Friday, April 25, 2008

Boys, Daddy is on His Way!


The Mister is going to Haiti!

What an afternoon! I was able to make our USCIS appointment today to file our I-600 for Monday, May 12th. While I was hoping for a different date so that I would have an opportunity to go down with some other parents (we agreed that neither one of us wanted me to go down by myself), that opportunity did not materialize and we were presented with the 12th. Look at how this was all so meant to be:

Monday the 12th was the only Monday that would work with the Mister's schedule. Anxious to file as quickly as we can, I pressed a bit for an appointment on May 8th. "Is your husband here in Port au Prince, or flying in from the States?" the woman asked. I explained that he would be flying in from the States for the specific purpose of filing the I-600. "Then no, I will only give you the 12th. We just moved, and I can't make a full promise that we would be able to file you I-600 on that Thursday. I don't want his trip to be ruined. Have him come and file on the 12th." Someone in the USCIS looking out for us? God himself had a hand in that one, me thinks.

The Mister will be flying in to Haiti on the morning of the 11th, Mother's Day. So he will meet his two new sons for the first time on Mother's Day, 2008. The last day I spent holding, hugging and kissing my boys was on Mother's Day, 2007. On that day I rocked each boy to near sleep, and before handing them off to their nannies, whispered the promise in their ears that before a year was over, we would be back to pick them up or visit.

Now, I realize that they had ZERO understanding of the words I was saying. And it was a silly little promise made in a very emotional moment. But, it was still weighing on me that a whole year would go by and we wouldn't see them. So just knowing that Cliff will be there, hugging them, exactly one year later, elevates my spirits.

Originally we had planned for him to fly out O'Hare, which is a good 3.5 hour drive away. The tickets were a tad shy of $400, which looked good to us, but it would require us to drive down the night before and spend it in a hotel. Well, that right there adds another $100 or so into the mix. Before I booked it, the Mister wisely encouraged me to check out flights from our city's International Airport (called so because of it's ONE flight to Canada). I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a roundtrip ticket for $440! The next booking available was over $625! So needless to say, we were thrilled at how the airfare fell to our favor as well.

His stay in Haiti will be short; in Sunday morning, out Tuesday mid-morning. But the time there is invaluable: both for Cliff and the boys, and for our Visa file. It is still hard for me to believe that we are now at a point where we can file this and the orphan investigation will begin.

So, in just two short weeks, we'll be saying bon voyage! So much to do between now and then, and I promised the Mister that I would not load him up with the biggest suitcases we have, all well above the weight limit (I did cross my fingers on that one). I am giddy with the thought that he'll be able to see what size clothing they wear, how big their little feet are, and if they are potty trained. Finally to have some solid figures to prepare their closets, to start mentally packing their coming home suitcase...the joy it brings this Mama's heart is amazing.

Marketing 101


Conversation around the breakfast table this morning.

Paloma: Oh, Elmo Big Bird singing! (yes, the tv was on. And it's Turn Off the TV week. And I won't even try to justify it by saying it was PBS.)

Hatfield: Paloma learns so much from Sesame Street.

Mom: Yes, Sesame Street is a good show. I love it.

Atticus: And it's brought to you by McDonald's! (pause) How did McDonald's get so smart?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reason #83 on Sarah's "Why I Love the Mister So Much" List


The Mister makes from-scratch Cinnabon-style cinnamon rolls. . .ooey-gooey-my-bum-is-two-inches-wider-with-every-bite cinnamon rolls. Heaven in a tin pan.

He stayed up ALL of last night to make his latest batch for my grandparents, who are currently en route from Florida on their annual migration to their Great North Woods summer retreat. I love this man more than he'll ever realize.

Thanks, babe.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank You!

THANK YOU for all the wonderful emails and comments you all have cared enough to send regarding our Visa situation! I am so grateful for the feedback and advice! So many of you I have never met, but the commraderie and kinship I feel with you adopting parents is something I haven't experienced before. We are so very appreciative.

After all the feedback, and talking with our beloved and wise Sara E., who also has been investigating the matter, we have made the decision that either the Mister, or I, or both of us, will be traveling to Haiti to file our Visa paperwork. We feel very confident and excited about our decision.

We're hoping to nail down some details in the next few days. And I must admit, the thought of at least one of us seeing our boys makes me downright giddy!

So thank you again, to all my wise and dear friends.
-Sarah

Monday, April 21, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

That is the Song and Question of the Day. If I was a super-hip, with-it, techno- savvy blogger, I would somehow upload this song so that it would start playing along with this post. But I'm not. So, I really hope you enjoy the silence. Think of it as a purposeful, zen-like blogging experience: reading a blog in silence.

Down to the nitty gritty. With Haitian adoptions, you can file for your child(ren)'s Visa's one of two ways. You can somehow get the paperwork you need mailed from Haiti to you, have it translated, and then file it at your local USCIS office. The paperwork is somehow processed, and then sent on to The National Visa Center in D.C. A few more people look it over, and from there it goes to the U.S. Consulate in Port au Prince Haiti. The Consulate then conducts the Orphan Investigation, approves the file for Visa. You then travel to Haiti to pick up your kids, go to the Consulate to get their Visa, and then on to HOME.

Got that? I barely do. Here's the paperwork trail: Port au Prince-home-Milwaukee-D.C .-Port au Prince.

The benefits are:
1) You don't have to fly to Haiti to file.
2) Your Orphan Investigation can be done while you are still waiting for passport approval.
3) You don't have to fly to Haiti to file.

Sounds pretty good, right? Wrong. The Consulate is slow, disorganized and what used to be a 5-day process is now going on 3-5 months in some cases. Of course, promises are always made to politicians and D.C., and the Consulate could at some time get their act together and finish a file in a reasonable amount of time; maybe that file could be ours. However, all of those in the American adopting world are all under the impression that the U.S. employees at the U.S. Consulate aren't all that fond of their fellow U.S. citizens.

HOWEVER dim, there is another light at the end of the tunnel. We could choose to fly to Haiti to file our Visa paperwork. If one does that, you do NOT file it at the Consulate; you file it at the Port au Prince USCIS office. USCIS then processes the application and conducts the Orphan Investigation. After they approve the file for Visa, only then does it get sent over to the Consulate, who then approves and prints the Visa. Yes indeed, there is both a U.S. Consulate office and a USCIS office. They are not the same thing.

The benefits:
1) USCIS is much faster, more organized and a little more seasoned in these matters.
2) The Consulate then only has to review our file and schedule our Visa appointment, two matters in which they seem to have under better control and timeframes.

BUT,

we have to fly to Haiti. For a number of reasons (finances, the effects of a very short visit on the boys, and the current political climate, etc.) this does not exactly thrill either of us.

BUT,

we have a better shot at getting the boys home in a more timely fashion.

I just LOVE the fact that I have to choose between two competing offices WHO BOTH PLAY FOR THE SAME TEAM. In my blog's zen-like silence, I bet you can actually hear the sarcasm and frustration dripping off of that sentence.

We're not going to make any decisions just yet. We have yet to be able to obtain the paperwork needed to file here in the States (through no one's fault). We need to find out if we can file the paperwork now, while we are still in MOI, or if we must wait until we get our passports.

Funny how just a few blogs ago, I commented on how I had zero intentions of going back to Haiti until I pick up the boys. Never say never.

I know that all my adopting readers are still with me. How about the rest of you? If you are, I give you FIVE GOLD STARS, as this stuff has even my own head spinning. If I was a supercool blogger, I would somehow change the plain old black font on Five Gold Stars to a glittery gold font, maybe with little sparkles all around it.

Why am I hyper-obsessing? In this whole big mess of the adoption, our choice in how we file Visa paperwork is the only thing I have an ounce of control over. Being Big Mama Bear, I want to do this right. Or as right as I can. I could sit and wait and see if the paperwork comes, and if it does, file that. Or I could make a proactive decision in how we are going to do this.

The whole issue of control/letting go is often a topic of conversation in our house. I recognize the futility in trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. At the same time, however, I recognize that you can't sit back and expect good things to just happen if you aren't willing to work for it.

I just re-read my blog. Sheesh. I am seriously starting to annoy myself. Time for bed.

G'Night all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Go, Mom!

My mother had the following letter published in our city's Op-Ed page this morning. Well-said, Mom!


Shelter should be open year-round
BELLEVUE — April 1 was windy, wet and cold. Yet we want to close the homeless shelter by mid-April?

Since when did homelessness become seasonal? We need a year-round shelter. We have a beautiful year-round shelter for our four-legged friends. We are a city that supports a top NFL team year-round in good times and in bad times. Yet we cannot take care of our citizens who are homeless?

We increased our sales tax to help renovate Lambeau Field. We watched as many players became rich and famous playing on that field. Maybe it's time for the good people and players at Lambeau Field to pay back their loyal community. Most of us can only imagine what it must be like to reap a weekly paycheck in the thousands of dollars, yet alone million-dollar signing bonuses. People will be wearing the No. 4 jersey for years to come.

Homelessness seasonal? I think not. The Favre Family Center for Hope has a good ring to it. Remember, to those to whom much is given, much is expected.

The Week in Review

It's just Friday morning, therefore making this Week in Review premature, but I'm ready to jump the gun and get the weekend on it's way. Here's the rundown on This Week's Tragedies and Triumphs. Let's start with the bad and end on the good, shall we?

Tragedy #1: My beloved payment-free ugly van I spoke of earlier this week? It spent the week at the mechanic's, and will be returned to me this morning after I shell $1,400 smack-a-roonies. Ugh.

Tragedy #2: The Mister came down with a flu bug. 'Nuff said.

Tragedy #3: The Crayola Dog ate the beginnings of a knit baby blanket, that I had momentarily taken off needles since I needed the needles for a short project. I discovered this while picking up dog doo yesterday morning. Apparently cotton yarn digests relatively well. Synethic white yarn with adorable pink and sage green tufts does not.

Tragedy #4: The process for getting our boys US Visas, once they are issued their passports by the Haitian government, is going to add a good 4-8 weeks onto our process. Basically because the US government, in double checking Haiti's work to make certaint the adoption is "legit," has chosen to reinvent the wheel. At the cost of our tax dollars and time in our boys' lives. We may defect to Canada before proceeding with our next adoption.

Tragedy #5: Upon truly facing the reality of Tragedy #4, I ate a year old Hershey Almond/Toffee Symphony Bar. I think the nuts were bad, or the chocolate, or something, and I was sick for the remainder of the day.

Okay, that's enough wallowing for one day, I think. Now onto the good stuff!

Triumph #1: THE BINKIES HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING!!! That's right, Paloma is binky-free! So for all you relatives out there who tsk-tsk'd me or felt that she would be going to kindegarten, if not college, with her binky basket, you were wrong. The last binky and little yellow binky basket are tucked away, hidden safely, and I'm seriously contemplating having it bronzed.

Triumph #2: Our computer is home. And the cost of the van repair made the computer repair expense seem laughably small. Ha ha ha.

Triumph #3: What do you get when you add a restaurant gift certificate, movie gift card and a trustworthy babysitter? That's right. . . a Date Night for me and the Mister straight out of my Frugal Man's dreams. My crystal ball is revealing a very nice bottle of red wine in my future. . .

Triumph #4: Our seeds are sprouting, and we're dreaming of a big beautiful garden bounty.

Triumph 5: We are finishing up our 5th week in MOI. Whether we're 1 week away or 10from getting those passports, we're 1 week closer no matter how you slice it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Keeping It Interesting


Our sunshine is back and with a happy heart I returned to my yardwork yesterday afternoon and at morning break today. Cutting back, raking, pulling, pruning. . I love it all. Except the doggy doo-doo stuff. Honestly I could do without that. This Spring I discovered that one of our dogs has a serious palate proclivity for Crayola Crayons. I picked up dog poop in every color of the rainbow this Spring. Keeps it interesting.

Cliff is like a child approaching Christmas Eve, as Saturday is THE day he begins building his kayak. Our dear friend Josh (see The Kayak Guy blog on the right) is extremely talented in this arena and has agreed to help the Mister out. They will be builing it in Josh's garage, bless Melanie's heart, so I will invite her and the girls over for some coffee, playtime and lunch as a way to make it up to her, wink wink.

So yesterday Tippy (aka The Mister--Tippy is his kayaking code name. Somewhere in the archives is an all-in-one post explaining both how he earned that knickname and how he lost his wedding band) informs me that this kayak is something like a billion feet long. No, I think like 15 feet. While listening to him, I'm looking around the garage wondering just where we are going to put it. Prior to this, we were wondering where we were going to put 2 additional bicycles. Now we gotta fit in a kayak? I came up with the perfect solution.

A Cute. Adorable. Side Yard. Storage. Shed. Made to look just like my house! I've always wanted one of those. I could neatly store our lawnmower, yard tools, gardening supplies. Maybe even a toy or two. I could tidy up our never-ending disaster of the garage, and even get my car stored in it on a daily basis, thereby extending its already aging body.

The Mister looked at me, not quite certain if I was kidding. I wasn't. Excitedly, I showed him the future location of our shed. He only needs to remove 5 overgrown, thorny shrubs, regrade the side yard and pour a concrete slab.

"Oh yes, you could build it, I could help. We can use up some of our scrap materials, and finally have a place to safely store our things, making them last longer, which means that you would have to spend less money on replacing them," I said happily. "You get a kayak. I get a shed. Sounds like a fair and equitable trade to me!"

"Uh, I thought the worm box I was going to build you was a fair and equitable trade," he protested.

Au contraire, mon frere!

The kids and I are terribly eager to get started on our Composting Worm Box for the basement. Atticus especially. Last year when I was tilling my garden, he was two steps behind me, bestowing names upon worms, in alphabetical order. I told him that it would be too difficult and messy to name every one of our worms, and besides, we couldn't recognize them from one time to the next. I swear the boy is mentally trying to design an individualized worm tracking collar.

Several posts ago, I disclosed the fact that we do not have cable, and that I do not have a cell phone. I got a few comments on that which I did not post, but which I'll address now. No, I'm not anti-technology. Or a communist ;) I am anti-excess (although I fall from that ideal frequently). I do believe in getting the most value for each dollar the Mister busts his ass to earn, and I personally find little value in phones or tv.

I guess also falling along the lines of no cable, no cell phone, I should confess that we also don't have an answering machine, which I know drives some people crazy (Shelly, babe, I'm talking to you, hee hee), but I find it very freeing. I don't drive a shiny new car. The payoff is we don't have a car payment. I drive an older van that I will keep until the wheels fall off or when we have more kids than available seats. It is rarely neat and tidy in my van. The interior elicits the "eww" factor from childless people. It's kind of an ugly color, it's missing a side mirror, the gas gauge doesn't work, etc. Couldn't care less. I read in Dave Ramsey that if a person would invest, from the ages of 25 to 65, the average American monthly car payment, in an average mutual fund, they would have 5.4 million dollars at age 65! That alone convinced me that car payments aren't worth it.

I like the ideas of conserving, recycling, composting and growing my own food. I like the ideas of fiscal responsibility and budgeting and being happy with what one has. I like simplicity and domesticity and knitting on the porch while watching my children play. I don't always live up to these things, but I sure find that trying to makes life fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Day to Reflect

The past few April 13ths have always left me in a somber, reflective mood. This April 13th, today, marks the 17th anniversary of my father's death. I was 16 years old at the time, he was 42. So I have now been alive longer without my father than with my father, which in my head makes it seem something like an entire lifetime ago that he was alive.

The first half dozen anniversaries were incredibly difficult and immobilized me for the day. While the day is still difficult, I get through it. More acutely aware of all the incredible blessings in my life (my children, my husband), I am left stinging by the fact that he is not in my life to share this with.

I had a rather strange experience today. On our way home from church and nearly home, we spotted a Frugal Classics' Estate Sale sign on the corner before ours, accompanied with a slew of cars. The kids were all content with a piece of candy Daddy had given them, so I hopped out and made my way up to the wonderful 1940's multilevel home which I knew had little updating, if any, on the interior. I love this style of home and the way people used to decorate, and I felt momentarily cheered by the fact that I would get to take in some of yesteryear.

I misjudged my feelings. The whole experience made me very sad. Every single thing of this person's life was laid out, room by room, all marked with gaudy bright red price tags. From half used tubes of toothpaste and gallons of paint, to worn-out purses with matching pumps, and dated suits smelling of pipe tobacco. Small porcelain knickknacks and plates, old tupperware, lamps and cheap paintings of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of VHS videotapes, meticulously labeled in typerwriter font on white labels. Thousands of vinyl records, housed in at least 50 boxes, stored in a basement which smelled of some rodent's untimely (and unnoticed) demise.

Maybe because of the specific day, but I felt a sad, voyeuristic discomfort going through all of what someone owned. Wondering how much of it was prized by the now-deceased couple, what they would think knowing everything they owned was reduced to a cheap red sticker, all of which was now reduced 50% for today only.

I have but few of my fathers' possessions. His law school class ring; two wool cardigans, a baseball jacket, some college books and notes. I am grateful for these things, but I realize that they are just things. My children will not prize them as much as I do, and in a generation or two they will be sitting on a Goodwill shelf or perhaps even in a dumpster.

We certainly are not our possessions. While walking through this house, over and over again I heard in my head, "Don't value yourself by the stuff you have."

Fortunately, I am of sound mind (give or take), and I have my childhood memories. There is even a cologne out still on the market that when I smell, I turn to see if it's my Dad. Going through this house today made me realize that I need to begin writing down these memories. In case someday I myself can't recall easily, or if someday one of my children or grandchildren want to know something about Grandpa Carl.

Life most certainly is not about things. Right now Cliff is upstairs, bathing the two littles, while Hattie is finishing a book and I'm taking a moment to reflect upon today. For dinner, I made a homemade vegetable and bean soup to accompany the homemade bread Cliff made, and afterwards we all laughed together at the goofy antics on America's Funniest Home Videos. In a moment, I'll go up and read a tale from Stories From Around the World to Atticus and Paloma, and then the first chapter of the second book in the original Nancy Drew Series to Hatfield. And after that I'll prepare our home school week at the kitchen table, sitting next to Cliff while he prepares for the upcoming work week. Life is to be lived, and memories are being built, even in these quiet moments such as these.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Continuing March Towards Some Semblance of a Balanced Life

If the Mister were a computer, this is what he would look like (no joke!):

Sorry--I find that drawing adorable. It totally looks like my Mister when he's stressed (which I find cute), right down to his crazy black hair.

However, it's a darn good thing he's not, as this is what I would like to do to our computer:


Fortunately for the machine, I can't take out my frustrations via a hammer because it is sitting several miles away, untouched, in a computer fix-it shop. Apparently many other broken computers came in since last Friday and have been given priority over our computer, since ours is sitting unfixed in the back room. "Maybe by next Wednesday."

If I were lucky, I'd live on Sesame Street right next to Maria's Fix-It Shop. She would have had it fixed, upgraded and ready to go, all before Count counts out the Number of the Day.

The first few days without the computer I felt irritated and twitchy. But kind of like running (which is really starting to grow on me), I soon adjusted and am finding that it is sort of nice not to have that machine in the basement, seducing me to neglect the kids for a few minutes for a peeksy at my unopened email.

I have read a ton since the computer has been down. Mostly gardening books and magazines that I wanted to catch up on. I was able to go through the art lesson/project books I checked out of the library and photocopy the ones I want to do in the future. I even turned those into an Art Binder. Whoa.

I finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Never finished it on the Ipod, because it needs to be charged via that computer. This book is excellent. I highly recommend that everyone read it.

Pollan greatly encourages the reader to "shake the hand that feeds you." Meaning, buy local from reputable farmers who grow/raise good food on good soil. Does this cost more? You bet. Both in terms of time and money.

BUT, he is quick to point out that the time we spend cooking/cleaning has been decling over the past decades because have reallocated our time. We can find the time to spend several hours a day online, to watch our cable tv, and we can find the extra $$ to pay for our landlines, cellphones, high speed internet and cable.

Time and money that used to be spent on food. Real food--not processed food. And real meal preparation with real meals where we sit and enjoy food with our family.

For myself personally, my values regarding food, meals and family fall into line with Pollan. I am a homemaker; I spend great time and effort making our house a home for my family. This is what I love to do.

Pollan's description regarding the time we spend on the internet hit home (we don't have cable and I don't have a cell phone, so I ignored that part). I do cut down on other luxuries so that I can buy organic, whole foods for my family. But I have fallen into the trap of being online much more than necessary. It took not having our computer, and having Michael Pollan literally spell it out, for me to get this.

The result is easily evident to me. I have more patience with my family, because I'm not feeling rushed (since I put things off so I could be online). I am reading more about things I love (gardening, cooking), and I am finishing projects that I otherwise probably would not have done. It's a good feeling.

I look forward to the computer coming home for convenience sake, but I'm hoping this time around I can be a bit more balanced about things.

Shining Faces in Troubled Times




The situation in Haiti is fragile, at best. Some report of improved stability, others do not share that opinion. I have been in a worried funk the past few days, worried about the O's ability to get clean water and food; wondering if the boys were at all in tune to the troubled world outside their home's gates. Marie reported that her food bill doubled nearly overnight,the news reports of most stores being looted or locked down, and the thought of those children being hungry makes my knees feel weak. Our little PAC parents group managed to raise over a thousand dollars in a day's time, and we're hoping that it offsets some of her costs until things stabilize a bit.

Jill's camera made its winding journey back home to the Midwest, complete with an extended Haitian vacation and a re-routed connection via Califorinia. I returned home with the big kids last night from watching a performance by the African Children Choir, to discover that my dear friend had dropped off her only photo cd for me to down(up?)load. What a precious gift! I really needed to see these shining faces.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Riots

This is distressing on SO many levels. . . hunger, safety, government instability. Selfishly, I admit to great worry over how this will impact the completion of our adoption and our ability to bring our two sons home.

Haitians Riot, Loot Over Food Prices
By JONATHAN M. KATZ – 52 minutes ago (April 8, 2008)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hungry Haitians stormed the presidential palace Tuesday to demand the resignation of President Rene Preval over soaring food prices and U.N. peacekeepers battled rioters with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Rioters were chased away from the presidential palace but by late afternoon had left trails of destruction across Port-au-Prince. Concrete barricades and burned-out cars blocked streets, while windows were smashed and buildings set on fire from the capital's center up through its densely populated hills.

Outnumbered U.N. peacekeepers watched as people looted businesses near the presidential palace, not budging from the building's perimeter. Nearby, but out of sight of authorities, another group swarmed a slow-moving car and tried to drag its female driver out the window.

"We are hungry! He must go!" protesters shouted as they tried to break into the presidential palace by charging its chained gates with a rolling dumpster. Moments later, Brazilian soldiers in blue U.N. helmets arrived on jeeps and assault vehicles, firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters and forcing protesters away from the gates.

Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But nowhere do they pose a greater threat to democracy than in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries where in the best of times most people struggle to fill their bellies.

"I think we have made progress in stabilizing the country, but that progress is extremely fragile, highly reversible, and made even more fragile by the current socio-economic environment," U.N. envoy Hedi Annabi said Tuesday after briefing the Security Council.

For months, Haitians have compared their hunger pains to "eating Clorox" because of the burning feeling in their stomachs. The most desperate have come to depend on a traditional hunger palliative of cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt.

Riots broke out in the normally placid southern port of Les Cayes last week, quickly escalating as protesters tried to burn down a U.N. compound and leaving five people dead. The protests spread to other cities, and on Monday tens of thousands took to the streets of Port-au-Prince.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti warned American citizens in the chaotic capital to avoid crowds and roadblocks and to remain vigilant. Embassy buildings were pelted with rocks on Tuesday but there have been no reports of injuries to U.S. citizens.

Preval, a soft-spoken leader backed by Washington, was at work in the palace during the protests, aides said. He has made no public statements since the riots began.

"I compare this situation to having a bucket full of gasoline and having some people around with a box of matches," said Preval adviser Patrick Elie. "As long as the two have a possibility to meet, you're going to have trouble."

The protesters also are demanding the departure of the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers, whom they blame in part for rising food prices. The peacekeepers came to Haiti in 2004 to quell the chaos that followed the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

They helped usher in a democratic transition, but critics say both Preval and the international community have focused too much on political stability without helping to alleviate poverty. That could spell trouble not only for Preval, but for Haiti's fragile democracy as well.

"We voted Preval for a change. Nothing happened," said Joel Elie, 31, who like many Haitians is unemployed. "We're tired of it and we can't wait anymore."

While the peacekeepers spend more than US$500 million (euro320 million) a year in Haiti, the World Food Program has collected less than 15 percent of the US$96 million (euro61 million) it says Haiti needs in donations this year. The WFP issued an emergency appeal Monday for more.

Meanwhile, new customs procedures aimed at collecting revenues and stopping the flow of drugs has left tons of food rotting in ports, especially in the country's north. In a country where almost all food is imported, cargo traffic from Miami ground nearly to a halt, though shippers say intervention by Preval last month has improved the situation somewhat.

Government officials say the riots are being manipulated by outside forces, specifically drug smugglers who can operate more easily amid chaos and supporters of Guy Philippe, a fugitive rebel leader wanted in U.S. federal court in connection with a drug indictment.

Annabi, the U.N. envoy, said "people with political motivations" were exploiting the demonstrations, but didn't say who he was referring to.

Many in the crowds are demanding the return of the exiled Aristide, and thousands showed up Monday for a rally by a key Aristide ally, the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, in the oceanside slum of Cite Soleil.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

60 Degree PARADISE

Yesterday and today have both brought 60 degree temps--whooooohhoooo!! I know all you Southern readers are shivering, but for us Northerners. . watch out! We are all revelling in the glory of this weather. Yesterday I began the major undertaking of cutting back our 10 privacy shrubs, bordering the back fence. "Shrub" is a bit of an understatement, as these poor tree-like creatures were grossly neglected by the previous homeowners, leaving me to cut away a good 8-10 years of neglect. I have 3 down, 7 to go.

It's so warm that I soaked through a sweatshirt and stripped down to a t-shirt, my arms now looking like I got into a fight with a cougar. But I couldn't care less! Just being outside working in the yard makes me an infinitely happier person. So inspired am I by the weather, I created the Master Yard Goals List this morning while drinking my coffee in the sunny spot at our kitchen table. The sunshine has even put the Mister in a good mood, who reviewed the list, nodding his head, enthusiastically asking me to arrange the list in order of importance.

I would post progress photos, but the computer is in the shop with a MotherBoard problem. Just being told that the MotherBoard blew up makes me giggle--I feel like I'm on Star Trek or something (Disclaimer: I have NEVER seen a full episode of Star Trek, so if I sound like an idiot, this should explain it.) Keep your fingers crossed that we fall in the 9 out of 10 category in terms of being able to retrieve all of our files.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sister, You are Almost There!

This has been a great week on many counts. Our beloved Jimmy (Five Frozen Chamorro-ease for "Grandma") spent the night with the kids and animal crew at our house on Wednesday while Cliff and I spent a night away--the THIRD time ever in our marriage. Cliff has been working a PA meeting at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, and as such had accomodations at the hotel. Meaning a FREE night away.

We are not a couple who takes vacations separate from the children, for several reasons. One, we usually do not have the money for extra vacations; two, we don't have long-term, overnight babysitting relatives; and three, we honestly enjoy just hanging out with the kids while they are young. I have nothing against people taking adults-only vacations, and I certainly see the value in them. For us, though, we couldn't care less and are fortunate that we both share in that opinion so neither one of us is resentful.

Our file has been in Haiti's MOI (Ministry of Interior) for 3 weeks now. This is the final Haitian government step, as this approves us for passport printing once we are released from the office. Guessing as to when we get out of MOI is a crapshoot, as I have read on some blog that it could take as little as 2 weeks (yeah, right!) and we have known people in there for as long as a year (which should not be happening anymore). Our agency is telling us 8-16 weeks, give or take. One of the other Moms in our MOI group spoke to Marie (our O's director) earlier this week on the phone. Apparently our files are moving from desk to desk within MOI (granted, there's something like a billion desks there), but just to know that they are not lost in a pile or in the back of a filing cabinet is so reassuring.

"Sister, you are almost there!" Marie kept on telling the Mom, over and over.

Almost there. Amen to that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Out of Order


Our home PC is on sabbatical, having the nerve to up and leave me without warning and with no notice of a return date. I hope it realizes that sabbaticals are unpaid, and if it is not careful, it will find itself on a permanently unemployed.

Of course, this happened right as Cliff was leaving out-of-town, and I was forced to spend 18 hours computer-less. Just the gravity of that statement should give you a glimpse of just how much I depend on my computer. Between homeschooling, housekeeping and mothering, somedays it is my only link to the outside world, and man, was I feeling the absense of that link today. Fortunately, the Mister came home right as I was putting the kids to bed, and he promptly zonked out after finishing the little kids' bedtime stories, giving me time to comandeer his laptop for a computer crack fix.

The computer was just the start of things on the fritz. I'll keep the "my-liver's- turning-green-and-my-toenails-are-falling-off" pity party brief and just say that Paloma's week-long run of tantrum-free behavior ended big time today, and that my van, which just celebrated its 90,000 mile anniversary, is fussing at me everytime I want it to start.

Now that I'm back online, fingers itching to blog, I can't think of a darn thing to say! Writers block is a bear, and it always shows up at the worst time. I will say that Darth Maul gives me a BIG case of the heebie jeebies. And I can't believe that Atticus doesn't have bad dreams--I'm scared I'm going to have nightmares about that dude.

A bright spot in my day came with the realization that one entire plot of my garden is snow-free. Just rich, damp, beautiful black dirt, waiting patiently to grow me some vegetables. I have vegetables on my mind big time lately. Last month I sent in my CSA share application to Good Earth Farm (link on the right), and now I'm waiting for that first big, glorious box of veggies and fruit to arrive this June. Good Earth offers a great selection of organic produce, and the cost per pound of all produce is well under $1.00/pound. Where else beside your own backyard could you ever get golden raspberries for under $1.00/pound?

The CSA shares have me rethinking my gardening plan for the year. I'm thinking that perhaps we'll just graze our way through the weekly share boxes, freezing or canning whatever leftovers there may be. With our weekly intake accounted for, I just might try to plant my gardens for canning/freezing purposes only. Someday I hope to be able to can/freeze all of what we use over winter from my own gardens.

We've been spoiled here with very good, organic asparagus. The Mister, Hattie, Paloma and myself chow down on it; Atticus declining but willing to eat broccoli so I let it slide. Hatfield is our asparagus chef--helping me snap it right where the tender part ends and the tough part begins (hold the stalk loosely in the middle with one hand, grasp the end with your other hand. Gently bend, and the stalk will snap off right at this sweet spot). We place it in shallow boiling water for 4 minutes, no more, no less. Then drain and return to pan. Add 1 tablespoon butter and stir about to melt; then add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a dash of salt. Perfection every time. Paloma thinks it's hysterical to eat trees. The Drama Prince (beloved son of the Drama King) tells me that he couldn't possibly eat Junior (you Veggie Tale-dependent parents know what I mean).

All last month I crabbed constantly at Cliff and the kids to turn off lights. I had opened the utility bill earlier that month and felt nauseous. Typically I approach our utility bill as a game--how low can it go? With homeschool and all, I let that mental game slide and boy, did we pay for it. I changed over all remaining traditional light bubls to those curly energy efficient ones (the name is eluding me at the moment). I ditched the upstairs hallway "noise-maker," a cool mist humidifier with the tank removed, and replaced it with a white-noise clock, which I figure has to save some energy. I started unplugging things like radios, the coffee maker, and the toaster, all to the Mister's great irritation. And like I said, I also crabbed a whole lot more, but it was worth it. The month's bill came around and I was pleasantly surprised--$80 less than the month before. Granted, the month before had more days below freezing, but not that many to make such a substantial difference. For next month, I'm wondering which uses less energy: a hot/cold water wash cycle, or a warm/warm cycle? I wonder if Kenmore would know if I called them up to ask them?

The Mister is looking over my shoulder, telling me that I need to get out of the house more.