During all-night labor watches one of the things Tara and I talk about is the ups/downs/facts about trying to to raise kids in a third world country. How do you make holidays special in a place that doesn't sell canned pumpkin or those weird, crunchy onions that go on top of green bean casserole during the month of November? How do you run out and buy your kid a birthday present in a country that has extremely limited options in the shopping department? How do you "run out" and do anything? You can't. Something as simple as buying drinking water can turn into a several hour ordeal. How do you throw a birthday party when we can't even find one flippin' package of balloons without driving 2 hours to a party store up the mountain that will probably not even be open when we get there? And what about when you invite a bunch of people over for a party and there's no water. Nothing says, "Happy Birthday, let's celebrate your life, glad you were born" like poop floating in a toilet that can't be flushed. You can thank us for not documenting these parts of our life in Haiti.
Last year I made Aaron a birthday cake. I went to buy candles. We sang Happy Birthday, and Aaron blew out candles that said he was 89 years old. The store only sold a number 8 candle and a number 9 candle. This is life here.
I want our kids to look back on their childhood and love it. Doesn't every mom want that for their kids? During hard times here I worry whether we're ruining our kid's lives..if they have enough...if they will look back on this time in Haiti and be thankful or resentful. Raising kids in a place far from "home," and "normal (for us)" takes faith I rarely feel like I have.
I want our boys to enjoy this time in Haiti, to look back with fond memories but I also don't want to care too much about things that don't matter or spend an insane amount of money on silly purchases. It was hard for me to justify that in the States, but here it seems like most things are more expensive and take 10 times longer to accomplish. Buying stuff for a stellar birthday party could cost a lot of money and take a full day of shopping to get what we need. I'd go so far as to say spending our time and money that way actually makes me feel a little squeamish when we live among severe poverty and there seem to be more important tasks to accomplish. I want to pull of "Happy Childhood" without pulling off "Made you a brat and convinced you the world revolves around you." This goal keeps me good and neurotic. Surely there is a happy medium in here when it comes to birthday parties, right? I think so. I hope so.
This summer I asked Anson to please decide on what kind of birthday he wanted to have so I could buy stuff in the US and bring it back to Haiti with us in our luggage. Our conversation went a little like this, "What kind of birthday party do you want to have? Think "cheap" and "light." Cheap and non-heavy. Cheap..and light as a feather." We decided on a glow-in-the-dark party.
Noah Livesay glowin' it up
We had glow-in-the dark Kool-Aid. It tasted like butt and our kids will probably grow a third arm from the "make-it-glow" chemicals, but it GLOWED. Does anything else matter to kids?
There was glow-in-the-dark bowling.
There were glow-in-the-dark cupcakes.
They didn't actually glow.
So they just tasted weird, but without any of the glow-fab benefits.
Glow-in-the-dark Kool-Aid, glow bowl, and gross glow in the dark cupcakes that did not actually glow, are all great and good...but here's what I learned from this party:
Get a bunch of kids who love each other together.....
Give them some glow-sticks
Crank up some music...
And you have instant fun.
So save yourself the trouble...don't make the cupcakes or Kool-Aid. Don't drive around town looking for black lights and quinine laced beverages. Don't even blow up a single balloon (four stores later...we never found any). Just hand a bunch of friends some glow sticks, turn up the music...and watch the magic happen.
Anson told me this was one of his top two favorite parties. Both of his top two parties happened in Haiti. Both felt crappy and thrown together to me compared to what I used to pull off in the States. There are many, many difficult things about raising kids in a country like Haiti, yet I am constantly amazed at the fun and joy we find here.