Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Growing on her own curve

Vivian just had her 5-year check-up today. She has definitely grown over the past year and is tracking right along on her own curve. The ped said Vivian is doing very well, despite the two major medical issues this year.

December 18, 2013

  • Height: 39 1/2" (although Disneyland said she was 40" so she could ride Splash Mountain)
  • Weight: 35 lbs 8 oz.
To compare:

September 19, 2012
  • Height: 36.75"
  • Weight: 30 lbs 12 oz

November 3, 2011

  • Height: 34"
  • Weight: 27 lbs 12.8 oz

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What a year!

As 2013 is starting to wind down, I realize that it's been over a year since I wrote my last post. So many things have happened this year -- one of them requires a separate post.

I've traveled quite a bit for school since last December with 3 separate trips to FL (fingerprinting/background check, data collection, conference presentation/showcase), a trip to Indiana University to present my research, a trip to Niagara Falls (Canadian side) to present my research, and a trip to Anaheim to showcase my research. Fortunately, on the California trip, Chris and Vivian came along with me and we made a family vacation out of it (our only one for the year) by spending a few days in San Diego and then 4 days at Disneyland, including Halloween, with Nana and Popi.

In addition, I also made two separate trips to NC - one for an interview, another one to move some things down and get some work logistics taken care of. Yes, you read that correctly. I was offered a job in NC in June and Vivian and I moved back in mid-July (our move was delayed by two weeks, but I'll cover that later). Chris helped move us into a 2-bedroom apartment and then flew back to PA. The move was short-lived though because 6 weeks after I started, I was laid off. So, Chris moved us back up to PA over Labor Day weekend. What an expensive adventure after signing a year lease, enrolling Vivian in school, and moving back and forth without any relocation help from the company. Lesson learned though! I will never work for Cisco again. You think I would have learned my lesson the first time in 2008 when I was pregnant!

Chris and I have enjoyed Broadway shows and baseball games again! Our Pirates did amazingly well this year!! We also saw Idina Menzel, Harry Connick, Jr., Steve Martin, and Michael Buble. Chris saw Bon Jovi while I was in FL. I really love living in a big city!

Vivian is doing very well. She started kindergarten (twice - once in NC and then the next week in PA) a year early and is just thriving in school. She's been reading for over a year now and really enjoying reading, science (especially learning about space), and art. She loves writing her own stories and drawing pictures. I can't believe she'll be 5 years old tomorrow! Before we moved, she was taking piano lessons, gymnastics, and ice skating lessons. I also pulled her out of school for the summer, with the intent on homeschooling her (and saving some money) until kindergarten started..but that really only lasted for a few weeks before she got sick (and then we moved).

We were originally going to move over 4th of July weekend, but Vivian ended up getting sick. A few days before 4th of July, she complained that her neck hurt and was walking around with a tilted head. A small reddish bump formed and it continued to get larger. Two trips to the ped's office in two days and several rounds of antibiotics weren't doing anything to decrease the bump. The ped told us on Tuesday that he would get us into the ENT on Wednesday (we were leaving Friday and Thursday was the 4th of July). As we were picking up our rental truck, the ped's office called and said that Vivian had an ENT appointment in 45 minutes. So, we drove home, dropped off the rental truck and headed straight to the ENT. The ENT examined her and told us to go directly to the emergency department of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for a CT Scan and that they might have to admit her. So, off we trekked to the hospital.

The hospital experience was really surreal at first. Several teams of doctors came into the ED to examine her and ask us questions. Had we been to a petting zoo? Had we been around someone who recently came back from a foreign country? Had we been exposed to MRSA? Vivian was an absolute trooper! The difference between a regular ED and a children's hospital are night and day. There are life specialists who brings toys and books for the kids while they're waiting for exams or tests. Vivian got to take her stuffed Kitty in with her to have her CT Scan done. She was strapped down and bundled up in a blanket and got to watch Dora. A short time later, she was admitted to the hospital with the diagnosis of an infection in her lymph nodes -- not just one, but a bundle of them in her neck -- and she might be in for several days in case they need to operate.

We spent 3 days in the hospital. Vivian actually enjoyed the experience, despite being poked and prodded all the time. She was able to go to the playrooms, the library, walk around the cafeteria and the hallways, and watch a lot of TV. I met several families who would be spending many more days in the hospital. Shit becomes real when you see kids with their IV poles and feeding tubes in the playroom. It's a reminder to all of us that sometimes kids don't get to go home after a few days, including most of the children in our unit (infectious diseases). I'm so grateful to the doctors and nursing staff - really anyone who works in an environment with sick kids. They are so patient with the children and take time to explain what is going on. If only this could happen in the adult healthcare system!

When we were discharged, we decided to postpone the move to NC for a few weeks until after Vivian's follow-up appointment. She wasn't really out of the woods yet and was still on a heavy cocktail of antibiotics. Fortunately, she was given a clean bill of health.

Vivian wasn't the only one with a health issue. I had an abnormal mammogram last year and the 6-month follow-up showed that the tumor was getting larger. I had a biopsy and fortunately, it turned out to be benign. However, I picked up a piece of hardware in the process. I now have a titanium clip to mark the tumor so it can be seen in follow-up mammograms.

The biggest change for us is Vivian's new diagnosis. In September, we went to a local farm for their fall festival. Vivian enjoyed the hay ride and feeding the animals fresh corn. We ate lunch and bought a box of gluten-free peanut brittle to take with us to our next stop (the covered bridge festival). We gave Vivian a little piece of the brittle as soon as we left the farm. She immediately started chugging down her water bottle saying her mouth was burning. Then she said her tummy hurt and her mouth was still burning. Not too long after that (and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot for the festival), she said she was going to throw up and projectiled several times all over the car and herself. I got her cleaned up and changed and Chris cleaned up the car. I tried using my phone, but there was no cell coverage.

Nothing is worse than being in the middle of nowhere with no cell coverage knowing that your child is having an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts! And...she didn't actually swallow the small chunk of brittle -- she spit it out.

We immediately got in the car and just started driving home to the children's urgent care near our house. As soon as I got cell coverage I called and told them we were coming in. We arrived and they took us back and checked her out. They told us to keep an eye on her and to immediately make an appointment with an allergist and get an EpiPen. I called the allergist office the next day and the "soonest" appointment was 3 weeks out. We were told to avoid ALL peanuts and treenuts until then.

Well, this mommy went on a rampage -- cleaning out the pantry and tossing out any foods that were manufactured in a facility with peanuts. It was going to be back to basics (fruits, veggies, meats) until we could see the allergist. I think anyone who doesn't deal with an allergy would be shocked at the amount of products that are manufactured in a facility with nuts (ketchup, soy sauce, lunch meats, cheeses, flours, etc.).

Three weeks later, we received Vivian's diagnosis. She has a peanut allergy! Not much has changed for her. She still gets her lunch packed for school (thankfully it's a peanut-free school) and she takes her food with her when she goes to birthday parties or on field trips or to the science center. We're extra cautious now about going out to places. I have Clorox wipes in my purse and everything gets wiped down (tables, chairs, etc.) before Vivian touches them. Flying on an airplane made me very nervous (remember, people get peanuts as snacks), but we wiped down everything (window, back of the seat, tray table). Going to Disney made me nervous because families pack PB&J to eat while their kiddos are standing in line and those sticky peanut hands are all over the place. Again, I wiped down the lap bars, steering wheels, etc. prior to Vivian touching them. We even survived Disneyland on Halloween, which is a food allergy mom's worst day!

I've joined several support groups to figure out how to deal with the public school system next year. Peanut allergies are covered under the ADA, but schools have trouble figuring out how to deal with kids with allergies and some aren't as accommodating as they should be. I don't want Vivian to be bullied or isolated because she has to sit by herself at a table. I don't want her to be excluded from classroom activities because a classroom project contains a peanut. She never asked for this and it's something she could die from.

I've learned so much from her having a peanut allergy. I've been able to visit her classroom and read some age-appropriate books to the kids about allergies. As those children grow up, I hope they remember how Vivian was such a good friend and maybe they'll choose to become a friend to another child with a food allergy. Bullying kids with food allergies is a very serious issue. I've read stories of kids who intentionally put peanuts in a child's water or on his lunch. It just breaks my heart. I can't even believe where that type of behavior comes from. WTF kind of a parent thinks that's okay? Shit like that just pisses me off!

So, it's been a very interesting year to say the least! My soon-to-be-5-year-old is certainly growing up and becoming a bigger kid!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall in Pittsburgh

This fall has been a busy one, which is why I haven't updated in a couple of months. We took a short trip to Niagara Falls. The original plan was to head up to Toronto, but that just wasn't feasible. Vivian had a fairly short attention span when it came to looking at the falls (which Chris and I wanted to do several times from both the US and the Canadian side) so we ended up finding other things to do. She really enjoyed the Butterfly Conservatory (Canada) and the Buffalo Naval Museum (U.S.) and not much else. The weather was pretty rainy for the most part but we made the best of it.

Our baseball season ended so that meant the end of going to games. (Better luck next year Pirates!!) However, we now have Broadway season tickets and have been enjoying that. Chris and I saw War Horse last night and Chris and his brother, Sam, were able to see Mary Poppins last month. Vivian has also been able to enjoy a bit of theatre here. We bought season tickets for the Pittsburgh Children's Theatre, which performs downtown as well as various areas around the Pittsburgh region. Last month we saw a musical about a collection of various children's books. On Saturday we saw Lightwire Theater present The Ugly Duckling and the Tortoise and the Hare. The theatre was completely dark and the "puppets" were illuminated by electroluminescent (EL) wire. It was really cool to see the characters come to life by basically glowing in the dark with various colors. Vivian really enjoyed it and had funny seeing some friends from school.

We've also been able to attend other events in Pittsburgh. Chris and I went to see Madonna earlier this month. At 54, she still puts on an amazing show!! We're going to see B.B. King on Wednesday. On Friday night, Vivian, Chris, and I and several other families from her school who take gymnastics with her went to the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions. Vivian had an amazing time with her friends. I wasn't able to sit with her because of my vertigo, so Chris and I were able to sit a few rows away from the stage on the lower level. We really enjoyed it too!

We survived Hurricane Sandy, or rather, my family did. I was in Louisville for a conference for the week while Chris and Vivian stayed home. There was a lot of rain and wind, but the house didn't have any issues. Halloween was postponed until November 3rd, so I was able to be home to take Vivian trick or treating!! She was Mary Poppins and looked amazing cute with her authentic Mary Poppins umbrella and carpet bag!

It's hard to believe that Vivian will be 4 in less than a month. We're planning a small at-home party for her with a few of her friends from school/gymnastics. It's going to be a gingerbread theme and the girls will be able to decorate gingerbread men and do a few other activities.

Here's a few pics over the past few months.

Vivian at Presque Isle (Lake Erie), PA

Chris, Lilli and Vivian at Presque Isle

Hiding behind the Concord grapes (NY)

Mary Poppins (sans red bow tie) at her Halloween party

Mary Poppins ready for trick or treating

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My baby is growing up!

Chris and I recently noticed that Vivian has gotten taller. She can stand on her tippy toes to see over the kitchen counter and can get on and off the toilet without her step stool. She is also finally out of her 2T pants! I took her to the ped this morning for her first well visit in PA and she HAS grown. Here are her stats:

November 3, 2011

  • Height: 34"
  • Weight: 27 lbs 12.8 oz
September 19, 2012
  • Height: 36.75"
  • Weight: 30 lbs 12 oz
She's doing great and loves Pre-K although she's really only gone for 8 days now because of the Hand, Foot, and Mouth. She's also missing the next three days because we'll be on vacation. 

Her general likes: She's really into dressing up (I just bought her a chef's outfit to go with her doctor's outfit), playing with her magna-tiles and Duplo blocks. She really likes her new Light-Brite. She can identify all of her letters (uppercase and lowercase) and is learning the sounds for all of the letters. She is also doing very well with writing her letters. She's also doing extremely well in Spanish. She knows all of her colors and numbers from 0-10. She's curious about everything and wants to learn about new things. She loves looking at the stars and the moon and talks about becoming an astronaut. She likes riding her two wheeler and proudly tells everyone that she has a two wheel bike. She likes going to Pirates games, the dinosaur museum and the science center. 

My baby is definitely growing up. We're starting to look at kindy options for next year. GASP!!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

First week of school

This should be a continuation from my last post because about an hour after I wrote it, I received the dreaded phone call from Vivian's school. Vivian was running a temperature of 101 and needed to come home. So, I called Chris at work so he could come home and I went to go pick her up. All of her friends were eating lunch and there was Vivian, all bundled up in her blanket and hooded sweatshirt (which she wears everyday at nap) laying on the couch. She looked awful.

When we got home, I gave her some Advil and water and she just laid on the couch. Chris came home about an hour later, which means I wasn't able to go into work (would have missed my meeting) for my  meeting. Vivian slept a good part of the afternoon and her fever kept spiking up at about the 6 hour mark. A few times in the middle of the night, she needed to be dunked in the lukewarm bath to get her temperature down. She kept screaming "No Thank You." It wasn't fun for any of us.

Yesterday, Vivian was supposed to go to the dentist. Instead, we swapped out the appointment for a ped visit. Vivian woke up complaining of a sore throat, so of course they did a throat culture. Good news: No strep. Bad, bad news: Hand Foot and Mouth!

Hand Foot and Mouth is highly contagious! Vivian doesn't have the blisters on her hands or feet, but she has the awful ulcers in her mouth. The only treatment is to make her comfortable through pain management. So, we spent the day on the couch. She took a couple of long naps and thankfully slept through most of the night. She woke up this morning with a lot of throat pain again.

So, in the first week of Pre-K, Vivian has only been able to attend one day. I feel so bad for her. She was really upset about missing her first gymnastics class last night. I hope that spending a weekend at home in confinement will help. Sadly, she'll be contagious for quite awhile but it seems like the fever finally broke last night when I had to change her soaked-through PJs. So hopefully she's on the mend and hopefully, Chris and I don't get it. Apparently it's absolutely miserable for adults. UGH.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


A lot has happened this past month -- mostly related to sports! Chris and I skipped out of work early one day to take Vivian to a Pirates game, which she loved (of course). Her favorites players are Andrew McCutcheon and Joel Hanrahan. Chris and I also attended two Pirates games. We took a tour of PNC Park a few weeks ago. It's a beautiful ballpark, but it's so peaceful to be there when no one else is there. The views from the press box are quite impressive. Chris and I are heading to another game tonight. We're sitting in the club seats, which is different from our usual behind home plate lower-level seats. It should be a blast!

Chris attended a Steelers pre-season game with his brother, Sam. They sat way, way up in the 500 level seats but had a good time.

We took Vivian putt-putt golfing for the first time. It didn't go so well. It was super hot outside (felt like NC) with no shade and Vivian's putter was much too long for her! :( We're definitely going to try it again next year though!

Last week was Vivian's last week in preschool. Yesterday, was her first day in Pre-K!! She did really well with the transition. I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by. We are still trying to figure out what to do next year because she misses the birthday cut-off for kindy by 3 1/2 months.

Our Labor Day weekend was fairly uneventful, although on Saturday we attended two separate 4-year-old birthday parties which was a bit crazy. The kids are all in the same class together and they seemed to have a great time. On Labor Day, we had one of Vivian's friends over from her class. The family recently transplanted to Pittsburgh from NC - so we have a lot in common being total outsiders here!

The rest of September is going to be a bit crazy. Vivian is starting gymnastics tomorrow. Several of the girls from her class are going to be there, so it should be a lot of fun for her. Chris and I have two additional Pirates games planned. Our Broadway season is starting up here, so we're off to see Jersey Boys next week. We're also planning a trip to Niagara Falls and (maybe) Toronto in a couple of weeks. Niagara Falls is just a few hours away, so we're going up for a few days. It should be a lot of fun. I'm excited to see the falls and head over into Canada! I don't think Chris has ever been to Canada and I've never been to the Eastern it should be a great experience for all of us.

The rest of the fall should be busy with Broadway shows, children's theatre, gymnastics, and maybe post-season baseball (Let's Go Bucs!!!). It feels like you have to cram everything in while the weather is still good -- otherwise when it's 10 degrees outside you never want to leave your house!

Here are some pics:

In the Pirates dugout

Uncle Sam and Vivian in the PNC Park Press Box

View of PNC Park and downtown Pittsburgh skyline

First Day of Pre-K

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A two-wheeler and a bigger bed

Eight months later and I'm finally posting an update! Sorry for the delay -- it's been a crazy year in Pittsburgh.

Vivian turned 3 on December 11. We spent the day at the National Aviary where she was able to feed the birds. She didn't even freak out when a bird landed on her head.

We finally closed on our house two days before Christmas. We were able to spend Christmas here with Chris's brother and sister and family friend. Vivian's most exciting gift was a Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguin) doll. She kept asking Santa for "hockey stuff" and since Santa wasn't able to bring it, Sidney Crosby came with Santa to deliver the doll on Christmas Eve. She was so excited! (I wish the real Sidney Crosby would come to our house. He's an amazing player.)

Speaking of the house, we bought a money pit! Not a little money pit -- a big one. The combination of poor construction and non-professionals doing all the updating in the house made for a very expensive house for us. So far, we're about 25K into the house. That includes the termite remediation (yes, I saw a termite swarm right on our front porch), rewiring the electrical, fixing two natural gas leaks, painting almost the entire interior of the house, fixing the roof leak (imagine pouring water coming out of the ceiling and down the wall), fixing the sink leak, fixing the toilet leak. I'm sure there is more..but you get the picture. Servicemaster was on speed dial and knew me by name every time I called! Unfortunately, we can't sue the inspector. We tried suing the previous homeowners but the attorney told us we would spend more in legal fees. So, we're pretty much stuck.

Vivian started a new school in January and is doing really well in the 4 year old classroom. The kids are anywhere from 6 months to 10 months older than she is, but she's keeping up with them and in many cases, is doing better academically and socially. She is friendly to all of the kids and they're so excited to see her each day. She's been learning Spanish this past month and has a really good vocabulary doing. She can say hola, adios, buenos dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches, por favor, gracias, de nada, como te llamas, me llamo vivian, all of the colors, and numbers 1-10. We're so proud of her and she loves practicing at home. She's also started to read basic words by sounding them out. English is such a difficult language to learn -- perhaps why I did so much better in Spanish and Japanese!

We bought a new Honda Pilot. After not being able to leave my garage during a snow storm, it was apparent that we needed a 4WD car (not a RWD one). So, we're back to being a 2-car family, which is amusing because we only drive on the weekends!

We've been able to explore a lot of the Pittsburgh area. The museums are amazing here -- Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, National Aviary, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Heinz History Center. Vivian has also enjoyed attending a couple of baseball games. Chris and I have season tickets to see the Pirates (the only affordable sports ticket in town). I love baseball and I'm so glad that Vivian enjoys herself at the games. There are so many events and concerts here. So far, we've been able to see James Taylor but are looking forward to seeing many more concerts in the near future. We just bought season tickets for the Pittsburgh Children's Theatre. It's a great theatre company that puts on kid-friendly shows all around the area at the local high schools. 

This year we've been able to take a vacation to Cleveland, where we saw Chris's cousin and his wife and 3 kids. They loved spending time with Vivian. I hadn't been to Cleveland before, but I really enjoyed going to Lake Erie, the children's museum and the Great Lakes Science Center. We're definitely planning on another trip soon because it's only 2 hours away.

I'm still working on my dissertation and made a quick (32 hours in the car for a 90 minute meeting) trip to FL last month to defend my prospectus. I successfully now I'm collecting data and am on-track to graduate next spring. I need 159 participants and that will take some time. In addition, I started a contract job 3 months ago. The work isn't too exciting, but I'm so grateful for the 2nd income!

My mom came to visit last month and Vivian enjoyed spending time with her. I took a few days off of work and pulled Vivian out of school so we could do some touristy things. Chris and I even got to have a date night -- a baseball game, of course!

The big news: Vivian recently got a 2-wheeler and a bigger bed! She is doing so well on her bike. She's already asking to take off the training wheels. Vivian asked for a bigger bed. She didn't want her crib anymore, so she got a bigger bed last Thursday night. She loves it and all of her "friends" have plenty of room now too. She's such a funny little girl. I can't believe she'll be 4 in four months.

Overall, we're keeping really busy and are hoping to take another vacation to Columbus or Niagara Falls sometime in the near future before winter comes -- you know, in about a month. HAHA! It's been a really hot summer here (90s) but not really humid. I can't believe that summer is almost over! :(

Here are some pics of Miss Vivian!

3rd Birthday

Seeing the Christmas presents for the first time

Sidney Crosby!

Vivian wrote her name

Dyeing easter eggs

Seeing Bruce Hornsby

Big girl bed