Sunday, December 13, 2009

He's Leaving On a Jet Plane

It is 1:30 a.m., and Matthew has probably boarded his plane, which (if all is on schedule) left Inchon Airport in South Korea a little after 1 a.m.
In fact, he has probably already lifted off, inching his way ever closer into our life at last.
I wish I could say that I am sleeping now, but my life as a mother has already begun with THIS sleepless night.
(Time to trudge downstairs to retrieve the melatonin that will ease me into la-la-land at last.)
I feel like I did when I was five, and it was Christmas Eve, and it was just too exciting to sleep.
OK, that experience but multiplied by about 5,000, with emotions so much more intense.
I wanted it to get here, but I didn't, because then, it would be over.
This is hard to explain.

I have so many feelings, I can barely get my arms and my head around them.
When I take him for the first time, will my hands be trembling? (probably)
Will I faint? What if I faint? (Jeff: "Honey, you won't faint.")
What about all the strangers looking at us? I'm not sure I want all these strangers looking at us. (My mom: "I guarantee you, you will not see those strangers looking at you. You'll be too busy looking at HIM!")
What if I'm overcome with so much emotion that I can't manage him? (My friend [can't remember who]: "Your instincts will kick in and you'll know what to do. You'll immediately be busy caring for him.")

I cannot even believe this day is finally here. It's so very surreal.

My parents arrived after a long, 6.5-hour drive from PA that should have taken 4 hours, tops. Rt. 81 was a mess (closed for 1 hour; they just sat there).
Jeff's parents came over tonight and we all had a wonderful dinner together.
Jeff joked about it being "the last supper."
We talked and speculated about Matthew, about what he'd be like.
Our moms coached us, told us (or, I should say, told me) to relax and just let it happen.
"You'll know what to do."
My mom said, "Kathleen, just HAVE FUN WITH HIM. Enjoy him."
We hopped on the Internet to look up his flight.
We wondered where he was at that particular moment.
Getting on a shuttle bus or van or into a car, departing for the airport, maybe?
Saying good-bye to foster mom and dad.

I am feeling very sad for Matthew's foster parents,
for his "umma" (his foster mom) who is very attached to and who he will apparently be crying for.
She and her husband have cared for him since he was 4 months old.
And I am also thinking of, and honoring, his birth parents,
without whom Matthew--and the new reality that is "us"--would not have been possible.
Without them, we would not be having this amazing experience of parenthood,
of walking across the bridge to our beginning--our beginning as a family with children. Finally.
As I close my eyes tonight, the last thing I will be thinking of will be Matthew, his birth parents, and his foster parents.
And our future together as a family.

Please say a prayer for Matthew's safe flight
for no weather-related delays (a challenge during December)
and for our happy union at Dulles Airport about 17 hours from now.
I am completely overcome with emotion
overwhelmed with anxiety (my life as a worrying mom has officially begun)
and trembling with excitement.
But mostly,
just plain old happy.

He is almost home!
How do I describe these feelings in words on a keyboard?
I don't (at least, not adequately).
But I can make my best attempt.

Some things are too powerful to be cast into firm shapes such as words and letters, as much as I adore all aspects of language and writing and recording our lives for our kids.
Some experiences are just not meant to be pressed into a hard mold with edges and restrictions, even if the intent is to save the feelings for posterity, to be able to look back with your son years from now and say, "Bingo! THAT's what it felt like."
'cuz that is kind of like harnessing the wind
or drawing a picture of breath or air
or bottling the smell of the ocean.

How do you do it?
Maybe you just don't.
So I won't
try anymore.

I will just end with this:
Please keep us close in your thoughts and hearts.
I continue to feel your arms around us, my friends,
blessing us, loving us, supporting us.

I continue to feel like the luckiest person on the planet...
for all of the reasons and explanations
that I cannot begin to bottle
into something that has boundaries, edges, and a lid...
a beginning and an end.

Our son is coming home,
and I am filled to overflowing
with a joy that I have never before known.

A busy day awaits.
Good-night, everyone.
Good-night, Matthew.
I love you, my son.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WE GOT THE CALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE GOT THE CALL! Today at about 10:00 a.m., we finally got the call we've been waiting, wishing, dreaming, and praying for.

Matthew will be coming home to us this Monday evening, December 14, 2009, at 8:11 p.m. (Dulles Airport).

Today is my telecommute day, so it was just me and Rich, the pest control sales rep, at home when the call came. Jeff was at work. I was hoping that we'd get the call when we were together, but oh well. There's always my buddy Rich. I kept Rich's business card to put in Matthew's lifebook...just for kicks!
Jeff and I were doing an awful lot of cleaning this weekend, and we were both wondering if it wasn't the universe sending us a message (we are, ahem, not known for being very vigilant cleaners)! Plus, we got the tree up (it's naked right now, soon to be decorated as of this evening) and the household decorations up, too. Both of us had a strong feeling that it would be this week. So did our caseworker. So did a colleague of mine at work. A friend of my sister in law's called her yesterday to ask her if we had gotten Matthew yet, because she had dreamed that she adopted a baby boy from Korea! So many signs of life about to change...

I just want to say thanks to everyone who follows this blog, especially to those of you whose lives parallel mine in beautiful, almost eerie, ways. And the new friendships I have formed BECAUSE of this blog! (I never imagined I'd be that blessed!)

It has heartened me to know that people actually want to read what I write. And it has strengthened me so, blogging like this. It has helped me clear my mind, at so many times, and sort things out. It has allowed me exactly the creative outlet I've craved and needed. I'm so glad that I started doing it, and that all of you have been there, many of you right from the beginning (early 2008), reading and cheering from the sidelines.

Today, as I continue to receive countless emails, phone calls, and Facebook comments, all with heart-filled wishes and genuine love, I am feeling the wonderful fellowship that comes with good friendship--and the true lifesaver that it can be.
I am feeling your arms around me (virtual though they may be), and I am feeling "held" by your love and friendship.
I really can feel it (you think I'm kidding but I'm not--it's really hard to explain!).

I was going to end this blog once Matthew came home.
I have changed my mind. It seems that I have a lot more to say, and I want to keep saying it.
And I'd love for you to keep reading it.

Thank you for being there with me on this incredible journey.
Thank you for reading the words of my heart, scrawled right there on my sleeve for all to see.
It has been such a learning experience, such a blessing, such a wild ride.
I have learned that "patience" can indeed be pushed to its limits yet still exist, somehow.
I have seen the definition of the word "friendship" take on a whole new life--
without our friends (and family, of course), we would NOT have gotten through this.
So namaste, I bow to all of you--friends, family, fellow parents alike--I love you with a depth that I can't even begin to describe.

So, thanks for listening, and reading, and being there.
And thanks for coming back, again and again and again.

Here's to the end of one long journey, and the beginning of another.

Here's to Matthew Seong-jin Halverson, finally coming home.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My "Real Child" Matthew

Main Entry: re•al

Pronunciation: \ˈrē(-ə)l\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, real, relating to things (in law), from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin & Late Latin; Medieval Latin realis relating to things (in law), from Late Latin, real, from Latin res thing, fact; akin to Sanskrit rayi property
Date: 14th century
1: of or relating to fixed, permanent, or immovable things (as lands or tenements)
2a : not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory

Excuse me
while I vent my raw pain onto the page--
for what I am about to share
just happened a half-hour ago
and I am still bleeding (on the inside, that is).
The scab is a long way from forming,
but the scar is already here, with me, forever.

This is not a mere blog posting.
It is a plea to the whole world
to be more sensitive and to think before speaking,
especially when talking with the parent of an adopted child.
Because sometimes, the words you say in casual conversation,
the language you choose to use,
burns and sears and scars.

So hear me out
with eyes wide open.
And if you have been blessed enough with birth children,
listen especially close,
for this was said to me by a birthmom of three grown children.

I thought I was a mom, pure and simple.
It's taken me a long time to get to this place
of calling myself a mom, even though the child I gave birth to
is no longer on this earth,
and even though I have never carried a child to term.
It has taken me a long time to be okay with
choosing to not define myself by adding the adjective
"adoptive" in front of the noun that is now me ("mom").

It never even crossed my mind
that Matthew may be seen as not a real child.
Until today.

Today at noon,
I took a step backward, in so many ways, all because of one casual, meant-to-be-funny-and-consoling comment.
It was anything but.

An acquaintance who shall remain nameless
asked me if I was going crazy with everyone asking me
"any news?"
I said yes, somewhat.
Said I wish I had different news to report, but it's always the same.
Said I am ready to lose my mind.
Said I am frustrated, and we just want him to come home.

She then said "Well, in this way, it's like having a real child.
This is what the real thing is like. People walk up to you and notice that you're still pregnant and say 'Wow, you're still here. You haven't had that baby yet?!?'" And you get so sick of people saying that!"

Ever been punched in the stomach?
That's what it felt like.

I know she didn't mean it, but it hurt all the same.
Words like that, they hurt me. 
They hurt my friends
friends like CatherineMaureenLauraDebbieMaryClareMichelle

and so many others.

And then, five minutes later, in a conversation with yet another person (this person asked me the same thing, essentially--"aren't you going crazy?"), the acquaintance repeated the exact same story!

It reminded me of that time I was at a party, a few months ago, and a friend compared my agonizingly long wait for Matthew, to the week-long wait she had to endure when adopting their puppy.

I am a person who believes in the positive
and in highlighting, focusing on, the good things in life.
The bad things can still be bad and crappy,
but by not focusing on them, or obssessing over them, we allow them to lose their
powerful hold on us, to diminish in value,
and maybe, even, to go away altogether.
That is what I believe.
But I have not been able to practice what I preach today.

If birth children are real, what is Matthew, then, a fake child?
Is he not living and breathing, same as other children?
Is a real child one who remains with his birthmom his entire life?
Is a child real only if she is raised by the same woman who carried her?
Is pregnancy the only real thing, the only real way, to parenthood?
Yes, I am getting deep.
Intentionally deep.
I have been told my whole life that I'm "deep"
so this will probably be no surprise to many of you.
But I want to get deep
because I am so pissed off,
I want to punch a wall.
And I am so hurt,
I can barely breathe.
A knife was stuck into my side today
and then it was twisted upon repetition
of what real really means to some people.

For those of you who have not been touched by adoption,
I implore you:
Please, please think before speaking to a waiting parent of an adopted child.
Use your words carefully.
Please, please use positive adoption language.
This incident made me want to step proudly onto my pedestal,
despite how preachy I may be perceived as being,
and tell the world
that phrases like real child and natural parents
have no place.
In the same way that the phrase gave her child up for adoption has no place.
How can loving your child so much that you make an adoption plan for them
be twisted into such a heartless phrase as gave her child up for adoption?
Gave her up speaks not the truth.
Rather, use the phrase made an adoption plan instead.
Realize how brave and strong these women are,
and how much love it takes to let go.

Giving a child up for adoption.
All of those words and phrases, they HURT.

In the name of my real child Matthew...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Big Old "But's"...Living in Limbo...the Land of "And"

Another cool image of Seoul, this one at night. What an amazing-looking city!

Oh, this post is all over the place. Yes, another one. Sorry, folks. And even the title of my post: Man, it was hard to name it. So I named it three things!

Let's call today's blog posting "fun with language," shall we? Puns and wordplay abound in this attempt to bring myself up out of the mire (looking out the window doesn't help: It's pouring down rain!).

First, a story...

Last night, the phone rang at 7:00. It was a 443 extension (Waldorf, MD).
Jeff and I were sitting in the living room, reading.
We usually screen, but Waldorf is close enough to Baltimore, and I thought maybe a social worker was calling us from his/her home.
We decided we'd better pick up.
(At this point, I am even picking up on those 800 numbers that are so clearly telemarketers! Argggh!)
As Jeff reached for the phone, I put my book down and tried to calm my heart,
which was absolutely positively ready to jump out of my chest.
(I can see now what Edgar Allen Poe's character went through in The Telltale Heart. What's it going to be like when we really do get that call?)

"Hello?" asked Jeff.
"Yes, hello, is Israel there?" the stranger on the other end said.
"Sorry, wrong number," Jeff replied.

{insert exhale here}

And now, a somewhat bumpy transition to my random musings...

{My English professors at Blooomsburg U would have been less than impressed with this abrupt literary transition!}

I am bound and determined to remain positive.
Helping to move the energy of the universe ever closer to bringing him home.
There can be no room for negative thinking.
Sweep away the negative thoughts.
In with the positive.

Still...I will say this (note my intentional use of the word "and"):
Positivity is a great thing.
AND it's really hard, this living in limbo stuff.

Call this post what you will:
An exercise in the power of positive thinking?
A head game for l'il old adoptive mama me? (Mamma Mia!)
An exercise in futility?
Can positive thoughts really cause the universe to shift?
I believe that they can.

Regardless of what you call it,
I think you get what I'm trying to do here.
Psych myself up. And out?
Pull myself up by the 'pits and INSIST that
I not let this delay get me down.

{Oh, I so want to go to that place of "but I thought he was going to be home by now!" I might even add a "dammit" or two. The song "I'll be home for Christmas" brings on a whole new meaning, and WILL cause the tears to flow when I hear it for the first time this season...}

So, this first week of December,
I hereby reject the pull that I am feeling toward all the big old "but's" that are coming up for me (pun oh-so-intended).
Rather, I choose to remain rooted in the land of "and."
It's a much nicer place to be, don't you think?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Haiku

Seoul, South Korea...he's somewhere down there! (Image courtesy of Google)

I was ordering some Christmas presents online today, and the retailer offered the coolest thing: A free gift for submitting a "holiday haiku" along with my purchase! How cool! How fun! How random!

I jumped at the opportunity for some random, unplanned poetry. Hey, I can do 5-7-5, right? In fact, it'll probably be a challenge, given my penchant for long-windedness.

Plus, my order was in process, and I didn't want to get timed out--with my credit card number hanging out there, mid-transaction, in cyberspace--so I hurried to create the following haiku.

The subject will be no surprise to you...

From Seoul to my soul
He will be home for Christmas
Motherhood awaits

Pretty good, huh? I'll let you know what my free gift is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Living Life and Letting Go and Being Grateful

As in so many other things in life, I suppose, just when we thought we had this whole adoption process thing down pat, BAM. There it goes surprising us all over again.
For those of you anxiously wondering what's up: We still have not yet received the call.

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year, and along those lines, I have all these thoughts that are crowding inside my brain, seeking to claim their space and tell their stories.
So, here goes: My attempt to extricate those thoughts. Not sure how coherent this post is going to be. I am all over the place!

For so many months and years now, Jeff and I have been pretty much living our life.
Knowing that we cannot control this journey we are on, so why try?
Just sit back and let the boat and the tides take us where they may.
Be pleasantly distracted by activities like drumming and yoga and singing and gathering with friends.
Stay as busy as possible, that was our mantra.
But, knowing the prospect of imminent parenthood,
we knew we had to stop going-going-going sooner or later.
So, we slowly tapered our busy-ness from a giant roar and a blur of weekly nightly activities barely filled with spaces to breathe
to the now-quiet weeknights that are filled with delicious wide-open spaces, with room for reading, watching TV, walking the dog, etc.

I have been so enjoying those spaces.
I am learning the art of living more simply, scaling back, enjoying just being at home, being OK with not having any plans, and being willing to let go of the need to give in to an expectation/demand (whose? Society's? My own? I don't know!) that life always be busy and scurrying and yes, sometimes, stressful as a result.
And up to now, I have loved every minute of our slowed-down life.
It was kind of an epiphany for me.

Except that the person who we thought would have been filling up those spaces
isn't here yet.
Except that now, every time the phone rings, I rush to look at the digital display.
Is it a 410 extension? If so, it could be Catholic Charities!
And now, I find that I am struggling to control the very process I thought I admitted I have no control over.
I am a study in contradiction!
Now, I find myself SO FRUSTRATED that there is nothing I can do to get him here sooner.
Now, every time the phone rings, I jump a foot in the air.
I am constantly and almost obsessively checking my cell phone.
Did I miss a phone call?
Any voice mails?
Something needs to change. We need to be just living our life and not worrying so much about when this call is going to come.

We had planned to not travel for Thanksgiving.
Were going to hunker down and just hang out.
Yes, waiting for the call.
But we have since decided that we NEED to travel.
Have something to look forward to, something that we can control.
I NEED to get a family fix and to play with my nieces and point to Seoul, South Korea on their globe and tell them that's where Baby Matthew is and he'll be home soon ("soon"? what does that MEAN, anyway? Argggh!)
My mom said, " that you've made the plans, you'll get the call."
I hope so!

I believe in positive thinking
AND I am having a tough time with it.
I thought he'd be a birthday baby (my birthday was yesterday).
If not, I thought for sure he'd be a Thanksgiving baby.
(Thanksgiving is tomorrow!)
And now, as tomorrow draws ever closer,
I wonder if he's going to be a Christmas baby after all.
And I pray that he gets here before he'll be a New Year's baby,
because I'm not sure I will be intact by that point.

Two different friends had dreams that he'd come on my birthday.
Or that we'd get the call on my birthday.
I thought that was a sign, for sure.
I am a big believer in the meaning of dreams.
Alas, not so.

Supposedly, this last leg of the wait is all about finding and training an escort for him.
(Maybe we should have traveled, after all? Would he be home by now, if that were the case?)
So many doubts creep their way in and insert themselves into my mind.
I try to handle them as I do in meditation: Just watch the thoughts come in and notice them and move on, without reacting or falling into the negative-thinking, self-doubting, second-guessing trap.
Just when we thought we had learned all we could possibly learn
about the art and skill of patience,
we learn that there is so much more to learn,
just as in life.

So, we are going to pack the diaper bag with the list of "recommended items," double-check the carseat one last time, make sure our cell phones are charged and on us, pile the dog and our luggage into the car, and head to Dunmore, PA, on Friday.
We are living our life.
We are letting go of the control that we don't have.
We are learning that patience CAN be taken to quite an extreme level.
We are learning just how loved we are by all of you who read this blog.
We are learning to let go, again
and again
and again.
Letting go
so that our holding onto him
will be all the more powerful
when he arrives.

I am grateful for the lessons.
And the love.
And I will continue to remind myself of those blessings
all the weekend long.

Happy Thanksgiving.
I am grateful for it all.
Including you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We 3 Wait

This is all so surreal.
I know not familiarity with this feeling;
It's as though I'm watching someone else.
That happy, confident woman--face glowing with anticipation--
can't be me, can it?
The one whose heart--
once broken by infertility,
damaged by the death of a child--
is carrying her to dizzying heights of
There are no limits to what our life holds for us now
as we wait
for the wait
to end...
for the giant weight
to finally float off our shoulders
and into the sky...
to finally be able
to gulp in great, drawing breaths,
and to exhale,
knowing that
all will be all right
and we 3 will be OK.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Being a Mom, and Fixing Little Holes in the Heart

"The greatest heartbreak of my life has been my inability to conceive children.
The greatest joy of my life? Being a mom."

Enough said.

Thanks, Anonymous, for reminding me that being unable to conceive does not preclude one from the joy of motherhood.

It can't. It won't. I won't let it. It has tried and tried and tried to get me, but it won't. Amen to adoption and all of the wonderful ways that it has helped make me whole.

I say this during a week that is proving to be particularly hard for me. Grueling, actually. I'm not sure he'll be home for Thanksgiving, despite my best efforts to remain positive and prayerful and hopeful. And I worry, now, about what it will be like, for us and for him and his escort, if the traveling will be done on Thanksgiving, of all weekends (you know: one of the most heavily traveled weekends of the year)! And I just want to cry but will choose to smile and look forward to him, instead.

Stay positive. Stay positive. Stay positive.

On Saturday (which is National Adoption Day!), we are going to a gala put on by Catholic Charities, in which the keynote speaker is Deb Dawson, the mother of Korean adoptee Toby Dawson, who won the bronze medal in the 2006 Men’s Downhill Moguls. The Dawson family’s story was profiled in a Sports Illustrated article a few years ago. Here's a link to the article.

Here's to the mending of those "little holes in the heart" that the author's little girl talks about in the article (confused? read the article). It gives a good perspective from the adoptee's point of view. As conflicting as it may be for us, the adopted parents, the birthparents are an important part of our children's stories. Without them...well, you know what I'm going to say. Parenthood maybe wouldn't have happened for us. And if him reconnecting with his birthparents, at some point in life, heals those little holes in his heart (one of the few things that we parents can't fix!), then I say, bring it on. Help him to fill the few gaps that I wasn't able to fill.

Sorry, this post is kind of all over the place! But then again, so am I...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Loving Him Like He's Already Here

Sitting at work on a rainy Wednesday morning.
The phone rings. It's a 410 area code (our adoption agency)!
{Breathe, Kath...breathe...this is it!}

"Journals, this is Kathleen." {I say, heart leaping out of my chest, breath ragged, trying to stay calm}
"Kathleen, this is M. (our caseworker)."
"Hello," I respond in a strangled kind of voice that even I don't recognize.
She must not either, because she immediately says, somewhat casually,
"Oh, no no, sorry...this is not 'the call.' Sorry to startle you like that."
{No problem at all; pardon me for a moment while I go curl up in the fetal position}*

So, no Matthew yet.
She was simply calling to tell me that Matthew was examined at the well-baby clinic on Monday,
and all is well. He is healthy and developmentally on track.
There are some minor issues to talk to the doctor about, but as my sister said to me last night, "Kath, no kid is perfect."
Hey, I have to have something to worry about, right?

He hasn't even hit U.S. soil yet and I love him (and am worrying about him) like he is already here.
Isn't love amazing?

*[giving credit where credit is due, my friend Kellie first used that fetal-position comment, when I was telling her this story, and I thought it was perfect!]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Me and My Button

I'm not sure why I haven't ever posted photos, except for the one I use for the blogger profile page, but I haven't. Until now.

So many people have been asking me "What's the update on Matthew?" In fact, so very many people have been asking me that my wonderful friend Debby made me a button last night.

Yes, a button! Attached is a photo of my button.

It's a nice purple shade, and it matches marvelously with most of my outer vestments.

And it's a nice, quick answer for everyone. This way, when you see me and my button, you'll immediately know the answer to that question you were going to ask! I wish the answer were different, but for now, it's the same:

"Not yet!"

Don't you wish you had a friend with a button maker, who could make you a button of your very own?

What would yours say?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another Love Story Begins

Shouting out to my friend M.D.,
a woman who has inspired me so much over these many months.
Fellow waiting mom, single-parent-by-choice, friend from way back in the day.
She and I have shared many an email in the past year, commisserating about our latest commonality on the friendship spectrum: our imminent parenthood, and that crazy four-letter word (W-A-I-T) that has both of us wondering how we still have any hair left on our heads.

Well, her wait is over: On Friday she brought her son B. home...
into her heart, into her life, into her family.
All this waiting, then BAM! There he was.
"Adorable" goes without saying.
"Beautiful" does his description little justice.
A late-Thursday-night phone call: "You've been selected by a birth mom!"
A trip to the hospital on Friday. He was born that day.
They went home together on Saturday.
And so begins yet another love story
of family, of meant-to-be together people whose definition of love is defined not by DNA but by destiny.

My friend is the definition of optimism, positive energy, and vibrant spirit.
She has waited a long time. She has been so giving to others.
She is amazingly gifted with children; she is just plain fun to be around.
Over the years, she has posed in many a photo, holding newborn nephews, newborn children of good friends.

well, this time, the woman in the photo is not an aunt, or a friend.
She's the "Mom."
This time, the child in the HER son.

This post is dedicated to M.D. and B.R.D., a knock-your-socks-off mother-son combo who I just know is going to rock this crazy world with their silliness, their strength, and their love for each other. All the best to you and your son. You and he are blessed indeed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

8 Months In This World

Dear Matthew,

As of today, you are 8 months in this world.

Can't believe I didn't think of this until 4:47 p.m.,
after a day spent clicking and clacking away on my keyboard,
nagging authors, proofreading journal articles, managing freelancer invoices, and ticking off items on the to-do list.

Tonight, there's yoga (with me as student! what a treat!)...
and dinner with the love of my life (just to reassure you...yes, that would be your dad!)...
and reading books in the living room with the dog splayed out beside us...
maybe some vino, too.

Yes, definitely some vino.

And when my head finally hits the pillow, Little Man,
my dreams--as always--will be of you.

Happy 8 Months, Matthew Seong-jin! We Love You!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Perspective Shift

We went to the movies tonight.

Can't help thinking it might have been our last movie before Matthew comes,
before that day when (as everyone tells us) we won't have the time or the energy to go out to the movies anymore.

So out we went.

And during the previews (that seemed to last forever), one preview stuck with me.

It's called "Blind Side," and it was written up in the latest issue of Adoptive Families magazine as a "thumbs-up," adoption-positive movie. Supposedly it gives all the right messages, uses adoption-positive language, and overall gets an emphatic nod from the adoption community.

To avoid making this blog posting too long, click on the link below to view the preview. The movie opens later this month.

In the trailer, there is a scene where the rich woman, the adoptive mom (Sandra Bullock, who adopts a high school-aged African American boy), is talking with a friend. The friend says, "You're changing that boy's life."

And Sandra Bullock replies, "No, he's changing mine."

Taken aback, I think I audibly gasped. Instantly, my shoulders shook as the quietest of tears sneaked down my cheeks. Yes, right there in the theater! How did that script writer know EXACTLY how I am feeling? Is he or she an adoptive parent themselves? How can a freaking TRAILER make me cry? Wow.

Here's what I'd like you to do: The next time you think about how lucky Matthew is, or what great people you think Jeff and I are, or how we are doing so much to change the life of one little boy, please remember this...


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Metamorphosis of a Carseat

Britax. Supposedly a top-notch carseat,
according to all my experienced parent friends.

I have to admit, I am thrown for a second, every time I approach MY car and see--what? A carseat?--inside of it.
Wow, could it be that I've finally arrived?
Joined the club in which membership is defined by the possession of a Britax (or some other variety) and crumbs in the backseat that never quite get cleaned up? That, in fact, seem to multiply?
Where a seasoned member is defined by his or her expert ability to operate the 5-point harness system in the space of mere seconds?

I'm still getting used to its presence,
as evidenced by the fifteen times I've bumped my right elbow on it in the past week,
as I throw the car into reverse and back out of my crooked driveway (which resembles a very poor version of the letter C).

So now, there it sits, in the middle of the backseat
of the Outback, ready to support and protect the most precious of packages.
We don't have the package it's meant for just yet.

But for now, it's coming in handy as a sturdy container of packages of another type:
(ahem) Here's the part where I extol the virtues of a carseat for parents whose kid isn't with them yet:

It's great for holding grocery bags that otherwise would flop over on the backseat and cause apples and soup cans to engage in a little game of bumper cars.

It makes the perfect little niche in which to rest my purse, when I have a passenger and can't put my purse on the passenger seat.

Oh, it's also great for cradling breakables such as tabletop lamps, light bulbs, and newly purchased picture frames (a lot of them these days).

And a regular-sized bag of dogfood fits right in the carseat's little scoop.

Someday soon, our Britax will experience a complete transformation--
a metamorphosis from grocery-bag container to Matthew-cradler.

I can't wait for the day. I'll take pictures, I promise.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What ARE We Waiting For?

OK, a great many of you have been asking us why, if Matthew's visa is at the embassy in Seoul, are we still waiting? What is this latest holdup all about?

And you know what? It was the one time I couldn't answer your question.

Which got me wondering myself: What are we waiting for, anyway? He is cleared for travel by the U.S. His visa is in Seoul. From our perspective, he can hop on a plane today (escorted, of course). So, what's the deal?

I asked our caseworker for an explanation that I can give to people. Here it is...excerpted from her email to me:

"That's a hard question to answer. We know that the passport process in Korea is considerably more complicated than it is here, so takes longer. He needs to have his visa physical [ah! hadn't thought of that], get an exit permit [that one never entered my mind, either], etc. So, yes, we're ready on our end but not on his end! And then Holt [our int'l adoption agency based in Seoul] needs to get and "train" the escort [Ohhh! I had thought this would have been already done and they just pluck the next person off their list; guess I thought wrong], make flight arrangements, etc. This end-wait requires a lot of patience. Just know that Catholic Charities [our domestic agency, which works closely with Holt] has been doing this for 30 years and it works!!!"

So, the lesson here is yet another yoga practice that can be taken off the mat and applied to real life: Let go, and let it happen. Let it unfold at its own pace. Accept that this is the way things were meant to go. You cannot and will not control the process; so don't try to. Think positive thoughts and all will be well. It truly is a journey...and I am learning an incredible amount along the way. In that way, I could never look back with regret on this long wait we've had, or wish I could go back and undo it and make Matthew come to us quicker than he did. I've learned way too much, along our particular path to parenthood, for such thoughts.

We are going to a Halloween party tonight. I won't tell you our costumes just yet because some of the partygoers are readers of this blog! Let the festivities begin. And next year, we'll be able to include Matthew in on all of this Halloween fun!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Haven't Met You Yet

Thanks to my friend Angela for noticing these oh-so-appropriate lyrics from a Michael Buble song. I've excerpted some here.

For a full version, check out Angela's blog at Here's hoping that she and her husband bring their child home into their hearts VERY SOON!

...and I promise you kid
that I'll give so much more than I get
I just haven't met you yet.

I might have to wait, I'll never give up
I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck.

Wherever you are, whenever it's right
You come out of nowhere and into my life.
And I know that we can be so amazing,
and baby, your love is gonna change me,
and now I can see every possibility.

And somehow I know that it will all turn out
And you'll make me work, so we can work
to work it out.
And I promise you kid, I'll give so much more than I get;
I just haven't met you yet.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Friendship: The "Good Fat"

"He's THAT FAT? Lord!"

So texts my oldest friend--
one of the dearest,
not known for her couth,
and oft-appreciated for her candor.

Pulled over in parking lot of Lord & Taylor
on a stormy Saturday,
I smile at the screen of my cell phone
and am not surprised.
Nor am I offended--
no, she lives too deeply in my soul for that.
I stopped being offended probably in 1983.

That being said, she does not know
how I sometimes worry about his weight...
as I continue to endure a different kind of wait.
Nor does she know about the comments ("overweighted" and "big baby")
that the doctors consistently add into the Notes section of every medical report we've gotten.
She does not know that a few weeks ago, I called my pediatrician friend
in a panic, only to be quickly reassured when he laughed and said, "Kathleen, he's FINE. No, you do not need to worry about diabetes, for God's sake!"
I have since stopped being so ridiculous.
What else is there to do while we wait for him to come home?
Trying not to let worry top the list.
But it's tough.

Meanwhile, back at Lord & Taylor...after a tangent that I could not possibly have predicted...

Raindrops pick up their dance on the windshield
as I text her back, reminding her
not to bother with size 3-6M, or 6-9M, or even 12M.
Heck, just go for the 18M or 2T.
And I think how wonderful it is that our friendship is so solid that
I can essentially ask her to buy my son clothing,
even to the point of suggesting sizes.
She is kind of like a second sister.
All these years of supplementing and complementing
(and separating, when necessary, back in the catfight days of high school) Ann Marie and me like a necessary third arm or an extra dose of Vitamin C.

Oh, she is so good for me.
Kind of like avocadoes, or almonds.
High in fat, but the good, healthy kind of fat.
The kind that sustains you, strengthens you, helps you to be whole.

And when I do worry about his weight (as opposed to the "other" wait) more than I should,
I just think to myself,
"All the more Matthew to love."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Letter From State Department

Letter received yesterday, 10/22:

"The State Department's National Visa Center has recently received your approval form I600. This letter is to inform you that your petition has been forwarded to the approropriate visa-issuing post where the adoption interview will take place....This case has been forwarded to the Embassy of the United States, Visa Unit, Seoul, South Korea. Sincerely, Bureau of Consular Affairs."

I believe this means that his visa is now in Seoul. Not sure who they're interviewing...maybe I should call them and tell them that Matthew doesn't talk yet...but he'd be happy to babble some answers in baby-speak.

Tomorrow we will celebrate 11 years of marriage! Can't believe it was 11 years ago tomorrow that we tied the knot. It was the most gorgeous of October days in PA...unseasonably warm, sunny, with the colors of autumn abounding. Ah, many good times to remember, and so many more to look forward to with Matthew!

I imagine postings will continue to be more frequent than they have been. So stay tuned! Love and peace to all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Car Seat Installation/Medical Update on Matthew/Still Waiting

Last night, our awesome neighbors Gil and Karen helped us install Car Seat #1. Gil is a manager at a local car dealership and is certified in car seat installation. Do you know he had to attend five days (8 hours a day) of training to get certified? And then another week of in-the-field training? So, yeah, he knows his stuff. Matthew's seat is in the Outback; we just need to get #2 into the Honda.

Before this happened, our caseworker called last night and scared the crap out of us. We thought for sure it was "the call" when she asked Jeff to have me pick up the other phone.

But it was another medical update (which is a good thing--as much as I want the call to come, I also want to hear how he's doing).

He is starting to babble single words and repeats words you say to him. He has started playing peek-a-boo. He weighs 24 pounds (gained 1 or 2 pounds since his last checkup two months ago).

Jeff asked if she thinks mid-November is a realistic expectation. She replied "I'm not even going to attempt a guess."


And so we wait...


Monday, October 19, 2009

Beautiful Poem About Waiting

My friend Catherine, who is author of the blog, Mama C and the Boys, saw our recent good-news post. In honor of us and Matthew, she posted a poem (called "This Is Where You'll Find Me") she had written a few years ago, while she was waiting for her son Sam. Click to read her blog: It is a fabulous blog that I have begun following (and our blogging/adoption connection has led us to become friends as a result!).

She captured exactly what it feels like during these last weeks of our wait, and she moved me to she frequently does on this beautiful blog of hers.

Happy Monday, everyone! It is crisp and cool here in MD, complete with the plumage of fall colors and a sunny blue sky (after our very wet and rainy weekend). I walked outside for a bit at lunch, and it felt so refreshing!

Inhale, exhale. (repeat)
He's almost here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What Happens Next... downright surreal. Because there is only one more thing that has to happen! All that is next is an email from Holt with his travel/arrival info (dates, flight numbers, times, etc.). Our caseworker is faxing it to Holt so they know to expect it at the consulate. She says "That means everything is done here. Now we just wait for the email from Holt about arrival. I can't wait to call you with that news!"

Oh, Margie, I can't wait for you to call us with that news, either!

This is REALLY HAPPENING! WOW! We're going to have him in our arms in a matter of weeks. My heart is beating faster and faster...

As my brother-in-law put so well, and so succinctly, in his response to our latest good news:

Tick-tock, Momma

I love his brevity!

I-797C (Notice of Action)

What a beautiful letter to behold. We got it yesterday.

Now, you may be thinking, "What the heck is this?" But to Jeff and me, this is what we've been waiting about 2 years for! It's our "Notice of Approval of Relative Immigrant Visa Petition." In short, it's authorizing Matthew to travel to us on an immigrant visa! Whoo-hoo! What a great gift! Margie has told us that when we get this letter, it's generally 3-4 weeks after that Matthew comes home.

Keep those prayers comin' and those fingers crossed!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Step Closer!!!!!!!!!!!

A direct quote from my e-mail as of today at 4:45....

Dear Ms. Halverson,

The I-600 was approved today and docs forwarded to the NVC. You should receive your approval soon.

USCIS - Baltimore District Office
International Adoptions Unit

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Loved Despite All Imperfections

12:05 a.m.
Random thoughts are passing through my brain.
How come those sleep chemicals haven't kicked in?
Staring at the ceiling.
Worrying that I won't get up on time for work.
Praying and sending positive thoughts that Matthew's paperwork will come soon.
Jeff is snoring. The dog is passed out in his basket.
And I am lying on my back, contemplating lighthearted things like
what kind of mother will I make and how will I navigate the sleep issues
and when is his damn travel approval paperwork going to come already and whose arms is he in and who is he being comforted by and will he ever learn to find comfort in mine.
Tonight, I sat in the new rocker my mom got us (complete with ottoman)
and reached into the basket of books--some adoption storybooks, others the classics (Good Night Moon, Guess How Much I Love You).
All of them are crackling with newness, still molded into the perfect-square-or-rectangle-book-shape from the manufacturer, aching to be bent this way and that and made more shopworn by a curious little hand and exploring fingers.

(My inner nonconformist winces at what I am about to say, but here goes...)

I can't wait till our books look like those of every other kid I, torn, bent, creased, stained.
despite all their imperfections.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Advice From a Friend

Received via email from my friend Ben, ACE staffer and amazing photographer, with two little ones of his own:

Kathleen: Before Eli arrived, I had a friend I was talking with about being a new parent with an infant. He said something that has stuck with me, and that I can definitely now attest to:

The really hard parts of being a parent are all tangible things. Lack of sleep, crying, fussiness, lack of time for self, and small frustrations here and there. But, the really great parts are all intangible (especially when they are really young). The joy, peace, and perspective having a baby brings ... and the opportunity to love unconditionally, and be loved unconditionally.” So, when the tangible becomes overwhelming, consider the intangible, and let that overwhelm you instead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Surprise Baby Shower at ASHA

A random Wednesday.
With very heavy winds.
A "last-minute meeting" to discuss the reorg. (sigh...what now?)
An almost deserted 2nd floor as I walk down to the "meeting." (still no clue)
Kinda bummed b/c I didn't have time to make my Progresso Vegetable Soup (read: boring lunch).
Instead, I shovel applesauce into my mouth, figuring it'll fill me until after the meeting.
I open the door, and they are there, sitting in chairs,
in a U-shaped formation.
(Hmmm...this isn't the usual setup for a meeting...)
Still it doesn't register. (!)
Then, a camera flash.
Finally, it clicks.
I look around the room and see the faces
of the people I work with every team, my friends, my yoga students.
All of them there.
A potluck spread of delicious food.
A gorgeous cake complete with stork.
A table filled with gifts.
All of this to celebrate our Matthew,
an adorable little boy half a world away.
Suddenly, she-who-likes-to-speak is speechless.
Word girl HAS no words.
(Jeff would have loved to have been there for THAT!)
I would have cried had I not been so shocked.
Surprised that they actually surprised me.
Grateful for the good that they are.
Blessed with the gifts of their friendship.
Humbled by their generosity
and their wonderful ability to make MY version of motherhood
indistinguishable from everyone else's.
I still have no words.
Tears will come later, but they WILL come.
For now, there is just joy.
Sheer, delicious, grateful, humble joy.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Measuring the Wait

I don't think I'm the only one
who measures our wait by the number of monthly parent support group meetings we attend.
The one last night was #20.
Stale banana nut-bread from Starbucks,
Jeff's almost-forgotten hot chocolate ("Sorry, I wasn't told about that order" said the barista)
and a handful of goldfish served as dinner.

A small sacrifice for such an experience.
I walked away from that meeting as amazed,
as blown away,
as I always am
by the fellowship of these wonderful people,
by the new friendships we are making,
by the healing power of shared experience, frustration, excitement
that this wait brings to us all.
I am reminded that there is learning to be gained
even from the most frustrating of times.

Last night, we met Lucas from Russia,
another Lucas from Ethiopia,
and Trevor from Korea (presented by proud big sister Emma with her sunny-blonde hair and smile).
Three little boys, some wide-eyed and active, some grumpy and over-tired,
but all adorable.
Several more people got their referrals, and they passed around photos,
beaming with joy and pride,
thankful that yet another milestone has been met,
that they are one step closer to bringing him home.

We passed around Matthew's photos yet again.
The oohs and aahs still thrill me.
Finally, to feel that pride, when the world comments on your kid.
And behind us,
my new friend Leslie cried.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love at Face Value

Love at Face Value
A poem for Matthew

Only a photo? I’ll take it,
If that’s all we have for now.
Two adorable photos:
one with eyes open,
One with eyes closed,
Both looked upon with love by your daddy’s and my adoring eyes.
The same two photos are everywhere in our home—
in big frames hanging on walls, in stand-up frames propped on pianos,
in medium-sized frames next to our desks at work,
and in tiny sizes, tucked into wallets and purses
for those spontaneous moments of parental boasting.
We can’t wait to bring you home, Matthew…
into our arms and into our lives.
There is such hope and such joy living in our hearts
where once there was none.
May you travel safely and peacefully on your journey to us.
Know that already, you are loved, little boy.
I’m not sure how to explain or understand
the feelings that I have.
I mean, how can I truly “love” a photo?
But I do.
And I love not just the idea of you, but YOU, yourself.
How can I love a stranger half a world away?
Again, my only answer: I just do.
What if we were matched with someone else? But we weren’t.
We were chosen for you, and you for us.
Enough analyzing: I think I’ll just take this love at face value
and not spend a lot of time or deep inquiry
questioning what can only be explained as
“the way things were meant to be.”
You were in the stars—in our stars.
You have already wiggled your way into our hearts and our lives.
Now, all we have to do is get you home.
Your room is ready:
The lights are soft and warm and dim.
The rocker is in place.
The lullaby CDs are sitting on the shelf, and the lovies are in the crib.
You have blankets and shirts and socks and tons of colorful toys.
And, of course, you have us!
I love you, my son. How can one little face be so perfect?


Excerpts of a Letter I Wrote to Matthew's Birth Parents

TO: Matthew's Birth Parents
FROM: A Grateful Mom

Where do I even begin?

Because of you, my child exists, draws breath, smiles, cries, hopes, and dreams.

Because of you, Matthew is a beautiful person, inside and out. He has inherited genetic traits and characteristics of both of you—and although I may never meet you, I can only imagine how beautiful you, yourselves, must then be!

Because of you, my child walks on this Earth and will make such a positive, joyful contribution to ensuring that future generations also walk on this same Earth, look up at this same sky, and still enjoy and revel in nature’s gifts and God’s miracles.

The connection that all of us, as human beings, have to one another is quite extraordinary. We are forever linked...we have this incredible child as our common connection.

After having made this incredibly difficult decision, your feelings of loss must be overwhelming and quite painful. But I know that you had your reasons for doing this. You made a thoughtful, conscious choice that was practical and in Matthew's best interests. Every day, I give thanks that your decision (in all of its painful finality) allowed me to have the child I’ve longed for all my life.

I hope that you know just how seriously Jeff and I take the responsibility you have bestowed upon us, in allowing us to raise Matthew as our own and be the person he will call “Mom” and “Dad.” What an incredible and humbling honor! Matthew Seong-jin will always know that he has not only Mom and Dad, but also a birth mother and a birth father, in this world. Our child will always know that he came to us out of a love so incredibly vast and deep, it can never be fully explained, perhaps, until he becomes a parent himself. The love that it takes to let sends shivers up my spine. I honor you, and I bow to you with deep respect and admiration and tremendous gratitude.

As Matthew's mom, I can promise you this:

We will surround Matthew with light and love, every day of his life--and long after we are gone. We will be eternally available to him.

We will instill in him a strong sense of confidence, high self-esteem, fun, joy, and warmth, and we will help him see that above ALL ELSE, he is loved. Indeed, we are a family that loves to laugh and play. Matthew will see that for himself soon enough!

Matthew's role will be, simply, to be a child! To laugh and jump into piles of raked leaves in autumn and makes snow angels in winter. To try to touch the sky with his feet while on the swing set. To know joy and happiness, and to have a strong sense that this is definitely where he belongs in life. To make our day simply by smiling at us.

I write this letter with so many feelings: tremendous respect, sadness for your situation (whatever it is that led you to this brave choice), happiness for us and Matthew, and a genuine wish that your life, as you move forward from this day, will be full of music, laughter, loved ones, and happy times. Both of you are a blessing from God, and the best gift that my world has ever received. So if you ever doubt for a moment this decision, please remember the words I’m sharing with you today.

I wish you the best, and please know that all of us--Jeff, Matthew, myself--will always be thanking you, and honoring you, and remembering you from the depths of our hearts. You made it possible for us to be a family, and for that I’m not sure that I can ever say enough.

With great love and deep respect,

Kathleen (Matthew's Mom)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quotes That Bring Me Comfort

In my quest to not totally lose it today, I just googled "quotes on patience during adoption" (whatever did we do without the Internet?) and here's what I found (with my favorite passages in italics):
Our children are not ours because they share our genes...they are ours because we have had the audacity to envision them. That, at the end of the day...or long sleepless how love really works.
Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart--but in it
-Fleur Conkling Heylinger

And here's a great primer on the "real" definition of those words that are innocently (but mistakenly) used by so many well-meaning people in the presence of us adoptive parents (please think before you speak, as these terms really hurt, even if you don't mean to hurt us!):

Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else's child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.
-Rita Laws
The Gift of Life
I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true.
No, I didn't give you
the gift of life:
Life gave me the gift of you.-Unknown
How Could You Know?
As you lay sleeping far away as still as you could be...
How could you know the joy today this photo brings to me?

A few short weeks and you'll be mine, and "I" will soon be "We."
How could you know the love I feel? It's something you can't see.

So have sweet dreams, my precious babe. Sleep well and tenderly.
Some say that you're the lucky one. How could you know it's me?
-Kris Laughlin

Remind Me About Patience Again...

...and how wonderful a trait it is? Today, I am forgetting.

{insert HUGE SIGH here}

Turns out I didn't quite understand the process and how it works (no surprise there; just when I think I understand it, another loophole or twist is explained to me).

Here's the latest from our caseworker in response to a recent e-mail (see my sidenote in unitalicized brackets):

This is not the one we're waiting for
[that is, the form I referred to in my recent posts]. This is good, because it shows that you have been refingerprinted, but it is not the baby's approval to come into the country. Your I-600 and legals were sent to CIS on 9/4, so you're waiting for child's approval. Give CIS until second week of October, then send email asking about it. [The woman in charge of adoption paperwork at CIS] has been slow to get approvals done, but I don't want this to hold up arrival.

All I know is this: Our son is not here yet basically because of bureaucracy, paperwork, red tape, and ONE WOMAN'S busy schedule. ONE WOMAN! I definitely would not want her job.

Second week of October translates to "he's not coming in mid-October."

The woman at CIS saying "Wow, this week is SO busy for me! I didn't get to nearly all the approvals I wanted to" translates, for us, to "Add another week to the wait." It's interesting how the actions of one person can dramatically and directly affect us waiting families.

Chin up, I know. I'm not letting it get me down but it is disappointing. I just never anticipated this much roller-coaster activity this late in the game. You all have been great with all of your support; keep it coming.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Our Caseworker Just Said...

My question to Margie (our caseworker) in an e-mail from today: "We're still looking at November as a likely arrival time, right?"

Margie's response: "Really, it could be mid-Oct to mid-Nov as our best guess. CIS has cabled Seoul to let them know of your approval, so we're finished on this end."

I'M FREAKIN' OUT! In a good way of course...

The Much-Anticipated Letter Has Arrived!

Wow, was yesterday an interesting day. After a long bout of hysterical wailing in the car (panic-stricken emotional outbursts included "What are we doing?" "This wait is driving me crazy!" and the realization that "Shit...we don't know what we're doing!") on the drive home from work, I got home to a little piece of news that literally turned my night around...

There was Jeff, standing in the kitchen, smiling and holding the very letter we had been waiting for from USCIS!

Let's back up, for a minute, to this past Monday, September 14. I had sent an e-mail reminder, asking our contact at USCIS what the status was. Isn't it interesting that we received the letter exactly two days later in the mail? (She's in Baltimore, so 2 days makes sense if one were to, say, drop it in the mail to us on Monday, the day of my e-mail!) ANYWAY, I don't even care...I'm just glad I listened to my little voice saying "nag USCIS"--and that my efforts paid off!

So here's the government gobbledy-gook (get ready: It's Acronym/Legalese Central!): We received an I-797C, "Notice of Action," that basically approves us to do the next step: File our I-600 ("Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative"). The details beyond that are too confusing for me to (a) explain to you (you'd probably stop reading my blog at this point) or (b) understand myself. I just do what our caseworker tells me to do.

And now here's the translated version, in good old American English: This letter is the trigger for what happens next, and it means that things can now proceed. Apparently, the next step is for us to photocopy the letter and mail it to our caseworker in Baltimore (done as of a few minutes ago) and then they forward it on to Holt Korea (our international adoption agency, which is the agency that Matthew's current foster parents are affiliated with) in Seoul. I believe (don't quote me on this; I have to ask Margie again) that this letter gives Holt Korea the green light to gather Matthew's travel paperwork and get him ready for his trip to America. Still looking at November for an arrival time, though.

Patience. Deep breaths. This too shall pass.

Oh, and guess what the address listed is?

Thornberry Land.

I just had to laugh out loud! After all that to-do with the USCIS fingerprint guy (read my earlier post for a classic story of bureaucracy at its finest)!

I'm not even going to worry about it. Apparently the universe, and USCIS itself, really, really wants us to live in a land and not on a lane.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

November Adoption Celebration

November is Adoption Month, and in the spirit of that, our agency has an annual Adoption Celebration. This year, it's in Ellicott City (we couldn't go last year; we were in Hawaii! Can't believe it was a whole year ago!). They have all kinds of cultural events and demonstrations, ethnic foods, and of course, socializing with everyone. Our caseworkers will all be there, as well as everyone in our current parent support group meetings, as well as "alumni" of the support group (i.e., people who have since gotten their children and no longer attend the meetings). And, of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway): THE KIDS! What a reason to celebrate!

Cool thing is, Jeff was asked to drum at the you may or may not remember, he is a skilled percussionist, with a special focus on West African drumming (instruments such as the djembe). He'll be solo'ing at the celebration. It's in early November. Pretty cool, huh?

No more news. We're still waiting for that magic piece of paper from USCIS that will essentially give the green light for Matthew to travel; then the wheels will start REALLY turning.

Have a great rest of your week!

The Power of Positive Thinking

This past week has been filled with some interesting ups and downs. I'm not going to go into any details, but please think positive thoughts for those parents who are still waiting to be matched with their children. I have several friends who are going through some tough times right now regarding their wait and the adoption process in general. Obviously, I'm not going to mention details, but I believe in the power of positive thinking, as well as the energy shift that can happen when a group of people are focused on a positive outcome. Join me in helping shift some energy in the universe, so that these friends can and will become parents VERY SOON! To those of you out there who are waiting for your children and have yet to be matched with a particular child, rest assured that I REMEMBER being there, and I'm never going to forget to pay it forward. I continue to think of all of you every day, and regardless of where you are in the adoption process, you are in my prayers and thoughts every night before I go to sleep. THIS WILL HAPPEN! Make it your mantra!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Latest From Our Caseworker

So, here's the message I just got from Margie, about "what's next" (these caseworkers put in way more than 40 hours per week!):

Your approval will be sent to Korea, showing them that the U.S. government will allow him to come into the country. Now it's up to Holt [our international adoption agency] to finish the processing on their end. THEN we'll get notice of his arrival!

Gimme an H!
Gimme an O!
Gimme an L!
Gimme a T!

What's that spell? HOLT!
Louder: HOLT!
Louder: HOLT!
(Do you think they can hear us all the way over in Seoul? Given my lungs, I wouldn't put it past me.)

Ha ha! And I was never even a cheerleader!

Seriously, everyone think good thoughts that Holt will respond quickly and bring him home to us soon! We are SO CLOSE! Reading all of these adoption articles just makes me want him home with us even more!

More Things I've Been Reading

As I held his perfect little body against mine, grief for Sam's birthmother came crashing over me. I wept, wondering how she'd found the strength and courage. When she placed that child in my arms, she must have felt as though she were giving birth a second time. The mama I became the moment my first child was entrusted to me is the mama I would have become no matter what....The baby himself made the mother, not the cell tissue he was made of. Joy is not uterine-dependent.

Now, as a mother through adoption, I find myself the recipient of e-mail after e-mail from friends of friends who are exploring adoption....They want to know if they will love an adopted child as much as they would love a biological child.

Adoption is its own gestation, I sometimes respond....the wait...for a referral...brings a physical and emotional shift in your heart and body. When the wait enter a final trimester of hope and terror. When you deliver, just as when you adopt, the placement of a healthy child into your arms is not a certainty until that baby is there with you, breathing quickly, and with a softness so precious you think it can't possibly be real.

Those mamas whose pregnant bellies I envied, whose baby showers I sat through in silent rage, had nothing over me in the feelings department...

[NOTE: This woman has one adpoted child and one birth child, and here, she speaks of the difference in mothering...or lack thereof]:

There is no difference in the way I run to one when he bumps his thick head, or crumple when the other tells me that someone hurt his feelings. I felt the same joy when each of my baby boys smiled at me for the first time. When Sam kicks a ball harder than the imp who picked on him in line, I explode with pride. When Marcel sees a picture of Darth Vader and starts humming the Star Wars theme song, I delight in his brilliance.

My boys have completely different, irreverent temperaments, so I respond to each child in a different way. But as far as how I love them, it is the same.

(Source: Adoptive Families magazine, October 2009, "True Love, Times Two," by Catherine Maryse Anderson, pp. 23-24)

Things I've Been Reading

The latest issue of one of my adoption magazines had a great article about "Surviving (and Thriving) Through the Wait." Here are some nuggets that I took away from this article:

Where have you people been all my life? There is something special about the adoption community. It takes someone with a big heart, I think, and at least some sense of adventure, to adopt. I am so grateful to have met so many incredible people on this journey. I mean it.

And so do I. We have made lasting friendships already, even before Matthew has gotten here. I just know that these people who have helped us through this long wait (either because they are in this with us, or they had already been there and had sage advice about how to survive the long waiting period!) will continue to be there for us, and us for them, years from now. Just when I thought I had packed my life so full of friends, I couldn't fit anymore, here came these wonderful people to shine their light on our life. I am so thankful.

Here's another thing that resonated with me:

The uneasiness may disappear when we get our referral, but maybe it is always important to feel uneasy. Being a prospective adoptive parent is complicated. Obviously, the people REALLY going through something are the birth families and the children. Their losses are much more difficult and devastating. If I am lucky enough to become a parent, I must continue to question. I will do my help those who come after me, and to help those who are left behind.

The feelings of joy and anticipation are substantially less complicated. In January 2008, our social worker let us know we were Waiting Family #103. Today, we are #3. We want this more than anything. I can't wait to see my husband be a father. I can't wait for my parents to meet their grandchildren. I can't wait to sing someone to sleep, to make someone laugh, and to bandage a skinned knee. We are ready for our joyful, uneasy, happy ending.

And I am officially crying my eyes out. This is exactly how I feel! I love this magazine!

(Source: Adoptive Families magazine, "The Stages of Waiting" by Julie Corby, October 2009, pp. 21-22)

Dotting All the I's

Sounds like, um, SOMETHING, good is happening. Not sure what, but I guess we'll find out soon. Here's the message I got from USCIS (which, by the way, stands for "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services"--I always thought the "C" stood for "Customs") today via e-mail:

I have received both fingerprints and I will get your amended I-171H out this week.

Apparently, in addition to the I-600, the I-600A, and the I-797C, there is also the I-171H. Talk about confusing. What the heck is an I-171H? (sigh) Guess I'll look that one up, too.

So many I's to dot...where are all the T's?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Matthew's Korean Birth Certificate

Yay! This came in the mail last week! A very official-looking document...every page has two "pieces": the Korean version, and the translated version. Here's what our caseworker wrote (this gives you an idea of what happens next in the process):

Here is a set of your child's legal documents for you to keep. The Family-Relations Certificate is the equivalent of a Korean birth certificate. Another set is going to be sent to Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) with your blue I-600. You should receive your Notice of Approval of Relative Immigrant Visa Petition (I-797C) from CIS within 30-45 days. When you receive it, please send me a photocopy of it; then, I will inform our social worker at Holt Children's Services that your child's visa approval is on its way to the American Embassy in Seoul, Korea. The time frame for arrival is still calculated at about 3-4 months from the acceptance of your assignment. While this filing and approval must occur, it does not alter the time frame of 3-4 months to arrival.

CIS. I-797C. I-600. Notice of Approval of Relative Immigrant Visa's enough to make your head spin!

NOW are you with me, about not sweating the small stuff? This is why we have caseworkers and adoption agencies. I am so thankful for Catholic Charities...they dumb it down for us and cut right to the chase: "Here's what you need to DO." Just give me a concrete, tangible to-do list, and I'll do it.

Ask me to explain it? A whole other story!

Sweating the Small Stuff...Or Not

So, people are asking me, these days, exactly what is the hold-up now? I bet you think I have an answer for you here. Well, I don't, really. But I do have a lot of thoughts on this topic--thoughts that actually create more questions--so read on if you're interested in my ramblings. It contains some nuggets buried somewhere in there, I think!

The short answer to the above question is: It's all bureaucracy and paperwork, folks. These things take time.

And here's the long answer (rambly interpretations begin now):

People laugh when they hear that Kathleen the Anal-Retentive, Detail-Oriented Editor isn't all that detail-oriented in other aspects of her life. Including our adoption. Here's my little secret: I may seem like an adoption expert to some, but the truth is, I don't really know HOW this whole adoption process works, beyond the step that we are involved in at any given time. It's hard enough to focus on the step we're currently involved in, much less worry about the steps beyond that.

I do know that the parties involved include us, Catholic Charities (our local agency), Holt Korea (our international agency), the United States, South Korea, the foster family, Matthew's birth parents, and of course Matthew. We all do a whole bunch of paper-swapping and as soon as all of that gets done, Matthew gets to come home to us. That's a whole lot of parties, so it's no wonder it takes years to move through this adoption journey! It's a series of small steps that has one giant reward waiting at the end.

Bring on the small steps!

I honestly think it would be more painful and frustrating for me to be sweating the small stuff...I'm just not interested in doing that. The wait HAS gotten harder, not easier, which admittedly surprised me. But I continue to live my life: go to work, teach my yoga, take my yoga, go running, go walking with Jeff and Jupiter, read my books (these days, they're all on parenting and Korean culture!), continue to organize/decorate the nursery, go to book club (don't think I'm going to get to this month's book, though), sing in choir, get together with friends for dinner ("do it now!" people tell me), go to the movies (again, "do it now!"), and the list goes on. It keeps me sane, not worrying about too, too many details in this whole adoption process. I have many other friends who are just the opposite, and that's great. It's all perfect just the way it is. This is just my way of dealing with stuff. In yoga, we talk a lot about "letting go"--not just of things we CAN control but things we can't. The way I see it is, if I know too much (e.g., "His file is on so-and-so's desk in Korea! Once that Korean official signs it, Matthew can come home!") then I'm going to worry too much (e.g., "It's been 2 weeks! Did it get buried by other papers? Did that Korean official forget to sign it? What if it got lost? What if? What if? What if?"). So, deep breath...and let it go. Good things will come.

So, instead of dwelling in the land of "what if," I'm choosing to live in the present moment, which is so filled with blessings RIGHT NOW: good friends, Jeff and I laughing at Jupiter's antics, family members who keep calling (upon hearing the latest updates and seeing the latest photos) with such excitement and love in their voices, tons of good friends, a great job with tons of great friends who I love to work with every day, and of course, yoga. Life in its present moment is so juicy and sweet--that's where I choose to reside. I know that God and the Universe will bless us with Matthew soon enough. For now, for whatever reason, this is where we are supposed to this in-between kind of "waiting place." Maybe sometimes it's hard because of its nature as an "in-between" kind of place. Maybe the "waiting" place is some sort of incubator for the love and affection we'll be SO ready to bestow on Matthew by the time he arrives this fall! We're heating it up and making it nice and warm and cozy ("just right") for when he gets here! Maybe, just maybe, for adoptive families, this is part of our rite of passage. So many maybe's, but Matthew himself? Now, he's a definite! Brings to mind that song, "I've got your love to keep me warm." Jeff and I definitely have all of YOU to thank--indeed, your love and support during this whole process is what we've had to keep us warm--and sane!

Don't mind me. This is turning into kind of a stream-of-consciousness piece. My mind is going in all these wacky random directions, as I sit here munching my turkey sandwich and writing away.

What I'm trying to say is, I honestly can't tell ya WHAT, exactly, is happening in Korea and with USCIS; all that I know is I do what I'm told, fill out the required forms, go to get the required re-fingerprinting, etc.

And by the way, I've given up trying to make rote government officials laugh. It just doesn't work.

And in my next blog (which will immediately follow this one, for I've lingered too long in this space), I'll provide an answer that may clear up some of the fog you are feeling surrounding "what is going on" and "why can't he come home yet?"

Stay tuned...and keep reading about our journey to bring our little buddha home!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Received an Update on Matthew (With Photos!)

Hello, everyone. Happy Random Tuesday. We have some good news: Although I can't post the photos here, we got an update on Matthew today. The update was as of a few weeks ago. Overall, he's doing GREAT, developmentally and medically. He is huge...22 pounds (at 5 months old). Yikes, I need to hit that gym hard! Need to stay on top of my yoga and weight lifting if I'm going to be carting him around!

A medical/developmental update is being mailed to us (haven't gotten that yet). And they emailed us three new photos. The first one is of him sitting in the corner of the crib, behind this giant stuffed bear that is kind of propping him up. He's got the chunkiest little legs and arms...and this adorable double-chin! Double chins are so cute on babies! His hair is as spikey as ever, and he's sporting this white tank top and dark blue little jean shorts. Looks like my perfect little Buddha! The second photo is a close-up of him's can see all the way inside his toothless little mouth! And the last one is him on his belly, zoomed close in to his face and his little lips are pursed. He is SO ADORABLE! We're thrilled to have gotten another's exactly what we were hoping for.

I'm busy preparing a package to send to him. I put together a small photo book of us, our house, and all of our extended family members (siblings, spouses, cousins, and grandparents). I think it does a good job of showing him, and his foster family, just what a happy life he will have with us and just how fiercely we love him already! And how much fun he'll have with his cousins, who absolutely can't wait to meet him! I'm also sending him a blanket, and I'll probably write a small note to the foster family. That's it. Keeping it simple.

I already have my order in for prints (in various formats/sizes) of these latest three photos. Went today at lunch. I can finally vary the framed photos in our house (which are currently all of the same two photos).

I am over the moon. Up, up, and over the moon.

We were at Babies R Us last night, selecting a rocker and ottoman combo to register for. Check that off the list!

That's all for now. If anyone wants to see the new photos (who hasn't seen them yet), drop me a line at and I'll email them to you. I am allowed to email them; just can't post them on public or even quasi-public sites like Facebook or blogs. (And with many of you, that's our primary form of communication these days!) I haven't gotten around to a large group email, but I'll be working on it soon!

Lots of love,
(MATTHEW'S MOM!!!!!!!!!!!! I love saying that)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Re-Fingerprinting, Love at Face Value, and Hip Clothes

I realized that I forgot to tell you why we were there (see last post): We were getting re-fingerprinted at CIS, as our last set of fingerprints (taken in early 2008) had expired. I didn't realize that fingerprints "expire." What's up with that? Once a whorl, always a whorl, right? Maybe not. Hey, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, we're only pawns in the game. If little moments like these are what it takes to bring Matthew home, bring it on.

As we sat there in the empty row of plastic chairs in Wheaton and waited to get called, I was bummed b/c I didn't bring a book and Jeff did: He was reading about climate change; it looked to be a dissertation-like nonfiction book. Gee, what a surprise. (NOT!) I, on the other hand, if I had my druthers, would have been absorbed in the David Sedaris book I'm currently reading, which is called When You Are Engulfed in Flames and is HILARIOUS. I was so bummed I forgot my book. My ADD kicks way in, and I just go crazy sitting there.

But nothing else to do, so I just sat there.

Cell phones are not allowed to be on, so not even texting can happen. I eventually pulled out my photos of Matthew to remind myself of why we were there, and it made the wait go by faster. Just looking at his sweet little lips and closed eyes and spikey black hair. I am so in love with him already! How can that be? I don't know, but it just is. I'm just going to take this love at face value and not try to figure out why I love him like crazy even though he's essentially a stranger half a world away who I have yet to meet and hold and snuggle. And I don't just love the "idea" of him: I love HIM! The universe works in wild and wonderful ways, and I still feel like the luckiest lady on earth. Our blessings are so abundant, and I am so thankful.

On an entirely different note, we went to our friend Kellie and Reed's house on Sunday and inherited a wonderful pile of little boy clothes. Matthew's closet is just about bursting at the seams, and we are loving it! Who needs new when you have gently used/fiercely loved clothes? Kellie and Reed's boys, Calvin and Nolan, are two hip little dudes, and it just thrills me to no end that Matthew will be following in their footsteps. He will perhaps be the most well-dressed little boy in Olney! I think I have to start coming up with Creative Closet solutions (right now, it's just one big rack, straight across, and it's jam-packed from L to R with clothes). His dresser is almost entirely full.

I know, I know...welcome to parenthood, where your kids become the well-dressed ones and Mom and Dad just make do with those jeans from 1992. Right? (Now, if only I can get those 1992 jeans to FIT me...)

I'll blog again soon! Peace out, my friends!

"Thornberry Land"

Nothing like an exciting Thursday morning at the Customs and Immigration Service (CIS) to remind me how thankful I am to have the job that I do. I do not envy those people working there. They needed an injection of humor, and try as I may, I could NOT get that fingerprint man to laugh, make eye contact, or talk "unofficially." I did appreciate his efficiency, though! I want to give him this compliment up front, as a kind of caveat for what comes next...

One kind of funny, classic "bureaucratic" moment did happen: Apparently, according to CIS, my address is Thornberry LAND, not Thornberry LANE. News to me! What a glorious place Thornberry Land sounds like! A land of castles and knights and rolling green valleys. A land of milk and honey. Why, in Thornberry Land, we wouldn't just have "a house." We'd have multiple: In fact, we'd have castles and kingdoms and serfs and stuff! Live entertainment at the castle on Friday (or "mead") on the house. This "Land" language is definitely not reflective of good old Thornberry Lane in Olney, MD!

Anyway, continuing on(I am having such fun with this; can ya tell?)...

After he had finished "rolling my pads" (that's, ya know, "fingerprint speak"), he asked me to verify what was on his screen (first name, last name, address, SSN, etc.). I politely corrected the address, indicating that "Land" needed to be changed to "Lane."

WELL, with the knowing glint of a bureaucrat in his eye, he picked up my letter (we received this a few days ago and couldn't come to CIS without this authorization letter) and pointed knowingly to the top left corner, where it indeed said "Land." He said to me, tapping it with his finger and a knowing smirk, eyebrows raised, "But the letter says it's 'Land'!" And he kind of crossed his arms, nodded, stood back, and "harrumphed." As if to say, "So, that's it. We're done with this!"

I smiled my most polite, courteous, innocent smile and leaned in toward him (probably scared the poor guy half to death, proferring such intimacy in an otherwise stark and barren office), saying "But sir, I think I know my own mailing address, and this is incorrect. Look at what it says on my driver's license." [insert innocent smile] He studied it and replied, his voice going up a notch, "You didn't catch this earlier, when you got the letter?" [insert stern face, like a father scolding a child] "Um, no," I said. (But even so, what would I have done with such info? Not come?) I replied, "But considering that the letter made it to my house, that's probably why I didn't think to check whether the address was right."

He kind of sighed, mumbled to himself, and then took the necessary action to switch his database to "edit" mode or whatever, which would enable him to correct the address. You could tell this was a step not normally taken. He corrected it, clicked "save," and asked me to once again verify.

Score one for the people!

Then I was done, and the next person to be called was Jeff. Jeff also apparently lived in Thornberry Land. "Here we go again," I thought. This guy is gonna LOVE us! Jeff's application, too, had to be corrected.

We got it all straighted out, and CIS has officially reinstated our residing on Thornberry Lane.

That Thornberry Land place, though: Gosh, it sure sounded like a nice kingdom to visit.