Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why is it that... sons have been so difficult this past week?
...I miss Kevin when he's at work (or anytime he's not here?)
...I miss Anna so much when she leaves for a special sleepover at Grandma's house?
...I always seem to have mountains of laundry to fold and put away at any given time?
...I have such a sweet-tooth lately?
...the writers' strike is still going on, therefore STILL no new "Office"?
...high-chairs are not self-cleaning?
...even though I just ordered several books off, I can think of about a dozen more I'd love to have?
...I'm so horrible at keeping in touch with people?
...God is so good to me?

Just some of life's little questions. (And of course a picture of some kids, because posts without pictures are no fun). Hope you had a Happy Thursday--I'm off to make soft tacos for dinner and entice two little boys to clean their room!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts, plans, and what I'm making for dinner

--Kaitlyn is self-feeding like crazy (but thankfully also still nursing a bunch), my sons refuse to nap, I am now pureeing my own baby food (and wishing I'd attempted this sooner, as it's so easy and I feel so good feeding my baby girl something that I made!), and attempting to get into a better housekeeping routine. (Probably a life-long endeavor for me.)

--I've been reflecting lately on being a mom, and praying that I'd find more joy in my daily tasks--as one can imagine, caring for four kids under four years old involves a few tasks. :) God has been faithful to answer and I really HAVE been taking more delight in what I do, and my role as wife and mom in general. Lately I also strangely miss being pregnant AND I miss being in-process for Ethiopian adoption--have I lost my mind? Possibly! I've come to decide though that on some level I ENJOY the challenge of having several kids, and we are so blessed by each one of them. (No we're not adopting again anytime soon, and no I'm not really wanting to have another baby right now, because life feels so crazy, I just look forward to those things in the future.)

--As you can see I'm in the midst of giving my blog a makeover, so bear with me. Tonight I'm making Siga Wat for dinner, which I'm excited about (although we're having it with brown rice instead of injera), tomorrow night is growth group and some missionaries are coming to share with us, and I'm looking forward to the Gibsons' superbowl party on Sunday. Oh and last night I got to hear/see an amazing presentation by missionary women working in the Middle East, which was so inspiring to me--maybe I'll blog more about that another time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Finding My Daughter's Roots"

Sometimes I wonder what Yosef and Biniam will think when they someday return to Ethiopia for a visit. This is a great recent article about one adoptive mom's experience taking her daughter back. (Melissa has written so many amazing articles and books, and is super nice too!)

Finding My Daughter's Roots
By Melissa Fay Greene
Published: January 13, 2008

With thousands of foreign adoptions taking place in the U.S. each year, many parents want to give their children a connection to their pasts. Writer Melissa Fay Greene recently took her daughter Helen, 10, to visit her native Ethiopia.

It's been five years since my daughter left an orphanage in Addis Ababa and joined our family in Atlanta. Today Helen is a top soccer player, a flutist and the student president of her school. She has gained much, but much is in danger of being lost: her fluency in Amharic, her Ethiopian manners, her sense of her own history and culture.

As we pack for our 10-day trip to Ethiopia, I realize that I have no idea what my daughter is expecting to find there.

“I want to do lots of shopping!” Helen says.

“Addis Ababa is not exactly a shopping mecca,” I warn. “There’s no Target.” I want to ask if she remembers the orphanage or the beggars who line the streets. “I’m packing my iPod!” Helen calls.

Arriving at the airport in Ethiopia’s capital a few days later, we descend by creaky rental van into the city, where cars compete for right-of-way with herds of livestock. Unemployed, sick and handicapped people limp or lie on the sidewalks and median strips. Homeless children dash alongside the heavy traffic.

“This scares me,” Helen murmurs. “I don’t feel like I came from here.”

Suddenly, a tall boy leans close to the window and moans in English, “Stomach zero.”

“Give! Mommy, give!” Helen cries.

She ransacks her backpack and finds a bag of bite-size Milky Ways. At the next stoplight, she serves a gold-wrapped candy to another barefoot boy who approaches. He examines it, smiles and requests another “for brother.” The van begins to accelerate. “He needs a candy for his brother!” Helen yells. “Please stop! Let me out!” But there is no stopping. My daughter falls against me, weeping.

UNICEF estimates that 4.6 million Ethiopian children have lost one or both parents, many to HIV/AIDS. Tens of thousands of street children forage in the capital; hundreds more live underground in sewers and tunnels. Some find shelter at orphanages like the one we visit on Helen’s first day back in Ethiopia.

When we arrive, the orphan girls surround Helen. They want to examine her watch and purse, peer through her camera and try her headphones. Then they all sit down for a chat despite Helen’s protests that she can’t really understand what the girls are saying. She does discern that they all need shoes: pink Crocs just like hers. With my permission, she leads an expedition beyond the orphanage gates to a kiosk, where she purchases 30 pairs of fake Crocs for 11 birr (about $1.50) each.

Over the course of our visit, Helen falls in love. Each morning, 3-year-old Binyam runs to her, squats and makes a fierce smile. She lifts and carries him for hours.

“We have to adopt him,” Helen whispers one day as he naps. “He needs me.”

“I know, sweetheart,” I say, “but we can’t. Maybe when you’re a grown-up, you’ll come back to Ethiopia to adopt.”

She shakes her head. Tears start to roll. “Binyam will be too old then.” In happier moments, Helen soaks up Ethiopia. She understands more Amharic every day. She claps at dance performances and races up the field in soccer games at the orphanage. She sits at attention beside the van window, holding birr in one hand, candy in the other. If beggars don’t approach the car when we stop, Helen taps on the glass to catch their attention.

Before our trip, Helen’s dreams of adult life included Olympic competition, a modeling career and the practice of medicine. Now she says, “I’m coming back when I’m older to build a beautiful shelter for the beggars, with teachers and doctors and pretty bedrooms.”

Helen did enjoy shopping in Addis Ababa, but not for herself. When she looks to the future, it’s with thoughts of how she will make life better for others. And when she sobs inconsolably on our last day, it is for the orphanage girls and for Binyam—sweet children with histories like her own, but with futures that look far less promising.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fun Friday

Friday we were treated to a fun day in Santa Barbara with (Kevin's) Aunt Sharon and Tom! So fun! They took us to the zoo, we had yummy hamburgers for lunch, and then afterwards Aunt Sharon took the kids to the toy store where they each got to choose a toy. (Sharon bought Anna her very first "princess dress" which she has either been wearing or talking about nonstop ever since!)

We also got to visit Kevin's grandma and his uncle Galen, who both live in assisted living facilities in Santa Barbara. The kids really enjoyed getting to see their great-grandma and their great-uncle. Great-grandma Heldt was totally hilarious and singing a song and making us laugh. Then at Uncle Galen's, there was this fake deerhead on the wall that sings, and has a microphone connected to it where when you talk into it, it makes the deer move its' mouth so it looks like it's talking...Anna really took to this thing and was singing songs into it and regaling the residents. She's really coming out of her shell lately and even had a conversation with an elderly man who lived there.

It was a great day with family that we don't get to see nearly enough, and it was so cool to see how much our kids loved spending time with Sharon and Tom! Anna wanted to hold Sharon's hand the whole time, and on our way home Kevin and I dubbed Tom the Pied Piper because when we looked out into the backyard at one point, he was walking by and single file the kids were trailing after him...heehee!

Thanks Sharon and Tom for a great day!!! (As you can see, the minute we hit the door that evening Anna modeled her new dress and all her new accessories.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sweet times with old friends

I first got to know Lindsey in the dorm freshman year of college (go Fremont), in a Campus Crusade biblestudy (that we both later dropped out of, oh well). We lived together the following year, fell out of touch for awhile, and have kept in contact off and on for the last few years. I'm so excited because she and her husband Eric, along with their baby girl Anna (they have great taste in baby names), are leaving for Panama to be missionaries! They blessed us by coming over last Tuesday night, to spend some time with us before they leave.

It was great to get to know Eric better, meet their precious baby, and laugh a bunch--Lindsey has always been so funny, and tons of fun! I'm really excited about what the Lord is doing in their lives and I know He will use them greatly in the days, weeks, months, and years to come!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heavy hearted

Do you ever have those times where your heart just aches? A dear friend in the process of adopting from Guatemala just found out that the precious baby girl they were adopting passed away. In addition to feeling so sad for my friends, I feel grieved for the millions of orphans around the world without homes, and who are sick, and have little access to medical care. It's so horrible when a child dies, and the worst part is it's not uncommon in developing countries for this to happen.

I just read this post from Erin's blog last night that, in light of everything else, made me feel so convicted that, well, adoption is important. I'm not just saying that because I adopted two kids from Africa a couple years ago, or because I think it's some really saintly, noble thing--honestly, that's laughable. God loves these children, wants them to be cared for and loved on, that's the bottom line. These days I especially feel convicted that adoption of special needs children, and older children, is important. Our friends' little girl was born with Down Syndrome and I am blessed and inspired by their hearts and strong, unwavering faith in God.

Ever since our trip to Ethiopia Kevin and I have talked off and on about adopting an HIV-positive child someday. The more I read, and talk/email with other adoptive parents, the more I believe that this very well may be what God has for us someday. The only thing holding me back would be my own fear, buying into the same irrational stigma that makes me so mad when I see it in other people.

Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts today. My heart and prayers are with Mike and Kristen, and I hope you all will pray for them too. We love you, Borlands!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Best of

Greatest blessing of 2007: the birth of our daughter Kaitlyn Jane!

Just born, freshly bathed and wondering, "Where am I and who are these people?!"

A Martha Stewart in the making--and getting one of the million hugs a day she gets from her older brothers and sister.

I love this little tyke! She's a "Mama's Girl" all the way, always has been and I kinda hope she always will be.

Don't you see that children are God's best gift?

the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?

Like a warrior's fistful of arrows

are the children of a vigorous youth.

Oh, how blessed are you parents,

with your quivers full of children!

Psalm 127:4-5 (The Message)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The tough questions

I thought I'd piggyback on this post from a few days ago.

My boys are not asking about skin color yet--like why their skin is so different from Mom and Dad's, for example. Anna has said things though, like the time a couple of months ago at the breakfast table when she out-of-the-blue announced that she wanted her brothers to be "peach" like her and how she doesn't "like brown." Conversations like this ALWAYS take me by surprise and I have to admit I always worry if I'm saying the right thing. That particular day I told Anna that I LOVE Yosef and Biniam's beautiful brown skin, and that God made their skin brown just like He made her skin peach, and that He's creative and doesn't want us all the same. (She didn't buy it and maintained that she wished their skin was peach like hers.)

I just read this post over on Shelley's blog. Even though I'm not there yet with the boys, it seems like this is one of the hardest parts of navigating transracial adoption. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing strange for us about having two brown-skinned sons--we're not "color blind" by any means, it's just that it feels natural and wonderful--but when it comes to talking about it with small children, it's tricky.

One of the keys I think is to not be alarmed by the things kids say. When my nearly-four-year-old daughter says she likes peach over brown, she's not talking race, she's either simply talking color preference, or what she's really saying is that she loves her brothers and wishes they all looked the same. It provides a big opportunity to affirm God's plan and how He made all of us special. I know the questions will get harder as the kids grow, but for now I try to be open and comfortable talking race with my toddlers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Classic Yosef

30 degrees outside
sweet boy
always smiling
loving daddy who never complains
(On the way home from Kevin's parents' house last month, Yosef's poor tummy succumbed to the terribly curvy roads. He is such a good-natured child, still able to smile amidst chattering teeth as Kev stripped him down to a diaper to clean him up!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

China and HIV+ adoption

Adoption Advocates International has been in China this week and is being given the amazing opportunity to faciliate the adoption of an HIV+ child, which will hopefully be the start of an HIV+ adoption program (which would be new to China!) Check out Erin's blog for more information! (20 HIV+ children have now been adopted from Ethiopia--so exciting to see this program growing and hopefully more starting.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ethiopian or African-American?

Along with its beauty and richness (doesn't this picture speak volumes), adopting transracially has its complexities, although probably not what the average outsider would assume. It doesn't seem strange having two children who visibly weren't born to me; in fact, I rarely think about that. I don't think our annual Christmas card picture looks funny or "different" from other families' photos; it's just our little (okay, maybe not so little) family. And I don't feel a strange distance from my sons on the basis of their skin color, or their cultural origin. They're just my sons.
Rita Radostitz, a fellow adoptive mom with girls from Layla House (and who now is employed by AAI), recently wrote a great article for Adoptive Families magazine that is worth reading, especially if you have little ones from Ethiopia. We're not there yet with Yosef and Biniam, so I'm grateful that parents with older kids are willing to share their experiences dealing with some of the more complicated aspects of having a multi-racial and multi-cultural family.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A merry Christmas

This year for Christmas we packed up the kids and headed for Northern California to spend the holiday with Kevin's parents and sister.

They live in the mountains about 200 miles south of the Oregon border, in a really remote place that doesn't have a name. Kevin used to ride the bus an hour and a half to get to high school--a born commuter! It sure is beautiful though!

The day after we arrived, Kevin's friend Matt (from high school) came over, and they had a good time catching up. (Matt was in our wedding and we haven't seen him in about five years!)

Kevin's dad built a sled for the kids in the event that it snowed, which it really didn't, but he pulled them around on it anyway. (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...or the bright pink gloves on Biniam.)
Kaitlyn refused to sleep and I spent all night, every night nursing her, walking her around, anything to calm her down. She is apparently a bit of a bed snob and will only sleep in her crib. Bummer.
I guess she was also happy sleeping on Grandma Heldt.
Excited about new pj's, and a new toothbrush. Kids love Christmas!
The whole group on Christmas Eve.
Losing to my husband at pool (no, that's not me drinking, I was holding the photographer's glass--though I wish I could blame my loss on something!)

Sweet Katie Jane's first Christmas...

...Laughing with Grandpa Heldt...

...Smiling with Daddy.

Enjoying my kids.

Watching Grandpa Heldt build a fire.

The kids loved wearing their winter clothes and playing out in the cold.

A good time was had by all! Thank you Heldts for having us!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

They're so excited

To be meeting Snow White! Makes waiting in the hour-long line worth it! Disneyland was a lot of fun but a little like running a marathon when you have four little ones. Anna wasn't too impressed with Fantasyland; instead, she preferred the Matterhorn Bobsled ride--who is this kid?!
It was pretty unreal to be there with my own children--growing up we'd go about once a year or so, and my grandparents used to live in Anaheim (right near the park) so we'd watch the fireworks from their backyard. It's cool seeing it again through a child's eyes, having so many fond memories of it yourself.
I'll share more pictures later! (Two Heldt children are not pictured: Biniam was too scared, and Kaitlyn didn't seem interested. :) )

Monday, January 07, 2008

Glowing endorsement

I just have to sing the praises of Burt's Bees "Baby Bees" products! When the dermatologist diagnosed Kaitlyn with Atopic Dermatitis, I immediately set out to find some skin care products that were gentle and natural, since I knew I'd need to be using them a lot. So I stocked up on the Diaper Ointment, Baby Shampoo and Wash, and Buttermilk Lotion. Within DAYS, the eczema on Kaitlyn's arm and leg (which had been horrible) was COMPLETELY GONE. It is seriously a miracle. She still has a small rash on her diaper area, but apparently due to the ointment, it doesn't itch much anymore, isn't getting worse, and therefore she's not scratching it and has been infection-free for weeks now!

Anyway, I HIGHLY recommend these amazing products, especially if you have a child with dry/sensitive skin. Kaitlyn's skin is so smooth now and I feel so happy that I can fight her eczema with safe, mostly-natural, over-the-counter products!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

ONE Vote '08

This is a great and easy-to-use resource to learn what the presidential candidates plan to do to help the world's poor. You can compare them, watch video responses, etc. Check it out--these are issues that matter and for which I believe God will someday hold us accountable.

On the Record

Friday, January 04, 2008


I just finished reading a book by Margaret Feinberg, The Organic God, which I loved. Simple, not real long, an easy read. I think it resonated with me because for awhile now I've just felt burned out. I've been a Christian and weekly church attendee for all 26 years of my life. And lately I've felt distracted by the trappings of the Christian life and my love for God (and His for me) got crowded out. I think I've made gods out of things that I shouldn't have--desire for Christian fellowship, church involvement, what people think of me. I think God is wanting me to love Him and to find contentment and peace in His love for me. I think He's wanting my husband and children to be my heart's priorities.

I'm not sure what the practical upshot of all this will be; there probably won't be much of an outward change, but more a heart one. My heart feels hopeful and excited about falling more in love with God and embracing the unique blessings He's given me, and trusting Him for the future.

So while I'm not much for resolution-making my prayer for 2008 is to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of God's love for me, get to know Him better, and enjoy God's freedom from the Christian rat-race. (Oh and to not be such a procrastinator, but I figure some things are just out of the realm of possibility! :))

Just some questions

Could I be any more tired?
Did we really spend 14 hours at Disneyland yesterday?
Do I really have 3 three-year-olds?
Did we honestly not get home until 5 a.m. this morning?
Did I really scrape up our van on a post at a gas station last night?
Have we really not been home for more than two consecutive nights in two weeks?

They say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth--maybe that's why ten billion people were in attendance yesterday. We had a blast and made some great memories, but it was exhausting and I think it'll probably be some time before we venture there again. I'll post pictures later--but right now, I think it's naptime. The above picture is of Kaitlyn playing on our suitcase a couple of weeks ago, representative of our nomadic way of life these days. :)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This and that

Okay I know it's been forever since I've blogged! We've been out of town at Kevin's parents' house, at my mom and dad's house for a few days, and tomorrow we're headed for I guess we've been busy. :)

Nothing is really new per se. Christmas somehow came and went, my house is a disaster, I still haven't mailed my neices' gifts, the laundry is piled up. Sigh. If anyone is ever tempted to think I have all my ducks in a row, I'm here to tell you I don't. (And people who know me well know better anyhow.)

Our only real "news" is that we got Kaitlyn's bloodwork back. I talked to our immunologist/allergist on the phone today and praise the Lord, the allergy tests all came back NEGATIVE, and her zinc levels are completely NORMAL!!! So that means that there doesn't appear to be an underlying problem, and she's not allergic to any foods! Meanwhile Kaitlyn is standing up a lot of the time and cruising around holding onto furniture, and babbling like crazy (mostly "dada"). She's constantly laughing and smiling and reminding me that life is precious, God is good, and I am blessed.

(I've included some pictures of an outing to Klondike's pizza last month--on Tuesday nights it's all-you-can-eat, and really cheap for the kids. We went once last year, and once this year, and our kids love looking at the assorted animal heads on the wall!)

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