Sunday, November 30, 2008

Playing Mom and Dad to 25 kids is HARD WORK.

That's it.

A quiet house, and I am willing to concede.

Everyone in the house except me is at church. Well, for 10 more minutes anyway. I skipped. My right eye has been really bothering me, and besides, I didn't like feeling like a leper at church on Friday night. All the kids point it out and people stare. It's uncomfortable.

Also, a totally quiet house seemed to tempting an offer to pass up.

I am ready to concede that I might have some sort of "situation" with my right eye other than pink eye. It's actually improving steadily, but it still hurts quite a bit and is still pretty red. I claim this is day 8 since it started last Sunday, but Nick says no, it's only day 7 because we need to count it in 24 hour chunks and only 7 entire 24 hour periods have passed.

The way I see it I have had symptoms:
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (again.) To ME, that's eight days. And since it's my eye, I think I win.

So-- I guess I am going to see if I can get it looked at today or tomorrow. (We leave to go home Tuesday, so if I can't before then, it's not really that big of a deal.) I just am really hoping they let me on the plane.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Photos o' the day.

Diane and Nico picking flowers on our walk today.

Don't let the pink shoes and airbrushed t-shirt fool you, his name is not Tatyana.

Loudridge with anpil timoun. (lots of kids.)

Michline and her brother-- I can't remember his name... but seriously, cute cute kids.

Shelly, Madame Lucianne's eldest, does the washing for her brothers and sister while her mom is working on Saturdays.

The kids watching a movie-- Enchanted.

Vania, Nathaniel and Nia.

Toto and Josiah at the beach.

Nia and Marco.

Pink eye day 7.


Tonight something happened that I don't know if I will ever forget.

I cooked the two turkey carcasses down for soup and had a TON of bones and meat to pick through. Elinda came up and asked to help. And then Toto. And then Loudridge. Soon I just walked away after giving them instructions. They finished their job quickly and had a bowl of meat for the soup and a bowl of bones and grizzle. I told them to go feed the latter bowl to Chilo, the dog. All of a sudden Elinda's face looked kind of funny, and I could tell she wanted it for herself.

So I asked her she could have it if she wanted it. And she looked at me kind of embarrassed and said, "I think I do." She and about 4 other kids proceeded to pick through the bones and gnaw on the bones. These are well-cared-for, nourished children who have been having three meals a day for years and years now. And still-- the last of the last of the meat... the scraps of our scraps, they wanted.

It made me so ashamed of all I take for granted. It made me mad for OVEReating so often. It made me mad for throwing so much food away-- stuff that literally ROTS in my fridge before we can eat it.

This is my 7th? 8th? trip to Haiti in the past 3 years. I have become desensitized to much of the poverty and hunger. Beggars come up to the car as we're driving down the road and I hardly notice anymore. I see the kids right outside our gate with all the telltake signs of malnutrition-- bloated stomachs, orange hair... and it doesn't always sting like it used to. Yet there are still moments like tonight that take my breath away.

I pray they never stop.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Becky auction ends soon!

Bid soon-- ends soon!

Pink Eye Day Six

I am excited at how clear my left eye looks! When I talk to people, I am trying to turn my head to the right so my "good eye" is facing them. :)

A different way.

So I read this headline today:

Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store

Man, THIS WAY is looking better and better.

Advent starts tomorrow.
Last year, Nick and I wrote a family devotional for our church for the advent season.
If you are interested in having it, email me at and I will email it to you.

I LOVE this girl.

One of my favorite things about this adventure we're on as a family is that our children get to experience a whole new way of life. It's amazing to see them reacting and processing and getting comfortable here.

Nia is making me smile pretty much every moment here... She keeps making the funniest observations.
Today when we were at the land and met the two little machete-toting, non-pants-wearing boys, Nia spoke to them briefly in Creole. Afterwords she said, "Mom, I think they probably knew I was a "America girl" and not a Haitian."

And so I said, "Really? How do you think they knew that?"

And she said, "Because I was wearing "America clothes" not Haiti clothes."

And I said, "Really? Is that the only reason you think they thought that you were an "America Girl?""

And she said, "Yeah, I think so."

(as if she didn't realize her skin is so white it practically glows in the dark--)

Want further proof Nia is at home here? Check out this video:

Field Trip

The Mangine Five took a short field trip to the HCH land in Raymond to show our kids where our house/yard will be.

The entrance (actually Nick is pulling OUT here, but it's still the entrance.)

We took everyone for a rocky hike. The kids were amazingly hearty. It's a steep and prickery and not too easy even for adults. But they rocked it out. No complaining.

Here's Nick with Josiah and Nia standing in the backyard of where OUR HOUSE will be. (Excuse the pantless little Haitian boy with a machete in the background. He was just curious about the piti blancs (white kids.)

This is our FRONT yard. (Taken from Nick's perspective in the above pic.)
What kind of house that you know of has a frontyard AND a backyard view???

Walking back down towards the beach.

On the way we convinced machete-boy's friend to take our picture. On the third try we got everyone's heads... This is Danny and Leann's front yard.

And down the slope to the beach in the backyard.

And here's the Mangine Five just chillin' in our backyard. You know, no big deal... :)

Akkk! I cannot wait. I LOVE THIS PLACE!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even I am amazed at myself... :)

Ok-- I wasn't going to post about this tonight because I am so dang tired, but then I remembered there is this pesky issue of the 22 kids that live here who were NOT on their feet cooking the entire day and don't go to bed at 8:00... so neither can I.

So... I might as well just update you all.

So today Sandra and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for at least 56 people. I lost count. And at one point we saw a few people no one knew in the crowd, so I am pretty sure we had some crashers. I have to say-- I am very proud of Sandra and I. Everything was so great. Our three kids did great, and we got to serve not only the kids here at the HCH, but all our staff and their families as well. These are the people who serve us at the HCH everyday. It was an amazing joy to serve them for just one day. Before the Pye's left, they told Madame Emiline (the housekeeper) about the upcoming event and she said, "Oh, so you want me to come cook?" And Leann said no. And Madame Emiline said, "Oh, so you want me to come and clean for you?" And Leann said no-- we just wanted her to come. She was baffled by this.

Madame Lucienne (the washing lady) and her 6 kids came. Madame Jean (the Rue Petion house cleaning lady) and her husband and kids came. Madame Emiline (the housekeeper) and her kids came. The boys who live in the Rue Petion house (from our scholarship program) came as did the lady who cooks for them, Madame Kokot. All our nannies were here... and no one cooked or served except me and Sandra. (And Nick helped serve too-- and watched our rascally children.)

Probably my favorite memory from the day was when Naomi (one of the nannies) came up to us and said, "I heard on Haitian radio that it was an American holiday, so I wanted to say 'Happy Birthday Thanksgiving' to you." (Later on she was singing the Happy Birthday song in English with 'Thanksgiving' as the name... it was really cute.)

By the way--- my three kiddos... they are oh, so amazing. I love them like crazy. They are doing very, very well here. Nia is blooming before my eyes. Nico is totally a Haitian-- I LOVE IT! Josiah is "actionare" (I have no idea how to spell it-- but it's a Creole word meaning something like "daring troublemaker.")

Okay, one more funny story-- the kids here at the HCH call me "Madame Gwenn." This is actually not how a woman is commonly addressed in Haiti. I would typically be referred to as "Madame Mangine" 0r, more likely, Madame Nick. However, since the kids here are more likely to say my name than Nick's, not everyone knows his name. So now, Madame Lucianne refers Nick as Monsier Gwenn. She apparently thinks his name is Gwenn. I don't know how to correct her, because I don't want to embarrass her, but I also don't want to emasculate my husband... so I will probably just wait until one of the kids hears her refer to Nick incorrectly and points and laughs as Haitians are so fond of doing when someone makes a mistake.

Okay, here are some pics--
The kids peeling 3 LARGE pots full of potatoes... long story behind that-- maybe tomorrow.

Me and Sandra, the Thanksgiving '08 Dream Team...
Anpil Manje Blan ("Lots of white people food"-- as the nannies refer to it as.)

Getting the plates all set up...

Nia chowing down

Nico just being his beautiful self... seriously... he's a pretty kid. (With mild pink eye as of this morning.)

Dessert. Mmmmmm....

Haitian Money Explained

I also wrote this yesterday when we didn't have internet.

So, one of the things that we're having our first REAL experience with on this trip is Haitian money. We've mostly just left it to Danny in the past, but this time we changed all our money and have been using it. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, except I find the Haitian money system very confusing and unnecessarily complicated-- like many Haitian things.

So here's the deal.

The exchange between Haitian dollars and US dollars usually varies between 7-8-- currently $8H to $1US. (Finally, a benefit to the weak US dollar!) Now, that wouldn't be too complicated, except that Haitian dollars only exist as a concept not in actual currency. The actual currency is gourdes. There are 5 goudes in every Haitian dollar. So if I am trying to figure out how much something is in US dollars and it is marked in gourdes, I have to first divide by 5 to get Haitian dollars, and then by 8 to get US dollars.

Here's an example:

A box of cereal I bought at the Pharmacy today was $218G.
So in Haitian dollars that was $43.60.
In US dollars, it is $5.45.
(Wow, I just realized I got totally ripped off on that cereal.)

To further confuse things, people generally refer to things in Haitian dollars all the time. So, for example, someone might say, "Here's the $50 I owe you," and then hand you what appears to be $250 bill. But it's NOT $250. It's 250 gourdes.

Clear as mud? It is to me. The double conversion thing totally baffles me. I am going to have to carry a cheat sheet with me for a while I think.

Totally NOT ignoring you

Internet was down for a day and a half and then Thanksgiving happened.

Promise there will be pics galore tomorrow...

It was fantastic, but exhausting.

The pink eye I *think* is improving. Yesterday was the worst. Totally miserable. So bad. I *might* have cried a few times. (Meaning I did.)

I wrote this update yesterday-- but couldn't post it:

I know some of you are SO over me talking about this and showing horrific photos...while others of you are weirdly intrigued by gross things like this and can't get enough, and still others of you are concerned for our well-being and health, and so aren't particularly interested in the details, but want to know we're okay.

So here's the update today...
For me, still no good. Today it was extremely painful. I had to lay down for a few hours this afternoon with ice on my eyes. My vision is intermitedly blurry (which Nick says is just from the goop) and, the alarming thing for me was that the better part of my face (my temples, my cheek bones and down into my jaw) were very, very sore to the touch. So I was a bit concerned. So this morning I got on the phone with Ryan, who is a very good friend of HCH, and an American eye doctor in Haiti. Before I could even tell him all my symptoms, he started talking about severe pink eye and how it can spread into the glands near the eyes and cause swelling and pain all throughout the face and jaw. So that was very assuring. He also said it might last EIGHT, yes 8, days. Well, I have already been through 4-- so I should be on the short rows now, the way I see it. It was assuring to hear this news, as I was starting to become convinced it was headed for my brain next... (I come by my over-melodramatic nature honestly... my mom is not only a drama queen, she is the grand ruling empress of drama.)

Yesterday I mentioned that Madame Emiline (the housekeeper) was avoiding me like the plauge... Today it was hilarious. She changed our sheets, but instead of changing our pillowcases, the just layed clean ones on top of the pillows with the old pillow cases on them. So it looked like there were clean pillowcases on them, but this way she didn't actually have to touch our pillows. (But she had to touch them to change the sheets... so I'm not sure I follow her reasoning...)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spaghetti Night

Tuesday and Thursday nights are spaghetti nights here at the HCH. But not like American spaghetti. Spaghetti with ketchup and onions and hotdogs. It's actually QUITE delicious. We make it at home pretty often. I had also made some banana chocolate chip muffins for the kids for dessert. Cause, you know, why not offer MORE carbs after a dinner of nothing BUT carbs? I am American. It is what I do.

The girl table:

The boy table:

And yes, they always eat segregated. Don't hate. It's cultural.

Today was a good day. (Well, my eyes feel like there is broken glass shards ripping my eyeballs apart, but other than that it was a good day.) I am learning what it will be like as a mother to 25... not easy-- but lots of fun--always moving.

After I did Nia and Nico's school, we just hung out with Sandra while Nixon and Nick went back to discuss the local scholarship program that HCH supports. And I nearly drank the dead roach that was floating in my coffee. I chased Josiah away from certain death several times (trying to get into the bleach, wanting to jump off the cement second story stairs with no rail, hitting the lame dog in his dislocated hip over and over again...) and rescued Nico from nannies yelling at him for messing with the laundry on the line. (And then made him apologize.) I helped Nia and Nico make some Thanksgiving crafts, and read them the story of Squanto. I said "Timoun, ale!" (Kids, GO!) about 284 times today-- all merited (to get them to put a move on it when Roro was ready to take them to school, to go tell them to go upstairs and do their homework, to get them out of the kitchen when I was trying to bake and they were sneaking licks...) There are ALWAYS kids around.

By the time Nick came home, I was ready to collapse... I was tired from chasing Josiah, my eyes were burning, it had just poured (with all our clothing on the line) and so the house was closed up and getting pretty sticky. I told Nick I just needed a few minutes to regroup and take a (cold) shower. So I went into the bedroom and locked the door. Then into the bathroom and locked that door. (Cause you never know with THAT many people around all the time...) And after I got undressed and into the tub I realize we're out of water. The nannies had done a lot of laundry today and a neighbor hooked up her hose to "borrow" some of our water (which she apparently does fairly regularly). So our cistern on the roof was empty. No water for the shower. In a very small towel (and I am kind of a bigger gal) I unlocked the bathroom door and then bedroom door and screamed for to Nick to pump some water up to the roof. Then I relock the doors and just sit on my towel and wait. In a few minutes, I am rewarded with a cold, cold shower and am able to scrub some of the filth of the past few days off of me. Now, "scrub" might seem like too harsh a word, but I literally used a scrub brush (as in what they clean the floor with) to clean my feet. I SCRUBBED my feet. After walking around on cement and tile for two days with no shoes on, it was necessary.

I am off to bed in a few minutes. Please, I beg of you, PRAY my eyes get better. This is no fun. But hey, if worse comes to worse, an American eye doctor is coming to Thanksgiving dinner and I can probably bribe him to take a look at my grotesqueness...

Ta ta for now...

Gwenn, the pink-eyed leper

You know it's bad when even Haitians go out of their way not to touch, look at or BREATHE near me. Madame Emiline (the cleaning lady) is touching everything via the hem of her skirt. I totally get it, but man, it makes me feel rather leper-ish. ESPECIALLY SINCE THE PINK EYE started from one of the cleaning ladies kids...

Nico last night said, "Mom your eye yucky."

And then later when I was snuggling with Nia she said, "Mom, you are so pretty."
And I said, "Yeah, but this pink eye sure makes me look ugly."
And then she said, "I don't think so Mom, you're beautiful even with pink eyes."

THIS, my friends, is the difference between girls and boys in a nutshell.

I promise I will post more pics later-- or tomorrow depending on the internet speed-- of something OTHER than pink eye.

By the way, I am a little peeved that Josiah breaks out in more unplanned Creole than I do. WHAT THE HECK???

Oh and if you're thinking if I look a little scumbaggy, like I haven't showered in a few days-- you are right.

Hot Topic Tuesday-- Off label use of Benadryl

Okay, I have an actual hot parenting topic for you today... (results and commentary on the miniatures poll later today if I get to it.)

Here's the question?

Have you ever used Benadryl to help get your children to sleep? (at home, on airplanes, car rides, etc?) Or WOULD you (if you have not)? Is this ethical?

Okay, here's my two cents. Yes, I have. I don't have a problem with it under certain circumstances. Here's why.

Benadryl is a product that I have used for all of my children for its intended purpose at one time or another. From runny noses to allergic reactions, they have all had to take it for a "legitimate" reason, and they all tolerate it well.

Every medication has side effects. For Benadryl, an unintended side effect of this medication is that it makes them sleepy. This side effect has prompted the creation of all sorts of over-the-counter nighttime medications for adults-- Tylonel PM, even one of the name brand medications intended soley for sleep (nytol maybe?), etc. It's the same active ingredient and the same doseage as in an adult dose of Benadryl. Basically, they are using the side effect of Benadryl to treat another condition, sleeplessness.

Now, I have seen this with my beloved Trazadone. It's not a tranquilizer-- it's not intended for insomnia, it's actually an anti-depressant that has a side effect of sleepiness. So when taken at night, it helps sleep. Many people with insomnia have taken Trazadone as an insomnia cure. (Me included.) But it's still considered an "off-label" use of the product... in other words, not what the product was created to do.

So back to Benadryl for children. It's a doseage I know they can handle (because it's what the dr. has told me to give them), I know how they respond to the medication, and it produces a DESIRED side effect-- sleepiness.

I have used Benadryl "off-label" very rarely. I did use it on the plane on the way down here. And the kids slept on the plane/ on the three hour car ride. And I can think of one other time I have used it with Josiah when he'd been up for three hours in the middle of the night screaming.

I do not think that people should overuse this strategy, but I think in moderation it's fine.

How about you? What do you think?


Woody, one of the older boys, found some bikes for the boys back in a pile somewhere, and was supervising them riding them while he was home from school with pinkeye... it was downright sweet. (While Omega cleaned his jeans with soap and a hairbrush-- like you do.)

My matchy boys. The kids here get a kick out of that.

Nick saving the day when the food depot key got lost. He broke in and then changed out the doorknob... all in under 20 minutes! This country brings out the Mr. Fix-it in him...
Josiah has found a new love-- sweeping. If he's having a tantrum, all we have to do is offer him the broom. hmmm? a future janitor?

For some reason, Vania is always wanting me to do her hair... I am not that good, but she still wants me to do it. It's good practice though, she never flinches, and I am learning a thing or two...
This was the finished product that day...

And this is Slendia being cute, just because she's cute.

PS-- Haiti in November is downright PLEASANT from a temperature standpoint...

Gross Photo Warning

Apparently I acquired some super strain of Pink Eye...
Yesterday afternoon I was useless. I failed my first day as a mom of 25. Oh well, Nick, Sandra and Nixon picked up my slack... thanks guys.

I don't feel like the photos begin to show the reality. (It's SO much grosser up close.) I never knew pink eye could cause so much swelling. But here was yesterday afternoon:
And here is this morning:

They are actually starting to feel a little better. Especially my left eye which got it first. Not great-- but fine.

Nick is 85% or more better from his pinkeye, Nia and Josiah are all the way better and Nico hasn't gotten it yet. Unless someone else wakes up with it today, I think all the HCH kids are over it. (Although Sandra was saying her eyes were starting to burn yesterday...)

I have some more pics to upload but I a going to do it in another post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is how I feel too

Strategies for Handling 3rd World Bathroom Situations

Here's some tips and strategies I've learned both personally and from others along the way. * denotes that I have learned this personally, a + denotes this is advice I was give.

1. It's best to shower in the heat of the day (anytime between 6AM-11PM). This way, the cold shower will be refreshing and not frostbite inducing.*
2. If you are not following the above rule, it's best just to go "all in." Don't try to avoid the water trickling onto your body in a pee-like stream thinking you can ease into the cold. You can't. Just do it. And make your kids do it too. They will hate you for it, but they are probably going to hate me when they're teenagers anyway, so I might as well get a head start. Plus, it will just prove what I have been saying all along-- they're advanced. :)*
3. Practice what I like to call "selective washing." Some call this sponge-bathing. I call it washing the stinky parts.*

1. Always carry a roll of toilet paper in your truck. You never know when it's gonna hit you. +
2. AVOID the bathrooms at church if at all HUMANLY possible. Empty your bladder/bowels ahead of time and if necessary, use a diaper or Depends. And make your children do so as well. Do ANYTHING to avoid the bathroom scenario there.*
3. Go ahead and splurge on name brand toilet paper. A few bouts Haitian Happiness will make you glad you did. +
4. If you have a trip planned to a 3rd world country any time in the next few months, go ahead and work on squats ofteb. This particular exercise is a very functional exercise for situations such as these.

1. Wet Ones (ANTIBACTERIAL) wipes are handy.*
2. If no hand soap is available, use whatever kind of cleanser is available. Like the Comet with Bleach. *
3. Hand sanitizer is a must. Everywhere. Every time. Every situation. If I could buy it in 55 gallon barrels here I would. I even thought about using it as pinkeye drops... But I didn't. Yet.*

By the wayI

I have pinkeye now in both eyes...
it's miserable.

Photo shoot with Maman Leann

As aChristmas gift to our family, Leann gave us a "photo shoot"...

Here's just a very few of them... (remember, Nia and Josiah had pinkeye, so we were somewhat limited.)

This next series of photos cracks me up... We were trying to get everyone to pose for a pic (which wasn't working)
and all of a sudden this black hairy fro started swimming towards us... (look in front of Nia)

It was a Tina!

And then my favorite outtake...

Who said Thomas Beatie is the only "man" to give birth?