That time the airline changed our flights and didn’t tell us.

We’re back from our vacation, and one day earlier than planned!

We were sitting around visiting with friends on Tuesday evening and got into talking about about what time we needed to be at the airport the following day. Because I’d been slack at checking email on vacation I got this nagging feeling that I should go and confirm our departure time while we were talking about it so that we were all on the same page for the next day.

It was a good thing I checked, because we got a BIG surprise.

Back before we left in June we’d gotten an email from the airline letting us know of a slight schedule change. It was literally minutes on our trip back to the US. That was the copy of our itinerary I had printed out and was referring to. Never heard anything after that, so assumed all was good. According to that we were leaving at 1:00 pm on July 30th, with an overnight in Atlanta, then arriving in Haiti on the 31st around 2:00 pm. We had a hotel reservation all set up, we were ready!

As I was going through my email I saw the one from the airline telling me it was time to check in online if we wanted. We don’t do that typically so I almost dismissed it, but scanned through it. That’s when something hit me. It looked different. I muttered something along the lines of “um, what the heck is this???” and Chris asked what was up.

Instead of leaving at 1:00 pm like we were supposed to, our reservation info said we were leaving at 12:45 AM on the 30th.

What?!?!?

That was more than 12 hours ahead of when we were supposed to leave. 

That’s not slight. That’s HUGE.

I quickly went online and entered our confirmation code to see what the info in the system said and it was a match with the new info. Somewhere along the line the airline had done a complete schedule change, bumping up our trip by over 12 hours, and we didn’t get the notice. I checked my folders in all of my email accounts this morning just to confirm that it wasn’t my error, and nope, nothing!

So, we realized we were leaving a lot sooner than we had planned. It was 9:00 pm when we found this out. We needed to be at the airport checking in at around 10:45 pm. We still had to finish packing, and we had about an hour drive to the airport.

I ran upstairs and starting the process of throwing things in bags. Chris put the kids in their pj’s, because we sadly wouldn’t be getting a full nights sleep before we left. Our friend that was visiting was thankfully driving his van, and lives just 10 minutes away from the airport so it was a no brainer to throw stuff in his car and have him drop us off.

We got everything and everyone packed up and hit the road, and arrived with plenty of time to check in.

The big issue wasn’t so much the traveling as it was going to be the landing. When we leave for our summer vacation we leave a vehicle at a friends house in Port au Prince, and he meets us at the airport, we load up and head home. That’s what we did this time too, except the problem was that he was out of the country and he’d made arrangements with his driver to come get us. When Chris last talked to him the connection was so bad they were yelling at each other and Chris wasn’t able to get the drivers number, so we had NO way of getting in touch with him to let him know we were arriving literally a day early.

How on earth were we going to figure out a ride from the airport to where our van was without a US cell phone and no time to be making arrangements before we hit the airport?

Well, here’s a fabulous example of the type of friends and community we have in Haiti. Thanks to Sea-Tac’s free wi-fi I was able to get on facebook and send a group message to three couples that would be the most likely to help problem solve. We’re in this summer pocket where a lot of people go back to their stateside or Canadian homes to visit and fundraise and there weren’t a ton of people that we know around right now.

I let everyone know what was going on and that we were about to board, but that I would check back when we landed for connections. By the time we landed in Atlanta, two flights later, all of them had responded and though they couldn’t help out themselves, a plan was formed through their connections with confirmation when we landed in Haiti.

After we landed, we booted up our cell phones, I called our friend Sarah as we were walking off the plane, she texted me the number of the guy that was going to set up a ride for us, Chris called him, he was already waiting outside. When we finally got out of the airport with all our bags (always thankful for this!) Wilbur was waiting outside. He walked us to the taxi he had arranged, we agreed on a price with the driver and were on our way.

We had to push through a giant traffic jam right around the airport, and once through that it was just a short drive to our vehicle. I was worried that our friends driver wouldn’t be there and we’d be stuck while someone went to look for him and we could get our keys, etc, but no. When he saw us he was all, “What are you doing here! You’re supposed to be here tomorrow!?! You don’t have my number!!” :) We quickly loaded up and headed home.

We literally arrived home at the same time that we were supposed to be boarding our first flight in Seattle.

People are always asking us what things we like about our life here in Haiti and how we feel we’ve changed. This was a perfect example of one of those things – the ability to be incredibly flexible and quick decision makers.

The longer we’re away the more glaring certain things are to us when we come home, and none of them are bad things, they’re just different ways of doing life in the cultures we live in. When we lived back in North America we could be more rigid in things because there are systems set up that allow us to expect that. We could be less decisive because there is more time to make decisions and culturally speaking, we look at that as being thorough and courteous when it’s involving something like making plans with a group. Have you ever noticed how long it can take to make plans with people and how much back and forth there is before anyone settles on something? Again, not bad, just different from how we have to operate in Haiti.

In Haiti we have to make fast decisions. We make those decisions quickly because we’re always in this state of assessing our surroundings and trying to keep up with needed info. We have triggers to look for, signals and warnings that we pay attention to. We’ve learned things about culture, whether it’s how people interact, or what isn’t normal, and we adjust accordingly.

I love that we’re at this stage in our Haiti life and our marriage and our family life where we can see how our responses to situations show growth. If this exact situation had popped up a few years ago we would have been frantic. Instead, as I was quickly packing things up I found myself saying, “Slow down. Be calculated. Be calm. Think this through.” It allowed me to be organized, but fast. We weren’t frantic, we basically went into “Let’s do this mode”. And we did.

I kind of felt like the whole trip was this thing happening in a dream state and several times caught myself thinking, “Is this real? Did we get it right? Maybe I misread that and we showed up too early.” But it was real and we were right and we were already halfway home.

All in all it was literally the fastest trip we’ve every had back into Haiti. The last bit of prep time happened fast, we got to the airport, checked in, went to our gate and boarded after only sitting for about 30 minutes. We didn’t ever feel rushed or frantic once we got in the airport, which is a surreal feeling because traveling with kids and bags and all the things usually leaves me feeling that way. We usually end up barking at each other, but we didn’t this time. The airline, in a meager effort to apologize for the email of the major schedule change not getting to us offered a $25 voucher for our next flight. We suggested that instead of that they check our 4 planned checked bags as well as our 4 bulky carry-ons for free. They agreed, so it left us with our two back packs and a rolling back pack with the kids stuff in it. It was so nice to travel so light! I’m sure that eliminated a ton of stress right there.

We flew from Seattle to Minneapolis. We got some sleep on the red-eye flight. It was shorter than our typical red eye. We got off the plane, moved from one gate to our departure gate and basically walked right into the boarding line. We flew from there to Atlanta. We got off our flight in Atlanta, traversed the airport concourses, got to our gate, contacted our friends in Haiti, brushed our teeth, changed clothes, and got on the plane. We landed in Haiti, got the info for our contact outside, went through immigration, got our bags, loaded up and were gone. We spent less than 3 hours on the ground with all of our connections, something that’s never happened before.

When we got in our van and started to drive away I made Chris high five me. He thought I was a bit crazy until I said, “Do you realize that we did that entire trip without freaking out and didn’t argue or anything. We were calm and cool like cucumbers the whole time!” We had supper on Tuesday night, then went into “go” mode and didn’t have time to eat anything during any of our connections, so we stuck with the peanuts and pretzles on the plane, as well as some Handi-Snacks I’d packed. For the record, we are not nice people or easy to deal with when we’re hungry. I’m sure it was some heavenly holding off of the hangry monster that got us through because it just didn’t hit.  If there was any way to rock that situation, we did it with grace and a whole lot of moxy yesterday. I’m proud of us, because wow, that could have been bad.

We got home, I made supper from some well planned pantry items, which just further impressed my husband. We bathed. We tucked in and went to bed. Then we tossed and turned and watched shows until what was a normal west coast bed time. And then we slept. And we slept and slept and slept until about 9:15 am Haiti time. I didn’t know that was possible, but apparently it is because we did it.

Today I became the whirling dervish of unpacking. Chris used to HATE the way I unpacked. I would open a bag and pull everything out onto the table or some surface, then open another one and keep going until everything was everywhere and there would be piles for a few days because I would get distracted. At one point he may have said, “Open one bag. Put everything away. Then open the next bag. Put everything away!” I cave, he *may* be right on this one. It feels really good to get it all out, and put away, and the bags back in storage the day after we get back. I’ve wondered why my “spring” cleaning tends to happen in the fall and realized it’s because we come back and I unpack and clean and re-organize things in the process. It’s that time of the year when things feel fresh for me. Today was no different.

One of the advantages of being back a day early is that I was able to call Yonese this morning to see if she wanted to go to the market for us so we could have some fresh veggies and fruit, eggs, etc in the house rather than looking at an empty fridge. It was really good to see her when she got here, and in true Yonese style not only did she go to the market but she’s proceeded to tidy the whole house, and I have no complaints :)

We’re back to work on Monday and we’re happy to be home!

~Leslie

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Vacation Log 2014: One

We are here in the Pacific Northwest!!!

In true Haiti form, leaving was not necessarily simple, yet it could have been much more complicated. On Thursday evening the car developed a rod knock in the engine, and because we rely on it so much Chris wanted to get it to the mechanic so he could be working on it while we’re away. He made arrangements and the tow truck came from Port au Prince on Friday evening to get it and take it to town for us. Friday was also our last day of work, so after wrapping things up in the work yard we took all the staff to Kaliko, a nearby resort where we get free entrance, for a fun afternoon.

Saturday we got up, finished packing up, closed up the house and headed to Port. We called the mechanic to see if we could stop by and found out that our car hadn’t arrived yet even though it was supposed to be dropped off the night before. Not gonna lie – we wondered if we had just paid $300 for someone to steal our car. After calling the tow truck we found out they were on their way there and had just gotten back late. We got everything squared away there, told Alex that, no, he couldn’t take the cat that was there with us on vacation and then went to a different mechanic to get our blue truck, as we call it. Got some lunch and then headed to the airport.

From that point on everything was easy. I think when you’re a parent with young kids, and you have to travel internationally you worry about the entire experience. No one wants to be that family on the plane with the annoying kids, the whole time knowing that you’re trying your best and are exhausted and that their ears feel like they’re going to explode and they’re overtired and hungry… Chris and I are SO thankful that our kids are traveling rock stars. They both did so well in all of the airports and on the planes. We flew Delta, so it definitely helped that there were personal tvs in every seat.

More than anything though, our family is just in this really fun stage where Olivia is old enough to do certain things, and Alex is the most enthusiastic kid you’ve ever met. Olivia was like a boss pulling her own carry on like she’s been doing it for years. Alex is so excited about everything. Seeing the world through his eyes is amazing and so fun. We have enjoyed the trip so much so far simply because of our kids. In the past few years it’s felt like a circus, but this year has just been sweet and easy so far, and restful and fun.

We overnighted in New York and of course the hotel was amazing for the kids. We got a pretty good deal on Hotwire that ended up being a Sheraton within minutes of the airport. It really was nice and the service was great. We only got about 6 hours of sleep because we needed to be up at 4 am to catch our 7 am flight to Seattle. So thankful we were still in our time zone because it was only 40 minutes earlier than Chris’ alarm goes off most mornings, so not a huge blow to the system.

The kids were again amazing on our flight to Seattle, and our family was fabulous at being pack mules to get stuff from baggage claim to the curb so our friend Paul didn’t need to pay for parking. We got 4 suitcases, 4 carry ons, 3 backpacks, 2 kids in carseats and 3 adults into a Subaru Outback. Good thing we’re used to being in Haiti where there’s always room for one more!

After the hour drive to our friends house we had a quick lunch, then Chris went to work at tightening things up and connecting others to get the van running for another season while I sorted through the luggage to repack backs for the next six weeks and loading stuff into the van. We also had stuff that was ordered ahead of time to go through and put aside for the trip back. Chris was anticipating it could take us several hours, but our flight landed at a little before 10 am, and by 1:30 pm we were on the road heading to his Mum and Dad’s. We arrived late afternoon with lots of time to settle in.

As we drove here I couldn’t help but think about how much the places we come from are ingrained in us, a part of us. I know some people are more nomadic and flexible and shift and change to their surroundings like a chameleon, but I’m one of those people that has roots. I didn’t grow up in the US, but I grew up in a similar climate, and every time I come back to this part of the world, whether it’s British Columbia or Washington state, it feels like home. It’s the same for Chris. It’s deep in us. Haiti is home now, but we will always come home here too. Many people comment on how much we must love the heat and the Caribbean to live in Haiti, and the truth is, while it’s beautiful we will both feel more at home in places with mountains, pine trees, and weather that shifts and changes even in the summer to the point that you can wear jeans and sweaters. We love the cooler weather and look forward to wearing layers. And no, we don’t love the heat in Haiti. The past week before leaving was miserably hot. It’s nice to snuggle under down blankets while having the window cracked and fresh cool air coming in.

Being here is so good. It’s wonderful.

This morning I woke up and turned another year older, and while I have a lot of thoughts about that that are probably better in another post, I will say that I’m so thankful for today and this week. For many of the past 8+ years of birthdays I’ve either been in Haiti away from the rest of our family with few options for birthday fun, or been in Canada or the US but busy with other things, missing family or any other random assortment of not super fun birthday options. Being here, on vacation, with family is great. This is the first year I’ve celebrated my birthday with Chris’ family and it’s fun to share this with them too. I got to snuggle with my littles today, which is a great way to get the morning going. Mum, Olivia and I went shopping and knocked some things off my list. This will sound completely weird to anyone who doesn’t live in Haiti, but one of my favorite stops today was a new store where 1/3 of it is produce. Again, a show of my BC roots is how excited I get about produce. Apples, berries, veggies… when you come from a fabulous growing pocket in the earth, seeing so many beautiful veggies and fruit just makes a girl want to buy it all and then cook like a crazy person. Sigh. I am home!

I was actually really looking forward to this week and it was the main reason I so badly wanted all of us to be feeling better – which we are, by the way – because there are so many exciting things happening.

Today is a day to just sort of putter around and do what we want and settle in. A few weeks ago as Chris and I were working one day I noticed he was madly printing off maps and other things, and when I asked I was told to mind my own business because he was planning my birthday. Um, okay…

For anyone that knows my husband well, you’ll know that gift buying completely stresses him out. Every single birthday and every single Christmas for the entire time we’ve been married has led to some comment along the line of, “You need to just tell me what you want for your birthday/Christmas,” with lots of exasperated sighing and what not. This year though, I was informed that the day after my birthday was to be set aside on our schedule for a day of just Chris and Leslie time because he has a whole day planned for us. He didn’t want to do it on my birthday because he knew we would both be recovering from jet lag and a three hour time difference. I was shocked that he’d planned an entire day, and I’ve made myself not ask any questions because I want to be as surprised as possible. The only things I know are that it’s an all day deal, and that we’ll be doing a bunch of walking in and around Portland. He asked this morning if I wanted to know what we were doing and I said no so I could savor the surprise :)

Wednesday Mum is treating me to a much needed hair cut, lunch and a pedicure for my very sad toes. They will be very happy toes though! On Thursday we’re heading to the coast for a few days to one of Mum and Dad’s favorite get away places. Basically, rather than that having a birthDAY, I get a birthWEEK!!! And then I get to celebrate all over again in a couple weeks when I see my family in BC. Turning 36 is pretty darn good if you ask me!

So, here we are. Happy, wearing layers and feeling restful and excited for the next 6 weeks. Thank you so much for praying for our family in the past week or so as we’ve battled the chicken fever. We’ve been feeling very blessed.

Oh, and I can’t leave this without sharing a few kid highlights from the trip…

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Over the hills and through the woods to grandmothers house we go…

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Me and my little cheeseballs on the plane from Port to New York.

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The train was SO fun. Before my phone powered up Alex had his nose glued to the window and there were a lot of “Yook! A airplane! We on the train!!!”

 

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Bedtime story in the hotel.

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Circling New York City yesterday morning. The rectangle of green next to the river is Central Park. We got to see the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building from the air, which was really cool.

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Any Haiti person will understand why this is exciting…

When we were driving here yesterday we stopped at a gas station to fill up. While Chris was inside buying a quart of oil I decided to wash the windows on the van, starting with the one that Alex was sitting next to. I wish I would have gotten a video of him watching. Apparently when you raise your kids cross culturally where window squeegees are not available it makes the whole process that much more amazing. At one point he was getting ready to beat Olivia on the head to wake her up so she could watch the show. Have I mentioned how fun this trip is going to be with the kids this year??? :)

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The rain that just came pouring down as I was writing this.

In case you didn’t know it, we own a ’69 Volkswagen van here in the US that we drive in the summers when home. The kids think it’s awesome, and so do we. Mum and Dad have a little wind up one that was on a wedding cake from our reception here back in 2006 that they just held onto, which Alex has now found. He’s been packing it around and even tried to take a nap with it. About 5 minutes ago he asked me where it was, while carrying it around… I guess he’s just gotten so attached to it that it’s now become an extension of his arm.

Have a great week!

~Leslie

Blustery Wednesday

It’s deliciously cool here right now. The thermometer is still reading 83*F, but it’s overcast and breezy and it feels like winter. We’ve noticed that the cooler weather has taken a lot longer to arrive this year. Usually I would have been waking up and needing to wear a long sleeve shirt for the first couple of hours for a few weeks by now, but this morning was the first time. Hmmm. Maybe the polar vortex got things all mixed up?

Chris’ parents are on their way home now after a wonderful 10 day visit. It’s been so great to have both sets of parents here in the last month. The kids are at an age where they “get” it now and to see the difference in those relationships has been so fun. I think Alex, especially, showed the biggest difference. He’s just talking so much more and interacting in such a fun way now, but more than anything he remembers things and can talk about them later. Frequently today he kept asking where Gramma and Grandpa were and I had to explain they went home. We’ve had the same conversation about Nanna and Pappa many times in the last couple of weeks.

Mum and Dad brought in a ton of stuff for us. It was so overwhelming we literally waited until the next day to go open suitcases, and Chris and I had to take turns going through the bags so we could each go over lists and make sure everything was there. It was and we’re still being reminded of everything they brought in.

One of the most exciting items for me was my new camera :) I knew I had gotten a good deal on it on Ebay, but when it arrived I was shocked to see just how good it was. Sometimes those buys can be risky. This one though – complete gem. This thing looks and acts brand new. I showed it to a friend and told her it was bought used and her reaction was, “That is used???” I checked the shutter count (number of times the shutter has opened and closed to take a picture) and it only had about 3500 shots on it – and it’s rated for about 100,000 before it needs to be replaced. It has literally hardly been used. I feel so blessed!

As you might remember, one of my goals for this year is to learn how to actually use the new camera. The 40D is definitely a step up from my old Rebel. I’ve been having fun practicing and trying to learn how to use the manual settings rather than just shooting in “green mode” (which I actually hate because it always wants to pop up the flash). If you have any recommendations for online tutorials or classes, I would love them! You can leave me a comment.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my pictures from the last week. These have had some minor editing, but not a lot, which makes me feel really good. I would love to learn how to use this thing so well that I don’t have to do a lot of editing, but I realize that’s a life long project :) These were all taken with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

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I had some good subjects :)

~Leslie

Ringing In A New Year

It always feels biter-sweet to me to take down the Christmas decorations. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I just love the hunkered down feeling. I always try to take quiet moments and just sit and enjoy the Christmas lights and the quiet that seems to come with winter, even here. When it’s time to put everything away for another year, while I love the fresh clean feeling of space after it’s all down, it’s always hard for me to put things in a box and close the lid for another year. As I did it the other day I just kept thinking about the anticipation come November when it’ll be time to bring it all out again. And then I cleaned! :)

I feel like this year I’m easing into the new year. Usually we come back in a flurry of travel, and have a day or two to unpack and settle back in, then it’s back to work. This year has involved sleeping in, slowly getting things like my 2014 day timer set up, and tidying things and thinking about what I want to see happen in 2014.

I’m not a big “resolutions” fan. They seem fake and like you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you can’t do what you set out to do. Over the years I’ve set small goals, and if I don’t make it, it’s okay. As I’m thinking about the year, these are the things that I’ve decided I want to focus my attention on.

Health

Weight Watchers:
I haven’t done an update in a while – maybe two months? The truth is, I hit a road block in November where I hovered at the same weight for over a month. I realized that the issue was I was anticipating the holidays, and all the stuff we would be doing. I love to celebrate the holidays as fully as we can here because I think it adds a sense of normalcy that helps us to feel more at home, so for me this involves having food that is familiar to how we would celebrate back home, just scaled back a bit. This means Christmas treats and special meals like the traditional turkey dinner. My problem was that I was starting to find reasons to not track my food so I wouldn’t feel ashamed about eating the stuff I liked. I finally go to the point where I realized I was sabotaging myself by telling myself I shouldn’t want those things. Most of them are things I wouldn’t normally eat in any major quantity through the year, just at Christmas. I didn’t want my success to date to be for naught, so I got honest with myself and when I realized I was starting to look at tracking my food over the holidays in a negative way I made the choice to stop, and give myself a break. I know that for this to work over the long term I can’t ever let my relationship with Weight Watchers become something that I look at with disdain. So I took a break, and gave myself permission to eat what I wanted for the rest of December without guilt. I weighed myself weekly as I normally would, just to keep tabs on things, and it was a good reminder, but at no point did I tell myself I couldn’t have something. I enjoyed everything, and listened to my body. I also knew that come the beginning of January we would be going back to our normal eating patterns and normal food that was available in the house.

The great news? When I got on the scale this morning to do my weigh in I was less that one pound up from the last time that I was regularly tracking. And today was my “back on track day”. I’ve been having internal conversations with myself to gear up to it and as I woke up this morning it was kind of freeing to know that today was the day to get back into routine. I’m not harboring any negative feelings and am looking forward to getting back on track with things. I know this program works for me, but I also need to give myself space to enjoy life if it’s going to work over the long term.

Drinking Water:
You would think that 8+ years of living in the Caribbean would have me in a place of sufficiently hydrating every day, but sadly, no. Drinking enough water every day is a major challenge for me and I feel the physical effects daily. Often I feel sluggish, and I can get headaches. My first word of advice for anyone else is to drink more water, but I don’t do it enough myself. So, a goal for this year is to make a bigger effort in this department.

Today I downloaded a free app for my phone that lets me check off glasses of water each day, and it has alarms that you can set that go off at your chosen times to remind you to stop and drink. I want to try it through January and see if it helps me get more fluid in my body, and in turn how I feel if I drink enough.

Another part of this is not just hydration, but also replacing electrolytes. Living in Canada I didn’t have an issue with this, but here we sweat a lot more, even with little activity. A person can hydrate, but if we don’t replace those electrolytes our bodies have to work harder. It’s not something I’ve really put a lot of thought into, but a friend here who was drinking a lot of water told me she was still feeling sluggish until she started drinking one glass of Gatorade per day. Chris and I are going to try it and see how it works for us.

Spiritual
I’ve been going to a Bible study weekly with a group of other missionary ladies from our area and I’ve really been enjoying it. I want to be more intentional about working on my Bible study lessons through the week rather than madly working through them the day before so I get more out of them.

I also want to find a good devotional so I can be more regularly reading my Bible. I know it’s key for helping me stay centered in all areas of my life, but often it’s the last thing on my priority list.

Time and Organization

Social Media – Facebook:
I’m becoming less and less in love with Facebook. Recently Chris and I have been really reminded that it’s a very poor platform for conversation. The whole thing has always been funny to me in the sense that I think it gives us a sense of more importance than we really all need. I was hardly ever on it until the earthquake, then it was the fastest and easiest way to keep everyone updated on things here. Since then, it’s just kind of stuck. But, I don’t love it. In fact, when I think about how I use it, I often feel frustrated. I waste a lot of time scrolling through status updates that aren’t always that interesting. I have people on my “friend” list that I never communicate with in “real life”, and because of it I feel limited in what I can share because it doesn’t feel personal any more.

This year I want to be intentional about stepping back from Facebook. I’m not leaving it behind, but rather being more intentional about how I use it. I think limiting myself to one check per day and setting a time limit to it is healthy. It’s so easy to kill hours on there. I also decided that I’m not going to post or get involved in hot button conversations. It’s not the platform for where those “conversations” should be happening. The truth is, a lot of people will say things on the internet that they would never say to someones face, and I don’t want to be part of those conversations any more. I’m going to limit my use of Facebook to occasional status updates and photo postings, and only share the information that I think is truly valuable or important. It’s also a time thing for me. I need to better use my time. Facebook isn’t it.

Blogging:
I know that people love reading our blog, and I enjoy writing it. The problem for me is when I start comparing myself and my blogging to other bloggers. It’s so easy for me to feel inadequate, usually in the realm of how frequently I post, and that there aren’t a ton of pictures. The truth is, I have ideas for blogging all the time. The catch is I don’t often have the time. When I do sit down and blog I am frequently interrupted and it takes even more time to finish a post. This post for example, I’ve been interrupted by the kids more times than I can count. I sometimes have a window in the mornings during the work week where Chris is gone to take Olivia to school, and Alex is happily playing outside, where I can have focused time on the computer. When those moments are there I can get a lot done, but it’s hit or miss. I need to step back and stop feeling like I’m not meeting the mark on this one. Our present reality is that time is limited. Aside from the fact that I’m a wife and a mother to young kids, one of which who is still home during the day, I also have a lot of responsibilities with the mission administratively and otherwise. I just don’t have the time to post more than once or twice a week, no matter how much I like the idea. So, for this year, I’m releasing myself from any expectations and will blog when I feel like it and when I have time. I’m not a professional blogger, I’m a wife, mother and missionary.

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Menu Planning:
This is something I’ve been doing for years, and I plan on continuing. Where I need to be more diligent is checking the plan in the morning, even earlier in the week, and doing any preparations needed whether it’s making a loaf of bread to have with dinner (I use a great no-knead recipe that literally takes about 10 minutes of work) or looking ahead and making sure I put everything on the weekly market or shopping list that I need so I’m not scrambling come dinner time. We’ve found that meal planning helps to save money, so that’s another big part of it for me. As I plan I want to be intentional about planning meals that are lower cost, but balanced and enjoyable. I can’t tell you how often we talk to people here who talk about a poor diet, yet Haiti is bountiful in fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, rice, various meats… I could go on. Anyway, I want to be more intentional about being prepared, and eating what’s available to us and seasonal. We benefit health wise, and the mission benefits with lower food expenses.

Organization:
I did quite a bit of work last fall to go through the house and purge each room. Now I need to stay on top of it. I’ve already put together a check list for each room that is a great reminder of what needs attention. Yonese is great with helping keep things tidy through the week, but it’s my job to control our stuff. I have a binder that I used to keep myself organized through the holidays, and I plan on making it work year round for general household organization. Part of it will have space for meal planning each month, and there will be the check list to go through the house and stay on top of keeping things organized.

I should say, that over the last year or so I’ve realized that while I like things organized in the sense that I want our house to be organized because it’s small and we need to know that things have their place, where they are, what we need etc, BUT we also need to be able to live here. As in, while I enjoy the 5 minutes post cleaning where everything feels fresh and sparkling and it’s in it’s place, that’s not reality most days. Most days the floor needs to be swept and there are things on the counter that need to be put away and shoes splayed three feet away from the door. That is just the way it is right now. When we build and move to the new land, there will be more space and new ways for us to store things and live. But that is not now. I have to relax to a certain extent and accept that there are four people in our house and we all have different needs. So organized, but not anal about it.

Personal Care

I’m really horrible when it comes to doing things to take care of myself. Little things like actually washing and moisturizing my face. Seriously. So, I want to work on that.

I have back problems, and repeatedly my chiropractor has told me that simply taking the time to stretch certain muscles will do a lot to relieve that. So, I want to work on stretching and see if I can help my body heal. I’m good at complaining about it, but not doing the work to help it get better. Stupid, I know.

I want to finally grow my nails. I’ve been a life long nail biter, but I want to grow them. Not crazy long, but so they look nice. Olivia loves “doing nail polish” and the crazy thing is that Chris has become her go to person to have her nails painted. I like having polished nails and toes, I just don’t take the time to do it. So, I want to do it. I have a bunch of fun new colors and glitter polishes coming with Chris’ parents (thank you Ebay!) to have fun with. When I take the time to polish my finger nails, they grow and I don’t bite them. So, that’s a goal.

I want to be more intentional about looking after my skin. I’m 35. It’s time. I’m not a person who is crazy worried about wrinkles, but also don’t like when my skin feels dry or rough. I know that when I take the time for a day or two in a row to take care of my skin it feels better. Again, it’s a laziness thing. Time to grow up a bit!

Hobbies

Knitting:
I know I’ve mentioned on here that I enjoy knitting and really started to pick it up in the last year or so. It’s relaxing for me and gives me something to do with my hands. I’ve also realized after talking to a lot of people that it’s one of those things that comes naturally to me, and that already in the last year I’ve challenged myself with projects that most people don’t attempt in their first year of serious knitting. I know that for me it’s a case of needing something new to challenge me and keep my interest. After we came back from holidays in August I started working on Christmas stockings. Wow, pushing through to finishing number four was a trial. It was too much of the same thing without a lot of variation. I love how they turned out, but wow, I was happy when they were done.

My goal for this year is to have fun with my knitting and enjoy it. I had set out to make several Christmas presents, but as the holidays got closer and things got busier it became more and more of a burden. I was loathing how much knitting I “needed” to do. Then I realized that I didn’t “need” to do any of it. So I stopped. And I knit a dishcloth, because I needed something different and small and mindless to get my groove back. I switched up the gift giving and no one but Chris and I were any the wiser (except now my parents will be wondering what I didn’t make). And I felt free and enjoyed the holidays without the pressure of be a slave to my knitting needles. A couple of days ago I cast on a sweater for Alex to wear when we go camping. It’s my goal to knit each of us a sweater for the summer, but that’s a loose goal. And it might sound crazy to want that for the summer, but when we go camping mornings are often very chilly for us because of the fact that we live in the Caribbean, so having something to bundle up in until it warms up is needed. And, we can wear them when we go home in the winters. Anyway, I’m having fun on Alex’s sweater and am anticipating the yarn coming with my in-laws for Chris and I. I love the words “If you’re going to spend two plus months knitting a sweater, you might as well use good yarn!” Especially when they’re uttered by my husband :) (As an aside, if you know anything about Chris and his “special” sweater, you’ll understand what a big deal it is for him to have actually asked me to make him a sweater…) So, knit more and have fun with it. If I need a break from one thing, cast on something else that is exciting.

Photography
I won’t lie. At least once a day I find myself thinking, “My new camera is coming, my new camera is coming!” I’m so excited that it’s coming with Chris’ parents :) But, it also means I need to be committed to actually working on how to use it well. I had so much fun playing with our friends camera when we did our family pictures that it has me completely excited to get mine. I want to be intentional about learning how to use it well, and practicing with it regularly. And, it doesn’t hurt that I have two super cute subjects to practice with. I also want to set the time aside to work on editing those photos and actually sharing them. Ahem. So, maybe you’ll see more pictures on the blog this year… That is, whenever I get around to posting them because I’m not pressuring myself, remember? :)

So those are the big things for 2014. They are gentle and good for me types of things. Things that improve my quality of life and things that are worth working on. No guilt. No shame. No feelings on not meeting the mark. Maybe as 2014 comes to a close 12 months from now I’ll be able to look back on the year and feel a sense of peace and happy accomplishment. Maybe :)

What goals have you set for yourself this year? Do you even set goals, or hate the whole practice all together. 

~Leslie

Gift Of Life

Today marks the 2 month point until Christmas!

As a Canadian, I think one of the great benefits of celebrating Thanksgiving in October is that we can guiltlessly start talking and thinking about and planning for Christmas as soon as the turkey platter is washed and put back in the cupboard. I won’t lie – I’ve had Christmas on the brain for quite a while already!

With Christmas only two months away, I know that time will go quickly. With the planning come the lists of gifts to make or purchase for everyone from friends and family, to teachers, co-workers, employers… the lists can get pretty big.

In the past few years people seem to be making more intentional choices about what to give as a gift for the special people in their lives, and are wanting to focus more on the reason we celebrate than the materialism.

As an organization we’ve offered a gift giving option for the past few years that’s ideal for people that want to give a gift that they know will make an impact. We’re doing it again this year!

Through our Gift of Life Campaign you can make a minimum donation of $10 in honor of someone on your gift list, provide us with their mailing info, and we’ll send them a gift card to let them know you’ve made a donation on their behalf to Clean Water for Haiti.

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Gift of LIfe card front.

Each bio-sand filter that we produce at Clean Water for Haiti costs about $55 US. That includes all labor, materials, transportation, delivery costs and follow-up visits and maintenance. Each filter installed in a Haitian home can provide enough water every day for about 8-10 people, meeting all of a households water needs.

Most families in Haiti are reliant on contaminated water sources for their drinking, cooking and bathing water. Water sources that look like this:

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Water source in the Artibonite Valley where the majority of our filters go.

When we can provide a family with a filter, it can literally be life saving.

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A bio-sand filter in the process of being installed, running water for the first time!

But, it’s not just about water – it’s about development.

At Clean Water for Haiti we believe in doing development well, so each family that receives a filter actually contributes a small amount to the cost. The reason? It gives the filter some value in the eyes of the recipient, and it gives the family dignity in knowing that they made a choice to better the health of their family. The contribution is enough that it has significance, but small enough that even the poorest of the poor can afford it. We also use local labor to produce the filters, and we buy almost all of the materials used to build and install them locally. Essentially any donation made to Clean Water for Haiti gets spent twice – once on helping to supply filters, and the second time on providing employment and allowing us to participate in the local economy.

For more information on the Gift Of Life Campaign and to make a donation, please click on the link which will take you to the information and donation letter that you can print off.

GOL Letter 2013

Some people like to personally give out their donation gift cards, or tuck them in with another gift. If you would like to do that, just include a note to have the cards sent to your home, and be sure to get your donations in by the end of November so we can make sure they arrive in time for you to distribute.

We also have Gift Of Life for Groups for those working with churches, schools, service groups, or any other place that you think a group might be interested in participating. If you have a group that you’d like to do Gift Of Life with, please see the following links and print off the necessary quantities of each form and make them available to your group.

GOL Information for Groups 2013

GOL 2013 Tracking Form

 US Groups – GOL 2013 US Card Sample

Canadian Groups – GOL 2013 CWH Foundation Sample

Thanks for helping us share the Gift of Life this Christmas and holiday season! If you have any questions about the campaign, please don’t hesitate to contact me at office@cleanwaterforhaiti.org. The links for all of the above information and forms will also be on the side bar until after Christmas.

~Leslie

Enter Me, the Whirling Dervish

You get two posts in one day!!! You’re so lucky :)

Yesterday I slept in a bit to recover from a night up with the kids at various points, and I think it was enough to not only bring me around the sickie corner, but it also must have given me my second wind because somewhere between finishing my eggs and drinking my coffee I decided to tackle a big organization project.

I should back up a second though…

I’ve mentioned that we’re staying in Haiti this year for Christmas. With that in mind, and a few things filling up the calendar, and MY PARENTS COMING TO VISIT (!), I decided to put together a holiday planner/organizer. You know, something to keep gifts sorted, plan certain get togethers and meals, etc. When we have to order things in and plan for several bigger events where I might have to take advantage of trips to Port au Prince, I need to be organized. I just looked around on Pinterest for some ideas, then put together my own pages, printed them on card stock, and stuck them in a binder with dividers for each month. It’s already been really helpful! For example, for the Thanksgiving party, I was able to plan out who was bringing what, what was needed etc, all on one page. Then I could pop it out and carry it around with me as I was getting stuff ready.

In that overall planning process I saw a pin on Pinterest called “50 things to do to organization your home before Christmas”. Or something like that. I pinned it because while we try to keep things fairly organized, sometimes we get busy and there are little things that nag away and we don’t give them the attention they need. I’m also not a spring cleaner, I think because we don’t get that “new” season coming where we want to throw open the windows, air everything out and get the dust bunnies out of the corners. The windows are open every day, and the dust bunnies get attacked regularly. Also, I find September/October is when I seem to want to do most of the organizing tasks around here. I think the coming back from vacation, it’s starting to get cooler, going back to school thing feels like a new season to me, and I tend to have more energy than in the spring when it’s starting to get hot.

Anyway.

I got the idea to take the list as a jumping off point and make an organizing, then upkeep page for each month. Each month has the same tasks on it. October would be the month where any major organization that needed to be done, would get done, then the coming months would just mean quickly revisiting each item to check up on it. If it needs some tidying, it gets tidied. If the organization of the previous month wasn’t working, it can get adjusted. You get the idea. I basically went through each room and thought of what wasn’t typical cleaning and was more of an organizational thing. For example, organizing the kids drawers. This needs to be done monthly. They both get in there and mix things up, and sometimes when Yonese puts clothes away things don’t go where I would put them. So about once a month I take 30 minutes and go through and sort things. It’s also a good time to move anything out that they don’t wear, has stains beyond hope, or doesn’t fit. Anything needing to be moved into rotation does.

One of the biggest, most procrastinated about and complained about projects was the storage room. When we were planning this apartment Otto, our engineer friend who did the designs, added the storage room in. Chris wanted to take it out. I told him it was a non-negotiable because the other house had zero storage built in and I was done with making due. Now we have everything from pantry stuff to fuel conditioner for the Santa Fe in there. Office supplies? Check. Computer parts? Check. Toys and books out of rotation? Check. Craft and sewing supplies? Check. We seriously have a little of everything, and it had gotten to the point where we were just sort of finding a spot and filling it. Things weren’t together, and stuff kept falling on me when I’d go in. I would buy extra things, like ketchup, because I couldn’t see that we already had two in the pantry. I think it had been about 2 years since I’d done a good overhaul. It was time.

So, I started with the stuff closest to the door and went shelf by shelf. Professional organizers say the best thing you can do when organizing a space is to empty everything out, go through it, toss what needs to be tossed, donate what needs to be donated, and decide if what was there and where it was works for you. If not, change it.

I tossed 3 garbage bags of stuff. A lot of it was packaging from consolidating items, or stuff that was broken, outdated, etc. I think when you’re a missionary it’s easy to hold onto things because you might need it “one day”. Things like broken electronics or stuff that’s outdated. Because maybe you’ll need a backup. But then you remember that the reason you got a new router was because they old one didn’t work anymore. Ahem.

So I did it. I went through every section of the room. Took everything out, wiped shelves, sorted, tossed, donated and then reorganized things and even labeled stuff! I realized that the two shelves we have for pantry stuff needed some adjustments. I have a lot of things in baskets already, they just needed some cleaning and sorting. The biggest thing I realized though was that I needed to put the baskets down a shelf and put the stuff that just sits loosely, like cans etc, up a shelf. It’s easy to look down into a basket and see what’s there. I was buying multiples of things, like ketchup though, because I would have had to bend over to see all the way back to the shelf the loose stuff was on. Now that it’s at eye level I can see what we have and what we need easily. The rest of the room saw like being put with like and just basic editing down. Now all the office supplies are on one shelf. The stuff we use the most is closer to the door. Things like that. It’s nice to walk in there and not have things fall on me!

That whole process led to tidying up the cupboard above the linen cupboard, behind our bedroom door, the office shelves (gah!) and our closet. They were all things on the task list, I just wasn’t anticipating doing them all in one day. I realized though, that I’m not one of those people that does 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there like most pro-organizers recommend. I like to take a day and tackle a lot. I feel freer when I do that because I don’t feel like I have another job nagging at me. I LOVE crossing things off the “to do” list. Because of that I literally knocked out half of the list yesterday. I still need to go through my kitchen cupboards and do some tidying and sorting in the kids room, but for the most part I’m done. For the next few months I can go over the list, put things in their places and just stay on top of things.

What always strikes me too, when I do this, is how much was all let out a deep breath. I sometimes think I’m the only one that feels claustrophobic when these things need to be done, but I think it’s because Chris just isn’t as vocal about it. He’s also realizing that what might bug him, like a very full storage room, he’s contributed to. Yesterday as I was going through everything, he was making comments of appreciation. When it was done, he just said thank you, and I knew he meant that he felt like there was breathing space too. I wasn’t going crazy and throwing stuff out, but rather asked him about consolidating and moving some things around so it wasn’t just my project, but something we could both get behind, even if I was doing the work. A few things he just shook his head and said something about not being sure why we even still had the item. I concur. I think we’re both wanting to live more simply, and that means asking ourselves if we really need or use certain things. As our kids get older we’re able to pass on a lot of the stuff that has cluttered our small house. One of the next things to go is our kids dishes. We already use melamine dishes every day, so having extra kid dishes in the house is feeling redundant. Alex is big enough now that he can use regular small forks like Olivia and eat off the same dishes we do. He doesn’t need special cutlery. The only thing we’ll hold on to are sippy cups.

As I’m working through this the thing I keep in mind (or maybe the thing that pushes me?) is the upcoming holidays. I know it might seem crazy since it’s two months until Christmas, but it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas here in Haiti, even though I’ll miss the typical things we would enjoy back home. I want the time to be fun and restful. I don’t want to feel bogged down by stuff or things that are nagging at me. I can use this time to be going through our house to simplify things so the work load is less. The less you have, and the more organized it is, the less work you need to do. Did you know that I rarely do housework on weekends? I want my weekends to be a time of rest, not a time to get stuff done. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever do it, or that I don’t do projects around the house. I do, but I don’t save it up and do it on the weekend. I think over time as we’ve simplified things and there’s been less work to do, well, there’s been less work to do. When I do find myself doing something, it’s usually sweeping and mopping because the floors are a disaster, or maybe a load of laundry because one of the kids had an issue. We don’t have a dishwasher, so dishes are obviously on the list. My point is, I want to make time to relax and look forward to the holidays, and one of the ways for me to fully do that, is to know that our house is in order.

Do you do any organizational projects in the fall to get ready for holidays?

~Leslie

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Canada!

This past weekend marked Canadian Thanksgiving. We’re a multi-country family with Canadians, Americans and Haitians all represented. In fact, out of the 4 of us, I’m the only one who doesn’t have 2 passports. Chris is a dual citizen and was able to transfer citizenship to Alex. We haven’t done it for Olivia because as an adopted child it would involve an immigration process and gets spendy. I haven’t gotten my green card because I just haven’t needed to. Olivia still has her Haitian passport from when we finished her adoption.

So, we get to celebrate two Thanksgivings in our family. Typically Canadian Thanksgiving is a low key roast chicken dinner at home. We may invite a friend, but that’s usually the extent of it. One year we went to a big Canadian Thanksgiving bash at a friends house where about 20+ Canadians had gathered. There tends to be more American missionaries here in Haiti, so any gathering of large numbers of Canadians are fun.

This year we decided to host Canadian Thanksgiving for our missionary group. The funny thing is there are only 5 Canadians in a group of about 40 :) When we extended the invitation, we weren’t sure how many would come, so we were happily surprised when the RSVP’s started flying in and everyone who had been invited was excited to be there. We did a big ol’ potluck, because our group is good at those.

We decided to try something different to see how it worked out cost wise, and bought two local turkeys. On Friday morning Yonese brought our little friends to work so they could meet their fate. We were a little surprised when Alex quickly grabbed the leg tie on the big one and started walking it around the yard like a puppy.

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In case you were worried that he was in shock after it was butchered, he wasn’t. In fact, a couple hours later I looked down into the driveway to see him walking over from the work yard where the deed had been done, carrying a turkey head by the comb. My first world self almost freaked out, then I remembered that we aren’t living in the first world and if he was okay with it, I guess I could be too. Besides, if we lived on a farm, that would be normal if we had chickens.

We had a great day with all our friends. Everyone chipped in with tables and we had a nice afternoon with great food under the coconut trees. As we sat around playing some games later and then moved on to going around the circle to share something we were thankful for I was kind of overwhelmed with gratitude.

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You see, being in another country full time means you miss a lot of family stuff. For example, my brother and sister in law recently had their second baby, a sweet little girl. I wasn’t there when my nephew was born, and had to wait 4.5 months to meet him. I won’t meet Lucy until next summer. That stuff makes me sad. Holidays are hard too because we know family is gathering back home and we aren’t there. BUT, that said, as I looked around I was reminded of the blessing that God has given us in our missionary family here. When I first arrived in Haiti, Chris and I were some of the youngest members. Less than a year later we were the only young married couple. Then we were the only young family after Olivia came along. There were other people in our age bracket, but they came and went with shorter commitments to Haiti. As I looked around on Sunday I saw 40 people that are a core group in our lives, ranging in ages from 70+ down to the first few months of their lives. Where we used to be the youngest and only young marrieds/family, I now saw several young families with kids of all ages. We have singles. We have newly-weds. We have mid-lifers. We have retirees. We have surrogate grandparent and auntie/uncle types for our kids. We have people we look to as mentors, and people we want to spend time with when we just need to unwind. We have people we can feed into because we’ve done the hard work of settling here and starting a family. We have Canadians, Americans and Haitians – all creating beautiful blended families whether it’s through marriage, adoption, fostering or coming alongside brothers and sisters in Christ. God has truly blessed us with this group, and we’re so thankful for each and every one of them!

It was a wonderful, relaxed, fun afternoon! That evening I got to talk to my brother, and on Monday me and the kids got to talk to Nanna and Pappa. For the first time Alex was really into talking on the phone, which was a kick! There was a lot of excitement from the littles!

Sadly, Monday and Tuesday also got spent as sick days in our house while me and the kids were down with a stomach bug that’s been going around. Thankfully we’re all better now :)

~Leslie