Sunday, July 31, 2011

Schneider has a middle name. It is...

... at the bottom of this note. (That was very American Idol-ish of me, wasn't it?)

First I thought I'd share this adorable pic of him in the bath this morning faux-hawking it up. Yes, I am aware that I am "that mother" who thinks everything her baby does is awesome... But in my case it's actually true.

Back to his name.

Believe it or not, we had a hard time choosing a middle name. I mean, what can you pick that goes with Schneider? A German name meaning "tailor" (as in, "one who makes clothing") for a little Haitian (to be Haitian-American) baby. We always said that if we adopted again we wouldn't change the name... We wish we hadn't with Nico. (Which is kind of a long story because we didn't actually legally change his name due to a few different reasons...) I mean yes, he's got our last name fair and square, but his birth name was Josue Michel and now he's Josue Michel Mangine. Which makes PERFECT sense since we call him Nico, eh? Especially troublesome when we go through immigration from Haiti to the US and the Border Control guy asks Nico his name and he says, "Nico... No, um, JOSUE MICHEL! My name is not Nico. It's Josue Michel. Not Nico." (Doesn't look suspicious at all.)

All that is to say, everyone knows Schneider as Schneider, and while I am not terribly fond of the name, it is his name and his name it will stay. He doesn't have a middle name on his birth certificate and his last name is very last name-y... So we didn't want to give him 3 last names and make him sound like a law firm.

Our first choice was the name Jonathan. This is my brother-in-law's name, and our pastor's name. (As well as my nephew's middle name.) All people we love dearly... But then we got weirded out because of John Schneider. (You know, Bo Duke.) I thought it would be weird to name him (albeit backwards) after my childhood crush. So we scratched it.

But then we couldn't find anything we liked more.

So we went back to it. I looked online and Jonathan means "gift of God." So perfect-- he truly is a gift of God. So weird Dukes of Hazzard affiliation or not, our little boy now has the name, "Schneider Jonathan Mangine." (Well, it's not legally that yet, but one day that is what it will be.)

Welcome to the family, SJ. Or as Gretchen wants us to call him, "Ti Bo." She might have something there, because I think the resemblance is uncanny...
Slap a blond wig on him and you'd probably not be able to tell them apart.

Free Parenting Advice

I know you're all clicking on this one because WHO DOESN'T LOVE parenting advice? ;)

In spite of having a dozen kids these days, I actually have very little to offer.

I love this quote:
Before I married, I had three theories about raising children and no
children. Now, I have three children and no theories.
-- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

However, I feel like I could offer you this and feel pretty certain that it's good advice--

No matter how old he is, don't let an 8-month old baby go to sleep at 5:30PM unless you love starting your day before 4AM.

*Yawn* It's a two cup o' coffee kind of day

I have lots to say based on all our moving parts and comings and goings (that have caused me not to blog for TWELVE days!!!) but I must (again) go feed said 8-month old baby. So until next time, here's the check in on the American (or American-to-be) representatives from the Mangine Many--

Nick- Raleigh, NC
Nico- Raleigh, NC
Josiah- Manteo, NC
Nia- Lititz, PA
Gwenn- Jacmel, Haiti
Schneider- Jacmel, Haiti

Here's a few photos from the past week or so in no particular order--

This is Wilki, a psychologist that is coming to work with our family to help our kids better understand their emotions. It's REALLY good and worth every penny. Any other orphanages in the Jacmel area who might be interested in this? I'd love to pass along his info.

In Nick's absence, Megan Haug stepped in as my date for Friday night and we hit the opening of a new show at the FOSAJ gallery. It was very vibey and certainly an experience. That's all I will say on that for now.

This is coming off the plane in Port Au Prince. I was SUPER impressed with the hairdo on the guy on the escalator in front of me. I honestly haven't seen such a well-developed mullet since Billy Ray Cyrus.

Here's a picture of our house after it's new paintjob is finished... Um yeah, we didn't match the pink too good. We now have a Pepto Bismol house. But the kids think it is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL color they have ever seen. Thanks to Doris and her team for giving our house a facelift.
I think his onesie says it all...
Later taters.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The State of the Mangine Family Address-- late July 2011

Whew! I feel like I've been running a marathon lately. (Well, not literally because I can't remember the last time I ran... perhaps it was January 12, 2010 as the earthquake was shaking our home???)

We're in one of those really busy seasons in life this past month. Now, some would argue that we're USUALLY in one of those really busy seasons just because of the country in which we live and the fact that we have a dozen kids. This, therefore, makes it nearly impossible to get ANYTHING done in a timely manner. But a specific challenge comes in to play when we actually schedule things that need to (or want to) be done. It's as if the universe cosmically conspires to make us crazy. Still, God has been faithful to remind me that this is the life I signed up for and the life that I love.

Here's a few tidbits that have been happening. I will call this my, "State of the Mangine Family Address."
  • We are in the midst of two overlapping teams.
  1. Team 1 arrived on July 12 and is comprised of 4 ladies connected in some way to Doris Frame (our "diaper lady.") They've been sort of a hybrid team, doing lots of different projects-- painting our home, distribution of diapers in Bwa Vital, hospital feeding, distribution of about 300 homemade dresses/shorts in Bwa Vital, and just generally loving on our children and the children of Kay Ange (another children's home in the area.) This team is amazingly generous. They brought in over 3,500 diapers for the Konekte diaper program, the funds to feed every patient (and their family members) at the hospital, 300 hand sewn dresses/pairs of shorts for the camp, funds to purchase paint/supplies to paint our home, all sorts of gifts/blessings for our kids (including soccer uniforms!), and a bunch of soccer equipment/balls for a recreation program in Bwa Vital (Jacmel's biggest IDP camp.)
  2. Team 2 arrived July 17 (although that was a day later than anticipated due to an airline delay). They are from TBA church in Lakeland, FL. They are working with Mikey to rebuild a house that was destroyed in the earthquake. Joy in Hope construction teams are all led by Mikey/Gette, and they ROCK it out. When we rebuild houses, we do permanent rebuilds as we believe this supports the long-term recovery effort. This means that teams need to raise more funds, and overall we get to rebuild fewer houses, but as the Haitian expression says, "pa za pa" which means "step by step." This is the TBA progress on the house they are re-constructing for a man named Martinez and his family.
  • We're going through a rough season behaviorally with one of our older kids. I am not going to go into too many details, but please be praying about this. We've found a great psychologist here in Haiti that's going to start meeting with us regularly (starting this week) to help this child (and the rest of us) understand some of the dynamics of abandonment and how that plays out in behavior. For the short-term we've added some new staff members to help us better supervise. We've always been a place where we have low staff to child ratios. Some might say it's wastefully low. We believe, however, that we need to do whatever possible to help our children heal from the trauma they've experienced in life and we need extra hands on deck for that to happen. THEY ARE WORTH the extra cost. We're not just trying to keep a whole slew of kids alive, we're working towards redemption/growth of these 12 kids God has given us. Your prayer support in this situation would be greatly appreciated. Because of this situation and our desire to walk through it well, we're having to change our furlough plans and not travel together so that we can consistently have either Nick or I here as we walk through this therapy for the next 3 months. This means that we won't get to see everyone we wanted to. That's super disappointing to me from a purely selfish standpoint, but I will get over it. It's more important that our family is healthy.
  • Josiah has been sick. (Yes, AGAIN.) We're not sure what he has but it's very similar to what he had when he was hospitalized last month-- vomiting, fevers, extreme lethargy. We've agonized over whether or not to go back to the states with him. In the end, we decided that he's headed back to the states with me tomorrow (Wednesday) to get some testing done to see if we can get to the bottom of it. This presents us with a unique set of challenges in that I have a bunch of appointments (dentist, therapist, etc) that I have to attend, but will be back in the states alone with a sick kid. I might need some local (Triangle, NC) people to help out with Josiah at times... Here's the only catch, while we don't BELIEVE he's contagious (as no one else in our home has gotten sick), it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Fair warning. Email me at gwenn@joyinhope if you might be available (specifically next Monday). Also, would you pray for some kind of diagnosis so that we know how to proceed?
  • We're adjusting well to having an infant in the home again. He's doing GREAT and we all are just so thankful for the ways he's blessing our family. He's growing quickly and, well, thriving. I love just sitting there "chatting" with Schneider. He's quite the little chatterbox these days.
  • Nia is in the states visiting her grandparents. Nick had to go in to the states about two weeks ago for a memorial service, and since we had a furlough scheduled shortly there-after, she went along with Nick with the intention of staying through. She's having a great time with her grandparents. When I ask her about her favorite part of America, she says, "Sour cream. Definitely sour cream." (Well, sour cream IS pretty good.)
  • I have been helping out with Sarah's clinic a bit since she's been gone. (Not nearly as much as I had planned to be helping out because of the above-described activities.) However, I spent a day (and a night) this week with a young woman named Yolande who has connections to Joy in Hope through one of our employees. She's been in early labor for about a few days now... would you pray for her body to open up and to deliver her baby? I am hoping that I get to see the new little one before I leave on Wednesday, but you know how these things go!
  • We've been in the process of getting some organizational paperwork completed for about nine months now. It's a long and stressful (and expensive) process and we keep hitting roadblock after roadblock. It would be no exaggeration to say that we've had 20+ trips to Port Au Prince (probably far more) during the past six months trying to get this settled. Would you pray that we could finish this process and move on with life? It's frustrating to be spending so much time, money and energy on this process while living in the midst of so many real needs.
  • We're LOVING having a dog. Piman is a really sweet, sweet dog and pretty well-behaved. We had a scare with her a couple of days ago as she was sleeping under the truck and we didn't know it. She ran out as we were backing up but she hit her snout on the metal brushguards giving her a bloody nose and a bit of pain for a couple of days. She's much better now, but her nose is still a little swollen. Poor baby! We're far more conscious about where Piman is now when we get into the truck. And she's definitely not interested in laying under it any more! We're so thankful that this accident wasn't worse. In other dog-related news, we are borrowing Casey, the Whittaker's dog, for a few months while they are in the states having their new baby. We all love Casey, and she and Piman have become good friends. Finally, in a third tidbit of canine news, Mikey came over and built us a doghouse for Piman. It's cute because both Casey and Piman sleep in it. Hopefully Piman doesn't grow TOO much before the Whitakers return and get Casey or it will be crowded quarters!)

  • Don't forget the "Back to School" drive going on now. The online registry for the needed items is located here: Joy in Hope (Mangine) Back to School. We need to receive all items by no later than August 7th in order to get them back to Haiti with us.
Well that's it for now. I am sure if I thought about it, I could share quite a bit more, but Josiah is screaming now that he wants some white rice to eat. So I am going to go cater to the whim of the sick child-- especially since he's feeling hungry.

Thanks for your prayers and partnership. I've said it a million times, but we can't do this without you-- your support (emotionally, spiritually, financially) is WHY we are able to live this life. Thank you!



Monday, July 18, 2011

Shamless (self-serving) post, but for a good cause.

When my friend Pam got married back in October, it was one of the most beautiful and FUN weddings I've ever been to. It was filled with all sorts of unique elegant touches that made it extremely memorable.

One of those touches was that Pam and all her girls wore Sseko sandals. She'd told me a bit about the company and I agreed that they were a perfect fit for this amazing and and globally-responsible couple.

Here's a pic of the bridesmaids and bride in their wedding shoes!

This morning I read THIS BLOG POST about Sseko, which made me realize I have a connection to the company through some "Haiti friends" too. The post has a contest to win a pair of Ssekos, and well, I really want to win. So, here's my shamless plug for this cool, no-just-for-profit company that is transforming women's lives in Uganda.

So spread the word. I am going to be honest... the selfish part of me wants NO ONE else to enter this contest so that I can win. But there's a bigger part of me that wants you to spread the word. Great business model. Awesome product.

I've seen these sandals up close and personal. They would make a great everyday sandal, or a special occasion sandal. The quality is excellent and they are super cool and hip. And when you buy something super cool and hip, it makes you super cool and hip. And socially conscious. So go buy a pair.

Or at least help spread the word... CHECK THEM OUT! You might just score a pair for free!

PS- Photos above used with Pam's permission and were shot by Blue Bend Photography.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On a moto, episode 3, a Sixer.

I have heard people tell of 6 on a moto, but every time I think I actually am spotting one it always turns out to be five.

Today's episode comes to us courtesy of the Livesay family. Some REALLY dear friends and excellent Haiti bloggers, CHECK THEM OUT HERE!!! Thank you, Livesay family, for making the thing of legends a reality for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back to school supply drive!

Hey friends!

It's that time of year again-- planning for the kids to go back to school. Kids have been measured for uniforms and we will buy their books locally, but we need to fill in the gaps and we were hoping you would help us with that part!

Similar to what we did at Christmas, we set up a Target registry with the items our kids will need for school-- new shoes, socks, underwear, backpacks, etc.

Click on this link Joy in Hope (Mangine) Back to School!

There's a couple of ways to contribute in this drive.

1. If you live in the Triangle, NC and want to physically walk into a Target to purchase off the registry, Nick and I will be in the area at the beginning of August to visit our friends/family/supporters and we will make arrangements to collect the things from you.

2. If you do not live in NC, you can order online and have the items sent to the JiH address:
Joy In Hope
2731 NC Hwy 55 #251
Cary, NC 27519
(This address is also the shipping address listed on the registry.)

3. Giftcards for Target can be donated as well and hand delivered or mailed to the JiH office.

We ask that donated items be collected/shipped so that we may have everything in hand by August 7, 2011 to allow us time to assess what still needs to be purchased before returning to Haiti.

Thanks for participating... And repost if you feel so inclined!

That link one more time-- Joy in Hope (Mangine) Back to School!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On a moto, episode 2, the twin mattress

Today's episode is brought to you by Megan Haug of Leve Project in Cay Jacmel.

Friday, July 8, 2011

all the single ladies.

Nick is in the states right now. My friend Tammi's husband, Jeff, is also in the states this week. (For an unrelated reason.)

So last week, Tammi and were all talking big about how we were gonna be single ladies and we were going to whoop it up, go out on the town, take the kids to the beach and just be crazy chicas with the hubsters gone.

She and I forgot to factor in the combined 16 children we have between the two of us. That doesn't really lead well to a "single lady" lifestyle. Tammi went to far as to say we could be accused of having "baggage."

In reality, this is what my life has looked like since Monday when Nick left:

I have been barfed (er, spit up) upon probably 2 dozen times. (Schneider's a spitter.) As I write this I am sitting here, un-showered (3rd day in a row with 0 showers), unshaven (at least a week with 0 shaves), with formula chunder all down my shirt (since at least 1PM.)

Yup. I am ROCKIN' it as a single lady.

****Update-- As of 7:20 PM I showered and shaved!!!****

On a moto, episode 1, The Double Tire Carry

I've heard it said that Haiti is a place where the impossible is possible and the the possible is impossible. I love that thought because it's TOTALLY true. One thing, however, that is NOT impossible is the transportation of pretty much anything on the back of a moto. That is something that Haiti has perfected. I've seen a moto with a coffin on the back of it, a moto with another MOTO on the back of it, but alas the camera was not ready. I am hereby vowing to carry the camera more often to find further episodes for this new series entitled, "On a moto" which highlight some of the more ingenious uses of a 110 or 125cc moto.

Today's entry, episode 1 is fairly tame compared to others I've seen, but just to get us going, here's the double Tire Carry.
This series welcomes guest contributors and will gladly offer you the photo credit and a link to your website or blog. Email me at with your "On a Moto" photos.

Edited to add-- I should mention that this blog series was suggested to me by Tim Weber. Thanks for the idea!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

wall of shame

So it doesn't take long for someone who lives here to spot someone here on a short-term team.

The person pictured in the middle of this picture is none other than yours truly, Gwenn Mangine, my first short-term trip to Haiti in 2005. (Yes, that was a thin phase for me... no need to point out how much huger I am these days like my kids did. Cause you know Haitians are really subtle and politically correct like that.)

I have all the stereotypes except the long missionary skirt (which I did wear earlier in that week.) The jungle hat, the messenger bag with several water bottles in it, the sensible hiking shoes. And underneath that jungle hat my hair is in cornrows (I am embarrassed to admit that.) We also wore matching t-shirts most of the time that had the words "CHRISTIAN SERVANT" across the front and a map of Haiti.

At least they weren't yellow.

So if you ever overhear me making fun of white people and their incredibly visible WHITE scalps in frizzy cornrows, know that I am making fun of the 2005 version of me as well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Quick quiz.

Anyone know what this is?

Think 2008.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


We had a VBS-- err "kid's camp" (because for some reason the term VBS really twangs me)--planned for this past week at Bwa Vital. This is the largest (and nicest) IDP camp in Jacmel. I think there are currently about 300 families living there with plans to move a bunch more in soon. Most of the people I've worked with since the quake who were at Pinchinat have since been moved to Bwa Vital. (Most, but not all.) So because of this, I know a lot of the kids and families that live in this camp. I've learned how to negotiate the hierarchy of command when we need approval for projects there, etc. (For the most part-- this is, of course, Haiti... so just because you reserve an area through official chains doesn't mean it will actually be available to you during your program.)

So back to kid's camp. We had a team of teenagers in and we'd gotten permission to do a kids camp for 300. I didn't really expect to have that many kids the first day, but figured that by the last day we'd hit around that number. Now, there are A LOT more than 300 kids in this camp, but we were targeting the ages of 5-12. We had invitations sent out and it was a very nice idea. I like working with the kids from the camps because they really have a crappy set of circumstances. It's not that I don't want to do kids programs at churches or orphanages, but it does seem like there are a lot of groups already doing this and I was ready to try to reach out to a set of kids that were largely not involved in churches, and so therefore, wouldn't be included in a traditional VBS program.

So picture this-- day one. A team of about 16 teens. We had about 150ish or so kids on Monday. They did a great story. We had a fun time singing songs together. It was awesome. Kids were participating. They were eager. We broke into groups for crafts, games and snacks... and then it went to crap.

It started really with the markers being handed out. Here's the thing. ANY kind of distribution in a tent camp usually gets pretty.. hem... "spirited." The elbowing and pushing were a bit rough, but it was manageable. But then the snack/water distribution started...

IOM, the organization that runs the camps, by order from the Haitian government, has mandated that no food be distributed in camps. At the meeting with the IOM committee in the camp, we talked about doing a snack/drink during kid's camp. They agreed that would be fine, as long as it was something small, and not a full meal. The first day it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a bag of water. You would have thought we were giving out bags of gold. It was a scene. We stopped distribution and ended up having to leave a bit early because it was so out of hand.

Still, I was determined that these kids could do better. These were kids I KNOW, and so I thought, "yeah, if I just ask them to be nicer, they will." Yes, I realize how arrogant this sounds. So we headed back (minus the majority of the team from the day before) to try again. Tuesday we had about 300 kids. We had less sets of hands, but more people that "get" Haiti and got the plan. We'd made modifications for containing the food distribution and we talked about better crowd control measures. Observation and correction.

It started GREAT. It really did. We sang. It was way more relaxed the second day. Kids were participating. I gave the kids a lecture about their behavior the day before and said that if they could behave today, then we would come back on Wednesday, but that if they couldn't behave well, we'd have to go elsewhere. The kids were super-compliant. They begged for another chance. They promised they wouldn't make trouble anymore. They sat where they were supposed to sit and participated well during singing and story time. We separated into groups for craft and then snack and then (again) it turned to crap. But this time we had double the kids. We got craft supplies distributed and our idea for "controlled" snack distribution (Tuesday was just Haitian cookies and water) was better, but not good enough.

To quote Nick Mangine, "What we needed was a cattle shoot."

To quote Nick Mangine followed by thoughts from Gwenn Mangine, "What we needed was a cattle shoot and a taser."

Well, long story short. We stopped snack distribution. Kids were mad. I didn't really care that they were mad because they were trampling each other and hitting and just being mean. We packed up and headed out-- with just a bit more drama on the way out.

VBS fail.

I was bummed. I really was. I love these kids. I love the idea of working with kids in camps. But it was a fail. Too many people, marginal facilities... and ROWDY, ROWDY kids. Kids who've lived in an IDP camp for 18 months now. Kids who are largely unschooled and unchurched. Kids who don't have anywhere to go where they learn how to sit still and take their turn. This is a bit of a scary prospect. It is estimated that there are about 600,000 people in Haiti still in IDP camps. Based on statistics, well over half of those are likely children.

One of the downsides to the amount of foreign aid that's been poured into Haiti has been an INCREDIBLE reinforcement in the handout mentality. To the tune of kids being willing to throw punches and large rocks at each other's heads over a pack of 10 cent (US) cookies and a 2.5 cent (US) bag of water. CRAZY.

I think that there are a lot of examples of situations like this. Fallout from the earthquake that will go on for generations in terms of attitudes, behaviors, expectations.

Which is, I guess, what my point of this post is-- being a humanitarian in a place like Haiti is a stupid idea. It really is. The challenges are so huge. The obstacles are insurmountable with human strength and effort, regardless of how many dollars we throw at it.

A lot of times I struggle when people ask me if I am a missionary. I don't like the connotation of the word missionary because I don't feel like I am here to "convert" people or change people, which is what I picture when I think of the word missionary. Converting people/ changing people is not a human job. I am here because I believe the only way to show others what many call the "good news" is to first be willing to BE the good news. (Especially in a place like Haiti where there is little to no good news.) I want to walk in the way of Jesus, help where I can help, but rely on the power of God to change people.

And, so yeah, I don't think the job title missionary encompasses that. I don't think that humanitarian encompasses it either.

If there's a word for that, I don't know what it is. (Other than maybe simply the word "person.")

How about you? Any thoughts on what that word might be?

PS-- I didn't take too many photos, but I LOVE this one because of the little girl in the red shirt in the middle... :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's a boy-- welcome Schneider!

When something great was happening when I was growing up my dad would say, "I am so excited I have to sit on my hands to keep myself from flagging down cars and telling them the news." That's totally how I feel right now.

Yesterday morning Schneider went from being a temporary foster to a permanent member of the Mangine family! Papers are signed and we have a new baby!

We love this boy so much and are so glad he rounds out our family so nicely... An even dozen. 6 girls, 6 boys.

When we got back from the police station/social services yesterday and sat our kids down and explained what was happening, there were cheers and squeals and Prisca exclaimed, "Do you mean that I have a new baby brother?" When I said yes, she pumped her fists in the air and squealed, "Weeee!" Also particularly excited were Fritzie, Sanndi, Nico, and Jerry.

We're happy, our kids are happy, our staff is happy.

Please pray for this transition. Please pray for growth and attachment and development and health (for all of us, but especially Schneider). Pray for weight gain on his little 12 pound body. (Don't pray that for all of us, just Schneider.) Pray for us to have wisdom to try to navigate whether we try to commence the adoption process at this point or simply stick with guardianship.

Nick and I have this guiding principle that family is chosen and permanent. He (Nick) was holding Schneider last night and he said, "Gwenn, isn't this the most amazing thing? This is our son now. This morning he wasn't, and now he is."

Like I said, I have to sit on my hands to keep from flagging down cars.