Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: The highs, the lows, the laughs, & the tears

photo of the year ?

January 2011:  
  • Our family returns together to Haiti on January 1 after many months away completing Phoebe's adoption. (Thanks to the amazing help of one Joanna T!)
  • The Harbor House is officially named, replacing the ever so creative name "House for teen moms". 
  • The 1st anniversary of the earthquake - a day to grieve and remember together

January 12, 2011

February 2011:
Enisse & Sophia

Lucille & Sarah
    Paige & Auntie Tina March 2011
    March 2011:
    • Paige gets rid of her braces, Paige deals with MRSA
    • Fedline gives birth to Michlanda, a week later she moved into the Harbor House
    • Sundays - I have to believe
    Joanne & Ricardo
    April 2011:
    Dalonne & Job
    May 2011:
    June 2011:
    Judler  & Leoni June 10th
    July 2011:
    Paige & Julia
    August 2011:

    September 2011:
    Troy, Aaron, Harold - Bromance triangle
    Jimmy & Becky and their students

    three new babies in a few days at Harbor House

    October 2011:
    McHoul wedding
    November 2011:
    Mama E. laboring w/ Cookie, Beth, Heather
    Dedication day for Harbor House babies
    December 2011:
    Christmas Eve
    Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic

    standing IN the ocean listening for the ocean in a seashell 

    Going through the year in photos and stories reminded us of how faithful God is. To see it all in black and white and look back on the ways He sustained and provided is both beautiful and humbling.  2011 was one of the best years we've ever had in Haiti. We're so grateful for the ways God has allowed us to grow and for so much evidence of His love and mercy at work.

    Multiple stories and people touched our lives, challenged us, changed us this year.

    What story or person moved you in some way? We'd love to know.

    With gratitude to God for the year that was and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

    t & t & tribe

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    road tripping for morons

    When we made our plan to road trip to Santo Domingo we thought through about 1/8th of the logistics.  In our defense we had some inaccurate information.  Even so, we should probably have our parenting honor badges revoked.

    The good news is:  We made it. We are here!

    The other news is:  Troy and Tara separately experienced inordinately high levels of stress during the process of moving their children across the island.  All of the things they’d neglected to think of smacked them upside the head repeatedly throughout the day. Troy learned that a Port au Prince to Santo Domingo road trip is not exactly like going from Minneapolis to Omaha or Waco to South Padre.  Who knew?!?! Troy and Tara are not that smart.  Troy and Tara will no longer refer to themselves in the third person.

    Neither of us spoke our fears out loud to one another until we were safely to the house. 

    Let us just say that driving our kids across totally unfamiliar and unknown roads, without sufficient food or water, without language skills or a telephone signal or internet or any idea what we would do if our car decided not to work seemed like a really bad idea once we were in the act of doing just that.  Add in the six or seven police and military checkpoints without the ability to verbally communicate, power steering that acted up, and kids that were a little bit nervous and a lot bit hungry and you’ve got a stressful seven to eight hour period.

    We left our house around 9am.  We took care of a few Harbor House errands, we went to the gas station about ½ mile from our house to exchange gourdes for pesos and fill up the gas tank.  As we pulled into the gas station near our home Lydia said, “Is dis da beach house?”  We’re worried about the child, not gonna lie. 

    We did some significant road-travel in 2010 with the kids, but other than that odd post earthquake situation our kids have gone on very few road trips.  To them a road trip is seven miles to church that takes an hour and ten minutes.  It was fun to listen to all their observations. Along the way there was always interesting conversation in the back row:

    ISAAC:  “This sure is beautiful. Back in history I guess Haiti was really rich on sugar cane and tobacco.”

    NOAH:  (incredulous) “Rich on Tobacco Sauce????!!!”
    Shortly after noon, we finally conquered both sides of the Haiti/Dominican border.  There was a stop specifically for people with kids. Troy was very thankful for his Kreyol skills as he talked to the people at Haitian Social Services about our Haitian born kids.  While he was in the office a police officer came in to tease him that his daughter (Paige) spoke Kreyol better than him.   Talking through the story of our kids and answering questions about what we do in Haiti took about 15 minutes.  Once we were sufficiently questioned we were allowed to go to the border. (We didn’t know about that stop and Isaac was quite worried there.)

    The border took a long time. We were there for about an hour and thirty minutes. The frustration is that everyone would like to “help” you so they come to you as the expert and if you use their expert advice you are expected to pay for that advice.  Sometimes the advice kind of sucks but you still need to pay for it or argue about why you didn’t … arguing takes time, paying is sometimes easier.  There are a lot of people that attempt to intimidate you into believing that they are in charge. Usually they are not. For those 90 minutes Isaac was certain he’d be arrested even though he didn’t know for what reason. 

    We headed east. The scenery on that stretch of “road” is beautiful.  The kids were oohing and ahhing  over it all.  We figured out quickly that we had missed a turn and were taking a very long way around the giant lake by going north around instead of staying to the south.

    ISAAC: “This place is FULL of nature. This is like ancient movies, for example in Clash of the Titans … except this seems more hard.” 

    (We do not know what any of that means.)

    During a few of the missed turns and uncertainty along the way Noah (ever discerning) would yell from the back row, “We’re doomed. We’re gonna diiiiie.”  Neither of us were letting on that we were stressed  but Noah seemed to know and responded by amplifying everything a few notches. 

    Even though our kids did not have lunch or dinner and only ate crackers and oranges from 9am to 9pm they never cried or complained.  One bathroom we stopped at was too gross and Phoebe and Lydia just couldn’t do it. They made a choice to hold it.  We sat in traffic a loooong time in Santo Domingo. What we thought would take six hours took about eight and a half + . We awarded them “best road-trip kids in the universe” as we pulled into the parking lot of the place we rented.

    We had originally rented a place about eight miles from the beach. In late November we got an email saying “for very important reasons” we couldn’t have it anymore.  There were two weeks that went by without any idea where we might stay. Britt and Chris had already purchased their airline tickets straight to Santo Domingo, further complicating things.  Thankfully the late date ended up playing to our favor because unrented houses were being offered much cheaper.

    The place we ended up finding is the most beautiful place we’ve ever stayed.  We are in a gorgeous five-bedroom house for less than most nice hotel rooms cost per night. We’re 150 feet from the Caribbean.

    The Cuban man who owns it seems unmoved by the number of children occupying his space and sitting on his cream colored couches.  We immediately looked over the list of costs of breaking and replacing items in the home. We removed many decorative pieces. (Perhaps he gave us an amazing deal banking on the fact that we'd break his highly priced shell sculpture?) We showed the kids the list of costs and told them how much cash it would take to pay for any breakage of any lovely things.

    (showed/told is code for threatened bodily harm)

    We instituted a no wrestling rule; redirecting all rough-housing outdoors  …  'Rough-outside–the-housing' is the new name for that particular activity. 

    There is no amount of saying “I don’t speak Spanish” that seems to keep us from standing with someone nodding in confusion as they speak Spanish.  The natural tendency is to respond in Kreyol.  It doesn’t make for such great communication. 

    Thankfully we’ve already identified the Haitian employees on-site and begged them to act as our translators when we’re stuck.  One cool old Haitian guy came with us to show us where the grocery store was located. Nothing brightens up a Haitian face in the D.R quite as much as someone walking up and speaking to them in their heart language. A young guy from Jacmel is our new best friend early into day one of our vacation.

    Now that the stress of wondering what in the world we would do on the side of a rural Dominican road with six hungry and thirsty kids has passed, this vacation is an awesome & ginormous gift. Troy keeps telling the kids "We are blessed guys - can you believe we get to do this?!?"  TV's with channels (reception) are all the rage with our children.  It matters not that the Cartoon Network is in Spanish, the many, many channels and the flipping of them is enough to make them happy.  We're working on convincing them that the swimming pool sitting next to the ocean is also quite something.

    Britt and Chris get in on Friday. The excitement and anticipation of the brother(s) and sister(s) reunion(s) is building. 

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    road trip!

    We're about to take off on our first ever family road-trip across the beautiful and mountainous island of Hispaniola.

    We went to the D.R. as a family one other time in 2007 but used a very scary little airplane to get there.  This time around we're using our trusty old Hyundai truck and hoping for favor at the border. The paperwork to take a car across reminded us a little bit of the adoption process.  (Do this -go here - come up with this document that no one in the world would ever actually have - stand up - sit down - fight fight fight!)

    The kids have been looking forward to this since we decided in the fall that we would be meeting Britt and Chris in the Dominican Republic to ring in the new year.

    Here's to:  papers that are in order, tires that stay inflated, radiators that don't overheat, a miracle gifting of Spanish fluency for someone in the family, kids that don't whine, well-timed potty stops, and lots of family time on the beach!

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Merry Christmas

    The Work of Christmas 
    by Howard Thurman
    When the song of the angels is stilled, 
    When the star in the sky is gone, 
    When the kings and princes are home, 
    When the shepherds are back with their flock, 
    The work of Christmas begins:
    To find the lost,
    To heal the broken,
    To feed the hungry,
    To release the prisoner,
    To rebuild the nations,
    To bring peace among brothers,
    To make music in the heart.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

    Merry Christmas from Port au Prince.  God sent His son. We're thankful for this time of remembering the gift of Jesus. We pray that you (and we) will experience Immanuel - God with us - in fresh and significant ways this weekend and in the days and months ahead.  

    with hearts of gratitude,
    troy & tara & tribe

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    compiling statistics, loving women, thanking God

    As the last day of the year is quickly approaching, today I looked through the 70 files from 2011 that had been placed into the section of the drawer indicating that the woman was no longer pregnant. There are always 30 to 35 women pregnant that are in the Prenatal Program at any given time.  In 2011 70 women completed a pregnancy (one way or another) within our program.

    As I shared the findings with Beth and marveled at what I was seeing I said, "Thank you so much for your courage and your vision for this program. We're seeing that our stats are nothing like the Haiti stats."

    I loved Beth's reply.  She said, "It is God. All we do is agree to live here." Isn't that the truth?  Thank you Lord.

    Outside of the obvious goal of helping the women have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and safe deliveries, we also always hope to build relationship.  Every woman is known by name.  We get to know many of the women very well.  Some allow us to know them more than others.

    The statistics below share some of the numbers ... but the individual names and the unique stories and faces are what matter the most.  We're grateful to know these women. We're blessed to be given the gift and opportunity to walk with them through these important months of their lives.

    As we look ahead to 2012 we humbly ask for your continued prayers.  The recent grant award from Giving of Life will be set aside for the beginning of the new maternity center building.  The timing of all of that and the on-going need for funding for that project is in being trusted to God.

    From January 1 to December 20, 2011:

    • 70 finished their time in the Prenatal Program  
    • 28 of the 70 were  pregnant for the first time in their life
    • 2 of 70 ended in miscarriage prior to 16 wks
    • 2 of 70 ended in fetal demise later than 28 wks  
    • On six occasions there was more than one baby born in one day 
    • There were 66 births of living babies  31 Male & 35 Female 
    • 4 of the 66 gave birth at their home (by choice or accident)  
    • 16 of the 66 required a Caesarean Section 
    • Heartline provided transport  for 14 of 16 C/S (thanks for the ambulance!)
    Reasons for C/S in order of prevalence: 
    Preeclampsia/Eclampsia (7)
    Failure to progress/Prolonged labor (6)
    Prior C/S (2)
    Other (1)
    •  2  of the 66 had vaginal births @ hospital due to complications
    • Heartline Ministries Maternity Center delivered 44 babies   
    • Of 44 deliveries, more than half suffered from what could have been life-threatening complications had they delivered without care and postpartum care
    • One baby born alive in 2011 died (born premature, born to young mom at hospital - baby died at hospital within days)    
    •  Heartline provided postpartum care and weekly early childhood development classes for 66 women/babies 
      •  Innumerable (and invaluable) prayers from around the world were offered 
      • ZERO mothers were lost 
      •  One Great & Gracious God sustained and provided ~ We give Him all the glory and thanks

      Photos courtesy of Jonna Howard

      Monday, December 19, 2011

      2011 Christmas Extravaganza!

      "God Sent His Son and Now You Know"

      - lyrics by Troy Livesay -

      This here's a tale for you ladies and fellas - Tryin to do what our culture tells us
      Go out and shop like you're super zealous - But don't forget our God is jealous
      Ok smartie go to a party - It's Christmas time have you been nice or naughty?
      Have we forgotten the reason for the season? - It's about our God, not time for self-pleasin
      Next day's function, turkey luncheon - Will you thank God for this food you're munchin? - People in the world never have that chance - So don't eat so much you nearly split your pants
      This world is needin, hearts are bleedin - We need help to solve this pain we're feelin - When you have a chance don't forget to tell - God sent His Son - Emmanuel
      our recording artists at varying stages of confusion and acceptance

      Ooooh Yeah, Ooooh Yeah, Mmmm, Yeah, Oh, Yeah (Emmanuel)
      We need Him, God sent Him - We need Him, Our God sent Him (Emmanuel)
      You're on a mission and you're wishin someone could cure this sinful condition
      Lookin for joy in all the wrong places - All these toys but still sad faces?
      From frustration, first inclination is to forget God in your situation
      But every dark tunnel has a lighter hope, don't give up on Him - He can help you cope
      Don't be bummin, sad song hummin - God hears your cries and your Savior's com in...He made a way so many years ago - He sent His Son - and now you know
      We need Him, God sent Him - We need Him, Our God sent Him (Emmanuel)
      Country or city, things ain't pretty - Sin abounds, we're dirty and gritty
      But God sees clear, He came down here - Thank Him for that this time of year
      Thank Him for that this time of year. He sent His son and now you know.

      (C) 2011 Troy Livesay All Rights Reserved

      super-stars don't walk
      If you are 29 to 49 years old we're guessing you know this tune and some of the original lyrics  ...  If not - we apologize for being deeply embedded in our Generation X sub-culture. We don't leave comments open on YouTube because we fear those YouTube people and their nastiness. We close our ears to mean.   

      When I told Troy the singular idea I had that was different enough from years past was to try to do some sort of rap, he asked what the rap was supposed to be about?  We decided the rap should be about how easy it is to get sucked into a certain way of celebrating Christmas. With advertising and culture pulling our hearts one direction, we're all susceptible to forgetting the point or making it all about gifts and food and shopping rather than gratitude and a focus on THE GIFT we already received. (He made a way so many years ago. Thank Him for that this time of year.)  

      This Christmas we're anxious and blessed to be able to celebrate with our second family and those we love here in Haiti. We'll also celebrate in mind and spirit with those we miss and love that are so far away. Whether you're separated from those you love this year, or surrounded by family, we will pray that you'll experience unusual peace and undeniable grace in the coming weeks.

      Our family would like to take this opportunity to thank you for following along and especially thank so many of you that have de-lurked and said hello or offered prayers and encouragement over the past year.  We wish you and yours a blessed holiday season and a New Year filled with joy and peace in your hearts and homes.

      We're  thankful that the Christmas story is so much more than a story. We're grateful that the birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end of sin and suffering.  We have hope because ...

      God hears our cries and our Savior is comin'
      He made a way so many years ago
      He sent His Son
      And Now We Know
      We need Him, God sent Him
      We need Him, Our God sent Him 

      Sunday, December 18, 2011

      Baby Book Entry 5:

      Posterity, this is for your sake.

      In May I wrote entry 4 and resolved to write the next "baby book" post with kid-focused details sometime in the month of August 2011.


      It is December.

      Ah well, you know what they always say,  "late is better."

      They do say that, right?

      So, off we go... Detailing the lives of these children so someday they will know something about what they were like as kids. We all know there is no chance I'll be coherent or recalling history by the time they  reach adulthood. These posts are meant to save us from our feeble and failing minds.

      As always, I offer one disclaimer ... pretty much grandparents and aunts may be the only people that will want to read this.

      In May I wrote about the tribe "in no particular order". Fully understanding sibling rivalry, the intensity and consequences of said rivalry; this time I will write them in the OPPOSITE order of the no particular order I chose last time.

      Britt & Chris -
      These people are adults.
      Why am I calling them babies?   (Rhetorical)
      The two babygrownups just completed semester number one of graduate school.  They both love their chosen paths and respective masters programs and are plugging along in their usual impressive fashion.  We have some high hopes of trapping Britt in Haiti for five weeks next summer. She'll be working on a project for her masters in Public Health. Along with those high hopes we hope for Chris to come visit her for multiple days and nights during her practicum.  Chris and Britt run and bike and read extremely thick books and write very long papers. After that they take care of an adorable home and three mildly annoying dogs. After that they work full and part time jobs.  Then, in their spare time they have begun cooking all sorts of amazing and complicated dishes. We're excited to directly benefit from their culinary skills when we are with them for a week after Christmas. Sleep must be optional for them.  That's the only sense we can make of it. We're eagerly anticipating their arrival to Hispaniola.

      Noah (7.75) -
      The boy that refused to read  - has left the building. (The parents breathe a sigh of relief.)  Since I last wrote Noah not only learned to read, he also learned to memorize and give speeches.  He's always been walking a fine line between "I hate myself and I cannot do this!" vs. "no autographs please" & "Do you think people wonder how I got to be so awesome?" It can be terribly off-putting or terribly funny.  How exactly does a person vacillate between such extremes?  No idea.  But he does it at an advanced level. Thankfully his most obnoxiously over-confident moments happen within the four walls where people usually tend to have more grace for him.  He loves to talk and tell very detailed stories about the movie or cartoon he just watched.  When Noah asks to talk, sometimes I overhear Troy say, "As long as you're not going to describe that episode of Scooby Doo for me, yes." Physically he is like a spaghetti noodle. He keeps getting taller and thinner.  Earlier this year he was without front teeth.  Now he sports a mouth full of teeth that look like money in the bank for the orthodontist.

      Hope (10 in just a few days)-
      Is enjoying school so much this year.  She is surrounded by testosterone, always taking the high level of male-hormones in stride. If given a choice though, she'd choose coloring, reading, drawing, writing, painting nails, playing with makeup, making crafts, doing hair, helping Geronne with Haitian meals, and anything else that allows her to utilize her lady-skills. She chooses to spend a lot of her free time alone, quietly doing her own thing. Compare her  to her brothers on either side of her whom are typically waving sharp sticks in the air, she comes off as docile, although she is not. She can stand her ground. She enjoys music, singing, and movies. We all love listening to her sing. We celebrate her life the week of Christmas.  Thanks to the gift of her adoption, the birth of a special baby girl in the back of a tap-tap on Christmas Eve 2001 turned into an opportunity for this family to celebrate two births each December twenty-four.  Happy 10th Birthday to our precious girl/gift!

      Phoebe (5) -
      Ode to Phoebe, the quiet storm. 95% of the time no one knows where she is or what she's up to because she is ever-so-introverted and independent.  She spends a lot of time with barbies and other dolls.  Washcloths with hair binders are made into elegant strapless dresses. With the remaining 5% of her life she expresses frustration and anger in the form of screaming and crying. When someone has done something to offend her sensibilities, everyone in the house and neighborhood knows it.  The rivalry between the two youngest is truly remarkable, thus generating nearly all of Phoebe's boisterous meltdowns. The pattern and its causes are impossible to decipher, they are either inseparable and unparalleled friends or knavish foes. A happy medium, there is not. Phoebe grew a ton in 2010, she grew a ton more in 2011. For newly five years old, the girl has some long stems on her and is growing up much too quickly. We don't worry about keeping her in clothes that fit, both Phoebe and Lydia prefer a more natural and basic look; they can most often be found wearing only underwear.

      Lydia (4) -
      Because we recently experienced Lydia as an only child we know there are two versions of Lydia available.  While she was an only child she was pleasant, obedient, agreeable, and just plain easy.  Once we were back with her sisters and brothers the "spirited" Lydia returned.  Lydie has a lot of power within the family structure for a person of her age and girth. We don't understand how she does it, we just know we all do what we can to make her pleased with her life.  Much oddness surrounds her dietary needs.  She is sustained mainly by cereal, white rice, and white bread.  Place unapproved foods in front of her; you'd better  be prepared to hear about it.  She loves dolls, reading books, and riding her trike. She is a chatty person. Sometimes when I am checked out and only half-listening I'll reply  "Uh-huh, Uh-huh". Lydia grabs my arm and say, "NO Mom! Say words!" For the first time ever she talked about the earthquake recently.  She remembers things about it that we had no idea she could recall.  She reminds us a lot of Noah at this age.

      Paige (17 - or, as she'd tell you,  "I'll be 18 in a little over 11 months")
      The work Paige is accomplishing academically is astounding to us. Due to the shaking of the earth in January 2010 and some other educational mishaps Paige entered her Junior year needing to kick butts and take names.  She is doing that. The number of subjects and the hours spend studying is a complicated math problem in and of itself.  Paige is in love with horseback riding and riding twice weekly. Paige is now "dating" which came after "talking". We don't know what any of these labels mean. We only know that a boy named Kevin spends many a Sunday at our house.
      How is Troy handling this?  Think Robert DeNiro as Jack Byrnes.
      Jack Byrnes:I mean, can you ever really trust another human being, Greg? 
      Greg Focker: Sure, I think so. 
      Jack Byrnes: No. The answer is you cannot. 
      Every person in a family plays into the family dynamic.  Paige brings so many things that cannot be easily replaced.  If you stop by one day in 2013 after she leaves for college, you may find an entire family curled up in balls on the tile floor rocking themselves back and forth.

      Isaac (10)
      Isaac is also growing fast. He is now just shy of five feet tall. Most days when Isaac returns from school I greet him and say, "How was your day buddy?"  9 days out of 10 Isaac says, "Perfect. I had a perfect day!" Keep in mind these are not party days or special events, these are regular school days.  We need to bottle this person up and distribute him worldwide.  He cares so much about the feelings of others. He encourages and blesses us with his random compliments.  Just when you're feeling down he'll rave about how good you look or how great the grilled cheese sandwich you made him tasted. A few weeks ago he dropped his piggy bank and it shattered.  He cried.  Troy and I panicked, we don't know how to handle sad Isaac. Nobody knows how to handle sad Isaac.  Just this week Paige was helping him deal with a score of 95; he was upset it wasn't 100. Paige was terror-stricken when he got tears in his eyes and quickly promised him ice-cream before the first tear fell.  If Isaac ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Isaac loves being with people. He eagerly meets each day, makes friends easily, and is the first to include someone new.

      Against all odds, our designated family ambassador and lead diplomat continues to make us look good.

      This concludes installment 5.