Marshmallow Mondays

Belt Test

SONY DSCOn Saturday, Rydan tested for his Senior First Degree Black Belt. This is the first time he tested since October 11, 2014, the day that Ryan had his transplant. On that day we cheered for Rydan from the hospital in Cincinnati as he tested for his First Degree Black Belt (and passed).

Since then, Rydan has taken his time perfecting his form and preparing for his next belt test. He actually chose not to test at the past two belt tests because he didn’t feel quite ready. When it comes to Taekwondo, Ryan and I tend to sit back and let Rydan make his own decisions about testing. This obviously isn’t something that neither of us know much about, so therefore we can’t help him a whole lot outside of offering our encouragement. That alone says something about the way that Rydan has committed to Taekwondo, as well as the things that he has accomplished over the past three years that he’s spent at Sid Nelson’s Taekwondo America.

Early last week, Rydan still wasn’t sure if he wanted to test for his Senior First Degree Black Belt. Like other tests, this one would consist of correctly doing his form and sparring. This time, however, he was required to do three board breaks – an elbow strike, side kick, and a spinning side kick. The spinning side kick is a new break for him, and he’d been struggling with it for awhile. Up until this point, Rydan had never failed a belt test, and we could see that fear of failure having an effect on his decision to test or not. We had daily conversations with him about his belt test, and told him that we would support his decision either way. By the middle of the week, he asked if he could get some extra practice on the spinning side kick with Mr. Nelson, so that’s exactly what we did, and it seemed to boost Rydan’s confidence.

As a parent, this was a tough one for me. In no way did I want Rydan to hold himself back simply because he was afraid of failing, but I also didn’t want him to feel pressured into doing something that he wasn’t ready to do. His Taekwondo journey is something that is all his. He’s earned every new belt through practice, commitment, and perseverance. So, when he asked for extra practice, I trusted that that’s what he needed.

By Saturday, he seemed ready to go. He was the only Junior First Degree Black Belt testing that day, so he would be last to test in his group. I watched him sit patiently, glancing at me every few minutes at which point we’d exchange a thumbs up or a quick smile. When it was his turn, he did his form and was not asked to do it a second time, which is always a good sign.


He also sparred well.


And then he sat down again to wait patiently until it was his turn to break boards. This is always the nerve-wracking part for most parents. Students can correctly do their form and spar well, but if they don’t break their boards, they don’t pass their test. We watched Rydan cheer on his fellow students, never showing any signs of nerves.

At last it was his turn to break. His fellow students gathered around and cheered for him the way he had done for them. On his first attempt (students are given three tries at each break), he easily broke through the wood with his elbow strike.


His side kick was no different, first try.


It all came down to his spinning side kick. The room fell quiet, and I could feel my hands shaking as I tried to hold my phone steady to video him. He missed his first attempt. Still, he showed zero signs of panic. He simply set up again for his second attempt, but his aim was too high and his foot bounced right off of the board. Still, not a single sign of panic or hesitation from him. He looked so determined as he set himself up for his third and final attempt. When I heard the sound of the wood snapping in half, the room erupted with cheers.


“I knew I’d get it on the third try, Mom.” That’s what he said to me afterwards. The belief he has in himself at just ten years old is so strong, and in that moment it was really inspiring.

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday, so that’s when we’ll know official results.

There are no words for how proud I am of Rydan, not just for the way he persevered through that last break, but for the way he handled himself that day, and the way he approaches Taekwondo. There are so many amazing character traits that Rydan has gained through this sport, and they’re ones that will help carry him through life’s trials and successes – courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit. Students learn those words, as well as their meanings, as soon as they begin TKD classes, and they recite them often. The smiling face you see below is worn by a young man who applies those character traits in and outside of the karate studio, and I couldn’t be any prouder of him. My not so little marshmallow is really growing up, and it’s such a cool thing to watch him make his way through life every day.


Blue & Green Day
04.13.15, 8:50 AM
Filed under: Events | Tags: , ,

Mark your calendar! This Thursday, April 17th is National Donate Life Blue & Green Day. During this day, everyone is encouraged to wear blue and green to promote the success of organ, eye and tissue transplantation, and to emphasize the extreme need for more registered donors.


We know first hand how miraculous transplantation can be, and we live with grateful hearts every single day for the gift that Ryan has received. However, over 123,000 men, women and children are still awaiting organ transplants in the United States. The need for organs and tissue is significantly greater than the number available for transplantation. Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. Each day, an average of 21 people die because an organ was not available for transplant.

Sadly, 90 percent of Americans say that they support organ donation, but only 30 percent know the essential steps to become a donor. Our challenge to you on National Blue & Green Day is to not just wear blue and green, but to tell everyone you see on Thursday why you are wearing those colors. Tell them you support organ donation. Tell them about Ryan’s story. Most importantly, tell them how they, too, can offer hope to those waiting, simply by becoming a registered donor. Refer them to

Easter 2015
04.06.15, 8:56 AM
Filed under: Holidays | Tags: ,

This is what Easter looks like when your grandparents live in Pennsylvania.



Pappy and Nana Buffington know exactly how to make Rydan and Lily smile… cash and Orange Leaf gift cards.


Papoose always keeps them well-dressed, and supplied with their favorite Hershey’s treats.


Lola always surprises them with something they’ve really wanted… a Hello Kitty watch for Lily…


…and Jimmy & Jey Uso WWE action figures for Rydan (along with lots of sweet treats for both of them).


The Easter Bunny brought Rydan a Dragonball Z Xbox360 game, and Lalaloopsy Stretchy Hair for Lily (and more sweet treats).


He also brought them each a new bathing suit…


…and lots of fun beach toys to play with when we go on vacation in July.


Overall, it was a very Happy Easter for these two bunnies. We hope all of our readers had a wonderful holiday too!


Spring Break Recap

Day 1.

It was all about bikes and bubbles. The weather was beautiful, so we spent nearly the entire day outdoors. Rydan rode around the neighborhood on his new bike with his friends while Lily, Brooks and me played with bubbles in the front yard.



This guy loved chasing bubbles. Check out that vertical jump!

This guy loved chasing bubbles. Check out that vertical jump!

Day 2.

It was even warmer outside than Monday, so we packed a blanket, picked up lunch at Panera and had a picnic at Jacobson Park. Afterwards, the kids had some fun playing on the wooden castle and feeding the ducks.







Day 3.

Rydan spent much of the day playing with his friends in our old neighborhood. Lily and I did our usual Wednesday trip to Starbucks and the library in the morning, and then returned to the library that afternoon for a special springtime craft activity.



Day 4.

The rain arrived, so It was the perfect afternoon for a movie. Rydan invited his friend, Carson, and we went to see Paddington. This was Lily’s first time at a movie theater, so she was quite excited.

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Later that day, Lily’s new bike arrived, so she was able to try it out for a few minutes that evening when the rain took a break.


Day 5.

The rain continued. Most of our day was spent lounging at home, but we did venture out to the grocery store after lunch to shop for our Easter dinner items. The kids were not all that excited about it, but they were on their best behavior knowing that we would head to GattiTown that evening when Ryan got home. (For our PA friends, GattiTown is a large family entertainment center with video games, bumper cars, etc).





Today, the sunshine returned, so we spent more time outside riding bikes, blowing bubbles and playing with friends. We just got home from Easter church service, and the kids are once again outside enjoying the last few hours of daylight. Both are quite excited about the Easter Bunny’s arrival.  Check back on Monday to read all about it!

Spring Break!
03.30.15, 8:11 AM
Filed under: The Buffington Southern Experience | Tags:

It’s the first day of Spring Break!

We are busy having fun this week, but watch for a special post at the end of the week with a recap of our 2015 Spring Break.


03.26.15, 8:34 AM
Filed under: School Days | Tags: , ,

For the past few weeks, Rydan and his fellow fifth grade students have been studying Economics and learning the ins and outs of becoming a business owner, in preparation for the Entrepreneur Fair. Students had to come up with a good or service to sell, and could choose to work independently or team up with a partner.

Together, Rydan and his friend, Carson, formed C&R Tags, and decided to sell Minecraft Dog Tags. Their advertising method used a famous person, Marcus “Notch” Persson, Minecraft Creator, to help promote their dog tag necklaces, which are specially “Crafted For Your Neck.”

Part of their assignment was to design a poster for their business that included their business name, slogan, product, and prices.

Part of their assignment was to design a poster for their business that included their business name, slogan, product, and prices.

The boys had to borrow money from their parents to purchase supplies to make their products, and then come up with prices that would hopefully make them a profit.

Rydan and Carson’s product line consisted of dog tag necklaces, key chains and door hangers. Most of their tags featured Minecraft characters, but they also included a Minion and Olaf tag to attract female buyers.





Door Hangers.

Door Hangers.

On Tuesday evening, the Entrepreneur Fair was open to parents and students. Each business had a booth set up with their products for sale. Then on Wednesday during school, elementary students had another opportunity to purchase items.


Lily helped out by modeling the Olaf necklace.

Lily helped out by modeling the Olaf necklace.

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Carson’s very talented mother made t-shirts for them to wear.

This was a great learning experience for the students, as they learned a lot about what it’s like to be a business owner. C&R Tags ended up with a profit of $46, which was something to be proud of for both boys. Rydan burst through the door yesterday afternoon proudly holding his share of their profit, and handed me an envelope with the $30 loan I had given him to buy supplies. He was so excited about being able to pay me back and also have some money for his pocket.

Way to go, boys!

Gift Of Life Gala

2015-03-14 15.55.56What an evening we had on Saturday at the Gift Of Life Gala in Louisville!

As you recall, Ryan and I were invited to share our transplant story at this special fundraiser that supports The National Kidney Foundation.

The evening consisted of impressive silent and live auctions that were filled with all sorts of really cool items, a fun and very addicting “Ring Toss” game, drinks, three-course dinner, various awards being presented and a live band.

Joining us at our table were Nicole Nelson and her mother, Yvette. You all know Nicole by now. She was the first person to offer her kidney to Ryan, and she’s become an amazing friend since then. Nicole is now enrolled in a paired kidney exchange program, following in her mother’s footsteps. Yvette donated her kidney to a woman a few years ago, and both women are doing very well. We simply think the world of Nicole and Yvette. The compassion that lives inside of their hearts is truly inspirational and one of a kind. It really meant a lot to us that they decided to travel from Pennsylvania to attend the Gala with us. We laughed, we shared tears of joy, we had great conversations, and they even joined us in Lexington for brunch on Sunday. What a treat!

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2015-03-14 18.23.25Guests of the Gala included various types of doctors and specialists, kidney transplant recipients, volunteers of the NKF, employees of Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, and many, many others whose lives have somehow been affected by kidney disease. There were so many stories within that room. Seated next to us was a beautiful couple, married for 42 years. The husband is currently fighting a very difficult battle in trying to receive a transplant. Listening to their story and sharing our own with him was a very humbling reminder of how blessed we’ve been in Ryan’s transplant journey. Our lives are moving forward in a healthy, positive direction, but that is not the case for so many others who are still waiting, still suffering and still fighting. Having been there, our hearts just ache for these people.

Knowing that was a big motivation for my speech. If we can offer a bit of hope to those who are suffering, then sharing our story is exactly what we’ll continue to do. Many of you who follow our Match For Ryan page have already watched my speech, but in case you haven’t seen it, feel free to watch it below. It’s about 8 minutes in length.

A really cool aspect of the evening was the special appeal, which occurred right after my speech. Attendees were given the opportunity to stand up and make donations to the NKF in support of their fight against kidney disease. As each donation was made, a balloon was tied to the donor’s chair. By the end of the evening, there was a sea of orange balloons representing various dollar amounts that will support the NKF. I took this photo about halfway through that portion of the evening, so by the end of it there were many, many more balloons soaring in the air. It was such a beautiful, hopeful sight to see.

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This was an incredibly memorable evening for us, one we will always treasure and one that we are proud to have been a part of this year.


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