Tuesday, August 27, 2013

a goodbye summer post

Here in the center of Texas, we're calling it. 
 Summer. is. over. 
(not the weather, but the activities)

We've been here in 'Merica' for four weeks. I think "transition" has mainly been conquered. That is not to say that we are totally functional here yet, but it is to say that we are not quite so half-witted and dopey in our approach to this cray-cray life-style.  

It is entertaining (and precious) to notice all the words and things that have no meaning or assignment inside the noggins of our kids.  For example:

  • While going into a tunnel in the truck, Hope said, "Oooh cool! We are going through one of these things."  (No name assigned for that thing.)
  • While driving in Arkansas and Missouri Lydia said, "What is it called when there is this much trees?" and "That is the most trees I ever seen in my life."  
  • We told the kids we were going to go to Wendy's for lunch.  We had to stop at the post office, we went there first. When we walked into the post office Lydia said, "This is called Wendy's?" No store or restaurant names hold any assignment for her.
  • Troy took Isaac, Hope and Noah on a quick Target store run. We don't take them to stores very often (ever) in Haiti. Of course it was non stop questions and comedy and learning inside the Target. Troy tried to introduce ideas to them, including packaging, marketing, how to determine which item is the best buy, etc.  I was out of town and they called me to explain that the small individual packages of applesauce are not as good of a deal as the big jar of applesauce. They thought for sure that was information I didn't have. When they left the store, Troy asked, "So Noah, what did you learn today?"  Noah said, "I learned why you never take me to the store."  
The amount of running and getting crap done that we have accomplished in the last ten days is crazy impressive. It matters not that it is not impressive to anyone else. *WE* are impressed at our ability to knock stuff off the list in a fashion that some might even describe as "responsible". Our arms are sore from all the stretching in awkward positions to pat ourselves on the back. 

Paige is living with us until October. In early October she will move into her new place. The amazing kid managed to get herself invited to live in a historic house in Waco that is now a Bed and Breakfast. Her rent is low and they've offered her a job there. Rough life, huh? We're excited that she'll have someone playing a grand-parent role and looking out for her. Britt and Chris live very close to her new B&B home too. We like living with her; we think not living with her will be very lame. We also think we'll see the floors of the rooms she has occupied and we have always wondered what lies beneath.

The car we bought Paige came with issues that morons that don't live in Texas did not foresee. Apparently a repo-ed car that has not been registered for a long time is a big hairy deal to fix. I drove it to Fort Worth twice with expired stickers. The lady informed Troy that he was dumb and a $1,200 ticket could have his name on it if it were not for her good graces and his good luck. Making all of that right meant a lot of confusion, playing dumb (not a difficult acting role), pleading for mercy, paying out the nose, etc, etc.  Paige has to share it with us until we head home to Haiti, she deals with it ... It's the whole "beggars can't be choosers" thing.  She mastered all five speeds of the stick shift on Sunday and came home with her arms in the air. No time for losers, she is the champion of the five-speed-driving-world. 

Last week I was driving a couple hours west to work with a rural Texas midwife for the day. I was not paying close attention to how often the speed limit changed on the rural road I was traveling. I got busted going 70 in a 55 zone.  The (male - about 40 to 50 year old) cop came to the window and said, "I see you have mapquest directions there, where are you headed in such a hurry?"  I told him I was headed to work with a midwife a couple of hours west. I told him I was sorry, that I did not realize the speed limit had reduced to 55. He said, "What? So you are fixin to be a midwife? Wow. Well, what do you think of that water birth stuff?" We then spent a few minutes discussing the merits and oddities of water birth.  He left with my license and came back and said, "I am just giving you a warning, no ticket. I think it is really cool what you do, good luck with your training."  Even though it has been several days, that exchange is still making me smile. 

Sunday afternoon we took a private family-only CPR class. We laughed our butts off, passed the test, and mocked Troy for getting the low score.  Our son-in-law, Chris, was our instructor and we made sure he left our class appreciating his regular, non-relative, CPR students. 

Lydia said, "Well. Weird. I didn't know Chris knows all about babies and pushing on thems chest like that." 

Troy, Britt, Paige, dummies...
...Use of commas, important.

Monday I had a class in Dallas which also allowed me to meet up with these inspirational friends for a few hours . Both of these ladies hail from the Caribbean and are insanely wise. It was a huge gift to talk with them about everything from motherhood to racism and things both trivial and deep. The precious little man in the green greeted us with, "Sak pase?" His Momma worked to make sure the real-deal Haitian and the poser/faux Haitian felt welcome and at home.

Isaac and Noah continue to be obsessive about all wild-life. They use every second of their spare time to study animals and make lists. Noah just dropped in a moment ago to tell me which whale is the nimblest. (and I had juuuust been wondering that)
animals that kill you, and how long it will take them

Today Paige started college.  Troy started his class too. I think that the older student had some pretty serious nerve issues. I've started in on all my required stuff that has to happen while here in the USA. The three middles started working with Caroline, their sweet new math tutor.There is a lot of starting going on in these parts. Here is to hoping and praying and believing for the finishing too.  

Goodbye Summer.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

The kids were asked to write these three answers:
1. Favorite thing we have done since we got here?
2. Most challenging adjustment?
3. What do you think about or miss from home/Haiti?

"The most amazing and fun thing I've done this summer is white water park. It is in Branson. It was fun. For me the most challenging adjustment is my relationship with other *people. The thing I most miss about Haiti is our dogs, pool, and house, also, every person.

"The most exciting or fun thing I've done since arriving in America was when we traveled on this amazing trip to Branson. We had a lot of fun. We swam in the huge lake, and in the pool at the place we stayed at. The most challenging adjustment since arriving here is chores. An example- sweeping, dishes, being a good sister, it is hard. The thing I most often miss is our wonderful friends Geronne and Jenny and our sweet dogs.

"The fun thing I think we've done since we arrived here is our trip to Branson. I went to White Water Park, which was exorbitantly awesome. We went tubing at exhilarating speeds. We also were able to spring off of a cliff. I loved our family trip. The most challenging thing that I have had to get used to is trying to play outside every day. The sweltering sun bestows a burning atmosphere making me stay inside. Good thing that today the good weather has stymied the bad weather. The thing I think about most at our mountainous Haiti home is our two dogs, the Salvants, and Geronne and Jenny. I miss and love them all.

*Noah was very ticked off about this assignment, therefore his relationship with "other people", mainly Troy, was quite difficult in the moment that Troy assigned this work.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ayiti - Linking You

Link to article: The Violent Poor or Bastions of Hope

"They are people, living in a country with one of the most tangled social and political histories you will ever encounter. It’s just a country that often requires time and patience to access."

Monday, August 19, 2013

when did america turn into space?

Troy helping me with the space pop machine

It might be true that I had other stress going and it might be true that I am having a hormonal "situation". It might be true that I need a counselor or something.  But, it is also true that this ^ space-age soda-pop machine made me tear up over the weekend.  Can't a girl just go push her cup against the little lever of the kind of pop she wants in the same old regular fashion that she has always done it?  

No. No.  She can't.  She has to make six separate decisions to get one glass of pop.

In other America news filed under "What Tha??"...
On a quick trip to search for math books, I was found, totally disoriented, mouth agape, staring at this piece of "art". The first verse from Proverbs is translated this way: "Unending riches honor and success are mine to give..." from there it got a tiny bit better. It's not a translation I'm familiar with, we decided it must be the brand new TJUV (totally jacked up version).  Also, as my brother-in-law pointed out, if Mary and Joseph didn't have the unending riches and success to get some orthodontia for that underbite Je$u$* is sporting, at least we know that we are not the only ones doing it wrong.

If you can explain either of these 'Merica weekend discoveries to me, I beg of you, please do.

*(Thank you Corrigan Clay for the  Je$u$ comment that led to Dr.Pepper (from that space age machine!) coming out of our noses.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

too much to say, too little WiFi

We have not been here (in this blog-space) writing things out very much this summer. It annoys me that there hasn't been space and time to write much because writing is a lot like running for me, it provides a method/vehicle that allows me to process my crazy. Lawd knows all about the copious crazy up in this house.

The neglect of the blog began in July when we were trying to figure out how to leave our home for five months. We were busy planning and trying to tie up loose ends at work and home. We put stuff into one room, we tried to decide what things to hide and what things to leave out when renting out the house. I confess here and now in this public space that I hid a few things. When I sat down to imagine what items a renter could break that might make me melt down in white hot rage and/or utter despair, it really came down to two things: the Vitamix Blender and the treadmill. 

I'm not that great of a sharer. 

There I said it. 

I left other options, though. There is still a $19.99 Oster that is awesome at making already liquefied items stay at least as liquefied as when you begin blending, and a driveway to run in place.

We made lists and tried to explain in writing why each and every person staying in the house will get to spend a night or two or twenty surrounded by mosquitoes, without electricity and maybe even water. I thought the manual of instructions Troy wrote was over-kill. I wanted to say, "This is your life now, people. Embrace the suck.", or, "You get to pay rent to lie awake sweating your butt off. More expensive than a gym membership, but SAME results. See, you don't even need the treadmill! You.are.welcome.

My partner in life is much kinder and far more gracious. He wanted to write a manual to explain the infrastructure and how it all works (or doesn't) and help the renters and guests understand how to be smart with their battery power. If you ever need a merciful friend, you know whom to call upon.

Here I sit, all cool, comfortable and dry, typing all of that out and thinking about the soupy hot sleepless buzzing-bug-filled nights and feeling more than a little bit sad. I love that miserable place so much. 

The point of all that ... First it was too busy getting ready to go and now it is to busy going and ever since we got packed up and left four weeks ago, everything is too disjointed and unorganized and there hasn't been great wi-fi and and and. 

(People, middle America doesn't have as much Wi-Fi access as you might think. Branson, MO is pretty much an unwired technology-free-wasteland.)

I wish I could go back and write the things that were wonderful and glorious and painful and mind-numbing from the month of July. That stuff is blurry already as we've been speeding full force into this five months of America time.  This photo below was used to jog my atrophied and aspartame soaked cranium  - so with this, I am trying to say something about the month of July, to catch up just a little.

Chelsea (from Austin, TX) came to Haiti and taught the kids for seven weeks. I barely wrote a word about it, but they loved summer school and we are now a summer school family from here on out and forevermore. Haiti doesn't allow us enough summer activities to stay sane, so more school it is. They'll thank me some day. Surely they will.  

Chelsea, thank you so much. We were blessed by your love and service this summer.

Another July happening...
Rachel Burton showed up on the scene. Born in Texas to Jimmy and Becky Burton (for new readers, they are two+ years in Haiti working at multiple things - including teaching this crew of kids). 

Last night on our way home from Branson we stopped to meet the newest Burton. Here are the five current and one former Heartline Academy students along with Abbi and Rachel Burton ... 

We're not certain how we can possibly be worthy of this much goodness and provision, but the 4 Burtons will return to teach and live in Haiti again in January. 
The five remaining students count their blessings and the days until then, they truly love their teachers and love learning under their direction. 

~       ~        ~

We get emails from Geronne and Jenny that make us smile. We get to hear about the random, exciting, mundane day to day things and sometimes the emails say, "Please tell the American that I need to go to a funeral/the market/my friend's house tomorrow, I would tell her myself but she doesn't speak Kreyol."  The system works surprisingly well. Geronne emails us in Kreyol, we email the person standing next to her in English. Voila! Everyone is in the know.

~       ~        ~

Troy and Paige are all registered for their respective classes. They have one single required (for new incoming students) class together. Troy's plan is to head to class and see how long it takes before someone asks Paige why the creepy old-bro always sits near her and talks to her. They already had a fun moment during their test and registration day when the registrar asked Troy for his license and he said, "Oh, sorry, I didn't know you needed it", she replied, "I don't, I just wanted to see how you are old enough to have a daughter registering with you."  

Made me reeeal proud hearing that story. That there my baby-daddy! A daddy, who is just a baby.

Troy's two classes are part of his long-range planning that will someday allow him to get further into formal dentistry stuff. (That's fancy academic talk right there, try to stick with me.) 

I have so much stuck in my head that needs to be let out...

...But I also have a Midwifery paperwork deadline that will require miraculous and merciful supernatural strength to meet. So wish me luck, vastly reduced ADD, the discipline of an Olympic athlete, and a very nice Fed-Ex customer-service person on Monday morning. 

Until next time, Kenbe fem. 

~ ~ ~ 

Reposting from facebook - currently in search of:
Waco, TX friends and acquaintances that are not registered or unregistered sex-offenders: We are looking to hire a math teacher/tutor for five age Kindergarten to sixth grade students. (They all use Math-U-See curriculum.) This position could be 3 or 4 days a week depending on the tutor's availability. The pay is lucrative, you'll be famous, powerful, and held in high esteem. Only not all those things. Just the last one. PLEASE, if you know a student at Baylor or a graduate of 8th grade or just someone that LOVES doing Math morning, noon, and night and  LOVES  being asked to explain things dozens and dozens of times, send them our way, stat! 

(This is a one semester job, but the rewards will last a lifetime. Or the memories will. Or something.) 

Photo Credit:
Maslow's Hierarchy of needs photo - posted on Twitter today by @mdcounselling - and Brene Brown

Friday, August 16, 2013

reunion of the wise-ladies (and others)

December 2009

August 2013

We just finished one week of family vacation with Tara's side of the family. Saying goodbye is a regular part of life for us, but this was a difficult goodbye. Years of 'goodbye fatigue' set in a few hours prior to needing to say it.  We had non-stop fun and action. It was an all-out-crazy-awesome vacation provided by Grandma and Grandpa and we'll never forget the fun we had in MO. 
Sons-in-law with their vacation provider 
The "big" girls with the other vacation provider

(Not pictured but on fantabulous vacation too: Chris, Isaac, Noah, Hope, Aidan, Porter)

Monday, August 05, 2013

culture movers, shakers, and shockers

The alternate reality experienced by our kids is quickly exposed by the questions they ask and the observations they make. The truth about kids growing up in between cultures is that they feel at home everywhere and they feel at home nowhere. All at once. That is true for many adults too, I suppose. The kids are tasting both realities and we're trying to time our unpredictable melt-downs just one-family-member-at-a-time. 

"I've only seen caution tape in movies! Never in real life!" 

~           ~            ~

The sound of gagging echoed throughout the recently remodeled ladies room of concourse E. I tried to ignore the fact that the sound was clearly coming from my youngest child.  I continued to take care of my own business from the farthest corner of the same ladies room. As I washed my hands, dried my hands, freshened up my hair, and still no 5 and 6 year old girls appeared before me to wash their hands, I knew I'd made a tactical error. Two girls, one stall, zero parent =  Failed plan. Abort mission. I approached the gagging sounds and the commentary became more clear "sick, sick, you are so siiiiick".  

"What is going on in there girls?"  I asked.  "Phoebe pooped, she cannot know the right wiping way", Lydia said.  "Okay, Please let me in." I begrudgingly replied. Once inside the stall I understood the active gag reflex in an entirely new way. 

A number of days later, after another flight, a pair of Lydia's underwear were handed to Troy to dispose of for similar reasons. It turns out "she cannot know the right wiping way" either. 

~            ~            ~

Tuesday makes two weeks since we flew away from Port au Prince. In the short two week period we have done an insane amount exciting things.  Taking kids (and the parents of said kids) that don't do more than one exciting thing per month and putting them into non-stop excitement mode, has proven to be a little bit much at times. 

We already had the thought that we don't get the the kids out and into stores and large public gathering-places often enough in Port au Prince; these two weeks have proven that thought soooo.very.true.

So far we have:

  • flown in airplanes (visited many airport restrooms, leaving our mark in some)
  • gone out to eat at restaurants
  • been at a huge birthday party
  • spoken at our church and reunited with friends there
  • gone to a baseball game
  • gone boating and skiing and tubing
  • saw ALL 6 of our cousins and all 4 of the grandparents
  • gone fishing
  • gone to a musical (Isaac even got a part in it!)
  • gone to a park
  • gone to a huge store
Those are all things the majority of us haven't done in two and a half years - (or ever). 

Lydia's first fish
cousins and boats 
headed to our first musical

Isaac in Joseph 

reunions ... 

Isaac guessed that there were one million people at the Twins game.  Lydia guessed maybe more like 100 people. Those estimating skills extend into every area. Let us just say, if you want to rip someone off, come find us. We don't know what things cost. The kids need to learn about stores and be exposed to the insanity of marketing and advertising here (if they ever expect to function here) and we want them to learn about making buying choices  - but when the parents are unable to stand in front of all the choices and make a quick or good choice, it gets hairy figuring out who is supposed to teach the kids these things. Ack!  

The issues are compounded for me (Tara) because I don't shop in Port au Prince either. I stay near home and the Maternity Center and often go two or three months without entering a single grocery store. Let it be said, those skills that you use when you choose your groceries - those are learned skills. Use them or lose them, people! If you stop making choices you will also forget HOW to make them and you will seem like a moronic or drunk adult to anyone spying on you while you wander around the grocery store.   

Choice is the American way. Bless it all. To me though, it overwhelms. "Choose for me" are the three most uttered words these days. Hamburger, Cheeseburger, BaconCheeseburger, BlueBurger, Pretzel bun burger, double burger, triple burger ... Fries, steak-fries, spicy fries, cheese fries, hash browns, baked potato, mashed, smashed, organic ... And on and on it goes. For the love. I just wanted a little lunch; instead I'm in fetal position on this dirty restaurant floor. 

Like I said, choose for me.

Thankfully, Troy is able to teach the kids at least one very important lesson at the end of a grocery store trip, as evidenced by this tweet: 
  • "Dear stores here that tell me how much money I just 'saved' when I actually just spent - I'm not falling for it."
~             ~             ~

Monday was the day Troy and Paige had to register for their classes. That left the kids and I staring at each other. After our reading time we went to the park. We don't have our vehicle sitch figured out and there are not enough seat belts to legally drive the car that we had to the park. Try explaining that to Lydia.  "Sorry, Lydia, but sometimes we put 13 people in a car made for 7 and laugh at how awesome we are to make that work, and other times we cannot put 6 people in the same size car because every person must have a seat belt across their lap."  

(insert shocked face) Lydia doesn't roll with that very well. 

The laws are so strict and change often enough that we had to buy Troy a car-seat to drive. He's under weight for Texas. I kid, but it is almost that bad.

When we got to the park the kids ran with joy toward the playground. They asked me three times "Do we have to pay at this park?" Again I say- crooks and scammers, find.us. - your jackpot awaits!

Isaac, and most Third-Culture-Kids, can make friends fast.  Isaac pushed a kid his age on the swing and chatted him up a lot. No surprises there. When it came time to leave Isaac said, "Bye, it sure was nice meeting you and getting to know you!" The kid walked away and as he did he said over his shoulder, "I don't know y'all!" Isaac looked at me, shrugged, and said, "Weird, that kid has short term memory problems!"  Noah later speculated that the boy was possibly drunk to not have known that they were getting to be friends as they played together. "He had small red circles under his eyes, Mom. Isn't that a sign of drunkness?"

We are now in Texas. We are trying to be grown-ups operating in the first world. That means finding and hopefully buying an old car for Paige, insuring it, using our seat belts, paying medical bills that have been sitting here waiting on us to open them, organizing schedules for classes, getting Internet access at our temporary house, etc etc.  It is hard to recall the days when we were good at being responsible citizens of this culture. Thankfully there are mice in our house - so we have one thing we can deal with that is totally familiar to us. 


On Thursday I'll head north to take one of the required classes for my midwifery certification. It is called "Cultural Competency".  
Somebody needs to be competent - and it may as well be me. 

Until next time ...
One last thing, re-posting this from earlier:
Dear Central Texans, 
If your church is open to hearing about Heartline Ministries in Haiti and exploring the option of supporting the work we do in Haiti, please contact us via email at livesayfamily @ gmail.com - we have the option of a fas-a-fas meeting for the next few months. Thanks for any connections you might help us make. No pressure if you and your people are not interested, we don't want to force anything ... just throwing it out there while we are on Texas soil.