Sunday, November 20, 2011

Welcome Winter!

The first snowflakes fell yesterday, right along with the temperatures. We're a Minnesota family through and through, but the first time the thermometer hits 20 degrees and the wind whips across our faces each year, it's always a shock to the system. Graham and Amelia didn't seem to mind though and by 8:30 this morning they were dressed for playing in the snow-parkas, boots, and snow pants. I'm glad they like the snow because I don't anticipate seeing our grass for the next 6 months or so. Welcome Winter!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


This post will wrap up our Korean adventure and for some reason, I've struggled with what to write. Since this blog will be "out there" forever for Graham and Amelia to read, I want to be completely honest for them...

I know that culturally, adoption isn't something generally accepted by the Korean community. Korean culture places huge emphasis on bloodline and adoption doesn't allow for a "clean" family tree. This isn't something that I believe to be true, but in doing any research on this topic, one would find such statements. Each time I've traveled to Korea, I've visited with this knowledge. But, on this visit with our Korean born children, these beliefs hit me hard. I felt like I we might as well have been carrying signs that said "Yes, our family was formed through adoption, and yes, we're proud of it!" Never in my life have I felt so vulnerable and "out there". Never in my life have we been stared at like we were stared at. Never in my life have I had people so blatantly converse about my family within inches of us. It was a very strange experience and I'm just thankful that Graham and Amelia weren't old enough to understand that our family make-up was causing such discussion.

On the flip side of that though, I left Korea, with it's millions of people and jam packed subways, with an intense gratitude. Graham and Amelia are miracles. The fact that any pregnancy in Korea ends with an international adoption plan is amazing all on its own. The fact that not once, but twice, we've been blessed with such gifts is miraculous. International adoption is quite the journey and I can't put into words the gratitude I feel to know that despite the odds, our road thankfully led us to Graham and Amelia and that their road led them to us.

Eastern Social Welfare Society is the Korean adoption agency that partners with our stateside agency. Over the years, 'Eastern' is a place we've become very familiar with. It's a place that holds much emotion in our hearts. It's the place we first laid eyes on Graham and Amelia and it's also the place where many tears were shed as the kids unknowingly said good-bye to their lovely foster families-the only family they had ever known.

I wasn't sure how the kids would react to being back at Eastern and having the chance to visit with their foster mothers. I was so excited to bring the kids back and show everyone what amazing little people they have grown into. I know Graham and Amelia were so loved by their foster families and I knew how excited their foster mothers would be to see them in person. The foster mothers spotted Graham and Amelia as they walked up the stairs and immediately began calling out to them in their Korean names. It was an amazing feeling to watch the foster mothers, with huge grins on their faces, run up to the kids. They were clearly beyond thrilled to see the babies they so lovingly took care of now 3 and 4 years old, walking, talking, with big personalities!

Graham took the meeting in stride. He seemed pleased to have his foster mothers undivided attention as he flipped through the photo book we made for her. She doesn't speak any English, but that didn't stop Graham from talking a mile a minute with statements such as "This is me at the lake house!" and "This is me on the Mickey Mouse boat!" His foster mother was so sweet and just beamed as she listened to Graham talk. Thank goodness for translators!

Amelia on the other hand, had a tough time with the visit. Amelia's foster mother was equally as sweet and wanted so badly to cuddle with Amelia. Amelia wanted no part of that though. She spent the better part of the meeting crying hysterically for me to hold her. I wish I understood more about young children and memories because Amelia was clearly working through something. Ever since we've been home from Korea, she's needed MUCH more reassurance than ever before and she's been my little shadow. Each day gets a little better for her though, and we'll continue to provide her with as much reassurance as she needs!

After we said our good-byes, we walked around the building a bit to show the kids around. Our first stop was the nursery. Both Graham and Amelia spent a short amount of here after they were born and before they moved in with their foster families. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe the emotion I felt as I watched my babies watching the babies. Again, miraculous. We offered to help feed the babies but because it is flu season, we couldn't enter the nursery with the kids so we had to settle for just observing.
Our last stop at Eastern was a visit to the infamous red throne. Does this look familiar to anyone?

Wow, are they growing up fast, or what?

Monday, November 7, 2011


Life is finally back on track in the Olson house! It was rough going for the first few days home as we all took a turn being sick and as a result paid the doctor three visits. Graham and Amelia had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the 14 hour time change once home. Jeff and I think we suffered from jet lag, but the truth of the matter is that the kids didn't let us sleep at night anyways, so we weren't sure if we were tired from dealing with them all night long or from dealing with out own internal body clocks being off. Regardless, just over a week later, and we're all doing well!

Before we left, the flight is what concerned me the most. I had visions of being stuck in a chair with unhappy preschoolers for 15 hours and it wasn't pretty. But, I'm honestly able to say that the flight was the easiest part of the trip! Graham and Amelia did a fantastic job and earned many compliments from those sitting around us! After traveling for a week, we obviously have lots of stories to share, too many in fact to write down in a blog. So, I think I'll just let the pictures and their descriptions do the talking....

Daddy Jeff and Graham checking out the live crab at the grocery store across the street from Halmoni and Haraboji's condo

Amelia did NOT like the smell of the crab. Actually, Amelia didn't seem to really enjoy many of the smells of Korea. This pose was a common occurrence for her.

Family trip to E-Mart. This store sells everything from groceries to clothes to toys and even pets

Quick stop at the local playground

Sleeping on the subway-a very regular occurrence for these two. And yes, we had them in strollers when we were out and about. Between the jet lag induced exhaustion and the fact that the amount of walking we did was extreme, there was no way these two would have been able to survive so they very happily rode in their chariots.

Amelia at the Coex Aquarium

When I was in Korea back in College, a favorite hangout for my friends and I was the Coex Mall. Here we are at Coex sitting in the exact same spot that I sat in with friends more than 10 years ago!

Outside Seoul Tower

Graham and Amelia in front of a few of the "Locks of Love" at Seoul Tower

These trees covered in locks go on forever. The "Locks of Love" tradition was started back in the 80's. 'Locks' and 'love' are considered to be synonymous so visitors began leaving padlocks with notes attached as a way to lock their love forever. Knowing of this tradition, we of course had to leave our own lock...

Our lock and note. For those of you that have ever eaten a meal with Graham, you know that he made up this prayer and insists that we hold hands and say it each time we sit down together as a family.

Graham and Amelia taking in Seoul from the top of the tower. We are officially very far from home here....

Happy Birthday to Daddy Jeff! We're enjoying a traditional Korean meal at a local restaurant.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Fell asleep on top of her magna-doodle at lunch

Amelia and I outside of the Somerset Palace-the hotel we stayed at when we traveled to bring her home!

Octopus for sale on the streets of Insadong

Ginseng anyone?

Daddy Jeff was impressed by these mushrooms at Namdeamun-the biggest we've ever seen!

This is the restroom that Daddy Jeff visited before I called him ...does anyone else see a problem with this? We'll just blame it on jet lag! :)

Dunkin Donut break at Seoul Station

Having a slow morning watching a little "Bubble Guppies"

Once of the other things we did while in Seoul was visit Eastern (the Korean adoption agency) and met with both Graham and Amelia's foster mothers. I have lots of pictures of this and a lot to say about this experience so stay tuned....that experience deserves a blog post of its own.