Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A person's a person, no matter how _________

(I realize I don't have anything particularly original to add to this topic but hey, I guess I'm posting about it anyhow!)

I've thought a lot about the whole sanctity of life "thing" over the last four years. I've always been "pro-life" but it certainly takes on new meaning when some of these foundational views start intersecting with your own life. Sanctity of Life Sunday was a little over a week ago so I've been thinking about it lately.

When we got married we initially thought we were on the standard "5 year plan." (Ha, ha, ha.)Then we learned some unfortunate things about hormonal birth control and knew that would never be an option for us. During this time we further examined our views on marriage, family, kids. We were convicted that we needed to trust the Lord more, and take it even more to heart that children are a blessing.

I think it's safe to say we do not live in a pro-life society (or world for that matter), and I'm not talking exclusively, or even mostly, about abortion (although that certainly tends to get the most air-time, especially among Christians.) It's pretty easy for me to say "I'm pro-life and therefore against abortion", but sadly it's NOT as easy to give my money away to a crisis pregnancy center or to minister to prison inmates. I wonder if something is maybe wrong when being pro-life starts feeling easy or convenient.

I love Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who" and the whole idea of "a person's a person, no matter how small." You could sub in all sorts of words for the word "small." The thing is, if we really take this line of thinking to heart, it is sure to produce some sort of change or action. If we truly value life, regardless of age, "disability", or circumstance, then I think we start to care, and will ideally live it out.

The scope of what "sanctity of life" means to me has increased drastically since deciding to adopt. My goodness, if it weren't for people working for orphanages and NGO's, valuing the lives of orphaned babies in Ethiopia, many children would probably not be alive today. I'm discovering it's just not enough to say "Yeah, yeah, I'm pro-life" but go on my merry way.

This is why it seems unfortunate to hear people (especially around church for some reason) make negative comments about large-ish families, or be taken aback by someone's decision to give an orphaned child a home, or why it's so hard for Jeannett to get people to volunteer to do childcare at church. Or why it's taking ME so long to call the Central Coast AIDS Project to see if there's some way our family can help.

I'll end with a link to a blogpost, called "Choosing David." Steve and Lisa are friends of ours and it is such a blessing and joy knowing them and their two little boys!

Monday, January 29, 2007


The boys sleep in (separate) twin beds now as opposed to cribs, and this is how I found them during naptime last week, cuddled up sleeping together in the SAME bed! Being an only child I never had siblings, and it's neat seeing the love our kids have for each other. The boys obviously share a special bond, being twins, sharing the same past and the same "story."

And they are such pals these days! They love playing together in their room (when they should be sleeping), laughing together and comforting/hugging/kissing each other when one of them is upset and crying. I hope they are always buddies!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I love this picture. What a priceless gift from God, the incredible bond that quickly grew between Anna and her brothers. These kids are always looking out for each other (and they love holding hands in the car!)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

To whom it may concern

Dear Santa Maria Post Office employee woman,

I realize you will probably not read this letter, because I don't think you read my blog. If you did, you would probably not have told me what you told me yesterday.

In case you don't recall, right around closing time last night my three children and I entered the post office. Two of them were riding nicely in their stroller, the little girl sweetly holding a package to be mailed. The third child was walking calmly and quietly beside me. They waited patiently as I mailed my package and adoption finalization documents, and as we were leaving you asked me if they were all "mine."

"Yes!" I said proudly as we proceeded to leave. That's when you looked at me and said without smiling, "You're crazy."

Now I really want to believe the best about you. Maybe you've had a bad experience with children in the past--maybe at the post office even. Or maybe you genuinely thought I look like I suffer from those delusions of grandeur I learned about in my Abnormal Psychology class in college--perhaps you'd even recently consulted your DSM-IV manual. (I wonder if that's where the term "going postal" originated?)

Either way, it seemed a little impolite to call me crazy, especially in front of all three of my children, none of whom are hard of hearing. I am an at-home mom and it's what I do each day, just like you spend your days working for the US Postal Service. In the future I hope to have a better in-person response to such comments than my standard, "They're great kids." But for now, this letter will have to do.


Stuff the Heldts do for fun

As wild as it can be having three two year olds in our home, it can also be a lot of fun! One evening in December Kevin had the hand truck out for some reason and Anna really wanted to go for a ride on it. She had lots of fun!
Then another night in December we laid out a sleeping bag on the floor of the family room, wore our pj's, did a family devotion out of this awesome kids' devotional book, and watched "Beauty and the Beast." (Well the boys lost interest in the movie after about 40 minutes and went to bed, but Anna, Mommy and Daddy made it to the end!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Heldts visit Little Ethiopia

Kevin had this past Friday off, so we packed up the kids and took a quick trip down to Los Angeles to Little Ethiopia. It's this little stretch of Fairfax Avenue with some Ethiopian restaurants and businesses, and a high concentration of Ethiopians and Eritreans living in the surrounding area. We'd been wanting to check it out for awhile now, and this was pretty much the last weekend that would work before the baby is due.

Right when we got there we met an Ethiopian couple on the sidewalk with two cute little boys. We talked to them for quite awhile. Then we headed into the Merkato which is a little shop with all sorts of things, from music and books and clothing to injera, spices, and other ingredients for Ethiopian cooking. There were little tables and chairs out front where a couple of elderly Ethiopian men were sitting, drinking Ethiopian beer. They were so friendly and were very interested in the kids. Inside the shop there were several Ethiopians just hanging out (they all seemed to know each other). They loved seeing the kids, and it was fun to talk to them and hear where exactly in Ethiopia they came from, how long they'd been in the US, etc. One older man even invited us to come to his church (Ethiopian Orthodox)!

Then we went to the restaurant Rosalind's for dinner. The food was good, but definitely not as good as what we had in Ethiopia. (Go figure.) Yosef was a big hit with the women working at the restaurant--he was also a huge hit in Ethiopia. Ethiopians seem to take to him much more than to Biniam, which is interesting. Anna REALLY liked the injera ("Yummy injera!" she yelled out at one point).

One thing I love about Ethiopians (and this probably applies to Africans in general) is how much they love kids. No weird comments about how many kids we have, no one bats an eye. I was interested to see how they would react to us and to our boys, because obviously there are two sides to the international adoption coin. Everyone we met though was just plain delighted to see the kids, and so nice to us, and thought we were doing a good thing.

Several of the people we met had a sadness about them when they talked about their country. One man, who's been in the US for 34 years now, has never returned to Ethiopia. He told me with this sad look in his eyes that he has no reason to. I got the impression that although they all have a deep love and pride for the country they come from, they grieve the situation there and almost feel their country has let them down. They all seemed to see Yosef and Biniam as being fortunate to have gotten out.

When we're out and about running errands here at home, or with other people, I am very aware that Yosef and Biniam are from Ethiopia. However, when we're in a setting like Little Ethiopia, I am very aware of Yosef and Biniam's American identity. I find this kind of odd.

So that was the trip. Well, minus the McFlurry's we got on the ride home, but that doesn't seem to go with the rest of the post!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Farewell Toby

Meet Toby. Toby the Totbot is his full, manufacturer-given name, and he was a gift from my parents to Anna when she was younger. The kids loved this robot.

A few weeks ago we noticed some suspicious reddish stains on our carpet. Then a few days later Anna handed Toby to Kevin who turned him over, only to make a chilling discovery.

Poor Toby was full of battery acid. Kevin is convinced this should not have happened to a toy so young, so he photo-documented the situation in the event that he gets really ambitious and wants to contact the manufacturer.

Toby has since departed for the landfill where I presume he has been properly laid to rest among styrofoam cups, empty beer cans and diapers. When I asked Anna just now what happened to Toby, she told me, "He had old batteries. He was a robot." Life is mean when you're two. Or when you're a robot.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Morticia Addams (and the limits of social consciousness)

So here is an account of what happened "after the show" on Monday night. Once the concert was over, we made our way to the lobby where someone told us that the kids from the choir would be coming out soon. We thought it'd be neat to meet them, and our kids were doing really well, so we proceeded to hang around. Big mistake.

It wasn't long before the comments started coming hard and fast. You know, how I must really have my hands full, etc. Before too much time had passed, I started overhearing a group of people standing right in front of me talking about my kids. Very loudly. Well it was mostly the woman doing the talking--and incidentally, she looked JUST like Anjelica Houston's version of Morticia Addams! Anyway, she was commenting on the kids, assuring her friends quite confidently that my sons weren't twins. I kept ignoring her but she kept going on and on and finally I interrupted her and said, "No, they ARE twins." "No," she said, "TWINS?" "Yep," I replied, wishing the conversation would end.

Then she found the need to point at Yosef and say "Well but he looks bigger." (Thanks, I hadn't noticed!) "That's because he is bigger; they're fraternal twins" I said. "Are they YOURS?" she asked. "Yep". "ALL of them?", pointing at my three. "Yep."

I don't remember the rest of the conversation. She was rude, I was annoyed (but am always too polite to SEEM annoyed, though Kevin can generally tell), and I was wanting to get as far away as I could from this place.

Over the course of the fifteen minutes we were in the lobby, I got all sorts of fun comments (and interestingly most of the people at this event were Christians). One lady who was for some reason really incredulous that I adopted twins from Ethiopia asked if the boys were a girl and a boy, two girls, or two boys. Ouch!

SO, my takeaway from all of this is that I am amazed at how it is, on the one hand, acceptable, important, and a good Christian thing to do to attend a concert put on by Ugandan orphans, and to donate a few bucks when they pass the plate. But on the other hand ten minutes later these same people find the need to treat me like an alien from another planet for giving two orphans a home? Did they not see the video they showed, with the starving children with flies all over them?

Maybe it's comfortable watching that video from your cozy seat in the performing arts center. Maybe it's fun watching the choir and maybe people don't stop to think that any one of those children performing would have given anything for their parents to have lived, or for a family to love them. I don't want people thinking that those who adopt are heroes or saints--because we're not. But you'd think after watching a video on war-torn Uganda, adoption would at least make SENSE. You'd think that if you met someone who adopted two orphans that you wouldn't treat them like they were the weirdest people on the planet.

I guess I left feeling frustrated and disgusted with the seemingly double standards. Part of supporting these causes is supporting others who support them. Why on earth so many Christians find adoption so strange and find what adoptive families do such a leap is beyond me. I'm not saying everyone has to adopt; there are SO many ways to fight global hunger and help orphans/impoverished children that are not adoption-related. But why do I find that Christians consistently treat me the most like I've gone and done something really strange and crazy? To be honest this baffles me. Non-Christians, if anything, seem to think it's cool, or have questions, or whatever, but there doesn't seem to be the same judgement there.

I don't expect people to relate to my life, or want my life, or even understand my life. I DO wish they would be polite and not point at my children, that they wouldn't talk loudly about them saying things that are untrue, and I wish that they wouldn't act like the fact that I'm home with my kids like any other stay-at-home mom is suicide-worthy. And I realize these people don't know my boys' past. They don't know about the mom who couldn't care for them, about the 5 months they spent living in an orphanage overflowing with over 400 kids dying from AIDS. They didn't see first-hand the starving beggars and the women trying to give me their babies.

And they're not there when Biniam gives Yosef a hug, or when Anna tells Biniam she loves him "soooooooooooo much." They're not there to see Yosef's huge smile or how from the minute Biniam wakes up he's calling for Anna. So how COULD they begin to understand the love I have for my kids and for our crazy family? But I just wish they could understand that it's not enough to say we as Christians desire justice and want to help orphans. Because part of that is truly believing in our hearts that orphans are worth helping, that pursuing justice in God's name is worth whatever cost/commitment He asks of us.

I hugged my kids extra tight before bed that night. I can't imagine my life without them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

African Childrens Choir!

So yesterday at around 3:45 I was getting Anna up from her nap when the phone rang. It was a friend calling to tell me that the African Childrens Choir would be performing last night in Arroyo Grande (about 15 minutes north of us). How did news of this concert escape my watchful eye? I immediately called Kevin, who really wanted to go (thank goodness, as I was DEFINITELY wanting to go), so I spent the rest of the day hustling to get ready and to get the kids fed and ready so we could be ready to go by the time Kevin got home. I was so excited!

I was however slightly nervous about taking three two year olds to a 90 minute concert at a nice performing arts center (though I figured people couldn't get TOO bitter at the boys at least for wiggling around being that they, too, are from Africa--just kidding. Sort of.) But I needn't have worried--at all. We staked out five seats for us, though Biniam ended up sitting in Kevin's lap, and Anna and Yosef each had their own seat. The kids sat. And watched. And clapped and danced. They were amazing the entire time and I only had to take a kid out once--Biniam--but not because he was being loud, it was because he pooped. And you can't fault a kid for that! (The funny thing was, ahead of time I told Anna that she needed to whisper if she was going to talk during the concert. Well, the entire time we were waiting for the show to start--so while the lights are still up and people are milling around and talking--Anna was whispering! She really took that to heart!)

The choir itself was amazingly gifted and beautiful. These particular children (all orphans) were from Uganda and danced and sang and played the drums. African culture reflects so much hope, beauty, and energy. It was definitely an emotional night for us. At one point they showed a video that included a lot of footage of the severe conditions in Uganda. When I see video or photos of starving children, it hits very close to home, because I know that very easily could have been my own sons. For every Yosef and Biniam, there are millions of children who, once orphaned, are not fortunate enough to land in a facility that has the resources to care for them, and even sometimes find them a family. As I sat watching these disturbing images, and watching these orphaned children singing, I kept glancing over at little Biniam cozy on his daddy's lap, and little Yosef sitting in his chair, and thinking about the bigness of God and of His mercy, love, and provision for these two boys. I reflected on how only God can offer that kind of hope. And what a crazy blessing it is that Kevin and I have been blessed with the priviledge of having Yosef and Biniam call us "Mommy" and "Daddy", that God has decided to use us in their story.

If you get the chance, be sure to see the African Childrens Choir if it comes to your area. It is a great show, it's completely free, and if you have kids, they'll LOVE it! (I think Biniam is now planning on obtaining a job as an usher at the performing arts center. After the show was over, he was walking around the lobby, hands clasped behind his back, smiling and waving at people and apparently making sure everyone was having a good time. You'd think he owned the place!)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Catching up--our Christmas

Yes it's mid-January but I have yet to share about our Christmas and so I'm doing it now. I figure it's my blog so there doesn't have to be a statute of limitations on posting!

We had a wonderful holiday season this year although it came and went rather quickly. (In part I think this was due to November being a crazy month what with stomach flu, impetigo, Yos and Bin's birthday party, and being pregnant.) One really fun thing Kevin and I got to do this December was go to a grown-ups-only progressive dinner with friends. So fun! Here we are (weird camera angle) all ready to go.

Kevin and I are more about fun family traditions than gifts I've decided. This year we bought a gingerbread house making kit to do with the kids. All three boys in our house lost interest after awhile, but Anna and Mommy saw it through to the end. No, it's not anything Martha Stewart would have done, but I like my daughter more than I like Martha so it's all good.

This December marked the first time Anna got to "sing" up front in church for Christmas. My parents and Kevin and I got to watch and although Anna didn't sing a word of "Away in a Manger" or "Jesus Loves Me" up there (funny because she sings ALL the time at home), she looked cute and we were super proud. (Anna is pretty much front-and-center in this picture.)

Because we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my parents up at their house, and because we had so many gifts under our own tree for the kids to open from extended and out-of-town family, we decided that we'd do our own little mini-Christmas celebration the evening before we went to my mom and dad's. We had Chinese food delivered (which all of us, including our kids, love), and after dinner the kids got in their pj's and we congregated on the couch while Kevin read the Christmas story out of Luke 2. (The kids actually sat and listened!) Then we moved to the Christmas tree where we sat, listened to Bing Crosby, ate homemade fudge, and had the kids open gifts. They received books, pj's, games, clothes and toys. It was a fun and special night!

Christmas Eve we started a new tradition for the kids where they get to wear cozy new pj's that they receive for Christmas to bed. Christmas morning at my parents' house we enjoyed cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate and coffee, fresh fruit, and bagels. Yum! Then came the gift opening. Puzzles, toys, books, and a Little Mermaid beauty shop for Anna! It's this vanity with a mirror (where Ariel appears and talks to you if you push a button) and a stool, and lots of fun stuff like hair brushes, a blow-dryer, straightening iron, lipsticks, you name it. Anna has a blast with this thing!

So, a great Christmas. The kids were exhausted, we were exhausted, and I look forward to all of the special Christmases to come!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Only 5 1/2 weeks to go!

Well here is a lovely profile view of my growing self. I cannot believe that next month our baby girl will be born! We have her crib all set up in Anna's room with the new dresser that the girls will share (it is so crazy to think that Anna will be sharing her room before too long). The baby will be using Anna's crib bedding --I really like it and this way we don't have to buy new; I know, hand-me-downs already. We still need to set up the bassinet in our room and get Anna's old newborn clothes out of the attic, but things are definitely feeling more "real." Meanwhile the boys have been in twin beds for the past month or so and are doing great in them.

I have my twice-monthly doctor's appointment this Friday morning. For some reason the appointments get on my nerves this late in pregnancy, I guess because they're so often and routine and I feel the baby kicking constantly so I know she's okay. (Alright, a LOT of things get on my nerves this late in pregnancy!)

So that's the latest. I am getting pretty nervous about going into labor...my labor with Anna was only 6 hours start to finish. My friend, whose first labor was around 8 hours, gave birth to her second baby in only 2 hours. And the real kicker is that Kevin works over an hour away! I keep telling him this will be an impromptu home (or ambulance!) birth attended by the paramedics, Anna, Yosef and Biniam!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Almost-three going on fifteen

Sometimes I'll end up taking a shower when Anna is "loose" in the house. She doesn't tend to get into things and often will just play with a toy in my room (or talk to me the whole time I'm in the shower.)

Yesterday afternoon I turned the shower off and Anna came in the room. I asked "Anna, what have you been doing?" (expecting to hear something about playing with toys) to which she answered, "I'm eating an apple." Sure enough, as I opened the shower door she was standing there eating a whole apple. "Wow, you ARE eating an apple" I said, wondering how she got it off the counter (I'm not too into my kids eating food unsupervised!) Then very matter-of-factly she informed me, "AND I had a banana." WHAT?! And sure enough, there sitting on the kitchen counter was a banana peel. Anna then held out her hand with the little apple seeds in it and explained to me, "These are seeds. They're not for eating."

Who is this kid?! She is helping herself to our fruit (and eating all of it!), needs virtually no help going to the bathroom...I am going to be out a job here pretty soon!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Raising an HIV-positive child: HIV and adoption part V

So what's it like having a child with this illness? I guess that one thing both parents and pediatric infectious disease specialists agree on is that on a day to day basis, it doesn't look any different than having any other child! HIV-positive kids are normally more concerned about their soccer team, going to prom, their friends, and other "normal kid stuff" than the fact that they have a disease. They take their medicine twice a day and very seldom have complications from the HIV. This is a quote from Erin's blog--Erin is an adoptive mom who brought home her little girl in November (the girl happens to have HIV):

"Our Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist told us that most of the HIV kids he sees are NOT high needs...they take their meds twice a day and do great...St. Judes said the same thing, as did the parents of HIV kids that we spoke with."

Erin says that you don't have to do anything different in regards to bathing, feeding, dishes, laundry, hugs or kisses. The only special care should be taken when the child cuts him-/herself, when she says you should wear rubber gloves, use disposable items to clean it up, use bleach on hard surfaces, and wash any laundry with blood on it seperately. An HIV-positive child should also not share toothbrushes or razor blades with anyone else. (Erin said that the only instance of HIV being passed from one family member to another was when a razor was shared for shaving.)

Just with the medications available today, HIV-positive kids should live well into adulthood--and the medications are always getting better as further research is done. It would appear that the most important part of caring for an HIV-positive child is giving the meds consistently--at the same set times each day and definitely not missing any doses. (Becoming resistant to the drugs is the biggest threat to HIV-positive children.)

HIV-positive kids see their doctor either four times per year (quarterly) or just twice a year, (generally a specialist in infectious diseases) and take oral medication twice a day. Doctors say to expect your HIV-positive child to "thrive and be as healthy" as your other children. (Thank you Erin for all of your great info!!!)

Disclosure laws say that you are not required to report your child's HIV status. The health department will alert your child's school that there is an HIV-positive student, but will not reveal who it is. SO it's always up to the parent's discretion who to share this information with. I believe that dealing with blood issues at schools, daycares, dentist offices, etc. is pretty standardized now to protect both the care provider and the person being cared for, if either were to have HIV or any other disease spread through blood.

Other random information: I have read that a balanced, nutritious diet is important for children with immune system disorders. On an Ethiopian adoption message board, Emily posted about the adoption of HIV-positive children (she is a nurse for HIV-positive kids in Colorado) and said that HIV is considered easier to treat than type 1 diabetes. Insurance companies are also required to cover your HIV-positive child just like they'd cover any other child.

Personally I think the trickiest part of raising an HIV-positive child would be facing down the stigma and helping them navigate the emotional side of it (especially once they reached adolescence and it came to dating, for example.) Figuring out who to tell, finding out who your friends (and your child's friends) truly are, all those things coupled with the fear that something could happen to your child (which I suppose we have with any of our kids) seem pretty daunting. I will say that spending an entire afternoon with a bunch of HIV-positive children, I can easily see how easy it would be to "forget" that they had a very serious illness, being that they really are just like any other children. And as daunting or crazy as all of it may seem, God is ultimately in control and loves our kids more perfectly and fully than we even do.

Certainly all orphans need homes, not just children with special needs. BUT, the tragic thing is, without the readily available medications we have in the US, a child with HIV doesn't have much of a future. It's a sad reality. And an amazing miracle for each of these kids that joins a family here, because not only will they now have parents to love them and care for them, they'll have a future, more hope, they'll get to dream about what they want to be when they grow up.

No one should EVER enter into adoption lightly, or without first-hand researching the facts. I am all about that whole "knowledge is power" thing and as much as I'd love to see all the kids at AHOPE find homes ASAP I think it's just as important that adoptive parents know what to expect (our boys came to us from a disruption that did not seem particularly necessary.) If any of this has gotten anyone thinking more about the possibility of adopting one of these precious kids, definitely talk to a doctor who works with HIV-positive children, Adoption Advocates International, and parents of HIV-positive kids, to get the facts.

I'd also like to mention that if you adopt through Adoption Advocates, they have something called the Grace Fund available for the adoption of special needs children. Through the generous donations of others and fundraising they offer grants to families adopting kids that are more difficult to place. This includes HIV-positive children. I believe grants may be available through other organizations as well.

Here are some links to visit if you are interested in more information.

Erin's blog (adoptive mom with an HIV-positive daughter)
No More Counting the Cost blog (family in the process of adopting siblings, one is HIV-positive)
Chances By Choice (organization providing support for internationally born children with HIV/AIDS)
AHOPE (African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace)
WWO (Worldwide Orphans Foundation)
Adoption Advocates International (our adoption agency which also works to place HIV-positive children, as well as other special needs kids)

The value of a life: HIV and adoption part IV

We visited the AHOPE orphanage in Ethiopia; in fact we spent more time there than we did at Layla House (facility our boys came from.) AHOPE is an orphanage that cares solely for orphans with HIV/AIDS. AHOPE used to essentially be a hospice, because without the life-saving antiretroviral drugs, someone born with HIV does not usually live past the age of 12 or so. However, about a year and a half ago, some of these drugs became available to be imported into Ethiopia, and through the efforts of WWO and Dr. Jane Aronson, the kids at AHOPE are receiving treatment!

I've blogged about our visit to AHOPE before but I'll quickly share the two main things that struck me about being there; the first was that these kids were just that, kids! They were loud, FULL of energy, clamoring for our attention, they devoured their ice cream. The second thing that struck me was how some of them just seemed sad. Sidisse, the director there (a true hero), told me that the children do struggle with feelings of depression and worthlessness. She said they look in the mirror and see a disease and they don't have parents or family to love them (not to mention the fact that they lost their parents and are probably dealing with that.)

This was by far the most emotionally difficult day of our trip. On one hand I felt such a sense of hopelessness for these kids because not only do they have HIV in a country where medications are not readily available, they also have no parents to tuck them in at night, hold them when they don't feel well, assure them of their self-worth and of the fact that God loves them. Interestingly, on the other hand, spending time at that orphanage was one of the most "spiritual" moments of my life. It's hard to describe but being there I was very aware that God sees these children every day. I thought about all of the things He must see in our vast world, difficult things. This is also hard to put into words and probably sounds funny but it was possibly the most tangibly I'd ever "felt" Jesus. Again I can't really explain but I just looked around and felt so strongly His love and mercy for these "forgotten" children in this particular corner of the world.

The kids sang songs for us and I about lost it when they were singing "This is the Day That the Lord Has Made", when they got to the line about rejoicing and being glad in it. I seriously had a huge lump in my throat the whole time we were there. Kevin and I got back to the guesthouse that evening and both agreed there were just no words for that day. My heart ached for those kids. They were smart, beautiful, full of life and personality, but because of their HIV status, they would most likely not be adopted.

But they can be. Several children are now either home with their new families or in the process of being adopted from AHOPE. In the US HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it used to be, thanks to the ARV drugs we have here. I will do another post talking about what it looks like to parent a child with this disease but I will say briefly that children on the medications are expected to live full lives well into adulthood. (Though of course there are no guarantees with ANY child.)

A lot of people are frightened by the thought of adopting a child with HIV. The stigma remains that it could easily be spread through casual contact, or that HIV-positive people are sick all of the time, or that they will die very young or live a hard life. I've done a lot of thinking about all of this and in my own heart I personally struggle with not valuing life the way that God values life. Yeah the Bible talks a lot about caring for orphans but SURELY it couldn't mean this particular type of child (or even adoption at all.) Why DOES it seem so "unusual" for someone to adopt a child with a particular medical condition (especially one as treatable as HIV is)? Is the child somehow less "deserving" of love, of a future, of life-saving medicine? Or is the child made in God's image, loved unconditionally by God, and whose value is not determined by whether they have to take medicine twice a day?

These are the questions I have asked myself. I don't personally currently have a child with HIV; our sons were considered healthy by third-world standards (aside from Biniam's developmental delays). We do plan to adopt more children from Ethiopia in the future and have discussed the possibility of being open to the adoption of siblings where one is from AHOPE, so they can stay together. To be honest that prospect IS really scary to us for all the same reasons that it's scary to the general public. But if I'm being honest, I also feel like I've seen too much to just automatically look the other way and pray that God calls someone ELSE to give that child a hope for a future. I don't know what the future holds for us but I do know that God has a very different idea than I do in terms of what makes a life valuable (this would certainly extend to any type of special needs adoption.) In the meantime I pray that He will open opportunities for me to advocate for these kids.

Next time I'll write about what it looks like raising a child with HIV (based on the reading I have done; again I am no expert!) and some links to blogs by adoptive parents of HIV-positive children.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


(My sister-in-law had this on her blog and I thought it would be fun.)

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?

Went to Ethiopa in February. AND saw the inside of Kevin's work in October!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I never make new year's resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, I've had some friends give birth.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What places did you visit?

Ethiopia (and Kevin's desk at work. Can you tell this was exciting for me?)

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?

A clearer direction in terms of how God wants to use me. A more content spirit. (And maybe, just maybe a car that did not originate in the 1980's!)

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

February 20th, when we brought our boys home from Ethiopia.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Not really an "achievement" but adopting our sons. And potty training Anna.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hmmm. Probably the times I'm more impatient with my kids than I should be. I'm also always wishing I were a better friend.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Well, February of 2006 marked the first time I got lice or a parasite. I also got the stomach flu in November.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets to Ethiopia!

12. Where did most of your money go?

To pay for the adoption.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The adoption of our sons, our trip to Africa, the news that we are expecting a baby, and seeing Anna grow up right before my eyes.

14. What song will always remind you of 2006?

That song "Waiting for the World to Change" (being that they play it every five minutes) and the songs on our Bob Marley CD.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? This is hard to answer. To be honest I remain bothered by much of what I saw in Africa...so I guess I'm more aware of the sadness in our world. Yet at the same time these experiences make me so much more aware of God's mercies and love for us and the hope that is Christ. b) thinner or fatter? Ugh, fatter. (Pregnancy reminds me of how vain I am. Why do I care so much???)

16. What do you wish you'd done more of?

More time with friends, more time with just Kev, DEFINITELY wishing I'd seen more sights in Ethiopia (especially our sons' hometown.)

17. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Eating sweets. Wasting time on the computer. Worrying about things I don't have control over.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With Kev and the kids at my parents' house.

19. Did you fall in love in 2006?

Absolutely. With Yosef and Biniam.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

We don't really watch current TV, but "The Office" is funny.

21. What was the best book you read?

"There is No Me Without You" by Melissa Fay Greene.

22. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Anna's precious little singing voice. (And of course Bob Marley.)

23. What did you want and get?

Our two amazing sons and now this little baby girl on the way.

24. What did you want and not get?

I REALLY wanted to meet Yos and Bin's birth family and sadly we did not. I also wanted to get this adoption finalized but alas, that hasn't happened yet either. (AND, I wanted to make it through this pregnancy without binging consistenly on junk food...I should have known that was an unrealistic goal!)

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

Not sure if these were 2006 but I liked "Emmanuel's Gift", "The Constant Gardiner" and "Crash."

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 25 and Kevin took me to dinner without the kids. I believe I was pretty naseaus most of the day.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?

Well the latter part of 2006 I'd say I just wear what fits, which sadly means I don't have much of a selection. Otherwise, I dunno.

28. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Not too into celebrities in general but I think Bono is awesome, I admire Oprah for her humanitarian work and Angelina Jolie for her work in Ethiopia.

29. Whom did you miss?

I missed Darin and Lara when they moved away.

30. Who was the best new person you met?

Well Yosef and Biniam of course!!!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Yes I'm still alive

So I haven't blogged in, um, a really long time. (AND I gave Jeannett grief on her blog for not blogging--I am truly a blog hypocrite.) If this was a job I'd be fired!

We had a nice Christmas and Kevin's still off of work. We've just been hanging out and getting our house in order before the baby comes (both cleaning and organizing), having fun, and eating way too much chocolate (okay that's mostly just been me. I have no business having sweets in the house when I'm pregnant.) He goes back to work Monday and I don't know how the kids will survive (and not just because they'll be stuck alone with me.) They LOVE having Daddy home and the first thing Anna wants to do when she gets up in the morning is "cuddle with Daddy."

One of the highlights of our break was seeing our friends Darin and Lara and little Caedra who were visiting from Mississippi. We have missed them a lot! Maybe Caedra misses me too because she has called my cell phone twice now in the last few days (keep in mind she is one year old!)

Okay nothing really to blog about. Monday I will continue my little blog series and post about adopting HIV-positive children.

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