Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top News Story

I would rather something to do with the Foundation make the top news story of the year, but none the less, we made the papers with Sundermann's sentencing. I don't think our lives are newsworthy by any means, but it shows the amount of public support and outcry at the accident that took our little girl. Here are the links to the top news stories in the Maryville Daily Forum and the Nodaway News Leader.

Also, those of you who can, make sure you tune in to the Rose Parade tomorrow and watch for the Donate Life Float. The parade will be broadcast on ABC, NBC, HGTV, Travel Channel, RFD-TV, and a couple others that I haven't heard of. We will be thinking or our little girl as we watch tomorrow as she is honored with a rose.

Avenue City School Donations

Mandy Scott, the third grade teacher at Avenue City, asked her class to bring in donations for the Foundation and here's what we received....

WOW!!! All from just 15 kids!

One of her students, his brother, and his mother accompanied Mandy on the trip up to bring me the donations. These boys were so cute. One had told Santa that to make sure the kids in the hospitals get presents on Christmas too. I love it when kids learn to give. Thank you Mandy and all your students! We really appreciate the gift!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We Survived...

We survived the Christmas holiday. Christmas Eve was tough for me and I spent most of it in tears at work and while wrapping presents. We started some new traditions with the girls last year and have continued those. This was one of the suggestions in our grief support group and we have tried to do a few of them to get through the holidays. Mady had said a couple days before that it was sad last year that we didn't make any cookies for Santa. So, we did get some made this year. We have always made oatmeal raisin, but thought we should make a different kind this year. We had lots of company on Christmas day and I think that actually helped keep me distracted most of the day. Of course Abby was never out of my thoughts on such a special day, how could she be. In fact, Santa brings gifts for the Foundation to our house every year now. Last year Mady asked for some in her letter to Santa and he brought an enormous bag full of them. This year, Santa left some animals under our Abby Tree.

Those of you keeping track out there, we have a lot of bagging to do in January. I'll try to get a date scheduled soon. And another note, we had to change the date of the Celebration to the 14th of June, so mark the date.

Monday, December 29, 2008

St Gregory's First Grade Donation

St. Gregory's First Graders brought bags of donations to give to me when they decorated cards. Here is what they gave.

I absolutely love the values this school instills in its students. They are continually working on projects that help someone else. I think this is such a wonderful thing to intertwine with the normal curriculum.

Friday, December 26, 2008

School Donations

Mrs. Nielson and Mrs. Wilmes, the preschool teachers at EFE, started a tradition of helping out the Foundation at Christmas time by asking the kids to bring something for the Foundation instead of a gift for them. Here are the gifts they brought this year.

One bag of animals came with a sweet little note that said, "My daughter was in the emergency room several times in September. Each time, she received a stuffed animal. It provided her comfort each time. Thank you! Hope these animals will bring comfort to another child. God Bless!" We love hearing that all the hard work our group of volunteers put in is appreciated.

They also donated several coloring books, crayons, and reading books. We donate most of our reading books to the Nodaway County Health Department, but some go other places too.

Thanks so much for the donations to all that gave and thanks for collecting these gifts for the Foundation Randi and Suzi, Robin and Jenn.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Poem for Abby

Christmas in Heaven,
What is it like for you?
Are there gifts to open,
And family dinners too?

Have you been baking
With Great-Grandma Pendergrass,
Making cookies and candies
To share with all who pass.

Or have you and Grandpa
Found the perfect spot,
To give ice fishing a try
Before it gets too hot.

Are you and Granddad
Dealing the cards,
Playing Go Fish
With the angels in charge.

Has Uncle Bob
Found you a big hill
To ride your sled down
Without any spills.

Are you wearing your hat
Like Mommy says to do
As you build snowmen
And have snowball fights too.

Christmas at our house
Is still filled with tears,
Missing you terribly
Year after year.

Between your two sisters’
Your stocking hangs still,
With no gifts or toys
For us to fill.

On Christmas,
In our thoughts you will be
As we open gifts
Left under the tree.

We spend the day playing
With the new gifts given,
But never forget
About you up in Heaven.

So look down on us
On this special day,
Let us feel you close
As we struggle and pray.

Merry Christmas Abby! Mommy and Daddy love you!

Christmas 2006, Part 3

This is the last Christmas we had with our little girl. Here are some photos of Christmas morning at our house. And before anyone says anything, I'm just going to admit it, yes, my girls are spoiled. Christmas is a BIG deal at our house and it has always been my favorite holiday. I have always loved the baking and decorating, the lights and sounds, the family gatherings, the excitement of the kids, but just don't now. I hope one day this will be my favorite holiday again. Santa got a little sneaky this year. We had finished the basement (most of it) and he put presents under the tree downstairs too. The girls opened all the gifts upstairs and noticed there were some things they asked for that they didn't get. We started off saying that Santa only has so much room in his sleigh and that he must not have been able to bring everything they asked for. They looked a couple of gifts that just seemed odd, like Abby got cartridges of music for her microphone, but no microphone, and they thought of the tree downstairs. They hustled down there and found more presents.Here's Abrielle in her pink princess dress she asked for. Notice JackJack got to come in for Christmas too. He's at her feet. The girls got a Little Mermaid salon. Here's Abby in her new robe trying out the dryer.
Merry Christmas Abbers!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas In Heaven

I see the countless Christmas Trees
around the world below,
with tiny lights, like heaven's stars,
reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away that tear,
for I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear,
but the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
for it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me.
I see the pain inside your heart,
but I am not so far away.
We really aren't apart.
So be happy for me dear ones.
You know I hold you dear,
and be glad I'm spending Christmas,
with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above.
I send you each a memory of,
my undying love.
After all "LOVE" is the gift,
more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other,
as my Father said to do,
for I can't count the blessing or love
he has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas
and wipe away that tear,
Remember, I'm spending Christmas,
with Jesus Christ this year.

This poem was included with an engraved memorial ornament a friend got us last year.

Christmas 2006, Part 2

The Schimming Family Christmas, I was running the movie camera again. I think I did this at all the Christmas' actually. So Marc was the photographer. Here are some pictures from that day of us all together. Abrielle is in the middle of all the action.
Papa got her the infamous big "bobbycat" (bobcat skid loader). This is the one she was looking for for sharing the day of the accident and the one she is buried with.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Parole Hearing Decision

We just received notice this morning that Ryan Sundermann will be remaining in the state's custody until June 11, 2012. This was the most time behind bars he could possibly serve! We could not ask for any more time than this! Upon his release, he will remain on probation until June 11, 2014. This means, no more parole hearings, no more fighting to keep him behind bars, no more reliving the pain (any more than we already do). This much of our fight is over! Merry Christmas to us!

Christmas 2006, Part 1

It really doesn't seem that long ago that we celebrated Christmas with our Abrielle. I really wanted to go back through our years with her like I did at Halloween, but just can't right now. Something about this holiday just makes getting through a "normal" day extra hard. Instead, I will share different events from our last Christmas with her, 2006. Looking at these photos on my memory card is tough enough, but to add to it, some were damaged in the accident. I always carry my camera in my purse, because with kids you never know when that kodak moment will occur. My purse was sitting on the front passenger seat, which there was nothing left of, and my camera inside was destroyed. I am thankful that the memory card was left intact and most of the pictures were ok, but there a some that have been totally wiped off and some that have a fog to them. Anyway, here are some pictures of our Neff family Christmas at our house. Here's one of the "foggy" ones.
My little Elmo lover.
Kitty Slippers!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Abby's Preschool Party

Travel with me back to December 2006 as we find Mrs. Nielson's preschool class enjoying their Christmas party. First up is a round of games. Let's try to knock down the snowman, shall we. It's a race between two teams, so get to throwing those bean bags.

Ready, set, throw!
Missed with that one. Jaden knocked his head off. You have two left. Try again. Score!!! Let's celebrate Cole! Now it's time to fill the stockings with fuzzy pompoms carried on a spoon. Oops, no pictures of this game. Let's move on to the gift exchange.

Keep passing the bean bag until the music stops Abby.

Let's see what present Abby chose.

Oh, cool! It's stickers and tattoos! How fun!Time for snacks. Abby, you brought the treats. You can help pass them out. Yummy! Santa Claus ice cream cones.
Uh, oh! Abrielle broke her cone off. Be careful not to get ice cream all over your red snowflake shirt.

Everyone really seems to like your ice cream treats Abby. What a fun party! I think all the preschoolers had a good time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Forgiveness ....?

I usually don't post on weekends because I try to keep it for family time, but this weekend I thought I needed to post what we received. As one of the stipulations of our settlement in the civil suit, we receive a check for $1 every month from Ryan Sundermann to the Foundation. The whole point of this so that he cannot forget. It forces him to write her name every month. So when anyone sees that we are to get "millions" in settlement, this is actually all we get....$1 per month for the rest of his life to the Foundation. Obviously right now his mom sends it us. Friday night we received our check enclosed in a Christmas card with a letter. Here's what it said,
"May you find peace within your heart this season - the season of love and forgiveness. I forgive you for the lies you told about my son at the parole hearing. May you seek the truth within your heart and come to an understanding with it. Brenda, you can not begin to feel or know what I am going through as you said at the parole hearing. As for me I know the grief you are feeling as I too have lost a child way too soon. But you can't fixate on that day or that time. You have to move pass that and look to the future. You have to enjoy what is around you and not what could have been. I pray that someday you are able to do that."
I am not even going to post my thoughts and feelings about this letter. Just draw your own conclusions.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Abby's Preschool Concert

This is the season for Christmas concerts, so thought I would share pictures of Abby's Preschool Christmas concert. I remember she practiced and practiced those songs. I think I could still sing several...CHRISTMAS (they spell it out), Where is Santa .... and can still hear her singing them in my head. Not sure how much singing she actually did at the concert though. She was too busy waving at everyone she knew.

Kinda hard to see her, but she's right behind the little one in the Santa outfit waving at the camera. Here she is in her dress for the concert. She actually left the bow in her hair the whole time. Marc had a basketball game and couldn't make it to the concert. This might sound kind of wrong, but I am glad that he couldn't be there because I bought a new movie camera to record it for him. Our other one no longer worked so we didn't have movies of Abby for about a year in between time. I am so glad I got to record her singing and was able to record Christmas events and such after this night. If Marc had been able to be there, I'm sure we would have made due without the movie camera. I have watched them several times.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

St Gregory's Card Making

I met with the first and seventh graders Wednesday morning so they could help out the Foundation by decorating some cards. The older kids buddied up with the younger ones to help them with their decorating. Some really neat cards were made. I love looking at how creative some people can be. Here are some pictures of the kids decorating.

The kids really enjoy decorating the cards. I think they did about 50 cards for the Foundation.

They also presented me with the $50 they raised from their lemonade stand. I think that is just awesome that they raised that much! Some of the kids brought animals, coloring books, and markers to donate too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A New Addition

We surprised Marc with a new boxer puppy for Christmas. We haven't had a dog for 2 years and it's been 4 years since we've had a puppy. Here is Miss Molly with Elly. Elly is basically the same age Abby was when we got Winston. Here is a picture of Abby with Winston when we went to pick him out. See any resemblances between my two girls? Abby loved Winston. It was too cute when she would try to whistle for him. She couldn't, so she would just go "whet, whet". It was funny to hear.

The girls and I took Molly with us to see Abby Sunday. Mady said "Abby says she likes her. She wishes she could play with her." I am sure Abby would love her too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shopping ..... Check

I went with Beth to Omaha on Saturday afternoon to get my Christmas shopping done. I was quite pleased with how I did, only a couple more things to get, and no tears in the store. Beth was proud of me too. It might sound silly, but I think it kind of helped shopping in a different location than I had before for the girls. We spent most of the time in Lake Manawa and Becci came over and joined us for supper and more shopping after she got off work. I did wear down and was "done" before anyone else, but that was ok. I cried most of the way home from Beth's, partly because every station was playing Christmas songs at that hour (11 pm), but I think that helped keep me awake. By the time I got home I was exhausted, but felt better for getting the shopping done. I think sitting there stewing about doing it was only making it worse. So, shopping, done!
I was also glad I was able to find a tree and the decorations for our Abby Tree. It was really bothering me that we had the other trees out and not one for her.
Tomorrow I will be going to St. Gregory's to work with the first and seventh graders on decorating cards. They raised $50 from their lemonade stand at their rummage sale for the Foundation! They will be purchasing stuff to donated to us.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Abby Tree

We put up our Abby Tree Sunday night. Beth and I found a cute pink jeweled star for the top and pink star garland. The girls decorated the tree with ornaments that make us think of Abby and ones we had bought for her to have later in life for her own tree. Needless to say, I cried quite a bit. There are ornaments from Cars, Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo. Barbies, Stanley and his Great Big Book of Everything, Little Einsteins, Elmo, and dancers fill the tree. I don't have a tree skirt for it yet. I think we are going to make a patchwork one of sorts out of different fabrics from things she liked.

Mady stringing the garland.
Mady putting the pink star on top.

The girls with the finished Abby Tree.

Enjoy the holidays with your family.


Friday, December 12, 2008

A Visit to Santa

We are planning to take the girls to see Santa tonight at Winter Wonderland so I thought I would share pictures of our Abby with Santa. These are from 2006. I still have to laugh when I think about this trip. Most years I have to take the girls on my own or Aunt Becci would come along because Marc always has basketball games on Friday night. But this year Marc was able to go before he had to be at his game, which was nice. We were second in line and just waiting for the big guy to arrive when Abby had to go potty. Guess what, the bathrooms were locked. I wasn't sure what to do, so she and I went back to the expedition to drive somewhere, but she didn't think she could make it. (I think the cold got to her.) I decided to let her tinkle behind the tire where no one would see. She had just pulled her pants up when the firetruck with Santa came around the corner. It was Scott and Cole Daniels bringing him in. Abby waved really big at Cole. They blew the siren and Abby was not expecting that at all. She literally dove under the vehicle because it scared her. I just laughed and laughed. She was never afraid of anything, so it caught me off guard that she would be startled like that. We went back into line to see Santa. I remember Mady wanted Lucky the Wonder Pup and Abby wanted a Princess Dress and baby doll stuff. We then road on the carriage ride with Ralph Florea. The girls loved doing this and petting the horses. Unfortunatly Marc didn't get to ride with us, but we were glad he got to see Santa with us this year.