Sunday, October 2, 2011

Updates in One Place!

Hi everyone!

Up to this point, I've tried to keep Liam's adoption story and progress on this blog, just so it's all in one place. However, I think it will be easiest for me to document our travel process on my main blog. This way it's all in one place and more people can follow. We haven't received our travel call yet, and tomorrow is a Korean holiday, so the Holt offices will be closed. :*( However, I'm really optimistic that this week will hold good news for us, even if it's just progress in knowing when Liam will appear at the Embassy.

Just wanted to let everyone know to stay tuned over at my main blog, and I look forward to sharing our trip with everyone!

Friday, September 9, 2011

CRAZY

I'll just go ahead and give fair warning now - I'm not sure how much blogging is going to take place in the next few weeks! I still have so much to catch up on with blog posts, but there is just so much that needs to be done. Liam's Visa Physical is September 15th, and we can expect our travel call 3-4 weeks from then. So that puts us in early to mid OCTOBER. AND I AM STARTING TO FREAK OUT. In a great way!!!!

Like I've said before, once we receive our travel call, we are expected to be in Korea as soon as we can. So this is the interim time where I'm trying to get a million things done ahead of time and get as organized as I can until that call comes. This is probably the time in adoption where it's most reminiscent of pregnany - waiting for labor.

Basically, I've been researching over the last few months about what to take, other people's tips, what gifts are recommended for foster families, the Holt staff, our drivers, etc., and I've been making notes along the way. Now I'm compiling all of that research into usable lists. I have a general to-do list of things that need to get done and items I need to buy. Then I have a packing list. There's a great comprehensive list on our agency's message board, and I printed that out. I've been editing it according to our situation, and then I'll re-type a master list to go from. It sounds like a lot, but it's really just putting together a puzzle. Ha!

I've been getting some clothing for Liam on eBay in a variety of sizes for the trip. I'm able to get brands I like for a lot cheaper that way. I don't want to spend a lot of money on items until I know his body type, size, etc. Once we get through the trip, I can focus more on his "for real" wardrobe! And even then, I'll buy it all on eBay because 98% of Evy's clothes are secondhand from eBay! I have onesies and several rompers that have a generous cut. I bought some diapers that should fit him in a couple of different brands to try. The last thing I want on a 14-hour plane ride is a leaky diaper situation! We'll just try several and see what works.

Another thing I'm able to prepare ahead of time are gifts. Like I've said before, it's customary (and we WANT) to give gifts to most of the people involved in this adoption. Our foster family (mother, father, and two adult children), the Holt staff (a smallish group of mostly young women I believe), our drivers for airport transport, our city tour guide, the main Korea office social worker, who matched us with Liam (and who will translate when we meet the foster mother and Liam), the Holt doctor and his nurse, etc. etc. I KNOW. It sounds like a lot, but most of these are just small gifts like Starbucks instant coffee packets, chocolates, small lipglosses, etc. I started collecting these things over the summer, so I'm not too overwhelmed now. The next thing to do is kind of make a mental note of what items are allotted to what people. I'll take gift bags and tissue in our suitcase and package the gifts once we get there.

My mom is coming over next week and we're going to make notes about the gifts, wash Liam's things in Dreft (in case he has sensitive skin), and figure out what I'll need to pack clothing-wise. It will be nice to have help - it's kind of like when my whole family helped get Evy's nursery ready a couple of years ago. :)

ALL THAT TO SAY......there's a lot going on. It's definitely hitting me what's about to happen, and there are a ton of emotions happening right now. Just wanted to post an update, because when I follow other people's adoption journeys, I'm obsessed with all the details. Yall probably aren't, but for my sake, I need to write this down or it will all be a fog later. It's really happening!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

EP APPROVED!!!!!!!

I can't believe I'm writing these words!!! I got the email around 11 this morning that Liam was approved for his EP on September 6th! Literally, I had just finished a photoshoot and I got into my car. I sat there and looked at my emails and as I was scrolling through I saw the name of one of the Korea assistants at our agency. The subject said "EP Approval!!" There are never exclamation marks in the subject of our agency emails, and for some reason that small detail just made the whole thing even better. :)

6 months ago TODAY we saw Liam's face for the first time when we received and accepted his referral! And now here we are at the last major milestone before bringing him home.

There are several things that still need to happen before Liam is totally cleared for travel:

· Travel Certificate- Holt Korea will apply to the Ministry of Foreign affairs for the travel certificate after the EP has been approved.  This typically takes about a week to gain the approval.

· Visa Physical Exam- This is done by an outside Doctor appointed by the US Embassy.  This has to be done after the EP and travel certificate have been issued.  This will take place for Liam on September 15th!

· Class B waiver- This is only needed if the Doctor doing the exam notes something that they want to make sure that the adopting parents are fully aware of.  We don't expect to need a Class B, because Liam is overall very healthy.

· I600- Our I600 has been approved, so I think this is already in place.

· P3- The packet that Holt-Korea submits into the Embassy for the one way travel visa.  This packet contains; I600, I864, birth/marriage/divorce certificates of adoptive parents, 1040, W2, legal document of Liam, vaccination certificate, visa physical examination, medical acceptance letter (if needed), photo of Liam and IR4.  This takes 5-8 business days to be approved, if there are problems with any of the documents it will take longer than 5-8 days to be approved. There's a number I can call (we all call it "DC") to kind of check the progress of our P3, but sometimes their information can be delayed.

· Visa Interview- This is new as of November 2009.  The foster families now have to physically take the children down to the Embassy for a visa interview.  This happens after the paperwork has been submitted into the Embassy. 

· Final steps to prepare for travel- The final steps after the visa has been issued are the pre-flight report given to all families.  This is a one page sheet that has important information such as eating, sleeping and other important things to help with the transition.  Also, depending on when Liam was last seen by Dr. Jeong he might go in for one last visit to make sure he is healthy enough to fly.  Then the staff in Korea will send Holt in the U.S. an e-mail when Liam is fully ready. Holt will then contact your us so we can start making travel plans (that's the infamous "travel call!").

So, as you can see, there are still several steps that need to be completed. However, a pretty good estimate would be that 4-6 weeks from now, we'll be traveling to Korea! To say this is surreal is a HUGE understatement! I feel like my two parallel lives - the one here and the one in Korea - are about to collide. I have a lot of fear and a lot of feelings of being completely overwhelmed, but I think my base emotion is just anticipation. I can't believe that last October we sent our paperwork to Holt, and now here we are almost a year later, about to complete the process. I've imagined how our trip to Korea will go, what it will be like to get off that plane and experience our son's birth country, what will happen when we see Liam for the first time in person and become his parents.

I was telling some friends today that really, my plan is to grab a surf board and just ride this wave. There's no way to fully prepare; there's just no way. It's like I felt when I was pregnant with Evy - you're never FULLY ready! Also, I don't want to compare Evy's birth experience with Liam's Family Day experience. It's not going to be the same, and I'm preparing my heart for that.

Obviously, there's a lot going through my mind and Kurt and I are just so beyond thankful to have gotten one of the last EP's from Korea this year. We are PRAYING that another group was able to be submitted (now that ours has been approved). We don't take for granted that we had a relatively easy road compared to others, and we humbly give God the glory for this process. These next few weeks will be a whirlwind, and we covet your prayers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Visa Physical Scheduled!!!

I got the email a little bit ago that Liam's Visa Physical is scheduled for September 15th!!! That means that he will be checked by a government-approved doctor who will clear him for travel (meaning he's physically okay to leave). He still needs his Visa and we're still waiting on his EP (Emigration Permit) approval, but this is a step that can be done early!

The best part of the email was when it recommended that we familiarize ourselves with our travel guidebook, start getting our gifts and luggage together, making copies of passports, and decide which hotel we want to stay in! It makes it seem so real!

While this doesn't mean we're going to be traveling, say, next week. . .it does mean that this is really happening and I think early October is a very safe estimate. I just can't believe it! I am so happy that good news has arrived for us so early in September. The next big prayer request is about his EP being approved, which should be soon (we hope!).

Picturing little Liam being taken by his foster mother to get his Physical is so exciting to think about, but it's also sad. She knows that her time is coming to a close with him, and that has to be so difficult. She might be the type of person who can "separate" herself from the realities of being a foster parent, but from the reports we've gotten, she and Liam seem to be really close. Please pray for her and the rest of the family as they say goodbye to this adorable, precious little boy that will be our son.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Relief, a Conference and First Birthday Care Package

Hi everyone!

Well, thankfully I have happy news after my (kind of) scary previous post! I heard back from the director of our Korea program, and she reassured me that once a family has been submitted for EP, they've never seen them not travel that year to get their child. She said that we shouldn't be affected by the Korean-American priority, since we have already been submitted. Thank goodness!!! Even though I was hoping for the best and really knew our agency would keep us informed, there was just that little bit of doubt that something could happen to completely derail the adoption. It sounds really irrational and dumb, but at this stage a lot of emotions take over and you're still paranoid you'll never see your baby!

Last night I was thrilled to register for the Created for Care conference, which will be held in Atlanta in late January! I blogged about it here if you want to hear more about it. This will be an awesome time of connecting with other adoptive mommies, learning about topics we're all interested in, and just recharging my batteries. I CAN'T WAIT!!

I am in the process of catching up on editing, uploading, and blogging all of my pictures from this summer. It just completely got away from me, and I wasn't able to keep up with the task! I wanted to share a picture of the care package I sent for Liam for his first birthday on July 1st! I was so happy to send this to him, knowing it was going to our sweet little one-year-old boy.


I included several "birthday" outfits, a few fun new toys, and the recordable bear from Hallmark that I blogged about recently. I also added in some Gerber treats to eat and of course a letter!

I am so thankful that it is SEPTEMBER and that we're hopefully so close to getting approved for Liam's EP! Wow, I have imagined these next couple of months a million times in my head. I know it could all change at any moment (I've watched it happen countless times), but we are trusting in God's perfect timing for our son to come home. To say the Lord has been faithful is such an understatement! He is so gracious and His mercies really are new every morning!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The EP Roller Coaster Continues

As I've written before, we were submitted for EP on August 8th, and we've been tenatively expecting to get approved hopefully sometime in September. Well, this blog post started quickly circulating the Korean adoption circles this weekend, and needless to say, things are very emotional right now. Apparently, the Korean governement now wants to give Korean-American couples higher priority in the EP process. Their thinking is that children who are in these families will have an easier adjustment/culture shift, and it's more similar to domestic adoption.

I very much understand their thinking on this. However, I am praying they can come up with a way to have a "heritage program" without other families suffering. They're saying this priority will go into affect immediately. We are unsure of what this means for us at this time, but since we are RIGHT in the middle of the EP situation, my stomach is absolutely in knots and my nerves are about shot. I do not want to over-dramatize this or make huge, blanket statements, but it's a very scary thing to read that you are being placed on lower priority.

It is my understanding that EP groups have always been approved as a group. Meaning, all children in an EP batch are approved together. I'm praying that since we've already been submitted to the government, that we will get an EP this year. However, my best guess is this: I think that the government will look at the files that have been submitted and process the children who will have Korean-American parents first. They will get the first Physicals, Interviews, etc. I really think it just means that those babies will go first, and then the rest of the babies will follow. I could be completely wrong, though!

All in all, I still have a good feeling that we will travel this year. But there's also a chance I could be very, very wrong. It's so difficult because I've allowed myself to buy some outfits for Liam that he could wear this fall/winter. I've also been getting into gear for a fall trip, even though THAT was even unsure. Now it's REALLY up in the air.

I sent an email to the director of our Korea program tonight because it's the only thing (tangibly) that I can do. I need to be honest - I'm very scared right now and struggling with this news. I want to say that I'm not phased by the ups and downs of this journey, and I really think up to this point I've done okay. But to be this close.......

I am truly asking for your prayers, that God's Will will be done and that we have a peace that passes all understanding, regardless of the outcome of this decision by the government. I will keep updating as I know more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting in the Zone!

We're still waiting around here! Nothing is new as far as Liam's case goes. I did call "DC", which is where you can check on the status of a child's Visa Appearance, Physical, etc. I called several days after Liam was submitted for his EP, just to see what they would say. I wasn't even sure what to ask! The operator said that they're still waiting for Liam's P3, which is basically a packet of information that goes between the Embassy and the Holt Korea offices (I still get confused about the order of that whole process). Basically, nothing can really move forward until he is approved for his Emigration Permit. Lately though, a lot of Holt babies have been getting their Visa Physicals BEFORE they are approved, simply because it just saves time. There has been such a long wait for babies to get their EP's, they've just allowed them to go ahead and do a few steps ahead of time. So there's a good chance that will happen for Liam. All that means is that once he is approved for his EP, that's one thing that's already done!

A lot of people are predicting that the Korean government will go back to approving EP's every month, like they were doing before the 2-month break. If this is true, that means that we should be approved sometime in September, and that would logically mean we would travel in October!! Again, I'm afraid to even type that because I feel like it's still a huge unknown, but that's still my best educated guess.

Kurt and I have a couple of things planned in September to spend some quality time together before we add Baby #2! We got tickets to see Les Miserables, one of my VERY FAVORITE shows, when the tour comes to Memphis. I am beyond thrilled. Kurt hasn't seen it, but he's heard me playing the music over and over, and he says that if the music is that good, he wants to see the whole show! I've seen Les Mis probably 5-6 times? I can't wait! We're also taking a short weekend trip to Branson, Missouri at the end of September. It's an easy drive, a low-key location, and not expensive. We're seeing a couple of shows and we're going to just enjoy the slow pace. I love Branson! I grew up going with my whole family every November. We would see the Christmas shows and I am SO nostalgic about it! I'm an 80-year-old trapped in a 26-year-old body, and I am not ashamed at all! We took a "Babymoon" when I was pregnant with Evy, and so these will be some special things to spend time together before our family grows again.

As far as getting ready for THE TRIP (to Korea!), I've kind of been slowly getting into gear. I definitely don't want to be a naive "eager beaver" and pack a million weeks early (ha!), but I definitely think there are things I can be doing to make everything go a little easier. I downloaded Skype on our laptop, which is what we'll use to call home. I've started taking stock of what I've bought for Liam, and setting aside the things that I will take for him. I'm taking notes of what we want to try and do in Korea and what other adoptive moms have recommended. Slowly but surely I'm preparing!

Please keep us and Liam in your prayers as we prepare for this huge life change. I'm still thrilled and terrified at the same time - ha! So much is going on, and I'm trying to just take one day at a time. We're getting close!

What Time is it in Korea?