Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shep's First Gingerbread House

A new Clark family tradition...
He came downstairs the next morning & insisted on re-building it...
Which did not work out very well considering the fact that the icing had already dried.  Needless to say, it is not the most beautiful gingerbread house you have ever seen, but Shep loves it dearly & points it out everyday as it sits on the counter (out of his reach).  Quite possibly the best $10 I ever spent.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting the Christmas Tree

Every year we drive to the mountains the Saturday after Thanksgiving to choose & cut our Christmas tree with my Mom & Dad (otherwise known as Honey & Pop).  Shep had a lot of fun this year!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dynamic Marriage

We recently finished an 8-week marriage enrichment course at church called Dynamic Marriage.  It was really good.  We definitely recommend it.  It helped us re-focus on the things that really matter in our marriage and brought us closer together.  There was so much packed into the 8 weeks that we have decided to go back & focus on each week again over a longer period of time so we can really get the most out of the course.  If your marriage could use a little kickstart, go to the Dynamic Marriage website & find the next course nearest you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Victoria's Secret

I had finally come to terms with the fact that it has been 2 years & my body has not returned to its pre-pregnancy state. So Shep & I went shopping. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Terrible Twos

I read this on Babycenter.com recently:
"Two-year-olds give the biggest hugs, flash the biggest smiles, and yes, throw the loudest, most spectacular tantrums. Because they live in the moment, their feelings are especially transparent. It's tempting to want to keep things happy for your child at all times. But it's also important for her to experience emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger without always being "rescued" by Mom or Dad, so she can learn to cope better with small setbacks." 

I am really having to work hard at discerning when to "rescue" and when to let Shep experience hard things and figure out how to soothe himself or find a solution to the problem.  It is never easy to watch your baby suffer and he will always feel like my baby.  Yet, I continue to work this out because I know these are skills he needs for life.  I also want him to learn to depend on God, not just on me and this is the time to lay that foundation.  Every human in his life will fail him at some point (even me), but God never will.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Proposal

Four years ago November 1 (yes, I was so caught up in the adoption hoopla, I forgot to post then), Billy proposed to me.  It really blows my mind that it has been that long - it feels like yesterday!  We had been dating for 3 months (but had known each other about a year).
I was walking out of seminary on a Wednesday night, minding my own business when I saw this guy riding a horse on the school lawn, wearing what looked to be HAZMAT gear.  He called out my name & I kept walking, sure I had heard wrong.  But when he called out again & began walking the horse toward me, I realized this guy was wearing a knight costume!  I don't remember the speech he gave as he proposed on one knee, but I do remember that I said yes and that friends & family then came out from their hiding places in the parking lot for a little impromptu celebration!  Baby, you will always be my knight in shining armor.  I will love you forever...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Perfect Party!

We had a fun morning celebrating Shep's birthday.  Just family, a little breakfast, presents, cupcakes, & lots of love.  When planning Shep's party, we had considered Chuck E Cheese, Monkey Joe's, My Gym, etc.  But we believe less is more sometimes, especially when it comes to children's birthday parties, which are wild and crazy no matter where they are or how many people attend (not to say we won't go all out every now & then with our parties!).  This little party was just perfect for us this year...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Shep!

Two years ago today, Shepherd Wallace Clark entered the world at 4:44 a.m. after 35 hours of active labor.  He wasn't coming out without a fight and that is his personality through and through.  When I asked him to push his truck back to the garage earlier this week, it resulted in a 30 minute tantrum (until I finally gave in!).  But his intensity also gives him a strong drive to accomplish new things and he is so proud when he does.  He is smart, funny, brave, and, for the most part, very well-behaved.  What a blessing he has been to us.  We love you, Shep!  Even though you are now our "big boy," you will always be our baby...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ethiopia Day 4

Our last day in Ethiopia was packed.  We checked out of the hotel at 9 a.m. and were picked up by our favorite taxi driver, Ermias, to go to Churchhill Street, a large open-air market.  We bought all kinds of cool, handmade goods there: earrings, bracelets, home decor, a traditional dress outfit for each of us to celebrate Ethiopian holidays, a cloth tablecloth and napkins, a hand-stitched cloth ball with Ethiopian letters, a handmade cloth doll in traditional dress, many beautiful scarves, several instruments for the boys, coffee beans, etc.  Billy had gotten quite adept at haggling by that point so he talked the store owner down from $350 US to $250 US (a lot of money in Ethiopia!).

Then Ermias drove us to the nearby Sheraton Hotel for lunch.  We were really craving a good, safe, Westernized meal and it hit the spot.  The grounds were incredible - luxurious by anyone's standards. We were later told this is the nicest hotel in all of Africa.

Afterward, we went back to Layla House to spend some time with N before court.  We were also trying to fit in as many pictures and video of the orphanage children as possible for families who are waiting for them.  Visiting families post the pictures on a common Snapfish site so that waiting families get updated pictures of their children - like gold for waiting families who are dying to get their children home!

Around 2 p.m., we piled into an AAI van with 4 other adoptive couples and were driven the Federal High Court building.  We sat in the crowded waiting room for 30-45 minutes as couples were seen by the judge in her office one by one. 

Finally, it was our turn.  Billy and I were ushered into the judge's office where she sat behind a desk and asked us questions - all totaling about 5 minutes.  She was very kind (even agreed to me taking a picture of her) and soft-spoken.  

These are the only questions I can remember:
  • Have you told your other son about this adoption?
  • Have you been through training for adoptive families?
  • Have you studied and learned about Ethiopian culture?  It is very important to teach Nebiyu about it, she said.
  • Are you prepared to make this commitment?
We then returned to Layla House for our final few hours with N before leaving Ethiopia.  On the drive to the airport, we asked Ermias some questions about Ethiopian culture.  One question was, "How do Ethiopians feel about foreigners adopting their children?"  He said there used to be negative feelings, but not as much anymore.  He said it means a lot to him that people come across the world to adopt children, especially when they can have children biologically.  He said, "I meet families who have 6 children who come across the world for 1 baby." 

This struck me as a beautiful picture of how God loves us.  "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4).  I once was lost, but now am found.  Thank you, Lord.

I thought it might be harder to leave N but I think being sick and being anxious to get back to Shep made us feel ready to get home.  Neither of us cried.  We know N is in good hands (and God's hands), even if they are not our hands and this is just a necessary part of the adoption process.  Yet, it is still an odd feeling knowing our baby is being raised by someone else and we have no control over how is cared for or who cares for him.  As our plane took off from Addis Ababa that night and I watched the city lights disappear, my heart ached.  Our son would once again be across the world from us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ethiopia Day 3

Being sick in Ethiopia was tough because everything is unfamiliar - the food, the smells, sanitation, transportation.  Because we had gotten sick off the food, we were scared to eat again so we snacked on the packaged stuff we had brought from home as much as possible and tried to eat at better quality restaurants.  We spent most of day 3 in bed recovering.  That night, we forced ourselves to get up and go out because we wanted to experience as much of Ethiopian culture as we could fit into our 4 days there. 

We went to Kaldi's first.  It is, quite unashamedly, a near-exact replica of Starbuck's.  The worker's uniforms, the menu on the wall, the logo, etc. are just like Starbuck's.  It was actually very comforting for us to be in a place that felt to familiar feeling as we did, even though we were the only foreigners and the food was not what you would get in a Starbuck's!  Also, the frapacinos were called frapoocino's - nice.  The ice cream was fabulous, though.

Then we went to Yod Abyssinia, a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  It was very cool - a must-see.  The food was very traditional and served tableside over hot coals.  There was a traditional coffee ceremony (did you know Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee?), traditional music, dress, and dance.  The dance show was fascinating!  The female dancers moved their heads round & round so fast - I didn't even know it was humanly possible (see the last picture)!  Wish we had video of that. It was a great evening. 

To be continued with day 4, our last day in Ethiopia...