Tuesday, December 16, 2014

To Brian on His Sixth Birthday...

Dear Brian,

I will never forget the moment you were placed in my arms.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  We spent the next four days - mostly just the two of us - getting to know each other and creating a bond that lasts to this day.  A lot has changed since those very early days...
...but so much has stayed the same.
From the first days and weeks, I could tell that you were a calm, thoughtful, peaceful child.  That hasn't changed at all. It humbles me sometimes.
I could tell when you entered toddlerhood that you had a fun personality - and an infectious laugh.  That quality remains - and I hope it never leaves you!  A sense of humor will get you through many things in this life.
I could tell as I watched you care for Gavin - and now care about Hope - that you have a compassion that belies your age.  I hope you never lose that...and I hope when you look back at your life, you see how much you've made a difference already.
I hope this was a birthday you'll remember!

I had fun sneaking into your room last night to decorate - and set a crepe paper curtain for you to walk through in the morning!  You were really surprised when you walked out to find Daddy and me in the hallway saying Happy Birthday!
Your "Elf on the Shelf," Scout, got into the fun and wore a party hat and a cupcake outfit - it totally cracked you up.
While getting into your uniform for school you asked me if I thought you seemed different today.  I mean you were six, after all.  I told you I thought you seemed bigger, wiser, more mature.  You felt confident that you were a faster runner - and proved it by running from the front door to the bus!  Sure enough - you were right!!

I surprised you by showing up for lunch duty with birthday cake for your dessert after lunch... and plastic candy canes filled with sweet tarts for each of your classmates.

Granny came over for your birthday dinner!!  We let you pick your own birthday dinner and you requested a toasted bagel.  Coming right up!  It is your birthday, after all.  You only celebrate turning six and becoming a faster runner overnight once, right?!?
We all had a good laugh when your candle just wouldn't blow out!!  I'm sure that's good luck or something.  Although it might have been bad luck for the rest of us who had to eat a cake with...ummm...extra toppings.  Ha!
You loved having Granny here to celebrate your big day - and she really spoiled you with a bag filled with fun gifts!  My personal favorite?  Superman pajamas!!  Very fitting.
Hope gave you a timely book...
...and scored BIG points when she surprised you with a hot wheels race track!
  Sister of the Year.
Daddy and I gave you a house!  Well, a cardboard house.  Actually, a pretty cheap cardboard house that's probably too small for your age - but you were PSYCHED!
You love anything to do with art - coloring, drawing, painting - so this "blank canvas" house instantly sparked your imagination!  I could see it in your eyes.  And when I told you it would be perfect to attach to any forts that you make every day around the house... your smile lit up the room!
You and Hope instantly got to work.
But the big present was really big!  A real house...

I couldn't get a reaction shot because it's still in the box.  When I bought it I thought it would fit in our house.  I really did!  Turns out my measuring skills were worse than we thought.  That's the bad news.  The good news is, it will fit in our yard!  So on the first clear, dry, not too cold day - we're going to set this puppy up and bounce our cares away!!

It really was a fun day.  

Brian, you make me proud every day.  I love the person you're becoming and I'm so grateful to be your Mom.  

Going to bed, I was thrilled to tell you that we reached "step three" in our fundraiser!  That $1,000 will be sent to help build the all abilities playground at "Gavin's hospital."  
It's so important to us that you grow up knowing that no matter how much money you have, you have the power to create change.  My Dad - your Pop - taught me the importance of helping others.  That, in doing so, you end up helping yourself as a bonus!!  I want you to always keep that selfless, thoughtful part of your personality, Brian.  I know, without a doubt, that you will change the world.

We love you so much!
Happy 6th Birthday, Monkey-doo!

Look at how you've changed...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Full Circle Celebration...

Yesterday was Brian's 6th Birthday Party!!  (He turns 6 on December 16)  We invited his entire class and a few of his former classmates and held the party at our local Bounce U.  We went all out for this birthday - and hosting it at Bounce U made perfect sense - and I'll tell you why...
Gavin died in April and I was freshly pregnant.  The combination made for difficult and exhausting days as I tried to be 'present' for Brian who was grieving in his own way.  That summer, we practically lived at Bounce U.  The owner knew us by name.  I bought an unlimited pass and we would go multiple times a week!
Many days, we were the only ones there!  That was just fine with me.  I would sit on a bench and just watch Brian as he jumped away his grief.  I appreciated the break from needing to be "on"... needing to "think"... and even being, well, needed.  Bounce U saved me that summer.
They were also involved in my Playground Event!  I hosted the huge fundraiser in the hall right next to Bounce U and they not only bought a group table, but they gave me a basket for one of my raffles!
Brian has never had a birthday party like this.  We've only had small "play date" kind of parties at our home.  Yesterday we hosted 27 children and their Moms and/or Dads.  It was a giant party as our way of celebrating how far we've come since that long, sad summer.  We were not just celebrating his 6th birthday.  We were celebrating HIM and how strong and resilient and thoughtful and loving he is.  He came through his first full year without his brother... his first full year with a brand new sister... and starting in a brand new school like a champ.  Better than most adults would handle all of these life changes!!  We're so proud of Brian and we wanted to shout that to the world yesterday!
It was, for sure, a full circle celebration.
And in a goofy way, it was also our way of thanking Bounce U for being a haven for a Mommy and her little boy.  On days when I felt I didn't have another ounce to give, I knew I could always go there.  That place met BOTH of our needs and I'll always be grateful.  I was happy to give them our business. 

The second best part of having our party there?  They do it ALL!  I brought the cake (from Wegman's, of course, and it was AHHH-mazing) and a dozen balloons and that was IT!  And can I just tell you - this was the biggest cake I've ever seen.  I'm pretty sure it was bigger than our wedding cake.
I told them I wanted a Star Wars theme and they took care of decorating the party room and it was perfect.  Brian was thrilled!  
And I got to take all the decorations home so they're now hung up here for his birthday on Tuesday!
Bounce U assigns three party helpers to make sure everyone is having fun and being safe.  We had energetic and sweet young people that were great at lining the kids up, getting their attention and keeping things moving.  They have two bounce rooms so they spent the first half hour in one room that had a giant slide...
...a football "stadium" and a Tee-Ball batting cage.
Then, they were ushered into the second bounce room for the last half hour of bouncing.  That's where things really took off with another giant slide!
Even Hope got into the action!  Ed kept her occupied bouncing and laughing for most of the party.
For the last forty five minutes, we moved into the party room for snacks, cake and the piƱatas!  Brian was in shock when he saw the cake...
...and the amount of gifts!  He just couldn't believe it.
Seeing Brian in his "king's throne" at the head of a table filled with his friends was overwhelming for ME!  He has come such a long way socially from being a shy, quiet little boy!
When it came time for the cake they pulled his chair out into the middle so we could all sing to him.
Happy Birthday to You!
I had this vision before the party that I would be able to mingle and have conversations and even get to know some of the other parents that I haven't spent any time with yet.  Yeah...none of that happened.  It's hard to be the host!!  But I will tell you - I was so grateful for all the parents that came to the party with their children.  And to Granny who came to celebrate Brian, too!
It was such a great, great celebration for such a sweet little boy.

At the end of the party, guess what we had to do?  NOTHING!!  The folks at Bounce U packed everything up, cleaned everything up and brought everything to our car!!  I even got the phone number of the super-fun and adorable party coordinator for future babysitting!  Big score all around.

(I'm sure this seems like a sponsored post the way I'm going on and on - but it's just me being grateful!)

When we got home, I set Brian up to open all of his presents.  One by one he opened the cards, the gifts and I took photos of each as it happened.  He had to open the gift from his best friend, Daniel, first.  A Darth Vader clock!  We had to set it up immediately.
His reactions were priceless as he opened the presents.
My reactions were priceless, too!  It didn't take long for me to realize that people are so, incredibly generous!  And thoughtful!
And really, really beautiful gift wrappers.  I mean REALLY good.
Brian's friends must really pay attention to what he likes or has talked about.
Everything he opened was more exciting than the last.
And I got some great ideas for gifts to give!  Some of these things I've never even seen!!
I was admittedly a little worried that he'd open a ton of things that I had already bought for Christmas.  Can you believe - out of all of these gifts - there was only one SMALL duplicate?!?  I got so lucky.
Ed and Hope watched the gift opening while Granny wrote everything down for me.  Thank you, Granny!
Brian nearly lost his mind when he opened volumes 1-8 of the Magic Tree House series from his friend, Grace.  
Each week he has been getting a Magic Tree House book out of the library for us to read - and now he OWNS EIGHT?  He can't even believe his good fortune.
It was such an incredible day for Brian.  Ed and I feel so grateful to everyone who helped us make his birthday so special.  Today, Brian and I spent time creating thank you notes. Brian dictated each note to me for every single friend and then signed and decorated the cards.  
He is one grateful birthday boy.

There is still time to participate in the "Give One to Celebrate One" celebratory fundraiser!!  It officially ends at midnight on Brian's birthday, December 16th.  We are approximately $400 away from our goal of giving duPont Hospital $1,000 for the All Abilities Playground... a project that is very important to Brian.  Thank you to everyone who has already donated - it means so much!  Every dollar makes a difference!!

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