Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Day in Seoul... First Day With Zoe!

We arrived at the Holt Guesthouse (which also houses the Holt Reception Center) about 7AM. We got settled in our room, took showers and crashed. We said we were going to sleep for 1 hour. We slept for 3 hours. We needed it though. We had a little snack and headed down 2 floors to see Zoe.

She was sleeping when we arrived, so we talked with the workers and visited the other babies.

After about 30 minutes, she woke up and we were finally the ones visiting with and holding our girl.

We read books.

We fed each other Baby Puff Snacks.

Played with toys.

And just enjoyed being together.

After playing downstairs in the RC with her for about 2 hours, the workers said "you can take her to your house" (they meant room). They gave us some yogurt and cheese for her and we brought her up to the room and played with all the toys Mommy and Daddy brought. We ate Gerber snacks, goldfish crackers, looked in the mirror, practiced drinking from a sippie-cup and Mommy even shared her water from a real cup with Zoe.

We had a great day with her. At 4:00, they came and got her for her bath. We set out for dinner, sight-seeing and exploring this magical city. We took the subway... which was awesome and we didn't even take 1 wrong exit. We went to Lotte Department Store, which is like 4 stores in 1. Think the BIGGEST mall you've ever been to. It's bigger than that. There were thousands of people. There was a lot, A LOT, of stuff. One minute you're looking at cashmere scarves, the next, you're in a full-sized grocery store picking out your lettuce or kimchi. It was crazy.

We found a cool little place for dinner then went exploring at the Underground Market.

This place was huge. The hallways are LONG: filled with stores, shoppes, and stands: all selling their goods.

We hit the 7-eleven down there too and got some drinks (I'm in Fanta heaven) and headed back to the room. We're pooped. What a great day!


P.S. photos added soon. Blogger is acting crazy and poor Michael is already asleep.

Day 1: Travel Day... Flying, Flying and more Flying

Friday afternoon we headed to the Memphis International Airport to set off on our journey to Seoul to finally bring sweet Zoe home. Check-in at the United counter was less than helpful to say the least! When we arrived, there was a sign saying the United Airlines workers would "return shortly". Well, apparently their definition of "shortly" and mine differ ... a lot. We stood there a little over 30 minutes when another man walked up said it had been at least an hour and a half. We decided to have security page United and a few moments later we heard the announcement for the United employees to come meet their customers at their counter. At this point, quite a line had formed with us right in front. About 10 minutes later, the least friendly woman I've ever encountered came to the counter and said "you CAN use the kiosk". Well, actually, I couldn't. For some reason, you can't check yourself in when you are traveling with a baby on United. The fact that I DIDN'T have a baby on the way over and would have one on the way back seemed to be too much for her to wrap her mind around. Then she proceeded to tell us that she couldn't check our baggage because the baggage worker's hours changed and would be coming in later that afternoon. I just looked at her and replied, "We're going to KOREA, we have 4 bags to check and we have 2 carry-ons". Finally, she finished checking us in (and checking-in our bags), we were finally on our way. What a GREAT (insert sarcastic tone) start to our trip!

Our flight into Chicago was delayed about an hour and a half, but that didn't matter. We had a 9 hour layover "cushion" anyway. We had a small plane to Chicago and there was a lot of turbulence. We arrived in Chicago at the O'Hare Airport and decided not to leave the airport because it was rainy and cold outside, so we set off to find some deep-dish pizza... a Chicago must. We've both had Uno's Pizza in Chicago and it's great and we were delighted when we found Uno's on the map. We walked down the concourse to find "Uno's" was a fast-food type place with individual sized deep dish pizzas sitting in a warmer. Not exactly what we had in mind. So, we made a Plan B (life really is all about how you handle plan B) and set off towards the Food Court. On our way, we found a Chili's and that sounded GREAT to us... so Chili's it was for our last meal on American soil for a while.

After dinner, we headed over to a different terminal to check in with Asiana Airlines. While waiting, we made friends with another couple, Joan and Jeremy, who are adopting a little girl from China. They were on our flight to Seoul and then would go into Guangzhou. We had some time to kill before checking in with Asiana, so we sat in the food court and talked about our families, adoption, our boys (they have two too) and life.

When we went to check in at Asiana, about 50 of the most beautiful Asian men and women I've ever seen came out and lined up behind the counter: bowed and said "Welcome to Asiana! Happy New Year!" Then everyone queued up and they got us all checked in. There were about 300 passengers on our flight and we all sat at gate 18 waiting to board our plane to Seoul. We watched the New Year's Eve special (you know, the one with Kathy Lee, BARF!) and counted down the New Year! We knew we'd be cooped up in those airplane seats for several hours (13 to be exact), so we sat on the floor and played a game of Bananagrams.

About 12:30AM, we boarded our plane and let me just say, I KNEW the plane was huge, I knew it held about 300 passengers plus crew, but it's like this thing kept going and going. It was huge. The attendants were seriously, WAY beautiful. Not like those fat, grey-haired American flight attendants. These women were gorgeous ... and so friendly and helpful.

We set off on our 14 hour flight and I must say the accommodations on Asiana are fantastic. There is a screen on the back of every seat and there's lots to choose from... movies, games, etc. We had dinner (at what I think was about 3AM) and then we tried to go to sleep. I slept about an hour or so and was restless. I just couldn't get comfortable and with 300 people around, things were a little noisy. I slept on and off for a few hours and by then, we were flying somewhere around the North Pole. My tv screen had switched over to the flight-tracking info screen and I was fascinated by the distance we had traveled, the temperature outside (the lowest we ever saw was negative 70 around the North Pole), how long we had to go, etc. I just couldn't turn my brain off and I couldn't sleep.

Michael woke up at one point and asked me if I was okay. I just looked at him with tears streaming down my face and told him I was miserable. I was tired... so tired and I couldn't sleep. I was emotionally and physically drained and I needed sleep, but wasn't comfortable and I wanted to lay down in a BED! He patted me on the head and laughed. I took some Excedrin PM and it totally took the edge off and I got about 2 more hours of sleep.

We arrived in Seoul, grabbed our luggage (everything made it here), made it through customs, exchanged our money and found our driver. (Holt totally ROCKS, by the way for arranging this!) It was nearly 6 AM and the ground was covered in snow and ice and the driver said the roads were clear and that it had been here for 4 days. It's cold here. REALLY cold here, but you don't notice it when you're inside because the inside of the buildings are kept so warm.

We're glad to finally be in Sweet Seoul... and it really does have that distinct Kimchi smell.

To be continued...

P.S. I'm having trouble adding pics to blogger right now, so you're going to have to wait... or see Facebook. :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flight Details

Going to Korea:
We are leaving Memphis International Airport on Friday, December 31 at 2:26 PM on United Airlines Flight 6231.
We will arrive in Chicago at 4:16 PM. We will have a 9 hour layover, so we'll be leaving the airport to have a little dinner in Chicago and maybe see some sights.

We will leave Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Saturday, January 1 at 1:00 AM on Asiana Airlines Flight 235.
We will arrive in Seoul, South Korea at Seoul Incheon International Airport on Sunday, January 2 at 6:00 AM (the flight is a 14 hour flight and we will be crossing the International Date Line; that is why we lose the day.)

Coming Home:
We are leaving Seoul Incheon International Airport on Friday, January 7th at 6:50 PM on Asiana Airlines Flight 236.
We will arrive in Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Friday, January 7th at 4:40 PM (this flight is 13 hours, and thanks to crossing the international date line again, we'll arrive before we left, ha!)
We'll have a little over a 4 hour layover in Chicago and will depart O'Hare at 9:03 PM on United Airlines Flight 6121 to Memphis International. We will arrive in Memphis on Friday, January 7th at 10:45PM.

We have a lot of friends and family who have asked if they can come to the airport to Welcome Zoe home.... ABSOLUTELY! I know several families have already told us they'll be there. I'm counting on some of you to take some pictures and video of us coming through those gates and being united with our boys... becoming a family of 5 at last.

I provided you with Flight Numbers so that you can track and make sure it's running on time. We'll see you when we get home.


P.S. We're planning on blogging while we're in Korea, so stay tuned. :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas without Zoe

I never imagined we'd be spending Christmas without Zoe. We were so close, but didn't quite make it. I have had peace about how it all worked out, but I can admit: I had a really big cry last night.... it was more like a sob. Her stocking was hanging by the fireplace and Santa brought her gifts. Her Christmas dress (okay, dressES) were hanging in her closet and she has presents wrapped under the tree. The only thing missing was our girl. I would've liked to see her under the tree, opening her gifts and getting into her brother's stuff today.

I had a great day with the boys, but I was constantly thinking of our daughter. I was constantly missing her. I just want her home NOW. Knowing we're 6 days away from going to get her was no comfort today; I just need my baby home.

Sweet baby girl, it's hard to believe that in 1 week: I'll be looking at your sweet face in person and we'll be together forever. I can't wait for you to be home to join the madness that is this house sometimes. I can't wait to open your Christmas presents with you and to sit on the floor playing with you. Your brothers are excited to introduce you to M&M's and Hershey's Kisses. Your daddy spent a good 30 minutes today playing with your Little People Airplane that Santa Claus brought you... he called it "Asiana Airlines". (that is the name of the airlines we'll be flying to come to Korea to bring you home.) We missed you today, sweet Zoe, and we prayed that you had a great Christmas in Korea and that you are safe and well! We love you!
~Daddy, Mommy, Robert & Andrew

Merry Christmas from the Sloan Family

Michael, Paula, Robert, Andrew & Zoe

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let's Talk Attachment...

We have all been waiting a long time to see and hold our baby girl. We’ve had about a year to prepare for the changes we will experience, to learn as much as we can, to contemplate what adoption will mean to us as a family, and to anticipate the changes we will experience as our family grows from a family of four to a family of five. We have started to come to know and love Zoe Grace through the photos and updates we have received from our agency. It is hard for us to believe we are still strangers to her!

While we are preparing a place for her in our home and hearts, Zoe has not even thought of leaving where she is. She is happy and content in the loving arms of her nannies and caregivers. In just a few short days, Zoe will be experiencing the loss of everything she has ever known. We anticipate that this will be a very difficult time for our little girl. We ask that you keep Zoe in your prayers.

As Zoe's arrival is approaching, we wanted to talk to everyone a bit about bonding and attachment. We are thrilled that everyone is so excited to welcome our new daughter. That said, we want to make our expectations clear from the start, so that there won’t be any confusion, misunderstandings, or hurt feelings after her arrival. We have talked a lot with our social worker and agency about this transition and have done a lot of reading about ways to make healthy attachments with adopted children.

As hard as it is to say, please enjoy her from our arms for a while. Zoe needs to recognize us as mom and dad before she is ready to be passed around. This is a small window of time we have to develop an appropriate bond. She will be a much happier baby if we give her time to grieve her losses and then form a forever bond. There is no set length of time for this, but we will be able to tell by her reactions whether or not she is ready to be held by others.

We still invite you to say "hi" to her, talk to her and play with her (keeping in mind her reaction of course); but, for a while, we need to be the only ones to feed, diaper, bathe, cuddle Zoe. She will be grieving the loss of her environment, nannies, caregivers, language, and familiar foods, etc. This usually lasts for at least a few weeks, but grieving episodes could occur for months after her arrival. Grieving episodes are intensified by over stimulation, so we need to keep her world quiet and small for her first weeks with us as she begins to bond with her forever mommy, daddy and big brothers.

We have been so blessed by this gift. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can for Zoe to feel secure. It is important to remember, in her short 14 months of life, she's lost her birth-mother, the nurses and staff at the NICU (where she spent several weeks after her premature birth), her first foster family in Dejong (where she spent 3 months) and now will be losing her nannies and caregivers at the Reception Center (where she has spent almost 11 months). We know many of you have bonded with her just as we have! So many of you have prayed daily for her and we do not underestimate the bond or love you feel for her. We hope you understand our need for this special time with our baby girl.

If you have any questions, please call or email.

Thank you in advance for understanding!

Michael and Paula Sloan

Here are a couple links that might help you understand attachment a little better:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Starting to Nail Down the Details .... I'm Getting EXCITED Now!

We confirmed our flights with Holt USA who confirmed with Holt Korea and we're good to go!

Since we're flying into Seoul at 6AM on Sunday morning, we'll have time to get checked into the Holt Guesthouse (it is in the same building as the Reception Center) and spend some time visiting with Zoe. We'll grab some lunch and do a little exploring of Seoul and do a little shopping. (I'm already making my list of Korean treasures that I want to bring home!)

On Monday, January 3rd, we'll have our City Tour. Holt provides this service and it lasts about a 1/2 day. We'll tour a palace and see some other sights and then grab some lunch. I hope our tour guide can help us find the name chops for the kids. We'll spend the afternoon visiting with Zoe some more and will spend another night in the Guesthouse.

On Tuesday, January 4th, we'll move from the Holt Guesthouse to The Somerset, which will give us a little more room to spread out. We'll get all settled in, do a little more exploring, grab some lunch and head back over to Holt for our meeting with Zoe's caregivers and with DJ, our social worker and we will receive our girl at last!!!

We'll spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Somerset. We'll fill our days playing with Zoe, getting to know her, video-chatting with the boys and exploring her birth country with her. We know we're taking her to the North Seoul Tower and to the Teddy Bear Museum one day. We'll find some stuff to do and will make good use of the Children's Play area at the Somerset.

On Friday, January 7th, we'll catch our flight to Chicago and back to Memphis! I can't wait to see her little face when she sees her two big brothers for the first time. She's been carrying around that picture of them for months and now she can see them in person. They can't wait to hold her and play with her. Our family will finally all be together! We are all so EXCITED!!!!

Zoe Girl, we're coming to get ya' and your daddy said he'll share his Bulgogi with you! We love you baby girl and we can't wait to see you. We'll see you in 17 days. ~mommy and daddy

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago. -Isaiah 25:1