Friday, September 1, 2017

Homegrown Program


This past summer was our first ever attempt at a garden.  I have wanted to garden for so many years but lacked the knowledge to even know where to begin.  I was then blessed with an opportunity to participate in the Homegrown program through Sprouting Hope, our local community garden.  Gardening has changed my life and I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn how to grow healthy and organic food for my family and neighbors.  

 I knew I would love to harvest the gorgeous produce and see the fruits of our hard work, but I had no idea the journey would be such a blessing.  Gardening has not only helped me fill our basement with canned spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa for the upcoming winter, but it has helped me connect with my neighbors.  Many of our neighbors were interested in our garden and came over to encourage us, share some wisdom with us, and check the progress of our vegetables.  I never dreamed how a garden could connect people.  I have spent more time with my neighbors during gardening season this summer than I have in the last decade.

Our children loved sharing our bounty and we would often load up a basket of goodies and deliver to our neighbors.   I love that gardens provide the opportunity to teach our children the value of hard work and that there is joy in loving our neighbor through sharing our harvest.
 Gardening gave our family a way to connect and work together towards a common goal.
 Gardening has also taught us patience as we have waited all summer long for our delicious tomatoes to ripen which is opposite of what our "fast food" society teaches us.
 We have created some magical memories as we have all marveled over every new vegetable we have harvested from our garden.  What a lesson to teach our children that with God all this produce comes from a little tiny seed we planted in faith in late Spring!!

 As a Mom, gardening has made me appreciate the satisfaction of providing healthy and organic food for our growing family.  We have always wanted to eat healthier but shopping organically in our local grocery store is expensive and would blow our grocery budget for a family of five.  Now due to sprouting Hope I have learned how to grow the same vegetables here in our own yard.  It is very rewarding to know that you are providing the best food possible for your family.  We are already discussing how to expand our garden next year!!
Dinner time is now a place to show off our hard work as we attempt to incorporate our vegetables into our meals.  We rarely eat out now, choosing instead to enjoy the fruits of our labor at our own dinner table. Using church friends and canning books, I have learned how to can using the water bath method and now have a basement full of salsa, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce for healthy dinners this winter.

Sprouting Hope you have blessed our family with a new way of life.  We have learned how to grow, harvest, cook, and preserve our bounty!  We have spent the summer marveling at how God used a little garden to make us healthier, help us connect with our neighbors, serve others through sharing our bounty, and teaching us how to garden.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Big Milestone!!

This weekend has been full.  It started Friday with David's six month checkup at UVA.  

Here is David with our beloved Dr. Belyea.  We were one of his first patients when David was in treatment and we adore him. After a day of tests, labs, and oncology visit with Dr. B we got the news that David is now five years cancer-free!!  I actually heard the word cured come out of Dr. B's mouth when he called me.  This was the moment we have worked so hard for all these years.  The five year milestone is huge and we feel it.  We give God the glory for healing David and for changing us as a family.  We are all different people than we were on November 17, 2011 when this nightmare began.  You cannot witness God's glory, protection, provision, and mercy and not be changed.
We will now transition from traditional oncology appointments to the survivor clinic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The great news is that we are in the survivor clinic, the bad news is we transition from Dr. B to a different oncologist.  I am sure he or she is lovely, but we are pretty attached to Dr. B.

His kidney numbers were a little high but Dr. B. said he is not worried so therefore I am not worrying.  He is going to run them by nephrology and get their opinion on them but if you have seen David in real life lately, you know that he is in the midst of puberty.  He is now 5'1 and weighs 115 pounds.  He is muscular and is actually growing a little mustache.  So the kidney numbers could be a little high to compensate for his puberty growth.
Friday afternoon while we waited on the good results and for Dave and Mike to get home Hope had a cute set of twins over to play.  These girls are hilarious and when together they sound like the chipmunks!  When Mike and Dave got home we ate pizza and loaded up to the high school football game.  Our team was playing an in-county rival and the weather was beautiful!
Saturday we worked around the house and then Kyle headed to a friend's house to watch the big fight.  Another Mom who hosted the fight watch party (God bless her.... )  sent me this picture.  Kyle was rooting for Mayweather and this was at the end of the fight.  I love Kyle's big eyes!
After church today we loaded up for a family fun day.  These sleepy heads (all but Sam) took a power nap before hiking four miles!

Another big milestone we celebrated this weekend was Mike's birthday!!!  We spent his day going to church and hiking with friends.  We are so thankful for all that he does for us and that he makes us all "do the right thing" every single day.  He is a good guy and it has been such a joy to see him get to enjoy life again now that he is in a new job.  He is obsessed with playing tennis, he is now coaching Hope's basketball team, and he never misses anything his kids do.



We visited the Cascades today and despite the chilly water, we all enjoyed the hike to see this beautiful waterfall!
Kyle and Sam modeling under the falls.  Have I mentioned how chilly the water was???  Brrrr....
These brave kiddos had to get below the falls even if it was chilly and the rocks were slick.
Hiking with Dave is a challenge.  He wears out easily and has difficulty pacing himself.
But with the help of Chris Austin David loved every single minute of the falls.  He was so proud of himself that he made it across the slippery rocks and he did it!  He got over there and then begged Chris to carry himself (remember he is 115 pounds) back to shore.  Chris and David will sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer 2017

Summer 2017 it has been real.  The backpacks are all packed and ready for the first day of school tomorrow and the kids are all tucked in their beds.  Whether we are ready for not, school begins tomorrow in our neck of the woods.  I always enjoy taking a few minutes during the last night of summer to recap what we got into as a family.  It makes me sad to realize how few summers we have left where all of our chickens are in the nest. 

We began our summer Memorial weekend heading to Charlotte to play some basketball with Team Xplosion.  We were all so excited because my preschool year was over and both the boys and Hope had enjoyed our basketball camps at the high school.  Charlotte treated us well -we stayed downtown and the kids loved the pool on the roof.
Team Xplosion did well in Charlotte and it was a great time!
We returned from Charlotte for Kyle to play summer league as a varsity player for his high school team.  They played four games a week during the months of June!  It was fun to travel to Ft. Chiswell to watch them play.  When it was all said and done Kyle played 28 baskeball games this summer.  He was in heaven!
June was also our weekly Nurture program at church.  Only for our sweet Nurture kids would we be at church before 8 a.m. for a day of serving!
This little lady turned 8 over the summer.  Slow down time please:)
The Summer is always a great time for family time at Claytor Lake!  We love our time there with Pops and GG.
Hope also loved every minute of Camp in the Community at church!  String games on her fingers, slime and learning about Jesus were the highlights of the week.
My pictures are out of order, but we also spent six days in Myrtle Beach with Team Xplosion playing in Big Shots.  It was our last tourney of the season and these boys from southwest Va/East Tn came home winners!!! Such fun!
Another joy of the entire summer was our garden.  We are so excited and proud to be organic gardeners growing, canning, and sharing our bounty.  We are already planning our garden for next year and we still have a fall garden to look forward to!
Another highlight of the summer was Kyle attending PGC basketball camp with his friend Ian.  They roomed together at Eastern Mennonite University and they learned a lot about leadership and character.  It was a great learning and growing opportunity for them both.
Ahhh, I cannot even look at this picture without smiling.  We took a group of 47 to Charleston SC to attend Mfuge mission trip at Charleston Southern University.  It was an amazing and hot week serving.
We never planned to go as a family but that is what happened!  God blessed us with a week together serving, learning and growing.  We had a blast and will have memories tucked in our hearts forever. It was a wonderful bonding time for us as a family.  Hope and I served at a day care, Kyle served at an apartment complex in the city, and Mike and David bounced around doing lots of different social ministries.
Our family at the beach!  Myrtle Beach was such fun.  We shared a condo with GG and Pops and it was relaxing, fun and just what we needed after a hectic mission trip week.  The weather was a little cloudy and we even had some rain but it did not bother us one bit.
We have enjoyed the bounty of our garden using lots of different pinterest recipes to enjoy our bumper crop.
One of the highlights of David's summer was attending Buzz's Bunch camp.  Earlier in the summer Kyle attended a basketball camp for several days and this past weekend it was David's turn.  We are big Coach Buzz fans in this house so both camps were a treat for our boys.
One of the blessings of the summer was that I learned to can!!  I only water bath can for now but I have loved taking our bumper crops of tomatoes and making spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa.  Canning is hot and messy work but it is so rewarding to know that in the cold of winter we will still be enjoying our summer garden.  I am so thankful we were chosen to be in the Sprouting Hope homegrown program.  Everytime I harvested a vegetable I would marvel that it actually grew!  I was a complete garden rookie and to see shelves of canned jars from our garden makes me smile.  Canning is not for the lazy but it is so gratifying!

We are excited for what this upcoming school year holds.  Kyle will be a sophomore, David will be in 7th grade and our favorite girl will be a third grader.  Every year when school starts back I feel a little panicky when I am faced with how fast the years are flying by.  I pray our kids learn a lot, make wise choices, show kindness to all, and remember to stick with friends who share our faith and values.  We are blessed with an amazing school system and great teachers for this year so we know that they will be in great hands. Happy first day of school-goodbye Summer 2017:)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Buzz's Bunch 2017

This past Saturday we went to one of our favorite days all year-Buzz's Bunch at Virginia Tech!  I cannot even begin to describe how amazing this day is for our children that have special needs.  
This is our third year attending (maybe fourth) and each year it feels like coming home to a family reunion.  Dave was pretty happy to give Coach Buzz a good morning hug when we arrived.  We respect this guy so much as a coach and as a human being.  For someone who does not have a special needs child he just gets it.
We met Khadim Sy when he was a high schooler player in nearby Oak  Hill and now he is a star at VT (even if Coach Buzz gives him a hard time about his rebounding).  We are not sure how this is possible but this guy has grown over the summer.  He informed me he is now about 6'11.  His heart is as tall as he is and he is such a great guy.
David for some reason decided to talk some smack to Justin Robinson and he insisted to play him one-on-one:) We think the score was tied:)  These players truly get down on these kids level and enjoy them for who they are.  It is really an amazing thing to witness.  They are not doing it for show because there are only a handful of cameras around and none of them are media.
These guys are so sweet and kind to the campers-David got overwhelmed when it was time to go with his color group and a kind former player was there to hold his hand and get him where he needed to be.
Photo op with Ahmed Hill's jersey and the Hokie bird.
David may have Down Syndrome but this guy loves his basketball and he is a competitor.  He loved showing his skills off:)

Dude has skill and he also has watched enough NBA to try to be fancy:)  He also talks enough smack for a whole team!

Kyle had been gone all week to PGC basketball camp and Hope missed him so much.  Here she is literally hanging on to him for dear life!
Here are all the players laying hands on kids as Buzz prays for them.  I have to giggle looking at this picture because Caroline was also there that day and she has a huge crush on Chris Clark.  He is sitting right behind her and check our her expression!  She was one happy girl :)
Kyle and Caorline will be sophomores this year!  Where has the time gone?
Dave always finds the pretty ladies.....
This picture pretty much sums up the day for David.  Because of Buzz's Bunch David feels like these guys and the coaches are his family and best friends.  As he went down the autograph line he told each player how many points they were going to score each game.  He ended the line by telling Coach Buzz that he wanted the players and coaches to come to our house for a house party to eat pizza, play Xbox, and listen to Fetty Wap.

Coach Buzz and his players show their true character each August before the season ever begins.  They humble themselves to spend a Saturday with special needs children-many of whom do not get to participate in sports in a traditional way.  They bring their love and energy and meet our kids where they are.  As a parent my heart is full and thankful that Coach Buzz teaches his players that basketball can be used to intereact with and bless others.  He is one of our heroes!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July Photo Dump!

I am in total denial that we are close to the finish line of Summer 2017.  It has been a great but way busy-so busy that I am way behind on blogging.

After we left the mission trip with our youth they headed home to the mountains of Virginia, our family headed two hours to the beach to catch up with Kyle at his basketball tournament.  His Xplosion team was playing in a Big Shots tournament in Myrtle Beach and we missed the first half but we made it to the second half of the tourney.

Our family's attempt at a picture on the beach.  The boys do not love my photo ops all the time but the kids are growing and changing so fast that I insist:)
We enjoyed the beach-it has been years since I had been to Myrtle and Mike had never been!
I love vacations because it gives us time as a family to just be together and relax.  I have learned that time away together trumps new "stuff" anyday and we love traveling together.
Not sure why my boys look so angry, but they enjoyed playing in the ocean, the pool, the lazy river, and the putt putt course at our resort.
We also spent some time in a gym cheering on Kyle's Xplosion team playing in the 15u divison of Big Shots.  Amazingly these boys walked away winners!  It was drama-filled after some boys from DC were not happy our boys beat them and they had to be escorted out by the police twice.  Crazy!
Kyle's team does not look too intimidating but these boys can play some ball!
Kyle has grown so much as a player being on Team Xplosion and he loves every single minute of it.
Between basketball games, we loved watching this guy have a ball in the water.  He showed no fear which made us nervous.
We were thankful GG and Pops came to the beach with us.  We learned that Pops not only can find shark's teeth, but he is a master on the self checkout at the grocery store!  We ate well and rested a lot.  It was a great trip.
Between the mission trip and the beach vacation, we were gone for 10 days.  I was so excited to come home and enjoy the fruits of our garden.  We had great neighbors who watered and took care of our garden and we came home to a feast! This little 20x20 garden space has brought us such joy this summer and helped us really connect with our neighbors.  I never dreamed we would be so invested in this little garden.  Here is sweet Hope harvesting in her nightgown before getting ready for church this past Sunday.  She is my constant companion and whatever I am doing she jumps in whole-heartedly to be with me.  These are the days because very soon it will not be cool to wear her Ariel nightgown to the garden with Mom before 8:30a.m. on a Sunday morning.
This summer Kyle has played 29 basketball games between Xplosion and summer league with his school team. He has attended Virginia Tech's basketball camp earlier in the summer and this week he is at Eastern Mennonite at point guard college (PGC) to work on his basketball IQ and to learn how to be a leader on and off the court.  This kid loves the game of basketbal and has big goals and dreams.  We told him as long as he puts God and school first he can dream and pray big!  He has certainly put a lot of time and effort into his basketball game this summer.  
His friend Ian also attended camp with him and they were not thrilled with my picture ideas but they did pose (without smiles of course).  We have all missed Pookie aroud here but we know he is being challenged and is learning lots about the game he loves.

We have about a week left to enjoy the lazy days of summer-we have certainly enjoyed our time together before reality sets in!