Current Child Count

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

visitors from across the pond...

Yesterday we had a LOVELY afternoon at CDA II with our Danish visitors. Every year this Bible school in Denmark sends out three teams (to Africa, Australia, South America) to share the gospel with youth by way of skits, songs, and dance. Casa de Amor has been privileged to receive them two years in a row now.


I think ours is probably the "youngest" group they ever share with (several team members: "they are all, so.....little!!" Um, yes, I've noticed.)


But you know what? Even the 6 and 8 month old babies had their eyes glued to them for most or all of the program! We were so impressed. Also that they put on red noses or dressed up as clowns for some of the skits (Elizabeth: I was completely unaware of this plan previously!!) and out of 40+ children, no one had a meltdown!! We were stunned! Hip, hip, hooray for the progress made in that area!


Some pictures from the afternoon:


There were about 27 visitors and 39 babies/children, so everyone got ample attention



L. couldn't quite enter the festivities as usual, due to his broken arm...




All gathered and ready to watch


This was a neat skit that the older kids could really understand and learn from ("meta" is Spanish for goal)



It was hard to get a good picture of the kids and team together, since I had 1-3 babies in my lap/arms the whole time. =)





The 19 students dancing and singing






The team leaders - one Danish, one Bolivian - presenting team pictures to each of our homes (Boy Twin E is helping)



Two of the girls enjoying their little "picnic" after the presentation



Like I said recently, it's so nice when people take such an interest in our children, to bless them in many different ways...and consequently, bless the hard working staff/volunteers and give them (okay, us) a moment to step back and just enjoy the kids through the eyes of others!

Country Road...



The entrance to Casa de Amor II,

cows guarding the way...


Monday, March 30, 2009

Child History 1.0

Each child comes with their own unique story:
heart breaking, tragic, with conflicting details, many unknowns and doubts...or all of the above.
Here is the story of one who arrived last year.



Baby Alex* weighed about 5 pounds at birth. He was likely born prematurely, but we have little way of knowing. His teenage mother, assumed by hospital personnel to be from the countryside, was deaf and couldn’t make clear any of her personal information. She couldn’t even tell them her name. She refused to nurse or even look at her baby, making her rejection obvious with gestures and grunts. Most likely the baby was conceived by rape, since disabled or mentally ill girls are more easily preyed upon.

Shortly after being released from the hospital the mother was sent to a shelter for girls since no one knew what to do with her. (Some friends of mine think she saw her during a visit to that girls home, and said she was crying in a corner, alone. Isn't that sad? But no one could communicate with her.)

After a few days, she made clear that she wanted to leave and since the center is under-staffed, they let her go alone. We wonder—did she try to go back to the hospital to see her baby? Did she get lost while out? Or did she just want to go back home, where ever home is? I had just read a book written by a girl with deaf parents. My parents and I wondered if she could be helped with treatment, surgery, hearing aids….but with absolutely no data, there was no way to find her.

Baby Alex stayed in the hospital a couple of weeks recovering from respiratory distress syndrome. The elderly, long-time social worker of the hospital chose his name, giving him the masculine version of her own name. Then he arrived to our doorstep by ambulance! (There are so few in our city, one would think they could use their ambulance for better things...?)

As the social worker proudly passed the baby from her own arms to mine, she said “Here’s your healthy baby boy”. I just smiled a knowing smile. One can never tell right away with a newborn what's ahead. During his first months with us, I personally took him to the doctor at least a dozen times and the lab many more times. Some of his health issues were due to the untreated STD of his mother: chronic eye infections and bronchitis, calcium deficiencies and other mineral imbalances, lack of appetite and thus slow growth.

Then there was the umbilical hernia that just grew and grew... and grew. After seeking the most economical and yet safe option, we had it surgically removed by an excellent pediatric surgeon who offered his services to us. I donated blood the morning of the surgery since we had short notice. After the surgery, he finally became a happier baby. Since we can't imagine that the hernia bothered him that much, maybe it was because he was no longer severely anemic??

Of course, his crankiness and all the trips to the doctors and labs meant that I HAD to hold him, and seeing as he weighed less than a full-term baby for the longest time (preemie clothes!) it was a dream… A couple times I had him in a sling and carried another baby (or the twin babies we had at that time, in a car seat) as well. I shocked more than one person when my “purse” wiggled or cried!!

The past few months, Alex has been much better. His cough comes back often so he’s a regular at our “cough doctor”, but overall he's a cheery little fellow. And chunky!! Everyone jokes he should go on a diet. Since after his surgery when he would calm himself by sucking hard on his fingers (long story—it was a weekend and took me a while to track down the stronger pain med), he’s stayed with the habit.

He has a shocking lack of hair for a Bolivian baby, but he's on supplements because it seems to be due to his struggles with vitamin/mineral deficiencies. His motor development is a bit delayed, so I’m hoping to see that catch up soon. But anyway, he is now adoptable and I have hopes that he’ll be with his new family in a few months!


*name changed

UPDATE: Help provide loving care for Baby Alex for just $25/month through Casa de Amor's new child sponsorship program. Download THIS form to get started!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Emails, etc...

Emails, oh emails. I have a love-hate relationship with them. I was talking with one of my volunteers on the way back from church about how fun it is to receive an email, but how difficult it can be to reply. Then I get here and I have no less than THIRTEEN since last night at midnight. Yikes! That's normal for a weekday morning, but on Sunday?! And almost all that I get require a personal reply... (Which I am glad to do, but sometimes - often - the priority is on the people/kids right here who need me right now, in which case the emails get put off.)

Included in that list are three potential volunteers (my Mom will reply to them, thankfully) and one asking about adoption. Yesterday we had two sets of visitors to the homes and now I'm waiting for a couple of ladies to come. The interest people show in our kids is still mind-boggling at times, and such a blessing! I always think this work brings me across people at two extremes, sometimes within a matter of minutes: some of the most difficult people in the world and some of the most amazingly generous people in the world. As a side note: when I ever have a chance (but NOT after responding to ALL my emails, oh nooo), I'd like to prepare some posts of the backgrounds of some of our kids.

Also someone has asked for more on Bolivian culture. That one made me grin-I've lived here so long now (1/5 of my life) it's hard to remember/realize what some of the differences are! Or maybe...to verbalize them? Because I'm so used to some things. But that would be fun to try to do and now's a good time, since we have 4 new volunteers in and seeing things afresh through their eyes reminds me of my first months here.

Now, off to the ever-arriving emails.....

PS--Just got a call from someone pleading help for her maid's 2 year old nephew who is alone most of the time, completely uncared for. So hard. Just wanted to say "bring him over, we'll figure it out!!" but I just CAN'T. That makes 6 cases in the past 7 days, and I did say yes to 2 of those even though we're full - we're always "full"!!

Today the sermon was on having compassion as Jesus showed while on earth, but as I sat there with the two newest babies, both needing so much attention, I thought, "So do I take compassion on the abandoned newborn, or the lost mentally delayed 6 year old, or the possibly abandoned baby girl [all ones I turned down this week], or on my poor staff who are expending their all to care for the constant in-flow of babies? or on the other children, who will receive that much less attention if I take in yet another this week?" It will be such a happy day when we launch our foster family program.... (That's yet another post for another day because any minute the visitors will be here to learn more about adopting.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's a Boy!


The first picture of our new little guy, after a much-needed bath






We helped his young father name him, choosing names from the Bible





And since his first and middle name start with J....




guess he'll be Baby JJ for the blog!


He is 6 1/2 weeks old, weighs exactly 9 pounds, and totally adorable!


Even if this has been a totally hectic, packed-not-one-free-minute week (actually last week as well), I never tire of new babies and all the excitement this life brings.....
Today is also V's 9th birthday at CDA II and my special sister Sarah's 21st birthday.

(Keep praying for our little V, Monday's new entry. She has seizures and her mother has disappeared before giving us her final decision on what she wants to do.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Casa de Amor III: Thanks!

A big thanks to CDA III for their hard work the past few weeks!

The month of March at their house...


2 year old with unexplainable fever, in lots of pain, already health compromised so that was scary (multiple trips to doctor, multiple exams)

a few days later, a 2 year old and 1 year old break out in chicken pox (begin treatment)

a few days later, their son breaks out in nasty rash

next day, their daughter has some kind of virus

same day, the "father" to the dozen kids in their home twists his knee and is limping

other family members down with various illnesses...

a few days later, the 8 month old baby appears to have chicken pox (the doctors and I are still stumped if she actually had it or just mosquito bites, or both)

6 year old is pushed off slide as we are leaving church, diagnosed as a minor break after multiple trips to doctors, currently trying to get swelling down so he can be casted

couple days later...4 year old with tooth abcess

next day...another 4 year old with apparent urinary tract infection (but results don't warrant medication...what could it be?)

Wow, I didn't realize it was so much till I started to write it all out, and this is just what I know of/can remember. Really leaves us looking forward to tomorrow...!!

But seriously, will someone commit to holding CDA III up in prayer? They are accomplishing amazing things in these kids lives as they grow and develop and do things professionals wouldn't have thought possible, and the enemy is not happy about it!




On top of all going on there, today we carried on with our formally planned all-day Baby Home Staff meeting, and they were the gracious hosts as always.
It was a wonderful place to meet, "away" from the constant activity and noise of the Baby Home, although I told several people to come out there to meet with me instead, and received/made multiple phone calls....but I think the rest were able to relax and focus on the topics at hand.
_______________________

A BIG thanks also to Joe and Denise Holman for coming out...in
my parent's former Bolivian car =)...to encourage and pray for the staff as we began our day! Several times afterwards the caregivers were marveling over what Denise shared, particularly the numbers: teaches 7 grades at once, responsible for 1080 meals/month, 8 1/2 years of life pregnant, has changed 44,000 diapers, etc.

________________________

Another prayer request: after initial evaluations by CDA staff, it looks like Child V (our Monday arrival) is at the level of a one month old baby. Since she's already 6 and we now know she has had many, many seizures, and was born very prematurely at home with no medical attention (and she didn't cry for at least an hour after birth), there seems to be very little hope for her recovery (medically speaking). She can literally only lie on her back, usually in a fetal position, making a few grunting/groaning sounds. Her situation is still in limbo as we have not officially accepted her yet, partially because her mother is making some hard decisions right now.

Thanks!
_______________________


I'm very excited about tomorrow. I'm busy dawn till dusk with all sorts of things, but the day starts off with a new baby arriving!! Details when I have a chance......

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Arrival

Yeah. This was um....unexpected. Much more so when this little girl is 6 but the size of a toddler. Is blind (appears like she's looking at me in the picture, but she's not really). Uses diapers, bottles, doesn't walk, talk... Could it be cerebral palsy again?
That would probably be more scary but, as we talked about at Bible study tonight, the unknown is so much scarier. We "know" a bit more about CP these days, thanks to our Baby B and Baby V, although baby/child V (which to call her?) might be more severe.

Currently V is at CDA II with the big kids. I couldn't think what else to do tonight at 7pm, without having the social worker or administrator to consult with (although Katrina hung with me helping after her doctor run--thanks!), and Bible study starting and I had several things to take to ladies there from my family, things to ask them, etc.

Katrina and I made her a bottle, changed her diaper, and took her straight to Bible study where she slept pretty peacefully (with open eyes!) in their spare bedroom as we met.

Ironically, our current Bible Study "Walking By Faith" is by Jennifer Rothschild, herself blind.

My next plan......pray for an appropriate foster family! For her and for several others who need one ASAP. The green light from the government to work in this way (foster families) opens up a whole new world for us! I am so excited about it. It's becoming desperate too. Tomorrow or soon the newborn comes in from the countryside, and now it's long term. So much need!

On another note...


Two months now since I've held baby Gabriela... I was overwhelmed with urgent tasks all day but made sure to give her twin Gabriel hugs a couple of times...the only baby to get any today since I was busy with this disaster in my room, the aftermath of my family's departure:


All the "leftovers" from my family's almost-23 months in Bolivia and the stuff I had there. I barely had a path to get to my bed by last night. Getting everything out of their place was NUTS. Stuff was growing out of the drawers and cabinets, I swear. We filled up three cars full AFTER we took Dad to the airport and thought we were practically done.

Several of our current volunteers took turns helping us over the weekend. Katrina, Sarah, Dan, thanks for your cheerful, servant spirits!! Made the work so much lighter...literally!

Now I'd be so happy to never lug a dirty heavy box the rest of the my life, but that's not going to happen, I'm just 26 and a missionary. ;-)


It was great actually, to be so crazily busy so as to keep my mind off Gabriela, and my first day without family here.

Simply between 5:30pm and 6:30pm today....

Met with the social worker and administrator to catch them up on my trip downtown (met with a lawyer, a paperwork lady, got a call about taking in the newborn tomorrow or soon)

Something like 4 calls from a CDA I and III medical outing with 3 babies/kids. Luis DOES have a small fracture from his fall at church yesterday, bummer! The 3rd doctor finally spotted it in the xrays. At least we know what's up now. His elbow is too swollen to even cast him now; he'll have to return tomorrow after some intense ice-packing.

Get call from one of Dad's friends to ask if he made it back; I take the opportunity to talk to him about the room we hope to add on to the Baby Home

Plan out some of the many details for Wednesday's Baby Home staff annual planning meeting

Try to think of another option for a "special speaker" to do a devotional for us Wednesday morning since the first option had to travel

Call a couple volunteers to plan tomorrow

Take an English call from someone with a strong accent who wants to visit Baby Home tomorrow; offers to bring something we need. How thoughtful! I suggest formula and diapers.

And the rest of the week will be equally wild! Never a dull moment, for sure.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Random Picture Challenge

(Even if it's just a hint of brown...and pink!)




I've always loved this one, Baby S's very first upon arrival, February, 2008 (see the admission papers still in my hand?)
Since October '08 she lives with her adoptive mother!


Back to packing up my family's place (will it ever end?!)...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Arrival

....nope, not a baby! :-) This arrival is about...6 1/2 feet tall?!

Dan is 19 and will be here a couple of months. It's his first time out of the US but he's doing well and, best of all, has a great attitude. (My Dad: "Can you build a room while you're here?" Dan: "Uh....yeah, sure!")

Tonight he met the kids of CDA III as I went with a bag of meds, and tomorrow he'll help with a medical outing for 15 CDA I and II babies/kids, so he'll quickly feel a part of everything! He has 7 siblings (including 5 younger sisters) which will be helpful as he becomes a part of our big families.

We often go through periods of great change around here, due to the transitory nature of our homes, volunteers, etc. I think it's safe to say we are in one now:

Between February 16 and March 17, four new volunteers have arrived. Funny how they come in waves like that--even their email inquiries about working with us. And even tonight as I try frantically to catch up on today's emails (25 at last count), the last two come from travelers in Bolivia who want to visit us later this week.

Five new babies/kids arrived between February 16 and March 3.

Two adoptions "began" (or is it "ended"?): one international and one local, yeah!

We've hired a new staff member, the husband of my social worker/administrator. Yeah, potentially awkward, but they don't cross paths that often and he's part time. (For now, although I'll probably have to increase his hours soon since he's replacing not one but two wonderful guy helpers who've had to leave Bolivia.)

My family is transitioning from life here to life back in the US. Their home here is almost dismantled, but we still have a volunteer fellowship there tomorrow night.


We got some awesome wonderful super great news tonight about CDA III but I'm not sure if its public knowledge yet so will share it later, but it does mean one LESS change for them.


Okay, back to the emails, which keep coming in...

Sorry there are no new pictures to post... I'll put a pic of Dan later. My day was insane until about now (nearly 11pm), same as yesterday. Pray for CDA III kids as the chicken pox hits them hard. Today three have a cough and two are confirmed with bronchitis, if not pneumonia, too. Tomorrow will be packed with doctor visits.


Picture posted 3/18
(our "little" outing for flu shots which turned into two hours of waiting because yesterday they sold our reserved vaccinations to another group who came in, grr...)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today

January 16...



arrival!



February 16...


triple arrival!!!



March 16...




no arrival, shew!!

although a one month old might come this week, for one week.... (NO we don't have room. I think he/she will be in MY room, yikes!)


Just tons of computer work
and planning out the week
getting updates on the chicken pox outbreak in CDA III
the current adoption
papers to two lawyers
papers to two places in court (I about KILLED myself getting there on time after my staff took too long finishing the report...including running about 10 city blocks and up and back down 6 flights of stairs!!)
and creating a list of upcoming medical specialist check-ups


Would you believe the list includes a surgeon, neurologist, orthopedist, pulmonologist, ophthalmologist, pediatrician, dermatologist and ENT? Gracious. And names of 15 of my kids. That's nearly half!


A way lot to keep up with, but who wants a dull, quiet life, anyway?!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My dear sister, etc.

Talking with my sister Emma for the first time since she moved back to the states a week ago:

E: “Hey, my first two nights here, I dreamed of your kids in Bolivia.”
Me: “Aw sweetie, how nice! And what were they doing?”
E: “Oh, I dunno. Just stuff.
Me: “Really? But what stuff?”
E: “Well…(hesitating now)…they were CRYING. Which ACTUALLY makes it a nightmare!!”

Oh. Glad I asked.

This afternoon we took the four oldest kids of CDA III (ages 4-6) to CDA II to play. The current adoption going on at CDA III is affecting them a bit (so hard to watch someone else get a doting new family while they continue waiting, and waiting…) so we thought we’d take them out during the family’s afternoon visit to their new child.

Some of my more interesting conversation with the kiddos in that short time:

Jhoselin (age 5): “Abigail went to Tia Eli’s house today because she had seventy THOUSAND happy faces!!” (Part of an award system at CDA II.)
Me: “Oh, really? Seventy thousand, huh?”
Jhoselin, giggling (if she’s not talking, she’s giggling—or both at once): “NOO, I was JOKING!! She had eight smiley faces!”

Really had me there…

Me: So how many kids were in your Sunday School class today?
Luis (age 6): Thirty one hundred.

WOW. I’ll guess it was 30, nor 100, or 130 (what was it with numbers today?!)

Me: “Mayra, did you have chicken pox when you were little?”
Mayra (age 4), indignantly: “QUE?!?!??” [what]

O-k-k-e-e-e-y, I’ll take that as a no. :-) Or maybe she was offended that I thought she was once "little" (if you knew Mayra, you'd understand).


And WHY you ask are we talking about Chicken pox yet again??? Arghh, because it appears we have them YET AGAIN in CDA III. Poor Juan Gabriel is pretty miserable but I’ve started him on medication, and Alejandra appears to be right in his wake. I’m worried concerned for the two babies there already a bit health-compromised (like Baby V, just 8 months old). We’re going to stay right on top of it though, and for now JG will be isolated in his room. I’m sending a Baby Home volunteer there instead tomorrow, to be his personal assistant/entertainer/nurse. SO….with an adoption in the works, another volunteer arriving, and this being my Dad’s last week living in Cochabamba, will prove to be an interesting one!!


And a picture that has absolutely nothing to do with any of this, but what's a post without a picture? Last night for my Dad and myself, I baked a spinach-two-types-of-cheese-mix-of-recipes-to-accomodate-Bolivian-ingredients....QUICHE! Yum.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

get your verse on

I know this is normally all about the kids, I don't even have a label if it's not =), but this was a fun find.

The adoptive mother behind the blog Heart Smiles is starting a new business with friends. Just a few days ago I was thinking I'd like to find a shirt with a verse on it or a neat phrase the next time in the states...you know, the continual list "when I am back....." and then when I'm there there's somehow no time for anything! But anyway, since only God knows when that will be, maybe I should just order a shirt and have it brought to me here, ha!

Wild Olive Tees


Bonus: A portion of the sales currently go to support Shaohannah's Hope, an adoption-funding (sound familiar?) non-profit that I love!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Special Adoption Fundraiser

Dear Blog Readers: Below is the email I sent out last night to our mailing list. Don't feel obligated to give (the response has been heartwearming already!) - just wanted to share the happy news here.
Also, see the new album of the twins in the slideshow to the right. There you'll see almost ALL the photos ever taken of them. To view the album with the captions, just click on it.

March 12, 2009

Dear Supporters,

Partially due to my family’s history with adoption and partially due to God’s mandates on family and caring for others in need, adoption is special to our hearts. And well, witnessing one unfold every two or three months right before our eyes is pretty special, as well!

Casa de Amor has been so blessed to be a part of 16 adoptions in the past 2 ½ years (11 international and 5 domestic), all having gone very well. We are on track for 2009 to be a record year of adoptions, even as the whole process slows down in general due to an anti-adoption government. One lawyer told us his adoptions from other homes are stalled, but in court all he sees are files that say “Casa de Amor, Casa de Amor, Casa de Amor…” (What can I say? We pray our kids through!)

Now we want to give you the chance to participate in a special adoption. Maybe you remember that in October 2008, we took in a set of twins found abandoned in a dry riverbed, Gabriel and Gabriela. Many will remember the terrible news in January of Gabriela passing away so quickly due to a rare complication of the chicken pox virus. My grief was compounded both by the sorrow of her many “mothers” (the caregivers) and by seeing baby Gabriel, just 4 months old, who was suddenly no longer a twin.



Gabriela and Gabriel in their “twin outfits”, December 2008

But a few weeks later, our newest caregiver at the Baby Home approached us to explain something. Luz had always imagined having a family of two sons and two daughters, but after having two daughters and a son, her husband left her for someone else and her dream seemed over. But Luz came to the Lord, became a part of a vibrant church, and last year, the pastor’s wife (who has adopted with Casa de Amor’s help), spoke into her life saying that someday, Luz would adopt her fourth child. She didn’t even believe her, but here we are! Luz and her now-grown children have prayed and fasted and are very excited that God is leading them to adopt Gabriel to complete their family. We have helped Luz talk to the best adoption lawyer we know, who told her she can absolutely apply for custody of our now 6 month old much-loved Gabriel, even before he has “adoptability” status. He is so sweet-tempered and happy, just like his mom-want-to-be, Luz (which means “light” in Spanish). My only concern is that he would be completely spoiled!!


Tia Luz feeding several at once, but still attentive to baby Gabriel (rocking him with her foot)

Luz also asked us to pray with her that God would make a way if this is His will, because financially she will not be able to afford the approximately $400-500 cost of the two step process over the next few months: gaining legal custody and then applying to adopt Gabriel. As a “family” who loves and adores baby Gabriel, and deeply appreciates the ladies who sow their lives into these children who have no one else, Casa de Amor desires to help Luz as her family pursues this adoption. This is actually the first adoption by a Casa de Amor staff member, and might also inspire others to do the same.

We are so excited to think of Gabriel’s future as the special child who “completes” this sweet Christian family. He will also have a mother and sisters who knew and cared for baby Gabriela, and being adopted locally means he will stay in Cochabamba and can eventually visit his sister’s grave.

If you are touched by this unfolding story, please consider giving towards adoption expenses. For all that can be gained, the amount is really small, and with the participation of many it will not be a burden to any one person.


“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.”
I Samuel 1:27


This week Luz is beginning the paperwork process with the lawyer and child welfare services, so please be in prayer about meeting this special need. For giving information, see below.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support!


Blessings,
Jennifer Thompson
Founder/Director
Casa de Amor Children’s Homes
Cochabamba, Bolivia


Donations are tax deductible. Please make checks payable to GOAL, “Global Orphan Assistance League”, specifying “Gabriel” on a separate piece of paper.

GOAL
PO Box 3201
McKinney, TX 75070
(972) 562-4496

www.casadeamor.org
Visit http://hogardeamor.blogspot.com/ for many more stories on the twins (click on the label “Gabriela” half way down column on the right) and other children

Casa de Amor Children’s Homes
A ministry of Hogares de Amor para NiƱos (Homes of Love for Children) and Global Orphan Assistance LeagueSharing Christ’s Love with the Children of Bolivia



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Busy little bees

Hard at work at Casa de Amor III...



And hard at play =)

Baby V, now 8 months old (how time flies!)

Today an adoption has started here at CDA III, the first since they've opened, yeah!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All Tonsils


See what I mean?



Our most common viewpoint of Miss E, ha!

The Three


Not "the three" as in the three (first) new ones, but "the three" as in the sibling group of the new five......if any of that makes any sense. It's well past midnight by now but just wanted to post a few of these pictures because I had so much fun making them at the end of 10 solid hours of computer work.

My day's reward was making these three adorable kids feel special and enjoy some sibling alone time. I took them off to the newly painted blue room, moved a crib away from the sunniest corner and plopped them down and they started to play and love on each other.





Very first picture of the session





My favorite!


Baby D comes alive with her older siblings! I've never seen anything quite like it. It's heartbreaking to remember that they were separated two whole weeks ( until the government got it's act together enough to reunite the siblings. I'm glad it's me who gets to see their joy at being together. :-)






Proud big sister!







The sisters






Kisses! I tried so hard to get a good picture but the delay on my camera is such that it was impossible to predict when to click to "catch them in the act"...





...but just imagine how adorable it was for all three to pucker up and try to kiss each other at the same time!


Monday, March 9, 2009

www.casadeamor.org ....and a makeover!

Since the addition of the blog I've almost entirely neglected our website. Blogs are just so much more....well, fun!

But finally today I had a minute (or more like a couple hours) and thought I should give it a brush over and also update staff/volunteer pictures. Now it's pretty much fine except for the one staff picture that refuses to publish...how annoying.

Another reason I've ignored our website is because I would LOVE love love to give it a makeover. Totally start over and make it work better for who Casa de Amor is now. The current version was done in a couple of days by a visiting friend back in April 2005 plus one day in 2008 to create the Spanish version, and (obviously!) we've changed a lot since then.

Now going through it page by page today I'm more motivated to concentrate on, somehow in between everything else, 1) what I want exactly and 2) find someone to get us there. Cheaply.

If anyone reading this has any contacts of people with experience in designing websites for non-profits, I would love to contact them!! Thanks!


And as a rather random photo addition to this post, check out this hair of one of our newest:



Actually, maybe it's not so random. I think my hair starts to go every whichaway like this after hours of dealing with html coding!!



Adios

Well.....the dreaded day arrived and I survived. After living here 22 months, my Mom and sister boarded the plane about 6:20pm yesterday (Sunday). We were all teary eyed, especially Emma. Lots of changes coming up for her (grandparents in Texas, Tennessee, back to Texas to live, hopefully visits to Bolivia again), but she'll adjust quickly. I hope. Probably quicker than the rest of us! Reverse culture shock is worse than culture shock.

It looked like church again in the airport! Too bad that we didn't take a picture to not forget, but all or some members of all these families came (some of you will know them): Porters, Murrins, Summerfields, Bakers, and Holmans. And of course a tia came with 5 of the toddlers from the Baby Home, so it was quite the send-off.

I think it was good because it kept me distracted from focusing on saying bye. Directly leaving the airport, my Dad and I went to pick up our current 4 volunteers to take them to the now nearly-empty apartment to make something for dinner and watch a movie. So the evening went okay. I'm so busy that hopefully it won't sink in for a while that they are really gone?

Dad leaves two Sundays later. This Sunday another volunteer arrives. There are always airport trips! People coming and going, coming and going. We never realized how constantly transitional missionary life is, but it's pretty much constant loss and grief on different levels. Well now that I have everyone fired up to work internationally, I better quit...




On the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca (outside La Paz) with my parents and youngest sister Emma, January 2009


Other picture: Emma saying goodbye to "her" horse Lluvia (rain) the day before leaving

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Paint


What about this, "thistle"...



or "daffodil" yellow...





This team of teachers and graduates from a private school in Canada re-painted the three baby bedrooms at CDA I in just a few hours. Some helped with babies while the others cleaned walls, painted, and cleaned/repaired/rehung curtains! (Didn't take a picture of the "clear sky" room because it's basically the same as before.)


They did a great job!




And we appreciate the two suitcases full of useful donations: socks, shoes, toothbrushes, meds, vitamins, puzzles, shampoo...


New Child A's first smile on camera (he had arrived just a few hours earlier)

If any of the team reads this, muchas gracias!

It feels like we're in a new house when we're in the bedrooms.

Now maybe the team that comes in May can tackle the high traffic areas and playroom. There's always enough for all!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Threesome

With the hectic-ness of the day, this is the best picture I have of the three so far, but hey--they are together again!!


The new little boy arrived to be the new oldest boy just a few hours before Rudy left to live with his new parents (pre-adoption custody period).


The three bedrooms at the Baby Home are beautifully repainted!


More later...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sisters reunited!

Today was an amazing day. Exhausting in every way and I missed most of the potluck/Bible study at my parent's place (the last one to be held there) and I just NOW have a minute to THINK at 10-something-pm, but.........very, very amazing.

In a nutshell, here's what happened:

After two weeks of begging at an increasingly louder volume for the government to figure out which siblings belong together from the raid two weeks ago, finally today was the day. After several time changes, finally at almost midday, we had our three little girls in SEDEGES so that a 4 year old girl could show us which was her sister (their sister--she has a brother, too). My Mom and sister got there in time to see what looked like a "police line up" as my Mom put it. Three of us were holding our three babies and the sister, crying from confusion in the arms of a government social worker, finally pointed to the one in the middle and told us her name. Finally, we knew the poor baby's real name!! She has had two others in the past two weeks.

Now, we needed to reunite the family of three children. The question was, bring the two to our homes, or let Little Sister D go to them (the stance we'd had since finding out a sibling group was separated)?

So the fun began. Several of us (me, my family, volunteer Katrina) had been feeling pretty reluctant to hand over one of the girls we'd been caring so hard for the past two weeks. (The main reason I kept the pressure on SEDEGES to do this sooner rather than later!) I was waiting to see the age of the siblings, and if they could be integrated into the Baby Home, we could "make" space (and several are leaving even this week). Also to see if they were totally wild as some are, or on the calmer side.

Now seeing the sister and how sweet and quiet she was, and learning her name, and watching her love on her baby sister, my Mom and I were like oh yeah, gotta have her!! Meanwhile SEDEGES is begging for us to just take her with us and them to bring her brother to us next. Here the decision seems easy but when we're already so very overloaded and out of beds and donations barely keeping up.....it's not so clear cut.

I also had to imagine telling the caregivers, as hardworking as they already are, that two more were coming, making 6 new arrivals within 6 weeks (our normal preferred pace is one a month, if that many)! We're also in the thick of some other changes with kids, as well as a new staff member who started today and new volunteers. AND I wanted to be with my family more this week before they leave.

But life doesn't wait. So we took sister S back with us.

Then three of us spent 4 hours out with the 4 at the doctor (see pictures below for the more enjoyable part of the outing) to get orders for TB testing and other necessary labwork.

On the way back, SEDEGES called my cell phone (extremely rare) to say that the brother needed to come ASAP because he was crying for his sister. Okay, that makes 20 in the house tonight, but what else to do... [He hasn't arrived yet, but I assume will come sooner rather than later.]

Then I made some harried preparations for tomorrow (huge day: team of 18 coming, painting, outing with the kids, Rudy's adoption hearing, etc., etc.) and left to give new marching orders to the volunteers and go to the pharmacy.

By now I was really tired but pressing on because the day was far from over. Then I had a phone call that gave me renewed strength and encouragement, that God was leading in all of this and would make a way for everything!

In SEDEGES this morning as we tried to see which girl went to which name, approximate ages, etc., I recognized the names of several parents from street visits I've made. In particular, I noticed the dad's name of the three siblings and remembered which ministry had worked extensively with him. I met him and their family in 2007 when I visited the tents/shelters and piles of trash they call home.

So as soon as I had a minute without holding two babies at once, I called the fellow directors of a home for boys just outside Cochabamba. We talked for nearly 20 minutes as we marveled at God's plan. They have prayed for over a year now that these three siblings would come to our home when/if taken away from their parents. I thought they might be very disappointed or insist that we work to put the children back with their parents (although practically never happens in "street cases").

To my surprise, I could practically hear them jumping up and down for joy through the phone, first the husband then the wife. They were incredibly grateful that we would take in the three and also gave me much needed information (for example, knowing actual birth dates is a treat in these situations!).

Tomorrow afternoon they'll come over to see the kids and tell us more. God is at work!! What a "coincidence" that I would see that name on SEDEGES's papers, that I would remember their dad's name, that I would have met him nearly two years ago, and that someone happened to mention that he had been involved with the ministry that I know the directors of! (And right now they have Scottish visitors staying in their house who are a huge support to our ministry.) What a small world...


And switching gears, here are a couple of pictures from the l-o-n-g doctor outing this afternoon. Glad I took my camera to entertain ourselves! (The first two pictures above are also from the outing. Are they not cute or what?!)

What to do when waiting 3 hours for a doctor with 4 little girls...eat!



Waiting for our freshly squeezed orange juice


Katrina and the 4 little girls having their snack of crackers and juice outside