These Kids…

I thought that after the last post it might be fun to finally share some of my pictures. If nothing else at least the grandparents will be happy ;)

Our kids both have big personalities. Alex, when he’s in the right mood, is such an easy subject. Olivia is in this stage where she tries to perform for the camera so it’s hard to get good, natural pictures of her right now, but every once in a while she gives me something to work with. One of the advantages of having white walls in and out along with big shady trees outside is that we get amazing light in our house at different times of the day, as well as out on the deck. I especially love the light in our bedroom. Most of these were taking on our bed. They definitely weren’t edited to the extent that they could have been because I think that there’s something sweet about keeping kids natural to an extent, remembering bumps and scrapes and food on their faces.

Kids May-3

Kids May-5

I LOVE that picture of Alex so much. I don’t even have words.

Kids May-9

Kids May-13

Kids May-22

Kids May-25

Kids May-30

 

Little Mister insisted on playing with the swim goggles.

Kids May-27

Kids May-34

Kids May-33

Kids May-35

Kids May-39

Kids May-38

Kids May-42

 

Kids May-58

Kids May-47

Kids May-43

Kids May-56

 

Kids May-61

Kids May-62

Kids May-68

Miss O loves being dramatic :)

 

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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

We’re doing this in bullet points.

Weeks since my last post?

  • I came down with Shingles mid-March. So very thankful for the support network around us. We had a doctor friend come by the same day that the red bumps started to show up and I was able to get antiviral meds the following morning, which pretty much eliminated all the pain and things ran the course pretty quickly. The crazy part is that the only thing I can think about that triggered it was grade one homework. I wish I was joking about that. After a good holiday where I truly relaxed for the first time in many years, coming back and spending a week fighting with my daughter to the point we were all in tears over homework is what did it. Not all the other stuff we’ve been through in the past, like arson, death threats, earthquake, adoption, everyday stresses – grade one homework. Yeesh.
  • While I got through most of my illness unscathed, I wasn’t expecting the fatigue. It doesn’t affect everyone, but almost three weeks later I’m just slowly starting to feel more like myself again. This explains the absence on here.
  • Chris is away right now. He’s back in Canada and the US on a fundraising trip. This will be the longest we’ve been apart as a family since the month before Alex was born where Olivia and I went back to Canada and Chris came a month later. We’re managing, but it’s not fun. It feels very long and I keep telling myself if we can just push through to Monday we’ll be at the halfway point and then we can start counting down.
  • On a good note, Chris has had several opportunities to share already, some in new places, and people are already asking when we’ll be able to do future presentations. Such a good thing!
  • Along that vein, I got our summer flights booked last night. It’s always such a process! I mean, spending a bit of time every day for about a week watching fares. My mom was and is again working as a travel agent so I’ve picked up a lot of tips over the years which help, and I have a good idea of what we should be paying, but sometimes what we should and what is are two different things. I was feeling stressed because flights can be so expense, especially when you’re paying 4 full fares. I had narrowed things down to one option yesterday and had that reservation on hold but when I went to pay for it I got a message that they couldn’t use my Canadian card. Funny because they haven’t had a problem with it for the past ten years… I was going to phone to see if I could pay over the phone, but decided to sniff around a bit more and found a much better deal with a different airline that literally saved us at least $600. I say at least, because that was compared to the tickets I was not apparently allowed to book. In comparison to the other options it was around $1000 in savings. Felt like a divine intervention and we are thankful.
  • Having had Shingles and knowing it’s most often stress induced or revived, I’ve been thinking about stress and what I can eliminate. One thing that’s been really hard this year is just feeling worn out with the kids. It’s not just me, it’s both Chris and I. So much work. They both have such big personalities, and while it’s often funny, there are times where we just feel exhausted in the discipline realm. With Chris gone I’ve had the space to think and pray through a lot of things specifically relating to me and I feel like I’m making good progress. Our kids have never been off the wall or anything like that, we just realized that we were feeling like we were on repeat all the time, so it’s been a case of having to firm up some boundaries, but in a way that lets the kids know this is the line. I’m in the process of reading “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” as recommended by several friends and it’s really good. The summary is that I’m feeling less stressed in this area and actually enjoying the kids even though I’m in this situation where I’m on my own and doing everything (Chris is a fabulous Dad/husband and I MISS him when he’s not here tag teaming with me!).
  • The kids actually crack me up most of the time. I wish I could bottle the stuff that comes out of them because it’s like gold. The hardest part is not busting out laughing when they say something so ridiculous that it’s funny or endearing. Alex is in this phase where he’s trying to figure out where he can exercise his opinions and independence, so it’s very normal for him to all of the sudden yell something like, “I said NO!” But about something that you wouldn’t normally say no about. He’s also in a stage where he likes to blame his sister for things. Like when he takes a drink of water from the cup we leave by his bed, while lying down, and it spills all over him, which shocks him and results in him crying. I go in and he says, through jagged crying, “Yaya throwed water on me!” “Yaya” is dead asleep and has been for hours… Every. single. night.
  • Olivia is in a stage where she tries to tell jokes, but it’s usually something like, “Why did the zebra walk through the jungle? Because you have orange hair!” Enter the stifling of laughter from the parental unit and a “Um, okay.” While Chris is away I’ve been trying to teach the kids jokes that they can tell Daddy over Skype when we talk. The two year old can nail a joke, with a side of “ba dum dum” but the 6 year old? Yeah, she has a zebra on her head or something.
  • Alex has started giving inanimate objects personalities. Like tonight after dinner the tongs on the counter became “my sister” and he was in a very intense battle with a tea towel protecting his sister. While his “sister” was in his hands. At one point I tried to tell him to go put the tongs in the sink and I was quickly corrected with a, “That’s not tongs! That’s my sister!” Yes sir!
  • Two days ago on the way home from driving Olivia to school we got hit by a chicken. Yes, you read that right, WE got hit by a chicken. While driving about 100 kms/hour down the highway I heard a loud thump hit the side of our car. When I looked in the rear view mirror I saw feathers flying as the chicken hit the shoulder. We literally got hit by a chicken. When we got home Alex and I checked the back passenger door and found a dent where the thing hit. Don’t worry, it just added to the plethora of dents already there. Alex went to open the door to see if the chicken was in the car…
  • And, since the chicken story was so exciting, when we talked to Nanna and Daddy on Skype later that day every time anyone asked Alex anything about anything he would say, “And a chicken hitted the car and it went “BOOM!” with arm flailing. The best part of this whole story is that he can actually tell it in two languages, with just as much animation :)

Okay, time for this girl to turn in for the night. The good thing about Chris not being here is that I am getting caught up on my rest because I can go to bed at any point after the kids are in bed, so you know – 7:30. And, I’m almost regretting the decision to not move up to a king sized bed when we had the chance last year because apparently I do like to sprawl when I sleep :( Being gone for this long Chris is going to have to fight for his side of the bed back.

Have a great weekend!

~Leslie

Super Fast Post

We’re a few days into a Vision Trip, and time is a bit limited so I’m going to do a bullet point post of randomness, just for you!

  • Picked everyone up on Saturday. The day involved two airport pick ups, a visit to a police station to retrieve one of our motorcycles that resulted in a whole other interesting experience, a grocery shopping trip, a lot of driving and sweat.
  • We have three guests this week, and we’re enjoying all of them. One woman is Haitian and visiting Haiti for the first time since she was a baby. It’s been really fun showing her the country of her family’s roots and talking to her about all sorts of things. Each Vision Trip is unique and that’s what makes it fun for us!
  • It’s always like Christmas when we have Vision Trippers come because they can bring in bags full of supplies for the mission and our family. I spent a little time yesterday sweating like a marathon runner in Hawaii while trying to put our new couch cover on, and am especially enjoying my new reading glasses. I’m pretty sure the ones I was using weren’t really the strength they claimed to be because my eyes are much happier now.
  • Alex has been trying all sorts of new vocab and most days sounds like a little parrot. He’s also putting words together into little sentences, which is really fun. He’s not going to be a quiet, shy child, that’s for sure. God blessed us with two social butterflies.
  • Ryan took one visitor up the mountain to Fon Baptiste today to go deliver some bucket filters and follow-up on some filters we delivered a few months ago.
  • On Wednesday Chris will take everyone on a repair day so they can see different parts of the installation and maintenance process for the filters and have an opportunity to be in the communities where the filters go. Repair days are a bit different than delivery days because we visit fewer homes, but they’re often more spread out so our guests will have the chance to see a lot of different things during the trip.
  • Our missionary friends that have been away for the summer start to arrive back this week. I always love it when everyone is back. It makes me feel a bit more “complete” here :)

I won’t leave you hanging without telling you about my interesting experience. In a nutshell, I dropped Thony off at a police station on the way to town on Saturday so he could get one of our motorcycles that had been seized because the registration had expired. We thought the police would ask for “storage” fees, and had been advised not to pay. They did, I initially refused, but because we couldn’t get a hold of our contact within the police department for advice we decided to pay, but to take badge numbers in the event that anything needed to reported. In the process of writing down the “chief’s” badge number he got angry that I was doing so, and forcefully grabbed my arm so I couldn’t write it down. I had already finished, and very loudly informed him that I was a resident with all my papers and that I knew I had the right to take badge numbers whenever I felt anything was “off”. After a stare down he let me go and I went back outside. Thony, as well as 6 or 7 other officers had seen and heard the whole things (I was actually intentional about being loud for this reason) so the officer knew that he had made a big mistake. He was later trying to be appologetic, but mostly because he knew he had made a big mistake. I hadn’t been rude or pushy at any point and there was no reason for him to treat me that way, especially not as an official that is there to supposedly serve and protect the population.

We’re going to be following up through the right channels, but not because I want heads to roll or anything like that. We know the corruption that’s within a lot of government offices here, and we try to push against that when we can. Aside from that though, we’re also aware of how regular Haitian citizens are often treated by the police. Let’s just say they aren’t served and protected in most cases. I am a white woman, which sadly brings with it certain advantages. For this to happen to me as a white woman in this country is almost unheard of and would be frowned upon from many sources. BUT, what about all the other people here that don’t have that advantage. How much worse would they have been treated? If following up on this means that officer has to even think really hard about how he conducts himself, then the effort was worth it. If it sets an example that can maybe do a little something about fighting corruption within offices that are supposed to be serving the public, then it will be worth it.

Happy Monday!

~leslie

Perspective

I feel like coming back from our summer vacation always leaves me feeling fresher and gives me new perspective. Our first few days back last week were full of tidying and cleaning and sorting – things that I just didn’t have the energy for before we left.

Olivia doesn’t go back to school until next month, so I’m trying to find a different rhythm than we have through most of the year because I have one extra kid to keep entertained 4 days per week. She gets lunch at school, so we don’t have to worry about much more than throwing a snack and drink in her bag, and then feeding Alex bits and pieces of whatever we find in the fridge through the day. Having her home means I actually have to think about lunch and do something a bit more pulled together for the kids. Also, she’s just flat out bored right now. The last couple days have given us rain in the evenings, which means the driveway is a mud pit right now. Thankfully the kids have been avoiding it, but it also means they can’t ride their bikes, increasing the boredom… Sigh. I will admit, today I realized I’m more than happy that she is in school these days and that for four days per week we have a better chance of accomplishing work things.

I read a blog post last week that got me thinking about all this balance stuff. Basically the point was that we each need to find what works for us. For some people having a super organized home is what works for them. They have the time and energy to commit to organizing it in the first place, and then to maintaining it over time – because while organization does simplify life in many ways, it still takes regular maintenance.

It got me thinking about what my priorities are around the house. What do I need to have to feel sane, and what is less important? I realized something very valuable – I had been working, at least mentally, a bit too hard to be and do certain things that really just weren’t “me” or “us” if I was really honest with myself.”

I say “mentally” because in many cases I was having conversations with myself about what I “should” be doing or being or focusing my attention on, rather than looking at what really makes us work and what makes us happy as a family.

Let’s talk about the household “state of being” for a bit, because I think this is probably the biggest area for me.

Both Chris and I have parents that have tidy homes. Are they spotless. Nope. But they are tidy with comfortable, open spaces not filled with stuff. Yes, there are little, shall we call them “collections” around the house. Like the mish mash of odds and ends on the phone desk that both of our families seem to have. You know, pens, purses, paper clips, phone cradles and chargers, post it notes etc. For the most part though, it’s clean and tidy. Stuff gets picked up and put away.

How does that translate over to our home, having had that example? Well, I like a tidy house. It makes me feel peaceful. I am SO very grateful that Yonese helps keep our house tidy through the week because it’s a lot of work here. The windows are open every day, all day, and we can literally sweep several times per day and have piles. In hot climates, the outdoors are an extension of your home, so it’s natural that the outdoors come in. We also live in a small space, so when things are crazy, the space feels crazy and then we feel crazy.

I like to walk into my room and see the bed made. I don’t like walking on things. I like to look at the kids room when I walk by and see the floor. I like to look at their shelving unit and see the books with books and the toys with toys. I hate having stuff all over my counters, at least in the places I work in when preparing meals. Overall, I like having a tidy house. Looking at a messy house makes me feel stressed. Chris will tell you, often when he drives visitors to the airport I spend that time cleaning and getting our home back in order after what is usually a busy week of early mornings and late nights. And then, after I’m done madly doing dishes, washing floors, doing laundry and putting things right I sit and enjoy it for the 5 minutes I have before he arrives home or the kids come in from outside and undo everything. But those 5 minutes – bliss!

Saying all that though… I’ve realized in the last week that for this season in our lives I need to not worry so much about certain things, because that worry was actually causing more stress in our home.

We’ve recently been trying to have a lot of conversations with Olivia about taking responsibility for our choices, actions and stuff, and that being part of a family means we all work together to make things, well, work. That means we all do certain things to make our home more enjoyable to live in, to clean it etc. And, we don’t always like doing those things, but they need to be done, and since we all benefit, we all contribute. Some of the things that were stressing me out were the messes left by the kids. So, the solution is that now that Olivia is old enough, she gets to help clean up. Today she cleaned her room after her and Alex had been playing in there. And she did a great job. Along the way she’s learning things like how to know where the top of the sheet is by the size of the seam. She’s also learning that sometimes the “fun” choices lead to not fun clean up, like when you and your brother splash water all over the bathroom floor and you have to mop it up – two nights in a row.

I’ve decided that I’m going to chill out a bit about certain things. I’m going to admit that while I like the idea of having a fabulously organized home where everything is in labeled containers and on shelves lined with pretty paper, that’s just not us right now. Part of having a happy, organized home, is finding a system that everyone is willing to work with. If I’m barking at everyone all the time because they aren’t working with my system, then it’s not working. No one is happy. They feel nagged and I feel unappreciated. Finding a system that works for us is what makes everyone happy. And you know what? I’ve realized we’re actually doing pretty good. Do I have stuff on my counters? Yep, in some places. But I do regularly stop and take a few seconds to sort and straighten and move anything out that isn’t supposed to live there.

For the most part our things all have places to live. After we got back, as part of the unpacking process I sorted through most of my clothes and all of the kids clothes. We stocked up on a bunch of new stuff, so before putting it in on top of the old I sorted out things that didn’t fit, didn’t get worn, or had bad stains. I moved some things around in the kids room to make it work better for us and the phase we’re in, and I cleaned some things out of my linen closet that we don’t need. It all feels good and it helps us function better. And, I try to do things like that at least once a year, especially if we’ll be or have been traveling because we’ve probably stocked up on certain things. If I know what’s there, I know what we need or don’t need.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will always have a “junk” drawer, which is really the place in our kitchen where we keep all the things that don’t really fit anywhere else. I actually planned a junk drawer into our kitchen layout. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the bathroom vanity cupboard has needed to be cleaned out for about two years now. I know what’s in it, it just needs some organizing love. And, maybe I’ll get to it sometime, and maybe I won’t. I’m okay with the fact that there will be times where our room gets stashes that need to be cleaned out, and that we probably have sippy cups hiding under the furniture. It’s not worth stressing about anymore. This is who we are. I have to accept the fact that I live with 3 other people, two of which can barely or can’t even wipe their own butts. I have to be reasonable in my expectations of what those little people can do, whether it’s making the mess or cleaning it up. When they get older, they can be more active not only in the butt wiping department, but also in the cleaning up department.

Yes, I’m very much looking forward to moving to a new house when the mission relocates because it will be a house that we’ve designed from top to bottom, and that I’ll have a very hands on relationship with. I’ll be able to build in and designate storage for everything, and then as we move – actually put things in those places so we just start with them being there. That’ll be nice, but it’s also a ways away. For now, I’m going to be happy with what we have, and enjoy it more along with the people I get to do this crazy life with, and worry less about whether there are wet foot prints on a freshly mopped floor.

~Leslie

Dear Alex & Olivia

Dear Alex & Olivia,

I used to be really good at writing regular posts to you guys. Then again, you were both younger and, well, in Alex’s case, not moving around. The fact that I haven’t been writing is actually a testament of how busy you guys keep things around here.

Olivia, you are growing up and it’s happening way too fast. I feel like earlier this year you were still sort of in the older toddler stage. In the last few weeks especially, you seem to have exploded into a full on little girl. Your face has lost it’s baby chub and thinned out, and when I look at you I can imagine what you’ll look like 10 years from now. You are already beautiful, but I have this feeling we’ll be wanting to cage you because the boys will be following you everywhere.

In the past few weeks you’ve decided that making the house look “pretty” (as you call it) is actually fun, so you’ve taken it upon yourself to tidy up. This means getting the broom and sweeping, wiping the table, cleaning up toys and stuff, and even learning how to wash the dishes. Granted, you tend to use half a spray bottle of surface cleaner on the table and the dishes aren’t quite  clean, but it’s a start. And, it’s a start that we will not discourage! I know we’ve got many years ahead of us where getting chores done will be like pulling teeth, so we’re going to enjoy the enthusiasm while it lasts.

 

You’ve taken on the responsibility of being a big sister on full force, which is good considering that when I was pregnant your typical response when we’d ask you about the baby was, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Sometimes you instigate things, but most of the time you try really hard to look out for and help your little brother, and that makes my momma heart melt.

You’re learning to read and write and it’s so fun to watch you discover the wonderful world of words. I love that I see your confidence soar when you figure out what a word says and know that you read it all by yourself. I’m so proud of you!

I think the biggest thing that drove home the fact that you’re growing up happened just two days ago. It was early and you walked out of your bedroom and said, “Mom, one of my teeth is wiggly.” You’ve had this fascination with losing teeth lately because a bunch of your friends at school are sporting holes in their smiles, so I thought you were just joking around – until I checked it out. I almost started crying. I wasn’t ready for that. The nail in the coffin came a few minutes later when we realized that you actually had two loose teeth. I don’t think I’m ready for you to start having “grown up” anything on you or in you, but ready or not, here we come! Since then it’s been fun to see how excited you are about this new thing and to talk to you about how it all happens and what to expect. In those conversations Daddy and I realize that not only is your body growing and changing, but that your person is too. We can have conversations with you and explain things and you get it. And it’s so fun!

As you grow up I think the weight of the responsibility that we have as parents is more and more apparent to me. This is a big job we have before us. As a mom, I want to show you what it means to be strong and confident, even when I don’t always feel that way myself. I want to teach you the traditional things of being a wife and a mother, but also show you that you don’t need to be limited to those things. I want you to learn that being feminine is a good thing, but that you can be strong too. I want you to see that you are beautiful, which means I need to be okay with who I am so you can have a good example of what that looks like. I want you to know how to love, so Daddy and I need to always be working at showing the two of you how to do that. Sometimes we’ll fail miserably, but I hope that we get some things right. You need to be able to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas which means I need to be willing to listen and just let you be, even if I might disagree or feel pulled between stopping for a few minutes and doing some other task. I hope you’ll be willing to give us a lot of grace along the way, because this parenting thing is hard.

Alex… In the past month or so I feel like we’ve stepped into a new phase with you, and I’m so glad. Don’t get me wrong, this whole baby thing is great and all, but you and your sister were entirely different baby experiences. Where she was chill and relaxed and willing to watch the world go by, you have been more needy and louder and busy. The last 6 months or so have been kind of draining, but I feel like we’re falling into a new rhythm and it feels good.

You’ve started trying to communicate in earnest, and it’s been so fun to see you go from babble to attempting words. It amazes me how fast your vocabulary is growing. For a while you were speaking equal parts Creole and English and we were waiting to see which one would be more prominent for you. In the last couple of weeks English has raced ahead and every day you surprise me with a new word. The best part is how excited you get when we understand you. Often you’ll say something waiting to see what we do, and when I repeat it you start to giggle and break out in a huge smile. It’s nice to have fast affirmation that we’re on the right track.

It’s interesting for Daddy and I to see our different personalities reflected in you. I wondered how that would play out. Daddy worried that you would be very intense like he was when he was your age, but so far you’ve shown yourself to be a great blend of the two of us, while being your own little self too. You need the physical contact that Daddy needs, and yet also need that with some quiet time after waking up, just like me. Daddy can jump out of bed and be ready to go, but not us. Nope, we need a few minutes to get our bearings before we’re ready to face the world. You like routine, like me. You are very mechanically minded, like Daddy. Watching you figure things out is like watching Daddy work through a problem. You love to eat all kinds of vegetables – definitely not like Daddy, thank goodness.

You’re becoming more independent. You’re getting more and more content to play by yourself and will go outside for hours at a time. You love to have stories read to you, but they aren’t just words. You are taking in everything on the page and associating it with what you already know. You watch everything going on around you and imitate, which is so fun. You love to be in the center of the action. When I mow the lawn you get excited, because it’s a machine, and you’ll sit and watch from a safe distance. When the mower comes near you, you run away to safety again. You love going for a ride anywhere, whether it’s in the wheel barrow or one of the trucks. I wish I would have taken a picture of your face when Ryan let you sit in the white truck while he drove it across the yard. It was obviously one of the best things ever. When I get out the mixer you come push a chair up to the counter just so you can be close to the action.

You have a wonderful sense of humor. For a while you decided that blowing zurburts on any bit of my exposed skin was fun. The more I laughed, the more you did it. When we say, “Smile like Grampa!” you make smile and scrunch up your eyes and look exactly like Grampa Jerry. You love to laugh. We recently had a pizza and movie night and watched 101 Dalmations. Several times you were cracking up, even though the rest of us couldn’t figure out what was so funny. You like to play dress up, whether it’s wearing your Super Alex cape from Auntie Andrea, or your sisters tutu. You are smart. I’m not just saying this because I’m your mom. You really are. Already we can see you reasoning through certain things. We can give you instructions like, “Go to your room and get your shoes” and you do, and if they aren’t in your room you know the other places to look.

Daddy and I have had to learn the art of relaxing with you too. You see, you’re a climber. You climb on everything. The car, the counter, the ladder to the roof or guard tower, motorcycles… you name it, you’ve probably tried it already. We’ve come to learn that you don’t do something that you aren’t comfortable with. And, that it’s okay to let you fall sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to let you fall off the roof, but it’s okay to let you learn that there are probably things you shouldn’t do. So far you haven’t done any major damage, so I’m going to chalk that up as a win. All in all, you are a fun little man that keeps life very busy.

I just want you guys to know how much we love you. Just the other day Daddy said, “You know, if we do this right, we could end up having a lot of fun as a family.” You guys bring us a lot of repeated sentences, fatigue and frustration, but that’s minor to the amount of joy, fun and laughter that you also bring to the table. It’s so fun watching you become little people and I find myself wondering what you’ll be like down the road.

~Love Mom

ESL – English As a Second Language

I think it’s safe to say that parents generally expect their kids to speak the same language that they do from the start. Am I right? When O was small we spoke more English in our home, and Yonese was only coming in a couple days per week. Also, with my work schedule I was less reliant on Yonese for help with her, so she wasn’t exposed to a lot of Creole in the first couple of years. It wasn’t until she started school in 2011 that she started to really pick it up, and because she’s been around it, it came pretty fast.

Alex… Alex has been an entirely different case! His first words were English – Mama and up! – which really means whatever direction he wants to go from where he is. We know boys tend to be slower with speech development, so we weren’t too concerned about the fact that he didn’t seem to be talking much. We could see he was taking everything in and knew what we were talking about. We could give him instructions and he’d follow them to the letter, so he understands.

About two weeks before we left for Christmas vacation I was with both kids and Alex was babbling away and I said, “Are you saying bubble?” Olivia looked at me and said, “Mooom, he’s saying pa bon (not good).” Very matter of factly, like I needed to catch up or something. Truth was, I did. We did. Yonese had been saying, “Non, pa bon!” whenever he did something he shouldn’t.

Our two monkeys!

It hadn’t even occurred to Chris and I that, even though it was our hope for both our kids, Alex would be speaking as much or more Creole right from the start as he was English. We have Yonese coming in Monday to Friday now to help with housekeeping, going to the market and a lot of time with Alex. She loves our kids like a grandma does. We’re so grateful for the relationship we’ve developed in the last couple of years. It’s so sweet. And, the natural benefit of all that time is that aside from the love our kids get, they’re constantly in conversation with her. We love listening to her talking to Alex (both kids really) as she goes about her work through the day. Alex has also started wandering out in the work yard with the guys, so he’s hearing the constant chatter between the guys.

In the past couple of weeks we’ve been paying more attention to what he’s actually saying. Oww is a new word, which is great because it replaces the freak out crying and he can point to what hurts for a kiss (because we all know Mommy kisses heal everything!). We realized when he’s upset and crying he usually throws out an amwe! which in Creole means help me! and gets thrown around in a lot of ways, from being a serious request for help to an expression that simply means things are hard or not right. Sometimes it’s even used as a joke.

Alex won’t say Daddy. Instead, when you ask him, in English, if he can say Daddy he either says Mama and starts laughing, or says Papa, which is what they say in Creole. The fact that he can understand what we’re asking and either choose to make a joke, or translate and use the Creole word instead of the English just baffles me.

A couple days ago I started asking him about other things and he was able to say a few things in English, like ball and book. The hard sounds aren’t there yet, but he’s trying.

This morning he was sitting on me while I was looking at facebook, which apparently was really fun because he kept laughing and getting excited with all the pictures, and I realized he was pointing and saying gade which means look. I started asking him if he could say some of the other words he knows and he just shook his head no and said pa vle – don’t want to. And then he would giggle. He totally knew what he was doing – choosing not to say them just because he could. Stinker!

This face says sooooo much about Alex :)

As parents I’m realizing we’re going to have to work a lot harder at trying to understand what Alex is trying to tell us because he’s doing it in two languages. The advantage is that we can speak to him in both and he understands what we’re saying. I’ve just realized that we can’t underestimate what he’s able to communicate just because it sounds like babble initially. The times where I really listen I find out he’s actually using words, they just weren’t what I was expecting to hear! And, while there are some hard things about raising kids cross-culturally, these are the fun things that we feel so blessed by.

~Leslie