Time Zone Adjustment

We arrived home with our baby girl one week ago today. And Sarah seems to be making the transition to the Eastern Time Zone pretty quickly!

Overall, it’s been a pretty smooth transition. But we expect one of the biggest challenges ahead to be related to Sarah’s sleep (as it was for Ethan). In addition to being held a lot, both Ethan and Sarah were accustomed sleeping next to the foster mothers on the floor at night.

While it was a challenge, Ethan made the transition to sleeping in his own crib and developing healthy/strong sleeping habits. In fact, we have rarely had to get up for Ethan during the night in the nearly 21 months we’ve had him after about the first week and a half. We hope Sarah will this transition, too, but I have a hunch that it will be a bigger challenge for her!

Sarah is sleeping in her crib after she falls asleep in our arms. It doesn’t always go smoothly. For example, tonight, Sarah really fought being in the crib (and it happened to be *my* turn to take her up!). She usually does better at night than at nap times, but tonight, it took about a half hour, and a couple attempts of putting her in the crib (after she had already fallen asleep both times), interspersed with heavy crying, before she finally stayed asleep!

But, thankfully, Sarah has been sleeping through the night fairly well for the last few nights, going to bed during the evening and getting up for a bottle early in the morning (about 5:40 a.m. this morning, after going to bed at 7:30 p.m. last night), then sleeping another hour or so. We’ll she how she does tonight, after finally going to sleep around 8:30 p.m. (Edited to say: Sarah slept 11.5 solid hours overnight, so we’re very pleased!). This is, of course, another fluid situation.

Other potential challenges for Korean adoptees tend to be (1) car seats and (2) baby formula. The little Sarah has been in a car seat, she’s handled it well. We also brought two cans of baby formula powder home with us. We went through the first one, then started mixing the second one, half and half, with formula bought locally (as we did with Ethan). That seems to be going well, too.

So, as I said, while there are, and will be, challenges, overall, the transition has been a good one and things are going very well.

For now, though, I just hope that Sarah (and Ethan, for that matter) cooperates with the end of daylight saving time and we can actually get our extra hour of sleep tonight! πŸ™‚

Halloween 2009

It’s been a fun week with Sarah in our family, albeit it challenging one (due to cultural, sibling, time zone adjustments). Our first week together at home included Halloween.

One of Joleen’s concerns as October neared was that we might miss Ethan’s first experience of trick-or-treating. Ethan was with us last year for Halloween 2008, but we did not venture out of the house.

As it turns out, we got home four days before trick-or-treating was observed here in Clearfield, PA, so we were here for Ethan’s first time out. And because we have Sarah now, she got to join in the festivities as well, though she stayed at home with Grammy.

One note about Thomas the Train — Thomas & Friends is *huge* in Korea. It seems everywhere we went, there were Thomas & Friends products. We brought home a sweatshirt (with Thomas, Percy, and James trains) for Ethan as well as training chopsticks (with Percy on them).

Well, I used to think it was challenging enough to get one child to look at the camera and smile at the same time. Now, it’s even more challenging to get two kids to look and smile, all at the same time! πŸ™‚

The Joy and Grief of Growing a Family

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the effects of growing our family from three to four. Bringing home a child is a tremendous joy, of course, but because it also brings change, there is always some loss which results in grief.

It’s sorta strange to use the word “grief” to talk about the joy of growing a family. But, again, grief is experienced whenever there is a loss, and a loss is experienced whenever there is change. And adding a new baby into a family is a major change!

For the three of us, one loss is time devoted to just the three of us. This is especially noticeable to Ethan, of course, who for the last 20 months has had us all to himself.

Elisabeth KΓΌbler-Ross, in her classic book, On Death and Dying, outlines five stages of dealing with grief and loss. Of course, everyone goes through the stages in different ways and may even bounce back and forth between different stages before reaching the final stage of acceptance. But we can see examples of Ethan experiencing the first four stages, so far.

Denial
While we’re pretty sure Ethan knew that the pictures of Sarah were his baby sister’s, he would often say “Ethan” when asked who’s in the picture. Sometimes he would acknowledge that he was getting a sister, other times, he wouldn’t. Once, shortly before we went to Korea, I asked him if he was going to play with his sister. He said, “No!”

Anger
Ethan’s been in the anger stage most of the time since we’ve been home. On Sunday, he refused to be in a photo with me and Sarah. Last night, before trick-or-treating, he refused to be in a photo with Mommy and Sarah. In the last week, we pulled toys or books away from Sarah and has thrown a couple toys. That’s unusual for Ethan. This is the stage we’re most concerned about because it’s the area that is so unlike Ethan.

Bargaining
This is the toughest stage to see, but I think some of Ethan’s regression (e.g., drinking a lot of extra milk and less solid food, wanting to be carried more, etc.) are ways of saying, “If I do this, you’ll do that.”

Depression
We think Ethan hit the depression stage this morning (unless he was fighting off whatever virus I had a couple days ago). But it was especially noticeable because Ethan is *never* depressed or down! Ethan is usually happy when he gets up but this morning, but when he got up this morning, he came down stairs and laid down on the floor with his head buried in his blanket among the rest of us (Sarah got up at 6:00 p.m.). When I asked him if he was sad, he said, “Yeah.” But it looks like it was pretty short-lived. We did have a good evening, carving a pumpkin, baking cookies, and even Ethan’s bath time was as cooperative as possible. We’re hoping the final stage in this process is just around the corner.

Acceptance
Well, this is the stage we’re waiting for! πŸ™‚

I think these stages are important not only for our fluid situation, but for any family and/or church/organizational situation involving change. Perhaps you can see examples of these stages in your home as you’ve experienced various changes over the years (and we all are *always* experiencing change!).

Of course, the joys of growing a family far outweigh the grief experienced in the process. But the joys become more obvious when all the family members experience acceptance.

Photos from Korea

During our few days in Korea last week, we took well over 100 photos. Below are 18 of them. For more, see the the photos we posted from our recent trips to Korea (2008 and 2009).

Since we had taken photos during our first trip, we tried to take different photos this time around, including some of the Western/American restaurants, though there were many we didn’t get, like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, which seem to be thriving there.

Four of the photos were taken at O’Sulloc Tea House, a place which features a number of different tea-related products. I drink a lot of (cold) green tea so I enjoyed trying a few different things there, like the Happy Tropical Dream green tea, green tea ice cream, and we ordered green tea tiramisu to-go, and brought home a small box of green tea chocolates (which we have tried yet).

Pray for Ethan and Sarah

This is a post I was hoping *not* to repeat! Twenty-four hours after we got home with Ethan in February 2008, Joleen and I got the flu (in my case, it was the worst that I remember having). We wrote, Pray for Ethan, with the hopes that he wouldn’t get sick. And he didn’t.

Yesterday, less than 72 hours after getting home from Korea, I had what seemed to be the flu. It was pretty mild, but I was out of commission last evening, and I’ve just been weak overnight and this morning. So far, no one else in the house has gotten sick, and we’re hoping it stays that way.

Speaking of the flu, it was interesting to travel in the wake of the H1N1 pandemic and to hear the H1N1-related announcements on the airplane as we prepared to land in Seoul and in D.C. Korea took the extra step of handing everyone who was entering the country a small packet of anti-bacterial hand wipes and a card with info about the H1N1 virus.

Anyway, I’m not sure what it is about that trip that does this to me! πŸ™‚

We’re just hoping and praying that the rest of the family is spared!

Fluid Situation

My favorite posts to write are the ones that almost write themselves. They’re fairly short and to-the-point and they come together quickly (in fact, my favorite posts on the blog are 1,000 Words and Introducing … Sarah!, neither of which include any words, only a single photo each).

This is not one of those posts. I’ve been working on this one for about two days (during the kids’ nap times, etc.). The first version of this post was going to be, “Ethan Might Like Being a Big Brother.” A second version was going to be, “Turbulence,” but the reality is, it’s a fluid situation. It keeps changing. So far, Sarah seems to be handling the transition fairly, though there *will* be some transitional issues for her (mostly related to sleep, probably). But she’s been mostly content and pleasant.

Ethan has struggled, though. We knew this would be a challenge for Ethan. We also know that time will help all of us, including Ethan, who is resilient and adaptable, having gone through his own huge transition with us 20 months ago. So we’re not worried, but this is where we are.

We were glad to see Ethan’s initial response Saturday night. Sarah was in her crib (which Ethan refers to as, “Ethan’s crib”) when Ethan first saw her, minutes after seeing Mommy and Daddy for the first time in nearly a week. He leaned down toward her and said, “Hello,” over and over. He even tried tickling her and playing peek-a-boo. A few minutes later, when he was in another room, he said, “Go see what baby sister’s doin’.”

Ethan seems to be mostly okay with Sarah, but he’s shown some uncooperative, attention-getting behavior with us. We think it’s a combination of being apart last week AND showing up at the end of the week with a baby.

Ethan and I had a good morning together Sunday, when Mommy and Sarah were asleep. But later, during Sunday football games, I wanted to get a photo of the three of us wearing our game day shirts. However, Ethan refused to be in the photo with Sarah and me (around mid-day and Sunday night).

Ethan finally agreed to being in a photo with Sarah Sunday night, and then reluctantly let me be in the photo (after Joleen took a few photos of Sarah and me), but it had to be his way (with Ethan sitting on the couch as opposed to sitting with us). See photos below.

We know this is part of the way Ethan is processing the changes going on in our family and that “this too shall pass.” But we also know this is an important part of the process. As with any of life’s challenges, how we navigate the challenges matters!

This afternoon, we intentionally got out and took Ethan to a local park. Sarah was in the baby carrier (sleeping, most of the time) while Ethan got to play. When we got home, Ethan and I played with my last birthday present (a remote control car that I got from Joleen, which I wanted for Ethan and me).

For the rest of the night, Ethan did very well. He interacted more with Sarah (of course, the fact that Sarah, who’s been asleep much of the time since we landed in Washington D.C., was actually awake, helped!). Just before bedtime tonight, we watched “Wheel of Fortune,” a show Ethan likes to watch and has seen a few times. As we watched, Ethan climbed on both Mommy and Daddy on the living room floor (although, his first move was to plop down and squeeze in between me and Sarah πŸ˜‰ ), a big change from refusing to be photographed with Sarah and me yesterday.

But while we *may* be turning a corner, it’s still a process. It’s a fluid situation.

During our devotion and prayer time tonight, I was particularly moved by God’s blessings on our family and the work he is presently doing in and among us!

Well, I realize these challenges aren’t anything unusual, or even adoption specific (although there may be adoption-related challenges involved). I’ve heard some good stories of older siblings struggling to welcome younger siblings into their families. Feel free to share you stories in the comments.

In the meantime, here are some photos from our first couple of days as a family of four …

It’s Good to Be Home!

We arrived home late this afternoon, 25 hours after getting up this morning in Seoul, Korea. Everything went as scheduled, and getting through immigration in Korea or customs in the US was a very smooth process.

Sarah handled the trip very well, in spite of some pretty heavy and lengthy turbulence during the flight. Sarah’s foster family described her as a light sleeper, which may be the reason she didn’t get as much sleep as she should have. She went to sleep early tonight (which is daytime in Korea) so we’re not sure what her schedule will be tonight and in the days to come.

We also enjoyed reconnecting with Ethan and introducing him to Sarah tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll write about Ethan and Sarah’s first moments together. In the meantime, I’ll just say, we’re *very* pleased! πŸ™‚ We’ll also post some more photos from our time in Korea In the next couple days.

For now, here are a few from our long trip home.

Homeward Bound!

It’s 6:45 a.m. in Korea and we’ll soon be on our way home!

Once Sarah got to sleep last night (which took a while), she slept all night long (which is better than Joleen and I did!). She woke up a few minutes ago and is content to hang out in the crib while we finish up. Then we’ll get her ready and head out the door.

We’re meeting the driver from SWS at 7:10 a.m. to take us to the bus stop. The bus will take us to Incheon International Airport and our Korean Air flight is scheduled to depart at 10:40 a.m. We’re scheduled to arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport around 13 hours later.

Then, once we get Sarah through customs (in Detroit, that process was a dream; we’re hoping for a smooth process at Dulles, as well), we’ll head home to unite our family! We’re looking forward to seeing Ethan and introducing him to our new baby girl, Sarah.

In he days ahead, as we get all of us on the same time zone/schedule, we’ll blog about our adjustment, especially Sarah’s and Ethan’s. We also have some more photos to post.

Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement

First Hours with Sarah

A lot has happened in the last few days. We’ve introduced our new baby girl, Sarah, to the world, shortly after meeting her, ourselves. We’ve written about the beginning of Sarah’s transition into our family (which will continue over the weeks and months to come), continued in a post about being ready to go home.

Overall, today, our one and only full day together in Seoul before flying home tomorrow, has been a very good day (which has included only a few fussy moments).

She’s having some fussy moments now,though, as we finish up packing while also trying to get her to go to sleep. But we’re hoping for another good night and good, though long, trip home!

FYI, our 13+ hour flight is scheduled to depart from Korea tomorrow at 10:40 a.m. Korea time (Friday, 9:40 p.m. Eastern Time). We would appreciate your prayers for a good flight with Sarah (and 3.5-hour car ride home in a car seat, most likely a new experience for her)!

Well, before we finish up in Korea, here are some images from yesterday and today, from our first hours with Sarah.

Staying Connected to Ethan

In A Labor of Love we tell of the DVD that Randy and I made for Ethan to watch while we are away.

We hoped it would be a good thing, and not make him sad. We tried to make most of it fun, along with our bedtime routine. I’ve been staying in touch with Grammy by email and asked how Ethan is liking it.

Grammy said that Ethan waves to us on the TV, and that “he really thinks it is funny.” He played the drum with the video segment of he and I playing. Ethan said the funny syllables along with the video segment where he and daddy do that together. He sang “Old McDonald” along with Mommy singing on the DVD. Grammy took some pictures of Ethan watching us.

Grammy also said that she showed him Sarah on the computer and he said it was him when he was a baby.

We’ve emailed some messages to Ethan along with our love and hugs. Ethan responded to an email, saying,

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We miss that little guy so much! At every turn something reminds us of him. I laid awake last night thinking of a sleeping “Sarah” and of my active little boy (whom I tell will always be my baby boy) as it was afternoon in the States.