Meet the McNeil Family

Meet the McNeil Family

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Go Nats!

Some friends of ours arranged for our family to be on the field for batting practice last Saturday. We have been fans of the Nats for over 8 years. And this year we splurged on a Sunday package. Oliver has always enjoyed baseball games, especially when he can see the field. Not to mention the tasty treats of cotton candy and popcorn. This was unlike any game we have ever been too. It was an incredible experience.

Oliver got some game balls and autographs. Plus we had amazing seats behind home plate with all inclusive treats. Thanks to our friends for helping us make a day full of memories. Oliver is still holding onto his game ball.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Meet Our Second Winner

Today was the last day of school. The sixth grade class is recognized for all of their hard work in elementary school. Awards are given for academic, physical fitness, and musical success. We were also able to give the Waverly McNeil Memorial Award for Kindness & Inclusion. This is the second year we have done so. In my very biased opinion, it is the most important award to bestow on one student.

Matt and I created this award to recognize the student who most exemplifies kindness and inclusion within the school. In her years at VES, Waverly changed the school. By including her in the main stream classes, celebrating MPS Awareness Day and Special Education Week, and brainstorming with the teachers for opportunities to volunteer, she helped create an environment of respect and value for all students.

The winner this year is Alyssa Morse. Her teachers were quick to recommend her. She wrote an essay for a creative writing assignment on the benefits of kindness. She then went to each classroom during morning meetings and presented her essay, spreading the word on the benefits of kindness and inclusion. She is remarkable young lady.

As I watched another group of children step up to receive their certificates for completing sixth grade, I was overcome with the knowledge that these kids are going to take those lessons into their middle schools, high schools and beyond. It is my hope that they reach out to the lonely, befriend the new kid, protect the bullied and show kindness to all. I hope that kids in wheelchairs, who use chewy tubes, who are non-verbal are SEEN.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Empty Hangers

After Waverly passed away, we were left with the task of what to do with her room and all of her belongings. Each person is different in the way they cope. Some people keep the room as is for years and other dismantle everything within days. No right or wrong, just the individual way we all choose to survive loss.

Matt and I found ourselves somewhere in the middle. Her room went untouched for a few weeks. We found solace collapsing on her bed and holding her pillow tight against our chest. Eventually we were able to let go of some things. Her drawers were unpacked and we gave many of her clothes to dear friends whose kids continue to wear them and give them life. I adore seeing photos of Waverly's dresses jumping, playing and swinging. It soothes my broken heart. Her chest was moved into Oliver's room and now contains his wardrobe. Her Sleep Safe bed was given to friends for their son. Stuffed animals were passed on to friends who wanted to remember her with a tangible object.

We moved our desk into her room, along with my crafting items. Matt sometimes works from home in there and I complete paperwork at the desk. Her room will continue to evolve, but in our memories it will always remain her room.

One thing that couldn't be moved were favorite dresses; especially those which she wore again and again in her final weeks. I have always loved Hanna Andersson and their play dresses were a constant favorite. They always had corresponding leggings or bike shorts, perfect to cover a diaper. They were soft and she always looked put together which was important to me. Even though she had lovely cotton nightgowns, it was five play dresses that she wore constantly whilst on hospice. They were too precious to be donated or given away. So in her closet they hung.

Until today.

I reached out to friends via Facebook to collect recommendations for a quilter. I wanted to have a blanket made of all of the special items I have saved over the years. Dresses, costumes, scarves, pajamas all saved lovingly in bins. I found someone who I think it going to create something beautiful for us. We found a design and it is time to ship off the fabrics.

Unpacking the plastic bins and placing the items into a cardboard box was painless, but those hanging dresses. I could not do it. Each time I grabbed a dress, I would weep. Remembering her frail body filling the space. Wanting to smell her on them, but finding only the scent of fabric softener. Wishing things were different. So the box sat open and waiting for more treasures.

I was finally able to delicately take them off of the hanger this morning. I carefully folded them, placing them in plastic for they are the most precious. This process wasn't without tears.

I have one more dress to include before I can seal the box and send it across the country. The dress she died in. 

Vulnerable and honest.

I want to be sure this item is at the heart of the quilt.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Do More 24 - Jill's House

On Thursday June 8th, Jill's House is participating in the Do More 24 campaign sponsored by the United Way of the National Capital Area. It is a 24 hour fundraising event for local non-profits. About 80% of the Jill's House budget comes from fundraising! The grand prize winner gets an additional $10,000 and there are some corporate donors who are offering matching grants to increase our chances of winning the big prize.

As many of you know, Jill's House has been vital for our family. Waverly first started attending soon after it opened. I vividly remember her first weekend stay. We dropped her off on a Friday night and I was so impressed. The nurses and staff knew all about her, down to her little lamb being her comfort toy. We received an email that night containing a picture of her with her child support attendant. The next day we took Oliver to a local amusement park. It was so nice to focus on him, knowing Wavey was enjoying a weekend away at a place designed specifically for children like her. They had Sleep Safe beds, an adaptive playground, bouncy castle, a zero entry indoor pool, gym, music room, huge movie screen, sensory room, and so much more. She was making friends with the other children and the staff. We were beyond anxious to pick her up and I believe we arrived an hour early, waiting in the parking lot for our check out time. And thus began our relationship with Jill's House.

Oliver had to wait almost 3 years until he was old enough to attend. Finally he turned 6 and he burst through the backdoors to the playground. He rode around on a two-person tricycle, watched Mickey Mouse on the big screen, played in the pool.

Jill's House staff have become friends. When Waverly was placed on hospice, it was a Jill's House staff member who delivered coffee to Matt and I. They delivered a huge poster filled with photos and notes celebrating her 12th birthday. (She had birthday parties with her friends there in the past.) Purple balloons arrived at our door.

And they wanted to help in the best way possible, by loving Oliver. They understood that Matt and I were focused on Waverly. So they stepped in and offered Oliver additional nights. He was given so much attention and love. It was during that time he bonded with Isac, one of the best staff members at Jill's House. Ollie needs consistency and gentleness. He needed a hand to hold and a kind voice to guide him. Isac provided all of that and more. Still to this day Oliver is calmed by Isac's presence.

When Waverly passed away, it was a staff member of Jill's House who meet us at the church. She walked us through funeral plans and handled details that I couldn't bear to carry. They helped serve the food and drinks, and after the funeral they cleaned up so Matt and I could focus on our family and friends.

It is for all of these reasons and more that I am asking you to help us help Jill's House. Please consider donating in honor of Waverly & Oliver. It would mean so much to Matt and I knowing that more families will receive the blessings that Jill's House provides.

Click here to donate.

Thank you.

You can learn more about Jill's House here.