Friday, January 26, 2007

A Beautiful Day

We've had a horrible winter--floods, winds, power outages, lots of snow...but even with all that, we've managed a few beautiful days of glorious weather. Maya loves to be outside exploring.

Her absolute favorite activity is gathering rocks. We live on a gravel road and she has a pretty decent supply. Thankfully she doesn't try to eat the rocks or throw the rocks. The whole fun of the activity is selecting the rock and bringing it to Mom.

This could go on for hours. Each time she says, "rock" and usually "ank ooo" when she hands me the rock. The funniest thing the other day was when we showed her the wonder of pockets! She rubbed her poor little hand raw putting rocks into and taking them out of her tight little jeans pocket. She was so proud of herself. Each time she'd put the rock in, she'd pat her pocket and say, "rock, pocket!"

Olaf dearly loves this girl. And really, why shouldn't he? He's probably gained 10 pounds since she's joined our family

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Maya Finds Her Laugh

Maya is a happy baby. We learned that about her on Day 1. She smiles frequently and is usually content. Try as we might though, we had a hard time getting her to really laugh. We'd get kind of a courtesy "ha" type of laugh, but not one that felt very satisfying. I can't imagine that there was a lot of laughter in the orphanage and I just don't think Maya had much in the way of practice.

Well, she's putting those laughing muscles to work now and we couldn't be happier. Helping this girl to find her laugh has been one of the most rewarding things we've ever experienced as a family. Everyone has their own method of making Maya laugh and she gets bombarded with different comedic approaches throughout the day. Adam is all about rough-and-tumble play and running around the house with her, Madeline makes up funny dances and faces, and Abby and Maya giggle about things that none of the rest of us understand.

Maya is also coming into her own in the language department. She really was doing great before, but I can tell her understanding has increased and she's trying so hard to talk to us. She babbles on and on, making no sense whatsoever, but sounding like she's really telling us something important. The funniest moment during our Christmas trip was when Maya was rattling on like she often does, and her 4 year-old cousin, Annika said, "I'm sorry, Maya, but I don't speak Chinese!"

Only about a week ago we checked out some sign language videos and she's really taken to those. She's signed: more, milk, car, wash hands, food, Dad, and of course, ball. Her favorite words to speak are: Dada, Mama, sock (sock-a!), blankie (bankie), dog, bottle (botta), ball, and Adam. She's started to do more actions to finger plays and tonight she sang along with "I am a Child of God." Well, I wouldn't say there were definite words, but you could tell she was trying.

She still likes books, but they can't have more than a few words per page. Her favorite books have pictures of babies or animals. She likes to kiss the babies in the books and likes to pretend that the babies bite her finger--ouch! no,no,no! The animal books are fun for her and she's doing better at identifying the different animals and making the appropriate noises. She loves our dogs and is not the least bit intimidated by them. Olaf thinks she's wonderful and surprisingly Charlie just tolerates her. Charlie's getting older and he's not as patient about the baby-ride-the-dog sessions. He's paid his dues and is entitled to some personal space.

Maya gives great kisses and hugs and likes to pat Lyle's back. She likes dolls on occassion, but is a dedicated sports fan. Probably our funniest Maya moment was when we all went to watch Lyle play a basketball game. I had to hold her TIGHTLY because she really wanted to get out there on the court. She was totally into the game and yelled, "Ya, Ya, Ya!!! Da Da Da!!! Ball!! Dad! Ya! Ya!" It will be very interesting to see if her enthusiasm for sports continues. She's very limber and coordinated and has even caught the ball a few times. She can also kick the ball well and has a decent throw. She spots balls everywhere and I have to look carefully to find the round thing she's seen.

It's getting late here and I need to hit the hay, but to sum it all up, we just love this girl to pieces. She's such a perfect addition to our family and watching her grow and develop has been unbelievably rewarding. It's amazing that we came together half-way around the world in a crowded country of over one billion people. Who knew that one of those people would meld so easily into the Beck household in Washington State! Pretty miraculous! Happy 6 months together Qiu!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Shoulda' Named her Anna...

.......Anna Phylaxis that is. Poor allergic Madeline. This picture was taken about two years ago (I so miss the toothless grin!) when Madeline started her allergy shots. As of last night, we decided to end the shots. Part of me is happy to be through with it, but part of me is sad that we're admitting defeat.

As I said, she's been doing this for over two years. We knew from about age 5 that Madeline had allergies. She got several ear infections and the doctor was sure they were allergy-related. So, when she was about 7 we had her tested for allergies. I was worried that "dog" would be the main culprit, but thankfully the pooches could stay. No, she was allergic to trees and grasses. The allergist said that he couldn't adequately express how large her reactions were--the swelling from those two needle pricks covered her whole back. He felt that the best option for her was the immunotherapy allergy injections. She'd get small amounts of her allergens injected twice a week, increasing dosage and hopefully decreasing frequency until her body didn't react to those allergens anymore. We knew it was a fairly long-term commitment, but the idea of her living allergy-free in just a few years was worth the time, effort and money we put into doing the shots. The allergist said that in Madeline's age group, they had a 95% success rate.

Well, Madeline apparently was in the 5% determined to be allergic. They gave her a shot of trees and a shot of grass initially twice a week and then weekly. Each time we always had to wait 20 minutes afterward to make sure she wasn't having a reaction. Most of the time she'd just have a little swelling at the injection site, but as the dosage increased, she started to swell more and have scarier reactions. First, I should say that Madeline was a total trooper with the shots. She loved her nurse, Maria, and would insist that I stand in a certain spot each time she got her shot. She felt a smile during the injection always helped! (See above picture!)

We never got up to the elusive "maintenance dose" when she'd get a shot only every month. The best we ever got to was every 2 weeks, but that didn't last long. Her first anaphylaxis-type episode happened about a year ago and really took us by surprise. She'd had her injections and we were sitting in the office, waiting for the required 20 minutes to pass, when she went into the bathroom for a tissue. When she came out, I thought she'd been crying because her face was so red and her eyes were watering. When she talked, it came out as a wheezy, "I feel really scared." Thankfully the doctor didn't have to use the epi-pen, but they used the albuterol treatment and oral benadryl and they watched her for about an hour until her breathing was back to normal. A few months later we had a repeat of that. Each time they had to back off on the dose and have her come in at more regular intervals.

Recently, we'd actually already left the doctor's office after our usual 20 minutes, when I heard Madeline wheezing in the backseat. I rushed her back to the doctor's office. This time she had welts on her face and arms and of course she looked totally terrified. I didn't feel so great either. Again, no epi-pen, but it was close. So, after that episode, Madeline was now very nervous about not just the shots, but leaving the doctor's office. They started doing peak-flow tests of her breathing before and after her injections just to make sure she was o.k.

Last week we had yet another anaphylaxis moment which had Madeline in tears and the medication she got to stop the reaction knocked her out for the rest of the day. She went to sleep at 5:00 and we couldn't get her to totally wake up until 7:30 the next morning, crying because she hadn't been able to do her homework. So, last night Lyle and I had a chat with the allergist and he agreed that after over 2 years of this, we can certainly say we gave it our best shot (well, about 200 shots!). He also was worried about her escalating reactions and admitted that most kids are as good as they're going to get after 18 months.

So, sadly, that just leaves us with epi-pens in strategic locations (school, purse, car, house) and albuterol inhalers and a boatload of Loratadine. I so wanted her to not be limited in her outdoor activities--and mostly she's not, we just have to be careful. She's an amazing, hardworking, talented girl and I hope and pray this won't become a big deal for her in her life. We'll see how she does now without the shots and reconvene with the allergist in 6 months. I guess the pacific northwest just isn't a great place for a kid with a tree allergy! Maybe we'll move to the desert. Knowing Madeline though, she's probably allergic to cactus!