Monday, November 30, 2020

15 Years!

 In November Gavin and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary.  15 years!  Wow, that time went by so fast.  I remember when Zoe was born I felt devastated.  We had left her at the hospital for the first time and I couldn't stop crying.  And after lying in bed for a while, Gavin fell asleep but I laid there wide awake.  And I remember feeling devastated, not just for Zoe but also for my marriage.  What was going to happen?  I thought, "Will we make it?"  Having a child with disabilities puts a tremendous strain on your marriage.  In our first year of marriage we had gotten pregnant (something we were told could not happen because of Gavin's cancer history), found out my immigration paperwork had gone through, moved to Canada and started new jobs.  There's a few major stressers right there!  In the second year of our marriage, Zoe was born.  Would Gavin be on the same page as me regarding Zoe?  How long before he takes off like many dads have done?  

Turns out that Gavin and I were definitely on the same page.  We made important choices in those first few days without even speaking about many things.  We just knew what Zoe needed and we knew that no matter the cost to us, we were going to give it to her.  Gavin supported me 1000% (yes, that's 1,000) on breastfeeding Zoe even though it involved a lot of extra work for both of us.  There were times when I was so tired from pumping and feeding Zoe that I could barely keep my eyes open.  Gavin would spoon feed me while I nursed our beautiful, wonderful daughter.  And he would take my pumped milk and put it down Zoe's feeding tube while I slept.  There have been many times Gavin and I worked in sync without much comment.  Many diaper changes on airplanes, appointments with doctors, taking care of each other and our children.  

Of course there were times when we weren't in sync.  Times that got really hard.  Times when commitment felt like a commitment.  But through all the years Gavin and I knew we could count on each other when it truly mattered.  We are truly partners and that is why we are still together after all this time.

We are so grateful for all the people who have helped us take the time we need to take care of our relationship.  We have been very lucky over the years to have amazing respite people and nurses.  However, if we did not have Gavin's dad Alan, we would not be able to go away every year for our anniversary.  Respite people and nurses come and go throughout the years but Alan's commitment to us, to our family and ensuring Gavin and I have time for eachother has never wavered.  

This year we rented a cottage in one of the provincial parks to celebrate.  We went away for three lovely nights.  The cottage was perfect- we had a kitchen to make our own meals, a lovely fireplace and a big bed for sleeping.  We did a lot of sleeping!  We also had time to go hiking which was loads of fun, we haven't done that in a while.  

I am so lucky that Gavin and I found eachother.  Without him, I wouldn't have any of this.  He is amazingly generous.  We joke that if there is something I want, even if Gavin is not on the sage page initially, it will happen.  (Like that camper he is going to buy me next year so we can camp and give Zoe privacy while doing her hour long MACE bowel flush...right?  We are buying that right?) He takes care of all of us time and time again.  Even after having his spinal cord tumour removed and getting meningitis not once, but twice (who does that?) he has gone back to work.  He puts all his energy toward taking care of our family.  And he is never boring- I have to say- that guy keeps me on my toes.  I don't think I've been bored a single day since I met him!

Happy Halloween!!!

Zoe wasn't feeling great on Halloween since she spent the night before in the emergency room.  Thankfully she did not need to be admitted so we could spend the day as a family.  Since we couldn't trick our treat this year we did a hunt in the back yard like we do at Easter.  The girls had a lot of fun and we were so grateful to celebrate Halloween together.

Ailsa wanted to be Anne of Green Gables this year and Zoe wanted to go as Diana (Anne's BFF).  They tried to convince Willow to go as Minnie May but alas, the butterfly costume won again!  In case you are thinking "Hey, that costume looks familiar" you are correct!  The butterfly costumes have been around since 2011 when Zoe was stuck at the hospital for Halloween and Zoe's amazing respite worker, Riann found two butterfly costumes last minute for the girls.  So we had one 3T size for Zoe and a baby size for Ailsa.  But the larger size has made a comeback several times in the past few years.

Ailsa in 2013.  She looks so much like Willow in the picture above!

The most exciting part of Halloween was riding down our very own wheelchair lift!!!!  The lift project is finally complete!  The driveway part of the project was finished just in time for Zoe to have a smooth ride to the back yard. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Back to School!

 Yay, we are so excited that schools are open for in person learning.  We are lucky to live in Toronto where we get to choose in person or virtual learning.  After speaking with Zoe's doctors, Ailsa's nephrologist and the girls' pediatrician, we have decided to go with the in person decision.  We can switch to virtual learning later if circumstances change.  

The girls were so excited to shop on line for back to school outfits and show them off their first day.  Willow started pre-school and is excited to go to school like her big sisters.  

Willow says goodbye to Zoe from a "safe" distance.

Back to school is definitely looking different this year.

Thank you Camp Sunshine!
We had signed up for a family camp for children with kidney disease.  Ailsa was so excited to get to meet other children her age and to be the focus of a special needs camp instead of "just" the sibling.  Unfortunately, camp (like everything else) was cancelled this summer.  However, Camp Sunshine did a virtual camp in August.  It just happened that it was going on while Zoe was in hospital.  It was a great distraction for Ailsa and Willow at home.  And when Zoe was feeling up to it, she could join in from the hospital too!  Camp Sunshine is an amazing organization and we really look forward to going to the family camp next year and meeting all the wonderful volunteers and staff in person.

Ailsa and Willow made crafts at home and sent some of them to Zoe to decorate her room in hospital.

The girls all loved watching the virtual programs, especially the talent show.  A&W watched from home while Zoe FaceTimed with them and watched too.  Lots of giggles and smiles all around.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Summer Time and the Livin's Easy.....Until it's Not

 Summer Time Fun

Happy July 1st Canada!

The zoo reopened and we went several times.

It's amazing how much fun the girls can have in a small pool!

We even managed to rent a cottage right on a lake and have some time away from the city.

Summer Time Not So Fun

Zoe had to have the PORT catheter in her chest replaced this August.  It was a planned surgery and all went well that day.  However, a few days after the PORT insertion Zoe became very ill.  She had picked up a bacteria while getting her new PORT and it had infiltrated her blood stream.  Zoe was very sick and had to have the new PORT removed a week after it went in.  The infection began to clear up once the PORT was out and Zoe was on strong IV antibiotics for several days.  Because of the seriousness of the infeciton Zoe had to be on the antibiotics for 14 days after the PORT came out.  During this time Gavin and I talked about the PORT- infection is a risk with having it, should we put another one in or wait and see?  It was hard to believe that a choice we made- Zoe having the PORT- had resulted in her being critically ill.  Zoe quickly told us what she needed- after a week on IV antibiotics with no PORT, her vein access got worse and worse.  She started going through a new IV (which took several attempts and sometimes several hours between attempts) every day.  Then she started needing a new IV every 12 hours...then after every dose of medication which was given every 8 hours.  Finally they could not get vein access at all so they had to start doing IM (intramuscular) injections which were painful and not as effective as medication in the vein.  So obviously, Zoe still had poor vein access and needed her PORT.  This was not a choice but a necessity for Zoe to receive the IV medications she will need when she is ill.  And so, for the third time in three weeks, Zoe went back to surgery to get a new PORT put in place.  She still had a bumpy road to recovery but the new PORT did not become infected and Zoe was finally off the antibiotics and able to come home.  

Happy Birthday Ailsa and Willow!!!!

 Celebrating your birthday during lock down is tough for many children this year.  None of the girls got to have a party with their friends, but that didn't stop us from celebrating as a family.  

Ailsa was so excited to get Saila- the Maplelea Canadian Girl doll from Iqaluit, Nunavut.  Ailsa enjoys learning about the Inuit heritage and had been asking for Salia for a long time now.

Just because you can't party with friends doesn't mean you can't party in the backyard by jumping off things (one of Willow's favourite activities right now).

Another great way to celebrate a birthday during lock down- a drive through the Toronto zoo!  After spending 10 weeks isolated at home, the girls loved it!


 Third month of lock down and we are enjoying the warm weather and spending time outside.  

Ok, so maybe not warm weather but definately warm-er.

The girls have all been cooking up a storm.  Zoe especially loves it when she can use the chopper- she loves whacking the top of it and the loud banging sound it makes.  We've been integrating math and science curriculum in to our kitchen routine.  Home schooling can be fun at times but a lot of work!  

One of the cool things about homeschooling is we can add things to the curriculum that schools no longer teach but we feel are important skills to learn- like touch typing.

Art class!

Music class!  Zoe's music teacher ran an online group every week and all the girls loved to join in.

Ailsa's movement/ dance class online.

Wrestling class?!?!?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Pressure and a Whole Lot of Family Time!

I am sure we can all relate when I say I am feeling quite a bit of pressure lately.  Besides our usual busy day, we are now homeschooling 3 children and not getting many breaks!  Occasionally I hear people say they are getting a lot of spring cleaning done and isn't it great to have extra time right now.  To that I say, ha!  They either don't have children or they are just lying!  Getting through the day has it's challenges but I wanted to write what I am grateful for during this crazy pandemic.

First and probably most importantly, we are all healthy.  I do not take this for granted and my heart goes out to those who have loved ones who are/were seriously ill.  I know what it is like to see a loved one struggle to breathe and it is truly awful.  And I am so grateful that we are all at home and healthy.

We are getting to spend a lot of time together as a family right now.  Yes, I desperately need a break and I miss silence but having time together is always a good thing.  I can see Willow and Zoe's relationship change because of this forced closeness.  Ailsa and Zoe were always tight.  I think part of this is their personalities but also Zoe was Ailsa's only sister and playmate so of course she learned how to play and communicate well with Zoe.  We've had a lot of nurses helping us out lately so there are times when it feels like Zoe is a little apart from what we are doing.  She is still sitting with us at the dinner table but with a non-family member feeding her it does change the dynamic.  So having all this family time has allowed Willow to spend more one on one time with Zoe and their relationship has really matured.  I love seeing them play together and how Willow communicates with Zoe.

Another positive thing is that I've been pushing myself (and everyone else) to be more physically active.  We've been roller blading and bike riding more often than we ever have.  Zoe really loves when Gavin pushes her wheelchair while he roller blades fast!  We are working on borrowing a bike from school for Zoe to use.  She has one she uses at school and it's just sitting there so hopefully we can arrange that.  Ailsa has grown so confident and coordinated in her bike riding it would be great to see how Zoe does with practice.

We all look forward to the world getting back to normal but for now we are trying to make the best of things and enjoy what we do have.  I hope all of you are healthy and you have what you need to get through your day.    

Zoe has always been good at keeping herself entertained and finding fun- she loved exploring a box of pasta after grocery shopping.  It was even more fun when pasta started spilling out and Zoe rolled over it!

Before everything shut down we managed to get away for a few days of fun.  We rented a cottage right on the beach.  The cottage had this awesome hot tub and the girls loved it.  

I loved seeing the lake from the cottage window.  Lake Huron is so big that sometimes I forgot it was a lake and not the ocean.

We are all enjoying roller blading along a path by Lake Ontario near our house.

Rain doesn't stop us from going for our daily walk!