Photo Update

It’s been far too long but I wanted to share a few pics.

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Wonderful Sleep Milestone

For a couple weeks, Keegan has been showing interest in his Thomas the Train bed. Most times it’s been a fun play thing but recently when I lay down with Kai in his McQueen bed and read books, he will get in his bed, pull the covers up and be all smiles:-) But if we say “nite nite Keegan” he quickly gets up and runs to mommy and them waves to us and its off to bed like normal (on a mat in the living room). Well tonight he decided it was time to go to bed in his bed. We didn’t expect it at all but after he didn’t get up for awhile, Christina sat down next to the bed and he jumped up, went to close the bedroom door completely and ran back and tucked himself in. We all made a big deal about it and he smiled and would lay down. Then up again for us to praise him and lay down again. After doing that a couple dozen times, we had to ignore it and eventually he just fell asleep. We didn’t think this would happen for a couple more months at the earliest:-) so, tonight we will sleep in our own beds for the first days we came home from Korea. He is a toss and turn sleeper so we are hoping he doesn’t fall out of bed. We have an audio monitor but I think I’ll be shopping for video tomorrow because I couldn’t get the one on our alarm system reconfigured after relocating it. Maybe he’ll sleep there going forward or maybe this is a one time milestone for awhile. Either way it is awesome he chose to do this on his own. He must really want to sleep in the same room as big brother Kai:-)

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Overdue update

So much going on it was all too easy to not post because it took time I just didn’t have and now it’s overwhelming to get started again because there is so much to tell. So instead I’ll just start posting a few photos here and there and occasionally do some writing. To summarize though its been hard and fantastic and we are truly blessed.

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First few days of being a family of four

I am sorry I haven’t written an update since the early evening of day 1 as a family. Shortly after our last update (which mentioned both kids were sound asleep nice and early), Keegan awoke and we had some very difficult grieving begin. This lasted through the night but diminished with every hour. I haven’t written an update since because I wanted to really do it justice to ensure Keegan and Kai can later read my account of it in the proper context. I am still not yet ready to write about it but only because of the lack of available time I’ve had since. So, here is the quick update. Night time was tough; very tough, but very good for Keegan because while grieving, he definitely would take comfort with us. Neither Christina nor I got any sleep and Keegan was in and out of sleep pretty much every 45 minutes but slept longer and grieved less as the night went on. On Friday morning, he awoke in the sweetest mood and we all enjoyed some very sweet, bonding time together. On Friday, we went to the Lotte (pronounced Lo-tay) department store to get a few things including some new shoes that would be able to dry out quickly (it’s really raining a lot here this week) and just spend some time out together. We weren’t having much fun at the store though so once we got some shoes, we went for a walk in the rain and found a great restaurant for lunch. I have more very cool stories about how well strangers are treating us, but it will have to wait for later. Then we returned back to the hotel to just relax as a family for night number 2. Kai was also looking forward to sharing bath time with Keegan, but we found the mere thought of a bath would make Keegan cry uncontrollably. I tried a number of things including not undressing him, enticing him with bath toys (which he really wanted to play with), getting in myself and splashing (he really likes splashing), but alas, none of them would work. So, we just wiped him down with a wet cloth. Then, on to bedtime which came on quickly for him because he was tired. Bedtime is clearly going to be the hardest time for him for awhile. He cries great big heartbreaking cries calling out for omma. Starting on Friday, he would call out for omma and point at Christina and take comfort. Again, it was a long, sleepless, heartbreaking night, but, it was a little less severe and a little more restful. On Saturday, we decided we needed a day where both kids would really enjoy the day, together. So, we went to the Coex mall where we could be sure to find smoothies, possibly shop for a few things we wanted to get to make our remaining time here in the hotel more comfortable, and most importantly, go to the Coex Aquarium. It was a big hit for both! Kai had already been there just a few weeks ago, and was soaking in being a big brother insisting on showing Keegan many things because “that’s what big bro’s do, Dad!” We had a great day and ended it with a simple dinner at the hotel and spent some time in the pool at the hotel. It’s got a hot tub (not terribly hot) and Kai loves going back and forth from cold to hot. Keegan was very unhappy that I brought him into the water but very quickly became thrilled to be in there especially once he saw me and Kai splashing water around. Kai is really learning to swim on his own now. We spent a lot of time in the big pool too and he’d insist on doing everything on his own and was quite good. Even in the small pool (where he can stand), I can see he has good instincts while he was “practicing his underwater stuff, Dad!” It was a good day. Then came bedtime. Again, it was a tough bedtime, but not as tough as the previous nights, and, overall, we all actually got some sleep…things are getting better. He still wakes throughout the night (and likely will for a long time), but gets back to sleep quickly. Sunday morning came, and wow is he a sweetheart come morning time. Today we decided to spend the entire day here in the hotel and it was a great day. Keegan and Kai really got to spend a lot more time getting to know each other. Keegan, of course still resorts to biting and head butting but we are working on it. This causes Kai to run away when he senses it happening which makes Keegan think it’s a game and chase him around the hotel. So, at one point, while photographing all the high winds and rain out of our window, I hear Kai yelling, “Dad, get the camera!” over and over. I come in the living room and everyone is cracking up while Keegan is tackling Kai from behind and hugging him super tight, patting his cheeks and making his sweet caressing sound we witnessed with his baby foster cousin. This went on forever. Kai would lay down on his stomach and encourage Keegan to come tackle him. I’ll post pictures and video in a couple days. Bedtime tonight was a breeze though. While Kai was getting his bath, Keegan was getting a bit sleepy (we all woke up at 5:30am today), I put him in the baby hawke carrier and let him hold his Pororo doll and rocked him to sleep while watching Disney Jr. And at just the right time, I gave him some milk in his bottle (that his foster mom sent along with him) and off to sleep he was. There was the occasional call out to omma but upon seeing Christina he’d calm down right away. At this point, when he calls for omma, he is often times comforted by seeing or going to Christina (he even points to her and says omma and sometimes even momma). Other times, he is with Christina and when he calls omma he will come looking for me and be happy again. This is common for children to take comfort from dad and even call them omma. Kai did this as well for a little while. But, and very understandably, he is often still looking for foster mom when he calls omma. We know this because it’s obvious (of course he wants her), but also because he will walk to any closed door and knock on it wanting us to open the door to show him that Mrs Park isn’t there. We will show him pictures of her though and ensure he knows exactly who she is and what loving and critical role she played in his life and of course facilitate keeping in touch with her throughout the years.

So, the main reason I haven’t had time to update our blog is because I was spending time getting to know our new family of four. And, now I would have the time because I actually got some sleep last night and now everyone else is asleep, but we have to be up at 5:20am this morning because we are coming home early. With the help and advice from our travel agent, I was persistent and convinced our airline to change our flight to tomorrow morning (2 days early) without any change fees. The main issue was seat availability but even once 3 seats became available there would have been a $550 per person fee for a change. But, I was very convincing about the importance of getting home for our family adjustment and explained why it was never predictable for us when it came to planning our return trip. We have to do some begging tomorrow during checkin to get our seats together, but I feel confident I can get that done too. So, I wanted to provide a brief update of the past few days but I didn’t want to not do it all justice. It’s been a wonderful time filled with everything we’d expect including the easy and hard things we’ve been planning for and now we are heading home. I still plan to write something a bit different than a simple recount of the first few days together as a family of four, but it will have to be a few days from now after we’ve recovered from yet another timezone change. For now, good night Seoul. We will miss you but will return in the future for sure. Thank you for everything and of course, most importantly, helping us complete our family. We love you Kai and Keegan!

EDIT: I just realized I should have titled this “Bringing Home Keegan” because in 5 hours we will wake up, dress the kids, and get in the Holt van service to head to the airport and “Bring Home Keegan”!

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Family Day

Gotcha! Just a quick note to let everyone know we had our family day. It was filled with everything we’d expect including happy, sad, grieving, comfort, bonding, fun, vomit, small nap, more fun, bonked heads, kissing, food, play, out cold asleep by 6:15pm. That’s early so who knows what the night brings. I’ll write a more detailed account of the day later but for now we are just going to relax as a family.

We did get our visa and passport today along with a few other families and had a nice lunch while waiting compliments of DJ (thank you). So we can leave anytime but I don’t think we will be leaving early because all flights are booked between now and then.

More later…

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Our Basic Itinerary

We are scheduled to return home on July 17th and currently that is still our plan. However, depending on when the visa is ready and how well the first couple of days go with our transition, we may return early. And if we do, it will then depend on how well the airline cooperates in finding us an early return trip. Truth is, we’d be happy to stay all the way to the 17th because we love it here so much. But, I only have so many vacation days and I’d like to maximize them while at home so I can best help Keegan, Kai and Christina. The timezone transition alone is going to be tough on all four of us. We’ve done it before (3 years, 4 months ago with Kai as a 10 1/2 month old baby) and just a couple weeks with Kai at 4 years old. It was tough; even tougher a couple weeks ago because I was back at work.

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Visiting with Keegan’s foster family at their home

Today (Wednesday, July 10th) was a long, wonderful day. Kai
awoke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. My wonderful wife got
up and stayed up with him to let me get a couple more hours (I only
had about 3 at that point). I just couldn’t get to bed. I was up
watching videos and reading online. I kept telling myself I need to
update this blog, but I just couldn’t do it. My head was all over
the place. I’d start writing about how Kai is processing all the
change that is happening and then I’d think about how it’s going to
get very real in a day and a half for all of us but especially him
and I’d get stalled. He’s waited over 16 months for his baby
brother to come home. Kai was 2 years, 10 1/2 months old when he
first saw a picture of Keegan and has been in love ever since. 16
months is a very long time for a 2, then 3 and now 4 year old. And
these past few days (since our drive started to the airport), it’s
hitting Kai for real. He’s still very positive about it, but he’s
also concerned…about sharing and getting bit again. We’ve had a
few light to medium talks about what kind of change is coming and
agreed that while change can be a little bit scary it also will be
wonderful. I won’t go any further into it, but what is going on in
his mind is multi-faceted, challenging, expected, and wonderful.
I’d sit and meditate and pray on how I was going to handle this
early transition for both Keegan and Kai. It brings me great
confidence and comfort having the most amazing wife leading us
through the hourly challenges of loss, grief and attachment for
Keegan, as well as Kai experiencing both our adoption of Keegan but
also his impressions on an adoption that wasn’t exactly the same as
his story. It also gives me great happiness that Keegan was with a
most wonderful foster family while waiting for us (more on that in
a bit). Once I’d get blocked writing, I’d read and watch about
other, recent family/gotcha day experiences. This would result in
me getting emotional and even more blocked from writing because so
much was going through my heart and mind when thinking about our
upcoming family/gotcha day. How wonderful it will be for all of
us…how hard it will be for Keegan…how hard it will be for
foster mom (and family)… Then I’d start watching my latest
addiction, http://seoulistic.com – Simplifying Korea one
Tip at a Time
. This is a site by a young man, a Korean
American, raised in New York and relocated to Seoul about 10 years
ago. His experience (though I’m not knowledgeable about his entire
life experience) as a Korean American living and learning about
Korean culture is very interesting. He and his friends and
colleagues are very personable, friendly and intelligent about how
they share about Korean culture. Long story short, I was not
getting anything done on the blog, was thinking a lot about the
days to come, and not getting any sleep. So, we awoke early this
morning, Wednesday, July 10th, had breakfast, and spent the morning
in the pool. Kai really loves the water and especially loves cold
water and moving from hot to cold to hot and back to cold again. He
insists on finishing in cold water too. He’s always been this way
including in showers. This has always been interesting to us
because we do not like the cold water and he has always insisted on
sticking his butt in a cold shower at the end of a shower. And as
we understand it, the Korean saunas are full of the hot to cold to
hot and back to cold experience. Anyway, we spent a few hours in
the pool. Then we went to lunch and since we had a visit with
Keegan and his foster family today, we knew we had to get him a nap
so we did some strolling around and let him fall asleep in his
stroller for a couple hours. Then, in the mid afternoon, we left
for our visit (starting out at Holt). We found that 3pm is a
difficult time to get a taxi because it’s one of 2 shift changes in
a day (12 hour shifts) and when planning a long ride, it’s not in
the interest of the driver to take on our trip unless you get a
taxi that is owner/operator. A very kind gentleman that was walking
by noticed us and came over to talk a driver into taking us. His
name was Simon, and yet another example of Jeong here in Seoul. We arrived about
15 minutes early for our visit and decided to take a peek in the
baby clinic in case anyone was there. To our surprise, there was
only one family there and it was Keegan along with foster mom and
dad. So, we had a nice greeting, and then all went upstairs to see
DJ. She was going to come with us for our visit, but needed to
change plans to accommodate changed itineraries due to the recent,
awful airline crash in SFO. (Prayers constantly going out to all
the affected families and gratefulness for the amazing survival
rate for such a severe accident.) Keegan’s foster dad drove us all
to their home. We had quite a fun car ride playing peek-a-boo and
just smiling and tickling Keegan. When we arrived, we were welcomed
into their beautiful home and immediately Keegan took us on a quick
tour of the bedrooms and settled in where many of his toys are. We
played, and played and played. Mrs. Park brought us some delicious
watermelon and beverages, and then we played and played and played.
There was some biting (which we expected) and lots of playing. Kai
was very conscious of the possibility of being bitten so much so it
became a game where as soon as Keegan would scream or open his
mouth wide, Kai would scream and run which would cause Keegan to
chase after him. There was some block tower building and knocking
down, peek-a-boo, knocking balloons around (he really loves
ballons) and some really nice cooperative puzzle/shape fitting
between Kai and Keegan. Right in the middle of playing with one of
those spherical shape toys where you have to fit shapes into them,
Kai says, “I treasure you Keegie”. Awe!!!! We teared up
immediately. And, I happened to have been recording video so I have
it forever for them both to watch! And of course, seconds later, a
pulling contest over said toy. I’ve posted it below for your
viewing pleasure:-) Mrs Park’s daughter-in-law and her precious new
baby (just over 100 days old) joined us and was very helpful in
translating and sharing so much about Keegan including what he
loves, his routine, but also how much he’s affected them as a
family. Very wonderful impact on everyone and we are so fortunate
to have had this opportunity. After of couple hours or so of
playing, Mrs Park made us a delicious dinner. I’ve never had
bulgogi that tasted so good! I mostly stuck to bulgogi and rice
(and delicious Korean melons for dessert) because I can’t take
chances on kimchi due to my allergy to shrimp, but Christina is
still raving about how it’s the best kimchi she’s ever had! During
dessert, the family presented us with some gifts. They went to
Insadong to have a stamp made with our family name on it as well as
a beautiful card with our stamp on it along with the stamp for
happiness. The shop where they had it made is called Myung Sin Dang
Art Shop. It is a family shop that has been in business from
generation to generation. At present, it is managed by Lee Si Kyu
and Kim Myung who are married couples and very famous artists with
regard to Korea traditional arts. Their art shop was even visited
by Queen Elizabeth II and many national guests. We had toured this
shop a couple weeks ago as well as just over 3 years ago and it is
quite beautiful. I forgot to mention, during the drive to their
house, Mrs Park presented Christina with two photo albums filled
with pictures of Keegan at all ages. One of them is a home made
album that has pictures of us (that we had sent them over the
course of the last 16 months) integrated integrated with many
pictures of Keegan and their family. And the other is a
professionally made album entitled, “My Daddy”. So heartwarming! (EDIT: Christina says the studio name is “My Daddy”. Doesn’t change anything though and still melts my heart.)
Looking through it brings us so much happiness and when we think
about how much he has been loved by this family, it brings so much
joy to our hearts. When I get time over the next few days/weeks, I
will try to take some pictures of it and post it here. We stayed
quite late (practically into Keegan’s bedtime) and I really didn’t
want our time with the family to end. We had such warm, engaging
conversation about many things including Keegan, jeong, and family.
Mrs Park’s son recently shared their family motto with me and his
wife brought it up again tonight and hopefully doesn’t mind me
sharing it here, but I think it’s beautiful and everyone should
hear it, “When one’s home is happy, all goes well”. It was time to
be on our way. We all walked together from their home, through a
beautiful playground (Kai wanted to do some climbing), and out to
hail a taxi. While walking, there was a beautiful little girl that
was maybe 8 years old standing on the sidewalk with her mommy. When
she caught my eye, here eyes lit up, she looked at her mommy,
received a nodding approval and then looked at me, stood up very
tall and very delightfully said “Hello” in English with a big
smile. I replied, “Hello”. Her eyes were beaming; she got to
practice her English with me and clearly this made her happy! I
then said “안녕하세요” which phonetically spelled out in English
characters is “annyeonghaseyo” which of course is hello in Korean.
She smiled the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. As we walked away we
waved to each other and her mother joined in. Then, as we crossed
the street, again, we continued to wave to each other for a minute.
What an unexpected, delightful exchange. Shortly after, we were in
a taxi and waving bye bye as we pulled away. Here’s what is planned
for tomorrow and this should give you even more of an idea why we
so appreciated today. First, our family/gotcha day was originally
planned for today but since the Park family invited us for this
visit, it was rescheduled for tomorrow. Having us over was so
wonderful for so many reasons. Getting to know this wonderful
family that has been our son’s family for almost the first two
years of his life is such a blessing. We also gained valuable
insight into ways we can help Keegan grieve and transition into his
life with us. I know how hard it is going to be for Mrs Park and
her family as she prepares tonight for our family day tomorrow. So,
on top of all the obvious reasons we appreciate them welcoming us
to their home tonight, we are appreciative because we know it’s
going to be a hard night tonight and days to follow for them. So,
tomorrow morning, we will all meet at the Holt office where we will
have one more time together to talk and learn about Keegan as well
as have one more doctor’s office visit with him. Then, we will have
our appointment at the embassy to apply for Keegan’s visa. This was
also moved up and hopefully we will have it tomorrow. It should be
interesting to go to that appointment (and lunch after with DJ and
one or more other families) immediately after we get Keegan. We
fully expect him to be upset and just in time for nap time that
won’t be happening. I am also thankful that DJ and the other
families will understand that we just got him and haven’t even had
one day/night with him where he’s already had one or more good
cries, some comforting, a bath, some playtime, some sleep time at
night, maybe some pooltime or outside time, etc. So, if it looks
rough, please know that we have it under control, because, we have
faith. We have faith in each other, our family and God. We have
faith that Kai is full of love, fully understands (to the extent
possible) how our lives are going to change for the better (he’s
had quite a long time to think and talk about it with us), and is
ready for us to be a family of four (plus our furry Calvin of
course so a family of five). We have faith that we have the most
amazing extended family and friends. And we have faith in Keegan;
knowing it’s going to be hard, and fun, and we as a family will
forever be there for each other. It’s going to be yet another
beautiful start tomorrow to a most amazing adventure together.
Peek-A-Boo
Car Ride
Knock
It Down Keegan
I
Treasure You Keegie

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We’ve arrived and Seoul I had missed you

We arrived (a bit late) yesterday late afternoon. The weather was pretty windy and rainy and by the time we checked in to the hotel, we were just tired (still are). I’ll write another post about our trip here, some thoughts about how Kai is handling this trip (he’s struggling a little more with time and knowing family dynamics are changing but all good and expected/understandable stuff:-), and our first couple days here. I’ll also outline what we expect the next few days itinerary to be and post about our amazing hotel room. For now, I just want to let everyone know we are here, things are going well, and how much we really missed Seoul. There is of course one most important reason we are so happy to be here, but I also want to say how wonderful it is to walk about this town and interact with people. Here is a fun video that gives a glimpse into what I mean. In particular, there is a small part about how people think about helping strangers and the personalities of both of the people in the video is just plan fun.

With love,
Gandalf, Christina and Kai

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2nd Travel Call – Keegan, we are coming!

We got our 2nd travel call – Keegan, we are coming!

Still working out hotel details but airline is booked!

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2nd Visit – Another Perspective

Our new, dear friends have shared their post about the 2nd playdate we had with our children. It was really heartwarming for me to hear her experience because it was like hearing the same great story told from the perspective of another character. Reading about how Owen’s cautious nature with the water fountain and how he was so meant to be a Westerfield made me laugh out loud and think the same thing about about Keegan because he wanted that water badly and well anyone that knows me knows I like the water. Anyway, thank you Sarah for being so generous with your memories with us. You and Travis are truly wonderful people. Today, Kai watched the video I took of the magic trick Travis did for him after court and he said “I love that guy!”.

Here’s the post

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