Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nia, the racist

Yesterday afternoon the kids were just sitting around trying to amuse themselves because by the time Josiah woke up from his nap and we all got our swimsuits on, it had started to rain and thunder.

Nia had figured out how to make a squeaking noise by rubbing her foot against the wall. Nico was very interested in trying, but he wasn't able to reproduce the sound. After much coaching from Nia, she finally threw her hands up in defeat and said, "Well Nico, you can't do it. I guess you're feet are just too black for it to work."

?!?!?!?

(And for the record, yes I DID correct her faulty reasoning.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dr. Phil nearly makes me piddle in my pants and "the google game"

In my effort to "be green" I decided to re-use yet ANOTHER blog post that didn't belong to me. Hey, I need to do something to recycle since our valet trash service (yes, folks, we have valet trash-- I LOVE apartment living!) does not include valet recycling.

These two are both from my MUCH older sister (Gretchen's) blog.

First-- this one about made me wet my pants. And it actually shamed me at the same time, because it's pretty much dead on about me... I will eat pretty much anything coated in sugar. Or deep fried. Coated in sugar AND deep fried is even beter. Like funnel cakes. Man, I love those little guys! ;) DISCLAIMER: I wouldn't recommend that you (as I did) go check out the website this is from... There were a few other funny ones, but once I hit the 2nd or 3rd REALLY inappropriate one, I decided it wasn't a nice place to be. (Geez Gretchen, you're such a sinner!) :)
Second, Gretchen talked about the "google game" which she ripped off of someone else's blog. (DOUBLE recycling... Eat your heart out Al Gore!) The game is easy. You google your first name followed by these phrases. (Individually, not all at once.) Then pick something from the first page of results. In my case I tried to pick the top result unless it didn't make sense or wasn't appropriate.

needs...
looks like....
does....
hates....
goes or has gone...
loves...
eats...
has.....
died....
will.....

Here's what you need to know about me based on my results... (words in parenthesis are mine)

Gwenn needs to learn how to play with pace. (SO true!)
Gwenn looks like she is about to pop. (Again, SO true-- hoping Weight Watchers helps with this problem.)
Gwenn does not currently rank in the top 1000 names. (The top 1000 names are for losers anyway.)
Gwenn hates on Harajuku's Lovers. (I have no idea what this means, but it could be true.)
Gwenn goes back to punk roots. (I won't mention some other places that google thinks I have apparently also gone...)
Gwenn loves the black MacBook. (I am actually kind of a PC girl, but that's the "thrifty shopper" in me. I have a really great new laptop that I just bought for $399.00 brand new. I love it... ESPECIALLY because it was $399.00)
Gwenn eats poo. (Top result. I swear it said that-- google it if you don't believe me)
Gwenn has been dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents of our young community. (What?! Am I finally getting an accolade for my profession as a Mom???)
Gwenn died from pneumonia after suffering a stroke. (That's not the way I want to go.)
Gwenn will enhance your website. (Hmmm. That's all I have to say. )

There you have it.
So-- what do your results look like?

"I love those little guys"

Conversation between Nia and I yesterday:

*********************************
Me:
Nia, I am going to the grocery store later. Is there anything special you would like me to get?

Nia:
Cookies.

Me:
Yes, well, I know you like cookies, but how about something else? Like something not sweet.

Nia:
Um, chips.

Me: (getting exasperated)
No, Nia, I mean something healthy. Is there something healthy that you would like me to get for you?

Nia: (pauses to think about it then bursts out in exclamation)
Oh! Oh! Lima Beans. Please, please can I have lima beans?

Me:
Of course. (But what I am thinking is, "Of course you WEIRDO!")

Nia: (feeling very pleased)
Yes! I love those little guys.
**************************************

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Josiah, the rascal-- part deux

Yeah, I had to fish a toy out of the toilet this afternoon...

HOW LONG does this stage last???

Josiah, the rascal

Josiah is at a very, um, challenging? stage of life. I realized the other day that though I have two older children, I have never done this stage with a boy before. It's a WHOLE different ball game. Josiah is a very, very physical child. If one of his siblings won't give him a toy he wants, he will attempt (and sometimes accomplish) to use his heft to push said sibling down and take the toy out of their hand. He climbs EVERYTHING. He hits when he's not happy. He throws his food when he's done. It's charming. (Can you sense sarcasm? I hope so.) I am doing my best to be disciplined about regularly correcting his "offenses" against his family members, but it's ridiculous how often I find myself correcting him. Because he is a hitter, I don't want to spank him because I feel like that will reinforce that behavior. And one of his favorite things to do is climb up into the time out chair and just hang for a while, so the time out situation doesn't always work. (Mostly because he will just heave himself off the chair onto the floor when he doesn't feel like sitting in it anymore, since he can only climb up, not down.)

Today Nia made a simple sundial in homeschool, so we are going outside to check it at regular intervals. We literally are outside for ONE minute. All we do is walk out out of our apartment, onto our sidewalk, mark the shadow and note the time. Like I said, literally ONE minute. Before we walked out, I closed the gate so Josiah wouldn't fall down the stairs and told Nico we'd be back in one minute. (And Nia told him, "Nico, while we're gone, you're in charge.")

When I came back into the house ONE MINUTE LATER, this is what little Jman was up to--I am SO in for it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Strollerderby

One of the many reasons I totally love my husband, Nick Mangine, is that he is quite possibly, the funnest person in the whole entire world. (And yes, I know 'funnest' is not a word-- but he's so stinkin' fun I am thinking of writing to Webster's to see if it can be made a word with 'Nick Mangine' as the definition-- hey, if 'bootylicious' is now a word, surely this shouldn't be too much of a challenge.)

So tonight we went out for a walk to get some exercise since we used the free 2 hours of childcare at the gym today to sit in the Lifetime Fitness cafe and work on our Haitian Children's Home support website. (We've been doing that often lately-- I am pretty sure that's not against the rules because we are actually IN the facility, but I still feel guilty enough about it that I wear gym clothes and when they ask where I am going to be I say, "Either up in cardio or in the cafe." It's TECHNICALLY true, but I am pretty sure I am not hitting the spirit of the law on that one.) So I did want to get some exercise in since this week has been crazy and really not conducive to a normal exercise routine. (BTW-- was down another 2.2lbs this past week...)

So we decided to take a vigorous walk pushing all three kids. Nick had Nia and Josiah in the Sit n' Stand, and I had Nico in the Jeep Liberty Urban Terrain Jogging Stroller. (Yes, I agree, that is a ridiculous name for a stroller, which is exactly why I like to use it in its entirety whenever possible.)

On the way back to the ole' apartment we got into a friendly little race. Now I will say that I may have had an advantage in terms of the weight I was pushing and the "stroller advantage" (since we were, in fact, on an urban terrain). HOWEVER, Nick probably STILL had the "weight advantage" even if you added up all the extra kid weight/stroller weight he was pushing. (I could to the math to let you know for sure, but it's just too dang depressing...)

So because of the advantage he had, I knew I would have to play a little dirty to win. Thus, strollerderby was born. It's pretty much what it sounds like. The kids LOVED it, and I have to admit, it was good exercise. I just hope all of our kids are past the risk for shaken baby.

We're totally about to hit you all up.

We're getting very close to having our support materials complete. It's a stinkin' lot of work.

Looking at the big picture is a bit daunting, I will admit--

but I trust the God who owns it all...

I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL OUR NEW WEBSITE IS LIVE!!! soon, soon...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Repost from another blog

Okay, so I read this blog every day. It's a family that lives in Haiti and I love their perspective and astute observations on life in Haiti-- very real.

A few days ago they linked to THIS POST on someone else's blog. That's what I actually want you to read. Some pretty hard concepts to get your mind around...

What do you think?

Open invitation-- Maggiano's TONIGHT

Hey folks--

Anyone interested in hitting Maggiano's at Southpoint tonight?

My dear friend Pam has some tests tomorrow to confirm her very well-founded suspicions that she has a wheat allergy or perhaps celiac disease. She's been given the instructions to eat a lot of wheat prior to the tests and so we're hitting Maggiano's tonight to get some great pasta and bread so she can fully follow the dr.'s orders. Probably 6:30PMish...

You are all invited.

Email me: nickandgwenn@gmail.com if you are interested.

Topless photos... lol :)

So yesterday Nick took the plunge and got a tattoo. He'd been talking about wanting one for a while and for Valentine's Day I got him a gift certificate to a tattoo parlor. We had a sitter planned for several hours yesterday and so we made it happen.

So-- here it is.

In English it would say John 14:18 (I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.)
In Kreyol-- Jan 14:18 (Mwen p'ap kite nou pou kont nou: M'ap tounen vin jwenn nou ankò.) (By the way-- www.biblegateway.com has Haitian Creole as one it it's versions online in case you're interested in having Kreyol verses.) And just in case you're not up on your map skills, that's an outline of Haiti...

So what's the story? It's no secret that we've been drawn to Haiti for a long time. This verse had a big impact on us as we started our adoption. Before Jesus left the earth, he promised that he'd not leave us as orphans. I like the way the NIRV says it, "I will not leave you like children who don't have parents..." He promised the very Spirit of God would come. (And it did.) As we thought about that and all of the spiritual allegories for adoption in the Bible, this verse became real to us. For many reasons, Nico's birth family got to a place where they could no longer care for him. As we strove to model Jesus in our lives, God called us personally to not leave Nico as an orphan. And just like God gave us His Spirit forever, we now are overjoyed to accept Nico as ours forever. Adoption is forever.

It's also not a secret that our adoption of Nico lead us to this amazing place we are in our lives, where God is calling us to be "family" to many more. And the verse has come to take on new significance in our lives...

But no matter how many Haitian kids join our family-- this verse first spoke to us in reference to Nico, our favorite Haitian kid of all time. The child who, just by being who he is, has shown us the love and understanding of our Savior in a whole new way. I LOVE him like crazycakes.

I guess what I am saying is that I never want to make it seem that God gave us Nico as a means to an end. I believe that God gave us Nico because he knew Nico would need a forever family, and because he knew that we would need Nico in our family. I don't feel like God gave us Nico because God wanted to give us a job in Haiti. God gave us Nico because God gave us Nico. Anything else is just the frosting.

While I am on the subject-- and since I love to show off my kids-- Here's Nico with his new djembe... his first Gotcha Day present.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A redemption story in pictures-- part four, Lovelie

This is Lovelie shortly after Danny and Leann arrived and took over what is now the Haitian Children's Home. She was super-thin and had to keep her hair cut really short because of a head fungus that they couldn't get rid of...
Here she is now:

Just HAVE to say--

Hokie jumpins I am tired.

I love my husband.

I can't remember a time when I was so happy to see him as I was last night. He's a spectacular human being.

He handled a really busy week at work, three needy kids (two of whom got sick) and a major redecorating project here at the old apartment while I was gone. Additionally, the house was clean (and vacuumed!).

Seriously folks --this man rocks my world. :)

Twofer Tuesday-- Visiting Haiti

Top Five Favorite Things About Visiting Haiti

5. The excitement in my chest as I walk of the plane in PAP.

4. The greeting by the kids when we walk into the home—cheek kisses all around. (Followed by one of the most disappointing feelings when the kids realize they are happy to see me mostly because they think I brought my kids. )

3. Goat. (Eating them, not petting them—which, by the way, if you do, I suggest NOT mentioning that on your Customs form when you come back into the US.)

2. Walking around on OUR NEW HCH LAND! Location, Location, LOCATION. (It’s crazy because it is always hot, and it’s a rocky hike around—you get stuck with stickers and you sometimes fall on these really sharp rocks—but I could do it all day long… what’s up with that???)

1. Being a part of something way more gigantic than myself–it’s positively energizing to see life change with such clarity.

Top Five LEAST Favorite Things About Visiting Haiti

5. Beef. It just tastes funny in Haiti. I have tried to eat it several times and I just can’t get it to go down my throat.

4. Itchy ankles. For whatever reason, I ALWAYS seem to get mosquito bites on my ankles.

3. Chub rub. Enough said.

2. Those crazy really fast ants that bite—what the heck is the deal with them? It’s like they are on speed or something.

1. Being a part of something way more gigantic than myself—sometimes all the needs we cannot meet hurts deep in my soul.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gotcha day.


One year ago today was Nico's Gotcha Day.

Wow. It's been a year already? Wow. It's only been a year?

How full my life is with Nico as my son.

Here's a link to some pics of the first day--
http://picasaweb.google.com/ng.mangine/NicoIsHOME

A redemption story in pictures-- part two, Elinda's garden

The first time we visited the HCH it was located on a busy city street with no yard. Literally the ONLY room there was for the kids to play was inside the orphanage. Elinda loved plants and as soon as she got to know us, she wanted to show us her garden on the roof.

I wonder what she will want to plant here:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A redemption story in pictures-- part one, the neighborhood

I've been awake for a few hours now as this story has been brewing in me and I wanted to share.

During the past two years, I have seen a process of redemption happen in Jacmel, Haiti with my very own eyes, and I want you to see some of it too. I want to spend the next few days sharing what I have seen. I know that my words can't fully explain the depth of the story, but my hope is that by adding some images I can give you a glimpse of this amazing process to which I have been a witness.

So here goes, but first the back story--

Two years ago, a few months after Danny and Leann Pye took over the Haitian Children's Home, Nick and I came for a visit. At that time the home was an orphanage. They had just taken it over from a gentleman who cared for these childrens' needs, but it was an orphanage.

I am not going to include many names in these posts because I don't want to exploit the stories of the children I love so much, but I want to show you in pictures and with my words the change that has happened as this institution became a home, and these unrelated people became a family.

It's happened over years, so it's not always staring at me in the face overtly, but it is very easy to see when you look at the photos in order.

Here is part one of the story: the neighborhood.

Two years ago-- where we rented an orphanage:

Today-- where we rent a house:

Where we break ground in one month- where we will build our own home:

I can hardly keep my composure right now as I think of the goodness of God.

Tune in tomorrow for more.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Appointment Update

Josiah's appointment went great-- really, really great.

His echo showed absolutely perfect heart function-- his ASD (hole between the chambers of his heart) has closed up on its own. His pulse oximeter reading was 99%. His EKG showed perfect heart rhythms.

Seriously couldn't be better. He again called Josiah the "best case scenario" and believes FIRMLY that he will never have any residual problems. God is gracious.

As we were wrapping up the appointment the doctor said, "Man, looking at him now, you'd never guess he was born with a fatal form of heart disease." That hit home to me in the hours since the appointment. My son was born with a fatal condition and is now completely healed.

I serve a God of miracles.

Cardiology today

Hey--

If you can spare a few seconds, can you please pray for Josiah's cardiologist appt. this afternoon... It's just a regular check-up, but I always get a little nervous before these things. And with the way our luck (and all our friend's luck!) has gone lately... well... I just feel a little anxious. I'll let you know how it goes....

Thanks,
Gwenn

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Week one down--

only a jillion more to go.

I started Weight Watchers (online) last week. It honestly hasn't been that fun, but I am getting into a groove with it now. Was down 4.2 the first week. Seems like a lot, but when you have as far to go as I do, then really, it's just a drop in the bucket.

I am a believer that everything is spiritual. This is a spiritual issue for me as much as a physical one, so I am glad to put a little more attention to that. But it's not easy-- especially with three kids underfoot constantly. Last time I was really able to devote a lot of time and energy to focusing on this. Hitting the gym 5 days a week... loads more time to plan, shop for and cook meals. Now, not so much-- especially since homeschool has hit. (Which incidentally, I love.)

But I really need to drop some of this weight before Haiti-- I just enjoy life more when I weigh less. Nia and are in "training" together. I think we're going to do a 1 mile "fun run" at some point. Last week we did 2 miles, but we walked about half. It is SO sad to say that we're pretty evenly matched as running partners. (And KNOW I use the term 'run' VERY loosely.)

Wish me luck!

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Jabez story

Weeks ago I promised I would share the story of how Jabez has impacted my life and the life of my family. It is just now that I am sitting down in front of the computer with enough distraction-free time to let myself remember and process the tremendous impact this tiny boy had on me.

Jabez was the first Haitian I met on my first trip to Haiti. He was just under 10 weeks old and he was itty itty bitty. We walked out of the Port Au Prince airport and Leann was driving a small pickup truck owned by Audio Adrenaline’s orphanage, “Hands and Feet.” Ken (Danny’s dad) was in the front passenger seat and he had tiny Jabez in his arms. Jabez had a head full of black curly hair and a funny pushed back hairline from where he was stuck in the birth canal for so long. The whites of his eyes were a little yellowish, and his eyes wandered back and forth randomly. He had a big inflamed blister on his shoulder from a recent vaccination. It was clear he was not a healthy baby. I held him some on that ride up the mountain to Seguin. It felt very right.

At this point I should probably back up. Before leaving for Haiti, one day Nick and I were praying together about my upcoming trip. I remember Nick was praying and I just had this overwhelming feeling that God was talking to me. I didn’t hear an audible voice or anything like that but it got so strong I finally ended up interrupting Nick in the middle of his prayer and said, “Nick, this is weird. This is totally weird. But I have this really, really strong feeling that we’re going to adopt a Haitian baby.” Nick is a pretty laid back kind of guy, so this didn’t phase him much, in fact, without missing a beat he said, “You know, if you could just pick one up while you are there it would probably save us a lot of hassle.” (Ha! We didn’t know the HALF of it then.) I sort of toyed with this idea in the weeks that were to come, but I just wasn’t sure it was something we were up for. We’d always talked about adoption, even before we were married. But still I wasn’t sure. I struggled with the question, “Would I really love an adopted child the SAME way?” I just didn’t know.

I can’t pinpoint one specific incident or time when that switch happened in my life—when it went from “I don’t know” to “now I know” but it happened sometime that week in Haiti with Jabez. I am completely honest when I tell you that I LOVED that baby. I loved him. And as I held him, I wanted to hold him more. I wished he was mine. And it’s totally weird that I felt this way because he was just this tiny, sick infant. He didn’t appear to have much to “give” but I LOVED him. I held him all during the church service the next day. He slept in my arms and I rubbed my lips over his soft hair over and over and over.

And then towards the end of the week, there came some news that really upset me. We learned that Jabez’s grandmother was coming the next day to claim him. His mother had died shortly after his birth, and he was abandoned by his birthfather, and so Danny and Leann and Teresa (the dr. at the clinic where Jabez was born) rotated caring for him. But by this time, after 10 weeks, Danny and Leann, especially Leann, had developed quite an attachment to him. I remember Danny announcing the news during devotions and us all praying about it as a group. This pulled my heartstrings and as I prayed for Leann, I just sobbed. Afterwards Leann asked me to come up and help pack up Jabez’ stuff. She had a bunch of clothes and bottles and formula and diapers and she wanted it all packed up for Jabez’ grandmother so he’d have the best chance to receive good care once he left. I remember her saying, “I really hope she doesn’t sell this stuff. I hope she uses it for Jabez.” (Back then that thought would have never crossed my mind.) Packing him up was hard for me. I can’t even IMAGINE what Leann was feeling.

Well the next day, when the family came and realized the extent of Jabez’ physical challenges, they left without him. Danny and Leann had promised the family that they would find a place where he would be cared for. And they did. Although I don’t think they knew at that point that this place would be with them.

I left Haiti with the new realization that I indeed COULD love a child not biologically my own as if he were. Not only that, I longed to. Thus began our adoption. The official process started just months later. It would lead us back to Haiti, and once again, through a crazy set of circumstances, back to Jabez. This was Nick’s first time in Haiti— we connected with Haiti as we sought to know and understand our son (who we had not yet met) better. I once again held Jabez. He was bigger, but still very much a baby. Nick held Jabez and fell for him too. We loved on him, and in his way, he loved on us. And, once again with the Pye’s now parents at the HCH, I saw the definition of “family” change before my eyes. I saw these new kids—former orphans—who were now members of a family… 19 of them. This trip will probably always remain the sweetest spot in our marriage—a time of extreme hope following deep heartache—the heartache of the baby we lost in a miscarriage and the heartache of the baby less than an hour away that we were not permitted to see. Though the full extent of God’s plan for our family wasn’t revealed at this point—we could see that it would lead us to Haiti. We could see that the way we might be “of use” for God’s kingdom. It was beautiful.

I would hold Jabez only once more while he was living here on earth. This time it was with my entire family. Nia held him and kissed him and talked baby talk to him. Nico and Jabez bonded and commiserated as the only black kids in a white family. (Just kidding.) And Josiah and Jabez just chilled on the couch. He had grown and changed so much. He had these giant belly laughs. He asserted his will. He loved to play and snuggle and be held. He loved people. And people loved him—there was just something different about him. And it was contagious. And we loved it. And we wanted more. And we knew the next step. I remember emailing our pastor, Jonathan during that trip and saying, “We are totally moving here.” And since then, it’s been our reality.



After Jabez died and we returned to Haiti for his funeral, I asked for and was given the honor of casting Jabez’ feet in plaster for his parents. As I held his beautiful body in my hands, I thought of the full life this little amazing boy had lived. I felt sadness, but also extreme love and gratitude. This boy changed my life. He is the reason we have Nico. He was the catalyst for our future in Haiti. I will always remain grateful for that chance to hold him one more time. The footprints turned out well, and since that experience, I’ve thought about this verse.

Isaiah 57:2

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israel reigns!

I think about the all the messages I learned from Jabez on that mountain in Seguin. I think about how he taught me the “good news” and what it means to be a family. He was a little boy who had experienced the salvation of God in a very tangible way. The very fact that he survived birth spoke to a merciful God. And he was given a light that no one could deny. It was a light that people loved. It was a light that people were drawn to. It was a light of a Redeemer.

How beautiful indeed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nia's Fairy Princess Bride Queen Party

So 'slack mom' (me) finally gets around to having Nia's birthday party today. It was her first ever birthday party, where she invited friends over, etc. She wanted to have a "Fairy Princess Bride Queen" Party, which (she taught me) simply means that everyone dresses up like a fairy, a princess, a bride, or a queen.

Originally we weren't even going to let our boys be here, (Nick would take them out for a little boy time) but then on a walk the other day Nia says, "Mom, I have the greatest surprise for my dad and my brothers. I am going to let them be at my party and be our servants."

So they stayed, and they were the servants... although Nico got to participate in the festivities here and there too... don't call the law on me, we don't have a "forced labor" situation going on here. (Well, not anymore than usual.)

Here's a few pics from the big event... I didn't get permission to post pics of other kids, so these are all of my kids... that and I am "that mom."

Nia's apparently VERY excited about hot potato. (Yeah, we busted it old school at this party-- no store-bought games or activities... you'd actually have to THINK AHEAD to do that.)

The inhalation.

The blowout.

The satisfied grin. :)

The frosting coma.

And in case you were not sure-- yes, those ARE Smarties on the top of Nia's pink strawberry frosted cake. Hey, what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets. (Unless it's too expensive and then I just make up some excuse why a cheaper option is "actually" better.)

And don't forget the servants!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nia's new "rockstar" haircut

She calls it that, not me. And she insisted on the glasses before I snapped her pic... For someone who's not even allowed to watch Hannah Montanna, she sure seems pretty worldly... :) (just kidding)


This is (and I quote) her "rockstar pose."

And of course, my best pose with my new hair. (although this is LITERALLY right out of bed...) I just didn't want to be showed up by my 5 year old.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

God's fingerprints all over this

Today as I was reaching in the box to get my Bible, I saw some of Nick's old prayer journals. Now, let me say this-- we have an agreement that after a year or two had passed since the journal was finished, we'd let the other one read it. So these were journals I'd read before, but I remembered that there was something particularly meaningful he'd written on the day Nico was born, so I wanted to read it again.

Something to note--
We did not know we were adopting at this point. This was months before I had this little whisper from God about Haiti-- I knew nothing about it. All of this was just at a regular old ho hum place in our lives and really believing there was something more for us.

Here is the entire journal entry from that day:

*************
11/18/04
I ask you today for a vision of the future. I don't care how you give me this vision, but I need it. I don't have enough faith to operate in the "wait and see" mode. I want to know where I am going. I want to be working on getting there. I want to be a different person in 5 years and I want to be in a different place. While I know I won't get there for 5 years, I want to see it now once. I know that once I see, I'll be hooked.
*************

I don't have time now to weave this whole story together, but it's pretty amazing. Once we knew we were getting a Haitian child, we began praying that God would forge a lasting relationship between us and this country.

How COOL is it, that before we even knew this was his plan for our lives, he put these words in Nick's heart-- the very day Nico was born...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One a lighter note... (weak stomach warning)

Josiah seems to have a little cold...Hey, I WARNED you!

One clarification because I just thought of it...

I just was thinking through what I just wrote and wanted to clarify that I don't think orphanages are inherently bad. There is absolutely something to be said for trying to provide the basics in care (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) for as many as possible. However, I don't think-- (nor would I believe most people think) that it provides the best environment for a child to grow up in.

That's it-- I just didn't want to isolate anyone who does feel called to work in that capacity.

Thoughts on what I saw

Last night Nick and I set the alarm (because we go to bed at 9PM) and got up to watch the Nightline special report on slave children in Haiti. If you missed it, check out this website: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5326508&page=1

Honestly, we didn't feel like what we saw was that shocking, because (unfortunately) we see it and hear about it all the time in Haiti. We think it's horrific (of course) but it is SO very common.

I had a few thoughts on it though--

For me, the saddest part of the report was near the end after the girl is rescued, and is so visibly distraught as she is put in an orphanage. I about couldn't take it. And I just kept thinking, "NO! This is NOT how it should be." I don't think orphanages solve the problem.

Now you might be thinking, "Aren't you moving to Haiti to open an orphanage?"

Well I think my answer to that would be no. Hear me out on this one.

We are moving to Haiti to build family. Nick and I feel, (and have felt for a long time) that strong families are the solution to a lot of the problems in the world, and we should be working to make families stronger. Now, in some situations, that JUST isn't possible in your family or origin. But "traditional" family isn't really the only way we can have strong families, now is it?

Before you think I am implying something I am not, hear me out-- My family is not traditional. If it were just Nick and I with Nia and Josiah, we'd probably be considered, "traditional." We have expanded our family in a non-traditional manner. God has grafted Nico into our family. He is my son. I truly, honestly love him in the very same way I love Josiah and Nia. We are every bit as much family as if he'd been born to me. I feel like we have a strong family-- and that didn't happen in the traditional way. So I guess the point I am making is that there are ways other than "traditional" birth to add to a family. Additionally, I believe there are ways other than adoption to add to a family.

Into MY family of origin, three girls were born. Me and two sisters-- Gretchen, my older sister, and Melody, my younger sister. But later sometime, and I don't know if I could pinpoint exactly when it happened, I was given another sister. She wasn't born to my parents, nor did they adopt her. But for whatever reason, God added Jenny to my family as my sister. I don't know how. I don't know why. But I believe He did. I think that He knew we had a strong family, and that she needed a strong family.

I think there's a spiritual precedent for all of this. I am not Jewish. Yet God calls me his child. He grafted me into his family. I was not born of Him, I was born of my earthy parents. There was no legal process we went through-- it just happened (again, not really sure I can pinpoint when.) One day I realized that simply by who He was, He was asking me to be his daughter. And I wanted that. So I became his daughter. And my life changed dramatically--

THAT is the heart of what we want to do in Haiti. Except that there is a CRISIS with children who not only need a heavenly Father, they need an eartly father. And they need an earthly mother. These are kids who have been orphaned because of AIDS. These are kids who have had parents starve to death. These are kids who (for whatever reason) are slaves. These are kids who have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves. I don't believe those kinds of hurts can be adequately processed and healed by putting them in an orphanage, but I do believe we can do that by grafting them in to families.

For whatever reason, Nick and I feel like God is calling us to be those earthly parents for some of these kids. I totally don't feel "worthy" of this calling, but I feel like it is unmistakable.

But it's not just about the lives that we will touch "personally" as they become members of our family. What I love about where we are heading is that the master plan is not just about these family houses. It's about building and supporting a community so they can all strengthen their own families. On our new land we will have an 800 person FREE school (unheard of in Haiti.) We will have a medical clinic offering free or very low cost medical care so families aren't torn apart by the death of a parent/child/sister, etc. (who would have lived if they had just had access to BASIC medical care.) We plan to have a trade school so that adults can learn to work with their hands to support their families. A church/community center, a water treatment facility... It just goes on and on...

Last night when I watched that report, I was sad that this mother's only option was placing her daughter in an orphanage. I dream about a time when someone comes to me in that situation-- unable to care for her daughter because she cannot afford food or school, and we can offer her an option for parenting her child. We can offer her daughter a free education with a hot meal each day. We can offer her vaccinations and medical care. We can offer to teach the mom a trade so she can help support the family. Or if she has a trade, maybe we can offer her a job-- maybe sewing uniforms for the school, or maybe being a nanny at one of our family homes, or maybe a cook or a teacher. We can support her to build her family.

When God wanted to save the world, he used his family-- his very own Son. As I walk with this God day by day, I am inspired to do the same. To use this family God has given me to show His love.

Okay, I feel like I could just keep writing and writing, but I think I am starting to talk (write) in circles, so I will stop now. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Slave Children

Nightline on ABC tonight will show a story about child slavery in Haiti-- a real problem.

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/


Living at the Haitian Children's Home, where Nick and I plan to live, we have former child slaves. Children who are NO LONGER slaves, but children. Children who were slaves and are now members of a family. On my last trip to Haiti, I read this verse and thought immediatly of what we long to do as houseparents...

John 8:35
Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

We have this persistent day dream about redeeming more lives-- one in particular. A little girl named Maudelin. She's the older sister of Vania, a beautiful spirit that we "bought" from a Vodoo priest for $13 US dollars. We know (roughly) where she is living and we cannot wait for the day when we can make the trek up to the village where she was last seen to buy her back.

This stuff is real folks. I encourage you to watch tonight and know...

Nia's "great idea"

So after homeschool this morning as I was doing some housework Nia says to me---

"Mom, I have a GREAT idea. Why don't we pretend that I am the queen, and Nico is the king, and you are the housecleaner lady."

*********************

Yeah Nia, let's PRETEND I am the housecleaner lady... good idea.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Things are looking up.

My hair is fixed(ish).

My house is straightened up(ish).

I am ready for homeschool tomorrow(ish).

I am at a stage in my life where I don't do anything with excellence, but you know what? I am just going to have to be okay with that...

Not to be a whiner BUT...

I am stuck in this rut of everything going wrong lately. It started on our trip to Haiti-- and it just seems to continue. Most of these things are just annoyances (LIKE THE RIDICULOUS HAIR!) but it's starting to get old and I am just so weary of all this junk.

Today so far has not been an exception...

Can you please just pray for God's mercy on our family as we really try to establish some sort of positive rhythm moving forward.

Tomorrow starts homeschool, my diet (for real this time), and a strict bedtime schedule for ALL of us... I am hoping (and praying) that by trying to schedule our lives a little better (and healthier) will lead to more focus and the ability to get things done more efficiently.

Please also pray that my hair can get fixed today... if not, I am getting a super-short cut.

*sigh*

Friday, July 4, 2008

Seriously overwhelmed.

Today I was having a bit of a rough one and realized I needed some time out all by myself. I had all these ideas and things I was going to do-- starting off by getting my hair colored and cut.

Well, that was at 12:30PM. I left the salon 5.5 hours later looking LIKE A CLOWN (yes literally). My hair is horrific. The stylist tried to fix it 4 times... but no luck. I seriously do not know what to do. I am literally considering shaving my head. Literally. Now, you may be saying, "It's not that bad, I'm sure." Well, you're wrong.

The stylist felt awful and told me he couldn't do anymore today because my hair was no longer taking color, so I have to go back in a few days.

Here's the thing-- I really don't think it's this guy's fault. I have been to him before, and he's done a great job. (So because of that, I am not going to mention his name.) And because he knows a lot about me, my plans to move to Haiti, all about my church, etc... I couldn't even tell him off or make a big scene. (Not that that would have helped.)

I may post some pics later, but first I just need to wallow in self-pity for a while. Seriously people. I am NOT a vain person. Not even a little bit, but I am mortified. And my hair feels like straw.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Since it's all about me and all--

Here are a few pics from my most recent trip to Haiti--

Me with Roro on the "no personal space" motorcycle ride.

Doing Slendia's hair-- I only know how to do one black girl hairstyle--
I am sure I will learn more...
And drumroll please...
This is me in my NEW yard! When the corn and the brush is cleared behind me guess what you see??? THE OCEAN! And for the record, since it's all about me, the master bedroom will be on the second floor facing the ocean... hey, I am moving to Haiti-- there needs to be some perks... kwim?

Overheard as the kids play

*********************************
Micah (my almost five-year-old nephew) to Nia:
Nia, I got the beer ready.

Nia:
What for?

Micah:
I got four bottles of beer ready for the party.

Nia:
Four?

Micah:
Yeah, four people are coming. I got four bottles of beer.
*****************************************

I don't know if I am one of the four invited to this party (I am assuming it's Micah, Nia, Nico and me), but today it's looking like I am going to pull the "You're not old enough to drink beer" card and drink all four myself. It's only 8:07AM and it's already one of those days.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Focus

Not as in my husband's Ford car (although since we're on that-- remember how we just spent over $2000 getting a new transmission??? yeah, well, now the ENGINE light is on... seriously?????)

I am speaking of focus, as in being able to do one thing and do it well. I currently have none. I am trying to get my house a little under control, but that's just not working too well because I keep getting distracted from one pile of papers to deal with another, or with one pile of laundry to deal with another, or with one dirty toilet with another... you get it.

So I am taking a little break from that. I am taking a quick blog break and then a bath break. After that I am taking my kids to the Farmer's Market and then the park. And if everyone's holding up okay, perhaps Stone School Supply too since we start school on MONDAY! :) Woo Hoo!

I am homeschooling my kids because of the whole Haiti scenario, and I AM EXCITED. We're using My Father's World curriculum. Nia's kindergarten curriculum arrived in the mail today.
Monday is the day that Wake County year round schools start and so we're starting right along with them. We hope to be done with the school year before the Haiti move in May of next year, so we're starting early and not doing as many track outs. So don't plan on calling me from about 9AM-12PM during the week from now on, cause I won't be available. We're going to get a little more structured with Nico on speech, colors, numbers, letters, etc. too. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I am pumped to be able to build into my children this way.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rub a dub dub...

... four cousins in a tub

Okay-- I am done for now.

HAPPY 5th Birthday Nia!

Brand new Nia!
Mommy meets Nia.

Daddy enjoys his new daughter.

The fam.

Nia is ONE!!!

"Enjoying" the party hat Kris Stoner gave her.

Nia is TWO!

Bathing (at Creation) after her cake.

Nia is THREE!

Her beach birthday.


Nia is FOUR!

Nia, doing what she does best-- being a princess.

At Build-A-Bear.

This morning... more birthday shots to come!

(And just for the record, I looked my best on either her second or third birthday-- the diet starts tomorrow-- HOLY SMOKES.)

The day she was born: