Seoul 2013 : Day Six

{aka Christmas Eve} Yet again… we woke up early. Although we felt like we were finally on a "normal" sleep pattern. We tried to figure out what we could do to kill a couple of hours in the morning, locally, since we knew we had to be at SWS for our second meeting with Milo at 1 pm!! We hemmed and hawed… and finally decided to have an easy morning. We started with breakfast, and—gasp!—, went somewhere besides Starbucks! Doug ventured out and brought us back Hollys Coffee. And wow… it was good!! Two things we noticed while in Korea this trip… First, coffee is brewed so. much. better. here. Seriously. We could not get over just how good the coffee was. Second, the bagels were on par with NYC bagels. I know we all claim it's "something in the water." If that's the case… I want to know how Korea gets the same water. Mmmm. I'm sure some people would question our daily breakfasts of "fast food" coffee and bagels… but I'm anxious to go back for some quality "fast food" breakfasts. {smile}

After breakfast… Spencer and I headed down to swim in the hotel pool. There was a lot of time spent in this pool over our stay in Seoul… and it was amazing to see how much Spencer progressed swimming wise. The hotel was very "kid friendly" in that they had floatation devices there. It was also a pretty consistent depth pool… and warm! That was most important to me… but it definitely helped me spend hours down there over the stay. Since we knew it was going to be a relatively calm morning, I let Spencer swim longer than normal. We left when it became obvious that there were several people waiting to swim some serious laps. So we headed up and got ready for the day.

We decided to walk around Gangnam again… and on a whim decided to go to Kukkiwon, which wasn't that far from where we were staying. Even though Spencer is "on a break" from Taekwondo lessons, you can tell it's still important to him. (Even though he'll never admit it!) So we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the world headquarters...

On the way, we actually passed the National Library for Children and Young Adults. (I really wish we had known about this with more time left! It would have been fun to visit!)

We also passed by several martial arts and Taekwondo supply stores. We may have even done a little bit of shopping...

And finally, we were there! (It actually didn't take that long… but there are a lot more hills in Seoul than I remember from last time…)

We decided just to wander the grounds and absorb it all. When we came to this gazebo, Spencer chose to channel a little bit of his Master… and do his basic ten motions.

And then he decided to look cute for a couple of photos. OK, not really. It took a lot of begging from me to get even these three, kinda ok, photos.

We were now all freezing by this point, so we decided to head back towards our hotel… find some lunch… and get ready to go. So we bid goodbye to Kukkiwon. One day we'll be back for a real visit!

We decided to grab a quick lunch from Paris Baguette again (surprise, surprise!) and bring it back to our room to eat while we got ready to go. Our anxiety was already going up since we knew that this was likely going to be a very different, and much harder, visit. I, of course, had to ogle some of the [many!] Christmas Cake options…

Ogling was all I did though (Spencer too!) and we grabbed some lunch, then headed back to the hotel. I'm not really sure how it happened, but the next hour flew by and we found ourselves scrambling downstairs, hailing a cab, and driving over to SWS…

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For Milo Meeting #2!!!

We arrived about 15 minutes early and boarded the elevator… hearts racing. We took it up to the 7th floor, walked in… and there he was! He was sitting on the coffee table eating his snack. When we walked in, he looked up, saw Spencer, and broke out into a huge grin. He popped down off of the table and walked right over, smile on his face. The next few minutes are a blur… but we ended up in the small playroom past the elevator. This is the meeting where the foster mother would not be present, and quite honestly… we were REALLY nervous about how it would go. Luckily, both boys were too eager to take in all the toys—and the big slide—in the room to realize what was going on. So they got right down to business… playing! They also shared some of Milo's snack that he brought in. Milo let both Doug and I hold him for brief moments… and the only reason he wouldn't sit with us longer was because, hello, there were toys to be played with! (I also vaguely recall Spencer claiming dibs on him… but it's a little blurry now.)

And then, Milo realized that his foster mother was NOT in that room. Oy. The tears started flowing, and he was waging a good war to get to the door. After a few moments though, we were able to calm him down and distract him. A little while later… he realized that wait a second… "My foster mother is still NOT here!" That is when we saw his "I'm really upset and I mean business" cry. Let me tell you friends… it's loud, and it's scary. After many, many minutes (it felt like years… but I know it wasn't) of trying to calm him down with absolutely no success, our savior arrived in the form of the case worker who very politely asked if we would like the foster mother to come in. We gratefully accepted and his foster mother popped in right away. She had milk boxes and snacks, and kept telling us he must be hungry… but I'm pretty sure we all knew what the real story was. These kiddos, they know. She was able to calm Milo down, get him cleaned up, and get him re-engaged with us. The boys went back to being silly and crazy and goofy. Milo would cautiously engage Doug and I… but he made it clear he was no fool, he saw the writing, and maybe… just maybe… he'd be down with all of this.

A funny story. At one point… a toy phone came out. We were starting up a game of "phone" with him. He looked at us like we were all crazy… went over to his foster mother's bag, and took out her phone. He flipped open the case, unlocked it, handed it to her and said "appa" (aka = daddy). The next thing we knew… Spencer and Milo were video chatting with Milo's foster father. It was adorable and hysterical all at once.

The rest of the visit went well. The foster mother stayed in the room… but worked very hard to get Milo to engage with us. At the end of the visit we said our goodbyes and headed to the main waiting area. Our case worker told us that our foster mother and Milo needed to wait for another visit to finish, so the boys took this opportunity to play with a big ride in car. Milo sat in the car, and Spencer pushed it all around. This continued for a really, really long time. (I'm hoping the novelty doesn't wear off and I can spend many a spring day sitting in the driveway watching this.) Every staff member who passed by laughed, then said "Milo (using his Korean name though) loves that car!" I guess he's infamous for it. {smile} The boys were able to get in another fifteen minutes of playtime in… and Spencer was also able to socialize a little more with his case worker. We had presents for her and his foster mother (that will be sent along to her) … and we even got a few pictures of Spencer and his caseworker together. But I think that both case workers really enjoyed just watching the boys play together with the car. I'm not doing a good job here relaying the hilarity of them with this ride-on car, being crazy, in a really tight spot. There's not a ton of room in that waiting area, but that was NOT going to slow them down! At one point, Spencer deemed it was his turn to be in the car. Somehow, he got Milo out, and got in. Milo just looked at him, said "no" in Korean, and climbed on top. Then looked at Doug like "Well?! Are you going to push this thing or what?!" It was hysterical. The boys really are going to make great siblings. From the moment the met, they have been perfectly in sync with each other. They have played well (and at times, not so well) together, but both took the other's craziness in stride. They kept up with each other and seem to enjoy just being active and exploring. And they also knew when to step back for a moment. I've said before that Milo was matched to Spencer, and this visit proved it. They are peas in a pod, partners in crime, and so much more. Brothers.

And then, it really was time for us to go. We said our goodbyes… again(!) and then gathered our stuff. We headed out in the elevator, sad… but not completely heartbroken. On one hand… it was really hard to say goodbye. But on the other, we knew there was a lot we could do for Milo here to make his transition as easy as we could. Don't get me wrong… it will be HARD. Really, really HARD. But, having met him and played with him, we now feel like we can do a little more here to match his personality and needs. I don't know. It's hard to describe. I think that the feeling of "oh yes, he's totally meant to be our kid" and "he could not be more perfect for us" outweighed any sadness. There's a big sense of relief when you finally meet the child you have only known through words and photos! But, ee decided to drown what sadness we did have in the SWS cafe on the first floor. Doug and I got Americanos, Spencer got a smoothie. We then wandered over to show Spencer the big rock that he has seen in photos...

{Not a willing photo subject. Clearly.}

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At this point, we decided to head back to the hotel and re-group. We wanted to change out of our dressier clothes and figure out a plan for dinner.

Ah, dinner. Christmas Eve dinner. Not typical in the least this year. Our plan was to go to this really well-rated burger place. But, we couldn't find it. We walked up and down the street it was supposed to be on… but, nothing. Unfortunately, as we were walking up and down the street, Spencer spied a Johnny Rockets. So, guess where we had dinner on Christmas Eve?! Yup. Johnny Rockets. Oy. I can't even justify this by writing any more. It was good, and completely strange.

As we walked back to the hotel, we observed all the young couples coming out for a big night on the town. (Christmas there is nothing like Christmas here.) It was surreal how many people were out, ready to party, all dressed up... or not dressed up at all. They had "hawkers" outside bars, trying to draw crowds to whatever their "special event" of the evening was. It was crazy! Restaurants were just starting to hop… and while some establishments were catering to the family segment, many were filled with young couples. Packed with couples actually. We passed many bars, but couldn't see into them… I'm not sure I wanted too though! Definitely festive. But more of a college "greek week" festive than a "Twas the Night Before Christmas" festive! Somewhere along the way, we encountered a clown on stilts who gave Spencer a balloon sword. His night was officially made! It was fun to see a glimpse of the holiday eve… but, we were more than happy to go back and crash. We'd already had our Christmas "celebration" that afternoon when we saw Milo again!


Addendum: At the end of our second meeting with Milo, our case worker gave us a Starbucks bag. We were confused about what she was handing over, but when she said "Inside is clothing and an album from his first foster mother," our hearts immediately stopped. Milo spent his first few months with a foster mother in the area where he was born, before he was moved to Seoul. In the album are many photos of him as a newborn… some are from when he was mere days old. Talk about a Christmas gift!! We are so blessed and lucky to have these items for him. And… we knew he was a big baby based on his stats. But these clothes? Whoa. He was one chunky little monkey! :)