Just Saying Hi!

I’m alive!

The first round of getting two of my wisdom teeth out in my first year of college was a cake walk compared to the past week and a half. Seriously. Giving those bad boys an extra 18 years to hide in and around jaw bones was pa bon.

I was thinking I would be down for a day or two then slowly start getting back into my daily stuff of life here, but no, my body had other plans. Instead, I spent all of last week and the weekend hanging out on our bed hopped up on a nice rotation of Tylenol 3 and super extra strength Ibuprofen. The swelling alone didn’t come down until the weekend. I didn’t get any bruising, which is probably the most surprising thing of all considering how hard they were working on my jaw.

I was determined to get back to work on Monday, and did, but realized on Tuesday after some crying jags that I wasn’t ready to not be taking the drugs. I think I really wanted to be okay and had a hard time accepting that my body just wasn’t there yet. I’m still taking the meds, but the intervals are spreading out, which is a good sign. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t rush something like this because my body just won’t let me. Yesterday was  a much better day that involved well timed doses of medicine and a lot of work being done, followed by me promptly shutting down my computer at the end of the work day and going to take a 2 hours rest/nap. I feel so much better today, so I think we might be adopting that routine for the rest of the week.

My time laying in bed wasn’t wasted though! I’ve mentioned that I’m going to be working at taking over all things website for the mission in the coming months. I’ll be honest, this is like learning Greek for me. I get it, but there’s this whole language and world that is fascinating and yet completely baffling, and I need to dive in or it’ll never work. Over the weekend some things started to really come together mentally for me and I’m excited. Things that didn’t connect before, do now, and it makes sense. I have a lot running through my head because of it, and a lot of stuff to work on.

One project I’m particularly excited about, but don’t want to say anymore about right now. Yes, I just did that. “Hey, I’ve got this amazing thing, but you can’t see it. Na na na na na!” In due time, my friends, in due time. What I will say is that it’s creative and it’s going to satisfy a giant need in me :)

The downside of all this creativity flowing like a rushing river is that it kind of makes me cranky crazy. Yes, you would think that it would cause happiness, but it’s the processing that gets me going a bit nuts. I told Chris yesterday it was like him reasoning through a problem. He very much needs to be in his head, pace, and just work it out until he gets to this place where the pieces start to come together and he just gets it. For me, it’s the same process, but it’s this crazy flood of ideas where one thing leads to another and I have to try and process them all and put them where they need to be, while trying to figure out how to get to the end result. Until I figure it out I can be a bit of a bear. Once I start working out the details and can be hands on that crankiness turns into creativity and I get giddy. Then I realize that I’m the only one that might be excited about the fact that I just figured out how to do something in Photoshop and it’s kind of anti-climactic. It might also involve me whacking Chris from time to time and saying, “You need to be excited about this!” There are certain advantages to only sitting 2.5 feet apart for most of the day…

In family news, one of the most exciting things that’s been going on around here is that Little Mister no longer uses diapers. And there were angels singing! He may have been resisting at first, and not loving the process, but we are there! Do you want to know what’s even better? I apologize if this is over sharing, but as a mother of a boy I was dreading a year of having to help him in the bathroom. I’m so over this stage of kids needing me to help them do basic things. It’s so freeing when your kids start doing things they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives, for themselves. So, I was excited we weren’t in diapers any more, but not excited about the bathroom assists that would be our life. And then the miracle happened – he, in just a matter of 24 hours, learned how to do his business “like Daddy”. Mmm hmm. He may have been a giant of a baby to push out, and be wearing size 5 t-shirts, but that also means he is tall enough to stand up and get the job done. And it’s amazing and he loves being a big boy!

Did I mention that it’s amazing???

Do you know what’s even more amazing?

When you get to this stage and are so happy that life might be actually moving forward and then remember that there is still the dreaded night training – and then they just night train themselves.

Yep, he’s waking up in the night and asking to go the the bathroom. And then going right back to bed.

Have I mentioned that it’s amazing?

I just feel like we’re stepping into this stage of enjoying life with our kids in a new way. A way where they aren’t reliant on us for the basic feed, water and wipe duties, and shifting to rely on us for more emotional support and love and where we can form relationships with them in different ways. Where we can do different things as a family. Where our kids can be more actively involved in different aspects of our life here, rather than us juggling all the balls and watching them occasionally drop on our heads.

Chris and I know that we’re in the prep stages at the mission for a giant leap forward. We’re waiting on a few grant funding opportunities that we’ve just left in God’s hands, but are starting to move again and allow us to ramp up production again after several years of going oh so slow. We’re on the brink of being able to start the most major development project the mission has ever seen – building and moving to our new land. There are things in the works, but nothing concrete yet. Peggy is here and great addition to our team. She’s such a blessing. Our kids getting older means that we can feel less pulled in some ways and more involved in others and they can be involved in new ways. It really is exciting on so many levels.

I would love prayer this week for continued healing, but also because Chris just left this morning for a 12 day trip to the US to spend some quality time with his brother. He hasn’t taken a solo trip for “fun” in years. He was away earlier this year for almost 3 weeks, but it was all work focused. When Ben suggested he buy Chris a ticket to come spend time with him and so they could go on a motorcycle trip together I was all for it. Both of us are just better on so many levels when we get time to regroup. My trip to Peru earlier this year was so good for me. When we’re always around each other, and literally sitting only a few feet apart, it can be hard to appreciate each other, to appreciate our family, and this whole life we have here. Time away lets us rest and come back feeling refreshed and ready to go again. It clears my head and helps me be excited again. Pray that he has a good time away and that things just keep plugging along here.

Well, this lady has some work to do so I’m going to sign off. If you don’t see anything on here for a little while just know that I’m madly working out my creative juices behind the scenes. Or napping.

Have a great finish to the week!

~Leslie

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God Only Knows

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be one cranky bear, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or just “off”. Typically it’s triggered by tiredness or something like that. Ahem, 91 and your humid friend, I see you both lurking there in the corner…

I’m a huge advocate for doing what you love, because I believe that God has created us, and that he’s made each of us with unique gifts and skills and that it brings him great happiness to see those things that he’s planted in us being used in many ways. Helping people. Loving others. Creating things. I could go on. I think you get my drift.

Coming from that place it’s hysterical to me that I’m sometimes the last to figure some of this stuff out in regards to myself. I can have conversations with friends and family and point out things in them and encourage them to run with it, knowing it’ll be an amazing thing, and yet I can have all those things in front of me and have a hard time putting the pieces together. 

Or, maybe it’s not that I can’t always see them, but that I can see those pieces and just feel like I can’t do anything about it.

That’s where I’ve been sitting for the last few years. I know I’ve talked about this in some detail in the past few months, but it’s a process and I’m processing right now, so this is what you get.

Here’s the thing. I think that I’ve always been a creative. A person who needs to be making and dreaming and doing. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized little quirky things about myself that I now see are all glaring indications that I’m a creative type, but I’ve just dismissed them as quirks and never put them in the context that I’m putting them in now. Things like loving texture and always having to touch things. Looking at scenery and getting more excited about the way a sun beam is shining down than about the whole scene. Collecting stationary, not because I actually want to use it but because I love the feel of it and the graphics and all the things. Being a mixed bag when it comes to narrowing down any kind of “style” because one minute I love things that are bright and bold and the next I want wood grain and rusty metal. I’m the one that has sun patterned floor tiles at my husband’s suggestion – but am totally fine with it for this house – and baby blue cupboards. I’m not afraid of color. 

And I’ve been stuck at a desk doing admin work for the past, well, my whole working life pretty much. 

I remember the day a few months ago as I was processing through Peggy arriving on staff (which is tomorrow, by the way, and IT’S TOMORROW!) and what that would mean for things here going forward. As I was thinking about it, it was like scales were peeled off my eyes and all of the sudden I saw it. 

I saw all the pieces of this giant puzzle that is me come together and I finally stepped back to see the bigger picture. All these needs that the mission had, it was me  that was supposed to fill them. Until we had Peggy lined up I wasn’t in a place to even think it was possible. I had been creeping in that direction and loved it, but never thought it would be me.

And now, fast forward a few months, and I’m sitting here settling into this new phase and it feels like coming alive. I didn’t realize how much I’d stagnated in the past few years. It’s not that I wasn’t doing something good, because I was. I was doing a lot of really good things for the mission that needed to be done and I needed to be the one to do them. It was just time to step forward and bring all of these pieces together for something more.

You see, as long as I can think back in my adult life I’ve been hovering around things like graphic design and photography and visual arts in general, as well as writing. I know what I like. I have visions for end products, but haven’t had the time or the tools to do any of it. Programs were too expensive. I couldn’t take time away from a “real” job to go to school for specific training. I like to write, and do it as a side gig here on the blog. I just wasn’t in a position to pursue any of it in any seriousness. And, I’ll admit it, there has been a part of me that has thought some of that was frivolous because I had all this “important” work to do. 

But now here I am. 

This past January I got my new to me camera, and while not every picture is amazing (talk to any photographer and they’ll tell you this is actually the norm) there are many times where I load stuff into my computer and I get giddy because some of my stuff is good. I’m proud of it. And I realize I might actually be able to do this. 

As we transition Peggy to taking over a lot of the admin stuff my desk has been cleared of so many of the mundane tasks I’ve been bogged down with and in the past two weeks I’ve been pouring over things like learning Photoshop and everything that goes with it.

And you know what? I love it

I am absolutely in my element. Chris keeps finding me at my desk working through tutorials and watching videos and playing around. He keeps commenting on my dedication to wanting to learn all of this because we both know that it’s going to lead to a giant step forward for the mission in everything from our print materials (already been working on these over the past couple years) to our website to video and social media – all major needs. 

The thing is, I find myself thinking, “I’ve gotten through everything else. Now I get to go play with Photoshop. I get to do…” And I have to be honest with him about the fact that it doesn’t feel like work. That I’m excited to get at it and pour over it for hours on end. I’m giddy about it because it’s unlocked this world for me that I’ve been hovering on the outside of for so long. It’s bringing all these parts of myself together. 

I think a big part of not exploring some of this stuff sooner was just plain fear. It all seemed so complicated and overwhelming. I could never figure all of that out. But, I can, and I am. And it feels amazing. It’s amazing because in the process of engaging my brain, my spirit is coming alive. This is part of who God has made me to be, and he loves that I’m figuring it out. He loves that this creativity that he’s planted in me is being woken up and that I can use that to love his people. I can use the love of beautiful things and communicating that to people to honor him. 

Does it get any better than that?

And, why did it take me so long to get here.

Well, I actually know the answer to that. It just wasn’t time. I needed to be doing other things, good thing, before this so that when it was time to be here I could see God’s hand in the whole plan and I could more deeply appreciate arriving here. And I do. It’s so beautiful and I love how he orchestrates things. Bringing details together to make something even better. 

God hears the whispers and hopes of our hearts. He feels our groanings when we know we’re in process. All those years of being crabby and overwhelmed were my spirit saying, “This isn’t it. I’m here, and I’m doing it, but this isn’t it.” The process has allowed me the time to learn more about who I am, and it’s allowed Chris the time to learn who I am and what I need. He sees how happy I’ve been in the past few weeks and he loves it. He just keeps telling me how happy he is to see me so engaged and excited. My brain has been in high gear again. It feels amazing.

I share all this with you because I know we all go through periods where we get stuck and it feels like we’re slugging through mud. I want to encourage you, keep slugging. It’s especially hard when you know that there’s nothing bad about the place you’re in. Even harder when you know what you’re doing has a lot of value to it. God wants to take each of us to the place where we can fully be the people he’s created us to be. He hears the small whispers of our hearts, wanting something more, even if we don’t know we’ve whispered them. He cares about those things. 

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve lost track of how often God has provided for those small whispers. Things that I never utter out loud to another human soul. And it’s always so humbling when he does provide and I see it. I feel so cared for. Sometimes the reason things never get spoken is because they feel silly or frivolous, but he cares. 

Olivia Faces-1

I’m learning to own this new phase and that’s hard at times, but in other ways it feels like coming into my own. 

It’s hard to wake up in the morning and change my internal conversation and to remind myself that what I considered “fun” and things to do when all my other work was done, now get to be my work. Daily I’m having to remind myself that this is what it’s going to look like going forward. That’s not to say that I won’t have other admin stuff do, I will. It’s just that this is going to be what I get to do for work! Seriously?!? 

 

This summer when we were at my parents house, one of the first things my dad said to me within hours of arriving at their house was, “So kid, when are you going to write a book?” And for the first time I actually said, out loud, “I really want to, I just know that while the kids are small I just don’t have the time, but I really want to one day.” And then I realized that I had just owned that for the first time.

It’s not just that I want to write, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to take pictures, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to do visual design work, I need to. It’s part of me. All of it is how I see the world and how I communicate and I’m finally in a place where I know I can own that.

I have a huge learning curve ahead. A lot of work ahead of me. But, it’s so exciting and freeing to be in a place where I finally have the tools and the time and the opportunity to explore than in depth. 

Random Update

Edit: I was having internet issues last night when I tried to post this, so I apologize to those of you that are confused about why I would have written a post with nothing more than “b” as the title. 

It’s 8:30 pm and 91*. In case you don’t know what that feels like, it feels like sitting in your own sweat. It feels like sweating when you’re hardly moving. It feels like chugging a quart of Gatorade because once you open the hatch your body realizes that you’ve sweated so much that guzzling the stuff might be your lifeline.

I wish I was joking, but I’m not. It’s dang hot right now. And we keep getting little hints of rain, but then it doesn’t amount to much or doesn’t cool things off. Today Chris muttered the words, “Don’t worry, September is coming.” He was trying to be optimistic, like, “Hey, we’re heading toward the finish line!” but I had to remind him that sometimes September is the worst month of all, then October sneaks in and one day you realize that you aren’t sweating from just thinking anymore and that maybe life with cohesive thought is possible.

It’s hot.

Other random happenings…

We’re raising a tadpole in a jar in our window sill. His name is Freddy. Olivia scooped him out of a puddle in the work yard two days ago and he was literally the size of a mustard seed. He’s happily swimming in his jar and enjoying the view of our kitchen. I had no idea tadpoles grew so fast.

We’re potty training. Little Mister was bribed with candy every time he sat on the potty and tried, and three days later we’re doing pretty darn good. There might actually be light at the end of the tunnel, which is refreshing considering that on Friday he informed me that he was going to wear diapers for the rest of his life.

Chris and I have been walking around with perma-grins on our faces for the last week and a half for several reasons work related. Some of it we can’t talk about yet because it’s in relation to the study I mentioned last time. Today we had a visit from DINEPA, Haiti’s water authority. In the past we’ve felt frustrated with the organization, but they’ve had a change over in staff and strategy. Today’s meeting was happening because the consultant working with them wanted to visit the most well functioning filter projects in the country and we came highly recommended by several people and other organizations in the household water world. I may have had to pick my jaw up of the floor when he told me that their main reason for visiting was to understand what we do better, and then figure out how they can help us ramp up what we do so we can do more of it. I’m still baffled. We’ve been so encouraged by that and the other things going on because it’s meant years and years of hard work all coming together to make something that is working really well. I really want to write more about our model and why it’s working and what the markers of that are in the development world, but that needs to be for another day.

Now. Now I’m going to take the 3rd shower of the day, drink some more Gatorade, and watch a show with my man.

Happy middle of the week friends!

~Leslie

Where Things Have Landed

The last post was a big brain and heart dump for me. Of the best kind though. It’s been fun to see the conversations it’s started just with friends here in Haiti, either from just sharing the same things or because they read the blog and started talking about it. I love that kind of exchange after we share our stories. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? That connectedness.

Diving in to all of this has been kind of crazy. Chris and I spent more time chatting about all of it on Friday night after I posted and it was just so refreshing to be able to see where I’m really at with all of this, and I love that he’s so supportive of it. I think it helps that he’s seen how unhappy I’ve been in the work sense, so in a way I think there’s some level of relief there :) I think more than any of that though, it was exciting to look back over the past 10 years of the missions history and to see how God has walked beside us and transitioned us through things, even before I actually joined the staff here in Haiti. The process of him bringing Chris into a leadership role, then bringing me into the picture as his help meet and seeing how our gifts, skills and abilities have complemented each other over the years and moved so many things forward has been amazing. As we look at the future we’re both excited about the next stages. We and our board have done so much foundational work in the past few years and it really feels like we’re moving into that stage where God is putting the meat on the bones in a new way, so we can do more. Having Peggy here is a huge step forward, one that we’re really excited about.

I can’t tell you how fun it’s been in the past couple of days to feel the freedom to pour myself into learning. Yesterday I had some admin stuff that Chris needed help with, and once I got it out of the way I spent the rest of the day pouring over the user guide for Lightroom 5, a photo editing program by Adobe that is so much more than any of the free stuff I’ve been using. I haven’t been this challenged in a while and it feels good. My head is tired, and so is my body. I think I need to stop letting myself scroll through Pinterest until midnight looking at pins of photography tutorials…

It feels good to learn and to practice new skills. To think of all the ways that I’ll be able to incorporate this into what I do at the mission – new things that will just add more to what we’re already doing.

So that’s been me, personally, in the past few days.

Today is Olivia’s last day of school. I’ll be honest, it’s a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement because it’s summer vacation! Yes, we still have to get up early and do the work day, but it means less stuff happening in the morning.

No more homework!!! Oh my word, this is the thing I’m most excited about. Seriously. Homework has been a battlefield and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it out alive. This weekend we needed to push through Olivia’s last book, her math, to get it finished so it could count on her report card. We managed to do it, but it wasn’t pretty. The kid has been working on grade two stuff, so it’s just naturally getting harder for her, but now she can take a break! We do have books for her to work on over the summer so she has something to do, but we’re going to take a little break…

Dread… yeah, I love my kids and I love the break from the school routine, but it takes about a day and a half before boredom sets in and they’re going crazy. Alex is at a better age and they play together really well now. Yesterday I was stifling laughter when they said, “Okay, let’s fight,” and then proceeded to have a mock kungfu type throw down. Think of the worst fight scene you’ve ever watched in any movie and replace the main characters with a 6 and almost 3 year old. Slow motion, holding hands and lots of grunting and turning in circles… yeah, that went down in our kitchen yesterday and it was hysterical. I love that they have such huge imaginations. I love it even more when they aren’t really fighting and screaming at each other in the process.

To counter the boredom and real fighting I’ve been building up an arsenal. Last August after we got back from our summer trip and had almost 6 weeks of down time before school started we almost didn’t make it. This year, I promised myself it would be different. Thanks to some generous friends we have a bunch of work books to just reinforce stuff Olivia learned, but that are more fun looking and a variety of stuff that she’ll enjoy. We have craft supplies. We have new books. Sidewalk chalk. Bubbles. So many things! My plan is to be more intentional about doing stuff with the kids between now and when school starts again. Just to save my own sanity.

Not sure if I mentioned it on here but Olivia is changing schools next year. She’ll be going to one that offers the same curriculum, but is only 5 minutes from our house. When we first looked at starting school they weren’t at the stage where it would have been a good fit for her, but now they are. We’re SO looking forward to not having to drive as far. Right now we’re driving at least an hour per day between the two trips to drop her off and pick her up. Her new school starts later in the morning, and because it’s closer we just don’t have to be ready to go out the door before 7 am. She also starts about 3 weeks sooner, so less down time in the summer where we have to keep her busy. Very excited!

The other big excitement around these parts is that we’re within the 3 week window of our summer vacation. It’s always nice to get away, but I think we’re really looking forward to this year more than most. Last summer was full of great opportunities to see so many friends and family, but it was also so much driving. So much. A lot of stops and a day here and a few days there. It was fun, but not very relaxing.

This summer we basically land in Seattle and then after reorganizing some things we’re hoping in the van and driving down to Chris’ Mum and Dad’s. We don’t need to worry about getting the van all outfitted, etc because we left it almost ready to go, and we can do any needed things once we get to their house. We’ll be there for almost two weeks, and we’re all really excited about it! From there we’re heading up to Canada with a couple stops to visit people on the way, but the trip will be nicely broken up. We’ll be in Canada for the rest of our trip doing a variety of things. One of Chris’ sisters lives in Canada, and his brother who is down in California, are both flying in to spend some time with us there which we’re excited about. We’ll have time to go camping and visit with family. My dad is back in British Columbia after working out of province for two years, and I’m so looking forward to spending more than a couple days with him as has been the case when he’s whipped into town for a weekend while we’ve been there. Mostly we’re just looking forward to relaxing and having a good time.

Well, time to go organize some craft stuff and then I get to hunker down and read some more users manuals. Sounds SOOO fun, doesn’t it. I guess when you enjoy something it is fun, even if it seems like a mundane task.

Here are a few of the pictures I was playing around with in Light room yesterday. The fun thing is that they didn’t need a ton of adjustment. These will probably be more exciting for the grandparents :)

May 2014-3

May 2014-7

 

May 2014-9

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

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things – Part 3

Phew, yesterday was a bit lengthy, but I hope it was good info, especially the part about shopping eBay. I can’t tell you how many people kind of cringe when we tell them how much we shop on eBay, but in the 8+ years I’ve been using it, there have only been a couple of things that have been frustrating and not resolved quickly by the seller. Chris would say the same.

Now, moving into the last couple of things for my Favorite Things list. This is really a limited list of stuff as we’re always finding things that make life better or easier or more efficient here, and over time we’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to spend a bit more and invest in better quality if it’s something we want to have over the long term or will be using a lot. Sometimes we just get used to having or using something, forgetting what an improvement it was over life before. And honestly, most of these “things” are bigger, but it’s often the really small things that bring the most excitement.

Here are today’s list makers, to round things out:

5. The NINJA Mega Kitchen System

As any expat in Haiti will tell you, a blender is one thing you want here because making shakes or smoothies with all the local fruit is a yummy way to stay healthy. Papaya is especially good for you because it helps balance out the good and bad bacteria in your stomach and as anti-viral properties. It’s kind of common knowledge that if you’re having any kind of stomach issues having a papaya shake will probably clear them up.

Any expat here will also tell you that a blender is one of the appliances you replace most often. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating when I say that we go through about one per year. The newer models of your basic Osterizer and Black and Decker can’t even seem to hack it with Haiti’s fluctuating power issues. We burned up so many blenders that we finally resorted to having Yonese buy the old school versions of the Oster because they seemed to last longer. Sadly, they’re harder and harder to find now. Last year when we needed a new blender, again, I managed to find an Oster in the local Deli Mart. It was almost $700 Haitian. To translate that into US prices, that’s almost $80, and it had nothing more than a few blending options to choose from. About six months later it started to make funny noises and smoke, so Ryan took it apart and was able to jimmy rig it to work again, but it’s crazy loud and “walks” along the counter if you don’t hold it down.

When I asked Chris what he wanted for his birthday and Christmas (his birthday is at the beginning of December) he suggested a really good blender because he was tired of buying a new one every year. We did some research and knew that a Vitamix was out of our price range, so I kept looking at other options and the Ninja got great reviews and was recommended as a more affordable option for people that wanted to step up to a pro-style blender. I was wishing I had a food processor for a lot of things, too, so when I found that Ninja made a blender and food processor combo I decided to go that route. I gave it to Chris for his birthday, knowing he would get a lot of use out of it.

Sadly, this is Haiti and Haiti does crazy things. When he plugged it in there was nothing. No power light, nothing. He took the base apart and found a burned up resistor. Replaced it, but nothing. We ordered another base (again, off eBay) hoping that was the issue. That came in with his parents. Again, no cigar. As we mourned two DOA bases, I remembered something that Chris had told me about certain kinds of equipment – sometimes they need a “boost” of energy to start and then level off for continuous running. I mentioned it, so the next time we had EDH (Electricite D’Haiti) Chris plugged it in and it was ALIVE!

We realized that our battery system won’t give it that initial boost that EDH or the generator being on will, so for now we get to keep two blenders in the cupboard. The old one for when we’re on battery power and the Ninja for when we we’re on EDH or generator. When we move to the new property our power system will be bigger and set up so that we don’t have this issue, which will be great on so many levels! See, life here is so interesting!

We love the Ninja. It’s a beast! The first smoothie we made was like going to Booster Juice (for my Canadian friends) or some equivalent.

6. Homemade All Purpose Cleaning Spray

I love all things Pinterest. It’s such a great resource for DIY things. Just makes me realize the wealth of info that’s on the interweb.

I love it when we can save money here, and when we can find substitutes for things that might be pricier or harder to get on a regular basis. Seriously, you would be amazed at how expensive normal, every day household items might be here. Cleaning products? Expect to pay about $5-10 US for a simple bottle of something like Clorox wipes.

We have our windows open all the time. We do have screens and that keeps most things out, but we still get the “sugar” ants and they are most attracted to food, or even the smell of food. I like to have a disinfecting spray handing in the kitchen to spray down our table and counters just to keep them at bay. For a while I was using diluted bleach and water with a bit of dish soap added in, and it was fine, but I wanted to see if there were other homemade alternatives. Hello Pinterest! For almost a year now I’ve been using this combo and I love it:

2 c warm water
2 Tbps white vinegar
2 Tbsp baking soda
1-2 tsp dish soap

Many recipes call specifically for Dawn dish soap, and I have no idea why. I use whatever I have, which is usually Palmolive or something like Gain, and it works just fine.

Now, here’s the deal. We all know that mixing vinegar and baking soda can lead to those cool science fair eruptions, so it’s really important to mix this up in a certain order to avoid that! Start with your warm water, then add your baking soda and stir until it’s mostly dissolved, then add your vinegar. It will bubble and fizz, but just keep stirring for a minute and it’ll dissipate. Then add your dish soap, stir and pour into your spray bottle. Easy peasy! And, it’s all stuff you have on hand. No need to buy anything special or put off making it until you can go to the store again for that one special ingredient.

I love this because the combo of baking soda, vinegar and dish soap cuts through grease and gunk really well. I usually do a quick spray of all the counters, then the kitchen table, and by the time I come back to start wiping anything that was stuck on has already loosened. If there’s something that’s dried on I just let it sit for a few minutes and use the scrub side of my kitchen sponge. I’ll even use this in our shower because it will cut through hard water grime build up and helps with a quick clean on the sink and outer part of the toilet. And, if you use yummy smelling dish soap, it’ll smell good too!

7. The “Puddle Jumper”

Click on photo for link.

A few months ago we went swimming with some friends and they brought two of these things that their organization had bought for their retreat center. They asked our friends to try them out for a while before investing in a bunch of them to have on hand for the kids that will be visiting the center. Their daughter is about 6 weeks older than Alex, so it was fun to give the Puddle Jumper a whirl.

Alex LOVED it. It completely changes the way a child swims because rather than them floating backwards like they do with a traditional life jacket, the float forward and get used to the swimming motion. It’s basically water wings on steroids that the kid can’t get off because it buckles in the back. Alex has been using water wings for almost a year now and paddling around the pool by himself, but always wanting to be close to one of us. Understandable, right? When we put him in a Puddle Jumper in minutes he was literally swimming around the pool by himself. When all of our water wings started to bite the dust Chris suggested we just spend the money and order one of these. Alex was SO excited when it go here because he remembered using our friends. We love it and I would recommend it to anyone with small kids. It’s rated 30-50 lbs and the back strap is adjustable so you should get lots of use out of it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts! Let me know if you have any questions about the stuff I’ve talked about.

What are some of your favorite things???

~Leslie

70 lbs, Baby!

Chris’ parents are coming next week and we’re all very excited. They used their Air Miles to book first class seats. While we’re elated for their step up in comfort level and actually jealous because we’re always going to be that family that walks by the first class passengers with two kids in tow who may or may not be needing a nap, what we hear when someone says “first class” is three free 70 lb checked bags PER PERSON!!! There may have been some high-fiving involved too.

And then we went shopping.

Chris knew this fact before I did so he was already ordering all sorts of crazy boy things like inverters and battery chargers and grain grinders and ratchet straps and sacks of malted grains and all the heavy things. I kept asking if he’d left any weight for me and his parents and he just kept saying things like “SIX FREE 70 lb BAGS!”

I finally got my act together and did my shopping. You know, people say it’s exhausting going shopping in real life, but let me tell you – online shopping is hard work people! Especially when you have two kids that are constantly popping their heads under your elbows and saying things like, “Ooooh!! What are you looking at Mom? Can I have a snack? I want juice! CARRY YOUUU!**” while you’re desperately trying to remember all the things you told yourself you needed to get while you had the fabulous opportunity of SIX 70 lb BAGS!!! (**That’s Alex speak for “pick me up”. I keep asking him when he’s really going to carry me, but apparently I am not funny. Nor am I getting carried any time soon.) 

Moving on.

So, I got my shopping on and I managed to kill what felt like a never ending list of wants and needs. When I emailed my mother-in-law to tell her that I was finally done I had to assure her that my things were small and could fit in the tiny crevices (unlike some people I know, ahem) even if it felt like a billion packages were arriving. Because there would literally be a billion packages arriving. The list that I sent her of what to expect was as long as my arm. You don’t believe me?

Ahem.

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Yeah. I wasn’t exaggerating.

And now that we’re in the “less than a week” window I find my brain regularly thinking “Oh yeah! That XYZ is coming next week with Mum and Dad. Sweet!” That, and things that I knew might need to be replaced, are breaking or falling apart or just sort of squeaking by. They know reinforcements are coming and they can move quietly into retirement. They know.

Some of those said items are undies and training pants for Little Mister. Am I excited about that? Um, yes. Just today I thought, “We might be getting closer to the end of this diaper thing.” When I started ordering things last month I thought it might be a bit presumptuous, but now I’m thinking otherwise. He’s been pretending to go potty, which means he basically sits there and gives me status updates like, “it coming” but never actually does anything. He’s got what to do with toilet paper down pat, though there’s never any actual need for it. But hey! We’ll chalk it up as one point for the home team.

Anyway.

In the past week he’s been getting more and more vocal about his bodily functions and insisting on diaper changes right after. Good thing, right? I think yes. Chris has also taught him how to take off his diapers so he can do things like get into the bath at night more independently. Independence = good. Taking diapers off in the yard and running around butt naked and then finally coming up and telling us he took his diaper off = not so good.

Yesterday Alex was taking a “nap”. I use that term loosely because some days he goes down and sleeps like nobody’s business. Other days, he just pretends he’s sleeping and when he finally “wakes up” we find that a cyclone has gone through the kids room. It is blond and cute and yells “CARRY YOU!!!”

When Alex “woke up” yesterday, not only had the cyclone whipped through, it did it naked. And it told us that it had pooped. And then wiped it’s own butt.

All three people over the age of 6 in our house stopped dead, said nothing for a moment, and scanned the room looking for it. And we didn’t see it. Yes, there were wipes on the floor, but they weren’t even dirty, just spread everywhere. Hmmm. Then we asked some questions and I peeked in the diaper pail.

Yep. The kid took off his own diaper, dumped it in the diaper pail, and then proceeded to wipe his own butt. And not a trace of it anywhere else in the room.

And in that split moment all I could think of was, “Soooo glad those undies are coming next week with Mum and Dad…” And while I’m excited that we might be seriously moving in that direction, a part of me is very aware of the fact that my baby boy is growing up. I have entire posts written in my head of all the super cute things that he’s doing and saying right now and part of me wishes I could bottle them and keep them forever, while the other part of me is so excited to see who he will become. Isn’t that the great clash of parenting?

So, while I’m looking at our diapers and wondering how much longer we’ll be having to pack them around and what not, a big part of me was also very happy to have Little Man snuggle in deep tonight and fall asleep on me in the rocking chair. And we may have sat a bit longer, just so I could bottle it a bit.

~Leslie