I found Lia in the orphanage while we were looking for a heart baby. I did not expect to bring any one else home but I was so moved by her plight. She was jaundiced, really small, premature and weak, and I knew if she stayed where she was she was not going to live. The head nanny at the big O made that very clear with her comments. I just said: Give her to me I want to try. Home she came to Starfish. I took care of her when she came home after a few days in the hospital and soon she started to pick up weight. There was a definite chipmunk cheek stage and she got bigger and stronger. She now lives happily with her family in Washington and I feel that this was one of our triumphs. I guess I feel like this whenever I can get to help babies like this.
It's been awhile since we sent an "official" update on Lia, and 2011 has been a busy year for us!
In May, Lia had her third surgery, this time to repair a couple of holes that popped open in her palate. She flew through the surgery with flying colors and was fully recovered in time for our court hearing to refinalize her adoption on May 20.
In August, we moved to a more rural setting outside the Seattle area. Lia loves our new house as it came complete with a swing in the backyard! She also enjoys seeing the variety of farm animals that live nearby! The best part about our move is that Lia now lives near her grandparents and gets to spend time with them regularly. At the end of summer, we also had the chance to meet up with another Starfish (River) and his family, who were visiting Seattle from Vancouver B.C.
Lia is ALL girl and is very into princesses and ponies right now. Her favorite color is purple. She was Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) for Halloween. On any given day she may be found wearing a tutu, fairy wings, one or two tiaras and her purple rainboots! In the last couple of months, she has learned how to ride a tricycle, and went on her first merry-go-round ride at the state fair.
Just two weeks ago we celebrated Lia's 3rd birthday! Some major milestones have been made in speech therapy over the past six months, so we were very proud to see Lia blow out all three candles on her birthday cake all by herself! She is also practicing redirecting airflow (from her nose to her mouth) by playing the harmonica for family and friends. She continues to love music and dancing. With eartubes now in place, she only has a very minor hearing impairment in her left ear.
Lia is amazingly smart and scores well ahead of most three year olds in many areas - including receptive language. She has learned all of her colors, is now learning to count, and can recognize the letters of her name. However, while Steve and I understand most of what she says, strangers still have a hard time understanding her speech, so now we are concentrating on helping her learn to use the muscles of her mouth, tongue, and lips to produce understandable speech.
Our biggest news is that Lia started preschool last week! It is 3 days/week in the mornings and it is a special preschool that is communications-focused and integrates children with speech and hearing deficits into the same classroom with typically developing three year olds. It is great because they use both American Sign Language and English in the classroom, so Lia will be able to keep up on her signing along with her speech. She also receives speech therapy as part of her days at preschool. So far she is really enjoying school. Her favorite activities right now are painting and playing in the sandbox!
Amanda, you have mentioned to me before that the nannies at the big orphanage believed that our little cleft preemie was "too weak, too dark, and too ugly" and was not worth saving... How I wish they could see our beautiful, kind, whip smart, girl today! Thank YOU Amanda, for believing in our daughter when nobody else would. As our extended family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we are thankful more than anything for our sweet girl and the love and care she received from you, the nannies, and volunteers at Starfish.
With Love & Gratitude,
Julie, Steve, & Lia