Current Child Count

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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Random Picture Challenge 4.0

Here's the 44th picture from November 2007's folder, as challenged by 4 little men and girly twins:

A slightly goofy close-up of our Baby A. She's walking now!! It's so cute.

It's ironic now to think about how fragile she was (weighed 2 pounds at birth) and how easy it was to fear for her survival in 2007, and yet she's been perfectly fine. Now diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and still a tiny, quiet little toddler...but healthy (and spared the epidemic because she lives at CDA III)!

And a few pictures before:

My sister Heather cared for her full time once she was released from the hospital weighing barely 6 pounds. I've missed my other two sisters this week.... Wonder when I'll get to see them again.

On another note, it feels good to be doing something "normal" again....

Gabriel Update

Gabriel continues to improve and is practically himself to see those spots falling off!

Tonight when I got back from my family's at 11 something, he was coughing and congested so I fed him then propped up his crib mattress at a slant and he went back to sleep. That yucky pneumonia. Although it hasn't gotten as bad as I feared, as far as coughing up stuff.

What a difference from a week ago tonight when he struggled so hard the entire night! That was so difficult...

But that's not why I'm writing this at 1am in the morning. First of all, he got a cute new hair cut this afternoon, courtesy of Tia Rosi! Isn't he handsome? (He was smiling and cooing at me, but the camera delay was making it difficult to capture that, and I was too busy playing with him anyway.)

And secondly, PLEASE PRAY for Gabriel's future! I know, I know, he's barely 4 1/2 months old, but there is some praying and fasting going on for him right now and it could be really good news but God MUST be in it. May His will be done in this baby boy's life. He was rescued at birth and then spared from this vicious virus for a reason!

God has plans for this little guy and we can't wait to watch them unfold and witness him bless many people. =)

That was the bright spot of the day. On other other hand....the staff and I can still use a ton of prayer support. Today I felt like I was walking through a very fiery test as we had the first staff meeting of the Baby Home since Gabriela's passing and the whole chicken pox/health crisis. The staff left me more than a little confused about their reaction to all of this and how we can move forward intact, with good relationships, no guilt, and a strong desire to improve and learn from any mistakes. We are all shaken, hurting, and a bunch of emotional women, so I guess bumps in the road are to be expected, but it just seems like too much after all we've already been through the past week. The verse "When you walk through the fire, I will be there...." was on my mind a lot today.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Too many thoughts. After 10 very full, intense days in a row with not much rest, yesterday I was convinced by those closest to me to take today off. If only my brain would take off as well! I still worked on sponsorship packets this afternoon from my family’s place (have finished CDA I and III kids and started on II, yeah!), but otherwise I rested. Read, swam with my sister Emma, caught up on a couple blogs, ate too much of my Mom's baked goods, and watched several "I Love Lucy" shows my family just found on DVD here (laughter is such good medicine!).

It was a mixed blessing. For one it was weird to not be working like crazy in the office or with kids, but more it was hard to just not…THINK. Too much. Must have shown because our worship leader called me after rehearsal tonight to ask if something was wrong and if I’m okay. WELL I have lost a baby, that’s what’s wrong. Be okay? Yes. Someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later so that I can be an inspiring leader to the rest of the staff. But not today. Today I need the inspiration to go forward.

The Bible study our women’s group here has just begun is “Walking By Faith: Lessons Learned in the Dark”. I need to soak it up!

I am reading a book my Mom had the visiting photographer bring last week, “The Duggars: 20 and Counting!” (their website) It’s fun to read and is one of my favorite subjects ever (even if they have two sets of twins...).

I must deal with our loss from every angle, or at least observe it from every viewpoint. The caregivers have an empty crib to work around. Notes about Gabi's special health needs that we no longer need. She was the only baby here currently on lactose free milk. I think I will take all those cans to house III.

In the office, we've had reports to present to the government and court about what happened. It was not easy at all to help write the last one. We don't know when/if social services and/or the court might come to inspect or question us.

Maria (our social work and medical assistant) is re-writing Gabriel's social report as a "single" child and not a twin. I proof-read everything.

Rosa (administrator) and I are making notes on the backs of all the receipts for the month of January for our accountant. Many are related to the chicken pox and Gabriela's care.

I feel accountable to the dozens of people around the world who also love our babies and kids. So many others take our joys and pain as their own. Normally I translate and pass on much of the correspondence to the staff, but I haven't decided what to do this time yet.

So many facets of this...

Yesterday morning Rosa and Maria and I (the office team) talked and cried together for nearly an hour before starting our day. Rosa told me the staff are more united and working in love more than ever. Maria preached at me about acceptance and letting go, for my own mental and emotional health. I needed to hear all God led her to speak.

We all talked about praying more for our children, stepping it up a notch in the care, and re-organizing ourselves to be able to work better every day, but particularly in times of health crisis like the period we just went through. It was a good time. Honestly it was the first time I had seen something positive coming out of losing Gabriela, and it encouraged me. I know that supposedly there is always a good side to everything; I just hadn't seen even one glimmer of that yet.

After a tragedy, it opens the door to so many fears and doubts and worries. I've had to go on a major "take thoughts captive" campaign, or else I know I'll go under. It's the first time I've doubted our ability to care for so many fragile babies at once, and it's a very disconcerting, new feeling.

In fact, I've already gone down. ~grin~ A couple mornings ago as I climbed the stairs to the third floor office, I tripped hard. In using my hands to save my laptop (and camera and agenda), I banged up my left knee, right ribs, and right arm really good. About annually most of us here at the 3 story Baby Home have a good fall. For me it's usually going up (I blame it on the big feet). This time it was totally because I was so tired and "out" of it. Scared Rosa to death--probably why she pushed for this day off! It actually feels good-more appropriate-to be in physical pain.

I will get back to the happier posts again, I promise. I want to, there just haven’t been many moments like that again, yet. There will be better days. I feel like just scooping up all the babies and staff of the Baby Home and spending a couple hours in a park to get everyone out. Do something happy and something besides talk about medicine and who has what, but that's not possible unless we have a team of volunteers (plus it's rainy season).

Thanks for all your prayers. I'm happy that I will have a very very busy day tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Virus Update

And how are the other babies now? I am so very relieved to say that all are out of danger.

On Sunday afternoon, I took Gabriel to the hospital to have his breathing/lungs checked (which was interesting in itself because it was a no-transportation-vote-day in Bolivia, and we could only go because my Dad had permission to drive his car).

A couple of nurses were startled, recognizing Gabriela in his face. You can imagine what good care we got! Then, in the same ER as our tragedy two days prior, I put Gabriel down on the gurney and he began to coo and smile back at me. I cried! It was the most beautiful, relieving sight ever. Then even though they spoke of admitting him, nothing mattered because I KNEW he would be okay and survive this.

Finally by Monday we truly turned the corner and never looked back. Today Gabriel’s scabs are beginning to fall off, leaving bright pink new skin in their wake. Baby Carla was equally covered and she is also notably feeling better.

After one dozen babies and toddlers going through this at once (in round 3), literally only one, Rudy age 3 ½, never broke out in spots. Lucky little guy!

Jhair got it twice, having had only a light case in late December after Brayan arrived.

The two 3 year olds at CDA II have chicken pox but are doing okay (and all the rest there have already had it).

The new baby, renamed Angel by his “foster family” who stepped in so joyfully to serve in our time of need, is amazingly still healthy (and growing fast!).

CDA III has also avoided the outbreak, which is crucial due to having weaker and younger babies as well, plus the HIV positive toddler. I shower and change before going to hold Angel or visit CDA III.

A few in the Baby Home still have bad diarrhea and feel terrible. They are on treatment but it's taken way longer than usual to begin helping. The chicken pox is complicating the healing process as well as side affects from the medicine they are on to reduce the severity of the virus.

We appreciate your prayers as we come out of this! We see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's nice to begin to imagine "normal" days at the Baby Home once again. I also look forward to bringing baby Angel back and having another baby to carry around and cuddle!

First picture: Adorable Baby J on Monday, picture by photographer Brad Collins. He was the least hit of the small babies, perhaps because of starting treatment with acyclovir almost immediately.

Second picture: Baby G on Sunday, actually the day he turned the corner. His entire body is as covered as his face. It was so hard to know how to hold him, or even worse, change him.

Another Angel in Heaven

Even though we've been in complete crisis mode, I find it hard to believe how long it's been since I blogged. There was no time, no energy, no desire to "talk". But I think now it has to be done.

Many of you are aware of our tragedy by now, due to being part of our prayer team or being informed by volunteers or visitors (the poor photographer that arrived on Casa de Amor’s darkest day).

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I was arriving back worn out and sore from spending 10 to 12 hours helping move CDA II into their new home. (I have a desk job and hold babies when I can, but a move is very, well....physical!) I would immediately start holding babies to get my “baby love” for the day as I helped caregivers tend to the 17 babies here.

By Thursday night, I sent our prayer team (currently 92 emails) a note pleading prayer for our very sick babies. The chicken pox virus, in its third cycle through the Baby Home, had grown to horrific proportions. Now I cringe at my flippancy (that post here) over letting the babies get chicken pox, although I was always more concerned for Gabriela than the rest: "So far, New Kid B is super spotty and itchy but no one else. I figure now's as good a time as any, since we do not have any small preemies or even newborns in the home. We hope delicate Twin G (girl) weathers it okay if she gets it."

Overnight, the youngest babies were completely miserable with 100s of angry spots. Coughs and diarrhea were also attacking them as well. Keeping everyone hydrated was becoming a huge concern, since all the sores in their mouths and even throats made some refuse to drink or eat. On Thursday night after consulting with our pediatrician, we made the decision to get our newest baby, the newborn, out ASAP. He told me it could be fatal if he got chicken pox, and that he would have to be hospitalized for intravenous treatment as soon as he got it. Thanks to the recommendation of our pastor from Cochabamba International Church, a missionary family was quickly found to keep him, and we bundled him and his things up at almost 11pm. The two tias on duty and myself continued nursing sick babies throughout the night (me just till 12:30am) and I hit it again hard the next morning, trying to keep ahead of the illnesses.

It wasn’t enough. On Friday, January 23, sometime around 10:30 or 10:45am as best I can calculate, our little baby Gabriela slipped away and into the arms of her Heavenly Father—most likely while in my room while we quickly prepared her things to take her to the ER (I was preparing for her to be admitted). A team of doctors and nurses, some of the best in the city and who work with our kids on a regular basis, tried to revive her for nearly 30 agonizing minutes without any sign of success.

I am so grateful that my Mom and sister Emma (10) dropped everything to come to us when I called them on my way to the ER. (Very sorry that my sister had to experience that sorrow at such a young age, but that was how it happened that day. Only God knows why.) My Dad happened to call right after I talked to Mom and I told him to just stay away and entertain the visiting photographer, because I was such a wreck. Of course they got there pretty soon afterward anyway, worried.

The cause of our Gabriela's passing is considered to be encephalitis, a rare complication of chicken pox where the virus enters the brain, most common in young babies and those with compromised immune systems. She was only 4 months old and weighed about 13 pounds. (Hard-earned weight gain I'll add, due to her lactose intolerance and other digestive issues.)

We always had concerns about her neurological health and development, partially due to her rough beginnings.......only God knows why she needed to return to Heaven so soon.

Adding to our devastation is that Gabriela left behind her twin brother Gabriel. Still today, I cannot fathom how to deal with that. I do not want to imagine how he will feel or react when he is old enough to realize his loss. All the hundreds of pictures of both of them, and now…he is alone. At first I couldn't look at him without crying. Now I am better but the sorrow still strikes at any moment. At first I was nearly beside myself with worry for him, since our Gabriela was taken so quickly. Over the next few days I took him to our pediatrician multiple times, because on the same day (Friday) he was found to have chicken pox pneumonia, another dangerous complication of the varicella virus. I was so worried for his breathing after watching his sister gasp her last breaths that I spent that first night caring for him one-on-one, constantly in my arms—which was the only way to keep him from screaming.

What are the chances of twins with chicken pox both experiencing rare but different complications on the same day?! Unfathomable. I will never ever think of this virus the same way again. It has been a nightmare.

Friday afternoon we were able to have a wake/visitation in the dining room of the Baby Home. Pretty quickly into the grieving, I realized that I didn’t have the luxury of being the main one affected by this. I was her “mother”, but eight others also claim that title. As each of the tias found out and arrived to the home, my grieving began anew to see their reaction. I am so grateful for the four pastors from two churches who arrived, as well as missionary friends and leaders from the International Church, who came to support us as we began to release our baby.

Mom's support during the memorial service Friday afternoon

Empty hands

On Saturday morning we had a little service at the main cemetery in Cochabamba. I sobbed anew to notice that somehow, in God’s perfect plan of things, Gabriela ended up being right beside a baby girl of the same age who passed away on the streets a few months ago, the sister of one of our current CDA children. Maria, my right hand and also a pastor, officiated Giselle’s funeral. Now Maria was speaking at a funeral for one of ours, and it just seemed impossible.

Open grief at the burial

(*All 3 pictures made by photographer Brad Collins)

We will always carry Gabriela close to our hearts. Even as we watch her brother grow and smile his big trademark grin, we have a reminder of our sweet, delicate Gabriela.

A blessing in all of this is I have no regrets about the time spent with Gabriela. Night and day, in good moments and bad moments, in between so many other "to do's", I was often with her. The number of pictures, which I can barely look at right now but will some day appreciate, is a testament to that. For all but the last six days with us, she was our smallest baby and loved and spoiled accordingly. She even had God's Word read aloud over her as British volunteer Elizabeth gave her special attention during what was supposed to be naptime on more than one occasion.

I will always be incredibly grateful that I was able to spend time bathing and soothing her on Thursday afternoon, her last full day with us, and that when I checked on her around midnight under her mosquito net draped crib, she appeared to be sleeping peacefully.

To all of you who have been writing and calling us offering words of encouragement, THANK YOU. I will reply to each of you individually as I am able, although words could never express how sorry I am to put so many people through this with us. We are accountable for these children to so many people throughout the world, which makes every triumph and tragedy multiplied in magnitude. May God bless you and may He comfort our hearts as we trust Him even in this.

There are so many pictures, but even without looking through them all I think this will be my favorite of Gabi, from December 29, 2008. For more of her and her brother, there are two slideshows in the right hand column.

Nadid Gabriela Gabriel
September 12 (?), 2008-January 23, 2009

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD”. (Job 1:21)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our little prize winner

Scheduled to post while we are busy moving the kids of CDA II....

Our little girl A proudly showing the certificate she won while HDA II was at camp a few weeks ago. She won it for good behavior (no one who knows her will be surprised) and it awards her with a free slot for camp next year. Way to go, A!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Random Picture Challenge 2.0

Playing along with 4 little men and girly twins.....even though I'm a day late! I just now read it, but thought I'd post anyway for a bit of cultural flair.

Since I've already posted the 8th picture in my January 2009 folder, here's the 8th picture of my first folder in my January 2008 picture file:


These pictures are from a long "Sunday drive" up into the mountains. I wanted my family to see snow and llamas. Although we didn't find snow that day, after a couple hours up into the clouds we did come across this herd of dozens of llamas and their owners (a young couple and their baby). It was amazing!

Emma and me getting a closer look:

Thompson family trivia: we owned two llamas in Texas for a couple of years, Masterpiece and Independence! It was fun, and definitely unusual.

(Back behind the llamas, you can see the valley that is our home, Cochabamba)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another baby with family =)

Here in Bolivia, we enjoy pretending like we know what might happen, say, 2 hours from now or even the next day, but in actuality one never knows. (It's a real trip for control freaks!)

Still, we began yesterday knowing it would be a red letter day. It was the day Baby Elias* would go to live with his new parents!!

But even before that "pre-adoption custody" handover took place, a new baby arrived to us. Red Letter Day x Two!

And then watching Elias be “born” into his new family, our 11th adoption (2nd national) turned out to be unique in a way I hadn’t expected. My sister Emma was right in the middle of it! That is super special because firstly, close to 9 ½ years ago, my parents and sisters and I adopted her from Russia. That was the first Baby Home I had ever laid eyes on. The whole deal was life changing (no exaggeration!), for those who don’t know the entire story.

And secondly it was special because Emma just happened to be with me downtown last year when I got the call to say yeah or nay about receiving Elias into the Baby Home. The day: leap year 2008.

(A little background: at the time we were waiting for 1 year old twin girls to come, so I was hesitant to accept another baby because it would mean giving away one of the two spaces we were “creating” for them in our already full home. So since I was near the government office I decided I needed to go in personally and ask which we should take……although I realized this would totally tie me into taking the baby already there and he was even a newborn and was found abandoned on a bench in a Catholic church. In the end, those twins never came but we’ve always been glad that Elias did! And I had thought it would be fun to take in a baby on February 29.)

I always remember Emma’s comment as we walked out of the government office. After an impromptu meeting with the head of child protection I said yes to Elias. From there the time for him to print the memo passing him to us, sign it, hand it over, and the social worker to hand me the baby, was probably 2 minutes flat. If that long.

We walked outside holding our little bundle and Emma looks at me quizzically and goes, “Is that ALL?" As we just....take him home?? It's always been something of a wonder to me, too. To be trusted with these little lives, just like that. Of course all the work to deserve that trust is a whole other story, but the "delivery" of these little ones to us is usually very quick and simple. Then in most cases, they live with us at least a year or two, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health...well, you get the idea. Elias received his family remarkably fast, living with us a brief (for here) 10.5 months.

But I digress. At the most special moment of the adoption, my sister Emma was the one to carry him in to the couple! The father had not yet met Elias (the mother had met him but not seen him again, according to law, during the paperwork period). Normally this step would always be carried out in court, but apparently due to their fear of having a contagion-spreading-child in court (in this case, chicken pox), they made an exception to their rule. Whatever!
It was definitely the first time I had done the official "hand over" while carrying another baby the entire time. Baby F, all 3.3 kilos of him, was happily snuggled in the carrier for hours that afternoon. As we went over Elias' file with his new dad, we realized that Elias had arrived weighing exactly the same. Now if that isn't weird or what!!

A very good day indeed. =)

*name changed

Picture 1: Our family (minus sister Sarah) leaving Kostroma Baby Home in Russia with our TREASURE!!!
Picture 2: Elias on the day he arrived, second from the left, trying to ignore me while I made him pose with our other youngest (Denise, take a stab at naming THESE babies, why dontcha!)
Picture 3: One of the first pictures of Elias the day he came (the redness was gone by the next morning and he has always had the clearest skin since)
Picture 4: Emma just after handing off Elias to his new parents!!! (Hate that my camera delayed a bit in taking the picture, but she was nearly dropping him anyway cuz he's so heavy--10 kilos/22 pounds.)

My favorite pics of the week

As IF I could really choose when I make an insane amount of pictures every week.


Two spunky little mischievious fellows I get to live with

Both are hams! Both have birthdays in April: one will turn 2 and the other 4.

Can you see them all? These are the six youngest in the Baby Home today, ages:
9 months, 5.5 months, 5 months, 4 months, 4 months, and 2-3 weeks

(Toddler C, almost 3 years old, is in the background loving on her baby doll, and haughtily informing us "She [the doll] just doesn't want anything!" I have no idea where she got THAT one about babies. LOL)

Ahh, this is the life

THIS, my friends, is the best way to spend a Saturday morning.

Yep, totally. Blogging with my baby. Who is so quiet and small I keep forgetting he's here with me. =)

After the first 24 hours with new Baby F, we know that:

  • He drinks well. Definitely a boy--that milk must arrive ON TIME or it's a small emergency!
  • He even keeps it down well, which are big plus points when there are several other reflux-prone babies.
  • He sleeps well, and for hours.....when he gets to sleep. Which is the tricky part.
  • He loves having something in his mouth (when he finds his hands he makes really cute sucking noises!).
  • He sweats easily.
  • He has a lot of hair and today is having something of a bad hair day. (Possibly due to the hat he wore all day yesterday?)

And that's about it till now!

Back to continuing to enjoy a rare Saturday with absolutely no Hogar de Amor OR church events or responsibilities! Weird!

Or rather, after changing a little someone's diaper...

Friday, January 16, 2009

New baby!

We didn't have to wait long for the first entry of the new year, and newborn at that! ~big grin~ He arrived from the countryside (overnight?) and was supposed to go to another home, but on Monday. Now he's sleeping soundly in my lap. =)

Rosa and I approved his stay from a meeting with the accountant and I got here as soon as I could, exactly an hour later thinking "any minute he/she will arrive" and about 2 minutes later "he" did. It's a boy!

Just the other day I had to laugh at myself when I realized what I was thinking, something like "How I miss having newborns. It's been a whole three months since we've had a newborn!" (of course because we've been entirely out of space and were saying no) How spoiled I've gotten! And apparently I'm not the only one. The staff protested when I said he's just here until Monday. So if the other home is okay with it, guess he'll stay with us!

Baby F was found in the bus terminal on Monday, unconscious. Efforts to find his parents were in vain. He weighs 7.2 pounds (3.3 kilos) and is sun and/or wind burned from being born in the countryside (high altitude + strong sun). He arrived very alert and active. Any guesses as to his age? Some of his papers say 12 days old, some say 3 weeks. He has something in his umbilical area, like a bit of the cord left?

Today we have a national adoption, yeah!!!! So, still six hours before Baby JC leaves, we've already filled his space. Although there was another little boy that was supposed to fill it, hm.... Boys are starting to overtake the Baby Home. Right now we're at 11 boys, 7 girls.

So, I wake up never knowing what (or who) a day may bring! Yesterday I planned to write about some of the odd events that happened (odd being commonplace here), but by 11 I was so worn out I didn't think I could compose a sentence and my sister was sleeping with me at the Baby Home and needed to go to sleep.

*A lady and her friends came to our door saying she would like to nurse a baby for us. Her own baby had died two weeks ago and she wanted to keep nursing a baby, taking it home with her with the intention of adopting. I feel for her loss and it's a very noble idea, but I do NOT just hand out my babies to perfect strangers at the gate! Nope.

*While talking with them, the toddlers were spilling out onto the street. Another lady stopped and asked me if it was a daycare and I said no, a home (ie, the children live here), she thanked me and waved bye to the kids. Well here you wave "chau" but Toddler S waved really cutely to the lady and said "bye-bye" clear as a bell. This is from my FAS child who barely says anything! Guess she'll just shock us all with her perfect English one day!

*I got an email from a lady in Spain. She wrote on behalf of a Bolivian living in Spain, whose sister passed away a week ago, leaving two orphaned girls. They wondered if our home could take them in immediately. How I'd love to, but the oldest (10) is too big for us. Besides that in the home where my oldest kids are moving to next week, all six current girls will share a bedroom, yikes! That leaves us definitely out of room for more there, but that's how I wanted it to not be tempted to pack in more. (Pray that we find another home for the sisters. Everyone is full.)

*In the afternoon I was called downstairs and was startled to see the entry full of bulging black trash bags. A Bolivian lady was donating all the clothes and toys from her deceased daughter....17 years ago deceased. As she told me of the sentimental value contained in those well-stored bags, her eyes pleaded "use them well". Wow. How do you respond to that one? Heart warming moment!

*A Bolivian-American lady called me asking about their possibilities to adopt. I talked to her awhile then passed on the phone number of the adoption lawyer we refer everyone to. That was the FOURTH time in four days that we'd given her number to someone wanting to adopt. Every week there are more! Poor lady! But I find it a great blessing when so many Bolivians DO want to adopt, despite everyone's comments to the contrary. Granted, more adoptions "fail" than with international couples, but adoption is not a big part of their culture....yet.

And that's just what I recall....

Okay, gotta keep working on the sponsorship packets. Then call New Zealand for a new volunteer interview. And our physical therapist just told me she suspects torticollis in girl twin G. Great. There's a new one for us! (Just so her odd positions are not due to cerebral palsy or something else neurological...!)

Reading about torticollis now briefly, what if her pain all along has been from neck pain and not colic?! Poor baby. She's been screamy again the past few days, too. Poor us.

Baby Victoria & Psalm 18

I am so appreciative to two-time Hogar de Amor volunteer Elizabeth Lynch for taking the time to send this to me. As I replied to her:

"How fitting for this time! Or really for us who “live” this “work”. All the injustice can threaten to overwhelm us at any point. We can only survive—and thrive—by clinging to these very truths. Thank you for your poignant reminder. I really appreciate it. You put into words many of my feelings and thoughts, but more richly due to your background."

With her permission, I am posting the email in it's entirety (bold additions mine). If it blesses you half as much as me...!

From: elizabeth lynch
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:43 PM
To: Jennifer Thompson
Subject: Victoria

Hi Jen,

I was just reading your post on your blog about Victoria. Obviously I already knew the story, having been there while the tests and things were going on, but there was one paragraph in your post that jumped out at me - the one where you said you left the doctor's room fuming, but not knowing how to explain it because you weren't judging the mother (or whoever did this). It's just that it made me think of something I wrote which was a sort of meditation around Psalm 18. It was written in the context of my PhD study, but looking through it, I think Psalm 18 has a lot to say about Victoria's situation.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

I just love how God responds to distress and injustice in this psalm:

The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies ,
great bolts of lightning and routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

Sometimes I get really angry about some of the kids' situations - but sort of in the same way that you said, without really directing that towards particular people, because we don't know how difficult their situations were at the time. But here's God saying, hey I'm angry too - that's part of the way he cares. And God fumes and burns with anger at the injustice that has happened. Victoria was hurt, and shouldn't have been, and it matters. And why shouldn't we be angry? God’s anger produced smoke and fire, and it made the earth and the mountains quake! But after this angry outburst at the causes of injustice, God seems to turn to the Victorias of the world with a very different look on his face:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

So, again, God says, yes I care. But here he says it to the Victorias, very gently. In God, there doesn't seem to be a conflict between showing fury at the causes of a situation, and then a very gentle love towards the people hurt by that injustice. And I think that's your job too, as God's hands to Victoria and the others. Actually, I think it's everyone's job in whatever context they're in, but I think you're doing that job pretty well from what I can see! God is fuming against all the injustices that created Victoria's situation, and he also rescued Victoria and loves and delights in her. So can we fume, and also love and delight in Victoria? (I can't think of much else to when in a room with Victoria, as delight does seem the most obvious reaction!)

Sorry this was a bit long-winded. I'm an academic....!


Even while jet-lagging this week, Elizabeth is already looking into how her church in Scotland can receive donations on our behalf. That will be an amazing way to broaden our support base with new friends from the UK. Thanks for everything, Elizabeth! And the kids miss you, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


At Hogar de Amor I, II, and III, every day brings triumph and tragedy, large or small.

For better or for worse, we've joined the roller coaster ride that is the life of these kids.

What follows is the long-but-short-version health saga of one of our cherished babies. (For the very beginning: "Praise the Lord for ornery chickens". )

We've prayed so hard since V's bittersweet arrival, the same evening as a staff party, that she would have no lasting effects from her rough beginnings. Arriving at 2 days of age and weighing 5 ½ pounds, she was the youngest and has stayed the youngest (translation: much-loved princess of the house!). I knew that absolutely anything conquerable would be because V has the privilege of living in Hogar de Amor III, our family model home. She receives our absolute best as far as stimulation, love, attention, outings, activities, and staff-to-child ratio. (Side note: I would love to have multiple "small" homes like this but lack of dedicated families/couples for the job holds us into the “shift model” for the other homes.)

When V was three months, she was being evaluated by our psychologist and physical therapist. They came to the office and whispered to me that V had no response whatsoever to visual or auditory stimuli. For a few minutes I brushed their concerns away. I was remembering how with my baby B, many specialists became alarmed, and how I got the conclusion from two doctors when he was about 4 months old that he was blind and probably deaf. Within a couple of months, the blind diagnosis was proven completely wrong as he finally began to respond to and recognize us. From that devastating (wrong) news, and due to other “diagnoses” I became more hardened to believing the test results (which are often inconclusive with young babies).

Finally I agreed to see what they were seeing. Sure enough, she didn’t even blink at a flashlight, respond to loud claps—nothing. We even used other babies around her age as models to compare responses. The others were startled, blinked, sought out our faces, etc. But to our alarm, V remained distant and unaffected.

I made an appointment with our pediatric ophthalmologist. In upcoming weeks she also had appointments with our pediatric neurologist, as well as two different orthopedic specialists for her curved legs/tightness/odd neck position. Multiple tests, x-rays, and sonograms were ordered.

The eye exam went fine. Maybe the stimuli was not reaching her brain as it should, or she was just delayed.

The orthopedic doctor, the best in town, speculated that the blow to her head at birth was causing her left side rigidness, wandering left eye, cocked neck, and poor range of motion. He ordered daily hydro-therapy and said that with excellent care and stimulation, she would most likely be fine by 1 year.

Within a matter of weeks after turning 3 months, V had completely turned the corner and was much more responsive. We were so relieved! The Alseth family and staff at Hogar III began concentrating much more on her development, responses, and therapy.

Again I let my mind rest. There was much going on, always more babies arriving with new issues, and I stopped observing her as closely.

Then came Thanksgiving Day and enjoying the feast that my family and the Alseths had prepared to share with our families and the 7 Bolivian kids at HDA III. I couldn’t help noticing how curled up V’s hands/arms were, and her tightly clinched fists. Time had flown—she had just turned 5 months old. That position didn’t seem right at all. Maybe for a newborn, but not for her. She’s a very cute, petite baby, but still….it concerned me. I talked to our physical therapist about it and she said the exercises already being done would help, but I still didn’t ask her to check her out.

A couple weeks later while talking to the Alseth family, we decided her continual digestive issues warranted yet another consultation. Something was going off in my head: digestive issues, the intestines are muscles, she appears to have spastic muscles, cranial trauma at birth……all was fitting together, and I didn’t like the thought of the results. A Bolivian baby at our church who was with us a couple of months had recently been diagnosed with a mild case of cerebral palsy, and of course I live with B (CP) and have walked through each medical and developmental concern with him since he was an infant.

I decided to see a different pediatrician this time, one who is highly recommended and that all of our “foreigner” friends use. I went a few days before Christmas, when she would turn 6 months old, a developmental milestone. The doctor was extremely thorough in reading through her entire (very thick) file, asking me lots of questions (I called the Alseths for the answers I didn’t have), and examining her. After 50 minutes of intense concentration on V, the doctor put down his pen and leaned back in his chair. He suspects cerebral palsy, mild to moderate. Cause? Near suffocation at some point while thrown out in the plastic bag.

I left fuming for the 1000th time at whoever threw her out in that way. It’s hard to explain…I don’t judge the mother or whoever was behind it all. Circumstances can be extreme and excruciating and people are forced to make decisions they would never make otherwise, decisions they had never dreamed of making. But what remains is that that person(s) does not know what consequences this beautiful baby lives with, perhaps all her life, due to that choice, or series of decisions that ended poorly for this baby. Of course she survived and is now in a wonderful, loving home, and Lord willing will have a forever family one day, so her story will end much better than many. Our heart is broken again and again for these kids.

We weren't telling many people at first because we were waiting to do a CAT scan. The results came out normal, but with possibly overly-large ventricles that we hope become more proportionate as she grows. As I researched more what they should look like, it's obvious on her scan that the right side ventricles are bigger, which would explain her weaker left side??

A few days ago, the court called and needed updated psychological, social, and medical reports on V as they process her paperwork (“no existing family”). I asked the same pediatrician to write up her medical report, and he mainly spoke of her having the signs of cerebral palsy, but a mild case at this point. It has a tone of urgency to it, stating that she needs many resources to have the opportunity for a normal life, so hopefully her case will not just be tossed into some dark corner of the court and forgotten.

I couldn’t help but be saddened at how that narrows down her possibilities of a family. Without even a picture or video to go on (Bolivian law), potential adoptive families do not even have the benefit of falling in love with that CUTENESS (curly hair, huge brown eyes, chubby cheeks!) before being hit with the diagnosis.

We trust that our Heavenly Father has the perfect family chosen for V, and indeed all of our special needs babies! He has provided in the past and we know He will in the future. We cannot wait to see how He works in V’s life, to improve her quality of life through the hands of those who love her, and to set her in a family (Psalm 68:6).

Thank you for lifting our 36 babies and young children up to our Father!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Volunteer Fellowships...and hearing God

Since June 2007, we've enjoyed regular times of fellowship with our international volunteer staff. It's great to get together and just focus on them and how they are doing, sing together, listen to prayer requests, and pray over the children, staff, and overall work of the homes.

Certain times in our history have been particularly stimulating, such as when we have 4 or 5 volunteers representing several countries. (Ever had a conversation about what the song/dance "Hokey Pokey" is called in other places? How about "Hokey Cokey" in the UK? We laughed and "argued" so much that was nuts. Totally out of control. Falling off our chairs we were laughing so hard.)

Then besides laughing so hard and eating entirely too many US-style snacks, we do have a serious time of sharing or a testimony, usually led by my parents. But they readily recognize that the work is very tiring and challenging most days. (I know, I know, I should use the word "ministry" but when you're changing your 10th diaper in a row with 10 toddlers running around you in all their glorious energy, it seems to be WORK with a capital W.) So, often my Mom brings in something more lighthearted.

Anyway, all of that as a long preamble to pass on what my Mom shared at our last fellowship time. We had a good chuckle or two while reading through the list (I wondered how many of us had used at least a dozen of the phrases on that list that very day, although in Spanish) but it was impactful as well as entertaining. Here's the list:

Talking to your kids
...And hearing God at the same time

1. “I remember the day you were born”
2. “Do you know where you’re going?”
3. “Slow down”
4. “It’s time to get up”
5. “That is not how we treat our brothers and sisters”
6. “Look at me”
7. “You gave your word”
8. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
9. “Come here!”
10.“We don’t act like that”
11. “I love you”
12. “Where is your brother?”
13. “Hold my hand”
14. “Be careful”
15. “You will always be my child”
16. “Please stop that”
17. “Follow the directions”
18. “Now is not the time”
19. “Share”
20. “Let’s go for a walk”
21. “Turn down the music!”
22. “Life isn’t fair”
23. “I know how you feel”
24. “Do you know what time it is?”
25. “Answer me when I call you”
26. “It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing”
27. “You make me smile”
28. “No”
29. “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you”
30. “Are you ready for inspection?”
31. “Be still”
32. “Where does it hurt?”
33. “I’m the parent, that’s why”
34. “Stop whining”
35. “That’s not your job”
36. “[your name here]”
37. “Use your time wisely”
38. “I love to hear you sing”
39. “Don’t lie to me”
40. “Pay attention”
41. “Call home”
42. “Let me know when you get some self control”
43. “Be quiet”
44. “Together we can do it”
45. “Please just trust and obey me”
46. “Listen to me”
47. “Wash up before dinner”
48. “It’s your choice”
49. “Don’t panic”
50. “Take out the trash”
51. “Are you ready yet?”
52. “Get busy”

We went around the room of "volunteers" ranging from age 10 to 50s, and encouraged each to share one or two that stuck out to them and apply it to how God speaks to us. I found #28 interesting, "no". Why is it so cruel when God uses no with us, and yet we, in total confidence with our answer, use it so frequently with our children, for their good.

What is God telling you these days?

My, how fast they change! (Post 2)

So the first picture was...

Date: June 4, 2008

Featuring: Benito, Erick, & Juan Carlos

Picture by: Volunteers Jen & Andrew (thanks for sharing!)

And now...

January 13, 2009

Or this one:


Last year's volunteer Denise says this was wayyy too easy. WELL when I came across this picture in my files recently, I was dumbstruck for a few seconds on WHO in the world Erick was, which is practically unheard of. I think I know why! That was the size you (Denise) left him, before the twins went through their major growth spurt, but I keep forgetting how puny they were upon arrival.

Now all three of those babies must be twice as big!

And DEFINITELY more active!! Two seconds after calling it quits (you would've thought we were torturing them, as we did everything but stand on our heads to get them to lie on their backs for just one minute):

Ahh, busy babies. It's good to watch them develop though. (Yes those are chicken pox covering poor JC.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My, how fast they change!

Former volunteers, take a good look at this picture:

A prize for whoever can guess who these baby boys are!! Okay so not really--the prize will be the answers and a newly posed picture. =)
Hint: picture taken in 2008. Big clue, huh? ;-)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baby Picture Sunday: Black & White

Joining in "Baby Picture Sunday" at "Who Says Eight is Enough?"!

Twins G & G when they were almost 2 months

Twins E & E on an outing to pick up my sister from horse-back riding

Snack time! Emma and the twins (13 months)

Three newborns during the "baby flood" of August 2008

With my baby E a few weeks after he arrived, September 2008

My baby J, sacked out on my lap while I work.
I love it when they are small enough to fit there....although I'm tall enough and they are small enough (genetics!) that they usually fit there for quite a while. :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Territory for Hogar de Amor II

I am so pleased to announce that after over a year of searching and searching and searching some more, HDA II finally has new stomping ground!! Very exciting! And good timing since my chief searchers (my parents) are making plans to head back to the states.

This morning was definitely exciting. We turned what would normally be a slightly dull contract signing meeting into a whole special excursion. Twenty-five + babies, toddlers, and young children will do that! It wasn't supposed to be quite that way, but what can I say--everyone we invited showed up to come and more!

Let's see....

Alseth family of HDA III (6 people)
Long-time volunteer David
repeat volunteer Elizabeth
me and my Dad
3 caregivers
administrator and family (3 people)
25 HDA kids

And...4 vehicles!

And here it is!! Our new house to rent!

(Note: these pictures were taken more to capture the kids' first moments there rather than to show off the house, besides that I was slightly distracted by all the activity and by meeting the original owner's son who is the current owner and talking about the contract and other details, so I suppose there will be lots more pictures later as we start cleaning it up and moving in.)

Toddlers from the Baby Home inspecting the large beautiful kitchen:

The (dry) pool was a big hit:

They certainly wasted no time getting in!

If it was this much fun without water....

The girls checking out their curtains:

Some of the girls peering out from their balcony (they'll have the whole top floor, a suite):

A picture off the balcony towards the back (we need to fix up the little house--newly accepted volunteer Sarah, that's your room!!):

Merely by the proportion of pictures taken outside versus inside, you can tell that the beauty of this place for us is it's spacious outdoors and "country feel" (which is the biggest improvement over their current house). I'd bet that we have more cows and chickens for neighbors than people, which the kids love, as you can see by the following conversation:

Overheard between caregivers and children while chatting on the upstairs balcony

"Tias, we want a dog! Please, please, we want a dog!!"

"Hm....dogs are a lot of work, do you want that?"

"Okay we want a cat, please, a cat!"

"No, cats bring sicknesses"

(children thinking) "Okay, then an elephant!" (and this in all seriousness)

Tias: laughter

(children thinking again) "I know! I know! We could have HORSES!"

At that point I give my two cents by suggesting we go back to the dog idea. =)

We'd appreciate prayer as we move forward from here. We'll need abundant wisdom and creativity for all of the organizing, changes, and decisions ahead! A big one looming is obviously when we will move out/move in. We have our current place till January 31, a visiting photographer to plan around January 23-26, but for security reasons someone needs to be living in the house starting Monday when we get the keys.

So I had hoped to move them over starting January 27 but it might need to be sooner, depending on when we can fence in the pool and make some other safety improvements. We've never moved HDA II so this is going to be interesting....

Well that's it for now. I'm really tired. Within 24 hours I was part of not one but THREE mega-outings with kids: the one described here, a trip to an ice cream place with 6 toddlers and a baby, and taking 9 toddlers/babies to the 1st birthday of one of our former babies. That wouldn't normally be so exhausting but there was loads of other work too (more since two of my main helpers are on vacation), and outings with single babies who eventually get heavy after several hours of dashing around the city. And helping a tia for an hour with 10 babies, although I love all of that. So, hasta maƱana!

Random Picture Challenge 1.0

The 21st picture in my May 2008 folder was actually not of the babies. =) It was Christian's very warm farewell from Hogar de Amor II before leaving for Santa Cruz where he now lives reunited with his mother and sister. Yeah for Christian!! (He was 4 1/2 at the time of the picture.)

There's nothing like a group hug!

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Little Dancer

A couple nights ago I brought Baby B, 15 months old now, up to the office to be with me and for extra stimulation. He was fine and happily entertained himself for about an hour, but then, when I turned on Brooke Fraser, LOUD, he went nuts!! Before I had tried to get his attention by calling his name and talking to him loudly, but he didn't pay any special attention to me. But he came alive with the music! I've heard the caregivers say that but hadn't seen it myself since his hearing aids. Finally, my first proof that they are helping!!

(That's our medical assistant Katrina at the filing cabinet, putting away various lab results in kid files.)

And then the last thing that happened before I left the office yesterday for church rehearsal:

Childcare superviser Tia (aunt) Adelaida sulks into the office. "Tia Jenny? I have some really bad news. Some really really bad news."

I notice she's nearly shaking and obviously nervous about continuing. This is my best tia here, so I can't imagine what's gone so wrong.

"'s really NOT good news." (I have the point by now.)

"One of B's hearing aids is... Broken."

I dropped the pen I was writing with, picked my jaw off the floor, and tried to not scream. Those are worth around $1000 each, although of course ours cost us much less from Starkey Foundation, that's even more pressure to me (how could we request a replacement?). I begged my eyes to see that it was just the mold and not the expensive part. IT'S JUST THE MOLD!! YEAH!!

But then I have to break the news to the audiologist at Audiocien, who made those for us for free.

"Buenas tardes, Don Miguel? Um......this is Jennifer from Hogar de Amor. Do you remember me? Of course you remember me. Well, uh, we have a little problem here."

(Why is it odd he doesn't seem surprised?)

"Well, uh, it's that......... ourbabyBsomehowgothishearingaidoutandanother(teething)babyBITitandnowthemoldisin,well,twopieces."

He didn't yell at me. Just said we'd have to take a look at it the next day since it was already late. SHEW.

Ironically this happens on the same day I probably spent a good hour total on organizing B's care better, particularly in regard to the usage and safety of both hearing aids. (Lately there have been problems losing them although there's a central place to put them, him ripping them out, the tape we use hurting his skin, sores in his ears maybe from putting them in wrong, the volume getting changed accidentally, tias forgetting to put them back in after his naps, etc., etc. At least I'm completely in charge of checking the batteries and changing them out every couple of weeks.)

So the administrator said "It really doesn't work to use hearing aids with a baby, does it". Nooo, it should work!! At least I don't think it should be so complicated. It's just our situation. Sigh. The challenges are more compounded raising so many at once, with 8 different "mothers" + volunteers and me.

And teething babies who think a soft plastic mold is nice for chewing practice.

As now I'm sure you are all very concerned about what craziness will happen next in the hearing aid saga, please join us in praying for God to work in providing B with a permanent loving family! He is a beautiful, sweet baby who loves attention and joking around. He has a slight to moderate case of cerebral palsy, severe hearing loss in one ear, moderate hearing loss in the other (the degree depends on who you talk to), and--what seems to be the main issue behind his delays--brain damage/mental retardation. Our current volunteer didn't seem to believe me when I described how he was as a baby, so cranky and hard to please and decidedly ANTI-social. He has turned around so much from that stage.

We KNOW that there is a family who will love and embrace him from one of the countries Bolivia works with (mainly European). I can't say much more here in public, but we have high hopes that he will be matched to someone soon, although he could still easily be with us another year. And I will miss him terribly when he goes.