Friday, January 8, 2010

our family now

We realize it has been a long time since we have posted anything and thought we would put a few new pictures up. Our family has grown in the past year (but that is another story), and we are all doing well. Ivanna is in preschool and we have become those parents who want their kids to grow more slowly. She continues to delight and amaze us and keep us laughing. She loves to have fun.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

a year later...

We've been thinking quite a bit about our time in Ukraine a year ago. We tried to read our blog entries every day a year later in order to relive the experiences a bit. With a bit of distance, it still amazes us how well things went. As we predicted when in Ukraine, we are now pretty nostalgic about much of it. And how could we not be? It now feels like a marvelous adventure where we got to know our daughter a bit before bringing her home. Although I (Darren) am occasionally accused of living more in the past than in the present, these days it is pretty easy to be in the now. Frankly, life is pretty good.
Shona here now. Ivanna has continued to grow (she's 6 inches taller than a year ago), learn and blossom into an even more delightful little girl. We continue to just revel in the fact that she is our daughter. What a gift she is to us and we continue to be so grateful and thankful. We have spent the last few months doing much of the same. It's amazing how little time there is between breakfasts, playing, snack, playing, lunch, nap, reading books, snack, playing, walking to pick up Daddy at work, supper, and bedtime. We've had many playdates and suppers with friends and more playdates. We went as a family with Ivanna's buddy, Natalie and her family to Fairmont for week in March. 4 adults and 3 children under 3 in a 7 seater minivan, and all went surprisingly well. The kids did marvelously with the long drives and we all had a relaxing time there. I (Shona) did about 2 months of working 2 days a week, to help out at my workplace and Ivanna did well with being away from her Mama - getting to spend time with her nana, papa, and daddy helped. Ivanna and I accompanied Darren on a work trip to Waskesiu in June and we stayed for a brief family vacation overnight (we would have stayed longer, but the weather was cold and rainy). We've also just come back from a weekend up in Nipawin visiting Ivanna's Great Grandma and Grandpa (Darren's Grandparents) and discovered just how light sensitive our daughter is for sleeping as it doesn't get dark up there until after 10PM...not good...but a great visit nonetheless. Our plans for the summer are to spend as much time outside in the parks as possible, go to family camp at Oshkidee and try some camping (likely later in the summer when it gets dark sooner!)
We've just celebrated Ivanna's 3rd birthday. Wow. We have a 3 year old! We had her party at a local indoor pool (the weather was too threatening to have a pool party, as planned, at Nana and Grandpa's) and true to Ivanna's interests, when it came time for her to blow out her candles, she threw a little fit, and said 'no cake' and promptly jumped back into the pool...not caring that neither parent was near. She loves the water and would much rather play than eat sweets! Eventually we convinced her to come out and blow out the candles and at least the other kids got some cake! Anyway, that's our update...we'll post pictures soon :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Some more pics...

Ivanna loves chocolate like her mom!
'Helping' to decorate the Christmas tree
Out for a walk on the riverbank
First time skating
Talking on the phone (or calculator)
Holding baby 'Seal' (Theo)

Winter fun

So much for updating each month...

What is new?

Ivanna has two new cousins (Theo - born to Tanis and Jonathan Jan31, and Jonathan - born to Val and Jason Feb8). We are thankful for good health all around. She is quite entranced with the new babies and likes to hold and kiss them. Although her attention span for them is still short and she quickly moves on to other interests! She has been playing alot more with her 'baby' (doll) since they have come along. Her own baby seems to be called 'baby Theo' but we'll have to see if that sticks now that baby Jonathan is also around. Initially she had trouble with Theo's name and when she talked about him, she'd say 'baby seal...arf, arf arf - with the hand motions and everything. It was pretty cute. After Jonathan's arrival, we told her she had another new baby cousin and that we were going to meet him. We told her his name was 'baby Jonathan'. She has since deduced that he is 'baby uncle' (as she has an uncle Jonathan!). It's been pretty consistent so far and makes us giggle. Oh how the mind of a toddler works!

Other than the new arrivals, there is not much new or exciting around here. Christmas was alot of fun - overwhelming at times...but fun. It was really quite a special time for us - especially when we thought about last Christmas (we had heard just before Christmas that we had to redo most of our dossier and were feeling pretty discouraged, frustrated and sad). This year, Darren had the time off work and only did a little work on final revisions of his dissertation (which he defended before Christmas), so we spent lots of time together and with family and friends.

It will be a year at the end of February since we heard of our appoinment date. It is really hard to believe that we have been home as long as we have and that Ivanna has done so well. She has grown a full 3 inches since June and seems to be feeding up for another growth spurt. While she continues to have moments (and sometimes entire days) that are trying for her parents as she behaves like any two year old - most of the time she is a truly delightful little girl. Regardless of her behaviour, we love her very much and feel very blessed. Her language is coming along and she continues to display alot of physical gifts and skills. She's beginning to be more interested in story books (as opposed to picture dictionary-type books which she loves), but still hasn't shown much interest in TV (OK with us!). We are doing both her music and gymnastics classes again this term and she continues to love both. We've gone swimming fairly regularly with Val, Jason and their kids and she really ought to have gills. She still has no fear and thinks she can swim (not a great combo right now - we have to watch her closely!)

Shona is starting to look at return-to-work options and we are thinking about childcare options. Crazy. Darren submitted his dissertation last month and is waiting on bound copies (yay.). He has settled into his work pretty well. We are really glad to have our Fridays together (he's working 80%).

We are looking forward to somewhat more temperate weather in the spring and summer as the last few weeks have been extra frigid and make it impossible for us to get outside even to play for a few minutes (-45C with the windchill is just too cold!!!) and Ivanna really does love to be outside. We've managed to get her out skating once (she lasted about 10 minutes!) and shovelled out her swing set so she could swing on one of the nicer days (yes, she still loves to swing!) but other than that it's mostly 'run, run run' (to and from house/car) and 'leave your mitts's too cold to take them off ' (do all toddlers ALWAYS take off their mitts?)! Her love of wearing skirts and dresses are also a challenge when it's this cold!

We do plan to continue updating periodically, but have obviously failed miserably with the monthly updates! Reminders do help to get us going!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Reading with Sam

Reading with Will and Eilidh and Auntie Val

going trick-or-treating with Natalie

Halloween with the MacKenzie cousins...

Halloween with the Nickel cousins

my first bubble bath - I loved it!

kissing 'Jakey'

2year old + 1 bucket at the cottage=hours of fun!


Is he going to eat me?

Exercising with Will!
Wow. Time flies when you are having fun! It is hard for us to believe that it has been almost 3 months since we have updated our blog - so much for the monthly updates - sorry! Life at home with Ivanna continues to be a delightful adventure. In early September, Ivanna and I (Shona) flew to Ottawa with my parents to spend some time at 'the cottage' on Big Gull Lake. We had a wonderful time there with Auntie Joyce and 'Grandpa' Gord and other family that came to visit. The weather was lovely and we spent as much of our time outdoors as we could. It is amazing just how a child can entertain herself with very few toys when there is the great outdoors to play in! Ivanna was enchanted with Jake (Joyce and Gord's Dalmation) and once she had mastered the cottage door was very happy to serve as Jake's door opener. She gave him much love over the week there and continues to call any Dalmation 'Jakey'! I think he is still recovering from her attention/affection. We learned our little swimmer is not so fond of cold water and the concern of being so close to water with a 2 year old lessened after she'd been in the cold lake once or twice. From then on if you mentioned going in she would back away and say 'no wanna'! It was a relaxing week and wonderful to introduce her to extended family. Darren unfortunately couldn't come as he was working hard on his thesis - next time though. Since our return home, we have settled into our fall routines. Darren started working through the University in a research position and continued to work hard on his thesis and so has been quite busy. Ivanna started a music class for toddlers and mom's with her auntie Lecia, which she has grown to love (she's not much for sitting still and has quite a mind of her own, so a structured class was a little challenging at first - but now she seems to really enjoy it). We spend much of the rest of our week repeating the songs we learn in music class. 2 year olds sure do like repetition! We also are in a parent/tot gymnastics class, which is quite a lot of fun. Again quite structured which Ivanna does not always enjoy, but she sure does love to jump and swing and do summersaults! We do both of these classes with our neighbours (Jen and Rob) and their little girl Natalie - the girls have become quite the little buddies. Besides these classes, we spend time with friends playing or going to the library story time, as well as weekly having tea with the ladies from Darren's mom's side of the family (where Ivanna plays with some of her cousins). I've also been going the mom's program at our church which is a nice break as they provide childcare for the children. The weeks fly by. This fall we also participated in a Parent Language Program through the local hospital Speech/Language Pathology Department. We have learned many ways to help Ivanna's language to continue to develop and it does seem to be helping. She has a phenominal vocabulary, considering she's only heard english for 6 months, but has been somewhat slow in starting to put words together in phrases. This has really improved in the last several weeks and she talks constantly at home. She's still not exactly understandable to strangers - but we generally know what she is saying! "No wanna" continues to be a favorite phrase, but I suppose that is relatively normal for 2! Other excitement this fall was Ivanna's first Halloween in Canada - where she dressed up as a ladybug (or 'budeedee' as she calls them). It didn't take her long to figure out that people would give her candy as we went to the doors (she didn't master 'trick or treat', but did manage to learn 'treat'!)- we only did a few houses in our area where we know people and she certainly gave us funny looks as we passed other houses when she saw other children going up the walks! It was quite fun and after a drive to visit both sets of grandparents and meet up with all the cousins, she went to bed quite late and exhausted!

In the last week, Darren has submitted his thesis to his commitee and that is a tremendous relief. He will have more time to spend with us as a family once he has finished his defence, as he is working 80%. I have formally requested an extension of my leave from work and so will not be returning to my position until the fall of 2008. So life in our little family is settling down. It is a good life and we are daily grateful.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer Fun...

Having a snack with some of her cousins (Misha and Sabrina)

Playing with Will

Sunday evening supper at Nana and Grampa MacKenzie's (playing with Dad's coke can)

Just generally being a monkey!

Finding swings wherever we go (at family camp)

Camping at Pike lake

Playing and having fun in Nana and Papa (Nickel's) yard

Playing with Sam and a box...need we say more?

Having a blast at the zoo with Auntie Val, Uncle Jason, Eilidh and Will

Ivanna's 2nd birthday party at Pike Lake

Mooching dessert from Grampa (or Bampa as Ivanna says)

Swimming with her Nanas - she now LOVES water!

Reading with Eilidh

Sharing Papa's dessert... yes this is a theme of her life (mooching her grandparents' desserts)

Well, life is good and fun in the Nickel household. It is hard to believe the summer is almost over and we are planning fall activities. This has been an amazing summer and we are feeling very blessed and thankful. Ivanna continues to adjust well. Her language is coming along in leaps and bounds and she has become quite a little parrot - repeating most things we say (time to become more cautious with what we say!). She is very fond of all her family and loves to spend time with all her cousins. She now definately has a name for each of her cousins (some more acurate to the real thing than others - Tug=Sam, Wow=Will, etc...) It is such a joy to see her grow and develop. We are definitely learning A LOT and have our moments when we are amazed at just how classically 2 she can be; but she is generally a delightful child. This morning (after being lead back to her room to play/read quietly on her own at 6:45) she came back into our room around 7:20 and came quietly up to the bed, placed a stuffed dog beside me and then went around to Darren and put a stuffed bunny on his head. How sweet is that? She is a very dear child. She continues to love animals and we are trying to teach her not to torment Nana and Grandpa MacKenzie's dog (she tries hard to chase her and loves to help Nana take her for a walk). She loved the zoo when we went last week and I think we'll make good use of the yearly membership we bought (chickens are still a hit!) We spent a week at a family camp up north of Meadow Lake where she learned to tolerate the sand (at first we had to swim in deep water only). It was a fantastic time. We've also had lots of fun playing in our yard, going to parks with friends and cousins - basically being outside as much as possible. Yeah, we're having fun. Life is good.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life at home...

It is really hard to believe that we have been home for about as long as we were in Ukraine. Time has gone much quicker here. We have settled quite well into somewhat of a routine and are really enjoying our daughter. She has adapted incredibly well and at times we really have to remind ourselves that we've only had her for 7 weeks. She is such a wonderful little girl and has really just blossomed since we've had her with us. It's been incredible to watch. She is most definately well attached to us, but also is quite attached to both sets of grandparents and all her cousins, aunties and uncles. We have pictures on our fridge of the cousins that she looks at and points to (and often kisses) several times each day - it's pretty cute! She's got her own version of most of their names down (for example Will is 'wow' and Sam is 'tug' - we're not sure of the connection but it suits him!) She knows both her grandparents' houses and gets quite excited to get out of the car or stroller as soon as she sees them. She has settled in so well to our families that in many ways it is like she was always here.
We continue to learn alot about Ivanna and experience many firsts and watch her expand her little world. While at first, water was quite terrifying to her and she HATED her bath time (as in kicking and screaming hated), now she has turned into a little fish in her Nana and Grandpa MacKenzie's pool and loves her bath. The transformation started by watching her cousins (Eilidh and Will) having FUN in the bath and then progressed to having a bath with her cousin Sam (who loves the bath) to now she goes to the bath and holds up the plug and points to the taps and says 'please' with a very cute expression on her face. The pool has also helped. While at first she was a little tentative (at least I think I remember her actually being tentative the first time or two - she's so different now!) and clung to me (Shona) and her daddy, she eventually discovered that splashing is FUN and then that water is fun. After a couple of visits she was jumping in (to my increased stress) from the edge without hanging on to me and was quite happy to go right under the water (with me to pull her up). Now we mostly put her in a life jacket (and she's progressed to jumping off the diving board)! In the life jacket she will kick and try to swim and will purposefully put her face in the water and will 'dive' under the rope dividing the shallow and deep ends lifting it over her as she goes under it. It's amazing -- and actually hard to remember just how tentative she was about water a few short weeks ago!
Ivanna also really loves to be outside and will play for hours (if we let her) on the play structure in the backyard or in the parks near our home. We have realised that she is really quite a physically-gifted child as she is quite strong for her age, is incredibly flexible and has no fear. She will try to climb anything (and is able to climb most play structures - even those made for much older children!). She definately keeps us running!
In the last month, we also went camping and she had a lot of fun. She and I (Shona) went with Tanis and her boys to a nearby camp-ground (Pike Lake) and stayed for most of a week, camping with other friends. It was so much fun. The pool there is ideal for kids (zero-entry) and also has a water slide (which, surprise surprise, she loved riding down with me). Our days were fantastic and lots of fun but our nights were a little rough as she and I both had bad colds, and she had croup the first night there (not fun to deal with on your own without medical assistance close by!). We both survived and learned that she reacts with cold medication, so we will NEVER EVER give it to her again (lets just say that 4 hours of a manic/hyper child in a small tailer from 11PM to 3am is not a good experience!). We have since learned that the nightime version is tolerable and she doesn't go wild with it. Ah. Life lessons learned the hard way.
We had her 2nd birthday party out at Pike Lake and that was a lot of fun and provided a lot of space for the kids to run around. She hadn't napped that day (other than 10 minutes in the car - which apparently she thought was enough) so by the end of the party as we put her in the vehicle and said goodbye to family she sleepily said (and signed) to me 'tired, night night'. So we fed her wieners and put her to bed. A good day.
Food has been another adventure. As we got NO information from the orphanage about her usual foods, we've been kind of winging it. We've discovered that most of the time she would gobble up oatmeal in the morning and thick, chunky soup/stew for lunch (yes she'd even eat all the vegetables). Those were my 'sure things'. Well, a week of camping with her cousins now has her eating hot dogs like CRAZY and fries and ketchup. That's a balanced diet right? She also will now eat cheese (especially cheese strings - what Sam has, Ivanna wants - how that has helped her to eat more things!) and yogurt cheese (Minigo) and she'll eat a few other options for fruit besides bananas, so at least she'll now eat something in all the food groups! I'm learning to be more relaxed and let her eat what she will and not to push what she won't (she is 2 after all - the more I push, the more she pushes back! DN: yeah, I'm learning that one too. I figured that since I am older, I ought to have a stronger will. oops. not so). It really is an adventure all round.
Anyway, that's all I have time for now. She will be waking up from her nap soon so off I must run. Know that we are all doing well and loving being home. We'll post more recent pictures soon and will try to continue to post at least monthly updates for all our loved ones who live far away and don't get to experience the adventure first hand!
Shona, Darren and Ivanna