We Are Going to Get Our Girl!

I will keep this post short and sweet since my last post was really long. We are heading to Korea to bring our daughter home in just a few days! Our prayer through this whole process was to have her home by Christmas, and that prayer was answered. She will be with us for Christmas, and we couldn’t be happier! This happened WAY faster than we thought, so we have been incredibly busy getting ready.

Please pray for her sweet heart as this transition will be very hard for her. She will be leaving her foster family, that she loves very much, and moving in with her forever family that she doesn’t really know yet. We love her very much, and she will come to know that, but we know it will be hard for her.

I can’t wait to update you with our trip and pictures of our girl. We are finally going to Bring Home Baby Stoyk! Wahoo!


Meeting Our Daughter

It has been a while since my last post, and so much has happened! The last time I posted we had just received EP approval and were waiting to get our court date. Well, that all happened very fast. At the end of October, we got our court date and had about 3 weeks to get a flight, hotel, write up sub plans, and plan for a week away from our boys. I came on to write a post a dozen times since then, and something else always came up. As my friend would say, “You can’t do all the things.” I was definitely trying to do all the things and something had to give.

We got everything planned at school and home, we packed lots of gifts to bring to Korea, and we hopped on a plane to go meet our baby girl! We left on a Friday, but we didn’t arrive in Korea until Saturday night. It was a very long day of travel and Korea is 15 hours ahead of us, so we were exhausted when we arrived. We managed to check in to our hotel and then got out and explored a lantern festival and got a bite to eat. Needless to say, when we arrived back to our hotel room, we crashed right away.

We woke up early on Sunday morning and called some family back in the US to check in. My bother pointed out how exhausted I looked, so clearly the jet lag was getting to me a little. We had nothing planned for today, so we decided to take a train to check our the city our daughter was born in. Her birth city is a few hours away by train, so we figured out how to get on the train, and we were off. It was definitely challenging to make sure we were going to the correct places with the language barrier, but everyone there was very helpful, and we made it there safely. We spent our day exploring a garden park, whale museum, watching the locals fish off a pier, and taking a ton of pictures for our daughter to look back at some day. We had a very long wait back at the train station, and we knew we would get back to Seoul around 11:30pm, but our train ended up being late. We didn’t get back to Seoul until 12:45, the subway was close, and it was pouring rain! We were about a 45 minute walk from our hotel. We tried and tried to get a cab, but no one would pick us up. We think it was because we were soaking wet. It seemed like they weren’t picking anyone up who didn’t have an umbrella. We finally decided to quit trying to get a cab, and used our navigation app to get back to our hotel. I was freaking out a little because I knew we had our first meeting with our daughter the next day, and I didn’t want to be exhausted. We eventually made it back to our hotel, dried off (we literally had to dump the water out of our shoes) and headed straight to bed.

Monday was the day we had been waiting so long for! We had to run to the store, Lotte Mart which is like our Walmart, because my curling iron and straightener would not work even though we got a converter. We took the subway to Lotte Mart, got a straightener, did a little shopping for the boys, and then headed back to the hotel to get ready to meet our girl. We brought gifts from other families for their little ones and gifts for our daughter’s foster family, so we packed those all up and took a taxi to our agency. When we got there, we met with the photographer that we hired to take pictures of our meetings. After that, we had to do some paper work with our social worker for our daughters visa application, and then it was time to get upstairs to see meet our daughter! I can’t even put in to words what it was like to see her sweet face for the first time. She was on her foster mom’s back, and she grabbed on to my finger with her sweet chubby fingers. I wanted to pick her up and never let go. We knew she was going to be shy, we were strangers to her after all, so we tried to give her some space and let her stay close to her foster mom. We did both get to hold her, kiss her sweet cheeks, and blow bubbles with her. Before we knew it our hour was up, and it was time to say goodbye. We knew we were going to get to see her again on Wednesday, so we said “see you later” and headed off to check out a palace in Seoul.

Seoul is such an amazing place. During our time between meetings we spent a lot of time exploring. We tried some street food, visited a few palaces and just enjoyed every moment we had learning about our daughters culture. I was taking so many pictures both for our daughter and my classroom. For those of you that don’t know, I teach 6th grade social studies and teaching about Korea is part of my curriculum. Everything that we experienced in Korea will be part of what I get to teach my students. I am very excited to teach them about Korean culture from my experiences and not just our textbook.

Our second meeting with our daughter was on Wednesday, and we also had a presentation from the president of our agency and lunch with other families who will have court with us. The meeting was very emotional as we learned about the history of the agency and the founder’s heart for orphans. Lunch was really yummy, and it was great to sit and talk with other adoptive families. We actually got to sit with a family who lives very close to us! After lunch we had our second meeting with our sweet girl. We went in with a plan for our second meeting. We had some questions we wanted to ask her foster mom, and our goal was to get her to smile at us during this visit. She was very shy again today, and she wanted to be very close to her foster mom. She loves the color pink, which I am super excited about, so we kept finding pink toys to give her and she liked that. She also loved peek-a-boo, and we got some smiles and giggles from playing that. I almost cried when I heard her little laugh for the first time. It was just the sweetest thing. Our visit went by so fast and before we knew it, it was time to go. Her foster mom had brought some gifts for us, the boys and even my mom. She is such an amazing woman, and we can tell she loves our girl so well. We said goodbye again, this time it was way harder, but we know she will be in our arms forever in about a month.

Thursday we had to go to court and appear in front of a judge. I was that most nervous about this. I knew going in to this that she might ask us questions from our home study, so we spent a little time reviewing that. We took a big bus over to the court house with all the other families that had court. Again, it was so nice to be able to talk to people who are in the same place in this process as us. People from all over the country and even other countries. All of their babies are just so sweet, and I hope we get to see them again when we go for custody. We waited our turn to go in front of the judge, and we were near the bottom of the list, so we knew it would be a little while before it was our turn. The first few families were in and out of the court room in a matter of minutes. We were told how to address the judge and where to sit before hand, so I wasn’t so worried about that, but I was still worried about what she was going to ask us. Finally, it was our turn. We walked in to the court room, bowed, addressed the judge and took our seats. The judge asked us about four questions total. She ask why we wanted to adopt after already having three children, if our boys were excited, if we were nervous about our youngest two children being so close in age (they are 16 months apart) and then finally if we were sure we wanted to adopt. The judge finished by telling us that she was going to grant us approval and wished our new family all the best. We left the court room and had a big weight lifted from our shoulders. All the families felt so happy after leaving court knowing we would all be back soon to bring our babies home. After we were finished with court we spent a little more time exploring. We had a few more gifts we wanted to pick up, and then we headed back to our hotel to pack up for our flight home the next day.

We woke up Friday morning, spent some time in the gym, and then continued to pack our things. We were really sad to be leaving our daughter in Korea, but we were very ready to get back and see our boys. We checked out of the hotel and took a van to the airport which was about an hour away. There were not many people at the airport, so we were able to check-in and go through security very quickly. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the airport. We finally boarded the plane back home and got ready for another 13 hour ride, which you can never really prepare yourself for. I spent a lot of that time worrying about how we will handle a 13 hour ride with a 16 month old!

We were so excited to get home, see our boys, and sleep in our own bed. We definitely had jet lag for a few days, but we were able to recover and get back in to the swing of things. It really helped that we only had to work two days when we got back and then we were on Thanksgiving break.

Now we are waiting to hear from our agency about a visa date. When we go back to Korea, we will take custody of our daughter and attend a visa appointment for her final exit from Korea. We will be given a date from the US Embassy in Korea and it will be either on a Tuesday or Thursday. With all of this happening around the holiday, we are very unsure about when we will be going back. Right now we think we will be traveling back the week after Christmas, but that is not guaranteed. We will hear for sure within the next 10 days, and then it will be time to get a flight, hotel, and get ready for our girl to come home! The next time you hear from me on here will be when we are Bringing Baby Stoyk HOME!


EP Approved!

We got some very exciting news yesterday… we are EP approved! What does that mean? EP stands for Emigration Permission, and it basically means we have permission to take our girl to the U.S. from Korea. This is a huge step in the process, and honestly, the wait for this approval has been really hard for me. There has been so much waiting in this process, unfortunately there is still more waiting ahead of us, but seeing our sweet girl’s face everyday and knowing we are so close to bringing her home is so hard! Seriously, just wait until you see her kissable cheeks! You will completely understand.

So what comes next? Now our case will be handed over to the Korean court. This should happen within about a week. Once the Korean court has our file they will review all the paper work, they may ask us for additional pictures or information, and then they will issue us a court date. We will be notified of the court date about 1 month before we need to travel. This next step could take 2-4 months, but do you know what that means? We will get to meet our baby girl in 2-4 months! Of course we always hope our wait is shorter than they estimate, but as we have learned in this process, there are no guarantees.

I may have been crying in the baby girl aisle at Hobby Lobby today as the magnitude of what is about to happen hit me. I am not a crier, as my friends and family would tell you, but knowing we are so close to getting to see our baby girl in person and kiss her sweet cheeks is just too much. Our friends threw us an amazing baby shower last weekend, and we have all the things we need for her once she gets home. This approval just brought us so much closer to bringing home Baby Stoyk!


The Wait… Care Packages

It has been a while since we have updated everyone, so we thought we would do a fun post about how we are trying to make the wait go a little faster!

We get to send packages to Korea each moth either through our agency or with a family that is traveling to meet their child. Our agency has a rule that our packages have to fit in a gallon size zip lock bag, so we have to be very creative when we pick things out to send.

This month’s package included two dresses with leggings, a sweet little bunny her brothers picked out for her, a ball, yogis, granola bars, and a board book. For Foster Mom and her family we included some pecans from my trip to Georgia.

We spend a lot of time searching for the perfect things to send each month. The boys and I found the snacks and outfit at Target, and the bunny and ball are from a cute little store in our town. We made the board book at a site called Pint Sized Productions, and it is perfect. We put our family on the cover and then each page has a picture of one of us and our name in both Korean and English. We even included a picture of our dog on the last page.

After finding all the perfect gifts, I spend a lot of time jamming them all in to a gallon size bag. I am getting quite good at this now. This month we are sending our package with a sweet family who is going to meet their little one. We are so thankful to the people we have met in the adoption community, and we can’t wait until we get to do the same for other families when we travel to Korea.

We still have 4-6 months until we have our baby home, but putting these packages together is helping to pass the time. We have been EP (emigration permission) submitted for about two weeks now, so we are waiting to get the call that we are EP approved. We are praying that will happen in the next few months, but EP submission is a huge step in bringing home Baby Stoyk!

I wanted to include a few more pictures of care packages we have sent in case other adoptive families could use some ideas.

This was our first package and it included an outfit, pajamas, shoes, teether crackers, yogurt melts, a Mini Mouse book, and a rattle. For Foster Mom I included a lavender soap, soap holder, nail file and leather bracelet.
We sent this package with a family traveling, so I was able to send two gallon sized bags. In this package we sent two dresses with matching headbands, bibs, yogis, fruit squeezer, musical toy, and a book that we recorded for her to listen to. For Foster Mom we included a small makeup bag, lip gloss, hand cream, and a cold and flu bath tea.
This package included this sweet dress with matching bow, Matilda Jane outfit, Sophia the Giraffe toy, and Mini Mouse stuffed animal. The dress took up a lot of space in the gallon bag, so we weren’t able to send as much. For Foster Mom we included some honey sticks, and a bees wax lip gloss assortment.

What We Know Now

Through this process we have been confronted with a lot of questions. We know most people mean well, but their comments and questions can sting. A few of the most memorable things people have said to us include:

-Why would you ever want to adopt?

-How much do they cost?

-Why did their parents “give them up” for adoption?

-Aren’t you happy with the 3 you already have?

-You know they won’t be able to understand you right?

-It’s too expensive! You won’t be able to do anything fun for years!

If you know me well, you know how hard it is for me to respond to these questions with patience and grace. Sometimes I want to tell people how rude and ignorant they are being, and tell them to mind their own business, but I don’t. Why? Because this is my opportunity to educate people on how to be more sensitive about the things they say regarding adoption. We have learned so much during this process, and we want to take this opportunity to educate our friends and family so they might be able to better support others going through this process in the future.

I recently read a book called In on it: What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption by Elisabeth O’Toole. I think this book is a fantastic read for anyone that is adopting or has family or friends that are adopting. It is a very quick read and has such great tips. I have highlighted some of my favorite points from the book below.

  • As a family member or friend, your support and reassurance during the process helps!
  • Trust our judgment and know that we did our research and KNOW we are doing what is right for our family.
  • Adoption starts with loss. Through this process we have lost our privacy as we let our agency into all parts of our lives, and we have lost all control over the process and timeline. Our child has lost their birth mother, and will be loosing their birth country and culture. And we have to acknowledge the loss the birth parents will experience their whole lives.
  • Showing your interest by asking questions and trying to understand the process means so much.
  • It is important to treat adoptive parents like the expectant parents they are.
  • Understand that once the child comes home it is very important for the immediate family to form their bond with the child. This might mean no visits or going out for a while.
  • Treat new adoptive parents just as you would any new parent.
  • DO NOT ask adoption questions in front of the child.
  • Respect the child’s privacy and don’t take the parents creating boundaries personally.
  • Don’t refer to children who are adopted as “their adopted daughter” or “she’s adopted”, simply say “their daughter/son” because that is what they are.
  • Knowing a child has come from a different country does not mean you know what they will be like as a child or an adult. “Stereotypes limit our ability to know each other. You don’t want to know a stereotype; you want to know a person.”

As a friend or family member you might be presented with questions about adoption also. Try to take a positive stance and maintain the families privacy. You can also help your children to understand adoption and know how to respond appropriately. If you are reading this, then you are probably “in on it” too. You are probably a part of someone’s adoption circle, and that is so important!

I love the final quote in her book that is from a grandfather, “Every child gladdens your heart. What happens after a child comes into the family is as important as how they arrived into it.”

Thank you for taking time to read this! If you are interested in borrowing In on it by Elisabeth O’Toole, I would be happy to let you borrow it. We have learned so much during this process (there is still so much more to learn) and we hope you are all taking something away from these posts too. Thank you for your support during this process to Bring Home Baby Stoyk!

Adoption, Family, International Adoption, Korean Adoption

Progress… Finally!

We had our FINAL home study visit this week. What a relief! We spent all of Monday night cleaning, and when I say cleaning, I mean under the fridge, the oven, the junk drawer, and inside cabinets. Because she was totally going to look in all of those places right?

I was worried all over again for these two visits (one Tuesday and one Wednesday) because we have a new social worker, since we are now working with Bethany Christian Services. We had only ever spoken to her on the phone one time, and now she was going to come and decide if were were suitable parents for a sweet baby from Korea. I didn’t know how thorough she was going to be, but I was pretty sure she was going to judge me on my socks-with-no-matches basket.

Our first meeting was on Tuesday night after school. Thanks to an awesome coworker, I was able to leave school a little early to make sure everything was ready. The boys came home, and we all played Play-Doh while we waited. Once she arrived, I felt better right away. She was very kind, sympathetic to all we had gone through with our previous agency closing, and has a great connection to Korea. We got right to work on a mountain of paperwork while the boys continued to play. She was here for about 2 1/2hrs. She spent some time talking to Eric and I separately, and interviewed the boys. Gus’ interview didn’t last too long. He won her over right away with his sweet smile and by holding her hand. When you have three boys ages 6, 3, and 1 you never really know what they are going to do or say, but I am happy to say they all did great! She left us with a bunch of paperwork to do, so Eric and I sat down for a few hours after she left and worked on that to be ready for the next day.

Eric and I took half-a-day off on Wednesday morning, and she returned to finish up our last visit. We had a few more things we needed to go over, she needed to check our fire alarms and extinguishers, and she needed to do a walk-through of our house. She left us with more paperwork and some education hours we need to complete before our home study can be completed.

So what is next?

We have 5 additional education hours that we need to get in before our home study can be written up. We have a book to read for that and will be writing up a book report on it. If you know Eric at all, you know he is not the biggest reader, so he is super thrilled about this assignment. 🙂

Once we get our education hours done and submit the final paperwork, our social worker will, hopefully, approve us and write up our home study. After she writes up our home study, she will send a copy to our placing agency, AAC, and they will need to approve it. Once the home study is completely approved, we will be ready to get I600 approval (immigration approval). This might take a month or two, but once that is approved we will be ready to submit everything to Korea and wait for a match! It finally feels like we are getting closer to getting to see our baby!

We are so grateful to everyone for your support and prayers. A lot of you have been reaching out and asking to donate to help cover the high cost of agency fees and travel. We so appreciate this, and we are looking in to the best way for people to do this. We are doing everything we can right now to save every penny for this along with working on applying for adoption grants. The cost of adoption is one of the largest reasons people choose not to adopt, and we have said from the beginning that we will not let it be a barrier for our family.

Thank you all again for your love and support. Keep the prayers coming, and I hope to be able to update everyone again soon. We are one step closer to bringing home Baby Stoyk!