Sunday, January 8, 2012

20 Questions

Written in my journal on Sunday, October 22, 2011.

The kids ask about America a lot, particularly JoAnita.
    Is there fruit in America?
    Do you have rice & beans in America?
    Will you give us lotion to make us white?
    Do you have banana leaves in America?
    Are there children in America?
    Are there beds on the plane?
    Are there blankets on the plane?
    Will we cook on the plane?
    Is there a bathroom on the plane?
    Will we bathe on the plane?
    When will we go to America?

And on and on and on....

Friday, January 6, 2012

Court, Kampala, and Time to Move

Written in my journal on Friday October 21, 2011

We are sitting in the courthouse waiting room right now. 

This morning Sarah said "I love you so much." It was the first time any of the children said this without me saying it first. They have all called us Mommy and Daddy from day 1, but then we see someone that they know and they call him Daddy too. It is a little painful to hear this. I am pretty sure they know that I am a different kind of mommy than the mommies at the orphanage but it feels like the word being diluted. 

We moved to a hotel in Kampala last night. It was much nicer but the kids say that they like the first one better. Sarah went into melt down mode last night. I think she was extremely tired and the change of location just overloaded her. I cuddled her as she cried herself to sleep. I felt bad because I so enjoyed the very hotel that upset her so much.

Written after the fact as an addition to my journal entry:

The original plan was only to stay at the hotel in Kampala for one night and return to the first one in Jinja the next day after court. Our thinking was to stay with one hotel as to avoid disrupting the kids, but when we saw that the hotel in Kampala was 2/3 the price and had luxuries like access to a washer and dryer, walking distance to a (very expensive) grocery store (which catered to "Muzungus" - a.k.a. white/foriegn people), and contact with other adopting Americans on the compound who provided tons of moral support. The kids were much happier about the move once they found out that their stuff... and their juice would be moved along with us.

A Day Together

Written in my journal on Tuesday October 18, 2011

Yesterday was our first actual good day. The kids listened better. The routine of the day went better. We have learned that they do not like milk in their cereal, and that Sylvia does not like cheese. 

I did individual bath time again. Ryan was last today. With each bath he would strip down and want to get in. I would have to tell him to get dressed and send him back to Josh each time. When his turn finally came, he just sat in the tub and didn't move at all. I couldn't get him to crack a smile (I would learn later that he simply didn't know how to play in the bathtub; I had to literally show him how to splash around; the key to unlocking his fun was the cap to a shaving cream container which he used to pour water over himself and the walls of the tub). Sarah was a ball of energy as always. She just loves when I spray her with the shower head. She washed herself, the tub, and the shower wall. She splashed and squealed. The only time she was not happy was when I told her that bath time was over. 

There was about a 30-40 minute period in which they all played in the living room while we read in the bedroom with the door open so that we could see them. In the evening we showed them Finding Nemo which they loved. I can't wait for Ryan to see Cars 2 on the plane. He is going to love it. He is so enamored with "motor cars." It was the first day since we have been here that we were not completely and utterly exhausted. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Little Better, A Little Worse

Written in my journal on Sunday October 16, 2011

Today was better in some ways and worse in others. I did bath time one child at a time. We spent most of that time with Josh calling the other 3 back into the living room and me telling them at the same time to go back to Daddy. But it was nice to have the one-on-one time; there wasn't the fighting for space in the tub, and I think I got each of them cleaner this way. 

For lunch I managed to burn soggy grilled cheese sandwiches. The kids did not seem to be familiar with cheese. After that, I washed laundry by hand with Josh entertaining the kids outside. By the time I was done, I was dripping with sweat and my knuckles were almost raw. We decided that going forward, I would wash the underwear by hand as it is the most expensive to have done and physically the easiest to wash. And we will pay to have the rest done.

Dinner was a mess. They delivered to our room even though we didn't want that. The kids got food everywhere. It is difficult to not get mad when you just worked so hard to clean their clothes and the apartment was just cleaned by the staff and any tiny crumb gets attacked by an army of ants. Oh, and when you know that you don't have a clean change of clothes for them. We were frustrated, with them, with each other, and probably with ourselves. We are both so very exhausted. Unfortunately this really unnerved the kids. This all came after us working all day to enforce some rules/standards after days of not having any.

Eating Out

Written in my journal on Wednesday October 16, 2011

We finally left a 2 hour meeting with our attorney in a hot and stuffy room. We headed for the Oasis Mall for something to eat. We did not consider that this was likely the kids' first real restaurant experience (at the hotel it is really not the same). It was just a cafe but definitely a high end cafe. Meals were about $8/each. The best part was JoAnita holding the salt shaker up to Josh upside down with salt pouring out, saying "wat tiz dis." She wasn't understanding Josh's explanation so I told him to pour some in her hand thinking that she would then recognize it. He poured, then instantly all the other little hands went out. They smelled, looked, then tasted, and then stuck their hands out asking for more (at the time we thought this was because they had never seen salt before; later we would learn that it was because they love salt). Then it was off to the bathroom. I took all the kids while Josh paid the bill. There was only one toilet so naturally it was a race to see who could claim it first. Ryan tried to pee with one of the girls still sitting and with another girl trying to compete for the first girl's spot. I was standing there scolding "only one, only one!" JoAnita was first to wash her hands. She did not recognize the foaming liquid as being soap. Once the air hand dryer went on, all hand washing was over, and in 3 seconds flat all 8 little hands were under the dryer. A black woman with a British or Aussie accent just looked at me and said "well done" with a tone of confusion, admiration, and amusement all blended together.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to Parenthood

After 2 days at the orphanage we asked permission to take custody of the kids. We could tell it was time as we could see it was bothering them each time we left without them. And as we worked to develop a bond with our 4, we could see that other kids were picking up on the fact that they were not getting the same kind of attention. And we felt like we were throwing off the whole routine of the orphanage. It was just time.

The car ride from the orphanage to the hotel was a short one, maybe 10 minutes max. Ryan was so wide eyed. He loves cars and was just looking all around as we drove. As we left I put little headbands on each of the girls (the elastic baby kind). I couldn't help but think that those headbands somehow symbolized the giant life change that was happening for them. As we went, I kept looking back at the 3 of them in the back row. Each time I did I would get big smiles. When we arrived at the hotel, I lifted Ryan out of the car. As I stood there waiting for everyone else to get out of the car, Ryan's head starting darting all around. He was trying to check out every new sound all at once. I slowly turned in a circle in order to let him take it all in.

That morning we had moved from our hotel room to a one bedroom apartment within the same guest house. We got into the apartment and I showed them around. They were most interested by their new underwear. We had to open all 4 packages immediately. Ryan then carried his around for the next 20 minutes or so until something else became more interesting. I wish I could remember what that more interesting thing was.

We got everyone tucked into bed. The one bedroom came furnished with one full size bed for Josh and me with a second one for the kids. All was well. Then about 3 hours later, Josh and I woke up puking our guts out. The bathroom was connected to the bedroom. Due to the extreme humidity in Uganda, there is often a little window above an interior door which is left open (no glass or such at all) in order to promote airflow. This was the case where we were living which meant that Josh could be heard loud and clear. He was so very sick that it sounded like he was yelling as he hurled every ounce he had eaten that past week (sorry honey, but I'm setting the scene here). I wanted to puke but couldn't which was fortunate given that we had only the one bathroom. All I could do was lay in bed praying over and over again, "please don't let the kids wake up please." All I could think was that our kids were going to wake up and think that their new parents were dying. Thankfully they did sleep through all the noise.

Neither of us really slept after all of that. We had just barely started to get past the jet lag prior to this so we were already functioning on a pretty hefty sleep deficit. The next morning we were still feeling miserable. I think it was about 3-5 days before we really ate any significant amounts. That first full day together, we traded off with the kids. One of us would go pass out while the other would prop up on the couch handing out coloring book pages and forcing a smile when being shown someone's work.

During my turn to crash, I had my ear plugs in and eye mask on in hopes of actually getting a little sleep. I had been laying there a little while. I was too miserable to actually sleep but was enjoying not having to keep my eyes open when I heard a sound that I was completely unfamiliar with. It sounded like "mum mum mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mum mum mum mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mum mummy mummy mum." I didn't recognize it so I figured it was just one of the many unfamiliar sounds of Africa (like multiple roosters competing to wake us up in the morning or cows mooing from all directions or giant African raindrops) that I was trying to get used to. I assumed it would go away. Nope, the sound continued as if on a loop. Finally I rolled over and removed my eye mask. Sure enough, there was little Sarah not more than 3 feet away from me. She had one of my extra ear plugs in her hand and was motioning to me that she wanted to put it in her own ear. At that moment, I didn't see the humor in this as I just didn't have enough energy to do so but looking back on it now it was pretty funny.

Later that day, I mustered up the energy to give the kids a bath. First I put Ryan and Sarah into the tub. Then Sylvia wanted in. Next JoAnita was asking "may I enter." 4 Little Ugandans splashing in a tub! The shower head was the kind that can be hand held. I showed them how it worked and sprayed each of them a little. They were squealing with glee and shouting ME ME ME, as they asked me to spray them again.

After a little while the girls started telling me that Ryan was crying. He was shivering like crazy. I pulled him out of the tub and dried him off. I dressed him in shorts and a t-shirt. He continued to shiver and soon I had him in pants and a jacket. In between all of this I was finishing the girls' bath and getting them out, dried off, and dressed. I asked Josh to cuddle him up because he just couldn't seem to get warm. In our inexperience, we concluded that I had just left him in the tub too long for being so small. By the time everyone was out of the tub and dressed, I was exhausted. I handed off to Josh and went to lay down (remember that we were still battling whatever it was that had clobbered us the night before). Soon Josh brought Ryan in to lay down with me saying that he seemed to be running warm. I felt him and realized that he had a fever. Now in the States, a parent would normally give a child a Tylenol and see how he/she was in the morning. Thankfully we didn't do that and instead called our contact. She immediately told us that she was sending a driver to take us to "the hospital" (only weeks later would we come to understand the extreme seriousness of malaria and why you don't "just wait and see").

I laid there in bed with Ryan next to me. I was still miserable myself, but was far more focused on concern for Ryan. We packed up my backpack with water, granola bars, and cash given that we had no idea what to expect. There was no question in my mind, I was going to be the one to take Ryan. I was so thankful that our driver appeared at our hotel in just 15 minutes. I didn't know that you could drive anywhere in Uganda in 15 minutes between the incredibly bumpy roads and the traffic. Concern for venturing out alone did flash through my mind but I didn't have time to think about it. The girls were worried as I kissed Josh good-bye and carried Ryan downstairs to the waiting car. 

As the car bumped along the road, my eyes watered with tears. All I could think was "I'm one of them, I am a woman who fears that her child might have malaria." I felt sorry for myself. I felt tragic. I was so thankful that the drive was short but as we pulled up I questioned the word choice of "hospital." Calling it a rustic clinic was more like it. It was the size of a small one story home. But this was no time to be picky. I was just thankful to have someone, anyone, who could help. 

I carried Ryan out of the car and into building. We sat down on a wooden bench in the concrete hallway. Soon we were called in to be seen. In the tiny room with only a desk and a scale, the doctor took Ryan's weight and temperature. It was quite high. Soon she led me across the narrow hallway into another room. I sat down on the bed as she prepared an injection which was necessary to quickly bring down the temperature. I laid Ryan across my lap and pulled down his little pants to expose his butt cheeks. He squirmed a little. Later I would learn how deathly afraid of needles that he is. Had I known that I would have understood how extremely sick he was to only squirm at the sight of a needle. The doctor jabbed the needle deep into his soft little tushy and instantly he wrenched and screamed. He cried and I bawled. Tears poured down my face as I forced myself to hold him down harder in order to allow the doctor to finish giving him the necessary medicine. The doctor looked at me, rolled her eyes, shook her head, and finished giving Ryan the shot. 

Later I realized why I got that look. I was crying because my child was sick. But I had the option to get him medical attention. I could afford to pay a driver to pick us up immediately and whisk us off to a hospital. No attempting to make it there on foot or if lucky traveling perched precariously on the back of a motorcycle. No choosing between food for my other children and medicine for my one. I was a lucky one. 2,000 children die PER DAY of malaria as their mothers watch them quickly slip away... if they are lucky enough to have a mother watch them quicky slip away.

I didn't realize that we still had a blood draw to do in order to test for malaria. My driver came and held Ryan during that part given that I couldn't even talk to him in order to comfort him. 10 minutes later it was confirmed. Soon after medication was recommended, then doled out in little baggies, and the bill written up. All of this happened back in that tiny little room with the desk. The final bill, $6. $6 to save a life. 2,000 children die per day due to a lack of access to this basic medical care.

By the time I got back to the hotel, Josh was wiped out. He went downstairs to order dinner from the restaurant. When I got the call, an hour later, that dinner was ready, Josh was sound asleep and the girls were all nodding off. I asked them to deliver the food and agreed to pay the 67 cents delivery fee. It was money well spent. We ate our dinner and piled into bed. 

Days earlier we had fried our converter and as a result we were unable to charge our computer. Later we would get one but at that time our computer time was an extremely precious commodity. By the time all the kids were in bed, Josh was alseep, and I was feeling exhausted, ill, and desperate. I chose to turn on the computer and log onto Facebook. I typed as quickly as I could. I didn't take time to explain. I just typed out the minimum needed and then immediately shut down the computer. Tears streamed down my face as I sent out my SOS. It read:

Alysa Musgrave Johns
Please pray for our health. We will be okay but it has been a very rough 24 hours. We need your prayers for healing while we sleep.
LikeUnlike · · October 14 at 11:03am
(which was 10pm in Uganda)