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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Home One Month Today!

At around 12:30am on December 30, we pulled into the driveway of our house. I have never been so happy to be home ever! Our world was just about to return to "normal" (yes... the new normal of our family) and Maia's "normal" world had changed forever.

 Here is Maia at the airport in Kyiv with Olga, just before we went through the security checkpoint. 

And a few pics of our girl over the couple days.
We're so happy God chose us to be her parents! Love that smile!

On our way to church this morning.

Just hanging out
Maia's first chocolate chip pancake - SOOO good! Yes, a girl after mom's own heart (and her pancakes).

Mark and I are thinking that maybe Maia will be an architect
Thanks Aunt Sandi - I LOVE the big paper to draw on!

Maia really is adjusting well to her new life. She's speaking about 12 words of English (when she wants to - lol!) and understands a great deal! She seems to be bonding and attaching to us, as well as charming those she meets. I'll try to post some milestones in the next day or so.

Happy homecoming anniversary, sweetie - we love you!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Month Ago

Just over two months ago,Mark and I left Minnesota for Ukraine on a life changing trip. And one month ago today, we boarded a plane in Kyiv that would bring our newly formed family back to Minnesota. Two months ago, we had dreams of what our life would look like. One month ago, we were just starting to get to know our daughter.  Although in some ways our life was much simpler in Ukraine, it sure is nice to be home! The past month has went so quickly.

Since tomorrow is the one month anniversary of our official homecoming (we walked in the front door shortly after midnight), I will save the official one month post until then.

Maia and I went to story time in Rochester this morning (thanks for the invite, Linda!). It is held at a toy store that specializes in educational/developmental toys. Maia did well, she stuck pretty close to me but seemed interested in what was going on - at least for a little while, lol! I think it's good for her to see how the other kids act and respond. I'm sure we will attend again.

I will leave you with my new word for the day... "Pajada." Perhaps there is such a word - who knows? I was helping Maia get dressed this morning and asked her to take off her "pajada" bottoms. More proof that my brain is mush! :-)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quick update from today's appointments

Just a very quick note to say that Maia's appointments went well today. She had a hearing evaluation first. This is standard practice in children who have speech delays. We really didn't anticipate anything abnormal and this prayer was answered. I guess it does confirm my suspicion that our girl has selective hearing, but that's to be expected - lol!
Next, she had an occupational therapy evaluation. Maia started off impressing the therapist by putting Mr. Potato Head's eyes in the right place. I was on the phone with her (therapist) right then because Mark wanted to make sure that our concerns about aspiration were clearly communicated. Anyway... the therapist was telling me how smart Maia was and how great she was doing. Found out tonight that as soon as we hung up, Maia proceeded to put all of Mr. Potato Head's other parts in the wrong places. :-)  This therapist was the same one who was going to be doing the swallow evaluation tomorrow so she did a preliminary assessment today. Based on that and our conversation, she thinks that with some cues and teaching from Mark and me, Maia will do just fine. We had been very concerned about the way she was drinking... the OT told Mark she is "suckling" and will grow out of it. Interesting...
They had a break after those appointments and had lunch with Nana. Sounds like Maia had a great time playing. This afternoon, Mark learned how to do the catheterization. He said Maia tolerated it very well.
Had a good evening, although Maia might disagree since mom ruined her night several times by forcing her to wait for food. Still working on the bowel regimen. Boy... if poop was gold, we'd be really rich!
Glad tomorrow is Friday!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wake Up Call

I admit it... I was feeling sorry for myself last night. I did not want to go to work today. I woke up this morning and opened my daily devotion. God sent me a wake-up call! Briefly, it was talking about choosing our thoughts. Our mind is a battlefield and we have to make a conscious choice to allow the mind of Christ to be in control. How we think influences our actions, attitudes, and every part of our lives.
The message was very clear! Having a pity party for myself was NOT the choice God wanted me to make. Yes, He understood my love for Maia and my desire to be with her. But... He also reminded me that I had worked hard to get through school to become a nurse practitioner. God was with me each step of the way. He deserves the praise because I was hired for my "dream" job - the one I had prayed for since I first became a nurse (17 years ago)! There are many people who would be happy just to go to a job - any job. And I have the privilege of going to a job that allows me to care for a group that I am passionate about - the elderly!
I knew that Maia would be fine with Mark. I knew that Mark would be fine with Maia. I was the one who needed to decide if I was going to be fine or not. So, I started praying. I prayed that God would give me peace and reassurance throughout the day. And He did.
Driving in to work was harder than I expected. I was near tears and had a few moments when I really wanted to turn around and go home. But, I got to work and people were happy to see me. I got to brag about our girl a little bit and show off pics of her. And then, I got to see my patients! It felt good to get back in to the routine. Mark sent me updates and pictures of Maia which was very nice. The day passed quickly and before I knew it, I was getting in the car to go home. It was tough not to speed - I was anxious to see Maia.
Walked in the front door and she came running to see me, smiling and saying "Mama." That lasted about 15 seconds and then, she was off to color some more - lol! Oh, well. I guess I can't expect her to be as excited as I was.
Anyway... it was a good first day back and I'm glad that God spoke so clearly to me this morning. He is faithful!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back to Work

Tomorrow, I go back to work. In some ways, I think it will be like starting a new job all over again. I was just getting a routine down when we left to bring Maia home. I'd been on my own in the new role for about 4 months and was just starting to feel a little more at ease. I've been away for 10 weeks - plenty of time for newly developed skills to become rusty.
And even more important? I'm leaving my girl. Yes, she will be with her daddy. No... I have no concerns about their ability to manage while I am gone. But, I'm going to miss her and those precious moments. :-(

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another day of appointments and a LOT of poopka!

We had another full day of appointments today - started at 8:30am and we left the clinic at around 3pm. That's a LONG day for anyone, but especially for our sweet girl. I just have to say... she really has tolerated all of these appointments well and overall, behaved wonderfully.
But, let me back up a few hours... remember yesterday's post about the lesson learned. Well, that enema must have released the dam of stool that was in Maia's colon because all I can say is "WOW!" Today, I was able to see the abdominal x-ray that showed how full of stool Maia was. All the doctors have been quite impressed with the films - and not in a good way! It's amazing that her eyes weren't brown. But in the last 24 hours, I would guess that about half of that stool has left the premises. That girl can poop! Ok... 'nuff said!
We started out the morning meeting with the nurse coordinator of the spina bifida clinic and one of the social workers. Really nothing to mention with those appointments. Maia had blood work scheduled for today and I was a little apprehensive about that given how poor her veins are. We were given the option to have a numbing cream applied to her arms prior to the blood draw (for an extra fee of course). It was a good choice, although it may have just been that the lab techs only work with pediatric patients. They accessed her vein the first try and Maia barely flinched. What a blessing that was. We can take her back to that lab for all of her future labs and I'm thinking it is worth the inconvenient location. Our last morning appointment was with a physical therapist. She did some assessments, noting that the muscles along the backs of Maia's legs are weaker than on the front of her legs. She also mentioned a possible need for some orthotics to help with Maia's flat feet.
Went to our favorite restaurant for lunch - Famous Dave's. Thanks mom and dad for the gift card! Our bill was a whopping 50 cents, plus tip after using our coupon and the gift card. Can't beat that!
Our first appointment this afternoon was with the urologist. He reviewed Maia's urinary x-ray, abdominal ultrasound, and urodynamic studies. The good news is that Maia's kidneys and bladder are normal size and show no evidence of any damage. Praise God for that! The urinary flow studies show low tone in her bladder which is not a surprise. The urinary x-ray shows that when her bladder fills to a certain point, urine begins to flow backward from her bladder into her kidneys. This causes chronic bladder/kidney infections and can result in impaired kidney function and eventually kidney failure. The low tone in her bladder is a result of the spinal cord damage from her SB. So... what does it mean and what do we do? Well, Maia has a UTI right now and will start an antibiotic for that. After 10 days of treatment, she will switch to a preventive antibiotic which she will take for 1 year. A medication to improve her bladder tone has been prescribed as well. We will also begin intermittent catheterization 4X/day. These interventions will help with both the reflux and UTIs. The urologist is optimistic that the reflux will resolve on it's own, he says this happens in 60% of cases. The tests will be repeated in one year. If there is no improvement, Maia may need injections into her bladder to help improve the tone and/or surgery. Will you join us in praying for complete resolution of the urinary reflux?
Our final appointment today was with the SB physician who will coordinate Maia's SB care. God led us to the perfect doctor. She is a young woman who adopted a little girl with cerebral palsy from Russia about 18 months ago. Her daughter is just a few months older than Maia. So, she really "gets" it! She reviewed the physical therapist's recommendations and said that she would like to give Maia a few months of exercise, good nutrition, play, etc. before considering any type of orthotics or further interventions. The doctor believes that this combined with testing and early childhood interventions that Maia will receive through the school district may be enough to overcome any current deficits. We will see her back in 3 months and go from there.
Thank you for your ongoing prayers! On Thursday, Maia will have her hearing tested just to make sure there isn't any impairment that is affecting her speech development. We don't anticipate anything to show up because she hears very well when she wants to - lol! Friday is the swallow study. We haven't noticed her coughing/choking with liquids as much as she did in the beginning - I'm guessing this is because she is starting to understand that no one is going to take her food or drink away from her and she doesn't have to rush so much.
Bedtime tonight was quieter, I kept our regular routine with lots of hugs, kisses, affirmations before I left and there were no tears. Of course, she might have been pooped out - literally - lol!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lesson Learned and Other Observations

Instinctively, I KNEW this. Even though Maia is our first child, I've cared for many children over the years. And even though I had never given a child an enema until recently, I've given my share of enemas to patients during my nursing career. In the back of my mind, there was a little whisper saying, "You may want to rethink your timing and schedule." I should have listened...
So today was the start of round 2 of our 3 day bowel regimen. Day 1 - Enema, Day 2 - Suppository, Day 3 - laxative tablet. Since Maia's appointments start early tomorrow morning, I decided it would be best to do her enema and bath before dinner. Gave her the enema and got her on the potty. She sat for a while, pooped, then I thought it would be safe to get her in the bathtub. Can you see where I'm going with this? Yep.... pooped in the tub with all of her toys. Lovely! Got her out of the tub, back on to the potty while Mark cleaned the tub. Since I hadn't washed Maia's hair yet, I put her back in the tub. Got the hair washed and guess what? Repeat of the above scenario. UGH!! I'm sure that the warm water "encouraged" things to get moving. Note to self... do NOT give Maia a bath within at least 2 hours of getting an enema. I'm not a clean freak, but I don't think I can scrub the tub enough - lol!
Some friends came over this afternoon to meet Maia. Tom, Janelle, and Zach brought over 2 fun books for Maia as well as 2 very cute outfits and a cozy pair of pj's which Maia loves! Thanks so much you guys!
Maia has a routine when she is "coloring." She takes the marker cap off and brings it to me to hold for her. Even if Mark is sitting right there with her and I'm in another room, she will give me the cap and then come back for it when she is ready to switch colors. This afternoon, I decided to was going to start giving her a kiss every time she brought me a marker cap. After a few trips, she started to look for the kiss and then kiss the air back at me. That is the first time she has initiated anything resembling a kiss towards me. I'm taking that as a good sign!
We have a bedtime routine. Maia gets into bed. She looks at a book while I read her a Dr. Suess story. Then, a short prayer from one of her prayer books and I finish with a brief spontaneous prayer for Maia. I give her a hug and kiss, tell her that I love her and good night. She had sone well with this until recently - perhaps too well. Because now, bedtime is not going as smoothly as it did in the beginning. Over the past few nights, the crying has increased. It's been a different crying than her screaming, wailing tantrums. I'm trying to differentiate between Maia being genuinely scared and manipulative behavior. Yes... I know she's only 3. But at the orphanage, she got her way by wailing, crying, pouting, and having tantrums. I don't want to feed into that behavior. On the other hand, I want her to feel safe and secure, to know that she is loved, and be reassured. Anyone have any experience with this type of situation? I'd be open to any insight that others have.
At church this morning, someone asked if there was any part of our life that hadn't changed. The best I could come up with was that I still try to take a shower every day - lol!!

More Christmas stuff

We had a great time at my parents house. Maia chased some R.C. cars around the house. We gave them to Gavin and John. She had a great time laughing and chasing cars. She loves her two tents, they just spring open when you take them out of the box. But they are hard to put back in the box.
I got to have my oyster hot dish (best stuff ever) but no spinach dip. Melanie makes the best spinach dip you ever had.
This was the first time Maia met my older sister Sandi and as you can see from my last post they hit it off great.
Sandi is the one who inspired the colorful dresser made up in a Cat in the hat theme.

Christmas (a little late)

                                                            Maia with my sister Sandi
And sister Betsy in her new tent

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another day of tests

Maia had urology testing today. Because of her spinal cord damage, she has some bowel/bladder control problems. The orphanage also told us that she has had chronic kidney infections. She was not supposed to have anything to eat for 8 hours prior to the first test of the morning, but could have clear liquids until 2 hours before. I got Maia pottied and dressed, then sent her out to the living room while I finished getting ready. Things seemed awful quiet... I came out of the bathroom to find Maia and daddy sitting at the table eating breakfast!!!! Mark quickly took her food away which made for an unhappy little girl and we headed out the door.
First test was an ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder. As the technician was looking at images, she asked me if Maia had eaten anything. I admit... I played ignorant. I said, "Well - she has been very constipated lately and food has not been moving through her system." Fortunately, they were able to get the pictures they needed. Next was a urinary x-ray. Maia had to have a catheter put in and she had a really difficult time. Through all of her tests so far, I've been able to handle things pretty well. But, I lost it when she was crying "Mama." It makes me tear up even now just thinking about it. Anyway... the x-ray showed that there is reflux of urine from her bladder back up her ureters and into her kidney. While this isn't a surprise, I was hoping we wouldn't see this. This problem causes infections and can impair kidney function.
We had a break for lunch and went for Chinese. Maia was SOOO cute - she sure loves daddy. She and I were sitting at the table while Mark went up to the buffet. Maia was watching him and for a little while, there was a person who was standing next to Mark so Maia couldn't see where he was at. When that lady moved and Maia saw Mark again, her whole face lit up with a big smile and she pointed at him and yelled, "Daddy!" It was precious!
This afternoon, Maia had urodynamic studies which look at muscle tone in the pelvis and lower extremities while the bladder is full and emptying. It appears that there isn't much tone present and that the limited "control" that we have noticed when she urinates in the potty is probably more related to her movement or exertion and nothing intentional. That's just my take based on what the technician said. But, we won't receive the results from today until Monday so we don't know what recommendations/treatment will be at this time.
After we were done with appointments, I did a little shopping while Mark and Maia hung out at Nana and Papa's house. Came home, had dinner, and tried to get a few things done around the house. We're celebrating our belated Christmas with Mark's family tomorrow so it will be fun to see how Maia reacts. I'll post pictures!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Few pics from yesterday

Yesterday, we visited with Grandma Hansen. Here is a picture of Maia with her new teddy bear, a present from Grandma. Mark's mom is on the left.
 We were able to get a 4 generation photo.
 Grandma, Maia, and I - the quilt on Maia's lap was made by Grandma. Such a precious gift for Maia from her great grandmother, one that we will treasure!
 This is Maia, eating her first French chocolate - a gift from our French friend Sabrina. Thank you so much, we really enjoyed it!

As Mark said, we've had some success in the "pooping" department. Our word for the day is "poop." I'm sure it's because of how excited we are getting when she goes - poor kid, probably wonders what kind of crazy parents she has. And I can tell Maia is feeling better - the attitude and temper are returning - lol! Oh, the drama. It's rough when parents have expectations and rules for how a little girl behaves. And to make matters worse, meals aren't always ready the minute that mom walks into the kitchen. :-)

This afternoon, I took Maia to an indoor play area which is run by the Park and Rec department. She wasn't interested in playing with the other kids, but I think it was good for her to how they played and interacted with each other. She showed some interest in what they were doing. We'll go back again.

Tomorrow, Maia has several tests related to her kidneys and bladder. These should help us get an idea of how much bladder control she actually has (if any). We will meet with the urologist next week to get the results.

We've been home 3 weeks today. In some ways, it seems like only a few days. In other ways, it feels like Maia's been with us for a long time.  All-in-all, I think bonding is going well. She is making more eye contact and when I am crawling on the floor chasing her, she has started coming up and draping herself over me. We've got a ways to go, but making progress.

Call from mayo clinic

We got a call from the mayo clinic last night. They said we have some things doubled up. So we have the day off today (Thursday). Friday we have some tests in the morning we have 2 and 1 in the afternoon.
Good news is she pooped last night. We are very proud parents'


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More appointments

Monday was a pretty quiet day, we ran some errands and took Maia to visit Nana and Papa. Last time we were at their house, she was not feeling well and quite lethargic. So, it was fun to have her feeling "perkier" while visiting them.

Maia is really having difficulties with constipation (yes... I know that someday, she is really going to hate me for sharing that information here - lol). She had a speech therapy evaluation this morning and we were able to get an appointment for the GI issue right after the ST appointment.

The speech therapist was very nice, asked us a lot of questions about Maia's communication. At this point, she usually grunts, screams, points, etc. to get her way. She's been able to get away with it until now. We knew her speech was delayed before we adopted her and some of this can be attributed to how sick she was for her first year of life. Anyway... based on the information we provided, Maia's speech is assessed to be at the level of a 13-18 month old. The speech therapist recommended early childhood intervention screening by the school district (Mark had already set up that appointment - it's in March) and gave us some recommendations for how we interact/communicate with Maia. She will be seen back for follow-up in 6 months and the goal is for Maia to be speaking about 100 words at that time. Right now, that seems like a lot (I know in the scheme of things that it really isn't). Her new word today: Arm.

Maia's pediatrician wasn't available for an appointment today so we saw a nurse practitioner that I really liked. She had a student working with her as well (how well I remember those days not too long ago!) and the student was also great. Maia is FULL of stool! Tonight, we started an aggressive 2 week bowel cleansing regimen. No results before bedtime, hopefully tomorrow we will see some progress. I am sure that our girl will feel so much better after we get her cleaned out.

This afternoon, we met with the neurosurgeon. It was a very quick appointment, no physical exam. He looked at Maia's records so far, saw that the neurologist had already ordered an MRI of the head and spine, and said he would review it after complete. He gave us some information about how we might tell is Maia is having difficulties with her shunt and what would necessitate a call to him. According to him, 100% of people with hydrocephaly have a revision of their shunt by the time they are 10 years old. After that, it is about 10%/year. Maia had a revision at 10 months and has done well since that time. In spite of the very brief visit, I was impressed with the neurosurgeon. He was very personable, knowledgeable, and great with Maia. This last attribute led to the only negative about him. Sounds weird, right? Well, here's the deal. Maia LOVED the doctor. She crawled right up onto his lap and snuggled in. My concern with this is that she needs to learn that this is not appropriate behavior with strangers. So... after a few minutes, I decided that she needed to come back to my lap (or daddy's). Oh, was Maia ticked off! Yep - worse mama in the world would not let her stay with the nice man - lol! If anyone has any suggestions for dealing with this behavior, I would love to hear them!

No nap yesterday or today. She's decided that she can get herself out of bed and slowly come upstairs after a little while. Today, it was ok because we only had enough time for a very brief nap between appointments and Maia DOES not like being woke up. So, it was actually easier that she kept herself awake instead of us having to wake her up.

Tomorrow, we are going to visit Mark's grandmother who is 99 years old. I think it is important to get a 4 generation picture while we have the ability to do so.

The countdown is on - I will go back to work a week from tomorrow. At first, I was kind of looking forward to it. Now, not so much! I am going to miss this!

Absolutely worn out tonight so I will close and leave you with this cute picture of Miss Maia!

Oh, I'll add one more - we started the patching on Saturday and Maia is doing great with it. Here she is with one of her cute eye patches (fun sample from eye doctor). I tried to get these locally, but all I can find is the boring flesh colored ones. And if a girl has to wear an eye patch, she should at least look adorable wearing it... so I found the manufacturer and ordered some. They should be here by the weekend.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nothing too exciting today

Mark had fun working at the telethon last night. He got to see some former co-workers (in his previous life, Mark worked in the television industry) and was sweet enough to bring me home mini-donuts - which I absolutely love!
Since he was pooped out and needed sleep, I decided to brave church with Maia by myself this morning. I had the opportunity to get up in front of the congregation and thank everyone for their support and prayers as we've traveled this journey. Maia did pretty well. She was tired and cranky towards the end, but really... I am surprised at how quiet she was.
Mark's friend Brad and his sons, Tyler and Cody, came over for dinner this evening. I made a pizza casserole, garlic bread, and cream puff dessert. Then, we played Peanuts Monopoly. It was a fun night and Maia enjoyed the attention from new people - lol!
A little bit of political humor... some of you know that we are a "bipartisan" household. Mark's mom has been making bibs for Maia and below is one of them. A very thoughtful and considerate gesture given that I am the Democrat. But for those Republicans out there, don't worry... an identical Republican bib is on it's way!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Just have to say...

We left for Ukraine on November 26. Since that time (over 7 weeks), Mark and I have been together nearly 24/7. There have been a few hours here and there when we have been away from each other, but not for long. And you know what?
These have been precious days! We enjoy spending time together. There haven't been any arguments or disagreements - we aren't eager to get away from each other, we just appreciate these moments. Mark is volunteering at the Eagles Cancer Telethon tonight (night shift) and I'm going to miss him. Seems kind of silly, I suppose. But, I will.
God blessed me with such a wonderful husband - I love him like crazy! Just sayin...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feeling better and today's eye appointment

We're starting to see a little more of our girl again. Maia isn't back to baseline, but she was better today. Ate a hard boiled egg and some yogurt for breakfast, then had half of a pear a little later. Unfortunately, we're still having problems in the pooping department. We've tried prunes, prune juice but she doesn't like them at all. Raw veggies... not so much. If any one has any dietary suggestions, I'd love to hear them. The spina bifida complicates matters because of the lack of tone in Maia's colon.
Anyway... she was more active today - still not interested in the chasing around the house that she and I were doing last week, but she showed interest in playing again. We are very thankful for the improvement. Again, thanks for your continued prayers!
Saw the opthalmologist this afternoon. Maia's vision is good in both eyes, but she uses them each independently. When she uses one, the other basically shuts off and she doesn't see out of it. Her right eye is stronger than her left so we will start patching tomorrow. She is to wear the patch for 4-6 hours/day while awake until she begins to use both eyes equally. We will go back to see the ophthalmologist in 6 weeks and she will be scheduled for surgery to correct her strabismus at that time. I'm pleased with the person we saw because he specializes in the type of surgery that Maia requires. He told us that Maia's convergent gaze problems are common in children with hydrocephaly and is very knowledgeable about this issue.
Since we started the process to bring Maia home, I have been praying that God will put the right people in our path to provide her with the best possible care. With the appointments we've had so far, I have no doubts that God is answering these prayers and thankful for these physicians who are committed to helping our girl be the best she can be.
We stopped at Culvers after today's appointments. Maia was quite happy with her corn dog and ate the whole thing. Frozen custard? Nope - not interested. I think it's too cold for her - given her reaction to cold foods, I'm guessing she must be used to eating things are room temperature. She doesn't know what she's missing out on!
Word for the day: "Up." As we climb "up" the stairs, Maia very clearly said "Up" today. When we we were walking in to the house from the garage, I said "Maia's dom" (dom is Russian for house) and she said "Dah" which is Russian for "yes." It is so fun to see the progress and learning!
I look at our precious girl and am so thankful to God for blessing us with her. Mark and I enjoyed our life before Maia came home - we didn't feel that we were missing out on anything. But now... she has definitely added something wonderful to our world!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Medical stuff so far...

Ok, said I was going to update everyone today on what we have found out so far - so here I am and here's what we know.
Maia had all that labwork last week. The only thing out of the normal range was her hemoglobin - she's anemic. The pediatrician believes it is due to iron deficiency and wants to start Maia on an iron supplement. While I don't disagree with that, the poor kid already has problems with constipation. Add iron and she will be really be backed up.
We saw the neurologist yesterday. On Monday, Maia had an EEG (electroencephalogram) to look at brain waves. This did show that she has a predisposition to seizures so the doctor recommends continuing her on the Depakane (anti-seizure medication). He examined Maia checking neurological function and is pleased with her current status. He feels that with physical, occupational, and speech therapy - she will do well. The doctor said that he believes her shunt is working appropriately, but has ordered x-rays of her head and abdomen just to verify this. Maia will also have an MRI of the brain and spine - the purpose of this is to have baseline information in case there are any concerns in the future.

We also saw the cardiologist who ordered an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and chest x-ray. These tests were all normal and showed no evidence of any heart problems. The cardiologist said that no further testing or monitoring is necessary unless Maia would develop symptoms in the future which is great news!
Tomorrow is Maia's eye appointment. We are hopeful that her strabismus will be correctable with interventions. We know that her vision is quite good, but right now each eye functions independently of the other.
Next week, we will meet with the neurosurgeon as well as physical/occupational/speech therapy, Urology, and staff at the Spina Bifida specialty clinic. Her hearing evaluation is the following week.
Spent the morning trying to work on the constipation issue. I know that this is contributing to some of her lethargy and poor intake. I'm looking forward to hearing what suggestions/recommendations we receive the from Spina Bifida clinic.
This afternoon, we ran a few errands. Took Maia to the mall - there is a play area and I thought she might enjoy being around other kids. She was actually very shy. She really wasn't interested in playing much, but I will take her again soon to increase her comfort level.
Tasha came over for a few hours to spend some time with Maia. I think they may be quite the pair! Maia loves Tasha.
All in all, Maia was pooped out today - well, not literally because then I would have been excitied, but she was tired by dinner time. Sure her brain must be on overload with all of the changes that have occurred in her world over the past 2 1/2 weeks! Anyway, she's still not eating - although she is manageing fluid intake all right. Please pray for her!
I've had a few things on my mind to blog about lately, just need to make the time for them. Perhaps I can do so tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quick Update

Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying! Today was a little bit better for Maia. I started out the morning by giving her a dose of Ibuprofen. May have been just coincidence, but she actually managed to stay awake all morning. While she is not back to her usual self, she was more alert and played a little bit between appointments.
The morning was very busy with tests and seeing doctors. By the time we finished at noon, our girl was ready to call it quits. She napped part of the afternoon and was not very happy this evening. But, the lethargy was a little bit less today so we'll take the bad with the good! :-)
It's late and I'm wiped out so I will wait until tomorrow to get specific about doctor's appointments and test results from today. But for those of you who need a little info in the meantime, we are reassured by what we have been told so far.
Your prayers continue to make a difference and we are so thankful for the support/encouragement we get from you.
Now, I'm going to enjoy a few uninterrupted minutes with my hubby (that sweet guy who I love dearly).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still Punky

We're concerned about our girl. Maia has been "under the weather" for 4 days now. She's very lethargic, not eating, and cranky. A definite change from last week. It's all vague symptoms - nothing I can put my finger on, but worrisome. Trying to sort out possible causes... she hasn't been pooping well which of course can make a person feel rotten. Is she grieving/depressed because she misses the orphanage and other kids? She's had an upper respiratory infection for several weeks now - is that contributing? Maia had 7 immunizations just over a week ago - I'm kicking myself for letting them give all of those to her at the same time and wondering if that is the cause.
We've also noticed that at times, she gets quite pale, dusky around the lips. Last night at dinner, her fingertips were blue. These episodes are intermittent and only last a few minutes but definitely aren't normal. She doesn't have any respiratory distress and they aren't related to exertion.  Her blood work from last week showed mild anemia, but was otherwise fine so nothing to direct us there.
Today, we saw the cardiologist. He was very nice and thorough. Physical examination was unremarkable except for a very slight murmur. Maia had a chest x-ray and echocardiogram this afternoon. She tolerated the tests very well, but I think some of that can be attributed to how lethargic she is which is not a good thing. She will have an ECG tomorrow morning. We will see the cardiologist back for test results tomorrow afternoon.
That was about the extent of our day. Mark was able to play with his skid loader for a little while and had fun with that! Trying to work on some of the post-adoption paperwork which is not so much fun. Have to use a little self-discipline and get to it!
Please pray for Maia's health. Pray that the doctors we see will have wisdom and discernment to determine what may be causing our sweet girl to have these issues.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Belated Christmas and the first of many appointments

Yesterday, we celebrated Christmas with my parents. Maia got a couple of gifts that she really is enjoying.

 Here we are in front of the Barbie Christmas Tree
 Maia with Grandmama and Grandpa Jerry

Maia's still not feeling great. She's sleeping quite a bit and not eating much right now. Today was a tough day for her. In preparation for her EEG this morning, she needed to stay up later last night and we had to wake her up 2 hours early this morning. So, she was not a happy girl but really tolerated the EEG pretty well. This was done to check for seizure activity. We would love to taper and discontinue her anti-seizure medication if she doesn't need it. Will find out the results next week.

Tomorrow, we see the pediatric cardiologist and I'm looking forward to that. Over the past 2 days, we've noticed some intermittent cyanosis of her fingers and around her mouth. That's concerning to me. We are not aware of any major cardiac problems and have never observed these symptoms before. I'm anticipating and hoping that an echocardiogram will be ordered.

After this morning's EEG, we visited with Mark's parents. Maia was so tuckered out that she slept through most of the visit. Lazy afternoon. Mark attempted to apply for Maia's SS card, but we've got to file some other paperwork first. UGH - I hate paperwork!

Overall, I think things are going well with Maia's adjustment. There were a couple of major tantrums today.  She did figure out that mom can be just as stubborn as she can and that screaming doesn't result in getting her way so that's progress (at least for today). But, Mark and I also got some cuddle time with Maia when she was sleepy which is always precious. We're just lovin' our beautiful girl! Oh... almost forgot to brag - today's words (whispered) are "nose" and "eyes." YAY!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What I learned from a Magna-Doodle

One of Maia's favorite toys is a Magna-Doodle. She draws on it and when she clears the screen, she looks at me and lifts up her hands with a questioning look as if to say "Where did the marks go?" It is adorable! The other day as I was reading my daily devotion, it struck me... God does something similar. Our sins are like those marks on the Magna-Doodle screen. And when we look to God and ask Him for forgiveness, He wipes our slate totally clean. Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." I would like my attitude to be like Maia's - a sense of wonder and amazement at the grace that our Father has shown us.

I'm probably not the first person to come up with that concept, so if I have "copied" from someone else - it is not intentional - just never thought of things this way before.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Few pics

Maia in her new rocking chair (thanks Nana and Papa) with Dryfus
 Our sick girl cuddling with momma
 Tasha and Maia (my two favorite girls!)

Seeing the sun even when it rains

There are times when it's raining and you can still see the sun. Well, that's kind of how I feel right now. As Mark shared, it's been a tough few days. His work situation is hard to believe. Mark is one of the strongest people I know. He is stronger than 95% of the people who take the test. He is a hard worker whose work ethic puts most people to shame. He doesn't miss work unless he is really, really sick. He is a loyal employee who takes his commitments very seriously. And yet, his job is in jeopardy. It just doesn't make sense to me. I can see if he wasn't able to meet the lifting requirements associated with his job. But, he does his job WELL - the stores he delivers to love Mark. He is courteous, helpful, kind, friendly. So, this situation is frustrating to me.
Losing our puppy (putting him to sleep) was also hard. Dryfus was a very special dog. He was a gentle giant, great walking companion, loyal friend, and kind soul. We will miss him. And my heart hurts because I see my sweet husband grieving as well. Dryfus was Mark's buddy. If I wasn't curled up next to Mark, Dryfus was. I'm glad for the time we had with him.
It's tough to see Maia sick. I know that this is part of parenthood and she will have more "sick days" over her lifetime. But, it's still difficult to see her listless and know that she isn't feeling well. Especially when she isn't able to tell us what's wrong. We've been told that kids often get sick within a few days of leaving the orphanage because their immune systems just aren't accustomed to all of the germs they encounter in the outside world. Given that information, Maia has done really well - she was with us for about 10 days before getting sick. We're trying to keep her hydrated and comfortable. There is one thing I can be thankful for related to her not feeling well. This afternoon, she came up to me wanting to be held. When I picked her up, she snuggled right in and staying that way for about 2 hours. Although I hate that she is sick, those were precious moments for this mama - especially since they don't happen when she is feeling well.
Anyway... I'm getting way too windy here. The point of my post was to say that even in the midst of these "rainy" moments, I'm still able to see the sun shining. God is good - all the time. And we are so thankful for His provision. Erica and Linda provided absolutely wonderful meals - given how much cooking I've done since we got home, I'm sure Mark is especially thankful! Maia has plenty of clothes thanks to Abbie (and her parents Jason and Missy) as well as Gail, Becca, and Lily. I've only had to buy socks and shoes.
And God has blessed us in a big way through the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Dodge Center. One of my dearest friends Del is a member of this church and shared Maia's adoption story. The church has a compassion fund and they chose to bless us with a monetary gift. There are no words to express how much this has meant to us. We did not do any fundraising or apply for any assistance to help with Maia's adoption. Mark had to take his time away from work unpaid. He is not able to return to work until he meets the company's requirements so we are without his income right now and don't know when we will be able to count on that again. There were the unexpected expenses associated with our puppy. So, finances are on our minds. Receiving this check was clearly a reminder that none of these circumstances are a surprise to God. He is in control and He is watching out for us. We don't know what tomorrow brings, but He does. And I trust that He is good - ALL the time, even in the midst of the rain in our lives. We can look to Him and see the sun!

Nice Friends

Tonight one of Melanie's friends brought over a great dinner for us.It was a roast with potatoes onions carrots and a FANTASTIC blueberry pie with ice cream. I want to say thank you very very much.  It was even nicer because Maia is not feeling well (we think she has an ear ache). and we are trying to comfort her so we are not taking care of ourselves very well. At 7:30 we put her to bed and had a great dinner from Linda's crock pot.


Friday, January 7, 2011

another bad day

We had to put our dog to sleep today. He had a cyst on his side for some time. That cyst was small and not hurting anything. In the past few days it got as big as my fist. I asked the vet to take it off and let me know how it goes. She called me and said it went very deep and smelled bad. I told her not to wake him up. Our dog Dryfus was great with anyone, just wanted to be played with. We got him a road kill raccoon for a toy (not real road kill, it was a stuffed toy with no stuffing) He loved that toy.

More bad news, I went to take a fitness test for work before I could return. The results said I am not strong enough. I find it hard to believe I'm not strong enough. I can lift up the back of a small car, I know I can because I have done it. So I have 60 days to meet this fitness goal or I'm out of a job.

And Maia is still sick, getting better I think but still a little sick. And to make it even worse for my wife, she has to spend all day with me :)

Bad night

Last night was not a good night. Maia got sick when she went to bed. about 20 minutes after she went to bed she got sick. We gave her a bath and changed her sheets. She went back to bed again and did fine the rest of the night.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quiet Day

We had a good day today. Not much for tantrums. Miss Maia was up early this morning - I was awake at 4am and decided sleep wasn't coming back at around 4:45am so I got up to do my devotional while M&M (Mark and Maia) were still sleeping. Who should come crawling up the stairs at about 5:15am? Yep... the princess herself. I am thankful that most mornings she wakes very cheerful. It doesn't always last long, but usually she starts out the day smiling.
Slight meltdown at breakfast, but she recuperated all right. Mark had to go to work for a little while this morning so we were on our own. Mostly, played hide and seek. Maia seems to be catching on to things quickly. She learned how to shut the doors and tries very hard to open them, but she just isn't tall enough and her little hands aren't quite strong enough to turn the door knob.
First American (non-name) word came out today. It was a little bit off, but close enough for me to know what she was saying. After breakfast, I told her it was time to go "potty." She said, "Dotty - dah (which is Russian for "yes"). I was tickled!
Went down for her nap without much complaint. She cried for less than 5 minutes before falling asleep. We had company this afternoon - my first in-laws stopped by and got to meet Maia. Wish I had taken a picture, but Maia had fun coloring and reading with Bonnie. Later this afternoon, Gail (good friend of my mom's) and her daughter Lily came over with bags of clothing for Maia - so greatly appreciated! I've only bought a couple things for her, waiting to see what Gail passed on to us. Mark is happy because it means I won't have to go shopping for a while - lol!
Dinner time caused the major tantrums today. At the orphanage, caregivers pick up food from the kitchens and bring it back ready to serve. So Maia has no concept of food preparation time. She sees me walk into the kitchen to begin cooking and expects the meal to be waiting for her. Mark intervened to take her downstairs and distract her, but it was too late and our girl was not happy. She LOVES carbs so finished leftover mashed potatoes and tried pasta (new dish for her) without eating her meat. I tried explaining that she could have more noodles if she ate her meat. That caused another meltdown.
Mark lucked out - I was going to leave him in charge of meds, bath, and bedtime tonight while I went to my monthly circle meeting. But, I've got a nasty cold so didn't want to subject the other ladies to any germs. Instead, I stayed home and subjected Maia to them - lol!
Overall, I think Maia is adjusting well. We continue to pray that God will just strengthen her bond and attachment with Mark and me. I'm absolutely wiped out tonight so I'll close here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Doctors Visit

Maia had her first doctor's appointment today. Since my specialty is geriatrics, I'm not familiar with the pediatricians in our practice. So when I was asked who I would like to be her primary care provider, I said a quick prayer and chose the female consultant who was taking new patients. Maia is used to female physicians so I thought this would make sense.
She was very nice and thorough. We left with the consults ordered that I was hoping for: cardiology, urology, neurology (and neurosurgery), as well as the Spina Bifida clinic. Maia will also be seen by ophthalmology  for her eyes. The doctor recommended that we restart Maia's whole immunization schedule so the poor girl got 7 shots today. She was a trooper!
After the doctor's appointment, we had to go to the lab for some blood work and a TB skin test. The TB test went fine, but after several attempts to draw blood - we decided to wait for a few days and try again when we go back to get the TB test read. One arm had no vein possibilities for drawing blood. The other arm had a vein that seemed like a good site, but it rolled/disappeared and they weren't able to access it. So, it really wasn't a pleasant experience while the IV tech "dug around" looking for the vein. I hated to think of subjecting her to another visit, but it didn't make any sense for them to keep trying. The lab tech asked two of the "pediatric experts" to come in and check her veins without luck. We are going to push fluids and bundle her up very warm before going back next time.
Add to that, the second day without an afternoon nap and our girl had some tough moments this evening. She went to bed without fuss and is sound asleep. I think she's got the right idea....

Bad Day

Today we took Maia to the Doctor for her 3 year check-up. (or welcome to the USA check-up.)
She had to get 7 shots and a TB test. She took it better than we thought she would. but it was not fun. I'm sure Melanie will fill you in better later.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Maia!

Today is our daughter's third birthday. It is the first birthday that she has ever "celebrated." I use that term lightly because really, she doesn't have any idea what a birthday is all about.  But, we celebrated for and with her! Yesterday, Mark's parents as well as his sister Betsy, Tim, Gavin, and John visited. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of Maia in her rocking chair - a present from Nana and Papa - will have to post that soon.
Maia opening her present from Aunt Betsy - a cute red sweatsuit with bling on it!
 We had birthday cake which Maia was not too sure about. She wanted to grab the burning candles. Wasn't at all impressed with the cake and ice cream. Next year, she hopes Aunt Betsy will make and decorate the cake because mom's attempt was pretty lame.

We decided we were going to attempt church this morning - there were so many people who were eager to meet Maia. I was a little concerned when I remembered it was communion Sunday because the service lasts a little longer. Maia did VERY well - she had a couple episodes where she fussed briefly, but overall was content to sit and look at books. At the beginning of our service, there is a time where we greet each other. Of course, everyone wanted to greet our girl. I was pleasantly surprised when Maia reacted with a little bit of shyness and wanted to be close to me. Indiscriminate friendliness is not uncommon in children who have been institutionalized and although Maia does show some signs of that in 1:1 situations, I think this was a positive sign from an attachment standpoint.

After church, we headed towards our favorite restaurant - Famous Dave's - for lunch with my parents. Tomorrow is my dad's birthday (Happy B-Day Dad!) so we celebrated his and Maia's birthday. Maia did great there, too. She loved her mini corn dogs. We had a coupon for free dessert so Mark and I decided to split the Kahlua brownie. Maia was sitting between us and when the waitress brought the dessert out, Maia was quite excited. She took a bite of the whipped cream... then a bite of the brownie... then a bite of the ice cream... and our girl was hooked!

 Maia didn't understand how to open her presents, but after I showed her she quickly got the hang of it. She got a cradle for her doll from Grandmama and Grandpa, a Hello Kitty toy, a fun light, and book.

Happy Birthday sweet girl - you are loved by so many, but especially your daddy and mommy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One month ago today

We met our girl for the first time one month ago today. We had "lost" our camera (later to be found) so this is an awful picture from my cell phone, but the first glimpse of Miss Maia.

And one month later, home with her forever family!

Catching Up - Trip Home and Happy New Year

It will take me a while to get caught up on my blogging, but I'll try to catch up a little bit over the next few days. First, let me just say Happy New Year to everyone! We are starting off 2011 in a wonderful way and hope that it is a year of blessings for each of you as well.

Below are a couple of pics from our last days in Kiev. Here is Maia in our apartment.

 Our sweet girl with Olga at the airport (Olga has loved Maia for longer than we have. She is the reason that we have our daughter. Olga advocated for Maia to be listed as a waiting child with AAC). We know that she will miss her as well and thank her for the gift she has given us.

So... on our last morning in Kiev, Vlad (driver) picked us up at 6:15am. We then picked Olga up on our way to the airport. Thank goodness she was with us because when we checked in, the airline did not have us listed as passengers. It was a miscommunication - our names were on the list of paid passengers, but not on the list of tickets passengers. She got everything straightened out and we headed to the security checkpoint. Things were kind of chaotic there so I didn't get the opportunity to really say good-bye or thank her appropriately. God truly blessed our process by giving us Olga as her coordinator. For anyone who is looking for a coordinator for their Ukraine adoption, I can not say enough about her.
Our flight to Zurich was pretty uneventful. We left Kiev about 20 minutes late, but made up the time on the way. Maia did well. Our flight from Zurich to O'Hare was delayed by an hour. We had a bite to eat in Zurich and I bought some chocolate. The trip to O'Hare was long - flight was about 10 hours. Maia was pretty tired by this time. There wasn't much room for her to sleep and she does not enjoy being held so she was cranky off/on. A few tantrums and wailing, but it could have been much worse. And there were other kids on the flight who were equally cranky so I didn't feel quite as bad. We got to Chicago and went through customs without problems. Handed over the necessary paperwork and our girl became a US citizen! Afterwards, we went to get our baggage and check in with our airlines. As we walked by a arrival/departure listing, Mark said "I think our flight is cancelled." Sure enough... the ticket agent said, "We've got you booked on a flight tomorrow morning." At that point, I had been awake about 24 hours and Mark must have seen the look on my face because he said to the woman, "That is unacceptable - you need to do something else to get us there." She was able to get us on a flight to Minneapolis. We got to the gate and found out the flight was delayed for 1 1/2 hours - ugh! But, eventually we boarded and left. On that flight, Maia did great. There was a little girl across the aisle from us who screamed for the last 15-20 minutes so I was thrilled that Maia slept through the flight.
The change in our arrival location changed our welcome home party and unfortunately, we don't have any pics. Mark's parents came to pick us up and my parents met us there, too. A little funny related to that... my dad is not particularly fond of little kids, but most of them seem to love him. Of all the new grandparents she met that night, my dad was the one she reached out to - lol!
We reached home around 12:30am on Thursday morning. Things have been busy since then, but we are doing ok. Definitely seeing some temper in our girl, but she is adjusting well considering all the changes that have happened in her world over the past week.
Tomorrow is Miss Maia's birthday and we can't wait to help her celebrate!