Thursday, April 24, 2014

For a Girl Who Hates to Shop...

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you know that I hate to shop.  But, you also know that I LOVE to shop twice a year at a local consignment sale.  (Shopping for your kids is MUCH more fun than, say, shopping for jeans.  Or really, anything, as far as I'm concerned)

The Just Between Friends Sale happens in my town (and a town near you - look on their website!) twice a year.  There's a Fall sale and a Spring sale.  When Gavin and Brian were little, I was so grateful for these sales.  I was constantly buying and selling toys so I could keep the playroom exciting and interesting and motivating.  Gavin received his therapy in our home and they would use his own toys during sessions.  I also routinely rearranged the room - encouraging him to go look for his favorites in new places.  I was always wanting to motivate him to move his body on his own.  Being able to purchase so many toys (some were brand new or looked brand new!) for MUCH less than retail was a HUGE help.  Most sales I would sell a ton and buy a ton - pretty much breaking even.  It was like trading!

I have been hooked (and devoted) to this particular JBF sale for years.  At my very first sale, I bought a baby walker that looked brand new for less than $20.00.  My intention was to put Gavin in it (he was maybe 2 at the time?) to see if he would try to move himself forward.  It worked!  Gavin took his very first "steps" in this walker from a JBF sale.

I love writing posts after each sale to share my fun bargains - and this time is no exception.  I found some awesome toys and clothes for Brian and Hope!  The last two sales have been a bit of a bummer (understatement of the day) because I have such an emotional memory of searching for toys for Gavin.  But on the flip side - shopping for girly things is so new for me and... kind of fun!

The sale just started and the floors are PACKED with things.  If you've never been - it's impossible to really explain or even capture in photos just how massive the event is.  There are tables and tables and rows and rows of toys and books and games and more for infants, toddlers and big kids...
...and racks and racks and rows and rows of clothes.  This long row is just 6 month girls, if you can believe that.
Check out some of my deals....

Each of these items were FIVE dollars!

A beautiful cotton Ralph Lauren dress with matching bloomers.
I love these things - I got two of these "wearable blankets" for Hope to sleep in.
A blue Ralph Lauren t-shirt and a preppy pair of Gymboree shorts for Brian.
I'm no "fashionista," but I'm pretty sure this makes a really handsome outfit for ten bucks!
This is probably my favorite item for Hope - a gorgeous, perfect, old fashioned smock dress.  Honestly, this looks like something my Mom would have put on me.  I love it so much and hope it fits her this Saturday for her cousin's First Communion!
And another Ralph Lauren shirt.  Five bucks, people!!!
I use these cubicles and fabric drawers in the playroom to hide toys and diapers and burp cloths and they're pricey!!  I was just thinking that I needed to get a bigger one to hide more toys and I tripped over this at the sale - jackpot!  This entire system with the drawers was $40.00!
We are ready for pool and ocean season.  I got a float with a canopy for Hope... and a kickboard and boogie board for Brian.  He was STOKED.  All three cost me less than ten dollars.
Brian is having a love affair with Imaginext toys and I love to listen to him make up scenarios with all the different people.  This "Ninja Castle" set was brand new in the box for $20.  It normally sells for $45!
My favorite item for Brian, though, was this awesome Lego Table.  I wanted to get one for his room so he can keep them tucked away from his little sister who already likes to put everything in her mouth.  I can just see it now when she starts crawling.  Another reason why I'm happy to have things hidden in those fabric drawers!  Brian is so excited to have this fun table.  He's getting so good at creating Lego masterpieces!  The table was $25.00.
But my greatest deal of the day - and maybe the year - was this Fisher Price Rainforest Jumparoo.  The same one that I had for Gavin and Brian as babies.  It is in PERFECT (and I mean not a scratch or stain to see) condition.  I paid... wait for it... you won't believe it... FOURTEEN BUCKS!!!  If the person who sold this is reading (consigner W-826!) - THANK YOU so much.  It is so sentimental to have the same Jumparoo that we had for the boys back in our house for Hope.  Gavin was older when I was finally able to put him in it because of his low tone.  But when he did finally use it, it was a great way to strengthen his legs!  Not to mention, he loved to spin things and there are two great spin toys on it.  Watching Hope in this Jumparoo will make me so happy.  
I could go on and on and show you all the other great bargains I found, but I'd be wasting your time if you live nearby.  You really should get packed up and head over today.  The sale opened to the public this morning (Thursday, April 24th) - and if you go on Saturday things will be 50% off (a great time to shop for clothes).  It's at the Expo center - the same place I held Gavin's Playground Project!  I love this sale so much - can you tell?  
For this girl who hates to shop (and I really do) - I make a twice a year exception for this sale!  It's so much fun.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dear You, What a Year...

Right about this time last year, Ed and I were headed to bed after a very long and overwhelming day. On this day last year, we greeted over 400 people at Gavin's funeral. 

Actually, we greeted close to 800 people - 400 the night before at the "viewing" and over 400 the day of the funeral. It was a surreal experience - and much of that day and the days (ok, months) following are still a blur.  One thing that is not a blur?  The unbelievable outpouring - of so many things. But mostly of love.  We felt like our little family was surrounded by love.

Dear You,

What a year.

Before Gavin died, I faithfully wrote my journal entries to chronicle every bit of his life... and ours.  Most of my readers were long timers... they had been with me since Gavin was a baby.  I never wrote to "gain followers"- I wrote because I needed to.  I always said that this blog was like my children's "baby books" - a way for me to remember every detail in words and pictures.  As you can imagine, I'm so grateful that I have Gavin's entire life chronicled.  Especially for Brian and Hope to read one day.  I shared everything along the way - what we tried with Gavin and what worked and what didn't... what we fed him... therapies we did with him... all of it.  I always hoped that sharing these things would help other people who may not have had access to the resources that we did.  Along the way, people hopped on board and became faithful readers.  It all happened very organically.

When Gavin died, the avalanche of attention was overwhelming.  Suddenly it was impossible to answer everyone's emails and questions and acknowledge requests. I would get thousands of emails - sometimes in a day. Packages arrived on our doorstep constantly.  It was all so nice, it really was - but it felt terribly awkward to be thrust into a spotlight.  People wanted so much to give us things - I suppose to make me (or maybe them?) feel better about Gavin dying.  In a fog of grief and pregnancy early on, I said "Sure, you can send Brian a gift." or "Sure, you can send us a blanket." or "Sure, here's our address for a card." - but then I woke up and stopped all of it.  We didn't need a thing.  From that moment I directed all gifts to be donated to local hospital Child Life departments.  People's generosity and thoughtfulness astounded me.  It still does!!

I knew shortly after Gavin died that I wanted to help those that helped him.  That's when "Gavin's Trust Project" came into my head.  Again, I was blown away by how all of you embraced that.  In a very short time, $25,000 was raised. New Special Needs classrooms were opened and furnished. Children were given equipment and assistive technology that they needed.  It was unreal.  I couldn't believe it was happening - any of it.  It had nothing to do with me.

I started getting letters and emails in the months that followed.  People started sharing their darkest secrets... their biggest struggles... their desperation.  It became apparent that my journal about my little family and special needs son was doing many different things for many different people. Touching them... changing them... inspiring them in ways that I never could have predicted.  It had nothing to do with me.

One night I remember laying in bed with Ed in the dark and saying, "I have no idea what is going on - but it has nothing to do with me.  It's like I'm being used for something bigger than all of us."

I remain completely humbled to be on this journey.  I am still the same person.  I still write the same way (with lots of run on sentences, over use of the dot.dot.dot., and WAY overuse of exclamation points!!!  I still write about mostly the same stuff - my family, my thoughts and feelings, and our experiences.  I am just as amazed as you might be that so many people come here every day.  It has nothing to do with me.

But, as always, the good comes with the bad.  When you have more eyes on you... many will be critical.  I have had some pretty crazy stuff said (and often made up) about me.  That I ask for free things and even money from readers (outside of money for any charities or fundraisers) - which couldn't be further from the truth.  Actually, not only have I never asked anyone (or needed to ask anyone) for a dime - I regularly turn down offers to monetize this blog... or blog to get free products or services in return.  That I "overshare."  Well, duh - most bloggers who write about themselves and their families are guilty of oversharing.  And guess what - as a once really awful alcoholic, I am so glad that I'm not keeping that a secret from the world.  After what we've been through, I'm kind of an easy mark for wanting a drink.  Let's be honest.  (I don't want a drink, for the record, but I have every reason to want a drink!)  Because I put it out there - and because people recognize me all over town - it's doubtful you'll see me trying to slip into a liquor store!  A nice benefit of oversharing, if you ask me!  It's been said that I asked for a free stay in a shore house on my Facebook page.  Actually, we were IN a shore house - I asked for my FAMILY if anyone was renting their house that same week for THEM.  But when my sister told me they found a place on their own, I took it down. My favorite remark was that we must have gone to Disney on credit cards since we're always asking for money.  I'm still laughing about that one...

But mostly, this year has been overwhelmingly positive.  I have met wonderful people, been inspired by your incredible stories, felt privileged that you would all share so much with ME, and that so many of you have cared about our little family... and fallen in love with Gavin.

Losing my little boy was the worst thing to ever happen to me - and it will always be the worst thing to ever happen to me.  Continuing to share about him - or work on projects like furnishing the emergency room with toys or trying to build the all abilities playground - are my ways of keeping his memory alive, yes.  But mostly it is my way of giving thanks and trying to inspire hope in others.  We had a lot of support during Gavin's life - from teachers, therapists and medical professionals.  I want to give back to them to ensure they have what they need to continue to help other kids like Gavin.  And we were lucky enough to have the financial resources to get things for Gavin that he needed.  I'm grateful for the chance to help other families get the things that they need for their child but may not be able to afford.  And I love being able to share what I learned along the way - hoping that other families can benefit from our experiences.  

Dear you, on this day last year we said goodbye to Gavin. And one year later, on the same altar in the same church - we baptized Hope.

So yes - I do profit from this blog.  In a very big way.  I get to sit back and watch something amazing happen every day.  It's not me - I promise you.  I know this is much bigger than me and my run on sentences and my over use of dot.dot.dot and exclamation points!!!!!!  This journal has turned into the chronicle of hope.  

Think what you want about me, I can take it.  But please - if you never remember anything else - remember this:  there is always hope.  Even in your darkest hour when it seems your life will never get better.  Even if you lose your child.  There is always hope.  None of us are promised anything in life. Each of us are on our own journey to learn our own lessons. Gavin had his own, amazing journey - and then he had to go. Part of my journey is to learn how to live without him and show Brian and Hope that you can still find joy after you experience a devastating loss of any kind.

Thank you for sticking by me this year.  

Love,
kate.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hope Arrived Just In Time...


Brian and I started off our weekend on Friday dyeing Easter eggs!  It was just the two of us at the kitchen table while Hope was taking a little nap.
We had so much fun choosing colors - and then mixing colors - there were no rules!
We also told each other funny, made up stories and had a lot of laughs.  Brian is developing quite the imagination and he is so much fun to 'hang out' with!
We also remembered last year and I reminded him how we made marbled colored eggs with shaving cream and food dye.  And how Gavin got shaving cream everywhere - even in his ears!!  We really missed Gavin as we were decorating the eggs.
There were all kinds of fancy ways to decorate the eggs in the kits I bought - ways that involved paint and stencils and sponging and more.  Brian chose to put Star Wars stickers on his eggs. 
 I did not put up a fight.  Although we did save a few to decorate for Hope with glitter and butterflies.
In the end, every egg was a masterpiece and Brian was very pleased.  In our house, dyeing the eggs is pretty much it.  Brian can't eat straight eggs - only if they are in something like baked goods.  So I tell him that we leave the colored eggs out to show off to the Easter Bunny when he comes by.
On Saturday we had an extra special treat!  Ed's sister, Kat, and his Aunt Mee Ling came to visit!
Kat lives in Connecticut in the town where she and Ed grew up.  After their parents died when Ed was 11 and 12, Kat raised him.  She was a phenomenal "Mom" to Ed.  (Mee Ling's brother was Ed's Dad)
Mee Ling lives in New Jersey and she shared the ride down from there with Kat.  It's always good to see Mee Ling - we were really excited for her to meet Brian and Hope!  And, as you can see, they fell in love with her instantly...
It was great for Brian to get to know his Aunt Kat!  They had a "ball" playing with a ball and paddle toy she brought for him.
But the happiest one of all?  Ed.  He was thrilled to have his family here.  And even more excited when they planned an entire day of cooking together!!  Ed was eager to learn some new Chinese dishes from his Aunt Mee Ling.  They spent much of the afternoon cooking and chatting.
They were making Bean Curd Soup, roasted chicken with scallion dip and honey ham and chinese sausage fried rice.
While the soup was cooking, Mee Ling brought out boxes filled with jewelry for Hope and Brian.  She even had jewelry for me - and a tie bar that was Ed's Grandfather's.  Hope got a gorgeous jade baby bracelet.  Brian was very excited to get a jade necklace.  
Brian was really into everything Mee Ling was telling him - and he's still talking about it today.
Ed has a jade necklace that his Grandmother gave him that he wore for years up until recently!  Receiving a piece of jade from a relative like this is very, very special.
In the midst of all the excitement our little bunny, Hope, turned 20 weeks old!!
She is getting so big.  And curious!  This week she's watching everything... she studies me when I'm eating, talking and drinking.  When she nurses - she stops constantly and wants to sit up, look around to see if she's missing anything and then she hops on back down.  It's a riot.
She's laughing and smiling SO much more!
And her biggest smiles are still for Brian - he's a big help whenever I want to take her picture!
Her eyes are still blue, which is amazing.  She's very fair, too, like me!  She's a little chameleon... in some photos she looks Chinese and in others she looks like me!
But mostly, she looks like her sweet happy self all day long.
Happy 20 weeks, Hopi Doo!!
It was nearing dinner time and Ed and Mee Ling started on the fried rice.  Did I mention that Ed was in Heaven?
It was an amazing meal.
We were very sad to see them go and we vowed that it would not be long before we got together again.  It was such a great day - for all of us!!
That same night...the Easter Bunny came!!!!!
Hope's very first Easter basket was filled with fun toys...
...and so was Brian's with the addition of a small amount of candy!
He couldn't wait to get downstairs to see what the bunny had left him...
...and he was quick to remind me that I told him he could eat one piece of candy before breakfast.  He got a big kick out of that dramatic rule change!!
The first thing he wanted to do, though, was the Easter Egg hunt.  The Easter Bunny hid plastic eggs around the house filled with coins!
He raced around and opened the eggs to find pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters for his piggy bank.
I really let him go to town on the candy today.  I figured he could eat it all today - in one shot - and not beg me for pieces every day for two weeks.  
So all of us pretty much ate candy all day.  I have to admit - it was awesome.
We got in our Sunday best and got some beautiful photos outside.  Sometimes looking at these growing children takes my breath away.  I feel so lucky (I really do) and can't believe that they're mine sometimes.  Brian is growing and changing before our eyes and he's just such a special child.  He's sweet and compassionate, funny and imaginative and he loves all of us so much.
He was such a great brother to Gavin - and he's an extraordinary brother to Hope.  I know there are great things in store for this child.
It's only been a year since Gavin died, but I find myself wondering how he would have changed in one year.  His looks... his progress... I'm sure he would be walking confidently if he was still here.  And perhaps we would have seen even bigger progress - like a word or two or even feeding himself solid food.  Who knows.
But I do know how grateful we are that he is safe... and free... and happy where he is... and whole.  As much as we are devastated that he is gone... we are grateful for the promise of hope.  We know we will see him again someday and when we do, it will feel like no time has passed at all.
Hope arrived just in time... not just for our little family, but for the world.

Happy Easter from our family to yours.



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