I never want to forget…the heartbreaking, sad, and emotional stuff

I’m continuing the series of post about our time in Korea last year with the heartbreaking, sad and emotional things I never want to forget.

-On our first trip we stayed at the Guesthouse of our Korean agency that was established and made available for families to stay at.  It is just two buildings down from the agency, very cost efficient, and has good accommodations.  The Guesthouse rooms are also located in the same building as our agency’s baby reception center.  Two of the floors in the building are reserved for caring for the babies once the birth mother has made an adoption plan.  They are cared for there until they are either adopted in country or placed in a foster home to wait adoption.  On Sunday morning Brad and I were up early and had decided to go out for some  breakfast.  As we walked out of the building and onto the street we could hear the cries of the babies from up above in the reception center.  It was a very somber sound.  There is no real way to explain how I truly felt hearing those cries.  My heart ached for each one.  I thought about each of those precious little babies and how each one so desperately needed a mommy and daddy to calm and love on them as they cried.  Fortunately, most all of those babies will find families.  However, that’s not the fate of hundreds of thousands of children around the world.  I’m reminded of a quote from Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr, “Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children… As followers of Jesus we cannot be satisfied with children living in orphanages as a long-term solution.”  Baby reception centers, orphanages, institutions, whatever you want to call them, they are man’s plan for the fatherless, but not God’s plan!  Families are God ordained and His plan for children!


-During our first trip to Korea we had two visits with Benjamin.  At both visits, when it came time to say “Good-bye” I was fine.  I had been able to leave without having a meltdown.  My heart was full and happy!  I thought that if I was going to have an ugly cry it would have been during these times, but I had prepared myself for them and knew good-bye wasn’t for forever.  However, when it came time to leave Korea it was a different story.  I honestly thought I had made the trip without any meltdowns or tears.  But as we were leaving our room at the Guesthouse, on our way to the elevator, the tears came.  (I’m tearing up now thinking about it!)  I had held them in as long as I could.  Even though I knew he was being very well taken care of it was hard to leave without him.  It was very hard to leave behind something, someone, you’ve prayed, waited, dreamed and hoped for for so long.  I was leaving, but I was leaving without a piece of me.  By the time we reached the bus stop I had regained my composure.


-They day Benjamin was placed in our arms forever was one filled with great emotions.  Happiness.  Nervousness.  Sadness.  Our dream of being a family of three was finally coming true!  We had waited 10 years for this day!  Our hearts were overflowing with joy, love, happiness, and excitement.  At the same time I was nervous.  I would now be responsible for someone other than myself.  This little person would rely on my for everything.  EVERYTHING!  What if I couldn’t do it?  Would I know what to do when he cried?  Would I know how to help him feel better when he was sick?  Would I be able to cheer him up when he was sad?  What if he didn’t like me?  I hoped these were normal first-time-mom jitters.

We were to take custody of Benjamin at the adoption agency.  We were given about 45-60 minutes with him before we left the agency.  The foster mom told us he liked riding in a stroller and being outside.  We put him in a stroller and took him out on the porch/balcony.  We spent time just the three of us and he did great.  He never cried, but it was like he sensed something was about to happen.





As we were preparing to leave the agency, they graciously allowed us to barrow the stroller for a few days.  (This proved to be a lifesaver!!)  Our social worker escorted us to the elevator.  As we waited for the doors to open his foster family stood there too.  We told Benjamin to wave bye-bye and they said something to him too.  He looked up at them and smiled his little smile and waved.  I looked at his foster mom and she was crying.  That’s all it took and my tears started flowing.  I reached over, hugged her, and thanked her once more for loving and caring so much for Benjamin.  As we got into the elevator she said something and our social worker translated and said, “She wishes for him to have a happy and healthy life”.  And the doors closed.


-The next few days would be hard.  Benjamin grieved severely.  It sounds odd to say, but this is what we wanted and had hoped he would do.  (It meant he had a secure bond with his foster family and would greatly increase the chances of him forming a similar bond with us.)  Even though we expected this, and had been trained on how to handle it, it still didn’t make it easy for us to watch.  Anytime we were in our hotel room and hew was awake he could cry.  He loved being in the stroller and being outside (I think he thought if he was in the stroller it meant he was going back to his foster mom).  Our hotel had an outside putting range on the 5th floor.  This became our “go to” spot.  It soothed Benjamin to be out there and he enjoyed playing with the golf balls.  We even ate out there a time or two.

The day we got him, after being in the room and unable to console him, we took him for a ride in the stroller.  He fell asleep before we made it half way around the block.

The second day at nap time we let him lay on a palate.  That day he cried himself to sleep.  He kept crying for “omma” (mom/mother) and “appa” (dad/father).  HEART. WRENCHING.  I laid next to him, rubbed his back, and cried silently.

Finally sleeping after a long crying session.

Finally sleeping after a long crying session.

For three nights when it came time for bed we would push him up and down the block until he fell asleep.  We were just surviving at this point. I spent two nights “sleeping” (I really didn’t sleep much) in a chair holding him.  It seemed anytime we laid him down he would wake up and start crying.   However, day three became the turning point.  He was already realizing he could trust and depend on us and that we were not going to leave or neglect him.  We ditched the stroller and began using the baby carrier, he didn’t cry every time we were in the hotel room, and we felt comfortable sightseeing around Seoul with him.

Night two of walking him until he fell asleep.

Night two of walking him until he fell asleep (sorry its blurry).


-The day finally came for us to head home.  We had enjoyed our time in Korea, but we were definitely ready to be home.  As we boarded the plane an instrumental version of “What a Wonderful World” was playing through the speakers.  Here are a few of the lyrics:

“I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world…

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.”

The music was playing so softly and tranquil.  Another burst of emotions came over me and the tears came once more.  It was a bitter sweet moment.  I was sad because we were leaving Benjamin’s homeland that he may never fully get to experience.  I grieved because we were taking him from the only home he had ever known.   I was brokenhearted over all the loss and changes he had already experienced in his short 17 months of life.  Yet, it was like the emotional burden of everything we had experienced on our journey had been lifted.  The ups and downs, the waiting and unforeseen delays, the times I thought I would never be a mother, they were all over  They were all behind us now.   The sleeping baby I held in my arms was really ours and he was finally coming home!  He would no longer be called fatherless, but an heir, a son!  Appropriately, the meaning of his name is “son of…”  We were headed home with the child we had dreamed of, prayed, hoped, and waited for for over 10 years. The next chapter of our lives was just beginning!!


I never want to forget…the interesting and fun stuff

As I think back on the events that happened nearly a year ago there are many things I want to remember about our time in Korea. Things about being in a new and different country. Things about meeting Benjamin. Things about being a first time parent. Some are fun and interesting and some are heart breaking and others precious.

Interesting, Fun, and/or Silly things I want to remember about our time in Korea:

-Even though we had a power converter my curling iron would not work in Korea! This was difficult since I don’t typically wash my hair every day and use the curling iron to style it. Fortunately, I did wash and curl it the day we left home and it looked somewhat OK for our first meeting with Benjamin when we had to take pictures to submit to court (I didn’t realize it would not work in time to wash it and restyle). Luckily, the room we stayed in had a hair dryer and pretty much the rest of the time I wore it in a pony tail. Crazy, but I don’t want to forget it!

Here’s a picture of me with my not-been-washed-or-styled-in-two-days hair…


-We took a taxi from the airport in Incheon to Gangnam (Seoul) to our guestroom, about an hour drive. The taxi driver was very nice, but he talked the WHOLE way. All I wanted to do was lean back and rest from the 14 hour flight and the 1-2 hours maneuvering through customs and baggage. While it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon Seoul time my body was telling me it was 2 o’clock in the morning Central Time.

-Also, about 30 minutes into the drive Brad decided he needed to pee and could not wait any longer. He asked the driver if there was a place to stop and use the bathroom. The driver says he’s not familiar with the area we are in but he will see if he can find one. So he pulls off the interstate and found a service station with a bathroom. He pulls into the lot and barely off the road. Brad gets out and makes his way to the restroom. All the while, I’m thinking, “You are going to leave me in the car with a man we don’t know? In a place we know nothing about? What if the driver decides to leave without you? Are you crazy?!?  You can’t wait 30 minutes?!?” The taxi driver gets out too and takes a smoke break. I felt better about the situation after that..ha! So, I watch Brad walk to the restroom and open the door. He goes in, but I can still see him!! The restroom had a partially see through door!!!! Only the section about 2.5 to 5 feet from the ground was shaded!! Once again thoughts start racing through my head…”What have we gotten ourselves into?!? Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing?  I must be seeing things because of exhaustion and lack of sleep”

-Anytime we were out and needed to find a bathroom (do you see a pattern?) we would ask someone, “Where’s the bathroom?”  (In English mind you.)  We would just get a blank look in return.  To which we would respond, “Restroom?”  Still just a confused stare.  “Toilet?”  “OH!” and the person would point us in the right direction.  After a couple of times we caught on that most understood “toilet” and that became our first choice of words.  Language barriers are fun.

-Eating in Korea was challenging for us.  We have somewhat of a plain pallet when it comes to food.  Anyway, there was a restaurant guide in our guestroom and there was a hamburger place listed, Kraze Burger.  We thought we would try it.  There were directions so we thought it should be easy to find.  We followed them and couldn’t find it.  We decided we would ask someone where it was.  We ended up asking three different people in three different places on three different occasions.  Only one was able to come up with some directions.  We followed them and still didn’t find it.  I guess it wasn’t meant for us to eat a Kraze Burger.  lol   We did however, sadly, eat at McDonald’s or Burger King daily.  We also found an Outback  Steakhouse and it was wonderful!

-Traffic is CRAZY in Seoul!  Lots of horn honking, people on scooters and a ton of cars and buses.  Drivers in Seoul are not the most patient people.  People on scooters don’t really follow the traffic lights or rules.  They run up on sidewalks and cross in the crosswalk while you are trying to cross the street.  Beware, they will run you over!

-A lot of business don’t open until 9 or 10 am.  This was difficult for us since we were experiencing jet lag and was awake by 5:30 every morning and by 8 we were ready to get out and going for the day.  One morning we decided we would go out for breakfast.  We found a pastry place we thought we would try, Paris Baguette, and it was closed!  LOL. (We did eat there later and it was very good!)  However, if you are out and about that early in Seoul you can understand why South Korea is often referred to as “The Land of the Morning Calm”.  There are very few people out.  Little to no cars or scooters on the streets.  For a city of 25 million people it is pretty tranquil in the mornings.

-We also attended a baseball game while we were there.  Let me tell ya, Koreans really get into their baseball games!  When you purchase your tickets they ask what team you are for.  All the fans for one team set on one side of the stadium and the other team’s fans set on the opposite side.  Each team has cheerleaders and each batter has a song he comes out to when he bats.  Noise sticks are a must have if you are going to cheer for your team, but you only cheer your team on when they are batting.  It really is something to experience if you go to Seoul during baseball season!  We love baseball anyway and we had a great time!  Go Doosan Bears!!


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One Year Ago

Over the next few weeks there will be several days that will mark one year of some very special events on our journey in bringing Benjamin home and it all begins tomorrow.  May 29th was the day we boarded a plane and traveled half way around the world, almost 7000 miles, to meet our son!  This was only my second time to fly and neither one of us had been on a flight for longer than 4-5 hours.  You think you know how long 14 hours is, but you really don’t realize HOW LONG it is until you are 2-3 hours into a 14 hour flight watching the flight duration time count down.  It.Is.A.Long.Time!!

We arrived in Seoul technically a day and a half later.  The very next day, May 31, we would meet a very precious boy we had waited months years to meet.  On June 3 we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary in Seoul at our second visit with Benjamin.  No better way to celebrate!!  Then on June 4th we made our way to Family Court to express our desire before a judge to be Minjun’s (Benjamin’s) forever parents.  The next day we would board a plane (without Benjamin) and make the VERY LONG flight back home.  Home to wait for notification of the judge’s final approval on the adoption.  Thirteen days later on June 18 we got the call that the adoption order would be finalized on June 20 and his visa interview had been scheduled for June 27!  In just a couple of days we were making that long flight once more!  Finally, on June 24 we were united as a family of three!

Over the next few weeks I’m going to try and post a series of entries about our time in Korea and the last 12 months with Benjamin.  Stay tuned for more!

May Update

The month of May includes many milestones from our adoption journey.  May 26, 2011 marked the official start of the journey.  This was the day we submitted our preliminary application to All Blessings International to adopt a child from South Korea.  A year later almost to the day on May 24, 2012 our home study was finally sent to Korea to match us with a child.  The following year on May 7, 2013 we received notification that a court date had been set and we would be making the long awaited trip to meet Benjamin.  Just a few weeks later on May 29 we boarded a plane and took a flight halfway around the world that would forever change our life.  Two days later on May 31 we were able to hold in our arms the most precious little boy that up to that point we had only held in pictures.  Then, on May 15 of this year our referral acceptance paperwork was sent to Korea so that the paperwork could begin on the Korean side to bring Zoey home.  This May  also included my first Mother’s day with Benjamin. We have lots to celebrate and be thankful for this month!  Many first and new beginnings have happened in May.  May it always be this way!


Here are some pictures from the last few weeks!  Hope you enjoy!

Relaxing after a day at the zoo with Cousin Maxton and Aunt Jenny

Relaxing after a day at the zoo with Cousin Maxton and Aunt Jenny


This is his excited face!


Enjoying a popsicle after a visiting Daddy at work. Believe it or not, the red came out of his shirt (and his mouth)!


Posing….love how he has his feet crossed!


Looking cool in his shades (and sucking his finger…cause all cool people do that)!


My baby looking so grown up!


My silly boy


My little Korean country boy. He loves riding the tractor with Papaw Kenny.


Ready for church


Being silly in a cardboard box


Big News!!!!

We have big news to share! Some have already heard, but we are expecting from Korea again!!! We are very excited to once again be on this crazy journey!!

“Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,”

–Isaiah 46:5-6

Not long after we began the process for Benjamin we knew we would adopt a second time. We wanted Benjamin to have a sibling and we wanted to continue to follow the call God has placed in our hearts.

During the process, and because of the many changes and long wait we experienced with Benjamin, I had said I would never adopt from Korea again. The only exception would be if we received a sibling call (which happens occasionally). How could I say “No” to a blood sibling of Benjamin’s who also needed a family? There’s no way!! However, once we met Benjamin, went to court, completed the process and brought him home my perspective changed. Now I’m eating those words “never, except” and they taste great! I cannot imagine adopting from anywhere else! We have forever been changed by that country and a piece of my heart will always be there!

Korea requires three post placement visits with a social worker within the first six months of coming home. I remember telling our social worker at our second visit just three months after bringing Benjamin home that we were ready to do it again! Then, at our last visit in December we reiterated our desire to start the process again in the coming year.

Brad and I discussed it and had decided we would begin the process again in the Spring sometime around April or May. Part of our desire to start again so soon was because of the long wait time we experienced with Benjamin; it took just over two years from start to finish. We want Benjamin and his sibling to be close in age so they can grow up together and have fun with each other. Another reason was because Korea has an age limit of 43 for parents. Not that either of us are there yet, but if we waited a couple of years to start again and a couple more in process Brad would be close to aging out.

Well, as March drew closer I began wondering about waiting children. Maybe this would be the direction we would take. Why wait to be matched with a child when there are children waiting to be matched with a family? I frequently look at the Rainbow Kids website (rainbowkids.com). It is a website that that list children from all over the world who are available for adoption. It is heartbreaking, but none the less I look dreaming of giving each one a home. There are several children listed form Korea on the site, but none with the agency we previously worked with. We like our agency and understand their requirements, process and expectations and did not want to switch agencies. For that reason, none of these children were available to us. I decided to contact our social worker to inquire about any waiting children she may be aware of. She said she had been notified just the previous week of a little girl born last summer. If we were interested she would forward her medical and social history to us. I spoke with Brad and we decided to review her file. She did have some medical concerns (as do most children on a waiting list) so we had our general pediatrician review her file along with a doctor in Cincinnati who reviews medical files and treats internationally adopted children. They both went over risks and possible issues we could expect in the future. Brad and I talked and prayed about it and came to the conclusion she was waiting for us!! Honestly, I would have been heartbroken if we would have had to turn her down. I love the quote from pastor, author, and adoptive parent David Platt, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” These words are so true! Once I saw her face I couldn’t say no. I don’t think it would have mattered what medical issues she had or background she came from. I knew she would be ours.

So, here we go again! The paper pregnancy has begun, and as before no morning sickness, but the paper cuts are horrible! The last few weeks have been filled with applications, appointments, and interviews. There is still more paperwork to come in the next few weeks. Hopefully, as long as there are no unforeseen circumstances, she will be home by the end of this year or early next year.

And once again, we are unable to share any photos until she comes home. However, she is the cutest little thing (but I’m kind of bias…ha)! She has a head full of jet black hair (more than Benjamin) that I can’t wait to stick bows in and has chubby little checks! We have given her the name Zoey, meaning life. She has been given the chance to live and experience life; life to its fullest. I love hearing Benjamin talk about “Sister” and he always wants to kiss and hug her picture. Every night he tells her, “Night, night Zoey”! Sigh. My heart is full!!