite the process by being organized. :-) Aaron smiled and said that because he's married to an efficiency expert, he's not worried about the delay. We had already researched many of these tasks (i.e. consulting a pediatric specialist in the child's needs), so completing them will not be a problem - just a little more time. So far, we've done a great job of delegating tasks and continuing to read anything related to the child, the child's possible needs, adopting, and parenting we can get our hands on. Aaron has put Linux on the back-burner for a bit to focus on the adoption. The other morning I caught him pacing while lost in thought. Instead of contemplating a solution to his in-process Linux operating system, he was reviewing information from brochures our social worker gave us.

So to make a long story a little less long, we'll be going back to the committee after doing a few more things. Since we already planned to do these tasks anyway before we left for Korea, this process will mean completing these tasks a little earlier than we expected.

In the meantime, we will send in our I-600A (immigration pre-approval) to help expedite the process when we do obtain approval. This normally takes a month and a half in Texas, so we will send in the forms tomorrow and get the ball rolling!

Thank you for all of your support! To the many families who have found us through the Holt Forum or friends of those reading this blog, we have loved hearing all experiences related to adoption and waiting child adoption and have learned a great deal from everyone! To our family, thank you for hanging in there with us through this bumping road! To our friends, thank you for your help and resources!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Busy few days!

We have so many updates! It has certainly been a busy few days!

The IAP (International Adoption Pediatrician) called Tuesday night near the end of Aaron's soccer game, so I ask if we could call him back in 8 minutes (in the event they didn't need to stop the clock, which of course they did). We sat in the car with the cell phone on speaker phone when we called him back. Good news! Everything looks good! He does have some minor needs, but the doctor helped us understand what the options are and how severe (or not as severe) they might be. Aaron and I were both really relieved and after the one hour phone call, we discussed it and decided that we had everything we needed to make a decision. Yes, we will pursue our application with this child, but it isn't a go just yet.

Here is the process after making a decision:

1. Fill out forms to tell Holt you wish to pursue the child

2. Wait to hear back on whether or not other families have requested the child's info. If other families are considering the child, they have 2 weeks to decide if they want to pursue the child's adoption as well. If so, they turn in the forms and we all wait for a committee date (Thursdays).

3. Schedule a phone interview with Holt's WCP (Waiting Child Program)

4. A committee of Holt's WCP meets to decide which family is the best match for the child. There is no first-come, first-serve when it comes to a child's future family. They do consult with each family's social workers and refer back to the phone interviews. If no other families are in process with the same child, the committee does still meet to confirm that the family is a good match.

5. After the committee meets, the families are contacted with the decision.

6. If we are approved, our match will be transferred to the Korea Program at Holt, and we will receive an official referral.

7. Once the referral is signed and returned, the immigration paperwork begins. At that point, though, the wait is only 3-6 months depending on the turnaround time of the various forms.

SO, we have several more steps to go. We completed the forms Tuesday night to tell Holt we would like to pursue this little guy's adoption. Wednesday, we heard back from Holt's WCP and there are two other families who have requested his information. LUCKILY FOR US, when asked if either family was ready to pursue his adoption, both families declined, so it's just us! The WCP just called minutes ago and scheduled our phone interview for next week. The committee meets next week as well, so HERE WE GO!

In addition, they have posted a note on his picture that reads "No longer accepting applications." This is a BIG relief! In any case, we would still prefer not to hear "Oh, you two will be chosen!" And I think this is partially for the same reasons most adoptive moms do not want to hear "Don't worry. As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant." There is no way to know. We would hope that there is nothing is our application which would suggest that we may not be ready to parent this little guy, but we still don't want to run out and buy a crib, register, etc. until we know for sure.

I-600A vs. I-600 Forms
There is a slight concern about our I-600A and I-600 forms since one is a pre-approval and the other is the regular approval. To make a long story short, each office around the US has slightly different policies, so we don't know if we should file only the regular approval form, both at the same time, or the pre-approval quickly (in case you need to file them in order). Luckily, an adoptive mom that we met from our training class saved the day and gave me an email for our office. Hopefully, we will hear back soon, so we know what forms to turn in and when regardless of the placement decision.

So all in all, everything is very exciting now. Our social worker is finalizing our homestudy paperwork, so it should be sent to Korea soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Little Bit of Korean Culture

On Saturday afternoon, Aaron and I explored Koreatown in Dallas off of Harry Hines and Royal. We have been told that the Korean population in Dallas is one of the largest in the southwestern US, so I was a little surprised when we managed to explore the entire area in only 2 hours. Aaron was suspicious of being able to spend the entire afternoon there, and he was right.

We started with the Ko-mart, the Korean grocery store. I didn't know what to expect as I have only visited Japanese and general Asian grocery stores. Aaron smelled something sweet, so we wandered up and down the aisles until we found a place in the store that makes soft tofu. We still think they were making crepes (or some type of pancake) because it certainly didn't smell like tofu (unless they add vanilla and sugar to soft tofu)! Since we had plans to stick around the area until dinner, I didn't pick up anything that needed to be kept refrigerated or frozen, so I resorted to green tea flavored noodles, a few types of candy that looked interested, kimchi flavored dried squid, a few Japanese drinks (will add more on this later), and persimmons!

Here is the interesting thing, everything you can find in the Japanese grocery store is in this Korean grocery store! I know there is some overlap in the fruits and dishes, but they even had Japanese brands and items that say "Japanese style [insert the type of food here]." Everything from noodles (udon, ramen, soba) to snacks (dried squid, pocky sticks, candy, green tea ice cream). I expected to see foods that weren't originally Japanese, such as gyoza (dumplings), but I now wonder how much Japanese cuisine influenced Korean cuisine and vice versa. I'll let you know as soon as I try a few things in the next month or two.

I was told that there were curio and book stores in the area as well, so we drove up and down the nearby streets looking for Korean writing. It helped that Aaron knows how to read a little Hangul (Korean characters), but he couldn't read it fast enough to know where to stop. Instead, we just pulled into nearly every shopping center and looked around. I was a little disappointed that we didn't find any stores with Korean items made in Korea, and when we did find a bookstore, we realized it was a Christian bookstore. They did have several novels translated into Korean, but most of the gift items were heavily Christian. I was hoping to find a cute poster with the Hangol characters for the baby's room, but I can order it on Amazon if we can't find one in Korea.

By 4pm, we had stopped by every store we could find and still were not hungry enough to eat dinner. A friend had recommended Seoul Garden, which I think is a Korean BBQ place. Instead, we decided to gradually make our way home and try the Korean BBQ place in Richardson. There's a strip of Asian restaurants and a grocery store off of Greenville (between Beltline & Arapaho) that we generally visit for Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. The Korean BBQ place just opened in the last few weeks in the middle of this shopping center, and it meant we were 30 minutes closer to home (which Aaron liked).

The food was great! The restaurant is split into 2 sections: a large dining room with regular 4-person tables and a small dining area with Korean BBQ grills built into the center of the tables. Aaron opted for the BBQ seating and liked the 2-person BBQ special since it meant trying 3 dishes and cooking it ourselves. I let Aaron choose since it took me a while to navigate the menu. We ended up trying Bulgogi (marinated beef), Pork Bulgogi (pork but with diff. seasoning), and a spicy chicken dish (can't remember the name). I was surprised that Aaron chose the chicken, and it worried me that the waiter even mentioned that it was spicy to get approval before placing the order. I think we must be accustomed to Indian-style spicy food because the chicken didn't take hot at all. The beef was fairly sweet and nearly reminded me of a type of teriyaki (also has soy sauce and sugar). The pork had a dipping sauce with salt, pepper, and something else that Aaron really liked. By the time we cooked the chicken we were stuffed!

Now we did try kimchi, and I'm sad to say that I couldn't develop a taste for it. I nearly picked up some kimchi at Komart, but I thought it might be safer to try it first. Luckily, we know have three dishes I can try to make at home thanks to online recipes. If I can manage the bulgogi recipe I found, I'll fix it as a side dish for Thanksgiving. It would be nice to have a Korean dish at our big family meals. Hey, if my family can handle papad (Indian lentil crackers) with our Thanksgiving, a little Bulgogi won't hurt! :-) I think we're planning to return to the same restaurant sometime with our families and try a few more dishes!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Still waiting but maybe a step closer...

I know that I said we wouldn't discuss the Waiting Child reviews, but several people have asked. (I didn't realize there were many people nearly as anxious as us!) After we applied for the Waiting Child (WC) program, we received medical records and pictures (yes, pictures) on three boys. After a long weekend of discussion and many new medical terms learned, we declined two of the referrals due to medical needs that we felt were far beyond what we could provide as first time parents. On the third child, we didn't feel the medical needs were nearly as extensive as we first thought, and after talking to our social worker (SW), we requested a video for clarification on a few things.

Nearly 4 weeks later (and many phone calls/emails to Holt), we haven't heard back on whether or not the video will be coming. :-( We originally asked for a video of the baby in general but also stated that it would be great if they could videotape his monthly doctor's appointment (also where they assess his development). Since Holt-Korea is not directly related to Holt (in the US), our agency can only go by what they have been told, which at this point is... nothing.

Well, I should take that back. We DID get an update about 1-2 weeks ago. As I was leaving for class, I got an email (labeled UPDATE) with two attachments. Before I rushed out the door, I forwarded the email to Aaron. When I got back, I check my email (no response from Aaron) and then quickly opened the file attachments. The first was a letter from Holt asking for our confirmation of receipt (same as the first batch of medical reports). The second was a .pdf with positive results of a check up unrelated to the medical needs about which we were hoping to learn more. The situation was a little funny, but we were glad to know how thorough the Korean doctors are!

So now that it has been several weeks and the baby's first birthday is approaching, we starting to get a little attached and a little less concerned about the medical needs. Our plan was to wait on the video and then take the medical records, pictures, an MRI (on CD), and the video to an International Adoption Pediatrician (IAP) for a consultation on this child. IAPs are required by some agencies to accept a referral and among those that do not require one, an IAP is still strongly recommended. They have more experience with the medical records from various countries and can decipher some medical terminology generally not used by American physicians. When we first discussed this child with our SW, she suggested that we have our IAP consultation while we wait on the video and just forward the video along once it is received. Aaron thought it made more sense to wait on the video. Now we're thinking that the consultation may be a good idea, especially if there is something we missed in our original review.

After getting feedback from several families who have been in our situation, I called our IAP and asked what he preferred. He saw no reason to wait, espeically since we can have as many consultations as we need (at no additional charge) until we return with the baby. So on Friday, I drove to his office and dropped off everything we have so far. We should expect a phone call from him sometime next week, and from there, we can determine how much more (if any) information we need to make a decision. In the meantime, the wait for the video is a little more bearable.

Oh and I nearly forgot: Our homestudy is done! Well, our SW is waiting to hear on our decision for this child. If we choose to adopt a waiting child, she needs to write an approval in our homestudy for his particular medical needs. If the homestudy is completed before we decide (which would be the case if we do not accept this referral and wait for another), the homestudy needs to be updated and re-sent to Korea. So once we decide, regardless of our decision, our homestudy will be ready to send to Korea.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Memory of Masayuki Akimoto

Last week after what appeared to be a promising recovery from a horrible stroke, my ojisan (uncle) Masayuki Akimoto passed away in his sleep. Masayuki Ojisan was the oldest of six brothers in my mother's family, but as he aged, he looked more and more like her father (my grandfather) as you can see below.

(Masayuki Ojisan on far left)


I spent the most time bonding with my family in Japan from the time I was born until I was about 3 years old. Ten years ago, we visited Japan for 17 days, but my loss of the language meant communicating through my mom or through gestures. Even so, this was a short trip, and I spent most of the time with my cousins who spoke a little English.

When I returned to Japan this year for my fieldwork research on Japanese summer festivals, I spent as much time with family as I could. Masayuki Ojisan, by this time, had had a stroke and was in a hospital left sitting in a wheelchair with one hand paralyzed and the other in a glove to stop him from pulling out a feeding tube. We were warned that he most likely would not respond to our presence and could barely speak. He looked up at my mother with sad eyes as she spoke to him softly in Japanese. This was very hard on my mother who visited him less than one year ago when her second oldest brother passed away from pancreatic cancer.

With dictionary in hand, I waited patiently to say a few basic phrases in Japanese, but nothing in my dictionary could prepare me for Masayuki Ojisan's reaction to me. I could not tell if this was due to my long absence or some other thought I could not read, but when my mother pointed to me and whispered my name, tears streamed down his face while he nodded. Needless to say, all of us were in tears.

On our second and last visit to the hospital, he looked at up my mother from a hospital bed and stared at her while she spoke to him. When she pointed to me this time, tears streamed down again, but this time he whispered my name. I asked how to say "Take care and get better" in Japanese and repeated this over and over.

We were in hopes that his release from the hospital was a good sign of his recovery, but Masayuki Ojisan passed away last week in his sleep late last week. I will always remember him as a hardworking man with a kind heart, and although we cannot return to Japan for his funeral, I hope my prayers at my altar at home with reach him and his family.

“Death is a part of all our lives. Whether we like it or not, it is bound to happen. Instead of avoiding thinking about it, it is better to understand its meaning. We all have the same body, the same human flesh, and therefore we will all die. There is a big difference, of course, between natural death and accidental death, but basically death will come sooner or later. If from the beginning your attitude is 'Yes, death is part of our lives,' then it may be easier to face.” - Dalai Lama

Monday, October 6, 2008

Welcome Family & Friends!

After viewing many adoption blogs and attempting to keep everyone up-to-date by phone and email, I thought it might be easier to share this information with our very own adoption blog.

Yes, we are in process through Holt International to adopt a baby boy or girl (or sibling group) from Korea. Based on our age, we are only eligible for a child under the age of 2 years old, but most children upon arrival to the US are approximately 10 months old. We are not (and cannot) give preference to one gender over another, so you'll notice that we are decorating slowly with a gender-neutral theme of animals and puzzles (more later). Although we did state that we are open to a "sibling group" (which is most often twins since both children must be under 2 years old), we have been told that this is very rare. Even so, we'll be prepared in case we are bringing home 2 instead of 1. :-)

In addition, we are eligible for the Waiting Child Program (WCP), and due to this parallel program involvement, we may be receiving a child referral much earlier than we originally anticipated. The WCP is a separate program which finds families for children with any form of medical condition (from small birthmarks or prematurity to more significant needs, such as down syndrome). It is important to note two things: 1) Families indicate which needs and the level of severity they believe they can handle before any child is referred and 2) Holt's WCP staff choose the best family for the child with his/her needs. We thought originally that we were not eligible for this program, but after a small website mistake, we were considering the program once again after our social worker (SW) mentioned something during our first interview. Aaron and I sat down for nearly two hours researching the needs on our checklist and making decisions carefully as to what needs we thought we could meet as first time parents (with little experience in some of these medical conditions). Yes, we did say "No" to the more severe conditions, such as Down Syndrome, but said "Maybe" to generally minor conditions, such as birthmarks and prematurity.

I have included a timeline that will hopefully provide a general indicator of where we are in the process, but here is the summary:
1. Application
2. Homestudy (HS)
3. Wait for Referral (both in regular Korea program or WC Korea program)
4. Review Referral (includes consultation with International Adoption doctor if considering a WC)
5. Accept Referral
6. Wait for Legal Paperwork from Korea
7. Process Visa Applications & Other Paperwork
8. Wait for Travel Call (TC) For Approval to Travel to South Korea
9. Travel to South Korea (at least 3 business days)
10. Return Home with New Family Member
11. Post-Adoption Interviews by SW (6 months after returning home)
12. Finalization of Adoption (Celebrate US Citizenship!)

At this time, we have already completed our part of the Homestudy (HS) and have already received referrals from the WCP. I should probably explain that the WCP referrals begin arriving much earlier but require more research, thought, and MD consultation before we can make a decision. The standard Korea program will not begin sending referrals until approx. 10/2009, but these referrals are generally accepted more quickly as there are no known reasons to decline the referral. That being said, we did not apply with the WCP to adopt faster. The decisions are much more difficult, but we could not justify declining the entire program when there are such minor needs that we feel we can meet. We firmly believe that you do not have a choice of "acceptable needs" when you give birth to a child, but at the same time, we do not anticipate putting a child's future at risk if we are not a good match.

Thus far, we have reviewed some files and have made the difficult decision to decline some referrals due to medical needs we thought we could not handle after all. It is difficult to make a decision when a child's name and picture is disclosed, but we're both careful not to get too attached until we can make an objective decision. For this reason, we won't be disclosing detailed information of our decisions until we are formally placed with a child, either through the WCP or standard Korea program. (Then, you'll see pictures, details, and daily posts!)

In the meantime, we're having fun spending time with other people's children as our hands-on practice; reading some of the MANY useful resources we have on adoption, Korean culture, and parenting; and slowly getting our home ready for a new family member(s). We have most of the baby's room cleaned out, although we need to make a delivery at Good Will or schedule a pick-up. Also, after a remark Aaron made about not knowing where some of these Asian countries are we have been studying, I picked up a World Map puzzle that we've decided to frame and use to decorate in the baby's room. We spent the weekend (Sept. 20-21) putting together the puzzle and now know where these countries are! (Yes, we did know where South Korea was!) Aaron made me laugh when he turned down the puzzle display and said we would figure this out without the map. I must say, I had no idea where most of the countries in Africa were, and Aaron was suprised by the exact location of many islands. It's sitting on our dining room table now, so we need to quickly find a frame before the cats help us start all over again. :-)

I hope this blog will answer many of the questions and keep our family and friends posted! I promise future posts will be much shorter!

Thank you all for your support and love!

Caption: Aaron & Lucy work on the puzzle while I break to take pictures.

Lucy is especially helpful!

Caption: Aaron installs the over-the-toilet cabinet for the baby's bathroom. I insert my 2 cents-worth by asking, "So how do we get the CD tower out from under the cabinet once it's bolted to the wall?" :-)

Oh and it looks like Kobe & Lucy will be quite involved in all of our projects!