Thursday, June 30, 2011

First World Problems Rap

One time a guy in front of me at Starbucks lost his mind with anger that they didn't leave room on top for his cream. That is still one of my personal favorite redonkulous displays of all time.  Wish you could have all been there.

Confession: I was looking for flights for Paige this spring and couldn't find the timing I wanted. I found myself annoyed at the layovers and connections.   I think I can be super choosy about how my kid is going to FLY THROUGH THE AIR!!!  :-o   Woe is me and my problems-only-money-can-buy.

The confessional is now open to all who need to clear their conscience.

Flooding and Facebook

It hasn't really rained in our area for about two to three weeks.

We had that one week of non stop rain in early June, causing those of us that demand sunshine daily to have major bouts with depression. It may be true that an unnamed person at my house might have googled "Is Seasonal Affective Disorder a thing and if so is it possible to get it on day four of cloudiness and if so what is the cure?"  - or not. 

Thankfully for those living in cruddy tents with real problems, someone turned off the rain switch right around the 7th of June and since then it has been very dry.

Despite  the lack of lapli the road that we must travel to get to the Harbor House, Sewing House, Heartline Office, or Maternity Center currently looks like this:

At points it gets about 18"+ deep.  It is uneven and unpredictable. Those of us from this area know that there are big ditches on either side, you know - "for drainage" - (ahem) - but unfortunately for the newbies coming through it is often a ditch they find themselves stuck in for hours.  Mmmm. Unknown water source, flip-flops, standing around for hours and hours.  Sounds delish, huh?

We used to willingly walk over to the program houses.  Not so much now.

Shocking as it may seem, the Department of Transportation hasn't yet shown up to fix whatever is causing this non-stop flood-fest.

The real reason for this post wasn't to gripe about the ridiculous road. No. It wasn't.

It was for this purpose:

If you wish to follow Heartline in one easy location and you are a member user of the cult Facebook - this is our new Non-Profit page on facebook:

There are a few Heartline pages but this new one stop page is the one titled this way:

Heartline Ministries - Haiti

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

how sure? very sure.

4:15am photo documentation by Marcia E.
Paige met Julia when she was 6 and Julia was 8. They became friends in Zimmerman, MN in early 2000. Five years into their friendship Paige moved 3,000 miles away. Thanks to the determination and hard work of both of these ladies and to the gift of Internet they have stayed connected across the miles and are still best friends.  Coming to Haiti is no small thing for Julia. She fears flying, but she loves Paige more than she fears flying.

About five months ago Julia told Paige she wanted to come. Ever since that announcement Paige has been excited for this day.   They are currently heading this direction together.  Paige is a seasoned professional when it comes to international travel. As my friend who dropped her at the airport said, "She knows the drill."  We're very sure prayers for Julia's nerves and smooth drama-free travel - are going up from at least a couple locations today.
Paige & Julia

We are all excited for Paige's return and Julia's visit. The kids are incredibly hyper and happy today. While I was writing this Paige texted "We are a bit delirious ... so giddy. Acting like fools."

The countdown to the arrival of said fools is on.

Paige had a very fun time in Texas and Minnesota and a great five week break from Haiti-life.  While we missed her so much it was fun for us to know she was having a blast doing all kinds of things she cannot do here. Thank you to every single friend and family member that spoiled her with meals and outings and memory-making-fun.  Special thanks to our friend from both countries, Marcia Erickson, for agreeing to step into the (concerned and aware but not controlling or overbearing) mother role and keep track of Paige's whereabouts for me.

We chatted with a grown MK/TCK (missionary kid/third culture kid) the other night. I picked her brain asking how it was for her to leave here after being raised here and how it went blending back into American culture. Overwhelmingly the response from grown TCKs has been "the positives far outweigh the negatives" - Both Britt and Paige have repeatedly said they appreciate the larger world view that they gained because of their time here, and while it is obviously sometimes painful to live divided between two groups of friends and family, they are thankful for the experiences. We hope that our younger crew of five end up feeling the same way.  As parents we'd really like to figure out a way to give our kids the best of both worlds while still being faithful to what we think/guess/feel/believe God is doing. People ask us a lot if we're staying in Haiti long term.  The answer is the same as it was in early 2006. We are here for the next year. Ask us again in twelve months. We don't pretend to know the long-term future or even to try to guess it.  Maybe we're dumb to approach it that way.  So be it. Dumb works well for us. 

Jen, Paige, Andy
We want to congratulate our amazing and determined friend Dokte Jen.  Last night she officially finished her long, long road of education and is now a "Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow" - I don't fully know what the heck that means but I do know it means she worked hard for many, many, many years and she is finally done. We love you Jennifer!!! So happy for you and proud of you!  Haiti and Minnesota are very, very lucky to have your wicked awesome skills.

Troy is tweeting Isaac quotes whenever a good one occurs - here are the first two entries:

Isaac Quotes: "How sure am I? I am VERY sure. Like 46% sure."

Isaac Quote: "Dear God, please be with everyone we love in the States. And Texas."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Success (?)

In this work we often find ourselves wanting and needing to provide progress reports to the kind and generous souls praying for or financially supporting it.

While we understand and desire that accountability and honesty with anyone investing in us or in Haiti, it can sometimes feel quite discouraging and uncomfortable trying to quantify progress or label success.

We (Troy and I) spend many nights sitting together asking ourselves what is being accomplished. Is it good? Do we believe in it? Do we feel good about it? We never want to get in a rut or get so comfortable with ourselves or our routines that we don't examine both our motivation and our trajectory.  We need to be asking ourselves difficult questions.

We have no desire to take donations from our church, family, and friends to live here if we cannot say at the end of the day that we are walking this path with God, being faithful to Him and doing things we feel honor Him and exhibit His love. Some days are really confusing because the things that happen in the course of a day aren't necessarily quantifiable. Some days we fall into bed asking each other "Is it right? Does this matter? Should we stay? Is God in this?"

American culture likes numbers, efficiency, and strict time-tables.  You've got to be able to prove yourself with stats and spreadsheets. In the sports world a new coach has just a few years to produce a championship team or he's out of a job. Even the American church wants to count how many butts are in the seats and how many people signed on a dotted line marked "follow Jesus" or how many will commit to come to the quarterly membership class.  In theory those are good things to value. Who doesn't want tangible outcomes? I'm not up for debating the rightness or wrongness of any of that today, I'm only saying that those sorts of western pushes for big numbers drive ministries working in other cultures abroad to produce reports that don't necessarily represent total truth.

Whenever I read reports out of Haiti spewing numbers, I read between the lines and wonder if the numbers are less about actual provable outcomes and more to please a culture that demands numbers. Accountability is good. We want it. More than that, we need it.  The question becomes, how do the expectations of one culture fit into the reality of working in another?

If we actually believed like Jesus did that touching one hurting person truly matters, that going the extra mile for one lost sheep is worth it, we wouldn't need to spend so much time counting and proving and counting and proving.

I'm thankful to be able to honestly share the struggles and not fold to that pressure of reporting big fancy numbers. The frustration lies mainly in the self-imposed pressures to chart it and prove it matters.

(Please read Beth's recent report in the previous post. An example of how failure and success are daily intertwined and often what separates them is inexplicable.)

Troy can spend entire day(s) with one timid and afraid 20 year old recently diagnosed and already ill with HIV helping to advocate for her medical care.  He can be at ease as one day turns into three while waiting to get her the tests she needs and fighting a broken, inadequate, and unfair medical system - knowing that he is not expected to quantify the outcome of those hours  ....  time with one person isn't usually looked at as success nor is it at all impressive when plotted on a spreadsheet  - but it matters and it's Kingdom work. 

Last night I read this in Gregory Boyle's memoir titled "Tattoos on the Heart" - it jumped off the pages and deeply resonated with me:

"People want me to tell them success stories. I understand this. They are the stories you want to tell, after all. So why does my scalp tighten whenever I am asked this?

Twenty years of this work has taught me that God has greater comfort with inverting categories than I do. What is success and what is failure? What is good and what is bad? Setback or progress? Great stock these days, especially in nonprofits (and who can blame them), is placed in evidence-based outcomes. People, funders in particular, want to know if what you do "works".

Are you in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa's take: 'We are not called to be successful, but faithful.' This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle. God intends it to be, I think. For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burden than they can bear, all bets seem to be off. Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever is sitting in front of you. Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day. If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God's business. I find it hard enough to just be faithful."

Success (?)

I find it hard enough to just be faithful.


know your ground

Yesterday Beth McHoul shared this report:

I just read a quote by Kathleen Norris that so applies to Haiti:

“If holding your ground is what you are called to most days it helps to know your ground.”

We’re holding on. We’re fighting for our women. We’re fighting to get through the day not totally frazzled. Just getting to the program this week has been an adventure and exercise in patience, driving skills, map reading if there was a map, leaving the house not realizing that a one minute drive now takes up to 45 minutes. Avoiding the holes in the road, chatting politely at the police check, not yelling at the driver of the huge truck blocking the way and staying to the right enough to keep my new mirror from getting knocked off again requires some patience. The route we take has become a lake at one point due to broken water pipes and now it is a blocked lake. The detour street is wide enough for one vehicle but has become a two way thoroughfare. That too was blocked this morning so a roundabout road had to be taken. That road tends to have police checks that further delay traffic.

As always in our program we have huge success and painful losses. Babies die before they are born because mom is malnourished, doesn’t eat enough or goes to the voodoo healer to start labor. Babies die after they are born because they go home to a house with bad conditions and extended family insisting the baby be bottle fed. Sometimes they die because they are born too early and too small.

Success comes in the form of fat babies and moms who are courageous enough to make changes in their lives.

Over the past two weeks we have had a 100 pound 17 year old mom deliver a tiny baby who died several days later. Another 19 year old who had delivered with us a year ago had pains in her stomach and died two days later leaving a small boy crying for his mom. We had an 8 month along pregnant mom who decided she was done with being pregnant. She went for an aggressive massage and came to us later that night. The baby within had died. Just a few days later we delighted in the fact that one of our sweet moms might be having twins. She was accepting of this, was open to the news. It ended up being one baby that died and a mass. Such sadness. Things we can’t control or change.

We grip onto our successes and breathe them in like fresh air. Our sweet teen Leoni gave birth in her quiet, gentle fashion and is such an attentive mom. Success! On Tuesdays our room is full of women who have gone through our program and boast healthy babies. They parrot our information like students who have memorized for an exam.

We know the ground we stand on. We know that culturally breast feeding is misunderstood and disdained.  We know that traditionally women are mistreated and abused.  They don’t have a lot of say in their lives.  We know that when push comes to shove many times superstition wins.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prenatal Class

Dork one and dork two posing shortly before a skit meant to demonstrate the stages of labor.

It was a very fun Thursday class, taught by visiting (and fluent Kreyol speaking) midwife, Melissa. The ladies were attentive and entertained by the lesson.

We've had a streak of sad stories, most of which we've not written much about.  In the last three weeks three of our ladies have had very sad endings to their pregnancies.

One loss was almost certainly caused by a choice the woman made. One was a baby born too premature to a teen mama. One was a lady that had a large growth of some sort - ended up needing a c-section to remove the growth along with her deceased baby.  Three losses in such a short period of time is very uncommon. Prayers for the battles (both seen and unseen) are important to the ladies and us ... and are so very appreciated. Thank you for caring.

kidz & summ-ah time

We busted boredom with a trimmer earlier this week. 

Isaac has requested that his "i" (for isaac) and "!" (because duh - no punctuation mark better describes him!) combination hair-cut be displayed for his friends in TX and MN to see.  He thinks everyone will be very impressed with our idea. Go ahead and pretend you're impressed.

He is no longer sporting this style. We shaved off the i and ! combo - he's back to his  Tèt kale look.

I have managed to stay at home with the fab-five every day each week except Thursday (prenatal day) and Sunday (church).

(Applause acceptable here.)

Some days our cement walls close in on us, but most of the time we can ignore them by using our imaginations. High cement walls and barbed-wire can turn into wide open fields of grass and flowers if you close your eyes tight enough. Oh. Fine.  I am lying. We're sick of the cement walls and they don't look like anything but ugly gray barriers, no matter how hard we try. In spite of that the kids are doing really great.

We mostly stick to the schedule. Learning is taking place each day. Isaac pouts about reading time a little bit.  I figured out he was opening a book to a random spot, reading for a while, closing the book, then moving to a new book the next time. I asked him to read through an entire book.  That pretty much ticked him off. He was previously unfamiliar with this concept.

On the horizon: We will take possession of Hazelnut (our new Mastiff) in a week. We *might* take care of the Hendricks' puppy too.  Before we officially agree to that there will be a family meeting detailing the fact that puppies poop and pee and parents don't do all the work.

Also on the horizon (hopefully the summer '11 horizon): Our school building is waiting for windows. Once they are in the kids and I are going to spend a lot of days over on the property painting and planning.  So far zilch has happened there because of the pace of business in Haiti .... if Haiti teaches you absolutely nothing else - it will teach you patience. Or you will be locked in a padded room - whichever comes first.

On Hope's door is this sign.

The sign says, "Hope - don't come in unless your (babies) 16 or 36 or 38 or Geronne"

A keen eye and sharp mind understands what it really says, which is:  This is Hope's room. Everyone in the family can come in except for Isaac and Noah.

Hope shares her room with Phoebe and Lydia. This forces her to allow them to enter. "Babies" is a label those two cannot seem to shake.

This is the life of a girl sandwiched between brothers.
Signage like that is completely necessary.

A weird virus that caused fever and exhaustion came and went. Four of the five had it over the period of the last two weeks. Isaac has a superior immune system and almost never gets what everyone else gets. For most it was a four day rumble with the unnamed illness. Lydia proved you can sleep anywhere during her bout with it. 

Just as I finished this post we had a small ten second tremor while I was sitting at the kitchen table. Lots of racing hearts in Port au Prince right now.   It certainly took me to an out of control racing heart place. 

God please protect this island from more shaking.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

teach, teach, teach again

"Even when the mother is herself malnourished, her body will normally provide enough milk for a baby, nutritionists say"

 Read the article from the NY Times here.

God is no dummy. Even a poor mom has what she needs to help her baby.  We NEVER give out formula.  We don't give out bottles. We never will. We fight constantly with the preconceived idea that rich people buy formula therefore formula is better. We fight constantly with the culture of aunties and grannies telling young moms that they don't have enough milk. Lies take the lives of babies. With support, almost every woman can produce enough milk and breastfeed without problems.

Breast is best is the number one thing being taught and re-taught in the Heartline pre-natal and early childhood development classes. Women who comply have fat, healthy babies.  The teen moms we work with at Harbor House have some of the healthiest babies of all because they are seeing the other moms in the house doing it, seeing how healthy those babies are, and following suit.

Watching it work is magical.  Dealing with women that don't believe it is frustrating and difficult.

"...what is clear is that there’s a marvelous low-tech solution to infant malnutrition all around us."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the things we've handed down

The combination of people at home this week is odd.

Geronne is gone. Paige is gone. Both of those people leave huge holes in day to day life.

With Geronne gone, the kids that are home have been encouraging me with their desire to help keep up with house-chores. They are peculiar and entertaining little people, some more peculiar than others. We laugh at them most of the time, but sometimes they are deep and introspective and they teach us and remind us of important things. 

The other night we were getting ready to pray together. Troy has the kids share if there is anything or anyone on their heart to pray for and we chat a bit before we pray.  Sometimes it goes really well and other times it is a competition of who cares the most about the most people and can come up with the most random requests. If Noah names six things, Isaac will name name seven and Hope can surely think of at least eight. Prayer requests as fodder for sibling rivalry, who knew? We openly admit to saying "alright, enough already with the prayer requests!"

On that night, before we prayed we read James Chapter 1.  We read the first 18 verses without any commentary from the peanut gallery. Sometimes with the two littlest ones around nobody is really even listening, for that reason we read for just a short time.  Normally we would have stopped long before a 19th verse but Isaac had gone to the bathroom with a tummy ache and Noah said "keep going".

At Noah's request we read more.

We read this:
Listening and Doing
 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  

20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.  

21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

After verse 21 Noah raised his hand to stop us and said, "Mama that's me. I get angry quickly. That is for me."

Troy and I looked at one another.  Did a seven year old just recognize his own tendency toward quick anger? Did he just call himself out?  Did he just own his issue? We high-fived with our eyes across the room.  (An "eye five"?)

We went on to discuss our anger issues for a few brief minutes, listing recent events wherein we were all "quick to anger"  - and then just as quickly as the deep moment of introspection came, someone farted and the moment was gone.

We were grateful for that short conversation with Noah. We know he comes by his tendency toward quick anger quite honestly. (ahem.)

Marc Cohn wrote this in his song "The Things We've Handed Down":

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father's
That you'd gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we've handed down 

I come from a long line of feisty people. Feisty is just a nice way to say "hot-headed".  I know the truth about my natural tendencies. I know the truth about Noah's too.

Troy, on the other hand, seems so very calm.  But inside he is not as calm as he often appears. That is probably also a 'thing that's been handed down'.  Troy has said, "I had no idea I was angry until I got here."

After many months and years, Haiti has a way of bringing out whatever ugliness exists in our lives.

For example, if pride is your issue, in Haiti you become prideful times ten. If you had a small anger problem before you got here - your anger problem is now amplified under bright light. You can try to fool yourself but you'll never fool anyone watching.

This is a hard place.

It has a way of exposing things.

So much of our struggle working here has been to keep from becoming permanently angry. (Or getting stuck in whatever might be hiding beneath the anger.)  The simplest things such as driving, or getting auto insurance will test every ounce of your patience. The real and perceived lack of change, lack of progress, lack of truth, lack of trust, lack of convenience, lack of compliance, lack of integrity, lack of justice ... It all tries and tests.

Things  happen every day that bring your heart rate up and cause you shoulders to meet your earlobes. Much of that anger can feel quite justified and even righteous ... and a lot of it probably is ... but walking around angry doesn't really change anything.

We found out while talking with Noah that we all desire to work harder and to successfully be- "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." As we read from James we had to say to our son: "Buddy, that is us. That is for us too."

Perhaps it's for you as well?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

look up

On a recent Sunday morning we were riding to church with a car full of kids.

I had not been particularly upbeat for a few days and that morning was no different.

We were on the main road near our house, we drive on it almost every day of the year.

It was flooded and more disgusting than usual.

I was thinking negative thoughts about how gross it looked and how depressing the color of the mud was and how much disease must be in the stagnant water and certainly the least that could be done was for someone to do something about the mounds and mounds of trash spilling into the nasty, smelly, water-filled road. I was feeling sorry for every animal that we passed, every person I could see, myself included.  The ugliness of poverty was eating me. I was grouchy and angry and down.

From the back seat came the high pitched voice of Lydia saying, "Beautiful BEAUTIFUL ... LOOOOOOK at how beautiful!!!" I turned to look at her because in no way, shape, or form could I find anything in my line of vision that would be labeled beautiful.

Lydie was looking up, pointing above us at a tree in full bloom of red flowers.  She wasn't seeing everything I was seeing.  The only thing that stood out to her in that spot on our familiar road was that the tree had given birth to brand new flowers and she wasn't going to let the rest of us miss it.

I so want Lydia's eyes for beauty.

I just need to look up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Waiting all dog-gone day

The kids and I heard Beth needed to take the puppies for their six week vaccinations so we eagerly asked to help her.  The kids asked because they love the puppies.  I asked because I love the entertainment.  Between watching Beth and her  liberal use of her camera and watching the others in the waiting room,  the three hours went by quickly. 

In the waiting room there are more people and animals and weird things to observe than you can even begin to imagine.  It is people watching at its best. The Minnesota State Fair has nothing on this PAP waiting room.  Add Beth McHoul to the mix and it only gets better. 

In true Haiti fashion there is no system in place to help the patients flow easily in and out of the Vet's office.  There are no numbers, no lines, no front desk person to write your name on the list as you arrive.  There is no one to speed up the end of the process by taking your payment or filling out your records.  It is truly inefficient in every way.

Instead each person arrives, takes a look around the room at the dozens of other customers waiting and mentally notes who all has arrived before them.  Each time the vet's office door opens everyone moves toward it arguing that they were next.  Some speak French, some Kreyol, a few speak Portugese and others English ... but all argue authoritatively that they are in fact next in line.

Because I went along knowing it would be a ridiculous show  - none of it bothered me.  The man with the angry hissing giant cat that went in front of at least four people that had arrived prior to him just made me laugh.  If you act 100% indignant and certain that you were next, it is a game changer.  He did it with great skill, props to him for being an awesome actor.

Beth tried to talk two large and blinged out sisters into allowing us to go before them because the "puppies were getting hot".  I put my head down and pretended not to know her at that point.  After waiting from 9:10 am until 12:15 for our turn in the office the second portion of the show began.

Beth is a dog lover.  If you have any question just check her FB photo albums. She has one album of dog photos for every album of human photos. (Alright. Fine. I'm exaggerating. One album dog for every two human.) Have you ever been to the vet with your pet and witnessed someone taking dozens and dozens of photos in the waiting room?  Yeah.  Me either.  Until yesterday. We joked on our way up the hill to the vet that next time around she will require home-studies before she places her puppies into families. If you cannot prove that you will cook your dog hot, fresh, high protein meals forget about it. You're not getting a dog from Beth.

This vet and Beth have some history. Once Beth called him in the middle of the night to come deliver puppies.  He hung up on her.  The personality of the vet is about 50 time less upbeat and friendly than Beth's personality.  She walks in all chipper and cute and full of questions. He finds ways to answer almost none of her questions.

Here is how one portion of the exchange went down:

Beth :  So when can they go outside?  When will it be safe?
Dr. W:  (silence)
Beth: You know like when will they not be at risk?
Dr. W: (more silence)
Beth: I don't want them to die of Parvo, that is a terrible way to die.
Dr. W: (finally speaks) You don't have Parvo in your yard do you?
Beth: Well years ago, yes, some puppies died.
Dr W: Years ago.

That ended that section of questions.  Dr W. never told Beth when it would be safe for the puppies to go outside. It went on like that until we left.

The puppies go back in two weeks for their eight week shots.  You can be sure I'll be there for the show.

Friday, June 17, 2011

MAS entry

(MAS = Mutual Admiration Society) 
I should probably just apologize in advance.
Here goes:  I am sorry.
Hopefully this entry doesn't cause any gagging.  I know it gets very mushy.

Leaving people you care about, enjoy being with, and want to remain emotionally close to, is one of the harder parts of doing this work. That's not a complaint, just a fact. We never thought it was supposed to be easy, but we believe we are where we are supposed to be for this season of our lives. As we've changed because of Haiti, so have our relationships.  As painful as it is missing our family and friends in Minnesota and Texas, we have made such good and deep friendships because of our time in Haiti. We wouldn't know some of our most trusted friends if it weren't for our years here.  We're so grateful for that.

Up until we met the Hendricks we hadn't yet met another family that we totally clicked with that had a bunch of kids the same ages. We have made a lot of single and young married or older friends that we love dearly but finding another family - in the same area we live - with a butt-load of kids - with very similar interests wasn't quite as easy.  When we began to build a friendship with Heather and Aaaron and their four sons we knew it was a gift straight from God.  Our kids adore each other and the four adults have such weird things in common it is too odd and too good to be true. Without a doubt we know that whether we are living near each other or far, far away we will remain friends into the distant future. I plan to be at Hudson's wedding (and only partially because I think he and Lydia were made for each other).

Two days before the Hendricks were leaving Haiti for the summer I asked Troy if we could write them a song.  He looked at me with his "Seriously woman?!?" look.  He plays along with my whacked ideas at Christmas time  - but it was only mid-May.

Troy happened to be working on the Phil Wickham song called "Beautiful" for church (an awesome song - click on link to hear it) when I asked him - so I suggested we just write one or two verses to that tune.  Ten minutes later we had what we needed.  The next night we practiced a few times with the kids. The following night the Hendricks came for dinner so we could all say our goodbyes.  We had Jen video our less than perfect rendition of the very short song.  Due to emotion we didn't expect, we were unable to give them our best version of the song.  We cried singing and we cried saying "see you soon" as they left that night.

Lyrics: "We're glad you're here and we love you so much if you don't come back soon we're gonna kick you in the butts. We need you here cuz you're very good friends,  this place can be so crazy but you help it to make sense. So come back soon we'll be waiting for you. We love the Hendricks yes we do, we really do."

We are storing their belonging for the summer and one thing that happens every day is that Lydia or Phoebe will come and ask for "Hen-dwick" toys.  The Hendwicks are a bit of a legend around here. Their toys are surely better than that ours, even when they are mostly the same. :) The older kids are so excited to start school and have the boys back here. There has been a push to start a countdown but until it is closer we've resisted. Isaac and Noah especially have missed their friends and all the trouble that  a group of boys can get into together.

Last week Heather told me they were working on a surprise for us. It arrived last night.  Their production had so much time put into it and beats the tar out of ours and we must share it with you.

Lydia kept saying "They said me mom, they said me!" Isaac watched it four times in a row and then began writing lyrics to sing back to them.  He said "That place they are looks so cool - can we go?"  I regretfully informed him that it costs $600 each to get to TX and back and that we can't ... BUT -- we can watch this video every day all summer long ...  And we plan to do just that.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

a boat that needs rocking

Within the long list of Haiti topics that are difficult to write about and cause controversy, you'll find orphans, adoption, and orphanages. These issues are never black and white and one answer doesn't fit all.

It is all so.very.complicated.

For those that are engaged in the battle for justice for children, it can be frustrating to navigate what options are legitimate and what is deception, or simply show-business.

Be warned, this post will be semi-rant-like and weave many directions before it arrives at its main point. We write this from a pro-adoption stance. We are not anti-doption. At the same time though we're for children staying in their families of origin whenever it is possible.

(Yes, there are many situations that don't allow for that.)

While adoption can be incredibly challenging, it can also be beautifully redemptive. We suggest that all in the process or considering adoption research attachment disorders and try to go into adoption prepared with realistic expectations. Talk to others that have adopted and are raising kids from hard places. If you are considering adopting, Heather wrote this post about the complexities of orphan care and things you might wish to look for in an international program.

The main reason we're writing this is because adoption is not ever going to even begin to touch the giant and growing "orphan" crisis. The growing crisis might even be partly our fault. (Orphans as industry, that seems to be a thing!)

We're writing to challenge our own ideas and approaches and systems.

We learned the hard way that people usually don't want to face ugly things. For a number of people denial and looking the other way is easier and it is impossible to convince them to engage in facing hard truth. This means that when you say or write things that are  challenging they will often turn on you personally rather than consider and pray about what you've said/learned/shared or begged them to see.

In 2003 we and many others helped confront an American that was running an orphanage without integrity. Man, did we take a beating from people who couldn't and wouldn't face it. She was breaking U.S. and Haiti law, she wasn't able to guarantee that the kids within her care were being fed and cared for well, she was in over her head and the way she dealt with it wasn't okay in any way. It was really hard but in hindsight we know we did the right thing even if it made us the temporary nemesis of many adoptive parents. Doing the right thing doesn't equal popularity. 

Instead of being upset at her lack of integrity the parents were mainly upset with us for exposing it. They couldn't see past their own interests to the larger picture. They loved their (soon-to-be)adopted kid(s) and were afraid. That part makes sense. It is certainly difficult to do the right thing when you fear losing a child you wish to adopt. Unfortunately adoptive parents get so emotionally involved that it becomes common for them to ignore when things are done illegally or without integrity. All of a sudden "if you can't beat em join em" becomes okay.

It is never okay to look the other way when a child is not legally abandoned by their own parents. It is never okay to listen to someone that tells you it doesn't matter that the child's real mother didn't sign papers and agree. If you willingly do something like that - you are a kidnapper. We know that a few people have been advised by Haitian social workers (that stand to profit) that it is okay that someone else claimed to be the mother. It is not okay. That's why DNA is ordered frequently, to protect children from people that lack integrity and from things that occur when people allow emotions to drive their actions and decisions.

All that aside, the truth is, most kids placed in orphanages in Haiti will never be adopted and will never leave Haiti with a "new family". (A few hundred kids leave each year but there are an estimated 380,000+ kids living in institutions. (Nobody knows a real number.) Most institutions are not licensed to have and care for kids let alone process an adoption. Children are hungry, and grow up unprepared to for life outside the institution.)

Some children that are placed could have stayed with their family of origin had anyone thought or wanted to try to help them stay together. Sadly, many of the orphanages are run without the best interest of children at heart, but instead as a profit center for the "Pastor" in charge of it. (In Haiti the title of Pastor is used loosely and doesn't mean what people think it does.)

Birth-families often place their children under the assumption and hope that their children will be fed and cared for better than they themselves could. Unfortunately that's not typically true. Show up unannounced at most orphanages and the conditions will shock you. Truly the children could have lived with greater dignity and protection from harm had they remained at home.

Most children that leave Haiti to be adopted have living birth-families. Our Haitian kids do. Because of poverty and situations in their lives they made a choice to place them. We hope that they weren't promised anything in return, but we cannot confidently guarantee that our orphanage director acted in integrity. We don't regret that we adopted them. Not at all. They are precious gifts. We only regret that we weren't more informed and willing to ask the hard questions back in the beginning.

Thankfully our interaction with their birth-mothers has been redemptive. We've built good relationships with the two families of our kids and they seem to have no regrets about their decision(s) but we'd be lying if we said it was totally without complication. 

It is much harder for those emotionally involved in adopting to question the status quo. For this reason those that are not adopting but are interested in fighting injustice could help by engaging in the larger conversation.

It is easier to question things after you witness the lasting damage that institutionalized children experience. Things grow clearer as adoptive parents begin to understand poverty and the attitudes we all have toward it and as the emotional upheaval of the adoption process itself dies down.

*        *          *          *

The entry below was written in 2010 - post Earthquake - in a moment of frustration. It addresses whether growing up in an institution is best for a child. It shocks me that this is even up for debate. The comments and full original post can be found here. 

Last night on AC360 Anderson visited an orphanage outside of Port au Prince.

As he interviewed the people overseeing the orphanage they said things and he repeated them in agreement. It was the "let's all agree and not think critically" segment.

During the interview one women admitted that most kids were placed in the orphanage as a result of financial hardship in the birth family. She did not claim the children had deceased parents. (Although some of them probably do.) She went on to explain that they would not want to offer adoption as a choice because these children need to stay in their own culture. Anderson did not ask a single hard question and just nodded in agreement. In reality orphanages are a subculture and cannot effectively preserve the culture that they so adamantly claim needs preserving.

AC went with the unicef line about how much better it is to be raised in an orphanage in your own country ... preserving your cultural norms and avoiding adoption at all costs. (Meanwhile unicef spokesperson Angelina Jolie adopts children from other cultures and ruins their chances of growing up in an orphanage - yet somehow that is different. You must need to be a uber famous celebrity to break unicef rules.)

The weird thing is, they stood in an orphanage meant to house 100+ kids at once and literally said "We never want to take these kids from their parents, their parents love them." Yet the kids are LIVING in the orphanage ... do they not count that as taking them from their parents?

Basically, you can take them from their parents to raise them in your crowded institution - but you cannot take them and place them in nuclear families abroad ... that is abusive. They sat there saying that the kids were placed mainly due to financial reasons, then tried to say that they must be raised in Haiti to be able to help Haiti some day. One teenage girl spoke on camera, saying something like "If you adopt all the kids out they won't be here to help their people, and that is what we want." It was an odd soundbyte by someone who is likely on a short-term visit to Haiti and has very little  big picture perspective.

I hardly think anyone is suggesting that we take every.single. child in every.single. orphanage and move them out of Haiti. OF COURSE NOT. As usual, they change the argument into something it is not. ALL children leaving Haiti is a bad idea. An idiot knows that. You cannot remove the entire next generation. But, ALL children staying in Haiti (closing down adoption on the whole) is a really bad idea too.

The same thing applies as in every other argument ... it is not a black and white, one size-fits-all argument. Different situations warrant different responses ... there is no hard and fast rule, no one response to the orphan crisis. Keeping hundreds of thousands of orphans (with or without living birth-parents) in institutions and thinking that these institutions will prepare them to "give back to their country" -- is nothing short of totally ignorant. The vast majority of orphanages in Haiti are horribly understaffed and overcrowded. Those conditions don't turn out world leaders.

Most orphanages look different on the days that visitors come. They are not wonderful, loving, centers of cultural goodness. 100 kids living in one building was presented as a brilliant idea by Coop last night. I am not exactly sure what he was thinking. Live in an orphanage for three months when there are no cameras around. THEN come tell me how totally awesome it is to stay in your home culture.

I don't know why Anderson is generalizing and suggesting one solution for the problem of orphans in Haiti. These one-sided platitudes must be encouraged by unicef or by those ten people that tried to take kids illegally ... but either way they are misguided. I'd love to see Anderson actually report on this issue looking at BOTH sides.

Adoption is not warranted in every situation. Of course not. But keeping all orphaned kids from the opportunity to be adopted in order preserve their fabulous (orphan) culture and keep unicef in business, is not a one-size-fits-all solution either.

*           *            *  

Since the earthquake Haiti has been inundated with new churches and missions groups and 23 year old heroes and small and large organizations that are seeking to help. Most of them probably have really great hearts and decent intentions.

The problem is that many (and I mean many) have come to build their own orphanages. That seems to be the hip thing to do right now. A lot of them probably have no grasp of what is already taking place on the ground. They come without the benefit of years and experience and the understanding of culture. They come thinking that taking in and housing/feeding children can only be good. They want to offer children things their poor families cannot. They come thinking that when someone brings them a child they are hearing the true and accurate story about the reasons the child must be abandoned there. Some come forgetting that starting an orphanage is at least a 20 year project unless you plan to bail-out a bunch of kids mid-stream.  

We should all be asking if this is the best use of funds and energy? We should be asking if this is good for Haiti? Is building new very expensive structures to take in children with families good stewardship? We should be asking if giving people more places to put their children might possibly create more orphans? Seriously. We should. We should be asking if it might be money better spent by investing in existing structures that either do things with integrity and take excellent care of kids or in programs that work to keep families together and help support women to raise their own children.

It should be wrestled with constantly. Couldn't we think outside of the box about ways to support families to keep their children at home? Wouldn't that cost less than building giant buildings? With upwards of 400,000 institutionalized children and just a few hundred adoptions, doesn't it make sense to search for better alternatives?
I am not claiming that the organizations and churches that have come here post earthquake to start new programs for orphans are bad people.  Not at all. 

I am only saying that we should try not to be defensive and instead be asking really hard questions about this and about our motivation and we should be wrestling with the very uncomfortable stuff. Why build orphanages? Should we take children from their parents simply because their parents are poor? Do we really want to open up these places and do we know it is best? Can they be run with integrity and a high quality of care? How do you guarantee that? Can you guarantee it for the long haul? What if a family next to you in middle-America can better provide for your child? Does money give anyone the right to take children? It seems so!

Also, is the  model to have multiple visitors in and out month after month in order to oversee it a healthy thing for the kids? Do you want strangers coming to your house to hold your kids every week?

In her struggle with it Heather said this: (click link for full post and comments that followed)

"When it comes to orphans, I'll get a little more strong in my language.  Please forgive me ahead of time.  I'm not always sure it's healthiest for team after team to come in, hold babies, semi-connect with children who are living in an orphanage, and then leave.  Yes, the American holding the baby may be changed by the experience.  The baby or child left in the orphanage?  Another rip.  Another tear.  Another moment when connection was jump-started, only to have the kill switch pulled.  Healthy?  I'm having a hard time seeing how that could be good for a child.  This is a tough situation, because we want hearts to hurt for the orphan, and seeing a child in an orphanage is a sobering moment.  But I find myself asking, "Would it be better for churches to fund higher ratios of native nannies in orphanages who will love the kids, every single day, and connect deeply to each child?"  Connection. A sense of belonging.  Consistency.  These are things an orphan is longing to have." 

It is good and healthy and necessary to be challenging our own desires and asking ourselves tough things. I realize some reading are currently involved in doing exactly what I am questioning. This probably stings. I'm sorry if this put anyone in a defensive place but I believe strongly that if we care about Haitians as much as we claim we do we need to examine these things. I also believe the last thing Haiti needs is more cement structures that house large numbers of children with living parents.

If we (and/or our churches) have the money it takes to build fancy buildings, there has to be something more we could offer Haiti other than to institutionalize their children.

Maybe you're thinking, "This is all a fund-raising pitch for Heartline Maternity Center because Heartline is working to help women give birth safely and keep their children."  If you're thinking that you're partially correct.

Of course we believe in the work of Heartline. However, we assume God moves people to act on their passion in multiple creative ways and we trust Him to provide for us.

Maybe your passion isn't even for Haiti. Maybe you want to help advocate for children somewhere else. If you've done your research and tried to become informed of all sides of the complicated orphan equation, it matters not where you ask your church to give or who you personally support. Kristen Howerton wrote a post recently full of all sorts of ideas - it can be found here.  Don't take our/her word for it. Ask around, read, pray, research.

We're praying that collectively we can begin to ask critical and uncomfortable questions about why we and our churches support the things we do. Perhaps some of our responses have unintentionally played into the problem. As we struggle with these questions we can find ways to advocate for children to remain with their families whenever it is a viable option. How can that ever be wrong? A poor family doesn't necessarily equal an unfit family after all.

wrestling and questioning,

T & T

"Dear Lord, I will remain restless, tense, and dissatisfied until I can be totally at peace in your house. There is no certainty that my life will be any easier in the years ahead, or that my heart will be any calmer. But there is certainty that you are waiting for me and will welcome me home when I have persevered in my long journey to your house."
-Henri J.M. Nouwen
Related Posts: Looking at STM and Respecting the Poor

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TCKs for the Mavs

TCK -  “A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience ... "

As you likely know, we don't have TV reception. We don't have internet fast enough to watch anything streaming.  This means we miss all sporting events and even forget that it is Super Bowl Sunday when it is Super Bowl Sunday. We stopped caring about USA sports sometime around year two. It's too much work to care.

For whatever reason Troy got into the Mavericks and Heat playoff games and "watched" via Twitter updates to know what was going on in the games.  It is the first time I can recall him being plugged into American sports in a long time.

Our kids have no interest in professional sports. The boys could maybe tell you two or three team names total out of every sport.  If you asked them to name teams they would say: "Baylor Bears, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Twins".  (Edit/Add: Isaac came up with - Spurs, Longhorns, A&M, Bears, Mavericks  - so three TX college teams and two NBA were on his radar. He could match cities to all those teams. He didn't know Minnestoa sports anymore. Noah only the named Baylor Bears.)

As we were packing to leave TX and come back to Haiti I shopped clearance racks for summer stuff because it was TX winter.  I came across Dallas Mavericks P.J's for $1.99 and brought them to Noah. He instantly disliked them and said they were too small and ugly so they went to Phoebe and Lydia's shared pajama drawer.

Lydie chooses them most nights because they have less coverage than most of her pajamas.  We know for sure she is a TCK (Third Culture Kid) just based on definition - but she shows that in so much of what she does.  Rice and Beans is her favorite food. She hates and won't touch milk and pizza. What tha?

Tonight when the power popped on she had been playing in front and noticed it first and came in to announce to her Daddy, "The EDH is on Dad. You can charge the DVD player now."  No one ever taught her that we don't charge things off of our batteries but instead we wait till EDH is on, but even at three she knows it and has figured it out.

We attempted to teach Lydia a bit about the Mavericks the other night ... We tested her and are trying to make her a well-rounded TCK in the know of the hottest team in basketball, especially when she wears their apparel to bed most nights.  Teaching her to say Dirk Nowitzki proved to be enough of a lesson. We never made it much further. :)

Silent (Labor) Night

On Thursday during our regularly scheduled prenatal day Jonna and I did Leoni’s prenatal exam together.

Leoni appeared tired and totally over being pregnant. She walked with about as wide a stride as she humanly could. She didn’t feel good but who feels great at week 39+ of a pregnancy?  She told us she wasn’t having contractions. We mentally prepared her that it could easily be another week.

We loved on her a bit and told her she was “preske mi, preske fini” (almost ripe almost finished) . We just encouraged her that it would all be over soon.

Around 3pm Thursday she waddled out to walk next door to the Harbor House where she lives.

Around 8pm Jonna called to say that Brit had called her to the Harbor House because Leoni was vomiting so much.  Jonna said something close to: “I’m thinking this is early labor although it doesn’t make sense for her to be puking like this in early labor, unless she has a flu, but she doesn’t seem to be having contractions.”

Troy and I were finishing up the chaotic time where we pretend we’re having a devotion time with our kids but really it is more just shushing the little ones and listening to Pastor Isaac pontificate on deep spiritual things until we get around to praying. When that is finished we tuck them in and do a celebratory dance once all five have asked for their last glass of water and their last kiss and their last hug. All that to say, I told Jonna we’d get our kids down and come get Leoni at 9 to have her sleep and labor at our house.

Troy got Leoni a bit before 9.  She puked right before she got in the car and right when she got to our house.  I helped her shower where she puked two more times. We gave her Zofran (awesome drug that we are madly in love with) but the Zofran didn’t do a lot for her  - it gave her fifteen minutes in between puking instead of five though, so I guess there was that.

We had been on city power for a while so we were able to cool our room down under 88 which is a major treat.  We had Leoni come lie down on a mattress on the floor of our room.  She wanted to sit.  She got up, she paced, she sat down.  She repeated the same a few more times. She went to the bathroom frequently and I followed her.  After a while she sat on the floor on the edge of our bed with her head on the bed.  She couldn’t deal with the top half of her clothing anymore, so she got rid of it.  I looked at Troy and shrugged. I must have been asking a question with my look because he said, “It’s fine. I live in National Geographic Magazine.”  He left the room. She went about being her quiet self, never making a sound, never answering my contraction questions with “wi”.  She seemed miserable but not that kind of miserable that we’re so used to seeing at late stages of labor.

I sat on the bed and quickly posted the blog asking for prayer for Leoni.  I chatted with her but she really isn’t a talker and she gives an occasional polite “wi” and not a lot more.  At ten after ten she quietly said, “There is water. I have water.”  I walked around to see that her water had most definitely broken. I called Beth and Jonna and told them I thought we should head over to the Maternity  Center.  I coached her a bit and told her I thought we should start getting ready to head over to see Beth and Jonna. Around 10:30 we got out of our house. As we left our upstairs she needed to stop walking during contractions and just hold still. Leoni was moving pretty slow so I didn’t push her much.  In the driveway Troy said, "Do you want me to come with you?"  I teased him that we could probably go it alone. He said "Well, I don't know, I just thought maybe you would need me." I asked him to clean up the amniotic fluid that was soaking into Noah's school work under our bed instead. :) 

When we got to the Maternity Center Leoni was dialated to 8cm. She got there (to 8cm) without screaming, crying, wailing, or complaining.  She got there by puking and and saying very little.

She continued on very quietly laboring. About 11pm we could tell when she was having contractions because she would want me to rub her stomach during them. Later she would hug us with a vice grip around our necks during contractions. With most women you can tell how intense their contractions are because they are cursing, begging God to stop their suffering, or just plain screaming. Not Leoni. There has never been a quieter labor in the history of womankind.

At shortly before midnight her body was clearly pushing, Beth checked her and decided she was safe to push and had dilated to 10cm.   With each contraction she would push, but again, without making a sound.  At 12:22 a beautiful little boy came into the world.  With experienced midwives on either side of me, I was very blessed to be the lucky one to catch him.  I got soaked in amniotic fluid from the knees down and couldn’t have cared less, it was too precious and special to be a part of Jocley’s welcome into the world to care about bodily fluids or wet pants.

Jocley was 7 pounds 2 ounces and 20" long.

After delivering Leoni’s BP went higher, and higher. Her bleeding was heavier than normal. Jonna knew we needed to intervene and got busy getting Leoni on an IV and we called Dr. Jen around 1:30 am to confirm things with her and get dosage advice.  Jonna gave Leoni IV meds to bring her BP down. She was also given pitocin to slow her bleeding down.  There were a few tense middle of the night hours while all that happened.  Leoni slept through most of that action and we helped Jocley latch on to his Mama while she slept.

By mid day Friday Leoni's BP had come back down into the normal range. She came back to our house for two nights and returned home to the Harbor House Sunday after church.

She still has had very little to say, but that's Leoni.


Thank you very much for your prayers for them both.  We appreciate them so much.

The Harbor House is settling into a rhythm and things seem relatively calm right now.  Maybe that is easy for me to say since Troy is the one dealing with any drama but there seems to be a bit of a lull in the drama department. (I mean besides the barfing and birth.)

Enisse and Sophia moved back in ten days ago. Enisse came asking for another shot at it right before we left for Texas so she had to wait till we got back to move in, she made it just before the heavy rains and surely missed out on lots of hardship living in her tent.  We're grateful she thinks she can live by the (not very difficult) rules.  Now we just pray she can.  Her return means we have six teen mamas ranging from 15 to 19 years of age. Four of them have boys and two have girls.  I have no other stats for you today.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Reposting Beth's blog ...

The ladies in our program come to us.  Our turf.  They come on foot, on tap tap and on moto-taxi at least once a week if not more often depending on how many of our programs they are in.  Most make pretty big efforts to look spiffy and they always doll up their babies.  It’s very cute.  American style relaxed, hot weather, attire is a mystery to them.

Why would one purposefully look so awful they wonder?  They especially wonder this about John.  He comes through every now and again, disrupts class, and buys everyone ice cream from the vendor and then he is off again.  Always disheveled and soiled, the ladies gawk at him, wonder who is he and then enjoy the ice cream.  Those that know him fill the ladies in on the scoop that he’s the head of this place but dresses like a “foo” (crazy person).

A few of our ladies live at such a level that the social pressure of dolling up does not include them.  They come in tattered dresses, old, sometimes broken flip-flops and are always underweight.  Typically their babies are small, their health poor and they are anemic.

Mari is one of these ladies.  We have a few very poor gals in our program that bring their friends.  They advocate for them and get them into the program.  A sweet, long term lady named Amocil brought us Mari.  Mari has no education, has had 3 babies die and lives on the edge.  A few weeks ago she showed up with a rag around her chin revealing that she had mumps.  We treated her separately and sent her home.

She came in labor the other morning.  This is the first pregnancy where she has gotten care and would be the first birth with any kind of skilled attendant.  Getting through superstition and misinformation to the facts is difficult.  Her blood pressure was getting dangerously high; the baby was small.  We opted to transfer her to a nearby hospital that could treat a preemie better than we could.  This was very new territory for her and she was nervous.

The next day we went to pick her up at the hospital.  As is often the case in Haiti she was delayed in getting discharged.  Since we were busy we almost left her behind with money and our nurse to bring her home.  Just as we were getting ready to pull away they came out of the gate.  A tiny God appointment.  We needed to see her house.

I have lived in Haiti a long time.  I’ve been in Cite Soleil many times visiting folks in their one room shacks.  You never get used to this.  Mari lives far off the main road.  Her house was a tent like structure with a tin roof and mud floor.  I mean mud.  With so much rain this was sinking your feet in kind of mud.  A musty, smelly bed and pillow were in the one dark, hot room.  On the wall hung one thing.  A picture of Mari in a frame, that a group of visiting photographers who came to our program, had given her.

I turned my face away to hide that tears were welling up.  Wini, Jonna and I gave postpartum instructions in a numb sort of way.  We stole glances at each other wondering if we were thinking the same thoughts.  We were I’m sure.  Haiti is full of Mari’s, living in circumstances just like hers.  The solutions are not simple.

We unglued our feet from the mud and headed home a bit sober.  Mari came in for her postpartum check up.  I now knew what a feat that was for her living so far off the beaten track.  She has so little and makes such a huge effort to come.

Our information would be life giving to a person like Mari.  It’s no wonder she is anemic, her baby small, her dress tattered, her body not bathed.  It’s no wonder she would look at me with apathy when I would scold her for not putting on enough weight.  I’m sure she expected that this baby might die like three others.

Hope lives in the form of our program.  Information that is life changing, vitamins, help.  Breastfeeding alone can save this baby’s life.  I could see that she valued the program by the lone framed photo on her wall.  Most likely the only photo she has ever had.  As we care about her, she cares about her baby, both lives will improve.

Pray for Mari and the others like her in our program.  They fight so much just to show up each week.  Their options are few but God has brought her into our program and into our lives.  And He always has a plan.  He sees the weak and undefended and has a plan.  He brings life and life more abundantly.

Beth McHoul

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Wow. For real, it was so fun to read the notes from so many places. We had a busy weekend but in passing we'd say "Hey, did you see someone reads in Ireland?!?!?" Later we'd comment "Kenya?!?! What tha? " It was equally fun to hear from old friends. I want you to know the boy from the city of lakes and legends enjoyed every single greeting. He had a few things to do Saturday which resulted in four hours of traffic time, he read the comments sitting in traffic.

Thanks for complying with my request begging request for comments.  It kind of blows our minds that people sit somewhere and read any of it.  For the most part when writing we're just sort of processing things and keeping a record for the future and for our kids and we don't think too long about anything beyond that aspect.  It is good we don't because to some extent it freaks us both out when we think about real live breathing, thinking, humans looking at this stuff. <gulp>

Troy got some really good advice, the award for best advice going to Brian, who said via text - "Since I am much older I must obviously be wiser - so please heed my advice: At least once a week use your tongue when you kiss your wife. We are a brief mist here today and gone tomorrow. Life is too short to not use tongue."

Saturday night we managed to make Troy a meal he loved (if you know about my kitchen skill level this is shock and awe time). We sang to him and then tried not to sweat to death before Troy reached 36 years and one day. On Sunday after church (photos from church below) we went to the fancy people hotel and gazed upon the fancy NGO people while we dined. After lunch we walked around the hotel grounds marveling at the beauty. Geronne asked if it was what New York looked like. :)

The kids (and the parents) are missing Paige. When they found out how much longer she'll be gone there was a groan-fest followed by a long conversation elevating her to near sainthood. It was all about how fun she is and Isaac said, "I sure am glad I made the decision to spend a lot of time with her before she left. I am really glad I went for that one last swim with her." She is the legend around here.

I've been scribbling notes of funny things the kids are saying to record someplace  .... since this is the only place I won't lose them, here they are:

Lydia - For the last week she has been walking up, grabbing us violently and squeezing hard and saying "I love you so much ever again!!!!"  That accompanied with the occasional "You my best friend ever again!" and other things ending in "ever again" make us laugh.  

She also used the word 'but' incorrectly but there isn't anyone willing to correct her.  For instance she might say, "I don't want to go to bed but" in a moment of whining. 

Phoebe -  Multiple times a day can be heard saying "What tha!?!?!"  Ha. NO idea where she got that.

Isaac -   He turns everything into a kind word.  I handed him a bowl today and he said, "I like the shape of that bowl".  After lunch he said, "That was the best lunch I've had in a decade. Well, except I am only nine."  Sometimes his niceness exposes our cynicism.  When I got to church today he told me he liked my outfit. If ever a person needed cloning it's our Isaac.  He's our innocent ray of sunshine.

Isaac tends to live in a black and white world and anything that doesn't fall into a strict category is hard for him to understand. We admittedly don't go there very often with him because the mind-numbing information that not everyone is good and not everything is perfect is difficult for him to grasp. (Yes, we know that is weird considering all he has seen/experienced.)  You should watch him try to figure out my past and the timing of my pregnancies, and the concept that I was once married to someone besides his Daddy  ... it wrecks his utopia just a bit.  

Today we drove by a painting of Donald Duck and Isaac said, "Noah, isn't it weird that Donald Duck has kids? I don't think he has ever been married."  Noah said, "Well maybe they got divorced and Donald got to keep the ducks."  I was doing everything I could not to say, "Isn't it weird that you are acting like an imaginary character exists in real life?"  In their sheltered reality people (ducks?) have babies when they are married, which is ironic based on who their mother is, but funny ironic.

Hope & Jocely

Hope spent the weekend begging Leoni to hold Jocely (Joe - slee). They stayed here for a couple nights to get the hang of life outside the womb. Hope loved on him and watched every move Leoni made waiting for her opening to help. 

Leoni was pretty amazing delivering Jocely - I'll write the detailed story of her labor, delivery, and recovery this week before the details fade. 

We're so thankful for the prayers for her.  Undoubtedly had she tried to deliver without help she would not be alive today.  We're so grateful she is. So far she is totally into feeding and holding and bonding with her son.

Isaac's Church Pics :

Lydie and Phoebe keeping Beth warm