Sunday, December 18, 2016

reflections on 2016

Dear Family, Friends, and Blog Readers,

As the Christmas season is upon us and another year draws to a close, we want to take some time to pause and reflect on the past year. Our little family has undergone many changes over the past 12 months.

This year we experienced the world of parenthood, with its many challenges and rewards. After a fairly easy pregnancy, Olivia Joy made her appearance 1 day early. Since her arrival on June 15, she has kept us on our toes. A strong feeler with an intense personality, she has certainly not been the world's easiest baby! However, we love her to pieces and continue to take great delight at each new milestone she reaches. When she is not experiencing tummy troubles or gas pain, she is a happy baby and truly lives up to her middle name. Just like Daddy, she enjoys music. From classical, to Bluegrass, to hip-hop, she constantly moves to the beat in her Jolly Jumper! She also loves it when we sing or when Daddy plays his guitar. Thanks to a lovely baby shower in April, a sister-in-law who has twin girls, and Mommy's keen eye for thrift store finds, we have not had to make any major purchases for Olivia thus far. What a blessing! 

The second major event of our year was to create a finished living space above the new garage. Due to some initial difficulty in getting our permits, we got off to a late start. The framing was completed and the insulation installed before Olivia's arrival, but drywall, paint, carpet and trim all had to be done yet over summer. We were able to get things wrapped up in September and are pleased to be all settled in. The additional space has allowed us to created two additional bedrooms and a large storage area. We were also able to complete the new siding on the rest of the house to match the garage. After over 6 years of renovating and building, we can finally say the house is done! Come spring, though, we hope to install a privacy fence to create an outdoor play space for Olivia. We also plan to do some additional landscaping.

Mr. Gryce continues working as a Senior Software Developer, and I am enjoying being at home full-time. I do not miss supply teaching, though I may eventually tutor from home again. In August we were able to go out and celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary, thanks to Aunt Jess who babysat.

In closing, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and God's blessings in the New Year.


Go here to read last year's letter. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

loft renovation

In mid-March, we started gearing up to convert the loft above our garage into usable living space. Unfortunately, we ran into a bunch of red tape that delayed our plans by about 6 weeks. Instead of providing the usual blueprints and filling out the typical paperwork, we had to have a heating/duct design plan drawn up. We were also told we would have to upgrade our entire septic system to accommodate the additional occupancy that adding two extra bedrooms entailed. All this just to get a building permit! 

Well, a new septic system was not in the budget, so we had to prove that we were technically not adding additional bedrooms. (Our home was listed as a 3-bedroom, but one of those bedrooms [the office] had no closet and had a door that opened directly out on to the front porch. We were losing the other bedroom as it would become part of the new hallway for the loft.) The chief building inspector finally agreed with our reasoning, and approved us for our permit. Finally, we were ready to start!

We hired Walt Schaly Design/Build to do the work since we were extremely happy with their work on the garage last year. (Also, baby Gryce was due to arrive in only a few short months.)

The first order of business was to cut the hole in the wall to join our existing house to the loft. This was easier said than done. Since it was formerly an exterior wall, there was lots of wood and spray-foam insulation to cut through.

Cory and Bruce framed in a couple of walls to make 2 bedrooms and a large hallway / storage room.

Mr. Gryce ran all the heating ductwork and did the electrical wiring himself.

 We hired Reid's Insulating to spray-foam all the exterior walls, plus the floor (since it is right above the garage.) 

They got the job done just in time for baby Gryce's arrival.

We took a couple weeks off, and then we had the guys from Top Notch Drywall come in to do their thing.

Finally, while baby Olivia napped, I was ready to start painting!

We built this bench seat in the hallway to hide the ductwork:

Cory and Bruce came back to do all the trimwork once the paint was dry. It was finally starting to take shape. I couldn't wait to get the curtains hung!

We got Jim Smardenkas from Wilson's Flooring to install the carpet throughout.

The bench seat we built to hide all the ductwork became a handy dumping spot as we began the process of finally moving in.... 

One area of the hallway is our new exercise / storage room:

Our completed spare bedroom:

And our completed baby nursery:

It has been very exciting to FINALLY move the last of our boxes and furniture out of my mom's basement, now that we have the space in our house. We've also been able to de-clutter a few of our other rooms. There's still a few things to touch-up, including the old spare bedroom, which will be a work / play room, but we're in the home stretch!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

and then there were three....

Jared and I had always been planning to one day have children. Only a few months after we started dating, we discussed and settled on one boy name and one girl name for our potential children. Unfortunately, because of our house renovations, it would be quite some time before we would actually be ready to have children.

Jared’s Uncle Glenn, the man who was like a father to him, passed away on September 27, 2015. At this point, we had been trying for about eight months to conceive, and that day, Jared specifically prayed that God would breathe new life into our home and family. As Jared’s sister, Jessica, was leaving our home that day, she said from the car window, “Don’t be surprised if you get pregnant this month!” Little did she know, her prophetic words were about to come true!

I got a positive result on a home pregnancy test on October 14, the day the Toronto Blue Jays were playing the Texas Rangers in game 5 of the playoffs and had the epic seventh inning. The game was in full-swing when Jared got home from work, so I planned to tell him after it was over. Unfortunately that didn’t quite go as planned when Jared saw the test wrapper in the bathroom garbage. He assumed it was negative since we’d been disappointed before. Imagine his surprise when I told him it was positive. Between his excitement over that, and his adrenaline rush from the baseball game, he immediately dropped to the floor and began doing pushups! Thus began our journey into parenthood.

The next nine months passed quite uneventfully. I was slightly nauseous for the first 12 weeks, and other than fatigue and a few instances of heartburn, I didn't experience too many negative effects. I went back to work just before Christmas, and was able to work until May 20. Providentially, nearly all my supply teaching assignments during that time were at the school just down the road from our home.  

Just before Valentine’s Day, we found out the gender of our baby: a girl. Even though the doctors predicted my due date to be June 22, I was certain that it was June 16 and that our baby girl was just petite.

We spent a lot of time listening to the song "No Longer Slaves" as we prepared our hearts for parenthood. 

The words resonated with our hearts and I don't know how many times I prayerfully sang these words over our baby girl:

"From my mother's womb you have chosen me
Love has called my name.
I've been born again, into your family,
Your blood flows through my veins.

I'm not longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.

You split the sea so I could walk right through it
You drowned my fears in perfect love.
You rescued me so I could stand and sing,
I am a child of God."

I was rather disappointed when I discovered I had only made the waiting list for a midwife. While I wanted a hospital birth, I was really hoping for the more personalized care of a midwife. I wanted the person delivering my baby to be someone who actually knew me, not just whichever doctor happened to be on-call. Neither of my two best friends have children, so as much as I would have liked for them to be there, I wasn't sure how much practical help they would be able to give me.  Who else could I ask? More importantly, who else did I trust? My circle of friends was small. The prospect of labour and delivery was terrifying. Who would understand and empathize with all my anxiety? Who would be good for my heart? There was only one name that came to mind: Jessica, Jared's sister.

I hesitated. I have always had difficulty asking people for help; I don't want to be an inconvenience or burden to anyone. Having Jessica there would require a huge commitment on her part; she was busy with three of her own children. Besides, my due date was right around her anniversary and her son's birthday--pretty much the most hectic time of the year for her. I shelved the idea, but I couldn't forget it completely.  However, about a month before my due date, Jessica and I got together for lunch. Out of the blue, she asked, "Do you have anyone besides Jared as a labour support person?" I shook my head. Then she said, "Would you like me to be there?" Sheepishly, I admitted that I'd been wanting to ask her for quite some time. We both got teary, as we realized that God had orchestrated this, and that I was not going to be alone.

Sunday, June 12 would have been my dad’s birthday. I was hoping that our daughter would share her late Pake’s birthday, but instead we went to church as usual. The sermon happened to be called “The Power of a Parent’s Blessing” by guest pastor Neil Campbell. He outlined the importance of pronouncing blessing over our children at very specific stages in their development, and gave some powerful examples of what it could look like.  It was a very emotional service, as we grieved places where our own parents had failed, but were encouraged when several friends from the congregation spoke words of blessing over us and our baby. We were also surprised by a gorgeous homemade baby quilt from another friend. 

With our due date looming closer, it was no surprise that I spent the entire next day cleaning the house from top to bottom. The nesting urge that I had read so much about had finally kicked in. Labour was imminent. After a very busy day, I went to bed around 11:30pm. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt something dripping…sure enough, my water had broken. It was 12:10am on June 14.

Because I had tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS), I had to go to the hospital for antibiotics, even though I was not feeling any contractions. We arrived at BGH at 3am but unfortunately, it was a very busy night with lots of other women in labour and giving birth. Since I was not in active labour, I was hooked up to an IV and pretty much left alone.

Jared had texted Jessica who arrived shortly after 7am, even though my labour was not progressing at all. She brought us snacks and we walked the halls for a while until I was finally moved to a room. We waited here all day, much to my frustration. At this point, I was really starting to feel exhausted, since I had not slept at all that night, and was too anxious to nap. When I reached the point of tears, both Jared and Jess prayed over me.

Finally my doctor arrived around 4pm, and after a quick exam, told me that after all this time, I was only 1cm dilated and that my cervix was not effaced (thinned) at all; he recommended I be induced.  After being in the hospital for over 12 hours already, I was only too happy to get things started. I was moved to a labour and delivery room, hooked to another IV and more machines, and things were finally underway by 5pm. After a couple of hours, the contractions were getting pretty intense. The nurse asked if I would like her to call the anesthesiologist and see if he was available to begin an epidural. I agreed, and was told he could be there in 10 minutes.

Jared and Jessica were not allowed to be in the room while the epidural started. I suddenly felt really overwhelmed and began to cry. I knew I was having an anxiety attack. The nurse came right over and held my hands through the entire thing, making sure I was taking deep breaths. Finally it was over, and they helped me lie down. The epidural kicked in and I could relax.

The next few hours were a blur, as I was so exhausted and overwhelmed. I was told I needed to get some sleep, otherwise I wouldn’t have any energy to push the baby out when it was time. Unfortunately, this only fueled my anxiety and my inability to sleep. A nurse kindly brought me a fan for some white noise, even though it didn’t help me sleep. Every hour, I had to be turned and checked to see if the epidural was still working. I kept my eyes shut in order to block out the extra stimuli, as well as to try and hide my tears that didn’t seem to want to stop. I do remember that Jess came and sat with me for a while and stroked my hair to try and calm me down. Later, I recall her complaining about Jared least one of us managed to get a few winks that night!

Despite the epidural, as the night wore on, I started to feel intense pain with every contraction. I was told the baby’s head was sitting on a nerve and the epidural could not do anything for it. As I thought about the next few hours and days ahead, I had another anxiety attack that one of the nurses, Kristin T., talked me though. In fact, she pretty much stayed by my side for the rest of the night. It turned out that she lived only a few minutes down the road from us; I even knew her son from supply teaching at his school! She was fantastic, helping me breathe through each contraction and keeping me distracted enough to not to think about the next one coming.

Finally, I was 10 cm dilated! Ideally, they would have had me wait longer and let my body do more of the work, but they decided to have me start pushing to try and help alleviate the pain. I was just so grateful that after nearly 50 sleepless hours, the end was in sight, and that a C-section was not needed. Because the baby’s heart rate was not coming back up after each contraction as quickly as he would like, the doctor eventually used a vacuum to help speed up the delivery process. Finally after 40 minutes of pushing, our daughter, Olivia Joy entered the world at 1:39am on June 15.

Despite the lengthy ordeal at the hospital, it was clear that God has had us in his care through this whole process. We were blessed with amazing nurses, and ended up with a private room for the rest of our hospital stay. Jared summed it up quite nicely with these words: 

"It has been a surreal experience. Having held her for the first time, I cried a lot. I remember going to churches in my 20’s advocating on behalf of Compassion Canada to encourage others to sponsor children from underdeveloped countries. I strongly recommended writing to these children and telling the little girls that they are 'very lovely, pretty, worth fighting for, that they are the apple of God’s eye and are to be part of something very significant.' And after many years of arduous planning, renovating and preparing my heart for fatherhood as I go to prepare a place for this little one, I am very excited that I get to tell these truths to my daughter everyday so she may know she is deeply loved and understood. What an amazing responsibility we have before us!"

Monday, May 30, 2016

maternity photos - 35 weeks

A few weeks ago, our talented friend Julie came to our house and took some maternity photos for us. Despite the cold temperatures, wind gusts, and rain showers, she managed to capture some beautiful images. Here are some of our favourites: