Sunday, October 11, 2015

Home Cook Heroes...

It was a privilege to spend our Saturday morning cooking and serving brunch to the guests at the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia. The Gift of Life Family House serves as a "home away from home" for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable housing near the hospital. 
This is our third year serving the guests as a special way to honor our own donor hero, Gavin, on his birthday. As you may know, we were able to donate both of Gavin's kidneys at the end of his life. It meant so much to us to be able to do that. I'll explain why later.
It was also the third year in a row that our friend, Claire, made this brunch a huge success! Claire owns a fabulous business in Paoli, PA called "HomeCooked." I have used her services more than once - for ourselves and for friends. She offers pre-made home cooked meals that you can order ahead or pick up last minute. She's an excellent cook and a wonderful person. She came with her husband, Paul, and her two sons, Ian and Dane.
We were also joined this year by my sister, Bean and niece, Shannon who were a huge help!
Hope is always thrilled to see "BEE!" 
Granny was there, too, to help honor her Grandson. And to watch her Granddaughter be "helpful" in the kitchen.
Claire does an amazing job including the kids with the prep work. Brian and his buddy, Ian, were such hard workers making scones together...
...and drizzling them with icing when they were done.
I was so, so proud of Brian. Whenever he was given a job, he stepped right up and took it very seriously.
I'm also glad we can offer him opportunities to be altruistic. And there's no better way to start than doing something that is personal to him - and to our family. 
In the down time, while the food was cooking, he sat with Ian and tried to teach him Minecraft! It was very cute to hear them giggling.
It's hard for us to believe it's been three years.
The first year was a blur - it was only five months after Gavin died and I was just a couple months away from delivering Hope. Last year, Hope was a baby. And this year we were "twinning" and she was running around opening every cabinet door.
I brought the sign that was hung on Gavin's hospital bed as he was wheeled into the operating room for the organ harvest. I wanted to convey a positive spirit to all the transplant patients and their families. It is a personal mission of mine to attempt to remove guilty feelings. I have noticed that many organ recipients have a hard time because... obviously someone has to die so they can live. But that is exactly why we chose to donate our precious son's organs. He had to die - and there was nothing we could do about THAT. But we could attempt to help someone live. We didn't chose to donate to "make his life have meaning." His life already had a LOT of meaning - another great reason to donate. Those kidneys came infused with positive energy and super powers. 
It was a wonderful morning - delicious food - and we were surrounded by people we love. Helping others is, to me, one of the best ways I can honor Gavin. On his birthday, and every day. 
Every year I make sure to implore you - beg you, even - to become an organ donor. And, just as important, have the conversation with your spouse and/or loved ones about what you would do if the unthinkable happened to one of your children. If you are not an organ donor because of fears, worries, religious reasons - or you just don't understand how it works - please read THIS post about all the myths and misconceptions. If you want to see frequently asked questions, including how to become a donor, click HERE.

It is always heartbreaking to see patients who are waiting for organs... especially if they're children!! Unfortunately, I think it's human nature to not think about things like this unless you're in it... or it's happening to someone you love... or it hits your family.

But guess what. I consider all of you to be family. So please take this message to heart. You can honor Gavin and celebrate his life by registering to become an organ donor and/or having that hard conversation. And if you are already a donor, you can do two things for us. Spread the word! Create a Facebook post about organ donation and feel free to talk about Gavin as a way to start the conversation! The more people that get the bug in their ear about donation... the better! You never, ever know... the next person on the transplant list may be someone you know. 

And, if you're in the Philadelphia area consider volunteering your time, talent or dollars to the Gift of Life Family House. There are so many ways you can help! You could get a group together and be "Home Cook Heroes" like we were - brunch or dinner or baking - it's so fun! You could also have a "Wish List Drive" to collect much needed items to keep their kitchen pantry stocked - it would be an awesome event for Boy Scouts or Moms Groups or a class trip. Are you a retiree? They have so many things you could do. Do you have a bridge club or Mahjong group? Tennis club or ANY club? Get everyone together and make it a fun afternoon. You can even hit Chinatown afterward - and if you don't know where to go or what to order, contact me and I'll have Ed personally recommend things! (Right, Ed?) It will be an experience you will never forget... I promise. Click HERE to see all the volunteer opportunities at the Family House.

One last thing. Every year I also ask you to let me know that you're an organ donor - or that you became an organ donor because of Gavin's story. It means the world to me to see my blog comments and/or Facebook page flooded with "DONOR!" shout outs!

Today was a day of rest. It was "pajama day" in the Leong house. 
I'll spare you the Mommy and Daddy PJ pics. You're welcome.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Thank You for Remembering Gavin...

As you know, last week we celebrated Gavin's birthday. It was the first year we really didn't do much. I think we were all pretty down in the dumps. Going to bed that night, I was feeling pretty crummy for not writing a blog post - or doing anything "grand" to mark what would have been his eighth birthday. Ed and I were sitting in bed just about to turn off the light when I opened up my Facebook page and saw something unbelievable. I burst into tears and passed my iPad over to Ed. We stared in disbelief that a group of people would go so, so out of their way to remember Gavin. 

It all started with a Mom from an online "playgroup" I belonged to from the time Gavin was born up until shortly after his death. It got a little tough for me to read about the kids his age and what they were up to, so I bowed out of the group. Those women (and their children) are still a big part of my life - and they continue to be there... and remember Gavin in the most exceptional ways.

Grab a tissue and read on to see what they came together to do for us... and be sure to look closely at each photo to see what they're holding...

In honor of our favorite little super hero Gavin, who would have been 8 years old today. 

The mamas of our playgroup and several strangers came together today to celebrate Gavin. I knew when I saw this picture of him sitting proudly in his fire truck, aptly numbered 8, that I wanted to do a fire related  8 theme. Some brought dinner, ice cream or candy to the fire fighters and asked them to take a picture with Gavin. Still others performed random acts of kindness in his name today. Happy 8th birthday, Gavin! We love you, buddy!

Station 76 in Melbourne, FL

A shift at Station 8, Joliet, IL

Station 8 in Nashville, TN

Squad 8 in Naperville, IL

Woodsboro, MD Department 16

Engine 8 crew of Lexington, KY

Southward Fire Department in Howell, NJ

And finally, the fire fighters from Phoenixville, PA, Gavin's home town.


Thank you to Kelly Rogina for putting all of this together. She shared with me that this idea came to her LAST YEAR!! It is so humbling to think that anyone would not only think of doing this - but would remember this for an entire year. I have a hard time remembering last week... and I'm not even kidding.

It is also humbling how many people still think of Gavin and care about him so much. He really was such a special child. From daily emails I receive telling me how Gavin's journey has touched someone... to events like the one held over the Summer in Ocean City, NJ, at Gillian's Wonderland Pier that raised $1,862.50 for Gavin's Trust Project... we feel very lucky, indeed. To know that your son's life meant something is wonderful. To realize that your son's life continues to mean something to so many? There are no words.

Thank you to the Moms and the families and the firefighters that participated in this special "Eighth Birthday project."

And thank you to all of you for caring about our little family.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Treasures From the Just Between Friends Sale...

As you know, I recently attended the Just Between Friends sale in my town. It's a twice yearly event in the Spring and Fall or, for me, Christmas in April and September!!! It's no secret that I LOVE going to this sale. I have since my first one - back when Gavin was a toddler. My first purchase from my first sale was a baby walker. It was a steal - in perfect condition - and I bought it hoping that it would encourage Gavin to take some steps. It worked!! I have the best photos and videos of Gavin in that walker - and Brian pulling himself up to stand and pushing his brother around the kitchen. Ever since that purchase, I have been a devoted fan and friend to this sale and it's wonderful leaders, Tracy and John Panase.

Anywhoo.... I know you're wanting to see my treasures from the sale. My photos aren't the greatest (I'm totally losing my touch and think I should probably schedule a checkup with my eye doctor!) but the bargains are crystal clear.

I wasn't looking for a ton of things this time... mostly play clothes for both kids, winter boots, coat and snow pants for Hope, and I always check out the toys. One thing I love about JBF is that you can constantly rotate your toys to keep your kids interested. I can buy toys at one sale - and sell toys at the same time. And if I buy a toy that isn't a hit, it can go in the pile to sell at the next sale! Same thing for clothes. I just switched the kids drawers and closets from summer to winter clothes. I have a pile put aside that they may still fit into next year... and then I have a pile that I put into bags that I'll sell at the next sale... and I also have a small bag of clothes that I know wouldn't pass JBF's tough inspection (a stain or a little too worn, etc) so I have them set aside for charity.

The night before the sale is always unbelievable. Rows and rows and racks and racks and stacks that just go on and on... of everything!! Clothes and toys and baby equipment and games.
And shoes... oh, the shoes. There are so, so, so many shoes. This is just SOME of the shoes that I had to choose from in Hope's size!
There were more costumes this year than I'd ever seen before. I headed there first when I got to the sale. Brian hadn't decided what he wanted to be before I got there, so I texted some photos back home to get his thoughts... and he just wasn't ready to commit. But Hope is under my control and will be anything I put her in for the next few years (I hope). It was not hard to find something cute for her!!
Hope will be Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ!! Don't be surprised if her little basket has a kitten in it. We're all about going "off script" in this house. The costume is in perfect condition and has sparkly sequins on the skirt!! Best part - it was $2.50!! I found the sparkly red shoes separately and they were only $6.50. Pretty cheap Halloween costume!
I also got a brand new, in the box "Baby Alive" for $8.00 to put aside for Christmas.
One of Brian's favorite things I got for him (which he spied before I could hide it for Christmas or his birthday) was this light-up globe. He turns it on a lot in his room and loves finding different countries. It was only $8.00!
One of MY favorite finds was this game center! It's a Foos-Ball table, a pool table, a ping pong table, a hockey table and it has checkers and backgammon. It will be a great addition to our basement - and it was only $30.00!
When it came to clothes, I got exactly what I came for. A beautiful Land's End down coat that isn't bulky - but is warm - for only $7.50. Seriously! $7.50!!
I found a gorgeous pair of Columbia snow overalls for Hope for only $9.00...
...a pair of Merrell snow boots in her size for $12.00...
...and an extra pair of boots in a bigger size for $7.00, just in case!
While we're talking boots, I could NOT resist this swanky pair of Pedipeds for our fashionista! They were only $6.00!
And while we're in the shoe section - here are the other shoes I got for Hope. Glittery high-tops for $4.00...
Brand new, in the box shoes by See Kai Run for $8.00. These shoes generally retail for about $35.00!
I found a bunch of cute shirts and scored all five for $7.50.
Velvety loungewear (ha!) for $5.00.
And a couple outfits that will be cute around the holidays! I got both for $13.00.
I really did well in Brian's section. He got a brand new pair of corduroys for $4.00 and athletic pants for $3.50...
A collared argyle shirt from Gymboree for $2.50...
And I loved these two items. Brian picked out the skater shirt on the left for $1.00! The one on the right was a brand new hoodie. I really like the color blocking! And I loved the $5.00 price even more!
But my favorite find in clothes was when I came across a consigner that was selling a ton of clothes from Crewcuts - the children's "J.Crew." These long sleeve shirts (which are the softest shirts ever) retail between $17-$25.00. I got all five of these for $21.00!
And these three Crew Cuts shirts for $12.50.
This compression shirt ($2.50) will come in handy under his soccer uniform when the weather gets cold! 
And he's already gotten a ton of wear out of this Nautica zip up hoodie. It was only $2.50!
I knew Brian would love this thing - even though I had never seen or heard of it before. I stood there and googled it and saw that it retailed between $25-$60 online. The consigner was asking $18.50. I also saw that I could have bought it on Ebay for the same - or less - used. But it looked interesting, it was in front of me, and I'm all about instant gratification! I took a chance and bought it. We ended up giving this to him all wrapped up on Gavin's birthday. It was a BIG hit! Well worth it.
I also got a brand new, in the package, gift for Hope to give her on Gavin's birthday. A Fisher Price Noah's Ark. I paid $15.00 for it. It retails for over $25.00 new. You can tell that Hope loves it because one of each of the animals is already scattered God knows where around the house.
Brian also got a a fun basketball toy that keeps score electronically - brand new - for $10.00...
...and Hope got a Weebles tree house for $12.50.
Oh, and I also splurged and bought her this adorable stroller for $2.50. She was so happy that she rushed in to kiss me at the end. Watch!

I spent about $280.00 at the sale.

But get this...

I MADE $539.41 selling 148 items! And, if you recall, I barely did any work since I used a valet tagger!

But wait, there's more!

I coordinated a neighborhood yard sale in my old neighborhood that same weekend and had a sale myself in my old driveway and made over $400 selling a bunch of stuff we regretted moving to the new house. Whew!

Not too shabby, eh? I'd say it was a pretty good weekend.

Thank you, Just Between Friends, for another amazing sale. I'm already excited for Spring!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Header design by Susie Q. Designs