It’s time to close the curtains

22 Mar

This has been on my mind for so long – saying goodbye.

I have been writing this blog for 2 years and when I first started, I still thought I was going to be matched with a 6 month old baby. Praise the GOOD Lord he had other plans for me.

When we started moving forward with our process to bring Cora home, this was my safe place. My place where I could put out the hard – plunking it out on the keyboard – letting it go with each plunk, plunk, plunk.

This was my place where I could write through tears, write through red-faced anger and when I couldn’t get out of the big funk or fear that I was never going to bring my child home, this was the place I could share just that. And how happy I am that I can look back and see where we’ve gone – how we’ve grown and have each memory that I would have forgotten.

Along the way, we’ve met really great people through this blog.  Amazing kind people living in Korea (Jason) and Koreans living in America (Minna) who offered their love and support and encouragement.  Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.  I pray that one day I can look back and see that while I had made so many mistakes, Cora will know she is Korean-American.

I still struggle with the loss she has suffered and will suffer when she is old enough to see what she has lost. I still struggle with the fact that no matter what we do, how much we do, we will never be what she should have had in her birth country.  No matter how many semesters we sign up for Korean language school or the fact that we have the Korean TV network so she can watch her cartoons (and really? Poong-poong-i?? She loves it!) she will never be the bilingual child we wish for her. How could she be with us as her parents.

I struggle with balancing it all so that she doesn’t miss out on anything all while knowing she’s missing out on everything. It is the reality of adoption. That heart-wrenching yet beautiful thing that I have yet to figure out how to balance emotions.  When you love someone SO much but you know that in a perfect world, she wouldn’t be my daughter. Balancing that reality. Loving her and hating the hurt.  It’s hard! Harder, harder, harder than I ever thought it would be.

But I see her now, almost 1 year home, and I see how much SHE has grown.  She is confident, funny, smart, loving, kind.  She is amazing. She is strong and sweet and truly is going to blow MINDS when she is grown. She is my daughter – my princess, my 딸, my pretty little girl, my love.

Long gone are the days where I learned how to do anything with her on my back.

When we celebrated the hint of letting daddy in – even if it was just for a second.

From when she spent hours playing with playdough our first week home, not for fun, but to shut out her reality. Oh, this kills my heart.thick6

From when her face showed this emotion.

These days, she’s too busy being the mommy. Something she said she didn’t want to be until the past couple of months.  Every time we talked about “when you’re a mommy…” she would said, “I don’t want to be a mommy.”

She does now.

And now, at one year home and will children who are 11, 8 and 6 (in 3 weeks), I feel that we need to close the curtains now. We have classmates and teachers and friends and family who, at this point, don’t really need to know how Cora is adjusting or how Logan and Miles are adjusting or what is hard or what is still lingering from 5 years in an orphanage because they see her in a different light – as just Cora! Sweet, sassy little Cora.

Not Cora who has gone through all of what she has gone through and continues to go through, but Cora who runs down the hallway in school with a smile on her face ready to talk to anyone she can.

Just Cora.

What a blessing.

So thank you for blessing me with listening to my ramblings on orphanage life, English language learning and digging myself out of the ditch.

I’m not in the ditch anymore.  I’m in the car with the windows down and the sun shining in my eyes as I sing along to the music.

Oh sure, life has its moments, but I bet yours does, too.  It is about life’s moments now, and very rarely are they about “adoption moment”s or “orphanage moments” or “attaching moments”.  Of course I know we’re not free from those moments, but they are getting easier to spot before they start, easier to work through once they pop up.

And yes, I’m afraid for Cora sometimes when I think of her medical future, but I know I’m not the only one who has a child they are worried about.  The more days, doctors appointments and life that comes between the diagnosis and where we are now makes it easier to swallow and dare I say, has become our normal. 6 sedations in 10 months will do that to you.

And I hesitate stopping blogging completely because I know there are special people who stop by here – people who knew and cared for Cora in Korea who want to see how she has grown or how she is doing in life, so I ask you, if you are one of those people who care about Cora please send me a message and we will connect in other ways. (Please.)

I’m not saying that I’m never going to post here again, but I’m not planning on it any time soon.  I still have posts that I never got a chance to write, such as the post I had planned where I fully admit to internally mocking mothers of girls who wore jewelry, tiaras and tutu’s with a purse hanging on her arm to the grocery store.  I thought it was YOUR doing.  I made fun of you in my mind.

It’s not you. I know that now.

I’m sorry. 🙂

Or the post where Cora got in trouble at school when the substitute thought she said a naughty word, but actually she was just saying 2:00 in Hangul. (GRRR!!!)

Or the post where I shared her first real birthday pictures, even though our first day as a family was her 5th birthday and completely not a celebratory type of birthday. More of a ‘omg what are we doing!?’ birthday.

And the father-daughter dance that is coming up.

And the post that shares my heartache that Cora now signs her papers at school as just Cora and not Cora 김승주. Boo hoo.

And the fact that I led the high school ministry on Romans 8:15-17 this week and shared how we are all adopted into God’s family. It was powerful and scary and I loved it and would do it again in a second.

And a recap when I go into the school later this spring to share sun-safety to the kids at my kids school and possibly contacting the other schools in my city to talk to their kids, too. (oh poor Logan, my dear. The other two are all, “Will you come to my room!” and he’s all, “Mom, PLEASE don’t come to my room.” Darn tweens!)

But this feeling in my heart tells me that it’s time to pull back.  So, perhaps one day I will share those posts someday. Maybe not.

It’s not an easy decision.  I’m a freelance writer and write every day about things that aren’t my heart.  This is a place where I wrote about my heart. And you listened and encouraged. So thank you.

And though I don’t like to do this kind of “leave a message” request, I would love to hear from you in a comment if you feel led to share one.

We’re doing well.  We’ve crossed the big ocean of the first year and God was our life jacket.  This was the hardest 2 years of my life, but we’ve resurfaced.  I see three kids now.

And if you’ve adopted, or even given birth, you know how things much be juggled when new child comes home because new child needs more.  We’re at that point where new child is just child now and we’re settling in, doing our best to give all three children what they need.

Blessed. So very blessed.


A Real Genuine First

8 Mar

There are so many first we missed, and yes, there are always firsts no matter what age a child joins the family, but your mind can’t help but think of the ones you missed sometimes.

TODAY, however, we got one! A first! And it was amazing normal, if that makes sense.

It started last night.  When I was tucking Cora into bed, I was laying next to her ready to read.  She crawled in, I pulled up the covers and my hand slipped off the blanket and bonked her in the month.  I laughed, she laughed, I brought her in for a hug and she said, “But I think my tooth hurts!”

You know how it is when your kid’s tooth is wiggly, gets bumped and blood gets mixed with saliva and they think they’re dying.

Yep. That’s what happened.

No one was allowed to touch or even look at the tooth.  She said she forgave me, stuffed her mouth with kleenex and instantly fell asleep. (And I instantly went and pulled them out of her mouth as soon as she started breathing heavily.)  I knew it was going to fall out in a day or two.

Well, today it was!  Sadly it was at the very end of the school day, so I didn’t actually get to experience it, but girl was SO excited after school to tell me all about it.  She was proud and excited and giddy with her braveness of pulling out her own tooth.  It was great to see!

So tonight, her cries turned to excitement, confusion and questions as we got ready for the tooth fairy.

Miles was right there to share the tooth pillow, to explain that she didn’t need to be scared and to get her all pumped up.

(Check out Cora in *her* bed. It took 10 months, bye golly, but she’s there! And she sleeps all night! And yes, having two big brothers means having a Diego and John Deer pillow case when your Hello Kitty one is in the laundry. Such is life.)
tooth2The pillow had to go on her nightstand and a pillow pet had to be propped up to block her view of any tooth fairy coming her way.
But I’m sure she’ll happily take the money that goes along with it.


Here’s a little bit of Cora’s sweetness answering questions about the “loose tooth man”.

My heart.

15 Feb

I find myself on the verge of tears often these days.  I’ve always been a crier.  I can cry happy, I can cry mad, I can cry sad or frustrated or full of rejoice.  I can ugly cry in any situation.  It embarrasses me often, such as when I’ve cried at parent-teacher conferences when I find that one of my children’s hearts have been hurt and we did not know or when I took Miles to 1st grade and sat on the side of the gym watching his little self get herded away with a small wave and weary eye.  I’ve cried to the most unsuspecting, but mostly I’ve cried to my husband in all of these good-happy-sad-mad ways.

Lately, my tears, or the verge of them, is because of the goodness God has blessed us with that is finally coming together like a perfect, faulty, hand-made quilt.  Jagged edges, lines not perfectly straight, patterns not necessarily matching, stitches all a mess, but once woven together, it’s perfect.

It has only been one month that I posted our “woo-ing” post.  It was such healing, getting those words out.  And for whatever reason, after getting them out, things changed dramatically in our attachment.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting close to our 1 year together, but I have seen such progress in this past month.

Last night, we continued our tradition of a  Valentine’s dinner of heart-shaped pizzas.
If you call this a heart.
What’s up Pizza Hut?
We spent a good 20-30 minutes in conversation about what each person loves/likes/thinks is super cool about each member of our family.  We started with Miles, and the other 4 members of the family shared something personal that they loved about him.  Then he shared something he loved about himself, too.  My favorite part.

We moved on to Logan and Cora and then Dave and myself.  Hearing my kids vocalize their appreciation of each other, sharing something special about each of us was a great way to remind us all about the cool cats we live with each day. Sometimes it’s easy to look past brother and sister to friend. When we can remember that brother and sister could me BEST friend, it’s a good thing!

Hearing Miles say he loves Cora because she plays with him, and she’s especially fun playing stuffed animals.  Hearing Cora say she loves Logan because he always hugs her in school. Hearing Miles say he loves Logan because he’s funny and Logan loving the times when Dave can play a board game with the boys.  Hearing Cora tell me she loves me because she loooooves me, with her head tilted, eyes squinting looking at me as if there is no explanation needed because it is just a fact.

I remember reading Jen Hatmaker’s “The Truth About Adoption: One Year Later” when we were around month 4.

You’re out of the weeds. Your little one has been pulled from the burning building and subsequent terror and spaz-o-rama, and she is now in triage. You are definitely not out of the woods – the assessments, the precision surgery, the rehab is still to come – but she is out of immediate danger and stabilizing.

Ah, yes, it spoke to me.  We were stabilizing. She was still needing constant reassurance of our committment and love, but we were stabilizing.  And we had a lot of work ahead. I didn’t know then how much work. I’m glad about not knowing.

Here we are at month 10. From Jen’s blog.

You start dealing. You engage Life Books and play therapy and creative ways to honor his birth parents and birth country. You get serious about addressing his brooding and manipulations or whatever coping skills he’s trotting out. He is giving you more amazing reasons to praise him, and you’re no longer resorting to things like, “Um, I really like the way you buckle your seatbelt. You, uh, click that thing right in place every time. Totally nail it.”

Cora, in a passing conversation said last week, “And if you aren’t good listeners to your mom and dad they won’t be your mom and dad anymore…”  and she kept talking and I had to rewind, stop the show, grab her hand, look in her eyes and say, “Honey, mom and dad will always be your mom and dad even if you aren’t a good listener.  We’re mom and dad forever for you and Logan and Miles. Nothing will change that.”

Her response? “OK!” And on she went with her conversation.

How long will it take to sink in that we’re not going anywhere? I’m not sure, but we’re not. And she’s not. And at 10 months in, I can say with all sincerity, I love this girl as if I’ve known her forever.  It would not be possible to love her any more than I do now.  The love I feel for her mimics exactly the love that I feel for the boys I grew and molded and shaped from the moment they were born.

For those of you who wonder if that is really real, can children who are adopted into a family with biological children really be loved as much as the biological children, let me say with a resounding, heart-felt yes. Yes!  Maybe it will take you less time or maybe it will take you more, but I fully believe that with time and effort — sometimes a L.O.T. of effort — love will grow in this beautiful way that you never could have expected.

Yesterday I was volunteering in the school for Valentines Day.
After the party, it was time to help the kindergarteners get their winter clothes on for recess. Cora started a conversation with a little girl from the next classroom.  I had never met her.  Cora said, “This is Amariah.”  I said, “Hi Amariah!” and continued helping Cora get snowpants on.  It seems every time I meet a new Kindergartener at school from a different classroom, they ask whose mom I am as it’s not obvious in looking that I am Cora’s mom.  Amariah said, “What’s your mom doing, Cora?”

She didn’t ask, “Whose mom are you?”

She knew.

And later in the day, when it was time for me to help in Miles’ room, Cora walked by and saw me.  Not too long ago, it would have been met with a million questions, uncertainty as to why I was in the school but not with her.  This time, it was all about a quick hug and then “back with your class young lady! Mom’s here to be with Miles now for his party.”

And she did. Without question.

We’re finally at that part in life where we’re not “on” at all times.  We are living just like you are, with slight modifications.  Slight. Not huge ones like before.  The past 10 months we were shoved, smooshed, pushed, stepped on, rolled over, dug into, cut up but the 5 of us have found our spot in the family.

Now it’s about watching them grow.  The best part!
We shift from triage and 100% focus on Cora’s adjustment into our family and our boy’s adjustment to their new roles and our adjustment as parents and trying to remember that we are first husband and wife.
We just settle into our spots now.

All equal.
Each loved.

And the best part? We simply live life together as normal as the 5 of us crazies can be.

This past year, I have counted more greys in my hair than I care to count.  I have woken up with a headache more days than not.  I stopped seeing “Jen” as anything more than mom who is called in too many places at once.  I questioned our future. I questioned decisions and life choices.  I cried a lot of tears.  I didn’t think I’d see a time where I could resurface as a person.

I think I’m resurfacing. 

To help heal Cora’s heart and help her understand family and what that word looks like played out in life, I have pretty much shut everything outside of my house and school and church.

Was it easy? Absolutely not.
Was it effective? Absolutely yes.
Did everyone understand? Nope.
Did I lose friends?  I think so.
If I could go back would I do anything different? Not at all.

And I think what is causing me to be on the verge of tears so much these days is that we were never alone.  He never left my side.  He didn’t abandon me. I trudged along finding comfort in verses and songs on the radio and was uplifted just enough to get through to the next day. (sometimes hour.) And the next. And the next.

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular Bible verses.  “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

But lest we forget that first came 70 years of exile, THEN came the plans of prosperity.

If you are in the thick of it, your future is coming. You just have to get through the exile.  As for my family, I think we’re starting that propering time. At least it sure feels like it these days.

2 Cor 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Dave and I = weak. Thank goodness God’s not.

When the Extrovert Joins the Family of Introverts

5 Feb

OK, more specifically when the extrovert has a MOM who is an introvert.

It might come as no surprise that I’m an introvert.  Or a big surprise, really, depending.  I fit 100% into the INFP. Down to the wire. This description is me.  I will never call your name out if I see you and you’re father away than my talking voice can grab you, I often ignore the phone, my house is as silent as a mouse when the kids are at school because I.hate.noise.  It’s a good day when I can bust through the grocery store without any surprise bumping into and I go to bed every night at the right time. 😉  There is no late night party’s going on here and the idea of going into a group of women who I don’t know very well is down right unacceptable.  (I tried bunco when I moved into the neighborhood…and mom’s night out with another set of neighbors. Lasted just a few times until I realized that is just not for me.  A dinner date with a neighbor I know well? Or want to know well? Bring it on.  Sitting around a table with 15 women that I don’t know? No thank you. I’m finally at that point in my life when I know it’s OK to pass.

Because I’m a writer by trade (not here. Here I can make all of the grammatical errors I want. Sometimes I do it on purpose. 😉 ) the introverted life is perfect for me.  I can sit secluded in my quiet house hammering out what needs to be said all while getting the quiet my brain needs to be happy.  If I’m feeling the need to be around people, I can grab my computer, grab my headphones and sit in a coffee shop with more introverts who are happily independent with their headphones on, too.  I get these people.

Dave is just like me, though his profession has him out meeting and selling and presenting so he’s good in front of a crowd, though he prefers the sidelines as well. Logan is 100% independent and has no problems with just wandering around at recess checking in here and there with his friends along the way. Miles isn’t nearly the introvert that Dave, Logan or I am, and he has more friends than I can count, but he falls a bit more introverted than extroverted…just barely.

So what happens when the newest member of your family is on the FAAAAAAAAR polar end of personality traits.  The most extroverted possible. I mean, HOLY EXTROVERT!

When you are preparing to bring your child home, there is a lot of talk about teaching your children about family.  My friend Grace taught me how she was teaching her little Sarah.  Big family – Little family.  Little family=immediate.  Big family=extended. The rest=no family.  We taught Cora who we could hug, kiss, love, talk to, hold hands with, etc…and more importantly, who we could not.

This is still a lesson we talk about today.  Her orphanage = all part of our big family. She can (and does!) love them all.  She can hug them and kiss them. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins….all good.  But at first when she came home, we kept the kissing to *just* our little family. Hugs could be for the grandparents, etc…but until she got it a little bit, no kissing.  Now, going on 10 months home, she TOTALLY gets it and can kiss away in her big family.

When we first got home, whenever someone walked by our house in our busy street, she thought it was fair game to approach.  And when there was little English, it was a little awkward.  So our rule was, no talking to everyone.  Only the people we know. Or the people who mom and dad talk to first.  “How come you said HI to that person, mom?!” was a frequent phrase when I had to say hello due to eye contact on the sidewalk.  It was a hard lesson to teach.  But, she got it and did really well with it.

And as we learned who was family, both big and little, and who was close friends that weren’t quite family, so rules differed, she started easily classifying everyone as they go.  But what we took as orphanage traits of not quite understanding the safe bubble of contacts was really quite more. Once she DID understand the safe bubble of people, it became apparent…this girl is an extrovert to the nth degree.

So when there is a mom who comes to pick up her kids at school and every day stands in the same spot, off to the side of the wall, hoping to grab her kiddos and head back to the car without any ruckus, I see my daughter standing much smaller than most of the kids in the school, but louder than most of them, too.  She’s calling out names of 3rd, 4th, 5th graders, teachers, staff, principal, parents, grandparents…she’s hugging kids as they leave, running back to say one last word to her teacher and inadvertently talking to another 3 or 4 teachers that she doesn’t even have. She plays with older kids at recess because she’s so outgoing, they adore her. One kid gives her gum *just* so she’ll include him in the high-five category of kids she knows.

I won’t lie — it stresses the heck out of me. Where Cora goes, eyes go.  And where I go, I prefer NO eyes to go. 🙂  We walk through the doctor’s office and everyone looks and smiles.  The front office of the school tells me stories about her outgoing self.  She says goodbye to complete strangers to me as we leave the school (volunteers in her room) and I smile and say goodbye quietly as she yells their names and fondly bids them farewell.

My happy quiet world is now suddenly full of people who Cora knows and wants to talk to and here I am, the happy introvert wondering how on earth I’m going to make it with this extrovert of all extroverts.  It’s certainly making me stretch, that’s for sure! And I won’t lie, I love her (very rare) shy moments when she grabs my hand and pretends for a moment that she’s shy as she hides behind my leg for 6 seconds while she gets used to her surroundings.  It’s familiar to me. But what I need to do is to thicken up this skin and get fitted for an extrovert costume. One with a face mask.

Coming to terms with not knowing.

28 Jan

There are a few things that I’m in the process of coming to terms with. One=cancer.  Two=not knowing.  Today, I’m talking about not knowing.  And I was trained for not knowing.  I thought I was ok with not knowing.  Turns out, no one can ever be OK with not knowing. Not really.  So if you know someone in the boat of not knowing and they look like they’re OK with it, they’re either faking it or have passed into the world of “coming to terms”.

I’m trying to come to terms.

It’s really this big walk that I’m only a few steps into in the whole realm of things.  Even this whole attachment thing.  We’re 9 months it.  Those who have adopted years ago may nicely giggle at me when I think I’ve taken a leap past hard times into normal times. I’m sure that when she’s been in our family for 2 years, 3 years, 5 years I’ll look back and think, “WOW! 9 months was sooooooo new still.”  And of course it is.  And it is just recently when I’ve decided to chip ever so slightly into the feelings of not knowing.

Not knowing what?

Almost 1/3 of her childhood.

If you think of childhood in blocks of 6 years, you get three of them until age 18.  We missed 5 of the 6 years of her first one.  It’s the reality of adopting a child who is 5, of course.  And we chose that path because it was the right path for us and praise God we did because Cora is undoubtedly our daughter.  There has been nothing else like watching your children become best friends.  If we could go back to the moment we decided to adopt and change our mind to adopt a baby, we never would in a million billion years.  Older child adoption is the right choice for us.

It’s just a bummer for her.


Cause it really is not her fault at all that she spent 5 years in an orphanage. Who wants that for their children? Loving orphanage or not, an orphanage is an orphanage is an orphanage and it is no place for a baby to live. Every single child deserves a home with parents who love them and who would lay down their lives for them.  Parents don’t go home each night to come back each morning. Parents don’t have weekends off or vacations.  When you go to sleep, parents aren’t switched by the time you wake up.

It’s just not fair for her.

So I came across my boy’s baby books.  What their first foods were.  When their teeth came in. How much they weighed each month. Snuggly pictures of baby feet and naked bottoms and sleeping with daddy on the couch.  Stories of how much Miles cried (LOTS) or how much Logan weighed (LOTS).   But I stifled the stories because I didn’t have them for one of my three beautiful children.

And it’s not fair for her.

<This is the part of the post where I’m typing through tears. Cause it’s just not fair for her.>

How do I balance letting my boys “in” on their life without hurting her.  How do I balance not hurting her with letting my boys “in” on their life.

One might think with Korean adoption being what it is that we would have month after month of updates. She was a waiting child for her entire life. What if a potential parent wanted to see her updates!? Well, I can tell you that a child who never had a foster parent, a child who didn’t have to go “check in” each month at the agency for monthly checkups and updated photos because she lived at an orphanage with medical staff does not get updates.  Not the kind she deserves.  Sure, we have some hospital updates.  A bit of her growth and development, but only in check box style.

I don’t know how old she was when she crawled or walked. I don’t know how long she was when she was born.  I don’t know when she spoke her first word or what she felt like when she went to preschool for the first day.  I don’t know when she was potty trained or when she gave up bottles. I don’t know who her teacher was in 3K or 4K.  I don’t know who her classmates where or if she had a bff outside of the orphanage.  What was her favorite food? Color? Animal? When did she smile? Who saw her first smile? Did the person know or care that it was her first smile? Who held her in the hospital when her little body was growing and preparing for the world? I don’t have her first pair of shoes or a baby outfit that I just couldn’t give away.  What made her laugh that full belly laugh that babies are so good at doing? Who did she say “I love you” to for the first time?  Has she ever ridden a bike? What was it like the first time she went swimming? What food did she spit out of her mouth like most babies do with peas?  What happened that first time she had the flu and needed constant care and love and nurture while she got better and who held the bucket so she could throw up? When did she draw her first stick-figure? Has she ever gone out of the city on a trip? What was her first birthday like?  Unfortunately unlike typical Korean adoptees, Cora did not get a Dol party. Did anyone celebrate it with her? Did the day go by unnoticed? Did she eat any cake?  When she had surgery, who stayed with her?  Did anyone feel a minute sense of pain that a mother feels when she sees her child sedated or coming out of sedation?  Was she alone?  What about that special day that sticks out as one to remember – the day she went to the beach (has she ever been to the beach?) or her first picnic (ever?) or first playdate (doubtful?). What was her first song that she learned? What was she afraid of? Did anyone kiss her first scraped knee? Did she ever have a scraped knee? How did she get the scar on her foot? Did she have a favorite bedtime stories? Did she get bedtime stories? Or songs. Or hugs.

How do I balance letting my boys “in” on their life without hurting her.  How do I balance not hurting her with letting my boys “in” on their life.

It’s just not fair for her.

And if I have these questions, she’ll have these questions, too. And as her mama, I can’t help but already feel that emptiness that she will feel some day and I really can’t do anything about it.

Except come to terms with not knowing.

Accepting that God didn’t pick me for those times, He picked me for these. These stories to tell.

So I work, ever so slowly on coming to terms.


If you joined your family though adoption and feel comfortable sharing your feelings on these things that I talked about, I would be honored at hearing your thoughts. And if you are a parent through adoption, ideally an older child – please reach out and share how you are coming to terms with these things.

Goodbye Stella – Weekend in Chicago

28 Jan

All good things must come to an end and this weekend was our last weekend with Stella.  We spent it in Chicago and had so much fun, but it went so very fast.

We of course had to take her out for Chicago pizza. Twice.
And we did the planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum.

And the Willis Tower (Sears) where you can go out on the 103rd floor and step off and look straight down.
Stella in Stella-style hopped out there, handed someone her Ipad and asked them to take a picture as she did the splits.
Such a small personality.
byestella16I’d post more of those pictures, but then I wouldn’t have room for these.

Stella bought 18 pair of glasses while she was in the US.
18 pair.
She struck the goldmine at the Icing and Claires.  She bought a pair for all of her family.
But first, we needed to sample them. Cora was thrilled.

But she got into it rather quickly. 😉


Does Cora not crack you UP in this next picture?
I’ll give you one guess who taught her that pose.

Ahem.  Stella.


And then, we went to sleep for the last time.

It was time for goodbyes.

byestella5byestella4 byestella3byestella2byestella1

She really became a part of our family when she was here and we all fell in love with her.

She is a BIG personality girl.

And although she said she’s going to beg her parents to come back in the summer, we still feel her absence today as we noted how quiet it was.  (And we noted how great we slept all night long without a night-owl in the house. 😉 )

We love you Stella!
Thank you for blessing us with your visit!


And so we woo.

20 Jan

One of my adoption friends wrote a blog post about ‘woo-ing’ her new son.

“I have never worked so hard to win another person’s love. Ever.”

This spoke to me so much because in adoption, there is no “the instant”.  Love does not start from the moment that baby is placed in your arms.  For some parents (thankfully I am included in this group) love grows before you go to pick up your child, but for some, it happens much later.  Many people compare adoption, especially older child adoption, as feeling as though you are caring for someone else’s kid.  “When are his or her parents coming to get him or her back!??!”

But then, love grows. Overtime, most times, love grows.

But let us not forget, we’re looking at it through the parents eyes.

For me, love was a seed that was planted the moment we said yes.  It wasn’t the whole, “I saw her picture and I knew she was my child” bit of crazy that you’ll hear some parents say.  I had seen Cora’s picture on our agency’s list for a while before I thought, “Oh, I can ask for her file. Hmmm….maybe I will.”  There was no referral of Cora to me.  There was no “this is your daughter” opening of the documents.  It was a child – a beautiful child, but was it my child?
Woo1Eventually, obviously, “the child” did become “MY child”.  After a good month plus of researching, digging, praying and giving each other time to digest the contents of what we dug up, “child” became “daughter” and our love started to grow, just like a seed grows into a flower with the aid of the sun.  By the time we went to bring her home, there was already a stem and the bud of a flower ready to bloom and it wasn’t long at all until a flower was fully formed.

Our daughter, on the other hand, was quite content in all ways, mostly because she didn’t know what she was missing without a family.  She didn’t know what mommies and daddies did. She didn’t know how a parent’s touch feels. She didn’t know what it was like to have mommy comb the snarls out of your hair or have daddy trim the nails that have grown long on her toes.  She was perfectly capable of washing every square inch of her body, hair included, and would never ever cry of soap got into her eyes.

She didn’t know.

But I knew.

Her seed was planted at that time, not when ours was planted. She had no bud yet. No stem. Just a seed. Or maybe just the gift of a seed with the option of planting it when she was ready.

In the past 9 months, that seed has started to grow, but it is very obvious that there is more needed to aid her growth than the little sun that we had.  She needs to learn unconditional love. She needs to be woo-d.  And wooing her is not always easy.

This is a foreign concept to those who have not adopted.  I know this because I would have never guessed with prior to Cora.  Woo your child? Forget that! I’m the mom, you’re the child and we are a family. Some days are better than others, but in it together, we are.  Sure, it’s the truth even now, but it’s not that simple.  I would never ever look at Logan or Miles and think, “They need wooing today” with much more than a passing thought.  But sometimes, it’s easy to think that with Cora.

Logan and Miles have known nothing other than me as mom.  They know my ups and downs and even on my down days, they have had a million up days to know that the good far outweighs the bad.  Cora on the other hand has had just a handful of days. Or so it seems in the whole layout of her little life.  I’m still new. Even 9 months in.

She now knows what mommies and daddies do, and most often she’ll gladly share how she loves having the experience of a mommy and daddy to do those things. Singing at bed, reading books, snuggling, praying together, carrying…all things she said she didn’t have much experience with prior to 9 months ago. But there are those moments when I doubt that it is ME that brings her joy – just the experience.

The days when she would do anything just to get off of my lap, the days where she’ll look anywhere but my eyes when I’m signing to her, the days when I tell her I love her and she pretends she doesn’t hear me. The days when I pick her up from school and she’s far more interested in visiting someone else’s mom than coming to see me.

I don’t blame her.  It hurts my feelings, I won’t lie, but I don’t blame her. I took her away from her life.  She loves the children she’s missing.  She begs to visit them. She tells me how she will feed them and hold them and put them to sleep and she wants to share it with me.  It’s what she did and now it’s what she doesn’t do because of me.  I know in her mind she compares the fully grown flower of love she had with the other children in her orphanage to what she has at home – the stem, still growing.

When we read about attachment and adoption, I read all of this great info about touch and attachment games/activities that involve touching – hair, fingernails, lotion, etc….We’re doing just great there! Girl wants me to hold her any second.  She lets me comb and do her hair and 85% of the time she’ll even let me wash it.  She loves her sling and 95% of the time she loves to snuggle on my lap before bed.  I can lotion her little body up and trim her hair or nails.  I can dry her off and wrap her up like a baby and sing her a little lullaby.  In terms of attachment, I’d say we’re winning.  We’re establishing a great base and I do believe the sun is growing her stem bit by bit into a beautiful flower.

It’s just those off moments. Those off days. They are few and far between, thank God, but they hurt.

And I know they hurt her, too.

And so I woo.

I look deep in her eyes and woo with all of my might.

Even when they won’t look back.

And pray with all of my heart that the effort of wooing is starting the growth of a bud.

Stella {And Having 4 Children}

17 Jan

Our sweet Stella, joining us for 5 weeks from Korea, has already been here for 27 days. She flies home in 9 days. Time has flown by!  If you ever get the chance to host a student short-term, I highly recommend it.

When she first arrived, she was, of course, a stranger in our home. Very quickly, however, she became family.

4kidsWe have watched her bravely go out into the world and make friends, go shopping, do homework, eat new foods….in fact, this was a post I put on facebook recently…

Host mom brag! I am so proud of our visitor Stella. She left her family and came to a country half-way around the world. She immersed herself in a new language, joined a school with a sea of new faces of students and teachers who speak *really* fast – and though hard, I’m sure, she’s trying hard and doing an awesome job! Social rules are different, school expectations are different, subjects are different, food is different, popstars and “in things” are different, style is different, schedules are different…She’s trying hard to form new friends even when it’s scary and I’m sure she’d just like to hang out with her bff’s at home…And did I mention she’s only 13? Stella, you are brave and strong and *really* amazing and we’re blessed to know you and have you in our family for 5 weeks. Keep doing what you’re doing. We love you! Love Emo and Emo-Boo. ♥

Not everything has been easy for her, as you can imagine being 13 and dropped into a country (and a school!) that is so different from your own in many ways, but this girl has rocked it. I won’t lie, sometimes when she shares some of her experiences, we think “Really!?” but she has taken these moments and found positive it in each and every time.
And we couldn’t be more proud of her.


And soon we will have to say goodbye.
(Though, she’s already making plans to come again…)
And to be quite honest, it’s going to be hard!
Let us not forget that only 9 months ago, we went from a family of 4 to a family of 5.  There is a lot of differences in the life of a family of 4 vs. a family of 5.  It’s quite funny, actually!  One of our first times we took Cora out to eat, the hostess said, “We’ll have a table for a larger family ready in a second.”

Large family? Us?

Since then I’ve realized that life is made for families of 4. Or at least families with even numbers. Cars, food packages, tables at restaurants, amusement park rides, etc…
We’re still getting used to that as we didn’t start #5 with a baby to ease in, but we’re doing good, I’d say. 🙂

Then, at only 8 months in add a 4th child! And not a child — a teenager.  And not just a teenager, but a teenage *girl*. Ohhhh the drama! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


HA HA HA! Sorry Stella, this “screams” your personality!
Meek you are not.
And I love you for it!

A family of 6 is sooooooo much more than that family of 4 we were just 9 months ago! ha! Do you know how much laundry a family of 6 has? And you have to make double batches of food. Milk? Juice? Snacks – poof! Gone! Morning lunches, too!  Breakfast on the run because a teenage girl needs more time to get ready than my current oldest 11-year-old boy.  So much to learn and now we’re in a good spot and we have to send you home.  Lucky mama you have!

You’ve busted our butts with pronounciation…and Dave will never forget how to say “be quiet” in his life thanks to you.

And you’ve loved on our kids, even when they were typical younger siblings…make that Dongsangs.
You taught us things we wouldn’t know without you about Cora’s heritage and you gave us a beautiful piece to keep forever.DSC00022

Sure, we’ve all had to adjust a little bit with a new child in the house, but all-in-all I can say it’s been pretty seamless! She had to get used to a normal bedtime (no midnight or 1am here, my friend! We SLEEP in America! (Or at least in my house!)) and quiet evenings when the littles go to sleep. She’s had to get used to school and new friends and social differences which haven’t always been easy, but to have her confidence to leave all she knows at age 13 to just go for it impresses me so much.  She even went away for a church weekend with kids she didn’t even know and came home so happy and full of memories.

So now we enjoy our final days before you must go home.  But your mom gets to share a piece of you with me forever.  You will always have a Migook family waiting for you to come again.  You will always have an Emo and Emo-boo to talk to if you need a listening ear and we will never judge you.  And you will always have three kiddos who will always look to you as the visiting older sister they had once upon a time.  (And hopefully more than just once….)  We respect you and your country and your love of your country and hope that one day we can visit you in your home to tell your parents just how much joy you brought to our family with your visit.

And can I just say, 3 kids doesn’t seem like many any more. 😉
And 4 totally seems doable.
Don’t worry Dave, I’m not getting any big ideas just yet.

Happy Birthday Miles

3 Jan

For about a week before Miles’ birth, I was sick. Horribly sick.
I visited my doctor every day, felt like I was getting better, but each night would find me feeling as though I might die.
The flu! they said.  False labor! they said.

On Jan 3rd, 2005, I showed up at my doctor and told him I felt like I was going to die – literally.  He took some blood and told me to go to the hospital for a gallbladder ultrasound.  We had to wait a couple of hours or so between appointments so we went home so I could lie down.  I remember feeling like I could not get up ever again.  I only did because of Dave’s help.

The ultrasound was normal, they got me back in my wheelchair and were about to send me home.
Dave had decided that there was no going home.
He called my doctor who was at the same time trying to get ahold of the doctors in charge of the ultrasounds to admit me immediately.  “There is something going on with your liver. We’re not sure yet what is happening, but you need to be admitted.

I remember getting all checked in – it was 2:00 or so – and Dave going to the car to get the hospital bag.  Before he could come back, a doctor had already been in to see me.  “You are very sick.  You have HELLP syndrome. We need to take your baby now.  We are going to take blood again to check your platelet levels and then you will have a sedated c-section within the hour. No, your husband can not join us. This is an emergency.”

I have what?  Wait, what?  Wait! WHAT?

Unfortunately the blood work did not come back as planned. My platelets were too low to do a c-section.  A transfusion came next to boost them up in order to proceed.  Later I found out my liver enzymes were climbing, platelets were dropping and my red blood count was nowhere near where it should be.  I was strapped to the bed, 3 IV’s in my arms. Miles heart rate was above 190.  Mag sulfate to ward off seizures was added to my IV’s and all fluids were eliminated for upcoming surgery.
Except there was no surgery.
My platelets dropped dangerously low and it became clear there would be no C-section.
I was officially in the “stage 1” form of HELLP.  The most severe.

High doses of pitocen were started and I begged, cried, pleaded, sobbed for an epidural to no avail.
You could be paralyzed if we try to do an epidural, the anesthesiologist told me.
I will TAKE MY CHANCES! I said.
He didn’t budge. (Thank you, sir.)

I was unable to move, 3 tubes coming out of my arms, 2 monitors on my belly. I could only turn slightly to my side during contractions and I thought I was going to die.  They kept coming to take my blood levels – You’re platelets are 30 pts away from the ICU.  It took me 5 minutes to go from 5 cm to 10 cm and all of a sudden, crash cart in the room, but no doctors yet, it was time.

My nurse frantically got the doctor while I pushed out Miles on a bed not quite broken down yet with a doctor running in, gloves not even on. Dave remembers the room being full with doctors and nurses.  My bleeding took a turn for the worse and I was poked with shots to stop the hemorrhaging while the doctors worked on me.

Afraid I was going to go into seizure, they gave me my baby for a quick minutes before they made Dave take him away.

I had to stay on bed rest for a full 24 hrs after delivery with magnesium sulfate on drip. I had my veins prodded and poked every few hours until they saw my liver and platelets headed in the right direction. I was not allowed anything but a few ice chips per hour. They counted. I counted. I asked for more, they said no.
milesbday2 I was left with swelling in the brain, thoughts of possible stroke (dismissed after MRI), fluid behind the eyes, huge amounts of memory loss and lab work and clotting times that didn’t go back to normal for a full year.
I do not remember my first-born meeting my second-born but I was told he sang Miles Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

In fact, I don’t remember much of my life prior to and one year after HELLP. There have been many times where I nod and agree with memories of past events without a trace of memory in my mind.  My family has gotten used to saying, “Do you remember when….” and I say, “No, I don’t”.

Miles started out very much like this. ALWAYS mad and ALWAYS crying.  Oh, it was not easy.
(It’s OK to laugh! He sure did when I showed him this one! The red eye is a nice touch, don’t you think?)
The memory of his birth is one that will never leave my mind. At my 6-week-postpartum checkup, my doctor said, “It is rare that a woman dies in childbirth in the US these days, but what you had, HELLP Syndrome, that is one disease that still takes the lives of women in America.

Today, Miles is not an angry, mad child. Oh he has the eyes and smile of a prince. He is sweet and sensitive and kind. He is athletic, and social and fun and he is my amazing middle child who took to being a big brother like he was made for the role.

First birthday.


Second birthday.


Third birthday.
Fourth birthday.

OH how I loved 4.  I did not want him to turn 5.

But time does not stop. No matter how we parents wish we could pause it.

And poof! He was 6.
And a toothless cutie-o 7-yr-old who rocked the homemade sharpie birthday shirt.
milesbday12Today, as tradition, Dave got up early and got donuts.  We all gathered around the table to sing him happy birthday but Cora decided that this was not her day to be a kind sister.
Sadly, the morning was spent with tears, tantrums and she and I missing out on his birthday donuts breakfast.
By the time she was ready to be kind, he was done, it was over and teeth were being brushed.
milesbday13When I stare at this picture, I see his face thinning out, lengthening. I see his baby face is gone and he has gone from loud and crazy to sensitive and “cool”.  Baby Miles is gone.  This is one of those birthdays where I see just how fast time goes and just how much I long to hold on to the ticking of the clock and push pause.  How we got to this moment already is beyond me.

But we are here. And 8-yr-old Miles loves sports – soccer especially right now. Dad is coaching his basketball team and will also coach his baseball team.  He is into Skylanders and Minecraft and loves pizza and noodles.  He is appreciative and such a hard worker. He works harder than we expect him to.
He’s the first to help with shoveling the driveway, crushing up boxes and pretty much anything physical.

He’s going to be an amazing man.  I’m excited to watch him grow into that man, as much as I want to hold time for a while, watching him grow has been one of the biggest honors and joys of my life.

And don’t worry. Because I missed breakfast, we shared his favorite lunch today – just a mom and Miles lunch date.
Happy Birthday my sweet son.
You bless our lives immensely.

What a difference a year makes

25 Dec

Last Christmas was hard.  To even say hard is an understatement. We had been waiting for Cora for around 7 months and the last thing I wanted to do is think about missing her. But it was all I could think about.  Do we put out a stocking? Do we get a present for her? Do we mention her at our family gatherings knowing it would bring the mood down? But our family each got us something for Cora.  She was here in spirit. Oh how my heart aches for those of you waiting this year.

This year, she’s here!  But I can’t pass Target’s dollar isle without seeing the princess and hello kitty items and remember packing them away in her care packages.  Recordable books bring new meaning for a family who has waited before.  I remember her friends in her orphanage – the ones she talks about all of the time. Especially one little girl who Cora lovingly refers to as her baby – sweet Jin Ha.

Christmas at her orphanage looked like this.  A great time with Santa (who’s beard was obviously malfunctioned.)

And friends.


But this year, it’s vastly different.

Santa?  Sure! (With almost as bad of a beard. 😉 )

Comfy jammies and baking with mom.

Decorating cookies.

Christmas performances with friends.

And having to sit with your friends before you sing, but being able to look back and see your MOM sitting in the stands ready to watch you. (The one thing I think about when I think about all of the performances she did in Korea – never was her mom there to watch her.  Though blurry and grainy and totally a terrible photo, this captured moment is one I’ll treasure forever.)

Sure, there are presents this time of year, and we just had a touch of them tonight – tomorrow is our big day.

But most importantly is the fact that this Christmas, she’s going to bed knowing this appa is her appa.

And though she can be bossy and moody and all things 5 + girl sometimes.  The best present is knowing that she’s got two of the best brothers in the world who love her more than she’ll know.

And I close my eyes tonight thanking God for the blessing of his son who loves me.  And I see the blessings he has given me and yes, I get frustrated, mad, grumpy, angry, sad, moody, bossy and many other not-so-nice things sometimes. I get tired and think I can’t keep going another minute – another load of laundry, load of dishes, homework battle, stinky socks on the floor, bathrooms that can’t stay clean for a day. Sometimes it overtakes me and I sink in that mood.

This photo of all kids is a true glimpse at the blessings that I have. My goal is to stay in that moment.

Merry Christmas to all!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”