Sunday, April 22, 2012

Homeward Bound

**April 22, 2011**
Friday


Jihee did so much better than expected for her first night with us. She slept on the bed in between Jason and I at the hotel and was asleep a good chunk of the night. So many people praying for us and it was definitely felt. We were hoping for a decent night so we could save our energy for the plane ride home.

We were all up early getting the last of the bags packed. The bellboy came up and took our things downstairs for us and we checked out around 7:30am. We got on the KAL limo for the hour long ride back to Incheon International Airport.


You'll have to excuse the crazy expression on Jason's face. Although Cora had done well during the night, it was by no means a full night of sleep. And since we were sort of already running on half empty, it took a few trys before we could figure out how to snap a picture.

We got to the airport, piled our bags on a cart, and headed for the ticket line. The airline wouldn't let us buy Cora's ticket in advance since they required her passport information. Cora and I walked around while Jason took care of that. Then it was off for the checked baggage line. There were soooo many people in line...it wound around a zillion different metal posts. The thought of standing in that line for the next hour with a 9 month old baby who wasn't too sure of me or what was going on did not sound appealing. Then something beautiful happened. A sign. It read "For families with small children"...woot! That's us! There were only 3 people in that line and Cora barely held herself together during that wait. I was so thankful for that line!

We went to our gate and since it was an international flight, we had to be there early so we had some time to diddle until our plane was ready.


Asiana had arranged for us to have bulkhead seating. It was such a blessing to have these seat assignments. There are only two seats in this "row" and it has some extra leg room or to put up the bassinet. The airline attendant came over and asked if we wanted it and we promptly filled it with diapers, wipes, food, bottles, and toys that we figured we were going to need.


Cora was such a trooper and very brave. I can't even imagine how hard this was for her. She was very uncertain and unsettled.


We flew from Seoul to Chicago. It was a long flight with most of it spent walking the plane. I wore her in the Ergo a majority of the time as that was one of the only ways she would sleep or be comforted. I think it offered her some security being all tucked into that thing with her blanket to hold.

The bulk head space was perfect for our needs. I had just enough room to take two steps forward and then two steps back. I kept that pattern up for a majority of the flight. There were times that I sat on the arm of the seat, and propped my head up with my hand so I could close my eyes for just a little bit.

We landed in Chicago, took the tram to our next gate, and waited for the next plane to depart. It was another windy, rainy day and we were told to expect turbulence for the majority of the flight. They were right, the "fasten seat belt" sign remained on much of the flight as we were bounced and jostled around.

We touched down, stopped in the restroom to change Cora's clothes, and headed for baggage claim.

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I was so excited to see Ella, Ben, and Lily. I had missed them so much!!

And I was so thrilled to introduce their new baby sister to them.

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We spent lots of time hugging and talking to each other while we waited for our bags to begin their journey around the baggage claim carousel. We waited...and we waited...and we waited. Finally the carousel stopped turning all together...and no sign of our bags.

We found out our bags were on the next flight arriving from Chicago. They ended up sending them in a cab to our house. Since our house was not on any google map at that time, the cab driver called about a thousand times asking for directions. He finally arrived sometime close to 1am. Luckily, we were still on Korea time and jetlag was already starting to kick in, so niether of us 3 were anywhere close to wanting to sleep.

The kiddos had made signs to welcome us home...



There were balloon, streamers, and even a beautiful plant.

Oh...it was good to be home.

Now we just had the challenge of working through jetlag and starting to get Cora settled in.


Jetlag was tough for all of us! It took about 10 days for Cora and Jason to come around and about 2 weeks for me. We spent a lot of time awake at 3:00 in the morning...which wasn't easy since we knew that there were 3 other little children who were going to be awake and ready to go come 7am.


The first step of the journey was done. We had survived the return flight and then the jetlag. Now it was time to start the uphill climb of bonding and attaching. The task of finding a new normal as a family of 6. And the wonderful pleasure of waking up to this precious girl every day.

I can hardly believe that one year ago today, we brought home our 4th child.

We are immeasurably blessed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

View from our Window

Just a few quick pics showing our view from our window at the hotel.

It was always fun to watch the hustle and bustle down below. To see how much activity there is at any given hour of the day.





Receiving Day

**April 21, 2011**
Thursday

After rushing to SWS, we rode the elevator up to the 7th floor. We went inside and sat down. Cora and her fostermother were taking care of the pre-flight check-up so I felt much better that they weren't just sitting there waiting for us.




I'm sure she was wondering why she was seeing us again.

I was starting to get a little nervous, knowing what was coming, and how hard this was going to be on this little precious girl.

I just wanted to get her home...home to her brother and sisters, home to her forever family, and home to a life full of hopes and dreams. I knew the obstacles and trials of attaching and bonding, but I was ready to face them head on. I wanted to start our journey together. Knowing full well that this was going to be a another loss that she would deal with for a lifetime.

While they finished up all their paperwork, we went to the children's hospital at SWS. There were lots and lots of little babies in there. It's such a heartbreaking scene. Knowing there are so many children who are waiting for their mommy or daddy to come get them...to offer them a forever family to call their own.


The front room is where the wee little ones are and the back room is for babies that are 3 months and older. You can no idea how I just wanted to scoop each of them up. And you have no idea how emotional I am getting just looking at this picture again. Not only for the babies in there...but also just knowing that 3 of my children started their life out this way.


This is the mural in the hallway. It was the perfect reminder I needed of why SWS exists and that God has a plan for these childrens' lives. "Plans to prosper and not to harm"... That He knows their every desire and holds each of their tears in His hand. That He loves them dearly.


Once back up on the 7th floor, we spent some time getting re-aquainted with our sweet Jihee. Once it was time to go, we were escorted to the elevators...and the rest of the story...well, as much as I want to share it, I've decided that I need to save it for Cora to hear first.

Just know that it was hard...incredibly hard, that lots of tears fell, and lots of hearts were broken.

*sigh* It's still hard to relive even a year later.



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Once we left SWS, we walked back to the hotel to start our journey...the journey that would bring us back to the US where we would become a family of 6.

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Looking at this video now, I can see the emotional toll from the last hour on my face. I think I may just be in a little state of shock that this day has finally come.

The more time we spent getting to know her those first few hours, both Jason and I fell madly in love with her.
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And one last video...just cause she is so crazy cute...

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The day went relatively well, all things considered. We decided that for supper, we needed to get out of the hotel for a bit. Cora was stuck in a small room with complete strangers, her fosterfamily no where in sight, and nothing familiar to be heard. We felt that we should take her out to relieve some of the pressure. Familiar sights, smells, and sounds can do wonders for a diversion.

We took the subway to the Techno Mart Food Court. This food court is located in the basement and has stalls and stalls of food. It was so delicious. Jason got some awesome melon flavored ice cream with fruit (well, I think it was made from soy milk or something) for dessert. It had shaved ice at the bottom with sweetened red bean paste. Yes, it really was this big. It was a great way to celebrate our day.



We headed back to the hotel and bunkered down for what would be our last night in Seoul. We would need to be up bright and early the next morning to get packed up and on our way to the airport.

E-Mart

**April 21, 2011**
Thursday

Taking this trip down memory lane has been so much fun. Although it's been a year, in some regards, the memories are so vivid that it feels like it was just a few months ago. When I let my mind drift back to those days, I can feel my breath quicken, my heart pound, and I find myself right back there once again.

Thursday, April 21 will forever be etched on my heart. This was the day, the official day, that we received Cora Jihee. She became ours. It was the day I had been waiting for...all that paperwork, all those notory signatures, all the fingerprints, all the moments spent staring at her pictures...it was all leading up to this moment.

My emotions were high that morning...with so many things running through my head.

Before our 1:00pm appointment at SWS, we ran to the E-Mart to grab a few things. The E-Mart is sort of like a small Wal-mart of sorts. It has all sorts of household items on the first floor and the basement is a grocery store. It's fun to wander around, looking at all the korean items.


This is all sorts of pastes...red pepper paste, soybean paste, etc, etc.


I can't imagine buying this big of a container of red pepper paste. And although I didn't have any idea how we could eat so much of the stuff, I sort of wanted to buy it anyway.


We bought the kids more things, some staples in case things didn't go well that night (and we didn't have the time or the energy to go out to get food), and a beautiful, artisan cake for Cora's fosterfamily as one last "thank-you" for all they had done.

We spent way too long in there, bought bags and bags of items, and then had the long trek back to the Renassiance Hotel to get ready to leave for SWS. We booked it back...and I mean "booked it".

I was so hungry, and due to our shopping extravaganza, we had forgotten to figure out what to do for lunch...and I still had to get cleaned up and ready for our appointment. And now that I was sweating from walking so fast with all those packages, which mean "cleaning up" was going to take a bit longer. I was completely stressing out. I couldn't believe that the planner in me had failed at such a crucial moment. This meeting was going to be hard enough with all the good-byes that were going to take place, that I really didn't need any added stress. Jason decided to stop at a pizza place and grab something while I continued on to the hotel.


Can you believe he found a Dominos Pizza in the middle of Seoul?!?

This is a picture of bulgogi pizza...and broccoli. Unfortunately, we only got some chicken strips (spicy, cause I think that's the only kind they make in all of Korea), and some breadsticks due to our time constraint.

By the time he got to the hotel, I was so nervous, stressed, and frustrated with myself for not planning better, that I could hardly eat a bite. My stomach was doing flips...no, make that back flips...from 50 feet up in the air...with a blind-fold on.

We managed to leave the hotel close to on time and we were forced to speed-walk the entire way to SWS.

Whew! What a morning it had turned out to be.

What? When?

Just for my own records...2011

April 14 (Thurs)...Travel Call for Cora (8:09am)
April 15 (Friday)...depart Minneapolis
April 16 (Saturday)...depart Chicago around 1am
April 17 (Sunday)...Arrival into Seoul, South Korea...Incheon International Airport
April 18 (Monday)...ESWS, lunch at Pizza Hut, Kyobo Bookstore, Namdaemun
April 19 (Tuesday)...First meeting with Cora (9am SWS) and trip to her fosterfamily's home, Han River, Baseball Stadium, Supper with Mrs. Nam and So Hyun
April 20 (Wednesday)...Lotte World, lunch at The Fresh House, Olympic Park
April 21 (Thursday) Emart, Received Cora (1pm SWS), Techno Mart Food Court
April 22 (Friday) depart Korea and arrive in the US

Friday, April 20, 2012

Olympic Park

April 20, 2011
Wednesday


After stuffing ourselves silly, we decided we really wanted needed to take a walk. Luckily, Olympic Park is just the place for such an activity.


Olympic Park was built for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. This is the World Peace Gate.

It was so huge and quite impressive.


There were flags representing each country. It was a windy day and they were so beautiful waving in the wind.


This is a view from the opposite side of the wall.


In Korea, children are required to wear uniforms to school. I couldn't resist snapping a picture of all these little ones out on a field trip.


Here's another group.


On one side is that great, big wall with the flags...and just opposite that is a beautiful pond.



Here they are just starting...

They were so pretty.


They would build and build until they looked like this:



Just beyond the "water show" was a big, stone-arch bridge. It seemed like a diamond in the ruff...a pearl tucked in the city.


We crossed the bridge and took a nice walk along some paved trails. There were cherry three blossoms everywhere.


It smelled so good!






This a view from the other side, from the top of a hill, on the paved trail.


Olympic Park was impressive.


And just cause all the little kiddos on their field trips were posing with this little guy...I decided I should too. :)

The Fresh House

April 20, 2011
Wednesday



After chatting once again with the kiddos that morning, we headed out to Lotte World. Once we had finished looking around there, we decided to head to The Fresh House. It is located in Olympic Park, Jamsil, line 8 to Mongchontoseoung, exit 1. Just in case you wanted to know.


The Fresh House is this awesome restaurant. It is a giant buffet with endless amounts of food. There were lots of familiar things and a few new items for us to try as well. And lots and lots of sushi.


Did I mention they had lots of sushi...and that I really, really love sushi?

It was beautiful. The sushi chefs were so talented and the plates looked like works of art. I tried all sorts of new things as well as some all-time favorites...like eel, smoked salmon, ahi tuna.

Oh, goodness...I think I just drooled on myself.

I am pretty sure I ate enough sushi for four people. Maybe five.

I don't know that I have ever been that full.

I digress...forget about the sushi...there were lots of other fabulous things too.


Like these little guys...

Need a closer look...no worries, I got it covered.


Are you squirming in your chair?

I didn't get any....just Jason did...are you surprised? I could barely handle just looking at all those legs twisted around that skewer.


This crazy, little thing is a lychee...I think.

I wasn't completely convinced this thing wasn't going to jump up and bite me until I got it opened and it revieled some soft fruit.

Once I was completely stuffed and couldn't fit another morsel in, I decided it was time for some dessert.


I'm pretty sure that the people were wondering who these very piggish tourists were. In my defense, I hadn't eaten all day...and the food was really good.

And once I had polished off that plate, I figured I should have just enough room for one last item.

There was a chef making fresh waffles. But not just any waffles, these were waffles from heaven. They were sweet and delicious, filled with fresh whipped cream and a honey glaze. Oh. My. Stars.


I couldn't resist...I had to have another. I was prepared to have to be wheeled out of this place if only I could have one more of those buggers.


Do you see that smile? They were making me giddy. Yeah...they were that good.

Oh dear....two sushi left on my plate...that can't be...better eat them up to.

If you are reading this wondering how on earth I could fit that much food in my stomach...let me assure you that I am wondering the very same thing.

Once we decided we were done, we went to pay. The cashier told me that I get "one lady discount"...sweet. Not sure what that meant and not sure I liked being called a "lady"...but hey, what are ya gonna do? Disounts are discounts. :)




Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Han River and the Baseball Stadium

**April 19, 2011**
Tuesday

 

The morning was awesome...meeting Cora was so special. It was hard to leave her, even though I knew that it would only be a few more days until I would be able to spend the rest of my life with her.

Once we got back to SWS from our trip to her home, we went back to the Renassiance Hotel and regrouped. We decided that we needed to get out and soak up some more culture and experience more of Seoul. Besides, I needed something to take my mind off of that precious little girl I had just held and wanted to be holding again at that very moment.


We had plans to visit with Mrs. Nam, Lily's fostermother, and So Hyun, Lily's fostersister that evening. In the meantime, we decided to go exploring down by the Han River. To read more about that visit with our dear friends, click here.

Once we got off the subway stop and walked outside, we were greeted with lots of cherry trees. They are just so beautiful this time of year. This particular subway stop is right by a lot of apartment buildings and there was even a playpark with lots of children enjoying the nice day. It was a nice change compared to all the business buildings/shops we had been seeing a lot of.


The Han River is a major river in South Korea and flows right through Seoul.

At some points, it's over a 1/2 mile wide.


There are so many bridges...




There is a lot of power in that water.



We lazily walked for quite a while along the paved trails. The sun was warm and there was just a light breeze.


There were lots of bikers out too. In Korea, they don't like to be out in the sun like we do here in the states. In fact, the lighter your skin, the prettier it is. So different from here where everyone wants to be tan. Because they don't want the sun on their skin, the bikers were clothed from head to toe...even something to help cover the faces.




Before we realized, we had walked quite a way and knew we needed to get back to the hotel to get ready for our supper out. Since it was too far away to go back the way we had come, we decided to find another subway stop.

And we happened upon this:



The olympic baseball stadium...





That's the closest to the olympics I'ver ever been...and it was pretty cool.