3 weeks post placement 

We have had Millee for almost 3 weeks! Now that the rain has subsided, we have been able to spend lots of time outdoors – which she really seems to love! If it weren’t for snacking, I think she would be happy to be outside from sun-up to sundown!  We found an old pair of farm boots left over from Dirk and she was ready to go!  She loves exploring the property, meeting the cows, playing with the dogs, throwing rocks in the pond, and being as loud as she can!  She loves being outside so much that she was even OK with going on a wagon ride pulled by her big brothers! She loved every second of it.

She hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to her eating. We still haven’t found anything that she won’t eat. Her favorite food is bananas – she typically eats three or four every day! She enjoys veggies, baby carrots, lettuce, and all fruits. She is very serious about her eating.

She sleeps very well in her own bedroom, and her crib. She doesn’t like to be laid down, and typically cries for about one minute, before she settles in and goes right to sleep. She naps for about one hour during the day and sleeps all the way through the night like a big girl.

She got to meet her big cousin this weekend, and was absolutely enamored by her.  She is 7 1/2 years old, and could not hug her enough! She followed her everywhere around the house, and was probably thrilled to have another girl around! Don’t get me wrong she loves her brothers, but they are pretty content doing their own thing while she watches.  We can’t wait until she can see her big cousin again!

Three weeks ago when we brought Millee home, she was very attached to me, and did not prefer to spend time with Atley.  She got uncomfortable when I would leave the room without her.  We have seen remarkable progress in this area already!  Not only will she allow me to leave the room now, she will allow Atley to dress her, change her diaper, bathe her, and has already figured out that Atley is the cook!  

Atley was brave and spent Friday evening with the three kids on his own! This was the first time he was one on one with Millee without me around. He said that she did really well, and enjoyed being with all the boys.  She took a tractor ride, helped Atley with a project, went out to dinner and rode the side-by-side all around the farm.

Here she is on daddy’s shoulders watching big brother play his soccer game Saturday morning!

Millee seems to be fitting in well with our family, and we look forward to spending the summer time outdoors with her!  


Safe and Sound

We made it.   We took custody of our daughter.  We lived in her country for ten days.  We all survived the 13 hour plane ride home (and the four hour process just to board the plane), 

and we made it safely from Chicago back home. 

We’re home. 

Our sweet girl didn’t know what to think about the grass, so her big brothers demonstrated a nice STRUT across the front yard.  😆 Having a little sister has proven to bring out some super powers in Levi and Dirk.  Dirk can reach far away toys for Millee because his arms are long, and Levi happened to be available to hold Millees hand after soccer practice so she wouldn’t be upset.  😍

We’ve been home four days now and have seen improvements each day.  We are watching her get more comfortable with her new family, her new kitty cats, the outdoors, her new bedroom and crib, bath time and our routine in general.  She remarkably has only had one night of interrupted sleep, and has otherwise slept from about 8:30pm to 9:30am!  She’s a great napper too!  

Millee is observant and bright.  She will offer her brothers their bread they’ve dropped, and is naturally gentle with the cats.  We expected much more of a language barrier but it just doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Millee understands what we are asking her, and she has begun to get creative with ways to communicate back to us (pointing, nodding or shaking head or smiling).  

Thank you to all who have already called, brought us food, sent cards and prayed.  We appreciate the encouragement very much!   Before too long we’ll be in our new routine!  

Visa Interview

Today was the day of Millee’s Visa appointment.  We stayed close enough to walk to it, and we had already scoped out the location.  It was raining for our short walk over, but it was a light warm rain so didn’t hinder our travels.

The Visa interview went well.  It was conversational in nature, and there was plenty of space for the kiddos to be free.  It took about 1 1/2 hours, so it wasn’t long before Millee fell asleep on Atley for the walk home.

This week has been filled with ups and downs.  We’ve taken on an 18-month old child who has existing preferences and expectations, most of which are unknown to us.  She’s not used to our language, sounds, smells, or styles.  An example is when we get her dressed.  If her sleeves are not long, or she’s got shorts on instead of pants, she’ll try to pull the legs down.  It appears that Koreans dress in more layers than we do, so I don’t think she’s ever had her arms or legs exposed for very long.

Millee is very lovable, and joyful.  She is always ready to embark on the next adventure, scanning the room for eye-contact along the way, offering a pleasant wave.  We’ve tried exploring far-away places and nearby places, been to restaurants and tried street-food.  She seems to be easy-going regardless of the setting.  She loves getting her picture taken, new shoes, and clothes of all kinds.  She doesn’t like hair bows, which works well with this mom-of-two-boys.

We’ve taken in lots of new sounds and smells in Korea, knowing she’ll be experiencing everything new in just two more days. Please continue praying for our sweet girl, as she adapts to our family dynamics, and gets settled into her new home. We cannot wait to be all together again as the family of five that we now are!

Custody Day!

We arrived in Korea yesterday afternoon, and took our time getting to the hotel.  We felt comfortable taking the subway to Insadong which felt good.  We thought we would explore a little last night for dinner, but by the time we got settled in the hotel, and did FaceTime with the boys to wish Levi a happy 6th birthday, we were just ready to go to sleep – no dinner at all!  We slept well!

We met up with our new dear friends Buddy and Brooke, who are also taking custody of their son today.  We went grocery shopping after eating breakfast in the hotel, and enjoyed conversation over coffee.  

We found a beautiful restaurant down an alley for lunch and got full.  We were so anxious during that meal, I was slightly concerned it would all come back up again!  It was time to head to the agency!

It started lightly raining for the start of our walk to the subway, but was still very sunny so everything looked brightly colored and beautiful. We were all still appreciative of the warm day.  The subway took slightly longer than expected, so we arrived at the agency at 1:59pm – I never dreamed I would have one minute to spare for my appointment to take custody of my daughter!  We were all breathing hard as we filed into the small agency elevator.  I caught a glimpse of the foster mom and Millee in the lobby as she was finishing her final medical checkup and she waved at us as the doors closed!  She looked beautiful and even more grown up than last month when we met her!

We waited for what seemed like an eternity in a small room at the end of the hallway.  I was so excited to see Millee walk through the door that I kept jumping up from the couch when I heard a voice.  Atley finally had to remind me to keep calm and be still!  Here we are as we waited, moments before meeting Millee.

She and the foster mom finally came in the room, and Millee must have known something was up.  She was shy to us now, and wanted to be with her foster mom.  We signed one single sheet of paper, accepting custody of Millee, and were provided several documents the case worker called the “court forms”.  The foster mom had carefully prepared three large bags of Millee’s items for us, so we went through those together and had opportunities to ask questions.  The agency was very generous and called a large van-cab for the six of us, and before long told us it had arrived.  

Atley, Millee, the case worker and myself headed down to the lobby and Millee’s heart broke as the elevator door shut.  Watching this sweet baby girl leave her foster mom was emotional.  I held her tight all the way back to the hotel, and she periodically would calm down.  She was so tired when we arrived, so we got her cozy next to Atley and she napped.  

Our hearts are exploding with joy and happiness, and we are prepared to help her in any way we can through this difficult time. More pictures to come as we explore Seoul with our *daughter* this weekend!  

7 days and we’re a family of 5!

We loved our experience in South Korea last month.  The city is beautiful, the people are thoughtful and kind, and Millee was amazing.  We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

No sooner did we recover from jumping time-zones, did we hear from our agency again:  our case had already been given preliminary approval, and the adoption was set to be final on April 10 2017!  This was the exact news we had waited to hear for almost 2 years!  Since Atley and I were both at work, we had much of the day to think about our second trip to Korea.  I also learned that two other families we met on Trip #1 would be coming back the same time as us!  What could be better than experiencing the last part of this journey with families you already know!

Now that we had been once already, we felt much more comfortable with everything from scheduling flights / hotel, to riding the subway.  [We are not leaving the airport this time without the “egg”.]

So we’re going to have a baby girl in 7 days!  

The second trip is scheduled for April 11.  We’ll arrive in Korea on April 12 (probably the ONLY thing that could make me miss my other child’s birthday), and take custody on April 13!  We’ll all three stay in Korea awaiting Millee’s Visa appointment which is scheduled for the following Monday, April 17.  We’ll return home Wednesday, April 19.  

If there was a way to think about every possible scenario we could run into with a toddler who speaks another language, we’ve probably thought about it.  We’re finding ourselves trying to pack absolutely everything we could possibly need, only to weed through it all, leaving only the absolutely crucial items.  

We’re trying to remember a few things in packing for this trip:  

  • We overpacked last month, which was NOT fun dragging extra weight on and off the subways, up and down the stairs.  (Okay, Atley really carried mine up and down the stairs, but getting on the subway was really hard getting the wheels over that gap!). 
  • We’d like to keep our hands “free”.  Millee’s foster mom tells us Millee doesn’t like being carried, so we’re preparing ourselves to hang with her on-the-move.  We’ll bring an umbrella stroller for when she’s tired – we do plan to explore even more next week!  Even Millee’s hands will be “free” as she walks through the airport, thanks to a thoughtful friend!

  • Our hotel has laundry machines available.  That’s all I needed to know.  I’ve got this!  

So, we’ve got the boys’ agenda typed out, Easter baskets prepared, and even Levi’s 6th birthday party planned early.  Now I guess we’ll wait.  We’ll pray harder than ever for God to watch over our sweet baby girl, and keep her safe.  

This guy can’t wait to have someone else to make laugh!

We’re all ready.  We’re coming sweet girl!  

Our Court Hearing

Thursday was court – and we were even more anxious for this than when we met Millee.  

We had been told by the case worker that we needed to be at the agency by 10:10am, but that if we wanted to come early she’d show us around the agency.  We were not going to turn that down!  We knew Millee had lived at the agency for 3 weeks before joining her foster family.  

Atley knew how to use the timer on his iPad so here we are ready for court!

We arrived at the agency right at 10:00am and met our caseworker first thing.  There were several other families attending court today, so it was nice meeting up with another family we already knew “virtually” in the waiting room!  As a group we hurriedly traveled down to the 4th floor nursery, and I had my phone out and ready!  We were asked to put cameras away, and we had to take our shoes off.  Only a few of us could fit in the viewing area at a time, and the temperature in this area must have been at least 85 degrees!  

There were two sides to the nursery – one side housed eight newborn babies, each in their own crib.  There were three ladies handling the newborns, and we were told there are always three workers tending to the children at any time (a mix of paid workers and volunteers).

The other side of the nursery housed eight bigger babies – probably between 1-3 months old.  There were three ladies handling those babies too, and astonishingly, not one child was crying!  The babies seemed content, they were being handled, covers adjusted, some babies were being walked around the room, and even looking back at us!  

The toy room at the agency. This room was where Millee was when her pictures were taken for her “file”. The first time we saw her was in that pink chair!

We were only permitted about two minutes of viewing time, since we had to load up in the vans.  The ride over to the Seoul Family Court was about five minutes.  Of course we had to clear security upon entering and had remembered to keep our passports handy.

The sweet translator walked us through how the court hearing would progress.  She encouraged all of the families not to be nervous, and we needed to remember to look directly at the judge when speaking (rather than looking at the translator).  Each family was in their hearing for about 10 minutes, and would provide us a play-by-play of their questions they had received to help us prep.  We were the last family of our group to have a hearing.  

The room was intimidating I thought – a microphone for both Atley and I, and we were to sit to the judge’s right.  The judge had a gentleman directly in front of her, in our line-of-sight to the judge.  As a result, his computer screen blocked a portion of the judge’s face for me.  The questions began, and Atley and I had discussed in-advance which types of questions each of us would answer.  The types of questions we heard were, “Why would you like to add another child to your family?”, “Who will be the primary caregiver?”, “How do Millee’s siblings feel about her joining the family?”.  We must have provided her with sufficient answers, because in the end the translator wished us luck raising our two boys and raising Millee!  

The hearing was over and now all we had to do was wait to hear about when our custody date was!  Hooray!  We expect to hear from the agency within a couple weeks of returning home.  They’ll tell us a custody date of about one month from now.  So, we’ll be returning to Korea in about a month and Millee will be ours!

The agency didn’t provide us transportation back to the hotel, so we paired up with one of the other families for lunch in Gangnam, and found a delicious sushi bar! 

Sushi Avenue in Gangnam

The restaurant was very clean and service was good.  An interesting experience was sitting down at the table and being handed a list of rules.  We had no more than 1 1/2 hours to eat.  We were only to put on our plate what we could eat, or we would be fined.  While this was intimidating, we were able to successfully comply with each of the rules and had an enjoyable meal.

We enjoyed some downtime before dinner and met up with another family for familiar PF Chang’s.  The walk back to our hotel was warmer than previous evenings, which made it nice.  

McDonalds delivery anyone?

The trial run!

It was a quiet taxi ride back to the agency after our second (last) visit with Millee.  I was gloomy, still tired and had developed a minor cold overnight.  My nose was running and my head felt like it was in a clamp.  We spotted a Quiznos on the walk back to the hotel and decided we’d return for lunch in a few minutes.  (I know, who eats Quiznos in Seoul, right?). We moped all the way back to the hotel and I tried to convince Atley that I needed to stay in bed the rest of the day.  He must have been onto my tricks, because he planned an excursion to brighten our moods!  We were even going to tackle the subway!  

We walked back around the corner for lunch at Quiznos, and then straight to the subway.  We knew we had to transfer from the “green line” to the “blue line” to get to the Namsan Tower.  Namsan tower sits geographically in the center of the city, and is the highest point in Seoul.  We were excited to see the tower, and also for the sites along the way.

We got off the subway and headed up the street.  We could see the mountain on our left, but weren’t certain how to get to the top.  This was an adventure!  We stopped in a convenience store for cold medicine and midnight snacks (why am I famished at 1:00am?) and continued toward the mountain.  We finally saw a cable car making its way down the side of the mountain.  We hopped on the elevator (which looked like a cable car itself) and I snapped some pictures.

We made up to the bottom of the mountain where we purchased our cable car round-trip tickets.  We were just in time for boarding, even though I thought we would certainly be told to wait for the next car.  We were a tight squeeze!  The sights were wonderful.  The city is so large, I’m not even sure I’m comprehending it.  From the top of the mountain, you could look in any direction and see nothing but cityscape.  

Directly behind us is “Love Locks”. Couples bring a padlock to hang here and their love is supposed to last forever. You can also bring your children back and hang a lock for them.

Inside the base of the tower was a Hello Kitty museum, more shopping and food.  I suspect there was far more there that we didn’t explore.  

We decided not to go up in the actual tower, but had a great time acclimating ourselves from atop the mountain, and determining which direction Millee was.  By this time, my head felt like it was going to pop right off my shoulders, so we decided to head back down the mountain.  We’ve now ridden the subway so we could pretty much pass for locals, right!?  

We got to enjoy a beautiful Seoul sunset just as we arrived back at the hotel.