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.)

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