Rolling Vacation Adventures 2012

I’ve been meaning to get our vacation post up for a very. long. time. I mean, we only got back from our vacation a month ago. At the speed I’ve been moving it was going to be Christmas if I didn’t watch out and get on it.

This year was the first year since 2007 that Chris and I were able to take a “normal” summer vacation – meaning we got to leave Haiti in the summer for several weeks solely for the sake of relaxing, visiting and regrouping. Since 2007 we’ve either been stuck in Haiti because of adoption paperwork, or I was 9 months pregnant and squeezing a little person the size of a large watermelon out of my body, and then recovering. Sorry, but that was no holiday last year.

We were excited to load the kids in the van and head out of Seattle. We did a lot – visited Grandma & Grandad, saw friends in Bellingham, saw Nanna & Pappa and other family in Armstrong, visited other friends in the Okanagan and had lots of fun soaking up the sunshine there after they’d had mostly rain for weeks.

Then, then we started the greatest adventure of the summer – camping with a 4 and 1 year old. In a Volkswagen van. For 10 days. Call us crazy.

We love our van. Chris bought it for $500 a long time ago. We honeymooned in it. We’ve vacationed in it. We’ve had fun in it. We weren’t sure if the fun would still be fun with two kids in tow.

We eventually emerged from the woods and I’m happy to say that excessive fun was had. I’m pretty sure mom was wondering if we were going to make it when we pulled out of the driveway.

Our goal was to get to Vancouver Island to do some camping, see Tofino and Uclulet, then head down to Victoria to see Aunty Abby for a few days.

We decided to use our trusty guides – “Camp Free In BC” and a series of Backroad Mapbooks. If you like to camp, and you don’t like to spend money on a campsite when you do it you NEED to check out these books. Our personal philosophy is that camping is enjoying God’s creation, and with so much land in Canada we shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to do it. These guides direct you to FREE camp spots all over BC (and other parts of Canada, too). And by camp spots, I mean places that have picnic tables, fire pits and outhouses. They’re user maintained so you bring it in, you carry it out. But, why shouldn’t we take responsibility for our garbage and things like that?  Some of, okay, most of the places we’ve found have been AMAZING and often there aren’t that many other people camping there, and if there are they are like minded and really nice.

We decided to break up our trip going down to the Lower Mainland over a couple of days so we didn’t have to do a long drive and catch a late ferry or try to find some place to stay close to a ferry terminal. We took the road through Lillooet and stopped for our first night at Roger Creek. After we got everything set up we realized the kids were made for this. Olivia fell asleep and we set up the whole camp and van before she woke up. When I start tickling her to revive her so she could see “camping” for the first time she told me, “But I did see camping. I looked already.” Apparently she peeked and then fell asleep again. Olivia got to ride her bike in the woods, which was fun, and Alex discovered that crawling around in the dirt, all the time, was super fun!

Our second night was between Whistler and Horseshoe Bay at Riverside Rec Site. It was along a big river and was decent, but not the nicest place we found. It was really ideal if you wanted to camp with a larger group and weren’t really concerned with the landscape. It was a place to sleep. Alex woke us up around 4 am and didn’t want to go back to sleep so we decided to get a really early start and surprised ourselves when we pulled up to the ferry terminal ticket booth, got our ticket, got in line and then boarded the 8:30 am ferry over to Nanaimo about 20 minutes later.

Neither of the kids had been on a ferry before so Chris and I were excited to do this with them for the first time. Olivia kept asking what a ferry was and the grin on her face when we started to pull away from the terminal told us instantly that she thought it was a great idea. Alex loves anything mechanical and big and thought it was fabulous to sit on the deck in his stroller and watch the world go by. He has this little thing that he does when he’s excited – he says “Ooh!” with enthusiasm. There was lots of “Ooh-ing” going on. We had fun exploring the ferry and deciding where we wanted to go after we hit land.

We headed north and then west through Port Alberni so we could find a campsite along the Alberni Inlet. When we arrived there we discovered a hidden gem. Arden Creek “runs” down into the inlet, but it looked like it was all dried up – until the tide went up and freshwater started pushing up from the ground. Olivia had so much fun playing on the rocks as the tide came up.

As I was snapping pictures of her she said through giggles, “Mom, aren’t you so proud of me?? I’m not afraid of the water! I’m not afraid of the rocks! I’m not afraid of the fish! I’m not afraid of the sharks!” I was proud of her because I didn’t expect her to have so much fun. It was such a special spot that we stayed two nights. Chris even got to show off his manliness by catching fish barehanded…

I promised the story behind that, so here it is…

In the morning Chris found live fish flopping around on the rocks. As the tide was going down they got caught and were easy to grab up with his bare hands. He caught three that would have otherwise died in the sun, and they joined us for lunch.

One of the other cool things about this place was that it was in old growth forest so there were really big trees all around us. It’s humbling to be in nature like that and to see what God has created. To be in a place where you can reach out and touch trees that have lives longer than people is so cool. And, it was just the start of our fern gully/Jurasic Park camping. “The Island” is so amazing that way.

After two days at Arden Creek we ventured down the logging road to Nahmint Lake where we found another great campsite, again in an old growth Hemlock forest where many of the trees were 7-8 feet or more in diameter. It was a nice spot and we met some nice people.

The next day we made the drive through the pass to the west coast. After buying a park pass and getting lots of great info from the woman at the visitor info booth we set out for a day of exploring Tofino and area. Our first stop was a walk through the rain forest. The lady assured us that it was an easy 1 km walk we could do with the kids, and we were excited when we started down the boardwalk. That is, until we got to the stairs. Chris had already gotten into the habit of picking up Alex’s stroller and sort of throwing him over his shoulder so we didn’t have to take him out etc. We kept moving, ducking under trees and stopping along the way for pictures. It was beautiful. And then there were more stairs. Alex, it’s a good thing your Daddy loves you. He carried all of your 28+ lbs up about 200 stairs. No joke. He got his workout that day.

We headed into town, found some delicious fish and chips, bought very expensive groceries and then headed back out toward Long Beach. On the way we took another walk in a peat bog. This time the board walk was indeed flat and it only took us about 20 minutes to do the 1 km trek.

Long Beach.

What can I say about Long Beach other than the fact that the kids LOVED it. I was thinking that putting their bathing suits on was really just going to be for show and that the water would be way too cold for them to enjoy.

I was wrong.

Oh, the water was cold alright. But they loved it just the same. Alex loved standing and letting the water roll over his little toes. He found a mussel shell and wouldn’t let go of it. Eventually he just started crawling around and didn’t care that cold water was soaking his little butt.

Olivia had so much fun running and splashing in the waves as they rolled in. When Chris took Alex back to the blanket she held my hand and kept taking me out further and further until she was almost waist deep in the water. She thought it was pretty fun until a wave rolled right up her front and into her nose :)

That night we had probably our worst night of camping because we ended up out on a forestry road that seemed fine, until the sun started to go down and the mosquitoes came out in full force. After doing some wandering around Chris realized that we were in fact parked in a bog. Let’s just say some of us spent a lot of time in the van and we made a very early start the next day merely for our sanity’s sake.

I think we’re at day 7 now???

We went into Uclulet for the day and had a lot of free fun.

Our first stop was actually getting the muffler on the van welded back together because it fell off going down one of the logging roads. The guys at the Petro Can only charged $15, which was nice of them, and we appreciated how quiet the van was afterward.

We went out to Amphtrite Lighthouse. I wanted to take the kids there because I remember going as a kid and remembered how beautiful it was.

As we stood enjoying the scenery I noticed a spray of water come up way off in the distance near some boats. And then another. We realized we were seeing whale blowhole spray. Every year between May and October about 20,000 Grey whales migrate up to Alaska and we were seeing evidence of it. We stood there for about 20 minutes watching spray after spray. And then we saw whales surfacing, their huge back breaking through the grey blue water. It was amazing. But, the highlight was when a whale surfaced and rolled over, waving one of it’s fins at us. A few days later we realized that it wasn’t a Grey whale, but a Humpback. It was one of the highlights of the entire trip for Daddy and I. I think for me, seeing that in nature made me feel so small. God has created some amazing things. People are just one of those things.

After the free whale watching expedition we went and found some tide pools. Olivia had so much fun taking me climbing on the rocks. At one point we had to duck under and tree that was growing over the water and she just said, “Come on Mom, I think you can go under.” You didn’t realize that I wasn’t quite as bendy as you :) I did, however, make it under – twice.

Later that day we saw a sea lion swimming in the harbor, two bald eagles watching us from the trees, I saw a black bear on some rocks, and just enjoyed wandering around town. If anyone reading this is ever in Uclulet you should check out Ukee Dog. It’s this little restaurant that serves a crazy variety of hot dogs and sliders, and cookies and cinnamon rolls and… and… and… I had “the Whole Hog” which was this hot dog with pulled pork and candied onions and bbq sauce – yum!

After some grocery shopping we decided to head back toward Port Alberni. Since it’s only about a two hour drive we made it to our next campsite and still had time to swim before dinner. While this wasn’t the most amazingly beautiful place, it was on a lake that was warm enough to swim in and the kids loved it. We decided that we’d done a lot of moving around and that a couple nights in one place sounded like a good idea.

Alex surprised us all the next day when we were in the lake and he turned into a merbaby. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. One minute he were happy in my arms and the next he were kicking and flapping his arms and trying to get away. And then shock of all shocks, he slammed his face right into the water. I thought he was just thrashing around and that he would be freaking out, but he pulled his face right back out and started giggling. Then he did it again. And again. And again. I guess he is part fish after all.

After two days we went into Port Alberni and did some shopping, got some stuff taken care of and did some sight seeing. I’m not one who normally talks about the food I eat, but I have to mention this because it left such an impression on us. We ate lunch at this little mom and pop type diner. When I was looking at the menu they had something called “Fried Chicken and a Waffle”. I asked our server about it and she said, “It’s kind of weird. It’s a waffle, with french fries, and then fried chicken on top drizzled in pecan sauce.” I ordered it because it sounded to weird not to try. And you know what? It was SO good and Chris was jealous because the weird waffle chicken thing was definitely weird, but also very delicious. So, don’t be afraid to mix your food groups people!

We spent two more nights at the same place and then headed into Victoria to see Aunty Abby for a few days.

We had so much fun seeing the sites around the city. The Busker Festival was on so we got to see some great street entertainment as well. We toured the Parliament Buildings and saw the picture of my great, great Grandad Oliver on the wall of Premiers (he was the Premier of BC from 1900-1907 I think).

That’s Great Great Grandad Oliver to right of my head.

Chris and Olivia went to the Undersea Gardens while Abby and I checked out the street vendors on the Inner Harbour. We ate food from food trucks. Alex, you napped in the stroller. We went to IMAX and enjoyed the big screen and the air-conditioning. We spent a morning touring the Royal BC Museum. We ate ice cream. Lots of it. We had supper at Fisherman’s Warf. We went to Fisgard Lighthouse and Fort Rod Hill and spent hours walking around. We had a ton of fun with Abby.

From Victoria we took the Anacordes (sp?) ferry from Sidney, BC through the San Juan Islands. We spent a few days in Bellingham again, then down to Seattle long enough to repack our bags, then to Roslyn to spend the weekend with friends, back to Mum and Dads in Vancouver, WA, and then back to Seattle for one night before we flew out to Haiti.

We had such a good time. Typically by week 4 or 5 Chris and I are starting to feel ready to come back. By week 6.5 I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we had to come back to life here. I was happy when we got home, but vacation was so fun. I think the best part was just watching the kids explore and discover. It’s such a gift as a parent to watch the world open up before their little eyes and to see how they interact with it, what is interesting, what is fun. Sigh. I loved it.


Dear Olivia

Hi there Baby Girl. Yes, I know, you’re 4 and I’m still calling you “baby”. The other day you told me, “Mom, I’m not a baby anymore. But, you can still call me baby.”

It’s been a while since you’ve had your own letter. I figured it was time. You’re getting tired of sharing everything with your brother, so the least I can do is occasionally give you your own blog post.

In just over one week you’re starting school for another year. This one is more significant though because you’re starting Kindergarten. This officially begins your school journey that will last for at least the next 13 years. You love school and have asked several times when you get to go back. I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to you going back just because you’re bored most of the time, and being bored is almost the equivalent of signing yourself up for a class in how to get in trouble. You miss your friends and your teachers and the routine that comes with school. You want to learn to read so bad and I’m excited to see you go through the beginning stages of that this year.

At 4.5 years old you are a force to be reckoned with. You still have a ton of energy and a very active imagination. It’s very normal to hear you talking to yourself or to your dolls and telling them stories about what’s happening. And they are very inventive stories.

One of the things that’s really striking us right now about you is that you are never quiet. I mean NEVER. From the time you wake up until the time you finally give into sleep you are making some sort of noise. Sometimes it’s talking. Sometimes it’s talking to no one in particular. Sometimes it’s singing. Sometimes it’s really loud singing. Sometimes it’s dancing and pretending you’re in some sort of dance show. Until we see you then you get all shy.

I think singing is one of your favorite things. You love musicals and love to sing the songs from them, often with your own words. It’s very creative. We see your stubborn side come out when we try to correct you and you insist that you do in fact know the right words.

You are definitely going to be an independent person. You know your own mind already and insist that you are right and we’ve realized that sometimes it’s just easier to agree with you than to reason with a four year old. I hope that as we raise you we’ll be able to harness that independence for good, and not squash it. When we were choosing your name the conversations we had revolved around picking a name that was strong and beautiful, just like we hoped our baby girl would be. And you are. While it drives us crazy now, I know that when you’re older it’ll be one of the things that will make us the most proud of who you are.

You love all things girly and princessy. Recently you’ve taken to dressing up your brother in some of your garb, and thankfully he’s too young to fight it and thinks that necklaces and wands are fun. Give him a couple years and I think he’ll have other opinions about that. And, this is just a funny quirk that I want to remember about you – recently you’ve taken to matching your underwear with your clothes. Like yesterday. I picked out a pair of purple underwear and asked if you wanted to wear a dress. You said, “Yes, but not a pink one!” Because it wouldn’t match. You will never be the child that goes out of the house with all sorts of mixed up outfits. Unless you plan it that way.

You also like to play cars with your brother. That is, as long as you get all the pretty cars. There is no way Alex is allowed to have a car that is red, pink, purple or shiny in any way. Those are reserved only for girls. 

As always, we love you so much and while we love to see you growing up and becoming your sweet little self, there’s a part of Daddy and I that wish we could just bottle you and keep you this way forever. Except maybe with less singing. And talking.

~Love Mom

Hello My Pretty!

If you aren’t reading this in some sort of feed reader, you’ll notice some changes around here. (And, if you are, you need to come and look at the actual site just to humor me.)

I’m excited about some of the changes. I would recommend clicking around a bit because aside from formatting stuff, I’ve gone through and updated everything that needed updating. You know, new pictures of the kids on the About Us page, new prayer requests, new Vision Trip dates. Go on, check it out! And, while you’re checking it out maybe you’ll notice my very favorite thing about the new template – the changing headers. LOVE. IT. I’ll try to update the pictures regularly to show some of my recent photos. I like that it’s a way to showcase the different sides of Haiti, because she is oh so complicated and multi-dimensional.

So, have fun and let me know what you think!


Quick Post

It’s Thursday, and that means tomorrow is FRIDAY!!!

So, update from here…

  • Saturday we welcomed Ryan to our staff. Usually when people get out of the airport they act excited to be here. I liked that Ryan was no trying to pretend he wasn’t exhausted after only getting an hour of sleep in the Fort Lauderdale airport. We hoped that Ryan would just sort of blend into our family, and so far so good. I knew he was a keeper when on the first night at dinner he picked up Alex’s twice chewed roast beef, off the floor, with his bare hands, and threw it in the garbage. He puts up with Olivia following him everywhere too, which we should just put on the application as part of the screening process.
  • I finished our new dining table earlier this week and we love it. Will do a whole post about it sometime soon.
  • We did a full delivery day yesterday with a new promoter. It’s a bit of a big deal because we’ve recently been having struggles with either the promoters and them not having a full load sold and telling us they did, or filters that leak once they get installed. It was a great day, and we have another one scheduled for tomorrow. Each delivery day is 34 filters, and we estimate each filter serves 8-10 people per day, so this week alone about 680 people will get clean water because of the work we’re doing. That’s exciting!
  • School starts in a week and a half. I didn’t think I would be this excited about it, but the fact that Olivia has been singing non-stop for about 30 minutes now reminds me that it’s coming. I love that she likes to sing. I don’t love that it means we have to talk over the singing or that our heads often feel like they’re going to explode. Yesterday Ryan watched the kids while we went out for about 45 minutes. It was so quiet in the car we almost didn’t know what to do.
  • Alex has gotten sneaky and silly in his own way. He’s figured out that certain behaviors in moments where he’s about to get into trouble will bring on laughter from the higher ups, and possibly make them forget about the discipline. I’m pretty sure he gets this from his father.

Okay, time to head out. Me and the kids are going to visit a friend that lives at Club Indigo for the afternoon, which means SWIMMING! It’s 85 F and 87% humidity, in case you wanted to feel sorry for us.


Creative Juices and Cat Calls

Haiti makes me laugh some days. Other days it makes me cry. Some days it’s a mixed bag.

On Friday I busted out and went to St. Marc to purchase some supplies to fuel my creativity. You see, I asked for power tools for my birthday, and I was itching to put them to use.

Several months ago I discovered – and I realized that plenty of average people were building their own furniture. It was possible to buy 2×4’s, 1×4’s, 1×6’s and other regular pieces of wood, and with very little experience, make something that looked good. And was useable. And did I mention, looked good?

In Haiti there are some things that are crazy expensive. Furniture is high on that list. Whatever you might pay for something back in North America, you can almost double it here in some cases. And, the selection is not that fabulous. It’s either all modern looking (if you shop in the expensive stores) or, it’s made by a local “boss” who may or may not give you what you want. Case in point – some friends of ours hired a guy to make them a table with benches. When it showed up at their house it was a table with benches – attached, like a picnic table, and it was too high to be comfortable. They had to cut some things and do some trimming to make it useable. There are some lovely pieces of furniture made here, but they all tend to be in the same style, or are not quite “right”.

Importing thins is another option, but on top of paying for the item itself, you have to ship it in. A few years ago we bought a table and chair set for one of the houses. We decided to order online and ship it in because that was less energy consuming than hiring someone to make something that wasn’t quite what we wanted. The set cost just over $400, and it was just a simple table with 4 chairs. The shipping was another couple hundred. You get the idea.

Sooo, the idea of being able to build things, in Haiti, that we liked and that were functional was so exciting. I made my list of tools that I wanted to start with, keeping in mind that I already had certain things available at the mission to use. My sweet husband obliged me, yet in the back of his mind thinking I was slightly off my rocker. While we were home I stocked up on other small tools and things I would need. Like a tool box. That I could lock. So no one would borrow my stuff and forget to return it to me.

I spent a couple days working out all the plans of the things I wanted to build, and then Friday I set out to buy my wood.

I guess it’s not normal for a white woman to walk into the construction/supply yard and actually know what she’s looking for :)

My presence made quite a stir, but the guys that worked with me were helpful and respectful and appreciated that I spoke Creole. After we confirmed that they had the wood I wanted I went in and paid for my stuff. As I was paying I was explaining that I was building furniture for our house and the girl behind the counter said, “Are you building it yourself?” When I said that I was she got this nice smile on her face that I think only women really understand. It’s that “you go girl” grin.

Then the fun really began.

I went back to the yard, backed my van up to the area where the wood was stored and we started choosing boards. I was thankful that the guy helping me understood that I needed good wood. After he figured out what I was looking for he was the one that started saying, “No, that’s not a good one… You don’t want that one.”

Both of our trucks were occupied, so I had the van, and it almost became entertainment for the work yard to see how the guys would load the wood through our roof carrier. It’s made of steel and has decorative sides on it that had enough space to slide the boards through, but they ranged in widths from 4-12 inches, so it took some trying to figure out what had to go in first, etc. And did I mention they were 16 feet long?

Eventually it was all done and I was on my way, observing life in St. Marc since I had left 8 weeks before. It was all still there, humming along at it’s usual pace. There were new neon vests on a bunch of the motorcycle taxi drivers. New licensing thing I guess. Traffic was still crazy and I was amazed at how well I flip back into Haiti driving mode where all of one’s senses need to be in high alert and prepared for anything at any time.

Friday evening I spent time sanding. Oh, I didn’t mention that, did I? Most of the wood you get here is still pretty rough. I had fun with my orbital sander though. I figured if I did the prep work on the boards then I could start working on Saturday morning.

And so I did.

I spent the entire day working on the deck of the round house, with the ocean only about 30 feet away and a decent breeze for most of the day. Chris was brewing his first batch of beer since we returned (he was exercising his creativity too) so the kids were hanging out with me, which is not my ideal, but it worked.

By the end of the day I had most of the pieces for a coffee table that I’m working on done. I had come to terms with the rough wood and had been telling myself and Chris that it was like working with reclaimed wood – it had warps, imperfections and character. I was okay with things not being perfect, because, well, we’re not a perfect family. I want our furniture to be useable, kid friendly, and something we can really live with. It’s not for show, it’s to use. To put our feet on. To bump against. So, I was okay with “rough”. I started sanding and something magical happened. I first off discovered the beauty of different grits of sand paper. And then I discovered that the “rough” can become something very cool. With character. And knots. And different colors in the grain. As I sanded I got more excited about what I was creating.

Tomorrow is sanding again. This time the wood filler for screw holes. And some assembly. The fun part though is that today I got to spend time stopping at three hardware stores to find stain. The first two didn’t know what I was talking about and the last was like hardware heaven. I’m excited to see what we get when it’s time to start finishing things.

Also on the highlights list in the last few days…

  • Today I got a new stove. That’s pretty exciting for someone like me that likes to cook. But honestly, I think I’m more excited about the wood stain. Crazy!
  • Alex has come through his week long funk and has started to return to his sweet, funny little self. Today he learned how to play the kazoo. And no, I am so not joking about that. When I got home from Port au Prince I got to watch my kids put on a show where he played the kazoo and Olivia danced around in Chris’ new gum boots. They were up to her thighs. I got it on video. You know, for posterity sake.
  • I spent a day in Port and got everything done that I needed to do, in almost record time. I even feel like I “won” in the PaP traffic game because everywhere I went the heavy traffic lightened up and places that usually take an hour to get to took a third of that time.
  • Did I mention that we got a great deal on the stove? It has everything I wanted on it, and was on sale for $250 less that what we would have been willing to pay. I almost feel like we ripped them off. But we didn’t!

That’s all for tonight folks!


Third Culture Kids

Raising kids in another culture is interesting, challenging, fun, insightful… I could go on. When you raise kids in a culture that is different from their parents home culture, they’re referred to as Third Culture Kids, or TCK’s.

Alex is definitely a TCK. Olivia, I’m not sure what you would call Olivia? She was born in Haiti, so technically she’s being raised in her home culture. But, she’s being raised by parents from a different culture, so I guess she technically falls in that TCK category.

Most of the time I don’t thing about the TCK thing, but there are moments when things pop up and surprise me. Especially with a 4 year old who has a lot of insight into the world and isn’t afraid to share that. I didn’t realize just how many things we learn from being in our surroundings. Things that are ingrained. Things that we assume everyone knows. But, when you’re removed from that those things need to be taught.

Here’s what I’m talking about… (a.k.a. the section where I tell you about funny moments that have made us go “huh!”)

  • One day I was helping Olivia with some pre-school coloring exercises. She was supposed to color all of the things in a set of 4 pictures that were typically red. The choices were an apple, a strawberry, a sun and a wagon. I explained what to do and then asked her which ones she needed to color red. She sat there looking at the page and then it clicked for me. She knew what an apple was and what strawberries were because we consumed them in mass quantity in Canada. But she had never seen a wagon and certainly didn’t know that it was stereotypically red. I had to explain what it was :)
  • In Haiti there is a different understanding of personal space. As in there is none. When we go home Chris and I frequently have to tell Olivia to back up and give people room when she’s playing, sitting next to them etc. She doesn’t get that people are weird about that in North America.
  • Alex didn’t want to wear clothes when we got back to the US. He would fight putting on a shirt and then whip it off after we succeeded in getting it on. It took a couple days for him to realize that clothes were a good thing.
  • We have had to teach Olivia about sidewalks and crosswalks. And looking both ways before crossing the street. Because we don’t typically cross the street with our kids here. That would be like being the target in target practice.
  • When Olivia is in North America and where she can watch tv she becomes like a zombie. She also gets upset when commercials come on and says, “But I want the show! I want the show!” and then we have to explain that the show will come back on. She’s used to watching movies on a computer where commercials are non-existent.
  • Olivia knows about touch technology from all the visitors that have iphones and ipads. At New Years we were visiting friends and they had a wii. The girls were playing Just Dance. One of the older ones had the controller and was standing behind Olivia controlling the game. When it came time to select the level Olivia stood in front of the tv trying to move things with her hand on the screen. She had no idea that tv’s aren’t touch screens. Maybe she’s just ahead of her time.
  • Haitians will talk about you right in front of your face, and make observations that in other countries would be considered incredibly rude. Things like when we got engaged it was very normal for people to congratulate Chris and say, “You have a big fiance!” and basically verbally slap him on the back like he’d won the lottery. We have to remind Olivia that saying things like, “Mom, that lady is big” in the grocery store so everyone can hear might not be the most socially acceptable thing to say.
  • Having to tell my kids that they can’t drink the water out of the tap in one country, but that it’s okay in another.

I think the most interesting one happened when we were in the last week of our vacation when Olivia was asking where we were going and how many nights we were going to be there. When I told her she said, “And then are we going home to camping?” I realized that we refer to Haiti as home, because it is. And we refer to Canada as home, because in a way it is. And when we visit places like Grandma and Grandads we say, “Okay, we’re going home now” when we’re out doing things, so that’s home of sorts. And camping, well, the van was home for the time we were out doing that. “They” say that TCK kids grow up to feel that home is where their friends and family are, not necessarily a physical place like it might be back in their parents home culture.

Seeing these things become a reality with our kids at such an early age is really interesting to say the least.



We arrived back home yesterday after a fabulous vacation, which I will be writing more about. Today though, I’m talking about transitioning back. 

Every time we come and go it’s always interesting to see what kind of transition I, and we as a family, go through. What strikes as weird/hard/normal… you get the idea. I just said to Chris this evening that one thing I noticed this time around when we were in North America is that I had to remind myself it was okay to leave food on the counter (things like chips, bread etc) and they didn’t have to be all sealed up tight or put in the fridge so they wouldn’t attract bugs. Here you can’t leave anything out or the ants will find it. Things like bread go stale or mold super fast if they’re left in the humidity. I also had to remind myself that I didn’t need to bleach rinse my veggies. And it was okay to drink water out of the tap. Try teaching your 4 and 1 year old that in one country it’s okay, and in another it’s not. Someone is going to get something at some point.

Coming back we usually try to red-eye it from Seattle into Miami, arriving somewhere around 6 am. Then we catch a morning flight into Port au Prince. We like it because most of us (ahem, not yours truly) can sleep on the plane and we arrive feeling okay and still have the day to get home and settle in, do a normal bedtime etc. We did that again this time and it was fine. I made great efforts to try and be happy even though I got about an hour of sleep on the plane. I did good.

Settling in wasn’t so bad. Until we put Alex to bed. And he cried for about two hours between me going in and trying to rock him down. Apparently he does get jet lag. Tonight was a bit better. Only about 45 minutes of crying. Phew. 

On Thursday I asked Olivia if she was excited about getting back. She said No. Flat out, didn’t think about it No. I was kind of stunned and finally asked her why. “Because it’s hot there”. She may have been born in Haiti, but I think she’s done a full citizenship conversion. 

We told ourselves it was going to be hot. It’s really about the same temperature that it was when we left. But, we are cranky nonetheless. Sadly, heat cranky sneaks up on you and you end up having a crap day and then after exhausting all other possibilities as to why it was a crap day you realize that it is in fact hot and that the heat messes with, well, everything. 

It didn’t help that when we were in the Miami airport and I went to charge my Haiti phone that the battery wouldn’t charge. Because it was puffy and looking like it was ready to explode. I mean, it wasn’t fabulous from the time I got the phone in May, but wow about that. Our friend that was watching the mission for us is away for the weekend and has Chris’ phone because he was fielding calls. Thankfully we have a mission “spare” phone and we could swap the SIM card. Stupid problem to have coming back.

Our internet also wasn’t working because of what we thought was a billing issue. Chris phoned, got that all straightened out, and then we waited for our service to get reconnected. They said it would be about an hour. This morning it still wasn’t working. Chris phoned again and they realized there was a problem with our modem. A problem that they could not fix because they no longer service that model and we would have to upgrade. Last time the mission “upgraded” (for similar reasons might I add) it cost $700. And, the guy that used to be our tech doesn’t work for them anymore.

So, rather than mowing the lawn and hanging out, Chris went to St. Marc to figure out another solution. And now we have a flash drive internet thingy that is supposed to be fast and that we can use as a “hub” for all other computers. But, it isn’t fast at our house because we’re apparently just in a weird range place from the tower. And it wasn’t working well to use as a hub. 

In North America these would be minor annoyances, but it’s funny what your brain does when you are hot and tired and both of your main forms of communication with the outside world are not working right. 

The internet thing isn’t terrible. I mean, we have some way of being in contact now. It’s just slower and we need to just step back and appreciate that it’s there. We may just end up each getting a stick and then suck it up and remember that we’ve gotten super reliant on the internet for entertainment. Maybe we should be doing other things with our time. Like knitting. I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit to the point where I can actually make something, even if it is only a dish cloth. And yes, I’m fully aware that it sounds a little absurd to want to knit things, from yarn, that is typically meant to keep one warm, in a climate where the average temperature is sweat, sweat and more sweat. 

And these issues have caused us to look at the possibility of having to be more efficient with our time. If the internet is slow, it’s going to mean making lists and being focused rather than prattling along. 

Sigh. First world problems. There’s probably someone out there reading this that’s thinking, “Missionaries used to have to get on a boat and go away for at least 4 years and maybe get to send letters every few months. And then if you were really lucky you got to use a HAM radio or SAT phone.” Whiners. I know, we’ve had this conversation many times when we start getting too comfortable. 

So, in the next week we will try to buy me a new phone battery, which I know we will succeed in, even if it takes a day of going to several places. And we will figure out the internet. And we will learn to share it until we do. And I will try not to forget how to use a gas stove, make meal plans, feed my kids, pick up toys, and be happy to boot. 

When do we get to go on holidays again???


Not Stranded In the Wilderness

We emerged from the woods on Friday after 10 days of camping fun as a family. We were smelly and dirty, but Abby was still happy to see us when we showed up at her work to start our “Aunty Abby Visit”. Since getting here we’ve exhausted ourselves for the last two days in downtown Victoria. There’s a busking festival on right now, so on top of the typical Victoria tourist highlights we’ve gotten to see some great street performers. It’s been fun. Tomorrow we continue the fun, and Tuesday we’re heading back down to the US for the last leg of our world tour.

Until then I will leave you with this. (I’m really ditching out because I need to go wash my feet.  They smell horrible from two days of being cooped up in my Keens while I’ve abused them with hours of walking.)

There is a story to tell…


The Good Ol’ US of A

This time last week we were having lunch in Port au Prince before heading to the airport to catch our flight. It’s been a good week for the Rolling family, and a busy one, which is why it’s taken me this long to actually get on here to post anything.

We took an afternoon flight out of Haiti for the first time ever. We had a red-eye flight from Miami to Seattle, also for the first time ever, so we didn’t have to leave early in the morning and spend an entire day traveling only to arrive late into Seattle anyway. Aside from the airport not having A/C on and everyone sweating, things were fine as we departed.

When you travel with little kids I think one of the major concerns on your mind as you board a plane is whether your kids are going to drive everyone else on the plane crazy. God has blessed us with amazing little travelers. As we took off I was expecting Alex to be upset about the air pressure change. Nope. The kid giggled and smiled like the Cheshire Cat the entire time, acting like he was on some fabulous carnival ride. I guess we know who the adrenaline junkie in the family is. Olivia has been traveling for over two years now, so she was cool with the whole thing. Her biggest concern about the trip was whether or not she would get gum :)

We had a nice layover in Miami and when we got to our gate we had to check the screen again because there was a little party all set up. We found a seat nearby waiting for some sort of announcement announcing a gate change, but none came. As we got closer to departure time we noticed people with bags were showing up so Chris went to see what was going on. Turns out we were on the inaugural red eye flight from MIA to SEA at that particular time slot so they were celebrating. There was cake, cheese platters, sandwich platters and drinks. We also got nice little passport covers as we boarded. Nice on you American Airlines! I think the party definitely helped lighten spirits, especially considering we sat at the gate for an hour and a half because of a lightning storm. We finally arrived in Seattle at 2 am and were so grateful to see Paul, who never complains about having to pick us up at crazy times of the day when we come in.

We spent the weekend with our board of directors for our organizational AGM. It was a great weekend! We worked through some really important and foundational things for the organization and Chris and I came out of it feeling really encouraged and excited about the future of Clean Water for Haiti.

On Monday we spent the day getting our trusty ’69 VW van all ready for summer vacationing. Chris spent some time on engine stuff and I spent the day getting all our camping stuff organized and set up. We haven’t had a “normal” summer vacation since 2007 and have been looking forward to doing a family camping trip for years, so Chris and I were excited to get stuff all ready to go.

We headed down to Vancouver, WA to see Grandma and Grandad on Tuesday and Chris was all smiles as we hit the highway. He’s been looking forward to driving the van, with kids in it, for years! We’ve really been enjoying our visit with Mum and Dad. Yesterday Grandma took us to the new library, which has an AMAZING kids floor, the main park with a fabulous playground and water feature that was full of kids yesterday because of the beautiful weather, and lunch at the Island Cafe, right on the Columbia River.

Last night we did our first presentation for this trip at Columbia Presbyterian Church. Again, we want to thank everyone that helped organize the evening and everyone that came out to meet and visit with us. We really enjoyed being able to share what we’re doing in Haiti and where the mission is headed.

Today is really our first “lazy” day since we arrived where our plans were all up in the air until about an hour ago and it’s so nice. Olivia wore herself out yesterday to the point where she got up, had some cereal, then fell asleep on the couch again and slept for two more hours. I’ve gotten as far as having a shower and Chris is snuggling with Alex on the couch. We have plans to have lunch with Mum and Dad downtown, then visiting one of Chris’ friends from waaaaaaay back, and then a nice relaxed evening of dinner out and visiting with new friends that hail from Vernon, BC. Should be a fun day.

Now, now I have to go do some laundry! A mother’s work is never done… :)

Happy Thursday!


4 Year Old Observations

Olivia shared some thoughts at breakfast that made me internally go, “Huh.” And then I sat there a bit dumbfounded for a while. I want to share them, and I want to preface them with the fact that we were having zero conversation related to anything she said. In fact it was very quiet. I was chewing toast, Chris was chewing eggs. These are just the things that came into her head and out of her mouth.

O: “Americans just look at us all the time. It makes me frustrated.”

C: “It makes me frustrated too.”

O: “Yeah. And they don’t like it when white people like us have black kids.”

L: I didn’t say anything, just kind of looked at her. Thought, I did think it was interesting that she included herself in the “white people like us” category. 

C: “Who doesn’t like it?”

O: “Black people don’t like it when white people have black kids.”

Wow. Let’s chew on that for a bit, shall we?

Now, before you start telling me that we plant this stuff in her, we don’t. It was kind of shocking to hear it come out of her little mouth, but very telling. As a family we talk very openly about adoption and everything connected with it, at a level that is appropriate for her. However, we live in a culture that is not our home culture, and with that come certain challenges.

For a long time Olivia was either too small, or didn’t understand enough Creole to know what was really going on around her or what was being said about our family when we were out in public. A lot of adoptive families have shared, either in person or through their writing online, their experiences with raising a mixed race family in North America. It’s challenging, to say the least, and people don’t often self edit before they open their mouths, even if they are well intended. Chris and I have had several conversations about what things would be like when she could finally understand some of the things we hear and see here in Haiti. Apparently she is incredibly observant.

I won’t lie, our experiences here in Haiti as an adoptive family have had their moments. There are some people who are incredibly sweet and tell Chris and I that they are so thankful we decided to adopt one of Haiti’s children. There are a lot of people who are genuinely interested in our family and want to know about both kids and are very kind. Then, there are people who make zero effort to hide their opinions and feelings about foreigners adopting Haitian kids. In my experiences and observations it is generally people with more education that express their gratitude and kindness, and people with less education tend to be more critical and less okay with it. And, that makes sense, because both of those groups have entirely different experiences and understandings of adoption as a whole in Haiti. Those things are deep and layered and would take a long time to get into and I don’t want to go there today.

Something that really struck me about Olivia’s observations was what she said about Americans. We like Americans. We have American family. Chris is part American, and in a couple of months Alex will also have his citizenship, so we’re pro-American in this family. Olivia’s observations stem from seeing foreigners in Haiti. And, she’s kind of in a unique position because she is Haitian as well as Canadian (and maybe one day American too if we can muster up the energy to go the Immigration route with her). There are times when we are out with visitors and Haitians assume she is just a Haitian tag along with the foreigners. And, there are times we meet foreigners and they start saying “bonju” to her and using whatever Creole they might have. Usually Olivia just kind of stares at them, sometimes with a bit of a head cock, wondering what on earth they’re doing. As her mom I know what’s running through her head and I will admit I sometimes let them embarrass themselves a bit before I politely say, “She speaks English”. It’s funny what assumptions we make, isn’t it? What’s more interesting is that Olivia sees all of this and without really realizing it on our parts, she’s formulating thoughts and feelings about it.

What I love about the age that Olivia is, is that she hasn’t developed all those filters that we have as adults. She doesn’t know what is the right or wrong thing to say. She just says what she thinks. This morning I couldn’t help but think of what most foreigners would think if they’d heard her say what she did. Kids can be good mirrors. It makes me think about how Haitians perceive me when I’m out. Am I speaking and acting with respect, or am I looking at people in a way that would even be rude in my own country? (And I’m Canadian, so there are a lot of things that are rude!) How do we interact with the poverty and way of life? Are we acting like tourists? Do we really have the right to stand, stare, and snap pictures?

Lots to think about.