Monday, April 30, 2012

FAQ and More

For  20 months we have been "in process" to grow our family through adoption. For 20 months we have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Then we were matched with our son and the wait got so much harder.

It is so hard to believe that 362 days ago we became parents again. It is even harder to believe that what was supposed to be a 4-6 month wait has now doubled and we are still waiting. Finally though, we are close to the end of the wait and the start of a new begining...The Wong Family Party of 4...all under one roof.

So, in preperation of James' homecoming this blog will answer all those

When will James be coming home?

We still do not know exactly. The one piece of the puzzle we were waiting for the last year was his "EP" and he has been submitted for his (Praise the Lord) and it should be approved any day. Our agency says that after that approval it takes about 2-4 weeks historically. However, last batch started getting travel calls after only 9 days. For us, every day feels like a month and the final days of this wait are dragging. Can someone induce me please - I want to hold my son.

How much notice will you get ?

Once James has EP approval everything still must go through the US embassy. I can call Washington, DC then and give his case number and they will be able to tell me ( most of the time if it is up to date) if he has had his visa interview or made an appearance at the United States Embassy in Seoul. This will give us a very rough estimate of when he will be home. This part of the process is usually pretty quick and when it is complete James will have everything he needs (paperwork wise) to come to America.

What is the Travel Call?

This is the call that comes from our agency and tells us that the little boy that we have loved for over a year is ready to come home. It is the call that makes me cry just thinking of it. If we were traveling it would mean that we could board the plane and go to Korea. Since we are escorting (that was why it was so important for me to plan a trip so quickly a few weeks ago - so I could see his birth country, spend time with him there, meet the woman who matched us together, and meet the family that loved my son like their own for so long) it means that we get a second call with travel information and a date and time of his arrival. Most people have only waited 3-5 days after this call.

Can we come to the airport?

We have been asked this pretty frequently and the answer is -Yes!!!! We would love to have anyone who would like come and be part of this special day. This will be the moment we are joined together as a family of four.  However, we understand that both Philadelphia and Newark ( James can arrive at either and we will not know until we get the call) airports are far and that it will be very last minute so please don't feel obligated. For those not familiar with adoption homecomings - we will be at the airport for a short time after he arrives. Please feel free to bring posters and signs to welcome him home. We just ask that you don't try to pick him up, hold him, hug him etc. 

Can we hold him and hug him once he is home?

While we have all have gotten to know James through pictures and updates the last year he did not get to know everyone who loves him here the same way. He is about to go through a huge transition that involves so much loss. He will grieve the loss of the only family he has known. It is important that only Anthony and I meet his needs initially so that he can learn to trust us and attach to us. The same as if we were bringing an infant home - we must be the ones to comfort him, sooth him, feed him, change him etc so that he can learn to trust us to care for him and see us as his parents. The window for initial attachment is small. Once he is securely attached we promise that you can hold him, cudlde him, and love on him all you want.

How long will attachment take?

The truth is we just don't know. Some children attach quickly and others have a difficult time. Some children need additional support with therapists and some do not. It is often a work in progress and takes time. We have educated ourselves and have some good attachement statagies to work with if needed.

Does James know any English?

No - he does not speak english and the few words that I know in Korean must not sound anything like they are supposed to because he either doesn't stop what he is doing or he looks at me with a puzzled look. The good news is that when I spoke to him using english I got some good responses. This will surely be another area that initially will pose some difficulties though.

When will James be Baptized?

As long as we have no complications everything is set for him to be Baptized on July, 8th 2012 @ 1:30 pm with a reception following. We our blessed to have our close friends , Steve and  Kim,  be James' godparents. Family members - invitations will be mailed after James is home.

Thank you to all those who have supported us on this journey. We are incredibly lucky to have been chosen to be James' parents and look forward to having both Zoey and James together under one roof.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

A few years ago I started following Kelle Hampton's blog after reading an exerpt of her post about the day that she gave birth to her second daughter on facebook. I had never been a blog reader before that day but I was instantly hooked. Kelle inspired me through the words on her pages and her beautiful photographs. Her favorite quote by Mary Oliver,  "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life"  made me what to do more, achieve more, be more.
When I found out that Kelle Hampton was writing a book I knew that I would be reading it. Her memoir came out days before my plane lifted off to Korea - and even know I had so much to do before the trip - late at night I would read a few pages until my eyes couldn't stay open any longer. It was then my must read book as soon as the plane lifted off the ground.

As I curled up with the book 35,000 feet in the air...already super emotional as I traveled half way around the world to meet my sweet son... the message on those pages had me lost in thought. The five words Finding Beauty In The Unexpected  had me pondering all the hard times and difficulties in my life while everyone else on the plane slept.

Immiadiately, I thought about the adoption process.... how over and over again every single expectation we have had for the process turned into the unexpected. I thought about my 18 month old son who was supposed to be home months and months ago and how happy I was to be going to meet him but sad to know that I would have to get back on that big plane and be an ocean apart again.  I thought about all the hard days... the days I cried, the days I got angry, the days I was bitter, and the days that I just didn't think I had an ounce of strength left. My mind went to the dark places about how life is not fair and adoption was supposed to be easy and how I already had so much hurt, pain, and loss when we were trying to concieve and eventually brought Zoey into the world. I thought about all that we endured to finally become parents, then to see her in that isolette, and how now as a family unit we still continue to struggle with her special needs.

I thought about how I really tried to handle all of the difficulties with grace. How I always tried to look at all that I had been blessed with on the days that were so hard - but for some reason- the last few months of this adoption were so hard. It was like day after day a rock was placed on my back and eventually I just crumbled. Adoption is not for the faint of heart and loving a child that has grown in your heart and not being able to hold them in your arms is excruciating.

The truth is that it is so easy to find the ugly in the really hard times of our lives. When I dream - I dream big - and so many hard events that I have endured weren't supposed to be part of my fairytale.  It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves.... to surrender ourselves to the sadness because it takes more time, more thought, more patience, and more understanding to find the beauty in the unexpected instead of letting the tough hands of life knock us down and take away our joy.

I needed to stop and take inventory of all the beauty that was to be found in all of this unexpected.

First, I have two amazing children who came to me in very miraculous ways. The hardships, waiting, praying, dreaming, and believing make me a better mother ... it is a constant reminder to never take these amazing gifts for granted have more embrace their lives...and cherish every single moment.

My first baby Zoey.  After all those 5 am wake ups to drive an hour away... being pregnant with triplets only to have 2 losses.... surgeries and hospital bedrest...and still going into labor at 30 weeks.... This huge miracle that was so tiny and precious arrived and was rushed to the NICU. What she lacked in size she made up in spirit...she was a fighter from the very begining...a miracle.
Sometimes in the midst of therapy and doctor appointments I forget about all the strengths she has among her struggles. She is beautiful inside and out. Everything she does she does big. She is a mini picasso, creating beautiful masterpieces with her hands. She brings smiles to so many - especially me.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her my life was better. I loved her more then I ever thought imaginable and the love grew so much stronger the moment she was born. When she was about a year old  I remember joking with Anthony , well maybe just 1/2 joking, that I didn't know how I would ever love a second baby as much as I loved her. Now I know.

My sweet baby James.

Adoption was always in my heart but it took all that was "unexpected" in my journey to become a mother to confirm that somewhere out there another child was destined to be mine. For nine months I prepared paperwork, fingerprints, forms and background checks and then waited to hear about the child who wouldn't grow under my heart but in it. Then it came... our referral....and instantly my heart grew bigger then I ever thought possible.

Immiadiately after the referral we prepared to bring James home. We expected a 4-6 month wait and planned on him coming to his forever home shortly before or a little after his first birthday. Then out of nowhere so much "unexpected" happened. We were hit with delay after delay. We didn't make the quota for the year. The ministry stopped processing cases and we continued to wait and wait and wait. It was a very long eleven months as I watched the son I longed to hold grow from a baby into a toddler.

When I was in the thick of the wait and the emotions were so raw it was hard to even imagine that their could possibly be any beauty in all of that "unexpected". However, from 35,000 feet in the air inside the Korean Air plane that was going to touch down in the land of the morning calm - Seoul, where I would wake up in the same city as my son I was able to find so much beauty.

First, I had an amazing friend sitting next to me who packed her suitcase and boarded a plane to fly 1/2 way around the world to meet my son with me with just 3 days notice. She knew that as crazy as this last minute trip was that it meant the world to me and because it meant the world to me it meant the world to her too.  She is pretty great like that.

When we are 70 we will still be talking about the emotions that were felt in the room the day that I met my son for the very first time and I am pretty certain we will still be giggling about fish pedicures and spicy crabs and silk worms. 

The extended wait may have been unexpected but the beauty in the wait was that I had that much more time for my son to continue to grow and grow in my heart. By the time I arrived in Korea all I would have to do is think about the little boy that I had loved so much already and tears would well up in my eyes. The very moment that I first saw him was perfect. It was like all the stars aligned  and the angels were singing...who knows how it would have been if I first met him way back when ... but the day that we both were in the same little room at Holt felt like it was exactly how it was meant to be.

The beauty in the unexpected is that I have had so many friends praying for our family and following us on this journey. Some old and some new - but so so many friends.  I have fellow adoptive friends from all around the globe - and even had the opportunity to meet a few in Korea. Before I left I had well wishes from so many - the outpuring of support has been awesome. Thank you to each and every single person who has supported us  over the past nineteen months.

More beauty in the unexpected that wouldn't have happened if the wait didn't grow so long is that I met some pretty awesome friends from right here in New Jersey (and 5 of the 6 live within an hour or less of me). Bonds are formed so quickly when people are going through the same life experiences. I never thought that I would meet so many great new friends so late in life. I felt the same way when I first joined a new MOMs club when Zoey was born and I now get to say it again.  James is going to be blessed with playmates who share his unique story. One little boy came home a little over a week ago, one little girl has just been joined with her forever family, James will be home next, and then 3 more little boys will all be coming home before the end of the year. How perfectly amazing is that ?!!?

Through all the struggles, setbacks, and pain of the unexpected I am definitely blessed to have so much beauty in all of the unexpected as well.

Have you found the beauty in your unexpected lately?

Monday, April 16, 2012

All About James

Up until now I had very little information about James' personality.
Each month I would learn that he grew a little taller or got a new tooth but other then he was "cute and fine" we never had any information about what James was like....Until now - since I got to travel to Korea and learn first hand all about this sweet little boy.

James was very easy going when we met and within a few minutes he was letting me pick him up. He seperated very easily from his Omma and never cried. Omma says he had some stranger anxiety so I am going with the notion that she was preparing his heart and helping him understand ( as much as someone his age could) that I was going to be his mommy. I have sent pictures and recordable books many times over the last eleven months so that he could see the family that he would one day be a part of and so he could hear the voice that will try to comfort him as he grieves the loss of the only family he has ever known.

Boy loves him some snacks....especially of the Gerber variety.

He is quite strong for someone that isn't even 32 inches tall and is just hitting 24 lbs. His foster father even gave him a nickname in Korean that means strong. Little man was literally moving the furniture - everywhere!!!!

He is curious. He checks everything out!!!

He is so playful!!!


He loves music....

...and art too. Just like his big sister Zoey. Omma said he loves coloring and drawing.


He can really cut the rug !!!

He LOVES this penguin.


He even says "Pororo" and it is so freaking cute!!!

He loves to talk on the phone and I am wondering if someone at his foster home has an iphone
because this little guy really knew how to use it.

He uses a straw sippy cup and drinks regular milk. His sippy has Pororo on it.

He was able to work the TV better then I can. Pretty impressive for 18 months old.

He loves to play, play, play!!!!

Definitely a mover and a shaker!!!

He has lots of cute hand gestures to get you to do something again...when he wants your attention...and when he is all done. They really come in handy because nothing I say in Korean sounds right.

More little boy curiosity!!!

He loves balls and really loved the ball pit.

He jumped right in!!!

Full of adventure!!!

Little Man has STYLE!!!

He loves the toilet.... really loves it!!!

I mean he gets a huge belly laugh and smile and thinks its great.

The only time he fussed was when MaMa told him he couldn't climb in.

Toilet locks are so on my shopping list - sorry buddy!!!

He plays hard but then crahses hard. He is a mile a minute and is going to keep me on my toes - but I can't wait. He is a climber and will surely give me gray hairs and he can make a mess with the best of them. He is so cuddly and sleeps so soundly. He is perfect. ♥

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Meeting James Jun-ha

After all the months of praying and dreaming.... hoping and wishing...begging and pleading it was so hard to believe that I really was standing right outside this building and that within minutes I would be meeting the son that I already loved so much.

It was so hard to believe that this was really where our story began.... that after months and months of paperwork and fingerprints....updates and pictures...that behind those walls a mother would be meeting her son for the very first time...and I was that mother.

My heart was beating out of my chest. I had waited for this moment, imagined it, dreamed it, and now after waiting so long the dream was finally coming true. I was moments from knowing the little boy that grew in my heart everyday since I first saw his sweet face.

I walked inside and immiadiately noticed the room where all of James' pictures had been taken. My friend Kristen and I then went upstairs and DJ came right out to meet us. I swear that alone was enough to make me cry. Here I was hugging the woman who decided that James was meant to be part of our family - of all the babies she had waiting for families she knew that James was meant to be a Wong - that I was meant to be his mother. She was so sweet which helped ease my nerves as I waited for James to arrive.

She brought us to the waiting room and it was hard to hold back the tears. It was the same room that my friend Karen was in the same room the day  she met my sweet boy. The same room that she hugged him and held him in while my heart was hurting because I was missing his first birthday. I memorized that room each time I watched the video of that day.... each time I looked at the pictures...and now I was standing in that very same room about to hold my son. The feeling was surreal. It was the one thing I had dreamed of every single night before falling asleep.... it was my day dream when I would get lost in thought.... it was the moment I thought of with every piece of paperwork and every hard setback....and now it was here. It was happening.

 On April 10th 2012 at 2:00PM I was in Seoul Korea meeting my son.

It was like everything that ever happened in my life somehow led me to this moment and finally it was all making sense. That this was all in Gods perfect timing and plan. I was always confident that I was led towards adoption because the thought was planted in my heart.... and that we decided on Korea because we just knew that was where our child was.  At this moment though, it was like the sky opened up... the angels were singing...and God was telling me that all that I had experienced and endured was for this special gift. That I was blessed to have not one child that was a miracle, but two.  

He walked in the room and he was perfect. Better then perfect. The tears slid down my cheeks and for the first time all the pain, the long wait, the setbacks that made my days bitter all slid away with the tears. He looked into my water filled eyes as I wiped the tears away and I knew I had to be strong so my big happy ugly cry wouldnt scare him.

I gave him his new Pororo microphone and he loved it. He handed it to me over and over again so I could make it sing his favorite character songs. He was adorable - everything I dreamed and so so much more.

He was so easy going and so much fun.

After a few minutes I picked him up and held him.

My empty arms were full. They were no longer yearning to hold the son that was a half of world away.
Instead, we were together, mother and son. I couldn't take even a second to stop and think that this was just a visit and that in a few days that big ocean would seperate us again...that we would be a 1/2 a world apart...because in that moment we were together and that is all my heart and arms could know.  I couldn't let that steal my joy. Instead, I made the most of every single second in that room. I didn't need to look at the cup as half full.... my cup was overflowing....spilling out with love, with happiness, with so much joy.

Still, days later, it is hard to put into words everything that I felt that day
and during the second day we visited with him

But one thing I know is that I have been so very BLESSED.

So LUCKY that I get to be his mother.

So THANKFUL to all those who helped us find the little boy who was destined to be our son.

So JOYED that pretty soon I get to be his MaMa at home in America.

That we will have all the minutes in an hour and all the hours in a day to be together...forever...forever a family.

They say "An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break." - Ancient Chinese Proverb

Tonight, my heart hurts being an ocean apart again.

Tonight I wish I was in Seoul again.... laughing with my sweet boy.

Tonight I have to remind myself that James will be home forever so soon.

That my cup will be overflowing again...

overflowing with happiness when James comes home and makes us a family of four....
together....all under one roof.

We are all waiting patiently ( well I am waiting not too sure of that patient part) sweet boy.

Love you and Miss you more then words can ever say.

Hoping you feel the love on the other end of that red thread - xoxo

Korea in Pictures

The very long flight.... but lots to do on Korean Air. Hands down the nicest flight ever.

After 14 1/2 hours in the air we arrived...

 and we were off to the hotel.

We had the two bedroom suite at the Somerset and loved it. The view was amazing and we had plenty of space. The hotel staff was wonderful and could not help us enough.... and trust me, being that neither
me or my friend Kristen spoke English we really needed tons of help.

The yummy restaurant that we ate in the first night.
It was Korean BBQ and right at the begining of Insadong. The food was delish and the menu was in both English and Korean - which was great because a few nights later we weren't so lucky.
Jet lag hit me hard. I did not sleep on the plane at all so I thought if I stayed up until 10 or so Seoul time that I would be able to easily adjust. I went to bed at 10:30 the first night and was up for the day at 330 AM and could not go back to sleep. I thought it could be the excitement of meeting James for the very first time but still have no idea because I woke up the same time for the following 3 nights.

I kept busy preparing and wrapping the gifts to bring to Holt with me.

We had a little time before heading over to Holt so we had breakfast and then walked around Insadong. Insadong soon prooved to be our favorite spot and pretty much every single night we ended up over there.
We would shop and walk and shop some more. This is where we got James' name chop too.

 We bought some good luck 16,000 strand candies after watching in amazement how they turned
cornstarch and honey into a yummy treat.

More shopping....

Then it was time to go meet my boy. 

But of course that will get its very own post :)

That night after we left Holt we went back to Insadong.

A tea house ...

...and a VERY aunthentic Korean meal at a little reastaurant we found in a little alley deep in Insadong.
The menu was all in Korean except one line "Korean Food".... since we can't read hangul that was what we ordered and this is what we got.

I have had my share of Korean food but this was hands down the spiciest food ever ..and the majority of what was served we could not make out. Some have commented that it was seaweed soup and softshell crabs but if you saw it in person you would know it most definitely was not.

These little crabs were about the size of a penny and had a shell as hard of a rock and were covered in chili paste.  They are supposed to be eaten all in one bite.. thick cruchy shell and all.
Kristen and I are both adventourous ( trust me, we even took part in a Korean underwater pedicure) but we had to draw the line somewhere. So, instead of eating those slippery little suckers we laughed about them. I mean like big belly laughing that I am certain we will still be chuckling over when we are seventy. I am giggling again just thinking of it.

Its whats for dinner!!!

Some kind of fish that we though was the most edible.

If your heading to Korea and can't read Hangul this is not the place for you :)

Back at the hotel trying hard to do some laundry. It was all written in Hangul so we needed a traslated manual to help. The dryer took about 5 hours to dry - not sure if that was the same for everyone or just the two of us - lol.

The next plan was a  day of sightseeing on the Red Bus city tour. We couldn't find the bus stop and somehow when trying to hail a taxi the bus drove past. I was so excited that I started jumping up and down and calling to Kristen and the bus stopped and let the two of us on. Then stopped at the bus stop and told us to get off the bus now. Apparently that wasnt how you start the tour - and we quickly hurried over to the right bus.

A long way from home.

Changing of the guards at Gwanghamun Palace

Shopping underground

Namdaemun Market - Our favorite shopping spot after Insadong.

I will never forget the smell of these roasting silk worms.
 Lets just say I would rather go back and eat those little hard and crunchy crabs - lol.

more street food.

Korean War Memorial with Seoul Tower in the background.

Survey time in Itaewon. These girls were so sweet!!!

Sights from the bus.

View from my bed at the Somerset.

Loved watching the sunrise over Seoul.

We recognize this place.

Entertainment while you shop.

Word to the wise - an underwater pedicure involves life fish. Yikes!!

Seoul at night...
Last yummy meal...

 And I have 1,001 more pics so more to come soon.

And stay tuned for the next post - all about my sweet boy!!!