Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Whatever it takes."

"Whatever it takes."  - Our motto regarding how to make it through 28 hours of travel from Korea to Kentucky.

So yesterday was a long day.  Today was a long day as well, but in a different sort of way.  But let's revisit our last day in Korea prior to letting you on how life is here in the Ritzmann household at this minute (it's ever changing).

After a rather emotionally taxing Monday, Tuesday arrived and we were greeted by a different little boy.  I'm not going to say that he was running into our arms professing his love, but he was pretty happy.  We started our day with a stop at Dunkin Donuts and a trip to the park across from our hotel. 

What we learned that morning?

Camden doesn't love donuts and he is very territorial on the playground. These discoveries were evidenced by throwing up on the table at donut capital of Seoul and the two hands to the chest shove of an unsuspecting little man at the park that happened to attempt to ascend the same set of steps our bruiser was climbing.

After the park, which was exceptionally nice of course, we took off back to our hotel for a brief respite from the humidity.  Following our break we took to the subway bound for Seoul's most recognizable place, Gyeonbokgung Palace.  After all, how could we be in Seoul with our little guy without taking the time and dealing with the never ending looks on the subway in order to get some pics of him at the palace.  Sounds great right?  Well, it would have have been had the palace been open on Tuesdays.  It's not.  But the trip wasn't for not...we did get a few great pics of the very handsome Camden in front of the incredible palace. 

After getting back to the hotel and ditching the clothes that were now soaking wet thanks to the humidity again, we rode the elevator down to what we thought might be Camden's favorite spot on Earth...Pororo Park.  Pororo is a wildly popular children's cartoon in Korea (I would liken it to Cars or Toy Story here). 

Have I mentioned Camden is pretty energetic?  He is off the wall, and at Pororo Park that was on full display. 

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, Camden ate fish on a stick, he stepped in Sara's fried rice, he ate a tiny bit of rice wrapped in seaweed, he got what may or may not been his first mohawk in the bathtub, he confirmed his love for Sara's high heels, and he went to sleep much later that we had hoped without having any idea that the wake up call was coming at 4am.

This is the part where the "Whatever is Takes" motto came into play.  It was going to the longest day of our lives, literally and most likely figuratively, hence we decided whatever it takes to keep the young man happy, we were going to do it.  After all, it was guaranteed to pay huge dividends if we could make it work.  Did it work?  I would have to say so.  He traveled really well considering the circumstances.  There were no meltdowns, there was relatively little crying, their was quite a bit of sleep and more Pororo than I knew existed.  I would venture to say he traveled the best out of all three of us, and that's saying something because Sara was quite the trooper as well.  She is the one that had him strapped to her chest more often that not it seemed. 

Without boring you with the details, I would advise any international adoptive families out there who are wondering what airport to fly into to avoid Detroit like the plague.  Immigration single handedly caused us to miss our flight to Cincinnati, which didn't sit very well with me, but I think I handled it well.  Ask Sara for a more unbiased opinion. 

The gist of this post is that we made it. We made it through the longest day ever and we are here to tell about it. 

Now the adjusting begins.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Party of 6!

We're home. It has been a LONG day and I should be incredibly tired, but I think I am running on adrenaline at this point.  I will do my best to recap the remainder of our trip at some point (which will undoubtedly include my unending disdain for the immigration officials at Detroit's airport), until then I will share our first family picture as a family of 6.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two year old grief.

Life just isn't always fair, and from my vantage point right now it couldn't be more true.  Life has been unfair to the little boy we picked up this afternoon.  For those that haven't been through it before, let me tell you that what we experienced this afternoon and what we are experiencing as I type this isn't for the faint of heart.  The loss this little boy has suffered in his first two years is something I wouldn't wish upon anyone. 

To sit and watch a sweet and innocent two year old boy grieve like I would expect myself to grieve if I lost a loved one is SO difficult.  To listen and watch as he desperately called out for his "umma" until he couldn't muster up the energy to do it anymore after leaving his foster mother behind this afternoon was gut wrenching. 

This poor boy that we can now call our own is scared, and I would be to if I were him.  He has had three women in his life up until this point and he has lost each one of them. 

After leaving the agency this afternoon with him, we joined 3 other families in a van that took each of us to our hotels.  This is when he was calling out for his foster mother to no avail.  He called for her, he searched for her through the window, he climbed the seats in an effort to leave the van to find her, all until he just couldn't do it anymore and fell asleep standing up, landing softly in Sara's waiting arms.

He awoke as we approached our hotel and seemed to be in a good mood.  We knew the worst couldn't be behind, so we enjoyed the few moments of him being happy and we even caught a glimpse or two of that smile of his that could light up a room. 

After a few minutes of fun, we could tell he was getting upset.   Upset in the worst sort of way.  He was trying his hardest to fight back tears, almost as if though he didn't want us to know he was crying.   It was like the realization had set in within him that he wouldn't be going back to his umma.  From that point on he has been grieving.  Grief is a hard emotion to watch.  We feel almost helpless.  We can console him to the best of our ability, but that just isn't enough right now.   How can you convince a boy so young (that happens to speak a different language), that has been through so much, that he is in good hands? 

With tomorrow comes a new day, and hopefully the opportunity for Camden to rest assured (at least a bit) that we can care for him, and that his needs will be met, and that we love him to no end.

If you're reading this, and you're so inclined, please keep Camden in your thoughts and/or prayers. 

Thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

10 things I think I think.

I hopes it is alright with sportswriter Peter King that I borrow a segment from his weekly column Monday Morning Quarterback, because what better way to relay some of things we have learned, observed, and are feeling right now that with a list...

10.  Apple juice tastes better overseas.  Don't ask me why, just fly to Korea or Russia and taste for yourself.

9.  Seoul is an unbelievably large city.   If they were next to each other, Seoul would make Chicago feel like a suburb.

8.  Koreans are in shape.  We have walked by what feels like approx. 1 million Koreans over the past few days and I don't think one of them was overweight.  Want my educated guess as to why that is?  Try eating with chopsticks. 

7.  Sara and I aren't very well versed in what Korean food is.  When I wrote that we enjoyed some local fare for lunch the other day I lied.  As we were looking through the list of restaurants in our hotel and the mall attached earlier this evening, we realized we actually enjoyed Japanese food that day. 

6.  Korea is far superior to the US when it comes to technology.  It's everywhere here.  The mall has touch screen directories, the drinking water fountains are futuristic, elevators are smarter than I am, everyone (I mean everyone) has a smart phone.  On that note, it seems like Samsung is the phone of choice over here.  You see iPhones, but many more Samsungs that resemble as much of a tablet as they do a phone.

5.  Dunkin Donuts has a strangle hold on the Korean donut market.  You can't turn a corner without running into one (as Jerry Seinfeld would say, not that there is anything wrong with that).

4.  I saw 10 times as many police cars on Hilton Head than I have in Seoul.  Hilton Head population 20,000.  Seoul population 20,000,000.  They are doing something right over on this side of the Pacific when it comes to safety and crime. 

3.  Sheraton is the best brand of hotel going.  We were lucky enough to stay in a fantastic Sheraton in Addis Ababa on our trip to pick up Parker and now once again we are loving life in a Sheraton in Seoul.  These trips are tough enough when it comes to preparing to add a little one to the family and how that transition is going to go, it's makes it so nice to be staying in a place where we are completely comfortable.

2.  Seoul makes Union, KY feel like a melting pot.  If you have never been in or around Union, let me tell you that the majority of the diversity there exists within the four walls of our house.  It has been pretty astounding to us the lack of diversity that exists here.  Of those million people we have walked by in the past few days, we could literally count on 2 hands how many weren't Korean.  I guess that would be why we feel quite a few stares when we are out and about.  Koreans don't seem to be used to non-Koreans walking the streets of Seoul.

1.  Last but not least, we are nervous about tomorrow.  I have said in previous posts, and I will probably say it again tomorrow morning, the excitement is there but right along side of that emotion is an ever present nervousness.  It happens every time.  You might think that since this is our 4th go-round with adoption that those nerves may have subsided.  Au contraire.  It almost seems to be the opposite.  With Lleyton, being our first, the nerves were about how will he react to us and how will we be as parents.  Now four years later and on our 4th adoption, the nerves also include how will he react to the other kids?  How will they react to him?  How will he deal with the separation from the foster family he clearly loves?  How is the plane ride going to go?  How difficult will the language barrier be?  And so and so forth.  God willing, I will be able to report in the coming days and weeks and months that the transition is going smoothly.  And if not...well we have dealt with that before as well, and we are prepared to deal with it again if need be. 

It's now almost 10pm local, which means it is WAY past my bedtime.  Until tomorrow, goodnight from South Korea.

Camden, here we come!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Details from a day in the big city.

It's after 5:30am local and we got up within the last half an hour, which means we really slept in this morning, thus I am going hopefully type quick b/c I don't want the day to get away from me. 

Yesterday morning we headed out into this vast city to see what it had to offer.  Prior to leaving our room, after another session of me gazing through our hotel window in disbelief of how large this city is I did some research and what I found both surprised me and didn't at the same time.  According to my go-to for all things factual Wikipedia, Seoul is the 2nd largest city in the world based on metropolitan population.  Thus confirming what I have said before, this city is HUGE. 

Back to my tails from yesterday, we took off and after a quick stop in our favorite convenience store near in the basement of our building (we are both suckers for grocery and convenience stores in other countries, they are beyond fascinating) we boarded the subway bound for an area of the city that is home to what local's deem the cities most remarkable palace and a shopping area that we have read all about, Insadong.  After what was approx. a 30 minute ride on the train we emerged into the vast expanse of Seoul, only to find that not many people speak English, which is pretty strange feeling because many signs (including all street signs) are in both Korean and English.  After using my Magellan-like skills to a T, we found our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace.  As I tried to describe yesterday, this city is incredible thanks to many things, but not the least of which is the centuries old palaces and gates that pop up in the midst of an area that could easily be mistaken for New York City (or in respect to the palaces, maybes it's the way around and the skyscrapers emerge from the palaces...I digress).  The palace was a sight to behold.  I would be lying if I said we probably would have enjoyed it more had the humidity not made me look more like someone that just got out of a pool, rather than someone that just stepped out of an air conditioned subway.  We toured the grounds for a stretch, posed for a picture or two, looked through the gift shop on sight, and narrowly missed Sara getting trampled by a tour group as she tried to snap the perfect picture of me (if that currently exists).

After taking in the palace, we headed north (or south, or east, or west, not sure) towards what we thought was Insadong.  Our goal in Insadong was to pick up some things to have for Camden, traditional Korean items that we want him to have and hold onto and look back at fondly.  The area is basically an alley, nice alley at that, filled to the brim with shops of all kinds.  Art galleries, t-shirts stands, jewelry stores, local restaurants, etc.  It was entertaining.  We did find a couple of things, but we certainly are going to need to venture back out today to wrap up our shopping needs prior to the tornado hits our room tomorrow (which is code for Camden coming home with us.  He is off the wall). 

After we exited Insadong we restarted our search for food that was familiar to us.  We ate Korean food the day before for lunch, and although enjoyable, neither of us felt 100% afterwards, so our goal for yesterday's lunch was to make sure we found something that we were comfortable with.  We ended up in a very quaint Italian restaurant sitting one story above a very crowded street.  The food was good, not great, but good and that is what the doctor ordered. 

After lunch we hopped in our first cab of the trip, which to no one's surprise was quite clean and nice and the driver took us to the cable car station that housed the chariot that I was going to conquering my fear of heights in as we scaled the mountain smack dab in the middle of Seoul.  I am happy to report that I rode the cable car all the way to the top without too much trepidation.  How did I do that, I noticed there was a boy on the car with us that couldn't have been much older than Camden and told myself that if a 2 yr old can do it, as can I.  Fear of heights eliminated?  I think not, but it was a step in the right direction.  At the top of the beautiful mountain we were greeted by what would become our favorite place in Seoul, the N Seoul Tower.  This is a tower that looks kind of like what I would picture the space needle in Seattle looking like that stretches high above the mountain and affords those willing to brave the trip up the observation deck views that would solidify in any one's mind that this city is unbelievably huge.  The city stretches 360 degrees as far as the eye can see.  It was really cool to be able to experience. 

At the bottom of the tower is one of Korea's most recognizable areas, it is a fence covered in locks, thousands of lock (picture padlocks all locked together), ten of thousands of locks all put there by people hoping to gain a little bit of the love and happiness that the locks are symbolic of.  We couldn't say no.  We purchased 2 locks and Sara (who has MUCH better handwriting than me) wrote a message for the world to see on it and we found the perfect spot for it and now our locks are part of the Korean landscape forever. 

Needless to say, we were quite tires by this point in the day, so we cable car'd it back down the mountain, hopped in a cab and then the subway and back to the hotel we came.  Tired and sweaty, we decided to hang in our room for awhile before cleaning up and trying to find some Korean food for dinner.  We gave it a shot, but we failed and we ended up at the bar in the Fridays in our hotel.  Did we feel guilty for eating at Friday in Asia?  Not really.  We needed a small taste from home...and that came in the form of a hamburger and draft beer for me, and a chicken quesadilla for Sara.  Today we will eat Korean food again...I hope.

If you made it this far, thanks for following along.  If not, sorry for being so long winded.  There's alot to talk about.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seeing Seoul...while fighting to keep our eyes open.

It's about 4am local time and it feels like I might be up and at 'em for the day.  To say that the time change is affecting us would be correct.  We fought through the fatigue yesterday that was trying to get me to go to bed at about 2pm.   Instead of giving in and hitting the sack, we ventured out and were able to hop aboard a Seoul City Bus Tour.  To say this city is huge would be an understatement.  It is a city like no other I have ever been to.  Sara and I were commenting to each other the other day as we walked around about how strange it feels to be in a place that feels like it is more technologically advanced that the US.  I didn't think that was possible, but believe me it is.  The subway system here is fantastic.  It's clean, it's very affordable, and it's easy to navigate (which is impressive as we don't know any Korean other than every once in awhile being able to muster up an inaudible "hello" or "thank you").

The bus tour highlighted one of the most unique aspects of Seoul, which would be the incredible history that is surrounded by a cutting edge and ever-developing mega-city.  There are any number of centuries old palaces mixed in seamlessly with skyscrapers and never ending shopping malls.  It's unique.  Although the tour was a good experience, the motion sickness we both felt along with the difficulty keeping our eyes opening along with the fact that we boarded a tour that we didn't plan on going on detracted from it a bit.  But we did get to see some things we know we want head back to. 

Speaking of shopping malls, they are unbelievable.  Our hotel (which allow me to reiterate how much we love this hotel) sits atop a very nice mall.  Malls here more resemble the mall we experienced in Dubai than the mall we experience at home.  What makes them different?  Each floor caters to a different person or interest.  For instance, the 4th floor of the mall that I am sitting 32 floors above as I type this is designed for kids.  It has toy stores, kid apparel and shoe stores, a play land area that looks like Camden is going to have a field day in and stores that you can buy strollers that more resemble Segways than they do the stroller we have in our garage at home.  The food court is sensory overload in the best way.  Yesterday when we went out in search of food we ended up at a Korean place and each enjoyed some local cuisine. 

Today we have every intention heading out and experiencing some of the places we saw yesterday.  Visiting the N Tower, exploring one of the palaces, doing our best to shop at some local stores in a search to find the perfect items that Camden can hang onto remind him of his Korean heritage.  After we conquer that, I am assuming, since it is not even 5am here that will come back to the hotel for a nap prior to going on a Korean Night Food Tour that we have read great things about.  The guided tour will lead us journey to experience the cities food up close and personal.  Hitting a number of restaurants and hopefully a street food vendor or two (although if you are taking bets at home, wouldn't bet on Sara partaking in any of that said street food, not really her style). 

For now, I am going to catch up on some TV on the Slingbox that we finally got to work, and I am going to take a look through the pictures we took yesterday of our little guy.  I'll report back sometime about how we are feeling.  I think it is setting in that as much fun as it was to meet him yesterday and as much as we can't wait for Monday to come, we are very nervous about the transition.  Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, remember when you asked us if there was anything you could do while we were gone (other than the challenging task of keeping Lleyton, Parker, and Addy in check), maybe you might consider padding our walls. 

He is a wild man. 

More to come...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

He is a wild man!

Look out Lleyton, mom and I are pretty sure you met your match.  We just arrived back from our meeting with Camden and we couldn't stop talking about how crazy our little guy is all the way back on the subway. 

He is unbelievable!  He is as active as Lleyton and as animated as Addy.  Look out Union, KY (or Kentucky as a whole), a wild man is about to call you home. 

The meeting went great.  It was his social worker, foster mother, and Sara and I along with him in a room watching him play with everything in sight while Sara asked and received answers to many pertinent questions.  What does he like to eat?  Seaweed.  Looks like we might have to venture outside of KY to satisfy this guys cravings. 

He loves having his picture taken, which is a good thing.  He loves Porroro cartoons, which is a good thing, as we loaded a ton of them onto the iPad for the ride home.  He loves playing outside, he doesn't love sharing toys (look out brothers and sister), he is all around hoot. 

Here he is...

More pictures to come, it is taking too long to upload right now and we haven't eaten anything other than jelly beans and granola bars in days.  Off to find food.

The day has come to meet Camden.

Forgive this post if it is a bit redundant, I was half asleep when I typed the one last night...

This city is awesome. The ride from the airport to the city was really interesting. We were both surprised at the almost tropical feel that you have here. It probably has to do with the airport being quite close to a sea of some sort and it being monsoon season, which makes everything very lush. We got to our hotel, which is incredible by the way, quite possibly the nicest hotel we have ever stayed in and made our way up to our rooms and then quickly ventured out in the town to try to find Diet Coke. The area we are staying in is very nice, our hotel is directly on top of a very nice mall and incredibly nice subway station. Looking out the window we can see there are two children's playground just across the street, which will presumably come in quite handy starting on Monday, given that another typhoon doesn't hit here like it did shortly before we got here yesterday.

We are nervous about meeting our little guy. Excited and nervous both. Meeting each of the kids always leaves permanent memories ingrained in our heads. We are 0-3 on that perfect moment that you might imagine meeting your child looks like in your dreams. Lleyton was very sick looking and we could tell from the minute we met him that he most likely had what we thought could be significant special needs, Parker was very scared and standoffish, and Addy was bald and recovering from a serious illness. Here's hoping that Camden bucks the trend. I'm not asking that he run into our arms and proclaim his love for us in English and Korean, just something between the other kids experiences and what our dreams look like.

This morning, since we were both up just after 4am, I spent a little time exploring the hotel and trying to learn how the subway system works. Heaven forbid we take the wrong route and miss our appt with Camden and his foster mother.

The very nice women at the front desk have mapped out our route for us and included a couple of restaurant recommendations for us that we will hopefully can find and enjoy after meeting Camden.

If you're ever in Seoul, I would not hesitate to recommend you stay at the Sheraton D-Cube City Hotel. We feel quite a bit spoiled.

Next time you hear from us we will have met the little guy we came here to fall in love with.

Wish us luck!

We made it to Seoul, and we love it here.

After a very long trip across the globe, we arrived in Seoul this evening.   We had big plans of getting ot hotel and then quickly jumping over to catch a baseball game, but the lack of quality of sleep on the plane, accompanied by only a few hours of sleep the night before left led us to scrap that plan.  We did venture out of the hotel a bit ago and we loved what we saw.  From the brief bit we have been here, we can tell Seoul is an incredible city.

We have a wake up call scheduled for tomorrow morning at 6, which should give us adequate time to get up, get ready and gather our thoughts and emotions prior to meeting the boy we traveled all of this way for at 10am.

It's difficult to describe the emotions that we are feeling as tomorrow morning rapidly approaches.  Nervous would certainly be one way.  The excitement is there as well, but nerves typically get the best of me prior to the first meeting with each of the kids.  Sara is feeling the same nerves.  We have been so busy over the past 6 months workin day and night to get the house where we wanted it to be for Camden's arrival, and due to all of the time it took to complete the basement we feel that maybe we haven't adequately prepared for how we would like tomorrow morning to go.  Hopefully those feelings are put at ease shortly after we meet him. 

The plan for the week is this...we meet him tomorrow morning and he will spend the weekend with his foster mother before we meet with him again on Monday, at which time he will be ours for good.  So we have the weekend to explore his hometown.  We have a guided food tour sheduled for Saturday night that will take us through some of Seoul's most well known areas and affording us the chance to enjoy the food and drink that is one of the hallmarks of the city.  We are hoping to take a bus tour of the city, and visit some of the historical places around town, and if the weather cooperates we may head out of town and do some hiking in the mountains surrounding the city. 

Should be alot of fun. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Parker!

It's hard to believe that we are now the parents of a 9 year old.

Happy Birthday Big Fella. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parker's Birthday Bash...and a new hairdo

Our travel call came last Monday, which meant that we could have flown out to Korea as soon as a day or two later, but we didn't want to exit our family vacation (pictures coming) early and we didn't want to miss our big guy's birthday.  Today was the beginning of Parker's birthday festivities. His big day isn't until Tuesday, but we were lucky enough to round up a few of his friends a all of his grandparents (except Grandpa Don...who was certainly missed) for a bowling birthday bash.

 The party didn't disappoint.  Parker et al really seemed to enjoy themselves.  Judge for yourselves...

The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack yet again...

The World's Happiest Kid and his new favorite player's jersey.

Sissy showing off her new do...

After the party we took advantage of the beautiful afternoon and walked around Newport at the Levee of bit and showed cousin Tanner a glimpse of Cincinnati.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travel Call!

It's officially official!  This morning, as we were getting the kids ready to head out of the house for our dolphin watching cruise on Hilton Head, we got our official travel call.  That means that we will be leaving next Wednesday morning, bright and early, to make our way to Korea to bring Camden home.  We leave Cincinnati on the 18th and return home on the 25th with Camden in tow. 

It's been a long wait, and needless to say we are excited about officially knowing the date we will be meeting our little guy.

More to come...

Monday, July 2, 2012


He's 6,800 miles away from us right now, but that certainly didn't stop us from celebrating Camden's 2nd birthday.  We are sad that we missed his big day but also glad that this will be the last birthday of his that we won't be a part of. 

Happy birthday big guy!