Sunday, October 28, 2012

Best part about being home

Mike and the boys welcomed us home late Friday night.  OH how we were ready to get off the plane!!  I've never had such a hard time flying.  My ankles were so swollen that I could barely put on my shoes.  We walked out to the baggage area and they all ran up saying "mommy!".  Sweet sweet times of snuggles.  Mike did a wonderful job running the ship alone.  The house was clean and the boys were all healthy.  I'm so proud of him.  I don't want to even think about flying again for a loooooong time!!  However, last night Mike was already planning a possible trip to Nicarauga next July for our church and 20th anniversary.  Let me recoup and I'll be ready. Abby and I are suffering from jet lag and couldn't sleep last night.  She is itching to get to school tomorrow and see her friends.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Last full day in Korea(it is long)

What a fun and sweet day we had yesterday!  We arrived at a large community center that is run by Eastern Social Welfare Society.  Props to Eastern because they are one of the most amazing and comprehensive private welfare organization(largely funded by donations) that I've heard of.  The community center serves the residents of Seoul; from preschoolers to the elderly.  We helped distribute lunches to elders who are shut-ins.  It was similar to Meals On Wheels, except in a city like Seoul, it is Meals on Feet!  We took the bags to super high-rise apartments

The  boxes had rice and several side dishes plus a medicated patch for arthritis.  We also put in cookies with labels saying "We love you, from the Dillon mission group"

Here we are with the cutest little lady ever!!  I just grinned ear to ear when she opened the door.  Imagine her surprise when 3 giant American women were standing there :)  I swear she was 3.5 feet tall.  She was thrilled and shook our hands and patted us.

The community center also focuses on job training for elders.  Here they are training the ladies to cut and perm hair.

And, a coffee shop with older women who are licensed barristas!

 My mother, Abby, and I then helped some teachers prepare food for an after school program.  Abby made fried Tempura shrimp.

We made Halloween crafts with the children in the after school program.  The teachers said they were having a Halloween party Friday, even though it is not a widely celebrated day here. They tried to speak English with us.

Other services offered were speech and physical therapy for delayed children(I was really excited to see that, but no children were there during the day), job training for adults who are cognitively impaired(I had a cute boyfriend in there who kept grinning and waving at me). They offer yoga for elders, day care for little kids, and they have a cafeteria for low-income people to get a free meal everyday.
After spending all day at the center we headed to a theater to watch Nanta Cooking.  It was kind of like Stomp but in a Korean kitchen setting.  The show was fantastic and hilarious.  I've seriously never ever heard Abby giggle and laugh so hard.  She has corny Korean humor!
To end our day, we had a dinner at a Chinese restaurant(I'm so ready to eat plain sandwiches!).  Each person shared what they learned or what touched them most.  Here is what I've learned and stay with me here.....
One of the really neat things about this trip is that Abby has spent 8 days with other Korean adoptees (including one woman who is 30 and met her birth family on this trip).  She is generally stoic and closed about her birth situation and doesn't like to talk about adoption.  This week she has been forced to reflect and realize that there was great loss in her birth family situation.  However, there is also great joy and hope. I think that at the cusp of becoming a teenager, this experience will benefit her enormously in terms of being comfortable with her identity.
Personally, I don't think we "helped" anybody on this trip.  For the first few days I really struggled with frustration because we weren't busy serving and I'm a driven, type A worker.  There was no tangible accomplishment. We did a lot of smiling, bowing, hugging, talking, and sitting in ceremonies, and rocking babies.  Then, it hit me!  Really, what impact did I expect to have in a few short days?  It would be extremely arrogant and ethnocentric to think that this group of Americans could change the situation of parentless children in Korea. My pastor believes in supporting indigenous leaders working in their own country.  I think that is what this trip accomplished.  If we encouraged the local people at Eastern Social Welfare Society, who are working so diligently every day for 40 years, then it is worth it. They are the ones leading true change and improvement.  They are the ones who need to see that what they do has a lasting impact.  I'm honored to have spent 8 days demonstrating gratitude and appreciation for all the people here. The people at Eastern are truly expressing pure religion:

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More trip details

It occurred to me that I've not given much detail on what Seoul is like.  This is my 4th trip here and so many of the unique details are not new to me.  Let me start from the beginning.  Seoul is a city of 12 million people.  It is packed in to small land masses so high rise buildings are everywhere.  People live in apartment buildings.  It is very modern, very clean, very busy and crowded, but easy to navigate. Almost every person under the age of 30 speaks some English.  They have fantastic public transportation and puts Texas to shame in that area. 
 We've eaten like kings.  The Korean people are very gracious and proud.  They try so hard to impress us.  As I said earlier, it is like we are traveling diplomats.  Here we are about to enjoy traditional Korean Bulgogi

Monday we traveled to another province.  The countryside in Korea is very beautiful.  It is mountainous and the trees are changing for fall.  It reminded me of when we lived in North Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 Yesterday we met with Dr. Kim, the president of Eastern Social Welfare Society.  She is wise and gracious.  She described to us that they have 400 babies in their care and are overwhelmed because less and less people are willing to foster the babies.  And, adoptions have slowed down to a mere trickle due to the Korean government.  I wish I could have just a few minutes with the  lawmakers to help them understand how many people are thrilled to give the babies loving homes.  I met with Hudson's foster mother after lunch. Oh so precious!! She was very emotional and happy to see me again. But, when I gave her the beautiful scrapbook that my sister, Emily, made for her, she rubbed Seong Cheol's(Hudson) little face and cried! It was a treasure for her and her family. She said that he was the longest child she'd ever cared for (21months) and he was a perfect baby...always happy and all her neighbors loved him. When I showed her the video of him on my phone she couldn't believe his voice and smile. Such a sweet time. She couldn't stay long because she currently is fostering 2 four month old babies and her daughter was at home watching them. Thank you Mrs. L for selfless love and sacrifice! Because of you, he had a wonderful first 21 months of life and is healthy and happy.

We also spent time with the babies yesterday.  Really, that is what I want to do most of the time.  I hear them crying in the nursery and want to go pick them up.  I was wrong about the number.  Dr. Kim told us that there are 60 babies in the nursery!!  

 I held a tiny newborn who suckled my cheek.  It really broke my heart that she had that God-given instinct to suckle and yet had no momma to nurse.  This baby lives with 60 other babies.  Eastern provides amazing care and I'm so impressed.  However, it isn't a family.

Last night we spent time with unwed pregnant women.  We made a blessing tree with the ladies.  After breaking through the language barrier, we made a beautiful craft that has blessings for their babies written on the trees.  
Today we will spend the day at a community center.  I'm looking forward to serving with the senior citizens and delivering lunches to them.  I face timed with Mike and the boys last night.  They are all doing really well.  It was great to see them in action and also to see my house :)  Abby is an awesome traveler and doing great.  The group we are with is fantastic.  There is always that one person in mission groups that drives everyone nuts.  Not this group.  Every person is a wonderful friend and we feel like we've known each other for years.  My mom has made sweet friends with several ladies. One more day.  We fly out tomorrow at 5pm. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Photos from last 2 days

Here are some pictures of the San Rok Children's Home we visited Sunday afternoon.  As I said before, it was super nice and well run. 

Play therapy room and counseling

Abby face painting

I'm supposed to be teaching basic English.  Did not go too well! Good thing my interpreter was awesome.

Yesterday we traveled across the peninsula to a province that was hosting an adoptive families conference.  We had meetings with Korean families who have adopted.  It was super sad.  They struggle with keeping adoptions secret because of ridicule in society.  One family had moved 5 times to keep the child protected from people knowing she had been adopted.  Bloodline is most important in this culture.  The families all struggled with when, if ever, they should tell their child about his/her adoption story. We couldn't relate to their problems and shared with them that in our case, we began telling the children their birth/adoption story the minute they were placed in our care--yes, as babies.  This way, the parents are comfy talking about adoption and birth with their child instead of it popping up out of the blue.  It was rather awkward at moments.  Afterward we had a traditional Hanbok ceremony.  Here we 3 are looking smashingly feminine :)

Today we visited a home for unwed mothers.  We had lunch with them and did a little bit of cleaning.  

A disclaimer:  this trip really is not a mission trip.  I've been on several mission trips overseas and this is nothing like those.  Really it should be called a relationship or bridge building trip.  I  prefer hard work, fast-paced, traipsing through the jungle and drop in to bed from complete physical exhaustion to this type. I'm praying that God will use our contact with the Korean adoption community to change the very difficult laws that were recently implemented and have slowed adoptions here dramatically.  Experiencing Abby, Dillon, and Hudson's birthland with my daughter and mother is very special.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 2

We attended Young Nak Presbyterian Church this morning. 

Very sweet time and we were treated like visiting dignitaries.  After church, the welcome committee hosted a reception with coffee/tea and cookies.  They showered us with little trinkets from the church.  I think my cheeks hurt from smiling hard and bowing to try to communicate thankfulness to the people.  This afternoon we visited SanRok Children's Home where 71 children live.  We only spent time with a group of 20 or so children.  Most of the kids have family to visit on weekends(extended relatives, not parents).  The children who stay over the weekend do not have family.  One was a darling 2 year old who had been abandoned.  Due to Korean law, he cannot be made available for adoption because there are no official relinquishment papers.  This beautiful little boy will live the rest of his childhood in an institution.  The facility is fantastic.  The director was super proud of how hard he'd worked to secure donations and provide a quality home.  They had a library, gym, and play therapy room.  I was most impressed with the program they offer teens who age out of the group home. Kids who turn 18 can move in to a dormitory and stay for up to 5 years free of charge.  They attend trade school or college and try to become independent.
Supper was Korean Bulgogi and was fabulous!  Tomorrow we travel 5 hours to a different province that has invited us to meet with a group of domestic adoptees.  Abby is doing great.  There are other kids on the trip.  A 15yr old boy, a 12yr old boy, a 13 yr old girl, an 11 yr old girl and then Abby.  They are loving having some kids to hang out with who look like them and have similar family stories.  I think this is really good for Abby.
I saw something Hudson and Dillon would have liked at a store this evening and had a wave of sadness.  I know they are fine.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sharing Hearts Mission Trip Day 1

This will be short because jet lag(or jet leg as Abby calls it) has hit.  We slept well last night.  This morning we served in the Babies' Home here at Eastern Social Welfare Society. Although, the word serve is a misnomer because it was pure joy.  First we cleaned 3 rooms and the got to the babies. You should have heard all of us women saying "aaahhh" and "ohhhh" and "how cuuuuute" over the babies in their little wooden beds.  I'd estimate 35-40 babies were in there.  Dang, nothing cuter than little Korean babies with stick up black hair! Let's just say, yes, we cried.  So precious and so heart-breaking to see all those babies in need of families. For confidentiality, we aren't allowed to post pictures of the babies' faces(drat because they are so pretty!)  Fyi, the pink blankets do not mean they are all girls, they just use pink blankets. We were amazed at how well organized the head nurse and caregivers were.  They keep a chart of when and how much each baby eats.  Everything was spotless and organized.

Suffice it to say that one of the babies loved me.  Yes, he really did.  He stared in to my eyes and laughed when I played with him.

Later on in the day we toured a 1000 year old palace.  We had a sweet 14 year old tour guide.

We ate Korean pork BBQ wrapped in lettuce leaves for supper--yummo! 
Miss my man and boys at home.  Abby's allergies are acting up and she doesn't act like she feels all to great.  I'll dope her up tonight after a hot shower.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jetting off

It is 4:15am and we are headed to the airport in a few minutes.  Ouch, my heart hurts leaving this house and my boys!  Yesterday was a rough day for other reasons. And yet, we rejoice...God is Sovereign and on His throne!  He has work and fun for us in Korea.  We are blessed to partake in His ministry.  Pray for my hubby and sons at home.  Pray I don't lose my ever-lovin' mind on the awful plane ride.  This is my 4th time to make this trip and each time I swear I'll never fly that long again.  :)  
I made my 2 little boys a chain of notes.  There are 8 links and each is numbered.  At night, they clip the day off and read mommy's message inside.  Ouch--it hurts to leave those little snuggle bugs.  I know that every where I turn in Korea, I'll see little boys that remind me of them! 

See you all Saturday with post number 1.  Abby will be guest writing about her experiences too.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reminded of why it matters

This video explains why it matters, why it is worth taking 8 days away from my family, why it is worth scrimping and scratching to pay several thousand dollars in 6 months to go fly to Korea and serve people, why it is worth my 12 year old daughter missing 7 days of school so she can be the hands and feet of Jesus and rock homeless babies and play with Korean children living in Evergreen Children's Home, why I'm constantly thinking about homeless children and adoption and how to spur the church to be more involved.  It is a true story of a pastor in Seoul who rescues abandoned newborns.
Life is precious and worthy of our love and effort. God has been working over-time the past week to remind us of his love for the orphan(163 million of them worldwide).  Mike met people involved in a miraculous Russian adoption this week and the video tore him up.  The Dropbox Movie, in the trailer above, nearly killed me.  Knowing there are abandoned infants in Korea, who are not placed in to families like ours--families that would love to call them sons and daughters, but will grow up in an orphanage--devastating!  Then, since we sponsor a child with Compassion, we receive their quarterly magazine.  One of the stories was about a newborn girl found along the roadside in India.  She'd been mauled by a wild animal and lost an eye.  She was covered in ant bites.  A family took her in and cared for her.  Horrifying what people do to babies.  Do we have no regard for life anymore??

So, I'm renewed in my zeal for standing up for children who need an advocate and a momma and daddy! Every life is totally worth it

PS.  My amazing sister, Emily, offered to  make Hudson's foster mother a scrapbook!!!  Thanks Em. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

spinning like a tornado

I'm running around like a crazy woman with my hair on fire!
I leave for Korea 1 week from this morning.  I'm having a last minute garage sale Saturday morning to clear some stuff we've accummulated and because I'm a couple hundred away from the trip being paid for.  Of course, the forecast is calling for rain--every garage sale I've ever had has rained!  I guess I'm a slow learner because every 2 years I attempt another one.  I'm in charge of the Junior breakfast next Wednesday.  I'm in charge of the Heart Gallery display at church for 3 weeks(a photographic emphasis on the children in Texas foster system who are legally cleared for adoption and NEED forever families).  I'm in charge of coordinating an education conference and dinner at work for a group of nurses.  I'm in charge of the class basket auction item in Hudson's class. And, I work tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday.  Oh, I still have no gift whatsoever for Hudson's foster mommy!  YIKES, I feel like I'm drowning.  And yet, I'm blogging....great time management Libby :(
  So anyway, yesterday was awesome.  I had to go to my fav thrift store in the hood and look for dress shoes and a skirt for Korea.  You will not believe my finds! 
Brand new, black seude Cole Haan boots for 12dollars!!  I did the whoopwhoop happy dance and then hid them under a pile of shirts in my basket in case anyone else saw them.  I also got a Liz Claiborne clutch bag for 4.50, Bass flats for 7.00, black dress pumps for 7.00, and 4 shirts--total of 48.00.  Truly, I have a gift.  I'll share my thrift secrets:  never ever take your children, only go when you can peruse through every item, do not be to proud to buy used items-remember you are beating the big business and not aiding companies that use child slavery in sweat shops, don't buy something you really wouldn't wear just because it is a great price.  It still is a waste if you never wear it.  You must be patient and willing to flip through every shirt hanging.  Do you guys know how many Ann Taylor Loft sweaters I saw??  Anyways, I'll take you with me someday.

Then, in the mail was this:
I was afraid the university had changed their mind and not given my degree!!    I'm thrilled to death.  Thank you Mike for insisting I finish what I started in 1991.
Now, off to price items, write out a schedule for the boys while I'm gone, plan a menu, buy groceries, and order pictures of Hudson's last 3 years with our family to take to Korea.  Drat internet, stop distracting me please

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Making ready for the trip

9 days til we leave for our trip to Korea!  I have gathered much of the giftage that needs to be taken.  Koreans love to exchange little gifts when they meet new people.  In honor of their culture, we are to bring lots of little gifts from our home state.  Susie and I shopped at the farmer's market a few days ago and got lots of honey, jellies, and candies made locally.  I bought nice assorted chocolates for the staff of an adoption advocacy group that wants to meet Abby, my mother, and I.  I need a long skirt to wear to the church service and to the 2 meetings with directors of agencies.  The first rule of going on a mission trip is to be flexible!!  Always be prepared to adjust your plans.  My plan is already being adjusted.  We will not be visiting the Welfare Town that I thought we were going to work at.  I'm very sad because there is a home for children with cognitive disabilities.  Clearly, special needs children are dear to our hearts and I so wanted to see them.  But, I've been praying that this would be God's trip and they He would order our steps to do the most good, to bring honor to him, to break our hearts(love that song..."Break our hearts for what breaks yours" do you know that worship song??)  and teach us.  So, I trust that the new schedule will be even better.

Speaking of breaking hearts, the documentary Half The Sky aired on PBS recently.  We recorded it and I am watching it this week.  I read the book last year--heartbreaking and awful. If you are a woman with opportunities and choices--you are so blessed.  Educate yourself of little girls and women sold in the sex trafficking industry.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

ARD meeting

If you aren't involved in the special education world, let me define a few things-
ARD meeting--conference that is required once a year to review your child's progress and need for special education services
IEP--individual education plan
SLP--Speech Language Pathologist

I've heard horror stories of awful ARD meetings, insensitive teachers and principals, deadbeat parents who don't show up for their kid's ARD.  Our ARD meetings for Dillon have never been like that.  Well, actually, we had a frustrating experience when he was 3 and wasn't getting the services he needed.  But, since we've been in the district in which we live now, they've been wonderful.  The teachers are rooting for his success.  The SLP loves him to death.  The Resource room/Content Mastery teacher treats him like her own son and he would rather spend all day in her room than anywhere else.  The principal is a professional who strives to do what is in Dillon's best interest. What a blessing to have good experiences!  There is good news and bad news.  Good news is that he is happy, engaging, shows a penchant for math, likes to participate in class, jokes with his teachers, and has a new friend. Bad news is that he has lost some ground in his speech development.  The good news about the bad news is that we have clearly documented regression in speech.  Sounds like an oxymoron huh?  This regression qualifies him for ESY(extended school year).  He will be able to receive speech 2 times a week in the summer.  He has never gotten this service and so we've had to pay out of pocket for private speech therapy every other summer.  My insurance will only pay for speech therapy if it resulted from traumatic injury, stroke, or acute illness that will improve in 2 months!  Kids born with a language disorder don't qualify-that is so unfair to these kids!!  Private speech is 50.00 for 30 minutes.  Do simple math and realize how quickly that adds up.  So, we are actually thrilled that she has documented regression.  He has also been diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia(on top of some other things).  This disorder is when children know in their mind what they are trying to say, but their brain to mouth pathway is not working correctly.  With this on his file, he should be able to get more help--like an iPad with language apps.  If anyone out there has a child with Apraxia, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

We saw Les Mis!

Mike, Carter and I went to Les Miserables yesterday!!

 Since last March, we have been anticipating seeing the traveling Broadway production.  My sister, Emily, saw it in London when she lived there for a semester in college--almost 20 years ago.  She fell in love with it and spread the intersest.  My parents have seen it a few times.  Mike and I have been listening to the 25th Anniversary Edition on our iPod for several months.  In fact, our children know the words to several of the songs(we are a strange family. We listen to the soundtracks of classic Broadway musicals on roadtrips--Fiddler on the Roof, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera and such). Mike announced to us that if any tragedy struck the actor that plays Jean valjean, he had been practicing and was prepared to jump in to take over :)  Fyi, Mike has a beautiful voice and could probably do a bang up job.
 We made the show a combo birthday gift to ourselves and bought really nice tickets.  It was worth every penny.  We cried, clapped, laughed, and loved the whole show.  If you aren't familiar with the story, it is set in the 1800's in France and is a story about oppression and injustice, orphans and illness,adoption, grace, redemption, legalism, mercy, salvation, second chances, slavery, and honor.  Jean valjean(the hero) is my favorite.  When he sang "Bring Him Home", Mike, Carter, and I were on the edge of our seats about to burst. My sisters, Katy and Melody, and my mother were in the auditorium also.  They all were crying when the show was over and we met up in the foyer.  Melody was so moved by the story that when she was driving out of downtown, she went the wrong way down a one way street!  All this to say, go see it!  PS.  The movie is coming out Christmas Day and stars Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman.  Happy Christmas date to me