Monday, December 2, 2019

2019: A Year in Review

In my adult life, there are three years that stand out as being particularly challenging:
2011 - The year my father was sentenced to life in prison and his true character became known to all of us - This all started right around our one year wedding anniversary.
2015 - The year my brother, Mike, died completely unexpectedly - We moved to Haiti just six weeks after his death, still heavy in our grief.
2019 - The year I truly learned about finding joy in the valley

As a kid, I loved looking at personalized Christmas cards and letters. The ones I enjoyed looking at the most were the kind with pictures and a summary of the year for that family, whether we lived close by or not. I still love reading the “year in review” updates around Christmas time, and I always enjoy looking back on the highlights and challenges at the close of each year for my own life. So without anymore of an introduction, please take a look at our year in review for 2019…

January: Anderlin celebrated his 7th birthday the same week we celebrated him joining his family to go live in WA. It was a really fun week, complete with our kids seeing a drone for the first time, making balloon animals, visiting Mr. Nick’s farm where our meat comes from, and just hanging out. Anderlin spent 40 months with us in the Hope House.

Anderlin's first day in the Hope House, September 2015

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Anderlin's last day in the Hope House, January 2019

February: Existing political tensions and fuel shortages that began to bubble up in July 2018 came back full swing this month. This limited transportation and access to basic resources, which caused a lot of daily stress in an already stressful environment. Along with other administration at Children of the Promise, I was part of the mandatory evacuation plan for a visiting team and some of our international staff.

Even during the unrest, Roni ran his annual marathon as a way to raise financial support for Children of the Promise. It was not as fun this year because he was forced to stay on the dirt roads for safety and had to do the same loop over and over without cheerleaders along the way, but he still did it with lots of smiles.

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Roni and his Hope House cheerleaders
March: After weeks of resource shortages, we had a break that allowed for close family and friends to come visit.

Bill and Mary Ann are seasoned Haiti travelers and have been a big part of my life since I was born. They are the heaviest influencers on my decision to step out and take my first trip to Haiti in 2008. They have supported us every step of the way in both short term trips and living in Haiti. They were our first visitors when we moved down here. Needless to say, they are pretty awesome cheerleaders and very important to our success in making this dream of living in Haiti a reality.

Jimmy is one of my brothers- a minister and advocate for sexual child abuse victims by profession. Jimmy, his wife and kids, and his church family have also supported us tremendously over the years of our work in Haiti. I went to Haiti on a week long trip with Jimmy in 2013 (that Bill and Mary Ann were a part of as well), but it was really special to have him down here this time, especially since he brought his oldest daughter, Eden, and because he could meet most of the kids we had been fostering for the past few years. Eden adapted immediately and did not complain about anything.

These four “wined and dined” us the entire time they were here. If anyone wants to learn how to boost morale in their overseas missionaries, talk to these four. They pampered us and did not do anything that caused us an ounce of stress. Roni and I got to choose what to do each day. After a really low season, we were able to have our cups filled back up and go show off some of the beauty of Haiti.

Best buddies watching movies before bed

F got to join us at the Citadel and rose his own horse, Toby, to the top

April: I turned 30, and Silas turned 4. We did not have time to celebrate these birthdays in extraordinary ways since we had a lot going on this month, but we did take time out to celebrate at home.

Silas with his presents sent all the way from his parents in France
Theo’s mom, Liz, came to visit while she was still waiting for his adoption paperwork to finalize. She came back as a very familiar face, and all of us were so excited to see her again. Theo didn’t know she was his mom yet to help with his future attachment, but he sure did love hanging out with her. I think everyone’s favorite surprise was her playing the bagpipes. We enjoyed many spontaneous songs at our house and at the pavilion in the front of our campus. 

Liz reading our four youngest a story
Amira (Jouvelande) had her adoption paperwork expedited due to the ongoing and unpredictable political unrest. She was able to go home after living 40 months in the Hope House. Because of the unrest, it was just a few days for her pickup trip, but we made them count. In between just hanging out, Amira’s parents made us a giant breakfast for dinner, and we had a well attended sendoff party for her. Since it hadn’t been too long since the last visit, all the kids were super excited to see familiar faces and make memories.

Amira's first day in the Hope House, December 2015

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Amira's last day in the Hope House, April 2019
May: We celebrated F’s 7th birthday in style. For the first three years in our house, he has chosen a birthday party at our house, complete with tacos and a sombrero. This year, he had the choice of staying two nights at the beach or having a party at our house. Of course, he chose to stay at the beach. After Anderlin going home, he really started to hang out a lot more with Michael, so we took Michael along as well. He was really our friends, Grace and Chris, also came out on the day of his birthday for swimming, dinner, and ice cream. We all had so much fun and have made memories we will never forget.
Hanging out watching a movie in our suite after swimming all day
A perfect day in the sand, complete with fresh limeade and cold Cokes
The birthday boy

Best buddies

We had two very special visitors who arrived at the end of May and spent time hanging out with all of us in the Hope House. We got rained in for a good part of the two weeks, but we did enjoy a full day at the beach and a full day at the pool while it was sunny.

A perfect day at the pool with a very special friend

June: This month was a whirlwind with work and life. Protests and roadblocks were bad again in our area. I was in town one day traveling by moto taxi when gunfire broke out, and it was absolute chaos. It was a good reminder of the ongoing turmoil that has seemed to always be bubbling at the surface this year.
I had some health concerns that ended with me going to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Thankfully it was nothing serious and ended up being something very easy to manage. On the way home, it took about $100 USD in bribes and four Haitian men to get us through the roadblocks and gangs. This is the first I knew a truck could go down a goat path so effortlessly. It is a night I will forever remember.

We rarely go out as a whole house. We got a break in protests, and Michael decided he wanted to have his birthday celebration at the pool this year. When we asked him who he wanted to invite, he named everyone in our house. B stayed behind since he does not enjoy pool days, but we took the rest of the Hope House crew and had a perfect day at the pool.

The birthday boy and one of his many moves

The whole crew

July: Riverwood Church of Christ is a HUGE supporter of ours in every way (financially, spiritually, emotionally). My brother, Tim, is a big reason they have come to visit us in Haiti three years in a row. It’s a week we’ve looked forward to every time- one that always leaves us feeling loved and encouraged. This year was going to be a hard week because Roni and I were struggling and feeling exhausted in every way. It ended up being Michael’s last week with us, and a child’s “last week” is always challenging for our hearts. We decided it was God’s perfect timing and that we could be lifted up and supported that week to have the strength to get through that hard goodbye and that we would make memories with our kids doing fun things like VBS, movie nights, remodeling their bedrooms, going to the beach, etc.

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Riverwood 2019 Haiti Team
The week was perfect until July 9, the day of the accident. That will be another story for another day if you’ve not heard it by now, but it was horrific. My nephew, brother, husband, and many close friends and new friends were in that truck that flipped over. We are still dealing with the trauma in big ways, but this is the first real life miracle I know for sure that I witnessed. Every single person made it out alive.

The tap tap

Roni all cleaned up, the day after the accident

Michael’s family very graciously changed their dates to come pick him up because of the accident. They knew Roni wasn’t physically well due to his concussion and that none of us were emotionally well. It wasn’t the way any of us planned for those few days to look, but we all supported each other and got through it and even had some fun in between all the hard parts. Michael is now living in TX with his brother and parents. He lived with us for almost 48 months, starting before the Hope House was even built.

 Michael's first day in our care, July 2015

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Michael in TX with his family, July 2019
Because of the accident, we pushed our vacation to the States to an earlier date, July 20, three days after Michael left. Roni needed a CT scan, and we both needed to regroup and recharge. My brother, Tim, and his family generously opened their home to us with an indefinite timeline. Friends and family fed us, cried with us, laughed with us, loaned us two cars full of gas, drove several hours to come see us between crazy work schedules, flew down to Nashville to see us, gave us a night away at a resort, offered hours upon hours of counseling, and many, many more things.

August: We knew that by moving our trip timeline up, we could potentially miss Silas’s pickup trip. We never, ever wanted to not be here for one of our kids’ final days in the Hope House, so this was really hard for us to trust that it would all be okay. We did not make it back in time but know that his sendoff went very well and that he had a lot of support to walk him through that in our absence. Silas is now living in France with his mom and dad after living 40 months in the Hope House.

Silas's first week in the Hope House, April 2016

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Silas's last day in the Hope House, August 2019
In the States, we continued to get counseling and find some rest.

September: We had the opportunity to fly up to MN to connect with the stateside staff of Children of the Promise. This is something we hadn’t done since before moving down here in 2015. It was a week of figuring out our roles moving forward now that our job of house parenting looked drastically different (coming back to three kids as opposed to seven or eight). We had plans in place to continue growing in our administrative positions and to slowly phase out of house parenting as our kids continue to go home. It was a great week of reconnecting with staff on their home turf and getting back into “work mode” before coming back to Haiti.

We flew back to Haiti on September 8. My personal luggage was accidentally sent to the Bahamas and never recovered, and I am still battling with American Airlines to get a partial reimbursement for what I lost. It was HARD coming back to the same airport I said goodbye to my brother and our friend as they were medically evacuated to FL after the accident. It was even harder coming back to a house with two less kids (Michael and Silas). Our emotions were all over the place, being rocked by grief and trauma from all directions. The country had become very unstable again, kicking off the violent protests that haven’t eased up much and continue today. We came back to a very different Haiti than it was when we left.

To add to the difficulties in September, we ran into some great challenges within our organization that led to us stepping down from our administrative roles. This has been a dramatic shift in how we spend our time.

October: B turned 6 and Roni turned 34. Unfortunately, we did not have any celebrations as we had planned.

I came back to Haiti very happily pregnant with our first baby. I had two prenatal appointments- one in Nashville and one in Haiti. Everything was on track and going well, and I even got to see the heartbeat flickering on the computer screen at my appointment in Haiti.

On Roni’s birthday, I began bleeding at home, which ended up being a two day process to complete a miscarriage at home at just over 11 weeks pregnant. That weekend, we did not have electricity (we are on a fuel rationing schedule), so there were no comforts such as cold water, a heating pad, running water for a shower, fans, etc. It made me have a great appreciation for Haitian women who are no doubt tougher than I am. I am so grateful for my husband, our friend who runs the maternity center, all the midwives and OBGYNs who helped during the process, and the hospital staff who kindly allowed for the generator to be booted up for the ultrasound to confirm that I did not need to have a procedure done.

November: We continued to be on “house arrest” most days because of the ongoing violence and fuel shortages. Somehow in all of this unrest and chaos, Theo’s adoption paperwork was finalized. We celebrated his last few days here with his mom and grandma. We didn’t get to leave campus this time, but we had a lot of fun hanging out on campus and went through many, many bubbles while playing outside together. Theo is now living in CA after 46 months of being in the Hope House.

Theo's first day in our care, January 2016

Theo's last day in the Hope House, November 2019
After Theo went home, Roni and I were able to go stay in Cap-Haitien to get some space and rest for three nights at our favorite hotel. We were treated like VIPs and really enjoyed getting to see friends. For most of our time there, we didn’t have some things that are maybe considered basic comforts- electricity, wifi, hot water, or TV- but we sure did enjoy our time away and the change of scenery.

December: We continue to be homebound most days. Schools are still not operating for the most part. Hospitals are not operating at full capacity. It is definitely challenging to push forward as we see so many suffering, even those who we love and interact with daily. We are very fortunate to live in an area that is not affected by food or water shortages or violence in any way.

We plan to have our annual Christmas lunch with our nannies, our kids, and our nannies’ kids. We have started decorating for Christmas and even made a paper chain this year to count down the days. We are down to two kids, and they are very excited about all things Christmas. They are also happy to each have their own bedrooms after sharing tight space for so many years.

Christmas Eve lunch - 2018
Our master decorator with his small tree, Christmas 2018 - This Christmas spirit will be hard to beat this year!

In 2019, we have experienced more grief and trauma than I ever knew was possible. I have often heard about finding joy in the valley, but I never grasped that concept until I was forced to live it out this year. We said goodbye to five kids in the Hope House, some of whom have lived with us since they were released from the NICU. This is the finish line that we’ve been working towards for the past four and a half years. We have loved each of these kids as our own, failing miserably every day, but promising to keep trying and to keep loving them the best we could until they left our care. Looking back on each of our kids’ “pickup weeks” and seeing how each of their families has become family to us, we can’t help but to rejoice while we are still in the valley of grief. We are so grateful we get to be a small part of each of their stories, and we’d do this all again a million times over even after knowing how hard it all is at times. Every single one of “our” kids’ families have stayed in touch with us since they’ve gone home, and it makes our hearts swell with pride when we see how brave the kids have been as they adjust to their new normals. We are still in this race trying to get two more of our kids to the finish line with us. Please hold all of us in the Hope House in prayer as we continue to try to find joy in the valley-- in grief, in trauma, in uncertainty and instability, in hard moments waiting for mamas to come back for pickup week, in missing our friends who are like our own children or siblings, and in all the other challenges that our hearts are working through.

Merry Christmas from all of us in the Hope House!


Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.

* Full names are not used for children still in our care in order to protect their identities and to adhere to adoption laws.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Stormy Season

It is no secret that I am absolutely terrible at keeping up with this blog and update emails. Okay, I’m also terrible at keeping up with Facebook messages and emails in general, but I am working on that! I often feel guilty because I really don’t keep our supporters up to date with our lives here as well as I know I could and should. Then I realize so much has happened here that I don’t know where to begin. People ask us what we are up to in Haiti, and our easy answer is to say something along the lines of, “Oh, it’s busy living with seven kids.”

Rather than going back to the last time I updated this blog (over a year ago), I want to focus on the past five months. Roni and I celebrated our three year Haiti anniversary in July, and we celebrated our eight year wedding anniversary in August. We have had some really hard times since we’ve been married and since we’ve moved to Haiti, but these past five months have been exceptionally challenging. I feel like our heads are coming above water a bit, so we are starting to unpack some of it.

In May, we were already tired. I don’t even really remember the events that lead up to that moment, and it is probably just the general tiredness of living in a foreign land with seven kids in our home. But I know we were tired-- really tired. We had a socialization trip planned for one of the boys in our home, which means his family-to-be was coming to visit for the mandatory fifteen days to move forward in the process. This is always a bittersweet moment and highly emotional, and we were concerned that we were going into the two weeks feeling so low and so tired. But we agreed to put aside a full three days after these two weeks would be done for us to take time off and go stay away for two nights just to spend time together, away from our work and away from our kids to rest, rejuvenate, and process. That’s tough to do in a home with seven kids.

Well, the socialization trip started off really great. The parents could not be nicer people, and every single person in our house instantly loved them. But in the middle of the trip, we got news that a friend died in southern Haiti where she had been receiving medical care. She had been sick for a while, but I took it hard. There was no question about it-- I was traveling for her funeral and Roni would continue taking care of things at home. We also got a sudden referral for another one of our boys and found out his family was coming to meet him in two days-- this is something we usually have a few weeks to plan for. (Side note, their trip ended up going very well, and our whole house also loved this family immediately). So we canceled our trip away, tried to keep a positive attitude about everything, and promised to go on that trip at the end of those two weeks now turned into four weeks.

But here we are over five months later, and we still haven’t taken that trip. We are now less than one month from going to the States, so we’ve decided to wait until then and just do things a little differently when we are in America this time by taking some more time to pause. Those two weeks in May catapulted a season of some tough storms for us to ride out. Many were more personal and more difficult than others, but each one has been difficult emotionally. Here is a bullet list of some of those things:

  • Socialization trips for five of our kids: I feel like an explanation is needed because I am not saying that we had a difficult time hosting families or that we feel uneasy about who is adopting our children. That is not it at all; in fact, we are very much at peace seeing that these kids have families and are already so loved by them. These trips made the list because my introverted personality has a REALLY tough time having people in my house in general, so 9-10 weeks of visits packed into a few months was extra tough. It was also difficult emotionally-- there are so many feelings of relief and happiness also mixed with some feelings of grief. These are the uncomfortable things about foster care that no one could have prepared us for. We are very happy for the families who have been chosen for “our” kids, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard for me to process. 
  • One of these five adoptions falling through 
  • Death of a friend in Haiti + funeral 
  • Death of a young cousin (Roni) + funeral 
  • Death of a child on our campus + funeral 
  • Death of a child in COTP’s care in a hospital 
  • Death of a baby before being admitted to COTP to join her twin 
  • Death of a lady in our village 
  • More deaths: I do not like how often death happens here. 
  • Tension in our village including threats painted on the wall about Roni and another COTP employee 
  • More tension in our village that kept me awake all night a couple nights 
  • Our boss of three years moving on from COTP (very much planned, but we still had a hard time because we worked closely with him for so long and worked well with him) 
  • A new job promotion for me (again, a positive, but still stressful) 
  • Flash flooding/mudslide that destroyed a friend’s house within an hour 
  • A 5.9 earthquake that shook our entire house and caused a lot of fear in us and the kids 
  • A 5.2 earthquake the next day that also shook our entire house and strengthened that fear in some of the kids (one of which still cannot pee by himself or have doors open in case the “ghost” comes and shakes the house) 
  • Political riots: shortage of some resources, roads blocked, not safe to travel, etc. 
  • More political riots 
  • Ongoing health issues that are not yet resolved 
  • Lots of emotions from our oldest kids who don’t understand why one doesn’t have a family yet and why one is still waiting for his family to be able to come pick him up 
  • Having a collision with another moto that injured my foot just enough to be more anxious when I go out in heavy traffic 
  • Watching one of our young nannies become a grandmother 
  • Watching this same nanny become a grandmother again and seeing the worry on her face about how she is going to feed two extra mouths 
  • Watching a nanny who we love struggle in an abusive relationship but not knowing how to help 
  • Having a nanny accused of stealing by another employee - one we have been hurt by in the past for lying to us - but still finding ways to extend grace 
  • Tension in our marriage 
  • Loneliness that feels more isolating than usual, probably due to the fact that busy/difficult seasons make it hard to be social 
I am not saying any of this to complain or to try to make it look like we are better than anyone else or struggling more than anyone else. I am also not trying to make excuses for why communication has been exceptionally poor on this end. Rather I am giving you a short glimpse into the difficult season we have been in and why we have been quiet.

We are not always the best at appropriately expressing our gratitude, especially in difficult seasons. But those of you who have supported us and continue to support us have lifted our spirits immensely during difficult times. We were encouraged by reading a handwritten note by a member of one of our supporting churches the night of the first earthquake when our hearts were still racing with adrenaline. We were very thankful for the money that came to our bank account during a socialization trip so that we were able to make a fun memory and have a pizza party after a long day at the beach with the two families visiting simultaneously. We were relieved when enough money arrived within a few days to get our friend into a new house after hers collapsed. We are thankful for the individuals who consistently send us a handwritten note or a package “just because.” We are very encouraged when a friend or family member reaches out to us just to ask how we are doing, and we are reminded we are really not so isolated. We love when people ask us what we need and then seem to joyful to be able to help-- mattresses, diapers, medication, Christmas gifts, etc. Everyone in the house got excited when someone sent one of our boys his first pair of rain boots so he can help in the garden every day without getting fire ant bites. We are so, so grateful for our quiet cheerleaders who have given financially to support us every month, some of them for more than three years. We love when people sponsor a child in our home and send us a message to ask specifically what that child is up to and how they are doing. We are able to forget about all the heavy stuff when we have visitors who come down to encourage us (and even remodel our entire house!). We feel loved when someone sends us a message to tell us they are praying specifically for us and our house.

To those of you who have done anything to encourage us, especially in this stormy season, THANK YOU. We are so, so grateful for our supporters. I will try to write on this blog more often, but I don’t want to make any empty promises.

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Donate a Day

When people ask Roni and I what we do in Haiti, we usually respond with something general, simply saying that we are foster parents for eight kids.  After this, the conversation typically goes one of two ways.  Some people ask us what else we do (assuming being foster parents for eight kids can't possibly be someone's full time job), and others tell us how amazing we are for taking care of eight kids in a foreign country.  The latter is the one that bothers me most.  First, it bothers me that being a foster parent seems so extraordinary when it really should be a lot more common.  Second, it bothers me that we are getting credit for taking care of the kids when there are so many more adults involved in running our home.  This is what I want to share about today.

Before moving to Haiti, one of my biggest concerns was the anticipated lack of privacy.  There were two child homes running at COTP when we accepted our positions, and both sets of house parents were very honest and transparent about their victories and struggles in their homes up to this point.  I remember cringing at the idea of having 24/7 nannies and having to share things like the kitchen space and cooking tools.  At this point, Roni and I had been married for almost five years, living in an apartment with no one but the two of us.  We knew sharing our time and space with kids would be difficult, but that was what we were signing up for.  We weren't so pumped to share time and space with other adults we had yet to meet.

Fast forward to July 2015, a few weeks after we moved to Haiti.  We moved in our first baby as a six-week-old preemie.  We were taking Kreyòl classes in the mornings and relying on others to babysit Baby M a few hours each day.  It quickly made sense to start our first nanny as his caregiver when we needed some help.  Our first few days were uncomfortable right away.  She was in our very small temporary apartment for eight hour shifts, even when we only needed her for two hours or so each morning.  She would come in and immediately start washing all our dishes, even when we told her not to.  She would make our bed and fold our laundry, which made us even more uncomfortable.  She spoke Kreyòl only, and because she was illiterate, we could barely communicate even with a dictionary because we had to try to sound the word out in Kreyòl and look it up ourselves before attempting to know what she was saying.

Fast forward again to October 2015.  We now lived in the Hope House, had three kids living with us, and had four nannies working for us (two each day).  The kids were difficult to care for, especially the two older ones who were both three-years-old at the time and confused about their new living situation.  But the nannies made our days much more difficult than the kids.  They never seemed to prepare meals on time and always seemed to make way too much.  They always served "salad" (raw onion slices) on our plates and the kids' plates, which none of us enjoyed.  They served the kids unhealthy meals, such as a pasty porridge made of oil, sugar, flour, and water.  They washed all of our shoes without us wanting that done, which caused rashes on Roni's feet (allergy to that detergent) and delayed going out because all our shoes were missing or wet.  They sang too loudly inside of the house.  They weren't gentle with our new Ninja blender.  They put church clothes on our kids for play time, ruining outfits quickly.  They didn't discipline the kids the way we thought they should discipline.  They allowed the kids to pick at their food and refuse to eat any vegetables.  They slept with the lights on at night.  They peed in mop buckets instead of the toilets during the night.  They knocked on our bedroom door constantly, even if we were trying to rest.  They stained clothes and our brand new sheets with bleach.  They changed diapers in the middle of the living room on the bare floor.  They spoon fed the three-year-olds and swore they were too little to chew meat.  They mopped with dirty water every single time a tiny spill occurred.  They were more of a bother than a help, and they were constantly on my nerves.  Roni and I lasted a couple weeks with 24/7 nannies, and we immediately began scheduling them for 8-4 shifts.  This was hard at first because the kids had never slept in rooms without adults, but we quickly got into a good rhythm.

Fast forward one more time to today.  We've had a lot of changes in our staff, but three have been with us since the first few months we were in Haiti.  We currently have two additional nannies working with us, for a total of five.  In a unique way, all of them have become like family to us.  There is NO WAY we could do what we do without these ladies!  Here are some of the examples of how we live and work together:

We plan the grocery list and meals together each week and get excited about new dishes that incorporate things like red palm oil, spinach, bulgur, etc. for the health of everyone in the house.  I now like to share the rare treats we get like bacon and spiral ham so we can all enjoy them together.  In the same way, they get excited to share rare treats that they buy or cook and bring for us to try.

The nannies do not knock on our door often at all, which gives us a chance to rest.  If our bedroom door is closed, the rule is that someone needs to be bleeding, dying, or have a fever of 101.5° or higher.  As a funny example of how strictly they apply this rule, they didn't come knock when one of the international staff members came to say goodbye before catching her flight to the States when she moved back.  They told me the next day, and they said no one was bleeding, dying, or feverish so they didn't knock.  :)

If I'm sick, the nannies are very attentive to my needs.  They will go to the pharmacy before work to buy me meds, even if I don't ask.  They make me soup if I have an upset stomach.  They make me herbal tea from dried herbs bought at the market if I have a fever when it's cold or a sore throat.  They take all the kids out of the house for hours to make sure I can rest in peace and quiet.  They often stay late for no extra pay without having to ask just to get dinner prepared so I don't have to stand up and make a meal when I'm not well.

The nannies are the best nurses for our kids.  When Roni and I have no energy left and need help with a child who has a high fever, our nannies will get right out of bed in the middle of the night.  They work with us to record temperatures and medication on our white board so we are all aware of what is going on.  If a child wakes up with a high fever in the middle of the night and a nanny finds them first, they never hesitate to knock on our door or come in and wake us up from a dead sleep.  They are genuinely concerned and sad when one of our kids is sick.  Our youngest recently had a fever around 104° for a few days and wouldn't eat or talk.  One nanny walked over two miles round trip on her day off (after being up much of the night before with him) to come check on him in person and see for herself if he as improving.  They are extremely attentive and affectionate with our kids, and we have two nannies in particular who we always call in for extra help when a child is sick.  I would have surely gone insane the time we had seven with fevers, vomiting, and diarrhea at the same time if we didn't have the nannies helping out and staying up all night with us.

Our nannies are not afraid to call us out on things but do so in a respectful way.  If they catch me slamming a door, they will calmly ask me why or if I'm mad when they know it is the appropriate time.  If I am too hard on a child because I've lost my patience, they'll tell me to try to find more grace.  If I am telling them things they already know, they will tell me I don't need to waste so much time and that they'll ask questions if they have them.  There is a much better level of comfort for all of us to be a little more honest and direct, which I like.

We are constantly trying to think of how to improve things, and we do it together.  Before, the nannies told me I was hard to work for because I changed things too much (schedules, sleeping arrangements, work assignments, etc.).  But now, they often have suggestions to change things.  They've helped me make a cleaning schedule for the house.  They requested a gate to separate the living area from the kitchen, which has been a wonderful improvement for safety when someone is cooking.  They asked for specific detergent for our boys' school uniforms to keep them nicer for the year.

I think what I love most of all is that our nannies tell us they are proud of their work.  They enjoy when visitors walk through our house and talk about what is good-- cleanliness, the schedule, kids who listen, nannies playing with kids instead of just sitting and watching, etc.  They are proud when we have little victories, like keeping pinkeye out of our house during the recent outbreak.  They have already been "scrubbing in" for work for two years (washing hands and changing clothes before working or holding kids), but they really up their game with hand washing for everyone when we hear of something going around.  They are proud when they think of how much cleaner and healthier the kids are in general at COTP now that we have child homes.  They are so proud when they compare their own work ethic in the old "baby house" at COTP to where it is now.  They are proud to work for an organization that believes in them and values them.

Would you consider partnering with us to ensure our nannies get a paycheck, health savings, and school savings each month?  Please consider donating one day of your wages to give to these ladies who do so much for us and the kids.  You can donate online HERE.

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Loneliness and Being Forever Green

Roni and I are coming up on our two year mark in Haiti.  There are a lot of things we love about what we do here, but for me, the hardest part has been and continues to be loneliness.

We are around people all the time.  We are foster parents for eight kids, and we have two nannies who work for us every day.  We live on a campus with fourteen other international people.  We have friends outside of work from Haiti, America, and Europe who we try to see regularly.  But it is still so lonely and weird living in another culture.

I recently read a blog post that struck a chord with me.  The concept has helped me to figure out some of my loneliness.  You can check it out here:

Here is how I've related it to my life.

I am from the Land of Blue.  I think like other Blues, I talk like other Blues, and I look like other Blues.

Two years ago, I moved to the Land of Yellow to be a foster parent.  I did not think like Yellows, talk like Yellows, or look like Yellows.  At first, I tried very hard to find comfort in this strange Land of Yellow by trying to set up a living situation that mirrored the Land of Blue.  I watched the same TV shows, tried to cook the same meals, and spent time with other Blues.

Eventually I realized I now live in the Land of Yellow and I should try to be more Yellow.  So I started to be friends with Yellows and learning how to live here-- shopping in the market, helping to cook over a fire, using public transportation, etc.  No matter how Yellow I tried to be, people still saw me as a Blue wherever I went.

Since being in the Land of Yellow for almost two years, I have traveled to the Land of Blue twice.  The first time went well for the most part, and I enjoyed connecting with friends and family.  But I was still very much a Blue living in the Land of Yellow, so it makes sense that it was easy to visit.  Fast forward one year to the second visit to the Land of Blue.  It was much more difficult fitting in.  This is when I realized I'm not quite a Blue and I'm not quite a Yellow.  It made me sad, angry, and anxious.  I was having trouble figuring out why I wasn't fitting in in the Land of Blue like I used to.

This is when I realized I am forever different.  I now have an explanation for it.  I am a Green-- a mixture of a Blue and Yellow.  I still look like a Blue, talk like a Blue, and think like a Blue.  But I have had experiences that also make me think like a Yellow.  It is much more difficult to connect with other Blues now that I am a Green.  But I will never be able to be a Yellow either, no matter how hard I try to fit in with Yellows.  I will always be seen as a Blue.  Some of my closest friends in the Land of Yellow happen to be Yellows, and they still see me as a Blue in a lot of situations.  Fortunately, I have also found some great friends here who would identify as Greens.  When I am feeling very lonely and having trouble fitting in, the Greens are the ones who just seem to get it.  The Greens are the ones who know what it means when I say I'm running on fumes.  The Greens are the ones who feel just as lonely as I do.  It's not easy being a Green, and sometimes I need another Green to empathize with this.

Roni and I have another trip coming up next week to the Land of Blue.  I am looking forward to it but am also anxious.  It is very difficult to summarize what we do here in the Land of Yellow when things seem so far removed in the Land of Blue.  I will be seen as a Blue and expected to relate as a Blue, but I am a Green.

In the Land of Yellow, I also have a hard time being a Green.  I try hard to be a Yellow sometimes.  But I will always be a Blue in their eyes.  

I will never be able to become fully Yellow because I did not grow up here.  I will never be able to return to being fully Blue because the experiences I'm having here are forever shaping my heart and my way of thinking.  I am forever a Green.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Year in Review

Alright, I have done an absolutely terrible job at keeping up with this blog.  Embarrassingly, my last post was in November 2015.  But it’s January, and I can make some goals for 2017, right?

So what has happened since the last post?  In short, a lot!  I like “year in review” updates, so here is a simplified and long overdue version.

December 2015

We moved in this little one, our fifth child and our first (and still only) girl.  J loved to “scream cry” and did this for about two weeks straight while she was adjusting to her new home, house parents, friends, nannies, schedule, food, etc.

This little guy’s small operation was scheduled for November but didn’t work out for various reasons.  So he got it done in December.  Unfortunately, we were not able to be here for it, and it was very hard on us.  We made so many phone calls from buses and taxis that day.

This is the reason we missed it.  We got to meet up with my brother, Chris, and sister-in-law, Ashley, for a much needed vacation in Punta Cana.  Here they are on the plane before they arrived to meet us.

We also got to see our pal, Glenn, who we got to know through our church in Nashville.  We ate so much good food in Santiago.

We had our first annual Christmas dinner at our house with all our kids, nannies, and some friends. 

Check out the turkey!

Whew, that month was busy!

January 2016

We were gifted with Christmas money to take all our nannies and kids to the beach.  Our friend, Courtney, joined us.

This little guy celebrated his fourth birthday.

This little guy had a small procedure, which required a night at the hospital we won’t ever forget.  We spent the night in the same room with one of our nannies because of an emergency operation for her youngest child.  We were also there with one of our other nannies, who was there with her baby, who unfortunately ended up passing away at the hospital.

And we were also there with this cute little guy who we met that night because the hospital was overcrowded due to ongoing strikes.

Surprise!  He moved in with us.  This is Baby T, our sixth child.

February 2016

This month was pretty much spent adjusting to life with another preemie in our house and gearing up for our first trip to the States since moving here.  We spent three weeks in the States catching up with friends and family, eating tons of food, and trying to rest.

March 2016

Remember our nanny’s little guy who had an operation in January?  Well, he had to have another one in March.  We went to visit him in the hospital right before surgery, but he was delayed because he needed blood.  In Haiti, you can go buy blood or you can have someone donate.  So I got to donate for the first time in a long time since I am ineligible in the States (traveled too frequently to Haiti).  I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink yet that day since we were in a hurry, so I went to the street, had some street food and a bottle of water, and off we went.

We got to host our first visitors since living here!  It was so nice to see familiar faces in Haiti.  Bill and Mary Ann have been coming to Haiti for years doing short term missions, but they came on this trip just to spend time with us and encourage us.  It was such a nice visit.

April 2016

We moved in our seventh and last child, S.  For the most part, it was a smooth transition since he had already lived at COTP for a couple months before moving into our house.

We celebrated my 27th birthday.  I chose to go to the beach (Why wouldn’t I?).  This was our first overnight trip in Haiti, and it was a wonderful getaway.

May 2016

Okay, we didn’t really celebrate Mother’s Day, but look at this adorable picture on Haitian Mother’s Day!  M and two of his nannies.

We celebrated F’s fourth birthday.  He loooooooooves tacos and sombreros, so we killed two birds with one stone and celebrated Cinco de Mayo the same day.

June 2016

This guy turned one!  He got to celebrate with three of his sponsors with a trip to the beach, presents, and cake.

Roni and I also got a nice Groupon deal for an all inclusive in the Dominican Republic a few hours from the border.  It was such a nice break.  Our house was very well taken care of by our friends, Al and Mindy, and our nannies.

July 2016

We don’t have many pictures from this month, so I think we were kind of in survival mode for a little while.  We did go to our first Haitian funeral.  Not a great reason to be dressed up, but here is a picture anyway.

August 2016

We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.

And I realized I lost over 40 pounds since living in Haiti.

September 2016

A and F started school.  They go to a Christian school that is taught in English.  We are so, so happy for them to have this opportunity.  And look how cute they look!

T got his first haircut.  Here is a picture when it was halfway done.

October 2016

Roni celebrated his 31st birthday, and B celebrated his 3rd birthday.

Here we are preparing for Hurricane Matthew the day before it was due to hit Haiti.  Fortunately and still shockingly, our area was totally spared from damage.  Southern Haiti got a lot of damage.  It was very unnerving watching the news and bracing ourselves for what could have been very bad.  Praise God we were spared!

November 2016

My mom came to visit.  We had all kinds of plans to show her our favorite spots, including a beautiful beach resort, but instead we got to share a hotel room when we all thought for a few scary minutes that we might not survive the flash flooding.  Here is a picture of my mom on a moto during the one sunny day she had here.

Remember how we were spared from the hurricane?  Well, we had over 40” of rain in about a week.  So many of you reading this have helped us help our Haitian friends who lost everything or close to everything.  It was a very difficult month for us because the rains lasted for weeks, and we saw a lot of people we love struggling.

Fortunately, the rains slowed down, and the month ended well when this little guy celebrated his 1st birthday.  We no longer have anyone under the age of one in our house!

December 2016

This pretty girl turned two.

We had our second annual Christmas dinner, this time with some of the nannies’ kids.  It was a great time spent just relaxing and visiting with each other.

On Christmas Day, we had a fun time opening presents and playing with new toys.  THANK YOU to everyone who sent gifts-- sponsors, friends, and churches.

So, what are we up to now, you ask?  We are still super busy with our home but loving it.  We still have all seven kids with us.  Please pray for adoptions to move forward for them and their families.  We are also managing another child home while they are waiting for the next house parent(s) to accept the position and move in.  It is a very busy season, but we are loving our work here.

And what do we have coming up in the near future?  On February 12, Roni will run his second ever marathon, and this time, IN HAITI.  He is trying to raise $26,200, which is approximately what it takes to run our house for a year (groceries, diapers, formula, medical needs, nanny salaries, etc.).  If you are interested in watching a great video and donating to his run, you can click HERE.  I would be so happy to see him reach his goal!

And finally, we will be visiting the States in February/March for three weeks.  So if you live near Nashville or Pittsburgh and want to catch up, let’s talk.  :)

Thanks for hanging in there!  I will try much harder to keep this up to date.