Monday, December 31, 2007

Visiting Haiti

Ah Haiti, the smell of deet, diesel, and the acrid essence of SOMETHING burning. How could I forget? What I actually forgot about was the noise. It is so loud, the rumbling traffic outside of the guesthouse never stops. I actually appreciate deet now, I like it 100% strength, I want to know where I can get more so I don't ever run out when I am there. The first night I got eaten up and had several bites around my eyes, actually one on my eyelid. I woke up looking like Rocky Balboa during the bad years. Veniel took one look at me and sprayed the whole downstairs, and someone else took pity on me and gave me the 100% good stuff.

But, back to the beginning. My son started getting freaked out at the airport after we arrived and got outside and got rushed by the hustlers. I actually did have to pay them because no one was there to pick us up and I had to use somebody's cell phone. Veniel said 10 minutes he would be there. It was over an hour when he arrived. L. kept saying "but he said 10 minutes, what happened to 10 minutes?" I just looked at him and gave him his first lesson in Haitian time..."10 minutes can mean 1 hour, 2 hours can mean 4. That's just the way it is!" Finially Veniel arrived and we drove to Walls. I noticed the streets seemed cleaner, not nearly the amount of trash, Veniel just smiled and said "they always do that in December" so I was dissapointed that it was not a permanent thing. But I did notice alot more late model vehicles on the road. In that traffic, I would never want to drive a late model vehicle. Come to think of it, I would'nt want to drive at all!!! I was so busy talking I did not realize until we arrived at the guesthouse that L. was acting kind of shell shocked. I asked him what he thought of the traffic and he replied that it was INSANE. Of course, he was right. He got very quiet and retreated to our room at the earliest opportunity. I asked him if he wanted to go swimming, but he said no. Oh Lord, I thought, what have I done? We set up the minature Christmas tree we brought for the girls, the only place to put it was in the closet! And put their gifts around the little tree. I started trying to call Marie but could get no answer. So L and I walked across the street to see if we could find her or someone and find out what was going on. Several of the nannies recogized me, and in broken English said to come back at 3 o'clock.

It was about 1:30 at this point. At 3:30 I went back again, this time alone. I talked to an older man named Felix, who had very good English, he said Marie would be back around 6 o'clock. At 6 I called her, pretty sure she would not be there, and by this time I was starting to get upset. Veniel finially got her on her cell phone at 6:30. She told him 15 minutes. L. said, "they'll be here in 15 minutes???" I said "probably more like an hour" and sure enough at 7:30 Dada and one of the other nannies showed up with the girls. We were sitting at the pool, I saw them coming out of the corner of my eye. Dada said "Bezu!" but the girls did not want to kiss me. I could tell they remembered me but instead of acting shy like they had when I first met them, I noticed they were kind of sassy and defiant. I realized that orphanage life was making it's mark on them. When I first met them they had only lived there about a month, and they were still trying to get their bearings. I could see now that this was going to be a little tough, so I got the picture albums out that I had brought to Marie for them to look at, of all the kids over the past year, including them of course. It was a real ice breaker. After that we went back to the room and I let them have their gifts. They both got a doll, and a back-pack with some new clothes, shoes, and a toy cell phone in a little purse. Lovely did not like her baby doll, and wanted Wid's doll. Wid wanted Marie's album, which I hid in the closet. But they started settling down and getting comfortable, and L. started loosening up a little and getting back to his happy go lucky self. I asked him if this place was shocking to him, and he point blank said "yes" which I figured would would be the case. There is just no way to prepare someone for it no matter how you try.

He did recognize that we were in a nicer part of town. He observed some nice houses and apartments behind the walls and gritty dusty streets.

Later, I put the girls in their pajamas and was pleasantly surprised that they knew how to brush their teeth. Widmina's other front tooth is loose too! Then I put them in their beds and they went right to sleep. This was about 8 o'clock, and I was not sure if this was too early or too late for them, but they dozed right off. And of course it seemed much later, because that is just how it is in Haiti. It can be 7 o'clock in the evening and feel like 11pm. L. also started picking up on the Haitian time warp, he asked me constantly on the trip what time it was!

The next morning is when I awoke with the Frankenstien face. Let me explain. In my rush to get out of the house, I accidently packed my deet in my carry-on, and they confiscated it in Atlanta at security. I told the guy, " you do not know what you have just done to me". I wish I could have sent him a picture of my face and my hands after that first night. Strangely enough I could not find any to buy at the airport stores in Atlanta or Fort Lauderdale. I had to hope it was like last time, when I hardly needed it at all. Alas, it was not! Oh well. No one else in the room was bitten like I was. For some reason those darn mesquitos just like me! And I have been taking my meds for malaria, so I should be OK in that respect.

The girls and L and I had a great time just hanging out the next day. I gave them each a water bottle, and taught them about Crystal Light, and they loved that. They liked wearing new clothes. They watched Disney's "Cinderella" and they liked that. We sat up on the roof, they watched the orphanage across the street intently. Everyone in awhile, one of the adults they knew from there would come out on the street and they would get so excited! They would yell their name out, but their little girl voices would get drowned out by the incessent street noise. We ate crackers and peanut butter and "goldfish". Lovely untied all the strings off the gift bags from the day before, then tied them together and made a jump rope for herself! I wrote Wid's name for her to see if she had made any progress in school. She could write her "W" pretty well (and she wrote it often!) and she finially wrote her version of her name, which was not really recognizable to me, except for the W and the A, but this in itself was big progress, because 5 1/2 months ago she did not even recognize her name when I wrote it for her. I asked her if she liked her teacher. She recognized the word teacher and smiled and said "professor", and then of course I remembered the kreole word. She then drew a picture of her "professor" with a big jar head, two ears, 2 stick arms carefully counting 5 fingers each, and two stick legs and feet each with 5 carefully counted toes each. She was very intent. Then we did flash cards (super elementery) and I worked on her repeating the English. That was hard for her, she was very unsure of herself. Lovely joined in too. Everytime they could do it I would say "Good Job!" and they would get a big smile on their faces. I drew them each a simple version of a (white) mama in a blue shirt with two little girls with braids and later put in their back-packs to take back with them. Later we went back to the room and I gave them both a pair of kiddie scissors, contruction paper, and a glue stick and Wid cut and cut and pasted until I had a collage about 2" tall! Lovely tried to eat the glue stick, but I said no, and she was OK with that.

Well, they wanted to go swimming, and the pool was pretty cold, but I said OK, so I got out the swimsuits I had brought them, and Widmina LOVED hers. As soon as she saw it she got really excited. We all went out to the pool and decided it was pretty cold, so we just sat on the sidelines for awhile, but L. got in.

The girls really started warming up to their brother and Widmina even started a splashing contest with him!

They did eventually get in the pool with me. Widmina remembered from before, but she still had a hard time remembering to kick. Even better, after they got out, they got back in with their brother.

Finially we'd had enough and went to get ready for dinner. While we were waiting with everyone else out on the courtyard to begin, we heard singing and chanting from the pool area. Then we heard yelling! We peeked around the corner and found that we were witnessing a baptism by a local Haitian Christian denomination. The yelling was when the baptismee got into that cold water. The preacher just kept on praying and chanting. Actually several people were baptised. All the guests at Walls came around to watch (there were not that many of us at that point) the girls, especially my older one, watched very intently. She never tried to ask me any questions about it, maybe she knew what she was seeing, but then again, maybe not.

Dinner was good, of course. L. informed me he liked this food, which was a plus. By this point he was doing quite well. Wid ate like a bird, as usual, and Lovely chowed down and went for seconds, as usual. After dinner we went out to sit by the pool. Suddenly Veniel arrived with approxmately 30 new guests! They all filtered by, a friendly mission group from a midwestern church. Until this point the only people that had been there were me and my kids, another PAC dad, daughter, and the son they are adopting, a French Canadian pastor, a Canadian student that was on his last leg of traveling 3rd world countries, and a middle aged Frenchman that was doing some kind of work for a local NGO. So when 30 people arrived all of a sudden, it was a big change! But that is how it is at Walls.

It grew dark and we were still sitting by the pool. L had gone back to the room to read. Suddenly Lovely starting crying. She was trying to tell me something but I could not understand her, which made her cry harder. Then her sister started crying too. Neither of them could tell me what was wrong and for the life of me I could not figure it out, it came out of nowhere. They had been doing great and seemed very comfortable and happy. They said they were not sick. I looked for someone to translate. Veniel happened by...and they told him something, I'm not sure if he understood and did not want to tell me, or just did not understand, he said "you need to call Marie and find out what to do". Well, I knew Marie was not home, and even if she was, she would not want me calling her over something like this it was up to me to handle it if at all possible. I stood up, holding Lovely, and said "Marie is not home. I'm taking them upstairs to the swing" and that is what we did. I had no idea it was just the beginning of the meltdown.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thank you PAC moms!

This is Jen, with her baby in Haiti this past week. She worked really hard to get all of us adoptive moms as much info as she could while she was there. It happened she was there the same week as the Christmas party.

Our orphanage is divided into 2 houses, and the kids are placed according to age. The party started at the baby house.

Everyone gathered for a group picture

Now loading up to ride to the official party location

This is the bus from the guesthouse that the manager so kindly volunteered for the occasion.

I just loved this photo!

Time to unload that precious cargo!

They have arrived, and are joining the big kids
Here's my girl with her hair done! I'm partial but I think shes gorgeous!

Actually they're all gorgeous! The nannies put some serious time into all that hair...THANK YOU!!!!

Some of the girls put together a dance number, which they obviously worked very hard on.

Yes, some of us were slightly surprised by the outfits. Haitians are traditionally very conservative.

But I think actually it's done tastefully. That is Lise, front and center. She just blossoms here. I really hope she finds her forever family soon.Now the boys are involved, and you see what happens!

Santa Clause shows up!!!

Check out the link above for the live action. Where else are you going to hear Christmas carols played by a solo trumpheteer, with a pounding Haitian drumbeat in the background? Video taped and uploaded by Jen.

These are a mere fraction of the pictures and videos that were taken for this event and all that surrounded it. Isa (above) and Michelle (way up above, dancing) were also HUGE contributers. They worked really hard to help make this happen and to record it. I am in awe, and I can't begin to thank them enough.

Birthday Song

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Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mystery Of The Tooth Fairy

There are several moms that made the trip to Haiti this week, and I cannot thank them enough for all their wonderful pictures. As you can see, my sweet older child has lost at least one of her baby teeth. This surprised me and makes me question her age. She may be younger than what I have been told. I hope to get copies of their birth certificates next week when I am there.

However, I had another surprise in store.

That is my baby girl on the left. Tomorrow, she turns 5 years old. And she is also missing her front baby tooth. What is up with that? How in the world did they both lose their teeth at the same time??? They are siblings, and they are at least 21 months apart, possibly more than that. This is the only picture where you can see this. In other pictures she makes every effort to hide it, so she must be self conscious about it, bless her heart. Unlike her big sis!

All the kids look fantastic in these shots. They also had a big party last night, and I can't wait to get the pictures from that event, I've already heard it was quite something!
Thankfully now, I am done working until January 2. In the meantime, it's Christmas!!! I still have things to do!!! Not to mention the things I still have to do to prepare for our trip to Haiti, which begins on the 26th!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Before We Freeze

I wanted to get some pictures of my camilla before it freezes tonight. It will lose all it's blooms. It's pretty spectacular every fall, this year was no exception. It does need a trim, though!

What A Tangly Web We Weave

Life is funny sometimes. You never know what is going to happen next! L. is going to Haiti with me after all. I held out on cancelling his ticket for a few days, but he seemed steadfast (and satisfied) with his decision. I offered it to another PAC mom who had expressed some interest in going over the holidays, because at this point, those tickets are getting hard to come by at a decent price. But she had too many committments to get away. Good thing. When I finially called the airline I found out my tickets were non refundable AND non transferrable. Even though I am the purchaser, I could not even transfer his ticket to me for a later trip! (Read that fine print when you get those good deals!) So, I thought to myself, looks like he's going after all! to break it to him???? He was at his dad's for a few days, but after he'd been home for a bit on Friday, I told him about how I could not do anything with his ticket except postpone his trip---that was the only option. So, he needed to go with me. Thinking it was all settled, I went into the kitchen to cook/clean/whatever. About 5 minutes later he came in and said, "OK, mom, I guess I'll go"...even better, now he thinks it's his idea!!! Saturday his dad called, wanting to see what the Christmas "schedule" was (you joint custody parents know what I'm talking about) and to make sure we were not duplicating presents for the boys. I told him L.was going to Haiti with me because I could not cancel the ticket. He got real quiet, then he said, "I thought we'd (he and his wife)just about talked him out of it". I got into steamroller mode and said, "Well, he's going, and it will be the experience of a lifetime for him" etc, etc. I think my ex suffers from alot of guilt feelings. By the end of the conversation he had agreed to pay for our flights from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale!!! And that was his idea, not mine, I was planning on driving!

But obviously I knew for sure then where the whole thing had gotten hung up. Even though L. had denied it earlier when I had asked him if not going on this trip was his father's idea. The whole concept of it being "depressing", well, those are his father's words. I have never heard L. use that term until he "decided" suddenly to nix his trip, but I sure have heard his father use it many many times. As in, didn't want to watch a certain movie, too depressing, or watch a certain show, too depressing. Or listen to certain music, too depressing. I don't think my son will find the trip to be depressing, even though aspects of it are. It's more likely that he might find it to be boring at times! But he is too much like me in that he is curious and interested in the human condition, and how other people live. In my heart, I know it will be a life altering experience for him, although he may not realize it until much later.

At 14 he is full of testosterone. He thinks he is the man, and he makes all his own decisions.(I let him think that to a degree) Some of these decisions over the past 6 months, have not been that great, and have landed him in various degrees of hot water. He has faced some consequences. Nothing so serious that he cannot overcome, but I think it will be good for him to see how many other people in this world live, in contrast to the opportunities that he has.

While I firmly believe all of our children should have their innocence and their childhood, I do not think it is good to shelter them too much past a certain age, because then they are unprepared for the realities of life. It's ironic that my Haitian children, at much younger ages have led lives so much harsher than
anything my boys, or my ex-husband, for that matter, could imagine. I have already discussed some of these realities with my boys, but I think I'll spare my ex-husband, as I'm sure he would find it "too depressing".

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Finished At Last!

Our PAC group of mamas decided we would decorate T-shirts for the kids at the orphanage for Christmas this year. I signed up for my girls, of course, and two others, one who is going to France, and the other is still waiting for a forever family.

I think I got way too invested in this project, but I had alot of fun doing it. The painting was very theraputic to me: I love to paint! Walls, pictures, and now apparently T-Shirts!

Now time to get them in the mail so they can get to Haiti.


On the subject of Haiti....I am traveling there at the end of the month to visit my girls. When I first decided on this, months ago, my 14 year old son told me he wanted to go too. I was hesitant at first. It's not the safest place in the world, or the most comfortable or convenient. Also, there was the extra cost of his passport, plane ticket, and medicals.But he insisted he wanted to go, and I finially relented. I felt that despite the cost and risk involved, in the long run it would be good for him to see that not everyone in the world has the opportunities that we do. After awhile I got pretty used to the whole idea, and felt comfortable with the decision. I thought it would be good for him and the girls to have this bonding time. Friday afternoon on our way to the Dr. (for his meds) he screwed up his courage and told me he had changed his mind, he did not want to go after all. Needless to say, I was stunned. I did not see this coming. He is not real verbal, nor does he like confrontation, so I know it was hard for him to tell me. He said he'd changed his mind because he did not want to deal with the depressing aspects of it all---and anyone who has made this trip knows he knows what he's talking about----but I'd be lying if I said I was not really dissapointed. I went ahead and got his meds anyway, in case he changes his mind over the week-end, but he seems pretty relieved now that he is not going. I asked him if someone (his dad?) had talked him out of it, but he said he'd made the decision on his own. And I'm very glad he was honest, and told me. Its just hard for me to understand because he was SO enthusiastic until now. I actually feel somewhat angry about it but I'm trying to get past that because for me, anger is usually my secondary reaction to the real problem, which is hurt. But what can I do? I'm not about to force a trip to Haiti on anyone that does not want to be there, much less a 14 year old kid!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reason for the Season

It is not my intention to get political on this blog, but I wanted to post this picture because it's the first time in many years I have seen anything like it in a public arena. In the little town I grew up in Northern California, I used to look so forward to the Nativity Scene going up on the (usually snow covered) courthouse lawn.

I found this old picture of that courthouse on the web. No, not taken by me as a child! (LOL) Probably not too long after it was completed judging by the cars and lack of landscaping.

This is how it looks today. I couldn't find a Christmas picture. So I don't know if they still do the Nativity or not.

At any rate, I was happy to see the Nativity Scene go up across the street from City Hall down here in Tiny Town South, USA.


9 days ago I posted that I was creatively blocked due to my procrastination in dealing with some tough issues concerning my adoption and some very important people close to me. I actually have two seperate issues going on, if you can believe that! One person is right here, the other lives across the country. I'm still working on the latter, but I dealt with the here and now shortly after that post. I am sorry to report that this person is not going to be at all supportive of my adoption and after many years, will probably not be in my life anymore at all. And that is what I was afraid of. So I am dealing with some real heartache and loss, but on the other hand, I got my answer, instead of trying to guess or fantisize about what was going to happen, and as a result, I am no longer feeling nearly as creatively blocked or emotionally constipated. Thankfully I feel more like myself. It is not like me to NOT deal with issues, and often I rush headlong into these emotional forays shooting from the hip, devil may care where the chips fall. But I have also learned to value the concept of timing. As in "timing is everything". I hope I am not being too obtuse here. I still feel the need to protect the privacy of everyone involved. But I know a few people here were waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it did!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I Don't Call Myself "Small Town" For No Reason...

I admit it, I can be a big cornball sometimes. This is the conversation I had with my 14 year old son this morning:

Me: Get up please! Are you going to the Christmas parade with me? (first cornball clue)

Him: (after finally rousing himself) NO!

Me: Why not???????????????????????
Him: (shrugs his shoulders, no verbage...obviously way too uncool for him)

Me: OK, guess I'll just go by myself...(guilt trip not working at this point)

Him: Hey, be sure and get me lots of candy, OK? (this is a candy-throwing parade)

Me: Oh no, I'm not doing your dirty work. If you want free candy you can go with me.


Him: If I go to the parade can we go to Best Buy afterwards?

Me: Deal! (I had to go to Best Buy anyway. And Old Navy!)

So....onto the Christmas Parade, where I actually got a little sunburned!

The Sheriff in traditional, except for those neon gloves!
We start with Sons and Daughters of the Revolution...

And move on to the bag pipers...

Featuring other long standing traditions....

And some newer ones!

But it's really all about the kids...


And a little older too....

Of course, I always have to include the dogs....

(That is not our current fire truck...but it was the first one)

GBD (Georgia black dog)

And the old cars...

Now I'm having a flashback to college...

Mine was just like this, only dark green. And it was old then!

Now, I have a strange confession to make. One of my favorite parts of the parade are, of all things, the tractors.....

I really don't have a clue as to why I like tractors so much, but I do, and we have alot of them around here.

Quite a few years ago, I learned how to drive one, like this gal...and it was hard! I will not be in the parade on a tractor anytime soon!

OK, my boy is tractored-out, and y'all probably are it's time to go to Best Buy!

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