Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christmas Holidays - Week One

The Christmas Holidays finally arrived. Marietta had been sick enough for the fall months that I was hoping this would give her a chance to recuperate and truly get back on her feet (and it did, so far so good).

The kids had their Christmas Program on Thursday, December 17. It's always so nice to see the vibe and excitement from the kids on such an evening ... especially the younger kids (let's just say the vibe from many of the older ones is somewhat opposite that of the younger ones). Our girls love to sing so they quite enjoy these evenings.

Rebecca's class was suppose to sing a song while one of the teachers played the saxophone. Well the saxophone decided it wasn't going to cooperate and so the kids sang on their own ... after getting over their giggles :)

Marietta's class (or some of it).

Friday the kids only had a half day of school ... not sure why they bother as I'm sure they got nothing done during that half day. That evening the girls and I went to see the Voice of Praise Choir perform. Marietta quite enjoys these programs, especially because we have done pretty good on seating most times giving her the opportunity to either watch the organist or pianist also. This time she could watch the pianist. Since she takes piano lessons and does enjoy it, she finds it amazing to watch these talented players, and her little mind dreams that someday she'll do the same. I hope she continues to enjoy playing.

On Monday of the first week of holidays we headed down to Ike and Heather's to do some skating on their pond. This was the first time the girls have ever skated on a non-rink. Heather had commented that the ice was the smoothest they'd ever had it ... but the girls still thought the ice was quite bumpy. Since all we had so far was a dusting of snow we were glad for the cold spell that at least gave the kids something to do outside.

Another new thing to the girls was hockey sticks on ice. Yup, they've never played hockey on ice. It was a bit humorous to watch them try hit the puck and keep their balance ... kept them busy for some time.

The girls begged to sleep over at their cousin Anna's so I left them there for the night. I think they regretted that decision the next day ... well not the whole decision, just the decision on where to sleep. They decided it would be fun to sleep out in the with Aunt Maaike. Well -5C (or was it colder? I think colder if you factor in the windchill) out in a trailer isn't all the lovely ... especially when there are icicles hanging from the ceiling above your head. Needless to say they didn't sleep all that well.
They girls came home again Tuesday evening and after a good rest were ready for the next day where I had coffee with a friend while the kids played together. The girls always find it a thrill to show their "city" friends around the barn ... and all of them love to play in they hay. Sorry Laura for the load of hay you took home from their coats and hats.
We had our annual croquette making day the next day. This year we decided to do a bit more work individually as well as mix the dough up the day beforehand since it needs to be cooled before we roll it and often we're waiting around to have it cool more. So we got together on Thursday to roll and deep fry the croquettes. As the girls get bigger they also become a bigger help also, either with rolling or with watching/entertaining the younger kids.

And when they weren't doing either of those they were enjoying Grandpa and Grandma's new Wii system.

We gathered again as family on Christmas Day for a relaxing day and good eating.
The girls singing Christmas Carols with Aunt Jess

Taryn reading Matthew as story.

Saturday brought on our Family Get-Together with Rob's family. We headed off to London for this. This year it was nice that we were able to use London's "new" school gym. It allowed for more room for the kids to play. It was still noisy but better then when we gathered in the church basement.

The older girls hanging out while doing Sudoku, Crosswords, WordSearches and such

The girls especially liked the stage. It was neat enough to play on the stage but even neater yet was the fact that their was a closet full of costumes and props to play with. This kept the kids busy for some time as we told them to get together and make a skit/play for the rest of us ... which they did, presenting us with two shows.

Refreshments after the big performance :)

Grandpa joining in on the hockey fun ... he stuck to the 5 year old level :)

Thomas and Matthew. It was quite humerous when I told Matthew Thomas's name. It took me some time to get him to understand that the boy standing before him was named Thomas ... and to stop looking around for Thomas the Tank Engine

Evan decided to get in on the action too

After the family split up to go their seperate ways we headed over to Jason and Carol for a long overdue visit.
Hanging out ... they sort of look like they were just caught doing something mischievous ... but that was not the case

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gift Exchanges 2009

Wow, I reached the month of December. I might just get to 2010 before the end of January :)

We all know that December is a busy social month. At the end of November we had a housewarming party and then after that we put a hold on any further unpacking or reorganizing. The house was mostly organized, and definitely homey and settled, but the basement remained a disaster that just got worse over the month of December as we put everything we didn't know what to do with down there. Our bedroom is still in need of some work, some shelves to better arrange the office area and allow me to unload the remaining Rubbermaids we keep tripping over. But all in all, close the door to our bedroom or the basement, and it was home!! Over time those things will get done (the basement is done, just waiting for those shelves in our room ... that is after my van is fixed, yup almost three months now, good thing we have a second vehicle, altho the van would have been fixed faster if we did not).

So we settled into December with the usual gift exchanges, Christmas programs, social gatherings, family get-togethers, etc. It was nice!!

Gift Exchange Evening at my parents:

Rebecca collects spoons ... so now she has a place to hang them

After the kids were done opening their presents the adults had there turn. Instead of exchanging names this year we decided to keep the cost down and play the gift game (have no idea what it's called, but I'm sure most of us have played it at one point). We each bought a $10 gift of something useful ... seeing as we're all married it didn't really matter too much if it leaned towards one sex or the other. The first person picks a gift from the pile and then the next person can steal his gift if he likes it or pick a new gift ... and so carries on the game until everyone has a gift.

Rob thought it would be funny to do something humorous. My brother, Nathan, was the lucky person who got his gift ... a package of feminine hygeine pads. Seeing as that doesn't cost $10 Rob balanced it off with a bottle of carwash soap ... that way box sexes could enjoy the package :)

Nathan thought these would have great absorbency for drying the car after he washed it. Rob who thought his idea was so great at home was several shades red when it came time to open the present

The "kids" pooled together to buy my parents a present. This year we had their old 8mm films transferred over onto DVD. Dear talented Aileen designed covers for the DVD and put it together in a nice package. So after gifts we all vegged out together and watch some silent videos from the "olden days" :) teehee, we're not the old, really!!

In previous years our kids believe in Santa and so we had one gift exchange evening at my parents ... where somehow when they weren't looking Santa came and dropped off some presents ... but he was always gone before they got a chance to see him. The girls were struggling with this Santa story, feeling sure that Santa was really mom and dad, but not really wanting to admit it. Or maybe scared if they admitted it they wouldn't get presents anymore. Whatever the case, last year we finally confirmed that there is no Santa it's just mom and dad and grandpa and grandma.

So this year Marietta very much wanted to do a name exchange like she had seen us do before (but couldn't understand why we were doing it). We decided to exchange names within our little family ... which doesn't make it very difficult to figure out who has your name. We took a couple presents with to my parents as we had always opened all our presents there, but we didn't tell the kids that there were more presents for the next night.
Rebecca opening her present from Marietta

We were pleasantly surprise when Rebecca added an additional present to the pile, one other then the one she had for Marietta (who's name she had). For some time she had bee quite busy at the craft table upstairs, always making sure no one seen what she worked on. We upwrapped the fruit of her labours ... a scrapbook she had made of our family with old extra pictures I had given them. The only person missing in the scrapbook was Matthew as I have no extra pictures of him since I have not started his photo album yet, and now that we have a digital camera I don't really have extras very often. It was precious to see she had put time and effort into doing something on her own without even being told or having it suggested that they could make presents.

Most of the time the presents the kids get are things they needed anyways ... like new leotards (I think they get that every year), any clothes they might need (pjs this year and new Sunday coats, and Rebecca is wearing a new sweater she received), a book or two, craft stuff, and then usually some sort of fun/toy thing. Usually in their stocking I put church candies and something small like nailpolish. Since the kids are quite good at saving their candies and like to be able to pick out what type of candy they want for church each week this year I put together a bag of candies for each of them, with droopies, peppermints, mentos, jolly ranchers, and fruitella's. Let just say they were quite thrilled by this gift.

But not as thrilled as they were over their last gift ... a piece of paper!! :)

We love Kijiji!! Fall time is a great time to buy a trampoline. In this case we got it super cheap simply because the guy was doing renovations in his house and didn't have room to store it for the winter so he decided to sell it. The kids are looking forward to the warmer weather so they can enjoy it!! Again ... we love the country ... this would have taken up almost our whole backyard before.

Favourite Toy

On November 26 it was a School Spirit Day, one of those days dreaded by parents, because, let's face it, it's the parents who have to do the work for these.

On this particular dress-up day the kids had to dress up as their favourite toy. Realistically it wasn't there favourite toy, just some sort of toy ... whatever your imagination and creativity allowed for. Thankfully Marietta picked something easy ... a doll!! While she does play with dolls occasionally, in spurts, she's not really a huge doll player ... or any sort of player for that matter. She much rather just hang around and drive me nuts :) or do some crafts like cardmaking or scrapbooking. At least there wasn't much prep work for her custom. We just put rollers in her hair the night before and she was quite happy to have an excuse to suck on a soother or bottle for a day.

To be honest, Rebecca's custom didn't take that much work either. Someone (I believe it was Aunt Val!) gave her this "brilliant" idea to be a Jack-in-the-Box. That idea stuck, and though we made many other suggestions she wanted to be a Jack-in-the-Box. I'm sure if I had a bit of a creative bone in me I could have thought of a way to have a box that she could actually curl up in and pop out of. But trying to realistic with the fact that she had to wear this thing , get to and from school, and in and out of the classroom, we decided to keep it simple.

So we found the right size box, cut some holes in it for her feed and body, put some rope on it to act like suspenders and painted the box. We probably should have been a bit more creative with our paint colour and gone with more vibrant colours, but that's the colour I found downstairs in the basement so that's the colour we went with. We add some stripes and dots with Bingo Dappers and painted some faces on and she was all set to go ... oh and Rob created a crank.

Matthew wanted to be part of the action too and felt it was necessary to have his face panted also.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

James: ~November 23, 2009~

It's hard to believe that date was already two months ago. Time really does go by fast.

A few weeks before the 23rd Marietta class was discussing the handicapped and learning about places like Anchor and The Beacon (hence the school trip there). It was during this time that Marietta told her class a little about James and the teacher felt that maybe she would like to tell her new classmates a little more about her little brother. She asked if I would like to help Marietta with this.

Together Marietta and I discussed James and what information we would like to present at a level her classmates would understand. First I spent some time discussing with Marietta whether one could consider James handicapped. After going over with her the definition of handicap and a few other words it was concluded that although James would fall under the definition of handicapped (something that hampers or hinders; the condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness; put at a disadvantage) to the average human concept of handicapped it would be better to describe James as medically challenged.

We spent some time going over how to explain James in simple language and then reviewed pictures to include. I must admit that I probably enjoyed the project just as much, if not more then Marietta. With the information that Marietta and I worked and the pictures we talked about including I put together a poster/display. Marietta helped me glue everything down and get it ready and then I had it laminated so it will stay good and not get damaged easily.

On Monday, November 23, two years after James passed away, Marietta and I presented James to her classmates. To be honest I figured the students wouldn't really care much about someone elses sick brother, but I was surprised and impressed with the amount and kind of questions the kids came up with. They were especially thrilled after the presentation when they had a chance each have their SATs checked on the finger oximeter

After school that day we all went to the cemetery (only two doors down now, providence?) and the girls lay their annual blue and red roses there. We had thought to make it a tradition to watch the movie Babe (James watched this movie endlessly for his last couple weeks of life) each year but the girls did not want to. Obviously this stirs up too much emotions for them as they never turn down a chance to watch TV (especially since we packed it away after our move), even if it's the hundredth time watching Barney. Instead we had some family time and it being a school night they went to bed at a reasonable time.

The following is the speech/presentation Marietta did(there was some interaction with the kids with her asking questions to keep them involved and interested) . I helped in a few of the harder spots with describing his illness, but Marietta did the rest.

My brother, James Robert Van Middelkoop, struggled with LPI and PAP.

L.P.I means Lysinuric Protein Intolerance - this means that James’ body could not break down protein
P.A.P. means Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis - this means that James’ lungs filled up with surfactant which is an oily fluid in the lungs and then he could not breath good.

When someone has LPI it means that their body is not able to digest protein.

Does anyone know what protein is?
Protein is in the food we eat
Protein Helps our body to do many things so that we can grow
-it helps you grow strong muscles
-it helps many of our body parts to grow and be healthy- like our hair, skin, eyes, etc
-it helps your blood and helps you to heal from sickness or infections
-it helps your body get its vitamins and fat

Our body must have protein in order to grow and stay healthy, but James’ body could not break down the protein that he needed to stay healthy. If James had too much protein he became very sick and would need to be in the hospital to get better. But if James did not have enough protein he could also get sick. So we still had to feed him a little bit of protein so his body could grow and his muscles stay strong. Every time James would eat he had to take a special medicine to help digest the protein in his food. We had to make sure he got just the right amount of protein - not too much, not too little.

It is hard to make sure someone eats just the right amount of protein ... BUT .... it was even harder because James refused to eat or drink.. He would not eat and he would not drink, not even from a bottle.
Now what? How does someone grow if they won’t eat or drink? How do you think we made sure he still got the food he needed?

James was fed using a feeding tube. The doctors made a small hole in James’ stomach and put a tube in it so that food could go straight to his stomach. James’ food was a special milk that had just the right amount of protein. James’ stomach did not work like ours and so his stomach could not "eat" the food as fast as we do. It would take 2 to 6 hours to feed him one meal. He had to be hooked up to his feeding machine for many hours of the day and night.

James was one and a half years old before the doctors figured out that he had LPI. He was often sick and in the hospital.
Why was it so hard to figure out?
How many people do you think have LPI?
In the whole world there are only about 100 people who have LPI

After the doctors figured out James had LPI we thought he would be healthier and no longer be in the hospital all the time. Only three days later he was back in the hospital and instead he got sicker and spent more time in the hospital.

James spent most of the summers when I was six and seven in the hospital. When James was in the hospital my sister and I had to stay at other peoples house because my mom lived at the hospital with James. We would stay at different house, moving from one place to the next and sometimes stayed at home with my dad. It was kinda fun at first to stay at other peoples houses, but I missed my family. We would visit James and mom at the hospital, I even had my 6th birthday cake and presents at the hospital.

Every time James was sick it was like he had a very bad cold. He had trouble breathing. Finally his lungs became so sick he needed a machine to help him breath. The hospital in Hamilton where we lived could not figure out what was wrong so my mom and dad took him to SickKids Hospital in Toronto. The doctors there told us James had PAP.

What is PAP?
When a person has PAP their lungs fill up with surfactant. This is a oily substance that everyone has in their lungs to help them breath. Our lungs are always making surfactant and getting rid of the extra surfactant in our lungs. James lungs would make the surfactant but his body was not able to break it down and get rid of it. Slowly his lungs began to fill up with surfactant and he had a very hard time breathing then.

Can you guess how many people in the world have both LPI and PAP?
(hint ... there are only 100 people who have LPI so it has to be less then that)
About 25 people in the whole world have PAP

After six weeks in the hospital James could go home but he could still not breath good and so he had to wear an oxygen tube. This is a tube that blows air into your nose to help you breath. This also meant that now he had two tubes he was hooked up to almost all day and night - one for his oxygen, one for his food. It is very hard for a little boy to run, jump and play if he has all these tubes and machines to take with him.

When James got even sicker he went back to the hospital in Toronto. My mom and dad, my sister Rebecca and I also moved to Toronto. We live in the Ronald MacDonald House.
Has anyone heard of these homes? What is so special about these homes?
The Ronald MacDonald homes are for families with sick children who are at a hospital far away from home. You can live at the house, which is close by the hospital, and they have a school for the kids as well as craft times, game times, and other fun stuff. They would also make big fancy suppers for us a few times a week. You could stay there for as long as you needed to. We stayed until James died.

James was in the SickKids in Toronto for two months before he died. The doctors tried to clean his lungs three times but it did not work. It was a very serious and dangerous operation that had never been done on such a small child. During the last operation James’ lungs were too tired and sick to keep working. They stopped the operation but James’ lungs never got better and three weeks later James’ battle was over. He died and went to heaven to be with his Heavenly Father and Wonderful Saviour. I miss James, but I know that he is in a much better place now where he is all better. Today it is two years since he passed away on November 23, 2007.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Inside

Picture Overload to Follow

Finally the inside pictures Joyce!! I didn't completely forget! I did sort of forget, and then whenever I did remember it was nighttime or something like that and I didn't want to take picture then as my camera isn't the most cooperative or doing the best with the flash. But with few good sunny days and my terrible memory I just never seemed to get them during the day ... so I finally gave up and used the flash - so they may not be the clearest or truest to their colour, but by time you've scrolled thru you'll pretty much know every angle of our house! :)

The Entrance Hallway - you would be standing by the door (okay behind if the door was open) from this angle. On your right are two doors, the first is Rob's office and the second our bedroom. At the end a bathroom and if you head to the left you'll end up in the kitchen.

These shelves will probably look familiar to those who visit us at our old house. With an extra wide hallway we decided to put some storage shelves for the kids hats, mitts, boots, helmets, skates, etc as well as various other things on the other side. Rob did trim down the shelves so they are not as deep and don't take up too much hall space.

Knowing how quickly things tend to become a disaster in my house and how any spare space is usually full of junk waiting to be sorted or to find it's specific spot I knew I had to have something on top of the shelves in order to keep myself from dumping stuff on them ... especially considering they are right where we come in.

When I was younger I collected porcelian dolls ... this was back in the day where you couldn't get them at second hand stores and they cost a pretty penny to buy even the simple ones. The girls each wanted to collect something and so they started collecting dolls also. Marietta is a bit more into the doll collecting (Rebecca collects spoons) but between the two of them they have managed to collect in a couple years time as many dolls as I did over many years. They have a couple new ones they got as gifts but most they found at garage sales or Value Village, and many of there dolls are much nicer then the ones I have. It seems a shame to have all these dolls and not have them displayed so here was the perfect large space to put them. It's working great ... there's no space for junk and it stays clean up there.

The dolls on the left side (first picture) are the girls dolls and the ones on the right (second picture) are my dolls. There are more dolls behind but I have yet to find some small boxes to use as stands so that they are move visible.

With the leftover pieces Rob trimmed from the hall shelves he build his office shelves. Rob is very excited about his new office and is loving the fact that it's on the main floor and has a window.

Here is what you would see if you turned left at the end of the entrance hallway into the kitchen and dining room. (For all those who know Rob's resolve to leave the dishwasher behind please note the dishwasher on the left hand side :)

From the other side ... door on the right side is the one you would have come in from the entrance hallway

Looking into the Dining Room from the Living Room

The Living Room ... looking into it from the Dining Room

The couch is kinda the divider for the kid's entertainment area where their keyboard is as well as their computer (they inherieted when we moved).

This is the view if standing by the computer. On the right you can see the stairways heading upstairs as well as Marietta by the entrance doorway (the door I was standing by to take the hall picture)

The upstairs hallway was also a bit of a wider hallway, which came to our advantage as there is no real seperate play area in this house for the kids toys. So Matthew has some toys downstairs in the Dining Room (altho they usually gravitate to the Living Room) and then the rest of the toys are upstairs. The girls really don't play with the toys a whole lot, sometime I feel like just getting rid of the kitchen and it's accesories, but as soon as they have friends over they are busy playing house and restuarant, so it does still get used.

Where Rebecca is sitting is a well used area ... more like the girls play area. This is the their craft table. To Rebecca's left is a closet and it is has all their (and mine) craft, card making, scrapbook stuff on the shelves there. The girls are often found in this corner busy working on something ... I hope to become a bit more faithful at sitting down and working along with them ... I'm not really into scrapbooking or card making, but it's a fun thing to do together with them.

Looking down the hall from the craft area. At the end of the hall is the kids bathroom. It has been quite nice to have two bathrooms ... altho the tub issue does hamper it a bit. But it's nice thatt the girls have a spot now for all their hair stuff and the counter is big enough that they can both work there at the same time without fighting ... nevermind how much bigger the bathroom is compared to the main bathroom at the old house (you could turn around in it, that's about it).

Matthew's Room. I know, doesn't really look like a bedroom, much less a little guys room. We moved the lazy boy up to the bedroom as it's great for snuggling and reading stories etc. The table beside it is a hand-me down table from Rob's family which is a good solid table but not large enough for when we have company. Since the stairway to the basement is so narrow it's doubtful we could fit it down there for the time being and not wanting to get rid of it it has round it's spot in this corner. The kids like it because they throw a sheet over it and it's their fort. The girls will read stories to Matthew in the fort ... it's cute.

Here's a better view of the bedroom aspect of his room ... more like your typical little kids room.

And last, but not least ... the Girls Room.

Bunkbeds and slanted ceilings can be somewhat of a pain. Seperate beds in this room also wouldn't work the greatest because of the location of the windows (that funny little window along the floor) and the heat register. After several rearrangements this was the final arrangement that everyone was most happy with. This allowed us to also fit a bookshelf and Thumper (Marietta's rabbit) into the room. I keep telling Marietta that if she wants seperate beds Thumper will have to go and then we should have enough room ... she doesn't want seperate beds as badly as I hoped ... but if anyone wants a rabbit, Thumper is available :)

So there you have it ... our new small but cozy house. There is often debate about whether this house is bigger then our old house. Most people who come over believe this one is bigger. I personally believe the old was was bigger. But bigger doesn't help any if it isn't layed out nicely ... this house is layed out nicely so that we can make proper use of the spaces and not be tripping over each other. It really doesn't matter if this house is bigger or smaller ... regardless neither houses had extra space but this one is much more homey and cozy ... we're enjoying it!!