Sunday, September 25, 2011

a picture post

So, it's been awhile...  Some time ago, we enjoyed a hike at Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls.  Christina and I took the girls for the afternoon, and everyone had a lot of fun.  The folks at HF have worked hard to make this park accessible for all abilities, and we hope their vision is supported in the years to come.

Everyone stopped for a drink along the trail.

An accessible tree house in the woods!  

Turtle watching - with a slot for kids on their feet and kids on wheels.

A swing that is rigged up for chairs.  
Looks a bit intimidating, but everyone loved sharing the ride.

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Our physiotherapist suggested Janneke start with a pair of shoes, so that she will do weight-bearing on various surfaces.  We have not been able to find a pair of shoes to fit Rachel's feet, but Janneke and I found a decent pair that have since been scuffed!  (Thanks to cousin Monica, we were appropriately decked out for our shoe-shopping expedition.)

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Last Saturday, we had a big party at Agape Valley - hay rides, face painting, games, bouncy castles...  It was a great time, and we loved all the kids and friends sharing our thankfulness for the support raised with Appeal for Wheels.  

My niece Mia came to the party to share with me the news of her party - her birthday party where she asked for support for Appeal for Wheels instead of gifts.  Such a treat - a humble gift.

Both Em and Soph helped pick the winning raffle ticket for the Staal jersey.

And the winner: Yvonne Rauwerda!  

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Last Sunday, I picked Rachel up from Sunday School, and found her covered in glitter!  I love it that she gets into her work.  (Well, let's be honest: Zekijah and friends love to help Rachel get into her work.)

The recorder lessons are back.  And now Janneke accompanies on the piano.

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This past Friday, we enjoyed the Banter and Bluegrass event - what fun!  Sara Weber, the Golden Horseshoe Revival, and the rest of the Bluegrass team threw a great party, complete with amazing food and fun atmosphere at The Pearl Company.  We were humbled once again with the outpouring of support from our extended community.  It was an honour to share our story again - and we hope that this excitement generates care and support for others.  (Anyone have pictures from Friday? I forgot my camera!)

Looking ahead: I will be joining Mark Stephenson and several others on the Day of Encouragement to share ideas of supporting families deal with disablities (A4).  Here's the link.

I started this past week feeling overwhelmed with the care of my girls; both girls were not sleeping well and sleep deprivation does not help you feel rational or reasonable.  Yet, each time my girls seem distressed, I learn something about improving their care.  For Rachel, we suspect she is dealing with stressed muscles from all the activity of home and school.  For Janneke, we know that she needs more chest phsyio during the day and evening to help her cope with the mucous at night.  So, I leave the week feeling less anxious and more hopeful about providing better care for our girls.  

Today is a sunny, unusually warm day.  Rachel and Janneke have just finished their feeds, and Em and Soph are playing outside with the neighbour girls.  We appreciate this day of rest, and we look forward to what the week ahead holds.  

Peace for your week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

two parties!

So, I opened the mail this morning to find our tickets for the upcoming Banter and Bluegrass evening fundraiser.  

And then I checked my inbox to find a reminder via Facebook about the Agape Valley Family Celebration planned for September 17.

Two more parties!

We are looking forward to the family celebration at Agape Valley where we can celebrate God's faithfulness through His people with raising funds and awareness for Rachel and Janneke.  Check this link for more information.  We hope you can come.  It is a bit different from a fundraiser - it's also being planned as a celebration of all the excitement generated from Appeal for Wheels.  Bring on the hayrides!

We are also excited about the Banter and Bluegrass evening planned at The Pearl Company.  Some wonderful people connected with Ralph's days at Redeemer have prepared a special night of Southern style food, story-telling and music.  Hope to see you there!  Check this link for more info.

Yes, we've received much support for our wheelchair accessible van, but Rachel and Janneke's needs extend beyond the van.  Almost all of what is raised will help us afford the van and related expenses.  The funds raised beyond the cost of the vehicle will help with modifying our home and backyard.  This includes ceiling tracking, new doors/thresholds that accommodate wheelchairs, and making our backyard accessible for the chairs.  The amazing outpouring of support has allowed us to plan how we might improve Rachel and Janneke's quality of life - in the daily routine, as well as enhance our time together as family.  Check this link for more thoughts.

We appreciate and love all the plans that have been made and are being made for the various fundraising events.  We are so incredibly blessed by the gifts and prayers.  We also hope our story will encourage you to walk alongside others who need the support.  We belong together.

Peace for your days.  Looking forward to the September parties!

family video

Here is the video that we have created with Elma to help tell our story.  It includes images Elma took when she shadowed our family in the spring.

May God continue to guide our steps, and we will try to lay our anxieties in His hands.  Admittedly, with all the excitement generated in raising funds, it has also reminded us of how uncertain the future is for our girls with their needs.  We want to do our best to take care of them, but there are days when we worry about what next year - or five years from now - looks like.  We have to push ourselves return to that old adage "one day at a time," no matter the challenge.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

first day adventure

It was the first day of school for Ralph, Emily, Sophia, and Rachel.  Everyone was in good spirits in the morning although I wasn't sure Rachel had any idea of what the day held for her.  It was busy for our nurse as she helped our family with the morning routine; there is now extra work each day to prepare for Rachel's afternoon adventure.  (Rachel is in the afternoon SK.)

The bus arrived, and Rachel seemed somewhat critical of the whole business.  It seemed she was taking it all in from a very serious perspective.  What on earth was all this about?

By the end of the day, her big sisters were excited to see her arrive, and she actually turned her head toward us when we called her name.  That was pretty cool.  It is strange to have her come home and not know really what she all did for the afternoon.  I suppose that's like asking some kids - "What did you learn at school today?" and hearing a three or four word response like "Oh, we did stuff."

Being the only two not having a school day, Janneke and I went for a run by the canal this afternoon.  I loved listening to her coo and spit and make her unique sounds.  She enjoyed the movement and loved being outside. 

We have a few minor health issues to still figure out with Rachel, but we are thankful the first day went well.  So onward into the week we go.


Monday, September 5, 2011

good-bye summer

Well, we said good-bye to summer. This past weekend, Emily and Sophia camped with some of their cousins, some of my cousins, some of my cousins' kids, and some of my cousin's kids' kids.  Lots of extended family.  It was time for the annual deWit jaunt to the Pinery (a provincial park).  Ralph and I were thankful that our older two girls could take in the fun under the watchful eyes of my sisters, my brother, and their spouses.  One of Emily's friends joined the girls on Sunday.

Going to the Pinery for Labour Day has been something I remember doing since being a little kid. The visits became less frequent when we lived in Minnesota, and now camping with Rachel and Janneke doesn't work well.  Yet, no matter how long it's been since the last visit, the place seems so familiar.  Even the steps to Burley Beach seem like the same steps I climbed as a kid, willing myself to say good-bye to Lake Huron on the last weekend of camping.

While Ralph took care of Rachel and Janneke at home, I traveled to the park to pick up the girls.  We had a day of rain and sun with great family traditions, and as I packed them up, the girls said, "Mom, we need to say good-bye to the beach."  Daughters of their mother.

Wouldn't you know it, as we climbed those stairs, we could hear the waves calling -and there was not a soul on the beach.  The darker clouds were slowing passing over us and the sky was light over the water.

In time, the wading turned into a full-out swim with all their clothes on.

It only seemed natural to catch them literally dancing in the waves.  Sophia yelled out above the sound of the waves, "Now this is making a memory!"

Tonight's exceptionally cool weather seems appropriate as we mentally shift into autumn mode -though the official day of fall is a few weeks away.  The girls packed their lunches, and the house is gearing up for a return to school.  

Rachel begins her first day of Kindergarten at the Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre School, housed in the same building as NPCC.  We are thankful for the familiarity of NPCC, and we are also looking forward to meeting new faces with the school team.

The newest aspect to this adventure: Rachel will take a bus to school each day.  The NPCC School has a fleet of short buses for transportation, and the school team tells parents that the ride is often the most favourite part of the day for the kids.   (Yep, I am reminded of the words "riding the short bus" used as an insult to someone's intelligence.  Well, that's my beautiful girl on the short bus.  Drive and joke carefully.)

I have to prepare her backpack yet, but Aunt Alida sent along a new stack of bibs.  I think this is the perfect back-to-school gift for Rachel.  She'll be in a class of five students with a team of therapists, EA's and a teacher.  We hope Rachel enjoys being with her new class just as she loved being in the preschool program last year.

Admittedly, I am looking forward to the routine.  Last week was busy with an appointment every day for Rachel.  We had seating clinic on Monday (measured for future wheelchair), hearing test on Tuesday (her big sisters got to help the audiologist!), a visit to Mac for neuro muscular issues, two meetings with new nurses on Thursday, and a visit to her new classroom -also on Thursday.  

Now it is time to sort through the paperwork, return phonecalls, and write thank-yous.  It will be a different year for our nursing schedule (hours will be in the first part of the day), and we will be welcoming new nurses to replace others no longer in our home.  I will also be on my own with Janneke a bit; I am looking forward to that special time.   By late afternoon, it will be a full house again, but thankfully, both Em and Soph are able to do more around the house.  I was told that supper tomorrow night will be cheesy tortillas with chocolate sprinkles on top.  Yum.

Peace for your week.  May you be given the strength needed, one day at at time.