Friday, August 31, 2007

A man and his car...a sad goodbye

Today was a big day for the Heldts: we bid farewell to the Lincoln Town Car. It will be crushed tomorrow.

Now this was Kevin's very first car, the car we rode in on our very first date (to Kona's in downtown SLO--I remember wondering where on earth we were going to find room enough to park it!), and also the car that we brought Anna home from the hospital in. Those were the happy memories...(Kevin driving the Lincoln one last time.)

It is ALSO the car that left me stranded, 5 months pregnant, with a cartful of perishable groceries outside the store nearly four years ago, when I had to push the cart along the busiest street in Santa Maria all the way home--heck if my milk and lunchmeat were going to go bad! It's the car that I accidentally sideswiped another car in Pismo Beach with, because the thing is so dang wide it's like driving a small yacht. (See, that's me shaking my fist at the car.)

Over the years it's been referred to by some as Edma, Stinkin' Lincoln, the Pimpmobile, a Cadillac, the boat, the beast, and "Kevin's car." As of tomorrow, it will be no more. (There it sits at its temporary home, awaiting being crushed, Black Road Auto.)

Goodbye, 1988 Lincoln Town Car, and thanks for the memories. 'Tis a little sad to see you go...but the several hundred dollars we received for turning you in is helping.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stuff we can do to help the environment

I came across this booklet on practical ways we can positively change what we're doing. I guess Al Gore is training 1000 people on global warming in hopes of them taking it out to share with others, and one of those women wrote this. Honestly, I don't know much about global warming, I realize it's politically charged, and that there are some good critiques of Gore's movie, but this info seemed pretty good and helpful overall, regardless what you believe about the global warming debate.

"The Little Book of 'Convenient' Things You Can Do to Stop Global Warming"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I think about this a lot

Ever since the Lord opened my eyes and heart to the condition that much of our world is in today (eventually leading us to adopt), and especially ever since going to Ethiopia, I think TONS about, how much more can/should we be doing to help others? I struggle with finding a balanced perspective, but then wonder if seeking balance is just a cop-out? Anyway, I happened upon this blogpost that was really thought-provoking for me. I loved the post, and loved some of the comments challenging it. Anyway, if anyone's interested, here's the link:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Brothers and sisters

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brianna's Sunday thoughts

--I was so sleepy this afternoon that I had to take a nap. But why is it I always wake up feeling groggy and grumpy after a nap????

--Currently reading "The Kite Runner". Pretty depressing, but I'm loving how the story is set against the historical backdrop of Afghanistan. Middle Eastern culture fascinates me.

--The football game's on (not my choice of course) and if only I had a dime for all the Viagra/Cialis commercials!!! They're really pushing these newfangled "E.D." drugs!

--We're out of ice cream. :(

--Just bought Anna some new shoes at Target, which she wore for the first time today and they gave her blisters! Grrrr! So I'm going to try to return them--I hope they take them back. (Where does everyone buy shoes for their kids?)

--I love the Carter's outlet. They have the sweetest clothes for little girls!

--I've been reading through the Psalms lately and I love how real and honest they are.

--Talked today in Sunday School about the discipline of scripture memorization. I have John 3:16 memorized, and that's about it. There are a few other verses I would like to commit to memory at some point as well. Had discussion about our time with God, growing spiritually, is it the amount of time spent, quality of time spent, etc.? Is it possible to hide God's word in your heart in more ways besides "quiet times"? How to guard against a purely academic pursuit of God. These are, I think, good questions and I was interested in the perspectives at our table. I think I was hungriest for God's Word specifically in college for whatever reason, and now I find I'm more just simply hungry for God Himself. I also find myself wanting to learn more and more who Jesus was, who God is, what He has for me to do, what my life should look like. One small example, James says pure and faultless religion is caring for orphans and widows in their how should that verse be impacting my life, what should it look like, what more can I do.

--Yosef has been difficult lately--testing, talking back, throwing tantrums here and there (basically acting his age I guess). Tough because he's generally our happy-go-lucky, "easy" kid. But I love his sweet smile, delirious laughter, and how I'm his mommy even on bad days. I pray God will help me keep this perspective, because all too often I forget that one of the greatest joys and responsibilities of being a mother is loving my children for who they are, regardless of the kind of day they're having. I took the above picture of Yosef on Friday and I think it captures his personality pretty well. He is such a beautiful boy, both inside and out!

Friday, August 24, 2007

too much jungle boogie

Three kids jumping and dancing, the song "Jungle Boogie", and the curtain rod...well let's just say they don't mix! Wild times here at the Heldt homestead...

In other news, Kaitlyn got TWO TEETH on August 4th! They're her middle bottom ones, and the crazy thing is that Anna got the exact same teeth at the exact same age! Kaitlyn can roll onto her stomach and onto her back, and does that pretty much all day long. She just rolls around the floor and explores anything in her path. Her hair is coming in dark, which I am SO excited about for some reason! I think it'll be fun to have a dark-haired daughter, maybe one of my children will resemble me! Her bacterial infection seems to have gone away, so we're hoping and praying it doesn't come back. She's finally sleeping all the way through the night now. At her last appointment she weighed 15 pounds and she's about to graduate to size 4 diapers--the same size Yosef and Biniam wear! I am amazed that she is coming up on 6 months old...WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CO trip--Highlands Ranch and random musings

Monday morning (August 6th) we headed up to Kevin's cousin's home in Highlands Ranch. We had such a wonderful time with Tanya, Woody, and their girls Megan and Zoe--who were so sweet with Kaitlyn! (I even overheard Megan telling Kaitlyn that she had "pretty hair" at one point...I think that's the only time Kaitlyn's EVER heard that! Thanks Megan!)

I had never really gotten the chance to know the Anderson family very well, and it was really awesome to get to spend some time with them. (I think Megan will be a photographer when she grows up--she kept setting up these shots she wanted me to take of Kaitlyn--with her, assorted stuffed animals, etc. SO ADORABLE!)

As many of you know, part of the impetus for our trip to Colorado was to see if it's somewhere we'd like to live someday. Santa Maria has always been a temporary home for us--we lived in Santa Barbara for a year when we first got married (where Kevin works), but moved up here so we could buy a decent-sized home while I finished up school in SLO. God had other plans for me on the school front, and we've always been wondering where we'd go from here, knowing that we wanted to leave before Anna would start kindergarten.

So just to educate ourselves, we spent some time with a realtor checking out Denver-area neighborhoods, towns, and homes. We saw houses in Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Parker, Lakewood, and Denver. (Ever since our trip I've been whining about how I didn't get to visit Boulder, but we ran out of time.)

We were really impressed with Colorado--it was so beautiful! Overall Highlands Ranch was our favorite suburb that we saw by far--great homes, lots of trails, awesome rec centers, and Cold Stone Ice Cream. :) Parker was pretty, and more affordable, but farther from the city than we'd like. (The Ken Caryl area was gorgeous too, but again, a little remote for us.) We passed through Colorado Springs at one point, and it was so pretty, but we're really interested in the Denver area.

We've been tossing around ideas of places to move for years. (Ruled out California relatively early on.) We considered Portland, Seattle, Denver, and the East Coast. Sadly we ruled out the entire Pacific Northwest because the thought of nine straight months of clouds and rain did not appeal to us Californians. (Bummer, because the Seattle area would be ideal for several reasons, but I'm afraid the weather is a deal killer for us.) I've always dreamed of living on the East Coast, but we're not too familiar with it and it's really far away, so hard to really look into it, plus with traffic there's the potential for a long commute, and it's less affordable. That leaves Denver, which has some major advantages for us. I guess our list of things we'd love to find in a place, for anyone who's curious enough to still be reading, is (not really in order):

  • no commute for kevin
  • proximity to good schools
  • big city/close to a big city
  • racially diverse
  • large Ethiopian population (restaurants, churches, cultural opportunities)
  • tolerant/relatively liberal (basically just not ultra-conservative)
  • lots of stuff for us to do
  • somewhere we can use our gifts/passions to serve the Lord
  • seasons (no, we're not scared off by the snow)

It's really crazy how our values/priorities have evolved and changed over the past four years or so (that's a blog in and of itself I guess). We can't know what God has for our future but it was nice to visit a place and see that it could probably work for us. We also felt really excited about the prospect of living near family and having our kids near two sets of cousins!

Anyhow, we're remaining open to what God has for us. All of that to say our exploratory trip was successful, Colorado was beautiful, we had a blast with Woody, Tanya and family, and Mike, Rachel and family, and at some point in the next few years we'll probably move somewhere. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

All in a day's work...

--Just sold my first book on! Took it to the post office to mail today, and opted to use the postage machine instead of waiting in line, because I got a good parking spot and could see the van from the machine, so I could leave the kids in the van (did you follow all that?!). Turns out I should've sent it "media mail", not "priority", but the machine didn't offer media mail. Bottom line, I was totally confused and spent $7.50 in postage on a stupid book that I only sold for $3!!!! ( reimburses sellers for shipping costs, but only up to a certain amount--and I can guarantee you not for $7.50.) SO yeah, I fully PAID someone to take Milton's Paradise Lost off my hands!

--At Target I suddenly looked down to find Anna putting on a bra.

--I successfully organized/cleaned out our hall closet!!! VERY exciting for me.

--I was at Ross once and saw a woman with a shirt on that read "I ain't afraid of no po-po." I wasn't sure what po-po meant (guess I'm not the most street-wise), and Kevin informed me it was referring to the police. WELL, somehow over dinner tonight, that story came up, and we've always thought it was so funny, so I told Anna to say it (I know, I know, we should be instilling respect for authority in our children, and I assure you that we do!). WELL, refusing to use poor grammar, she said very prim and properly, "I am not afraid of the po-po." HA! Fortunately they don't know what it refers to, so if I get pulled over, there shouldn't be any problems...

And who says being an at-home mom isn't exciting?! :)

(Baths are done, Kevin's got the boys in bed, now I've just gotta get Anna's pj's on and get her tucked in, clean up dinner, and then I can relax with the husband and have a bowl of cookies-and-cream ice cream...)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

7 things that make me laugh

Katy tagged me for a meme awhile back, and I totally forgot! I'd done the "7 things about me" not too long ago, so this time I thought I'd do 7 things that make me laugh.

1.) Kevin. One of my favorite things about him when I first met him was his sarcasm and sense of humor. I love a guy who can make me laugh!

2.) About 99.99% of the things that come out of Anna's mouth.

3.) Seeing people drop fruit in the grocery store. This has ALWAYS cracked me up, ever since I was little. For some reason seeing an avalanche of plums falling to the ground is really amusing to me.

4.) This scene from "The Producers". So funny in fact that I blogged about it once! (Clip entitled "The Gown.")

5.) Our growth group (aka the Hawkins' and Gibsons.) They crack me up--the Andy torso and the scandalous picture from the church bulletin come to mind. We do a lot of laughing at our growth group...a holistic approach to spirituality...

6.) When people trip or fall down--including myself. Sorry if I'm ever around you and you fall, I will probably not be able to contain myself.

7.) Remembering funny times/people from the past, especially high school, and the silly things we used to do. Looking back, I guess some of it was mean...but it still makes me laugh!

(Feel free to do your own "7 things that make me laugh"!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Adoptees and international adoption

Adoptees and adoptive parents all have their own views and biases regarding international adoption--some people think it's an all-around great thing, some liken it to abduction and are against it completely, many are somewhere in the middle.

We went into this adoption compelled by the African orphan crisis and saddened by the tragic circumstances that so many children face every day. We've always felt that international adoption is a two-sided coin--on the one hand it is a beautiful and wonderful thing for God to knit families together in this way. On the other hand I am saddened beyond measure by the fact that these kids have lost their families and now must leave their countries.

I've found that some people only want to sing the praises of adoption. I think adoptive parents are sometimes afraid to admit that their child has lost something, or that they can't be everything to their child, that their child might come to have a void that they can't fill. People not involved in adoption oftentimes, in promoting adoption, only talk about how great it is (Christians especially), and while that is true in a sense, I know that my own kids' story also includes a lot of sadness. Seems like the difference between coming at it from a child's point of view vs. our adult point of view.

Kevin and I like to say that international adoption is part of the solution to the African orphan crisis for right now--it is not THE solution, and hopefully will eventually not even be necessary. I would love for Ethiopia to one day have a government that promotes the welfare of its people, where ARV's are readily available and birth mothers who love their children and desire to raise them can do so, and where orphaned children can find homes once again with extended family and with Ethiopian adoptive families. We strongly believe in giving financially to Ethiopia, to work towards this end.

One of the best ways to gain perspective is to listen to what adult adoptees have to say. Occasionally it can be hard to hear (especially the real negative stuff), but it's priceless. In addition to reading articles here and there by adult adoptees, I've had the opportunity to have a couple of conversations with a woman at church adopted from Guatemala, and most recently with my sweet friend Joy (from Korea), who has posted about this on her blog.

I can't know or predict what my own kids will come to think or feel about their adoption. My prayer is that God will fill their voids, and that He will show us how to love them in ways that make them feel secure. Here are some excellent writings by adoptees:

My Sister's Adoption Essay
Late Night Thoughts (Joy's blog, part 1)
Identity Crisis and Other Stuff (Joy's blog, part 2)

Weekend in Colorado with the CO Heldts

So we got to Mike and Rachel's house (in Castle Rock) around 1:30 am, ouch. They actually greeted us cheerfully and acted happy to see us, a seemingly great accomplishment for that hour! So fun to see their new (well to us anyway) home and surroundings. They moved to Colorado from Orange County almost two years ago now I think, and it's been a whole year since we've seen them!

The next morning we got to meet our new neice Ainsley Grace! She was born in April, so about six weeks after Kaitlyn. She is so cute and I got such a kick out of the two of them together, for some reason seeing little babies next to each other is adorable! And super neat to get to know Aubrey better. Aubrey just turned two in June. Thanks to blogging we get to see pictures of the girls, but it is so much better to see them in person!

Saturday August 4th was Kevin's 27th birthday. We spent the day catching up, then that evening Mike and Rachel treated us to Chili's for dinner.

Sunday morning Kevin, Kaitlyn and I ventured into downtown Denver to try out this church we came across online, City Presbyterian. As always happens anytime we have ever tried a church for the first time, the main pastor was out of town, but the guy speaking was good, and the people were friendly, but not in a creepy way. :) It was a lot smaller than our current church and right across from Invesco Field.

After church we went out for Ethiopian food at Abyssinia, YUM! Kevin got his usual tibbs wat, and I tried out the shiro wat. Soooooooo good. We also ordered tej, or honey wine, which was different but good. We made friends with the owner, Chuchu, who held Kaitlyn a bunch, and by the end of the meal we were showing her pictures of Yosef, Biniam and Anna, and she was showing us pictures of her two children.

Late afternoon Mike and Rachel took us down to Colorado Springs (shoutout to Brenda) to Garden of the Gods, this area with these incredible rock formations (sorry, I realize these are not technical terms!) Rachel had packed a delicious picnic, but alas, it was stormy and rainy outside with lots of lightning and thunder (I couldn't get over how crazy these summer storms were!) So we ate our picnic inside the van, and watched a bunch of tourists racing to their cars to get out of the rain. The trip back up to their house involved some sort of crying contest between Kaitlyn and Ainsley. :)

And Monday morning we left for Highlands Ranch to go to Woody and Tanya's home for a few days (Tanya is Kevin's cousin.) We had such a great time catching up with Mike, Rachel and the girls--hopefully it won't be another whole year before we see them again!
Kevin and I with our neice Ainsley.
Sweet little Aubrey--isn't she cute??
Cousins Ainsley and Kaitlyn.
Mike and Kevin with their littlest girls.

Dueling carseats: Ainsley and Kaitlyn

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The "park kids"

I'll preface my little post here by saying that I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom, so that's obviously where my bias is. I'm well-aware not everyone wants to do this, some people can't, that's fine,we all love our kids. (I saw an "expert" on The Today Show recently proclaim that there is virtually no benefit to being home with your children anyhow. :) ) The point of this post isn't about stay-at-home vs. working moms by any means.

WELL today I took the kids down to our small neighborhood park (the boys in the double stroller, Anna walked, Kaitlyn in the Ergo carrier for everyone wanting to picture the funny site that we must have been.) Just about every time we go, there is at least one Mexican woman there with at least five small children she's babysitting--this must be really common in Santa Maria, running a daycare out of your home, in fact there's a woman two doors down from us who does this.

Today was no exception. Five kids, one surly woman and her 12-ish daughter that were (sort-of) watching the children, all of whom had nametags on. Most of these kids, like the kids I've seen there before, appeared to be either attention-starved or just plain mean. One little girl seemed to want me to constantly praise her and watch her go down the slide--I wondered if her mommy had ever brought her to the park and just sat and watched and clapped and encouraged. Obviously her babysitter wasn't doing that. One little boy I helped up the rock wall proceeded to call Anna a baby and tell her really rudely that she couldn't make it up the wall (which wasn't true.) I'm at the point now that when I'm at this park, I just parent other peoples' kids, because no one else does. I told him it is not nice to call people babies, that when we're at the park we need to be encouragers and be kind, etc. I don't think the babysitters ever knew about our little "chat". (They also assumed I was babysitting too, as I overheard the daughter saying, "Lots of people are babysitting." Kind of a sad assumption in this context, although of course it makes sense why someone would assume not all of my children are mine.)

Later some more women showed up with some more kids, not sure if they were theirs or not, but again as usual they just sat back and allowed their one little girl to chuck a ton of bark and dirt into Anna's face and mouth. No apology or showing of concern, the women just kept sitting there. Anna was crying and I cleaned her up and just told her that some kids don't know how to act at the park, and maybe it was an accident.

All of this to say, it really makes me sad to see children semi-neglected and uncared for! Why don't these parents or day-care providers ever clap and cheer for the children or at least PRETEND to take an interest in what they're doing? Doesn't anyone realize it's frustrating for other children (and their moms) when huge groups of kids show up with minimal adult supervision? One day we were there I was so frustrated, this poor little girl kept vying for my attention while her babysitter read a book on a distant bench and never looked up, and meanwhile I'm wanting to enjoy my own children's achievements?

So often I fall into wondering what good I'm doing my kids, if our days spent together are too boring, how much it really matters. While I can't know for sure, and there's no way to quantify it, I DO know that Anna gets to see her mom jumping up and down for her when she makes it to the top of the rock wall, that Yosef gets to know that his mom thinks it's really important when he sees a big truck, that Biniam knows somebody cares when he starts wandering towards the street.

Today as we were leaving the park, Yosef and Biniam were happily shouting at the tops of their lungs, "Bye kids! Bye everybody!", waving and smiling without a care in the world, excited about going home for the McDonald's leftovers and milk that awaited them for lunch. I wonder what kind of homes the kids at the park return to at night, are they so carefree, do they get a warm meal and a bath and a big hug from Daddy? Does Mommy care about the big slides they went down, the games that they played?

I am so grateful for the children I have, and for the grace God shows me by allowing me to nurture and love them, and watch them grow into the people He wants them to be. Whether we're with them for 24 hours a day or 12, we can show them they're special and that they're loved, first by God and then by us. Doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas (and driving through the rest of Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado)

So after our crazy night of one slot machine and one drink between the two of us :), we slept in the next morning and got a late start. I couldn't believe these signs they had posted everywhere! I told you it was hot!

We brought our laptop along and a bunch of TV shows on DVD for the passenger to watch and the driver to listen to. :) This REALLY helped pass the time.

The rest of Nevada was, well, the desert. As we were plugging along and approaching a town called Mesquite, Kevin spotted a sign for JAMBA JUICE! Hooray! Something healthy to eat on the road! So we stopped for gas and Jamba. Next door was a surf shop, and there's this pair of Reefs I've been wanting to get, so I headed inside. I've never been to a surf store manned by a redneck biker guy! It was hilarious! Over 100 degrees outside and he was wearing some sort of motorcycle outfit.

We were only driving in Arizona for about a half hour, nothing too interesting there. We knew we were in Utah when we hit signs saying "Brigham Road" and a billboard for a website selling "modest, knee-length shorts." Heehee! Some of Utah was pretty, some of it not so pretty, some of it just plain crazy what with the rock formations, etc. (I'd wanted to see the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that I'd read about in a book I'd borrowed from Kristen awhile back, and we drove right through the town, but I think the place itself was off the beaten path. I'd also be interested in seeing some of the other Mormon historical sites sometime. Gotta love being a dorky tourist...)

At one point Kevin was napping in the backseat and I was driving. All of a sudden I hit this nasty rain storm, HUGE raindrops and rain all over the road, terrible visibility and I was seriously wondering if we were going to make it out of Utah alive. Fortunately the rain finally stopped, and I got to see the most beautiful rainbow.

What a relief when we finally hit Colorado. It was after dark so we got to cross the Rockies in the dark AND the rain, interesting. And FINALLY, we got to Mike and Rachel's house in Castle Rock, hooray! They have such a pretty home, I'm so glad we finally got to see it! It was my first time in a basement, ever.

So this wasn't the most exciting post, but it wasn't the most exciting drive. :) Lots of stops to feed Kaitlyn, change her diapers, and give her medicine. It was nice to get so much one-on-one (or two-on-one I guess) time with her! I love that little kid!

More on our trip to come. And remember...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

Last Thursday (Aug. 2nd) Kevin, Kaitlyn and I set out for Las Vegas, on our way to Colorado. We'd never done the Vegas thing before. Our oldest three kids stayed with my parents. It was a hard decision to leave them behind, but I knew they'd have more fun with Grandma and Grandpa than with us.

The 6.5 hour drive was pretty uneventful. (The desert is pretty gross--super hot, barren, and as you get into Vegas, lots of trash on the sides of the road.) We got a horribly late start that day so we didn't even arrive in Vegas until 9:30 pm! Good thing that place never shuts down or sleeps!

We stayed at Circus Circus, as we'd found a good deal online. Pretty old, and smelled like cigarrette smoke. But we really only were in our room to sleep, so it worked just fine. (Thankfully there was a fridge in our room for Kaitlyn's medicine, which we'd had on ice the whole drive.)

We missed out on the buffet b/c we got in so late, so we ate at a restaurant in the hotel instead. I got my usual midori sour which ended up being free because they forgot to charge us, and when we told them they said not to worry about it.

After dinner I played a slot machine (I love pulling the lever and can't help hoping that I win a thousand dollars or something!), but didn't win. :) Then we drove around the strip for awhile.

Kaitlyn LOVED the whole experience! She was happy as a clam and just couldn't get enough of the excitement. (Maybe I should be concerned that my 5-month-old loved Las Vegas so much...)

Because we got in so late, we didn't get to bed until about 2 am. We made the decision to sleep in, and arrive in Colorado a bit later than we'd hoped.

So my impressions of Las Vegas were as follows:

--WAY too hot--it was 102 degrees at 8 at night and didn't dip below 90 the entire evening.
--Pretty nasty. Lots of "adult entertainment" and icky billboards, etc. (no surprise obviously).
--I thought I'd see at least one "lady of the night" but never did. Where are they I wonder?
--Some of the other hotels were awesome--neat architecture, lots of lights, fountains, etc.
--Total time warp--at 1 am there are tons of people--even families with kids--wandering the strip. You'd never know it was the middle of the night.

Viva Las Vegas I guess!


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