Choosing to remember!

Life is hard in Haiti. You see it on the news. We see the news every day in real life. It is easy to get tired of seeing the hard, smelling the sewage, cold showers, power failures, being drenched in sweat, rain on laundry day, turning away beggar boys… and how that makes the heart ache. 

How just a walk outside the gate makes the heart ache. 

We don’t like to take pictures and post about those things. 

But we have decided to choose to remember…

that Haiti was once called “the Jewel of the Antilles”
and that there was a reason for that…
and even though we usually see the hard and it is easy to forget

that we are living on a Carribean island…
Just a little farther beyond our gate

And through several street rivers…
(That’s us in the vehicle and Eric driving in Haiti for the first time!)

…we can find that reason.

These waters and the mountains surrounding them are what greeted Christopher Columbus when he discovered the island known today as Hispaniola and set foot on what would become the nation of Haiti.

Columbus discovered paradise…and so did we!

And very large crabs!

And rocks covered in sea slime!

And how much fun Aunt Emee is!
Elisabeth’s sister Emilee surprised us by flying in on Friday which was another good reason to spend Saturday here

And to play water Frisbee!

Until someone gets stung by one of these!

And everyone got out of the water to see (and touch if they were brave enough)!

That poor someone stung by the very large jellyfish was Eric! 

So then we stayed closer to shore!

And on shore

And off shore

where brothers and sisters played in the jellyfish free waters!

For a long time…

Until it was time for lunch!

Our beach buds (other teachers from our school)

For Betsy

Our girls ate two heaping plates each and this fish didn’t stand a chance!

Time for more play!

Come and get Dad!

And line up…

to be thrown in the air

and caught

and taught how to swim

and to enjoy this paradise!

We saved you a spot!

And to drive home later than planned…cause who wants to leave paradise?

And to sleep all the way home…

until we got back into Port au Prince 
where there are way too many roadbumps  gaping holes and ravines where a road should be to sleep.

And as we drive through river streets and try to avoid those ravines in the dark with no street lights and finally get home to cold showers and wake up drenched in sweat to no power and the smell of sewage filling the hot house…
We choose to remember!

What do you do when…

What do you do when…
You have 4 children
(2 of which don’t speak much English)
and they are bored
because it is raining outside
and there is no such thing as a tv
and the batteries ran down on the Leapster
and the power is off so the computer died
and you are trying to cook dinner
but 4 children are all around you in the kitchen 
and they want to eat every food item in sight!
Well, I don’t know what you do 
(if this ever happens to you)

But we…
Make ji! 
We make ji (juice) with lots of limes, water, and sugar!

Here is the ji we made Friday night.

And then we did it all over again on Sat. morning!

And everyone kept busy…
And liked making and drinking our ji!

Want some?

And just so you know…all those limes were premeditated, prewashed, and prepared for such a time as this! And just so you know…all these cute pics of swimming, smiling kids hugging each other and having a great time isn’t always the reality around here. But we are making do with what we have and this week it was limes! We are thankful for your prayers for the transition time for our family and it has truly been great! But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had hard moments. Moments when we don’t know what to do. Moments when I didn’t have a premeditated bag of limes ready and waiting. Moments when I want to run and hide and read the Connected Child 50 more times! We believe that our previous trips to Haiti have allowed for the amazing bond we have with our adoptive girls. They are doing really great and so are our boys! However, we have many many issues to overcome that limes will never solve. Now that we have had some really awesome family bonding time, we are ready to get to work on the issues we do see (while knowing there are many more waiting to surface from the depths of pain in our girls hearts). We don’t know when we will be able to have the girls from week to week, and so working on issues is difficult at this point, but we are praying that whatever time we have with them will be well spent working on the heart issues for all of us. We would appreciate your continued prayers that we will seek God’s heart in all of these things and for His grace to get through each day (with or without limes)!

Mommy’s Day Off

It was last Tues. The day after our first eventful weekend with our girls and the day after I had returned and spent the day with them (and the chicken) at their orphanage. We are sitting around the breakfast table talking about our plans for the week. It was stated in those plans that “on Friday you boys get the day off from school”! Eric said, “But I don’t”. Friday was parent/teacher conference day. Ethan pipes up and says, “Well Mommy gets a day off EVERY day!” They think because they see me in the house when they leave and usually when they return home from school that I’ve just sat around eating and sleeping and blogging all day long. 
Little do they know!…Perhaps I should let them know by not doing this!
My Tuesday…Then it rained.
And on Tuesday while doing umpteen loads of laundry that ended up hanging to dry all over the house, I made a big pot of potato soup. And wouldn’t you know this cute and hungry fellow (the one next to Evan) would just happen to stop by right at dinner time. 
Us?..have strange boys walk into our house and make themselves at home? You’d think we were back in the States or something! Meet “Jimsey” (nickname for James). But my nickname for him is “beggar boy”. Just spend an hour with him and you won’t think I’m mean for calling him that. He found us when the last missionary couple had had enough of him. We’ve just about had enough too. But what do you do when you have a big pot of potato soup? I did think about it. And despite the consequences I knew would come, I just couldn’t justify not feeding him…no matter how annoying he is. Eric told me I would regret it. I did 5 nights later. But we decided to look on the bright side that it forced us to practice our Creole each and every time beggar boy came knocking. Or should I say “entering” because he doesn’t know how to knock, or when to stop asking for food, or when to leave. There are lots of Jimsey’s in Haiti. And these are the kinds of things we are learning to wrestle with the best way to respond every day.
This is what I typically do on Wednesday (at least the past two). This is my friend Mary who is teaching me the ropes in Haiti along with the sweet little Madame from whom we choose to buy our produce. Madame wasn’t there the week before because her husband had died. Please pray for her
And this is my new friend Audrey who I can’t thank enough for being my personal chaffeur! Audrey’s kids go to Quisqueya Christian School where we live and work and her daughter Jenna is in Ethan’s 2nd grade class. Audrey’s family lives up the mountain past where our girls orphanage is located. She told me she had been praying for a way to serve others with her time while her kids were in school and I was praying for someone like Audrey to come along who was able to do things while my kids were in school! Most of the people we are getting to know are other teachers/missionaries who are not free to do things like go to orphanages during school hours (which is the time I have to do such things). So Audrey is a Godsend to me! And we’ve found that we have many of the same interest (like orphans and shopping and talking) and I’ve enjoyed being with her and serving with her and getting to know her so much in the past week! And we praise God for her and all our precious new friends daily!
Thursday. I met Lance on Thursday. Lance did not like it when I put him down. I wish I could hold him every day. Lance is one of the many beautiful children at Maison de Enfants de Dieu orphanage that is close to us in Port au Prince. We have had the privilege of spending time with the Haitian orphanage director Pastor Pierre Alexis back in the states when he has visited our son’s previous school and our home there. I was able to hug and visit with Pierre and deliver the cards friends had sent for him upon the passing of his dear brother Kiki. Please pray for the Alexis family during this difficult time. Kiki was the attorney who processed adoptions at this orphanage where several of our friends are adopting children. 
Children like Jamie and Sophie who will go home to their forever family in IL soon!
And like Wilson who still has a long wait ahead but will eventually end up in my home town of San Marcos, TX with our dear friends and his forever family the Guenthers! It was a blessing to visit our friends at Maison (For His Glory) and to take pictures for some of the adoptive families to encourage them. Audrey and I were invited back and hope that will happen soon! 

Still Thursday. Evan gets out of school at noon so Audrey had to take me back to the school to pick him up and we decided to have lunch with Ethan and Jenna as well. Then we headed out to stop by the Apparent Project. 
If you don’t know what that is click here to find out!
Evan jammin with the Apparent Project’s “Boys in the Hood” who may have ended up as a “crew of thugs but for the fact that they now have work and all go to school-they are turning out to be quite the respectable hip-hop jewelry makers in the basement of the artisan house.”

And around the corner we got to say hello to some very talented basket weavers!

And Evan got to play with classmate Zebedee and his brother Jackson and sister Ember. The Clay family recently moved to the same location as the artisan house where the Apparent Project goods are made. I’ve had the thought before that the Clay’s were just about the coolest people I could imagine and I never imagined that our kids would be buddys in the same class! So. Cool. Corrigan Clay kept an eye on the kids while Audrey and I looked around (ok, we were shopping) in the jewelry and purse department upstairs since Evan was much more interested in legos than purses. I was very interested in the purses since I had managed to not bring a single purse to Haiti! It’s not that I’m trying to make a fashion statement around here but my oversized fanny pack (that I only intended to use in the airport) is just not jiving with my style and the needs of 4 kids to have me carry all their stuff for them.

And on this Thursday I (along with my fanny pack) was very happy to finally meet one of my biggest heroines (though she never knew that)…Shelley Clay! I want to be just like her when I grow up! Then we went home and Jimsey (aka “beggar boy”) showed up AGAIN and I prayed that someday he would learn that his way of begging isn’t helping him much now (and certainly won’t when he gets bigger) and that he might grow up to earn a different nickname like “respectable hip-hop jewelry maker” and that maybe God would allow us to be here long enough and be part of that! 
And then…it was Friday. And we all did have a day off. Well, all of us except for Eric who was very busy with those parent/teacher conferences. The kids and I were invited (by dear Audrey) to go out to eat and then swimming at Jennifer’s (Quisqueya Art teacher) house nearby. Audrey picked up our girls on her way down to the school (where we both had our conferences with our kids teachers) while the kids played and then we set off to 
Epi d'Or
And marveled at how the 3 families represented here ended up with both Haitian and American kids for this day and how good it was for them all to be together!

And marveled some more at a very dramatic response to the automatic hand dryers in the bathroom!

And then we went to the pool where the girls stayed on the sidelines for awhile…

And finally ventured out…

To bug brothers…

It was a really funny sight to see two big girls wearing baby floaties floundering around the middle of the pool where little kids with no floaties were swimming.

It took Ethan a minute to figure out why he wasn’t going anywhere. Haha!

And kids swam so hard they were eventually all fighting over the floaties!

But all in all…

We had a great day off!
It was a day when orphans didn’t feel like orphans. 
And when new friends felt more like old friends. 
And when Haiti didn’t feel so much like Haiti. 

Expect the unexpected…

I didn’t know what to expect from Monday…other than feeling sad about leaving my girls back at their orphanage. I did expect to stay for a few hours and love on some of my favorite precious kids before my friend Audrey came to pick me up. But if you asked me Monday morning what this day would hold there is one thing that I never would have expected.
I expected to see this sweet face

and these

and schoolwork being done

and big chocolate eyes

and dimples and smiles that melt my heart.

(didn’t quite expect Esmée to jump in and do schoolwork right away, but I was proud she did)

I expected to have a lap full of kids

and to experience some stench at some point. This time there was a bad plumbing issue that had backed up outside. You can’t see the issue (which is a good thing for you…even better that you can’t smell it), but you can see the kids observing the oh so stinky process which took up a good chunk of time and made me thankful that I wasn’t expecting to eat lunch.

But then I did eat lunch. Because this sweet Nanny made a special lunch for me and my girls. And I ate it because I haven’t had any Haitian cuisine since arriving in Haiti and I love it…most of it. And I told her that I wasn’t expecting to eat lunch (but not eating it would have been a great offense) and that it was so nice that she set a special table for just the three of us (the girls normally do not get to eat upstairs, but Nanny knows that I would’ve given the girls my food).

And then…
Then out of gratitude and the simple desire to make myself useful I uttered these fateful words…

“Ou pa bezwen m’ ede ou? M’va ede ou.”

Translation: “Do you need help? I will help you.”

Here’s a free tip. If you are ever in Haiti and you think to yourself, “I want to make myself useful”.
Think again. Think very hard.

It was a very short while before I was summoned from the rooftop where I was enjoying the mountain views, breathing non-sewer smelling air, and practicing my Creole with two of my favorite boys.
I was told the help I had offered was being accepted and they were waiting for me.
I expected to change a diaper, or clean up poo, or clean a wound, or anything… but this.

I looked up at Nanny with a smile and she pointed down at this.
And at that moment the only help I wanted to give was to help this live chicken flee his predicament!

But I didn’t and he didn’t and I realized too late (for me and the chicken) that I didn’t really give stipulations to the kind of help I was capable of providing. And I didn’t think I was capable of this.

When I couldn’t save him, I prayed for a swift death. It didn’t come. He is still alive here.

And here. And he was flapping and kicking and blood went everywhere. And it got on me.

And then he was thrown in the pot with the lid on to bleed to death. Now finally deceased.

And my girls were laughing at me 

and showing me that they were not afraid of dead chicken.

Could this be the same little girl that tried on 5 different outfits and fussed over her hair this morning? 

And at this point I was feeling dreadfully stupid about the “cooking session” I had given Marguerite from a Betty Crocker bag of cookie mix where we simply had to add oil, egg, and water and which failed miserably anyways because I had no baking sheets and our oven didn’t work.

And since I was feeling stupid already…
There you see them. The hands that look like they have no business being anywhere near this picture.

And here you see my expression which says,
 I cannot believe I am doing this.
 I want to vomit now.
But I can’t because..

Jeff’s sweet eyes were watching me…

and Guerline always makes me laugh!

Sorry chicken. If your life was in my hands, I would not now be holding your head.  I have lived my life fighting the saying, “If you can’t beat em’, join em’.” But for today I lost that fight.

But I am thankful that the plucking part is over.

Until the cutting part began.

Seriously. What was I thinking with Betty Crocker cookie mix?

Well, the moral of this story is to always expect the unexpected in Haiti. And if you are ever in Haiti, never offer to help (without giving stipulations) unless you are ready to get your hands dirty. Very dirty.
And I would like to ask the question of someone who might know anything about profit margins concerning chickens (because I was thinking this question during the entire chicken killing and mutilation process)…how much money is actually saved by doing it this way vs. buying the end product at the store? I know it is fresher this way. But oh the trouble! Oh the yuck! I can’t see how any small difference in cost would be worth it (unless you actually like killing and mutilating…like my girls seem to). I mean, I know someone has to do it. And I do like eating chicken. And I had just eaten chicken cooked and served by the same Nanny that killed this one…which means she probably did the same to the one I ate. But it will forever bother me until I know what the profit margin is between doing it this way and the way I like to do it by buying it from the shelves of the supermarket….where it doesn’t squawk and flap and fling blood on me. Anyone want to answer that question?
Then I got another summons that Audrey had arrived to pick me up. I told Audrey what had happened to me and she asked why I “helped”? I said, “well I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later in Haiti so I might as well get used to it. Audrey has lived in Haiti for a year. I have lived in Haiti for a week. She has never had this experience with a chicken. And she informed me way too late that I didn’t have to have this experience either. Let’s just say I will think hard…very hard before I say, 
“Ou pa bezwen m’ ede ou? M’va ede ou.” Ever again.

Our Time “In Real Life”

There is an appointed time for everything. 
And there is a time for every event under heaven– 
Ecclesiastes 3:1

 Our time finally came! We had originally planned to go surprise the girls at their orphanage on Saturday September 10th. But then we found out that our school had a family day scheduled for the same day and our presence was requested as new faculty. We couldn’t figure out how to get back and forth to the orphanage around the times of this event on our campus which we knew would take up the majority of the day we had planned to spend with the girls. And the fact that we didn’t want to have a short visit was the main reason we had not yet gone to see them. So we prayed that somehow all this would work out and that our orphanage director would be understanding and gracious in the situation. Our prayers (and yours) were answered in the best way possible! The girls were brought to us on Friday around 1pm and stayed with us all weekend! God even granted us an extra day and night with them (since they were supposed to be picked up on Sunday) and Elisabeth got to take them back to the orphanage and spend much of Monday with them and the other beloved children there as well! We didn’t know that the girls would be able to come to us until Friday morning right before Eric and the boys left for their classes. We told Ethan he would finally get to meet his sisters when he got home from school and he ran out the door shouting…”Today is the day I get to meet my sisters IN REAL LIFE!” Ethan and Evan have seen hundreds of pics and have been able to Skype with the girls several times over the past year and 1/2, but had never seen them in the flesh….in real life! We are excited for all our friends and family to meet our precious girls in real life too! Until then, here are the pics from our fabulous weekend!
A time for running around the house to get everything ready!

A time to meet sisters “in real life”!

and size them up and figure out you are the same size (at least in height).
Ethan’s got her beat in the weight dept.! And Esmée is 2 years older than Ethan!

A time to swing

and show sisters your where you go to school

and visit Dad’s class and say hi to his students.

and wait for brother Ethan to return from school.

A time for ti manje (a snack)…

while waiting for cookies to be made.

A time for new clothes

and for little brothers to bug sisters to play instead of priss.

A time to discover

the world of beyblades

and bond with brothers

by introducing them to Justin Beiber 
and when that was nipped in the bud…this was the healthy alternative!

A time for Dad to come home and play

beyblades of course
(for those of you who aren’t familiar with beyblades it is basically the top reinvented with a rip stick)

which Esmée learned to battle with the best of them

And when the usual afternoon rain had stopped…there was time for hanging around outdoors.

And playing tetherball!

A time for our first meal as a family

and for mom to refrain from cooking and sit down.

A time for games

And a time for sleep in a nice soft bed.
A time for pancake breakfast

and more silly face pictures (no Justin Beiber!)

A time for war

And a time of peace

A time for family

and a time when mom didn’t have to cook a meal in Haiti

So all four just had to choose hot dogs because mom hates hot dogs.

A time for snow cones

and sharing snow cones

A time for displaying on your face that you are the superest little brother ever!

A time to ask parents 15 times for money to buy cotton candy.

A time when they said, “yes”.

So everyone else had to ask too.

A time when enough sugar has been consumed and these two were told they would have to share.

A time to wish you had made a better choice (when sisters got a hold of you to scrub this scariness off)

And a time to feel pretty and free like a butterfly

A time to visit new friends…

and their pets

and eat their pizza and cinnamon rolls and ride their bikes

and return home, take showers and play Sat. night cards

and decide to sleep in your brothers room

because it is more fun

to all be together.

A time to go to church

and embrace

and worship together.

A time for ice cream (which cost us $15 for one 1/2 gallon in Haiti)…so this really was a special time!

and “balanse”

More time for nerf guns

until dad busted out the big gun!

 A time to read “The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies” and talk and charade about how we will never be happy if we always want more and more and whine when we don’t get it
(which happened ealier this day at the supermarket).

A time for dad to disrupt our rest and profitable discussion (at least mom would like to hope it was)

A time to build up

and a time to fall down

A time when mom looked out the other kitchen window and saw this

and when dad showed them who’s the soccer boss

and time for the kids to gang up on him!

Time to watch a basketball game

and leave when you are sure your team will win!

A time for tucking in…and riling her up

A time to go to sleep…eventually

…and get up for school the next morning

and helping little brothers get dressed…little brothers who are not very happy sisters have to leave…

and for beds to be made…

and for our girls to return to 15 Laboule
and for us to be thankful for the time we had…
and to look forward to the next time we are all together again “in real life”

To be continued…