Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Spring!! those of us in the Southern Hemisphere! Here September is the month of flowers, wind, and weddings.

Often when I look at these gorgeous flowers growing on the wall by the front door of the Baby Home/office, I recall buying them in La Cancha, Cochabamba's huge outdoor market. I had always envied Bolivian homes with flowers spilling over the walls that come around houses here. So about 3 years ago this week, with friends Amber and Jose, we sat out to buy some for the new "Casa de Amor". We joked that in maybe 20 years they would be something special to look at, and we would go, "Remember when we were young and naive and bought those 3 puny plants?" But with this climate, within a year they were beautiful and I love them! This picture is actually AFTER a friend came and pruned them back. They bloom year round!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"So, how are the babies doing?"

An innocent question with no easy answer!! More often than not it's like, hmm....."Well, you know, they are really......cute."

The past couple of weeks:

Benito: still needs a hearing aid for one ear. He is not very near passing the much-hoped-for milestone of sitting alone by 12 months. Now, "supposedly" his walking will be severely delayed (all four limbs and his trunk are affected by cerebral palsy).

Esteban: needs hearing aids for both ears. Great news from his most recent CT scan: the fluid left on his brain will drain alone, so he doesn't need brain surgery! His hip x-ray also came back normal.

Victoria: currently receiving some intense physical therapy to try to relax her curved, stiff legs. She's 3 months old today and the orthopedist had hoped for more improvement by now. Our physical therapist and psychologist have told me a couple of times now that Victoria does not respond to visual stimuli, maybe not auditory either. :-( Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with her to see about that...

Jose: needs surgery on his umbilical hernia (imagine a giant "marshmallow" sitting on the stomach of a 9 pound baby). He is still on calcium and still trembles a lot, and now has anemia too. At least with the formula we changed him to, he seems to be eating/growing better. In a month we'll see if we need to do anything about his bowed out legs. (He was born with syphilis.)

Jose, Carla, Benito, Ericka, me: battled persistent conjunctivitis for a couple weeks (PTL we're all clear now!)

Erick, Ericka, Katarine: running skin abscesses, "non-contagious" (yeah, right)

Luz Clarita: abdominal sonogram came back normal but needs a special internal exam now

Benito: exam under anesthesia once

Esteban: exam under anesthesia twice

A. M.: got sick for the first time since starting the ARV drugs. Happily, she was only down a few hours before her doctor prescribed medicine, and she's up and running again (and I do mean running!)

Camila: has started speech therapy twice a week

Brandon: taking a break from speech therapy (it's his 3rd birthday today!)

Victoria, Jose, Benito, Belinda: twisted legs, abnormal hip x-rays, bowed legs, etc. I want a second opinion from another orthopedic specialist...when I have time to make the appointment and take 3 of those babies with me at once!

Marcus, Victoria: got immunizations (we have monthly visits to the Baby Home for those, but M & V live at CDA III)

Speaking of CDA III, they've had 2 or 3 viruses in a row run through their house and seem to be in another. Some say it's "that time of year" (as well as with the skin/eye infections due to all the wind and dryness), but you'd be hard pressed to find a time of year in Cochabamba where there's not SOMETHING bad health-wise due to the weather. (Must be all that "perfect, spring-like weather" we have here--HA!)

Other than that, all is just peachy and the kids are doing great! =)

And this is just the health area, not to mention legal and social. We've been very busy in those areas the past couple of weeks too, mainly due to the newest set of kids and upcoming adoptions. Oh, and that meanwhile, Bolivia was often tearing apart at the seams.

Never a dull moment!

PS--See new picture at the bottom of the blog. =)

Adoption prep!!!

Yesterday was a great day spent with Casa de Amor II. Three kiddos there will soon meet their new families from Italy! All three have lived with us several years, including our first who inaugurated Casa de Amor in 2004, so it's particularly emotional for all of us to see them receive families at last. I don't think it's sunk in yet, and we haven't even had an adoption in 7 months so will have to get back in the swing of things, but we are super excited for the kids. The oldest two (almost 5 years old and 9 1/2) are definitely old enough to understand more of what's about to happen, especially since they've witnessed all 6 of our international adoptions.

While in a meeting with about 6 staff members about Juanito, reminiscing about his years with us, how much he's grown, and noting all the information about him we think important for his new parents, we realized he could use a new outfit and shoes for the incredibly special "first meeting". That happens on Monday and since I'm traveling tomorrow to pick up some paperwork for one of our babies, along with lots else going on this weekend, I decided to take him right away. (At the moment he was actually horse riding with my sister Emma.) Then we looked and the two siblings also needed something new. So we went on a great little shopping outing!! There is no comparison between Bolivia and the US regarding kids and getting new clothes/shoes. Here it can be a SOCK and the kid is thrilled. And then if they get to go OUT with you, that's makes it doubly special. Makes shopping and giving them stuff lots of fun!

The picture is of M. E. trying on the winner outfit (pre-hair cut)!
Counting the days!!!

Hearing aids for babies?

We're on our way to becoming experts on this one. Since February, we've known that our special baby Benito needed at least one hearing aid, for his weaker left side. After doing a very specialized test a second time a couple weeks ago, we were told he might need two, particularly from the guy at the hearing aid clinic. But another neurologist said still just one.

At the same time, we tested a new baby (the one I'm holding in my profile picture) and one neurologist said he needed hearing aids and another no, and the hearing aid specialist yes. He certainly has potential for issues, due to meningitis, the abuse, and even the medications he received while hospitalized for two months. The lack of stimulation during that time didn't help much, either. To us, it seems that Benito hears okay while Esteban responds practically zero to auditory stimuli.

So tonight I went to a very good ENT to try to get to the bottom of all this. He was extremely kind and helpful--if only all doctors were so!! For lack of further options, I'm considering going fully with his recommendations, which are:

Benito, almost 1 year old, still needs only one hearing aid. The usual types should work with him since he doesn't use his hands very well, and certainly not to play with his face/ears.

The news with Esteban wasn't so great, poor baby. He might need full hearing aid support until he's a couple of years old at least (he's approximately 5 months currently). The doctor suggested a certain type that's better for active babies. That's where I need help!! I'm not finding anything on the internet like the doctor described to me, two connected "vibrators" that sit behind the ear (rather than going in)? He would wear it over his head, connected by something that sounds like a headband. Anyone know anything about these types or willing to research it for us?? On Friday we have an appointment with the hearing aid people to fit Benito, so I'll of course consult with them, but I'm afraid that Bolivia might not have this kind. Now that I'm looking into it, the US is so far ahead of technology here, I'm afraid that it will not be available in the US either. And even if I DID find and get a set donated to us here, who in Bolivia would know how to regulate it?? Sigh. (And I already know the normal "internal" version is not going to be an option for him, because we've waited months for Benito's ears to be big enough for the tubes to fit in. They are at a loss here at how to make the "molds" small enough for young babies.)

Thanks for any help or leads!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Los Tres Bebecitos

Our three youngest in CDA I! Left to right, they are 8 weeks, 6 weeks, and 5 weeks. They are all around 7-8 pounds, so it's a little confusing at moments to know who is who (try that game at night!!). Now to learn to tell their cries apart...

Some more pictures I took, having fun with our "triplets":

A picture of the little guy asleep in my lap (definitely one of his favorite places):

And for the fan club of the real twins, a new pic. =)

Thanks for letting me brag a minute!! Now back to work...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baby Girl!

Just this morning as I sorted through several bags of beautiful clothes, blankets, bibs, and other things brought by donation over the weekend, I saw that most was for infant girls and thought "the next one needs to be a girl..." Well, I don't know if it's funny or not, but I didn't even have to wait two hours!

We were called about a 1 year old, another temporary case?, so when we opened the door expecting a toddler, we stared at the little mound of blankets and were like uh........oops. Turns out even though Child Defense says in their report "appears to be 1 year of age", somebody was busier listening to the radio and the unfolding Bolivia crisis rather than looking. She's 1 MONTH old and a cutie! Guess God just wants us to have the smallest babies. =)

So the work continues full ahead even as we deal with the fallout of friends evacuating Bolivia and hope for some sort of resolution of the ongoing conflict, strife, and shortages. We've just come off a 3 day weekend holiday in Cochabamba so we were mercifully spared much of the strife the rest of the country was (and is) experiencing. Thanks to all who are praying!! Your words of encouragement are a special blessing during these difficult and uncertain days.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My car (or is it?)

I couldn't resist-isn't this cute? Before leaving yesterday I stopped in my tracks to see all the little handprints around the car and one right above the handle, on the driver side window (future driver!!).
They are little hands, but by the size I imagine they're from my biggest at the Baby Home-3 year old Rudy! Every day he does something new and special, like smearing dirt in a rainbow pattern (had to stand on a ride-on toy to reach), or even taking off a piece of the car! Maybe I should check on some sort of tarp to cover it, but I loved going around town with all the little prints. =)

Friday, September 5, 2008


At least they mainly sleep!! I've been chief spoiler of the babies lately. No one else has time to hold them for hours on end, so I'm touching them a lot so that they'll grow up smart (my Mom's saying). I'm blessed with long legs where I can easily prop one or two while I work--the slightly shorter staff all admire that. =)

Lately I've been tempted to say "too many" babies. Supposedly Mother Teresa said "Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers". However, the "too many" phrase could definitely be used in relation to the heartbreaking number of abandonments we've seen the past 11 months. It's nearly overwhelming. We received four babies in a row in August, one a week, and after the first week of September we've said no (or wait) to all of these:

1) a 1 year old in a bad situation (street parents)
2) transer of a four year old from the main baby home (I've heard they are up to 150 babies, which if true is absolutely horrific because their capacity is for 50, so just imagine...). He should’ve come to us last year but his very hard-core street mother couldn't make up her mind and shortly after he was forcefully taken away.
3) a toddler with medical issues and unstable (street?) mother
4) a newborn but his mother came back to the hospital for him, hallelujah!
5) a 2 week old, 1.5 kilo preemie. Reminds me of Alejandra, who arrived September last year. We’re going to suggest that he go first to the nutrition center and when he weighs 3 kilos (in 5 or 6 weeks?) we’ll see about our space.

We’re also keeping in mind two possible entries:
1) the 15 month old brother of Carla, one of our new babies (he’s in another baby home currently, but it’s best they are together for their eventual adoption)
2) a former child of ours, almost 4 years old, whose mother stays down more than up. Several who know them say he needs to come back to us, once they’re found.

(If anyone reading this desires to donate, oh say…$20,000? so that we can open a 4th home, let's go for it!)

Another factor is that we’re at the traditionally low time of year, donation-wise. And baby number 4 of August is STILL in the hospital (jaundice), so that will be a fun bill to pay, and baby number 2 needs a CT scan. Now we’re going to have to pay about $100 to do it in a private clinic because the public hospital’s machine is broken, with no idea of when it could be fixed.

But this is why Casa de Amor exists! As staff member Maria has told me for a couple years now and reminded me last week, she believes God sends us the special needs babies and kids on purpose. Reminds me of another favorite Mother Teresa saying…“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

Pray that we have grace and peace in as overflowing abundance as children! Babies are practically addictive for me, and I’m glad that Saturday is almost here so that I have more time for them (and not just while staring at a computer screen), but we’ve kept up an exhausting pace lately and I don’t want anyone burning out. We want to be entirely healthy so as to handle whatever—and whoever—God sends our way!

Addition: Not two hours after writing this, while I was at the hospital getting out the baby, SEDEGES called about 5 siblings. Yikes!! They needed a temporary place for the youngest three, but we're just too full and busy as it is...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September 1: A day running Casa de Amor

Just an example of a regular day around here! This one wasn't overwhelmingly busy but I sure wasn't bored, either. ;-)

8:15am, work on emails until all gather for meeting. Called the clinic of our pediatrician several times to see if he'll work today (he had traveled) but no one seems to know.

9am, Baby Home staff meeting (just a few topics this time: scheduling improvements due to influx of babies, how the cook is getting along with everyone--PTL, better!, who the physical therapist needs to work with the most, a reminder on the proper way to prepare baby formula)

10:15am, meet with the administrator and social worker to catch up from day before, talk about staffing at III (moving a sub from II to replace a trial staff member at III). SEDEGES [child welfare department] calls and, how amazing, the newest baby was just temporary! Maria leaves to talk to Child Defense about him and do other paperwork in SEDEGES.

11am, create new staff schedule for September, work on August's email update, called our accountant about having the staff pay slips ready today, called the clinic and yes, the pediatrician is working. All the while holding a baby, my usual mode of work these days (slings/carriers: very cool!).

12:05pm, a social worker calls, apparently from an adoption agency. She tells us one of her families was assigned one of our kids, and I breathlessly wait to hear which. It's Juanito!!! (This was our very first child almost 4 years ago, whose papers have been lost countless times in gov't offices, and has supposedly been assigned a family all year, so this was welcome news indeed--although bittersweet.) She is bringing pictures and says they will arrive this month.

12:20pm, Rosa (administrator) heads to CDA II to meet up with her because I have a lunch appointment with my family for celebrating my sister Emma's gotcha day

12:40pm, not so late... Emma is in high spirits! I'm glad we're in the same country today. Rosa calls to catch me up on Juan's new family and to plan the afternoon. I asked my Dad to get the staff pay slips from the accountant's office at 2:30 because I won't have time.

1:30pm, considered heading to CDA II to catch the end of Jhoselin's birthday party, but they call and say they will have it at 3 so that I can come

1:45pm, finish August's email update, start sending out, caught up on new baby's case with Maria

3:15pm, I was so caught up in things in the office I forgot that Jhosie's party was to be at 3, yikes! Luckily when I got there it was so hot the little ones were still asleep. I talked to staff and a mother visiting.

4pm, the older 4 have been practicing Happy Birthday and other songs to be able to play in Jhosie's honor and play a while for her. I take pictures of them with their teacher for a future update. They love playing! I divvy out dairy products from the freezer for the 3 homes, made more complicated since there are two birthday at II this week (i.e., used more than their ration of milk and butter). And of course, I chatted with Juan about his new family as he proudly showed me their picture. Sadly, his best buddy is at the opposite extreme. How I wish they could be adopted at the same time!

5:15pm, back at office, I printed off the schedule of an HIV/AIDS seminar our friends are organizing for next week and showed it to Rosa and Maria (administration). There are excellent, highly practical topics, obviously thought of by a gringo group! Between the 3 of us, we'll see if we can actually attend it all...

6pm, as I go into playroom to talk about Luz Clarita, sick, before taking results to the pediatrician, I realize that Benito's eye infection is no better since the weekend although he's with eye drops. I called to see if the ophlamologist would have time for us and they said yes, if we came immediately. Quickly I gathered up a heap of results and other medical papers I needed to talk over with the pediatrician while changing Benito and gathering my baby stuff.

7ish, the pediatrician calls us in first and he ends up looking at Ben's eyes and that cough he almost always has... We also talk about babies Luz, Jose, Caleb, and changing the exam orders of Luz and Esteban to SUMI (=free!). Then we meet up with the eye doctor in the hall and she changes the medicine I should buy him.

7:30ish, of course the pharmacy there doesn't have those drops, so the search begins...

7:55pm, arrive an hour late to Women's Bible study at my parents. At least Benito was asleep so I could wait till the end to make his bottle. Catch up on some news from CDA III.

9:15pm, eat leftovers for dinner, play a little piano while Ben snoozes again, talk with Mom and Dad about day, particularly the meeting of the morning and updates on the kids' cases

10:10pm, leave earlier than usual since I need to hit another pharmacy and talk to tias (realized that I forgot the calcium for Jose since the doctor wrote it on the results and not an order, and that we'll need more baby urine collector bags)

10:20pm, at pharmacy again but they don't have the right kind of calcium....will have to search first thing in the morning since it's urgent

10:45pm, tias are asleep so I put Ben to bed and wrote them a note about med instructions, and getting a urine sample, urgent, from Luz before 9 the next morning (when I would take Benito for a meeting in court). Her parents are brother and sister and kidney problems are suspected (continual UTIs). I need to take her for a kidney sonogram soon.

11pm, start sending update emails to second mailing list while holding Benito

11:25pm, get Benito back to sleep

11:30pm, crash earlier than usual!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gotcha Day!!

Nine years ago today, my family was headed from Kostroma, Russia, to Moscow, Russia, thrilled to be on the way home with our much awaited baby. We thought we were reaching the end of our journey; little did we know that God had other plans regarding us and His little ones!

Emma-Liza was 8 1/2 months old, weighed less than 12 pounds, and didn't do much...yet. Now she is 9 1/2 years old, proud to finally weigh over 50 pounds, and a bundle of energy and spunk! This weekend she was at horse camp (yep, here in Cochabamba) and the picture is of her afterwards, all cleaned up and holding one of her birds. WE LOVE YOU, EMMA!!! You're a very special part of our family.