Thursday, July 30, 2009

scars



On my shoulder it is straight and clean, didn't even hurt. Surgical, precise, in a few years you might not even notice. Sometimes they do that, you know: fade into the layers of skin, subcutaneous.

The one on my left foot I will not forget. A bit of sun-blackened flesh was found at the scene, sheared off in the unhappy meeting of living thing and inanimate object. A profile view shows indentation, once home to strata of tissue and skin. A shapeless, purple-white souvenir I paid too much for.

They both tell my story, will keep telling, even paled with time and lost from sight. Or perhaps they are deeper still, enough to catch my wrinkled eye while I pray my last chapters. For now, they are mid-healing and in good company.

decisions



Yesterday afternoon Jon and I sat down with the director of Adoption Ministry of YWAM. Joy is just about the most lovely individual you could meet and we had a great time chatting with her. Now that we have completed the agency interview, our next step is a 30 hour training course. We'll take the course in October and start the home study process immediately following its completion.

After talking with Joy, Jon and I realized that we have a big decision before we get too much further along in the process: birthmother adoption or foster-to-adopt? These two options are very different and will require different preparation and perspective for us, and even for our family and community. Naturally there are advantages and challenges to each option, and we need to weigh those things against our situation, our constitutions, and our calling. Ultimately we know that God's call on our lives will be the determining factor, and we are resting in that.

Please pray with us for God to make his will clear to us. Pray that God gives us the grace to discern together where He is leading us. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

parasite FAQ



Looking back over my posts about Dexter's adventures in parasitic infection, I see that I didn't provide a lot of detail about certain aspects of his sickness. We've gotten lots of questions about the whole thing, so I'll try to answer some of the most common questions here.

What kind of parasite was it? The main offender was a parasite called blastocystis hominis, which is not particularly rare in itself, but it very rarely produces such a violent reaction as what Dexter experienced. In fact, most of the research found that parasite to be quite harmless in at least half of the individuals it infects. Aren't we lucky. Dexter's lab results also turned up positive for another parasite, called endolimax nana, but this bug is known to be non-pathenogenic (i.e. not harmful) so apparently it was not the source of his symptoms.

Where did he get it? Based on the timing of when the symptoms occurred, we think that Dexter picked up the parasite sometime during our weekend camping trip to Lake Chelan at the end of June. The doctors were certain that he did not get it from the lake itself, because Lake Chelan is too cold for these types of organisms, which means he must have gotten it from something on the ground. I prefer not to take my imagination any further than that.

Did anyone else get sick? Nope, which was one reason why Jon and I thought it was a parasite from early on in his illness. He is around so many little kids on a daily basis, and they don't exactly keep their hands and sippy cups to themselves at all times, so if it was a virus then one of the other kids or adults he is around would surely have gotten it too. Thankfully parasites are not easily passed from person to person, so no one else was affected.

Can he eat normally yet? For the most part, yes. He is on a lactose-free diet for the next week or two, but he can eat as much as he wants otherwise. His appetite is back and he loves his new "vanilla (soy) milk"!

Though I will be thanking many of you personally, I'd also like to take one more opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who helped us before, during, and after our hospital stay. The calls, visits, flowers, gifts, food, texts, facebook messages, cards, and prayers were what got us through it all, not to mention all the folks who cared for Nate... We are overwhelmed by the love and support, and so very grateful.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

fine and dandy

24 hours after leaving the hospital:







what i missed







but most of all:

.

...and finally, sleeping in my own bed and praying with Jon before we fall asleep next to each other. (sorry, couldn't find a picture of that.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

we're home!

(more soon.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

control


Dexter likes his "vanilla milk" (elemental formula for toddlers)

Dexter is doing great, the doctors say we can go home tomorrow (which means 2-3 days in hospital-speak), and by all accounts things are better than they've been in weeks. So why did a minor issue with the in-room dining service send me into a fit of tears tonight?

Control.

As great as things are going, we are still in the hospital and being in the hospital means I have no control. The doctors gave the OK for Dexter to try solid foods tonight, so I called the dining service to order him a bowl of oatmeal. The woman taking my order told me that I couldn't order him anything because their computer still shows him as being on "infant feeding" (formula-only). Somehow his file hasn't been updated, even though the doctors have written orders that say he can eat. OK, simple misunderstanding, so why the tears?

At home, if my son needs a bowl of oatmeal I go to the kitchen and make him some oatmeal. 5 minutes, tops. Here in the hospital, if the computer file isn't updated, the dining service can't give me oatmeal. To solve this, I have to page the nurse, wait for her to respond (can take up to 30 minutes if things are busy), explain the situation, wait for her to fix it, call dining services again, order the food, and then wait for them to deliver it. 45 minutes if I'm lucky.

I'm praying for the grace to see the lesson here... maybe something about how our get-it-now Western civilization has given us the illusion of having control over our lives... but right now I am too tired and frustrated to think about it. I just wanna go home and make my kid some darn oatmeal.

good hands


Dexter has had three good days in a row (thank you Lord!). The anti-parasitic drugs are doing their job and the symptoms have subsided, so now the task at hand is healing Dexter's poor little gut after all the abuse it has taken. We are taking baby steps along the road to eating and drinking normally again; hopefully we will move from tube feeds to drinking formula by this afternoon. Once again, we are deeply grateful for God's goodness and your prayers and support through all of this.

God has been so good to us, even in the hard days of uncertainty, fear, and frustration. Last Thursday was one of those days. They had come within seconds of discharging us the day before (Dexter vomited while we were literally on our way out the door), so in that process they had taken out his IV. We waited to put it back in to see if Dexter could keep himself hydrated without it, but by Thursday afternoon it was clear that he would need it put back in. After 6 attempts by 3 different nurses (and a lot of prayer), we finally hit a vein and got it going again.

For each attempt two nurses would hold Dexter's limbs while I held his upper body, put my face close to his and tried to keep him calm. I have never wished so hard for a non-verbal child. Holding him down and listening to him scream, "No mommy! Stop! Mommy pick me up!" is on my short list of the hardest things I've had to do as a mom. It broke me down completely. But God was faithful to remind me that he knows the pain of watching a child suffer, that he is with me in that pain, as one who has borne it too.

The next night when we arrived at Swedish the doctors decided that Dexter would need at NG tube (tube that goes up the nose and down into the stomach) for feeding. Based on the face the nurse made when I said the words "NG tube", I gathered that the process of putting it in would be no picnic. I couldn't do it again. I couldn't hold my child down while he cried one more time, I just didn't have it in me. We decided that I would go take a walk while the procedure was taking place, and Jon would stay to help. We were waiting awhile for the nurses to come in to do it, and when I asked our nurse what was taking so long she said that she was waiting for "holders", other nurses who could help hold him down. "If you and your husband want to hold him, we can do it now... but you don't have to - its OK," she told me. My eyes welled up. "Don't worry about it, the other nurses will be ready soon," she assured me.

I fled the scene and headed for the hospital chapel, figuring I'd find kleenex and solitude. No kleenex, but the place was empty, so I sat and listened. Well, first I talked: God, if I was stronger, if I was tough, if I was better at handling all this, then Dexter would already have the tube in place and be getting the food he needs. Then I listened. My child, your strength cannot heal him and your (perceived) weakness cannot harm him. He is mine, and I am caring for him. A weight lifted. We are in good hands.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

taming mama bear


my baby bear cub

We Ballasts grow our babies big -- by 18 months, Dexter weighed as much as an average three-year-old. Over the last three weeks I have watched my chubby boy lose his thigh rolls, his chipmunk cheeks, and his pot belly. I keep staring at him, reassuring myself that he is still the same kid, even though his t-shirt is baggy and his face is slim. The doctors promise me that he'll be back to his chunky self in no time... I sure hope so, as we're counting on his NFL salary for our retirement.

Part of the weight loss is due to the symptoms of the parasite (vomiting, etc), and part of it is because he has been on complete "gut rest" (i.e. no food or drink) for 24 hours at a time at a few different points in this ordeal. I almost prefer the former to the latter. As much as I hate to see him vomit (especially when it is on my favorite pillow, thanks buddy), anything is better than denying my child food. I have an almost visceral reaction when he begs for bananas and toast; the instincts kick in and it's all I can do to keep Mama Bear at bay. Praise God that we seem to be past the need for any more gut rest, as Dexter has kept down all the elemental formula he has gotten through his NG tube. Today we will see how he does drinking the formula, and if he can do this well then we'll be home before long.

As we walk through this experience, I can't help but think about the millions of people who go through this without the benefit of modern medicine. Mothers around the world watch their children beg for food, and unlike me, they don't know if their child's stomach will ever be full again. Without access to IV fluids and antibiotics a simple bout of diarrhea can be fatal for children in third-world countries. I'm sorry for being so depressing, but in light of recent events I have a new perspective on these realities and particularly what mothers in these situations must endure.

If you want to help children and families around the world who don't have access to adequate nutrition, clean water, or medical services, I highly suggest you consider sponsoring a child through Compassion or World Vision, or making a donation to any of the amazing charities that provide clean-water wells in developing countries. A little goes a long way, and it would be such a blessing if Dexter's situation could help stir people to take action for children who don't have the medical care that we do.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

managing


Dexter checks out the view from the 9th floor of Swedish Hospital

It looks like we are going to be here for awhile. In the meantime I am learning good lessons like how to speak hospital (double every time estimate you're given), how to tell which beeps mean what (IV vs. feeding tube), and how to keep your child entertained for hours in a small room (thank you, Pixar). The one thing I have not quite learned is how to manage my expectations.

When Jon was 9, he drank mountain stream water while camping with his family. A few days later he had flu-like symptoms. When they persisted for a week, they tested him and found out he had picked up the parasite Giardia in the stream water. He started anti-parasitic drugs and felt completely back to normal within hours of his first dose.

When the doctors told us that Dexter had parasites, part of the reason we were so happy to hear it was that we expected the drug treatments to make him feel better right away. 36 hours since the diagnosis, over 24 hours since the start of treatment, and Dexter is no better. If one were a pessimist, one could even say he is worse than when he started treatment because he has spent one more day of his life in a hospital (not to mention the weight he has continued to lose).

Naturally, we are discouraged that our expectations weren't met, our son is still sick, and we'll be living in this hospital room for longer than we thought. But in the midst of that, we are blessed by good medical staff, supportive friends and family, and even a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier from our hospital room. Our prayer is for grace enough for each day, and complete healing for our sweet little boy. We know that you are praying these same things with us, and it is a huge blessing to us!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

happy little parasites

This has been one of the weirdest and most intense weeks of our lives as parents. Just over two weeks ago, our little guy (Dexter, age 22 months) started a strange pattern of vomiting in the middle of the night. He was his usual hungry, happy, spirited self during the day but around midnight every night he would have a fit of vomiting, usually lasting about an hour, and then go back to sleep and be fine until the next night.

After a week of this we took him to his pediatrician, who told us to wait a few more days and keep an eye out for dehydration. The next day he had all the signs of severe dehydration, so we took him to the ER. Three days later we were still in the hospital, our boy was sicker than when we arrived, and we had no answers. The pediatric hospitalist decided to have Dexter transferred to a bigger hospital downtown so that we could have access to more specialists, more testing, and a bigger and more comfortable room. Just as we were walking out the door, the lab results came back showing that Dexter had several parasites in his system. Most parents would be upset to hear this, but we were ecstatic to finally have answers. Plus we knew that out of all the things that could have been causing his illness, parasites were one of the most easily treatable possibilities.


eating some toast in our room at Valley


portable dvd player = lifesaver


headed to swedish, happy to finally know what's wrong!

So right now we are hanging out, watching Bolt on the 9th floor of Swedish Hospital. Dexter has an IV in his foot (tried 5 other places, that's another story for another post) that is keeping him hydrated and an NG tube (tube up his nose down into his stomach) through which he is getting anti-parasitic drugs and nutritional formula. Hopefully the tube will come out soon and we can see how he does with normal eating and drinking again. Dexter has been an absolute champ through all the poking, prodding, puking, sticking, and laying around in a hospital room. I will post a few more times about some of the different experiences we have had this week, but for now I will wrap up by saying THANK YOU to every one of you who has prayed for us, cared for Nate, brought us food, and supported us this week. God has used each of you to bless us when we most needed it.


playing in bed at swedish

More stories to come...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

highly favored

Tonight Jon and I are headed to a reception for the current art exhibit at John Knox Presbyterian Church, Highly Favored: Contemporary Images of the Virgin Mary. It promises to be a great evening of fantastic visual art, good food, and a gallery talk from Greg Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe is a renowned speaker on the intersection of art and faith, as well as the editor of Image Journal and founder of the MFA Creative Writing program at SPU.

If you are a) in the Seattle area, b) free tonight, and c) the least bit interested in visual art and/or free food, I highly recommend that you join us. 7 PM at JKPC. Here are a few images, in case you need convincing:


Nocturne, Bruce Herman


Unwed, Pregnant, Candidate for Stoning, Rosemary Luckett


The Passion of Mary, Katherine Bayly

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

step two: interview


Prayers of the Saints, by Glen LaMar

Today we got a call from our adoption agency. They have received and processed our application and we're ready to move on to the next step, which is a face-to-face interview with the agency staff. In about three weeks we will meet with the director and make sure this is a good fit for both us and the agency. We are so thankful for your continued prayer and support as we walk through this process!

Monday, July 6, 2009

motor mouth


Dexter is 21 months old and has plenty to say. If you had followed him around today, here are the conversations you would have overheard.

Dexter:
(general whining and complaining while I buckle him in the car seat)
Me: Dexter, we're going home and you can watch Thomas!
Dexter: (stops mid-whine) Oh! Yeah! Mine watch Thomas armchair Mommy.
Me: You want to watch Thomas in the armchair?
Dexter: Yeah. Mine so happy.

Dexter (to Nate): Picky pocky poo
Nate: What??
Dexter: Mine teasing you Nate.

Dexter: (hitting wall where there is a crayon mark)
Jon: Why are you hitting the wall?
Dexter: Pee-cuz coloring not belong.
Jon: Because the coloring doesn't belong on the wall?
Dexter: Nope!

coulda been worse.

I had a rather calamitous weekend. Rather than bore you with every over-dramatized detail I'll just play a little game of "OK, so... / ...but at least!"

Ok, so... maybe on Friday morning a suit of armor with razor sharp edges carved a 3-inch-long slice across my shoulder. (Walking through a dance studio on the morning after a performance is taking your life in your hands, people.)
...but at least
it was a clean cut!

Ok, so...
maybe instead of heading to my cabin with 15 friends/kiddos, I was calling every Urgent Care center in the greater Seattle area to find someone who would stitch me up on a holiday.
...but at least
the ONE that was actually open didn't have a line, plus I ended up skipping the stitches and making it out alive with steri-strips and a tetanus shot. I even got to the cabin in time for inner-tube rides and s'mores.

Ok, so...
maybe our toddler was vomiting all through the wee hours of Saturday morning at the cabin, and maybe Daddy had to take him home to rest so they both missed the 4th of July festivities on the beach.

...but at least
no one else got sick. We think he may have eaten something off the beach that didn't agree with him. I'm choosing not to think about what that might have been.

Ok, so...
maybe I slipped at my friend's house on Sunday morning and fell head-long down a set of concrete steps, and maybe I scraped the skin off my palms, shins, knees, and feet, and maybe I had to go home and change so that people wouldn't walk into worship and say "Dear God, what happened to that poor girl on the way to church this morning!"
...but at least
I didn't chip a tooth or break my wrist or have to go back to Urgent Care for any reason, and at least my friends administered some first-rate first-aid, and at least the dang weekend is over now and hopefully I can keep myself from tripping down a well or getting mauled by a wall-hanging, at least until next 4th of July.

[Alright, so I guess that did include a lot of over-dramatized details. But surely you've come to expect that from me by now.]


This is the picture WITH the bandages. You really don't want to see the one without them, trust me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

quiet and full

The days are long.
The corn is tall.
Our shoulders are brown.
The berries are ripe.
The blog is lonely.