Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Little Trooper!

Livi just amazes me each time we go in for surgery or some other medical procedure. She's got the most incredible recuperative powers. She took one dose of pain medication right after the surgery and hasn't needed any more since. The swelling is completely gone and she looks amazing! She's such a little trooper!

Anyway--that was our last surgery. Now we get back into our therapies routine and follow up with a couple specialists (opthalmology and orthopedics), but we don't expect any negative reports in any case. Oh--we also have an evaluation by the school district in a couple months to see what services she will qualify for once she turns 3 in July. I'm hoping they say they think she won't need anything but speech and PT, but we'll see!

Otherwise, things are going great! I've finished all the Christmas shopping and now just have to get everything wrapped and/or put together. But that's another story...

~ Jeana

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Happy Holidays!

December is flying by, folks! I feel like I'm in a non-stop winner-take-all race to the end of the month. This week was the last week of classes, next week is finals, I have several projects due over the next couple weeks in my day job, Livi has surgery on Wednesday, Dad has surgery on the 20th, Christmas is just a couple weeks away, and I hope I can survive the journey! Today Livi and I sojourned out to get some holiday photos done. It's in the 80's here, so it's hard to dress Christmassy! We did manage to find the perfect Livi Christmas hat, though!

Last weekend I took Livi to see Santa. She wasn't really thrilled with him. She didn't cry or anything--just wouldn't smile. We ended up with a photo that's practically a duplicate of last year's, so I'm going to use these other ones as our holiday photos for this year. I'm almost done with the Christmas shopping. I still have to find one more thing for my mom and pick up some gift cards for my brothers and nephews, but otherwise all is done! Livi is going to rack up the gifts this year, though! Whew!

I mentioned Livi's surgery earlier--it's the one to remove all of her hardware. As you can see from these photos, she has a really nice jawline now. We could have even brought it out a little bit further, but I'm happy with where it's at. She still has a mild overbite, but nothing serious. She's finally starting to build a vocabulary, too. We're up to more than 30 fairly intelligible words. Hurray! The next step is to get her to start combining them in phrases. And on the physical side, while she's still off the charts, her height has jumped up to 32.5 inches and her weight is about 21 lbs. She'll probably always be on the small side, but that's not a bad thing at all in my book!

I'll post more the next time I get to come up for air. In the meantime--happy holidays, everyone!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Time to Reflect and Give Thanks

This is a year in which I truly have a lot for which to be thankful--and my family and friends are very high on my list. I have truly been blessed with wonderful people in both categories. None of could be the wonderful people that we all are, however, without the freedoms and the opportunities which we all sometimes take for granted. No, our lives aren't perfect, but they are so much better than they might be if we had been born elsewhere.

A thought has been playing through my head these last few days--a memory from the court hearing for Alivia's adoption. The judge was reading through the papers and suddenly stopped and asked why I needed such a big house. My house isn't all that big--in fact, by US standards, it's rather small and I would love to have a MUCH bigger place--yet the judge felt it was more than adequate for my needs. How much does one person or one family really need? And is it wrong to want more when there are so many in the world who don't even have their basic needs met?

Greater minds than mine have pondered these questions and, inevitably, my mind will soon tire of them and wander back to happier thoughts. But as we broach a day that our country has set aside as a day for giving thanks for what we have, it does seem appropriate to at least acknowledge the battle even if I choose not to fight it. And so among many other things...

I am thankful to have been born an American and to have been able to bring my daughter out of the poverty of Russia to be raised as an American. I am thankful that I am not an inmate in a Serbian asylum for the disabled. I am thankful that I have friends throughout the world that I can keep in touch with on this board. I am thankful that I have a job that pays well and a beautiful, albeit small, home. I am thankful that my parents are still with me and are able to enjoy spending time with their granddaughter. I am thankful that I am able to obtain medical services for me and my daughter when needed and that we can afford to travel and have a few "luxuries" in our lives. And mostly I am thankful to have her--something I never could have imagined just a few years ago.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

~ Jeana

Thursday, November 08, 2007

8 Random Things About Me...

Uh oh! I've been tagged.

So, here are the rules of the 8 Random Things tag game:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

(I think the hardest part of this will be coming up with 8 other people to tag!)

Okay--so 8 random things...

1. When I was 12 years old I appeared in television commercials for Hardy's restaurants. It was my first acting gig. Somehow my acting career never did take off, though. Rats...

2. When I was 4 years old my family moved to Guam. My grandmother had just given me a new cowgirl outfit complete with a beautiful red hat. Unfortunately in the rush to board the plane with two small children, my mother forgot the hat under our seats at the airport. I cried for days... I still sometimes wonder who ended up with my beautiful red cowboy hat.

3. One of my favorite places in the whole world is a tiny little church in Paris, France, called Sainte Chappelle. The first time I visited there it was late afternoon and the sun was hitting all of the stained glass windows just so while monks chant played softly in the background. I was overcome with this incredible sense of peace and serenity that's never been matched anywhere else in my experience. The church claims to have the true Crown of Thorns as one of it's relics.

4. I hate eggplant. 'Nuff said.

5. I love Byzantine and Renaissance art. I'm not sure if it's because of the vivid jewel-tone colors that are so pervasive in both periods or the story-like renderings of the religious subject matter, but something in both of those eras speaks to my soul.

6. I once wandered through the Catacombs beneath Paris all by myself--yep, just me and a few trillion bones. Very "atmospheric", to say the least.

7. My favorite author is Diana Gabaldon. She writes a very hard to catagorize series of books (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, etc.) about a time-travelling family. Set largely in 18th century Scotland and America, the books have enthralled me since I accidently stumbled on the first one in a grocery store many years ago. What I like about her writing is her character and story development--you truly feel like you know these people in her books and their adventures are phenomenally well written. And their "romantic encounters" aren't too badly done, either... Seriously, though, it's a rare book that can make me laugh and cry at the same time, but Diana's books always do.

8. I have never in my life had a cavity. Never. Thank God, because I'm terrified of the dentist!

Whew! Now who am I going to tag... Christy and Kelly come to mind first of all. And Cyndi, of course. Hmmm... I'm going to have to think a bit to come up with some more.

~ Jeana

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Final Surgery Date!

We received the date for Alivia's final surgery this week. It will be on December 12th. They'll take out all the hardware during that one and she should only have to spend one night in the hospital. Then we'll be done! Hurray!!!!

We had some other good news, as well--both of my biopsies were negative. I was rather nervous about the second one, but it turned out to be just a fibrous cyst. Thank God! I have to go back in 6 months to follow up on the one they couldn't biopsy, but they don't expect any problems, so I'm not going to worry about it until then.

Livi is having another growth spurt, I think--she's up to 32 inches in height and 20 lbs in weight. She's still very much below the charts, but catching up bit by bit. She's also becoming quite the chatterbox! I love it!

Oh--if anyone's interested, I've found another great price on a cruise and have requested a group of cabins. This one is on the Carnival Glory, October 4-11, 2008. It departs from Port Canaveral (Orlando) goes to Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, and Freeport. The fares start at just $469 per person and each cabin will receive a $100 ship's credit. If you'd like information, please email me at and I'll send you the e-flyer.

~ Jeana

Monday, October 22, 2007

Family Reunion

Livi and I spent this last weekend in Georgia for our family reunion. Livi was a little bit more shy with everyone this year compared to last year--very clingy to Mommy. I didn't mind seeing that at all! I've been worried that she wouldn't develop any stranger fear, but she does seem to be more wary of unfamiliar people than she has been. I managed to get a couple cute photos of her--in this one Livi is trying out her new jaw in earnest on an ear of corn. She managed to do a pretty good job of it! The funniest part of it was that up until now she hasn't liked corn! I guess it's all in the presentation.

This photo is Livi wearing Papa's hat. I loved the gangster look she pulled off. Too cute! Livi also surprised me this weekend with her skill on a balance beam. I was holding her hands, of course, but she was very deliberate in the placement of her feet. It was quite impressive! I can see that we're going to have some gymnastics lessons in our future. And speaking of balance--Livi is walking more and more and better and better. I'm so proud of her!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Big Wait...

We have finished the "turning of the screws" and are now into the big wait for the final surgery to remove all of Livi's hardware. That will be some time in early December. We ended up moving her jaw forward 20 mm--a little more than 3/4 of an inch. The difference is incredible! I hope to get some photos this weekend.

On my health front, I still have a bit of a cough and my voice isn't yet back to full strength, but I'm improving daily. I have an appointment for a second breast biopsy on Monday--the first one came back negative, but they saw another mass that looks different, so we have to do it again... fun...

Other than that things are moving along nicely. Livi seems to like her new occupational therapist. Now that we have our whole therapy team in place I'm hoping we will see her making some good progress.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Fall weekend!

~ Jeana

Friday, October 05, 2007

Comparison Photos

We are now at 14 mm and the difference is just incredible! Here are some photos for comparison:

This one is Alivia's original chin. This was taken this past July when we were in St. Louis.

This one is how she looks now in profile. The difference is just amazing!

Here are a couple other new ones from different angles. As you can tell, Livi is doing just great! She's gotta be the most amazing child in that sense. Even her doctor is amazed at how well she is doing.


~ Jeana

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Taste of Fall

We are finally starting to get some Fall-like weather here--lots of rain, but beautifully temperate days with nice breezes, too. I love it! If I could just get over this nasty bronchitis I'd be so happy!

Livi is doing incredibly well! As of this evening we have moved her jaw out 10 mm! You can really tell a difference. And she's tolerating it so well! No pain at all that I can tell. She is on antibiotics, but no other medications. We've also got her started back in speech therapy finally and, while she doesn't like it very much, we are already seeing some good results from it. Her new physical therapist will start on Friday and we should be getting an occupational therapist going in the next week, as well. Between those three and her cognitive therapist she's got a pretty full plate these days!

Speaking of full plates... you wouldn't believe how her appetite has suddenly picked up! She's eating much more now than she was before the two surgeries and drinking much more, too. I expect to see another growth spurt real soon.

We go back to the surgeon on Monday of next week for her next follow up appointment. I'm hoping that we will be able to stop the screw turning then and remove the rods. Then she'll have to wear the internal pieces another 6 weeks or so and we'll go back to have those removed. I expect it will mean another hospital stay, but hopefully only for a day or two at most. In the meantime, Livi continues to amaze all of us with her progress and her cheerful attitude!

~ Jeana

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On the Down Hill Side

Livi's surgery went very well on Thursday. She was in the OR for about 2 hours and then in recovery for about 1.5 hours before they took her to her room. She was in a lot of pain all day Thursday and most of Friday, but they kept her on morphine every two hours to deal with that. Thursday she slept most of the day away and Friday she dozed in and out, but spent the whole day in my arms. She wouldn't let me put her down for more than a minute--she needed Mommy love big time! That evening she did go for a little walk around the ICU and laughed a couple times at jokes. My friend Diane came to visit and held Livi for a couple hours so I could go home and get a much needed shower and meal. While I was gone Livi's 2nd IV (she pulled out the first one) got bent and had to be replaced. Poor thing!

On Saturday Livi was much better and actually let me sleep a bit, too. She wasn't nearly as clingy and walked around quite a bit. Saturday afternoon we did the first turning of the screws and she didn't even flinch. That evening they took her off the morphine and put her on an oral pain medicine that seems to be enough for her. She is eating a bit--her whole jaw and chin is swollen and it's hard to get her mouth open very wide, but she doesn't seem to be in much pain at all. She's been eating mac and cheese, yogurt and cream of chicken soup. Good comfort food! This morning they said Livi was doing so good that we could go home if I was comfortable with the screw turning. She doesn't seem to be bothered by it at all, so I am having no problem with it. Here's a photo of one of the screws.

The first photo above was taken right after we got home today. Livi's a bit swollen, but otherwise happy, as you can see! Now, if I could just get over this awful cough I have (bronchitis, I think... haven't found time to get to my doctor yet) everything would be great! Thank you, everyone, for your prayers, messages and phone calls! I'm still pretty much voiceless, but I do appreciate all the love and warm thoughts being sent our way!

~ Jeana

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Surgery Update

I received a call on Friday from the hospital rescheduling Alivia's surgery again... they've moved it up to Thursday, September 20th. Hopefully she will be fully over her cold by then and everything can proceed as scheduled.

In other news... Livi is living up to the terrible two's! Today she threw a tantrum just because I wouldn't open a door for her. There was nothing terribly exciting on the other side of the door--we were at my office and it just led to another hallway of offices. She pitched a royal fit, though, for about 5 minutes before finally giving up. Hopefully Livi will quickly figure out that Mommy doesn't give in to tantrums and will stop trying to play that card. Also, Kizi, the younger of my two cats, has finally decided to allow Livi to pet her. She's still cautious and quick to get away if Livi pulls or pinches, but they do seem to be getting along quite well most of the time. My other cat, Treasure, is going to be a MUCH harder sell... (and, yes, Kizi is a really BIG cat!)

We have a busy week ahead of us... Monday we start with a new speech therapist. Tuesday is a new cognitive therapist. I also have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday--they found something suspicious on my latest mammogram and want me to come in for a diagnostic one. Probably nothing, but I'm still a bit worried, I must admit. Wednesday is Livi's pre-surgical check-up, followed by the surgery itself on Thursday. If I make it to the end of the week with all my hair still attached to my head it will be a miracle...

~ Jeana

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cruise Report and More!

Wow! The Celebrate Adoption Cruise was an absolute blast! I won $840 on penny slots (PENNY slots!!!!!) that I spent on a gorgeous set of blue diamond ear studs. Livi surprised me by gobbling down cream of escargo soup and other gourmet delicacies. The other families were great--especially Natalia and her daughter Marina and son Roman. Marina and Livi became quite friendly and I hope we'll get to see them again in the future! Livi won't wear her sunglasses often, but when she does...

Livi proved to be a terrific sailor. No seasickness or major problems of any kind. Of course she was ready to go home once the cruise ended. So was I. We did enjoy ourselves immensely, though, and I'm already planning our next cruise adventure. I'm looking at a 7 nighter next year in October that will stop in Belize and Cozumel. I've never been to Belize and love Cozumel, so it looks very promising so far! Anyone want to join us? This is Livi's formal portrait from the cruise.

Other highlights--I mentioned Marina already. She was such a cutie--just a few months older than Livi and only a little bigger, but she played big sister and helped Livi climb the stairs. It was so sweet! The kids all spent time together in Camp Carnival, but we were not, unfortunately, able to do much together outside of that. Everyone just had too many things they wanted to do and it was a busy 6 days.

My mother watched Livi for a few hours while we were in Nassau and decided to get her hair braided. She loved it and looks very cute with her hair beads. I have to take them out in a few days to get her ready for the surgery next week, but they are so cute that I want to leave them in as long as I can. Here's a photo I took of her in our cabin with her braids. She was in a serious mood that night...

Livi and I recieved some very good news today on the health front. We had her 6 month follow-up with the orthopedics specialist and he said that Livi has made some fantastic strides with her legs (no pun intended!) and now no longer needs braces or even shoe inserts! I felt like jumping up and down with joy! Her legs have become much stronger and straighter and she's walking quite a bit now. Here's a photo of her in motion--literally.

At the moment Livi has a slight cold that I guess she caught in Camp Carnival. I'm hoping it will clear up soon and not delay the surgery. That's scheduled for a week from Friday--on September 21. I just want to go ahead and get it over with so we can get on with the healing. Well, enough for now! I'll try to post again in a few days!

~ Jeana

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Apologies and Updates

I'm sorry I've gone so long without posting. Things have been extremely hectic here over the past few weeks. In addition to Livi's surgery (more on that in a moment) I've had to deal with one college term ending, another one beginning and a couple major deadlines in my daytime job. Whew... I'm looking forward to being out to sea next week--literally!

Livi's surgery went very well. I was rather nervous when the surgeon told me not to be surprised if Livi had to be put on a ventilator after the surgery and had to stay a few extra nights. He hadn't mentioned any of that before. This first surgery was just for tonsils, adenoids and ear tubes. Well, fortunately, Livi proved to be a real trooper--no ventilator, no additional nights in the hospital, and really minimal reaction to everything that went on. Within about five hours of the surgery she was up pushing her stroller around the PICU and trying to visit the other children. The doctors and nurses were all just amazed at her resilience. I'm just hoping that she will show the same strength when it comes to the second surgery.

Speaking of the second surgery... the date has been moved up. They now have it scheduled for September 21. It's good in one sense--I'm happy to get it over with and we're less likely to be impacted by flu and cold season. On the other hand, my parents will be out of town beginning several days before hand and not returning until several days afterwards, so I'll be missing that support. With this operation it is very likely that she will be on a ventilator for a couple days. I know that she will be in the PICU for a couple days and then in the regular pediatric surgical unit for a couple more days. I get to stay with her the whole time, but it is going to be tough to be there alone. I'm hoping that my friends here will be able to come by to see us and give me that extra support that I'm going to need. It will just depend on everyone's schedules, of course.

Work has been a challenge, too. I'm teaching two courses this term and one is a newly developed one that we had virtually no info on until a couple days before classes started. I't a hybrid course (part in class and part online) and we have some technical issues to deal with, as well. It's been a rough start to the term... My day job hasn't been much better. I've been frantically working on a Website and brochure for one of our college programs trying to get it done by today. I did manage it, but just barely... I was at work until 6:30 last night putting on the final touches. I hate being on such a tight schedule--it really impacts my time with Livi, not to mention making me too tired to be able to do some of the things with her that I want to do.

Hopefully that will all turn around now that classes are entering their second week and that major project is done. And I'm officially on vacation for a week! On Monday we'll be leaving on our cruise to Key West and Nassau, Bahamas. There are five other families in our group who have adopted little ones internationally. I think they are all from Russia, but I'm not sure. I do know that they are all close in age to Alivia--she's the youngest, but most of the others are only 10 to 12 months older. It should be a lot of fun!

I still haven't been able to get any new photos, but I'm going to try this weekend. I'll definitely get some on the cruise, too!

~ Jeana

Saturday, August 11, 2007

As the Summer Winds Down

Livi and I had a wonderful time in Amelia Island this past weekend. One of my cousins was able to get a gorgeous condo right on the beach for all of us and we spent the days playing in the ocean and doing a little sightseeing. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera along most of the time, so no new pics... Sorry! I'll try to get some over the next few days as Livi and I are out and about.

Livi has an ear infection--a product of her days playing surfer baby, I think. Her doctor was on vacation, but we got in to see one of the other doctors on his team and she gave us a script for amoxicillin. One of our grocery stores here, Publix, has a deal going on where all your 'cillin type drugs are free. That was nice! We managed to catch the infection before it got bad, so I'm hoping it will clear up before Livi's scheduled surgery on August 21st. Eeek! That's approching way too fast!

Next weekend is my last three day weekend of the summer (the college I work at gives us Fridays off for 13 weeks of the summer each year.) As it's also the last weekend before Livi's surgery I'm planning to get in as much play time as we can. Unfortunately we have to avoid the pool (don't want to aggravate the ear infection), but we can go to the park and stuff like that. I'm just praying the weather cools off a bit. It's been unbearably hot here the last week or so.

Oh--one of the things that's recommended for kids with sensory integration issues is a crash pit. It's a padded "pit" that they can literally crash in. Bouncing, jumping, throwing themselves down, and that kind of thing is actually good therapy for SI kids. Well, I priced crash pits and they typically run about $800 or more. I've found a great substitute, though. It's called a "pillow sac" and has them for $115. It measures 5' x 6' by 8" deep and is filled with shredded foam. Livi loves it and it's a great place for her to get all her jumping, bouncing and crashing out of her system!

That's all for now... I'll try to post again soon with new photos!

~ Jeana

Friday, July 20, 2007

St. Louis Trip (Long Post)

Alivia and I had a fantastic time in St. Louis last weekend. I have to say that it was probably one of the most restful vacations I've ever had. We did a lot--but we did it a little at a time and we had a blast doing it! Kelly, Christy, Cindy and I all got along like we'd known each other for years. Surprisingly, for as young as they are, Alivia, Grace and Katie all got along well, too! They actually played together a bit instead of just playing side by side. Livi would drop things deliberately just to have Katie and Grace pick them up to give them back to her to drop again. It was too cute! They also all three loved playing in the peanut pool at the CHI picnic. I have several great photos from there including this one where Livi is already showing a propensity for partying hard. Grace is on the left playing with the pink and purple items and Katie is bending over in the background.

One of our first activities was a tea party for the girls. I hope we can do this one again every year! They all looked so pretty in their fancy dresses! Livi wore her pink pearls and a pretty crystal necklace, not to mention a little of the frosting from the cookies. The four of us adults dressed up a little, as well... tiaras, feather boas, and lots of jewelry! We didn't go quite as far with it as we should have, though. I think in the future we'll have to try a little harder.

The tea party was quite a feast and included cookies, heart-shaped french toast, bacon, eggs and some delicious coffees and teas. The grand finale was a beautiful (and quite delicious!) cake. The girls all helped blow out the candles. Livi decided she wasn't waiting on anyone else and also took a bite out of the frosting while the others were still blowing... That's my girl!

Each afternoon after the girls took a nap we would visit the pool. All three girls acted like they were part fish. They all loved the slides, loved floating around in the boats, loved "swimming" with Mommy, and just generally loved everything about it! Livi and I had so much fun playing in the water. I wish we had a pool like that here that we could visit every day. I can tell it's going to be a priority when shopping for my next house!

On Sunday morning Kelly and Grace had to return home, but Livi, Katie, Christy, Cindy and I kept the fun going with a visit to Grant's farm. Livi loved the Clydesdales (no surprise there!) We got a couple formal portraits done with one of them, but I left them in St. Louis. I'll have to post it later after Christy and Cindy send them to me. We took a train ride around the farm and then spent a little time feeding the goats.

Ah... the goats... they were aggressive little things and tried to eat my purse, my shirt, Livi's hair, Livi's shirt and shorts, and anything else that came in reach! One even tried to nibble on poor Katie's ear! Livi seems to just be enthralled with any and all animals and giggled when one of them tried nibbling on her fingers. The child has no fear at all!

On Monday we visited the St. Louis zoo. What a treat! It's a beautiful zoo with a number of animals that we don't get to see at our zoo at home. Livi loved the penguins and kept trying to dip her hands into their pools. She also loved the puffins (a relative of the penguins) and ended up bringing a stuffed puffin home with her. In the children's area of the zoo Livi and Katie tried their hands and legs at the spider rope climb. They both did surprisingly well! We also did a couple rides on the carousel and rode the train. The highlight of the day was the sea lion show. All in all a great day!

The other major fun thing for Livi was playing with the dogs. Christy, Cindy and Katie have two dogs--big, beautiful Labs named Butter and Abby. Butter is the younger one and was as eager for Livi's kisses as Livi was for giving them. The two could be found smooching just about any time of the day. Abby is a bit older and has some hip problems. Livi seemed to instinctively know that she had to be more gentle with Abby. Here she is cuddled up with her on the sofa. I have a feeling there's a dog or two in my future...

Here is another shot of the girls in the peanut pool at the CHI picnic on Saturday. They all had so much fun with it! I have to see about making something similar here. Not packing peanuts, though... they turned into crumbs within just a couple hours. Maybe I can find some that don't disintegrate. I've seen similar things done with plastic balls, but the peanuts seemed to be more fun for the girls. Anyone have any suggestions?

I can't begin to thank Christy and Cindy enough for the lovely hospitality they showed us last weekend. I'm SO looking forward to spending time with them again next year for the 16th CHI picnic. I'm also hoping we can all (Kelly and Grace, too!) get together more than just once a year as our girls grow up. I'd like them to grow up knowing each other and becoming fast friends. Who knows... maybe they will all go off to college together or something. Wouldn't that be a really cool thing! Okay--last picture for this post... another peanut pool shot! Hurray!

~ Jeana

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Today is yet another milestone in our adoption story. As of today Alivia has been with me one day longer than she has been without me. I don't know if there's an official name for it, but I call it Bonding Day. Of course, there is no doubt that Alivia and I have bonded and bonded well. She's mama's little girl in every way!

This past weekend we celebrated her birthday with a big party. She had an absolute blast! She also received tons of gifts! The funniest moment, though, was when she went to "open" a present that was in a gift bag. First thing she did was pull out the tissue paper and try to blow her nose with it. Such a cutie! These are a couple pics from the big bash along with one more of the professional ones we had done last week.

Thursday we fly to St. Louis for the CHI picnic. It's going to be a fun weekend complete with a dress up tea party and lots of swimming pool time! Livi's going to love it!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Wow! It's hard to believe that exactly one year ago my mother and I were in Tver and my mom hadn't yet met Alivia. She would meet her on her birthday--which is tomorrow! Alivia is turning 2! Hurray! In honor of her second birthday I took Alivia to get some more photos made--and we finally did a family portrait, too!

Livi will be getting lots of presents, but the most special one, in my mind, is her brand new big-girl bed! No photos yet, but she loves it. The first night she just went right to sleep with no fuss and when she woke up she just played quietly in her bed until I came to get her. Last night she again went to bed with no fuss, but when she awoke this morning she realized she could get out of bed by herself and play. She played quietly in her room for an hour or so while I dozed a little longer. Happy day!

This afternoon was her first time to nap in her new bed and it was a bit of a challenge. She kept wanting to get out of bed and play instead of nap. I finally had to sit there with her and rub her back for about 10 minutes until she fell asleep. Same thing this evening at bedtime. I had to put her back in her bed several times and the last time was preceeded with a light smack on the bum. She did stay in bed that time, though, and was asleep in just a few minutes.

Tomorrow for her birthday we are going to play at home in the morning and then go to Gran's house in the afternoon. We're going to have an ice cream cake and a special dinner and then open a few presents. We're going to be holding a birthday party for her on Saturday (which also happens to be our court date anniversary and Gotcha Day) with a few friends and their kids. I probably went overboard with the party plans (Little Mermaid everything...) but it's my first time, so everyone will just have to forgive me. Yes, my Little Bit is probably becoming a tad bit spoiled, but I think she deserves all the spoiling she can get.

This last photo is from our trip to Toronto in early June. Our whole group got together for a photo in front of The Old Mill during our furst day of locations touring. It's a beautiful inn and restaurant in Toronto that has been used in many films and television shows, including La Femme Nikita, the show we were all fans of. They do a fabulous lunch buffet if you are ever in Toronto.

~ Jeana

Friday, June 29, 2007

Two Surgeries!

Well, we got the bad news today at the doctor's office. Alivia has to have two surgeries over the next few months. The first, to remover her tonsils and adenoids, will be done in August. The second, the elongate her jaw, will be done in early October. Hopefully everything will heal quickly and they'll be able to remove the jaw device by Christmas.

I'm dreading both procedures. The first will be hard just seeing her dwarfed by all the medical gadgets and such, and I know she'll be in pain. The second will be even worse and then I get to add to it with the daily screw turnings for a couple weeks. Thank God we only have to move her jaw about 12-15 mm and it will only require about two weeks of adjustments.

I have some photos to post, but I'm going to hold off on them until later this weekend. Gotta get my mind in a happier place. Anyway, just wanted to post the update since I know a lot of folks have been wondering.

~ Jeana

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Day After

Man, was yesterday stressful! Alivia, Gran and I arrived at Nemours Children's Hospital for her CT scan only to be informed that we needed to go to Wolfson's Children's Hospital instead. Fortunately the two are only a couple blocks apart and are connected by a cross-interstate elevated walkway. It was much quicker to walk there than to try to move the car. We arrived pretty much on time and sat down to await our 10 a.m. appointment. At 10 they took us all back to start prepping Alivia and we hit another speed bump. The CT scan was ordered because of Alivia's small throat and jaw which meant she was high risk for airway issues which also meant they couldn't do the mild sedation they had intended and would need to do full anesthesia on her. Of course that meant they needed to find an anesthesiologist and none were available until possibly in the afternoon. So...

We left the hospital at 10:30 with orders to return at noon for a *possible* 1 p.m. procedure time. Livi, of course, still had to be kept NPO (no food or drink), poor thing, but handled it like a trooper. At 11:30 the hospital called us and told us that the earliest they could do the procedure would be 2:30 and that we needed to be back by 1:30. Gran and I decided to take Alivia home (we had gone to Toys R Us to pass the time) and let her get a short nap.

When we arrived back at the hospital we had to wait an hour before they were ready for Alivia, but, thankfully, they were able to find an anesthesiologist. She decided to try to do the procedure without putting her under, but Livi had had enough of cooperating and decided to get fussy, so they ended up knocking her out for the 5 minute procedure. Then, when Livi woke up, she REALLY decided she'd had enough and became rather intractable. By this time it was 4 in the afternoon and she was absolutely starving. My usually very quiet and sweet natured child threw a tantrum of major proportions to get some food and devoured a whole banana, a popsicle, a carton of milk, some apple juice and a handful of cheerios. The nurses were in a dither predicting that she would get sick, but she proved them all wrong.

The rest of the evening Livi remained very demanding and clingy, but this morning she was back to her normal self. Unfortunately we were not able to see the doctor yeterday so now we have to wait for an appointment to get the results and find out whether we will need to do the surgery. We have a tentative appointment for next Friday, but I'm hoping his assistant can squeeze us in sooner.

~ Jeana

Monday, June 18, 2007

Summertime Fun

So far, medical issues not withstanding, Livi and I are having a terrific summer. We spent a lovely 5 days in Toronto, Ontario, Canada earlier this month. I'll try to post some pictures later. Next month we head to St. Louis for the Children's Hope International Family Picnic and then we'll end the summer with a cruise to the Bahamas. We've also been exploring the zoo and several of the many parks in our city. Livi loves swings and slides, so I'm always on the lookout for new places for us to play. Fun! Fun! Fun!

The trip to Toronto gave me my first taste of traveling as a single parent. Livi was an absolute delight! She was incredibly well-behaved and traveled like a pro! The only hassle we had was at the US-Canada border. I was asked to provide a letter from her father saying that I had permission to take her across the border. This happened in BOTH directions! Of course, there is no such letter because there is no father. And, of course, I also didn't have copies of the adoption papers or her birth certificate with me. I had her passport and didn't think I'd need those other documents. Fortunately I was able to argue our way past the passport agents and we were able to go on our merry way. It was a bit touchy, though, and I'll be sure to carry copies of those docs on our future trips.

Wednesday is Livi's CT scan appointment and we should be able to find out that same day if we will have to do the surgery or not. We're also now working on trying to get a diagnosis of "sensory integration disorder." Livi has no pain response to most things and exhibits all the other classic symptoms of hyposensitivity in most areas. It's another of those "no cure" situations, but there are treatments that can allow her to overcome the problems. Getting the diagnosis will be our first step to getting her the treatments she needs.

Livi is also back with my mom now for daycare. She did really well at the professional day care, but with all her medical and developmental issues she really needs the one on one care she can get from my mom. It means a lot more driving for me and a lot less sleep, but it's worth it to make sure she is in the best situation for her needs. I think it also is good for my mother--she missed seeing Livi every day these last two months.

I'll update again with photos as soon as I can--and with the results of our doctor appointments on Wednesday.



Saturday, May 26, 2007

Medical Updates

Well, things have suddenly gotten a litte stressful on the health front. We have been waiting for some time for the consultation with the ENT specialist about Alivia's small jaw size and eating issues. We finally got to see him this week. At first he was leaning away from any kind of surgical intervention. Alivia's jaw is small, but doesn't seem to be too much of an issue as she is finally eating solid foods and seems to be getting the nutrition she needs. He ran a scope through her nose and into her throat and saw how tight the opening is from her mouth to her throat and suggested that we might be looking at a simple tonsilectomy to relieve some of the space issues. Next, examined the back of her mouth and made a startling discovery. Alivia actually has the mildest form of cleft palette--the back of her mouth never fused and she has a split uvulla (sp). Now he is leaning more towards doing a jaw extension procedure that requires fracturing her jaw on both sides and then inserting a device for two months that has to be adjusted daily to extend her jaw. It's a very painful procedure, but is generally very successful. This doctor happens to be one of the top surgeons in the field and the fact that he didn't immediately jump on doing the surgery makes me feel a little better about it. I know that he isn't just trying to add another case to his resume. Anyway, we have to go back in a few weeks for a head CT so that he can get a more definitive picture of her situation and then we'll make the final decision. I'm hoping that a tonsilectomy will be all that is needed at this time, but it is more than likely inevitable that we'll have to do something about her jaw at some point. I'm worried that the situation right now actually poses a choking hazard for her.

We also did a hearing test on Alivia and had less than definitive results there. That's not unusual in a child of her age, but with the FAS situation we are concerned that she may have some hearing issues. We are scheduled to go back for another test in a few weeks that will involve sedating her and attaching electrodes to her head to measure her brain stem response to sounds.

Alivia is such a delightful child and so patient with the doctors and nurses who are seeing her. It's just amazing to watch--even they are surprised at how cheerful she is and how she doesn't cry or fuss while they poke and prod her. It just makes me so angry that she has to be put through all this all because her birth mother was stupid and drank during the pregnancy. Yes--even the cleft palette issue is one that is rooted in her mother's drinking! While I am ever thankful to her mother for giving her up so that I could adopt her, I hate her for what she did to her by drinking. All of Alivia's medical issues were so easily preventable!

Allright... I've had my rant for the day. At the moment I'm researching the procedures that the doctor is considering and just waiting to find out what the CT scan and hearing test show. On the positive side of things, Alivia is taking more and more steps independently and is picking up new things every day. She's such a happy and charming little thing. It really is hard to be anything but happy around her. I hope as the years pass that I can always say that!

~ Jeana

Thursday, May 10, 2007

One Year Ago

One year ago today I was sitting in my office just like today with no idea that in just a few short hours my whole life would change. It was the Thursday before Mother's Day and in between work tasks I spent a lot of the morning day dreaming about the baby girl I was waiting for. That afternoon I made the rounds of my co-workers' offices and fielded the inevitable "when will you hear something" questions. I remember smiling optimistically as I answered "could be any day now... but I won't hear anything today. It's too late in the day. They always call in the morning."

I was on my way downstairs back to my office when my cell phone rang. I remember looking at the phone number in disbelief--knowing, even before I answered it, who it was and what it was about. Time slipped into slow motion and the next few minutes seemed like an hour as I impatiently watched the photo of my new daughter-to-be download onto my computer screen. The next two months would be a whirlwind of activity punctured by long moments of suspended time as I completed last minute preparations and traveled to Russia twice to complete the adoption of my daughter.

My life has changed in immeasurable and wonderful ways since that day one year ago. Today, as I look forward to my first true Mother's Day, I do find myself daydreaming about the end of this year when I plan to start the process of adopting another little girl, but I also find myself determined to enjoy every minute of this very special time when it's just the two of us. Just me and Alivia. One year ago this moment she was still just a dream. Today she's all mine and the most precious gift this mother can ever imagine receiving.

~ Jeana

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Day Care Week Two

Another crazy week! Livi cried on Monday morning when I dropped her off for daycare. She had a runny nose and seemed a little out of sorts, too. I went over at lunch time and gave her some medicine and she was napping, but seemed okay, so I was really surprised and worried when they called me that afternoon to come pick her up because she was sick. The poor child was throwing up and running a fever. I ended up keeping her home until Thursday. She was one sick little girl. We ended up going though numerous changes of bed linens and pj's...

Thursday we started in daycare again and she cried all morning long. She was fine when I picked her up that afternoon. Friday she cried again and they tell me she was irritable all day. Jill, her EI instructor spent an hour with her that afternoon and said she did think Alivia was starting to adjust to daycare, though. Hopefully the crying will start to wind down a bit next week.

Work, at least, is slow at the moment, making it easy for me to take the time off to be with Livi while she was sick. Things will be picking up again soon, though, as I start teaching in just a couple weeks in addition to doing my regular work. It feels strange to hear someone call me Professor Davis...

My mom is doing very well since her surgery. She's easily tired, but is up and about and looks great! Livi and I went to see her today--we didn't get to go earlier in the week because Livi was so sick.

Also on the positive side, I was reading through the What to Expect the Toddler Years book and was happily surprised to realize how well Livi is doing now. She actually is on par with her peers in most areas of development. She's still behind in size, walking and speech, but in all other areas she seems to be pretty much caught up. I also read that walking and/or speech will often take a back seat to other things they are concentrating on and then suddenly they'll start catching up on those, too, so maybe she'll be doing the independent stroll soon! One can hope! She'll probably always be small for her age, but that's okay, too! She's utterly delightful just the way she is!

~ Jeana

Thursday, April 19, 2007

First Week in Day Care

Oh, my God! I never imagined how incredibly hard it would be to put Alivia in daycare. She was find when I dropped her off the first day, but dived into my arms when I arrived to pick her up. Since then she just dissolves into tears when we walk in the door each morning and her caretaker tells me she cries off and on all morning long. It just breaks my heart and yet I know that she needs to be there right now. She needs that interaction with other kids and to start learning things from them that I just don't know how to teach her. I know that mom and I have been holding her back in several ways and I know that she'll eventually settle into it and start enjoying it, but right now it's an absolute heartbreaker to see her cry like that.

Of course, the real reason for starting daycare right now is that my mom had surgery today--a cardiac bypass--and won't be able to take care of Alivia for a couple months. The surgery went very well and, knowing my mom, her recovery will be rapid. She's one very strong woman.

This has been a busy week--both at work and at home. Last week was even busier, with a trip up to Georgia for a memorial service for one of my aunts thrown in for good measure. Alivia and I did find time to do a little shopping, though, and we got some new photos done, too. Here's my favorite--a Livi Surprise! We had a lot of fun with it this time and it shows! I can't wait till she's smiling like that about daycare!

~ Jeana

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! Alivia and I enjoyed our first Easter together. I let her dive into her basket right after breakfast and she sampled a little of everything and wasn't really impressed with any of it. She loves marshmallows, but didn't like the peeps at all. I guess the hard sugary coating on it wasn't to her taste. I don't like them either, so I can't say I blame her. She did manage to bite off part of her bunny's ear and get a little chocolate on her face, but really wasn't all that in to the candy. Not a bad thing at all in my book!

Later this morning we went over to Justin and Gil's for an Easter cookout. Our friend JR brought his kids, too, so there was another baby for Livi to interact with. Mia is still too young to really play with very much, but Livi did try. Mia is about 11 months old and is a little shorter and a lot heavier than Livi. It was cute to watch them eye each other up. Mia enjoyed playing with Livi's music toys and Livi didn't mind sharing.

Gil organized an egg hunt for the kids and Justin's mom Diane kindly helped Livi find her eggs while I got a chance to grab a hamburger. Livi found four eggs--including a difficult camoflage one! She quickly caught on to how it was done and really enjoyed herself. It was fun to sit back and watch her having fun!

Here's another egg hunt pic. This week Livi and I will try to get back on our regular schedule again--although it will be changing again next week in a big way. This week is the last week before my mom's surgery and so next week Livi will be going into daycare at the college for a couple months. It will mean we get to sleep in a little later in the morning, but it will be a whole new world for Livi during the day. There are five other kids in her group at the daycare and we are hoping that she will start learning some new things from them such as feeding herself, walking more, talking more, etc.

Last pic--like any child, Livi loves it when mommy swings her up into the air! Her EI teacher will still visit her every Monday morning and I will be taking her out of daycare for her PT and ST classes a couple times each week. And then, in May, I'm going to start teaching one night a week and she'll be staying with Diane after daycare on those days. Thank goodness for Diane! She lives really close to the campus I'll be teaching at and just adores Livi.

So that's where we are and where we seem to be going... I hope everyone had as lovely an Easter day as we did! As you can clearly see, Livi remains the sunshine in my every day!

~ Jeana

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where Did March Go?

Sorry for the long delay in posting! Things have been very hectic here. I work as an event coordinator and I have a huge 5-day conference kicking off on Monday so I've been completely buried at work these last few weeks. I've been trying to spend as much time as possible with Alivia, too, as she's going to be staying with Gran and Papa all next week. I'll get to see her briefly on Tuesday night, but otherwise I'll be missing her from Sunday night till Saturday morning.

We have found time for a little fun this last couple weeks. We went down to Epcot with Gran and Papa and had a lovely day riding rides and looking at all the fun Disney stuff. Alivia fell asleep during one of the rides and got a nice nap in. She got to have lunch with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale, too! We've also been back to the zoo--love the annual membership!--and we went to the international flower show out in Green Cove Springs.

The big thing has been Alivia's doctor appointments and therapy appointments. We finally got in to see the orthopedic specialist a couple days ago. The prognosis is good--Alivia's hips are fine. The problem is her leg bones themselves are twisted externally on both sides. The right one is really bad. What they want to do is continue the PT twice a week and get her walking better and give her leg muscles a chance to get stronger, then they want to put her in leg braces in about six months. She's not going to be a happy baby!

Today Alivia and I are going shopping for shoes--leather high tops--to help her with her walking. Then tomorrow we're going out to dinner with Gran and Papa to celebrate my birthday and Alivia will begin her extended visit with them.

I hope to get some new pictures at Easter and will post them as soon as I can!

~ Jeana

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Trip to the Zoo

Today Alivia made her first trip to the zoo! Gran and Papa joined us for a lovely afternoon. It was cool and breezy, but warm enough in the sun. Since the weather here has been so unusually cold lately a lot of the animals were inside, but we did get to see quite a few of them--including a couple male gorillas who were rather unhappy with each other. I also was able to get a couple cute photos of Alivia including this one with Papa. You can sure tell he's one proud grandpa!

The zoo also has a carousel. Alivia's a bit young for that yet, I think, but she did enjoy posing on this carousel horse that's at the entrance to the ride. She really liked sliding her hands up and down the pole, too... I'm wondering if I should start worrying... Anyway, we bought annual memberships to the zoo so that we can take Alivia back there often. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon--especially on a weekday when it's not too crowded.

This was our last long weekend until Spring Break next month. I'm looking forward to having that whole week off to spend with Alivia!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Alivia and I had a wonderful day today! Gran and Papa were out of town so I got to take the day off and take Alivia to her PT appointment. She hated every minute of it--wailed the whole time--but she was able to stand without support for a few seconds and even managed a few steps by herself! It was wonderful to see! We also got a call this afternoon that her speech therapy has been approved by the insurance company, so she'll be starting that next week, too! Finally! I'm hoping they can help us overcome some of her eating issues.

Later this afternoon Alivia and I went shopping for a growth chart for her wall and found a really cute one at Babies-R-Us. We also decided to get some professional photos done while we were there. I'm going to post a few of them here--they turned out really cute! We hung up the chart once we got home and of course we had to see how she measures up... Alivia is up to 29 inches now! She's a growing girl! Which brings up another issue--her changing table is only 30 inches long so we're going to have to find another place for that little chore!

In other news... Alivia is becoming more of a mommy's girl every day. She's starting to get to where she doesn't care for other people to hold her--which is fine by me! She's also becoming very curious and into everything--and she thinks "tooting" (passing gas) is the most funny thing in the world to do!

~ Jeana