I have a pile of letters.
They remain letters unwritten.
I have wanted to tell you so many things.
But I also desire to say only what is beneficial and blameless,
so there have been few words.
We are squeezing in our fair share of fun, parks, ice cream, libraries, etc. Things we don’t get in Africa. But we also needed to squeeze in quite a few doctors appointments and chase down some answers to what exactly is going on with our health.
I finally got in to see a wonderful allergist – maybe the best of the four I’ve ever seen. I’m not just biased because his son is a linguist living overseas and his waiting room is stocked with overstuffed leather couches. Love. (You see dust mites can’t move through leather – they are dust-free furniture!!!) I walked in with a pile of questions and walked out with answers.
For as long as I can remember I have reacted severely to tree nuts. Not just the nuts. Anything that has shared airspace with a nut. (That’s right, no donut or cookie shops and certainly no coldstone.) We’re not talking about a few scratchy bumps on the arm either. I’m an overachiever. I have the whole throat-swelling-shut, run-to-the-ER-and-stab-yourself-with-an-epi-pen reaction.
Way back when I was a wee bairn, food labels were much less informative and no one had ever heard of dying from a nut allergy. I actually didn’t believe it could be dangerous. I had grown up eating Honey Nut Cheerios. I felt fine. Just avoided the Chex Mix and Russell Stover’s at Christmas. Worked for me. There were two mysterious times I didn’t understand where I ate a cookie at a potluck (potlucks are like Russian Roulette for people with severe food allergies let me assure you) that I found out later had almonds in it. My uneducated hypothesis was that the almonds in Honey Nut Cheerios and the potluck cookies must have been SO processed that there was really no protein left for me to react to. But… AHA! My allergist confirmed the truth that, in fact, I am NOT allergic to almonds. Just all the other nuts. =)
YAY! I’ve been happily eating my fill of Honey Nut Cheerios ever since!
Sorry, that was a really LONG way to say that I went in with my list of allergies and, for the first time in my life, got to cross one off! Sadly enough I had to add egg and soy to non-almond tree nuts, black bean, kidney bean and Nido milk powder. So you win some, you lose some.
I’m so thankful for a country that enforces good labeling (it is not so elsewhere in the world my friends). There really is a difference between ‘manufactured in a facility…’ and ‘may contain traces’. I’m somewhere in between. For whatever reason, ‘manufactured in a facility…’ works for me while ‘may contain traces’ does NOT.
I’m also so thankful for doctors and the amazing tests that can be done today. It used to be that finding a food allergy was like finding a needle in a haystack and usually involved elimination and substitution diets that took months or years. The food often tasted like a haystack too. Now there are amazing food options and blood tests that tell us what your immune system is doing. Exactly. This week. Such an incredible gift.
As expensive as all this stuff is, I am very thankful also for all the different specialists out there who can really serve our needs. This next 10 days I will drive 90 minutes to one specialist and 2 hrs to another, but I know we will be getting an answer.
So pray we would get the answers we need to prepare well for our next 2 years in Congo. We leave in only 8 weeks…
You know you are raising a ‘missionary kid’ (MK) when your kids:
… think a snow angel is something like Frosty the Snowman.
… get excited about a library.
… see it’s 30 degrees out and still can’t be bothered to put on socks and shoes.
… always miss their friends, no matter where you live.
… make up a foreign language that only stuffed animals speak.
… see it’s 30 degrees out and skip out the door without a coat (and then scream).
… think a 10-hr airline flight is normal.
… fight over which suitcase they get this time and know how to pack and unpack themselves.
… can’t tell the difference between a long trip and a move.
Scary but true: Driving home from our 10-day Oregon trip last week, it became clear that Anna truly believed we were about to pull into our house in Congo. Her main concern: The toys made it alright. The simplicity of being FOUR.
Our kids have close friends in Congo. They are used to playing with them every spare minute in a mixture of basic English and Swahili. Over time customs seep in unnoticed. In a good way.
When we arrived here one of James’ first comments was, “I hope I find a friend.” And we frequently pray for that provision when we move. Knowing this trip was short, I had not been thinking along those lines and had not focused on the kids finding friends.
His first day of Sunday School was a sort of indoor ‘field day’ where the Grade 2-5 students played various games. He bonded almost immediately with a sweet boy his age. I was a few minutes early to pick him up, so I waited on the sidelines. Then I saw James trying to grab this boy’s hand.
I realized a bit too late that James was going to learn about this cross-cultural difference the hard way.
You see, in Congo, you show someone you care and value their friendship by holding hands. Boy to boy or girl to girl. Holding hands is important. I hadn’t realized James caught that. So here he was applying the Congolese rules for friendship to a sweet unsuspecting American kid. At first this kid was trying to make it a spin-the-arms-around game. Sheer politeness. After a while I watched him start to avoid James. The Mama Bear in me wanted to run out there and make it all better, but I had to let them finish the game and bite my tongue. It’s hard to watch kids make their own mistakes. Parenting older kids is new for me.
Over a snack at home I gently broke the news to James that holding hands means friendship in Congo, but has much stronger connotations in America.
“Like you want to marry someone?!”
He blanched. “I had NO idea!”
P.S. They continue to be friends and plan a playdate after basketball season is over, so our foibles didn’t ruin anything long-term. We later explained to this boy’s mother as well, who was very understanding. Just need a little extra grace getting our cultural bearings.
There are too many experiences to list them all for you. Everyday my children experience another piece of this thing called their ‘passport culture’, and we hope that one day when they must return to fly solo the pieces of the puzzle with come together and be less overwhelming.
So, today’s anecdotes about how our kids are learning and coping: Capri Suns and Vacuum Cleaners. Growing up with cement floors and little electricity means lots of sweeping and mopping… and no vacuum cleaners. After most of their lives overseas, both Joel and Anna are still terrified of these beastly machines. They just aren’t used to the loud noises. But then how could they be? For now, James is the designated chore vacuumer and his younger siblings run for cover.
Almost everyday I find people gazing curiously at my kids. Last week they were given Capri Sun juice pouches for the first time. After drinking them, they discovered the fun of puffing them full of air! Nearly balloons really. So then came the tilted head of a new acquaintance. And me explaining that they’ve never seen a Capri Sun before.
Everything is new. There is always something fun to discover. How mail works. How a dishwasher works. How clean water is at your fingertips in every drinking fountain. How fun it is to blow dry your hands in a public restroom, or drive thru a restaurant and have yummy food and toys thrown into your car. Or blow up Capri Suns like balloons.
So when you see my kids doing something strange, just tilt your head a bit and I’ll explain once again, “They’ve never done this before.”