Thursday, May 8, 2014

To Declan at Four

Dec Man. What do I say about the last year with you?  Last summer you were really sick. I was really scared. It all worked out in the end, but I have to say, in the darkest days I did not know if I would be writing this letter this year. But here we are!!!

You started school this year. You strolled into RKNS like you owned the place. I guess you *have* been going there to drop off and pick up your sister since before you could walk, so it shouldn't have surprised me that you were so comfortable from day one. 
First day of nursery school
RKNS Christmas Concert 2013
  You've always been so quiet and laid-back. I didn't realize how much you were in your big sister's shadow until this year when you burst out on your own. I'm so proud of you when your teacher tells me what a good boy you are. You are smart and funny and well-behaved. Now that your big sister is in school full-time, you take your role as big brother to Ruby very seriously. The two of you are getting to be such good buddies and are always getting into something together. I love to see that you are good friends with both your sisters. Someday your siblings will be an important support to you, your connection to our family, your best friends. I love to see the beginnings of those relationships now.

3 Raine Circus

Last summer, in the midst of your Very Scary Virus, we received a report from your physiotherapist that said you had the gross motor skills of a 20 month old. While we didn't exactly agree with her assessment, we could see that some movements just weren't easy for you. You worked hard at gymnastics, baseball, swimming lessons, bike riding, and playing outside. This winter you started skating lessons and Cross Fit. You have come a long way!! Daddy made you a rink and you have loved playing hockey outside. You are really fast with your one-foot push - Grampy calls you "One Wheel Drive" - and your shot is kind of amazing. Cross Fit has also been so good for you. When you started, you couldn't really bend your knees and now you can do amazing, deep squats. Way to go, buddy.

So many hours out on the rink, playing hockey with Dad
The playstructure is no match for you now.

You are a natural little fish and have been flying through swimming lessons. You ask me almost everyday when summer is coming so you can swim in our pool. I can't wait to see the big adventures you'll have outside this summer!

Goodbye Salamander, hello Sunfish!
This year for your birthday you had a fun friend party with your sisters, cousins, friends from town, and friends from your class. It was great to see you have a special day with your buddies.

Birthday party at Gym Kids

You are the most responsible member of our family, including the adults. You keep close tabs on your clean clothes supply and give me warnings such as "Uh, Mama, you should do some laundry because I only have 2 pairs of clean gitchies left. And maybe you should do it today because if you forget then I'll only have 1." Every request we make of you is met with a cheerful "Awight!" and the thump of your little feet scurrying off to do what was asked.

You are Grampy's little partner in crime. Grandpa Raine is your special buddy, but since Grampy moved to town you know who to go for when you want a treat or a McDonald's craving hits you. You are also Daddy's little spy, though, and Grampy can't sneak over here and borrow anything from Daddy's tool shed without you giving a full report when Dad gets home from work.

Your cousin Landon is your best friend. The two of you are like brothers when you get together, which is so special, especially since Rylan went to be an angel. 

Dec, you are a great kid. You had to grow up fast when Ruby was born before you could even walk, and I wonder if that's what has made you an old soul. You've always been easy going, mellow, and quiet. But more importantly, you are kind, and generous, and sensitive to how other people feel. You are a unique combination of mischievous little boy and seasoned old man, all rolled into one. But I'm glad that you're not too big to crawl into my lap with your blanky, at least for another year. 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013 was amazing. With the kids being 2.5, 3.5 and 5.5, they were totally into it this year. They were an adorable combination of understanding the bigger meaning of Christmas while still being totally fascinated by the magic of the season.

Gumdrop returned (for a much shorter visit - Mommy was smarter this year) and we had lots of fun finding him every morning. 

 We visited Santa - Ruby ran right up and crawled in his lap, Declan cautiously stayed back by my side until he figured out he needed to speak directly to the big guy to put in his order for a new sled. And Talia surprised everyone by not asking for the Furby that already had her name on it; but for a yo-yo.

We had a fun pre-Christmas celebration with Rainer's sister & and her family. They live waaaaaaaaaay to far away and we were so happy they were able to come for Christmas this year!

We had McQueen Christmas with Christmas Eve at Uncle Kent & Auntie Chantal's house and Christmas Day at our house. McQueen Christmas was bittersweet for us; we were so thankful to see all the kids together and having so much fun - but Rylan was on our minds and in our hearts. We all really missed him. So unfair, I wished that we could have bought him a big, noisy, annoying gift for his first Christmas, instead of making a donation in his name. :( Sigh.

However, we still had 3 little darlings who helped us have a wonderful Christmas in the end. Can't wait to do it all again next year!

First Day of School 2013

September 2013 meant 2 firsts on the same day - Talia started full-time Maternelle (which is the fancy-pants french-immersion word for kindergarten) and Declan started Nursery School at RKNS. As luck would have it, both of these firsts occurred on the same day in 2 different locations - but we made it work. :)

Our first introduction to Ecole St. Adolphe School was actually a few days before school started. The school had a "meet the teacher" night where we went to drop off her school supplies, said a quick hello to Mme. Clifford, and then had a BBQ in the school yard. It was a great start to the school year, and made the actual first morning a lot quicker, which was perfect for our double-first-day problem.

Talia was very excited to go to school. She was pretty sure she was going to come home on the first day completely fluent in french, which was hilarious. She knew all the kids except for 2 or 3. Thanks to her awesome nursery school, she was totally ready for school and really excited to be a big kid. She had a great first day and was so proud to wear her school shirt home.

Declan was also thrilled to start RKNS. He'd been going to RKNS for drop-off/pick-up of the big girls as long as he could remember - Talia started when he was 18 months so literally, half his life - so he was totally comfortable. He strolled right in like he owned the place, found his name, reluctantly posed for some pictures, looked at the kids who were crying like they were nuts, and got down to business.

And yes, this blog post is ridiculously late, but the benefit of that is that I can tell you this: their enthusiasm for school has continued. Declan loves his almost all-male school and is learning how to be a rough & tumble boy. Talia is like a little sponge and amazes us everyday with the extent of her french vocabulary. So far school has been fun and easy for them - hope it stays that way in the years to come!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Declan Update

A few weeks ago I blogged about Declan, which you can read here. He was a sad little lump, not feeling well in so many different ways, requiring lots and lots of appointments, and just kind of puzzling the medical community. The most troubling symptom was his collection of swollen lymph nodes - since the beginning of June they have been hanging around, growing, and multiplying. Our family doctor and a pediatrician both agreed they were too big, they didn't feel quite right, and were in too many locations for their comfort. It was time for a biopsy.

Today was a day we were eagerly anticipating yet dreading: pre-biopsy consultation day. We really wanted to know if we were facing lymphoma or if we could cross it off the list of possibilities. But even though we wanted answers, and knew that we were looking at lymphoma as a real possibility, when the call came that Declan had an appointment at CancerCare, I cried. It was very real and very scary all of a sudden.

So early this morning we headed off to CancerCare, which is sort of between Children's Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. I've accompanied my Mom to the adult CancerCare several times and I knew the staff that worked there was awesome. Still, I wasn't prepared for how amazing the Pediatric CancerCare centre would be.

 We had an early morning appointment and were one of the first families there. In fact, the only other kid there was about 13 so Declan had free reign of the amazing play room.  

Check it out.

A tree house inside. Awesome.

Super cool airplane

Their cozy coupes come with a gas pump. So funny.

"What does this do, Mommy?"

He totally didn't see that coming. See how far he jumped back? LOL

So many toys to choose from

Playing airport with Daddy

Before long, other kids started coming in. Some were with nervous parents and seemed to be there for the first time, like us. Some were obviously regulars. Kids and parents were greeted by name and with big hugs. The woman who worked in the play room knew all the kids and siblings - asked how their camping trip was last week, told them she found a new butterfly craft she knew they would love, challenged them to beat her high score on some game on the iPads she handed out. She told us if we needed to have a grown-up conversation with the doctor, Dec could hang out with her. She got kids busy painting and crafting. One little guy gave a doll an injection with a real needle, practice for a procedure he was going to get. We'd been there about an hour when a clown came in and started blowing bubbles for kids to chase. It was awesome.

There was so much love and laughter in that room, but it was really hard to see how many kids were there! Some were really, really sick. The older boy who was there when we got there was with his dad - who was crying. One little girl had only been in Canada 2 months, and her family said if they were still in their home country they wouldn't even know she had cancer. One little guy laid in his mom's lap, getting IV fluids and weakly trying to play Rescue Heroes with his little friend who was being tube-fed on the other side of the toys. One tiny baby was only 9 weeks old.

A 5 year old girl got all hooked up with a blood transfusion and came out sobbing. That was a hard moment for me. But not as hard as it was for her, so I quickly tried to focus on the walls of the room to keep myself from crying - that didn't really help. Different things in the room are named in memory of kids. A beautiful tribute, for sure, and an amazing gift for the kids that spend so much time there. But so, so sad.

Eventually it was our turn and Dec marched right in and hopped up on the exam table. He's an old pro at new doctors wanting to check out his lumps. We gave the doc (Hematology Fellow) the full history that we've repeated 6 or 7 times now, and she gave him a thorough exam. Then it was back to the waiting room while she consulted with the Hematologist. Finally we were brought back in and the news was great: Declan's swollen lymph nodes measured half the size they had been just 10 days ago! They are all smaller and feel fine, like boring old regular swollen lymph nodes. 


So the random, weird illnesses from the last 6 months have all been a virus, or a collection of viruses. The docs said they've tested him for all the big, common ones and haven't come up with anything. Maybe that's because sometimes a virus like Mono can hide in the bloodwork. Maybe that's because there are hundreds of viruses and we'll just never know which one it was. But the bottom line was this: it definitely was not lymphoma. 

We were so, so, so relieved. And I felt so, so, so guilty walking out of that room and through the amazing playroom full of amazing kids and families that did not get good news like we did. They seem like a big family, full of positive, brave, incredible people. But I was really relieved that today we were not joining their club.

Celebration lunch
Huge thank yous to all our friends and family members who have been supporting us through these last few months. Huge, huge respect to all the health care workers who dedicate their lives to kids who have cancer. Huge, huge, huge hugs to all the families who are regular visitors to the amazing playroom. You are all incredible. xoxo

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Talia at Five

Dear Talia,

This past week, you turned five years old. I know I say this with every birthday, but I can't believe it. How can I? Two seconds ago we were bringing you home from the hospital. I blinked and here we are, getting you ready for full-time school in the fall. 

It's been 5 years but we still like pink stripes

 This year for your birthday, you had many opinions. It was fun to plan it with you. You wanted a Ballerina Pool Party, and for your cake you wanted a kid riding a bike down a waterfall.  Where did you come up with that idea? Is it possible you were testing me? I have no idea. But I tried my best to give you what you wanted. 

Thankfully you were okay with a last-minute switch due to lack of inventory at the party store - ballerinas out, princesses in. I'm excited (and a little scared) to see what you come up with next year for your cake!

What are you like at five? You are bright and curious. You are stubborn and mischievous. You love being the big sister in the house and are constantly asking Ruby, "Do you want to play with me, your big sister?" or reassuring her with a hug and an "it's okay, your big sister is here."

Over the past year Grammie has been teaching you to read - you can read the old Grade 1 readers and now you say "I don't need to practice reading, Mom. I already know how to read."

You are a fascinating mix of big girl and little girl. 

Strapped safely in a 5pt harness..... with an iPod and purse.
You told me your favourite birthday gift was a tie - between your iPod touch and your new Our Generation doll. 

You are fiercely independent and want to do more and more for yourself - but still drop into my lap for the occasional cuddle.

You are maintaining half an inch in height over your little brother. I fear each month that this will be the month where Declan will take off in a growth spurt and you'll finally understand what I mean when I tell you that just because you'll always be the oldest, that doesn't mean you'll always be the biggest. You've been working hard with your physiotherapy over the last 5 years and we've almost closed the gap. You are getting braver on your bike and in the pool. The other day you swam all around in the pool with me, no lifejacket, face in the water! Once you make up your mind to do something, look out world.

I can't believe you're going to full-time school in the fall. I know you're excited and I know you're ready. I'm excited for you to start your journey of learning and fun activities. It blows my mind that by this time next year, you'll be well on your way to being fluent in another language. But still, I wish time would slow down just a bit. Five years is NOT long enough for me to have you home. I'm proud of you and know you'll do great. But I'm a selfish Mama and don't want to share you with the world so much quite yet.

But share you I will. With Maternelle, and gymnastics, and Sparks, and swimming lessons, and piano lessons..... the list goes on and on. I hope you'll always be excited to try new things and have fun with friends. But mostly I hope we'll always have days like this, just you and me.