Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Audiologist

One of Tommy's friends from his orphanage was recently diagnosed with some hearing loss. His mom was completely taken by surprise, and she is a darn good mom who pays a ton of attention to her kids. This little boy was speaking and responding to his parent's voices, and so the hearing loss, which was only on certain decibels, had gone undetected.

Based on how easily Tommy's colds have progressed to ear infections I felt pretty confident that he suffered from some untreated infections while he was in the orphanage. Also, he is having one small speech issue, and before I call those dreaded early eduction people I just wanted to verify that the issue did not have a physical cause. So, I decided to take him to the audiologist for a check-up.

The visit was fairly easy. First they use a small machine to check ear pressure, then you go into a special booth for the hearing test. I held Tommy on my lap while the doctor whispered and played sounds out of speakers on alternating sides of the booth. Once Tommy looked over to the correct side the doctor had these creepy plastic animals that lit up and flashed lights as a reward. I was nervous because I couldn't tell how the test was going, and it seemed like it went on for a while. Also, it was hard to tell if he was responding as quickly as he should. He squirmed a bit, and was freaked out the first couple times the animals lit up (trust me, I was scared too- they were grotesque).

After the test we got some good news: all of his hearing appears to be within the normal range. The can't tell precisely at this age because there is a chance that one ear is making up for the other, but based on his response times the doctor was 95% sure that his hearing is totally normal. The better news was the doctor told me Tommy was one of the most alert and cooperative kids of his age she had ever tested, if not the best. Considering the havoc he sometimes creates it was nice to hear that. The only problem was that he has an ear pressure issue on (big surprise) the side that keeps getting infected. The doctor is hoping it will resolve itself, because that is a possibility, but we have to go back soon for another check-up.

Now if only he will be so cooperative when we go to the dentist for the first time. A mom can dream.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


We are experiencing some heat here- one of my friends referred to it today as "beastly," and I know Jeff would agree with that characterization. I actually enjoy the heat, although I could do without the humidity, and Tommy (true to his roots) is holding up just fine.

Yesterday while I was watering our garden, Tommy decided he needed some water to play in, so after his nap I got out the sprinkler he got for his birthday but hasn't been able to use yet.

I ran through a few times to show him what to do. Then I picked him up and carried him through. This is what transpired next:

A few minutes after this video he decided that he wanted me to carry him through again. I asked him why he didn't want to run through himself. His answer "scary, scary." This from a boy who adores taking showers. I'm hoping he'll warm up to it, or else it is going to be a very long, hot, dry, summer.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


It's hard to believe it's been two years since our world turned upside down. Two years since we first heard the words "potters syndrome." Two years since the phrase "incompatible with life" impacted my life. Two years since we walked home from the doctor's stunned, weeping, crushed. Two years since we had to call our family and friends and relay the news that our baby would not live long past birth.

Some days it is hard to believe that we ever walked this path. That I cradled a dying child in my womb. That we watched her die in our arms. That we lost a daughter. Sometimes it seems so unbelievable that that was our life. That it is our life.

But, today, as the tears flow, I am very sure that it is.

Monday, 17 May 2010


This weekend our town's chamber of commerce put on an event in our downtown. The event caught my eye because it was pirate-themed, and Tommy's favorite book from this week's library run is "Pirates Don't Change Diapers." The promotional material promised both a pirate ship and family fun. We are a family, and we like fun, so we decided to go. We missed the big party on Friday, because it started at 8:30 (whoever decided that family fun should begin at 8:30 apparently meant "family fun for teenagers"). We figured that the fun should be equally good on Saturday, so after breakfast we loaded up the stroller and set off.

The event was set up with a treasure map, and the goal was to go to each business and get a stamp, or mark, or sticker from that business for your map. Most of the businesses were handing out prizes or coupons or having raffles as well. Once you completed the map you could turn it in for the big drawing. Our first few stops were great. We got coupons and chocolate coins (side note, I know these are made out of terrible chocolate, but for some reason I still really like them- same with advent calendar candy). The pirate theme was only somewhat in evidence, but Tommy was having fun. Then things got progressively more lame. The "pirate ship" was really a bar shaped like a ship. A BAR. How family friendly. There were no pirates. We went to the place where there was supposed to be live music and hot dogs, only to find out that nothing started until two. Hmmmm, naptime. Definitely not planned by a mom. As we progressed with our treasure hunt we realized that the day was not going to be as fun as we thought. But, we were halfway done, and at that point we figured things could only get better. The stops were a mixed bag. Some of the shops had very friendly owners who were clearly invested in trying to make the day festive and fun, others not so much. The highlight for T was getting a foam sword and a paper hat from a hair salon that was fully in the spirit of things.

We ended up finishing our map more quickly than we thought and deciding that hanging out for free hotdogs and pushing back Tommy's nap was not worth it. So, we turned in our map, filled out the raffle card, and headed home. During the walk back we talked a little bit about how different the actual event was from what we expected based on the promotional literature, and I said something along the lines of: "Well, maybe we'll win something. That will salvage the day."

We went home, T took a nap. Jeff and I got ready to go out to dinner, and got T ready to spend time with some of his favorite people (and dogs). Jeff and I had an amazing evening catching up with friends and stuffing ourselves with delicious food. It was so much fun. We got home late, came in, and Jeff put Tommy in his crib. I noticed the light on the answering machine was blinking. I hit the button and hear: "This is so and so from the chamber of commerce. I'm calling to let you know that you won a flat screen HDTV in our drawing." I won! I jumped up and down, and I don't even really like TV. It was just so fun to win, especially after all that work, and feeling like I had ruined our Saturday morning by making us all go to a fairly boring event.

Woohoo for Pirate Booty!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Tommy: 1, Mum: 0

So, the three day potty training:

It was miserable the first day (apparently it is supposed to be). The second day he showed steps forward, same with the third. The fourth day (first day off) he did a pretty good job. We had one intentional wetting and one true accident, but lots of really good holding it in the car (hooray). Then came the fifth day, which involved a great deal of obviously intentional wetting (and a few true accidents- the sound of rushing water in the laundry room clearly overcame him). In case you are wondering if I am one of those parents who is always reading dark intentions into my child's behavior, this is not the case. No exorcisms here.

Trust me, he is peeing on purpose. If he can hold it in for four to five hours on one day, then he can go longer than a few minutes the next day. His new response to his "gentle reminder" phrase is to shout "No" and then start peeing. Also, he is very proud of his pee spots once they are made- although he is certainly sneaky about making them- and he likes to yell "Uh oh, wet, pee pee!" and giggle a little. Awesome.

I'm not totally sure if this is due to plain old stubbornness, which I know he possess in spade, or if there is something else going on. I am beginning to wonder if he is frightened of going on the toilet. I can't figure out why that would be, except maybe because of the night-time training outlined by the program that had me placing him on the toilet while he was still semi-asleep. One time it really freaked him out. Now Tommy will not sit on the toilet when he has to go (after three days, we can both tell when he has to and when he doesn't). I know I can force him on, and I can make him sit there, but I can't make him go. And I'm just not interested in doing this by force anyway. He does like to sit on the toilet when he does not have to go, since our toilet is now covered in car stickers. He loves car stickers.

I'm not sure where I am going from here. My preference is back to diapers. Diapers are cheap (go cloth!) and easy. The primary problem with diapers is that Tommy has been refusing to wear them and has learned how to take them apart. But, I would rather put him back in diapers and worry about having to fight him on putting them on rather than make this little toilet battle into an all out war. It really makes no difference to me if he wants to be potty trained or not. I would have to carry fewer things around if he would wear underwear, but, honestly that is not a big deal. I don't view potty training early as a marker of future success. I know this one kid who didn't potty train until she was at least six, and then she graduated from both Harvard and Harvard Law. Not too shabby. Maybe Tommy is following in her footsteps. Although, if he is not potty trained by four I may be feeling much less relaxed about this.

I should have guessed that the program I used wouldn't work for Tommy, but I am a gullible sort of person (truth telling is so important to me because if you lie I will believe you), and it claimed to be "one size fits all." It was supposed to work on every single child. And, while I made some mistakes, I did follow it as faithfully as I could. Three days inside the house were torture for the little guy. He was pounding on the front door and begging to leave by the end of day two. I am not kidding. Pounding. I did let him out a little bit, but, that of course meant that I failed at getting him to the toilet in the proper way when he had an accident. Tommy needs human interaction besides his parents. It is just his way (I think this is what people mean when they say "extrovert"). Choosing a program that prevented this was a big mistake on my part.

So, I live and learn. Next time I will be more careful about considering Tommy's unique personality when I undertake one of these projects. Unless, of course, the marketing for the program is very persuasive...

P.S. I wrote this earlier in the week- since writing I have indeed put Tommy back in diapers, and of course, he has started occasionally asking to go in the toilet again. As for going back to big-boy-underwear, I'm out of energy, so he can wait!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mother's Day

We had a fantastic day.

First, Jeff gave me an awesome gift: sleep. He woke up in the night when Tommy wet the bed (remember the cold-turkey potty training...guess which part is not working at all?), he was up early in the morning to take care of him again, and to make me a great breakfast. I got to sleep in until eight, then stay in bed for a delicious meal. Also, Jeff taught Tommy how to say "Happy Mother's Day." So adorable.

After church we had planned to meet up with some friends (Kathryn, Marty and Deken) of ours who have also adopted from Uganda and go to a Cookout sponsored by a Ugandan organization here. Now, I am going to describe a serious of antics that resulted from cultural differences. I love Uganda. I love America. Our cultures are different. The following statements are simply observations, not judgments.

I received an email for the cookout, reminding everyone that it started at two, and asking people to be on time. So, of course, we arrived at our friend home in time to carpool over and arrive shortly after two. After all, we didn't want to be the very first ones there (ok, everyone who has been to Uganda feel free to start laughing at me now). Now, the directions to the park seemed clear to me, but when I told Kathryn what they were she informed me that what seemed straightforward "the park entrance on Higgins" was actually not clear at all because there are six entrances on Higgins (in defense of the organizers, after coming home and checking my email, I realize that they did specify an entrance in a different part of the email that I hadn't read as carefully- this was my fault). So, we drove to one of the entrances, and actually pulled into the correct one, but, we didn't know it was the right one, and we did not see any group of Ugandans having a cookout. So, I called one of the phone numbers listed in the email, and was given directions to an entrance in the exact opposite direction. So we drove there. Then, we got a call back saying the directions we had just been given were wrong, and to go to the next entrance over. No one was there either. So we called again, and were given directions to yet another entrance. Wrong again. I was pretty frustrated because the entrances were actually numbered, and all I wanted was the number, so we could find it. But, no one knew the number. We called all the phones again and no one answered, so we decided to drive through every single picnic area looking for the Ugandans. Now, looking for Ugandans in a crowded park is a bit awkward. You can't just drive up to every party that happens to have a few people who might be Ugandans and ask "are you the Ugandans?" You just can't. Finally, we ended up checking the first (correct) entrance again, saw no one, and then went to the only entrance we hadn't checked. From there, Kathryn called the list of numbers and managed to connect with someone on the last try. They instructed us back to that first entrance- and told us they would stand in the middle of the road so we could find them. So, we went back, and we did find them- after one hour of driving in circles. The reason that we did not see them on either of our first two times driving through was that there were three people there. Three people. Sitting on the edge of the parking lot.

When we got out they explained that of course no one was there yet. The party started at two, but probably most people would be there by seven. SEVEN. For a two o'clock party. Africa time! The good news was we got to meet the social committee, and we learned a valuable lesson for our future. We had a good time meeting the people who were there, and everyone was so welcoming and they assured us that they will have many events this summer for us to attend. We will be sure to arrive late (and will probably still be early).

We had to leave the cookout "early" because we went to Kathryn's Grandma's for a Mother's Day dinner. The food was so good. I stuffed myself on the world's best baked beans and meatball sandwiches. Tommy had a blast playing with Deken and Deken's Poppa, and learning how to hit a baseball off of a tee. He is looking like a lefty. It is his throwing arm of choice, anyhow, and has been for some time. That would be fun, because my Dad (who Tommy is named after) is also a lefty. Tommy may or may not have run around the party yelling "Deken's bum, Deken's bum," while attempting to show us exactly what he referred to by pulling up the back of Deken's shirt and pointing. Slightly embarrassing. I think it somewhat horrified Deken's great-grandmother. Oh well, making mischief is what toddlers do best, right?

Here are the best pictures I got with my son on Mother's Day. He didn't get much of a nap, and he was really hungry when I decided to attempt the photo session. Not such great planning on my part.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Anticipating Mother's Day

This will be my third Mother's Day as a mother, but the first with a little one in my arms. I am so excited! We have some really fun things planned for the day, but mostly I am looking forward to spending the day being (mostly) happy.

Mother's Day is so hard when you don't have your child with you. The day will still be a little sad for us, because of course we will miss Leah, but also because we will be thinking of Tommy's first mom. She has been on my mind more than usual lately, and my heart just aches for her, knowing that she does not know that Tommy ended up in a loving home. The thing I pray most often for her is that God would give her peace and comfort as she lives without her son, and that she would know that Tommy is safe and cared for.

Our family is only together because a family was first broken. We live in that reality every day, but on days like Mother's Day it is a little more real.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Pee Saga Continues

Yesterday Tommy peed all over the floor. A huge puddle. Now, considering the last post on this same subject, I know you are all thinking, "so what's new?"- but, what you don't know is that after I wrote about that a few weeks ago we successfully talked Tommy into peeing only in his diaper. And by successfully, I mean, it lasted for a few weeks.

The truth is that I don't want to potty train him. It seems like a load of work, and, I have been very busy. In the last few weeks I planned and threw a birthday party, had my parents over for ten days complete with fun activities, and finished my dissertation. All this while still caring for Tommy, cooking, doing laundry, and, very occasionally, cleaning. I am exhausted, and our apartment is a wreck. Just awful. Therefore, the last thing I want to do is spend a few days hanging out in our apartment mopping up pee while trying to convince Tommy to use the toilet. Few things sound worse.

That said, Tommy has been asking to use the toilet quite often this last week. It started last Thursday, while I was out for the evening (eating pretty much the most amazing Mexican food ever- Susan, you rock). When I came home Jeff told me that Tommy had asked to use the toilet, and when Jeff took him he went. Every day since he has gone on the toilet at least once. He goes in his diaper the rest of the time, but still, the child is making a sincere effort. He has also gotten extremely resistant to putting diapers on, hence the nudeness yesterday that led to the giant puddle. So, I have decided (if begrudgingly) to support him in this effort. Today we will go to the store and he can pick out some big boy underwear. I have read one of those three-day potty programs, and we will give it a shot at the end of the week. I am a little wary. Tommy is a bit strong-willed, and I wonder if my showing interest in his desire to potty on the toilet will make him change directions. On the other hand, he also adores praise, and the program we are trying is built on excessive praise. We will soon see what is more important to him- stickers and all kinds of adulation, or having his own way. I'm hoping stickers win.

Update- No surprise, he picked out "Cars" and "Thomas the Train" undies. When we got home he stacked the packages up by his side and kept pointing to them and saying "big boy underwear" and "potty training." He is really excited about the underwear.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Zoo Trip

We took a trip to the Brookfield Zoo this week. It is probably safe to say that Tommy enjoyed the animal statues and the buttons and flaps on the various exhibits even more than he liked the living animals. He has also spent a great deal of time talking about the "ducks, quack, quack," by which he means the disgusting and aggressive Canadian geese that attempted to attack him for his snack trap. It kind of feels like when you get your child a cool new toy and they are only interested in the wrapping paper or box. But, he did have such a great time pushing all those buttons...

Tommy enjoyed seeing some of the animals he likes best, especially those that he associates with his favorite books.

The South American Coast resembled "Curious George Visits the Aquarium" complete with some huge fish tanks and penguins (yes, I allow him to read Curious George. I know, I am a terrible mother, but he LOVES Curious George. In fact, all of his favorite animal books are about primates, and I am not about to let someone else's racism dictate the types of animals that Tommy is allow to choose to like- no matter what books about what white mothers of black children should and shouldn't allow say).

He also liked seeing Zebras and Giraffes, his other two favorite animals from his posters and pictures of Uganda.

It was also a treat to see the Gorillas, the animals prominently featured in "Goodnight Gorilla" and "Hug." We even had the pleasure of seeing a mom and baby gorilla hugging.

For me, going to the zoo was different. I have never been anti-zoo, but after seeing some of those animals in their natural habitats, seeing them in small, artificial enclosures was sad. I know that Zoos raise a great deal of money for preservation of animals in the wild, that many people learn to care about animals through the work of zoos, and that zoos help fight extinction through careful breeding, but it still didn't seem right that the giraffes had no room to run. They are so beautiful when they run.