Current Child Count

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

Friday, July 31, 2009

colds, be gone!

We buy it in bulk, and last year and this year, it truly seems to help our winters be less..........

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We don't need identical twins around here to have moments of second-guessing

I mean is it any surprise I confuse these four little girls from the back??

D (21 months), A (18 months), E (20 months), L (25 months)

There are little boys that play this trick on me, too. ~grin~

Will have to get a picture of them sometime...

See the giveaway post

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It is....


From this on April 8…

and shortly after...

To this in May:

And this in June…

Our new Baby Home room!!

As I look at this, I marvel. So, so many details to get here! And quite the process of international, inter-cultural cooperation, as a group of people who often didn't know each other pitched in to work together, make do without the proper tools, googling what they didn't know how to do, enthusiastically learning and doing and re-doing.

Dan (from Indiana) & Joel (from Georgia) started us off back in April/May:

MK friends spent a day helping them lay the foundation:

Even 3 year old A helped unload the 500 bricks!

Tio David helped throughout the entire process:

And this family of 5 from Texas did all the final finish out and moving in!

So thanks the creative fundraiser donation of former volunteer Melanie

We now have a special space for our volunteers who live in the Baby Home!

And our physical therapist Maribel is back in her spot

And we have a TV (from my family's former home here) and a place to put it for the first time ever!

Thanks to one and all for all your hard work, sweat, and tears (even blood) to complete this wonderful project!! We are so happy with the extra space!

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Casa de Amor programs

Those who work in the Christian children-at-risk community will recognize the name Phyllis Kilbourn, founder of Rainbows of Hope and author of the book "Children-At-Risk: A New Commitment", among others.

My Australian friend Janette Pepall, founder of Children with Hope, has resigned from her full time volunteer position of Director of Training and is now training, writing, advising, etc. Currently she is working on a training module for a Crisis Care Training manual that Phyllis Kilbourn is putting together, and she chose us as one of three groups to be presented in the "Successful Model of Care" section.

I asked volunteer/child sponsorship coordinator Denise to jump start me in the filling out of the form, then I finished it up. It turned out to be 4 1/2 pages at the end, plus a couple dozens photos.

For question #10, which asked us to list the "Programs in Organization", it was fun to see how many we really do have now:

1) Casa de Amor I (ages 0-3)

2) Casa de Amor II (ages 3-12; eventually to be turned into the foster family model)

3) Casa de Amor III (ages 0-6)

4) Family Strengthening Program
working closely with family members and child(ren) to facilitate a successful transition back to family life

5) New! Child Sponsorship Program
our goal is to have 3 sponsors per child, most committing to send $25 USD/month and prayer covering

And coming soon...

6) Foster Family Program
recruiting, training, and supervising Christian families to care for children in their home during duration of stay at Casa de Amor

I realize that number of "programs" is NOT the key to success or anything we want to have as a goal, per se, and thus I've never really paid attention to it until I was preparing this info for Janette.

One proof of that is in this blog. Our focus is great care of the kids and our staff, and it shows in the pictures, success stories, and busy days full of ministry!

Monday, July 27, 2009

August... shaping up to be an event-full month.

I was just doing the staff bulletin and see there will be:

5 kid birthdays
4 staff birthdays (including a volunteer and the violin teacher)

3 volunteers leave (after 6 months, 3 months, and 2 months here)
1 volunteer arrives
1 holiday (Día de Bolivia)

Never a dull moment!

Friday, July 24, 2009

200th post 230th post 1 year blog anniversary giveaway!

Welcome to the 200th post 230th post 1 year blog anniversary giveaway!

First a note...

I had the first "Homes of Love" blog giveaway planned for the 200th post. Well, I make my plans but God is sovereign. The 200th post ended up being unfathomable, about our baby Joel passing into the Lord's presence on May 28.

About a month later I planned to do it again, perhaps for the 230th post? That's when scarlet fever broke out and became the 230th post asking for prayer covering. I mean seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up!

Last weekend I realized I was nearing one year of blogging, and since no calamity other than a stomach virus* has befallen us this week, here's the one year anniversary post...and my first blog giveaway!

*And believe me, up to 21 babies with it coming out both ends is something to write home about!! Read a hysterical post
here on "vomitology" by blogging mother OCTAMOM. Because sometimes, all you can do is laugh!

I have been so blessed since "joining" the blog world on July 24, 2008. I've loved reading about neat people, how they raise their babies, train up and educate their children, what they do together as a family, and how they impact the world around them - whether they live in US suburbia or a far corner of the earth.

It helps me in several other ways, too. For one, as I am immersed day in and day out in the "Bolivian" way of caring for babies and raising children, it helps me remember how we do it in the US, keeping a high standard before me.

It gives me a taste of what life is like in the US, particularly for mothers of young children. I've commented on more than one of your blogs how fun it is to see the boutique clothing/accessory options you have! And don't even get me started on the cute, decorated nurseries....

I get so many ideas about taking good pictures of kids, or just about anything actually.

Some blogging mothers inspire me to eat healthy even with a busy life.

Those who have lost babies, have disabled children, understand the ups and downs of adopting - they, too, inspire me!

And I can't forget to mention: it's soothing to my soul to get a glimpse into happy, healthy families. I know the families I follow in "blog land" are not perfect, but they work through their problems and stick together, unlike the families we deal with on a daily basis. It's special to see how you love one another!

Oh, and of course it's a treat to read what's going on in the lives and missionaries of my friends in Bolivia and the states!

So with no further ado, as a thanks to those who read of our adventures here in Bolivia, here's the giveaway!

I love giving these aguayo fabric photo albums as gifts, with pictures inside. I'll also throw in the cute little pen of a girl dressed in traditional clothing.

How do you enter, you ask? The ways are many! Do any of these things and get an entry for each option:

~ leave a comment stating why you read this blog (the pictures? interested in life in a foreign land? adoption advocate? missionary wanna be? makes life with 2 kids seem easy?)

~ put our blog button on your blog or website and leave a comment telling me you've done so

~ leave another comment with a verse related to caring for the fatherless

~ write a post on your blog about this giveaway (and leave a comment so that I know you did)

The winner will be announced sometime in early August.

The albums and pen will be mailed to you from Bolivia. To add to the cultural flair, you know. (Just imagine those foreign stamps!)

And if it doesn't make it to you after a couple weeks, we'll go with Plan B...which would be something along the lines of sending it via a volunteer returning to the US in August.

So let the fun begin!

Happy 1st Birthday!

My once so so tiny baby J...

(newborn clothes swallowed him! He was in preemie size for weeks)

Is now 1!

His birthday was yesterday

...but we celebrated today so that his two "mothers" could be present (me and the tia who dotes on him and thinks he's should see their eyes light up when they "talk" to each other!)

Tia Sarin's kids helped her make this poster yesterday - isn't that sweet?
They wanted to come to the party but had school.

The other kids were sooo excited. "New" kids S & A's enthusiasm was contagious! They'll enjoy life here with all of the birthdays. {grin}

Twins E & E thought they wanted the birthday hats but within 10 seconds they were chewed up, torn, and on the ground

raspberry blackberry filling (Mom, I'm STILL using up all the frozen blackberries you left me, that are from, uh....1 or 2 years ago?!)

L. C. digging in!

D. making funny faces

Happy Birthday, our baby!

(And may you be assigned an adoptive family SOON.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

six months

For those who don't know, the end of last year we began the battle against chicken pox at our homes, and six months ago today a rare complication (encephilitis) took the life of Gabriel's twin sister, Gabriela.

Yeah. I despise chicken pox with a vengeance. Some days I still can't believe that such a seemingly simple childhood illness could take a life so quickly. The virus just developed to such horrendous proportions here at the Baby Home.... Even the doctors shook their heads in disbelief, as they tended to us with gloves and mask in the ER (after we waited outside the clinic to be called in).

On the same awful nightmarish day, Gabriel developed chicken pox pneumonia and we barely saved him.

Gabriel is still speckled with the scars, half a year later.

We had so little time with her.... They arrived last year on October 3. I am so grateful for the hours I had soothing Gabriela during her colic spells, taking G & G to church, taking pictures of them with twins E & E, wearing Gabriela in my sling, doing a little "photo shoot" in which my bed and pants were peed on at least once, took videos...and we had a wonderful Christmas!

It's a long road. At the one month point, I was still completely raw, but it never gets completely "better". This blog post by a father who has also lost two babies in the past year, one to SIDS and another to miscarriage, says it well. Some days you think you're surely getting "over it", and the next day, wham, something happens. Like walking past a store two days ago that I all of a sudden remember going in with Gabriela and having the owners coo over like they'd never seen a baby before and I was like the proud mother and I just miss her.

Or nothing happens, and I just miss her because I do.

You just walk with a limp, never knowing who or what will bring the grieving back.

And then of course we see her incredibly sweet, happy, laid back, growing brother. Do you know how much it hurts to know he's alone in this world? How I ache to once again hold both at the same time? How I wonder how she would look like now? Even though they were twins (at least, they were found in the riverbed together, as far as the story goes), Gabi was always smaller, a shade darker, less hair, finer features.

5 days after they arrived, each weighing around 7 pounds (that's my hand)

Gabriel on his 10 month "birthday" a couple Sundays ago

I don't know about the others, but I've been helped immensely in this whole process by the extremely heartwarming moments:

~learning of the "Aberdeen Goodbye Place" that doting volunteer Elizabeth created

~the music that you turn to again and again because it helps heal the deep places

~the almost unbelievably good news that a Baby Home caregiver will adopt Gabriel to complete her family!

~volunteer Melanie's donation in Gabriela's honor that helped us build our new room (pictures soon), that bears this plaque:

Ordering it was such an unexpected ordeal. I cried my way through it, which is just not me...until this year, that is. When the guy taking the order showed me how they would do it and said "any changes?" the words almost leapt from my mouth "yeah, I want her BACK!" before I caught myself and mumbled no.

In English it says:

In memory of our baby
Nadid Gabriela Gabriel

September 12, 2008—January 23, 2009

We love you so much!
Your brother Gabriel,
the tías of Hogar de Amor,
and your friends from all over the world

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

I can't wait till Heaven.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

i'm a geek

Well not really (Katrina in NZ, did your ears perk up? ;-)

Over the course of this year I’ve enjoyed reading law codes more and more. When there's such practical application for one's life (or rather, all the lives in my care!), it's fascinating. To see a citation, like say... Art. 26 of the Código del Niño, Niña y Adolescente... and know what it says and means, that's fun!

And super fun to use it with government staff who don't realize, for example, that foster families are completely allowed by law.

A few days ago I bought the Penal Code, since a report about Baby E. from the public prosecutor's office cited an article from there.

Back to my reading.... ~grin~

Monday, July 20, 2009

hope deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

That's where I'm at tonight, a little heart sick.

We still do not have the foster family papers in our hands, once again coming out empty handed.

Once again, the lawyer at child welfare is asking for just a little bit of patience
and another report.

And then they will for sure this time approve our foster family program!

More paperwork that will easily consume our week, when we already had other important meetings and administrative tasks to tend to, in all three homes.

It's all so frustrating, it's enough to make us give up in despair, if we didn't believe so strongly in this being the right thing for our kids and for our ministry, at this time.

Lord, grant us peace and patience - and supernatural concentration and time to write the report detailing our 4 1/2 years of activities and accomplishments!

It was also really hard for me to find out today that the psychologist and social worker who recently took up half our morning talking about the Twins E & E's case have now quit...without turning in their reports and tracking down the mother first (even though they promised us they would).

That means we have to go through all that again, catching up new people on their long windy story, so that their papers can be processed for adoption.

It's such a constant battle, with constant frustration, annoyances, and hopes deferred,


and time

and time again.

But it's all worth it, right?

Thanks for your prayers!

all about You

This song is beautiful! The words, the music, the significance if we truly embraced it's meaning. I've heard it before but it means more today.

So, as I begin my 6th year in Bolivia.....

I would love to set pictures of the kids and ministry here to this song...if I knew how, that is. :-)

Here's a link
because the video doesn't seem to be embedding right, and the first part:

It's all about You, Jesus
And all this is for You
For Your glory and your fame
It's not about me
As if You should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender to your ways

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I can honestly say I never, ever would have imagined I would spend five years...20% of my life till in a foreign country. Our pastor in Texas spoke that over me long before I realized it was indeed from the Lord.

And so, five years ago today I bounced off the plane, bright eyed and bushy tailed, not exactly sure of what was in store but very sure that a grand adventure was ahead. I had left right after church on July 18 and an emotional, humbling, prayerful “feet washing” sending off from a few women I admire.

I’ve never forgotten standing at a main intersection the afternoon of July 19 as I soaked up being in Bolivia and knowing that it was my new home, and thrilling to the thought that I was going to get to learn how to help these people. That I would be privileged to raise children in this country! I have rarely been so exhilarated.

For months adrenaline literally kept me running as I went to bed very late and leapt out of bed early. There was so much to do, and I loved all of it! The days were packed full of Spanish lessons, construction decisions, emails, communication with supporters, staff hiring, volunteer application renewal, paperwork, meetings, brainstorming sessions with volunteers and missionaries, policy and procedure manual drafting, and endless details as I prepared myself to oversee the care of multiple babies and toddlers—and staff. I guess it was much the same as now, only that back then I didn't have a clue what I was doing. =) Even with my full plate today, when I come across a task list or daily schedule from those first months here it still surprises me. It was a time like no other. Less than 5 months after I moved here, the initial start up tasks were done or in progress and we were caring for kids!

I had no culture shock, at least not to speak of. That is, until about 1 ½ to 2 ½ years later. During that time, all three of my closest friends moved to the US, we had a series of sad situations and hospitalizations with the kids, and the country kept collapsing into social and political chaos that hindered our daily movement. That was a dark time. I hit a wall. Some days I didn’t want to help any more, but I was propelled forward by sense of duty. I started this, I will work the hardest of anyone. It was a time of much soul-searching...when I had a minute to think. Those of us who are motivated by a need (and being needed) set ourselves up for failure when those we serve and give our lives to help refuse to help themselves. Are not grateful. Complain. Take one step forward and three back, while you watch the consequence of their sin permanently affect a child.

A young missionary in Africa recently posted a sobering statistic as she realized she’d hit a wall: over 90% of missionaries in their twenties burn out on the field and don't go back. I’ve read another stat that something like 90% of all missionaries quit during their first year or two. Part of the problem is loneliness, especially for singles.

Why didn’t I quit? Well, I hate quitting and—mainly—changing plans. I still believed with all my heart that God had called me to this and that He had a plan for me here and would see me through.

And have you heard this quote? “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.” I lived that! Although my family would have been just fine with me turning “Casa de Amor” over to someone else and coming home, I never would have been fine with it. I'm stubborn like that. So they and a small group of cheerleading friends, my team, brought me back from the brink of burn out. Then, when my parents and three sisters surprised me by actually moving here almost 3 years after I did, it was a continual burst of wind in my sails.

Now I’m once again “alone” (in a house with 25 others, tee-hee) but doing fine and so glad to be here, serving here. Life is full of ups and downs, and missionary life is no different—just greater highs and lower lows!

And, to answer a frequently asked question…yes, I’ve definitely been back to the US (a huge boost to my mental sanity!). I’ve visited five times now, a combo of activities for the homes and rest. Just being away from here means my life is automatically less intense. Each annual trip back has been progressively shorter—from 6 weeks the first time (4 kids in one home) to just 2 weeks last year (35 kids in three homes…36 by the time I got back)!

I’m starting to really look forward to being in the states at least a couple months at the end of the year. Somehow I’m going to leave all this and do what I know is healthy for me now—take a little sabbatical. “Home assignment” will be a time for me to catch up with my family as they now live in a new state, a new home, and have a new business. I need to take a breath, regroup, and return with fresh vision and energy. Just easier said than done, although I have high hopes for the next set of long term volunteers and I plan to pass off many daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to them.

To anyone reading this, friend or stranger, who has sent an email of encouragement, prayed for us, mailed me a birthday card (even though it’s appearing like most don’t make it here...), or done anything to inspire us to continue with our work here—thank you! Mere words cannot describe what a difference the support makes.

Here we are, and we'll see what's in store after five more years!

Pictures are of construction meetings and decisions within my first week living here, including choosing cloth diaper fabric with a Bolivian friend and our first volunteers (pre-children), a family from Alaska!