Let me begin by saying this. Someone made a nasty comment a while ago saying that it we are just trying to see what we can get out of our situation. I want to address that now. We are simply trying to make the best out of a crappy situation. We are not trying to benefit from anything. We are just trying to have a lot of fun. Losing your legs to an IED and healing from it is not very fun, let me assure you. But we are celebrating the fact that Chaz is still with us. The enemy tried to take Chaz from us and they lost that battle and we are laughing in their face and having a ton of fun while we heal. We are blessed that so many people have come into our lives since January 22 and want to help us celebrate too. If you think that for one minute our daughters and I don't deserve to celebrate every part of life and be happy. Or if you think Chaz's injuries are only about Chaz, then I apologize for your stupidity. Healing a wounded warrior involves healing the entire family. We are the biggest and best part of his happily ever after. If you think that having a freaking blast while we're healing is wrong then best wishes to you and please don't follow our journey anymore.
Now off of my soapbox and on with the story about yesterday.....
Back in July our oldest daughter Deryn realized she'd be in MD/DC for her birthday and not TN. She didn't handle this news very well. But we had her reflect on Ryann's birthday and Daddy's birthday. We flew the girls and our moms up to DC for Ryann's birthday and we had a blast. Daddy's birthday we just chilled out and had a blast. I guess as a 9 year old, it's a little harder. She is in that horrible tween stage. So that afternoon Chaz and I began conjuring up our plan.
Deryn has been a Ace of Cakes fan for a long time. She has always talked about Duff, Mary Alice and Geof and how cool it would be to meet them and their friends. That day it hits me, hey let's shoot them an email. What's the worst they can do not answer the email?! Then just like Duff I put a plan together with some great friends. At first it was a what do you think about this?! Laura Boone steps in and says, "They let Kate and her eight in there and your cuties are way more adorable." Of course I am biased and I think our girls are the best ever, but I am their mom, but I did agree with Laura. So Laura sent an email. We found out yesterday, Laura, our 101st LNO SFC Motes and some other people all email Mary Alice asking for the same thing. Mary Alice said yesterday that she knew we were a special family since she receive multiple emails asking for the same thing.We only asked for a tour and to meet some of the employees, but of course they went above and beyond. Deryn got a cake and some Charm City goodies.
As of today, Deryn wants to be a Chef. I ordered her a Charm City Chef's coat weeks ago and sent it to Laura's house to keep it a secret. My friend April picked us up some books to have autographed and I hid those too. Mary Alice got the crew to autograph all three for us. And don't worry Daddy and Ryann were not left out at all. Our family of four had an absolute freaking blast!!!! If you look at our pics, you can see all the smiles and fun we had. Charm City Cakes is the most laid back, positive work environment I have ever walked into. Everyone is happy to be there and you can tell they love their jobs. There was a ton of laughs and I am so happy we were able to be a part of it. It was so amazing!!
Chaz and I realized yesterday that when Deryn is really excited she is super quiet. We were able to keep it all a surprise. We only told her that her first surprise was in Baltimore and that Miss Laura was in charge of it. She was clueless and I mean clueless. We got there and she missed the sign on the building. Then we went up to the door and Mary Alice stuck her head out and greeted us. Deryn was still confused. I said "Do you remember Mary Alice?!" She still looked confused so I said, "Give Mary Alice red hair." Then the light bulb went on. She smiled really big and we let Mary Alice help us explain. We went in and Deryn was just overwhelmed with happy! Then she got to see her cake and really lit up! She told me later she wanted to dive in right then.
We got to walk around and talk to everyone and see where all the magic is made. We got to share a few stories with each other. Mary Alice informed us Duff was out of town. He was in Iowa, Idaho, it was a state that started with an I, but I forgot. Deryn told us last night that it would have been great to meet Duff. I told her his friends would be rubbing it in that he missed her. She then asked if she could meet him another day, so I guess I have a new mission while we're here in DC/MD. Ryann and Deryn want to go back and work there. They were able to make a few flowers and had a blast doing it. Unfortunately we had to leave and let the Charm City crew get back to work. Mary Alice helped us out to the van and many of the crew followed us out the door. I can safely say Chaz, Laura and I meshed well with that crew. We felt so welcome and just had a freaking blast.
Deryn and Ryann could not wait to tear into that cake. You'll see that in the pics too. I was waiting for Deryn to drop the cake because she ran down the hall with it. But it made it to the table and was immediately cut into. Not very many people know this, but I do not like cake at all. I like cheesecake, brownies and cookies. But I was going to eat some of that cake, hello, it's famous cake! And oh my goodness, I don't understand how they are not all six thousand pounds. That cake is the best cake I have ever had. I promise I am not making that up. That is the first fondant I have had that actually was edible. It tastes like Lucky Charms marshmallows. The icing was not to sweet, not too creamy and the cake was moist and fluffy. It was perfectly scrumptious!!! I had to report back to Mary Alice, since I confessed my anti-cake confession.
We all enjoyed our cake and rested for a few minutes. Then it was time for surprise number four of the day. Number 1 was new shoes and the angry birds game. Number 2 was pancakes. Number 3 was Charm City. Just to catch you up!
In July or August a friend of mine told me to email the White House and ask if we could see a movie in the White House movie theater for Deryn's birthday. While we were in TN I got a call from Darienne, one of Obama's assistants (who is absolutely amazing by the way). She informed me that she got my email and got word of Dolphin Tale premiering at the White House within that same week too. So she suggested that they have it on Deryn's birthday. They agreed and she was so excited she had to call and tell me. I was so excited I teared up. I told her about our Charm City plans and she assured me we'd make it to the White House in plenty of time. And we did!!
We got to drive up into the White House southwestern appointment gate, which our kids thought it was super cool to pull up to the gate and have it open for our van. Best of all this time I got to take in my camera! We parked just outside of the Eisenhower building and walked right in. When we walked in we were greeted by Miss Darienne and shown where to go. We were greeted by the staffers with a dinner of turkey and ham wraps with chips, drinks and cookies. Then we got to go in the auditorium and we saw ALLEN written on four pieces of paper covering four seats in the front row. (Oh yes, I saved them). So we sat down and enjoyed our dinners. We also got to catch up with some great fellow wounded warriors and other staff from the hospital. You'll see that in the pictures as well.
Then the Director of the film Charles Smith got up and introduced the movie. You need to go see this movie. It was great! Of course I am a sucker for true stories. And of course I am a sucker for stories about people with disabilities overcoming their obstacles. Dolphin Tale is a great story that our entire family enjoyed. We'd give it two thumbs up. And yes I had some tears. When they explained the prosthetic in the movie, Ryann, who had been sitting in my lap, whispered in my ear "that's like Daddy." Then she put her hand on Chaz and I was done! I fought those tears for a minute, but they were coming no matter what. I dried most of them up but Darienne introduced the makers of the film and smiled at me and more tears came out. The director looked at me and smiled. I wasn't the only one, trust me. The film may be about a dolphin, but our families can relate to the trials and errors of prosthetics. We relate to overcoming obstacles and how to keep on going. We relate to how beautiful life is if you choose to see it that way.
Then we got to have a question and answer session with the film makers. We got to get the inside scoop. By the way folks, Winter (the dolphin) stars in her own movie. I thought that was the coolest piece of info. Hanger, the prosthetic company, has been caring for her this entire time for free. When you see the clips at the end, you'll see the real people behind the movie and all her prosthetic fins she went through. They said they stayed as close to the story as possible. Then they brought out shirts and posters for the kids and they autographed them.
Miss Darienne had to add her special touch to Deryn's birthday and brought her a box of goodies. She wished Deryn a happy birthday from the White House and gave her the box. It was filled little cookies and a mini cake for De. The cookies were lemon and the little cake was strawberry. All were covered with a yummy glaze. There's a picture of it on Team Allen too. We got to get in our thank yous, hugs and see you laters in. Then we were off to our car to go home. I am proud to report I found our way home without the GPS. By the time Chaz got it set up I was out of DC and en route to the apartment. Of course that made my night! Getting around here is crazy, but thanks to being lost in Nashville, I can get lost in DC and find my way out. This would be why Chaz doesn't drive in the cities. He hates it!
Yesterday was another reminder of how blessed our little family is. God just keeps bringing these amazingly awesome people into our lives. These people just want to celebrate life with us. We are so thankful for each one of them. It feels like we are a part of this incredibly big family and we are loving every minute of it. Yesterday was another reminder of how great life truly is. I can't imagine a better way to celebrate the day our first child was born.
Many thanks to Laura Boone, from Operation Ward 57, the entire Charm City Cakes staff, and Miss Darienne from the White House for making Deryn's day unforgettable. You are all so amazing and we are so grateful for you all!!!