Saturday, June 29, 2013

Never crossed my mind

I belong to a support group for Tetralogy of Fallot (Cole's heart condition).  It's comprised of mothers-to-be with a diagnosis for her baby, parents of minor children (such as myself), parents of adult children and the tet adults themselves.

Mostly, I belong, for the same reason I keep up with adoption support groups, because you never know when something will change and it's the best way to find out.  Sometimes I pose questions to adults hoping for a glimpse into Cole's future, praying for evidence of a happy, healthy one for him.  Sometimes the other parents post asking about pediatric cardiologist opinions, and sometimes, mostly mothers-to-be post because they're terribly frightened about the diagnosis they've been given for their baby to be born.

First, I did not know Cole had this when I was pregnant.  I did have an inkling something was wrong with his heart because of a mistake the sonographer made by making a comment, but she obviously never followed up with my OB.  I'm glad I didn't know.  I see the extra worry these moms go through and truth is you cannot do anything until the baby is born anyways.  And few of these kids are born with such issues that they must be addressed immediately upon birth.  Meaning, rarely do you have to have the child born in a hospital with a PC on staff.

I had not even thought of this aspect until a mom posted last night asking if others' marriages were devastated by the disease.  Granted I was very young (almost 23) when I gave birth to Cole, but it never crossed my mind that this could be difficult on a marriage.  By the time Cole was born it had been 1 year since we lost our first child.  After finding out Cole had tet and breaking down for a few minutes until the PC ensured me Cole would survive, I was just happy to have a healthy baby.  Albeit, not perfectly healthy according to everyone's standards, but it was fixable over his lifetime and he was with us, so I was content.  I remember freaking out a bit when he would have a cyanotic episode.  God just must have been with me the whole way. Always, the words of his PC stayed with me.  Treat him like a normal child.  He IS normal.  I only remembered he had a condition when he was sicker than usual, which was rare, had an episode or we had a doctor's appointment.  I guess I took it to heart.  When the day for his surgery came I was very calm.  It never really entered my young mind to worry.  I don't know if God was just with me the whole day or if I'm just like my mom and put on a brave face, only reserving my worst for real crisis?

I answered this other mother back, but had to really think back.  Did his condition ever put strain on our marriage??  It's been a long time.  But, honestly, it never ever did.  The loss of our child did.  Our pregnancies did from time-to-time.  Brian's accident, definitely did.  But, Cole.  He never did.  For a second I thought, wow lady, you should be so lucky for this to be the strife in your life so awful to not have a marriage left after it.  But, then I reminded myself.  You never know.  Maybe she had a terrible husband who only wanted the perfect family (though this disease is far from devastating in most cases).  Maybe this really is the hardest thing she's ever been through and has never had any disappointment in life and didn't know how to handle disappointment or fear.  Maybe their marriage wasn't good from the start.  Plenty of couples, statistically, divorce when one becomes a paraplegic or quadriplegic.  It changes more than just abilities to walk, never running again or changing the way they can or can't do simple tasks.  I kind of have a glimpse into understanding these family's breakups and crumbles more than anyone I know.  At the  same time you never actually really know anyone.  We are far from what we look like on the surface.  And even though I share enough in common with these people to want to judge them, I have to remember there are commonalities between us, but plenty of differences as well.

Our marriage is far from perfect.  I pray my kids' handle their disappointments better than I do.  But, we have enough love in us to always fight and work through the things (not disappointments) that have been thrown at us.  Life will continue to change and hopefully we will as the right way.  Everyone changes as they age and grown.  When you go through such shifts in your core as we have and countless other families, it sends you in directions you never saw on the map you had outlined in your head.  That's when it's truly amazing that couples stay together.  I mean if you live in a fairly perfect world with little disappointment and unsolicited change, life's a breeze and marriage should be too.  But some don't just get a little ripple or bump, they get the whole earthquake.  Support those with the earthquake.  You never know when it could be you and don't judge them, or try not to, for the way they respond when they're in the middle of the 9.0.  It's all instinct.  And sometimes, some don't even respond in the middle.  Some are like me and they don't respond until all of the tremors and aftershocks are gone.  In the quiet, they realize their life has been turned upside down and they finally feel free to scream and be scared and try to find some control in their new world.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Truth Be Told

I hate birthdays and I'm glad another one has come to pass.  It's not the age thing I hate either....or not since I crossed the 30 year threshhold....just all the other implications or expectations or lack thereof of them.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't hate birthdays in general....just mine.

One more day and onto a regular day, which is basically the same, (but in the great words of Mary J - same but different).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Remnants of Korea

Little things will always remind us of our trip together to Seoul.  A memory I'm so thankful we will have forever.....all 7 of us.

One thing we decided to keep with us as a memory (for us 3 girls) and introduced to the boys was some food.  Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul knew how to do it when they put frozen yogurt on a warm, fresh waffle topped with strawberry jelly.  I bought the yogurt and jelly tonight and made some waffles with the girls and everyone agreed, it was yummy and actually tasted exactly the same as it did in Seoul just a month ago.  

Jaemin's just hilarious about our trip sometimes.  He still likes to talk about the plane and trains, but one other thing stuck with him.  Sometimes, people that we haven't run into yet ask about the trip or how the visits with the foster mother's went since there are 3 of them.  At the funeral last week Brian's cousin was talking to us about it.  We left the oldest 3 at home and only took Chelsi and Jaemin with us.  Jaemin overheard us talking and chimed right in to make sure his cousin knew that "Mrs. Gim" is his foster mother.  He likes to tell everyone what his foster mother's name is.  As young and little as he is he definitely took a piece of Korea out with him and I'm so glad.  

I can definitely see the differences at the different ages.  In 2009, Kaelin was almost 7 and Chelsi was almost 4.  This time, Kaelin was almost 11, Chelsi almost 8 and Jaemin almost 5.  Chelsi and Jaemin reacted and took out about the same as what Kaelin and Chelsi did 4 years ago, respectively.  This time, I saw Kaelin take away something different yet.  I wish I could say we'll go again and I can see yet more different reactions as they each mature, but I can't promise that to them or myself, so for now we just say we'll see.  I'd honestly like to in several more years, but can't stress ourselves financially like we have the past 7 years.  It worked out and it worked out great, but the kids are getting older and we need to just enjoy them and not worry about every single penny that didn't go into the Korea account like we did before.  

Basically, according to Korean Air, we have enough family miles to get 1 free round trip ticket and probably 2 to 3 tickets to Jeju from Seoul.  The plan is to not plan, but keep it mind and in several more years see if it can be done in a couple more.  If it seems like a good time, then we'll go, if it doesn't, we just can't and that's that.  However, the next time it will more likely be me and the youngest 3.  The big boys will be in college or gone.  Brian hasn't decided, but he too says let's wait and see and he'll decide what he wants to do.  It will definitely be cheaper with a free ticket and tickets to Jeju so we can go to the kids' birth cities if we go that time.  We can also stay at one of the 3 guest houses if it helps expenses and that helps TREMENDOUSLY knocking the per night stay from $350 to $50.  It will be easier not planning for 7 too.  2009 we focused on a little Seoul and Jaemin.  This time we focused on Seoul and getting everything in that we could as a family for some AWESOME memories.  Next time would be just a revisit of Seoul and focusing on birth cities.  Worst case, the kids want to go as adults when they're ready to go on their own and maybe they'll let me tag along with them.  

For now, we have 2 years until Cole graduates.  Every 3 years after that I will have another child graduate from high school.  Our focus has always been to enjoy time as a family and it goes so quickly, so we'll continue to try to make as many memories together as we can before they're all gone.  I love hearing them talk about the things we did together and laugh about their memories or say how fun a place was.  We'll see where life is taking us next, I guess. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Prized Souvenirs from Seoul

We found this little shop in Insadong (not the one with the pottery that I broke and had to scramble to replace) and found beautiful art.  I could have bought a lot more, but could only afford to bring home (space and otherwise) and frame so much.  So, I settled on one simple, yet elegant painting that her husband did and one more traditional.  The simple one is usually one that she (the wife) would paint your name on, but I asked her to write family on it.  The other one is one material they would usually use for a scroll....the scroll would have probably been cheaper than having it special framed for it's odd size (food for thought for anyone going).  I put the cranes in my bedroom since I have no art in there and it's BEAUTIFUL!  The other one is in our entry and I'm going to print off some of the pictures from this trip (2009 trip photos are collaged on a different wall) in black and white in really simple box frames around the picture.  I can't wait to have time to do my photo editing and I already know some of the ones I will use.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Too much Ducky Dynasty?

Maybe?  I was watching CMT yesterday and Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel was on.  I had never seen it before.  I caught all the Ducky Dynasty folks in it, but didn't think Jaemin ever paid that much attention.  He wasn't in there when I saw it.  It came on again later and Jaemin was half watching it.  Jase is not in there very long and Jaemin yells out 'hey, that's Jase'.  He saw Sy too, but he just calls him "happy happy".  So he told me happy happy was in the video too.

Little Seoul Memories

There are little details from our trip that slowly fade in and out.  Things I probably didn't write down because I was too tired and there was too much to remember at the time.  But, now that we're home I have these little things I think of that just make me smile.  Like how our big boys drank Coke out of real glass bottles for the first time in Seoul.  You don't find that around here anymore and it made Brian and I smile when they brought them over.  Like how we almost didn't have enough luggage to get our stuff home.  I thought I was being so smart by packing every page very loosely and having 1 whole bag of things we'd be giving away.  When you bring pillows home, though, the room diminishes quickly.  Like when Cole and Chase shook hands for a picture at Trick Eye Museum. I have to smile every time I see that picture.  It's not something they do often.  I'm sure I'll think of other things as time passes more and more.  This memory of our trip to Seoul, Korea is just something that although it did cost a small fortune (to us), we will never regret experiencing this together.  I just put the photos in albums tonight and they've loved looking through them and they just smile the whole time.  I know this trip will always bring back memories we will treasure.  And just so we can always see the pictures, I found a photo frame (electronic) on clearance at Walmart and decided to buy it and only put on the pictures from this trip.  There were 498, so that's plenty for it to run through and it will always make me smile.  Notice how happy this trip made much smiling.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Growing Up

We're all home and attempting to get back on our time zone schedules.  Brian and I took and extra 2 days off work to do this and the last two days at work for difficult, but tolerable.  But, you come home dog tired!  The kids are having issues staying awake all day, but we keep reminding them that they need to so they can sleep at night and get their time clocks reset.  Jaemin did really well adjusting to Korean time, but is having a more difficult time adjusting back to our time.  He wants to get up REALLY early and he's in a great mood and ready to go!

Cole had an orthodontist appointment as soon as we got home, so he and Brian went to that and then went around for him to apply for jobs.  He hasn't applied much since it's all online now, or the bulk of it anyways.  He has a possibility at one place, but we keep reminding him he needs to continue to get out there unless that is a for sure.  He knows someone there, isn't necessarily friends, but thinks it will work to work there.  We'll see.  Tonight, I got out the Discover Card I'd ordered him awhile back.  I have it in my name since he's under age and can't, but they issued one in his name on my account.  I got it all activated and then had him bring me his checkbook so we could sit together and set up the online portion of the credit card and link it to his account....yes, HIS checking account, not mine.  It will send me the bill via email and him a text message that he needs to pay his bill and his limit is the lowest at $500, which is just enough to get gas, etc., but not get into massive trouble.  Still a good learning tool for him to gain responsibility.  I told him that as soon as it comes due, he should make sure there's enough in checking and pay it, but set it to pay at the last date possible, so he can retain his money for interest (even as low as it is) for as long as possible.  I told him that if we owe him gas money for errands, I'll just transfer money directly to his checking account for him.

That should work....he's off and running in the land of young adulthood.  Of course, he thinks he's much more grown up than he is.  Yesterday morning he had gotten up early to go to a friend's to go hunting.  I was dropping Jaemin at grandma's when I heard sirens.  It was in the area he was in, so I called as soon as I dropped Jaemin off to make sure it wasn't him.  He said he was fine and kind of scoffed at me for being a worrier.  I told him he should be happier that I care than if I didn't care at all.  I told him I still did it to Megan (my sister who's almost 30) from time to time if I think it could be her area, but it's only because I love them that I worry like that and I just need to know they're okay.  I think he sort of got it then. He just said 'okay, I'm fine' and I let him go and went to work.

Hopefully, one day he realizes how precious kids are to their parents.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Just walking around Seoul and Subways

The kids were so good at the subways.  They started to look like locals, checking out their iPods the whole way, just listening for their stop and Kaelin even fell asleep like the locals.

Walking around Seoul with Jane and Val.

 I was so hot and tired at this point, if we weren't going home the next day and I didn't have to worry about wet clothes, I would have definitely gotten in with these kids.

Day 11 was homecoming

We left Seoul at 8:30am on 6/3 and arrived home at 6pm on 6/3...including 2, 3 hour layovers.  Long day, but so good to be home.  I had Chelsi and Jaemin try on their hanboks and they were SO cute together!!  May have to take a formal picture for their birthparents, together.

Incheon airport is really nice!!

Waiting for our plane.

Ready to be home.

New hanboks.

Days 9 and 10 (June 1st and June 2nd in Seoul)

We didn't really do much on the 1st.  It was our down day again.  It was just last minute shopping at Namdaemun.  I did buy a lot though, for very reasonable prices.  I came back with half of the money I brought (not just to spend, but food, subway, everything).  Kaelin did not want a hanbok this time, so I got one for Jaemin and Chelsi.  Jaemin's has deer on it, so it's very manly.  Chelsi's has a beautiful butterfly on the back and is beautiful as well.  I actually found a lady who sold them for less than what I paid 4 years ago and I love them.  We also finished up the rest of what we wanted to bring home.

Then, came Sunday when I broke one of my celadon bowls.  I just about cried.  I knew we wouldn't have much time to go back to Insadong because we were spending the day with Jared, Jane, Val, Tim, Conner and Bailey.  We had plans to go Seoul Tower and the Korean War Memorial.  But, we got it all in.  We managed to do what we had planned and then the moms got off a the subway a couple of stops early to walk to Insadong and back to the hotel (and Jane found the shop to get my replacement bowl....whew!).  Tim and Brian took all of the kids a little further on the subway, back to the hotel to swim.  We were all so exhausted by that night.

We walked from our drop off in Myeongdong to the Oreumi elevator....not too far.  Then, the elevator (hard to explain) took us to the cable car platform.  The cable car then took us to the bottom of the tower.  There, we were able to see over Seoul, put our lock with all of the other (probably million) locks and go into the tower.  You ride an express elevator to the top that takes maybe a few minutes to go all the way up, as smooth as butter!  From the top, you can see the entire city if you walk around the circle and realize just how big and beautiful it is.  We had lunch at Cold Stone Creamery after the was right there, hot and ice cream sounded REALLY good!

After the tower we went to the subway to get a little closer to the Korean War Memorial.  We pretty much stayed outside since all of the boys were interested in the tanks, planes, missiles, etc.  I brought Kaelin, Chelsi and Bailey inside for a minute.  You walk outside a long walkway full of names of SK soldiers who died in action and plaque listing each country by numbers who died.  SK was in the hundreds of thousands and then the US about 30,000+.  It's a very quiet peaceful area inside to remember what happened and is technically still going on because of North Korea's constant actions.  The artwork and creativity in Seoul is amazing and beautiful.  I've seen some of the prettiest places there that I've ever seen in my life and I have traveled enough to say that now.

We really enjoyed spending the day with our friends and Brian had a guy to talk Cardinals all day with him.  I was a little disappointed it took me until the last day to realize that our hotel had a shuttle that left at 10:30 and had drop offs at certain areas, so we could have had a free ride every single day.  We took that shuttle to the Myeongdong drop off to walk to the tower and it was perfectly convenient.

Walking to and in Namdaemun with Chase and Kaelin.

Waiting for the Oreumi Elevator to the Cable Car Station at Seoul Tower.
 Old friends meet again.

Views from elevator.

Onto the cable car.

From the bottom of the tower.

 The sword is real and really big!

 Waiting to go up in the tower.

 More waiting to go up in the tower.

The locks.....we added our family's lock as well.

 Our lock!

The view from the tower top is amazing!

 That close to North Korea. 

 That far away from Chicago where we flew out.

Jaemin and I in front of the locks.