Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Joys of Giardia

Since world water day was this week, let me take the opportunity to share some of what I have learned about caring for a child whose intestines have been damaged by Giardia.

Giardia is an ameobic parasite caused by the consumption of water containing fecal matter. You can get giardia here in the US, typically from drinking from a freshwater lake or stream, or accidentally swallowing a bit of water while swimming in one. It is fairly common in developing countries, and many kids in orphanages suffer from it. All three kids who have come to the US from Tommy's orphanage had it.

Giardia can occur without syptoms, so it is worthwhile to test any child coming from a developing country for it, just to be safe. In our experience, symptomatic giardia resulted in foul smelling diarehha, at least 5 times a day, but often up to nine or ten times a day. It wasn't just gross; it was foul. When we changed those diapers, our eyes would water and bile would rise in our throats. That bad.

One of the first places we went after getting Tommy was the Surgery, where he was diagnosed with giardia and given some medication. The medication had to be ground up and disolved in a tiny bit of water, then poured down his throat. The fastest way to endear a child to a scary Mzungu is to give them nasty tasting medicine...or not. Administering medicine teaches you about tough love in parenting pretty quickly. Tommy improved after taking the medicine, but it was unclear as to whether it was entirely wiped out, so we retreated after we got home with even worse tasting medicine. It once took us two hours to get him to take it. After that we got more clever.

After all the treatments he was cleared, but the diarehha continued. When giardia has been in the body for a long time it can destroy the cilia that line the intestines, resulting in a difficulty in absorbing nutrients and processing food. Tommy had trouble processing lactose, gluten, and beans (all difficult to digest foods, and kids without damage can have trouble with beans). Since removing these things from his diet and starting on pro-biotics we have noticed an improvement. Things still aren't perfect, but they are so much better. If things do not continue to improve, we will start on the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD, also called low-residue), which promotes intestinal healing. I am trying to avoid it because it is pretty restrictive and would require taking away almost all of Tommy's favorite foods. Being gluten free and avoiding lactose is rather easy, except for having to prepare two separate meals and keeping Tommy from eating other kid's snacks when we go out. There are so many wonderful GF products that you can buy, and lactose free milk is easy to find (but oh so expensive).

If you suspect your child has giardia, take them to get treated right away while in-country, then make sure and do follow-up once you are home. Avoiding lactose is wise, because lactose actually encourages parasite growth. Then play with their diet until you find one that gets bowel movements down to 1 to 3 a day. It took us quite a while, but once someone suggested removing gluten as well as lactose things slowly got better. Kids with processing issues caused by giardia are not allergic, they are intolerant (hopefully only temporarily). Tommy can eat small amounts of gluten or lactose (he has a talent for begging goldfish crackers off of other children) without having problems, but if he gets too many we will be in trouble. We don't worry too much about cross contamination, or products that are processed in the same plant with gluten or lactose, as long as they don't directly contain either wheat or milk products. Your child may be different, so see what works for you.

Favorite GF supplies to travel with:
Corn and Rice chex
Rice cakes
Rice crackers
Glutino crackers
Oatmeal (not all brands of oatmeal are completely gluten free because of cross contamination, but we have had no problems using Quaker oats)

GF Foods easily available in Uganda:
Rice, potatoes, posho, matoke, any meat, fruits, veggies. Just avoid bread and chapati. Cheese is so expensive you probably won't buy it, but many aged cheeses do not contain lactose and can be safely consumed.

At home: Most stores now carry gluten-free products. They are pricey, but fairly good. The thing that has made this so easy for us is that Tommy's diet in the orphanage consisted of mostly of sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice and meat gravy. He has never had a cookie or a brownie. Thus, I don't worry too much about getting gluten free versions of those things. Amy's brand frozen foods has a great vegan GF pizza, or at least I assume it is great because Tommy adores it. They are six bucks a pop for a pretty small pizza, so he doesn't get them as often as he would like. He also likes GF chicken nuggets. Although I often have to go to Whole Foods for a good variety of products, Trader Joes carries some good stuff: Puffins, frozen pancakes/waffles (CHEAP!!!), and gingersnaps.

So, those are the "facts" of Giardia as I know them, but living with the effects of Giardia has taught me so much more. Jeff and I have supported clean water projects for some time now, because we "knew" how important clean water was for health and preventing diseases. However, now that I have seen what this means for real people, how dirty water ravages little bodies, I am both more thankful for what we have here in the developed world and more compassionate towards those who live without access to fresh, clean water. For our bodies to function and be healthy clean water is a necessity. Yet for so many people this necessity is actually a luxury that they cannot afford. Thus, they drink water filled with poop, and dirt, and parasites, and they get sick and their bodies cannot thrive. I know, because I've seen this happen to Tommy. I've seen his little face contort with pain from his intestinal distress. I'm thankful I had the medicine to do something about it and the clean water to prevent it from happening again. Most moms around the world are not so lucky. Thus, although giardia has been a trial, I also count it a blessing. It has made me more thankful and it has softened my heart.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Connected Child

If you have adopted, are adopting, or are considering adoption, below is a great resource for getting an overview of the work of Karyn Purvis. Her book, The Connected Child, is great for advice on how to deal with past hurt and creating secure attachments. The link is to some radio interviews she did with Family Life. They are nice and short, but make some great points. It is always better to be over-prepared:

Monday, 22 March 2010

Where did my baby go?

It's been a big week for Tommy. Thursday was a huge day for him. New skills acquired:

Getting all the way to D! All week, whenever he saw his magnets, wanted the ABC song, or an ABC book he would say A-B or, occasionally, A-B-C. On Thursday he pointed at the magnets on the fridge and said "A, B, C, D." Yesterday he was working on E, F, and G, all by himself.

In the afternoon we were looking at pictures. "Pictures of Tommy" is Tommy's favorite activity. He would look at pictures of himself all day long if it was allowed. Our little narcissist. Anyway, we were looking at some pictures from our last trip home. First he saw a picture of him and his Great Gran and said, "Great Gran" (this is normal), but then on the next picture, one of her holding him, he said "Great Gran give a hug." His longest and most coherent sentence to date. It was so sweet.

We had Mexican food for dinner, and I handed him two tortilla chips so that he had one in each hand (that is his thing). He looked at me, then at his chips, and said "two." We have been talking about two, since his birthday is next month, but not in that context at all. I was completely surprised.

But, most importantly, on Thursday Tommy began to play air guitar! We were listening to African children's choir, and Tommy was standing in front of the stereo cabinet, which has a glass closure, and staring at his reflection and dancing. Then I noticed he put one hand in the air and the other on his stomach and started wiggling his fingers around and leaning back...just like Daddy does when he is rocking. It was so cute. I tried to tape it, but of course he saw the camera and stopped.

I love seeing him learn new things and of course, the goal of feeding him as much as we do is to see him grow, but it kills me how fast my little boy is growing up.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Blurred Vision, Hand Cramps and Paper Cuts: It's Evening Sickness

Well, we are paper-pregnant. Evening sickness is officially setting in, caused by numerous paper-cuts and hand cramps from filling out mounds of paperwork. Our social worker is coming next week to update our home study. We will be adopting from...drum roll please...unknown.

Adoption is a crazy roller coaster, and as we climb back into the little seats and strap down our belts we have absolutely no idea where this ride is taking us. We hope that Uganda will be an option, but since it remains unclear whether or not it will be we are seriously researching Rwanda and trying to stay open to other possibilities.

One might wonder why we didn't wait until we had our country all figured out before we started, and one might also wonder if we are a bit insane. We are not, I think.

The ball got rolling when we found out that we need to either renew our home study this month or close our foster license. For some reason I cannot abide the thought of closing our license, also, with Jeff's job and the length of time it takes to adopt this is good timing for us to get started.

Please pray for us this week. We are trying to be sensitive to God's guidance on this. Our hearts have been in Uganda since the day we landed in Entebbe. I had a very clear picture of what this adoption would look like: Uganda, Ibanda Babies Home, and a baby from the same area as Tommy. I wanted to make sure Tommy had a sibling from his people group who shared his culture. But God has been teaching me that He did not draw the borders of Africa, and that He does not see distinctions among His children, and that I need to be flexible to adopt the child that He is preparing for me no matter where they are from or what they look like or what kind of food they eat or how many new holidays our family needs to incorporate. I'm not sure if that is just a little lesson I needed to learn, or if it was preparation for doing something new.

Honestly, I'm having trouble letting go. I had a plan. I was going to go back to Uganda for Klug child number 3, and I am a bit irritated that it may not happen. I'm not sure how long it will be until I learn that my plans are not always God's plans and that I need to be flexible, and I am still super hung up on having to learn new food. Seriously, Africans don't measure- learning how to cook like them is hard! And American plantains just aren't the same as matoke. They don't feel right when I cut them. But I digress.

We are adopting again. We have no idea where. Let the fun begin. And pass me the band-aids, please, I've got a nasty paper cut.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Double Trouble

The long version of that title is, "Tommy knows how to cause enough trouble for two kids."

Last week Tommy had the opportunity to play with another boy, Deken, who was also adopted from Uganda. It was so much fun to finally meet Deken and his mom, Kathryn. We have been "internet friends" since the beginning of their adoption process, shared a social worker, and live within an hour's drive, but between two longs trips to Uganda (she left shortly after I got back and was in Uganda for a few months) and everyone settling in we just hadn't gotten together yet.

Deken is only slightly older than Tommy, but seems to have already outgrown his "twos"- he is a very sweet and polite boy. Tommy had a blast playing with him, and I enjoyed the chance to talk with another mom who knows where I'm coming from.

At one point the two boys were playing a game with the door to Tommy's room. Deken is tall enough to turn the handle, something Tommy can't quite do yet, and he and Tommy had a little game of pretend going on. One of them would shut the door. Then Deken would knock, Tommy say "come in" and Deken would twist the handle and open the door a crack, then both of them would laugh hysterically. Over and over. After a while Tommy started coming out of the room, and Deken going in, and eventually both boys end up in the room with the door shut. Moms keep talking. After a minute or two, Kathryn says, "it sounds very quiet in there."

We open the door...

And found two boys and a table covered in gooey white lotion.

How to catch the culprit?

Tommy had lotion evenly distributed on his face, hands, and overalls. Deken, on the other hand, only had lotion on the side of his body closest to Tommy. Coincidence?

Then, as we watched, Tommy attempted to smear even more lotion on Deken.

Ah, learning to spread the guilt so young.

Monday, 15 March 2010

When Mum's Away...

...the boys play!

I went to a conference this weekend with a bunch of women from my church. It would have been restful had we not stayed up until two o'clock two nights in a row. I came home exhausted, but I had a ton of fun so it was completely worth it.

Jeff and Tommy had quite the father-son weekend. It was difficult for me to leave Tommy overnight for the first time, but I am so glad I did. We both survived just fine.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I told you so

Sometimes it feels so good to be right.

Picture this: The year is 1999. The place is Creekside (aka Lost Creek Ranch) at Forest Home. It's summer camp. I'm the counselor for a cabin full of sixth grade girls. They are awesome, but also hormonal and crazy. I spend hours sitting on a rock outside of the cabin mediating petty fights (and then, (sobbing) she looked at me funny, and then...). Of course, the main interest that week was boys. And by boys, I do not mean Jesus and his disciples, I mean the strange, smelly, eleven and twelve year old creatures that shoveled down ten bowls of nuggets and onion rings each on Fried-day and lived to regret it (and still refuse to shower).

One of the times that the topic of conversation in our cabin shifted away from unattainable boys (like NSync members) and to regular, living across the camp in extremely dirty dorm boys, I brought up a particular boy in that category who was near and dear to my heart:

"In a few years you are all going to be fighting over my brother. Just wait. You will beg me for his phone number"

Response: "Eeeeewwww, Kevin is so gross, his butt-crack hangs out of his trunks," etc.

(Ringleader= Colleen Hamilton, who was particularly vocal)

"Just wait, you will."

Flash forward to 2010. A certain Miss Hamilton says yes when a certain Kevin Cox gets down on one knee and flashes a very shiny ring her way.

Oh, Miss Hamilton, I TOLD YOU SO!!!!

Welcome to the family, Colleen.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

We have left warm and sunny California for the cold and snowy mid-west. Why did I move? Why do I stay?

At least Jeff has a good job and we have amazing friends. Those things redeem the snow.

Anyway, I need to finish up on my trip.

The last weekend that we were in LA we were supposed to not be in LA, but up at the Lake instead. However, Grandpa got sick, so we canceled the trip. Although that made me very sad, it also allowed us to do some great things.

On Friday, mom, Tommy, and I went to the LA County Museum of Art to see an exhibit on Renoir post-impressionism. I hadn't been to an art museum in ages (after being a member of the Art Institute in Chicago for a few years and going frequently), so it was nice to put an end to the drought. The exhibit did a great job of exploring a different side of Renoir and placing him within his historical context, which made this history-lover very happy. Tommy did a fantastic job. We timed it so that he would sleep during most of our time there, and it would have worked amazingly well had it not been that another family was there and their child was neither sleeping nor quiet. Her screams woke up the little guy, and he refused to go back to sleep. However, he did stay quietly in his Ergo and looked at all the paintings and listened to a bit of the audio. He did have a snack-related meltdown in the gift shop, but it was brief. The best part? I got in on a free ticket! While we were waiting in line to buy our tickets, a man walked up to me and said that he was leaving and couldn't use his ticket, and he offered it to me. I will never turn down a chance to save twenty-five bucks (well, let's be honest, to save my mom twenty-five bucks), so I gratefully accepted it.

Mum and Tommy at LACMA


Before we hit the museum we had a chance to go out to lunch at the Homegirl Cafe. It is a neat restaurant that is part of an organization that employs former gang members to allow them the support they need to stay out of gangs. Mom and I ordered a bunch of different tacos and split them, the homemade pork chorizo was amazing, and everything else was also delicious. We also got some cookies and other treats at the bakery, where Tommy made friends with the guy working the counter, who was very impressed by Tommy's roots. Tommy gave him a slobbery pound (is there any other kind), and the guy told me: "I got some of his saliva on my hand. I will treasure it." Cool, except for the whole food-service thing.

That evening, Tommy and I went to the start of the evening program for the St. Andrew's high school group's 30 Hour Famine. They were raising money for Uganda, because they are awesome and continue to show their love for Tommy. I had an opportunity to talk about some of the conditions in Uganda and some of my experiences over there, and Tommy ran around looking cute and charming the girls. Typical. I felt very privileged to be a small part of the event, and was glad that we had the opportunity to help out.

On Saturday Tommy and I spent the morning at Grandma Janie's. He had a blast seeing the "cool car" and playing with toys. Then he got to eat lunch with her before we went home for his nap time. After his nap we went to redeem a certificate that Tommy had been given to Build-a-Bear. I don't think he really understood what he was doing, but he did pick a bear and a little heart and watch it get filled. We accesorized it with a UCLA shirt and a little football. We probably could have just bought the little football, because when we got home he promptly took it off the bear and put it on his wrist, and ran around with it on for the rest of the night. We also had a special treat for dinner- Leo's. Oh, those cheese chips...

Sunday we had another jam-packed day, starting with a church service focusing on the 30 Hour Famine. Tommy may have fallen asleep during the sermon and snored very loudly. After church dad, mom, Tommy, and I drove to Watts, where St. Andrew's serves food once a month at the Powerhouse Church. I have always wanted to go, because the Hamiltons (who are near and dear to my heart) have been so passionate about this ministry, but we have never been home on the right Sundays. I mostly watched Tommy while everyone else cooked, but I did get to serve some rolls with Tommy on my hip, and do some clean-up while Tommy played outside with Poppa. From Watts we raced to Costco, bought a ton of food, then raced home to get ready for a dinner party. It was quite a gathering. Grandma and (recovered) Grandpa, Grandma Cox, Jacquie, Jane, Aunt Annie, Molly, Kevin, Colleen, Russ and Shannon, and of course, my parents and Tommy. We had to put all of the leaves in the table, but we managed to fit. It was the perfect ending to a great trip, and, as you can see, we didn't waste the weekend.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

My Life as an Oxymoron

I've been debating about writing this post for a while now. Jeff and I live in a weird place. We are the fertile infertile. I don't spend too much time dwelling on this aspect of our lives, but every once in a while when certain things don't happen on schedule, I am hit with the reality of our situation, and I don't like it.

So, this month our lives were hectic. We have been adjusting to our new schedule, preparing to travel for Katie's wedding, processing the news out of Uganda, and praying about how we should move forward with our future plans. So, all of this adds up to a lot of stress, and that threw me off. I was late. It was almost unbearable.

I do not feel ready to cope with the uncertainty that would attend a pregnancy. Twelve weeks of waiting to find out whether the baby would live is too long. Even more, I don't feel prepared to deal with bad news again. I'm just not ready. I don't know if I ever will be, but I know that I'm not now.

It's strange, because going into Tommy's adoption I thought we would adopt and then try the pregnancy route again to give us time to save up for another adoption (when Jeff and I talked about adopting a child who would look different from us we decided we would be adopting another at some point). I thought that having a child in my arms would make it easier to face the thought of losing another baby and that I would really want to try again. But it hasn't worked out that way. Instead, our experience adopting has made me question why I would even try and get pregnant again at this point. There are so many kids who need homes, and so few people willing to provide them. Why should we, who are more than willing, who are longing to adopt again, choose a different course?

Someday I may feel differently. We want a large family. I know we can't afford to adopt too many more kids if we ever hope to own a home or send our children to college. Perhaps someday I will be interested in pregnancy and that desire will be great enough for us to risk it. Or maybe we won't have a choice. I've heard that happens too. Leah was a first-try baby. There are a number of "planned by God" kids in my family (such a nicer phrase than "mistake"). I understand that I don't have total control in this area of my life. I learned that lesson the hard way.

I think that I would rather bear this burden than be faced with total infertility. Our genetic counselor informs us that if we are willing to try enough times we will eventually have a live birth. Such reassurance. I am grateful that we have options. I just don't always feel grateful. So maybe I'm a double oxymoron. Fertile infertile. Grateful ingrate. Oh well. If the shoes fit...