Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paperwork and Training

At this stage in the adoption process, we're heavily involved in completing all of our paperwork along with completing a variety of adoption and parenting training. At times it seems a little overwhelming but we know that all the effort is worth it.

On Friday (Nov 14th) we travelled to the adoption agency to take our first of two all-day classes on adoption. The second class will be this Tuesday (Nov 18th). The first class had a mix of people that are adopting both domestically and internationally. It was a pretty large group of six couples. Two couples were adopting domestically, one couple was adopting from China, and the other three couples (us included) are adopting from Korea. For all couples, this is their first time adopting. It was really great to meet so many people that are going through what we are. Two of the couples are already birth parents but it sounds like just about everybody has struggled with infertility like we have. There were some sad stories to tell and quite a few tears were shed, but we all share an enthusiasm for what is to come as we adopt children from various parts of the world.

The overall theme for the day was "identity". There are many things that play a role in a person's identify. We started by discussing the differences between nature and nurture...and how this shapes our development. An adopted child often lacks information about the "nature" side of their life. Because they are not raised by their birthparents, they often don't learn about their family or cultural history. For adoptees, it's important for them to learn their life story so that they can better understand their "natural" roots. You may have heard the saying that "you need to know where you've been to know where you're going". This is the same thought behind an adoptee knowing their life story. Part of our role as adoptive parents will be to help our child understand his life story and explain it to him which is why we're learning about the Korean culture. It's important to us because we know it will be important to him.

The next topic we discussed was the difference between the perception of birthparents that make an adoption plan and the reality. Some of the typical stereotypes are that the birthparents are poor, young, irresponsible, and selfish. In reality, birthparents consist of people at various income levels, have an average age in the mid 20's, and usually decide to make an adoption plan for the welfare of their child (which is an extremely unselfish act). Our adoption agency deals with both birthparents and adoptive parents. They see both sides. One reason that we really like the people in the agency is that we know they have a genuine concern for everybody. There are many people that are affected by adoption. The birthparents, children, adoptive parents, family, and friends...all are affected. Even though we will be extremely happy when we finally have our child in our arms, I know that we will also feel a deep sense of sadness knowing that our child will probably never know his birth parents.

In our training, we also talked about positive adoption language. The goal with positive adoption language is to give the maximum respect, dignity, responsibility, and objectivity about the decisions made by both birthparents and adoptive parents in discussing the family planning decisions they have made for children who have been adopted. We feel that one of our roles as adoptive parents is to help educate people on adoption. One aspect of that education is how we talk about adoption. For example, one of the most common things people say when referring to birthparents is to call them the child's "real parents". In reality, the "real parents" are the ones that raised the child. They are the ones that comforted him when he was sad and laughed with him when he was happy. Adoptive parents are no less "real" than any other parents. It doesn't matter if we are the birthparents of our child or not...we know that we will be his real parents.

"Real parents" is just one example...there are many other examples of positive adoption language. Here's a good link that shows both the negative phrase and a more positive phrase that should be used instead:

We finished up the day talking about the differences (and similarities) between being a birthparent and an adoptive parent. In addition, we watched a video that talked about adoption from the view of the adoptive parent as well as the adopted child.

It was a long day of training but if flew by very quickly. We left feeling reenergized and motivated to keep working on our paperwork. We know we still have a long ways to go and a lot to learn along the way, but we're as excited as ever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wedding Anniversary with a Korean Twist - Part II

After our anniversary dinner at the Korean restaurant, we went to the 3rd annual Korean-American cultural arts festival held at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA). The theme of the event this year was the celebration of the 630th birthday of Nangye Park Yeon, one of the most famous musicians in Korean history.

As we pulled up to the cultural arts center, the first thing we noticed was that there was a very high percentage (probably at least 90%) of Asian people in attendance. We thought there would be many Korean Americans, but thought that there would be a broader mix of different racial and ethnic backgrounds that were interested in experiencing a piece of Korean culture. We could tell that the cultural festival was an important way for the Korean Americans to keep in touch with their cultural history. When we entered the main lobby, we noticed that there were several art exhibits setup. All of the artists are from the local area. There was a paper artist, calligrapher, florist, and painter. All of the art was very nice with the floral arrangements and paper art particularly beautiful.

The performances for the festival were all musical. The first half was all traditional Korean music. The first performance was music that was performed during royal ceremonies. There was a mix of wind instruments (bamboo flutes and oboes), fiddles, and drums. All of the instruments were Korean...they are nothing like the western instruments that we're used to seeing. In addition, the sounds are very unique. At first they sounded very strange to us, but as the music continued we started to get a feel for it and began to enjoy it more. During the first performance, there was also a royal court fashion show. Men and women walked slowly onto the stage wearing outfits that you would have seen in Korean royal courts throughout the years.

The second performance was a dance called Salpuri which means to exorcise evil energies. The woman danced slowly while holding a silken scarf. The music was slow and the scarf movements were in coordination with minute foot movements. The first half of the concert ended with 3 more performances. Most of the music was played with a slower, almost reverent pace. The melodies seemed to repeat quite a bit (probably because I have an untrained ear and didn't notice the differences).

After a 20 minute intermission, the second half kicked off with a speech by the master of ceremonies. He started in English than spoke for several minutes in Korean (we're not sure what he said). When he started speaking in English again, he began talking about the history of Korea and how it changed with the occupation by Japan in the early 1900s. As he talked more and more about the last 100 years, he started lecturing the audience on taking accountability and influencing our children. The audience began to get a little restless, I'm assuming that they didn't enjoyed being lectured to.

The whole second half was performed by a Korean traditional orchestra. The setup was like a traditional orchestra that you would experience in western civilization, but consisted of Korean or other eastern instruments. Most of the music was more upbeat than the first half of music. Once piece of music featured solos of almost every instrument, so we got to hear what each one sounded like by itself. The last performance was our favorite. The piece was called Chukjae which is a recreational festival. The orchestra was joined by a saxophonist. The upbeat music featured many saxophone solos that were countered with percussion solos. It was as if the percussion instruments were dueling with the saxophone. The audience thoroughly enjoyed it...enough for an encore performance.

We really enjoyed our day experiencing a little bit of the Korean culture. We know that our child will be raised as an American, but we want to make sure that he understands his proud Korean heritage. We can't wait to share these experiences with him as he grows and explores both his American heritage and his Korean heritage.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wedding Anniversary with a Korean Twist - Part I

Yesterday (12 Oct 2008) was our 17th anniversary. We decided to spend our afternoon and evening by getting to know a little bit more about the Korean culture.

We started by going to a Korean restaurant for an early supper. We've been to a couple different Korean restaurants, but wanted to try a different one to see how it was. After some online research, we settled on trying Yechon in Annandale, VA. The restaurant is located in an area with a heavy Korean population. The first thing we noticed as we pulled up was that the restaurant didn't look like much...more like a soutwestern steak restaurant. Looks were deceiving because inside it was nicely decorated with various Korean art. After browsing through the menu, we decided to order one of their house specials for two. We chose the Korean barbecue.

Most Korean meals start when they bring out a wide variety of different cold vegetable dishes that everybody at the table shares. We had at least 6 different kinds of vegetables. The Korean vegetable dish that most people have heard of is Kimchi (also spelled Kimchee or Gimchi). Kimchi is made by taking vegetables, adding spices, putting them in a pot, and burying them in the ground so that they can ferment. The most common kind is a cabbage kimchi. Our vegetable dishes included a cabbage kimchi that was moderately spicy. There were also vegetable dishes with cucumbers and eggplant, to name a few. I normally don't like eggplant, but I did like the eggplant dish that they brought. All of the vegetable dishes were very good (and that's coming from a guy that isn't a big fan of vegetables).

Once we got our vegetable dishes, the waitress brought the meat for our barbecue. A traditional Korean barbecue is done right at your table. There is a grill built into the table. The meat is brought to your table and either you can cook it yourself or the waitress will do it for you. Since we got one of the house specials, we were given a variety of meats. We had bulgogi (thinly sliced beef), galbi (short ribs), chicken, pork, shrimp, and lobster. All were very good. We also had a spicy soup (bean paste pot stew) that had bean and tofu, along with a rice dish called kamasot bob.

All in all, it was an excellent meal that we really enjoyed. It was a great primer for the rest of our evening...but I'll save that story for the next blog entry. :-)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getting the Adoption Ball Rolling

Yesterday (7 Oct 2008) was a big day for us in our adoption journey...we had our first meeting with our social worker. We are working with Catholic Charities in Baltimore, MD. Our social worker has many years of experience helping families with adoption and also is uniquely qualified since she is a parent of six children adopted internationally.

Our day started bright and early since we had to drive to Baltimore from Southern Maryland (in rush hour traffic). All was well until we got close to Baltimore where we met up with some heavy traffic and a broken down vehicle. We ended up arriving a little late to our appointment. For our first session with our social worker, we started by going over our autobiographies. Before scheduling our meeting, we each had to each write a 7-10 page autobiography. Prior to our arrival, our social worker had reviewed them and had some additional questions. After discussing our autobiographies, we were separated so that one-on-one interviews could be conducted. While one of us was being interviewed, the other filled out a questionnaire that dealt with our parenting style. The questions dealt with topics such as discipline, potty training, and our expectations of childhood behavior. We also had to complete an alcoholism screening.

Once we finished the interview portion, we were given some more information on what to expect in the adoption process. The adoption process is different depending on whether it is domestic or international. On top of that, all international adoptions have different requirements. We have chosen to adopt a child from Korea...South Korea to be more specific. The primary reasons we chose to adopt from Korea is that the children are all taken care of by foster parents (they're not placed in an orphanage), all children get excellent medical care, you have a full medical history of the children, and the children can be adopted at a relatively young age (8-10 months old). We found out that it's almost guaranteed that we will adopt a boy (you can't chose whether it's a boy or girl). If you already have a boy, you are allowed to request a girl for your second adoption.

As you can expect, the adoption process is very lengthy. Here's what we can expect:
  1. Home Study: Approximately 3 months of paperwork (background investigations, medical exams, financial review, reference letters, home inpsections, parenting training, etc.)
  2. Paperwork Processing by Korea: Approximately 13-15 months of sitting and waiting.
  3. Referral: Once the paperwork is processed by Korea, we will get a referral with information (including photos) about the baby that we will be adopting.
  4. Travel: Approximately 3 months after referral we will travel to pick up our child. For Korean adoptions, you can either have the baby escorted to the US or go pickup the child in Korea. We have decided to travel to Korea so that we can learn a little about the culture and also so that we can meet the foster parents.

So right now, the process is expected to take close to 2 years. Yes, that's a very long time. Right now, everything is in our hands. We have lots of paperwork to complete. The quicker we get it done...the quicker we move on to the next phase of our adoption journey.

We ended up our day by getting fingerprinted by the state of Maryland (we'll also need a second set of fingerprints from Citizenship and Imigration Services (CIS), formally called INS). The nearest location was about 15 miles away from the adoption agency. Since it was lunch time, we stopped for a bite to eat at Applebees, hoping to avoid the lunch rush at the fingerprint location. Unfortunately, it's always busy there. When we arrived, there was a line of about 10 people plus another 10 or more in the waiting area. Thankfully, it didn't end up taking as long as we thought. Within about 10 minutes, we were called in. We expected to do the old style ink fingerprinting, but everything is computerized now. Our fingerprints were scanned within a couple of minutes and we were done.

It was a very eventful day. We got lots of excellent information and are very excited to push forward with the adoption. We've also got some special adopotion related plans for this coming weekend (which coincides with our anniversary), but I'll save that for another post.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First Post

This is the first post in our blog that will detail the life and times of two Mainers now living in Maryland. Our intent is to provide everybody with information about the latest happenings in our lives. We often forget what stories we've shared with our family and friends, so this will give everybody an opportunity to keep up with the adventures of two Mainers living in the south.

The majority of our blog will focus on the adoption of our first child. There are many reasons why we want to share this information in a blog:
  1. We know that we have a long journey ahead of us. There will be many good times, and probably just as many trials and tribulations. We want to make sure we remember it all.
  2. This blog will be an online diary that we plan on sharing with our child when he or she is old enough to understand.
  3. We are very excited and want to share our experiences with our family and friends. This is your chance to join us in our journey of adoption.

There are already many topics for us to write about, but I'll save them for another post.

Welcome to our blog.