Friday, December 22, 2006

HIV and adoption part III

I wasn't going to post today but Jeannett left an interesting comment so here I am, posting again. In case you didn't catch it in the comments section of the last post, here it is:

I think a big issue that I struggle with in terms of AIDS in America, is that it is, in fact, a preventable disease. Okay, of course that excludes babies who have no choice and are born with it and the other sorts of things like that...but far and wide, I don't want to say a disease of sinners or that people deserve such a horrendous fate, but I admit it's hard to have a great deal of empathy when you can't help but think that in some ways, if people did quit doing drugs, being sexually promiscuous, the disease as we know it in the United States would phase itself out. Meanwhile, we have a whole laundry list of diseases that are genetic, with no cure (cancer, autism, etc) that are completely void of any kind of behavioral cause/effect. I'm trying to care about it because I think that's what Christ wants of me...but I'll admit it's a little hard to want to focus my efforts on something that is in many ways preventable, when there are so many others out there that maybe aren't nearly as "trendy".

Somehow though, it's much easier for me to have a soft heart towards those in Africa with the disease. Why? I guess because it really is such a pandemic, and the lack of education about it, the very real social stigma you get if you admit to have it (not that there isn't one in the US), and the lack of medical care available makes it such a vicious cycle that it's heartbreaking. And it's much harder to envision an "end" to it.

I think that it's kind of hard to think that with all of the advertising and whatnot we are exposed to here, that anyone would ever say that he didn't know how AIDS was transmitted, etc. In fact, there was even a Law & Order episode about a guy who purposely went around infecting people after knowing he had the virus...and even the poorest of the poor in America has a TV (which is really depressing). There is certainly miseducation about the details of AIDS and how it can be "caught" (as evident in your post) but for the most part, everyone knows some of the basics.

It's an interesting line, and one I've been surprised to see in myself. If I'm open and honest, I will admit outloud that I have a very difficult time wanting to participate in a local AIDS march or donate to the AIDS Center of SLO...but if you ask me to do something that would benefit the cause of AIDS education in Kenya, I'm all for it.

I think this is a very common viewpoint (thanks for being honest and sharing!) I used to wonder/grapple with some of the same things. My perspective has changed a bit over the last year, so I guess I'll share what my thoughts on it are now, and why.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul writes about not associating with sexually immoral people--"not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral...In that case you would have to leave this world...What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

From this passage I take that it is not my responsibility to worry about what I perceive to be the poor decisions or sins of people in this world we live in. If someone doesn't currently have the hope of Jesus, or if they live a high-risk lifestyle (or take a risk even ONE time), I think Paul would say for us to not concern ourselves with that. In my view, my sin is no different/better/easier to forgive than someone living that lifestyle (do I live in light of that all the time? Absolutely not. But I wish I did--humility is a good thing.) The only difference is that by God's grace and through Christ's sacrifice I can know the hope that is Jesus, His unconditional love and forgiveness for my sin.

SO, if we're not supposed to judge Joe, who happens to be an AIDS patient and is considered "outside the church" in that he is not a believer in Christ, then what SHOULD we be thinking about him? Well, we know from the Bible that we're to love him as ourselves. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. We know he has a disease and that he is suffering. I think we love him, strive to meet his needs.

There are all sorts of medical conditions we have today that are sometimes the result of unhealthful behavior: heart disease, certain cancers, adult onset diabetes. Yet nothing quite gets people fired up about "making poor choices" like HIV and AIDS. I don't think sexual sin is somehow "worse" in God's eyes than other sins. In fact, when Paul is talking in 1 Corinthians 5 about the "church people" not to associate with, he also lists the "greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." Yikes!

Personally I would have no qualms participating in an AIDS walk or giving to an AIDS center, in the name of raising money for research or to assist AIDS patients or their families. In the end stages this can be a truly debilitating disease. Those suffering from HIV and AIDS may feel hopeless, depressed, shunned by society because for most of them it means their past decisions are laid bare for everyone to see. I also think it is a pretty cool opportunity for Christians to band together with people of all different backgrounds and to reach out in love.

In addition to all of this, when you look at who AIDS is affecting in the United States, in 2004, 49% of those diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans, even though they only account for 13% of the general population (28% of the diagnoses were for Whites, who comprise 69% of the population.) Studies show that there's an association between higher incidences of AIDS and lower income. And it's said that racial minorities today account for about 75% of all new AIDS cases. Most cases are found in urban areas.

What do the numbers mean? One thing I think they demonstrate is that we must care in general about the human condition--not only about those living with HIV/AIDS, but also about the conditions that lead to poverty, that limit opportunities, and that ultimately contribute to addictions and unhealthy sexual behavior. I think we need to show people that they are valuable and worth something and made in the image of a God who loves them.

Okay, that is quite enough out of me for today, and for the next few days. :) Jeannett thanks for posting. I'm off to have some hot chocolate--yum!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Some background: HIV and adoption part II

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS; left untreated, HIV progresses to AIDS in about 10-13 years, though everyone is different (and treatment should prolong it even further. AIDS is the final stage of HIV and can include opportunistic infections as well as a very compromised immune system.)

How did HIV begin? It was first diagnosed in the US in the early 1980's and was present in Africa even earlier. The simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) found in monkeys and chimpanzees is believed to have been transmitted to humans in Africa (Africans have been hunting these monkeys for centuries in the bush), resulting in HIV. What scientists have struggled to understand is how and why HIV exploded in Africa all of a sudden, and why SIV wasn't hurting the monkeys or the people who had it in their system. The going theory that they are working on right now has to do with serial passage. Apparently when HIV really started coming about in Africa, it was the same time that disposable needles were invented and westerners were making huge humanitarian efforts to vaccinate Africans against all sorts of diseases. However, people were generally not too concerned with sanitation at that point--it just seemed easier and more effective to get as many people vaccinated as possible. What scientists now believe happen is that basically the virus mutated; from getting passed from person to person (thus called serial passage) it changed and essentially became harmful. (I apologize for this oversimplified, crude explanation. I'm not a scientist--heck I didn't even graduate college! PLEASE read "There is No Me Without You" for a far more in-depth look at this. And if I misquoted something someone call me out!)

HIV is spread through sexual contact and blood. It is NOT spread through saliva, you CANNOT catch it from sharing food or drinks or from sitting on a toilet seat, you CANNOT get it from giving someone a hug, kissing them, or from any sort of casual contact.

Yet there remains a lot of fear surrounding the disease, both in our country and in the third world. (Up until very recently, for example, the children at AHOPE in Ethiopia were not allowed to attend the public schools. Now, thank goodness, they are.) It had always seemed to me that taking up the cause of AIDS in the US was a very trendy, celebrity-like thing to do. It seemed very social-conscious and even politically correct.

But I have to be honest and say my experiences over the last year or so have shown me that talking about HIV and AIDS is NOT "popular", or fashionable. There remains a lot of fear, ignorance, and stigma in this country. When we brought our boys home the first question that many people had--including strangers--was if they'd been tested for HIV. I assured them they had, and that they don't have the virus, but what I REALLY wanted to say was, "So what if they DID have it? Would they somehow be less my sons? Would their lives be considered so insignificant and worthless that they wouldn't deserve a family?"

I was at a child's birthday party not too long after returning home and was sharing with someone about one of the orphanages our boys had lived at in Ethiopia, Missionaries of Charity, which is an orphanage for children with AIDS. (Remember Yosef and Biniam tested positive for HIV initially due to their mother's antibodies in their systems.) This person, college educated no less, said, "You're really lucky they didn't catch AIDS there." Huh? That one caught me off guard (and kind of bugged me.) I nicely told her that HIV is not spread through casual contact. She seemed surprised or maybe like she didn't fully believe me, I don't know. Let's just say it wasn't the greatest afternoon, going to a kid's birthday party and having someone tell me I'm lucky my kids didn't magically catch AIDS. Yuck.

I've also been dismayed by what appears to be the Christian response to the AIDS crisis. I think we Christians have kinda been taught (maybe not in such obvious terms but more subtly) that AIDS is a disease of sinners: gay men, drug addicts, promiscuous heterosexuals. They're choosing high risk behaviors and so they're getting what they asked for, right? We don't need to feel too sorry for them or concerned about it. I've even heard the "Christian" theory that AIDS is God's punishment for sexual sin (didn't Jesus already pay the penalty for our sins?)

As for the Christian response to the situation in Africa specifically, you don't hear much about it. What I HAVE heard is the idea that Africans are irresponsible, promiscuous, backwards. (I don't even like writing this stuff out, it is so icky.) Nevermind that families are being torn apart, moms and dads and children are dying, and lifesaving medications are largely unavailable due to pharmaceutical patent laws. Even some adoption agencies refuse to place HIV positive children.

Anyway, I feel like the first step we have to make in fighting the AIDS pandemic and advocating for HIV positive orphans (and children who have been orphaned due to AIDS) is softening our hearts towards those affected and trying to understand more about the implications of the disease: social, physical, emotional, economical. On World AIDS Day the local newsstation did a story on AIDS. But the extent of it was a Cal Poly (go Mustangs) sorority member being interviewed about how she does the "responsible thing" and gets tested for HIV twice a year. I was honestly a little saddened that they didn't at all mention the huge continent that is dying, or the rising rates of HIV in India and Russia.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HIV and adoption part I

Someone had asked some questions about the previous post so I decided to post something on the topic. I am really no expert on any of this stuff (not that I would be mistaken for one!), but I HAVE done a bit of research and reading and talking to people about it over the course of the last year. Why, you may be asking?

Well for one thing, my sons' birth mom is HIV positive. As they grow and learn about their story and past, I feel like they ought to have accurate and real information about the disease and the reason why she could no longer care for them. Not only that, but both Yosef and Biniam tested positive for HIV themselves at one and a half months old, as they were still carrying their mom's antibodies--very common for children born to parents with HIV/AIDS. Because of this they spent the first several months of their lives in Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity orphanage for children with AIDS, and were thought to be unadoptable. (The boys were retested months later, tested negative, and were moved to Layla House.)

I've also felt compelled to learn more about all of this after visiting AHOPE while we were in Ethiopia. Every orphan at AHOPE has either HIV or AIDS. It was the first time I'd been around people that I knew had the disease and the experience impacted me in a profound way. On the one hand I was amazed by the fact that these were, well, just average kids! They were running and playing and singing and yelling. I was devastated sitting there though because not only did these kids have a disease that living in Ethiopia would probably cut their lives short (and that carries a horrible stigma), they had no families, they'd lost theirs. That may rank as one of the hardest days of my life.

I guess I also felt intrigued once some of these kids started being adopted. So I started reading a couple of blogs, then just researching the disease in general. (The book I've recommended, There is No Me Without You, is an EXCELLENT way to learn more about HIV.) I began to feel sad that this disease gets no real "airtime" in the US anymore. I began to explore my own thoughts about the whole thing and also think about peoples' thoughts in general. One of the first questions people would ask about Yosef and Biniam once we got them was, "Have they been tested for HIV?" There is a LOT of fear surrounding this disease and a lot of misinformation too. People have told me I'm "lucky" my sons didn't "catch" the disease having lived in Ethiopia.

I also began to feel convicted that an entire continent is being ravaged by what in the US is a very treatable, preventable disease, and yet what have I done about any of it? What is the church at large doing about it, and why? Why is there such a huge stigma attached to this one disease, to Americans who have it, to Africans in general because it's such a problem there?

All of that is why I've tried to learn what I can. Like I said earlier I really am not an expert on this. I don't have a child with HIV or even a friend (that I know of) who has it. But I DO know that Jesus cares (therefore so should I) and that He must be saddened by the way people with this illness are treated, talked about, looked at. People have referred to it as a modern day version of leprosy and I wholeheartedly agree. SO, in my next few posts, I will talk some about HIV, what it means to have it, and ways to help, which include being open to the adoption of a child who happens to be HIV positive.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Link of the day

I thought this was interesting, heartfelt and worth reading. It's by an adoptive mom in Colorado on the topic of AIDS and the adoption of HIV positive children. Here is the link:

Oh Come On

Just another Friday night for the Heldts...

Kevin locked his keys in the car at his vanpool spot on Friday, so the kids and I had to meet him there that evening. We had some returns to make to WalMart too, so we all headed over there afterwards. We still needed to eat dinner, and there's a Wendy's in the same area as WalMart, although a bit of a walk through the parking lot.

Now one thing that is hard about having three little ones is the whole carseat thing. Loading and unloading three kids from their seats is kind of a pain. Especially when it's just for a short drive. After we left WalMart and put the stuff we bought in the car, Kevin had the brilliant idea of just pushing the kids in the cart over to Wendy's. HA!

So there we went, walking through the lot, all the way over to Wendy's with our kids in the cart. Truly a sight to behold I am sure. I've never taken myself all that seriously (have you seen the cars we drive?) but this was perhaps a new low. I wish we'd had the camera to take a picture!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Watch this video

This is a great video on MSNBC about AHOPE that is truly worth watching. It features Jane Aronson (well-known international adoption doctor, fellow AAI adoptive parent and head of WWO) and also has an interview with Sidisse, the director of AHOPE who we spent some time with when we visited last February. (Cool side-note, there's also a clip of Dr. Sophie Mengistu talking. She's an Ethiopian doctor who did Yosef and Biniam's checkups while they lived over there. Kinda neat to see who their doctor was for the first 16 months of life!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Me and the husband

So I've been thinking lately about what my identity/role as a person is, and realized that for awhile after we first got married (back in 2002), I first and foremost thought of myself as a wife. This makes sense being that we didn't have any children yet. We lived in this little apartment in Santa Barbara where we knew just about no one. We liked going out to eat, going to the movies, and visiting friends and family up in SLO. Of course that season of our lives ended in a sense when about a year later we bought a house, moved to Santa Maria and got pregnant with Anna. (Well not in that order, I just didn't know I was pregnant yet when we moved.)

So anyhow, I've been thinking lately about how doing the daily grind with three kids (and being 7 months pregnant) almost makes you forget that you're a wife to a cool guy. Not that I have literally forgotten I'm married, and not that things play out much differently, but I don't really THINK about it much. And I've decided to make more of a conscious effort to do so because the truth is I LOVE being married!

Kevin and I were pretty young when we got hitched. I was 20 and he was 21. I guess we broke all the rules, because not only were we young but I wasn't done with college yet. In fact, he wasn't due to be done yet either, but ended up finding a way to graduate several months sooner than planned. We just knew we loved each other and that God wanted us to be together. And I couldn't be happier with the way it played out. I loved being married young; I have tons of super fond memories of that first year together.

And now things are even better I think. The kids are in bed at 7:30 every night, and we totally look forward to and value our "us" time. We love playing games (even if they start a fight, which sometimes they do!) like Monopoly or cards or Parcheesi. Sometimes we rent movies or watch Seinfeld or just talk. Or sit there too exhausted to move! I love that I get to feel so comfortable to just be myself with Kevin. It's always been that way, one of the things I've always loved about him. We never had to go out on extravagant dates or to special places to have a great time, which is maybe what makes our current situation (being the parents of three two year olds and a baby on the way) less daunting. We love just being together.

So those are some of my recent reflections on marriage. I love being married to Kevin and I love being a wife. It's a lot of fun and therefore I should think about it more often!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Q & A's

I don't know if anyone reading this blog is considering adoption or has questions about it, but it occurred to me that there are lots of things I used to wonder about, but that I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable asking an adoptive parent. Now that I'm on the other side of that fence, I figured I'd post some questions and answers about stuff that maybe people think, but don't ask. SO...

1.) Is it different loving your adopted vs. biological children? I thought about this a lot as we waited for our referral, and then as we waited to travel. What would it be like to have a child I hadn't given birth to or even known from birth? Our sons were 16 months old when we met them, hardly little babies anymore. To be honest I worried a lot--what if I don't feel for them enough or what if I don't bond to them enough, etc. I loved them before I met them, but obviously in a different way than I loved the child I'd already had for two years. Then I met them and the bonding process began. Ten months later, I can honestly say that genetics are just that: genetics. Being pregnant and birthing a baby is part of the bonding process (just like receiving a referral photo and traveling to a child's homeland), but it's only the beginning. I love my boys more and more every day, just like I love Anna more and more every day. (I think it is more difficult in general attaching to a toddler than a cuddly newborn, but that's okay, it comes through time and shared experiences.) Giving birth to Anna was a miraculous, amazing, magical experience (minus the pain of labor)...and so was getting the call that we had two sons in Ethiopia, and traveling there (minus the 25 hour flight), and experiencing a new world and culture. Both are amazing and if I sit and think long enough about either one I get teary-eyed.

2.) Do you feel like you missed out on a lot of their lives?
Yes and no. Like I said they were almost a year and a half old when we got them, and they'd been in orphanages for all but the first month and a half of life. So in a sense I desperately wish I had been there for them the moment their mother relinquished them. But I am comforted by the fact that God was looking out for them and they were well cared for and nurtured. I don't have newborn pictures of them and I missed Yosef's first steps. But I don't dwell on it much right now. I imagine as they grow older they will think about this and at that point, if it's something they feel sadness over, I will definitely feel it more too. I know as they process their lives and their past we will all go through a lot of emotions. My primary"regret" these days is that I don't know more about their biological mother, father and sister (though I know a lot compared to many adoptive families.) Which brings me to the next question...

3.) Is it strange that your kids have another mom?
Not at all! This is probably something I would have thought would be weird before adopting, but it's really not. I honestly don't feel "threatened" or uncomfortable with the fact that they had a life for awhile which didn't include me. Now granted we are all so far removed from their past (unlike a child in an open adoption) so I'm sure that's part of it, but if anything I just feel tied and connected to this other woman out there, and I wish I knew her. I don't at all begrudge her the honor of having been the first mommy to my boys.

4.) Is it strange having kids that don't look like you?
Well, I don't think Anna looks like me either, so I am used to it! :) Honestly, no it's not. It goes back to my genetics just being genetics thing. I LOVE that my sons are Black, Ethiopian, and I think they are extremely cute. But that has no bearing on whether or not I "feel " like their mom. They could have white skin with brown hair like me and they wouldn't feel any more like my sons than they do. When I see Kevin holding one of the boys I see a daddy holding his son, I don't first see a white person holding a black person. Their Blackness and heritage is all a beautiful part of who they are and I happily embrace that, but just like I'm not constantly thinking about how Anna has straight hair or blue eyes, I'm not constantly thinking about what my sons look like.

5.) Do you think a white family can successfully raise a black child in the US?
This question gets talked about a lot in adoption/adult adoptee circles. I think we ALL worry to some degree about how our kids will turn out, will they be well-adjusted, will they be able to make it on their own eventually. So just like I worry from time to time about how I'm raising Anna, I worry about Yosef and Biniam too. And some of my parental worries about them ARE unique to the fact that this is a transracial adoption in a country still very polarized by race and class. Absolutely there will be some tough things to process and overcome. But we have faith that God is bigger than all of it and will give us wisdom in navigating those waters. And we're committed to doing what it takes to make it easiest on our kids. Ideally, in a perfect world, no child would have to be orphaned...or leave their country. But in the broken world we live in, it happens, and I feel really blessed to get to be the mom of two awesome little boys. I think God loves uniqueness and diversity and I think mixed-race families can be a sweet thing.

Okay those are the questions and answers I came up with. If anyone has any other questions, they can ask and I'll do my best to answer. (But no one better ask if Yosef and Biniam are actually twins!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas pictures

Okay so when you have three two year olds, plus the two of you, getting a decent family picture to send with your Christmas card is HARD! We took all these pictures on Saturday. Um, yeah, the only ones that turned out all-around good were the ones of just me and Kevin!!! (We joked about sending one of those and writing "Not pictured: Anna, Yosef and Biniam". HA!) There's one picture that the kids are great in, but it was windy and my hair is blowing (not to mention I don't like the face I'm making.) In the ones where I look a little better, the kids don't look nearly as good. (PLUS, being 7 months pregnant, I've gained a good deal of weight and so of course my vanity is kicking in.)

This is quite complicated. Here's hoping we find a good solution!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Good helper

So the other morning I went into Anna's room to get her up, and lo and behold discovered that she had made her entire bed all by herself! I had to take a picture.

It is crazy how quickly kids seem to grow up. I think they get a little more independent every day, and as nice as it is it's also kinda sad!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So I've decided that Christmas is a lot of work! Doing the Christmas tree is a job that, to be honest, I don't really like. We're one of those families that has a (brace yourselves) fake Christmas tree. The tree is pretty big so it takes quite some time to assemble, do the lights and then decorate. Every year I fight the temptation to just plain not put it up--but I LOVE having a tree, and I don't want to be a Scrooge, so I press on. AND, more importantly we have three kids, this is our sons' first Christmas with us, and they really ought to have a tree.

Well, the tree was a little easier to assemble this year due to Kevin's great idea last year of not unshaping the branches (and making them more compact) when we put the tree away. At the time I thought it was silly, it'd take up extra room in the attic, wouldn't work, etc. But boy oh boy, Monday night I didn't have to shape ANY branches; it was wonderful! AND Kevin did the lights this year, which was great. I put the ornaments on yesterday morning to the sounds of Bing Crosby (and my not-so-empty threats of time-outs to any child who touched the tree/ornaments.)

I look forward to starting some family traditions this year. I bought a gingerbread house kit for us all to do, and plan to make some Christmas cookies as well. We're also going to bundle up one of these nights and walk through our neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights/displays. I always thought that stuff was so tacky but I have to say my kids LOVE seeing the life-sized snowmen on peoples' lawns!

Now if only this warm California weather would go's December for goodness sakes!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brotherly love

Saturday night Biniam was crying really hard because we'd had to take a choking hazard away from him. All of a sudden Yosef sidled up to him and starting rubbing Biniam's back, to comfort him. Biniam instantly stopped crying, turned and gave Yosef this HUGE hug, which Yosef returned, and they stood there hugging and giggling.

I get so excited to see the bonds my kids have with one another!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Talkin' 'bout a revolution

I didn't want today to go by without acknowleding that it's World AIDS Day. Up until recently I'd never known of anyone personally with AIDS (that was not a celebrity) and would never have imagined that it could ever touch my life--no matter how direct/indirectly--but we now have two sons whose birthmother is HIV-positive. Sadly we've never met her but we do know her full name, her situation and her heart-wrenching story, perhaps a little unusual to have so much background information on internationally adopted babies. What a blessing and gift.

It is ultimately because of AIDS that this woman was unable to keep Yosef and Biniam for longer than the month and a half that she did. I wish their family's tragic story was an exception or an example of a really extreme situation. Unfortunately it's life as usual in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia.

HIV and AIDS have been off the media's radar screen in the US for awhile now, in large part because we are blessed by having access to amazing drugs that have led to HIV now being classified as simply a "chronic, manageable disease" as opposed to a fatal one. HIV-positive people who take the medications can lead long and fulfilling lives now.

But in other parts of the world these special drugs are not available. 6,000 new children are orphaned every day by this disease world-wide. Many, many children are also living with the disease themselves, and a lot of those kids are orphans, too. Basically, it is an understatement to say that AIDS is a major, major problem and that the Western world truly needs to wake up, reach out and help (starting with myself of course.)

This is an excellent article, written by Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision. I think that like so many other things, fighting this disease has to begin with our hearts being transformed, people like you and me coming to a place where we recognize the huge need for help and where we commit to meet that need. One easy way to do that is by sponsoring a child at AHOPE in Ethiopia or making a donation to them. This facility does an amazing work, taking in orphans with HIV. We visited back in February and it is a precious place, and the children there are even receiving the ARV medications.

It is also possible to adopt a child from Ethiopia with HIV now! It is so exciting as more and more families are adopting children who happen to be HIV-positive. Check out this blog to read about Erin, whose family just brought home a two year old girl from AHOPE. This blog belongs to a family traveling to bring home two sisters from Ethiopia, one of which is coming from AHOPE as well.

One of my favorite books of all time is There is No Me Without You, which was just recently written by a fellow adoptive mom with kids from Ethiopia. It is an EXCELLENT book on the subject of AIDS and the effect it's having in Ethiopia. I treasure this book as well because it is a precious glimpse into the lives of my kids. I really, really recommend reading this; I couldn't put it down and it is truly an eye opener.

There's an old song by Tracy Chapman that the kids (and I) love called "Talkin' Bout a Revolution." The lyrics describe the poor rising up to take their share and includes the line "finally the tables are starting to turn/talkin' bout a revolution". I just recently did some research and discovered that our sons' birth mother's name means, of all things, "revolution" in Amharic. This floored me because this adoption journey, trip to Africa, all of it has brought so much revolution about in our hearts. We remain changed because of it.

And my prayer is that many, many hearts (including ours!) will continue to be transformed and desire to see revolution come about in terms of loving our brothers and sisters and reaching out to help them. I would love to see the tables start to turn, one heart at a time, fighting the stigma of HIV and AIDS, fighting the horrible notion that it's a "disease of sinners", finding ways to reach other countries with treatment so families won't have to be torn apart. I think God is all about revolution, bringing change and transformation, "making all things new." So on World AIDS Day I pray He can use me to help in this way!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monopoly woes

I was at WalMart this past weekend with my mom and they had some board games on sale. I picked up Monopoly and Life, with the hopes that Kevin would be willing to play them with me. In the past he has always grumbled about not liking Monopoly, so we've never played together.

Sunday afternoon we played and I won--by a landslide! Monday he went to work and researched Monopoly strategies (gotta love Wikipedia) and I have not won since. :( We played Monday night and then again last night. Last night it was his hotel on Marvin Gardens that did me in. (Bummer when you have no source of income except for passing "Go" because all of your properties are mortgaged.)

Let it be known that I WILL win again. I had some bad luck last night but I think my strategy has gotten better (I can read Wikipedia articles too as it turns out). When my mom and I would play, we played "nice." No crazy strategies to block people from getting a monopoly, etc. But when I play Kevin, it is war.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving in pictures

This was taken at 9:30 p.m., the night before we were due to leave for Grandma and Grandpa's house. Anna had been in bed for hours although apparently not asleep. She came out of her room wearing shoes with her PJ's! When I asked why she had shoes on, she said "So I can go bye bye to Grandma and Grandpa's house!"

Biniam and Yosef in the kitchen before Thanksgiving dinner. Realizing the flowers aren't the most manly backdrop but the boys are man enough to compensate. :) (Yosef latched onto that doll, which used to be mine, shortly after we got there and never wanted to put it down.)

Anna before dinner.

Biniam is such a happy little guy!

Grandma, Anna and Biniam watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Note that Anna is "taking pictures" of Rudolph with the new toy camera Grandma and Grandpa bought her. I don't know why but this picture cracks me up!

Biniam loves his grandpa--it is the cutest thing!

(It occurs to me that Yosef has the fewest pictures taken of him this time around. It just seems to happen, but not to worry, next time it'll probably be one of the other kiddos!)

Heldt Thanksgiving and updates

Our Thanksgiving was nice and relaxing, although the days leading up to it were not! I was still sick with the stomach flu, and trying to get stuff ready to go spend a few days at my parents' house is not easy when you don't feel well. Not to mention I had the dreaded glucose tolerance test Wednesday morning...10 oz. of horrible lemon lime in less than 5 minutes. (While at the lab I got a call from Kevin saying Biniam had thrown up that morning. Ugh. However, he ate his breakfast and was his usual crazy, energetic self so we took it to be a fluke--not so smart as you will soon see.)

Somehow though, Wednesday evening we ailing Heldts managed to have the car all packed up, the kids bathed and nestled happily into their carseats, and the house locked up. Kevin and I were midway to the car to climb in ourselves when it happened...Biniam threw up all over his freshly-bathed self and his carseat...

SO we got Anna and Yosef out of the car and inside (poor Anna was really traumatized by the whole experience) and put on a video for them. I gave Biniam another bath while poor Kevin tried cleaning up the carseat best he could. A long time later, we reloaded the kids in the car (this time we laid a towel over Biniam just in case) and FINALLY set off to my parents'. Luckily they only live an hour away. (Biniam was fine the rest of the trip, must have just been the tail end of the flu for him or something. What was not fine was how the car smelled. Or the way those carseats are designed to be the most difficult things to clean.)

Fortunately the time at my parents' was a lot of fun--it was our first Thanksgiving with Yosef and Biniam! Our time there included lots of stories being read, the kids got their usual wheelbarrow ride from Grandpa, and there was lots of food to be eaten. Biniam is a little "Grandpa's boy" and spent tons of time cuddling with my dad. It is so neat to see our sons bonding with extended family and friends and forming those relationships.

Random Heldt updates:

Yesterday Anna moved up to the next Sunday school class at church, which she liked. They are working on learning "Away in a Manger" to sing at church in December! I am so excited about this (I know, what a dork) as it's the first "performance" for any of our kids in anything. I can't wait to see Anna up there not singing with all the other little kids not singing, but looking cute as can be.

I am quite pleased that Seinfeld Season 7 is out--why do they wait so long to release each one? Don't they know it doesn't take an entire year to watch each season? (For us it probably doesn't even take a month!)

We are finally all healthy and somewhat back to normal (though much of my house is in shambles, yuck. I hate getting behind on housework.) I'm 28 weeks pregnant today and have not yet grasped the reality that I will have a baby within three months. I wonder when it will set in?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My poem

Roses are red, violets are blue,
I have three kids, each of them two....
and the stomach flu.

I think the highlight of my illness was, while Kevin was at work and I was kneeling in front of the toilet with Anna hovering next to me--no privacy with three toddlers!--Anna proceeded to say very matter of factly, "Don't throw up on my toes, Mommy." Thanks for the tip, Anna!

It has, overall, been a brutal last few weeks for the Heldt clan! Luckily I am about all better, which is good for a number of reasons, including the fact that I am getting stir crazy and tired of killing time watching the ridiculous TV!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The arbitrary (sort of) birthdate

For parents of internationally adopted children, it's very common to not know the exact birth date of your child. In Ethiopia specifically, birthdays are not culturally significant like they are here, so it is not uncommon for even non-orphans to not know their birthday.

We had to choose a birthdate for Yosef and Biniam, because the one that AAI assigned them was clearly wrong. When the boys' birth mom relinquished them in December of 2004, she put on the form that they were one month and 15 days old. So we decided to just count back from the date the form was dated, which put the boys' birthday at October 28, 2004.

We had initially hoped to give them a birthdate that was significant somehow--but had a hard time finding something, which I felt disappointed about. The other day though I resumed my quest to find something special about October 28, and lo and behold discovered that on October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Cleveland. Pretty amazing, huh? I think October 28 is the perfect day to celebrate the birth and gift of our sons Yosef and Biniam.

(They also share a birthday with Bill Gates.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some updates

Sorry my posts have been so sparse lately; this has been a brutal couple of weeks. Anna is potty-trained now however, which is awesome. It was relatively easy, because she's old enough to understand everything and hates to have an accident, so when presented with the choice of using the potty chair or going on the floor, she will choose the chair.

Last Thursday however, what I had assumed was a terrible diaper rash (and what had precipitated the potty training) had gotten much worse, lots of blisters, etc. (in spite of the fact that she hadn't worn a diaper in days) so that evening I opted to take Anna to see the doctor at Urgent Care--I didn't want to have to wait until the next day, or later, to see the pediatrician (honestly this rash was HORRIBLE) and this way Kevin could watch the boys. I had been frantically looking around online to see what her condition could possibly be and concluded that the only thing it could be was a skin infection called impetigo (common in little kids.) SO, we saw the doctor, who looked at the rash and said "This is odd" (must be a technical term they teach you in med school). He said he had no clue what it was (at least he's honest?) but to put hydrocortisone cream on it and see if it goes away. I told him I thought the rash was really nasty and asked point-blank about impetigo. No, he told me, impetigo would look different. Um, okay.

WELL, over the weekend it kept getting worse, spreading, just horrible. Poor Anna was in so much pain (the blisters hurt to the touch), especially when she'd have to sit down on the potty chair. I didn't want to go back to Urgent Care because the doctor is clueless so we just toughed it out. And I do mean "we"--it is AWFUL to see your kid in that much pain. Finally, yesterday, I got Anna in to see one of the pediatricians in the practice. He looked at one of her blisters for about a split second before saying, "That's impetigo."

GRRRRRRRR! "Dr. Mom" had been right all along. I told the pediatrician about the other doctor, but this guy just shook his head and said no, that guy was not a pediatrician, so sometimes they don't know. BUT, I remain annoyed because every time I've been at the Urgent Care there have been several children, often toddlers, waiting to see the doctor. Impetigo is pretty common and straighforward, and adults get it too, so I'm wondering why this guy just totally wrote it off, sentencing my kid to three extra days of pain (and a co-pay for a whole lot of nothing.) He should probably be familiar with the basics.

SO, Anna's on antibiotics, will no longer be contagious after tomorrow, and hopefully things will return to normal around here. Meanwhile Biniam, Anna and I are all getting over colds. We're having a little birthday party for the boys Friday night, I have my montly prenatal appointment that morning, and we have our final postplacement visit with a social worker tonight.

Which brings me to my next update, about the boys' readoption. Thankfully, FINALLY, a solution has been reached (and one that doesn't involve suing somebody). The agency who did the interstate compact for the boys (essentially the people who picked up after ATWA's error in February) is now bailing us out of this situation too, and can legally do so because they were inolved before. Whew! The executive director of ATWA even apologized and assumed responsibility for the whole thing, which was much appreciated. So time to get cracking on all the forms I have to file with the court. I've been sitting on it for about a week due to the craziness around here.

So that's the latest with the Heldts.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two long days

I know, I have not blogged in forever. We've been busy, I've been tired, and I am now currently knee-deep in the process of potty-training my daughter. Fun. Sort-of.

On the upside, she doesn't have "accidents" and totally knows how and is usually willing to use the potty. On the downside, she inherited all of her mother's stubborness and can apparently "hold it" all day long if she wants. It's been 7.5 hours today to be exact. What this means is that she won't nap (I won't put a pull-up or diaper on her for naptime because she will just hold it until then, and therefore there would never be an opportunity for her to use the potty.) It's only day two of the potty-training (I'm basically using the "potty train your kid in a day" method even though I've never read the book myself) and I realize I should remain optimistic and be glad that I'm not cleaning up accidents. However, I'm EXHAUSTED and wondering how long this kid can hold out. (But I can be stubborn too and I WILL remain consistent with this, there is so no going back now!)

Funny thing is, I was so not in a hurry to do the potty training thing. I don't mind diapers all that much and life is crazy enough as it is right now. However, Anna got a HORRIBLE contact rash from her Pampers diapers (I mean truly awful--another HUGE reason I won't put a diaper or pullup on her for naptime yet) and so I'm committed to doing it now. So all this week we are staying home and trying to get this thing mastered and her rash cleared up.

Monday, October 23, 2006

All good things must come to an end

Saturday the kids got two goldfish at a friend's birthday party. They were soooo excited about it, and on Sunday they had a blast feeding them and watching them swim around. These were the kids' very first pets ever. Anna named one of them "Daniel" and one of them "Fish."

Well, this morning at approximately 5:30 a.m. , Kevin came back into our room to say goodbye (yes he leaves that early for work.) He leaned down and said to me, "Some goldfish live up to 40 years. Ours maxed out at 2 days." Yep, both fish, dead as of 5:30 this morning! One was floating belly-up, the other laying on its side on the bottom of the bowl.

A couple of hours later I got up and told Anna the news. I showed her the bowl and said, "Anna your fishies died." She looked at them and wisely said, "They're not swimming anymore." I told her that I needed to flush them down the toilet. "I can help!" she proudly declared. So, we headed into the bathroom where my two and half year old dumped the fishies down the toilet all by herself, and flushed. Later she called Daddy and Grandma to tell them the news.

The great thing about goldfish, however, is that they are easily replaceable. I plan to get some more, mostly because the kids love having them, but also to prove to myself that we Heldts can successfully maintain a couple of fish!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's a...


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

22 Weeks

Yep, this is me 22 weeks pregnant. My sister in law (also pregnant!) did one of these posts recently so I thought I'd do one too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Recent pictures

Us after dinner one evening last week. Yes my eyes are half shut, but we're all looking at the camera, so that's positive!

Yosef and Biniam enjoying their snack (goldfish, what else?) earlier that day.

Anna with her snack, all smiles.

Brothers and sister. They love hanging out!

Anna setting the table (all of a sudden she decided to do this all on her own!)

The finished product--note the lovely fork placement!

Motorcycle, anyone?

So I am selling several motorcycles on ebay. Think I'm kidding? I wish I was!

That's right, someone somehow hacked into my ebay account and under my username, they are "selling" several different motorcycles! I have all of these emails in my inbox from potential buyers asking me questions. What in the world? I need to get this straightened out!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Yet again I've been slacking off on posting. We've actually been pretty busy lately, so that is my excuse. :)

Not much is new. I'm currently reading an interesting book, The Shaping of Things to Come, about Christianity, the Western church, how to best reach people in this postmodern day and age, etc. Very thought provoking, it was recommended to us by the guy who used to be the care pastor at the church we go to. So much of it makes good sense to me and puts into words some of the thoughts that had already been swirling around in my head. I might post more about this book and what it's got me thinking later.

I am excited because something very earth-shattering will be happening this upcoming weekend. Kevin's work is having some family picnic type thing and, get this, they will be offering tours of the (gasp!) inside of the building! For the first time in FOUR AND A HALF YEARS I will see my husband's desk! Okay maybe that doesn't sound exciting, but for his job you have to have security clearance to get into the gate (there's even a rent-a-cop there I think, and all the employees have this badge they have to scan to get in), and therefore I have not once been inside. Kind of sad. But finally this weekend I will get a glimpse of what is inside those doors.

The kids are good. I think they are all having some sort of growth spurt because they are eating us out of house and home! We are still trying to sort out the boys' readoption. I have an ultrasound in the next week or two (I forget when exactly, I gotta look) where hopefully we'll learn the sex of our little baby. Quite exciting.

I think those are the only updates for now. I'm going to post recent pictures of the kids in the next day or two I think.

Friday, September 29, 2006

All's well that ends well

Even after a day spent at Urgent Care, Anna wanted to take a walk with her Daddy to look at the moon and stars, and to collect some big leaves!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

First emergency trip to the doctor

Well today it finally happened. We had thus far avoided the emergency room with the kids, any sort of emergency care, until this morning. I know what you're thinking, with two active boys we will be making plenty of visits to the ER. Well, as I have always maintained, our agile, physically-skilled boys are not the high risk ones in the family. And I was right--it's Anna!

She was standing on a chair this morning at the counter and snatched up something off the counter that I didn't want her to have. I asked her to put it back, she wouldn't, so I took it away. Ever the strong-willed child (she is her mother's daughter afterall, and I stand by my theory that this is a good quality!), she went to throw a bit of a tantrum, sort of threw herself down on the chair, but lost her footing, and fell, smacking the back of her head on the chair.

Oddly, the fall itself wasn't that bad, but she was UPSET. Crying, shaky, coughing. She sat on the chair while I held her, right away I'd felt the back of her head and it seemed okay. But as she leaned forward to get down a few minutes later, there was a lot of blood on the back of her head/shirt. I did my best not to pass out/start crying (I have SUCH a weak stomach for blood, and it is a HORRIBLE feeling to know your child is hurt!), cleaned it up enough to get a look at it (pretty difficult on the back of a girl's head because there's so much hair), and thought it best to head to Urgent Care in case she needed stitches (it was a small but pretty deep cut.)

I changed out of my pjs, loaded up the troops, and off we went. As it turned out, even though it was deep, it was small enough where Anna didn't need stitches! The doctor said he could have stitched it, but it would have caused more pain, etc. than would be beneficial. He said it should scab over within a few days.

Now I will hereby take the opportunity to say that I am blessed with three AMAZING children! See, in a situation like this, it is extra stressful because my husband Kevin works an hour and fifteen minutes away (yep, he's a commuter), and my parents live a full hour away (though of course they are always willing to come in a heartbeat), and most of our friends live at least 35 minutes away. SO, in an emergency situation, Kevin can't just zip home from work to watch the kids, we have to stick together and are pretty much on our own in a jam. The Heldts have to be somewhat self-sufficient.

Well, I am still beaming with pride at how the kids did today. The boys sat patiently and happily in the double stroller the ENTIRE TIME at Urgent Care (and we were there for quite a while). Anna sat either in my lap or in the waiting chair, she listened to Mommy and came with Mommy when it was time to go into the other room. She bravely got onto the big scale to be weighed (even though I could tell she was a little scared), allowed the nurse to take her temperature and her vitals while she sat calmly and patiently on a little footstool. She let the doctor look at her head. Meanwhile Yosef and Biniam were still happily sitting in their stroller!

I am so, so blessed to have such easy-going, happy, brave, well-adjusted kids. It makes it so much less stressful knowing that i can take all three of them somewhere and be able to truly focus my energies on the sick/hurt child, because the other two (no matter which two it is) will generally be patient, content and happy. It's also sort of neat in a way, having all three of them with me, because it's like the siblings are there for each other. I think it's really comforting for Anna to have her brothers with her when she has to see a doctor. I really believe she drew strength and comfort from having them with her today.

(It is so easy to get frustrated sometimes as a parent of toddlers, when they disobey or won't listen, and you often wonder, "Are we doing the right things, are we raising them right?" But then God gives you glimpses of their hearts and their character and you realize, wow, God is molding them into beautiful people (in spite of me!) Another example of this today was when I was hurriedly loading the kids into the car to go to Urgent Care. I was putting Yosef, who'd been holding a tennis ball, into his carseat when he dropped it. He began crying and was upset, and I told him I'd hand him the ball after I got him buckled in. Meanwhile, Anna (who wasn't in her seat or the car yet) was on the complete other side of the car. She must have heard the exchange because from out of the blue she said, "Here Yos!", straining to hand her brother, all the way across the seat, another ball. I'm sure her head was still not feeling the best, but she so much wanted to make Yosef happy again. What a blessing these kids are to one another, and to Kevin and I as well!)

The kids are all now safely napping in their beds. I hooked Anna up with an old, cozy flannel pillowcase (doc's recommendation.) The doctor told me to of course be watching her if she starts acting funny, vomiting, etc. (due to hitting her head so hard.) Well, the minute we got home and in the house, Anna took off running, yelling part of Tracy Chapman's song "Revolution" (which, at Anna's request, and the sick child should always get to hear their request, we listened to in the car)--"Run, run, run, run!" as she ran laps around the family room. Then she talked my ear off while I tucked her in, and she was STILL talking my ear off when i shut the door. SO, something tells me her head is just fine. :)

(On a side-note, the doctor asked how old all the kids are, seemed puzzled and then asked "Oh so you didn't carry the boys?" HA! I wonder how many people that see us out and about think I've had children with two different men so close together? I got a good laugh out of that one.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You gotta read this

I just finished reading the new book There is No Me Without You, by Melissa Faye Green. All I can say is, I hope everyone picks up this book and reads it! Melissa weaves the story of Haregowin Tefarra, a middle-class Ethiopian woman who begins taking in AIDS orphans, with the history of Ethiopia, the history of AIDS, information about the current AIDS crisis, etc. I could literally not put this book down; it was amazing!

It was really cool reading a book about places I've been to (Layla House, AHOPE), people I've met (Merrily from AAI), the Ethiopian doctor who did some of our sons' medical evaluations over there (Sofia Mengistu), etc. I've never looked into the history of HIV before, or understood the complex issues of the current crisis very well, but because it is something that has obviously touched my kids' lives in a HUGE way, and therefore our lives, I feel so grateful to finally be learning something about it. An entire generation on an entire continent is losing their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents--my sons included.

So any chance I have to catch a glimpse of Yosef and Biniam's past, their homeland, the common issues that must have faced their family, a greater understanding of where they come from and therefore more insight to give to them as they grow, I jump at. But this book beats all, honestly one of my all-time favorites, DEFINITELY a must-read and also definitely worth owning! (And not just for those interested in Ethiopian adoption, either. The AIDS pandemic is ravaging Africa, tearing apart families, creating millions upon millions of orphans, and therefore something that we should all care about.)

(My first introduction to Melissa, aside from her being on our agency's adoption message boards as she has children from Ethiopia, was her popular New York Times article on AIDS orphans. You can also check out the book's website here.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pregnancy update

By request, I am posting an update on the pregnancy. :) Here's the latest, in no particular order:
--I feel the baby moving more and more lately, which makes me really happy. :) My stomach doesn't get too sick anymore, just sometimes after I take the prenatal vitamins, but I do get sleepy. I had a doctor's appointment on Friday (which Kevin got to go to as well) where we got to hear the swishy heartbeat, very cool!

--Today I have to go to the lab to have my blood drawn for the AFP screening. I am taking the kids along, we'll see how that goes!

--Yep, my stomach is growing, and very few of my clothes fit. I have to plan extra time for getting ready to go somewhere beacause sometimes I discover that what I've planned to wear doesn't fit. My whole middle section, front and back, has expanded and I've been packing on the pounds, although I try to eat right.

--I have an ultrasound next month, where I'm hoping we can find out the sex of the baby! Woohoo! (I say hoping because with Anna, she had her feet in the way and we didn't get to find out until a later ultrasound.)

--This pregnancy is very similar to my pregnancy with Anna in that the due date they gave me based solely on my cycle (February 19) is sooner than the due date the ultrasound showed (March 8 I think.) So once again they revised my due date, to March 8. I didn't fall for it with Anna and I'm not falling for it this time either!

--Being pregnant with three toddlers is pretty hazardous. On Friday I was sitting there on the couch, minding my own business, when Yosef (who probably weighs about 20 pounds) sat down rather suddenly and rather hard, right on my stomach. Yikes! I am so paranoid about something going wrong I was really worried, but I've felt the baby moving plenty since then so apparently Yosef didn't squish him/her. Not even born yet and getting picked on by its older brother!

--I don't think about the baby/pregnancy nearly as much as I did when I was expecting Anna, probably because I have three kids now who keep me plenty occupied. It's kind of weird!

I think that's it. I'm really enjoying being pregnant right now in certain ways, it's so neat getting to feel the baby flipping around in there. I can't wait to meet him/her!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Re-adoption frustrations

Well I haven't blogged in almost a week, how lame. :) Nothing is new with us, except we are knee-deep in trying to adopt our boys through the local courts. Sounds simple enough, right? WRONG! It SHOULD have been simple, but thanks to our homestudy/postplacement agency dropping the ball (NOT AAI, they are our placing agency and they are wonderful!), we are currently running around trying to find an agency that will do the court order necessary for the finalization and that will accept our postplacement agency's postplacement reports. Yuck.

The thing is, our adoption is unique because technically we are adopting our boys out of a disruption. It is, for all legal purposes, actually a domestic adoption, because the boys legally belong to Adoption Advocates International in Washington state right now (remember, their "first" adoptive parents changed their minds in Ethiopia and relinquished the boys when they returned to the US.) Our homestudy/postplacement agency has known this special circumstance all along, our social worker was aware, etc. We signed the documents for the finalization, Kevin had his employer fill out a form, we paid the fees, all was going according to plan. Until they called and said oops, they were "unaware" that this was a domestic adoption (um, not true, they were VERY aware) and they are not licensed to do finalizations for domestic adoptions, just international. Basically they told me, good luck with that.

So now I am trying to find out a way to clean up this mess (without it costing us hundreds of extra dollars due to an agency's oversight.) I will be SO happy when it's all behind us and the judge declares these boys legally ours! So that is our update. Hopefully it'll be resolved SOON!

Friday, September 15, 2006

I don't want to be a feverish, selfish clot

Kevin and I are going through the infamous "Purpose-Driven Life" book by Rick Warren right now. We bought this about four years ago, made it to about Day 5, and for whatever reason never finished (clearly we were not very purposeful about it--hee, hee.) Our renewed interest in the book was sparked by reading this article about Rick Warren.

(I have to admit I'm sometimes a bit skeptical of the big name Christian authors/speakers/pastors who sell tons of books and who have gigantic ministries (not that there's anything inherently wrong with being successful, wealthy, or with having a big church, please don't get me wrong.) But I sometimes wonder how much of what they do is for profit, are they just resorting to some marketing gimmick to make a few bucks. But after reading this article we were so moved by what Rick and his wife are doing in Africa and his commitment to philanthropy that we said, we gotta read that book again!)

And direction and purpose are things we've been talking about lately. What is our direction, where are we wanting to go in life? More importantly where is God wanting to take us? Currently we have no clue. We don't see ourselves staying here for much longer than a few years, at this point anyway. The hour-plus commute for Kevin has gotten old, the 35 minute trip to church can be a lot sometimes, we're not really wanting to put down roots in this town, we want our sons to be raised in a place where they don't always feel quite so conspicuous.

What does that mean for us? Like I said we don't know. We have certain things we DO know, like we want to live somewhere that we can afford, we think we want to live in East Africa someday for awhile (hopefully Ethiopia although we have no clue when/if/how that would happen), and most likely, no matter where we go, it will mean leaving California. We also know we don't want to just settle into the suburbs and live for ourselves with our 1.2 kids and our dog (okay we already have over twice that many kids, and I don't really like pets, and we probably will live in some sort of suburbs, but you know what I mean!)

After reading and being challenged by Shane Claiborne's book Irresistable Revolution, we just both feel so strongly that the Lord wants our lives to be about more than the daily grind of "life as usual": a 40-hour work week, fun on the weekends, church on Sunday, not much time for anything else like loving and helping others, or "seeking the welfare of the city" like Jeremiah 29:7 talks about. God gave us ALL the Great Commission, so what does that mean for the Heldt family?

So lately we've just been trusting God that He will show us where to go at the right time. We feel like He's maybe preparing to do that. One reason we are so confident that He will guide us at the right time (and that that hasn't happened yet) and that He DOES have a plan for us is that there are no clear, logical, or obvious options for us right now. No obvious (or even workable) place for Kevin to transfer if he wanted to continue doing what he's doing, no obvious "other options" for his employment. So in the meantime we will trust, and pray, and seek God, and read "The Purpose Driven Life". :)

There is a quote I really like that Rick Warren had in his book, that was actually also in the biblestudy I'm currently going to at church (apparently God really wants me to hear this!) It's by George Bernard Shaw and says,

This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

What great words and what a great mental picture (I so don't want to be that clot!) It is exciting to think about God's purpose for my life and also so awesome that He wants to use me and that I don't have to worry, that He will take me where He wants me when He wants me there.

Musings revisited

Some interesting comments on the last post. I just thought I'd chime back in and give some of my own random--er, well thought-out thoughts. :)

Because I'm not involved in missions work nor do I come from a family that was, I honestly have no clue what the actual mentality is, in the missions field, when it comes to children. It does seem, based on the adults who write about their pasts, like the standard thought was that the parents would go out into the missions field, and when the child got to be school-aged, they were sent to boarding school all year to get an education. Also based on what I read, the parents seemed to really struggle with this (mostly the mothers) but still followed suit because it was a sacrifice you made to follow God's call and to do His work.

As for the abuse, which to me sounds like it was common enough since I've read three seperate, non-related accounts of it, I think part of why it was able to continue was that back in that time, it was taboo to talk about. Nowadays I think we feel more free to open up and share about abuse. I STILL have no clue how some of the worst abusers became missionaries though.

I really agree with Shelley in that it is always possible for "God stuff" to trump God. How often do we get so wrapped up in what are oftentimes very good activities, only to be left feeling drained or like we have no energy for the essentials?

I also think that kids in our culture aren't valued as much as they should be, which could explain the mentality that "there's important work to be done, so let's ship the kids off." I definitely think there's a place for families and children in the missions field and that it can be done, but I think parents have to guard against neglecting their kids in the name of doing something that seems like a higher calling, more important, etc. (I am not sure why I decided to blog on this topic in the first place; I guess after reading that book I realized I was bothered by this trend.)

The end. :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Musings on missions kids

I just finished the book Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia by Tim Bascom, the memoir of a man who was raised in Ethiopia because his parents were Christian missionaries there with SIM. I have read a couple of other stories by missionaries' children, and I find myself troubled that each of the stories involved something truly unfortunate happening in the child's life, as the result.

In this particular book, he attended boarding school in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia's capital), at the school for all the missionary kids (his parents were stationed at a village in another part of Ethiopia.) At the age of six he began attending this school, seperated from his parents for most of the year. They would have the kids write letters to their parents, but the letters were supervised and dictated by a teacher for the child to write. If a child misbehaved, they were beat with a leather belt by one of the people in charge. He says that growing up he never had one, not one, Ethiopian playmate/friend, because he resented them in some way for taking his parents away, and also because the boarding school never had the kids interface with anyone else, it sheltered them from the surrounding society/culture.

As an adult now, he has gravitated (understandably in many ways) towards a very liberal form of religion, because he tired of the "duty" focused Christianity he felt his parents practiced. Although his memoir isn't bitter, I gathered from the overall tone that he doesn't look back on much of his childhood with fondness.

And I've read other stories of missionary children, things (horrible things, much worse than getting hit with a belt) that happened to them at the Christian missionary boarding schools they attended. Things that have left them with a lot of healing to do.

So I'm wondering, why is this? When the Bible tells us to go and make disciples of all the nations, certainly it isn't asking us to throw our children to the wolves in the name of self denial and sacrifice. I wonder if the apparent corruption in these boarding schools still happens, or if improvements have been made over the years. And how on earth did some of the worst abusers, supposed missionaries, even get hired for these schools?

It makes me so sad that so many children have essentially lost their childhoods, their faith and sometimes even their innocence all in the name of missions. I don't believe it has to be that way by any means, nor is it God's intention. Kevin and I have talked about someday wanting to live somewhere in East Africa (ideally Ethiopia) for awhile, who knows if/when/how that would ever happen. I am quite convinced that a child could have a rich, full, happy childhood living in a different culture. So when I read some of these stories I think of all the missed opportunities, lost time, and the misguided intentions of so many well-meaning adults. It is just so sad, and I hope that some of the mentalities that contribute to this have, indeed, changed.

(In my next post I think I will give some of my own random opinions on why these things have happened.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dirty work

Okay, so I am terrified--yes, TERRIFIED--of frogs. Well, all reptiles really. Dead or alive they freak me out and I detest them. I always have.

Well, earlier this summer we found the bottom half of a dead, flattened, sun-baked frog in our backyard. It was totally crispy and dried out (ewwwwww, I know) but still I refused to touch it, to throw it away. One day though, Anna kept wanting to play with it when we were in the backyard and it was grossing me out. How can I finally get this frog thrown away without touching it, I wondered?

Then it finally dawned on me. Anna had (unfortunately) already picked it up at one point, so her hands were already "contaminated", she ENJOYED picking it up, and she LOVES throwing things in the trash. Hmmmm...

Yep, I asked my two-and-a-half-year-old to pick up the dried out dead frog that I was too afraid to touch and go throw it in our trash bin. I think I must have sunk to a whole new level of momhood that day, but she loved it and enjoyed talking about it afterwards! Yet another benefit of having children...

(And yes that is the deceased she is holding triumphantly in her left hand.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Good for the soul

Does something ever strike you as hilarious, I mean REALLY funny, even when it probably isn't meant to? Well that happened to me the other night and it still makes me laugh so hard I cry, so I thought I'd post about it.

Kevin rented that movie "The Producers". We didn't know anything about it except that it's a Mel Brooks play that our landlord in Santa Barbara left town to be an understudy for. WELL, we really didn't like the movie, it was pretty crude, we ended up fast-forwarding through some stuff. The basic gist of the play/film is that an accountant and washed-up Broadway producer team up to produce the worst play ever, because the accountant figured out that you can make more money on a flop than a success by messing with the books. They stumble upon a neo-Nazi play called "Springtime for Hitler" that they are sure is going to offend the masses, and therefore be such a flop that they'll make a fortune.

They set out to hire the worst actors, directors, etc. They go to the worst director's home, a homosexual man who lives with his "common law assistant." This assistant, Carmen, is just hilarious--not sure why exactly, but his look and mannerisms struck me as terribly amusing right off the bat. Anyway, the director is attending some event and Carmen suggests he wear a wig because he looks bad without it. The director is offended and calls Carmen the Wicked Witch of the West. To which Carmen responds emotionally with this line:

"If your intention was to shoot an arrow through my heart....BULLSEYE!"

I am literally laughing out loud right now, my shoulders are shaking, just thinking about this. I made Kevin go back so I could rewatch this line again...and again...and again. I was rolling around, the tears were made it worth renting the lame movie!

Has anyone else seen this film and know the part I'm talking about? Or has anyone had something really random strike them as the funniest thing ever? I haven't laughed that hard in felt good!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's all relative

Today I took the kids with me to Target, by myself (we haven't done this sort of outing just me and the kids for awhile, but I'm hoping to get out of the house more so I decided we would go.) They did WONDERFUL, Anna sitting in the front and the boys in the back. Honestly they were great.

Anyway, as I was pushing them through the store, a very stressed looking mom walked by pushing her one child in the cart--a little boy about two years old. He was kicking, screaming, standing up (this was in the front of the cart), throwing a major tantrum. The mom was getting all bitter at him when she happened to look up to see us walking calmly along. She said to her son, "Look at those kids, THEY'RE sitting nicely", to which I called merrily over my shoulder as she passed, "Knock on wood!"

So you see, three toddlers isn't ALWAYS super hard, or wild, or more work than one child. I may look like I must have my hands full, but sometimes things just couldn't run any smoother. I'm so proud of my kids!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Flooding in Ethiopia

(I've been meaning to post about this; shame on me for forgetting!) There has been severe flooding in Ethiopia over the last several weeks, displacing many, many people. Here's an article about it. Thousands are in need of food and shelter, and many people have been killed as well.

If anyone is so inclined, you can make a donation through Adoption Advocates International online (designating it for the Ethiopia flood victims by clicking "other"), and they transfer it directly into the account in Ethiopia that is going to provide relief to these poor people. Here is the link for donations.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Day at the zoo

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures (who has the time?), but two days ago I took the kids down to the Santa Barbara Zoo with two of my girlfriends and their daughters (so seven kids between the three of us!) This was the boys' very first trip to the zoo and Anna's third time.

After having been to the San Diego Zoo a couple of years ago, I am maybe a little bit of a zoo snob, but it was totally fun (in spite of the fact that the gorillas were sleeping.) The kids did well, in spite of it being a no-nap day. The boys could kind of take-it-or-leave-it when it came to the animals (except for Biniam who loved imitating the birds), but Anna enjoyed looking at the snakes and the lions and the monkeys (okay technically they were apes but they looked like monkeys to me!) She isn't totally into the zoo yet though; I think she still liked the snacks we packed the best. We even rode the little train around the zoo, which was a highlight. Anna had fun sitting by her friend Claire and going "choo choo, choo choo!"

The most interesting aspect of the day (aside from watching a duck come and eat a monkey's poop) was how our little family was treated. We spent hours and hours at the zoo, and NOT ONE person pointed, stopped to ask me if the boys were twins (or more importantly tell me that they weren't), or batted an eye at the four of us. In fact, the only questions or comments we got were on our stroller! AND, we picked up Kevin from work that afternoon and ate dinner down in Santa Barbara, and at dinner no one seemed to notice/care either!

Looking back it was such a nice, stress free day! I got to just be a mommy out with my kids, at dinner we got to just sit and eat and have fun and not feel self-conscious about people staring at us while we're stuffing our faces. I'm not sure what to chalk it up to, what makes Santa Barbara so very different from Santa Maria or SLO County in that regard, but I liked it. It made me feel hopeful that someday we can live somewhere where we don't constantly feel like a circus act.

Such a contrast to a few weeks ago when we went to the California Mid-State Fair up in Paso Robles. I wish I had a dime for every person who came within five feet of us and pointed (yes, pointed), for every group of people who stopped in front of us to stare and talk loudly about our family (don't they know we're not hard of hearing), for the woman who wanted to take a PICTURE of our boys!

The only people in fact who I spoke with at the zoo was a wonderful African American couple who also is an adoptive family. They were interested in our family, Ethiopian adoption, had such wonderful hearts and I honestly wish I'd gotten their contact info.

So, a fun outing, and hopefully a glimpse into what can be someday. I really didn't realize how stressful scrutiny can be until I was out for a day without it, and I loved getting to feel like a family, plain and simple.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And Baby Heldt will make four (under four)!

Yes, that's right, I am hereby announcing to the blogging world (lest anyone think I'm gaining weight for no reason) that we are having a baby in February!

My last few months have been spent secretly eating, napping and trying not to throw up amidst chasing after three toddlers. :) My pregnancy with Anna was so much more, how shall I say it, restful!

We're so excited about this latest gift God is blessing us with, and so grateful that so far it has been a healthy, "uneventful" pregnancy. The baby will be exactly three years younger than Anna, and about two years younger than Yosef and Biniam. Personally I'm hoping for a girl to even things up around here, but we'll see. :) We had an ultrasound this past Thursday and there was baby, thrashing around with a strong heartbeat. It was neat for all of us (Kevin, the kids and me) to be there for the ultrasound. Today I got to hear the baby's heart beating, though barely, because it was actually in sync with my own pulse! (Though of course mine wasn't beating 160 times per second!)

We just recently told our family and friends--we'd decided to wait as long as we could before announcing it for several reasons. In case something went wrong, so people could have more time just enjoying and getting to know our boys, and also because we worried we'd take some flak from people who think we make unacceptable life choices (we haven't gotten any though, so apparently people are used to us bringing kids into our family nearly every February!) At any rate, most of my clothes aren't fitting anymore, so vanity dictated that we make our announcement. :)

Anyway, we are totally thrilled and excited, and pretty interested to see how having four kids is going to play out around here. (I'm already looking forward to going into the hospital--other people preparing my food and serving it to me in bed, eating custard and jello, only having one child to look after...sounds like a vacation! And yes I'm serious--Marian Medical Center serves up a mean dish of custard!)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Six months and counting

Well, two days ago marked the six month anniversary of when we brought our boys home! In most ways our time in Ethiopia seems like an eternity ago, and I honestly can barely remember what life was like before Yosef and Biniam!

The past six months have included a lot of joy, love, and hard work. Our sons have changed a lot since our first meeting at Layla House--Biniam, the supposed quiet cuddler, has transitioned into an extremely active, cheery, mischevious little boy who rarely has time for sitting on Mom or Dad's lap. When we met him he had barely any muscle tone in his little legs (which were so tiny and stick-like) and was unable to walk. Now he tears around the house after his brother and sister and you'd think he's been walking for a lot longer than four months. Yosef is still his "life of the party" self, although he now gets a little shy around strangers and strange situations, and he has become quite the helper around the house. He loves pleasing Mom and Dad and has a definite sensitive side. Yosef is also the swimmer of the group and loves water.

The boys still only say a handful of words, but their vocabulary is always growing. Just this weekend, for the very first time (and all on his own), Biniam stood at the door and said "Bye bye, Grandpa." He's also been saying "please" lately, which is really cute. When Kevin comes home each night, the minute the kids hear the door open, they all shout "Daddy! Daddy!" and make a beeline for him.

It is amazing to me that Anna has only known her brothers for six months. She loves them to pieces and is quite the big sister. She's always looking out for them, and just this morning brought her special blanket to lay over Yosef when he was crying and upset. She loves "reading" to them and tucking them in at night. They play "cool games" with each other (yep, Anna coined that term) and to be honest I think Anna would be lost without these two boys. And judging by the way they trail after her all day long, they'd be lost without her.

As for myself, I can't imagine never knowing these two kids. They are such a bright spot in my life and it is strange to think that I've known them for less than a year! I also regularly forget that they come from a world away, from another continent, another country, another culture. When I see them running all over over the house and making it clear that they run the show here, it's easy to forget that not all that long ago, they led a life that was very, very different. It's easy to forget that they are someone else's birth sons, that they spent over a year living without a family to love them, and that they were adopted by someone else, before they finally came to be ours.

There have been challenges to be sure. We're still trying to figure out Biniam's slow weight gain, I'm always wondering how they're adjusting/attaching, if we're doing the right things. We've had plenty of draining encounters with well-intentioned people that make me worry for the boys' future, growing up in a transracial family. I find myself tired some of the time and keeping the house clean with three active toddlers running around is always an uphill battle. And then of course sometimes I miss blending in--at church, at the grocery store, at social gatherings.

But these last six months have brought blessing upon blessing and I am increasingly convinced that the Lord means what He says and is faithful, even when I am tired, cranky, worried. The joy that Yosef and Biniam have brought to our lives makes any of the frustrations or challenges pale in comparison. We find ourselves saying regularly to each other, these kids are just plain awesome! I look and see how much God has grown our hearts through these boys and this whole experience, in ways that I know could not have happened otherwise. "Family" has been redefined, I've learned that love can come in different ways but it comes just the same, borders and genetics and fitting in have become trivial. God has surely given us a glimpse into His heart and for that I am grateful. I am slowly learning about what it means to love more than just myself, or my family, or the people in my country.

All of this to say, it has been a wild ride. When God sent us on a plane six months ago to Africa, I had no real clue what was in store for me. Honestly I am still discovering what He had for me there, but one thing I know for sure, we received two precious, precious gifts that I never want to take for granted. I am so grateful for my sons, for Anna's brothers, for the little boys that love to laugh and smile (and hit each other!), and I am totally geared up for another crazy six months!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Troubling statistics

I know, I haven't blogged in FOREVER, but I haven't had anything I really wanted to blog about. (Lame excuse, I know.) ANYWAY, today I was reading Mary's Ethiopian adoption blog and she had this link for transracial adoption statistics. It struck such a chord with me that I had to break back into blogging and share with you!

The statistics were part of this New York Times Article about transracial adoption. Interesting article, although I didn't like how (in my opinion) international adoptions seemed to be marginalized (aren't all children deserving of a family, no matter where they come from?), and also how there was such a negative tone to the article. Obviously there are challenges with transracial adoption, and I am glad some of them were presented, but it would have been more balanced (and accurate!) to share some of the sweet "positives", too.

Anyway, as of the year 2000, in white adoptive households, 87% of the adopted children were, you guessed it, white. Just 13% of white adoptive households included a child of a different race. 5% of children adopted by whites are Asian, 1% are American Indian, 6% are "other/multirace", and 1% are black.

If you break it down to just international adoptions, a full 50% of international adoptions are from Asia, 31% from Europe, 11% from Central America, 6% from South America, 1% from the Caribbean, and 1% from Africa. (Ouch.)

Even though I wasn't particularly shocked by these statistics (based on conversations I've had with other adoptive parents), I felt really sad. Now obviously orphans need homes period, no matter where they're from. But there is such a HUGE orphan crisis in Africa, even just in Ethiopia, and yet it seems as if most people on the whole are unwilling to pursue that option (in spite of the fact that it generally costs a lot less and the process is generally more streamlined).

We got a sense pretty early on that it is more socially "acceptable" or at least common to adopt from either Asia or Eastern Europe, and that is in fact part of what drew us to adopt from Ethiopia. You don't have to read too many headlines to know the major, major hardships that many in Africa are facing. The number of orphans in Ethiopia alone is staggering and we felt that the need there was great.

I know potential adoptive parents have all sorts of concerns about adopting transracially, and judging by the statistics they also have some concerns about specifically adopting a black child. I would like to hereby go on record as stating that your child is your child, regardless of his or her skin tone, hair texture, whatever. Yosef and Biniam are my sons, period. I look at them and see my sons, just like I look at Anna and see my daughter. I totally love Yosef and Biniam's beautiful dark skin and brown eyes, just like I delight in Anna's fair skin and pretty blue eyes. You love them because they're your kids, and you love how God made them because that's how God made them and He is an amazingly creative God.

There will always be challenges in raising children, adopted or not, whether they look like you or not. If you are considering adoption, PLEASE don't rule out a child that doesn't look like you simply for convenience sake, or rule out a black child because it seems too hard or uncomfortable in our racially-charged society. God desires for orphans to be cared for and to have families, and He tells us that love and family transcend genetics and outward appearances.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Great book

Well, Shelley will be so happy because I finally read the book she's been recommending to me, Irresistible Revolution: Living Life As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne. And it was AWESOME!

Shane has spent time working in India with Mother Teresa, visited Iraq during the war, and is the founder of "The Simple Way." The book is about his journey as a Christian and his hopes for the world and the church. He has a profound love for people, an earnest desire to help the poor and writes with a lot of humility (and humor!) Some of his ideas are fairly "new" to me (most of the Christians I have known have a pretty specific set of beliefs that are pretty different from his.) A lot of what he wrote really resonated with me, some of those things I've been thinking for awhile now.

Overall I was totally challenged by much of the book. Some of it made me uncomfortable in that it cut through the usual political rhetoric to make some points that I cannot easily dismiss. It addressed everything from nationalism and the death penalty to how churches spend their money. It was less "predictable" than I thought it would be and I am still processing it all. While I don't necessarily know that I agree with every single point he makes (what book besides the Bible can you really claim that about anyway, unless you write it yourself?), like I said it is not easy to dismiss. And much of it I DO agree with.

One thing I have come away with is that I think it's important for Christians to take the time to search the Bible and pray about some of the issues that we seem to take for granted as being acceptable, the "right" thing to do, etc. Sometimes being raised in a Christian environment involves being around a group of very like-minded people with a set of beliefs that everyone takes for granted as being "Christian" beliefs, even though perhaps we've never sat and thought about the alternatives to those beliefs, or what God thinks about them. Maybe you'll come to the same conclusion you had before, but it's still good to think and pray about them. As for me there are a couple of things that I plan to reevaluate, as the result of reading this book. Maybe later I'll share more about some of the specific things that grabbed me, but for now, it was a great book that I really do recommend.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Corndogs, post-placement and good friends

So last night the kids had corndogs for the very first time (so healthy, I know.) As Anna sat there and ate some of the batter off the top, revealing the meat in the center, she excitedly held it up and shouted, "Look Mama! There's a hotdog in there!" (Meanwhile Yosef decided to eat his sideways, like you'd eat corn-on-the-cob. Interesting.)

Having kids is so cool because you get to see them experience and discover all sorts of things for the first time. Their excitement and innocent passion for life is such a beautiful, precious thing.

Tomorrow is our final post-placement visit with our social worker, and we'll be adopting the boys through the local courts soon. For a lot of people readopting through the courts, it's not all that big a deal to have the judge declare the adoption final since the parents have felt it was final ever since it went through the Ethiopian courts. For us though, because other adoptive parents got to see our boys through their Ethiopian court and visa process, we never really got to feel that. So I think this will be a big deal for us, or for me at least.

Last night we had dinner with our friends Troy and Becky and Darin and Lara, and their little baby girl Caedra. Darin, Lara and Caedra are leaving for Mississippi on Saturday. They'll only be gone about a year but we are so sad to see them go! The group of us has spent countless Sunday afternoons together eating lunch, watching football and sharing in each other's lives over the last several years. We've been friends with Darin and Lara ever since college, were in each other's weddings, and have such a sweet friendship. Last night was such a blessing to get to just hang out one last time. They will be missed!

(You will notice that I said that the kids had corndogs last night, and we had dinner with our friends last night. Please note that I did NOT serve corndogs to our guests. We ate something else after the kids were in bed!)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My subconscious speaks...

I guess you know you've been around three little ones all day when, as you read over the shopping list you just made, you realize you wrote "white whine"................

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