Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hold the Gluten

About a month ago Peyton came down with what we thought at the time was an awful stomach bug. Unfortunately it started during our trip to Doha. At first I really thought it was a standard stomach bug and that in a couple of days she would feel fine. Thank goodness she never vomited but it was still rough. 

Finally after a five days of this and nothing helping I took her in the ER and they just said it was a bug, do a stool sample and I am sure she will be better by the weekend. She wasn't eating anything at all but staying hydrated and sure enough come Friday was slightly improving, so she started to eat. What do you eat when you are sick with a stomach bug...bread, crackers and what happened....she got sick again. This time it was every hour through the night and the next morning I took her in for dehydration and they did an IV on her to help her. The poor thing was so scared, so weak and it was awful. We would also have to constantly disconnect the IV every ten minutes so she could go to the bathroom and it wasn't until the second bag that she was finally not going to the bathroom and getting fluids back in her. Graham was such a sweet big brother while we there. I eventually called a friend who came and picked him up but while he was there he was so concerned about her. Every time someone came in he would tell them that "Pey Pey tummy hurts," and he would give her hugs and make sure she had her lovey. It was so cute. My favorite part was when they wanted to do a throat swab and the nurse said she would show Peyton what was going to happen by doing it to me first. I did it and then Graham insisted on doing it. As soon as he did it he turned to Peyton and said, "it is ok Pey Pey, it just tickles." He is so in love with his big sister. We left the ER, feeling better and then....

We came back to the hospital two days later because it started up again. Another round of stool samples and NOTHING! I was so frustrated, anxious, scared, tired and so close to tears. We came home and had another rough night and the next morning I was in tears and sat outside the doctor's office waiting for her to open and just started crying with despair when he saw me. The appointment went the same as the others and I felt so helpless. After that appointment I was talking to my best friend here and she mentioned that I should look into whether it was a food allergy as it has been three weeks now and nothing was showing up. We both started looking into it and my same friend mentioned a gluten intolerance and also helped remind me of other smaller events/symptoms leading up that could indicate that such as several weeks of loose stools in the middle of the night that seemed to start out of nowhere, a persistent lack of energy from her, her hair not growing well and even a pediatrician mentioned a long time ago about malabsorption and increasing vitamins because of her hair look/feel. At this point I figured it wouldn't hurt so we went gluten free. 

Going gluten free in Saudi is NOT EASY! There are some options but not much and it was pretty challenging and still is. We made a trip to Bahrain to a couple stores there and found more items to help. I even found sliced bread (made from rice flour) from Seattle of all places and bought several loaves of the rice flour one and then a corn flour one and a tapioca flour one and have them in the freezer to do sandwiches which is a lifesaver at lunch time!

So far we have been gluten free for almost two weeks now and......I can happily report she is doing great! Peyton FINALLY has her energy back (she was sleeping all day), normal stools and is not losing weight (she had lost around two pounds). It took several days for her body to recover and it was hard finding foods for her to eat and convincing her to try new food items and explaining why she couldn't have other foods (bread, goldfish) which is pretty traumatizing to her but once she understood what was going on and saw the difference she was willing to give this a try and has been awesome in asking whether things have gluten in them.  She even reminded me that they were having a party at school soon and to ask the teacher on what she could eat. Thankfully she reminded me so I had time to make a gluten free cupcake for her so she wouldn't feel left out. I went ahead and froze a bunch so I have them in emergency situations. I am just not used to thinking like this. I still need some serious practice in baking gluten free items and making certain items, my first attempt at pancakes were awful but we are all learning together and I am so thankful to see an improvement in her! I have mastered homemade gluten free chicken nuggets which she devours and I did manage some yummy homemade cheeze-its! 

What has been even more eye opening is that we have seen set backs when we accidentally gave her something with gluten in it and immediately within 4-6 hours she is sick again. It happened last weekend with vanilla milk (vanilla has carmel coloring which has gluten) and then again last night when we went to Chili's and didn't pick 100% gluten free items for dinner :(. 

Next steps are to continue to go gluten free. I changed her in flight meal to a gluten free one and I am so excited about going to Washington and the abundance of gluten free food, restaurants and ease of finding food so I can take the time to learn, try new recipes and get better at this. I am even trying to find a gluten free baking class to get used to all the different flour types and when to use it where. I am also going to talk with her pediatrician there about what it means to do a formal diagnosis. From what I have read it is pretty invasive and would require us to go back on gluten for a period time for comparison which scares me. So I am not sure whether we will go ahead or just lead a gluten free lifestyle without the formal diagnosis especially as I am wanting her body to heal. Either way a long journey and venturing into so many unknowns regarding food. Please pray for Peyton's body to heal, for her to continue to be receptive to a new diet, for us as parents to gain the knowledge we need and for me to develop a new lifestyle of baking, making, prepping everything from scratch. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two years in Saudi Anniversary

Another year has come and gone and we have survived lived in Saudi for two years now! It is really hard to believe that a whole year has gone by. It is amazing to me to look at our lives and see how different it is since our one year anniversary

I remember shortly after moving here reading a blog with the seven stages of moving, the last stage was adjustment...and then a friend made a comment that she felt their should be another stage, that God would give us a time of having abundant joy in our life here.  At that time (being two months into our time in Saudi) I probably thought she was insane and that I would never get to that stage but now, two years later that is where we are....between adjusting and finding abundant joy here.

Life in Saudi is normal to us. We are used to prayer schedules, shopping, the restrictions and our trips shopping go much more smoothly now! I have become a home body. I no longer crave the need to go out and run errands and be busy, I like being home and doing the simple things in life with the most important people in my life...my husband and my kids. We have a good routine and have certainly adjusted to life here in Saudi. I am busy with my photography and the kids are busy in their routines. We are adjusted. Don't get my wrong, I still have frustrating days where I am very grumpy about being here but I get past it a whole lot quicker and I am able to see the huge blessings that being here allows us and that is where I have seen us move from adjustment to finding joy in where we are.

I no longer look at my time in Saudi as a sentence :) but am really enjoying it and finding the joy and thankfulness in this time of our lives. 

I am thankful that this year we have developed some wonderful friendships with many people here and especially with three other core families. They have become my kids family here and they are there when I need someone to watch Graham or offer to make us food when we are sick and so much more. Developing that core community of true friends that I can turn to for guidance, encouragement, girl time, support and so much more has made a world of difference in our lives here. I have known for a long time that we are meant for community with one another and it has become so apparent these past two years how much God has designed us to do life with the support of each other. 

I am so thankful and find great joy that my husband is home everyday at 3:45 PM. That he no longer has to fight to balance work and family and that he has an abundant amount of time with his family. Our family is doing great. We are growing, spending tons of quality time together and our kids are thriving because they have a dad who is home so much! John and I have so much more time to talk about our marriage, our kids, our goals and our family and continue to grow stronger and closer. We miss going on "real" dates but we have found ways to grow intimacy in our marriage in the simple day to day activities and conversations of life. I do look forward to the time when we will be able to go on dates though more regularly :)

It has been a struggle this year between wanting to be back in the States and living a more "normal" life versus what our life is here. Maybe it is because I was an expat kid growing up and I want to have a home somewhere that doesn't change and grow roots somewhere. And it is even harder now that we have fallen in love with Bellingham and feel like that is where we are meant to raise our kids. But being here allows us the opportunity to own our home in Bellingham, renovate it and have the freedom to choose at a later time to live there. I have seen God's hand in that decision to buy the house time and time again and continue to trust in His plan for the house and what I hope is our future there. Part of the struggle is also my love of travel and the adventures of seeing the world and knowing that being here allows us to do that so much more easily. Living overseas, my heart does feel torn between two places, two lives....and it is still hard to adjust from going back and forth. I have realized I don't do as well as I thought with change. But at the same time living here has shown me more than I think I would have learned staying in one place, that God is constant and that  my heart ultimely should be with Him at all times and when I am in that place, no matter what "life" or place I am in on earth, I am at peace and can find joy in that place. 

So, two years later, I am still so thankful for this part of our lives and how much we have grown individually and as a family. I am excited about seeing what this next year brings to our family and I am excited about fully entering the next phase of moving to a new overseas place....being joyful and growing abundantly where we are planted right now! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Weekend in Doha

Last fall we attended a bazaar at a friends compound and we won the raffle prize of a trip! It was for a certain dollar amount to be spent visiting a Gulf Coast Country! So, since we thought John was supposed to start a shutdown (12 hour days, 7 days a week) the middle of May we decided to take a family trip before that to spend time together especially since I would be heading back to the States before he was done and it would be a long time before we had family time. Well, turns out the shut down was moved to June but we still went ahead on our trip! 

We looked at all the options and quickly realized that flying anywhere take up all out prize money and so we needed to drive. We have been wanting to do a trip back to Qatar so we decided to drive there. We left Wednesday morning for the boring drive through the dessert.

Graham wanted to drive....we were waiting in the car while John went inside the adminstration building for our visas into Qatar.

We decided to splurge a little since it was a prize and stayed at the Grand Hyatt Doha on their Club Level. The hotel was very nice and the service was great. We very much enjoyed our extra benefits of free snacks and drinks all day on our floor and the breakfast. We had a beautiful room with a separate living room area which was great for us and the kids. 

The first night we hired a baby sitter so we could enjoy the complimentary drinks and appetizers in the Club Level lounge and then went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant at the hotel. We were so thankful for the time together and chance to go on a date! At about 9:30 PM, We were going to go out for dessert but decided to check on the kids before we headed out and thankfully we did as Graham was still up! He didn't want to go to bed! Good thing we came back! 

Graham loved pressing the elevator buttons and had to bring his bag with him everywhere. This is him heading to breakfast....

The main reason we wanted to come to Doha again was to visit the Museum of Islamic Art. So that is all we had planned for Thursday! We tried to go early in the morning to find out it didn't open until 1:00 PM so we went to the mall and went shopping instead and then came back in the afternoon. It did not disappoint! We both were absolutely enchanted with the architecture of the building, the exhibits and it was a great experience. I only wish we had hours to spend inside reading about everything!

Graham and Peyton even really enjoyed the museum and I loved hearing the questions coming from Peyton. It brought back so many wonderful memories of growing up and exploring so many art museums with my parents. It was great to hear her curiousity about objects, questions and also to see her piece things together and associate memories of our travels. For example, when we were in a room with Turkish pottery she said it looked like her ceramic cat that she got at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I love that she remembered it and that all our experiences are sinking in!

 Graham's favorite part was watching the airplanes landing at the nearby airport! And running around outside once we let him be free from the confines of being quiet and respectable in the museum! 

That night John and I ordered to kids room service and got them to bed and then ordered room service for ourselves and set it up on our balcony and had a nice candlelight dinner there. And then we headed home the next day. A fun weekend away from Saudi!