Monday, April 25, 2011

My sweet Teagan

So honestly, I wanna talk about Haiti.  But really.  Can I do that every time I get on here?  I don't think so.  I don't know why.  I guess because I just feel like this isn't the "I love Haiti" blog but honestly I do.  More Haiti happenings in the (VERY) near future.

Here's the thing, I have this sweet little girl named Teagan.  She might be addicted to candy.  Actually, she totally is. For realz.

So her small group at church decided that they would all give something up for Lent. 

When she came up to me at church on Ash Wednesday and said she had given up pop for Lent I wasn't that surprised.  I figured her small group had all chosen something to give up and that's what she chose.  Not a HUGE deal.  But then, she says she gave up candy too.

Not that is a big deal.  Seriously.

She was supposed to have Sunday as a "free" day.  But she goofed up the first Friday and instead of giving up she moved her "free" day to Friday.  That was impressive.  It kinda kept getting more and more impressive.

"Mom, can we stop at the gas station to get a water?"
"No, but you can have a sip of my Diet Pepsi"
"I can't.  It's not Friday."

Conversations like that were pretty much constant.  I am SO proud of my Tea Pot for her sacrifice.  At just 9 years old, she completely realizes what that means. 

I'm sure I'll pay for a lot more dental work in her life, but for now I'm relishing in the fact that she's been sugar free for Lent.  Way to go Teagan, we love you!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Seems weird to be home.  I missed my family so terribly while I was gone. But if it wasn't for them I really think I could have stayed in Haiti for much longer.  Seriously.

I still have so many memories to share with you.  (I say that like there are tons of you reading.  Please start commenting so I know I'm not just talking to myself!)  Things to tell you all about like our first day there and traveling around the city and visiting Hope Village.  People to introduce you to like Enoch and Madame Blueberry and all the great GCOM people I got to know.  The small little boy who still holds my heart while he is in Haiti and I'm home in Oklahoma. 

Unfortunately, a lot of these stories have images that I feel need to go with them.  It's just not the same without seeing the images.  But duty calls and I'm back to the land of working non-stop so my time blogging and editing Haiti pictures is limited.  Someday I'll find the time and the words to share all I experienced.  At least a good part of it.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go to Haiti.  As I said on Madi's birthday post, had this trip been planned the first week of April all along I don't know that I would have signed up.  God knew I needed to be there.  That I needed to be with the special group of people He put together to travel to Haiti.  That I would somehow be able to make some small difference while I was there.  And while I feel like I did, I can't help but mention the huge difference that was made in my life. 

Haiti wrecked me.  It really did.  I don't look at things the same anymore.  It's been an emotional week being back here and leaving all the sweet little faces that I came to know so well in Thomazeau.  I pray that I never forget them.  That I will always remember how incredibly blessed I am and that I will make "making a difference" a priority.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

So much to say

When I found out that I would have some internet access while in Haiti this week I was so excited.  I had these visions of updating my blog each night with a recap of that days activities.  I'd have all my memories all contained in a nice little neat daily post.

Then I arrived in Haiti.

I now know how ridiculous that idea seems.  I could blog until the cows come home and still not be able to express everything I have experienced while here.  This has been such an amazing adventure of emotions. 

It's hard to believe that the week is almost over.  In ways it feels like we've been gone forever.  In other ways it feels like we've only just begun.  We've accomplished so much that will hopefully help the wonderful men, women and children at the Thomazeau orphanage.  Yet there is so much still left to do. 

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.  A part of my heart will definitely stay behind with all those sweet faces.  I feel like I've gotten to know some of the kiddos so well that it will be like I'm leaving my own babies.  I can't even imagine how that will feel.  And some of their parents have already done just that.  We learned today that many of them have parents who are still living.  But they just can't care for them and so in an effort to give them a better life they give them away. 

Can you even imagine?

A little bit of good news is that we've talked to Enoch who works with the orphanage and it looks as though private adoption in the near future may be a real possibility.  My prayer tonight is that we can find home for all those sweet babies and make room for more children to come in off the street.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 3, or maybe 2, or is it 4?

On the way home from the orphanage in the tap tap this afternoon I had to ask if today was Tuesday or Wednesday.  Cause seriously.  I had no idea.  None.  I did find out that today is in fact Tuesday, however I'd have to really think hard to figure out if it's Haiti day 3 or Haiti day 4 and so we'll just go with Tuesday. 

We got up early this morning.  Early.  As in 5:00.  A. M. people.  AM.  Some of you may be thinking that 5:00 isn't really that early but for this girl it is.  I'd been up for an hour and 23 minutes when my normal weekday alarm went off.  Generally, when that goes off I hit snooze.  Then I hit snooze again.  And finally at somewhere between 7 and 7:30 I get up.  So see, 5:00 is early.

We planned to leave at 6:00 but since "this is Haiti" (aka TIH) we kind of did the hurry up and wait thing until about 7:30 when we finally left.  About an hour later we pulled into the Thomazeau orphanage for the second day in a row.  Little faces started peeking out of the door of their classrooms and before long we had a whole crew of kiddos jumping into our arms. 

It's amazing how quickly the bonding has happened.  While all the children crave and need the attention and love from all of us, it's already obvious that some of the kids have bonded with certain adults that are here.  I love that! However, in the back of my mind I can't help but think about what Friday will be like when we have to leave for good.  I pray that I will be able to come back and love on these kids again someday.  I know it has to be so hard for them to bond with people and never see or hear from them again.  I've had several children ask where Kelly was.  Where is Tiffany?  Where is so-and-so.  Do I know them?  In the end they come up with "different friend?".  That seems to put them at ease.  That perhaps I DO know them, but they were just unable to come at this time.

There are two different groups of children at the orphanage.  One is a group that goes to school there and lives there and are true orphans.  We call them the green kids.  Because they wear green shirts.  Aren't we creative?!  Then there are the red kids (betcha can't guess what color they wear) who are local children who may have parents, may live with relatives or neighbors or older siblings but they have someone who can look after them to some extent.  They are Compassion kids and so they have the funds to come to school at the orphanage.  When all the children are there they number about 50 and things can get a little chaotic.  They leave around noon or 1:00 and then it's a smaller group of about 20 children that we hang out with.

Today we made salvation bracelets with the large group and then had the opportunity to help serve them a hot meal.  They don't normally get a hot meal every day.  Or every week for that matter.  This week we are hoping to do it every day.  After lunch we played some and then handed out a sucker and small toy to each child.  We learned yesterday that when we hand things out the kids will often come back and act like they didn't get one yet and then we see that their pockets are full of stuff.  Hoarders could get some serious footage here. 

So we came up with this amazing plan to put a little small x with a marker on their hands after we gave them something. 

Um...not the best plan.  They totally figured us out.  It wasn't long before I started seeing familiar faces and small smudges of red.  Little stinkers were wiping off their x's!  They are some SMART little kiddos!  Soon the red kids left and we had more playing, throwing balls around, posing for pictures, a little bit of "beauty salon" and then we took the green kids into a room (I use that term VERY loosely) to color.

I would have loved to stick around much longer but we had some sick sick adult men who needed to get home.  The guys in our group have been just amazing.  Yesterday they managed to mix and pour one concrete slab.  Today they did another slab and a roof.  Those are the MAIN projects they are working on but they are doing so much more as well.  The Haiti sun is hot and running low on drinking water today got the best of a few of them.  Everyone is fine now and resting at home.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow and praying that we are able to continue to bless these wonderful people and children that we are growing so fond of.  Before then however, I think I'm gonna need a shower.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New President for Haiti

I had planned on updating tonight with a rundown on what we did yesterday and then today.  I'm changing my mind.  Cause it's my blog and that's ok.  Right?  Just know that there are going to be an awful lot of Haiti posts coming up!

Today we spent the day at the orphanage in Thomazaeu that we planned to come here to help.  After being there most of the day we were informed, rather quickly, that we needed to pack up and head home to where we were staying.  The results of the presidential election were set to be announced and possible rioting could happen and we definitely did NOT want to be out and about if that happened.

We came home, got cleaned up (as much as one can clean up when they are constantly sweating) and had some dinner.  Soon afterwards, a huge eruption of screaming and clapping came from the living room where a large group of our Haitian friends were intently watching tv.  It had been announced that the candidate of choice had been elected.  Martelly (pronounced a whole lot like Madilee!) was the winner and man is everyone excited.

Our hosts decided to take us out into the streets to "celebrate".  I kind of imagined walking outside of our gate and watching.  Instead we participated in some serious celebrating.  In the midst of the rubble and poverty here are people coming together singing, dancing and chanting in excitement for their new president. 

It was so wild.

SO much more to say but I've got to call it a night.  On the road at 6am to head back to the orphanage!

I'm in Haiti!

Wow.  Where do I even start?

I somehow managed to get everything done Saturday morning before leaving for the church to load up and go to the airport.  That's including a deep clean of the house since we had a showing request for Saturday morning.  (Yeah, no stress there.)  We headed off to the church and I tweeted that I hoped I didn't forget anything just as Brad asked if I had my passport.

So we headed back home to grab that.  Oops.

After some near tearful goodbyes we were off on the people mover to OKC.  Everyone's excitement grew as we got closer and closer.  Shelby busted out the Pepperidge Farm Piourettes just in time to ease any breakdowns that might be looming in my near future.  Whew! 

Once at the airport we started unloading the tubs from the people mover.  They each weighed right around 50 pounds and as we passed them out of the vehicle Shelby flexed her arms to show her strength and said, "Look at these guns!"

That's when the airport employee helping us leaned in to say, "You can't say guns at the airport".

Have I mentioned how much I love Shelby?!

We had a little snafu (and another near breakdown) when we were told that we had too much weight in our tubs.  We had packed the tubs up last Tuesday and weighed them knowing (ie going from the info posted on the American Airlines website) that each of us could have 2 packed bags weighing 50 pounds.  The first one was free and the second one was $30.  All of the sudden we were told that yes, we could have 2 bags but they couldn't weigh more than 70 pounds together.  Great.  Luckily the wonderful guy found an exception for us.  Woohoo!

After a couple flights and lots of laughing we ended up in Miami where we grabbed some dinner (eventually) and hit the hay for not nearly enough sleep.

Getting off the plane in Haiti was incredibly surreal.  You hear about the destruction that the earthquake caused and you see images everywhere but until you see it in person I don't think you can really understand the devastation.  More than a year later it still looks as thought they've just gone through a natural disaster.  It's incredible.

Our GCOM guys met us at the airport and I immediately felt safe.  What a great group of men who are clearly serving the Lord!  There was a lot of hurry up and wait going on but we eventually made it to our "home" for the week which I described to Brad in a text as the Taj Mahal.  I'll have to share pictures when I'm back  in Oklahoma and uploading won't take so long.

The rest of the day was pretty emotional and I'm sure it will only increase as the week moves on.  I have to go down for breakfast now (it's actually Tuesday morning, I couldn't get a connection last night), but I'll update as soon as I can.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweet 16

Today is my first born child's birthday. Not just any birthday. It's her sweet 16. And I'm not there with her. It's kinda sorta breaking my heart.

Ok, it's really breaking my heart.

When I agreed to go on the Haiti mission trip it was going to be during the week of March 14th. There were some things going on in Haiti during that time that made the area more volatile than normal so we discussed rescheduling. When talk of changing the dates came up I knew exactly when it would be. I just KNEW. I somehow knew it was going to be during this important time in Madi's life. I've said that if the trip had originally been planned during her birthday I don't think I would have signed up to go. You know what though? I think there is a reason it happened this way. Because I truly feel that God has called me to be a part of this mission. And He knew it would be hard for me to be away today and so in His great wisdom He made it happen.

Because here's the thing, being a follower of Christ isn't the easiest thing. You'd think that after you accept Him as your personal savior it would all be smooth sailing. But it's not. At all.

So here I am. On my baby girls 16th birthday, and I'm not there to give her a big hug and remind her in person how incredibly special she is to me. How blessed I am that God chose me to be her mother. How proud I am of the amazing woman she is becoming.

What's the next best thing? A blog post of course! I'll try to call her today and I'll undoubtedly think of her and pray for her throughout the day. But because I may not be able to call and I'm not there in person to say these things, this blog post will be the next best thing.

My dearest Madilee Elizabeth,

I will never forget the day that I found out you were on the way. I wondered why I wasn't feeling so well and just on a whim decided to take a pregnancy test on my lunch break. I was home alone with our dog, Inu. So I took the test and it sure did look positive and I came out of the bathroom and just stared in Inu's blue/brown eyes. I said, "Inu. I'm pregnant. What are we going to do?" And he kinda cocked his head to the side and stuck one ear up in the air. I think he wanted a treat and didn't really care about what I was telling him.


So, I sat down and called Shannon who told me, "Ok. Don't freak out. Those tests can be wrong." Bless her heart. She knew how frightened I was. Daddy and I had just been married for 8 months and were so young. The thought of raising a baby was a little overwhelming. Actually, it was a lot overwhelming.

However, in the next few days the thought of life growing inside of me grew more and more appealing. By the day of my first doctor's appointment Daddy and I were both nervous. He went with me and sat in the waiting room while I went back to take the "official" test. When I came out I found him anxiously waiting for me. He looked up at me and with sad eyes and a frown he said, "You aren't pregnant are you."

You see, at this point the idea of you had already consumed us so much that the thought of not having you was heartbreaking. We realized that no matter how new our marriage was God had a plan and we couldn't control it, but we sure did hope you were a part of it. And you were.

Madilee, you have been more than I could have ever imagined. God certainly blessed us with a bright, caring, beautiful daughter. You make me laugh every day, whether or not you mean to. *wink* Your generosity and caring nature take my breath away. Knowing that you desire to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father is amazing. It's something that I unfortunately never comprehended at your age. God put your Daddy in my life which lead me to Him in a more intimate setting and now I'm more than thrilled to have children who desire to know Him. You are an awesome example for your younger siblings.

Basically Madi, you ROCK!

Today I'm in Haiti and I'm praying that I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. However, a part of my heart will be with you my sweet girl. This is the first time in the last 16 years that I haven't been with you on your birthday. I definitely wouldn't have chosen for your 16th birthday to be this way but I know you have lots of people around you today who love and care for you.

Thank you Madilee Elizabeth for being you. I love you more than you'll ever know. Happy birthday baby girl! Here is a recap of every single birthday!

     April 3, 1995     Madilee Elizabeth Stewart     5:41 p.m.    7 lbs 11 oz      21 inches

Madi's 1st birthday.  A nice simple celebration at home with family. 

Happy 2nd birthday!  We celebrated with a Sesame Street themed birthday party.

3rd birthday celebration at Chuck E Cheese in Tulsa.  Fun!

Madi says this is her favorite birthday memory.  Madeleine themed birthday #4!

Happy 5th birthday sweet girl!

In her Sunnybrook school uniform.  Happy 6th birthday Madi!

Baby sister Teagan arrived just 2 weeks ago.  I was so busy I couldn't plan a big party so we went to the local ceremic store with Olivia and Paris from Madi's class.  Fun!

Birthday #8 at the Best Western in Stillwater.  Hello Luau!

Birthday #9!  We had a jewelry party and everyone got to make their own necklaces and bracelets.  Then we took some pictures on the stairs.  I love this group of girls!

Birthday #10.  We sent out invites for a party on April 1st...but it was a big joke!  April fools!  We "kidnapped" all the guests after they thought that the party would be a different day.  They had to wear whatever they were wearing when we woke them up and weren't allowed to take anything with them.  This was the best!
Their shirts say, "Pssst...I was fooled!"  And Madi's says, "I fooled them!"

Birthday #11 was celebrated by making fun Hawaiin tops and lots of doing the limbo!

Happy birthday #12 sweet girl!  No big huge special party tonight but we went to Kyoto's for dinner as a family and then had a nice evening at home celebrating.

Birthday #13.  We had so much fun for this special birthday.  Teenager!!  A fun BBQ & games with friends.  Over the years we've learned that friends come and go but memories are special and we cherish them!

Another bash for birthday #14.  BBQ and volleyball in the yard.  Plus, some delish cupcake style cake pops via Bakerella.  Can you beat that?  I think not!

Happy birthday #15!  Wow.  Fifteen?  Seriously?!

Madilee Elizabeth, I love you more than you'll ever know.  Happy 16th birthday sweet girl.  You're one of the absolute best things that has ever happened to me!