Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tommy's Toy Box

Last week some (dear, amazing) friends from church threw Tommy a welcome home party/shower/whatever you want to call it. They called it "Let's Fill Tommy's Toy Box."

Tommy loved being the center of attention and had a great time. We had a delicious lunch, and then Tommy got to open presents for his toy box. He thought that was pretty neat, but even better, he got some wrapping paper with construction trucks on it! He carried that paper around for days...just goes to show you that they always like the box better than the toy.

He has a great time playing with his new toys this week (read: throwing his new toys this week).

But, the best part was the toy box:

Tommy's toy box

They decorated it with cute African animals without knowing that I had been planning a safari theme for his room (almost done, then I will post pictures).

Jeff and I really appreciated them throwing Tommy this party, more for the sentiment than the actual toys, although those are good too. When you adopt a toddler you miss out on many "baby" experiences, and having a shower made it feel like we didn't miss out on everything, and that Tommy was being appreciated as a member of our family the same way a biological child would be. It really meant a lot to us.

What's going on Dad?

Opening presents

Meltdown on the way home

Patrick's Guest House

Ok, I know it has a real name, like Bridge Africa Guest House, but Patrick runs it, and to us it is Patrick's Guest House. First of all, Patrick runs more than one guest house, apparently. But we stayed at the one where anyone adopting an child or traveling in a very small group might stay. It was a three bedroom, two bath home. There is one room with a private, attached bath, and two rooms that share a bath in the hallway. The shared bathroom has a shower, while the private bath has a tub with a handle attachment that you can spray over yourself while you sit in the tub. Both bathrooms have hot water- glorious. Trust me, you want to have hot water. You will be covered in red dirt or red mud (depending on the season) so having a place to shower is oh so important.

The guest house also has a shared living/dining room, a kitchen, a nice front porch, a back patio, and a good piece of lawn. The extra space was invaluable when attempting to entertain an active little one. Tommy loved playing on the patio or in the yard, and Alfred was even kind enough to lend us a wash basin for a pool. On rainy days the extra living space inside made a huge difference, and we also enjoyed having a TV with a DVD player to watch a movie now and then. Having a kitchen (oven, stovetop, toaster, coffee pot, and refrigerator- no microwave) saved us a great deal of money because we could cook our own meals if we were around, and that was especially nice because we could make "American" food the way we liked it.

We cannot say enough about Alfred, the caretaker of the guest house. He is an incredible man who loves the Lord and has a servant's heart. He never once complained about the HUGE messes Tommy made on the tablecloths or the floor. He did mountains of dishes and laundry, and even taught me the basics of Ugandan cooking. He and the other guys who work around the house were eager to talk about Ugandan culture and to direct us on the important things to teach Tommy.

The guest house is outside of the city center, which means you will spend more time driving, but you will also be away from the worst of the heat and smog. The air quality in Uganda is poor because there are no exhaust standards for the vehicles and because everyone burns their trash. You can't escape the smoke from trash anywhere, but the guest house is situated on a hill that gets a nice breeze so the air is much cleaner there than in the city center. You will not need to be in the city everyday, and the guest house is a really pleasant place to spend your downtime. Also, it is quite close to the American embassy, and you will be spending plenty of time there.

We paid $25 a night per adult (so $50 a night), and had the large front bedroom with the attached bath. The rate included breakfast. We paid Alfred to do our laundry each week, but it was very reasonable. We also tipped him for all his hard work keeping the house and our room/bathroom clean, so you would want to plan on taking some extra money for that too.

Patrick also had vans and a car available for rent. If you can, ask for Eddie to drive you. He really knows where he is going and he hates traffic. You will not be late for court with Eddie. We had more than one driver while we were there because Eddie had to do some long distance driving, and they were all fine, but Eddie was the best.

When, God willing, we return to Uganda, we will want to stay there again...hopefully it won't be all booked up!

Contact info:

We included a few pictures of the guest house in an earlier post.

Monday, 26 October 2009

(I've Got) Pees Like a River

Boy like a fountain...

Tommy peed on my head today. Not really his fault. Not really my fault. Just a series of ordinary events that led to the blessed baptism.

The story starts out well. This morning Tommy signaled to me that he wanted to get on the toilet to go to the bathroom. I was, of course, ecstatic. This wasn't the first time that he had done this, but it has been weeks since the last time, and I have been trying not to push it even though I really really want to. So, up on the toilet he went. He produced his potty, got a standing ovation from mum, got his diaper back on, and went on his merry way.

Later in the afternoon while we were playing Tommy got a peculiar look on his face, scrunched up his toes and began stamping his leg. Ahhhhh....number two. The excitement of the earlier potty triumph overcame me, and I foolishly decided to see if he could get the last of his poop in the toilet too. I figure the option of not sitting in his own poop would be really motivating in the future. So I whisk him to the bathroom, yank off the sweats, pull down his cover, fumble with his snappi, and get him situated on his special potty seat. By the time I accomplished all of this he had finished his main business. But since he was on the seat anyway, I thought, why not let him sit a minute? See if anything else comes out.

So he sits, he grunts, he grabs the seat handles and slides forward. I take this as a sign that he may be have some success, and bend down for 10 seconds to take care of the diaper on the floor.

Suddenly something warm and wet hits my forehead. I glance up and notice a golden arch streaming over my head and onto the just-cleaned-that-morning bathroom floor. It actually took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on. Tommy was peeing all over me and the whole bathroom. His potty seat has a shield meant to direct the potty down into the toilet and prevent it from spurting out the crack between the toilet seat and the bowl. However, if your child scoots forward a bit, it might actually direct the flow in the incorrect direction, causing your child to create a fountain of urine to add ambiance to your bathroom (yay! we finally have a "water feature").

Poor Tommy. He was so confused. He thought he was doing something really good. But I am pretty sure the look on my face was a bit, well, unhappy, with a hint of disgusted. He still got his standing ovation. But I couldn't jump up and down this time, for fear of slipping.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

They Grow Up So Fast...

This video does require a disclaimer: it was prompted, sort of. Tommy did spontaneously kiss Claire, but the camera was not rolling at the time, so he was asked for a repeat performance. He quickly obliged. Perhaps a bit too quickly...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Tommy at 2 1/2 months old.

It is rare in international adoption to have a baby picture. We have been incredibly blessed to receive a picture of tiny Tommy, taken by someone on a mission trip serving the Ibanda parish. A dear friend (and adoption mentor) of ours knew people on that trip and asked around to see if anyone had taken pictures of any of the babies. At the time of the trip, in summer 2008, no babies had come to the US from the home. The person who snapped this photo could never have known how much it would mean to us to have it. This an indescribable treasure. We are so thankful.

Friday, 9 October 2009


I have been reflecting a great deal on redemption these days. Our adoption of Tommy has come about only because all three of us experienced great loss. If Tommy still had his parents, and we still had Leah, we would not be a family.

We live in an imperfect world. A world where genes get mangled and babies die, and where parents deal with harsh circumstances that lead them to give up their children. There is so much pain and suffering in those losses. We still miss Leah and we always will. Tommy will always wonder about his biological parents and miss them. But, through no fault of Tommy's or ours, our biological families could not exist. This is where the redemption begins.

God took our tattered hearts and lives and began to mend them together. He rescued Tommy and placed him in an orphanage in Ibanda, in the arms of a loving Sister. He caused our lawyer to place a phone call at the moment that she was holding him, and when Isaac said, "Sister, will you give me a baby?" She responded, "You can have the one in my arms." Our Tommy.

God took the sorrow and pain of deep losses and has offered us all hope and restoration. We can't have Leah, but we can have a beautiful child. Tommy can't have his birth parents, but he does have a mum and dad. The suffering is still there, the hurt is still there. It will always be there. But the redemption is there as well.

Our family may be patched together from pain, but it is beautiful nonetheless, because our God is one who restores and redeems.

Friday, 2 October 2009

At Least He Tells The Truth

Tommy has never had trouble communicating his wants and needs. However, Jeff and I were getting a bit tired of his methods- laughing for yes (fine) and screaming for no (not fine). Thus we have been working very hard on nodding. He is getting pretty good and doing it without prompting.

Yesterday while playing in the living room, he ventured over to the desk and began slapping a pile of papers I had stacked up on the edge, waiting to be filed. I said, "Tommy, those aren't for you." And he backed up a few steps, looked at me, then lunged back towards the papers and tried to pull them down.

"Tommy, No! I just told you to stop. Are you being bad on purpose?"
He slowly turns, looks into my eyes, and nods "Yes."

I have pictures, but no camera cord to post them. We are searching high and low tomorrow and will have them up soon! Moving it is going ok...still too many boxes for my taste. Tommy's IEP evaluations went well, and I will post on that experience soon.