Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “kids”

“I Do Not Have Gas!” And Other Highlights From Our Epic Trip to Korea

Seoul, Korea is an amazing place where strangers give your kids candy on the train and in no way is it creepy.  The people are genuinely nice… and fascinated by white kids.  Ours played their part well.  

I note that Seoul is in South, vice North, Korea.  For the three months that led up to this trip a  certain member of my family may have accidentally mixed up these two countries and told her friends we were going to “North Korea.”  Slight mix up.  

The trip was mostly amazing.  The kids gave us their fair share of “this is boring” and “when can we go back to the hotel.” Fortunately we combated this with new toys, orange sodas, and cake for lunch.  

Here’s a breakdown of our epic week in Korea: 

Day One: Korean War Museum  

On the first day we went to the Korean War Museum.  I’m not much of a museum guy, but this place has real planes, tanks, and boats all over it.  The kids wanted to be in all kinds of pictures while climbing on all kinds of historically-preserved war artifacts.  

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They also insisted on taking some pictures themselves.  Either this will need more practice or our youngest got a great picture of the two people he cares about the most…

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For lunch, we went authentic and ordered pizza.  

We also went to a market where a woman who didn’t speak english communicated to us through a translator app.  At one point in the conversation, she held her phone up which proudly declared “I do not have gas!”  I can only hope thats what she was actually trying to tell us.  

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Hooray for no Gas! 

It didn’t take long to discover that Koreans drive like legit maniacs.  Its not a stereotype, its just a fact.  Traffic lights seem to be more like “suggestions,” and even those don’t really apply to taxis and buses.  And I’ve concluded that people on mopeds in Korea are hoping to die because they commonly drive full speed into crowded intersections without regard for their safety.  Or anything.  

Day Two: Gyeongbokung Palace, Seoul Tower, and River Cruise 

On the second day we went big.  First, we went to this Korean Palace which dates back to the 1300s.  We didn’t take a guided tour, and I didn’t actually read much of the brochure, so I cannot tell you much about the palace other than it looks really, really cool.

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It didn’t take long for the kids to start complaining about how they were bored, hot, and anxious to get back.  On our way out, a group of Koreans asked us to be in a video where we all said “welcome to Seoul.”  I’m still hoping to become YouTube famous, so naturally I agreed.    

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For lunch, we really channeled our inner-Koreans and ate pizza.  At the exact same pizza place we went to the day before.  Gettin real cultured.  

In the afternoon we went to Seoul Tower, which offers the best views of Seoul in town.  We hitched a ride to the top.  They charged us about $30 for the whole family, and frankly I would have paid whatever they asked cuz it’s a ridiculously long way up.  

While up there we ran into some women who wanted pictures with the kids.  Why of course…  

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That night, we went on a Han River Cruise, where you can see the Seoul skyline at night and then watch fireworks.  We almost missed the cruise, and everyone was super tired.  But we held it together (literally) and had a blast (figuratively).  

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This is what the end of a day of tourism with kids looks like…

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Day Three: The Zoo. 

I don’t like zoos.  There, I said it.  Zoos are not my thing.  Every time we go its hot and crowded and smelly.  But on the third day in Seoul we went to the Zoo.  We saw lions, tigers, seals, and lots of other zoo-worthy stuff.

Problem is, our youngest was hoping to see pigs.  When he discovered the zoo did not have pigs, he was sure to let us know he was having the “Worst. Day  Ever!”  And so he was.  

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But we didn’t want to see zebras…  

Oh, and it turns out that I’m not the only dad who isn’t thrilled about the zoo.  I got a great pic of a dad fighting off sleep at the llama exhibit.  I’m right there with you, sir. 

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Here’s proof that some dad truths are universal

After the zoo we went to a marketplace in search of a Pokemon-inspired stuffed animal named “Psyduck.”  We didn’t find it, and this was devastating to our oldest.  He didn’t even need to say it.  We already knew it was the #worstdayever. 

That night, shockingly, we ate pizza.  And made some new friends.   Not bad for the worst day of my son’s life.

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The Photobomb that resulted in me looking super creepy

Day Four:  Lotte World

On the Fourth day we went to an indoor/outdoor amusement park called “Lotte World.”  On the way there our youngest made a friend on the train who wanted to get a picture.  He also invited our son to sit on his lap.  That wasn’t gonna happen, but they did have a great time.  

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Lotte World is endless.  It’s a junior varsity version of Disneyland, but less crowded and mostly indoors, so the temperature is perfect.  They had quite a few rides all of the kids could enjoy.  The problem with this place is that waaaaayyy too many rides required extra money.   And here I thought America had a lock on the nickel and dime approach…

Oh, but great news!  Lotte World had the “Psyduck” our oldest had been looking for.  With all due respect to Disneyland, Lotte World may have been the happiest place on earth for this kid.  

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Welcome to the family, Psyduck

Day Five:  The De-militarized Zone (DMZ) 

On the fifth day we went to the DMZ.  This is where the borders of North and South Korea meet.  With so much of the news revolving around N. Korea these days, this was great stuff to know and see.  

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We went to a tunnel that was dug by the N. Koreans to invade Seoul back in the 70s.  We also went to an overlook where you can see the entirety of the DMZ.  I won’t say too much more about what we observed because last time Hollywood talked too much about North Korea they all got hacked.  I don’t feel like changing all my passwords, so instead I’ll just post this funny picture of our son… 

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Our tour guide made some interesting observations.  She noted that tourism was way down because of “the Fat Man.”  Minutes later, she informs us that if North Korea launches a nuke at Seoul they will “all be dead in six minutes and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”  

But she assured us that we were all safe…  

The DMZ is a must see in Korea.  I knew nothing about the Korean War and had no legitimate background on what is inspiring current events until I went and saw it for myself.  

Day Six: Some Random Korean Neighborhood

On the sixth day we went to an “authentic Korean neighborhood” which is actually just a tourist trap filled with Starbucks Coffees and places to get fried chicken.  It’s not even worth my time to google the actual name of the place we went to. 

While we were there, we stopped to eat outside someones house.  While we were eating, the owner invited us into his house, gave us water, and set us up at a table.  Super nice guy.  Of course we all had to get a picture.  Psyduck too…

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The next day we went home.  Fully charged tablets made for an eventless plane ride.  Parents have it so easy these days.  

The trip was eventful, and super fun.  Koreans are some of the nicest, most genuinely friendly people you will ever meet.  We left with fond memories, new friends, and of course, our main man “Psyduck.”  

Also, in case you are wondering, I too do not have gas.    

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On Helping the Kids Say Goodbye to their Favorite Dog in the World

I always knew “Lilo” was a really good dog.  But when I told the kids she was gone forever I realized she meant so much more…

In 2007, I was newly married, living in a small apartment with my wife and her Golden Retriever.  Upon return from the Honeymoon I discovered that this dog slept in the bed, which I found ridiculous.  Apparently this didn’t come up in pre-marriage counseling.  I wasn’t in a position to throw down the “its-me-or-the-dog” ultimatum; mostly because that first year of marriage was rough and I’m fairly confident Jackie would have chosen the dog.  So we compromised, and Lilo slept in the bed with us.  Such is marriage.    

Truth is, Lilo was a darn good dog.  If she had a ball, she was happy.  Her needs were simple, and our life was simple then, too.  

Before kids, Lilo was our “baby” – the one thing two newlyweds with different perspectives on life could almost always agree on.  Every night she would take us for a walk.  We needed it…

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The Biggest Loser and The Best Trainer

We used to laugh when Lilo would run in the snow because she would inevitably collect snow-dingleberries on her fur.  Seeing those always made us happy, mostly because saying “snow-dingleberries” is everything it’s cracked up to be.  

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As for Lilo, she was a golden wuss…

Bunnies?  Terrifying.  

Balloons?  The horror!  

Cute little kittens?  AHHH!!!!   

There wasn’t much that DIDN’T scare her, but Lilo always knew when she needed to be there for us.  Through a miscarriage, I never knew exactly what to say. Lilo did far more to support Jackie in her silence than I ever could with words.  She was a darn good dog.  

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Eventually we did have kids, and that rocked our world.  Hers too…  

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Like most new parents, we were determined to continue giving Lilo the endless attention we always had.  And like most new parents, we soon realized that was a promise unkept.  But she loved the kids.  She wasn’t scared of them, and perhaps she should have been.  Lilo quickly became the world’s handiest step stool, pillow, and walker.  She was out-of-this-world patient with the kids. 

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Our patient dog

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Ridiculously patient

So yea, the kids loved her, and the feeling was mutual.  Our kids got away with all kinds of maltreatment and animal torture that other dogs wouldn’t put up with. They would literally smother this dog in their unconstrained love for her.  Every once in a blue moon the kids would take it too far and she’d snap at the them.  Sorry kids, neither of you are victims.  

In the chaotic years that followed child-rearing, Lilo became a pseudo babysitter.  She was their best friend.  Those kids really loved that dog.  

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As the kids got older, she did too.  In the years that would follow Lilo lost a step.  She got sick – the tumors clearly visible.  When we got orders to Guam, we had a difficult decision to make.  At the time she was 14 years old.  Guam is miserably hot, and the vet couldn’t say with confidence that Lilo would even survive the 27 hour trip.  We left her in the care of Jackie’s mom.  

As the year went by, Lilo’s condition continued to deteriorate.  The tumors kept spreading, and her body kept slowing down.  The girl who had been there for us all those years was dying.  It pained all of us to be so far away when she was now the one in need.  

Amazingly, she hung in there.  Earlier this summer, Jackie and the kids headed back to Virginia for 6+ weeks to visit family while I was traveling for work.  Lilo was on her last leg, but she was still with us.  

I was able to join the family a few weeks later and the dog I saw was unmistakably different than the one I remembered.  This was the face of a dog who was clearly ready to go.  She had stopped eating, could barely move, and couldn’t keep down water.  And she was vomiting blood.  The end was near.  

We decided to tell the kids.  Specifically, I told them Lilo was old, sick, and was going to die soon.  Of course, this hurt.  Our daughter took the news especially hard, and  wandered inconsolably around the house for the rest of the day refusing to talk to me.  As hard as this was, it gave the kids a chance to say goodbye.  And over the course of the next few days, that’s exactly what they did.  

It was beautiful.  

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Lost in all of this is how hard this was for Jackie.  This was her dog – the one who had been there long before I ever came into her life. Jackie gave me her hand in marriage, but it came with a dog named “Lilo.”  I would have had it no other way.  

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We always hoped Lilo would just fall asleep and not wake up, but that wasn’t to be.  And we could see it in her eyes: it was time.  Her veterinarian is one of the best in the world, and allows you to decide where the dog’s final moments will take place. Not surprisingly, Lilo was always terrified of the vet office, so he came to my mother in law’s house.  Sitting in the yard she loved so much, Jackie and I said a prayer, and then we watched as the life went away from her in the blink of an eye.  Goodbye girl.  

Then came the even harder part.  I wanted the kids to have a chance to say goodbye one last time, even though she was already gone.  We didn’t think it would be fair to just tell them she died and they would never see her again.  So I walked inside and told them I had bad news and they needed to sit down.  I didn’t mince words:  “Kids, Lilo is gone.  She died.”   

The screams were immediate.  Man this one really hurt.  

I brought them outside and they said goodbye with blinding tears in their eyes.  The sorrow was raw.  “I DON’T *WANT* LILO TO BE IN HEAVEN!!!” is all Jimmy could manage to say.  He would continue saying that for hours.  “WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DIE!!!” is all Riley said the rest of the day.  

I hear you, kids.  

I’ve often viewed dogs as pets, but it was only until I saw how hard my family took this loss that it truly dawned on me: Lilo was so much more to us than a “pet.”  She was family.  Shame on me for not seeing it this way all along.  

That Lilo passed while we were all visiting from halfway across the world was nothing short of a storybook ending on an amazing life.  Lilo was a good dog, and we will miss her.  The kids are doing well, and we have no regrets about the manner in which we told them the unfortunate news.  They deserved to be a part of the end.  That was their girl too.  

Lilo made it her mission to support us in good times and bad.  And in this she succeeded.  I’m sure she knew it too.  In fact, the last thing I said to her was “you did a really good job, girl.”  

And indeed she did.  

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NOTE: A special thank you is owed to Tricia Craddock, my mother in law, for taking such good care of our favorite dog in her final year.  I also want to thank Dr. Peter Hyatt of Pender Vet Animal Hospital in Fairfax, VA – in addition to his expertise, he has a genuine love of animals and comes highly recommended by our family.  

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