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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Fourth Birthday Sylvie!

*This post was actually created right around her birthday, but life got busy and I didn't get around to posting. And to be honest, it is sometimes hard to realize and accept our baby girl is growing up!

Our baby girl is FOUR! How did this happen?....

One day she was just a tiny, bitty baby living in China celebrating her FIRST birthday with a cake sent lovingly to her from her new Mama and Baba...
And then continued coasting through the rest of the year taking it easy!


...Then Bam! She is a giggling TWO year old toddler...
Photo 5 - Sylvie swings
Photo 7 - Sylvie

Photo 2 - Sylvie
  ...And then it happens AGAIN! And a precocious little girl is THREE!

...Against all our might and wishes to keep her young forever, she turns ANOTHER year older...
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We feel blessed beyond belief that we have been given the privilege to raise our beautiful daughter and watch her grow and mature into the sweet, loving, kind, considerate, silly little girl we all love so very much.

We wish there was a way to share with her birth mother, birth father and birth family that this most wonderful little girl is healthy, happy and cherished so very much. Our prayers, good thoughts and wishes towards them will have to do for now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Winter Cabin Getaway...

One of the blessings adoption had brought us (other than two beautiful daughters) is the many friendships we have developed over the past few years with other adoptive families. In particular, there is one group of friends where we get together regularly either as just the Mamas for a much needed "Mom's Night Out", or all together with our families for park play dates, summer camping weekends, bowling events, and to the swimming pool throughout the year.

In late February we joined four other families for a "Winter Cabin Getaway".

The Drinkwater Family, Winter 2012
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This is the second year for the winter cabin getaway, but we were unable to tag-along last year as we were in the middle of Mary's cleft surgeries and her recovery. However, we just jumped right in this year and had a wonderful time with everyone there.

We rented a small cabin on Pillar Lake, a fishing lake just under a two hour drive away from our house. The cabin was just what we needed for our little family: one bedroom with two double beds, our own bathroom with hot water and a shower, and open area for our living room/dining area/kitchen. There was a wood stove in the middle of the cabin for heat, where Cory spent a bit of time chopping kindling and stoking the fire to keep his girls warm and toasty in their beds ;) The curtains on the windows and cupboards were the traditional red and white checkered fabric sealing the cabin ambiance!

The weather cooperated with us this year with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, but with bright blue sunny skies making it clear and crisp outside. The weekend was filled with lots of outdoor activity time with all the kids playing together around the cabins and on the frozen lake.

Would you believe they have as much fun pulling the sled for their little friends as riding in one too?
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Don't let her pint size fool you, she actually has some pretty impressive stick skills!
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Group tag game of "British Bull Dog" on the frozen lake  - Thanks Mr. K for organizing the game!
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Running to the other side while trying to not get tagged. No, Sylvie is not hurt. 
She is however using all her charm to convince "A" to carry her everywhere!
We had a turkey potluck dinner one night with all the trimmings (deep fried turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, grilled veggies, stuffing, buns and butter, salads and desserts ect.) and celebrated a birthday with cake too! Don't worry, we weren't cold, we had a blazing fire beside us!
The weekend was a perfect blend of time together as a family in our little cabin eating meals together and curled up on the little couch watching the fire, as well as lots of playtime for all the kids and visiting for the parents.
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There were twenty kids this weekend ranging in age from one to sixteen years old and they all played together beautifully. The kindness, caring and patience the teenagers continuously shower on the little ones is so heartwarming to see, and the little ones adore playing with the big kids.         

Sylvie with one of her big friends "C"
Mama and Daddy staying warm by the fire...
Alas, the weekend went by too quickly and soon it was Sunday afternoon. We packed up all our gear, said our good byes and headed for home to start the many loads of laundry and showers to wash out all the campfire and wood stove smokiness out of our clothes and hair. We can't wait for next year, see you all then!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And we're home...

Sorry for not posting last night, we were just too tired after getting up early and spending the day at the hospital. First of all, Mary is a trooper. I love her strength and resilience. I also hate that she has to be so strong and resilient at such a young age. We started off the morning getting up very, very E.A.R.L.Y. Mary and Mama were in the car driving off to the hospital at 5:45 in order to park and be in the admitting line up for 6:30. Luckily there was no line at admitting so we were processed quickly and quickly taken up to the surgical floor.

Excited to be carrying her red hospital card and  the envelope with her admitting papers.
Mary Hospital 4
We were lucky in getting one of the very nice, caring anesthesiologists who allows the parents to accompany their child back to the operating room - yahoo! After going through the pre-op questions (How many times can I be asked when was the last time she had anything to drink/eat!) and routine procedures (weighing, blood pressure, temperature) we were off to another waiting room. Unfortunately we forgot the IPad in the other back pack at home that Daddy was bring later, so Mary had to make due with Mama's IPhone. We were the first surgery scheduled for the day, but then were bumped back and ended up waiting about another hour and a half. Luckily Mary is easily entertained, and by this time Daddy had already dropped Sylvie off at daycare and had arrived.

Aren't I cute in scrubs? Maybe I'll be a doctor one day too, I can rock this look!
Mary Hospital 3

Finally the OR nurse came to get us and I carried Mary back to surgery. As mentioned, the anesthesiologist was very kind and let me hold Mary on my lap while she was getting her IV, before the anesthetic took effect. Poor Mary was getting more and more overwhelmed with all the lights and strange faces and pretty much just shut down. She wouldn't make any eye contact or answer any questions and just burrowed her face into my chest.So Mama just sang to her and rocked her under she fell asleep.

Surgery went very well, according to the two doctors. Her surgeries took just over 1.5 hours, and she was in the recovery room for about 45 minutes before they brought her up to the day recovery room on the Peds floor. This has been the longest it has taken them to bring her back to us and I was getting antsy pacing the room. We could hear Mary coming down the hall, she was NOT happy. So I climbed into her little stretcher (no bed I guess) and just held and rocked her while she cried and cried. Daddy was near by handing us tissues and locating face clothes and warming them up for Mama to wipe Mary's face.

Our poor little dude looked a little like she had taken a couple rounds with boxer as her bottom lip was very swollen. The doctor had explained to us after surgery how small and tight her little mouth is due to the scar tissue under her upper lip from previous surgeries (this is something that will be corrected with her next lip revision surgery - maybe sometime next year?). We asked Mary if she had any pain and she kept pointing to her lips, so I think they were stretched pretty wide. The nurse thankfully brought Mary some ibuprofen right away to help with any pain which was nice, and Mary was very cooperative with taking it.

Our little prize fighter...
Mary Hospital 2

After about an hour, Mary calmed down and began drinking apple juice and was content to watch some cartoons - as long as Mama was right beside her. Once she had the applce juice and was keeping it down she began to go to town on the ice cream, and over the next few hours had several of the little bowls to her delight.
Mary Hospital 6
 Hey, stop taking pictures... Keep the good stuff coming!
Mary Hospital 1
We spent the rest of of our time there (about 4 hours) circling the pediatric ward in the wagon and little red car. Since we were in the day recovery room, there were unhappy kids coming in from surgery about every hour or so. This would make Mary worry and get agitated, so we walked, and walked, and walked while I little princess rode and played with all the toys on the wall. When we were finally released from the hospital we drove home to find supper delivered (beef stew, buns, fruit) and lunch for tomorrow (chicken noodle soup) all lovingly made for us by Grandma Marjorie and Grandpa Roy. It was a quick supper and little play time before Mary passed out at 6:00, due to her tiring day and no afternoon nap.

Today Mary is doing well, needing lots and lots of cuddle time of course. We made sure to keep her pain in control by setting the alarm throughout the night to giver her the pain medication and this also helped for a good night's sleep. Her adenoids do not seem to be bothering her so much today, but her lips are another story. They are cracked in the corners of her mouth from surgery yesterday, and she has at least 5 different cancer type sores/blisters on the inside of her bottom lip. So we are making sure to put some vaseline on the outside of her mouth throughout the day and staying away from any acidic food that might sting.     

Well, we are off for a nap now as we try to catch up on some lost sleep. Thank you for all the well wishes, kind thoughts and prayers yesterday - they all help tremendously.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Surgery tomorrow...

We have been busy today getting ready for a full day tomorrow. Mary will be having her fourth surgery since coming home. On the slate for tomorrow is quite a bit of dental work: front teeth capped, several cavities filled, a thorough cleaning followed by a sealant being placed on her teeth. Kids with clefts often have very soft baby teeth, and Mary unfortunately seems to fit this category. Additionally, since her cleft lip was not corrected for the first two years her front teeth were exposed to the air constantly, which eroded away much of the enamel. The dental surgeon has been a little concerned since you can actually see the pink showing through the back of her teeth. I wonder if she has been in continual pain due to teeth sensitivity, but since it is her constant that she has never known any different.

Also on for tomorrow is adenoid removal. Our ENT (whom we love!) was able to coordinate the operating time with the dental surgeon and piggy back onto his OR time. This means that Mary will have both procedures under one anesthetic, subtracting an additional surgery this year. We are very thankful that the dental surgeon agreed to this as OR time for both surgeons at our hospital is in demand. The dental surgery is expected to take about an hour, and the adenoid removal about 20 minutes. We will then be staying at the hospital for about 6-8 hours after surgery before being released - as long as there is no bleeding from the adenoid surgery from earlier in the day and Mary is eating and drinking. Mary is having her adenoids removed due to her moderate sized adenoids and her predominate mouth breathing. Mary, also known affectionately as our little "Darth Vader" sleeps throughout the night, but is not well rested and often has circles under her eyes. She snores like a trucker, has choking episodes in her sleep when she is congested from a cold, and kicks her feet in frustration while sleeping. We are hoping that this will help her be able to breathe easier through her nose and sleep deeper.  

We are told these surgeries are all routine and not to worry, but since we have a history of nothing going exactly as planned I am a little nervous. List of things I am worried/concerned about:
  •  Pain Control: I worry that Tylenol and Advil will not be enough for her pain. Sometimes I feel that children's pain is not considered as important as adult pain. Factor in a kid that can not speak clearly...
  • Anesthesiologist: We have been lucky enough in 3 out of 4 surgeries where the anesthesiologist has allowed me to accompany Mary back into the operating room. I usually sing to Mary and hold her hand while the IV is inserted and the breathing mask is placed on. Usually Mary cries silent tears as this is going on, showing me that she is trying to be brave - but is scared none the less. We don't want her to have to be brave by herself. Additionally, we know that Mary will have several more surgeries over the years. It is our goal to make these surgeries and hospital stays as comfortable as positive as possible. We know that it is important to have a calm and in-control demeanor in front of the anesthesiologist, so I will ensure I am the epitome of that tomorrow morning. At our pre-op appointment the anesthesiologist and I discussed accompanying Mary back and she said she would write a recommendation that I would be acceptable. So, here's hoping...
  • Miscommunication after surgery: we have been lucky for our previous surgeries to be able to meet Mary right after she is brought to her room after recovery. Standard procedure is for parents to hang out in the surgery waiting room while surgery is preformed. After surgery, the doctor comes to talk to the parents and explain how the procedure went and then parents are then sent up to the Peds ward to wait for their child. Unfortunately, we have known two families who have sat and sat in the surgery waiting room for the doctor who never showed up (maybe called into the next surgery and mix up in communication?) and the child was taken to the Peds floor without the parents there waiting. So I know I will be asking clearly who will be coming out to talk to us after surgery is completed and when we should be heading up to the Peds ward.
  • After effects from surgery: We know from past experience that Mary's sleep is considerably disturbed after surgery. Sometimes this has lasted a month or so, other times just a couple weeks. We know this may be due to the anesthetic from the surgery. We also know this may also be due to the trauma of surgery and the hospital stay. We are grateful that Mary is a bit older this time for surgery and can understand us when we are explaining to her what is going on, but she is still just a toddler. So while we are exhausted the weeks after surgery from lack of sleep, it is more heartbreaking to see Mary having the nightmares and wish we could see into her thoughts to help comfort her better. I also worry about how these surgeries and trauma affect her attachment to Cory and I. I know that us providing the care and love after surgery can help promote attachment, but I also have to wonder how us taking her to the hospital and handing her over for a medical procedure which will cause both emotional and physical pain. It is complicated. I feel very thankful that I was granted three days from work to stay home and care for Mary, I see lots of cuddling on the couch together and nice bubble baths. Cory will stay home on Thursday and Friday, and then I am off again on Friday as well as it is a district holiday. I am sure Sylvie will most likely ask to stay home during some of that time for extra cuddles as well. So next week will be busy and maybe a little draining to make sure the girls are able to get their needs met. 
I have several other worries ranging from: Will she be able to eat popsicles to help her throat - but then will that hurt her teeth?, How will she be after coming out of the anesthetic - it has not been pretty either time...but these are the main thoughts on my mind right now.

Mary and Mama will be up E.A.R.L.Y. (around 5 o'clock) in order to leave for the hospital at 5:45. Daddy will be getting Sylvie ready for day care and dropping her off before heading to the hospital to wait with me while Mary is in surgery (I hope he is bringing coffee and breakfast for me!). After surgery Mary, Mama and Daddy will be hanging out in the day surgery recovery room on the Pediatric wing of the hospital. I think this might be the only room we have not stayed in on that floor. We have the Kai Lin bag packed up with all things essential to occupy a toddler: IPad (loaded with lots of Elmo's World), stuffies, magnetic paper dress up dolls, felts and coloring pages. Since we have spent time on this floor before we know where all the Popsicles, pudding, jello, and ice cream is stored, so Mary should be quite happy tomorrow with her food choices. Hopefully we will all be home together for supper tomorrow night. We'll keep everyone updated through FBook tomorrow and I will try to update the blog from my phone. And some cuteness to leave you with..."M" is for Mary!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our little ballerinas...

Every Saturday morning we pull ourselves out of bed and after a quick breakfast get ready for one of the girls favorite activities of the week - dance class! To be honest, I think the part they enjoy the most is wearing their dance outfit and getting their hair done in buns with bobby pins!

Here they are at home warming up before heading off!
This is Sylvie's second go around with ballet. Last year she needed to hold the teacher's hand to do pretty much all of the activities. However, this year she is bouncing around with the rest of them. They are learning how to "plie", and Sylvie has had fun teaching her Daddy and Mama how to position our feet and bend our knees. The cutest part is when she calls out the instructions "p.j. down...p.j. up...". Since both mine and Cory's dance vocabulary is zero, we had to ask at the next class what "p.j." means, and realized is is actually plie - not too bad of a word connection for little Sylvie!

We weren't too sure how Mary would do. She was very upset the first week when just Sylvie went to ballet, even though she got to go with Daddy to get a special treat at Tim Horton's. Call me a sucker, but when the tears started rolling down her cheeks, I signed her up on the spot for the next week. We made sure to explain to her that she would not be in Sylvie's class since she is almost a year younger, but Mary was adamant that she wanted to go anyways. So off to Zellars we were to get her a little dance outfit as well. The next week we watched our fearless little girl head into the class without any tears or hesitation. She listened intently to the teacher and copied all the moves and followed all the directions (a marked difference between her and her sister!). We knew our little firecracker had great adaptive skills, but she continues to impress us all the time.  

One of the other great things about dance class is that we get to see our friends. Sylvie and Miah are in the same dance class again this year. And Mary loves playing with Miah's older sisters while her sister is in her class (particularly if they are playing on the iPhone, since Mama's is off limits!).
I have to admit though, they are the cutest little ballerina's I have ever seen.


Chinese New Year 2012

Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival is the most important of the Chinese traditional holidays. We recognize and celebrate this holiday together as a family and with friends to respect the cultural heritage of Sylvie and Mary (plus we're always up for a party!).

Since the Spring Festival is just over a two weeks long, we don't worry so much about celebrating on a specific day, but rather do many things over the fifteen days. Some of the traditions that we have incorporated into our family over the past three years include:
  • Spending time with family or friends, usually over a meal 
  • Getting hair cuts and new clothes for the New Year to represent a fresh start 
  • Cleaning the house just before the celebrations begin to "sweep out the bad luck" and allowing the good luck to enter
  • We decorate the house with paper lanterns and fire crackers on the front door 
  • Handing out red envelops (lai see) with money in them to children, along with some chocolate coins as well
In past years we have also gotten together as a large group with other families who have adopted children from China who live in the Okanagan. However, this year there was not a lunch and celebration organized. We did miss getting to see the many other families, so maybe next year we can see about trying to get another one organized.

Luckily we did get together with The Dennis Family for a lunch out to local Chinese restaurant. It has been very special watching the girls grow up together and slowly develop a little friendship. My girls also L.O.V.E. Miah's older sisters and often ask about when we will see them next (and if they will share playing the games on the IPhone). Can you believe we didn't even get one picture of the group of us for lunch? Or year. 

I wish Miah would teach Sylvie and Mary how to be photogenic for the camera! Good thing they are cute. 

I made up some little gift boxes for all the kids for lunch to keep them busy. Last year I had ordered a bunch of decorations and craft from Oriental Trading company, but with Mary's surgery we didn't get a chance to celebrate or even open the box. So it was quite fun putting together the boxes, and I think the kids enjoyed them.
Lunch ended up being close to two hours, but we didn't realize how long it had been until we were back in the truck heading home - thank goodness for felts and coloring pages! Cory and I were so impressed with how well all the girls did in the restaurant.
Fire crackers on our front door...
Some paper lanterns we hung around the house from the ceiling...
And some light up ones in the window...
Hope you had a great Spring Festival, I know we did... Gung Hay Fat Choi!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Daddy!

My dear, sweet husband is entering the last year before his decent into middle age. Therefore the girls and I decided Daddy would need a special supper (along with dessert) to celebrate.

For supper Daddy & Mommy had beef Pho soup from Daddy's favorite Vietnamese restaurant, and the girls had won ton soup. Since the girls were helping pick out the birthday cake, they decided that Daddy needed a pink, strawberry flavored cake! Which by the way, was actually pretty tasty!

Here are a few pictures of our little family celebration...
Funny Faces...
Twice the love!
And a little video of the girls singing Happy Birthday to their Daddy...

Happy Birthday to a wonderful husband and terrific father!