Haiti – Getting There

Four weeks ago tonight, I was mad as a hornet and crying tears of frustration because my husband wasn’t able to come home to tell me goodbye before I left for Haiti due to a very unintelligent human shooting a gun off illegally and threatening the lives of other humans. :angryJo: That’s probably another story for another time, and probably one best told by Kyle, but I promise you its a good one.

The next morning, I flew to Haiti with a team of twelve other people. One of them was my mom, the other my friend Kelsey. The rest were nearly strangers to me. And nine of them were deaf. I got to brush off long since forgotten ASL and learn again how to communicate in sign language! Looking at our week ahead, I had no idea what it held, or how I would react to my first experience in a developing nation. You can hear all about what to expect, how different things will be, cultural nuances, etc., but none of that will prepare you for actually stepping foot into Haiti.

haiti team

As the island of Hispaniola finally came into view in my tiny square of a window, my heart tightened with….excitement? joy? I’m not sure how to describe my feelings as I looked down at the varied topography and saw the city of Port au Prince come into view. I marveled at God’s beauty and majesty as I saw the mountains met by turquoise waters. We landed and I was nervous with anticipation to finally set foot on Haitian land. This country that had been in my heart for five years, but only in pictures and video…I was about to actually see it with my own eyes and touch it with my own hands!

haiti from the air

We went through passport control, and gathered our many suitcases. As we walked out of the airport, the sultry, humid air along with the light scent of diesel/campfire/burning trash enveloped me. I tried to take it all in – sights, sounds, and smells as we made our way to our transportation – the organization’s tap tap.

Our cheerful translator, Emmanuel, and our very capable and happy driver, Brune’, took us to the Healing Haiti guest house, which wasn’t far from the airport – right in the heart of the capitol city of Port au Prince. There we were greeted by the staff, and settled into our rooms for the week. My mom and I shared a room – one of the many things we shared over our time in Haiti.

Our team – most of them still not well known to me yet – prayed together and shared our “word of the day” with each other before we hit the sack, exhausted and travel weary. I went to sleep in a new country, a strange bed, wondering what tomorrow held and how my heart might break when I saw kids the same age as my own children living in the poorest slum of the western hemisphere. I had no idea.

the fosterhood

I don’t know why i feel like blogging when life gets most crazy.

I don’t know why when life is ALREADY crazy, God finds a way to add more to it.

Seriously. why don’t they EVER call with an emergency placement of a kid when my life isn’t stacked, and when my husband isn’t going to the other side of the world for two weeks in less than 48 hours?

Also, foster care placements should come with a couple additional things beyond diapers, wipes and clothing, if it were up to me.

  1. An owners manual to explain what makes them happy, how they like their bottles, when they take them, what they need to get to sleep at night, etc. But since I’m still waiting on one of those for the kids I gave birth to, I will keep dreaming.
  2. A one hour massage for post-placement. or whenever you get around to it.
  3. A full house cleaning. I can’t even explain the level of disaster my house is at this moment.

Yes, those things would be nice, but truly, I’m so glad we can help provide a safe, loving place for a little soul who needs it. No perks needed.

This is National Foster Care Month, did you know that? The need is great. Right now there are kids that need a safe place to land tonight. You don’t have to wait until you have the perfect anything – I promise you that I feel like I am not the perfect anything today, or most days, actually. You just need to have an appropriate place for them to sleep, and a heart that is open. Getting licensed is a process, but it isn’t hard or overly complicated.

All the excuses? All the reasons to not do it? They’ll all be there tomorrow and the next day. Why not now? (Of course there are seasons and “good reasons” not to, but if you don’t have any or your reasons are dumb, then stop it. ;-))

Join me in this crazy place I call the fosterhood. There’s a lot of mess, a lot of crying, a lot of laughter, a lot of tears, a lot of wondering why things are broken and why kids have to suffer for their parent’s poor choices, but its a really, really brutiful (brutal and beautiful) place. I’d love to have your company. I’ll brew more coffee for you in the morning and when evening comes, I’ll pour you a glass of wine too. We can do this broken, loving, hard thing together.

Someone I follow on instagram (She Does Justice) posted this today and its super appropriate at this moment. I need a lot of Jesus and His church to do this. Tonight as I rocked an inconsolable little person and asked friends to pray for calm and sleep to overcome the sad and stress, I was so so grateful to not be in this alone.

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Tonight I’m grateful for Domino’s Pizza, kind and hard-working husbands, friends who know how to work nebulizers, effective and fervent prayers, social workers that miss their kid’s band concerts because they are running other people’s kids around trying to find safe places for them to sleep, and most of all, a God who enables me, selfish, little me, to put aside my comfort and rock a little soul to sleep in the middle of a messy living room. Grace. So much grace.

adoption update 3.0

Or maybe it’s even edition 4.0 – I’ve kind of lost count. SRP_7542

It’s been nearly a year since our epic and incredible adoption fundraiser. Friends and family blew us away with their generosity and kindness.

Since then, we’ve done a lot of paperwork, compiled our dossier (so much work! yay!), had it authenticated and translated (yay!), received approval from USCIS to adopt a child from Haiti (yay!) and….now our progress has come to a screeching halt.

{Boring and detailed info ahead – read only if actually interested, haha}

In December, Haiti changed some procedures and made some new rules for adoption agencies operating in Haiti. these changes are PROBABLY for the better? but its hard to tell until more months have passed and more families have been matched and are going through the system under these changes.

What’s changed:

1. Now adoption agencies cannot have preferred partner creches (orphanages) with whom they work and advise/match families. They have to work with any and all creches throughout the country. This is kind of scary, because until now, good agencies like ours have only worked with ethical, safe, “good” orphanages which have high standards of care. (Not that an orphanage is ever a good option for a child, but you know what I mean.)

Now its possible that we could receive a referral (a match to a child) that would come with a host of major issues – a child who isn’t actually an orphan, abuse from their time in the institution, major attachment issues, etc. So it feels like the risk factor has gone up significantly. Perhaps not, but it feels that way since there is less “control”, so to speak.

Our agency reassured us that they will do their level best to help us if we were to receive a sketchy referral from a terrible creche. It would break our hearts to say no to any child, but we have been thoroughly educated on RAD, FASD, abuse and other trauma issues, and we’ll have to weigh the info we get with what we know in our hearts is wise and right. Not cool or ideal at all, but that’s where we stand.

2. Agencies have been given a limit on how many dossiers they are permitted to submit to IBESR (Haitian social services department) per month. This limit is 1. SO over the course of a year, our agency can only submit twelve family’s dossiers to IBESR.

This is probably an attempt to reduce case loads and ultimately speed things up for waiting families and children, but its a frustrating delay for us, of course. As you can imagine, there were quite a few families ahead of us with finished dossiers awaiting a referral. Our agency let us know that our dossier is in queue and will be submitted between May-July of 2016. That feels like a long time from now!

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All of this means we’re basically in a holding pattern – flying over our dream and not able to land for quite a while. However, while we’re stuck in the “airplane” of waiting, we’re going to seize the day. We’re going to learn Creole, REALLY learn it, in this time. We’re going to Haiti at every opportunity. It’s not expensive to fly there and its not expensive to be there! I’m heading there in June, and hopefully next year we’ll celebrate our tenth anniversary there. The more opportunities we have to learn the culture and love the country, the better! We will be better equipped to be the parents of a Haitian child. Awesome.

We also will keep learning about adoption challenges and joys; we’ll go to conferences and classes and make friends with adoptive families and Haitian- Americans. We’ll update our home study twice, we’ll renew our status with USCIS at least once, and we’ll keep doing foster care as the opportunities come along.

It’s not a setback, it’s a time of preparation. Time is on our side.

We’re also hoping that the wait on this side will result in IBESR becoming quicker and more coordinated on the other end! It would be really great if the time we’re waiting now ends up being the longest we’ll wait. Right now, families are waiting months and years for a referral and then months more after they are matched for the legal proceedings in Haiti to go through. Maybe, just maybe, the wait won’t be so long once we’re matched with our precious child.

And who knows? Perhaps the child that will become a Puelston has yet to be born. It would be just like God to put us in a holding pattern to save our dossier for “such a time”.

So there you have it. Lots of news, but no news. Lots of forward movement, and then a giant waiting room. Lots of grace from a loving God as we walk this winding, long and crazy road of adoption.

overheard

When my kids’ say something sweet or cute, I try to jot it down on my phone instantly. I keep a running note with these little sound bytes and then a few months later, like to record them all here. I’ve got quite the collection now, so it must be time to dump them out and save them. :-)

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Jackson

This morning I thanked Jackson for being so helpful. He looked thoughtful and then said, “Having three children is hard. And we’re going to have FOUR and that will be even harder. I like to help.”

“Can I vacuum for you, Mom?” Um, let me think about it, okay. :-)

Kyle was painting the swingset this summer, and the neighbor girl asked: “Can your dad do that (paint)? Jack said: My dad can do everything! Anything!

Taylor, aka The Princess of Sass

Crunes = prunes.

As she looked at herself in the mirror: “Ta-da!!!”

In the car while driving to the North Shore: “How much longer?” Half an hour. “I don’t yike half an hour!”

“Why does daddy cut his hair?” ‘Cause he likes it short and doesn’t have much hair. BIG SIGH. “I wish him had hair!”

About school: “Can you teach me how to talk words?” (She meant teach me how to read.)

“I need to go vacuum my teeth ‘cause they aren’t so sparkly.”

She overheard me saying that some days it’s just hard to be a mom. “Do you want to be something else today? Like a…grandma? You could be a grandma instead.”

To Jack: “Don’t tell me what to do. Are you the mom??!” (do you think maybe she hears me say that to her and her brother a few times a day, or what?)

She and Jack were arguing about something petty. “Don’t argue with me!”

Newest word added to her vocabulary: “Literally”. What??

Far past her bedtime because she had taken a long nap: “I can’t go to sleep. My eyelids are GLUED open!”

Grant

He just says a few words: mom, da, amen (complete with a sign/clap), and signs more and all done. He has also started giving kisses and high fives, which is pretty darn cute.

Taylor’s Third Birthday

In October, our little princess turned three. She’s been reminding us of this ever since. :-)

It was a wonderful and very fun celebration, complete with the much anticipated Barbie princess cake (which the birthday girl had picked out way back in MARCH), a plethora of princess-y friends and a photo booth to commemorate the day.

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Taylor, your daddy and I pray that you will become a true Daughter of the King of Kings. That you will know your place in His Kingdom and be a shining star in His firmament. May the song in your heart always ring with truth and love, and may your flair for the dramatic bring joy to many. We love you so much, sweet girl.

Happy birthday!

2014 Year in Review

I’ve done this simple little question/answer style year in review post for years now. :-) It’s become a welcome friend at the end of a year, as I look back on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be.

The Year that Was – 2014

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? took a road trip to FL with three small children. Ran a 10K. Homeschooled a kindergartner. Became an aunt!!

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I made goals again, not resolutions and accomplished some! I am very helped by making goals and making them achievable.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? yes! Three of my sisters-in-law. I finally became an auntie to two adorable nieces and one very handsome nephew. :-)

4. Did anyone close to you die? A friend of our family. We miss Paul a lot already.

5. What countries did you visit? 2014 will go down in history as the least traveled year of my adult life. We were a leeeetle busy raising three kids and stuck close to home this past year. But that’s all about to CHANGE in 2015. Big plans!

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? our yet unknown, but very loved already, child home from Haiti. More patience and time (use what I have more wisely).

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  June 21 – Kyle’s first marathon (Grandma’s) and September 13 – my first 10K run in Duluth. It was a fun, beautiful, chilly day and I really enjoyed myself.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? running a 10k. Big, hairy deal because A. I didn’t think I’d like running AT ALL, but I fell in love with certain aspects of it. B. How did I find time to train for that?!

9. What was your biggest failure? self-control (like wasting time on Facebook and eating junk food) and not reading more books!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? much less than last year! (attributing that to the support of Young Living essential oils – woot!) There was the major sleep deprivation factor. :P

11. What was the best thing you bought? hmm. Kyle gave me some awesome Keen boots that I’ve been wanting for three years – he bought them though. It was pretty fun to buy plane tickets to Denver…a little kid-free getaway with some girlfriends in a couple weeks.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? This one goes again to KYLE. He encourages me, plays with and loves our kids, is a kick-butt deputy/sergeant, loves Jesus and His people well, serves others, makes the important things a priority and is just a really awesome guy. I love him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? those who took the lives of innocents.There were so many heartbreaking attacks on innocent people this year. 2014 seemed like a year of tragedy and sorrow the likes of which I’ve not seen in my lifetime. It was a very heavy year for many, many people.

14. Where did most of your money go? housing, food, church/missions and gasoline.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Two concerts in a month! The Art of Celebration concert with Rend Collective and the Neon Steeple tour of David Crowder. We REALLY enjoyed them both.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014? Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (kinda embarrasing to admit, lol!, Rend Collective’s whole “Art of Celebration” album, Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Glorious Unfolding” and Andy Grammer’s “Back Home”.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier or sadder? sadder. Like I mentioned above, this has been a sad, heavy year for people we love and people we know and us. I feel like in the past six months, the fabric of America has started weakening at the seams and the right tension will start the ripping of it. The struggles that have erupted in Ferguson, NYC and personal tragedies of losing friends and wondering, more than ever before, if my husband will come home safely at the end of his shift…it’s all weighed heavily on my heart.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Praying. Reading. Writing. Playing with my kids.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Eating. Spending my time in worthless ways.

20. How did you spend Christmas? we opened gifts at our house on Christmas Eve, then went to Kyle’s parent’s on Christmas Day, celebrated together and then hit the ROAD for our Epic Road Trip Adventure to Florida in the evening. We had a really nice time, but Christmas itself felt a little rushed, so I was glad we’d focused on Jesus’ birth so much during Advent.

21. How will you spend New Years? We SPENT New Year’s in Florida. On NYE, Kyle and I sat on the steps of the beach pagoda near our beach house and talked while the waves crashed on the shore, and I went to bed at the early hour of 9pm and woke up almost rested on January 1, 2015. The crazy, glamorous life of a mom of three kids under five. It rocks.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Parenthood, White Collar, Gilmore Girls, and Suits.

23. What was the best book you read? “Death by Living” (N.D. Wilson). It was amazing. Also fabulous: “How People Change” (Lane and Tripp) and “Glimpses of Grace” (Furman). Enjoyed “Cody Name Verity” (Wein) and the 2014 installment of the Flavia deLuce series by Alan Bradley.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery? New music by Rend Collective and SCC’s new album is really great.

25. What did you want and got? Keen boots. A road trip.

27. What was your favorite film of this year? I honestly can’t remember if I even set foot in a movie theater this year. I rented Chef not too long ago and enjoyed it, but I think that may be the only Redbox movie that was a kid’s movie that I watched this year. ?? My “to watch” list is about 15 movies long…

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 32 and had a really nice day being spoiled by Kyle. I slept in, walked to breakfast (best coffee in NB/caramel roll/breakfast sandwich), had a quiet morning in the sunshine/reading, afternoon at THE SPA (massage, foot scrub/massage, & hand treatment), Cherry Berry fro yo and Starbucks birthday drink. All while the kids spent the day with Grandma and Grandpa. :-)

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? the adoption process being over and a child home in our arms. NO MORE PAPERWORK, for the love.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? Leggings and tunics/dresses. It’s become my go-to uniform. Still working on getting back into my “skinny” clothes – hopefully by summer time those things will fit again!

31. What kept you sane? my husband, my friends, coffee, and the Word.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Jen Hatmaker isn’t a celebrity, per se, but she is kind of a “well-know” Christian and I’ve loved following her humor, her heart for adoption and her love for Jesus and people.

33. What political issue stirred you the most? The Michael Brown shooting and Ferguson and the issues on both “sides” of the struggle. I’ve really sought to understand and to love…it’s been intense. Still praying for justice and mercy to find each other among Americans, starting with me.

34. Who did you miss? my best friends that live far away. and my Grandma Alice.

35. Who was the best new person you met?  my nieces, Zoe and Kennedy, and my nephew Connor. They are precious!

36. Tell us some valuable life lessons you learned in 2014:
Life with three kids is insanity. I developed a deep love for SILENCE this year. :-)
The journey of adoption rarely goes the way you anticipate. And the road is long…
I love throwing parties and I’m good at it.
My heart language is music and drama and performance. If I don’t sing, I die.

And here comes 2015 – or rather, the first month of it is already half spent. Welcome to a new year – I am excited to see what miracles and beauty you hold and what challenges you bring our way, all under the mighty hand of God.

advent 2014

I’m not quite so on top of Advent this year as I was last year. Nesting was in FULL FORCE last year as we awaited Grant’s arrival. :-) But, I finally got around to making the plan for this year.

The kids’ are already asking about the Advent Calendar and talking about the fun of last year…I love that they are old enough to remember and anticipate the season now!

So, these are the things we are hoping to do throughout the 25 days before Christmas/Advent season this year.

Advent Wreath

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Each Sunday before Christmas, we will light a candle on the table (I haven’t made an official wreath yet, but I put the five candles in a group on our dining room table each year) and read a verse:

1. Light the 1st candle.  It represents the HOPE of the promised Messiah.  Isaiah 9:1-3
2. Light the 2nd candle.  It reminds us that the coming Savior will be the Prince of PEACE.  Isaiah 9:6-7
3. Light the 3rd candle.  It reminds us the JOY we may have in Christ. Isaiah 35:1-2, 10
4. Light the 4th candle.  It reminds us that God LOVES us so much that He sent his only Son.  John 3:16
5. Christmas Day – Light the middle candle and the other four. The Savior is come!

Daily Readings

With the littles – Readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible
For the bigger set – The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Daily Advent Activities – great ideas from friends, this daily book ideathis blog and this blog.
I’m using the Tin and Chalkboard Advent calendar from Starbucks again this year. This year’s version is even prettier, in my opinion, than the one I got last year! I’ll print out the activity on small pieces of paper and put it in the right numbered tin. Some year I’ll get all fancy and make my own pocket calendar. Or, more realistically, I’ll pay someone to make one for me. 

Each day the kids will tear off a paper chain, and we’ll read the Scripture and the daily reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Then they’ll open the tin for the day and see what activity we get to do! They also get to unwrap a book, which we’ll read that day.

1. Make a Christmas countdown chain using the Names of Jesus chain.
2. Decorate the tree and the house!

Christmas tree3. Play with Little People Nativity Set. Make the Nativity Window Craft.
4. Gingerbread house. Read the Gingerbread Gospel while making.

gingerbread house5. Watch a Charlie Brown Christmas & have popcorn.
6. Celebrate Grant’s birthday!
7. Buy presents for Toys for Tots or other charity, donate.
8. Snowman marshmallow craft (on Christmas Pinterest board)

taylor craft9. Make a borax snowflake and handprint Christmas tree magnets.
10. Christmas Carol Sing-Along! Small group Christmas party.
11. Pajama surprise! Christmas tree lights and hot chocolate.
12. Christmas Tree craft – (paper tree/hole punch/tissue paper/hang in window).
13. Reindeer pancakes for breakfast and Christmas Musicale at Fourth Baptist.
14. Indoor picnic by the tree/lights, make snowman pizza.
15. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles w/ breakfast.
16. Make a fort and read all the Advent books we’ve opened so far.
17. Make/bake sugar cookie cut-outs.

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18. Decorate cookies.
19. Service Project: Take food to the food shelf. Birthday Party for Jesus with friends.

birthday for jesus20. Christmas music dance party & play the “count the snowball game”.
21. Watch The Polar Express with special snacks.
22. Make peppermint playdough and play with it.
23. Take cookies to neighbors and act out the Christmas story.

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24. Wrap last minute gifts. Christmas Eve service.
25. JESUS HAS COME! Christmas morning: read Luke 2, special breakfast and open gifts.

Christmas breakfast

And if we don’t get to everything, no worries. :-) It’s far more important to love on the kids than do a million projects, like this wise mama reminds us. I’m not going to spaz out if we miss a day.

Our Christmas book list (some we purchased and some we borrowed from the library and will renew once in the month), in no particular order:

  1. The Very First Christmas
  2. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
  3. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
  4. The Nativity
  5. Christmas in the Manger 
  6. Who is Coming to Our House? 
  7. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve
  8. Father and Son – A Nativity Story
  9. Tomie’s LIttle Christmas Pageant
  10. This is the Stable
  11. The Friendly Beasts – an Old English Christmas Carol
  12. The Christmas Story from the Gospel According to St. Luke
  13. Humphrey’s First Christmas 
  14. Christmas in the Country
  15. The Third Gift
  16. Bear Stays Up For Christmas
  17. The Crippled Lamb
  18. A Christmas Like Helen’s 
  19. The Birds of Bethlehem
  20. One Starry Night
  21. The Little Drummer Boy
  22. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  23. A Christmas Goodnight
  24. Little One, We Knew You’d Come
  25. Good King Wenceslas 

That’s about everything, I think! I hope it is helpful for others who might want to create their own list of fun things to build excitement and anticipation for Christmas Day and the arrival of the Christ Child. :-) May your Christmas season be merry and bright as you celebrate all the gifts HE has given us, beginning with Himself.