Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Morgan and Victoria had a great time trick-or-treating. Victoria really enjoyed her first Halloween. She was so cute going up to all of the doors. At one house the lady said "bye" as the girls were walking away and Victoria said "bye - I miss you". I always say "bye - I'll miss you, I love you" when I am leaving for work and Victoria repeats it. It was really cute. The lady laughed.

Here are some pictures of my princesses. Morgan was Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Victoria was Cinderella.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The President lifts the HIV travel ban

Today is a good day. A law was signed today that will end (after a 60 day waiting period) the HIV travel and immigration ban. This means people adopting HIV+ children will no longer have to get a special waiver in order for them to get a visa. While this waiver was not a very big deal in the long run, it did mean having to get letters from our doctor, insurance company, board of health, an extra 5 days in Ukraine and an extra $545 for the actual waiver fee. This is now one less thing to stop people from adopting these precious children!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Has it really been this long???

I can't believe it is already over a month since we have been home. My family leave is over and I am returning to work tomorrow. I am lucky that I work part time and in the evening, so I will still be home with Victoria during the day. I am also very blessed that I work with such wonderful, understanding, supportive people that are very flexible with me. My first week back my hours will be a little different to catch back up after being off for 3 months, but after that I will probably go in after dinner. This way I am home with Victoria during the day and then will still be able to spend a few hours with Morgan after school to do homework and eat dinner. I have every Monday off too (I work six hours a night Tues.-Fri.). Joe will be home with the girls at night, so hopefully it won't be too much of an adjustment for Victoria. There have been a few times that I have gone out and she stayed home with Joe and she has been fine, so I think everything will be okay.

I am going to leave you with a few pictures from last Monday (Columbus Day). It was a cool fall day and Morgan had off from school so we went to a little zoo not too far from us. Morgan calls it the monkey zoo. They do have other animals, but the majority of them are different kinds of monkeys. There are tubes that go into their cages and you can buy food to put in the tubes to feed them. They are very funny and definitely have an opinion about what you put in their tubes. It is really neat to get to "interact" with the monkeys and both girls really had fun. The spider monkeys are my favorite because they have such long arms that they just reach out of their cage and take the food right out of your hand (fruit loops are their favorite).

Feeding the Giraffe

I just love this guy

Sitting at the bottom of his tube with his popcorn

This is how they drove home (well some of the way at least - Victoria is a ham)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Doctor visit

Our appointment with the pediatric infectious disease doctor yesterday went well. We reviewed the results of all of Victoria's blood work and things look very good. Victoria's viral load is lower than we thought, her immune system is strong and functioning normally and it looks like based on the genotyping that our options for medications are good. The genotype testing takes Victoria's blood and tests it individually with each HIV medication available to see which ones will work best for her. The good news is that she does not have any resistancy to any of the drugs and the virus responded well to all of the medications. This means we will have much more to choose from when starting medication.

Since all of the results were so good, our doctor's felt we did not have to rush to start medications. The plan is to give Victoria another month of being home and adjusting to her new life and family. Once we start medications there is no going back. We have to be completely committed to it and it has to become part of our daily routine. Since medicine is not something that children usually love, our doctor doesn't want us to become the bad guy (aka medicine giver) just yet. We go back on November 2. At that visit they will have 2-3 different options for us to review. We will decide which will be best for us based on how many times a day we have to give medications, how many different medications, pills vs. liquid, what we can mix things with, etc.

I had a comment where someone asked if Victoria had been on medication in Ukraine, and I wanted to address that. To answer this question - no, Victoria was not medicated. They did do blood work on her every 3-6 months and because all of her tests kept coming back okay they did not start treatment. She also only has one kidney, so they were cautious about starting anything that might damage her kidney. We are actually grateful that they did not medicate her. If she wasn't so healthy I would have wanted her medicated, but because she has never been on medication she does not have any resistancy to anything. This is good because it gives us more options. It is also good because we can make sure she is also followed by the pediatric nephrologist so that we don't do any damage to her kidney.

I also wanted to clarify that some children with HIV in Ukraine are being treated. There were some children in Victoria's group that were on medication and some that weren't. Victoria was in a good orphanage where they had access to blood tests and good medications, not all of them do. I don't know exactly how the process works, but I would imagine children that are sick or have weakened immune systems or high viral loads are treated. Sometimes the medication is good, sometimes they have to use what they have or have to lower dosages to make it go farther. That may not always be the best choice, but it is what's available.

There is also some debate with children that have not yet been medicated and are doing well with whether or not to start medication. Once you start medication it is a long term committment because if you stop it gives the virus a chance to build resistance to the drugs and then they aren't as effective. If a child in the US is born with HIV they always start treatment, but with adopted children that have been medicated yet it is a decision that has to be made. After discussing things with our doctors, we feel that starting medication is the best decision for us. Victoria is healthy and I would like to keep her that way. The other thing that helped make our decision is that there is evidence that long term exposure to the virus can cause some issues with brain development. We feel like Victoria has enough going against her with being so premature, being drug exposed and being in an orphanage for 4 years that we don't want to add to that list of things that could hinder her brain development.

On that note - I have had a lot of questions about what we plan to do about school. This post is already pretty long, but I promise to do a post in the near future with some answers about school.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sesame Place (and an update)

The weather was beautiful today, so we took the girls to Sesame Place. They were all set up for Halloween and the characters were even wearing their costumes.

Victoria loved it!!!! She was not scared of the characters at all and she loved the rides. I can tell she is going to be my little dare devil, which is completely opposite of Morgan. Maybe I will actually have someone to ride the Tower of Terror at Disney with me now (my favorite ride). She did have trouble understanding the waiting in line and having to get off the ride when it was over, but I think most 4 year olds do.

Now that we have been home almost 3 weeks, this is how things have been. Morgan is slowly adjusting to having a little sister around. Each day they play better and better together. Victoria's English is also improving every day. The only word she really still says in Russian is spasiba instead of thank you. She is eating great. She likes just about everything. She is a little picky with vegetables, but not too bad. Victoria is also sleeping really, really well. I only rock her for about 10-15 minutes before bed and then she asks to get in her bed. She seems to like her bed and doesn't have any problem sleeping in it by herself. I turn on some music for her and she is usually asleep within 5-10 minutes from when I lay her down. She goes to bed around 8:30 and sleeps until about 8:00am. I don't want to make it seem like everything is perfect, but it is really better than we expected. Of course we have our issues and we are all still adjusting, but overall things have been going great. As hard as it was to be away from home for 7 weeks, I really feel that time we spent there has helped our adjustment. Victoria got to know us on her "turf" where she was comfortable and learned that she could trust us before we left, so I think that has really helped.

We go see the pediatric infectious disease again tomorrow morning to get the results of all of Victoria's blood work and I think we might be starting medications from there. Other than that, Victoria is doing really well. Her visit with the regular pediatrician went well and they said she is very healthy. She is in the 97% for height and 75% for weight, which is really impressive after being in an orphanage for 4 years (and also only being just over 2lbs. at birth). I'll update after our visit tomorrow.

Here are some pictures from today -

Cookie Monster as a clown

Ernie and Bert as a scarecrow and a crow

Mommy doesn't do the teacups!

Skeleton Elmo