Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beach Day

This morning it was a balmy 58 degrees outside. So the boys donned their swim trunks and their rash guards, I packed a lunch and we headed to the beach. The slough side was warmer than the ocean side so that's where they played. Maya learned the joy of throwing rocks in the water. Trevor felt the joy of chasing sandhill cranes while I tried to hide from the bird watchers and pretended not to know who that bad dog was.

Maya blowing bubbles on the beach.

Creatures from Beluga Slough

Sandhill cranes on the lookout for our dog.

The boys were doing pushups, Maya joined in!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blue Hair and Boxing

I was at a loss about what title to give this post. I guess blue hair and boxing are as good as any.

I've had a lot on my mind lately. It has been almost 3 months since we picked Maya up in Dong Nai. We are still all adjusting to each other. Maya seems to be doing very well. We still struggle with sleep and eating issues. She doesn't like to go to bed and she is a very picky eater. Sometimes I worry about how she doesn't seem to get hungry. Part of it is the texture issue, but I think a big part of it is a control issue. While I struggle to understand how she did not develop the neuromotor coordination needed to eat solid foods because she laid on her back with a bottle propped on her chest for the first year of life, then was fed only pureed food the second year, it still amazes me that my other children seemed to learn this without much coaching on my part.

We take it for granted that our children will move from breast or bottle to strained and pureed foods and eventually eat table foods by 12 months. It is very frustrating to watch her reject several things I offer her, gag on her rice porridge, spit out her tuna fish or banana, then munch happily on Doritos. Or stand by the fridge pointing a finger at her open mouth for whipped cream, by the freezer for ice cream, or the pantry for marshmallows. I have an appointment with the speech and feeding therapists at Birth 2 Three to help me work on this some more. The feeding difficulties go hand in hand with the speech delay. Although we have not completed the speech portion of her developmental evaluation, I estimate her speech to be at about the level of a 12 month old.

Although she is slowly learning new words, about one per week, she will not usually say them unless she is prodded. She often resorts to whining or screeching, my two least favorite sounds in the world. She calls both Matt and I "MOM". She will sometimes yell "Maya!" to get anyone's attention.

On the potty training front, she is a champ. She usually tells me when she has to go "poopoo" and we run to the bathroom to see if we can make it in time. She thinks this is great fun. She insists on sitting on the big potty. Her cute little potty that we bought in Vietnam sits and collects dust. She even puts her dolls and stuffed animals on the potty. Many toddlers choose potty training as the arena in which to exert control over their bodies or their parents. Perhaps Maya has already chosen mealtime as her arena. Perhaps eating (or not) has been the only thing she felt she had control over in the orphanage. Of course, we still have to rule out other possible causes.

Her energy level is limitless. Her curiosity is insatiable. While our living room is littered with toddler toys of all kinds, she runs from computer to TV to telephone to stereo to microwave and oven. She leaves no drawer unopened, no cupboard unexplored, no button unpushed. I find electrical outlet plugs laying around on the floor. I found a sponge in the oven, a Star Wars DVD in the trash can, a bag of cheese puffs in a cooking pot. She does not take our word for it that something is hot, she has to experience everything for herself (I cringe to think of her teen years). I gave away my waffle iron this weekend because 1) no one in my family actually eats the waffles I make and 2) I do not trust myselft to be hypervigilant enought to keep Maya from burning her hand on the waffle iron. She pushes our step stool around to get what she wants. Her favorite toy this week is the ice dispenser in the refridgerator door. If I remove the step stool, she will push a chair around. I cannot remove all the chairs from our house. I have to remind myself that she went from an empty room with a tiled floor, screens on the windows and almost no toys whatsoever, to our big house full of electronic gadgets.

When we first got home I took her swimming in the community pool. She screamed and cried because the water was too cold and we were out within 2 minutes. I took her swimming in a heated pool the other day. She absolutely loved it. She kicked and made doggie paddle motions while I held her waist. She even jumped in off the side while I caught her. She resisted the arm floaties until the last 5 minutes of our swim. Then she stood perfectly still in the water, suspended by the floats, marveling at her weightlessness.

She loves to be outdoors. Even on cold and rainy days. She is still a little scared of the loud airplanes that fly over our house, especially the float planes. She is finally used to our dog and cat as well as my mom's dogs. She wants to pet our neighboor's horses.

I've been back to work for a couple of weeks now, just two afternoons per week. Next week I go to two full days. She does not cry when I take her to Grandma's. When I pick her up she is happily playing and looks like she's been going to Grandma's her whole life. I think it helps that the boys are there. She wants to go everywhere the boys go. She runs after them, calling them "guy". She does not say the s at the end. The boys think she is a pesty little sister. I think that's fairly normal. They also protect her from getting in harm's way.

Yesterday was the first sunny day we have had in weeks. I can count on one hand how many sunny days we have had this summer. Today might be the sixth day of sun. It has been a hard couple of months for me. In Vietnam there was 2 of us to one of Maya. Matt returned to work 3 days after we got home. I struggle to manage the house and 3 kids. I have not been as diligent with Birth 2 Three as I should have been (Those 32 salmon really set me back a whole week, not to mention friends visiting from out of town, Little League, and church potlucks).

When I think back to the two weeks we had to get ready for our trip to Vientam, I wish I had done things a little differently. It was a crazy time. We waited 16 months for travel authorization to pick up Maya. We experienced almost every emotion possible, Matt mostly anger and me mostly depression. We did not take family vacations in anticipation of "the big trip". But there were a lot of home improvement projects that we felt we needed to do. We never really recovered from some of the projects. For example, I painted the family room last summer and never hung the pictures back up. We moved the boys into Sarah's room, moved Sarah's things into the guest room. But many things are still in boxes. There were boxes of clothes I packed to take to Vietnam for the orphanage children but didn't because of the weight limit. Last week my best friend Alana came over and made me go through every box in the guest room, sorted them into Salvation Army, the dump and a few to be dealt with later. She was a tour de force, nay, a locomotive. That's what it took to overcome the inertia engendered by months of procrastination and the resulting state of being constantly overwhelmed.

I have been thinking about the families waiting to travel to pick up their children. I have been in contact with some of them, dispensing advice on hotels, travel immunizations and gifts for the orphanage staff. But now there are a few other things I feel compelled to share, things I wish I had known or done.

First, I wish I had taken the time to declutter my home instead of buying more things. If I had simplified the environment more, I would be spending less time chasing after Maya and taking things away from her. I thought my house was fairly childproof until I brought Maya home. If you have older children in the home, invite a very active two year old over to see how many things you need to put away.

Second, I wish I was more realistic about what I could accomplish both before and after I left. I bought tomato and basil plants the week before I left and then made my poor mother in law plant them because I ran out of time. What made me think I needed to have tomato and basil plants this summer? My kids do not even like pesto or tomatoes. I can buy basil and tomatoes from the store when I want them. I can't even remember to water them so they are constantly on the verge of death. I bought 6 bags of bare root plants from Costco in April, I have only planted two bags. The other four remain in the garage while my flower beds and vegetable garden are losing their battle with the weeds.

Third, I wish I had read up on toddler adoption. When we received the referral for Maya, she was 11 months old. By the time we received travel authorization, she was 2 1/2 years old. It is a very complicated thing, trying to bond with a child at an age when her task is to establish her independence. Then there are the layers of issues added on top by long term institutional life. It took me 7 weeks before she would let me hold her while she drank her bottle. When I insisted on holding her bottle, she refused to drink her formula. She would just hold the bottle in her mouth without sucking or let the milk dribble out the side of her mouth. If your child is residing with a foster family, your issues may be different. Their environment will not be as impoverished so they will not be as overstimulated by their new environment. On the other hand, they may be more attached to a particular caregiver, making their grieving stage more dramatic.

I know this is a lot to lay on you all at once, Blogger friends. Like I said, I had a lot on my mind. I have had a heavy heart at times. I have felt a lot of things I didn't know how to express on a blog. Things have also been wonderful. Just like the rest of life. Take a look at these photos:

Riley brought this blue wig home from his friend Bradley's house.

Going fishing with Aunt Kathleen.

She'll kill me for posting this picture on the blog.

Steve says he is not the captain, he is everything but the captain.

I was trying to take one of those artsy pictures like my friend Alana always does.

Chris displaying his best restaurant manners.

Riley gets fishing pointers from Captain Kathleen.

Maya checking her text messages on the the cell phone.
I go a couple rounds with Maya, who proves she is a force to be reckoned with.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Buchard Family

I just added a new link to my list of favorite blogs. Kelly Shelton is my oldest friend. We met in 3rd grade. She just moved to Belgium with her French husband, Simon Buchard, and their four children. Read her blog if you want to read funny stories about an American trying to adjust to Europe (or as Elizabeth Curry says, you just want to procrastinate on cleaning your bathroom). Speaking of which...there are three unclean bathrooms calling me...

By the way...I went back to work last week. I'm only doing two afternoons per week right now. In August I will go back to my two full days per week. I love working part time. It keeps me sane. I am a much better nurse practitioner than a domestic goddess. It gives me just enough structure to help me prioritize. When I stay home full time, I have no discipline and tend to slip into a post-partum dementia. Maya is very comfortable with my mom and doesn't seem to miss me too much. All the kids think Grandma is a lot more fun. They even beg to go to her house on my days off! I tell them we have to give Grandma a break once in a while. My mom has the kids when I work. Matt's mom helps out where needed. I am so lucky to have both grandmas in town.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zen and the art of fish processing

This is poor Matt filleting 32 fish by himself in the rain. I felt sorry for him so I called my mom and she came over and took the kids away for the morning so I could help him. I couldn't remember how to fillet a fish so he had to reteach me. He said "Let the knife guide you." I felt like I was in the presense of either a great Zen master or Yoda. I tried my hardest to feel the force but I remained clumsy and butchered quite a few. After a while I found my rhythm and enjoyed the inner calm I always get while doing manual labor. It allows my mind to wander, which it is wont to do (but so bad when I am driving...)

I thought of the time I took Matt to Tassajara Zen Center in California for a weekend retreat. Twice a year they let "guest students" stay for free in exchange for some work. The first time I went with my friend Robin and all we had to do was chop a few vegetables and then we got to relax in the hot springs. That's because her mom was a high ranking priest. The second time I went, I was asked to hold a walk-in clinic for the Zen students. So while I sat in a little cabin providing very limited health care, Matt was put to work cleaning guest cabins. Before they began changing linen, the Zen students stood in a circle and chanted. It was all Matt could do not to chant "Oh wha ta goo siam". He still tells people to this day that they put him to work in a rock quary.

Then my mind wandered to a Garrison Keiler monologue about the merits of canning. I'll paraphrase: the problem with our society is that people don't can anymore. Then he describes going down to the basement in the middle of winter, opening a jar of peaches and the sensation of liquid sunshine melting in his mouth. Of course he describes the scene of these poor women slaving away in a hot kitchen, canning in the heat of August. He then complains about how we don't can anymore because we can buy mixed greens and baby lettuce in December, grown by liberal arts majors in Northern California. I had to laugh out loud here because the same sect of Zen buddhists that own Tassajara also own Green Gulch Farm which is their Zen center in Marin County. When you drive through Marin County you can look down from the road and see the rows of baby lettuce and mixed greens. He concludes by saying because we spend our money on expensive produce in the middle of winter instead of eating canned vegetables that we grew ourselves, we have no money left over to pay for good education so our kids have to go to mediocre colleges where they do not learn how to be outstanding. It sounded much better when Garrison did it.

So here are the pictures from our two days of canning 32 salmon. It was really hard work, especially with a very active two year old underfoot. Chris was a big help, as usual. He's our hard worker. Riley was at a sleepover, I think, it's all kind of a blur now...

Chris cutting up salmon to put in jars. Yes, he did cut himself with a sharp knife. I reminded Matt of a line from "Seabiscuit": It's better to break the leg than to break the man. It would have crushed him to not be allowed to help.

Maya doing her best to entertain herself.

Chris unloads the canner while Maya helps us scribble the dates on the tops of the jars.

Maya stacks the jars neatly. I wondered if she remembered stacking soda and beer cans in from the mini-fridge in our hotel room in Vietnam?

The boys were wrestling and she had to get in on the action!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fish Days of Summer

The day after Matt took the boys out for a boat ride, he went with Randy and Marilyn out to Anchor Point for some serious fishing. Check out these Kings!

Matt and Marilyn are holding 44 pound Kings. Randy is holding a 20 pound King and a halibut (maybe 15 pounds?)

The boys have an anatomy lesson in fish guts.

Chris holds up the liver. Funny how it looks heart shaped the way he's holding it.
Dip Netting 101.
Yesterday we all went up to Kenai to join the Michaels (Anchorage Wises) for dip netting. This is where the Kenai River Reds who are spawning go to die. So the state lets families dip net for fish. It's called subsistance fishing. The head of the household is allowed to take 25 fish for him or herself and 10 fish per dependent. So we could have brought home 65 fish yesterday. We brought home 32. We left 6 with the Michaels since they did half the work and loaned us the nets. They had already harvested 35 fish during the morning tide! Michael said they had a fish in the net every two minutes. They were basically just running in and out of the water for an hour or two.
Okay, here is a primer on dip netting for the nonfishing blogger fans. Don't read on if you are a Vegan. I usually get very bored following a two year old around for hours, but when you are not at home and looking at things through blogger eyes, everything becomes very interesting. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead so you will have to use your imagination. Maybe I'll come back another day for the photos but it's a 80 mile drive one way from Homer to Kenai so I won't make any promises.
First, the equipment. Most people wear chest waders (rubber or neoprine overalls with boots attached) and rain slickers. But there were all kinds of fashion statements on the beach yesterday. One lady was wearing a rain poncho like the kind they wear in Vietnam while riding their scooters. Another lady was wearing a giant garbage bag with holes cut out for her head and arms, and a string around her waist to keep it snug. One girl was out in the water up to her neck wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top. I guess some people are missing cold receptors in their genetic make-up. People do surf in Alaska in full wet suits except for my friend Falcom who is missing those cold receptors. He body surfs in shorts.
Anyway, back to dipnetting. You need a very large net attached to a very long pole, 6 to 12 feet long. Some people attach an empty milk jug or bottle of detergent to part of their net to keep it in an upright position. Then there's the fish whacker. You need something to kill or knock the fish unconscious so they don't flop around on the beach and wiggle back to the water. Most people have a professional fish bonker that looks like a miniature wooden baseball bat. Maya was all over that! She must have thought: "cool, they do make bats in my size!" If you are an intense animal activist, skip the next part and just scroll down to the adorable movie clip of Maya playing baseball.
Okay, so then there's the fish bonking. If you don't own a mini baseball bat, you can use a 2 x 2, the bottom leg off an old pair of crutches (I wonder if the rubber tip makes it hurt less for the fish?), or the broad side on an ax. I kind of like the ax because you can cut the head off with the other side. But the old Asian guy with the ax never did, he used a fillet knife. Use your imagination blogger friends, these are just a few of the things I saw on the beach.
Then you need garbage bags or coolers to put your fish in. Some people bring a child's plastic sled down to the beach so they can drag their cooler back up to their truck because the coolers become very heavy once filled with fish. My favorite inventive use of a household object was the ironing board one lady was using to fillet her fish right there on the beach. It was very ergonomically correct and a much better use of an ironing board if you are allergic to ironing like me!
Finally, the people, always the most interesting part. There were the typical Alaskan Rednecks (in Alaska Redneck is not an insult, it's an ethnic group. They actually have it on our forms. You can check Native Alaskan, Asian, African-American, Hispanic or Redneck. Just kidding.). There were petite Native Alaskan and giant Samoans. We have a large Samoan population in Anchorage. There were a few Asians and even fewer African-Americans, who are unfortunately, the least populous in Alaska. I can't figure out why all these Asians would move to such a cold climate, but I digress...
My favorite dip netter was an older Native Alaskan woman who was out there braving the waves with the best of them. She had a perfectly round, very brown face and the whitest teeth I have ever seen. The reason I know that is because she was smiling the entire time. It was so beautiful to see. I wanted to bottle her joy and market it as the next best antidepressant. I have to admit I prefer beautiful old women with white teeth over black teeth.
And to complete the scene in your mind, you have to add gulls. Lots and lots of gulls, like Hitchcock numbers. Yesterday I wondered how come "Hitchcockian" never caught on like "Freudian"? Anyway, the gulls are there to eat the leavings. There are hundreds of fish heads all over the beach, most of them with their eyes gone. The gulls also eat the guts and the carcasses but their favorite part is the roe. Their second favorite part is the milt. I like how my brother in law calls it "the opposite of eggs" because he's too prudish to say "sperm". I love teasing him, he's so easy to embarass. I can't believe he's related to my husband sometimes.
In residency, Matt was voted "most innappropriate". It was said that he could say the most innappropriate things at the most innappropriate times and with the most innappropriate volume. He is also one of the kindest, most compassionate physicians you'll ever meet. There are elderly people who have moved to Alaska because he took care of them in the ER while they were here on vacation once!
Okay, that's everything I know about dipnetting. My poor husband is outside filleting 32 fish while I blog. That's okay, I'll help him smoke and can them over the next few days. One of these days I'll go out to Anchor point to document the "Tractor Factor". It's some kind of giant thing that launches your boat into the water. I can't picture that at all so I'll have to make sure my camera is fully charged when we go on location.
Here's the video of Maya I promised you. I was pitching to her and then I realized that she now runs to first base after she swings! By the way, she loved dipnetting. It was all I could do to keep her out of the water. She also discovered the joy of chasing birds. She also enjoyed walking Trevor around on a retractable lease. Now if only I could teach Trevor to be a nanny...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Going Fishing

We spent the week in Anchorage helping my mom while she had some minor surgery. Well it turned out to be less minor than she expected so we were glad to be along to help her. Maya traveled like a champ and the boys really helped me out. My brother in law Michael and his wife Karyn put us up for 3 days. Cousin Michael kept the boys out of trouble. Nanna and Cousin Megan were also in Anchorage for a day and they took the boys to miniature golf so the boys got to have a little fun, too. Thank you everyone for all your help!

Maya put herself in this little cooler.

The day after we got home, we took the boys out on our skiff for the first time this summer. Maya stayed home with cousin Megan. She is quite a handful and the boys still need to be one on one on the boat.

Trevor enjoys a morning out on the boat. He has been somewhat neglected since we got back from Vietnam. Look how happy he looks to be out on a boat ride with us.

Riley fishing for halibut while salmon were jumping all around us. We switched to salmon fishing but no bites. We caught the world's tiniest halibut while fishing for salmon.

Chris at the bow.

Maya helped Grandma take her pillows to the car. (These pictures are out of order.)

Grandma pushes Maya in a tiny red wagon the night before her surgery.

We passed this house with the airplane in the driveway across from the airport in Soldotna.
(I couldn't resist getting a "blog worthy" photo.)

Sometimes Maya is just like one of the boys.
This is a short video of Gull Island. It is home to thousands of birds like puffins, cormorants and gulls. The boys call it Stinky Rock for obvious reasons.

Monday, July 7, 2008

4th of July Weekend

Maya's first 4th of July weekend was filled with out of town relatives and friends, picnics and barbecues. She did really well with all the new people. By the end of the weekend she was even playing with her new friends.

Playing with Aunt Kristin who was visiting us from Palmer, AK.
Waiting for the parade to start. Cousin Michael was down from Anchorage.
Playing dolls with 5 year old Ursula.

Watching Winnie the Pooh with almost 3 year old Louisa. Actually, Louisa was watching Winnie the Pooh. Maya was more interested in jumping up and down in the chair.

Roasting marshmallows and making s'mores.

All of us around the campfire at 9pm.

Watering plants with her friend Holland from Washington.

The boys played baseball with their friend Hunter from Edmonds, WA.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Half Birthday Maya!

Today was Maya's half birthday. We did not have a party because her life has been kind of a party for the past two months. She is still getting presents from our friends and family on a regular basis. She gets to eat as much ice cream, cake and whipped cream as she wants, and today she got to have a double play date with 3 other 2 1/2 year olds at the park!

Maya with her friends Danica and Ariel Ronda from Tacoma, WA and Holland Marie Hornaday of Edmonds, WA. All their daddies went to school together.

When playing baseball with our boys, it is strongly advised that you wear a helmet like Nanna.

Maya opening her latest present from our friends at the lab; Thank you Vanessa and Holley!