Sunday, March 29, 2009

About Odette

There are some things the same and some things that are different about Odette since the day I met her in May. Here are a few things I noticed about her during our February trip. . .

1. She is much healthier. During the May trip she was so sick. What a difference clean water and regular meals make. Her skin and hair look so much better.

2. She has such a quiet confidence now. On my May trip and then on Andy's August trip she wanted to be on our laps whenever she could. She would hang around me waiting for me to sit down and then she would jump in my lap before anyone else had the chance. Since Andy asked her if she wanted to be our daughter she has a new found confidence. She still loves sitting on our laps but she doesn't "have" to be there. She feels much more comfortable running off and playing with her friends now. She would often come back in the room I was to look for me & would come over to tell me she loved me & would sometimes stay with me but often would run back off to play. She just wants to check and make sure we are still around. She knows that she has a place now and knows that when we are in Haiti we aren't far away.

3. She is LOUD. She talks so loud at times. I was a little worried that our family would be a little overwhelming for her especially at dinnertime which Molly & Abby think is their stage because everyone is in the same place at the same time. At dinner we look at each other often and laugh and wonder if she is going to think this is too crazy and ask to go back. After this week with her I think she will fit in fine. She talks really loud when she is talking to another friend and telling them something. She talks especially loud when she is listening to Andy's ipod. She doesn't realize how loud she is with the earphones in. We spent a lot of time this week laughing at how loud she is. She is Andy's daughter after all!

4. She LOVES to sing. After the first day she was constantly singing. One of my favorite parts of Haiti is listening to the sweet voices of 18 girls as they sing for us. She loves singing with the group but she is often found walking around singing to herself. One day she was singing by herself and Jennifer S. asked her to get the other girls to sing too & she said no. Jennifer asked her if she just wanted to sing by herself & she said "wi". I miss hearing her sing but I am happy for all the videos I have of her singing. Andy said we will know when she is comfortable being here in our house when she starts singing again. I can't wait for the day when we hear the voice of our little Haitian girl echoing through our house.

5. She is a silly normal little girl. During the week as we went back to Kamatin to sleep each night we got the privilege of watching the girls being adopted really interact. We had so much fun watching them and laughing with them. One of my favorite stories of the trip happened on of our last days there. For those of you that haven't been "baths" in Haiti consist of a tile tub with a 5 gallon bucket of COLD water and a cup to pour that cold water on yourself. It sounds bad but you are very thankful for the two or so "baths" that you get during the week. Jennifer S. had been talking about taking a bath all afternoon and was just waiting for one of the guys to bring up a 5 gallon bucket of water from the lower cistern so she could take her bath. When her water came she went to the other room to get the shampoo. I saw Odette heading for the bathroom & told her no because it was Jennifer's turn first. She laughed and called for Benita and Valancia & they said something to each other in Creole. When Jennifer came back in the room Benita yelled for her and started taking her back towards the door. When she did Valancia and Odette ran in the bathroom giggling and got in the tub and Benita followed. We laughed so hard at them tricking Jennifer. They would start laughing anytime that they heard us telling someone the story. I think as we talk about the girls everyone thinks of them as poor little orphans in Haiti but they don't realize that although they live a completely different life than we do here they are still little girls who love to play, laugh and be silly just like our kids do.

6. She loves little kids. She will have a great time playing with Nathan and Evan when she gets here.

7. Her English is getting better. When we were there in May they would repeat phrases like "I love you" but now they look at you and say I love you and know what they are saying. Even little Atanie who is three looked at me the last day and said "I love you Allyson". We are very thankful that someone from our church is paying one of the school teachers and Hippolite to have English class with the all of the girls and the Gaspard boys a few times a week. We are amazed at what they have learned in such a short amount of time. They loved showing of their new skills and we heard these things many times during the week... my name is ________, what is your name?, please stand up, please sit down, open the window, shut the window, and them counting to 20. One of the first days we were there Odette had listened to Andy's ipod so much that the battery was dead, she handed it to me & said in English - "you need to charge it". So if her daddy didn't teach her anything else in January she learned the phrase "you need to charge it".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On a hard day these are my favorite videos to watch. Watching Odette and Benita (and my friend Jennifer Stooksbury) sing and dance makes me smile even time. I remember being there at that moment thinking that there is no other place in the world I wanted to be right then.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Video two


On this trip we had a dentist (Dr. Bob) & his wife, Charlette, agree to go and work on the girls teeth. Other than Guerline who had a fall last summer and had to have some teeth pulled and stitches, none of the girls had ever had any work done on their teeth before. Dr. Bob did fillings and pulled teeth throughout the week and Paige Leslie cleaned teeth for hours during the week. The amount of people the worked on for hours during the day still amazes me. Odette went to the dentist for the first time on Monday afternoon before our walk to her house. I was nervous about this because I'm still the mom who turns away and cries every time one of my girls gets a shot. Odette did great though on Monday. She didn't cry at all when he gave her the shot to numb her and just laid still and didn't move or cry when he drilled and filled 4 teeth on the right side of her mouth. They kept bragging on how well she was doing and I was very pleased that it went that well. When she was finished she got up and gave Dr. Bob a hug and told him "mesi" (thank you). He got a little teary and said he doesn't get that very often as a dentist. So other than feeling funny from being numb for a while after she did great.
On Tuesday Paige cleaned her teeth and she was great for that too & Paige also got a hug and a thank-you.
Later that afternoon her face started swelling some on the right side and she had some pain from her fillings but some Tylenol and an ice pack later she was doing better.

Wednesday on the other hand was a much different story. She went in with no fussing, did fine during the shot but started screaming when he stared drilling on the left side teeth. He would stop and we would ask her what was wrong but she was so upset that it was hard to understand her. I reminded him how well she did the other day and he decided to numb her more. Even after the second shot she was still screaming every time he would drill. She was staring at me with the most scared look in her eyes and I felt completely helpless. It was the first time the language barrier was such an issue because I couldn't even tell her that she would be ok. I was trying hard not to cry because she was looking straight into my eyes for reassurance. I would look away and try to compose myself. What I longed to do was to step outside have a good ugly cry and come back in but I knew that I couldn't leave her. Dr. Bob gave her another shot and told me to go out with her a little while and we would try it again later. This was the other moment that I really longed for Andy to be there because it was SO hard. When we went back for the third try it did not go much better. Kevin was talking to her throughout and Estimine was practically laying across her talking to her and reassuring her in Creole. I don't know what I would have done without those two there. I look over at the doorway and there stands Pastor Gaspard watching Odette with the most concerned look on his face as she screamed and cried in pain. Then he looks over at me & notices how upset I am and he comes over and stands there & pats my back. It was so sweet but made the tears come more. This was one of those times when I realized how much the Gaspards love the girls and care for them when we are not there.
When she was finally finished she asked for the ipod and went off in the dining room by herself. I think she was mad at me and needed to be alone which gave me a chance to go off by myself too.

On Friday Odette started complaining about her back tooth hurting. We went to Dr. Bob and was really hoping that the problem was the sore where she bit her cheek and not the tooth but after asking her she said it was her tooth. That left no option at this point but to pull the tooth that he had already filled. He said the good thing is that it is a 6 yr. molar and the 12 year molar will just move into it's place when she gets her 12 year molars. The bad news was we had to go through the numbing part again. It took a couple of times and about 30 minutes for her to be completely numb but it finally worked and luckily having a tooth pulled (the tooth was HUGE) was a pretty quick procedure. I am just thankful that that experience is over, 8 filling, many shots and a pulled tooth later. I am glad that I was there with her and am also thankful for the thousand or more dollars that Dr. Bob saved us when we get her here.

Monday, February 16th

Today was a very hard day for me emotionally. After some time on the roof as a group on Monday morning most of the team began painting the orphanage. When we were there in May we painted the girls rooms and the Gaspard's room, so the goal of this trip was to paint the outside of the orphanage, the front porch and the dining room. The rest of the women worked all morning diving up shoes and organizing care packages. One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to visit Odette and the other girl's school rooms. We had a chance to go in each of the rooms during the school day. Here is a picture of Odette in her classroom. From what we understand, Odette just started school last February when she came to the orphanage. This is the youngest level in the school and has the most wide age-range of kids from 3 year olds and up. As we walked through the school Eddy was picking out the kids whose shoes were in the worst shape & sent them to the church for a new pair of shoes. This was not something we were completely prepared for so not everyone got a new pair of shoes. For the May trip we are taking a new pair of tennis shoes for each of the 330 school children (if you are interested wanting to know how you can help you can email me at

We had lunch on the roof that day and as we were finishing one of the girls yelled at Odette and she went running to the edge of the roof. I looked over and recognized her mom from Andy's pictures of her. I knew we would be walking to their house later so I brought the picture album with me to give to her family. I grabbed that & my camera and nervously made my way over. She said "Mama Odette" & gave me a big hug. I was very thankful at that moment that I had the photo album with me because it gave us something to look at & "talk" about. My creole is very limited at this point but I think even if I knew more it would have left me at that moment. In the photo album I had pictures of us & the girls, pictures of Odette with both Andy and I on other trips, and the pictures of Odette's family from the December trip. Odette's mama (Marie Claire) loved the pictures and thanked me for them. After sitting there a little while, Kevin came over and explained to her that we would be walking to her house later to visit. She thanked us, gave me another hug and then headed back to her house.

Later that afternoon we took the walk to her house (about 10-15 min.) Eddy that had taken Andy and Kevin there last time was not around so Kevin asked Odette if she knew the way and she took off quickly leading the group. I kept having her slow down because she was walking much better over the stony path than the rest of us. I spent the entire walk trying not to cry. I was so overwhelmed by the unknown of what I was going to see and experience when I got there. The pictures that Andy had in December were taken in the dark so it was very hard to tell what everything looked like. As we got close an elderly lady ran out & called for Odette. From what I understand she is her godmother & she was very happy to see Odette. Odette's house is directly down the hill. When we got to the bottom of the hill we were met by Odette's mama.
We took a few pictures and then I walked over to her papa & he said "Mama Odette" and gave me a hug. The whole thing was too much to take in. Odette ran inside the house for a few minutes and then came back out. Just watching her there was very strange, she seemed so out of place. Maybe it was the purple gown with bright green frogs that made her stand out or the fact that her skin and hair look so much healthier than the day she left there. I don't know what it was or how to explain it but it was very obvious to me. Odette's papa (Roger) immediately got chairs out of the house so some people could sit down. They seemed very pleased that we came to visit.
We took family pictures and then my meltdown happened. As hard as I was trying not to I lost it. I was so overwhelmed with not only being at the place when Odette grew up but meeting these sweet unselfish people that made the greatest sacrifice they could to give their daughter a better life. Not only did they let her go to an orphanage where they knew she would go to school and be able to eat everyday but now they have allowed her to be adopted into another family knowing they will not have a chance to see her again for a long time. I will be forever grateful for their unselfish decision to give Odette the best life possible. I was very thankful that day that Andy was the one that sat down and talked to the parents and asked their permission to adopt because just visiting them was hard enough on me. I look forward to the day I can sit down with them and ask more about Odette and what she was like growing up. Was she a happy baby, did she cry alot, when did she start walking, what was her first word, what was her favorite thing to play with her siblings... I want to know all those things I missed out on. I know now after meeting her parents that she was loved and that her parents took the best care of her that they could. They seem very sweet and loving. We said our good-byes and headed out to visit another family. I stayed back in the back of the line and let Odette walk ahead with the other girls. I just needed a few minutes by myself. At that moment I wanted nothing more to be curled up in a bed by myself having a good cry but at the time I just couldn't. That was one of those moments that I would have loved to have Andy there with me.

Sunday, February 15th

After a long travel day and a late night, this morning came really early. But opening my eyes and having my daughter next to me made it completely worth it. We all got ready and headed to Coq Chante for church. Church was much more crowded than it was when I was there in May. I think word got out that the "blancs" were there which means lunch after church. For many this will be the only meal that they will have that day, and in many cases for a couple of days. Despite the uncomfortable benches in the church I love the experience of church in Haiti. I love the geunine worship that happens there on Sunday morning & we always get the treat of hearing the girls sing in church & then at the end we get the priviledge to pray over the people in the church. There are many Sundays that I sit in the gym at Brickey and long to be back at Coq Chante.

We spent Sunday afternoon playing with the girls and then took a ride to Belloc, a nearby village to pick up Wousamy who is being adopted by another family in our church. I have missed him and couldn't wait to see him again. We also took water buckets to several houses in the Belloc community while we were there. Now many families there along with families in Coq Chante will have clean drinking water for the first times in their lives. It is amazing the difference we have seen in the girls and some families in the Coq Chante community after only a few months of clean water. The girls are so much healthier and are now "worm free" after drinking clean water since September.

One thing I noticed today and for the next few days is Odette's fear of being left. She did fine walking into Belloc but when we went inside the church there many people followed us in where we gave out candy to the kids and more water buckets to the families, anyway she seemed really uneasy there & stayed right by my side. When we started to leave (it was dark at this point), she quickly grabbed my hand & headed out. She walked holding my hand the entire way out & would have gone faster up the big hill to the bus if I would have walked faster. The first few mornings as soon as she heard the bus start up she would try to quickly get me to grab our stuff and hurry to the bus. I would tell her it was ok and I would take my time getting there. As the week went on she seemed much more comfortable with waiting when she realized that we were not going to be left behind.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Saturday, Feb. 14th

The day I had waited on for months & months was finally here- I was going to see my little girl for the first time in 9 months and it was the first time going knowing that she was my daughter. It was such a long travel day. We left Knoxville at 11pm & had an uneventful trip to Atlanta. The flight to Miami was ok (I still do not like flying!) but as we were landing the plane all of a sudden started going back up. There was a truck on the runway so we had to fly around until the runway was clear. After a quick breakfast/lunch we got on the plane to head to Haiti and ended up sitting on the plane for about an hour & a half while they looked for a piece of luggage that did not belong to anyone on the plane and then after all that they said that they had to get a new pilot for us since our pilot had been on shift to long so we had to get off the plane and were told we would not take off until 2:00. I was so disappointed, by 2:00 if our plane had been on time we would have been most of the way to the mountains. I was so close to getting to see my little girl but it seemed so far away. I was worried about the girls and their disappointment that we were not going to be there when they expected us. I know they probably spent most of the day watching for us and then we didn't come. We finally got to Port-au-Prince around 5 (if I remember right) and after a very long three hour ride on the tap-tap we finally could see the orphanage lit up on the top of the hill. Finally I was home again. I was so physically and emotionally drained at this point that I wasn't sure if I could handle it. I felt like I couldn't take a full breath. I climbed off the tap-tap and took the walk in the dark up the stony path to the orphanage. All of the girls were standing on the front steps singing and waiting our arrival. I can't tell you now what they were singing because I was looking hard to find Odette in the dark. There she was half-singing while she was looking around. The second her eyes met mine she jumped from where she was standing and ran over and gave me the biggest hug. She grabbed my hands and started rubbing my arms and touching my face and just could not get enough of just being there in the moment with me. If I ever had any doubts about the adoption path we are taking all doubts vanished in this moment. She is my daughter just like Taylor, Abby and Molly and I couldn't believe she was finally in my arms again. I kissed her over and over and told her I love her & she said "I love you Mama Allyson". Finally the words I had been waiting for months to hear in person.

I quickly wanted to focus on the other girls too because I didn't want to miss a minute- all of a sudden that energy I was lacking and the long day it took to get there was forgotten and I couldn't wait to get my arms around little girls that I missed more than I can say. Linia was grinning at me from the steps and when I said her name she ran and put her hand in mine. It felt so good to finally be back with my Haitian family. I found Madam & Pastor Gaspard who were waiting by the door with big hugs for us all. We made our way upstairs and Odette took me in her room and quickly found my lap. Wow how I had missed that. We took lots of pictures that night and gave lots of hugs. Since there was not room at the orphanage for such a big group we stayed at a Kamatin- a church and school about a 20-30 minute drive from Coq Chante. When it was time to head to Kamatin the four girls being adopted (Odette, Valancia, Benita & Dieula) got to go with us. After we finally made it to Kamatin we unloaded the tap-tap and found our rooms. Odette and I roomed with Benita and her family. Odette was so happy- she just kept looking at me and giggling. I was sad about not staying at Coq Chante but as the week went on I was very thankful for this one-on-one time with our girls. It was late that night and we all fell asleep quickly. Odette was laying on the other side of the bed but had to be touching me with at least one hand. By morning she was cuddled up next to me and had pushed me to the edge of the bed. Andy if right- she is a bed hog!

Where I am today. . .

For those of you who check our blog often for updates I am sorry for the delay in writing. As much as I know that I needed to sit down and write about my trip before I forget all the details I just couldn't make myself do it. The first week back was busy at our house but after that I have just been in a really tough place where I couldn't let myself sit and think too much about Odette and the other girls because I was afraid I would fall apart each day. It was such an incredible week but I think it has made the waiting and just my daily thoughts of her even harder. But I realized today as I read another adoption blog that I follow that I can't live in that place of numbness anymore because I am scared of hurting. Here is what she wrote - "but as of today my heart is more fully engaged and joyful with anticipation than it has ever been because I get to enjoy our journey to you from this point forward with no fear and no more numbness. I have permission from my Father to enjoy, wonder, and fully feel the emotion of this journey. I know there may be disappointment, but today I realized I would rather feel the joy and risk the disappointment than be without any joy at all. If it takes feeling disappointment to get to you, then I will pay that price. You are worth all the emotion if that's what it takes. And I want to fully celebrate the work God is doing to bring you to us."
So that is where I am today, tired of walking around scared & now just wanting to embrace the journey of the day whether that be through tears when I am hurting so much missing those girls or through laughter as I think back to all the fun times we had that week.