Who doesn’t love a family brag letter? Here’s what I sent out on Facebook this year:

Greetings from the Neill family! This spring, Elise finished her teaching certificate! She is substitute teaching in the nearby elementary schools, and is hoping to land a permanent position soon. She’s still playing oboe and English horn in the North Pittsburgh Symphonic Band. She became a girl scout leader for Katt’s troop. This past month, Elise has taken up loom knitting.

John sold our old house (just next door) to a kind and awesome family. These days, he spends most of his time preparing for a new career – a full-stack web developer. He claims to be a “JavaScript ninja”, and hopes to start his new career in 2018.

Early in the summer, Zach attended an improv comedy camp. Later in the summer, Zach underwent brain surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Afterwards, he spent three weeks living at “The Children’s Home” in Pittsburgh, where he underwent intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Since the surgery, he has returned to baseline mentally. His right leg is around 95%, but his right arm still has a long way to go, around 50%. Feeling and fine motor skills have been slow to return in his right arm. The good news: he has been seizure-free since the surgery! He is doing well in school, and is taking a mix of college-level and “fun” classes – Calculus, 2D computer game design, 3D modeling and animation, Computer Science, etc. He misses playing sports – hockey, and basketball especially, and misses being in marching band (percussion) and playing violin. One step at a time…we are hoping he will be able to play drums again in time for the spring marching band trip to Disney World.

Asia was a pirate in her school’s Peter Pan musical. You should have seen the wild grin on her face as she was dancing, singing and yo-ho-ho-ing on stage! She played on a tournament softball team and crushed four out-of-the-park home runs during the season. Over the summer she spent a week with her Aunt and cousin in Toronto, and attended several volleyball camps back in Pittsburgh. She also did a six week internship at “The Mattress Factory” – an amazing art-installation museum here in Pittsburgh. She also attended several week-long girl scout camps. In the fall, Asia was the first freshman ever to make her school’s varsity volleyball team. After the season, Asia was selected to play on the top club-volleyball team in the region. Along with club-volleyball, she is also currently in the school musical “Aladdin”. She’s doing well in school, and is taking a fairly heavy course load.

Katt started kindergarten! She likes it! And she talks in school! She is learning to read, and has a ton of confidence in her artwork. She’s in dance and girl scouts.