Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Let's Keep This Just Between Friends...

Yep! It's that time of year again when I geek out over my favorite consignment sale. Every Spring and every Fall you can find me selling and buying at the Just Between Friends sale in Oaks, PA. I've been involved with this sale (at this location) since the boys were babies and have actually become very friendly with the owners. It's such a friendly sale!

I shopped this morning and shared my experience on Instagram, which was fun! And now I'm here to share what I ended up bringing home. I love doing this... so thanks for indulging me!

One of my favorite scores was this adorable bookshelf that I got for $20.00!! It will look so cute in Hope's room - whether she uses it for books or toys. I mean, for twenty bucks I couldn't just LEAVE it there!!
I ALMOST got a balance bike, but someone beat me to it. I was having reservations about the balance bike, so it's just as well. I ended up getting this Minnie Mouse bike for the same price - $10.00! Hope is always wanting to climb on Brian's bike, so hopefully she'll be thrilled to have her own.
This group is going to be put away for Hope for either Christmas or her birthday. The random group of animals will likely be her most favorite gift. Isn't that always the way? You could buy your kids the nicest, most expensive toy - and they love the silliest little things. Mark my words - she will covet these animals I got for $5.00! This whole group of toys cost me $22.00. I'm especially excited about the Imaginets. I love toys that encourage creativity.
Brian will get these for his birthday. We'll all enjoy having some fun new games to play together. Brian will be thrilled that he'll get to try out some new video games - and we're happy that they didn't break our bank. And who can pass up a giant slinky? This whole group cost me $35.00.
I couldn't pass up this blank canvas for Brian. He recently got a set of acrylics so I'm hoping he'll create something for me so I can hang it in the house! The canvas was $3.00 - and the two brand new aprons were $2.00 each.
I didn't get as many clothes as I expected. Things just weren't jumping out at me this time. But I do love what I came home with for Hope! It's hard to see, but the grey jeans are sparkly which Hope will love. This whole group cost me $20.00.
And these three adorable outfits cost me $16.00!
Brian was set on being a Minecraft character for Halloween and I was a little stressed that I would have to come up with something homemade. Not my specialty. So I was SO psyched to find this cardboard "creeper" head for $3.00!! And then I found this weird green body suit for $5.00 that is just so perfect, I can't even tell you. Brian has a hoodie to match the checks on the head so: check and DONE! And the only other article of clothing I got for him was a nice striped Gymboree shirt for $2.00.
I also got him a cool pair of dress shoes. We don't have too many occasions where we need to dress up, but for $3.00 - AND they're brand new - we're ready for a last minute invite to a Ball. Anyone having a ball?

Hope made out a little better in the shoe department. I got three pairs of Mary Janes: brown with pink butterflies, burgandy suede and black patent - and the cutest pair of Nine West boots. All of these shoes cost me $24.00.
And finally, I couldn't pass up a doll house this year.  Hope is just getting into a lot of pretend play, so I know we will have hours and hours of fun with this!!
This one needs a little rehabbing - I'll be honest. But I was sold because it came with furniture and dolls... and a husband who cooks!! See him right in the kitchen there?!? I mean, come on - that alone is worth the $25.00 I paid. 
I had such a great time shopping this morning. Now let's see if I can wait until Christmas to pull out some of these toys! (I have a proven track record of NOT waiting, if you were wondering.)

If you live in the Philadelphia area and you'd like to come to the sale - you won't be sorry. It opens to the public tomorrow, September 22, at 9am. Admission is $3.00 tomorrow only, but if you print out (or show on your phone) this coupon, you get in free! Children and strollers are welcome.

Greater Philadelphia Expo Center
Hall A
100 Station Avenue
Oaks, PA 19456

Thursday and Friday: 9am to 8pm
Saturday: 8am to 5pm
Sunday: 8am to 3pm (many items will be 50% off)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Please Don't Forget...

Want to know what gets me every single time?


I'm not one to burst into tears - or even get choked up - in moments you'd probably expect me to. I can talk openly about Gavin - about his life and his death - without a single tremble in my voice. Sometimes I wonder if that's an issue - but most times I think it's just one of those things that don't need analysis. 

But, helicopters. They wreck me.

Yesterday, I found myself standing under the giant, intimidating blade of a medical evacuation helicopter. I could barely hold it together.
It was part of a community event we attended that allowed kids to climb into, tour and touch all different type of vehicles. Brian loved climbing into a bulldozer!
We were blissfully playing on the playground when I stopped breathing for a moment. A helicopter approaching. We soon realized it was landing on the field as part of the event, Brian wanted to go over to see it. I smiled and said "Let's go!" 

As we walked, I prayed. Prayed that I'd somehow hold it together. Prayed that if I didn't, that I would use it as a teachable moment. Prayed as I always do for the crew that has one of the hardest jobs there is.

As we walked across the field, my prayer was interrupted with a shriek. "Look! A butterfly!" Brian exclaimed. And off they went to chase it...

We made it to the helicopter and walked under the giant blade to get to the door. The crew guided Brian in so he could look around. 

I could barely see.
The tears were streaming down my face as I took this picture of one son as I mourned openly for his brother. These dang helicopters get me every single time. And I'll tell you why. It was a rare moment for me to not be by Gavin's side. But on April 10, 2013 - after the emergency room team brought him back from death - a helicopter arrived to rush him to another hospital an hours drive away. For me to hand him over to strangers - hoping he'd be alive when I saw him again - it was the hardest thing I had to do. I couldn't be there for him - and it still haunts me. So now, every time I see or hear a helicopter overhead - I flash back to that terrible moment on that awful day.
But you know what? I often think of Gavin's organs getting on a similar helicopter just five days later to rush to the airport to get to the destination of his recipient. A strangely comforting twist of fate.
Today my family and I were invited to an event hosted by the Gift of Life Donor Program. During this event, which celebrated and thanked their many volunteers, they honored me (meaning US - meaning YOU!) with the Fundraising Ambassador Award. (The family picture they took of us will be added later - Ed and Hope were there, too! And so was my Mom!)
If you remember, last November I held a 40 hour fundraiser for the Family House. Together with many of you, we raised $10,820... in forty hours! Here is what was said about me... about you... about us.

You don't have to still be here with us. 
You didn't have to donate to any of the fundraisers I've held in Gavin's memory.
You don't even have to comment on anything I write or do.

But please, if I can ask one thing...
Please don't forget my son.
Please remember Gavin David Leong.

And if you ever see a Medical helicopter flying overhead, say a prayer for that person, that crew, and everyone waiting for... needing... a safe landing.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

And Then With Brave Wings, She Flew...

It was an exciting morning in the Leong house. Hope had her first day of Preschool!!
We didn't think it was going to happen. The church we go to has a Preschool and Hope LOVES going to church and seeing her friends on Sundays (as do we!). When I had the thought that she might love going to the Preschool for a couple mornings a week, I was too late. All the spots were taken. I added our name to the wait list... but as September grew closer, I stopped thinking about it and figured we'd send her next year.
But we came home from our Hershey trip to wonderful news! A spot opened up and Hope could start right away! 
We literally could have started the next day. She had already missed the first two days... but starting the very next day was too soon. We had a "first day of school outfit" to buy... and a backpack to choose! Priorities, people!!

I ordered an irresistible backpack with butterfly wings - which seemed perfectly appropriate.
Hope loved everything about it. The sparkles, the zippers, the wings! As soon as I put it on her, she ran around the house wearing it saying, "I'm a butterfly, Mommy! I can fly!" I bought the backpack from a company called "Bixbee" - and they donate a school bag filled with supplies to a child in need for every backpack purchased. I love companies that give back!
This morning, Hope decided to sleep in. I pulled the blanket off of her... pulled the lovie off of her head (which is exactly what her brothers used to do, too!)... tickled her feet... took this photo with a bright flash... she would NOT wake up. Finally, I resorted to turning on the lights and picking her up - fearing that this aggressive wake up would mean she'd be grumpy on her first day of school. As soon as I put my hands under her to lift her - she shot up with a start. And a smile! "It's time for school?" she asked.
We enjoyed a little breakfast and chatted about what she might do today and before we knew it, it was time to go.
I feel like I'm "supposed" to be very sad. And many wondered if this morning was hard for me - if I cried - if I will know what to do with myself. I have to be honest - I'm not sad at all. For many reasons... and I'll tell you why.
First - Hope is two. She will turn three in November, but she's two. Clearly I am not looking to start her on the road to a college scholarship or anything. If she didn't get in, I was happy to wait until next year. But I feel this is a fun opportunity for her to spend a few hours in a place that she already loves making new friends and learning fun things! I think since this was a choice we made, we aren't sad about it.
Second - I'm really not sad at all to see her spread her wings. I'm THRILLED for her!! Hope is my most independent child which means that I've really experienced the full spectrum. Gavin was completely dependent. Brian was somewhat independent - delayed in some developmental areas - and was quite shy. Hope is very independent and seems almost ahead in her development (based on our own family history). When your first child is completely dependent and you work so hard to help him do anything on his own - it changes your perspective. I am so, so thrilled when my children want to do something themselves... or when I see them overcoming something - a fear, a social anxiety, etc... or when I watch them make new friends. I really feel like I'm giving Hope an opportunity to fly - and that doesn't make me sad one bit.
The last reason I'm not sad? It's a tad bit selfish. Since Gavin's death, I have had anxieties about using babysitters for several different reasons. We tend to do everything together, which I love. But... I also need time to take care of myself and it's not always convenient to bring a child along. It's only a short time that she's in school, but I've already scheduled an appointment with my eye doctor... my rheumatologist (which is desperately needed)... the car dealership to get an oil change. It will be nice to have a few hours a week to get things taken care of. Like Mommy, for starters. Knowing she's happy, in great hands, learning and having fun? I'm definitely not sad about that.
It was a bit weird when I realized that today was my last first day of preschool! But that doesn't deserve tears... that deserves a hand clap! I want my children to grow!
I loved watching Hope's confidence as she walked into the building.
And by walk I mean RAN! She was so excited!!
She walked right down the hall...
...and stood right outside the door.
It took seconds for her to say hello to her teacher, hand over her backpack and join a group of classmates she had never met as they played. That is some enviable social confidence, Hopi! I need to learn a thing or two from YOU!
Hope has two teachers, Miss Meghan and Miss Alicia, and they're both very nice.
I'm sure it won't take long for Hope to warm up and be her true self with them! Hopefully they'll find her as much fun as we do!
When I picked her up at the end of the day, I had glowing reports. No one could believe it was her first day - she just slipped right into the already established routine seamlessly! That's just how she is at home - she adapts well to change and just goes with the flow. I love that about her. She also did her first art project - making apples by painting with actual apples. She hasn't stopped talking about it!
As a treat, I took her to a local Learning Express store to celebrate her big day. She had fun roaming the aisles, oooing and ahhhing and playing with some of the demo toys on the floor.
We left with a fun sticker book to do together - and the new confidence that comes with being a "student." Hope feels like such a big girl now that she goes to school. I love seeing her so happy and excited!
When we got home, I decided to interview her about her day. If you're ever wondering what Hope's personality is like - this is a great example. Sure, she has her moments of two year old screeching and being a pest during Brian's homework time... but 90% of the time, this is Hope...
I feel so lucky to be this little girls Mommy. One of my Dad's favorite quotes is: "There are two gifts we should give our children. One is roots and the other is wings." Today we gave Hope her little wings... and with those brave little wings, she flew!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Early Birthday Celebration...

Gavin's birthday is September 29 - and this year, he would have been nine. That is hard to believe... but what's harder to believe is that we've spent the last four birthdays without him.
The last birthday we spent with Gavin, his 5th, we took the boys to Dutch Wonderland for the day. Gavin had such a great time riding the rides. 
We never could have known that would be his last birthday with us. Since his death, we vowed that we would try to do something fun as a family each year to celebrate the day he came into the world - just like we did on that last birthday. 

The first year, I was seven months pregnant with Hope. We took Brian to Hershey, PA and stayed in a hotel with an indoor pool. We knew Gavin would have loved that. Brian kicked around in the pool singing Happy Birthday to Gavin the whole time...
...and then went to bed in Gavin's travel tent in the hotel room.

We spent the next day having fun at Hershey Park celebrating what would have been Gavin's 6th birthday.
The next year, his 7th birthday, we took the kids to Sesame Place.

His eighth birthday turned out to be very hard for us. We got some balloons and cake - and treated Brian and Hope to some toys - and that was good enough that year. One thing we don't do is put pressure on ourselves if we're not feeling up to something big.
This year we went back to Hershey! We took Brian out of school on Friday and made a long weekend out of it! Last time we were there, we stayed in a local hotel. But this year we decided to stay at Hershey Lodge and it was the best decision EVER. 
We were lucky to be able to check in early which gave us almost the whole day to have fun in the hotel. The kids had their own area to check in - and they loved getting lanyards with their names on them.
Every time you turn around, someone seems to be handing you chocolate. (Like I said - best decision ever staying here!!) Hope and Brian didn't waste any time digging in.
Much of the weekend was spent looking like this...
...and doing this...
We are grateful to Brian's new teacher for supporting a day off. She sent home schoolwork that he missed on Friday (which we did before we left) and let him make up two tests when he got back on Monday. Because we got there on Friday when most kids are in school, we felt like we had the hotel to ourselves! We spent almost the entire afternoon at the pool - which is like an indoor water park! As soon as we walked just screamed Gavin. He would have flipped over this water extravaganza. 
I could have stayed in that pool all weekend!
One area Gavin would have really loved was the splash pad. Hope had a great time jumping and running through the dancing water!
One of the highlights of the pool was the "Twizzler Slide." It is a huge, twisty, covered water slide that starts inside the hotel - twists round and round outside the hotel - and ends back inside. Ed and I climbed those stairs many, many times with Brian - and I'm not sure which one of us had the most fun. 
I'm pretty sure it was Brian. But one could argue that the person who had the most fun when we were at the pool was Gavin. 
Ed and I felt regret while we were there that we never thought to bring Gavin to Hershey Lodge when he was alive. But I told Ed - and I believe this - that we shouldn't feel bad at all. I know in my heart that we gave Gavin a great life. He had more experiences in five years than most adults!! But boy, he definitely would have loved this place.

Staying at the hotel allowed us to get into Hershey Park an hour early, so we were up the next morning ready to board the shuttle! I had to document Hope's first bus ride - she felt pretty cool sitting in her own seat.

Before we knew it - we were there and ready for a fun day! 
The worst part of the weekend was the heat. It was in the 90s with very high humidity, so walking around the park all day was rough. My curls didn't last long before they needed to be stuffed into a baseball hat!
We loved watching the kids on the rides together. Our first stop was the Carousel. Gavin LOVED a good Merry go Round - and this one was epic. It was big and it was fast - it had lots of colorful lights and great music.
Brian is always so happy to accompany Hope on the little baby rides.
But she's getting braver and braver! She went on several rides alone and, as you can see, she thought she was too cool for school!
She loved all the rides - but none as much as the swings! She went on them three times in a row!
I am so, so lucky that my husband has a not so hidden talent.
Every time we go to a carnival - amusement park - arcade - he can't turn down the chance to win giant, cringe-worthy stuffed animals. If it weren't for the huge grins, overwhelming excitement and laughter of the kids - I might consider staging a stuffed animal intervention. Poor Hope ended up seatless (don't feel sorry for her - she was thrilled to not be "put" in her "baby" stroller) so we could accommodate our new "friends."
At Hershey Park, they measure you by candies. So, Brian could go on any ride that was "Hershey Bar" or lower...
Hope measured as a "Hershey Kiss."
And, if you were wondering, the big, obnoxious bear measured as a "Reese's." That's taller than Hope and one bar below Brian. Yup. Pray for me.
Hope amazes me all the time with her stamina, but especially so on this day. It was super hot, she walked the whole day, didn't nap at all... and kept up with all the fun!
We took a short tour around Chocolate World because we were feeling deprived of chocolate.
Our final night in the hotel was fun. Outside the pool area they have a little arcade and an activity room. The kids loved the arcade and spent a lot of time playing games, air hockey and skee ball.
We had a lot of fun in the activity room, too! The lucite lego table they had was so unique. The legos are stored in drawers that pull out from either side. I have tried in vain to find one online. If anyone has seen this and could send me a link, I'd be grateful!
The boys spent more time in the arcade than Hope and I cared to do, so we would hang in the activity room and color, play connect four, jenga - there was so much to do. And I may or may not have secretly shared my hidden stash of Hershey Kisses with her. I'll never tell.
We ended the night playing miniature golf on the property. Hope got a hole in one with everyone's balls by picking them up and helping us put them in the hole. We cut her off when we caught her walking towards the family behind us to "help" them. 
Needless to say, Brian had to learn how to be a good sport that night. 
You'd think, after reading this, that Hershey asked me to write about our trip - but they didn't! Just my usual oversharing. Ha!

Overall, we had a great time as a family. A really great time. But more than that, we honored the life... the existence... and the birthday of our first child. I made a vow that I would honor his life by living ours... and making sure I continue to show his siblings that we can be happy. It's really okay. I also promised that I would make sure our children saw his light in our eyes. But this weekend? It was us that saw Gavin's light in their eyes.

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