Anna and Abby’s Yard ~ Update

parkIt’s happening.

When Tom and I decided that we wanted to give the district office playground (or what we have always called our yard) an upgrade in honor of our girls, we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. That is not a statement of disappointment but rather of encouragement and utmost joy. The people we have met, the giving hearts that we have encountered, the joy that we have found in planning for this space has truly been a blessing in our new journey. Neither one of us had ever done anything like this before ~  in this life we are finding that there are lots of new ventures that have come our way that we were not prepared for. We are keeping our chins up, acting on the nudges we feel from above and, with much thought and gratitude for those who are helping us, building a space where love and joy is felt by all.

Here are some questions that are frequently asked about the progress of Anna and Abby’s Yard. I hope this gives those reading an idea of where we are in making this special place a reality. We have found that the process of planning, funding and, in the near future, building Anna and Abby’s Yard has been very organic. We have set dates but we trust that, no matter what, it will all happen when it’s supposed to happen.

How is the design for the play space coming along? This is a question that we get often and the answer is always the same. We are moving forward. Right now the design team, lead by Tom Norquist of GameTime, is working on the overall design of the play space. Two weeks ago I got a glimpse of what they have been working on, based on our input in terms of concept, and I have to say I am really happy. Everyone we have met from Tom’s team has truly been amazing and I have no doubt that they will design the perfect play space for Anna and Abby’s Yard. Our GameTime representative here in Portland, my dear friend Martha, is our liaison with the design team. She was part of our initial planning with Anna and Abby’s friends and is making sure that all of the ideas and dreams their friends had for this space are taken into consideration. We feel very grateful to everyone at GameTime ~ the care and dedication they have to Anna and Abby’s Yard is more than we could have ever asked for. They have truly been a blessing in this process.

Are we renovating the entire park or just putting in a new play space? Our plan is to give the entire park an upgrade. Depending on how much funding we can raise this may happen all at once or in phases. The plan is to put in a new fence around the park, a half fence that will separate the parking lot from the playground, add new picnic tables (which are being made by the Forest Grove High School wood class),  a Love Rock Memorial Garden as a space for reflection and andscape the entire space with low maintenance plants, bushes and trees. We would like to put in a small stage in the back corner, add moveable soccer goals to the field and add a lot of special touches that we know our girls would love – these items, as well as the parks overall design, are subject to review and approval by the School Board and City. This is all in addition to the new play space from GameTime. Nick Wilson from Atlas Landscape Architecture  is helping us with our overall design. We are very grateful for his expertise and for being part of our team.

What is your budget and how close are you to the overall goal? This is a great question but one that I can not answer yet. We have been amazed by the generosity of those in our community and from many others that have connected with our story and with our girls. The funds are being raised and I can’t help but say that it totally warms my heart the generosity of those who have given, held a fundraiser, sold lemonade, cookies and homemade goods and contributed their services in some way or another.

Can I still donate and if so is my donation tax deductible? Yes you can still donate and yes your donation is tax deductible. We have recently opened an account with the Forest Grove Community Foundation so that we can have donations be tax deductible. You can make checks out to The Forest Grove Community Foundation and then put Anna and Abby’s Yard in the notes section. Send your donation to Anna and Abby’s Yard c/o Forest Grove Community Foundation, 2417 Pacific Ave. Forest Grove, OR 97116. Once we receive your donation we will send you a receipt. We can not tell you enough how grateful we are to all of those who have donated in some way or another. We are so grateful.

Will the park be accessible to all kids? Yes. If you know anything about me or my family you know that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Parking for Anna and Abby’s Yard will be on the street around the park but we plan on putting in a few accessible parking spots in the district office parking lot. There will be a ramp to the playground with many features that are universal to all kids.  Our goal with Anna and Abby’s Yard is to build a space for all kids to come and play.

When will Anna and Abby’s Yard be done? Great question and one I ask myself all the time. My personal goal is to have Anna  and Abby’s Yard done by their second Heaven Day, which is Oct. 20th, 2015. As the team moves forward with the design, funds continue to be raised and resources gathered we will better know exactly what day we will be inviting everyone to come to the dedication.

Do you need volunteers? Yes. If you are interested in helping us we would love to hear from you. I am excited to say that we have had many volunteers help us along the way and sometimes it’s a simple as someone knows someone who has a bulldozer ~ which we will need eventually. Please send me an email at alovedrenchedlife@gmail.com and my dear friend Jennifer will get back to you soon. If you have something specific you would like to help with please include that in your email.

How is the Love Rock Run helping Anna and Abby’s Yard? All proceeds from the Love Rock Run will go to Anna and Abby’s Yard this year. Our hope is that in future years we are able to continue the Love Rock Run and have the proceeds go to other community projects or programs. Helping us market the run and getting people to participate would be a tremendous help. The Love Rocks community is worldwide so we have a virtual running option so that you don’t have to live in the area to participate. We hope to raise a lot of money through this event. If you or someone you know would like to sponsor the Love Rock Run you can send us an email and will send you an sponsorship application.

If you have any other questions please feel free to send me an email at alovedrenchedlife@gmail.com.

This process, like I said above, has been very organic and has taken many twist and turns ~ all being very positive. I have a feeling that, much like the Love Rock movement, Anna and Abby’s Yard will come to reality with some help from above. I am committed in allowing that to happen and to be open to whatever that is. I have no doubt that one day, soon, I will invite you all to come play in Anna and Abby’s Yard.

When we are all standing in that space we will all be able to say we did this together. As a community of people, that has made the choice to celebrate Anna and Abigail’s beautiful lives. We built a space to gather, play and celebrate the purest of love and joy!

I have no doubt that as we play in Anna and Abby’s Yard, my girls will be watching from Heaven ~ smiling, dancing and celebrating.

Playground Update

girls on playground

Anna and Abby’s Yard is in full gear.

We are working on the layout, putting the finishing touches on the structure and are gearing up to begin raising the rest of the funds needed to make this little piece of Heaven become a reality.

A lot of people have asked how they can help with this project. Currently we are designing and getting our plans approved. We will be putting a call out to volunteers soon.

In the meantime, prayers are always welcome.

This is a really big project for grieving parents to take on but I know that it is what is intended. God has placed in our lives a lot of amazing people to help and guide us through turning our vision into reality. We are so blessed beyond words by these individuals and I can’t wait till we are all standing in the park saying, “Welcome to Anna and Abby’s Yard!”

 

Virtual Glass of Lemonade

No words today just day dreaming about a cool glass of Lemonade made by Lemon Love.

lemon love process

Anna’s dear friend is making 100 original Lemon Love prints to sell online to help raise money for the playground.

As I sat and took these photos my heart was heavy. This little boy spent so many hours with my Anna and I know that his heart is full of love for her and misses her dearly. Each one of these prints is made with so much love.

I know I say this often ~ my girls have the best friends.

If you are interested in ordering a print you can go to our online store ~ Love Drenched Designs.

Lemon Love

At the beginning of summer, I always made sure we were stocked and ready to go at a moments notice. It usually started with a playdate and then someone running downstairs and yelling, “lemonade stand!”

They would sit at the counter and make signs to assist in their sales and would talk about how much a small glass of refreshing lemonade should be this time around. The small table would be transferred to the front yard and Anna would usually ask if she could use one of the fancy tablecloths. Sometimes they would ask if we could freeze some strawberries into the ice cubes for some added appeal, they knew that their customers liked that added touch.

The change box would be brought down from it’s hiding place in the closet. They always left some coins in there so that they were ready to go right then and didn’t need to find change. I’m sure it’s still in its place and ready to go right now.

These were the moments of pure joy in the summertime – kids yelling at the top of their lungs, “Lemonade, Lemonade, Lemonade for Sale!”

These are the moments that I miss.Anna and Ro signsAnna and Ro lemon loveAnna and Ro Stand

Last night at our community Farmer’s Market, two of Anna and Abigail’s friends reached their goal of raising $1000 to donate to the playground fund. Rowan designed shirts for them to wear, Carter stood and squeezed lemons and they both honored their friends by sharing Lemon Love with anyone who wanted a cup. They even got an article in our town newspaper, so proud of these boys.

lemon love 2DSC_0177

The team of Lemon Love is not done. They will be continuing to sell lemonade at the market on Wednesdays – so keep your eyes open for their yellow shirts and tie-dyed awning. Rowan also has another goal to sell 100 original Lemon Love prints which will be for sale in our online fundraising store soon. We like to think of these prints as a virtual glass of lemonade for all those people who are not local but would love to support the boy’s efforts.

We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication of all the kids that have helped to raise money for the playground. So far donations from the lemonade stand total $2175! I am amazed by what these kids have done for their friends, they are truly a blessing.

We are looking forward to the day we send out invites to come to play at Anna and Abby’s Yard!

*We have been asked a number of times how someone can go about donating to the park. All monetary donations can be made to Anna and Abby’s Memorial Fund and sent to Premium Community Bank, 2811 19th Ave. Forest Grove, OR, 97116.

Anna and Abby’s Yard

anna and abby's yard

This morning I sat with my coffee at the park across the street and watched Linus play with his friend Stella.  They ran, played and were so happy to be free in this big open space. I closed my eyes and could see my girls running alongside them, laughing and being joyful.

This big open space is our canvas. We, with the help of many, will transform this park over the next year.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear how you can help. We need to raise funds, gather volunteers, pull in resources and work together to create a park that honors the love that my girls had for playing in this space.

This space is Anna and Abby’s Yard!

 

The Playground

We would sit every night at the dinner table talking about our day. Tom and Abigail on one side of the table and Anna and I on the other. Anna often needed to be reminded to stay seated, always finding a reason to get up and get something that was forgotten. Abigail liked to pick through her food, no mushrooms, onions or cooked carrots for her even if they were hidden deep inside that nights concoction. Our conversations were about friends, work, playdates and school. I loved this time during the day, everything slowed down as we shared a meal together. When we were almost done with dinner the plans for after dinner activities started to formulate: board games, dance parties and, more often than not, heading over to the District Office park for some hot lava tag.

After clearing the table and helping with dishes the girls would head over to Jacob and Michael’s house to see if they could play. After we finished the final touches of cleaning up the kitchen and tea was made, Tom and I would then make our way over to the play structure where we would find kids hanging, sliding and running from the “lava monster”, who was trying to tag someone while keeping their own feet on the ground. If the monster felt lucky they could hop up and try to tag someone as quickly as they could, only having 5 seconds, which was being counted off by all of the monster’s prey. Lots of laughter, and sometimes the occasional declaration of not feeling the game was fair, was heard by all the neighbors that lived around the park. So many good times were had in this space, the District Office playground, or what we like to call “our yard.”

anna playground
monkey abs
3 cartwheel
absfriendspark

Yesterday afternoon Tom and I met with a group of Anna and Abigail’s friends to begin planning the playground remodel. With tears in my eyes I told the kids that we needed their help to figure out what we should build. Their task was to draw their ideal playground, keeping Anna and Abigail close to mind while doing so. “Pie in the sky” I told them, whatever they would like to see – put that down on paper.

The talk around the table consisted of what my girls like to do while playing on the playground. Anna liked to swing, spin and climb. Abigail liked to play tag and “hang out” with her friends.  Both girls loved being outside. One theme that emerged from a lot of the drawings was the idea of a giant tree with slides and zip lines coming from the top. There were some cool water features, rock walls and lots of ropes to hang from. I wish we could create every single drawing but I know that, when the kids sit down at the next meeting, with assistance from my new friend Martha and my dear friend Tom Gamble, they will begin to see their ideas merge together and begin to become a reality.

The thought of incorporating their friends into this process has been there from the beginning when we first thought this would be a perfect way of honoring our girls in their community. Tom and I could have gone through the books and picked out what we thought the girls would love but having the kids, Anna and Abigail’s playmates, be part of the process seemed to be a way to honor their friendships. Our girls have a lot of friends and they meant the world to them.

_MG_4459
_MG_4416
_MG_4378
_MG_4565
_MG_4634
_MG_4705

Photos taken by: Emma Gaty

This process of healing, engulfing yourself in meaningful purposeful work (thank you Amy), is what I find helps me through some of my emptiest times without my girls. Being able to provide this type of process to their friends feels good and also gives them an outlet to celebrate their friendships with Anna and Abigail. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting where we dig into the books and start piecing all their ideas together.

We are not just building a play structure but giving the whole park a makeover, ideas include a larger picnic area for community potlucks, birthday parties or for pre-teens to “hang-out”; decorated animal cut-outs that will line the fence, poles with long ribbon streamers to blow in the wind and a more universal surface so that all kids can access the play space. These are just a few ideas we’ve had and I’m sure there will be more that come from the kids.

We are striving to make it the best community park EVER!

We are so grateful for all the support we have already received for this project.  If you are interested in helping or being part of this project in any way please send me a message at alovedrenchedlife@gmail.com so I can get you on our email list.

We are amazed daily at the love and support we receive from our community. We are hoping that this park will not only honor our girls but give back to the community that has supported us through this journey.