Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Time!....

It's a beautiful day to have a baby!

November 30th.  I'm exactly 36 weeks today.

Please say a prayer for Hope - that Gavin is with her every step of the way as she arrives from Heaven into our arms.

And please say an extra prayer that she won't need the NICU.

Thank you for helping me believe Hope born all these months!  It's really happening!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It Comes With The Territory...

Writing a blog can be a very interesting experience.  You are able to share the good, the bad... really, you can share whatever you want.  I happen to share a lot.  But in doing so, you open yourself up to the good (which is good!) and the bad (which is just kind of weird, if you ask me) and sometimes... the ugly.

It comes with the territory, I suppose.

Back in the day, this blog was really just a small journal that I started to keep family and friends informed of Gavin's progress during an intense and long hospitalization.  It grew over the years, but it was still small - and people kind of "got me."

Now... this blog has grown bigger than I ever (in my wildest dreams) could have imagined.  Which means I feel I need to write differently.  I feel like I have to choose my words - and describe everything in such a perfect way so as not to be misinterpreted.  That's really hard to do, let me tell you.

The other day my journal entry, "What It Feels Like Seven Months Later," is a perfect example.  In that entry I really vented my feelings... about, well, what it feels like seven months after losing our 5 1/2 year old son while simultaneously anticipating the surprise of a daughter while simultaneously parenting a grieving 4 year old.  I also vented about those "end of pregnancy feelings" that most Moms go through.  The exhaustion... the worries... the guilt... the fears.  I wrote that I have been dealing with high blood pressure issues related to my pregnancy and how they are keeping an eye out for preeclampsia.  It turned out that I ended up in Labor and Delivery because my blood pressures weren't responding to my medication (which has now been adjusted) the next day.  The timing made a lot of people connect those two things - Kate was super stressed and emotional and ended up in the hospital.  I suppose I should have expected the deluge of mail that included lectures... armchair therapists... and ridiculous comments like "go lay in bed and stop trying to do everything or your baby will die!"  I could list a lot more of the ridiculous comments, but I will spare you.

So I thought I would lay out some facts so everyone is on the same page - and no one has to worry that I'm doing anything - in any way - to bring harm to myself or this baby.  

1.  I had high blood pressure during the end of Gavin's pregnancy.  I do not have a history of high blood pressure - it was pregnancy induced.  Once you have a pregnancy with blood pressure issues, your chances of it cropping up again in other pregnancies is high.  So, no surprise, I had high blood pressure issues at the end of Brian's pregnancy.  And here I am again... at the end with Hope.  After every pregnancy, my pressures have returned back to normal.  I fully expect this will be the case after Hope is born.

2.  My blood pressure issues are more of a physiological response to my pregnancy and not necessarily worsened by stress.  That being said - I have carried this pregnancy successfully under extremely stressful circumstances - we just lost a child.  The fact that Hope is here at all is a miracle. And the fact that I am 35 weeks (and one day!) at the age of 43 is a miracle to me, too.  I set it up at home so that I actually have very LITTLE stress at this stage of my pregnancy.  It was the reason I set up her nursery so early... set up the equipment all over the house... washed all of her clothes and blankets and burp cloths and onesies.  It was the reason why I bought, assembled, wrapped and hid all the Christmas presents so early... created, addressed and stamped all the Christmas cards so they are ready to go... put up the Christmas tree and prepared for Brian's December 16th birthday.  I have nothing more to "do" or "prepare" - except grow this baby as long as I can.

3.  I do not have preeclampsia.  They are keeping a close eye on me for signs of preeclampsia, which means that I have excellent medical care.  I go for non stress tests twice a week to monitor the baby... I check my blood pressures at home to keep track of them... I get frequent blood and urine tests to check my levels and to be sure I'm not spilling protein... and when I do have to go to the hospital, I am closely monitored there.  Every single time there has been a problem - it has had NOTHING to do with Hope. She has been growing appropriately and always performs perfectly when they put her on the monitor.

4.  I am not on bedrest - nor does my OB WANT me to be on bedrest.  He said "try to put your feet up" to help with my swollen feet and ankles.  I laughed because, well, I have a four year old.  But the truth is - I drive Brian to school... come home... and I either sit on the couch or sit on my bed until pick up at noon.  Yes, there are seven hours with him until bedtime - but we aren't playing tag or running up and down the stairs and you'll never catch me getting up and down off the floor.  We're sitting on the couch or painting at the art table or, quite frankly, he's watching way too much TV if I can convince him.  But those seven hours can be exhausting because they just are.  I'm sorry, but I think they can be exhausting even if you're NOT at the end of a pregnancy.

5.  Back to the bedrest thing.  My OB actually prefers me walking around to keep the circulation flowing.  Laying in bed for too long puts me at risk for blood clots.  I take all of this seriously - please know this.

6.  I've had several people tell me that I should stop my blog - that it's causing too much stress and taking too much time.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  These are usually the same people that tell me that I'm also trying to spend too much time with Brian and that I need to find time to rest so I'm not so stressed.  And these are also people that don't know me personally.  So let me explain.  My Facebook page pretty much runs itself right now.  Gavin's photos are scheduled until the end.  The last photo will be this Friday night at 6pm, followed by a really special video at 8pm.  I do go on the page and try to read and respond to all the mail and comments - but I don't have to worry about the photos. My blog, when I write an entry, takes all of 10-15 minutes of my time.  I think... and I type... and I push "publish."  That method of thinking and typing can get me into trouble sometimes, but that's just how I write.  Let's take the venting post from the other day and use it as an example.  I wrote that post because, that day, I was really feeling overwhelmed.  Can you blame me?  The way I cope is to get it out.  I wrote about it... I posted it... I felt better... and the next day, I was back to normal.  It works for me.  Maybe it doesn't work for everyone, and that's okay!  But it works for me.  So telling me to stop writing - and then also telling me that I need to find a way to "de-stress" - doesn't make sense.  My writing IS my way of de-stressing.

7.  Venting like I did (and have done - and likely will do again) opens me up to a lot of advice and critiquing and criticism.  I get it.  But, just as in real life, when people "vent" they aren't always looking for you to "fix it."  Sometimes it's okay to just be a present observer... a kind supporter... you don't even have to say anything at all!  Sometimes, just like in real life, people just want to be heard.

8.  It is likely that I will have to go back to the hospital - multiple times or one more time or maybe even today - and it's possible that Hope will be born early.  If this happens, it is not due to me not taking care of myself.  It is not due to me writing.  It is not due to me playing Star Wars with Brian. Please do not infer that it is... because you will be wrong.  Out of all of my pregnancies, this has been the most perfect.  Can you believe that?  We expected these blood pressure issues. But I've never had a more perfect pregnancy - her weight right now is great - and I wouldn't need to receive injections to mature her lungs if I went into preterm labor or if my blood pressures force an early delivery.  This is all good news.  And, to be honest with you, I am extremely proud of myself for how well this pregnancy has gone under the circumstances.  Extremely.  I have had to manage a lot and I feel like I've been handling things well.  No one can make me feel differently about that.

9.  It is, thankfully, not that often anymore that I get mean and hateful comments or mail.  But it does happen.  It just happened yesterday when someone told me, among other things, that "you are so immersed in death that you are emotionally unavailable for Brian."  Listen - I have really learned to let these comments go... all they do is show the person for who they are.  My method in handling them now is this:  I realize that they don't know what they are talking about... or they are just plain mean and are trying to get a rise out of people... or they are projecting their own "stuff" onto my experiences... or they are possibly mentally unstable... and I delete the comment, say a prayer for them and move on.  

10.  I don't have a ten.  So I will say this - I am so, so grateful that so many of you are concerned about me... about Hope... about our family.  I know that so many of you have the best intentions and have become very invested in this little girl who, truly, is being dropped from Heaven.  It warms my heart to know that she will be born into a world that already has so much love for her.

It's all going to be fine.  I just know it.  We are all continuing to believe Hope born when she is ready... and we will all trust that she has many, many angels surrounding her.  It's all going to be fine.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dear Santa,...

Today was magical.
This morning, Brian and I worked on his letter to Santa Claus.  He took it very seriously and it had to be "just right."
He asked me to write the note portion as he dictated it to me.
Dear Santa, I love you.  I miss Gavin.  Please bring me Star Wars and art stuff and stickers.  I will listen for you on Christmas Eve.  Love, Brian
Brian was SO excited to visit Santa and wanted to be sure he asked him about visiting Heaven and bringing presents for Hope.
We got there early before the big crowds and anxiously stood in line waiting for our turn.  I told Brian that I was going to go first to talk to Santa so I could tell him what I thought Hope would like for Christmas.  But in reality, I wanted to sit with Santa to fill him in on Brian's thoughts and feelings.  And that's when things turned magical...
Last year we had two experiences with this Santa.  The first time, I found myself so distracted with getting the right photos and trying to get Gavin to smile and wanting to capture the moment - that I truly "missed the moment" entirely!  You can read that entry HERE.  

So, a few days later - I had a "Santa Do-Over."  I brought little "cheat sheets" for both boys, left my camera at home and listened... really listened.  I listened to what Santa said to Gavin.  I memorized Gavin's expressions and his clapping.  I listened to the conversation between Santa and Brian and marveled that Brian thought of Gavin when he gave Santa his list of "wants."  You can read about that special day HERE.
After our visit, I wrote this Santa a letter.  He spent so much time with each of the boys - he remembered every detail from my little cheat sheets - and he made the whole experience so magical.  For Gavin, especially, I wrote to him in my letter.  I told him that Gavin didn't like being held in one place and was usually pretty squirmy.  But he had such a calming presence - and when I told him that Gavin loved music, he actually started singing.  Gavin instantly melted into his arms and smiled - completely mesmerized.  I wanted him to know that special people are called to be Santa - and he clearly answered that call.  I just wanted him to know how grateful I was.

So today... as I sat next to him on his huge chair... I started to tell him about Brian when he stopped me.  He knew.  He remembered us.  He thanked me for my letter and told me how much it meant to him.  He said he has told the story several times since last year about the little boy with special needs that was fidgety until his Mom said to sing to him - and then he was completely calm.  I told him that Gavin had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and he was so sad.  But he remembered him.  I couldn't believe it.
We gave each other the biggest hug and he patted my belly and I introduced him to Hope and he smiled.  I got up and walked over to Brian to take his hand and my eyes met up with Ed's.  It was hard for us to hold it together.

Brian sat with Santa for quite a while.  Santa reassured him that he does make it to Heaven and Gavin will have a wonderful Christmas there.
They talked about Star Wars and Brian's wish that his little sister have presents under the tree.
And then he told Brian that part of being a big brother is helping Mommy with all the stinky baby diapers... to which Brian started laughing hysterically.
Today was not easy for us - but it was magical.  And Gavin was there.  I know it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What It Feels Like Seven Months Later...

Warning!  Warning!  There's still time to turn back!  This post might be a little... rough around the edges.  You've been warned...

I'm a mess.

I'm sure some of it (hopefully a lot of it?) has to do with pregnancy hormones.  The kind that make it hard to stop crying.

I know a lot of it is because I'm tired.  Very tired.  And grieving my little boy who has now been gone seven months and seven days.  And growing a baby under a broken heart. Well, technically her feet are under my heart because she is head down and getting ready to meet us.  Which means we are close... which is why I am so tired.  And emotional.

It's a rite of passage for every Mom to get emotional towards the end of a pregnancy - and to worry, if she has other children, that she will have time for both.  I am no different... but this is a little more complicated.

Brian and I have been joined at the hip these last seven months and seven days.  I have talked incessantly about Gavin's death and his life with him - every night at bedtime and often during the day.  When I would have loved to have farmed him out to generous friends and neighbors and even strangers who were willing to play with him, I often (not always - but often!) resisted.  I never wanted him to feel abandoned by me... regardless of what I might have needed. Like silence.  Like time alone to throw boxes against the garage wall.  Like a day without Star Wars or Angry Birds.

Lately, he is exhibiting more grief.  It comes out in behaviors... it shows up in physical symptoms... and he can sometimes verbalize it.  He's acting out here and there (which is very unusual for him) - and he's a little more clingy with me.  Today we talked about Gavin for the majority of the day and I addressed his concerns about Gavin missing Christmas and Brian's birthday and more.

Here's the ugly truth:  I am 100% patient with his needs and his questions and trying to figure out when his behavior needs correction and when it needs "love bombing" - but part of me wants to scream... "WHY NOW???"

And then the guilt.

I feel horrible for even FEELING or THINKING "why now" - of COURSE it's now!  There are so many things that are about to change!  He's probably scared!  Nervous!  Missing his brother!  What a jerk I am!!!!!

But I am so, so tired.  And, as I am closely monitored for signs of preeclampsia, I am worried too.  And scared.  As I watch my feet and ankles and calves swell and swell - I hear my doctor's voice telling me to keep my feet up.  Then I hear myself laughing at him and asking him, "When?"

I hear all day, "Mama - play with me?"  So we paint... and we play Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers... and I try to mentally stay present while he jabbers on about X Wing Fighters and Ewoks and Luke Skywalker.  Today I took him to the movies - just so I could sit in relative silence.  But mostly so I could sit and cry in the dark... which I did.  

I want him to know that I'm here for him.  That we're in this together (when Daddy isn't here!).  That I will listen to him - always.  That Hope is not a replacement... for him OR for Gavin.  It's a lot of pressure right now.

And then there's the Facebook Page photo journey I've been on.  It started before Gavin's birthday.  I thought I could share his entire life in photos and memories leading up to his September birthday.  I quickly realized that this was an impossible task.  This project has taken on a life of its own. The response and the outpouring of love for Gavin... the way it has helped and inspired people just by sharing his journey or things that we did with him... the way people look forward to seeing each picture... it's been humbling.  I am now about three months away (in pictures) from the day he died.  The end of Gavin's pictures will likely blend right into the birth of Hope.  I couldn't have planned that if I tried.

Lots of people have been asking what will happen when the pictures end.  I don't know how to answer that.  Gavin will never be gone from our family - and he will always be represented on this blog and on the Facebook page.  My blog has always been about our family... and I won't - I can't! - stop writing.  But it will change back to "normal" (whatever the hell that is) when I get to the end of my pictures.  You'll still see Gavin and hear memories when they come up - but you'll also learn about Brian's new milestones.  And you'll get to know Gavin's little sister, Hope, who deserves as much space as her brothers have received in my journals.

I am making up this "living life without Gavin" thing as I go along.  I don't have a great plan except to keep showing up here and sharing my heart.  Even when it's in fragments.

Especially when it's in fragments.

I'm a mess.  Seven months and seven days is a long time to be without your first born child while anticipating your last.  I miss Gavin so much - it seems more now than ever.

I would really appreciate your positive thoughts and prayers during these last days and weeks of my pregnancy.  And please don't forget Brian and Ed.  Brian, especially, who seems to really be feeling it lately.  I will worry so much about his needs when Hope is born.  

If you made it this far, I'm impressed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How To Disguise a Butterball...

Just kidding.  I'm not interested in disguising my "butterball" baby... and even if I were, it's pretty impossible at this point!  I am B-I-G... BIG!
I may not be able to do it - but Brian, as it turns out, is GREAT at disguising a turkey!  He was given this assignment in school.  His teacher sent home a picture of a turkey on construction paper - a terrified looking turkey.  The kids were asked to help save the turkey from Thanksgiving dinner by "disguising" him in some way!  I immediately started pitching a bunny.  Easy-peasy, I thought.  I'd have Brian glue a bunch of cotton balls all over the turkey - add some ears - done.  But he'd have none of it.  His turkey had to be Darth Vader.  Oh boy.
No surprise, Brian left much of the design to me while he played.  But he did the coloring and glue stick operation!
As it turns out, we make a pretty good turkey disguising team!
Today was such a special day for me.  My beautiful (in every way) neighbor, Sonia, threw a baby shower for me!!  She assembled a lot of the Moms from Brian's pre-school for a delicious breakfast at her house.  I was so, incredibly flattered that she would do this for me... and go to so much trouble!!  I mean look at this beautiful table with the homemade granola parfaits and finger sandwiches...
The ladies all put together to sign a lovely card...and gave us a gift card to "Home Cooked" where we can order home cooked meals to stock our freezer once Hope arrives.  It was extremely generous and we will for SURE put it to good use.  Trust me!
But I was most thrilled with having a chance to get to know these women.  I am a pretty shy person.  Add on top of that starting Brian in a new school shortly after the death of Gavin... and having to be face to face with women I don't know... it's been a socially nerve wracking three plus months.  I've been pretty quiet.  So, the fact that these ladies did this for me today - hardly knowing me, really - was so humbling.  I really enjoyed my time with them.  We couldn't have a picked a better pre-school for Brian - for so many reasons. 
I've had three beautiful surprises over the last couple weeks that I wanted to share.  The first is my new locket.  Back in 2010, when we lost Darcy, I was contacted by a woman in Australia that had been following our story.  She had a jewelry company and wanted to make a memorial piece for me to remember my little girl.  They were able to laser engrave Darcy's actual handprints on the silver heart - engrave her name and birthdate on the back - and then I had our funeral director fill the locket with some of her ashes.  I have worn it every day.

My australian friends contacted me again once Gavin died to ask if I wanted a locket for him.  This time, they were able to add one of my favorite photos of the two of us.  His name and the day he died is engraved on the back.  I haven't yet had it filled with some of his ashes, but I will.
I'm so grateful to be able to represent my three children in this special way.  And Ed has already been put on high alert to add Hope's name to the group!

I had a high school friend, Julie, drop off these beautiful gifts for Hope.  I love seeing her name on things.  But it was the personalized burp cloths that had me in tears.  It sounds so silly, but let me explain.  Before Gavin was born - my friend, Elayne, made burp cloths for him.  One of them had his name... another one had ribbon sewed across the bottom... another had an iron on decoration.  I TREASURED these burp cloths and treated them like gold.  They were one of my favorite gifts.  One survived in near perfect condition and will remain in Gavin's memory box forever.  So to see new burp cloths for Hope - from a wonderful store called "Baby Be Hip" owned by another woman from my high school! - made me so happy.  Not to mention the gorgeous tote bag!!  Ed loved that it had a ladybug on it.  He considers them to be good luck.
And then there was yesterday.  Yesterday we had a visit from Miss Wendy, Gavin's physical therapist... and our friend.  She and her husband wanted to do something for us to memorialize Gavin.  She decided to have a brick dedicated to him at our local YMCA.  She sent me the photo of the brick yesterday and I was blown away.
She chose the YMCA because we took Gavin there to practice his walker skills early on.  But, as she told me yesterday, this was really more for her.  "I miss the little guy," she confessed.  She frequents the Y and will walk by this brick often.

Ed and I continue to be extremely humbled by the outpouring of love for Gavin from friends and strangers alike.  I feel like the whole world misses our little guy.  

And, as always, we feel touched by the outpouring of love towards our little (growing) family.  We don't take any of it for granted.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Body Is Not My Own - And I Love It...

Yesterday I officially turned 34 weeks.  I also grew - a lot! Suddenly my belly is face seems chest, unbelievably and inconceivably, is legs and calves and - ankles? - and feet are all swollen and unrecognizable.

None of this is shocking.  These things happen every day to pregnant women everywhere.

But it is me.  Not because I care that I'm growing - everywhere. But because I don't.

I spent many years abusing my body with an eating disorder that nearly killed me.  It wasn't always for vanity - it usually isn't.  It was a great distraction - a way of taking control of the parts of my life I had no control over.  But when you have an eating disorder for some time, you begin to believe that your self worth is tied up in what size you are or how your body looks in the mirror.  It takes a long time to "de-program" yourself to think otherwise.

Somehow - someway - I came out on the other side.  And when I find myself looking in the mirror at my ever growing pregnant body and feeling nothing but extreme gratitude...or when I look at every curve and every mark and see a miracle instead of a monster...I shock myself.  My body is not my own right now...and I LOVE it.

Who is this person? Why is she suddenly so accepting of herself??

Although my transformation happened before I gave birth to Gavin - I know that Motherhood has changed me profoundly. And Gavin's death has given me an even greater perspective. Nothing - at all - is so bad that hurting myself in any way would make it better.  Nothing. 

Everyone's body is such a beautiful tool - and it should be cherished and cared for as such.  Man or woman - your body is capable of loving another person, creating another person, carrying another person inside of you as he or she grows and then is birthed, educating another person (in a myriad of ways) and so much more.  The sheer privilege of carrying a child in my womb is overwhelming to me.  Sure, I have the difficulties and discomforts of pregnancy - but when you have an awareness that you're part of a miracle...and you have walked through events that are much, much bigger than's near impossible to complain.  (Unless it's about gigantic boobs.  I WILL complain if they don't go away.  Don't judge.)

I am closer every day to meeting our daughter.  I hope, as she and her brother grow up together, that we foster in them a healthy body image by our example.  And I hope and pray that they will love themselves and realize the power they have to affect others with their lives.

That's what's on my mind tonight.  Well - that and a chocolate mousse trifle that is calling my name from the kitchen.  

I'll post a belly shot this week!  And some other photos of our nearly done nursery (Ed and I were in serious nesting mode this weekend!) and a few other fun things.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Bunch of Randomness...

I'm feeling a little... blah.  

I know I need to give myself a break.  Tomorrow will be seven months since Gavin died.  I'm also growing a baby that gets larger and larger and closer to being born every day.  I have an active four year old that is also grieving and I'm trying to give him as much quality time as I can with my ever dropping energy levels.  And physically it's getting tougher.  I have severe reflux that makes me sick (literally sick) and forces me to sleep sitting up now.  And I'm still struggling with sinus headaches and congestion - which hasn't changed since the second month.

But mostly, I'm starting to feel emotional as I get closer to delivering Hope.

Although I can't predict how things will go... and know that it will probably go just fine... I still have fears.  I worry that this pregnancy has held me together like glue... and once she's born the dam will break and I'll fall apart.  I worry about post partum depression, which I did have after Brian's birth (and likely had after Gavin's birth but was so busy with his care I didn't notice).  I have Ed on high alert for any signs or symptoms after Hope arrives...and I will be keeping myself in check, too.  I worry about getting back in the groove of caring for an infant.  I'm sure it will all come back to me - but I'm worried. And I'm worried that something, somehow will go wrong.  Basically - I'm having a temporary (hopefully) freak out.  I'm sure I'll settle down soon.

It doesn't help that I had another Labor and Delivery trip which was quite scary.  Monday morning I woke up swollen.  My feet, my calves, my hands, my face...totally swollen.  I spent the morning with my feet up, drinking a ton of water, while Brian was in school.  But I started to feel worse - nauseous with an increasing headache.  I got Brian from school...called Ed home from work...we took Brian to the neighbors for a playdate...and rushed to the hospital.  They checked me (again) for preeclampsia and monitored my blood pressure (which was high) and I sat in the bed holding back tears until they gave me the "all clear."  My OB increased my blood pressure medicine and sent us home.  It was a good lesson for me, though.  We left the house in a hurry and didn't think that this could possibly be the day.  My camera, the cord blood kit... we left all of it at home.  From now on, my packed bag will be ready to grab.  She really could come at any time at this point.  I will be 34 weeks on Saturday.

But there's good news.

I found an angel for our Christmas tree!!  Thank you to everyone who sent me photos of beautiful angels...and suggestions to find someone to make one for us.  I ended up choosing an artist to create one.  We're still in the planning stage, but I know it's going to be perfect.  And dramatic enough for our tree...
It's like this woman is inside my head - she completely understood my vision and I know we're going to love and treasure this angel for years.  I'll reveal it here when it arrives!

And there's more good news!

Brian is doing great.  He loves school (and we love his school!) and is learning so much!  Every day he comes home and tells me something new that he learned - or pulls something out of his backpack that he created.  It's such a treat to see him so happy - and to see him making friends.

And that's not all!  There's even more good news!

Brian had his dental check up and was a total rock star.  
He didn't flinch as the doctor poked around... and then as the hygienist cleaned his teeth.  He had a perfect check up.
He came home with a huge bag filled with cheap toys.  Er, I mean treasures.  It's funny how the cheapie things are the coolest things EVER at this age.  We'll enjoy this stage while it lasts!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You, Readers!!...

I am so, so happy to share an update with all of you on what's been happening because of Gavin's Trust Project.  Because of you - and your $5.00, $25.00, $100.00 and even $1,000 donations - so many children, teachers and families have been helped.  I know how grateful we were when we were lent different equipment and toys to trial with Gavin.  And we were fortunate to be able to purchase many things on our own.  But, as you know, this is not always possible for families.  And special education teachers and therapists shouldn't have to beg, borrow and duct tape to get what they need for their "kids."  Every donation, big or small, from you - and even some of the companies you work for - has made a HUGE difference.  Here is an email I received from Deb Hiller from the Chester County Intermediate Unit.  She is in charge of the purchases made with the Trust Project money and was able to open and "furnish" (in more ways than one!) several classrooms in our area.  In our time of grief after losing Gavin, this project has meant so much to us.  As Gavin's Mommy, my personal motto was that I aimed to make "the impossible... possible" for my little boy.  To feel like we're continuing to make seemingly impossible things possible for kids like him brings us much comfort.
Thank you.

Oh my have we been busy and so happy. Gavin's Trust has helped provide toys and switches to 4 different classes for students with physical and learning needs. We could not include the faces of the students, but they are from a variety of classes and students. Please see the attached pictures that include students utilizing voice output communicators to participate in school activities including ask for what they want, comment on an object, Say "hello", make a choice, play on a light board, ask for "more" and say '"all Done", make a caterpillar light up and play music, etc..
We have also developed a lending library (pictures of closets with toys and switches) to loan toys, low tech communication  devices and switches to the families of students we serve in that are too homebound Preschool Special Education students.

More pictures are coming soon.
Thank you for all your support of these precious children.
Not even shown is the furniture and swings and more that were purchased for the classrooms!  It's truly been unbelievable.

If you would like more information about Gavin's Trust Project - you can always look to the right side of this blog where you will find an explanation, where to mail a check or how to donate online.  You could also click HERE to read the original blog post with everything you need to know.

If you're wondering what's going on with "Gavin's Birthday Project" at the Paoli Emergency Room, I have an update on that, too!  (Note: we are no longer accepting donations for this!)

I had all the toys and furniture delivered to our home.  I wanted to open and assemble each one personally to make sure everything was A-Ok before delivering it.  Unfortunately, one pice of one toy arrived broken...and then it was on backorder...and I'm still waiting for that to be delivered.  As soon as that arrives, we will make the arrangements with the hospital to head over for the installation and unveiling of the new children's waiting room!!  We're very excited about this project - inspired by Brian - and are grateful to all of those who donated to make Gavin's Birthday Project become a reality.  Hopefully we'll make it over there with everything before Hope arrives!!

Thank you for everything you've done for our family.  Whether you've donated money... prayed for us... encouraged us... or even just read my journal entries so you could better know Gavin and our family... we could never have imagined, in a million years, this incredible outpouring.  We don't take it - or any of you - for granted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


This weekend was all about nesting.  I had a strong desire to be prepared - get organized and get as much done as we could so I can then... theoretically... relax until the big day that Hope arrives.

It started on Friday morning when Miss Sara arrived after I dropped Brian off from school.  She's a saint, honestly.  She spent the entire day at our house - including having dinner with us - so she could help me get the tree up.  We did the basics - everything but the ornaments - while Brian was in school.  Then, she stayed with Brian while I headed to my OB's office for my twice a week non-stress test (where everything looked great!).  Brian was so patient waiting for me to get home to start decorating.  He was VERY excited about having the Christmas tree up so early!!
We have a lot of sentimental ornaments on our tree every year.  I even have some homemade ones from my childhood that my Mom put on the tree every single year until I was married.  (I guess now you know where I get it from!)  Gavin and Brian have had new ornaments every year since they were born. Brian was anxious to find Gavin's and carefully unwrapped ornaments until he found what he was looking for...
I bought a ton of sparkly blue butterflies for the tree this year as a way to honor Gavin.
And I'm hoping that this year - if I find the right one - will be the first year we put an angel on the top of our tree.  It would be very special through the years to remember "the first year we had an angel" was the year we lost our angel.  I've looked so many places and just haven't found the "right one."  It would have to be pretty big (our tree is 7 1/2 ft.) and dramatic.  So many of the ones I've found have motion and LED lights - which I don't want.  In my mind, I picture an angel with darker hair... a flowing skirt that has blue and green...and, in a total fantasy, includes some type of ocean-like theme or accessory.  I'll never find this angel.  And if I do, she'll be completely unique and one of a kind - like Gavin.
We added our first ornament for Hope on the tree!  While we were at the beach this summer, Brian and I picked out pink, ceramic booties.
It's such a relief to have the tree and staircase done.  We even put up our manger scene - which Brian LOVED helping with - and our collection of Byer's Choice carolers.  My parents started collections for all five of us many years ago and each Christmas we've received a new one that is special in some way.  Last year was a tribute Caroler for the Salvation Army in memory of my Dad.  My Dad was a big fan and supporter of the Salvation Army.

This is all about nesting - and my need to feel "ready" in case this little girl of mine arrives early.  I'm not trying to make you feel like a slacker if your presents aren't bought and wrapped.  Oh, I didn't mention that part?  Yep - Ed and I had an assembling, wrapping and hiding party on Friday night.  We are ready for Santa!!  (To be clear - Ed thought I had lost my ever loving mind.  But... once he put together a complicated Star Wars toy, he was glad he wouldn't be spending Christmas Eve rushing to get it all done.  Moral of the story - I'm pretty much always right.  *wink*)

At this point... my house is having a severe identity crisis...
Today we did something very special.  It's become a tradition in our family to make a bear from "Build a Bear" for each of the children.  Ed and I made one when I was pregnant with Gavin and included a recordable disc in the paw that has his actual heartbeat from one of my ultrasounds.  It was so special to be able to push that bear's paw and hear Gavin's true heartbeat.  And it's even more special now.  Then... when we were expecting Brian... Gavin chose and "made" his bear with Brian's heartbeat.

Today was Brian's turn as the big brother.  He chose a sweet bunny for Hope.
He lovingly handed the "heartbeat disc" to the woman and then helped her stuff the bunny.  She had him put a little heart inside, which she asked him to kiss and make a wish on.  He told us he made a wish about Gavin.  No surprise.
Afterward, he gave the bunny a nice bath.
We created a "birth certificate" for the bunny - and Brian chose her name!  
"Bella Bunny"
It was a fun experience.  A little sad that it will be our last time... but we're so happy to have three special bears with their own, true heartbeats.
Obviously, Gavin was with us all day (and every day) - but we wanted to do something special to include him.  So, after we left Build a Bear... we headed straight to the fountain!  When I told Brian I wanted to take his picture, he climbed up on the ledge - outstretched his arms and said, "Hi Gavin!  Hi Pop!" as he looked up through the glass ceiling into the sky.  (If you're wondering... yes.  It was hard to continue taking photos after that!  Sniff...)
We were really missing Gavin today.
But we are so grateful that we have Brian... and the promise of Hope.
It was a very special weekend for our little family.

Tomorrow I will have a very exciting update about Gavin's trust project - with photos!!  And I'll also update you on the Emergency Room project!

Thank you, as always, for caring about our children.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I Kept the Faith...

I was never really good at Math.  It was always a huge struggle for me.

My Dad was REALLY good at Math.  And I think it was a struggle for him to watch me struggle.

We had many a battle at the kitchen table.  I don't think my Dad would deny that he wasn't the most patient teacher after the 2 hour mark of trying to explain how to tackle math problems.  Our homework or tutoring sessions ended with me in tears 75% of the time.  When it came to that - we were oil and water.

But when it came to matters of the heart?  My Dad was my rock.
Throughout our entire Father/Daughter journey together - which was 41years - I could go to him about anything.  And in 41 years I managed to get myself into a lot of predicaments (you can read all about my history HERE). But he never - not once - lost faith in me.  He never, ever, gave up on me.  And he seemed to possess a patience for me and my problems and my failures and my struggles that from the outside might have looked like enabling.  And maybe, in some ways, it was.

But I think it was much, much more.

My Dad was always a very positive person.  He'd often hang up inspirational quotes and recite inspirational messages like "Don't Quit.  When things go wrong, and they sometimes will - when the road you're traveling seems all uphill..."

I remember many, many bedside conversations...long talks outside...on the phone...where he would remind me that nothing is ever as bad as it seems.  He'd encourage me and tell me there was nothing that I couldn't overcome.  He'd help me to look outside of myself to see that I wasn't the only human suffering.  And he'd constantly - no matter what circumstance I was in - tell me that he was proud of me.  

I really think that he knew that if he just kept drilling his confidence, his positivity, his love for life into my thick skull...that one day, it would stick.  One day I would "get it" - "wake up" - "grow up" - and it would all "click."  Out of the five children he had, I think I was his challenge.  And he wasn't one to back down from a challenge.
It's hard to believe - still - that he's gone.  It was two years ago today that he died suddenly from a stroke.  

His death was so awful for me.  Losing a parent is a profoundly devastating experience.  But in some strange way, I now see his passing as a gift to me in a very small way.  Because of my relationship with him...and all that we shared...I feel like he's still with me.  I don't feel like he's at the cemetery...or floating in Heaven above the clouds.  I feel like he's been with my children and in the car with me and watching us as a family and he's definitely been to the beach with us.  I wasn't able to say "goodbye" to my Dad - and our last phone conversation was not profound.  But because of our relationship - that didn't matter.  He died and there was nothing left unsaid.  I'm so grateful for that.  I still talk to him and channel his positivity in moments when I need him the most.  Because of all of that, I feel like it almost prepared me (in some small way) for Gavin's death.  And I know - because of all my Dad taught me so patiently over the years - that I can and will get through the loss of Gavin.
My Dad wrote me many letters and cards over the years - and I kept them all.  He would almost always sign them "Keep the Faith."  It was a saying that was such a part of my Dad that it's on his tombstone. He would end our phone conversations with, "I love you, honey.  Keep the faith."

Well, I did it, Dad.  I kept the faith.  We are facing the unthinkable...and, because of all you taught me, I am still standing.  And I intend to make you proud until I see you again.  Thank you for caring for our children until we get there.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ready or Not...

For the past several days, I've been noticing something unusual with Brian.  He developed red under eye circles that get worse as the day goes on.  
He's constantly itching his nose and his eyes.  
And he's sprouted red patches behind his knees.

I knew instantly these were the tell-tale signs of allergies... but to what?  I started thinking of all the things that were new - Halloween candy being at the top of the list.  Brian really didn't eat candy before this Halloween.  Maybe it was sugar.  Maybe it was dyes, which I also try hard to avoid.  And then I wondered if it was leaves - and mold.  I knew that our acupuncturist, Dr. Kang, would help me figure it out quickly.  So today, Brian and I headed to her office.

I'm not going to lie.  I was a nervous wreck.  We had been at Dr. Kang's office when Gavin started to act a little funny on April 10th - and we left that office and headed straight to the Emergency Room.  I probably could have benefitted from acupuncture during this whole pregnancy for a variety of reasons, but arranging appointments while Brian was in school was tricky - and I was trying to be sensitive to him.  I feared that he would be anxious going back there - so I just didn't go.  I wasn't sure how he was going to react when I told him that we had an appointment today.  But when his face lit up and he said he couldn't wait to get a lollipop...I exhaled.
Dr. Kang is a genius.  Before we even got back to a room to test him, she had it figured out.

You can read more about how she tests - and how she helped Brian with previous allergies - in THIS post.  She started with my theories:  sugar, dyes, leaves and mold... and dust.  All negative.  Then she handed Brian a jar filled with weeds.  Bingo.  He's allergic to weeds.  Unfortunately, even the Gavin wishing kind...which he uses to blow wishes to Heaven.  Oh boy.
But have no fear.  We've been there, done that with allergies.  I will be collecting weeds and placing them in a sealed glass jar.  Then I will do his back massages every night until we desensitize him.  I'm not one to jump into medication...and I know this works.  And Brian is thrilled that he'll get "tickled" every night!!
On Tuesday I had another ultrasound of Hope!  I'm currently 32 weeks (Saturday will be 33).  My Mom and sister came along to the ultrasound, which was a lot of fun.  They had never seen 3D images and were completely stunned.  Who wouldn't be??  Look at this precious little face!  If you're wondering who I think she looks like so far...I think she looks like Brian in this photo:
And I think she looks like Gavin in this view:
We shall see!  They were able to tell me that she currently weighs 4lbs, 4oz which just amazed me.  If I go to term (which is unlikely) she could weigh a little over seven pounds.

The doctor showed us her hair again on the ultrasound.  The white spiky lines above the arrow.  Watching it on the ultrasound was cool as you could see it flowing back and forth in the amniotic fluid.
This morning while folding laundry I had the TV on and two different Christmas ads came on.  It was shocking, but not for the reason you might think.  When Gavin died - and I found out I was pregnant - and was told my due date would be Christmas time - it all seemed so far away.  And I liked it that way.  I wanted this pregnancy to go drag on and on... because I love being pregnant and this will definitely be the last time.  But mostly I hated the idea of rushing away from the last day Gavin lived.  The last day I held him.  Kissed his sweet face.  Held his hand.

But it did go fast.  Just as his five and half years went fast.  And now, it's almost Christmas time...and we will meet the little sister that I know he's already prepped to join our family.  Tomorrow, Miss Sara will be here to help us put up our Christmas tree.  It's very early, I know.  But you just never know when our tiny dancer will make her arrival.  And even though I didn't want to be "here" so soon...
...I'm ready.  

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