Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Learned From A Year of Grieving Hopefully...




This has been my life.
This has been Ed's life.
This has described our marriage.
And this shall be our future.

Today was the last day of April.  On our refrigerator, the photo calendar I lovingly make for Father's day every year is filled with "this time last year" photos each month.  As I turn the calendar to May tomorrow morning, there will no longer be "this time last year" photos of Gavin.  Sure, we will always include photos of Gavin in our calendar - that's a given.  But from this moment on, they will be considered "old photos."  The reality of that is heartbreaking to me.
But today, Hope turned five months.  
And there was much to celebrate... milestones to document... photos to take.  The joy we feel having this little girl in the house is insurmountable.  The joy we feel watching Brian revel in his job as big brother is beyond measure.
As I was growing up - and well into my twenties, everything happened TO me.  Someone was bad... something was wrong... and I was the victim.  There was nothing to be learned except I was wronged and people suck and you have to learn to "accept" what happened "TO" you.
Something shifted the night Gavin died.  It was like a parallel universe opened up and handed me the answers I had personally been seeking for so long.  
We are all individuals on our own personal journeys on this Earth.  I said in my eulogy to Gavin that "we all come from this magical, unknown place full of wisdom and knowing.  We arrive here with everything we need to know and a clear purpose set out for our lives.  I like to believe that ALL of our souls sat with God before we arrived here on Earth and together with Him created our life's blueprint.  We chose what lessons we needed to learn, what message we wanted to deliver and what our mission should be.  Because I believe that, I have a different way of looking at my children.  I am able to see them as my greatest teachers."
I have felt this way for some time - but then Gavin died and it meant more to me than ever.  What if we chose the plan for our life?  What if we chose the pain... the sorrow... the joy and the happiness?  What if all of it was part of our own, personal journey?  Your child dying is one of the worst possible things you can go through - that is the truth.  But Gavin's death was part of his journey.  It happened to him.  Our journey as those he left behind is learning how to move on without him... bringing all we learned from him with us.  
It's hard to believe that in one year's time we lost a child and gained a child.  Everything surrounding Hope's very existence is, to us, a miracle.  Ed and I both feel like she's been in our lives forever - yet we also can't believe it's been five months since she was born.  
One important lesson I learned from Gavin is to let my children show me who they are - and what they can do.  I no longer check charts or worry about timelines.  Hope will do what she'll do when she's ready, as far as I'm concerned.  I write down each little thing she does just so I have it recorded for her one day.
One thing I never want her to forget is her incredible bond with her Daddy.  She is truly "Daddy's little girl."  She will smile for me all day long - and I'll even get an occasional giggle.  But the second Daddy walks in the door, I am toast.  He gets belly laughs and snuggles and huge grins.  It's so beautiful to watch their relationship develop right in front of my eyes.
And Brian.  He is so in love with his sister. I often find him quietly talking to her or playing with her toys to entertain her... stroking her head or singing to her.  I think they will always have a special bond.
And me?  I feel so lucky to have another child.  I know I will learn so much from this little girl who came to us bearing the gift of hope during the darkest time in our life.  Clearly she is here for a purpose - like we all are.  I will be a willing student as she grows.
I think the greatest legacy we can leave for Brian and Hope is showing them that we can grieve hopefully.  That sorrow doesn't have to bury us.  That we can survive with grace.
This opened up a whole new way of thinking for me.  In some strange way, Gavin's death helped me to heal my past.  I was able to remove my attachment to people who "wronged" me and see that they were on their own journey.  Yes, I walked with them on their path for a while - but then I got off and got back on my own.  My path stayed crooked and broken and overgrown with weeds and twisted vines.  But that was because I had brought a piece of them onto my path - and they didn't belong there.  

Our life journeys are our own to take.
Perhaps you had a rough childhood with dysfunctional parents.  Maybe you had an abusive ex-spouse and you still feel the scars.  You might have a difficult time with a child and everything seems to be spinning out of control.  I promise you - if you take a step back and see that they are on their own journey, learning their own lessons - and that this is not your "stuff" - it will free you.  Everyone is on their own mission... on their own path... and will do everything in their own time according to their own, personal plan.  What you choose to do - and how you choose to react to their journey - will be life defining.

Gavin's death - given my history of wanting to give up or drink things away or swallow all of my emotion - should have wrecked me.  

Instead, I have chosen to celebrate the gift of his life.  This child came here with wisdom and knowing - with a clear mission.  And he nailed it.  We can all learn a lesson from him.
"In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse."
--Anthon St. Maarten, Divine Living:  The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny

These are the lessons I've learned from my year of grieving hopefully.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Sky Was the Limit...

When Ed and I were dating - and then married before kids - we would often go to Dim Sum in Philadelphia's Chinatown.  But then Gavin came along and we stopped going places for quite a long time.  It was just too complicated for various reasons.  Gavin had severe reflux and car rides were torturous for all... for a while he was overstimulated by noisy places... we couldn't go anywhere for too long because he needed his own food prepared a certain way... and sometimes, it was just too much work.  So we stayed home.  The last couple years of his life, though, Gavin became more independent... more laid back... and he needed less coddling in noisy places.  We were enjoying taking him to new places... going on adventures as a family... and it was starting to seem like the sky was the limit.  Ed and I talked often about how we couldn't wait to take the boys to Disney World.

And then he died.

This past Sunday morning, we decided to go to Dim Sum with Brian and Hope.  
Brian tried several new dishes (we were so proud!) and got chopstick lessons from his Daddy!
Hope was a breeze.  We packed some extra diapers, an extra outfit and that was that.  
Back in the day, Ed and I would meander around Chinatown after Dim Sum.  We'd stop at the grocery store... we'd walk the streets leisurely... and we'd always make a trip to the bakery to bring home some treats.  We did all of those things with Brian and Hope.
It was such an easy day.  Brian is amused and entertained by everything.  And Hope is so portable.  I could feed her anywhere - and it wasn't hard to find places to change her diapers.  Everything was so easy...
...and it broke my heart.

Gavin should have been there with us.  The sky was the limit for him... 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Most Photographed Baby in Town...

Our dear little Hope is 21 weeks old today!  And if you think these are a lot of photos to take for just "21 weeks" - you ain't seen nothin' yet.  Wait until Wednesday the 30th when she "officially" turns 5 months!

Today we got all "dolled up" to go to my nephew, Jack's, First Communion!
I still can't believe I have a daughter.  21 weeks later and I'm still wrapping my brain around it.
To us, Hope has changed dramatically this week.
She's laughing a lot more.  And she reserves her biggest belly laughs for her Daddy!  (more on that this week)
She's also babbling all the time...
 ...and wants to grab things to bring them to her mouth.  She wants to bring everything to her mouth!  We started the photo session in her new, pretty smocked dress.  But she kept trying to eat it - not making for a good photo... I stripped her down to her diaper!  Which leads us to her next new "trick."  She won't sit still for very long anymore!  I think the days of plopping her onto the chair and posing her are over.

This is how it went...
...and...we're back!
This little one is so active - and never wants to miss anything!
After a quick nursing session, we put on dress number two for her shots with the bunny!  Remember the days when she looked as big as that bunny's foot?  It all goes by so fast.
Over the past week, Hope is a completely different baby in the car.  Every day I hear from the back seat, "Mommy!  Can you believe it?  Hope is awake - and she's not crying!!"
I'm hoping this trend continues! 
Hope is also getting more hair, if you haven't noticed.  It's coming in dark black and so smooth.  And her eyes are still blue!!
The most photographed baby in town.
Can you blame me?

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.

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