Current Child Count

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

top student

(Dec. 1: UPDATED!)

This special guy...


...graduated top of his class (kindergarten) today! Congratulations!!

Our beloved Tia Eli from Casa de Amor II marched in with him while the other kids had parents by their side. But not for much longer! A., now 6, has FINALLY been assigned adoptive parents from Europe.


Here he is, graduating from Casa de Amor Baby Home's "pre-kinder" class a couple years ago:


A. (returning to her father any day now, with her brother), J. (now with his family in Italy), J. (will be with us a while to come), and A.!


Dec. 1 update: Our accountant just sent me these pictures! First time a Bolivian has sent me pictures while I'm gone and how glad I am that he did.

Tia Eli with A.



Our other proud grads (J. peque, A., A.)


Let 'em have it, A.!

from the front....


Casa de Amor has a sweet new friend, a friend of missionary friends in Cochabamba. As she prayerfully considers serving with us next year, she visited the homes in mid October right before going back to the US. She said she loved her visit and the kids were so full of enthusiasm!For better or for worse, that's not usually a problem. :)

Anyway, she thoughtfully sent me some pictures she took and I LOVE these of a few Casa de Amor III kiddos. Thanks, Bethany!

A., 2 years old



J., 6 years old




M., 5 years old




J. G., soon to be 3




A. M., 3 years old



*Prayer request: please take a moment now and lift up those working so much harder in my absence. One told me today that she's suffering from a host of health issues, stress, forgetfulness, and just feeling down lately, and she doesn't know why. I really feel for her because I know exactly how it is and I've felt the same countless times!

So, whether it's Satan's attack or purely stress related or a lack of wisdom on our part to "redeem the time", the truth is we ARE on the front lines as we love on and care for every need of our children and deal with the "junk" of their past. While we love what we do, it's not all nearly as rosy as it can seem in print (and pictures). Thank you for your prayers!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

priceless



Torturing my little sister with brussel sprouts.


Oh so fun!


And then her special request dessert, Ghirardelli Molten Lava Cakes.


Life is sooo rough.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

four friends!

Amber M {3 time Bolivia volunteer & first CDA volunteer coordinator}, Haley M, Jennifer T, Heather T


Together again for the first time in...well, other than crossing paths at a conference probably 8+ years ago, we've never gotten together, just the 4 of us! Although if we can convince Heather to come to Bolivia next summer, then we'll be together again.



It was great seeing you again, Amber! The time went much too fast.

four sisters!



Jennifer (27), Emma (almost 11), Sarah (21), Heather (24)


Together in Texas! Just for a bit, but we savored the feeling of being all four on the same continent, in the same country, in the same room for the first time since March last year (when we were in Bolivia together).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Announcing...

Casa de Amor GIFT CARDS!

(And the first Christmas post of the season, yea!!!)




Today as Christmas shopping begins in earnest (and boy do we know about that around here - my parents and a sister have been manning the cookie stores since the wee hours of the morning!)...


And there are
moms,
dads,
brothers,
sisters,
aunts,
uncles,
grandparents,
friends,
neighbors,
teachers
to shop for...

who already have EVERYTHING but you need to a gift for anyway...

how about a Casa de Amor gift card?!


We are often asked if a donation can be made in the name of someone special. The answer is YES, and now that person being honored will receive a gift card from us letting them know of your generosity in their name!



A gift card purchased this month will help cover some essentials (many of which were mentioned here) for our 42 children. There is no minimum amount as any amount helps!

The gift card can be mailed to you for giving or we can mail it directly to the recipient. Just let us know at the time of donation! It's easy to do: make an online donation here or send your check (made out to GOAL) to:

GOAL
PO Box 3201
McKinney, TX, 75070
USA




Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the missing season

In blogging from the US for the first time, I often find myself wanting to describe something or show pictures of something only to realize, “oh, wait…this is interesting to practically NO ONE because it’s their life here. DUH.”

It then dawns on me that it’s quite easy to be an interesting blogger when you live in a third world country that no one else does. That is, I mean, most of my readers. Don’t live here. There. (I sometimes forget which continent I'm on!) Ah-hem. That was about as clear as mud. Moving along…

The point of this post is to say I LOVE FALL!!! But hadn’t really realized it until being in the US during fall for the first time since 2005. I didn't realize quite how "missing" it is in Bolivia. So I’ve been making up for lost time and enjoying…

~The changing fall leaves and the ground covered with layers of crunchy, colorful leaves
~Cashew Carrot Ginger Soup
~Walking through a corn maze with my family
~Pecan Pie Pancakes (at IHOP with Grandpa - what can I say!)
~Carving pumpkins
~Nearly wearing out my most fall-ish colored sweater that I rarely use in Bolivia because, well, I feel strange
~Pumpkin Ice Cream (more than once I’ll have to admit…I’ve been trying everyone’s!)
~Spiced Apple Cider
~Sitting by a bonfire in the crisp cool fall air
~Cranberry Bread and Upside-Down Cranberry Muffins
~Pumpkin pie, of course!
~Brussel sprouts
~Using pecans, walnuts, and cashews in my baking and cooking
~Wearing orange and golds and browns
~Brown sugar cinnamon sugar waffles
~Apple harvest nut cookies (from my parents stores)
~Sweet potatoes

(And of course I’m gaining absolutely no weight, even though my parents now own TWO cookie stores, because of the gym at the apartments, remember?)


In Cochabamba, we {supposedly} live in the city of "perpetual spring", and within 24 hours we almost always get close to summer AND winter, but the closest we get to fall is simply cooler temperatures at night and windy days. But no changing fall color, and just about none of the foods or activities listed above. Besides, when "fall" happens in April and May, does that seem like fall to you?? At least us from the Northern Hemisphere, that is.

And now that I probably have all my current volunteers completely jealous (and hungry), I better quit!!

(But hey, look at it this way: we don't have to endure a Northern Hemisphere winter by living down south. The best way to enjoy is probably to know that you're skipping out before winter arrives, hehe.)



HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The "Orphan Sunday" event, LIVE!

Through some schedule changing around and quick planning, I was very blessed to be able to attend the Orphan Sunday event LIVE just a few hours from where my family now lives. Definitely a perk to living in Memphis! Or visiting here, ya know.

So Heather (sister) and Emma (sister) and I packed up first thing Sunday morning, November 8, and hit the road for Nashville.





It was a huge treat to go from living on the front lines to sitting in such an electrifying crowd of people obviously “with it” on adoption, orphan care, and loving the unloved.

Still, I think I have just about the best job in the world and prefer to keep the ratio to about 95% “living it” and 5% “talking about it”, but cool all the same.

It was like the United Nations in children or something, passing in a continual parade in front of the back section where we sat. The most stylish accessory of the day was an adopted child, seriously!

All of the speakers were passionate, on topic, had or are adopting – names such as Jim Daly (Focus on the Family President & CEO) and Jedd Medefind (Christian Alliance for Orphans President and former White House staffer) – but the leader in the field I most identified with was Dr. Sharon Ford, of the Colorado Division of Child Welfare Services. She obviously does battle for these kids at every level, is passionate about seeing every one in the best home possible, gets fed up with the bureaucracy that traps innocent kids, and is used to having her heart broken as she pursues the vision. But she has kept at it and not given up, and many children (and families) have been blessed by her dedication!

Then of course, Steven Curtis Chapman was amazing. We had never seen him live before and it was quite an honor. He seems like an incredibly humble, down-to-earth, Godly man. Some of his family was there but I couldn't glimpse them around all the video cameras and cranes.

Just as an aside, what stuck out to me the most and impacted me the most from the entire event was not “save the orphan” (something I’ve already given 10 years of my life to) but how the Chapmans are finding hope in the midst of deep sorrow. I could have broken down and sobbed at just about any point when he was talking or singing because he came back constantly to losing their Maria a year and a half ago. Since I’ve lost two babies this year I could jump onto the same page with him all too quickly. (I know “lost” isn’t the correct word, but when you are not where they are and miss out on watching them grow, it sure feels like a loss...for us down here, anyway.)

Actually the past few months it seems to me like everywhere I turn, someone is working through terrible grief and sorrow. For example, in every sermon of my family’s new pastor here, what I read into it is how to deal with losing someone you love (he lost his mother right before I got here, plus multiple sudden deaths in their church body). As I was thinking on that the other day, I realized that more than “all of a sudden” everyone is losing someone near to them, those are just the high notes that stick out to me at this point in life as I process what has happened this year and the brevity of life.

Even so, I wasn’t the only one getting emotional as he shared the story behind his song “Cinderella” and then played it for us. He also did several songs from his newest album “Beauty Will Rise”. I decided then and there I would get that CD before leaving the US! It’s obvious that SCC is a wise man and has walked through this faithfully for 18 months now. It might be really painful to listen to, but as SCC challenged us at the concert, “We have to anchor our hope to that day that is coming!” And that we must be willing to say, "If my heart must be broken, then that's the sacrifice I am willing to make. I am Yours, God."





On a completely lighter note, at the beginning of the concert while the Children of the World Choir sang, I had glanced down and when I looked up, I swear (except that I don’t) Steven Curtis Chapman was in the aisle not ten feet from me, looking right at me AND WINKING. Now I think, and I hope, that he was communicating something to the sound guys right behind my head and not ME, but I was so shocked to realize who it was, the first time in my life to see him live in front of me, I think my jaw dropped open before nudging Heather. So mature. ANYWAY….

I’ll end what’s become a very long post with a video of SCC and the Children’s World Choir singing a final song together, one of my very favorites, Mighty to Save. As I’ve blogged about before, the line “He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave” has never meant so much to me since January 23 and May 28.


video


You can see it all with professional filming right HERE in this link to what appears to be the entire broadcast (2 hours and 10 minutes)! http://www.gospelmusicchannel.com/orphansunday


"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus." Hebrews 6:19-20a



P.S. - Read about our special evening post-concert here!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gabriela's place



Hard to fathom it's been 10 months already. Some days it seems years ago, then some days I'll see a picture or read that someone has chicken pox or remember our "baby twins"...or even some completely unrelated detail...and I'm right back to that horrible morning with every detail still way too fresh.



Right before my trip here, I spent the last minutes of the last hour of the work week with Katrina and Savannah in Cochabamba's cemetery. Our simple mission was to paint the very high up railing in white paint. Unfortunately closing time came before finishing and I had very speckled black sandals by the end (guess I was too busy before to think of paint clothes!).



I left a stem with "triplet" roses, a little lock to secure Gabi's place (my mom prepared flower vases that we still need to take), and propped back up a picture I left on January 24, surprised it had survived all other clean-ups.



Continue to pray for Gabriel's adoption. All the instability in the court and social services means that caregiver Luz is still waiting for good news. Gabriel is just about our sweetest, best natured, happiest baby, and will bloom with a family of his own!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

terrific twos

These two won't be two for a week more but believe me, they've been in those terrible terrific twos for months now.

Take a look:


Nighttime excursion to that fascinating place called a water park bathroom while the tias and I were busy getting the others in bed...what dear children we have!

Friday, November 20, 2009

new heights

We have some privileged kids for sure! It's a treat to even be able to climb Mt. Tunari, Cochabamba's highest peak, something most Bolivians haven't done, so it was a joy to see these pictures from the Alseth family from their recent hike/fishing trip.
Enjoy!


With Tia Kathy (who yes IS over 16 years old!!)



Taking a break



6 1/2 year old L has a catch!


Checking out a high altitude lake

The team!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

little mother


{I didn't get around to posting this back in September, so here it is now while I wait to get my laptop back from a tech friend in Texas.}


Five year old S reminds me so much of myself...



I was also 5 when my sister Sarah was born and she was the delight of my days!

(Although I do recall going to the neighbor's house on multiple occasions to just hold THEIR baby. Guess I've always been a multiple sort of baby person, ~grin~)



I would never have suggested that S. carry a newborn around...


...but she acts like she's done it forever and does it like a pro, carrying her in the way she figured out that keeps the baby in the best position and sleeping happily


sorting through the baby's new wardrobe
(S has very specific ideas on what she likes and what is "feo" - ugly)


That is, when I share with her. ;-)


At church! (S. was so offended when people would say "Oh look, she has a baby doll" and would reply "It's not a DOLL, it's a BABY!")


When I showed S. through my file of "new baby pictures", I knew she loved it but was unprepared for her unabashed love and joy to see "her baby" so cute. She started showering Fabiana (who she was wearing) with kisses and telling her what a wonderful, beautiful—even handsome!—baby she is. But when I got to this picture I got a BIG lecture…




She stared at me incredulously and said “The baby is going to fall! You should NEVER put her on something like that!”

I tried explaining that she was asleep and not moving, that I was right there close by, that I only had here there a minute, etc., etc., but she was buying none of it. She wagged her little finger at me and said to never do something like that again. She was trying her hardest to understand how I could do something sooo irresponsible. Oops. (I only took a few of this "pose" anyway because I wasn't getting the right effect.)


Fun, fun!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cry of the Orphan

Over 140 million orphans and waiting children under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents

Over 13 million double orphans under the age of 18 have lost both parents

Sub-Saharan Africa has 48.3 million orphans

Asia has the largest total number of orphans with 73.7 million orphans

Latin America and the Caribbean has 10.7 million orphans

Orphans are more vulnerable and at risk of becoming victims of violence, exploitation, trafficking, discrimination, or other abuses.

More than 500,000 children are in United States foster care.

Over 120,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.

Only around 50,000 children, or 18% of those waiting in foster care, are adopted every year.

On average, children in foster care wait over 2 years to be adopted.

Don't let the numbers obscure the fact that we are speaking of children. YOU can't save them all but YOU can save one.

Don't lose sight of the fact that each child is special in his or her own unique way, with God's fingerprints all over their special design and personality.

Each child needs so much guidance and time and grace and training and LOVE to grow properly and WELL.

A family is the only right place for this to happen. Tragically, for millions of children a family is not even a possibility.

May our hearts be moved and our eyes be opened and our tongues be loosed on behalf of the children who have no one to call "mommy" or "daddy" today, tomorrow, and forever.











In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:5-6

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ah-hem

Time for a couple of announcements, folks!

I hope that many of you in the US realize that it is National Adoption Awareness Month!

Did you know that while more than 30% of Americans say they have "thought about" adoption, only 2% have actually adopted? As someone who has experienced firsthand the pain of children around the world who have no family to call their own, no one to tuck them in at night, and experience continual injustice and heartbreak due to overburdened legal systems.....please hear me, it's not the thought that counts, it's what you do about it!

Please plan how to make a difference in the life of a hurting, needy, abused child TODAY.

It doesn't matter to me where you choose to invest your time, prayers, and resources, so long as you do it, but allow me to make a suggestion.... =)

(Okay so I'm sure you know where this is going, although I have been honored to present the ministries of others here on my blog on occasion. However, the responsibility of providing for the round-the-clock care and growth of our children does rest on my shoulders. Of course I recognize that it all comes from God but for some reason I feel like when coffers get low, I'm the one everyone looks to. Since I was 22!!)

So, as Casa de Amor Children's Homes provides a temporary family and healing, happy home environment until each child receives a forever family of his/her own, here are some current needs...

$50 to repair a bad part of the roof at the Baby Home so that all the important papers in the office are not wet when the rainy season arrives in full force

$100 will cover baby B's specialized hearing test, needed ASAP

$700 will cover a car payment for the Alseth family as they purchase a desperately needed small SUV from another missionary family

approximately $4000 is needed by year's end to be able to provide a house for Casa de Amor II for all of 2010

a donation of any amount such as $10 or 20 will go towards Christmas presents (one of our former baby's new Bolivian parents are offering to buy presents for 10 of our children, so that leaves 32 others)

And then continual, ongoing needs...

$25 will provide one month of speech therapy for a child (might seem frivolous, but have you ever experienced the aggression of a toddler who has not a single word in their vocabulary to be able to communicate instead of bite/scratch/hit/throw a temper tantrum? Or the autistic-like behaviors that come as a result? Y-e-a-h, not pleasant...)

$40 will feed a Casa de Amor child for one month
$400 will cover all water and electricity bills for all three houses

And then of course there is child sponsorship! (Consider it for a Christmas gift!) There are still a few children without a sponsor, including the newest twins.

It's easy to give by credit card via paypal (www.casadeamor.org/supporting.html) or sending a check to GOAL, PO Box 3201, McKinney, TX, 75070. If you'd like to specify towards one of these needs, please do so!


Well that was a long winded first announcement, oops.

Second announcement!

This Sunday, we're heading to Nashville for the "Orphan Sunday" event, yeah!! Check out details here and see if a church in your area is participating or hosting a live feed of the concert:

http://www.orphansunday.org/







Orphan Sunday from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

CCCCC



So. I wanted to make cookies.

Normally that would be a piece of cake easy.



But try having cookie store owning parents who have like 48 tasty varieties to sample on a daily basis and yeah...

No pressure.


So I went to the library.


Got a Martha Stewart cookie cookbook.



And combined ideas to come up with....






Cakey Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ta-dah!

Or: CCCCC for short.


And yes, they were yum! Although I have to say they definitely fly off the plate slower than the pre-cookie-store-owning-days. But at least poor Emma, deprived of homemade cookies, was very happy. She's been requesting these for months now. =)


PS - Try this sinful little recipe for a ridiculously yummy (and easy) twist!