Monday, January 30, 2012

A monumental moment...



This is THE first and only picture I have seen of James smiling!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to one of my fellow NLL mamas who captured this picture when she was there!! No really, my boy is one serious fella. I have all sorts of precious pictures of him. But he is not smiling in ANY of them. Not one of them. In fact, the entire week I spent with him, I did not get one picture of him smiling. So this just made my entire day!!

How darn cute is this kid??? LOVE HIM!!!!!

And yes, it was pointed out to me that perhaps he was not, in fact, smiling... that perhaps he was screaming at the camera. Or getting ready to burst into tears at any given second. After all, he has been known to have a strong dislike for cameras. However, I am choosing to go with the notion that he was so over the moon excited to have his picture taken that he couldn't help but have a big smile on his beautiful little face!!!!!

January update

Got an email from NLL that the kids are doing great! Here is their monthly update picture:



They look so thrilled for their photo op, don't they! Jovanika is wearing a skirt that I brought to her last time I was there. It used to belong to Avery.

It was so hard to say good bye and leave them the last time I was there, that I told myself I wasn't sure that I could do that again. I was really thinking in my head that it may be best if I don't go back until I either have to go to court again or go to get them. It was so hard on me, but I can only imagine how hard it must have been on James & Jovanika. They can't process what is going on and I can only imagine that to them, it must seem like I abandoned them. They probably don't understand that I can't wait to come back and get them and bring them home to their forever family. Just thinking about it makes my heart break.

While those thoughts were going through my head as I came back from Haiti, this morning I was sitting at my desk thinking how can I NOT go back?! I miss them so much. Not only do I miss my kids, but I miss Haiti... The people. The hot sun. The not having to check email or cell phone. The laid back-ness. The not worrying about upsetting people if you aren't on time, because, hey, nobody is ever on time.

Thinking about going on another mission trip with BGM in June. I LOVE LOVE LOVE doing VBS and going to the villages. This would be a great opportunity to get to see J & J while also getting to serve and see more of Haiti. One of the big factors keeping me from committing to this trip is the financial aspect. We are diligently saving each month to pay all of the fees associated with the adoption. On one hand I feel unsure about spending money on this mission trip when maybe it should be going in our savings. But on the flip side, it would be money well spent AND I would get to bond with my babies!! Decisions, decisions.....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mama Blanc



My last trip to Haiti in June was when I met Jovanika. This was my first day there and I walked down to the creche and this beautiful little girl walked up to me and reached her arms out for me to pick her up. I did and we sat and conversed for a minute before I realized she really wanted a nice place to nap. This became our afternoon ritual.

Over the next day or so, every time I would walk down those stairs, she would see me coming and just wait for me. We would sit and look at books and sing songs. We swung and played on the slide.


Pretty soon, I noticed she was getting a little territorial about sharing me with her friends. She would use her bossy toddler voice and ramble a bunch of stuff I didn't understand and then she would make it clear to them: "MY MAMA BLANC"!!! I really felt like I should pull her aside and let her know that we needed to talk it over with Papa Blanc first before she made it sound so official. But that's kind of an awkward conversation to have with a 2 year old who doesn't speak English. Right? She continued to be so cute and loving with the other children. I just loved that if one of them was crying, she would go rub their arm or pat their back so gently. How sweet is she! Little did we both know at that moment that she would steal our hearts and forever have a place in our family!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Creche

The creche is where all of the kids stay. James' room is upstairs and Jovanika's is downstairs. When adoptive parents come to visit, the children can stay with their parents 24/7 at the Guest House.

On the door of each room is a list of the kids whose beds are in that room and the last name of their adoptive family and their birthdate. You can see that Rebecca's name is under Jovanika's with no name next to it :(((


This is Jovanika's bed. Rebecca sleeps on top and Jovanika's on the bottom.


This is the playground at the creche.


This is upstairs, where James stays. That's him in the white shirt and navy shorts that are falling off of him. They like to look out over the balcony and watch the bigger kids playing below. Thank goodness there are high rails!!

Bethel Guest House

Lots of people have asked about where we stay when we visit. We stay at the Guest House, which is also where the creche is. (By the way, Dr. Bernard explained to us that at a creche, all the children are adoptable and can be adopted out... at an orphanage, not all children are adoptable, some are there to live and work...) The guest house and creche are in 2 different buildings, they are kinda "L" shaped with a pool and common areas in between.

The guest house is the tallest building, then there is the basketball court and area where they ride bikes and play. Then you go down the stairs to the patio area with the picnic tables.


the dining area

the basketball court & play area where they can ride bikes

the view from the Guest House

the top floor of the creche building

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Risk Worth Taking

Now you get a different take on our trip from my husband's point of view... Enjoy!

For those that know me, you know that I am not a big fan of the heat. For those that don’t know me so well, the reason is because I have a condition that does not allow me to sweat. In fact, I was born without sweat glands (a condition called Ectodermal Dysplasia). Basically when your body begins to get hot, your sweat glands begin to work emitting sweat which releases heat and keeps your body cool. When my body gets hot, there is no mechanism to release the heat and cool my core body temperature. The only way for me to cool off is to get inside a cool climate controlled building or car, jump in a pool or cold shower, or simply anything that can be applied to my skin to help cool me down. If I don’t get cooled off quickly, the result could be anything from passing out, heat stroke and even death.

Many people may not think that this condition would present many problems but it impacts so many decisions that I make and have had to make my entire life. In fact, from the moment Lori and I began discussing adopting from Haiti, my first concerns were how in the world I would be able to go to the poorest country in the western hemisphere, which still hasn’t recovered from a massive earthquake, and where air conditioning and electricity are non-existent or sketchy at best. To most people, safety from theft, robbery, kidnapping, etc. are the first things that come to mind when considering traveling to somewhere like Haiti. For me, it was and still is the heat.

So as we continued through our adoption process, my biggest concern was knowing that I had to make one trip to Port Au Prince for a court hearing. I just knew this was going to happen in July or August when temperatures in PAP were highest. Things that most “normal” people never would have to think about run through my head. What is the temperature going to be when I have to go to Haiti? Can I get an early morning flight so that I don’t arrive at the peak temperature? Or should I get a flight that comes in at night? Is the airport air conditioned? How far do we have to walk to get to the car? Are the cars air conditioned? Are the cars reliable? What if the car breaks down, how would I get cooled off? Is the guest house air conditioned? Does it have running water? Is the court air conditioned? What do I do if it is not? These are just a few of the many questions that ran through my head day in and day out.

When we got word that our lower court date had been set for Friday, January 13, a very small part of me was relieved, but most of me was still concerned. January is the coolest month of the year for Haiti with average highs in the low 90s (still very concerned). But by the Grace of God, we made it. Our flight arrived in the late afternoon after temperatures had been coming down. Even though our planned driver left us stranded, our taxi, as scary as it was, had a very good air conditioner.

On Friday, our court appearance was scheduled for 9:00am. Yet another prayer answered. With court being so early in the morning, I shouldn’t have to worry about getting there in an un-air conditioned vehicle because the temperatures are still mild. We have been told lower court is very quick, just sign a couple of pieces of paper, meet the parents, and that’s it. So if court isn’t air conditioned, it should be handled quickly and we’ll be on our way back. Well, unfortunately, Dr. Bernard had made a doctor’s appointment with his cardiologist for Friday morning because he had not been feeling well. So he loads about 10 or 12 of us on a bus and tells us that the bus is going to take us around town, see some sites and do some shopping while he goes to the Doctor. He said it didn’t really matter what time we got to court, that when we got there, we would take care of business at that time. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for me.

After explaining my condition to Dr. Bernard, he decided to put me in his car (which is a new Toyota Land Cruiser) with him, his driver and another couple who was going to the airport. After dropping off the couple at the airport and on our way to his doctor’s office, we have a wreck. When I say a wreck, in the U.S. we would have stopped, gotten out, exchanged insurance and phone numbers, maybe called the police. Not over there. After getting hit in the rear passenger side of the car and giving a good tongue lashing to his driver, Dr. B stuck his head out the window, shouted something to the other car, and we were off again. Did I mention we were in a very nice new car?

So after dropping Dr. B off at the doctor, his driver takes me to court. At this point, I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t what we pulled up in front of. It turns out that the court buildings were destroyed in the earthquake so the court reporters come to you in Haiti. So we ended up at Dr. B’s office. Luckily, the 1970’s window A/C unit was still humming along and office temperature was tolerable (best word I can come up with). It’s a good thing because none of the other buildings around looked like they even had A/C. After signing papers, meeting the parents and waiting about three and a half hours on Dr. B to get back from the Doctor, we headed back to the Creche in the Toyota. Only this time we had some new company… a mama, her infant son and daughter going to the crèche with us.

It was a little steamy in the car on the way back because of the number of us and we were stuck in traffic but we made it. By the time we got back to the Creche, it was 5:30pm or so (remember our appointment was at 9:00am) and the temperature was dropping, especially up in the mountains. The next morning, I had to leave the Creche by 6:30am to make my flight. We took the Creche’s white passenger van with no A/C this time. But because it was so early and I was going to the airport, I wasn’t too concerned. The driver dropped me off in front of the airport, I went right in and walked upstairs to a nice air conditioned waiting area. As funny as it sounds, from my perspective, this was the point where I felt like I had simply, but literally, survived the trip.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to see the kids again until they come home. This trip was far too risky for me to begin with, and I would be pushing it to go again. But the reward was and will be well worth the risk. Almost everything is out of your control in Haiti. Dr. B and his staff are amazing, wonderful people doing amazing work. But phone reception is sketchy, transportation is unreliable and for me and my condition, the heat is absolutely unbearable. Fortunately for this trip, everything fell into place from the timing in the coolest month to an unplanned, extremely scary (yet air conditioned) taxi ride to an air conditioned ride with a wonderful, Godly man (Dr. B). God had his hands on us the entire time. My only regret is that I didn’t get to spend more time with the kids. And while I’m sad that I don’t know when I will see them again, I am blessed for at least getting to meet, see and play with them for the short time I was there. This was definitely a trip I will never forget!!

Jesus Loves Me, Jovanika style

Jovanika is quite the entertainer. She spent the entire time dancing around and singing. I have numerous videos of her showing off, but this is by far my favorite. Most of her songs she sang in Creole, not this one though. This melted my heart...

video

First outing with the kids

On Saturday, Brandon flew out early that morning. Luckily, or not, the rooster kept us up all night and we were awake to say good bye when he got up to go. Sleep was not a big part of our trip. I'm paying for that now...

A group of us went to the Baptist Mission and the market. We ate at a cafe with American food and did a little shopping.







After going to the Mission, we went to the Overlook to take pictures and do some more shopping.





In true Haiti fashion, when we got back on the bus to go back to the guest house, the bus wouldn't start. After trying for a while to start the bus, our driver borrowed a motorcycle to go back to the guest house and get another van to come back and get us. Of course during this time, we were instructed to not get off the bus. It was slightly hot sitting on the bus with no air flowing through. The kids did fabulous though!! James sat and watched everything going on. Jovanika entertained us while we waited with her singing and bouncing around. Finally we made it back and spent the rest of the afternoon playing down at the creche.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Photos




Lower Court

We had an appointment at lower court at 9am. We were told we needed to leave around 8. That was the night before. Things are always changing and plans will be different at a moments notice, so you really gotta be able to go with the flow. That morning, we learned plans changed. Mike & Missy needed to go shopping at The Giant (think lowscale Wal Mart). I went with them. Dr. Bernard had a doctors appointment, and Brandon went with him in his car. Then we were going to meet up at the office. Dr. Bernard's driver took him to the doctor and then went and dropped off Brandon at his office. A few minutes later, we arrived. We walked in and there is a plexiglass window. They immediately took us back and gave us a fold up chair to sit in.

We sat. And sat. And sat. This was about 10:15 or so. Our appointment was at 9, remember? lol. Clearly we are on Haiti time!! We finally got called over to sign the book. It was basically a blank sheet in a binder. Then they go back and add whatever it is they need to write. Then we went and sat some more. Then we got called over to talk with the biological parents. Yes, it was initially ackward. We had a chance to ask them questions. We found out about their background, their medical history, other siblings, their faith, and above all, they are happy that we are taking their children. The dad stated that they live everyday in misery and do not want that for their children. He asked for us to send pictures through NLL. It was very important to him that the kids go to school and get a good education. Neither of them went to school and/or have jobs. Mom did not say much of anything. She was pretty emotionless throughout the whole ordeal. I'm sure that is just her way of coping with the situation. I gave the bio parents a picture album I had made with pictures of the children and of our family. Dad couldn't stop looking at them!


After the emotional conversation between us parents, we sat some more. We had to wait for our ride to come get us. Sooo glad there was another couple there with us to chit chat with because we sat there until 4:00. When our ride did arrive and we were ready to go, we found out that a bio mom, her infant and 6/7 year old daughter were coming with us back to the creche. It was heartbreaking to later talk to the mom and hear how she decided to turn her kids over. More on that later...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A not so warm welcome to Haiti, also known as the scariest day of my life

Our flight into Haiti was uneventful. Everything went as planned, except for being delayed a few minutes.

And then we got to Haiti....

You might recall my biggest fear was our driver not meeting us at the airport to pick us up and drive us to the guest house. We got off the plane, got our passports stamped, and walked out to meet our driver. In the past, we have gotten picked up right when we walked out of the airport doors. This time, nobody was there. So we walked out to the parking lot thinking maybe they were out there. Yeah.... not so much.

We saw nobody who resembled a driver from our place. I must admit I was a little worried. But at the same time, when you walk out of the airport, there is probably like a hundred people standing around. So it was still very likely that our driver was there somewhere. Brandon's and my phone had no service. Luckily, my mom's phone was working so we got it out to call. I pulled up my email on my phone to get the phone numbers. The office was closed already since it was after 5, so that number was no good. We called the cell and home numbers and we couldn't get either to go through. Of course during this time there were a handful of people trying to get us to get in their taxi. Um, no thanks. After all, our ride just HAS to be here. One of the guys who worked at the airport let us use his phone. He tried calling the numbers we had and he said the recording said the number changed. Excellent. So we literally had no way to get ahold of this man. And it is getting dark. And Port au Prince is not a place you want to be out after dark.

At this point, we had limited choices... take a taxi. Which is not a good idea, for safety reasons. Plus, I don't even have the address of the guest house. Or we could sit outside the airport and pray someone comes for us and hope that noone bothers us.

We pulled up the guest house's website and got the address. And decided to let the guy we had been talking to take us to the guest house. I knew it wasn't a wise idea. But I really didn't know what else to do. It wasn't until we were in the taxi and on our way that I was overcome with fear and the realization that the two guys driving us literally had our lives in their hands. They could have taken us anywhere and dumped us off.

During the ride, my mom got a text that Dr. Bernard was looking for us. Turns out there was a mis-communication with the driver and he was on the way to get us from the airport. After explaining that we waited for over an hour and it was dark, I told him we got in a cab. His response was that he was concerned for our safety and to be careful. I guess that was my confirmation that I should be worried. He then talked to our cab driver and asked him to take us to the police station in town and he would have someone come get us. After some arguing and disagreeing about where we should be dropped off at, we agreed that was a good idea. I think it was about this time when they decided to up our fare from $60 to $90. Really?? But we did want to live and make it to our destination, so we didn't argue.

After what seemed like a really, really long drive through town, fearing for my life the entire way, we finally made it to the police station. A few seconds later, Katie and Ralph showed up. I have never been so happy to find a familiar face!! We followed them in the taxi to the guest house.

Whew!! We made it!! Alive and well. Dr. Bernard was waiting on the porch for us. He walked over and proceeded to yell at the taxi drivers for ripping us off on their cab fare. At that point, money was no object and I would have paid whatever just to get there safely.

We took our luggage in the door and peeking around the corner, were my 2 babies waiting on us!! They had brought them up from the creche to greet us. At that moment, none of what just happened seemed so bad. Although I don't want to go in a cab there again any time soon. Or ever for that matter.

And the adventures begin......

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bracelets & Baby Clothes

Thursday can't get here soon enough! I am determined to get things ready to go this weekend. Not sure why I find getting packed to go out of town so stressful. This time particularly because I am not sure what all to expect. And I know that if I forget something, I can't just run down to WalMart to pick it up. That's not happening in Haiti!! I don't want to have to worry about packing during the week. It will be hard enough having to get sub plans ready for my class and getting Avery ready to stay with friends to have to mess with all of my "stuff" too. Although I figure no matter how much I plan ahead, there will be lots of last minute things I haven't thought of. That is usually how it works with me. Any of you other mamas have any tips for thing I should take with me??

I was talking to a friend who suggested I take clothes for the kids to wear while we are there. Of course they have clothes, but they may not be very clean or smell the best since they are often shared day after day. So when I got home from school, we got up in the attic and dug through tubs of Avery's old clothes that I saved. I picked out several adorable little 3T girly outfits to take. A friend of mine was nice enough to give me tons of her boys clothes for James. I went through those and picked out some tiny 2T outfits for him. Looking through all of Avery's old clothes brought back so many fun memories of when she was a little toddler. I can still remember things we did when she was wearing certain outfits. Those were such fun times. Can't wait to have 2 more around to make many more memories!!

I spent tonight packaging up Apparent Project bracelets to ship out tomorrow. Our friends & family have been so supportive! We still have quite a few left. If you are interested, they are $8. You can email me at whitaker_lori@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 5, 2012

That's my boy!

My friend Lacie sent me this picture yesterday of James.



I can't wait to see this precious boy with his big, brown eyes!! This time next week....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Flights booked!

We booked Brandon's flight today! A week from now the kids will be spending time with their mommy, daddy & GiGi. Thanks so much to everyone who offered up their babysitting services to make this last minute journey possible... we are so blessed to have such awesome friends & family!!

The Apparent Project

From the Apparent Project website:

Unfortunately, orphanages have often only enabled the dissolution of Haitian families. Haiti was said to have as many as 500,000 orphans before the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. The vast majority of these "orphans" were actually not true orphans. They were children given up by living parents because of extreme poverty. A history of corruption and inefficiency in the Haitian governments adoption processes has caused orphanages to be overcrowded and short on funding, also creating emotional, physical, and developmental problems for institutionalized children. Yet, while a single adoption costs $15,000-20,000, these funds could sustain up to 40 families by providing seed money for ongoing small businesses!

Most orphanages are focused primarily on childcare, without addressing the roots of child abandonment. Unfortunately, many, many orphanages also take in way too many kids way too easily. While the Apparent Project advocates passionately for the adoption of true orphans, they also believe that preventing child abandonment by economically empowering Haitian families is the best way to rescue children. The Apparent Project has created opportunities for impoverished parents to earn an income through their artisan program. We train each parent in a specialized skill, such as jewelry making, bookbinding, sewing, or another craft, building relationships along the way. Through addressing educational needs, homelessness, joblessness, nutritional problems, medical needs, and building emotionally and spiritually enriching relationships, they are trying to bring dignity and wholeness to the whole person, strengthening each to be a support and encouragement to others.


Of course we are advocates of adoption. But we also believe that with their bio parents is where kids belong, as long as they can be cared for and their needs met properly. Supporting The Apparent Project will help parents be able to keep their children and make sure they are taken care of.



To help support this project, we are selling bracelets made by these trained artists, who are parents trying to earn money to be able to care for their children. Each bracelet is unique and made from recycled cereal boxes.



They are $8 each. Half of that money goes back to Haiti, while the other half supports our adoption. For $2 more, we are able to ship them anywhere in the US.

If you would like to help support this cause, you can message me here or email me at whitaker_lori@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lower Court

Today I emailed NLL to remind them that we are coming next week for a visit. We, being me and my mom. We have been planning this trip since August and she is just a tad excited to meet her new grandbabies! The last thing I want is to be stranded in the airport in Port-au-Prince without a ride. It has occurred to me to email them on a daily basis to beg them not to forget us. But with the possibility that daily reminders may be a tad bit obnoxious, I settled for a week before reminder and possibly the day before :) Hey, those of you who have been know exactly what I'm talkin' about....

I immediately got an email back stating that they would like for me and my husband to appear at Lower Court on that Friday morning. UM.... that is fine and great. And kind of exciting. Except for one small fact... my husband isn't going to be there!!!

OR IS HE?!?!?

The email went on to say that it is required for both adoptive parents to attend the first court and since I am going to already be there, why not go then. Sounds good to me....

Oh yeah, except the husband doesn't have a plane ticket. Remember, we planned this trip in August and at that time had no idea court would be a possibility yet. And, uh, he was going to be the babysitter back home while I am in Haiti with our other babies..... Hmm..... Normally we would call the grandparents. But one of them will be in Haiti with me. And the other just left a few days ago to drive 13 hours home. Oh me oh my.

So that's where we are right now. Deciding what to do and how we are going to pull it off. Wish us luck.

I just have to say... Those of you who know my husband well, knows he prefers cooler climates and has had concerns about going to Haiti when it can get so terribly hot there, especially during the summer months. I have been praying about this all along and hoping that when we did have to go to court that it would be during the winter when it is not as hot. Thankfully, God listened and prayers were answered when I got that email today!! It is amazing how things are falling into place. You know, when we were originally planning on adopting Javonika and got the call that they wanted us to take her brother as well, I initially freaked out, I'm not gonna lie. We had a plan to adopt one little girl. We weren't planning on two... Certainly not two toddlers who were ten months apart. Whoa! Clearly our plan was not working out how we expected. After stepping back, a friend reminded me that God's plan is always bigger and better than the one we have for ourselves. He never gives us more than we can handle. Many times during this process I have had to remember that and that has become my favorite saying. And, for the record, I can't wait to have 3 little kiddos running around our home :) I can't imagine "the plan" working out any other way!

Won't that be so exciting if the children get to meet their daddy AND their GiGi for the very first time?? Of course, it will be the first time any of us meet our little guy James ~~~ I am soooooo excited!!!!