Friday, December 31, 2010

Chili Feed Fundraiser!

Chili Feed Fundraiser
Sunday, January 9th
11:30 - 1:30
505 - 13th St., Hudson

Christmas, Adoption, Prayers and the Next Trip

My Christmas was fine. I know, I can't stand it when people use that word. But it's the word that fits. I had a truly wonderful time with my family. A little food, a few presents, and a lot of laughs. (Dawn and Kineta - it was not enough time!!)

My mind constantly wandered off to Haiti. What were the babies doing? How was the staff celebrating? I was told the kids celebrated Christmas on Monday the 26th. Nikki was overwhelmed at the amount of presents that were sent down. She said it was far beyond what she ever expected. It took 5 volunteers 2 full days to wrap the presents. You all provided a very Merry Christmas for the babies!

I'm sure she'll upload the pictures when she's got a spare moment. They have 48! babies right now, so she's extremely busy. I'll let you all know as soon as I've got access to the pictures.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Adoption Update
Jason and I had a paperwork meeting on Wednesday with our home study agency. We accomplished so much in that hour. It felt really good. And yet, there is still so much more to do.

Right now our biggest challenge is money. The home study is going to cost us $3,430. That's just the fees I know about at this point. My dear husband is a bit freaked out about that cost. (Oh honey, that's just the TIP of the iceberg!!) I'm happy to put it on my Discover, but he's not to thrilled about that idea. I need to send him to Haiti for a week. He'll 'get it' then! It's just money...

Once we have a completed home study I'll be able to apply for adoption grants. I'm trying to negotiate with him. Cough up the 3 grand right now, and I'll take care of the rest. He's not an easy one to negotiate with. But there are two people in this process, and we need to have an agreement along the way.

Just imagine another sweet face added to this picture!

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Pray, Pray, Pray
For those of you out there who are prayer warriors for the babies, please send up some extra prayers for the newborn we're trying to get up here for surgery. He's been admitted to the hospital in Milot with possible meningitis. My heart breaks when I think about his parents who are doing everything they can to save him.

Please send up extra prayers for this little guy!

* * * * * * * * * * * *
The next trip
I sent an email to Jamie yesterday to start talking dates. I'm committed to getting another trip in before we are assigned our little girl. That means late June/early July. If you are seriously considering joining me, please send me an email and let me know your availability. I'm going to confirm dates with him soon!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Be a Mama Bear

Keeping in mind Matthew 6:1-4, I start off this post with the following:

"Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them...when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."

From the onset of this blog I have said that I'm but a servant. This blog is not intended for any self-glorification. The intent is to move and inspire others to take action while here on earth. To see that you CAN make a difference. To inspire you all to have full prayer life and see where God leads you.

What I'm doing is driven by God. With the power of Him, and the Internet, some amazing things have happened recently that I'd like to share.
As you know, we've been working on getting sweet Guerlin his much needed heart surgery. From what I understand, with the condition he has there is no sense of urgency. The challenge is that any condition in Haiti really DOES create a sense of urgency. Because of the conditions and lack of resources there, a child like him could die from a simple virus - something we don't necessarily need to worry about here.

I'm very excited to report that Guerlin was accepted by a program in New Jersey. They will cover his surgery, hospitalization, and provide a foster family to care for him while he recovers. God is good!

Many of you know that I've been called on a second mission to help a 4 month old who has a much more serious heart condition. She is not able to fly, and since there are no resources in Haiti our only option was the Dominican. Initially, the door was completely closed. Again I was told she is stable enough to wait until services are set up in Haiti.

She's now battling pneumonia, which is very serious not only given her condition, but also the fact that she is in Haiti.

Let me give you a little Karen insight. I have no medical background. With the exception of my sister Beck, medical professionals intimidate me. The idea of emailing this cardiologist again was initially daunting to me. But this is a child's life that's on the line. Maybe I don't sound very smart in my emails, but I do sound passionate and committed.

This doc amazes me. He RESPONDS to emails immediately! Within minutes of sending the email he responded and said that one way or the other, she would get her surgery. And all expenses, including getting them to the Dominican, would be covered. God is so good!!

Well friends, we have another one. A newborn baby boy who has spina bifida and club feet. The most urgent need is obviously taking care of his spine. Once that is taken care of we can work on his legs/feet. So the emailing begins again. Please pray that the doctor I emailed last night is still in PAP and that he will take on this little boy. The other option is to get him up here to MN for surgery. One way or the other, God will provide for this little boy.

This is a new calling. I just send the emails. God does the rest.

Please continue to pray for these babies. They need us. They need an advocate. They need the mama bears of the world to be their voice.

Every child deserves a chance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

God shows balance

I have a perma-grin on my face tonight. As a mother I fret and worry about how my children are being raised. Am I teaching them the right values? Am I doing the right things as a parent? Did that one time I freaked out and yelled ruin them forever and doom them to counseling for the rest of their lives?

Tonight the kids and I were driving home from church after Sofia's choir practice. She was jabbering away, as she always does. At one point she stopped to share something that happened at school. The conversation went like this:

Sofia: "Mommy, some kids in my class told me that Christmas is only about getting."

Me: "Really Sofia? What did you say to them?"

Sofia: "I told them that Christmas is about giving and it's about Jesus' birth."

Me: "How did they react to that?"

Sofia: "Oh, they agreed with me. But the said that even Jesus got presents."

Ok - so the last comment is pretty darn cute and a great argument for the whole gift-giving thing. Those kids put up a compelling argument. After I giggled, I got pretty misty when I thought about Sofia sharing her feelings, sharing her beliefs, with the kids at school. So brave. So wise.

She's such a good kid. Now if I could only get her to clean her room.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Falling in love and leftover rice

It's a bitter cold night here in western Wisconsin, a perfect evening for a comfort food dinner. On the menu - sloppy joes. Most everything I make here comes in two varieties - the meatless one for me, and the other one for the rest of the family. The traditional sloppy joes are on the stovetop, and I'm now making something that I'll eat. As I heat up the soy crumbles, I notice leftover rice in the fridge. It's that little bit that's leftover from Chinese take-out.

Normally I'd toss it. It's dry and I have nothing to use it with. It's really not being wasteful, right? Then my mind flashes to Haiti. I picture Magdalyn on the day she was admitted. A tiny little body, so incredibly malnourished. What would her parents do with leftover rice?

I just added the rice to my soy crumble sloppy joes. It will stretch out the meal and create lots of leftovers for my lunches at work.

Haiti, my friends, has really changed me. There are so many instances where my mind flashes to Haiti, and it changes what I'm doing at that moment.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jason and I have been married for nearly 11 years now. We've had our ups, and we've had our downs. I'd say our relationship has gone through the normal cycles that relationships go through. There are times when we don't like each other, and there are times that we giggle together like we did when we first met. Just recently, I've fallen in love with him all over again.

It happened after I asked Jason to fill out the special needs and disabilities form for our adoption application. The form basically has us check which types of special needs and physical needs we will accept in an adopted child. I figured I'd check a lot more than Jason would, so I left most of the form up to him.

He stayed up late that night and filled out the form. When I woke the next morning, it was waiting on the counter for me. What I saw made me cry. (I know - shocker - Karen crying!) I looked over the form at all of the YES boxes he checked. Some were simple things, some were big things. Most of it surprised me. I thought he would have checked NO on most of it.

This journey as been overwhelming and frustrating. It's also been heartwarming. To have open conversations with Jason about who we will bring home and raise together as parents. We'll still have our ups and downs. And I'm certain there will be days when we don't like each other. But we're in this together - as partners in parenting. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. In adoption paperwork and huge fees. We're going to bring our little girl home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I need to find the balance

My baby girl turned 9 yesterday. It's a joyous time in our house, and she loves to celebrate. For the past two years we've taken her and one friend to Build-a-Bear at the Mall of America. She and a friend get to have lunch together, then they each get to pick a stuffed animal and an outfit. That's our version of a friend birthday party.

I didn't want to do it this year. The thought of going to the mall was nauseating to me. I don't like malls to begin with, but this year it's harder for me. I don't want to spend the money on stuffed animals and I don't want to see the excess we have here. It disgusts me. Can't put it any lighter than that.

Sofia had a family birthday party yesterday, and yes, we went to the mall today. She's had such a wonderful weekend. She loved her birthday party. She loved the mall with her friend from church. She loved the entire weekend. I, on the other hand, just want to cry.

At some point I need to find the balance. My kids need to live life and have fun being kids. I get that. But what we've done in the past has got to change. I can't go to Build-a-Bear anymore. Here's a store filled with clothing for stuffed animals. Shoes, socks, even underwear for STUFFED ANIMALS! All I could picture was the kids running in the streets of Haiti. Many of them were naked. They will never see a store like the one we were at today.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here's a picture of Sofia with an add-on birthday present. My sister Kris bought a tie-dye kit and onsies for Sofia to decorate for the babies. The balance - what I need to somehow figure out - is letting Sofia and Henry enjoy their childhood, get fun presents, and somehow know how good they've got it. To know that life isn't only about getting presents. It's about helping others who are less fortunate.

How am I going to make it through Christmas?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adoption Process

I thought I'd finally start posting about our adoption process. People keep asking me how it's going, and are surprised when I tell them what the process is like. It isdaunting, overwhelming, expensive, and massive. But the reward in the end makes it worth it.

Right now we're been approved by Children of the Promise to adopt one of their kids, and we're approved by Love Basket who will be our adoption agency. We're now working on the home study with an agency that's located in Hudson, WI - close by us. It sounds as though the home study will take a few months to complete. As we're in the process of working on that, we'll also be working on the following:
* medical evaluation and blood work for Jason and myself
* reading two books and taking on-line training - required by Love Basket
* a psych eval for both Jason and myself (no comments from the peanut gallery)
* asking for 3 personal references, 1 family, and 1 pastoral. Any of you who were in church today - PB was talking about us.
* completing a second application for Love Basket - more comprehensive than the first

When all is said and done, it will cost around $30,000 and take 2-3 years to bring our little girl home. People cannot believe it when I tell them how long it takes and how much it costs. I appreciate why the process is so comprehensive. I don't yet understand why it's so expensive, but it's pretty standard for an international adoption to cost from $20,000-30,000.

If you are considering adopting, please don't let that discourage you. There are many grants available to adoptive parents, and many other ways to get the money. I'm confident that God will provide when it comes to finances. And after being in Haiti, the money doesn't matter. I'm not taking a savings account with me when I leave this life.

I'll admit that I'm overwhelmed. When the initial packet first arrived from Love Basket I started to hyperventilate. It felt like something we'd never be able to complete. The money part doesn't concern me at all. It's the rest of it. I remember closing on my first mortgage and being confused by the amount of paperwork. I just blindly started signing things - not reading a word. With an adoption, that's not possible. We can't sit back and just sign documents and hand over a check. We have to be fully engaged in this process.

This will take a lot of time and I'm certain it will involve a few tears. But this is a God thing, and with Him all things are possible.

I dream of the day when I say, "Mwen se manman ou." I am your Mommy.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Odelande's new mom, please email me: What a surprise to read your comment!! She's such an amazing little girl. We did a lot of cuddling while I was down there. You are very fortunate to have each other!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sometimes, it's better to avoid the media

Friday night I was reading an article on Yahoo about the cholera outbreak. At the end of the article was the comments section. I don't know why I did it, but I started reading the comments. Once I started I couldn't stop. It was a train wreck.

The comments were so insensitive, inhumane, cruel. I don't understand how people can think what they think and take the time to post it. Friday night was very restless. The comments brought on doubt. I hate doubt. I don't use the word 'hate' normally in conversation. It's too strong of a word. But I truly hate it when doubt creeps in.

I started wondering why I'm even trying. Why go to Haiti? Why send aid? Why try to get others to do the same?

Then, I thought about Guerlin. Precious, sweet little Guerlin. In all the emails I've sent to aid organizations, I've included this, "I want to give him a chance to grow up healthy. Who knows, he might be the next President of Haiti and bring about the change they so desperately need."

Who knows? It's not for me to sit here and judge. Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that ye be not judged." It's not my place. It's not anyone's place. What if Guerlin, Odelande, Jerry and Magdalyn are going to bring about change in Haiti? What if they are here on earth to make that difference? Isn't it our place to do everything in our power to give them that chance?

With all doubt that creeps into my life, it brings a new round of conviction.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

‘Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hand You See

See that little hand with the beads on his wrist? The one right above this post? Well, that sweet little hand belongs to an 11 month old boy named Guerlin (pronounced Gear-Lynn). Just this week I got the challenge of a lifetime - to find a hospital that will donate surgery to fix his heart.

Guerlin was admitted to Children of the Promise while I was down there. He's so very sweet and beautiful. I spent a lot of time with him, sitting under the mango tree rocking. His little heart just beat like mad inside his tiny body. While I didn't know his diagnosis at the time, I knew something was wrong with his heart.

Do you have any connections at Children's in Minneapolis? I talked to an awesome gal named Amy, who does all the scheduling. If we can get the hospital to donate their services (anesthesia, 7-day stay, etc) she most likely will get a surgeon to donate their time for the surgery. It's time to start working those connections!!

Three babies have died since I was there late August. I don't want to add Guerlin to that list. Other than his heart, he's a healthy baby. He has a mother who absolutely adores him. I want her to have many years with him.

If you know of anyone in the Children's network in Minnesota, I'd love the opportunity to talk to them. This little boy deserve the chance to play and grow up. Who knows, maybe he'll be the president of Haiti one day.

* * * * * * * * * *

On a different note, we're currently conducting an urgent drive for powdered Pedialyte. While Cholera hasn't hit COTP, they still have many severe cases of dehydration. The nurse makes a 'serum' for the kids, but we're hoping to stock them up on Pedialyte so she doesn't have to make it.

I realize we just finished sending Christmas presents, and I just challenged everyone to donate. Well, here I go asking again. If you have the opportunity to pick up a few boxes, I'll ship them down for you. Of course, if you're out of state, I can get you the address in Florida for Agape Flights.

We'll get everyone trained like Jason. Each week he does the grocery shopping he picks up a pack of diapers. Now he's going to pick up diapers AND Pedialyte. Good man.

* * * * * * * * * *

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result."
~ Ghandi

Monday, November 1, 2010

Finally, The Christmas Challenge

I cry on the way home from work. That's my time to unwind, and think. I don't cry every day, but I do cry often. Today was no exception.

This morning I came into the office to an email from Haiti. Amy, one of the nurses at Children of the Promise, was letting me know that little Ashka had been called home Saturday morning. Another sweet life, taken so early. In the month leading up to my trip, four babies had died. Since I've been home, we've lost three more. Unfortunately, death is a way of life for those in Haiti.

The email this morning brought to light a reality we don't see here in the US. Yes, children die here. Yes, there is pain and suffering. But in Haiti, it is so much greater. The babies who die in Haiti most likely would not die if they were in the US. We have a healthcare system, and food shelters, and social workers. Our system certainly isn't without its challenges, but we have a system. In Haiti, there is nothing.

Children of the Promise is a blessing to the children of Cap-Haitien and surrounding communities. They do all they can, with what they have, to feed, nurture and provide medical care for the children who are brought to their gate. While there is a lot of life, they unfortunately still deal with a lot of death.

The Challenge - the original Christmas Challenge - has been on my mind since I was in Haiti. It came to me as soon as I stepped off the plane. Before I ever met a baby, I knew what I wanted to post to you all. It's November 1st - and it's time to post the challenge.

The Challenge: This Christmas, before you purchase one present, pause...and think. Think about a few things:
1 - What is the true meaning of Christmas? Really - why do we have Christmas? Why did it ever start?
2 - Think about all the presents you purchased last year for everyone. Can you remember everything you bought?
3 - Can you remember what presents YOU were given last year?
4 - Ask your family, friends, children what THEY got for Christmas last year. Do they remember?

My point is this. We spend SO MUCH money on a holiday which is greater than presents. What does it mean to you that the Christ child was born on Christmas Day? What does his birth and his life mean to you? Are you honoring HIM at Christmas? Or does it seem you're honoring a mall more?

This isn't about guilt - but this is about pausing, and changing our ways. I challenge you to think before you purchase. Do the people in your life really need what you're buying? Will they remember it next year? Is there somewhere else you could use that money?

The ultimate challenge is this - take some of the excess you'd spend this year - on decorations, wrapping, those extra gifts for your kids, expensive treats - and give it to the babies. Write out a check for Children of the Promise for $25, $50, $100, $1,000. Whatever you feel you can give - whatever you can take away from your usual spending and still celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Please do this for Olivenson, Josette, sweet Ashka. Babies who don't have the opportunity to open presents this year. Please give in their memory, so that Children of the Promise can keep doing the amazing work they are doing for the people of Haiti.

I'm not asking you to take away from your celebrating. I'm asking that you give a new meaning to some of the money that you'd usually spend on Christmas. What you give to Children of the Promise will truly help save a life. What an amazing gift.

Checks can be sent here:
Children of the Promise
Po Box 123
Prinsburg MN 56281

For my friends in Canada:
c/o J and M DeJonge
995 Concession 2, R.R.1
Selkirk On. Canada
N0A 1P0.

Please write a special note for the person who opens the envelop. I'll leave that up to your spirit and creativity. Tell them why you are donating.

God doesn't want us to feel guilty for what we have. He rejoices in our happiness. At the same time, He wants us only to take what we need, then give the rest to those who need it more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

THE Christmas Challenge

To all the awesome Christmas sponsors - if you are shipping your presents direct, please let me know when they go out. I'll update this post as the gifts are shipped. Thanks to you ALL for taking care of the babies and getting so much of this shipped out early. Since there's only so much room on the plane each week, getting everything out early will ensure it arrives by Christmas.

The original Christmas challenge will post as soon as all the gifts ship. As we wait for that post, I'd love to hear what you all think the real meaning of Christmas is. Please respond to this post with your answer.

Here are the updates:

SHIPPED! Rivaldo: November 2008, Male - Alyssa T

SHIPPED! Mack: Feb 2008, Male - Courtney P/Erin N

SHIPPED! Odelande: October 2008, Female - Anna P

SHIPPED! Irlene: August 2008, Female - Betsy M

SHIPPED! Joshua: May 2006, Male - Betsy M

SHIPPED! Pierre: December 2007, Male - Carol P

SHIPPED! Nickensly: March 2009, Male - Kris S

SHIPPED! Wadney: December 2008, Male - Amber Teal & Amanda Thalacker

SHIPPED! Jackson: November 2009, Male - Betsy M

SHIPPED!Mickenson: August 2007, Male - Meghan Forney & Joelle Evenson

SHIPPED! Jerry: July 2009, Male - Kris S

SHIPPED! Frandley: April 2009, Male - Allison Quinser & Katlyn Moes

SHIPPED! Wedly: March 2009, Male - Onka

Wednaldy (Eddie): May 2009, Male - Lisa and Cedric

SHIPPED! Wilson: August 2008, Male - Jordan Rodgers

SHIPPED! Magdaline: September 2009, Female - Deb T

SHIPPED! Guerlande: - Erin N

SHIPPED! Anel: July 2008, Male - Kathy O

SHIPPED! Jedson: November 2009, Male - Andrea Cizabar & Becky Grimme

SHIPPED! Ericson: December 2009, Male - Hannah Anna Banana

Lou: Feb 2010, Male - Cedric and Lisa

SHIPPED! Rodney: April 2010, Male - Jaclyn

SHIPPED! Robert: April 2010, Male - Jaclyn

SHIPPED! Davidson: November 2009, Male - Amanda & Liz Kriz

SHIPPED! Dalenka: Feb 2009, Female - Sofia G

SHIPPED! Eventz: Feb 2009, Male - Alyssa T

SHIPPED! Kenlove: October 2009, Male - Henry G

SHIPPED! Natalie: December 2008, Female - Kathy O

SHIPPED! Rosemerlin: June 2009, Female - Kristy M

SHIPPED! Theo: April 2009, Male - Kris S

SHIPPED! Ashka: November 2008 - Erin N

Daniella: May 2010, Female - Rainee

SHIPPED! Chelie: - Hannah Anna Banana

SHIPPED! Sammy: - Melissa C

SHIPPED! Issaha (Isaiah): September 2010, Male - Carol G

SHIPPED! Assmessi: September 2010, Male - Deb T

SHIPPED! Djolande: April 2009, Female - Mandy T

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I need a bigger vehicle

Sundays are starting to be my favorite day. It seems each time I go to church there are bags, and totes, and all sorts of goodies people are donating for the babies. Today was crazy!! I didn't make in the door before getting a tote of clothes. As soon as I walked in the door I was notified that there was a bag of shorts in the office. Then I followed someone to their car to get blankets. The back of my car was half-full, and I still had to make a stop on the way home to pick this up:

Courtney Peterson and the lovely Theta ladies sponsored MANY of the babies for Christmas. When I saw what I needed to pick up, I thought, "I need to buy a bigger car!" What an awesome problem to have!!

The momentum is going strong, and I LOVE IT!! I love going to church and having people load my car. I love getting emails and voice-mails from people asking what the babies need. I love how compassionate and giving people are.

One short trip. One little postcard. Look at what's started!!

Stay tuned folks. The next Christmas challenge is about to post...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sweet Children and Clearance Racks

This past Sunday the kids at our church put their handprints on bags for Children of the Promise. They use these bags to deliver supplies to the hospital when babies are admitted. If you remember my post from when I was in Haiti, the hospital provides only medical care. No food, linens, diapers, bathing. Just medical care. COTP has a nanny at the hospital for 72-hour shifts to care for the babies who are there. As you can imagine, they go thru a lot of these bags!

Here's a picture of my baby, putting her loving touch on one of the bags.

I'm so excited to ship these down. The kids had fun painting them. Even though they don't know where Haiti is, and maybe the don't understand what they'll be used for, having them help is planting the seed for future giving.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It's been beautiful here in WI/MN, so I took a short break at lunch to get outside and enjoy the weather. My break took me to Target, where I was going to purchase Christmas presents for the babies my kids are sponsoring for Christmas. In my quest to find cute outfits for them both, I hit the mother-load of shorts on clearance. Don't tell Jason, but I bought about 35 pair. I've never been so excited to spend money on something that I'll never use in my own home or with my own kids. It's a new purpose.

Speaking of new purpose, I'm amazed as I watch others become passionate about providing for the babies. The postcard is so clear to me. This is such a God thing. One short trip and others have become inspired to give. It's such a joy to sit back and hear all of the excitement as people are purchasing Christmas presents for the babies. You go God - look at what you're doing!!

Thanks to you all who are out shopping for the babies, and those who have given additional items. My prayer is that this continues long past Christmas.

My question of the day - are you coming to Haiti with me next summer? Just askin'.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I'm so excited - the wish list came today!! I was VERY hard to stay focused at work after receiving the list. I'm going to post the entire list, along with the sponsor name. If I've missed anything please email me:

Couple of things to remember:
* I need the items the FIRST week of November to get them shipped in time. If you want to ship the items yourself, feel free. :-) Please write "Christmas Presents" on the outside of the box so Agape Flights knows it needs to arrive before the end of December. Here's the address:
Bud and Jan Bonnema
Agape Flights CAP--11952
100 Airport Ave
Venice, FL 34285

* Due to customs in Haiti, items cannot be wrapped. You are welcome to send sheets of wrapping paper. (tubes will be too hard to send) They will wrap all gifts when they arrive.

* If you're sponsoring multiple kids, please separate the gifts using plastic bags or labeling the items with post-it notes.

* It's HOT down there. If you are buying clothes, please keep it short-sleeves. Long-sleeved items do not get used down there.

* Remember my mantra, just because it's Haiti, just because it's third world, do not mean these kids deserve anything less that what we'd give our own kids.

Email me or post here if you've got questions. And THANK YOU for taking on this huge task of showing the kids a wonderful Christmas celebration!!


p.s. If I've screwed up, please let me know!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christmas List

Rivaldo: November 2008, Male - Alyssa T
-2t clothes
-Size 4 crocs
-Finger Paint
-Out door toys
-Magic board (you draw on it with magnets and can move the bar to erase it)

Mack: Feb 2008, Male - Courtney P
-2t clothes
-size 5-6 crocs
-tonka trucks
-Gear builders

Odelande: October 2008, Female - Anna P
-2t clothes
-size 5-6 crocs
-Dolls and doll accessories
-Pretend kitchen food and accessories
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Irlene: August 2008, Female - Betsy M
-2t clothes
-size 5-6 crocs
-Dolls and doll accessories
-Pretend kitchen food and accessories
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Joshua: May 2006, Male - Betsy M
-3t clothes
-size 6 crocs
-Special needs toys

Pierre: December 2007, Male - Carol P
-3t clothes
-size 6 crocs
-Special needs toys

Nickensly: March 2009, Male - Kris S
-2t clothes (need to button all the way up to fit over his head as he has hydrochepulus)
-size 4 crocs
-Special needs toys

Wadney: December 2008, Male - Amber Teal & Amanda Thalacker
-2t clothes
-Size 4-5 crocs
-Toys or cars you can push (no small parts)
-Finger Paint
-Magnetic toys

Jackson: November 2009, Male - Betsy M
-2t clothes
-Size 5-6 crocs
-Inflatable pool and pool toys
-Plastic dinosaurs

Mickenson: August 2007, Male - Meghan Forney & Joelle Evenson
-2t clothes
-size 5-6 crocs
-Tonka trucks
-Balls and outdoor toys
-Rythm sticks or musical insturments

Jerry: July 2009, Male - Kris S
-18 month clothes
-size 3-4 crocs
-Drums or toys you can bang on
-Inflatable pool and pool toys

Frandley: April 2009, Male - Allison Quinser & Katlyn Moes
-18 month clothes
-size 4-5 crocs
-toys or cars you can push (no small pieces)
-Rhythm sticks or musical insturments
-pretend tools

Wedly: March 2009, Male - Onka
-2t clothes
-size 4-5 crocs
-toys you can stand and push
-Tonka truck

Wednaldy (Eddie): May 2009, Male - Lisa and Cedric
-18 month clothes
-size 4-5 crocs
-Tonka truck

Wilson: August 2008, Male - Jordan Rodgers
-3t clothes
-size 6-7 crocs
-Special needs toys (sensory toys that can help with fine motor movement)
-Large cars or toys to push around

Magdaline: September 2009, Female - Deb T
-12 month clothes
-Size 3-4 crocs
-Dolls and doll accessories
-Clothes for a dress up box
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Guerlande: - Erin N
-12 month clothes
-size 3-4 crocs
-Dolls and doll accessories
-Pretend kitchen food and accessories
-Sorting toys
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Anel: July 2008, Male - Kathy O
-9 to 12 month clothes
-Crib toys
- Rain sticks or other toys that make noise

Jedson: November 2009, Male - Andrea Cizabar & Becky Grimme
-12 month clothes
-Size 2-3 crocs
-Sand box toys
-Playdoh toys

Ericson: December 2009, Male - Hannah Anna Banana
-12 month clothes
-Size 2-3 crocs
-Sand box toys
-Cars you can push (no small pieces)

Lou: Feb 2010, Male - Cedric and Lisa
-9 month clothes
-Size 2-3 crocs
-Rain sticks or other toys that make noise
-Crib toys

Rodney: April 2010, Male - Jaclyn
-6 month clothes
-Crib toys
-Stacking toys
-Rattles/infant toys

Robert: April 2010, Male - Jaclyn
-6 month clothes
-Crib toys
-Stacking toys
-Rattles/infant toys

Davidson: November 2009, Male - Amanda & Liz Kriz
-9 month clothes
-Size 2 crocs
-Toys you can stand and push
-things that make noise when you shake them

Dalenka: Feb 2009, Female - Sofia G
-12 month clothes
-Infant toys
-Rattles/infant toys

Eventz: Feb 2009, Male - Alyssa T
-6 month clothes
-Stacking toys

Kenlove: October 2009, Male - Henry G
-12 month clothes
-Size 3-4 crocs
-Sorting toys
-Sorting toys
-xylaphone, drums, or other toys that make noise

Natalie: December 2008, Female - Kathy O
-12 month clothes
-Size 3-4 crocs
-Sorting toys

Rosemerlin: June 2009, Female - Kristy M
-9 to 12 month clothes
-Rattles/infant toys

Theo: April 2009, Male - Kris S
-18 month clothes (has to button up all the way so that it can fit over his head as he has hydrochepulus)
-Crib toys
-Toys that make noise
-Special needs toys

Ashka: November 2008 - Erin N
- 18 month clothes (wide neck is best)
- Crib toys
- Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Daniella: May 2010, Female - Rainee
-3 month clothing
-Play Mat
-Infant toys/rattles
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Chelie: - Hannah Anna Banana
-3 month clothing
-Play Mat
-Infant toys/rattles
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Sammy: - Melissa C
-Play Mat
-Infant toys/rattles

Issaha (Isaiah): September 2010, Male - Carol G
-12 month clothes
-Size 4-5 crocks
-Drums or things you can hit
-Stacking toys

Assmessi: September 2010, Male - Deb T
-0-3 month clothing
-Play Mat
-infant toys/rattles
-Crib toys

Djolande: April 2009, Female - Mandy T
-12 month clothes
-Size 4-5 crocks
-Dolls and Doll accessories
-Elastics and fine toothed combs for her hair

Nanny Christmas list (65 employees)

-Tooth Brushes/Tooth paste/Dental Floss
-Bar of soap
-Wash Clothes
-Fine toothed combs
-reusable grocery bags

Friday, October 1, 2010

In Memory of Josette

Here comes the Christmas challenge. Well, this is the FIRST part of the Christmas challenge. Consider this your PRE-Christmas challenge!! We are taking all of the babies for Christmas. Oh how I wish that meant they would be here for Christmas. Since that's not possible, let's bring Christmas to THEM!!

Here's your pre-Christmas challenge: adopt one of the COTP kids for Christmas. Buy them presents, fill a stocking, make their Christmas the best they've ever had.

I'll have a detailed wish-list posted next week. For now, you can go to the COTP website and pick which child you're like to adopt. I'll reserve their wishes just for you!! Email me at: with the name.

Here's a BONUS challenge - include a pack of diapers (WalMart generics are cheap and great) along with a can of formula. Fill a stocking, fill their bellies...and then they'll fill a diaper! I think it's a win-win-win idea.

My Christmas present to you? I will pay to ship the items - at least for those of you who are local. Items must be received the 1st of November for immediate shipment. If you're out-of-state I'll get you the shipping information to Florida.

I'm asking you all to please do this in the memory of my sweet little Josette. I would give anything to have her home for Christmas. One day we'll meet again. For now, let's make the rest of the kids have a very merry Christmas.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
Mother Teresa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grief at a distance

Hey blog friends. It's been a long time. I want you to know that I'm going to keep this blog active. There will be an update, notes, random thoughts, about once a week from me.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know the grief I'm dealing with right now, from so far away. It doesn't seem right at this point to blog the details though, and I'm not ready to talk about it in person. After I got the news, I'll admit that my first reaction was, "What do I do now?? We submitted an adoption application!" That is the truth, from a grieving mother. It took 24-hours, a shooting star, and a long conversation with Jason to realize that no matter who it is, if we get the chance to adopt, we'll bring any little girl home.

It's such a hard thing to process. My heart is truly broken, but my faith is not. Jason asked me, "Do you think this is the ultimate test - to see if we really want to adopt?" While I don't think God would take her just to test us, it certainly is a test. But we're committed. If we get approved, this blog will serve as an outlet for our journey.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Being home has been difficult for me. I saw the need firsthand, and just want to go back to snuggle with the kids. I've found a great way to deal with my need to care for the kids while being so far away. Shopping! Whenever I'm out I'm picking up diapers, formula, surprises for the staff, and I'm hitting up garage sales every weekend to find nice clothing for the babies. (Seriously - why pay retail when babies never wear out their clothing up here??)

Many of you have been asking what you can do. Well, the sky is really the limit. Here are some projects that people are taking on, along with additional ideas.
* My sister Kris is sewing PJs for all the babies. Since they hand-wash the clothes, they don't last as long. If you sew, you can join her on this project!

* My mom has made a commitment to make sure they always have enough receiving blankets. They go through MANY of them when the babies are in the hospital. They need these along with regular blankets for the babies to lay on.

* COTP is working on a solar energy project. The complete project will cost $35,000 and will save so much throughout the years in diesel costs (for the generator). Consider sponsoring a panel for $1,000. Donald Trump, if you're still reading my blog, just pay for the whole project!

* Formula is a big expense for them. Consider sending a monthly shipment.

* Become a garage sale nut like me!! The current need is boy's size 6-12 mos. Grab some cash and a cup of coffee and hit the sales on Saturday morning. Remember, it's HOT there! Think summer clothes.

* Be the Snack Attack Sponsor. Send down shipments of toddler snacks.

* Got access to medical supplies? It's all needed!

Just think baby and whatever you come up with is most likely a need down there. Feel free to send me an email and let me know about your idea, or ask questions.

I'm going to post an 'event' before Christmas that you won't want to miss out on. Make sure you keep checking back. It's going to be BIG.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Follow-up Notes

Hey blog friends. After three days of serious rage, I'm finally on the mend. Note to ANYONE who travels abroad, listen to your doc and take the meds while you're there if you start to feel sick. Being stubborn about pills did me no favors. What I had was something a little cipro could cure. Note for next year's trip.

* * * * * *

My first night home was very restless. I wanted my kids next to me all night. Picture the bed - Sofia, me, Henry, Jason. And of course Squeaks had to be in the mix. It was a very full bed!! I fell asleep quickly, back in the security and comfort of my home with my family all around. I remember waking up at one point, very disoriented. The next morning Jason asked me if I remembered talking about Josette. It took a second, then hit me like I ton of bricks. I remembered. I woke up and saw her laying there. As clear as day I could see Josette's sweet little body laying next to me on the bed. I remember trying to reach for her. I remember realizing that she wasn't there. And when I remembered, I cried.

It's happen the other nights as well, but I don't remember it. Last night I asked Jason if there was a baby laying between us. The night before I woke up and had no idea where I was. It's part fatigue, but it's also that I left part of my heart back in Haiti.

Jason and I have been talking, and believe it or not we're starting the adoption process. From what I understand you can't pick a child. Meaning, I can't pick Josette as the one we want to bring home. COTP will match us with someone. We do get to request a few different kids. Can I just write Josette in each of the lines? Young and female - that's the biggest request when it comes to adoption. People want to adopt healthy baby girls. I don't want to adopt Josette because she's little. I don't want to adopt Josette because she's female. I want to adopt Josette...because she's Josette.

Our heart is in this. We - I - have to let go and trust once again. If she's meant to be with us, she'll be with us.

* * * * * *

Someone told me that when I came back I'd have trouble relating to people. Trouble trying to share my experience with others. I understand that now. How do I respond to the question, "How was your trip?" Let's see, it was exhausting, heart-wrenching, joyful, sad, eye-opening, HOT and filled with hugs and sweat and pee and poopy diapers. I can't explain Haiti. I can't explain how I'm feeling now. And I'm having a hard time adjusting back to the hustle and bustle of life back here.

It started as I was going thru security in Miami. A woman was staring at me. Up and down, over and over. Here she was - all dolled up, dress in the latest fashion, carrying an expensive bag. And here I was - wearing my comfortable cotton outfit that had been hand washed and dried in the sun, covered in spots, bright green $10 backpack, holding back tears. I was soooo not Miami material. (I'm still not Miami material)

I can tell you this: salon hair coloring, pedicures, the latest fashion, fancy cars, big houses, and tons of toys for my kids is something I will NOT be spending my money on going forward. If you don't like my small house, my 100,000 mile Saturn Vue or my ugly toes, you'll need to find someone else to hang out with. Every chance I get I will be buying formula, diapers, receiving blankets and anything else I can afford that COTP needs. I've been there. I've seen it. And it's forever changed me.

I'm not going to kid you. I still feel the 'keeping up with the Johnson's' pressure back here. Little Miss Miami brought that flooding back. It's something I will constantly keep in check. But after spending time with babies who didn't have their mothers with them, didn't have their own bedroom, didn't have arms to pick them up when they cried, didn't always have toys to play with - I've got a different perspective on life now. I think I'm changed for the better.

* * * * * *

Many of you have been asking about what they need at COTP. I've got a direct line down there and have been getting requests since I've gotten back. Here's the start of the list:
* receiving blankets
* blankets for the kids to nap on
* formula - any brand, any type
* diapers - mostly newborn, 1, 2 - though I'm on a mission to get all the toddlers in disposable diapers
* toys for the baby house. Email me if you want the link to a specific request.
* light weight PJ
* large canvas bags

You can mail items to the Florida address on their website, or give it to me and I'll mail it for you.

These kids didn't chose to be born in Haiti. They didn't choose to be born into poverty. Just like you didn't choose to be born where you are and with the comforts that you have. I don't want to talk politics and I don't want to talk corruption. Those are things far beyond my control. All I know is that there are very deserving babies at COTP who need our help. They deserve a chance. And they deserve the best.

* * * * * *

So, have any of you considered joining me next year? Maybe my blog hasn't done a good job of selling the trip to you. :-) Think about it. You'll have a built-in tour guide. Been there - done that. I can even navigate Port-au-Prince now. All you need is time, patience, and a big heart. I promise - it's worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How could I forget this picture?

Josette pretty much sealed the deal with this.

A few pictures

I can't post pictures of the kids anywhere on the web. If you want to see them, you can go to If you want to see my pictures, shoot me an email:

Here are some that I CAN share.

Holding Guerlin's hand.

Handbags for Hope

Josette's sweet little foot

The pavilion that you all helped get a new roof on!!

Roxy, one of the guard dogs

Notes from a flight

I'm sitting on the plane to PAP, feeling the first cool air I've felt since the 16th. The sun is shining on my face, and it feels wonderful.

I cried at the Minneapolis airport as I was leaving my children. Now I am crying because I'm leaving the children of Haiti.

Last night was restless for me. I'd bet I slept all of an hour. At first it was because of the massive spider Mindy felt the need to point out of me (love you Mindy!). I checked my mosquito netting over and over again. But after I settled in I reflected on my time at COTP. It was the single most challenging experience of my lifetime. Take all the AIDS Rides, MS Walks and the birth of both my children - stretch them out end-to-end - and they are a walk in the park compared to my time in Haiti.

I think mostly it's because I didn't know what to expect when I got there. My flight into PAP, being the only white person waiting at the airport in CAP (Nick was late) and seeing poverty unlike anything I could ever have imagined.

This trip was really an experience in trust. God put this crazy idea on my heart - to help the children of Haiti - and I trusted that everything was going to be OK. A 41 year old mother of two from Wisconsin, traveling alone to a third world country. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? And yet as the phrase goes, with God all things are possible.

My purpose - the postcard - is very clear to me now. This was not a one-time event. I'm in this for the long haul now. And I'm bringing all of you with me. God doesn't want us to feel guilty for what we have. He wants us to be thankful for it, take only what we need, and give the rest to others. People - you aren't taking your toys with you when you die. Do they really matter now?

Jason sent me many text messages, but one brought me to tears. He said he knew what we were going to get our kids for Christmas. I thought he had some new, fun idea. When I texted back to ask what he was thinking, he said we would be sending toys for the kids of COTP. He wasn't there with me, yet he gets it.

How about you? After all of my ramblings, do you get it too? I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karen's home!

Karen landed safely this evening and after a tearful reunion she is headed home to sleep in a big soft bed for 12 hours straight! I am so grateful to have her back home. I can't wait to hear the stories and see the pictures. Karen, you made a huge difference to the babies, staff, and to your friends and family. I'm proud of you! XOXO

Where in the world is Karen update!

Karen is in MIAMI!!! She will have a few hours to wait before her flight to Minneapolis, but just one more flight and she will be home. Thanks for all your prayers and finger crossing!

Where in the world is Karen?

Just got a text and call from Karen. She is in Port au Prince hoping to board her flight to Miami. Will let you know if she gets on the plane (around 10:30 this morning). From Miami she would head straight home, so fingers crossed and prayers being said!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And then, God sends joy

I was busy making dinner for the crew tonight when Carla, a long-term volunteer asked if I was going to go over to the baby house and say good-bye. Those of you who know me know that I'd rather just leave then have to deal with the good-bye. I used the excuse that I was cooking, and I'd go over if I had a break.

Well, that break presented itself. I finished up the meal and made it over just as the toddlers were watching their nightly video. When I sat down, Odelande immediately sat in my lap, followed by Rivaldo, then Mac. I sang all of the songs (it was in English) and little Wedley kept turning around to laugh at me. I could feel the sweat pouring down my back. I could feel the mosquitos eating me up. I even felt something fly into my ear (eeew). But I didn't care. This was my time of joy with the kids.

When I got back to the volunteer house most everyone was ready for dinner. I must admit, it turned out pretty good. :-) First things first, I asked them what they need, then what they want. If they had unlimited money, what's on their wishlist. Jamie answered first. They need a new roof for the pavillion that the kids play under. $1,000. Those of you who donated money and got me nearly to that goal just paid for a new roof. I sent the email immediately, got the money allocated, and the ball is now rolling.

After a great meal, I heard little Magdaline crying. I've been trying to get her to eat all day. She sat in my arms and polished of SEVEN OUNCES of formula!! God is good.

I'm about to head off for my last funky smelling shower before I leave here. And I leave with peace in my heart. Thank you God.


Last Post

Well kids and campers, unless I have insomnia tonight, this will be my last post. You know how you plan something for months and it takes forever to get there, only once you're on that journey it flashes by in the blink of an eye? I cannot believe that tomorrow I go home. Hopefully.

My name is on the list to fly out tomorrow morning. However, having my name on a list does not guarantee I'll get out. In addition, if I make the flight to PAP, that doesn't guarantee a seat to Miami. Please do not ever complain about flights in the US. Ever.

Josette moved into her new room first thing this morning because she's doing so well. It's a good thing, yet I had to hold back some serious tears. I wonder how much I'll cry when I get home - since I've been holding back so much for so long.

This afternoon she was outside with the nannies and I went over to touch her. She was sound asleep and simply beautiful. Can't type anymore or the tears will flow.

Mindy, the super amazing 22 year old nurse who is wise beyond her years, continued to deal with all sorts of bodily fluids today. It was so much that I had to laugh at times. Seriously, she's been puked on more in the few days she's been here than I think anyone ever has. God sent her here just in time.

A new baby was admitted this afternoon. From what I hear she's 12 months old. Magdalyn. I'm not sure how to spell that. She's very malnourished. Since my room was baby-free she moved in with me for the day. We've got so many sick babies in the volunteer house that she, like Josette, could not come out of my room. I've spent the day trying to coax her to eat. As of this post she's had 7 ounces. Have you ever seen a malnourished child in person? It makes me feel guilty for all of the over-indulging I've done in my lifetime. We have excess in the US.

I'm certain I'll sleep like a rock tonight, since I'll be baby free. The alarm will be set for 5:15. Just enough time to get dressed, brush my teeth, and make sure everything is packed. I will miss it here. And I will miss the kids. But I have to say, I will not miss this intense heat or the evil mosquitos they have down here. Oooh - or the black and white spiders that have lobster claws.

My sister Beck will update the blog as I make my way back so you can play a little "Where in the world is Karen?" tomorrow. Pray that I make it back and get to snuggle my family tomorrow night. Sofia, remember what I said?

It's currently thundering and lightening out. I wonder if it will rain.


p.s. Linda Emmons - I can see you here. Please consider coming next year. I've felt safe 100% of the time. Even when we ventured outside the gate for walks with the kids. Just make sure you book a flight into CAP. Then there will be nothing at all to worry about. Except those evil mosquitos...

She just smiled

Last night was the first night I was so very homesick. I was up much of the night missing Henry and Sofia, just wishing I could hold them. Fingers crossed that my flight leaves tomorrow morning. I don't know what Plan B would be.

Josette started smiling this morning. It's the sweetest little face. I tried to get a picture, but pictures just don't show how beautiful she is.

She's advanced to 4 oz per feeding and is pooping regularly. :-) And right now she's crying because she wants to be held. There's so much work to be done here that a crying baby cannot always be held. While I've gotten used to the crying, I still have a hard time with not picking them all up.

A new nurse has been here for a few days - Mindy - she's an adorably, spirited 22. She's was thrown up on from the moment she arrived. She's got Erickson, the only baby who is sick at this point. He's got it coming out of everywhere. The other day she must have changed 4 times. I feel for her, but she said she's used to it because she's a nurse. God bless all nurses.

It's the final day today. My camera will be in my pocket the whole day so I can try and capture what it's like here to share with you. There's so much of a story here. So much that needs to be shared. And so many things they need.

Well, I'd better get out there and start pulling my weight. It's going to be another crazy day today. As you sit in your AC today, picture me being puked on a few times. It's ok - you can giggle.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh my

What a day today. I'm sitting here, watching a beautiful sunset, being used to wearing clothes that are never dry do to sweat. I'm covered in the usual stuff, and then some, and I don't care. It's just the way it is here.

The rage is just a way of life. Everyone gets it at some point. Doesn't matter how many drugs or mosquito netting or deet - you're going to feel the rage at some point. It's come and gone all day for me.

There are many sick babies. It's like daycare or schools. One gets sick, then they all do. Hopefully it passes soon.

At lunch I went over to feed the toddlers. It was going so well. Wedley was in his seat, Jackson was on my lap, Odelande was between my legs. (I was sitting on the floor) Wedley's a chunk. Look him up on the website. He ate his entire bowl. You should see how big the bowls of food are. Jackson did so-so, then got up and left. Odelande starting eating like she'd never eating before. And I just kept shoving it in. Yah, then it happened. That sound that all mothers know. The one that makes you want to clear the area. I saw all of her lunch come back up and most of her breakfast. It was all over the floor, and all over my legs and feet. Oh my.

Needless to say, that kind of lunch doesn't do good things to the rage. I had to go back to the volunteer house to wash off, then get some water.

Josette seems to still be doing really well. I don't know how I'm going to leave her. She's started to hold my finger when I feed her. I love her smell. I know her sounds - I'm hungry vs. I'm pissed vs. I'm tangled in my mosquito netting vs. I see you and just want attention. Gotta let go and trust.

So much more to type but she's crying. Not sure I'll get back here later.


You must be praying

You must be praying, because my stomach is better. Call me stubborn or stupid, but I haven't taken any drugs for it yet. I did the BRAT diet all day yesterday and that helped, though after a banana last night I thought it was coming back.

Josette is in my lap right now. She's gassy and it's making me giggle. Who knew a tiny baby could make so much noise?? They weighed her last night. She was 4 lbs when admitted in early August. Drum roll please....she's up to 6 lbs 2 oz!! It's nice to know that I had a week to contribute to that. Man I'm going to miss her. She's got the softest curly hair. It's a bit of a mowhawk right now because she had an IV in her head before. But it's super cute.

Just two full days left before I leave. It's hard to believe. I'm still praying my flight actually makes it out. There's no customer service line to call in Haiti. You get what you get here.

I'm going to miss these kids. Walking into the baby house reminds me of when I get home from work most days and Henry greets me at the door. Except multiply that by about 10. They all say YAY then run over and wrap their arms around my legs. Makes ya not mind being covered in doo by 8am.

I figured out the funk. It's the water here. I smelled the clothes yesterday when they came back from being washed. Funk-o-rama. We're very fortunate here that there are laundry ladies who wash our clothes, etc every day. They wash it by hand then let it dry in the sun. That's a lot of work. I won't complain about the funk anymore.

As many of you head out for work today, please be thankful for what you have. A house, breakfast, a car, a job, medical benefits, clothing. That isn't the case in many places outside of the US.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rage 3.0

I'm sick. Rage 3.0. Beck - the cirpo doesn't touch this one. It's interesting, this rage in my gut. It's like being stabbed, though I've never been stabbed before. It comes on fast and doubles me over. I should take my temp.

It's sweeping thru the baby house as well. The babies are kept away from the toddlers. One baby is sick, it seems ALL toddlers are sick. We're going thru serum like mad trying to keep them hydrated.

Thankfully my mom is in Ireland and doesn't have access to the Internet. I'm pretty sure she'd have words with me. If I need you Beck, you'll have to call Matt and take a helicopter out here and get me. :-)

There is no time to be sick in Haiti.

Haitian Church

This morning after breakfast, they gussied up a couple of the kids and we took them next door to attend a church service. Wow. It's the same format, for the most part, but the passion is amazing. There were maybe 30 people there. When it came time to sing they sang with such force. There was no music, no piano, no organ. Just the Haitian people singing and praising. Very powerful stuff. (of course you know what I had to hold back...)

The children that we brought sat so still. I was holding little Rivaldo and he sat calmly in my lap the entire time. We were so hot and sweating like mad, but no one cared. That's a way of life here. He fell asleep on my chest at one point, which was so sweet. Love that little boy.

I wish I could have recorded the service so you could see the power and spirit in the room. When it came time for offering they gave all the children a coin to put in the basket. Reminds me of the widow's mite. They don't have, and yet they give.

* * * * * * * * *

I'd like to put a bug in the ear of anyone considering sending items here. Just because it's Haiti, just because it's third world, just because these kids are here...doesn't mean they don't deserve the best. I'm a big garage saler and will be looking for gently used clothes and shoes from now on, but there's a new standard I've set on what I'll send down here. The Haitian people are very proud. They dress up when in public, and truly wear their Sunday best to church. They deserve the best from us. Not torn or worn or used up.

As you're putting something in a box down here, ask yourself if it's something you'd give to a close friend. Remember they have to pay shipping from FL to CAP, and then pay customs once it gets here.

* * * * * * * * *

I miss my family today and I wonder what Henry's reaction is going to be like when he sees me. Hopefully it's not like when I left - he refused to hug me. When I get home I want to snuggle with my entire family in bed all night long. I don't think I can get close enough to them. Even the cats. :-) Sofia - tell Daddy that we're breaking all the rules and that everyone is sleeping together on Wednesday night. I don't care if I don't sleep a wink!

Please say a prayer for my flights home. (and please don't ever complain about flights in the US!!) Just because I purchased a ticket does not mean I have a seat on the plane. I'm taking the crap-shoot with the option of purchasing another flight if needed. Hoping and praying my original flights work out. It would be hard to delay my homecoming.

* * * * * * * * *

While I have a special bond with Josette, I love all of these kids and could bring any one of them home. I wish you could meet them all. My day starts with screaming kids clinging to my legs. There's always someone who needs holding and cuddling. And there's always a head to kiss.

* * * * * * * * *

Say some extra prayers for health today. We've got lots of throwing up and diarrhea (how do you spell that??). It could be challenging. And please send up some extra prayers for the kids at the hospital in Milot.

* * * * * * * * *

That's it for now my friends. Another hot, sticky day in Haiti. I really hope you can keep an attitude of gratitude long after I write these posts. We have so much. Keep saying that to yourself. Even though you may not understand it, because you haven't been here, let me be your eyes and trust me when I tell you there's so much to be thankful for.

What I love

Good early morning greetings again. Josette was up 3 times last night, and I'm officially tired. Someone offered to take her last night and I didn't want to give her up, but I think I'll take the sleep tonight. It was really hard getting up. She just ate, and I'm wide away for the day. Needing that cup of coffee now.

As I was dozing off last night I was thinking about all the things I love about Children of the Promise. Amongst the chaos, sickness, and poverty, this place is love and peace and hope. They take in sick babies, special needs babies, and those without parents. They aren't an orphanage - they are an infant care center. I've finally learned to say that. Some of the kids will just stay a couple of months while the parents get settled, or the child gets healthy, and they will go back home. Some of them are indeed given up for adoption because a parent has passed away, or left, or they simply cannot provide for the child.

It's beautiful here. The kids are fed, and bathed, and loved. They have swingsets, a few toys, and even movies in English at night. Last night it was Kid's Favorite Songs from Sesame Street. They kept looking at me as I sang all the words. It was pretty cute.

The accommodations for staff and volunteers are nicer than I expected. We have showers, flushing toilets, a kitchen, and 2 meals a day with the exception of Sunday. Today we're on our own.

Some asked about cribs - they each have their own crib to sleep in. There are clothes here, but they need more. Any child that leaves the gate must be dressed and have shoes or socks on. They are always dressed up when a parent comes to visit. That's the Haitian way.

Everything is used here. Everything. Unless it's puked or spit up, a drop of formula is not wasted. They reuse plastic containters, bags, cardboard. Talk about the ultimate recyclers.

We are not black and white. We're actually brown and tan. Or in my case, brown and pasty white with red spots. All children - regardless of race or location - have the same needs. They want to be cuddled when they hurt, fed when they are hungry bathed when they are dirty, played with, sang to, kissed and snuggled.

* * * * * * *

Today I might get to attend church. I didn't pack a skirt, so it's up in the air a bit if I'll be able to. They dress nicer here than you'd ever imagine. I don't want to offend them, and at the same time I want to experience it. I'm sure it will be hot and loud and full of spirit.

My stomach was better yesterday. It was toast, applesauce and Sprite for me all day. Hopefully when I attempt to put real food in there isn't another revolt. I guess it's just what happens down here.

I feel lighter today. You could probably tell by my last post that my emotions were changing a bit. Things are still heavy here. I still cry. But I'm starting to see more joy and happiness. I guess I've settled into the routine that is Children of the Promise.

I will look at what I have so much differently now. This is something that everyone should experience. We are so excessive in the US. Have to have the biggest, best, most expensive. That makes me sick now. I have a house, 2 cars, a job, food on the table, and a medical system that I will not complain about. I wish people in the US could see that. I saw an article on Yahoo titled "How to complain to get what you want". It reminds me of the Splenda guy at Starbucks. Just appreciate what you have.

I will not complain about my job, or my car with 97,000 miles on it, or my house, or our medical system, the clothes I have, the food I eat, or what toys I don't have. I am coming back with such an appreciation for what I DO have.

I am not broken. But I am forever changed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What a joyful day today!

I don't have my time to write, but have to tell you that amongst the sickness (pray for Guerlin and Guerlande please) today was really fun!!

Have you ever seen a premie sneeze?? She winds up, then lets it all out. I makes me laugh! This morning I was going to ask you to pray for poop, but she did it! Biggest, badest, most beautiful poo ever.

Nurse Amy is on the way to the hospital right now. I was going to tell you how amazing she is. I've never met anyone with more energy and love than her. She has this way of saying "none of your business" in the most pleasant kinda way. (I ask too many questions - it's the therapist in me) She is up late with the kids, has random stuff that comes up all the time, and she is the med lady. She does it all with this wonderful smile. I asked her where she gets the energy and she said, "God gives me what I need." Love her!!

I'm currently covered in pee. Went over to play in the baby room and it was just before bath time. They were pretty darn wet. I no longer mind being covered in pee. We had fun singing and exploring. These children are truly precious.

OK - enough typing time. More tomorrow.


A busy Saturday

What a busy day today. Can't believe it's nearly 2:00 and this is my first post!

Last night was dreadful. Sweet little Josette was a dream. The rage, however, was not. I can laugh now and how I call it The Rage, because I'm feeling a little better. It sounds like an MMA fighter. "In this corner, we have one ton The Rage. In the other corner...Karen's gut." Ding Ding Ding

The rage won last night. I was seriously concerned about my health. This morning it's nothing but bland food and Sprite, and even that is tough.

Guerlin is sick. He was throwing up last night and still is today. He's so weak, it's hard to see. Guerland, a little girl, is also very sick. She's getting dehydrated and doesn't want to eat or drink. It's very hard to see. I was cuddling with Josette in my room and heard screaming. I realized it was the nurses (we have another one now) trying to put an IV in. :-(

Thank you again to Mary for the beans. Even though my stomach is battling me, I still drank my cup of coffee this morning. Might as well take care of the head while the gut rages on.

For lunch today it's a Haitian meal - beans and rice, some deep fried something with meat, and goat. I'll take applesauce.

That's all you get for now folks. Josette is awake. :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The joy, and the sorrow

The excitment for today is that the UN was here. Official truck and everything. I have no idea why they were here, and us short-term volunteers don't always hear the stories. But it made for an interesting bit of time.

An SUV arrived with 2 families including 2 babies and 3 boys I'd say ages 10-12. They were so sweet, waiting at a distance and waving. I asked if I could give them a snack - from my personal stash - and was given the OK. We can't always give out things as it will draw locals in. The food here is for the babies. At any rate, I grabbed 3 packs of granola bars from my backpack, filled up 3 glasses of water and headed out to the boys.

I called one of them over and asked him if he would like it. He smiled and said, "Bless you". The other two followed suit. I heard so many thank-you's and God bless you's - of course it made me cry. I learned how to ask if they wanted more, then proceeded to refill their glasses and give some to the minister who brought them and the 3 parents who were meeting with the RN here.

I found out they had driven about 35 miles to get here. 35 miles in Haiti can be hours of driving. There's no real road system here. A road might see 5 cars in a day, so it's not worth the expense to upkeep even the dirt roads. (paved roads are rare)

A bit later the boys were given a ball and they began playing soccor with the pastor and Nick and Nikki - the long-term couple that works here. I sat under the mango tree with Guerlin, watching them play. The boys ended up playing by themselves, having such a grand time.

At the end of a very long day for them, both babies were admitted here. I didn't hear the entire story, but one of them had lost his mother. The father was weeping as he left him here. The boy is 17 months old. Just imagine how frightened he is right now. My heart breaks for him and his father. I imagine what it would be like to have to leave Henry.

* * * * * * * * *

I am but a servant. My body is weary.
I am but a servant. My emotions are raw.
I am but a servant. I'm so very hot.
I am but a servant. I'm in love with a little girl that I have to leave here.
I am but a servant. I am so tired.
I am but a servant. My needs don't come second, or third, or fourth...
I am but a servant. I miss my children. My beautiful, healthy children.
I am but a servant. God give me strength.

Today is by far the hottest since I've been here. For those of you 'back home' in MN/WI, take the days they had the heat advisories, add 10 degrees, then go sit outside all day. Then laugh at the meteorologist at the lame heat advisory. I now understand - we do not know true heat back home.

The UN is here right now. No clue what's going on, but I want to go take a picture of the truck. I don't think that would be a good idea for some reason. :-) There's never a dull moment here at COTP.

My bum hurts. One other thing to expect if you come here is that Irlene will bite your rear. My first day here I was helping brush teeth in the evening. All of a sudden my ass was on fire. (sorry - that's the only way to put it) I looked down and these beautiful little eyes were looking up at me, waiting for a reaction. In my pain I had to laugh. It was her little initiation. A bruising, painful initiation.

Sweet little Josette is not allowed out of my room now. I've had her in the common area and would rock her outside under the mango tree. But now, due to being frail and ill, she can't leave the room. Makes it super challenging when I have chores to do, other kids to play with, and her to tend to. I could totally do twins now. Piece of cake. Ooh...chocolate cake. That sounds really good right now. Can you tell it's just about lunch time?

The stomach rage has calmed itself - thankfully. I'm sure it was the meat. I'll do my best to avoid it. Today it's burritos. Homemade tortillas and everything. The cook, Maude, is amazing. I want to hug her every time I see her.

For those of you wondering about Guerlin, Heather's comment to the post was right on. That's exactly what he's got. And Heather - I never knew that about you! You are Guerlin are kindred spirits. :-)

Hopefully I can get back on here tonight. My phone is working like a charm, which means Internet is a challenge. Just know that I'm doing well. Hot, teary, in love, hungry, headache gone, loving the kids - well.


Early morning greetings

It was a restless night last night. Josette was up a midnight, 3:00 and 5:30. While I'm exhausted, I cannot complain. Her being awake means eating and pooping. Both great things for a premie.

With lack of resources comes competence. Josette would be in a NICU back home probably with all sorts of tubes and nurses and doctors. Here in Haiti - she's got me. Just a mom.

Last night I took a much needed shower. As I was turning the water on I could hear her crying. It was a hard shower to take, but the funk must come off. I'll admit - I didn't speed up the shower to get out to her. Oh the guilt. But the water felt so good as it washed away 24-hours worth of sweat.

When I got dressed and walked into the common area, she was gone. I was looking around when Nicki said, "I've got your baby." My baby.

While I am tired each time she cries, I joyfully wake up to feed her. At the 3:00 feeding I was zoning out a bit. When I looked back down at her, she was looking right into my eyes. I find it amazing. Here's a baby with a head just bigger than the size of my fist, and she's looking right at me. It was at that moment that I realized...she's the one.

I didn't think it would happen, but it did. It's her beautiful eyes. The way she grunts while falling asleep. What she feels like as she's resting her tiny head on my chest - after letting out the loudest burp. In my head I call her Josie. Josie Marie.

I'm in love. Completely, totally, 100% in love. She is the one I will think about all day and night when I'm back home. She is the one who will keep me wondering. She is the one that makes me wish I was the one at home full-time. I'll clean up after her, wake up with her and go to all of her appointments and I promise to never complain.

I wish you could hear her right now. I'm in a different room but can hear her grunting. Grunting = poop. That makes me stop crying - and start smiling.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a much lighter note...I shaved off all my mosquito bites last night. It wasn't on purpose, of course. I thought it would be nice to shave. When I got out of the shower my legs were bleeding. TMI but you're on this journey with me, remember? I am so attractive right now I can't even tell you. My pasty white legs are filled with red dots. I tried so hard last night to not scratch but couldn't stop. Which only added to the attractiveness.

You ever put bug spray on shaved off mosquito bites? Kinda stings a bit. I've got it all over my body, yet they keep biting. These are super-strength mosquitos down here. Anti-Malaria tablet, do your trick.

I was cold last night. Actually pulled a sheet over my legs. I think that means I'm getting used to the heat. I had two fans on me last night. My battery operated dream - which is still running strong - and an electric one which was at my feet. I found out that the generator was upgraded and we can use fans all night. One extra fan and I got cold. That makes me giggle. (I'm certainly not cold now!)

I can't forget to tell you what to expect if you come down here! Here goes:
* You can expect to be overwhelmed and feel helpless.
* You will be hotter than you ever imagined you could handle.
* Most likely, your stomach would get the rage. It happens to most.
* Expect to cry when you see the poverty. It's worse than you expect.
* Know that you're going to be eaten up by mosquitos - and pray that your meds work.
* You will be covered with snot, pee, sweat, dirt and funk. And it will all happen before 8am.
* Expect to be frustrated at the amount of crying - knowing there's nothing you can do about it.
* You will be moved to tears at many things - hugs, cuddles, Haitian women singing, little arms reaching up to you wanting to be held.
* You will find a new sense of purpose and all that stuff back home won't matter.
* God will be everywhere you look.
* You will see the most amazing sunrises, and the most beautiful sunsets.
* Expect some interesting food. Who knows, you might actually like goat.
* Cockroaches and geckos will be your friends.
* The strangest things will make you giggle, and if you're like me you'll cry for no reason at all.

I consider this to be the most amazing experience of my life. I promised Jason I wouldn't come home broken. I really don't think I will be - I'm stronger than you'd imagine. I know that I'll come back on a mission - with a long list of items I'm going to ask people to donate, that I'll buy myself, and that I'll find resources for. And after lots of soul-searching and thinking, I just may ask Jason if he'd consider bringing Josette home. My baby.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh my

There's so much to update you on. Where to start?

First, I just read the last post. Holy typos batman! There's no time to proof. Hope you can figure it out.

I ate the deep fried deliciousness at lunch - and paid the price. My stomach - I will not get into the details. It was wonderful. Some kind of root. I was excited to have an all veggie meal. The food isn't that healthy here, but it's oh so good. Rice with this amazing juice and the fried root. I had to walk away from my plate because the revolt happened quickly.

My headache is gone. THANK YOU MARY for the coffee beans!! Guess I need to drink that every morning.

Guerlin - oh sweet Guerlin. He took his big trip into PAP. He's got some big medical name, but what I picked up on is that at the top of the heart blood comes in one side and out the other. There's a hole between that which is causing challenges. In addition, the bottom of the heart filters good blood and bad blood. He's got something going on there too where the blood is mixing. One of you medical people help me out here. What it means is open heart surgery - in the states. This is a huge, long process. Have to get a surgeon and hospital to donate the services and find a family to care for him. I told you before, but this little baby has stolen my heart. He's more beautiful than I could ever describe, and pictures do not justice.

Handbags for Hope. They arrived today!! When I first got here I was thinking, what in the heck did I send those for?! Today, I know why. They lined up all the bags and let the nannies, cooks and laundry ladies choose their own purse and wallet. I was almost in tears. (Go figure) They were so appreciative!

I let Maude choose first. She's the cook. Cheryle - she took your red bag and LOVED it. Emma, your two bags with you name on them went fast. They were thrilled. Next went bags from Dawn, and many from Susan Nichole. There are still a bunch left, and many that have not arrived yet (those with all the goodies). I have seen where these women live. You cannot call them houses. They are so painfully poor. If I could have captured the light in their eyes, it would have lit the world for a year. Truly a beautiful moment. Thanks to you ALL who contributed.

I'm forgetting things. This is frustrating. A day's worth of things to share and my mind is going blank.

The geckos here are so funny. I love watching them crawl around all over the place. The cockroaches are tiny but abundant. They don't scare me but I don't really care for them crawling on me. The mosquitos - oy. Please just say some prayers that I don't get Malaria. I'm completely chewed up. Tarantulas? I most likely will not get to meet one. (sure I just jinxed myself)

Oh - the haircuts! How could I forget? I was asked to cut 10 of the boy's hair. They get cookies as an incentive, but it doesn't work for long. Dawn - thanks for the tip. They told me to put the stuff in AFTER. When I put it in before it was like butter. Most of the boys were fine. The special needs boys - I had to hold back the tears. They were so rigid and crying. I now understand a nurse giving a child a shot. You've gotta do it. But it completely sucks.

I could not get myself to do Theo's hair. I know how painful buzzing is to my nephew Michael, and can only imagine the pain he'll be feeling. Tommorrow it must be done.

I am but a servant here. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - this trip is not about me. His words, my voice. His mission, my hands.

There are three babies out there waiting for me. A premie, one with Downs, and Guelin with the heart condition. When they cry, how in the world do you choose which to pick up? So many babies. Not enough arms.

That's it for tonight my friends. The emotions at the surface - but a truly beautiful day. Time to shower and wash off that funk. Tomorrow I'll share what to expect if you're truly considering coming down here.


p.s. Countryside Vet is donating Frontline for the dogs!! God bless you Lynn. They want the kids to get used to dogs, but won't until they are cleaned up. You have no idea the impact of the donations. THANK YOU!

Bananas, Worship and Haircuts, oh my!

First things first, you have not had a banana until you've had one direct from the tree in Haiti. They are sweet and tart and so much softer. It will take me a long time to eat one back home.

You have not worshipped until you have attending a service with Haitian women. They have beautiful songs, beautiful voices, and a beautiful language. Though I didn't understand a word, it was incredibly moving.

You have not experienced peace until nap time with 35 babies.

And you don't know patience...until you try to update a blog with a premie sleeping in your arms.

I bought a present for Sofia today. Can't say what it is because she's reading the blog. Sorry kiddo - you'll have to wait. The gentleman that works here asked if anyone wanted to purchase it. One of the volunteers said the price was a bit inflated. In a place like this, it seems wrong to barter. I paid equal to three day's wages in Haiti for her present. And I did so gladly. (Can you guess what the wages are? Pretty sure you'd never complain about your next raise again.)

Today is very busy, yet I have a break right now. The babies are napping. When that's done my next chore is haircuts for the boys. I'm so thankful that I do Jason's hair. I hear him in my head saying that if I go too fast it hurts. He's got coarse hair - not quite as thick as the boys down here. But all I think it "Go slow Karen, or you'll hurt them." They get cookies to eat as an incentive to be good. That only goes so far.

So today I'm covered in sweat, the all popular funk, spit up, pee, and now HAIR! Showers are a beautiful thing in the evening.

I attended the worship this morning. They do it every morning after breakfast. When I walked thru the gate into the baby area I started to cry. I'm telling you, the emotions are right there. I'm trying so hard to not let them out. (I'm too tired at night to cry) They were singing the most beautiful song. I grabbed my phone to record it but got back too late. Hopefully they sing it again.

A huge box of the handbags arrived today! Thank you to everyone who donated. I'm not sure when we get to hand them out. I'll try to take pictures, but cameras are not popular here in Haiti. Fingers crossed.

It's lunch time. There's some fried deliciousness out there calling my name. No clue what it is but it doesn't involve any meat. It will do terrible things for my upset tummy, but right now I don't care.

Please - always be thankful for what you have. I want every one of you to come here with me so you truly understand what I mean.


Hot, sticky morning greetings

Internet finally came back up - thankfully.

It was a restless night with Josette. She's so cute that I can't complain about the lack of sleep. This morning all she wants is to be held and rocked. Hard to not cave to her wishes. She's the most beautiful tiny baby.

Guerlin left with the RN Amy early this morning on a flight to PAP to get his ECHO. Is that how you spell it? Don't have time to Google it. Praying they get it figured out and he can get a medical visa to the states so he can get it fixed. The best guess is that he's got a hole in his heart. I wish you could see him. This is the one kid who's completely stolen my heart, for lack of a better phrase. He has a mother here, so most likely he'd have surgery in the states, recover, and come back to her. It's a bittersweet process, but as a mother I cannot imagine giving up my child for something they tell me is 'better'.

Brett, a second year medical student, left this morning as well. We're down to 2 babies in the volunteer house, but today will be challenging with the care for the 50 others in the baby house. I'm going to be busy and sweaty all day long. (sorry -but you've gotta live it with me! :-)

I've finally settled into my routine here and enjoy this so much. Even getting used to all the heat - I don't sweat the second I come out of the shower anymore. Oh, today Jamie brewed me a cup of Starbucks. Ahhhh. I brought the beans down for them, not me, but I have to admit it was a slice of early morning heaven. Hopefully my head will stop throbbing now that my body has something familiar.

We heard this morning that a school collapsed in PAP due to the rain. Many lives were lost. Please pray for the people of PAP. While it's truly challenging here, it seems more so there.

I can't tell you how much your comments mean to me. I read them, cry a bit, and smile a lot. While I can't respond to them all, know that they really keep me going.

Internet and cell is spotty. My cell was down all day yesterday, but is working this morning. Kinda. The text messages are WONDERFUL too! Since it was down yesterday, my phone was buzzing like mad this morning when it started working. Just makes me smile.

This morning, before I start what I expect to be an insanely busy day, I leave you with a quote:

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
~ unknown

A peace that passes all understanding. It is back.