A Pain In the Gum.

I won’t lie. I was feeling a bit anxious going into yesterday morning.

About two weeks ago my wisdom teeth started giving me problems, at least the two I still had. It started with pressure on my jaw and then the whole left side of my face feeling pressure, a headache and an aching neck. We went to our dentist in Gonaives last Monday, hoping he would be able to pull them out there, but without x-rays he didn’t want to go ahead because it’s an invasive surgery.

I should stop here and just mention something that some of you might not know – white people and black people’s jaws form differently. I don’t know about other races, so someone can feel free to chime in down in the comments if they want. People from African descent tend to have jaws that are larger, and therefore it’s very normal for wisdom teeth, or the third molar, to come down or in normally. Us white people, not so lucky.

Now, let’s put this in the context of Haiti. I am a white girl in a black culture. Going into to dentist office to explain that I have teeth that just never came in is stressful enough. I was worried that I would get resistance from our dentist simply because it’s not a common problem with 99.5% of his patients that he sees. Thankfully Dr. Miguel was great and completely understood. He has big posters of teeth and jaws on his wall and we were able to talk about everything with those. I’m also thankful that he knows his limits and had no problem telling us that he would rather refer us to a colleague in Port than do it himself. A quick phone call later and things were all set up for me to see his friend at the Dental University in Port au Prince yesterday.

I had been there before, last summer, to get x-rays on my front tooth so Dr. Miguel could do a crown for me (which turned out so well!), so there was some level of familiarity. But, I knew this would be different.

The university, like most places in Haiti, is not what you or I might expect. Some of the teaching areas are very basic and open air. The equipment might be older, but it still does the job. Despite appearances, they’re doing good work there. Upper level students must have been working on dental castings yesterday because repeatedly they came in to where I was having my work done to get Dr. Phillogene’s approval on things.

We waited in the waiting area, which is a nice deck lined with chairs. When it was time for the consultation part of things Chris and I went in and sat with Dr. Phillogene to start my file. We met his colleage, Dr. Felix (I think!). We discussed the issues I’d been having and then headed back for x-rays.

The x-ray room is about 5×10. The walls are nicely installed wood panels, I think plywood, with finishing. The window has re-bar bars on it with a screen. There’s no light bulb in the socket on the ceiling, but that makes sense if you consider it’s an x-ray room with a window. The darker the better. There is a chair to the left of the door, an x-ray chair. I sit down and there’s a piece of pvc pipe coming out of the floor that’s just the right height to use as a foot rest. I think it might have been there to allow for a drain of some sort, assuming that they were maybe going to use the room for something else other than an x-ray room at some point. On the wall to the left of my chair is a very old x-ray machine. It only gets plugged in when they need to use it, because this is Haiti, and power is crazy here and it would probably get fried if it was left plugged in. There’s another, slightly newer x-ray machine in there, but they aren’t using it for some reason. Maybe it’s the back up? Over in the corner to the right is a basic table with a portable “dark room” unit on top. Inside is a cup of solution to develop the x-ray films and the doctor or tech just pulls everything apart inside and then dips the films in the cup to expose them. After a minute, they get pulled out and the window is used to check out the contents.

We do my x-rays. It’s obvious that the top tooth is pushing into the roots on the one before it. I’ve felt the pressure for a while now and am looking forward to getting it out. We redo the bottom x-rays 4 times because the bottom tooth is so close to the surface that it looks like one of my regular molars. Initially it was so confusing that everyone thought the pain I had was from just the top and that I didn’t actually have a bottom one, but after some closer looking the dental work in my last molar showed that the wisdom tooth was right there, and explained why my gum was getting soft in that place. It was trying to push up, but giving me a lot of pain in the process.

X-rays are done and I get settled in for the work.

I should back track here and tell you that the last time I had this procedure on my right side wisdom teeth, the top one had already pushed down, and the bottom one was a challenge. It had grown too close to the bone and they had to grind off some of my jaw bone to get it out. I didn’t get put under, but rather had local anesthesia for all of it. Yes, I hurt after, but it wasn’t terrible and within 24 hours I was eating soft foods. I didn’t swell up too badly and I didn’t bruise at all.

I got frozen and they went to work. They were doing the removals in their teaching room where they have 8 chairs set up in one big room. I’m guessing, from our previous visit, that they have days where they accept patients and upper level dental students get to work on teeth with supervision. We were the only ones in the room yesterday. Yes, their equipment might have been a bit older, but everything was clean and sterile and they were diligent about all of that through everything. I lost track of how many glove changes happened.

I would really love to say that things went smoothly and it was easy, especially with the location of my teeth, but I can’t do that. Nope. Apparently another 18 years actually makes things more difficult. It gives your teeth more time to grow closer to your jaw bones and to grow into the roots of your other teeth. No, there was nothing easy about yesterday.

I did end up getting some of my left jaw bone ground off. I guess it’s good to keep things equal, right? I wish I was exaggerating when I say that they had my mouth open for about 3 hours. Not just me laying there with them looking at things. That was 3 hours of grinding, digging and prying. My mouth has been contorted in ways I didn’t know was possible. Eventually my very obstinate teeth gave up and let go, but they did not do it happily.

Now, I know that some of you might be thinking something along the lines of this whole thing taking a long time because of ill experienced dentists. I’m going to shut that down right now. Yes, they may have not had extensive hands on practice with wisdom teeth (even the poster in the room showed all molars in place, none impacted) but they were very thorough every step of the way. They didn’t do anything until they were satisfied with the x-rays, and they deliberated over every step for best practice options. They worked hard. They listened when I told them I needed to be shot with more freezing. They did a good job. At one point I thought about asking for my phone so I could get a picture of their two heads bending over me with the concentration I was seeing, but I thought that might be a tad distracting and weird :)

No, I very much appreciate Doc Phillogene and Doc Felix for what they did for me yesterday. They earned every Gourde we paid. I wasn’t an easy patient in the sense that things were straight forward. In fact, on the way home Chris and I were laughing (as much as I could laugh) at the fact that they were kind of on a high because of the procedure they’d just done. I can’t imagine they get many opportunities, if any, to do it, so it was that high of having accomplished something and helping someone at the same time. It made me happy to have provided them with the experience. When I gave birth to Alex I was asked if it would be okay for a second year med student to observe the birth. By the end of it she was taking pictures for our family, and the next morning my delivery doc thanked me for allowing her to be there because my birth had been completely natural, and Alex was a big baby. She was happy that this med student got to see that so early in her studies, but also to see that as a woman. I felt thankful that I got to be part of that, and I felt the same way yesterday. Maybe I provided an opportunity to learn. Maybe those dentists will be able to teach others and help others because of that experience.

I realized a lot of other things while lying on the chair yesterday.

Our society likes to soften the blows of reality. We like to remove the hard stuff whenever we can. I’m not being critical, just stating a fact. We avoid pain, and we avoid even knowing the details sometimes. In this specific example, it’s common practice to be put under rather than have local anesthesia so that you not only don’t feel anything, but also don’t remember it. I get it, oh boy, do I get it! There were times yesterday where I thought, “This is why. This is why they knock you out. They do it so you don’t have to feel the insane amount of pressure put on your mouth from them trying to get leverage. They do it so you don’t hear the tools grinding against your teeth. They do it so you don’t have to watch them trying to figure out what to do next. You just get to wake up being sore and thinking this is just what it is.”

And then I would think about all the Haitians that might never get to go to a dentist in the first place. And then about those that might and wondered what quality of care they would get. I thought about all the people I’ve met here with missing teeth, knowing that many of those probably came out with no anesthetic. And I felt grateful that there is a teaching university in Haiti with guys like this leading the way. Aside from doing a job I could tell they cared about doing it well. It wasn’t a show for me. I was just a patient with a problem.

I thought about the fact that being awake for the whole procedure helped me appreciate all the work that went into helping me feel better, and how grateful I was to be able to actually get this taken care of. Often we get asked about the hardest things here, and I frequently tell people my biggest fear is that our family wouldn’t get the medical care we needed in an emergency. Yet, time and time again God has provided access when we need it. I couldn’t imagine having to live with wisdom tooth pain until we came home next summer, and we can’t afford to pay for dental in Canada or the US anyway. Having Dr. Miguel in Gonaives has been a huge blessing to our family. When he did my crown, he only charged us $350 US for the entire procedure, including the root canal, the form work, ordering the crown from the Dominican Republic, a temp crown and then the final work. Chris just had a root canal finished up for $150. My wisdom teeth? $220 for the whole thing. Such a blessing! God provides.

I also thought about the people that God has made Chris and I to be. I fully realize that this life we live is not for everyone. There are many that, just reading this, would feel stressed out. But, we wake up each day knowing this is where God wants us to be, and because of that I can push aside any of those feelings that I might have over any given situation and know that it’s all going to be okay. Is it stressful to go into a medical facility and think that it’s definitely below what my North American standards might be? Yes. But, I can do it. And I can be okay doing it. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that God knew we could do this.

So, here I sit, taking tons of Ibuprofen and Tylenol looking like I got in a bar fight and wishing I could eat everything in sight but sipping on chicken broth. And I am thankful. Yes, it hurts, but I know that is now temporary and that in about a week I’ll feel mostly normal. There won’t be any more pain and I can move on.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

That’s not slight. That’s HUGE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chikungunya – 4, Rollings – 0, And We’re Thrilled!

That’s right folks, the Chicken fever has taken down all of us!

Why on earth would we be so happy about that?

Well, because we’ve been holding our breath this week waiting for Alex to get it. I mean, this kid is outside every day in the work yard with the guys. One of our guards had it, another worker had it, family members of workers had it. If anyone was going to get it in our family, it would be Alex. And yet, he wasn’t going down…

Yesterday as we drove to visit friends Chris and I were talking about how thankful we were that this thing has run through our home in such a mild way. Olivia had the typical case – fever, aches and rash all in that order. But, a couple days later she was up and around again. Chris and I have each basically bypassed the fever, had fairly minor aches and just mostly felt tired. I hardly had any rash to speak of and Chris still has some, but it hasn’t been terrible. The worst of it for me was two nights ago when an aching leg was really uncomfortable and it made it hard to sleep. Since then we’ve both just been taking it easy and resting when needed, but going about our day mostly normally.

In the course of our conversation we wondered about all things viral and if our bodies have maybe, because of past viruses, had some sort of resistance. A major study would need to happen to verify anything like that, and we have zero scientific experience so really it was one of those “I wonder if…” conversations.

As we chatted we kept wondering why Alex hadn’t gone down yet. And then the pieces came together…

A couple weeks ago both kids had boils (yes, lovely sharing time we’re having here…) It was weird that they both got them at the same time, but it’s Haiti and all it takes is an open pore and some nasty water or sweat, so we just dealt with it by giving them both a run of antibiotics. Olivia was better in about 48 hours, Alex took a couple more days. Just after his cleared up he got another one on his leg, and this time it was much worse than the previous one. We started the antibiotics again.

A day or so into the antibiotics Alex was really tired, feverish and just cranky. It lasted about a day. Chris, Yonese and I all chalked it up to the infection in his leg and his little body trying to fight it off. About the same time he would randomly complain about his limbs hurting. In all honesty we dismissed it because he’s been doing this thing where when he gets in trouble he starts telling us about all his body parts that are hurting. In the time out chair for a couple minutes we’ll hear, “My head hurts, my arm hurts, my leg hurts…” The complaints about hurting limbs would be mentioned once and then it was a different body part. And the whole time he was up and playing.

Because this has been going on for the last couple of months his complaints about a constant headache during the same time had me baffled. Was it real? When I asked him where exactly it hurt he would point to the same place. I literally told Chris at one point that I was wondering if we should talk to a doctor friend because I didn’t want to be one of those parents that missed all the signs of their kid having a brain tumor or some major thing like that. Then, the next day the complaints were gone and things were fine.

A day or so after the on and off fever and fatigue there was a bit of rash on random parts of Alex’s body, but in areas like his arms close to his elbows and parts of his back. It didn’t last for more than a day, and last summer he battled heat rash for several months which is the reason he still doesn’t wear more than a diaper on most days. This boy can sweat! We just assumed it was spots of heat rash because things had been warming up again after a nice couple weeks of cool weather.

So, if you’re tracking with me we’ve had fever, fatigue, bone aches, headache, rash and crankiness – and we missed it because we were so concerned about the brutal abscesses on his arm and leg. We missed the symptoms because they matched up to something else that was already going on in his little body.

The Chikun got us all, just not in the order that we thought! I can’t tell you how relieved we are to know that we won’t be facing this stuff as we’re getting ready to hop on a plane. Wahoo! I feel like a quiet stress that’s been hanging in the air, the waiting and wondering has been lifted off of us.

Thank you SO much for all of your prayers and well wishes in the past week. I know this could have hit our home so much harder than it has and we’re grateful that we’ve only had mild cases with all the stuff that’s going on this week.

Please continue to pray for Haiti. Aside from the things I requested prayer for last time, pray that people are given the opportunity to truly be educated about their bodies and how things like this virus spread. I had a really interesting conversation with one of our employees this past week about whether or not the virus was dropped on Haiti for scientific or political reasons. There are a lot of people talking about things like this right now. We had a great chat about natural disasters, like the earthquake, and natural transmission of illnesses like this. Coming from the first world we can so easily take basic education that we receive even as children about how the earth functions and medical things for granted, and it can be easy to forget that many in the world don’t have that same starting place. When you don’t have that basic education, or very little access to it, and lots of natural disasters and epidemics it can be easy to start wondering if there’s some sort of conspiracy going on. Pray that people’s hearts and minds will be opened to hearing the truth of how illnesses like Chikungunya are transmitted and can then learn how to care for and protect themselves, and that those educational opportunities will be available.

Grateful from Haiti,


That Chicken Thing

If you follow Haiti news at all you’ve probably heard about the “Chicken thing” that has been spreading through the island rapidly in the past month. Chikungunya (chick-uhn-guhn-yah) is a mosquito carried virus that can result in fever, rash, headaches and severe joint pain as well as other symptoms.


I hadn’t posted anything about this previously because until about a week ago it was predominantly running wild in the major cities, especially the capital – Port au Prince. I didn’t want to sound like someone who knew anything when we hadn’t really seen much of it in our area. At first people were a bit hesitant to call it what it was because it’s symptoms are very similar to Dengue fever, and it seemed to be moving like a hurricane. Literally entire neighborhoods were falling ill with it. Since the first cases hit Haiti early last month it’s literally become an epidemic here. People live in close quarters, most without screens or the money to buy any kind of mosquito repellent. It’s the daytime mosquitoes that get you, so even if you use repellent, sweat and what not cause it to drip off leaving you exposed.

In the past couple of weeks it’s moved out into the rest of the country, including our area. About a week and a half ago our employees started requesting Tylenol for family members, and one of our guards came up one morning looking pretty beat. I asked him about his symptoms – tired and had a fever over the weekend, but no rash. By the end of the day he was in so much pain that he couldn’t come down from the guard tower to open the gate when I was leaving. At the end of his shift he made it down the tower into a chair waiting at the bottom, and Chris pulled the car up to the chair so he basically only had to stand and shift his body weight to fall into the car so Chris could drive him home. A week later he was back at work and looking and acting completely normal. We just found out at the end of last week that one of our employees had it but still managed to come to work every day. How, I have no idea!

I’m part of a Facebook group of expats here in country and the cases of symptoms reported have been in the hundreds. What I’ve learned from those comments is that while there are the typical cases where the fever comes on, followed by extreme joint pain and the rash, there are also milder cases where there may be a very low grade fever to the point that it is almost missed, mild joint pain and other symptoms like headaches and low energy. A couple of our friends have had it and the symptoms like pain and rash came before the fever, or were mild enough that they were up and about after a day of laying low from fatigue.

Anyone living here long term has basically adopted the “when” rather than “if” attitude about when they’ll get it. In some ways it’s almost become a new badge to add to our list of “done that” items – “Have you had the fever yet?”

We were pretty sure that if any of our family got it that Alex would be the first to fall. He runs around in nothing more than a diaper every day and he spends hours at a time out in the work yard with our staff. Chris and I were honestly just bracing ourselves for it. But, Olivia was the first to go down. Midway through last week she started to feel tired, then on Wednesday morning she woke up with a fever and slept on and off for the day. Thursday she seemed a bit better, but had a bit of a rash on her face and complained of achy joints. She was hobbling around here like an old woman and sometimes it was just easier to carry her from point A to B.

Thursday evening I started to feel run down, but needed to go to Port au Prince on Friday. Thankfully I woke up the next morning feeling fine and went on my way. On the way home I started to feel overly tired. Got home, unpacked everything and then gave in. Saturday I just felt beat and spent half the day in bed sleeping. The kind of sleep that feels like an hour but is really four. I didn’t feel feverish at all, but I could have easily had a low grade fever, we just didn’t check. On Friday night my hands and feet started swelling and it brought back memories of months of fat feet while pregnant with Alex. The worst part so far for me has been the headache that settled in Friday evening and was relentless until about yesterday afternoon. I was taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen alternately and it seemed to help a bit, but not completely. Thankfully that combo has helped with joint pain. I was expecting it, so was paying attention and while it hasn’t been horrible, it’s been very much there. It feels random though, like the shin on one leg aching for a bit, then the ankle on my other foot. As I type this my left wrist is aching while everything else seems fine. I was starting to wonder if I was getting sympathy Chicken fever, but today I’ve been itchy all over and a rash has started to show up in various places.

Yesterday Chris started to feel a bit tired, and a bit achy. Yesterday evening a rash started showing up on his back, but we weren’t sure if it was ChickV (as everyone here has started calling it) or heat rash that he often gets in the summer. Today it’s definitely ChickV as he’s feeling more achy and run down, but still able to be up and around doing stuff like normal.

So, Alex wasn’t the first to go down, and so far is showing no signs of it. We’re hoping and praying that remains the case, or that if he is going to get it he gets it in the next 24 hours. Our family is gearing up to travel this weekend on our annual summer vacation and we’re hoping and praying that we’re all through the worst of it (fever stage) before we need to leave.

The good news is that once you get it, you get it once. Basically everyone is just riding the wave, enduring the pain (really!) and knowing that after this first major sweep in the country that cases will drastically diminish and it will be harder to catch because there will be fewer carriers.

We would love it if you would keep Haiti in your prayers, especially the young, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and women in the early stages of pregnancy or about to deliver. Studies have show that there is vertical transmission with this, which means that expectant mothers can transmit it to their babies if they’re in the labor stage, and those littles can fall ill with it in the first few days of their lives because of that. That can cause complications and possibly even things like cebral palsy. Any fever in an expectant mom in the early stages of pregnancy is danger as well.

If you want to pray for our family, pray that those of us with it recover quickly and that if Alex doesn’t get it before we leave that it stays that way. We are VERY grateful that our cases so far seem to be mild compared to what we’ve heard and we would love for it to stay that way. Some cases, especially in women, show relapses with fever and fatigue, so that’s a concern too especially because we’re traveling.

We’re going to try and rest up this week as much as we can. Thankfully we don’t have a ton of work to do before we leave and we’re not feeling stressed. We just have a few things to wrap up and packing to do, but that’s not even extensive because our kids have pretty much outgrown everything they would wear back in North America and we try to travel back light so there’s more room for stuff on the return.

We’ll keep you posted, and thank you for your prayers for our staff and family!


The post where I talk about “new” things.

While Chris was away I took some time to go over plans for the house and office space at the new property. We’re so itching to get started on the building, but we know God’s timing on things is perfect and that going slow is a good thing. As we wait on funding it’s actually given us a lot of time to repeatedly discuss things and work out details. For that we’re so thankful.

As we move forward with building and developing we really want to not only think of needs now but also what things might look like 10 or 20 years from now. As we talk plans for the work yard we’re thinking about efficiency as well as building things with enough room to increase our capacity by at least double over the years. If we’re building 400 filters per month, how much storage space to we need to keep cement and other materials? What does that look like for setting up the work yard? When we talk about the guest house we’re looking at what we have now, and what we know our needs are and how we want to change things.

When it comes to the house and office space, we’re working through every last detail because concrete is pretty darn permanent and we want to do it right the first time. Our family has been not only living, but also working in just under 900 square feet for years. Our office space is literally in our living room, which means we don’t ever truly get away from work. As we talked through the initial plans for the mission the one thing that was an absolute no-brainer was building an actual office space. I’m so excited about the plans we have in place for everything, but I won’t lie – I’m probably most excited about having an actual office!

Chris pretty much left the basic house design up to me, and after doing the first draft we talked and tweaked and changed and re-did. We’ve had several revisions since then and all of them have been good! And funny. When we started the planning Chris out of left field said, “Don’t even think about putting in a second bathroom!” I wasn’t going to, but it was funny to see he had such strong feelings about it. And apparently changeable feelings about it, because when we came home from last summer’s vacation he became insistent about putting in a second bathroom. We had originally just had the full bath on the second floor, but he wanted a toilet/sink combo on the main floor for a variety of reasons. I believe he actually said, “Do whatever you need to do to the plans to make it work!” So I did, and it solved two other issues – an entry way and office storage. Our main door in our current house comes right into the living room, and it means shoes slowly creep across the floor and so does the dirt. One of our ongoing “squabbles” is about the number of non “house” items that get stored in our storage room or living room because Chris doesn’t want them to be “all access”. The extra bathroom allowed me to add an entry area, as well as an actual storage room in the office where we can keep all those items that Chris doesn’t want in the shop, but still needs regular access to, as well as boxes of paper etc.

I’m a spacial type person, where I can get a good feel for what can fit where and what provides good flow, and this is how I’ve been thinking through the entire process of planning the house and office. I want the biggest bang for our buck, but I also want the space to be comfortable, inviting and something that will grow with our family over the years. It’s our hope to be with the mission until we retire, and unless God has other things in store that we don’t know about now, that’s how we’re thinking. So, in the house that means factoring in Alex, who will probably be about 6’5″ when he’s 13 and what that will feel like for the rest of us. We like having people over regularly, including our bi-weekly missionary fellowship/bible study times where we might have 15 adults and half a dozen kids in our kitchen/living room. This is who we are. This is what the mission buildings get used for. Being thoughtful about all of this has helped as we put finishing touches on things.

The other thing that is actually really fun for us is thinking about all the ways we can have a great space, and save money in the process. The kitchen is a good example. First off, it’s hard to find quality cabinetry. Local men may be able to build things, but they’re often not square or just “off”. When we built our current place my needs and wants in the kitchen were simple – a) counters at a normal height, b) drawers that slid normally, and c) shelves in the cupboards that made sense. We ended up having a simple kitchen built by a business in Port au Prince and have been really happy with it. Since then I’ve gotten handy with wood, and we have two friends here that are also carpenter types. One of them even worked as a cabinet maker for a while. Between all of us we have all the tools and the know how needed to build a GREAT kitchen for basically the cost of wood, hardware and paint. The kitchen we have now was relatively cheap compared to what it would cost us back home for a kitchen build, but doing it ourselves will save ton of money and it’ll be custom built with everything just as we want it. Same thing with the office plans. We want a really functional work space that will allow for several people to be working, as well as storage and a space that is really productivity inducing.

In both the case of the kitchen and the office I’d had a lot of stuff floating around in my head for a while, and was pinning stuff on Pinterest for a long time, so while Chris was away I used several free evenings to start putting “pen to paper” so to speak. It was so fun to have something to show Chris when he got back so he could understand what’s been floating around in my head for so long. The best part was that he LOVED the kitchen, and after explaining my thoughts on the office he likes that too. I was completely prepared for many tweaks and more conversation but we’re good to go! I’m sure we’ll still do some tweaking, but this is a very good place for us to be in :)

You might be wondering why we would be thinking about work space for several people in the office, but that brings me around to another “new” thing for us that we’re really excited about.

Obviously as the mission grows we’re going to need to have extra help here, so it’s just prudent to plan for that in the work space/office space. In the past when we’ve had volunteers here they’ve been here mostly to be primarily involved in the filter project. Because of the way we’re set up and our development goals, we try to have our Haitian staff take care of most of the day to day work, and our real needs are more in the area of having people here in a leadership capacity. Even with that though, we realized that what we thought our needs were, and what our actual needs are weren’t the same things. You may remember that last fall I put a call out on here for an assistant. Nothing ever came of it and we just trusted that at the time and knew that God would provide when the time was right.

Well, the time is right!

(If you could see me right now I would be grinning ear to ear.)

Last month an opportunity presented itself, and the funny thing is that it wasn’t from outside of Haiti, but rather in Haiti. We were approached to consider someone that we knew here already, albeit not well. After going through the application process, a face to face visit/interview time, and references we’re excited to share that we have a new volunteer joining us in August.

Peggy has been in Haiti since last November, so she’ll be starting with us having had some experience here, which is a great thing. All of the big needs on my list as far as what a person in the assistant role needed to be able to do, Peggy can do. She’s owned her own business so she’s familiar with everything from having employees to management and accounting. She has a deep desire to serve wherever she can be of help, and the best part is that she has a long term calling for missions. In the past we’ve had some wonderful people here, but they’ve typically committed for a year and then went on to do other things. Peggy is coming into this knowing that if it’s a good fit for all of us, she could be with us for many years – and that’s exciting! When I told Chris I was coming the first thing he said was, “Good, now I can make plans.” He had only ever had people that would come for weeks or months and was never able to do anything really productive. I now know how he felt in that moment because having Peggy here means I’ll get to finally do the things that keep getting put on the back burner. And, not only will her working here take some of the day to day stuff off me, it’ll help in the bigger picture as the stuff that I want to focus on will allow others back in Canada and the US to focus on other things while I take some of the stuff that should rightfully be done from here off their shoulders.

This is such an exciting step forward for us and the mission. I just keep thinking about all the great things that are going to come out of this… sigh.

We would love it if you would keep us, Peggy and the mission in general in your prayers over the coming months as we get ready to transition. Here are some specific things you can pray for:

  • Pray that past situations with volunteers that have gone badly won’t interfere with building our relationships with Peggy as she comes on staff. We all click really well, but it’s easy to unintentionally be guarded when you’ve had to go through some of the things we have in the past. We want a great, strong team that actually feels more like family.
  • Pray for Peggy as she heads back to the US and works at transitioning from her previous organization to sharing about her new opportunity to work with Clean Water for Haiti. She’s already very enthusiastic about sharing what we do, but will also be raising her own personal support over the coming months.
  • Pray for me specifically as I prepare to have someone here to help me out. After so many years of not being able to really hand off much for any length of time I know that my natural instinct will be to feel like I still need to do everything myself. I AM already starting to make lists and think about what to hand off and how, and I want to keep moving in that direction. I am looking forward to having more time to concentrate on things that have been on the back burner for a long time.
  • Pray for the mission in general as we move into this new phase. We can sense very much that God is slowly taking us into the next phase for the mission, and slowly putting things in place.

Great new things! Along with the above we would love it if you would be praying along with us for God’s continued provision for the new property development. We have this beautiful, clear vision and are seeing it slowly become reality. The ONLY thing holding it back is money, and in the big picture money is a small hurdle.

Excited about the future!


Hello Bloggy, my little friend.

I just got through two months worth of accounting work and it feels so good to get that out of the way! With being sick and then Chris being gone I’ve gotten hardly anything done in the past month. I honestly was taken by surprise when the Shingles knocked out my energy. Was not prepared for that!

Chris came home last Tuesday and we’re all better with him here :) On Monday Olivia was really quiet at dinner so I asked what she was thinking about and she said, “I’m just thinking about 3 days from now.” Prodding her more she said, “I’m just so excited I can’t even talk about it!!!” Yeah, she had, for some reason, decided that it was still three days until Daddy was coming home. I had intentionally been really vague about it because I wasn’t up to having the constant questions about how much longer or dealing with the inevitable melt downs that would come with knowing exactly when. I had just said things like, “next week” and “a few more days” which, in kid terms, could be one day or a billion days. So, knowing that she had decided in her mind that it was still three more days, I decided not to say anything.

The next morning we went about or day as usual, and Chris phoned mid-morning to let me know he had landed. He was hoping to get back in time to go get Liv from school, but because of some vehicle complications Alex and I hit the road, with Chris arriving home a few minutes after we left. He was able to change and start unpacking a bit before we got back. When he heard the car come in he hid behind the door so when we opened it it didn’t go all the way. Olivia immediately whipped it back to see why and found Daddy hiding behind it. Then this happened:


And this…


I still feel a little weepy when I look at those. These kids love their Daddy and vice versa. Alex had been in a funk for 2.5 weeks which was super draining on me. He was really clingy, didn’t want to do anything, would ask for something and when I gave it to him told me he didn’t want it or that it was “yucky”. Our little caveman who often eats just as much as a normal adult didn’t want anything. He was just not himself. As soon as he saw Daddy he got this contented little smile on his face and for the next two to three days would just randomly say things like, “My so happy Daddy’s home” and “My love that Daddy’s home.” Melt(Aside: this kid is so free flowing with his sweet comments and verbal love. I regularly hear things like “Mommy, you buful” and “I love you”.)

Nanna sent boots in for the kids. Alex has barely taken his off since he got them. He even talks to them. Like, “Hey Boots! Good night Boots! It’s okay, Boots…”



And yes, that’s his regular wardrobe. He has a diaper tan, and we have no idea how we’re going to ever get him to wear clothes regularly. Maybe when he starts school…

My energy is pretty much back to normal now and I’m super thankful about that. It’s so frustrating to not be able to do what you want to do.

We had friends come spend the day on Good Friday, then Sunday was our regularly scheduled missionary fellowship bible study day, so we had an Easter potluck and spent time doing communion together. It was a sweet way to spend the day with our missionary family, and time and time again I find myself thinking about how thankful I am for the people that God has brought in our lives. We’ve always had a solid group of people around us and try to make those relationships a priority, but in the last year and a half God has just solidified those more and brought new families into the area that have kids in our kids age range. On top of that there have been a wonderful group of single ladies that we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and who love to come over and hang with us and give us date nights by hanging with our kids. Every single one of these people is a blessing to us.

I had a bit of a laugh last week because there was this distinct moment in St. Marc while I was doing some shopping that reminded me just how much I’ve adjusted to the crazy that happens here on a regular basis, so much so that these events can happen and they just get mixed in with everything else in a day and I sometimes even forget to mention them to Chris. These are the things that would have been a BIG deal when I was first living here and the fact that they just become part of the kaleidoscope that is life here just shows me how much this has become home and how the “abnormal” has become my normal.

I was in town doing some grocery shopping before picking Olivia up after school. Chris had asked me to stop by a parts store to pick up some fuel conditioner for the car. The store that I went to is one of the better ones in St. Marc and is always busy. There’s a guy that fixes tires out front so there are cars and motos and people everywhere. Just being a white woman going into a hardware or parts store here gets enough attention as it is. Literally people whip their heads when I walk by. The guys inside are always surprised that I know what I’m asking for and that I speak fluent Creole. Also things not normal for white women here. I went in, chatted with everyone, bought the stuff I needed and headed back out. As I was walking to my car – literally just coming around the front of it to go to the drivers side door, a dump truck started pulling in. He very much saw me. And he very much did not leave enough space, or stop until I had passed my car. He literally kept driving and was so close that as I quickly tried to scurry around the car the box of the truck brushed my dress. I was shuffling sideways and my butt was touching my car, just to give you an idea of how tight a squeeze it was.

Yeah, I literally almost got run over by a dump truck! (And this is where my mother goes, “Ah! Les!” – sorry mom!)

The best part of this whole story though is not that I didn’t get hit (though that’s a very good thing and something that I’m grateful for!) but rather that the mob of people moving about in front of the store stood in disbelief at what they’d just seen and then they started yelling at the driver. So often there’s such a huge divide between classes and whatnot that we feel like we’re on on own with few times where others come to our defense. We’re often looked to as the ones to blame simply because we’re the foreigners, not because things are actually our fault. It leaves us feeling like everything here is work, because it truly is. In that moment where a mob of people started yelling in my defense I kind of felt like the playing field was not just level, but that we were all playing the same game for a moment. They were upset that he had done something that could have caused harm to anyone. I wasn’t alone in thinking the whole thing was crazy, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t need to come to my own defense. Instead I was able to yell a thank you, wave and get in my car and go.

People that come to visit often comment on our Creole or that Chris and I go and do a lot of things personally rather than sending our staff. We believe in giving our staff responsibility for a lot of things and are always looking for ways to give them more, but we also believe in being able to do things ourselves here. As a woman, I think it’s even more important. More often than not I get compliments on the fact that I speak Creole pretty fluently. People here appreciate the effort because to them it says that we’ve invested ourselves in learning the language of the people. It earns us a lot of respect in the sense that it’s so appreciated. As a woman, I see how men respect me when I can go into a hardware store or something like that and ask for things specifically and tell them in detail what it’s going to be used for. What I love is when I tell them that I’m the one building furniture or needing something for a project that I’m working on. They LOVE that I do things out of the box and they respect it. I like that people appreciate the effort that I’ve put in because I know they see that it’s hard work and I know that it means something to them. It bridges so many gaps that have been here for so long.

A few months ago we bought a used washing machine off of some other missionaries. They had owned it for 8 months and the motor went on it. Chris is handy, which I’m SO thankful for, so he loves situations like this where we can buy something for the mission and fix it rather than having to buy something new and spend more money. He gave the machine a good once over and confirmed that it was the motor, then found a new one online that he brought back with him. Our original plan was that he would do the fix on the new one and we would put it in our house and then move the one in our house down to the round house, because as Chris told me repeatedly, “We’re going to use it until it dies completely!”. The one down there works, but is really old and can only take small loads. I’m so thankful for that old man of a machine though, because time and time again we’ve needed a back up and we’ve been able to just go down and do laundry down there. Like the day after Chris left when the machine in our house stopped working!

Now would be a good time to tell you about the old machine in our house. We bought it off Craig’s List back in 2007, and received it here in Haiti in early 2008 after having it shipped in. It was in great shape and it’s been worked hard! I think the mission spent maybe $200-250 total for the machine and shipping. Great deal, especially since appliances are SO expensive here. Because we live on the ocean the salt and the humidity tend to cause a lot of rust on things. Our bathroom doesn’t have the best ventilation, and that’s where the washer is. Over the years of living up here it’s slowly been rusting apart. Not just outside, but inside too! We literally had the water hose coming into the drum clamped on with a binder clip because the fittings holding the plastic feed rusted away. Pieces of metal would regularly fall off from the drum surround, and if we had to move the machine out for any reason Yonese and I would find ourselves sweeping up dustpans of rust chunks. But the machine still worked great, and Chris said we would use it until it died. As far as washing and the load capacity that it would take, it was still better than the old man downstairs, so we figured Chris would just figure out what the problem was and we’d bring back the parts in the summer and fix it. That is, until he went to move it…


Proof we have kids – a few dozen Q-tips on the floor…


You see how the right side of the machine is lined up with the bars on the railing, and the left back side isn’t? Yeah, that’s not because the railing isn’t square or the machine isn’t level – it’s because that whole side of the machine almost fell off when Chris moved it.


When he started to pull it out from it’s spot in the bathroom, the one side detached from the rest of the machine – because of the rust. He could barely move it because the outside was shifting separately. It left a trail of rust all the way out to the deck and once we could see the back of it Chris was able to see just how bad the rust was. Let’s just say he decided it had finally “died” :) This girl, and Yonese, are super happy with the new washer! And, for a total of $260 (machine and new motor) for an almost new machine it’s a win! Have I mentioned I love having a handy husband?

Here’s another window into life here…

Haiti has been rapidly advancing in the area of cell service and internet options. For the first year or so that I was here we had a few cell phones for the mission, but whoever was leaving needed to take all of them because the coverage would change between companies depending on what zone you were in. Just going 30 minutes away to St. Marc meant two different coverage areas. Now new companies have come in, we have great coverage, access to cheap phones and internet and even the poorest of the poor can afford to have cell phones in the family. We used to have satellite internet, but two summers ago we got back from vacation and our modem was down and the company couldn’t provide an easy fix. The cell companies were just putting out USB internet sticks so we switched over. That worked for a while, but we ended up having issues. About that same time I got an iPhone and when our USB sticks kept giving us issues I figured out how to tether/hot spot on my phone and we eventually switched over to using that for our internet. We could all tap into my data plan and it was a great solution. A couple months ago Chris switched over to an iPhone too so we’ve both had things hot spotted as our means of getting internet access in our house for work and personal stuff.

Then Apple released the new operating system update in the middle of March. Being new to the iPhone world Chris downloaded it immediately before I could warn him to hold off a bit. Whenever there’s a new update there are always bugs and I’ve learned just from watching facebook to hold off and let everyone else get annoyed and wait for the fix releases to come out before downloading it. We rely on our phones for too much here and it’s too important to not be able to use them as usual. Well, one of the bugs was that the 7.1 update wouldn’t let you use the hot spot feature – meaning Chris’ phone was useless for internet access unless he was just needing internet on his phone.

For anyone in North America, you might not even ever look at hot spotting your phone. For us… This meant that we went back to relying on my phone exclusively. If I had to leave for any reason, Chris couldn’t do anything internet related on his computer. No emails, no nothing. On top of all that, we had a very generous friend and board member donate her old iPhone 4 to the mission so we could have an extra. We know Haiti and know that it’s very likely something will happen where one of ours breaks, and since we also use it for internet, having a back up means we can seamlessly keep going with work and everything else. So appreciated! Well, when she got the phone unlocked they updated it at the same time to 7.1 – so the back up phone was useless for anything other than a phone :( Sadness.

For the last month we’ve been trying to figure out ways to fix it, and no cigar. The complaints on the Apple discussion pages were coming in from all over the world from users that rely on tethering/hot spotting their phones. Yesterday Chris, on a whim, checked to see if there were any new iOS updates, and lo and behold there was a 7.1.1. We decided to try it on the back up phone first to see what would happen. It worked! They fixed it and now both phones can use the hot spot again and we have multiple ways of getting internet! Woo hoo.

All this to say – when you just turn on your devices or go online, appreciate the simplicity of just having the service available in a way that doesn’t require electronic gymnastics with no back up support if there’s a problem (and no, being able to call a service desk and have a technician come out to your house within a week of the problem does not qualify as a valid complaint of “no back up support” when you’re talking to people like us, because  you can actually use the words “technician” and “coming to your house” in the same sentence. Here that would be a crazy luxury that we can only dream about.)

Have a happy Wednesday!



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!


Prayer Request!

When we went into this year we knew our funding was down, and that we would be slowing things down a bit. Chris and I firmly believe in working continually and balancing our output with our available funding, rather than going hard and running out completely. The fact that we have employees, with families, who are not only our biggest asset as an organization, but also reliant on their full-time jobs is something that is never far from our minds. Aside from that, working continuously provides a better quality of, well, everything that we do here. Did you know that Clean Water for Haiti is one of the only continually running bio-sand filter projects in the world?

So, we’ve been plugging along. And it was fine. Yes, we would love to have more funding to be doing more filters, but we looked at the time as a blessing where we could focus on other things that needed some TLC.

Fast forward to today. Phew!

This is the short version…

Our Santa Fe alternator went out last week. It’s in PAP, will be picked up today and needs to be re-installed.

Our van has been making a clunking noise. Evens finally had time to check it out yesterday and knows what the issue is, but in the process a bold broke and fell inside a section of the motor that is hard to get to. After talking to a mechanic Chris was told that under no circumstances should we start the motor until it’s fixed. We have no idea how it hasn’t destroyed the motor to this point. We’re looking for a mechanic that can come from Port au Prince to fix it.

If you’re counting, that’s two passenger vehicles not running today. The only thing left is the work trucks…

One work truck left first thing to get a load of gravel to take to the new land for the driveway.

The other work truck left with Chris, Olivia, Sean and the rest of the guys going to the new land. Chris was dropping them off, then taking Olivia to school, then getting dropped off back at the house and Evens took the truck to go get another load of gravel.

Are you starting to feel the crazy settle in? If not, let me keep going…

Jimmy is still here at the mission today working on the septic tank. We’re all hoping that he’ll be able to finish laying the blocks today so they can do the form work for the cement lid tomorrow. Man, I miss flushing our toilet…

We have an organization coming to pick up 10 filters. Two of our guys will go with them to Cite Soliel to install the filters today.

Those two same guys will the take public transit across town to go and get the fixed alternator for the Santa Fe, then take public transit back to the mission.

Until the org arrives those two guys are digging leach lines for the septic system.

Um, it’s almost 9 am and the org hasn’t arrived yet, so it’s going to be a very long day for those two guys.

Feeling scattered yet?

Now, because we don’t have any working passenger vehicles we had to ask friends if Olivia could go to their house after school until Evens can take the truck to go pick her up. Hopefully they’ll be able to load in the gravel quickly today and she won’t have to be there too long.

Sean needs a push broom to fill the gaps in the pavers with sand. We don’t have one and can’t think of where we would buy one in our area. A friend has one. But, because both work trucks are gone and both passenger vehicles are broken down we had to ask our friend to make a special trip out to the land to deliver the broom for us because we can’t go get it from him.

Do you feel completely confused? Yeah, me too. 

Oh yeah! I leave for South America on Tuesday. My husband gets to stay here with two kids, school runs, a volunteer, a big project, a septic tank and non-working vehicles to fix.

Oh dear. 

Needless to say (why do we say that, then actually follow it up with whatever statement we feel is “needless to say”?) things have gone from slow and quite to outright nutty around here. Last night Chris was trying to make plans for who was going in each direction and could hardly keep his head on. He didn’t sleep much last night either.

But, it’s not a bad thing. Yes, it’s a lot to manage but we’re actually excited about all of it and feeling blessed.

Blessed because we’ve connected with a great mechanic in PAP who was able to fix the alternator in a couple days, for less that $100.

Blessed because of Sean. Everything about Sean.

Blessed because while it’s taken almost three weeks, and we still don’t have a working septic tank for our house, it’s getting closer to being done and one of our guys has learned so much about block laying in the last two weeks. The tank is triple the size of the old one, and built the right way.

Blessed because, while we have two broken vehicles, we have two vehicles. When I started with the mission in 2005, if the truck broke, that was it. We were tap tapping. While it’s logistically crazy, we are able to get everything done. The Santa Fe should be fixed soon too.

Blessed because we have a staff that work hard, want to learn, and have a good attitude. These guys work in the hot sun all day. When I go out to the new land, I typically find them joking around and that’s hard to do when you’re slinging gravel and dirt and doing all the hard work. I admire that.

Blessed, most of all, because we know that when things get a bit crazy like this it’s usually because good things are coming. We can choose to get discouraged, or we can choose to have joy in the midst of the chaos and confusion. Our attitude and what we’re willing to leave in God’s hands determines everything. 

We would love it if you would keep us and the mission in your prayers in the coming weeks as we take care of everything here. In our experience it comes in blips and it’ll be a lot of things to deal with all at once, then things calm down. The challenge is remembering to step back and breathe, and then take care of business.

Thanks, and happy Thursday!


Subtle Stress

It’s always amazing to me how stress can creep up on us. Over the years Chris and I, because of some of the major issues we’ve had to deal with, have gotten pretty good at managing things. Typically, when something comes up now, we just do what we need to do and often catch ourselves talking about it later and noticing the differences in how we’re processing or coping in a situation that several years ago would have had us not sleeping, reeling and not able to focus on anything else. When we were back in Canada on our sabbatical in 2010 one of the best things that we did for our own personal well-being, as well as family and marriage, was to spend a couple of months in Post Traumatic Stress counselling.

Aside from connecting with an amazing counselor that we now have in the friend category in our lives, we were able to learn some tools to help us cope and process.When things are going on, those things are deeply rooted and are a natural way of dealing with things now. On that list are things like voicing things like fear, frustration, etc. Actually allow ourselves to feel, I guess. As we share, it’s recognizing that we each will process things differently, and that all of those processing things and feelings are valid, even if they aren’t the same as what the other might be going through. Sometimes it’s okay to cry. For me this is a big one because I’m a natural crier and it’s my body’s way of physically letting go of those feelings. I usually feel wasted, but lighter afterwards, like I’ve flushed out all the crud. I think one of the other big things is perspective. Being able to emotionally step back and put things in order of importance, deciding how much time and energy to give something, and seeing where it fits in the bigger picture of things is something that we’ve gotten better at.

Despite all those things though, the stress can still creep up and invade, and sometimes we don’t even really understand where it’s coming from until we start taking off the layers. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, but under the surface and didn’t realize that’s what it was until yesterday. I’m doing life and yet just sort of feeling “off”. Like I’m not quite there yet. When I start feeling that way, it’s hard for me to be a good mom and wife. My patience is limited because I just feel agitated. Once I start realizing the causes, I need to take time to work through the process of taking care of the things that I can, to essentially bring myself down a bit.

So, what’s been going on here?

Well, all in all things have actually been pretty good, thus the subtlety. I honestly didn’t realize I was feeling this stressed out.

You’re going to laugh when I tell you the first part of this, because it is so obviously something that should be incredibly stressful – but we were pretty chill about it and just rolled with it.

Back story… when Chris’ parents were here last week his mom mentioned that their shower in the dorms was backing up a bit and asked if there was any chance the septic tank was full. I smiled and said that it wasn’t a big deal, sometimes the pipes in the round house get clogged and the shower backs up, I would have Chris check on it after they left.

And then Yonese went down to start cleaning up the dorms on Friday after their visit. And she told me there was a big problem in that shower because it was full of water. Chris checked it out. Yeah, it was full of sewage.

I wish that was where it ended.

He came upstairs a few minutes later and very calmly said, “Um, yeah. I need you to stop what you’re doing and come downstairs because we have an emergency on our hands. I need you and Yonese to help clean out the dorms while I try to unblock the shower in the small dorm and get the septic to drain into the tank. I think there’s a big blockage.”

He was so calm about it that I thought he was exaggerating. (Because he does that from time to time…) I *may* have let out an exasperated sigh and said something along the lines of “Is this really something I need to come help with???”

And then I went downstairs. And yes, it was bad enough that the large dorm shower was full of water. But what was worse was the that small dorm had not only a full shower, but also 1-2 inches of standing sewage water through most of it. The bathroom. The main room. The small storage room where we keep everything from sheets and towels to our personal luggage and our bankers boxes of previous years filter forms.


This was after at least half an hour of sweeping. Anywhere that’s wet had sitting water.


Chris going in to snake the shower, which had about 10 inches of standing water in it.

And then we went to work. Yonese and I grabbed brooms and just started pushing water out the door. And the whole time I just kept thinking things like:

“I’m so grateful we live in a place where it’s all concrete construction and not drywall, carpet etc.”

“People often think what we do is amazing and “glamorous”. I don’t think they realize that sometimes it means you get to be ankle deep in poo water.”

“That just splashed my face…”

“We always try to make sure that we don’t ask our staff to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. I guess tandem poo water sweeping is pretty much the definition of that…”

And I would try not to focus on the fact that there were shreds of toilet paper floating by me.

Now we are in the process of digging, and sadly not a swimming pool like Olivia was hoping. Our septic tank was full and overflowing and it wasn’t the type you could pump. Needless to say we’re making some design changes on the new one…


Busting into the leach lines to do the first assessment.


The not a swimming pool hole and the third load of dirt to go. And our poor lawn…

And yes, it’s been stressful, but definitely no where near where it could be.

  • We’re grateful for the fact that we have several buildings on the property, and each one is on it’s own septic tank. This means we can go and shower and use the bathroom and do laundry down in the round house during the day and feel mostly normal.
  • We have a fabulous staff that have been rock stars, whether it’s been Yonese bleaching the things that she can clean up at this point, or the crew of guys that have been digging a hole in our yard for the last few days.
  • The sewage smell has really been minimal. And this is a miracle in and of itself because we had to cut open the section of pipe coming from our building into the tank to let the pressure off and give it a place to drain the overflow. We literally have a pit of standing water with a section of 6 inches missing from the pipe. It’s mostly grey water going down there now from doing dishes, so I think that helps. BUT it could be so much worse.
  • We’re thankful this happened days after our last visitors of the season left. We have nothing else scheduled for a long time and no pressure to make it all better before a certain date. While it’s a minor inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world.
  • We have a trained plumber on our staff, who is meticulous in his work. He did all the plumbing in our building and does a great job. Being able to keep this stuff in house means less cost to the mission when stuff like this comes up.

So yeah, that is a bit of the stress causer right there, but honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. I feel it a bit in the sense that we’re having to think about how we use water in our house every day, but we should be thinking about those things or be reminded of them regularly. And honestly, I think the biggest stressor out of all of it is Alex. He wants to be where the action is, but sometimes gets in the way. It doesn’t bother the guys, but frustrates Chris, so then I have to try and keep him occupied while trying to do other things and get stuff done. And the whole time he’s fighting it because he wants to be back down in the yard. It’s times like this where I’m reminded of what a blessing Yonese is to us because she’s that extra set of hands and eyes and helps us out with him SO MUCH.

So that’s one thing.

Yesterday I came face to face with a surprise stressor. This might sound totally crazy, but hear me out.

Our printer/copier.

First off, we love this thing for so many reasons. Part of my job is to get things like training manuals printed and put together, training posters printed and laminated, and all of our installation forms printed and ready to go, just to name a few.

All of these things are double sided, so back in the day when we just had an inkjet printer I would, no exaggeration, spend two weeks printing. I would have to do one side, then the other, or just use more paper and do single sided pages. But I had to babysit the printer because the ink would run out and the printer wouldn’t stop. When we upgraded I specifically wanted something that would do double sided printing in color. Four years ago when we were looking for printers the only real option was a more office grade printer/copier that would do duplex in color.

It does a nice job for the most part, but the toner cartridges are expensive and need to be brought in specially. If we haven’t had regular visitors or I forget to plan ahead and make sure we have a supply here in country, running out means we can’t use the printer – period. It shuts down with an error message and until you replace one toner, it won’t work.

The drum unit, the part that holds all the toners, needs to be replaced every 1-2 years, depending on use. Last fall our printer started dumping ink all over the page. I ordered new cartridges, because sometimes the old ones wear out, especially if you refill them. Replaced them, but the print quality was still poor. We ordered a new drum unit and drum belt (the part that pulls the paper under the toner rollers) and they came in with Chris’ parents. They’re fragile. They didn’t travel well. I tried to put them in and while the printer works, the color print quality isn’t fabulous.

As I was working on things yesterday and doing everything recommended I was able to get to a place where I could be logical about the whole thing. Chris and I had already talked about the fact that the drum unit might not work well. We do have an inkjet printer as a back up and had been using that for the last 6 weeks or so but it just ran out of two colors of ink and when I tried to find them at the office supply store we checked in Port a couple weeks ago they didn’t carry them.

I realized that we could just keep using the big printer/copier for most things. Our day to day is things like printing in black and white, which works fine, or running things off that aren’t important and just for in house. If there are other things that are more “special” we can still use the inkjet, right?

Ah, but the ink!

This is the other part of the subtle stress. This stuff always happens when we really need the printer. Never fails. Definition of Murphy’s Law.

As we moved into the new year I realized that I wanted to put the effort into making an organization binder, so all of the things running around in my brain can be in the same place. I do have a day timer, but it sits next to my computer and it’s more for jotting down work stuff that needs to be done.

To give you an idea, I wanted a place where I could do my meal planning and master shopping lists for bigger grocery runs, plan blog posts (or jot down ideas so I might actually write the posts), a “wish list” so as I think of things we need to order to come in with people or bring back I can write those down, a cleaning and organizing chart, a place to check in with my yearly goals, packing lists, menu and planning pages for when we do get togethers at our place… so many things.

As I looked around on Pinterest there were a lot of great, free printable family/home binder planner pages out there, but a lot of them didn’t quite get the job done. Much of the stuff in them didn’t apply to our life here, and most of the stuff I needed wasn’t included. So, I made my own. And I love it! I spent a couple weeks designing all the pages, and being really methodical about what I wanted it it. I made my own dividers, and can add whatever other pages I find I need as the year progresses. Next year I can change dates and see what worked and what didn’t, then make changes accordingly.

The only hitch was that as I was finishing up one of the ink cartridges ran out. As in there was no more fluid in the resevoir. I kept going though, and the print quality wasn’t affected. I decided to wait until Chris’ parents were gone, then put the big printer back together and try to print things on it. Well, when it would work in the way I needed it to I felt frustrated.

Waiting on being able to use this thing, I realized, has had me feeling really disorganized for the last month. And knowing that it’s just been sitting there, and that using it, if I could, would alleviate that feeling has been hard. Using the binder will also mean that I can clean up my work space too, by taking down four clipboards off my wall, giving me more white space and a calmer, cleaner place to do my job. That’s a big deal for me because my “nook is about 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep (have I mentioned how excited I am about getting an actual office at the new property???).

After realizing I wasn’t going to be able to get the big printer to do what I wanted it to do, rather than getting really upset and agitated I made a quick decision to let it go. I set the inkjet up on our kitchen table, went through my computer file of all the pages that are supposed to go in the planner binder, how many I still needed to print off in total, and then decided which were the most important and how many I need to print for the next two months. I then fired a message off to a friend who is leaving next month for a few days and who has already offered to bring something small in and asked if she would be cool with transporting some printer cartridges for us too, that would allow us a bit of breathing room. And on top of that, made plans to make an order to build up our stock here, for Chris to bring back in April. Then, I sat down at the table and I just started printing, telling myself that I would do as much as I could until I couldn’t print any more because the cartridges were EMPTY (another was almost gone, too).

Let me tell you, it was a loaves and fishes situation.

I got all of my essential stuff printed, and a few extras that will allow me to work on stuff into March without having to madly print stuff off in the 24 hours after our friend gets back and I leave on a trip (big excitement to share!). As this was all playing out I felt a layer of stress come off me. I didn’t realize how feeling disorganized and not “together” was affecting me, but when I thought about it I realized I had regularly been thinking about it, whether it was wanting to use it to write a big shopping list or work on next months menu plan, or wishing the “wish list” was in place to be writing down the things I know I need to get when I’m away. Basically not having a place to “dump” all that meant I was trying to remember all of it and my head is very tired.

When Chris came back from a meeting and I explained the status of the big printer the first thing he said was, “You know what? I’m kind of done with it and I’d like to get a new printer that is better for what we need, doesn’t need all these consumable parts and has less cost for the ink.”

And another layer came off. And I realized how big of a source of stress the printer had been for me over the years. Yes, I loved it and the work it would do made my job easier, so I dealt with it, but it has been a headache on and off, and always at the least opportune moments.

We can get everything we want and need for what we do in a much less expensive printer that won’t have the high cost toner cartridges. We can even bring one in our suitcases, rather than having to ship it in. I love how technology keeps advancing.

And, another layer off.

Life here takes so much more work than back home. Even the act of buying the food to feed our family requires more work. Because of location and availability, I have to plan what I buy and when. St. Marc has a large percentage of the things we need and use regularly, but some things we can only get in Port au Prince, so I have to plan specific shopping lists for the once a month trip to the store there that Chris makes. Weekly I need to look through the menu plan I have in order to make the Thursday market list for Yonese. Not planning means we buy fresh fruit and veggies, and they get wasted because we don’t use them before they go bad. Truly fresh food in a warm climate doesn’t have the same shelf life as it does back home.

Yesterday as I was grocery shopping for the first time in a couple of weeks, I got to the cashier and as I got to the end of my haul I realized I exhaled. Had I really been holding a breath and feeling stressed out because I needed to go shopping?

Yes. I had.

Some days it’s getting breakfast ready and realizing we’re out of bread and trying to figure out what to feed Olivia because she doesn’t eat eggs (gag reflex leading to several bad experiences, not because she’s picky). Others it’s trying to figure out what to eat for lunch because we don’t buy a ton of things like deli meat, so sandwiches are harder. Anyway, you get the idea. It just takes more work. And it takes planning because we have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest small store where I can shop for most of the stuff, aside from fresh stuff.

Another layer off.

Today my goal is to spend a bit of time on self-care, doing the things I need to do in order to feel more pulled together. Meal planning for next month. Dumping some of my brain stuff out in the right places. Tidying up my work space. Spending some time working on my women’s Bible study lessons so I don’t get behind.

What are your subtle stressors? What makes you feel like you can decompress a bit?


The last two weeks have felt anything but productive for me, and it’s funny because it’s not that I haven’t been doing anything. We’ve had a stomach bug, rash and bowel issues going on in our house for various members. Two weeks ago Chris spent two days under the weather, and I was down one day. We had a great weekend, then the kids and I got hit with the same bug so there went the first part of last week.

When I say not feeling productive I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t get much work done. When I came out of the sick ward I freakishly got this second wind and organized half of our house in one day. Granted, our house is not huge, so we have less stuff, but there were some big projects done, like the storage room… I love walking in there now and knowing where things are, what I need to get, and not having things fall on my head.

Aside from house projects, I’ve been working on some knitting things too. I actually have a pretty big list of stuff I want to get done before the end of the year. Did you know this about me? Not sure if I’ve even mentioned on here that I like knitting. I learned in college from a Martha Stewart magazine article, but never finished that scarf. Last year I earnestly picked things back up and have fully committed. I’ve made a variety of things from dish cloths, a pair of socks, a bag for Olivia (which I hated, by the way), sweaters for my brother and sister in law’s littles, some fun little ornaments and am now working on Christmas stockings. One more to go, and then I can move on to something else. I’ve realized I like variety and totally understand why knitters may have several projects on the go at once. I’m making myself finish these first though because I want them to be all done and ready for when it’s time to decorate for Christmas. Don’t want to be madly finishing one so I can get it up.


Some teeny, tiny sweaters that will probably be on our tree this year. So hard not to love these!

I have a few more things I want to do before the end of the month. October seems to be my project month, I guess. Stuff like:

  • Work with Yonese and get all the marks on the walls scrubbed off as much as we can. Did this last fall before the property was appraised, but little hands have been busy since.
  • After that’s done, touch up paint around the entire house. It’s been 4.5 years since we moved in, and our walls are off-white, so it’s time.
  • Build a removable shelf to sit above the washing machine so we don’t keep losing things behind it that fall off the side of the bathroom counter. (Our washer is in the bathroom, right next to the sink)
  • Finish sorting the last few cupboards in the kitchen. Did most of them last week and what’s left is simple.
  • Maybe clean and move up another couch???

I do do other things around here besides house projects, just in case you were wondering :) I just haven’t gotten a lot of those other things done in the last week, but hopefully this week I’ll finish some of those things off. It’s my goal to hack through all my back burnered work projects (stuff that has taken a back seat to other things) before the end of November so I can enjoy December and move into the New Year with a clean slate and focus on other things.

On that note, it’s time to get to work! Have a great Monday :)