Friday, February 23, 2018

Our First Days Together

The last couple days have been busy and exhausting, in the best way. Thursday, we had our Visa Interview which was at noon. This meant that we couldn't do much before, as all of the families were meeting in our hotel to head to the embassy together.

We started the day with cartoons and snacks. Eventually, this led to a completely naked girl, refusing to put on any clothes. She is quite good at communicating even through the language barrier. I know when she wants something, and everyone knows if she doesn't. This lack of clothes lasted a long time, until we couldn't take it anymore and needed to get some breakfast. She was not happy about it, but we got her dressed. My sweet Maylee is an awesome eater.

The rest of the morning is a blur. We tried the playroom, but there were too many people and Maylee seemed overwhelmed, so we left pretty quickly. Other than that, I think we just hung out in our room, until it was time to meet our friends in the lobby.

It was so fun seeing everyone again! Three other families were with us- one of them Maylee's foster sister's family, one from Oregon too, and the family that we met for dinner earlier this week. It was the best to have gone through all of this together. We shared so many memories of our court trip and now here we were with our new babies. So surreal.

The Visa Interview was a breeze. Nothing to worry about at all. Just simple questions and a wait. The kiddos ran around each other and parents doted on them. I was hoping that Maylee would be excited to see her foster sister, but it looked as though they were both in shock. While they interacted a bit, neither showed signs of excitement. This made me so sad.

After our Visa Interview, we went back up to our room to drop off our things and headed down to get some coffee. Little Miss got a pudding cup (we doesn't Starbucks have these in the US??). We planned to venture further, but the wind was blowing and it was too cold, so we headed back and ordered chicken from the front desk. We visited the playroom again. This time it was quiet and she had a blast. Her silly side really come out then.


Bedtime we tough. Maylee was grieving so hard. She kept yelling for her appa (foster dad) and ayia (foster sister), over and over again. It was almost two hours of sadness and confusion. Our little girl has been through so much and the grief is so hard. She wants comfort, but not from me. Then she wants me to hold her, then she doesn't. She knows that I'm the one who took her from them and that makes it hard to want comfort from me.

Yesterday, we tried to stay busy. We all do better when we're busy. There were a few things Cassie and I wanted to pick up before heading home, so it was our errand day. We started with a walk to the square where the Olympic shops are, but they weren't open yet, so we went to a coffee shop to kill some time. Maylee had fallen asleep in the ergo, so it was a calm was to rest. After picking up some souvenirs and playing in the snow a bit, we headed to the subway station.

I wanted a hanbok for my sweet girl. Holt gave us one, but it is for a much older kiddo, so I needed one that will fit her in the next few years. Hanboks are the traditional dresses worn by Korean kiddos on their birthdays and other special holidays. Out destination was Gwangjang market. This is the best place to go for street food and a variety of shopping needs. We wandered the aisles of food and fabric for a long time. We finally found the perfect hanbok, then headed back to the food area for a snack.

We found one with kimbap and tteokbokki. Maylee loved the kimbap. I loved the tteokbokki, which is very spicy. After our snack, we headed back to the hotel. Mommy was losing steam quickly and needed a break. We played in our room for a bit, then went down to the playroom again.

Finally, it was dinner time, so we headed back to Insadong. I found the last few things I needed and we ate at a tiny restaurant, hidden in an alley. Maylee had hit her limit though- her crazies were showing, so we hurried our meal and headed back to the hotel for our nightly routine of bath, snack, bed. This time, bedtime was a breeze. She was too tired to grieve and laid down and went to sleep. 

We are leaving Seoul today. We are leaving Maylee's home, the only home she has known. We are going to begin our journey to her new home and forever family. By this time tomorrow, we will be in Seattle, just a 45 minute plane ride from home and my boys. I have missed them all so much and can't wait to see all of our babies together. Finally!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Custody

Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity and emotion for everyone involved. Although we have been waiting for so long and were so ready and excited for the day to come, it also brought doubts and fears and grief. I woke up nervous, but okay. Then my husband decided to write me too many sweet messages and I broke down. Cue a shower to sob in silence.

After collecting myself just enough, Cassie and I headed to breakfast. It was so strange knowing it would be our last before Maylee would be joining us. After breakfast, we headed back to the bookstore a few blocks away. I got some gifts for the Holt staff and a few things for Maylee. On our way back we stopped for our second coffee of the morning. It was extremely cold out then and we needed warmth more than anything.

By this time, we had about two hours until our meeting. We headed back to the hotel, requested a taxi, and headed upstairs to pack for the day. I have struggled for many weeks on how to write to the family who loves our girl just as much as we do. How do you thank someone for being their mommy and daddy while you couldn't be? How do you share just the right words to show that you will love them forever and be your family always? Well, due to procrastination, I had about ten minutes to write this note. It was not enough, but it never would be.

We scrambled downstairs to meet the taxi and I spent most of the drive packing the gift bags for the staff. All of this rushing was so good for my nervous mama heart. We got to Holt about 45 minutes early, so we waited in the coffee shop in the basement. Babies and foster mamas rushed by throughout our stay, which offered the best possible distraction. So soon it was time to head up. Maylee and her foster family had not arrived yet, so I gave the staff their gifts, then waited nervously in our meeting room.

I heard them coming before I saw them. Happy greetings and excitement seeped into the room through the open door. Then, in walked my daughter and the loving couple who have been her support for so long. They all looked so happy to see me and Maylee gave me several hugs right away. We chatted for a bit- talking about Maylee, their family, our family, Maylee's foster sister, and exchanged gifts. They had so many clothes, toys, snacks to send with us and to be honest, who knows what else. I still have yet to open those bags. All the while, Cassie was taking so many special pictures of our time together.

Soon it was time to head down to the Holt doctor. She did one last check up for Maylee, then sent us on our way. We headed back up to that special room on the second floor and continued to talk. But all too soon, we were headed out to meet the van that would take us back to our hotel. This was, by far, the hardest part of our entire process. Maylee loves her foster family, Joe, Liam, Nolan and I love her foster family and separating Maylee from them was heart-wrenching.

The second we reached the van, I lost it. I hugged foster mom so hard and just sobbed. I did the same with foster dad and then quickly whisked Maylee and I into the van. It was such a rush of emotions- excitement that our sweet girl was finally with me, grief for her and her foster family, terror of what our life would look like in the coming days, relief that this long, hard process was finally coming to a close.

My little Maylee was so brave. She waved goodbye to her foster family- they prepared her so well. She smiled at me while I cried, giving me the strength to be brave too. As soon as I had it together, the grief hit her and she began to cry for her foster parents. It was as if she knew exactly what was happening and it had hit her in that single moment. The tears only lasted a few minutes, then we found ways to distract one another. Finally, Maylee snuggled up to me and fell asleep.

Once we made it to our hotel room, Maylee explored and played with some of the toys I had laid out for her, but all too quickly our feisty girl needed a change of pace. We headed down to the playroom in the hotel. That didn't last long. She loved it and played well, but there were other adults and children there, and I could see it was confusing for her. She is still learning who I am supposed to be to her. I am still not her mommy in the sense that I am to the boys. That bond and role needs to develop with time.

We headed back to the room and Cassie went to get us dinner. Maylee and I wandered from toy to toy, window to window, while we waited. After dinner, we went for a walk. This was a the best experience! Maylee loves piggy back rides, so she rode on my back in the ergo. This gave me a bit of a break from her massive energy stockpile, but still felt like a bonding experience. After returning to our room, Maylee took a bath and got into her pjs. I tried to keep her up a bit longer, since it was only 6:30, but within a half an hour, bedtime with needed.

She and I laid on our bed watching Korean cartoons on a very quiet volume. She found some snacks that her foster family had packed, and even though we had already brushed teeth, she nibbled on them while she faded. As she neared the point of sleep, her grief got stronger. She began calling out to her foster family and pointed at the window, knowing they were out there somewhere.

I tried to comfort her, but she did not want me to touch her. She slowly laid down and soon her cries were quieter, then fewer and farther between, until she finally closed her eyes and fell asleep. That was 8pm last night. It is now 5:30am and she is just starting to show signs of waking. Throughout the night, she would cry out here and there, but would go right back to sleep on her own.

Yesterday, while it was the most emotional day of my life, it went much smoother than I had anticipated. I don't know what is ahead for today. We have our Visa Interview and Maylee will be reunited with her foster sister while we attend our interviews together. While I can't wait to see them together again, I know that this may throw a whole new focus of grief into our world.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Keeping Busy

Yesterday, was the day of distraction. Cassie and I ate breakfast, then headed out early and did not return until late in the evening. It was long and exhausting and a perfect day to come before the one where your life will change forever.

We started with a very unexpected scene. At the entrance of Insadong was a teeny, tiny car accident involving a taxi and the glass window of a shop. It was an exciting way to start the day, and we hope everyone walked away unharmed.

Then we were off  to Namdaemun Market (my favorite market). We spent a lot of time wandering the children's section, looking for adorable clothes for our little girls. It was overwhelming and wonderful all at the same time. Nothing at Namdaemun is done on a modest level. Everything is overwhelming.

The Children's section is an alley filled with booths and vendors with shoes, clothes and accessories. But there is a series of buildings where the clothing vendors pack into very tiny spots and just fill them with the most adorable clothes you will ever see. There are tight corridors where people push past you trying to find what they need, and the floor is covered with the vendors' shoes. I hope to bring you pictures later in the week, if/when we return.

After spending way too much on clothes, we headed through the rest of the market. We found the bread vendor and picked up some snacks. Then we found a tiny restaurant right off the main aisle. It was the best ramen I have ever eaten and it was only 3,000 won, or about $3. Yum!

After eating, we headed further down the main aisle to browse. Although I looked and looked, my beloved egg bread was nowhere to be found. Don't worry though, I will not stop until I have some!

From Namdaemun, we walked toward the North Seoul Tower. We made a couple of inadvertent detours, but enjoyed seeing what could be found off the beaten path. Eventually we found the path that would lead up to the tower. We took a very odd elevator up to a tram, then were finally at the top of the hill/mountain. The views were absolutely breathtaking! I know that Seoul is a huge city, with a population nearing 10 million, but until I saw the city in this way, I had no idea what that meant.


We walked around taking in view after view, each one more spectacular than the last. We took a look in the gift shop, then shared a snack in a restaurant. After eating, we headed out to a performance that was underway in the area in front of the tower. It was so neat!

After watching the performance, we needed to head back to our hotel, to then meet another family here to take custody of their sweet boy. I was so glad that we had the chance to reconnect. Our family met theirs during our last trip to Korea and it was so wonderful to get to share a bit of our time here again.


We met them in our hotel lobby, then took a cab to the Brooks' old stomping grounds- the IFC. This is the mall that is attached to the hotel we stayed at during our last trip. It was surreal to be back in that mall, wandering the same bookstore. It feels like so much time has passed since then and also none at all. We met one of their high school friends who lives in Seoul, then headed to a Korean buffet for dinner. It was so yummy. It was so nice to be able to try so many things without worry that we may not like them. I ate way too much.

During our dinner, we chatted about so many things. Our families back home, our babies waiting to join us, food, sightseeing. It was a wonderful experience to be able to hear about Seoul/Korea from someone who lives here. It was also fun to try out our Korea as he laughed at our pronunciations. After dinner, we took the familiar walk to the subway attached to the mall and took it home. It was a long day- a 10ish hour day in all, but it was the perfect distraction from the nerves that were/are bubbling inside of me.

This morning again, I woke up around five, with a racing mind and a "To Do" list scrolling. Nothing will truly prepare me for what is ahead today, but it will be incredible and beautiful and hard and sad. In six and a half hours, I will see my daughter again and we will begin the meeting which will change both of our lives forever.

I don't know if I will have the time or energy or emotional stability to post again while on this trip. I hope I do, but the next few days (and beyond) will be so unpredictable. So, bear with me. Know that I will tell the story of our first days together soon. In the meantime, pray for little girl, send positive thoughts to my boys, shower us with the love we have felt throughout this process. We need it now, more than ever.   

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It has been harder than I thought to sit down and right about our first days in Korea, this time around. Saturday morning, Joe and the boys drove Cassie and I to the airport- bright and early. We spent MANY hours on the plane, but it was a pretty uneventful day of travel. Due to the time change, we landed in Seoul around 5:30 Sunday evening. After a long wait in the immigration line and trouble finding our bags and our driver, we were finally at our hotel. We were so exhausted, we went right to bed and slept well.

As was the case with our last trip, I woke up at 4:15 wide awake. It was nice to relax a bit. Read a book, check in at home, watch Seoul out my hotel window. When Cassie and I were both ready to start our day, we headed down to breakfast. After breakfast, we headed to Insadong.  On the way, Cassie took me to our beautiful Buddhist temple. It was absolutely gorgeous! So colorful and peaceful.

Just like last time, when we got to Insadong it was too early for any of the shops to open, so we walked the street, got coffee and people watched from the second floor of the Starbucks building. When we left, shops were finally opening up. We started to take note of what we saw and what we planned to come back to. Knowing this was the beginning of day one, we wanted to pace ourselves.

Then we headed to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Our family visited this palace on our last trip, while on our guided tour, but it is so beautiful, I was excited to see it again. We wandered the grounds, seeing many things our family had not seen last time. In fact, there were several things we missed last time. The changing of the guards, gardens, and a beautiful structure build on an island, surrounded by a frozen pond.


After leaving the palace, we walked down Gwanghwamun Square. Once again, we say this on our last trip, but this time there were several tents with Olympic activities and souvenirs lining the middle of the square. Next we went to the Kyobo Bookstore and wandered for a bit. It was huge. So many books!

Next, we headed toward Holt, so that Cassie could meet with her daughter's foster mom. This was an eventful trip. Beginning with the subway and ending with a frantic taxi ride, but we made it just in time. I feel so fortunate to have been able to witness this meeting. It was so wonderful to watch them come together and spend time sharing their love for a little girl who has been theirs at different times. It was incredible to observe.

Then Cassie and I went shopping at Home Plus (our family went there several times during our last stay). After picking up a few things, we headed to dinner. We ended up finding this lovely restaurant within the same mall as Home Plus. It was some of the best cashew chicken I have ever eaten, but that could have been that we had not really ate anything since breakfast-we were just too busy for food. After dinner, we browsed a few shops, then headed back to the subway. It was a long, long day, but it was such a wonderful one!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

13 Days

The last week and a half was a whirlwind of sleepless nights and busy days. Jet lag is a real beast when coming home and we are just now getting back to our usual sleep schedules. Just now, twelve days later. We are finally settling back into our work and school schedules too. It took me last weekend to grade all of the assignments that I had missed and sort out a plan moving forward. Liam is just starting to get back into the groove of school and the expectations that he has while there. Nolan is only fighting preschool on a minimal level. Thank goodness. We are finally settled.

We came home from Korea with high hopes of a quick return to get out daughter. We hoped to be back sometime in February, but also prepared our hearts for March. 

When Joe called me at work on Thursday, I expected some questions about our taxes. He hardly ever calls me at work. Like never. So I should have known something big was to be discussed, but I didn't. Finally, after making sure I didn't have students and I had lots of time talk, he told me the shocking news. 

Just one week and one day after returning home, the judge had decided on our custody day and our agency had scheduled our visa interview. I would be heading back to Korea in just two weeks! 

It took, at least, a good 24 hours to process this amazing news. Neither of us expected such a quick turn around. We hoped for it, but didn't expect it. The timing was so very odd in that, I had my first moments of feeling anxious about news just the night before. I had been calm and patient and content for the first week home and for the very first time since returning home, I felt the slightest bit of impatience. 

Thursday was just for processing and communicating the news to family. Friday, we booked our hotel and flights. Yesterday, we celebrated Maylee's arrival with an adoption shower. In just 13 short days, I will take that long trip back to Korea to bring Maylee home. 

We have waited 16 months for this. We have planned for it and daydreamed about it and now it is here. The first 14 months of this process could be categorized as "long waits" or "snail's pace". Since December 28th, the day we learned of our court date, everything has been on hyper-speed. It has been just over five weeks since that day, and here we are- having already planned and gone on our first two-week trip, met our daughter, stood before the judge, traveled home, finally adjusted back to normal life, received our custody call, booked all travel arrangements, and now are preparing for our final trip and Miss May's arrival. Bonkers, this is just bonkers.

This is going to sound silly, but I had a massive panic attack yesterday morning, when I realized that we have no underwear to take for Maylee. Of course, I have more than enough time to get some and of course there is underwear in Korea, so my panic attack was totally unwarranted, but it happened nonetheless. The next thirteen days will speed by, whether I'm ready or not. Thirteen days to be a family of four. Thirteen days to repack suitcases (there is still one that has not been unpacked, so there's that). Thirteen days to prepare my heart for the transition ahead and moments of shear exhaustion that both Maylee and I will feel. Thirteen days to brainstorm how to get through that dreaded plane ride home. Thirteen days.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Our Final Day

Yesterday was our last meeting with our sweet Miss May. The day began with breakfast as usual, then the boys headed back up to our room and I headed down to the bookstore in the mall attached to our hotel. I still hadn't gotten books with characters from Korea for Maylee. I found several fairy tale books and picked out a few. Then I found one that shows the main character, a little girl, who shows many characteristics as compared to animals. Although the whole book is in Hangul, I was able to get the gist and loved the message.

Finally, when we all went to the bookstore many days ago, Joe had found an toy that says the Korean alphabet, numbers, songs, and sayings and then also has all of these in English. I got this as well, knowing that it will be so nice for Maylee to hear words that she understands when she comes home, and will also be able to hear the same things in English to help learn our language quicker. The boys (of course) noticed a poop symbol on the top of the toy. This plays a song in Korean, complete with fart noises. I'm already done listening to it.

After hanging out in our room for a bit, we decided to head to Holt early. We wanted to make another visit to HomePlus, a store similar to Fred Meyers. We shopped for snacks to bring to our meeting and some for our flight home. Maylee LOVES snacks! Food is definitely the way to our girl's heart, so we felt as though they were essential to our visit.

We headed up to our meeting room a bit early and Maylee was already there. Before we had even gotten into the door, FM was excitedly handing us photo album, after photo album. We settled in and started looking through them. So many photos of our girl growing up! Although we wanted to pour through every page, we also desperately wanted to interact with our girl as much as we could in our short time together, so we ripped ourselves away from the photos and began playing and talking to our sweet girl.

This was our first meeting with Foster Dad and Maylee's foster sister and it was so fun to watch the whole family interact with one another. I love the bond that our daughter shares with her sister and it breaks my heart that so so soon they will be separated. I hope with all my heart that we can continue their bond in years to come. I opted to take a lot of videos at this meeting, hoping that they will help our hearts be patient for the wait to come.

This meeting was even better than the last two. Maylee is still not okay with us holding her or hugging her without initiating, but she was happier and more at ease with us- laughing and playing and singing and dancing the whole time. She continued to call Joe appa and my mommy. She gave the boys big big hugs and interacted with them more than in our previous meetings.

Our girl has sass and I love it. She is so independent and smart and funny and adorable and she knows what she wants and has no problem telling you so. She loves to pretend she is putting on makeup, stacking blocks, and sharing with her sister. She has the best smile, which warms our hearts, as we have not seen many happy faces in past pictures. But she does smile all the time and it is the best.

During our meeting last Wednesday, FM had asked that we bring Maylee some new shoes. We found a couple of pairs throughout our market visits, but they ended up still being too small. We decided to give them to her foster family for their next foster children- they are already preparing for a new little one after Maylee and her sister come home, so they were very happy to have them. We made a plan to run to Namdaemun Market after our meeting to get new, bigger shoes and then would drop them off at Holt, to be given to Maylee the next day.

Because Joe and the boys will not be coming on the custody trip, we decided to give our big gifts to FM and FD this time. We gave Maylee's FM a locket that matches one I have. We took some pictures during our meetings, which we will put into the lockets. We gave FD an engraved pocket watch that matches one that Joe has. It says Maylee's name, birth date, and "Always thankful Forever Family". They were both so thankful for their gifts. Foster Mom said several times throughout our meeting, "We are family now!" and we are. They will always be our family, They will always be in our lives.

Our meeting came to an end so much faster than we would have liked. Everyone seemed so sad for it to end. FM and FD left as slowly as they could, we did too. Trying so hard to stretch every last second as long as it could go. We stayed behind in the room a few minutes longer to clean up and pack our things. When we left the room, gave the Holt Korea staff hugs and said our goodbyes, we headed to the elevator. Who was still in the hall waiting for us? Our family's other half! We rode the elevator together, sharing our final seconds. When it was time for us to go, Maylee waved her tiny hand and blew us kisses.

Leaving her is so so hard. Harder still with the passing minutes. And we know she is loved and cared for. We know she will be happy and safe. We know that these final weeks with her foster family are essential and special, just our final weeks of a family of four will be essential and special. We know she will be home with us soon and forever. These days are fleeting for all of us.

As hard as it was to leave her, having a job to do helped. We quickly headed to Namdaemun and found two new pairs of shoes. I wish I would have taken pictures of them, but they were similar to the original pairs, as I loved them so much. Instead, the Mary Jane's were a plum color and the boots were a tad different, but still pink and fleecy. It was raining hard while we were there, so we didn't stay as long as we had planned, but instead headed back to Holt. After dropping them off and having our last goodbyes with the Holt staff, we found a cab to take us back to our hotel.
Our last dinner in Korea

Once back, we headed down to the mall for our final dinner in Korea. We opted for the delicious Italian restaurant, which we had gone to a few days earlier. It's funny- we will miss so very much of what we have experienced in Korea, and an Italian restaurant in the mall will be one of them. The food is SO good!

The best gift ever!
After dinner, we headed back to our room for our final movie night and snuggles in one big bed. Before picking a movie, we poured through the photo albums given to us, finally having the time and energy to do so. I sobbed as we flipped through the photos which ranged from when Maylee was an infant all the way until now. Many were with her second foster mom and what looks to be a foster brother. My favorite photos though, are of her dol ceremony- her first birthday. Our sweet girl looks so adorable in her hanbok (traditional Korean dress), surrounded by others who celebrated with her. Although we haven't been given many photos of a smiling Maylee, many of the photos in these books show her so so happy, with that big beautiful smile we have come to love so very much.

Looking through these photos was such a blessing and so emotionally draining on our last night here. It made me long for her more than before and sad for all the moments we have missed. I am so thankful to both of Maylee's foster families for sending us such cherished gifts. We are so blessed to have them, but for Maylee they will be an invaluable connection to her roots and her memories of her first home, here in Korea. Although she is little, we hope with all our might that we can help her preserve as many of her memories here as possible and these photos will help.


We woke up today to clearest view we have seen since arriving 12 days ago. The mountains that circle this beautiful city are gorgeous and Seoul Tower has been a constant. We will miss so much of Seoul. We will miss the food, culture, people, and most of all our sweet Maylee Grace and her incredible foster family. We are the luckiest family on the planet!


We are packing up the room that has been our home for nearly two weeks. We are so excited to see our pets, our family and our friends. Although we will miss so very much of our time here, we are ready to be home. Ready to make our final preparations for our girl to come home. I am ready to wrap up my time in my classroom, sharing as much time, energy and focus as I can with my students who I miss tremendously while on leave.

We are ready to sleep in our own beds and drive and interact with others without a language barrier and make our own meals and have more clothes to chose from, than what was held in our suitcases. These may seem like silly, little things, but they matter to us today.

Maybe these are the little things that will help our hearts deal with the ocean between us and our daughter. Maybe they will distract us from the struggle we will face as the plane takes us farther, and farther away from our girl. I doubt it will, but at this point, all I can do is hope that we will fill these final weeks with so much fun and love and preparation, and continue to remember that these days are so important to our girl and those who love her here in Korea. I hope.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The War Memorial of Korea

Yesterday was a very special and exhausting day. We got up early, ate breakfast early, then headed out as soon as we could. Yesterday was our last day in Korea without time constraints, and we knew we wanted to do and see a lot. We headed toward The War Memorial of Korea first. 
We had heard really great things about this museum from others who had visited it before, but we had no idea how amazing it would be. We spent over an hour just in the outdoor space. It was 26 degrees, mind you, so an hour straight outside is a pretty big deal. As we walked past the main gate, we noticed a monument that is quite famous. I have seen it in pictures before, but had no idea it was here. It is a huge statue of one soldier holding another at the top of a dome. 

Although it was beautiful, it set the tone for us and even the boys were instantly calmer, ready to learn. Inside the dome underneath the statue, was a beautiful mosaic and an etched plate for each country that helped protect South Korea during the Korean War.  We continued walking down a long path, which led to another statue depicting soldiers in battle. Again beautiful and heartbreaking. As we continued down the path we noticed a small group of planes, then tanks, then a ship, and it just went on and on. There were rows and rows of military vehicles for us to see. The boys were so excited to see and hear about each one. 

We started with the planes nearest the path. Some were small and one in particular was huge. Joe loves history and his Grandfather was a POW in the Korean War, so he had loved explaining all he knows as we went from plane to plane. He told them about the different jobs each of the planes had, why they looked different, how parts worked or why they were there. The boys were so interested in learning all they could and asked great questions.

The one thing they wanted to spend the most time exploring was the battle ship that was on display. It was a replica of a South Korean war ship, which had been attacked. The most powerful thing about this ship, is that each area where damage was done was identified with a hole and a red border. It was horrifying to see just how many there were and how many of them would have been where soldiers would have been. Although the boys were extremely interested, they were also very thoughtful about the impact of all they were seeing. Asking real, hard questions, with real, hard answers.

After the ship we continued on looking at the rows of tanks and weapon launchers. The boys bounced around, guessing at how each on worked and what the parts would do. This was about the time when we were losing feeling in our fingers and toes, so we headed back toward the main entrance to the museum. As we reached the building, we walked through a hall filled with the names of South Koreans who had lost their lives in the war. It was hard to explain this to the boys. 

Then we turned the corner and found ourselves in an identical hall. This one filled with the names of soldiers from other countries who also lost their lives. Each American state had their own list, showing just how many men fought and died for our friends in South Korea. About three fourths of the way down the hall, other countries were listed. There were names from many European countries, but also places that surprised us like Ethiopia, Thialand and Columbia. Many of the names had flowers beside them or at the base of the monument. 

Entering the museum was a bit overwhelming. We chose a side and went down the hall. This hall was lined with ever piece of ammunition used in the war. Bullets, missiles, hand grenades, thousands of them. Then we were in another area of vehicles- small planes and fancy cars, one was a gift from President Eisenhower to the first South Korean President. It was an armored Cadillac. Next came a row of communication devices used throughout the war.

Next, we went down the into the dark hall in the middle of the main hall. This area was somber and sad. We walked down a hall and into a dark room with a large black fountain. It was so peaceful, yet incredibly sad. Even the boys could tell that this was a very meaningful and powerful place and wandered the room in silence, only asking questions in whispers. This room led us down a hall and into an area of the museum where the history of Korea, and later South Korea, and their fight to remain a free and independent country. 

We wandered through the maze of artifacts for about another hour, then realized we would never have the energy to see it all. We decided to head to our next destination- Insadong for more shopping and a late lunch. We have heard that there are indoor play cafes all over Seoul and thought we would try to find one. The boys had been so calm and reserved all morning and we wanted to let them get some energy out. 

We found one on the CityMapper app, which was only a ten minute walk from Insadong, so we headed that way. What was supposed to be a ten minute walk, turned into a twenty minute walk and we when we reached the place on the map, we were told there was no play cafe near. Exhausted and hungry, we took the subway back to Insadong, the boys very unhappy about missing out on the play cafe experience. 

Luckily for us, the Poop Cafe was close by! We walked in the door and the boys were so happy that their frustrations and sadness was gone. We ordered four hot chocolates and Joe went out to the Poop Bread vendor right outside the cafe and got us each a chocolate filled poop bread. It was just what we needed! 

We finished our shopping, then headed back to the subway, stopping for roasted chestnuts and another egg bread. We also stopped at a vendor selling hand painted fans. He then handed us a paper filled with awards he has received from all over the world. He then painted Nolan and Maylee's names in Korean on their fans (Liam didn't want one, but picked out Maylee's for her room). He also painted the characters for Insadong and signed and stamped each one with his name. What an experience!