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Contracting Chikungunya: Our Rash Decision

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Chikungunya, how do I even begin to describe you?  I’m speechless as I consider this strange, arthropod-borne, African illness that had me down for 10 days.  Have you ever even heard of it before?  I hadn’t until this past January, when I saw a poster about it in the hospital here in Dominica. Locally, people are calling it “The Chik”, and every other person you meet has had it. In fact, it’s recently been declared an epidemic in the Caribbean. Personally, I think The Chik is a sneaky, little bastardo, and it’s worth it to go geeky for a few minutes and check out what the medical literature is saying. (Note: no plagiarism here! I’ve gotten this info by looking up “Chikungunya Fever” on UpToDate.)

Chikungunya was first identified in the 1950’s during an outbreak in Tanzania, and it’s here that The Chik got it’s strange name. It’s from a local language of Tanzania, and it denotes “stooped walk” or “that which bends up”. (I’ll soon describe how well Nic and I fit those descriptions.) During the 50’s there were many outbreaks throughout Africa, and it spread to Southeast Asia.  Oddly, at some point The Chik decided to take a break, and it was rarely seen for about 30 years. Then, it inexplicably made a huge comeback in 2004. Just compare it to William Shatner’s career (whose comeback I find totally awesome.)

WIlliam young









In recent years it’s been causing outbreaks all over Asia.  It was thought to be a tropical disease until an outbreak occurred in northeast Italy in 2007. (No one is safe!) This stealthy virus made its way to our neck of the woods very recently; the FIRST time “local transmission” of Chikungunya was ever reported anywhere in the Americas was only this past December in St. Martin.  Now, just 5 months later, it’s all over the Caribbean.

Where, oh where, will The Chik strike next? Well, that’s up to two components: an outbreak can only occur in an area where one of two particular mosquitos dwell, and it must be during the time of year that those mosquitos are thriving (summer). The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the most common culprit. This nasty blood-sucker also carries dengue fever and yellow fever.  The other mosquito doesn’t transmit disease as often, but it’s got a cool name, so it’s worth mentioning. Aedes albopictus is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.  This fella has been found to carry diseases with names as awesome as it’s own: Japanese encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis virus. Both mosquitos have white spots and are a bit smaller than the mosquitos we Minnesotans are used to seeing. There is a standing order to kill on sight. Pictures included for identification. (Floridians, this info might be most helpful to you . . . )

Aedes aegypti. Take a close look--this one is in the process of feeding. Disgusting.

Aedes aegypti. Take a close look–this one is in the process of feeding. Disgusting.

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Okay, time to conclude the science lesson and take a look at what this awful illness is like. For me, it started on a Friday night; I found myself really irritable. Yes, yes, irritability isn’t really out of the norm for my “passionate” self, but this was more like skin-crawling irritability. Sitting, standing, laying on the couch–every position was uncomfortable. Plus, as a med student, the weekends are all about getting extra work done, but I simply couldn’t focus and was just too tired to study. By Sunday afternoon I was sure I must be fighting something. I was expecting a few sniffles and sneezes to come my way . . . but, oh, The Chik far exceeded these expectations.

When I awoke Monday morning, I had 2 really random pains: my left thumb joint and my right jaw joint, or the TMJ. No big deal. I suspected it might be Chikungunya, but I wasn’t panicking, because I had no idea how bad I’d be feeling by the next day. When I got home from work that afternoon Nic greeted me in his nervous, hypochondriac voice, “Honey, I’ve got a rash all over my stomach.”  Yes, he most certainly did–a blotchy red rash covered every inch of his stomach, chest, and back.

photo (27)

When I took a look at my own skin, I found little pink bumps all over my thighs and stomach. I’ve never had such a widespread rash, and it completely creeped me out. There was no turning back, The Chik had taken hold.



Tuesday morning I had to call in sick.

Tuesday afternoon we had to ask our amazing neighbor to take care of our kids for the evening.

Tuesday night was a sleepless night that consisted of switching positions every two minutes because the current position was painful, shivering and covering up with a blanket, throwing off the blanket and sitting in front of a fan because you’re sweating, and thinking, “My God, My God, I’ve never felt this way before.”

By Wednesday morning we looked like this:



Those red eyes are no joke, folks. I hadn’t just woken up and I wasn’t crying when I took this picture; that’s how they looked for 2 days.

Click HERE to see how we spent the next 3 days.

So, how did this illness completely lay us out for 4? The main symptoms of Chikungunya are fever and “polyarthralgia”, which means multiple joint pains. The joints that are most commonly affected are the ankles, wrists, and all the many joints in the hand. Our hands were stiff, swollen, and so weak and painful that we couldn’t open or grip things. Nic couldn’t get the microwave door open and he struggled to pop pills through their foil backing. Also, his feet hurt more than mine, and he described it as every muscle and ligament being sprained. And, unfortunately, the virus isn’t all that partial to just the wrists and ankles. Our backs and necks were stiff and sore; my neck was so painful that I couldn’t lean my head to the side in either direction. Oh yes, and all the muscles of our arms and legs ached as well. When we’d force ourselves off the couch to get a drink or use the restroom, we’d limp our way there, like so:

Hunched over

But, alas, that still wasn’t the extent of what this insane virus did to us! If you’ve ever had a previous joint injury, it gets a hot, firey anger from the virus and starts to hurt again. I’m one of the many people who is bothered by the oh-so-annoying TMJ (jaw joint). The right side of my jaw was so painful that it hurt to even eat spaghetti. And you know that motion where you rub your lips together to blend in chapstick or lipstick? Yeah, I couldn’t complete that minor feat. Chikungunya can also cause mouth sores, which both of us had. Eating was not it’s usual enjoyable experience during this illness. And let’s not forget the rash–we also had that freaky rash. Still, the worst part of the illness for both of us was that we FELT drastically and horribly ill. We were drained of all energy, and there’s no better way to say it than we felt completely awful. I didn’t even have the stamina to read. When we weren’t sleeping, there was no other way to pass the hours than to keep watching things on Netflix. Those long, uncomfortable days led us to watch things like this ridiculous movie. cry_babyColossal waste of time, but Johnny Depp does have a surprisingly nice voice in this extremely quirky musical.

By Friday we were beginning to recover and the rash was clearing up. Saturday brought continued improvement. When we awoke on Sunday morning, however, we both had a new and different rash that was the most maddeningly, intensely itchy thing we have ever experienced. It was getting ridiculous–was this stupid virus ever going to leave us?!













And, well, I think the jury is still out on that. A week later, my appetite isn’t back to normal, our hands still ache, and several of our lymph nodes are still swollen. So, if you’ve got a Caribbean excursion planned anytime soon, you had better pack some mosquito repellent . . . and mosquito nets . . . and citronella candles . . . and those little fans that emit repellent . . . and a gas mask . . . and a biohazard suit . . . and never go outside. Other than that, enjoy your vacation.

Between the Pitch and the Contact

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Dear Readers,

I know you’ve read bits and pieces from us regarding this whole crazy 3rd adoption process, but you can consider this the definitive update on our current situation. It won’t be a long post, but it will be filled with info. PLEASE forward it to anyone and everyone!

As it stands, we’ve officially been given the amazing opportunity to keep these siblings together! (If you haven’t watched it, yet, watch our Three Little Birds video!) The birth parents have signed the initial papers, resigning their parental rights, and we’ve signed our initial papers, which tell the Dominican court system that we intend to adopt a third child.

To adopt a child as an American, US Immigration requires an official home study, done by a US certified social worker, which deems you a suitable party to adopt. It is usually specific to the number of children you intend to adopt. Last year we were approved by the adoption agency to adopt 3 children, but at that time our boys’ mother, who had our 2 boys and a daughter living in the home with her, was not interested in giving us her daughter. At that time, the home study still cleared us to adopt one more child under its seal of approval.

Then, as you may know, 8 months after the adoption was finalized the birth mother changed her mind and ASKED us to adopt her daughter! In a prior email to you all, I relayed how I prayed and got very clear direction that we should adopt her, which was exhilarating, to say the least! Then came the hiccup. As a new rule with our previous adoption agency, because our initial adoptions were finalized, our file with the adoption agency was closed and we officially have to go through the entire process again–including the expense.

Last year, God miraculously enabled us to fund the adoption of our 2 boys on our own by bringing a writing contract into our lives that paid for every dime (with nothing left over).  However, having to pay for all the same expenses again–less than a year later–is proving to be financially difficult.

Added to that, we have a very definitive time frame. If we were going to be on-island for an indefinite amount of time, then this wouldn’t be such an issue, since we could work and save and pay as we progressed. However, that’s not the case. We have to move back to the States on June 28, so that Jacelyn can finish her clinical rotations in New York City, which begin on June 30. (Yep, we’d have two days to move from Dom to NYC. Yep, we ARE that crazy.)

So, we’d like to know if you are interested in being a part of this by contributing to our adoption costs. Fortunately, although we are unable to pay all of them on our own at this time, the adoption expenses aren’t monstrous–so, any amount you may be able to provide will greatly help us on our way to bringing this little girl home to our family. Here is a PDF of all of our foreseen adoption costs, the vast majority of which are due towards the beginning, since it’s all moving so quickly, this time.

Please feel no pressure to do this if you don’t desire to or if you have any misgivings or reservations about us or the process. We just want to present this opportunity for you to be a part of something beautiful and, very literally, life-giving.

This dainty, shy, quiet, and raspy-voiced 4-year-old, has told us that she’d like to come live with us, for me to be her daddy and for Jacelyn to be her mommy. (Yes, it’s actually THAT heartwarming!)

How’d you like to become a part of her extended family?

If you DO wish to contribute, please contact me at: You can keep up with the progress of donations by checking out the thermometer on our home page:

Thank you for your time!

Chapter 7A: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

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Following the fashion of many great novelists before us, the chapters of our adoption story are not flowing in chronological order. This is quite fitting, however, because the journey we are sharing with you didn’t unfold as one, long procession—not remotely. Many adoptions follow a pattern of paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, then waiting, waiting, waiting, and then, finally, the family gets to meet their new child. One way in which our adoption was very different (and wonderful!) was the very unique opportunity we had to spend time with Jonathan and Miguel long before the adoption was final. Chapter VI illuminated part of our “paperwork and waiting” phase, leading us up to November 2012.  Now we’ll step back quite a few months to our first encounters with our soon-to-be children. Chapter V details that at our first meeting with the social worker, in June 2012, she encouraged us to begin spending as much time as we wanted with Jonathan. We asked if we could begin keeping him each weekend, and his mom readily agreed. She also agreed to let us keep his brother, Miguel, on these weekends.

This meeting took place on a Monday, and we were to pick the boys up Friday afternoon!  We were so excited, we were so happy, and we were so desperately unprepared! We had no idea how to take care of a 13 month old, and we had no clue what to expect from the quiet 6 year old we had only interacted with for several hours! So, the frantic scramble began! We had four days to get ready; we most assuredly needed help! There wasn’t time for our families to send supplies in the mail for this first weekend, so we turned to the amazing families at Ross University School of Medicine. They came through with flying colors! We were so very blessed, and we are still so grateful to each one of them for helping Nic and I through our very first weekend with children.

  • Kent & Naomi gave us a heavy-duty stroller their kids no longer needed, as well as toys.  This stroller held up for 11 months over broken sidewalks, dirt roads, and potholes.
  • Erica sold us a pack-n-play and booster seat for the amazingly low price of $40 EC, which is $15 US—and rather exceptional deal.
  • Delon & Brianna and Doug & Bree gave us more toys.
  • Whitney and Rob, owners of The Tomato, told us to stop by for a free meal. The Tomato is a major treat when in Dominica!  It’s got a menu full of American foods that one can really start to miss when out of the country—so we were pretty excited.
  • Then, we were given an immense blessing in the area of diapers.  As we began preparing for the weekend, we discovered that diapers in Dominica were outrageously expensive.  With all the adoption costs, we were pretty bummed that we’d have to pay so much for a product we could get far cheaper at home.  Then, on Wednesday afternoon, Nic received a call from Amy, an amazing mom of 5 kids whose husband also attends Ross.  For several months she had been praying that God would bring her someone who would truly benefit from her supply of cloth diapers.  When I say supply, I am referring to the hundreds of dollars worth of cloth diapers she had accumulated with her 5 children.  God had encouraged her to give these away, free of charge, and we have been overwhelming blessed by her generosity.  The diapers were in great shape, and we are using them to this day!  Some of you may be totally unaware of how amazing cloth diapers have become over the years.  I am now a huge fan of these economical and eco-friendly wonders!  If they pique your interest, check out this site.

With all of the “equipment” needed for Jonathan and Miguel in place, it was then time to consider other pertinent details: What on earth should we feed these kids? How often should we feed them? Though we had seen Jonathan eat a small amount of solid food, he was primarily breast fed at the time. We weren’t sure if he would eat for us at all, so our primary goal for Jonathan was to not starve the poor dear. We prepared with formula and fortified baby cereal, knowing that if he would eat one of these he’d be getting a decent helping of calories and nutrients. As for Miguel, we knew we couldn’t prepare food the way he was accustomed to, so we stocked up on some typically-kid-friendly food—hoping he would like something. And it didn’t stop there–we had endless questions! When should we put them to bed? How many naps does a 13 month-old need? How long should he nap? How long should we keep them at the beach? How much water should they drink in the island heat? Any experienced parents are probably rolling their eyes at us right now—but seriously, we were clueless!

Next we considered behavior. How would these boys react to staying with perfect strangers all weekend? How would they react to a relatively foreign environment? Would Jonathan cry endlessly once separated from his mom? Would he cry all night? Would he sleep? What Shawshank Redemptionabout Miguel–would he be scared? Would he speak to us? Would he be rude or belligerent? Having watched Shawshank Redemption one too many times, Nic was worried that he’d end up being shanked in the kidney. Fortunately, I was able to talk him down from this fear.

It was such an odd weekend to walk into, because we truly had no idea what to expect and no child-rearing expertise to back us up. To best prepare for whatever this first visit brought our way, we mentally braced ourselves for the worse. Basically, we didn’t want to imagine that we had a fairy tale weekend ahead of us—we had to throw some reality in there. I pictured Jonathan fussy and crying the whole time. I couldn’t imagine he’d react differently to his first extended separation from his mom—with perfect strangers. Then we got ready for some trying behaviors from Miguel. At that point, we were prepared to face this new adventure without preconceived notions. Now, we mustn’t take credit for this idea–we were taught this lesson by an amazing woman we met while working in China, Jody. Her theory was, “Low expectations, Jim Jody Jacelyn Nichigh happiness. High expectations, low happiness.” Incidentally, we heard a man share this exact sentiment in a TED talk, obviously confirming that Jody and her idea are pure genius.

As we faced this weekend of the unknown, not only were we given all of the material help listed above, we also had 2 more incredible blessings. First, we didn’t have to face this weekend alone—we had full-time reinforcement! Our dear friend, Whitney,Jacelyn and Whitney spent several months with us that summer. She was with us for this first visit, and many after. No matter how crazy the weekend might end up, we figured the three of us HAD to be able to handle two kids. Knowing that we had an extra set of hands on board was very reassuring. Blessing number two—I had the weekend off. In my ten months of med school so far we had not yet had a single weekend off. For those of you not familiar with he insanity of med school, weekends are not for resting. Weekends are for long hours of uninterrupted study. You need those two days of study to catch up with all the material covered during the week. But, in God’s perfect timing, this was my very first free weekend. Our tests were usually on Mondays, but on this one, magical, highly-anticipated weekend in semester 3, we had a test on Friday. It was truly an amazing gift that I could put all of my attention and time into our first days together—the very first days of The Fantastic 4.

Fantastic 4

As I began writing this blog, I was overwhelmed to see how thoroughly and incredibly God prepared us for that weekend. I was overcome at other’s generosity. I was powerfully reminded to be thankful. Additionally, I was reminded of how unbelievably well God takes care of us. Our adoption was full of unexpected delays, expenses, and frustrations, but there was no end to the encouraging reinforcements we received. Recently we have been presented with a need–a need that we would whole-heartedly like to meet. However, it appears to be an impossibility in more ways than one. In the face of this current challenge, looking back at how God has taken care of us in the past is helping us be more open to this seemingly impossible situation. In fact, one of our hopes in blogging about our lives is that you wonderful readers out there can be encouraged and filled with hope in regards to the seemingly impossible situations in your lives!

Friday afternoon finally arrived. Nic, Whitney, and I hopped in the van to go pick up the kids. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that this post is getting long.

…to be continued…

Chapter III: Let’s Get This Show On the Road

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Okay, life absolutely got away from us, and the Dynamic Davidson Duo simply couldn’t keep up with the blog, but we’re back with a vengeance!  If any of you remember, we had begun a series to recount the story of our adoption process, and we really want to continue that story (because it’s truly amazing and we want to share the amazing-ness of adoption with you).   Also, your writer has switched:  Nic’s still got too much on his plate, so little old Jacelyn will continue the saga with you!

Chapter I: 

  • We spent 7 months making inquiries and phone calls just to figure out how adoption worked in Dominica.  We finally got the right contacts and learned that we needed to identify a child in need of adoption on our own.

Chapter II:

  • Nic walked into a coffee shop and heard the words, “I found kids for you!”  Two days later we met two women in need of a home for their children.

Chapter III begins the next morning:

In a matter of 3 hours, the 2 mothers that we had met only the evening prior called and confirmed that they would like to move forward with the adoption.  One was the mother of two girls, ages 4 and 6.  The other woman needed us to adopt her 13-month-old little boy, named Jonathan.  Naturally, we were ecstatic!  Finally, after 7 months of searching (not to mention 11 years of waiting for the right time) we had at last found children that were in need of a home.  I had that intense excited feeling in my stomach and it was a little hard to catch my breath.  In all our years of talking about it, we had never come this close to the reality of adoption.  But . . . the very next moment we realized, “Wait a minute, TWO opportunities just opened up simultaneously.  Do we actually have to choose between these children?!”  When this reality hit us, we looked at each other with wide eyes and a look that can really only be described as “I have absolutely no idea what to do”.  It’s something like this.  We received these phone calls on a Friday, and told both mothers that we would contact them on Monday.

All weekend our heads were swimming with both wild excitement and bewildered uncertainty.  As mentioned in Chapter II, we’ve long wanted to adopt older siblings.  The sisters seemed to be the natural choice and our preference definitely leaned in that direction.  Still, we knew that diving into the parenting of 2 older children would be extremely difficult, and we feared we weren’t up to the challenge.  Faced with such an intense decision, we knew it was time to call in the experts.  We needed first-hand advice.  So, we contacted 3 families that have adopted older children.  Naturally, we asked them about their adoption experience, but our main reason for contacting them was to ask the question that laid heavy on our minds:  Were Nic and I, who have never had children, absolutely kidding ourselves?  Could we actually handle it?  Weren’t we ridiculous for wanting our first venture into parenthood to be caring for two, older girls who had suffered neglect and witnessed abuse?  We cringed as we waited for their responses.  We imagined they would tell us to let the girls be adopted by more experienced parents, we shouldn’t dive in so deep, we’d be better off going after an easier case . . .

. . . But would you believe that we were met with the exact opposite?  Each of the families, with their first hand expertise, actually encouraged us!  They said that if we had any desire to adopt older children, we should absolutely move forward.  I was not expecting their words of confidence and hope.  A family that adopted two brothers, ages 2 and 4, told us, “It’s weird, but our transition with them, and becoming first time parents, was actually really easy.  They adjusted to us so well.”  Another mom’s thoughts: “Really, 4 and 6 isn’t that old.  You don’t need to hesitate to say YES to the girls.”  We also received meaningful encouragement from a teenager who was himself adopted at the age of 8.

Now, as a woman who loves adoption, I HAVE to point this out: for any of you who have ever felt the tug to adopt an older child, those words of adoption-encouragement are for YOU too!  The parents we spoke with weren’t simply saying that Nic and I, in particular, could handle the adoption of an older child; they were also giving testimony to the fact that adopting non-infants is a great choice and that it does work out.  There is a pervasive fear, and even negativity, about the adoption of older children.  But, in this moment, I hope you’ll consider the opposite perspective.  Here are three families who have experienced the adoption of an older child, and they absolutely recommend it.  I hope this can simply soften our hearts to the idea and wash away a bit of that fear.  For, you never know; someday you may be needed to encourage a friend who is considering adoption, or perhaps you will ponder the possibility just a bit longer the next time the idea of adoption crosses your mind . . . And, if you’re still not convinced that the adoption of an older child could be a good idea, let Disney convince you.  I recently watched “Meet the Robinsons”, and I’m simply in love with that movie.  It shows so well the beauty of adoption.

Okay, back to our story:  Because we were already leaning toward pursuing the adoption of the sisters, once we received insightful encouragement from adoptive families, we were almost positive that this was the route we should take—almost.  Why weren’t we 100% certain?  Because there was a little boy named Jonathan that we simply couldn’t get out of our heads.  We snapped this picture of him the day we met, and we couldn’t stop looking at it.

Li'l Jonathan

Just when we were certain that we should adopt the sisters, one of us would say, “But what about little Jonathan?”  I, particularly, couldn’t stop thinking about the dear little boy because I had held him in my arms during our brief meeting.  I mean, just think of how hard it is to turn down an adorable puppy once you’ve cuddled with the little ball of fur.  This was obviously a thousand times more powerful.

So, it turns out that we spent the entire weekend with that same “I-have-absolutely-no-idea-what-to-do” look on our faces.  This time it looked a bit more like this.  We simply couldn’t make a decision, and Monday morning was quickly approaching.  Instead, we made two tiny decisions.  First, we scheduled the necessary appointment with the social worker for later in the week, not knowing which mom would be attending that meeting with us.  Second, we decided to call the mother of the sisters first to see if she was willing to attend.  We would see how that first conversation turned out, and then proceed from there.

The time for us to call the two mothers arrived.  With excitement, fear, anticipation, and a bit of panic, Nic called the mother of the two young girls.  A male voice answered the phone . . .

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

Two and Fro

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Well howdy, everyone!  Brace yourself for a doozy of a post, a’ight?  First of all, remember when I posted last time that I’d been sick?  Well, if two doctor’s were correct in their diagnosis’, I had come down with the only disease you can get on this island, a mosquito-carried virus called Dengue Fever.  To give you a hint as to its severity, it is called “The Bonecrusher” and “Bonebreakers Disease” in Spanish.  I was blessed enough to only have a mild version, which excluded the body rash and hemorrhaging, but thankfully still included the insane body/joint pain, fever, vomiting, headache, and explosive diarrhea. (Can’t get enough of the la duze [Chinese for explosive diarrhea])

For the first 5 days of the visiting mission trip, I would show up at some point during the day, try to wave hello, make sure they were doing alright, and then allow the taxi driver to drag me by my ankle back into the car and to our front doorstep, where I would lie until the ants took over and brought me inside. (Probably because they didn’t care for my donation of la duze)  However, after 5 days of absolutely no food, I was back to my target weight and was able to cease participation in the Dengue Diet, as I’ve termed it.  Even though it was over three weeks ago, I am STILL getting the comments from people who I haven’t seen: “Dang, man, what happened to you? You lost a bunch of weight!”  This brings up all kinds of questions in my head like, “Wow, youngsters are pretty forward these days” and “Sheesh, what did I look like before to make everyone comment?” and “Am I just eating because I’m bored?”  Needless to say, the Dengue has passed (pun) and I’m back to my “normal” self. (For more on the thrills of Dengue Fever, click HERE)

Anyway, things were plugging along quite normally for us until last Monday. Then it happened.  Well, wait, let me pull a Quentin Tarentino on you and give you the ending first:  WE’RE ADOPTING AT LEAST ONE CHILD FROM DOMINICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Does the title make fun sense, now?)

There, now that that’s out of the way, we can start at the very beginning (yes, a very good place to start).  I’ll start by allowing Jacelyn to speak:

Hi, everyone!  I wanted to share with you a super-brief history of how God has placed adoption in our hearts.  For me, the desire to adopt began in high school when I heard a woman speak about her work with street children in Romania.  Over the years, that desire has simply never died.  While Nic and I were still dating, but beginning to talk of our future, we agreed that we would love to adopt internationally.  We had an “ah-ha” moment when we realized the very simple truth that right at this moment, all over the world, there are innumerable children who need a home, and a family, and need people to open their hearts to them.  Even after getting married, and developing the natural, maternal desire to have biological children, the calling to adopt has remained as strong as ever.  God has helped me see that just as he builds families naturally, he can also place us together as families through adoption.  He will masterfully build our family just as beautifully as any other!  By no means is adoption a second-best option or a last-resort.  It’s an incredible opportunity to share God’s love and the love of a family with a child who would otherwise go without.  Lastly, I have to mention that while we have long hoped that by adopting we would be a blessing to others, God has already used it to graciously bless us; He has used this calling to ease the struggle that Nic and I have had to face with our fertility difficulties.  Now, as we are finally embarking on this journey that has been in our hearts for so long, the blessings simply continue.  (Wow–God sure has an amazing way of doing that!)  

So, though this is the Dynamic Davidson Duo’s Dominica Blog, we are going to embark on the journey of the adoption process with you, both so that you’ll know what’s up with us AND so that you’ll see that adoption is attainable (in case you’re interested in following suit).  Even thus far, it has been a winding and long road, so, it will take a couple of posts to get ya’ll up to speed.  So, let’s start with how we started.

About a month after moving to Dom, without even talking about it with each other, we both started to feel like it was “just time” to start the adoption process in some way.  After realizing that the timing was right, it became completely clear to us that spending 16 months on an island just might afford us the time to process an adoption here on-island.  So, one of our first steps was to google “adoption on Dominica”, which lead us to locate a lawyer on the island who would help with the process.  We found one guy, called him up, scheduled a consult, got excited, showed up, and, after quoting rates, he asked us if we had a child “picked out”.  We found that to be hilarious.  I was tempted to say, “Actually, yeah, on the way here, I saw this kid on the street and he had an amazing fro, so, how ’bout him?”  I didn’t say that, and he proceeded to tell us that we had to contact him when we found a child.

So, we walked away bewildered.  (The fro kid was gone, so we truly were up a creek)  We then began to just tell every local we met that we were interested in adopting from the island and to get a hold of us if they knew of anything.(Luckily, I had done a sketch of the fro kid, just in case we could locate him)  We’d always talked about wanting to adopt siblings who were a bit older, since that is the demographic that is far less likely to get adopted; so we specified that and just waited.  Over the months, there were a couple of “possibilities” that faded before we could even make contact.

In fact, several people gave us phone numbers for people around Dominica, but they kept not being who we actually needed.  At one point, we found a great adoption agency, but they couldn’t work with people who live outside of the US … so we went back to the drawing board (Fro Kid pun) with that.  Then, a random person (so random that I truly can’t remember who gave me the number) gave us the number of the Social Services worker in Dominica that we actually needed.  She told us how to proceed–and we did indeed have to find an adoption agency who could legitimize the process on the US end.  So–we began searching again.  And we found her!

At the same time as putting the word out on the island, we contacted some friends of ours from China who’d adopted three children in the past to ask them their advice and thoughts.  They were INCREDIBLY helpful and put us on the right track to taking care of the U.S. side of adopting internationally. (Thank you SO much, Josh and Renee!)  So, after MUCH perusing of the internet and contacting international adoption agencies, we made a great connection with Adopt Abroad, who specialize in helping people who live outside of the U.S. adopt children internationally.  Though they have certain countries that they specifically work with, they will also help you adopt from the nation of your choice.

One of the more difficult and time consuming aspects to adopting while living outside of The States is that U.S. Immigration requires you to have a U.S. homestudy done by a licensed social worker.  This can be tough, especially in a country like Dominica.  Wonderfully, Adopt Abroad has compassionate, caring, and capable social workers who will gladly hop a plane and come to your humble abode, even to Pineapple Manor! (Our  appointment is on August 9!)  So, between September of 2011 and two weeks ago, we’ve just been quietly, persistently putting the word out, filling out papers, praying, and buying painting supplies, in case we find Fro Kid.

Anyway, things were plugging along quite normally for us until last Monday. Then it happened.  I walked into a coffee stall owned by a local woman and, as soon as I walked through the door, she said, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??????”

Tune in next time!

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next weave…

Pineapples and Tony Danza

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Welcome, all!  Glad to have you.  Do you remember when I told you our apartment had been over-run by ants (HERE)?  Well, they’ve not really been a problem for us since I discovered a miraculous piece of chalk, which, upon retrieving from the kitchen, I found to be an accurate description.

I was referred to the M.I.C., as I call it, by the clerk at Jame’s Store, the all-purpose shop I’d mentioned in the past (think Jennifer Aniston speakers).  The clerk said that it worked wonders and was only $1, so, I tried it.  The stuff really does work wonderfully!  I simply lined the windows and cracks with it (stopping only to trace a nice, ant-free hopscotch grid in our tiled floor) and poof, the ants stopped coming!  Every once in a while I see a stray ant walking around the apartment.  I think he’s a scout, sent out to check if we’re still “chalkin’ it up”, as he put it when I demanded that he identify himself.

So, the chalk was a success, except for two details.  First, in my efforts to write a truthful, factual blog, I did some research on M.I.C. tonight.  Crap.  Apparently, as much I love this stuff, the EPA hates it more.  Click HERE for the scathing expose’.  I was reading it out loud to Jacelyn while she was studying and when I read the part about “several children have been hospitalized after eating insecticide chalk”, I said, “Well, this doesn’t pertain because we’re not eating it.”  Without looking up from her diagram of the course of the corticospinal tract through the brainstem, she quietly replied, “Well, I’m gonna stop eating it now.” (She IS truly the funny one in the relationship).  For more information on deltamethrin, M.I.C.’s main homicidal ingredient, click HERE.

That was the first issue.  The second problem with it is that it does not in ANY way deter the inundation of what the locals call “water bugs”.  When searching Google for some pics of what they look like, I was surprised to find only pics like this:

Which makes me think that Google doesn’t know what it’s talking about, since in OUR neck o’ the woods, they look like this:

Now, before you judge me, picture 40 of them appearing on your counter every few hours or so.  I can’t seem to find where they’re coming from, but I just KNOW they’re somehow in league with the ants, like an underground, Davidson Apartment Time Share.  (For more pics of what Google mistakenly calls a water bug, click HERE)

Last Saturday night, we had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Easter Vigil service in Portsmouth and it was a really great experience.  There were two people getting baptized and, when they reached that portion of the night, they proceeded out the side door.  Since a bunch of people were getting up to watch, we figured we would, too.  It was awesome.  Just outside the door, they had filled a kiddie pool with water! (No, not like this.  More like this, only blue.)  The people would kneel in the water and they’d dump huge pitchers of water all over them (a double blessing: baptism AND getting cooled off from the heat of the night).  “I baptize you in the name of the Father”…HUGE PITCHER OF WATER…”…and of the Son…”…HUGE PITCHER OF WATER…”…and of the Holy Spirit!”…HUGE PITCHER OF WATER.  It was cool because one of them was a med student and one was a local guy and you don’t see many med students at the local church, mostly because of the length of the service; in fact, other than that midnight service, Jacelyn’s the only “whitey” in the place. (My tan has gotten dark enough that I consider myself to be “one of the natives”, if you will)

We were able to belt out some of the old school hymns, my favorite being “Because He Lives”.  One of the coolest parts of the yearly Easter Vigil is when you enter the darkened church with only your candles lit.  You sit in relative darkness as they go through 7 large chunks of Scripture, tracing the course of salvation history.  When the readings finally reach the “Glory to God in the highest”, all the lights come on and you just belt it out! SO fun.  The only hiccup was that, much like I didn’t know we had to bring our own palms for Palm Sunday, I was unaware that we had to bring our own candles for the Easter Vigil.  So, while most sat in relative darkness, we sat in complete darkness. (But, guess which un-rhythmic white couple was able to experience the brightness of the light ever more so because of the ignorance and absentmindedness of the husband???)

All said and done, it was a fun experience.  It was a bit harder on Jacelyn, since she’s been studying for tests for two weeks, now……………………….and it started at 10pm……………………………….and went for 4 HOURS!  However, it was worth all 240 minutes of it!  Speaking of Jacelyn, for those of you unfamiliar with medical school finals, here’s what she’s been attempting to do in the last 4 days–and what she’ll continue trying to do for the next 2; reviewing 7 weeks worth of neurology, 2 weeks of gastrointestinal physiology, 2 weeks of renal physiology, 2 1/2 weeks of reproductive physiology, 3 days about skin, anatomy of the head, neck, and abdomen, and a healthy smattering of the biochemistry of metabolism. (And she’s too humble to admit it, but she’s also discovered cures for bunions, road rage, and deja vu)

Hey, you know those big, tall pineapple trees you always see in the pictures?  The ones with pineapples growing off of them in bunches?  Yeah, I thought I knew of them, too.  In fact, I’d have bet money that they grew on big trees.  That is, until we were driving past a field the other day and our taxi driver, Kenny, said, “Over there is a pineapple field.”  And I said, “You mean that grove of tall trees on the other side of the field?”  And he said, “What? No.  The FIELD right there.”  So I took this picture of where pineapples grow:

Apparently, they grow low.  So, in my head, I pictured them growing like a potato does, all buried in the ground, and some strong-armed farmer (or farmess) comes along and plucks them from the dirt.  Turns out, not only was I wrong about them growing in trees (don’t pretend you didn’t think the same thing), I was also wrong about them growing in the ground.  They grow on TOP of those little tufts of plant you see there.  Like so:

You may have heard that I’m currently writing a curriculum for youth ministry, hoping to get it published somewhere down the road and have some small royalties trickling in while we’re on the mission field.  One of the aspects of the curriculum is that I record myself teaching each lesson, so that a rural parish could use the curriculum, even if they didn’t have a youth minister, and they’d have an audio “hint” as to how you could possibly teach the lesson.  With that in mind, I asked my mum for a recording mic for Christmas.  She was wonderful enough to have bought me this and it has helped the sound quality tremendously.

As I’ve been recording these last few months, I’ve been thinking about all the noise pollution that goes on while I’m doing so.  Not only is there the sound of the computer fan running, there’s the symphony of sounds from outside (incessant dog barking, cows mooing, this weird bird cooing, the goats chatting, and the weed-whacking ninjas).  Then I saw an article on the Quietest Place On Earth, which just happens to be located in Minneapolis and it all got me thinking.  How can I get rid of all that ambient noise, without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars? (Because that’s how much it would cost to pay off all the animals and their owners so that they’d SHUT UP!)  So, in lieu of that investment, I came up with this:

A combination of couch cushions, pillows, and blankets gets me a pretty good lack of background noise.  It feels so rugged and real to switch off all fans and AC, hunker down in the stifling heat under the comforter, and record these sessions, knowing that not only is the Lord watching over me, so is Jacelyn’s epic blanket which features David Bowie dressed as Dorothy and Mona from Who’s The Boss as Glinda.  Mmmmmm, comfy.

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

Aspiring Airport Staff and Pricey Pigs

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Phew!  Well, that’s all done.  Since December 13, life has been a constant flurry of activity.  We travelled to Duluth, travelled back to Dom, Jacelyn’s parents came, Jacelyn’s parents left, we got ready for 2nd semester, I went to Minnesota for 19 days, I came back to Dom (bringing two friends with me from Eau Claire), they left, the 20-person mission trip came, they left, our good friend Johnny came, he left, I slept 9 hours and sat down to write this blog.  See.  Flurry.

Because so much has happened since I blogged in broken sentences about our Christmas break, I’m going to move on.  With one exception.  I want to explain “The most expensive ham on earth“.  For Christmas, I made the trip down to Roseau to purchase a frozen 10-lb turkey, which cost me about $60 U.S.  I expected to pay that much.  In fact, since the turkey is only native to North American Forrests, basically anywhere you go on earth, besides America’s imminent neighbors (“eh” and “que”, as I like to call them), you will have to pay through the beak to get turkey in any form with which you’re familiar.  When we were in China, we had to go to a back alley at the back end of a dark and dingy neighborhood to get turkey from what our friends called an “import store”, but we’d affectionately termed “The Crack House”, both because it looked like somewhere you’d buy crack AND because the walls were structurally un-sound.

Anyway, in Porstmouth (our town) we have an IGA grocery store, where most things are overpriced because, again, they’ve been shipped there on the open seas.  While Jacelyn’s parents were here, I made a journey there to pick up a couple of last-minute ingredients and, out of curiosity, I wandered over to the chilled meats section to see what they might offer, at which point I found the most expensive ham on earth.  There, in the glass case, lay a maple and brown sugar ham much smaller than THIS one.  The major difference between the two was that the one I just showed you is listed as $37.25, whereas the less-than-four-pound turkey I saw was priced at $125 u.s.!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, U.S. dollars.  The Eastern Caribbean Dollar price was $333.75.  So, needless to say, we stuck with over-priced turkey this year.  Maybe someday, when we’re rich missionaries in a third-world country, I’ll be able to afford a ham of that low weight but high quality, but for now, I’m okay with eating things that naturally grow here, like Coca-Cola and KFC.

There are no trips or visitors planned for the next two months, so my goal is to blog on a more regular basis.  Life has been busier here than it was in Duluth, believe it or not, and I’ve really struggled to find a routine, what with all the visitors, details, and full moons.  However, I have recently been introduced to a time-saving method called The Pomodoro Technique.  At first, I thought the same thing you probably just did–that it has something to do with fighting bulls–and dismissed it because bull interaction would just be one more thing on an already-too-long list.  But, after a giving it some thought, I looked into it, and let me just say that, as simple as it is, it has changed my time management completely and has drastically increased my productivity.  I won’t waste time here telling you about it (that’s one part of the technique, and I only have 15 seconds till my pomodoro is done), but you can click HERE to find out more about it. (Okay, the infomercial is officially over)

The tidbit from Jacelyn this week comes as an addition to last week’s David and Goliath factoid.  Turns out, there’s one more possible explanation for the details of what happened on that fateful day.  There is a condition known as “Bitemporal Hemianopia”, which is usually referred to as “tunnel vision”; this can be caused by a pituitary adenoma, which is a tumor on the pituitary gland.  When someone suffers from this condition, not only is their vision affected, they can grow to unusual heights.  The tumor is located in the pic on the right and effects vision as portrayed by the pic on the left:

The reason you can become a giant with a pituitary tumor is because the pituitary gland helps regulate the amount of growth hormone given to your body.  The tumor could make it over-stimulate the growth hormone, which brings us to Davey and Goley:

Allow me to draw your attention to the pic on the right.  Meet Yao Defen.  Please take note of the layout of the picture and the two happy, yet frightened, Chinese doctors hold her hands.

In closing, I’d like to give you a few highlights from the mission trip.  They had a great time and we were very thankful that we were able to keep 20 pale Minnesotans safe for 8 days on the island; in fact, I think we used fewer than 10 band-aids the whole time!  Below are some of the better pics.

We were able to thoroughly clean about 3 miles of The Road on clean-up day.  This is the group when we finished:

This is how much trash we collected and then distributed to the various front porches of people who’ve made me mad since we’ve been down here:

While we were working at the elementary school in Roseau, Kevin and I were able to meet someone whom I at first mistook for one of the many mythical creatures that inhabit this magical island.

Meet Garth Joseph, former player for the NBA and current basketball coach for multiple teams around the Caribbean.  This picture was taken as I was counting to five, Kevin was counting to ten, and Garth was in the process of slamming our heads together.  T’was a beautiful moment, the paramedics said.  (I always say that Kevin is the Asian version of me; well, in the preceding pic of Yao Defen, I think we found the Asian version of both of us!)

Lastly, someone snapped a pic just as we finished letting the 2nd grade health class practice their mandatory body cavity searches:

Actually, we were SUPPOSED to just be helping them with their vegetable garden; the searches were impromptu and apprently initiated by the confident guy on the left, who is aspiring to work for the TSA someday.

Well, that’s enough for today!  Thank you all for your patience and your continued readershipness!

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

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