Wednesday, July 29, 2009

so... very...sleepy...

I have been a busy worker girl lately. Creating new designs for Tickle Bellies and for Script and Scribble ( I am trying my hand at melamine plates for Script and Scribble this holiday season. SS is the only company I design exclusive pieces for and Lourdes (founder of SS) twisted my arm to do the plates. We are doing a line of the plates using my fun face people. Here is a sneak peek. I think they will be a big hit!

Julie and I have also been busy all week filling orders and brainstorming new ideas to implement on the website as well as some marketing plans for growth. I am excited to have the green light with Ellie's recent cancer free scans to start building the company again. All of this designing and brainstorming has my mind in a puddle by the end of the work day though. One cocktail and I may just fall over.

Ellie's last day of summer school is tomorrow. They are having a big party. Any excuse for a party I guess. Summer school was just 4 hours a day, Monday thru Thursday for 3.5 weeks. But a festive gala at 10am is a wonderful idea and we can all celebrate the 4 weeks of summer that is left before school starts up again in September. Ellie did really enjoy attending summer school though and she learned a lot of math concepts that she needed to grasp. So I am proclaiming that summer school was a success!

I am beat tonight so I am going to let you enjoy this amazing video. I am sure you have all seen it by now. 20 something million people have watched it on youtube but as many times as I have seen it, it still gives me hope and encouragement that if we all just take a step back and breathe and put aside our differences, we can come together. And I so so so love the music and the group dancing just makes me smile from ear to ear. My favorite place on the video is Christmas Island - how cool is that!! A good pick me up, that's for sure.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I ♥ Faces - 'At the Beach'

I have recently been turned onto this site (I ♥ Faces )and many of the photos are really wonderful and inspiring. I thought I would join in the fun this week. This week the theme is 'at the beach'. SO... without further adieu, here is my contribution.

This is Ellie and Emma running for their lives from the Virginia Beach shoreline. They are pretending that the ocean is teeming with hungry sharks. Emma's face just cracks me up. What a drama queen. This was taken over the July 4th holiday.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hostage Situation

Last night around 9:30 I was in my office organizing some work things when in burst two hooded thugs. They were brandishing a weapon and wore dark glasses. The littler one of the two had a Little Tykes pet carrier and inside was my sweet Kanye. He peered out from the slats and even offered up a paw. I just got a quick look and the little one said "that's enough of a look, we have your cat and you now have to pay!" The bigger one, the brains of the operation, had the weapon directed at my face and yelled "Give us one million dollars or you will never see your baby again!" In fear of my own life but not so much Kanye; he does after all, scratch my furniture and scale the tops of my window treatments, I wrote out a check for a million dollars.

After the two kidnappers had my money, they shot me and ran out the door laughing. I managed to survive and surveillance video was able to capture images of these two dangerous bandits. They seemed to be wearing a clever disguise of pajamas. The little one was sporting a Cinderella outfit and the other one some Hollister bottoms. They wore dark glasses and hats. If you should recognize either one of these individuals, do not attempt to make contact, they are very dangerous. Please just call the police and the task force that has been established. They are on the run and they still have Patty Hearst Kanye as a hostage.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cancer Free!!

Ellie remains cancer free!! Thank you God! We had our 6 month post-chemo visit Thursday at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. It's hard to adequately describe the roller coaster ride feelings that these check-ups bring. You see with Ellie's type of cancer, there is very little medically they can do should she relapse. I know in my heart that God is fully, 100%, in control regarding our situation. It has been like that since that first night she awoke back in April 08 with a slight cry. The guidance, direction, peace and strength to endure everything we have and the way we have, has only been given to us by the grace of God. This I know and feel in my heart. I also know that Ellie does not belong to us and at any time, God can call her home. But really, doesn't that hold true for any one of us?

The MRI scans are every three months for the next three years. It is that scan, that one electronic piece of information, that holds our daughter's fate. I can honestly say that I hate the scans and wish we never had to return to St. Jude. Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful, on my knees grateful, for this hospital and all it has done for Ellie but part of me wishes we could cut that tie and just forget about cancer and it ever coming back. She fought her illness, followed the treatment plan and she survived and got better. That should be it, end of story, now go live your life without a worry or concern. Unfortunately, that's not the way it works with cancer.

I have followed three other children with the same type of brain cancer as Ellie. They were St. Jude patients and Dr. Gajjar was their doctor too. Two of the children relapsed and one is cured. The two that relapsed were basically sent home on hospice. One child has passed on to heaven and the other, she is a fighter. Her mother left the care of St Jude for a hospital in California and although, it is really the chemo that keeps her alive and she will not be cured, she is still here and her quality of life is pretty good. She is two years out from her relapse. While Ellie has her MRI, all of those kids go through my mind. I won't ever forget them and while I beg God for His mercy on my daughter, I thank Him for letting us know about these children. Life is better, more meaningful, knowing them and I am grateful. I also know to hand over the worry to God and to live one day at a time. The future is a mystery and I have to let it go and accept is as it comes. It's challenging to do at times but I do trust in God's plan, whatever it may be whether I like it or hate it, I trust Him.

Wednesday night as we settled in to our hotel room, I was nervous about the MRI. As Ellie watched I -Carly and snacked on some pizza, I asked her to pick four numbers starting with the number one. She picked 1543. I turned to that page in my Bible and do you know what was listed? 7 reasons why God DOES NOT want us to worry. A load of bricks was removed from my shoulders and I thanked Him for making it clear to me. The signs He has provided us with during our journey have been so clear and I thank Him for leaving no room for doubt. I guess I need that 'in your face' type of message to really get it sometimes.

Steve, Emma, Ellie and I are so relieved and happy that the cancer is gone and has not returned. Each check-up brings us closer to being fully cured in the eyes of the doctors. One day at a time and by the grace of God.

Ellie poses alongside her image on the new St. Jude display at the Memphis airport.

close-up version. This photo was an outtake from the 'Ellie Vs. The Brain Tumor' ad last year. That is why she looks so serious.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend Fun!

We had a very busy but fun weekend. Saturday Ellie went to a birthday party at the Party Fairy Place. It's a retail storefront in town that is all things princesses. The Fairy Godmother was there and she hosted the party. This woman was the perfect Fairy Godmother. She was so kind and reassuring and what a fabulous story teller. There were 12 six year old girls and they were all mesmerized by the tales of fairies and their magic and of the land they were going to soon visit. I was planning on going a few doors down to get a pedicure during the party, but I too was enthralled by the stories so I stayed to experience it all. I brought my camera but forgot my camera card (doh!) so I have no photos. Along with transporting the girls to fairy land, the Fairy Godmother took photos, so I will see them when the birthday girls mom gets them back. Each girl donned a fairy outfit, drank special tea, had their nails painted with sparkles, had candy and cupcakes and made jewelry. All the while surrounded by mushrooms, fairies, unicorns, and a very fun land of imagination. I think Ellie would like to have her party there. She turns 7 in September.

Saturday night we headed to our neighborhood pool for an after hours pool party. It was good to connect with neighbors. I am usually so busy during the week that I don't venture down to the pool too often so I don't get to socialize too much so I enjoy when there are events on the weekends. We have 3 or 4 of these parties each season. I think we will miss the next one in August as we will be on vacation. The girls love to swim at night and the adults can socialize and have a cocktail or two. Definitely a fun time.

Yesterday we headed to Northern Virginia to see Steve's brother Michael and his wife Joann. We always enjoy visiting with them and we were happy to see my niece Meghan make it too. We ate, played hopscotch, put puzzles together, created some serious driveway art and talked about some current events.

Ellie works her hopscotch magic!

Meghan wishes the Olympics would consider hopscotch a sport

Emma and Abby soaking up the rays

After our fun visit we headed here:
I love the Container Store and I always try to go when we are in the area. So many ideas, so many ways to organize, so many it!! I also like to get my IKEA fix in as well but the traffic was horrid so I think I will plan to stop on our way back from vacation in August or make a special weekday trip. It's a 2 hour drive normally but with summer traffic on I-95 that can really be 3 hours. Ellie and I shopped while Steve and Emma hung back in the van and relaxed. We bought lots of cool stuff. I did have my camera card on this trip so here is all the Container Store fun.

so many ways to organize. I am always so inspired.

Emma is in the market for a new desk chair, she has requested one with wheels.
Ellie test drove the red one and gives her approval.

Orange is the new "it" color. It was everywhere.

zebra pattern bags for storage. How cool!

lots of little boxes in lots of fun colors

we ended our day by going next door for a happy meal :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Goodbye, Adios, Ciao, Au Revoir!

I am so glad this week in winding down to an end. Although, it doesn't seem to be ending on a quiet note. I am listening to the weather update and we are in for some severe thunderstorms in about an hour. There is currently a tornado warning for counties east of here but hopefully we won't have that type of craziness around here. Living in Virginia is the first time we have lived without a basement. Our go to tornado worthy room is our central bathroom located on the first floor. Once the girls, 5 cats and a dog are in there, there is no room for mom or dad. Our immediate neighbor does have a basement so perhaps there would be time to make a mad dash over there leaving the animals in the bathroom. I don't think Tucker would enjoy that too much though. Here's to a little lightening and some rumbles and that's it. The rain would be nice to cool things off. It's been hot.

So this week was a bit brutal. Wendy's wake and funeral were Monday and Tuesday of this week. So. Very. Emotional. I had a personal release of tears that probably needed to fall for a while. I haven't had a good cry in months and with all that we have been through the last year and a half, I am sure that a good part of those tears were due to our own journey. Happy tears, sad tears, tears of anger, tears of blessings. The celebration of life service was really wonderful and Wendy's eulogy was inspiring and a true testimony to her life. It made me think of when my time here ends, what would people say about me and the life I led and the things I have accomplished. Made me realize there was a lot still to do. Of course, Jesus was the main focus of the day and through Him we can endure this pain and to let the tears come and feel all the emotions but while we do this we need to continue to worship the Lord and what He has done for us and how because of Him Wendy lives on. All very true. Steve was an honorary pall bearer as were some of our other neighbors and the letter I wrote regarding what Wendy meant to me was read. I was honored to have Mike, my neighbor and Wendy's brother-in-law, read my words to the congregation. I know Wendy would have liked it. I am going to miss her.

Ellie finished another week of summer school. Today she met with her reading specialist. They meet every Friday and this was our second session. I know there will be roadblocks in the future regarding Ellie's education. She has had so much damaging radiation to her brain and spine. She has received a life time dose of radiation. There will most likely never be a time when she can have radiation therapy again should the need arise. The radiation, although much more reformed from years past, is still harmful to her brain. She will definitely have cognitive loss. It's all a big trade off. Cancer forces you to make decisions that inevitably will take away some quality of life. Life. Ellie is still alive. The trade off for radiation and chemotherapy is our daughter's life. So she may not be going to Harvard and pursuing a career as a astrophysicist, that's OK. She will find her way. We will continue to bring in specialists and give her the additional boost of educational guidance that she needs. She is on target right now for her age group but I know the future will be challenging. She has a fabulous memory and can remember things I have long forgotten and she picks up the lyrics to songs in a flash. I know she can do it. I will continue to pray as well, I know God can help her through the challenges she may face in the future.

I haven't shared too many photos of Kanye lately. He is still crazy but calming down just a smidge. He is growing up and getting bigger. He still attacks toes from under the bed, climbs into the refrigerator, scales my window treatments and is afraid of Tucker but he is starting to purr more and snuggle. He does love to wrestle with the other cats though. It's really relentless and I think they all end up running away from him at some point. It's great fun for us to watch though.

Kanye lying on my office desk in my studio this morning.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Random Advice

I have some rather random advice this morning. The first is to remind everyone to check their 'junk mail' folder in their email programs. I am constantly fishing important, non-junk, "this should be in my inbox" email out of there. I am still a novice in the Microsoft Outlook world so I have to check the filter presets to see if I can avoid some of the good stuff getting tossed into the rejected junk pile. I also seem to be having an issue with attaching files in Outlook. I have researched this and my problem does not seem to be a known issue so there is no fix. It's a sad day when google cannot give me an answer. Any suggestions?

Next I was thinking about that poor woman in VA Beach that drown on the 4th of July. Why did we witness her drowning? I am sure it was to pray for her, as that was the most important element of support we could offer as she left this world destined for another place. But I also learned about Riptides and how common and deadly they can be. I thought some of you may be like me and not understand them fully so I thought I would share what I learned and just maybe if you are caught in a riptide, this bit of information may help.

First I learned that riptides are strong currents. They are narrow channels of water that run perpendicular to the coast. They occur when there are changes in the sand and direction of the waves and it's similar to a traffic jam of water. The water is contained until it builds up so much that a small break occurs and all that bottled up water flows out to sea very quickly. You can be in this narrow channel and get pushed back from the shore very quickly. How scary is that! I have never been in a riptide current but I understand the panic. Panic. That is what causes most of the deaths in a riptide. Here is what you are suppose to do if you find yourself in a riptide. Don't panic. Easier said than done but try to stay calm. You will not be able to swim toward the shore while you are in a rip current. You can only try to swim out of the riptide's narrow channel. Swim parallel or alongside the shore. In a few strokes you should be out of the riptide's pull and can then swim back to the beach. If you cannot swim well, the experts suggest floating on your back and letting the current take you. The riptides don't last too long and you will soon be out of it and can swim back or wait for help.

JUST DON'T PANIC! Talk to God, to yourself, take a deep breath, whatever you do to calm down. You will survive if you can do this. What scared me the most about riptides is that they can come really close to the shoreline. If you are waist deep in water, say boogie boarding with your daughter, then you can experience a riptide. Emma now knows what to do if she is caught in a riptide. I pray that should she experience this she will be calm. That truly is the most important thing to remember. We are headed to Cape Cod in August and I know we enjoy being in the water and it's so important to remember where you are and to respect what the ocean is capable of. I found this site informative as well

That's all I have for random advice today. This is rather old but made me chuckle when I watched a few months ago. If you haven't seen it. Enjoy! (I love the Sarah Palin spoof - funny!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Here Comes the Bride

I made a fantastic spaghetti and meatball dinner tonight (compliments of my mother-in-laws recipe). As I gathered the ingredients, I realized that the only tomato paste can I had had an expiration date of October 2007! I know I don't cook much be geesh that was harsh! Thankfully all of my immediate neighbors do cook more than once every 2 years and I was able to score a new can to complete my delicious masterpiece. I think I am in need of a major pantry clean out. Who knows what is lurking in there.

After dinner Steve and I went for a walk. It's so wonderful that Emma is now old enough and mature enough to watch her sister when we need some time. Just 45 minutes, walking together on a summer night can be so reconnecting for us. I am really grateful we have reached this place in parenthood. Half way through our walk the cell phone rang and Emma asked us to please call when we were 2 minutes away. They had a surprise for us.

When we got home, we learned we were going to be guests at a wedding. The wedding of our daughter Ellie to her beloved Kanye. Emma hit play on the laptop and the wedding march began playing and from the dining room a beautiful bride slowly made her way into the family room. After the service, the bride threw her flowers in the air and danced around. It was a beautiful event. She did marry a cat but we don't have too many boys in our household. We already have the wedding photos back. Please enjoy!

The Bride wore a beautiful floor length gown

The bride, groom and maid of honor/wedding planner

Here she is right before the ceremonial tossing of the bouquet.

Euphoric and proud emotions overflow
after the flowers are thrown

Ellie and Kanye the happy couple

Ellie with the best wedding planner ever, Emma

Saturday, July 11, 2009

finding the good

Ho Hum... if this is an accurate state of being then that is how I feel. There is such good in our lives but such sorrow lately too. I will be 40 years old on August 14th. 40. I have to say it again because sometimes that number doesn't seem real. I like getting older and truth be told, every year gets better and I have more connections with life and with who I want to be. I like going forward and it's just a number, the number 40. It really means nothing but because I don't think about it too much when I do say how old I will be, I catch myself off guard. But this isn't a rant about age, what I wanted to say was that in my 40 years on this planet, not many of them have had to deal with death and the loss of loved ones. I can count the passing of a handful of people that dramatically impacted my life over the last 38 years. Only two were tragic and that was the death of my brother and the death of Steven's friend Keith. They both were too young to leave this earth and the possibilities of what could have been in their lives was emotionally devastating. So much they never got to experience here. The others were equally sad but at least these people were much older and had life experiences and their deaths were easier to accept.

Fast forward to January 2008 and the death of my father. The hardest time and concept to accept up until that point in my life. I am sure most children have a very hard time with the loss of a parent, especially when it comes so suddenly. My dad was too young, only 67, and I was not prepared for the loss. I understand why he was taken now and that was to be there for Ellie. This I know with every fiber of my being. With our families entrance into the cancer circle, through Ellie, we have come to know and grieve for many. The first loss that impacted me was that of little Shelbi Martin. I never even met her but I fell in love with her and her family through her parents words and photos. Her story started out so similarly to Ellie's. Same tumor, same treatment, same raw emotions. Her death jolted me hard. Many others followed after Shelbi. Zachary, Caleb, Mary Kate, Catie, Erin and Liam. They were all too young, much younger than Keith and my brother Michael. Yesterday I lost a friend named Wendy. She was Mrs. Weeks daughter and was close to my age. The word lost or loss is repeated over and over and over again and it is a loss, a void, a casualty, a devastation but I have to search for the gain, the achievement, the growth, the positive.

My brother's death shaped the person I was to become. I appreciated life more, I didn't have regrets and I understood how precious and fleeting it all is. That was a pretty good reality check for a 16 year old and that was his life gift to me. I thank him every day for it. My father's gift was to spiritually help me and Ellie on our journey through cancer. He made me stronger and more determined. All of the children that have passed have stayed with me and they remind me to keep fighting and giving back and trying to strive to be better and to love more. They all inspire me. Wendy's death will do the same thing. She has helped me on my journey to Jesus and her confidence never waivered. I will take that as my gift and I will stay true to the Lord and share our story whenever possible.

The last year and half has been so unlike the other 38.5 years of my life. As my girlfriend MaryAnn would say 'Your cup runneth over'. It certainly does. The good and the bad. The love and the heartache, the loss and the gain.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

You've got questions... I have answers...

We are having a pretty relaxed week so far. Ellie is back in summer school and Emma has been at the pool every day. Steve headed to Tennessee today for work and I have been working on new designs for Tickle Bellies. July is usually our slowest month for sales so I can get more stuff like this accomplished. Julie has been handling marketing and advertising and we have been brainstorming on some new ideas. I actually sent out my first real email blast for Tickle Bellies. I am excited to start doing more marketing like this. Everything has been on hold for so long and now it is time to start growing the business again. There's some really cute stuff online now and we also have a July special. So check it out if you need some of our fabulous stationery.

I have also been weeding and fertilizing the gardens this week. I think because of all the neglect from being gone last summer the gardens have experienced a surge in weed population. I really cannot recall as many in previous years and I am not happy about it! The biggest weed offender is clover which pulls out super easy but has a really intense root system so even though it looks like you got the whole thing... wrong... more just grows back and with a vengeance. I have been trying to stay on top of it and so far the front garden is the biggest challenge. I may have to recruit help. The gardens look pretty good although at this point in the summer things start to look tired and overgrown. I haven't cut stuff back yet but I know I need to do that in the next few days. The tall garden phlox is blooming this week as are the black eyed susans. I heart black eyed susans. They are one of my favorite flowers. Also thriving in the garden are 4 little blue bird babies. They have about 8 more days in the nest before they fledge. This is the second brood of blue bird chicks in that nesting box this summer. Woo Hoo!

Random photo of Ellie blowing bubbles as Kanye and Phoebe look on

Today in my inbox was one of those 'Get to Know You' emails full of random questions. A friend sent it to me and instead of replying by email I thought I would do it here. So without further adieu here are all of my exciting answers! Did I say they were going to be exciting? Don't hold your breath!

What is your middle name? my middle name is Lynn (never really liked it much too boring)
Who named you? ummm… my parents.
Were you named after someone? I don’t believe so – my parents just wanted a nice Irish name for their sweet Irish baby.
If you had one word to describe yourself , what would you choose? grateful
What is the least favorite thing about yourself? physically, I am not a fan of my nose although over the years, it has grown on me (literally)
emotionally, I tend to get angry too quickly
What Zodiac sign are you?I am a leo
Which is your most recent favorite song?I like Hallelujah by Imogen Heap but it’s not a new song. for a new song… hmmm… I like Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas
What was the last book you read? 'Riven’ by Jerry B Jenkins ‘Cape Cod, Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard’ – travel book – does that count? I just got a new book for our beach trip which I still haven’t started called ‘The Long Way Home’ cannot recall the author.
What did you have for breakfast today?Special K with strawberries
What did you watch on TV last night? some of the Michael Jackson memorial and Law and Order Criminal Intent (I have a slight crush on Goren)
What is the farthest you have been from home? I tend to stay close to home… Aruba I guess.
Do you have any special talents? I can whistle loudly with my fingers
Have you ever met a famous person? through Ellie we have met a few…. She’s the most famous person I know though.
What kind of people do you like? funny, optimistic, artistic, animal & nature loving
Where do you live? Moseley, Virginia
How long have you lived there? from 2000-2003 and from 2004-present. We spent the missing year in Bel Air Maryland
Who do you live with? my husband Steve, my 2 girls, 1 dog and 5 cats and all the voices in my head. :)
What was your favorite sitcom growing up? I always watched Laverne and Shirley (I loved Boo Boo Kitty the most!)
What is your favorite all time TV show? the x-files - Agent Mulder - need I say more?
Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? A customer needing labels
What do you have handy at your bedside? The remote, tissues, bible and little drawings/notes from the girls
What's the color of your bedsheet? satin white (sounds so....but it's really not)
What two movies would you watch over and over? I would watch On Golden Pond and Remember Me
Where have your 3 best vacations been?1. Bar Harbor, Maine 2. Sanibel Island, Florida 3. Honeymoon Cruise to Caribbean
Favorite thing to do in your spare time? photography and bird watching

Monday, July 6, 2009

Virginia Beach

I cannot believe the Fourth of July has come and gone. Life just goes by way too fast. We had a really memorable, fun and quality weekend spent at the beach. Our goal this summer is to have more fun time and less work time and so far we have done a good job at meeting our goal. We left Friday afternoon for the beach. It's normally about 2 hours away but due to the holiday weekend traffic, it took us about 3 hours. Much better than our looong drive home from Connecticut the previous weekend. We were all so excited to head to the beach to get some relaxation from our busy schedule the previous week. We got in around 4pm and headed to an early dinner around 5pm. We always stay at the Oceanfront Sheraton and because it is such a great hotel with good service, we usually prefer to dine right in the hotel. The restaurant has fantastic views of the ocean and we love to look for dolphins while we eat.

Steve and I took the water view side of the table for dinner.
Such beautiful views of our girls and the ocean.

After dinner we headed out for a walk and ended up sitting on the sand for awhile. Steve went and got the beach toys so the girls made castles while we listened to the waves crash. We then headed back to our room to change so we could walk down Atlantic Avenue for some ice cream. Before we headed out Steve decided to rest while the girls and I sat on the balcony watching all the people below. It was about 8 pm but there was still people out enjoying the nice evening. All of a sudden we heard screams that were alarming. There was a woman on the beach screaming for help. Since we were up 10 stories we could see everything. Steve came out and we watched as a lifeguard ran from quite a ways down the beach. Two beach goers jumped into the water as well. They swam to three individuals that were pretty far out but not that far that I would be concerned. They looked to be stuck in the riptide and were panicking. We had our binoculars and I put the 200mm lens on the camera to document what was happening. That first lifeguard was such a hero. He dove in and had to rescue two grown men. I have one photo of the lifeguard with the first man and all you can see of the second man is his hands above the water. He is totally submerged. He managed to pull them both out. The other girl that was in trouble was able to make it out of the riptide and to shore on her own. We all thought it was over and were thanking God when the screaming started again. There was someone missing. More lifeguards and police had arrived and the lifeguards formed a line and went back in searching for the missing swimmer. Our hearts sank. I had never even seen this other swimmer, just the three that made it out. We prayed that her body would rise up and they could revive her. It was very, very hard to watch this but I felt we needed to stay and not turn away and offer our prayers.

Unfortunately she drown and her body was recovered about 45 minutes later. We were in shock over what we just witnessed. The night we learned of Ellie's brain tumor was shocking but she was alive, she was still with us. 16 months later, she is still with us. I cannot fathom the sudden death of a loved one. I've lived through it with my brother but I was just 16 at the time and truth be told, I was more concerned with my parents and how hard it was for them that I don't think I properly mourned his death at that time. Now, looking at things as an adult and a parent, I cannot imagine having someone be there one moment and gone the next. That is total devastation. Only God and your faith can get you through something like this. I have some of the rescue photos on my flickr account. I did not post any of the swimmers that were in danger - just of the response from the emergency personnel.

Steve and I ready to greet a new day!
The next day was a brand new day and we were able to put a lot of the previous night's sadness out of the way. We ended up having such a fun time. We started off at the beach. Emma and I boogie boarded... yes... I boogie boarded. I am sure it wasn't pretty but boy was it fun. Virginia Beach has a lot of high waves and we certainly did enjoy playing in them. Ellie is not a big fan of the ocean (Thank God!) because the crashing waves scare her. She was more than happy to sit and make sand castles. She made a little friend named Henry and they played for quite a long time. We decided to have lunch and cocktails at the pool and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon poolside.

Ellie loves to play in the sand.

Ellie and her little friend Henry

Boogie Boarding Emma

Steve enjoying the rays and the surf

The girls hang out in the shallow end of the pool.
We headed out to dinner and then walked a bit before the fireworks. The entire beach area was packed with thousands of people. I was so grateful all we had to do was go back to our room and watch from the comfort of our balcony. No lines, no traffic. It was perfect. The view did not disappoint nor did the fireworks. It was a really wonderful day and to be together to enjoy it was the best part. I am so proud of Ellie and all that she has endured to make it to this place. She deserves to have a lot of fun this summer and so far she is. I have many more photos on the flickr account of our weekend.

It was a great ending to our day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Connecticut ~ Day 4

When on vacation driving offers such flexibility because you are adhering to your own schedule and you can pack the van full of all sorts of things that you probably will never need. I admit that I am an overpacker but I am so thrilled when someone needs some obscure item and they don't think it was packed and viola, I can pull it out from somewhere. The last few flights we have taken have also been delayed for hours and that to me is more annoying then anything. At least if I am driving and I am stuck in traffic, I am still in control. I can get off the exit and get out of the car, eat, stretch, whatever. On our last flight to Memphis, we had to sit on the runway for over an hour. We were prisoners. I don't like being confined. I also enjoy the scenery when driving. People, cars, places - lots to look at. Of course, I am usually not the one driving and when there is lots of traffic while we are on the highway I have a tendency to use the invisible brake on the passengers side or I sometimes like to offer helpful driving advice. For the most part, Steven doesn't think of it as helpful advice. Even with that, driving is still a better option if you're headed to a destination that isn't more than say, 12 hours away. We will pack up the van again tomorrow morning and head East to Virginia Beach. This ride is usually just around 2 hours. The length of one movie. Going down over the 4th of July weekend may add an extra hour though. We are staying at the hotel we always stay at and love - the Sheraton - which is right on the water. They have the best pool that we all love and the water views are fabulous. The weather looks great too. Sunny with no chance for rain, temps in the high 80s.

Here's a photo of the girls from the Summer of 2007
in the Sheraton Pool at VA Beach
The last day of our visit to CT was very nice. I got up early to have breakfast with Laurel and our girlfriend MaryAnn. They are two dear friends and I love when we can all get together. We went to MaryAnn's house after breakfast to look at their perennial garden. This garden is over 20 years old. I love to check in with it every few years. It never disappoints and is so lovingly cared for. I have a few photos but the sun was out and it was really too bright to get anything that wasn't overexposed.

Beautiful shades of pink on this Yarrow. I loved it.

FeverFew flowers. These have been in the garden for a really long time.

MaryAnn, me and Laurel. We have been friends for years.

After our wonderful visit with MaryAnn, Laurel and I drove back to Windsor where we found a hammock lounging Emma in Laurel's yard. She has such a tough life this one.

We soon headed to Watertown to see Steven's Aunt Ann and Aunt Joan. They wanted to have a little get together for us. The word little was lost on Aunt Joan as I saw tents and people and lots and lots of food set up. It was a really special day and Steve and I got to thank even more family that we don't see often for their role in helping heal Ellie. The girls have so many cousins that love her and it was very moving to see her playing and running and just being a kid. Steve's cousin Debbie owns a bounce house and Ellie hasn't been allowed to go in one since she was diagnosed. I let her go in this one and she loved it. The bounce house was the main hang out for all the kids. Ellie's cousin Gianna was so excited to see her and they played all afternoon together.

I was so happy that Steve was able to spend quality time with cousins he doesn't get to see that often; cousins he grew up with. Ricky, Karen, Bobby, Cheryl, Maureen, Frank, Lisa, and Debbie. They are all in their late 30s and 40s with their own kids now but they all cared so deeply for Ellie and our journey. We received much love and support. Steve and I also slipped away for a bit to go to the final resting place of Steve's grandmother. Grandma Brown passed away last July and we thank her all the time for being an angel that has helped pull Ellie through during this time. She loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren. If I can remember correctly, she had 54 great grandchildren when she passed. Can you imagine that! She had Ellie on her mind the last few days of her life and I am so grateful that she is in heaven with her children that passed before her and she is there as a divine presence for Ellie.

We had a wonderful day and it was a nice ending to our trip. I forgot to mention that we got to meet Mrs. Rowan who is a first grade teacher in Watertown, she was at the party too. She and her students were penpals with Ellie and they had this really neat board established with photos and such. It was an honor to meet her and thank her for making Ellie feel so special. There are just so many people that care. Life is good and we are blessed. Very blessed.

Aunt Ann had this cake made. Ellie was so excited to eat her face.

The girls pose with Mrs. Rowan. She was so sweet.
Steve is in the back behind the gazebo catching up with his cousin Ricky.

The whole gang. This is a great keepsake from our day.
You really need to click on it to view in larger format so you can see everyone.
Uncle Frank is missing from this one. :(

Ellie and her cousin Gianna. They were so cute together.

Hey... Macarena! Ellie gives Aunt Joan some dance tips.

Nothing beats a game of ' goose' in the bounce house
to get the party started.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Connecticut ~ Day 3

We were able to sleep in on day three of our trip. Laurel and Tony head off to work pretty early each morning and that allows us have the run of the place. They are such amazing hosts and made sure we had a stocked pantry and fridge with all of our favorite things. Laurel even got us salt water taffy to get us in the mood for our Cape Cod trip in August. Isn't that thoughtful?! There's no better feeling than staying with friends who truly want you to treat their home as your own. So we enjoyed a relaxed morning and then we headed off to see my niece Amanda. She has a sweet little girl named Aerianna. Aerianna is about 14 months old and has the curliest eyelashes I have ever seen. Upon entering Amanda's home, I was shocked by the amount of toys Aerianna has and then there she was, plopped down right in the middle, playing and talking to each one. So cute. This is our second time getting to visit Aerianna and she is really precious. Just look at that face!

You can see her curly eyelashes in this photo and what
truly cracks me up is Emma's face in the background. I have no idea
what she is doing.

I had to go to the car to get something and when I returned,
all three were waiting eagerly by the baby gate.

It was good to see them and we all wish Jeremy, Amanda and baby Aerianna the best of luck and we hope to see them around the holidays. Before we left, the girls noticed a dartboard. It was magnetic so there was no real danger of losing an eye. They are such pranksters, those silly girls.

After our visit we headed to Southington, CT to see our good friends the Kubecks/Vitcavages. They are yet another family we have claimed as our own. Mr. and Mrs. Kubeck have known Steve for most of his life. Keith, their oldest son, and Steve grew up together and were very close.

Keith passed away 12 years ago from liver cancer. It was very sudden and heartbreaking. He was only 30 years old. Stacy, Keith's wife, had their daughter Jessica 6 weeks before I gave birth to Emma. Jessie never got to know her dad. He passed a few weeks before her first birthday. Keith's death was one of our lives biggest sorrows and we miss him and think about him all of the time. Steven was there when he passed and I know he is so grateful to have been present and we know Uncle Keith was another angel that helped Ellie get through her cancer. The Kubecks have always treated Steve like a son and if we don't visit with them while we are in CT, our trip just isn't complete. Emma and Jessica always quickly connect and the two of them are just so beautiful. I was too busy catching up and chatting that I totally forgot to take photos of the two of them together. (kicking myself). Aside from the catching up I was busy watching the TORNADO that was going on outside. It was some wild weather that blew through. It got dark, rainy and then the hail started to fall. A tornado did touch down to the east of us in Wethersfield. Thankfully all the kids were in the basement playing drums and guitar hero so they missed most of the excitement which is probably for the best. Emma tends to freak out during thunder storms.

We were in Southington (left of map)... see all the red.

It was a great night to socialize and to share more of what our lives have been like the last year. Keith's brother Eric and sister Sue and their amazing spouses are so good to talk to. The whole family is just so supportive and we love them all dearly. Spending time with them was one of our trip highlights.

Steve, Ed(Mr. Kubeck) and Eric

Sue and Colleen

Emma and Ellie with Sue and Joe's kids, Andrew and Eddie

The last day of our visit is coming up quickly. We always love to go back home but the time slips by so quickly and we have people and places left unchecked on our list of things we wanted to accomplish. Friends and family have always been important to us but we value things so differently now. Each day needs to mean something and being able to spend quality time is so crucial. There may not be a tomorrow. OK... that sounds way dramatic but you know what I mean.