"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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bella's Dedication and our Special Family....

Today was a very special day in our lives....we dedicated Bella to the Lord during a baby/child Dedication service.

In our small church of about 200 people, there were over 10 families dedicating children...two of those children were adopted!

Isn't it amazing how God forms families? And now, we give Bella back to Him--and trust through his strength and mercy, we can help her grow in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord.

And then, this afternoon I read this wonderful quote from another gal:

God doesn't give children with special needs to strong people; He gives children with special needs to ordinary, weak people and then gives them strength. Raising a child with Down syndrome doesn't TAKE a special family, it MAKES a special family.

We are eternally grateful that God MAKES our family special through the gifts of Grace and Bella!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sissy-Beth is Sixteen!

I can't believe it, but Elizabeth, aka Sissy, Sissy-Beth, or Sister, is 16 today!

It seems like yesterday when she entered our world and changed us forever. We love her so much....Happy 16th, Sissy-Beth!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Daddy Went To Chicago & All He Brought US....

was a t-shirt!























Kevin was gone ALL last week at a conference in Chicago. I survived...barely! :)

He brought the kids a "Chicago" t-shirt. Me? A t-shirt too? No, a jar of Chicago-Style Garlic Habanero Salsa. Yum!

We are so happy to have Daddy-O back home again. It was quite the eventful trip as his flight was cancelled...so he took a flight to Bismarck (about two hours away), borrowed a Suburban from a friend, and drove three other couples from towns close to Minot home on sheer ice! Leave it to Kevin! :) But, we are glad he did that because he found out that everyone else on that Saturday flight won't be home until tomorrow!

Oh, and he got bumped to 1st class! Way to go, Daddy-O! Grace kept saying over and over "Daddy, I missed you!" At least that was a balm to Daddy's crushed spirit after the Vikings big loss yesterday.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Woman's World Magazine....Featuring our Family!

Our family is featured in the February 1st issue of Woman's World Magazine....

We are so humbled and honored to be featured in this publication. The story is called, "Grace....Undeserved Blessing."

Take a peek at a copy (Page 40, Kevin says) at your local grocery or retail store and let us know what you think!

Edited to add: If you would like to see the article, send me a email and I will forward you a scanned copy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bella is 'Bringing It"....

Loved what Bella's preschool teacher wrote today. Thought I would share it with you now that she has been in school for three full weeks....

"Bella is doing great! She is now our loudest singer and she sings every song in Russian (we think). She is willingly imitating words and short phrases.

At snack she imitates "I want _________." She drinks lots of chocolate milk and usually eats a few of whatever we are having.

She is still finding and checking out all the toys. Today, she was playing with the Doctor kit and listening to hearts.

We love the galloping happy dance.

She is attempting cutting on her own and does accept assistance.

She has nice matching skills.

She is a little caretaker and tries to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.

She is intrigued with Logan's hair (Paula's note: he is African/American) and likes to touch it, so he puts his hood up.

Today we played with balls instead of riding bike. Bella ran and ran."


Whew! No wonder the little muffin is played out when she gets home! I am so happy with her progress and how she is adapting both at home and at school.

It sure sounds like Bella is "bringing it" every day! Go Bella!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

KidzQuest...

Bella (& Grace) just started a new exercise program called KidzQuest. This program is for children of all ages to help build healthy exercise habits through fun-filled activities. And what's great is the instructors were so excited to have Bella & Grace participate. Yay for inclusion!



I just love the way most children are so accepting of others who aren't like them.



It's so great for Grace & Bella to be included with their peers. But, don't you think it's great for "typical" kids to be included with special kids too? :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mid-Winter Spruce-up :)

All four kids got their mid-winter spruce-ups.....new haircuts:

















And here is a side view of Grace's first big girl haircut:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bella Remembers...

Bella's Orphanage seemed to have a lot of toys, puzzles, games, and playground equipment.

But do you know what was the most popular toy in Bella's groupa? If you guessed an empty plastic pop bottle, you were right! Isn't it comforting to know that kids all over the world tend to gravitate to the things we just throw away--like cardboard boxes!



The boys in her groupa would throw the bottles up in the air, sometimes catch them, but also loving the sound they made when clashing on the ground OR across one of their buddies' heads! Kevin and I would just laugh at their antics as they played with their precious toy.






















So it shouldn't have come as a surprise tonight when I found Bella digging through the garbage and pulling out this....






















She was SOOOOO proud to have found this treasure and to have a plastic 2 liter bottle all to herself!

If I only would have remembered this sooner, Christmas presents for her would have been so easy and inexpensive! HA HA Well, her birthday is coming up...hmmm..... (Just Kidding!) But it was fun to see Bella remember her little friends' games as she played with a bottle of her very own!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Cute Girl in A Cute Hat To Save Olive!

Want to see a very cute girl in a very cute hat? The hat is hand-made by a lovely young woman named Ashley who is adopting a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome. The little girl's name is Olive and she is waiting for her Mama to bring her home in just a few weeks from an Eastern European orphanage. Olive's Mama made these hats to help raise funds to bring her home. Ok, enough talk...Here she is.....















Get Ready......













Keep going.....It will be worth it...











Ok, here she is in her new hat....














Man, am I in love!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering....As to Not Forget!

In addition to all the good memories I have of Ukraine, I would be remiss if I didn't share a moment in time that stands out with such clarity that I vividly remember it like it happened yesterday.

Right at the end of our adoption, our Facilitator--who is a very kind, compassionate man at heart--said to me (through translation) "Paula, you come back next year and I get you a HEALTHY child."

I was stunned! I wanted to say to him...

Say what?

Haven't you seen and experienced the joy and thankfulness that adopting Bella has brought to us! Can't you see that we LOVE this beautiful child we have been blessed with?


There were many things I could and should have said, but I only replied "No, this is the child God intended for us. And we are so thankful for her."

I hope and pray that through Reece's Rainbow and the adoptions of children with Down Syndrome that God will use adopting families as instruments to open the eyes of the world to the worth and beauty of our children!

The ultimate goal would be for things to change dramatically in foreign countries so that parents are able to keep their children with Down syndrome at home and not give them away to orphanages.

But, really, we aren't much better here in the US are we? At least there, the children are born...here, if the child is found prenatally to have Down syndrome, over 90% of their parents will end their life!

So my prayer really should be that ALL people from ALL over the world recognize that ALL children are valued! All people need to know this scripture taken from Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.



So I hope this memory will stay with me and act as a catalyst to advocate for children with Down syndrome all over the world--first for life and then for families!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Souvenirs of Ukraine...

To help us remember Ukraine and share it with Bella as she grows, we purchased a variety of souvenirs. Here are a few with a description...

The hand-painted plate was a gift from our dear friend and translator Natasha. She found out I love daisies and had a friend paint this especially as a gift for my birthday. The other piece is from Nicole (from Seattle) who lives and works as a missionary in Kyiv. She knew that Bella's Berizka Orphanage means "white birch" so she gave me this picture made of white birch for my birthday. Two very thoughtful, beautiful women! We miss them so much!


I 'had' to purchase a set of Matroyshka dolls from the stands on the street by the SDA building. Natasha helped me pick out this set because she said it is painted in the Ukrainian style and also tells a story of how a young family came to be...


Then, of course, Kevin had to buy a set painted in the authentic "Vikings style!" He also gave his best friend Clint a Lakers set.


Look what I found in Elizabeth's possession just today! A half-eaten Korona chocolate bar. Say, she isn't home this weekend. Do you think she would miss it? We loved this chocolate and gave bars as souvenirs to friends and family. Would anyone like to bring some to me as a souvenir if they go to Ukraine soon? PLEASE....I'll pay you!


Natasha took us to a great bookstore at a University in the City Center. The librarians there went out of their way to be sure I got the best books for my family including a Ukrainian/English children's dictionary, an authentic cookbook, and a beautiful Ukraine photo book...


Ok, this will take a bit of explaining especially the men's briefs...it was our 22nd wedding anniversary while I was in Ukraine, so I couldn't pass these up as a gag gift for Kevin. Boy did Natasha and I laugh when we bought them! However, Elizabeth was mortified! The Urkainian shirt was for me and the soccer shirt for Sam...

And the BEST souvenir of all...Bella Bogdana Burckhard!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Ukrainian Theme Song...."Fairytale"

While in Ukraine, Elizabeth and I fell in love with a "Fairytale"...a song that is! Everywhere we would go, we would hear this song....in the taxis, at restaurants, and on our beloved English channel. I can't even tell you how many times this video was on while we had the TV on in our apartment.

We love this song so much because it brings back so many fond memories--besides the fact that it is really a catchy tune and that Alexander Rybak is cute (according to Elizabeth.)

He is the winner of the EuroVision '09 Song Contest, originally from Russia, but now calls Norway home. Hope you love it as much as us! In fact, it is my new ring-tone! :)

Do you mind if I Reminisce?

I am feeling a bit nostalgic lately really missing Ukraine and its people. So, because of my failing memory, I would like to record some of the things Elizabeth and I are fondly remembering of our time there so as best not to forget them. So, do you mind if I reminisce?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you love what you do, you'll never work a day....

Guest blogger, Daddy-O here! Guess what Grace, Bella and I did tonight? I will give you a hint: "Pants on the floor, pants on the floor, lookin' like a _______ with your pants on the floor"! If you can fill in the blank, you, too, were watching "American Idol"!



Tomorrow marks my 25th anniversary as a financial rep with Northwestern Mutual. So, technically, I am still holding an entry level position and, as I once heard, and have since then always believed: If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life! I think Paula also feels that way about her current position for the last 10 years as the CEO of our home!

As I reflect back on that night, just over a quarter of a century ago...it was late one night and I sat in the corner office of the bank that I worked at as "maintenance and security" guy,(the position was a little more maintenance than security) I asked my girlfriend if I should accept the internship I had been offered at Northwestern Mutual? I will never forget what she said: "I think we would have more time together." Well, she was right, because in August we will celebrate being happily married for 22 years! It's actually our 23rd anniversary, but there was that one year that....... anyway, I have gotten off topic!

The best part of being self-employed is that I have always been able to take my children to the office with me on Saturdays when I go in to check the mail and do those things that don't get done during the week. Two years ago, we moved into a brand-new office after 23 years in the same location downtown across from Trinity Hospital. When Grace first saw the new digs, she was very excited and immediately fell in love with it and all the new places to run and hide from me. Since she has always been gifted verbally, I don't think it was a mistake that when I told her this was daddy's "new office", she started calling it Daddy's "Oooooh office"!

So now every Saturday when I tell her it's time to go to Daddy's Ooooh office, she turns to Bella and says "Balla, want to go to Daddy's Ooooh office"? Bella then turns to me and makes the sign for "shoes" and says "beep, beep", for the car, and away we go! Their routine is exactly the same and involves raiding my basket of chocolate and watching themselves dance and act out scenes with my video teleconferencing equipment acting as a big, full-color monitor for them to check out their moves! We now also have to take time to eat graham crackers while watching "Barney" on the big screen as well, since those are two of Bella's favorite things!



God has blessed me so.....Grace will always have Bella and Bella will always have Grace, and I will probably always have at least two children who think it's cool to go to the "Ooooh office" with their Daddy!

The Singing Show...

Last night Kevin and I watched the "singing show" (as Grace calls it)...aka American Idol. We both cried like big babies because one of the first contestants to make it to Hollywood was a 16 year old girl named Maddy Curtis.

Here's a link to her audition so you can see why we cried:

http://www.americanidol.com/videos/season_9/memorable_auditions/maddy_curtis/

She is now our official favorite! Go Maddy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bella on the Bus....

Today the bus driver Mrs. J. said that every day Bella is belting out tunes all the way home! She's not sure what she is singing, but now all the other munchkins on the bus have joined right in with the singfest. She was laughing so hard...said that Bella is really adding life to the bus ride!

Maybe she's singing "the wheels on the bus...." in Ukrainian? :)

My No New Clothes Challenge Check-in....

It's been 11 days....and no new clothes yet! So that is a good thing, but it has not been without its challenges. Why is it when you put something off-limits, then you notice it everywhere? Now it seems like there are cute clothes everywhere I look!

So, in an attempt to lessen the temptation to buy new clothes, I went on an internet site that allows one to opt out of any catalog currently received. So I cancelled the catalogs for all my favorite places to buy new clothes: Pendleton, J. Jill, Travelsmith--you get the picture. At least now, I won't be tempted to just "look" at the catalogs when they come in the mail.

Hmmmm....a year seems like a very long time! I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bella=Beautiful!

Over 14 years ago, Grandma Lucille crocheted a beautiful dress in the pineapple pattern for our Elizabeth (soon-to-be-16 year old). The dress was made for Elizabeth to wear to Grandma Lucille and Grandpa Fabian's 50th wedding anniversary. She was so cute that day in this dress. Grace also got to wear it once...she was very hard on it...so it was only a one-time wearing. :)

So, as I was going through my hope chest, I pulled out this beautiful dress and thought "This will fit Bella!" When I showed it to her, she patted her chest and said "Bella, petty."

Yes, Bella, you are pretty...downright beautiful, if you ask me!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dump Truck Dolly Reprise....

Every day Sam plays with Bella and comes up with some interesting things to do. Well, Sam found that Bella's new dump truck she got for Christmas is not only good for transporting baby dolls, but also for giving our "dolly" rides around the house.



We just love our very own "dump truck dolly!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rock On, Bella!

In Bella's communication notebook, her teacher wrote a long description of what happened in preschool today. Here is just one snippet....

..."She played guitar for us today. Do you listen to AC/DC or a different hard rock group? She is quite a singer!"...

Too funny!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Did Bella's First Day Go?

The day started out exciting for Bella as she got to ride the "bum" with her big sister Grace. However, the bus driver Char later told me that when Grace got off the bus at her own school, Miss Bella cried and cried. Poor thing!

When Bella came home on the bus at 11:30 yesterday, I scooped her off the bus and she wrapped her little arms tightly around me. I sure wish I could read her mind! But, we are blessed with a fabulous preschool teacher and she put together a little picture booklet of "Bella's First Day". Bella and I sat down and she pointed to all the pictures like she was telling me all about her day. There are two other little girls, Ella & Faith, who also have Down syndrome. The pictures of the three of them together are just precious!

Her teacher, Lerri, wrote in her communication notebook that Bella was very quiet and stayed mostly on a balance toy as her "safe zone". But as the day went on, Bella became a little more talkative and interested in joining in with her classmates.

The photos in her booklet showed the children making a snowman out of white garbage bags filled with newspapers, making snowmen treats out of powdered donuts, singing songs (probably about snowmen), and doing actions. Grace had Lerri as a teacher when she was in preschool, so we know how great she and her team are! Every day they send home digital photo copies of what the children did to promote speech and let us anxious parents know what our children are doing away at school.

It is truly a blessing to have such loving, dedicated people on our "team" helping us lay a strong foundation for the girls' futures!

Edited to add: Here is what her teacher Lerri wrote in her notebook for her 2nd day...

"Bella ate a chocolate chip cookie and chocolate milk for snack. We had a marshmallow snowman for snack too, but she did not want that. We had gym time today. Bella loved the cars. We made and threw paper snowballs today. Bella laughed and laughed. We labeled facial parts as we made our snowman faces art project."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bella's First Day of School...

Bella starts her first day of school today. She and Grace boarded the bus bright and early this morning at 7:30 a.m. Bella was sooooo excited; she kept saying over and over "Bella, Bum?" (translation: Bella, Bus?) while pointing to her chest.

My little peanut starting school....sigh....I am going to miss my little shadow!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stayin' Inn....

Bella (& her family) had a respite from the extreme cold weather...We had a gift certificate to a hotel, so decided to take a little trip with Grandma & Grandpa to celebrate a late Christmas with my brother Joe and his wife Brenda. They couldn't make it home for Christmas because of the big blizzard.

Bella loved the swimming pool and getting to sleep in the little blow-up bed. However, she really just loved having all of us in one big room (maybe it reminded her of the orphanage) :)



Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2010 Challenge....

I admit this is a bit off-topic. But then again, maybe not? Either way, I am going to publicly state my 2010 goal: I am not going to buy any new clothes for myself in 2010. Yikes! There I put it in writing...now it's too real. I have been toying with the idea of doing this "no new clothes challenge" for a couple of months.

Why do it? Well, for several reasons: to save $$$'s; I have enough clothes already; just to see if I can do it! I will use this forum to publicly update my progress so as to hold myself accountable.

We'll see how it goes..... (and you know, if I can also lose some weight, I'll have lots of "new" to me clothes to wear, ha ha)

Thanks for putting up with me....Paula