Thursday, September 27, 2012

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

Going to start talking about some of my favorite things (products and services) on this here weblog.

Don't have much time right now but I wanted to get it rolling.  Thought I could share some, you could share some and we can all be informed of great products and services that we're missing out on.

Tonight's entry comes as a gift from my friend Sarah.  She just returned from some fundraising in the states where she picked me up a box of these little amazing guys....

Part toothpick, part breath freshener, part oral hygiene device (read: a toothpick )  Strongly flavored with Cinnamon, Tea Tree Leaf oil and menthol.  Chewing one of these bad boys is super intense at first (but in a good way) and then mellows out after 10 minutes or so, leaving your mouth feeling clean and fresh.


NOTE:  I am not getting anything from this company for putting my faves out there...  I just really want to share things that make me happy!

How about you?  Any new favorite things?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Black Like Josiah

While we were on furlough, we met this woman in upstate NY.  She was talking with Nick about how in the 60's she'd adopted a black kid.  (She's a white woman.)  Obviously, that was controversial for the time, but she talked about it from an interesting perspective.  See, in upstate NY around that time (or really even now ;), there really weren't many black people.  So, she has this son.   She might look at him and just see her son.    (As a trans-racial family, I get that.  After a while, it's like we forget sometimes that we have different colored skin.)   But other people look at him and see a black kid.

Meanwhile, this kid is growing up and everyone around him is white.  White people are all he sees.  So he starts almost thinking of himself as a white person. She said now that he is grown, he has a real hard time figuring out where he fits in the world.  He's black, but he was raised in a white family with all white schoolmates and peers.  It presented a unique set of challenges.

Interestingly, Nick and I could very much relate to her, but the opposite way.  Josiah was not even two when we moved to Haiti.  He's 5 now.  It's not that he doesn't know he's white-- he does.  But he has 5 black brothers and 5 black sisters.  He goes to a church that's filled with a black congregation.  He went to Haitian school for a year and a half here and he was the only white kid there.  Josiah identifies more as Haitian than American.
He prefers speaking Kreyol to English.  He calls his friends and brothers, "Neg p'am" and answers to "ti neg."  He gets his hair cut in the same style as his brothers at a Haitian barbershop.  He even sneaks Vaseline to rub on his head like his brothers do.  I have tried to explain to him that his hair doesn't need it, but he still does it almost every day.  Not in like a white teenage boy trying to fit in with black teenage boys way, but in a way where he really doesn't understand that different races do things differently at times.

Thinking about the idea of being seen differently than you feel made me think of the book, "Black Like Me."    It was written by John Howard Griffin, a white man who did a social experiment in 1959.  Under the supervision of a doctor, through the use of medications and UV rays, Griffin substantially darkened his skin, shaved his head, etc so as to appear to others as a black man and traveled throughout the South to see what racial discrimination actually was like. Interesting book... (I actually want to see better pictures of what he looked like as a black man, because I am not sure I'd be fooled, BUT I DIGRESS.)

But as I was reading the book earlier today, I realized how much his social experiment has in common with just simply crossing cultures, whether or not you change your outward appearance.  As you embrace a new culture and things inside of you that you held true start to fade, it's a whole new kind of loneliness as you question who you are.  To not even recognize yourself.  I love this quote from the book.  This is what Griffin wrote about the first time he looked at himself in the mirror after the transition to brown skin was complete, "The completeness of this transformation appalled me.  It was unlike anything I had imagined.  I became two men, the observing one and the one who panicked, who felt Negroid even into the depths of his entrails. I felt the beginnings of great loneliness, not because I was a Negro, but because the man I had been, the self I knew was hidden in the flesh of another...  I had tampered with the mystery of existence and I had lost the sense of my own being.  This is what devastated me.  The Griffin that was had become invisible."

How bizarre it must be to see yourself totally different than other people see you!  And yet, I feel this all the time.  I can't even imagine how much someone like Josiah will deal with this as he has lived here for the majority of his life-- including pretty formative years.

Guess it's just one of the many things that make our weirdo family even weirder.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nick's Superpower

Nick's superpower is apparently having allergic reactions.

This morning his eye started bothering him.  It didn't really hurt or itch, just kind of irritated him.

Two hours later-- this was him:

It's kind of reminiscent of the time he got stung by a wasp on the lip out at the land a couple of years ago...

Thanks for everyone (on facebook) who has been concerned.  He really is fine. Nick has taken Claritin and Benadryl and is now chilling out in loopy-land.

Seriously, some people will do anything for a day off.

I am rescheduling our regular Friday date night because, between you and me, I don't think he's going to be that much fun tonight.  Though I might see if he's up for a game of Trains... It's the only way I will beat him.  Don't judge me. ;)

We are open to donations of EpiPens if you have an extra...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Directionless in Bed

Nick and I are directionless in bed.


Since moving to Haiti, we don't have regular "sides" to the bed.  In the states we did.  In fact, I cannot think of another married couple who doesn't have a regular "side" to the bed.

We're totally directionless.

We don't even have a regular bed.  We've now cycled through all of the beds upstairs trying to make them our own.  (Including a 6 month stint channeling our inner June and Ward Cleaver in separate twin beds kind of pushed together.)

Now.  This hasn't happened because we don't WANT our own sides. We DO want this.  We had this for 9 years of marriage before moving here.  And it was great.  There is nothing cozier than being nestled into your side of the bed.  But we just can't seem to settle into them.  And yes, I know it's been 3.5 years.  But we've just never gotten into a good groove.  We'd settle in for a while and then move houses, or go back to the states.  Or have to move the bed because it's getting too much afternoon sun in one area.  Or we have an earthquake while we're in the bed. Or we're sleeping in a tent for months.  Or Nico sets our bed on fire.  Or we're sleeping with kids in our room for safety sake because of out of control other kids. Or get robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night.  Or we're freaked out about getting robbed again and so we move into the living room for a while.

We can't settle into a groove.

One contributing factor is that we don't have a comfortable bed despite our many tries at buying one here.  (Used off friends, "new" off the street, new out of a bed store.)  It just seems an impossible thing to find around here.  Maybe we should buy one in the states and ship it in?  That will probably be our next attempt.

And so, in an effort to get comfortable enough to sleep through the night, sometimes I am on the right, sometimes I am on the left.  Sometimes we are sleeping with our heads at the head of the bed, sometimes we're sleeping with our heads at the foot of the bed.  Sometimes one of us is each way.  Sometimes I abandon the bed altogether and go out and sleep on the tile floor in the living room because it's nice and cool.

As I type this, Nick is curled up with a (manly, of course) floral sheet snoozing away.  His head is at the top of the bed, but he just turned that way after a half an hour in the other direction.  I requested the right side of the bed tonight--closer to the, hem, "facilities" which is important when you're having some, hem, "side effects" of antibiotics.  So far my head is towards the bottom of the bed.  We're like a little yin yang tonight. But it's still early in the night.  We'll see how it turns out.

The good news, however, is that despite the fact that we can't get comfortable in bed, there's no one else I'd rather be uncomfortable with all night long, every single night.

I love you to pieces, Nick Mangine.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Homeschooling 2012-2013, Day 1

Today was the highly anticipated (by some) first day of school for the American contingent of the Mangine family.

Nia is in 4th grade.
Josiah and Nico are in 1st grade.

Well, for the most part. First grade is actually a bit of a stretch for Josiah (right now), and a bit of review for Nico (for now), but it seems to be a good place to be. Josiah is the kind of kid that will work well with stretching and Nico is the kind of kid that gets confidence out of the review. I think it will work for both of them.

The hardest part of homeschooling for me last year was the constant interruptions. Staff, other kids, visitors, etc. were CONSTANTLY thinking their question/comment/tattle was more important to me than educating my kids.  I was more worried about it since Nick's office is out on the land, and with him not being here, there is no buffer. 


This year I put a mean sign on my door.
It says, “PLEASE Don't Knock.  Children, staff and visitors-- We are having school now.  If you need help, call Nick at  We will open the door when we're done.  Thank you.” Well, it SORT of says that.  It's missing a few crucial accent symbols, but ever since I have made the (big sigh) transition back to PC from Mac, I don't know the shortcuts for the symbols.  I should learn that.  Maybe by the time the school year is over.  Either way, I think they got the message.  I only had about 4 knocks on the door instead of like 30, which would be typical last year.

I wanted to get individual pics of each of the kids.  So I let them pose how they wanted.  It's amazing how much this captures their personalities.

Also, yes.  The kids have uniforms.  I know that's super Duggar-ish of me.  But I am trying really hard to stay organized, and this seems a good idea since the rest of the kids here have uniforms.  

One day down, 179 to go!  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Memory Making

Today we took the kids to the beach today for an end of the summer party.

We swam and played games.  We did Mangine Family Olympics (MFO, for short) (which we are known to do.)  New events this year included "tossing rocks through inflatable hemorrhoid cushions", "who can do the most cartwheels in a row without passing out or barfing", and "wagon walking."  Also included were endless variations on foot races and wrestling (although that was not a MFO sanctioned event since Nick just basically was fighting with Jean Louis for tripping him up in an earlier race.  Bubbles were blown, cards were played, and kites were flown.  (Those were not medal events though, either.)

I am noticing that as my kids turn into teenagers, every single thing that I do as a mother is a giant embarrassment to my children and waste of their time.  We've done family Olympics twice before and both times I made the kids raise their right hand and take an oath of sportsmanship.  Then I taught them and made them... err... ENCOURAGED them to sing the theme song of the MFO, "Ansam n'ap rive pi lwenn."  (Together we will go farther.)  Okay, so I *might* have plagiarized that off of old Digicel billboards, but whatever.  I will totally let them use the tune I created for the song for $0 if they want it.  It's pretty catchy.  But I digress.  My kids wanted no part of the MFO oath or the MFO theme song.  

The initial bad attitudes about the MFO summer games did cause Nick and I frustration and chatter behind their backs and where we mentally awarded gold medals in areas like: 
  • "Biggest Complainer"  
  • "Most Creative Whiner"
  • "Most Ungrateful"  
  • "Deepest Sighing"
  • Best "my parents are morons" eyeroll  
However, during the first event when they saw the shiny plastic gold medals that were awarded for 1st place...  all of a sudden everyone wanted in.  They had to have these medals.  But they pretended it wasn't a big deal.  (All I am saying is if it wasn't a big deal you wouldn't have worn it all morning, got back from the beach, showered (with it on), changed into clothes and then pajamas with it on, and be watching a movie STILL with it on.)  In other words, my kids talk a big talk about keeping cool, but they are just as motivated as the next person to be recognized as good at something.

We brought snacks with us but ordered drinks and lunches from the ladies who grill fish and fry plantains in the little shacks across from the ocean.

Here's the breakdown of costs involved us taking all the kids out for a beach day party (including a meal for us, for all 12 kids and for one staff member who came along.... so 15 people in all.)

A trip to the beach = free.
Prizes for family Olympic games = free (they've been in the donated prize box forever.)
15 bags of Chicos (Haitian cheese puffs) = $1.87 (total, like for all the bags.)
30 Ji Lele (bags of juice) = $1.87 (total, like for all the bags)
Three big bunches of keneps a local in-season fruit = 75 cents 
9 plates of fresh-caught grilled fish with plantains and pikliz (each person gets their own whole fish) = $33.75
4 plates of griot (fried pork) with plantains and pikliz= $15.00
1 plate of tassot (fried beef cubes) with plantains and pikliz = $3.75
5 Cokes, 6 Sprites, 2 Jugoo, 1 Prestige beer = $9.38
Tips to the ladies who brought us our drinks and food $5.63

Grand total:  $72.00

I don't know about you, but I'd say that's worth the price of admission!