"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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Goodness "Grace"ious....!!!

Grace had a fantastic school year! Her little report cards tells a wonderful story--she continued to improve throughout the year and ended with the highest marks in the 4th quarter! Way to finish strong, Grace!

Grace spent a about half of her school day in the regular 2nd grade classroom. Her regular ed teacher was "Johnson" (Grace calls everyone by their last names only.) And, every morning, Johnson would do the "I'm watching you signal", using her first two fingers in a V pointing at her eyes and then to Grace's. Then, Grace would do it back at Johnson!

Mrs. Johnson did a fabulous job of including Grace in the class. For instance, she told us that when it was time for a math game with flash cards, she would have Grace hold the card out for the child to give the answer. If it was a boy and he got the answer right, he would get to take the card from Grace, who would then pat him on the back and say "Good job, Mister!" And, if it was a girl who got the answer right, Grace would hand her the flash card and say, "Good job, Toots!" What a hoot!

Here's an email note we got from Johnson on the last day: "Hi Paula, I just want to say thanks for sharing your wonderful daughter with me this year. I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed having Grace in my classroom. The morning hugs and the Johnson, I'm watching you signal always started my days out great! I'm sure going to miss her! Have a great summer! Stacy aka "Johnson"

And to finish it off, here's a video clip that her wonderful spec ed teacher, Christianson, took of Grace reading. This is a huge encouragement to me, as I have not heard her read yet. She won't read for anyone but Christianson, not even Johnson!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our Day...

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I wanted to spend some time with Liz & Sam before Grace was out of school for the summer. So, Sam came up with a list of things he wanted to do with me.

First of all, the three of us went to Denny's and had breakfast. We talked about the adoption, the possibility of the closures, and our hopes for the upcoming summer vacation. After the breakfast, Liz went to her best friend Alyssa's house to hang out and go bike riding.

Sam and I headed to Grace's school to pick up a few things that couldn't be sent home on the bus (like a Stokke chair that we lent them, but now we need for Bella!). We were able to take a few pictures of Grace with her teachers....

Next, Sam and I headed to Oak Park to feed the wild Canadian geese. They aren't so wild now, because people have been feeding them all spring, and they aren't too svelt either!

Next, on Sam's agenda was to visit the Humane Society. (Can you tell he loves animals?) He especially loves cats, so off we went to "Kitty City" at the shelter.

Sam and I had a wonderful day together!(we snapped this holding the camera together out in front of us)

He's a quick-witted kid with a big heart! He'll make a wonderful big brother to Bella!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prayers Needed

Since beginning this adoption journey, we have had a few bumps in the road, as I am sure most adoptive parents have....

Well, this is a big pothole! Bella's country may close international adoptions for a few months. :( No one really knows why, but it seems to be some in-fighting and power struggles between political parties. Anyways, for those of us families who are ready to go and get their children, this is definitely a time for prayers! Would you join us in praying that the country will not close adoptions, or at the very least, that even if they close, that adoptions of kiddos with special needs would be honored and allowed to continue?

So from nothing happening on Tuesday....to Thursday....let's just says things can change rather quickly!

I'm a little down but continuing (trying) to trust in God's will in all this. Kevin says maybe this will make our adoption story a little more interesting. Good try, Kev!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Down Syndrome & Cancer Research!

A good friend of mine, Roxane, sent me the following link. Researchers from Harvard have found a connection between cancer & people with Down syndrome!


I think it would be totally appropriate, & not at all ironic, that God would use our loved ones with Trisomy 21 to be the ones to shed light on the mysteries of cancer-- and possibly the ones to guide us to a cure!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nothing's going on....

and that's a good thing! We had a really relaxing weekend, although I spent almost my whole Saturday cleaning out the garage (third stall was stuffed with boxes from when we moved last July) and painting my retro metal lawn furniture chairs a hunter green. Actually, the furniture turned out really nice--and saved us $$'s by only having to pay $24 for paint instead of succumbing to the temptation to buy a new set! Every little bit saved continues to go into the Bella fund.

While Grace is in school today, I am taking Sam & Liz out to run some errands. Liz is out driving with her driver's ed teacher Mr. M right now. She only has one more hour to drive and then she's officially done with driver's ed. What's amazing is that she only got her permit last Wednesday and will have gotten her required 6 hours of driving done in one week. It will be so nice to have an additional driver for when we become a family of six!

Tonight's the rescheduled TV spot with KMOT, our NBC affiliate. Still kind of nervous! I'll keep you posted :) ......

Now, as we move into the lazy days of summer, we continue to wait "patiently" for news on the adoption front. I am so excited to get our dossier in and get that travel date--then the lazy days of summer will turn into the crazy days of summer, I'm sure!

Friday, May 22, 2009

School's Out!

School's out for Elizabeth & Sam--they are so excited! Me, well, I am excited to have them home again, but as many of you know, any change in my routine takes some adjusting (stop laughing Mom & Karla)!

During their closing Chapel, Sam received the Barnabas Award (for encouragement)and Elizabeth received a $250 scholarship from the Optimist club for an essay she wrote on the power of youth. And, Grace got the Peace Medal award yesterday in her class. What a proud Mama I am!

Also, during chapel the Freshmen, I mean "Sophomore" class presented Elizabeth with a card and $376 they raised to help bring Bella home. What a blessing! These kids are just great--last night we hosted a surprise going-away party for one of their classmates. They are just the most thoughtful class--but know how to let loose and have fun! (lots of waterguns, pizza, football....)

Oh, and yesterday I had a first--morning coffee with my neighborhood ladies. It was so much fun! They were so interested in our adoption and wanted to hear all about it. They are all retired ladies that live across the street in townhouses. I had never been to "coffee" before, so I had some pre-conceived notions about coffee conversation. I was surprised to learn these ladies are not only polictically-savvy, but also are up-to-date on the latest trends, including American Idol!

Next week, Grace has school through Thursday, so I will be able to spend one-on-one time with Elizabeth & Sam before Grace is out for summer. Elizabeth will want to practice driving, and Sam and I will catch up on "Meerkat Manor" (our favorite show)

Looking forward to a quiet weekend at home--but trying to keep busy so as not to get too impatient about bringing our little Bella home.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Growing up....

Elizabeth got her driving permit yesterday! After getting her permit, we went to the high school driving range (for cars not golf :) and she drove for the very first time. At one point, as we were hurtling through space, she said in a very robotic voice "Mom, we are going to be OK." She stopped the vehicle; we looked at each other; then we burst into laughter! She said "I don't know why I just said that, but I guess I was trying to comfort myself more than anything!"

How can my little girl be driving already? It seems like yesterday when she was busy drawing and writing her little stories, dressing up in her Pocahontas outfit, and playing with her little Polly Pockets.

Time marches on...sigh.....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adoption Update

We got a call from our adoption agency, About a Child, last night and it looks like our dossier will be submitted on June 1st. That means we will probably travel at the end of June or beginning of July. I'll keep you posted!

Also, the news had to reschedule their story for next Tuesday night. So, I'll provide a link after it airs next week.

Thanks again for your love and support.....Paula

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No news yet....

But the news is coming to our house! LOL Yes, one of our local TV stations is coming over to our house to do a story on our adoption journey. I am really nervous just thinking about it! I'll put the link on here after it runs.

Would you pray that we have the right words to convey why we are doing this? We want people to know our hearts in this grand adventure--not coming across as self-righteous--but humble. Bottom line, we want God to get the glory!

Also, on the adoption front, we are waiting for our dossier to be submitted. No news yet. The silver lining of this is that we have more time to make arrangements for child care and for saving pennies! On the other hand, I would like to get a travel date soon--my heart's desire is that we can come home with Bella while my sister and her family are still here during their visit this summer. They arrive on July 14th and will leave July 30th. Would you also pray for this?

Thanks again for your prayers and emotional support. We are so blessed!

Love, Paula

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Home Again...

I'm back home. Kevin & the kids did great without the mama!

The Family Voices Conference was amazing! I met the most incredible moms with children with disabilities! The speakers were great, the food was yummy, AND I really clicked with my roomie! We learned leadership skills, navigating the system, and even had a fun "True Colors" personality test.

But the best part was being able to talk and connect with other moms who "know" and understand the challenges and joys of having a child with special needs. No matter the type of disability or "label" we found that we basically have struggles with the same issues.

I came away renewed, refreshed, and refueled. Besides really connecting with my roomie--I got to meet another amazing mom who adopted a little girl with special needs from Russia. We walked around the town of Edgley for over an hour sharing, talking, and crying. She was a huge encouragement to me and has an incredible story of her own!

At the end of the weekend, we paired up with buddies and committed to a personal goal. My goal, along with another Minot mom, is to use these skills we honed to ressurect our Down syndrome support group.

One presenter called this type of weekend, which is held all over the US, a "federally-funded respite". I went into this conference with skeptism and worry. But I left with hope, skills, and over 20 new friends from around our state! Thanks, Family Voices! (www.fvnd.org)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Leaving Everyone Behind.....

Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to Edgely, ND, to attend our state's Family Voices Family Leadership Weekend. I'm excited, but nervous to attend....and leave everyone behind. Kevin's a great hands-on Dad, so he'll do fine.

Family Voices is a national organization that aims to achieve family-centered care for all children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities. This weekend family members from across the state will attend this conference to learn leadership skills and how to advocate for their children. Should be a good time--I'm more concerned that I have to share a motel room with someone I don't know! Ha Ha!

I am hoping that when I get back on Sunday I will be able to let you know more about the adoption details!

Have a good weekend. AND, if you think about it, give Kevin a call! LOL

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We're getting closer....

Yesterday, we received an email from Victoria at About A Child saying:

"I just wanted to let you know that your dossier was submitted for pre-registration today and as soon as they will “proofread” it the first time, they will accept it for formal submission. We will keep you posted."

Not really sure what it all means, but it sure sounds good! AND it means we are getting closer!

Thank you so much for your love and support.....Paula

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Cleaning!

Yesterday, I forced Kevin out in the garage to go through boxes and boxes of his "collections" (i.e. sports cards, etc.). I was energized by the purging--let's just say Kevin was drained dry! It was hard to undo his clenched fists, but we did get rid of quite a bit and got lots ready for dropping off at ReStore Thrift Store.

While we were busy, Grace was not! After many unsuccessful attempts to get us to take her to a playground, she finally collapsed into a storage bin. Be assured, she didn't get packed up too! Although I threatened! Ha Ha.....

Guess I am in the nesting stage of this "paper pregnancy"....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Destined Dossier Delivered!

Yay! Our agency, About A Child, let us know last night that the dossier arrived in Bella's country on May 8th. I am so glad that it arrived and is in our facilitator's hands--he will be translating it now. So, now we wait to hear when it will be submitted to the country's adoption department. After that, we are given a travel date.

Would you pray that all will go smoothly and that our paperwork looks fine? We are getting closer, Bella!

Love you all.....Paula (soon to be mom of FOUR!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day! My day started with coffee & the newspaper in bed! Grace bounded in a little later and started a pillow fight. After getting ready for church, Kevin snapped a picture of me with all FOUR kids.

(See me holding Bella's picture)

Samuel and Grace made me very cute booklets in school to give me on Mother's Day. I asked Elizabeth to write me a poem or essay. She started looking for a Bible verse and found this one in The Message:

"Anyone who robs father and mother and says, "So, what's wrong with that?" is worse than a pirate." Proverbs 28:24 We both had a hardy laugh over that one! (Ahoy there, matey!)

After church, our family and our friends Mike & Cindy went to Wendy's for lunch. We had a fun time actually "sitting down" in a restaurant instead of just driving through--who cares that it was a fast food stop!

Now I am off for my Mother's Day afternoon nap. I'll update about the rest of the day later.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...... I LOVE Mother's Day......

Hi, I'm back and rested! (Now I probably won't be able to fall asleep tonight, but, oh well, I got a great nap during a thunderstorm...I just snuggled in, ahhhhhhhh!)

My parents came over and Kevin grilled steaks for the guys and chicken for the girls. How Yummy! Then, the girls went for a power walk.

What a great day! Thanks, Kevin and kids for making it such a nice day! Love, Mom

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Our Special Gift

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate mothers! We ALL have our mothers to thank for giving us the gift of life. As a mom, I was given a very special, unexpected gift over 9 years ago--a beautiful baby girl named Grace, who just happens to have Down syndrome. I don't understand why she was given this little something "extra", but I do know that our family received an "extra" blessing when God granted her to us. God continues using Grace mold our characters to be more like his son Jesus.

However, most people would not agree that Down syndrome could be a blessing. In fact, over 90% of parents who find out in utero that their baby has Down syndrome will go on to terminate their pregnancy.

This makes me so sad. I wish all people could know Grace, and others like her, to see how valuable and loved she is! Why are we such a 'throwaway society'? If someone does not look perfect, is too old, or their bodies don't work, we think they are of no value. However, God our Father loves and cherishes each precious life He has created.

The verses most often used to demonstrate God's value of life comes from Psalm 139:13-16. Please allow me to share them with one small change; I will insert "Grace's" name into the verses instead of "you" to show how God's Word is alive and personal:

"I praise you because Grace is fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Grace's frame was not hidden from you when she was made in the secret place. When Grace was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw her unformed body. All the days ordained for Grace were written in your book before one of them came to be."

These verses are such a comfort to a parent of a child with special needs. They can be a comfort to all of us when we are questioning our value and purpose in life. God values all life and has a plan for each and every one of us--even if we are blessed with a little "extra"....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Grace makes us laugh everyday, especially with her own “language” or GraceSpeak! Here’s the English language according to Grace:

Pretzel hot rod – pretzel rod

No rain, no paint?!? – Said as we drive past the 'scary' car wash!

“kdik,kdik” -- tickle tickle

Two minutes! – (while holding up two fingers) She says this whenever she wants us to wait for her to do anything…

My turn?--her way of asking if it is her night for DreamCatchers t-ball!

Yes or No? – She holds up both hands and we are supposed to touch the hand that represents “yes” or “no” —but, she always holds the answer “she” wants out closer to you and the other far back, so you can’t reach it to try to get the answer she wants!

Black or grey? – to ask which car we will take

Blue candy – Dove chocolates

Swimming, shower? – When she wants to go to the YMCA

Sissybeth – Elizabeth

Daddy, you pooped! – ummm, "poofed"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adoption Update

Hello All!
Just a quick post today to give an update on our adoption journey. Our dossier is done (Yay!) and ready to be sent to Bella's country. Once it arrives there, our facilitator will translate it into Russian. After that, it will be ready to be submitted to the department of adoption after which we will be invited over to Bella's country to hopefully receive her referral.

So, in summary, the next step big step the submission of our dossier. The question is when this will actually take place? Bella's country only accepts submissions for younger children on Mondays. And, because last Monday and the next are holidays there, the earliest date for our submission is May 18th. However, there are several families "in line" before us--so, it could be May 25th or even June 1st. Either way, we trust God for his timing in it all!

Bottom line, Bella will be home this summer, Lord willing!

Also, we were so blessed this weekend to receive a generous donation from a family at our church. We were left speechless--which is a rare thing for the Burckhards! It is very humbling and so very hard to be gracious accepting such a gift. Then, yesterday a sweet cousin of mine called and also wanted to make a love gift to our adoption fund. We were overwhelmed once again! What words can we say to let you know how much this means to us! Thank you to all who are partnering with us to save this little girl and give her a "forever family".

Love, Paula & family

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Our Busy Saturday....

Our Saturday started early with Elizabeth competing at the State Music Competition. She played 'Nocturne' by Bassi and got a "star" THE HIGHEST score possible. We are so proud of her!
Then, we wented to an assisted living center where Grace performed at her spring Dance Recital. She did great!
(This picture was from a different time.) Later on, I was invited to be the guest speaker at a Mother/Daughter Dinner at Bethel Free Lutheran. The dinner and cake was so yummy! I shared about our journey from Grace to Bella and our road to adoption. It was so fun to have my mom, Elizabeth, and Grace there with me. What fun!

While the girls were at the Mother/Daughter Dinner, the boys went to Planet Pizza to play games and such. Here's what Sam thought about his outing...

So all in all, a very busy, yet very fun day! Looking foward to a day of "rest" tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pantry Challege Check-In

Hi All! I started my self-imposed "Pantry Challenge" last Friday. My plan is to go until next Friday,May 8th. You know what I have learned more than anything? I have not been a good steward of what God has given us--I have been frittering money away. This has become obvious to me when I am aware of how many times I would have usually bought unnecessary items over the last week. This challenge causes me to pause and say "Do I really want to spend $$$ on this or put it in our adoption fund?"

So far, I have saved over $200 in one week! An example--Instead of ordering pizza for Grace's birthday, we used pizza rolls that had been in the freezer (savings $30). I've made a menu from the items that are in my freezer and pantry, and truthfully, will be able to extend my challenge further than next Friday.

Another example, is that I ran out of my salon shampoo. Typically, I would have just gone out and bought another $20 bottle without thinking twice. But, instead, I found some unused shampoo, and although not "salon" quality, my hair is doing just fine!

So, in summary, I have been able to save a little here and there! But the harsh reality is--we spend money without thinking and sometimes in a frivolous manner.

This little experiment, besides helping us save money for the adoption, drives home the fact that we are just stewards of "our" money. AND, our family hasn't been doing a very good job of it as of late. So, this challenge is helping reinforce what we "knew", but were not putting into practice--That it's all God's money, and we are just stewards of it!

Let's see how we do in the upcoming week! Humbly, Paula