"To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:3

The Burckhard Family

The Burckhard Family

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grace's e's & 9's.....

When Grace was first born and finally home from the hospital, I distinctly remember a moment in time where my mom and I stood hovering over her crib, both just staring at her. Could she hear? Would she walk? Will she ever be able to take care of herself? We were both so overcome with the "what if's" that at that moment we couldn't see the gift right in front of our eyes.

Fast forward to today...Grace is a fiesty, 8 year old girl who just happens to have Down Syndrome. It's our opinion that she will single-handedly change the stereotype of "those children are so loving & good..." When people say that to us these days, we just politely smile and let Grace's actions do the talking!

She is doing amazingly well in school. As a 2nd grader, she is sight-reading 45 words using Edmark, adding sums up to ten using Touchpoint Math, and testing her limits, and everyone's patience, in every possible way.

We were recently asked if we would like to have Grace given an IQ test to determine her eligibility for services. We realize that she has mental retardation, but feel that we don't need a number to determine this. Also, we think that an IQ test could possibly limit teachers' expectations for her--you know, preconceived notions that labels can bring. So, we said, no thanks!

Here are two papers that came home this weekend in her Friday folder. Notice in this one, she has written every "e" in a different color crayon. Her teacher says she loves to do it this way!

And, on this paper--take a look at her name at the top of the page....

She looked over her papers with me tonight and said "You like my papers?" I said, "Yes, I am sooooo proud of you!" I wish I could have had a glimpse of this moment--when we were wondering if she would ever be able to do anything. Grace, we ARE so proud of you!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No More Floggy

Today you get a special "guest blogger"...me: Elizabeth, a.k.a. Sissy. =)
This morning we were pulling out of the driveway to go to church, when Grace suddenly lets out a horrified gasp. "What is that? Floggy?"
"...Froggy?" I say slowly, trying to figure out what she was talking about.
"Yep, floggy!" she responds enthusiastically.
"Uhh. Flogging?" I was pretty sure that that wasn't the word Grace was trying to say, but hey. You never know.
"Yep, the floggy is out there!" she pointed out the window.
"Ohhh, foggy!" I say, finally figuring it out. This morning there was a really dense fog outside.
She allowed herself a momentary self-satisfied smile at the fact that she knew what "fog" was, then spent the rest of the drive either talking to herself about the fog, or talking directly to the fog...I couldn't quite tell.
While we were in church, the fog lifted significantly, but it was still a bit noticeable. As soon as we get out to the car, Grace yells at the top of her lungs. "Floggy is back! It's a monster!"
"No, it's okay, Grace," I reassure her. "It's going away."
"Floggy...no more floggy? He's gone?" she asks with wide eyes.
"Yep, floggy left."
"Floggy went away? Okay. High School Muzzical THREE divvy-dee!" (translation: High School Musical 3 DVD) This was a sure sign that the floggy would no longer be a problem.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

March "Madness"

Here's Grace as she is bundled up, ready to go and play with Sissy in the snow. This is March 26th! This is is the true definition of 'March Madness'.....

Prayers for Fellow North Dakotans

We are praying for our friends and family in the Bismarck & Fargo areas--the waters are rising minute by minute!

Please pray for safety, warmth, and peace as so many of our friends are affected by the flooding of the Red River & Missouri River--We are praying for My brother Joe & Brenda in Bismarck, Our Northwestern Mutual friends (Kevin's Fargo office) Nancy & Jim, Karen & Lee (Reece's Rainbow family), Angie & Jim (East Grand Forks)and so many others I know I am overlooking.

Pray that God uses this unsettling time to draw each of them closer to God. May this dire situation be used for His Glory and purposes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sam the Animator

Sam (our 11 yr/old) loves to draw cartoons--he even loves it more when he makes animated cartoons on the computer. Here is one little snippet of an episode he made--just to give you an idea of his "work"....gotta love it

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wishing on summer--"heavy sigh"..........

Well, just when we think it's over, winter sneaks back in and blasts us with a blizzard. Ahhh, North Dakota weather--if you don't like it, wait a minute and it will change!

This is what we are dreaming of today while the wind, snow, ice, & sleet pound down our spirits.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another Picture of Bella

Yay! another picture of Bella. Just wanted to share. Isn't she adorable?!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

For Comparison's Sake.......

Yesterday I posted about President Obama's gaffe with Special Olympics. A friend, Meredith from Reece's Rainbow, also created a great post on her blog with the following clip. So, for comparison's sake, let's see what Governor Palin said in her address to the 2009 Special Olympics held in Boise, Idaho this past February....(PS) You may want to mute my play list at the bottom of the page before watching this clip...)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Advocating all the way to the White House!

When I started this journey into the world of disabilities nine years ago, I knew that it would be up to me to advocate for my daughter and others with cognitive and physical disabilities.

But having to stand up to the President! Didn't think that was in my future!!!!! I don't know if you saw it last night, but President Obama was Jay Leno's guest on the Tonight Show. During the interview, President Obama shared that he had been practicing his bowling and got a score of 129. He then quipped "was like the Special Olympics or something."

OK, some of you may not think this a big deal, but to a mom with a little girl with Down Syndrome (and another on the way :) this is disheartening! The highest-elected official making fun of people in Special Olympics! Uff Da!

So, I quick sent an email to his office stating:

"I am deeply saddened to have heard President Obama's comment regarding his bowling score and Special Olympics on Jay Leno last evening. By him poking fun at himself using that "analogy", he is poking fun at people with cognitive and physical disabilities.

My daughter has Down Syndrome and had brought great joy and richness to our lives. The hardest part is trying to educate society that she is a valuable and worthy person. So, it is just sad that this kind of comment comes from our own President(who himself is in a minority group). Please let him know of my disappointment and encourage him to be a better representative to ALL people regardless of race, ability, or gender!"

Honestly, I know that my comment won't make much of a difference except to me and my family. I feel good knowing that I stood up for my daughter and for other people with cognitive and physical disabilities!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Braggin' on Sissy.....

Can I brag on Sissy? I guess as a proud mama I can do that, right? I will "toot her own horn!". Yesterday, she starred in her clarinet solo at the Regional Music Festival. She played Nocturne by Bassi and now will be going to compete at State Music Festival in May. We are so proud of you, Sissy! Here's a photo of her from her Glamour Shots session in December.....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Original Bling Bling Girl

OK, OK...I fess up.... My Parents & my Sister Karla adamantly reminded me that I was the original "Bling Bling" girl! However, I called myself "A Gamorous Lady!" Here's the photo Dad scanned yesterday for proof--

A few days ago, I posted a blog entry claiming Grace as Bling Bling Girl--

So it's true, LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER! Who Knew?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meet Karla & Dave!

I can't believe I've been remiss in introducing one of my biggest supporters--My sister Karla and her husband Dave. I know I introduced their five girls, but overlooked them (really, it was an oversight, Karla!)

Karla & Dave live in Texas with their five girls: Alex, Kassie, Julianna, Victoria, and Natasha. They have "adopted" four animals--two greyhounds named Lou and Fetching and two kitties named Simba and Striker. They are a retired Air Force family that settled in their last assignment. Dave has flown every air craft in the Air Force and is now an instructor at a flight school. Karla is super busy as a preschool teacher and professional chauffeur!

We miss seeing them and wished they'd live closer so the cousins could get together. So, we are looking forward to them coming home for a visit this summer! Hopefully, Bella will be here to meet them.

So, thanks, Karla, for being one of my biggest supporters and encouragers in this topsy-turvy world of adoption! Love, Your Big Sis

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home Study Ready!

Yay! Lisa our social worker with Catholic Charities notified us that a draft of our Home Study was ready. So, I rushed over to her office and picked it up. After a quick perusal, I can say that I think she did a really good job of pulling the pieces together.

Now, our adoption agency--About A Child--and we will go over it and make revisions. After it's finalized, the home study has to be approved by North Dakota's Department of Human Services. Then, it can be sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be attached to our application seeking approval to adopt. After we receive the USCIS approval letter, we can proceed!

Can you tell I am so excited!?!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grace's Teacher....."Kirkason"

Today we are pleased to introduce a very important person in Grace's life--her Teacher--"Kirkason" as Grace calls her. Grace loves Kirkason!
Kirkason is holding her little baby Lily. The whole class awaited her arrival last year--Lily arrived on the very last day of school. When school resumed last fall, Grace had to look at Kirkason's tummy to be sure the baby was still not in there!

We are so thankful for this special teacher and all that she puts up with in our little Grace. She is a definitely a keeper!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Money & Adoption....

My children often ask me why we can't just go and get Bella right now if she is sitting in an orphanage waiting for a family? That's such a good question!

In the adoption world, besides the mountains of paperwork one must scale, money is the probably the hugest obstacle that limits families in the adoption process. For our adoption in a Eastern European country, the total amount will be approximately $24,000!

Why not adopt here in the US? Well, we would in a heartbeat--if a child with Down Syndrome were available. However, did you know that if parents find out prenatally that their baby has Down Syndrome, that the termination rate is over 90%?!!!!!

In addition,there are over 200 families waiting to adopt a child with Down Syndrome here in the US if one were available.

So, we continue on our journey to adopt a little 4 year old girl with Down Syndrome from a Eastern European country--in spite of the piles of paperwork & money!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bling Bling Girl....

Here's Grace dressed to the "nines"--nine necklaces that is!! She LOVES to play dress-up and will love to have Bella join in on the fun! We can't wait....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thoughts by Grandma....

I’d heard Paula and Elizabeth use the word “adoption” but always thought it a passing thought or idea. I like my quiet routine of retirement. My children’s (spouses-grandchildren) lives were complete and settled. Secure in their homes, their days and activities were happy, busy, and rewarding. Little did I think there would be more. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Prov. 16:9. This new step is “unknown” and now there is a new “focus”-Bringing Bella Home-(already she is edging her way into our hearts.)

Be safe, Baby Bella

Extra prayers come Each day

Loaded with Love

Letting God Lead the way

A lifetime Awaits

Love, Grandma

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Our Weekend in Minnesota

As you can see by no postings, I haven't been home for a few days because my family and I went to a lodge in Cross Lake, MN to attend the MN Headwaters ARC Family Conference. We had so much fun meeting parents of kids with disabilities and seeing our good friends Jim and Angie!

Kevin was invited to be one of the speakers at the conference. He made a presentation on Special Needs Trusts. I am so proud of him and how well he did! He can take such a "boring" topic and make it so interesting and useful for families. AND, I still laugh heartily at his jokes!

We had a good family trip out of it too. The Whitefish Lodge was beautiful and the swimming was good-according to Grace.

As we were driving home, we each shared our favorite part of the trip (we do this on every trip we take) and it was agreed that we just really liked being together most of all!

We all talked about where Bella would sleep and sit and so on when we take trips together in the future. It is so exciting that our family is really starting to grasp the idea of adding a new little person into the mix!

Our little cups are full!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bill & Barb

Today I would like to introduce some good family friends--Bill and Barb. They are parents to Brenda, my brother's wife. They are great friends that we consider to be part of the family. We invite(they probably say force) them to come to the kids' birthdays, and our celebrations including New Years, Thanksgiving, and so on. Grace has a special attraction to Bill, probably because he is so unassuming. Whenever we have a family get to-gether, Grace asks "Grandma? Papa? Grandma 'Cille? BillBarb?...." to see if they are coming over.

We are so blessed that they are a part of our lives! They have been with us through the good times and bad--Isn't that a great thing about good friends?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our Most Recent Family Photo.....

I have to admit that my goal of trying to do a post every day is becoming an arduous task! So for today, to make it an easier post as we wait on adoption details, I am posting our most recent family photo taken on Christmas Eve...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stop the "R" Word

When I am out in public, I so often hear people say "that's so retarded" or "I'm such a retard." I am pledging to spread the word to help eliminate this "R" word being used in a derogatory manner. Let's make "respect" the new "R" word! Won't you?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Welcome to Holland

The following piece means so much to Kevin and me. When we were still in the hospital right after Grace's birth, two dear friends brought this to the hospital. Kevin read it out loud to all of us. We all cried together. It is was a defining moment as we started our own journey to Holland! Enjoy.....

Welcome To Holland
by Emily Pearl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.

It's like this . . . When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michalangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes and says, "Welcome to Holland." "Holland?" you say. "What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy." But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible,disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. So you go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." The pain of that will never go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland.