Monday, January 7, 2019

2018 Recap

I am a little late on this and had hoped to have this written for January 1st, least it's still January! 

2018 was such a time of relief and respite for our family.  After a very challenging 2017 that left us wondering if 2018 would be Abby's last year with us, she made outstanding improvement and is the healthiest she has been in quite a while.  We are so very thankful and the valleys we have experienced have caused us to be even more thankful for the mountain tops!

January started with the promise of a new year and the hope that 2018 would be better.  Santa had brought us tickets to see Shrek the Musical at a dinner theater, and we were able to enjoy the rare occasion of taking Abby out of the house (armed with Lysol wipes, of course!)  We celebrated Caleb's 11th birthday with pizza and a movie with friends and he got tickets to The Spy Museum and to see Newsies in March.  Matt and Caleb thoroughly enjoyed the Spy Museum when they went later in the month.
Caleb's birthday celebration

In February, we enjoyed Caleb's All-County band concert.  He played trumpet and although he chose chorus over band for 6th grade, he is looking forward to going back to the band next year.  He also went to 6th grade orientation at the end of February and walked around in a nervous huddle with his group of friends.

We were humbled and amazed by our wonderful school family who threw a huge spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser for us and another family in March.  Although Abby couldn't be there with us, I Facetimed her in so that she could see all of the people who came to support her.  It was pretty incredible, and we were so thankful.  We also all were able to enjoy Caleb's birthday present of Newsies at Toby's Dinner Theater.  It was such a fun show with lots of dancing!

In April, Matt and I celebrated our 14th anniversary and were able to go away for the weekend to Cape May.  We enjoyed whale watching and just slowing down a bit!  Caleb was chosen to receive a Carson's Scholar Award and we celebrated with a wonderful banquet in Baltimore.  It was really neat to meet Ben and Candy Carson.  On April 23rd, Abby was finally able to join her class for the first time this year!  She was absolutely thrilled to be back in school, and I finally let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding.
Cape May, NJ
Cape May Whalewatching

Carson Scholarship Awards Banquet

We enjoyed lots of performances by Caleb in May!  He sang his first solo in the spring chorus concert, played in his final elementary band concert, and performed as Lefou in the school's production of Beauty and the Beast.  He was a hit and got lots of laughs!  We love how musical Caleb is and really enjoy watching him perform!  I was also able to go with Caleb on his 5th grade field trip to West River.  This was such a fun trip and a great way to end the year.
Curtain Call

Caleb with his friends
In June, Caleb said goodbye to elementary school and was recognized for several awards for academics.  What we were most proud of was that he was chosen for the Kindness Award!  Soon after school ended, my entire family went on an amazing trip to Alaska for a Disney Cruise!  It was SO much fun and we made a lot of special memories, including petting sled dogs, touching a glacier, and seeing dozens of bald eagles flying around.
5th grade recognition

Disney Alaska Cruise
cuddling the sled dogs

meeting a new friend
touching a piece of a glacier

Matt celebrated his 40th birthday in July and we went on a weekend trip to NYC with great friends.  We saw Sponge Bob, the Musical and Phantom of the Opera, and also enjoyed the people watching in the city!  Since Abby could finally swim this summer (the last few years she has had surgical wounds and was unable to be in the water), we spent a lot of time in the pool.  She also bought herself a bike and enjoyed riding it in the school parking lot.  We were devastated to hear of the loss of our beloved surgeon, Dr. Campbell, who created the VEPTR device that saved Abby's life.  He is sorely missed.
NYC Central Park
swimming at the indoor pool

Both Caleb and Abby went to performing arts camp this year and enjoyed singing and dancing.  Caleb was finally old enough to join the youth group at church and loved being able to go to Six Flags.  We went to several Ravens events with The Ronald McDonald House and were excited to also begin volunteering at RMH again.  The kids rounded out the summer with a Therapeutic Recreation camp for kids with special needs and their siblings. 
Go Ravens
Ravens cutie

first day of ballet
Just before school started in September, Matt and I finally were able to see Hamilton at the Kennedy Center!!  We sang quietly along to every song but we don't think we disturbed anyone around us!  Abby started 2nd grade and Caleb started 6th.  Middle school proved to be a tough transition that we are still dealing with in the start of 2019, but he is getting there.  Abby started taking ballet with Lucy on Mondays and adaptive swim lessons on Saturdays.  Both have played a role in getting her stronger and helping her stretch her muscles.
first day of 2nd and 6th grade
Hamilton at the Kennedy Center

October brought fun fall activities with the schools and the youth group.  Abby thoroughly enjoyed her birthday party at a local cooking school and has continued to love cooking with me.  I had a jaw surgery and we had to get a new AC and heating unit, so our tax return was spent before the taxes were even filed!  For Halloween, Caleb dressed up as a fencer and Abby was Rapunzel. 
Abby's birthday celebration
learning to peel an apple

cousin friends
the big 8 year old

Rapunzel and the fencer

In November, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family.  We were especially thankful that my grandmother was with us after suffering a stroke.  This month also marked the first meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Caleb's middle school!  Caleb and Sara did all of the leg work to get the group off of the ground and we are so proud of their dedication!
First day of FCA

As usual, December was a busy month!  We enjoyed the usual winter and Christmas events, as well as a special program at our church that allowed guests to experience what life was like in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  Abby and I enjoyed the show Anastasia at The Hippodrome, which she received for her birthday.  We participated in one of our favorite family traditions of giving out awards in our community for the best Christmas lights displays.  Christmas morning was exciting, as always!  Caleb was floored to realize that he'd received a ticket to see Hamilton this summer, and Abby was thrilled with her doll and Barbie items.  Santa also brought the family a new Smart TV and a weekend at Massanutten to go snowtubing!  The day after Christmas, the kids went with their grandparents and cousins to see The Little Mermaid at Toby's Dinner Theater.  On the 27th, we headed south to Charlotte, NC to visit Matt's family for a few days.  New Year's Eve was celebrated at home playing family games and watching movies--just the way we like it!
Church Bethlehem program

Meeting Anastasia

Christmas morning

 That is 2018 in a nutshell!  As I said before, our hearts are so much more grateful for the good times because we have experienced some really challenging years.  We trust that 2019 will be a year of growth and thankfulness for our family and yours!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Next Big Thing

I started this 3 years ago or more, when one of Abby’s specialists started asking us, “When’s the next big thing?”  He meant surgery, of course, and I hated how the “big things” in our lives were Abby’s surgeries.  

That night, I used the chalk board on our coffee table (really a repurposed toy chest) to write The Next Big Thing.  Then I listed all of the fun things we were looking forward to and their dates.  This practice has stuck with us, and the kids love it!  They get excited to see their birthday on there, or that a special event they are involved in made the board.  It keeps our focus on all of the fun things we have going on instead of drifting toward the negatives.  

I updated the board today.  As you can see, we have lots to look forward to in the next 2 months!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Time Saver!!

So, I try to be a Pinterest mom.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it turns out more like this.  

(Just ask me about the nail polish cookies sometime!) 😆😆😆

I recently learned about Paperless Post, and guys, I think I found a way to make my life easier!!  This company has the CUTEST e-cards and invitations!  You can add your own pictures to many of them and the editing is very simple.  Here are a few cute ones that I found: 
(great name too, right?!)

(fun Harry Potter card)

(my Ninja boy would like this and you can actually put your child's face in as the ninja!)

And man, I wish I'd found Paperless Post before Abby's cooking party!  Check out this PERFECT invitation that would have saved me so much time!

I love the cookie envelopes that go with this one.  Check them out here.

Many of the designs are free and others can be created by purchasing coins.  Each card you send out is a certain number of coins depending on the complexity of the card.  (Ie: photo cards will cost more per card you send out than a card without a personalized photo).  But when you compare this to the amount we pay each year on Christmas cards...this is a BARGAIN!!

I think the thing I like best is that it cuts down so much on time and money spent printing cards and mailing them.  With Matt working at our church, we give out A LOT of Christmas cards!  While I will still send out some Christmas cards this year, I'm planning to send Paperless Post e-cards to some and possibly transition over to all e-cards next year.  I've already started working on my Paperless Post design, but no sneak peeks on that one!  :)

So check out Paperless Post and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated by Paperless Post in exchange for my honest opinions.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Letter to My Daughter

My dear, sweet, Abby Joy,

What. A. Year!  This time last year, we honestly weren't sure if you would be here for your 8th birthday.  What a mighty God we have who has healed you and allowed you to flourish in the last 6 months!!  You have come such a long way, and we are so grateful.

While you started out your 7th year a bit rough and pretty limited in what you could do, in April you returned to school and were able to finally join your 1st grade class in person! 

You finished out the year LOVING every second of school, and then started the summer with an amazing trip to Alaska! 

Your favorite memories of the trip a meeting the sled dog puppies and going to Kids Club on the ship.

We had an awesome summer and played so hard!  You participated in a theater camp and a camp through Therapeutic Recreation.  It was so good to see you playing again.

Your second grade year has started out great and you are loving your teacher.  Of course, your awesome one-on-one is by your side every step of the way!  We sure do love Mrs. D.!

This year, you are taking dance lessons, piano lessons, and swim lessons!  You are busy and loving it!  We have been amazed at how well you are doing with your swimming, and so quickly!  You haven't had much of a chance to get in the water with all of your surgeries, so we are thankful you are enjoying yourself.

Thankfully, you have had a nice break from surgeries to allow your body to heal and recover from all of the trauma it had.  While you still don't enjoy the blood work you have to get, we are so thankful that the infections have stayed away!

I am so proud to call you my daughter and am amazed that God chose me to be your mom.  My favorite thing about you is your laugh.  It is pure and without restraint, and oh, so contagious!!  You love fiercely and aren't afraid to show it.  Despite the challenges you have had, you truly are a joyful little girl.  I am so thankful for your life!

8 is going to be GREAT!  I love you, Sweetness!


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cooking Up Some Fun!

Abby had her 8th birthday party at a local cooking school today, and it was SO much fun!  The party was a Chop Jr. theme, so the group was split into 2 teams and they worked together to create an appetizer, main course, and dessert from a basket of ingredients.  They could add additional ingredients, but all of the ones in the basket had to be included.  Judges decided which team won each round.

Her great group of cousins and friends from school and church

Learning how to use a knife properly

Abby peeled an apple

cutting up turkey

stirring the baked apples and adding cinnamon

shredding chicken for the main course

cooking the chicken and cream sauce

cutting up spring onions

You can't go wrong with cheese!

Team 1 with their dessert creations!

Time to sing "Happy Birthday!"  The girls each got to decorate their own cupcake.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed the whipped cream!

While the girls were decorating cupcakes, Matt and I wrote awards for each girl based on their cooking.  (Best decorator, the Stirring Award, etc.)  Each girl got an award and a spoon, spatula, whisk, and chocolate chip cookie recipe as party favors.

It was such a fun party and I think everyone had a great time!