Monday, June 27, 2011

The Home Stretch

Our first night with Mia went better than expected.  As with our son Ty, we slept with one eye open the whole night, anticipating the long flight the next day and wondering what challenge our little one would throw at us next.  But while 2010 trip to bring Ty home was filled with doubts and fears of the unknown, this 2011 blockbuster sequel allowed us to marvel as somewhat experienced parents at the marvelous transformation our family was once again undergoing.  Every time I awoke and saw her lying there sprawled out on our double sized bed I smiled and marveled at this blessing from God. 

Carrie and I dutifully stretched out along the perimeter of the bed to enclose our precious little one and keep her from falling off the bed.  It brought to mind the imagery of Psalm 139:5 "You hem me in, behind and before and lay your hand upon me."  Though we have been down this road once before, we were still dependent upon our God who lays His hand upon us.  In this knowledge which is "too wonderful for us" we were about to head down the home stretch.

One of the special blessings we have enjoyed while getting to know our Mia is the pleasant way she awakes.  Every time she woke we were expecting to find a grumpy, confused, irritated little girl, wondering why she has not yet woken from this bad dream, wondering when her foster mother would return.  We expected protesting and complaining but each time she awakes we are greeted with this smile, this gift from God that encourages our souls.  After close to a dozen of such greetings, it seems clear that God has been pleased to grant our Mia a gentle transition to her new family.

The flight home went as well as could be expected.  She didn't sleep the whole flight as we had hoped but she did sleep some in the bassinet mounted to the bulkhead.  Every time the seat belt sing turned back on, we had to take her out of the bassinet but at least we got some breaks.  It's like running a marathon.  When you think about those 26 miles it seems you will never reach the finish line, but you just keep running and eventually you get there.

When we finally touched down at JFK, it suddenly hit us that we were home, well almost.  But just setting foot (or landing gear) on American soil gave us a boost of encouragement.  We count it a privilege to call America our home and it sure feels good to be home.

Mia seems to be adjusting well, though all the changes have taken their toll on Ty who just hasn't been himself.  Please continue to pray for Ty as he adjusts to all these changes.  Despite his struggles it has been great seeing our kids get to know eachother.  Mia is fascinated with everything her big brother does.  Ty likes to check on Mia and wants to hold her and has even voluntarily shared things with her!  Well, as long as he has no pressing need for it at the time.

I have to admit, it was hard for me to imagine having a second child as special as Ty, but as each day goes by I am falling more and more in love with our precious Mia.  She is so sweet and happy and yes I know that may change but she is our daughter now and we love her more than words can say.  Carrie has been tremendous.  She has been staying up with Mia, sleeping on the floor in her room to make sure she is not scared when she awakes.  We are going to try leaving her alone tonight and I am on night duty so Carrie can finally get a full nights rest. 

Our family of 3 is now a family of 4 and we're home at last!  We have two beautiful children and can hardly believe what God has done for us.  It was a long journey but worth it all.  The journey is far from over but as David said "my cup overfloweth".  Blessed be the Lord who gives and takes away, who raises up and sets down, and does all things well.  Thanks for your continued prayers.  Hope you enjoy the photos. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Here She Is!

At long last our Mia is in our arms!  She has been wonderful.  She cried a lot on the ride back to the hotel from the agency, but it appears to have been mostly a tired cry rather than an objection to mom and dad.  Her foster mother said nap times are about the only times she cries. (other than the times she just isn't getting what she wants)  Otherwise she has been a sweet happy playful baby.  She smiles a lot and babbles and chews on anyting she can get her hands on.

When we got back to the hotel she was overdue for a nap.  Her normal sleep schedule is 10pm-7am with 1.5-2 hour naps at 10am and 4pm.  Yes, she is already sleeping through the night.  We are hoping that holds true with our first night together.  She will sleep on the bed between Carrie and I.  She is used to sleeping on the floor with her foster mother.  To call her old bed a mattress is generous.  It was basically a wall to wall exercise mat with a bed spread on top.  Not sure how or when we will transition her to a crib but for now it can wait.

Our morning started with our usual breakfast at Starbucks - ham & egg sandwich and we split a cold drink.  Much more affordable and predictable than the local restaurants here in Seoul's business district of Yeoksam, Gangnam-gu.

We arrived at the agency in time to take a quick tour of the receiving home for new infants.  This is where both Tyson and Mia spent the first few months of their lives.  The receiving home cares for about 30 children at a time from 1 to 6 months or so until they can be placed into foster care.  Mia was 5 months old when she was placed into foster care.  Carrie thanked the caregivers, through a translator, for taking care of both our children.

After a short visit we returned to the agency (just two buildings down the steet) and found Mia and her foster mom again waiting for us!  Mia had one last medical checkup before our family union could be completed.  Her measurements are 27" long and a whopping 19 lbs 13 oz!  Most thankfully a clean bill of health, no colds or ear infections, just happy baby girl with a good appetite.

She likes yogurt and rice and fruit.  She gobbled up a bag of crunch potato sticks that her foster mom gave her for the flight.  Hopefully the second bag will last us the 14 hour flight?  Carrie said the dream is starting to sink in as move forward with lots of firsts:  First nap, first diaper change, first new outfit, first bath (in the kitchen sink).  She loved her bath, unlike her big brother who put up quite a fuss the first night!

She took two naps this afternoon, the first for 2.5 hours, the second for about 1 hour.  She is now down for the night we hope.  Carrie is resting on the bed beside her.  My two girls resting comfortably, thank you Lord!

Our cab picks us up at 7:30 for our 11am flight which arrives in New York just 1 hour later thanks to a 13 hour time zone change in our favor.  We are looking forward to getting home and seeing our son who we miss dearly.  Our journey is almost complete, just another 26.5 hours and we should be touching down in the good old USA.

Thanks for your continued prayers.  We see the hand of our Sovereign God answering them every day in many ways.  As always we remain dependent upon His care and direction.  Love you all. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The months of waiting are counting down now to just a few minutes.  We are dressed and ready to go pick up our daughter.  We will have her in our arms at last at 11am Korean time.  That's about 10pm Wednesday night for you east coasters.

We have spent the past 48 hours since first meeting Mia in relatively low key mode.  Carrie was having trouble sleeping with all the anticipation and was not feeling well after an adventurous afteroon on Tuesday.  We asked our front desk for recommendations on a Korean restaurant for lunch.  In their broken English they told us to head down the street about 3 minutes walk, look for a green sign and then they wrote down the resaurants Korean!  We wanted to be polite but inside we were rolling our eyes thinking we would never find the place.

We walked a few minutes down the street, found a green building, no idea if it was the right place and went inside.  They led us to an elevator which took us to the third floor where we were greeted and seated in a private booth with a barbeque tray in the center of the table and an exhaust hood above.  The menu prices ranged from $100 to $25 per entree and all the photos showed pictures of raw meat.  We didn't know what to expect.  I suggested we just get up and leave but Carrie didn't want to offend them.

We tried to order an entree for me and a soup (less expensive) for Carrie.  They seemed to indicate we had to order two entrees.  After an extended discusssion, we finally got them to tell us the price for what they wanted us to order.  It was about $75...for lunch!  We said that was too much and finally they agreed to give us what we asked for.  The language barrier makes even simple exchanges complicated.

The meal came with a host of side dishes of various kimchi (korean pickled cabbage).  They brought out a tray of red hot coals and proceeded to cook my raw meat right in front of us.  The heat from the coals was almost overwhelming.  It would have been welcome in January, but on an 80 degree June afternoon it was a bit much.  Overall the meal was a bit of a disappointment, especially for the price but that's the chance you take when you take chances.

From there we decided to venture out again on our own to visit a popular tourist destination, the Seoul Tower, an observation tower on top of Namsan Mountain.  It offered panoramic views of the city and the Han River which bisecs the city.  We navigated through the subway system and then transfered to a bus but eventually made it.  It was quite an adventure.  Several locals stopped to help us as we looked lost to them I'm sure.

Yesterday we met a couple from North Carolina who had just adopted their second child, a baby boy.  It was helpful to talk with them and learn from their experiences.  Thanks for all your prayers.  The Lord answered one of them in an unexpedted way.  Carrie finally got some sleep last night thanks in part to some Advil PM provided by our new friends from Carolina.  

Well, we're out of time. The countdown's getting lower by the minute. Time to go get our daughter!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pleased to meet you, Mia!

Tuesday morning Carrie and I awoke not sure what we would do today.  We had not yet heard a confirmed schedule for meeting Mia and her foster mother.  We called the adoption agency at 8am and they asked us to call back in 1 hour.  So we decided to go out for breakfast and then call from our rented cell phone.  But as we left our room we found an envelope taped to our door.  It was a message from our social worker, we were to meet her at 9 to go see Mia!  Rather than emailing, or Tweeting, or blogging or even calling, we were notified the old fashioned way, by letter, probably sent by currier pigeon or pony express.

So our day began to take shape quickly.  Having gone through this process before we had some idea of what to expect.  Mia lives about 30 minutes from Seoul in an apartment complex much like her brother Ty did.  As we pulled up to the building we were surprised to see Mrs. Kim and Mia waiting for us outside.  That didn't happen with Ty in January with a foot of snow on the ground.

Mia greeted us with a big smile.  She was in a good mood and very active.  We can see she will be a handful.  She crawls very fast and can pull herself up and stand when holding onto something.  We are told she has not taken any steps yet.  We are looking forward to seeing that first step soon.  She was not shy about introducing herself.  She crawled right up into my lap and didn't mind us holding her.  It sounds like she likes to be held a lot.  She is a very happy baby as long as she gets what she wants.  We are told she cries mostly at night before bed and when she can't have something she wants.  So we are expecting a lot of crying at first.

Carrie says she looks taller than she was expecting, but I actually had the opposite impression.  She is so little, but quite chubby and soft, a lot of fun to hold and hug.  She babbled a little for us and said "bye, bye!"  Apparently she knows three words: Omma (mommy), Appa (daddy), and Bye.  I guess "bye" is the first English word she has learned.  She doesn't know it yet, but she is about to say bye to the world as she knows it.  We are praying that God gives us grace to help her through this tough transition.  We know He planned for this day long before we could have ever imagined it.  Today we were able to touch and hold a very important part of that plan.  It is becoming a reality and we are so thankful.  Thank you Lord, she's a beautiful gift!

The following picture is for our son Ty.  Look bud, Korean fire trucks!

(Almost) Sleepless in Korea

We had a very smooth 14 hr flight to Seoul.  I got a few hours sleep on the flight and Dana stayed awake watching movies & playing video games.  What a happy feeling to finally arrive at our destination!  Before we got on the flight I said, "I'd love to sit next to someone who speaks Korean and English so that I can ask questions & get help with some phrases I want to be able to say".  Sure enough, I sat next to a girl flying home to her family who attends school at Cornell in NY.  She was so sweet & so happy to hear the story of our adventure.  She also LOVED seeing all the pictures of Ty on my camera.

We were thankful to see our checked bags arrive on the belt.  We then got our money exchanged, rented a cell phone & caught a taxi to our hotel.  We're staying in a beautiful place equipped with a little kitchen, which has already come in handy.  The front desk directed us to a great food store VERY closeby where we picked up a few items for breakfast the next day.  That store is going to be very convenient when we need to get baby food and snacks for Mia. 

When we returned to our room we called home and had a wonderful 10min. of Skype with Ty and Grammie.  He tried to feed us some pretend snacks through the computer.  We were all smiles.  What a blessing to see him doing so well.

Dana fell asleep no problem around 9:30pm.  I woke up at 10, 11, 12, 1... with so many thoughts running through my head.  I finally decided at 1:45a.m. that I just needed to get up and check email, update the blog and start my list of questions to ask Mia's foster mom when we go for our visit.  It turns out that we don't know yet when our appt is to see Mia and the foster family.  We have to call the adoption agency here, when they open at 8a.m to see if a time has been determined.  Lord willing, we will get to see that little face on Tues.

Thank you again for all of your loving thoughts and prayers for us.  We'll keep you updated as we are able!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"See" you in Korea!

It's 10:30 p.m.  We just have a few more things to pack/do before we can head out the door in the morning.  It was a little sad to say goodnight to Ty tonight, but I know we'll be back before we know it and life will be so different for all of us!

We had the best "Ty-day" today, as we enjoyed "Vehicle Day" at the library.  He got to climb and explore lots of different trucks in the parking lot.  Some of the fireman complimented him on his fire helmet, but they especially liked his fire gloves, which are really Daddy's work gloves.  He hasn't quite grown into them.  We also did a practice Skype in the house today, using ours and Grammie's laptops.  It was funny that he wanted to tell us about his day on the firetrucks, as if we hadn't been with him! 

We are so thankful to know that so many people are praying for us and so anxious to see us united with little Mia.  We will give updates and those long-awaited family photos as soon as possible!

Goodnight, and see you in Korea!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We're leavin' on a (jumbo) jet plane!

We got the official word that Dana and I are confirmed on a direct flight to Korea on Father's Day!  Lord willing, we will depart from JFK airport on our 14 hour flight at 2pm and arrive in Seoul around 5:30pm on Mon., Korea time (13 hrs ahead of EST).  We plan to return on Fri. with Miss Mia on the 24th around noon.  Dana's dad has graciously volunteered to drive us down to JFK as well as pick us up on our return, equipped with a carseat.

I'm definitely feeling the butterflies of the last-minute preparations and the anticipation of bringing home our 10 month old.  I don't want to forget anything that she might possibly need for the trip home, but yet, I don't want to over-think it OR over-pack! 

We are so thankful to be starting this next chapter for the Steele family.  Ty is going to be a great big brother to her, and always ready to help.  In fact, I learned today that he can fold washcloths perfectly into fourths and pile 6 of them perfectly on top of each other!  I think he's gonna come in handy!

A special THANK YOU to our church family for the generous gift that was hand-delivered today to help with our trip and baby expenses.  We are truly blessed and humbled by the generosity and love shown to us.  God has chosen to bless us with another little one and it is with such joy that we can share this journey with you!

Love from the Steele (almost) 4

Encouragement for the days and weeks to come ...
Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."