Friday, January 3, 2014

7 Days and Counting

The time is upon us!  One week from today, Hubs and I will be southbound with the hammer down for Marathon Weekend! (kid free for the weekend!  woowoo!)

I get asked five times a day, "Are you ready???"

The short answer is, "No."

The long answer is, "I will never be ready.   Ready implies that I have trained to the maximum, creating in my body a finely tuned athletic machine ready to go forth and conquer 26.2 miles with no sign of apprehension, only full of confidence that I can and will finish this race in a respectable time.  My ready score is at zero.  Instead, I have trained as hard as I can, through sickness, holidays, and being a mom.  The only athletic machines to which my body can be equated are those shaky belts they used to wrap around people's hips to jiggle the fat away. I have absolutely zero aspirations of any sort of respectable time, only somewhat middling confidence that I will finish in under 7 hours which is barely walking speed."

The truly sad part is that I usually find myself apologizing to others (all of whom initiated the conversation to lend support and encouragement and get dragged into Crazytown) in advance for even attempting this foolishness.  I spend way too much time talking about how I'm not actually a "runner" so much as a "mover".  How I might not technically "belong" at that race with actual runners. I hope it doesn't come off as fake humility, 'cause it's not.  I am slow, SLOW SLOW SLOW, and I walk a lot.  For some reason, I feel like I should apologize for that and that's dumb.

So I'm embracing it.  I am a mover and I'm gonna move myself 26.2 miles

There are fifteen gazillion things I could be doing to get myself feeling more ready, but instead I have decided to focus on 4 of them and leave the rest to chance. 
1) Music list (help me!  Need suggestions! I need everything from church music to punch you in the face music!)
2) Last minute shopping for race day essentials
3) Oufit (you run move faster if you look cute)
4) 3 more short runs

I'm going to finish, and I hope to be alive after doing so.  It's not going to be fast, it's not going to be pretty, I might have to walk half of it or more, but it's going to happen.

So no, I'm not ready. I'll never be ready. But I'm coming for you, Mouse.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Disney Trip Report- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Mid-December, we took Jeremiah to Disney World to celebrate his fifth birthday.  There was some initial confusion, the blame for which can be laid squarely at Mommy and Daddy's feet-- "You get to spend your birthday at Disney World!" somehow translated to "You are having a birthday party at Disney World and should invite all of your school friends, teachers, and Sunday School class!"


We set off, just the four of us, for a quick little weekend trip that wound up being one of my favorites in my 32 years of vacationing there.

Disney World at Christmas is truly spectacular.  The attention to detail that goes into the decorations in every nook and cranny is remarkable.  It's something everyone should see at least once, which is obviously an opinion shared by many as Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year.

We timed it just right and went Friday-Tuesday, December 13th through 17th.  Crowds were great, especially Sunday night and Monday!  I have gotten eleven million requests to share "How the Knolls Do Disney", which I plan to do in a couple of installments here.  For now, however, I MUST MUST MUST share with you the highlight of our trip:

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party!

It's something I've never done, but always wanted to.  Since we were celebrating a special occasion, we added the ticket to our plans.  It is a separate ticket, which means that it is NOT included in your regular admission ticket that day.  The Magic Kingdom was closing at 7 pm, and from that point on, only people with MVMCP wristbands would be allowed to stay on.

We opted not to cash in one of our park day tickets that day, and instead slept very late (we were out until midnight the night before), and instead spent the morning on the monorail/ferry boats taking the Christmas Tree-Gingerbread House tour.

The Wilderness Lodge is our home resort, and it will forever and always be my favorite.  
ESPECIALLY at Christmas!

Tiki Trek at the Polynesian!

 Grand Floridian Fun!  My retirement job shall be to work inside the gingerbread house, making treats for wee ones.

We headed over to the park at 4 pm, which is the earliest you can get in with a MVMCP ticket.They set up separate lines for ticketholders, and gave us our wristbands, and we were ready to go! 
**slight aside-- TOO MUCH WRISTWEAR.  Magic Bands (more on those later), a watch, plus a Christmas party band= overaccessorizing.  Ridiculous Mouse hats= not overaccessorizing.**

 Sometimes you just slap a Dollar Store Santa hat onto your existing ears and call it a day.

We had SO MUCH FUN.  So much so, that I forgot to take pictures.  They did a fantastic job of shooing everyone else out, and by 7:15 the place felt downright empty.  To give any Disney insiders an idea, the standby line for Peter Pan was 10 minutes.  This is nothing short of a miracle in Disney terms.

There were tons of "vintage" characters out and about, some I haven't seen in YEARS (Scrooge McDuck!).  The Once Upon a Christmas parade was INCREDIBLE.  Seriously.  The parade floats were scented, for crying out loud.

My personal favorite, and Jeremiah's, was the March of the Toy Soldiers.

We scored a FANTASTIC viewing spot, right at the start of the route where Adventureland meets Frontierland.  We got there about half an hour early, got some dinner, and ate while we waited.  It was the only time all night that I felt crowded, and even then it was nothing compared to normal parade nights.

The Holiday Wishes fireworks were impressive, lots of smiley faces and gift box shapes thrown in there.  The timing of fireworks to music was much more coordinated than I ever remember seeing in regular Wishes.  We watched them on the steps of the Diamond Horsehoe, which is a fabulous spot since they moved the launch sites further back from the castle.  We were the only ones there, sipping our free hot chocolate and nibbling our free sugar cookies.  (stations for which were EVERYWHERE, always fully stocked, never crowded, staffed with friendly people, and prepared with carrot sticks and allergy free cookies for those who requested it.  I was not expecting great things from the free hot chocolate, but it was warm and did NOT taste like hot brown water)

We made sure to get Jeremiah a Happy Birthday button at the beginning of our trip, which led to many many birthday greetings and several instances of special treatment.  He got to share a dance with Belle at her Enchanted Storytime (first time doing that, and it was SO NEAT!) AND he got to drive the Jingle Cruise boat!
 I can safely say that he is the first person I have ever known to earn one of these!

(The "Jingle Cruise" version of the Jungle Cruise was cute.  It was a sad day that they put the skippers on a script, but the jokes they added for this Christmas version were clever.)

We walked straight onto most rides, INCLUDING WINNIE THE POOH, which any parent will tell you is equivalent to winning the lottery.  Jeremiah stepped up in a big way, and rode Splash Mountain for the first time and LOVED it.  Parker spent most of his time yelling, "OOOOOH! OOOOH!" and pointing.  I spent my time, standing in the "snow" on Main Street, wiping away tears like I always do because I am Disneyiculous.  But it really was one of my favorite memories of all!

In summary- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.... 
worth it or not?
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to guess that my answer will be "YES! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!" but there are a couple of caveats to that:

1) The ticket price is steep.  Seriously. Even with discounts (DVC, annual pass, early booking, etc), it will still run you around $60 per adult, $55 for ages 3-9.  I just can't recommend doing this on top of an existing park day ticket, which would bring your cost for that day alone up to at least $150 per person.  Instead, I loved what we did- spent the first part of the day lazing about, enjoying the scenery around the property, and heading over at 4 pm.  We still got 8 solid hours inside the Magic Kingdom, and with the decreased crowd size, we were able to hit all of our favorite rides many times over.
2) If you aren't interested in the "special" parts of the event, such as the rarely seen characters, fancy costumes, fireworks and parade, don't bother.  The free sugar cookies and hot chocolate were great, but not worth a separate ticket price.  The snow on Main Street is the same as the snow over at the Osborne Lights in Hollywood Studios, so it's not a must do.  You can still enjoy the decorations and atmosphere on a regular day at the Magic Kingdom, which is nothing to sneeze at.
For us, it is probably going to be a once every two years or so tradition.  We've never done the Halloween party, so that might be next up!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How We Rolled in 2013...

Well well well, it's 2014.  And things are much the same as they ever were.  We are happy, healthy, and here.  I'd call that a victory for 2013.

So much to be thankful for.  So many highs, so many lows, and so much to look forward to.  HAPPY NEW YEAR, friends!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Baby Steps

Today I took Parker to his 18 month checkup.



 *note to self, clean powdered sugar donut residue off carseat straps*

I am not entirely sure how this happened.  But it did.
His appointment went great- we were told we are far beyond "normal" in all categories.  He is THREE FEET TALL, which projects him to be way over 6 feet when he's grown, and 75th% for weight.  NICU whaaaaaaaaaat? She told us that we don't have to come back for 6 months.  This is exciting news for us!!

She asked us if we have been to visit any other doctors since our last visit, and for a second I couldn't remember when our last visits were... You see, we don't go to the doctor much anymore.  Why?

Because we got DISMISSED by Parker's surgeon.  As in, don't call us, we'll call you.

After Parker's CT angiogram over the summer, Dr. Parker informed us that the mysterious shadow/possible CCAM has completely resolved itself, his double patch is holding up beyond perfectly, and that barring some catastrophe, he probably will never see us again.  He'd like us to still get chest xrays every 6 months, send them to him for review, but he won't call us unless he needs to.

On our slip of paper that day, we were qualified as "NORMAL PEDIATRIC CARE ONLY."

It's hard for me to put into words exactly what that means for us, or for any CDH family.  Our surgeon has been our point person/overseer of Parker's care since before he was born.  And now he's turning us over to the normal baby doctor.  For good. I told Dr. Putnam today that I still spend a part of each day looking for things to worry about.  I filled out his developmental checklist today, fully expecting to have to bubble in "Not Yet" for many items. But that wasn't the case.  He scored at or above the normal range in everything... even fine motor skills, which have been a bit behind since the beginning.  We go back to the developmental clinic in December (we'll go once or twice a year 'til he's 5) for a full workup, but for now, nobody can find anything that is even remotely a concern.

And so, to celebrate, I did something that I couldn't bring myself to do for 2 years.

I bought Parker a baby book.

It's nothing fancy, it's nothing magical.  But it's a real big step forward for me.  When you spend half of your pregnancy planning a possible funeral for your unborn baby, baby books are just not anywhere in the scope of reality.  Even after he was born, I just couldn't do it-- as hopeful as we were, and as confident as we were in his medical care, there was just too much opportunity for the other shoe to drop.  Once we got sent home, I knew it was something I needed to get, but I always found a reason not to.  Now, it's time.  He's here to stay.  And he deserves a baby book, doggone it!

It's not that his life isn't well documented.  I will always have this blog as a chronicle of our Pnut adventures, and I am seriously considering getting the first year printed and bound for him.  I suppose it goes with the "normal baby" classification- he needs a normal baby book full of normal baby milestones, mixed in with a healthy dose of "you were never normal" milestones.

I have so much catching up to do- both in his baby book and on here.  So prepare to revisit our summertime adventures, beach trip, Halloween, etc.  In the meantime, as I take baby steps towards being a "normal baby mommy", please enjoy some of Parker's first "normal baby steps" from the last week of August.  *and Jeremiah's sliding skills*


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Abby Files A Protest

This entire entry is dedicated to a group of gals on Facebook who were seeking my opinion on something.  I don't answer Disney questions in anything other than pages, so I had to house it here.

There's a home video of me, approximately aged 5, that my father lovingly titled "Abby Files A Protest."  It involves a Big Wheel race around my grandparents' culdesac, and some rather shady behavior by my same-aged cousin.  Despite what ANYONE ELSE said or saw, he was cutting corners in his efforts to beat me. That he is now an ordained minister should not sway you in who to believe here.  I have photographic evidence!  ;-)  The entire video is me trying, in dulcet tones, to explain why I had ACTUALLY WON the race, despite having careened off course and crashed into the back bumper of my Grandaddy's Lincoln Town Car.

Today, those same dulcet tones will be used to explain why I, who shares the position of Co-Captain of Team Disney or Die with my sister, am none to happy regarding their latest and "greatest" rollout in guest experiences.

Here's what arrived in our mailbox today.

HOORAY!  We're heading down in a month or so, to celebrate Jeremiah's birthday and early Christmas.  As a result of being booked to stay on property, we have been selected to be part of the test market for Magic Bands.

These are my sister's Magic Bands for her upcoming trip.  Aren't they cute and fun?!? The short version is that instead of having a plastic key card housing your room key, credit charges, and park tickets, you now have this nifty wristband.  They have microchips in them that require a simple touch to a sensor to read, and you're good to go.  I can get behind that-- they're waterproof, less likely to get misplaced, and you can get a pink one! I can see it eventually morphing into a child location device, like on the cruise ships... These things could be great!

What I can NOT get behind is the attached Fast Pass Plus system.  Currently, you can use your plastic key card to get FastPasses for various attractions, assigning you a time later that day to return and "skip the line" (read: stand in a sometimes shorter, sometimes not line).  There are a few limits on it to keep the crowds flowing around the park- you can't get more than one within a certain time period, and often times there will be such a demand for them they will run out of FastPasses for very popular rides early in the day.

Fast Pass Plus gives you the opportunity to make appointments for attractions in advance.  How far in advance remains to be seen, as it's still in the testing stages, but I got my info on it today, and my vacay starts in 40 days.  The appeal here, on the surface, is that I can now have the ability to know when, precisely, my family will be riding/experiencing certain attractions in the parks.

Let me be clear here- I am not co-captain of Team DoD for nothing.  I love to plan my park days, and we have a system down to a T that enables us, if necessary, to blow through all 4 parks, riding all of our favorite rides, in approximately a day and a half.  I know how to manipulate the system to make it work for us, and perhaps that knowledge will come in time with this new system, but for now there are some MAJOR RED FLAGS A-WAVING.  Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's chat:

1) The greatest "draw" of this plan is also it's greatest flaw.

Being able to plan out your ride times 6 months in advance (which sounds ludicrous, but is the current standard opening window for dining reservations. It would not surprise me in the least if ride reservations went the same way within a year or so)  sounds fantastic.  How exciting to know that you'll be able to skip the standby line for the big rides, and to be able to plan your park days accordingly!  "Once in a lifetime" Disney trippers get a huge benefit from this-- it takes away much of the overwhelming stress newbies can feel when standing in the parks for the first time and having no idea what to do with themselves.

Except it doesn't.  It just moves that stress to 6 months earlier, on top of converting Newbie Disney Mom into a clipboard toting Drill Sargeant.  To effectively plan your rides in advance, you need a good working knowledge of how far it is from one ride to another, which rides are worth using up a reservation slot for and which aren't, as well as outside factors individual to your family, such as what times your kids like to rest or eat.  Once those time slots are booked, Newbie Disney Mom has joined the ranks of the women shrieking at their children "I DON'T CARE IF YOU ARE TIRED OR HUNGRY OR WANT TO SEE MICKEY MOUSE!  WE HAVE 14 MINUTES TO MAKE IT TO TOMORROWLAND AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN, DAMMIT!"

Because, if you don't make it to Tomorrowland in 14 minutes....

2) You're screwed if you miss it.
This from the Disney Webpage:
"We understand that there are many unexpected situations that may arise and cause you to miss your FastPass+ attraction arrival window time—but don’t worry! If your plans change while at the park and FastPass+ experiences are still available (emphasis mine), you can modify your selections online with your mobile phone or at a FastPass+ kiosk.
Please try to make changes to your FastPass+ experience before the start of your arrival window time. If you miss your time due to circumstances beyond your control, please speak to the Cast Members at the attraction.
While you may lose the opportunity to use an attraction’s FastPass+ entrance if you miss your arrival window time, all operating attractions still provide a standby queue where you can wait to enjoy the attraction."

Guess what.  Little Johnny just had a blowout and  is leaking poop onto your rented stroller. There aren't enough wipes in the diaper bag, and you have to go back to hotel to hose him (and you) off.  You're going to miss your Space Mountain time.
Per the Disney Webpage- while you are dragging poor soiled Johnny by one arm down Main Street, you should also have your phone out, frantically trying to find another open reservation time for Space Mountain. Otherwise, you just bought yourself a 120 minute standby wait after you wash the poo out of your hair.  Or, if one pays attention to the print up there, you just scored the only available reservation left for that day ('cause ClipBoard Mom from #1 booked all the good ones 6 months ago)- FastPass Plus for Winnie the Pooh!  Your teenager will be thrilled!

With the old FastPass system, if you missed your time, it was sad.  But, it was easy to take solace in the knowledge that you could, with a few exceptions like Soarin' or Toy Story, get another one for that ride, though probably much later in the day.  And in the meantime, you could fill up your wait time by FastPassing other rides.

Except now....

3) Three shall be the number thou shalt count.
Yep.  Three reservation slots per day is the current standard,with some people (usually those booked on low attendance days) reporting "surprise" opportunities to book a fourth, and being given a "freebie" in the pre-selected form of Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean, neither or which I have ever, in more than 20 trips, waited more than 25 minutes for on standby line.  Not really a great "free surprise!", but it looks that way on paper.

The rub here is that with the old system, we have had park days where we were able to use up to 8 or even 10 FastPasses in one day, sometimes for the same ride multiple times.
With this new system, you get one go on a ride per day before you are relegated to the standby line, and you are limited to 3 "experiences", which might be rides, or shows, or reserved parade/fireworks viewing per day.  AND THEY MUST ALL BE IN THE SAME PARK.

Oh yes, not only are you limited to three FastPasses per day, you are also limited to keeping them within one park for that day.  Park-hopping, under this system, has lost much of its appeal.  The Disney Dream of hitting all 4 mountains in one day (Space, Splash, Thunder, and Everest) has died- as doing so without FastPass use is almost impossible.

This isn't a big deal to people who are there for 10 days, and spend 2 or 3 days at each park.  It is, however,  a big honking deal to people like me, who fall into this category...

4) Last minute trippers, i.e. repeat customer$$$$$, are getting a real short stick here.

With our DVC points and our no-expiration tickets, or Sister's family with their annual passes, it is so easy for us to say "Hey, let's jaunt down for the weekend.  We already have tickets and a room, we'll just have to pay for gas and food."  Doing so meant that we had to forsake almost all chances at sit-down restaurants, as those book up at the 6 month out window, but that's never a big deal. 
Now, however, we will have to factor in that the FastPass Plus reservations have significantly decreased the number of FastPasses available for other guests who don't have the armband reservations already made.  Sure, we can hop on the app (OF COURSE there is an app!  We'll revisit this in #5) as we are hurtling southbound, and see what's open, but if the experience in trying to get a last minute dinner reservation is any indication, that won't go well.

Other people getting royally screwed include people who are staying off property, people who buy tickets from other retailers than Disney (Undercover Tourist represent!!!), and people who live locally in Florida and have annual passes.  They won't have the ability to make any advance ride reservations at all, being only able to use the old FastPass machines (which are being phased out as we speak, with only 1 of 6 available machines at Rockin Rollercoaster being in operation) to get what few actual passes remain after the advanced reservation people have made their choices.  I can actually see the logic here from Disney's standpoint, as those other people aren't giving them enough money to be entitled to a premium guest experience.

Ooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-- did you read that sentence carefully?  'Cause I am enough of a conspiracy theorist to know that this could very likely be Step One in the march towards Paid FastPasses-- anybody who is willing to pay a little extra can get extra FastPasses added on.  Just ask Universal Studios down the road-- it works like a champ for them and I can almost smell it landing on Main Street within five years. 

And finally... 

5)  It feeds into one of my biggest personal pet peeves:


It saddens me, every day, the frequency with which I see kids at restaurants with ipads while their parents are checking Facebook and dribbling cheese dip in the process.  Lots of the concerns people have raised with this program have been answered by Disney with "With our new wifi park wide, you'll be able to get constant updates if something affects your reservations, and you'll be able to modify your choices from your device."

Super.  Now Clipboard Mom from #1 is frantically checking her phone, making sure there's no magical email from Mickey telling her to show up at 2:45 instead of 2:14.  YAY VACATION!!!!!!!!!!!!

So many people are going to love this business, and I might love it in time.  I might not have a choice, as this "testing phase" that we have been asked to be part of is the last step of a full rollout. Right now, being part of the test group is GREAT because, as late as last week, people were able to double dip and use their new wristband reservations ON TOP OF their traditional room keys to get extra FastPasses the old way.  Disney doesn't leave loopholes open for long, so I'm not counting on that for our trip in December or when we go back for the marathon.  Even if that loophole were going to be there, I wouldn't use it. I'm protesting out of principle and my general disdain for this silliness.

I embrace innovation. I like advancements.  I celebrate the Carousel of Progress and all that it represents.  I just remain unconvinced that this plan, in its current form, is a good one.  Two years from now, I will probably be happily waving my pink armband in the air, all its virtues to espouse to anyone who will listen.  But until someone holds me captive and shoves that wristband on my arm, I'm giving Mickey a big


Monday, October 21, 2013

(Half) Marathon Monday

82 Days 'Til the Disney Marathon!

*hyperventilation and despair*

Yesterday, Hubs and I "ran" the Athens Half Marathon with his brother Jimmy.  It was not fast, it was not pretty, but we did it.

The course yesterday was AMAZING.  Not too much in the way of uphills or downhills, no tedious down and backs, and a great reminder of why I will always love this town.

We started the morning with a quick worship service at First Presbyterian Church of Athens.  So wonderful of them to open their doors- providing hot coffee, a warm place to stretch, and a peaceful time of prayer and singing before the start.  After that, it was a quick walk to the start and then we were off!

The course ran through so many beautiful old historic neighborhoods in Athens.  (Hubs spent most of last night looking up real estate listings in Cobbham, our favorite little section. Alas, until we hit the lotto, it is not meant to be!)  People lined almost every street, waving hilarious signs ("Our government can't run, but you can!"  "Worst parade ever!  Where are the floats?") and offering oranges and high fives.  It is impossible to put into words how much spectator support can mean while running! We wound our way down sorority/fraternity row (real quiet that early on a Sunday morning!), through Memorial Park (the only really hilly part of it all), and past my old apartment.  Milledge Place represent!

We made our way back to campus, finishing up with a victory lap around the field of Sanford Stadium, waving at ourselves on the JumboTron.  A quick sprint to the finish, and we were done!  *we actually crossed the finish twice-- this was Jimmy's first race, and he had hit the proverbial wall, so we jumped back on the course and cheered him to the end.  So proud of him!*

My goal was 2:30- there was a man with a little sign leading a pace group for that time, and I tried to keep him in my sights.  I lost him at one of the water stops, and never found him again.  I did know, however, that I would at all costs stay in front of the 2:45 sign lady.  And in front of the one I termed "Smelly Man", who left such a cloud of BO in his wake that it was hard to breathe.  *shudder*

I wanted to finish at that time so I could send a good qualifier to RunDisney-- hoping to escape the last corral and move up even one, so that I can build as much of a head start as possible before the Van of Shame starts rolling after the last starter leaves.  I THINK my time will get me out of the last corral, which will give me a few precious minutes.  Every second of padding I can get, I will take.  That marathon will be more of a mental game than a physical one, especially for someone like me who is about as far from an "elite endurance athlete" as you can get.

While I didn't make my goal, I was close. I took 28 minutes off my best half marathon time (35 minutes off my first one), and finished at 2:40 by their clock, 2:38 by mine.  That comes out to a little more than a 12 minute mile, which is not fast.  For lots of people, that's barely moving.  For me, however, it felt great!

I am not a distance runner.  I take liberal walking breaks. But I go.  And go and go and go.

Training runs are getting up to the 20 mile mark soon, and the race date approaches.  The run yesterday was a pretty easy one, and I didn't push it as hard as I could have at some points.  My music player battery died at mile 12 (SERIOUSLY?!?!?) and that made the last stretch much harder. My ankles were a little sore yesterday, but I feel fine today. Still, the concept of what was the finish line yesterday being the halfway point in January is a little daunting.  Or completely terrifying.

Nothing to do but keep moving.  Past the smelly man, past self doubt and worry, and onto a finish with a high five from Mickey.

Comin' for you, Mouse.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

On the Subject of Miracles, 2.0

I have gotten approximately 15 "WE NEED A PARKER UPDATE!" emails in the last few weeks.  I so much love that people are invested in his little story and our little family.  I have so much to get caught up on-- our beach trip, marathon training, and big news on the Parker front (all good!).  Must. Get. Better. About. Posting.  But I do thank those who you who check in on us.  I apologize for my absence, but in all honesty, we have been SO BUSY around here, by the time it's time for updating the blog, I am facedown on the sofa watching mind-numbing reality shows until I wake up drooling on the cushions.

HOWEVER, I couldn't let today pass unnoticed.

Sweet Rose, aka Jude's mommy, and one of the first ladies who reached out to us after Parker's diagnosis, organized a little get together today for some CDH babies who live not too far from each other.  I was so excited to go, to finally get to love on these babies who beat the CDH monster and to hug the necks of the women who understood our journey better than anyone and who stood by our sides through thick and thin.  I've often referred to them as "imaginary" friends, because I feel like I know them, but would walk right past them in the grocery store.

Today we finally got to meet, and it was a grand and glorious time-- all of our families (minus just a few) in a beautiful park on a perfect fall day.  Hearts full to bursting.

Lily, Bonnie, Clara, Parker, and Jude (in the back)
**picture courtesy of the Hardys**

It's hard to look at that picture and not be amazed, knowing their stories, and knowing the struggles they have all faced. 5 wee ones, with something like 18 months' NICU time between them.  5 strong and healthy babies who all, at various times, were far too close to dying.  5 little people who, for all intents and purposes, are living "normal" lives doing what "normal" babies do.

5 miracles.

I mentioned it before, but I think it's worth mentioning again, the miracle isn't that these babies survived.  Or even that they were born.  The miracle is that they were formed, albeit imperfectly... Imperfect by human standards, but designed exactly the way God intended them to be. 

Looking at those faces above, I think you'd be hard pressed to find any of us who'd change a thing!