Friday, May 22, 2015

What a Whirlwind...

Well, it has been a long and busy week. The last few weeks have been, actually! Our home is officially "on the market." We worked very hard to get it "ready to show" and I have come to one important conclusion: we should all live in a constant state of being "ready to show." Our house has never been this organized, simplified and clean!! We filled up a storage unit with large items (like the big playground we had in the living room) and extra clutter and I came to another important conclusion: it's nice to have less stuff. 

The storage unit was KEY to making this process easier. We called "PODS" which is the more well known name, but I was shocked by their high prices and received rude customer service and a quote that differed greatly from the initial one for no reason. So I called a company called "Zippy Shell" and it has been a wonderful experience so far. They are MUCH cheaper, have WONDERFUL customer service, are EASY to work with and they're FRIENDLY people. This is a completely unsolicited review - I highly recommend Zippy Shell!! 

It was fun for Brian to play around in the empty locker before we filled it.

Actually, the kids were the first things we stored!  Just kidding.

The first thing we stored was the dresser that we use to hold all the cards, extra programs, mementos, fundraising letters...all the things that have come in since Gavin's death. Don't worry - we still have all that stuff in boxes under a bed and we'll move it all in our car. The dresser was stored empty.

Before we knew it - thanks to our friend, Paul, who came over to help Ed with the heavy stuff - it was packed solid!! Once we move, we'll give Zippy Shell a call and they'll deliver the truck with our storage locker to our new driveway so we can unload it into our new home. We have Paul on speed dial for that. (ha ha!)

Oh, I'm sorry - did you miss the memo? We're moving! Want to buy a house? We have been in our current home for the last 13 years and we love it here. We love our home and we adore our neighborhood. But it's time for a fresh start and new surroundings - and that's the main reason we're moving. We fell in love with a home not far from our current one and we take ownership in July! The family that lives there is lovely and it is obvious to us that their home was filled with love as they raised their two now grown daughters there. We are all very excited. 

In all seriousness, if you or someone you know is looking to move to Chester County, PA and need a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath...
with a big yard...
 on a beautiful tree lined street...
call the number on the sign below...
or contact me and I'll get you the information you need or put you in touch with our realtor!! I won't be posting the link with our address here. 

I would love it if one of my readers bought our house!

So many other things have been going on... where to begin!

Today is our eleventh wedding anniversary! 
I'm so happy to be married to Ed Leong. 
Most couples (if you believe statistics that float out there) would have broken up over just ONE of the challenges we've faced. We've made it through my alcoholism and recovery (He might tell you that the recovery was worse than my actual drinking. It takes a while to get back to normal-ish!),
 We've made it through multiple miscarriages, infertility and fertility treatments, having a special needs child, losing a daughter, losing a son and my medical issues.
At this point, we feel invincible! Eleven feels like a special number to me. I'm so excited to go into this next year of marriage in a new home with a fresh start with this wonderful man. I chose well. I  mean, he didn't marry a slouch or anything - but I think I chose really, really well.

A big growth spurt snuck up on us recently! Ed recently measured Brian in the doorway and he grew an inch in three months!! We had to buy new pants because it's not really time for "capri pants" yet. We want him to be on point, fashion wise and keep with the season's trends and all. It's not capri time, yet. Or something like that. Basically - we bought him longer pants is what I'm trying to say. I should have known his body was hard at work because he was always "starving, Mom. I'm starrrrvvviiinnnggggg." And he would lose half of his snacks to his sister, the other starving child in the house.

Yesterday I was able to go in to Brian's classroom as a "special visitor" and it was quite an experience. I had planned to go in earlier in the year, but I had to cancel because we were constantly sick this winter. All year I have unloaded elaborate crafts from Brian's backpack or heard about the "awesome" experiences that he had with the other parents that went in for their special visits. I am far from a "Pinterest Mom," so I was a little nervous. I settled on bringing in a movie (Veggie Tales: "Celery Night Fever") for the kids to watch in the classroom and treated them to popcorn and bottles of water. There was a misunderstanding between Brian's teacher and me - no fault of hers. I was so foggy this week. She told me to come in at 2 for the movie day (which I sent in ahead of time). Since dismissal is 2:45 - and the movie was 45 minutes long - I figured there was no time to do anything "extra" like a craft or a book. So I showed up a little bit early (thank God) to discover that she had already started the movie and it was almost over. Cue the panic. I had NOTHING planned and 45 minutes to fill. I thought about doing some stand up, but I always screw up the punch lines or combine two different jokes and, come to think of it - most of my jokes aren't for the Kindergarten crowd. So there I was - standing in the office staring at the secretary with wide eyes - what in the world was I going to do?!?!? Brian was going to be so disappointed that his Mom showed up with nothing fun! I was about to cry. The secretary quickly said, "Nope - no crying! We'll fix this!" She quickly looked up coloring pages to match the movie and printed out two for each child. Just like that. When I went up to Brian's classroom, the kids were fully engrossed in the movie and didn't even see me sneak in. When it was over I improvised with questions about the movie, handed out the coloring pages and then walked around talking to the kids about their coloring, summer plans and starting First Grade. As I left the building I stopped to thank the secretary who really saved me - BIG TIME!! On the way home, I took Brian to Dunkin Donuts for a surprise treat. When we got home, Brian and I collapsed on the couch with a book and he said, "Mom? Your special visit was my favorite one of the whole year." This kid knows just what to say.

It was very emotional for me to see him in his classroom. Anytime I see my children in their own element, I get emotional. I felt that way when I would see Gavin in his classroom, too. Watching Brian sit at his little table with his friends (including the girl named Marie he sits next to and wants to marry some day because "she's so nice, Mom, and she's really fun and she is a great colorer") just melts my heart. And I love hearing that he's a nice boy and well behaved when he's out in the world and not being watched by his parents. Brian is such a special kid. I feel so lucky!!

Last weekend we went away overnight to a hotel. We thought we would get in some fun and relaxation before the madness of "house showings" began.

 The kids LOVE going to hotels. This hotel has an amazing buffet with lots of fun things to try and a huge selection of desserts... we get to stay up late and rent a movie... I got to fit in a massage and a haircut... and we spent time in the indoor pool, which was a lot of fun.
Hope always has a blast exploring and people watching. 
By the end of the day she is happy to go to sleep!

This week has also been pretty dreadful for me. I am going through a bad flare of my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia - all at once. Every single joint - even joints I didn't know existed - are painful and swollen. My brain is foggy, my skin feels sunburned and painful to the touch and my back is killing me. Other than that, I'm doing great! I haven't gone on any arthritis medications yet and I've been doing well avoiding them since my diagnosis in 2009. This is the longest and worst flare I've had since the first when it began - it's lasted all week and has made it very difficult to function. You never realize how hard it is to pull out the tape on a disposable diaper until you have R.A. - trust me. I'm headed to our acupuncturist this afternoon in the hopes she can offer some relief, even temporary. In the past, I've been able to go into remission seeing our Dr. Trish regularly. But with Hope, that's pretty impossible. Now that summer is approaching I think I'll rely more on babysitters and mother's helpers since school is out for them. I really don't like feeling this way - it's a very out of control feeling. There's nothing I can do but continue to stay positive and function and do my best to be present in every way for the kids. Brian is very sensitive and aware of my difficulties during times like this and becomes extra helpful and sweet. If he asks me to do something and I really can't - like play on the floor, for example - we come up with an alternative activity. He's very understanding. And all this week he has asked me how I'm feeling each morning at breakfast. When I answer with "Oh, buddy - I'm still feeling pretty achy." he instructs me to sit down and he starts rubbing my back!!  "You can tell me when you want me to stop," he says. Brian's backrubs can't cure my RA or autoimmune issues, but they sure do boost my mood!!

I'll be back to myself soon. And even if my body doesn't get better - my mind and spirit will adjust so it doesn't consume my life! Ain't nobody got time for that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There Are Some Things You Just Can't Fix...

I remember going into Target when I was pregnant with Gavin. I had a midwife lined up for what I had expected to be a natural birth in a room lit with candles - and someone tagged to hit play on the Diana Ross song, "I'm Coming Out" when Gavin emerged. Ok, Ed didn't agree to any of this - but it didn't matter because Gavin came early and I had a C-Section. But I digress....

The midwife told me I should buy a Yoga ball. I do what I'm told. I never used it during my pregnancy, but it became invaluable when Gavin (and Brian...and Hope) were infants. I would hold them and bounce and bounce and bounce them to sleep. Then, down the road, we added a smaller Yoga ball and Gavin started using both for therapy. We'd sit him on them so he could work on his trunk strength...we'd lay him over them on his belly and try to get him to reach for toys in front of him...we had so many uses for these Yoga balls. They were a constant presence in our home.

Today, we said goodbye to them.

The balls and a few other therapy aids I found were the last remaining therapy items of Gavin's. I have been giving his equipment and other special needs items away to his former therapists so they can be used. Today, Miss Wendy - Gavin's former Physical Therapist - came by to visit and pick up the Yoga balls. I told Brian a few days ago what I was thinking about the Yoga balls. That, like all of Gavin's therapy aids, it would be nice if other kids like Gavin could be helped by his things. Brian agreed. And this morning I reminded him again that Miss Wendy was coming by the house.

Brian was very excited to see Wendy, as always. He definitely misses the people that came for Gavin. They were a big part of his life. We had a great visit. Brian, Hope and I helped Miss Wendy bring everything to her car and waved goodbye.

Walking back down the driveway I heard a little shaky voice say..."I'm going to miss them." I turned to see a tear drop from Brian's eye. I went into panic mode as more tears followed. Soon they turned into heartfelt sobs.

"Buddy - are you talking about the balls?"
He nodded.
"Remember I told you she was coming for them? Remember we talked about giving them away and thought it was a nice idea?"
He nodded and tried to say..."I loved them."

I needed to fix this. I told him I could call Miss Wendy - she wouldn't mind giving them back! He shook his head violently - no way. I told him I could buy him new ones! Whatever he wanted! I just wanted to make it better.

But then I realized - I didn't need to make it better. I didn't need to fix anything. I didn't need to do anything! He just wanted his feelings heard - and validated.

So I sat on the ground with him and let him sob. And I let myself cry, too.

Once he calmed himself down he told me that he liked that the Yoga balls were going to help someone like his brother. That's what he wanted. He just wanted to be sad because he was really going to miss them.

So I let him feel his feelings...and I stopped trying to talk him out of them or buy him out of them or fix them... 

Because there are some things, like missing things or missing big brothers, that you just can't fix.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Anniversary...

Today was Mother's Day! 
We had four sets of plans for today. The first and maybe most important part of the plan was for me to sleep in. Done. The second part of the plan was to continue cramming things into our storage unit in preparation of listing our house for sale...organizing and cleaning the house all while chasing Hope and playing Star Wars and listening to Minecraft stories and chasing Hope some more. Done, done and done. The third part of the plan was to visit with Granny at her place and have a nice, peaceful lunch which meant that Daddy was in charge of feeding, chasing and other chaos. Done!
But you know plans! They change and force us to go with the flow.

I did sleep in - but I really can't sleep in anymore. My eyes are now programmed to automatically pop open at 6:45. And, unfortunately my Rheumatoid Arthritis makes it really hard to lay in bed all morning. The longer I am still - the stiffer my joints get. This morning when I got out of bed at 9, I instantly regretted it. My fingers were three times their size and I felt like the "tin woman" until well past lunchtime. Boy, I sound like a complaining 90 year old, don't I? Let's move on to something lighter....

How about we talk about the overwhelming stress of getting 13 years of life organized and hidden and staged and cleaned and placed "just so" so we can sell our house? Actually, Ed and I have been on fire - working into the night - getting our house in order. We filled a storage unit with big things - like the huge playground we had in our living room, the toy kitchen, extra pieces of furniture that were taking up space - and little things that were just in the way. The best part is that we've been going through everything and realizing that we don't need a lot of it! Neither of us want to move things to the new house that we don't need or want. The experience has been really cathartic! We are so excited for this next chapter of our family's love story. Please say a prayer (or two!) that someone will fall in love with this house the way we did and want to move in soon! We have enjoyed many happy years here.
The most peaceful part of the day was having lunch with my Mom, my sister Bean and her husband Jim - and my triplet nieces and nephew, Shannon, Brendan and Claire. 
Brian and Hope had a great time seeing everyone! 
The fourth part of our plan was to honor Darcy's "birth" day. It was five years ago on this day that Darcy was delivered after 5 1/2 days in the hospital laboring. 
I am sure there was a very good reason that her journey was so short and my labor to meet her was so long - and one day I will understand it all. 

This evening, before dinner, the kids and I went for a walk around the block. As we walked up the driveway I noticed that Darcy's pink cherry blossom tree had lost it's blooms. Earlier in the week it had been full of pink flowers - full of life!
And today - on the anniversary of her birth into Heaven, the flowers were scattered on the Earth and the tree was left barren of blooms.
 As we walked down the street away from the house, I told Brian how the cherry blossom tree symbolized Darcy's short life to me. How the tree gives us these beautiful pink flowers each May to remind us of her life. And how the flowers quickly fall - reminding us that her life was so short. But the tree remains to remind us that her soul is still alive in our hearts. She'll never leave us.

"Just like Gavin, too, right?" he asked.
"Just like Gavin, too." I replied.

I went on to tell him how excited I was that our new home is surrounded by cherry blossom trees. There's one outside the kitchen window... there's one near the driveway... and there's even one right outside our new front door.
"Do you think God planted those trees there for us?" said my wise little boy.
"I think maybe he did, Brian. And I think it's called destiny."

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Forecast for Mother's Day...

The other day I got a message from a Mom who lost a child. I get messages like this more often than I care to say - there are just too many Moms in this awful club. This Mom was not sure she could get through Mother's Day after losing her little one.

I get it. I really do.

Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm going to write - in a message or even in this journal - until my fingers stop moving on the keyboard and I read it back. So I put my head down and started to type and when I lifted my head and read what I wrote - it was a little "ah ha" moment even for me.

I wrote...

"It's difficult every day - not just Mother's Day. But that's just it, isn't it? If you can get up, put your feet on the floor, hug, kiss and play with your other children, laugh and cry and find something to smile about any other day...then don't let the fact that one day is 'Mother's Day' trip you up. Because every day we are mothers."

Don't let the day trip you up.

Holidays can be hard because the day comes with expectations. On Mother's Day it is implied that you will "bask in the glow" of motherhood. But what happens if you're grieving? Or trying so hard to become a Mother and it's just not happening month after month after year after year? What happens if you expect to be treated one way and your family treats you their way and you're left disappointed? Or you lost your own Mom and are feeling the loss more than ever?

Don't let the day trip you up. 

It's the way I treat the anniversaries of Darcy and Gavin's deaths. I make it a special day - but I refuse to make it a somber day. I don't miss them less or feel any better or worse the day before the anniversary...or the day after, so I won't force myself to feel differently just because the calendar says so.

So if your Mother's Day forecast looks gloomy, try putting on another pair of glasses. Remember, too, that's it's always okay to ask for what you want or need. 

Thinking of all my fellow Moms, women praying to be Moms and grieving Moms on Mother's Day - and every day. Don't let the day trip you up. We'll all get through it with grace - and humor!! Like this gem from Brian - he thinks his Mom is 32!! Now THAT is funny. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Special Anniversary Announcement...

Today is a very special anniversary - and it seems like the perfect day to announce a big change in our family.

It was FIVE years ago on this day that I was feeling strange symptoms. My obstetrician sent me to the Emergency Room to get checked out - he was worried about me, based on what I told him I was feeling. I was not at all concerned and drove myself to the hospital. After a long, long wait - I was finally seen and they said I was fine. I asked them if they could check on my baby - the little girl that we had named Darcy Claire. I figured - hey, it's a free visit with her! The nurse got the doppler and he tried... and tried... and tried. Another nurse came in and she tried... and tried. Then they sent for an ultrasound tech who confirmed my worst fear. Darcy was dead.

I wanted to deliver her. I told my obstetrician that we felt she deserved to be born and held and kissed goodbye. He admitted me and they placed us in a room that was far, far away from the other Moms who were joyfully delivering their breathing, crying, beautiful bundles of joy. It would take an unprecedented FIVE days to deliver her body and she entered the world sleeping as the calendar announced our first Mother's Day together. It was a torturous wait for Ed and me, but I will never forget the time I spent with my first daughter. Ironically - or maybe not - we kept her with us for FIVE and a HALF hours before we had to hand her over to a hospital chaplain who would bring her to the morgue.

I think it's safe to say that our family has been through its share of tragedies. Our home has been a place of refuge for the last 13 years. These walls hold stories of love and redemption and courage and tears. These walls have supported Gavin as he learned to crawl and walk. They have held the secrets and wishes that Brian whispered from his brother's bed at night. When Gavin died at FIVE and a HALF years old, they absorbed our tears and caught flying boxes that I flung in the garage late at night. And these walls eagerly anticipated the birth of Hope.

So, it is fitting - in this fifth month of May, on the fifth anniversary of Darcy's death, that I share our news. Today we officially signed the Agreement of Sale on our new home. We have decided that it's time for a fresh start for the Leong family.

We were in no rush to leave our home and were casually looking on the weekends for fun. Brian loved doing this and if a weekend went by that we didn't go to an open house or schedule a showing, he was bummed! We saw house after house - but none of them were "home." Until this one. We are so excited to create new memories - while never forgetting our old memories - in our new home this July. Brian will still get a bus with his friends to his current school - we are staying in the same area!

I couldn't believe it when we came to a final agreement with the kind family who is selling us this home - and finalized the papers on this five year anniversary. There are too many little "winks" from Heaven to call any of this a coincidence - especially if you know how I feel about the number 5, which seems like a consistent number in our life for whatever reason. There are even little reminders of Gavin and Darcy on the peaceful stone patio in the back yard. Right outside the family room is a trickling fountain - something Gavin would have loved. And right outside the kitchen window is a gorgeous pink cherry blossom tree - just like the one that was planted for us when Darcy was born. This house was meant to be our home.
So now we will be selling our home! I haven't been online or writing much lately because we've been furiously working on the house! Today I did something that was both heartbreaking and cathartic at the same time. I dismantled the big playground - the gift we gave to Gavin when he turned, you guessed it, 5 1/2 - and made our formal living room an actual living room. Apparently, not everyone likes their formal living rooms decorated in a style I like to call "Early Fisher Price." Who knew? Many things will go into storage until we move. Brian has been amazing and mature and actually chose all of the items of his that we could either donate or store. He is so excited about his new house! 

If any of you know anyone who is in the market for a new home outside of beautiful Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania, send them my way and I will put them in touch with our realtor! We have a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath with a finished basement and close to an acre of land that is perfect for children - or for peace and privacy!

 Our neighborhood - which I've written about so many times - is incredible with it's beautiful tree lined streets and peaceful, park like vibe.
We have neighborhood activities and groups and everyone just looks after each other here. We have been the recipients of meals after each of the children were born - or died. And I'll never forget hearing that all the neighbors lit candles in their window as Gavin fought for his life. Anyone would be lucky, I mean it, to get into this neighborhood. And I like to think we have a lovely - and love filled - home. It is not officially listed yet, so you all are the first to know!

We are so excited for this new and exciting journey!!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Seventeen Months!...

Spring has sprung!
And so has Hope!
She is 17 months old today.
This month she has changed a lot. She's taller, heavier (they are my scientifically precise measurements) and is really losing that "baby look" which makes us a little sad!
She also has a LOT more hair. It's coming in dark brown and every once in a while she has a little curl in the back! 
There are some things that haven't changed much. Hope is still very, very, very (I mean VERY) active! If she's not here - she's there - if she's not there - she's back here - if she's not - wait, where is she?!?!? That is a perfectly accurate description of my day. After Brian's finished his breakfast, the kitchen chairs go up on TOP of the kitchen table. The art table chairs have been in the basement for weeks...along with my desk chair. The coffee table gets pushed up against the couch and then big toys fill in the gaps - and then I pray that she won't try to climb on the coffee table! She looks so innocent, doesn't she?  Ha!
The key for Hope is to keep her occupied. We read for two seconds and then share "tea" for three seconds and then make doggie sounds for five seconds and then chase each other for ten seconds and then play peek a boo for two seconds. If you're out of breath reading it - you can imagine how I feel (and look!) most days! We also spend a lot of time outside or on the playground we have in our living room. This month she has mastered climbing up the rope ladder and the rock wall to get to the slide. Can you believe that? She climbs up so fast without any fear and sits right on the slide all by herself. It's so shocking to me - even still - and I see it happen at least thirty times a day. I'm obviously right there behind her - but she rarely needs my help anymore. She is such a tough little girl!
She has been getting a few molars in over the last couple weeks. I'm not sure the amber teething necklace is cutting it for these chompers. She's been a little on the cranky side and not sleeping as well as usual during the day. 
I've always been blessed with good sleepers - and if they're not sleeping, they've always just hung out in their cribs and entertained themselves. Thankfully, Hope is no exception! I love to watch her on the video monitor when she's awake. She talks to her little lovies or will sit and "read" one of the books I put in there for naptime.
She loves books - just like her brothers did at this age. The book she's holding in this photo, "Going on a Bear Hunt," was Gavin's - and it was a BIG favorite of his when he was Hope's age.
It's not unusual to see her sitting quietly with a book (she's capable of sitting, believe it or not! Ha!)...
...or even roaming around the house with one in her hands. I hope she loves to read as much as I used to!
Seventeen months flew by. My little baby is growing and changing so quickly - right before my eyes! 
I love spending my days - as exhausting as they are - getting to know her sweet and exuberant personality. She is such an individual and I hope she stays that way always!

Today was an exciting day for me because I had my first "professional" essay posted on! The piece was about how to survive Mother's Day when you've lost a child... something I know a little bit about. If you'd like to read it, you can find it HERE. I'm also excited because that means that I can put some of the money I earned from this into my "fundraising" account! When I hit a certain number, I'll write a check to one of the charities we support. And then when I hit that number again, I'll write another check for the next charity. I'm really thrilled to have the opportunity to work for the money as a way to continue honoring Gavin's life.

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