Saturday, August 31, 2013

Keeping up with the Macri's

I haven't had much time to write since Avi's been home. She's napping right now so I've got a few minutes. In short, she's doing really well. Sleeping is still tough, but she is doing better. She's still a mama's girl, but she's tolerating me more and more. But to those who've been reading this blog and wondering how things are going, I give you the best blog entry ever. 10% talk, 90% pictures! so here we go.

This happy little girl has turned our lives upside down.
And we couldn't be happier about it. 

Our trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad.

We have more moments like this than when we do with miss crabby pants.

Psy impression.

We found out we're good at eating bananas with chopsticks.
After learning about the Rocky movies,
 Avi does her best impression of Rocky's coach Mickey.

What do you think?
Avi found out water is a blast

Mom found out water + Avi is a blast too!

We are not thrilled about the carseat but are slowly learning
this part of life is non-negotiable.

Avi is fearless around animals and loves the lorekeet exhibit at the zoo.

Avi and her friend Nellie playing at the pool. 

Avi and Sophie are buds. Avi and the cat, not so much.
This is how we find them more often than not. 

Through channeling her powers of sheer zen concentration,
Avi has learned to tolerate our foolish American ways.

Just found her hanging out in this thing.
Better than any toy we've bought. 

Avi is not sure about water yet. Swimming is a ways off.

And last but not least. Avi's opinion is this FRIGGIN ROCKS!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blueberries, the county fair, and kimchi

Our first couple of days home have been great! Avi is taking to her new life very well. It's actually much easier than we had hoped. She's a fearless little girl who doesn't like naps. She just fights going to sleep like it's her job. Nights have been a little rough as she's a fitful sleeper. But Ann and I have taken turns and its made the job doable.

She's more accepting of me even though I'm clearly not the favorite. At least she allows me to hold her and change her. Naps, bedtime and overall comforting are still Ann's turf. But every day there is a little improvement.

We've been taking little outings to the park and today we hit up the county fair. We found out she's a fan of snakes, bunnies, goats and chickens. The horses and llamas she could take or leave. We went with our good friends Irina, Emily and Nelly. Emily did a fantastic job guiding Avi around and gave her some wonderful stuffed animal gifts that she held onto the entire ride home.

Last night we had our first breakthrough with communication. We learned the subtle difference between "high-five" and "fist-bump" and she is now proficient at both and thrilled to dole them out on request.

We've found she likes a lot of the asian foods we do. Kimchi, miso soup, and seaweed paper are some of her favorites. She likes the tofu the best out of the miso soup. Blueberries took a couple of attempts but we finally decided they were okay. We learned at the fair today that you eat melon on the orange part, not the rind. And Cheerios are always a favorite. Of course the biggest hit of all was strawberry ice cream. We pretty much licked the cup dry. 

As giving away her food and toys seems to be one of her favorite things, she was happy to feed the goats and even try to feed Nelly. Nelly didn't really like the animal feed. 

Ann, Avi, Emily, Nelly and Irina on our way through the Animial Pavilion at the Denver County Fair. 

That's kimchi, blueberries and miso with rice.
Notice that the blueberries went first this time.

Friday, August 9, 2013

No clever title. Just the story, warts and all

I’m so happy. I’m happy in a way I haven’t been before. The kind of happy that when a child throwing a tantrum is flailing in my arms, I just smile. Though sleep deprivation might have a small part of it, this little person has lit up a part of my brain I didn’t know I had. The part that makes me teary eyed writing this paragraph. 

Friends, Avi is home. And it was no easy trip. Let’s start from the beginning…

It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously, it was actually pouring rain in Denver, the hurricane sirens were blaring, and I was parked at the Conoco in Superior (north of Denver) filling up with gas. Despite the sirens and the threatening skies, I decided to brave it and continue to our Island Family’s house*. We were on our way to Dan and Jill’s house and I didn’t see an actual tornado between my car and their house, so I figured I’d disregard the advice to seek shelter immediately. This was too important and I was not letting something as simple as an “actual tornado has touched down” impede my progress.  Dan was going to drive us to the airport with my car then keep it for a few days until we returned. The plan was for him to pick us up at the airport so we could expedite our trip home and minimize our travel time.

·      island family (n) – the individuals not related to you who you would choose to live with you should you ever be trapped on a desert island.

We got to Dan and Jill’s house and the sky was as dark as I’ve ever seen it. It took a while before they answered the door because they were all actually seeking shelter in the basement at the time. By slyly pretending it was beautiful outside I coaxed Dan into the drivers seat of my ’07 Outback and off we went to the airport.

Apparently I need new tires because I’ve never hydroplaned like that in my life. Poor Dan couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us due to the torrential downpour. Cars were parked in underpasses seeking shelter from the rain. Yet we pushed on. We had to catch that flight. And push on we did until we finally made it to the airport. Dan, the first of three heroes we’d meet on this trip, dropped us off and turned the car around to head home in equally awful conditions. Inside we went to leave for Korea to bring home our daughter.

Unfortunately, what didn’t occur to me was that when weather turns bad, planes get delayed. That’s what happened to us. Our 7:00 flight became an 8:00, then a 9:00 and final an 11:00 PM flight. We had two hours to make our connection form LAX to Inchon (Seoul’s main airport). That window came and went and we knew there was no way we were making this flight. So the frantic calls began. We had three priorities. 1) We were supposed to land in Seoul at 5:00 AM Monday morning, meet Avi at 10:00 and take custody by 1:30. This was not going to happen. We needed to let them know. 2) Get rebooked on the next available flight to Seoul. 3) We needed some place to stay in Los Angeles.

#1 seemed most important. So we called the adoption agency in Colorado. No answer. We called their emergency after hours number. No answer. We texted emailed and contacted every person we could to get a message to Eastern (the Korean adoption agency) why we weren’t there for this important event. We’d have to try again after we landed at LAX. Surely someone would get the message and act on this by then.

#2 we called Asiana and told them we needed to change our flight. They couldn’t do it. “Talk to Frontier”, apparently they’re responsible for rebooking since they were making us miss our connection. Spoke with the Frontier lady at the ticket counter. She said they couldn’t do it because they were not Asiana. Called Asiana back, they said go talk to someone else at Frontier. Meanwhile calling the after hours number for the travel agent the whole time and never got an answer. Sat through a two-hour line at Frontier and FINALLY got rebooked. Ok success.
*By the way, as I was making all these calls, Ann was having the greatest meal ever at the Denver Chophouse at the airport. Though in her defense, it was the last real meal of the trip.

#3 seemed like the easiest task. Just find some roach motel near the airport, crash for the night and get on the next flight 12 hour later. Apparently LAX is a popular place to get stuck, as not a single hotel was available in all of Southern California. That’s what both Hilton and Westin told us.  Everyone we called was no help. We got to LAX around 1:00, called around some more until 1:45. Then decided we were camping at the airport. And might I say how grateful I am for the people at LAX for telling me every 15 minutes how the USO is available for active duty personnel 24 hours a day and smoking is not allowed outside designated smoking areas. Between hearing that every time I started to drift off and trying to sleep on the chairs we rearranged it was a looong night. Mind you we had it good. I felt bad for the folks in the bathroom stalls trying to sleep. And some buddies we made found themselves near a river dance group practicing all night long. By comparison, we had it good.  By the time our flight left a 1:00 the next afternoon, we’d gone 31 hours without any real sleep. And we’re just getting warmed up.

As we sat waiting for that flight, I became increasingly worried that no one from our adoption agency had contacted me about our delay. I continued to call and message all I could, but there was no answer. Finally, in desperation, I googled the adoption agency in Korea and found all their email addresses. I typed a short letter explaining the situation on my phone, ran it through google translate and sent it off. Google translator has a habit of doing some weird translating. I was hoping “will miss our appointment” didn’t translate to “we will not ever be coming to our appointment”. Or worse, something unintelligible on their end. So as a backup I emailed my friend Kim who’s been teaching me Korean and asker her to make a call to the agency herself when they were open.  All this must have worked because I arrived in Seoul Monday night at 6PM, a total of 35 hours after leaving Dan’s house, I found an email awaiting me stating in choppy English that everything was postponed one day.  We were on for the next morning.

Urban camping in LA.

Tuesday morning we were in a fog. Sleepy and Jet lagged, we decided to walk over to Dunkin Donuts for a pre-adoption breakfast. Now, I realize Dunkin Donuts doesn’t sound that good. However this is not your average American Dunkin Donuts. Have you ever seen the movie Demolition Man? Remember how nice Taco Bell was in the future? That’s what Korea did to Duncan Donuts. It was good stuff. They even heated my burrito up for me. So after our 4 star donut experience, we wandered around the area and discussed the huge changes that were about to happen. Neither one of us was ready, but we were there and ready to go.

Just killing time until our appointment

As we came back to the agency, we caught the foster mom outside unloading Avi’s things. She was happy to see us again. She said something in Korean we didn’t understand. We said something in English she didn’t understand. Then I made the universally understood symbol for “it’s been nice talking with you, I wish we had a translator. We’ll meet you inside in about 5 minutes after we head up to our room to get our stuff. Have a nice day.” With that clearly conveyed we headed in.

We were staying at the adoption agency this trip and that came with its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: short trip to the adoption agency. Disadvantage: pretty much everything else you can think of. We went up to our room, got our gift for the foster mom and my toothbrushes and toothpaste I was donating to the orphanages there (dentist), and went down. The time had finally come.

Tuesday August 6th, 10:00 AM.
We went into the business office first. They gave us only two papers to sign. We gave them the gift and the toothpaste and they took us to see Avi. Avi and her foster mom were waiting for us in the room we had first met. There was a subdued sadness to foster mom’s face. We knew this was a tough day for her. And though she knew at the beginning this day would come, we could tell that didn’t make it any easier. She gave us pictures of Avi we’d never seen. We have adorable little books of their life together since she was two months old. We received clothes and shoes and enough food to last a week. We exchanged emails and headed upstairs to the orphanage director.

There she said a short prayer for Avi and gave us a little teddy bear gift made by a previous adoptee. Then Avi’s foster mom had to say goodbye. This was the one time I really wish I knew Korean. I had so many things I wanted to say and no way to do it. I know she said, “Study hard” but that’s all I have. She was visibly distraught, as was Avi. And with their last tearful goodbye, she was gone. Avi’s “umma” was gone.

11:00 AM. We took a very upset little girl up to our room. She wanted to leave to go find “umma” and was absolutely inconsolable. That was a heart breaking time for her and for us.
12:30 PM – Time to go to the embassy for Visa processing. We were both afraid of this trip. Avi was not handling things well and these two inexperienced parents had to take this little person to a waiting room for the next 2-3 hours. We were expecting the worst. Then she surprised us. This inconsolable little person suddenly became a happy bouncy vibrant little girl. She was a charmer. The people at the embassy were happy to meet her. The escort from Eastern was amazed at how well she was doing. I don’t know how to explain this reaction, but we were thankful for it. We painlessly received our Visa paperwork and headed back to the hotel with our perfect little girl in tow.

Then the rest of the day hit. We got back to the room, and I think the realization hit that we had not been travelling to go back to umma. Holding her, walking with her, singing, and rubbing her back. Very little consoled her. This lasted on and off until around 3am. At some point during this time, she chose Ann.

What I mean by she chose Ann is that she picked a favorite. When I hold her, she screams for Ann. When I come near, she runs to Ann. Ann is her new umma, I’m an unwanted distraction. This sounds like it would be rough on me, but it’s actually much worse for Ann. I know this is a common theme in adoptions like this and we were expecting one of us to be the odd man out. It’s 50/50 between mom and dad. So I’ll be fine and it will equal out in time. Poor Ann, however, has the unrelenting task of being the constant caretaker. Every cry, every feeding, everything has to be done by her. Avi just won’t accept if from me. That’s tough when you have no break, as the next 48 hours would prove.

It was at this point we decided to come home Wednesday instead of Friday. I called Asiana and they said they had no available tickets any sooner for us. We could not change. We honestly didn’t know what we’d do with Avi in a foreign country. We couldn’t take her on the subway, we couldn’t really walk anywhere in our grungy little section of Seoul. We had a dingy little room with our poor little daughter just beside herself.

That night I was laying next to Avi, she reached out, felt my stubble, and proceeded to climb right over me to lay on top of Ann. This is the only place she would be consoled. So Ann got no sleep at all this night. I got maybe an hour or two. And every time she would wake up, she was in a panic. We could feel her little heartbeat going a mile a minute. We had no words to console her. All we could do was try and hold her. It was during this time I decided to email our non-responsive travel agent to see if he could work any miracles. And by by 2AM, we had our second hero of the trip. I don’t know how he did it, but he got us out on a Wednesday afternoon flight for home. We were so thankful.

By morning we were both frazzled but optimistic. We’d be going home soon. We could make this work on our own turf. We spent time in our little room just waiting for our time to go. Avi slept until about 10 due to her troubled night. After 35 hours getting there, then another 42 in country, we were heading home. At 12:30 we left for the airport. We knew this next part would be tough. Thank God we didn’t know how tough.

We got to the airport to find out they hadn’t booked our tickets together. We explained our situation to the ticket desk, and the gate agent, but no one could help us. The flight was fully booked and there was no way to get us together. We thought for sure the person next to us would understand what was going on and help out. They didn’t. When we explained the situation, she refused to move and said, “I have my reasons”. So Ann and I sat next to each other and gave up the far away seat. For 12 hours Ann had a writhing upset little girl sitting on her. Avi wouldn’t allow me to hold or console her. The lady next to us just put her mask and earplugs on and acted like we didn’t exist. To say that flight was difficult is a terrible understatement. It was horrific. We couldn’t eat the entire 12 hours back because we had no where to put the trays, nor feed ourselves while tending to this poor, out of control child. Ann was bruised all over her arms and chest from Avi. She broke down in tears after about three hours. After days without sleep, and no sleep in the near future, there was nothing to do but sit there and get through it. At hour eight, I took Avi, screaming and kicking, and walked the aisles of the airplane. We were THAT family. After an hour in my arms with little relief, I asked a flight attendant for help. She was able to console her in Korean enough where I could get her to sleep. Ann had about 2 hours of rest before Avi woke up again and crawled back over to her. She stayed there for the remainder of the flight. There was nothing we could say or do. We just had to live through it. And poor Avi was terrified and upset the whole time. I’ve joked that I knew this trip would be tough. It was worse than I could have imagined. I wish there was some way I could put a positive spin on this part of our journey. But there isn’t. The kindest think I can say about it is that we survived it. It did finally end.

After we got off the plane, we found out the next leg was delayed about 4 hours. We did our best to keep Avi happy, but she was nothing but a raw nerve by this point. Everything set her off and would result in tantrums that ended with her choking. All we could do was make sure she didn’t hurt herself when she threw herself to the ground.

We were again booked for separate seats. And we were again told there was nothing they could do about it. So when we finally boarded the plane we explained the situation to the person sitting in the 3rd chair, we finally met hero #3 of our trip. This unnamed person gave up his window seat and moved to a center seat elsewhere and let us spread out. It was heaven. Ann was in one chair, Avi fell asleep in the middle with her head on Ann’s lap, her feet on mine. And I think, for an hour or more, all three of us slept. It was the shortest, easiest flight I’d ever been on. Thank you sir, whoever you are. I didn’t even catch your name, but you saved us.

After meeting Dan in Denver, we came home, did a tough bath and had another long night. Ann stayed up. She’s tougher than I am by a long shot. I tried but couldn’t even be roused by a toddler screaming in my ear. Ann says I didn’t even move.
In the morning things started looking up. I switched with Ann about 5 AM. Avi and I had breakfast, got cleaned up and changed clothes.  We went over to a neighbor’s house for an impromptu play date. And to my surprise, the happy little toddler showed up again.

a bit worn out yesterday as we were
getting her on our time zone.
She was the happiest I’d ever seen her. The events of the last few days seemed to be temporarily forgotten. Ann was able to sleep the whole morning and we were in a much better place. It honestly gave me hope that we’re going to be okay.

In the evening we took a walk to the park. I briefly went back to the house to let the dogs out and I returned to find my happy little girl sliding down the giant spiral slide on her own. She’s fearless, and she takes after her mother.

Night two has gone much better. Her bath was a bit easier except for the hair washing. Bedtime was quick, and now (at 12:30AM) she’s woken only a few times.

She’s still not fond of me, but I know that will change with time. We’re able to move past what was both the best and worst experience of our lives. We’re not normal yet, but we can see it from here.

The road ahead in not easy, but it’s going to be fine.

Home now and recovering well.
BTW: I built that mini kitchen before Avi got home. Beats the pants off Ikea.