Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nine...

Dear Gavin,

You would have been nine today. 

I remember walking into the driveway to tell Daddy, who was washing his car, that it was time to go to the hospital on this day nine years ago. That night was a whirlwind. Quick decisions, emergency c-section, seeing you get whisked away to the NICU for what would end up being the first thirty days of our life together...
The next five and a half years were a whirlwind, too. 
Now is when I think most people would expect me to say - I wish I had known it was going to be such a whirlwind. I wish I had known your life would have been only 5 1/2 years long. And then I'd list all the things I would have done more of, less of or different.

But I can't say that. I feel like the way I parented you was the first best thing I ever did. I enjoyed every moment, I documented everything (thank God), we gave you lots of fun experiences, we tried not to limit you and I worked so hard to get you the help that ended up taking you so far. I don't feel a lot of regrets about the years you were with us. For that, I will always feel profoundly grateful.

But today was hard. We have been missing you a lot lately. It's getting harder to "wonder" what you'd be doing by now. Would you be holding conversations? Would you be running? There are so many unanswered questions - and our answers are only speculations... and they are all stuck in the past. 

We decided to spend the evening having fun as a family - something we know you would have loved.

We made the obvious choice to go to Arnold's Family Fun Center - one of your favorite places. And now Brian and Hope's, too! 
As hard as it is to live without you, Daddy and I agree that the smiles and laughs of your brother and sister make every day easier. 
In a book called "Second Guessing God" by Brian Jones, I read about two different kinds of miracles. The "instantaneous miracle" and the "perseverance miracle." I'd be lying if I sad I wasn't a little bit angry at God for denying us the miracle of letting you live.  But the only way I can explain how we've managed since you died is because we were granted a "perseverance miracle." God gave us the tools, the strength and the love to persevere. 
I know in my heart that you want us to be happy, Gavin. Some days are harder than others. For all of us. And some days are better than most. But my goal is the same. I want your brother and sister to always remember that it's okay to be happy - even when it seems impossible. And it's okay to be sad because we know the sadness won't last forever. 
We ended the evening with a birthday dinner at Pizzeria Uno. Brian and Hope made their own pizzas and shared a big sundae with two spoons. Your brother, on his own accord, wrote down all the people who were there at your "birthday party." I can't think of a better group to have dinner with. 
Nine years ago this night you made me a Mother. My life will never be the same. 
Happy Birthday, Bugaboo.

Love, 
Mommy

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

Hours:
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?

Helicopters.

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.
WHEW!!!
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!



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