It’s Like Riding a Bike

One of the things I think every parent envisions and that lands on the list of things that every parent gets to teach their child is how to ride a bike.  I had tried to help Daniel learn to ride one day in the orphanage, but it didn’t go so well.  So, I got him a bicycle and had been offering to teach him for the first week and a half that he was home.  He said it was too big and he was too scared for several days.  But finally on Wednesday we had some spare time and he was willing to try.  We don’t have a lot of flat wide open spaces within the walls of the property, but we have a decent size backyard.  And since the grass isn’t really growing right now (we’re in dry season) and the ground is hard as a rock, we learned there.  We practiced back there for 2 days.  Then on Friday he knew of a place where he wouldn’t be embarrassed that had more space where we could go.  There was a paved basketball court/soccer field where he could practice.  By this time it only took two attempts with me walking beside him helping keep his balance before he was GONE!  Within minutes of getting there he was riding circles around the court!  It was a fun mommy moment!!

The smile hasn’t left his face in 3 days and all he wants to do is ride his bike!  One of the motivators to learn this week was that today was another pedestrian day.  (The Bolivian quarterly attempt at pollution control where no vehicles are allowed to drive for about 12 hours.)  Everyone fills the streets walking and riding their bikes, so this time he wanted to join in!  And boy did he ever join the party.  He was out riding from about 10 in the morning until almost 2 in the afternoon.  And then we went back out for another short ride around 4.  Needless to say…he is a tired boy and was in bed by 7:30!

Our church also participated in the pedestrian day with an outreach on the main highway.  The “young people” put together some dramas and had information about Jesus and the church to hand out as people walked and rode by.  Some stopped and watched the dramas, but most just took the information and kept enjoying the open road today.

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First Week Home!!

Well, we have successfully gotten through the first week!!  It has been quite an adventure with lots of learning, bonding, and “firsts”.  Daniel seems to be very happy and content being home.  And us, well, lets just say we have gotten a good dose of exhaustion that I’m sure is a special type reserved  only for parents/caregivers 😉  However, it truly has been a joy to have Daniel home and to bond with him.

On Monday, August 22nd was Daniel’s Got Ya Day!  We woke up early and headed to the orphanage to pick him up.  We found him full of excited energy and anxious to head to our appointment with the judge at 9 a.m.  Below are a few photos of us at the orphanage right before leaving!

It was so sweet…as we walked in the door of the orphanage, Daniel had a special gift ready for his mommy.  It was a precious, white flower!  He was so proud to give it to her.

The psychologist of the orphanage went with us to the appointment.  It was about a 40 minute trip into the city.  We made it just on time (9:03 a.m.) but then had to wait close to an hour before we could actually meet with the judge.  It was quite a long time for Daniel to hang on with all of his nervous energy…but he did it!  We played “rock, paper, scissors,” “heads and tails” with a coin, as well as other various forms of distractions until all of the legal people who needed to be present were accounted for.  They let Daniel talk with the judge first (which he had to do alone) since he had to wait such a long time.  When the judge asked if he would like for Amber to be his Mommy, he gladly exclaimed “Yes!”  The entire process with the judge took about 30 minutes and then he was ours to take home.

Below is a picture of us with our lawyer, Sandra, who has diligently worked with us over the course of 10 months so Amber could adopt Daniel.  She is still working hard on Kirsten’s case with Kliber and hopefully he will get to come home soon as well!

After we left the judge’s chambers, we headed to the orphanage to gather all of Daniel’s things.  It was so strange to have the freedom just to walk out the orphanage doors and take him home with us.  For over a year we have volunteered at the orphanage, and spent time with our sons there.  It was exciting to finally get to take one of our kids home!!

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The evening of Daniel’s Got Ya Day he got to meet his grandparents over FaceTime.  It was a lot of fun!  We were impressed at how well it worked.  We both teamed it up in regards to making sure everyone understood what was being said.  One of us would translate for Daniel and the other for the grandparents.  We enjoyed watching them get to know each other and bond.

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Daniel’s grandparents had sent several gifts down for the boys to open when they each got home.  Daniel excitedly opened his gifts in front of his grandparents.  He had the best facial expressions as he explored each of his new toys and clothes.  By far his favorite gift was his nerf guns!

Daniel even started a nerf gun war with his grandparents over FaceTime!!  It was a little unfair that they didn’t have weapons to shoot back…but I guess they did have the ipad screen as a shield for protection 😉  It was a precious moment that we all cherished as we began bonding together as a family…both near and far.  We are so thankful for technology and the gift it has given us of letting our boys know their family in the States so well despite the physical distance.

A lot of our week has been getting used to our new routine.  Our biggest hurdle has been getting to know the Bolivian schools, since they are so different then the school systems we grew up knowing in the United States.  Everything is unfamiliar, from homework to schedules to expectation to “recess”.  We have a huge learning curve! However, the Tias from the orphanage have been so willing to help us and answer the many questions that we have had!  We feel so blessed for the community down here!

This Saturday (August 27th), our friend Erin Tisbury planned a “Welcome Home Party” for Daniel. We had two missionary families come, a friend from the orphanage (Savannah-not pictured) and Daniel’s favorite Tia from the orphanage with her son.  It was a full house with lots of love, laughter, playing, and celebration.  Here are a few pictures of Daniel goofing off before everyone arrives.

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Daniel said that his favorite part of the party was when he played Nerf gun wars with all of his new friends.  He had already met Jace and Asher before…and has been waiting literally months to get to play with them again.  It was like they had known each other for years and spoke the same language.  They had the best time playing together.

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At one point, Jace wanted to take a photo of his Momma (Erin).  As I (Kirsten) was showing Jace how to use the camera, Erin accidentally shot me in the head with the Nerf gun!  Even adults have the best time with nerf 🙂  We were almost rolling on the ground in laughter!!

The boys also had a blast playing football (soccer).  I love the intensity on Daniel’s face!

All of the sweet girls are so precious.  I just love their little smiles 🙂  It was so nice being surrounded by our family down here in Bolivia as we welcomed Daniel home.  They went above and beyond, showing Daniel abundant love and welcoming him into the family.

Here’s the “boy crew”.  This picture melts my heart.  They are just so cute!!

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Everyone surprised Daniel with gifts!  He loved it!!! We are blessed beyond measure with great friends who have become a loving and much needed family down here!

Let’s introduce you to everyone!  Here is the Powell Family! They are long-term missionaries down here and have three children 🙂  They are super sweet and fun!

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This is Tia Luz and her son Gabriel!  We can’t say enough awesome things about this woman.  She loved Daniel fiercely as she cared for him like a Momma in the orphanage!  She is a sweet Christian woman who has the biggest heart for the kids she cares for.  Tia Luz has been a tremendous help to us, as we have been not only transitioning into motherhood but have been learning to be mothers within the Bolivian culture and schools. We love her dearly!

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Oh and this family!  I am sure you have heard us talk of them a lot…they are family to us down here in Bolivia. We love living life with them and wouldn’t know what to do without them.  They are sweet, funny, kind, generous, and authentic.  We are so grateful for each and every member of their precious family!

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It has been a wonderful week.  Parenthood is the biggest adventure out there!! 🙂  What a joy, honor and responsibility.  We are excited to see all that God has in store for Daniel!

Happy Birthday to Our Bolivian Church

We have been so blessed to have such a wonderful church family here in Bolivia.  It has been through the process of connecting with our brothers and sisters here in Cochabamba that we have realized how much we took for granted in the States when it came to connecting with people.  It takes a lot more effort and courage to even have a simple conversation down here…it’s vulnerable because we make a lot of mistakes in language.  But God has certainly blessed us with a loving family in Christ who have welcomed us with open arms and who are full of grace!  God likewise continues to give us more and more courage to step out and connect more deeply.  We are finding that it is so worth the vulnerability, discomfort, and risk 🙂

This past weekend, (Friday, July 22nd until Sunday, July 24th) our church celebrated it’s fourth birthday party!  We spent three evenings as well as Sunday morning swept up in God’s presence and a powerful revival.  It was a meaningful time for us, where we really began feeling more connected to our church family as a whole.

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We had some very powerful times of prayer where we saw many lives changed and moved…from individuals to marriages.  Many times throughout the weekend there was not a dry eye in the place.

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The worship was likewise INCREDIBLE!  The Holy Spirit was really moving in the house…and God’s children were singing praises to God with such passion and heart!

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And what kind of birthday party would it be without presents and cake?  We certainly celebrated our church’s birthday right…with a three-level cake and lots of presents gifted to the church 🙂

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I think the children at our church are simply precious!  Right now we aren’t allowed to share any of the photos of kids from the orphanage….but we can enjoy sharing the many sweet faces from our church family!  Here are a few 🙂

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Here are a few last photos from our church’s birthday celebration!  Thanks for checking out our blog!  We hope to get back into more of a routine of blogging!  Love you all!

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A Selfish Story of Answered Prayers and God’s Abundant Grace

This is a story that may not make a lot of sense to most of you, but it’s a story worth telling…I have been trying to get my Bolivian Driver’s License for the last 4 weeks.  While I still don’t have it, there is actually hope that I will by Friday!  This has been quite a process that is difficult to explain to those of you who haven’t tried to do any kind of paperwork in a foreign country.  It involves many steps of going to the police station, going to banks, going to the licensing office, and the biggest hurdle is actually passing the test (and doing all of these things multiple times).  None of those sound like difficult things to do, and they aren’t, but 4 weeks later I’ve had enough.  Most foreigners down here don’t even bother to get their license, or if they do, they pay a lawyer or a police officer and get everything that way (this is a very common practice). I really wanted to be legal and do it legally, I think that doing so has honored God and therefore, I have the story I have today.

So, this morning was my 3rd attempt to pass my driver’s test.  I thought the hardest part would be the 35 question test in Spanish…I was wrong.  I passed it the very first time without any help almost 2 weeks ago.  So then we went to the driving part and I passed the first part of it the first time (driving a zig zag, driving in reverse, and then parallel parking).  Then we went to the second part of the driving test which was actually on a road with other traffic.  I did everything just fine (including navigating the worst roundabout in the city) until the very last step.  The last thing you have to do is stop on a steep hill and then start driving again (this is all done with a stick shift car).  I didn’t think it would be a problem, but my foot hit the side of the accelerator instead of pressing it and I stalled the car.  So, I failed try #1.

Try #2 was 6 days later.  I didn’t have to retake the written test, so I just went straight to the driving portion.  This time, for some unknown reason, I could not parallel park the car!  I had 2 chances and I messed them both up.  Fail #2 (I was not a very happy camper).

So, after 2 attempts you have to start all over.  So, I studied again for the written portion and was at the driving school at 7:00 this morning.  (Many of us have been praying for a week that I would pass, and Kirsten specifically prayed that God would show me His grace and that there wouldn’t be any question as to why I passed today.)  After we signed in, one of the instructors went over a lot of potential questions from the test.  I thought that was great and would surely help a lot! Finally at 8:00 the inspector from the licensing agency arrived and things could get started.  I started the test and realized that I didn’t know hardly anything on it and the review had not helped.  It was much harder than the first one.  The instructors are allowed to clarify questions for us, so at one point, I didn’t know what a word meant and wanted him to try to explain what it was.  He came over and instead of explaining the word, just gave me the answer.  I was shocked, but very grateful!  Then another instructor came around and gave me about 5 more answers without even being prompted!  I am certain that without their help I would not have passed the written portion today, but I did.

Then we went to the driving course.  And again I had trouble with the parallel parking (by their standards).  The difference between the front and back tires’ distances to the curb were 2 cm farther apart than they were allowed to be.  I thought I was done for another day…But the inspector said that if there was time I could have my second chance today instead of coming back.  So, they told me to wait a minute and they would let me know. That minute was approximately 3 hours, but I did get my second chance and finally parked it perfectly!  Then we were off to the open road course.  I got in the car and was disappointed because it was a car that was more difficult to drive, but I just kept praying.  We did the first part of the course, and then just when I was supposed to go down the hill and start the hardest part, the inspector told me to go straight!  The instructor that was with us asked if he was passing me and he said yes!!  I didn’t have to do the worst part of the test, and I still passed!  It was amazing!  The entire day was so abnormal.  The other 2 days, there were no exceptions to rules, no shortcuts on the exams, no real help at all.  But today, they bent over backwards to help me pass the test and I really believe that God’s hand was all over it!

Now 2 more days of running errands all over the city and I may finally have accomplished in 4 weeks what I had hoped to do in one!

Thanksgiving

One of our biggest blessings that we have had here in Bolivia has been our Bolivian Family the Vargas/Grays.  They have made us feel so welcome in our new home, have taught us so much Spanish through our many conversations, have become dear friends, have helped us learn more about their culture, have loved us, and have showed us the ropes of where to buy certain groceries in the area!  We don’t know what we would have done without them, especially within the first few months of living here.

Back in September, our Bolivian Family asked us if we would join them in a Thanksgiving celebration this year.  Sonja’s husband, Thomas, is from the United States, and so their entire family celebrates Thanksgiving.  For months we had been anticipating our upcoming celebration together!  Then, one day before Thanksgiving, I (Kirsten) got VERY sick with food poisoning.  It made for a long and hard day…but we still enjoyed the blessing of being with our Bolivian Family!

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Here is the food.  We had a fun mix of American dishes as well as Bolivian.  Amber made corn pudding!  It was so good.  And Mabel and Eva bought a REAL turkey.  It may not sound like that big of a deal since turkeys are so available in the U.S.A…but they are harder to get down here and quite expensive.  It was one of the best turkeys I’ve ever tasted!!

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And then here are the desserts!  Amber and I were in charge of making them this year.  We made a pumpkin pie, homemade whip cream, and a chocolate cake that had dulce de leche.  Another one of our friends brought a lemon meringue pie.  I sadly didn’t have any of them…but I heard that they were a hit!  Below are a few photos of the group of us 🙂

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After eating dinner, Thomas shared with us the story behind Thanksgiving.  He had done some research on the history and wrote out a paper that he shared with us all.  It was very interesting to hear what he wrote.  I had heard parts of the story but not the depth of what he had researched.

I had planned a gratitude activity for all of us to do together on Thanksgiving, but unfortunately I was feeling so ill that I had to return home before we could do it. However, everyone was so sweet and did the activity together with me on Sunday.  I made a gratitude tree, where each of us wrote things that we are grateful for on the heart-shaped leaves.  After sharing our gratitudes we pasted the leaves on the tree.  I talked about how when we don’t stop and give thanks, our lives can often feel empty.  We can only see the things that feel like are missing.  But when we practice gratitude, our lives feel full…and we in turn have lots of joy.  It was a very meaningful time that we shared together! And it was fun that we had 4 countries represented with us: Australia, France, America, and Bolivia.

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Here is the tree before we started…with all of the heart-shaped leaves.

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And here is the finished product!!

 

New Friends

We put a few pictures of our new friends the Tisburys on our blog a few weeks ago.  Since then we have become really good friends and have enjoyed several evenings hanging out with them and some other friends as well!  Their 5 kids ask for us to come over and play with them most days, so they must like us too. 😉

Here is their family Thanksgiving photo with all of them together, then I’ll put some more of our time together below! From left to right this is Jace, Asher, Erin, Anna, Avery, Christopher, and Scarlet.

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Here are some of us just hanging out one evening with some other friends from Kirsten’s Spanish school.

Here is Scarlet with her “specials”.  They like to play the games and spend time with us too!

The girls always ask for “braid hair”, so Kirsten enjoys braiding their hair for them.

Scarlet also wanted a picture of her hand, so here it is. 😉

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The boys are wonderful, too, and love the games that we bring over for them to play!

This night we also sang the “Cups” song and involved almost everyone doing that.

Just a few more random pictures of the kids!

Baby “O” Needed Some Extra Snuggles

Baby “O” had just arrived on Wednesday, the day before we did all of the pictures for CDA.  He had really been having a hard time missing his mom during the 24 hours he had been there.  We aren’t sure of his story, but we know he was taken away from his mom because she was reported for not taking good care of him.  The rest of the details are a little sketchy.

I tried to feed him dinner in his highchair, but he was so tired from not getting enough sleep that he just kept crying.  He was so sad and pitiful.  I finally held him on my lap and fed him and he did much better.  Then I just held him and snuggled him after dinner for an hour or so.  Finally it was time for Kirsten and I to go home for the evening, but I couldn’t put him down.  I looked at Kirsten and asked if we could take him home for the night.  She of course agreed!  So we packed him some clothes and headed for home.  He was asleep in the trufi before we made it very far.  I made this amazing crib for him in the trundle bed beside my bed out of our couch cushions.  He slept like a rock!  The poor boy slept for 16 of the 22 hours we had him with us!

The next morning he woke up happy as could be!

Kirsten took him to her Spanish school with her and he slept through most of the classes, and was doted on by all of her teachers and classmates!  Then we just spent some time with him. He didn’t want to be put down at all, so we got lots of good snuggles!

After he took his afternoon nap we took him back to the orphanage, and he is still a little high maintenance, but is doing much better!

Sweet Babies

A week ago, all of the caregivers at Casa de Amor planted a big garden in the backyard.  Since all of our caregivers needed to be out in the yard planting, all of the volunteers got to care for the babies and kids.  I’ll tell ya what, those ladies who care for our kids around the clock are incredible!  I don’t know how they do it day in and day out.  It is hard work…but it certainly is worthwhile & rewarding! Here are some photos from our day as Tias (caregivers) at the baby house.

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We have some incredible volunteers with us right now!!  It has been so fun to get to know them.  They are great with our kids!  We are so thankful for each of them 🙂

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Hike to the Pyramid of Cochabamba

Over the weekend we had the pleasure of joining a group of people from all over the world on a hike up to one of the tallest mountain peaks in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The tallest peak is Tunari at 16,480 ft.  The Pyramid of Cochabamba is around 14,000 ft. and is the trail that we took over the weekend.  It is not a true pyramid.  It got its name since the natural peak is in the shape of a pyramid.  Many people in the group summited the mountain.  Amber and I didn’t make it to the top but still had a wonderful time hiking in beautiful terrain and spending time with amazing people.

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This is a view from the city of where we would be hiking.

We all met in the city and took a bus up to the tree-line where we would begin hiking for the day.  The view in the picture above is from the parking lot where we all met.  We were excited that Laura and Kayla decided to come with us!

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It was incredible to get such a spectacular view of our city.  We could see everything from el Cristo, to the lake where we have spent a couple weeks, to about where our home is located.   It was such a neat perspective!

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The city of Cochabamba

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There were all sorts of beautiful things and views from up there!  God is such an incredible Creator!

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Here’s a part of the group hiking up towards the pyramid.

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Right after this picture was taken, Amber and I somehow got off of the trail. There are lots of little side trails that people have made…and the main trail is not that distinct.  We had gotten behind the main group where they were no longer in sight.  We started to wonder why the trail was heading down.  All of a sudden we hear voices from above and saw a person with a red shirt.  I yelled up so they could know we were off of the main trail.  We had such an incredible trail guide that climbed down the side of this HUGE mountain side to help us.  He was so calm and assured us that he would help us get up the mountain side and back on the trail.  He taught has how to switchback which is basically where you zig-zag up the side mountain.  It was challenging and exhausting…and quite a bit scary since straight down was a deep valley that was quite an astonishing distance down.  To say the least, we were relieved to be back on the regular trail!!

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We were off the trail down below and had to switchback up the mountain side to get to the “X” above and then eventually where I am standing taking the photo.

After our unexpected excursion, Amber and I decided to hike the road with our friends Mauge and David.  It was an easier walk which were we grateful for…we were quite tired after switchbacking.  Also, at that altitude it was harder to get oxygen.  We were grateful for great company that just wanted to take a leisurely hike and enjoy one another in nature.

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In the pictures above you can see the mountain shaped it the form of a pyramid behind us.  Below you can see some more photos of the pyramid and the peak where many people in the group summited!

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After the hike, the bus took us to a lower place on the mountain where it wasn’t raining as bad and we had a picnic. It was such a great day to be out in nature, exercise, and meet new people.  We are both thankful we went. Even though we didn’t summit, we were excited to have hiked at the highest elevation for both of us thus far in our lives.

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