This morning I woke up and the house was pleasantly cool. This is a rarety. I decided to break out my horded stash of Starbucks Via Ready Brew (if you are ever at a loss for a gift idea this is a hint). I was determined to enjoy my morning coffee before the dreaded sweating began. My sweatlessness this morning is tributed by two factors. One is that we had city power last night and our two working air units and fans were exercising at their utmost capacity. The other is because after the entirety of my lifetime (or at least since I can remember) I have relented in my opposition to cereal.

I suppose my relentlessness is my mother’s fault. The only times I ever recall eating cereal as a child were on Saturdays when we were allowed unsweetened Shredded Wheat which we decorated with raisins, grapes, or bananas. I visited my grandmother in the summers and felt I was getting away with some vile sin when she poured me a bowl of Rice Crispies that actually crackled in my mouth. I could barely contain the guilt of accepting a spoonful of sugar but then would think of Mary Poppins saying that was ok . Of course, this was when my parents only had two children instead of five. I’m fairly certain my youngest three siblings have never felt such guilt. Mom was slowly worn down. I feel I am becoming my mother. Sigh. Sincerely I intend only positive connotations…mainly because I am missing her so much. 

I think I just don’t like cereal. I know I used to but I haven’t for a really long time for no other reason than it makes me feel yucky. I had heard complaints from Haiti missionaries before we came that cereal is really expensive to buy here. This was of no consequence for me since I could’ve cared less about buying it. It isn’t just the sugary kid magnet cereals that I detest. I don’t mind a little handful of Cheerios, but I don’t like it with milk. I like milk about as much as I like cereal. I remember the first time I allowed my firstborn to have cereal with milk. Back then I must have assumed he had the same aversion. My sister was visiting and had brought her own box along for my niece who is four years younger than Ethan. It seemed the right thing to do to just go with the flow than to continue in my unrelenting quest for optimal health which in my opinion discluded cereal. I feel certain someone somewhere had snuck my child cereal either without knowlege of my aversion or blatantly disrespecting it, but they would have to live with that guilt, not me. 

Cereal did eventually become a part of our lives especially after my kids started school. But there were serious limits. My boys knew better than to ask or even glance at all the sugary cartoon faced cereals that graced the right side of the HEB isle. Oh no. They had been thorougly warned that everything on that side could be a potential killer. They had argued with that once or twice but never could prove that if those cereals did not kill them today, they could kill them slowly…eventually. In hindsight I cannot believe that I would use such arguements for such things as cereal even if I believe it could be true. I certainly cannot imagine having that argument in the place I am now living. But back then the boys were happy to choose from the few boxes of cereal on the left hand side labeled “whole foods, health foods, or organic foods”. Eventually manufacturers figured they could help out unsuccumbing moms like me by disguising healthy with kid friendly advertising. This charade went on for years and I would have been happy for it to continue. 

This post is going somewhere. Maybe. Maybe I just needed to confess my succumbing and answer questions we get about power sources and other tidbits about life in Haiti. Some people ask if we have a toilet. This post is not about that. But yes. We do. Two actually. And they flush. But we do not have hot water or decent water pressure which makes cold showers last longer than we care to live with…but we do anyways. Life goes on. We stay clean enough. We don’t like to dwell on how much we do miss high pressure hot water showers. And baths. We really miss baths. 

Maybe this post is about missing. Sigh. This is not a good time for me to talk about that so I will get back to the last point which I think was power sources in Haiti. Or maybe it was cereal. Whatever. Let’s talk about power sources.

We have three sources of electricity in Haiti. Most of the population does not have access to even one power source. We try to remind ourselves how blessed we are every time the lights come on…well at least that is the reminder we shout at our kids in the frequent frantic search for a flashlight. But it is hard to feel blessed when not one of the three is working and we are just as hot as the rest of the population…maybe hotter because we are blessed with a kitchen and a stove and have glass paned windows that don’t let in the breeze (but do keep out bugs). 

I’m trying to get to the point of my succumbing. 

Our power sources are often unreliable and have especially been so the past few months. This has slowly been wearing me down. It started a few months ago when a rotten thief managed to steal all ten of our outside batteries that charge our inverter which gives us lights and fans. The security company was held responsible and had to pay the $1,500 to replace the batteries. It took a few weeks to get them up and running again after installing them into a locked iron cage so that they will stay put. The campus we live on has a big generator that is turned on during certain hours of the day. The generator gives hot water (to others lucky enough to have it) and air conditioning (to those who have units…we have them in our bedrooms but not in our main living areas). Sometimes when the generator is not running, the EdH (Electricite d’ Haiti) that provides city power can be turned on IF it is functioning. We can only use plug in heating sources such as coffee makers, toasters, hairdryers, haircurlers, etc. if the generator or EdH is on. Otherwise, there is a strong potential that ALL the power in the house will be blown out for hours. We have had this happen in the past (usually due to the female members of our house including myself and our hair needs) and it makes for much unpleasantness. Times of recalling our blessings usually do not happen when the power is treated with such neglect and everyone suffers because of one person’s forgetfulness. Everyone who lives in or visits our house is adamantly warned to check for the green light on the air unit before using a heating element.

Our kitchen is an add on to our house which used to be the art and music classrooms for the school. When I say “add on” I mean that literally in every way. A hole was cut out of the wall, three sides were attached and the roof was extended. This is evidenced by the fact that the boys bedroom windows which used to be outside windows) are above the kitchen table. We love those windows. Not for their aesthetic beauty (which the entire house lacks entirely) but because the boys have a bad habit of locking the door with no one in the room and because the kitchen/bedroom windows are an allowable climbing outlet for Evan who has great need of such. 

I digress. Again.

The point is that the house was never meant to be a house and the add on kitchen has serious issues with the stovetop/oven being in use all day long. Or at least I have a serious issue with it. You see at all times in Haiti a large majority of the population is busy doing two things…and they do these two things ALL DAY LONG. The two things they busy themselves with are hair and cooking. I have spoken about hair here. I can deal with hair. What I cannot deal with is cooking over a hot stove in a burning hot kitchen all day long. I like to cook only a little more than I like cereal. Our girls however like to cook as much as they like to breathe and they like to do it as often. If there is nothing cooking on the stove they are forever asking what will be cooking and how soon they will be able to see it cooking. Think about how many times you pop food in the microwave or run through the Chick-Fil-A drive through, or go out to eat. Now imagine your life without any of those things. Imagine your life with 4+ kids (we always have plus in our house….always) and how much food they consume and that your stovetop must cook 90% of it. Now imagine doing this all day everyday in a airconditionless kitchen. If you can imagine it, you will understand why after 10 months I now could care less what sugary cereal my children consume in the morning. I have succumbed to many things I never would have if it had not been for Haiti. Sometimes I feel like I was a much better mom before we moved to Haiti. But when it comes to cereal choices, my children will probably disagree. 

At first I tried to buy the healthiest $5-6  box of cereal (that’s how much they cost here) I could find. The ones I actually deem healthy and used to buy cost twice that much here. Then I gave up on my version of healthy and just went for the cheapest box of Cornflakes I could find (all cereal is called “cornflakes” in Haiti) but a generic brand of actual Cornflakes is also the cheapest and sometimes will have a bottle of hot sauce attached to the top as a bonus buy. Cornflakes with hot sauce. I’ve seen stranger things here. The problem with Cornflakes is that one of my children refuses to eat it. She usually refuses to eat anything other than eggs, sausage, hotdogs, spaghetti, chicken or rice and beans for breakfast. All of the above require usage of the stovetop. I beg for an alternative. Much disgust ensues over suggestions such as bagels in the toaster oven for breakfast. I have met my match. Except she is way more stubborn than me. Tonight we made baked potatoes for the first time in Haiti (only because they could bake while we were outside and then we could eat them outside which is at least 20 degrees cooler than the kitchen). Stubborn child refused to take a single bite. They were really good baked potatoes. All the other children including our other Haitian daughter and our Haitian + ate every single bite (even though Haitians have a strong aversion to potato skins and always peel them off…but this time they didn’t). While I was inside hot kitchen getting an ice pack for a soccer player that hurt his neck, Eric tells miss stubborn that if she doesn’t try a bite then she will not eat any sweet snacks or deserts for an entire month. I don’t think she knows how long a month is. I don’t think Eric knows how long a month is either. This is going to be a VERY long month. 

But because of stubborn child I have proudly succumbed to purchasing a variety of “cornflakes” that she and every other body in the house can choose from in the mornings so that none of us have to succumb to sweat before lunchtime (at least at the fault of breakfast). It doesn’t always work out that way but I am real thankful for the days we have fans all night and nothing but “cornflakes” in the morning! 

Never would you have seen this in my house before Haiti. 

2 Replies to “Succumbing”

  1. Haha! I laughed through MOST of your post…went and grabbed some Grape Nuts and munched and read…You are just too funny! But you certainly let the reader ‘feel’ every bit of your life there. I miss Haiti, and my sweet new friends. The 7 of us from the Orchard had quite a discussion on what “Blessed” in America actually means, after our one fabulous week there in PAP! If Blessings draw us closer to the heart of God, I do believe we knew true blessing there! …Barb Harrington

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