Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Landry In Onderland

With my first January birthday I quickly learned that they sneak up on you! Christmas, our busy basketball schedule goes into overdrive, cheer practice, etc. I knew I wanted to do "onderland" theme but I also knew it wasn't going to be a big party like JT's first birthday was. It's colder so no option for the bounce house or grilling out and it was right before I was leaving for Haiti so I didn't want to stress over it.

Ordering cookies and making the invitation were the only two things I did ahead of time.


Thursday before the party was when I finally had time to start putting stuff together. I wanted to do light blues and of course red hearts and roses. The hearts and roses were super easy to find because Valentine's Day decorations were already out. So I found everything in one trip.

I always do a table, I just think when it's all together it really creates the look!



I love making cupcakes!


Such yummy cookies from April's Sweet Treats. Decorated exactly like I wanted!

I made her smash cake, white roses of course.

I tried to keep the party short and sweet, so we just opened presents and ate cake. And that's all!











I will for sure be using this theme again when she's older for a sweet tea party theme! I have next years theme already...I'll start early so I don't get behind! ;)


Monday, February 6, 2017

Haiti

Well I am back from Haiti safe and sound. Physically I escaped with 29 bug bites (19 of which are on my feet and ankles) and a tan. And by a tan I mean I'm charcoaled and showers feel like I'm lighting my body on fire. That is usually not a feeling I have since I don't normally burn but the tropical sun decided to show me who's boss. I was expecting the bug bites (maybe not 29 of them) because this happens every summer but I used 3 different types of bug sprays and nothing seemed to work. But it was all worth it. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Haiti.

We arrived at the Cap Haitian airport to a little bit of chaos. After getting through "customs" and trust me that's a stretch, we headed out the door to about 50 men all wanting to take your luggage to your car. It was a little overwhelming but we eventually got on our mode of transportation (pictured below) and headed to our house.

Our tap tap.

Home for the week.





Gate to our house.

We went through a lot of the city after stopping to eat and it was eye opening. No matter how well you think you are prepared to be in a third world country, until you see it it's impossible to explain. Because they don't have a trash system/pick up in place there is literally trash everywhere. Covering the beaches along the streets, all over the streets, just everywhere. The traffic is CRAZY. It's like what you see on Amazing Race. Motorbikes everywhere. Everywhere. And multiple people on one bike...by multiple I mean 3-4 people on each bike. Families on bikes with little ones riding shotgun. And people pretty much just pass when they want, come out when they want, ride in whatever lane they want, and do plenty of honking. Every car/truck has at least 7 or 8 if not more people inside, on the back, or on the roof riding along. So all the gas combined with the trash made for a pretty strong smell. And the majority of food seemed to be cooking outside.






We were all exhausted so once we got to the house we settled in, unpacked, at and hit the hay. While I was unpacking it started to really hit me where I was and just how far away from my kids I was. I started to get a little upset. Why did I leave my barely one year old for 8 days? She doesn't understand why I'm gone? I called Brett and shed a few tears, he reassured me I was doing the right thing and Landry would be okay etc.

Sunday we headed to church and I was blown away. The outside of the church looked like most of the other buildings around town...aka nothing extremely beautiful. But when we stepped inside it was beautiful. Rows and rows of hand crafted wood benches, a beautiful concourse for the choir (which was filled with little girls all in white dress and little boys in their finest), and a huge round tub for baptisms. It was beautiful. Church was a little longer than our average Sunday and of course it was in Creole but I was so glad we got to attend and see what their average service is like.  After that we changed clothes and headed to the Kid's Alive compound to check out our site and take a neighborhood tour just outside of the gates.

Kid's Alive Haiti has 182 kids. Some still live in the communities (usually not good home situations) and some live on the compound. There are about 5 or 6 homes with host parents and they stay there. Those kids are residential kids. These kids come from a variety of stories. Parents left them on the side of the road (literally), child slavery, voodoo, hurricane survivors, etc. The current school on the property has no electricity and the classrooms are small, dark, and loud. They have completed the first level of their new school and our job was to start the walls of the second story. We ate lunch after looking over our work site and then took a community walk. We walked around the property to see how some of these people lived. It was hard to see. Mothers bathing their kids in puddles outside. Laundry drying on cactuses, children sleeping on cement. We came across a family on some acreage. There was what I think was a mud mixture house that was probably about 400 sqft...if that. The kitchen was across from the house and was covered by sheets. The family there was concerned they couldn't make the rent. It's $50 for a 5 year lease. Our church paid it for them. Later that day we got to participate in the schools birthday celebration! Every few months they try to celebrate the kids birthdays (if they have the funds) by making treats for everyone. They gather in the school and put on a talent show and play games. It was so fun to watch these kids get up in front of their piers and do what they love. Sing, dance, whatever it was it was adorable. This was when I started to bond with a sweet girl named Bedjina.

Current school building.


Current classroom, dark and loud.

Where they get water.

Sweet boy. It's heartbreaking to see.

the $50/5 years house

kitchen.


Part of the family who lived in that house. Isn't that baby so sweet?



Monday we started our work! Monday - Thursday we worked from 8:30-4 on the walls between classrooms and outside walls. The school kitchen cooked us lunch every day and then brought dinner to us every night. When we left for Haiti I was sure I was going to lose about 10 pounds. Nope...I'm pretty sure I gained 20. The food was so so good. Rice and beans with some sort of soup over the top, spaghetti, chicken legs, some scalloped potato casserole (my fave), meatballs, and on and on. It was so yummy.


Our Haitian work crew was AWESOME! They did have a hard time keeping up with us as far as making enough mortar to go around but otherwise they were great. We moved and stacked over 3,000 concrete blocks. That is a huge task. We ended up building 14 walls, some of them 13 blocks high. I did not realize the technical aspect of laying blocks, putting in and cutting rebar, filling with mortar, repeat and repeat! It was a lot of work in high heat and humidity and a hot hot sun. Every day when we went home I was covered in layers of dirt. I washed my body twice each night to get clean. Somehow day after day of that hard work, my body was never sore. God knew to sustain us for the week. I know some people wanted to get further progress but any progress is good progress. In four days we did a lot and helped to move the process a long.


Start of the week.

Every day all day.


End of our week.

Saying goodbye, love this picture.


The kids at the school are nothing short of amazing. They just want you to love them and play with them. They really are not shy and LOVE your phone...especially snap chat. Over the work week I really bonded with Bedjina and her "sisters" as well as a girl named Kimberlin. Bedjina always had a smile on her face, she is beautiful. She has scars on her neck and down her chest, something happened with kerosene but I didn't get the entire story. She is just so happy and bubbly. She could see me out of her window while I was over at the construction site so I would always do a goofy dance or blow her kisses and she would yell my name and wave.  One of the days I ate lunch with Kimberlin at her host house. We went round the table to say some things about ourselves and (in creole) she said her favorite food was pizza and her favorite activity was eating. From that moment I knew we were kindred spirits. I seriously had my mouth wide open when she said that and I told her, "ME TOO. EVERYTHING YES." She laughed and was hooked to me the rest of the time. She loves to laugh. They really stole a piece of my heart and didn't realize it was even happening.

Feisty Miss Shamma.

That little stinker in the front is Shamma...she is all attitude and proud of it!




Oh my heart.


Bedjina



Friday we got a reward for all of our hard work and headed to the other side of the island for a beach day. Kind of crazy that one side is full of poverty and the other side is resort quality. The water was beautiful, the sand was perfect, and it was a much needed relaxing day.



We cleaned up after the beach and headed to chapel at the school. This was going to be the last time we would see the kids. After singing some songs, reading versus the kids were told it was time for us to say goodbye. I knew it would be hard but I really wasn't expecting to be as emotional as I was (and still am). Kimberlin and Bedjina were sitting next to each other and I looked over at them when it was time and I just lost it. The ugly cry. I grabbed a translator and through my sobs I told him to tell them, "I will think of them and miss them every day. They have stolen a piece of my heart and I wasn't prepared for that. I love them, and I'm going to miss them like crazy." I could barely get my words out for him to translate. I noticed very quickly that Bedjina wasn't smiling anymore...not normal for her. We hugged for a long time and then Bedjina went back to her house because she was so sad. Kimberlin held my hand and walked me back to our tap tap saying "don't cry." Which only made it worse! She hugged me again for a long time and I told her I was going to get home and eat an entire pizza because I was so sad, she laughed. We said our final goodbyes and got on. But sitting on the bench was a little boy. One who is sponsored by one of our group members. He is maybe 5 years old. He was super quite. When our Haitian group leader asked him to get down he said he just wanted to tell us before we go, thank you. And then of course I lost it again. He was so thankful for us he actually refused to get off the bus. He road to our house with us and then finally went home. It was gut wrenching. The kids are so thankful for the work we do and just playing with them and bonding with them. They really make you fall in love with them.

Another thing Kimberlin and I have in common...sleeping in class.

Beauties.



Goofing round.

When they started to tell him it was time to say goodbye.

Oh my puffy eyes. Saying goodbye to Kimberlin.

We got all packed up Saturday, hit the market on the way to the airport and got home around 2 am. It was an amazing trip. I missed my kids and husband like crazy...I could not go on a two week trip for sure. But I also want to go back and see my girls, I miss them. It was life changing to see how these beautiful people live day in and day out. We all know it exists but when you see the level of poverty compared to what poverty is in the United States...it's eye opening. I'm so glad I got to experience this with my mom and Taylor. It was a trip I'll never forget and hope to go back next year.