Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adventures with Melissa, Day two!

We are having so much fun today! Poor Melissa must have been completely exhausted because she slept until noon before I finally went in there and woke her up! All morning I kept debating whether or not I should wake her up but finally at noon I decided that if she didn't get up her sleep schedule would be all messed up.

So we got her up, had lunch and then I took the kids and did a little shopping. I asked her yesterday what her favorite Korean food is and she said Kimchee, so I thought I'd take her to the Korean market today and buy some bottled Kimchee in case she gets homesick and wants a taste of home while she's here or in case she gets tired of unfamiliar American food. She was so cute though, when we got there she said she didn't want it because she said she only wants to eat American food here. I was proud of her, she's really embracing her American experience. When we went to Korea I only lasted two days before we found a Burger King and wolfed down french fries like it was the last food left on Earth, lol. The food is so different in Korea that my biggest worry about this experience was that she wouldn't like American food and I wouldn't know what to feed her, but she's eating just fine.

After the Korean market we went to Shopko and bought the game Battleship and the movie Monsters Vs. Aliens. Josh plays Battleship at school and loves it, so I thought it would be a fun and easy game for him to teach Melissa to play. We came home and they had a great time playing that for a while and then we made popcorn and watched Mosters Vs. Aliens. It's all cold and snowy outside, so today was the perfect day to play games and watch a movie.

The more Melissa warms up to us the more we enjoy her. Her English is fairly good, but I can tell that she sometimes has to think for a minute before speaking to find the right words. I think she's doing great though and I think after a month of speaking English exclusively she's going to be even better. I seriously envy people who are bilingual. One of these days I'm going to find Korean classes in Boise and give Korean another try. I know a ton of random Korean words, but I can't put a sentence together. I'm fascinated by people who can switch between two languages.

One of the best things about this experience so far is that in the past 24 hours I've met several Koreans who live in Boise and that's something I've been searching for. There really aren't that many Korean people in the area and I've been dying to make some Korean friends. There are a few who work with the exchange program and I enjoyed getting to know them at the airport yesterday. I'll be seeing more of them throughout the month as they check up on Melissa. Then today at the Korean market a Korean woman stopped to talk to Melissa and we found out that she's opening a taekwondo studio practically right around the corner from our house, which I'm thrilled about because I've been looking for one nearby. I think Josh and Matthew might enjoy that. I also talked to the market owner (who gave us free crackers because he liked Clarissa and Melissa, lol) and I asked him about Korean restaurants in the area (there are none unfortunately) or if he knows of anyone who caters Korean food because I'm looking for some Korean dishes for the birthday party we're having for Clarissa in February. He took my info down and he's going to call me.

We're still trying to decide what we're going to do for the New Years celebration tonight. I think we'll order pizza for the kids and let them have a little party with movies and games in the basement and Shawn and I will find something yummy to eat and watch some movies when the kids go to bed. Every year I think I want to plan something really fun for New Years Eve and every year it usually ends up with us asleep on the couch at 11. We're not exactly party animals, lol.

Tomorrow Shawn doesn't have to work so we're going to find some fun activity to do with the kids. We might go sledding or go see a movie or maybe we'll take the kids swimming at the YMCA. We'll cram as much fun in as we can before school starts back up on Monday!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another update!

Seriously, Melissa could not be sweeter or cuter, we're having a ball with her! She has really warmed up to us this evening and we've enjoyed her a lot! We took her out to dinner tonight and she ate her first taco! :)

It's really fun to look at America through the eyes of a foreigner. And because we just went through a similar experience a few months ago when we visited Korea I feel like I understand a little of what she's going through. I remember just feeling bombarded with new experiences during our whole trip to Korea. The food was different, the language was different and nothing feels familiar. It's really fun and exciting but kind of exhausting and overwhelming at the same time, so we're taking it slow and letting her tell us what she wants to do. She's doing great with the boys and she's so curious about Clarissa coming from Korea. She doesn't quite understand how all of that worked, I think. She's asking a lot of questions, which is really cute.

One fun thing is that she brought us all gifts from Korea! She brought me and Shawn a beautiful piece of artwork, she brought cute pens, pencils and erasers for the boys and she brought Clarissa a bib (which actually matches a shirt that Jin-Ha gave to Clarissa in Korea!), some cute socks and a burp cloth. She also brought me bulgogi marinade (YAY!!) and gochujung, which is the Korean red pepper paste that is in so many Korean foods. So fun!

One fun thing that we found out today at the airport is that the exchange program provides our whole family with free access to the YMCA for the month and also free ski passes for our family so we can take Melissa skiing. We were also paid a stipend that we'll use to pay for more fun activities. So I think we're going to pack everything we can into this month. I'm really looking forward to it!

Melissa is really sweet and polite and I don't know if it's the accent or what, but everything that comes out of her mouth is adorable, lol. She keeps calling me teacher, which is a common thing to call people in athority in Korea, and it makes me smile. I helped her call her mom tonight and I enjoyed hearing her speak Korean. I don't know what it is, but I just love hearing Korean spoken. I love the way it sounds.

Now we're watching the movie Up with her and then we're going to get the kids to bed. It's been a busy day and I'm sure that Melissa has to be exhausted, but I keep asking her if she's tired and she keeps telling me no. I don't know how she's doing it, when we went to Korea I wanted to curl up on the floor and sleep for a week when we finally arrived. Traveling that far is exhausting!

I'm off to watch the movie with the kid but stay tuned because I'm sure that I'll have many stories of our adventures with Melissa this month. Exciting days are ahead around here!

Quick update

We're home with Melissa and she is SO adorable! I felt bad for her at the airport, she looked scared to death. But we got her home, showed her around and talked her into teaching us how to play a Korean board game we bought in Seoul and that really opened her up.

The game ended up being kind of a Korean version of the game Sorry, so when we finished that game the kids got out Sorry and they're teaching her how to play. She's smiling and laughing, so I think she's doing ok.

She's nine years old but for some reason she seems older than nine to me. She seems very mature and intelligent. And I really love her accent!

She seems to especially love Clarissa but she's scared of our cat. We're keeping the cat out of the way for now!

Tonight we're taking her out to dinner to celebrate her first night here. So far so good!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

New photos!

We're leaving in half an hour to go pick Melissa up from the airport! Yay!

I also took a few cute pictures of Clarissa this morning that I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday

I can't believe Christmas is over already! It went by really fast!

So first of all, we DID have a Christmas miracle and our Christmas Eve picture of the kids rocked! I seriously worried about that picture for days beforehand. I really wanted it to be perfect but I almost never get Clarissa to sit still for a photo. Just like her brothers she runs when the camera comes out, lol.

But for some miraculous reason when we sat her on the floor with the boys in front of the tree she totally turned on the charm! I think the photo I ended up using was the third photo I shot. It was a piece of cake and I'm ridiculously in love with how it turned out. I love looking at photos of all three kids together. I have THREE kids! It's still sinking in, lol.

Christmas was really fun this year. The kids got spoiled rotten and we ate way too much Christmas candy. That's how I like my Christmases!

I got the best Christmas gift this year! My sweet husband went shopping with the boys a couple of weeks ago and the three of them picked out a beautiful silver bracelet with a heart shaped charm on it. They had "Forever Family" engraved on one side and the kids names engraved on the other side. They were so excited to give it to me, I could not ask for a sweeter husband or sweeter kids.

We're getting excited for our Korean exchange student to get here on Wednesday! This afternoon I got an e-mail from the program coordinator with photos of Melissa. She is absolutely ADORABLE! I probably won't be posting photos of her for privacy reasons, but I wish I could because she's super cute. We have some fun things planned while she's here and I think it's going to be a really great experience for our family.

The next few days are going to be really busy getting ready for her arrival and cleaning up after all the Christmas fun. It's so much fun to put up the Christmas tree and get ready for Christmas and it's always a pain to take it down and put it all away. Once Christmas is over I get tired of the Christmas tree pretty quickly.

So things are pretty busy around here right now and starting Wednesday I think it's going to get a lot busier! It's a fun kind of busy though, so I really can't wait! :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Whites

http://www.dropshots.com/Wenders11#date/2009-12-24/19:56:08

Piggies for Christmas!

This morning when we got Clarissa out of the bathtub and I was drying her hair I decided that it was time to experiment. :) Since Clarissa has been home I've just been pulling her hair to the side with a clip, which is the extent of my little girl hair styling skills, but this morning I was noticing how long her hair is getting and I decided that it was time to try pig tails.

I've never put pig tails in a babies hair before and I had no idea what I was doing, which is probably evident from the photos, lol. Fortunately Clarissa seems to like having her hair played with. She has always liked having it brushed and she sat still and let me put the pig tails in with no problem. She may not KEEP them in (she's always pulling her hair clips out), but she did seem to enjoy it when I was putting them in. As her hair gets longer and I get more practice I'm sure I'll find lots of fun things to do with her hair!

As usual, the photos are on the dropshots page. (www.dropshots.com/wenders11)

And speaking of photos, I'm getting all excited about our annual photo tonight! Every year since Matthew was born I've been giving the boys matching pajamas on Christmas Eve and taking their photo in front of the Christmas tree. It's usually the last thing they do on Christmas Eve before they go to bed. I have the cutest photos of them throughout the years in their matching pj's and it's always fun to take the new photo and compare it to last years photo to see how much they've grown.

This year is going to be even MORE fun because Clarissa will finally get to join them! I searched high and low for matching pajamas that they could all wear and I found some cute ones. Clarissa's are just like the boys except they're pink. Because this is such a big tradition in our family I always really stress over getting the perfect photo. It's not something I can really redo later if I don't like how they turned out. I'm not sure how it's going to go trying to get all three kids to sit still and smile, but I'm going to give it a try! Clarissa really doesn't enjoy having her picture taken at all and I can never get her to sit still while I take them, so it's going to take a miracle to pull it off. Cross your fingers for a Christmas miracle, I'll be back later with the results!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A little more info

I'm posting from my iPod so this will have to be short, but I wanted to update about the exchange student.

They came over and did a home visit yesterday and gave us more information. All the kids that come over choose an American name to go by because it's easier for people to pronounce and our student has chosen to go by the name Melissa. Super cute!

She'll be here the afternoon of the 30th which is a week from today! We're super excited about it! She'll be staying until February 7th which means she'll be here for Clarissa's birthday! I'm really happy about that because we're doing a traditional Korean first birthday ceremony and I think she'll be able to help me a bit!

While she's here they request that we do a few specific activites with her so that she has an opportunity to visit the mountains and play in the snow. One of the places they've asked us to take her is up in the mountains near here where we love to go so we've decided to rent a cabin for the weekend in the middle of January and we'll go up there and go sledding and do some fun activities for the weekend. I'm really looking forward to that!

I think this will be a really fun experience for our family. January is usually cold and dark and long around here and I think this will definitely shake things up a bit!

Life is going pretty good around here these days. Clarissa is starting to stand and say a few words and she's quickly turning from a baby to a toddler! I can't believe that she's going to be one in just a little over a month! Time is really flying by.

We've been pretty busy getting ready for Christmas, I'll make another post about that with photos soon!

Fun times at our house!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Monday, December 21, 2009

YAY!!!

I just got the call that we've been accepted as a host family for the Korea exchange program!!!! We have a third grade girl coming to stay with us for the month of January!

I know everyone in my comments were shocked that people were sending their third graders to a foreign country, but knowing a little about Korean culture it didn't surprise me a whole lot. From what I have observed it seems like Korean parents encourage their kids to be more independent than American parents do. Children in Korea are also strongly encouraged to learn English and most parents really want their kids to spend some time in the US. It does seem really young to send a child out into the world alone, but they're well supervised and they're background checking us and doing a home visit and everything, so they're careful about who they're letting the kids stay with. It's like a mini adoption homestudy again, lol. We're pros at this by now!

I'm so ridiculously excited about this!! It will be an awesome cultural experience for our family. Plus I think we're probably a good home for a Korean child to visit since we're all pretty obsessed with Korea around here! :)

I don't know any specifics yet, but I'll be learning more in the next few days!

YAY!! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So excited!

Josh just came home from school with a note to the parents saying that they're looking for families to host Korean elementary school children for the month of January!!!! I think I know of a family who would absolutely LOVE that! :)

I immediately called the number on the note and practically begged them to pick us, lol. The problem is that ideally they're looking for a family with a third grader because that's the grade the kids are in, and we have a first and a fourth grader. I want to do it REEALLY bad. I was blabbering on like a moron to the guy about how we just adopted from Korea and how I'm familiar with Korean culture and blah blah blah and I'm sure the guy thought I was insane, lol.

Anyway, we're not their ideal candidate because we don't have a third grader, but they need to get people lined up in the next day or two and they may not find families with third graders so he took my info down and said that he'd call me in the next few days and let me know.

It's ridiculous how much I want to do it, I can't stop talking about it to Shawn. He just left to go Christmas shopping so and I'm not done talking about it so I'm blogging about it instead. :)

I really REALLY want to have a third grader from Korea in my house for a month! It would be such a great cultural experience for my kids and so much fun to have someone from Korea here! We're a good house to come to, I can make bulgogi and bibimbop when they get homesick and make them laugh with my poor Korean language skills! :)

So cross your fingers that they choose us! I should know in a couple of days!

YAY! :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

YAY! :) I love this time of the year. Yesterday we had our first real snowfall of the year and then last night we decorated the Christmas tree.

We tried to decorate the tree on Sunday night, but after getting out the Christmas tree and finding that half of the lights aren't working (it's a pre-lit tree), we decided that we needed a new tree. Every year we get that tree out and fight to get the lights working and this time Shawn fought with it for a while and lost so we decided that it was time to retire it and find a new tree.

So Monday I looked around and found a great replacement and we had a much more sucessful tree decorating experience last night!

Last year when we were packing up the Christmas decorations I commented that the next time we opened the Christmas decoration box Clarissa would be here, so getting that box out of the basement and opening it up last night with Clarissa was really fun for me. Clarissa was on my mind a lot last Christmas, so having her here with us is just making the holidays that much sweeter.

We have a Christmas tradition in our family of buying an ornament each year that signifies something significant that happened that year. Sometimes we buy an ornament from a fun family vacation, we have one that signifies moving into our new house, one from when I was pregnant with Matthew, etc. I always make sure that they have the year on them so that we always remember all the fun events in our family. Shawn and I actually went to a company Christmas party together when we were dating and they gave everyone a dated Christmas tree ornament at that party and that's what started the whole thing. So we have ornaments going back to 1996, the year before we got married.

One of my favorite ornaments is a really cheap, ugly looking metal Christmas tree with 1998 engraved on it. In 1998 we were super poor college students and I managed to scrounge up a few dollars to buy an ornament. I couldn't find a dated ornament cheap enough and then I finally ran across a display at a store that offered engraved ornaments for about $4 or something. I decided that was going to have to work so I picked out a Christmas tree ornament and took it to the employee to have the date engraved on it and he handed me the engraving tool and said that he couldn't engrave them, we needed to do it ourselves! It's truly an ugly ornament, lol.

Over the years our financial situation has changed and I can afford to buy nicer ornaments now, but that ugly Christmas tree ornament from 1998 is still one of my favorites. It reminds me of how far we've come and it brings back really fun memories of the early years of our marriage.

So anyway, it's always a really fun tradition in our family to put the ornaments on the Christmas tree and tell the stories of the ornaments as we put them on. The tree is a reflection of our family's history and as the years go buy it's fun to add to the story.

This year I'm looking for a nice ornament that has Korea on it because I didn't think to look for a Korean Christmas tree ornament while we were there, although I doubt one would have been easy to find. I'm also having one made that signifies Clarissa coming home. Telling the story of those ormanents will always be really fun. This is a Christmas that I don't think we'll ever forget.

After we got the tree up we picked up hamburgers from our favorite burger place and we came back and watched the Phinius and Ferb Christmas special. That show cracks us up. I think that Christmas episode is going to become a yearly classic in our family.

It was a pretty great night at our house. At one point I was sitting on the couch with Clarissa watching Shawn and the boys adjust some of the last ornaments on the tree and I just had a moment where I looked around and just felt an overwhelming feeling of love and appreciation for my family, for Clarissa being home, for Shawn and for my life. It was just one of those truly perfect moments that I never want to forget.

Here are a few photos from last night:






In Clarissa news, she's started pulling up on furniture constantly in the past couple of days. I had seen her do it a few times in the past, but she had to really work hard to do it. Suddenly she's popping up with no problem! The problem is that once she stands up she's afraid to get back down, lol. So she'll pull up on the couch and stand there for a few minutes, all proud of herself for standing up, and then she'll decided that she's done standing and she'll start crying for someone to come sit her back down. Funny kid!

Now that she can stand she's able to reach things that she couldn't reach before and that's been something to adjust to! I left the room for a couple of minutes yesterday to answer the door and when I came back she was shredding a magazine that I had left on the couch.

Her other new thing is talking on the phone. She loves to pretend that she's talking on the phone! She thinks everything is a telephone, especially TV remotes. She'll put it to her ear and start babbling and sometimes she'll hand it to me so that I can talk. It's super cute! The funny thing is that when I actually put the real phone to her ear and there is someone on the other end, she wants nothing to do with it. Shawn calls sometimes during the day and tries to talk to her and she won't put the phone to her ear. She just stares at it and tries to figure out how daddy got into that tiny phone. I love that kid. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So much to do, so little time!

Wow, my blog is a ghost town lately, isn't it?! I've been so ridiculously busy lately that I feel like I'm constantly playing catch up. I have a big to-do list of things that aren't getting done and updating my blog keeps making that list!

But I can't complain because life is going pretty well around here these days. We left Thursday morning and drove four hours to my hometown to spend Thanksgiving at my moms house. Clarissa did amazingly well on the trip! I was nervous about our first out of town trip with all three kids, but it went well. Clarissa is a good car traveller, thank goodness! It helps that there were two goofy brothers back there with her who love to make her laugh. :)

We had a really fun time catching up with friends and family for a few days and on Sunday morning we made the trip back home. I have a few stories from the trip that I intended to blog about, but time keeps getting away from me and I never had the chance. I'll try to get to them, but I still have four days worth of Korea trip that I still haven't gotten around to blogging about, so I'll have to put it in my mental file of things to discuss later. :)

While we were at my moms house I took a few silly pictures of Clarissa that I put up on my dropshots page. (www.dropshots.com/wenders11) She found a squishy ball in my moms toys that she really liked and she kept crawling around with it in her mouth like it was a big pacifier or something, lol. She's such a funny kid, she makes me laugh all the time. I also posted a photo that I took this morning when I was fooling around with my camera.

When we got home on Sunday it was time to get back to work! The boys were out of school for the whole month of October for their schools track break and Monday they went back. As much as I loved having them home it was kind of nice on Monday morning to be able to get back on a schedule around here. Clarissa sure misses the boys during the day though. She gets SO excited when they come home from school!

Monday evening we had our first post placement interview with our social worker. Before we can go to court and legally adopt Clarissa we have to have post placement interviews with our social worker at two months and four months and then we have to submit a report ourselves at six months. Once all of that is done they'll give us the go ahead to legally adopt her, probably around the end of April.

I was a little nervous about the social worker visit, although I have no idea why. Things are going really well with Clarissa so it's not like she'd have anything negative to report, but I think in the back of my mind I just keep worrying that someone is going to tell us that they've changed their mind we have to give Clarissa back or something. I tend to do that in my life whenever things are going really well. I find myself just waiting for someone to pull the rug out from under me. The chance of that happening in this case is pretty much zero (the birth parents rights were irrevocably severed when our plane left Korea and the agency wouldn't remove Clarissa unless there was abuse or something), but I'll feel much better when April rolls around and the judge declares her ours forever.

Our social worker is really nice and we always enjoy having her here. The visit was really quick and painless. She just asked us several questions about how things are going and then took a quick look at Clarissa's bedroom and that was it!

Oh, the sweetest thing happened while she was here! I had explained to Josh and Matthew about why the social worker was coming and that she was just making sure that everyone was happy so that we can work towards having Clarissa legally adopted. I thought I explained it well, but aparently what Matthew got out of the explaination was that the social worker was coming over to decide if we could keep Clarissa or not. I didn't realize that and he didn't say anything about it, but when the social worker got up to leave he got a really worried look on his face and said "do we get to keep Clarissa?". Bless his sweet little heart, he had been worried the whole time that the social worker was going to take Clarissa with her when she left. The social worker assured him that we got to keep Clarissa and he was very relieved. :) I take it as a good sign of Matthews adjustment that he didn't offer to pack Clarissa's suitcase and help her with her coat, lol.

The rest of this week has just been full of meetings, apppointments and other things not interesting enough to blog about. I've been super busy every day this week and today is the first day that I haven't had anything scheduled. So me and Clarissa have been hanging out around the house enjoying the fact that we don't have anywhere to be today.

And speaking of Clarissa (aren't I always?), tomorrow she'll officially be 10 months old. Time is flying by so fast! She has changed a lot since she came home a month and a half ago. She's army crawling around the house like crazy, she pulls up on things, she has learned to wave and clap and as of today if I ask her where my nose is, she points to it. Super cute! I sometimes forget that she's had to learn to process a whole other language because she's done amazingly well with it. I can tell that she understands lots of things that I say to her. It's amazing to me how quickly babies learn and adapt. Watching her learn and grow has been a joy. I sometimes still can't believe that she's finally here.

Last night I was giving Clarissa a bath and Matthew was in the bathroom with us and I said something about Korea and Matthew said "Sometimes I forget she came from Korea! I think that she came out of your tummy!" It feels that way to me too sometimes. The other day I was watching The Office and when the theme song came on Clarissa perked up like she recognized it (she probably does, I'm a little bit of an Office addict!). and for a split second I though "I wonder if she heard that song when I was pregnant with her...". I had to stop and remind myself that I didn't give birth to her, lol.

So yeah, I'd have to say that things are pretty good here these days. I'm incredibly busy, but happy. It is driving me crazy that I haven't blogged the rest of my Korea trip yet! I am going to get around to it, I promise! I need to get it all written down while it's all still fresh in my mind. I'm in the process of putting together an adoption book for Clarissa to read later and I want all of that in there.

OK, so I guess that's my update for now! I vow to try harder to blog more often! :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Photo Tuesday

It's only 8:30am and my kids have already been so cute today that I've had to get the camera out twice. :) You can go to dropshots for the photos. (www.dropshots.com/wenders11)

The kids were all up at about 7:30 this morning so I turned the TV on while I got a few things done and a few minutes later I looked over at them and they were all lined up on the floor watching cartoons together. Seeing the three of them together makes me smile. Clarissa loves her brothers and wants to be doing whatever they're doing. So I got the camera out and captured the moment. Normally I don't get excited about seeing my kids eyes glazed over in front of the TV, but today it was cute. :)

Then about a half hour later Clarissa was sitting on the floor happily playing with toys so was checking my e-mail on my laptop and when I looked over at her a couple of minutes later she was standing up! She had pulled herself up on one of her toy baskets! I totally didn't expect to see her standing, she's not even fully crawling yet! I got a great "caught in the act" photo of her. She was pretty darn proud of herself!

So obviously things are going pretty well around here! We're healthy and happy and getting excited about going to grandmas house for Thanksgiving in a couple of days. This will be our first car trip with Clarissa and our first night with her away from home, so I'm hoping that she's a good traveler. I'll keep you posted! :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

bibimbop!

I mentioned in my earlier post that I was going to make bibimbop for dinner and it was such a hit that I decided it deserved its own blog post!

We got a childrens book called Bee-Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park. If you have a Korean child, or even if you don't, you should totally buy that book! It's a rhyming book (that will get stuck in your head!) about a girl helping her mom prepare Bibimbop.

It goes through all the steps to make it and at the end of the book there is a recipe for it and the instructions list things that a child can do to help prepare it.

It's seriously the CUTEST book and so fun to read. My kids love it! The recipe is really easy to make so tonight I decided to give it a try. Bibimbop is rice mixed with meat and veggies. I looked at several different recipes for it on the internet and it looks like the one in the book is pretty basic and kid friendly. It's a great meal for kids. My kids gobbled it right up and they're pretty picky!

I left out a few ingredients that we didn't have in the house, so I'm not sure how authentic the version we ended up making was, but it was SO good! My version basically just had the marinated meat (which is basically a bulgogi maranade, which is my favorite food in the world!), carrots, green onion, egg and rice. The real version has more veggies in it and it's also usually mixed with gochujung, which is Korean red pepper paste that is way too spicy for my kids! You're also supposed to serve everything seperately and mix it yourself if your own bowl, but I mixed it all before I served it just because it was easier that way and then I only needed one bowl.

So OK, real Koreans would probably laugh at my Bibimbop, but it really good! :)

Here's the recipe and photos of the finished product. Yum!


INGREDIENTS:
1 pound tender lean beef, such as sirloin tip
Vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 carrots
1 pound fresh spinach
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound mung-bean sprouts (available in Asian markets)
3 cups cooked rice

MARINADE:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper


TO MARINATE BEEF: In large bowl, combine garlic, onions, soy, sugar, oil, sesame seeds, sesame oil and pepper. Slice beef across grain into very thin slices. With eager hands, toss beef and marinade together for 2 minutes. Set aside.

TO COOK EGGS: Whisk eggs together. Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in one-fourth of eggs, tilting pan to spread thin. Cook for 1 minute. Flip. Cook other side for 1 minute. Slip egg pancake onto cutting board to cool. Repeat (adding oil, if necessary) to make 3 more pancakes. Stack pancakes. Roll stack tightly. Cut roll into 1/4-inch slices. Unroll slices into medium bowl. Fluff into heap of yellow ribbons. Set aside.

TO STIR-FRY CARROTS: Peel and cut carrots into matchsticks. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large skillet over high heat. Stir-fry carrots until tender. Transfer to another bowl. Set aside.

To stir-fry spinach: Boil spinach for 2 minutes. Drain. Cool. Squeeze. Stir-fry over high heat in 1 tablespoon oil. Transfer to another bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

TO BLANCH SPROUTS: Boil bean sprouts in lightly salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer to another bowl. Set aside.

TO STIR-FRY BEEF: Heat large, dry skillet over high heat. Scoop meat from marinade. Add to hot pan in 1 big sizzle. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

TO SERVE: Set all bowls and skillet on table. Allow each guest to scoop rice into soup bowl, then add meat (with its juices) and vegetables. Top with egg ribbons. Mix, like crazy. Enjoy!


Busy life!

Did you think I dissapeared?! :)

I'm still here, just SUPER busy these days! Life is wonderful but it's zooming along faster that I can keep up sometimes.

Clarissa has now been home for a little over a month and we couldn't possibly be happier! She's made an amazing adjustment and things are going really smoothly. She's growing and learning so quickly and it's fun to watch her explore her new world. She's getting up on her hands and knees now, ready to crawl any time now! I was looking back at some video that we took of her in Korea a month ago and it's amazing to me how much more grown up she seems even since then. They change so fast at this age!

It's been kind of chaotic around here for the past few weeks. I was just getting Clarissa on a good schedule during the day and then the boys track break started. They're out of school for the whole month of November, so that's given me a little more to juggle around here. It's pretty much go go go from morning till night around here these days. I feel bad because I feel like I've abandoned my friends a little bit this past month. I have only chatted with Jin-Ha a couple of times since we've been home and I haven't been checking in with my friends in town much. I've got e-mails to respond to, blog posts to make...I think everyone probably thinks I fell off the face of the face of the Earth!

I haven't, we're just enjoying a lot of family time right now and I'm getting used to being a mom of three!

I never finished my blog posts about our trip to Korea and I haven't forgotten about it! I'm going to make another post in the next day or so about the fourth day of our trip. I have a ton of stories to tell about that day! It was the day we visited the DMZ, the dairy farm and went to church with Jin-Ha. I think that was one of my favorite days of the trip. I'll have lots of stories and photos ready for you in the next few days!

For now I'm going to go get Clarissa up from her nap and start thinking about dinner. We're having a Korean dish tonight called Bibimbap, which basically translates to "mixed up rice". It's a little like Koreans version of fried rice. It's rice mixed with vegetables and meat. Sounds good to me!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Perfection

You know those moments where you look at your kids and have an overwhelming moment of love? Sometimes I look at my kids and I love them so much it almost takes my breath away. I've been having a lot of those moments lately. I didn't know I could love anyone as much as I love my three sweet kids. THREE! There are finally THREE of them! :)

Things are going really great around here. Honestly, better that I ever expected. I'm just constantly amazed at how well Clarissa has adjusted to our family and how easily she fit right in. I thought long and hard about adopting a child before we decided to go ahead with it and I have always felt so strongly that this was what was meant for our family, but honestly I had a few moments during the wait where I would wonder what it would feel like to raise a child who wasn't biologically mine. I wondered if it would feel different at first and I wondered if it would take a little time to really fall in love with her and feel like she was really mine.

Now that we're past all of that, I can tell you that it took about five seconds, lol. The immediate bond that I had with her actually surprised me. For some reason I thought it was going to be harder than that or that there were going to be more complicated emotions involved, but there wasn't. Holding her for the first time was very much like holding my boys for the first time after they were born. There was no question-they were MINE and I was in love.

In a few days Clarissa will have been home a month. In some ways the time has flown by and in other ways it feels like she has been here forever. This blog post was prompted by the fact that I was just laying down with Clarissa trying to get her to take a nap and as I was laying there with her and watching her fall asleep I just had a moment of overwhelming love and gratitude for her. I was thinking as I was laying there that it feels like she's always been here. I know without a doubt that she was meant to be a part of our family. For years I've felt that there was someone missing in our family and every time I look at her I know that she was meant to fill that empty spot. I feel like someone just snapped the missing peace into the puzzle. I feel ridiculously blessed to have three such wonderful children who make me smile and make my life so full of love and joy.

So yeah, things are going pretty well here. :) Clarissa is such a joy! She's so happy and easy going and so fun to play with. She's cuddly and loving and we couldn't possibly love her more. We're all pretty smitten with her! She loves her brothers like crazy and the feeling is mutual. I love watching her face light up when the sit down to play with her. Seeing all three of my kids playing together is really great. This is what life is all about.

My house is a little messier these days and by the end of the day I'm completely exhausted, but my heart is full. These days I'm just sitting back and enjoying life. We went through so much to get here and now that the wait is over I just couldn't be happier. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Busy day!

Today was the day I've been dreading since Clarissa got home-I had to take her to the doctor for her well baby visit and to start her immunizations. One of my least favorite parts of being a parent is taking my kids for their shots. I've been putting it off, but it needed to be done so I sucked it up and took her in.

I really do love our doctors office. The nurse is the nicest person ever and she was so excited to finally get to see Clarissa! Unfortunately Clarissa wasn't all that excited to see her! She wasn't all that happy about me taking her clothes off so that she could be poked and prodded. Poor kid!

They did her measurements and she's 23.5 pounds and 29 inches long!! I love our chunky little princess! :)

Then the doctor came in and Clarissa wasn't all that impressed with him either. :)

One of the many wonderful things about adopting from Korea is the quality of medical care they give the babies while they're there. When they gave Clarissa to us in Korea they gave us a file folder with all her medical charts in it and it was very detailed. The doctor was impressed that we had so much info. She did have some immunizations in Korea so she's not super behind, but there are a few we have to catch up on. The doctor is great about spreading things out so that she doesn't get too many at once, but she did have to have two today.

I seriously hate it when my babies need shots. I know that they're necessary but it seems so mean to hurt them when they don't understand what's going on. She was sitting there happy and all of a sudden the mean nurse hurt her leg for no reason. It makes me sad!

Clarissa and I both survived the trauma though and we finally got to pack up and go home. She's done well since she had them, she doesn't seem to be having any problems. Immunizations make me nervous, so I always worry for a few days afterwards.

Shortly after we got home we had to pack up the boys and take them to the dentist for their six month checkups. I LOVE our dentists office! If anyone in Boise needs a good dentist, I know a great one! Every time we've gone in there for the past two years they've asked us how the adoption process is going and they were SO excited to hear that Clarissa is finally here! She was the star of the show when we went in there today, lol.

First of all, the dentist lived in Korea for two years doing missionary work for our church several years ago, so he's been excited for us to go there and tell him about our trip. Then when we got in there today I discovered that they have a new receptionist-and she's a Korean adoptee!! She was really excited to hear about the adoption and I was really interested in talking to her about her experience as an adoptee. She actually has two older brothers who are biological, just exactly like our family! She has a very positive view of adoption and has had a happy life with her adoptive family, which made me really happy to hear. I don't know very many adult Korean adoptees so when I come across one I always feel like I want to hear every detail about their lives. I had to stop myself from asking a zillion questions!

So today was kind of an exhausting day of doctors appointments, but it was fun to finally get to show her off to people who have been following our adoption story for a while. For the longest time it felt like everywhere I went people would ask me how the adoption process was going and my answer was always "slow"! It's SO great to finally be able to have a MUCH better answer to that question!!

In a couple of days Clarissa will have been home a MONTH! I can't believe how fast the time has flown! In about a week and a half it will officially be two years since our paperwork went to Korea and we went on the waiting list. We had no idea where our journey was going to take us when we started this process, but I can't imagine being more thrilled with the outcome!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Korea Revisited, part 3

So we're up to day three of our Korean adventure! Let's review-day one we flew halfway around the world, met Jin-Ha and had our first Korean dinner, day two we met Clarissa and traveled by train across Korea, visited Clarissa's birth city and watched the sun set at the beach.

Day three was full of lots more amazing adventures! The day before we had been told by our social worker that a tour guide was going to be picking us up at our hotel at 9am to take us on a walking tour of Seoul. We were really excited to do some sightseeing so we woke up that morning ready to go!

After a minor mix up (we were waiting for our tour guide in front of the hotel and she was waiting for us in the lobby! Oops!) we finally met up with the tour guide and we were on our way. I've been dying to tell you about our tourguide because we were completely in love with her! Her name was Ji-Hee and she's a college student in Seoul. She was super bubbly and friendly and a complete joy the entire day. She actually had just gotten back from spending a year in the US, so while we were excited to talk to her about Korea, she was just as excited to talk to us about the US. We were amused by her obsession with Pottery Barn and The Cheesecake Factory and she was amused by my love of Korean dramas, lol We had a lot to talk about! We have actually kept in touch with Ji-Hee since we've been home and there's a chance that she's going to coming to stay with us next summer!! Here is a photo of us and Ji-Hee:




She started off by giving us a little lesson on getting around in the subway. She showed us how to buy a subway card and how to follow the colored signs to get where we needed to go. We took the subway to Gyeongbokgung palace, which is a 600 year old palace in the middle of Seoul. When we got there we met up with another tour guide and another adoptive family and we were excited when we realized that we knew the other adoptive family from the Korean adoption message board we both post on! We enjoyed spending the day sightseeing together!

One of the things I loved most about Seoul was that it was such an interesting mixture of old and new. There are brand new big glass skyscrapers right next to palaces that are centuries old. It's really neat to see.

According to Wikipedia, Gyeongbokgung Palace was first constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867. It was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, "Gyeongbokgung," translates in English as "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven."

When you walk through the front gates of Gyeongbokgung Palace, you feel like you've transported to another time. It's hard to believe that you're still in the middle of a modern city. They have palace guards who stand at the gates dressed as the ancient guards would have been and everything looks like it's been untouched for centuries. Unfortunately it hasn't been though. When Japan controlled Korea they burned most of the palaces in an attempt to erase Korea's history and everthing had to be rebuilt. It breaks my heart to think of that beautiful palace being burned.

On a tangent, I think that's one of the things I love so much about Korea. Throughout history they've endured so much and no matter what happens they rebuild and go on. They're very proud of their culture and I think they appreciate it even more because they've had to fight so hard to perserve it. I thought about that a lot while I was at the palace. Knowing how much work went into perserving the beautiful palace and all the history that went with it made me really grateful to be able to see it. I felt a lot of love and respect for Koreans and their wonderful culture that day.

The palace is actually several buildings which are all spread out on the palace grounds. We saw the Kings private residence, the room where they held their political meetings, the Queens private area, and lots of other interesting little buildings. The architecture is beautiful and the rooms are furnished the way they would have been when the palace was being used. Ji-Hee was a wonderful tour guide. She knows a lot about the palace and it's history, so it was fun to walk through the buildings with her and have her explain the history behind each room.















After touring the buildings we walked through the park that surrounds the palace. What a beautiful and peaceful place! Again it was really hard to believe that we were in the middle of a gigantic city. It was quiet and beautiful and I enjoyed every second of our time there.

After resting at the park for little bit the group decided to head over to Insadong to have lunch and do some shopping! YAY! :) Insadong is an area in Seoul which is basically a long road lined with really neat shops that have a lot of traditional Korean art, pottery, jewelry and lots of fun souvineers. If you want to go souvineer shopping in Korea, Insadong is definitely the place to go! We actually ended up spending a lot of time (and money!) in Insadong throughout our trip.

Insadong is basically across the street from the palace, so it was a short walk to get there. When we first got there we decided to stop for lunch. Insadong is one long street and it has lots of little side alleys that shoot off from it and there are tons of neat little restaurants in those alleys. Our tourguides took us to a really neat little restaurant in one of the alleys and we had delicious lunch! One of the dishes we had there was called Tang Soo Yook, which is kind of a Koreanized version of Chinese sweet and sour pork. It was SO good!! Seriously, I'm thinking about it now and it's making my stomach growl. I want to go back to Korea just to eat at that restaurant again, lol. I actually have another story to tell about that restaurant later....

After lunch we walked through Insadong and had a lot of fun doing some souvineer shopping. I bought Josh a traditional korean stamp with his name in English and Korean and I bought Matthew a traditional Korean wooden mask that he had been begging for ever since seeing one at Jin-Ha's house on the webcam one night.

Finally after six hours of walking through the palace and shopping in Isadong, our feet were tired and we were exhausted so we decided to say goodbye to our wonderful tour guides and the other adoptive family and we took the subway back to our hotel to rest.

One thing I'll always remember about our trip to Korea was how exhausted we were!! We crammed SO much stuff into the short time that we were there and we were constantly on the go. Dealing with jet lag, the emotions of meeting Clarissa, never getting enough sleep at night and spending every day walking for hours was hard. We always hated to stop and take a break because we knew that our time in Korea was limited and we wanted to experience everything we could, so for the most part we pushed on, even when there were times that I think we could have curled up on the nearest bench and happily fallen asleep!

But that afternoon I was particularly tired. We really had hardly slept for the past three days and my body was screaming at me to sit down and rest! So we went up to our hotel to rest for a bit.

We hadn't been up there very long when Jin-Ha called to tell us she had a big adventure planned for us! Rest time was over far too soon!

I know I've said it a million times, but Jin-Ha was wonderful to us on that trip. We saw and did so many wonderful things when we were with Jin-Ha that we never could have done if we had been on our own. Our adventure that night was no exception!

First she picked us up and took us to her house. Getting to spend some time with her family in their home was so much fun, we loved getting to experience their culture and see what life is like for a family in Korea. They live in an apartment building, like most people in Seoul, and it was really fun to visit. They have an awesome balcony on the back of their apartment that looks onto a playground. I liked it a lot!

Jin-Ha has two sons who are about 8 and 12. Off on another tangent, Koreans actually count their age differently than we do into the US, so their Korean age isn't the same as it would be in the US. Koreans consider babies one year old when they're born. They don't start at zero the way that we do. Then instead of changing to the next age on their birthday everyone switches to the next age on Korean New Years Day. So if a baby is born in December they're one when they're born and then when Korean New Year comes along in January they would become two! So in that case a baby who was a month old by our counting would be considered two years old in Korea. Interesting, huh?! Anyway, that's why I'm still not sure how old Jin-Ha's sons actually are, lol.

My point in talking about her sons was to say that I've never met two sweeter, more polite children in my life! Her younger son was with us quite a bit during our trip and I absolutely love that kid. We totally wanted to take him home with us by the end of the trip! We didn't spend as much time with her older son, but he was so nice to us while we were there. One thing I was particularly impressed with was that when we got to their house he was watching TV and instead of just mumbling hello like most American teenagers would do if their moms friend came to visit, he got up and bowed to us so politely. I was impressed by Korean teenagers our whole trip. They're a lot more respectful than American teenagers.

After spending a little time with their family, Jin-Ha made us a delicous meal and we had a really fun chopstick lesson from her older son. We really enjoyed the time we spent at their house!

After we ate it was about 7pm and we were off on another adventure! We all got in Jin-Ha's car and she took us to a park where they were having a music festival. Jin-Ha lives close to the World Cup stadium in Seoul and we drove past it on the way to the park. That thing is HUGE and they were having a game there that night. We could hear the crowd from quite a distance away! It was really cool!

I already told the story about our experience at the park in a post I made while we were in Korea, so I'm not going to tell the story with as much detail this time. But let's just say that it was an experience that I'll never forget!

I really had absolutely no idea where we were going or what we were going to do there until we got there. The park is called Sky Park and they call it that because it's on top of a mountain! It's absolutely beautiful there, but in order to get to the top you have to walk up a really steep path up the mountain. Normally I would have been fine with that, but I was so ridiculously exhausted by that point that I thought there was no way that I was going to make it up that hill. My body was screaming at me to sit down! Jin-Ha and her younger son, who came with us, are total balls of energy and were sprinting up that path like it was no big deal. I, on the other hand, probably looked like I was five seconds from passing out and dying, lol.

It was a long walk but we did eventually make it to the top of the mountain and I was SO glad we did because I had a wonderful experience there that night. Again, it was one of those things that we never would have done without Jin-Ha. It wasn't a tourist experience, it was a real authentic Korean experience and those experiences are the ones that meant the most to me on that trip. I'm really grateful that we got to experience real life in Korea away from the typical tourist spots.

We sat on the top of that mountain overlooking Seoul that night and we listened to beautiful traditonal Korean music and had a wonderful cultural experience. I can't really even express how much I grew to love Korean people and their culture while we were on that trip. I feel such a connection to Korea and I felt so blessed to be on that mountain that night. I will always be so grateful to Jin-Ha for giving us those special experiences.






At the end of the night we went back down the mountain (easier than going up, by the way!) and Jin-Ha took us back to our hotel where I very happily climbed into bed. Finally, it was time to sleep!! :)

And so ends day three of our amazing Korean adventure. Look for part 4 coming whenever I have another chance to sit down and type it all out!:)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

All dressed up

Today we took Clarissa to church for the first time! We usually go to church every week, but between Josh being sick and wanting to give Clarissa time to adjust to us before introducing her to the world, we haven't gone for a few weeks.

I have a whole closet full of cute dresses for Clarissa that I've been dying to have a reason to dress her up in and today was the day! :) Before we left for church I took a few quick photos and I'm completely in love with how they turned out. I took a photo of Clarissa and the boys and I think it's my new favorite photo!

http://www.dropshots.com/Wenders11#date/2009-11-08/18:41:20

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Korea Revisited, Part 2

I have my laptop back for the time being, although I'm still having power problems, so I thought I'd better hurry and make another Korea story post before it goes back out again. It turns out it's not the cord that is the problem, it's the power port in my computer, which means I'm going to have to take my laptop in to have the port replaced. Bummer. For now it's working sporadically, so we'll see how long it lasts.

In Clarissa news, she learned how to clap yesterday and we've been playing pat-a-cake over and over and over all day. She loves it and it cracks me up to watch her do it. When we get to the "throw it in the oven" part she throws her hands in the air and gets a big grin on her face and it melts my heart every single time. She could not possibly be any cuter. :) I'm going to try to get her new trick on video soon.

OK, so now onto my Korea stories! I have so much to talk about! I left off at the end of the first night in Korea. Day two in Korea was even more eventful!

But before I go on, I have to post the photos of the fancy hotel toilet! I mentioned the fancy toilet in one of my posts while we were in Korea. It may have been our lack of sleep, but we were ridiculously amused by the fancy toilet in our room. It had a panel of buttons on the wall you could push to make the toilet perform fancy toilet tricks. The seat was also heated, which is always enjoyable. :)




Also, while I'm at it, here's a photo of the view outside our hotel window.






After being up for over 24 hours on our first day in Korea, we finally got back to our hotel and slept. I've never been so happy to sleep in my entire life!After a fantastic nights sleep we woke up the next morning ready for the biggest event of the trip-it was time to meet Clarissa!!

Our meeting at the agency was at 10am and Jin-Ha was nice enough to pick us up at our hotel and take us to the agency. Just getting to go to the adoption agency was amazing. I've heard so much about it over the past two years and I've seen pictures of it, so getting to FINALLY be there in person was awesome.

The agency is in a tall skinny building on a busy street. We walked in the front door into the reception area and a nice women sent us upstairs where our first meeting would be. We talked to our social worker for a minute and she got us settled in a cozy meeting room with couches and bookshelves and toys. It felt like a little living room.

My stomach was SO nervous at that point!! What a big moment! A few minutes later the door opened and in walked the foster mother holding the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She had on jeans, a pink shirt and the cutest pink hat ever! She looked really nervous to see us and I'm sure she was wondering what the heck was going on! It didn't help that I took one look at her and burst into tears, lol. I'm sure she wondered who the crazy crying woman was.

We sat down and Clarissa stayed with her foster mother at first. The social worker sat with us and talked to us for a minute while Clarissa warmed up to us. She told us a little about Clarissa's time with the foster family and finally the foster mother handed her over to us.

Holding Clarissa for the first time was like a dream. I just kept kissing the top of her head! She was pretty nervous with us at first. She kept looking at her foster mother and then back at us. After a few minutes she decided that she wasn't sure she liked us and she started to get fussy. I expected that and it was OK, I handed her back to the foster mother for a few minutes. We definitely didn't want to overwhelm her.

The meeting took about an hour and in that time we took turns holding Clarissa, we talked to the social worker who translated for the foster mother all the things we needed to know about Clarissa. She told us what Clarissa ate and what her sleep schedule was like and all of that. Honestly, a lot of that first meeting is already a blur to me. I was SO happy to finally be seeing Clarissa that I wasn't paying attention to everything going on around me! I don't remember a lot of what was said in that meeting.

OH!! I can't believe that I forgot to tell this story!! I'm off on a tangent, here we go! A few months ago when I first started talking to Jin-Ha online I mentioned to her that I wanted to learn Korean so that I could thank the foster mother when I met her. After all she's done for us, the least I could do was thank her in her own language.

So Jin-Ha told me to write down what I wanted to say and then she translated it for me and helped me learn to say it. It was five sentences and I practiced it a TON. Basically what it said in English is this: "I was very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking such good care of Clarissa, you are very special to our family. We will raise Clarissa to be proud of her Korean heritage and I hope that we can come back to Korea to visit soon." That's easy enough to say in English but much trickier in Korean when you don't speak the language!

I practiced my little speech in Korean a million times. I practiced it at home, I practiced it in the airport, I practiced on the airplane, I practiced in the hotel and I practiced in Jin-Ha's car on the way to the agency. It was so important to me to say thank you to the foster mother in Korean, but I was so worried that I would get nervous and mess it all up!!

Fortunately when the time came, I didn't mess it up. At the end of the first meeting I told the social worker that there was something I wanted to say to the foster mother in Korean and then I gave my little speech. I was SO nervous but I pulled it off! Jin-Ha says that my Korean pronunciation is good, so I'm pretty sure the foster mother understood me. I hope what I said made sense! She seemed to really appreciate it and I'm SO glad that I did it. It's also really fun to say my Korean speech and pretend that I speak Korean, lol. I sound pretty convincing for those five sentences!

All too soon the first meeting was over and it was time to say goodbye to Clarissa for the time being. The social worker thought that Clarissa seemed nervous enough around us that she thought we needed to schedule a second meeting for later in the week. That was fine with us, of course, but the problem was that the only time they could do the second meeting was the day we were supposed to be going to Clarissa's hometown to do a tour of the hospital she was born in, so we needed to do some rescheduling.

There is a branch office of the adoption agency in Clarissa's hometown and a social worker was planning to meet us at the train station and take us to the hospital and it turned out that the only other time she could do it was that day. So the social worker told us to get down to the train station quickly and get ourselves down there. We were off on another adventure!!

So we said goodbye to Clarissa, jumped in Jin-Ha's car and we were off to Seoul Station, which is the big train station in Seoul. It was about 11:45 by that point and we were trying to make the noon train. Unfortunately we missed it by about two minutes.

So we bought tickets for the 1:00 train and Jin-Ha took us out to lunch while we waited. Seoul Station is attatched to a department store and to Lotte Mart, which is Korea's version of Target or Walmart. There was a food court there where we ate. Again it was one of those places that we never would have gone without Jin-Ha because we would have had no clue how to order or even WHAT we were ordering!

It was a food court similar to what you would see at a mall in the US, but there was one central cashier where everyone places their order that services all the little food places and then you sit down and wait for your order number to come up on a big board on the wall and when you see your number you go to the food booth and get your food. We would NEVER have figured that out on our own!! It was hard to decide what to eat when everything looked completely foreign and I had no idea what anything was, but we chose something that looked sort of like bulgogi (my favorite Korean food!) and it was delicious!

At a quarter to one we said goodbye to Jin-Ha and we boarded the train for our long ride across Korea. Clarissa was born in a coastal city called Busan, which is on the complete other side of the country from Seoul. Busan is the second largest city in Korea next to Seoul. By car it's about a six hour drive but by train it's just under 3 hours. So it was already 1:00 in the afternoon and we had a three hour train ride ahead of us to Busan and then three hours back in the evening so we knew we were in for an extremely busy day.

The train ride to Busan was actually pretty cool. Getting to travel all the way across Korea was an amazing experience. It was neat to look out the window and get a view of what Korea looks like outside of Seoul. There were lots of fields and trees and farmland along the way. I enjoyed the ride.

When we got to Busan we were met by a social worker who was super nice, but it was 4pm on a Friday and I could tell that she was kind of ready for her workday to be over. Because the trip was so rushed and last minute that day, we really didn't know exactly what to expect or what we'd be doing in Busan, so I really didn't know what our plans were with the social worker. I kind of hoped that maybe we'd get to sit down with her at the agency or somewhere and ask all of our questions. We did ask some questions about her birth mother and the circumstances of Clarissa's birth while we were on the way to the hospital, but I just really wasn't sure what was OK to ask and I didn't feel like I was prepared or if the car was the best place to ask my questions. I thought there'd be more time to talk later.

We got to the hospital and a nice women at the front desk took us all up to the 5th floor, where the maternity ward was. Being in the hospital where Clarissa was born was really emotional for me. I just kept imagining her birth mother and I kept thinking about what she must have gone through while she was there and it was really overwhelming to me. The woman who gave us the tour was SO nice. She took us back to labor and delivery, showed us the room that Clarissa was born in and the nursey where she spend her first few days. It was really interesting to see a Korean hospital. It was really quite similar to what you'd see here, just a little more basic. There is good healthcare in Korea and it didn't look like a bad place to give birth.

But again, I just kept feeling Clarissa's birth mother so strongly when we were there. I felt like I was walking in her footsteps, retracing everything she'd gone through and it was so emotional for me. I know from talking to the social worker that she didn't made the decision to place Clarissa for adoption lightly. I know it must have been so hard for her and my heart hurt for her while we were there. Thinking about her leaving that hospital without her baby broke my heart. I have nothing but love and respect for Clarissa's birth mother.

But getting to see where Clarissa was born was also really neat and exciting. It was a long and exhausting trip to Busan, but I will always be SO glad that we went. I'll never have to wonder what Clarissa's first few days were like. Someday when Clarissa asks I'll be able to tell her all about it and pull out photos, and I'm grateful for that.

And speaking of photos...











We didn't learn a lot of specific information about Clarissa or her birth mother at the hospital, but just getting to be there and see where she was born was a really special experience for me. I felt like I was just trying to memorize every detail and every second of our experience there so that I can tell Clarissa all about it someday.

As we were leaving the tourguide dug through a drawer and came up with some brochures and a DVD about the hospital for us to put in Clarissa's memory box. It was a little gesture that meant a lot to me.

We walked out to the parking lot of the hospital and I think I was expecting the social worker to take us somewhere else or to the agency or SOMETHING, but our time with her was abruptly over. She flagged down a cab for us, and said her goodbyes. I didn't really feel like I got the chance to ask everything I wanted to ask her, but then again I'm not really sure what I would have asked. I just kind of felt rushed, like there wasn't enough time to think about it. In the end I didn't learn a whole lot of information about the adoption while we were there, but the trip to the hospital was 100% worth it to me. That experience will always be really special to me and I'm so glad that we did it.

Before the social worker left she asked us what our plans were for the short time we had left in Busan and we told her that we wanted to go to the beach so she told the cab driver to take us to the beach. We were off on another adventure!

When we first got to Busan we became aware that there was some sort of Asian film festival going on there that night. That really meant nothing to us at the time, but we later found out that it was kind of like Asia's version of Sundance or something and Busan was full of famous Asian movie stars that night, although we were completely oblivious.

When we got to the beach they were having part of the celebration there and there were movie screens set up on the beach with movies playing on them, which was really cool! So the beach was really crowded that night, but we had a great time.

It was around 6:00 or so when we got there and the sun was just starting to set. Never ever in my life did I think that I would be standing on the beach on the coast of Korea watching the sun set. The whole experience was really surreal to me and completely amazing. The coast of Korea is beautiful. One thing I wanted to do while I was there was collect a few seashells that I could bring back to put in Clarissa's memory box, and that ended up being a pretty easy task because there were seashells everywhere! I had a good time walking along the water picking up seashells.

Oh! Let me mention what we were wearing that day!!! We were told before we went to Korea that we were expected to dress up for any meetings we had at the agency or with the foster mother. That was fine, we brought along khakis and button ups and I wore a cardigan sweater. Frankly, I hate wearing anything besides jeans, but I'll dress up if I have to! But then we left the meeting at the agency so fast to get to the train station that there was no time to change, so we went to Busan more dressed up that I wanted to be.

That means that when we finally got to the beach we were not exactly dressed for a walk on the beach! The photos that we took there make me laugh because we look too dressed up for the beach. I took off my shoes and rolled up my pant legs to walk in the water. I was going to enjoy sand between my toes dressed up or not. :)



After we sat on the beach and watched the sunset we walked across the street and ate dinner at Burger King! As much fun as we had eating Korean food on our trip, we were so happy to see something familiar. :)

After our quick dinner we hailed a cab and got back on the road to the train station. OK, remember me telling you about the crazy drivers we encountered in Korea?? We were about to have one of those crazy driving experiences. For one thing, I think the driver took advantage of the fact that we didn't speak Korean and had no idea where we were and I'm pretty sure he took us on a scenic tour of Busan. He drove FOREVER, watching TV the whole time. We would have asked him where he was going if we knew Korean, but we didn't so we just settled down for the ride.

FOURTY FIVE minutes later we finally arrived at the train station. I'm pretty sure that the cab driver is still laughing about the ride he took the dumb Americans on, lol. He was watching a TV show while he drove and I think he decided not to stop until the show was over. Anyway, we did make it back to the train station in one piece and we boarded the train for the long ride home.

The ride to Busan was really interesting and fun. The ride HOME from Busan...wasn't. It was dark, it was late at night and we were SO tired. We tried to sleep and we managed to for a little bit, but it was still a long ride home. In 48 hours we had gone from Boise to San Francisco, San Francisco to Seoul, all the way across Korea on a train and back again, all on maybe 6 hours of sleep. We got back to our hotel around midnight and crashed into bed.

And there you have it, day two of our adventure in Korea. At this rate it's going to take a really long time to finish my Korea stories!! It's important to me to write it all down though. As much as I think I'm never going to forget all the amazing things we did in Korea, someday it will be a fuzzy memory and I'll be glad I can go back and read this and remind myself what an great adventure we had.

Stay tuned for more stories of our adventure coming soon! :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oink.

Well, it's official, swine flu has invaded the White house. Josh got really sick on Friday afternoon with a high fever, cough, headache and all the rest of it, so we took him to the doctor and he declared it swine flu. So far the rest of us don't have it, but I'll be surprised if it doesn't make the rounds of the family.

So our planned Halloween festivities were a little modified. Josh didn't feel well enough to go Trick or Treating so he stayed home and handed out candy with me and Clarissa and Shawn took Matthew out with an extra candy bucket so that Josh wouldn't miss out on the candy. I'm glad that we put the kids costumes on and took them out to Shawns work on Friday morning before Josh got sick because that ended up being the only time I got to see all three of them in their costumes together this Halloween. Josh is hoping that his Darth Vader costume will still fit next year so that he can give it another try next Halloween. Poor kid, being sick on Halloween is no fun!

So our weekend ended up being really low key and uneventful. Yesterday we stayed home from church and watched movies in our jammies all day. Frankly it was a MUCH needed day of rest. After all the craziness of the past month I think we all really enjoyed a quiet weekend.

Josh is home from school today but he's feeling much better and his fever is almost gone, so I'm hoping that he'll be back on his feet tomorrow. He's been sick a lot this fall, so I'm glad to see him feeling better. Today we're hanging out together watching a lot of Phineas and Furb and eating Halloween candy. :)

Aside from the swine flu things are going pretty good around here. Life with Clarissa is getting easier and more fun every single day. She has really settled into our family nicely and I'm getting used to having a baby in the house again. Now that Clarissa is more comfortable with us her personality has really come out and we're enjoying her SO much! She's extremely easy going and laid back, which is nice. I really expected her to have a more difficult transition, but she's come a LONG way in two weeks. She's gone from being scared and clingy to being really relaxed and happy. She's smiley and giggly and so much fun.

Last night was a big milestone because it was the first night she slept in her room all by herself!! She's been sleeping on the floor in our bedroom in her Korean bed, and that was working OK, but she's kind of a light sleeper and every time we made noise it was waking her up. So yesterday I moved the Korean bed into her bedroom and let her take her naps in there and she did so well that we decided to give it a try last night and it worked great! I think she's happier to be in her own room where it's quiet. She sleeps from about 8:30pm to 7:00am or so. She sometimes wakes up briefly during the night but if we pat her back for a minute she'll go right back to sleep. Considering that two weeks ago she wouldn't sleep unless I was holding her and even then she would only sleep for a couple of hours at a time, I think we've made amazing progress!!

I'm so excited to finally have her sleeping in her bedroom. When we moved into this house five years ago I immediately declared her bedroom the perfect bedroom for a little girl because of the cute bay windows and I've been going into that room for five years thinking about what it would be like to have a daughter in that room. We got it painted and decorated for her last January and I've loved to go in there and put clothes in the closet and sit on her bed and think about what it would be like to have her home, so putting her to bed in that room last night was pretty great. I'm so glad that she's finally here with us.

I'm still planning on making more blog posts about our Korea trip, but my laptop cord broke this weekend so I'm without my normal computer until the new cord gets here, and the edited versions of all my photos are on my laptop, so I'm going to wait until I get that fixed before I got back to telling my Korea stories. Hopefully I'll be back up and running in a day or two.

Also, I noticed this morning that for some reason a few photos have been deleted off the dropshots website! I have no idea how that happened, but the Halloween photos are gone! I'm going to reupload them when I get my laptop back, but in the meantime they're gone and I have no idea where they went. Weird.

Anyway, that's all the news from our house. I'm off to gorge myself on Halloween candy and spend some quality time with Josh and Clarissa! :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy (almost) Halloween!

The kids don't have school today so this morning I got them dressed in their Halloween costumes and we went over to Shawns pharmacy to do a little early Trick or Treating. Every year that I can remember we've taken the kids over there in their costumes and it's always really fun and this year it's the first time his coworkers got to meet Clarissa, so it was extra fun!

I've had Clarissa's Halloween costume sitting in her closet for the past year. I bought it the day after Halloween last year from a costume website that was having a big clearance sale.

Since we got our referral that costume has kind especially been on my mind because we didn't know if we were going to get Clarissa home in time to wear it. Whether or not Clarissa was going to make it home for Halloween has been a frequent topic of discussion around here for the past few months!

So putting the costume on her today was really really exciting. She made it home in time to wear it! :) I've looked at that costume a million times over the past year and imagined what she'd look like in it. Getting to finally see it on her was awesome!

I'm going to be taking a lot more pictures of the kids in their costumes tomorrow when they get ready to go Trick or Treating, but I got a few today of Clarissa. Enjoy the sneak peek. :)

www.dropshots.com/wenders11

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Korea Revisited

Because of my limited internet access while we were in Korea and the lack of time I've had since we've been home, I feel like I never got to talk about our trip to Korea as much as I wanted to. I've been meaning to wait and do it when after I had a chance to go through all the photos I took so that I could post photos and talk about each one, but at this rate it's going to be months before I get them all done and I'll forget my stories by then.

So today, and maybe occasionally over the next week or so, I'm just going talk about what happened on our trip and share the photos I have had a chance to go through so that I get them all down in my blog before I forget them. My blog has been kind of a journal for Clarissa to read when she's older and I want to make sure that she has all these stories. So some of it might be long and boring, but it's important to me to write it all down. I won't feel bad if you skip it, it's almost more for mine and Clarissa's benefit more than anything.

So just humor me, I have a lot to talk about!

Let's start with the plane ride over there. You all know how much I hate to fly, right?! I've literally been terrified for months about getting on that plane. The morning we left for Korea was so hard for me. I was emotional anyway because we were about to go get Clarissa, plus I've never left the boys for that long and I was having a hard time thinking about being away for that long. Add that to the fact that I was dreading getting on the airplane and I was kind of a mess!

I always worry way too much about flying and it always ends up not being as bad as I thought. Will someone please remind me of that the next time I freak out about flying?? The flight from Boise to San Francisco was a piece of cake. It was close to two hours but I swear it felt like 10 minutes!

The flight from San Francisco to Seoul unfortunately did NOT seem like 10 minutes! We flew Singapore Air and really it was as comfortable as economy class on an 12 hour flight could be, but still, it was long and not all that much fun. When we got on the plane the pilot announced that it was going to be a bumpy flight because we would be flying around a typhoon. Seriously, the last thing a plane phobic person wants to hear is that they'll be flying around a TYPHOON! I was pretty sure that we'd all be dying a horrible firey death.

But we didn't and I survived. It was a pretty bumpy ride at times, but thankfully turbulence on a great big plane doesn't really feel as scary as turbulence on a little plane for some reason. Frankly, we were so tired that I'm not sure anything would have phased us much at that point!So for 12 long hours we ate really bad airplane food, we watched a bunch of movies and we tried to sleep for a while and finally we made it over the ocean, around the typhoon and I looked out the airplane window and saw Japan!! I watched as we flew over Tokyo and it was really amazing. For a girl who had never left the country before and hates to fly, seeing Japan out the airplane window was when it really hit me that I was embarking on a pretty amazing adventure!

Finally we passed Japan and crossed into Korea. I'll never forget seeing Korea for the first time outside the airplane window. For two years I have waited and hoped for Clarissa and thought about her life in Korea every single day, and suddenly I was seeing it for myself. I sat with tears in my eyes and watched the sun set over Korea out the airplane window. It was an experience I'll never forget.



We landed at the Incheon airport, which is on an island just outside of Seoul, and we made our way through the airport. I was so happy to have my feet on the ground again and all the way through the airport I kept saying "can you believe we're in KOREA?!" It still didn't seem real! The Incheon airport has been ranked one of the best airports in the world and it's REALLY nice! It's huge, but really easy to maneuver and it's really clean.

Oh! Here's something cool about the Incheon airport! First of all, they have a big kids play area in the airport to keep your kids happy while you wait which is amazing, and second, they have really cool family bathrooms. There's a little room off the main womens bathroom (maybe the mens bathroom has one too, I don't know) and you slide open the door and there is a regular sized toilet, the CUTEST little toddler sized toilet and a baby changing area. How cool is that?! I changed Clarissa in that room on the way home from Korea and I couldn't get over how nice it was.
Anyway, back to the story. At this point we had been up for something like 19 or 20 hours and we were completely exhausted!! We got our luggage and went to airport entrance where a driver from the agency was supposed to meet us, but we were a little early and he wasn't there yet. That was OK with me because I was so excited to actually be in Korea that I just wanted to look at EVERYTHING! I went in a few of the airport stores and I bravely used Korean money to buy lipgloss at a cute little makeup shop. I was so proud of myself! It was also the first chance I had to use the tiny bit of Korean I know, which I was all excited about! (Seriously, the amount of Korean I know consists of things like Hello and thank you. Not so impressive.)

It was also where we started our fun little game of pointing out poorly translated English. If you ever go to another country, "spot the poorly translated English" is a fun game to play. We had a good time with that through our whole trip. :)




So I bought lipgloss, we giggled at the Kraze Burger slogan (in case you can't read it, their slogan is "It's my burger more than a burger") and we waited for our driver.

In the meantime, here's something interesting about Korea. Korea is obviously a very technologically advanced country and I read a statistic that 90% of Koreans own a cellphone. At the airport you can actually rent cellphones for $3 a day (plus per minute call charges). Super cool! So we stopped and rented a cellphone for the week so that we could call home and make calls during our trip. We used that thing a lot!

While we waited for the driver I took video:


Finally the van driver arrived and we made the trip into Seoul. The airport is actually about an hour outside of Seoul, so it took us a while to get to our hotel. It was an amazing ride though because we finally got to look around!

Here are the first two things I observed about Korea. First of all, there are some BEAUTIFUL bridges around Seoul that are all lit up at night. I saw so many pretty bridges on our trip. I really wished I could have stopped to take pictures of them.

The second thing I observed is that Koreans are crazy drivers!! I spent way too much time worrying about dying on the airplane on the way over there when what I should have been worried about is dying in a car accident while I was there! We had some interesting driving experiences while we were in Korea. For one thing, practically every single car has a GPS navigation system on the windshield-and they also broadcast live TV! So you'll be flying down the freeway at 70 miles per hour and everyone is watching TV while they drive.

But driving in Korea is an interesting thing, which leads me to the third thing I observed. Koreans are extremely nice and respectful of others. They might be driving 70 miles an hour, watching TV and weaving in and out of traffic, but they're all very calm about it. Cars will pass on the right, swerve into other lanes, merge into traffic like they have a death wish, and everyone is all very nice about it. Cars will move out of the way for each other, no one honks and screams out the window and I didn't see one middle finger! I saw no road rage in Korea!

So pardon the tangent, but seriously Koreans are the calmest, nicest people I've ever met. One day on our trip we were in a cab in Seoul and our cab driver came about two inches from running over some guy crossing the street (because that's what happens when you watch TV while you drive!!). I totally thought he was going to hit him and we were going to see him flying over the windshield. But he stopped just in time and the guy walked around to the side of the cab and I was fully expecting him to start screaming obscenities at the cab driver for almost plowing over him and the guy leaned into the cab drivers window and smiled and waved. The cab driver waved back and the guy continued crossing the street. I LOVE Koreans. :) I have a ton of stories of the nice people we encountered in Korea, which I will eventually get to.

Anyway, back to the story, the van driver finally got us to our hotel. It was a REALLY nice hotel, called Lotte City. From what I could tell, the Lotte company (pronounced Low-tay) pretty much owns Seoul. There are Lotte hotels, a Lotte amusement park, a Lotte mall, Lotte Mart, which is like Koreas version of Target only bigger, and all sorts of other Lotte things. Actually, we later realized that the Korean grill we own is a Lotte brand. The Lotte name was everywhere in Korea.

The Lotte City hotel is in a business section of town and it's really kind of a business hotel. It's a new hotel, very modern with lots of glass and marble. It has a really pretty fountain out front and a Dunkin' Donuts across the street. :) There are a LOT of Dunkin' Donuts in Seoul!!

We got checked into our hotel and a few minutes later we finally got to meet my friend Jin-Ha!Remember when I talked about how NICE Koreans are? I think Jin-Ha is the ambassador of nice Koreans. We couldn't have had a warmer welcome and she showed up with a bag full of food so that we'd have breakfast in the morning. That came to be a theme with Jin-Ha. Everytime we turned around she was providing us with more food. She constantly worried about us being hungry!

I actually took photos of the food she brought because some of it was so...foreign! Jin-Ha's husband owns a milk company, so she brought us a bottle of milk from his company, which we thought was kind of neat (we actually washed out the bottle and brought it home! I think I'm going to keep change in that bottle...), and she brought us some fruit and some snacks that I still have no idea what they were, but they were good!








Here's my next tangent-Korean fruit is HUGE! From what I could tell, Koreans don't really eat a lot of sweets (aside from Dunkin' Donuts, I guess!), they eat a lot of fruit. We ate a lot of fruit in Korea and it was all delicious and it all looked like it was on steroids! We ate grapes the size of plumbs and pears the size of melons! Koreans are very proud of their Korean pears. Someone told me with much pride that Michael Jackson liked Korean pears. They're gigantic and REALLY good. They're crunchier than any pear I've ever had, more like an apple. Yum. If you ever go to Korea, make sure you eat a pear!

And speaking of food, that brings me back to the story. After Jin-Ha met us at our hotel she took us out to dinner. At this point I think we'd been up for close to 24 hours and we were completely overwhelmed and exhausted, but really excited for our first real Korean experience. We were so blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with Jin-Ha while we were in Korea and we got to experience a lot of things that we wouldn't have if she hadn't been with us. I'm really grateful for that.

She took us to a little restaraunt near her house. One of those "real" Korean places that a tourist would never go because they'd have no idea what to do there! We sat on the floor around a little table that had a grill in the middle of it and they brought us strips of pork to grill on it. Then they brought us lots of little bowls filled with all sorts of things I've never seen before. I saw this same type of meal several times during our stay in Korea. Every meal involves lots of little bowls full of interesting things, most of which I still can't identify.

One thing I CAN indentify is kimchee. Kimchee is served with pretty much every meal in Korea. Kimchee is basically fermented cabage that has been marinated in a really spicy sauce. Koreans LOVE it. Me? Not so much, lol. Let me just say that I am NOT an adventurous eater. I knew that food was going to be the hardest thing for me in Korea because it's hard for me to try new food. I'm ridiculously picky. I did try everything though! I even ate seaweed! Multiple times! I never thought I'd eat seaweed...

You can tell that Koreans are proud of their food. It's always served beautifully and I could tell that they put a lot of work into it. Korean food tends to be spicy though, since a lot of it is made with red pepper paste, which my tounge can only handle in small amounts!

Anyway, that first meal with Jin-Ha was really fun. It was really neat to see real Korean food and try lots of new things. I think Jin-Ha was amused watching us try all of the food that she sees every day but we'd never heard of before.

So here's my last tangent and then I'm done with stories for the night. Koreans use chopsticks with every meal. The table is set with chopsticks and a spoon, never a fork. That was fine, we were super excited to work on our chopstick skills, but every single time a Korean person saw us holding chopsticks on the entire trip they would inevitably wrinkle their brow and offer to find us a fork. And on the entire trip no one was ever able to sucessfully track down a single fork for us! We didn't really want a fork, we wanted to use chopsticks, but apparently we were doing it all wrong. Jin-Ha's son tried to show us the right way to hold them, but he eventually gave up on us. :) We ate just fine and we manged to get food to our mouths, but Koreans seemed to be really amused by our chopstick skills. We tried, we really did! :)

Ok, I'm going to bed now. That was a super long post about a lot of random things, wasn't it?! At this rate it's going to take me a long time to get through all the stories of our trip. I've got lots more to talk about, so stay tuned! :)