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,

Leslie

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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:

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And this…

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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…”

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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…

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

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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.

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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!

~Leslie

 

Monday

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.

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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 :)

~Leslie

Weight Watchers: 2 Month Check-In

Today is the end of the second month that I’ve been on Weight Watchers, so it’s time to check-in and do an update!

So far, so good!

Actually, I’m really happy today because when I weighed in this morning the scale showed that I’ve now lost 15 lbs!! And, there were two weeks where I had actually gained a bit, so really I’ve lost more, but had to make up for the gains. I’m .03 shy of my first goal of losing 10% of the overall amount of weight that I need to lose, and the truth is, I know I’m already there, but because of a pizza dinner last night that’s got me feeling a bit bloated up today, it’s not showing on the scale. It was there yesterday morning, though :)

How did this month go?

Well, I got over the six week hump, which seems to be my breaking point most of the time. And, it was a challenge. Funny how that is. But, got through it.

We’ve been battling a flu type thing in our house in the last two weeks, so for weeks 7 & 8, I was still tracking, but my body was wanting comfort foods. You know, carbs, cheese, etc. Yes, normally when people are sick they don’t want those things, but I never claimed to be normal. When the cravings kick in I know I’m into recovery mode. I let myself eat those things, tracked them, and then made good choices like a giant plate of salad one night to account for it.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, and if you’ve been reading, you know we had a big get together here. How did I decide to handle the holiday and all the food?

I allowed myself to not track for one day. Actually, I decided that I would give myself that grace for any major holiday or my birthday. I know this whole things will not work if I feel guilty or deprived, so I won’t let myself go there. And, I know that one day is not going to be the ruin of all my hard work. I enjoyed dinner last Sunday, and some of the left overs this week, but I tracked them and after a day or so had no interest in them any more. Stuffing is my favorite part of the whole turkey meal, and we still have some in our fridge because it wasn’t worth using my points for.

15 lbs is a decent weight loss, if I do say so myself. Am I noticing any difference on my body?

I’m starting to. I’ve been noticing things for the last couple of weeks, actually. My ribcage area has lost the most probably, and I noticed that my wrists looked slightly slimmer. Tried on a bracelet that I have and it definitely sat in a different place than before, so it wasn’t just in my head.

The other day I put on a denim skirt I haven’t worn in a while that has two buttons on the closure, and without realizing it right away I had done it up wrong by buttoning to the farthest button, because that’s where it fit comfortably. That felt SO good :) That’s been the most noticeable clothing difference so far, though a couple pairs of shorts are starting to feel a tiny bit loose.

So, that’s the update for this month. This next month I need to focus on getting more veggies in because of all my comfort food eating. Need to get the meal plan updated too.

Have a great week!

~Leslie

Enter Me, the Whirling Dervish

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

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

I should back up a second though…

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Leslie

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Canada!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Leslie

The Weekend Our House Found It’s Personality

I won’t lie. I love Pinterest.

That’s my confession.

Why?

Laundry detergent I can make myself for less money and readily available ingredients. New meal ideas that I can make from ingredients we have here. Seriously, I can search “west indies pumpkin” and come up with a slew of recipes to use the variety of pumpkins we have here in Haiti. People are creative, and they like to share that info. Do you know what you can DIY if you just look for information?

So, I love Pinterest. Because of Pinterest I’ve been inspired to try new things and do stuff I would have just dismissed because I had no idea where to start. It was because of Pinterest that I found the Ana White website, the one that had plans for our fabulous dining table and coffee table. That’s what inspired me to get into building furniture. And, the funny thing is that instead of starting with something simple, like shelves, I decided to go for a coffee table, a dining table and a bed. Nice.

I’ve learned so much through the process of building some of our furniture.

I’ve learned that I can do it. That I can take an idea in my head and actually make it become reality. The plans for our coffee table I followed fairly closely to the ones on ana-white.com. The table was created with inspiration and basic plans, but adapted to fit our needs by adding the slid in extensions on the end.

Our bed? I saw the plans on the website, but fell in love with the original on the Pottery Barn website. I wanted less “farmhouse” and more of the feeling of something “more”. I watched the video on the PB website about how they made the beds and fell in love with the finish and the dark wood. And I love how our bed turned out for the most part. When we move, and have to take it apart, I have a couple minor adjustments to make, but for the most part we LOVE it. For the first few weeks I just kept saying how grown up I felt.

I’ve also learned how to work with what I’ve got. I can’t walk into Home Depot and pick out the nicest wood there for whatever project I’m making. There’s one hardware store in St. Marc that actually has decent wood, and that’s where I get most of my stuff, but even then there are times where I have to be flexible because what might be considered a “finished” board here, would be considered rough hewn back home. I have to account for measurements because a rough board here will truly be 1×4″, not planed down and just called a 1×4. I always have to have a good supply of sand paper on hand and be willing to commit the time to sanding. Often this is where most of my time is spent when I’m making something.

Since I started building furniture last year I’ve also learned what my true “style” is. Or I guess, what “our” style is as a family. We need a home that’s functional and that we can truly live in. Our kids are small. They will abuse the furniture. Having anything that we’re afraid of getting roughed up just won’t work. We’re not those kind of people, either. Chris and I would much rather be living in something comfortable than fancy. I think that living in a space with some element of “beauty” is good for the heart.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s easy to only see the poverty in Haiti and miss the people. In that it’s easy to miss the fact that Haitians, while living in hard circumstances, have a lot of joy and appreciate nicer things. You can go into some of the most humble homes (sticks, mud/clay walls, and tin roof) and find beautiful hand carved cabinets with all the nice things the family holds dear. I remember the first time I saw it and how it struck me. We were in the middle of no where, and from the outside I would have had no idea. While I think the natural tendency when working in a place like Haiti is to live simply, there is value in enjoying your living space, especially if you plan on being there for the long haul.

Chris and I love the feeling of off white walls and big windows. I know that if we were living back in Canada we would be happier in a home with history than a brand new, looks like everyone else’s house. We like character. We have light aqua kitchen cupboards and we love them so much that they will be repeated in part when we move. We aren’t afraid of color, and to have anything otherwise just wouldn’t be us.

We like the feeling of a house that is lived in. We like being able to put our feet on the coffee table. Our coffee table was built with that in mind. I love the Pottery Barn feel of having worn wood and industrial metal mixed with simple white, cotton and twill and little bits of history. Stuff that feels used and recycled mixed with stuff that maybe isn’t. Yet, things being functional. In this sense, Haiti works in our favor. That wood I was talking about? Even after a lot of sanding, it looks “worn”. And, for our family that works so well. Our dining room table has small gaps and ruts – the kind of thing that people actually have to work at putting into their furniture to get that “aged” look. I don’t care if Alex bashes his spoon into it and makes dents. It adds more character. The coffee table is the same and the kids can bang their toys on it to their hearts content. It doesn’t matter.

I love that living here has made me be creative with things, because nothing will be what you want it to be if you get it here. You either make due, adapt or figure out how to make your own. And anything else? Well, it most likely has to come in a suitcase. Slip covers to convert a less than ideal couch or chair. Paint. Thinking outside the box and seeing how to use one thing for something else. For example, I wanted to hang our pots and pans above the stove where they were easy to get to. I hated having to lift a pile every time I wanted the one on the bottom. I decided to have a friend build the shelf and we used a thick piece of rebar painted black to hang things from. I love it. (And case in point about the color in our home…)

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This last week I decided to bust into the wood stash I still had and knock out some projects that I’ve had on my list or in my Pinterest boards for a while. They were all decor related. Back over the summer we finally decided it was probably time to actually print some pictures to put into the frames I had stock piled and put them on display. When we got back I hung some of them, but I had some shelves in mind for the living room for others. Chris wondered why I didn’t just hammer nails into the walls and hang them, but I wanted something that we could change up and move around, add little things to, etc.

Our living room now has shelves with photos. I still have one frame coming that will have our wedding picture in it, but for now we have a smaller version up.

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I decided that while I was at it and had the tools out I might as well do some other things. I made a shelf for above the kitchen window. It’s only function is to hold decor stuff. I was tired of not having character in our house, so I scrounged around and found some stuff I loved, but that we didn’t really use, and put it up there, and made some other things.

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The Open Daily sign and the “r” were hand made, and the rest was scrounged, with the exception of the black frame. That one had a picture in it, then fell and the glass smashed, so it’s going to hold seasonal art.

When I was a kid we had a chalk board in our hall way and we spent hours, maybe days, or our childhood playing on that thing. I was tired of hearing our kids fight and noticed that they’ve recently gotten into this drawing/coloring kick, so thought they would have tons of fun with a huge chalkboard on the wall.

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I looked down the hall to see this hours after it went up.

Since it went up on Saturday afternoon Olivia has reassured me that it is in fact one of the best things ever. I also love the “give thanks” word art above it, and have already knocked something out for Christmas, but you have to wait to see that ;)

One more piece of word art in the kitchen was the icing on the cake. I love this. Just a rough sanded 1×6, a couple coats of paint, some traced and painted letters, then a pass with the sander and a satin varnish. Done.

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Now we just need to get a different clock. The one we had there actually died a few weeks ago. I loved it. It was a red number that cost me $4 at Walmart. The one up now we stole from the round house and it eventually needs to go back there.

So yes, this weekend our house found it’s personality. I keep finding myself walking through the house, catching something new in my eye, and smiling. It feels like home. Not that it wasn’t home before, it just feels like a family with an identity lives here now. And we like it. This morning one of the workers came in to get something and noticed the shelves in the living room and said, “Those are nice! I like the photos.” And I smiled.

~Leslie