Friday, November 28, 2008

Why God Made Little Girls

God made the world with its towering trees,
Majestic mountains and restless seas.
The paused and said,
"It needs one more thing -
Someone to laugh and dance and sing,
To walk in the woods, and gather flowers,
To commune with nature in quiet hours."
So God made little girls
With laughing eyes and bouncing curls,
With joyful hearts and infectious smiles,
Enchanting ways and feminine wiles.
And when He'd completed the task He'd begun,
He was pleased of the job He'd done.
For the world when see through little girl eyes
Greatly resembles Paradise.
~Author Unknown

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

All turkey birds are different,
From sea to shining sea.
And you'll never see another bird
Like this one to you from me.
Can you see what makes him different?
Do you need some helpful hints?
I made him from my very own
Thumb and fingerprints!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Statement Complete

I have spent several hours pouring over my statement to read to the parole board in a matter of days, not weeks anymore, days. I have just been unsure of what to say. I had been trying to not let the anger to show through because I really don't know that that would help and I don't want to stand up there and rant about the messed up legal system even though that's how I feel. Instead I tried to just make it a continuation of my first letter that I read. I tried to show the board how our lives are without our Abrielle. I don't know if this is what I should have written about or not, but I am hoping they have kids and can feel my pain. I am hoping my grief will convey what Ryan Sundermann has done to us. I will share it with everyone after our hearing. I was hoping that having this done would lift a weight from me because I was really starting to feel the pressure, but it hasn't seemed to yet. Instead I just keep getting sick to my stomach. I think everything all at once here is just more than what my body knows how to deal with. The holidays are bad enough without the parole hearing jammed in the middle of it. Plus we are dealing with our other legal battle too. For those that don't know, Sundermann's insurance filed a lawsuit against us a week after the accident stating that they didn't have coverage and don't have to pay any of the bills. What a wonderful world we live in, huh. Slap a grieving family with a lawsuit for no reason. Nice.

I have also changed my mind as to what kind of picture I want in Ryan Sundermann's cell. Virginia used to teach in the prison system and clued me in on how some of the prisoners are. I really had not given any thought to the fact that there are pedophiles in there and that they might enjoy seeing my little girl's picture. I don't think this should get him out of having a constant reminder, so I think I am going to ask for a picture of her headstone instead. I'm not positive on this yet.

So now I am down to begging everyone out there.... please get us your letters soon. So far my public plea has only gotten 7 letters. I was so hoping for a lot more than that. Community attitude is one of the factors in the consideration of parole, so they need to hear from the community. It does not have to be anything long or eloquent, just something that voices your opinion that Ryan Sundermann should not be released. Please!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Check is in the Mail

I received an email from Goodsearch that said our check is in the mail! It even contained some even more exciting news that each search earned 1.3 cents instead of just a penny! They cut off at the end of September, so we should be receiving over $179. I think this is just awesome since we do nothing other than what we would normally to earn this money. It's just one more click and it gives us the money. I personally have been doing my shopping through Goodsearch's GoodShop and ebay gives up to 37.5% of the purchase price. So if you're not doing your online shopping through GoodShop, check it out first to see if the store is one of the ones that donates. Thanks to all who have been GoodSearching and keep it up.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday Bagging

We had a pretty good crew for the bagging on Saturday night. We had just over 100 animals to bag and then worked on the gifts for the preschools. Conner Heitman opened the teeny beenies with the help of JackJack.
We had the boys working hard on bagging...
while the girls decorated Abby's Hugs cards and Christmas messages.

We even broke in some more newbies (and we love that)! Lori Sneed, Shantel Farnan, and Marvin Lager came and helped for the first time.

Thanks for all the help everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's an Epidemic

I received a phone call from a lady I know that had read the story in the newspaper yesterday. She informed me of another family battling a similar situation. Here is the link to their story. This family lost 2 kids in their accident and the judge may release the offender after 120 days in prison. I really feel for them. We can so relate to what they are feeling right now. It seems as if this is an epidemic that needs resolved. These are lives snuffed out by someone else's selfish acts. How can a small amount of punishment be considered justice? We have had plans since we became aware of the legal aspects to try and reform the system. We want to make sure other families do not have to suffer the same injustices we have had to. We want an Abby's Law that will make these offenders have to pay for their crimes with no loopholes for them to use to beat the system. We want justice served for the victims. I have been in the process of gathering information for quite some time now, but unfortunately with the other battles we have had going on, that is all I have been able to accomplish. Now after hearing about another family fighting the system too, I am feeling a push to begin tackling the next step. Here is my public promise. After the holidays (since they are kicking my butt right now), I will dive in to the legal aspects of these types of crime and find out what we can do. I will keep everyone informed of my findings and the road blocks I come to. I have a feeling this may be an even longer process than what we have been through so far, but we will have justice for our little girl.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the News

My plea for letters from the community garnered a front page story about the upcoming parole hearing. You can read it here
It seems we are not the only ones confused by the way the system works. Hopefully this article will educate others that are like us and had no idea this is what happens. As the article notes, community attitude is one of the factors in parole release, hence us asking for letters. I am hoping that if the board sees a large amount of letters that will influence their decisions. So, tell everyone to get their letters to us (in our hands by December 2nd) so we can keep Ryan Sundermann in prison.

A Lemonade Stand

I never cease to be amazed at the public support and help we receive. I was reading the newspaper and saw this article St. Gregory's will be having a lemonade stand at their rummage sale and the funds raised will go to the Foundation. I have been to St. Greg's a few times last year and their kids helped out with cards, bagging, and even purchased some animals for Abby's Hugs. They instill such wonderful values in the kids they teach and are so generous to help out in community projects. Thanks St. Greg's seventh graders!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Letter to the Editor

This letter to the editor will appear in the newspapers this week asking everyone to send in their letters as December 3rd is fast approaching. (And this is my plea to you)

On June 25, 2008, Ryan Sundermann was sentenced to six years in prison. While we understood that a six year sentence did not mean six years behind bars in a state facility, we did think that we had two years before we would have to worry about a parole hearing. Our hearts broke when we received notice that Ryan Sundermann would be receiving his first parole consideration hearing on December 3, 2008. We feel that six months behind bars is in no way enough punishment for our daughter’s death. We have spent over 600 days missing our little Abrielle while Sundermann has spent 161 days in prison. With his history of offenses, it would only be a matter of time before someone else becomes the victim and no one else needs to endure this heartache. Our little girl would be five now if it were not for Sundermann’s selfish act. She would have started kindergarten. She would have gotten her ears pierced this year. She would have been able to enjoy being a big sister like she so wanted to be. Criminals should not be rewarded for their “good behavior” in prison by being released early so we are asking that you join with us in preventing Sundermann’s release. We will be attending his parole hearing in Cameron to pour our hearts out to the parole board in hopes that the amount of justice the court ordered be served. We are requesting that anyone touched by our Abby’s life to please join in this fight with us and send a letter to the parole board. Ryan Sundermann will not see these letters but they will be read by the board and will become a part of his permanent record. These letters may be mailed to us, Marc and Brenda Neff, 16835 Icon Road, Pickering, MO 64476 or given to any immediate family member. We thank you for all the support shown to us during this long ordeal and pray that the legal aspects of this nightmare end soon with justice for our Abrielle.

Any of my blog readers out there wanting to send a letter, we would love to take them with us. Hopefully the more letters we have, the less his chance for parole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Box of Hugs

We received a whole box full of teddy bears, bunnies, and frogs from Tom Parker. His sister is a nurse in North Carolina and gave him (and us) the website where their hospital gift shop purchases some of their animals. The animals are at such a reasonable price and they are super soft. This was great information to get since sometimes we have to pay full retail for them if we can't find them on sale/clearance. Abby holds a special place in Tom's heart that some might not understand. The tire shop is right next to the daycare where Abby went. Any time she would see him outside she would have to yell at him to come visit. After she started preschool and would come with me to work, she had to call him on the phone to chat with him. It was pretty cute and he would take the time to talk to her even if he was busy. Here's a picture of the critters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time to Bag

We are planning on bagging this Saturday night (the 22nd) at 7:30. I guess I've lost track of time and am trying to squeeze this in before the holidays get busy for everyone. We don't have gobs of animals like usual, but we will have to work on the teeny ones for gifts for the preschoolers. I'll post more info about Saturday as soon as I get it all figured out.

I also wanted to share something that I can't seem to get out of my head. I am a huge ER fan and have been since the show started. Since the accident there have been a few times that I just could not watch because it hit too close to home, but for the most part I don't miss an episode. Last Thursday I watched as one of the new doctors on the show battle through flashbacks of losing her son. I sat there and cried, not able to turn the channel. She said something that has stuck with me since then. When you lose your parents, you're an orphan. When you lose your spouse they call you a widow/widower. But when you lose your child....they don't have a word for that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good News At Last

I don't know how we can ever thank the Prosecuting Attorney's Office enough for everything they have done for us since this nightmare began. They helped us navigate every step of the way through the legal process and brought about the sentence of 6 years to Ryan Sundermann. They helped us avoid the torture of a trial and kept us informed of every little detail throughout the process. They were truly wonderful people. But they didn't just sever the ties with our case once the sentencing was over. After being informed that he would receive credit for the 180 days served, their office sent letters to the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Corrections to inform them of the error. Last night we received the good news that the DOC has ruled that Sundermann will NOT receive credit for those days served since they were for an unrelated crime. The Sheriff's department had indicated that he was to receive credit for those days due to the judge's error and that is what the DOC had to go by. This good news might seem small to some, but we feel like we finally got something to go our way. Like maybe there is just a small glimmer of hope in this messed up justice system for the victims. And the difference between serving 6 months in a federal prison and serving 6 months in a county jail is huge, not that we have ill wishes for Sundermann. We feel this is what was ordered by the courts and this is what should be done, especially since the time to be served was so short anyway.

In other good news, our JackJack is back to his old self. You have no idea how big of a relief this is. Yes, it means putting up with his orneriness, but I'll take it. He's even been jumping into bed with me at night and waking me up to play. Obviously I'm not playing with a cat at some ridiculous hour in the morning, but it's proof he's feeling better. He's back to eating like he should and everything else seems normal. I guess no more going into Abby's room for him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

See Anything Wrong Here?

You guys probably get tired of me pointing out our messed up legal system, but it just angers me beyond belief sometimes the differences in sentences for crimes. Case in point is the court info from yesterday's Daily Forum. Ok, now that you've read it, do you see what I mean! Let's compare. You get 7 years for beating someone to death, 1 more year than our case. You get a total of 17 years for child molestation, 11 years more than what our Abby's life was worth. You get 10 years for distribution of drugs, 4 years more than what Ryan Sundermann will have to spend in prison. Am I the only one that sees something wrong here? How can the justice system call this fair justice? I guess I need someone to show me the reasoning behind these punishments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Emotional Drain

Last night was our grief support group at CMH. This is always hard on me, physically and emotionally. For some reason I always become ill after these sessions and that just drains me physically. Emotionally, I end up spent and would just love to curl up right then and sleep, too bad it's 2 hours home. The support group is good for us despite the effects going has on me. We get to be with others who share the same pain and can understand even though each one of our situations are different. The common ground is there. We are all members of the same "club" that no one wants to be a member of. Sometimes I do feel a little jealous (for lack of a better word to describe my feelings) that everyone there had time with their child before they passed. They all had an "illness" of some sort and knew they were going to lose them. They talk about what they were able to do before their child left. We didn't have any of that. We had 16 hours of chaos from the time of the accident until the machines were turned off. We did not have any of that peacefulness, our situation did not allow for it. It was a whirlwind that sometimes I have to slow down in my mind in order to process everything from that day. I would have liked to have had the time to process and decide how I wanted the last days/hours with my little girl spent, but we didn't get to.

Last night's topic was handling the holidays. We were given resources to help us through this time of the year and were able to talk to each other about things to do or not do. I expressed that I seem to be having a really hard time this year too. I was relieved to hear that some people have a harder time the second year than they do the first. Society seems to think that once you have made it through the first year that you should be back to "normal." It doesn't work that way. This year it has been the fact that Abby should have started kindergarten. It has been seeing her preschool classmates at school learning and playing. It has been seeing them parade in their Halloween costumes. It has been carving a third pumpkin for our little girl in Heaven. It has been Elly learning to say Abby's name and knowing who she is. It has been digging through the clothes that Abby wore to find some for Elly. It has been reliving the nightmare even after the prison sentence. The list goes on. The whole first year (and even sometimes now) I felt like I was on auto pilot, not sure which end was up. The magic one year anniversary (Abby's Heavenly Birthday) did not make the pain any easier like so many people think. Yes, we've made it through most all the firsts, but we did our best to skip them, so really we didn't make it through them. We cheated I guess you could say. We were not even going to put up a tree last year and if it had not been for the ice storm and people staying at our house, we would not have had one out. Sad, but true. We did our best to skip any and every tradition we could. I think if we could have we would have left and went away until it was all over. So, the holidays this year are not going to be any easier I'm afraid. Maybe year 3, but I am not going to hold out hope. I did feel like I was able to help out another Mom for the first time though. I told her that we always include something of Abby's in pictures when we have them taken. Afterall, she is still a part of our family. Hopefully this will make their family pictures a little easier.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Foundation News

Last night I spoke about the Foundation to AAFCS (American Association of Family and Consumer Science) at Northwest. Becci belonged to this group and spoke to them last year. They did a stuffed animal drive for us last spring and are planning one this year too. I have talked to several different groups of all different walks and ages, but this was my first campus group. I usually just wing it and see where the discussion goes. Little kids always want to talk about the stuffed animals and any experiences they have had at the hospital or even the doctor. They are always so full of stories, but some of their questions do bring tears. Adult groups usually want to know about all the good things we are doing, how we are turning the tragedy into something good for others. But last night was the first time I have talked about more of the details of the accident and outcome of the sentence. That was just the way the questions went. I thought it was appropriate that we discuss the involvement of alcohol in the accident and its outcome since he was a college student. If it makes just one person stop, think, and not get behind the wheel of a car, then it's worth it. And in all actuality, it is probably good for me to start talking about it a little more. I have only relived the day to just a very few people because it's just still so emotionally painful and probably always will be. I do hope someday to be able to go into the schools and share things with them in hopes of instilling responsible drinking in them at that age. I hope that seeing a local person that has been affected in this way might make a bigger impact than someone that they will just see for the time they are speaking.

In other Foundation news...
Wow! I cannot believe we just received our third Wells Fargo donation. ($300 for closing a loan with Wells Fargo is donated to a nonprofit of their choice) This one came from Cory and Sarah Money. Thanks for thinking of us!
MMS Octagan Club gathered some animals for us from students. I'll try to snap some photos and post them later. Thanks to them for taking on our cause!

Let's Spring Forward

I am not liking the time change at all this year. It has just totally messed up our Sunday routine. Every Sunday we order pizza from Junction Pizza, go see Abby, then pick up our pizza. Last Sunday with the time change, Elly was starving by the time we got finished with the fundraiser at Guys and Dolls, so we ate before we headed home. By the time we got home it was dark and couldn't go to the cemetery. I was kind of upset, but we had spent the day thinking of her so I decided it was ok. It's dark when I get off work now so I knew there would be no chance of getting over there before the weekend. So I was determined to get there this Sunday. Time started slipping away and before I knew it, it was getting dark. I hustled around and ran over to the cemetery by myself and didn't get to stay too long. I know that most of you have been there to visit Abby, so these pictures are mainly for family and friends that don't live very close. I snapped a couple of pics so you could see her stone. We picked out the pink granite teardrop shape last July, but didn't finalize what we wanted on it until the end of April this year. We were so happy they were able to have it finished before Memorial Day.

Some people have asked what the "symbol" is on the back. It's her letter A. We had them copy one of the ones that she had written and they engraved it on the back. I did remove a few of the decorations yesterday, but just the Halloween ones. I put out a turkey stake and a scarecrow. The cemetery is great up there and lets us leave her grave decorated all the time. We take care of the weeding and we trim the grass on her site since the ground has not settled to level yet. Anyway, this is where we get to spend our "family time" on Sundays now.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Statement in Progress

I have had to start putting my thoughts in order since the parole hearing is basically a month away. It took me quite a while to write my statement for the courts the first time. I started by just putting thoughts and feelings down, not sure exactly what I wanted to say. I changed my whole concept multiple times before I came up with what I read in court. At first I wanted to share our whole tragic day from start to finish so Ryan Sundermann would hear the pain inflicted on all of us. I scrapped that and went to writing about our lives with Abrielle because I wanted people to know her. I decided this was not what I should do either and finally came up with what I tearfully read in front of everyone. Here is the link to what the paper published and it's pretty accurate. So, since this is part of the case record, I have to start all over with a new statement. The parole board will have the first statement to read as part of his record. The good news is they will see my request to have a picture of Abrielle in his cell and can make a decision on that since the judge didn't. I have found a quote from Mark Twain that describes our grief quite well. He lost a daughter to meningitis and said, "Losing a child is like your house burning down. At first you're crushed by the calamity that the house is gone. And then, over the months and years to follow, you remember all the precious and irreplaceable things that were found only in that house. The ripples of grief stretch out of sight." This may even end up in my statement somewhere. It is just so true. We received a letter in the mail giving us instructions for the parole hearing and a map of the facility. Just seemed to make it that much more real that he could get out and be free to live his life while ours is still full of grief for our little girl he selfishly stole from us. I'd better end now, because I can sense the anger coming out and that's not what I want on here even though that is still an emotion we have to deal with.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Plush Cuties

My toy rep for the store (yes, for those of you who don't know, Coop sells toys) sent us a HUGE box full of plush that she had for demonstration models. They are so adorable and every one is super soft. I could just snuggle these all day myself. The t-rex has eyes that light up and he roars, the elephant flattens out to be a pillow, the duck quacks a tune and the bat plays a spooky song. These are just a few of the toys we were sent. There were also plush pony purses and soft baby dolls and loads more cuties. A big THANK YOU to Lillian for sending us these. The kids will absolutely love them (I know I do).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Going to be a Long 2 Months

I had to go to Walmart last night for diapers and a few other things while Mady was at dance. I was greeted by a tall Christmas tree in the entry. Not what I was expecting since it is barely November. I did venture back into that dreaded section to find some ornaments for Abby's tree that we will be putting at the cemetery. They had some small rubber Princess sets and Cars sets. I called Marc to ask which one and we just decided to get both. I left that section in tears. After venturing out into the store to get what I really came for, I heard the Christmas music playing. I'm not sure why I didn't hear it before, I guess I was thinking of everything I needed to get (had a list for a girl scout project that I was preoccupied with). The music just made everything worse. I hustled around to get what I needed so I could get out of there. Needless to say I am not looking forward to the next 8 weeks.

On another note, all the positive thoughts must have helped because JackJack has finally started eating! He had eaten his bowl full of food by this morning. I am so relieved! If something happened to him I know I would be a mess. I promised Abby.


New Organ Donor Law

Missouri has adopted a new organ donor first-person consent law. This is huge for organ donation. This means that now your first-person consent makes the decision final unless revoked by a manner provided by law. Your decision will be honored and family consent is no longer required. Before, even if you had everything in place for donation, a family member had to make the final decision. Sometimes potential donors wishes were not carried out. Now you are in charge. This is such a wonderful change and hopefully it will improve more lives through donation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Well JackJack

Our JackJack is not himself. We are puzzled as to what is wrong. I switched his cat food 3 weeks ago, but he had been eating it up until last week. One of Mady's morning chores is to feed the cats and that includes JackJack. Finally last Thursday she told me he had not been eating his food so I'm not real sure how many days this had gone on. So I dumped out all the food that was in his bowl thinking maybe it had gotten wet or something and put all fresh in. Well, this didn't work. He still didn't touch it. Then on Friday the poor guy got diarrhea...not a good thing for an inside cat, but thank goodness he made it to his litterbox every time. Saturday he still wasn't any better so I called the vet and had Marc get him some medicine and some of his old kind of kitty food, hoping this would fix everything. No luck. He has been 4 days eating on what he normally would eat in one and still having loose stool (ew!). So another call to the vet today to try and figure out what's wrong with my furry boy and we were told to bring in a stool sample (ew again) tomorrow to make sure there's nothing going on that can be told from that. When I was talking to the vet, we were going over anything that might have changed other than his food, anything different or stressful in the house. I remembered that JackJack went with me into Abby's room that weekend when we cleaned Mady's room. This was the first time he had been in her room. He was sniffing around and I had to pick him up and carry him out because he was too busy nosing around to come when I called. I know animals are pretty smart. You hear of them not eating and things like that when their owners are away, so I don't know if JackJack is just sad, missing his Abby. Don't know, but I sure hope he gets over this soon because I think it is contributing to my not sleeping again (among other things). I promised Abby I would take care of her JackJack so I can't let anything happen to him (hence the reason for an inside kitty now). He was just really special to her. I'll let you know what we find out from the vet, and if anyone knows how to make a cat un-depressed (if this is the problem), please let me know. He's pretty special to us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Haircut Success!

Sunday was a HUGE success! There were 5 stylists that volunteered their time and did 57 cuts in the 2 hour time period. They raised over $530 for the Foundation! There were people lined up from the time we got there until the end. The stylists were worn out by the time it over. Three people also donated to Locks of Love. Randi Nielson, Hadley Mundorff, and Ina Weese each gave over 7 inches of hair. Talk about a makeover.

Elly also got her first haircut. She was not too sure what was going on. Mema held her while Grandma caught the hair. We tried to help out by sweeping the floors so the stylists would not have to. Sometimes we weren't too sure if we were helping or in the way since they were moving people through so fast.Kelly and Virginia cleaning up.Shannon and Mady sweeping.

Here are is everyone that volunteered to make this happen for us. Be sure to thank these guys when you see them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Haircut Reminder

This is your reminder.....Whether you're in need of just a trim or looking for a whole new style, come to Guys & Dolls on Sunday to support the Foundation. From 2-4 pm you can receive a 1/2 price hair cut and the proceeds benefit ANF. There are no appointments, it's just first come, and unfortunately there won't be time to style your new do, but that way they can serve more clients and raise more money for us. I know we are all getting our hair cut (and yes that means Elly too - her first), so come help raise money for the Foundation while getting a service done that everyone needs anyway. Here is a link to their website.
Hope to see you Sunday!