Friday, June 7, 2013

Shep's Special Prayer

On the way to swim lessons recently this conversation started out of the blue (S for Shep, B for Billy, M for Megan):

S:  Jesus is alive
B: that's right, where'd you hear that?
S: I don't know
B: was it at preschool?
S: I don't know
B: Jesus died and then came back to life
M: do you know where He is (to Shep)?
S: He's up there in heaven
M: yeah, He's really everywhere.  He can live in your heart if you want Him to.  He lives in mommy's and daddy's heart.
S: I don't want Him to live in my heart.
M&B: ok.
S: but God's already protecting everybody's heart.
B:  Well, He won't live in your heart unless you ask Him to.
S:  I want Him to live in my heart.
M: you just have to pray and ask Him to live in your heart.
S: dear Lord, I want you to live in my heart.  I don't know what to say.
M: all you have to say is amen.
S: amen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dog Frog

Just because we can.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Seminary Graduation

The ones who have sacrificed the most for me to get here.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to my sweet little family for supporting me through this 6 year journey.  Now I'm all yours.

This one's fun - all the kids who have entered our family since I've been in seminary!  Joey, Shep, Ailey, Maevy, Liam, & 2 babies in utero.   We've been busy.

And to those who have always believed in me and encouraged me to follow hard after God, a very big thank you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Shepisms {Pregnancy Edition}

Early on in my pregnancy, Shep explained to my mom about how the baby eats in my belly.  It goes a little something like this.  There is a straw that goes all the way from my mouth down to the baby's mouth so whatever I eat, the baby eats, too.  Not far off, huh?!  He went on to say the baby can eat anything, but it really likes candy and sprinkles.

Another day Shep asked if I had three babies in my belly.
"No.  Why?" I replied.
He simply pointed to my belly bump then the "bumps" on my chest.
Ohhhhh.  Which led to an interesting conversation about how the baby will eat when she is born.

Another running theme is what is going to happen when the baby is born.  I have explained repeatedly that this baby is going to come out of my body and automatically be ours, that she is not going to be adopted like Liam.  I have even explained for the first time (he was never interested before) how Liam came out of his birthmother's body before we adopted him.  But Shep continues to insist that the baby will come out of my body, then we will need to fly to Ethiopia to "re-dopt" her before we can bring her home.  It really does seem too easy to me even that she will just be our's - no paperwork or waiting or international travel involved.  And, thank you, Lord, I will not have to fly to Ethiopia and back immediately after giving birth to a child!  Can you imagine?!

Shep also said one day that we would need to "trade the baby in" when she was born because we already have a baby (Liam).  I told him we would never do that, that we keep our babies forever.  This led to another interesting adoption conversation because he said, "But William was traded in" (by his birthparents).  I love this age and how he is beginning to make so many connections all on his own.

He was also sure even before we knew that this baby would be a girl because "we already have a William."  I explained that even if we had another boy, it would not be another Liam.  He would look different, act different, and have a different name.  I suppose in his concrete little mind brother is synonymous with William.  Sweet.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice

It's a win for Team Pink! That's right, the Clarks are welcoming a BABY GIRL this time around! As if we are not already blessed. God is so good.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shep's "Self" Haircut

A month or so ago, I walked into the bathroom to find Shep cutting his own hair - with his Dad's CLIPPERS!  This was the result - a bald strip right down the middle of his head.  Hard not to laugh.

Why do so many children do this to themselves?  Why???

He also took a pair of scissors (children's scissors, thankfully) to our dog.  I didn't get any pictures of the dog.

Obviously, we had to shave his head.  Glad he's a boy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Liam and His Fork

Liam demonstrating his new ability to fork (read "stab") his food.  Pretty hilarious, but, hey, whatever works! We're proud of you, Buddy!

Note: Please ignore the out-of-control hair as this was right before a haircut.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What It's All About

Today I have had an epiphany of sorts.  The last several months I have been living in the haze of really-really-bad-morning-sickness.   Pure survival mode (and there is no energy for blogging in survival mode).

But the last few weeks I have gradually begun to feel better, eat more, enjoy being out and about, and had the energy to get things done.

And it's interesting because this coming out of the haze has coincided with the end of Winter.  The days are getting longer, the dreary weather is beginning to give way to sunshine and warm afternoons.  The birds are singing, nests are appearing, flowers are blooming.  It's Spring.

And guess what?  It's Easter!

You see, this is all what Easter is all about.  New life.  New beginnings.  Re-birth.  The end is not really the end, but the beginning.

A couple nights ago, Billy and I talked about a loved one who does not know this.  He doesn't see. And he doesn't understand our upside-down life.  He doesn't get why we aren't interested in the American dream.  He is worried for us, for our children because of our career and finance decisions.

He doesn't believe, as we do, that this world is only the beginning.  He is living for here and we are living for there.

Here is dreary and dark and often hard.  But there is going to be beauty like we've never known.  And because we know that, we cannot help but live differently here.  Because all that surrounds, all that we see, will one day be dust... just dust.

The only things - the ONLY things - we will take are souls.  And that is what Easter is all about.  New life.  New beginnings.  Re-birth.  Hope.  All ours for the taking.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Attachment Update: 2 Years Post-Adoption

Liam arrived 2 years ago today.  Our relationship has had its ups and downs since then.

And the honest truth?  We have yet to arrive.

A fellow blogger wrote a post here about her son, adopted from the same orphanage actually.  I couldn't say it better so please go read "Someday Up From Underwater" to better understand where we are at with Liam these days.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Free Online Devotional Book for Lent/Easter

Ann Voskamp is one of my favorite authors and she offers some amazing free tools for the spiritual walk on her website.  Go here to download her free online devotional book for Lent/Easter.  You can print it off to have a hard copy or read it on your computer or other device.  Blessings to you on your Lenten journey!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday

1. Beginning to have a 2-3 days at a time without throwing up
2. The "clothes fairy" delivering Spring/Summer hand-me-downs for the boys
3. My friend Meredith's baby finally arrived (about 9 days late)
4. Sunshine & birds chirping, a nice reprieve from all the gloom & rain
5. Wonderful people who love us bringing us meals since I've been sick

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday

1.  Him who would hold my hair and rub my back while I'm throwing up (if I would let him)
2. Who is doing my share of the parenting and housekeeping as well as his
3. (and doing it all with a cheerful heart)
4. Who leaves a homemade Valentine for me to find this morning
5. Who is the only one I would want to go through Morning Sickness Misery with (TWICE!)

I love you, Valentine.

Monday, February 4, 2013

How To Talk to Kids About Race

I believe no topic should be off-limits with kids (obviously with the exception of inappropriate/adult topics of conversation).  If we don't talk to them about it, someone will and that someone may not have the best information to give our kids.  The important thing is to take their lead so you do not expose them to ideas they are not yet ready for or go over their head and lose them.

A great way to start the conversation by is reading picture books or doing activities together to open up conversation.  Then you can answer your child's specific questions and/or ask them questions based on their own life experiences.  You don't need to have all the answers.  You can always put the question back on your child if you're at a loss for words: "Well, what do you think?" If that doesn't answer the question, look it up together.

Here is a teacher's blogpost about some activities to promote discussion about race.  I really like the idea of cracking open a brown egg and a white egg to show they are the same inside.

This blogpost by an adoptive mama has some more great ideas for activities, such as making different shades of chocolate milk!

We make a point to have books that have a variety of ethnicities in them.  It's important for children to see a variety of ethnicities, in books and in real life.  Children only become racist when they are taught to be, but that does not mean they are colorblind.  Nor should they be.  We teach them to sort and organize, to learn their colors - we cannot very well expect them not to notice the differences in the people around them, too.  A lack of exposure to people who are different can lead to an unhealthy fear of those who are different, as well as a tendency to believe the stereotypes about other races, rather than learning to get to know each individual person for who they are.

Some examples of picture books that can help you broach the subject of race are The Skin You Live InShades of People, and The Colors of Us.

Although race should not be an off-limits topic, it should also be made clear we never say hurtful things about the way people look.  In our home, Shep will point out from time to time the difference in our skin and hair colors.  We talk about it in a simple and matter-of-fact way, i.e. "Yes, that's right.  Liam has brown skin and you have light tan skin and Mama's is a little darker tan.  Daddy's has lots of freckles.  God made us all different."  When he occasionally calls Liam black (not sure where he hears this phrase because we don't use it), I correct him because Liam is actually brown and the politically correct term in America is African-American, not black.  Particularly in the sometimes racist South, it is important that we teach our children appropriate language for race because it's only a matter of time before they hear the inappropriate and slang terms when they are out and about.

We are shaping a future generation, hopefully one in which each person will be seen for who they are, not the color of their skin.  God created us all in His image and said, "It is good."  And, indeed, it is.  May we teach our kids to be leaders among their peers, promoting equality and appreciation for all.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adoption: Our Favorite Books for Kids & Parents

For the kids, adopted or not:

A Mother for Choco (domestic or international adoption, great for transracial)

God Found Us You (domestic or international adoption, good for transracial)

Shaoey and Dot (international adoption, particularly from China)

In My Heart (domestic or international, great for transracial, not specifically about adoption per se, but about an adoptive family and REALLY good for attachment)

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born (for domestic newborn adoption only, not transracial)

We have the top four picture books and recommend them all.  

If you are adopting transracially, it's also important to have a variety of books that show kids of different ethnicities.  Kids need to see people who look like them, in books and in real life.

Also, books with attachment/love themes are important for promoting attachment (such as In My Heart, listed above).  There are many great picture books that are not adoption-related but have great attachment themes such as Karen Katz books, I Love You Through and Throughthe Llama Llama series, etc.) which paint a picture of what healthy parent-child relationships look like.

And for the parents, my top picks:

Attaching in Adoption (really for any adoption other than newborn adoption, if you can only read one adoption book, this should be it)

I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World (really informative read, particularly for a Caucasian parent of an African-American child)

There is No Me Without You (by an adoptive mama about Africa AIDS epidemic, really helps understand the situation there, emotional read but worth it)

Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft (specifically for toddler adoption, author mostly focuses on international, but some could apply to domestic)

With Eyes Wide Open (not a book, but a great online learning course, Billy & I went through this together and learned so much, specifically for international adoption, really helpful in understanding how hard international adoption is from the kids' perspective and how to anticipate their needs)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

Special Needs: How to Support the Sibling(s)

Right now, Shep is blissfully unaware of just how "different" his brother is from him.  Or the different paths their futures likely hold.  As far as he knows, all little brothers wear hearing aids, have physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, go to a "special" preschool, need a medical walker to learn to walk, etc.  We come into contact with a lot of children with special needs at therapy and specialist appointments and Shep seems to appreciate everyone equally, a quality we hope he retains.

As you can tell from my blog, we are very matter-of-fact about Liam's disabilities with everyone, including Shep.  No topic is off-limits.  Anything he is curious about, we simply explain (same goes for talking about Liam's adoption).  And at this tender age, Shep is happy with short, simple answers.  Just today, after visiting Liam's new preschool, Shep asked, "I wish I could go to Liam's new school." Me: "I know, it seems like fun.  But his school is just for children who need therapies.  You don't need any therapies so you go to your school."  And that was that, his curiosity was satisfied.

Resources for Siblings of Children with Special Needs:

We have all of these except the last one, which is on my wishlist for Shep.  So far, we are only using the picture books.   We will pull out the others when Shep is developmentally ready for them.  We will also find support groups, counseling, etc. if and when Shep needs or wants them.

We keep the picture books out in our book collection and read them out loud from time to time.  Pictures books can be an easy way to broach hard subjects with kids and let them show us what they are curious about (we have several about adoption, too).  

As we read, we talk a little bit about the children in the books - what is different about each of them?  How might they feel?  Do you know why that girl rides in the chair?  Do any of them remind you of you?  Do any remind you of Liam?  Look, that girl goes to horse therapy, too - just like Liam!  Look that boy has hearing aids - like Liam!  Do you think he talks or signs?  Hey, they know sign language, just like you!

It is pretty simple conversation about mostly external things as Shep is barely four (and a boy!).  How we help him process his thoughts and feelings about his brother is something that will change as he matures.  We will follow his lead.  Right now what is important is exposing him to the ideas that we believe are important, for example, "God made everyone special.  And everyone has something to offer."  These are things we, too, are learning in a whole new way on our journey as special needs parents.

Secondly, it's important to create an environment in which Shep can feel comfortable talking to us about anything, including Liam's disabilities and how they affect our family.  Our hope is that being Liam's brother will ultimately be a beautiful, life-giving experience for Shep.  He does not naturally have a compassionate or nurturing spirit, but hopefully Liam will help develop that in him.  We hope he will learn to see people through God's eyes.  If he does, Liam will have given his brother a huge gift.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Liam!!!

Today you turn THREE!
This was a big year for you - you learned to walk!
You only used your walker for a few months and then you were off, leaving it in the dust!

Walking has opened up a whole new world for you.
You have enjoyed exploring the world from your wobbly legs, getting into drawers and cabinets, strewing contents about.
You have become quite mischievous, as a toddler should be.

In fact, you are much more a typical toddler now, tantruming and hitting when you don't get your way.
The baby who [literally] never cried has become the toddler who cries louder than all the rest.
We know it's a good thing you have reached this  milestone, albeit a little exhausting for us at times.

Your favorite things are still remain eating, balls, music, rough-housing, swinging, bubbles, water play, and people-watching.  We can now add to the list Scout, our new dog, whom you adore.  You kiss/bite him, hug him, pull up to stand with his assistance, pull his ears and tail exuberantly.  We can also add your new push tricycle, which you love so much we have to force you off.

Now that you are three, you will start next week at your new "Special" preschool.  You will love your new teacher, Ms. Moree and her assistants, Ms. Carlisle and Ms. Veech.  There will be a whole new set of therapists there, too, to add to the set you have at home!  You will learn and grow so much and we are so excited for you!  You will even get to ride the bus home.

In addition to your regular physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy at home, you started hippotherapy and aquatherapy this year.  You really love them!  You grinned the biggest grin when they first put you on Oreo the horse.  And you have become quite the waterbaby in the pool.  You work so hard to get stronger and try to new things and we are so proud of your accomplishments.

Another big thing this year was the acquisition of your hearing aids.  You are not yet speaking, but have learned quite a list of signs - 18 to date.  Not being able to communicate well does not seem to frustrate you.  You just "get what you get and you don't fuss a lick"!   We do continue to work on speech, but want you to know whether or not you ever utter a word, we love you just the same.  You are our baby boy and you are ours forever.

Happy Birthday, William Nebiyu Clark!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thankful Thursday

1. Feeling well again after a vicious virus
2. A good nap
3. A homemade milkshake
4. Weekly dollar slice night at our favorite pizza place (and no cooking for me!)
5. A few warm days in January

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Why It's a Good Time to Adopt

The IRS has released the official inflation-adjusted numbers for 2013. The maximum adoption tax credit for 2013 is $12,970. The credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income of $194,580, and the credit will phase out completely at $234,580.

The credit is not refundable (meaning you will not get a lump sum check), but you can spread it out over 5 years.  So if you typically owe around $6,000 per year, you will get the money back in 2 years.

This is great news for those who are considering adoption!  If that's you, please don't let finances hold you back!!!  The adoption tax credit was a huge help to us in bringing Liam home debt-free and it can do the same for you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday

1. Being a part of an Inheritance of Hope retreat this week
2. Being back home after being away for 4 days
3. Time spent with a dear life-long friend, Jean
4. Starting a new Bible study at church
5. A husband who did an amazing job keeping the kids for the 4 days that I was gone

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thankful Thursday

1. The smell of cinnamon
2. Dinner at a Japanese steakhouse - so fun with the boys.
3. The start of a fresh new year, like turning a page in a book
4. Knowing our neighbors well enough to exchange favors
5. Time with a friend at a coffee shop