Current Child Count

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

Monday, August 31, 2009

change of address

Faithful readers of this blog might have noticed the "kid count" change above.

And you're right! There's been a little change. Well maybe slight for me, but certainly big for the special boy who will reap many blessings from it.

On Saturday, our six year old J. moved over from Casa de Amor II to Casa de Amor III.

The Alseth family brought him up in one of our regular meetings recently. It had never ocurred to us to move J. out, nor had I planned on sending the Alseths another (8th) child even though 4 year old M. left in adoption in June. But as I talked it over with staff and pleaded for God to lead me, I decided to accept their request. Unbeknownst to me, during that time the Alseths were already setting up a bed for him and meeting with their 11 children (4 biological and 7 Bolivian) to vote on if he should move in! You guessed it, the vote was least amongst those old enough to vote. =)

So from there, as we started the process of school transfers (he's in kindergarten, top of his class), I started taking him over when I could to spend some time and even the night with the people at CDA III. He had a blast, as you can see in the pictures below.

Playing with his new buddy M. (age 5)

I told M. to hug him and this is what happened...oops! (M. is happy, too!)

Boys will be boys... M. showing J. the ropes on using the tio's weights!

He's doing well and is one blessed boy to get to soak in the love of a family. He has struggled a lot with the disappearance of his father in his life and has shown that in some aggressive and acting out behaviors. Other than that, he's a WONDERFUL kid, my unforgettable birthday present in 2007.

We pray this is a very temporary arrangement (hey I can be hopeful, right?!) until some family is lucky blessed enough to adopt this artistic, smart, thoughtful, diligent, energetic kid!

And here I just have to put in a plug for families/couples: if you are reading this and are interested in working as the Alseth family does, taking abandoned children into your own home and family and lives, please write me for more information and an application.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

TEN amazing indescribable wonderful years!

It's so amazing, really. Words fail me to describe adoption. Miracle? That this child gets to be in OUR FAMILY! Grace of God? That He would choose US to raise her! Truly a marvel.

Ten years ago today, August 30, 1999, we first held Emma and stared into her blue-green-gray eyes. My new baby sister! I was 17 and it was quite possibly the best day of my life till that point.

That's also the day to blame for my consistent tearing up and the incredible surge of emotions every single time I witness a family meet their new child for the first time!

Particularly this week, as I took on adoption with some extremely difficult government employees, I've been grateful that I have been blessed with an inside look from which to advocate for children without a family. Even if it multiples the pain when others cannot understand. How can they? They have not walked this road.

I am grateful that my parents took the plunge when we barely knew anyone who had adopted, and certainly not from half way around the world. Knowing what we did then (precious little!), it was a jump of faith into the faraway unknown. God spoke to my Mother's heart that her family would never be the same again. He gave my Dad the wisdom to plan to bring us (my sister Heather and me) along, to a formerly communist country with unsafe drinking water....for that infamous "once in a life time field trip to a foreign country", LOL!

Now Emma is the most Texan little girl I know...

August 2005

Loves the US passionately (okay, I admit! At times we've thrown around the thought of her holding high office)

Statue of Liberty

Has a special place in her heart for Russia

Emma & friend Nastya, Kostroma, Russia, December 2002

And is quite at home in Bolivia, dontcha think?

May 2008

Look, it's Eloise Emma at the Plaza Hotel, La Paz, Bolivia!

January 2009

Now she's starting a new life in Tennessee as the daughter of cookie store owners (our parents, who would've thunk!!) and doing great (when she's not missing her favorite sister, of course):

May 2009

I love you, Emma!!! You've changed my life forever.

More pictures and stories coming on Gotcha Day....


Friends, south of my mother's kitchen, this is as about as good as a salad gets...





Almond slivers

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Golden raisins

Ramen noodles

Oh and did I mention the alfalfa sprouts, a special find! I haven't eaten those in years, since we grew them on our laundry room window sill in Texas.

It's all topped off with my current favorite dressing, a simple combo of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, and honey.


Now run, don't walk, to make yourself a SALAD! Your body will thank you. ;-)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

concerts and music and kids (of course!)

Last Saturday morning, we had visitors to the Baby Home. I was particularly excited because Lowell is a music pastor at a huge church in Houston, Texas, and was playing on our church's praise team that weekend. I needed to loan him my guitar so I brought it out and he started an impromptu "little kid music" concert! He ended up playing bass the next morning since our bass player had missed rehearsals.

Two kids - 2 year old B. and Twin Boy E. - went nuts at the guitar...and not in a good way! I think I need to play for them more often!!

Lowell and his family (wife and 4 young children) are prayerfully considering a bit of a life change....moving to Bolivia! His dad lived in Bolivia back in the 60s working with the Peace Corp and is encouraging them to take this leap of faith. Pray that God makes clear what they are to do and how to do it - and where to serve, as there are abundant opportunities for someone with his musical giftings.

Two of their kids feeding the new twins

Then last night, a few of us had a great time taking the 9 oldest kids from CDA II to a concert! It was held in Iglesia Santa Teresa, a beautiful church downtown that was built in 1790. Just set the scene for an evening of Handel.....

The kid's music teacher, "Tia Raquel", was playing in the first violin section. They were so excited to know someone playing! How I wished my sister Heather was also playing, as on this July 2007 evening in a lovely old downtown theater...

A picture with "Tia Heather", the kids, some of my family, and volunteers after the concert

But anyway, it was still wonderful to soak in some live classical music from very close proximity, as we sat down right there on the floor at the front of the church so that the kids could see. It was a free concert and continued to fill up, to where the sides and back were full of standing onlookers, and the middle aisle almost full of others sitting down as well (then I didn't feel so strange!).

They behaved so well!! At first I was concerned they might distract someone in the orchestra or choir, or one of the soloists, but not at all! They made me so proud. (Although if it had gone much over a half hour, I'm not sure what could have happened!)

Group picture afterwards with volunteer Christy, Tia Elizabeth, violin teacher Raquel, me, and the 9 kids (who are kind of distracted!)

When I got home I realized I'd been out 3 1/2 hours, most of that on the road at night chauffeuring, for a 40 minute concert (which I missed part of because of taking a child to the bathroom). Still, it was a more relaxed way to end what was a VERY stressful week in the government department. I saw several people I know, Bolivians and foreigners living here, and hope it was a memorable night for the kiddos - and great motivation to continue working on their violin skills!

double birthday celebration

Better late than never, right?

Here are pictures at last from the fun "double birthday" we had a couple weeks ago in the Baby Home for S. (now 5) and C. (now 1)!

Getting a look at their cakes (this was S.'s new special cheesy "I'm so happy" birthday smile!)

Now is that the THE CAKE or what?!

It was modeled after a little doll we have but I think it looks a lot like Twin Girl E! (Hard to believe they're walking everywhere now!)

Tia Maria was one of the staff who designed and pulled off the gorgeous cakes

No Bolivian birthday is complete without "gelatina" (jello) and everyone here loves it (I'm not very Bolivian!)

S. was so happy she was about to burst! Afterwards she was literally running circles around the house.

Blowing out the candles!

Now came the difficult part of dissecting the cute little girl cutting the cake...

S. was concerned about how Tia Consuelo was going to do it. She had started at the neck and a few of us were like "Ah, nooo!" so she finally decided to cut in at the middle. =)

Our full dining room (it was actually very quiet at this point as everyone enjoyed the jello!)

C. "opening" her present!

S. was so thrilled with the gifts volunteers Denise and Molly chose!

The birthday girls posing outside

A. wearing remnants of the cake

S. was a very good girl and happily shared all her stickers from her new book. At one point she said "TIA Jenny, there are SO MANY kids!" Poor thing - by the time she was done passing out 1 or 2 to all the staff and kids, they were gone!

Later that night, pondering the leftover head of C.'s cake =)
Okay, so I just realized that their names are clearly on the cakes, duh! I've not posted several birthday celebration pictures for exactly that reason...but these cakes were too amazing not to share. Since I'm too lazy to start over, editing the pictures and re-posting them...just don't tell anyone, alright? ;-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Thanks to



fellow missionaries

and my Mom

who have...



mailed from UK

searched for and purchased in Canada

all these little treasures:

...I've got some READING to do!! :-)

Wordless Wednesday

~Also pics by volunteer Molly, aka "mother of the (new) twins"~

Monday, August 24, 2009

D's song

Almost-2-year-old D. often sings this little song she made up. As you'll hear, the others love singing it with her. Sometimes she starts singing from her crib and all join in!

Sorry for the poor lighting (it was night and our lightbulbs leave much to be desired), but I think you can make out the kids...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

a day in the life

One day last week, I....

Finished editing CDA II & III sponsorship packets (20 total)

Printed CDA II’s packets to be able to show the staff and kids later

Met with my staff about kids cases as they continue the long, windy path through SEDEGES and the court system

Got caught up on how our babies stand with their immunizations

Emailed my family my current thoughts and plans about my upcoming trip to TX and a few other places en route

Made preparations for J. (CDA II) to move to CDA III as soon as he feels ready

Went to a meeting of the new network we’ve helped form (could only stay 30 minutes; Rosa caught me up later)

Said happy birthday to: Tia Rosario’s son (1st), Tia Maribel, and Tia Ana Maria

Heard about preparations for A. & C.’s birthday party for the next day

Blended fruit with plain yogurt and discovered it’s yummy

Walked all over downtown about 3 times

Mailed two packages at the post office, the giveaway winner's gifts and a “Gotcha Day” gift for a certain sister of mine (who hopefully won’t read this till she gets it)

Signed a paper at a notary’s office

Took a bus, which is less common now that I have a car (Missionaries reading this, don’t hate me! I did live here over 4 years without one)

Went to immigration three times, one of those with a lawyer

Spoke to four different men at four different desks, some of them twice, to get my indefinite Bolivia visa paperwork “in”

Got visa pictures made

Forked over a LOT of money in immigration

Took E. (4 years) to his surgeon check-up…thanks to volunteer Sarah bringing him to me when the immigration paperwork began dragging out

Bought shoes for little girl E since she has tiny feet and we only had boy shoes in her size

Read Proverbs 18 and out of Esther (“for such a time as this”…ah, gives me chills every time!)

Had a pleasant Chinese food dinner with CDA II volunteer Sarah her last evening in Bolivia; appreciated her answers to the debriefing questions and also her insight and encouragement regarding upcoming changes at CDA II

Printed sponsorship packets of CDA I & III kids till 11pm

Missed two cell phone calls the minute I didn’t have it with me

Read a few more chapters in the book Rabble in Arms (the night before at about 11:30 it got really fact this 586 page book takes a large part of the blame for the inactivity of the blog as of late)

And that was practically the entire day! It was a good day, full of activity and furthermore getting things DONE - my favorite thing to do. =)

Every day last week was similarly packed, if not with errands and exciting meetings then with endless computer work. The weekend has kept up the same frantic pace, with Texan visitors to the Baby Home, going to CDA II & III, playing with the kids at the Baby Home, seeing off a volunteer, buying my fruits and veggies for the upcoming week at Saturday market (with a few little ones in tow), washing clothes, fellowshipping with friends, church rehearsals/events, finishing my book....yeah, it was a bit full!

Tomorrow shouldn't disappoint either, so I'm off to finish preparing myself for the week to hit. Hasta luego!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

(little) kid funnies

During a recent staff meeting at the Baby Home, we kept cracking up at the funny things the childcare tías* were sharing about the kids. It was a meeting on discipline and child training which is not usually my favorite meeting (everyone has such different opinions and feelings on the subject), but we actually had a good time together and couldn't help but laugh at these:

Miss Universe
The little girls are already proving that, well, they are girls. The tías think we have a lot of future Miss Universes or Miss Bolivias on our hands. The 3 and 4 year old girls have taken to disappearing into their rooms and coming out changed into a new outfit, or will even get up at night to put on their favorite clothes then go back to bed!

No Ice Cream
One evening as a tía prepared to leave, she realized she didn’t have her bus money of 1 ½ Bolivianos. They started asking around and someone tattled on S. As S. reluctantly turned the money back over to the tia, she shook her finger at the tattler and said: “Now see? I can’t buy you ice cream”. That'll teach 'em!

The Press
One day when the kids were just in the mood to tattle on each other, the tías lifted their hands in desperation and said "Who are you, the press?! We have eyes and ears too, you know!"

Not me!
A toddler has an accident, wetting him/herself and the tía asks “Oops, who wet their pants?” and the dripping wet child says “SHE did!!” pointing to the (dry) child beside them. Um, yeah….

Social Hour
Volunteers catch onto this one quickly. When the kids are getting bored of being in a room, one asks to go to the bathroom. Then another. Then another. And no one really needed to go, but you have to understand that the bathroom is SUCH a fun place, with running water, that nice bowl with water, soaps and shampoos and lotion…so much fun!

And then recently, I was playing with the kids before bedtime in the playroom. Hearing an argument growing ever more agitated I listened in. Two little ones were fighting over whether their pretty toy was a FROG or a TIGER. I stepped in and taught them a new word: dinosaur!

*The kids call us tia which means “aunt” in Spanish

THE sponsorship packets!!!

I would never have thought holding a sponsorship packet in my hand for one of my kids....

Or actually ALL of my kids...

...would be THIS exciting!!!

But it is. =)

The staff and kids have also had a blast looking at the packets, and the joy and pride on the older kids' faces when I translated some parts of the packets was so memorable:

"She's a great help to the caregivers"

"He's a great big brother to the little boys"

"She's a wonderful student at school"

Of course the younger ones just wanted to check out their picture.

So, at long last, the Casa de Amor Child Sponsorship Program is fully up and running! And since we are printing the packets ourselves, that means they will have the pictures that we like the most, the most up-to-date information, and (my favorite part) be error free!

Doing the final edit and now printing out/folding of several sets has been quite the project. When I told my sister Heather that for this reason alone it seems I have too many kids!! she laughed and was like "FINALLY you admit it!" (Not REALLY, I was just sayin'.)

Approximately half of our 41 children await their first sponsor. You can write Denise and/or download the sponsorship form at right if you want to know more!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Other than some hastily thrown together posts and the Wordless Wednesdays (I always schedule those to post), I've had no choice lately but to blog or sleep at midnight......and guess which wins!

When I finally come up for air I'll have all sorts of posts and news to share!

I believe I owe some birthday party and cake pictures. Every day that I wait more birthdays happen so now I am really behind.

This week has been a WHIRLWIND! Non-stop activity from early till very late with almost constant pressure to go-do-meet-take-bring-print-send-decide-plan, and it will continue clear through the weekend.

For some reason it leaves me breathless to be away from the office for many hours on end, and today being out for over 9 hours straight has simply been the norm for the week. Tomorrow as I begin a day of catch up, I'm sure that at least the first hour will be meeting with my staff to piece together all that's happened this week already.

So, till.....soon?

Wordless Wednesday

~Credit for these lovely photos of our C. goes to volunteer Molly. Thanks!~

Sunday, August 16, 2009

las trillizas

Today in church I was thinking about the date as I held E. and realized.....the "triplets" arrived six months ago today! Same day volunteer Sarah arrived, one month to the day since Baby F. had arrived. (I tell ya, I don't know if July and August are particularly full of special dates or what, but almost every day there's at LEAST one anniversary or birthday of something or someone! I try not to bore you to tears with my constant "date remembering" as I do my family, LOL.)

I'm not sure if they've changed more in this time, or us...

February 16, 2009, picking up our new little charges the same day they were removed from the street by police
(Sarah w/ A., Katrina w/ E., Jen w/ D. ....although it was over a week before we had names sorted out - long story!)

It was quite the influx of children, particularly since baby D. brought two siblings with her and later E. too, but we couldn't imagine the Baby Home without them! Getting three one year old girls at once, a first, made quite the impression on the daily rhythm of the home, particularly when the first month or two they couldn't see me without clamoring for me and they still take turns being all clingy (apart from E., who is still the nosiest and always jealous of my attention).

August 12, 2009

S. (D.'s sister) brings such life and joy to our family! She's the classic big sister (bossy and caring, by turn) and our little "tia in training".

Dancing, with brother A. right behind her as usual

It's been great to watch the original three become favorites of others...

...learn to pass on the same love we've shown them

...and receive love

...and their personalities bloom!

To remember now how our social worker and I "insisted" that only one child come, then I gave in to receiving three, who turned into six.... God knew! Who would we not want now?! They are a part of us.

J.K. at CDA II has even taken to following me around when I visit and calling me "mami"...makes my heart melt every time!!

For various reasons, five of these six are top on my list to go into foster families and it will be so hard to let them go, although it's for their wellbeing.

But right now, today, they are 25% of the Baby Home and a huge part of our joy at Casa de Amor!


I couldn't resist.

I wrote and posted this, then went outside to join in the afternoon playtime, one of my favorite times to be with the kiddos. Within about a minute the "triplets" were following me around wanting to be held. So there was no choice but to have a seat. This is very common, but since I'd just written about it, I had to get my camera and a tia snapped a picture.

(E's hair was really cute earlier today but she pulled out her hair things during naptime. She was also crying here, jealous that I was paying attention to the other life the past six months!!)

And then I took some of the three siblings, S. (5), A. (3 1/2), D. (almost 2), since I don't have many of the three together although they often are. (I wished I had a camera with me the night of S's birthday when I had all three in a grocery cart together - S. driving the little "car" and D in A's lap in the top basket - a store employee told me I could! Then we were just wishing for the father to push that heavy cart, ha!)