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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