Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy 4th Gotcha Day, Benny!

"Benny's First Nap With Us"

I first held Benny on October 22, 2005 and I remember it like it was yesterday. He had big, beautiful almond-shaped eyes, resting below huge and curling eyelashes… the kind of lashes women pay big bucks for. His skin was soft and flawless, like he had been bathed in expensive creams. .He was easy going, with a killer smile and sticky-up hair. I was smitten.

Alot has changed in our family throughout in these 4 years. Benny's hair isn't so sticky-up, sometimes that killer smile is replaced with a mischievous grin, but I would not change one thing. We've been blessed to add 2 more Gotcha Days to our family calendar... I'm still smitten.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rombach Farms

Last Saturday was a bit chilly, but we braved the elements and made our annual trek to the Pumpkin Patch. Benny had been sounding off all week about getting a pumpkin for Halloween. He wanted to search the field over, pick out the best one, then cart it home to carve a mean face in it. That's my boy!

We pulled into Rombach Farms and I instantly sensed trouble... a new mascot. Benny has always hated big people in costumes. It borders on the obsessive, even though I tell him it's just a guy in a costume, getting paid $10/hour! Please allow me to name a few "offenders" from his past:
1. Fredbird (STL Cardinals mascot). This will not bode well as he gets older.
2. The Pioneer Guy (Kirkwood High School mascot).
3. The Easter Bunny. He insisted the bunny leave all candy at the front door.
4. Santa Clause.
5. Clowns in general.
6. The "Eat Mor Chikin" cow from Chic-Fil-A.
7. Ronald McDonald.
and now
8. The Red Robin bird guy, courtesy of Rombach Farms.

If that's the worst of his fears, he'll do alright. It'll just drive his family nuts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Week With Delaney

So far the kids are getting along quite well. Benny is his usual self and loves his new sister. He hugs her...she cries. Wait another hour then repeat the same process. Everlie has taken to Delaney as well. She loves her space and individuality, but I think she's a bit put out from having to share the same room. Everlie is such a chatter, she cannot be quiet at naptime and bedtime. As for Delaney. She has had a great attitude, aside from being a bit sick with some congestion and possibly an ear infection. We find out tomorrow about that.

The last picture is of Delaney playing with her sweet friend Lydia Lee.

It's busy around here. It's messy around here. It is wonderful around here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There is a beautiful stream meandering through downtown Seoul. It flows under a 500 year-old bridge, and keeps going (probably) to the Han River. It was designed with beautiful walkways to make it a peaceful and serene setting, within a bustling city. It was freezing cold and grayish, compared to this same pathway in February, 2008. This time was different. It was warm outside with beautiful colors all over the place. I was holding hands with Geri, and we were visiting with other families that were in town picking up their little ones from Holt. I smile thinking about it. Really.

I took this picture on our walk. This man was walking slowly and seemed to be deep in thought. I doubt he noticed the colors or the gentle breeze we felt. Same beautiful stream, same time... yet different experiences. Inasmuch as the stream was different last week from the cold February morning in 2008, my world today is different than 4 years ago. it was just me and Geri. We had yet to pick up Benny. Going out to dinner was easy. Going to a movie was easy. I owned a business and Geri was learning a new job.

Today is a radically different picture.

We have 3 beautiful kids in the house, I just sold my business and G has experienced a change in her career. Today is one of those days I feel like this guy looks. Walking around with my head down, absorbed in thoughts... however, I am aware of the surrounding beauty. It's an uncomfortable feeling, though... not having a business anymore, and being unsure of what's next. So here I sit with my head down in scramble mode, trying to think of what's next. Any ideas? I ultimately see myself supporting our family as an author, writing about someone's personal experiences...drawn from deep conversations and interviews (ie: Aimee Molloly, Jon Krakauer, Stephen Ambrose to name a few of my favorites). I'll get to that place, Lord willing.

...and so it goes in our house. As if on cue, the girls are now awake and crying. Everlie for her Mama and Delaney because of Everlie's shrill. Have I ever mentioned Everlie can be loud? Time to pull my head up and look at the beautiful colors in our home....even though it's significantly louder than the quiet brook in Seoul.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Picking Up Delaney

This trip was special on many levels. Geri was able to see Korea and experience the culture (which she loved), we were able to pick up our daughter together, and we met quite a few great families. It was sweet to reconnect with Everlie's foster parents. We arranged to have lunch with them on Wednesday. Mr Shin and his wife still love Everlie. They came bearing a beautiful traditional Korean dress for her. Not only did the Shin family have lunch with us, Delaney's foster Mother/daughter came as well. We didn't talk much, but it will forever be a highlight in my life. I really appreciate Mr Shin beating me to the check, but really wanted to pay as a gesture of thanks. One of these pictures shows Mr Shin and his wife chuckling as they are watching a video of Everlie.

When we finally got Everlie on the 7th, there were tears aplenty. Her foster mother has taken care of 15 children over the years (and she is quite young). Her tears (like her daughters) revealed a truth that turning over a child you have cared for doesn't get any easier. Mrs Go was determined to not cry in front of her when I took Everlie in 2008, but the emotions were the same. We all cried as I turned and walked to the hotel elevator. I know Everlie grieved for awhile and I'm sure Delaney is experiencing the same loss. Did I ever mention that Foster Parents have my utmost respect? Hard to compare,

I have quite a few more pictures on Facebook. If you are interested and are on Facebook, respond to this post and I'll try and send you a friend request.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Welcome Home Delaney

We are now home after making the trek to Seoul to pick up Delaney. I have to give 3 cheers to Geri for braving the long flight from Chicago to Seoul and back. We have flown with several airlines over the years, but none compares to Korean Air. From the check in counter to the flight attendants, it's like stepping back in time to the "Glory Days" of flying. Maybe it's a Korean thing (which I deeply suspect), but it is refreshing to always be greeted with a warm, genuine smile. This is backed up with courtesy and service to a higher degree than normal. If you live in a hub city such as Chicago and want to see what I'm talking about, fly Korean Air to LA or another domestic destination. You will not be disappointed.

We landed at the Incheon airport Sunday afternoon and took the Holt shuttle to the Lotte Hotel, located in the financial district. All the while, Geri was soaking in actually seeing the country she was born in. The abundance of high rise buildings is almost staggering. You can tell this is a densely populated area, but wouldn't know if just driving the hour or so it takes to get to Seoul. The traffic is orderly and the countryside is free of litter and urban decay. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with warm Korean smiles, and were amazed at how beautifully appointed it is. Even the elevator doors were artfully adorned in an Asian theme. There are even place fresh roses in permanent vases in every elevator. Once again, the surrounding don't compare to the service and genuine smiles.

Monday through Thursday seemed like a whirlwind. We started off by exploring the surrounding areas from the hotel. We marveled at the architecture; a perfect blend of new and traditional styles. We wandered through small alleys, visiting various shops and trying different snacks and foods. Of course we went to Starbucks for coffee. I'm not much of a souvenir guy, but prefer a Starbucks mug from the particular city we are in. The best event on Monday was to meet Delaney on the 4th floor of the Holt building. We had a chance to visit with her foster Mother and daughter. They were amazing. I believe Everlie was her 15th child she's taken care of. She had a vivacious smile and a youthful bounce in her step. Her daughter is a beautiful 20 year-old, just starting to attend art school. Her talents were evident, as they worked hard at creating very detailed scrapbooks of Delaney's life to this point. These books were illustrated with drawings and filled with dates of her milestones. We now know what day she first rolled over, etc... Ms Lee (our Holt caseworker) was so amazed, she showed these books off to coworkers. After our initial meeting, we took a taxi to a Korean restaurant. It was funny, because there was more body language going on, than actual language. It didn't matter. It was about Delaney at this point. Delaney was surrounded by 4 people who love her.

On Tuesday we took a city tour that was provided through Holt. Among other places, we visited a few historic areas and even saw an ancient tradition of the changing of the guards being reenacted by "parttime actors and military men", as described by our laughing tour guide. We spent this time with 3 other couples there to pick up their babies. One from New Hampshire, a wonderful Pakistani family from Norway (2nd generation Norwegians), and a couple from Luxembourg. Quite the international crowd. A funny moment was when Geri asked the couple from Luxembourg if they were "Getting a Korean baby" (at this point, I tried to not laugh). The wife looked at her in a puzzled way and said in an affirmative tone, "are there children from other countries here?". They just laughed. The tour concluded at a great little restaurant in the Insadong area. If you go to Seoul, Insadong is a must. It is a place with great little shops and restaurants. My favorite place was a tea shop ran by a young lady. We walked in as she was making tea for some older clients. She invited us in and insisted that she pour us a cup. Trust me...this was a smart business decision on her part! Geri had a hayday. It's funny, because the young lady wasn't trying to get a sale, she was genuinely gracious. Her enthusiasm for tea and it's history and information was awesome. This was one of the best shopping experiences I have ever had. She was passionate. My equivalent of going to a mountaineering store ran by a bunch of die-hards.

That evening, Geri held to her word. She warned me that she would shop like crazy in Seoul. She was not lying. At one point, I fell asleep in a sitting area at one of the malls. It was 9pm (11am STL time). We finally hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel an hour later to crash. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Wednesday was a highly special day. More about that later... it's 11pm and Delaney is crying. Duty calls.